Syrian propaganda war. A week of hysteria – Russia is selling S-300s; they’re here; they’re not here; they’re coming; they’re game-changers. Huge flap (97 million Google hits). What was the evidence for any of it? S-300s date from 1979 (although many improvements) and are not some hitherto unknown super weapon. BTW Syria has lots of Soviet/Russian AD systems and none seems to hamper the Israeli Air Force. In any case Putin has just said no. Like most of the news out of Syria this is misdirection away from something that actually was happening. What would that have been? Assad’s successes (only a year ago he was a goner)? The EU arming the opposition? Ah, this must be what we weren’t supposed to see: the US is deploying its equivalent system in the neighbourhood and may keep it there. And fighter planes too. Well, well, those nasty Russians make useful distractions.
NGOs. The polling company Levada is saying that it is being told to register as a foreign agent under the new law and that it may have to close down. Its director says it receives a trivial amount of its budget – a couple of percentage points – from foreign sources. It is also reported that VTsIOM is hearing similar things. I find this a little fishy. One, who’s telling it? Two, why would it have to close down? Three, take this to court and see what happens and then complain. Four, while Levada is independent (and its boss no fan of Putin), VTsIOM is government-owned; why would the government want to “shut down” both? It’s also worth saying that both come up with similar results – I see no bias in either. As I say, something doesn’t sound right.