Russia in 2014

Written by  //  December 30, 2014  //  Russia  //  4 Comments

Aleksei Navalny, Putin Critic, Is Spared Prison in a Fraud Case, but His Brother Is Jailed
(NYT) Hours after being spared prison on Tuesday in a criminal fraud trial widely viewed as political revenge, the Kremlin’s chief antagonist, Aleksei A. Navalny, broke out of house arrest and tried to join an unsanctioned antigovernment rally, daring the authorities to throw him in jail.
They refrained, but in a twist that clearly caught Mr. Navalny, the normally unruffled political opposition leader off guard, the court ordered that his younger brother, Oleg, who was also charged in the fraud case, serve three and half years in prison.
The jailing of the brother, a former postal worker generally viewed as a pawn in a larger battle, signaled that the Kremlin was adopting a heavy-handed strategy in seeking to suppress Mr. Navalny’s political activities by sidelining him without transforming him into a martyr. Newsmaker of the day: Alexei Navalny
18 December
While the Financial Times trumpets that the Rouble crisis opens up Putin to attack, Mr. Putin says Russia economy will be cured, although he offers no remedy
(Reuters) Defiant and confident at a three-hour news conference, Putin blamed the economic problems on external factors and said the crisis over Ukraine was caused by the West, which he accused of building a “virtual” Berlin Wall to contain Russia.
At times sneering, at others cracking jokes, he ignored pressure to say how he will fix an economy facing what his economy minister calls a “perfect storm” of low oil prices, Western sanctions over Ukraine and global financial problems.
17 December
Running From the Ruble
By Sergei Guriev, Professor of Economics at Sciences Po and a former rector of the New Economic School in Moscow
(Project Syndicate) The cause of Russia’s “Black Monday” was readily apparent: the government bailout of state-owned Rosneft, the country’s largest oil company. Usually, bailouts calm markets; but this one recalled early post-Soviet experiments, when the CBR issued direct loans to enterprises – invariably fueling higher inflation. The CBR’s governor at the time, Viktor Gerashchenko, was once dubbed the world’s worst central banker.
16 December
Putin Now Has ‘A Full-Blown Ruble Crisis’ On His Hands
Is Obama destroying the Russian economy?
Sanctions helped sink the ruble, officials say privately.
Speaking at a Moscow event in early October, Russian President Vladimir Putin sounded cocky about the sanctions imposed on his country by Washington and its European allies. The penalties, Putin said, were “utter silliness” that would only hurt Western businesses.
But now that Russia’s economy is rapidly imploding, with oil prices plunging and the ruble collapsing, Putin is the one feeling the pain. And the question already being debated in Washington is whether President Barack Obama’s strategy of economically sanctioning and isolating Russia deserves any credit.
Scramble for safety as ruble, oil sink
(Reuters) – Oil’s plunge below $60 and the failure of Russia’s huge emergency rate hike to stabilize the ruble jolted global markets on Tuesday, adding to a growing sense of crisis and a volatile end to 2014.
The ruble sank to more than 80 per dollar, down 20 percent on the day, despite Russia’s central bank ramping up interest rates overnight to 17 percent from 11.5 percent. Moscow’s dollar-denominated stock exchange dived almost 20 percent.
Russia Is So Screwed
(Slate) With its currency stuck in a disastrous freefall thanks to Western sanctions and plunging oil prices, the country’s central bank announced around 1 a.m. last night that it would jack up its key interest rate from 10.5 percent to 17 percent. This was a desperate decision. The country was already hurtling toward a recession, and the rate hike—the biggest since 1998, when a financial crisis eventually forced it into default on its debt—was sure to make the pain far worse. But the hope was that, with higher interest rates, investors would finally stop pulling their money out of the country—that, as the New York Times’s Neil Irwin put it, keeping money at a Russian bank would simply be “too good an offer to refuse.”
It wasn’t. Today, the currency plunge has continued, with the ruble at one point falling 35 percent, at 80 to a dollar. It has rallied a bit since then. A dollar is now worth about 70 rubles, which only looks good compared to the absolute crisis earlier in the day.
12 December
Joseph Nye: Putin’s Rules of Attraction
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s covert aggression in Ukraine continues – and so do Western sanctions against his country. But the economy is not all that is under threat; Russia’s soft power is dwindling, with potentially devastating results.

Vladimir-Putin-006
Russia on wednesday-night.com
Russia in 2013
The Interpreter
The Guardian Mikhail Khodorkovsky
BBC Chechnya profile
Project Syndicate Putin’s World
Crimea on Wikipedia
Russians are Vikings

Putin on the Couch
(Politico)  From the moment he became president of Russia in a surprise handover from the ailing Boris Yeltsin on New Year’s Eve at the turn of the new millennium, Putin has by turns confused, infuriated, outwitted and just plain befuddled the West. And never more so than in recent days, as Russia has invaded neighboring Ukraine and taken over the Crimean peninsula in the prelude to what could be a full-scale annexation of the territory on the Black Sea, the first time such a maneuver has been pulled in Europe since the blood-soaked end of World War II. Immediately, however, this much became clear: Putin had shocked everyone by his lightning-fast takeover, and with his small inner circle, KGB officer’s penchant for secrecy and near-complete power, managing the crisis would come down to what we make of Russia’s pugnacious president. Which is why we are once again finding our geopolitics laced with psychoanalysis: This is a crisis whose resolution depends very much on one man. (13 March 2014)

Project Syndicate focal point: Cold War II
Russia’s annexation of Crimea shows that Vladimir Putin is ready and willing to upend the post-Soviet international order and challenge Europe on its own doorstep. How far will Russia’s president push, and how far is the West willing to go to stem his ambitions?

Russian UFO Jet Fighter Planes 2014
Russian UFO Jet Fighters, UFO like aircraft at a recent airshow in Paris, Russia showed off the maneuverability of their latest jet fighters with amazing aerobatics.
Viewing the Ukraine Crisis From Russia’s Perspective
by FLOYD RUDMIN
(Counterpunch) It is not something unique in the personalities of Tsar Peter or President Putin that drives Russia to require non-threatening neighbors. It is the collective Russian memory of invasion. Each era of history has had its military super-power, and each super-power in turn attacked Russia. (28-30 March)
NB The author subsequently revised the text slightly and included this sentence: Americans should remember that they own Alaska only because Russia sold it, in large part, to pay debts incurred defending Crimea from the attacking European alliance.
How He and His Cronies Stole Russia (‘He’ would be Vladimir Putin)
Book review by Anne Applebaum
Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? by Karen Dawisha
(NY Review of Books 18 December issue) What if it made no difference which mistakes were made, which privatization plans were sidetracked, which piece of advice was not followed? What if “reform” was never the most important story of the past twenty years in Russia at all?

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9 December
Cash-Strapped Russia Won’t Support Ukrainian Separatist Regions Of Donetsk And Luhansk
As a new ceasefire begins Tuesday between Ukraine and pro-Russia separatists in the east of the country, the Kremlin plunged the political fate of the contested regions of Donetsk and Luhansk into uncertainty. According to the left-leaning Russian daily newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which cited officials within the Kremlin, sources within the cabinet of ministers and pro-Russian insurgents, Russia has abandoned the idea of either war-torn region becoming an independent state, instead preferring that both remain autonomous regions within Ukraine.
It was thought that both regions in Eastern Ukraine would be taken under Russian control in the same way Crimea was, after a vote in September, but Russia has been subjected to crippling financial sanctions from the European Union and the U.S. since entering Crimea in February of this year and annexing it just one month later. On top of falling oil prices, that is hurting Russia financially.
25 November
France postpones decision on delivery of Mistral carriers
(Reuters) – France suspended indefinitely on Tuesday delivery of the first of two Mistral helicopter carrier warships to Russia, citing conflict in eastern Ukraine where the West accuses Moscow of fomenting separatism.
24 November
FORMER PRIME MINISTER TAKES HARDLINE PUTIN STANCE (NP, John Ivison)
In Ottawa on November 24th, in a speech to a Canada 2020 think tank audience Mikhail Kasyanov predicted Putin’s political demise within two years.
Kasyanov succeeded Putin as Russia’s Finance Minister in 1999 & was his Prime Minister until Putin fired him at the start of his second term as President. He then planned to run in the 2008 Presidential election against Putin’s ‘seat warmer’, Dmitry Medvedev, but his candidacy was disallowed by the Electoral Commission. He now chairs the opposition People’s Freedom Party & is fiercely critical of Putin. As Prime Minister he introduced economic reforms that reduced inflation, balanced the budget (when oil was US$27) & moved to reduce the Russian economy’s ‘one trick pony’ dependence on oil & gas (all of which has since been squandered by Putin). He says Putin had been surprised by the degree of trans-Atlantic unity in response to his Crimean & Ukrainian adventures, and by his inability to create a split among EU countries in their response thereto. In a subsequent interview with Christiane Amanpour on CNN he counseled maintaining the sanctions & continuance of the demands he conform with the terms of last September’s Minsk Agreement. (Nick’s Gleanings)
23 November
Finland feeling vulnerable amid Russian provocations
As Russian-backed separatists have eviscerated another non-NATO neighbor this year — Ukraine — Finnish leaders have watched with growing alarm. They are increasingly questioning whether the nonaligned path they navigated through the Cold War can keep them safe as Europe heads toward another period of dangerous standoffs between West and East. … Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb has argued that the country needs to join NATO, and a growing share of the public seems to agree, although the ­issue remains hugely sensitive here.
21 November
Russia’s national budget is currently pegged to an international oil price of US $97 a barrel. Oil closed at US $77.49 on November 13. With oil comprising a fifth of their economic output, Russians will see a 6-7% drop in GDP this year. Russia previously used access to its vast oil and gas resources to win allies. Now much-needed access to foreign capital for its petroleum industry is being severely restricted by Western financial sanctions, Canadian investment strategist Nick Rost van Tonningen adds that Russia’s central bank has already raised its key interest rate four times this year, most recently on Oct. 31,from 8.0% to 9.5% – “a jump of this magnitude is … in hockey terms, a matter of ‘pulling the goalie,’ and at worst evidence of outright panic.”
Putin flexes his muscles
David (Jones) It’s best to ignore the Russian leader’s manoeuvring
Somewhat more important is Russian expeditionary action in Ukraine. If Putin were confident there would be no Western/NATO reaction, he wouldn’t blithely deny Russian combat presence, risible as his denials are. But the reality is that the 2014 Russian Army is not the 1988 Soviet Red Army that was poised to crash tank armies through the Fulda Gap aiming at the Rhine. NATO spent a generation fearing that it would have to fight outnumbered and win or unleash nuclear war. The current Russian Army is barely a shadow of the past. To be sure, there are elite combat units able to control local battle space at Ukraine’s border. But Russian numbers are small and properly-trained and equipped Ukrainian forces could hold their own.
vs
David (Kilgour): The West must continue to stand up to the Russian bully
When Putin was handed Russia’s presidency by an ailing Boris Yeltsin in 2000, his country had few adversaries in the West, but he now treats all of us as would-be “subjugators” of Russia. The responsible international community must stand up to his threats and bombast with a unified determination and without being drawn into any spiral of mounting tensions. A strategy building on smarter, tougher and broader sanctions is necessary; so too is much more help for the economy of Ukraine.
15 November

Vladimir Putin first to leave G20 summit, pleading lack of sleep

Russian president says the atmosphere was constructive and media reports of conflict with Western leaders were exaggerated

G20: western leaders increase pressure on Vladimir Putin over Ukraine

The Russian president appears isolated as leaders of Britain, Germany, the US, Canada and Australia raise concerns over hostilities in eastern Ukraine
Vladimir Putin appeared increasingly isolated at the G20, as a group of heads of government attending the Brisbane summit came together in their opposition to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
The leaders of Britain, Germany, the United States, Canada and Australia have all been personally or publicly hostile towards Putin at the event, insisting that Russia withdraw its military influence from its western neighbour.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was especially forthright with the Russian leader.
He reportedly told Putin as the Russian leader approached him with hand outstretched at a G20 leader’s meeting: “Well I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine.”
US President Barack Obama used a speech at a university to say America would remain at the forefront “of opposing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine which is a threat to the world, as we saw in the appalling shoot-down of MH17” – a reference to the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines civilian aircraft over rebel-held territory in July, with the loss of 298 lives.
Russia maintains it is uninvolved in the escalation of military action in south-east Ukraine, and so the sanctions imposed against it are illegal.
13 November
Why Russians may soon tire of Putin’s antics
The ruble plummet is thanks to Mr. Putin’s own foreign policy intransigence and scaring away of foreign investment. And this all means that Mr. Putin’s domestic popularity may not continue for long. Without being able to pay off his cronies and throw money at his domestic woes, Mr. Putin will need to realize that being a global team player is better economics.
Ukraine and Russia take center stage as leaders gather for G20
A showdown between Western leaders and Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely at the G20 summit in Australia starting on Saturday, following fresh reports of Russian troops pouring into eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine has accused Russia of sending soldiers and weapons to help separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine launch a new offensive in a conflict that has killed more than 4,000 people… increasing violence, truce violations and reports of unmarked armed convoys traveling from the direction of the Russian border have aroused fears that a shaky Sept. 5 truce could collapse. The G20 leaders summit in Brisbane is focused on boosting world growth, fireproofing the global banking system and closing tax loopholes for giant multinationals. But with much of the economic agenda agreed and a climate change deal signed last week in Beijing between the United States and China, security concerns are moving to center-stage.
6 November
Kazakhstan casts wary eyes on Putin’s appetite for expansion
Kazakhstan has seldom experienced the ethnic tensions that have plagued other former Soviet republics. It has stood out as one of Russia’s most loyal allies. But the Ukraine crisis has strained even this friendship, and attention is turning to the country’s northern and eastern provinces, where ethnic Russians predominate.
Two leading ultranationalist Russian politicians, legislator and Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and writer Eduard Limonov, explicitly suggested early this year that Russia should seize Kazakh territory.
24 October
Russian nesting dollsThe Cold War and the Cold Shoulder
By Ghia Nodia, President of the Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy, and Development in Tbilisi, Georgia
(Project Syndicate) … while it is perfectly rational for the West to want Russia as a partner, Russia considers the US and the EU enemies. The West can offer no conceivable partnership terms that Putin would accept. Either the West jettisons its fundamental values, or Russia must change.
History suggests that Russia changes only when it experiences an unambiguous geopolitical defeat. Its loss in the Crimean War of 1853-1856 led to the abolition of serfdom and other liberal reforms. Its defeat by Japan in 1905 brought about Russia’s first parliament and the reforms of Pyotr Stolypin. The Afghanistan debacle of the 1980s created the environment that led to Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika.
Ultimately, the Russian people will decide for themselves what constitutes a defeat. If Putin is able to portray his attack on Ukraine as a success, Russia will continue to bully and posture on the international stage. But if Russians come to believe that Ukraine was a misadventure, a very different country could emerge.
9 October
Looking behind the Russia-Iran relationship
(Al-Monitor) Overshadowed by the fast-unfolding developments in Syria and Iraq, the fourth summit of the Caspian states in the Russian city of Astrakhan didn’t make the news. Yet, a closer look at the event reveals a potentially interesting issue between two big players — Russia and Iran — whose stances may become critical if the battle with the Islamic State (IS) expands further and requires a ground mission.
Arriving from New York for the summit in Astrakhan that dealt primarily with the legal status of the Caspian Sea, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also held private talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in which energy projects reportedly dominated the agenda. The two leaders had met previously — first in September 2013 at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization get-together in Kyrgyzstan and later in China in May 2014. However, now that Russia faces Western sanctions, it wants to make sure it remains a top energy supplier for Europe and is doing everything possible to engage Iran in this area before it takes part in potential alternative supply routes.
18 September
Baltic states wary as Russia takes more strident tone with neighbours
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, anxious that battle of wits with Kremlin may escalate, look to Nato for back-up pledge
Oligarch Vladimir Yevtushenkov’s arrest ‘could hurt Russia’
Economy minister’s statement is first critical comment by a Russian official since Sistema chief placed under house arrest
The arrest of Russian billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov on money laundering charges has hurt Russia‘s business climate and could spur capital flight, according to the country’s economy minister.
In the first critical comments by a Russian official since Yevtushenkov, chairman of the Sistema telecoms-to-oil conglomerate, was placed under house arrest on Tuesday, Alexei Ulyukayev said clarification on the situation was needed.
“This is certainly reflected in the investment climate. It is clear that the suspicion that there is some economic motive behind this complicates investors’ decision-making,” he told reporters on Thursday, adding that the situation could spur capital flight.
“We have a [growth] forecast for -2.4% this year for investment, however this is without a doubt under threat and here we have been waiting for some kind of clarification of the situation.”
Analysts say Yevtushenkov’s arrest over a 2009 deal in which he acquired a stake in oil producer Bashneft may be aimed at putting pressure on the businessman to sell the shares to major state oil company Rosneft, led by an ally of President Putin.
2 September
Russia to Review Military Strategy in Response to NATO’s New Force
(Foreign Policy) The announcement that Russia plans to revise its military strategy seems likely to exacerbate the already tense relationship it currently has with Europe. EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to questions about troops in Ukraine — which he has denied — by claiming that Russian forces could take the capital of Kiev in two weeks, if he so desired. The Kremlin sharply criticized Barroso’s recounting of the comment, but did not deny it.
27 August
not-russia‘Not Russia’: Canadians at NATO offer cheeky map to Russians
Russian soldiers ‘accidentally’ crossed into Ukraine, a Russian military spokesman told Reuters, and the Canadian Joint Delegation to NATO offered to help them Wednesday by tweeting a cheeky map of Eastern Europe. As of 1 p.m. ET, the tweet had been retweeted by other users more than 2,000 times.
Endgame for Putin in Ukraine?
(Project Syndicate) All leaders lie and dissemble to some extent; but the scale of disinformation coming from the Kremlin has been epic. So the question must be asked: Will the West be prepared to make peace with Putin?
Leaders whose foreign-policy adventures end in defeat do not usually survive long in office. Either formal mechanisms are used to dethrone them – as occurred, for example, in the Soviet Union, when the Central Committee forced Nikita Khrushchev out of power in 1964 – or informal mechanisms come into play. Putin’s power elite will start fracturing – indeed, that process may have begun already. Pressure will grow for him to step aside. There is no need, it will be said, for his country to go down with him.
Such a scenario, unimaginable a few months ago, may already be shaping up as the Ukraine drama moves to its endgame. The Putin era may be over sooner than we think.
7 August
Putin has trapped himself in a quagmire of his own making
(Globe & Mail editorial) By setting himself up as the protector of an allegedly persecuted Russian minority in Ukraine, willing to defend it against what he claimed was a kind of fascist Ukrainian regime, Mr. Putin painted himself into a corner. And in the course of stymieing his goals in Ukraine, the West must also figure out how to extricate Mr. Putin from that corner. Because the Russian dictator is a kind of wounded and cornered animal. That the wounds are self-inflicted and the corner was of his own design doesn’t change the fact that, as dangerous as the Russian leader is, he is not playing from a position of strength.
The challenge for Western diplomats in the days and weeks to come is to discover a way to let Mr. Putin give us what we want – a democratic, independent Ukraine, sovereign over its territory and in control of its borders – without forcing him to lose too much face in the bargain. Mr. Putin has only one card left. The trick is finding a solution that allows him to back down, and avoid playing it.
(FT) Russia stirs fears of repeat Georgia war
As 20,000 Russian troops mass on the Ukraine border, concern mounts that Vladimir Putin will launch an invasion to help separatists around Donetsk
3 August
Our two Davids (Jones and Kilgour) address The Putin problem
David Kilgour: Sanctions can’t stop Russia, the West needs a forceful NATO strategy
David Jones: Russia holds all the cards, the West has to learn to live with it
1 August
Nouriel Rubini: Russia’s Eurasian Vision
(Project Syndicate) Under the Czars, Imperial Russia extended its reach over time. Under the Bolsheviks, Russia built the Soviet Union and a sphere of influence that encompassed most of Central and Eastern Europe. And now, under Putin’s similarly autocratic regime, Russia plans to create, over time, a vast Eurasian Union.
While the EAU is still only a customs union, the European Union’s experience suggests that a successful free-trade area leads over time to broader economic, monetary, and eventually political integration. Russia’s goal is not to create another North American Free Trade Agreement; it is to create another EU, with the Kremlin holding all of the real levers of power.
25 July
(Foreign Policy) Russia/Ukraine: FP columnist Michael Weiss explains how Europe and the United States could impose sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin that would leave him hurting: “Let’s give Putin a clear choice: Either he can continue subventing and enabling the bloodletting in eastern Ukraine, or we can expose the enormous global network of offshore bank accounts, dummy companies, and real estate holdings that belong to him and his criminal elite. A mafia state should be treated as such. And information should once again be weaponized as it was during the Cold War. Moscow has already gotten a head start, by leaking compromised telephone calls between members of our State Department and between Eurocrats and NATO-allied state officials.
21 July
The Russian Public Has a Totally Different Understanding of What Happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17
(The New Republic) “Did you know Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was full of corpses when it took off from Amsterdam? Did you know that, for some darkly inexplicable reason, on July 17, MH17 moved off the standard flight path that it had taken every time before, and moved north, toward rebel-held areas outside Donetsk? Or that the dispatchers summoned the plane lower just before the crash? Or that the plane had been recently reinsured? Or that the Ukrainian army has air defense systems in the area? Or that it was the result of the Ukrainian military mistaking MH17 for Putin’s presidential plane, which looks strangely similar?
Did you know that the crash of MH17 was all part of an American conspiracy to provoke a big war with Russia?
Well, it’s all trueat least if you live in Russia, because this is the Malaysia Airlines crash story that you’d be seeing.”
MH17 black box handover set to delay escalation of sanctions against Russia
Move means special meeting of EU foreign ministers is unlikely to press ahead with generalised economic sanctions
The belated handover of the black box from the destroyed MH17 as well as the bodies of Dutch citizens killed in the plane crash is likely to ensure that the special meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers on Tuesday will not press ahead with generalised economic sanctions against Russia.
Mediterranean countries – mainly Spain and Italy – have been opposing sanctions and can now point to the benign Russian influence over the separatists.
There has also been awareness in Whitehall that the Dutch government is concerned that an immediate escalation of sanctions could be counterproductive at a highly sensitive time in its negotiations over the bodies and the form of a crash inquiry.
Let Putin save face — The Russian leader hates being lectured. A change of tack could persuade him to disown Ukraine’s rebels
(The Guardian) I suspect his fury is aimed not only at the Ukrainian government, which he continues to blame for creating the situation that led to the downing of the jet, and not only at the west for demonising him as a monstrous killer – but also at the band of rag-tag Russian separatist gangsters whose sheer incompetence has landed him in such deep ordure.
It is, of course, ordure of his own making. The rebels in eastern Ukraine took their lead from Putin’s annexation of Crimea; they derive succour from the Russian media; and they are fighting for a cause Putin backs. His security services provide intelligence and military supplies – including, most likely, the Buk missile that brought down the plane.
Dr. Charles Cogan: A Revanchist Power, 21st Century Style
(HuffPost) The skyrocketing popularity of Putin in Russia after his illegal annexation of Crimea and his tactic of “hybrid war” (which we in the U.S. would call covert action), is a measure of just how wronged the Russian people feel about how the post-Cold War world has turned out, and just how much the spirit of revenge has taken hold in the Russian soul.
CONDEMNATION OF RUSSIA GROWS
(HuffPost) “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry laid out what he called overwhelming evidence of Russian complicity in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 as international horror deepened over the fate of the victims’ remains. Kerry demanded that Moscow take responsibility for actions of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine whom Washington suspects of downing the jet with a missile, and expressed disgust at their ‘grotesque’ mishandling of the bodies.” In the “global court of public opinion, Vladimir Putin is guilty.” Europe has threatened more sanctions against Russia in light of horrible treatment of remains at the crash site, and the U.N. will consider a resolution today regarding international access to the crash site. Stories of the victims’ lives emerged this weekend, along with unbelievable twists of fate: the couple and their baby who were bumped from flight MH17 and the cyclist who was supposed to be on both MH370 and MH17 but switched planes at the last minute. And experts explain why some victims were found without any clothes. [Reuters]
9 July
Russia’s Global Image Negative amid Crisis in Ukraine
Americans’ and Europeans’ Views Sour Dramatically
(Pew Research) As the European Union considers further sanctions on Russia for its role in the standoff in Ukraine, Russia is broadly unpopular in many countries around the globe and increasingly disliked in Europe and the United States. President Vladimir Putin’s leadership also continues to inspire little confidence worldwide, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. The former Cold War power’s negative global image contradicts Russians’ expectations that Putin’s actions in Ukraine would improve their country’s international reputation.1 And while Putin expresses concerns about Russian minorities’ rights in Ukraine, the world gives Moscow poor marks on its record of respecting its own citizens’ personal freedoms.
Across the 44 countries surveyed, a median percentage of 43% have unfavorable opinions of Russia, compared with 34% who are positive.
Negative ratings of Russia have increased significantly since 2013 in 20 of the 36 countries surveyed in both years, decreased in six and stayed relatively similar in the remaining 10.
May/June 2914
Jeremy Kinsman — Loose Ends from the Cold War: Ukraine, Russia and the West
(Policy) Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brazen annexation of Crimea, and his sabre rattling in eastern Ukraine, recall memories of the Cold War, and fault lines between East and West.
In 1991, G7 leaders meeting in London were presiding over what seemed a new and orderly world. Mikhail Gorbachev was an honoured guest, democracy was spreading in the former Soviet Union and a celebratory mood
of East-West harmony prevailed. Today, Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and murky interference in easternUkraine indicate the degree to which the West underestimated both the costs of Russia’s Cold War legacy and the complications of its enduring regional influence. Is this anew Cold War? No. But the regrets are many.
6 June
Putin, Ukraine leader break crisis ice at D-Day event
(Reuters) – The leaders of Russia and Ukraine held their first talks on Friday since Moscow annexed Crimea, discussing ways to end their four-month conflict in a brief encounter during commemorations in France of the World War Two D-Day landings.
French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel brought together Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president-elect Petro Poroshenko for a 15-minute meeting before they joined other dignitaries for lunch.
The meeting was the culmination of weeks of secret diplomacy by French officials to try to break the ice in the most serious European security crisis since the end of the Cold War.
Putin later had an equally short “informal” talk with U.S. President Barack Obama, the White House said.
5 June
Russia faces struggle to wean Crimea economy off Ukraine supplies
(Reuters) – Scrambling to compensate for a lack of water from mainland Ukraine, farmhands are laying row after row of pipe to drip water across dusty fields in Crimea’s arid north.
The water shortage highlights the huge logistical hurdles Russia faces to wean Crimea off dependence on Ukraine, from which it seized the Black Sea peninsula in March.
More than two months after the annexation, denounced as illegal by Kiev and the West, Moscow needs to secure Crimea’s basic needs – chief among them, the water and power almost entirely supplied from Ukraine – in order to prop up the local economy and sustain its popularity among its 2 million people.
20 May
(Reuters) There’s nothing quite like a multi-billion dollar gas deal to bring two countries together. But Russia is likely to find its increased reliance on China amid Western pressure comes at a cost.
19 May
Kremlin again says Putin has ordered troops from Ukraine
(Reuters) – The Kremlin announced on Monday President Vladimir Putin had ordered Russian forces near Ukraine back to their bases, but NATO and the United States said they saw no sign of a pullback and Moscow had failed to carry out such promises before. (BBC) Ukraine crisis: No sign of Russia withdrawal, says Nato
15 May
China rides to Russia’s rescue with investment plan
(Emerging Markets) The decision by a joint venture between Russia and China to invest up to $2bn in key infrastructure projects will relieve the pressure on the Russian government to attract funds to offset the massive flight of capita
9 May
Ominous Photos Of Russia’s Most Militaristic Victory Day Parade In Years
(Buusiness Insider) The parade in Moscow was a strong reminder of Russia’s dedication in recent years to modernize its military. It is also a show of strength by Putin as he continues his claims of being the defender of Russians even outside of the Russian border.
Putin’s Coin Marking The Annexation Of Crimea Is Ominous
Russian President Vladimir Putin just arrived in newly-acquired Crimea to take part in Victory Day celebrations, which are held to mark the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
This week Russia unveiled a massive commemorative coin marking the annexation, and it is apparently part of a series called “The Gatherer of Russian Lands.”
That name has a dark subtext given the fact that Putin believes the fall of the Soviet Union was the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century” and is actively destabilizing south and east Ukraine (which he calls Novorussia or New Russia).
7 May
Putin ‘backs’ Ukraine election
(BBC) In an apparent policy shift, Russia’s president describes Ukraine’s election on 25 May as a step “in the right direction”.
But he said the vote would decide nothing unless the rights of “all citizens” were protected.
Robert M. Cutler: Opinion: The Odessa conflict is part of a larger plan by Russia
Short-term goal is to undermine credible national elections set for May 25
5 May
Putin’s ‘Human Rights Council’ Accidentally Posts Real Crimean Election Results
(Forbes) … The TSN report does not link to a copy of the cited report. However, there is a report of the Human Rights Council, entitled “Problems of Crimean Residents,” still up on the president-sovet.ru website, which discusses the Council’s estimates of the results of the March 16 referendum. Quoting from that report: “In Crimea, according to various indicators, 50-60% voted for unification with Russia with a voter turnout (yavka) of 30-50%.” This leads to a range of between 15 percent (50% x 30%) and 30 percent (60% x 50%) voting for annexation. The turnout in the Crimean district of Sevastopol, according to the Council, was higher: 50-80%.
Jeremy Kinsman: Loose Ends from the Cold War: Ukraine, Russia and the West
(Policy Magazine May/June) Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brazen annexation of Crimea, and his sabre rattling in eastern Ukraine, recall memories of the Cold War, and fault lines between East and West. Wikipedia photo In 1991, G7 leaders meeting in London were presiding over what seemed a new and orderly world. Mikhail Gorbachev was an honoured guest, democracy was spreading in the former Soviet Union and a celebratory mood of East-West harmony prevailed. Today, Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and murky interference in eastern Ukraine indicate the degree to which the West underestimated both the costs of Russia’s Cold War legacy and the complications of its enduring regional influence. Is this a new Cold War? No. But the regrets are many. The crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s swift military move to annex Crimea shocked a world which believed that annexing a smaller neighbour’s territory by force, so reminiscent of Europe’s dangerous and divided past, was obsolete. Simply put, Vladimir Putin says he did it to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine after a coup that he claims was engineered by Western governments left them at the mercy of Ukrainian nationalists.
2 May
Robert Sibley: The expansionist behind Putin
(Ottawa Citizen) When Vladimir Putin addressed the Russian parliament in March following his annexation of Crimea — Part 1 of a “slowing-rolling conquest of Ukraine,” as one historian put it — he drew on traditionalist notions of Greater Russia, Slavic destiny and even ethnic mysticism to justify his aggressions.
But behind the self-serving rhetoric were an unspoken geopolitical theory and unacknowledged ideas of a Russian intellectual by the name of Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin. …
Dugin was a staple on Russian television, promoting Putin’s policies as part of “a struggle for reunification of Slavic peoples.” He referred to “the reunion with the Crimea (as) a victory for us,” and characterized the annexation as “the birth of a new political reality.” He predicted a “Russian Spring” that would see Europe and Russia come together so Europeans could “break loose of American hegemony.”
Such rhetoric encapsulates the concept of Eurasianism Dugin envisioned in his major work, Foundations of Geopolitics: The Geo-political Future of Russia. The 1997 book has been highly influential among Russia’s power elites.
Dugin’s Eurasianism postulates an axis of power involving three Russian dominated geo-political arrangements — Moscow-Berlin, Moscow-Tokyo, and Moscow-Tehran — whose “common enemy” would be the “Atlantic” West, particularly the U.S. and Britain.
According to Dugin, Russia and Germany would between them divide Central and Eastern Europe into spheres of influence, with the Germans dominating Central and Eastern Europe while Russia controlled Finland, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, along with Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, as well the north part of the Balkans from Serbia to Bulgaria.
1 May
Vladimir Putin calls for Ukrainian troops to withdraw from south-east
In phone call with Angela Merkel, Russian president says military withdrawal and national dialogue are key issues in Ukraine
29 April
Foreign Policy: The United States and European Union clamped down further in its campaign to economically isolate Russia. The White House cited Russia’s continued intransigence in efforts to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine and issued new restrictions targeting seven government officials and 17 Russian companies. The list includes oil executive Igor Sechin, “a symbolic shot across the bow of an industry that is crucial to the Russian economy and Putin’s power.” The European Union expanded its sanctions list as well, to include 15 more Russian officials.
The effects of the sanctions regime on the Russian economy also became more apparent yesterday. Noting the high volume of money that has been moved out of Russia just so far this year — $51 billion, compared to $63 billion in all of last year — Standard & Poor’s downgraded Russia’s credit rating and warned that it risked being downgraded again.
24 April
Hopes Rise in Transnistria of a Russian Annexation
(Spiegel) Transnistria is the only place in Europe that still uses the hammer and sickle on its flag. Now that Russia has annexed Crimea and is eyeing eastern Ukraine, many in the breakaway Moldovan republic hope that they are next on Moscow’s agenda.
22 April
Why Putin Is Popular: An Aristotelian Explanation
By Robert M. Cutler
(HuffPost) This engineering of the means of forming mass public opinion in Russia is the “formal” cause of Putin’s popularity. It began preparing the ground two years ago. By conditioning the Russian public with general attitudes such as images of Russia and the U.S. in world politics, it created the “cognitive predispositions” allowing events in Sochi and Ukraine to achieve the echo in Russian opinion that they have done.
The End of the New World Order
By former US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, Christopher R. Hill
(Project Syndicate) The Ukraine crisis is really a Russian crisis. Ukraine – whatever is eventually left of it – will increasingly become a Western country. Russia is showing no sign that it will follow suit. Instead, Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to be settling in for a long diplomatic winter. The US needs to prepare for it, especially in shoring up partners and allies, and ensuring as best it can that Ukraine is Russia’s last victim, not its first.
16 April
Robert M. Cutler: Vladimir Poutine commence à digérer l’Ukraine
(HuffPost Quebec) Vladimir Poutine a maintenant réussi à dévorer la Crimée, mais ce n’est que l’Occident qui a une indigestion. Ne s’arrêtant que poliment après cette entrée, le président russe a désormais commencé à digérer le corps de l’Ukraine. Plus exact serait-il peut-être de dire que Poutine a commencé à ronger les régions orientales du pays. Combien en veut-il? L’appétit vient en mangeant.
14 April
A lengthy, excellent analysis
Lilia Shevtsova*: The Putin Doctrine: Myth, Provocation, Blackmail, or the Real Deal?
When it comes to explaining Russia’s Ukrainian adventurism, the West has attempted to hide behind a wall of myths and hope its problems will just go away.
(American Interest) Even if the West formulates its strategy of dealing with the ruined global scene, it can’t change the nature of the predatory authoritarianism that has emerged in Russia. True, this pressure could become a factor accelerating the Russian crisis, in which case it would become a game changer. But what would a crisis bring to Russia and the outside world? Wouldn’t the West do anything in its power to prevent the crisis and the collapse of the Russian matrix? In order to guarantee this change for the better, Russians would have to concentrate on building an alternative. The sooner, the better.
*Lilia Shevtsova, an AI editorial board member, is senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center.
Moldova in the Middle
The Newest Front in the Battle Between Russia and the West
(Foreign Affair) … The stakes are also somewhat higher for Russia. First, Moldova, specifically Transnistria, could help Russia close in on Ukraine or launch an attack into Western Ukraine. Second, if Russia does grab more of southeastern Ukraine, Transnistria would be instantly transformed from a backwater outpost to a Balkan avant-garde, right on NATO’s border — or at least it would be in the minds of Russian strategists. Third, Moscow is sincere about its strategic goal of reabsorbing all former members of the Russian empire. For Moldovans, Transnistria is a hook: if they want Transnistria back, they have to come back into the fold.
13 April
Security Council holds emergency session on Ukraine
The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting on the Ukraine crisis Sunday, and Western envoys accused Russia of massing troops for a potential invasion. Meanwhile, pro-Russian protesters continued to hold several buildings in eastern Ukraine past the government’s deadline to vacate them. Reuters (4/13), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (4/14), Reuters (4/14)
10 April
Joseph Nye: Putin’s Calculus
Joseph Nye asks whether Russia’s-short-term gains in-Ukraine will be worth the long term loss of soft power
(Project Syndicate) – By most accounts, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been the winner in the Ukraine crisis, at least so far. His annexation of Crimea, which Nikita Khrushchev arbitrarily transferred to Ukraine in 1954, has been widely applauded at home, and he has largely shrugged off Western governments’ responses. But, from a longer-term perspective, Putin’s victory is not quite so certain.
Russia warns Europe of gas supply cuts over Ukraine debt
(Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin warned European leaders on Thursday Russia would cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine if it did not pay its bills and said this could lead to a reduction of onward deliveries to Europe.
In a letter to the leaders of 18 countries, he demanded urgent talks with Europe on pulling Ukraine’s economy out of crisis but made clear his patience was running out over Kiev’s $2.2 billion gas debt to its former Soviet master.
4 April
David (Jones) Vladimir Putin: The best way to stop him is to empower Ukraine
vs.
David Kilgour Vladimir Putin: Internal struggles within Russia could lead to his downfall

1 April
Ivan Krastev: Putin’s World
(Project Syndicate) The West is now living in Putin’s world. It is there not because Putin is right, or even because he is stronger, but because he is taking the initiative. Putin is “wild” while the West is “wary.” While European and American leaders recognize that the world order is undergoing a dramatic change, they cannot quite grasp it. They remain overwhelmed by Putin’s transformation from CEO of Russia, Inc., into an ideology-fueled national leader who will stop at nothing to restore his country’s influence. International politics may be founded on treaties, but it functions on the basis of rational expectations. If those expectations turn out to be wrong, the prevailing international order collapses. That is precisely what has happened in the course of the Ukrainian crisis. …
It is now clear that Crimea will not return to Kyiv; but it is also clear that postponement of the May election will mean the end of Ukraine, as we know it. It is the West’s responsibility to persuade Russia to support the elections – and to guarantee that the needed constitutional reforms will be decided in Kyiv, not in Dayton.
31 March
Russian prime minister flaunts grip on Crimea with visit
(Reuters) – Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev flaunted Russia’s grip on Crimea on Monday by flying to the region and announcing plans to turn it into a special economic zone, defying Western demands to hand the region back to Ukraine.
28 March
Putin chess master
Vladimir Putin ‘wants to regain Finland’ for Russia, adviser says
(The Independent) After annexing Crimea and with troops massed on the border of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin will not stop trying to expand Russia until he has “conquered” Belarus, the Baltic states and Finland, one of his closest former advisers has said.
According to Andrej Illarionov, the President’s chief economic adviser from 2000 to 2005, Mr Putin seeks to create “historical justice” with a return to the days of the last Tsar, Nicholas II, and the Soviet Union under Stalin.
Speaking to the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, Mr Illarionov warned that Russia will argue that the granting of independence to Finland in 1917 was an act of “treason against national interests”.
“Putin’s view is that he protects what belongs to him and his predecessors,” Mr Illarionov said. “Parts of Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States and Finland are states where Putin claims to have ownership.
28 March
How Vladimir Putin’s actions in Crimea changed the world
Disarmament is on hold, Nato has renewed its sense of purpose, Belarus is flirting with the west and ‘irredentism’ is back in vogue
Will Belarus come in from the cold?
Alexander Lukashenko, the strongman leader of Russia’s neighbour and long-time ally Belarus, has been cool on Crimea joining Russia, saying the move sets a “bad precedent”. Belarus pointedly didn’t send observers to Crimea’s 15 March referendum on joining Russia, and Lukashenko has said he is ready to work with the new Kiev government, which Russia says is illegitimate.
A visit to Minsk by a Nato delegation this week seemed to send a signal that Belarus, faced by increasingly aggressive Russian policy in the CIS, could move toward the west. …But Lukashenko is a canny operator, and some believe he has no plans to leave Russia’s camp – and merely wants to improve his negotiating position with Moscow.
Ian Bremmer: The G7 and the limits of Russia’s ‘political isolation’
(Reuters) Even among countries with similar values and political systems, it can be difficult to align interests, as we’ve seen with the varied Western response to Crimea. Second, as new players have emerged in recent decades, the global power balance has shifted, leaving the G7 representative of a smaller piece of the pie. Any organization that does not include China, for example, is not truly global.
Where we see global political coordination, it is largely ineffectual. Take the March 27 United Nations General Assembly resolution, a vote on the legitimacy of the Crimean referendum. At first glance, the result looks like an international rebuke of Russia’s behavior.
Kyle Matthews– From A to Z: These are the 10 countries backing Putin’s annexation of Crimea
(Global News) Yesterday, upset at Russia’s “illegal” annexation of Crimea, Ukraine succeeded in embarrassing Moscow at the United Nations in New York. With the support of Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, Lithuania and Poland, the Ukrainian government was able to push through a vote at the UN General Assembly in support of the “territorial integrity of Ukraine”.
The results were clear. A total of one hundred countries voted in favour of Kiev’s position that Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory was illegal under international law. Another forty-eight countries abstained from voting, most likely not wanting to damage relations with Moscow while also not wanting to endorse reckless military interventions. Eleven countries, led by Russia, voted against the Ukrainian position.

Putin AlaskaRussians petition for return of Alaska
(The Telegraph) Not content with annexing Crimea, Russia appears to have its eyes on territory it sold to America 147 years ago
More than 35,000 people have signed a petition on the White House website calling for Alaska to be returned to Russia after 147 years of American rule.
Written in stilted English, the petition says that “groups Siberian Russians” crossed the Bering Strait more than 10,000 years ago. (2 April)

27 March
Robert M. Cutler: Look Close — Putin Is a Pragmatic Realist
(HuffPost) The post-Cold War era didn’t end with the Russian invasion of Crimea. It ended a decade ago. It is only now that Western politicians and opinion leaders have lost the possibility of continuing to deceive themselves.
This is not the first time that this story has repeated itself. It goes at least as far back as U.S. diplomacy after World War One, when President Woodrow Wilson sought to establish the League of Nations and “make the world safe for democracy.” That did not work out as planned, because the world at large did not conform to Wilson’s beliefs about what their beliefs should be.
In the same say, Putin’s beliefs have not conformed to what the Western politicians and opinion leaders think they should have been. But the error is their own, not Putin’s. They are not the realists that they think they are, because projecting one’s wishful thinking onto “the Other” is not pragmatic realism. It is idealism.
Andrew Nikiforuk: Ukraine Crisis Highlights Ugly Global Energy Truths
Enslaved by debt, it represents the worst of corrosive oil and gas politics.
(The Tyee) Russia is a major energy exporter and global power. …
Unlike the U.S. media, or Canadian politicians for that matter, Putin also knows what an energy collapse looks like. The Soviet Union experienced one in the late 1980s due to an internal oil crisis and rising oil prices.
It then suffered what Putin calls “the largest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” Stagflation, unemployment and gangsters walked over the corpse of the U.S.S.R., which, much like the U.S., spent its energy reserves badly on big armies, big space dreams and big, unsustainable unions.
So Putin, a master chessman, understands the critical importance of strategic energy flows. With just a few turns of a Gazprom valve, much of Europe freezes.
23 March
NATO commander warns of Russian threat to separatist Moldova region
(Reuters) – NATO’s top military commander said on Sunday Russia had built up a “very sizeable” force on its border with Ukraine and Moscow may have a region in another ex-Soviet republic, Moldova, in its sights after annexing Crimea.
21 March
Russia’s imperialism vs globalization
(Reuters Analysis) The new elite, including those closest to the president and the big oligarchs, are increasingly tied into the rules and customs that go with globalization. They have reasons to be grateful to Putin. But gratitude is short-lived when wealth and influence begin to suffer.
Russia is rich in energy. Part of the hesitation that was evident on Thursday when the EU leaders debated sanctions was because European states — Germany above all — rely on its oil and gas supplies. London feeds richly on its financial transfers. But the longer-term threat to Russia’s well-being will be the consequences of its present behavior and its tendency to use gas supplies as a cudgel against those it wishes to whip into line.
Europe has long worried about its dependence on such a capricious neighbor. Increasingly they are making plans to diminish it. Crimea, as James Surowiecki writes,, “Will give more impetus to these efforts.” It will take at least two years for a real shift in the supply networks, but when it comes, it will blow a large hole in Russian export earnings.
Activists in St. Petersburg seek referendum to secede from Russia
Yle Novosti reports that an application was submitted to the city’s electoral commission today for a referendum to vote on St. Petersburg’s succession. The idea behind the petition, arranged by the youth democratic movement Vesna, is to show that it is impossible to hold a referendum in today’s Russia, and thus prove that the vote in Crimea was indeed illegal.
Putin signs laws annexing Crimea as Russia investors take fright
(Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin signed laws completing Russia’s annexation of Crimea on Friday, as investors took fright at a U.S. decision to slap sanctions on his inner circle of money men and security officials. Putin promised to protect a bank partly owned by an old ally, which Washington has blacklisted, and his spokesman said Russia would respond in kind to the financial and visa curbs. Russian shares fell sharply after President Barack Obama also threatened on Thursday to target major sectors of the economy if Moscow tried to move on other areas of Ukraine beyond the Black Sea peninsula. Europe also tightened the screws by widening its sanctions list, and Germany suspended approval of all defense-related exports to Russia, ordering defense contractor Rheinmetall to halt delivery of combat simulation gear. France suspended military cooperation with Moscow.
20 March
Natalia Poklonskaya
Putin appoints glamorous blonde Russian with a love of bright red high heels as Crimea’s new attorney general
(Daily Mail) Natalia Poklonskaya was appointed Crimea’s new attorney general last week She held a press conference after a Ukrainian soldier was shot on Tuesday Footage of the interview went viral over the world – despite being in Russian The blonde has become the inspiration for new online anime art trend Photos of her in a LBD and bright red heels have also taken Twitter by storm
18 March
Russia Examines Its Options for Responding to Ukraine
(Stratfor )The fall of the Ukrainian government and its replacement with one that appears to be oriented toward the West represents a major defeat for the Russian Federation. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia accepted the reality that the former Eastern European satellite states would be absorbed into the Western economic and political systems. Moscow claims to have been assured that former Soviet republics would be left as a neutral buffer zone and not absorbed. Washington and others have disputed that this was promised. In any case, it was rendered meaningless when the Baltic states were admitted to NATO and the European Union. The result was that NATO, which had been almost 1,000 miles from St. Petersburg, was now less than approximately 100 miles away.

17 March
Crimea and neighborsPutin recognises independent Crimea as west imposes sanctions
(Financial Times) Vladimir Putin on Monday night recognised Crimea as an independent state in defiance of sanctions imposed just hours earlier on senior Russian officials by the US and EU. The Russian president’s move threatened to escalate the crisis in Ukraine after Sunday’s overwhelming vote by Crimeans in a referendum to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. … Earlier on Monday, Mr Putin had signalled he might be prepared to negotiate a diplomatic deal over Ukraine, possibly using Crimea as a bargaining chip. How much scope remains for diplomacy – and how quickly tougher international sanctions will be adopted – may depend on whether and how quickly Russia proceeds with absorbing Crimea into the Russian Federation.
U.S., EU set sanctions as Putin recognizes Crimea “sovereignty”
(Reuters) – The United States and European Union imposed personal sanctions on Monday on Russian and Crimean officials involved in the seizure of Crimea from Ukraine as Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree recognizing the region as a sovereign state.
Russian government admits economy in crisis as Ukraine weighs
(Reuters) – Russia’s government acknowledged for the first time on Monday that the economy was in crisis, undermining earlier attempts by officials to suggest albeit weakening growth could weather sanctions over Ukraine. Moscow markets wait to see the full scale of western measures over the seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea and support of its referendum to join Russia, after losing billions of dollars in recent weeks in state and corporate money. For weeks, Russian officials have said the confrontation between Moscow and the West over Ukraine that threatens economic sanctions and asset freezes would “weigh on the economy“.
16 March
(IHS Jane’s 360) Vote to join Russia reduces prospect of compromise over Crimea and creates conditions for ‘frozen conflict’
A referendum in the Ukrainian region of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to formally join the Russian Federation. Moscow is likely to move quickly to incorporate Crimea into its territory, with the move likely to be formalised within the next four months. A temporary truce between Russian and Ukrainian troops in Crimea this week leaves room for diplomatic measures, but the likelihood of a compromise is low and IHS’ ‘frozen conflict’ scenario remains in force. Majority of Crimeans vote to quit Ukraine for Russia (Reuters) Russian state media said Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to break with Ukraine and join Russia, as Kiev accused Moscow of pouring forces into the peninsula and warned separatist leaders “the ground will burn under their feet”. the head of the referendum commission, Mikhail Malyshev, said … [that] turnout was 83 percent – a high figure given that many who opposed the move had said they would boycott the vote.
13 March
Russia holds war games near Ukraine; Merkel warns of catastrophe
(Reuters) – Russia launched new military exercises near its border with Ukraine on Thursday, showing no sign of backing down on plans to annex its neighbor’s Crimea region despite a stronger than expected drive for sanctions from the EU and United States
12 March
EU moves towards travel bans, asset freezes for Russians
(Reuters) – The EU agreed a framework on Wednesday for its first sanctions on Russia since the Cold War, a stronger response to the Ukraine crisis than many had expected and a mark of solidarity with Washington in the effort to make Moscow pay for seizing Crimea. The EU sanctions, outlined in a document seen by Reuters, would slap travel bans and asset freezes on an as-yet-undecided list of people and firms accused by Brussels of violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the measures would be imposed on Monday unless diplomatic progress was made.
11 March
Russian Arms to Egypt Threaten to Undermine U.S. in Mideast
(IPS) – Russia, which is at loggerheads with Washington over the spreading political crisis in Ukraine, is threatening to undermine a longstanding military relationship between the United States and one of its traditional allies in the Middle East: Egypt. … Sisi was in Moscow [last month] to negotiate a hefty two-billion-dollar arms deal with Russia….Ironically, if and when the arms deal is signed, the funding will come from money pledged by three strong U.S. allies in the region: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who themselves depend heavily on U.S. weapons for survival.
10 March
Russian oligarchs fear economic casualties if Ukraine crisis escalate
(Globe & Mail) After a week of escalating tensions between Russia and the United States, it has become clear that the conflict over Ukraine will move to the battlefield of finance. Those same business titans are now contemplating the damage that the crisis could inflict on Russia’s economy.
7 March
Analysis: Why Russia’s Crimea move fails legal test
(BBC) The Russian parliament says Crimea can become Russian territory if that is what the region’s people decide they want in a referendum set for 16 March. Here Marc Weller, Professor of International Law at the University of Cambridge, examines the legal issues raised by Russia’s intervention in Crimea. The territory became part of Soviet Ukraine in 1954 and remained Ukrainian after the Soviet collapse in 1991….. The autonomous Crimean territory may indeed be legally entitled to argue for a change in its status. However, according to international precedent, it cannot simply secede unilaterally, even if that wish is supported by the local population in a referendum. Instead, it would need to engage in genuine discussion about a possible separation with the central authorities in Kiev. Alternatives, such as enhanced autonomy, would need to be explored International practice generally seeks to accommodate separatist demands within the existing territorial boundaries. Moreover, international law does not recognise a divorce at gunpoint. Crimea cannot proceed with a possible secession or even incorporation into Russia while Moscow holds sway on the ground.
Dr. Charles Cogan: ‘Back in the USSR’
(HuffPost) We are back to some of the characteristics of the Soviet era, notably that of the Big Lie. … All this theater is to mask the fact that Putin has violated the 1994 Budapest agreement, signed by Russia, the United States, and Britain, and including Ukraine. The agreement obliged the parties to “refrain from the ‘threat and use of force’ or ‘economic coercion’ against Ukraine.” The latter, for its part, agreed to give up the nuclear weapons it inherited after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Russia Is Doomed Don’t be fooled by Putin’s façade; the pillars of Russian power are steadily declining.
(The Diplomat) … over the long-term Russian power will have to come nearly exclusively from its prized geography. To be fair, the value of this real estate is increasing thanks to the increased importance of Asia and the warming of the Arctic. Still, this alone is hardly sufficient to sustain Russia as the major power it once was, and may someday become again. Classic performance as Russia’s Vladimir Putin breaks his silence
By Neil Buckley
(FT) Vladimir Putin came out on Tuesday with a classic performance: clever, tough, sardonic and deeply cynical. In an hour-long press conference at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence, Russia’s president took at least one step back from confrontation. Possibly he blinked in the face of threatened western sanctions over Russia’s creeping occupation of the Black Sea peninsula, or Monday’s 11 per cent fall in the Moscow stock market. More likely, after the slickly executed Crimea operation, and the far more serious threat to send Russia’s army into eastern Ukraine, he felt he had made his point – for now. … What about the Budapest Memorandum, signed in 1994 when Kiev gave up its nuclear arsenal, which bound Russia, the US and the UK to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity? Mr Putin suggested, slightly ominously, that after Ukraine’s latest revolution, a “new state” might arise within its borders – and Russia had not signed the Budapest agreement with that state.
Russia says no military action imminent in Ukraine Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia has the right to use force to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine but that such intervention isn’t yet necessary. Meanwhile, Western countries continue to consider sanctions against Russia. Reuters (3/4), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (3/4), ForeignPolicy.com (3/3), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (3/3)
Putin’s Press Conference Proved Merkel Right: He’s Lost His Mind
(New Republic) Slouching in a fancy chair in front of a dozen reporters, Putin squirmed and rambled. And rambled and rambled. He was a rainbow of emotion: Serious! angry! bemused! flustered! confused! So confused. Victor Yanukovich is still the acting president of Ukraine, but he can’t talk to Ukraine because Ukraine has no president. … Today’s performance … [confirmed] Merkel was absolutely right: Putin has lost it. Unfortunately, it makes him that much harder to deal with.
Putin: military force would be ‘last resort’ in Ukraine
(Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin delivered a robust defense of Russia’s actions in Crimea on Tuesday and said he would use force in Ukraine only as a last resort, easing market fears that East-West tension over the former Soviet republic could lead to war. But tension remained high on the ground, with Russian forces firing warning shots in a confrontation with Ukrainian servicemen, and Russian navy ships were reported to have blockaded the strait separating the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula from Russia.
Putin ends army exercise, Russian markets rally despite Ukraine tension
(Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin ordered troops involved in a military exercise in western Russia back to base on Tuesday in an announcement that appeared intended to ease East-West tension over fears of war in Ukraine. Russian financial markets rebounded after sharp falls on Monday, and the euro and dollar rose in Japan. Russia paid a heavy financial price on Monday for its military intervention in Ukraine, with stocks, bonds and the ruble plunging as Putin’s forces tightened their grip in Crimea, whose population is mainly ethnic Russian.
3 March
Putin’s Kampf
(Project Syndicate) Given the scale of Putin’s adventurism, the world’s response must be commensurate. Canceled summits, trade deals, or membership in diplomatic talking shops like the G-8 are not enough. Only actions that impose tangible economic sanctions that affect Russian citizens – who, after all, have voted Putin into power time and again – offer any hope of steering the Kremlin away from its expansionist course. Which sanctions might work? First, Turkey should close the Dardanelles to Russian shipping, as it did after the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. Back then, Turkey closed access to the Black Sea to prevent the US from intervening, though the US, it is now clear, had no intention of doing so. Today, it should close the Turkish straits not only to Russian warships, but to all commercial vessels bound for Russia’s Black Sea ports. The impact on Russia’s economy – and on Putin’s military pretensions – would be considerable.
How will the West read Putin’s playbook?
(The Economist) If Mr Putin believes (as he almost certainly does) that Mr Obama will do little more than deliver a petulant slap on the wrist, he will have no compunction in putting into operation a familiar playbook. Everything that has happened so far is almost a carbon copy of the tactics used to occupy and effectively annex South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008: manipulate, provoke, foment a sense of crisis that prompts an appeal for aid and then send in Russian “peacekeepers”. The difference is that Ukraine is a country of 46m people with by no means insignificant armed forces of its own. It is also bankrupt, and a majority of its people want to be Ukrainians, not subjects of a Russian puppet government. Mr Putin is thus unlikely to want to push things so far that Russian forces get sucked into a hot war in Ukraine against fellow Slavs. With his own economy stagnating, he will surely have second thoughts about taking on the burden of an occupation. Furthermore, whereas after the early 1990s Russia never recognised that South Ossetia and Abkhazia were under Georgia’s control, it is a signatory of a 1994 treaty guaranteeing the territorial integrity of Ukraine. But Ukraine’s size and importance also make the current crisis a far more threatening security issue for the West than Russia’s intervention in Georgia. While it is easy to criticise Mr Obama’s infinite capacity for thoughtful inaction, the dilemmas for Western diplomacy are real enough. The problem is that like the fox, the West knows lots of different things but is not sure what it really wants, while Mr Putin is like the hedgehog that knows just one big thing, namely that Ukraine, especially in the south and east, is really part of Russia’s world 1 March

Putin ready to invade Ukraine; Kiev warns of warAislin Putin

(Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded and won his parliament’s approval on Saturday to invade Ukraine, where the new government warned of war, put its troops on high alert and appealed to NATO for help. Putin’s open assertion of the right to send troops to a country of 46 million people on the ramparts of central Europe creates the biggest confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War. Troops with no insignia on their uniforms but clearly Russian – some in vehicles with Russian number plates – have already seized Crimea, an isolated peninsula in the Black Sea where Moscow has a large military presence in the headquarters of its Black Sea Fleet. Kiev’s new authorities have been powerless to stop them. The United States said Russia was in clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and called on Moscow to withdraw its forces back to bases in Crimea. It also urged the deployment of international monitors to Ukraine. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, leading a government that took power after Moscow’s ally Viktor Yanukovich fled a week ago, said Russian military action “would be the beginning of war and the end of any relations between Ukraine and Russia“. Acting President Oleksander Turchinov ordered troops to be placed on high combat alert. Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya said he had met European and U.S. officials and sent a request to NATO to “examine all possibilities to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine”.
26 February
Nina L. Khrushcheva: Russia’s Crimean Shore?
(Project Syndicate) If anything, Russia needs Europe and America if it is to confront successfully its many challenges, particularly that posed by China. Instead, Putin takes perverse pride in his persistent efforts to alienate the West. His former Ukrainian proxy, Yanukovich, could attest to the catastrophic stupidity of this policy.
21 February
Why Ukraine Is Such A Big Deal For Russia
(NPR) … Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to stem his country’s decline in global influence: Moscow’s leverage in places like Ukraine is one way to preserve that influence. But there are other reasons why Ukraine is of deep interest to Russia — reasons that have more to do with history, faith, economics and culture. Matthew Rojansky, director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center, says the two countries “are joined at the hip”: They share language; Russian media are popular in Ukraine; there are family ties; many Ukrainians work in Russia; and Russians have billions of dollars invested in Ukraine. Historically, those ties date back to before the Soviet Union — and even before the days of the Russian empire that began in the 18th century. Many consider Ukraine to be the birthplace of the region’s Orthodox Christianity. Ukraine then became part of the Russian empire, and later part of the Soviet Union, where Ukrainian men were pivotal in the Soviet defeat of the German army in World War II.
18 February
What’s Happening in Kiev Right Now Is Vladimir Putin’s Worst Nightmare
(New Republic) Last time Kiev had protests, Putin put the finishing touch on killing democracy in Russia. This time, he is already busy tightening the screws. He is cracking down on DozhdTV, Russia’s last independent television station. He has ordered a propagandist makeover of RIA Novosti, a state-owned but fairly modern news agency, installing a fire-breathing ideologue to run it (this guy, if you’re curious). Today, Ekho Moskvy, Moscow’s largest radio station that is often sympathetic to the opposition, got a new general manager, a woman with a decade-long resume of faithfully serving the state propaganda machine. State TV is broadcasting Goebbels-like “documentaries” about the opposition called “The Biochemistry of Betrayal.” People who don’t agree with Putin have found their sources of income choked off; many are fleeing the country. Putin is tightening the screws, because this is what stability looks like and that, to Putin, by all accounts a man deeply traumatized by the chaotic, painful collapse of the Soviet Union, is worth any price. And the more unstable Ukraine gets, the tighter he’ll turn them. Just you wait.
18 February
Sochi has given Putin back his geopolitical swagger
Moscow matters again. And, to the consternation of leaders in the West, Russia under Mr. Putin sees its interests – on almost every major file, from Egypt to Syria to Ukraine – as being the opposite of whatever the United States and European Union want.
17 February
Jeffrey Sachs: From Moscow to Sochi
(Project Syndicate) Back in 1991, many thought that Russia could not end high inflation, adopt a market economy, or compete effectively in world markets. Two decades later, Russia has proved the skeptics wrong. Yes, Russia remains too dependent on oil and gas, and should move further on transparency, openness, and competition in business and governance. Yet the trend is positive: Russia has become a stable, high-income market economy, with strong prospects for decades of rapid GDP growth and high-tech progress if it pursues a sensible economic strategy in the coming years.
8 February
Defying Putin
(CBC Doc Zone) Vladimir Putin has ruled Russia for a dozen years. He could be in power for another dozen. But a new generation of Russians is rocking the boat in Putin’s Russia. In Defying Putin, you’ll meet remarkable characters who are fighting for change. Unprecedented access to the courtrooms and election campaign rooms give you a behind the scenes glimpse of a Russia you’ve never seen before.
7 February
Moldovan wine ban by Russia is a symptom of a wider divide
(Euronews) Sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, this former Soviet republic is facing a choice between furthering ties with the EU or Russia. Recently Moscow reignited this debate by halting the import of Moldovan wine. For a country heavily reliant on such exports to Russia, the decision has had a major impact on producers. Moldova is far from a united country; the breakaway region of Transnistria and the autonomous Gagauzia are predominantly Russian speaking. Here closer ties to the EU are not desired. It is a nationwide divide that is being made worse by other issues, notably the import of natural gas from Russia. Currently the country is largely dependent on imports from Russian firm Gazprom, which controls both the flow of gas and much of the distribution network.
6 February
Olympics guest list reveals Putin’s place on the world stage
(Globe & Mail) The roster of world leaders arriving in Sochi for Friday’s opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics neatly illustrates Russian President Vladimir Putin’s current position on the international stage: Courted by the East, obeyed by Russia’s post-Soviet neighbours, but increasingly a pariah in the West. Topping the list of expected guests are Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Asian rivals that have been butting heads since the two men came to office. Both leaders seek a steady supply of Russian oil and gas to feed their economies, as well as the Kremlin’s backing in a charged territorial row over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Céline Cooper: Russia’s campaign against LGBT community a stain on Putin’s Olympic glory
In the end, Russian authorities can spend all they like building a securitized “Ring of Steel” around Sochi for these Olympics. But Putin will have a much harder time containing the threat to Russia’s international reputation posed by his government’s aggressive attitude toward the LGBT community.
(Postmedia) For the record, Putin has been responsible for some of the most egregious human-rights violations in recent history. These include backing Bashar Assad’s murderous regime in Syria, election rigging, and jailing protesters, business people, journalists and activists who have dared to challenge him and his authoritarian rule. He has led government-sponsored crackdowns and deportations of migrant workers from the Caucasus and Central Asia, including Uzbeks, Tajiks, Georgians, Azeris and Kyrgyz. His government was behind the invasion and occupation of Georgia in 2008. The violent turmoil going on in Ukraine right now is directly related to the fact that Ukrainians want out of the Russian orbit and are seeking to ally with the West. I could go on. But besides a few slaps on the wrist from the international community, Putin has more or less got away with all of this.By contrast, Russia’s anti-gay legislation has sparked global outrage.
24 January
Jeremy Kinsman: The Sochi Olympics and the making of ‘Putin the Great’ Russian president’s politics are straight out of The Good Tsar’s Handbook
(CBC) Polls reveal that Russians are increasingly unhappy with the way they are governed; only 25 per cent express confidence in the leadership of the current team. The view that Russia needs democracy has grown to about two-thirds of respondents, but still there is wide disappointment with their experience of democracy in practice. Massive demonstrations in 2012 against Putin’s return to power drew from urban middle and educated classes who had used the decade of “calming down” to build their expectations. Putin won his re-election with a considerably reduced majority based on the support of rural, older, and poorer voters, still distrustful of change. Today, faced with a stubborn if repressed opposition, Putin no longer pretends to be the leader of all Russians, only of “patriotic” Russians — not the “bad” Russians whom he denigrates for wanting to kowtow to the liberal and secular West. To appeal to his base, Putin has reached back to Russia’s pre-revolutionary orthodox past and Russia’s “traditional” morality. Hence the anti-gay law, reflecting long-lurking homophobic impulses, that has been woven into the patriotic narrative. And the ban on foreign adoptions, to keep Russian babies from growing up in an overly secular West.
20 January
Russia-Govt-DebtsRussia’s Growing Regional Debts Threaten Stability
(Stratfor) Since the 2009 financial crisis, the Kremlin has allowed Russia’s regions to take the brunt of the country’s economic decline in order to keep the federal government seemingly healthy, with a nominally small budget deficit and large currency reserves. But now most of Russia’s regional governments’ debt is so high, it is becoming dangerous for the federal government and big banks and could soon become unmanageable.
Analysis Russia is so large that the Kremlin lacks the resources to run each region of the country directly. Currently Russia is split into 83 regions of all shapes and sizes, which fall into categories of oblasts, republics, krais, federal cities and autonomous okrugs. Historically, the Kremlin has given regional leaders (mayors, governors, heads or republic presidents) the power to run their own regions and ensure loyalty to the Kremlin and stability for the country. However, the Kremlin is constantly concerned with its control over the regions. The federal government’s ability to maintain the loyalty of each region has been tested often throughout history. For instance, dozens of regions attempted to break away after the fall of the Soviet Union, occasionally leading to wars such as those in Chechnya. The central government’s control over the regions was demolished during the devastating financial crisis in 1998. Many of the regional heads defied the federal government in order to look out for their own regions’ survival. It was the second-worst regional breakdown in Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and it was related directly to the chaos caused by that collapse. This is why the currently growing economic strains in the regions will be of great concern for the Kremlin.
16 January
Russian city election proves democratic pulse still beats
Someone forgot to tell Yevgeny Roizman how a big city Russian mayor is supposed to behave. In a country where meeting a senior official usually requires half a dozen phone calls and faxes – often with proposed questions submitted in advance for vetting –it’s jarring when the newly elected boss of Russia’s fourth-largest city tells a foreign journalist to drop by at their convenience. “You know where to find me,” he says, referring to his office atop Yekaterinburg’s ornate City Hall building, which still has the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union carved into its facade. … Mr. Roizman’s personal charisma and plain-talking style, as well as his deep roots in Yekaterinburg, helped him overcome massive institutional disadvantages to narrowly win the mayor’s job last September. His opponent from United Russia had the backing of the Kremlin and its television stations. But Mr. Roizman had the affection of a city that has always had a soft spot for rebels.
7 January
Nina L. Khrushcheva: Power Without Purpose
By suppressing opposition in Moscow, Grozny, and elsewhere, Putin has only put a lid on a boiling pot. Part of the Kremlin’s difficulty stems from its remarkable lack of vision – a fundamental failure to understand what Russia is, will be, or can become. We know that it is no longer an economic power (oil reserves notwithstanding). Nor is it a match for the US, or even China, in international affairs. But it is far from clear what Russia wants to become: a reinvented empire, a new autocracy, a “sovereign” democracy, or perhaps something else.
(Project Syndicate) It appears that sometime last summer, Putin realized that his usual approach to public relations – kissing tigers, “discovering” sunken treasure, and bare-chested horse-riding in the Siberian taiga – was hackneyed and inappropriate for a world leader. So, like the good KGB apparatchik that he was, he refocused his attention on exploiting his opponents’ weaknesses – particularly those of US President Barack Obama. That tactic has been successful, at least insofar as it has created buzz about a “resurgent Russia.” In his now customary New Year’s address, a preening Putin celebrated 2013 by recalling how Russia had outplayed the US and Western Europe. Without being too specific, he noted Russia’s asylum offer to former US intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden last summer; his deal to dispose of Syria’s chemical weapons, thereby preventing the US from striking Russia’s ally; and Ukraine’s return to Russia’s sphere of influence after its rejection – under Kremlin pressure – of an association agreement with the European Union.
3 January To be taken with a large grain of salt – the author definitely has an agenda
Eric Draitser: Waging war on Russia: Looking into Volgograd terror blasts Situated between Syria and Central Asia, and straddling the energy-rich Caspian region, the Russian Caucasus has become a flashpoint in world affairs. The geopolitical realities are brought into stark relief by the unimaginable grief of the families of innocents killed needlessly by these horrific acts of terrorism. In mourning the dead, we must come to understand more clearly, and on a systemic level, how international terrorism operates, and how it is used as a weapon by the forces of empire. (RT) Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian people have been repeatedly victimized by acts of terrorism emanating from the Caucasus region. Beginning in 1999, with the infamous apartment bombings that killed more than 300 innocent people in several cities including Moscow, there have been a number of high-profile attacks all across the country, including the bombing of airports, marketplaces, trains and bus stops, targeted assassinations of community and religious leaders, as well as the infamous Moscow theater hostage crisis of 2002. These incidents are far more than mere national tragedies to be understood in isolation from one another. Rather, they represent a continuing campaign of terror by internationally connected jihadi organizations, based in the Russian Caucasus, who are intent on waging war against the Russian people and the Russian state.

Vladimir Putin is outflanking the west at every turn The Russian president runs rings around the supposed liberal leaders of the west as he advances his authoritarian agenda (The Observer| Guardian) This has been the year of Vladimir Putin’s ascendancy. The Russian president has made Barack Obama look like a conman’s stooge – a lame duck president so weak that he can barely waddle to the pond. Putin has managed to protect his client dictatorship in Syria – even after it broke one of the few taboos limiting man’s inhumanity to man by using chemical weapons. He has Edward Snowden, perhaps the most damaging leaker in recent history, under the vigilant eyes of his secret police in Moscow. He has out-manoeuvred the pro-European demonstrators in Kiev and bought off the Ukrainian government. At home, his control over the state and civil society is so complete that he can afford to play the merciful tsar and release dissidents and his former rival Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Forbes magazine was not making a mistake when it called Putin the world’s most powerful person in 2013. However, the Centre for Strategic Communications, a thinktank for the Kremlin’s pet intellectuals, assessed his power more precisely last week when it acclaimed him “world conservatism’s new leader”. If you can rid yourself of the idea that being a conservative means merely supporting private enterprise, you will see what it meant. (December 2013)
27 February 2013 Andrei Piontkovsky: The Four Stages of Putinism
(Project Syndicate) In 1970, Soviet dissident Andrei Amalrik observed in Will the Soviet Union Survive until 1984? that “all totalitarian regimes grow old without realizing it.” Amalrik was right, and the regime established since 2000 by Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to fall apart – perhaps this year – for the same reason that the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. … In a mere 13 years, Putin’s regime, with its grand ideological style, has passed through all of the stages of Soviet history, becoming a vulgar parody of each. The first stage, that of creating the regime’s legitimizing myth, generates a heroic demiurge, the father of the nation. Whereas the Bolsheviks had the 1917 Revolution, the Putinists had the second Chechen war of 1999 and the bombings of apartment buildings in Buynaksk, Moscow, and Volgodonsk that year. Thus was born the myth of the heroic intelligence officer who protects Russians in their homes while terrifying the nation’s enemies.

4 Comments on "Russia in 2014"

  1. A European Friend of Wednesday Night March 30, 2014 at 6:35 pm · Reply

    Re: Viewing the Ukraine Crisis From Russia’s Perspective
    “Excellent piece. Eloquent, to the point and convincing. Again underlines the importance of knowing history.”

  2. Sam Stein April 7, 2014 at 2:30 am · Reply

    Re Transnistria and Moldova: My knowledge of the situation goes back to the time around 1999-2000 when my consulting firm had a series of contracts with the Moldovan airport and civil aviation authorities. First, Transnistria is really not much of viable country. The total area is about the equivalent of a 15km strip of land stretching from around Lachute to Ottawa on the North Bank of the Ottawa River. Second, according to my Moldovan friends, the only reason that it did not become part of the new country of Moldova in the early 1990s was the unwillingness of the large Russian military contingent to join the Moldovan armed forces and to have to accept commands from ethnic Romanian officers (Moldovans are Romanian for the most part and the languages are virtually identical). Third, my friends claim that the only viable economic activity in Transnistria is smuggling and contraband and that the place is basically a little mafiastan run by Russian military thugs. There were apparently some soviet-style factories making poor quality household appliances at the time of the great socialist brotherhood, but I would imagine that nobody wants them now. Given the difficulty of transporting any Russian military materiel into Transnistria and the insignificance of the territory, I cannot see the Kremlin provoking any new conflict here. The situation has no real analogy to Crimea, despite what some of the commentariat seem to suggest.

  3. Antal Deutsch May 4, 2014 at 8:57 pm · Reply

    Re: The expansionist behind Putin
    The risk of having autocratic rulers is that they fall under the spell of some (alas, often academic) nut. In Russia, most people have a pretty low standard of living , by our standards. To improve on that situation takes a lot of unglamorous slow-acting measures. It must be tempting for any autocrat to deal with other issues that have, potentially, a much faster and more glamorous pay-off. I fear that is what we are witnessing once more Tony Deutsch

  4. Nick's Gleanings 564 May 30, 2014 at 12:47 pm · Reply

    Putin’s much-hyped China gas deal was a “Hail Mary pass”. It wasn’t really all that big a deal for either party; for it involves less than half the gas Gazprom sells to Germany & between one third & one quarter of the gas it sells to all of Europe, incl. Germany. Before the gas can start flowing, Gazprom must build a 2,600 km, US$22BN pipeline, & by the time it will be completed the 38BN cubic metre/year involved will have shrunk from the current 25% of China’s natural gas consumption to something closer to 10%. And with Putin having little bargaining power & needing a deal, the Chinese had Putin over a barrel & took their pound of flesh : the reason the contract was signed only late in his visit, rather than earlier on as he had hoped, was that he had to settle for a lousy price, lower than Gazprom is getting in Europe while it must haul the stuff at least twice as far. And the Western media generally ignored the only possibly really significant macro- economic cum political part of the deal, namely that its ‘denomination currency’ will not be the US$, thereby driving another nail in the coffin of the US dollar’s reserve currency role.

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