Russia November 2021-

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Moscow Times
Russia on Wednesday Night

Russia turns to Turkey, other trading partners to blunt sanctions’ impact
(NYT) Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, agreed to boost bilateral trade and take steps to work more closely in the transportation, agriculture, industry and finance sectors, according to a joint statement the leaders released after four hours of talks in Sochi, the Russian resort city on the Black Sea. It was the second time the two men had met in just over two weeks.
(The World) In a meeting in Sochi, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan agree for their nations to work more closely but release few specifics
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Friday. It’s their second meeting in just over two weeks. The move has raised concerns that Moscow could be trying to strengthen economic ties with a NATO country. Ankara has been playing a mediating role between Ukraine and Russia, and has not joined in on imposing sanctions against the Kremlin. The meeting also comes as talks are set to begin over a potential prisoner swap for American basketball star Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in jail in Russia on drug charges.

17 June
Hackers crash internet as ‘Russian Davos’ adjusts to new reality
(Reuters) – Hackers on Friday delayed the start of President Vladimir Putin’s speech to Russia’s flagship economic forum, shorn of strong Western participation as Russia adjusts to the “new reality” of life under Western sanctions.
Internet connectivity and speeds suffered at the forum, and Putin’s speech, in which he accused the West of trying to crush his country with an economic “blitzkrieg”, was delayed by a little over 100 minutes.
State companies made a point of publicly signing deals and many firms had stalls with floor-to-ceiling display screens and glamorous attendants at the 25th St Petersburg International Economic Forum, which aims to rival the Davos World Economic Forum.
Western sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine combined with related supply chain issues have starkly altered Russia’s export-import dynamics, with the country now looking to the likes of China and India and turning away from the West.
Key banks have lost access to the global payments system SWIFT, Western brands are shunning the country and selling up in a hurry, writing off billions of dollars in assets – and the European Union has promised an embargo on Russian oil.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko lamented Russia’s backwardness in technology, and said the “painful process” of Russia switching to its own technology was under way.

8 June
Russian Orthodox Church sends its second most powerful figure on lower-ranking overseas posting
– Second in command headed Church’s foreign relations
– Synod decrees he should be sent to Budapest instead
– Ukraine conflict has deepened split within Slav Orthodoxy
The Church did not respond to a Reuters request for an explanation of the abrupt departure of Hilarion, who holds a doctorate from Oxford University and was seen as a potential successor to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.
The Russian Orthodox Church is by far the biggest of the churches in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which split with Western Christianity in the Great Schism of 1054. Today it has about 100 million followers within Russia and more outside.
But the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine has divided the two biggest Slav congregations, and added to a growing dispute within Slav Orthodox Christianity that goes back more than a thousand years to the very roots of Russia and Ukraine.

19 May
We Should Say It. Russia Is Fascist.
By Dr. Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University and the author of many books on fascism, totalitarianism and European history.
(NYT) Fascism was never defeated as an idea.
As a cult of irrationality and violence, it could not be vanquished as an argument: So long as Nazi Germany seemed strong, Europeans and others were tempted. It was only on the battlefields of World War II that fascism was defeated. Now it’s back — and this time, the country fighting a fascist war of destruction is Russia. Should Russia win, fascists around the world will be comforted.
A time traveler from the 1930s would have no difficulty identifying the Putin regime as fascist. The symbol Z, the rallies, the propaganda, the war as a cleansing act of violence and the death pits around Ukrainian towns make it all very plain. The war against Ukraine is not only a return to the traditional fascist battleground, but also a return to traditional fascist language and practice. Other people are there to be colonized. Russia is innocent because of its ancient past. The existence of Ukraine is an international conspiracy. War is the answer.

3 May
Russian War Report: New fires and alleged sabotage operations across Russian territory
By Digital Forensic Research Lab
(Atlantic Council) Over the past several days, numerous strategic facilities on Russian territory have caught fire. The reason of the fires in most cases were not officially confirmed, though many of them are suspected to be sabotage operations. At the same time, Siberia is experiencing massive seasonal wildfires, which Russia has lacked enough manpower to keep under control.
On May 3, videos surfaced showing a massive warehouse caught fire in Bogorodskoye, northeast of Moscow. Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations also provided photos showing the scale of the fire, which reportedly spanned an area of more than three hectares.
On May 2, videos captured a fire at a munitions factory facility in Perm, near the Ural Mountains, roughly 1,500km east of Moscow. The factory reportedly manufactured Grad and Smerch rocket munitions, which have played a significant role in destroying cities in Ukraine. And on May 1, videos documented fuel-oil tanks burning in Mytishchi. The location of the fuel depot is reportedly only thirty minutes from the Kremlin.
Meanwhile, photos surfaced on May 1 suggesting that a railway bridge in Russia’s Kursk region was destroyed due to sabotage. The bridge reportedly was used to transport Russian troops and military equipment to Ukraine. Kremlin media outlet RIA Novosti reported on the incident without providing the cause of the “partial collapse.”
At the same time, Siberia is currently experiencing massive seasonal wildfires. Videos that surfaced on May 2 captured the enormous scale of the wildfires. Ukrainian journalist Denis Kazansky reported that the fires continue to burn as there is no one to put them out, because the military unit responsible for extinguishing fires in the region is currently fighting in Ukraine.

29 April
Mark Galeotti: Russia’s Hardliners Present Their Manifesto
[J]ust as the Soviet system was always really a wartime economy, even during times of ostensible peace, this is the essence of the silovik manifesto: a Russia committed to a cultural, political and sometimes military Forever War with the West, demanding absolute discipline and the mobilization of society and economy alike.
(Moscow Times) … [Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Security Council],  a career security officer first in the KGB and then the successor Federal Security Service (FSB) is in effect Putin’s national security adviser. He does not court publicity, so this kind of lengthy, showcase interview [with the official government newspaper of record, Rossiiskaya Gazeta] is as significant as it is unusual.
He is truly the hawk’s hawk. I have in the past described him as ‘the most dangerous man in Russia’ because of the way he drags Putin into even more extreme positions, fuelling his ambitions with talk of Russia’s historical mission and his paranoias with warnings of Western plots. As such, he is in many ways the lead spokesman of the siloviki – the ‘men of force’ of the military and security agencies – and the most nationalist of them, at that.
This interview was in many ways a silovik manifesto. It paints an apocalyptic picture of a world in which an America that “has long divided the whole world into vassals and enemies” and which is “used to walking on scorched earth” has turned against Russia because it is not willing “to give up its sovereignty, self-consciousness, culture, independent foreign and domestic policy.”

22 April
Russians are told they have two choices: Win this war or be destroyed
They justify Putin’s fratricide because the West, and ‘internal Ukrainians,’ present an existential threat
By Leonid Ragozin, freelance journalist based in Latvia.
(WaPo) The available evidence shows significant support for the war, as well as a surge in patriotism. According to the Levada Center, a respected independent pollster, the number of Russians who thought the country was going in the right direction rose from 52 percent before the invasion to 69 percent after, and Putin’s personal approval rating soared to a whopping 83 percent. But these figures come with a major caveat. New legislation makes “discrediting the armed forces” a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and that can encompass all sorts of things, including calling the war a war — circumstances that cast doubt on whether the polls are representative or the answers truthful. As an experiment staged by researchers at the London School of Economics showed, support for the war goes down by 15 percentage points when people are encouraged to speak their mind.
Whatever the true level of support, it’s clear that Russians aren’t necessarily buying Putin’s rationale for the invasion.

8 April
Do Not Go Gentle (Act Two)
One of the last independent newspapers in Russia finds new ways to cover a war that the government doesn’t want them to cover. Producer Robyn Semien talks to one of their editors, Nikita Kondratiev, about how it’s going.
(This American Life) Novaya Gazeta is one of the oldest independent newspapers in Russia. Its editor-in-chief won the Nobel Peace Prize last year.
… And when the war began, it didn’t follow those new rules from the Russian government. It did straight accurate reporting. Then, the Russian Ministry of Defense sent a written warning saying all their news was fake news.
They couldn’t keep operating the way they had. They could be shut down, which left the paper to figure out what to do, how to report on the war. And what they came up with was pretty ingenious.

29-30 March
As Russia sees tech brain drain, other nations hope to gain
(AP) — Russia’s tech workers are looking for safer and more secure professional pastures.
By one estimate, up to 70,000 computer specialists, spooked by a sudden frost in the business and political climate, have bolted the country since Russia invaded Ukraine five weeks ago. Many more are expected to follow.
For some countries, Russia’s loss is being seen as their potential gain and an opportunity to bring fresh expertise to their own high-tech industries.
This week, Putin reacted to the exodus of tech professionals by approving legislation to eliminate income taxes between now and 2024 for individuals who work for information technology companies.
Some people in the vast new pool of high-tech exiles say they are in no rush to return home. An elite crowd furnished with European Union visas has relocated to Poland or the Baltic nations of Latvia and Lithuania.
A larger contingent has fallen back on countries where Russians do not need visas: Armenia, Georgia and the former Soviet republics in Central Asia.
What I Heard From Passengers on the Last Train Out of Russia
For a month after the invasion of Ukraine, the high-speed Allegro train carried disaffected Russians to Helsinki. On Sunday, that final rail connection to Europe was severed.
So I was there on Sunday as some 340 passengers disembarked from the final Allegro, along with four pets in travel cages, and a squad of stern-looking Finnish border guards who joined the train at the border and inspected the arriving Russians on board as the train sped to Helsinki.

Why Do So Many Russians Say They Support the War in Ukraine?
In a climate of wartime censorship, the mere expression of an unsanctioned thought begins to feel like a protest action.
By Joshua Yaffa
(The New Yorker) “The vast majority of Russians feel no sense of political responsibility whatsoever. That means the state can do absolutely anything and people won’t think it has anything to do with them.”

7 March
As Russia’s Military Stumbles, Its Adversaries Take Note
President Vladimir Putin could still reduce cities in Ukraine to rubble, officials say. But European countries say they are not as intimidated by Russian ground forces as they were in the past.
(NYT) Ukraine’s military, which is dwarfed by the Russian force in most ways, has somehow managed to stymie its opponent. Ukrainian soldiers have killed more than 3,000 Russian troops, according to conservative estimates by American officials.
Ukraine has shot down military transport planes carrying Russian paratroopers, downed helicopters and blown holes in Russia’s convoys using American anti-tank missiles and armed drones supplied by Turkey, these officials said, citing confidential U.S. intelligence assessments.
The Russian soldiers have been plagued by poor morale as well as fuel and food shortages. Some troops have crossed the border with MREs (meals ready to eat) that expired in 2002, U.S. and other Western officials said, and others have surrendered and sabotaged their own vehicles to avoid fighting.
That Russia has so quickly abandoned surgical strikes, instead killing civilians trying to flee, could damage Mr. Putin’s chances of winning a long-term war in Ukraine. The brutal tactics may eventually overwhelm Ukraine’s defenses, but they will almost certainly fuel a bloody insurgency that could bog down Russia for years, military analysts say. Most of all, Russia has exposed to its European neighbors and American rivals gaps in its military strategy that can be exploited in future battles.

4-6 March
Ukrainians Find That Relatives in Russia Don’t Believe It’s a War
Many Ukrainians are encountering a confounding and frustrating backlash from family members in Russia who have bought into the official Kremlin messaging.
(NYT) As Ukrainians deal with the devastation of the Russian attacks in their homeland, many are also encountering a confounding and almost surreal backlash from family members in Russia, who refuse to believe that Russian soldiers could bomb innocent people, or even that a war is taking place at all.
These relatives have essentially bought into the official Kremlin position: that President Vladimir V. Putin’s army is conducting a limited “special military operation” with the honorable mission of “de-Nazifying” Ukraine.
Russia cracks down on dissenting media, blocks Facebook
(AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday intensified a crackdown on media outlets and individuals who fail to hew to the Kremlin line on Russia’s war in Ukraine, blocking Facebook and Twitter and signing into law a bill that criminalizes the intentional spreading of what Moscow deems to be “fake” reports.
The moves against the social media giants follow blocks imposed on the BBC, the U.S. government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Latvia-based website Meduza. The government’s sweeping action against the foreign outlets that publish news in Russian seeks to establish even tighter controls over what information the domestic audience sees about the invasion of Ukraine.
Russian ‘fake news’ law could give offenders 15 years in prison
A punishment for statements that ‘discredited’ the military
(The Verge) Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed a law punishing “fake news” with up to 15 years in prison. The rule will impose fines or jail terms for spreading false information about the military, as well as fines for people who publicly call for sanctions against Russia. Courts would mete out the harshest sentences for fake news that leads to “serious consequences.”
According to earlier coverage from The Moscow Times, the bill is meant to penalize people who knowingly “distort the purpose, role and tasks of the Russian Armed Forces, as well as other units during special military and other operations,” including people who spread unapproved information about Russian war losses.

15 February
Alexei Navalny faces 15 more years in prison as new trial starts
Russian opposition leader in fresh trial at penal colony far from support base on charge of embezzlement
The Russian opposition leader is accused of embezzling donations to his FBK anti-corruption organisation, which has accused Vladimir Putin of owning a £1bn mansion and other top officials enriching themselves through corrupt schemes.
Navalny has denied the charges and calls them politically motivated.
The new trial for embezzlement began on Tuesday inside the IK-2 penal colony in Vladimir, an unusual setting three or four hours’ drive east of Moscow, that severely limits the ability of supporters and observers to attend the hearings.

3-4 February
‘Russians Are Not Your Enemy’: A Lonely Petition Against Kremlin’s War Wind-Up
(Moscow Times) While most Russians blame the West for the standoff over Ukraine, a small group of intellectuals is trying to tell the world that not everybody is behind their leader.
The open letter — titled “If Only There Was No War” — is one of the only signs of public pushback inside Russia against the Kremlin’s military buildup around Ukraine, which Western intelligence agencies say has now surpassed 100,000 troops. It criticizes the “party of war” in the Kremlin, calls for peace, and urges that political attention be turned to Russia’s mounting domestic problems, like the rising cost of living.

Russia has a history of launching invasions during (or just after) the Olympics.
As Beijing prepared to officially open the Winter Olympics on Friday, athletes there did not have the world’s undivided attention. In another part of the capital, Xi Jinping, China’s leader, was preparing to host President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to discuss the crisis in Ukraine.
The United States and NATO have been warning for weeks that Russia may be on the brink of invading Ukraine. If that were to happen before Feb. 20, it would not be the first time in recent memory that Russia troops had marched into a former Soviet republic during the Olympics.
As Beijing was hosting the opening ceremony for the 2008 Summer Games, news spread that Russian troops had moved into Georgia. At the time, Russia’s president was Dmitri A. Medvedev (who held the office for four years while Mr. Putin was prime minister). But it was Mr. Putin’s stern statements, issued from the Beijing Olympics, that appeared to define his country’s position.
In 2014, Russian troops began streaming into Crimea days after Mr. Putin returned to Moscow from the Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi. The invasion was a response to the ouster of Ukraine’s president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, in late February, during the Games.

26-27 January
Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will not open if Russia invades Ukraine, says US
US and German officials signal hardening of position on controversial gas link
Nord Stream 2 is designed to double the amount of gas flowing from Russia straight to Germany, bypassing the traditional transit route through Ukraine via a pipeline along the bed of the Baltic Sea.
It has faced resistance within the EU, from the US as well as Ukraine on the grounds it increases Europe’s energy dependence on Russia and denies Ukraine transit fees, at a time of Moscow’s broader standoff with the west.
Russia’s Military, Once Creaky, Is Modern and Lethal
A significantly upgraded military has emerged as a key tool of Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy, as he flexes his might around the globe and, most ominously, on the Ukraine border.

14 January
Russia’s other European invasion
By Tom Tugendhat
(Atlantic Council) As Western policymakers focus on a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, they are turning a blind eye to another invasion: the capture of European elites. From London to Athens and far beyond, bankers, lawyers, lobbyists, and former officials have all been snapped up by the Kremlin and its allies. While Russian tanks mass on the Ukrainian border, interests linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s predatory regime are amassing influence in capital cities across the continent.
The most recent high-profile example of such influence efforts involves former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who in June joined the board of the Russian state oil company Zarubezhneft (on the nomination of the Kremlin). Fillon is far from alone. Austria’s former Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl—made infamous by footage of her curtseying to Putin on her wedding day in 2018—was appointed to the board of Rosneft, Russia’s most powerful state oil company, last June. This board is chaired by none other than Gerhard Schroeder, the former German chancellor who is paid six hundred thousand dollars a year for the privilege. He is not the only former European chancellor with a Russian connection; former Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern is also on the supervisory board of Russian Railways. While none of these individuals has broken any laws in assuming these positions, their roles highlight a systemic threat for Europe.

13 January
Russia raises negotiation stakes with possibility of military deployment to Cuba, Venezuela
(PBS) [Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei] Ryabkov said a refusal by the U.S. and its allies to consider the key Russian demand for guarantees against the alliance’s expansion to Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations makes it hard to discuss such issues as arms control and confidence-building steps that Washington says it’s ready to negotiate.
“The U.S. wants to conduct a dialogue on some elements of the security situation … to ease the tensions and then continue the process of geopolitical and military development of the new territories, coming closer to Moscow,” he said. “We have nowhere to retreat.”
Ryabkov’s comments mark the first time during the current tensions over Ukraine when a senior official mentioned the possibility of Russian military deployments to the Western hemisphere.

11 January
Around the halls: Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and the European security order
Pavel K. Baev, Jessica Brandt, Vanda Felbab-Brown, Samantha Gross, Daniel S. Hamilton, Marvin Kalb, Patricia M. Kim, Kemal Kirişci, Michael E. O’Hanlon, Steven Pifer, Melanie W. Sisson, Constanze Stelzenmüller, and Angela Stent
(Brookings) Late last year, on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia massed troops on its border with Ukraine and issued draft agreements with the U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) spelling out demands for changes to the European security order including no further expansion of NATO. With the United States and its European allies and partners embarking on a series of pivotal negotiations with Moscow beginning January 9 in Geneva, mass protests erupted in Kazakhstan in the first week of 2022 and the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) intervened militarily at the request of Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. What are Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions? How should the U.S. and its allies respond to Russia’s moves? What are the implications of the Kazakhstan uprising? Below, Brookings experts reflect on recent developments in the former Soviet Union and offer policy recommendations.
Kazakhstan’s Tokayev announces swift end to Russian-led intervention, reorganizes security forces
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced Tuesday that troops from Russia and other members of a regional security organization would leave the country within 10 days after the unrest that roiled the energy-rich nation for the past week was quelled.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization answered Tokayev’s appeal for help by sending in 2,500 peacekeeping troops Thursday after protesters rioted in cities across the country, setting government buildings alight and looting the Almaty airport. It was the organization’s first intervention since its formation in 2002.

7 January
Kazakhstan and the Price of Russia’s Empire
Nina L. Khrushcheva
From the czars to Lenin and Stalin, Russia’s leaders have almost universally believed that the cost of empire, in both blood and treasure, was justified. With Russian-led troops heading into Kazakhstan, it seems clear that Vladimir Putin agrees.
(Project Syndicate) For Russia, the costs of Putin’s ambitions are mounting. Consider the country’s military expenditure, which increased from 3.8% of GDP in 2013 – the year before Russia invaded Ukraine, annexed Crimea, and supported secessionist forces in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions – to 5.4% in 2016. While military expenditure as a share of GDP declined in 2017 and 2018, it is now climbing once again. With Russian troops stationed in the occupied Georgian region of Abkhazia, the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus, this is not a surprise. More difficult to quantify are the strategic costs of empire, which Putin is loath to recognize. The Kremlin’s imperial agenda, especially the annexation of Crimea, has called into question the post-Cold War settlement in Eurasia, from the Baltic to the Bering Sea. The world’s other powers – particularly the United States and China – are strongly invested in upholding the status quo that Putin is seeking to upset.
… The domestic costs – and polling by the Levada Center in Moscow suggests that few Russians are willing to trade their living standards for enhanced global status – ought to be sufficient to convince Putin to abandon his imperial ambitions. If not, the possibility of reigniting a rivalry with China surely should. But it is far from guaranteed that Putin will give reason its due. He is already ignoring the lessons of Russia’s own history.

6 January
Kazakhstan’s Unprecedented Crisis
In trying to calm violent protests, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has involved an unpredictable and untrusted partner.
Paul Stronski
(Carnegie) Tokayev has called on the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Russian-dominated regional security bloc, for help in quelling the violence, with Russian peacekeepers reportedly arriving Thursday morning.
The country is now in an unprecedented crisis, and the situation is rapidly evolving.
Tokayev’s decision to call on the CSTO and Russia for help is a risky move. CSTO involvement has internationalized what essentially started as a domestic protest movement by adding an unpredictable and often untrusted partner (Russia) to the mix. The arrival of Russian troops in the country has already raised concerns in some circles about future of Kazakhstan’s sovereignty. Furthermore, Kazakhstani nationalist sentiments have also been on the rise recently, as visibly seen in the Kazakh flags protesters continue to wave.
Fresh violence in Kazakhstan after Russia sends troops to put down uprising
Police say they have killed dozens of rioters in Almaty
18 members of security forces killed – state TV
Around 2,500 peacekeepers deploying in Kazakhstan
(Reuters) – Fresh violence erupted in Kazakhstan’s main city on Thursday after Russia rushed in paratroopers to put down a countrywide uprising in one of Moscow’s closest former Soviet allies.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, said he called in the Russian forces overnight, alongside others from a Moscow-led military alliance of ex-Soviet states. He blamed the unrest on foreign-trained terrorists who he said had seized buildings and weapons.
Moscow said it would consult with Kazakhstan and allies on steps to support the Kazakh “counter-terrorist operation” and repeated Tokayev’s assertion that the uprising was foreign-inspired. Neither Kazakhstan nor Russia provided evidence to support that.


24 November
The Coming Deluge: Russia’s Looming Lost Decade of Unpaid Bills and Economic Stagnation
Andrei Kolesnikov, Denis Volkov
The respondents agreed unanimously that the authorities will not try to change Russia’s development vector within the country’s existing political and economic models. Unless something drastically changes, stagnation in the broadest sense of the word—from economic depression to social apathy—is the only possible medium- and long-term scenario for Russia.
(Carnegie Moscow) With all the problems facing the Russian economy, many are wondering how the government will respond. As Moscow finally wakes up to the reality of climate change, the prevailing attitude among members of the ruling class appears to be that there is enough oil and gas to keep the state coffers full, buy voters’ loyalty, and control civil society and the media for as long as the country’s current leaders are in power (until 2036, when President Vladimir Putin may at last have to step down). What comes after that does not concern them: “After us, the deluge.”
To project Russia’s likely development trajectory over the next ten to fifteen years, the authors asked twenty-three economists and business leaders to identify the biggest challenges for Russia, when they will materialize, what the consequences may be, and whether they can be overcome under the current political system.
Many of the challenges and potential crises these experts discussed are intertwined, including Russia’s human capital crisis, the numerous structural economic challenges it faces on energy and technology policy, and the apparent absence of a sense of urgency among the ruling elites.
Most of the key challenges facing the Russian political system are related to the lack of economic growth. One of the factors inhibiting that growth is the state’s excessive interference in the economy and indeed all other aspects of life, creating an overcentralized and ineffective administrative state.

23 November
Russia’s Move
By George Friedman
(Geopolitical Futures) … Russia is surrounded by vulnerabilities. So it has developed a soft approach to deal with them. It does not send in tanks; it uses political and economic problems to increase its influence. Thus is the case in Belarus, where the instability under President Alexander Lukashenko allows Russia to increase its power and destabilize the border with Poland. In Central Asia, it uses economic relations and the tension between Central Asian states to increase its influence. In the South Caucasus, it has inserted peacekeepers to maintain a truce between Azerbaijan and Armenia, giving it various avenues for leverage. It maintains good relations with China of course, but both remain wary of the other.
The North European Plain, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Chinese border are all vital. But the central issue for Russia is Ukraine. Ukraine is where the United States has, from the Russian point of view, sunk its claws. Russia can manage Belarus, but it cannot exert soft power in Ukraine because of the potential for American intervention.

19 November
Will Putin miscalculate?
Editor’s Note: Europe currently faces several crises exploited or instigated by Russia. Speculation runs rampant regarding what Vladimir Putin hopes to achieve. Steven Pifer argues that he should take care not to overplay his hand. This article was originally published with the Center for International Security and Cooperation.
(Brookings) One crisis came to a head over the past two months as the cost of natural gas in Europe skyrocketed. While down from peaks in October, the price now hovers at about
four times what it was at the beginning of the year. Russia did not cause this crisis — its roots lie in factors such as abnormally high energy demand and reduced gas production in Europe — but Moscow certainly has exploited the situation.
Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko manufactured the second crisis, playing out along the border with Poland. Belarus has attempted to force migrants and economic refugees from the Middle East into Poland. This despicable weaponization of migrants is likely Lukashenko’s brainchild. Moscow has nevertheless aligned itself with Minsk. When Poland reinforced its border police with regular army soldiers, the Russian air force flew nuclear-capable bombers over Belarus in response.
On Putin’s Strategic Chessboard, a Series of Destabilizing Moves
In the stretch of Europe from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, where Moscow and the West have competed for influence for decades, the threat of a new military conflict is growing.
(NYT) An ominous buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine. A migration crisis in Belarus that Western leaders call a “hybrid war” by a Kremlin client state. Escalating fears over natural gas that have Europe dreading a cold winter.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has, increasingly, put his cards on the table: He is willing to take ever-greater risks to force the West to listen to Russian demands. And America and its allies are sensing an unusually volatile moment, one in which Mr. Putin is playing a role in multiple destabilizing crises at once.

16 November
Russia holds on to its influence in post-Soviet Central Asia – Lack of strategy accelerates its decline
(FIIA) Central Asia remains a region where Russia has great influence. The country views the region as its sphere of interest and attempts to keep the five post-Soviet countries, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, in its geopolitical orbit. Although Russia is a powerful player in Central Asia, its influence is decreasing.
In the latest FIIA Briefing Paper, Research Fellow Kristiina Silvan from the Institute’s EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood and Russia Research Programme analyses the relationship between Russia and Central Asia 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to the author, Russian influence in the region is greatest in the security sphere. In the future, however, Moscow’s lack of a forward-looking strategy, its current great-power posturing, and the further rise of China threaten the country’s dominance in the region.

15 November
US Global Ransomware Summit: More Needs to be Done
ON 8 NOVEMBER, the US Justice Department announced the arrest of several members of the Russian-speaking REvil ransomware group, in a large-scale operation involving US allies in Europe and around the globe. The REvil group, who have since been charged, have been deploying ransomware attacks against American targets including the software provider Kaseya in July 2021. Furthermore, the State Department added REvil to a bounty programme that offers up to US$10 million for information on the REvil leaders.
These efforts followed the two-day virtual international summit on ransomware hosted by the Biden administration on 13-14 October. This summit included 30 countries and was a decisive step towards building a coalition against ransomware attacks. It was acknowledged by all countries that ransomware posed a global and national security threat. Russia ─ as well as China, Iran, and North Korea ─ was not invited
‘Irresponsible act’: U.S. raps Russia after missile strike on its own satellite
(Politico) The United States on Monday confirmed that a Russian anti-satellite missile test was responsible for causing a debris field in space that forced astronauts aboard the International Space Station to temporarily seek shelter.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters that Russia had “recklessly conducted a destructive satellite test of a direct ascent anti-satellite missile against one of its own satellites.”

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