Ten Signs Putin and His Russia have Serious Problems

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, April 21, 2018) Vladimir Putin and his country are in far deeper trouble than the Moscow media he controls or than the Western media which all too often relies on what the Putin outlets say and views his standing and that of his country almost exclusively as a derivative of what the […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Influential economist says sanctions-hit Russian firms must not be compensated” – Interfax

Alexei Kudrin file photo

(Interfax – April 21, 2018) Former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has said the Russian government should not compensate Russian companies which have been hit by US sanctions. “Companies should be helped so that they don’t stop, but you don’t have to…[ellipses in original] compensate billionaires for the loss in their value,” Interfax news agency quoted Kudrin as saying on 21 […]

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NEWSWATCH: “How to Stop Vladimir Putin’s Mafia; The real enemy is a group of about 100 beneficiaries of the regime and several thousand accomplices” – Wall Street Journal/Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Mikhail Khodorkovsky file photo

“… The West’s real enemy – and the enemy of the Russian people too – is a group of about 100 key beneficiaries of the Putin regime, and several thousand of their accomplices, many of whom hold posts in the Federal Security Service and the presidential administration.  Most of these people began their careers in the criminal underworld of St. […]

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NEWSLINK: “Nobody is safe from Russia’s colossal hacking operation; Russia hackers have targetted ‘millions’ of connected devices in the UK and US. It’s all part of Putin’s grand plan to disrupt the west” – Wired (UK)/Nicole Kobie

File Image of Stylized Eye Surrounded by Binary Code

“… this week U.S. and U.K. authorities teamed up to issue a joint warning about communications infrastructure, including home-office routers. The rare joint alert noted that routers, switches, firewalls and network intrusion detection systems at government and businesses were the main targets of Russian hackers, but it added that even “small-office/home-office customers” should take more protective action, as should Internet […]

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NEWSWATCH: “U.S. Softens Stance on Rusal Sanctions; Aluminum Prices Plunge” – Bloomberg

Portion of U.S. Treasury Department Building Facade, North Side, with Sculpture of Alexander Hamilton

“The U.S. softened its position on sanctions against Russia’s United Co. Rusal, sparking a plunge in aluminum prices. The U.S. Treasury said it would provide sanctions relief to Rusal if Oleg Deripaska relinquished control, according to statement on Monday. It also extended the deadline for companies to wind down dealings with the Russian aluminum producer by almost five months. Aluminum […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Shvydkoi upset that Bolshoi actors fail to get U.S. visas, sees explanations as ‘weak'” – Interfax

Bolshoi Theater file photo

MOSCOW. April 23 (Interfax) – Russian Special Presidential Representative on International and Cultural Cooperation Mikhail Shvydkoi said he was disappointed to learn that a number of Bolshoi Theater performers were unable to receive visas for a United States tour. “I was upset to learn that Bolshoi Theater actors did not receive visas for a U.S. tour,” Shvydkoi told Interfax. “The […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Frustrated at visa holdup, Russians give up on American vacations” – Washington Post/Amie Ferris-Rotman

File Photo of Airplane Approaching Runway About to Land

“… Escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington are putting a damper on Russians’ vacation plans, catching ordinary people in a diplomatic crossfire …. A year ago, obtaining a U.S. tourist visa could take less than a week. Now, it comes with an eight-month delay. * * * The Kremlin may be delighted that fewer of its citizens are being exposed to […]

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RUSSIA & UKRAINE – Johnson’s Russia List table of contents :: JRL 2018-72 :: Monday, 23 April 2018

St. Basil's Domes

To inquire about a subscription to the full Johnson’s Russia List e-mail newsletter, e-mail David Johnson at davidjohnson@starpower.net [check back for updates, including more links; links also posted to facebook and twitter] Johnson’s Russia List :: JRL 2018-#72 Monday, 23 April 2018 A project sponsored through the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at The George Washington University’s […]

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Bolton, New U.S. National Security Adviser, Tells Russia Conditions For Better Ties

File Photo of John Bolton Raising Hand at United Nations, with United States Nameplate on Desktop in Front, adapted from image at state.gov

(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – WASHINGTON, April 20, 2018 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/putin-calls-us-senator-mccain-old-world-but-admires-his-patriotism/28537171.html) The new U.S. national security adviser has told Russia’s U.S. ambassador that Moscow must address U.S. concerns on election meddling, the “reckless” nerve-agent attack in Britain, and the situations in Ukraine and Syria before relations can substantially improve. A White House […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Is Russia Sponsoring Terrorism?” – New York Times/Senator Cory Gardner

American Flag and Partial View of U.S. Capitol Dome, adapted from image at aoc.gov

“… The State Department should consider adding [Russia] to its list of state sponsors of terrorism, alongside its close allies Iran and Syria. … Russia has invaded … Georgia and Ukraine … supports the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad and our enemies in Afghanistan … is engaged in active information warfare against Western democracies, including meddling in the 2016 United […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Political Tensions Could Rob the U.S. of the Russian Rocket Engine It Desperately Needs; The United States has become increasingly reliant on the RD-180” – Popular Mechanics/David Grossman

File Photo of Atlas Rocket on Launch Pad

“The burgeoning private space industry might find itself caught in the middle of geopolitical tensions …. Russian lawmakers have drafted a law that would ban cooperation … on building rocket engines, including … the crucial RD-180. … [that] powers the Atlas V, the launch system maintained by United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint company owned by both Lockheed Martin and […]

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RUSSIALINK: Interfax: “Duma speaker warns of Russia’s dangerous dependency on U.S. pharmaceutical imports”

Medical Symbol with Pole, Serpents, Wings, adapted from image at lanl.gov

MOSCOW. April 20 (Interfax) – Russia must take efficient measures to swiftly make available in its market domestically produced medicinal drugs to secure itself from a possible halt of U.S. imports, State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said. “The U.S. has around 50 billion rubles of annual net profit from supplying pharmaceuticals to our country,” Volodin told reporters on Friday after […]

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NEWSLINK: “Permanent Stagnation: Putin’s Invisible Fourth-Term Agenda; The symbolic and real dimensions of Russian politics are in radical contradiction of each other” – Carnegie Moscow/Andrei Kolesnikov

Putin Descending a Staircase

“… Putin’s hopes for a brief honeymoon after Russia’s utterly predictable and boring presidential election were quickly dispelled. While Western observers are captivated by the fallout from the lurid poisoning of a former Russian double agent in the UK, a sweeping wave of new U.S. sanctions, and the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against its own people, Russians have […]

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NEWSLINK: “Regaining by force or abandoning Donbas: Experts name four scenarios for east Ukraine developments” – UNIAN (Kyiv)

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

“According to experts, the current situation being preserved until 2020 would be the most sustainable scenario. Neither war nor peace; return by peaceful means; return by force; and the abandonment of the occupied territories – these are the key options for Donbas developments for the coming years. Experts of the Ukrainian Institute for the Future (UIF) have been studying the […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia is opposed to ‘sanction-swapping’ with the U.S. – but is prepared to defend itself, finance minister says” – CNBC

Anton Siluanov file photo

“Russia stands ready to retaliate against the latest round of U.S. sanctions … Finance Minister Anton Siluanov [said] …. The U.S. slapped sanctions on several Russian oligarchs, businesses and agencies thought to have ties to … Putin …. prompt[ing] a dramatic market sell-off in Moscow …. Siluanov told CNBC: ‘We are not in favor of sanction-swapping. Nevertheless, our MPs (members […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Where STEM girls at: Russian women in STEM” – Bear Market Brief/Kasey Stricklin

File Photo of Test Tubes with Algae Displaying Different Colors, Part of U.S. Energy-Related Research; from nrel.gov

“Women in Russia are entering STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields at a higher rate than many of their Western counterparts, but there are still far less Russian women that men in the majority of these fields. … While interest in STEM drops precipitously at an early age in most other countries, often due to gender stereotypes, Russian girls […]

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NEWSLINK: Doctors ordered at gunpoint to deny Syria chemical attack or else their children will be killed; ‘Unless you give a testimony, doctor, that there wasn’t a gas attack, we’ll be killing your children'” – The Mirror (UK)/Andrew Gregory

Syria Map

“Unless you give a testimony, doctor, that there wasn’t a gas attack, we’ll be killing your children”

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NEWSLINK: “When did Trump and Putin talk about ‘hookers’?” – Washington Post/Philip Bump

James Comey file photo, adapted from image at fbi.gov

“By the top of the second page of the first memo former FBI director James B. Comey wrote to memorialize his conversations with President Trump, prostitutes are mentioned. Sex workers are a running theme in the seven memos released on Thursday evening, a function of their prominent role in the dossier of unproven allegations involving the president’s 2016 campaign and […]

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RUSSIA & UKRAINE – Johnson’s Russia List table of contents :: JRL 2018-71 :: Friday, 20 April 2018

St. Basil's Domes

To inquire about a subscription to the full Johnson’s Russia List e-mail newsletter, e-mail David Johnson at davidjohnson@starpower.net [check back for updates, including more links; links also posted to facebook and twitter] Johnson’s Russia List :: JRL 2018-#71 Friday, 20 April 2018 A project sponsored through the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at The George Washington University’s […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Silicon Valley Giants Face a Test in Russia; Russian censors are going after Telegram, but the pressure is on Amazon, Google and Facebook too” – Bloomberg/Leonid Bershidsky

Montage of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook Logos, adapted from image at nps.gov

“The Russian authorities’ first experiment with blocking a popular messenger application — Telegram — is not working out so far. The web censorship agency, Roskomnadzor, has blocked millions of internet addresses to beat Telegram into submission, but it’s still widely available even without any bypass mechanisms, while numerous legitimate sites have experienced downtime. … Russian social networks have exploded with […]

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Moody’s says Russian economy resilient to latest U.S. sanctions

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – April 19, 2018) Rating agency Moody’s Investors Service said on Wednesday Russia’s strong public and external finances would shield its economy from the impact of the latest U.S. sanctions. However, the sanctions will be credit negative for some Russian debt issuers, especially Russian aluminum giant United Company Rusal Plc, Moody’s said in a report. The […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia wants U.S. military out of Syria. But it still needs U.S. to help bring peace.” – Christian Science Monitor/Fred Weir

Syria Map

“… Analysts say that Moscow was serious when it hinted that it would strike back against U.S. warships in the Mediterranean or other launch platforms if any Russian lives were endangered by U.S. missiles. But … they say that the exchange of explosive declarations last week turned out to be mostly theater. Kremlin-connected analysts say that US and Russian military […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Putin and Trump trying to walk back Syria strike and sanctions tensions” – bne Intellinews

Vladirmir Putin and Donald Trump Sitting in Chairs with Flags Behind, adapted from image at whitehouse.gov

“The U.S. surprised (and relieved) the market by not following through on a threat to impose even more sanctions … the day after western allies carried out limited missile strikes on suspected chemical weapons industrial targets in Syria. The U.S. administration is split over how to react to Russia’s increasing aggression … both … Trump and … Putin were actively […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Acclaimed Russian ballerinas denied entry into U.S.” – Page Six/Oli Coleman

Bolshoi Theater file photo

“Amid roiling relations between the U.S. and Russia, two members of Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet – including one of its prima ballerinas – have been refused visas to perform in New York City …. Organizers of a Lincoln Center gala where Olga Smirnova and Jacopo Tissi were due to dance on Monday believe the Department of Homeland Security’s decision may be […]

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RUSSIA & UKRAINE – Johnson’s Russia List table of contents :: JRL 2018-70 :: Thursday, 19 April 2018

St. Basil's Domes

To inquire about a subscription to the full Johnson’s Russia List e-mail newsletter, e-mail David Johnson at davidjohnson@starpower.net [check back for updates, including more links; links also posted to facebook and twitter] Johnson’s Russia List :: JRL 2018-#70 Thursday, 19 April 2018 A project sponsored through the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at The George Washington University’s […]

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British Media Regulator Probing RT’s Impartiality After Salisbury Poisoning

Artist Rendition of Barrel with Poison Symbol on It, Oozing Green Material

(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – April 18, 2018 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/british-media-regulator-probing-rt-s-impartiality-after-salisbury-poisoning/29174828.html) Britain’s media watchdog has started probing whether Russian news channel RT broke impartiality rules in its programs after a former Russian double agent and his daughter were poisoned in the English city of Salisbury last month. Media regulator Ofcom warned on […]

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Russia Tells Its Study-Abroad Students: It’s Time To Come Home

Bookcase file photo, adapted from image at nlm.nih.gov

(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – April 17, 2018 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/russia-tells-its-study-abroad-students-it-s-time-to-come-home/29173184.html) A Russian government agency is calling on Russians studying at universities abroad to come home to continue their studies, a campaign that appears tied to the sharp downward spiral in relations between Moscow and the West. Rossotrudnichestvo, which is tasked with overseeing […]

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Western Attack Hasn’t Changed Situation in Syria or Harmed Moscow Despite Russian Public Reaction, Akopov Says

Syria Map

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, April 15, 2018) The Western attack on Syria hasn’t changed the likely outcome of the conflict there, Bashar Asad’s alliances with Russia and Iran, or Vladimir Putin’s view of Donald Trump, Petr Akopov says; but it has already led to a transformation of Russian public opinion in adequate ways that could have […]

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RUSSIALINK: “State TV Still Biggest and Most Trusted News Source for Russians – Poll” – Moscow Times

Adapted File Photo of TV Set in Russia with Camera, Camerman, Woman on Set in Background

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – April 18, 2018) A new survey has shown that state-run television maintains its hold on the Russian public’s news consumption habits despite a trend in which young Russians are increasingly getting their news online. Among Russians polled by the independent Levada Center, 85 percent said they watch television for news about Russia and the world. […]

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RUSSIA & UKRAINE – Johnson’s Russia List table of contents :: JRL 2018-69 :: Wednesday, 18 April 2018

St. Basil's Domes

To inquire about a subscription to the full Johnson’s Russia List e-mail newsletter, e-mail David Johnson at davidjohnson@starpower.net [check back for updates, including more links; links also posted to facebook and twitter] Johnson’s Russia List :: JRL 2018-#69 Wednesday, 18 April 2018 A project sponsored through the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at The George Washington University’s […]

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Russia haunts the western imagination; The dividing line between authoritarian Russia and liberal democracies is growing ever thinner.

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(opendemocracy.net – Ivan Krastev – April 16, 2018) Ivan Krastev is Visiting Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Programmes at The Graduate Institute and Geneva Permanent Fellow, Institute for Human Sciences (IWM), Vienna. He is also Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia. He is author of After Europe (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017). If a Martian were sent to earth with […]

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NEWSWATCH: “In Syria and Beyond, a Dangerous New Era Dawns; The U.S. simultaneously confronts an aggrieved Russia and an aggressive rising power in China, a situation that calls for dexterous diplomacy” – Wall Street Journal/Gerald F. Seib

File Photo of F-22 Fighter and Ground Crew

“… John Sawers, a career British diplomat and former head of the MI6 intelligence service, delivered a sober warning: For the first time in living memory, there is a realistic prospect of a superpower conflict. … The U.S., a mature power, simultaneously confronts an aggrieved and newly assertive Russia as well as an aggressive rising power in China. … the […]

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NEWSLINK: “Trump, a reluctant hawk, has battled his top aides on Russia and lost” – Washington Post/Greg Jaffe, John Hudson, Philip Rucker

Vladirmir Putin and Donald Trump Sitting in Chairs with Flags Behind, adapted from image at whitehouse.gov

“‘If you’re getting briefed by the CIA director on all this stuff, there’s a point where, even if you’re Donald J. Trump, you think, “Hmm [Putin’s] a really bad guy,”‘ said former House speaker Newt Gingrich, an informal Trump adviser.”

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NEWSLINK: “Trump Scraps New Sanctions Against Russia, Overruling Advisers” – New York Times/Peter Baker

File Photo of White House with South Lawn and Fountain

“… Trump rejected, for now at least, a fresh round of sanctions set to be imposed against Russia on Monday, a course change that underscored the schism between the president and his national security team. …”

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NEWSLINK: “Syria: bottom line questions” – Graham E. Fuller

Syria Map

“… What sense can we make out of all these strategic events in Syria? We encounter a baffling array of players: Syrian troops, Syrian insurgents, jihadis of varying ideologies, Iranians, Russians, Americans, Israelis, Turks, Saudis, Qataris, Emiratis, Shi’ite militias, Iraqis, Kurds, Hizballah-all locked in a deadly dance. But as complex as it may be, this seven-year bloody conflict still continues […]

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NEWSWATCH: “U.S. postpones fresh sanctions on Russia, Kremlin retaliation options limited” – bne Intellinews/Ben Aris

Nikki Haley file photo, adapted from image at usembassy.gov

“The Trump administration postponed imposing yet another round of sanctions to the ‘near future’ in the wake of … airstrikes on Syria. … Nikki Haley said … the U.S. would impose fresh sanctions … that would primarily target Russia’s defence sector and single out companies … linked to chemical weapon production. Russia’s markets opened flat … the next day … […]

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NEWSLINK: “Autumn of the Oligarchs; Vladimir Putin’s Billionaire Buddies Are Getting Scared, and Not Just of Sanctions” – The Daily Beast/Amy Knight

Kremlin and River

“Some of the oligarchs now face major U.S. sanctions, while others are getting arrested on the Kremlin’s orders. Is Putin’s circle of the shameless rich beginning to crumble?”  

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s Frantic Parade of Lies” – Washington Post Editorial

Artist Rendition of Barrel with Poison Symbol on It, Oozing Green Material

“Russia longs to be taken seriously in matters of global affairs, but … Putin has demonstrated … disdain for the rules-based post-World War II order. What does Russia want instead? In two recent incidents involving the use of outlawed chemicals[, the assassination attempt on Skripal in Britain and a chemical weapons attack in Syria], Russia’s answer has been a frantic […]

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RUSSIA & UKRAINE – Johnson’s Russia List table of contents :: JRL 2018-68 :: Tuesday, 17 April 2018

St. Basil's Domes

To inquire about a subscription to the full Johnson’s Russia List e-mail newsletter, e-mail David Johnson at davidjohnson@starpower.net [check back for updates, including more links; links also posted to facebook and twitter] Johnson’s Russia List :: JRL 2018-#68 Tuesday, 17 April 2018 A project sponsored through the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at The George Washington University’s […]

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NEWSLINK: “Russia Trained ‘Special Units’ on Door Handle Poisonings, U.K. Says” – New York Times/Ellen Barry

Artist Rendition of Barrel with Poison Symbol on It, Oozing Green Material

“Russia has been researching the application of chemical agents to door handles as a way to assassinate its enemies, and has been training personnel ‘from special units’ to carry out such attacks, said Mark Sedwill, Britain’s national security adviser … in a letter to the secretary general of NATO. … Sedwill’s letter, the most detailed account of British intelligence on […]

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U.S. Sanctions aren’t Splitting Russian Elites or Dividing Elites and People, ‘Nezavisimaya’ Says

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, April 10, 2018) The expanded US sanctions regime is based on the same assumption that the West made after the beginning of the economic crisis in Russia four years ago, the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta say, the belief that economic hardship will lead some in the elite to oppose Vladimir Putin and […]

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NEWSLINK: “The Arctic as the next battleground? Don’t count on it” – Asia Times/Richard A. Bitzinger

Arctic Map

“… as tensions between Russia and the West also grow, where might conflict between these two camps break out? … Global warming … raises the specter that the Arctic might become a new zone for conflict, as the polar icecap recedes and the area becomes more accessible. In the first place, competition for natural resources in the region is increasing. […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Can Russia Afford Its Save-a-Billionaire Relief Program? Russia’s poorest will end up footing the bill” – Moscow Times/ Vedomosti/ Pavel Aptekar, Vladimir Ruvinsky

Cash, Calculator, Pen

“… new sanctions … the West imposed against companies and businesspeople with close Kremlin ties pose a new challenge for the Russian government and economy. Like in 2014, the authorities have already promised support to those targeted …. ‘Supporting those who support you’ might make sense politically, but how much of this … can the Russian economy bear? * * […]

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NEWSLINK: “In Memoriam: Karen Dawisha” – Miami University, Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies

Lit Candle with Reflection and Dark Background

“Karen Dawisha, the former Walter E. Havighurst Professor of Political Science and director of Miami University’s Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies, died Wednesday, April 11, after a long illness. She was 68. Dawisha joined the Miami faculty in 2000, becoming the first Walter E. Havighurst Professor of Political Science and the founding director of the Havighurst Center for […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s Trade With the West Surges Even as Sanctions Mount; Last year’s increase, three years after penalties tied to annexation of Crimea, shows limits of curbs in longer term” – Wall Street Journal/Andrea Thomas, James Marson, Stefan Lange

File Photo of G7 Leaders and other Officials Around Round Table at the Hague, with Flags

” …. The U.S. and Europe’s largest nations, including France and Germany, saw exports to and imports from Russia skyrocket in 2017 after three years of decline. … at their highest levels since 2014, the year Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea …. The turnaround could be short-lived. … [After] Washington … unveiled fresh sanctions … in the latest U.S. […]

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NEWSWATCH: “‘Market Fundamentalism’ Tested as New Economic Storm Hits Russia” – Bloomberg

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

“Russia is gambling that a policy mix born amid its confrontation with the West four years ago is good enough to carry it through an even worse standoff …. allowing its ruble to trade freely  …. that flexible currency provides support for the Russian economy as … Putin faces the fallout of the most punitive U.S. penalties yet and … […]

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RUSSIALINK TRANSCRIPT: “[Medvedev:] Government report on its performance in 2012-2017” [Excerpt] – GovernmentRu

Dmitri Medvedev file photo

(Government.ru – March 11, 2018) [Full text government.ru/en/news/32246/] “The Government of the Russian Federation <…> shall submit to the State Duma annual reports on the Government’s performance, including on issues formulated by the State Duma.” (Constitution of the Russian Federation, Article 114, Clause 1, Subclause “a”). Excerpts from the transcript: Dmitry Medvedev: This year, the head of the country’s executive […]

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