New commander takes charge of Russia’s operation in Syria

Syria Map

Lt. Gen. Alexander Zhuravlev is expected to change the course of battle with Islamic State (ISIS) militants, who are advancing towards Palmyra once more. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – NIKOLAI LITOVKIN, RBTH – July 22, 2016) The Russian business daily Kommersant reports that Lieutenant General Alexander Zhuravlev, first deputy commander of the South Military District, has been appointed […]

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Ukraine has Almost Exhausted ‘Anti-Russian Model’ of Behavior, Kyiv Analyst Suggests

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

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, July 20, 2016) Russia’s aggression in Ukraine will make it difficult for Kyiv to find a modus vivendi with Moscow, Anatoly Oktsiyuk says; but “sooner or later,” Ukraine will have to do so and with a recognition of the fact that both domestically and internationally, it has almost exhausted the “anti-Russian model” […]

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War Fever

File Photo of F-22 Fighter and Ground Crew

(Kennan Institute – wilsoncenter.org/program/kennan-institute – Jill Dougherty – July 18, 2016) Jill Dougherty is an expert on Russia and the former Soviet Union. In her three-decade career with CNN she served as Foreign Affairs Correspondent, based in Washington, D.C.,where she covered the State Department and provided analysis on international issues. The Russia File is happy to welcome Jill Dougherty as […]

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Nothing To Fear

Map of Baltics and Environs, Including Kaliningrad

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – The Daily Vertical: Brian Whitmore – July 18, 2016) So the big talking point coming out of the Kremlin is that NATO is overreacting to a non-existent Russian threat. According to Moscow, rotating just four combat battalion groups, a total of 4,000 troops, on the alliance’s eastern frontier constitutes a “provocation.” According to Vladimir Putin’s regime, […]

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In Ukraine, not only heroes deserve justice; A Ukrainian blogger sentenced for his scandalous views on the conflict in the Donbas has just been released. Whatever his shortcomings, Ruslan Kotsaba deserved our solidarity.

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

(OpenDemocracy – opendemocracy.net – Maxim Edwards and Thomas Rowley – July 17, 2016) Maxim Edwards is Commissioning Editor at oDR. Tom Rowley is Lead Editor at oDR. He is currently finishing a PhD on Soviet dissent at the University of Cambridge. Last Thursday, Ruslan Kotsaba addressed journalists in a west Ukrainian courthouse, tears running down his face. “This is a […]

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NEWSWATCH: “U.S., Russia Agree on Steps Designed to End War in Syria, but Details Sketchy. Washington initially offered military coordination, but terms of agreement not divulged after two days of meetings in Moscow.” – Wall Street Journal

Syria Map

U.S. and Russian officials said Friday they … reached an agreement on steps designed to pave the way for an end to the civil war in Syria, but top officials declined to detail the specific measures …. John Kerry, without elaborating, said implementing the steps could address … Assad and his regime’s disregard of a February cease-fire …. * * […]

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NATO-Russia Council: From High Hopes To Broken Dreams

NATO Meeting File Photo

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Charles Recknagel – July 12, 2016) When the NATO-Russia Council meets in Brussels on July 13, it will be as a shadow of its former self. As ambassadors gather at NATO headquarters, their agenda will be limited to discussing only political issues because all the council’s cooperative programs have been suspended. And where once the talk […]

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NEWSWATCH: “NATO, Russia to Discuss Increased Baltic Tensions. Russia promises troop buildup in response to 4,000-strong Western force” – Wall Street Journal

Map of Baltics and Environs, Including Kaliningrad

Russian officials pushed a new air-safety initiative for the Baltic Sea in a meeting with [NATO] ambassadors … as they continued to criticize [NATO’s] planned buildup in the region. … [a proposal that] would require all planes flying in the Baltic Sea region to operate with their transponders turned on … … allied officials welcomed [the proposal] saying it could […]

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RBTH: NATO moving its troops closer to Russia but wants dialogue with Moscow

Globe Highlighting NATO Members

Russian military experts have summed up NATO’s actions as “they want peace but prepare for war,” adding, however, that Moscow will not be taking retaliatory measures against the alliance following its latest summit in Warsaw. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – NIKOLAI LITOVKIN, ALEXANDRA YELFACHEVA, RBTH – July 12, 2016) The North Atlantic Alliance is to deploy four additional […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Factbox: Main Decisions of NATO’s Warsaw Summit” – Reuters

Patriot Missile Launch file photo

* NATO agreed to deploy military forces to the Baltic states and eastern Poland from January 2017 to deter Russia, a response to Moscow’s 2014 seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. … four battalions totaling between 3,000 and 4,000 troops will be led by Britain in Estonia, the United States in Poland, Canada in Latvia and Germany in Lithuania. * NATO […]

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Interfax: DPR reports dozens of destroyed houses in latest Ukraine’s army shell attacks

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

DONETSK. July 10 (Interfax) – Ten houses were destroyed and over 70 buildings were damaged in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) due to the Ukrainian army shell attacks over the past 24 hours, senior officer with the DPR Defense Ministry Eduard Basurin said. “In the shell attacks on Zaitseve, Horlivka and Donetsk ten houses have been destroyed and nearly […]

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Gorbachev: NATO Preparing For ‘Hot’ War Against Russia

File Photo of Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan at Table Signing Documents

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – July 9, 2016) Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has accused NATO of preparing for a “hot” war against Russia and says rhetoric from alliance’s leaders is pushing the two sides toward a military confrontation. “NATO has begun preparations for escalating from a Cold War into a hot one,” Gorbachev was quoted by the Interfax news agency […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Pyatt: High hopes, some regrets, one big question” – Kyiv Post/Brian Bonner

Geoffrey R. Pyatt file photo

Pyatt is part a big turnover … coming in the Western diplomatic corps, as ambassadors who served during the EuroMaidan Revolution and the start of Russia’s war against Ukraine are being reassigned …. * * * It was in support of Ukrainians’ fight against their corrupt authorities that Pyatt took one of his stronger and more memorable stands. … * […]

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NATO Can Reduce the Threat of Escalation With Russia

File Photo of F-22 Fighter and Ground Crew

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Leonid Bershidsky – July 7, 2016) The North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit starting in Warsaw on Friday will probably lead to increased — and unnecessary — tension between NATO and Russia. Yet it may also yield good results: Acknowledging the increased hostility might make it possible for the two sides to ensure there are fewer dangerous […]

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Shellings in Donbas increase threefold in past week – OSCE SMM

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

KYIV. July 8 (Interfax) – The number of shellings in Donbas has significantly increased in the past week, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM) Principal Deputy Chief Monitor Alexander Hug said at a briefing in Kyiv on Friday. He said that the number of shellings has increased threefold in comparison with the previous […]

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Moscow interested in further dialogue with NATO – Federation Council members on NATO-Russia Council meeting

File Photo of Official at Podium in Front of Large NATO-Russia Council Signage

MOSCOW. July 8 (Interfax) – The upcoming NATO summit will hardly be sensational, and a lot will depend on a NATO-Russia Council meeting to take place after it, Federation Council members said, adding that Russia was pro-dialogue. “Although NATO excitedly speaks about the forthcoming ‘epochal event’, nothing sensationally substantial will happen at the alliance’s summit in Warsaw,” Federation Council International […]

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UK Government Warns on Russian Military Threat

File Photo of British Parliament Building, Big Ben, Thames, adapted from image at loc.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Daria Litvinova – July 7, 2016) The language was stark. No longer was Russia an ally or partner. Instead it was to be seen as a “strategic competitor” and military threat. Russia had boosted military capacity, intensified anti-Western propaganda, and shown readiness to “maintain a sphere of influence beyond its own frontiers.” The conclusions of […]

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NEWSWATCH: “NATO Set to Approve Baltic Force at Warsaw Summit; Alliance officials say they are uncertain how Russia’s Putin will respond” – Wall Street Journal

Map of Baltics and Environs, Including Kaliningrad

As the North Atlantic Treaty Organization prepares to kick off its summit here Friday, allies are casting a wary eye on Russia and its reaction to the expected approval of a new alliance force in the Baltic. … described by some as the most important gathering of NATO since the end of the Cold War … will authorize the presence […]

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Ira Straus: Re: 2016-#123-Johnson’s Russia List. (re: Breedlove)

Philip Breedlove file photo

Subject: Re: 2016-#123-Johnson’s Russia List. (re Breedlove) Date: Tue, 5 Jul 2016 15:00:17 -0400 From: IRASTRAUS@aol.com Re: 2016-#123-Johnson’s Russia List, 4. The Intercept: Hacked Emails Reveal NATO General Plotting Against Obama on Russia Policy. (Breedlove) 5. www.rt.com: Breedlove’s war: Emails show ex-NATO general plotting US conflict with Russia. Here we go again, into the fantasyland of anti-Russian conspiracies. No “plotting” […]

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Ukraine’s authoritarian signals

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

Recent unconstitutional legislation is smoothing the way for direct rule in Ukraine – and repeating past mistakes. (opendemocracy.net – MYKHAILO MINAKOV, TYMOFIY MYLOVANOV – July 5, 2016) Mykhailo Minakov is Associate Professor at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and President of the Foundation for Good Politics, Kyiv. He is also director of the Krytyka Institute, and editor-in-chief of the journal Ideology and Politics. […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s Baltic outpost digs in for standoff with NATO” [Kaliningrad] – Reuters

Map of Baltics and Environs, Including Kaliningrad

Russia and NATO are each building up their military capability across eastern Europe, spurred by the conflict in Ukraine …. For Russia, a strategic centerpiece is … Kaliningrad … a small piece of Russian territory sandwiched between NATO members Poland and Lithuania, allowing the Kremlin to project its military power into the alliance’s northern flank. … there was ample visible […]

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Putin, Russian Security Council Discuss Baltic Airspace

Map of Baltics and Environs, Including Kaliningrad

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – July 5, 2016) Russian President Vladimir Putin has chaired a meeting with the country’s Security Council to discuss possible “confidence-building” steps in the skies over the Baltic region and details in connection with a NATO summit later this week, a presidential spokesman said. Putin also talked with the council’s permanent members about the situation in Syria, […]

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Turkey Signals Cooperation With Russia Against Islamic State

Turkey and Environs Satellite Image

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Selcan Hacaoglu, Firat Kozok – July 4, 2016) Turkey may cooperate with Russia in fighting Islamic State, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday, just days after the countries agreed to work to repair strained ties. Cavusoglu denied signaling in an interview Sunday that Turkey may let Russia use southern Incirlik air base for operations in Syria. […]

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RBTH: Moscow and Washington consider expanding cooperation in Syria

Syria Map

U.S. President Barack Obama made an offer to Russia to begin joint combat operations against the Al-Nusra Front militants. Some Russian experts believe that this overture has been made in order to strengthen the Democrat Party’s position in the presidential election race. Yet this step also could have positive implications for Moscow. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – NIKOLAI […]

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Interfax: Shoigu: NATO doubled intensity of trainings near Russian borders

Sergei Shoigu file photo

(Interfax – June 29, 2016) NATO has dramatically intensified the number of trainings near the Russian borders, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said. “The intensity of the trainings of the NATO armed forces conducted in direct vicinity of the Russian borders has more than doubled,” he said at a Russian Defense Ministry collegium meeting on June 29. “We do not […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Reception in honour of graduates of military academies

File Photo of Russian Military Conscripts Boarding Train with Gear

(Kremlin.ru – June 28, 2016) A reception in honour of graduates of military academies, institutes and universities run by the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Justice, Interior Ministry, Emergency Situations Ministry, Federal Security Service and Federal Guards Service was hosted at the Grand Kremlin Palace. Distinguished graduates of academies under the responsibility of the Federal National Guard attended the reception […]

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RBTH: Russia to open new naval base in Black Sea to counter NATO

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

The Russian Navy is to open a new base on the Black Sea coast in Novorossiysk hosting Varshavyanka class Project 636.6 diesel-electric submarines with Kalibr cruise missiles. However, there are still some weather-based issues to be resolved. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – NIKOLAI LITOVKIN, RBTH – June 29, 2016) The Russian Defense Ministry is completing the construction of […]

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Interfax: Basurin reports over 800 attacks in DPR territory, injury of three civilians in past 24 hours

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

DONETSK. June 29 (Interfax) – The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) saw 830 attacks of the Ukrainian army in the past 24 hours; three civilians were injured, Eduard Basurin, a senior official of the DPR Defense Ministry, told the press. “The situation in the Donetsk People’s Republic remains critical. The number of shelling incidents grew over the past day. The […]

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Former U.S. Defense Officials Warn Of Russian Response To NATO Summit

Europe Map

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Mike Eckel – June 23, 2016) WASHINGTON — A former top U.S. Defense Department official has warned that the buildup of NATO troops in Eastern Europe, and Russia’s own troop movements along its western borders, are deepening the risk of an accidental outbreak of war. The comments on June 23 by Ian Brzezinski, deputy assistant secretary […]

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Interfax: Ex-Russian military representative to NATO sees no prerequisites to improve relations between Russia, alliance

NATO Logo, NATO, OTAN

MOSCOW. June 26 (Interfax) – The resumption of contacts between Russia and the North Atlantic Alliance is premature, former Russian chief military representative to NATO, State Duma deputy Viktor Zavarzin said. “Today, the issue of resuming the relationship with NATO is premature, let they behave correctly, let they correctly understand Russia’s role in international security, European security,” Zavarzin said at […]

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New Anti-Terrorist Acts Means Kremlin is Preparing for War at Home and Abroad, Ponomarev Says

Russian State Duma Building file photo

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, June 24, 2016) Today, the Russian Duma passed on second and third reading the so-called “Yarova-Ozerov law on terrorism,” a draconian measure that means not only that Vladimir Putin’s recent call for improved relations with the West was nothing more than “a special operation” but also and more seriously that he is […]

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The trap of “countering Russia”; Across eastern Europe, U.S. engagement against Russia is having an adverse effect on grassroots protesters – and no easy solution is forthcoming

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

(opendemocracy.net – Tom Junes – June 23, 2016) Tom Junes is a historian and post-doctoral researcher focusing on protest movements in eastern Europe. He is a member of the Human and Social Studies Foundation Sofia and currently a visiting fellow at the Centre for Advanced Study in Sofia, Bulgaria. He is the author of Student Politics in Communist Poland: Generations […]

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No, Russia is not preparing for all-out war; Russia’s snap military mobilisation drills are an internal exercise. But troublesome relations with the west could still have unintended (and unpleasant) consequences.

Russian Jet Buzzing U.S. Navy Destroyer, adapted from U.S. Navy photo

(opendemocracy.net – Mark Galeotti – June 21, 2016) Mark Galeotti is currently Professor of Global Affairs at New York University and a visiting fellow at the ECFR, although from August he will be principal director of the Mayak Intelligence consultancy in Prague and senior researcher at the Czech Institute for International Relations. He blogs on Russian security affairs at In […]

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Putin Understands West but West Doesn’t Understand Putin, Moscow Hybrid War Specialist Says

Putin and Obama with U.S. and Russian Flags

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, June 20, 2016) Russia’s power does “not even come close” to that of the US, Andrey Manoylo says; but Moscow has an advantage “right now” because it understands the value of “asymmetric action” and because “the US clearly has difficulties with predicting Russia’s activities,” because of Washington’s overly simplistic models of Russian […]

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Ukraine’s struggle with the past is ours too

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

What happens in Ukraine does not stay in Ukraine – uncritical glorification of Ukrainian nationalism is the west’s problem too. (opendemocracy.net – PER RUDLING, TARIK AMAR, and JARED MCBRIDE – June 15, 2016) Per Anders Rudling is associate professor at the department of history, Lund University and senior visiting fellow at department of history, National University of Singapore. Tarik Cyril […]

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RBTH: Is Nadia Savchenko Putin’s secret weapon?

Nadiya Savchenko file photo, adapted from image at osce.usmission.gov

Savchenko, who recently returned to Kiev after two years in a Russian prison, has been accused of promoting Kremlin interests in Ukraine. According to Russian experts, these accusations are related to the fact that part of the Ukrainian establishment sees the pilot as a potential rival and seeks to discredit her. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – ALEXEY TIMOFEYCHEV, […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Report: U.S., Russia Slowly Reducing Nuclear Arsenals” – RFE/RL/AP/DPA

Russian Mobile ICBM Parade File Photo

A Sweden-based nonproliferation think tank says the world’s biggest nuclear powers, the United States and Russia, are slowly reducing their nuclear arsenals but are modernizing their capacities. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says … there were 455 fewer nuclear warheads at the start of 2016 among nine nuclear states than a year earlier. … the United States, Russia, […]

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Interfax: Attitude to Ukraine improves in Russia over past year although 36% still want closed border, visa regime – poll

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

MOSCOW. June 16 (Interfax) – More than a third of Russians (36%) want closed borders, visas and customs for Ukraine (30% a year ago), the Levada Center told Interfax, adding that was the highest indicator since March 2008. The share of respondents who see Russia and Ukraine as two independent, friendly nations with open borders and without visas or customs […]

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Getting Each Other Wrong

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

(Kennan Institute – wilsoncenter.org/program/kennan-institute – Maxim Trudolyubov, Senior Fellow, Editor-at-Large, Vedomosti Daily – June 14, 2016) Politicians have to walk the walk in order to be credible. This is even more true in today’s world, given the rise of populist demagoguery and the sorry state of trust between the most important players. The dialogue taking place between Russia, the U.S., […]

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VIDEO & TRANSCRIPT: Russian Violations of Borders, Treaties, and Human Rights – U.S. Senate Testimony by Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland

U.S. Capitol in Bright Sunlight

Russian Violations of Borders, Treaties, and Human Rights Testimony, Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Statement Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Washington, DC, June 7, 2016, As prepared [Video of hearing also appeared here http://www.c-span.org/video/?410738-1/federal-officials-testify-human-rights-violations-russia][Video includes all speakers and some lawmakers; Nuland testimony transcript follows below] Thank you Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Cardin, and members […]

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Russian Elite Not Only Believes Its Own Propaganda But is Basing Its Actions on It, New Russian Document Shows

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, June 7, 2016) The Moscow Council on Foreign and Defense Policy released at the end of May a document describing Russian foreign policy for the remainder of this decade. It is filled with propagandistic shibboleths heard every day on Russian TV, and the policies that it recommends flow from them rather than […]

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Fewer than Half of Ukrainians Blame Moscow Alone for War in the Donbass, New Survey Finds

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

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, June 8, 2016) Forty-eight percent of Ukrainians blame Moscow for the war in the Donbas, while 33 percent blame both Moscow and Kyiv and nine percent blame only Kyiv, according to polls conducted by Ukraine’s Razumkov Center for a report on the evolution of Ukrainian identity. That report, now available online at […]

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Savchenko Says Willing To Hold Peace Talks With Separatists

Nadiya Savchenko file photo, adapted from image at osce.usmission.gov

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – June 8, 2016) Ukrainian airwoman Nadia Savchenko says she is willing to talk with Russia-backed separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine to try to end the nation’s two-year-old conflict. Savchenko told Ukrainian media on June 7 she believes direct peace talks with separatist leaders would be more effective than the current, unproductive talks that have included Russia, […]

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The Kremlin’s Arctic Plans: More Gutted than Grand

Arctic Map

(PONARS Eurasia – ponarseurasia.org – Sergei Medvedev, Professor of Politics; Deputy Dean for International Affairs Higher School of Economics, Moscow – June 7, 2016) Article also appeared at ponarseurasia.org/memo/kremlin-arctic-plans-more-gutted-grand Over the past decade, Russia has launched a diplomatic and symbolic offensive in the Arctic, supported by increased military activity, grandiose economic plans, and showy assertions of sovereignty. Russian officials have […]

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Why the U.S. Needs Russian Rocket Engines to Spy on Russia

File Photo of Atlas Rocket on Launch Pad

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Eli Lake – June 6, 2016) When President Barack Obama came into office, the fact that Russia sold the U.S. the rocket engines it needed for launches was a feature of U.S. foreign policy, not a bug. Obama was trying to reset the U.S. relationship with Moscow, and that meant finding areas where the two former […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Missile defense-Would the Kremlin pitch a deal?” – Brookings/Steven Pifer

Aegis Ashore Missile Defense File Photo

On May 12, U.S. officials declared the U.S. SM-3 missile interceptor site at Deveselu, Romania operational. The next day, ground was broken at Redzikowo, Poland for a second SM-3 installation. Moscow immediately made clear its displeasure at these developments, repeating its past claims that U.S. missile defenses in Europe pose a threat to Russia. At the end of May, President […]

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