Playing The Kremlin’s Game

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

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Brian Whitmore – August 29, 2016) After more than two years of war in eastern Ukraine, we continue to pretend; we continue to play make believe. We continue to pretend that what is happening in the Donbas is a civil war, when in fact it is the result of a Russian invasion. We continue to pretend […]

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NEWSWATCH: “A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories” – New York Times

File Image of Stylized Eye Surrounded by Binary Code

The New York Times addresses concerns about Russian disinformation campaigns, including Russia’s reputed involvement with a rash of misleading material on social media disrupting NATO-related debate in Sweden. With a vigorous national debate underway on whether Sweden should enter a military partnership with NATO, officials in Stockholm suddenly encountered an unsettling problem: a flood of distorted and outright false information on […]

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NEWSWATCH Anne Applebaum/@anneapplebaum: “finally – finally! – Russia’s extraordinary disinformation campaign is creeping towards the front pages”

Satellite Dishes

[Anne Applebaum, on twitter at @anneapplebaum, comments upon Russian disinformation and links to a story from the New York Times, “A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories;” her tweet should be embedded below, yet it might take some time to load for some users; her tweet also can be accessed through this link: twitter.com/anneapplebaum/status/769960717877383168] finally – finally! – […]

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NEWSWATCH: “U.S., Russia Discuss Syria Cooperation Plan. Officials see hope of reducing violence and creating atmosphere for political transition” – Wall Street Journal

Syria Map

… Kerry and … Lavrov are meeting … in a bid to complete a deal on increased cooperation in Syria that officials hope could help create the calm necessary for talks on a political transition. … The Pentagon is concerned about more closely cooperating with Russia, which backs … al-Assad’s regime. * * * Kerry’s efforts are opposed by some […]

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Poroshenko hopes to raise Ukrainian flag over Donetsk, Luhansk, Simferopol and Sevastopol over time

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

KYIV. Aug 23 (Interfax) – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has reiterated the need to restore Ukrainian sovereignty in Donbas and Crimea. “An extremely difficult task for us is to ensure that our flag would once again appear over Donetsk, Luhansk, over Simferopol and over Sevastopol,” he said during a ceremony to raise Ukraine’s state flag in Kyiv on Tuesday. Ukraine […]

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NEWSLINK RBTH: “Russian airplanes leave Iran, but for how long?”

Iran Map and Flag

Tu-22M3 and Su-34 combat aircraft are no longer performing sorties into Syria from Iranian territory. Experts attribute the decision to a number of diplomatic and technical miscalculations on Moscow’s part and say the possibility remains for Russian aircraft to return

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NEWSLINK Transitions Online: “Russia’s Donbas ‘Buildup’: Threat or Bargaining Chip?”

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

Ukrainian leader warns of possible Russian invasion, while the Pentagon tries to inject a note of realism into increasingly tense debate

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NEWSWATCH: “Playing With Fire in Ukraine” – New York Times

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

Two years after President Vladimir Putin of Russia annexed Crimea and began destabilizing eastern Ukraine, tensions are rising anew, with news reports suggesting that he may be preparing for yet another military confrontation with the pro-Western government in Kiev. … regardless of his intentions, the provocations, real or feigned, could spin out of control. It is essential for Europe and […]

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RIA Novosti: Russian envoy says NATO dialogue “gradually being restored”

NATO Logo, NATO, OTAN

(RIA Novosti – August 18, 2016) Russian permanent representative to NATO Alexander Grushko has said that dialogue with NATO is gradually improving. “Today our main attention is on political dialogue, which is gradually being restored. Two sessions of the Russia-NATO council have taken place,” Grushko told Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti. “Furthermore, taking part in the last session were […]

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Russia Understanders” in Europe (excerpt)

Europe Map

(PONARS Eurasia – Andrey Makarychev, Stefano Braghirolil, University of Tartu (Estonia) – August 16, 2016) [Full text here http://www.ponarseurasia.org/sites/default/files/policy-memos-pdf/Pepm435_Makarychev-Braghiroli_August2016.pdf] The Ukraine conflict reinforced the desire of Kremlin policymakers to establish connections with a range of anti-status-quo groups in Europe. Moscow’s broad aim is to catalyze support for and legitimize Russian sovereignty (and hegemony) and, perhaps, even the dissolution of the […]

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It’s Security, Stupid: How Putin Manipulates National Emergencies

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

(Moscow Times/Kennan Institute – wilsoncenter.org/program/kennan-institute – Maxim Trudolyubov – August 15, 2016) Maxim Trudolyubov is a Senior Fellow with the Kennan Institute and editor-at-large with Vedomosti. Vladimir Putin is both feared and admired for his signature move of creating suspense to keep everybody on their toes. He knows how to make sure his next move is unpredictable. And yet, he […]

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The Putin Doctrine

Russian Soldiers Marching

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Brian Whitmore – August 17, 2016) Eight years ago, Georgia’s government apparently started a war with Russia — even though Georgian troops never left Georgian territory. Two and a half years ago, the Ukrainian people apparently started a war with Russia — by overthrowing a corrupt and autocratic ruler in a popular uprising. You really gotta […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Putin underestimated Ukrainians and overestimated his ability to divide NATO – Pyatt” – Ukraine Today

Geoffrey R. Pyatt file photo

‘Implementation of Minsk-2 means all the Russian troops go out; it means Ukraine’s control over the international border is restored; it means all the hostages are released; it means all of the tanks, and BMPs, and GRAD missiles, and mortars, all of these heavy weapons go back. The first point of the Minsk agreement was a comprehensive ceasefire, and the […]

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NEWSWATCH: “While the world is distracted, Putin escalates his war in Ukraine” – Washington Post

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

… The … FSB, claimed … one of its officers was killed … near the de facto border between Crimea and Ukraine. Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in early 2014, then backed a violent uprising in … Donetsk and Luhansk. … According to the FSB … a second attempt occurred … with support from Ukrainian artillery, killing a Russian … […]

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NEWSLINK Anders Åslund/Project-Syndicate.Org: “The Putin Question”

Vladimir Putin

As war fever returns in Ukraine, the question of why Russian President Vladimir Putin went from would-be modernizer to aggressive autocrat is being revived. Whatever the reason – fear for his safety, a sense of historical grievance, or both – Putin’s inability to reform Russia’s economy seems certain to be his downfall.

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NEWSWATCH: “Russian reshuffle claims another big name: Putin’s chief of staff”

File Photo of Sergei Ivanov, adapted from defense.gov image

… Putin has abruptly sacked his longtime aide and confidant, Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov, amid what appears to be a major reshuffling within the ranks of Russia’s ruling elite. … the Kremlin website says … Ivanov asked to retire, and requested that his trusted deputy, Anton Vaino, replace him. Even if wholly accurate, it does little to explain […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s Foreign Minister Says No Plan to Break Diplomatic Ties with Ukraine” – Wall Street Journal

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

… Lavrov said Russia had no intention of breaking diplomatic ties with Ukraine and was discussing the possibility of organizing joint talks with Ukrainian, Russian, French and German officials aimed at resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine. … Lavrov’s comments … come after … Putin blamed Ukraine … for incidents in #Crimea that left two Russian service members dead and […]

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NEWSWATCH: “No evidence so far to corroborate Russia allegations over Crimea: U.S.” – Reuters

Geoffrey R. Pyatt file photo

The United States has seen nothing so far that corroborates Russian allegations of a Ukrainian incursion into Crimea … U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, said …. [along with promises that] U.S. sanctions in relation to Russia’s annexation of Crimea would remain in place until the territory was returned to Ukraine. … Putin accused Kiev … of … terrorist tactics […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s Vladimir Putin may believe time is ripe for another invasion. The Crimea crisis has come from nowhere but the Russian president has form for military adventures in Olympic years, says Luke Harding” – The Guardian (UK)

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

The situation in Crimea looks ominous. Russia’s FSB … said … it … foiled a series of attacks by armed Ukrainians on the peninsula. … Putin accused Kiev[] … of choosing terror over peace. Meanwhile, largely unnoticed by the outside world, Russia has been stealthily shipping military vehicles to Crimea, which Putin annexed … 2014. … two years after Putin […]

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Guns Of August: Fears Of Full-Scale War Return As Casualties Mount In Ukraine

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

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Christopher Miller – MARYINKA, Ukraine – August 9, 2016) Framed by a tiny cutout in the fortified bunker, this particular piece of no-man’s land is tinted a blood-reddish orange by the setting summer sun. It’s hot as hell, and it’s about to get hotter. When the sun goes down, the guns start blazing. And all that […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Turkey’s Erdogan Patches Up Relations With Putin” – Wall Street Journal

Turkey map

… Putin and … Erdogan mended fences in a high-profile meeting Tuesday, bolstering their governments’ ties as both face strained relations with the West. … Erdogan’s first trip abroad since the Turkish coup attempt … signals his willingness to look to Moscow, traditionally the counterweight to Western influence in the Middle East. But Western leaders say Turkey … crucial to […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Putin’s tanks spark fears of European invasion after giant convoy is spotted massing on Ukrainian border” – The Daily Mail (UK)/Abe Hawken

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

Russian tanks have been spotted on the northern Crimea border which has sparked fears that an invasion is imminent. Witnesses described seeing Russian military hardware and trucks arrive near the towns of Armyansk and Dzhankoy – 25 miles south of the Ukrainian border. … video footage also appears to show a fleet of Russian armoured trucks driving down a street […]

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Russia’s Moves, Terrorism Fuel Talk of War in Europe – The Daily Signal [also appeared as “Europeans are quietly preparing for war with Russia” at Newsweek.com]

Europe Map

[article also appeared at Newsweek.com as “Europeans are quietly preparing for war with Russia”] (Nolan Peterson – @nolanwpeterson – The Daily Signal – dailysignal.com – The Heritage Foundation – heritage.org – KYIV, Ukraine, Aug. 3, 2016) Whether referring to Russian aggression in the east or to the threat of Islamist terrorism in the West, Europe’s political, media, and religious elite […]

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Will Putin Again Use the Olympics as Cover for New Aggression, This Time in Ukraine?

Olympic Rings Lit at Night, adapted from image at state.gov

(Paul Goble – Staunton, August 8, 2016) Eight years ago today, when the world was focusing on the Olympics in Beijing, Vladimir Putin used this distraction as the occasion to launch his invasion of Georgia. Now, there are both indications and fears that he may use the world’s focus on the Olympiad in Rio to reignite Russian aggression in Ukraine. […]

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U.S. Official: Annexing Crimea, Russia Broke All Rules of ‘World Order’

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

(Voice of America – voanews.com – August 5, 2016) Russia’s actions against Ukraine and the potential threat it poses to other countries in its neighborhood has become an issue in the U.S. presidential race, thanks largely to comments made by Donald Trump. The Republican candidate told a U.S. television interviewer late last month that the people of Crimea, which Russia […]

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Ukrainians Parroting Moscow’s Line More Dangerous than Russians who Do, Portnikov Says

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

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, August 6, 2016) The Kremlin understands that most Ukrainians distrust Russian media outlets and so has made a major effort to find Ukrainians who will parrot the Moscow line, Vitaly Portnikov says, helping Vladimir Putin to destabilize Ukraine and making it far more difficult for Kyiv to counter what he is doing […]

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NEWSWATCH: “The Kremlin’s Advantage; Why Cyberwar Will Continue” – Foreign Affairs/ Eugene B. Rumer

File Image of Stylized Eye Surrounded by Binary Code

The hack of … Democratic National Committee emails, now widely attributed to Russian intelligence, has set off a political earthquake in the United States. The brazenness of the attack, the crude attempt to intervene in a U.S. presidential election, and the equally bald-faced denial in the face of mounting evidence of Russian government complicity …. * * * Events of […]

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Coup talk in Ukraine

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

The war in the east, the rise of paramilitaries and polarised public opinion are feeding fears of a violent seizure of power in Kyiv. Could Ukraine follow in Turkey’s footsteps? (opendemocracy.net – Denys Gorbach – August 2, 2016) Denys Gorbach is a leftist activist and researcher working on the Ukrainian labour movement. Once again, Ukrainians are discussing the possibility of […]

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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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