Who’s On The List? Russia’s Elite Nervous About New U.S. Sanctions

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

(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Mike Eckel – WASHINGTON – January 15, 2018 – also appeared at https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-sanctions-list-putin-circle-elite-nervous/28976991.html) There’s a chill settling in over Moscow, and it’s not just the arctic temperatures that typically smother the Russian capital in January. As U.S. officials put the finishing touches on new financial and travel sanctions against Russia, […]

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The Five Big Russia Questions For 2018

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

(Article ©2017 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Brian Whitmore – December 28, 2017 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/five-russia-questions-for-2018/28944045.html) With 2017 almost behind us, and 2018 nearly upon us, here are five questions The Power Vertical will be keeping an eye on going forward. 1. How Will The Kremlin Handle Navalny’s ‘Campaign’? As expected, Aleksei Navalny won’t be […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Kennan Cable No. 29: U.S. Sanctions Law and Western Coordination on Russia Policy” – Kennan Institute/ Dominik Tolksdorf

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

“The United States and the European Union have coordinated their sanctions against Russia for more than three years. In July 2017 the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly passed additional sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea that were signed into law by President Trump on August 2. The legislation was drafted in the context of the alleged Russian interference in the U.S. […]

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NEWSWATCH: “U.S. Criticizes Germany’s Support of New Russian Natural Gas Line; Top state department official praises Denmark for passing law that could hamper pipeline project” – Wall Street Journal/ Paul Sonne

Gas Flame file photo

“[Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs A. Wess Mitchell] offered harsh words … for Germany over the country’s continued support for a new Russian gas pipeline to Europe … known as Nord Stream 2 … a wholly owned subsidiary of Russian state energy giant Gazprom [that] would double Russia’s export capacity … adding a second link between Russia and Germany. * […]

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NEWSWATCH: “For Some Russian Oligarchs, Sanctions Risk Makes Putin Awkward to Know” – Reuters

“The threat of new U.S. sanctions has spread anxiety among Russia’s wealthiest people that their association with … Putin could land them on a U.S. government blacklist …. drawn up by early next year … part of a sanctions bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress …. Although those included on the list would not automatically be sanctioned, six people … part of the […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Gazprom spends big to keep trillion dollar dream alive; Russian gas exporter ramps up borrowing and raids cashpile to maintain growth” – Financial Times/ Henry Foy

Gas Facility file photo

“In an effort to fight back, Gazprom is …. [r]amping up borrowing and raiding its … cash pile … splurging on critical new infrastructure …. it announced that it expected to spend 24 per cent more this year on long-term investment, capital expenditure and acquisitions previously forecast. … next year’s spending [is projected to] hit a record Rbs 1.28tn ($22bn), up 13 per cent on […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Putin in the Boot; New sanctions are about to bite, and Russia’s elite are spooked; The personal sanctions against regime cronies are especially tough” – The Economist

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

“… CAATSA moderately increases the pressure …. It extends the restrictions on investing in new Russian oil and gas projects to the operations of Russian firms in third countries. … the effectiveness of these new sanctions, which the administration is allowed to pause until late January, is undermined by the fact that European firms have been ring-fenced from their effects. Gazprom … has […]

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Study: U.S. Sanctions Hurting Russians’ Support for U.S., not Kremlin

(PONARS Eurasia – ponarseurasia.org – Henry Hale, George Washington University Professor of Political Science and International Affairs – November 14, 2017) Are American sanctions hurting support for Putin? New political science research suggests the answer is no. This study was presented at the 2017 convention of the main association for specialists on Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia (ASEEES) in Chicago, […]

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Russia Unfazed By U.S. Oil Sanctions

Oil Well file photo

(Oilprice.com – Viktor Katona – November 9, 2017) Western energy sanctions vis-à-vis Russia have become a steady phenomenon of the global oil and gas market. Most Russian oil companies don’t expect sanctions to be scrapped anytime soon-an assessment espoused by the political elites of the country, too. The sides even seem to have resigned their minds to the current frosty […]

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Russian LNG Unfazed By U.S. Sanctions

Asia Map

(Oilprice.com – Tsvetana Paraskova – November 2, 2017) Russia’s energy industry faces a new round of U.S. sanctions – including on oil projects in any location if a designated entity holds more than 33 percent. And in Europe, where Russia’s gas giant Gazprom currently holds a large share of the gas supplies, Poland and Lithuania are buying U.S. LNG in […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia Uses Its Oil Giant, Rosneft, as a Foreign Policy Tool” – New York Times/ Clifford Krauss

File Photo of Rosneft and Russian Flags Next to Rosneft Banner

“Russia is increasingly wielding oil as a geopolitical tool, spreading … influence … and challenging the interests of the United States. … Moscow risks running into trouble … lend[ing] money and mak[ing] deals in turbulent economies and shaky political climates. The strategy faces a crucial test this week in Venezuela, a Russian ally that must come up with a billion dollars to avert […]

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Travel Barriers Are the Worst of the New Cold War; Why is the U.S. squandering its soft-power advantage on petty tit-for-tat?

File Photo of U.S. Embassy Moscow, with Russian Foreign Ministry Building in Distance

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Leonid Bershidsky – September 1, 2017) Leonid Bershidsky is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru. The latest loop in the escalation of U.S.-Russia hostilities is probably the dumbest and the most damaging: The two countries are introducing de facto travel restrictions […]

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Rusia destroys 17,600 tonnes of embargo-busting produce since August 2015 – watchdog

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

MOSCOW. Aug 28 (Interfax) – Since August 6, 2015, Russia has destroyed 17,600 tonnes of food products imported to Russia in violation of the partial embargo, Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) reported. Products from plant cultivation account for 17,140 tonnes of the total, while 475 tonnes of livestock farming products have been destroyed. In the two years […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Despite New U.S. Sanctions, Russian Oil Traders Say It’s Business as Usual” – Reuters

Oil Well file photo

“Russian oil companies will quickly find ways to work around tighter restrictions imposed this month by the United States on the foreign finance they can use, multiple Russian oil industry sources told Reuters. … new restrictions cut the period that U.S.-based entities can provide finance to Russian energy firms from 90 to 60 days … part of a fresh package of U.S. […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russian economy boss: sanctions no longer bite” – AP

Truck at Russian Border Crossing

“… Maxim Oreshkin … [said that] the Russian economy is on track to grow at least 2 percent this year. That would be a first after 2014, when the economy sank into recession driven by sinking oil prices and sanctions over Russian actions in Ukraine. … he said, ‘we see more willingness on the Asian side to work with us.’ He wouldn’t […]

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A Month After Tighter Sanctions, Russia Risk Drops to a Four-Year Low

File Photo of Outdoor Electronic Sign with Russian Exchange Data

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Natasha Doff, Ksenia Galouchko – August 24, 2017) [Text with charts: bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-24/month-after-sanctions-storm-russia-risk-drops-to-four-year-low] Less than a month after the U.S. toughened its main sanctions against Russia, a measure of the country’s political risk is back to its lowest level in four years. The cost of insuring Russian debt against default for five years using credit-default swaps dropped […]

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Russian Emigres in New York Unfazed by Sanctions Fallout; U.S.-Russia relations are flourishing in Brooklyn’s ‘Little Odessa’

File Photo of Manhattan and Manhattan Bridge, adapted from image at loc.gov, from photo by Carol M. Highsmith

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Evan Gershkovich – August 18, 2017) NEW YORK – U.S. President Donald Trump begrudgingly signed off on the latest round of sanctions against Russia early in August to the sound of growing hostility. In Russia, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev slammed the new sanctions, saying Washington had launched “a full-fledged economic war on Russia.” “It ends […]

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The One Big Problem With New Russia Sanctions; Congress won’t let Trump waive penalties, which gives Moscow no reason to change its behavior.

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

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Meghan L. O’Sullivan – August 10, 2017) Meghan L. O’Sullivan is a Bloomberg columnist and the Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School. She served on the National Security Council from 2004 to 2007, and was deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan. The latest round of congressional […]

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Washington May Force Russia to Close Consulate Amid Diplomatic Spat

File Photo of Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., Adapted From Image at loc.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – August 11, 2017) Washington could force Russia to shutter one of four consulates in the United States as part of an escalating diplomatic rift between the countries over fresh U.S. sanctions, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Friday citing unidentified sources. Russian authorities on July 28 ordered the United States reduce the number of employees in […]

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Russia Braces for Permanent Sanctions From the U.S.; Moscow was hopeful Trump would loosen sanctions. Instead, he made them permanent.

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

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Henry Meyer, Anna Andrianova – August 8, 2017) Andrey Kostin, a former Soviet diplomat in London who runs Russia’s second-largest bank, was jubilant when Donald Trump was elected last year. “We may soon see U.S. financial sanctions eased or even lifted,” he said at the time. Now, he’s changed his tune as his state-run VTB Group, […]

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NEWSLINK: “Factbox: What Do the New U.S. Sanctions on Russia Target?” – Reuters

U.S. Capitol in Bright Sunlight

“… * The law establishes a review process that allows #Congress to block any effort by #Trump to ease or lift sanctions on #Russia. Lawmakers passed the bill to punish Russia over its alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and its involvement in Syria’s civil war. * Trump, or any U.S. president, […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Why New U.S. Sanctions Could Be a Ticking Time Bomb for Investors in Russia” – Moscow Times/ Elisabeth Braw, Nabi Abdullaev

File Photo of Man Placing Stack of Large Bills into Inside Pocket of Suitcoat

“The 755 staff forced to leave the U.S. embassy by … Putin may seem to have little to do with private companies wishing to invest in Russia. But in reality, they’re closely linked. … international companies planning to invest in Russia or already doing business there now face more uncertainty. And six months from now, a ticking bomb wrapped in […]

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Russian diplomat warns of risk to arms control with US

Iskander Missile with Launch file photo

(Interfax – August 2, 2017) Moscow, 2 August: Moscow’s possible countermeasures to the USA’s new anti-Russian sanctions may hypothetically affect agreements in the areas of disarmament and nonproliferation but any actions in this area have to meet Russia’s national interests, a Russian Foreign Ministry official has said. “Anything is possible in life, and I would like to draw your attention, […]

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Russia’s Medvedev Says U.S. Sanctions Bill Ends Hope For Better Ties

Dmitri Medvedev file photo

(Article ©2017 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Aug. 3, 2017 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/trump-signs-russia-sanctions-bill/28655189.html) Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev sharply denounced the sanctions bill signed into law by U.S. President Donald Trump on August 2, saying it ends hope for improving relations and ignites “an all-out trade war with #Russia.” “The hope for improving our relations […]

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NEWSLINK: “We Need to Stop Using Russia as a Political Football; From Nixon to Trump, there have always been long-term risks in exploiting foreign policy for domestic political gain” – The Nation/ Vadim Nikitin

Leonid Brezhnev and Richard Nixon Sitting and Talking, as Nixon Gestures, with Third Man Standing and Leaning Closely Between Them

“By voting in new sanctions against Russia, Congress torpedoed the White House’s dream of rapprochement with the Kremlin. Yet its real target was not a foreign foe but an unpopular Republican president threatened by impeachment over alleged electoral manipulation. With the commander in chief dogged by perceived softness on Moscow and crippled by plummeting approval ratings, Congress chose foreign policy […]

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NEWSWATCH: “President Trump signs Russia sanctions bill” – ABC

File Photo of White House with South Lawn and Fountain

“… Trump today signed a bill aimed at punishing Russia for its interference in the 2016 election despite his reservations … passed with rare and overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress …. The bill limits the president’s ability to lift or waive sanctions against Russia and keeps in place sanctions the Obama administration imposed …. It also allows the U.S. to deny […]

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The Ousting of Hundreds of U.S. Diplomats From Moscow, Explained

File Photo of U.S. Embassy Moscow, with Russian Foreign Ministry Building in Distance

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – August 1, 2017) In response to fresh sanctions proposed by the U.S. Congress, Russia has ordered the U.S. to slash its diplomatic staff in Russia by hundreds of people. Amid reports that this will dramatically increase wait times for visa processing, the RBC news outlet on Monday published an overview of what the measure means […]

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Interfax: Russian Foreign Ministry against tying U.S. diplomatic staff cuts to visa matters

Artist's Rendition of U.S. Embassy, Moscow, with the Russian Foreign Ministry in the Background

MOSCOW. Aug 1 (Interfax) – Moscow said that tying the reduction of United States diplomatic staff in Russia to visa processing times was unacceptable. “Tying staff cuts to visa processing does not withstand any criticism, because no one was expelling the Americans, no one dictated, nor indicated who is to be sent home and who is to stay put. Therefore, […]

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U.S. Sanctions Are Another Gift to Putin; Far from being hurt by them, he finds them useful.

U.S. Capitol in Bright Sunlight

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Leonid Bershidsky – July 31, 2017) Leonid Bershidsky is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru. Russian President Vladimir Putin tends to respond to Western sanctions in ways its authors probably didn’t anticipate: by going after those Russians who could most help […]

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NEWSLINK: “Latest Diplomatic Rift Places US, Russia on Edge of ‘Tipping Point'” – Russia Matters/ Paul Saunders

File Photo of U.S. Embassy Moscow, with Russian Foreign Ministry Building in Distance

“The Russian government’s recent announcement of its decision to eject American diplomats and block access to two diplomatic properties may signal an approaching tipping point in the United States-Russia relationship. Trump administration officials and members of Congress should consider very carefully how to proceed. While the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official announcement of Moscow’s latest moves focused primarily on Russia’s complaints […]

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NEWSLINK: “Putin says the U.S. Mission in Russia needs to cut 755 employees. What do all these people do?” – Washington Post/ Andrew Roth

File Photo of U.S. Embassy Moscow, with Russian Foreign Ministry Building in Distance

“When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Sunday that the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Russia would have to cut 755 diplomatic and technical staff, many people had the same first thought: We have 755 diplomats in Russia for Putin to expel? Doesn’t that seem like a lot? The answer is yes, that does seem like a lot. Because no, we […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia Risks Decades of Low Growth Under U.S. Sanctions: Putin Adviser”- Reuters

Alexei Kudrin file photo

“Russia risks being saddled with U.S. sanctions for decades, curbing economic growth and preventing it from regaining its status as a leading economic power, an adviser to President Vladimir Putin said …. Alexei Kudrin told Reuters that the current proposed tightening of sanctions in Washington should not have any serious impact. But he called for a major structural reform program […]

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Why Russia’s Market Is Rising After Sanctions Bill Approval

Cash, Calculator, Pen

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Ksenia Galouchko – July 27, 2017) The U.S. House has approved a bill hardening sanctions against Russia, but European resistance to some of its toughest new measures means the impact on companies will be muted, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG. As it stands now, the most negative aspect of the bill […]

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New U.S. sanctions bill on Russia threatens to further erode Minsk agreement; The diplomatic spat over new U.S. Russia sanctions risks eroding common US-EU position on Ukraine conflict.

U.S. Capitol in Bright Sunlight

(opendemocracy.net – Moritz Pieper – July 27, 2017) Moritz Pieper is a Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Salford, UK. He received his PhD from the University of Kent’s Brussels School of International Studies. He has been a visiting Research Fellow at China Foreign Affairs University (CFAU), Beijing, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Brussels, […]

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Moscow Hears Political Saber Rattling in Fresh U.S. Sanctions Vote; The vote sparked harsh rhetoric not heard since Trump has come to office

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

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Lena Smirnova – July 26, 2017) Top Russian officials on Wednesday slammed a U.S. House of Representatives vote in favor of fresh sanctions, with one official warning it could trigger “a new Cold War.” “Washington is a source of danger,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the state-run TASS news agency. “This is a blatant, […]

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New U.S. Sanctions on Russia Are a Mixed Bag; Europeans are rightly wary that promoting U.S. exports is an ulterior motive.

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

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Leonid Bershidsky – July 24, 2017) Leonid Bershidsky is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru. The European Commission is preparing to counteract the new sanctions the U.S. Congress may impose on Russia this week. This may sound as if Europe is […]

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Russian government extends counter-sanctions till end of 2018

EU Map

MOSCOW. July 5 (Interfax) – Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has signed a resolution extending the ban on imports of certain types of agricultural products, raw materials and food, the governmental website said in a report on Wednesday. “The ban on imports of certain types of agricultural products, raw materials and food originating from the United States, EU member countries, […]

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NEWSWATCH: “No Thaw Likely at Trump-Putin Meeting” – Wall Street Journal/ Nathan Hodge

File Photo of Donald Trump Waving Before Large Crowd with Trump Signs, adapted from image at whitehouse.gov

“Russian officials are cautious about expectations for a fresh start in relations with Washington despite a planned first meeting between … Putin and … Trump next week. … Lavrov expressed hope that ‘pragmatism will prevail.’ But he added that U.S.-Russian relations ‘have become hostage to the internal politics’ inside Washington. * * * Russia continues to chafe under U.S. and Western […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Meeting with Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko. [excerpt re: NGOs]

Valentina Matviyenko file photo

(Kremlin.ru – June 26, 2017) Vladimir Putin held a working meeting with Speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko. Valentina Matviyenko: Mr President, we also organised public hearings on a subject that was long ripe for discussion. We simply gave this discussion a formal framework through these hearings on the inadmissibility of interference in Russia’s internal affairs. We know how […]

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Behind Brave Face on Sanctions, Russia Is Already Adjusting

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Olga Tanas – June 23, 2017) They are only discussed. They may not even be implemented. But the new sanctions under consideration in the U.S. Congress have already become a factor the Bank of Russia can’t ignore. While Governor Elvira Nabiullina dismissed sanctions as having little impact on Russia, the looming threat of wider measures was […]

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Cold War Deja Vu Deepens as New Russia Sanctions Anger Europe

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

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Marc Champion – June 18, 2017) Russia on Sunday accused the U.S. of returning to “almost forgotten Cold War rhetoric,” after President Donald Trump’s decision to reinstate some sanctions on Cuba. It could have dropped “forgotten.” There’s been a lively debate among historians and diplomats for years over whether the souring of relations between the U.S. […]

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Punishing Putin Mostly Means Punishing His Foes; Washington wants more sanctions. But they would further strangle a pro-democracy movement on life support.

Kremlin and River

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Leonid Bershidsky – June 12, 2017) Leonid Bershidsky is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru. After being surprised by broad-based protests in late March, the Russian authorities were ready to prevent a repeat on Monday. Police detained hundreds across the country […]

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NEWSLINK: “Russian entrepreneurs wish you’d stop worrying about Putin and start thinking about them” – Washington Post/ David Filipov

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

“… With European governments grappling over whether and how Russian hackers might be attacking their electoral systems, and Washington torn asunder over the question of possible collusion between the Kremlin and members of President Trump’s campaign and administration, the forum presented journalists with a chance to go face to face with Moscow’s principal players. …”

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NEWSLINK: “How the Trump administration’s secret efforts to ease Russia sanctions fell short” – Yahoo News/ Michael Isikoff

State Department Building and U.S. Flag

“In the early weeks of the Trump administration, former Obama administration officials and State Department staffers fought an intense, behind-the-scenes battle to head off efforts by incoming officials to normalize relations with Russia, according to multiple sources familiar with the events. …”

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VIDEO & ARTICLE: “Russian Banker Sees Trump Facing Witch Hunt in New Cold War” – Bloomberg

File Photo of White House with South Lawn and Fountain

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Erik Schatzker, Jake Rudnitsky – June 1, 2017) [Video interview also at: bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-06-01/russian-banker-says-u-s-involved-in-witch-hunt-against-trump] U.S. politicians have turned an investigation into alleged Russian interference in the presidential elections into a witch hunt to settle domestic political scores, according to the head of Russia’s second-largest bank. “This is effectively a new Cold War,” VTB Group Chief Executive Officer […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Navigating the Complexities of Doing Business in Russia” – Harvard Business Review/ Mark McNamee

Men Sitting Around Long Oval Boardroom Table, File Photo of FIFA Officials Meeting with Vladmir Putin

… Most firms we work with feel a sense of powerlessness to handle the changing conditions in Russia. But  … there are ways that they can manage the uncertainty. … First, companies should pinpoint exactly what elements of their operations are most vulnerable to abrupt changes in foreign policy relations. … [and] think through the types of political and macroeconomic […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Snapshot Analysis: Trump, NATO, Russia” – Russia Matters/ Nikolas K. Gvosdev

Globe Highlighting NATO Members

“As predicted … #Trump’s summit with other #NATO leaders … showed a White House focused on meeting its treaty commitments … also determined to see its partners take on primary responsibility for countering threats that affect them, particularly in their own neighborhood. For #Russia, Trump’s public comments sounded like a mixed bag: … the president called Moscow a ‘threat’ and expressed no interest […]

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NEWSLINK: “Best To Assume Russia Sanctions Last Forever” – Forbes/ Kenneth Rapoza

Truck at Russian Border Crossing

“… the G-20 meeting this June … will be the first time [Trump and Putin] meet, and that could give us the official, presidential word on sanctions. …”

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NEWSWATCH: “Macron meets Russia’s Putin near Paris, promising tough talks” – Reuters/ Michel Rose, Denis Dyomkin

Eiffel Tower and Tree-Lined Grassy Green, adapted from image at lbl.gov

“#French President Emmanuel #Macron met #Russia’s Vladimir #Putin near Paris on Monday, promising some frank talking with the Kremlin leader after an election campaign in which his team accused Russian media of trying to interfere. … * * * While Moscow backs [#Syria’s] … al-Assad, France supports rebel groups trying to overthrow him. France has also taken a tough line on […]

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