Putin Pulls Levers As Russian Patriarch, PM Head Abroad

Patriarch Kirill file photo

(RFE/RL News Analysis – rferl.org – Steve Gutterman – February 11, 2016) With the Russian patriarch and prime minister both holding big meetings abroad, this weekend presents a chance for President Vladimir Putin to soothe a world still stunned by Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine and dismayed by its bombing campaign in Syria. Russian Orthodox Church chief Kirill holds historic talks […]

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AFGHANISTAN TO SYRIA – the Russian game

Afghanistan Map of Ethnicities

Subject: AFGHANISTAN TO SYRIA – the Russian game Date: Wed, 10 Feb 2016 From: Andrei Liakhov <gaffriloff@yahoo.co.uk> AFGHANISTAN TO SYRIA – the Russian game I have tried hard to stay off JRL for a while. Too much to do and too much to travel. It does not mean that I was not involved in various Russia related situations. Syria was/is […]

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U.S., Russia Make Syria Diplomacy Push as Assad Gains Ground

Syria Map

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Jonathan Tirone, Henry Meyer – February 10, 2016) The U.S. and Russia are seeking to revive Syrian peace talks as President Bashar al-Assad’s advance against rebels shifts the focus to the battlefield. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov will meet with foreign ministers from Europe and the Middle East in […]

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TRANSCRIPT: DIA Statement for the Record – Worldwide Threat Assessment [excerpt re Russia]

U.S. Capitol in Bright Sunlight

(Armed Services Committee, United States Senate – Vincent R. Stewart, Lieutenant General, U.S. Marine Corps, Director, Defense Intelligence Agency – February 9, 2016) RUSSIA Moscow continues to devote major resources to modernizing its military forces, viewing military power as critical to achieving key strategic objectives: acknowledged great power status, dominating smaller regional states and deterring NATO from military action in […]

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NEWSWATCH: “In Syria, Russia Protects Its Interests From Above and Below” – Stratfor

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Stratfor reports on the buildup of Russian air defenses in Syria in the aftermath of Turkey’s shoot-down of a Russian military aircraft. With such an extensive presence, Russia will be able to obstruct the war efforts of those opposed to Syrian President Bashar al Assad. The United States and its allies can still fly airstrikes against the Islamic State, but […]

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Interfax: Self-styled groups, not soldiers, fighting Islamic State – Chechen source

Map of Area Spanning Portions of Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, highlighting military engagements against ISIL

(Interfax – Moscow, February 9, 2016) There are self-styled groups of young people from Chechnya fighting the Islamic State terrorist group [ISIS] (which is banned in the Russian Federation) in Syria and Iraq, a source within the leadership of the Chechen Republic told Interfax. “There have been people from the Chechen Republic in the area of armed conflict in Syria […]

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U.S. National Intelligence Director Says Russia Is Paranoid, Aggressive

DNI Seal and Smaller Seals of Agencies Related to DNI

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Anna Dolgov – February 10, 2016) Russia is “paranoid” about NATO and is likely to continue “aggressive” actions this year to support its claim to great power status, U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper said in Senate testimony Tuesday. In a report on “Worldwide Threat Assessment” that Clapper presented to the Senate, Russia topped a […]

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Grozny Says No Chechen Agents Helping Russia in Syria

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(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – February 9, 2016) An unidentified source in the Chechen government has claimed that there are no members of law enforcement agencies among Chechnya’s fighters in Syria, the Interfax news agency reported Tuesday. The Chechens fighting in Syria consist of independent groups of young people who oppose the Islamic State, the source told the news agency. […]

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How likely is an armed conflict between Russia and Turkey?

Turkey and Environs Satellite Image

As relations between Russia and Turkey deteriorate, the question of a possible armed conflict between the two countries is being discussed more frequently. RBTH asked Russian and Turkish military experts to comment on how likely this outcome would be and asked them to lay out the possible scenarios. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – YEKATERINA CHULKOVSKAYA, RBTH – February […]

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Putin vs. Erdogan – This Time It’s Personal

Turkey map

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Matthew Bodner – February 4, 2016) On Feb. 2, Turkish President Recep Erdogan urgently sought an audience with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. The Turkish ambassador in Moscow relayed the message, but has, it seems, yet to receive a response. It was the second time Erdogan has been rebuffed by Putin following Turkey’s downing of […]

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U.S., Russia Start Syria Negotiations Amid Threat to Peace Talks

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(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Henry Meyer – January 20, 2016) The top U.S. and Russian diplomats began talks in Zurich Wednesday to try to bridge divisions over which belligerents in Syria’s five-year civil war should be labeled “terrorist,” an issue that threatens to hold up the start of peace talks. John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov need to strike a deal […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Backed by Russian air power, Syria’s army builds on gains.” – Los Angeles Times

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The Los Angeles Times covers unfolding evens in the Syrian civil war, including Russian involvement. … Moscow’s air onslaught appears to be gaining effectiveness as Russian commanders grow more familiar with the conflict and with the capabilities of allied Syrian ground forces, observers say. … Russia’s involvement has also led to a new calculation by Syria’s neighbors …. Click here […]

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Who is happy to see Russian pilots in Syria?

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The arrival of the Russian Air Force in Syria has upset the figures on the board of the “Great Chess Game” in the Middle East and has given hope to supporters of al-Assad for personal survival, although perhaps not a quick conclusion to the war. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – DMITRY VINOGRADOV, SPECIAL TO RBTH – January 12, […]

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Interfax: Russian air force operates in interest of 11 Syrian opposition units

Syria Map

(Interfax – January 11, 2016) The Russian Aerospace Forces aviation group has carried out dozens of air strikes in support of the offensive conducted by 11 detachments of the Syrian democratic opposition fighting against terrorists in Syria, head of the Main Operative Department of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi told reporters on Jan. 11. “Russian […]

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Putin talks about possibility of granting asylum to Assad in Russia

File Photo of Bashar al-Assad and Sergei Lavrov

(Interfax – January 12, 2016) It is premature to discuss if Russia should grant asylum to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said. “I think it is quite premature to discuss this. We granted asylum to Mr. Snowden, which was far more difficult than to do the same for Mr al-Assad,” he said in an interview with […]

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Russian bombing of Syria “defensive” and just, top cleric says

Patriarch Kirill file photo

(Interfax – Moscow, January 7, 2016) Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill has expressed support for the Russian military operation in Syria. “What is happening today in Syria, which appears to be far away but is in actual fact literally our neighbour [as received], is what the defence of the Fatherland is about,” the patriarch said in the interview […]

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2015: The Year Putin Bounced Back

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

(RFE/RL – Carl Schreck – December 29, 2015) In December 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama fielded a question about Russia while addressing a group of American business leaders in Washington. President Vladimir Putin’s incursion into Ukraine and “backward-looking” policies, Obama said, are “isolating Russia completely internationally.” If it was Russian expansionism last year that triggered this isolation, it was Putin’s […]

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Putin’s Pivot: Out of Ukraine, Into Syria

Kremlin and River

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Matthew Bodner – December 24, 2015) “How great is it that our nation is ruled by a man that we can be so proud of?” To be honest, this is a first in my life.” This was the praise given to President Vladimir Putin in the wake of his speech before the United Nations General […]

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Russia’s Moving Targets

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

(Kennan Institute – wilsoncenter.org/program/kennan-institute – Maxim Trudolyubov – December 15, 2015) Maxim Trudolyubov is a Senior Fellow at the Kennan Institute and the Editor-at-Large of Vedomosti, an independent Russian daily Measuring the success of Russia’s largest and most recent “cross-border” projects-Ukraine and Syria-is extremely difficult. What could be considered Russia’s ultimate goals there? We often assume that Russia has fixed, clearly […]

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Russia Will Not Object Assad Ouster After Syrian War Ends

File Photo of Bashar al-Assad and Sergei Lavrov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – December 19, 2015) Russia has no objections to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s ouster after the peace process starts in the country, Western diplomats say, the Reuters news agency reported Friday. Russia had been repeatedly voicing its support to the Syrian president, but since Western powers, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have agreed that Assad can stay […]

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Expert skeptical on prospects of getting information from Su-24 black box

File Photo of Russian SU-24 Harassing U.S. Navy Vessel in Black Sea, Adapted from U.S. Military Video

(Interfax – December 22, 2015) The chances of obtaining information from the black box of the Russian bomber Sukhoi Su-24, which was downed by the Turkish Air Force, are extremely low because of the severe damage to the recording device, says Oleg Smirnov, a prominent Soviet pilot and chairman of the civil aviation commission of the Public Council at Russia’s […]

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UN Syrian peace plan deal: What was agreed upon in New York?

UN Building file photo

On Dec. 18 in New York, members of the International Syria Support Group agreed on the principles of reaching a political settlement to the crisis in Syria. Later, after five hours of discussions, the group’s decisions on Syria were unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council. But what questions are still hindering progress? (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – […]

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After Minsk, Another Munich has Now Taken Place in Moscow, Illarionov Says

File Photo of John Kerry Shaking Hands with Vladimir Putin as Ambassador Looks On

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, December 17, 2015) Russian commentators across the political spectrum, from the most liberal to the most nationalistic, agree that Vladimir Putin achieved a significant victory for his policies in Syria and Ukraine in the course and as a result of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Moscow. One Moscow analyst […]

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NEWSLINK Christian Science Monitor: “Kerry in Moscow as pressure grows for US-Russia compromise on Syria. If the United States and Russia can overcome their two main sticking points – on ‘moderate’ rebels and Assad’s role in future talks – Syrian diplomacy can move forward, analysts say”

File Photo of John Kerry Shaking Hands with Vladimir Putin as Ambassador Looks On

[featured image is file photo]

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Turbulence over Syria’s skies

Syria Map

The skies over Syria became more crowded last week after the UK voted to join air strikes against ISIS forces. But can countries with very different attitudes to the conflict agree on common aims? (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – FYODOR LUKYANOV, SPECIAL TO RBTH – December 10, 2015) The author is chairman of the Presidium of the Council […]

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NEWSLINK Christian Science Monitor: “Kremlin’s beef with Turkey hits Russians at home – and on holiday”

Turkey and Environs Satellite Image

The acrimony between Moscow and Ankara over the downing of a Russian bomber in Syria has cut Russians off from Turkish produce, and reduced their vacation options to boot.

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Russia welcomes intent of U.S., coalition to help seal Syria-Turkey border

Syria Map

(Interfax – December 7, 2015) Moscow welcomes the intentions of the United States and other members of the anti-terrorist coalition that it leads to help seal the Syrian-Turkish border with the purpose of stopping oil trafficking and other illegal businesses. “What the Syrian-Turkish border is like has been known for a long time, the same as the Turkish-Iraqi border. It […]

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Putin talks tough on Turkey but holds back on anti-West rhetoric

Turkey map

Analyzing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual speech to the Federal Assembly, Russian observers interviewed by RBTH underlined the contrast between Putin’s harsh stance toward Turkey and his apparent readiness to cooperate with the West, though they said the address was lacking in groundbreaking ideas. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – YEKATERINA SINELSCHIKOVA, RBTH – December 4, 2015) Against the […]

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RBTH: ‘Change of regime’ needed for Moscow and Ankara to start talking

Turkey and Environs Satellite Image

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed to meet at the UN climate summit in Paris, but made a number of harsh statements, which, Russian commentators say, have left the two leaders with no chance of reconciliation. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – YEKATERINA SINELSCHIKOVA, RBTH – December 2, 2015) The UN climate conference in […]

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NEWSWATCH Reuters: “Obama urges Turkey to reduce tensions with Russia”

Turkey map

Reuters covers U.S.-Turkish relations in the aftermath of Turkey’s shoot-down of a Russian military aircraft. U.S. President Barack Obama urged Turkey on Tuesday to reduce tensions with Moscow after the downing of a Russian warplane and to seal its border with Syria to choke off the supply of money and fighters to Islamic State militants. * * * Obama stressed […]

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‘Russia’s Future Not Connected with Ukraine or Syria,’ Inozemtsev Says

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

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, December 1, 2015) Russians have been so focused on events in Ukraine and now Syria that they have forgotten the most important thing: their future and that of their country is not connected with what is going on in those countries but what is taking place or not taking place in their […]

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NEWSWATCH Moscow Times/Kevin Ryan: “Turkish Shootdown Shows Importance of NATO-Russia Dialogue”

NATO Meeting file photo

In the aftermath of Turkey’s shoot-down of a Russian military aircraft, Retired Brigadier General Kevin Ryan addresses the need for greater dialogue between NATO and Russia. It is important to recognize how serious the situation has become between Russia and NATO over the last two years. In response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its activities in Ukraine, almost all operational communications between the militaries of NATO and Russia have been suspended. […]

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West Needs to End Its Illusions about Putin’s Power, Shevtsova Says

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, November 30, 2015) Many in the West still view Vladimir Putin as a powerful miracle worker who never loses at home or abroad, a perspective increasingly at odds with the facts and one that only partially conceals their own unwillingness to respond forcefully to his hooligan-like actions, according to Liliya Shevtsova. In […]

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NEWSWATCH Washington Post: “How Turkey confounded Putin’s favorite narratives”

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

The Washington Post covers Russian rhetoric in the aftermath of Turkey’s shoot-down of a Russian military jet. On Monday, two Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian plane which Turkey said had crossed into its airspace. Various interpretations could in theory be placed upon this event. Depending on one’s point of view, it could be described as an act of self-defense […]

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NEWSWATCH The National Interest/Nikolas K. Gvosdev: “Russian Jet Down in Turkey: Misstep or Game-Changer?”

Middle East Map

Writing for The National Interest, Nikolas K. Gvosdev comments upon possible repercussions from Turkey’s shoot-down of a Russia military jet. In the immediate aftermath, whatever progress Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan achieved on the sidelines of the Antalya G-20 summit is now completely lost. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s trip to Turkey, which was designed to get the Turkish-Russian […]

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Russia-Turkey crisis: What do ordinary citizens think?

Turkey map

The shooting down of a Russian jet by Turkey’s air force has left many Russians indignant and confused, while in Turkey the crisis in relations between Moscow and Ankara has also become the hottest talking point. RBTH looks at social trends and speaks to ordinary citizens to gauge opinion in the two countries. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – […]

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Downing of Russian Sukhoi Bomber Was Predictable

File Photo of Russian SU-24 Harassing U.S. Navy Vessel in Black Sea, Adapted from U.S. Military Video

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Matthew Bodner – November 26, 2015) The downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber on the Syrian border by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet on Tuesday marks the first serious clash between Russian forces and an external coalition involved in Syria’s civil war – but it was a predictable event. Turkey has been supporting rebel forces […]

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Russian Tour Agencies Cancel Turkey Trips Amid Fury Over Downed Warplane

Turkey and Environs Satellite Image

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – November 26, 2015) Turkey is a hugely popular vacation spot for Russians, almost 3.3 million of whom holidayed there in 2014, according to official figures. Russian tour agencies have canceled flights to Turkey and suspended sales of new tours a day after the downing of a Russian fighter-bomber by the Turkish military, Russian media reported […]

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Russian Public Hawkish on Syria, Terrorism – Poll

Middle East Map

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – November 26, 2015) Nearly half of Russians think that French authorities should respond to the terror attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, which left 130 people dead, by “stepping up its fight against IS and fostering international cooperation in combating terrorism,” according to a poll by independent Russian pollster the Levada Center, the Kommersant newspaper […]

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NEWSWATCH Washington Post: “Russian provocations led to the downing of its fighter jet by Turkey”

Turkey map

The Washington Post comments on Turkey’s downing of a Russian military jet, laying the blame squarely upon the Kremlin. Following Turkey’s shoot-down of a Russian military jet Tuesday, Western leaders rightly addressed themselves to heading off an escalation between Moscow and a NATO member. In the process, they were not as clear as they could have been about where responsibility […]

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Downing of Russian Plane has Serious Consequences for Putin at Home, in Central Asia, and in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, November 25, 2015) The shooting down of a Russian military plane by Turkish forces after Kremlin ignored repeated warnings from Ankara not to violate Turkey’s airspace not only increases the risks of a clash between Russia and the West but has serious consequences for Putin at home, in Central Asia and the […]

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Andrei Liakhov: “Turkey”

Middle East Map

Subject: Turkey Date: Tue, 24 Nov 2015 From: Andrei Liakhov <gaffriloff@yahoo.co.uk> Erdogan has chosen to support ISIS and is using his security service and party apparatus to facilitate his business with ISIS. ISIS was originally financed by Al Qadi, a known AL Qaeda financier who financed attacks on twin towers. Until 2010 Al Qadi was on every sanctions list possible […]

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NEWSWATCH Reuters: “Surviving Crew Member of Russian Jet Says No Warning From Turkey”

Turkey map

Reuters covers Turkey’s shoot-down of a Russian military plane. Turkey shot down the Russian plane near the Syrian border on Tuesday, saying it had violated its air space, in one of the most serious publicly acknowledged clashes between a NATO member country and Russia for half a century. Turkey and Russia are disputing details of the incident. Ankara has said […]

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Hagel: Russia, U.S. Must Fight Islamic State Together

Middle East Map

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Anna Dolgov – November 23, 2015) Former U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called for including Russia in a consolidated global battle against Islamic State, and suggested putting aside the inevitable disputes between Washington and Moscow for the sake of the fight against terrorism. Hagel dismissed the disagreements between the West and Russia about Syria’s President […]

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