The Futility of Dialogue With Putin

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

(Jamestown Foundation – jamestown.org – Eurasia Daily Monitor: Volume 13, Issue 100 – Pavel K. Baev – May 23, 2016) The need to keep the channels of dialogue open with an unpredictable Russia is taken as an absolute imperative by many Western politicians. But they are often surprised when this tactic backfires. The foreign ministers of the member states of […]

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RBTH: What problems has the Syrian operation revealed in the Russian army?

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the Russian campaign in Syria has highlighted a number of problems with the armed forces that need to be addressed. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – NIKOLAI LITOVKIN, RBTH – May 13, 2016) At a meeting with military officials and heads of the military-industrial complex on May 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin […]

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NEWSLINK Russia Direct: “What does Victory Day mean for Russia after Ukraine and Syria? Today Russians look at Victory Day through the lens of the war in Ukraine and the Kremlin’s Syria military operation. However, it might bring about three negative implications both for Russia and the world.”

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Russia Braces Itself as Syrian Cease-fire Falters

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(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Matthew Bodner – April 28, 2016) Not two months have passed since President Vladimir Putin declared mission accomplished in Syria, and again the war-ravaged nation is on the brink. Russia’s partial withdrawal coincided with the launch of a new round of UN-mediated talks in Geneva. But with negotiations falling apart, the status quo of full-blown […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Iran and Russia Move Closer but Their Alliance Has Limits” – Reuters

Iran Map and Flag

When Iran took delivery of the first parts of an advanced Russian air defense system this month, it paraded the anti-aircraft missile launchers … to mark Army Day. … the Kremlin’s decision a year ago to press ahead with the stalled sale of the S-300 system was the first clear evidence of a growing partnership between Russia and Iran that […]

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NEWSLINK Russia Direct: “What Russia’s military buildup near Aleppo means for Syria ceasefire. Russia’s military buildup near Aleppo indicates that it is too early to make conclusions about the implications of the Russian campaign in Syria. The campaign is not over, which might be both a boon and a bane for the Kremlin, experts warn.” [Alexei Arbatov, etc.]

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TRANSCRIPT EXCERPT: Remarks by the President at the 2016 Toner Prize Ceremony [excerpt re: Putin]

Putin and Obama with U.S. and Russian Flags

(White House – March 28, 2016) The White House Office of the Press Secretary March 28, 2016 Remarks by the President at the 2016 Toner Prize Ceremony. (excerpt re Putin) THE PRESIDENT: I’ll tell you — I probably maybe shouldn’t do this, but what the heck, I’m in my last year. (Laughter.) I had an in-depth conversation with President Putin […]

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Ryabkov: timeframe for drafting Syria’s new constitution quite strict, but it is not fact it will be observed

Sergei Ryabkov file photo

MOSCOW. March 29 (Interfax) – The timeframe for preparing a new draft constitution for Syria is quite strict, but no deadlines have been set, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has said. “It is all relative,” Ryabkov said after being asked by Interfax whether August is a deadline for the drawing up of Syria’s draft constitution. “It is necessary to […]

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Interfax: Russian air operation [in] Syria not aimed at backing al-Assad – Russian Foreign Ministry

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MOSCOW. March 27 (Interfax) – The Russian military operation in Syria is not aimed at supporting the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Sunday. “It is not al-Assad we are backing. Bear in mind: he was not our best friend, but a friend of the West,” she told reporters. “We supported preservation of the […]

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Moscow Accuses Itself

Sergei Lavrov file photo

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – The Daily Vertical: Brian Whitmore – March 24, 2016) Well, it was predictable, but Sergei Lavrov has not let us down. He’s proven yet again the axiom that if you want to know what Russia is doing, pay close attention to what it accuses the West of doing. The Russian foreign minister yesterday urged Europe to […]

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RBTH: Why does Moscow need Syrian Kurdistan?

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Why is the Kremlin supporting the Syrian Kurds, who are now complicating the reginal picture by pushing for federalization, and how will this affect Russian assistance to the Bashar al-Assad regime? (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – SERGEI DEMIDENKO, SPECIAL TO RBTH – March 24, 2016) Sergei Demidenko is a Middle East expert and professor at the Russian Presidential […]

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Syria analyst: Damascus cannot take Russian support for granted

File Photo of Bashar al-Assad and Sergei Lavrov

Russia’s recent air campaign in Syria has had mixed effects on the civil war there. RBTH interviewed Noah Bonsey, Senior Syria Analyst at International Crisis Group, an NGO that researches conflicts and aims to advance policies for their resolution, as he returned from a recent field trip to Syria. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – NIKOLAI SHEVCHENKO, RBTH – […]

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It Isn’t Time to Normalize With Russia Yet

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

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Marc Champion – March 22, 2016) Marc Champion writes editorials on international affairs. He was previously Istanbul bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal. He was also an editor at the Financial Times, the editor-in-chief of the Moscow Times and a correspondent for the Independent in Washington, the Balkans and Moscow. He is based in London. […]

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Interfax: Russia submits proposals to U.S. on monitoring truce in Syria

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(Interfax – March 21, 2016) The Russian Defense Ministry submitted proposals on the provision and monitoring of the cessation of hostilities in Syria to the United States on Feb. 25 through military diplomatic channels, Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, head of the Main Operative Department of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, has said. “This document specifies a mechanism of consultations […]

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NEWSWATCH: “How Putin Could Make Russia Great Again” – Newsweek.com/William Courtney, Donald Jensen

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

After Russia annexed Crimea … Obama dismissed it as a regional power that acts ‘out of weakness.’ [ ] Russia is more … but a penchant for zero-sum statecraft and coercing neighbors lessens its stature. By cooperating more in the international arena, Russia could become a greater power.  … Putin’s announcement of a military drawdown in Syria hints that Russia […]

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NEWSLINK: “SYRIA: U.S.-RUSSIAN TEPID WAR. Syria appears unlikely to serve as a vehicle to improve the wider U.S.-Russia relationship in any sustainable way. A U.S.-Russian Tepid War can still lead to plenty of collateral damage.” – Valdai/Paul Saunders

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NEWSWATCH: “Don’t Fear the Russians” – New York Times/Anatol Lieven

Aerial Photo of Pentagon and Environs

Writing in the New York Times, Anatol Lieven argues for greater U.S.-Russian engagement on Ukraine and Syria. If you believe many of the commentators and policy makers in Washington … Putin … is an expansionist on the march. … he annexed Crimea and fueled a destabilizing conflict in eastern Ukraine. … intervened in the Syrian civil war and rescued his […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Meeting with Russian Armed Forces service personnel

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(Kremlin.ru – March 17, 2016) At a meeting in the Kremlin’s St George Hall, Vladimir Putin presented state decorations to service personnel and defence industry specialists who distinguished themselves in the performance of special missions in the Syrian Arab Republic. More than 700 officers and men of the Aerospace Forces, the Ground Forces and the Navy attended the ceremony, along […]

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There is no single reason for Putin’s departure from Syria

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What is really behind the Kremlin’s decision to withdraw from Syria? The move is almost certainly down to a complex combination of factors, involving Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the EU. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – DMITRY YEVSTAFYEV, SPECIAL TO RBTH – March 16, 2016) The decision to pull Russian forces out of […]

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RBTH: Syria withdrawal: Which of Russia’s forces are being pulled out?

File Photo of Buk-1 SAM

Russia is withdrawing more than half of its fighters and bombers from Syria, while leaving its missile defense systems and naval fleet in the Mediterranean, Russian military experts told RBTH. Despite the pullout, the Russian armed forces will continue to strike positions Moscow says are held by ISIS militants. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – NIKOLAI LITOVKIN, RBTH – […]

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Syria Opposition Says Russian Military Pullout Helps Peace Talks

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(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Henry Meyer – March 15, 2016) Syria’s main opposition group said Russia’s withdrawal of forces from the country will help peace talks in Geneva, even as a top Russian military official said that airstrikes will continue against terrorists. The pullout ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a positive step which will help to move forward […]

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RBTH: Russia has changed course of civil war in Syria, say analysts

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the withdrawal of the main part of the military group in Syria. According to Russian observers, the pullout will affect land and aerospace forces, while the fleet and missile defense and intelligence systems will stay in the region. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – NIKOLAI LITOVKIN, RBTH – March 15, 2016) Russian President […]

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RBTH: Moscow is winding down its presence in Syria. Why? Why now?

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

Observers are hotly debating the true reasons for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order to downsize and refocus the military operation in Syria, with some describing it as a tactical withdrawal while others label it an acknowledgement of failure. What is really behind the unexpected decision, and what will happen now? (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – VLADIMIR MIKHEEV, SPECIAL […]

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Putin’s Pullout: Behind Russia’s New Syria Surprise

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(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Steve Gutterman – March 15, 2016) Vladimir Putin surprised his country and the world on March 14 by ordering the start of a partial withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria, less than six months after the beginning of an air campaign that followed a swift and secretive buildup on the ground. What are the motives and […]

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Interfax: Moscow expects Syrian armed forces to take over fight against IS from Russian Aerospace Forces – diplomat

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MOSCOW. March 15 (Interfax) – The terrorist threat in Syria still persists, even despite “ISIL’s broken back,” and Russia expects the Syrian army to take on the main burden of opposing this threat, says Vladimir Andreyev, a deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department of New Challenges and Threats. “Naturally, the terrorist threat persists, even with a broken back, […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Meeting with Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu

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(Kremlin.ru – March 14, 2016) Vladimir Putin held a working meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to address issues of settling the Syrian crisis. The President gave an order to begin withdrawing the main part of Russian troops from the Syrian Arab Republic on March 15. The President of Russia also instructed the Foreign Ministry […]

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NEWSWATCH Washington Post: “As energy prices drop, ordinary Russians are protesting”

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

… Once prosperous enough to afford expensive Moscow apartments, they are now staggering under an economic burden fueled by geopolitical conflict and the plummeting price of oil. * * * Russia’s foreign-policy adventures … in Ukraine … in Syria — have tied up state resources …. The drop in energy prices has drained government coffers and sent the ruble skidding […]

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Obama: Ukraine ‘Vulnerable’ To Russian ‘Military Domination’ No Matter What U.S. Does

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

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – March 10, 2016) U.S. President Barack Obama said that Ukraine “is going to be vulnerable to military domination by Russia no matter what” the United States does. In one of a series of interviews published on March 10 that formed the basis of an article in The Atlantic magazine, Obama said that Ukraine was clearly a […]

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Two Faces of Russia’s Foreign Policy

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

(Kennan Institute – wilsoncenter.org/program/kennan-institute – Maxim Trudolyubov – March 9, 2016) Originally many in the West tended to view Russia’s Syrian adventure as yet another one of “Moscow’s gambits.” Commentators described Ukraine and Syria in the same breath. But Russia is eager to demonstrate that the two projects could hardly be more different and that Moscow can be two things […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia Achieves Tactical Success in the Middle East, But No Strategic Victory; Russia needs good ties with the West more than short-term gains in Ukraine and Syria” – Thomas Graham/YaleGlobal Online

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

… From the beginning of its military operation in Syria, Moscow has operated on the now indisputable proposition that … rampant unrest in the Middle East and … mounting challenges to the unity of the European Union are inextricably linked. The wager was that Europe would eventually seize an offer of cooperation in Syria to constrict the migrant flow and […]

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Russia, Syria Said Using Migrant Crisis As ‘Weapon’ Against West

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(RFE/RL – rferl.org – March 2, 2016) NATO’s top commander warned that Russia and Syria have turned the refugee crisis into a “weapon” against the West at a time when it lacks resources to counter a “resurgent, aggressive” Russia. U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, who commands the 28-member military alliance, said the flow of hundreds of thousands of migrants […]

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Russians Not Ready to Forgive Turkey for Downed Plane – Poll

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

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – March 1, 2016) The majority of Russians are not ready to restore relations with Turkey after it downed a Russian warplane in November 2015, a survey by the state-run VTsIOM pollster published Monday revealed. Some 63 percent of respondents think the Kremlin should not lift the anti-Turkish sanctions that were imposed by Moscow following the […]

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RBTH: Airstrikes on ISIS continue as Syria ceasefire holds

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The truce in Syria brokered by Russia and the U.S. appears to be holding, despite reports from some parties of violations. However, the ceasefire does not extend to groups that are recognized by the UN as terrorist. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – ALEXEY TIMOFEYCHEV, RBTH – March 1, 2016) Despite accusations of ceasefire violations coming from different sides […]

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