Others Cease, Russia Fires

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(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Brian Whitmore – October 4, 2016) Should we really be that surprised that Russia has opted to flat out ignore the cease-fire it agreed to in Syria? Should we really be all that shocked by the all-out assault on Aleppo? Probably not. In Moscow, the definition of a cease-fire appears to be that the other side […]

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Russia’s Syria Campaign Seen Purely as Bid to Prop Up Assad

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(Voice of America – voanews.com – Victor Vladimirov – MOSCOW – September 30, 2016) The Russian air force’s bombing campaign in Syria marked its first anniversary Friday, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying there was no “time frame” for the operation. The Kremlin has officially declared the main objectives of its air campaign in Syria to be eliminating radical Islamic […]

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Washington’s latest statements may cause Russia to increase support for Syrian president – Russian expert

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MOSCOW. Oct 4 (Interfax) – The U.S. decision to unilaterally suspend interaction with Russia on the truce in Syria may cause the Russian Aerospace Forces’ operation in the country to last longer, Middle East expert and senior teacher at the Higher School of Economics Leonid Isayev said. “I think that this will result in Russia getting more actively involved in […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Aligned with Russia in Syria, Pentagon awkwardly treads on new terrain” – Reuters

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… the reactions of U.S. military officials range from caution to outright skepticism over a Geneva-based ‘joint integration center’ that may soon bring together American and Russian militaries to discuss shared targets for the first time since World War Two. … U.S. officials past and present voiced concerns about the initiative, underscoring the Pentagon’s long-public criticism about the way Russia […]

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Putin Says Russia and U.S. Close to Breakthrough Deal on Syria

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(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – September 2, 2016) Vladimir Putin said #Russia and the U.S. are close to striking a deal on fighting terrorists in Syria, potentially a major step toward ending a civil war that’s flooded Europe with refugees and helped give rise to Islamic State. “We’re gradually, gradually heading in the right direction,” the Russian president said in an […]

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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

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… 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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NEWSLINK Valdai Discussion Club/ Paul Saunders: “TECTONIC SHIFTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST, OR ARE THEY REALLY?”

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Russia’s military operation in Syria – and America’s restraint there-has catalyzed discussion and debate about possible strategic realignments in the Middle East, generating excitement in Moscow about Russia’s “great power” role and parallel concern in Washington and some allied capitals about future U.S. influence.

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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 RBTH/ Kommersant: “Six reasons Russia and Turkey will struggle to become strategic partners.”

Turkey and Environs Satellite Image

The Russian-Turkish rapprochement obtained during the Aug. 9 summit in St. Petersburg must not engender unrealistic expectations and excessive illusions. There are still many problems and serious contradictions in relations between Moscow and Ankara for there to be, as some commentators are already saying, a ‘strategic alliance’ between Russia and Turkey.

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin/ Erdogan] News conference following talks with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkey and Environs Satellite Image

(Kremlin.ru – August 9, 2016) President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, We have just completed the main part of the talks with President Erdogan. Naturally, this meeting is very important for the future of Russian-Turkish relations. We had a meaningful and, I would like to emphasise, constructive conversation on the entire range of bilateral issues and […]

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

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… 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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New commander takes charge of Russia’s operation in Syria

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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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How will the attempted coup in Turkey affect Moscow-Ankara relations?

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Experts are divided on the significance of the failure to overthrow the Turkish government by members of the country’s armed forces for Russia-Turkey relations. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – YEKATERINA CHULKOVSKAYA, RBTH – July 17, 2016) Late in the evening of July 15, a military coup was attempted in Turkey. In Ankara, rebel faction of the armed forces […]

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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

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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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Turkey Signals Cooperation With Russia Against Islamic State

Turkey and Environs Satellite Image

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

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RBTH: Moscow and Washington consider expanding cooperation in Syria

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

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RBTH: The 3 key areas of disagreement between Moscow and Damascus

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Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, Russia has been seen as a loyal ally to Bashar Assad, giving unwavering support to the Syrian president. Yet, the positions of Moscow and the Syrian regime are far from identical. Russia advocates a political solution to the crisis, whereas Assad sees war as the answer. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – […]

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

U.S. Capitol in Bright Sunlight

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

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NEWSWATCH: “America Needs to Break its Old Habits on Russia. Washington’s strategy is a relic of a bygone era.” – The National Interest/Thomas Graham

Putin and Obama with U.S. and Russian Flags

… there should be no doubt that the goal that had animated policy since the end of the Cold War … slow but steady integration of Russia into the Euro-Atlantic community — is beyond reach. Russia is no longer interested, if it ever was. Its ambition is to fortify itself as an independent great power based in central Eurasia. It […]

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NEWSLINK Russia Direct: “Conventional arms race draws the world closer to state of brinkmanship. With NATO’s military buildup near Russian borders and signs of instability from the Middle East to East Asia, it’s no longer inconceivable that the great powers could find themselves involved in a conventional war.”

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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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How Russia Is ‘Weaponizing’ Migration to Destabilize Europe

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(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Josh Rogin – March 24, 2016) Some officials in Europe see Russia’s hand in the rising migration crisis, accusing the Kremlin of exacerbating anti-Muslim sentiment to benefit right-wing parties at a fragile moment for the European Union. Even before the latest terror attacks in Brussels, anti-Muslim and anti-refugee sentiment in Europe had been on the rise. […]

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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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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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NEWSWATCH: “What is the best way to describe Vladimir Putin’s Russia?” – Reuters/John Lloyd

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

In January of this year, a British judge, Robert Owen, said … Putin … was ‘probably’ a murderer. * * * Litvinenko’s widow, Marina … called on Prime Minister David Cameron to expel all Russian spies … and for a range of … sanctions … on several figures close to the murder … includ[ing Putin] himself. * * * In […]

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