JRL NEWSWATCH: “Has Russia grown tired of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad? And what is Russia’s role in the clash between the Assad and Makhlouf clans?” – Al Jazeera/ Anton Mardasov

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“… What was all this media campaign about then? There are a few plausible explanations for it. First, it may have been ordered by parts of the Russian political elite critical of Damascus. Second, it could also have been used as a way to distract attention from reports by … Novaya Gazeta … of Russian mercenaries torturing Syrians. Third, it […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Moscow’s War in Syria” – CSIS

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“… Russia’s military and diplomatic campaign in Syria [has been] the largest and most significant Russian out-of-area operation since the end of the Cold War. … and will shape [Russia’s] military thinking, influence promotion and personnel decisions, impact research and development for its arms industry, and expand its influence …. [D]espite the importance of Russia’s involvement in Syria – especially […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Putin Has a Syria ‘Headache’ and the Kremlin’s Blaming Assad” – Bloomberg/ Henry Meyer, Ilya Arkhipov

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“… Putin is … impatien[t] … with Syrian ally Bashar al-Assad, who isn’t … [sufficiently] grateful for being kept in power by Russian intervention …. Consumed … by … twin shocks of collapsing oil prices and the coronavirus epidemic … eager to wrap up his Syrian military adventure by declaring victory, Putin is insisting that Assad show more flexibility in […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s Syria gamble under pressure as Turkey attacks in Idlib; Erdogan threatens further escalation of hostilities before Moscow meeting” – Financial Times/ Henry Foy

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“Turkish attacks on Russian-backed forces in the Syrian province of Idlib are testing Moscow’s relationship with Ankara …. Seeking to avenge the killing last week of 34 Turkish soldiers, … Erdogan has bombarded Syrian regime targets in the province … warning that the destruction of fighter jets and killing of more than 100 pro-regime combatants is ‘only the beginning.’ The […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russia in the Gray Zone” – Aspen Institute/ Kathleen Hicks

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

“… Russia is waging campaigns … [to influence world affairs with a] significant number of … tactics … [falling] between routine statecraft and direct and open warfare …. Americans … familiar with Russia’s disinformation efforts in the United States and its use of ‘little green men’ in Ukraine … may be less attuned to stepped-up Russian political and economic coercion […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russia, an Early Space Pioneer, Never Regained Its Lead; The U.S. leapfrogged the Soviet Union by landing a man on the moon 50 years ago this month, and kept its place ever since” – Wall Street Journal/ Ann M. Simmons

International Space Station file photo

“Russians still brim with pride over being the first nation to send a human into space.  Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin … circling the Earth in 1961[] remains a national hero whose story is taught to Russian schoolchildren. But ever since the U.S. leapfrogged the Soviet Union by landing a man on the moon 50 years ago this month, Russia has […]

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RUSSIALINK TRANSCRIPT: “Answers to journalists’ questions following Direct Line” – KremlinRu

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

(Kremlin.ru – June 20, 2019 – en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/60797) Following Direct Line with Vladimir Putin, the President answered a number of questions from media representatives. Question: What about Donbass? Russia’s response to shelling is weak; Zelensky has not decide anything and passports are a half-hearted issue… Vladimir Putin: As for resolving the Donbass problem, I have already spoken about this. I just […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Top U.S. and Russian Diplomats Discussed Ways to End Syria War” – AP

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“Top U.S. and Russian diplomats discussed step-by-step implementation of a 2012 roadmap to U.N.-supervised elections in Syria that could allow a Syrian government ‘to move back into the international community’ … [Ambassador James Jeffrey] said … indicat[ing] a new U.S.-Russian engagement on efforts to end the eight-year Syrian conflict that has killed over 400,000 people …. But Jeffrey cautioned that […]

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U.S. Senators To Try Again With Tougher Russia Sanctions Bill

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

(Article text ©2019 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – February 14, 2019 – article text also appeared at rferl.org/a/us-senators-press-new-tough-russia-sanctions-bill/29769099.html) A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has introduced a bill that would impose drastic new sanctions on Russia over its meddling in U.S. elections and aggression against Ukraine. The bill, the latest congressional effort to push President Donald Trump […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Russia’s Mediterranean call: from Kerch to Palmyra, but without Constantinople? How the Russian authorities are justifying the military’s pivot to the south east.” – OpenDemocracy/Marlene Laruelle

File Photo of Deck of Russian Aircraft Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov

(opendemocracy.net – Marlene Laruelle – November 9, 2018 – opendemocracy.net/od-russia/marlene-laruelle/russias-mediterranean-call) Marlene Laruelle is associate director at the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University. She is also co-director of PONARS Eurasia, and the author of several books on Russian and Central Asian politics and society. In August 2018, Russia’s fleet […]

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Valdai Highlights: Putin’s Hard Questions on U.S. Global Role

(Russia Matters – russiamatters.org – Andrew C. Kuchins – October 26, 2018 – russiamatters.org/blog/valdai-highlights-putins-hard-questions-us-global-role) Andrew C. Kuchins is a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies. In contrast to some recent Valdai meetings, Russian President Vladimir Putin evinced no visible anger toward the United States or the West at this year’s gathering of academics […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Via arms and trade, Russia plots long-term Syrian future” – AP

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“… A longtime client of Russian weapons manufacturers since well before the war, Syria also was a reliable trading partner. And Moscow is furthering that relationship by rebuilding roads, pipes and skyscrapers wiped out by seven years of war – including destruction wrought by Russia’s own weapons. … Russian companies are seeking a diverse trade base, with food, farming and […]

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RUSSIALINK: “What next for Russian-Israeli relations? Russia’s decision to install the S-300 in Syria increases the risk of unintended confrontation with Israel” – AlJazeera/ Yury Barmin/ Russian International Affairs Council

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“… The Israeli government rejected the accusations and even sent a defence delegation to Russia to provide clarification. Its efforts, however, do not seem to have pacified the Russian defence ministry, which on September 24 announced that it was going to deploy a modern S-300 system to Syria. This could curb Israel’s ability to launch air operations in Syria and […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russia to Supply Syria With Air-Defense System, Raising Tensions With Israel; The delivery of the S-300 raises the risks of escalation with Israel in a complex ground-and-air conflict involving multiple countries” – Wall Street Journal/James Marson/ Felicia Schwartz

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“… [Russia] plans to send a powerful air-defense system to Syria, escalating tensions with Israel following the downing of a Russian war plane last week that the Kremlin has blamed on Israeli forces.  Syrian air defense systems shot down the Russian reconnaissance plane, killing 15 service members on board, as they defended against Israeli military jets that were attacking Iranian […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Russian-Israeli military hotline must be improved – expert” – Interfax

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MOSCOW. Sept 18 (Interfax) – The Ilyushin Il-20 incident could have been avoided had Israel and Russia had efficient channels of military communication, according to Alexei Arbatov, the head of the International Security Center at the Russian Institute of World Economy and International Relations. “Improving interaction and mutual notification will be necessary, because if we had known in advance that […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russia Blames Israel for Loss of Plane Shot Down by Syria Air Defenses; Moscow said it reserved the right to ‘respond adequately’ to the loss” – Wall Street Journal/Thomas Grove and Felicia Schwartz

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“… the Russian Defense Ministry said [a] Soviet-designed Ilyushin-20 was brought down by Syria’s S-200 air defense systems as Damascus tried to defend against strikes by four Israeli F-16s on government targets. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke to his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman after the plane was downed and warned that Moscow ‘reserved the right to take steps to […]

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NEWSLINK: “Russia is gearing up to misinform the U.S. public about Syria. Here’s our cheat sheet to identify Twitter trolls” – Washington Post/Jack Nassetta, Ethan Fecht

Montage of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook Logos, adapted from image at nps.gov

“Russia has begun laying the groundwork for an online influence operation …. How would this Twitter campaign unfold? Here’s what we learned from our recent analysis of a database of over 850,000 tweets collected following the April 2018 chemical attack in Douma, Syria. We uncovered a major increase — approximately 300 percent — in the creation of new Twitter accounts […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Moscow, Damascus acting in Idlib only in response to terrorists’ sorties – Lavrov” – Interfax

File Photo of Bashar al-Assad and Sergei Lavrov

BERLIN. Sept 14 (Interfax) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has denied allegations that the Syrian army has started an operation in the Idlib governorate and insisted that all armed clashes there are Moscow’s and Damascus’s response to terrorists’ sorties. “What’s been described now as the start of an offensive by the Syrian forces with Russia’s support is an unscrupulous […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russia Offers a Carrot to Embattled Syrian Rebels; Moscow is trying to wind down a war that has cost it billions, promising some groups an end to violence in exchange for loyalty to Assad” – Wall Street Journal/Thomas Grove

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“More than 2,000 rebels who had been fighting the Syrian army abandoned their positions … and surrendered … heavy weaponry to Russian officers in July … as [Russia] tries to wind down a brutal military campaign that has cost Russia billions and [Russia] courts donors to help reconstruct[ion]. … Russia’s bombing raids turned … the war in favor of … […]

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When Does Vladimir Putin’s Russia Send In Troops?

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

(Russia Matters – russiamatters.org – Simon Saradzhyan – August 7, 2018) Simon Saradzhyan is the founding director of the Russia Matters Project at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. [Text with links and chart russiamatters.org/analysis/when-does-vladimir-putins-russia-send-troops] This month marks the tenth anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s first military intervention abroad, in Georgia. Since then there have been two […]

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NEWSLINK: “This Russian Spy Agency is in the Middle of Everything; Only a few years ago, the GRU looked like it might be dissolved. But Putin found new uses for it: covert war in Ukraine and ‘active measures’ that helped Trump get elected” – The Daily Beast/Amy Knight

Stylized Artist's Depiction of Shadowy Figures in Dark Coats and Dark Hats, One Carrying a Briefcase

“… Russia’s military intelligence agency, known as the GRU‍, is getting blamed for all sorts of things …. Robert Mueller indicted 12 GRU officers for hacking into computers of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The GRU allegedly was behind the recent poisonings of four people in Britain, including former GRU officer Sergei Skripal, who survived, and a woman […]

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In Helsinki, Trump Takes ‘Do No Harm’ Approach to Russia on 2 Issues: Syria and Energy

(Russia Matters – russiamatters.org – Nikolas K. Gvosdev – July 17, 2018 – russiamatters.org/analysis/helsinki-trump-takes-do-no-harm-approach-russia-2-issues-syria-and-energy) Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Research Institute; Senior Fellow, Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs Despite some predictions that President Donald Trump would announce U.S. recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, or cancel U.S. military deployments to Eastern Europe and the Baltic states, his summit in […]

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NEWSLINK/RUSSIALINK: “Shadows Over the Putin-Trump Summit” – PONARS Eurasia/Fyodor Lukyanov, Keith Darden

(PONARS Eurasia – Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor, Russia in Global Affairs; Keith Darden – MOSCOW, July 18, 2018 – ponarseurasia.org/article/shadows-over-putin-trump-helsinki-summit-commentary-lukyanov-darden) As the insightful U.S. diplomat and scholar Chas Freeman put it recently, in the age of social media, celebrity is authority. Few know that better than President Trump, for whom flamboyant appearance is more important than substance. What could generate broader […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Iran Role in Syria Key Item at Trump-Putin Summit” – AP

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“As fighting wanes after seven years of war, the U.S. has made curtailing Iran’s influence in post-war Syria a strategic objective – one strongly backed by Israel. … officials from the U.S. and Russia have signaled that a broad framework for such a deal is likely to be the main outcome. But any agreement is likely to be carefully phrased […]

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With Trump, Shifts on One Issue Won’t Lead to Shifts on Others, Kortunov Warns

File Photo of White House with South Lawn and Fountain

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, July 4, 2018) Previous American presidents in their dealings with Moscow have typically moved from progress in one area to progress in others, Andrey Kortunov says; but Donald Trump is different: he will treat each “‘deal’” with Moscow separately; and thus any forward movement on Syria won’t make an agreement on Ukraine […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH VIDEO: “National Security Adviser John Bolton on ‘Face the Nation,’ July 1, 2018” – CBS

File Photo of John Bolton Raising Hand at United Nations, with United States Nameplate on Desktop in Front, adapted from image at state.gov

“… There are possibilities for … a larger negotiation on … get[ting] Iranian forces out  [of Syria] …. * * * [T]he Russians are always saying to us they want to cooperate on international terrorism …. * * * I had meetings … with … Putin and his foreign minister … defense minister and … diplomatic adviser … the [U.S.] […]

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NEWSLINK: “How Russia’s Military Is Becoming Even Deadlier [with comment]” – The National Interest/Dave Majumdar

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“… From the Russian perspective, Moscow’s campaign in Syria affords the Kremlin invaluable combat experience that is helping it to refine the capabilities of its military forces. … In the Kremlin’s view, one of the most important reasons for Russia to continue its campaign in Syria is to further refine its newly developed precision-guided strike capability. ‘Syria is not a […]

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NEWSWATCH: “The Russian Gordian Knot begins to unravel” – Asia Times/Norman A. Bailey

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“… Putin said two completely unexpected things: first … Iran should evacuate its forces from Syria and stop interfering with events in the northern Arab arc (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon). Second … Israel has a right to defend its borders, whether in the north or in the south (Hezbollah and Hamas territories respectively). … within a few days of a meeting […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Israel and Russia Agree to Remove Iranian Forces From Syrian Border, Report Says; Israel reportedly gets ‘green light’ to strike Iranian targets as long as it does not endanger Syrian regime. Report follows call between Netanyahu and Putin, meeting between Israel’s defense chief and Russian counterpart” – Haaretz (Israel)/

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“Israel and Russia have reached an understanding on pulling Iranian forces out of southern Syria, the London-based Asharq al-Awsat reported …. reached after … Netanyahu spoke to … Putin … [by] telephone, while Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman had held talks with his Russian counterpart. … the sides [reportedly] agreed it was necessary to remove Iranian forces from southern Syria and […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Putin’s Endgame in Syria Has Arrived; It’s not an Assad victory – it’s a frozen conflict” – Foreign Policy Magazine/Jonathan Spyer

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“Syria increasingly seems to be moving toward de facto partition accompanied by ongoing low-level military conflict and a functional, but sluggish politics – a so-called frozen conflict. This may have been the goal all along for … Putin, who has initiated and managed such conflicts elsewhere, including in Georgia and Ukraine. * * *  Russia has … preserved the integrity […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Russian-U.S. dialogue on Syria still intensive – Ryabkov” – Interfax

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MOSCOW. May 17 (Interfax) – Russia is not phasing out a dialogue on Syria, and it is still quite intensive, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. While talking to journalists on Thursday, Ryabkov was asked whether there were any concerns about Russian-U.S. dialogue on Syria in light of the absence of a U.S. delegation at the last round of […]

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NEWSLINK: “Time to show Russia a military parade – In Syria” – Brookings Institution/Shalom Lipner

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“Editor’s Note: Nowhere are Russia’s footsteps more pronounced today than in the Middle East, its old Soviet stomping grounds, where the locals are increasingly deferential to Putin. The question is what Trump intends to do about the situation, writes Shalom Lipner. This piece originally appeared in The National Interest. …”  

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NEWSWATCH: “Will Russia’s involvement in Syria end up burning its ties with Israel?” – Christian Science Monitor/Fred Weir

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“… despite … mutual determination [by Russia and Israel] to steer clear of the global storm [between Russia and the West], things may be reaching a breaking point in Syria. While Russia and Israel have hitherto been able to manage their differences there so far, Israel is becoming increasingly concerned as Iran, Russia’s ally in Syria and Israel’s main enemy, […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Is Russia Sponsoring Terrorism?” – New York Times/Senator Cory Gardner

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

“… The State Department should consider adding [Russia] to its list of state sponsors of terrorism, alongside its close allies Iran and Syria. … Russia has invaded … Georgia and Ukraine … supports the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad and our enemies in Afghanistan … is engaged in active information warfare against Western democracies, including meddling in the 2016 United […]

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NEWSLINK: Doctors ordered at gunpoint to deny Syria chemical attack or else their children will be killed; ‘Unless you give a testimony, doctor, that there wasn’t a gas attack, we’ll be killing your children'” – The Mirror (UK)/Andrew Gregory

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“Unless you give a testimony, doctor, that there wasn’t a gas attack, we’ll be killing your children”

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia wants U.S. military out of Syria. But it still needs U.S. to help bring peace.” – Christian Science Monitor/Fred Weir

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“… Analysts say that Moscow was serious when it hinted that it would strike back against U.S. warships in the Mediterranean or other launch platforms if any Russian lives were endangered by U.S. missiles. But … they say that the exchange of explosive declarations last week turned out to be mostly theater. Kremlin-connected analysts say that US and Russian military […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Putin and Trump trying to walk back Syria strike and sanctions tensions” – bne Intellinews

Vladirmir Putin and Donald Trump Sitting in Chairs with Flags Behind, adapted from image at whitehouse.gov

“The U.S. surprised (and relieved) the market by not following through on a threat to impose even more sanctions … the day after western allies carried out limited missile strikes on suspected chemical weapons industrial targets in Syria. The U.S. administration is split over how to react to Russia’s increasing aggression … both … Trump and … Putin were actively […]

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Western Attack Hasn’t Changed Situation in Syria or Harmed Moscow Despite Russian Public Reaction, Akopov Says

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(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, April 15, 2018) The Western attack on Syria hasn’t changed the likely outcome of the conflict there, Bashar Asad’s alliances with Russia and Iran, or Vladimir Putin’s view of Donald Trump, Petr Akopov says; but it has already led to a transformation of Russian public opinion in adequate ways that could have […]

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NEWSWATCH: “In Syria and Beyond, a Dangerous New Era Dawns; The U.S. simultaneously confronts an aggrieved Russia and an aggressive rising power in China, a situation that calls for dexterous diplomacy” – Wall Street Journal/Gerald F. Seib

File Photo of F-22 Fighter and Ground Crew

“… John Sawers, a career British diplomat and former head of the MI6 intelligence service, delivered a sober warning: For the first time in living memory, there is a realistic prospect of a superpower conflict. … The U.S., a mature power, simultaneously confronts an aggrieved and newly assertive Russia as well as an aggressive rising power in China. … the […]

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NEWSLINK: “Syria: bottom line questions” – Graham E. Fuller

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“… What sense can we make out of all these strategic events in Syria? We encounter a baffling array of players: Syrian troops, Syrian insurgents, jihadis of varying ideologies, Iranians, Russians, Americans, Israelis, Turks, Saudis, Qataris, Emiratis, Shi’ite militias, Iraqis, Kurds, Hizballah-all locked in a deadly dance. But as complex as it may be, this seven-year bloody conflict still continues […]

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NEWSWATCH: “U.S. postpones fresh sanctions on Russia, Kremlin retaliation options limited” – bne Intellinews/Ben Aris

Nikki Haley file photo, adapted from image at usembassy.gov

“The Trump administration postponed imposing yet another round of sanctions to the ‘near future’ in the wake of … airstrikes on Syria. … Nikki Haley said … the U.S. would impose fresh sanctions … that would primarily target Russia’s defence sector and single out companies … linked to chemical weapon production. Russia’s markets opened flat … the next day … […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s Frantic Parade of Lies” – Washington Post Editorial

Artist Rendition of Barrel with Poison Symbol on It, Oozing Green Material

“Russia longs to be taken seriously in matters of global affairs, but … Putin has demonstrated … disdain for the rules-based post-World War II order. What does Russia want instead? In two recent incidents involving the use of outlawed chemicals[, the assassination attempt on Skripal in Britain and a chemical weapons attack in Syria], Russia’s answer has been a frantic […]

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NEWSWATCH: “A few cruise missiles from Trump won’t stop Syria’s war crimes” – Washington Post Editorial

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“Having declared that Syria will pay a ‘big price’ for its latest use of chemical weapons … Trump will deal another blow to U.S. global leadership if he does not follow through. But a few cruise missiles won’t change anything in Syria. What’s really needed is a concerted strategy …. the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian allies are […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Trump Says U.S. Could Help Russian Economy” – Reuters

Vladirmir Putin and Donald Trump Sitting in Chairs with Flags Behind, adapted from image at whitehouse.gov

“… Trump … said the U.S. could aid Russia’s economy and sought an end to what he called an ‘arms race,’ lamenting that relations with Moscow had reached an all-time low. …Trump … on Twitter warned Russia that missiles ‘will be coming’ in Syria following a suspected chemical attack and chided … Putin for being ‘partners’ with … Assad. … […]

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NEWSLINKS: “Kremlin backers warn of threat of war with U.S. as Syria tensions rise” – Washington Post/Anton Troianovski

File Photo of Bashar al-Assad and Sergei Lavrov

“… The United States is considering strikes on Russian ally Bashar al-Assad in Syria, prompting ominous speculation among people close to the Kremlin that such a move could touch off a wider conflict. One scholar who advises the Russian Defense Ministry even raised the specter of ‘World War III.’ … U.S. sanctions against top Russian business executives wiped billions of […]

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NEWSLINK: “In Syria, Trump Faces the Limits of Bluster” – New York Times Editorial

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“A world grown numb to the slaughter of civilians in Syria has been roused in the last 48 hours by photographs on social media of lifeless men, women and children in the rebel-held town of Douma, many with white foam coming from their mouths and nostrils, victims of chemical weapons. Outraged Western nations blame President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and demand […]

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To Avert U.S. Retaliation, Russia Proposes Inspection of Syria Attack Site

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(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – April 10, 2018) Russia said on Tuesday it will propose to the United Nations that international inspectors visit the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack in the Syrian town of Douma, a move which follows U.S. President Donald Trump’s warning of quick, forceful action in response to the incident. At least 60 people were […]

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NEWSWATCH VIDEO: “Putin’s Next Act” – Brookings/ Julia Ioffe, Vladimir Kara-Murza, Angela Stent, Strobe Talbott, Alina Polyakova

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

(Brookings event – April 4, 2018) “… Putin’s third term as Russia’s president was defined by a return to aggressive foreign policy … military interventions in Ukraine and Syria, interference in elections in the United States and Europe … a crackdown on domestic dissent. … as Russia’s economic model and political system seem[] increasingly stagnant …. What might Putin’s fourth […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Putin’s Turkey visit brings S-400 missile and nuclear plant headway” – bne Intellinews

Turkey and Environs Satellite Image

“… Erdogan received … Putin in Ankara … with a crowded agenda … including … Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system and progress with the TurkStream natural gas pipeline …. even more challenging … with the scheduled arrival of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and … the complicated task of finding an end-game […]

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