This page features the weekly news and analysis digests compiled by Russia Matters. Explore them by clicking "Read More" below the current week's highlights and subscribe using the subscribe links throughout the site, like the one below, to receive our digests via email. Past digests are available in the News Archive, which is accessible via the link on this page.
This Week’s Highlights
- G-20 leaders said they would collectively spend more than $5 trillion trying to insulate the global economy from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and help speed a recovery, but didn't put forward a specific plan to address the coronavirus challenge, according to the Wall Street Journal. During the online summit March 26, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for sanctions relief during the pandemic, telling G20 leaders it was a matter "of life and death," AFP reports.
- As of March 27, Russia’s total number of confirmed coronavirus cases was 1,036, up 196 from a day earlier. Three deaths have also been reported, according to RFE/RL. Putin delivered a national address March 25, in which he said it was “impossible to stop” the virus spreading in the country, according to the Financial Times. At a meeting with entrepreneurs on March 26, however, Putin said Russia could defeat coronavirus in less than three months if it imposed tough measures quickly, Reuters reports. Moscow mayor Sobyanin, who heads Russia’s official coronavirus response body, told Putin: "The real number of those who are sick is significantly higher" than official numbers indicate, according to The Moscow Times. There are 27.3 ventilators in Russia for every 100,000 people, while in the U.S. there are only 18.8 ventilators per 100,000 people, according to Meduza.
- Russia’s Rosatom and Ukraine’s Energoatom have introduced measures to prevent their personnel from contracting COVID-19, according to Rosatom and World Nuclear News. “At present, we have introduced additional measures at all of Russia’s nuclear power plants, including regular health check-ups of our personnel. We have arranged for as many employees as possible to work remotely,” Rosatom director Likhachev said in a statement. Ukraine’s Energoatom, meanwhile, announced the introduction of measures to protect its key workers from exposure to COVID-19. They are being housed in separate rooms within specially appointed hotels.
- Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said in an interview with Izvestia newspaper that Russian military planes now fly missions over the Baltic Sea with transponders turned on, according to Bloomberg. "I think that today's military-political situation is pushing Russia and the United States toward the need to more often communicate, including via their military agencies," he said, Interfax reports.
- Three out of four Russians think the Soviet era was the best time in their country’s history, according to a survey published by the Levada Center on March 24, The Moscow Times reports. Just 18 percent of Russian respondents said they disagree with the idea that the Soviet Union was the best time in their country’s history, Levada said. Despite this, only 28 percent of respondents said they would want to “return to the path that the Soviet Union was following.” Fifty-eight said they support Russia's “own, special way” and 10 percent said they preferred the European path of development.
This Week’s Highlights
- U.S. unwillingness to accept great powers’ claims to special privileges in their respective neighborhoods forecloses opportunities to negotiate sphere-of-restraint settlements that might be able to enshrine those privileges in a peaceful and orderly manner, writes Evan R. Sankey, a research analyst at Johns Hopkins University. The Russian intervention in Ukraine arguably reflected U.S. short-sightedness along these lines. More broadly, an inflexible U.S. policy of preventing spheres of influence increases the likelihood of military crises on great-power frontier, Sankey argues.
- Prof. Li-Chen Sim argues that the renegotiation of an OPEC+ agreement is the most realistic way to end the oil price war. Meanwhile, Prof. Nickolas Gvosdev writes that in the oil war, the Kremlin is gambling that, by year’s end, it will be able to not only push back against the United States but also to reconstruct its partnership with Saudi Arabia. The Financial Times’ Henry Foy writes that, as the oil price war rages on, Russia’s biggest oil companies may still be able to turn a profit even if prices fall to $15 a barrel and that the resilience of Russian oil companies to endure lower prices is partly a result of attempts by the U.S. and Europe to hurt them via sanctions.
- Harvard’s Stephen Walt writes that former Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov’s description of life in the Soviet Union may be a more accurate description of American life than Americans would like to admit: “[We] stole from ourselves, took and gave bribes, lied in the reports, in newspapers, from high podiums, wallowed in our lies, hung medals on one another. And all of this—from top to bottom and from bottom to top.” Walt argues it is upon Americans now to prove that their country is still competent enough to figure out what it needs to do about the coronavirus. RAND’s Charles Ries writes that the U.S., Russia and other G20 members should commit not to impose restrictions on trade in critical goods for fighting the pandemic, while former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul notes that after the Cuban missile crisis, U.S. and Soviet leaders, and especially American and Soviet scientists, learned that on nuclear issues, we were, as Siegfried Hecker characterized it, "doomed to cooperate." The coronavirus pandemic, McFaul argues, should teach Chinese and American leaders that even rivals are sometimes doomed to cooperate.
- Alexander Lukin and Anatoly Torkunov of MGIMO write that the main geopolitical consequence of U.S. policy toward Russia and China is that it drives Moscow and Beijing closer together. As a result, efforts by China and by Russia are now aimed at creating a comprehensive Eurasian partnership, the geography of which almost completely matches the geography of the “anti-hegemonic alliance” whose creation Brzezinski had feared, according to Lukin and Torkunov.
- Temur Umarov argues that while many people see Russia as China’s main rival in Central Asia, Russia cannot compete with China in the region: Russia’s economic structure is too similar to that of Central Asia to allow Russia to become a major buyer of raw materials from the region. If anything, Umarov write, Moscow is in competition with Central Asia.