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:
- U.S. President Donald Trump sent a delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan to Geneva this week to meet with Russian counterparts and pursue an arms control treaty that would cap China’s nuclear arsenal as well as Russia’s and the United States’. During the talks, the U.S. delegation “underscored concerns about Russia’s development and deployment of non-strategic nuclear weapons,” according to a State Department statement. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the two sides had a detailed discussion on the possible extension of New START.
- During confirmation hearings in the Senate this week defense secretary nominee Mark Esper said, “We are at war in the cyber domain now battling countries like Russia and China who are doing everything from stealing technology to influencing elections to put[ting] out disinformation about the United States.” He also said Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system “fundamentally undermines the capabilities of the F-35” fighter jet. Military analyst Konstantin Makienko wrote that the S-400 deal “is a sign of a possible tectonic shift in global geopolitical alignments,” according to the Financial Times.
- “Show me anyone who isn’t critical of Russia nowadays,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters when asked about new European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen’s “strict” view of his country, Bloomberg reported.
- According to multiple press reports, advisers to the “Normandy Four” leaders working toward a resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine have reached a prisoner-swap agreement. Kiev included the Ukrainian sailors detained in Russia on its swap list and has also proposed exchanging Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who is jailed in Russia, for Russian journalist Kirill Vyshinsky, in detention in Ukraine. (A Kiev court ruled on July 19, however, to extend Vyshinsky’s pre-trial detention for another two months, according to the Kommersant daily.) Pro-Russian Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk said the swap could take place within a matter of days. Meanwhile, Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE have announced an “indefinite” ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, hailed by analysts as a significant step toward ending the five-year conflict.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People Party is supported by 52 percent of the Ukrainians who intend to vote in the July 21 parliamentary elections, while a party led by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s associate Viktor Medvedchuk is polling in second place with about 10 percent, according to a survey cited by the AP. But Zelenskiy’s party’s edge doesn’t necessarily ensure a majority in the legislature: Of the 424 seats to be filled, only 225 of them will be chosen by a national party list.
- Half of Russian workers earn salaries of less than $550 a month, The Moscow Times reports. Moscow ranks third among the world’s cities for its number of billionaire residents, after New York and Hong Kong.
This Week’s Highlights:
- Talk of a new Cold War ignores how much the U.S. is still working with Russia on key global security concerns, write Michael O’Hanlon of Brookings and RAND’s Sean Zeigler. They also argue that bringing Ukraine and Georgia into NATO would be a mistake; instead, Eastern Europe needs a new security concept that would enhance security short of alliance membership.
- Tukey’s purchase of the S-400 from Russia is part of evidence indicating that in the long run, Erdogan and the ruling AKP are betting that a neutrally aligned foreign policy will better serve Turkey’s interests, writes Aaron Stein of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. According to Stein, Ankara doesn’t think its relationship with Washington is nearly as valuable as Washington seems to think it is.
- Russia’s relations with the U.S. will be competitive while Russia’s relations with the EU hold greater potential for rebuilding, Carnegie’s Dmitri Trenin predicts in his new book. The future of Russia’s entente with China will depend on Moscow’s ability to keep the relationship on an even keel, Trenin argues, and should Moscow feel that Beijing is poised to gain the upper hand, Russia’s attitude toward its partner will sour.
- Putin’s approval ratings, despite being lower than he might like, have stabilized, suggesting that Russians have largely accepted their economic plight as a “new normal,” writes Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Moscow Center. However, that does not mean that Russians are willing to accept other “normal” behaviors by their government, Kolesnikov argues. Russians continue to fight for their government to treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve, he writes.
- It is unclear if the Ukrainian president understands that the true source of his popular support is the desire for normalcy with Russia, writes Prof. Nicolai N. Petro. It is also unclear if Volodymyr Zelensky can avoid the trap of nationalism that has alienated at least half the country, a path that will lead to endless civil conflict, according to Petro. Dialogue with Russia requires an entirely different mindset, Petro argues, one that Ukrainians may be ready to embrace even if their political leaders are not.