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
- "That is my hope and expectation. We're working on it," U.S. President Joe Biden said in response to the proposed summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Europe in mid-June. Switzerland, Finland and Austria have offered up their premier cities as potential venues for the meeting.
- NATO on May 6 began its “Defender Europe 21” military exercises involving 28,000 troops, including a strong U.S. contingent, close to Russia’s western border. According to a NATO spokesman, Russia didn’t submit an application to send observers to the drills, TASS reports.
- Maj. Gen. DeAnna Burt of the U.S. Space Command says it may be time for the U.S. to establish a "deconfliction channel" with Russia and China to ensure the safety of operations in space. Meanwhile, an assessment conducted for the U.S. Congress accused Russian troops of violating "deconfliction processes" established by U.S. and Russian militaries in Syria.
- Nearly half (44 percent) of respondents to a survey carried out by the Latana polling company between February and April in 53 countries said they were concerned that the U.S. threatens democracy in their country; fear of Chinese influence is by contrast 38 percent and fear of Russian influence is lowest at 28 percent.
- U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken paid a one-day visit to Ukraine on May 6, the first visit by a senior U.S. official in the Biden administration. During the visit, he called on Russia to cease its "reckless and aggressive actions" against Ukraine and said the Pentagon is considering additional military assistance to Kyiv. Blinken also delivered a rebuke by pointedly meeting with anti-corruption activists. Blinken said Ukraine is facing "corruption from oligarchs.”
- Russia has withdrawn only a few thousand troops from the border with Ukraine, senior Biden administration officials said. Senior Defense Department officials said that close to 80,000 Russian troops remained near various strips of the country’s border with Ukraine. "Russia has the capacity on pretty short notice to take further aggressive action, so we're being very vigilant about that...and also making sure that we're helping Ukraine have the means to defend itself," Blinken said.
- Investigative journalist Christo Grozev said suspected GRU agents Anatoly Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin have been “promoted” to work for the Kremlin. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded to the claim, saying he is unaware of Mishkin’s and Chepiga’s new jobs.
This Week’s Highlights
- Pulling the U.S.-Russian relationship back from the brink of confrontation to less antagonistic rivalry will only be possible in the event of major changes in the domestic politics of one or both countries, argue Andrei Kolesnikov and Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Center. For the time being, they write, there is no indication of any such change.
- Although Moscow has not yet fundamentally challenged U.S.-Israeli cooperation in the Middle East, Russia remains a high-priority challenge with respect to Israel's national security, writes a team of contributors from the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute and Institute for Policy and Strategy at IDC Herzliya. Engagement with Russia has emboldened Israeli efforts to degrade Iran’s military capabilities and entrenchment in Syria while proving minimally disruptive to operations, and Israel needs to maintain its engagement with Russia to secure these objectives, according to the report.
- There are many reasons to see Russia and President Vladimir Putin as agents of geopolitical destabilization, but natural gas is not one of them, writes Stephen G. Gross, director of the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies at New York University. Rather than imposing sanctions on Nord Stream 2, U.S. President Joe Biden should help Europe green its electricity system so it can reach a clean-energy future on schedule, Gross argues.
- The automatic rejection of space-related initiatives because they were suggested by Russia or China is childish, to say the least, write Lillian Posner, assistant managing editor at the National Interest, and Evan Sankey, a national security fellow at the Center for the National Interest.
- “It is very much déjà vu,” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a Russia expert with the Center for a New American Security who advised the Biden transition team said in reference to Ukraine. “It all feels eerily similar to where we’ve already been.” Henrik Larsen, a senior researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, writes that today’s Ukraine has failed to make a radical break from the past and continues to struggle with many of the same corruption and mismanagement issues that helped fuel the Euromaidan Revolution. The U.S. must make clear, Larsen writes, that continued billion-dollar support for Ukraine will be conditioned on tangible domestic reform progress.
- With the arrest of lawyer Ivan Pavlov—who represents the Meduza news portal and journalist Ivan Safronov, among others—the Russian authorities have begun a new chapter in their repressive practices, writes Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Moscow Center. The combination of repression and propaganda—where the repression itself is part of the intimidating propaganda—is very effective. However, it irreversibly splits the country into “pure” and “impure” and intensifies the struggle between civil society and the state, Kolesnikov argues.