Russia Analytical Report, Jan. 6-13, 2020

This Week’s Highlights

  • Trump and Iran’s Khamenei need an off-ramp—Trump wants to show he ended U.S. involvement in the "endless wars" and did not launch a new one, while Khamenei does not want a shooting war with the United States, and the domestic fervor he is seeking to exploit over the killing of Soleimani won't alter the grim economic reality in Iran, writes Dennis Ross, special Middle East coordinator under U.S. President Bill Clinton. Putin does not want the region to explode with Russian forces in it, so Putin could well become the intermediary. What an irony it would be, Ross writes, if Trump's attraction to Putin could offer a pathway to defusing the Iranian threat.
  • America doesn't need a catastrophic event to be attacked effectively; Russia didn't drop a single bomb, yet its information warfare and targeting of election infrastructure during the 2016 U.S. elections were enough to sow anger and distrust with lasting impacts on our democracy, writes the Belfer Center’s Lauren Zabierek. Iran, through its proxies, could achieve damaging effects and will probably step up longtime efforts to do so, Zabierek warns.
  • The greatest expansion of American power and goals has been reserved for the containment of Russia and China, argues Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of the Nation. Trump's 2018 National Security Strategy entails not just the encirclement of Russia with U.S. and NATO forces but also a strategy of weakening Russia economically and politically. As a result of these and other actions, the United States is now committed to a new Cold War on two fronts, Russia and China, and perhaps three fronts when one adds the maximum-pressure campaign against Iran, she writes.
  • Russia's political leaders deny the existence of "escalate to deescalate," a supposedly new plan to use limited nuclear strikes in a local/regional conflict to shock an adversary into suing for peace. Has the United States misunderstood Russian intentions and plans? Brig. Gen. Kevin Ryan (U.S. Army retired) examines the origin of the phrase and what the Russians themselves say about escalating to deescalate.
  • The fact that Turkey and Russia support different Libyan actors will be a major obstacle and local setbacks in Libya are inevitable, such as warlord Haftar’s initial rejection of the ceasefire, writes Russian journalist Kirill Zharov. Yet Russia and Turkey have already shown in Syria that they are able to agree even when they support opposing sides in a conflict. Having declared themselves mediators in the civil war in Libya, Russia and Turkey will try to replicate the model of cooperation and mutual accommodation they developed in Syria, Zharov writes.

NB: Next week’s Russia Analytical Report will appear on Tuesday, Jan. 21, instead of Monday, Jan. 20, because of the U.S. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday.


I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda

Nuclear security/non-proliferation:

“A New Nuclear Era Is Coming,” Uri Friedman, The Atlantic, 01.09.20The author, a staff writer for the magazine, writes:

  • “The fallout from the Trump administration’s killing of Qassem Soleimani has been swift and serious. But one potential knock-on effect may not come into clear view for some time: the emergence of Iran as the next nuclear-weapons state, at the very moment when the world appears on the cusp of a more perilous nuclear age.”
  • “Consider what has transpired in the past year alone: A newly unconstrained Iranian nuclear program. … An emerging North Korean nuclear-weapons power. … The specter of other countries going nuclear. … Emboldened nuclear states in South Asia. … The demise of U.S.-Russian arms control. … The outbreak of great-power competition.”
  • “Add to that the fading memory of the Cold War and fiercer competition among the great powers, and it’s no surprise that the guardrails on the world’s most destructive weapons are disappearing.”

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • No significant commentary.

Iran and its nuclear program:

“Pompeo Explains the Iran Policy,” Walter Russel Mead, Wall Street Journal, 01.06.20The author, a columnist for the news outlet, writes:

  • “Last year’s conventional wisdom was that when it came to Iran, President Trump was all bark and no bite. … But last week’s U.S. drone strike destroyed the theory along with Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. As always, media ‘analysis’ shifted immediately, from Mr. Trump as cowardly ditherer to Mr. Trump as implacable warmonger.”
  • “Both takes on Mr. Trump’s Iran policy miss some critical factors. … The first is that he never forgets his foreign policy must make sense to his Jacksonian base. … The other factor that leads many analysts astray is their conviction that Mr. Trump’s foreign policy obviously isn’t working. Senior administration officials believe it is … and will bolster the president’s re-election effort.”
  • “From Washington’s perspective, Iran has three choices. It can continue to resist while its domestic economy and regional allies suffer under growing resource constraints. It can launch a large-scale attack on Americans—or initiate a dash for the bomb … triggering a Pearl Harbor-like reaction from the Jacksonian base … Or it can enter into serious negotiations over ending its nuclear program, its missile program and its scheme of terror and subversion in neighboring states.”
  • “Pompeo also appears to believe that the rise of China creates an opportunity for a different relationship with Russia. … Of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, he [Pompeo] says, ‘I’ll probably spend a great deal of time with him . . . as will my colleagues in the cabinet trying to find places where we can work together.’”
  • “Confrontation with Iran, competition with China, outreach to Russia—this is both a bold agenda internationally and a deeply controversial one at home. … Whether their policies will be crowned with success cannot be predicted, but at the start of 2020 the Trump administration appears to have a clear course in mind.”

“Why Soleimani's Killing Is a Gift to Vladimir Putin,” Dennis Ross, The Washington Post, 01.11.20: The author, counselor and William Davidson distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute and special Middle East coordinator under U.S. President Bill Clinton, writes:

  • “Ironically, both Trump and Khamenei need an off-ramp. Trump wants to show he ended our involvement in the ‘endless wars’ and did not launch a new one. Khamenei does not want a shooting war with the United States, and the domestic fervor he is seeking to exploit over the killing of Soleimani won't alter the grim economic reality in Iran. For his part, Putin does not want the region to explode with Russian forces in it.”
  • “Putin could well become the intermediary. Trump would likely leap at the chance to forge a new nuclear deal, and he has only one criterion: He has to be able to claim that he has done better than Obama. Putin would no doubt play on that, telling Trump that if he wants more … he will have to give more to the Iranians in the way of economic relief and investments.”
  • “What an irony it would be, indeed, if Trump's attraction to Putin could offer a pathway to defusing the Iranian threat.”

“The Iran Crisis Can Be a Boost for Russia,” Marianna Belenkaya, Carnegie Moscow Center, 01.07.20The author, a journalist at the Kommersant publishing house, writes:

  • “If Syria becomes the setting for a clash between Washington and Tehran, this could be a major problem for Moscow. Until now—and not without Soleimani’s help—Moscow had always managed to find a compromise with the pro-Iran forces in Syria. It’s not clear how the situation will develop now.”
  • “The pro-Iran groups in Syria are an important part of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s attack power, and work in coordination with Russia to return and then help to retain territories under the control of Damascus. Without Iranian support, it would be hard for Russia to take action on the ground.”

“Trump’s Iran Policy Is Brain-Dead,” Stephen Walt, Foreign Policy, 01.03.20The author, the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University, writes:

  • “With respect to Iran, the assassination of Qassem Soleimani is a strategic error entirely of Trump’s own making.”
  • “To be sure, if Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the killing of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, or if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un decided to redouble his grandfather’s efforts to murder politicians in South Korea, it would be far harder for the United States to object.”
  • “The Trump administration’s approach to Iran—including this most recent incident—appears devoid of strategic logic or purpose.”

New Cold War/saber rattling:

“The 2010s Were a Decade of Imperial Overreach. Trump Is Making It Worse,” Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Washington Post, 01.07.20: The author, a columnist for the news outlet and editor of the Nation, writes:

  • “With the 2010s over, now is a good time to consider what characterized the United States' foreign policy of the past decade … it would be more accurate to call the past decade the ‘decade of imperial overreach’—a major expansion of U.S. foreign policy goals and power beyond what is prudent or constructive. The overreach began during the Obama years.”
  • “The greatest expansion of American power and goals, of course, has been reserved for the containment of Russia and China. Trump's 2018 National Security Strategy named China and Russia as the United States' greatest threats and committed to large military buildups to counter their influence. The goal of the strategy appears to have gone beyond deterrence and even containment to a form of active pressure—especially in the case of Russia.”
  • “This entails not just the encirclement of Russia with U.S. and NATO forces but also a strategy of weakening Russia economically and politically with more stringent sanctions, such as those imposed against international companies working on the completion of the Nord Stream II pipeline.”
  • “As a result of these and other actions, the United States is now committed to a new Cold War on two fronts, Russia and China, and perhaps three fronts when one adds the maximum-pressure campaign against Iran.”
  • “Historically, imperial overstretch does not end well, and there is ample evidence that Trump's foreign policy is failing nearly everywhere.”

NATO-Russia relations:

“Russia's Hostile Measures. Combating Russian Gray Zone Aggression Against NATO in the Contact, Blunt and Surge Layers of Competition,” Ben Connable, Stephanie Young, Stephanie Pezard, Andrew Radin, Raphael S. Cohen, Katya Migacheva and James Sladden, RAND Corporation, January 2020In their selected findings, the authors of the report list:

  • “The foundations for Russia's recent use of hostile measures date to the Russian Revolution and the development of the political and security institutions that reinforced the Soviet sphere of influence.”
  • “Over the past century, Soviet and, later, Russian leaders have exploited vulnerabilities in a range of sectors in the countries they have targeted with hostile measures—for example by intervening in political movements, enlisting proxies to engage in a country militarily, launching disinformation campaigns, implementing economic sanctions, leveraging cultural influence and reinforcing dependence on Russian energy supplies.”
  • “A particular hostile measure may have several target audiences beyond the direct party to a dispute with Russia, including Russia's domestic public, Russian populations in other countries, former Soviet republics that are considering strengthening their relationships with the West, countries that are economically dependent on Russia and potential allies and partners of the primary target country.”
  • “General patterns in Russian gray zone behavior lend themselves to forecasting, and Russia often issues formal indications and warnings before making use of hostile measures. … There are patterns to the motivations behind Russia's decisions to employ specific types of hostile measures and in the sources of influence it chooses to leverage. … Russia's use of hostile measures … is tactically adroit but strategically shortsighted.”
  • “Recommendations: NATO has engaged in a limited effort to resist Russian hostile measures in Eastern Europe, but this effort would benefit from strategies informed by a historical understanding of Russian motivations, tactics, patterns of behavior and record of success. NATO can improve the prospects of deterrence if it can increase Russia's perception of the risk of using hostile measures and reduce its aggressive behavior without triggering a war. … NATO should sustain a measured forward presence in Europe indefinitely and leverage conventional force enablers to deter and counter Russian hostile measures.”

“The Dangerous Unraveling of the US-Turkish Alliance. Washington Must Not Push Ankara Away,” Philip H. Gordon and Amanda Sloat, Foreign Affairs, 01.10.20The authors, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, write:

  • “There are high costs to now treating Turkey like a rival, including pushing Ankara closer to U.S. adversaries such as Iran and Russia. … Although both countries [the U.S. and Turkey] have long lists of grievances, the two most immediate sources of tension are Turkey’s purchase of military equipment from Russia and its invasion of northern Syria.”
  • “Sanctioning Turkey’s defense industry could prompt Ankara to buy even more Russian defense equipment … which would in turn almost certainly lead to additional U.S. sanctions, further Turkish retaliation and a downward spiral of tension and resentment.”
  • “To find a better way forward, the two presidents should task their top diplomats with exploring practical solutions away from the glare of politics. … Washington should work to isolate the damage by seeking to preserve the broader defense relationship and ensuring that Turkey foregoes any further major defense purchases from Russia.”
  • “Separate discussions must continue with Ankara about the future of Syria. Although the United States has lost significant leverage on the ground following its withdrawal and Russia’s takeover of territory formerly controlled by the YPG, it still has forces in Syria and should continue to support efforts to develop sustainable governance and security arrangements in the country.”
  • “As fraught as relations may be at the moment, U.S. interests will suffer if the relationship between the two countries breaks down completely, or if Turkey becomes an actual adversary of the United States. The only actors who would benefit from a deeper rift are those—including Iran and Russia—who want to pull Turkey away from Western powers.”

Missile defense:

  • No significant commentary.

Nuclear posture:

“Is 'Escalate to Deescalate' Part of Russia’s Nuclear Toolbox?” Kevin Ryan, Russia Matters, 01.08.20: The author, an associate fellow at the Belfer Center and former U.S. defense attaché to Russia, writes:

  • “The phrase ‘escalate to deescalate’ has worked its way into American security vocabulary and onto the pages of our strategic documents. It describes a supposedly new Russian plan to use limited nuclear strikes in a local/regional conflict, the belief being that such an escalation … would shock an adversary into suing for peace.”
  • “In reaction to this alleged doctrine, U.S. policy makers have already ordered the development of new weapon systems and capabilities … Russia's political leaders, however, say … ‘escalate to deescalate’ doesn't exist in their doctrine at all.  Has the United States misunderstood Russian intentions and plans?”
  • “In the end the phrase … is not used in openly published Russian doctrine, the Russian professional articles above and others make clear that using nuclear weapons to deescalate a conflict is most definitely part of Russia's nuclear toolbox. We are less sure, however, whether Russia's understanding of ‘escalate to deescalate’ includes preemptive or preventive nuclear strikes. Patrushev suggested yes; Putin suggested no.”
  • “The emergence of the phrase … has generated much debate, not only between the U.S. and Russia but also among U.S. and Western military experts. Some U.S. experts object to it because it is not the phrase the Russians themselves use to describe their strategy. Other experts prefer resurrecting the classic Cold War terminology of escalation control. Still others see the phrase as glib and insufficient to describe the unpredictable outcomes a limited nuclear strike could cause.”
  • “These are all fair criticisms. Nothing … could fully describe the possible effects of a limited nuclear strike. But the phrase serves a good purpose: It brings attention to an option for using nuclear weapons that remains in the toolbox for both Russia and the United States. It has focused military experts, political leaders and the general public on a dangerous problem that remains with us from Cold War days—the risk of a conventional conflict escalating into a nuclear war.”


  • No significant commentary.

Conflict in Syria:

  • No significant commentary.

Cyber security:

“Expect the US-Iran Conflict to Continue to Play Out in Cyberspace,” Lauren Zabierek, The Boston Globe, 01.12.20The author, executive director of the Cybersecurity Project at the Belfer Center, writes:

  • “Now that Iran appears to have ended its retaliation for the deadly strike against Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Americans might be breathing a sigh of relief.”
  • “While it's in Iran's interest not to seek further military action, offensive cyber operations through its proxies provide asymmetric advantages.”
  • “The U.S. military, through the U.S. Cyber Command, can identify and counter malicious cyber activity within and outside of military networks. This capability recently proved successful when it disrupted Russia's Internet Research Agency operations to prevent further interference during the 2018 elections.”
  • “We don't need a catastrophic event to be attacked effectively; Russia didn't drop a single bomb, yet its information warfare and targeting of election infrastructure during the 2016 U.S. elections were enough to sow anger and distrust with lasting impacts on our democracy. Iran, through its proxies, could achieve damaging effects and will probably step up longtime efforts to do so.”
  • “Cyber threats now and in the future require not just a military response, but also a whole of nation approach, in which the public and private work together.” 

Elections interference:

  • No significant commentary.

Energy exports from CIS:

  • No significant commentary.

U.S.-Russian economic ties:

  • No significant commentary.

U.S.-Russian relations in general:

  • No significant commentary.


II. Russia’s relations with other countries

Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:

“Multipolarity in Practice: Understanding Russia’s Engagement With Regional Institutions,” Paul Stronski and Richard Sokolsky, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 01.08.20The authors, senior fellows in Carnegie’s Russia and Eurasia Program, write:

  • “Over the past two decades, and especially since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, the Kremlin has intensified its engagement with international institutions. … Moscow’s approach to multilateralism was first articulated by former Russian prime minister Yevgeny Primakov … Russia’s engagement with multilateral institutions is guided by his long-standing vision of Russian foreign policy to shift the international system away from a U.S.-dominated unipolar order to a multipolar one. In this new configuration, Russia would serve as a key pole dominating the Eurasian landmass.”
  • “Primakov’s vision was prompted by the realization that Russia could not compete toe-to-toe with the United States or its allies in the international arena. … Yet Moscow believes the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and to a lesser extent the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) afford it [various] opportunities.”
  • “The influence of these institutions, however, should not be overstated. For Russia, their importance is more symbolic than substantive. With China’s increasing economic and political power in global affairs, they also allow Russia to manage its relationship with a rising China, particularly in Russia’s own backyard.”
  • “Russia’s behavior toward multilateral institutions is driven primarily by how they advance Russian national interests rather than broader organizational purposes and priorities. This attitude has been one important factor that has undermined the capacity of these groups to achieve their objectives. As a result, regional problems are festering, and Russia is neither serving its own interests nor those of its neighbors or other member states.” 

“Can Russia and Turkey Bring Peace to Libya?” Kirill Zharov, Carnegie Moscow Center, 01.13.20The author, a journalist specializing in Turkey and international affairs, writes:

  • “For centuries foreigners have fought over Libya’s resources. Russia is interested both in Libya’s energy resources (its oil reserves are mainly located in the territory controlled by Haftar) and in the political gains it would win from consolidating its position in the country.”
  • “If things go exceptionally well for Moscow, it could try to reinstate at least some of the multi-billion-dollar contracts it had signed with the country’s late leader, Muammar Gaddafi. With its ports and extensive Mediterranean coastline, Libya also offers serious logistical opportunities which can further Russia’s newly rediscovered ambition to broaden its presence in Africa.”
  • “Having declared themselves mediators in the civil war in Libya, Russia and Turkey will try to replicate the model of cooperation and mutual accommodation they developed in Syria.”
  • “Of course, the fact that Turkey and Russia support different Libyan actors will be a major obstacle. The Turkish leadership had no option but to choose the side of al-Sarraj, due to its long-held ties with the Muslim Brotherhood organization. Russia, on the other hand, could not fail to back the secularist Haftar, who studied in the Soviet Union and speaks Russian.”
  • “For Russia, close cooperation with Turkey is something of a guarantee that the United States will not get overly involved in the conflict. It could also ease trade-offs with Erdogan over unfinished business in Syria. Both countries are so dependent on one another that they have major incentives to stick to the compromises they reach. … [L]ocal setbacks in Libya are inevitable … Yet Russia and Turkey have already shown in Syria that they are able to agree even when they support opposing sides in a conflict.”

“How to Stop Libya’s Collapse. Countering Warlords, Foreign Meddlers and Economic Malaise,” Frederic Wehrey and Jalel Harchaoui, Foreign Affairs, 01.07.20The authors, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a research fellow specializing in Libya at the Clingendael Institute, The Hague, write:

  • “The sudden influx of Russian fighters has refocused Washington’s attention on the neglected Libyan conflict, but so far it hasn’t elicited a meaningful policy shift. That needs to change. Although Haftar bills himself as a stabilizing force to his backers and to the United States, a victory by his forces in Tripoli will only spur a new round of conflict.”
  • “More robust U.S. diplomacy is urgently needed in Libya, not just to halt Haftar’s destructive campaign but to salvage U.S. credibility in a region marked by multipolarity and increasing defiance of the West. … To avoid the looming disaster in Tripoli, the Trump administration should seek to rein in the states that are fueling the conflict.”
  • “U.S. policymakers should recognize that Russia’s mischief in Libya is ultimately opportunistic, partly driven by the prospect of economic returns on arms sales and infrastructure contracts and in no way comparable to its massive campaign in Syria. … They can be induced to support a compromise—provided the main Middle Eastern interferers in Libya’s conflict are also heading in that direction.”
  • “The United States should exert greater pressure on the UAE to halt its military intervention and bring Haftar back to the negotiating table. … Washington should invite the UAE and Turkey to partake in a revamped, U.N.-led political process that builds a new transitional government. … The United States should redouble its efforts to support economic reform in Libya.”
  • “Without a U.S. diplomatic gambit along these lines, the country will likely spiral toward irreversible dissolution, as neither the Turks, the Emiratis nor the Russians have the capacity or the will to achieve peace.”

China-Russia: Allied or Aligned?

“Russia All but Destined to Edge Closer to China in 2020. Still on the outs with the US, Putin has no choice but to buddy up to Beijing,” Ko Sakai, Nikkei, 01.11.20The author, a senior staff writer for the news outlet, writes:

  • “What exactly is in store for Russia this year? …For starters, Moscow will likely continue to play off countries in Europe against each other … As U.S.-led international sanctions against Russia continue to bite, Putin may try to prioritize better relations with Washington over those with his European partners. This may prove to be futile, however, as U.S. President Donald Trump is up for reelection this year and is unlikely to soften his hard-line stance.”
  • “This will undoubtedly drive Russia even closer to China. Trade between the two countries topped $100 billion for the first time in 2018. And since both governments share similar anti-U.S. sentiments, they are bonding closer militarily. Although this is not exactly what Putin wants, the international community must prepare for this eventuality.”
  • “Speculation is rife that the Russian president will have no choice but to forge closer military ties with China if he fails to find common ground with the U.S. This may be a forgone conclusion, as he has already voiced support for China building an early warning system for missiles.”
  • “Russia remains quietly suspicious of China because of past armed conflicts … The president has declared that Russia has no military alliance with China and no intention of forming one. Beijing's biggest threats are its ground troops and short- and medium-range missile systems … But Russia is not openly worried, even if China strengthens its navy and missile defense.”
  • “In the dystopian ‘Day of the Oprichnik,’ a novel by Vladimir Sorokin set in 2028 Russia, the monarchy has been restored and a wall constructed to fence off the country from the rest of the world. China is ruled by a celestial entity and its goods and culture are ubiquitous in the new Russia. As events in the new year unfold, the Chinese aspects of Oprichnik could offer a prescient look at Russia in the upcoming years, a matter that should concern the rest of the world.”


  • No significant commentary.

Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:

“Iran Crisis Threatens Neighbors in Central Asia and the Caucasus,” Maximiliam Hess, Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), 01.10.20The authors, a fellow at FPRI, writes:

  • “Iran’s three ex-Soviet neighbors—Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan—are almost never mentioned when considering the potential fallout from a U.S.-Iranian conflict. Yet the trio would be destabilized by any escalation, as would the wider Central Asia and Caucasus region.”
  • “Both Moscow and Yerevan fear that conflict could close the Armenian-Iranian border.  Both Armenians and Azeris have sought support from Tehran for their position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Iran has refrained from taking sides thus far, but this could change if either country was seen as supporting U.S. action.”
  • “Even a small refugee flow from Iran could destabilize Turkmenistan, which has a longer border with Iran than any country other than Iraq.”


III. Russia’s domestic policies

Domestic politics, economy and energy:

“Generation Putin: how young Russians view the only leader they’ve ever known. Their lives and attitudes have been shaped by one man. What do they really think of their president?” Henry Foy, Financial Times, 01.09.20The author, Moscow bureau chief for the news outlet, writes:

  • “Alexander Khazbiyev was just five years old when Vladimir Putin was first sworn in as Russia’s president. … In May 2018, Alexander— then 24—was in the ­audience at the president’s most recent inauguration, a glitzy, televised ceremony in the Grand Kremlin Palace to mark the beginning of Putin’s fourth term in office.”
  • “In the two decades between, Putin has gone from anonymous apparatchik to one of the world’s most powerful men, and Russia’s economy has grown to more than six times its 2000 size, following massive oil-fueled booms and sharp recessions. The country has joined the World Trade Organization, been kicked out of the G8, invaded two neighbors and hosted a World Cup and a Winter Olympics. Putin, now 67, has sparred with four U.S. presidents and five British prime ministers.”
  • “‘In my mind, there is no such period of time when Putin was not there, when he did not exist,’ says Alexander … A generation of Russians—about 40 million people—have been born or spent their entire education in a political system that revolves around one man.”
  • “Putin’s fourth term as president ends in 2024. As it stands, the constitution would ban him from running again until 2030, when he would be 77. He has voiced support for an idea to strengthen the role of the parliament and weaken the presidency, which some take as a hint he could return to being prime minister.”
  • “The challenge for young Russians who do not want to see his regime continue is stark: find the means to unite and build a sustainable movement that could provide an alternative, and convince their apathetic compatriots that change would not mean chaos.”

“Putin’s Latest Obsession: A New World War II Narrative,” Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg/The Moscow Times, 01.10.20The author, a columnist and veteran Russia watcher, writes:

  • “Throughout the Cold War’s worst years, the victorious alliance of the Soviet Union, the U.S., the U.K. and France was a reminder that cooperation was possible. There is, however, a tendency to dump that baggage now and to treat Russia as a villain without any qualifications.”
  • “The Kremlin is extremely sensitive to such signals—not just for domestic propaganda reasons, but because Russia’s global power is still based on some important spoils of World War II. … Kremlin-linked historians and propagandists see the shifting narrative as the result of Eastern Europe’s increased role in the continent as a whole.”
  • “Much of Putin’s foreign-policy activity this year will be directed toward trying to rebuild a more Russia-centric concept of the victory over the Nazis. This is territory where Putin isn’t prepared to give ground, and given the enormous complexity of the historical material as well as the cross-currents of Israeli, U.S. and European memory politics, he can put up quite a diplomatic and propaganda fight.”

Defense and aerospace:

  • No significant commentary.

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • No significant commentary.