Russia Analytical Report, Nov. 25-Dec. 2, 2019
This Week’s Highlights:
- Instead of evolving as a partner, a resurgent Russia defined itself as apart from the West and has sought to reconstitute as much of the USSR as possible, writes Robert A. Manning of the Atlantic Council. A counterfactual “what if” can only be conjecture, but, Manning asks, what if the U.S. and its allies had fashioned an inclusive new security system? What if the U.S. over-reach of NATO expansion, financial irresponsibility and the 2003 Iraq War had not happened?
- Nothing is likely to change the current adversarial nature of U.S.–Russia relations, writes Paul Dibb, an emeritus professor of strategic studies. Brzezinski’s warning that the most dangerous scenario facing U.S. security would be a grand coalition of China and Russia is now fast becoming a geopolitical fact.
- Russia’s readiness to include the Avangard missile, which Russia will declare operational in a few weeks, into U.S. inspections under New START was a clear positive step forward that demonstrated Moscow’s eagerness to extend this treaty, writes Dmitry Stefanovich, a Russian International Affairs Council expert.
- CAATSA Sec. 231 is an empty threat until an effort is undertaken to reestablish the statute’s deterrent effect and convince U.S. partners to cooperate with the program, argues analyst Jarod Tyler. Far from coercing Moscow to change its aggressive foreign policy by strangling the Russian defense industry as intended, the threat of CAATSA unfortunately focuses on punishing U.S. security partners as a substitute for sound strategy.
- The Kremlin has hardly abandoned its plans to take over Russian tech, but the recent Yandex episode shows that it is fiddling with its strategy, writes Stephanie Petrella, a research associate at FPRI. In the 2000s, the Kremlin similarly decided that the oil sector could not be left in private hands, so it jailed the boss of Russia’s then-largest oil firm on trumped-up charges and handed his assets over to a state-owned firm—but the Kremlin has realized that such tactics won’t work now, Petrella writes. Instead, it is trying to develop a strategy of state control for the Internet age.
- Belarus’s Lukashenka is appeasing his ruling cadre by promising to increase their role in the political system, writes Ryhor Astapenia of Chatham House. Belarus has less need for the West and is reluctant to make even small concessions, Astapenia writes, and while there is growing popular dissatisfaction with the current regime, the state has no good plan for how to deal with it.
I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda
- No significant commentary.
North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:
- No significant commentary.
Iran and its nuclear program:
- No significant commentary.
New Cold War/saber rattling:
- No significant commentary.
“Now and then: Navigating the security agenda between Russia and NATO,” Sir Andrew Wood, European Leadership Network, 11.22.19: The author, an associate fellow at Chatham House, writes:
- “The omens for re-building a general framework for managing NATO/Russia confrontation similar to that which developed between NATO and the USSR do not look good. Extending the New START agreement on nuclear weapons for another five years in 2021 by Russia and the USA remains uncertain.”
- “[T]here is little present likelihood of making tangible progress towards the eventual development of some sort of over-arching and enduring security arrangement for Europe as a whole … the present choice is limited to particular security issues.”
- “If New START could be extended for a further period beyond 2021, that might perhaps do something to persuade both the United States and Russia to see whether there might possibly be mutual advantage in other nuclear related options. There is perhaps an argument for such issues to be reviewed in a select NATO context in due course.”
- “There are particular risks inherent in the present state of militarized confrontation between Russia and NATO in Europe, around the Baltic states and potentially in Georgia as Russian border creep forwards there continues. It is evident too that the situation in Ukraine is still serious. It could in that context be sensible for NATO to look into ways to avoid accidental clashes with Russian armed forces and to consider what can be done to moderate them without somehow by inference implying that existing Russian actions are legitimate.”
- “There might also be a case for discussion within NATO of how Cold War confidence building measures that still exist … might be brought up to date.”
“NATO needs to reassert its common purpose,” Editorial Board, Financial Times, 12.01.19: The news outlet’s editorial board writes:
- “The NATO meeting should aim to strengthen the alliance by reasserting the need for the 29 members to treat each other as trusted friends—with a common understanding of the threats they face.”
- “Now European leaders are joining the NATO-sceptical chorus. Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, shocked his allies by calling Nato ‘brain-dead’ … He has also suggested that the alliance should not regard Russia as an adversary.”
- “Turkey itself poses a bigger challenge to alliance solidarity than some incautious remarks by Mr. Macron. … Expelling Turkey from the Western alliance would be a drastic step that would delight the West’s adversaries. Russia, in particular, has long sought to break up NATO and to draw Turkey into its orbit. A better course would be for the NATO allies to use this week’s summit to deliver a tough and united message to President Erdogan—reminding the Turkish leader that alliance solidarity flows in both directions.”
- No significant commentary.
Nuclear arms control:
“U.S. Inspection of New Russian Missile May Revive Stalled Arms Control Talks; Russia made positive moves to extend the New START treaty late last month,” Dmitry Stefanovich, The Moscow Times, 12.02.19: The author, a Russian International Affairs Council expert, writes:
- “So far, 2019 is definitely not the best year for arms control, with the INF Treaty dead, the New START treaty extension in limbo and the Open Skies Treaty under increasing pressure. However, a glimmer of hope appeared late last month when Russia’s Defense Ministry showed its new Avangard hypersonic missile system to U.S. inspectors under the provisions of the New START treaty.”
- “In recent arms control negotiations over the New START treaty, U.S. officials had quite openly requested for Moscow to include all of its newest weapons as one of the conditions for the treaty’s extension. However, their full inclusion seems impossible from a purely technical point of view—there are no definitions in the treaty that would apply to Russia’s new Poseidon nuclear-powered unmanned underwater vehicle, the Burevestnik nuclear-powered unlimited-range cruise missile or the Kinzhal hypersonic aeroballistic missile. Opening up and re-negotiating the treaty before February 2021 also seems unlikely.”
- “For this reason, Russia’s readiness to include the Avangard into inspections was clearly a positive step forward that demonstrated Moscow’s eagerness to extend the New START treaty.”
- “In a few weeks, Russia will declare that the first Avangard regiment has achieved initial operational capability (starting with two missiles). Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces will then start to accumulate real-life experience in operations and maintenance of the hypersonic weapons. A lot will be said about the new era in strategic weapons in the coming weeks. Still, for the sake of national and global security, it would be much more promising to extend the era of old arms control treaties.”
- No significant commentary.
Conflict in Syria:
“Armenian Genocide Descendants Face Another Turkish Onslaught, One Century Later,” Amy Austin Holmes and Lerna Ekmekçioğlu, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, 11.25.19: The authors, a visiting scholar at the Middle East Initiative and an associate professor at MIT, write:
- “One of the deadliest sites of the Armenian genocide—Ras al-Ayn—has once again fallen under Turkish control because of a ceasefire agreement negotiated by the United States. The incursion of Turkish-backed rebels in the swath of land ceded to Turkey has forced Armenian families to flee—one century after their ancestors fled those who sought to exterminate them. When Turkish President Erdogan visited the White House on Wednesday, President Trump failed to mention the ethnic cleansing campaign and assault on the descendants of Armenian genocide survivors.”
- “Turkey and Turkish-backed militias should be sanctioned, and displaced families should be allowed to return to their homes. The United States should not lend its support for the Turkish government’s goal of re-engineering the demographics of a geography already stained by genocide a century ago. It is not too late to reverse some of the damage that has been done.”
- No significant commentary.
- No significant commentary.
Energy exports from CIS:
- No significant commentary.
U.S.-Russian economic ties:
- No significant commentary.
U.S.-Russian relations in general:
“Could Russia and the West Have Gotten Along After All?” Robert A. Manning, The National Interest, 11.26.19: The author, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, writes:
- “Instead of evolving as a partner, a resurgent Russia defined itself as apart from the West and has sought to reconstitute as much of the USSR as possible. Former Soviet Warsaw Pact nations in Eastern Europe … Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic … have lapsed into authoritarian populism. The EU itself appears mired in an inward-looking, protracted identity crisis.”
- “Why? Two seminal events—the 2008 Financial Crisis and Great Recession, and the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq—had an impact. Similarly, Russia’s botched capitalist transition and long authoritarian traditions were a factor. And not least, the Clinton administration’s rapid NATO expansion … contributed to the Russian antagonism. This was contrary to what Moscow expected. …While there was no formal agreement or commitment, Moscow’s acceptance of a reunified Germany into NATO was facilitated by Bush-Baker intimations that NATO would not move further East.”
- “It is impossible to attribute which factors caused the relapse because they were interactive. A counterfactual ‘what if’ can only be conjecture. Alternative futures exist only on paper. But what if the U.S. and its allies had fashioned an inclusive new security system? What if the U.S. over-reach of NATO expansion, financial irresponsibility and the 2003 Iraq War had not happened? Would the future be one of a revised, updated and more stable rules-based order, rather than one unraveling amidst renewed Great Power competition? Maybe the reunification of Germany and the democratization of the ex-Warsaw Pact states was the best that could be achieved. Nonetheless, juxtaposed to the strategic earthquakes of earlier epochs, the incomplete post-Cold War transformation and its sour outcome leave one wondering.”
“An American Failure: CAATSA and Deterring Russian Arms Sales,” Jarod Taylor, Foreign Policy Research Institute, November 2019: The author, an independent analyst, writes:
- “The threat of sanctions action under Section 231 of the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) is in the news again. This time … regarding Egypt’s Su-35 fighter jet purchase from Russia. … CAATSA Sec. 231 was designed with an ambitious goal in mind: to shape the global security environment by raising the costs for third countries to do business with [the] Russian defense and intelligence industry.”
- “President Trump sharpened his administration’s approach to this law with implementation guidance, issued through Executive Order 13849 on Sept. 20, 2018. … At the same time EO 13849 was published, the People’s Republic of China earned the first sanctions pursuant to Sec. 231. In the Russian acquisition process at the same time as the sanctions against Chinese entities were Turkey, India, Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Morocco and Algeria.”
- “CAATSA Sec. 231, and the associated implementation policy, has so far deterred exactly none of these expected challenges. The opposite has occurred; the Turkish government actually seems emboldened by the disunity and lack of clarity from Washington.”
- “CAATSA Sec. 231 is an empty threat until an effort is undertaken to reestablish the statute’s deterrent effect and convince U.S. partners to cooperate with the program. Far from coercing Moscow to change its aggressive foreign policy by strangling Russian defense industry as intended, the threat of CAATSA Sec. 231 unfortunately focuses on punishing U.S. security partners as a substitute for sound strategy.”
II. Russia’s relations with other countries
Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries:
“A Spoiler in the Balkans? Russia and the Final Resolution of the Kosovo Conflict,” Maxim Samorukov, Carnegie Moscow Center, 11.26.19: The author, a fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, writes:
- “The Kremlin has become more distrustful of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and suspects that his genuine priorities are pro-Western. … Vučić, quite understandably, is afraid that the Kremlin could expose him to a nationalist backlash if he makes too many concessions on Kosovo. Yet most Serbian nationalists are affiliated with the state apparatus in some way, and their loyalty is divided between Putin and Vučić. The two leaders have little appetite to find out who would come out on top in the event of a clash.”
- “So long as Serbia does not formally recognize Kosovo’s independence, it must rely on Russia’s veto power in the U.N. Security Council. That dependency gives Russia a nontrivial degree of influence, both in the region and within Serbia itself. If Serbia and Kosovo are able to overcome numerous other obstacles and finally reach an agreement, Vučić will likely do his best to help Russia save face, allowing the Kremlin to grudgingly absorb yet another major policy setback in the Balkans.”
“The Limits of Russian Strategy in the Middle East,” Becca Wasser, RAND Corporation, November 2019: The author, a senior policy analyst at RAND, writes:
- “Russia is seemingly resurgent in the Middle East, using a short-term focused, transactional approach to develop diplomatic and economic relationships across the region. Russia's Middle East strategy appears to be reaping dividends, but it is not without significant challenges and risks.”
- “Although Russia can frustrate and undermine U.S. policy in the region, it cannot create openings or replace the United States as the predominant power. Russia has played a weak hand extremely effectively, but its strategy remains full of inherent tensions and constraints. The strengths of Russia’s strategy in the short term—its transactionalism, balancing of multiple partners and commitment-free approach—may turn out to be its own undoing in the long term.”
“In a Year of Global Chaos, Russia Remained a Reliable Partner. The main task now is to ensure that Russia's momentum is not lost going into 2020,” Igor Ivanov, The Moscow Times, 12.02.19: The author, president of the Russian International Affairs Council, writes:
- “Russia’s foreign policy in the coming year should not be directed exclusively at resolving immediate tasks in various regions of the world … Equally important is the development of new principles, models and mechanisms of international cooperation for the future.”
- “Russia has gained unparalleled experience in multilateral diplomacy in Syria that has enabled the country to align the positions of the most bitter of adversaries and reduce the intensity of armed hostilities. … It is clearly worth trying to expand this practice to the Middle East as a whole in the coming year.”
- “In Asia, Russia and its partners have taken serious steps towards the construction of a fundamentally new, democratic and transparent system of international institutions. … Russia will have the chance to solidify its leading role in expanding the ‘project portfolios’ of BRICS and the SCO when it hosts their annual summits in 2020. … Russia–China relations are steadily becoming a driving force in the system of international relations. The further coordination of their actions on the international stage, including the security domain, will continue to strengthen their authority and influence in world affairs.”
- “Europe has started to re-examine its model of regional integration fundamentally, and not only because of the United Kingdom's impending withdrawal from the European Union. … In this context, serious political dialogue on the future of relations between Russia and Europe is an absolute necessity.”
- “The 2020 election campaign in the United States is in full swing, so now is not the best time to try to start fixing relations. However, those who insist that Moscow should take a break in these relations until after the election, hoping that the United States will somehow emerge from the deep political crisis that split the nation three years ago, are simply wrong.”
China-Russia: Allied or Aligned?
“How the geopolitical partnership between China and Russia threatens the West,” Paul Dibb, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 11.29.19: The author, emeritus professor of strategic studies at The Australian National University, writes:
- “Deterring China and Russia and avoiding war by accident or through miscalculation is the most important demand in the current strategic outlook.”
- “Is there nothing that can be done about the growing strategic alignment between China and Russia? The classical balance-of-power response to such a question would be to postulate an American attempt to detach Russia and cement its partnership with the U.S. Brzezinski has raised exactly such a possibility of establishing a sounder U.S. relationship with Moscow and peeling Russia away from China. That would require great geostrategic skill to prevent the emergence ‘of a hostile coalition that could eventually seek to challenge America’s primacy.’”
- “France’s President Emmanuel Macron believes it isn’t in Europe’s interest to drive Russia further into China’s arms. However, improvements in relations between the EU and Russia will come neither quickly nor easily. In the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union sometimes made progress in one facet of their relationship—such as negotiating limits on their respective nuclear forces—while they remained in conflict over other aspects.”
- “Alas, history doesn’t repeat itself like that: Russia now nurtures a deep-seated hatred of the West. The state-controlled media in Russia portray the West … as irrationally and irrevocably hostile to Russia. And Putin believes that the previous Western-led international system has collapsed. Thus, nothing is likely to change the current adversarial nature of U.S.–Russia relations. Brzezinski’s warning that the most dangerous scenario facing U.S. security would be a grand coalition of China and Russia is now fast becoming a geopolitical fact.”
“The Oligarchs Who Lost Ukraine and Won Washington. How Kremlin-Backed Authoritarians Sought to Profit From Trump’s Presidency,” Michael Carpenter, Foreign Affairs, 11.26.19: The author, managing director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, writes:
- “That Ukraine is at the heart of the U.S. impeachment inquiry is no coincidence. The country is ground zero for the struggle between democratic rule of law and authoritarian oligarchy. Halfway around the world from Washington’s halls of power, Ukraine sits along a civilizational and geopolitical fault line. To Ukraine’s west are the liberal democracies of Europe, governed by rule of law and democratic principles. To its east are Russia and its client states in Eurasia, almost all of which are corrupt oligarchies.”
- “But by aligning himself with the forces of corrupt oligarchy—whose ultimate patron in Ukraine is the Kremlin—Trump has upended a bipartisan U.S. foreign policy tradition of support for democratic rule of law. The days when the United States stood for what was right and honorable … have come to an end. They do so just as millions of anticorruption demonstrators take to the streets of Moscow, Prague, Bratislava, Beirut, Tbilisi, Jakarta and many other cities to protest oligarchic regimes that stifle their democratic aspirations.”
- “Restoring the integrity of U.S. democratic institutions will require not only cleaning our own house but redoubling our commitment to democracy in this larger global struggle.”
“The Four Lessons of Impeachment,” Susan E. Rice, New York Times, 11.22.19: The author, a former national security adviser, writes:
- “First, there is now overwhelming testimony and evidence that … Mr. Trump withheld an important Oval Office meeting and nearly $400 million in urgently needed military assistance from Ukraine to compel Mr. Zelenskiy to open, or at least announce, two investigations—one that would seek to exonerate Russia and dishonestly implicate Ukraine in interference in the 2016 election, and another that aimed to tar former Vice President Joe Biden with false corruption charges in relation to his work on Ukraine during the Obama administration.”
- “Second, these hearings have amply demonstrated the extraordinary caliber and character of our nonpartisan career Foreign Service officers, civil servants and uniformed military personnel.”
- “Third, it is now abundantly apparent that most Republicans in Congress have abandoned all semblance of serving the national interest.”
- “And last, as Fiona Hill ably testified on Thursday, the primary beneficiary of our domestic dysfunction and divisions is President Vladimir Putin of Russia.”
“U.S. Business Gets the Ukraine Treatment,” Paul Krugman, New York Times, 11.25.19: The author, an opinion columnist for the news outlet, writes:
- “What I haven't seen pointed out is that Trump is quietly applying a Ukraine-type extortion-and-bribery strategy to U.S. corporations. Many businesses are being threatened with policies that would hurt their bottom lines—especially, but not only, tariffs on imported goods crucial to their operations. But they are also being offered the possibility of exemptions from these policies. And the implicit quid pro quo for such exemptions is that corporations support Donald Trump, or at least refrain from criticizing his actions.”
- “By using his political power to punish businesses that don't support him while rewarding those that do, Trump is taking us along the same path already followed by countries like Hungary, which remains a democracy on paper but has become a one-party authoritarian state in practice. And we're already much further down that road than many people realize.”
“The United States Is Starting to Look Like Ukraine,” Bret Stephens, New York Times, 11.22.19: The author, an opinion columnist for the news outlet, writes:
- “We’ve been living in a country undergoing its own dismal process of Ukrainianization: of treating fictions as facts; and propaganda as journalism; and political opponents as criminals; and political offices as business ventures; and personal relatives as diplomatic representatives; and legal fixers as shadow cabinet members; and extortion as foreign policy; and toadyism as patriotism; and fellow citizens as ‘human scum’; and mortal enemies as long-lost friends—and then acting as if all this is perfectly normal. This is more than a high crime. It’s a clear and present danger to our security, institutions and moral hygiene.”
Russia's other post-Soviet neighbors:
“Three Takeaways From the Belarusian Parliamentary Elections,” Ryhor Astapenia, Chatham House, 11.28.19: The author, a fellow at Chatham House, writes:
- “Belarus’s parliamentary elections, held on Nov. 17, were predictably non-transparent, with numerous violations. The regime of Alexander Lukasheka allowed no opposition candidates as members of parliament—in contrast to the previous parliament, in which there were two opposition MPs. While this might seem to be a return to ‘business as usual’, three key takeaways from the elections highlight a shifting political and social landscape.”
- “Lukashenka is appeasing his ruling cadre by promising to increase their role in the political system. With several influential officials becoming new MPs, it is more likely that parliament will be more involved in any forthcoming discussion of a new constitution. Lukashenka has been promising constitutional reform for several years; he has said publicly that it will lead to an increased significance of government agencies as well as parliament. The aim of this is to keep them more engaged and on Lukashenka’s side.”
- “Belarus has less need for the West and is reluctant to make even small concessions … The absence of opposition candidates also demonstrates that the Belarusian authorities are prepared for a new deterioration of relations with the West.”
- “There is growing popular dissatisfaction with the current regime, but the state has no good plan for how to deal with it.”
- “The authorities are not in a concessionary mood. The presidential elections in 2020 will also likely be a sham. If the authorities’ grip over the country is weakened, they will fear an outbreak of anger, resulting in widespread protests which the regime might once again have to meet with violence.”
“A Flickering Beacon of Democracy in Russia’s Backyard. Georgians fear that billionaire leader Bidzina Ivanishvili and his Georgian Dream party are tightening their grip on power,” Amy Mackinnon, Foreign Policy, 11.27.19: The author, a staff writer for Foreign Policy, writes:
- “An island of democracy. A poster child for reform. Georgia has had garnered many distinguished monikers over the past 15 years as it has pulled back from the brink of failed statehood to become a spirited democracy in Russia’s backyard.”
- “But many in the former Soviet republic now fear that these hard-won reforms may be at risk as the ruling party and its billionaire leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili, slowly tighten their grip on power as they take aim at big business, opposition media and political rivals. This whittling away of Georgia’s democratic gains risks leaving the country further exposed to its revanchist northern neighbor: Russia.”
III. Russia’s domestic policies
Domestic politics, economy and energy:
“United Russia’s Rehabilitation Means a Tightening of the Screws,” Tatiana Stanovaya, Carnegie Moscow Center, 11.27.19: The author, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center, writes:
- “The fate of the United Russia ruling party has long been under discussion, following a slump in its ratings and electoral defeats for its candidates: will it be replaced with some kind of new project, merged into a broader coalition or put to the side completely.”
- “It proved impossible to dismantle the ruling party for two reasons. The first is the personal position of Putin. … For Putin, United Russia is a verified and irreplaceable element of the political construction that requires unambivalent support at the highest level. … The second reason is more banal: any party or supra-party project seeking to become an alternative to United Russia is much more risky for the regime than keeping the status quo.”
- “United Russia will use administrative rather than political methods to achieve its result in the elections. The presence of the opposition will be minimal, with even less competition: everything that enabled United Russia to describe its showing in the last regional elections as victory.”
- “United Russia neither has nor requires any other instruments to ensure its victory. But even for an administrative win of this kind, the Kremlin will have to work hard on further purging the political field: counteracting tactical voting, bringing the in-system opposition into even closer contractual arrangements and driving out any critics of the regime from the playing field altogether. This is the price the regime must pay to preserve the ruling party: the foundation without which its stable existence cannot continue.”
“I Just Translated ‘1984’ Into Russian. I’m Gasping for Air. Reading “1984” closely is both sickening and cathartic because so much is instantly recognizable,” Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg/The Moscow Times, 11.26.19: The author, a columnist and veteran Russia watcher, writes:
- “This year, I spent a suffocating four months living inside George Orwell’s ‘1984.’ I didn’t know what I was getting into … so I agreed too lightly. Vanity was part of the reason, but I did feel that ‘1984’ had grown relevant to Russians, again. I’m still coming up for air.”
- “Reading ‘1984’ closely—as a Russian, a journalist and a believer in Russia’s potential to overcome Putinist despotism just as it defeated the Communist variety—is both sickening and cathartic because so much is instantly recognizable. Like my Soviet birth country and Russia today, Winston Smith’s world is both lawless and full of rules, incomprehensible from a human point of view but perfectly logical as a system, indiscriminately cruel and privately lyrical or even heroic.”
- “The novel came out in English in 1949, but was banned in the Soviet Union in any language until 1988. To the best of my knowledge, my Russian translation will be the fifth to be published officially. … Each version also reflects its time and its purpose, two factors that are far from trivial when it comes to ‘1984’s’ history in Russia and in Russian.”
- “I thought of the Putin regime, which rejects socialism and focuses on patriotism and military victories as the foundation of the national ideology. I thought of Brexit and the way its proponents use Britain's World War victories. I thought of the U.S. and German nationalists of today. None of that background was there in the 1980s, but it’s what went into my translation.”
- “[R]eading ‘1984’ for the fourth time … I came away with the feeling that it's still an unfulfilled prophecy. Regimes, including the current Russian one, try various bits of the Oceanian recipe. They search for external enemies, demand blind loyalty, use increasingly sophisticated propaganda, surveillance and suppression methods. … But the O’Briens of today, the agents of despotic rule, are still repeatedly thwarted by individuals who refuse to think as they're told.”
“The Kremlin Has Set Its Sights on Russia’s Private Tech Firms,” Stephanie Petrella, Foreign Policy, 11.26.19: The author, a research associate at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, writes:
- “The internet, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared in 2014, is a ‘CIA project.’ Russia’s biggest tech firm, Yandex? It was ‘developed with Western influence.’ Yet nearly six years after Putin vowed to ‘fight for [Russia’s] interests’ in the internet sphere, Yandex appears to have dodged yet another attempt by the Kremlin to bring it under state control. Last week, the company announced that it would slightly restructure its corporate governance to grant the government a greater say in its operations. But the firm would remain largely owned by shareholders, many of whom are foreigners. In turn, Russia’s parliament withdrew a bill that threatened to put Yandex out of business.”
- “The Kremlin has hardly abandoned its plans to take over Russian tech. But the Yandex episode shows that it is fiddling with its strategy. In the 2000s, the Kremlin similarly decided that the oil sector could not be left in private hands, so it jailed the boss of Russia’s then-largest oil firm on trumped-up charges and handed his assets over to a state-owned firm. But the Kremlin has realized that such tactics won’t work now. Instead, it is trying to develop a strategy of state control for the internet age.”
- “With nearly unlimited funds and political support, Sberbank will capture Russia’s most lucrative online platforms on the promise of eliminating foreign influence from the sector. By building a de facto financial technology monopoly, the Kremlin can punish firms that resist its dictates. Yandex, once the star of the Russian tech sector, will increasingly be an internet utility dependent on the will of the Russian state.”
“Claim in 2019: ‘Real incomes [in Russia] have fallen for five of the past six years,’” RM Staff, Russia Matters, November 2019: In this fact-check, Russia Matters found:
- “Of the two types of real income officially calculated in Russia for individuals, both real monetary incomes and real disposable incomes contracted in 2014-2018, according to Moscow’s Higher School of Economics. However, according to data available from Russia’s Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat) at the time of the claim, only real disposable incomes had fallen every year from 2014 through 2018. Rosstat data published by Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development show that real monetary incomes rose in 2018, contradicting the above claim.”
- “The authors of the FT article did not specify either a source for their data or how they defined real income. Our search of national and international sources of socioeconomic statistics on Russia revealed multiple references to two types of real incomes—i.e., incomes adjusted for inflation—calculated for individuals: real monetary incomes1 (realnye denezhnye dokhody) and real disposable incomes (realnye raspolagaemye dokhody). One of these sources did find a decline in real monetary incomes in the five previous years: In the Sept. 4, 2019, edition of its newsletter “Commentaries on the State and Business,” the Center of Development Institute at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics included a chart … with its own calculations of real monetary income that showed a decline in 2014-2018 (not a single data point falls above zero). However, it is important to note that the center’s findings were released after the FT claim was published. The newsletter’s author, Svetlana Misikhina, notes that these figures were calculated using Rosstat’s “old” methodology, which was replaced with a new one in the spring of 2019.”
Defense and aerospace:
- No significant commentary.
Security, law-enforcement and justice:
- No significant commentary.