Russia in Review, Jan. 25-Feb. 1, 2019

This Week’s Highlights

  • The U.S. said it will suspend compliance with its 1987 INF Treaty with Russia on Feb. 2 and formally withdraw in six months if Moscow does not end its alleged violation of the pact. NATO threw its full support behind the U.S. decision. But the EU’s chief diplomat said Europe wanted to avoid “being a battlefield” for superpower confrontations again and called for “full compliance” by both countries. Russia denied violations and expressed fears that the U.S. would deploy new cruise missiles that could hit its biggest cities.
  • U.S. intelligence chief Daniel Coats told a Senate panel this week that China and Russia "are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s." The annual Worldwide Threat Assessment released by his office the same day focused on the two countries’ “significantly expanded … cooperation” and related attempts to “expand their global influence.” In the meantine, a former Kremlin advisor acknowledges that “there will never be a formal alliance” between Moscow and Beijing.
  • The head of Russia’s Academy of Sciences announced a March trip to the U.S. by the academy’s leadership for a “reset” of U.S.-Russian scientific cooperation—in space, medical and oceanic research, but not nonproliferation or counterterrorism.
  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has told U.S. diplomats that he wants his country to be “neutral, like Austria,” while a senior Hungarian official said Orban strongly objects to U.S. pressure aimed at curbing the influence of Moscow and Beijing in Europe, according to the Wall Street Journal. 
  • Russia’s Transportation Ministry reported a 26.4 percent increase in cargo handled by the country’s Arctic ports last year. While the tonnage of dry cargo increased by merely 4 percent, liquid cargo was up by a whopping 40 percent.
  • The share of Russians who think their country is going in the wrong direction has grown to a 13-year high of 45 percent, according to a new poll by the independent Levada Center—outnumbering the “right direction” respondents for the first time since 2006.

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

Nuclear security and safety:

  • “The post-World War II international system is coming under increasing strain amid continuing cyber and WMD proliferation threats, competition in space, and regional conflicts. Among the disturbing trends are hostile states and actors’ intensifying online efforts to influence and interfere with elections here and abroad and their use of chemical weapons,” according to the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment produced by U.S. intelligence leaders. (, 01.29.19)
  • The U.S. Energy Department is pushing back on Gov. Steve Sisolak’s response to revelations the department shipped weapons-grade plutonium to Nevada last year, claiming state and congressional leaders were aware of the agency’s plans. (Fox News, 02.01.19)
  • A suspect is dead following a shooting at the Nevada National Security Site on Jan. 28. (Pahrump Valley Times , 01.30.19)
  • The U.S. government's nuclear security administration said Jan. 31 it will review the handling of a sexual harassment and assault complaint that a security guard at the Nevada National Security Site made against her colleagues. (Postmedia Breaking News, 01.31.19)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs:

  • Russian officials made a secret proposal to North Korea last fall aimed at resolving deadlocked negotiations with the Trump administration over its nuclear weapons program. In exchange for dismantling its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, Moscow offered the country a nuclear power plant. (The Washington Post, 01.29.19)
  • There were still some 13,000 North Korean workers left in Russia by October, according to the national statistical agency, roughly the maximum allowed Russia under the sanctions implementation timetable. (Wall Street Journal, 01.25.19)
  • In their comments at a Senate panel, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, CIA Director Gina Haspel, FBI Director Christopher Wray and other top officials threw cold water on the White House’s more optimistic view that the U.S. and North Korea will achieve a lasting peace and that the regime will ultimately give up its nuclear weapons. Coats said that North Korea was “unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities,” which the country’s leaders consider “critical to the regime’s survival.” (The Washington Post, 01.29.19)

Iran’s nuclear program and related issues:

  • In their comments at a Senate panel, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, CIA Director Gina Haspel, FBI Director Christopher Wray and other top officials assessed that Iran was not trying to build a nuclear weapon, despite the Trump administration’s persistent claims that the country has been violating the terms of an international agreement forged during the Obama administration. (The Washington Post, 01.29.19)
    • U.S. President Donald Trump has chided U.S. intelligence heads for being "extremely passive and naive" on Iran after their Congressional testimony went against his views. (RFE/RL, 01.30.19)
  • The U.S. State Department says its coordinator for counterterrorism, Nathan Sales, is traveling to the three Scandinavian countries this week to discuss matters including “Iran-backed terrorism” in Europe. (RFE/RL, 01.30.19)
  • Germany, France and Britain are set to launch a mechanism to allow financial flows to be sent to Iran that would not violate U.S. sanctions in an attempt to keep alive the landmark 2015 nuclear deal. (RFE/RL, 01.31.19)

Military issues, including NATO-Russia relations:

  • NATO’s chief and the acting head of the Pentagon said they were encouraged by the progress of peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan, after the U.S. special envoy for the country announced that American and Taliban negotiators had agreed on a draft "framework" for a peace deal seeking to put an end to the 17-year war there. Under the framework, the militants would agree to prevent Afghan territory from being used by groups such as Al-Qaeda to stage terrorist attacks. (RFE/RL, 01.29.19)
  • Lockheed Martin and other contractors said Jan. 29 that the White House budget request for fiscal year 2020 would likely be in line or surpass previous defense spending that had already generated record orders for combat jets, missile defense systems and space hardware. (Wall Street Journal, 01.30.19)
  • U.S. and Canadian fighter jets were scrambled to escort two Russian Tu-160 nuclear-capable bombers away from the North American coastline in the Arctic region. (RFE/RL, 01.27.19)
  • A clip that shows a Russian Su-27 Flanker aggressively banking into a U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle has appeared online. It was probably filmed in the Baltic region. (Aviationist, 01.31.19)

Missile defense:

  • No significant developments.

Nuclear arms control:

  • The U.S. will suspend compliance with the 1987 INF Treaty with Russia on Feb. 2 and formally withdraw in six months if Moscow does not end its alleged violation of the pact, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Feb. 1. “ “The United States is hopeful that we can put our relationship with Russia back on a better footing, but the onus is on Russia to change course from a pattern of destabilizing activity, not just on this issue but on many others as well,” he said. The U.S. would reconsider its withdrawal if Russia, which denies violating the arms control pact, came into compliance with the treaty, he said. (, 02.01.19, Reuters, 02.01.19)
  • Shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's announcement on INF, U.S. President Donald Trump issued a written statement saying: "we will not remain constrained by its terms while Russia misrepresents its actions. We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other." (RFE/RL, 02.01.19)
  • Russian officials have pledged to revive missile production and said Moscow was ready to “respond militarily” to the U.S. suspending its compliance with the INF Treaty. (Reuters, 02.01.19)
    • Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said he believed the U.S. would deploy new cruise missiles with a range of 2,500 kilometers in eastern European states, threatening the country's biggest cities. (Financial Times, 02.01.19)
  • Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, said: “Yet another mechanism to avoid nuclear conflict has been destroyed … The U.S. has taken another step toward destroying the world.” (Reuters, 02.01.19)
  • Former chief of the General Staff Yury Baluyevsky said: “Our country is ready to respond quickly militarily to the U.S. decision.” (Reuters, 02.01.19)
  • Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary-general, said NATO fully supported the U.S. decision and said Russia was “in material breach” of the INF. He added that Russia would “bear sole responsibility for its demise” if it did not use the next six months to return to full and verifiable compliance. (Financial Times, 02.01.19)
  • Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief, said Europe wanted to avoid “going back to being a battlefield” for superpower confrontations and called for “full compliance” by Russia and the U.S. (Financial Times, 02.01.19)
  • On Jan. 31 Russia and the United States failed to bridge their differences over the INF Treaty at last-ditch talks in Beijing. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov met U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson in Beijing on the sidelines of a meeting of the P5 nuclear powers. During the meeting, the U.S. called for more transparency from Russia and China regarding their nuclear programs. (Reuters, 01.31.19, RFE/RL, 01.30.19)
  • The annual Worldwide Threat Assessment produced by U.S. intelligence leaders said that, “We assess that Russia will remain the most capable WMD adversary.” “Russia has also developed and fielded a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) that the United States has determined violates the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty,” according to the assessment. (, 01.29.19)
  • When asked about New START, which expires on Feb. 5, 2021, during his announcement of the U.S. suspending compliance with the INF, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “So we are prepared to enter into negotiations on these complex arms control issues all around the world, including conversations about the renewal of other arms control agreements as we move forward.” (, 02.01.19)
  • Production of the W76-2 warhead in the U.S. lowers the threshold of using nuclear weapons and increases the risk of a nuclear conflict, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Jan. 30. (TASS, 01.30.19)


  • A pair of dusty villages in the Syrian desert is all that remains of the vast expanse of territory the Islamic State once called its caliphate, and the complete territorial defeat of the militant group appears to be imminent, according to U.S. and Kurdish officials. (The Washington Post, 01.28.19)
  • Nearly 100 family members of jihadists in Syria and Iraq were repatriated to Russia in late 2017 before Russia’s intelligence service raised security concerns in a country that’s repeatedly been the target of terrorist attacks. In all, 21 women and 105 children returned to Russia. (Bloomberg, 02.01.19)

Conflict in Syria:

  • “As the Syrian regime consolidates control, the country is likely to experience continued violence,” according to the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment produced by U.S. intelligence leaders. “Russia and Iran probably will attempt to further entrench themselves in Syria,” the assessment said. (, 01.29.19)
  • The vast majority of Senate Republicans backed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Jan. 31 in a rebuke of U.S. President Donald Trump's rationale for withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan. The measure, presented as an amendment to a greater Middle East policy bill, warns that "withdrawal of the United States forces from the ongoing fight against these groups . . . could create vacuums that could be filled by Iran or Russia." (The Washington Post, 02.01.19)
    • More than a month after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that U.S. forces were leaving Syria, there has been no sign of troop departures or a change in the relationship between Americans and their Syrian Kurdish allies, according to the leadership of the political umbrella organization of the Kurdish fighters. (The Washington Post, 01.30.19)
  • Russian and Turkish militaries are searching for ways to end the crisis in Idlib, where the Jabhat al-Nusra has seized a major part of the proposed demilitarized zone, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. (TASS 01.28.19)
  • The next meeting of the Russian, Iranian and Turkish leaders devoted to the Syrian settlement will be held in Russia in mid-February. (TASS 01.29.19)
  • A 300-strong military police battalion of the Southern Military District, which fulfilled tasks in Syria, has returned to is permanent base in Dagestan. (Interfax, 01.27.19)

Cyber security:

  • China, Russia, Iran and North Korea increasingly use cyber operations to threaten both minds and machines in an expanding number of ways—to steal information, to influence our citizens or to disrupt critical infrastructure,” according to the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment produced by U.S. intelligence leaders. (, 01.29.19)
  • In testimony on worldwide threats, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Russia and China present the most serious espionage and cyberattack threats to the U.S. as the two seek to expand their global reach. (RFE/RL, 01.29.19)
  • The Russian security services could soon have access to the personal data of thousands of Apple users in Russia, following the tech giant’s decision to comply with Russian law and store user data on servers in the country. (Foreign Policy, 01.31.19)

Elections interference:

  • Roger Stone, a longtime ally of U.S. President Donald Trump, has pleaded not guilty to seven criminal counts connected to special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. The indictment does not accuse Stone of coordinating with Russian  election interference in 2016, the key matter under investigation in the Mueller probe. But it details Stone's discussions about stolen Democratic Party e-mails posted by WikiLeaks. (RFE/RL, 01.29.19)
  • In an interview in the Oval Office, U.S. President Donald Trump said he never spoke with Roger Stone about WikiLeaks and the stolen Democratic emails it posted during the 2016 election, nor did he direct anyone to do so. (New York Times, 02.01.19)
  • Current Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani said recently that talks about U.S. President Donald Trump’s potential construction project in Moscow went all the way through the November election, only to later claim that he was mistaken and speaking only hypothetically. “He was wrong,” Trump said on Jan. 31. “Russia didn't help me. Russia did not help me. There was no collusion,” he said. (New York Times, 02.01.19)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump wrote that new information about Donald Trump Jr.'s phone records in 2016 vindicates him and his eldest son in an important aspect of the Russia investigation. Trump cited news reports that Senate investigators have established that Trump Jr. did not phone his father as he arranged the much-discussed Trump Tower meeting at which he expected to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. (NPR, 02.01.19)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump said on Jan. 30 that he would not intervene with the Justice Department's decision-making process about whether to release the report by the special counsel investigating possible collusion with Russian officials in the 2016 campaign. (New York Times, 01.31.19)
  • Acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker said Jan. 28 that special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation is nearing an end. "I look forward to Director Mueller delivering the final report, and I really am not going to talk about an open and ongoing investigation otherwise," Whitaker said. "You know, I am comfortable that the decisions that were made are going to be reviewed, you know, either through the various means we have. But right now, you know, the investigation is, I think, close to being completed," he said, adding that he hopes to get the report as soon as possible. Barr also said Vice President Mike Pence is among the officials with whom he has discussed the special counsel's Russia investigation.  (The Washington Post, 01.29.19, AP, 01.28.19)
  • Prosecutors working with special counsel Robert Mueller claimed Jan. 30 that more than 1,000 non-sensitive files turned over to the defense team for indicted Russian company Concord Management and Consulting were leaked by hackers in a cyber-disinformation campaign that appeared to be aimed at discrediting the government's investigations of "Russian interference in the U.S. political system." (The Washington Post, 01.31.19)
  • “Russia’s social media efforts will continue to focus on aggravating social and racial tensions, undermining trust in authorities and criticizing perceived anti-Russia politicians. Moscow may employ additional influence toolkits—such as spreading disinformation, conducting hack-and-leak operations or manipulating data—in a more targeted fashion to influence U.S. policy, actions and elections,” according to the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment produced by U.S. intelligence leaders. (, 01.29.19)
  • Twitter revealed Jan. 31 that it had removed thousands of malicious accounts thought to have originated in Iran, Russia and Venezuela for spreading disinformation online, including previously undisclosed efforts to target the 2018 U.S. midterm election. (The Washington Post, 01.31.19)
  • Facebook says it is beefing up its rules and safeguards regarding political advertisements to "prevent foreign interference" in elections in Europe and elsewhere. (RFE/RL, 01.28.19)
  • Anastasia Vashukevich, a Belarusian model who claims to have information on ties between Russia and the Trump campaign told The Associated Press on Feb. 1 that she has turned that material over to Russian billionaire businessman Oleg Deripaska. (AP, 02.01.19)

Energy exports:

  • The construction of the first line of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will be completed in November 2019, the second in December, said Paul Corcoran, company financial director, at the European Gas Conference on Jan. 29. (TASS 01.29.19)
  • Russia has cut its crude output by 50,000 barrels per day from October levels in January, and expects to accelerate the pace of reduction next month as it aims to gradually remove more barrels from the market under its deal with the OPEC+ coalition, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Jan. 30. (Financial Times, 01.29.19)

Bilateral economic ties:

  • The launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket set to carry satellites into space for a U.S. startup has been delayed after an "anomaly" was discovered on the spacecraft, the OneWeb company says. (RFE/RL, 01.31.19)
  • Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned gas company, plans to issue the first dollar-denominated Russian corporate bonds for the past year, despite widespread concerns over potential new U.S. sanctions against Russia. (Financial Times, 01.31.19)

Other bilateral issues:

  • “Although we judge that Putin and other elites would like to see cooperation with the United States where U.S. and Russian interests overlap, they view publicly blaming the United States for internal challenges as good politics,” according to the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment produced by U.S. intelligence leaders. (, 01.29.19)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump sat down with Russian President Vladimir Putin for several minutes of conversation at the end of an evening event at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires in November, with no translator or note-taker from the U.S. side. According to a Russian government official’s account, the two leaders spoke for about 15 minutes about a number of foreign policy issues, including the Azov Sea incident and the conflict in Syria. They also discussed when they could have a formal meeting, the official said. (Financial Times, 01.29.19)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump's administration on Jan. 27 lifted sanctions on aluminum giant Rusal and other Russian firms linked to oligarch Oleg Deripaska, defying a Democratic-led push in the U.S. Congress to maintain the restrictions. (Reuters, 01.28.19)
    • Congressional Democrats are pushing to get documents from the U.S. Treasury Department about its decision to lift financial sanctions on companies connected to Deripaska. (RFE/RL, 01.30.19)
    • The CIA says it didn't raise any concerns over the lifting of sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department on three companies linked to Deripaska. CIA Director Gina Haspel told a Senate hearing on Jan. 29 that the agency only provided information about Deripaska to the Treasury as it deliberated on what to do. (RFE/RL, 01.29.19)
  • Russia’s Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov claimed on Jan. 28 that Western intelligence agencies had "prepared scenarios" for civil unrest in Russia’s Volga Federal District,. (The Moscow Times, 01.29.19)
  • A delegation of high-profile donors, boosters and board members from the National Rifle Association traveled to Russia in 2015. Now the NRA is seeking to distance itself from the trip, after revelations that a Russian woman who helped arrange it, Maria Butina, was conspiring to infiltrate the organization. (New York Times, 01.29.19)
  • Head of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Alexander Sergeev has announced that the leadership of RAS will visit the U.S. in March and sign a cooperation agreement with the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Kommersant reported. In what Sergeev describes as “reset,” U.S. and Russian scientists plan to discuss cooperation in space, medical and oceanic research during the meeting, but will refrain from discussing non-proliferation and counter-terrorism issues. (Russia Matters, 01.29.19)

II. Russia’s domestic news

Politics, economy and energy:

  • Real incomes in Russia fell 0.2 percent last year and the government expects another slide this year. Average Russians already have 13 percent less to spend than in 2013. (Financial Times, 01.30.19)
  • The share of Russians who think their country is going in the wrong direction has grown to a high of 45 percent, according to a new poll published by the Levada Center. (The Moscow Times, 02.01.19)
  • “The Russian economy’s slow growth and most Russians’ disapproval of government officials’ performance will foster a more challenging political environment for the Kremlin, although its centralized power structure and the resonance of anti-American themes will buoy Putin,” according to the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment produced by U.S. intelligence leaders. (, 01.29.19)
  • Russia’s Transportation Ministry says handling of cargo by Russia's Arctic ports increased by 26.4 percent in 2018 to total 92.7 million tons, including 30 million tons of dry cargo (an increase of merely 4 percent) and 62.3 million tons of liquid cargo (a growth of whooping total of 40 percent). (Russia Matters, 02.01.19)
  • Russia ranked 138th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index released on Jan. 29, down from 135th last year. (The Moscow Times, 01.29.19)
  • According to a study by Deloitte in 2015 cited by columnist Leonid Berhidsky, 73 percent of Russia’s 120 top public companies had a majority shareholder; 34 of the 120 were state-controlled. (Bloomberg, 01.28.19)

Defense and aerospace:

  • In its latest survey, 56 percent of Russian respondents told Levada that they think the threat of war with other countries is real. Another 39 percent said they doubt that there is a threat of military conflict. Meanwhile, a record 88 percent of respondents expressed confidence that the Russian armed forces were “ready to defend the country in the event of a real military threat.” (The Moscow Times, 01.30.19)
  • “In 2019, we assess that Russia will continue to modernize the entire military but particularly will make progress in its air defense, submarine and electronic warfare capabilities,” according to the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment produced by U.S. intelligence leaders. (, 01.29.19)
  • The Russian army held a parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the lifting of the Siege of Leningrad, today's St. Petersburg. (RFE/RL, 01.27.19)

Security, law-enforcement and justice:

  • Russia’s Justice Ministry has proposed to stop punishing officials implicated in bribery or other acts of corruption under “exceptional circumstances” in new draft legislation, following a plan set by Russian President Vladimir Putin last year. (The Moscow Times, 01.29.19)
  • A Moscow district court has ordered the detention of the father of a ruling-party lawmaker who is being held on murder charges by authorities who suspect he was behind two contract killings in the North Caucasus region of Karachai-Cherkessia in 2010. With the Jan. 31 ruling, Raul Arashukov, an adviser at a Gazprom subsidiary and the father of upper parliament house member Rauf Arashukov, will be held until March 30. (RFE/RL, 02.01.19)
  • Multiple bomb threats have prompted the evacuation of thousands of people from administrative buildings, hospitals, and schools across Siberia, local media reports say. (RFE/RL, 01.28.19)

III. Foreign affairs, trade and investment

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

  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has told U.S. diplomats that he wants his country to be “neutral, like Austria,” as Washington pushes for a tougher line on Russia and China, deepening fears that a longtime American ally is drifting from its orbit. A senior Hungarian official said Orban strongly objects to U.S. pressure aimed at curbing the influence of Moscow and Beijing in Europe. (Wall Street Journal, 01.27.19)
  • Over three-quarters of Russians have said they oppose handing a chain of Pacific islands to Japan as the countries seek to resolve a long-standing territorial dispute, according to a state-funded poll released by VTsIOM on Jan. 28. (The Moscow Times, 01.28.19)
  • "Together with other responsible members of the world community, we will do everything to support the legal government of President Maduro in standing up for the Venezuelan Constitution," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this week. However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there were no discussions in government to extend major financial or military assistance to keep Maduro in power. Peskov also said Moscow had not yet received a message from Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who said he had sent a communication to Russia. (RFE/RL, 01.29.19, Wall Street Journal, 01.28.19, The Washington Post, 01.29.19, Reuters, 02.01.19)
  • Russia's Finance Ministry acknowledged Jan. 29 that Venezuela's loan repayments to Moscow may run into some head winds. Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak said it is not clear whether a $100 million payment due in March will arrive on time. (The Washington Post, 01.29.19, Reuters, 01.29.19)
  • The unusual arrival of a Russian passenger plane in Caracas has set social media abuzz with rumors about its mission after the Kremlin pledged to support its ally Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro against a U.S.-backed effort to drive him from office. The Kremlin has denied reports that private military contractors who carry out secret missions for Russia flew into Venezuela to reinforce security for its leader in the face of mass protests. (AFP, 01.30.19, The Moscow Times, 01.28.19)
  • Six Russian sailors held hostage by pirates have been freed in Nigeria a month after they were captured in neighboring Benin. (Reuters, 01.31.19)
  • Russia's state communications regulator said on Jan. 31 that the BBC World News channel had committed "certain violations" while operating in Russia, Russian news agencies reported. (Reuters, 01.31.19)


  • Russia and China are competing more intensely with the United States in "a race for technological and military superiority," Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats told a Senate panel Jan. 29. The two U.S. adversaries "are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s," Coats said in his prepared remarks before the Senate Intelligence Committee. (The Washington Post, 01.29.19)
  • The annual Worldwide Threat Assessment produced by the U.S. intelligence community said that “as China and Russia seek to expand their global influence, they are eroding once well established security norms and increasing the risk of regional conflicts, particularly in the Middle East and East Asia.” It added that “the two countries have significantly expanded their cooperation, especially in the energy, military, and technology spheres, since 2014.” (, 01.29.19)
  • "For the foreseeable future, we are going to be very close partners, de facto allies with China, even though there will never be a formal alliance," said Sergei Karaganov, a former Kremlin adviser, of Russia’s relations with China. Russia depends on China's economy and partly on its military heft, he said. "Meanwhile, without relying on Russia, China would not have been able to remain steadfast in what is unfortunately becoming its inevitable confrontation with the United States." (Wall Street Journal, 02.01.19)
  • "China and Russia have different attitudes. Russia wants to break the current international order," said Shi Ze, a former Chinese diplomat in Moscow who is now a senior fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, a think-tank affiliated with the country's Foreign Ministry. "Russia thinks it is the victim of the current international system, in which its economy and its society do not develop. But China benefits from the current international system. We want to improve and modify it, not to break it." (Wall Street Journal, 02.01.19)


  • The Trump administration is considering new sanctions against Russia over its detention of 24 Ukrainian sailors seized in November, including penalties against Russian ships, the U.S. envoy to Ukraine said Jan. 31. Kurt Volker said the European Union also is looking at sanctions. He said potential targets were Russian ships or vessels that service Russian ports in the Sea of Azov, which borders Ukraine and Russia. (Wall Street Journal, 02.01.19)
  • The European Union has again called on Russia to immediately and unconditionally release the 24 Ukrainian Navy sailors seized along with their three naval vessels last year near the Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. (RFE/RL, 01.30.19)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin on Jan. 31 accused the government in Kiev of flagrantly meddling in the life of Orthodoxy in Ukraine where a new national church has broken away from Moscow's orbit. Putin said that Russia reserved the right to defend people's rights to worship. The Ukrainian Orthodox population accounts for about 30 percent of all Orthodox Christian believers under Moscow’s patriarchate, according to Loyola University Chicago professor Michael Khodarkovsky. (New York Times, 01.22.19, Reuters, 01.31.19)
  • Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has announced he will seek reelection in the March presidential election, and vowed to press for European Union and NATO membership. "We will submit a bid to join the European Union in 2024," Poroshenko said, adding that Ukraine would also take further steps to join NATO if he was reelected.  (RFE/RL, 01.29.19)
  • “Russia is taking steps to influence these (March 31 Ukrainian presidential) elections, applying a range of tools to exert influence and exploit Kyiv’s fragile economy, widespread corruption, cyber vulnerabilities, and public discontent in hopes of ousting Poroshenko and bringing to power a less anti-Russia parliament,” according to the annual worldwide threat assessment produced by the U.S. intelligence leaders. (, 01.29.19)
  • Russia may try to use cyberattacks in order to influence the presidential elections in Ukraine, Daniel Coats, the director of the U.S. National Intelligence said on Tuesday. (Interfax, 01.29.19)
  • Over a half of polled Ukrainians support the cessation of the war in Donbass even under the condition of relinquishing the certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Oleksiy Borovskiy, the director of the Seetarget polling institution, said. "Of course, we need peace with Russia. [Let it be] cold, but peace," Petro Poroshenko said. The Kremlin on Jan. 30 claimed that Russia is not at war with Ukraine, in a response to Poroshenko’s recent call for a “cold peace.” (Interfax, 01.29.19, Interfax, 01.29.19)
  • “We assess that a major offensive by either Ukraine or Russian proxy forces is operationally feasible but unlikely in 2019, unless one side perceives the other is seriously challenging the status quo,” according to the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment produced by U.S. intelligence leaders. (, 01.29.19)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors:

  • Five Tajik women have been sentenced to life in prison in Iraq after being found guilty of belonging to the extremist group Islamic State.  (RFE/RL, 02.01.19)
  • A group of ethnic Kazakhs originally from China have urged the U.S. and Russian presidents to help secure the release of their relatives whom they say are being held at so-called “reeducation camps” in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang. (RFE/RL, 01.28.19)
  • A woman in Kyrgyzstan has been arrested and charged with inciting ethnic hatred during a protest against Beijing's policies in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang. (RFE/RL, 01.29.19)
  • Turkmenistan says it will privatize much of the state-owned transport system and gradually end funding for the country's Academy of Sciences as it looks to bolster its struggling economy and save money amid a continuing slump in its energy sector. (RFE/RL, 01.29.19)
  • Turkmenistan scored worst of all countries in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region on Transparency Internation’s new Corruptions Perception Index, placing 161st with a score of 20, followed by Uzbekistan (23), which placed 158th. Georgia led the way for the entire region with a score of 58, making it 41st on the list.. (RFE/RL, 01.29.19)
  • “Tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region remains a potential source for a large-scale military conflict that might draw in Russia,” according to the annual worldwide threat assessment produced by the U.S. intelligence leaders. (, 01.29.19)
  • The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled Thursday that Russia must compensate Georgian nationals who were rounded up and deported more than a decade ago. Russia must pay Georgia 10 million euros ($11.5 million) for deporting at least 1,500 Georgian nationals, the ECHR held on Thursday. (The Moscow Times, 01.31.19)

IV. Quoteworthy

  • No significant developments.