Eurasian Affairs – April 2020

Ukrainian president Volodimyr Zelensky speaks to the Ukrainian parliment while wearing a mask.

Eurasian Affairs looks at the wide expanse of Eurasia and particularly focuses on those issues affecting relations between Eurasian states and the US and/or with Russia. Also of specific interest within that focus are issues that might affect global economic, human rights, or military concerns.

This free resource from GeoHistory serves to track and analyze these issues as they develop.


Oil Price War

What’s after the OPEC+ deal
The new OPEC+ deal will help stabilize the oil market, although a substantial increase in the price for the black gold should not be expected, experts told Izvestia, a major Russian newspaper.

Russia hails oil deal it says will save millions of
The global oil production deal clinched at the weekend will help establish a price floor and save millions of jobs in the United States, senior Russian officials said on April 13.

OPEC+ cuts deep into global supply, but not deep enough
OPEC and its allies have agreed a 9.7mn barrels per day cut in production, or just under 10% of global production, but with demand down by a third analysts say its is not enough to lift prices.

Saudi Arabia And Russia Fight Bitter Market Share Battle As Oil Prices Collapse
The price war Saudi Arabia started after Russia refused to reduce output in early March has decimated budgets of energy-dependent countries and oil companies. Riyadh and Moscow are playing with fire.

Russia Expects A Protracted Oil Price Plunge
Even though the new OPEC+ deal is set to come into force this week, oil prices will not rise much in the near future because of very high global inventories, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said in an article published in the ministry’s publication Energy Policy on April 28.


Coronavirus in Eurasia

Who is most exposed to remittances stop-shock?
The global crisis has caused an all-time record $83bn to flee emerging markets, but for the poorest countries the problem is not investors making for the door – they never had that many in the first place – but the sudden halt to the cash their migrant workers are sending home to their families.

Digital lockdown
As the virus spreads around the globe — reaching over 1mn confirmed cases worldwide in early April — methods of keeping people in quarantine and enforcing social distancing have moved on to the digital age.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Rejects Suggestion of Using the Pandemic to Expand Political Influence
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that suggestions from some in the West that Russia had opaque motives for helping Italy respond to the virus resulted from “Russophobia”.



        – Nuclear

Russia Upgrades Facility to Produce RS-28 Sarmat ICBM
Russia has reportedly upgraded production facilities to mass-produce its latest intercontinental-range ballistic missile.

Russia’s View on Nuclear Arms Control: An Interview With Ambassador Anatoly Antonov
Arms Control Today conducted a written interview in early March with Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the United States on issues including the current status of U.S.-Russian strategic security talks, the future of New START, talks on intermediate-range missile systems, engaging China in arms control, and President Vladimir Putin’s proposal for a summit of the leaders of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

US ready for arms control talks with Russia, China if they meet its criteria 
“The President has directed us to think more broadly than New START and include both China and Russia in our next steps,” the US Department of State spokesperson said.

Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreement and Commitments
The executive summary of the 2020 compliance report issued by the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance.

Russia to hold about 10 more test launches of Tsirkon hypersonic missile
According to the source, the trials will be held in 2020-2021.


Central Asia 

Uzbek president orders $3.1 bln central bank support package
The move is designed to help companies maintain output despite the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Uzbekistan shores up food defenses as coronavirus rages
Uzbekistan has long prided itself on being the breadbasket of Central Asia, but the unfurling of the coronavirus crisis has raised concerns that the country may be poised to endure troubles with food security.

Human rights coalition rejects Uzbekistan’s call to end cotton boycott amid pandemic
The Cotton Campaign coalition of human rights groups has said it would be premature to lift a longstanding global boycott of Uzbek cotton and textiles as called for by Tashkent. The government of Uzbekistan requested the move to help the country deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Kyrgyzstan’s sewing industry reorients to survive coronavirus slump
Some enterprising souls have seized the moment to keep their businesses alive. Their main problem now is government flip-flopping and bureaucratic hurdles.

Tajikistan closes schools, suspends food exports due to coronavirus
Tajikistan is closing schools for two weeks to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and temporarily banning exports of grains and pulses to ensure sufficient supplies at home, the Central Asian nation’s government said on April 25.

Uzbekistan builds 10,000-bed infectious disease hospital
Uzbekistan is preparing to open the first part of a 10,000-bed infectious diseases hospital outside the capital Tashkent as it tries to curb the spread of the coronavirus, a project contractor said on April 22.



Lavrov stirs the pot in Armenia and Azerbaijan
Some hard talk from the Russian foreign minister has led to recriminations in Yerevan and the prospect of Azerbaijan’s foreign minister getting sacked.

Four banks in Azerbaijan go under administration as pandemic and oil crisis impacts hit home
Azerbaijan’s central bank on April 27 placed four of the country’s top banks under temporary administration with the asphyxiating economic effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic clearly being felt by the country’s financial sector.



EBRD drops a COVID-19 dambuster on Russian sanctions
A modest investment by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in a Russian travel company may prove to be the sanctions dambuster that the Kremlin has been longing for.

Polish President Duda to win second term by landslide in May election shunned by most voters
Incumbent Polish President Andrzej Duda is on course for a knock-out victory in the first round of the presidential election scheduled for May 10, two opinion polls showed this week.

        – Ukraine

Ukraine MPs seek record high number of amendments to IMF-demanded banking law
Seven Ukrainian Rada deputies are seeking to sabotage the so-called anti-Kolomoisky banking bill by submitting a record 16,000-plus amendments before its second of three readings.

Ukraine: wildfires draw dangerously close to Chernobyl site
Wildfires in Ukraine have spread to just over a mile from the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant and a disposal site for radioactive waste, according to activists, as more than 300 firefighters work to contain the blaze.

World Bank to provide additional $135 mln for Ukraine health care
The World Bank has approved an additional loan of $135 million to support reforms in Ukraine’s health care system, of which $35 million will be used to fight the novel coronavirus, the bank’s Ukrainian representative office said on April 28.

Ukraine revises grain forecast to 60mn tonnes due to crisis, dry weather
An exceptional dry spring and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are both likely to reduce the size of Ukraine’s grain harvest this year, says the Agricultural Ministry, which is forecasting 60mn tonnes for the year, down from last year’s bumper 75mn tonne harvest.

Just how painful would a sovereign debt default be for Ukraine?
Ukraine is going into recession thanks to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at a time when it still does not have a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but still has to repay $4.1bn of debt this year from its meagre supply of hard currency reserves. A debt default has become a real possibility. But just how much pain would that cause?



The US Hitches Its Final Ride to Space From Russia—for Now
April 9’s launch to the space station will mark the end of America’s dependence on Russia for human spaceflight, but NASA may buy more seats on Soyuz rockets.

Russia can send more aid to US to fight coronavirus if asked
Russia is willing to consider sending a new shipment of equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE) to the United States to fight coronavirus if Washington makes such a request, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on April 14 during an online video interview with Russian and foreign media representatives.

What Does Russia Want From the United States?
The coronavirus pandemic is another opportunity that Moscow is using to engage Washington in an attempt to break through the logjams in their relationship.

The Coronavirus Won’t Make Putin Play Nice
Even as the economic impact of the pandemic deepens, Putin is unlikely to walk back his signature interventions abroad.

US authorities taking effort to ensure return of Russian schoolchildren
The US Department of State is working with private sponsors of programs for Russian schoolchildren to ensure their safe return to Russia, the US embassy in Moscow told TASS on April 14.

Trump and Putin issue rare joint statement promoting cooperation
U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin issued a rare joint statement on April 25 commemorating a 1945 World War Two link-up of U.S. and Soviet troops on their way to defeat Nazi Germany as an example of how their countries can cooperate.



Exposing the Disinformation Industry
The Reframing Russia team investigates the cases of alleged disinformation in the Russian news media.

IMF to the rescue
A total of 85 countries have applied to the IMF for help counter the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, including nine countries from emerging Europe and Central Asia.

Slump in remittances to be twice as deep in CEE/Eurasia as during Great Recession
Global remittances are heading for the worst slump in recent history, with a decline of around 20% forecast this year, a new World Bank report says.

Coronavirus: European Commission proposes €3 billion macro-financial assistance package to support ten neighbouring countries
The proposal comes on top of the ‘Team Europe’ strategy, the EU’s robust and targeted response to support partner countries’ efforts in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

Russia–U.S.: No Reset, Just Guardrails
Russia’s top priority should be to carefully maintain equilibrium— though not equidistance — between the United States and China.



‘Aggressive expropriation attempt’: Russia blasts Trump’s order declaring space up for grabs by Americans
The US has declared outer space a legal equivalent of the Wild West, and Russia believes it may lead to the grimmest of consequences like many policies of territorial expansion did in the past.


About the Author

Alex Sitnikov

Alex holds a BA in Teaching Russian as a Foreign Language (RFL) and is currently on his way to get an MA in Translation. He came to Moscow from Tolyatti to study at Lomonosov Moscow State University in 2013 and has been in love with the city ever since. In March 2018 Alex joined SRAS to help coordinate student activities in Moscow. When he’s not occupied with that, Alex likes to play guitar and read.