Eurasian Affairs- December, 2018

Nikol Pashinyan and Vladimir Putin. Relations between Armenia and Russia have been largely unaffected by Armenia's recent revolutionary political shift. Picture from Kremlin.ru.

Eurasian Affairs looks at the wide expanse of Eurasia, but 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 in Eurasia.

Caucasus and Central Asia

Pashinian Alliance Scores ‘Revolutionary Majority’ In Landslide Armenian Win
Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s alliance scored a landslide victory in Armenia’s snap parliamentary elections, capturing more than 70 percent of the vote and giving the Caucasus nation what he called a “revolutionary majority.”

Armenian Voters Deliver Landslide Victory to Revolutionary Leaders
The formerly ruling Republican Party was shut out of parliament, leaving the new government with no true opposition.

Official: Azeri President, Acting Armenian PM Converse in Russia
President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan has had a conversation with the acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on the sidelines of an informal meeting of the CIS heads of state in St. Petersburg, said Hikmet Hajiyev, an aide to the Azerbaijani President.

Now the Hard Part Starts for Nikol Pashinian, Armenia’s Robin Hood
To say that ‘velvet revolutionary’ Nikol Pashinian is riding high right now would be to make what would have to go down as the understatement of the Armenian year. Having toppled the government back in the spring with massive, unrelenting street protests over cronyism and corruption, Pashinian on December 9 led the My Step Alliance bloc to a crushing victory that will reshape the composition of Armenia’s parliament. But, as he well knows, the hard part starts now.

Kennan Cable No. 38: Talking Up Terrorism in Central Asia
On July 29th, 2018 two American, one Dutch, and one Swiss cyclist were killed in southern Tajikistan. Two days later Amaq, the Islamic State’s media outlet, published a video of the attackers pledging allegiance to the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and stating their aim to “establish the Almighty’s rule on this land.” This was the first attack on Western tourists in the region in almost 20 years and the first attack within the region to be convincingly linked to ISIS.

Europe

Russia Outmaneuvers U.S. LNG
For years, boosters of U.S. LNG have trumpeted the fact that gas exports from the Gulf of Mexico could break Russia’s grip on the European energy market. That has yet to be the case, and in fact, Russia has managed to respond with various strategies to maintain its market share on the continent

Poland and Denmark give Baltic Pipe Gas Link Final Go-Ahead
Poland and Denmark have made a final decision to carry out the construction of Baltic Pipe, a key energy infrastructure project that is set to reduce Poland’s dependence on Russian gas imports, investor companies Gaz-System and Denmark’s Energinet said on November 30.

Poland to Lead the World’s Last-Ditch Effort to Weaken Climate Change
For the next two weeks, representatives of the world’s nearly 200 countries are meeting in the Polish mining town of Katowice for the United Nations’ annual climate change summit, the COP24.

Russia Warns Cyprus Against Allowing U.S. Military to Deploy There
Russia on Wednesday warned authorities in Cyprus not to allow the U.S. military to deploy on their territory, saying such a move would draw a Russian reaction and result in “dangerous and desilizing consequences” for the Mediterranean island.

Infrastructure Freeze Be Damned! Turkey to Build $16bn Canal Istanbul
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on December 6 vowed to go ahead with the $16bn and 45-km-long Canal Istanbul project connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. His declaration came despite earlier pledges that amid Turkey’s economic difficulties the government would rein in state infrastructure investments for the sake of austerity and fiscal prudence.

Warsaw’s Controversial New Holocaust Museum to Present ‘Polish Narrative’
Critics say the appointment of an Israeli, Daniel Blatman, as chief historian of the planned Warsaw Ghetto Museum provides a fig leaf for an attempt to distort history

Czech Spy Agency Blames Russia for Cyberattacks on Foreign Ministry, Diplomats
The Czech spy agency said it is “obvious” that Russia was behind two recent cyberattack campaigns against the Foreign Ministry and the country’s diplomats.

More Sanctions Please: Russia-EU Trade Turnover Surges by Almost 22%
The volume of trade between Russia and the European Union (EU) has been steadily growing since the beginning of 2017 despite mutual sanctions introduced almost five years ago, said Russian ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov.

Global

Russia, Turkey, Iran Fail in Push for New Syrian Constitution
Stakeholders fail to agree on the makeup of a Syrian constitutional committee amid calls to convene next year.

Image of Putin, Russia Suffers Internationally
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to re-eslish Russia as a consequential world power appear to have borne at least some fruit: The prevailing view in a new 25-country poll by Pew Research Center is that Russia plays a more important role in international affairs than it did a decade ago. But increased stature does not mean being better liked. The same survey finds that views of Putin and the Russian Federation are largely negative.

Poland Climate Talks Stumble to Finish Line to Achieve Deal
Crucial negotiations on how to impede growth of global temperatures stumbled across the finish line in Katowice, Poland, on December 15, as nearly 200 governments agreed on a common set of rules to guide their climate policies.

Foreign Policy Experts Map Russia’ Grand Designs for 2019
Russia stands accused of meddling in Western elections, cosying up to dictatorial regimes in the Middle East and supporting fringe political groups within the European Union. What exactly does Russia have in store for the world in 2019? The Moscow Times asked six experts in Russia’s foreign policy to weigh in.

Military

Is a Russian Military Operation Against Ukraine Likely in the Near Future?
Expectations of an attack are based on three disparate sets of information, if we can charitably call them that, which are seemingly being woven together by various outlets, blogs, and sites like ISW who warn of Russian preparations for an imminent attack.

Vladimir Putin’s Busy, Bloody, and Expensive 2019
Russia experts look at recent events and peer into the future.

US Warship Challenges Russia Claims in Sea of Japan
The US Navy sailed the guided missile destroyer USS McCampbell near contested waters in the Sea of Japan Wednesday, an action that is bound to irk Russia.

In Warning to Russia, US Flies Open Skies Aircraft Over Ukrainian Territory
The U.S. has conducted an Open Skies flight over Ukrainian territory, in what the Pentagon is calling an explicit message to Russia that America remains committed to Ukraine’s defense.

Russia Holds Drills in Black Sea Region Amid Ukraine Tensions
Russia is holding naval and surface-to-air missile drills in the Black Sea region amid tensions with Ukraine and the West over the capture of three Ukrainian naval ships and their crews off the coast of Crimea last month.

US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control: Creating a Flexible, Effective Foreign Policy Tool
Arms transfers are a central pillar of America’s international security cooperation, and they are also an important part of the American economy. This dual role as a tool of both foreign policy and economic security — combined with the unique nature of the goods and services involved — makes arms transfer policy uniquely complex.

    New Weapons

The GPS Wars are Here
Location-based services are universal, critical, and horribly vulnerable.

Russian Defense Ministry Unveils New Laser Weapon
Russia’s Defense Ministry has unveiled a new laser weapons system, the latest in a series of advanced offensive systems that the Kremlin has pledged to pursue.

Putin Lauds Successful Test of Hypersonic Missile System
Russia has successfully tested its new Avangard hypersonic missile, the Kremlin said on December 26.

     INF

Russia Proposes UN Resolution to Preserve INF Treaty
Russia has submitted a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly in support of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The resolution follows the United States’ decision to withdraw from the landmark agreement of the final days of the Cold War arms race.

Russia Ready to Discuss Inspections with U.S. on Arms Treaty: RIA
Russia is ready to discuss mutual inspections with the United States in order to save the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, RIA news agency cited Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs as saying on Friday.

Standoff Over INF Treaty Enters New Phase As U.S. Reveals Details of Russian Missile
The United States’ top intelligence official has quietly revealed key new details about Russia’s alleged violations of a bedrock Cold War nuclear treaty, an unexpected move that comes as U.S. officials push to build new support fron European allies.

Putin: Russia Will Make Banned Missiles if U.S. Exits Arms Treaty
Russia will develop missiles now banned under the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty if the United States exits the arms control pact and starts making such weapons, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

Russia Says it Won’t Let U.S. See Missile at Heart of Nuclear Dispute
Russia said on Wednesday it would not let the United States inspect a new nuclear-capable cruise missile at the heart of a dispute between Washington and Moscow that risks unraveling a landmark arms control treaty.

Ukraine

Russia Partially Unblocks Sea of Azov Ports, Ukraine takes its Complaints to International Bodies
Russia has partially unlocked Ukrainian ports on the Azov Sea, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan said on December 3, reports Reuters.

Will Ukraine’s President Follow Erdogan’s Emergency Powers Playbook?
Following the attempted coup in Turkey in July 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wasted little time in declaring a state of emergency to deal with the crisis. The move granted him sweeping powers. However, over the next two years, as observers kept pointing out that it was time to lift the emergency regime, the parliament, under the sway of Erdogan, kept extending it. Only after Erdogan locked in most of his newly acquired powers, by becoming Turkey’s first executive president thanks to the June 2018 presidential election, was the state of emergency ended.

Ukraine Says It Will Send Naval Ships Through Kerch Strait Soon
Ukraine’s defense ministry warned Russia on Friday that it will soon send navy ships through the Kerch Strait, where Russia fired on and seized three Ukrainian vessels two weeks ago.

Rada Approves Shoot-on-Sight Rules of Engagement for Coast Guard
Ukraine’s parliament has voted to allow the Maritime Border Guard to open fire without warning if the force’s vessels come under unprovoked attack while patrolling the country’s territorial waters.

IMF Board of Directors Signs Off on Ukraine’s $3.9bn Stand-By Agreement
The board of Ukraine’s main donor, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), signed off on the badly needed $3.9bn Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) at a meeting on December 18.

39-year old Metropolitan Epiphanius Elected Head of Ukrainian Orthodox Church
The first Primate of the new Ukrainian Autocephalous Church is elected at a Council of Unification in Kiev.

Ukraine Announces Creation of Independent Church, Selects Leader
Ukrainian Orthodox leaders have agreed on the creation of a new national Orthodox church and elected a leader to head that church, a move that Ukraine’s leaders say is vital to the country’s security and independence but could raise tensions further with Moscow.

Outlook 2019 Ukraine
The political agenda in Ukraine will be dominated in 2019 by the two elections, for president on March 31 and the Verkhovna Rada in October.

Russia Says Crimea Barrier is Complete
Russian authorities say they have finished building a barrier dividing the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow forcibly seized in 2014, from mainland Ukraine.

     Elections

Tymoshenko Keeps Leading Among Ukraine Presidential Candidates, New Survey Says
Ukraine’s opposition leader, former prime minister and leader of the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party Yulia Tymoshenko retains her leading position among candidates for the 2019 presidential election in a new survey, conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) released on December 7.

Timothy Ash Trip Notes from Kyiv: Elections Headed for a Tymoshenko Win and No War with Russia
I visited Kyiv this week, meeting with politicians, diplomats, journalists and members of the business community.

Ukrainian Opposition Leader Tymoshenko Massively Outspending Her Rivals in the 2019 Presidential Race
“Opposition leader, former prime minister and head of Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party Yulia Tymoshenko is spending over seven times as much as her main rival in the 2019 presidential race, incumbent President Petro Poroshenko.”

Seven Out of Ten Ukrainians Ready to Vote in March 2019 Presidential Election
Seven out of ten Ukrainians say they are ready to vote in the presidential election in March 2019, according to a poll by sociological group Rating on behalf of the International Republican Institute, Ukrinform.net reports.

US

Russia’s Peskov Shares 2016 Emails From Ex-Trump Lawyer Cohen
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov revealed two emails on Friday from U.S. President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty the previous day to lying to Congress about a project in Moscow.

Maria Butina, Accused Russian Agent, Reaches Plea Deal with Prosecutors that Includes Cooperation
Maria Butina, a 30-year-old Russian gun rights activist who stands accused developing a covert influence operation in the United States, has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and cooperate with federal, state and local authorities in any ongoing investigations.

Maria Butina and the Criminalization of Citizen Diplomacy
Prosecuting Butina endangers NGO activists in both Russia and the US.

Head of US Cyber Firm that Meddled in Alabama Race Tried to Blame it on Russia
Facebook suspended on Saturday five accounts run by multiple people who used the platform to weaponize disinformation in the 2017 Alabama special election for US Senate.

Secretive State Department Offensive Targets Propaganda, ‘Deep Fakes’
The State Department is ramping up a secretive counter-propaganda center to fight Russian disinformation efforts in nearly two dozen nations as part of what Trump administration officials say is an expanding push to crush Moscow’s “fake news” influence operations around the world.

US Ready to Cancel Sanctions on Russian Rusal Aluminum Major
Aluminum major Rusial could see sanctions lifted within 30 days after a deal was made with Russian billionaire and Kremlin insider Oleg Deripaska to significantly reduce his stake in the company, the US Treasury Department (USTD) said in a statement on December 19.

How One Woman’s Citizen Diplomacy has Strengthened US-Russia Ties for Decades
Sharon Tennison has been credited with helping to break the cold-war ice. And her mission isn’t over: She thinks the official rhetoric on both sides today is harsher than it was at the depths of the cold war.

About the Author

Morgan Henson
Morgan Henson is a second year dual-degree master’s student at the University of Texas at Austin. He is studying Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies and Global Policy Studies. As a Home and Abroad Scholar, he is focusing on policy issues in Eurasia. The scholarship will help fund his participation in SRAS’s Economic Development in the Russian Far East program at Vladivostok State University of Economics and Services during the Spring 2019 Semester. In his free time, Morgan enjoys watching movies and exploring new locations.