Eurasian Affairs – December 2019

Vladimir Putin, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Vladimir Zelenskiy at the Normandy Four summit in 2019Vladimir Putin, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Vladimir Zelenskiy at the Normandy Four summit in 2019

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.

 

Global

IMF says Mongolia’s livestock industry faces climate change and overgrazing threats
Mongolia’s livestock industry, once the primary engine of the country’s economy, is facing threats from climate change and overgrazing, according to a report from the the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The national and regional costs to economic growth and inequality will continue to grow without prompy policy action, it added.

 

Military

Fire at Russia’s only aircraft carrier kills one, injures 12 people
At least one military serviceman was killed and 12 people were injured by a fire at Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, Russian news agencies reported on Thursday, December 12.

Russia Has Stopped Buzzing US Ships and Aircraft in Europe, General Says
Russia has not harassed U.S. ships and aircraft in Europe and the Mediterranean for the past three months in what appears to be an effort to avoid incidents that could escalate into conflict, NATO Supreme Commander Gen. Tod Wolters said on Tuesday, December 10.

Why Russian Military Expenditure Is Much Higher Than Commonly Understood (as is China’s)
Gresham’s Law states that bad money drives out good money, but anyone who has spent time around Washington, D.C., knows that this law can safely be applied to information too — bad information tends to drive out good information. Such is the case with America’s assessments of other countries’ military and economic power..

Russian Private Military Companies: Continuity and Evolution of the Model
Russian private military companies or contractors (PMCs) have received much attention in recent years, but he Russian state has a long history in utilizing such groups. Under Vladimir Putin, however, this model is growing, evolving, and expanding.

     – Nuclear

Putin offers US an immediate extension to key nuclear pact
Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to immediately extend the only remaining nuclear arms reduction pact with the United States, but a senior U.S. official said Washington wants a broader deal involving China.

Pentagon Test-Fires 2nd INF-Banned Missile
The United States has test-launched a second missile banned by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, which the Trump administration withdrew from earlier this year.

U.S. Senators Request Intelligence Review On Not Extending Nuclear Arms Treaty With Russia
Three U.S. senators have asked Joseph Maguire, the acting director of National Intelligence, to conduct an impact assessment of how Russia and China would react if Washington withdraws from the last remaining nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

Lockheed awards $81.5M contract for hypersonic missile motor
Lockheed Martin has selected Aerojet Rocketdyne to provide a solid-fuel rocket motor for a hypersonic missile meant for the U.S. Air Force, according to a December 17 news release.

America, You’re Not Listening to Us
Russia’s ambassador: We’re ready for urgently needed security dialogue — when our U.S. counterparts are ready to engage in good faith.

Putin’s Hypersonic Nuclear Missile Stirs Fears of Arms Race
A new hypersonic nuclear missile that Russia says it has deployed is fueling concerns of a new arms race with the U.S. as the clock ticks down on the expiry of the last treaty limiting the strategic arsenals of the two former Cold War foes.

Caucasus

Russia reportedly extends Georgia flight ban
Russian media have suggested that reversing the flight ban to and from Georgia may be contingent on how Tbilisi’s political crisis plays out.

Armenian, Azerbaijani journalists make landmark exchange
The exchange was carried out in secrecy for security reasons, but both sides reported being politely received on the other side.

Armenia drafts big, “revolutionary” budget
The new budget would substantially increase tax revenues and expenditures, but the government’s macroeconomic projections have been received skeptically.

 

Arctic

As the Arctic melts, China and Russia struggle for control
China has made the case that it’s an Arctic state – this is at odds with Russia’s conception of what an Arctic state is.

Russia bulks up its Arctic defenses
In a move that portents a cataclysm we don’t know anything about, Russian President Vladimir Putin is moving yet another S-400 surface-to-air missile (SAM) regiment to the Arctic.

 

Central Asia 

Uzbekistan internationalizes legal landscape to entice foreign investors
Two lawyers examine Uzbekistan’s plans to lure investors by using English law.

Tajikistan: Money transfers grind to a halt
Financial authorities are seeking to pressure money transfer companies to keep funds in Tajikistan.

Is new Russia-China gas pipeline a threat to Turkmenistan?
Turkmenistan has been China’s largest source of gas. With the new Power of Siberia pipeline, Russia is muscling in.

Tajikistan to yield share in aluminum plant to China
China’s state-owned CMEC has pledged to invest $545 million in Talco.

Eurasian Union’s digital dream derailed
The Eurasian Economic Union always intended to tackle more than trade and travel. Lofty plans to boost other aspects of member economies have circulated from its earliest days. Some of these intentions sound great in theory, but wither in practice: Plans to rapidly expand digital infrastructure are no exception, running up against unrealistic expectations, countries pursuing their own agendas, and starkly uneven levels of IT infrastructure.

Guesthouses fill gap left by Uzbekistan’s hotel shortage
In the first 11 months of 2019, around 6.2 million foreign nationals visited Uzbekistan, a 27 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

 

Europe 

Power of connection: why the Russia–Europe gas trade is strangely untouched by politics
Many people imagine that geopolitics drives the energy trade between Russia and Europe. As the story goes, each side seeks to exploit gas and oil to influence the other in the big game of power politics — and Russia seems to have the upper hand.

The CEE real estate bubble that wasn’t
Fears that a bubble was growing in the Central European real estate sector appear to have been averted, as growth in residential property prices has started to slow across much of the region.

        – Belarus

Lukashenko, Putin agree on setting up a single market mechanism, merging some government functions
Belarus and Russia have taken a step closer to forming a single market, based on the same principles as the European Union (EU), after a top diplomat said Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin have signed off on a single parliament and merged many aspects of the two economies, Belsat reported on December 1.

What will Belarus gain from the proposed merger with Russia?
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko on December 7 to try and bring their two countries closer together into a single market modeled on the EU. What does Belarus stand to gain from the tie-up?

        – Poland

Amazon to open pan-European e-commerce logistics centre in Poland
International online retail giant Amazon is preparing to open a 210,000 sqm e-commerce logistics centre serving the whole European market in Gliwice, southern Poland, revealed industrial real estate company Panattoni, which built the facility.

Poland launches huge renewable energy auction in bid to improve energy mix
Poland launched an auction to build up to 2.5 gigawatts (GW) of onshore wind power capacity on December 5, seeking to increase the role of renewable energy in the country’s coal-dominated energy mix.

Mayors of Visegrad countries pledge to work together in Pact of Free Cities
Mayors of four V4 capitals, Bratislava, Budapest, Prague and Warsaw, signed a Pact of Free Cities on December 16, a document in which they pledge to lobby for more direct funding from the EU, share their best practices and promote tolerance and liberal values.

        – Ukraine

Attacks on the National Bank of Ukraine escalate
The attacks and intimidation on the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU), allegedly being carried out by oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, went up a notch on December 3 when protestors targeted the private residence of the governor of the NBU Yakiv Smolii as well as other members of the regulator’s senior staff.

FDI woes still plague Ukraine
International investors continue to avoid Ukraine. FDI remains significantly lower than it was before the conflict with Russia.

Ukraine, Russia sign 10-year oil transit agreement
It was noted that the basic principles of cooperation between companies remain unchanged, including payment procedure for services and the mechanism of interaction at the level of technical services.

USAID launches new program to support civil society in Ukraine
U.S. Chargé d’Affaires a.i. William Taylor has announced the launch of a new five-year program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support civil society in Ukraine.

Russia and Ukraine leaders, in first talks, agree to exchange prisoners
The leaders of Russia and Ukraine agreed to exchange all remaining prisoners from the conflict in east Ukraine by the end of the year, but left thorny questions about the region’s status for future talks.

Putin and Zelenskiy make a positive start to the Donbas peace talks in Normandy Four talks, but put off the hardest problems
December 10 was a long and gruelling day for the four leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany who met in Paris in the Normandy Four format for the first time in three years to try and restart the process of bringing an end to the undeclared war in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

The battle for the billions: Russia meets Ukraine in court in dispute over defaulted $3bn Eurobond
Russia and Ukraine met in court again on December 9 at the start of a hearing to settle an argument over a $3bn Eurobond that Kyiv bought from Moscow in December 2013 under former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

Russia offers Ukraine cheaper gas under new transit deal, Kiev promises to drop $3bn demand
The price of gas for Ukraine may be lower if Moscow and Kiev manage to reach a new transit agreement, Russian President Vladimir Putin told at a press conference after the Normandy Four summit in Paris.

Russia, Ukraine strike preliminary gas transit deal
Russia and Ukraine have struck a preliminary gas transit deal to replace the contract that is due to expire on December 31, 2019, Naftogaz executive director Yuriy Vitrenko said on his Facebook page on December 13.

Ukraine to propose amendments to the Minsk Accords
Ukraine will propose amendments to the Minsk Accords before the next Normandy Four summit in March, said Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukraine’s representative to the Trilateral Contact Group that is tasked with resolving the conflict in Donbas.

Ukraine Would Get New Anti-Ship Missiles Under House Bill
Ukraine would get $300 million in new military aid — and Russia, sanctions on a proposed pipeline — in the House version of the defense authorization act passed in the middle of December.

Russia, Ukraine agree on new five-year transit deal as US slaps sanctions on Nord Stream 2, TurkStream Pipelines
Ukraine and Russia have agreed on the principles of a five-year gas transit deal that still needs to be signed before December 29 just as the first US company suspended construction activities on Nord Stream 2 pipeline after new sanctions were imposed on the project on December 18.

Ukraine’s business community calls on Zelenskiy to protect the National Bank of Ukraine
The business associations of Ukraine united in a joint statement to call on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to protect the independence and staff of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) in a statement released on December 18.

Kiev-Donbass prisoner swap to raise Zelensky’s approval rating, expert says
The Ukrainian public has a positive view on the prisoner swap between Kiev and the Donbass republics, which will raise the approval rating of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, head of the Ukrainian Institute for Analysis and Political Management Ruslan Bortnik told TASS on December 30.

 

US

Assessing the Russian Internet Research Agency’s impact on the political attitudes and behaviors of American Twitter users in late 2017
While numerous studies analyze the strategy of online influence campaigns, their impact on the public remains an open question.

GAZ workers’ livelihoods on the line as road trip protestors arrive in Vienna
The ten GAZ workers on a road trip across Europe to highlight the plight of Russia’s second largest car plant arrived in Vienna on December 4 and delivered a letter to the US ambassador in the hope of rescuing their jobs.

Pentagon Concerned Russia Cultivating Sympathy Among US Troops
While most Americans still see Moscow as a key U.S. adversary, new polling suggests that view is changing, most notably among the households of military members.

Congress Stalls INF-Busting Missiles & Nuke Treaty Withdrawal
Congress has slapped DoD with a prohibition on spending any fiscal 2020 funds for buying or fielding intermediate-range ballistic or cruise missiles despite US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

European Security Is Becoming Euro-Asian
The resumption of global rivalry between the great powers from the mid-2010s is having a significant impact on international and regional security, including in Europe.

States Are On Front Lines Of 2020 Election-Security Efforts
Inside a hotel ballroom near the nation’s capital, a U.S. Army officer with battlefield experience told 120 state and local election officials that they may have more in common with military strategists than they might think.

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.