Eurasian Affairs – February 2019

A still from the film Servent of the People - Zelensky, who plays the main role of a "regular guy" who gets elected president of Ukraine, is a now a front runner for the position in real life.

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.


Why Russia and Japan Can’t Solve the Kuril Islands Dispute
A win-win solution to the territorial deadlock is currently out of the question.


Caucasus and Central Asia

Uzbekistan’s Eurobond Debut Proves Smash Hit
Uzbekistan’s $1bn sovereign bond debut has proved a smash hit with some initial reports indicating the demand was there for as much as $8.5bn, making the issue 8.5-times oversubscribed.

Kazakh President Sacks Cabinet
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on February 21 signed a decree to sack the cabinet of ministers, the presidential press service reported.

Turkmenistan Halves Oil Exports Amid Vitol and SOCAR Clash
Turkmenistan has halved its oil exports in recent weeks due to a lack of tankers caused by a clash between Swiss trading house Vitol and Azerbaijan’s SOCAR.

The Las Vegas of Central Asia? Investors Reportedly Eye Uzbek Town for New Casino Complex
The dry bed of what was once the Aral Sea could be transformed into a new gambling zone according to reports.

Taliban, Afghan Delegations Hail “Successful” Moscow Meeting, Pledge to Meet Again
Taliban representatives and an Afghan delegation led by former President Hamid Karzai have said that after two days of negotiations in Russia they aim to continue their “intra-Afghan” dialogue in Qatar “as soon as possible.”

Georgia Might Be Led By A Woman, But That Hasn’t Stopped the Sex Smears
A female member of Georgia’s parliament is vowing to fight back as another sex-tape scandal rocks the former Soviet republic just as it hoped to shed its chauvinist image following the election of the country’s first female president.



Russia in the Eurasian Economic Union: Lack of Trust in Russia Limits the Possible
There is every reason to expect that the Eurasian Economic Union will remain important for Russia, but what strategic options does Moscow have with regard to its further development?

Poland Concedes Setback in Quest to Stop Nord Stream 2
Poland’s hopes to stop the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline were dashed as Germany and France joined forces to push through a compromise wording of amendments to EU’s gas market rules that will result in the weakening of the bloc’s joint control over the controversial project.

Belarus’ Foreign Trade Flourishing
Belarus is currently exploring new markets and Minsk’s increasingly good relations with China are already paying dividends in both trade and investment.

Belarus’ Post-Soviet Theatre, Opportunistic Technical Fiddling or Putin’s Ace in the Hole?
Alarm bells have been going off in Belarus, which may be cut off from the generosity Russia has granted the republic for decades.

How the EU Could Transform the Energy Market: The Case for a Euro Crude-Oil Benchmark
Trading energy markets in more than one currency is not unprecedented, and indeed used to be the norm. Europe – with its powerful currency and reliable regulatory environment – should stand a good chance of success.

Poland’s PiS Offers Multi-Billion Spending Stimulus in Election Year
Poland’s ruling conservative party Law and Justice (PiS) pledged a multi-billion zloty plan of additional spending and reliefs ahead of elections taking place this year.

Moldova’s President Talks of Dissolving Newly Elected Parliament
President Igor Dodon wants to see a “fair” majority formed by parties, not a single party joined by a hodgepodge of independents.

Hard Brexit Could Drag the Czech Economy Growth Down to Under 2%
Hard Brexit could drag the Czech economy growth down to under 2%, reducing growth of domestic economy by 0.7 to 1.4 percentage points.

The Gay Atheist Launching an Attack on Poland’s Conservative Establishment
In a country defined by Catholic nationalism, Robert Biedroń wants to separate church from state.

Meet the Architect Turning Estonia into a Skateboarder’s Paradise
Landscape architect Terje Ong is reinvigorating Estonia’s empty urban spaces by adding elements that bring skateboarders to its streets.

Archaeology Reveals Cold War Nuclear Bunkers in Poland
The clandestine sites were once home to hundreds of nuclear warheads—a lethal secret kept from the country’s people.



Misplaced Nostalgia for the Old West
This year’s Munich Security Conference ended as it begun: a bickering West reluctant to address the new geostrategic realities.


Middle East

Putin Shows Rare Soft Spot to Rescue Russia’s ISIS Children
While President Vladimir Putin is renowned for his ruthless approach to terrorists — once vowing to “waste them in the outhouse” — Russia has been more willing than many Western nations to help women and children linked with Islamic State fighters to return home from the Middle East.



Putin Orders Up a National AI Strategy
Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed his government to create a national strategy for research into and development of artificial intelligence.

For Putin, Economic and Political Reality Dampen Appetite for Arms Race
With his ratings down and state funds needed to hedge against new Western sanctions and raise living standards, Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot afford to get sucked into a costly nuclear arms race with the United States.

China, Russia Building Attack Satellites and Space Lasers: Pentagon Report
China and Russia are developing lasers and a host of other anti-satellite weapons.

Putin’s Russia Aims to Recast Afghan War with Rock Concerts and Resolutions
Red Army veterans took to the stage in Moscow and belted out songs from the battlefield: clashes with the enemy and a wartime thirst for Russian vodka.

Russia Plans More Arctic UAVs
Moscow’s equivalent of the Pentagon’s DARPA wants a cold-weather drone that can stay aloft for four days.

Russian Attacks Hit US-European Think Tank Emails, Microsoft Says
The same group that hit the DNC recently targeted prominent think tanks, including one election-monitoring organization.

Rethink 2%: NATO “Defense Spending” Should Favor Cyber
Today, a dollar or euro spent on network security goes farther than one spent on conventional arms.

Despite Putin’s Swagger, Russia Struggles to Modernize its Navy
President Vladimir Putin calls improving the Russian navy’s combat capabilities a priority.

“Sign of Good Will”: US Spy Plane Carries Out 1st Observation Flights Over Russian in 2 Years
The Pentagon has confirmed that an OC-135B plane, fitted with high-resolution cameras and infrared sensors, is indeed performing the flyovers, and that Moscow is fully aware of the action.

Russia Moves to Mask its Soldiers’ Digital Trail with Smartphone Ban
Russia’s parliament has voted to ban its soldiers from using smartphones and social networks after a series of open-source investigations revealed their secret participation in foreign conflicts.

Putin Dismisses Nine Russian Generals
Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed nearly a dozen senior military officers holding government positions.

Second Base? Lavrov Suggests Moscow Open to Discussing New Military Facility in Kyrgyzstan
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that Bishkek has not asked Moscow to open a second military base in Kyrgyzstan, but suggested that Russia is open to discussing the idea.

    Nuclear Arms

Russia Conducts Test of Nuclear-Powered Cruise Missile
The test is the thirteenth to date to involve the experimental Burevestnik missile.

Russia Bids Farewell to INF Treaty with Fresh Nuclear Development Plans
Following the United States’ announcement to suspend its participation in the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Russia has begun developing new, once-prohibited weapons systems.

Russian Official: Another Nuclear Pact with US in Trouble
Any other US-Russian nuclear pact is in danger following the U.S. move to withdraw from a Cold War-era arms control treaty.

In Uncertain Post-INF World, Russia May Opt for Talks Over Arms
As the US pulls out of “the treaty that ended the cold war,” what’s next for Russia? Probably a diplomatic attempt to split the US and European allies in an effort to prevent a return to nuclear standoff.

The Weapons Making Nuclear War More Likely
The increasingly blurred line between nuclear and conventional weapons heightens the danger of nuclear war.

Here’s What We Know: Russia’s New Generation of Nuclear-Capable Weapons
In March 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled six nuclear-capable weapons and has said they hav no equivalents anywhere in the world.

After Putin’s Warning, Russian TV Lists Nuclear Targets in US
Russian state television has listed U.S. military facilities that Moscow would target in the event of a nuclear strike, and said that a hypersonic missile Russia is developing would be able to hit them in less than five minutes.



Dropping Export Quotas on Ukrainian Goods to Europe Would Fix its Worst Problems
Ukraine’s economy is flat on its back and it needs to expand its existing businesses and create new ones.

Church and Geopolitics: The Battle Over Ukrainian Autocephaly
Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople presented the tomos, or decree of autocephaly, to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s newly elected Metropolitan Epiphanius in Istanbul.

Ukraine’s Civil War: Would Accepting this Terminology Help Resolve the Conflict?
Since Ukraine is the site of both an invasion (Crimea) and a civil war (in the Donbas), there is no academic consensus on what to call the crisis in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s “Type 4” Conflict: Why Is It Important to Study Terminology Before Changing It?
Calling the conflict in Ukraine a civil war should be a prerequisite for free and fair elections in the Donbas (Donetsk and Luhansk regions) and the ultimate implementation of the Minsk Agreements.

Ukraine’s Flourishing E-Commerce Sector is Catching Up with Russia’s
Ukraine’s ecommerce was the second fastest growing in Europe in 2018 and it is rapidly closing the gap with Russia.

Kyiv Court Says US-Born Suprun Can No Longer Head Health Ministry
A court in Kyiv has ruled that U.S.-born acting Health Minister Ulyana Suprun can no longer head the ministry.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church Enthrones Epifaniy as Leader
The new Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) has installed its first metropolitan, Epifaniy, at a ceremony in Kyiv on February 3, in a process that further establishes the new church body’s independence.

    Presidential Elections

New Poll Says Yulia Tymoshenko Wins Ukraine’s Presidential Elections in All Scenarios
If presidential elections were held at this moment, opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is projected to win in all scenarios.

Ukraine’s Joke of an Election
Ukrainians are deeply ambivalent about the 2019 presidential election and a widespread atmosphere of discontent has created an opening for an unlikely dark horse candidate: Vladimir Zelenskiy.

Comic Zelenskiy Leads Record Number of Candidates for the Ukrainian Presidency
Many Ukrainian voters mistrust all of the establishment candidates and outsider-comic Volodymyr Zelenskiy takes the lead in most recent polls.

Ukraine’s Presidential Elections Q&A with Tim Ash
Veteran emerging markets analyst Tim Ash, Senior Sovereign Strategist at BlueBay Asset Management, runs through what is known, what is likely, and what remains anyone’s guess in the upcoming elections.

Pre-Election Dismissal at Ukraine’s Public Broadcaster Sparks Outcry
The supervisory board of Ukraine’s public broadcaster has fired the operator’s director without explanation in a closed-door decision just two months before a potentially divisive presidential election.

How a Comedian Will Change Ukraine’s Election
After throwing his hat into the Ukrainian presidential race, popular comedian Volodymyr Zelensky will likely attempt to woo the country’s Russian-speaking southeast.



The End of Russia’s “Democratic Illusions” About America
How “Russiagate” has impacted a vital struggle in Russia.

Alleged Russian Agent Maria Butina in Her Own Words: “Truth is My Best Defender”
Journalist James Bamford shared recorded conversations with Maria Butina.

US Threatens New Round of Sanctions But Russia is Ready
The US government’s new sanctions legislation caused a sell off, but Russia has been preparing for the fight.

New US Sanctions Will Have Smaller Effect Than Those Already Imposed
Possible new US sanctions against Russia will have less effect than those introduced earlier, First Deputy Chairman of the Bank of Russia Sergey Shvetsov told reporters on the sidelines of the Russian Investment Forum.

“The Sanctions Bill from Hell” Against Russia Makes a Comeback
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a bill containing new sanctions on Russia over its alleged meddling in U.S. elections and intervention in Ukraine.

Two Russian Cybersecurity Figures Convicted of Treason, Sentenced to Long Prison Terms
A Russian military court has convicted a former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer and an expert at the cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab of treason and handed them long prison terms in a case that is reportedly linked to the United States.

Russia is Backing a Viral Video Company Aimed at American Millennials
Three online video channels designed to appeal to millennials have collected tens of millions of views on Facebook since September.

Facebook Unblocks RT Project’s Page After Sources of Financing Detailed
The required information has now been added to the About section of the pages to indicate their affiliation with RT and Ruptly.

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.