Eurasian Affairs – January 2020

John J. Sullivan, who became America's new ambassador to Russia in January, 2020, participated in an International Holocaust Remembrance Event at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow.

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.



World at a Crossroads and a System of International Relations for the Future
This year, Russia celebrates two great and interconnected anniversaries – the 75th Anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic and Second World Wars, and the establishment of the UN. Reflecting on the spiritual and moral significance of these landmark events, one needs to bear in mind the enormous political meaning of the Victory that ended one of the most brutal wars in the history of mankind.

Putin Enjoys Higher Global Confidence Than Trump
Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to hold a higher positive rating across the world than U.S. President Donald Trump, according to a Pew Research Center poll published on January 8th.



US Navy declares new fleet created to confront Russia fully operational
The newly reinstated Norfolk, Virginia-based 2nd Fleet, which was opened for business in 2018, is now fully operational, the U.S. Navy announced Dec. 31.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin oversees hypersonic missile test near Crimea
Russian President Vladimir Putin oversaw military exercises off the coast of Crimea on Thursday, January 9th, that included the launching of a hypersonic missile system.

Does Russia Really Have Hypersonic Weapons That Are ‘Operational’?
The Russian defense ministry claimed it has deployed the Avangard surface-to-surface hypersonic missile, possibly making Russia one of the first countries to field an operational guided missile capable of traveling faster than five times the speed of sound.

Russia’s hypersonic missiles are not ‘game changing,’ says U.S. Army Chief of Staff
The U.S. Army’s top officer said on January 14th during an appearance in Washington, D.C., that he isn’t worried by Russia’s growing arsenal of hypersonic missiles.

Study raises prospect of space conflict
The military and intelligence community’s space agencies may have to cope with growing instability in outer space if the United States and Russia don’t renew the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) that is set to expire on February 5, 2021, experts warn in a new report.

Pentagon to Test Hypersonic Missiles at Five Times the Speed of Sound
The Pentagon plans a “very aggressive” expansion of its hypersonic weapons efforts this year, with at least four initial flight tests of prototypes for glide bombs that can fly five times the speed of sound and maneuver en route, officials said.

China passes Russia as No. 2 arms dealer
China has not only surpassed Russia to become the world’s No. 2 arms dealer, trailing only the United States, but the four listed arms makers exceeded sales of the top ten Russian companies in 2017, according to new research from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

‘National pride is at stake.’ Russia, China, United States race to build hypersonic weapons
For decades, the U.S. military—and its adversaries—have coveted missiles that travel at hypersonic speed, generally defined as Mach 5 or greater.


Abkhaz Leader Resigns, No Plans To Run For New Term
Raul Khajimba, leader of the self-proclaimed breakaway Georgian republic of Abkhazia, who resigned following four days of protests in the regional capital, Sukhumi, does not plan to take part in a new election.

Georgia cancels contract for Black Sea megaport
The prospects for completing the massive deep-sea Anaklia port project, potentially a key node of China-Europe trade, are now uncertain.


Central Asia 

Uzbek president’s state-of-the-nation greeted with hope and gratitude
The president was unusually candid about long-standing issues, such as poverty and corruption.

Work on Afghan stretch of Turkmenistan to India gas pipeline faces additional 6-month delay
A land acquisition issue in Afghanistan is the latest difficulty hindering TAPI.



Has Russia’s Pivot to Asia Worked?
As the relationship with the West deteriorated, Russia aimed to boost its energy exports and arms sales to Asian customers.

Who’s Afraid of the First China-Russia Road Bridge?
Addressing the persistent myth that China seeks a demographic takeover of the Russian Far East.



CEE monthly bond wrap: CE issuers raise $44,5bn and EE raises $29.9bn in 2019
2019 was a decent year for bond issues in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), but still behind the vantage year of 2017.

Venice Commission to probe Russia’s constitutional amendment 
The parliamentarian stressed that the amendment in question is not even adopted yet.

        – Belarus

Russia’s oil and gas disputes with Belarus
A fresh dispute over oil is looming between Russia and Belarus as Russian producers divert large volumes of crude to export ports after failing to reach a deal over deliveries to Minsk.

Lukashenko slams Russia for “making three times more money” from gas sales to Belarus than from Germany
Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has slammed Russia’s natural gas monopoly Gazprom for allegedly earning “three times as much in Belarus than in Germany” from gas sales amid the lack of agreement with Moscow on new oil and gas subsidies to Minsk.

        – Ukraine

Putin, Zelensky speak out in favor of developing Russia-Ukraine relations in 2020
The two presidents talked by telephone to exchange New Year greetings.

Russia-Ukraine Gas Negotiations: (Energy) Politics Is the Art of the Possible
By the end of 2019, Russia’s Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogaz are expected to sign a new gas transit agreement which will put an end to 18 months of negotiations.

Ukraine land market reforms watered down but on track to be introduced in 2020
Ukraine is grappling with creating a market for farmland that could boost economic growth by as much as 3% and increase the value of the economy by $85bn if introduced.

Ukraine international reserves grew by 22% in 2019
Ukraine’s international reserves increased by 22% YTD to $25.3bn in 2019, according to the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU), which is the highest figure in the last 7 years.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk quits in midst of tape scandal criticising President Volodymyr Zelenskiy
Ukraine’s prime minister, Oleksiy Honcharuk, quit his post on January 16, a few days after being caught on tape saying Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy knows nothing about the economy.

Ukraine president refuses PM resignation, slams high government salaries
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy refused to accept Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk resignation tendered last week and decided to give him “a chance if you resolve some things that are very important today and are of concern to our society”, Zelenskiy said during a meeting with the premier on January 17.

Ukraine’s retail sales up 10.5% in 2019
Ukraine’s retail sales grew by a healthy 10.5% y/y in real terms in 2019, accelerating from from 5.8% y/y in 2018, Ukraine’s State Statistics Service reported on January 21.

Ukraine’s population falls behind Poland’s for the first time, electronic census says 5mn people lost since 2000
Ukraine’s population shrank by up to 5mn to 37.29mn according to a new census.

75% of Ukrainian citizens support free use of Russian language in private life
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.

Most citizens say officials must speak Ukrainian during working hours
The vast majority of Ukrainians (80%) agree that all state leaders and civil servants during working hours must communicate in Ukrainian, that’s according to a recent all-Ukrainian poll by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation and the Razumkov Center.

How is Trump’s impeachment playing in Kyiv?
A new poll finds that almost nine out of 10 Ukrainians surveyed were aware of the impeachment proceedings and Ukraine’s role in them.

Ex-president Poroshenko investigated in Ukraine over embezzlement, allegedly stealing US aid
Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau has opened a probe against former president, Petro Poroshenko, who is suspected of abuse of power, embezzlement “on a grand scale” and allegedly stealing US aid funds.


Middle East

Russia’s Putin makes rare visit to Syria, meets Assad
Vladimir Putin met Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on January 7th, the Russian leader’s second trip to Syria since Moscow intervened decisively on the Syrian president’s behalf in the country’s civil war.



Russia Bets Big On The World’s Least Explored Oil Frontier
International sanctions and the ramifications they entail have compelled Russia to look beyond their usual investment regions – with little to no investments in Europe since 2014.



A Beneficiary Of The U.S.-Iran Crisis Could Well Be Russia
Senior Russian officials have publicly condemned the U.S. killing of Iran’s most powerful military commander, joining foreign leaders in warning that it will lead to an escalation of tensions in the already unstable Middle East region.

A new U.S. ambassador arrives in Moscow at a tricky time in U.S.-Russia relations
Sullivan arrived in Russia in mid-January, at a time when relations between the two countries are at rock bottom.

Mechanism for settling incidents between Russian, U.S. militaries in Syria working without failures
Moscow and Washington have achieved a practically ideal level of interaction in preventing clashes between the Russian and United States militaries on the Syrian territory, Vladimir Batyuk, the head of the Center for Military and Political Studies of the Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said.

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.