Eurasian Affairs – July 2019

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.

 

General

OPEC extends oil cut to prop up prices as economy weakens 
OPEC agreed on Monday to extend oil supply cuts until March 2020 as the group’s members overcame their differences in order to prop up the price of crude amid a weakening global economy and soaring U.S. production.

Russia beating U.S. in race for global influence, Pentagon study says 
A divided America is failing to counter Moscow’s efforts to undermine democracy and cast doubt on U.S. alliances, says the report, which warns of a surge in ‘political warfare.’

Putin says liberalism ‘eating itself,’ migrant influx wrong 
Russian President Vladimir Putin fired a new broadside against Western liberalism at the Group of 20 summit in Japan, saying that policies such as welcoming migrants have hurt people’s interests.

Russia 
Russian history is a controversial and hotly debated subject, both at home and abroad.

What’s America’s Winning Hand if Russia Plays the China Card? 
The two adversaries are growing closer, posing a strategic challenge to the United States.

How Bloc-Free Mentality Helps Russia Be a Welcome Foreign Actor in the Middle East 
Russia is trying to avoid alliances with these or other groups of players in order to ensure freedom of action for itself, in part, in developing bilateral relations with each of these states, writes Maria Khodynskaya-Golenischeva, Senior Advisor of the Foreign Policy Planning Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

Why Russia is really sending military advisers and other specialists to Venezuela 
In late June 2019, Venezuela averted another coup. The government also nearly fell in the spring, on April 30, when opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself the country’s lawful president and tried to overthrow the acting head of state, Nicolás Maduro.

Joint Russian-Chinese Air Patrol Signifies New Level of Cooperation 
In taking its military cooperation with China to a new level, Moscow will strive to preserve its anti-American slant.

 

Arctic

Russia’s Military Posture in the Arctic: Managing Hard Power in a ‘Low Tension’ Environment 
This paper focuses on Russia’s military posture in the Russian Arctic. It seeks to demystify Moscow’s military build-up in the region: it explains that if Moscow is indeed militarizing the Russian Arctic, the military build-up and the Kremlin’s intentions are, at least for now, defensive in nature.

Russia, China Offer Challenges in the Arctic 
America’s top naval commander in Europe looks at the geostrategic challenges of the warming High North

 

Cyber

Alleged Cyber Attack on Russia’s Yandex Used Malware Tied to Western Intelligence 
Hackers believed to be working for Western intelligence agencies “broke into Russian internet search company Yandex from October to November 2018,” deploying a malware variant called Regin that is “known to be used by the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing alliance of the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada,” Reuters reported on Friday, citing four people with knowledge of the incident.

Russia’s Secret Intelligence Agency Hacked: ‘Largest Data Breach In Its History’ 
Red faces in Moscow this weekend, with the news that hackers have successfully targeted FSB—Russia’s Federal Security Service.

NSA Launches Cybersecurity Directorate 
The group is charged with defending the country’s national security infrastructure and defense contractors against digital threats.

Kazakhstan attempts to spy on citizens’ web use via encryption-busting Qaznet Trust Certificate 
Kazakhstan’s government appears to have embarked on a major “man in the middle” attempt at spying on citizens’ web communications in the wake of the big anti-regime protests that broke out across the country during the June presidential election.

Russian internet businesses fight to survive 
Tougher domestic regulations and a struggle to survive in times of global cyber warfare have seen Russian internet businesses caught between a rock and a hard place.

Russia’s Secret Intelligence Agency Hacked: ‘Largest Data Breach In Its History’ 
Red faces in Moscow this weekend, with the news that hackers have successfully targeted FSB—Russia’s Federal Security Service.

Exclusive: Western intelligence hacked ‘Russia’s Google’ Yandex to spy on accounts 
Hackers working for Western intelligence agencies broke into Russian internet search company Yandex in late 2018, deploying a rare type of malware in an attempt to spy on user accounts, four people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

House to Trump: Cough up cyberwarfare directive 
The House on Thursday voted to require the White House to give Congress a cyberwarfare directive that senior members say the administration has refused to turn over for nearly a year.

 

Asia

The Significance of the First Ever China-Russia Strategic Bomber Patrol 
Yesterday for the first time, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and the Russian Air Force jointly conducted a long-range aerial patrol involving two Chinese Xian H-6K and two Tupolev Tu-95MS long-range, nuclear-capable bombers in the Indo-Pacific region.

– Central Asia

Russia to Suspend Georgian Flights to Russia Starting July 8 
Russia will suspend passenger flights of Georgian airlines to Russia, the Transport Ministry said on Saturday following an outbreak of unrest in Tbilisi triggered by the visit of a Russian lawmaker.

General Motors completes pull out of GM Uzbekistan, company renamed UZAUTO 
Uzbek state-run car producer GM Uzbekistan has been renamed UZAUTO Motors, after the US company completed its withdrawal from the country, GM Authority reported on July 3.

Armenians remain optimistic about the future and pleased with their government, poll shows 
The people of Armenia are still giving the new government of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian a lot of credit following their ousting of the former corrupt government.

Kazakhstan – Once More a Testing Ground? 
Kazakhstan’s history is closely linked to Moscow’s nuclear weapons program. During the Cold War, Soviet leaders ordered excessive nuclear testing in the vast steppes of what later became the modern Kazakh state.

Putin opposes Russian parliament call for Georgia sanctions 
Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected on Tuesday a parliamentary call to impose sanctions against Georgia, saying patching up strained relations was more important than reacting to provocations by “scumbags”.

Tajikistan panhandles for money, resists reforms 
Donors doubt the seriousness of government pledges to reform the economy and improve conditions for business.

Uzbekistan: When will Bukhara’s Jews get their own museum? 
One argument for opening a museum is to foster a better awareness of history among the remaining Bukharan Jewish community.

Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan: Fresh border clash causes fatality 
Presidents of the two countries had been due to meet at the spot.

Azerbaijan-Georgia relations newly strained by monastery tensions 
Mutual accusations involving icons and pistols have exacerbated the ongoing dispute over the two generally friendly neighbors’ border.

Hard Man Putin May Be Showing Softer Side to Russia’s Neighbors 
The stage was prepared last week for Russian President Vladimir Putin to hammer tiny Georgia with new economic sanctions after parliament called on him to punish anti-Kremlin protests.

Massive rally calling for improved relations with Russia held in Georgia (VIDEOS) 
Thousands have rallied in Georgia’s port city of Batumi, calling for an improvement in rocky relations with Russia which have strained even further over the last few months.

Kazakhstan’s Tokayev sticking with Nazarbayev’s economic priorities says Fitch 
Kazakhstan’s recently appointed President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev looks set to pursue the main economic policy priorities of his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev, according to Fitch Ratings.

Iranian Guardian Council clears EEU temporary free trade agreement 
Iran’s top legal vetting committee, the Guardian Council, has confirmed the bill of temporary agreement for launching a free trade agreement between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), according to Mehr News Agency on June 27.

 

Europe

Central European economies decouple from Eurozone slowdown 
Economists from wiiw have revised upwards their forecasts for Central and Southeast European economies as wage-driven growth has stopped them from following the Eurozone into a slowdown.

Where Can the US and Turkey Go From Here? 
The battle to save the relationship will not be an easy one, but we have not lost it just yet.

Donors suspend funds for Poland’s Jewish museum 
Many private donors, including in the U.S. and Israel, have put on hold hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions out of concern for the museum’s future after the Polish government failed to reappoint its director, who the officials say overemphasized Poland’s anti-Semitic past

Moldova shows Russia and the West can work together. Can they do it again? 
Some are calling it “the miracle of Moldova.” Indeed, the spectacle of Russia, the United States, and the European Union all cooperating to effect peaceful regime change in a small country is not something you see every day.

In Poland, simmering anti-LGBTQ sentiment boils over into violence 
A mob of right-wing Poles has attacked a pride march in the town of Bialystok, one of several areas declaring themselves to be LGBTQ-free.

Rainbow flag flies over CEE, but attitudes to LGBT vary vastly 
North Macedonia held its first ever gay pride march on June 29 with up to 1,000 gay men, lesbians, human rights activists and diplomats turning out for the event.

 

Military Development

Russian Troops Will Be Getting Tactical Bomb Drones 
Having learned from ISIS attacks in Syria, Russia is rushing to put armed drones on the front lines.

Turkey Stockpiles Crucial Weapons Parts, Anticipating U.S. Sanctions 
Turkey, girding for the worst despite encouraging messages from President Donald Trump, has stockpiled crucial spare parts for American-made weapons in case Congress sanctions it over a contentious Russian missile purchase.

Russian Warship Enters Ukrainian Gunfire Exercise Area, Creating ‘Dangerous Situation’ 
The area was being used during a U.S.-Ukraine-led exercise in the Black Sea.

U.S. Special Operations hosts Baltic resistance wargame 
Special Operations leaders, national defense officials and civil representatives from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the United States participated in the U.S. Special Operation Command Europe-hosted 2019 Resistance Tabletop Exercise (TTX) held from June 3-5, 2019 at U.S. Air Force Europe’s Warrior Preparation Center here.

American Commandos Gear Up for New Shadow War With Russia 
Secretive, behind-the-lines mission rehearsals and other operations by 1,400 American and allied commandos to combat shifting Russian threats have laid bare a fundamental tension in the Trump administration: While the president courts Moscow, much of his government considers it an increasingly dangerous foe.

US Upgrades Ukrainian Ports To Fit American Warships 
As tensions rise between Russia and Ukraine on the Black Sea, the US is upgrading several Ukrainian naval bases to give American and NATO warships the ability to dock just miles from Russia-controlled Crimea.

Warplanes from four countries face off in Asian confrontation 
Warplanes from four countries faced off Tuesday in a chaotic and unprecedented confrontation above a small, disputed island off the coast of South Korea and Japan.

Faulty battery may have sparked Russian submarine fire 
Investigators quoted as saying lithium-ion battery made in Russia could have failed

– Nuclear

NATO Considers Missile Defense Upgrade, Risking Further Tensions With Russia 
NATO military officials are exploring whether to upgrade their defenses to make them capable of shooting down newly deployed Russian intermediate-range nuclear missiles after a landmark arms treaty dissolves next month, according to three European officials.

 

Ukraine

Bye, Bye, Bankova: Like The President He Played On TV, Ukraine’s Zelenskiy To Relocate His Administration 
In the first few weeks of Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s presidency, fact following fiction has been more of a rule than an exception.

Be Afraid, Russia: Ukraine’s Military Is Becoming a Force to Reckoned With 
Ukraine and the Russian-backed, separatist forces of Donetsk and Luhansk remain locked in a shooting war that, since 2014, has claimed around thirteen thousand Ukrainian lives and displaced over two million more.

Ukraine takes “world’s large grain exporter” title from Russia 
Russia has been the global grain exporter top dog for the last three years, but as the agricultural marketing year ended on June 30, it looks like Ukraine has snatched the title back from its rival.

Non-residents share in Ukraine’s domestic bond market tops 7% and is still growing 
The hook-up of Ukraine’s bond market to the Clearstream international payments and settlements system is turning out to be a stunning success. Foreign investment in Ukraine government hryvnia bonds has increased nearly eight-fold since the start of the year.

Ukraine’s New President Needs a Strategy on Donbas—and Fast 
Zelensky is trying to find balance on the incendiary issue of the Donbas.

The Death of Ukraine’s Liberals 
Western-oriented reformers are about to get completely wiped out in parliamentary elections—and they have nobody to blame but themselves.

June update: The political ‘dance’ of Ukraine’s new president; one step forward, one step back 
Two months have passed since the election of the new president and a further month since his inauguration. Even though the majority voted for him in the Russian-speaking southeastern region, in the hope of stopping the conflict in Donbass, by June the war had escalated.

Ukraine poised for a new strong start after July’s elections 
Ukraine heads to the polls again for parliamentary elections on July 21, and expectations are building of another pro-reform vote to follow Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s landslide victory in the run off of the presidential election in April.

Rock star seeks to upstage comedian president in Ukraine vote 
Standing on stage in a black t-shirt, Ukrainian rock star Sviatoslav Vakarchuk turns to his massed ranks of fans and asks if they are fed up about how their country is run.

Over half of Ukrainians favor deployment of peacekeepers in Donbas 
More than half of Ukrainian citizens – 55.5% – support the deployment of international peacekeeping forces in the Donbas territory not currently controlled by Kyiv, the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation and the Razumkov Center said based on the findings of a poll of 2,017 respondents aged 18 and older they conducted on June 13 to 20.

As Soldiers Disengage, ‘Fragile Hope’ For Peace Appears In One Front-Line Ukrainian Town 
Beyond the series of checkpoints manned by armed guards with bomb-sniffing dogs in this battle-scarred town lies a mile-long stretch of no man’s land that’s one of the most dangerous places in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s president under fire over plan to expand lustration 
The current situation in Ukraine is not comparable to the one after the Revolution of Dignity, the G7 ambassadors said in a statement on July 12, reacting to a proposal by newly elected President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to expand the lustration of the nation’s officials to those who held high-level posts following the 2014 Euromaidan, including former president Petro Poroshenko.

Kiev may change its language on Donbass and EAEU to dovetail monetary moves 
The law on the state language in Ukraine that entered into force will be amended after the elections to the Verkhovna Rada, sources in Kiev close to the situation told Izvestia.

Russia’s Putin extends passport offer to Ukraine citizens 
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order on Wednesday further expanding the number of Ukrainian citizens who can apply for fast-track Russian passports.

Ukraine’s Constitutional Court Upholds Law Equating Communism To Nazism 
Ukraine’s Constitutional Court has upheld a law that equates communism to Nazism and bans the dissemination of its symbols, a law that has prompted angry protests from Moscow.

Russia, Ukraine Agree ‘Comprehensive’ Cease-Fire in Donbass 
Russia, Ukraine and Europe’s top security body have announced an “indefinite” ceasefire in eastern Ukraine that analysts hail as a substantial step toward ending the five-year conflict.

Ukraine’s Counterintuitive Democratic Stoicism: Supporting Democracy-Building in a War-Torn State 
Numerous academic studies have shown that economic hardship, ethnoregional divides, corrupt governance, and war are bad for democracy, particularly in states where democracy has weak historical roots.

Volodymyr Zelensky’s Landslide Victory in Ukraine May Become a Slippery Slope 
The new president must heal enormous social distrust if he doesn’t want to go the way of the previous administration.

Ukraine Seizes Russian Tanker Over Kerch Incident, Frees Crew After Moscow Pressure 
Ukraine has seized a Russian oil tanker in the Ukrainian port of Izmail over a November 2018 incident between the two countries in a strategic strait near Crimea.

Ukraine to launch Russian-language TV channel in battle for hearts and minds 
Ukraine plans to launch a worldwide Russian-language TV channel, as part of an effort to win the hearts and minds of people living in the eastern Donbass region and Russia, a senior presidential official was quoted as saying on Monday.

Ukrainian Authorities Seize Russian Tanker Implicated In Sailors’ Detention 
Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) says it has seized a Russian tanker that Moscow allegedly used to block three Ukrainian naval vessels before detaining them and 24 Ukrainian sailors in November near Crimea.

Tackling Ukraine’s health crisis requires emergency reforms 
Volodymyr Zelensky realizes his country faces daunting challenges in the health sector.

 

US

Warren Vows to Double the Number of Career Diplomats at State 
Democratic candidate calls for massive overhaul to the State Department and how it manages its employees.

Russia, U.S. reached understanding in Osaka on strategic stability – Ryabkov
Moscow and Washington have reached substantial understanding on strategic stability, and Russia expects dialogue at the expert level to be resumed soon, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

The Paradox of American Russophobia 
Tackling something as conceptually vague as Russophobia requires a measure of intellectual dexterity. Its use and meaning has become totally subsumed into today’s information war.

Ejecting Turkey from the F-35 Effort Will Cost At Least Half a Billion Dollars 
That’s the Pentagon’s low estimate for replacing Turkish suppliers of more than 900 parts.

Russia Plans To Relax Visa Rules, But The U.S. Could Miss Out 
Vacation plans: some people prefer what they know and love; others like to seek new adventures.

Russia Labels Atlantic Council Think Tank In Washington ‘Undesirable’ 
Russia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office says it is designating Washington-based think tank the Atlantic Council, formerly run by the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, as an “undesirable” organization, a move that could potentially limit the group’s cooperation with Russian entities and prevent its employees from entering the country.

Climate Change and Russia Are Partisan Flashpoints in Public’s Views of Global Threats 
More Americans have positive views of free trade agreements.

About the Author

Tanya Tanyarattinan
Tanya Tanyarattinan is a third-year, Thai international student at the University of Denver, double majoring in International Studies and Economics with minors in Russian and Japanese. She is currently studying Society, Business, and the Arts in St Petersburg with SRAS’s Home and Abroad Scholarship. With an interest in pursuing a career in politics, she travels to see how the world works from different perspectives. Her next stop is Berlin where she will complete her study abroad year. In her free time, she likes to play games and try new food.