Eurasian Affairs – March 2020

President Putin recently came into direct contact with someone who was later diagnosed with coronavirus. He has been undergoing a mandatory two week quarantine period since, working via videoconferencing since. Foto:

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.


Oil Price War

U.S., Russia agree to oil market talks as Trump calls price war ‘crazy’
The agreement marks a new twist in global oil diplomacy since a failed deal earlier this month between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia to cut production ignited the price war between Russia and OPEC’s de facto leader Saudi Arabia.

Russia calls for new enlarged OPEC deal to tackle oil demand collapse
A new OPEC+ deal to balance oil markets might be possible if other countries join in, Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund said, adding that countries should also cooperate to cushion the economic fallout from coronavirus.

Russia reaches out to OPEC as Riyadh opens oil taps
Russia said on March 10 it was open to renewing cooperation with the OPEC oil cartel even as kingpin Saudi Arabia escalated a price war with Moscow by announcing it would flood markets with new supplies.

Why Didn’t Russia Just Cut Oil Production?
In early March, OPEC conducted meetings with a coalition of partners that have worked together to limit oil production since 2016. But this time one of the key partners of the coalition, Russia, refused to participate in additional cuts.

The Inevitable Outcome Of The Oil Price War
Whichever way the oil price war pans out, Russia wins.

Coronavirus in Eurasia

Major coronavirus news for Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia (2), Kazakhstan (2) (3), Uzbekistan (2), Turkmenistan (2), Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh

Do Authoritarian or Democratic Countries Handle Pandemics Better?
A mix of factors have shaped every country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, but the stakes for the democratic model are high.



Russian and Chinese Satellites Are Helping US Pilots Spy on Russia and China
U-2 pilots are wearing watches that connect to foreign satellites, giving them backup navigation when GPS is jammed.

Russian Submarines Getting Countermeasures That Jam Sonobuoys Dropped By Enemy Aircraft
Russian ballistic missile submarines, as well as other types, will use these jammers to help escape from prowling anti-submarine warfare aircraft.

The MDA is still in charge of hypersonic-tracking space sensors
TThe Missile Defense Agency will continue development of a space-based sensor capable of tracking hypersonic threats even though funding for the program is moving to the Space Development Agency, MDA’s director told members of Congress at a March 12 hearing.

Russia Halts War Games on NATO Borders to Fight Coronavirus
The Russian military ended war games near its western borders as the country ramps up preventative measures to slow the spread of coronavirus.

        – Nuclear

Don’t Let On-Site Inspections Go Extinct
In-person visits to foreign military bases and weapons facilities improve national security in more ways than meet the eye.

New START Treaty Should Cover Russian Weapon Systems Under Development 
An extension of the last remaining nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia should include new weapons systems that Moscow is developing, a U.S. State Department official said in a briefing on March 9.

Undisclosed delays plague US atomic programs, cost billions to fix 
The new NNSA budget request is the latest example of the agency’s long-running problems.

Russia’s Northern Fleet submariners to test fire Tsirkon hypersonic missiles
Submarines of Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet will conduct test firing of hypersonic missiles shortly, Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Alexander Moiseyev said.

Pentagon’s major hypersonic glide body flight test deemed success
The Pentagon made good on its word that it would test a hypersonic glide body in a flight test this year, launching it from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, on March 19 at 10:30 p.m. local time.


Central Asia 

Uzbek government preparing to privatise some of its industrial crown jewels
Uzbek reform rhetoric is moving to a practical phase with large-scale privatization strategy prepared by the State Asset Management Agency (SAMA).

Uzbekistan sparks hope with registration of NGOs
Uzbekistan’s Justice Ministry has this week registered a U.S-based nongovernmental group focusing on poverty relief and a local justice advocacy organization, raising hopes that the authorities intend finally to allow a more open environment for citizen activism.

The Uzbek government reaches out to business ahead of its privatisation campaign
The Uzbek government has set itself an ambitious privatisation plan, but to get it right it is reaching out to business and IFIs as the goal is to improve efficiency and not just hold a fire sale.



Moldovan central bank officials arrested over $1bn bank frauds
Moldova’s prosecutor general’s office announced that it conducted criminal investigations at the headquarters of the National Bank of Moldova (BNM) on March 5, in connection to “the bank fraud”, and subsequently arrested three current and former top management members, as well as taking preliminary steps to arrest a former central bank governor.

        – Ukraine

Who’s who in Ukraine’s new Cabinet of Ministers
On March 4, the Ukrainian government underwent a major reshuffle.

Ukrainian Leader Backs Calamitous Reshuffle to Deliver Results
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy defended a cabinet reshuffle that unnerved investors and dismayed voters who’d backed him to clean up the country’s notoriously murky post-Soviet politics.

In controversial change, Ukraine to enter direct negotiations with Russian-led militants
President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak announced on March 13 that Ukraine will officially enter into direct negotiations with Russian-led militants for the first time in the six years of war in the Donbas.

Ukraine’s Quiet Depopulation Crisis
The government is trying to entice its people back, not entirely successfully.

Just how painful would a sovereign debt default be for Ukraine?
Ukraine is going into recession thanks to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at a time when it still does not have a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but still has to repay $4.1bn of debt this year from its meagre supply of hard currency reserves. A debt default has become a real possibility. But just how much pain would that cause?



Russian and American scientists discover new microbe fighting mechanism in Baikal bacteria
Under the new study, Russian and American researchers examined secondary metabolism products in 24 strains of actinobacteria, discovered in Lake Baikal sediments.

What Syria Ought to Teach America About Competition With Russia
Russia has quite the mess on its hands in Syria and any hope of a clean exit from the country is far-fetched.

Trump will not come to Russia for Victory Day celebration in May
The Kremlin does not know yet who will represent the US during the celebration events.

Trump’s National Security Advisor to Attend Russia’s May 9 Victory Day Parade
National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien will travel to Moscow to attend Russia’s World War Two Victory Day celebrations in May, U.S. ambassador John Sullivan said on Thursday, March 19.



Remembering the Children of Chernobyl
How HBO’s “Chernobyl” Series Revived the Cuba-Chernobyl Connection.



India & Russia plan to open new trade route via Iran despite threat of US sanctions
Opening a long-pending multi-modal transportation corridor via Iran will be a big boost for bilateral trade between Russia and India, but it’s not just the economy at stake. This is a bold move against the threat of US sanctions.



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.

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.