Eurasian Affairs – May 2020

SpaceX's successful launch could mean new pathways to partnership or rivalry in space for the US and Russia. It will certainly have an impact on Russia's space program, as it will lose a major source of funding.

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.


Russian airlines to tighten verification of residence when boarding  flights
It is noted that “before issuing a boarding pass, airline employees will strictly check documents confirming passengers’ residence in the region”.



Russia won’t get caught up in another moon race
“We are not going to take part in some lunar race that resembles an election competition between Republicans and Democrats,” Dmitry Rogozin told the Komsomolskaya Pravda radio station on May 25.

A reckoning for Russia’s space program
SpaceX’s first attempt at launching astronauts from American soil this week is a historic moment that will stress the decades-long relationship between the U.S. and Russia in space.


Oil Price

Forbes Global 2000 Shows Nothing Can Stop Russia’s Oil Beasts
Russian oil is in constant “beast mode.”

Russia Ready To Boost Production As Soon As OPEC+ Deal Ends
Russia overtook Saudi Arabia as China’s top crude oil supplier in April, customs data showed, with imports rising 18% from the same month a year earlier as refiners snapped up cheap raw materials amid a price war between the two producers.

Russia leapfrogs Saudi Arabia as China’s top crude oil supplier in April
OPEC and its allies have agreed a 9.7mn barrels per day cut in production, or just under 10% of global production, but with demand down by a third analysts say its is not enough to lift prices.

Ukraine government approves memorandum on U.S. LNG
Ukraine’s government on Wednesday approved a memorandum on the prospect of importing at least 5.5 billion cubic metres (bcm) of liquefied natural gas (LNG) a year from the United States, according to a televised meeting.


Coronavirus in Eurasia

How is the Russian Military Responding to COVID-19?
Until recently, the Russian government argued that its armed forces were officially COVID-19 free. The reality of COVID-19 in Russia, of course, is almost certainly much different than official accounts.

Why US and Russian high COVID-19 case counts are deceptive?
Naturally, statistics can be twisted in various ways to suit certain agendas, but there can hardly be any disagreement that per capita figures are the fairest measure in a pandemic.

Baltic states to create ‘travel bubble’ as pandemic curbs eased
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will open their borders to each others’ citizens from May 15, creating a Baltic “travel bubble” within the European Union amid an easing of pandemic restrictions, their prime ministers said on May 6.



Who ‘Defeated’ ISIS? An Analysis of US and Russian Contributions
With Russian flags now flying over abandoned U.S. military bases in Syria, and American soldiers still dying in combat with the Islamic State in Iraq, the terror group’s strength may seem hard to gauge.

To Compete With Russia and China at Sea, Think Small
Great power competition requires more than preparing for great power conflict.

Coronavirus Not Slowing Russian, Chinese Space Activities
Meanwhile, the U.S. has delayed several launches amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

US Should Start Space Security Talks With Russia, China
The Trump administration should declare a U.S. moratorium on destructive ASAT testing and work with like-minded countries to begin laying the groundwork for an eventual legal prohibition. These would be an immense step forward on limiting future ASAT testing and enhancing space security for both the United States and the world.

Russia begins construction of the first PAK DA strategic bomber
The final assembly of the entire machine should be complete in 2021.

        – Nuclear

Kennan Cable No. 50: Arms Control in the COVID-19 Era: No Next Step without New START
While the world’s attention is riveted on the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, another urgent existential threat is quietly growing in the background: the steady termination of nuclear arms control treaties between the United States and the Russian Federation and the absence of new arms control negotiations.

Critiquing the State Department’s Nuclear Posture Clarification
The State Department recently sought to clarify U.S. nuclear posture. It, perhaps inadvertently, makes a strong case for negotiating deep reductions in U.S. and Russian high-yield strategic weapons.

Nuclear Weapons Treaty’s Chief Negotiator Fears Coronavirus Crisis Could Mean End of Russia-U.S. Arms Control Deal
Former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Rose Gottemoeller told Newsweek that she was “concerned” about the deal lapsing if it is not paid more attention before it expires early next year.

Russia’s ‘doomsday drone’ prepares for testing
One year after the fatal accident with a nuclear-powered missile in the White Sea, Russia’s weapon designers say a test launch the Poseidon nuclear powered underwater drone will take place this fall.


Central Asia 

Kazakhstan: Coronavirus prompting many to reassess priorities
Post-coronavirus life will bring fewer debts and more time with the family. Maybe.

Kazakhstan: Nazarbayeva, often eyed as successor, removed as Senate speaker
Kazakhstan’s president has in a shock decision stripped the daughter of his predecessor of her position as chair of the Senate, a move bound to spark fresh speculation about succession.

Gulnara Karimova’s son publishes list of assets confiscated from her in Uzbekistan
A grandson of late Uzbek autocrat Islam Karimov has published on his sister Iman’s Instagram page a list of assets confiscated from his mother, Gulnara Karimova, in Uzbekistan.

Waking Sleeping Beauty: shaking up Uzbekistan’s banking sector
Whilst the world was in a lockdown, the government of Uzbekistan has been busy reforming the banking sector.

Tajikistan secures $190 mln IMF loan to fight coronavirus crisis
The International Monetary Fund’s executive board has approved a disbursement of $189.5 million for Tajikistan to help it “meet urgent balance of payments and fiscal needs stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic”, the IMF said on May 7.

Kazakhstan ends state of emergency; provinces to oversee lifting of lockdown
Kazakhstan allowed a coronavirus state of emergency to lapse on May 11, authorising cities and provinces to begin lifting lockdown measures depending on their success in curbing the spread of the coronavirus.



Armenia ends lockdown even as COVID cases spiking
Armenians are now able to go back to (open-air) bars and restaurants, and all factories are allowed to reopen.

Armenia ends lockdown, COVID cases spike
Starting on May 4, Armenians can again eat out (in outdoor seating), go shopping anywhere except a mall or other large markets, and travel without restrictions (though public transportation remains suspended).



A Framework for Sino-Russian Relations in the Arctic
During the last twenty years of increased activity in the Arctic, China has become one of Russia’s most successful Asian partners.

US, Russian Navies Flex Muscles in Arctic
The United States and Russia are ramping up their military operations in the Arctic Ocean, even as a majority of exercises around the world have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic

The US Navy returns to an increasingly militarized Arctic
The U.S. Navy’s Barents Sea patrol is the latest sojourn into an increasingly militarized Arctic, where questions of international law are proliferating.

The Emergence of a Sino-Russian Economic Partnership in the Arctic?
The Sino-Russian strategic partnership has never been as comprehensive and stable as it is now.



Microsoft to invest $1bn in building Poland’s “Digital Valley”
US software giant Microsoft will invest $1bn over seven years to develop a data centre and associated cloud computing services for businesses in Poland, the company said on May 5.

Lukashenko seeks Belarus presidential election by late August amid disastrous coronavirus rate
Authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, Central and Eastern Europe’s longest-ruling head of state, is going to conduct a new presidential election by late August, he said on May 4.

Putin links ploys to rewrite history of WWII to political strife in some countries
Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that some try to impose on Russia a false feeling of guilt by claiming that the Soviet Union was allegedly responsible for starting World War II.

Moldova considers issuing first Eurobonds since 1997
The Moldovan government is examining the option of issuing Eurobonds this year to finance infrastructure projects, a government statement said on May 13.

World witnessing US century ceding to Asian one, says EU foreign policy chief
In his words, the novel coronavirus pandemic can be seen as a kind of accelerator of this process.

        – Ukraine

Hopes Fade for Ukraine Deal That Could Ease Russia Sanctions
Fragile hopes of ending the six-year conflict in Ukraine that might pave the way to an easing of European sanctions on Russia have evaporated as Moscow and Kyiv find themselves in renewed deadlock.

Trump Nominates New Ambassador to Ukraine
U.S. President Donald Trump has announced his nominee, Keith W. Dayton, to serve as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

Ukraine faces deepening recession due to coronavirus lockdown
Lockdown measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic will cause Ukraine’s economy to shrink by 1% in the first quarter of this year and contract 10.9% in the second quarter, a Reuters monthly poll of analysts said on May 6.

IMF cancels Ukraine EFF deal, downgrades it to an SBA due to “unprecedented economic uncertainty”
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has cancelled its agreement with Ukraine for the extended $5.5bn Extended Fund Facility (EFF) and says negotiations must restart for a downgraded Standby agreement (SBA) due to “unprecedented uncertainty,” the fund said on May 7.

Ukraine’s hospital under strain, even with few virus cases
Ukraine’s troubled health care system has been overwhelmed by COVID-19, even though it has reported a relatively low number of cases — 15,648 infections and 408 deaths as of May 11.

Ukraine begins stage one of reopening. Where its outbreak stands in graphs
Ukraine has entered the first stage of easing lockdown on May 11, two months after the government imposed a nationwide quarantine to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.



‘Hostile’ Russia Excluded From U.S. Moon Mining Pact
Russia will not be an early partner in the United States’ international agreement on moon mining rights it seeks to negotiate with other countries in the coming weeks, Reuters reported on May 5.

Putin uses WW2 anniversary for bridge-building with U.S., Britain
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent telegrams on May 8 to U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, suggesting the need to rekindle their nations’ cooperation during World War Two to solve today’s problems.

Europe must prepare for US exit from vital Russia treaty, former Nato generals warn
A group of retired Nato generals and defence officials have urged the US to stay in a 1992 treaty with Russia on mutual reconnaissance flights, but also warned European capitals to prepare for a US exit.

U.S. Withdrawal From Open Skies Bolsters Case for New Strategic Regime
Donald Trump is often accused of being utterly unpredictable. Yet on a number of issues he has demonstrated a high degree of consistency. Arms control is a prime example.

Moscow says it was US that violated Open Skies Treaty, still willing to save pact essential to European security
Russia will do everything in its power to salvage the Open Skies Treaty (OST) after the US signaled its intention to withdraw from one of the few remaining arms-control pillars, Moscow said, rejecting claims it violated the pact.

European states vow to stay in Open Skies Treaty despite US exit
Ten European Union countries on May 22 expressed regret at U.S. plans to withdraw from the Open Skies treaty and vowed to uphold the pact, as NATO envoys met to discuss developments.

Sanctions Against Russia: A Look Into 2020
Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) assessing the risks of new sanctions against Russia in 2020.

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.