Eurasian Affairs – October 2019

President Putin with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia at the talks in Riyadh.

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.

 

Global

A new government media report says half of Western reporting about Russia is ‘negative.’ It turns out that a single tabloid journalist writes a lot of it.
According to a report by the news agency Rossiya Segodnya (“Russia Today,” not to be confused with the network RT), almost half of the articles in the foreign press about Russia are “negative.”

 

Military

Army Recommends Shift in Focus From Russia to China
The U.S. Army Transition Team (ATT) has called for the Army to shift its primary focus from the European theater to the Asia-Pacific theater, Task & Purpose reported Sept. 20.

China parades its latest missiles in challenge to US, others
Military planners in Washington and elsewhere will be taking note of new missile technology displayed by China, particularly a hypersonic ballistic nuclear missile believed capable of breaching all existing anti-missile shields deployed by the U.S. and its allies.

Dry Run for WWIII: US Army to Deploy 20,000 Troops to Europe
Ever since Russia’s military annexation of Crimea in 2014, the United States military has increased its presence and overall readiness throughout Eastern Europe.

Russia announces massive trans-Arctic nuclear war games
Several areas in the Barents Sea are closed off making ready for ballistic missile shootings from submarines from October 15 to 17.

U.S. Cedes Syrian City to Russia in Battlefield “Handover” as Turkey Tries to Take It
he U.S. military has begun a hasty exit from Syria’s northern city of Manbij, and is set to help Russia establish itself there amid a Turkish attempt to defeat Kurdish-led, Pentagon-backed fighters at the strategic location

   – Nuclear

Russia vows to take compensatory measures, if intermediate-range missile appear in Europe
Accoding to the deputy foreign minister, “it is necessary to recall the lessons of the Caribbean crisis and refresh this in memory”

Russian nuclear submarine aborts ballistic missile test
A Russian nuclear submarine aborted the test firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile during a military exercise overseen by President Vladimir Putin last week

Russia’s Project 955A SSBN Design Improvements over Project 955
At first sight the fourth nuclear-powered submarines with ballistic missiles (SSBN) of project 955 (codename Borei) looks like its predecessors. The Prince Vladimir (codename Borei-A) submarine of project 955A was initially designed as a submarine with higher combat capabilities.

    – Cyber

Russia’s National AI Center Is Taking Shape
A famed technical university is helping to lead the push for public-private AI development.

 

Arctic

Record greenhouse emission registered in Russian Arctic
In September, scientists from Russia, China, Sweden left for an expedition to study bio-chemical consequence from the thawing underwater permafrost in the East Arctic, along the Northern Sea Route

 

Europe

30 years after fall of Berlin Wall Pew poll finds progress but a values fault line lies across Europe
Life is better in CEE after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but some countries are finding the transition harder than others.

Denmark gives go-ahead for Nord Stream 2 Russian pipeline segment
Denmark has granted permission for the Russian Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline to be contructed across Danish seabed in the Baltic Sea, leading to Germany.

Moldovan prosecutors’ request arrest warrant for former leader Plahotniuc
Moldova’s anti-corruption prosecutors have requested preventive arrest for 30 days for oligarch and former politician Vlad Plahotniuc and the issue of a warrant in this regard, after the former head of the Democratic Party failed to show up on October 9 when he was invited by prosecutors for hearings in connection to his involvement in a money laundering case.

    – Belarus

Belarusian Leader To Sign Agreement On Simplification Of EU Visa Regime
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has decided to sign an agreement simplifying the visa regime for Belarusian citizens travelling to European Union member states.

Belarus and the U.S. Decided to Restore Ties After 11 years of “Frozen” Relations. Here’s Why.
On September 17, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale announced that the U.S. and Belarus are resuming the exchange of ambassadors. Minsk and Washington decided to restore ties at the ambassadorial level after more than 11 years of “frozen” relations.

    – Poland

Poland’s Ruling Party Puts an Extraordinary Museum of Polish-Jewish History into Limbo
Dariusz Stola, the director of the Polin Museum, in Warsaw, which Poland’s nationalist-conservative government has seized control of as part of its efforts to legislate the country’s memory.

Poland’s PiS win general election but fails to increase its domination
Poland’s ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) won the general election with 43.6% of the vote, enough to hold majority in the lower house of the Polish parliament

 

Caucasus

    – Armenia

Armenia-Azerbaijan: Who’s the big defense spender?
Azerbaijan spends six times more in dollar terms. But rival Armenia’s spending is far more painful at home.

U.S. sanctions on Iran hit Armenia
Yerevan has been trying to resist pressure from Washington to cut ties with its southern neighbor. But Armenia’s private banks have been making it more difficult to do business.

The Eurasian Union meets Velvet Revolution in Armenia
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian (front row, left), who loves a selfie, snapped this one on a bus with the other leaders of the Eurasian Economic Union.

    – Georgia

Georgia’s booming, little regulated gambling industry doubled in size during 2018
Gross revenues generated by Georgia’s gambling industry hit Georgian lari (GEL) 13.8bn (€5bn, and equivalent to one third of the country’s GDP) in 2018, more than double the sum recorded the year before

Global tourism conquers Georgia’s untamable Svaneti
From openhanded hospitality to fierce blood feuds, centuries-old customs are fading in Svaneti as the remote Caucasus highland becomes a trendy tourism destination.

Georgia-Russia diplomatic talks spark accusations of “collaborationism”
After the Russian foreign ministry threw them under the bus, Georgian officials were forced to change their story about who initiated a landmark meeting between the two sides.

 

Central Asia

Atambayev trial begins with more questions than answers
The former president has refused to turn up for hearings.

Nazarbayev takes back control
The surprise move appears to confirm talk of a power struggle.

     – Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan reforms are real, can they sustain them?
Uzbekistan is rapidly opening up but the low hanging fruit has already been picked. It gets harder from here on in.

Uzbekistan’s trade with neighbors rises sharply
Uzbekistan’s trade liberalization could boost all of Central Asia’s economies.

Uzbekistan rapidly opening up but inflation and credit boom represent substantial danger ahead
Uzbekistan’s Tilya Kori Madrasah. Part of opening up is extending a welcome to more foreign tourists and the Uzbeks have plenty to show off.

Uzbekistan’s five-year goal to overhaul its energy industry
Uzbekistan under its new president Shavkat Mirziyoyev is a country gearing up for a bright future – or so they say.

     – Tajikistan

Tajikistan gifts silver mine license to Chinese company
Lawmakers in Tajikistan have voted to ratify an agreement giving a Chinese company development rights for a silver mine in the Pamir mountains.

National Bank takes hold over cash transfer business
Tajikistan’s financial regulator has created a clearing house for international cash transfers, in effect making itself the conduit for all money sent home by migrant laborers.

Why is Tajikistan pawing migrant laborers’ cash?
The central bank says it wants to improve efficiency in the remittance transfers system.

 

China

Russia-China: Economic Ties Progress from Cold to Warm
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian-Chinese trade and economic relations were lagging behind the rapid development of their diplomatic contacts and growing strategic and military-political cooperation. The situation for a numbers of reasons was described as “hot politics, cold economics”.

Russia is helping China build a new missile attack warning system
“We are currently helping our Chinese partners to create a missile attack warning system. It’s a serious thing that will drastically increase the defense capabilities of the People’s Republic of China,” Putin announced at a political conference in Sochi on Thursday.

 

Ukraine

Here’s what you need to know about the US aid package to Ukraine that Trump delayed
At the center of the latest scandal threatening to take down President Donald Trump is $391 million in military aid that the U.S. leader reportedly asked his staff to freeze for two months before dropping the hold a week ago, under pressure from lawmakers.

Ukraine security and defence council’s chief Danylyuk unexpectedly resigns
Recently appointed secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council (NSDC) Oleksandr Danylyuk submitted his resignation letter to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Reformer pledges to transform Ukraine’s notoriously corrupt State Customs Service
Max Nefyodov does not look like your run-of-the-mill Ukrainian official. With his barber shop haircut and full beard, he would probably fit more naturally in a studio of IT developers or a trendy coffee shop than the old-fashioned corridors of Ukraine’s government buildings.

Ukrainian president signs off on the Steinmeier formula for the Donbas conflict resolution
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has agreed with the other members of the Trilateral Contact Group that oversees the negotiations to end fighting in the Donbas to adopt the so-called Steinmeier formula in an effort to bring the fighting in Ukraine’s eastern region to an end.

Ukraine’s banks back in the black but face serious challenges
The worst is passed for Ukraine’s banking sector as banks return to profit

10,000 people demonstrate against the Steinmeier plan in Kyiv
Some 10,000 people gathered on Maidan square in Kyiv to protest against president Zelenskiy’s decision to sign off on the Steinmeier Formula deal to bring an end to the conflict in Donbas

What Ukraine’s Zelenskyy Said During Record-Long Press Conference
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has answered questions from more than 300 journalists in his first big press conference since May inauguration. At 10 hours (and going strong), it broke the world record for the longest press conference given by a country leader. Hromadske takes a look at some key points made by the president

Developments in “DNR” and “LNR”: 21 September – 08 October 2019
The signing of the “Steinmeier Formula” did not result in a change of tone in the separatists’ statements versus Ukraine.

Ukraine’s PrivatBank reports record high jump in net profit amid de-nationalisation crisis
Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky claims the state illegally nationalised Privatbank and is fighting in court to have it returned

Can Ukraine and Russia Make Things Work This Time?
The next steps towards reconciliation are going to be extremely difficult and painful for a number of reasons.

What Ukraine’s Zelenskiy Said About Russia During His Marathon Press Conference
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Thursday held a marathon 14-hour press conference with journalists in a Kiev food court.

Ukraine’s talks with the International Monetary Fund have “stalled”
Ukraine’s talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have “stalled” and a deal before the end of this year is looking increasingly unlikely because of the dispute over the snowballing Privatbank crisis.

Ukraine Passes Whistleblower Law
Ukrainians will get paid for reporting corruption.

Zelenskiy’s approval ratings fall as his government gets bogged down in multiple crises
Zelenskiy’s approval rating fell to 66% in October from 73% in September.

Ukraine expects to more than double its renewable capacity in 2019
Renewable energy accounts for 4.9% of Ukraine’s power generation, but the government plans to increase that to 25% in the coming years

Ukraine, separatists both pull back heavy weapons from east
Ukrainian officials and Russia-backed separatists both announced Tuesday they have begun pulling back weapons in Ukraine’s war-torn east, a step they hope unblocks a stalled peace process.

Ukraine’s investment summit on the front line of a war
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy woos investors at an investment summit in Mariupol just 20km from the front line.

 

US

These once-secret memos cast doubt on Joe Biden’s Ukraine story
Former Vice President Joe Biden, now a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, has locked into a specific story about the controversy in Ukraine.

Russia’s bid to ditch the US dollar is slowly working, but obstacles remain
Since 2013, the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) has been trying to reduce the number of transactions conducted in U.S. dollars, either for domestic payments or foreign trade.

White House restricted access to Trump’s calls with Putin and Saudi crown prince
White House efforts to limit access to President Donald Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders extended to phone calls with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

The FBI is running Facebook ads targeting Russians in Washington
The FBI is running ads on Facebook in the Washington DC area seemingly designed to target and recruit Russian spies as well as those who know about their work

Democrats alarmed about possible U.S. withdrawal from Open Skies treaty
Four senior Democratic lawmakers said on Tuesday they believed the Trump administration may withdraw from a treaty that allows unarmed surveillance flights over U.S., Russian and other territory, warning it would be a gift to Russia and undermine confidence in the U.S. commitment to Ukraine.

Trump names John Sullivan as his pick for U.S. ambassador to Russia
If confirmed by the Senate, Sullivan would be the top U.S. diplomat in Russia at a particularly challenging time for Trump’s presidency, which is facing an impeachment inquiry after Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate his domestic political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden

Russia sends note of protest to U.S. over FBI questioning of MP
The Russian embassy in the United States has sent a note of protest to the U.S. State Department over FBI questioning of a Russian lawmaker in a New York airport overnight.

Trump Takes Aim at a Critical Cold War Treaty With Russia
The Open Skies treaty has provided invaluable intelligence for its 34 signatory countries. Now Donald Trump reportedly wants out.

New York law will shine light on shadowy real estate deals
Wealthy powerbrokers from the former Soviet Union have long relied on the use of shell companies to buy Manhattan real estate.

Russia Stops U.S. Diplomats en Route to a Nuclear Accident Site
The diplomats were intending to travel to a remote town in the Russian Arctic, where a mysterious nuclear accident killed seven people in August, releasing radiation.

Russian agent Butina released from U.S. prison, deported
Convicted Russian agent Maria Butina was released from a Florida prison on Friday after serving most of her 18-month sentence for conspiring to influence U.S. conservative activists and infiltrate a powerful gun rights group, and taken into custody by immigration officials to be deported to her native country.

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.