Eurasian Affairs – September 2019

Vladimir Putin received the Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China Li Keqiang on September 18, 2019.

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

The Evolution of the Carbon Markets: Is There Room for Russia?
As the negative effects of rising temperatures intensify, and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are making little headway, global concern about climate change is growing.

It’s Time for NATO to Engage in the Arctic
If you thought the alliance was already involved in the High North, you’re not alone. But as great power presence turns hotter, it’s time to get in the game.

 

Military

Russia vows to beef up western border amid rising tensions with NATO
Russia’s Defense Ministry will take wide-ranging measures in light of the mounting tensions along the country’s western borders.

Russia complains over Belarus’s refusal to host air base
Russia said on Thursday that Belarus’s refusal to host a military air base backed by President Vladimir Putin had been an “unpleasant episode”, a rare public display of disagreement between the close allies.

US Wargames to Try Out Concepts for Fighting China, Russia
oint Staff-led exercises will test new communications gear and new ideas for getting past “industrial-age” synchronization of forces.

U.S. 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.

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.

  – Nuclear

Putin says Russia will make new missiles, warns of arms race
President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia would produce missiles that were banned under a landmark Cold-War era nuclear pact that ended last month, but that Moscow would not deploy them unless the United States did so first.

Russia’s proposed moratorium on missile deployment ‘not a credible offer,’ says NATO
Reports emerged that Vladimir Putin had sent a proposal to the leaders of several states, including NATO, to introduce a moratorium on ntermediate-and shorter-range missile deployment in some regions.

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”

  – Cyber

The US Must Prepare for a Cyber ‘Day After’
The government needs a continuity plan to ensure that critical data and technology remains available after a devastating network attack.

First Draft of Russia’s AI Strategy
The draft, produced by the country’s largest bank, focuses on data, training, and ethics. The final version is due next month.

Russia carried out a ‘stunning’ breach of FBI communications system, escalating the spy game on U.S. soil
On Dec. 29, 2016, the Obama administration announced that it was giving nearly three dozen Russian diplomats just 72 hours to leave the United States and was seizing two rural East Coast estates owned by the Russian government.

U.S. Unleashes Military to Fight Fake News, Disinformation
Fake news and social media posts are such a threat to U.S. security that the Defense Department is launching a project to repel “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks,” as the top Republican in Congress blocks efforts to protect the integrity of elections.

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

Caucasus

Georgian fight for minimum wage faces uphill battle
The minimum wage now amounts to only $7 a month, by far the lowest in the region. And Georgia’s business-friendly political consensus is not interested in change.

Unpacking Azerbaijan’s sovereign wealth record
Global energy prices and the scale of Azerbaijan’s energy exports will determine whether the fund can continue growing at such a rapid pace.

– Armenia

Long-awaited trial of Armenian ex-president begins in Yerevan
Robert Kocharyan was challenged by victims’ families, but said the trial would go down in textbooks as the worst in Armenian history.

Pashinyan takes “Velvet Revolution” on the road to L.A.
The Armenian PM was enthusiastically received in California in spite of Azerbaijani government attempts to rain on his parade.

Why Armenia’s ex-president is on trial
Robert Kocharyan, Armenia’s former president, is standing trial in Yerevan for “overthrowing the constitutional order.”

 

Central Asia

Central Asian currencies track ruble in hitting slippery slope
Kazakhs visiting exchange bureaux, such as this one in Almaty, now need to take their internal ID passport if they want to make a hard currency transaction.

Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan exchange land in historic settlement
Land swaps or giveaways have historically proved politically risky in Kyrgyzstan. The government is, accordingly, stressing what it is calling advantageous terms.

Gazprom makes educational foray into Armenia, Kyrgyzstan
Russia is increasingly using education to project its influence in the near-abroad.

Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan flounder in finding fix for border woes
In a worrying departure from how these incidents typically unfold, government troops appear to have been involved in fighting from the start.

– Uzbekistan

Wandering along the Silk Road
Uzbekistan has made enormous progress and with a new reform-minded president in place the pace is accelerating, but there’s still plenty to do.

Uzbekistan’s New Security Powerhouse: The National Guard
For more than 25 years, Uzbekistan’s National Security Service (SNB) was the most feared law enforcement body in Uzbekistan. So when Shavkat Mirziyoev took over as president and soon moved to not only rein in the SNB but criticize and humiliate the security service for years of abuse, the people of Uzbekistan welcomed the SNB’s relegation.

What the recent weakening of the sum says about Uzbekistan’s economy
Uzbekistan’s currency has lost ground this year. We look at why the depreciation is a sign of future economic health.

Uzbekistan banking on international investors
Uzbek banks will attract the first round of foreign investment when restrictions on owning their stock are lifted.

Cutting the cloth in Uzbekistan
Exports of Uzbek textiles grew from under $1bn two years ago to $1.7bn in 2018. They are set to hit $2bn this year. 

– Kyrgyzstan

The Failure of Atambayev’s Planned Power Transition
Unlike in Russia and Kazakhstan, an effort in Kyrgyzstan to carefully orchestrate the transition of power backfired.

Kyrgyzstan: Latin (alphabet) fever takes hold
Any alphabet switch remains hypothetical due to budget and geopolitical considerations.

– Kazakhstan

Which generation owns Kazakstan’s future?
Half of Kazakhstan is under 29, which means young people are the future more than ever. But can they make their voices heard in a country where old-world values still rule?

Kazakhstan: After Xinjiang, the long road to recovery
A crowdsourcing project in Kazakhstan is treating victims of Chinese detention camps.

 

China

China and Russia agree to continue alliance building in defence of multilateralism
China and Russia ended their three-day heads of government meeting in Moscow on Wednesday with a pledge to stand together against “unilateralism and protectionism.”

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”.

India

Russia Tries to Balance India and China
With Russia moving ever closer to China, can Moscow manage to maintain its historically friendly ties with one of Beijing’s prospective regional rivals?

Russia’s Love Affair With India
Food and culture have forged strong ties between the countries over the past three decades.

Europe

Kaczynski’s “hat trick” latest in slew of PiS promises ahead of key election in Poland
Poland’s ruling party will massively increase the legally guaranteed minimum wages in Poland as well as add an extra pension payment and increase agricultural subsidies to match Western Europe’s levels.

– Belarus

Belarus leader tells Trump adviser he wants to reset ties with the U.S.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told U.S. national security adviser John Bolton in talks in Minsk on Thursday that he wanted to reset ties with Washington.

Who would you side with in a conflict between the US and Russia? Neither, say most Europeans
Donald Trump has damaged America’s standing in the world in his three years as president, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Europe.

Russia, Belarus reportedly ink ‘economic confederacy’ roadmap
Russia and Belarus have inked a roadmap to form “an economic confederacy” by 2022.

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.

– Ukraine

Kiev court rules to press abuse of power charges against ex-Ukrainian leader, top diplomat
Pyotr Poroshenko is currently charged under several criminal cases.

Ukraine president asks parliament to appoint political novice Honcharuk for PM
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has proposed 35-year-old lawyer and respected liberal economist Oleksiy Honcharuk for the post of Prime Minister.

Pundits on Zelensky’s 100 days: “successful for him but not for Ukraine”
The next 100 days will be more complicated, as Zelensky “will have to make decisions, including unpopular one,” a political scientist said.

Ukraine Parliament Speaker Signs New Electoral Code Long Pushed For By The West
Outgoing Ukrainian parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy on August 27 signed a bill that amends the Electoral Code to make political party lists open and eliminates single-mandate constituencies in future elections.

Ukraine’s new parliament sets itself a hectic legislative agenda
Ukraine’s new parliament has set itself a hectic and hugely ambitious legislative agenda for its first year in office.

Ukraine’s long awaited anti-corruption court starts work
Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Court started work on September 5 as planned after years of delays.

The majority of Ukrainians think the country is going in the right direction for the first time in five years
The mood amongst the public since Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy came to power has done an abrupt about face and deep pessimism has turned to growing optimism in the future of the country.

Trump administration reinstates military aid for Ukraine
President Donald Trump’s administration has released $250 million in military aid for Ukraine, U.S. senators said on Thursday, after lawmakers from both parties expressed concern that the White House had held up money approved by Congress.

Why religion and politics are a fickle mix in Ukraine
For nearly three decades, Mykhailo Denysenko, best known today as Patriarch Filaret, has waged a battle to unite Ukraine’s 25 million Orthodox believers under a single Ukrainian church aligned with an independent. Ukraine.

Ukraine, Russia fail to reach gas deal for Europe but agree to meet again
Russia and Ukraine failed to reach a new gas transit deal on Thursday, but said talks were “constructive” and they would meet again to try to find an agreement before the current one ends.

Russia ready for Ukraine peace talks but sets preconditions
Russia is ready to take part in a four-way summit in Paris to try to breathe life into the stalled Ukrainian peace process but has strict preconditions for such a meeting.

War in Donbas kills over 3,300 civilians
The war in Donbas has killed over 3,300 civilians, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said in a statement, noting that casualties had reduced substantially since July.

Ukraine’s Joint Forces preparing for withdrawal along contact line
Kravchenko also spoke about prospects for creating safe areas around the town of Zolote and the village of Petrivske.

Timeline: Trump, Giuliani, Biden, and Ukrainegate
A months-long campaign by President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to reportedly pressure the Ukraine government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s potential rival in the 2020 election, has gripped the nation’s capital.

Ukraine chief prosecutor Lutsenko resigns
Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko signed a letter of resignation on August 29, as the nation’s newly elected parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, meets for its first day of work.

Replacing Soviet Place Names Continues in Ukraine but at a Slower Pace
VladimirVyatrovich, the head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, says that his agency has overseen the renaming of “almost a thousand” cities and towns and 52,000 street names, the same numbers as last spring and a sign that the renaming effort has slowed.

Ukrainian FM sets return of national enterprises as precondition for Donbas blockade relief
Removal of the economic blockade from Donbas is preconditioned on the return of enterprises based there to Ukraine, while the government plans to replace its order on permitted goods with a list of prohibited ones.

Ukraine fires historian criticised for rehabilitating wartime nationalists idolised by the far right
The move comes after new President Volodymyr Zelensky hinted at a change in the country’s ‘national memory’ policy

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 left investment banking to reform Ukraine’s public procurement system and has now taken on another notoriously corrupt institution, the State Customs Service.

 

US 

Russia says ready to be guarantor for any Afghan peace deal between U.S. and Taliban
Russia is ready to be a guarantor of any peace deal for Afghanistan agreed between the United States and the Taliban, the Russian foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

Russian Oil Exports to U.S. Soar to 6-Year High
Russia’s oil and petroleum sales to the United States have reached six-year highs, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data analyzed by the RBC news website.

Why U.S. Sanctions on Russia’s Automotive Industry Might Not Work
The United States should have put into effect sanctions against Russia’s second biggest car manufacturer, Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod, also known as GAZ Group, on July 4.

Since Relations Soured, Getting A U.S. Visa Has Been Tough For Russians
Two U.S. senators say the Russian government has denied them visas to travel to Russia. At the same time, prominent Russians say they are having trouble securing U.S. visas.

US extracted top spy from inside Russia in 2017
In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government.

US sees Russia behind murder of Georgian in Germany
The United States sees Moscow behind the murder in Germany last month of a Georgian man who had fought against Russian forces in Chechnya.

Russian-US trade turnover tops $13.8 bln in first half of 2019
Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said that Russia is becoming increasingly attractive for Americans as a tourist destination.

Great-Power Competition Is Washington’s Top Priority—but Not the Public’s
or all the acrimony in Washington today, the city’s foreign policy establishment is settling on a rare bipartisan consensus: that the world has entered a new era of great-power competition.

Kremlin denies that man identified by U.S. media as spy and defector ever worked at Presidential Affairs Directorate 
Oleg Smolenkov, who some media have described as a former high-ranking Russian official who spied and ultimately defected for the United States, has never served at the Russian Presidential Affairs Directorate, Yelena Krylova, the directorate’s spokesperson, told Interfax.

Was This Man the Prized U.S. Asset in the Kremlin?
If a midlevel Kremlin official was indeed the agent the U.S. pulled from Russia in 2017, he couldn’t have known much about covert election interference.

Russian complaint against AP to be heard by media council
The Associated Press has agreed to accept the jurisdiction of Russia’s press council in a dispute between the news agency and the head of the country’s elections commission.

Russia continues to dump US Treasuries
Moscow has continued to sell off US Treasury securities, cutting its stockpile by $2.35 billion in July

Mark von Hagen, Critic of Times’s Stalin Coverage, Dies at 65
A historian, he was asked by the paper to judge whether a correspondent’s Pulitzer Prize should be revoked because of biased reporting. He said it should be.

The Key to Understanding Vladimir Putin
It is common to ascribe America’s growing difficulties with Russia to President Vladimir Putin personally, but the sources of Russian discontent predate Putin’s presidency.

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
In an effort to insulate the Russian economy from U.S. sanctions, the Kremlin has made “de-dollarization” a long-term priority, but will be forced to rely on the greenback for some time.

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.

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.

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.