Russian Foreign Affairs – November, 2017

Russian Foreign Affairs in the News
November, 2017

SSI-banner Russian foreign policy and foreign policies concerning Russia have been of particular interest to those following world affairs lately. With Russia’s more assertive stance on the world stage, Russia’s absorption of Crimea, and resulting sanctions, arms buildups, and global geopolitical restructuring and repositioning, keeping a close eye on this part of the world is especially important to understanding global security and international politics.

As Russia’s situation is also closely tied to events in its near abroad, particularly within the former USSR, this resource also follows countries within that geographic area.

This free resource serves to track and analyze these issues as they develop in Eurasia.



Russia Has Grand Designs for the International Order
Despite the headline, this is more a history of post-Soviet foreign policy – Russia’s failed attempts to “dock” with the West, and floundering attempts to form a new geopolitical block around itself. “Connectivity” is briefly mentioned as a new “Plan C.”

Russia Opens Its Doors Wide for International Students
Russia is offering full-ride scholarships for MA programs in Mathematics, Computer Science, Economics, and Physics.

Facebook Can’t Cope With the World It’s Created
Social media gives individuals global voices. Formerly fringe groups now form large, cohesive communities. Thoughts can be expressed instantaneously, but with no take backs and often little context. Social media is changing politics across the globe.


US Relations

Most Prefer Russia as a Friend, Not an Enemy
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 52% of Likely U.S. Voters agree that having Russia as a friend is an “asset to our country, not a liability.” Just 27% disagree, but another 21% are undecided.

This Russian Did His Best to Influence the U.S. Election
Shkilarov designed campaign-organizing software while running campaigns such those that resulted in 200 surprise victories for liberal candidates in Moscow’s municipal elections. But a national campaign is a whole new level of difficulty.

Statements by the Presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States of America
The Presidents agreed to maintain open military channels of communication between military professionals to help ensure the safety of both US and Russian forces and de-confliction of partnered forces engaged in the fight against ISIS. They confirmed these efforts will be continued until the final defeat of ISIS is achieved.

Is This Professor ‘Putin’s American Apologist’?
A brief history of how one American Russia expert went from being a close friend of and supporter of Gorbachev to being accused of being a “Putin Apologist.”

How US-Russia Diplomacy Went Heavy Metal
Something makes the current standoff between Russia and the U.S. worse than the Cold War: the lack of a common language between the two world powers’ elites.


US Relations – News and Propaganda Allegations

Basic Scientific Method
Let’s accept that some of the ‘Russia-linked accounts’ are indeed Russian, though we can’t tell that any of them are actually linked to the Russian government, and let’s accept that Russians are posting things about US politics. Does that amount to ‘interference’? And does it show that Russians are particularly noteworthy interferers, so noteworthy as to justify a vast witch-hunt?

Kremlin to Target All Foreign Media Amid US ‘Foreign Agent’ Spat
Russian lawmakers last week named U.S. outlets CNN, Voice of America, Radio Liberty and its “Current Time” television channels as likely targets of Moscow’s retaliation, saying the State Duma could pass the new restrictions on the news organizations as early as this week.

Revealed: How Twitter Pushed RT To Spend Big on 2016 US Election
RT reveals all in their dealings with Twitter during the 2016 campaign season.

Eric Schmidt Says Google News Will ‘Engineer’ Russian Propaganda Out of the Feed
Google is planning to “de-rank” Russian news sources.

Russian News Agency Interfax Faces ‘Unprecedented’ Hacker Attack
According to Kaspersky, the creators of the malware may be fans of Game of Thrones as some of the computer code contains the names of characters from the fantasy drama.

Russia Threatens to Block Ads on Google in Escalating Media War
The call follows a move by Google to de-rank posts from Kremlin-funded news outlets RT and Sputnik, which are accused of propaganda.

The Ads That Russia Bought on Facebook
U.S. lawmakers have released a batch of Facebook ads linked to what many of them say are Russia’s efforts to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential election and stir up emotions on sensitive social issues.

The Democrats Dig for Russian Connection and Uncover Environmentalists
Democrats and the media have been on a yearlong deep dig into Russian involvement into U.S. elections. But when you dig a hole you sometimes run across things you wish had remained buried — like the dirt pointing to Russian ties to the U.S. environmental movement.

Russiagate’ Zealots Have Become a Major Threat to US National Security
At an international summit in Vietnam last week, President Trump took necessary steps to reduce the perils of the new Cold War with Russia. Liberal Democrats call it “treasonous.”


Policy and Conflict Post SovietRussian Military

A Closer Look at Russia’s Arctic Muscle Flexing
As global oil prices stay low, as federal budgets tighten, and as prospective trade along the Northern Sea Route remains risky, why is Russia continuing to build up its military presence in the Arctic?

Why the US Intelligence Community Fears Russia’s Growing Military Might
The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency has released a new assessment of Russian military power—reviving a Cold War-era practice. The agency concludes that the modern Russian military builds upon its Soviet heritage but has modernized its capabilities and doctrine for the present day.

Russia and America Are Conducting Massive Nuclear Exercises (and No One Cares)
And how at least one liberal Russian newspaper did report on it.

Russia’s Military Modernization Plans
Russia seems primed to stay ahead of its competitors in some capabilities (anti-ship missiles, electronic warfare, air defenses), narrow the gap in areas such as drones and precision-guided munitions, and continue to lag well behind in a few areas such as surface ships and automated control systems.

Assessing the Russian Military
Michael Kofman on Sean’s Russia Podcast. Kofman is Research Scientist at CNA Corporation and Fellow at the Kennan Institute where he specializes in security and defense in Eurasia. He comments widely on Russian military affairs and foreign policy. He also blogs on the Russian military at his site Russian Military Analysis.


Former USSR – Language Issues

Armenia’s Plans on Teaching Russian Raise Fears of Moscow Influence
Where does encouraging foreign language proficiency end and “Russification” begin?

Russian MP Blasts Riga’s Educational Language Reform Ploy as ‘Linguistic Genocide’
The ruling coalition earlier backed reform, according to which national minorities’ schools will have to switch to teaching nearly all subjects in Latvian within the next three years. Now, Sergey Zheleznyak of Russia’s State Duma (lower house) claims the decision is a violation of the European Union’s legal framework and resembles linguistic genocide.

Dari or Farsi? Afghanistan’s Long-Simmering Language Dispute
Persian, as spoken across Central Asia, is actually a bewildering assortment of dialects. Language has long been a sore point in Afghanistan, where it has exposed unresolved tensions among the country’s ethnic and linguistic groups.

Language the Latest Battleground in Modova’s East-West Struggle
The USSR made a concerted effort to try to establish a Moldovan identity separate from that of Romanian. However, Moldova spent much of pre-Soviet history as Romanian and still, to this day, has much in common with its southern neighbor in language, culture, and cuisine. There has, in fact, always been a (minority and controversial) current in modern Moldovan politics that has argued that perhaps Moldova would be better off re-merging with Romania wholesale…


Former USSR – European

More Than 650 Released in Ukraine Prisoner Exchange
Ukrainian officials signed the deal with the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk on Thursday, the Lenta news site reported.

New Kingpin Comes to Power After ‘Coup’ in Eastern Ukraine
The eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk has a new separatist leader following an armed standoff between local warlords, amid a flurry of fatal clashes between Russian-controlled militia and government troops.

Teens of Transnistria: How Does It Feel To Grow Up in a Country Shunned By the Rest of the World?
Without recognized borders or even existence, the local economy is handicapped – but traveling to the outside world is much more difficult. So what is it like to grow up in a place that doesn’t officially exist?


Central-Asia-StudiesFormer USSR – Central Asia and Caucasus

Iran, Russia Display Strategic Unity and Envision Huge Oil Deal as Putin Visits Tehran
The next trilateral meeting between Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan will be held in Moscow in 2018.

A New Asia-to-Europe Railway Route Is Opening Up
This new 525-mile rail line will take you from Istanbul to Baku via Tbilisi. The rail line itself has just been opened and passenger service is expected to start next year.

Sukhumi in the Spotlight: Hope Amid the Ruins of a Pro-Russian Breakaway State
The food scene is also burgeoning – hipster burger joints, elegant traditional restaurants and Turkish cafes compete for business near the waterfront. Chilled Abkhazian wine and locally brewed Sukhumskoe beer are both popular during the warm summer months.

Central Asia: Core and Periphery
An entity as much cultural as it is geographic, traditional boundary concepts are nearly meaningless when trying to define Central Asia. At the center of vast and vastly diverse Eurasia, Central Asia is at once unique from and inseparably tied to the lands that surround it.

Central Asia’s Borders: The Next Twenty-Five Years
Many predicted a “violent re-bordering” of Central Asia with the collapse of the Soviet state along with flare-ups in ethnic tensions. Instead, the various states turned domestic borders into international borders surprisingly quietly and in ways that reflected their diverse methods of state-building. This brief policy memo details how that was done and gives some very practical, non-idealistic (and thus probably controversial) ways to further develop border relations in the area. This includes understanding where and why open borders work as much as understanding where and why they don’t.

Babanov Steps Down as Kyrgyz Opposition Parliamentary Faction Leader
Opposition leader Babanov, who won 33% of the vote in the recent Kyrgyz presidential elections, has fled the country and is reportedly stepping down as leader of this party. He is being investigated by the state for serious criminal charges.

Kazakhstan: New-Look Alphabet Makes First Outings
Kazakhstan’s new alphabet has just been used to publish a newspaper for the first time. A website that shows people what their names will be in the new alphabet has been launched. As you might expect, public debate is picking up…




Russia Threatens to Cut Museum Ties with the Netherlands Over Crimea Gold
Russia is threatening to cut museum and artifact exchange ties the Netherlands if an Amsterdam museum upholds a decision to give Ukraine ancient gold artifacts left in bureaucratic limbo when Russia annexed Crimea.

Why 60,000 People Joined a Nationalist March in Poland
While religiosity in Poland, Europe’s most religious state, is beginning to lose ground, religious slogans are gaining ground among Polish far-right movements.

A Radioactive Cloud Wafts Over Europe, With Russia as Chief Suspect
Official monitors in France and Germany concluded that, based on weather patterns, the contamination detected since late September had emanated from southern Russia or from Kazakhstan.



Russia’s Role in Securing Asia’s Prosperity
For the recent APEC conference, Vladimir Putin wrote this article in Bloomberg outlining Russia’s interests in and offers for the Asian region: “As a major Eurasian power with vast Far Eastern territories that boast significant potential, Russia has a stake in the successful future of the Asia-Pacific region, and in promoting sustainable and comprehensive growth throughout its territory.”

Russian Fund Plans a $1 Billion Mining Venture With China Gold
The parties may sign an agreement to create the mining fund by the end of the year, he said. The fund will begin with about $500 million before expanding and may make its first investment in 2018. Far East Development and China Gold will each invest $100 million, with a further $300 million from private investors.

The Quiet Rivalry Between China and Russia
China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, an economic expansion plan that follows the trade routes of the medieval Tang and Yuan dynasties across Eurasia, is overly ambitious because, like all grand strategies, it is aspirational. Yet the future of Eurasia is written into its design.

Russia’s Novatek Signs Agreements with Japanese Companies on Gas
Japan, lacking fuel resources, is the world’s largest importer of the gas while Russia wants to boost its global LNG market share, currently less than 5 percent.

About the Author

Katheryn Weaver

Katheryn Weaver is a student of rhetoric and history at the University of Texas, Austin. Her primary areas of investigation include revolution and the rhetorical justification of violence against individuals, state, and society. She is currently studying Russian as a Second Language with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship.