Russian Foreign Affairs – October, 2017

Russian Foreign Affairs in the News
October, 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.

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


US Relations

Enter Huntsman, Trump’s New Man in Moscow
John Huntsman said he will meet dissidents, end human rights abuses and help solve the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, all while cultivating a “necessary” relationship with Moscow. Huntsman is America’s new ambassador to Russia. He was confirmed last Friday and arrived in Russia today.

On the Day of My Departure
John F. Tefft has resigned as US Ambassador to Russia. Former Presidential candidate John Huntsman will succeed him.

Russian Studies Is Thriving, Not Dying
Russian Studies is thriving, not dying- at least in the field of international relations and political science (not for “Dostoevsky nerds”, though) according to this article by National Interest.

US and Russia Quietly End Diplomatic Tailspin
Very, very quietly, it seems relations may be on a track to normalization.

Setting Conflict in Stone: Dangerous Trends in Russian-US Relations
A lack of institutional contact is threatening to poison the well of US-Russia relations for a generation to come, according to the author.

  • Specific Issues

A New Social-Media Simulator Is Helping US Troops Train for Hybrid War
The future of warfare…

Russia and US Will Cooperate to Build Moon’s First Space Station
Despite diplomatic tensions between Washington and Moscow on Earth, we have typically gotten on well in space. Both countries just announced a NASA-led program that will see the two countries working together to construct a crewed spaceport in lunar orbit, part of a long-term plan to send humans to Mars via the Deep Space Gateway by 2030.

White House Must Extend New START Arms Control Treaty with Russia
Lisbeth Gronlund, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists on limiting nuclear arsenols.

Why Russia Fears America’s Missile Defenses
Does undermining mutually assured destruction undermine international stability?

The Russia Collusion You Should Care About
In a recent paper, Thomas Piketty, Filip Novokmet and Gabriel Zucman estimated the offshore wealth accumulated by Russian companies and businessmen at about $1 trillion, or as much as the entire domestic wealth held by Russian citizens. That’s a root cause of Russia’s current condition: Had less of the money fled, it could have fed a massive economic boom which probably would have led to political liberalization.

Russia and America Can Reset Relations by Looking North
This article provides a welcome perspective in what seems like an inescapable resurgence of Cold War rhetoric. It considers Russia’s place as distinctly non-Western and non-eastern and how the continued exclusion (perhaps isolation) has bred a specific set of politics of non-cooperation.

Senator Says Moscow Handles Challenges Better than NYC
In an ironic twist, the senator’s colleagues in the state Legislature couldn’t read the remarks, because the Capitol building’s computer servers block access to the controversial Sputnik Web site.

  • Sanctions

Russia Plans to Sue the US Over Consulate Closures
Putin plans to sue the US in a US court over the closure of Russia’s San Francisco consulate. This is a fairly tame response compared to what had been forecast.

Russia Considering US Media Restrictions as Retaliation
Russia may impose restrictions on US media. The US Justice Department has decided that the company that runs the U.S. version of RT, which receives funding from the Russian state, must register with the U.S. as a foreign agent. That would mean that all of their content would be labeled as propaganda from Moscow.


Russia to Respond to US Restrictions on Observation Flights
The Open Skies treaty is a multilateral arrangement stemming from the Cold War era, which allows member states to schedule observation flights over each other’s territory to monitor military deployments. The goal of the treaty is to build confidence and remove suspicions.

US Belatedly Begins to Comply with Russia Sanctions Law
The US has taken the next step to more sanctions on Russia. Congress passed a law requiring the Trump Administration to “specify the persons that are part of, or operate for or on behalf of, the defense and intelligence sectors” of the Russian government. The administration has now done that.

  • Russia in US Popular Culture

Morgan Freeman is Eduating Americans on Russia. That’s a Problem.
On the dangers of leaving information warfare to private organizations.

Blaming Russia
“In the case of America, there is no shortage of ignorance about Russia, nor is it difficult to find Russia’s leaders painted as sinister (though, to be fair, Russia’s leaders sometimes make this job even easier). But Americans, so secure in our own sense that we are the center of world affairs, if not history (who cares about history?), can go for years without paying any attention to Russia at all. Stories of Russophobia are Russian propaganda’s way of telling viewers that Americans actually care enough to hate them. And if Russian state television can use American accusations of Russian meddling to show our basic hostility to their country, then we are playing into the propagandists’ hands.” Professor Eliot Bornstein of NYU’s Jordan Center takes on the problem with Russian in the U.S. media.

Bears on Unicycles and Wolf’s Milk: How Is Russia Portrayed in Popular American Cartoons?
A compendium of modern representations of Russia in US animation.

Why So Many American Novels to Make Fun of Russian Accents? Is Odd.
“What’s with all the noteworthy American literature making fun of Slavs? It is as if writing workshops throughout the land were teaching students that, to show playfulness and whimsy, they need a wise scamp from the steppes burbling malapropisms.” A good question from writer Katy Waldman.”

  • Russians in America

The Complicated History of Russians in San Francisco
By some estimates, Russophone population (of SF) is 30,000, with half living in the Richmond alongside the neighborhood’s prominent Chinese and Irish communities. This article focuses mostly on Russian food culture in San Francisco.

Russians in Silicon Valley Can’t Shake Hacking’s Shadow
Some Russian venture capitalists said start-ups were more wary about taking their funding… Russian-born engineers said they were being treated differently… Lawyers also said some tech firms were installing tighter security measures restricting what data foreign-born coders can see… At the same time, many said that as Russia gained a reputation for its hackers, interest in hiring its tech talent was increasing.


Policy and Conflict Post SovietUkraine Imposes Sanctions on Russian-Owned Banks
Kiev is making clear that it expects the Russian banks to exit the Ukrainian market.

Russian Investment in Ukraine Breaks Record of Yanukovich’s Presidency
In 2016, Russia moved to the position of the main foreign investor in the Ukrainian economy, as its companies invested $ 1.67 billion. The figure amounted to slightly more than a third of all the foreign investment in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Poorly Timed Education Law
Ukraine’s new law on education means that public education in Ukraine after grade five must be taught in Ukrainian. This is its latest move to try to ensure that Ukrainian grows as the country’s primary language. The author here argues that Ukraine would be better off encouraging its natural tendency toward multilingualism.

In Ukraine, the US Trains an Army in the West to Fight the East
A behind-the-scenes look at how America is training Ukraine’s army – including the challenges it faces in terms of battling corruption, making the army NATO-compatible, etc.

How China and India Can Keep the Peace in Ukraine
As the 2018 World Cup looms in Russia, the need for a peacekeeping force in the Donbass grows evermore urgent. Beijing should recognize the irony in coming to the aid of both the West and the former Soviet bloc.

2019 Could Be a Very Bad Year for Ukraine
If Russia stops using Ukraine as a transit country for energy exports a major hole will open in the Ukrainian economy which Europe and the United States do not appear prepared to fill.

Crimean Tartar Activists Freed by Russia, Flown to Turkey
Two Crimean Tatars were freed and flown to Turkey, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan intervened on their behalf. They were imprisoned for opposing Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and have spent the past two and a half years somewhere in the Krasnodar region.

The Price of Peace: The Parameters of a Possible Compromise in Donbass
Since the critical significance of this issue is obvious to Moscow as well, it is difficult to imagine a situation in which Russia would agree to have its current legal status in the conflict changed. Such a concession would entail a significant revision of the official Russian narrative with regard to the Ukrainian crisis (“the conflict in Donbass is a civil war situation in Ukraine”), as well as a rejection of Russia’s primary achievement in the Minsk II Agreement.


Saudi Arabia – Breakthrough in Relations

Saudi Arabia Weighs Russia Deals, Deepening Energy Ties
Saudi Arabia is looking at unprecedented deals to acquire oil and gas assets in Russia, deepening ties between the world’s largest energy exporters.

Russia, Saudia Arabia to Set Up $1bln Technology Fund
Investments are planned for desalination and energy-efficiency tech. Infrastructure will also be a focus.

Russia Confirms Sale of S-400 Missile Systems to Saudi Arabia
According to business daily Kommersant, the new arms contracts with Saudi Arabia are worth more than $3 billion, $2 billion of which will be spent by Saudis on the S-400. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud visited Moscow last week, becoming the first Saudi monarch to visit Russia.


Special Feature: Kyrgyz Presidential Elections

Central-Asia-StudiesJeenbekov Wins Kyrgyzstan’s Presidential Election
Congratulations, Kyrgyzstan! The tiny Central Asian state has elected a new president. Further, those in second and third place have both issued statements that their followers should accept the results and maintain calm and stability. This is a first for Kyrgyzstan.

Stakes in Presidential Elections Extend Beyond Kyrgyzstan
Former Soviet republics are not really known for peaceful, democratic transitions. Will Bishkek turn the tide?

Kyrgyzstan: A Setback for Democracy: The 2017 Presidential Election
The legacy of President Atambaev will be tarnished by his insistence on forcing on the country a successor whose election in the first round could not have occurred without the massive mobilization of the state apparatus and without Atambaev’s own campaign of innuendo and half-truths about the leading candidate of the opposition.


Other Issues

Is it the Kremlin’s Turn to get WikiLeaked?
WikiLeaks has published several documents on Russia’s SORM program, which Russia uses to monitor internet activity. (P.S. the US has one too – it’s called “PRISM.”)

Pakistan-Russia Relationship Depends on Balancing Act
A fascinating and concise history of Pakistan-Russia relations. Very informative.

Death Island’: Britain’s ‘Concentration Camp’ in Russia
A little-known but fascinating piece of history from WWI. Note this is BBC reporting.

A Post-Soviet Anomaly: How Karabakh Could Bring Russia and the West Together
The conflict in Karabakh is the only one in the post-Soviet space where Russia and the West are ready to work together. But none of the mediators are currently discussing the core issues in the dispute.

Investment Revives within Eurasian Union after 3-year Decline
Russia remains responsible for the lion’s share of outward FDI investment; indeed it is the only EEU member that is a net exporter of FDI to other countries in the bloc.

TV News in Russia — The Far East — September 2017
When North Korea tested its nuclear weapons, seismic activity could be felt in the Russian Far East. How is Russia reporting on this region with nuclear tensions escalating?

About the Author

Josh Wilson
Josh Wilson is the Assistant Director for The School of Russian and Asian Studies (SRAS) and Communications Director for Alinga Consulting Group. In those capacities, he has been managing publications and informative websites covering geopolitics, history, business, economy, and politics in Eurasia since 2003. He is based in Moscow, Russia. For SRAS, he also assists in program development and leads the Home and Abroad Programs.
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.