Trying to figure Russia out.
Low-level conflict continues in eastern Ukraine. It’s pretty clear that Russia is instigating it, not so clear how much control they have. Putin has asked his parliament to revoke his ability to order a military invasion of Ukraine. It’s getting to be a pattern that Putin does something seemingly positive like this while moving troops closer to the Ukraine border. Russian ships and airplanes are being seen close to many countries. Keep ‘em guessing – good KGB tactics.
It’s hard to know whether what is published actually reflects Russian foreign policy or is merely one more way to jerk the rest of the world around. I’ve found a couple of articles that I think may be reflective of at least what the Kremlin wants the rest of the world to think the foreign policy is, and possibly what that policy actually is. Maxim Bratersky, professor of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, presents a Russian view of its economic history for the past quarter-century. Alexander Lukin presents a cultural view, unfortunately behind a paywall at IISS. I will probably have more to say about these two, but it’s taking me a bit of time to assimilate them. This article is a shorter version but lacks most of the cultural-religious discussion of the IISS article.
In another long read, Nicholas Gvosdev presents an overview of options for the West. The headline is highly misleading and gives the article a bad slant.
Meanwhile, pro-Russia organizations whose funding is not clear operate in France and other countries.
The Kremlin has hosted three secret ceremonies to award honors to those involved in the takeover of Crimea. Some of the awardees are members of the Night Wolves, a Russian nationalist motorcycle club with whom Putin has taken well-publicized rides, convicted felons, and former military officers. Europe appears to be putting a non-recognition policy in place, as the United States did for the Baltic States after World War II.
One of the reasons Ukraine is so important to Russia is that Russia is dependent on Ukraine’s defense industries. It is also dependent on the United States for oil production equipment. One of the ways Russia could have responded to the West’s economic competition over the last twenty-three years would have been to develop its own ability to build machinery and defense equipment. But it didn’t. So now it is looking to buy Belarus’s industry. Russia’s nuclear industry does provide exports. It has been winning contracts by offering very favorable financing terms to other countries. It’s not clear that is sustainable.
Russia has delayed sending navy personnel to France for training on the warships Russia is buying from France.
Moscow and local officials are prohibiting security service personnel in Kaliningrad, the separated piece of Russia between Lithuania and Poland, from traveling abroad.
I understand that newspapers can’t say that Russia is behind the leaked phone conversations that keep surfacing without more confirmation. However, those leaked conversations all seem to be to Russia’s advantage, and Russia has an electronic surveillance network comparable to that of the United States. Another way in which Russia uses the West’s integrity to spread its own propaganda. The FT comes closest so far to saying it.
According to Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite, Russia has offered to reduce gas prices for Estonia and Latvia if they would withdraw from NATO.
Meanwhile, Russia is sticking with the P5+1 position that Iran must back off on the number of centrifuges it wants to keep spinning.
To be continued.
I find the top photo intriguing. Although the caption in the Wall Street Journal is milder, it looks to me like Dmitry Medvedev is enduring quite a tongue-lashing, and the others in the photo look like they are concerned. The poor military guy on the right looks like he just wishes he could disappear.