Russia is invading Ukraine, again. As usual, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has refuted hard evidence from journalists and international observers. Both NATO and the OSCE have confirmed that heavy weaponry and combat troops are moving to Donbas from Russia. A detailed look suggests that although the ceasefire has been seriously violated (again), what we see is mostly a tactical operation aimed at reinforcing rebel positions, not preparation for a full-fledged war. » More
There is a good chance that economic jockeying between China and Russia in Central Asia will intensify in the coming months. For Russia, Chinese economic expansion could put a crimp in President Vladimir Putin’s grand plan for the Eurasian Economic Union.
Putin has turned to China in recent months, counting on Beijing to pick up a good portion of the trade slack created by the rapid deterioration of economic and political relations between Russia and the West. Beijing for the most part has obliged Putin, especially when it comes to energy imports. But the simmering economic rivalry in Central Asia could create a quandary for bilateral relations. » More
Why Russia’s ‘Strong State’ Political System Still Remains a Better Option for the Country than Western-Style Democracy
Many western scholars commonly present Russia’s ‘strong state’ system as something dysfunctional that must be replaced by a western-style competitive system to be effective. They argue that such a system has a built-in tendency to become a form of personal rule, which silences the voices of important population segments, and deepens divisions within the ruling circles. As a result, the system is prone to being internally unstable and breeding future political crises. » More
Last week, US officials began talks in Moscow regarding Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The agreement bans the testing or deployment of intermediate range cruise and ballistic missiles, those with a range between 500km and 5500 km. In its annual 2014 arms control Compliance Report, the Department of State noted that Russia had violated the pact when it deployed a ground-launched cruise missile, whose unique Iskandar system can fire both cruise and ballistic missiles and a system Russia plans to deploy to Crimea. This cruise missile is not a new development; it was first tested in 2007 and has been deployed in the banned ground-launched configuration since 2009. Nor is it Russia’s only INF violation. Moscow also has converted a single-warhead ICBM into a three-warhead intermediate-range ballistic missile, a violation missing from the 2014 Compliance Report. » More
Given the intensity of media focus on a series of crises this year—Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Ebola, and the South China Sea to name just a few—readers may be forgiven for having failed to notice that another important, though more incremental, development has also occurred. With each passing month it becomes clearer that a mood of nuclear realism is unfolding in US strategic policy. While President Obama is still remembered most clearly in the public mind for the anti-nuclear language in his Prague speech of 2009, a string of events in 2013–14 suggest that a shift of emphasis is occurring in relation to nuclear weapons. » More