Russian Applications For US Asylum Skyrocket In 2015

LGBT activists marching for gay rights in Moscow. Image: Bogomolov.PL/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on 12 November, 2015.

The number of new U.S. asylum applications by Russians has reached its highest level in more than two decades, a surge that immigration lawyers link to the Kremlin’s tightening grip on politics, pervasive corruption, and discrimination and violence against sexual minorities.

Russian nationals filed 1,454 new asylum applications in the 2015 fiscal year ending September 30, up 50 percent from the previous year and more than double the number filed in 2012, when President Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin after a four-year stint as prime minister, according to U.S. Department of Homeland Security data obtained by RFE/RL under the Freedom Of Information Act. » More

Cuba: Russia’s Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier

The Embassy of the Russian Federation in Havana, Cuba. Image:

This article was originally published by the Jamestown Foundation on 30 October, 2015. Republished with permission.

Despite all of the other major foreign policy issues on its agenda, Russia has not forgotten Cuba. Indeed, it appears that Moscow’s strategic interest in this Caribbean island country has grown steadily, despite reported stagnation in their bilateral economic ties (, October 22). Recently, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced plans to establish a signals calibration center in Cuba for Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System, more commonly known as GLONASS—the Russian equivalent of the United States’ Global Positioning System (GPS). He also announced that Russia may set up an aviation engineering center in Cuba (TASS, October 22). These initiatives are not coincidences or wholly new gambits. Russia has sought to reestablish military bases in Cuba for some time. For instance, in February 2014, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Moscow was seeking a network of global naval bases that included Cuba and Nicaragua; and Russia could be discussing similar arrangements with Argentina as well (RIA Novosti, February 26, 2014). Although Moscow’s top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, denied that Russia was seeking or needs foreign bases, he did admit that his country wants “repair and maintenance stations” for its ocean-going fleet. Yet, at the same time, Shoigu observed that Moscow not only wanted the use of ports for its ships but also installations for the refueling of its long-range bombers (TASS, March 17, 2014). » More

Russia’s Recent Airstrikes in Syria

Russian Airstrikes in Syria from 23 October – 1 November, 2015 (click to enlarge). Image: Genevieve Casagrande/Institute for the Study of War

This map was originally published by the Institute for the Study of War on 2 November, 2015.

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) discontinued the release of daily airstrike reports from October 28 – November 1 amidst multilateral talks on the Syrian Civil War held in Vienna on October 30 and continued reports of civilian casualties. Nevertheless, credible local sources continued to report airstrikes in Dera’a, Damascus, Homs, Hama, Idlib, and Aleppo from October 31 – November 1. Russian airstrikes predominantly targeted rebel-held areas in Aleppo Province in conjunction with regime ground offensives against ISIS in the southeastern countryside of Aleppo and rebel forces southwest of Aleppo City. Local activist reporting claimed that Russian airstrikes and regime forces killed 64, including 28 children in Aleppo on October 31 alone. » More

Chinese and Russian Cyber Espionage: The Kaiser Would Be Jealous

Espionage Image: Alan/Flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 11 September, 2015.

After the OPM hack, there were suggestions that the Chinese might be building digital dossiers on every U.S. government official, or even on all Americans. More recent reports have the Russian and Chinese intelligence services exploiting personally identifiable information about Americans from security clearance databases, airline records, medical records and many other sources on a massive scale. The Los Angeles Times has reported that the head of the National Counterintelligence Executive has confirmed that foreign powers are doing these things. Other, anonymous sources told the Times that “at least one clandestine network of American engineers and scientists who provide technical assistance to U.S. undercover operatives … overseas has been compromised as a result.” It has even been suggested that the Russian and Chinese services are throwing data from the Ashley Madison breach into the mix. » More

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Moldova: Examining the Russian Media Factor in Protests

Vladimir Putin at the Russia Today studios. Image:

This article was originally published by on 11 September, 2015.

The ongoing protest in the Moldovan capital Chișinău is posing a fresh test of Russian state-controlled media’s ability to project Kremlin geopolitical preferences.

Regional analysts assert that Moscow is viewing the protest as another Western-orchestrated, Euromaidan-like disturbance that constitutes a threat to Russian national interests. Not surprisingly, then, Russian broadcasters and print outlets are striving to shape a news narrative in which the protest is an expression of the population’s discontent with Moldova’s European Union integration efforts. » More

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