Trolleybus torn to pieces by the explosion in Volgograd. Image: Wikipedia.
Explosions in Volgograd (29 and 30 December 2013), as a result of which 34 people died, shocked Russian society and rekindled the debate on methods of combating terrorism. Some Russian politicians, experts and journalists stress that “liberals” are to blame, meaning those who want to restrict the police forces and special services. Others simply point to the incompetence of the authorities in the sphere of combating terrorist threats. Among the first proposed actions were stiffer penalties for terrorists (including the death penalty), and the restriction on the right of the media to publish information about terrorists and their activities. A public discussion about the nature of Islam began again. Some columnists try to fight the stereotype that terrorism is an inherent feature of this religion and its followers from the Russian North Caucasus. However, there are also opposing voices, which influence the growth of xenophobia among ethnic Russians, and hostility towards migrants from the North Caucasus republics. » More
Chemical Nuclear Warheads. Photo: jenspie3/flickr
Today, Russia and the US possess approximately 95% of the world’s nuclear weapons, and bilateral nuclear relations between these two countries still constitute one of the main issues in global nuclear disarmament.
In spite of recent Russia-US agreements to reduce their respective nuclear stockpiles, however, Russia still maintains an active and robust nuclear policy, one that is now no longer solely dependent on the issue of balancing against the United States, but which must also take into account a number of nuclear states – both lesser, traditional nuclear threats such as China, France and the United Kingdom as well as newer potential threats such as Pakistan and North Korea. Russia’s nuclear strategy is encapsulated in an unpublished but widely-acknowledged document called “Foundations of State Policy in the Field of Nuclear Deterrence” (Russian: Основы государственной политики в области ядерного сдерживания). The Russian Ministry of Defence acknowledges that all nuclear states have their own particular nuclear strategies, which account for their own respective national security needs as well as nuclear reduction and non-proliferation. » More
Sargsyan, Medvedev and Aliev. Photo: kremlin.ru/Wikimedia Commons.
Policymakers and analysts have spent the past two decades applying the same insights and settlement approaches to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with the same limited impact. There is an underpinning perception that everything that could have been said has already been said. This, combined with a set of overused words such as ‘stalemate’, ‘deadlock’, ‘frozen’ and, more recently, ‘simmering conflict’ brings with it a certain level of fatigue and apathy on the part of the conflict parties and external observers.
However, tangible contextual changes within protracted conflicts often open up windows of opportunity for new dynamics in peace processes. In this respect, does Armenia’s stated intention to join the Russian-led Customs Union provide a window of opportunity for renewed mediation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? » More
The European Parliament on September 12 called on Russia to respect the right of EU Eastern Partnership members such as Ukraine to enter Association Agreements. The resolution, which received overwhelming support across the parliament’s political groups, called on Russia to not use trade sanctions to force Ukraine to choose the Eurasian over the European Union.
It is doubtful whether the resolution will have any impact in Moscow because Russian policies have been consistently heavy handed and counter-productive over the last quarter of a century. Besides predicting dire consequences of an economic collapse when Ukraine no longer has access to the CIS market following entry into an Association Agreement, Russian leaders are also claiming that Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine will split away. Sergei Glazyev, one of President Vladimir Putin’s senior advisers, said that Russia would be legally entitled to support eastern Ukraine in such a split, comparing this to Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia in the 1990s. » More