This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope discuss with researchers Edward Geist and Ivan Kalugin what planning for the worst looks like in the U.S. and Russia, comparing today to the peaks of nuclear anxiety during the Cold War.
Supporters of imprisoned opposition politician Alexei Navalny planned for new mass rally in coming months, while security forces conducted operations in North Caucasus. With dwindling momentum for street protests following Nalvany’s imprisonment, Navalny’s team 23 March announced new drive to demand his release with plans for largest rally “in the history of modern Russia” in Spring, encouraging citizens to register support. In letter publicised 31 March, Navalny announced hunger strike to protest lack of access to medical treatment amid reports of his deteriorating health, and highlighted abuse through “sleep deprivation” during detention. In North Caucasus, head of federal domestic security force 10 March stated that “the main centers of terrorist activity and all gang leaders were liquidated” in region. In Dagestan’s Makhachkala city, security forces 11 March killed suspected militant accused of preparing attack on law enforcement officers. In Adygea, security forces 17 March detained suspected supporter of Islamic State from Central Asia who confessed to suicide attack plot. Security forces 19 March detained 14 participants of Ukrainian youth group accused of promoting neo-Nazi propaganda and provoking inter-ethnic conflict in Black Sea town of Gelendzhik and in Yaroslavl city.
As elections draw near, increased tension at the line of separation with South Ossetia has helped put the future of normalisation with Russia in doubt. But whoever wins at the polls should not abandon dialogue, but rather build on it to frankly discuss these problems.
Russia and the separatists it backs in Ukraine’s east are no longer quite on the same page, especially since the Kremlin abandoned ideas of annexing the breakaway republics or recognising their independence. The rift gives the new Ukrainian president an opportunity for outreach to the east’s embattled population, including by relaxing the trade embargo.
With living conditions worsening, and crossfire still claiming casualties, people residing in eastern Ukraine’s conflict zone feel increasingly abandoned by the central government. Reintegrating the area requires Russian withdrawal, but in the meantime Kyiv can and should better protect civilians and meet humanitarian needs.
Much of north-eastern Syria has been safe during the civil war. But in the event of U.S. military withdrawal, a mad scramble for control could be unleashed. Washington and Moscow should help their respective allies in Syria reach a decentralisation deal for the area.
The Kremlin is fostering a culture of military-tinged patriotism, partly to rally support for armed interventions abroad. The sentiment springs from pride in Russia’s past as a global power and desire to reclaim that status. Its possible co-optation by far-right nationalists, however, should worry Moscow.
Rivalry persists between Russia and Turkey in their shared neighbourhood of the Black Sea and the South Caucasus. But Moscow-Ankara relations have warmed overall. Building on their wider rapprochement, the two powers can work together to tamp down flare-ups of regional conflicts.
The Kurdish leadership has every reason to suspect that Russia will not push Damascus to accept anything that Turkey might interpret as protecting or legitimizing the YPG.
To issue orders that people will not obey erodes one’s power. For Putin, that is existential.
[...] this is an effort to minimize offending Moscow that reflects the fact that U.N. officials believe that continued cooperation with Russia is key to the future of humanitarian operations in Syria.
Escalation is likely going to continue [in Syria] as long as Turkey and Russia cannot agree on a new cease-fire.
[Russia is] targeting the [African] regimes that do have not have very good relations with the west or who are dissatisfied with west like Sudan, Zimbabwe and CAR.
[The rapprochement between Russia and Turkey] demonstrates a striking level of pragmatism in this relationship.
A deadly attack on Turkish forces in Syria has brought Idlib’s crisis to a dangerous crossroads. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Turkey, Syria and Russia experts explain what happened and what’s at stake.
As President Putin announces changes to Russia’s constitution, Crisis Group expert Olga Oliker explores his plans for the future. Putin’s government may have resigned and his future role may be unknown, she says, but one thing is certain: he is the one calling the shots.
Originally published in Inkstick
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope talk to Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, about Russia's progress in 2019, from Syrian reconstruction to arms control to who President Putin might prefer in the White House.
Torn between Russia’s growing influence and increasing frictions in a historic alliance with the U.S., European states face new challenges to their security architecture. Olga Oliker calls Europe to embrace a dialogue on security and threats in the neighbourhood to build sustainable peace all across the region.
Originally published in EUREN Brief
Last weekend, the presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russia met in Ankara to discuss, among other things, the latest developments in Syria amid Turkish concerns over the consequences of a Syrian government offensive in the last rebel enclave, Idlib.
Originally published in Valdai