This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope talk to Ivan Safranchuk, Senior Fellow at Moscow’s Institute of International Studies, about the hopes and fears of Russia and Central Asia after the Taliban victory in Afghanistan.
Ruling United Russia party maintained constitutional majority in parliamentary elections. Ruling United Russia party won 324 of 450 seats in parliamentary elections held 17-19 Sept, slightly fewer seats than 2016 elections; Communist Party of Russian Federation secured second place by boosting seats from 42 to 57. Controversy surfaced after authorities 20 Sept announced results from electronic voters in capital Moscow, whose votes appeared to swing support from opposition candidates to United Russian candidates, prompting Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov same day to refuse to recognise “unacceptable” final results. Hundreds of Communist supporters 25 Sept rallied in protest of election results in central Moscow, resulting in police detaining 60 activists; smaller rallies were held in other cities. Election also prompted international criticism. EU 20 Sept claimed poll took place “in an atmosphere of intimidation of independent critics”, while EU, U.S., Turkey, UK and Georgia rejected recognition of parliamentary elections held in Crimea territory. Meanwhile, Russian Investigative Committee 28 Sept announced third criminal case against imprisoned opposition figure Alexei Navalny since Jan 2021; Navalny could face new sentence of up to ten years in prison for founding “extremist community”. Chair of Duma Commission for Investigating Foreign Interference Vasily Piskarev 19 Sept proposed to prosecutor general to label over 20 unknown foreign NGOs as undesirable on Russian territory for allegedly attempting “to influence the will of the Russian people”. Russia’s Federal Security Service 17 Sept reported detention in Moscow of two leaders and three members of terrorist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir, including Russian, Kyrgyz and Tajik citizens. Authorities 22 Sept detained one Russian and four Tajik citizens allegedly preparing terrorist attacks in Yekaterinburg city, and 25 Sept detained five suspected neo-Nazis in Ufa city who were reportedly preparing attack on law enforcement officers.
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.
In this episode of War & Peace, Oleg Shakirov, Senior Expert at the Center for Advanced Governance, joins Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope as they explore the transformation of Russian foreign policy and diplomacy in the digital age.
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