The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty is on its deathbed. Some celebrate its increasingly likely demise, dismissing the decades-old treaty as antiquated and irrelevant to today’s realities. However, the mode of the INF treaty’s death bodes ill for the future of arms control, U.S.-Russian relations, and global security.
Originally published in Valdai Discussion Club
Amid ongoing security operations against militants, month saw continued tensions over land deal between Chechnya and Ingushetia and increased human rights violations. Despite 18 Jan submission to Kremlin of petition signed by more than 51,000 Ingush residents demanding cancellation of controversial Oct 2018 border deal, speakers of Chechen and Ingush parliaments 22 Jan held first meeting of new border commission and agreed to clarify “historical boundaries”. Russian LGBT Network human rights group 14 Jan reported that Chechen authorities have resumed large-scale arrests and torture of gay men and women with some 40 detained and two killed since Dec, sparking fears of renewed crackdown. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov oversaw return of 30 Russian children from Iraq 30 Dec, marking resumption of efforts to repatriate family members of insurgents fighting for Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria as part of broader deradicalisation strategy; the 30 children are out of total of 115 expected to be returned soon. In Dagestan, authorities 11 Jan reported law enforcers shot dead three suspected militants who attacked patrol post in Karabudakhkent district. In Ingushetia, gunfire on car of head of Ingush Centre for Combating Extremism in Sunzha district left one policeman dead. In Kabardino-Balkaria, four assailants reported killed in attack on police post 24 Jan, one policeman injured. Elsewhere in Russia, speculation grew that 31 Dec explosion in Magnitogorsk which killed 39 was work of ISIS despite official denials.
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.
As the Syrian regime masses its forces to recapture the country’s south west from the opposition, another humanitarian disaster looms. The U.S., Russia and Jordan, which brokered a south-western ceasefire in 2017, should urgently extend that truce in preparation for a broader settlement.
China and Russia’s separate visions for Central Asia could transform the region’s political and economic landscape as well as relations between the two Eurasian giants. To the smaller, embryonic Central Asian nation states, the new geopolitical realities could offer both economic prosperity as well as worsening instability and conflict.
[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.
The current situation does not contribute to the post-war reconciliation [between Russia and Georgia] - it only fuels conflict with an increasing feeling of injustice for [people] living near the dividing line.
[The] assumption that [President Putin has] a grand evil plan only feeds the domestic myth of a Russia under siege.
Russia needs both the Syrian regime and Turkey. So it has to give a little bit to both and it has to ... make them equally angry, if that's what it wants.
In the end [Moscow] will want a political solution in Syria, and economic reconstruction. For that they will need European input and money and investment.
Originally published in Russia File
Originally published in Time
Crisis Group's Europe & Central Asia Program Director Magdalena Grono talks about the relations between Russia and Turkey as they reflect on the Black Sea and the South Caucasus.