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
Originally published in Valdai
Originally published in Valdai Discussion Club
Constitutional referendum paved way for President Putin to run for additional terms, arrest of local governor in Far East sparked mass protests, and U.S. imposed sanctions on Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Central Election Commission 1 July confirmed 77.9% of voters supported constitutional changes to reset presidential two-term limit, allowing President Putin to run for two or more six-year terms after current one ends in 2024; Putin 3 July said vote results showed “high level of unity in society on key questions that are of national significance”; opposition member Alexei Navalny same day said his supporters would “never recognise this result”. Hundreds of protestors 16 July gathered in capital Moscow to collect signatures to contest constitutional changes in court; police arrested and detained over 140 demonstrators. In Far East, authorities 9 July arrested Sergei Furgal, local governor of Khabarovsk region and member of nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, for alleged involvement in murders of several businessmen in 2005-06; Moscow court 10 July ruled in favour of his detention for two months pending trial. Governor’s detention 11 July sparked mass protests throughout month including rallies in Khabarovsk of at least 10,000 people who believed arrest was politically motivated. In North Caucasus, Kadyrov 1 July expressed support for Putin to seek additional presidential terms. U.S. State Department 20 July imposed sanctions on Kadyrov, prohibiting him from travel to U.S. for “numerous gross violations of human rights dating back more than a decade, including torture and extrajudicial killings.”; Kadyrov 24 July responded by announcing sanctions against Pompeo.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Amid expectations that Russia will test Ukraine’s new president with escalatory actions, it appears that its calculus is to wait for Kyiv’s administration to make the first move – while quietly helping the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics entrench themselves economically.