Unsurprisingly, the Syrian conflict was in the limelight last week. Russia and the US managed to extend Syria’s “regime of calm” to Aleppo and the surrounding areas, keeping a fragile ceasefire in the country amid mutual accusations by government forces and rebels of attacks on civilians. However, it seems that the concert by the Mariinsky Orchestra led by the world famous conductor Valery Gergiev and joined by the cellist Sergei Roldugin, a subject of the recent “Panama Papers” scandal, in Palmyra, which had been recently recaptured from ISIS militants, overshadowed the latest Russia-US Aleppo arrangements. Despite different interpretations of the event, varying from the Kremlin’s attempt to show disdain for the West’s opinion to Moscow’s demonstration of its might, the majority of journalists agreed on the fact that the concert was a triumph of civilization and world culture over barbarianism.
The Western media has continued to pay a lot of attention to Russia-NATO relations. This week, the parties expressed the now-familiar criticism towards each other, with Russia blaming NATO for threatening its national security due to NATO’s expansion of the alliance’s presence in Eastern Europe and the possible accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO, whereas the organization accusing the Kremlin of “nuclear sabre-rattling” and intending to dismantle the existing international order. Amid these claims, the assertion of the new Supreme Allied Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Curtis Scaparrotti that the alliance might need to support Ukraine in its fight against pro-Russian rebels by way of weapons’ delivery, which will obviously lead to catastrophic consequences for Russia-NATO relations, has passed almost undetected.
Besides, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Moscow has also become a high-profile event in the western press. A territorial dispute over the Kuril Islands, which is a stumbling block to a peace treaty between Russia and Japan, has been at the top of the agenda. Abe believes the parties have managed to achieve a “breakthrough” in negotiations, while the Russian authorities are not so optimistic in their comments. The visit has deserved much criticism on the part of American politicians as, according to them, it breaks the unity among the West in its approach to Russia’s aggression and eases Moscow’s isolation on the world stage, which in practice exists only in numerous US official statements.
The Western media has also drawn readers’ attention to the bill, which has been signed into law by V.Putin, allowing all Russian citizens to get a hectare of land free of charge in Russia’s Far East. Journalists think the initiative is aimed not only at increasing the Russian population in the region, but also at preventing the Sinification of Russia’s Far East because of a Chinese influx to the region and expansion of Chinese business presence there.
By Daniel Schearf
The Voice of America
“The Kremlin is more about Russia’s global status than about Syria’s future,” says Trenin. “Moscow is realistic about Syria and the Middle East, which means, realist and cynical,” he concludes.
By Andrew E. Kramer and Andrew Higgins
The New York Times
The Mariinsky Theatre symphony orchestra played in a second-century Roman amphitheater, the set for a 2015 film produced by the Islamic State that featured the execution of 25 people. The contrast was intended to underscore what Russia sees as its underappreciated role in helping Syrian forces liberate Palmyra from zealots and fighting on the side of civilization against barbarism.
By Julian E. Barnes
The Wall Street Journal
“Now that we see that Russia has not accepted that hand of partnership but has chosen a path of belligerence, we need to readdress where we’re heading…”
By Mark Galeotti
The reality is that not only does Russia likely have zero ambitions to capture the Baltic states in the first place, but even if it did, the US and NATO could do a whole lot to punish it for doing so.
By Eric Zuesse
The Centre for Research on Globalization
How can it not be ‘provoking’, when Russia now faces a threat from Obama and America’s NATO alliance, that’s vastly worse than what America had faced from the Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev and the USSR’s Warsaw Pact alliance in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis? That was just one missile-base, 90 miles from the US – not dozens of them, some right on Russia’s border.
By Mitsuru Obe
The Wall Street Journal
As the U.S. presses tight sanctions on Moscow, it might seem quixotic for one of America’s staunchest allies to seek closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But that is the balancing act Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to pull off.
By Akbar Ganji
The National Interest
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei thinks America is up to no good, yet has a naively positive view of Putin’s Russia.
Spanish court verdict against several Russian officials
By Mark Galeotti
European Council on Foreign Relations
In Spain a judge had issued a request for international arrest warrants in the name of several senior Russian officials for their alleged involvement in organised crime. This is an important expansion in a wider struggle against the intertwining of business, politics and crime within Russia, and the toxic effect this has not only on Russia, but on other countries too.
By Andrew Higgins
The New York Times
Russia’s current crisis, though largely caused by market forces beyond the Kremlin’s control, notably a slump in the prices of oil and gas, has pushed Mr. Putin into a corner. After years of taking credit for a booming economy, which also had little to do with his actions, and casting himself as a can-do leader capable of untying the toughest economic and political knots, he faces a crisis that has exposed the stark limits of his power and prowess.
Russia’s political system
By Maxim Trudolyubov
Traditional opposition in Russia, negligibly small and weak, is no longer a target of the Kremlin’s designs. Putin is now dealing with challenges that are invisible to the naked eye.
Russia’s internal policy
By Ishaan Tharoor
The Washington Post
Call it the Muscovite version of “manifest destiny.” On Monday, President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill that offers every Russian citizen a tract of land in their country’s remote Far East.
A crackdown drives Dagestan’s Muslims towards Islamic State. The Russian government makes no distinction between non-violent Salafis and the radical underground. As space for legal Salafi activity shrinks, the community will be driven underground and online, where radical voices have more sway.
Russia’s information policy
By Scott Malcomson
The Huffington Post
Moscow and Beijing, deeply resentful of American power, are again finding ideological common cause, jointly aiming at two pillars of the post-Cold War dispensation: a borderless Internet and international civil society. They are doing so on the declared basis of national sovereignty.
By Anne Applebaum and Edward Lucas
The Washington Post
The Russia’s messages have little in common with Cold War propaganda. Russia does not seek to promote itself, but rather to undermine the institutions of the West, often using discordant messages.
By Orysia Lutsevych
Anxious about losing ground to Western influence in the post-Soviet space and the ousting of pro-Russia elites by popular electoral uprisings in the early 2000s, the Kremlin has developed a range of proxy groups in support of its foreign policy.
Articles also deserving your attention
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- Putin Strikes a Defiant Note in Palmyra (06.05.16)
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