Foreign Press Review #6 (02.05-08.05)

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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.

Syrian conflict

Analysts: Russia Cynical on Syria, Goal Is International Prestige

By Daniel Schearf

The Voice of America       

05.05.16

“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.

In Syria, Russia Plays Bach Where ISIS Executed 25

By Andrew E. Kramer and Andrew Higgins

The New York Times

05.05.16

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.

Russia-NATO relations

Q&A with Gen. Philip Breedlove, Top Commander of U.S. and Alliance Forces in Europe

By Julian E. Barnes

The Wall Street Journal

03.05.16

“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…”

The West needs to stop panicking about Russia’s “hybrid” warfare

By Mark Galeotti

Vox

04.05.16

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.

America’s Biggest of All Big Lies. We’re Not Threatening Russia… Part I

By Eric Zuesse

The Centre for Research on Globalization

05.05.16

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.

Russia-Japan relations

U.S. Ally Japan Pursues Russian Friendship

By Mitsuru Obe

The Wall Street Journal

04.05.16

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.

Russia-Iran relations

Can Iran Trust Russia?

By Akbar Ganji

The National Interest

03.05.16

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

Spain versus Russia’s kleptocracy

By Mark Galeotti

European Council on Foreign Relations

04.05.16

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.

Russian economy

Putin Took Credit for the Boom. Now There’s a Bust

By Andrew Higgins

The New York Times

02.05.16

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

What’s Behind Putin’s Shuffle At The Kremlin

By Maxim Trudolyubov

Newsweek

02.05.16

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

Russia offers free land to all citizens willing to move to the Far East

By Ishaan Tharoor

The Washington Post

04.05.16

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.

Salafis mustered

The Economist

07.05.16

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

How Russia and China Are Cooperating to Dismantle America’s Dominance of the Internet

By Scott Malcomson

The Huffington Post

05.05.16

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.

The danger of Russian disinformation

By Anne Applebaum and Edward Lucas

The Washington Post

06.05.16

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.

How Putin’s Agents Undermine Russian Democracy

By Orysia Lutsevych

Newsweek

07.05.16

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

  1. A Russian orchestra plays Bach and Prokofiev in the ruins of Palmyra (06.05.16)
  2. Putin Strikes a Defiant Note in Palmyra (06.05.16)
  3. US and Russian officials locked in impasse over Assad’s fate (05.05.16)
  4. Russia and Israel’s Middle East Dance (06.05.16)
  5. Commentary: Why Ukraine’s NATO membership is not in America’s interests (05.06.15)
  6. Is War With Russia Possible? (04.05.16)
  7. US. ‘Invades’ Canada After Russian-Backed Coup In Ottawa (05.05.16)
  8. Russia’s Dysfunctional Defense Industry Needs Urgent Reform (05.05.16)
  9. Putin Walks Fiscal Tightrope as Era of Deficits Seen to 2020 (06.05.16)
  10. Spain issues arrest warrants for Russian officials close to Putin (04.05.16)
  11. Kazakhstan, Russia and two very different approaches to crisis management (04.05.16)
  12. Why September could deliver a ‘reality check’ for Putin (06.05.16)
  13. Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, together (07.05.16)
  14. Once a Defender of Internet Freedom, Putin Is Now Bringing China’s Great Firewall to Russia (03.05.16)
  15. Students Fall Victim to Violence in Russia (03.05.16)

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