Foreign Press Review #8 (16.05-22.05)

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Last week the American Schools of Oriental Research made a high-profile statement that Russia had set up a military base in Palmyra. The Russian Ministry of Defense immediately disproved the allegations saying that the satellite pictures posted by the American archeologists show a temporary camp of Russian experts demining the vicinities of Palmyra. Nevertheless, the Western media was quick to cover this news story adding to their reports claims made by the Pentagon that despite previously announced partial withdrawal Russia kept its military presence in Syria at the same level. Amid the failure to agree on a new date to resume Syrian peace talks Russia’s proposition to conduct joint airstrikes with the U.S.-led coalition against terrorists in Syria has been a positive sign but, unfortunately, it was met with scepticism in Washington.

As for Russia-NATO relations, a scaring claim by the former deputy commander of NATO, the former British general Sir Alexander Richard Shirreff that the West is on the verge of a nuclear war with Russia was also featuring in Western media. According to the former general, the events in Crimea have destroyed the post-Cold War world order and paved the way for a direct conflict which can begin next year with Moscow seizing eastern Ukraine and invading the Baltic countries. The head of the Russian State Duma Committee on International Affairs Alexei Pushkov has characterized Mr Shirreff as a “madman”. More than that, many western experts have been also surprised by the former general’s opinion and called for a normalization of dialogue instead of mobilization for war.

The Western media has again payed special attention to the latest accusations of state-sponsored doping in Russia during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Given the absence of credible evidence the calls to ban Russian athletes from the Rio Games have been increasingly beginning to resemble external pressure on the World Anti-Doping Agency. It is worth noting that President Putin has already said that Russia supports an investigation and is ready to offer full assistance to WADA but he has also expressed hope that the focus on Russia is not politically-motivated. Meanwhile all Russian athletes who had been previously tested positive for the banned meldonium were justified and returned to competition.

Unsurprisingly, the dismissal of three top editors of the RBC media group has been in the limelight. Western journalists have called this part of the Kremlin’s crackdown on independent journalism and an attempt to stifle free speech in the country. Officials in Moscow have denied there is anything political in the case and said it is the independent decision of the owner who may be not satisfied with the financial results of RBC.

Syrian conflict

Russia builds military camp near ancient site in Palmyra

By Bassem Mroue

The Associated Press

17.05.16

Russia has built a military inside a zone that holds the UNESCO world heritage site in the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra, where Islamic State militants were driven out recently by pro-government forces.

Vladimir Putin’s America-Friendly Propaganda About Fighting Terror Just Suffered A Big Blow

By Akbar Shahid Ahmed

The Huffington Post

16.05.16

Putin tries to present himself as the best bet against ISIS. In reality, he’s helped it thrive. Putin’s particular style of disinformation relies heavily on that assumption to sow international distrust of American actions.

Russia proposes joint airstrikes with U.S.-led coalition in Syria

By Andrew Roth

The Washington Post

20.05.16

Russia on Friday proposed conducting joint airstrikes with the U.S.-led coalition in Syria against an al-Qaeda-linked group and other factions, an escalation in an ongoing strategy by Moscow to seek more coordination with the West and its allies in the Syrian conflict.

Russia-NATO relations

Putin Is Being Pushed to Abandon His Conciliatory Approach to the West and Prepare for War

By Alastair Crooke

The Huffington Post

17.05.16

The Obama administration is acting to weaken Putin and Lavrov’s hand, and therefore strengthening the hand of those in Russia calling for a full mobilization for war.

Slouching Toward War With Russia

By Stephen F. Cohen

The Nation

18.05.16

The highly provocative and unnecessary ongoing US-NATO buildup in the Baltic states and Eastern Europe is bringing Washington closer to war with Moscow than at any time since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Commentary: Current U.S.-Russia tensions are dangerous — but not ‘Cold War Two’

By Josh Cohen

Reuters

18.05.16

Current tensions lack numerous elements of the Cold War, and with a combination of luck and level-headed policies we can still ensure the “dogs of war” are not unleashed.

West and Russia on course for war, says ex-Nato deputy commander

By Ewen MacAskill

The Guardian

18.05.16

Former British general predicts Russia will seize territory in eastern Ukraine and invade Baltic states sparking a war.

U.S. and NATO Should End New Cold War With Russia

By Doug Bandow

The Huffington Post

21.05.16

It’s good that NATO and Russia met. But the former is not the real decision-maker. Dialogue should continue, with the EU and U.S. prepared to negotiate a deal normalizing relations. Moscow could say no, of course. However, the allies won’t know without trying. And everyone would benefit from ending the current impasse. Especially the Ukrainian people.

Russia and Asia

The Limits to Russia’s Pivot to Asia

By Ian Storey and Anton Tsvetov

The Wall Street Journal

18.05.16

Moscow’s economic interaction with the region is unimpressive. Its military influence is also constrained.

Japan’s Plan to Bring the United States and Russia Together

By Joshua W. Walker and Hidetoshi Azuma

Foreign Affairs

17.05.16

Russia’s expulsion from the G-8 in 2014 epitomized the West’s disappointment in its failed efforts to integrate its Eurasian neighbor into Europe’s liberal structure. Two years on, Europe itself is in a severe crisis, and the West’s narrow focus on Ukraine has hindered its efforts to cope with Russia’s Eurasian challenges. Asia could hold the key to the Russia problem. Given Abe’s enthusiastic championship of liberal values and his special relationship with Putin, Japan could help save the West by helping reinstate Russia’s position in it.

Doping scandal

Justice Department Opens Investigation Into Russian Doping Scandal

By Rebecca R. Ruiz

The New York Times

17.05.16

The United States Justice Department has opened an investigation into state-sponsored doping by dozens of Russia’s top athletes, two people familiar with the case said Tuesday.

Dismissals in RBC media

The Demise of RBC and Investigative Reporting in Russia

By Masha Lipman

The New Yorker

18.05.16 

The Kremlin is increasingly intolerant toward independent players, whether in politics, civic activism, or media, and a media organization like RBC was doomed from the start.

Corruption in Russia

Why Putin Tolerates Corruption

By Ivan Krastev

The New York Times

15.05.16

The Russian government is ready to acknowledge corruption’s ubiquity — the slickest propaganda couldn’t convince people otherwise. But the government also advances the idea that corruption is a way of life and is thus a natural phenomenon. In a way, corruption is like vodka: You know it hurts, but Russia is unimaginable without it.

Eurovision

How do people see Russia? Eurovision gave one answer

By Mary Dejevsky

The Guardian

15.05.16

Ukraine triumphed – but the popular vote suggested a more nuanced view of Russia than has often been assumed.

Sanctions on Russia

Sanctions On Russia Not Going Away Anytime Soon

By Kenneth Rapoza

Forbes

22.05.16

The Russians will blame Ukraine. The Europeans will blame the Russians. Meanwhile, market consensus seems to have gotten this one right. No, Russian sanctions are not going to get lifted in July as a few contrarians believed in January.

Articles also deserving your attention

  1. Major powers fail to agree new date for Syria peace talks (18.05.16)

  2. The Inevitable Decline of Putin’s Russia (18.05.16)

  3. What Would a War between Russia and the USA Look Like? (19.05.16)

  4. Expect Intense Russian Pushback on NATO (17.05.16)

  5. Will the Trump military buildup come too late? (19.05.16)

  6. Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and the lure of the strongman (16.05.16)

  7. Putin is Secretly Plotting to Topple Merkel (16.05.16)

  8. Banning Russia from Rio Olympics for doping isn’t quite that simple (20.05.16)

  9. The Death of Free Media in Russia (19.05.16)

  10. Putin’s Assault on Russia’s Free Press Continues Apace (20.05.16)

  11. 4 things you need to know about the Cossacks fighting Russia’s opposition groups (18.05.16)

  12. Charities Feel The Chill As Russia Looks To Tighten NGO Legislation (18.05.16)

  13. Reining in Putin’s Cronies (17.05.16)

  14. Putin’s Dirty Game in the U.S. Congress (18.05.16)

  15. Stalin, vodka and nuclear weapons: How not to write about Russia (17.05.16)

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