Foreign Press Review #11 (06.06-12.06)

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The Syrian conflict was widely covered in the foreign media last week with a range of events seizing the agenda. Journalists warned about a possible clash between the Syrian Democratic Forces, supported by the US-led collation, and the Syrian government’s forces, backed by Russia and Iran, as both parties have been simultaneously conducting offensives against ISIS in Raqqa province. According to journalists, absence of coordination could complicate “the already intensely complex environment in Syria” and increase tensions between Moscow and Washington. In addition, the West is concerned over the talks, which were held last week in Tehran between the defense ministers of Russia, Iran and Syria, because despite Russia emphasizing its commitment to a political settlement numerous times experts believe that it could be a sign that the Kremlin is disappointed in the numerous refusals of the US to cooperate under some form of coalition and is ready to support Iran and Syria’s propositions of decisive military action in order to achieve a sweeping victory.

As for Russia-NATO relations, quite unexpectedly, voices skeptical of NATO’s current policy are becoming louder, amid the massive military exercises “Anakonda-16” with 31,000 troops from more than 20 countries participating. Experts noted that Moscow has shown signs of restraint in response to the recent moves of NATO in Europe including the opening of a U.S. missile defense shield in Romania, sending extra forces and rotating brigades to Eastern Europe and plans to increase military budgets. Given the fact that the Kremlin has limited its response to vocal criticism and promises of retaliatory measures, the Anakonda war games are an unnecessary provocation that only deepens the rift. Moreover, even Philip Breedlove, ex-head of US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, has called to establish effective communication with the Russians.

Additionally, the debates over sanctions against Russia continue to take place in the West. On Wednesday, the French Senate overwhelmingly supported the resolution calling on the government to lift sanctions against Russia ahead of the EU summit. In a broader sense it is a signal of the growing frustration not only experienced by politicians of some EU countries but also by Western businesses, which are worried about gradually losing their market shares in Russia. Meanwhile, German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel called on the G7 to allow Russia to rejoin the forum.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow was in the limelight in the foreign press, especially in American outlets, last week. Journalists drew readers’ attention to rapprochement between Moscow and Tel Aviv, highlighting a wide range of reasons, such as the end of “the special relationship” between Israel and the US with America’s inability to ensure ultimate security of the Jewish state and a large Russian-speaking community in Israel, which is an influential electoral block.

Syrian conflict

Syrian advance raises fear of race for Raqqa

By Geoff Dyer and Rebecca Collard

The Financial Times

07.06.16

An advance by Syrian troops into Raqqa province has raised the prospect of a race to the Isis stronghold between the US-backed opposition and regime forces supported by Moscow.

Playing Tic-Tac-Toe with Putin

By Leon Aron

Foreign Policy

10.06.16

Russia is playing chess in Syria. To say that the United States is playing checkers would be to grossly overestimate the intellectual, moral, and military commitment. Tic-tac-toe is about right.

Russia-NATO relations

U.S. Carrier’s Moves Send Message to Russia

By Tamer El-Ghobashy

The Wall Street Journal

08.06.16

The USS Harry S. Truman sailed into the Mediterranean Sea recently, as the Kremlin asserts itself in the region

Commentary: How NATO really provoked Putin

By Lucian Kim

Reuters

06.06.16

The United States may have provoked Putin through ignorance, arrogance or negligence — but not belligerence. That’s why NATO is in such a mad scramble to catch up.

Russia’s foreign strategy

Russia’s Strategy: Look Scarier Than You Are

By Andreas Umland

The National Interest

08.06.16

With its saber-rattling the Kremlin has, over the last months, succeeded in taking large parts of the Western elite under its “reflexive control,” a Soviet strategy of action designed to trigger desired reactions on the enemy’s side.

Information war

The US-Russia Info-War: What’s Real?

By Gilbert Doctorow

Consortiumnews

10.06.16

The ongoing information war between Russia and the U.S.-led West creates moments that are paradoxical if not downright confusing. But confusion may be the prime objective of both sides, following the old maxim: if you cannot convince, confuse. But confusion can be dangerous, too.

Sanctions against Russia

Everyone’s Paying For America’s War on Russia, Including America

By Ulson Gunnar

Centre for Research on Globalization

08.06.16

US sanctions aren’t just hurting everyone including the US, they are accomplishing nothing.

Don’t Lift Russia’s Sanctions Yet

By Benjamin Haddad, Hannah Thoburn

The Wall Street Journal

09.06.16

Measures targeting the Kremlin’s finances can reinforce efforts to negotiate on Ukraine.

Russia faces another 6 months of EU sanctions

By Alex Barker, Andrew Byrne, James Politi and Henry Foy

The Financial Times

09.06.16

The EU is set to roll over its Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia for a further six months despite signs of the mood towards Moscow softening in some of the bloc’s member states.

Brexit

Putin Silently Hopes for Brexit to Hobble Nato

By James Nixey

Newsweek

10.06.16

For all its pretenses toward the primacy of sovereignty, the Russian leadership is rarely shy about venting its views on the foreign policies and geopolitical orientations of other states. Yet on the question of Britain’s membership of the European Union, the Kremlin has been relatively silent.

Russia-Israel relations

Why Is Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu Warming to Russia’s Vladimir Putin?

By Damien Sharkov

Newsweek

07.06.16

Putin and Netanyahu have quite a few reasons to get along and it is not out of the question that the two leaders will find plenty more occasions to touch base in future.

Russia’s political system

Russia’s ‘valiant hero’ in Ukraine turns his fire on Vladimir Putin

By Shaun Walker

The Guardian

05.06.16

Igor Strelkov, Russian ‘military hero’ of the war in Ukraine, steps out of the shadows to fire salvo at president Putin and predict upheaval in Russia.

Putin’s Core Support Begins to Waver

By Leonid Ragozin

Bloomberg

09.06.16

Working-class Russians hurt by recession look for someone to blame—in an election year.

Russia’s economy

Putin Devotes Oil Windfall to Guns, Not Butter

By Leonid Bershidsky

Bloomberg

06.06.16

The government could easily restart growth by reducing military spending to the levels that prevailed five years ago and easing the tax burden. That, however, is not likely in the near future: Fortress Russia puts weapons first and economic development second.

Bank of Russia Cuts Interest Rates

By Andrey Ostroukh

The Wall Street Journal

10.06.16

The Bank of Russia cut interest rates Friday for the first time in nearly a year, paving the way for an easing cycle to prop up the battered economy.

Articles also deserving your attention

  1. Russia Is Recruiting The U.S.’s Rebel Allies In Syria (10.06.16)
  2. Putin’s Rope-A-Dope Approach to the Syria Peace Talks (07.06.16)
  3. Why Has Putin Put his Military Aggression on Hold? (08.06.16)
  4. America Needs to Break its Old Habits on Russia (06.06.16)
  5. Obama’s antagonism sends Israel to protection of Russia (09.06.16)
  6. EU referendum: Would Brexit make Putin happy? (07.06.16)
  7. Putin’s European Allies Don’t Need His Money (09.06.16)
  8. A Donbas Strategy Going Forward (06.06.16)
  9. EU Businesses Anxious to End Russia Sanctions (08.06.16)
  10. Putin Is Trying to Bully Europe into Dropping Sanctions (11.06.16)
  11. Is the Japan-Russia Honeymoon Over Before It Even Began? (08.06.16)
  12. Putin Preaches Free-Press Gospel At State-Run Media Forum (07.06.16)
  13. Kremlin targets Russian elite’s street racer kids in pre-vote crackdown (08.06.16)
  14. Putin Is Growing Organic Power One T-34 Tank-Tomato at a Time (08.06.16)
  15. Film About Russian Lawyer’s Death Creates an Uproar (09.06.16)
  16. An Artist Makes Putin’s Regime Mock Itself (08.06.16)
  17. Olympics: Russia begins charm offensive ahead of doping ban decision (07.06.16)

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