Foreign Press Review (11.07-17.07)

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The main event of last week was Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s visit to Moscow. The Obama administration reportedly intended to propose to deepen military cooperation with Moscow in Syria by intelligence information sharing, starting joint air strikes against the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s Syria branch, and opening a new military command-and-control headquarters, which would include military and intelligence officers and subject-matter experts. However, this plan revealed a rift between the State Department and the National Security Council, on the one hand, who are appearing to support the proposal, and the Pentagon and the intelligence community on the other, who are challenging it. Moreover, the media drew the readers’ attention to the fact that earlier this week John Kerry, during the conversation at the Aspen Ideas Festival held in Colorado, classified two so-called rebel groups Jaysh al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham as terrorists. Interestingly, Washington, in contrast to Russia, has for a long time called them moderate opposition and, therefore, Mr Kerry’s words became a true shock for many among the American establishment. Nevertheless, it is still unclear whether it was an accidental declaration or a deliberate reference, which means a policy shift. As for the results of the two-day negotiations in Moscow, the parties announced that they had reached an agreement that can restore the cessation of hostilities and push the political process forward, but refused to make any details public.

Besides, the NATO-Russia Council met in Brussels on Wednesday. Despite Moscow continuing to criticize the alliance for a military buildup in Eastern Europe and arguing it could destabilize Europe, the Kremlin proposed a new air-safety initiative for the Baltic Sea, which requires all planes flying in the Baltic Sea region to keep their transponders turned on. However, while one part of analysts considers this as a desire to lower tensions, the other thinks that it is a sign of an admittance of a long-term confrontation rather than reconciliation, as, from their point of view, it is a rational attempt to revitalize the old Cold War rules aimed at decreasing the possibility of an accidental war.

In addition, a lot of attention was payed to the doping scandal. A draft letter by the US and Canadian doping agencies to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) leaked ahead of the release of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s report on the 2014 Sochi Olympics. According to it, at least 10 nations and 20 athlete groups will request a total ban on Russia competing at the Rio Olympics and Paralympics if the McLaren Report finds evidence of state-sponsored doping. The paradox is that the results of the report is to be presented only on Monday, July 18, and many high-ranked sports officials around the world have already declared that this letter undermines the credibility of the report, violates the “innocent until proven guilty” principle and raises the question of whether its confidentiality was breached. For example, IOC Executive Board member Patrick Hickey said: “My concern is that there seems to have been an attempt to agree an outcome before any evidence has been presented. Such interference and calls ahead of the McLaren Report publication are totally against internationally recognised fair legal process and may have completely undermined the integrity and therefore the credibility of this important report.”

Syrian conflict

Syria Shocker: John Kerry Torpedoes US ‘Moderate Rebel’ Narrative

By Vanessa Beeley

The Centre for Research on Globalization


What John Kerry said in this conversation effectively demolishes the foundations of US “regime change” policy in Syria and its support of the so called “moderate rebels”.

US, Russia talk Syria coordination despite Pentagon concerns

By Barbara Starr, Elise Labott and Ryan Browne



A U.S. proposal to deepen military cooperation with Russia in Syria has sparked a rift at the highest levels of the Obama administration, with the Pentagon openly challenging an idea that the top U.S. diplomat calls critical to moving Syria forward.

Obama’s Syria plan teams up American and Russian forces

By Josh Rogin

The Washington Post


The Obama administration’s new proposal to Russia on Syria is more extensive than previously known. It would open the way for deep cooperation between U.S. and Russian military and intelligence agencies and coordinated air attacks by American and Russian planes on Syrian rebels deemed to be terrorists

Kerry, Putin Aim to Preserve Syria Cease-Fire, Coordinate Efforts

By Felicia Schwartz

The Wall Street Journal


Secretary of State, Russian president discuss U.S. proposal to work more closely if Moscow grounds Assad’s air force

U.S. and Russia Agree on Steps to Combat ISIS in Syria

By Gardiner Harris

The New York Times


The United States and Russia announced a tentative deal on Friday to coordinate airstrikes against the Islamic State and the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.

Russia-NATO relations

Next up after NATO’s Baltic/Poland build-up: lowering tension with Russia

By Sara Miller Llana, Fred Weir

The Christian Science Monitor


Despite the new NATO troops for Eastern Europe, experts said the bloc and Russia must quickly dial back tensions – through constant communication and by finding common ground.

Russia Pushes Baltic Air-Safety Plan in NATO Meeting

By Julian E. Barnes, James Marson

The Wall Street Journal


Russia pushed a new air-safety initiative for the Baltic Sea in a meeting with North Atlantic Treaty Organization ambassadors Wednesday as it continued to criticize the Western alliance for a planned buildup in the region.

Can Europe Stop Washington’s Military Provocations on Russia’s Borders?

 By Stephen F. Cohen

The Nation


The extremism at NATO’s Warsaw summit revealed doves in opposition to the new Cold War hawks, but not in the United States.

The Spirit of the Cold War Is Back as NATO Confronts Russia

By Fyodor Lukyanov

The Huffington Post


After very vocal statements at the Warsaw Summit, results of the NATO-Russia Council meeting on Wednesday look surprisingly calm. Both sides predictably disagreed on Ukraine but decided to work on a new system to minimize risks.

Vladimir Putin Is the Only Leader the West Has

By Paul Craig Roberts

Foreign Policy Journal


Putin does not want war. He is doing everything in his power to avoid it. But Putin is not going to surrender Russia to Washington.


Despite Putin Jibes, Russia Places Hope In ‘Brexiteer’ Boris Johnson

By Tom Balmforth

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


The surprise appointment of Boris Johnson to head the British Foreign Office is being cautiously welcomed by Moscow — and his predecessor’s exit pointedly cheered.

Doping scandal

Anti-Doping Officials May Call for Russia Ban at Rio Olympics

By Phil Helsel

NBC News


A draft letter from U.S. and Canadian anti-doping authorities recommends Russia be banned from the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro if an upcoming report finds evidence of state-sponsored doping.

Russia’s internal policy

How Vladimir Putin is being outfoxed by a Chechen warlord

By Mark Galeotti



After all, not only is Kadyrov an erratic man who breaks the rules of Russian politics, he does so openly and triumphantly. He has shown that it is possible to challenge the Kremlin and win.

Russia Looks to Populate Its Far East. Wimps Need Not Apply

By Andrew Higgins 

The New York Times


How to get people to settle in the Far East is a question that has preoccupied and confounded Russian rulers since the establishment of a Russian naval base on the Pacific Ocean at Okhotsk in the 17th century.

Russia’s economy

Russia expected to return to growth in 2017: IMF

By Holly Ellyatt



Russia’s recession has been shallower than expected, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in its latest economic report on the country, and the economy is expected to return to growth next year – unless oil prices take a further tumble.

Articles also deserving your attention

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  2. Why Does Putin Say Russia Is Not A Threat To Nato States? (16.07.16)
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