Foreign Press Review (30.01-05.02)

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The Ukrainian conflict escalated dramatically last week. The media almost immediately called this outburst of violence in Eastern Ukraine “a test for Donald Trump”, but mostly tried to persuade readers that the test was prepared by Russian President Vladimir Putin, rather than by the Ukrainian authorities. The mainstream press noted that the response of the Trump’s administration was low-key as it called for an immediate cease-fire and implementation of the Minsk agreements but omitted any mention of Russia. It contrasted sharply to the stance of the previous administration, which used to put the blame on Moscow without any investigations and evidence. Then (it could be some sort of reaction to the media’s criticism) during the UN Security Council meeting US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley condemned “aggressive actions of Russia”. Nevertheless, the press pointed at the general change in tone and portrayed it as a sign of a possible shift in the US Russia’s policy. Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal report that NATO cancelled a meeting with Ukraine trying not to provoke the Kremlin was considered as an additional argument.

This time the outlets were more moderate in their estimations and, at least, some of them managed to mention that Moscow had no motivation to step-up violence as the latest flare-up occurred exactly at the time when there were a lot of speculations that President Trump was preparing Russia’s sanctions relief. Moreover, some analysts compared the situation to that in Georgia in 2008 when, hoping for US interference, Tbilisi tried to provoke the Kremlin. However, now American and European hawks got a trump card to sabotage lifting of the sanctions by fueling baseless media hysteria. Despite the theories that Putin wants to gauge what he could gain under Trump or even to “complete his takeover of Ukraine” seem totally untrustworthy, the mainstream media is able to exploit the escalation to create negative public mood towards Russia.

Meanwhile, after a meeting with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban Russian President Vladimir Putin explained that, from his point of view, the current Ukrainian government had provoked outburst of violence because “Ukrainian leadership nowadays needs money, and the best way to get it is to squeeze it from the European Union, individual European countries or the United States and international financial institutions, by pretending to be a victim of aggression”.   Besides, he noted that amid failures in the economic and social areas Kiev tries to “mobilize” people around the government and to start some kind of dialogue with President Trump, whom some Ukrainian officials called “a clown” during the presidential campaign.

It is worth noting, that Putin’s visit to Hungary itself drew a lot of media’s attention since observers think the Russian President will use it to weaken support for economic sanctions against Russia and break “the West’s unity”. However, Moscow and Budapest really have a lot of business projects to discuss, including building of two nuclear reactors. Generally the sanctions question was a cornerstone of the whole week as Washington decided to “fine-tune” sanctions against Russia’s Security Service (FSB) and fueled another wave of discussions. It seems that the coming weeks will witness hot debates between protagonists and opponents of restrictive measures against Russia and, unfortunately, these debates are likely to be accompanied by new provocations and loud statements of those who are interested in fear-mongering among ordinary citizens in the West.

Ukrainian conflict

The Ukraine-Russia Conflict: A Way Forward

By Matthew Rojansky

The National Interest

01.02.17

Washington cannot afford to miss this window of opportunity.

Ukraine Sabotages Trump’s Russia Détente

By Jonathan Marshall

Consortiumnews.com

01.02.17

A Ukrainian military offensive into rebel-held eastern Ukraine is giving Washington’s war hawks an excuse to demand President Trump escalate tensions with Russia, negating his hopes for détente.

 

Russia-US relations

If Trump Tries to Make a Deal With Putin, He’s Already Lost

By Daniel B. Baer

Foreign Policy

30.01.17

The international order is based on values, institutions, and moral leadership — not transactional politics.

What Russia Expects from the Trump Administration

By Andranik Migranyan

The National Interest

31.01.17

A new Congress of Vienna could strengthen U.S. leadership by sharing responsibility for global order.

Will Trump’s Putin alliance help in fight against ISIS?

By Thomas Mcardle

The Hill

31.01.17

If he can tame the Russian bear and get it to help us maul to death the Islamist terrorist monster, it would mean an America that knows what it’s doing like never before.

Dangers of Democratic Putin-Bashing

By Robert Parry

Consortiumnews.com

01.02.17

As national Democratic leaders continue to blame Russian President Putin for their 2016 defeat, they’re leading their party into a realignment with the neocons and other war hawks.

US ‘fine-tunes’ sanctions on Russian intelligence agency

By David J Lynch

The Financial Times

02.02.17

Experts say change will aid US companies caught up in response to election hacking.

FSB arrests

Treason Through the FSB Looking Glass

By Mark Galeotti

The Moscow Times

30.01.17

Why ‘espionage’ arrests at the heart of Russia’s security services are not all that they seem.

The Downfall of a Top Russian Cyber Spy

By Anna Nemtsova

The Daily Beast

02.02.17

The dramatic arrest in Moscow of a top intelligence official raises questions about who knew what, and when, about the hack of the U.S. elections.

Russia-West relations

It’s Putin’s World

By Franklin Foer

The Atlantic

March 2017 Issue

How the Russian president became the ideological hero of nationalists everywhere.

Putin’s visit to Hungary

Why Putin needs Orbán

By Lili Bayer

Politico

01.02.17

Russia looks to Budapest and the new Trump reality to bring down sanctions wall.

 

Putin Singles Out Hungary

The Stratfor

03.02.17

President Vladimir Putin put on full display the Russian strategy of sowing division in the West with his visit to Hungary, one of the most vocal advocates in Europe for improving relations with Moscow.

Russia-NATO relations

Nato must defend western democracy against Russian hacking, say Fallon

By Ewen MacAskill

The Guardian

03.02.17

UK defence secretary accuses Moscow of ‘weaponising misinformation’ to disable democratic machinery.

Russia-Turkey relations

The One Russian Linking Putin, Erdogan and Trump

By Henry Meyer and Onur Ant

Bloomberg

03.01.17

‘He’s seen as a brilliant philosopher, but brilliance and madness are very close to each other.’

Russia-Libya relations

Russia’s ‘crescent of instability’ spreads west

By Jacopo Barigazzi And David M. Herszenhorn

Politico

03.02.17

Kremlin courts a Libyan strongman as Russia tightens its grip on Europe’s periphery.

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