Foreign Press Review (01.05-07.05)

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Last week the Syrian conflict returned to the spotlight. On Thursday Russia, Iran and Turkey signed a memorandum on creating “de-escalation zones” in Syria. It encompasses four areas: the northern province of Idlib, Eastern Gouta, the central province of Homs and southern part of Syria along its border with Jordan.  In practice analysts say that these zones cover almost all areas controlled by rebels, who are allegedly not connected with the Islamic State. The signed agreement stipulates establishing checkpoints on the ground and unarmed civilians would be permitted to freely move between territories held both by government and opposition. According to the agreement, all military activities, including air strikes, should be ceased inside the zones. The agreement expressly excludes attacks on terrorists, such as Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliates.

US State Department, which is not a party to the memorandum, supported the initiative, expressing concern over Iran’s role as a guarantor. On Wednesday during a press-conference following negotiations with Turkish president Recep Erdogan Vladimir Putin mentioned that during his recent phone conversation with US president Donald Trump they had touched upon the “de-escalation” zones and, as far as Putin had understood, the American administration supported the plan. However, given previous failed attempts of enforcing cease-fires in Syria, analysts’ main concern is the way the current regime will be monitored. The principal difference is that this time, according to the officials, some “third parties” could participate in observing the cease-fire.

It is worth noting that a degree of distrust in Syria is still extremely high as after a clearly benevolent effort to end fighting in the country some stakeholders and independent analysts and observers immediately voiced concern that the agreement could be a move to finally divide Syria while others claimed that it could be an opportunity for the government to regroup its forces. Nevertheless, everybody should understand that the current memorandum, at the very least, is aimed at helping to deliver humanitarian aid and, eventually, potentially could help displaced people and refugees return.

In general, last week was extremely busy diplomatically for the Russian President. He held talks with Turkish president Recep Erdogan and German chancellor Angela Merkel, but the phone call between the leaders of Russia and the US was the most widely covered as it took place amid growing tensions in the bilateral relations after the recent US airstrikes in Syria. According to the official statements, the presidents discussed Syria, North Korea and agreed on a face-to face meeting. Despite the recent reports about possible bilateral negotiations in May, which had been extensively discussed last weeks, the meeting is likely to be held at the sidelines of G20 summit in Hamburger in July.          

Syrian conflict

The Best Bet for Syria: Freeze the Conflict

By Leonid Bershidsky



Putin and Trump seem to be heading toward de facto partition.

For once, Putin is doing the right thing for Syria

By Hamish de Bretton-Gordon

The Guardian


The Russian president is partly responsible for the carnage in Syria. But after six years of civil war, humanitarian safe zones would be a step forward.

Russia’s sketchy plan to end fighting in Syria needs testing

By David Gardner

The Financial Times


Proposal holds out offer of relief but gives Assad regime chance to extend its reach.

Russia-US relations

Why There Will be no Russophobia Reset

By Pepe Escobar



In the end, there was hardly a reset; rather a sort of tentative pause on Cold War 2.0.

Trump, Putin Discuss Crises in Syria and on Korean Peninsula

By Carol E. Lee and Nathan Hodge

The Wall Street Journal


Call comes after U.S. president says relations between the powers are at a low point.

Again, Is the Possibility of a Trump-Putin Détente Really Dead?

 By Stephen F. Cohen

The Nation


“Kremlingate” is said to have killed any prospect for Trump administration cooperation with Putin’s Kremlin, but the May 2 phone talk between the two leaders showed it is still alive.

Russia’s foreign policy

What do we know about Russia’s ‘Grand Strategy?’

By Andy Akin

The Washington Post


The recent tension between the United States and Russia over Moscow’s influence in Syria is the newest chapter in the ongoing saga of understanding Russia’s game plan — a Grand Strategy.

European elections

US Sanctions Didn’t Stop Russia’s Election Hacking—Or Even Slow It Down

By Andy Greenberg



The Russian hackers who gleefully spilled the emails of the DNC, Colin Powell, and the Clinton campaign remain as busy as ever, this time targeting the elections of France and Germany.

Putin awaits return on Le Pen investment

By Max Seddon and Michael Stothard

The Financial Times


Speculation swirls about extent of Russian leader’s influence.

Russia-Germany relations

Angela Merkel Presses Vladimir Putin on Treatment of Gays and Jehovah’s Witnesses

By Neil MacFarquhar and Alison Smale

The New York Times


Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, took the opportunity of a rare visit to Russia to raise human rights issues on Tuesday with President Vladimir V. Putin, a noted departure from their continuing differences over Ukraine and Syria.

Russia-NATO relations

Russia Is a Threat to NATO’s World Order in the West, Top U.S. Army General Says

By Tom O’Connor



Russia poses an existential threat to the West’s military and political influence around the world, prompting NATO to assume a more militant mission, according to the head of the U.S. military in Europe.

Russia in Action, Short of War

By Bruce McClintock and Andrew Radin

US News & World Report


Stop trying to define Russia’s strategy for stirring conflicts and address its actions instead.

Ukrainian conflict

In Ukraine, feeling grows that the east is lost to Russia

By Yuras Karmanau

ABC News


Long unthinkable after years of fighting and about 10,000 deaths, Ukrainians increasingly are coming around to the idea of at least temporarily abandoning the region known as the Donbass, considering it to be de facto occupied by Russia.

North Korea issue

As U.S. and China find common ground on North Korea, is Russia the wild card?

By James Pearson and Alexei Chernyshev



Some academics who study North Korea argue Kim could be looking for Russia to ease any pain if China, which accounts for about 90 percent of North Korea’s trade, steps up sanctions against the isolated country as part of moves to deter its nuclear and missile programs.

Russia’s internal politics

Jehovah’s Witnesses as ‘extremists’: Court sharpens edges of Russia’s religious space

By Fred Weir

The Christian Science Monitor


A Supreme Court ruling puts the Jehovah’s Witnesses at risk of property seizure and prison over the sect’s proselytization and ‘radical’ beliefs. Even members of the powerful Russian Orthodox Church say the decision goes too far.

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