Saturday 28 Nov 2020 | 22:26 | SYDNEY
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Russia

A Biden presidency and US-Russia relations

Moscow’s muted reaction to Joe Biden’s election victory is unsurprising, and speaks volumes. The Kremlin is likely bracing itself for more confrontation with Washington, as US policy towards Russia hardens. That’s saying something. Since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and revelations

Nagorno-Karabakh: Peace – for now

Six weeks of renewed fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh ended last week after Russia brokered a trilateral agreement with the warring parties. Baku is trumpeting its victory on the field of battle and at the negotiating table, while Yerevan is

Why Russia will not return the Kuril Islands to Japan

The decades-old dispute between Russia and Japan over the status of the Kuril Islands is far from over. Tokyo, which refers to the islands as the Northern Territories, still insists on a peace treaty with Moscow that would result in Russia’s return of at least two out of four islands to Japan,

Russia’s troubled periphery

Unrest is roiling Russia’s near abroad, from its western flanks in Europe to the “’Stans” of Central Asia on China’s doorstep. For all their local particulars, these nations share a common historical legacy which continues to undermine stability in various ways.   In Belarus,

Protests and power struggles in Russia’s Far East

Rallies in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk have been overshadowed by the protests in Belarus, as well as the alleged poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny. Although anti-Kremlin protesters in the city of 600,000 still hold weekly demonstrations, demanding Russian authorities return

How Russia benefited from Belarus’s turmoil

Mass protests and nationwide strikes in Belarus did not result in the overthrow of President Alexander Lukashenko, but they have pushed the Eastern European country deeper into Russia’s geopolitical orbit. Moscow and Minsk have reportedly agreed on resuming Russia’s energy supplies to Belarus,

Why Navalny matters

European leaders and institutions reacted promptly to the shocking plight of the Russian pro-democracy campaigner Aleksei Navalny, as he lay in a coma in an Omsk hospital and local officials tried to obstruct his evacuation to Germany. The same could not be said of Vladimir Putin. During the two

The obstacles to Syrian aid

On Saturday last week, following weeks of lobbying by humanitarian agencies and difficult diplomatic negotiations, the UN Security Council renewed its authorisation for the UN and its partners to provide humanitarian assistance in north-western Syria from across the Turkish border. The final

Australia’s Russia problem (and how to solve it)

The 2020 Defence Strategic Update goes some way to preparing Australia to compete in a new multipolar, Indo-Pacific–anchored strategic environment. But a notable absence from the document is Russia. This matters. Australians too often speak of Moscow’s irrelevance and weakness since the end of

Keeping the Kremlin in the Kelvinator

One effect of Australia’s more assertive posture on the People’s Republic of China has been to try to split off Beijing’s current and potential partners. This thinking was apparently behind Liberal MP Dave Sharma’s recent suggestion that Australia should back Russia’s participation in the

Book review: The making of Putin’s Russia

Book Review: Catherine Belton, Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West (HarperCollins, 2020) Last week, the Russian people voted to approve a constitutional amendment that resets the count on presidential term limits. President Vladimir Putin served his first

With US Afghan exit, Russia eyes Central Asian security

Three months have passed since the United States and the Taliban signed an “Agreement for bringing peace to Afghanistan”. For the Americans, it aims to put an end to the US military intervention in Afghanistan, which has lasted more than 18 years. The provisions of the agreement stipulate a

Russia makes its presence known in Iran crisis

Recent revelations make it clear that Iran’s willingness to confront the US following the strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad was not driven just by a mix of domestic considerations and a compelling desire to retaliate. Iran’s bluntly open challenge to the US may have been

Russia is a special case when it comes to doping

There’s a telling scene in the recent sports documentary Icarus where the main protagonist of the film, Grigory Rodchenkov, sits at a table swirling containers of urine. “I am mafia, chased by WADA,” the former director of Russia’s anti-doping agency muses to himself. “In Russia, the

SCO-style economic cooperation: Treading slowly

Over its 18-year existence, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has mostly been in the spotlight as a forum for security cooperation, starting with the 2001 Convention that branded crimes of extremism, separatism, and terrorism as extraditable offences. The region is still facing significant security

Russia’s southern strategy

“Valiant breaks London–Cape record by 54 mins”, led the 9 July 1959 edition of the Cape Argus. The arrival of the sleek, white-painted, and still highly classified long-range British nuclear bomber, which represented the cutting edge of Britain’s new Cold War airborne nuclear deterrent, drew

What Russia wants in a multipolar world

Last week, Russia’s Ambassador to Australia, Alexei Pavlovsky, delivered a keynote address at the Australian National University on Russia’s strategic architect and former foreign minister, the late Yevgeny Primakov. Reflecting on the speech, it is evident that policy makers, pundits, and the

How Africa is breaking China’s neo-colonial shackles

If there’s any indication of how Africa is moving up on everyone’s agenda, look no further than the first edition of the Russia-Africa Summit, which saw 43 African heads of state converging last week on Sochi. Beyond the fact that the summit reflects the brisk trade Moscow does with the

The Sino-Russian relationship is being misunderstood

Too often, the past is mistaken as a guide for the future, rather than as lesson from which to avoid making the same mistakes. Take the relationship between China and Russia as an example. Too often judgements about the decisions of Russian and Chinese politicians are clouded by stereotypes of the

Breaking Russia’s space stranglehold

The test launch of a SpaceX astronaut capsule to the International Space Station (without astronauts aboard) is cause for celebration. It marks the debut of the first crew-carrying orbital spacecraft from America since the development of the Space Shuttle decades ago. But it also signifies the

Russian arms flood Southeast Asia

Russia’s “hard” power is generally well-understood. President Vladimir Putin has ensured this is the case, particularly through his proclivity to showcase Russian strength in Ukraine and Syria. And who could forget Russia’s arsenal of nuclear weapons? Not Donald Trump: just last weekend,

Russian gas will not stop China’s air pollution

As Beijing clamps down on air pollution, it is seeking to replace coal power plants with cleaner natural gas, especially for heating during winter. Consequently, China has intensified relations with Russia, one of the world’s leading gas exporters, to expand energy ties. But although upping gas

The distant fate of Russia’s Far East

Ten years ago, Vladivostok was the scene of street marches and demonstrations. The area known as the Russian Far East had experienced a long economic slump after the collapse of the old Soviet Union and anger had built. The demonstrations were eventually and brutally put down after riot police were

Russia-Ukraine: soggy response to Kerch aggression

With its doctrine of scrupulous media balance – “they said, he said, we don’t know” – Western reporting on the latest phase in Russia’s relentless imperialist aggression against Ukraine has been as misleading as what has gone before. Even the sight of Russian special forces swarming

Trump scores a win over Russia

Typically, Vladimir Putin answered Washington’s decision this month to leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by making new nuclear threats against Europe. His posturing underscored why this was the right decision. Better known as the INF Treaty, this agreement was signed in 1987

India’s Arctic energy partnership with Russia

When people discuss Indo-Russian relations, they generally focus on Russia’s arms sales to India. However, India’s energy relations with Moscow also possess considerable and, arguably, growing significance. This was revealed at the latest bilateral summit this month during Vladimir Putin

Beware of fighter pilots bearing gifts

In late September, an interesting news story populated some portions of the internet. A person purporting to be a (possibly retired) Russian fighter pilot flying one of Moscow’s most modern jets, a Su-35, claimed to have engaged in (and won) a mock air-combat against America’s premier fighter

The crowded skies of Syria

The downing of a Russian Il-20 aircraft off the Syrian coast this week with the death of 15 personnel is another reminder of the cost to Moscow of its pro-regime military intervention. A little over six months ago, nearly 40 Russians died when a transport aircraft crashed on approach to

The Sino-Russian entente

Russia’s Vostok-18 exercises have received significant attention, thanks mainly to the Kremlin’s grand announcements about their scale. If Russia’s defence ministry is to be believed, up to 300,000 military personnel from all services will take part. Notably, they will

Russia’s Vostok-2018: a rehearsal for global war?

What are we to make of Russia’s Vostok (East)-2018 exercise? From 11–15 September Russia’s Far East will host Vostok-2018 the largest Russian military exercise since Zapad (West)-1981. According to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, this latest exercise will engage some 300,000 Russian

Why a US–Russia team–up against China is unlikely

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last month, one might wonder if the US and Russia are considering the formation of, if not an explicit partnership against China, then at least an informal condominium. Trump seemed to lend some credence to this speculation

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