Wednesday 20 Jun 2018 | 10:26 | SYDNEY
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Russia

Japan-Russia: Abe’s brutal truth

On 26 May, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Moscow for what was their 21st bilateral meeting. For the most part, the outcomes of that meeting paint a sorry picture for the Abe administration. No meaningful progress was made at the meeting on core

Russia: patrons of assassinations

The attempted assassination of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in early March saw a global response sterner than many expected. More than 150 Russian diplomats were expelled from embassies worldwide. Yet despite global condemnation, the assassinations appear to have continued. Russian

In Syria, Trump must collude with Russia

President Donald Trump is under enormous pressure to respond militarily to the latest provocation by the Assad regime, but he would do so against all of his instincts and earlier pronouncements to end US military involvement in the Syrian war. Just days before the chemical attacks in Douma,

Rouhani, Erdogan, and Putin’s bizarre love triangle

It appears a new regional security order is encircling Syria as the civil war grinds into its seventh year. This shift was visible last week, when the leaders of Turkey, Iran, and Russia met in Ankara to discuss solutions to the Syrian crisis. The detailed talks covered de-escalation zones

Australia vs China, Europe vs Russia

The “bitter split among Australia academics” (reported in the Financial Times) with regard to attitudes towards China, and the Skripal poisoning incident that prompted an unprecedented number of European countries to take highly symbolic measures against Russia, have a common denominator

Skripal: the weight of evidence

On Tuesday, the head of Britain’s Porton Down laboratory caused a stir when he admitted that his scientists had not identified the “precise source” of the Novichok nerve agent used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, and Skripal’s daughter Yulia, on 4 March. The comment

Skripal: the West escalates, but where is the proof?

Australia, the US, and several EU nations joined forces with Britain this week to expel Russian diplomats from their nations. The decision is based on the widespread view that the Russian regime of Vladimir Putin is responsible for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England earlier

Russian pragmatism on display in South East Asia

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Myanmar recently in a clear display of Moscow’s pragmatism. Many Western observers, especially from the US, present Vladimir Putin as either a Machiavellian mixer with almost superhuman abilities – he who put Donald Trump in the White House and

Russia: the counter-intelligence state

Upon receiving confirmation that the UK had formally accused Moscow of poisoning Sergei Skripal, the former spy, as well as his daughter and 21 others, then US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said it was almost beyond comprehension that a state would act this way. Unfortunately, this

Russian spy case: dead men walking

“Crush treason ruthlessly, crush it mercilessly.”Modest Mussorgsky, Boris Godunov (1874), Act IV, Scene 2 In theory, Russia prohibits capital punishment – even mass murderers are jailed for life. But in practice, some Russians accused of treason or seen as a threat to the state, or to its

The flawed logic of Russia’s new weapon systems

During his presidential address on 1 March, Vladimir Putin revealed additional information on six major new Russian weapons systems, some unveiled for the first time. Four of the weapons, discussed below, are principally relevant in a strategic nuclear sense; that is, they carry atomic warheads and

To Russia: a plea of caution on Syria

The recent UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria was arguably a vital step towards the delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid to 5.6 million Syrians deemed in “acute need”. Yet shortly after the resolution was unanimously adopted, the Syrian Government

Shot down over Syria

The downing of a Russian Su-25 aircraft this week marks the second aircraft lost to MANPADS surface-to-air missiles in six weeks. At the end of December, militants shot down a Syrian L-39 aircraft near Hama. Russia’s response has been swift and severe, conducting multiple

Sea cables in a thawing Arctic

China has made a significant foray into the Arctic with the creation of a data “silk road”. Strongly supported by a newfound closeness with Russia, preliminary planning of a Chinese and Finnish–led trans-Arctic cable along the Arctic’s Northeast Passage in partnership with Japan and Norway

The real purpose of Russia’s presidential election

Vladimir Putin’s election to a fourth term as President of Russia on 18 March is a foregone conclusion. Nobody can remotely consider Russia’s presidential election to be democratic, whatever Putin and his defenders might say. Seeing as it is obviously a sham and a travesty, one might ask why

Putin’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment

Politicians have a track record of declaring military victory before it is achieved. Think the 'Mission Accomplished' banner unfurled behind George W. Bush aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on 1 May 2003, after which the war in Iraq continued for another eight years, claiming

Russia is not really withdrawing from Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin was reported this week to have ordered Russian military chiefs to redeploy ‘most’ of Russia’s Syria contingent back home. Exactly what constitutes ‘most', though, is anyone’s guess. There are reports that Russia

Trump and the Russian ‘Wilderness of Mirrors’

Truth and Russian affairs do not sit comfortably together. Churchill observed in 1939 that Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, and we find ourselves today struggling with this intrigue amid persistent claims about Donald Trump and links to Russia. This struggle also speaks to

Russia in Syria: A course strewn with obstacles

Having vanquished Syria’s rebels militarily, Russia now faces the challenge of reconstructing a durable Syrian state. To convert military victory into a lasting political settlement that benefits it and its allies in Syria, Bashar Assad’s government and Iran, Moscow has moved quickly to

What drives Russia’s Korea policy?

To discuss what's driving Russia's Korea policy, we need a framework within which we can begin to understand Moscow’s motives regarding North Korea’s nuclearisation and the ensuing international crisis.   First, peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and more broadly in

How Trump’s new approach to Pakistan might pan out

Perhaps the most notable part of President Trump's new Afghanistan 'strategy' is its treatment of Pakistan, with Trump saying out loud what was once largely debated and threatened in private: The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan. We can no

The Russian ‘taboo’ and the German election

We need to come out of the dead end … Something must be offered so that Putin can change his policy without a loss of face … To express a taboo: I fear that the Crimea must be regarded as a permanent provisional solution. These words caused something of a sensation in Germany earlier this

US-Russia relations: No light at the end of the tunnel

Each month – each week – brings new and alarming developments in US-Russian relations. No one seriously expects any improvement in the near future. The only question is: how much worse can things get? During the initial period of the Trump presidency, the fear was that Trump would make some

Russia is weaker than it looks

G7 leaders recently agreed to maintain their sanctions on Russia imposed over its belligerence in the Ukraine. The sanctions are there to punish Russian aggression and deter any further territorial expansion. But the debate over how to restrain Russia often misses a clearer understanding of the

Putin’s Trump-supported hybrid war on the West

It needs to be understood that Russia views the EU and the West generally as an enemy. To say this is not Russophobia. It has been made clear in countless official Russian documents, to say nothing of their routine pronouncements, propaganda and actions. Nor is it something new. There were periods

'A Wary Embrace': Response to Stephen Blank

Stephen Blank's very generous comments on A Wary Embrace arrived too late to cover in my response to the original contributions in The Interpreter debate. But he brings up a number of additional points that deserve a reply. The nature of the China-Russia relationship Blank somewhat

‘A Wary Embrace’: The author responds

This post is part of a debate on Bobo Lo's Lowy Institute Paper, 'A Wary Embrace'. Other debate posts can be found here. In their excellent responses to my Lowy Institute Paper, A Wary Embrace, Kyle Wilson, Peter Rutland, Alexander Gabuev, and Marcin Kaczmarski raise a number of interesting points

How China and Russia avoided the Thucydides trap

This post is part of a debate on Bobo Lo's Lowy Institute Paper A Wary Embrace. Other debate posts can be found here. With every energy or arms trade deal and joint veto in the UN Security Council, the question of whether Russia and China have formed an alliance becomes more salient. These two

China and Russia: Friends with strategic benefits

This post is part of a debate on Bobo Lo's Lowy Institute Paper A Wary Embrace. Other debate posts can be found here. Is the relationship between China and Russia just an axis of convenience – a limited partnership with no real empathy between the two parties, spiced by deep-seated and well-

Quick comment: Bobo Lo on China-Russia relations

This week the Lowy Institute launched its latest Penguin Special, A Wary Embrace, on the future of China-Russia relations. The author, Dr Bobo Lo, is in Sydney for the launch, and he sat down with me to talk about why he thinks China-Russia relations will remain largely transactional, and why Russia

The Russian Revolution, a century on

A century ago today, Emperor Nicholas II, 'Tsar and Autocrat of all the Russias', pencilled his name to a document renouncing a throne three hundred years in his family's possession, not only for himself but also his son and chronically ill heir, Alexis. The date, according to the old Russian

What's behind Russia's missile treaty violation?

Earlier this week the New York Times broke a story that Russia is fielding new cruise missiles in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). This is significant, not because Russia stands accused of violating the Treaty, but rather how and why. The INF Treaty

A grand bargain: What Russia now wants from the West

The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States of America has elicited thousands of lines of newsprint as academics, journalists and the wider public seek to make sense of its implications. It has occasioned no less speculation in Russia, much of it shot through with a strong sense

Russia's revolutionary centenary

Russians are preparing for a New Year heavy with historical symbolism. A hundred years after their revolution, the French celebrated 1789 as year zero not only of the Republic that had finally emerged as France’s settled form of government, but also of a new, Enlightened era in the history of

The future according to Vlad and Shinzo

Vladimir Putin’s visit to Japan later this week is not interesting in itself. Rather, it is the strategic environment in which it is happening that holds our attention. Through this visit we can discern what the world’s powers think a Trump administration may mean for them, and see how they

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