In the Thick of It

A blog on the U.S.-Russia relationship
The plane, nicknamed “Judgement Day Plane” by the Russian media, is designed to enable Russia’s military-political leadership to exercise nuclear command, control, and communications (N3) in the event of a nuclear war while airborne. The N3 plane will carry domestically made equipment only and that equipment would allow those on board to send launch commands to intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
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At a recent CFTNI event, both speakers pointed to the U.S.-Soviet Incidents at Sea Agreement of 1972 as a model for a bilateral cyber deal.
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Kremlin walls
The geopolitical arithmetic reflected in Russia’s new national security strategy can be summed up succinctly as: “deter the U.S., ignore the EU, partner with China and India.” That said, the new document seems to place a higher priority on the domestic components of national security.
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While lessons learned from regional military conflicts accounted for our most popular reads in January through June 2021, topics ranging from climate change to cybersecurity also dominated top positions in our ranking. Read on for a look at Russia Matters' top 10 most popular stories, based on reader analytics captured during the first half of this year. 
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Red Square
When asked which countries they found to be least friendly, the majority of Russians pointed to the United States, while beleaguered Belarus was broadly seen as the country's friendliest ally.
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Nearly half of 18-24 year old Russians are ready and willing to move abroad for purposes of becoming permanent residents in a foreign country, according to a recent national poll conducted by Russia’s leading independent poll agency, the Levada Center.

The poll, which was conducted in May, showed that almost 22 percent of Russians across all age groups said they were either definitely or most likely ready to move abroad. Since Levada began measuring the trend in October 1990, the percentage of Russians leaning towards immigration has reached the current levels only twice before—in May 2011 and May 2013.

The desire to move abroad tends to skew young, according to the poll. While nearly half (48 percent) of respondents aged 18-24 stated that they were definitely or most likely ready to go abroad, that figure fell to 33 percent among individuals aged 25-39, and to 21 percent among those aged 40-45.

The spread of what Russians describe as “suitcase mood” among younger respondents should be of concern to Russian authorities as the country’s workforce is simultaneously shrinking and ageing. The number of people of working age in Russia—defined in this context as between 15 and 72 years old—was 76.5 million in mid-2015; by late 2020, that figure had fallen to 75.2 million. Meanwhile the median age of the Russian population increased from 38 in 2010 to 39.6 in 2020, according to UN estimates. The authorities’ concerns should also be fuelled by the fact that Russia’s net number of immigrants declined by about half from 1,801,000 in 2010-2015 to 912,000 in 2015-2020, according to UN estimates.

Photo by Pxhere shared under the pubic domain. 

Originally posted on March 26, 2020. Last updated on June 2, 2021.

As cases of COVID-19 rise around the globe, upending daily life and forcing much of the world into pandemic-related lockdowns or other restrictions, many are wondering when the outbreak may peak in their countries and some sort of return to normal may begin. One person who correctly predicted the peak of the virus in China is Nobel prize winner Michael Levitt.

At the end of February, Levitt correctly forecast that China’s cases would total around 80,000 with approximately 3,250 deaths. As of March 16, with its outbreak considered largely under control, China had reported 80,298 cases total and 3,245 deaths. In making his prediction, Levitt focused not on the total number of diagnosed cases, but on the rate at which the number of daily confirmed cases changed.

We have tried to follow Levitt’s approach to measure and compare the rate of daily confirmed cases in the U.S. and Russia using data from Johns Hopkins University. Please see our results below.

In a Foreign Affairs essay published online in December 2017, former Vice President Joe Biden accused Russia of weaponizing corruption, among other things. “Russia has invaded neighboring countries… More frequently and more insidiously, it has sought to weaken and subvert Western democracies from the inside by weaponizing information, cyberspace, energy and corruption,” he wrote together with his co-author, former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Carpenter. Biden’s observation made us wonder what else Russia has been accused of weaponizing in recent years. Here’s the list we have come up with...
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Almost half of Russians blame the U.S. and its NATO allies for the escalation of tensions in eastern Ukraine, according to the results of a poll released April 29 by Russia’s leading independent pollster, the Levada Center. Forty-eight percent of respondents hold that view.

Those who believe the U.S. and NATO are to blame for the escalation dominate all age groups among the poll’s respondents. They account for 36 percent of respondents 18-24 years old, 40 percent among respondents 25-39 years old, 50 percent of respondents 40-54 years old and 57 percent of respondents 55 years old and older.

Among those who get their news from TV or the radio, 57 percent and 52 percent, respectively, blame the U.S. and other NATO countries. In contrast, only 26 percent of those who rely on Telegram channels for news hold that view. Such a disparity should come as no surprise, given that all national TV channels and many of Russia’s radio stations are controlled by entities either owned by the state or loyal to the Kremlin, which has been striving to portray Ukrainian authorities as controlled by the West.
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world map
On April 13, 2021, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, the first such report to be issued since Joe Biden became the U.S. president in January. The previous report, issued in 2019 when Donald Trump was in office, identified China and Russia as the United States’ main competitors and “greatest espionage and cyber attack threats.”1 That assessment also featured a dedicated section on the “economic, political, counterintelligence, military and diplomatic” challenge of increased China-Russia cooperation, specifically within international organizations. In contrast to the 2019 document, the 2021 assessment elevates Iran and North Korea as major threats to the United States alongside China and Russia. The 2021 document also offers assessments on all the transnational issues discussed in the 2019 assessment, with a notable difference being that the threats of infectious diseases (such as COVID-19), climate change, environmental degradation and migration were allotted their own standalone sections as opposed to being grouped with other threats in the “Human Security” section. 

Below we give a rundown of the most salient differences between this year’s assessment and the previous one.
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