News

This page features the weekly news and analysis digests compiled by Russia Matters. Explore them by clicking "Read More" below the current week's highlights and subscribe using the subscribe links throughout the site, like the one below, to receive our digests via email. Past digests are available in the News Archive, which is accessible via the link on this page.

This Week’s Highlights

  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Dec. 2 that U.S. President Joe Biden would ''likely'' speak directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin ''in the near future,” The New York Times reports. The Kremlin said Dec. 3 that a video call would take place next week. Kommersant reported that Dec. 7 is being discussed as the day when Putin and Biden may talk via a video conference link. “Naturally, they will touch on the issues concerning the process of implementing the Geneva arrangements," Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov said at a briefing on Dec. 1. Ushakov said the presidents will also discuss Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iran, Libya, Syria, strategic stability and “realization of our idea of holding a summit of U.N. Security Council permanent members,” according to Interfax. Ushakov also said Putin will raise the issue of guarantees regarding the non-expansion of NATO to the east, TASS reports. Meanwhile it has been reported that U.S. diplomats have overcome a months-long standoff with the Kremlin on the granting of visas for U.S. Embassy personnel in Moscow during a meeting with Russian counterparts, according to The Washington Post.
  • Speaking at an investment forum in Moscow on Nov. 30, Putin warned the West against crossing Moscow’s “red lines” in Ukraine. At a ceremony for ambassadors at the Kremlin on Dec. 1, Putin demanded “legal guarantees” that the NATO alliance would never expand eastward, The New York Times reports. Speaking at a summit of OSCE foreign ministers Dec. 2, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would soon put forward proposals for a new European security pact which he said he hoped would stop NATO from expanding further eastwards, according to Reuters. Agreements on NATO’s non-expansion to the east must be committed to paper, Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said on Dec. 3, according to TASS.
  • During his Dec. 2 meeting with Lavrov on the sidelines of the OSCE meeting, Blinken warned his Russian counterpart that Russia would face a strong reaction if it interferes further in Ukraine, The Wall Street Journal reports. Blinken also told OSCE members in Stockholm on Dec. 2 that Russia isn't living up to the "Minsk process.” Lavrov disputed Blinken's comments, later criticizing what he described as an "obsession with tying all the Minsk agreements to Russia's actions.”
  • Speaking to reporters during a Nov. 30 meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Riga, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned that the U.S.-led military organization must prepare for the worst as concern mounts that Russia could be preparing to invade Ukraine, the AP reports. “It’s only Ukraine and 30 NATO allies that decide when Ukraine is ready to join NATO,” he said. “Russia has no veto, Russia has no say, and Russia has no right to establish a sphere of influence trying to control its neighbors,” he said, according to The New York Times.
  • “We have many areas of cooperation with the People’s Republic of China. One of them is, obviously, our cooperation in third countries. This cooperation has been going on for some time and it can be expanded,” Putin, who is to visit China in February, told an investment forum in Russia Nov. 30. Russia can’t “sit on its hands” and do nothing to deepen the strategic ties with China “in the conditions when both countries have come under identical and increasingly heavy pressure from the collective West,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, TASS reports.
  • “They understand perfectly well that if they once again start a war in Donbass or somewhere else on the border with Russia, Belarus won’t stand aside,” Belarus’s Alexander Lukashenko said at a Belarussian Defense Ministry meeting on military security on Nov. 29, TASS reports. Then, speaking in an interview on Nov. 30, Lukashenko for the first time recognized Crimea as part of Russia, adding that he planned to visit the peninsula with Putin, according to RFE/RL. Earlier this month, Stoltenberg said that U.S. nuclear weapons on a base in Germany could be moved further east if Berlin's new government dropped out of a nuclear-sharing deal. Lukashenko then said he would invite Russia to position nuclear weapons on Belarusian soil, RFE/RL reports.
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This Week’s Highlights

  • “It is difficult to see what Russia would tangibly gain from a renewed military assault [on Ukraine],” writes Brookings’ Angela Stent. “A possible way out of this impasse would be to rethink Minsk and replace it with a process that includes the United States as a full participant. … [I]f the Kremlin does invade Ukraine, ... the Euro-Atlantic region will instead be thrust into a new, dangerous period of confrontation,” according to Stent. 
  • “Russia has strong reasons for restraint,” argues Stephen Kinzer, a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. “If it invaded Ukraine, it would certainly suffer heavy sanctions from the European Union. In some areas, its ground forces would encounter fierce resistance. Even if successful, Russia would have a hard time controlling a country that is twice the size of Britain. ... The big winner would likely be the Chinese [while…] [t]he greatest defeat the United States could suffer in Ukraine is to be drawn into war there,” Kinzer writes.  
  • “Biden should tell Putin that Washington is prepared to engage more actively on diplomacy,” writes Brookings’ Steven Pifer. “Biden can tell Putin there is no enthusiasm within NATO for putting Kyiv on a membership track now. Biden can also tell Putin that he would be ready to take due account of legitimate Russian security interests. … The U.S. president should aim to leave Putin with an understanding that military action would have painful costs for Russia but that U.S. diplomacy is prepared to engage more actively to resolve the problems at the root of the crisis,” Pifer advises.
  • “The recent round of escalation in Eastern Europe showed that the old principles of security on the continent are no longer working,” writes Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs. “Keeping things as they are could lead to new conflicts, while abandoning the belief that the [NATO] bloc calls all the shots will require a drastic revision of all approaches. Russia will have to change the system and draw new ‘red lines.’ We could, for example, redefine ‘Finlandization’ as something positive,” Lukyanov writes.
  • “The Biden administration has stated that while confronting Russia on certain issues, it wants to work with Russia where U.S. and Russian interests converge. The history of the Middle East over the past 20 years suggests that, in this area at least, a strong basis for cooperation does in fact exist,” argues Anatol Lieven, a senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. “To develop such cooperation will, however, require U.S, policymakers to acknowledge—at least to themselves in private—the number of times that Russia has been proved right, and America wrong.”
  • “China and Russia, which Biden has also singled out for criticism, are not the main causes of the weakening of democracies around the world. Most of the backsliding, according to a recent study, has been caused by erosion within the world's democracies, including the United States and many of its allies,” write Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
  • “[Russian] state prosecutors are taking action to shut down Memorial, a step that signifies a dual assault on modern Russian civil society and on the nation’s wider struggle for historical memory and justice,” writes the FT’s Tony Barber. “Memorial’s roots lie in an era when hopes ran high for a Russia at last becoming confident enough to speak the truth to itself. Its liquidation would be the bitterest blow to the brave Russians who try to keep these hopes alive.”
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