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. and Russian diplomats failed to agree on embassy staffing and consular services during an Oct. 11-13 visit to Moscow by U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, AFP reports; however, Nuland had productive discussions on near-future contacts between the Russian and American presidents and on Ukraine, according to TASS. The agency quoted Nuland as saying she and deputy head of the Kremlin administration Dmitry Kozak discussed their countries’ shared interest “in the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements.”
  • In recent weeks, American officials said they had begun passing intelligence to the Russians about specific hackers who the United States believes are behind threats to companies, cities and infrastructure, The New York Times reports; officials say their Russian counterparts have sounded cooperative, but have not yet made arrests.
  • recent poll from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs said the share of Americans who favor defending Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia if Russia were to invade increased from 44 percent in 2014 to 59 percent today, The Washington Post reports.
  • The Russian-Chinese joint exercise Maritime Interaction 2021, scheduled for Oct. 14-17, has started in the Sea of Japan, TASS reports, citing the press office of Russia’s Pacific Fleet. Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry said a Russian warship on Oct. 15 prevented U.S. Navy destroyer USS Chafee from what it described as an attempt to intrude into Russia’s territorial waters in the Sea of Japan, according to AP.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that tensions surrounding Taiwan should be resolved through talks by the countries of the region without outside interference. "To my mind, China does not need this, the use of force. China is a giant powerful economy and … has emerged as the world’s top economy in terms of purchasing power parity, outpacing the United States," Russian news agencies quoted Putin as saying Oct. 13. “I ... believe that President Xi Jinping is my friend,” Putin told CNBC in separate comments. 
  • The deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Yuri Kokov, told Rossiiskaya Gazeta that Russia has intelligence on “terrorists’ aspirations” to get information on the manufacture of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, “as well as their increased attention to the possible use of pathogenic biological agents and toxic chemicals.”
  • Russia’s spending on the nuclear weapons complex by 2024 will increase by 14% as compared to 2022, Interfax quoted State Duma Defense Committee head Andrei Kartapolov as saying.
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This Week’s Highlights

The authors of a new RAND report “expect that the Sino-Russian relationship will continue...[and ]there is little that the United States can or should do to change the overall trajectory of Sino-Russian relations.”

The Biden administration should “promote verifiable arms-control negotiations... retain the emphasis on verifiability but frame it as a powerful tool for trust building,” writes Francesca Giovannini, executive director of the Belfer Center’s Project on Managing the Atom. “An example could be to launch a presidential initiative to enhance verification at nuclear test sites in Nevada, Novaya Zemlya (Russia) and Lop Nur Nuclear Test (China).”

“While precise [cyber] treaty language is unlikely, the two sides [the U.S. and Russia] could make unilateral statements about areas of self-restraint and establish a consultative process to contain conflict,” writes Harvard Prof. Joseph S. Nye. “Ideological differences would make a detailed agreement difficult, but even greater ideological differences did not prevent agreements to avoid escalation during the Cold War. Prudence can sometimes be more important than ideology.”

According to Sergei Kapitonov, a gas analyst at the Energy Center of the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo, “[t]he current turbulence on the gas market is largely down to Europe itself. Over the last fifteen years, it was the EU countries that built the model of pricing that ensures low prices when demand is low (like last year, due to the pandemic), but means that when demand is high, prices soar.” The FT’s Opinion Lex faults the EU for the current energy crunch, asserting that “the bloc has increased its gas dependency on Russia over the past decade despite U.S. warnings against doing so.”

“Ukraine has already waited a long time [for a NATO MAP]. It will have to wait longer,” writes Brookings’ Steven Pifer. “What should Kyiv do? Here are three recommendations. First, stop asking for a MAP. … Second, load up Ukraine’s annual national program with the substance of a MAP. ... Third, having agreed a program with NATO, implement, implement and implement more.”

“The Russia-related portion of the Pandora Papers ... appears to be disappointing. The findings are dated, relatively insignificant or both,” writes Bloomberg columnist and long-time Russia watcher Leonid Bershidsky. “Rather than panic in the face of Western pressure which has shut off some of the previous opportunities, these powerful people [the Russian president’s circle] cut their losses and turned their attention inward focused on coup-proofing. Some of the golden eggs they’d scattered around have been lost, but they still have the hen that lays them—Russia—firmly by the throat.”

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