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
- Russia has offered to stop the deployment of the controversial 9M729 missile system in an attempt to restart talks on arms control in Europe in the latest outreach by the Kremlin that could de-escalate military tensions, the Financial Times reports. However, the U.S. chief arms control negotiator Marshall Billingslea rejected the proposal, according to his Twitter, while U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien said the U.S. would be ready to deploy intermediate- and shorter-range missiles in Europe, if necessary, to deter Russia, TASS reports.
- "My biggest concern is that we give a foreign adversary more credit than they're actually due," said Brig. Gen. Joe Hartman, the election security lead for the military's U.S. Cyber Command, which is working with the National Security Agency to protect the election from foreign threats. Whether it's Russia, Iran or others, he said, their attempts so far to push disinformation have fallen flat, according to The Washington Post.
- Despite many areas of disagreement in Russia-U.S. relations, the two countries' security services are continuing to cooperate, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, according to Interfax. "Very good working contacts have been established at the operational level, and at the level of the commands of our military units," Putin said of U.S.-Russian contacts in Syria. There is also U.S.-Russian exchange of information on counter-terrorism efforts, he added, noting that Moscow takes the U.S. activities in Afghanistan precisely as counter-terrorism efforts.
- At least one out of every five Russian lawmakers currently have or have had COVID-19, The Moscow Times reports. All of Russia's regions are currently experiencing shortages of doctors to fight the coronavirus, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Oct. 30, and Russia has reinstated a nationwide mask mandate starting Oct. 28. Additionally, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will self-isolate after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, his ministry said Oct. 27.
- Talks between the top diplomats of Azerbaijan and Armenia and international mediators have begun in Geneva as the parties look for a deal strong enough to bring a halt to fighting over Nagorno Karabakh, RFE/RL reports.
- Belarus' Alexander Lukashenko closed the borders to the countries west of Belarus and shook up his security team on Oct. 29, as he grapples to find a way out of the deadlock in his confrontation with the population, bne IntelliNews reports. Lukashenko also ordered his security chiefs Oct. 30 to crack down on protesters and "take no prisoners" in his grimmest warning yet after months of demonstrations, The Moscow Times reports.
This Week’s Highlights
- New START must be extended without delay, but it is now threatened by a risky game of chicken being played by Presidents Trump and Putin, write former top-level U.S. officials George P. Shultz, William J. Perry and Sam Nunn. The United States, Russia, China and other nuclear powers need time to address the range of destabilizing factors that threaten to turn a conditional peace into an irreparable catastrophe, they write. As a first significant step China could be invited to join the United States and Russia in restating the Reagan-Gorbachev principle: "A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought."
- If U.S. President Donald Trump does get reelected, Russia will continue to gloat, take advantage of the fragility of American politics and capitalize on the lack of Western unity, writes Tatiana Stanovaya of the Carnegie Moscow Center. But there is also a feeling of Trump fatigue, she writes, from the destruction of the strategic relationship, the threat to Nord Stream 2 and Russia’s status as a hostage of U.S. politics. All of this means that, moving forward, Joe Biden’s victory wouldn’t be the worst thing for Russia.
- The only countries that can prevent a war without end or a latter-day Russian-Turkish great-power deal—while reaching a fair settlement—are Armenia and Azerbaijan themselves, writes Carnegie Europe’s Thomas de Waal. But doing that would require them to conclude that resolving their conflict is more in their common interest than persisting with military force or allowing others to resolve it for them. The current bitterness and bloodshed sadly suggest that such a decision is not close at hand, according to de Waal. Even if this round of fighting ends in Azerbaijan’s favor, Armenians will not give up. The dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh will likely remain unresolved for another generation to come.
- Turkey’s willingness to take a major military role in support of Azerbaijan in the fighting that began Sept. 27 shows that Russian power no longer has the deterrent effect it once did against intervention by outside powers, writes Philip Remler, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Russian interests themselves are not yet seriously threatened, but expansion of those interests has been blunted. One can say, then, Remler argues, that Russia’s policies in the South Caucasus and in the wider post-Soviet space have forced it back on the stony path it had been treading for a generation and will probably tread for some time to come.
- The creation of the Special Operation Command (SOC) and the Military Police (MP) and the development of private military companies (PMCs) in Russia are partly inspired by Western models through extensive studies of foreign practices and military cooperation, and partly stem from centuries-old Russian military traditions, writes Emmanuel Dreyfus, a doctoral candidate at the Université Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas.