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. President Donald Trump has again said he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at next week's G20 summit in Japan. In a June 19 interview with Fox News, Trump said he would meet with Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the June 28-29 gathering. Putin, in turn, said he was ready for a meeting with Trump because there was "plenty" to talk about, including "the big mistake" of sanctions, RFE/RL reports. “According to expert data, Russia, starting in 2014, has lost about $50 billion as a result of all these sanctions and restrictions, while the European Union lost $240 billion and the U.S. lost $17 billion,” Putin said during his annual televised question-and-answer session June 20, according to The Moscow Times.
- An official from the U.S. National Security Council reportedly took part in an international meeting of senior security officials organized by Russia’s Security Council in the Russian city of Ufa on June 18-20. The Kommersant newspaper reported that a Gavin Wild(e?) of the NSC attended at least the first day of the conference, though not the plenary session. His attendance suggests a change in the U.S. approach toward these meetings: During last year’s, in Sochi, Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev accused the U.S. of putting pressure on other countries not to send representatives. Meanwhile, TASS quoted Patrushev’s deputy Yuri Kokov calling at the meeting for more attention to terrorist groups’ “incessant attempts to gain access to information on manufacturing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, [and] their increased attention to issues related to the possibility of using pathogenic biological agents and toxic chemicals for terrorist purposes.”
- U.S. President Donald Trump has confirmed that he ordered U.S. military strikes against Iran in retaliation for the shooting down of a U.S. Navy drone on June 20. In a series of tweets on June 21, Trump said he called off strikes targeting three sites in Iran just 10 minutes before they were to be carried out, according to RFE/RL. He said he did so because he was told that the number of casualties may reach 150 people, which the president said was "not proportionate" to the downing of the unmanned U.S. surveillance aircraft. The Wall Street Journal reports that Vladimir Putin, asked about rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran during his annual Q&A, said that any American military action against Tehran would be a "catastrophe for the region."
- In the 17th iteration of his annual TV call-in show Vladimir Putin offered little sign that he would give ground on several issues of concern, the Financial Times reports: He backed recent laws banning “fake news” and “offending the authorities,” which have been used to suppress dissent, and said Russia would not relax its draconian drug laws in response to protests following the case of investigative journalist Ivan Golunov.
- President Vladimir Putin said on June 20 that the fate of 24 Ukrainian sailors held in Russia since last year must be linked to the release of Russian citizens held in Ukraine whom Moscow wants to see freed, Reuters reports. Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had said at a meeting with the president of Germany's Bundestag that a swap of even 10 or 15 detainees kept in Russia-occupied Donbas could indicate a mutual desire of the parties to begin the process of de-escalating in eastern Ukraine, according to Interfax.
This Week’s Highlights:
- For thirty years, U.S. administrations have pursued the same unrealistic policies that have contributed to the failure of the U.S.-Russian relationship, write Carnegie’s Eugene Rumer and Richard Sokolsky. To break out of this pattern, they argue the U.S. will have to make multiple key changes to its Russia policy..
- In an interview, Harvard’s Stephen Walt says “It was naïve to the point of incompetence for the U.S. … to believe that we could continue to expand NATO and the EU eastward into Russia’s traditional sphere of influence … and expect them not to react.” While Russia is not blameless, Walt argues that the West “badly mismanaged the post-Cold War relationship with Russia.” However, he also argues that Russia is not a future superpower and that the long-term threat posed by it has been exaggerated.
- The U.S. has entered an American-Chinese bipolar struggle, but it is a bipolar struggle with an asterisk called Russia, writes Robert Kaplan of the Center for a New American Security. While the Russians appear to U.S. media as classic bad guys, Kaplan writes, the Chinese are more opaque and business-like, so the gravity of the competition is still underappreciated by U.S. media.
- Terrorism is a very real threat, which requires robust diplomatic efforts, intelligence cooperation with allies and partners and sometimes military action, writes U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. But as an organizing framework, he argues, the global war on terror has been a disaster for the U.S., with huge opportunity costs that allowed competitors like China and Russia to exploit America’s forever wars to expand their economic and political influence around the world.
- Underneath the Nevada desert, U.S. scientists conduct experiments meant to model the run-up to a nuclear explosion without actually causing one, while in the Arctic Circle, Russian scientists are doing the same, writes Patrick Malone of the Center for Public Integrity. These experiments have come under criticism by other nations for violating the spirit of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. While Washington previously dismissed that claim, Malone writes, on May 29, the Trump administration abruptly leveled similar accusations at Russia—just as the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration is about to step up the pace of its nuclear simulation experiments, the Center for Public Integrity has learned.
- Putin, trying to return to domestic concerns after a long foray into great-power politics, is facing a drop in popularity and Russians’ growing fatigue, writes Bloomberg columnist Leonid Bershidsky. While Putin made a valiant attempt to show he cares during his annual call-in show, he ultimately failed, according to Bershidsky, who says the spirit of what happened was best described by blogger Alena Popova: “The citizens of a poor country call the president of some other, rich country.”