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

  • The U.S. State Department said U.S. and Russian teams led by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov held "professional and substantive" talks in Geneva on July 28. The Russian foreign ministry said the talks addressed "maintaining strategic stability, the prospects for arms control and measures to reduce risks." Washington wants China to be included in wider talks on nuclear arms control, while Russia wants Britain and France to become part of wider nuclear arms control talks with the United States, according to reporting by The Moscow Times/AFP and RFE/RL.
  • President Biden said in his remarks at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on July 27: “You know, we’ve seen how cyber threats, including ransomware attacks, increasingly are able to cause damage and disruption to the real world. I can’t guarantee this, and you’re as informed as I am, but I think it’s more likely we’re going to end up — well, if we end up in a war, a real shooting war with a major power, it’s going to be as a consequence of a cyber breach of great consequence,” according to the White House press office.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government is forcing the U.S. diplomatic mission in Russia to stop employing foreign nationals in any capacity on Aug. 1, slashing the number of personnel staffing the U.S. Embassy and consulates by around 90 percent and leaving only a skeleton crew of U.S. diplomats, Foreign Policy reported.
  • The yuan accounted for 17.4% of bilateral trade settlements between China and Russia in 2020, up from 3.1% in 2014. This year, Russia first included the yuan among the currencies for investment of National Welfare Fund (NWF), and then doubled its share from 15% to 30%, as reported by Interfax.
  • Troops of Russia’s Eastern Military District will take part in large-scale joint drills dubbed Interaction 2021 on the territory of China. About 10,000 military personnel from both countries will hone their skills during the drills in mid-August, Russia’s Defense Ministry specified. Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe invited his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu to attend the joint military exercises, TASS reported.
  • Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov becomes the latest Russian political figure to praise the Taliban militant group this week, with the Kremlin calling it a “powerful force” and Russia's envoy for Afghanistan calling its rapid takeover of border areas “positive” for regional security, according to The Moscow Times.
  • Swiss prosecutors have closed a decade-long investigation into the money-laundering scandal exposed by Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, Financial Times reported. 
  •  Real disposable incomes in Russia grew in annual terms in the second quarter for the first time since early 2020, while unemployment has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels, Reuters reported. Meanwhile Russia's GDP increased by 4.6% year on year during the first half of 2021, according to bne IntelliNews
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This Week’s Highlights

Given Vladimir Putin's greater ideological affinity for China than for the United States and his obsession with the possibility of liberal revolution, a frenemy alliance with the United States to counter the material danger posed by China is highly unlikely as long as Putin's regime continues, writes Mark L. Haas of Duquesne University.

Expert on the activities of the Russian secret services Andrei Soldatov offers his answer to the question on why Russia is not using Pegasus spyware. On the world market for espionage technology, Russia is a seller, not a buyer, he explains, noting that the FSB is extremely paranoid about foreign spyware. 

Revitalizing U.S. foreign policy will require more than a renewed commitment to diplomacy;  instead, policymakers should embrace the evidence-based policy movement, write Dan Spokojny and Thomas Scherer for War on the Rocks. Its methods would enhance American leaders’ ability to achieve national security objectives by reducing costly inefficiencies, reducing misperceptions, and transforming U.S. institutions into organizations that can continually learn, they argue.

When German chancellor Angela Merkel steps down after the 2021 Bundestag elections, she will leave a substantial void in EU-Russia relations, write Janis Kluge and Leslie Schübel for the National Interest. Despite the different profiles of the front-running candidates, Germany’s foreign policy will most likely face only a gradual update once the dust of the election campaigning has settled, they assert. The most probable outcome of the election is a coalition government that involves both Laschet and Baerbock, leading to bipartisan compromise instead of radical change, according to Kluge and Schübel.

The main message [in Putin’s recent article on Ukraine] can be interpreted as both a proposal and a warning, writes Fyodor Lukyanov, head of Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defense Policy. Putin’s proposal is that Moscow recognizes the reality and does not intend to restore what was lost or to dispute what happened, which it was always suspected of, while the warning is that the proposal is only valid if the reality is understood by all interested parties, which are not going to abuse it, he writes.

With Belarus, the past to be remembered and studied is right before our eyes, according to Michael Kimmage, professor of history at the Catholic University of America. Call it the Ukraine trap, he writes. He argues that worst-case scenarios have been avoided in Ukraine not because Russia has been coerced into backing down but because of the unspoken moderation of Western policy, he writes. In Belarus, the worst-case scenarios should be avoided too, he writes.

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