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 Pentagon’s $705.4 billion budget request for FY2021 includes $106.6 billion for R&D of modern weapons systems as the U.S. eyes China’s and Russia’s increased capabilities, according to Stars and Stripes. The budget proposes $3.2 billion for hypersonic weapons and envisions a significant new effort to develop intermediate-range missiles, according to the New York Times. The budget proposal has also revealed for the first time that the U.S. intends to create a new submarine-launched nuclear warhead. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has also directed aides to review funding for nearly $100 billion in nonmilitary Pentagon programs to redirect cash toward higher-priority initiatives, such as combating threats from China and Russia, according to the Wall Street Journal. At the same time, however, the European Deterrence Initiative would be funded at $4.5 billion in FY2021 compared to $6 billion in the previous year, according U.S. News and World Report.
- The Trump administration released its new National Counterintelligence Strategy, calling for a “whole-of-society approach” to combat threats from Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and other foreign countries, according to the Washington Examiner.
- Leaders of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council may meet in September in New York, according to Peter Ilyichev, director of the Department of International Organizations of the Russian Foreign Ministry, according to TASS and Gazeta.ru. Ilyichev’s remarks indicate that Russian President Vladimir Putin would visit the U.S. this September. Putin has earlier invited Donald Trump to visit Moscow for a May 9, 2020 military parade.
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has told Rossiiskaya Gazeta that his country’s counter-terrorism dialogue with the U.S. resumed last year, but noted lack of progress in extending New START. "We are ready to take part in talks on further reductions and limitations of nuclear weapons in any configuration. We believe that it is mandatory to extend the New START in order to preserve at least some ground for future talks and practical actions," he said, according to Interfax.
- Russians’ trust in Putin dropped to its lowest level since 2013, according to a new poll by Russia’s Levada Center. Some 35 percent of respondents said they trusted Putin most among several of the country’s top political figures, according to the poll, down from 59 percent in November 2017, RFE/RL reports.
- A draft of a new edition of Russia's National Security Strategy will be drawn up this year and the country’s Security Council has asked Russia’s expert community to come up with proposals for measures on countering pressure on Russia as well as threats that emerge due to degradation of arms control and an increase in the number of international hotspots, according to Rossiiskaya Gazeta.
- Putin's spokesman told reporters that Dmitry Kozak, deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, is now the most senior Kremlin official when it comes to Ukraine. The Ukrainian president’s new chief of staff Andriy Yermak said Kozak was an improvement on Vladislav Surkov and Russia wishes to "wrap up the situation in Donbas," Yermak said, according to Interfax and Reuters.
This Week’s Highlights
- The U.S. has awakened to what it calls “a new era of great-power competition,” with China and Russia increasingly using their power to assert interests and values that often conflict with those of the United States, writes Graham Allison. Unipolarity is over, and with it the illusion that other nations would simply take their assigned place in a U.S.-led international order. For the United States, that will require accepting the reality that there are spheres of influence in the world today—and that not all of them are American spheres.
- The world is becoming less Western, according to the Munich Security Conference report. More importantly, the West itself may become less Western, too, in what the report calls “Westlessness.” While Russia has perhaps been the most immediate and blunt challenge to the West, many Europeans are still skeptical whether an intensified confrontation with Russia is in Europe’s interest. Defenders of the West would do well to pursue what Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff calls “robust liberalism,” according to the report’s authors.
- Mike Pompeo at the Munich Security Conference declared that ''the West is winning,” write David E. Sanger and Steve Erlanger. Pompeo was followed by Mark Esper, who described a bleak future if the U.S. and Europe did not work to contain China on all fronts, remarks that were met with silence by British and German officials, who are looking for ways to avoid offending the Chinese. At the conference, Emmanuel Macron argued that Western sanctions ''have changed absolutely nothing in Russia” and that ''we need a European policy, not just a trans-Atlantic policy” on Russia. The French leader called for re-engaging with Russia while also emphasizing its responsibility.
- The enemy at hand is white supremacists in the U.S. and overseas, according to Max Rose and Ali H. Soufan. Just as jihadists exploited conflicts in Afghanistan, the Balkans and Syria, so too are white supremacists using the conflict in Ukraine as a laboratory and training ground. Almost twice as many foreign fighters have traveled to join the civil war in Ukraine than to Afghanistan in the ’80s—a conflict which birthed Al Qaeda, according to Rose and Soufan.
- Any hopes that the friendship between Russia and Belarus could be salvaged were dashed by their two presidents’ energy prices summit on Feb. 7, writes Artyom Shraibman. Minsk has run out of options for persuading Moscow to return to the old model of relations. Over the next few years, Minsk could build a relationship with the West like that of Armenia or Kazakhstan, who although members of the CSTO and EEU, have signed substantial bilateral agreements with Washington and Brussels. The one thing that is definitely not on the table for Russia and Belarus is the possibility of returning to their previous friendship.