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:
- Officials and experts disagree whether it was the test of a 9M730 Burevestnik (NATO code: Skyfall) nuclear-powered cruise missile that caused an explosion that killed at least five nuclear researchers at the Nyonoksa missile test site in the Arkhangelsk region and caused gamma radiation to jump by up to 16 times on Aug. 8 in the area, media outlets report. Those who believe it was the Burevestnik reportedly include Donald Trump, officials in his administration, Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, and Federation of American Scientists nuclear expert Ankit Panda. However, Edwin Lyman, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Andrei Zolotkov and Michael Kofman believe the incident involved a “radioisotope thermoelectric generator” akin to the U.S. Kilopower project.
- U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said in reference to U.S. relations with Russia: "I do think there are common strategic interests [with Russia], particularly dealing with the rising military power of China, and I've had conversations with the Russians on that score. I think there are more to come,” Bolton said, according to RFE/RL.
- FSB data shows that of the labor migrants who have arrived in Russia between January and June 2019, 50,300 came from China, 10,800 from Germany and 10,200 from Turkey. Only 4,300 British and 3,700 U.S. citizens traveled to Russia this year with the intent to work, The Moscow Times reports. In addition, tourism from China into Russia in the first half of 2019 rose by 32 percent to 591,900 people, Interfax reports.
- Trump’s sanctions against Iran and Venezuela have inadvertently increased demand for a Russian brand of crude oil, with Russian oil companies receiving at least $905 million in additional revenues between November and July, Bloomberg reports.
- In his speech at the Caspian Economic Forum in Avaza, Behrouz Namdari of Iran’s National Gas Company said that “Iran is against any trans-Caspian pipelines.” Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev, also in Avaza, said in his speech that he was “absolutely convinced that all major projects in the Caspian Sea should undergo a thorough and impartial environmental evaluation involving specialists from all Caspian countries,” RFE/RL reports.
This Week’s Highlights:
- Accidents happen frequently in the Russian military, but the recent deadly accidents involving nuclear-powered platforms like the Losharik and the Burevestnik missile are particularly dangerous for both the health of Russians in the vicinity and the reputation of the Russian military, write Dmitry Gorenburg and Michael Kofman of CNA.
- The best way to get out of an arms race is by refusing to play—the United States should move toward a “deterrence-only” nuclear posture, which would allow for sizable cuts to the U.S. nuclear arsenal without changing the strategic balance, argues Matt Korda of the Federation of American Scientists. We need to start enacting ambitious solutions that are equal to the problems that we face. Not just reflexively demanding more nukes, Korda writes.
- The focus on Russian interference has distracted attention from the fundamentally homegrown nature of the flaws in Western democracy, argues Financial Times’ Tony Barber. In the U.S., suppressing voters’ rights, gerrymandering congressional districts and the failure to reform campaign finance rules have nothing to do with Russia; the same is true for corruption and bad governance in individual European countries, and for the insufficient accountability of EU institutions, Barber writes.
- The United States also needs to help create a more benign environment beyond Asia, argues Prof. Odd Arne Westad. At a time when China is continuing its rise, it makes no sense to leave Russia as a dissatisfied scavenger on the periphery of the international system; Washington should try to bring Moscow into a more cooperative relationship with the West by opening up more opportunities for partnership and helping settle the conflict in eastern Ukraine, he writes.
- Outsiders have always judged Russia on their own terms, and Americans are particularly myopic when it comes to understanding other countries, writes Susan B. Glasser of The New Yorker. Many failed to take Putin either seriously or literally until it was too late, or decided that what he was doing did not matter all that much in a country that U.S. President Barack Obama characterized as a “regional power,” Glasser writes.
- For many Russians outside the capital, as one Yaroslavl resident noted, “Moscow is another country,” writes Prof. Hannah S. Chapman. This suggests that opposition leaders may find it difficult to sustain the momentum spurred by the ongoing protests in the capital unless they continue to broaden their reach beyond Moscow, Chapman argues.