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Post | Apr 29, 2021
Almost half of Russians blame the U.S. and its NATO allies for the escalation of tensions in eastern Ukraine, according to the results of a poll released April 29 by Russia’s leading independent pollster, the Levada Center. Forty-eight percent of respondents hold that view.

Those who believe the U.S. and NATO are to blame for the escalation dominate all age groups among the poll’s respondents. They account for 36 percent of respondents 18-24 years old, 40 percent among respondents 25-39 years old, 50 percent of respondents 40-54 years old and 57 percent of respondents 55 years old and older.

Among those who get their news from TV or the radio, 57 percent and 52 percent, respectively, blame the U.S. and other NATO countries. In contrast, only 26 percent of those who rely on Telegram channels for news hold that view. Such a disparity should come as no surprise, given that all national TV channels and many of Russia’s radio stations are controlled by entities either owned by the state or loyal to the Kremlin, which has been striving to portray Ukrainian authorities as controlled by the West.
Analysis | Apr 29, 2021
In both Syria and the North Caucasus, Russia claims success in fighting insurgency and terrorism. Closer examination, however, shows this “success” carries major caveats and is more illusory than it first appears.
Analysis | Apr 27, 2021
However powerful our offensive cyber capability is, it has deterred neither China’s sustained campaign to erode our advantages nor Russia’s asymmetric use of low-cost tools to extract high-value intelligence, propaganda and political advantage.
Post | Apr 23, 2021
On April 13, 2021, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, the first such report to be issued since Joe Biden became the U.S. president in January. The previous report, issued in 2019 when Donald Trump was in office, identified China and Russia as the United States’ main competitors and “greatest espionage and cyber attack threats.”1 That assessment also featured a dedicated section on the “economic, political, counterintelligence, military and diplomatic” challenge of increased China-Russia cooperation, specifically within international organizations. In contrast to the 2019 document, the 2021 assessment elevates Iran and North Korea as major threats to the United States alongside China and Russia. The 2021 document also offers assessments on all the transnational issues discussed in the 2019 assessment, with a notable difference being that the threats of infectious diseases (such as COVID-19), climate change, environmental degradation and migration were allotted their own standalone sections as opposed to being grouped with other threats in the “Human Security” section. 

Below we give a rundown of the most salient differences between this year’s assessment and the previous one.
Digest | Apr 23, 2021
Post | Apr 22, 2021
After years of rapid expansion during President Vladimir Putin’s first stint as president, Russia's middle class has dwindled in the years since his return to office in 2012. Confrontation with the west after the annexation of Crimea, the resulting sanctions and the Kremlin’s focus on macroeconomic stability at the expense of prosperity have entrenched a stagnation which has hit middle-earners hard. By one count, Russia’s middle class shrunk 20 percent during the economic crisis that followed.

But even as their economic decline coincided with Russia’s more aggressive foreign policy, there is little evidence that Russia’s current and former middle-classers connect their plight to the Kremlin’s conduct beyond its borders. There may be economic discontent at home, but Russia’s confrontational stance against the west remains popular, and calls to reverse years of economic inertia focus squarely on what the government can do on the domestic front—meaning Putin feels little pressure from Russia’s long-suffering middle classes to change course on the world stage.
Post | Apr 22, 2021
This article was originally published by The Moscow Times with the subheading: "Talk of financial Armageddon should Russia be kicked out of the system may be overblown."

Ukraine has joined the chorus of voices calling for Russia to be disconnected from SWIFT—the financial messaging network that underpins the global banking system.

In a meeting with EU foreign ministers, Ukraine’s top diplomat Dmytro Kuleba said he had called for a tough new package of sanctions, including the expulsion of Russian banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) network, which currently links more than 11,000 banks operating in at least 200 countries and territories around the world.

The proposal—long popular among those who favor slapping hard-hitting sanctions on Russia—has picked up new supporters since last year’s poisoning of Alexei Navalny. Talk of a possible embargo reached fever pitch in Moscow in the days leading up to U.S. President Joe Biden’s announcement of a new round of sanctions against Russia mid-April, with top Russian officials and banking figures talking up the dangers of being disconnected.

“We cannot rule out any potential threats," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said last month when asked about the possibility. “Sanctions are unreasonable and unpredictable and therefore the situation forces us to be alert,” he added.
Digest | Apr 16, 2021