Russia Monitor

Russia's Coronavirus Cases Prompt Putin to Change Strategy
03/30/2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed that his country is no longer an exception amid the global coronavirus outbreak. Its closure of the border with China brought adequate, albeit short-term results, as most people affected with the novel virus came back from trips to Europe, in particular from popular tourist destinations like Italy or Spain. On March 25, Putin addressed the nation on the coronavirus outbreak in a televised speech in what became a turning point for the Kremlin's fight against the epidemic. It yet seems that Putin made a mistake when he announced a paid week off work for all instead of putting in place a set of restrictions like those launched earlier in other countries. As the Russians lack self-discipline mechanisms, there may be even more cases of coronavirus infections.

Russian Oil Tycoon Embroiled in War, Sechin Becomes Public Enemy No. 1
03/30/2020

​Since March 6, the global oil market has seen an ongoing price war. And yet, Russia has witnessed a war going between CEO of Rosneft Igor Sechin and other oil firms that spoke against Russia's withdrawal from the OPEC+ pact. Massive losses amidst the declining oil prices have struck a blow to everyone, including the federal budget, but Rosneft can expect tax breaks and the Kremlin's backing, as it was the case in the past. Other companies like privately held Lukoil are now in a far worse position, though. Not surprisingly, the firm lambasted the Sechin-orchestrated decision to pull out of the OPEC+ deal. CEO of Rosneft is the most influential figure that exerts a tremendous impact on the country's oil policy. Since March 6, the global oil market has seen an ongoing price war. And yet, Russia has witnessed a war going between CEO of Rosneft Igor Sechin and other oil firms that spoke against Russia's withdrawal from the OPEC+ pact. Massive losses amidst the declining oil prices have…

Russia’s Rosneft Exits Venezuela, Sechin Reaps Double Benefit
03/30/2020

Russian oil giant Rosneft sold its assets in Venezuela to the Russian government. The company would be receiving a settlement payment worth a 9.6 percent share of Rosneft's equity capital, or some $4 billion. This means a gift for Rosneft's shareholders in what may be a maneuver to dodge any U.S. sanctions –– all from the Russian taxpayer's pocket. Furthermore, the company's asset valuation is far higher than anyone could expect. Russian oil giant Rosneft sold its assets in Venezuela to the Russian government. The company would be receiving a settlement payment worth a 9.6 percent share of Rosneft's equity capital, or some $4 billion. This means a gift for Rosneft's shareholders in what may be a maneuver to dodge any U.S. sanctions –– all from the Russian taxpayer's pocket. Furthermore, the company's asset valuation is far higher than anyone could expect.

Coronavirus in Russia: Unbelievably Low Infection Figures and Belated Measures
03/21/2020

Russian crisis management center said on March 22 the country will not impose strict quarantine measures amid the recent coronavirus outbreak. The latest decision came despite daily 30 percent growth in cases, which is like in Spain, Germany, or France. Still, there are no plans to cancel, postpone or restrict the spring call of citizens for military service. What matters most for Russian decision-makers is to maintain social peace and stability nationwide. Hence the reassuring declarations by the President and the Prime Minister who announced financial support for the affected industries and the gradual introduction of further measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Nevertheless, the real scale of the epidemic in Russia remains unknown. It is not just about tests that are far less effective than those conducted in Western countries –– Russia’s battle with coronavirus is weakened amidst the ongoing crisis in the country’s health service.

Putin Seeks to Stay in Power through Unlawful Constitutional Amendment
03/20/2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in a rush to push forward changes to the country’s political system –– while not waiting for any adverse effects of the latest coronavirus outbreak nor the global oil price war. In mid-January, Putin unveiled a constitutional overhaul, which the parliament backed in March, whereas Russian people need to accept updates in a vote planned for April this year. Further changes bolster the president’s position while giving a hint that Putin will not take up a new job, but stay in the Kremlin Added to this is a mere fact that such manner of introducing an amendment is absolutely unlawful. The president’s shake-up of Russian politics shows that he does not care about legal procedures –– in a fully conscious mode. Putting the law aside, Putin made it clear that what really matters is what both him and his closest associates seek.

War or Peace? Erdogan Flies to Moscow for Syria Talks
03/03/2020

When it became clear that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will head to Moscow, as Putin has no plan to visit Istanbul, and the Ankara-sought meeting will not involve German and French leaders, it seemed that the Kremlin had outfoxed Turkey. Erdogan was believed to be cast in the role of supplicant when arriving in Russia. The situation yet changed in less than forty-eight hours as Turkey declared a major offensive against the Syrian government on March 1 in a step that boosted Erdogan’s negotiating position. In the Kremlin, the Russian and Turkish leaders may hold what could turn into a conclusive meeting for war-ridden Syria. Turkey is probably ready to strike a deal provided that this helps Erdogan save face, while Ankara will not see any changes to Idlib province –– compared to what happened there before the offensive –– as humiliating. It is worth remembering that Putin is not as strong as it may seem, and with Turkey’s advancing any further into Idlib, the…

Russia Launches Syrian Express Operation as Turkey Attacks in Idlib
03/03/2020

As earlier announced, Ankara pressed ahead with a military campaign in Syria’s Idlib province. In late February, there expired a deadline given by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad to withdraw from areas it had taken over after the offensive into Damascus. But what may present the main threat to Syrian regime forces are Turkish drones flying over Syrian air space. In turn, Russia has responded with its ostentatious deployment of warships from the Black Sea into Syria.

OPEC+ And Coronavirus: Russia and Saudi Arabia Divided Over Oil Supply Cuts
03/02/2020

With the coronavirus fanning out across the globe, oil producers have also been at risk as countries, especially China, saw a massive drop in demand for crude, a tendency going hand in hand with plunging prices. Saudi Arabia is pushing to make a substantial cut in oil production under the OPEC+ pact. There are yet signs that Russia will resist to the Saudi plan. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that current oil prices are “acceptable” for Russia.

Russia Forms Anti-Turkish Coalition Over War in Syria
03/02/2020

The spat in Russia-Turkey ties over the Idlib offensive may lead to a severe breakdown in cooperation between these two countries. As it stands now, it is yet difficult to determine whether Russia’s bid to revive ties with Turkey’s regional enemies –– Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates –– over the Syria issue is just a tactical move, an attempt to exert pressure on Ankara, or the first step towards Moscow’s renewed policy on Syria.

Russia Poses Greater Threat to Georgia
02/27/2020

In its policy toward Georgia, Russia is seeking to prevent Tbilisi from forging a close alliance with the United States while blocking the Caucasian country’s bid for NATO membership. The Kremlin had the same goal back in 2008, while now being committed to using hybrid warfare methods and building up its military close to the country’s borders.

New Gas Pipeline Geopolitics in Central and Eastern Europe
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