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NEWS  / RUSSIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS IN THE NEWS, DECEMBER, 2016
04.01.2017


Michael Filitis recently earned an MA in History and Political Science from the University of Chicago. He is currently SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholar for 2016-2017.


Russian Foreign Affairs in the News
December 2016
By Michael Filitis and Josh Wilson

 
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Russian foreign policy and foreign policies concerning Russia have been of particular interest to those following world affairs lately. With Russia's more assertive stance on the world stage, Russia's absorption of Crimea, and resulting sanctions, arms buildups, and global geopolitical restructuring and repositioning, keeping a close eye on this part of the world is especially important to understanding global security and international politics.

This resource from SRAS serves to track and analyze these issues as they develop in Eurasia.

For more on all these issues, see our coverage of How the News is Reported in Russia.

 

Putin Postpones Official Russian Response to Increased American Sanctions

Following the ouster of 35 Russian diplomats and further sanctions placed on two Russian intelligence services by the US government, Russian President Vladimir Putin opted to avoid retaliation in the short term—citing a potential re-boot of US/Russian relations with the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump. Putin’s decision came in direct contrast to the recommendation of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who sought an equivalent response. The US sanctions came on the heel of allegations of hacking by Russia of sensitive materials from the Democratic National Committee; a move considered by US intelligence services as an attempt by Russia to tamper with the US electoral process.

 

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Plans for Increased NATO/US Troop Presence in the Baltic States

Fears of a resurgent and potentially revanchist Russia following the Crimean Crisis in 2014 resulted in increased military budgets in the Baltic States, as well as formal requests for NATO/US military technology and specialized assistance. President-elect Donald Trump’s negative remarks about the role of NATO in the twenty-first century and his desire to reformulate the US/Russian relationship have only served to strengthen these fears. Recent visits by US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, intended to affirm American commitment to Baltic security, have elevated some hopes for sustained normalcy but uncertainty remains high.

 

Russia and Turkey Broker Ceasefire in Syria Following the Fall of Aleppo 

The détente between Russia and Turkey produced over the past few months has formed into an alliance aimed at concluding the Syrian conflict. The resulting brokered negotiations between Turkey, Russia, and the Syrian government materialized into a ceasefire agreement that went into effect on 30 December. Planned peace talks between the Syrian government and rebel groups not designated by the UN as “terrorist organizations” are slated to proceed this year. Nonetheless, the status of Kurdish held areas are still up in the air—as they were excluded from the ceasefire agreement—and pockets of the country remain under the control of Jihadist groups.

 

UN Security Council Backs Russian/Turkish Efforts to End Syrian Civil War

On December 31, 2016, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution to support Russian/Turkish efforts to begin peace negotiations in Syria. The resolution also affirmed unrestricted access for humanitarian aid. Although the beginning of the peace process is built upon a meeting scheduled in Astana, Kazakhstan between the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition late January, Russian and Turkish spokespersons assert that the UN will play a significant role in the peace process. Martin Schaefer, a German Foreign Ministry spokesman, stressed the need to include the future status of current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the agenda at Astana.

 

Partial Stock in Russian Oil-Giant Rosneft Privatized to Foreign Companies

A 19.5% stake in Russia’s largest oil company was sold off recently in a joint dealt to the Swiss-bassed conglomerate, Glencore, and the Qatar Investment Authority. Although this further privatization of Rosneft was expected, the two buyers were not considered principal players.

 

Resurgent Interest by Foreign Investors in the Russian Stock Market 

2016 saw the first positive annual influx of foreign capital into Russian markets in four years. Despite international sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014, the country’s stock market index increased by 47 percent last year. The potential for Russian/US détente due to the election of Donald Trump has also contributed to an increase in investor confidence in recent months.

 

Flight Recorder from Russian Plane Crash Recovered 

Salvage crews recovered the flight recorder from Russia’s Tu-154 aircraft, which crashed into the Black Sea on route to Syria on December 24, 2016. The recording appears to indicate that a mechanical error in the wing-flaps may be responsible for the crash. Nonetheless, terrorism has not been ruled out entirely as a possible explanation. The aircraft was transporting members of the Alexandrov Music Ensemble, journalists, and others for a special New Year’s concert for Russian troops in Syria.

 

Alleged Russian Hacking of Ukrainian Government Institutions and Infrastructure 

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko made a statement on December 29, 2016 that Russian hackers had penetrated key government ministries and disrupted Kiev’s power grid, resulting in blackouts. In all, he claimed 6500 attacks had been committed in a two-month period. Russian officials denied responsibility.

 

Russian Olympians Face Possible Sanctions Due to Alleged Doping

The International Olympic Committee decided to open investigations recently into 28 Russian athletes after a report by the World Anti-Doping Agency concluded widespread abuse of performance enhancing drugs among the Russian contingent during the 2014 games. Convictions could strip the athletes of their medal earnings. Anna Antseliovich, an official for the Russian Anti-Doping Agency appears to confirm these suspicions in an interview with the New York Times.

 


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