The double blow of falling oil prices and a decrease in remittances from Russia is making Azerbaijan economically fragile. Azerbaijan’s leaders have not prepared the country for future shocks.
The downing of a Russian plane by Turkey is jeopardizing the strong business and political relationship built by Ankara and Moscow. The two countries’ clash over Syria suggests that relations will get worse before they get better.
Kyiv seems to view the Crimea blockade as a pressure release valve - a way to allow agitated nationalists to blow off steam without sacrificing its own power. As such, the blockade is vastly preferable to some of the alternatives – namely allowing nationalists to vent their grievances in the Donbas, which would invite reprisals from Russia and the EU alike.
Ukrainian political activists have stepped up their campaign to isolate Crimea by sabotaging its electricity supply. Ordinary residents of Crimea are hostages of a hybrid political struggle between Ukraine and Russia.
Poroshenko must rely on a patchwork of political alliances that are alternately cooperative and confrontational. If he begins investigating officials — whether from the Yanukovych regime or otherwise — he will quickly face an army of new enemies and upset the fragile balance that allows him to remain in power.
A new proposal to extend repayment of a Russian intergovernmental loan to Ukraine may ultimately suit all parties.
Russia’s official Muslim establishment blames the West for the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State and refuses to admit that radical Islam has a real social base, ignoring the radicalization of many ordinary Muslims in Russia and Central Asia.
The 2016 budget openly declares that Russia will not compete with the rest of the world in science and technology—at least not outside the defense sector. It suggests that the Kremlin has chosen to wait for oil and gas prices to increase (regardless of the likelihood of this actually happen) while continuing to support the military-industrial complex.
The Paris attacks signify the broadening of an “area of darkness,” of places targeted by the Islamic State, into Europe. The jihadists are not making a distinction between Russia and France. This compels Russians and Europeans to reflect on what they have in common despite their many differences.
Despite his harsh rhetoric, Kadyrov now takes a pragmatic view of the Islamic State’s influence on the situation in Chechnya and is committing himself to “exorcise” would-be recruits or returnees from the Middle East rather than merely destroying them.
A first strike with nuclear weapons in a conflict between the great powers is bound to be catastrophic. At a time when speculation on nuclear weapons use has increased Russia and the United States should restate their commitment to the nuclear war prevention on which they had agreed in the Cold War era.
China’s ambitious plans for a new Silk Road of railways, highways, and pipelines are driven by both domestic economic needs and geopolitical ambitions. Russia and the states of Central Asia have yet to make a substantial input into the project.
Russia’s leadership has so far resisted saying that the crash of the airliner in Egypt was an act of terrorism, for fear of a public backlash. But even if that were confirmed, Vladimir Putin would most likely decide to escalate Russia’s campaign in Syria.
The Georgian government’s move to take over Rustavi-2 television drags the country further into the politics of vendetta.
Russia sees the renewal of diplomacy on Syria as a chance to lose the status of international pariah. It has found relevance by getting involved in a crisis where Western strategy is full of holes.
Aware of the perils of a long military operation in Syria, Russia is taking another look at energizing the diplomatic track. But a number of issues will be very difficult to resolve, in particular the fate of President Assad.
While local elections proceeded peacefully, the fires are still burning around Kyiv.
Russia is reverting to the same economic level it had fifteen years ago. Small and medium-sized businesses, which could boost the economy, are held back by regulation and corruption. As a major economic catastrophe is unlikely, this state of affairs looks set to continue into the long term.
Vladimir Putin takes advice from three distinct groups of foreign policy ideologists who can be labeled warriors, merchants, and pious believers. Each of them serves a role, but they have very different views of how Russia should develop.
The limited information available from the recent CIS summit in Kazakhstan suggests that Russia’s neighbors—and especially the states bordering the Caspian Sea—did not approve of Moscow’s military strikes in Syria.
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