Russia Daily Brief for May 18, 2015



May 18, 2015

Russia Daily Brief for May 18, 2015

By J.Hawk

This is the 42nd edition of the Daily Brief which covers stories trending on Russian social media. To view other editions, click on the Daily Brief tab above the title.


NATO had it coming: Europe to become a target for Iskanders

An Army missile brigade based in Kaliningrad will receive Iskander-M mobile short-range ballistic missiles in 2018. It is currently presumably armed with the shorter-ranged Tochka-U missiles. The presence of Iskanders in Kaliningrad means missile coverage of the entire Polish territory, including any NATO bases, HQs, and anti-ballistic missile sites that might be located there.

Another space incident

Not only did a Proton-M heavy SLV fail while attempting to place a Boeing-manufactured Mexican communications satellite in orbit, an effort to correct the ISS orbit using the engines aboard a Progress-M supply ship also came to naught. These two incidents come shortly after another Progress cargo ship fail to dock with the ISS in late April. The latest series of space mishaps puts into doubt the future of Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Rogozin who is responsible for the aerospace industry.

Rogozin promises space industry reforms

No specifics were announced. Rogozin’s career likely hangs on Roskosmos’ fortunes…

 “No sense to conclude a Russia-China alliance”

A major Chinese newspaper argues that, despite the oft-circulated opinion that an alliance of Russia and China would topple the West’s dominance, in actuality neither country desires a full-blown confrontation with the West. For that reason, neither country views the idea of an alliance seriously, preferring instead pragmatic cooperation on a wide range of issues.

Why is Nuland coming to Moscow?

It would appear that Nuland is coming to Moscow to continue what Kerry started in Sochi. Her visit comes on the heels of her meeting with Poroshenko, which led the Kiev commentariat to worry her job was to convince Poroshenko to “capitulate.” Which is probably true–Kerry seems to have succeeded in subordinating Nuland to his policy and even excluding Biden from Ukraine-related stuff.

 Syria in exchange for Ukraine?

That’s the speculation hitting the Russian commentariat, but Gevorg Mirzayan disagrees. It’s not even clear the US foreign policy establishment wants the Assad government to collapse, because it would not only destabilize the region even further but undermine the US-Iran nuclear deal while expanding Iran’s influence into the vacuum left by Russia’s departure. So if there is a deal, it’s not going to be as simple as that.

A two-emissary policy

 Nuland is not the only senior official to arrive in Moscow. Traveling with her is the special representative for Syria David Rubinstein, and the two will continue what Lavrov and Kerry started in Sochi. One of the experts cited by the article argues Nuland will play “bad cop” to Kerry’s “good cop”, a reasonable supposition except that Nuland is Kerry’s subordinate, whereas a “good cop, bad cop” requires two officials of equal standing to work. Moreover, Nuland refrained from criticizing Russia during her visit to Kiev. Another expert argues the US has decided to leave the problem of Ukraine to the EU and Russia to resolve, while reserving for itself the power of veto over any arrangement these two powers might reach.

On a path toward Cold War

Sochi or no Sochi, there are still outstanding irritants in the US-Russia relations, including in the nuclear realm. The two countries are accusing one another of violating the INF Treaty (Russia points to the European deployment of cruise missile-capable naval Mk41 launchers associated with the landbased Aegis tactical missile defense, while the US is accusing Russia of testing banned types of weapons), plus the recent NATO activity has prompted the Russian MFA to announce expansion of Russia’s nuclear potential facing Europe. While nobody expects a wholesale Cold War of the old kind, at the same time there is no expectation that Russia-West relations will return to norm any time soon.

Ministry of Communications wants a domestic equivalent of the iOS and Android OS

The Russian government has come to the conclusion that the country needs a national wireless platform. It will be created on the basis of the Sailfish open-source operating system.


Two Novorossia militiamen taken prisoner by UAF

Aidar battalion subunit raided Novorossia positions near Schastye, wounding and capturing two militiamen. Kiev initially claimed it took prisoner two Russian Army soldiers.


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Pyatt’s days in Ukraine numbered

The article predicts that Pyatt is not long for this world, given that his ambassadorship has had a record of total failure, and moreover his militant rhetoric only served to antagonize Russia and the Donbass militia. Therefore he would be a logical sacrifice to make as a sign that the US policy toward Ukraine (and Russia) is in fact changing. 

“Economic problems will lead to a regime change”

That’s the view of a Hungarian political scientist Istvan Gyarmati.  He believes the “worst case scenario” facing Ukraine is…its return to Russia’s “sphere of influence” or even an outright break-up, which is so horrible a prospect that he doesn’t even want to mention it. On the other hand, if the reforms are successful, Gyarmati believes that Ukraine has the potential to become one of the most influential players in Europe, even a member of NATO and EU.

EU believes Kiev is deliberately delaying reforms

European media are showing growing impatience with the Kiev government’s slow pace of reforms, accusing it of using the continuing conflict on the Donbass as a pretext for doing nothing. 

Poland has new problem with Kiev

 Poland’s ambassador to Ukraine Henryk Litwin said that Kiev’s “de-communization campaign” harms the dialogue between the two countries by promoting the memory of OUN-UPA nationalists and even raising them to the level of national heroes. Moreover, as Russian historian Oleg Nazarov points out, the relationship is liable to get even worse, as Ukraine’s academics are feeling the pressure to toe the party line and rewrite history books in accordance with the new nationalist dogma. To be sure, Poland’s sudden realization of the ideological nature of the Maidan Revolution has more to do with Ukraine’s disappointment in Poland’s hopes for economic expansion into its eastern neighbor.

Israeli media: Putin might be right on the issue of Ukrainian fascism

The article which was written by a former US State Department official Josh Cohen notes that Ukraine undertook a very dangerous step of glorifying Ukrainian nationalists, which may well bring about the country’s collapse. The glorification of Ukraine’s Nazis has reached the level of a major international problem which threatens the country’s pro-Western ambitions.  Cohen also believes that the law on “de-communization” will make Ukraine’s polarization irreversible by making it impossible for Ukrainians to find a common language even to discuss their own country’s history. 

Ukraine’s MinFin: debt restructurization talks are proceeding “with extreme difficulty”

Yaresko acknowledged the talks are making less progress than expected. Ukraine wants Western creditors to, in effect, “forget” about $23 billion of Ukraine’s debt by June 1–that’s when the IMF will decide whether to issue Ukraine the next tranche of credit. 

UAF colonel killed by a landmine

Four people were killed, including 2 UAF servicemembers and 2 civilian volunteers, when their vehicle struck a mine near Popasnaya. The fifth passenger, also a civilian volunteer, is in critical condition. 

Other Former Soviet Republics

China is buying Belarus

 Xi Jinping went to Minsk after the Victory Parade in Moscow, signing a number of agreements under which China will provide Belarus with credits worth $7 billion. This move has several dimensions. Aside from tying Belarus closer to Eurasia and now giving not only Russia but also China an interest in maintaining Belarus’ eastward political and economic orientation, it is also a reflection of Chinese fears that the US will try to do the same to China what it attempted, and largely failed, to do to Russia, namely impose some form of political, economic, and maybe even military isolation. China’s raise to the rank of the world’s second largest economy does not sit with many in the US, with some of the more extreme elements not even hiding their desire to take China down a few notches.

The Rest of the World

US special ops troops conduct their first ground operation in Syria

The operation, which the US DOD termed “successful” was aimed at capturing a senior ISIS commander. It took place in al-Amri, in eastern part of Syria

Poland’s former Minister of the Interior participated in attack on Russian Embassy

The mostly harmless attack took place during the so-called Independence March in November 2013, an annual event during which all manner of nationalist and even neo-Nazi organizations come out of the woodwork, with considerable participation of the soccer hooligan community. In other words, it’s the Polish version of Maidan…

Macedonia is paying for the pipeline

Altogether 30 tents and a few thousand of mostly young demonstrators who are demanding the government’s dismissal and new elections. The protests are led by Zoran Zayev from the Social Democratic Union. I would not exaggerate the role of the US and the EU in what’s happening in Macedonia–the country has plenty of problems of its own. Aside from being one of the poorest countries in Europe, it has unemployment rate of 28%. Plus, Macedonia has the same problem as Ukraine, but even more so, because the cultural and linguistic gap that separates Russians and Ukrainians is tiny as compared to what separates Macedonians and ethnic Albanians. Which means that an Albanian autonomy in Macedonia is inevitable, and it may well be that the inspiration for the unrest is not NATO or EU but…Novorossia. As to the Kosovars, frankly even the US regards the Kosovo Albanian government as something of an embarrassment. But at the same time nobody really knows what to do about the situation, which means there is a very real danger of another armed conflict in the region. Finally, given that the EU constrained the US from arming Ukraine, it seems highly unlikely it would allow it to start another war, this time in the Balkans. 

Polish presidential candidate wants NATO bases in Poland

The candidate in question is Andrzej Duda of the Law and Justice party. By “NATO” Duda means the US, and he is also in favor of locating US ABM defense components on Polish territory. Duda won the first round of presidential elections ahead of the incumbent Komorowski.

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