Two years ago, I asked, “Will Russia Leave the West?” The world’s largest territorial country—sprawling from its major European city St. Petersburg to its vast Far Eastern territories and long border with China—Russia cannot, of course, depart the West geographically. But it can do so politically, economically, and strategically. Indeed, where Russia belongs, where it should seek its identity, security, and future—in the East or in the West—has divided the nation’s policy-makers and intellectual elites for centuries.
Tag Archives: Russia
Sergey Starzhinsky figures that his first taste of nearby Japan was a fruit-flavored lollipop that washed up on the beach in the 1970s.
These days, when sailors take his son-in-law’s sea urchins across the strait to Hokkaido, Starzhinsky has them pick up a large order of sushi before they head back.
An Asian Iron Curtain lingers on the edge of the Pacific, eight time zones and 4,500 miles from Moscow. In Russia’s ever-broadening quest for influence under President Vladimir Putin, this Cold War-era outpost is emerging as a pivotal piece on the Kremlin’s global chessboard.
Japan has long claimed that Russia illegally occupies Kunashir and a handful of other nearby islands on the southern end of the Kuril archipelago, which threads the sea between mainland Russia and northern Japan. Seen from Kunashir, the snow-sheathed mountains of northern Japan tower on the horizon, but there’s no regular passenger service to connect the two worlds.
On a recent, pleasantly warm Tuesday evening in Moscow, a group of people was standing in front of the Basmanny District Court, and the young faces were smiling happily. The day had turned out to be a good one after all, at least for the friends of Yegor Zhukov.
Just a short time before, the political science student had been sitting inside a cage in the courtroom. He was just coming off a month of pretrial detention and was facing the possibility of an eight-year prison sentence due to alleged participation in “mass unrest.” The term “mass unrest” is a formula used by the Russian judiciary to describe the Moscow protests held to demand free and fair elections on September 8 for the Moscow city parliament. Zhukov had taken part in those protests.
On that Tuesday evening, though, the judge issued a surprise ruling releasing Zhukov from pretrial detention in favor of house arrest, while investigators announced that he was only being charged with “extremism,” a violation that carried a maximum sentence of just five years instead of eight. It was a perfect illustration of where Russia finds itself in late summer 2019: It has become a place where opposition activists breathe a sigh of relief when one absurd accusation is replaced by another.
A few days after our Asia Times report, an article based on “senior sources close to the Iranian regime” and crammed with fear-mongering, baseless accusations of corruption and outright ignorance about key military issues claimed that Russia would turn the Iranian ports of Bandar Abbas and Chabahar into forward military bases complete with submarines, Spetsnaz special forces and Su-57 fighter jets, thus applying a “stranglehold” to the Persian Gulf.
For starters, “senior sources close to the Iranian regime” would never reveal such sensitive national-security details, much less to Anglo-American foreign media. In my own case, even though I have made several visits to Iran while consistently reporting on Iran for Asia Times, and even though authorities at myriad levels know where I’m coming from, I have not managed to get answers from Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps generals to 16 detailed questions I sent nearly a month ago. According to my interlocutors, these are deemed “too sensitive” and, yes, a matter of national security.
It’s May 9 and around 200 people have gathered in a parking lot in Novosibirsk, the third largest city in Russia. They are here to dedicate a monument, with some waving World War II flags, including the flag of a rifle division that conquered the Reichstag in Berlin in 1945. Veterans with medals covering their breasts sit in the first row.
Next to the monument, a man is waiting, a slip of paper in his jacket pocket on which he has outlined his speech. He has been waiting 20 years for this moment. A recording of Beethoven’s Fifth plays as the man steps forward and, together with the mayor, loosens the red tape to allow the white covering to fall from the monument. The crowd cheers as Stalin is revealed in the glittering sunlight.
Joseph Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, who later gave himself the name Stalin, or “Man of Steel,” was the son of a shoemaker and attended church school. And, until his death in March 1953, he was the dictator of the Soviet Union — and one of the biggest criminals of the 20th century.
The man who unveiled the monument to Stalin on this May afternoon in the parking lot of the Communist Party’s regional headquarters is named Alexei Denisyuk. The 41-year-old is a lawyer and the editor-in-chief of a newspaper called Hammer and Sickle — and he is convinced that he will live to see the return of the Soviet Union.
Russia is meticulously advancing Eurasian chessboard moves that should be observed in conjunction, as Moscow proposes to the Global South an approach diametrically opposed to Western sanctions, threats and economic war. Here are three recent examples.
Ten days ago, via a document officially approved by the United Nations, the Russian Foreign Ministry advanced a new concept of collective security for the Persian Gulf.
Moscow stresses that “practical work on launching the process of creating a security system in the Persian Gulf” should start with “bilateral and multilateral consultations between interested parties, including countries both within the region and outside of it,” as well as organizations such as the UN Security Council, League of Arab States, Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Gulf Cooperation Council.
Di solito il paesaggio della Siberia orientale non somiglia all’inferno. In inverno è coperto da un lenzuolo di neve. D’estate le sue foreste sono rigogliose e i suoi terreni acquitrinosi impregnati d’acqua. Quest’anno, tuttavia, la regione sta andando a fuoco, come accade ad ampie zone del circolo polare artico.
Non è mai stato registrato niente di questa portata da quando, nel 2003, sono cominciati i rilevamenti satellitari ad alta risoluzione nell’estremo nord russo. Uno studio del 2013 suggerisce che anche la quantità d’incendi nelle regioni boreali sia anomala rispetto agli ultimi diecimila anni.
I ricercatori definiscono “senza precedenti” gli eventi di quest’anno. I dati di quest’estate sono “folli”, secondo Guillermo Rein, studioso dell’Imperial college di Londra.
Last week, CNN published an explosive story related to the Trump-Russia case that raised important new questions about ties between Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, and Russia.
The report said that CNN had obtained hundreds of pages of surveillance reports compiled for the Ecuadorian government by a Spanish security company, which showed that Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, received “in-person deliveries, potentially of hacked materials related to the 2016 U.S. election, during a series of suspicious meetings” while he lived in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. “Assange met with Russians and world-class hackers at critical moments, frequently for hours at a time,” CNN reported. He “acquired powerful new computing network hardware to facilitate data transfers just weeks before WikiLeaks received hacked materials from Russian operatives.”
The CNN report — which appeared on a day when the Washington press corps was distracted by President Donald Trump’s racist tweets — was largely ignored. But with former special counsel Robert Mueller testifying before Congress on Wednesday, the little-noticed Assange story was yet another reminder that despite Mueller’s efforts, many important questions about the Trump-Russia case remain unresolved.
It all started with the Vladimir Putin–Xi Jinping summit in Moscow on June 5. Far from a mere bilateral, this meeting upgraded the Eurasian integration process to another level. The Russian and Chinese presidents discussed everything from the progressive interconnection of the New Silk Roads with the Eurasia Economic Union, especially in and around Central Asia, to their concerted strategy for the Korean Peninsula.
A particular theme stood out: They discussed how the connecting role of Persia in the Ancient Silk Road is about to be replicated by Iran in the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). And that is non-negotiable. Especially after the Russia-China strategic partnership, less than a month before the Moscow summit, offered explicit support for Tehran signaling that regime change simply won’t be accepted, diplomatic sources say.
Putin and Xi solidified the roadmap at the St Petersburg Economic Forum. And the Greater Eurasia interconnection continued to be woven immediately after at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek, with two essential interlocutors: India, a fellow BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and SCO member, and SCO observer Iran.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assertion last week that Western liberalism was obsolete provoked some strident rebuttals. A contemptuous silence might have been preferable, saving us the embarrassment of Boris Johnson invoking “our values,” or European Council President Donald Tusk claiming, against overwhelming evidence, that it was authoritarianism that was obsolete.
Even the Financial Times, to which Putin confided his views, was reduced to childishly asserting that “while America is no longer the shining city on the hill it once seemed, the world’s poor and oppressed still head overwhelmingly for the U.S. and western Europe” rather than Russia.