Afganistan’s shadow on Geneva summit

By Nina Bachkatov

Both presidents Biden and Putin wanted to meet ‘face to face’, for their own national and geopolitical reasons. The Geneva summit can only offer a mix of “though messages” and basic discussion on matters of “mutual interests”. Among them, Afghanistan, a theme largely absent in European media coverage. Biden wants to fulfil his electoral promises to withdraw from Afghanistan and Putin is seriously concerned about stability on its southern borders. Continue reading “Afganistan’s shadow on Geneva summit”

Russians coping with Covid

By Nina Bachkatov

The Kremlin took its time before raising the alarm about Covid. For months, it has been vacillating between denials and pompous declarations. That went on until last autumn, when the country was hit by its first peak of contamination. The authorities took the full dimension of the crisis and adopted harsh measures. Then came a second peak in this winter, despite the lock-down imposed during New Year’s holiday. Finally, hope rebounded with the arrival of an efficient Russian vaccine, saluted as a success for national science. But it did not prevent a low vaccination rate to become a political as well as a health issue. It was specially vexing in a country so proud to have pioneered an efficient and cheap vaccine. Continue reading “Russians coping with Covid”

Putin dots his I’s

By Nina Bachkatov

In less than a week, the possibility of a war in Ukraine evaporated even if the protagonists continue to feed mutual anxiousness. The Kremlin has used the latest crisis to hammer the message which has been constant during almost two decades: 1/ Russia is a world leader and has to be treated as such; 2/ Russia’s internal affairs are nobody’s business. Continue reading “Putin dots his I’s”

Playing with fire in the Donbass

By Nina Bachkatov

Since the end of July 2020, belligerents in Eastern Ukraine had respected the cease-fire, the longest period of seeming peace since the conflict started in 2014. Then, by early 2021, violence erupted again, with dozens killed or injured. By April, the situation had gone worst. Both Russia and Ukraine were accusing each other of provocations and preparing a military offensive. Ukraine has been sending soldiers and new equipment to the front line; Russia massing thousands of troops and heavy material along its 250 km border with Ukraine. Continue reading “Playing with fire in the Donbass”

Competition in the Arctic

By Nina Bachkatov

Russia seized upon the incident in the Suez Canal to remember the world that it exists another shipping route between Asia and the European continent – along its northern coast. It diplomatically stated the Arctic route as “a complement, not a rival, nor an alternative” to Suez. In the present tense relation between Russia and the West, with China’s growing assertiveness in the background, this shipping route, entirely on Russian territory, was added to the long list of “Russian threats” to the “free world”. Paradoxically, the opening of a complete Northern sea route would result from the global warming that international cooperation is supposed to fight and the consequent acceleration of Northern seas’ melting – not from Kremlin’s plots. Continue reading “Competition in the Arctic”

The endless debate about EU-Russia relations

By Nina Bachkatov

With the European Council of 25-26 March in sight, reports and proposals about Russia-EU relations have been piling up, creating the impression that something new were brewing. In fact, most of those texts attest that, despite ups and downs, the fundamentals of those relations did not change much during the two last decades: both ‘partners’ still need to adjust to each other, without wishful thinking or bitterness, and doing so open their mind to really new formula. At the light of past crisis all pretty predictable. Continue reading “The endless debate about EU-Russia relations”

Belarus going nuclear, against all odds

By Nina Bachkatov

Technically speaking, the preliminary report of the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) about the Ostrovets Belarusian Nuclear Power Station reflects E.U. worries about its security. But political considerations are part of the equation, bearing in mind Belarus’ internal situation, the tortuous relations between the European Union and its Eastern Partnership’s allies, the unfinished creation of a single Baltic grid. And, the relations of the different actors with Russia. Continue reading “Belarus going nuclear, against all odds”

Sanctions, actions, counter actions

By Nina Bachkatov

Unsurprisingly, the EU ministers of foreign affairs meeting on 22 February have given the green light for freezing the assets and banning entry of four officials of the Russian police and justice they consider responsible for the “unacceptable treatment” of Alexei Navalny. In October, the EU had sanctioned 6 individuals and one entity for their alleged participation in the poisoning of the opponent. And each 6 months since 2014, it has been prolonging sanctions taken to punish Russia for its Ukrainian adventures. Continue reading “Sanctions, actions, counter actions”

A bumpy road for EU-Russia relations

By Nina Bachkatov

The 5-6 February meeting, in Moscow, between Josep Borrell, the EU Commission Hight representative and Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, has opened an unparallel crisis in the rocky relation between Moscow and Brussels. Ups and downs have been part of that relation since the end of the Cold War. But, even at the most difficult moments, the partners would never have indulged in the stream of emotion that followed this extravagant meeting. The deluge of sharp, undiplomatic, declarations reduce the chances to step into a normalisation process in the short time. It would involve a capacity, and a will, to take the risk of being confronted with charges of being sold to the other, or of accepting a humiliating defeat. Continue reading “A bumpy road for EU-Russia relations”

Fights and counterattacks in Russia

By Nina Bachkatov

The film of Alexei Navalny about Putin’s Palace had an unexpected bonus – the shares of Abrau-Durso jumped 10% on the Moscow Stock exchange after president Putin mentioned his interests for winemaking. They lost 3% the day after. This would be anectodical in another country, including the West where the choice of a coat by the wife of the president can make, or kill, the career of a couturier. But, in Russia, at this particular moment, it shows the extreme personalisation of power – and counterpower. Continue reading “Fights and counterattacks in Russia”