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”

Victory day in Moscow, with nuances

By Nina Bachkatov

On 9 May, on Moscow Red Square, the military parade was as usual: a brilliant ballet of contrasting uniforms, smart military bands, the triple Hurrahs. But the speech of Putin was even more Putinesque, reflecting years of evolution during which Russians has been cut from their WWII allies. He repeated that, make no mistakes, Russia’s might is “ready to defend the motherland”, and its population determined to join if needed. This was a not too subtle way to remember the “enemies of Russia” that they should think twice before to indulge in provocation or “hostile” gesture. Continue reading “Victory day in Moscow, with nuances”

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”

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”

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”

Navalny and Putin, the double challenge

By Nina Bachkatov

The latest episode concerning Alexei Navalny’s return to Moscow came on 18 January, when his lawyer tweeted that the City Court of Khimki decided to detain him for a month. He is accused of “systematic failure” to respect a 2014 tribunal decision giving him a suspended sentence under the condition that he would report twice a month to the police. Continue reading “Navalny and Putin, the double challenge”

Russian diplomacy and the lessons of 2020

By Nina Bachkatov

Recent international events have offered Russian diplomacy a source of inspiration it might have lacked otherwise. While the Kremlin was pretty much in a reactive drive, not without success as demonstrated in South Caucasus, it found in those events a new impulse towards its decades-old objective – to force the international community to recognise that Russia is not only back, but back as a global actor. Continue reading “Russian diplomacy and the lessons of 2020”

Obama’s message to Russia

By Nina Bachkatov

The book of former American president Obama, “A promised land” is a publisher’s dream, selling millions of copies through the world, at a moment when the foreign policy of his former vice-president, now elected president Biden, is everyone guess. Notably about Washington’s future relation with Moscow. Continue reading “Obama’s message to Russia”