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”

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”

The enduring myth of coloured revolutions

By Nina Bachkatov

Events in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan prompted references to “coloured revolutions”, an expression forged in 2003 when the first peaceful “revolution”, in Georgia, replaced the old guard inherited from the Soviet period by a new Western trained generation. A year later, the same pattern was used in Ukraine, then in Kyrgyzstan in 2005. Continue reading “The enduring myth of coloured revolutions”

Different dates, same politic

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

If Vladimir Putin wanted to vindicate those who accuse him of hijacking the celebrations of 9 May for political and personal reasons, he could hardly have done better than announcing two successive postponements. The main motive was of course the coronavirus epidemy, still out of control in early May. Putin decided wisely to cancel an event dragging millions of people through the country’s streets. The event was replaced by a low-key ceremony on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, under the walls of the Kremlin, where Putin bowed his head in respect to the 28 million Soviet citizens who lost their lives during WWII. Instead of a military parade on Red Square, jets and helicopters flew over Moscow. Continue reading “Different dates, same politic”

Twenty years in the Kremlin

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

Russia often invites brutal comments, and Vladimir Putin even more. The numerous articles written to mark the 20 years of his presidency offer a collection of declarations and predictions made at the time that their authors would prefer to forget. The best of all being the question that an American journalist, Trudy Rubin, obviously proud of his audace, asked to a panel of Russian officials and businesspeople “Who is Mr. Putin?”. That was a few weeks since Putin appeared “from nowhere” – translation “from where Westerners did not see him coming”, contrary to Russians for whom he has been prime ministers for almost 5 months. Continue reading “Twenty years in the Kremlin”

From the Berlin wall to the Kremlin wall

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

For those following the event from Moscow at the time, the contrast was striking. On one side, the thrill caused by the fall of Berlin Wall in the outside world, especially in the West; on the other, the quasi indifference with which it was met in the Soviet Union. Continue reading “From the Berlin wall to the Kremlin wall”

A full reintegration, a half success

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

The return of Russia to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is not the Russian victory declared by those who opposed the measure. It was an act of pragmatism by the Assembly that means nothing in terms of rapprochement between Russia and EU, the latter being a body totally separated from the Council of Europe. Continue reading “A full reintegration, a half success”

Victory that cannot be shared anymore

By Nina Bachkatov & Andrew Wilson

For years now, the allies of the second world war are unable to celebrate a common victory over Nazism. This is especially true in the West where the former enemy and invader (Germany) is now at the core of the Western alliance; while the former ally, the USSR, or its successors, is no longer mentionable. That was especially evident during this year’s celebrations of D-Day, with the aggravating factor that while the Western allies were rewriting history in Plymouth and Normandy, presidents Putin and Xi were preparing the future in Moscow. Continue reading “Victory that cannot be shared anymore”

Crimea for ever?

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

Celebrations in Crimea lasted 4 full days and included a visit of president Putin. In Moscow, there were a few flags, but no official celebrations. Seemingly, the Kremlin wants to show that Crimea is just another member of the Federation, no more no less. Continue reading “Crimea for ever?”