Nord Stream 2 future settled in Washington

For years, Kiev had perceived the internationalisation of its energy issues as the ultimate means to keep Ukrainian economic and national projects safely away from Moscow influence. Lately, all its efforts have been centered on preventing the construction, then the exploitation, of Nord Stream 2, the 1.200 km gas pipeline which, in a few months, will export Russian gas directly to Germany, circumventing Poland and Ukraine. Ukraine has felt over-confident that the strong Western backing should suffice to sink Gazprom chances and the Kremlin ambitions. In fact, doing so, successive Ukrainian presidents have turned their country into a pawn between Moscow, Washington, Brussels, and different EU members ‘states. At their risks and perils.

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The end of an epoch

By Nina Bachkatov

The stepping down of Grigori Yavlinsky as the head of a party he co-founded in 1993, provides fodder for a reflection on the deep transformation that the Russian political landscape has undergone since the early 1990s. On 3-4 July, Yabloko party has opened its pre-electoral Congress with a statement that the veteran liberal figure Yavlinsky will not run in the 17-19 September election for the lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma. It ended with a declaration by Yavlinsky that Yabloko chairman Nikolai Rybakov could be the only person to head the party to the elections. He explained that “everybody knows” that there cannot be elections in Russia anymore, after the amendments to the Constitution and the new elections laws. In the same time, he encouraged young people to engage in politics.

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EU-Russia: no Biden effect

By Nina Bachkatov

The last-minute proposal of German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron on the eve of the 24-25 June EU summit backfired, exposing the growing inability of Europeans to find a common foreign policy, notably with Russia. Their intent was noble; their method wrong. Their clumsy, and arrogant, attempt to extract a new framework for EU relations with Moscow was breaking all EU protocol rules, showing the limits of the much tutted “Franco-German couple” and the emotional dimension that still drives new members towards Russia. Continue reading “EU-Russia: no Biden effect”

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”

The latest gamble of president Lukashenko

By Nina Bachkatov

The vagaries of present international relations were highlighted on 24 May, when the agenda of the EU summit was highjacked by the forced landing of a Ryanair flight bound from Athens to Vilnius, at Minsk airport, to arrest an anti-Lukashenko’s blogger. EU leaders were expected to discuss EU relations with “aggressive” Russia and “post-Brexit” United Kingdom during the opening dinner; then, the following day, to move to key issues affecting European lives, such as climate changes and fighting the Covid epidemy. The manoeuvre of President Lukashenko cannot have been left without response, but it provided EU with the unexpected opportunity to demonstrate its decisiveness and unity, at very short notice. Continue reading “The latest gamble of president Lukashenko”

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”