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”

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”