In a March 26 interview at the White House with foreign journalists, U.S. President George W. Bush said he had accepted an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss bilateral issues at Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi on April 6. Remarking that “It’s important that we have good relations with Russia,” Bush characterized the summit as “a follow-up” to the March 17-18 meeting between senior U.S. and Russian national security officials in Moscow. That “2+2” meeting — which included Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on the American side, and Foreign Minister Sergei […]

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Usually when the Bush administration appeals a lower court ruling to the Supreme Court, I start feeling a little queasy. Not this time. As Miles Pomper points out in this WPR feature, there are some really good reasons to worry about relaxing restrictions on Russian uranium exports to the American nuclear industry. So much is made of the threat of fissile material falling into the wrong hands, and the program to downblend Russia’s weapons grade uranium is one of the few lasting successes of the immediate post-Cold War period. Finding a way to make the program attractive enough to renew […]

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Marc Lynch gave a comic roundup of yesterday’s Middle East nuclear energy news (the U.S. and Bahrain signed an MoU, and the UAE announced the start of their partnership with France) before wondering, “Seriously, does anyone else find the GCC’s rush to acquire ‘peaceful nuclear energy programs’ and the West’s seeming enthusiasm for the prospect a bit odd?” The long answer is here, a WPR article by yours truly on France’s nuclear diplomacy in the Muslim world, which I think gives a good summary of why, despite some basic security concerns, there’s no real need for alarm just yet. But […]

SO WHO WILL LEAD IN RUSSIA? — The election of Dmitry Medvedev as Russia’s new president, and the virtual certainty that departing President Vladimir Putin will take over as prime minister has produced a new power-sharing situation, and a new buzzword to describe it: diarchy. Coming up with the term was the easy part. The hard part is carving up the territory before the May changeover. Lyudmila Alexandrovna, a columnist for ITAR-TASS says Putin’s aide, Igor Shuvalov, has been instructed to “draw up a new structure of executive power . . . in which the office of future Prime Minister […]

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While the Moscow meeting between Condoleezza Rice, Bob Gates and their Russian counterparts did not produce any breakthroughson the missile defense standoff, all reports suggested that there were some more wide-ranging strategic proposals on the table and that the mood was noticeably lighter thanprevious meetings. So I was surprised to see reports this morning ofRussian disappointment over promised written proposals that were not delivered. Apparently, though, that was atechnical glitch that was later ironed out. Frequent WPR contributor Richard Weitz has a good overview in the National Interest of some of the broader arms-control challengesfacing America and Russia. One thing […]

Today (March 19), Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili will meet with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House. The two heads of state will make an appropriately supportive mutual statement, particularly since the visit will mark Saakashvili’s first visit to the United States since his reelection in January. Nevertheless, the display of close presidential ties may not prove sufficient to restore Saakashvili’s luster as the leading democrat in the Caucasus, ensure Georgia’s territorial integrity, or enable Georgia to enter NATO — the most immediate mutual foreign policy objective of the two governments. In early January 2008, Mikhail Saakashvili won […]

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Continuing on this week’s U.S.-France-Russia theme, it looks like there’s some more anecdotal evidence for a working arrangement taking shape. I’ve argued before that Nicolas Sarkozy is a valuable asset for the U.S., because he’s got a knack for identifying the doable deals and then getting them done. He’s never going to roll over for Washington, mind you. But where there are interests that overlap, he’s very effective at bringing people together. I get the feeling that he’s identified Putin and Bush as two guys he can reason with who have had trouble reasoning with each other recently. And that’s […]

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Just when I was getting set to declare that we’ve now entered into the “Case by Case Era” of global geopolitics, where strategic grand bargains will be set aside in favor of short memories, coalitions of the willing, and an atomized approach to crisis management, the IHT reports that Condoleeza Rice and Bob Gates are in Moscow to “dot the i’s” on a private letter sent to Vladimir Putin by President Bush laying out his vision for a new strategic framework between the U.S. and Russia. Now, that’s not just an 86-word, five-clause opening sentence. It’s also pretty good news. […]

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What do you get when you take a Finnish rock group that calls itself Leningrad Cowboys, back them up with the Red Army Choir, and put them in front of a stadium full of screaming Russian teenagers to sing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama? Thanks to this YouTube clip (via Russia Blog), the answer to that burning question is now just a click away. To proponents of globalization, I have just one question: Does your conscience bother you? Now tell the truth. . .

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The other day, I flagged what seemed to be significant developments in Russia-EU and Russia-NATO relations. Specifically, Russia’s offer of material support (six to eight desperately needed helicopters) to the EUFOR Chad mission, as well as logistical support (relaxed supply transport restrictions) for the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Today, M K Bhadrakumar has an Asia Times Online article that provides some context to the NATO angle. Basically, Russia is taking advantage of the desperate situation in Afghanistan to float a comprehensive proposal that would essentially break NATO’s (read: America’s) monopoly on stabilization efforts in Afghanistan in particular, but in the […]

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It looks like the Nabucco gas pipeline project just took another hit. Russia just announced an agreement with the ‘Stans (Khazak-, Turkmeni-, and Uzbeki-) raising its purchase price of their gas to European market rates, thereby appropriating one of the major attractions of the U.S.-EU offer. As this analysis points out, though, the deal is something of a trade-off for Russia, since it complicates their South Stream pipeline project by reducing marginal profits that pipeline would have offered its southern European partners. That, more than the dissolution of the Serbian parliament, might be what motivated remarks by Serbia’s parliamentary speaker […]

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I haven’t been able to find English-language coverage of this, so all I’ve got is this Le Monde article. But it’s worth mentioning because it looks to me like a potential sea change waiting to happen. Two days ago, Russia’s Foreign and Defense Ministers came to Paris for annual bi-lateral talks. The meeting resulted in a solid agreement from Russia to contribute 6-8 helicopters to the EUFOR Chad mission, as well as a potential accord with NATO to lift restrictions on logistical shipments bound for Afghanistan through Russian territory, which had been limited to non-military supplies. Here’s French Minister of […]

BRUSSELS — NATO and European Union officials in Brussels met the landslide election victory of former Russian President Vladimir Putin’s chosen successor, Dmitry Medvedev, with ambivalence this week. Officials of both bodies expressed little optimism that a change of leadership will bring any great change in the direction of Russia’s increasingly assertive foreign policy. Medvedev won more than 70 percent of the vote, defeating three candidates who had no chance to confront Medvedev in debates and had little realistic chance of victory after Putin named his successor. According to Russia’s Central Election Commission, 64 percent of eligible voters participated in […]

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This didn’t get much notice, but it strikes me as significant that the Iran sanctions resolution was passed as the first order of business under Russia’s presidency of the UN Security council, given recent signals of a hardening of Russia’s posture towards Iran. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see how Moscow plans to address the Kosovo dossier, which was included among priority items by Russia’s UN envoy.

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It’s still anyone’s guess whether Dmitri Medvedev comes with Putin-strings attached to his wrists and ankles. But one thing worth mentioning is that the country he’ll be governing, while certainly resurgent relative to its position ten years ago, has some clouds looming on its economic horizon. Which is just what Lee Hudson Teslik does in this CFR piece. But he kind of glosses over Russia’s failure to invest in its energy infrastructure. This Center for European Policy Studies analysis (.pdf) by Alan Riley, while a bit dated (2006), is still informative. We’re used to hearing about Europe’s dependence on Russian […]