Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s announcement last Saturday that he would not stand for re-election, instead nominating his predecessor and current prime minister, Vladimir Putin, to once again assume the office, came as a surprise to those of us who were expecting a continuation of the Medvedev-Putin tandem. At the same time, however, the somewhat trite and simplistic analysis being proferred by those who argue that Medvedev was nothing more than a seat-warmer for Putin until the latter could reclaim the presidency is not particularly helpful in understanding the direction Russian politics has taken — and will take. If Putin had […]

The news this past weekend of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s impending return to the presidency has elicited a wide range of commentary on the potential impact it might have on Russia’s foreign policy and, in particular, on U.S.-Russia relations. There are several key points that one should keep in mind when considering the development. First, in the years since he left office in 2008 after serving as president since 2000, Putin has remained Russia’s most powerful figure. He has been able to determine policy in any area and any direction, constrained only by objective factors related to Russian state […]

Last week, WPR’s Judah Grunstein noted some interesting developments in Russia-Korea relations. These included North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s conferring with President Dmitry Medvedev and other Russian leaders in a rare visit to Russia in August; the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding regarding construction of a gas pipeline connecting Russia to South Korea via North Korea; the launching of a rail link between Russia and the North Korean port of Rajin; and plans to conduct a joint maritime search-and-rescue exercise in 2012. These developments have highlighted Moscow’s desire to play a major role in the future of the […]

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British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Moscow last week, where he met with Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. In an email interview, Edwin Bacon, a reader in comparative politics at the University of London, Birkbeck, discussed U.K.-Russia relations. WPR: What has been the nature of U.K.-Russian trade and diplomatic relations from the post-Cold War period until today? Edwin Bacon: In the immediate post-Cold War years, U.K.-Russian relations flourished, marked by reciprocal state visits in 1994 and 2003. When Vladimir Putin became Russia’s president in 2000, he singled out the U.K. as a key European partner. The […]

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It looks like North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s August meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was a productive one. This week has seen the announcement of a number of modest but significant initiatives with the potential to create lasting ties between the two countries. Most important is the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Gazprom and the North Korean Oil Ministry for the construction of a gas pipeline linking Russian supplies to South Korea. (Separate but coordinated discussions were held with the head of South Korea’s state-run gas company as well.) Also, a rail link between a Russian […]

A memorandum of understanding between the Armenian Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and the Isle of Man-registered International Minerals & Mines Ltd. is paving the way for the exploration of Armenia’s shale reserves. Should large-scale commercial extraction proceed, Armenia’s energy find could grant the landlocked Caucasus nation a measure of energy independence and, with it, newfound geopolitical freedom. The Aug. 3 deal comes on the heels of another agreement between the Energy Ministry and the U.S. State Department in June to cooperate in energy exploration, commercialization and investment. This agreement plans “cooperative assessment and technical studies of Armenia’s energy […]