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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2000

Russia's expanding Arctic claim;
Putin popular at home, reviled abroad

Edited by Ilan Berman
September 2, 2015

August 4: 

Russia is renewing its role as a key player in Palestinian politics. 
According to, the official website of the Palestinian Fatah faction's military wing, rival movement Hamas has formally accepted an official invitation from the Kremlin to send a delegation to visit Moscow. The prospective Hamas visit will be headed by Khaled Mishaal, the notorious head of Hamas' political bureau, and will include consultations regarding "Israeli aggression" and the living conditions of Palestinians in the Territories. 

The Kremlin is expanding its claims to the Arctic. 
London's Telegraph newspaper reports that the Russian government has formally submitted a claim to the United Nations for sovereignty over a large section of Arctic seabed - a resource-rich area that will significantly expand Russia's territory, and its ability to control Arctic energy resources. The move has been in the works for some time; last Fall, Russian Environment Minister Sergei Donskoi confirmed that the Russian government was seeking exclusive economic rights over some 460,000 square miles of Arctic territory. It now has, in a marked escalation of what the Telegraph has termed "the scramble to secure resources in the high north." 

August 5:

Vladimir Putin may enjoy massive domestic approval, but outside of Russia both Putin and his government suffer from sky-high negative ratings. Those are the conclusions of 
a new poll by the Pew Research Center, which surveyed more than 45,000 respondents in 39 countries in an effort to gauge Russia's global favorability ranking. The results were striking; Russia's overall favorability ranking hovers at just 30 percent, with anti-Russian sentiment particularly prevalent in countries such as Poland (80 percent), Jordan (80 percent), Israel (74 percent) and Japan (73 percent). 

August 6:

The Russian government's controversial decision to destroy Western foodstuffs is generating discontent at home. 
Reuters reports that the Kremlin's plans for a so-called "food crematoria" to dispose of banned Western food imports has sparked outrage among ordinary Russians, with more than a quarter-million citizens signing an online petition calling on President Vladimir Putin to reconsider. "Sanctions have led to a major growth in food prices on Russian shelves," the statement says. "Russian pensioners, veterans, large families, the disabled and other needy social groups were forced to greatly restrict their diets, right up to starvation." Moscow, however, appears undaunted, with Russian officials terming illegal imports of banned products to constitute a "security threat." 

Russian hackers have targeted the Pentagon in a "
sophisticatedcyberattack" against the unclassified email system of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, NBC News reports. Sources have told the news agency that the attack, which took place in late July, affected some 4,000 individuals, both civilian and military, working for the JCS. While it remains unclear whether the intrusion was formally approved by the Kremlin, its sophistication has led officials to conclude that "it was clearly the work of a state actor." 

August 7:

Russia is poised to help the South Asian energy picture. Sputnik reports that the Kremlin has given preliminary approval to a gas pipeline project in Pakistan. The energy route, dubbed "North-South," will entail the construction - by Russian firms and with Russian materials and equipment - of a pipeline on Pakistani soil stretching from Karachi to Lahore. 

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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