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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2009

Crimea and the population question;
New hacking... and cooperation with Iran

Edited by Ilan Berman and Dominika Iszczek
October 13, 2015

September 15:

The Russian government has argued at length that its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula last year marked the rectification of a historical injustice. But political scientists are pointing to another potential reason why the Kremlin
covets the former Ukrainian territory: demographics.
In his Window on Eurasia blog, Russia expert Paul Goble cites Ukrainian commentator Rostislav Ishchenko as saying that the annexation of the territory, when combined with an influx of refugees from Ukraine, could "completely compensate" Russia's demographic losses in the decade of the 1990s.

The perspective, Goble notes, is
a significant - and largely overlooked - dimension of Russia's contemporary strategic calculus. "[W]hat Russia is doing in Ukraine and elsewhere reflects real fears about the demographic situation in Russia now and in the future."

September 16:

Life in Russia's newest territorial holding, meanwhile, is increasingly difficult.
According to Radio Free Europe, the past year-and-a-half of Russia's rule of Crimea has "nearly destroyed" the peninsula's agricultural and farming output. "According to forecasts, the agency reports, "in 2016 Crimea will need to import about 50% of its milk, 33% of its meat [and] 27% of its total egg consumption."

Russian hackers have broadly infiltrated U.S. critical infrastructure, America's top intelligence official has told lawmakers.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently disclosed to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that "[u]nknown Russian actors successfully compromised the product supply chains of at least three [industrial control system] vendors so that customers downloaded malicious software designed to facilitate exploitation directly from the vendors' websites along with legitimate software updates." Clapper’s warning, the Beacon notes, reflects a sobering reality: that Russian hackers have "penetrated U.S. industrial control networks that run critical infrastructures like the electrical grid."

Now that Iran has signed a nuclear deal with the West, atomic cooperation between Tehran and Russia is
expending anew.
Iran's FARS news agency reports that the nuclear agencies of the two countries are now in negotiations for Iran to sell its enriched uranium to Russia, as well as to obtain new nuclear aid from the Kremlin. Iran is looking for "[a]ssistance to enhance the designing of our existing centrifuge machines" with help from Russia, and the Russians "have announced their preparedness to cooperate and improve Iran's centrifuges to produce stable isotopes," the news agency cites Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, as saying after meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Kirienko.

September 17:

The government of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has levied new sanctions against a range of Russian politicians and firms.
Radio Free Europe reports
that the September 16th order is a response to plans by pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine's east to hold regional elections on November 1st. "This risky and irresponsible decision requires our firm and coordinated reaction," Poroshenko has told foreign dignitaries. The new restrictions, according to RFE, "list more than 400 individuals and 90 companies and other entities, [including] Russia's defense minister and parliamentary speaker, pro-Russian separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine, and prominent Russian companies like Aeroflot and Gazprombank." 

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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