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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2068

Fear and loathing (of missile defense) in Moscow;
A new Russian foothold in Syria

Edited by Ilan Berman and Daniel Jimenez
June 7, 2016

May 13: 

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has served as a "test bed" for Russia's military capabilities, and provides important insights into the Kremlin's evolving strategy, two leading military analysts have said. Russia's "new-generation warfare" is designed to target Western weaknesses and "combines both low-end, hidden state involvement with high-end, direct, even braggadocio superpower involvement," 
write Phillip Karber and Lt. Col. Joshua Thibeault in Army Magazine. The tactics being harnessed by the Kremlin include political subversion, the provision of sanctuary to proxy forces, direct military intervention, coercive deterrence and "negotiated manipulation" of ceasefires and political processes. The past two years of conflict in Ukraine has also seen an expansion in the versatility and capability of Russian military hardware and tactics, they write, including electronic warfare and the use of UAVs. 

These burgeoning capabilities present a real challenge to the United States and its NATO allies. “For nearly 100 years, American forces have had a major responsibility defending democracy and helping secure peace on the European continent," write Karber and Thibeault. "Yet as Russia threatens the stability of the region with its new-generation warfare concepts and the American military struggles under budgetary pressures, the question becomes whether the U.S. Army can learn from these lessons and make itself relevant and viable for the future." 

May 14:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the United States and its European partners that he is prepared to "neutralize threats" following the opening of a new American missile defense installation in Romania.
According to the BBC, Putin decried the installation as "not a defense system [but] part of a U.S. strategic potential" that has encroached on Russia's "periphery." "Those people taking such decisions must know that until now they have lived calm, fairly well-off and in safety," the Russian President said. But "as these elements of ballistic missile defense are deployed, we are forced to think how to neutralize the emerging threats to the Russian Federation." 

May 15:

The come-from-behind victory of Ukraine's contestant in the Eurovision Song Contest has generated outrage in Russia, 
the BBC reports. Jamala, a Ukrainian singer/songwriter, won the contest's top prize with the song "1944," which related the plight and deportation of Crimean Tatars under the rule of Josef Stalin. Jamala beat out Russia's Sergey Lazarev to win the contest in what Russia has claimed was a politicized victory, with Russian media sources asking European broadcasting authorities to review the results. 

May 17:

Having helped Syrian forces oust the Islamic State terrorist group from the ancient city of Palmyra, Russia's military appears to be digging in there. 
The Associated Press reports that digital satellite imagery acquired by the American School of Oriental Research's Cultural Heritage Initiative - a world heritage watchdog group - shows that Russian forces are now building an army base on the edge of an ancient archeological site in the city. The new facility remains modest in size, but nonetheless has the potential to create an international incident, because it is situated "within the protected zone that holds the archaeological site listed by UNESCO as world heritage," notes the AP. 

Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny and several associates have been beaten in southern Russia, 
the Associated Press reports. Navalny and five employees were attacked by a group of Cossacks outside the airport in Anapa, a town in Krasnodar Krai, near Crimea. Navalny has charged that the attack was "coordinated and pre-planned" by pro-government forces attempting to silence the Kremlin critics.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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