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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2081

Russian soft power comes to Germany;
Dim hopes for the Duma

Edited by Ilan Berman, Amanda Azinheira and Daniel Jimenez
August 1, 2016

July 1: 

Russia's information warfare operations have established a new base of operations in Berlin, 
reports German news agency Deutsche Welle. The Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, a pro-Kremlin think tank founded by Russian businessman Vladimir Yakunin, has recently relocated to Germany. Intended to address "global issues" like "demographic changes," the institute denies any affiliation with Moscow and claims it does not accept state money. But Yakunin, an ex-KGB officer and close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin who remains a staunch supporter of Kremlin policy, is personally pouring 25 million Euros into the center, raising questions about its purpose and credibility. 

According to a recent survey by the Moscow-based Levada Center, more than a third of Russians believe the 2016 State Duma elections will be rigged. 
The Moscow Times reports that, of the 1,600 respondents surveyed by the Levada poll, 38 percent believe the elections will involve slander, pressure on the electorate, ballot tampering or other forms of electoral fraud, and only 44 percent believe the elections will be "free and fair." 

[EDITORS' NOTE: Given the effect of Russia's increasingly authoritarian political climate on pollsters and respondents alike, the results of public opinion surveys in Russia should be viewed with some caution.] 

July 3:

Poland is tightening its border to Russian and Ukrainian traffic. Just days before the NATO summit in Warsaw, the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to temporarily suspend local border traffic from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and Ukraine, 
reports Radio Poland. Russia has responded with a tit-for-tat measure, imposing regulations on border-crossings for Polish citizens. 

As the Atlantic Alliance prepares to discuss an increasingly revanchist Russia in Warsaw, its former chief has called on NATO to seize the opportunity to push back against the Kremlin. "We should hold no illusions about Moscow's intentions," 
writes Anders Fogh Rasmussen in an opinion piece for Newsweek. "Behind the bullying and disruption of pro-Western governments bordering Russia lies a clash of ideas. On the one side are the rule of law, an accountable bureaucracy and democratic elections kept in high regard; on the other you have an unconstrained state that can sacrifice its own citizens to preserve its rulers' ambition." The response from Europe and the United States, according to Rasmussen, must be politically unified and resolute. "NATO allies should cooperate with Russia where we can, but confront Russia where we must." 

At least some of Russia's Muslim leaders are rallying around the Kremlin's latest counterterrorism law. "Muslim leaders in the North Caucasus generally back the Yarovaya laws because they face the greatest challenge from Islamist radicals and thus see the restrictions the new laws impose as helping the official Muslim establishment retain its position in society," 
notes Paul Goble in Window on Eurasia. However, the new legislation has received a decidedly chillier reception in the Volga region, where at least some muftis have been "sharply critical of the Yarovaya packet's restrictions on missionary activity, arguing that Russia already has sufficient laws to counter radicalism." 

The difference, according to Goble, "parallels the more familiar distinction between the modernist/reformist Muslims of the Middle Volga and the more conservative Muslims of the North Caucasus." As such, it suggests that Moscow will have difficulties applying the law nationwide, as the Kremlin intends to do.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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