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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2091

Moscow eyes the Middle East;
Military modernization above all

Edited by Amanda Azinheira
September 7, 2016

August 20: 

In another sign of improving relations between Russia and Turkey, Russian officials have asked Ankara for access to an American built base as a launchpad for airstrikes in Syria. 
According to Sputnik, NATO's Incirlik Air Base is home to at least fifty U.S. nuclear warheads and is a major base for Alliance operations in Syria and elsewhere. Russia is hoping to use Incirlik as its primary airbase for operations in Syria. 

[Editor's Note: While Russian access to Incirlik remains unlikely, the mere possibility of Moscow obtaining a foothold at the facility has precipitated significant movement on the part of the United States. The U.S. military is rumored to have begun moving nuclear weapons from the facility to other locations so that they will remain inaccessible to Russian officials.] 

August 21:

Is Russia seeking to claim the role of peacemaker in the Middle East? 
Sputnik reports Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as saying that the Kremlin is prepared to serve as mediator for a new round of diplomatic contacts between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. "Russian President Vladimir Putin informed me about his readiness to accept Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow for direct talks," Egyptian news sources quote Sisi as saying. 

August 22:

Moscow's City Electoral Commission has announced that there will be no televised debate for Russia's upcoming State Duma elections in September, 
reports The Moscow Times. Instead, the state-controlled Moscow Media Group will devote 100 seconds of airtime to each candidate, with a 25 second long video to be shown four times across local television channels. Opposition candidates are criticizing the decision, claiming that it gives an advantage to Putin's United Russia Party, whose candidates are "terrified of direct dialogue." 

August 24:

Is Moscow ramping up its cyber espionage? The New York Times recently disclosed that it was the target of hackers believed to be working with Russian authorities. The paper's announcement comes shortly after news that hackers associated with Russia's intelligence community broke into the database of the Democratic National Committee. The cyber attack, 
The Moscow Times reports, may be part of a broader Russian intelligence gathering campaign that has targeted non-governmental organizations and think tanks in recent weeks. 

August 25:

Despite mounting domestic economic woes, Moscow continues to pour money into modernizing and strengthening its military. 
According to the Washington Free Beacon, Russia is now slated to field a hypersonic maneuvering strike missile by 2020 - far ahead of the U.S. development of such a capability. The Russian missile, now in development, will be able to penetrate even advanced missile defenses. Russia continues to build strategic ballistic and cruise missiles with the goal of penetrating U.S. missile defenses.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program

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