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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2104

Russia's military spending takes a hit... finally;
Who is a Russian, really?

Edited by Amanda Azinheira
December 2, 2016

October 25: 

Foreign Policy magazine reports that a prominent Russian-backed commander in the Donbas was recently killed by remote controlled bomb - marking the latest in a chain of mysterious deaths surrounding separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine. Some experts believe the killings are a result of infighting among the rebel elite. Others, however, have a different - and more controversial - explanation: that Russia itself may be behind the attacks, because it is seeking to extricate itself from the conflict in Ukraine, and because the elimination of the most extreme elements of the pro-Russian opposition "may, in time, allow Moscow to apply more pressure on Kiev by forcing it to negotiate with less radicalized, more respectable proxies." 

October 26:

Russia's Defense Ministry has announced that it is upgrading the firepower of the country's Baltic Fleet, just as NATO plans its biggest military buildup on Russia's border since the Cold War. The planned upgrade will include the deployment of five warships with nuclear capable long range cruise missiles by the end of 2020. 
According to Reuters, the addition of the warships would significantly increase the targeting range of the Baltic Fleet, and thereby significantly ratchet up tensions with Russia's Baltic neighbors. 

October 27:

Russia has rejected the findings of a UN chemical weapons investigation that determined Syrian forces had used chlorine bombs at least three times in the past two years. The Kremlin has called the findings of the investigation inconclusive, with the country's UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, terming them "full of contradictions and therefore, unconvincing." The stance, 
reports the New York Times, only deepens the rift between Russia and Western nations, which are seeking punitive action against the regime of Bashar al-Assad for its use of banned weapons. 

October 28:

Russia has lost its seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. Moscow was ousted from the UN body after losing a vote by the 193 members of the UN General Assembly, 
reports the New York Times. The incident marks the first time a permanent member of the UN Security Council has lost a seat on the UN's chief human rights body, and is likely a direct result of deepening international criticism over the Kremlin's conduct in the ongoing Syrian civil war. 

October 30:

Russia's financial troubles have finally caught up with its military spending. 
The Financial Times reports that a new draft budget now being considered by the Kremlin would require the country to cut government spending across the board over the next three years. The cuts will affect areas such as health, education, and even defense. Defense spending is facing a 27 percent reduction in expenditures over the next year - even as Russia extends and expands its military interventions abroad. 

October 31:

As Russia continues to struggle to define its national identity, President Vladimir Putin has shifted part of the burden to the country's legislators. 
The Moscow Times reports that Putin has called for federal legislation that would clearly define "the Russian nation." The question promises to be a contentious one; the Russian Federation encompasses well over 100 various ethnic groups, many of which have been ignored or mistreated by the central government. Putin has acknowledged the Russian government's current lack of infrastructure for dealing with ethnic issues, and the requested legislation appears to be, at least in part, an attempt to bridge the historical gap between many of the country's ethnicities and the often-unaccountable "federal center."

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program

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