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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2109

New blood at the Economic Ministry;
The worm turns in Central Asia

Edited by Joshua Eisenman
January 6, 2017

November 27: 

Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent pronouncement that "Russia's borders 'do not end anywhere'" is raising concerns among U.S. policymakers over the Kremlin's geopolitical ambitions. 
The Blaze reports that, while Putin has subsequently stated that his comments - made casually to a juvenile supporter - were in jest, the comments are liable to further exacerbate already fraught ties with Washington and European capitals, particularly in light of the Kremlin's recent decision to move nuclear-capable missiles into the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, nearer to European border countries. 

November 28:

Russia has recently stepped up its military presence in and around Syria, deploying its flagship aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, to the Mediterranean. But the show of force also highlights some notable gaps in military capability, 
notes the Wall Street Journal. Specifically, the Kuznetsov - already a quarter-century old - lacks a powerful catapult system for fighter planes, forcing jets aboard the carrier to carry lighter payloads, less fuel, and fewer pilots. These technological shortcomings are compounded by human ones; "The Russian navy has not had a lot of operational experience in recent years in actual combat," notes specialist Eric Wertheim. However, Russia's ongoing engagement in Syria gives the Russian navy the opportunity to "shake the rust out of their experience and equipment, both figuratively and literally," notes Wertheim. 

November 29:

In an attempt to promote Russian Orthodox values to students, Russian schools are now contemplating the addition of an optional "Orthodox culture" course to their curricula, 
reports Kommersant. A proposal outlining a tentative course of study for the 1-4, 5-9 and 10-11 grades has already been sent for evaluation to members of the Federal Educational-Methodological Association, an arm of the country's Ministry of Education. If the document is approved, experts say, "the course... will be introduced on a large scale into schools at the request of the Ministry of Education and regional dioceses." 

November 30:

In yet another example of Vladimir Putin's quest for fresh blood in government, the Russian president has named deputy finance minister Maxim Oreshkin to be Russia's new economy minister. Oreshkin's predecessor, Alexei Ulyukayev, was sacked in mid-November amid accusations that he tried to extort a bribe as part of the ongoing privatization of the Rosneft oil company. The 34-year-old Oreshkin, an economist, has wasted no time in charting an ambitious work plan; the new minister has "told Putin his main task for 2017 was to find measures to spur economic growth," 
reports Reuters

December 1:

In the weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Russian President Vladimir Putin acquiesced to a U.S. military presence in the "post-Soviet space" in support of the Global War on Terror. It did not take long, however, for Moscow to begin to chafe at America's open-ended presence in its geopolitical backyard, and by earlier this decade the Kremlin had orchestrated the effective ouster of U.S. forces from Central Asia. 

Now, however, Moscow may be facing a similar situation. 
Newsweek reports that Russia may be forced out of its military bases in Kyrgyzstan in the not-too-distant future. Kyrgyzstan President Atambayev has asked Russian troops to leave the country once the contract to host them expires - signaling mounting unease in Bishkek over playing host to Russian forces in perpetuity. Moscow, however, has some time to make other plans. Russia's current lease on Kyrgyz installations doesn't expire for another 15 years.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program

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