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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2178

Fear and loathing (of the West) in Moscow;
The Kremlin courts Cairo for military basing

Edited by Ilan Berman
December 27, 2017

November 29:

Russian lawmakers are worried over the potential for pernicious Western influence to corrupt Russian youth.
RBK reports that a new Federation Council study has warned that Western nations are gradually preparing "color revolutions" against Russia, utilizing gullible Russian youngsters. The report, prepared by the Interim Commission of the Federation Council for the Protection of State Powers, highlights a growing potential of widespread "social destabilization" or even a "coup d'etat" against the Kremlin in the next decade as a result of external influence. The report comes amid rising concerns among Russian officials that Western powers could interfere in Russia's upcoming presidential elections next year, in much the same way that Russian elements attempted to exert an influence on the 2016 U.S. electoral cycle.

Russia is poised to expand its naval presence in the Pacific.
According to The Diplomat, Russia's Navy will add no fewer than ten new warships to its Pacific Fleet next year. "In 2018, the Pacific Fleet plans to receive about 10 advanced warships and support vessels," Pacific Fleet Spokesman Nikolay Voskresensky has confirmed to Russian media sources in recent days.

November 30:

Russia's strategic footprint in the Middle East is about to get considerably bigger.
The Egypt Independent reports that Russian and Egyptian officials have come to terms on a draft deal that would allow the two countries to use each other's airspace and airbases. The deal, unveiled during a state visit to Cairo by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, will be valid for five years, and "covers not only fighter jets and bombers, but also airborne radar pickets and military transport planes carrying hazardous cargo."

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The agreement, while formally reciprocal, is heavily weighted in favor of Moscow. Once implemented, it will provide the Russian government with new basing options in North Africa, complementing the strategic foothold Russia has solidified in the Eastern Mediterranean as a result of the Syrian civil war.]

Denmark has just struck a blow to Russia's energy plans,
ZIK reports. According to the Ukrainian news website, Danish lawmakers have passed a law banning Russia from engaging in construction of its much-anticipated North Stream-2 natural gas pipeline in their country's territorial waters. The Danish move comes in response to calls from the European Council for European countries to block the construction of the pipeline amid continuing EU sanctions against Russia for its conduct in Ukraine.

December 1:

The Kremlin is working to reassure Washington regarding its strategic capabilities.
Itar-TASS reports Russia's new ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, as saying that the country will fulfill its commitments under the 2010 New Start treaty by February of 2018. "I would like to assure you that the Russian side will fulfill its obligations" under the agreement, which was signed in Prague in April 2010 by President Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Antonov confirmed in a recent speech.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: On the surface, Antonov's comments are a welcome sign of Russia's commitment to continued bilateral arms reductions with the U.S. However, experts have warned that the opposite could actually be true - and that the parameters of New Start may facilitate a major Russian strategic build-up. This is because the treaty mandates that the parties should have no more than 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads. Russia's current arsenal of 501 deployed missiles and bombers and 1,561 deployed warheads falls significantly short of this threshold, meaning that Moscow is actually within its rights under the treaty to substantially expand its strategic arsenal to meet New Start limits.]

Related Categories: Middle East; Africa; Europe; Russia and Eurasia Program

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