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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2246

Moscow's vision for Syria;
Holding the line on Crimea

Edited by Ilan Berman and Margot Van Loon
August 27, 2018

July 24:

The Kremlin has a plan for the future of Syria - and is actively trying to sell it to Israel.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that Russian officials have floated the idea of a compromise solution to the current standoff between Israel and Iran in the south of Syria as part of an official visit to the Jewish state by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other high-ranking officials. Russia's proposed plan entails a commitment from Moscow to keep Iranian forces 100 kilometers from the Syrian-Israeli border as part of an arrangement that would be blessed by the Trump administration.

The concept, however, doesn't appear to be acceptable to Israeli officials, on practical grounds. "We will not allow the Iranians to establish themselves even 100 kilometers from the border," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is cited as saying, citing Iran's long-range rocket capabilities, which would put Israeli population centers at risk if the Islamic Republic maintains a military presence in Syria.

July 25:

Ahead of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's latest appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the State Department has issued a formal declaration reiterating U.S. criticism of Russia's role in the now four-and-a-half year-old crisis sparked by Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. The declaration,
which was published online by the State Department, condemns Moscow for destabilizing long-standing international norms and bedrock principles of sovereignty through its occupation of the Crimean Peninsula, and for acting "in a manner unworthy of a great nation." The document also reaffirms that the United States is committed to restoring Ukraine's full territorial sovereignty and will not recognize Russia's illegal annexation of the Peninsula.

News that President Trump invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to the White House in the wake of the Helsinki Summit has roiled the national security policy community in recent days, and caught the president's own cabinet members by surprise. However, the public reaction may have been premature.
ABC News now reports that National Security Advisor John Bolton is walking back the timeline for Putin's Washington visit, explaining that a second bilateral meeting should only take place "after the Russia witch hunt is over" (a reference to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into the question of Russian collusion in the 2016 election cycle). According to ABC, the two leaders may instead hold a sidebar during the G20 meeting in November, and Trump has indicated his desire to continue discussing joint U.S.-Russia efforts on "nuclear weapons, counterterrorism, and Israel's security."

The founder of one of Eastern Europe's most provocative feminist movements has died.
According to The Hill, London's Guardian newspaper has broken the news that 31-year-old Ukrainian Oksana Shachko was found deceased in her Paris apartment along with a suicide note, and that an official police investigation into her death is forthcoming. Shachko rose to fame in 2008 when she co-founded Femen, a group renowned for its members' topless protests against sexism, authoritarianism, and racism. The organization's work ran afoul of authorities in Russia and Belarus, and Shachko suffered intimidation and multiple kidnappings before choosing to give up her role and flee to France in 2013.

July 26:

Russia is committed to a large-scale reconstruction of Syria after the civil war there ends, and plans to do so along the lines followed by Soviet leadership within the USSR after World War II, a top Russian military official has said. "In the course of solving vital tasks for the Syrian people to restore the country, it is necessary to use historical experience," Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the National Centre for State Defence Control, has told Russian officials in Moscow in comments
carried by England's Daily Express.

"Here we can turn to history and the Russian state," Mizintsev continued. "I believe that the experience of our motherland in the restoration of the national economy after the Great Patriotic War is unparalleled. It is necessary to use our domestic post-war experience in the reconstruction of the country, as well as useful solutions used in other states affected by modern local wars and armed conflicts."

Related Categories: Russia; Democracy & Governance; Russia and Eurasia Program

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