Wednesday, April 18, 2018
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Top News

U.S. Spearheads Missile Strike in Syria After Warnings from Russia

The United Stated, Great Britain and France carried out a joint missile strike on alleged Syrian chemical weapons facilities on April 14.

Russia's envoy to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, had appealed to the US to "refrain form any plans that [the U.S.] is currently developing" for a military response to an alleged chemical attack by Syrian forces on rebel-held Douma. Russia, he said, would hold the U.S. fully accountable for any such measure.

The UN Security Council failed to approve an independent investigation into the attack after Russia and the U.S. vetoed one another's proposals on April 10. An OPCW team would be deployed to determine whether or not chemical weapons were used, but would not assign blame. Since the strike, the U.S. has accused Russia of blocking OPCW access to the chemical weapons attack site, a charge which Russia has denied.

ANALYSIS: An examination of what the Syria strike could mean for U.S.-Russia relations. (Bloomberg)

Dmitry Trenin on the need to update Russian policy in the South Caucasus (The Moscow Times)

One take on Uzbekistan's recent move to give immunity to security services (Eurasianet)

An analysis of the roles of Western international organizations and Russia in the Balkans today (The New York Times)

After the U.S.and its allies carried out a joint missile strike on Syria, the ruble exchange rates took only a very slight hit. Other minor changes include the fall of the RTS index by 0.63% and the MosBirzhi index by 0.37%. The ruble and stocks jumped after Trump announced he would not institute sanctions, reversing these losses. Read more>>>
Russian Politics

Duma to Discuss Sanctions on U.S.

In light of initial U.S. plans to introduce further sanctions against Russia, the Duma was considering a proposal to sanction U.S. companies. These measures would prohibit U.S. companies such as Boeing and General Electric from doing business with the Russian aerospace and nuclear industries.

If introduced, these sanctions could significantly impact both domestic and U.S. trade in titanium and enriched uranium. Other proposed measures would target U.S. agricultural, beverage, and pharmaceutical products.

DIPLOMATIC CORPS: On April 12, a statement issued by the British police quoted Yulia Skripal as saying that she did not wish to avail herself of the services offered by the Embassy of the Russian Federation to the U.K. for the time being.

Russian diplomatic officials in the U.K. have expressed doubt over the authenticity of the statement, calling for tangible proof that Yulia Skripal did indeed reject consular assistance and that she is not forcibly being kept in isolation by British authorities.

ROSKOMNADZOR: A Moscow court officially approved the state communications watchdog's request to block Telegram in Russia. The messenger app missed a deadline to turn over encryption keys to the FSB on April 4th. The company stated that the platform was built in such a way that not even company executives had access to customer encryption keys.

View from Washington

Trump Rejects New Round of Sanctions Against Russia

Despite the announcement by U.S. ambassador to the UN on Sunday that the United States would enact a new round of sanctions against Russia on April 16, Trump ultimately decided not to go forward with these sanctions.

The proposed sanctions were originally included in a list of possible further U.S. responses to the suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria. Trump reportedly made his decision in light of the muted Russian response to the American-led airstrike. 

WHITE HOUSE: Hours after an April 11 tweet that criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin's partnership with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, U.S. President Donald Trump made a disparate statement in which he suggested the U.S. could help bolster the Russian economy and improve relations. Trump did not specify which economic measures could be used to accomplish this.

CYBER: Reddit has exposed and suspended 944 accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian organization recently indicted in the Mueller probe. However, many of the accounts were largely unpopular, and only seven accounts with a karma score higher than 10,000 survived the previous purge that took place prior to the 2016 election.

In other news, Great Britain and the United States have made an unprecedented joint statement warning citizens about potential Russian cyberattacks to governments, businesses, and individuals. Technical guidance on cybersecurity for companies and individuals also formed part of the release.

Eastern Europe and Eurasia

Merkel: No Nord Stream II Without Ukraine Transit

During an April 10 meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German chancellor Angela Merkel said that she had expressed to Russia that "a Nord Stream 2 project is not possible without clarity over the future transit role of Ukraine." 

In her phone call with Russian President Putin the day prior to the meeting with Poroshenko, Merkel emphasized the necessity for Ukraine to maintain its strategic significance in gas transit to Europe. The project, which would bring Russian gas to Germany via the Baltic Sea, has many German and other European investors. 

ARMENIA: On April 16th, protesters blocked some of Yerevan's main thoroughfares and metro stations. These actions come after several days of protests on France Square in response to the nomination of ex-president Serzh Sargsyan to the post of Prime Minister. 

HUNGARY: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's party, Fidesz, won a parliamentary majority in national elections on April 8. Fidesz now has the power to change the Constitution. Turnout is reported to have exceeded 70 percent. Western observers were alarmed at the significant presence of anti-immigrant rhetoric by the party in the leadup to the elections.
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