Letter From the Editors: Feb. 15 - 21, 2016

Author: Laurence Bogoslaw

A Big Week in Munich: Supporting Players Take Center Stage

This week marked a relatively rare appearance by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in the international arena, standing in at the annual Munich Security Conference for the far more attention-getting international "bad boy" Vladimir Putin. (Last year, Putin also sent a substitute to Munich - Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov - who had the thankless task of answering for Moscow's recent aggressive actions in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine.) This time around, in the wake of the first three months of the Russian military operation in Syria, Medvedev could speak from a position of (relative) strength: He called upon the West to join Russia in its fight against global terrorism. "If we do not normalize the situation in Syria and other hot spots, then terrorism will become a new kind of war in which the whole world will become embroiled.*** Terrorism is a civilizational problem."

This open invitation to collaboration drew praise from Yevgeny Shestakov, who commented in Rossiiskaya gazeta that Medvedev's speech marked a "watershed" in Moscow's relations with Europe. However, Shestakov expressed skepticism that a "shuttered" Europe, immersed in its own narrow interests, was ready for such collaboration. (Curiously, he gave credit to a figure seldom mentioned in our Digest pages - Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite - for leading an anti-Russian contingent that is "calling the shots" in the EU.) Meanwhile, Vladimir Frolov claimed that in making his magnanimous gesture, Medvedev was insisting on a "parallel reality" in which Russia has lived for many years: "The message of Medvedev's Munich speech is simple.*** Let's pretend that nothing dramatic happened between Russia and the West in 2014 - 2015***and lift all reciprocal sanctions. However***Russia will not change anything in its policy, let alone correct anything."

Pavel Felgengauer makes a similar observation about Moscow's brand of cooperation in the International Syria Support Group, which ...

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