Letter From the Editors: Sept.26-Oct.9, 2016

Author: Matthew Larson

Russia’s Syria Operation Turns One; Moscow Pulls Out of Nuclear Waste Recycling Agreement; Dutch Prosecutors Release Findings of MH17 Investigation.

Sept. 30, 2016, marks the one-year anniversary of the start of Russia’s military intervention in Syria, and the question analysts are asking now is: What does Russia have to show for it? Not much, says Vladimir Frolov, who points out that while Russia saved the Bashar Assad regime from imminent collapse, it has helped him regain only about 2% of the territory he had lost since 2011. But perhaps more important than what Russia’s air strikes are doing for Assad is the signal they are sending to the West. Frolov suggests that Putin benefits from the current escalation of the conflict in Syria, as it offers the Kremlin a chance to demonstrate its military might and level the playing field between the two former cold war rivals. In essence, Syria is starting to resemble a 1970s-era proxy war between Washington and Moscow, says a Moscow Times source.

As if to confirm its willingness to raise the stakes in the apparently unfinished rivalry for global superpower status, the Kremlin abruptly introduced a bill to withdraw from the Russian-American Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement, prompted by Washington’s actions to change the military-strategic balance, destabilize the Russian economy and violate the rights of Russian citizens (according to an explanatory memo accompanying the bill). Moscow says that to renew the deal, "Washington must cut its military presence in NATO countries, lift sanctions, abolish the so-called Magnitsky [Act]. .. and pay compensation for losses Russia has suffered under the sanctions." The goal of this blackmail, says Tatyana Stanovaya, is to give US President Barack Obama a "nasty parting shot" before he leaves the White House (and perhaps give Donald Trump a leg up in the US presidential race).

The PMDA withdrawal announcement coincided with the publication of the ...

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