January was marked, above all else, by renewed U.S.-Russian dialogue on a range of international issues, including Syria. For example, conditions were set for inter-Syrian dialogue, although hopes for success there are very small.
At the same time, the U.S. side is doing its share to ensure that initiatives for the positive development of U.S.-Russian relations become derailed by making provocative statements, such as the accusations made by U.S. Treasury Department official Adam Szubin about corruption within the Russian government. In the same vein, there was a change made to the military strategy of the European Command of the U.S. Armed Forces (EUCOM) that identifies Russia as a potential threat.
10. Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov’s visit to Indonesia
On Jan. 8, the Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov arrived on a visit to Indonesia. During the talks, he discussed prospective projects in railway construction, the mining industry, civil aviation, metallurgy, shipbuilding, nuclear power, the arms trade and a number of other areas.
During the visit, the Russian minister noted that the Eurasian Economic Union and Indonesia might soon start negotiations on the implementation of a free trade zone. Russia is stepping up its activities in the Asia-Pacific Region, where at this time a new rivalry between the U.S. and China is already unfolding.
9. Emir of Qatar’s visit to Moscow
Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani paid a visit to Moscow. He and Vladimir Putin discussed a number of important issues, including the price of gas and the situation in the Gaza Strip. However, the main topic of their conversation was Syria, in terms of the peace talks between Bashar al-Assad and the opposition that are just starting there.
The talks in Moscow were particularly important, because hitherto, there had been clearly noticeable divergences of opinion on many regional issues between Qatar and Russia. Although it is not possible to list any compromises reached, or any common positions established, the official declarations indicate, at the very least, the willingness to take into consideration each other’s positions.
8. Russia’s reaction to North Korea’s testing of a thermonuclear bomb
The DPRK announced yet another nuclear test – this time, a hydrogen bomb, which, according to North Korean authorities, moved the country’s potential “to a new level.” This event was often discussed between Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry, as well as during telephone conversations between Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama.
Obviously, this challenge to international security coming from North Korea could not pass unnoticed. On Jan. 28, the United States announced the tightening of sanctions against North Korea. However, it is clear that the sanctions path usually does not lead to any rapid and expected results.
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Russia is ready to soften the food embargo, to finance major projects in Greece and participate in privatization. Experts, however, believe that the gradual normalization of relations with Brussels is more to the advantage of Moscow than an open split in the EU.
In its foreign policy, Moscow is increasingly demonstrating a greater willingness to develop the bilateral format of relations with all partners, rather than participating in multilateral political processes. This focus on bilateral ties has been demonstrated by the recent meeting between the top two Russian and American diplomats – Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry – in Zurich, as well as the visit to Moscow of the Emir of Qatar, Tamim al-Thani.
Indulgence of such a confrontational leader — in unison with the Russia’s growing reactionary ideological mood — is tipping the country into the archaic past, while marginalizing it internationally, not only in the West, but also in the East. In China, which claims to be a strategic partner of Russia, experts are extremely skeptical about Chechen home rule, seeing it more as a sign of weakness than strength.
Unquestionably, no one likes to see a recession. It causes discomfort for industry and the public alike. But it also poses a unique opportunity that the government is attempting to seize. Through its efforts to expedite structural reform and diversify the economy, it is striving to ensure that Russia emerges stronger than ever. Indeed, making the right moves now will make it better prepared to ride the next economic wave and to avoid, or at least mitigate, future cataclysms.