Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2149

Kislyak's next gig;
Wargames, or a "Trojan Horse"?


August 23, 2017


July 18:

Citing the Russian daily Vedomosti,
The Moscow Times reports that Sergei Kislyak, Russia's longtime (and controversial) ambassador to the United States, will be appointed to the upper house of Russia's parliament, known as the Federation Council, this Fall. Kislyak was recently recalled from Washington after having served as the Kremlin's envoy for nearly ten years. He had maintained a fairly low profile until becoming embroiled in scandal over the past several months relating to his contacts with President Donald Trump and several of his close associates during the 2016 campaign season.

Kislyak's new position on the Council will take effect after regional elections slated for this September. His replacement in Washington, meanwhile, will be former deputy foreign minister Anatoly Antonov.

Recent cyberattacks carried out against major Ukrainian businesses and government institutions involved a piece of malware that U.S. security specialists have dubbed "NotPetya."
The Washington Free Beacon reports that the attacks are suspected to have originated either from within the Russian government itself or to have been carried out by affiliated hackers. The damage caused by "NotPetya" included, among other things, tampering with banking computer networks and scrambling data on the computers responsible for radiation detection at Chernobyl. Cybersecurity specialists believe the objective of the attacks was to cripple the Ukrainian economy and disrupt industrial and government activity.

The Russian government is intensifying its crackdown on free expression on the Internet,
Human Rights Watch has charged in its latest report. The study, titled "Online and On All Fronts: Russia's Assault on Freedom of Expression," notes that recently proposed legislation will criminalize certain speech on the Internet deemed to be hateful or "extremist," and that since 2012 the Russian government has prosecuted dozens of Internet users for an array of posts, statuses, comments and videos. In the future, Russian social media companies will be required to delete undesired content within 24 hours of appearance or risk legal repercussions.

July 19:

The State Duma has passed legislation that strips terrorists of citizenship if they are naturalized Russian citizens,
The Moscow Times reports. The bill comes largely as a response to the April bombing of the St. Petersburg metro, in which a Kyrgyz suicide bomber with Russian citizenship killed 14 commuters. Under the law, natural-born Russian citizens accused of terrorism will not be subject to having their citizenship revoked. Other provisions in the legislation include clauses making it easier for Ukrainian nationals to obtain Russian citizenship and a requirement for all foreigners seeking such status to swear a mandatory oath.

July 20:

U.S. allies in Eastern Europe have expressed worried that "Zapad 2017," Russia's planned wargames in Belarus this September, could actually be a cover for an effort by the Russian government to preposition military equipment close to the Baltic states. "People are worried, this is a Trojan horse,”
Reuters reports Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the head of U.S. Army forces in Europe, as saying. "They say, 'We're just doing an exercise,' and then all of a sudden they've moved all these people and capabilities somewhere."

According to MSN, Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new naval strategy that sees America as attempting to dominate the world's oceans in order to threaten Russia. The document, which outlines the Kremlin's maritime priorities through the year 2030, lays out the view that Russia must respond to and counter "the striving of a series of governments, above all the United States of America and its allies to dominate the oceans, including in the Arctic and also to reach an intimidating supremacy with its naval forces." At the same time, the paper notes, those nations are trying to "reduce the effectiveness" of Russia's navy through "economic, political, legal, and military pressure." The strategy calls for a strengthening of the Russian navy in response, in particular in theaters like the Arctic region, which is seen by the Kremlin as both a key area for development and an arena for potential conflict with other world powers.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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