Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2205

The cost of the Kremlin's political meddling in Europe;
Back to official anti-Semitism

April 11, 2018

March 11:

The Kremlin's policy of supporting far-right groups in Europe is damaging its international standing and even Russia’s internal stability, a leading Russian think tank has warned.
Vedomosti reports that a new study by RANEPA, the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, has argued that "Russia's support for extreme right-wing foreign parties and movements is causing tangible harm to the image of our country, and it should be abandoned."

The reasons the authors of the study cite are practical. They note that groups like Germany's AfD, which has garnered public backing from the Putin regime, "enjoy weak support from the electorate, their chances of gaining influence on political decisions are small, while the risks from their support by Russia are palpable - in particular, sympathy for them gives a green light to those who can destabilize the sphere of interethnic relations within Russia." This, in turn, could have serious consequences for Russian politics by legitimizing ultranationalist organizations that represent a danger to Russia's own social cohesion.

Russia's president has resorted to anti-Semitism to explain away Russia's international meddling. In an interview with NBC's Megyn Kelly that the
Washington Post described as "long and occasionally surreal," Vladimir Putin suggested that Russian Jewish groups may bear responsibility for interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential elections. "Maybe they're not even Russians," Putin said of the perpetrators. "Maybe they're Ukrainian, Tatars, Jews - just with Russian citizenship."

Given Russia's history of anti-Semitism and the systematic Soviet denial of legal and religious rights to its Jewish citizens, the comments predictably generated widespread outrage. Anti-Defamation League president Jonathan Greenblatt denounced the statement, saying that it "sounds as if it was ripped from the pages of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion," the infamous propaganda screed of the early 20th Century. The Post observes that the remarks are a stark contrast to the early Putin years, when the Russian president condemned Holocaust deniers and made overtures to the Jewish diaspora that had fled the Soviet Union.

March 12:

A new study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has documented that Russia remains the world's second-largest arms dealer (after the United States), exporting 20 percent of the total global volume of weapons to 47 countries and non-state actors (including, notably, separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine). However, in contrast to the United States, Russian weapons sales are trending downward, falling 7 percent since SIPRI's last five-year comparison cycle. The next three largest exporters are responsible for much smaller shares; France, in third place, constitutes a mere 6.7 percent of global volume.

The EU has renewed its sanctions on Russia,
Radio Svoboda reports. The European decision extends for six months existing European economic restrictions against 150 citizens and 38 companies in connection with the Kremlin's ongoing campaign of aggression against neighboring Ukraine.

March 13:

Russia's growing nuclear cooperation with the African nation of Sudan constitutes a sizeable proliferation risk,
according to a new analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security, a leading U.S. nonproliferation think tank. Russia reportedly recently signed a "roadmap" with Sudan paving the way for Moscow to help Khartoum build nuclear power stations. But "Sudan has poor export controls, no adherence to nuclear power safety or nuclear terrorism conventions, and weak safeguards standards," the study notes, raising the risks that nuclear technology transferred to the Sudanese government might make its way onto the international black market. The Kremlin should be encouraged not to sell nuclear components or share nuclear know-how with the Sudanese government, the analysis concludes. "The risks are too high."

Related Categories: Africa; Europe; Russia; Arms Trade; Russia and Eurasia Program

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