Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2237

The race for submarine supremacy;
New decree relives WWII battles... and revives Soviet nostalgia

July 31, 2018

June 29:

For the sixth year in a row, Russia remains on the U.S. government's list of the world's worst human traffickers.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that in the State Department's just released annual Trafficking in Persons report, Russia shares its Tier 3 ranking with the likes of Belarus, Iran, China, North Korea, and Syria. The poor marks stem from the State Department's assessment that the Russian government made no significant efforts toward eliminating trafficking over the past year, while routinely engaging in unjust detention, deportations, and prosecutions of trafficking victims forced into labor or prostitution. According to RFE/RL, even Pakistan received a more favorable assessment, gaining an upgrade this year from Tier 3 to Tier 2 after the State Department determined that Islamabad had made efforts to bring its standards up to compliance.

June 30:

The arms race between the world's three largest navies is rapidly gaining speed.
USA Today details the extensive efforts now being made by the United States, Russia, and China to modernize and expand their respective nuclear ballistic submarine and attack submarine fleets. With land and air domains increasingly contested in a conflict scenario, analysts forecast that the submarine leg of a country's nuclear triad will take on greater strategic importance as the only reliable guarantor of mutually assured destruction. Reportedly, the ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea have compounded fears of actual great power conflict breaking out beneath the waves, rendering the mission of underwater supremacy ever more vital.

Such costly next generation programs necessitate tradeoffs, and each country has prioritized the development of different capabilities. USA Today writes that while Russia and China are striving to surpass the U.S. in stealth and speed, the U.S. programs are targeting improved cost and operating efficiencies and longer submarine lifespans. At least for now, naval and military analysts interviewed for the article assess that the U.S. will retain its undersea edge as a result in part of superior sub-surface capabilities and lethality as well as complementary research and engineering efforts in underwater unmanned technologies. Moreover, some pointed out that Russia's industrial base is not strong enough to support its ambitious design plans, which may lead its subs to fall short of desired performance standards.

July 1:

Slowly but surely, Russian-Egyptian nuclear cooperation is moving forward.
Reuters reports that Egypt's energy and electricity ministry has announced that Russia will begin construction of the country's first nuclear power plant in the next two to two-and-a-half years in order to get the plant up and running by 2026. The plant is the outcome of a 2015 bilateral agreement between Moscow and Cairo, as part of which Russia agreed not only to build the plant but to loan Egypt $25 billion to fund 85 percent of the total construction costs.

Thousands of protesters in multiple Russian cities have taken to the streets to signal their opposition to the Kremlin's plans for a pension age hike.
Current Time reports that the protests, which took place in Chelyabinsk, Tomsk and Krasnodar, among other locations, came in response to the Russian government's recently-unveiled plans for an increase in the national retirement age, but quickly became a broader condemnation of President Vladimir Putin's government, with speakers calling for his ouster.

July 2:

According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Vladimir Putin has signed a decree bestowing honorific titles on certain missile and tank regiments - titles derived from cities that were crucial to Russian military victories in World War II. The honorifics, which include Lviv, Zhytomyr-Berlin, and Warsaw, lie beyond Russian borders in countries where the Soviet post-war legacy remains more sinister; in all, the Kremlin sourced the names from cities across Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Germany, and Romania. RFE/RL writes that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and fears of future Russian territorial aggression in Eastern Europe render the decrees extremely provocative.

Related Categories: Russia; Arms Trade; Russia and Eurasia Program; Nuclear Proliferation

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