NATYLIE BALDWIN – There have been recent reports of intensified fighting near the line of contact in the Donbass area of eastern Ukraine between Kiev forces and Donbass rebels who are supported by Russia. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission reported a rise in ceasefire violations at the end of the week before last from 89 to nearly 500. There are accusations back and forth of new attacks by Kiev forces on Donbass and a military buildup in Russia near the border with eastern Ukraine.
HAL FREEMAN – On January 15, 2020 Vladimir Putin delivered a speech to the Federal Assembly that attracted quite a bit of attention. I was reluctant to write a blog on it. There were many articles that appeared in English which focused on the speech. Yet, the vast majority misrepresented what Putin actually said while missing the speech’s very important main topics.
NATYLIE BALDWIN – In response to an attack last Friday in Iraq that killed a U.S. military contractor and injured several U.S. service members, the U.S. bombed Iraqi Shia militias known as Popular Mobilization Units (PMUâ€™s), particularly one known as Ketaib Hezbollah, which it claimed was responsible for the Friday attack. The Iraq government warned Washington not to conduct the retaliatory attack, citing violation of Iraqâ€™s sovereignty. The conflict has arisen amid a climate of relations that were already frayed as many of the recent popular protests in Iraq were partly an expression of disgust about perceived foreign control of the country by both the U.S. and neighboring Iran, in addition to domestic grievances.
NATYLIE BALDWIN: An interview with Nicolai N. Petro – I conducted an email interview with Nicolai N. Petro, professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island, on the state of democracy in todayâ€™s Russia, after having read his eye-opening 2018 journal article, â€œAre We Reading Russia Right?â€ His full biography is below the interview.
NATYLIE BALDWIN – Russia’s vast size â€“ the largest country geographically in the world â€“ and its prodigious resources are present for all to see. But now, having overcome its historical issues with poor agricultural policies, it also has the ability to feed itself, a highly educated citizenry, and the industrial infrastructure to support a space program as well as a sophisticated nuclear and defense system. It has the ability to build cars, trucks, and airplanes completely within its own borders. Unlike many countries in the world, it has very little external debt and major gold reserves. It is weathering the sanctions against it better than Iran or Venezuela.