Russia Links – August 18, 2016

It seems like there is a competition for worldwide attention. Donald Trump has it wrapped up at the moment, but Vladimir Putin is making a strong attempt. We can expect Kim Jong Un to weigh in soon, especially since his deputy ambassador to the UK has defected to South Korea (photo of North Korean embassy in London from here).

Here’s some of the news about Russia.

I am wary of analysis that pretends to know what Putin is thinking. It is possible to weave scenarios around his actions, and work through the details of personnel changes and such. But there are usually several possible interpretations, and Putin works to keep his motives opaque. So I read the analysis and keep multiple possible interpretations in mind. I can’t claim to have settled on any one of them.

Putin’s new chief of staff has written some strange things.

The big question about the latest claims of Ukrainian saboteurs entering Crimea and killing people is why Putin brought it up. It would seem that he is building a case for more military action or perhaps is trying to argue for a new round of Minsk negotiations. And it appears that those claims are unfounded.

Russia has been claiming that joint operations between the US and Russia in Aleppo are becoming more likely. As I said in my post on Syria, I doubt that. There may be some agreement not to get in each other’s way, or to allow humanitarian aid, but it’s unlikely to go further. The claims are one more indication of how much Russia wants a great-power condominium with the US.

An oblique connection between the Russian arms merchant Viktor Bout and Donald Trump.

A bit more about Paul Manafort’s connections in Ukraine. There are many articles appearing on Manafort, not much new in them.

Long read: Sofi Oksanen on what it’s like to write about Russia. It’s hard for Westerners, particularly Americans, to understand what life was like in Estonia and Finland during the Cold War. I had to get through a great deal of reflexive disbelief when I started going to Estonia. Oksanen’s novels are helpful, too.


Not-Russia Links

Lessons learned from recent missions to eliminate weapons of mass destruction. As an aside, I’ll note that the fact that there have been several indicates that countries are moving away from nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Not entirely banned yet, but getting there.

20 science questions for the presidential candidates