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Recent Tensions between Russia and the West
(Released May 2008)

  by Fiona Allison  


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News Articles

  1. New title, same old Putin

    The Boston Globe 04-25-2008

    IF POLITICAL leaders were ranked for originality in their pursuit of power, President Vladimir Putin of Russia would be world champion. First he designated his loyal sidekick, Dmitry Medvedev, to be his successor. Then he had Medvedev announce that - surprise! - Putin would become prime minister after May 7, when the new president takes the oath of office.

    Finally, last week Putin had himself unanimously acclaimed chairman of the dominant United Russia Party - but without soiling his immaculate czar-like authority by allowing himself to be made a party member. Putin is playing his own riff on an old conservative dictum that says: In order for things to remain the same, they have to change a little. While taking new titles, Putin has been able to keep himself the unchanging repository of all the power that counts in Russia.

    The trick is to have accomplished this feat while respecting the constitutional rule that prohibits a president from serving for three successive terms. His predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, created a constitution that endowed the Russian presidency with enormous powers. During Putin's two terms as president, he expanded those powers by doing away with the election of regional governors and appointing them instead; having the state take charge of national TV networks; placing his Kremlin cronies in control of state-run energy conglomerates; clamping down on nongovernmental organizations; and molding a pliant United Russia Party that now controls 315 of 450 seats in the Duma, or Parliament.

    Today, Putin's transparent aim is to retain real power over the affairs of Russia until the day when, under the Russian constitution, he can legally return to the Kremlin as president. Medvedev is to keep the throne warm for his master. Addicts of power in other political systems can only envy Putin his ingeniousness.

  2. How Litvinenko affair has warmed up chilly tactics from Cold War

    INTERNATIONAL; Birmingham Post 01-17-2008

    The detention of British Council officials in St Petersburg is the latest swipe by a Russian bear unafraid to bare its teeth at Britain.

    Since the murder in London of Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB agent and outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, the rift between the two countries has widened and deepened. The Litvinenko incident burst on to the front pages in November 2006 when it emerged the Russian dissident was in hospital suffering from suspected radiation poisoning.

    His slow death came after he ingested Polonium-210, a rare substance that left a radioactive trail back to his suspected killer.

    Police identified Alexander Lugovoi, a businessman and former KGB bodyguard as the prime suspect, and followed the Polonium back to a hotel where the pair met shortly before Litvinenko fell ill.

    Litvinenko's friends have repeatedly accused the Russian government and former KGB boss Putin of being behind the killing.

    In May last year, Britain requested Lugovoi's extradition. Russia refused and the two countries have been in an uneasy stand-off ever since. Britain expelled four Russia diplomats, provoking outrage from Moscow.

    The Foreign Office also raised concerns about whether Russian parliamentary elections, held in December, had been free and fair.

    There were widespread reports of malpractice at the polls, which resulted in a crushing victory for allies of President Putin.

    The EU and Russia have also been at loggerheads over independence in Kosovo. Energy policy is a further source of tension, as Russia uses its huge oil and gas reserves to exercise influence over satellite countries.

    Last month, President Putin demanded the closure of the two British Council offices outside Moscow. Britain refused, and staff remained at the offices in St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg on the east side of the Ural mountains.

    The detention of British Council officials is the latest evidence of strong-arming by Moscow, but it is unlikely to be the last.

  3. Post-Putin Russia To Bolster State Energy Role

    Petroleum Intelligence Weekly 01-03-2008

    The Mar. 2 presidential election will dominate events in Russia for the first few months of 2008. Even though President Vladimir Putin's handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, is expected to win comfortably, there will be much debate over Putin's future role and influence. It is safe to say, however, that his central themes of resource nationalism and winning more power for the state will remain at the top of the agenda (PIW Dec.24,p2). Putin has agreed to serve as prime minister if Medvedev, former chairman of state gas giant Gazprom, wins the election, but such is Putin's popularity that it is widely assumed that he will continue to wield a hefty influence as a "national leader." He will want to build on the national resurgence that started under his rule and has been crucially underpinned by sharply higher energy prices.

    The outlook for Russia's privately held oil giants, such as Lukoil and TNK-BP, is less certain, and to a large extent dependent on the evolution of their relationships with state behemoths Gazprom and Rosneft. Lukoil set up a joint exploration company at the end of 2007 with Gazprom's oil arm, Gazprom Neft, in which the latter will have a 51% stake. This unequal relationship in favor of the state is symptomatic of the trend -- Gazprom Neft will gain access to Lukoil's bountiful reserves, while Lukoil will gain mainly through having a closer relationship with Kremlin power base Gazprom. For TNK-BP, the main uncertainty concerns its 50% Russian stakeholding, currently held by private investors Alfa Access Renova. As of Jan. 1 this year they are free to sell up, and there has been growing speculation that either Gazprom or Rosneft could be interested in buying in. A tie-up with a Russian state entity would also have advantages for BP in moving forward with its projects (PIW Sep.10,p2).

    Among foreign oil and gas companies, Exxon Mobil looks set to have a fight on its hands this year over the fate of gas sales from its Sakhalin-1 project on the Russian Pacific shelf. The US supermajor wants to build a pipeline to China, but its budget proposal for this was disallowed last month by Moscow, which wants the gas to meet growing domestic demand (p7). After Russia wrested back control of Sakhalin-2 from Royal Dutch Shell and the Kovykta gas field in East Siberia from TNK-BP, the writing is on the wall for Exxon (PIW Aug.13,p3). Opportunities for outsiders in Russia are becoming more limited and every significant deal requires the Kremlin's blessing. Putin's policy for foreign investors will remain in force in 2008 -- form alliances with state firms, agree to a minority role, bring technology and money, and help Russian companies expand abroad.

    In the Caspian, Russia ended 2007 on a triumphant note, consolidating its grip on the region's energy flows with a series of agreements on oil and gas pipelines and prices. Russia's domination will deal a blow to Western efforts to diversify export routes, particularly through a trans-Caspian pipeline from Turkmenistan. Central Asian gas is vital to underpin Russia's own domestic and export commitments, and new deals with Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to increase payments to $150 per thousand cubic meters by the end of 2008 from $100/Mcm last year should help to avoid any nasty shocks to Russian supplies to Europe -- where Moscow charges around $275/ Mcm for its gas (PIW Dec.3,p4). Plans were agreed for a new gas pipeline from Turkmenistan via Kazakhstan to Russia, and Moscow also agreed to approve a long-delayed expansion of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium oil pipeline from Kazakhstan to the Black Sea.Post-Putin Russia To Bolster State Energy Role

    Copyright Energy Intelligence Group Jan 3, 2008

News Articles taken from ProQuest's eLibrary

Historical Newspapers

  1. A GORBACHEV HINT FOR BERLIN WALL; It 'Can Disappear,' Russian Says, if Need for It Ends

    Serge Schmemann
    New York Times, Jun 16, 1989. pg. A1, 2 pgs

    BONN, June 15 -- Wrapping up a triumphant visit to West Germany, President Mikhail S. Gorbachev said today that the Berlin wall was not necessarily permanent, but would be taken down only when conditions that created it fell away.

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  2. Russia and Its Nasty Neighborhood Brawls; The World

    Serge Schmemann
    New York Times, Oct 18, 1992. pg. E1, 2 pgs

    MOSCOW EVERY time the smoke of a new ethnic brush fire rises on the horizon, anxious glances turn to Russia. The reflex is as involuntary as it is natural: If the flame were ever to spread through the unstable tangle of the collapsed empire, the inferno would be awesome.

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  3. Russian Prime Minister Refuses to Rule Out New Chechen War

    Celestine Bohlen
    New York Times, Sep 30, 1999. pg. A7, 1 pgs

    MOSCOW, Sept. 29 -- As Russian and international agencies struggled to keep up with the tide of Chechen refugees fleeing air strikes by Russian warplanes, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin refused today to rule out a possible ground war against the rebellioussouthern province.

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Taken from ProQuest's Historical Newspapers


  1. Robert H. Legvold
    Marshall D. Shulman Professor, Department of Political Science, Columbia University
    Dr. Legvold's areas of particular interest are the foreign policies of Russia, Ukraine, and the other new states of the former Soviet Union, U.S. relations with the post-Soviet states, and the impact of the post-Soviet region on the international politics of Asia and Europe.

  2. Harley D. Balzer
    Associate Professor/CG Field Chair, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
    Dr. Balzer's research interests include political economy, Russian domestic politics, education, Russian and Soviet social history, science and technology, and US-Russian relations.

    He is currently completing work on three major projects. One is a comparative analysis of Russian and Chinese integration with the global economy. The second, focusing on current Russian political conditions, is tentatively titled "Russia's Democratic Dilemmas: Putin, Population and Petroleum." The third deals with financing higher education in The Russian Empire, the USSR, and the Russian Federation, with the working title "State-Private Partnerships in Russian Higher Education: Historical Models and Current Policy."

  3. Andrei Shleifer
    Whipple V. N. Jones Professor, Department of Economics, Harvard University
    Transition to market economy in Russia, corporate law and finance.

  4. Joan DeBardeleben
    Professor, Department of Political Sciences, Carleton University; Professor, Institute of European and Russian Studies, Carleton University

Scholars taken from ProQuest's Community of Scholars