Russia Monitor Articles
Russian President Vladimir Putin attended an expanded meeting of the Russian Defense Ministry Board. The Russian leader made some remarks on what he referred to as the “special military operation” in Ukraine, but what Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told the meeting seemed more far-reaching. He publicly presented a series of proposed Russian defense policy changes to significantly increase the size of the Russian military by raising the age limit for conscripts and forming a new military unit near the border with Finland, a prospective NATO member.
Russian gas giant Gazprom was forced to reduce its export volumes due to the war and sanctions. Despite that, it opened a new Arctic field. A major problem is rebuilding infrastructure to redirect gas flows from the Gulf of Ob to China from Europe.
Moldova has imported natural gas from new directions, for the first time obtaining volumes pumped from elsewhere than Russian state-run gas firm Gazprom. The pro-Western government in Chisinau is seeking to diversify its energy resources and accumulate supplies against the background of Gazprom’s policy that consists in using gas as a tool of blackmail.
The Russian economy has somewhat performed well throughout 2022 and experienced the aftermath of energy sanctions only in November. Officials and analysts have been gradually improving GDP forecasts for the full year, but suggested that the overall drop in output may be more prolonged. Gross domestic product fell 0.9 percent, according to September estimates, but now it could be 2 percent. The key story for the Russian economy in the coming months could be the launch of the EU’s oil embargo mechanism from Dec. 5 and the imposition of a price cap on Russian oil.
Employees of Russian state-run oil and gas companies have been banned from leaving the country, according to independent Russian media outlets. Gazprom employees have seen the strictest ban as neither they nor their families are allowed to travel abroad. It is another chapter of Russia’s wartime communism strategy that seeks to align the state economy with its war machine. Likewise, the authorities hope to prevent senior energy officials from fleeing the country.
Putin’s regime has continued its crackdown on citizens by introducing tighter laws on sabotage. Russia’s State Duma, which is the lower house of the Russian parliament, has submitted a pile of bills on the country’s war with Ukraine. On the one hand, Russia is tightening penalties for sabotage while seeking to waive criminal liability for crimes committed in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine until late September on the other.
Russia and Iran have stepped up their military and security cooperation. Moscow provides Tehran with training and anti-riot equipment in exchange for weapons and drones. Officials from both states hold working visits. After Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev had met with his Iranian counterpart, more senior Iranian and Russian military and law enforcement agencies officials have been involved in a whirlwind of meetings and talks.
Dozens of Europe’s biggest companies have abandoned their operations in Russia. But regulations and deals in force slow down the procedure of quitting the country. Importantly, Western firms abandon joint projects with both state-run and private companies throughout Russia.
As the European Union introduced a ban on Russian oil, Moscow is diverting its crude from Europe to Asia. Now Russia will sell its crude to Pakistan. Moscow’s recent moves have deepened Saudi Arabia’s anxiety as the country has been the biggest oil supplier regionwide.
Turkey has taken advantage of Russia’s uneasy situation amid its invasion of Ukraine, seeking to force Moscow into a pile of political and economic concessions. One example of that is Turkish efforts to block Russian oil tankers. The government in Ankara seems to prioritize its gains in Syria, notably in its clash with Syrian Kurds.
From January to October 2022, Russia sent $3.1 billion worth of piped natural gas to China, a 182 percent increase from 2021, the General Administration of Customs of China reported.
Algeria is forging ever-growing military ties with Russia through joint military drills and substantial arms supply deals. Moscow has many assets that attract Algeria while collaboration with Algeria solidifies Russian influence in northern Africa.
The Russian energy market is seeing further reshuffles as Western companies quit the country, with domestic firms taking over their assets. Among those Russian companies is Lukoil, a privately run oil producer. Business decisions seem to have a political, rather than a financial background. Russia’s oil giant Lukoil has taken over assets in joint ventures between Western firms and Russian state-run companies.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit in Yerevan ended sourly as Armenia refused to sign a draft declaration due to the absence of a political assessment of Azerbaijan’s aggression against the territorial integrity of Armenia. This is yet another sign of Russia’s loosening grip on former Soviet republics.