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Putin’s Syrian Gambit: Sharper Elbows, Bigger Footprint, Stickier Wicket July 6, 2017 — Thanks in large part to Russia’s military intervention, Syrian president Bashar al-Asad’s fortunes have made a remarkable recovery since May/June 2015. Russia, together with the Lebanese Hizballah, Iran, and Iranian-organized Shia militias from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere, has succeeded in averting Asad’s military defeat. What Russian president Vladimir Putin has accomplished in Syria is important for American national security interests and policy in the region because it frames some of the hard choices Washington must now make. MORE

The Soviet Biological Weapons Program and Its Legacy in Today’s Russia July 18, 2016 — In its first Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Case Study, the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction (CSWMD) at the National Defense University examined President Richard M. Nixon’s decision, on November 25, 1969, to terminate the U.S. offensive biological weapons program. This occasional paper seeks to explain why the Soviet government, at approximately the same time, decided to do essentially the opposite, namely, to establish a large biological warfare (BW) program that would be driven by newly discovered and powerful biotechnologies. By introducing the innovation of recombinant DNA technology—commonly referred to as genetic engineering—the Soviets were attempting to create bacterial and viral strains that were more useful for military purposes than were strains found in nature. MORE

Responding to Russia after the NATO Summit: Unmanned Aerial Systems Overmatch in the Black Sea April 1, 2015 — The Ukraine conflict poses unique and asymmetric challenges to the international community. Since the earliest days of the Crimean crisis, Russian support of “separatists” within Ukraine has ranged from plainclothes thugs to more traditional uniformed troops, munitions, and other forms of aid. Some of the individuals involved may have had links to the Russian military or its intelligence community. While much of the aid comes through the porous border between Russia and Ukraine, Russia also leverages the opportunity to use Black Sea smugglers as a way to supply ongoing rebellions or to initiate new revolts. Two Black Sea–bordering regions, Odessa and Transnistria, are home to active pro-Russian movements that could potentially evolve into a pro-Russian state. Worries of Russia supplying separatists via illicit movements on the Black Sea and generally advancing its Novorossyia claims should be matched to a general concern over Black Sea smuggling rings, which traffic humans, weapons, and nuclear materials into Europe via Odessa’s port. MORE

Russia and the Iranian Nuclear Program: Replay or Breakthrough? March 1, 2012 — Despite protests across Russia sparked by last December’s fraud-filled Duma (parliament) elections, Vladimir Putin is preparing to return to the presidency this May. Will Putin replay his 2004–2008 approach to Iran, during which Russia negotiated the S–300 air defense system contract with Tehran? Or will he continue Russia’s breakthrough in finding common ground with the United States on Iran seen under President Dmitriy Medvedev, who tore up the S–300 contract? MORE

Russia’s Revival: Ambitions, Limitations, and Opportunities for the United States January 1, 2011 — Independent Russia is approaching the start of its third decade of post-Soviet existence. After the economic chaos of the Boris Yeltsin decade and the recovery and stabilization of the Vladimir Putin decade, Russia’s leaders have high ambitions for a return to great power status in the years ahead. Their aspirations are tempered, however, by the realities of Russia’s social, economic, and military shortcomings and vulnerabilities, laid painfully bare by the stress test of the recent global financial crisis. Looking ahead, some also calculate that Russia will be increasingly challenged in the Far East by a rising China and in the Middle East by an Iran that aspires to regional hegemony. MORE