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AssessmentsApr 28, 2020 | 16:58 GMT
The Kremlin.
The Russian Regime Accelerates Its 'Management' of Democracy
Though democratic processes are codified by law in Russia, government limitations on opposition activity and efforts to control nearly every aspect of political life have rendered elections largely a formality. Without an opposition able to operate effectively, the Kremlin enjoys carte blanche to define policy and maintain power. For nearly two decades, the United Russia party has dominated Russian politics as an instrument of President Vladimir Putin's control. The system known in Russia as "managed democracy," under which opposition activity is heavily suppressed, has made this possible. Taking control of the media narrative plus creating new parties to draw away votes from the opposition will be key to Putins ability to retain power.
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AssessmentsApr 16, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A pumpjack outside the Russian city of Surgut.
The Golden Age of Russian Oil Nears an End
Russia's easily accessible oil reserves have long been the cornerstone of its economy. But these conventional fields are depleting, leading to the need to invest and expand into more untapped sources. This transformation will not be easy or cheap, as various factors have led to a poorly optimized oil sector that's ill-equipped to soften the blow of rising costs. The key to maintaining a strong energy market, and securing the capital needed to develop new and expensive fields, will instead rest on whether Moscow can secure its foothold in China's increasingly oil-hungry market. In any case, Russia may have little choice but to accept that its glory days of oil dominance and high profit margins are nearing an end. 
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AssessmentsApr 9, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
The walls surrounding the Kremlin are reflected on a plaque at the entrance of the oil company Rosneft's headquarters in Moscow. 
Russia Loosens the Reins on Rosneft
The Russian government no longer has a majority stake in Rosneft for the first time in the energy giant’s 27-year history. On March 28, Rosneft announced that it had sold all of its assets in Venezuela as part of a deal with the wholly government-owned company, Rosneftegaz. The sale is designed to shield the company’s Venezuelan operations from further U.S. sanctions, while still allowing Moscow to continue its support of the disputed rule of President Nicolas Maduro. But by continuing Rosneft's slow and steady shift toward privatization, the passing of this threshold could also open the company up to a more market-driven and prosperous future. 
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AssessmentsMar 18, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A photo of a pump jack extracting crude oil from a snow-covered well located near Surgut, Russia.
As Oil Prices Plummet, Russia and Saudi Arabia Dig in for a Long Fight
Despite mounting fears of coronavirus-related drops in global oil demand, Saudi Arabia recently signaled its intent to flood the market with even more discounted exports following Russia's rejection of proposed OPEC+ production cuts. In doing so, Riyadh is hoping to force Moscow back to the negotiating table, though such a gamble is almost sure to backfire -- and badly. For one, Russia has long been wary of shrinking its oil output for fear of also shrinking its market share, and is thus unlikely to quickly cave to Saudi Arabia's demands. And compared with Riyadh, Moscow also has more cash reserves to ride out a period of low prices. Saudi Arabia's oil-dependent economy, on the other hand, will be among those hardest hit from the very price cuts to it's now willingly helping to exacerbate
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SnapshotsMar 10, 2020 | 13:49 GMT
Why Saudi Arabia's Oil Price War May Backfire
Saudi Arabia is offering aggressive discounting on its oil exports and planning to sharply increase volumes in April in the wake of its failure to agree with Russia on a path forward for OPEC+ production restraint. This move will damage the finances of oil exporters lacking diversified economies, but it is not likely that either the Saudis or the Russians will capitulate in the next few months. The result will be rapidly rising oil inventories and weak prices.
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AssessmentsNov 6, 2019 | 10:30 GMT
This photo from Feb. 25, 2017, shows the construction site of the second mooring facility of the Yamal LNG plant in the village of Sabetta.
Russia's Arctic Dreams Remain on Ice
The Russian Arctic is warming, but the Kremlin's dreams for the region remain in the deep freeze. Since planting its flag on the seafloor at the North Pole in 2007, Moscow has reinforced its territorial claims in the Arctic by increasing its military presence and bolstering its icebreaker fleet. But Russia's progress in making use of the Arctic's mineral and hydrocarbon resources and unlocking the rest of the region's economic potential is stalling. Strapped for cash, Moscow is putting the onus for developing Arctic infrastructure almost entirely on private and state-owned entities. Unsurprisingly, corporations have been reluctant to foot the bill for such large, upfront investments, meaning progress has become bogged down as the sides haggle over tax breaks or financial support. In the end, cost, feasibility and the like could well put paid to Russia's hopes of scoring an Arctic windfall.
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Contributor PerspectivesSep 12, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
This June 29, 2015, file image shows the start of construction of the China-Russia east-route natural gas pipeline near Heihe, China.
In Russia's Pivot to Asia, Economic Attraction Lags Hard Power
Russia held the fifth Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok, its main Far Eastern city on its Pacific coast, on Sept. 4-6. The forum has been held annually since 2015 to showcase Moscow's commitment to the development of its vast Far Eastern areas and closer economic links with Asia. Russia's "turn to the East" began more than a decade ago. In December 2006, Putin convened a meeting of the Kremlin's Security Council, where it was decided to prioritize the development of the Russian Far East, a huge landmass stretching from the Trans-Baikal region to the Pacific Ocean. At this meeting, Putin invoked Russia's perennial fear of losing its Asian periphery, stressing that the underdevelopment of the country's sparsely populated but resource-rich Far East posed "a grave threat to our political and economic positions in Asia and the Pacific, and to the national security of Russia as a whole." The 2008 global financial crisis helped convince the Kremlin that the center of economic
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SnapshotsSep 10, 2019 | 20:43 GMT
Russia, Mozambique: Moscow Treads a Well-Worn Path in Southern Africa
It's a revelation that will surprise no one who has watched Russia make steady inroads into Africa in recent years: Several observers have recently reported an uptick in its military presence in Mozambique. Russian soldiers are reportedly collaborating with Mozambique's security services in several locations in the north of the country, including the port towns of Palma and Nacala and the inland town of Mueda, likely for the purpose of training local forces and supporting them with intelligence and logistics. Naturally, the location of the Russian presence has raised speculation about Moscow's intentions, given that northern Mozambique is home to a persistent jihadist threat that local forces have failed to stamp out -- as well as the country's most important energy reserves.
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SITUATION REPORTSep 5, 2019 | 15:57 GMT
Russia: Shareholders Give Final Approval for LNG Development Project in the Arctic
Russian energy firm Novatek and other global oil companies have approved the final investment decision for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on Russia's Gydan Peninsula, World Oil reported Sept. 5. Meanwhile, the shareholders of the Sakhalin-1 oil and gas project are looking to construct an LNG plant in Russia's Far Eastern port of De-Kastri.
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SnapshotsJul 25, 2019 | 19:42 GMT
Vietnam, China: Hanoi Stands Up to Beijing on Drilling in the South China Sea
A quiet standoff has been brewing in the South China Sea since May over a joint energy exploration effort between Vietnam and Japan around the energy-rich Vanguard Bank in waters that both Hanoi and Beijing claim as their own. The potential for the dispute to grow louder, however, is increasing. On July 25, Vietnam announced it would allow a Japanese exploratory oil rig to continue operations in waters it and China each claim beyond an originally planned completion date of July 30. The decision came after Beijing reportedly asked Vietnam to withdraw the rig in exchange for China withdrawing the survey ship it sent into the region, along with its accompanying flotilla of coast guard and other vessels. Social media reports suggest that Vietnam would deploy more ships to the area. Hanoi's defiance of Chinese wishes creates a situation ripe for escalation.
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SnapshotsJul 16, 2019 | 21:43 GMT
China, Vietnam: What to Take From the South China Sea Flare-Up
Chinese and Vietnamese coast guard vessels have reportedly been engaged in a weeklong confrontation around Vanguard Bank in the southern region of the South China Sea. The energy-rich Vanguard Bank has frequently been at the heart of Vietnam and China's long-standing maritime tensions, with Beijing trying to limit or block Hanoi from exploring in what it considers disputed territory. Thus, this recent flare-up in tensions in the region could encourage -- or even force -- Hanoi to resort to a more directly confrontational approach to China. From a political standpoint, neither Beijing nor Hanoi wants to see their relations sour over another maritime dispute in the sea. But space for de-escalation will continue to narrow until one of the two countries decides to take a step back. 
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