The West is accusing Russia of preparing to invade Ukraine. Both Moscow and Kiev are flexing muscles and deploying troops waiting for a “major war.” But is the Kremlin really interested in another land grab, or is Russia’s harsh rhetoric just a message to the Western leaders, primarily to the US President Joe Biden?
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to face some serious challenges in 2021. The West has already started pressuring the Kremlin to release Alexey Navalny – the anti-corruption opposition figure who was arrested on January 17th upon his return from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from being poisoned by an alleged Russian nerve agent, Novichok. The West is aslso using the Navalny imprisonment to try -- once again -- to stop construction of the Nordstream II pipeline which is to carry Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany. The US wants to limit European reliance on Russian gas and increase Europe's reliance on American gas.
On November 16, 2020, Vladimir Putin authorized his Ministry of Defense to sign an agreement with Sudan to create a permanent Russian military base in Sudan on the Red Sea, guaranteeing Russia’s first substantial military foothold in Africa since the fall of the Soviet Union. In a continent which is fast becoming the new focus of East-West rivalry for control of its abundant natural resources--chief among them oil—observers are assessing Russia’s motives. What lies behind Moscow's decision to open a naval base in Sudan? And how has Russia’s chief adversaries in the great game for oil – the United States and its allies – responded?
The Western-backed Belarusian opposition has failed to topple President Alexander Lukashenko, who is still firmly supported by Russia. Three months after the Eastern European country held controversial presidential elections, anti-Lukashenko opposition groups still hold protests all over the country, although once massive demonstrations, involving some 100,000 protesters taking to the streets, are now dying down to several thousand.