UA-69458566-1

Friday, October 15, 2021

Turkey in Review: September 27-October 12

 Turkey’s Balancing Act between Russia and the United States Falters

By Ezgi Yazici

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s failure to work effectively with the United States and its NATO allies undermines his position with Russia and enables Putin to take advantage of Turkey’s strategic vulnerabilities. Recent Russian-driven or tolerated Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) escalations will test Turkey’s calculus in Syria and pressure Ankara into likely concessions to Russia across a wide range of issues in Syria and beyond. Meanwhile, President Erdogan will seek to out-pressure the United States by insinuating a Turkish military campaign in Syria ahead of his meeting with President Joe Biden in Rome October 30-31, 2021. As Ankara’s bid to balance its outreach to Russia and the United States reaches its limits, the Biden administration will have a fragile opportunity to avoid a crisis in Syria and put US-Turkey relations on track for gradual normalization.

Ankara’s balancing act between the United States and Russia depends on maintaining Turkey's strategic importance and relevance for both states, leverage that Erdogan may be losing. Erdogan’s strategic maneuvering has been grounded in the idea that neither the United States nor Russia would want to sacrifice their security relations with Turkey.[1] Turkish diplomats often leverage relations with the United States or Russia to elevate Turkey’s strategic position in negotiations with the other. However, the Biden administration’s distant and at times critical treatment of the Turkish government has likely weakened Turkey’s position with both countries.[2]

Erdogan’s recent visits to the United States and Russia in September failed to produce Ankara’s desired results. President Erdogan participated in the United Nations General Assembly session in New York and had a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi in late September.[3] Neither visit produced significant breakthroughs that Ankara was aiming for—primarily on defense sales and improvement of bilateral ties with the Biden administration and escalations in Syria with the Kremlin.[4]  Recent Turkish statements and meeting readouts suggest that Ankara may be struggling to maintain its relative points of leverage with the two states. Erdogan criticized the lack of progress between Turkey and the United States in a public statement from New York, likely strengthening Putin’s negotiating position when he met the Turkish leader a few days later. [5]

Putin is likely using Erdogan’s inability to work with the United States and NATO to force Turkish concessions. Erdogan and Putin’s meeting in September discussed developments in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, the Caucasus, energy contracts, and likely S-400 surface-to-air missile system purchases.[6] Russia currently has the upper hand in nearly all of these areas critical to Turkey’s security. Russia can dictate terms and control the pace of these negotiations and conflicts far more often than Turkey. Turkey likely consults with Russia even in areas where Turkish and US interests are aligned—such as the Caucasus and Afghanistan—allowing Russian influence over potential areas of US-Turkish cooperation.

The Russian military escalation in Syria is the most recent example of Putin’s pressure against Turkey. Russia increased the tempo and range of its airstrikes against Turkish and Turkish-backed positions in southern Idlib Governorate and Turkish-controlled northern Syria in September and October.[7] Both Turkey and the Syrian regime sent troop and equipment reinforcements to Idlib frontlines along the M4 highway on September 26-27.[8] More recently, Russia conducted retaliatory airstrikes after Turkish forces targeted YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) positions near Marea, Aleppo Governorate on October 7.[9]   Further YPG attacks on October 11-12 led Erdogan to threaten a Turkish military campaign against the SDF in northern Syria on October 11, roughly two years after the last Turkish incursion.[10] Russia’s position—including tolerance or support to the SDF—toward these escalations may erode Erdogan’s willingness to pursue such a military campaign.

Russian airstrikes in Idlib do not necessarily mean a pro-regime offensive in Idlib is imminent, but escalations across northern Syria could push Turkey to adjust its strategy. Erdogan’s meeting with Putin failed to decrease the tempo of airstrikes in Idlib beyond a six-day pause.[11] Russia and the Syrian regime likely used the airstrikes to gauge Turkey’s response to an eventual limited Idlib campaign rather than as the preamble to an imminent, full-scale offensive in Idlib. Alternatively, Russia and the regime may combine the threat of an upcoming Idlib offensive and the ongoing escalations near Tal Rifat to ensure Turkey maintains its cooperation with Russian priorities in Syria. Key Russian demands from Turkey may include territorial concessions near the M4 highway in Idlib, requiring Turkey to curb its public support to Ukraine, or requiring Turkey to purchase and maintain Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles in Turkey that would further derail US-Turkey relations.

Turkey now also faces a growing number of Syrian Kurdish mortar attacks and shelling in northern Syria and Turkey. In the short term, Ankara’s priority is to deter further Syrian Kurdish attacks through threats or military escalation. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu blamed both Russia and the United States for not limiting the YPG’s influence near the Turkish-Syrian border.[12] Following Cavusoglu’s cue, Turkish officials will likely seek to engage their Russian and US counterparts on the subject. Recent statements by Erdogan and Cavusoglu that echo the Turkish rhetoric surrounding the 2019 incursion into Syria indicate that Ankara is willing to pursue the military campaign option if it assesses it as “necessary.” Likely Turkish priorities include targeting the Tal Rifat pocket or expanding the Turkish-controlled strip from Ayn Issa to Tal Tamr.

Erdogan likely views his upcoming October 30 meeting with US President Joe Biden as consequential for the Turkish position against Russia, potentially creating a window of opportunity for the United States. Russia will likely maintain high pressure on Turkey in Syria through airstrikes, pro-regime reinforcements, and tolerance for Syrian Kurdish attacks until Erdogan’s announced meeting with President Biden on the sidelines of the G20 summit October 30-31.[13] Erdogan’s spokesperson described that meeting as an ”opportunity to resolve differences” through dialogue and engagement.[14] Turkish officials are likely willing to pursue talks with their US counterparts to calm foreign investors amid a crash in the Turkish Lira’s value and repair the recent damage to Turkish-US relations that the Kremlin is exploiting. However, the Turkish-US divergences on Syria will likely pose an obstacle to more substantive Turkish-US talks in the near future.

Turkey’s relationships with the United States and Russia are increasingly reliant on the personal dynamics among each state’s leaders. Erdogan’s overly personalized approach to foreign policy has supplanted typical inter-governmental communication that would help limit escalation in crises, minimize misperceptions in conflict zones, and sustain trust in diplomatic processes. The United States should carefully consider the effect that this high-risk environment will have on Erdogan’s decision-making, especially in Syria. If Ankara is willing to avert a military campaign in northern Syria, the Biden administration may have a window of opportunity to make progress with an amenable Ankara in the short term. Ankara and Washington will need to gradually de-personalize diplomatic relations by reintroducing institutional-driven communication in order to return to a slow but steady path toward long-term normalization.  normalization.

 

 

  1. October 4-6: Turkey supports Azerbaijan with military drills near the Azerbaijani-Iranian border in response to Iranian exercises. Turkish and Azerbaijani forces held military exercises in Nakhichevan, across the Azerbaijani-Iranian border, between October 4 and 6 after Iran announced military exercises near the Azerbaijani border on October 3. Iran’s military drills were in response to the perceived military support Azerbaijan is receiving from foreign countries, namely Israel and Turkey. Iran is also likely concerned about the Azerbaijani plan to build a road between Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan exclave as part of the Russian-brokered November 2020 ceasefire, opening a land route from the Caspian Sea toward Turkey and Europe that would bypass Iran.[15] Turkish officials did not make a public statement about Iranian-Azerbaijani tensions likely to avoid a diplomatic escalation with the former. The Turkish-Azerbaijani drills occurred at the same time as trilateral Turkish-Azerbaijani-Georgian drills in Georgia.
  2. October 4-8: Turkey pushes for regional cooperation in the Caucasus by restarting Turkey-Armenia talks and defense cooperation with Azerbaijan and Georgia. Turkey seeks further economic and political integration into the Caucasus by expanding its outreach efforts to Georgia and Armenia. Turkey signed a trilateral defense treaty with Georgia and Azerbaijan on October 5.[16] The three countries also held military exercises on security and protection scenarios for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline in Georgia on October 4.[17] Separately, Turkish, Armenian, and Azerbaijani leaders all indicated a willingness to start Turkish-Armenian and Azerbaijani-Armenian high-level talks.[18] Azerbaijan's opposition due to the Armenian control of Nagorno-Karabakh was a primary obstacle to the normalization talks between Armenia and Turkey and the efforts to reopen the Turkish-Armenian border as part of the 2009 Zurich Protocols.[19] Turkey and Armenia are seeking to restart talks between the two countries that would normalize diplomatic relations and reopen the Turkey-Armenia border that has been closed since 1993. However, Turkey is unlikely to advance those talks until Azerbaijan and Armenia make progress in their own bilateral talks following their November 2020 ceasefire.
  3. September 30 – October 12: Turkey continues to offer limited recognition to the Taliban’s interim government to pursue larger political influence in Central Asia. The Turkish Ambassador to Afghanistan met with the Taliban’s acting prime minister, deputy prime minister, second deputy prime minister, and minister of commerce at the end of September to continue dialogues on potential Turkish support in Afghanistan.[20] Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on October 12 that he plans to visit Afghanistan with other foreign ministers “soon.”[21] Turkey will likely restrict its interaction with the Taliban government through limited diplomatic outreach and humanitarian aid programs while remaining cautious about recognizing the Taliban government. Ankara curbed its publicized political and security ambitions in Afghanistan—which included a security role at the Kabul International Airport—after the formation of the new Afghan government did not meet Ankara’s requests of “inclusivity.”[22] The Turkish Embassy in Kabul remains active, making it the only NATO country to keep its diplomatic representation after August 15. Turkey likely seeks to insert more pro-Turkey stakeholders into the Afghan government to moderate the Taliban influence and diversify its vectors of political influence in the country beyond the Taliban.
  4. October 11: Turkey requests to buy 40 F-16 fighter jets and 80 modernization kits for its existing jets from the United States after its exclusion from the F-35 program.[23] Turkey has been seeking alternative ways to modernize its aging air force fleet since the United States removed Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program after Turkey purchased Russian S-400 air defense systems in 2019.[24] Erdogan reaffirmed that Turkey will purchase a second batch of S-400s after he attended the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 24.[25] Turkey’s request comes ahead of Erdogan’s planned meeting with US President Biden on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Rome on October 29-30.[26] Erdogan and Biden will discuss Turkey’s request to purchase new F-16 fighter jets and other significant issues in their first bilateral meeting since President Biden’s inauguration.[27]  The new F-16 Block 70 aircraft would potentially fulfill Turkish defense requirements for another decade. Turkey will need to explore alternative long-term options to maintain air capabilities despite its aging fleet if it remains excluded from the F-35 program, however. A potential US rejection may also push Turkey to pursue further defense sales from Russia.
  5. October 1: More Syrian National Army factions join the likely Turkish-backed “Azm Unified Command Room.” At least seven Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) factions, including Faylaq al-Sham, Ninth Division, and Muntasir Billah Division, joined the Azm Unified Command Room on October 1, bringing the room’s participants to at least 15 SNA factions with close relations with Turkey.[28]  Sultan Murad Brigade and Jabhat al-Shammiya formed the command room as a new security apparatus to crack down on the SDF and other perceived terror groups in Turkish-controlled Syria on July 11.[29] The Command Room added at least seven other SNA factions and participated in clashes with the SDF on the Tal Rifat frontlines in July.[30] Separately, the Command Room elected Sultan Murad Brigade Commander Fehim Isa as its commander on October 1.[31] Isa has a years-long relationship with the Turkish government.[32] The factions involved likely intend to use the command room as a stopgap measure to address the worsening security situation in northern Syria. The restructuring may also create a more integrated command structure among SNA factions to facilitate a potential offensive or to decrease the SNA’s dependency on Turkish command structures.  
  6. September 24-29: Turkey and Ukraine advance defense cooperation ties despite Russian criticism. Ukrainian engine manufacturer Motor Sich and Turkish defense company Baykar Makina signed a defense cooperation agreement during the Teknofest Aerospace and Technology Festival near Istanbul, Turkey, on September 24.[33] Baykar General Manager Haluk Bayraktar, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Taran also signed an agreement to build a training, test, and maintenance center for Turkish Bayraktar TB2 combat drones in Kyiv, Ukraine during Erdogan and Putin’s meeting in Russia on September 29th.[34] Ahead of the Erdogan-Putin meeting, Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov expressed concerns about Ukrainian forces using Turkish weapons against Russia in the Donbas Region of Ukraine.[35] Ankara’s public support for Ukraine regarding the illegal Russian occupation of Crimea and its defense cooperation with Kyiv has drawn significant Russian criticism. Russia will likely seek to curb Turkey’s support for Ukraine or limit its publicity in the long term. 

Contributors to this Report:

Fatih Cungurlu

Fem Koymen

 

 


[1] President Erdogan and other Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials openly state that they perceive the future of the international order as increasingly multipolar and reject the binary choice between NATO and non-NATO partners. Turkish officials often argue that Turkey can and should maintain relations with actors like Russia, China, and Iran as much they do with NATO allies without drawing criticism from the latter.  https://www.dailysabah.com/diplomacy/2019/07/04/multipolar-world-vision-central-to-turkish-diplomacy

[2] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/10/07/notice-on-the-continuation-of-the-national-emergency-with-respect-to-the-situation-in-and-in-relation-to-syria/

[3] https://apnews.com/article/europe-middle-east-russia-syria-migration-627a1060e880704ea51c1745298842a2

https://www dot aa dot com.tr/en/world/peace-in-syria-depends-on-turkey-russia-ties-erdogan/2377964

[4] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-09-23/erdogan-says-ties-with-u-s-strained-talks-up-russia-links

https://yetkinreport.com/en/2021/09/25/putin-eagerly-awaits-a-deeply-biden-disappointed-erdogan/

[5] Erdogan said Turkey’s relations with the US are “not healthy" in disappointment. He added that he is looking forward to strengthening ties with Russia as he was leaving New York on September 23. Erdogan’s first meeting with Putin for the first time since March 2020 was only three hours long - a short session including translations between two leaders. The meeting did not result in a significant breakthrough on S-400 sales, Syria, or Turkey’s expiring natural gas contracts with Russia.  https://www.ft.com/content/2f4527ef-83ec-4086-b935-9d0f509a046b

[6] Turkey has two 23-year-old natural gas treaties with Russia that are set to expire at the end of 2021. Erdogan seeks to extend those agreements to maintain sufficient supplies for Turkey’s growing demand.

https://tass dot com/politics/1343547

https://www.tccb.gov.tr/haberler/410/130728/cumhurbaskani-erdogan-rusya-devlet-baskani-putin-ile-bir-araya-geldi

[7] Russian airstrikes targeted Turkish-backed Hamza Division positions in Afrin and Turkish positions in Tal Tamr on September 26—marking the first Russian airstrike since Turkey captured the area with its October 2019 military campaign, dubbed Operation Peace Spring. Russian, Syrian, and Turkish officials also made comments about better reinforcing the March 2020 ceasefire agreement for Idlib. https://twitter.com/metesohtaoglu/status/1441390867550392324

https://www.syriahr.com/en/223672/

[8] https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/war-on-terror/turkey-deploys-troops-to-syrias-idlib-for-potential-ground-op

https://twitter.com/raedsyrian002/status/1445368195989315590

https://twitter.com/smmsyria/status/1445371528116424704

https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/russia-escalates-strikes-northwest-syria-turkey-sends-reinforcements-ahead-2021-09-26/

[9] https://twitter.com/MMCSYR/status/1446076674882347008

https://twitter.com/IdlibPlus/status/1446087093759905796

https://twitter.com/OmerOzkizilcik/status/1446134476300382226

[10]   Likely the YPG killed two Turkish police in an anti-tank guided missile attack against a Turkish convoy in Marea, Aleppo Governorate on October 11. Likely YPG fighters also shelled the Turkish border town Karkamis across Jarablus on October 11, and killed 4 with a VBIED attack in Afrin, Aleppo Province on October 12. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-10-12/lira-falls-to-record-low-as-erdogan-signals-new-syria-offensive , https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/war-on-terror/turkey-retaliates-against-ypg-shelling-from-northern-syria , https://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/bakanlik-aci-haberi-duyurdu-1-polis-sehit-oldu-41914339 , https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/10/11/car-bomb-kills-four-in-syrias-northern-afrin-local-media , https://www.trthaber.com/haber/gundem/firat-kalkani-bolgesinde-teror-saldirisi-2-sehit-615766.html

[11]   Likely the YPG killed two Turkish police in an anti-tank guided missile attack against a Turkish convoy in in Marea, Aleppo Governorate on October 11, shelled the Turkish border town of Karkamis across from Jarablus on October 11, and killed 4 with a VBIED attack in Afrin, Aleppo Province on October 12.

[12] https://apnews.com/article/recep-tayyip-erdogan-mevlut-cavusoglu-ankara-united-states-turkey-5b40524b5f60a26eb5af91f219a4bedd

[13] https://www.trthaber.com/haber/gundem/cumhurbaskani-erdogan-biden-ile-gorusecek-612325.html

[14] https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/opinion/serkan-demirtas/turkey-conveys-important-messages-to-us-168589

[15] Iran also closed off its airspace to Azerbaijani military flights between Baku and Nakhichevan on October 5. Azerbaijan diverted its commercial and military flights to the Armenian airspace instead -- marking a first since Azerbaijan and Armenia‘s independence in 1991. 

[16] https://www.msb.gov.tr/SlaytHaber/5102021-14724

https://twitter.com/tcsavunma/status/1445379612050083841

[17] https://azertag.az/en/xeber/Azerbaijans_Defense_Ministry_Eternity_2021_quot_exercises_started_in_Georgia-1892563?__cf_chl_jschl_tk__=pmd_6CoY3lHIVyM4ElYSeUSxt_Uvslc9tlJkoVOSBcPdncs-1633545971-0-gqNtZGzNAmWjcnBszQel

https://agenda.ge/en/news/2021/2981

https://mod.gov.ge/en/news/read/3206/international-training-%E2%80%9Ceternity-2014%E2%80%9D-completed

[18] https://www.yenisafak.com/en/news/baku-wont-rule-out-possible-meeting-between-azerbaijan-armenia-3581766

https://twitter.com/presidentaz/status/1445471203691413513

https://bianet.org/english/politics/251045-turkey-armeni-a-relations-is-normalization-near

https://www.dailysabah.com/world/europe/azerbaijani-armenian-leaders-ready-for-summit-to-discuss-karabakh

[19] https://www.brookings.edu/articles/armenia-and-turkey-from-normalization-to-reconciliation/

[20] https://twitter.com/Natsecjeff/status/1443547239402573828

https://twitter.com/turkembkabul/status/1443153882213982213

https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/diplomacy/ankara-kabul-reaffirm-commitment-to-improving-bilateral-ties

https://twitter.com/BakhtarNA/status/1443513204697706496

https://twitter.com/rtadari/status/1443149008604651523

[21] https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/turkish-fm-hints-kabul-visit-with-counterparts-from-friendly-countries/2389868

[22] https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/diplomacy/inclusive-afghan-govt-critical-for-kabul-airport-deal-erdogan-says

[23] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-10-11/erdogan-seeks-biden-meeting-to-talk-6-billion-arms-deal-request

https://defencereview.gr/toyrkiki-lor-gia-apoktisi-neon-f-16-kai-eksyg/

[24] https://www.defensenews.com/air/2019/07/17/turkey-officially-kicked-out-of-f-35-program/

[25] https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/turkeys-erdogan-says-intends-buy-another-russian-s-400-defence-system-cbs-news-2021-09-26/

[26] https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/diplomacy/erdogan-biden-to-meet-on-margin-of-g-20-summit-in-rome

[27] https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/erdogan-biden-meeting-in-rome-an-opportunity-for-ties-chief-adviser-168581

[28] https://twitter.com/UniLeadership/status/1443984543812395042

[29] https://twitter.com/UniLeadership/status/1415534952104534019?s=20

[30] https://youtu.be/QdwJLo07_dc

[31] https://twitter.com/fehimisa1/status/1443988373627195399

[32] https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/turkiye/butun-dunyanin-suriye-halkinin-yaninda-olmasini-istiyoruz/643630

https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/vg/video-galeri/yakinda-el-babi-ozgurlestirecegiz/0#!

[33] https://www.kyivpost.com/business/ukrinform-motor-sich-sign-cooperation-agreement-with-turkish-baykar-makina.html

https://www.ukrinform.net/rubric-economy/3322063-motor-sich-baykar-makina-sign-cooperation-agreement.html

[34] https://twitter.com/gizliservis06/status/1443241577002983431

https://www.dailysabah.com/business/defense/uav-magnate-baykar-to-build-centers-for-turkish-drones-in-ukraine

[35] https://t24.com.tr/haber/peskov-kremlin-kiev-in-turk-silahlarini-kendi-vatandaslarina-karsi-kullanmasindan-endise-duymakta,982084

 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Russia in Review: September 22 – October 5, 202

  

Serbia Creates Crisis in Northern Kosovo to Support the Resumption of a De-recognition Campaign against Kosovo

By George Barros

Serbian President Alexander Vucic exploited Kosovo’s implementation of a new border crossing law to frame Kosovo Serbs as victims of ethnic discrimination and provoke a regional crisis on September 20, 2021. Kosovo’s government-imposed license plate regulations requiring Serbian cars entering Kosovo to receive temporary Kosovar license plates – a reciprocal measure of how Serbian authorities have regulated Kosovar cars entering Serbia for several years – on September 20.[1] Kosovo ethnic Serbs blocked two border crossings with Serbia in northern Kosovo to protest this policy on September 20. Kosovar riot police deployed to the roadblocks and reportedly used tear gas against Serb protesters on September 20.[2] Vucic decried Kosovar police uses of force against ethnic Serb protesters, claiming that Serbs in Kosovo suffered a “brutal attack.”[3] Likely ethnic Serb protesters committed arson against a Kosovo vehicle registration office that did not cause casualties on September 25.[4]

Serbia carried out provocative military demonstrations to escalate the situation. Serbia’s defense minister said Serbian troops were ready to protect ethnic Serbs, raised Serbia’s Armed Forces to its highest readiness level, and paid a high-profile visit to Serbian Army elements near the Serbia-Kosovo border on September 23.[5] Serbian forces deployed several elements near the Kosovar border from September 23 to 27, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, jets, and helicopters, likely as part of a force demonstration.[6] Serbian military aircraft approached Kosovo’s border for the first time since the end of the Kosovo War in 1999.

The Kremlin likely sought to intensify Kosovo Serb protests in Kosovo. Kosovo police detained and released two Russian journalists affiliated with the pro-Kremlin outfit Izvestia in Kosovo who attempted to cover the crisis there on September 23.[7] The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on September 24 accusing Kosovo Albanians – the main ethnic group of Kosovo and a rival ethnic group of ethnic Serbs – of “information provocations” against the Russian journalists.[8] The Russian Foreign Ministry accused Kosovar media of using this incident to falsely accuse Russia of espionage. The Russian Foreign Ministry also accused Kosovar media of falsely blaming the Kremlin of provoking the situation in Kosovo. Kremlin media framed the protests in Kremlin-preferable terms to support longstanding Russian and Serbian efforts to undermine Kosovo’s statehood.

NATO and Kosovo sought to de-escalate the crisis. NATO’s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo (KFOR) announced on September 27 that it increased patrolling operations in Kosovo to deescalate tensions.[9] KFOR stated it would not forcibly remove Serbian roadblocks.[10] Kosovo’s prime minister called for de-escalation and stressed that Kosovo’s license plate regulations are not directed against ethnic Serbs.[11]

The European Union (EU) brokered a temporary de-escalation on September 30. Kosovo Serb protesters dismantled roadblocks and Kosovo police withdrew from northern Kosovo simultaneously on October 2 after Serbia and Kosovo agreed to de-escalation measures in Brussels on September 30.[12] KFOR deployed peacekeeping elements to the two border crossing points to support the de-escalation arrangement on October 2.[13] An EU-Serbian-Kosovar working group will meet on October 21 to attempt to develop a permanent solution within six months.[14] Vucic may decide to escalate the situation again before then.

The EU additionally reversed its rhetoric on Serbia’s reform backsliding on September 30. Vucic met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyden in Brussels on September 30 – the same day Serbia, Kosovo, and the EU reached their temporary de-escalation agreement. After their meeting, Ursula von der Leyden commended Serbia’s supposed progress on rule of law reforms.[15] This was a significant inflection in EU rhetoric on Serbian reforms. The European Parliament’s most recent report from March 2021 assessed that Serbia is backsliding on reforms.[16] Serbia has not made significant reforms since March 2021, contrary to Ursula von der Leyden’s September 30 statement.[17]

Vucic likely escalated the crisis at this time to offset the following Serbian policy challenges:

  1. A US-brokered agreement to mediate Kosovo and Serbia’s non-recognition dispute expired in September 2021. The United States brokered a one-year agreement with Serbia and Kosovo in September 2020, under which Kosovo pledged to cease seeking membership in international organizations and Serbia pledged to cease its longstanding de-recognition campaign against Kosovo.[18] This agreement expired on September 4, 2021 and is unlikely to be renewed. Kosovo began preparations in summer 2021 to resume campaigning to join international organizations in anticipation of the agreement’s expiration in September 2021.[19]
  2. The EU intensified pressure against Serbia for its lack of reform progress in 2021. The European Parliament’s most recent resolution on Serbian reform progress from March 2021 noted a “lack of progress in many areas of Serbia’s reform agenda” and argued that reforms are even backsliding in some areas.[20]
  3. Serbia will hold presidential and snap parliamentary elections in April 2022. Vucic seeks to maintain his strong position in Serbian politics following his party’s landslide victory in Serbia’s 2020 parliamentary election.

 

Vucic likely used the escalation against Kosovo to advance the following assessed Serbian lines of effort:

  1. Vucic seeks to set preferable conditions as Serbia prepares to restart and intensify its de-recognition campaign against Kosovo. Vucic seeks to dictate any future compromises with Kosovo following the expiration of the US agreement on Serbian-preferable terms.
  2. Vucic seeks to threaten Kosovo to not resume its campaign to seek admission into international organizations. Serbia has not changed its political objective to deny the international recognition of Kosovo’s statehood.
  3. Vucic seeks to alleviate EU pressure against Serbia for Belgrade’s lack of reform progress. The simultaneous timing of the EU’s rhetorical shift on Serbian reforms and the Serbian-Kosovar-EU de-escalation agreement suggests Vucic may have used the escalation in part to angle for reduced European pressure on reform. The EU provides Serbia with a large amount of reform-tied financial aid.[21] Serbia will likely leverage the joint Serbian-Russian military exercises “Slavic Shield-2021” scheduled for mid-October 2021 to further pressure the EU to support Vucic’s negotiating position against the EU on Serbian reforms and Serbia’s refusal to recognize Kosovo. Russia will deploy advanced air defense weapon systems to Serbia in October 2021 for these exercises – a development which supports Russian efforts to establish a Russian military footprint in the Balkans.[22] 
  4. Vucic seeks to increase support among Serbian voters ahead of April 2022 elections. A surge of Serbian nationalism in Serbia at this time can support Vucic’s political standing ahead of these elections. Many ethnic Serbs have longstanding enmity with Albanians and view Kosovo as an illegal political entity. Vucic’s maneuvers against Kosovo inflamed these sentiments.

 

 


  1. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and Turkish defense company Baykar signed a memorandum of cooperation to open a Ukrainian-owned drone maintenance facility for Turkish-supplied TB2 drones in Vasylkiv, Ukraine, on September 29.[23] The service center will train Ukrainian specialists to maintain, update, and operate Turkish Bayraktar drones. Ukrainian officials stated that Ankara and Kyiv plan to open multiple such service centers in Ukraine in the future. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense stated that Baykar will fund a separate drone manufacturing plant in Ukraine in the future.[24] Ukrainian aerospace defense company Motor Sich signed a cooperation agreement with Baykar on September 24, likely in support of this plan.[25] Ukrainian forces flew their first mission with the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drone in Donbas in April 2021.[26] Intensifying Turkish-Ukrainian defense cooperation supports Ukraine’s ability to challenge Russian pressure and advances Turkey’s campaign to pressure the Kremlin in the Black Sea region.[27]
  2. The Kremlin is likely conducting a recruitment drive for a previously reported deployment to Mali by Kremlin-backed private military company Wagner. The Wagner Group’s presence in West Africa would support the Kremlin’s campaign to secure new economic resources, develop additional international military ties, and reduce Western influence in the region. The BBC reported details about the Kremlin’s recruiting efforts on September 27.[28] Reuters previously reported that Wagner plans to deploy at least 1,000 personnel to Mali for personnel protection and to train the Malian army.[29] Wagner’s reported contract in Mali is likely more sensitive and sophisticated than the typical mineral protection services that comprise most Russian private military company (PMC) missions in Africa. The BBC reported that Wagner is only accepting Russian personnel and rejecting recruits from Crimea, occupied Donbas, or the Kremlin’s proxy republics in Georgia. The BBC additionally reported Wagner is accepting a diverse range of military specialties and is prioritizing combat engineers and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operators and mechanics above other combat specialties. France threatened to withdraw its military from Mali if Wagner fighters deployed to Mali – a development that would likely impede counter-terrorism efforts in the Sahel region, as Wagner would be unlikely to fully replace the capabilities that French forces currently provide. [30]
  3. Russia and Algeria began their first-ever joint ground forces exercise in North Ossetia, Russia, on October 3. The Kremlin likely seeks to deepen its military cooperation with Algeria beyond arms sales to expand Russian military influence in Northern Africa and the Mediterranean Sea and supplant France as a military partner in several former French colonies, including Mali and Algeria. Approximately 80 Russian motorized rifle troops, likely of the 19th Motor Rifle Regiment, and approximately 80 Algerian servicemen began exercises in at the Tarsky Training Ground in North Ossetia, Russia, on October 3 that will last until October 12.[31] Participants practiced basic tactical tasks, including conducting maneuvers in armored personnel carriers and small-arms live fire.[32] Algerian servicemen additionally underwent Russian sapper, medical, and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) defense training.[33] Signals elements of the Russian 58th Combined Arms Army conducted command and control exercises.[34] Russia has previously sold arms to Algeria but has not held military exercises.[35]
  4. Russia and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) conducted the counterterror exercise “Peaceful Mission-2021" to improve interoperability among SCO members amid continuing fears of instability emanating from Afghanistan. Over 3,400 personnel from SCO member states Russia, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan and SCO observer state Belarus conducted joint exercises at the Donguz Training Ground in Orenburg Oblast, Russia, from September 20 to 24.[36] The SCO has conducted “Peaceful Mission” every two years since 2003. The SCO postponed Peaceful Mission’s 2020 iteration to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Belarus participated in Peaceful Mission exercises for the first time. Newly admitted SCO member Iran did not qualify to attend the exercises.[37] The main objective of the 2021 exercise was to improve cohesion in joint planning and execution of counterterror operations.[38] A regiment-sized element (2,000 personnel) of the Russian 2nd Combined Arms Army – likely including elements of the Russian 21st Motor Rifle Brigade, Russian Special Forces, and Aerospace Forces – participated in the exercise. The exercise’s active phase simulated joint combined arms and airborne infantry operations to destroy simulated insurgent groups.[39] Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov met his Chinese, Indian, and Pakistani counterparts to discuss further SCO military cooperation and presided over a portion of the exercises on September 23 and 24.[40] Peaceful Mission-2021 was larger than its 2018 iteration.[41] The Kremlin and the SCO likely tailored Peaceful Mission-2021 to prepare for potential anti-terrorist operations in Central Asia following the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Kremlin is intensifying international military exercises with Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and SCO members to increase Russian influence in Central and South Asia. The Kremlin additionally likely involved Belarus in Peaceful Mission 2021 to deepen Belarus’ military integration into Russian-dominated structures. 
  5. Ukraine’s parliament passed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s anti-oligarch bill, a well-intentioned reform bill that could inadvertently advance Russian objectives to undermine the rule of law in Ukraine, on September 23. The Ukrainian Parliament passed the bill with procedural violations that did not allow MPs to vote on the bill's amendments.[42] The bill enables the Ukrainian president’s National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) to identify and restrict “oligarchs” from political activity. The law defines an oligarch with broad criteria that describes many Ukrainian politicians.[43] Three major opposition parties – including both the pro-Euro-Atlantic integration “European Solidarity” Party and pro-Russian opposition “For Life” Party – denounced the bill as dictatorial, claiming it enables the president to bar any adversary defined as an “oligarch” from politics.[44]  Reforming Ukraine's political system and reigning in the unchecked power of true oligarchs is important for Ukraine’s institutional reform. However, this anti-oligarch bill, in its current form, concentrates an inordinate amount of power around the Ukrainian president. Ukrainian presidents could exploit the law as a political tool to repress opposition and undermine the rule of law in Ukraine. Such a development would mark a setback in Ukrainian reforms and advance the Kremlin’s campaign to prevent Ukraine from meeting reform conditions necessary to join Western structures, such as the European Union and NATO. Zelensky’s Servant of the People Party removed Parliament Speaker Dmytro Razumkov – a previous Zelensky ally – on October 7 due to his opposition to hurriedly passing the anti-oligarch bill by violating procedures.[45]
  6. The Kremlin secured a 15-year gas deal with Hungary, advancing the Kremlin’s effort to divide the European Union and NATO and intensify economic pressure against Ukraine. Russian state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom signed a 15-year gas deal with Hungary on September 27.[46] The deal stipulates that Russia will deliver up to 4.5 billion cubic meters of gas to Hungary annually for 15 years.[47] Gazprom stopped transiting gas through Ukraine to Hungary by using Russia’s new TurkStream pipeline in violation of Gazprom’s existing contract with Ukraine on October 1.[48] Russia’s TurkSteam pipeline, commissioned in 2020, diversified Russia’s gas supply routes to Europe and enabled the Kremlin to leverage those routes for political gain — both by increasing Europe’s reliance on Russian gas and by depriving Ukraine of gas transit fees. Hungary’s decision to stop transiting gas through Ukraine also reduces Ukraine’s ability to receive gas via reverse flows, an important method Ukraine has used to avoid buying gas directly from Russia since 2014.[49]  Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline will similarly enable the Kremlin to increase Europe’s energy dependency on Russia and bypass Ukrainian gas transit.
  7. Russia and Belarus’ defense ministries issued incongruous statements on whether Russian units have redeployed from Belarus to Russia after the conclusion of the strategic exercise Zapad-2021. The Belarusian Ministry of Defense claimed on September 29 that all Russian elements that deployed to Belarus to participate in Zapad-2021 completed their redeployment from Belarus back to Russia.[50] The Russian Ministry of Defense previously stated on September 27 that it plans for Russian redeployments following Zapad-2021 to take until mid-October 2021.[51] The Russian Ministry of Defense has not issued a statement claiming it has completed its redeployment from Belarus as of October 6. ISW assessed that the Kremlin sought to leverage the Zapad-2021 exercises to advance efforts to establish a permanent Russian ground forces presence in Belarus.[52] Some Russian forces likely remain in Belarus despite the Belarusian MoD’s claims. 

 

Contributors:

George Barros

Kateryna Stepanenko

Mason Clark

 


[1] Dusan Stojanovic, “Tensions Soar at Kosovo-Serbia Border over License Plates,” Associated Press, September 20, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/europe-belgrade-serbia-kosovo-630abd36f11bbebed43f72f6f0482273.

[2] Kristo Kote, “Kosovo Police Uses Tear Gas to Disperse Serbians Protesting Against Car Plates Ban,” Albanian Daily News, September 20, 2021, https://albaniandailynews dot com/news/kosovo-police-uses-tear-gas-to-disperse-serbians-protesting-against-car-plates-ban.

[3] “Kosovo: New Restrictions on Serbian License Plates Spark Protests,” Deutsche Welle, September 21, 2021,  https://www.dw dot com/en/kosovo-new-restrictions-on-serbian-license-plates-spark-protests/a-59246024; [“Vucic: How is it that Self-Determination is the Essence of Freedom for Everyone, Except for Serbs?”] Buka, September 23, 2021, https://www.6yka dot com/cyr/novosti/vucic-kako-to-da-je-samoopredeljenje-sustina-slobode-za-sve-osim-za-srbe.

[4] “Kosovo Says Offices Attacked in Volatile North as Serbs Block Roads,” Reuters, September 25, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/kosovo-says-offices-attacked-volatile-north-serbs-block-roads-2021-09-25/.

[5] The elements were likely of Serbia’s 72nd Special Operations Brigade. [“Minister of Defense Stefanović and Chief of the General Staff General Mojsilović Visited the Units in a State of Increased Combat Readiness,”] Serbian Ministry of Defense, September 23, 2021, https://www.mod.gov dot rs/cir/17867/ministar-odbrane-stefanovic-i-nacelnik-generalstaba-general-mojsilovic-obisli-jedinice-u-stanju-povisene-borbene-gotovosti-17867.

[6] Nina Aralica, Twitter, September 25, 2021, https://twitter.com/ovcaCrna/status/1441772664637427721/video/1; [“Serbian Helicopters Over Jarinje,”] RTS Site YouTube Channel, September 24, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBFmKRlTQCs&t=67s; “Serbian Warplanes Circle Over Border Blockade In Kosovo,” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, September 26, 2021, https://www.rferl.org/a/kosovo-serbia-blockade-aircraft/31479097.html; Énervée 331095, TwitterSeptember 27, 2021, https://twitter.com/E331095/status/1442567400726024192; Umair Aslam, Twitter, September 27, 2021, https://twitter.com/Defense785/status/1442510921742618627; Una Hajdari, Twiter, September 27, 2021, https://twitter.com/UnaHajdari/status/1442566865763463170.

[7] [“Two Russians with Electronic Equipment Detained in Kosovo,”] Regnum, September 24, 2021, https://regnum dot ru/news/3379755.html; [“Journalists of the Izvestia Information Center Told the Details of the Incident in Kosovo,”] Izvestia, September 24, 2021, https://iz dot ru/1226504/2021-09-24/zhurnalisty-mitc-izvestiia-rasskazali-podrobnosti-intcidenta-v-kosovo.

[8] [“Commentary of the Spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry M. V. Zakharova in Connection with the Kosovo Albanian Information Provocation Against Russian Journalists,”] Russian Foreign Ministry, September 24, 2021, https://www.mid dot ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/4866839.

[9] Approximately 3,400 personnel are in KFOR. Zenel Zhinipotoku and Llazar Semini, “NATO-Led Mission Increases Patrols on Kosovo-Serbia Border,” Herald-Standard, September 27, 2021, https://www.heraldstandard.com/world_news_ap/nato-led-mission-increases-patrols-on-kosovo-serbia-border/article_f3ce913e-c1a8-579a-8215-24a66190ce8b.html; “Kosovo Force (KFOR): Key Facts and Figures,” NATO, June 2020, https://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pdf/2020/6/pdf/2020-06-KFOR-Placemat.pdf.

[10] KasperSRB, Twitter, September 27, 2021, https://twitter.com/KasperSRB/status/1442459231928606727.

[11] “Serbia Puts Troops on High Alert Along Border With Kosovo Amid Recognition Standoff,” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, September 23, 2021, https://www.rferl.org/amp/serbia-troops-high-alert-kosovo/31475196.html.

[12] Fatos Bytyci, “Serbs Life Roadblocks in Kosovo as NATO Moves to End Car Plate Row,” Reuters, October 2, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/serbs-unblock-roads-kosovo-nato-moves-end-car-plate-row-2021-10-02/; Miroslav Lajčák, Twitter, September 30, 2021, https://twitter.com/MiroslavLajcak/status/1443522359462354947/photo/1; “NATO Secretary General Discusses Implementation of Kosovo De-Escalation with EU Special Representative,” NATO, October 1, 2021, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_187030.htm?utm.

[13] “KFOR Enhances Presence in Northern Kosovo in Support of De-Escalation Arrangement,” NATO, October 3, 2021, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_187069.htm.

[14] Miroslav Lajčák, Twitter, September 30, 2021, https://twitter.com/MiroslavLajcak/status/1443522359462354947/photo/1.

[15] Ursula von der Leyen, Twitter, September 30, 2021, https://twitter.com/vonderleyen/status/1443497742593138689; “Vucic Met with Von der Leyen,” Independent Balkans News Agency, September 30, 2021, https://balkaneu dot com/vucic-met-with-von-der-leyen/; “European Commission Chief Seeks to Reassure Serbia over EU Bid,” Reuters, September 30, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/european-commission-chief-seeks-reassure-serbia-over-eu-bid-2021-09-30/.

[16] “European Parliament Resolution of 25 March 2021 on the 2019-2020 Commission reports on Serbia,” European Parliament, March 25, 2021, https://www.europarl.europa dot eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2021-0115_EN.html.

[17] “Key Findings of the 2020 Report on Serbia,” European Commission, October 6, 2020, https://ec.europa dot eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/country_20_1792; “Country Data – Serbia,” Transparency International, Accessed October 7, 2021, https://www.transparency.org/en/countries/serbia; “Nations in Transit 2021: Serbia,” Freedom House, Accessed October 7, 2021, https://freedomhouse.org/country/serbia/nations-transit/2021; “Serbian Leader Blasts EU Report on Corruption, Rule of law,” Associated Press¸ March 26, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/europe-kosovo-serbia-aleksandar-vucic-china-2eb20f68fa1906dc17e5c1b8e6f758fd; “Serbia 2020 Report,” European Commission, October 6, 2020, https://ec.europa dot eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/system/files/2020-10/serbia_report_2020.pdf.

[18] Robert Muharremi, “The ‘Washington Agreement’ Between Kosovo and Serbia,” American Society of International Law, March 12, 2021, https://www.asil.org/insights/volume/25/issue/4/washington-agreement-between-kosovo-and-serbia.

[19] Misha Savic, “Balkan Foes to Resume International Lobbying as Trump Truce Ends,” Bloomberg, August 20, 2021,  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-08-20/balkan-foes-to-resume-international-lobbying-as-trump-truce-ends.

[20] “Key Findings of the 2020 Report on Serbia,” European Commission, October 6, 2020, https://www.europarl.europa dot eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2021-0115_EN.html.

[21] “EU Assistance to Serbia,” Eu Delegation to the Republic of Serbia, accessed October 7, 2021, https://europa dot rs/eu-assistance-to-serbia/?lang=en; “14.2 Billion Euro to Help Accession Countries Implementing EU-Related Reforms,” European Parliament, September 15, 2021, https://www.europarl.europa dot eu/news/en/press-room/20210910IPR11914/14-2-billion-euro-to-help-accession-countries-implementing-eu-related-reforms.

[22] Russia will deploy Pantsir-S air defense systems to Serbia for the joint annual fall “Slavic Shield” exercises in Serbia in October 2021. Russia deployed Pantsir-S and S-400 air defense systems to Serbia for Slavic Shield 2019 – the first time first time Russia exercised with these systems outside of Russia and occupied Crimea. Serbia purchased Pantsir-s systems after Slavic Shield-2019. Russian exercises in Serbia presents threats to the West. The Kremlin likely seeks to use military exercises in Serbia to set conditions for additional weapon sales and a long-term Russian military presence in Serbia. A strategic Russian military position in Serbia would enable Russia to pressure NATO from within its geographical boundaries and to block Balkan states’ integration with the EU – an objective of Russian President Vladimir Putin. https://tass dot com/defense/1342977; Serbia canceled the 2020 iteration of Slavic Shield claiming it would violate COVID-19 regulations. Artem Filipenok, “[Serbia Abandoned Exercises in Belarus Due to ‘Terrible’ Pressure,]” RBK, September 9, 2020, https://www.rbc dot ru/politics/09/09/2020/5f58f3029a794703b3209b62; [“Russia Will Deploy Pantsir-S Systems to Serbia for the ‘Slavic Shield’ Exercise,”] Interfax, July 7, 2021, https://www.interfax dot ru/world/776714; Nataliya Bugayova and Anthony Yanchuk, “Russia in Review: The Kremlin's Block in the Balkans,” Institute for the Study of War, December 17, 2019, https://www.iswresearch.org/2019/12/russia-in-review-kremlins-block-in.html.

[23] [“Ukraine and Turkey Signed a Memorandum on Constructing a Joint Drone Training Center,”] Ukrainian Presidential Website, September 29, 2021, https://www.president.gov dot ua/news/ukrayina-j-turechchina-pidpisali-memorandum-shodo-budivnictv-70845.

[24] [“Ukraine and Turkey Signed a Memorandum on Constructing a Joint Drone Training Center,”] Ukrainian Presidential Website, September 29, 2021, https://www.president.gov dot ua/news/ukrayina-j-turechchina-pidpisali-memorandum-shodo-budivnictv-70845.

[25] [“Baykar Signed an Agreement with Ukrainian Engine Manufacturer Motor Sich,”] Haber, September 25, 2021, https://haber dot aero/savunma/baykar-ukraynali-motor-ureticisi-motor-sich-ile-anlasma-imzaladi/; [“Motor Sich and Baykar Makina Signed a Cooperation Agreement,”] Ukrinform, September 24, 2021, https://www.ukrinform dot ru/rubric-economy/3321799-motor-sic-i-baykar-makina-podpisali-soglasenie-o-sotrudnicestve.html.

[26] [“Turkish Drone of the Ukrainian Army Made its First Flight into the Area of Operations in Donbas,”] TASS, April 10, 2021, https://tass dot ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/11114923.

[27] Ezgi Yazici, “Competition Between Russia and Turkey Drives Conflict Across the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia,” Institute for the Study of War, July 12, 2021, https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/competition-between-russia-and-turkey-drives-conflict-across-middle-east-africa-and.

[28] Ilya Barabanov, [“‘We Are Already Entering Mali’: How the Wagner PMC is Developing a New Country,”] BBC Russian Service, September 27, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/russian/features-58703775.

[29] John Irish and David Lewis, “EXCLUSIVE Deal Allowing Russian Mercenaries into Mali is Close- Sources,” Reuters, September 13, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/exclusive-deal-allowing-russian-mercenaries-into-mali-is-close-sources-2021-09-13/.

[30] “France Criticises Deal Bringing Russian Mercenaries into Mali,” Reuters, September 15, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/france-criticises-deal-bringing-russian-mercenaries-into-mali-2021-09-14/.

[31] [“The First Firing of the New AK-12 Kalashnikov Assault Rifle in Ossetia was Held with the Participants of the Joint Russian-Algerian Exercise,”] Russian Ministry of Defense, October 4, 2021, https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12386800@egNews; [“The Opening Ceremony of the First International Russian-Algerian Exercise Took Place at the Southern Military District Tarsky Training Ground in North Ossetia,”] Russian Ministry of Defense, October 3, 2021, https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12386782@egNews.

[32] [“The First Firing of the New AK-12 Kalashnikov Assault Rifle in Ossetia was Held with the Participants of the Joint Russian-Algerian Exercise,”] Russian Ministry of Defense, October 4, 2021, https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12386800@egNews; [“The Newest Autonomous Field Camp APL-500 was Erected for the Participants of the Russian-Algerian Exercise in North Ossetia,”] Russian Ministry of Defense, October 4, 2021, https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12386805@egNews.

[33] [“Representatives of the Armed Forces of the Algerian Republic have Worked Out Combined Arms Standards of the Russian Army in a Joint Exercise in North Ossetia,”] Russian Ministry of Defense, October 5, 2021, https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12387023@egNews.

[34] [“A Special Tactical Exercise of Communications Units Started at the Southern Military District Training Ground in North Ossetia,”] Russian Ministry of Defense, October 7, 2021, https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12387364@egNews.

[35] Algeria signed a $2 billion contract to purchase 16 Su-30 fighters and 14 MiG-29M/M2 fighters in September 2019, for example. Nataliya Bugayova, Mason Clark, Michaela Walker, Andre Briere, Anthony Yanchuk, and George Barros, “The Kremlin’s Inroads After the Africa Summit,” Institute for the Study of War, November 8, 2019, https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/kremlins-inroads-after-africa-summit.

[36] [“The Opening Ceremony of the Joint Exercise ‘Peaceful Mission – 2021’ Was Held at the Training Ground Near Orenburg,”] Russian Ministry of Defense, September 20, 2021, https://function dot mil.ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12384758@egNews; [“The Main Stage of the Joint Anti-Terrorist Command and Staff Exercise of the SCO ‘Peaceful Mission’ Took Place in the Orenburg Region,”] Russian Ministry of Defense, September 23, 2021, https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12385267@egNews.

[37] [“The Opening Ceremony of the Joint Exercise ‘Peaceful Mission – 2021’ Was Held at the Training Ground Near Orenburg,”] September 9, 2021, https://function dot mil.ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12384758@egNews.

[38] [“The Opening Ceremony of the Joint Exercise ‘Peaceful Mission – 2021’ Was Held at the Training Ground Near Orenburg,”] September 9, 2021, https://function dot mil.ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12384758@egNews.

[39] Belarusian, Indian, Kazakh, and Chinese motorized rifle elements defeated simulated enemy forward elements while Russian Mi-24 attack helicopters provided air support to Russian tank elements. Russian, Indian, Pakistani, and Kyrgyz special forces elements conducted a joint heliborne assault. Unspecified Chinese artillery elements reinforced two Russian self-propelled artillery and rocket artillery battalions to form a joint Russian-Chinese missile and artillery force. Russian and Kazakh pilots conducted joint air combat tasks using both Russian and Kazakh Su-25 bomber jets.Unspecified Russian air defense units destroyed enemy UAVs and air defense systems. [“The Main Stage of the Joint Anti-Terrorist Command and Staff Exercise of the SCO ‘Peaceful Mission’ Took Place in the Orenburg Region,”] Russian Ministry of Defense, September 23, 2021, https://function dot mil.ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12385267@egNews; [“More Than 70 Artillery Systems Will be Used at the International Exercise in the Orenburg Region,”] Russian Ministry of Defense, September 21, 2021, https://function dot mil.ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12385007@egNews.

[40] [“Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Federation Armed Forces General of the Army Valery Gerasimov Arrived at the Troops of the Central Military District,”] Russian Ministry of Defense, September 23, 2021, https://function dot mil.ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12385253@egNews.

[41] “Peaceful Mission-2018" involved approximately 3,000 personnel and 500 pieces of equipment. [“The Active Phase of the SCO Peaceful Mission 2018 Exercise Began in the Chelyabinsk Region,”] August 29, 2018, https://function dot mil.ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12193216@egNews.

[42] Yuriy Tarasovskiy, [“The Verkhovna Rada Adopted a Law on Oligarchs,”] Liga Business, September 23, 2021, https://biz.liga dot net/ekonomika/all/novosti/verhovnaya-rada-prinyala-zakon-ob-oligarhah; Valeria Shpineva, [“There Was a Conflict between the Speaker and the MPs at the Rada Conciliation Council,”] Lenta, October 4, 2021,  https://lenta dot ru/news/2021/10/04/razum_rady/; Alyona Mazurenko, [“The Rada Approved the Law on Oligarchs,”] Ukrayinska Pravda, September 23, 2021, https://www.pravda.com dot ua/news/2021/09/23/7308164/.

[43] The bill describes an oligarch as an individual meeting at least three qualifications: politically active, has significant influence over the media, is a sole business owner, a manager of a monopoly, or has assets exceeding  roughly $110,00 USD. Yuriy Tarasovskiy, [“The Verkhovna Rada Adopted a Law on Oligarchs,”] Liga Business, September 23, 2021, https://biz.liga dot net/ekonomika/all/novosti/verhovnaya-rada-prinyala-zakon-ob-oligarhah.

[44] Tanya Polyakovskaya, [“No Votes Were Cast: Three Factions in the Rada Did Not Support the Law on Oligarchs,”] Unian, September 23, 2021, https://www.unian dot ua/politics/ne-dali-zhodnogo-golosu-u-radi-tri-frakciji-ne-pidtrimali-zakon-pro-oligarhiv-novini-ukrajina-11554789.html.

[45] “Ukrainian Lawmakers Vote to Remove Parliament Speaker Razumkov,” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, October 7, 2021, https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-parliament-speaker-razumkov-fired/31497427.html.

[46] “15-year Contracts Signed for Supplies of Russian Gas to Hungary,” Gazprom, September 27, 2021, https://www.gazprom dot com/press/news/2021/september/article538440/.

[47] “15-year Contracts Signed for Supplies of Russian Gas to Hungary,” Gazprom, September 27, 2021, https://www.gazprom dot com/press/news/2021/september/article538440/.

[48] Gazprom has a contract with Ukraine to transit 24.6 million cubic meters of gas per day through Ukraine until September 2022. Russian gas transits to Hungary through Ukraine ended on October 1. Hungarian and Kremlin news claimed that Russia resumed gas transits to Ukraine on or after October 3, however this claim is false. Approximately 200,000 cubic meters per hour of gas transited from Ukraine to Hungary on October 3, however this was not a true Russian gas transfer. Gas flows from Ukraine to Hungary on October 3 were not true Russian gas transits but reexports of gas that European gas traders kept in Ukrainian gas storage facilities. [“Gazprom Stops Gas Transit to Hungary Through Ukraine,”] Novoye Vremya, October 1, 2021, https://biz.nv dot ua/economics/gazprom-prekratil-tranzit-gaza-v-vengriyu-cherez-ukrainu-novosti-ukrainy-50186747.html; [“Director of GTS Operator Denies That Gazprom Resumed Transit Through Ukraine to Hungary,”] Radio Svoboda, October 4, 2021, https://www.radiosvoboda.org/a/news-makohon-hazprom-ne-vidnovliuvav-tranzyt-cherez-ukrainu/31491555.html; [“Gazprom Did Not Resume Gas Transit Through Ukraine to Hungary,”] UNIAN, October 4, 2021, https://www.unian dot ua/economics/energetics/gazprom-ne-ponovlyuvav-tranzit-gazu-cherez-ukrajinu-v-ugorshchinu-novini-sogodni-11565718.html; [“Russia Stopped Gas Transit to Hungary Through Ukraine,”], Rossiyskaya Gazeta, October 3, 2021, https://rg dot ru/2021/10/03/rossiia-ostanovila-tranzit-gaza-v-vengriiu-cherez-ukrainu.html; [“Gas Transit Through Ukraine to Hungary Has Resumed,”] Ukrainian National News Information Agency, October 4, 2021, https://www.unn.com dot ua/uk/news/1946671-tranzit-gazu-cherez-ukrayinu-do-ugorschini-vidnovleno; [“Gas Transit to Hungary Via Ukraine Has Been Resumed, According to the Operator,”] Ukrayinska Pravda, October 4, 2021,  https://www.pravda.com dot ua/news/2021/10/4/7309272/; [“Ukraine Says When the Gas Transit to Hungary Stopped,”] Prime Agency of Economic Information, October 3, 2021, https://1prime dot ru/energy/20211003/834865019.html; [“Date of Gas Transit Cessation Through Ukraine Announced,”] Lenta, October 3, 2021, https://lenta dot ru/news/2021/10/03/tranzit_gaza/ ; [“Gazprom Has Stopped the Transit of Natural Gas to Hungary Through Ukraine,”] Ukrainian Transition System Operator, October 1, 2021, https://tsoua dot com/news/gazprom-prypynyv-tranzyt-pryrodnogo-gazu-v-ugorshhynu-terytoriyeyu-ukrayiny/.

[49] Ukraine can still receive reverse flows from Slovakia and other European states, however. Myroslav Liskovych, “Ukraine-Hungary Spat: Russia Doing Everything to Pit Neighbors Against Each Other,” Ukrinform, October 1, 2021, https://www.ukrinform dot net/rubric-polytics/3325594-ukraine-hungary-russia-doing-everything-to-pit-neighbors-against-each-other.html; [“Ukraine Will Reorient Gas Imports From Hungary to Other Directions,”] RIA Novosti, October 1, 2021, https://ria dot ru/20211001/gaz-1752689012.html; [“To Poland, Slovakia and Romania: Ukraine Will Reorient Gas Transit Through Hungary,”] TV 24, October 1, 2021, https://economy.24tv dot ua/ru/polshu-slovakiju-rumyniju-ukraina-jekonomicheskie-novosti-ukrainy_n1755746.

[50] [“The Last Russian Military Contingent Left Belarus After the Zapad-2021 Exercise,”] Belarusian Military Information Agency, September 29, 2021, https://vayar.mil dot by/news/140695/.

[51] [“Ulyanovsk Paratroopers Returned to Points of Permanent Deployment After Participating in Joint Strategic Exercise ‘Zapad-2021,’”] Russian Ministry of Defense, September 28, 2021, https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12385898@egNews.

[52] The Kremlin permanently deployed Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) and S-300 air defense systems to Belarus before Zapad-2021 began in late August 2021. George Barros “Russia in Review August 18 – August 31, 2021,” Institute for the Study of War, September 2, 2021, https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russia-review-august-18-august-31-2021.