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La lógica alemana del gasoducto vacío

La construcción del Nord Stream 2 —un gasoducto ya casi terminado que va directamente desde Rusia hasta Alemania— no se debió en realidad a la necesidad de garantizar la provisión de gas natural barato, sino al beneficio personal y los intereses nacionales de ambos países.

El gasoducto a través del mar Báltico enfrentó a Estados Unidos y la Unión Europea contra Alemania, y produjo un creciente coro de críticas locales contra la canciller Angela Merkel. Si la cuestión se redujera solo a moléculas de gas, tal vez el proyecto nunca hubiera empezado... pero entonces, ¿por qué lo hizo?

Volvamos a 2005, cuando Gerhard Schröder y el presidente ruso Vladímir Putin cerraron el acuerdo justo antes de que Schröder dejara el puesto de canciller.…  Seguir leyendo »

La estrategia sobre Rusia que Europa necesita

A décadas del fin de la Guerra Fría, Rusia sigue siendo el enemigo perfecto, con una inigualable capacidad de agitar a la clase política europea. Pero la intensidad de los debates y emociones europeos en torno a Rusia oculta una creciente unidad que debe sustentar un nuevo enfoque hacia el régimen del Presidente Vladimir Putin.

A mediados de la primera década de este milenio, los europeos estaban profundamente divididos acerca de sus relaciones con Rusia. Alemania, liderada en ese entonces por el ex Canciller Gerhard Schröder, quería tender lazos con ella, mientras los europeos del centro y del este buscaban contenerla.…  Seguir leyendo »

A doctor administers the Russian vaccine Sputnik V last week to a patient at Bacs-Kiskun County Training Hospital in Kecskemet, Hungary. (Sandor Ujvari/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

When Russian President Vladimir Putin personally announced in August that Russia had approved the world’s first covid-19 vaccine, many reacted with skepticism and concern. Russian scientists hadn’t conducted Phase 3 trials, normally used before deploying a vaccine. Could the vaccine be trusted?

The vaccine’s name, Sputnik V — harking back to a Soviet triumph against the West in the Cold War — suggested the Kremlin viewed the project not as a purely scientific public health endeavor, but as one with enormous geopolitical potential. Many remained suspicious. Even most Russians said they would not take the shot.

In November, U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced that its vaccine was 90 percent effective.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ahead of the International Criminal Court, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Russia on 21 January for its responsibility for serious human rights violations committed against the Georgian civilian population in 2008. © Vano Shlamov / AFP

Let’s starts with the conclusions. On 21 January 2021, The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) established Russia’s “effective control” over the Georgian occupied regions and found Russia responsible for five major categories of violations: “killing of civilians, torching and looting of houses in Georgian villages and expulsion of Georgian civilian population”; “denial of Georgian nationals to return to their homes in Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia and Abkhazia”; “unlawful and inhuman detention and treatment of Georgian civilians”; “torture of Georgian prisoners of war”; “failure to carry out an adequate and effective investigation into the killings committed during the active phase of hostilities and in the period of occupation.”…  Seguir leyendo »

La desventura de Europa en Moscú

Cuando los ministros de Relaciones Exteriores de la Unión Europea se reúnan el 22 de febrero, tendrán que enfrentar las consecuencias políticas de la visita desafortunada a Moscú de Josep Borrell, el alto representante de la UE para Asuntos Exteriores y Política de Seguridad. Es de esperar que las deliberaciones catalicen el progreso tan necesario a la hora de desarrollar una política europea coherente para con Rusia.

El momento de la visita de Borrell a Moscú –la primera de un funcionario de la UE desde 2017- fue, cuando menos, extraño. En las semanas previas a su llegada, el líder opositor ruso Alexei Navalny había regresado a Rusia desde Alemania, donde se había estado recuperando desde agosto pasado de lo que muy probablemente haya sido un envenenamiento ordenado por el Kremlin.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov is silhouetted as he gives a speech during a German-Russian forum on prospects of creating an EU-Russia free trade zone. Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has been outsmarting most of his counterparts around the world for more than 17 years. He can do it without breaking a sweat, although rumours have long circulated that he wants out. Presumably, he does his job so well in his boss’s eyes – not making Russian foreign policy but pushing it out – he is not allowed to leave.

The most recent humiliation was inflicted on EU foreign policy high representative Josep Borrell when he travelled to Russia to enquire whether Moscow was interested in closer relations with the EU while Russia was in the middle of its most repressive protest-quelling this century, only to find – to no-one’s surprise but his – that it was not.…  Seguir leyendo »

Puede Navalni vencer a Putin

Podría decirse que durante el último siglo demolieron dos veces el régimen político ruso: en 1917, la revolución bolchevique derrocó a la tambaleante monarquía del país y, en 1991, un golpe abortista contra Mijaíl Gorbachov —orquestado por la línea dura marxista-leninista, que buscaba reformar la tambaleante Unión Soviética— aceleró su colapso. ¿La ola de protestas que recorrió Rusia en las últimas semanas presagia otro cambio?

Es poco probable. Ciertamente, a diferencia de 2011-12, cuando Vladímir Putin asumió como presidente por tercera vez y las protestas agitaron al país, el movimiento actual cuenta con un líder carismático y receptivo. Alexéi Navalni no solo promueve la anticorrupción desde hace años; cuando lo arrestaron el mes pasado, recién regresaba desde Alemania —donde pasó meses recuperándose de un envenenamiento con novichok, el agente nervioso favorito del Kremlin— para continuar enfrentando al régimen de Putin.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pro-Russian militants of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic conduct military exercises at a shooting range not far from the city of Gorlivka, Ukraine, on Jan. 28. (Dave Mustaine/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Few are likely to celebrate the anniversary of the agreement that stabilized a war in the Donbas, a region in eastern Ukraine. Negotiated by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France, the Minsk II accords of Feb. 12, 2015, left the Donbas territorially divided. The Ukrainian government in Kyiv control western parts of the Donbas, while two separatist entities, the “Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples Republics” (DNR/LNR), control eastern parts, including major cities like Donetsk and Luhansk as well as the border with Russia.

After nearly seven years of division, how do ordinary people in both parts of the Donbas feel about the situation?…  Seguir leyendo »

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell during a debate following his visit to Russia on Feb. 9. (Olivier Hoslet/Pool/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Imagine a parallel world in which Europe lived up to its ideals. In that universe, members of the European Union would react to Russia’s attempted murder of regime critics with a single, unified, emphatic voice and would follow its words with action.

Imagine how the bloc could use its tremendous economic and political weight — 27 countries, 448 million people, one of the largest economies in the world — to impose a cost on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime for its flagrant violations of human rights. A strong and focused European voice would have forced Putin to think twice about his brutal treatment of anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, whom he has tried to assassinate and has now thrown back into prison after a contrived trial.…  Seguir leyendo »

Me contaba hace unos días el veterano economista Juan Velarde que tuvo una audiencia con Franco en 1972 en plena euforia del desarrollismo y crecimiento de la economía española. Juan Velarde hizo ver a Franco que el Producto Interior Bruto de Italia estaba a punto de superar al del Reino Unido. Inglaterra estaba sumida entonces, hasta la llegada de Margaret Thatcher, en el desastre de gasto e ineficiencia laborista.

Como la economía española se estaba acercando a la italiana, Velarde sugirió que se podría decir públicamente que estábamos a punto de superar al Reino Unido. Franco le miró de modo un tanto sorprendido y dijo con su voz queda: “Profesor Velarde, no se crea, Inglaterra es mucha Inglaterra”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Varios manifestantes levantan escobillas de baño en una protesta a favor de Navalni en Moscú. MAXIM SHEMETOV / Reuters

En ajedrez el gambito, que deriva de la palabra italiana gambetto (“zancadilla”), es una jugada consistente en sacrificar una pieza al principio de la partida en espera de obtener una ventaja futura. Es una táctica que no debe de ser ajena para Alexéi Navalni, cuyas dotes como estratega pocos niegan. Sin alternativas a Putin, se ha erigido como el único predicador en el desierto que cubre Rusia tras dos décadas de poder supremo del primero. Pese a su inferioridad de medios respecto al presidente, el opositor intentó hacer jaque al zar con su último movimiento: al perder la libertad nada más aterrizar en Moscú, después de sobrevivir a un desvergonzado envenenamiento, sus colaboradores difundieron en redes una profusa investigación sobre un fastuoso palacio a orillas del mar Negro, perteneciente al entorno del mandatario.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ever since news broke of Alexey Navalny's arrest and subsequent imprisonment by the Russian government, one question I have heard frequently was, "Why did he go back?"

Navalny had previously survived an assassination attempt by poisoning from the Russian government which it denies, and then recovered in a safe foreign country, so why would he go back to Russia?

For many observers, there was just no logic to him going back to the country on January 17 to face almost inevitable arrest.

However, what they may not understand is what happens inside the mind of a person like Navalny who decides to speak truth to power.…  Seguir leyendo »

Riot police outside the Kazan Cathedral in Saint Petersburg after Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny was sentenced to a jail term. Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images.

Alexei Navalny may be jailed but Putin is the one under siege. 2020 had seemed to go the Russian president’s way in reinforcing his status as the irreplaceable ‘National Leader’, resolving the succession dilemma by ruling it out until 2030 or even 2036, and changing the system of government into one of autocratic hegemony, meaning increased powers of repression and tighter limits on the rights and freedoms of Russia’s citizens.

Appointing new and dependent figures to both regional and federal positions within a redesigned system of government, and swiftly passing laws through an automatically compliant Duma to ensure the obedience of his subjects seemed to complete the structure of a new Russia subject to what might well be described as a dictatorship.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ayer viajé a Moscú. La última vez que un alto representante de la Unión Europea visitó Rusia fue hace cuatro años. El principal objetivo de mi visita es abordar las cuestiones que nos preocupan relacionadas con el lugar y el papel de este país en Europa y su compromiso internacional más amplio.

Las relaciones entre la UE y Rusia se han ido deteriorando durante la última década y han estado marcadas por la falta de confianza, especialmente desde la anexión ilegal de Crimea y Sebastopol por parte de Rusia en 2014. Hoy ambas partes nos vemos fundamentalmente como rivales y competidores y no como socios.…  Seguir leyendo »

Vladimir the Poisoner of Underpants

Following are excerpts from a speech given by Aleksei Navalny in Russian in a Moscow courtroom on Tuesday, as transcribed and translated by the Moscow bureau of The New York Times:

I would like to begin by discussing the legal issue here, which seems to me to be paramount and a bit overlooked in this discussion. … There are two people sitting right there and one of them is saying: Let’s lock up Navalny because he showed up [to meet with his parole officers] on Mondays, not Thursdays. And the other says: Let’s lock up Navalny because he didn’t show up immediately after coming out of his coma.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was sentenced in Moscow on Tuesday to two and a half years of prison. His supposed crime was a probation violation committed while he was in a coma in Berlin after being poisoned by the same state security forces that have locked him up again.

The Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was sentenced in Moscow on Tuesday to two and a half years of prison. His supposed crime was a probation violation committed while he was in a coma in Berlin after being poisoned by the same state security forces that have locked him up again.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters in Moscow on Sunday. This impressive display of dissent has been met, increasingly, with force. Credit Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press

For the first time in close to a decade, the rule of President Vladimir Putin of Russia may be facing a sustained challenge.

Over the past two weekends, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of cities and towns across the country to voice their disapproval of the arrest of the anti-corruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny. This impressive display of dissent has been met, increasingly, with force. On Sunday, over 5,000 people were detained — the most ever on a single day in Russia — including 1,600 in Moscow alone.

This strategy of suppression was successful before. In the winter of 2011 and ’12, thousands of people demonstrated against electoral fraud by the ruling United Russia party and Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

Alexei Navalny appears at Moscow city court on Tuesday. Photograph: Moscow City Court Press Service/Moscow City Court/TASS

The sum of €700 (£618) is not large in the context of Russian corruption, but it is a lot to spend on a toilet brush. Then again, sprawling presidential estates have a lot of toilets, which must be cleaned to a standard delivered only by Italian designer brushes.

Details like that are what make Alexei Navalny’s recent film about Vladimir Putin’s personal fortune so potent. The anti-corruption campaigner’s documentary has been viewed more than 100m times. Thanks to aerial drone footage and digital reconstructions based on leaked architectural plans, ordinary Russians have had a guided tour of what Navalny describes, without exaggeration, as a modern-day Versailles.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman looks at a large poster in Rome depicting Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny behind bars with a dove freeing him from detention in Moscow. (Fabio Frustaci/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Alexei Navalny combines two qualities that Russians admire: a mordant sarcasm toward the country’s leaders and great personal bravery. Together, they make him the most potent political threat that President Vladimir Putin has ever faced.

Navalny’s latest riposte is a wickedly funny video posted Jan. 19 on YouTube, documenting the corruption that surrounds what he calls “Putin’s Palace,” a billion-dollar project on the Black Sea that includes mansions, vineyards, a private casino, even an underground hockey rink. The video alleges a network of payoffs for Putin’s friends and family, as well as for two girlfriends and their relatives.

The mocking video had been seen by more than 90 million people as of Tuesday.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters on Saturday in Moscow with banners reading “Freedom to Alexsei Navalny! Freedom to Russia!” in support of the jailed opposition leader. After years of relative calm, the country is restive. Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

It’s hard to pin down the exact moment when it became clear the protests on Saturday in Russia — where tens of thousands of people, stretching across the country, called for the release of the jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny — were something special.

It definitely wasn’t the violence doled out to protesters and even bystanders — like a woman in St. Petersburg being casually kicked in the gut by a police officer in riot gear — or the deliberate targeting of reporters. Such occurrences are sadly commonplace. It wasn’t even the people coming out to protest in the unlikeliest corners of Russia, like Yakutsk, where the temperatures dipped to minus-60 Fahrenheit.…  Seguir leyendo »