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Vladimir Frolov, the former director of the National Laboratory for Foreign Policy, a Moscow-based think tank, now serves as President of LEFF GROUP, his own government and public communications company. He received his first degree from the Moscow Defense Institute of Foreign Languages and earned a Ph.D. in political science from the Moscow Diplomatic Academy. Mr. Frolov had a distinguished career in the Foreign Service, including postings at the Russian Embassy in Washington D.C. before serving as the Deputy Staff Director of the State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs and Counsel to the Deputy Chief of the Presidential Administration for Foreign Policy. He is married with two children. Mr. Frolov coordinates the Russia Profile Experts’ Panel as well as contributing comments and articles about Russia’s foreign policy.
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The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, a piece of legislation moving through the U.S. Congress that is very likely to pass into law, is turning into a major irritant in U.S.-Russian relations, threatening to deal a fatal blow to Barack Obama’s “reset” policy. What is the true significance of the Magnitsky Act? Is it an attempt by a foreign power to administer justice when the Russian state makes no effort to punish those guilty of Sergei Magnitsky’s murder? Could it really positively impact the human rights situation in Russia? Russian officials really fear the visa ban?
UN Special Envoy for Syria Kofi Annan made a commendable last minute effort to bring about an international settlement to the ongoing civil war in Syria by convening a meeting of nine countries in Geneva on June 30 and putting forward a reasonable blueprint for a Syria-led political transition. But does it have a realistic shot at ending the violence in Syria and launching a credible political transition? Are outside powers really in a position to force the Syrian parties to put an end to fighting? Can Russia really force him to step down?
President Vladimir Putin went to the Middle East this week, where he visited Israel – the second visit by the Russian leader to that country in less than two years. Russia has suffered considerable loss of influence and economic assets in the region as a result of the “Arab Spring,” while the smoldering civil war in Syria and Iran’s refusal to submit its nuclear program to international scrutiny are further jeopardizing Russia’s interests. What was Putin’s main challenge during his tour of the Middle East? Can he reverse the negative trends for Russia’s interests in the region? Could Israel become a more valued and even the principal partner for Russia in the region?
This week, Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama met for an extended face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Mexico, just more than a month after Putin snubbed Obama and skipped the G8 summit in Camp David. Could Putin and Obama reset the “reset?” Is the “reset” even salvageable? Can Syria break its back? What will happen to U.S.-Russian cooperation on Iran? How would the Kremlin react to the Magnitsky Act? Will Obama replace his ambassador to Russia to save the “reset?”
Having paid brief visits to Berlin and Paris (after ditching the G8 summit in Washington), Russian President Vladimir Putin embarked on a full-fledged state visit to Beijing last Tuesday that led into the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional cooperation forum dominated by Russia and China. Is Putin really seeking a “strategic alliance” with China? If so, for what purpose and at what cost? Does the SCO provide the institutional basis for the Russian-Chinese alliance?
Last week, The New York Times reported that U.S. President Barack Obama is seeking Russian President Vladimir Putin's cooperation to end the bloodshed in Syria and save the country from sliding into civil war. Obama's plan, according to The New York Times, is to “push for the departure of President Bashar al-Assad under a proposal modeled on the transition in another strife-torn Arab country, Yemen.” Would Obama and Putin really work together to stop the killing and secure a political settlement in Syria through the “Yemen scenario,” with Assad out of power and out of the country? Were Putin to emerge as a real peacemaker in Syria, would it help change the West’s negative attitudes toward the Russian leader?
After a protracted pause, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the composition of his new government last week and surprised observers by creating two parallel and competing cabinet structures. Why does Putin need two governments instead of one? How effective or inefficient could such an arrangement be with two competing governing teams? What is Putin’s strategic objective – maintaining his personal grip on key government decisions, or balancing an inexperienced team with more seasoned mentors to prevent major policy blunders? How powerful and independent will Medvedev’s cabinet be?