Stephen Blank

Dr. Stephen Blank is a Senior Fellow and resident Russia expert at the American Foreign Policy Council. Previously, he worked as a professor at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, PA. The views expressed here do not represent those of the U.S. Army, Defense Department or the U.S. Government.

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Articles by Stephen Blank

A Crystallizing Russo-Chinese Alliance

Whenever a Russian president travels to Asiatic Russia or the Asia-Pacific region, he traditionally enunciates important precepts of Russian foreign policy in Asia. This was true of both Dmitry Medvedev

Moscow’s Appointment in Doha Goes Awry

Russian talks with Gulf states, in Doha, Qatar, aimed at freezing oil production and thereby raising prices, broke down on April 17 (EDM, April 25;, April 19). Thus, the

A Comeback for South Stream?

When Moscow abruptly terminated the South Stream natural gas pipeline project in December 2014 (see EDM, December 17, 2014), that decision left all of Russia’s potential partners in the Balkans

Russia’s Newest Balkan Games

Experts have long known that the Balkans are a political battleground between Russia and the West. And this chronic non-military conflict has only intensified with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and

Russia Losing Ground Across Central Asia

Increasingly, it seems that wherever one looks in Central Asia, Russia is losing ground. This retreat is not confined to economics, though it is certainly present in this sphere. Notably,

Russia Decides Who the Terrorists Are

At the end of 2015, an unnamed Kremlin official announced that Moscow was now sharing intelligence about the Islamic State with the Afghan Taliban, even though the Taliban remains on

Russia and the TAPI Pipeline

On December 13, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India broke ground on the constructions of a new natural gas pipeline that will carry Turkmenistani gas eastward toward the other three partner

Whither Russo-Japanese Relations?

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be visiting Japan this year or anytime soon (see EDM, October 9) and currently no agenda even exists for any such visit, Tokyo

Cuba: Russia’s Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier

Despite all of the other major foreign policy issues on its agenda, Russia has not forgotten Cuba. Indeed, it appears that Moscow’s strategic interest in this Caribbean island country has

Russia’s Fourth Front: Central Asia

Russian leaders have long held a deeply pessimistic view about Afghanistan’s future prospects as well as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) strategy there (, December 10, 2014). Indeed, late

North Pole Becomes an Object of Multipolar Rivalry

The Arctic is seemingly becoming an object of multipolar contention. President Barack Obama’s recent visit to the Arctic and call for construction of a new icebreaker and Arctic-capable commercial vessels

Moscow Trying Every Middle Eastern Door

Throughout the year, the Middle East has remained engulfed in conflict as well as intense international diplomatic negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. And just as the United States

Russia’s New Maritime Doctrine

On July 26, Russia released its new maritime doctrine to 2020 (March 28, 2014; December 3, 2014), the “Maritime Doctrine” talks about building up both the military and civilian infrastructure,

Once Again Moscow Tries to Intimidate Tokyo

Despite the best efforts of both Moscow and Tokyo to sustain the momentum toward a full normalization of their relations and a genuine rapprochement (see EDM, February 24, 2014; June

BRICS for Greece

It appeared too great a temptation to pass up for the Kremlin when Greece’s impending default and exit from the Eurozone or even the European Union (the so-called Grexit) occurred

Russo-Chinese Exercises in the Mediterranean

Sino-Russian joint naval maneuvers are not a new phenomenon; they have occurred at least twice in the Far East. But the most recent maneuvers that took place in the Mediterranean,

Kim Jong-un: The Man Who Got Away

Even as South Korean media were speculating about Kim Jong-un’s projected visit to Moscow to attend the VE-Day celebration on May 9, 2015, he announced abruptly that he would not,

Russia’s Game in Southeast Asia

The Ukraine crisis has brought Russia and China much closer together (see EDM, April 3). But Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s trip to Southeast Asia—Thailand and then Vietnam—in early April

Russia and Yemen’s Agony

Russia’s position on the fighting in Yemen needs to be understood in terms of its overall approach to the Middle East. And Moscow’s approach to the region has become more

His Master’s Voice: Lavrov Tours Latin America

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s recent tour of Latin America aimed to build on Moscow’s previous successes among pro-Russian regimes there—Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela—as well as to establish stronger ties with

Why Is Russia Deploying Nuclear Weapons to Crimea?

Recently, there has been an uptick in Russian efforts to defend the placement of nuclear-capable weapons, if not actual nuclear weapons, on Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed one

Russia’s Aircraft Carrier of Tomorrow

According to Admiral Viktor Chirkov, the commander in chief of the Russian Navy, Moscow is currently building an aircraft carrier of tomorrow. This future-oriented carrier will possess broad capabilities connected

Russia Stirs the Pot in the Middle East

While attention in the Middle East has focused mainly on the Islamic State or on Israel’s relationship with the United States, Russia has been busy trying to advance its own

Stephen Blank Quoted by CBC

Stephen Blank, a Eurasian affairs analyst for Jamestown, discussed the possibility of the United States arming Ukraine in that country's fight against Russia with CBC.

Putin’s Passage to India: Where Did It Lead?

Russian President Vladimir Putin termed his recent trip to India “productive” and “positive.” Indeed, twenty agreements were signed with India, pertaining mainly to economic issues, energy supplies and arms sales

What Do Russian Probes in the Baltic Portend?

Earlier this month (October 2014), Scandinavian, and especially Swedish, media have focused on Sweden’s apparently abortive efforts to locate what was allegedly a disabled Russian reconnaissance submarine off its shores

Moscow Begins Building a New Black Sea Fleet

After annexing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, Russia is now rebuilding its Black Sea Fleet (BSF) to ensure its regional dominance, to exclude all rivals, and to lay the foundation for further

Vladimir Putin’s Latin American Tour

During July 11–16, Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled around Latin America. Apart from attending the BRICS (loose political-economic grouping of rising developing countries Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa)

Arms Sales to Pakistan Kindle Indian Wrath

Russia’s announcement, earlier this month, that it was negotiating the sale of helicopters to Pakistan (see EDM, June 24) may have backfired on Moscow, as it clearly underestimated the anger that

Moscow’s Ministers Descend on Baku

During June 2014, Russian ministers and high-level officials descended on Baku to pursue Russia’s lengthening agenda with Azerbaijan. At the beginning of the month, Economic Minister Alexei Ulyukaev came to

Russia’s Game in North Korea

During his visit to Seoul in late 2013, Vladimir Putin almost explicitly warned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK—North Korea) that, if it did not respond to Moscow’s proposal

Nicaragua: Moscow’s ‘Second Front’

If focused exclusively on Russian actions in Ukraine or other areas contiguous to Russia, one loses sight of major elements of Moscow’s foreign policy. The Russian Federation considers itself to

The Arctic Template of Russian National Security Policy

Ukraine shows that Russia’s threat assessments are cynical, mendacious, inclined toward worst-case scenarios, self-aggrandizing and self-reinforcing. They betray not just an incipient trend toward paranoia, but also hysteria about foreign

Moscow Expands Its Presence in Latin America

Nobody should think that Moscow’s aggressive campaign to restore its former status as a global great power or its fundamentally anti-American policy is currently confined to Ukraine. Indeed, while the

Russo-Japanese Rapprochement Moves Forward

Despite the mounting ferocity of Sino-Japanese rhetoric, China’s partner Russia is moving forward on normalizing its ties with Japan. Indeed, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Russian President Vladimir

Russia Begins Collecting Its Ukrainian Gas Bill

Although demonstrators still occupy the Maidan in central Kyiv and none of Ukraine’s fundamental issues that precipitated the crisis in late 2013 have been resolved, it is clear that the

The Latest Round of Russian Nuclear Intimidation

October–November 2013 witnessed a series of concerted Russian actions designed to express Moscow’s anger at the ballistic missile defense (BMD) program being implemented by the United States and the North

What Do the Zapad 2013 Exercises Reveal? (Part Two)

On September 20–26, Russia carried out Zapad (“West”) 2013 military exercises with Belarusian forces. Though the training scenario envisioned repulsing an attack on Belarus by “terrorist” forces, Zapad 2013’s territorial

What Do the Zapad 2013 Exercises Reveal? (Part One)

Summer through early fall is traditionally the main exercise season for Russia’s armed forces, and 2013 was no different from preceding years. Russian exercises are important because they reveal where,

Russia’s Latest Arctic Gambit

Russia invariably proclaims that its response to the challenges provided by the opening up of the Arctic and the Northern Sea Route (NSR) is purely political, diplomatic and peaceful. Yet,

Russia Seeks Naval and Air Bases in Cyprus

The past two years have seen a steady rise in Russia’s willingness to deploy its navy into the Mediterranean, to Syria, and Cyprus in order to demonstrate Russian power, support

Moscow Pulls Back the Curtain on Zapad 2013

Four years ago, Russia conducted an exercise called Zapad (West) 2009 to test the efficacy of its, then, new military reforms as well as its doctrine and strategy. Today, that

Russia’s Heightened Interest in Africa

The Soviet Union conducted a robust policy toward Africa, but that ended with the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. As Russian analysts today admit, Africa, relatively speaking,

Is Russia Losing Ground in India’s Arms Market?

India remains Russia’s biggest customer for arms sales and technology transfers. It still receives about 70 percent of its defense imports from Russia and accounts for between 30–40 percent of

Is There at Long Last a Russo-Chinese Gas Deal?

In advance of new Chinese President Xi Jinping’s forthcoming visit to Moscow, a major “deliverable” has finally emerged. On February 27, Gazprom and the China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) announced

Russia Reacts Predictably to North Korean Nuclear Test

Since it participates in the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament, Russia has a vital interest in developments there. Therefore, Russia’s governmental and expert community reactions to the North

Russia Aims to Extend Alliance with Venezuela

Hugo Chavez’s reported life-threatening illness has repercussions beyond Venezuela and even Latin America. The prospect of a potential change in Venezuela’s leadership has led Russia to seek to ensure its

The Mistral Saga Takes a New Turn

It is becoming clear that there will be major reversals in key elements of Russian defense policy as a result of the fall of Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov in November

What Do Russia’s Arms Sales to Bangladesh Mean?

On January 15–16, President Vladimir Putin held talks in Moscow with Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sekh Hasina. As a result of these discussions, Russia has pledged to lend Bangladesh $1 billion

Is Moscow Losing Its India Connection?

Earlier in October, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin traveled to India to complete discussions ahead of President Vladimir Putin’s planned trip there and to negotiate nuclear and arms deals.

Whatever Happened to Russia’s Korea Projects?

In August 2011, Russia signed what appeared to be a momentous agreement with North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea—DPRK), an accord that marked Kim Jong Il’s last great foreign

Russia and Japan Try (Again) for a Rapprochement

For several months, although Russia has insulted Japan by strengthening its claims to the Kurile Islands and even reinforcing them militarily, Moscow and Tokyo have been trying to initiate a

Moscow Continues Heavy Reliance on Nuclear Weapons

At a recent nonproliferation conference Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stated that Moscow is ready to continue reducing strategic offensive weapons on the condition that other countries preserve strategic

Russia’s Quiet Rapprochement with Pakistan

Quietly and unobtrusively, a Russo-Pakistani rapprochement has been developing behind the scenes of world politics for the last two years. On Pakistan’s side, the almost spectacular deterioration of relations with

Moscow Mixes Profit with Principle in Syria

To hear Moscow tell it, Russia’s aims in Syria are only motivated by principle. It opposes the use of ambiguous UN resolutions to permit intervention to forcibly democratize a country,

Russia Launches New Initiative Toward Japan

Signs are multiplying that Moscow has launched a new initiative toward Tokyo to improve Russo-Japanese relations. In addition, this initiative is part of Moscow’s never-ending quest to be considered a

Russia Reacts to the Korean Succession

As Russia is a member of the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program and a neighbor of North Korea, it naturally was concerned by the announcement of Kim Jong-Il’s

Putin’s Agenda: The Arctic Revival

Russian foreign policy under Vladimir Putin is increasingly resorting to gunboat diplomacy (see EDM, December 12). However, another key element in Putin’s agenda has been his aggressive campaign to assert

Putin’s Agenda: Gunboat Diplomacy

Since announcing his return to the presidency on September 24, Vladimir Putin has regained the limelight (though he never lost the power) attached to the direction of Russian foreign policy.

A New Rapprochement Between Moscow and Tehran

The US reset policy has already become an object of political contention between Democrats and Republicans. The Obama Administration never ceases to point to it as a success, not least

Can Anyone Save the Russian Defense Industry?

In what might be called his presidential campaign speeches, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has promised that within a decade a three trillion ruble ($95.18 billion) modernization program will completely rearm

The CSTO: Gendarme of Eurasia

Recent articles in the Eurasia Daily Monitor (EDM) have extensively covered Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) exercises and its decision to work openly to frustrate any manifestation of Arab-Spring like

Kim Jong Il’s Excellent Adventure In Siberia

During his meetings with President Dmitry Medvedev on August 24, Kim-Jong Il reportedly agreed to resume the six-party talks over North Korea’s nuclear weapons without preconditions; if the talks take

Moscow Puts the Heat On Minsk and Kyiv

Moscow is piling the heat on Minsk and Kyiv to subordinate their economies, notably their energy sectors, to Russia and with that accept Russia’s political tutelage. In both cases, Moscow

Moscow Tries to Rescue Syria from Its Own Crimes

Syria has been a long-term friend of Russia during the past fifty years. Throughout this time, Moscow has sold the country weapons, supported its diplomatic posture in the Arab-Israeli struggle

China’s Central Asian Profile Continues Growing

Though largely unnoticed by the media, China continues to expand its economic and therefore political and strategic position in Central Asia. This expansion even includes territorial revisions in China’s favor.

Russia’s Navy Muscles Up and Looks East

According to Russia’s decade-long military procurement plan the Navy will receive 4.7 trillion rubles ($159 billion) of the total 20 trillion rubles ($678 billion), a figure that Prime Minister, Vladimir

Putin and Chavez Reach Major Deals in Caracas : Part Two

Russia’s central partner in Latin America remains Venezuela and Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin’s, visit there underscores the scope of that partnership. Putin’s trip encompassed several large deals with Venezuela that

Is a Russian-Uzbek Rapprochement in the Offing?

Uzbekistan is famous for its flexibility in maneuvering between Moscow and Washington. Most recently, President Islam Karimov has been the subject of overtures from the US and NATO to which

Russia is Open for Nuclear Business in Asia

Although other issues have taken center stage recently, it is possible to discern in Moscow’s policies across Asia a renewed emphasis on the sale of nuclear reactors to interested Asian

Sergei Lavrov Travels to Latin America

During his presidential tour of Latin America in 2008, Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia’s Latin American policy was only beginning. Although the pace of these relations cooled in 2009, due

Vietnam is Russia’s Biggest Arms Customer

It may surprise readers to learn that in 2009 Vietnam was Russia’s best customer for its arms exports (, January 21). During 2009, Vietnam bought six Russian kilo-class submarines and

China’s Russian Far East

On April 21, 2009, China formally concluded an agreement to lend $25 billion to Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft and pipeline monopoly Transneft in exchange for the completion of an

Recent Trends in Russo-Chinese Military Relations

The Russo-Chinese relationship is a multi-dimensional one.  Thus progress in each aspect of those ties is uneven.  For instance, Russia has consistently failed to satisfy China’s demands for energy, which

The Russo-Chinese Energy Follies

Chinese and Russian officials habitually proclaim that their bilateral relations have never been better and thereby invoke a great congruence in their agenda for the international regime.  Thus Viktor Kremenyuk,


Most commentary on Turkmenistan’s energy future has focused on the possibility of its being able to sell gas directly to Europe instead of having to go through Russia to do


Deposing a dictator, let alone hanging him in public, has never been popular in Russia. Saddam Hussein’s death was no exception. Public commentary in Russia over Saddam’s death by hanging


Surprisingly, the official Russian media reaction to the publication of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report has been very restrained -- even difficult to find (Rossiya TV, NTV, December 6).


Although North Korea’s nuclear test on October 9 transformed the Northeast Asian landscape, it apparently has not changed the postures of the members of the six-party talks all that much.


Recently Vneshtorgbank, Moscow’s state owned foreign trade bank, spent about a billion dollars to buy 5.02% of the shares of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Corporation (EADS). The revelation


On the morning of September 7, the St. Daniil Moskovsky, a Russian Victor III-class submarine that was commissioned in 1990 and went to sea in 1991, caught fire in the


Although the Russian press regularly rebukes the West for double standards regarding terrorism, such as supporting the insurgents in Chechnya, media outlets have not pointed out that Moscow is taking


Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual speech to the Federal Assembly on May 10 was notable for its emphasis on military affairs. Putin outlined new and increasing threats from the arms


The latest round of the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program took place November 9-11 in Beijing. Like many of the preceding rounds, this one ended inconclusively. While U.S.


During his September 27 call-in television program, Russian President Vladimir Putin once again invoked one of his favorite themes. Specifically, he stressed that under his leadership Russia is developing new


The Russian government and media welcomed the six-party agreement about North Korea's nuclear programs announced on September 19. Izvestiya even called it a breakthrough. Deputy Foreign Minister, Alexander Alexeyev, Russia's


Over the weekend of July 3-4, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted French President Jacques Chirac and German Prime Minister Gerhard Schroeder for a summit in Kaliningrad, supposedly to celebrate the


Fresh from the massacre at Andijan, Islam Karimov traveled to China in late May, where he received not just praise, but expressions of China's delight at his handling of the

The Future of Uzbekistan After Andijan

To assess the nature and likely development of terrorist threats to Uzbekistan in the wake of the Andijan massacre, we must determine what exactly happened there on May 12-13 and


While Central Asia and the Caucasus have been the recent focus of world attention due to the popular revolution in Kyrgyzstan and the massacre in Andijan, Uzbekistan, potentially significant strategic


Even though Moscow successfully eliminated Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov in an apparently carefully planned and long-term operation in March, there is little sign of progress towards peace in the breakaway


China invested considerable economic, political, and military resources in Kyrgyzstan, so it is no surprise that Beijing has been disconcerted by the rapid fall of the Akayev regime and the


From April 4 to 6 Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov visited New Delhi to conduct negotiations with the Indian government and to sign 12 agreements with India. These accords ranged over


India, the world's second fastest growing economy, relies on oil and gas imports for its economic development. And, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh observed, it can no longer remain complacent


Earlier this month a scandal broke out when it became known that Moscow was planning to sell Syria the Iskander-E and Igla anti-air missiles (see EDM, January 17). Rumors of


By Stephen Blank A specter is haunting the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS); the specter of popular unrest. In the last year we have seen political crisis strike country after