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Ever since its unexpected loss of influence in Ukraine and subsequent standoff with the West over the country, Russia has been re-evaluating its military and security positions across the former Soviet periphery.
With the war in eastern Ukraine developing into a long-term frozen conflict, Russia has worked to shore up its presence and assets wherever possible in the Eurasian borderlands. It has reinforced brigades in western Russia and engaged in talks to open an air base in Belarus and expand weapons sales to Armenia, both of which occupy strategic areas near conflict zones and are loyal Russian allies when it comes to security.
Though it is farther from the conflict in Ukraine than other parts of the former Soviet periphery, Central Asia is nevertheless important to Russia's strategic interests.
The U.S. balance-of-power strategy in the Middle East is approaching a potential pitfall. A number of crucial arms contracts for the sale of U.S. weaponry to several Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states are at risk of falling through because of Israeli opposition.
The United States' final decision on whether to sign will anger one of two sides, Israel or the GCC, and both already harbor misgivings about continued U.S. support. The GCC states could even turn to alternative partners for the lucrative defense deals. Washington will have to carefully manage these relationships if it is to maintain stability in the Middle East.
Despite having once been allies, Turkey and Israel have been at odds with each other for nearly a decade. But their chilly relationship may be on the verge of thawing.
The United States has scaled back its presence in the Middle East, and local players are vying to fill the void it has left behind. As the competition heats up, Turkey and Israel will likely find that joining forces is their best chance to achieve their strategic goals.
The Middle East looks very different today than it did at the turn of the century. The largest foreign actor in the region, the United States, is moving away from its historical role as the primary military power in Middle Eastern conflicts. Instead, its local partners are bearing the brunt of fighting while the United States provides support from afar.
Barbara Tasch (Business Insider) — As eastern Ukraine is experiencing some of its heaviest fighting since the Minsk II agreements were signed in February, a captured Russian army major tells Euronews there are about 2000 Russian servicemen fighting in Eastern Ukraine.
Vladimir Starkov is currently held in a detention center in Kiev after being intercepted three weeks ago with a truck full of ammunition. He was driving the truck from Donetsk to Yasne, a small village south of the separatist stronghold of Donetsk when he was arrested.
Starkov, who is being charged with terrorism, explained to Euronews that he was recruited to help separatists in Eastern Ukraine. He was in charge of weapon accountability.
Dharisha Bastians (The New York Times) — Sri Lanka’s parliamentary election campaign took a deadly turn on Friday when unidentified gunmen opened fire into a crowd at a campaign meeting, killing one woman and injuring 12 other people.
The country’s finance minister, Ravi Karunanayake, was at the meeting in Kotahena, a suburb of the capital, Colombo. He said he had been leaving when gunmen in a car started spraying bullets into the crowd of about 500 attendees.
“I was the target,” Mr. Karunanayake said. “This was an act of political terrorism.” Though he was only 20 feet from the shooting, he escaped uninjured, he said.