(U.S. News & World Report) The top U.S. military official for Europe on Wednesday expressed concern that Russian President Vladimir Putin may attempt to spur another crisis abroad as a way to distract from the mounting political pressure at home – a fear analysts say has become all the more potent as supporters of now-imprisoned dissident Alexei Navalny set their sights on the Russian leader's control over the levers of power. [...]
"There are some worries," Ivan Kurilla, a professor at the European University at St. Petersburg, tells U.S. News. He cites troubling rhetoric on Tuesday from Dmitry Medvedev – a close ally of the Russian leader – in which he called for "further integration with Belarus," a former Soviet state that Russia has sharply warned against attempts to further ally itself with the West.
"That may mean nothing, but people did discuss the possibility of Russian-Belarusian 'unification' previously, either as a tool to keep Putin in power in the 'new' state or as a way to suppress Belarusian protests," Kurilla says. [...]
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