Russia

President Obama meets with King Salman during a 2015 trip to Saudi Arabia.
Pete Souza / The White House

On Friday, France’s foreign minister described talks over Syria’s future as entering a “danger zone.” Opposition leaders have stepped away from the negotiating table in Geneva, accusing the regime led by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad of violating the cease-fire the U.S. and Russia painfully put together.

Representative of Assad’s regime might not even be at the negotiating table without Russia’s intervention. Airstrikes helped Syrian forces take back territory, put the rebels on their heel, and attack ISIS positions in the ancient city of Palmyra.

Suzette Grillot and Rebecca Cruise discuss two sides of international education. China has charged an education advocate in Tibet with inciting separatism, and a one-room basement library in Afghanistan is providing books to citizens once ruled by the Taliban.

Then contributor Joshua Landis talks with Jeffrey Mankoff from the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He argues the U.S. tried to outsource solving the Ukraine crisis onto German Chancellor Angela Merkel. They’ll also discuss Russia’s involvement in Syria.

Jeffrey Mankoff during an October 2014 Center for Strategic and International Studies forum on Russia's war, Ukraine's history, and the West's options.
Center for Strategic and International Studies / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Russia rapidly moved to the front of the world stage when President Vladimir Putin returned to power in 2012, setting off an adversarial relationship with the West not seen since Cold War tensions thawed in the 1980s.

The country’s ascendancy includes the 2014 invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea region, and a greater role in Syria on the side of the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Syria is fighting rebels opposed to Assad’s minority Alawite-led government as well as Islamic State, or ISIS, militants bent on establishing a caliphate in the Middle East.

President Obama talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during the 70th United Nations General Assembly Sept. 28, 2015.
Pete Souza / The White House

In the wake of Russian aggression in the region, President Obama announced Wednesday that he will be strengthening America’s military presence in Eastern Europe.

"As we approach the 2016 NATO Summit in Warsaw, it is clear that the United States and our allies must do more to advance our common defense in support of a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace," President Obama said in a statement.

Suzette Grillot and Brian Hardzinski discuss Catalonia's push for independence from Spain, and Russia's "frozen zone" in the troubled region of eastern Ukraine.

Then Rebecca Cruise talks with Peter Lochery. He’s the Director of Water for the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, or CARE, and won the University of Oklahoma WaTER Center's 2015 Internaitonal Water Prize.

Heavy weaponry is moved through eastern Ukraine, disrupting day-to-day life.
OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

It’s been almost two years since pro-Russian unrest took hold in Ukraine, dividing the country along ideological lines and leading to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

As the second anniversary of the Euromaidan movement’s genesis approaches, nearly three million people are living in what The New York Times' Andrew Kramer describes as a “frozen zone.”

Historian Beeta Baghoolizadeh says 19th century Iranian slavery can appear softer alongside its American counterpart, but that’s not a fair comparison. She'll trace the country's history of slavery and its erasure from the national consciousness.

But first, Joshua Landis joins the show again for a discussion of the Russian airliner that crashed in Egypt and what may have caused it, and Turkey’s recent parliamentary elections.

Rebecca Cruise talks with energy analyst Andreas Goldthau, who says if Europe embraces technology like hydraulic fracturing, it’ll reduce the reliance on Russian oil and natural gas.

But first, Joshua Landis analyzes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s surprise visit to Moscow this week to brief Russian President Vladimir Putin on both current and future military operations in Syria. 

A Rosneft oil rig drilling near Ugut, Russia.
Tatiana Bulyonkova / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The year-long drop in crude oil prices has caused economic anxiety across the globe, especially in so-called “petrostates” that rely heavily on oil and natural gas to drive their economies.

Rebecca Cruise and Suzette Grillot discuss Russia's air strikes on Syria, and what the country's motivation could be for trying to take on a greater role on the world stage.

Then, Suzette talks with filmmakers Paco de Onís and Pamela Yates. They use their documentaries to raise awareness and create social change.

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