As 2016 came to an end, Russia Direct presents the list of its best articles published throughout the past year.

The covers of Russia Direct's analytical reports. Photo: Russia Direct

2016 was a very challenging year for Russia, the United States, Europe and the world in general. Russia Direct tried to follow all the important events and provide a balanced coverage. This year the most popular topics included the U.S. presidential campaign and the presidency of Republican Donald Trump, Russia’s policy in Syria and U.S.-Russia confrontation.

At the same time, Russia-India relations attracted a great deal of attention. The personality of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his KGB origins were also among the popular topics in 2016. Russia Direct presents its top articles of the year. They might give an insight of how Russia’s foreign and domestic policy will develop in 2017.

1. Would the Kremlin prefer Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?

Coffee mugs for sale with the images of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Photo: AP

In the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, an opinion that provided the reasons of why the Kremlin prefers Republican candidate Donald Trump over his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton was among the top articles. “Trump’s presidency would be beneficial for Russia, as it would weaken the United States,” the article reads. “Trump appears reluctant to use force and is calling for a new type of isolationism. His recent doubts about the validity of NATO were music to Russia’s ears.”

Read the full article here.

2. Trump's presidency and the future of US-Russia relations

Carnegie Moscow Center Director Dmitri Trenin. Photo: Russia Direct

With Trump’s victory, Russia Direct sat down with Carnegie Moscow Center Director Dmitri Trenin to discuss the implications of his presidency for U.S.-Russia relations. He accounted for the reasons of why Americans elected Trump and what it means for U.S.-Russia relations. At the same time, he explained why the assumption that the Republicans are good for the Kremlin and the Democrats are not is flawed.

Read the full interview here.
3. Why does Russia continue to protect Assad in Syria?

A carnival float depicting from left: Russian president Vladimir Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Syrian president Bashar al-Assad as Angels of Peace during the traditional carnival parade in Cologne, western Germany, February 8, 2016. Photo: AP

One of Russia Direct’s most popular articles was an opinion about the reasons why the Kremlin has remained steadfast in its support of Syrian President Bashar Assad, despite international calls for his removal from power. The author of the opinion assumes that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s KGB background accounts for the reason why Assad will never face trial.

“The Kremlin keeps supporting Assad not only due to its desire to gain geopolitical leverage in the Middle East, but also because of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal principles,” the opinion reads.

Read the full article here.
4. Why Putin's surprise move to withdraw from Syria makes sense

Pictured: Russian President Vladimir Putin, centre, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu during their meeting in the Kremlin. Photo: RIA Novosti

This opinion deals with the Kremlin’s decision to withdraw Russian troops from Syria, announced in the middle March 2016. The pundit explains why the Kremlin’s unexpected move to wind down military operations in Syria could have positive foreign policy and domestic policy benefits. At the same time, the article sheds light what is behind this stance.

Read the full opinion here.

5. The KGB saga: Putin and the Litvinenko case

Marina Litvinenko, widow of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, reads a statement outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Thursday, Jan. 21. Photo: AP

With Putin accused of interfering in domestic affairs of the U.S. and Europe, his figure was in the spotlight in 2016. No wonder, the article about his KGB origins was popular among the readers of Russia Direct over the last year. The opinion deals with the publication of a probe into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a political asylum seeker and an ex-officer of the Federal Security Service (FSB) who was poisoned in the UK in November 2006. The authors of the investigation accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being involved in Litvinenko's murder.

Ivan Tsvetkov, Russia Direct’s regular contributor, explains why Putin might win from these accusations.

Read the full article here.

6. What's wrong with the Russia-India relationship?

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, December 24, 2015. Photo: AP

The topic of Russia-India relations was also relevant in 2016. That’s why the article about Russia Direct’s Sept. 23 round table that brought together Indian high-profile pundits and former diplomats attracted a lot of attention.

During the discussion, experts admitted that Moscow and Delhi have been taking each other for granted for too long, with both sides reaching a point where decisive action is required to move the relationship forward. “These developments show that there is a clear lack of expertise on India in Russia’s policymaking circles threatening to put the future of the Russia-India relationship at risk,” the article reads.

Read the full article here.

7. Deep military cooperation between Russia and Pakistan threatens Delhi

Pakistani military officials (right) meet with Russian troops upon their arrival at a Pakistan military base at an undisclosed location. Photo: AFP/East News

This opinion gives a deeper understanding of why Russia-India relations might face serious challenges in the future. The author, Petr Topychkanov from Carnegie Moscow Center warns against Russia's Sept. 24-Oct. 10 military exercises with Pakistan putting Russia-India relations at risk.

Read the full article here.

8. Three scenarios for Russian military action

What type of war is the Kremlin actually planning to wage? Photo: AP

Amidst the buzz about the Kremlin’s assertive foreign policy and its intentions to revise the results of the post-Cold War order, Russia Direct’s contributor Artem Kureev came up with three probable scenarios of Russia’s military action.

The story came in response to the publication of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s public report that included Russia in the list of top threats and focused on Russia’s growing military potential. The author explains what type of war the Kremlin might hypothetically wage in the times of increasing geopolitical turbulence.

Read the full article here.

9. Why a military conflict between Russia and the US is unlikely

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Monday, March 2, 2015 in Geneva. Photo: AP

2016 marked a significant intensification of U.S.-Russia confrontation. The trend led to the publication of a series of opinions about the possibility of a direct war between Moscow and Washington. This article presents the view explaining why the risk of a military conflict between Moscow and Washington has been overstated. At the same time, it argues that both sides should think about the ways of how to prevent or alleviate the risk of accidents that could lead to an open conflict.

Read the full opinion here.

10. Four big reasons why Turkey's coup d'état failed


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the funeral of Mustafa Cambaz, Erol and Abdullah Olcak, killed while protesting the coup against Turkey's government on July 16. Photo: AP

After an attempted military coup, which shook Turkey on the night of July 15, Russia Direct published a series of articles on this topic. One of the opinions on the failed coup was among the best articles in 2016. It argues that  the military coup in Turkey ended in a triumph for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and provided the four reasons why those participated in the upheaval finally failed.

Read the full article here.