Early in January, Syrian rebels froze talks on a Russian backed peace conference due to ceasefire violations. Russia played mediator between rebel factions and the Assad government, in Syrian Peace Talks taking place in the Kazakhstan capital of Astana. In his first remarks as United States (US) Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson stated that Russia is a threat and should be accountable for its actions on the global stage. According to Ilya Yashin, a Russian activist and active member of Russian government, if President Vladimir Putin’s pressure on Ukraine sees a rise in pro-Moscow politicians, similar tactics would likely be used in the Baltic States. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dimitry Peskov, stated in a press briefing that he believed NATO is a vestige of the past. According to a report by global investment management group BlackRock, Russia has far surpassed expectations despite the impact of Minsk II sanctions and a crashing oil market. According to a report released by the International Monetary Fund, Russia is anticipated to see an average GDP growth of 1.5 per cent over the next five years.