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  • Author: Giuliano Garavini
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Oil markets are facing a perfect storm. The scissors of supply and demand are moving against one another, generating increasing pain on the oil industry and the political and financial stability of oil-producing countries. Global oil demand is dropping due to the recession induced by the COVID-19 shut down of economic activity and transport in the most industrialized countries. Goldman Sachs predicts that global demand could drop from 100 million barrels per day (mdb) in 2019 to nearly 80 mdb in 2020.1 If confirmed, this would be single biggest demand shock since petroleum started its race to become the most important energy source in the world.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Oil, Global Markets, Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Global Focus
  • Author: Nona Mikhelidze
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: On 25 March, one month after Russia registered its first confirmed case of Coronavirus, President Vladimir Putin announced a week of paid national holiday and invited Russians to stay home in a televised address to the nation. Further measures were subsequently introduced to limit the spread of the virus, while authorities prepared emergency plans to safeguard socio-economic conditions in the country. Initiatives included providing a new support package to businesses hit by the pandemic, a monthly bonus to medical personnel and the construction of new hospitals, following the Chinese model. Meanwhile, the constitutional referendum meant to extend Putin’s term limit as president was postponed. Originally scheduled for 22 April, this delay is due to Putin’s concern for public health and the multidimensional impact of the pandemic, a perfect storm involving quarantine measures, declining living standards, inflation and a weakened exchange rate, rising prices and increased job insecurity. Taken together, these challenges could jeopardise the outcome of the referendum. A recent poll conducted by the Levada Center in March highlighted a very slim majority (45 per cent) in favour of Putin’s constitutional amendments.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Health, Soft Power, Coronavirus, Vladimir Putin
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Italy
  • Author: Huba Wass de Czege
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: Does The US Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028 lack a clear theory of victory? A comparative analysis of the development of MDO and the historical concepts of Active Defense and AirLand Battle reveals the necessity of greater insight into sources of Russian and Chinese behavior and countering mechanisms, what constitutes effective deterrence, and greater clarity regarding the political will of Allies to assist in this deterrence.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Armed Forces, Military Affairs, Army
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Miroslav Tuma
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institute of International Relations Prague
  • Abstract: The New START Treaty, which limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons, will expire in February 2021. According to the assessment of most arms control experts and, for example, the former US and Russian Foreign Ministers, the non-extension of the New Start Treaty will have a number of negative effects. What are the possibilities of the subsequent development if the last US-Russian control-arms contract New START is not extended? And what would that mean for strategic use of the universe? The unfavorable security situation in the world in recent years is characterized, among other things, by deepening crisis of the bilateral arms-control system between the USA and Russia, built since the 1970s. The urgency of addressing this situation is underlined by the fact that both countries own about 90% of all nuclear weapons that they modernize, introduce new weapon systems into their equipment, and reduce the explosiveness of nuclear warheads and thus their declared applicability in regional conflicts. The culmination of this crisis may be the expiry of the US-Russian New START treaty which limits the number of deployed nuclear warheads and strategic carriers. Concerns about the consequences of non-prolongation are, among others, raised by the expected disruption of space strategic stability, which could occur as a result of eventual termination of the complex verification system. In addition to notifications, the exchange of telemetry and information, on-the-spot inspections, etc., the termination would relate in particular to the contractual non-interference in the verification work carried out by National Technical Means (NTMs).
  • Topic: Security, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Tony van der Togt
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: A global multilateral rules-based order, supported by a pro-active and interventionist United States, is gradually being replaced by a more fragmented world, in which geopolitics and geo-economics are becoming the dominant factors and universal rules, norms, and values are increasingly questioned. For the EU such developments are particularly challenging, as it has long perceived itself as a post-Westphalian soft power, mainly projecting its norms and values in its relations with both its direct neighbors and the world at large. A more isolationist US, a more assertive Russia, and the growing global influence of China have raised questions about the EU’s place and role in the world, which become even more pertinent after Brexit. Therefore, Commission President Von der Leyen intends to lead a “geopolitical Commission” and we are hearing calls for European strategic autonomy or even strategic sovereignty.
  • Topic: International Relations, European Union, Geopolitics, Multilateralism
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Wolfgang Pusztai
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: After the massive defeat of the Libyan National Army (LNA) at the hands of Operation Burkan Al-Ghadab (Volcano of Rage) - which supports the internationally recognized Government of Accord (GNA) - the new frontline is just west of Sirte, a city 370 km southeast of Tripoli and 350 km southwest of Benghazi, strategically located at the entrance to Libya’s Oil Crescent. While Turkish combat drones, air defense, artillery, electronic warfare and Special Forces form, together with about 10,000 Syrian mercenaries, the backbone of Operation Volcano, hundreds of mercenaries from the Russian private-military company Wagner fight for the LNA. Much more important, in May some 12 to 16 MiG-29SM/SMT and 4 to 6 Su-24M fighter jets arrived in Libya from Russia via Syria and operate now mainly from the Al Jufra air base (about 230 km south of Sirte). The Egyptian President Al-Sisi announced on June 20 that his country will intervene militarily, if the Sirte - Al Jufra line is crossed by pro-GNA forces. The political opponent of the GNA, the internationally recognized House of Representatives (HoR) has already officially requested Egyptian military support. However, Turkey and Russia are now the two key foreign players on the ground in Libya. Actually, the GNA is fully dependent on Turkish support.
  • Topic: Armed Forces, Conflict, Syrian War, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Turkey, Libya, North Africa, Syria
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout may rewrite the security as well as the political and economic map of the Middle East. The crisis will probably color Gulf attitudes towards the region’s major external players: the US, China, and Russia. Yet the Gulf States are likely to discover that their ability to shape the region’s map has significantly diminished.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, International Relations, Security, Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Middle East, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: As tens of thousands more refugees are shunted by Turkey toward Europe and a new phase of the brutal Syrian war unfolds, Russia, Turkey, the EU, and the international community are being handed the bill for a flawed short-term approach to the nine-year conflict that lacked empathy for the millions of victims and was likely to magnify rather than resolve problems.
  • Topic: War, Refugees, Syrian War, International Community
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The relationship between Russia and China is based on shared short-term strategic interests, but their differences lie just beneath the surface. Occasionally they erupt into the public eye, as occurred when Russia recently accused China of technology theft. The dynamic of the Russian-Chinese alliance is similar to that of Moscow’s alliances with Turkey and Iran, which also function by focusing on immediate interests and putting off serious differences as long as possible.
  • Topic: Crime, Science and Technology, Arms Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Eurasia, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Emil Avdaliani
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Though analysts tend to portray Russia’s foreign policy as truly global (that is, independent of Europe, the US, and China), the country is plainly tilting toward Asia. The Russian political elite does its best to hide this development, but the country is accumulating more interests and freedom to act in Asia than in Europe or anywhere else.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Geopolitics, Global Security
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eurasia, Asia
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is at odds with just about everybody. He is on opposite sides with Russia in Syria as well as Libya and is trying the patience of his US and European allies. Turkey and Russia are testing the limits of what was always at best an opportunistic, fragile partnership aimed at capitalizing on a seemingly diminishing US interest in the Middle East, already evident under President Barack Obama and continuing under Donald Trump, who is haphazardly redefining what he sees as America’s national interests.
  • Topic: Security, Geopolitics, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya, Syria
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: In this issue of Turkeyscope Dr. Soner Cagaptay analyzes the evolution of Turkey's foreign policy with respect to both Syria and Libya.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Geopolitics, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya, North Africa, Syria
  • Author: Susanna Rabow-Edling
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Toynbee Prize Foundation
  • Abstract: The Russian Empire has often been associated with autocracy, illiberalism and backwardness. However, Russian liberal intellectuals worked to modernise and liberalise their country, while preserving its international influence and position as a world power. In Liberalism in Pre-revolutionary Russia: State, Nation, Empire (Routledge, 2018), Susanna Rabow-Edling looks at the history of liberal nationalism in the Russian Empire, covering the period between the Decembrist revolt in 1825 and the October Revolution in 1917. She examines liberal tendencies in the Empire and how they are intertwined with notions of nation and empire. Susanna Rabow-Edling is Associate Professor in Political Science and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Uppsala University in Sweden. In our conversation, we discussed the development of different Russian liberal theories, the role of nationalism in a multi-ethnic empire, and the parallels between Russian and Western liberal ideologies.
  • Topic: State Formation, Empire, Revolution, Nation-State, Liberalism, Russian Revolution
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Oscar Sanchez-Sibony
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Toynbee Prize Foundation
  • Abstract: Capitalism versus Communism. To many, the latter half of the twentieth history was deeply shaped by the confrontation between these two ideological and socioeconomic systems. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, capitalism's triumph was credited to its valorization of money and protection of markets, among other factors; and, as the story continues, Communists failed, in part, because they suppressed markets and globalization. Yet, how much of this historical picture holds true? To Oscar Sanchez-Sibony, a good deal of Cold War histories are founded on generally held misconceptions about the political economy of the Soviet Union. Not only do they ignore the intense engagements between the Soviets and the world, they often miss the mark by neglecting the larger financial and economic architecture that facilitated such exchanges and economic growth in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). There is a larger story to be told about the rise of global capitalism and the Soviet Union. These are the themes of Red Globalization: The Political Economy of the Soviet Cold War from Stalin to Khrushchev (2014). Making use of archival documents from Russian archives, Sanchez-Sibony provides a rich account of how a young Bolshevik state navigated through the world's economic crises, while seeking favorable trading partners in the West for investments. This interview also ventures into topics and figures such as Depression Stalinism, Anastas Mikoyan, and Soviet-Global South relations. This book provoked much debate, and will be a must-read for years to come for anyone interested in histories of the Soviet Union, global capitalism, and the global Cold War. Oscar Sanchez-Sibony is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Hong Kong, where he teaches and researches subjects in Soviet history, Stalinism, and capitalism. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago under the guidance of Sheila Fitzpatrick. Toynbee Foundation had the pleasure to talk with him about his career and the development of his research.
  • Topic: Cold War, Communism, Globalization, History, Capitalism, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Soviet Union
  • Author: Bobo Lo
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: The rise of Asia is the central challenge of Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy, calling into question long-standing assumptions about Russia’s place in the world. Moscow is now more committed to engagement with the Asia-Pacific than it has ever been. This reflects belated recognition of the region’s critical importance in global affairs. Russia’s ambition to become a major player in the Asia-Pacific faces considerable hurdles. Overcoming them will depend on larger changes in its foreign policy mindset — an uncertain prospect at best.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Economy, Vladimir Putin
  • Political Geography: Russia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Eleonora Tafuro Ambrosetti, Kateryna Zarembo
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: The 31 March presidential elections in Ukraine matter to Ukraine, its region and the EU. While the majority of experts deem it impossible to have a winner in the first round and, thus, expect a second one in April[1], the March contest will be a first important step in the crucial process of determining the direction the country will take. Thus, while we should not hold our breath on election day, we should definitely keep a close eye on the contest and its outcome.[2] First of all, these mark the first elections in Ukraine’s history when a “pro-Russia” foreign policy card cannot be played by the political candidates. If in 2013 the Association Agreement with the European Union and the Customs Union with Russia were two rival projects for Ukrainians[3], in 2019 support for the EU is prevailing among the population – 50% of Ukrainians support the country’s integration into the EU, while only 9% are in favour of the Customs Union[4]. Ukraine’s European and Euro-Atlantic course has also been recently voted in to become a part of Ukraine’s constitution. And yet Ukraine’s pro-Western integration course is far from being undisputed. First, support for the EU is very unevenly spread across the country, ranging from over 80% in the western oblasts to some 30% in the Donetsk, Luhansk and Odesa oblasts.[5]Second, while none of the three candidates currently leading the polls – the incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko, the former prime minister and ex-energy tycoon Yulia Tymoshenko, and the comedian and political newcomer Volodymyr Zelensky – questions EU integration on paper, some candidates’ electoral programmes or actions look at odds with this goal. On paper, Tymoshenko supports good relations with Brussels – and, eventually, a possible EU membership – but she criticizes the reforms promoted by the EU and IMF and advocates economic isolationism. Zelensky’s fussy approach is also critical of the IMF while giving lukewarm support to EU integration[6]. As of March 2018, it is Zelenskyi who is leading the race, with some 25% of support[7], while Poroshenko and Tymoshenko keep shifting in and out of second place in various polls. Importantly, some 26% - in fact, the “golden share” of these elections – of those who are going to vote, are still undecided about their choice, which may bring some surprises on the day of the poll. Finally, these elections will likely feature an unusually high turnout in Ukrainian terms – as of March 2019, 83% of Ukrainians declared that they are going to participate in the elections (in the 2014 presidential elections turnout reached 60%).[8] This is likely a sign of increased civic mobilization and the perception of civic responsibility among Ukraine’s citizens, which grew more acute after the Euromaidan and the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Affairs, European Union, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine, Italy
  • Author: Theo Neethling
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: In recent years, Russian president Vladimir Putin has increasingly placed a high premium on re-building Russia’s global influence in Africa. During the heyday of the Soviet Union, Russian influence on the continent was significant, especially on an ideological level. The Cold War with the United States made Africa a land of contention, with the two superpowers waging proxy wars by aligning and supporting different African movements, fuelling conflict on the continent by providing political support, money and weapons. However, when the Soviet Union disintegrated, and superpower rivalry ended, Africa lost its strategic role. There is little doubt that, today, much of Moscow’s involvement in Africa relates to Putin’s desire to revive his country’s great-power status. In this context, Africa has become strategic in at least two ways: for the economic benefits stemming from its mineral wealth, and for providing Russia with a market to export weapons and military assistance, often merging these two interests in an arms-for-resources approach.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Natural Resources, Weapons , Conflict
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Maddalena Procopio
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: As the first-ever Russia-Africa summit made headlines around the world in the past few weeks, the comparison between the Russian and the Chinese approach to Africa was recurrent. It originated in the fact that both China and Russia are not Western countries, both have seemingly ‘returned’ to Africa in the 21st century for economic and political reasons, both advocate a non-interference approach in the internal affairs of other countries and both are perceived as great powers in international relations. This makes them potentially able to shake the status quo and arouses paranoia, especially in the West, about their intentions and the consequences of their actions for Africa and other external actors. However, while there are similarities in China and Russia’s engagements with Africa, many more are the differences.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Soft Power
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Eurasia, Asia, Africa
  • Author: Luigi Narbone
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: As 2019 comes to close, Russian mercenaries are allegedly shifting the balance of forces in Libya, helping General Haftar to reignite his efforts to take Tripoli. Only a few weeks ago, Russia’s brokered ceasefire had successfully stopped Turkey’s advances in the Syrian northeast, pushing Kurdish forces away from the Turkish border and allowing the return of Bashar Al Assad’s forces to the region from where they had been absent since the beginning of the conflict. Similarly, in Idlib, Russia’s position will be essential to determine the course of the conflict.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Power Politics, Geopolitics, Syrian War, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya, North Africa, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Ruslan Mamedov
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Despite the existence of global and regional formats for discussing ways to resolve the Libyan conflict, national reconciliation has not been achieved for eight years. This is largely due to the lack of necessary conditions and the existence of conflict at the local, regional and global levels. Russian influence on Libyan events is often exaggerated. Moreover, the media likes to raise this topic, because it allows the various parties to the conflict to divert attention away from the real problems and lack of agreement between the main players fighting for leadership in the Libyan issue. At the same time, the Russian approach assumes rather a tactical nature of interaction with various players on the Libyan settlement.
  • Topic: European Union, Geopolitics, Conflict, Proxy War, Reconciliation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Libya, North Africa