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  • Author: Hans Binnendijk, Daniel S. Hamilton, Charles L. Barry
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Transatlantic Relations
  • Abstract: The NATO Alliance faces simultaneous dangers to its east, to its south, and from a series of security challenges unbounded by geography, at a time when disparate allied responses to a host of challenges are tearing the seams of European unity and American political figures have even questioned the need for NATO. Europe risks turning from an exporter of stability to an importer of instability. The vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace is challenged by a Europe fractured and anxious. The Alliance must be revitalized for the new world rising before us. An overarching Alliance strategy must rely on NATO’s ability to provide a full spectrum of deterrent and defense tools to provide collective defense for all of its members, together with an ability to project stability and resilience beyond its borders using an array of tools for crisis management.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, NATO, International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Partnerships, Alliance
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, North America
  • Author: Michel Duclos
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Russia and Iran are allies in Syria not out of mutual sympathy, but for pragmatic reasons. According to many reports, Iranian leaders—notably including Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Al-Quds force of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC)—were instrumental in convincing Vladimir Putin to send his air force to Syria and save Bashar al-Assad’s skin in September 2015
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran
  • Author: Bassma Kodmani
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The Collapse of the Syrian state is largely a reality. Both Russia and Iran, Assad’s allies, know he is not the guarantor of the continuity of the state any more but continue to hold on to him to sign off on projects that consolidate their control. This paper argues that instead of a failed state, a two-headed system has emerged, with Iran and Russia each pushing for their own vision of the country.
  • Topic: Imperialism, Fragile/Failed State, Authoritarianism, Military Intervention, Repression
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Iran, Middle East, Syria, Damascus
  • Author: Alimar Lazkani
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The Syrian Army has inherited a few of the norms and customs the French used for running army affairs following the French occupation. These did not include any provisions on regulating the army. After the Baa’th Party came to power, particularly after Hafez Assad had assumed office, the norms and customs guaranteeing minimum rights for army soldiers, non-commissioned officers, and officers faded gradually, leaving room for cronyism and allegiance to individuals and to the regime as the sole guarantor for the military to gain their rights. Leaders of military units became almost governors of their own units where nothing could take place without their blessings The Russians became fully in charge of the Syrian Army and started to instil rules and regulations that would ensure discipline and transform the army to a professional force capable of actual missions on the ground. Such rules included entrenching among Syrian soldiers, non-commissioned officers, and officers’ allegiance to Russian military officers and meant to subdue and prevent them from exercising their authority. This has established the Russians as the de facto leaders in the minds of members of the Syrian army. This has mainly shifted the responsibility for all the atrocities committed by the Assad forces under the Russian leadership to the Russians together with the regime’s officers and leaders. Despite their inability to make decisions, they are responsible, in terms of political structure and posturing, for all cases of genocide, chemical attacks, displacement, starvation and other violations. It has therefore become difficult in the Syrian context to separate between the Russian leadership and the Syrian Army, except in terms of differentiating between the leader and the follower, a divide that Russia has been working on consolidating in the media and in its diplomacy as an entity “assisting to achieve peace and combat terrorism”, while it undoubtedly deserves the description of “occupier” with its ability to run a lot of important issues on Syrian soil.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Genocide, Political structure, Military Intervention
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Alimar Lazkani
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: There is constant talk of the “soft conflict” between Iran and Russia in Syria. Most research and media reports focus on the areas of influence and control of each party. Without going into the relationship between Iranian and Russian forces on Syrian soil, in which the Iranian of influence weakened following the entry of Russian troops, it is important to distinguish the nature of these two forces to help identify the characteristics of this conflict, which are not limited to areas of influence. In fact, there is a clear difference between Iranian and Russian interests as well as strategy on two major issues. The first is the relationship with Israel. While Russia sees Israel as a strategic ally in the region, Iran gains its regional legitimacy by emphasizing the continuity of conflict with it. The second is the way each party sees the future of Syria, and its own role in it. Iran is not capable of establishing a centralized state in Syria because of its ideological hostility to the Sunni majority there. Therefore, a state based on sectarian militias will be the cornerstone of Iran’s continued presence on Syrian soil as it has the capacity to manage militias with no national project. Russia, on the other hand, has a vision of a centralized state that is based on the fundamental pillar of a disciplined and dutiful army. Thus, the “soft conflict” involves not only the geographical divvying-up of Syria, but also fundamental matters related to the structure of Syria’s security and military system. This paper is the second part of a broader study of Russia’s policy of establishing a military influence in Syria. It will look at the Syrian militias that Iran has fostered and supported, and Russia’s approach in dealing with them on the ground. However, it does not consider non-Syrian militias on Syrian soil brought by the Iranians, such as Hezbollah, the Fatemiyoun, the Zainabiyoun, and other Shia militias because of their close association with Iranian politics and their temporary posting in specific conflict areas, making them a foreign presence on Syrian soil.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Military Intervention, Sunni, Shia
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Syria
  • Author: Bassma Kodmani
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: As long as military means prevailed in deciding the fate of Syria, the European Union could not alone induce any decisive change in the dynamics of the conflict, and Assad was vindictively seeking to prove that the European Union’s ability to influence the conflict was nil. Assad’s luck was that Putin was determined to prevent his fall and threw his full weight behind him to maintain his rule. When the guns finally fall silent, should the key countries of Europe and the EU itself simply accept as “a sad reality” the fact that the Syrian regime is back in full control of the country? Will they channel funds for humanitarian, post-emergency and early recovery purposes through the State’s financial system knowing full well that European tax payers’ money might be massively diverted to end in the pockets of Assad’s family and the kleptocracy around him,1 and serve to pursue his sectarian scheme of changing the demographics of Syria along religious and ethnic lines? Framing the discussion in terms of accepting Assad and rehabilitating him or not is disempowering for the EU. It assumes that military force alone is what determines the outcome of the conflict and the political fate of the country. If it follows this rationale, Europe would be annihilating everything it stands for; it would serve as a helping hand in Assad’s strategy to bury the civil society groups it helped organize and silence the democratic forces and all those within the different sectors of society who want a Syria that resembles Europe in terms of its values and its political system on the other side of the Mediterranean. The EU’s declared position that there will be no reconstruction without political transition in Syria is an honorable one, but this position still needs to be operationalized if the EU is to turn it into a policy and use its full clout to shape the resolution of the conflict.
  • Topic: Europe Union, Humanitarian Intervention, Military Intervention, Economic Policy
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, Europe, Syria
  • Author: Mikhail Krutikhin
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Transatlantic Relations
  • Abstract: This paper is part of CTR's Working Paper Series: "Russia and the West: Reality Check." The nature and shape of the Russian oil and gas industry is not just Moscow’s concern. The ups and downs of Russia’s energy production and exports are factors that affect the global political environment. The influx of revenues from hydrocarbon sales determines the way the Kremlin behaves in the world arena, and the notorious unpredictability of the Russian political leadership becomes even more pronounced when oil prices show an appetite for instability.
  • Topic: International Relations, Energy Policy, International Trade and Finance, Oil, Natural Resources, Gas
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States of America, European Union
  • Author: Nikolay Kozhanov
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Transatlantic Relations
  • Abstract: This paper is part of CTR's Working Paper Series: "Russia and the West: Reality Check." The current level of Russian presence in the Middle East is unprecedented for the region since the fall of the Soviet Union. Records of diplomatic and political contacts show increased exchange of multilevel delegations between Russia and the main regional countries. After 2012, Moscow has attempted to cultivate deeper involvement in regional issues and to establish contacts with forces in the Middle East which it considers as legitimate. Moreover, on September 30, 2015, Russia launched air strikes against Syrian groupings fighting against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Before that time, Russia had tried to avoid any fully-fledged involvement in the military conflicts in the region. It was also the first time when it adopted an American military strategy by putting the main accent on the use of air power instead of ground forces. Under these circumstances, the turmoil in the Middle East, which poses a political and security challenge to the EU and United States, makes it crucial to know whether Russia could be a reliable partner in helping the West to stabilize the region or whether, on the contrary, Moscow will play the role of a troublemaker.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Military Intervention, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Libya, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, United States of America, European Union, Gulf Cooperation Council
  • Author: Marcin Kaczmarski
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Transatlantic Relations
  • Abstract: This paper is part of CTR's Working Paper Series: "Russia and the West: Reality Check." U.S. domination in global politics provided a powerful incentive for the post-Cold War rapprochement between Russia and China. The worsening of Russia’s relations with the West since 2014 made Moscow even more willing to offer significant concessions to Beijing. However, closer Russian-Chinese cooperation predates the Russian-Western crisis over Ukraine and reaches back to the 2008-2009 global economic crisis. Even the growing power asymmetry has not dissuaded Moscow from deepening its cooperation with China. This challenged widespread Western expectations that Russia would be eager to cooperate with the West in order to compensate for China’s increasing advantage. Hence, a potential improvement of Russian-Western relations is highly unlikely to result in the weakening of Russian-Chinese ties
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, International Cooperation, Bilateral Relations, Trump, Alliance
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, United States of America
  • Author: Dzianis Melyantsou
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Transatlantic Relations
  • Abstract: This paper is part of CTR's Working Paper Series: "Eastern Voices: Europe's East Faces an Unsettled West." The new geopolitical environment formed after the annexation of Crimea and the war in the Donbas, together with emerging threats and challenges, are pressing both Belarus and the West to revise their policies in the region as well as their relations with each other. In this new context, Belarus is seeking a more balanced foreign policy and, at least towards the Ukrainian crisis, a more neutral stance.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, International Trade and Finance, War, Territorial Disputes, Foreign Aid, Sanctions, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine, Belarus, Crimea, United States of America, European Union