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  • Author: Marco Siddi
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Gas trade between the European Union and Russia increased considerably in both 2016 and 2017, despite the ongoing political crisis. Simultaneously, two long-standing disputes in the EU-Russia gas relationship – regarding Gazprom’s monopolistic practices and the EU’s third energy package – were settled. Russian companies have invested in new infrastructural projects for the export of gas to Europe, including the launch of the Yamal LNG terminal in December 2017 and the construction of the TurkStream and Nord Stream 2 pipelines. However, significant challenges remain for the relationship, most notably the intra-EU controversy on Nord Stream 2 and uncertainty about future gas transit in Ukraine.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, International Political Economy, International Affairs, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Pavel K. Baev
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The self-assertive rhetoric of the Russian leadership, in which President Putin's Munich speech marked a shift towards a more aggressive style, has been translated into such demonstrative actions as the resumption of regular patrols by Long Range Aviation and the unilateral suspension of the CFE Treaty. Despite new funding and against confident self-assessments, Russia's strategic arsenal continues to shrink, and many key modernization projects, such as the Bulava missile for strategic submarines, have encountered setbacks. The need for brandishing the diminishing capabilities is driven by the desire to deter the perceived threat of a 'coloured revolution' sponsored by the West, the urge to assert a more solid status than just that of an 'energy super-power', and the complicated intrigues surrounding the on-going reconfiguration of the political leadership. Expanding demonstrations of the dilapidated strategic arsenal increase the risks of technical failures but fall far short of initiating a new confrontation of the Cold War type. The most worrisome point in Russia's ambivalent power policy is Georgia, which has been the target of choice for multiple propaganda attacks, but which now faces the challenge of an external intervention in its domestic crises since Moscow has built up usable military instruments in the North Caucasus. Russia's desire to secure higher international status does not amount to malicious revisionism; so over-reaction to its experiments with muscle-flexing could constitute a greater risk to the Western strategy of engagement than underestimating its ambitions.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Igor Torbakov
  • Publication Date: 10-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Russia's conduct in the post-Soviet space in general and its policies toward Central Asia in particular should be seen within the context of Russia's post-imperial readjustment. The notion of the sphere of “privileged interests” currently advanced by the Kremlin is a clear indication that Russia's search for a new modus operandi with its ex-Soviet neighbours is a painful and, essentially, an open-ended process. Moscow views Central Asia as an area of great strategic importance as it presents both considerable opportunities (due to the region's rich energy resources) and serious threats (stemming from the region's inherent instability and its proximity to volatile Afghanistan). Russia's key interests in Central Asia appear to be preservation of the region's stability, strengthening control over the region's energy resources, and balancing other major actors that are increasing their presence in the region – the United States and China. The effectiveness of the Kremlin's policies in Central Asia seems to be constrained by the nature of Russia's current socio-political system whose key features are authoritarianism and rent-seeking. The latter prompts Moscow to act as a conservative rather than reformist force in the region. Russia's goal of maintaining strategic pre-eminence in Central Asia underpinned by Moscow's significantly increased economic and political clout may ultimately not be realized. The odds are that, given the rise of China, Russia may prove to be a weaker competitor. The European Union's strategic interests increasingly compel the bloc to engage the Central Asian nations, particularly in the spheres of energy and security. Eventually, Russia's wariness of China's growing economic and political clout might prompt Moscow to seek deeper cooperation with Brussels in Central Asia.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, Oil
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, Asia, Moscow
  • Author: Vadim Kononenko
  • Publication Date: 12-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The global financial crisis has had both an economic and a political impact on Russia. Inasmuch as Russia's political system is infused with business interests and economic considerations, the crisis presents an external and unexpected challenge to the system in terms of rocking the balance between the elite groups. In effect, the crisis calls into question the assumption that the economic and social stability of the Putin years has been successfully sustained during Medvedev's presidency. The Kremlin's response to the rapidly changing situation has been essentially conservative and geared towards strengthening the regime rather than addressing the challenges stemming from the crisis. The anti-crisis measures that are being taken reveal that the government is relying on its finance reserves as the ultimate means to solve the problem rather than reforming state institutions. The president, the government and the key business groups have yet to define the terms of their relationship in the new situation. The plans to increase state control over companies as a means of tackling the crisis are problematic and likely to lead to an intensification of the struggle between the elites. At the same time, as the state takes on even more responsibility, the question of its efficiency becomes more pertinent in the crisis conditions. The return of Vladimir Putin as president remains uncertain despite the constitutional change initiated by Medvedev. His return becomes more probable if the crisis lingers and the overall situation worsens, thus prompting the return of the “national leader” to the driver's seat. The crisis alone cannot lead to major political or social turmoil or a regime change, but it nonetheless presents a major challenge for Russia in the short-term perspective. Ultimately, the outcome of the crisis will depend on how well the incumbent leadership is able to maintain a balance between tackling the crisis and protecting its own interests and legitimacy.
  • Topic: Economics, International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Hiski Haukkala
  • Publication Date: 01-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: For the European Union, the link between norms, values and foreign policy seems to be an obvious one. For example, the new constitutional treaty spells out the set of values on which the Union's external action is based on: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law. In the treaty, the development of relations with third parties is made conditional upon sharing and upholding them.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Human Rights, International Political Economy, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Katri Pynnöniemi
  • Publication Date: 01-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: An international transport corridor can be understood as a layout of possible practices that are designed to reinforce proximity rather than remoteness and to create a sense of presence instead of absence. It is, in other words, a perfect example to show how by 'circulating traces' power makes itself felt in space, not as a flow but as an immanent affair that is in constant flux.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Henrikki Heikka
  • Publication Date: 01-2000
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: A study about Russian grand strategy is certain to raise more than a few eyebrows among observers of Russian foreign policy. How can one possibly assume that in a country with constantly changing prime ministers and an economy on the verge of bankruptcy there could be a commonly accepted Grand Plan about anything? Moreover, the record of post-cold war Russian foreign policy is so full of reckless moves and unpredictable u-turns, that it seems rather far-fetched to suggest that there could be, even in theory, a common logic behind it. Judging by the steady flow of publications on the role of self-interested politicians, parties, business elites, and organizational and bureaucratic actors in the formation of Russian foreign policy, it does indeed seem that most scholars see Russia's external policy driven by the day-to-day power struggles of various groups within the Russian political elite rather than by a common national strategy.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia