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  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Hudson Institute
  • Abstract: It is not the caliphate that the world’s Muslim powerhouses are fighting about. Instead, they are engaged in a deepening religious soft power struggle for geopolitical influence and dominance. This battle for the soul of Islam pits rival Middle Eastern and Asian powers against one another: Turkey, seat of the Islamic world’s last true caliphate; Saudi Arabia, home to the faith’s holy cities; the United Arab Emirates, propagator of a militantly statist interpretation of Islam; Qatar with its less strict version of Wahhabism and penchant for political Islam; Indonesia, promoting a humanitarian, pluralistic notion of Islam that reaches out to other faiths as well as non-Muslim centre-right forces across the globe; Morocco which uses religion as a way to position itself as the face of moderate Islam; and Shia Iran with its derailed revolution. In the ultimate analysis, no clear winner may emerge. Yet, the course of the battle could determine the degree to which Islam will be defined by either one or more competing stripes of ultra-conservativism—statist forms of the faith that preach absolute obedience to political rulers and/or reduce religious establishments to pawns of the state.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Islam, Politics, Ideology
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Indonesia, Turkey, Middle East, Asia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar, United Arab Emirates
  • 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: 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: 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: Calder Walton
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)
  • Abstract: Spies, poisonings, Russian election meddling, disinformation, FBI scandals, international terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, mass surveillance, cyber espionage, and data harvesting: the use and abuse of intelligence is one of the most contested and scrutinized subjects in contemporary news and current affairs. It generates almost daily news headlines across the globe. For anyone on social media, it often seems as if barely an hour passes without another spy scandal breaking. Such scandals are the subjects of many heated dinner-party conversations on university campuses.
  • Topic: International Relations, Intelligence, History, Diplomatic History
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Russia seems to be gearing for fresh efforts to reach new political arrangements in Syria, after the balance of power has shifted in favor of the Syrian regime. During a speech at the Valdai International Discussion Club at Sochi resort on October 18, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his country achieved its goals in Syria. He noted that the Russian military intervention was aimed at fighting terrorism and preventing the fragmentation of Syrian territory, invoking the case of Somalia as a model that Russia prevented its recurrence in Syria, adding that the next stage will be devoted to settlement in the United Nations. However, this does not negate the fact that such efforts may encounter many challenges, over the key outstanding issues, foremost among is the position of the Syrian regime itself.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Politics, United Nations, Vladimir Putin
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Eurasia, Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: John R. Haines
  • Publication Date: 05-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Several weeks after winning a plurality in Bulgaria’s late March parliamentary election, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov did something unprecedented: he brought the nationalist United Patriots (Obedineni Patrioti) into his coalition government. The United Patriots is an electoral alliance of three parties, the IMRO[2]-Bulgarian National Movement (VMRO-Bulgarsko Natsionalno Dvizhenie), the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (Natzionalen Front za Spasenie na Bulgaria), and Attack (Attaka). Their inclusion in the coalition government has given rise to concern among Bulgaria’s NATO allies (and many Bulgarian themselves) about what the Bulgarian Socialist Party’s Korneliya Ninova called Mr. Borissov’s “floating majority, his unprincipled alliance”[3] (plavashti mnozinstva, bezprintsipni sŭyuzi). That concern is well placed for several reasons. Only a few years ago, even the nationalist IMRO-BND and NFSB excluded the radical Ataka[4] from their electoral alliance dubbed the “Patriotic Front” (Patriotichen front) because of Ataka’s positions on Russia and NATO. Even then, however, the Patriotic Front’s “nationalist profile” (natsionalisticheskiyat profil) was so far to Bulgaria’s political right to cause Mr. Borissov to exclude the Patriotic Front from his coalition government. He did so with the active encouragement of his center-right European People’s Party allies across the European Union. “Nothing against the PF, but unfortunately the things Valeri Simeonov [a PF leader, more about whom anon] proposes do not correspond to our Euro-Atlantic orientation,” said Mr. Borissov at the time.[5]
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Nationalism
  • Political Geography: Russia, Bulgaria
  • Author: Dmitry Streltsov
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: International analytical center “Rethinking Russia” presents a commentary of Dmitry Streltsov, doctor of history, head of the Department of Oriental studies of the MGIMO University, on the results of Vladimir Putin’s visit to Japan.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, Japan
  • Author: Edward Luttwak
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: In the recent months the US-Russian relations have been in this weird place where Russia suddenly emerged again as a topic of a heated and very controversial electoral campaign and again in a form of an Evil Empire. The relations have been strained since 2014 following the events in Crimea, Ukraine and the sanctions rounds even though the same two countries managed to cooperate around Iran, and were rubbing shoulders in Syria. The recent storm has been caused by the leakage of the Democratic party emails, allegedly done by Moscow with the end goal to undermine Hillary Clinton (who is holding firm anti-Russian position) and support Donald Trump (who has praised Vladimir Putin in the past). With the elections taking place this week, Rethinking Russia spoke to an influential Republican geostrategist, CSIS senior associate Edward Luttwak about the current state of the Russian-American elections.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Cooperation, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, America
  • Author: Thomas Graham
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: Beware of rapid improvement in US-Russian relations. It cannot be sustained, and it always ends in sorrow for both countries. That at least is the history of relations since the end of the Cold War, to which each American president – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama – can attest.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Organization, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, America
  • Author: Yan Vaslavskiy
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: The 13th Valdai Discussion Club session was held in Sochi October 24-27. Ever since its establishment in 2004, the Club has gained the reputation, first of all, as a forum for Russian and foreign experts to compare notes on a wide range of international issues. Secondly, the President of Russia drops into the exclusive club on quite a regular basis.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Tatyana Alekseeva
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: The International Primakov Readings Forum took place November 29-30, 2016, in commemoration of Yevgeny Primakov. The meeting was organized by the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO led by Alexander Dynkin) and was backed by the World Trade Center, the Russian Science Foundation, the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, and the University of Pennsylvania. In his address to the Forum, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin argued that Primakov had succeeded in predicting the events unfolding in today’s world, especially in the Middle East. As the Head of State put it, “Actually, I was always taking heed of Primakov’s assessments, as he was a wise and astute diplomat. I trusted him and asked to accomplish responsible and sensitive missions rather than ordered him”. Besides, the Primakov Readings Conference brought together Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Chair of the Federation Council Valentina Matvienko, and President’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov who delivered an opening speech. The Forum was also attended by most leading experts on international relations. The Rethinking Russia Think Tank presents the comment of Tatyana Alekseeva, a participant of the Primakov Readings Forum.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, Global Focus
  • Author: Bryan MacDonald
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: At the start of 1917, rumours reached London that something was stirring in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg). As a result, the concerned Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, urgently dispatched Lord Milner, a diplomat of some repute, to the Russian capital. His Lordship visited the Tsar and spoke to ministers and members of the Duma, who informed him that enemies of the state were spreading groundless yarns. Sadly, being a creature of his class, Milner believed that only the elites mattered so he neglected to consult any of the general public. Thus, cocooned in his bubble, the peer reported to London that there was nothing the government could not handle and no need to expect no major changes. However, the same British travelling party also included Lloyd George’s private secretary Philip Kerr. A little more clued in, Kerr walked the streets and interviewed the plain folk. Armed with their predictions, he sent a telegram to Downing Street which asserted that Russia was on the verge of an unstoppable revolution. As it happens, the man who stepped out of the comfort zone was right because Nikolai II was shorn of his crown before the British delegation made it home. We know this story because many years later the ‘Welsh Wizard,’ Lloyd George, revealed the details to Ivan Maisky, the Soviet ambassador to London. And almost a hundred years later, it is a salutary lesson in the dangers of the establishment refusing to acknowledge ordinary people’s concerns when evaluating the causes of political upheaval.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, Global Focus