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  • Author: Nicola Bilotta, Alissa Siara
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: One of the key priorities of the new European Commission is to enhance the EU’s geopolitical credentials and “learn to use the language of power”, as stated by the incoming EU High Representative Josep Borrell. The EU’s ambition is two-fold: to increase the Union’s ability to project power and influence at the global level, including through increased integration and coordination among member states, and secondly to enhance the EU’s strategic autonomy from the US in the political, military and economic domains. Both objectives, ambitious in the best of circumstances, are today under severe strain by the COVID-19 crisis. Implications will be long-lasting and multidimensional, and for Europe, its impact will have a direct bearing on its ambition for strategic autonomy, touching each of the three pillars outlined above.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Geopolitics, Economy, Autonomy, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Jonathan Pryke
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: In an atmosphere of heightened geostrategic competition, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has raised questions about the risk of debt problems in less-developed countries. Such risks are especially worrying for the small and fragile economies of the Pacific. A close look at the evidence suggests that China has not been engaged in debt-trap diplomacy in the Pacific, at least not so far. Nonetheless, if future Chinese lending continues on a business-as-usual basis, serious problems of debt sustainability will arise, and concerns about quality and corruption are valid.There have been recent signs that both China and Pacific Island governments recognize the need for reform. China needs to adopt formal lending rules similar to those of the multilateral development banks, providing more favorable terms to countries at greater risk of debt distress. Alternative approaches might include replacing or partially replacing EXIM loans with the interest-free loans and grants that the Chinese Ministry of Commerce already provides.
  • Topic: Debt, Development, Diplomacy, Geopolitics, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Asia-Pacific
  • 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: Fabio Figiaconi
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: In the last decade, the Mekong Region (MR) — that is, the area crossed by the Mekong River and encompassing Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam — has become central to the strategies of major global powers due to a series of economic and geopolitical factors. The most prominent are the region’s growing importance in global trade routes, its geographical proximity to major hotspots (such as the South China Sea and the Malacca Strait) and China’s growing regional activism. The growing importance of the MR in global dynamics spurred several actors to develop specific strategies. While liberal democracies such as the United States (US) and Japan both created regional fora for policy discussions as well as development funds, China increased its presence by offering loans, constructing infrastructures and creating a specific regional institution. Due to the mounting competition, the MR is set to become a major geopolitical hotspot in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Topic: Economics, Geopolitics, Strategic Competition
  • Political Geography: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Eleanore Ardemagni
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Differently from neighbouring Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Qatar, the northern emirates of the UAE (Ajman, Umm al-Quwain, Ras al Khaimah and Fujairah) and the Sultanate of Oman form a critical sub-region which has entered globalized modernization at a later stage. In the eyes of the ruling elites, current urban development projects, logistical infrastructures, port expansion and tourism should consolidate economic growth, reduce social inequalities (in the northern emirates of the UAE), and design sustainable post-oil paths (in Oman). Trying to balance continuity and change, the northern emirates of the UAE and Oman are renewing their maritime traditions in the context of state transformations that combine national heritage (as trade culture) and connectivity (infrastructures, urban areas, industrial poles) thanks to national “Visions” and the “project-ization of identities”. In fact, new projects do not only aim at attracting investments and create job opportunities, but also at promoting top-down recalibrated values of the new citizenship which in the eyes of the governments, should be business-oriented and community-serving. Tracing the evolution of the northern Emirati and Omani sub-region, which risks to be affected now by the consequences of the US-Iran escalation, this analysis aims to assess economic transformation trends, emerging security issues and geopolitical implications.
  • Topic: Infrastructure, Geopolitics, Regional Integration, Heritage
  • Political Geography: Iran, Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, United States of America
  • Author: Fabio Figiaconi, Claudia Adele Lodetti
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: According to the latest World Bank’s “Global Economic Prospects” publication, Covid-19 pandemic will have a negative impact on East Asia causing a -1,2% GDP’s reduction in 2020, that is the region’s first recession since 1998’s Asian financial crisis, while China is expected to slow to 1% this year. Among the various consequences that may materialise, the report highlights the disruption of the global and regional value chains. In addition, as stated by UNCTAD World Investment Report 2020 Foreign Direct Investments’ (FDIs) flows are expected to decrease globally by 40% in 2020 and are projected to decrease by a further 5 to 10% in 2021. This scenario would be detrimental for East Asia’s economies and especially for the network of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) located there, which have had and continue to play a fundamental part in the region’s growth. SEZs are intended as delimited areas within a country’s national borders where businesses enjoy a more favourable regulatory and fiscal regime than that of the national territory, with the aim to draw in FDIs, boost exports, increase trade balance and alleviate unemployment.
  • Topic: Economics, Geopolitics, Special Economic Zones
  • Political Geography: Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Alessia Melcangi
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: After an uncertain political transition following the 2011 revolts, Egypt seems ready to reshape its geopolitical role in the Mediterranean area and fulfil its geostrategic goals, always maintaining their national security principle to be an essential objective of its domestic and foreign policy. The two main closely and interconnected scenarios, where the country’s strategic ambitions are projected, move from Libya to the contested waters of the Eastern Mediterranean. In particular the latter represents an area that, in recent years, has become a hotspot for the global energy market due to huge gas-field discoveries. It is enough to imagine how the fight for the control of these resources are shaping the region, elevating it to a potential geostrategic game-changer for the coastal countries such as Egypt.
  • Topic: Economics, Natural Resources, Geopolitics, Exports
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Egypt, Mediterranean
  • Author: Ehud Eiran, Aviad Rubin
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Although the Mediterranean was traditionally an afterthought in Israeli geopolitical thinking, the 2000s recorded a shift: Israel is turning to the sea. The Mediterranean is capturing a growing role in Israeli geostrategic thinking. This is in large part the result of the discovery and development of gas in the Mediterranean Sea beginning in the late 1990s. Developed rather quickly, these gas reserves made Israel energy self-sufficient, a significant geo-strategic transformation. Prior to these discoveries, energy was a serious concern. The state had no energy resources, and for decades found it challenging to secure supply in the face of Arab hostility. With the gas discoveries, Israel gained not only energy independence, but also an economic and political tool. Israeli agreements to export gas to Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority gave Israel important leverage. The gas discoveries in the Mediterranean further offered the possibility for export to Europe if indeed Israeli-Greek–Cypriote designs to build an undersea pipe will materialize. The new maritime energy source contributed to the expansion of the Israeli navy. Once a junior player in the Israeli armed forces, in 2013 the navy was entrusted by the government to protect the gas depots, despite the fact that they are held in private hands (including by non-Israeli corporations) and are outside of Israel’s territorial waters. The new task, alongside the expansion of the submarine flotilla (probably as part of a future nuclear deterrent against Iran), awarded the fleet a more important role in Israel’s national security establishment and resource allocation. It also allowed Israel to use the force for international cooperation and military diplomacy in the region. This turn to the sea also contributed to an emerging quasi-alliance with Cyprus and Greece, which includes, among many other areas, the possible joint gas export project, military exercises, and bi-annual trilateral summits between these countries’ leaders. Like its regional allies, Israel is affected by growing Chinese interest in the Mediterranean. Chinese corporations contracted the expansion of Israel’s two largest ports, Ashdod and Haifa. The latter was substantial enough to irk the US, whose navy used the Haifa port in the past for re-supply. Israeli and Chinese actors are in early phases of developing a Chinese funded, or owned, high speed train from Israel’s Red Sea port in Eilat to the Mediterranean port of Ashdod, that will serve as an alternate route for the Suez Canal portion of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, Geopolitics, Refugees
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Mediterranean
  • 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: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Last week’s inauguration of a new Egyptian military base on the Red Sea was heavy with the symbolism of the rivalries shaping the future of the Middle East as well as north and east Africa.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, United Nations, Geopolitics, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Libya, United Arab Emirates, Red Sea
  • 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: Dominic Sachsenmaier
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Toynbee Prize Foundation
  • Abstract: Living through historically unprecedented times has strengthened the Toynbee Prize Foundation's commitment to thinking globally about history and to representing that perspective in the public sphere. In this multimedia series on the covid-19 pandemic, we will be bringing global history to bear in thinking through the raging coronavirus and the range of social, intellectual, economic, political, and scientific crises triggered and aggravated by it. Dominic Sachsenmaier, the President of the Toynbee Prize Foundation, is Chair Professor of Modern China with a Special Emphasis on Global Historical Perspectives in the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Göttingen. His expertise centers on global and transnational Chinese history, with a focus on Chinese concepts of society and multiple modernities, among other topics. He is co-editor of the Columbia University Press book series “Columbia Studies in International and Global History“ and an elected member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts.
  • Topic: Health, International Affairs, Geopolitics, Global Focus, Coronavirus, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Global Focus
  • Author: Erez Manela
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Toynbee Prize Foundation
  • Abstract: Living through historically unprecedented times has strengthened the Toynbee Prize Foundation's commitment to thinking globally about history and to representing that perspective in the public sphere. In this multimedia series on the covid-19 pandemic, we will be bringing global history to bear in thinking through the raging coronavirus and the range of social, intellectual, economic, political, and scientific crises triggered and aggravated by it. Erez Manela researches international society and the modern international order. Recently he has written about smallpox and the globalization of development, illuminating the power structures and international infrastructure that underwrote the World Health Organization’s (WHO) smallpox eradication program from 1965 to 1980. Professor of History at Harvard University, Prof. Manela teaches the history of the United States in the world and modern international history, and is the Director of Graduate Programs at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard and co-chair of the Harvard International and Global History seminar. He co-edits the Cambridge University book series ‘Global and International History.’
  • Topic: Health, World Health Organization, Geopolitics, Public Health, Coronavirus, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Jeremy Adelman, Or Rosenboim, Jamie Martin, Cindy Ewing, Akita Shigeru
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Toynbee Prize Foundation
  • Abstract: Living through historically unprecedented times has strengthened the Toynbee Prize Foundation's commitment to thinking globally about history and to representing that perspective in the public sphere. In this multimedia series on the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be bringing global history to bear in thinking through the raging coronavirus and the range of social, intellectual, economic, political, and scientific crises triggered and aggravated by it.
  • Topic: Geopolitics, Coronavirus, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Glenda Sluga, Jie-Hyun Lim, Lauren Benton, Hsiung Ping-chen
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Toynbee Prize Foundation
  • Abstract: Living through historically unprecedented times has strengthened the Toynbee Prize Foundation's commitment to thinking globally about history and to representing that perspective in the public sphere. In this multimedia series on the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be bringing global history to bear in thinking through the raging coronavirus and the range of social, intellectual, economic, political, and scientific crises triggered and aggravated by it.
  • Topic: History, Geopolitics, Coronavirus, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Roland Rajah, Alexandre Dayant, Jonathan Pryke
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: China has not been engaged in debt trap diplomacy — at least not yet. China has not been the primary driver behind rising debt risks in the Pacific, although a continuation of business as usual would risk future debt problems in several countries. There is scope for a new Australian infrastructure financing facility to provide loans to the Pacific without causing debt problems, particularly as it has adopted key sustainable lending rules. Pacific nations have an opportunity to obtain more favourable financing from official development partners but care must be taken to avoid overly geopolitical aid.
  • Topic: Debt, Development, Infrastructure, Geopolitics, Soft Power, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • Political Geography: China, Australia, Asia-Pacific
  • 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
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: With a population of 650 million and an annual GDP of $2.8 trillion, ASEAN is a key component of the US Indo-Pacific Strategy. Two visitors to the East-West Center, Kavi Chongkittavorn and Anu Anwar, emphasized that the United States needs to take several steps to strengthen working relations with ASEAN. Priorities for the Trump administration include: Attend the annual ASEAN-sponsored East Asia Summit; Establish personal rapport with ASEAN leaders; Participate actively in all ASEAN-led mechanisms, including the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ASEAN Defense Ministerial Meeting Plus, and the Lower Mekong Initiative; Appoint an American envoy to ASEAN, a position that has been vacant for more than 30 months; Maintain the ASEAN-focused programs and activities initiated under previous US administrations; Expand educational, cultural, and youth programs; Strengthen the US-ASEAN security commitment, in particular maritime and cyber security.
  • Topic: International Relations, Geopolitics, Donald Trump, ASEAN
  • Political Geography: North America, Asia-Pacific, United States of America, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Brendon J. Cannon, Federico Donelli
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: In December 2017, at the end of a bilateral meeting, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Sudanese counterpart Umar al-Bashir announced a deal to restore Suakin, a ruined Ottoman port town on Sudan’s Red Sea coast. The agreement also gave Turkey the right to build a naval dock to maintain civilian and military vessels. More than one year later there are doubts as to how much work Turkey will do beyond restoring the Ottoman town. However, certain regional states are uncomfortable with the apparent consolidation of a permanent Turkish presence in the region, thereby feeding a process of perceived securitization in and around the Red Sea. A few months later, in April 2018, the flag of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) began to flutter on the small island of Socotra. The position of this isolated Arabian Sea island makes it a strategic outpost for the conduct of ongoing UAE military operations in Yemen as well as control of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the entrance, from the south, to the Red Sea. The two seemingly unrelated events are yet more evidence, for some, of a complicated game of chess between rival ideological and political blocs in the Middle East that now stretches into Africa. The Middle East region has been the scene, for decades, of political balancing acts amidst continuous power and influence scrambles due to its structural characteristics – a highly dynamic and amorphous regional system in which power relations are fluid and order is in short supply – and the lack of a clear regional hegemon. As noted by professor Fawaz Gerges, following the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, a “psychological and epistemological rupture” has occurred in the Middle East.[1] Although mostly limited to the domestic dimension of the states, these dynamics appear to have taken on an extra-regional dimension that increasingly feeds perceptions and narratives of shifting distributions of power. A wide range of academic and think tank literature has emphasized these changes in light of an emerging identity Cold War pitting conservative Sunni monarchies against a revolutionary Shi’a Iran. Recent security interactions across the Red Sea seem to form part of this intertwined rebalancing dynamic across the wider Middle East regional security complex (MERSC).
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Power Politics, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan, Turkey, Middle East, Horn of Africa