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  • Author: Anthony Bubalo
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: The examples of Egypt and Saudi Arabia show the risks in betting on the stability of autocratic regimes in the region. Despite the Arab uprisings of the last decade, most countries in the Middle East remain in the grip of autocrats, with a widespread view that this is the 'default setting' for the region. However, an examination of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where authoritarianism has been revived, reveals both regimes are struggling for popular legitimacy. Increasingly reliant on repression, these regimes risk provoking civil unrest, and external powers should reconsider their assumption that autocracy guarantees stability in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Authoritarianism, Political stability, Legitimacy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Egypt
  • Author: Roland Rajah
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: Indonesia has much economic potential but the trade-off between growth and stability continues to bind its growth ambitions. Indonesian economic policy continues to prioritise stability over growth but the adequacy of economic growth has become the bigger issue. President Joko Widodo’s commendable pro-growth efforts have so far only stabilised Indonesia’s trajectory rather than boost it. Doing better will require reforms to be calibrated to make the trade-off between growth and stability less binding while enhancing productivity.
  • Topic: Government, International Trade and Finance, Economy, Economic growth
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Natasha Kassam, Richard McGregor
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: China has lost the battle for public opinion in Taiwan. Saturday’s elections are likely to reflect strong anti-Beijing sentiment China is already looking past the elections to weaken the island’s democracy through overt and covert means Whatever the result, Beijing will increase pressure on Taipei to open talks on unification
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Elections, Democracy
  • Political Geography: China, Taiwan, Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Luca Franza
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Dolphins are being spotted in harbours, canals in Venice have never looked so clean and the temporary ban of corridas has spared the lives of a hundred Spanish bulls. Looking at the bright side of things is an admirable quality, but we should not get too carried away with the idea that COVID-19 is good for the planet. Besides the anecdotal phenomena quoted above, the collapse of mobility and economic activity induced by COVID-19 are generating meaningful short-term consequences for the environment. These include a sharp reduction in Hubei’s and Northern Italy’s air pollution levels and a likely reduction in global CO2 emissions in 2020. Rejoicing over such news rests on a short-sighted view. The interlinkages between COVID-19, energy and climate issues are so complex that we are actually looking at a mixed bag of consequences.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Pollution, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Francesca Ghiretti
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The bilateral relationship between Italy and China is back in the spotlight one year after the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on China’s Belt and Road Initiative. To date, Italy is the second hardest hit country by COVID-19 pandemic after China. Despite strict measures in place to limit the crisis, numbers keep rising, placing the national health care system under severe strain.
  • Topic: Health, Bilateral Relations, Foreign Aid, Propaganda
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Italy, European Union
  • Author: Alessandro Marrone
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The Italian armed forces need to adjust to a changing operational environment, whereby threat levels are on the rise and the United States is more reluctant to lead military operations than in the past.
  • Topic: International Relations, NATO, Armed Forces, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Elisa Murgese
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: China’s 2018 import ban on mixed “recyclable” plastic waste revealed deep-rooted problems in the global recycling system and uncovered the wasteful and harmful nature of the recycling trade. Repercussions have been global. In April 2019, Greenpeace East Asia took a closer look at the top plastic waste importers and exporters globally. This data details the 21 top exporters and 21 top importers of plastic waste from January 2016 to November 2018, measuring the breadth of the plastics crisis and the global industry’s response to import bans. Two core trends emerged from China’s ban and the Greenpeace analysis.
  • Topic: Crime, Environment, Trafficking , Waste
  • Political Geography: Europe, Malaysia, Asia, Italy
  • 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: 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: Alessandro Marrone
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic will negatively affect the defence field from a budgetary, industrial and politicostrategic point of view, particularly in Europe. Depending on the pandemic’s duration, its economic consequences and national and EU responses, effects may range from contained damages to a much wider European security crisis.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Crisis Management, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Daniele Fattibene
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development stands at a crossroads. While Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have progressively entered the political discourse and agendas of numerous states, without long-term financial investments, building a more just and sustainable future will remain little more than a rhetorical embellishment.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Development, United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Elena A. Korosteleva, Irina Petrova
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Resilience has recently emerged as a possible solution to address the increasing dysfunctionality of national and global governance, strengthening its ability to deal with the frequenting crises and the adversity of VUCA – the more vulnerable, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – world around us.
  • Topic: Politics, International Relations Theory, Institutions, Coronavirus, Resilience
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Tommaso Emiliani
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The killing of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by a US drone strike on 3 January 2020, followed by the Iranian retaliation on US military bases in Iraq, left many Europeans wondering how – if at all – the European Union can foster de-escalation in the Middle East. The EU is presently stuck between a deepening strategic rift with its US ally and its inability to advance its independent interests and policies vis-à-vis Iran. It is now clear that Europe cannot protect its relations with Washington while also salvaging the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iranian nuclear deal. Borrowing from an old Persian proverb, Europe cannot have both God and the sugar dates.
  • Topic: Sanctions, Military Affairs, Trade, Transatlantic Relations, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, United States of America, European Union, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Luca Barana
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The European Commission’s Joint-Communication “Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa”, published on 9 March 2020, envisioned the beginnings of a new and more equal partnership with the African Union (AU).[1] Meanwhile, COVID-19 has had an unprecedented disruptor effect on the world scene. Its impact dramatic and long-lasting, the crisis may also be an opportunity to move beyond policy principles and actually consolidate the EU–AU relationship. The Commission aspires to structure this new course of EU–AU relations around five thematic partnerships and ten actions so as to concretely step up cooperation. A common thread emerging from the Communication is the need to strengthen multilateralism and the rules-based international system.
  • Topic: Migration, United Nations, Multilateralism, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, European Union, African Union
  • 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: Nicoletta Pirozzi
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Every era has its symbols. In 1984, Mitterrand and Kohl held hands on the battlefield in Verdun, coming to symbolise the importance of peace in the pursuit of European integration. Today, in times of COVID-19, the so-called “Coronabonds” could have emerged as the symbol of a new Europe, one that is ready and able to do what it takes to collectively overcome the present crisis. Yet, what some member states consider an indispensable emblem of European solidarity, namely debt mutualisation to face an unprecedented symmetric crisis brought about by COVID-19, is regarded by others as an ultimate excuse for moral hazard. As a result, Europe could end up with a politically more digestible European Fund, as proposed by Commissioners Paolo Gentiloni and Thierry Breton, designed to issue long-term bonds.[1] Or, as outlined by the Eurogroup, a Recovery Fund that is “temporary, targeted and commensurate” to the extraordinary costs of the current crisis, helping to spread them across time.
  • Topic: Financial Crisis, Governance, Finance, Economy, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • 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
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A survey of how regional media outlets discussed the congressional impeachment process and its potential ramifications on the 2020 presidential election. Across the Middle East, the story of President Trump’s impeachment and subsequent acquittal received secondtier coverage compared to regional or local issues. Many Arabic-language websites and newspapers translated and republished Western articles as opposed to creating their own content on the issue, such as Al Jazeera publishing a translated version of a Guardian editorial. Moreover, the bulk of the articles just explained the facts or process of impeachment rather than expounding on its significance. Some celebrated the idea that there is a mechanism for peaceful removal of a leader. Most commented on the unlikelihood of Trump’s removal and how America is facing unprecedented polarization. Those articles that did offer their own editorial content were split on whether impeachment will help or hurt Trump’s election campaign. Publications in the Gulf states tended to portray impeachment as an act of “political vengeance” by Democrats against Trump, “who won despite their opposition” (Sky News Arabia). Most Gulf papers posited that Trump will ultimately benefit in the 2020 election “after proving his innocence before the Senate” (Al Seyassah). Yet Qatari coverage deviated from the general Gulf trend. For example, one Al Jazeera article asserted that the impeachment case against Trump “is simple, and established not only by officials speaking under oath, but by his own words and actions.” Egyptian newspapers were more split on how impeachment will affect the election. Anti-American outlets in Syria suggested it will hurt him, with Al Baath noting “all data indicate that Trump’s hope for a return to the White House have faded.” Lebanese publications tended to take a more neutral view. The Hezbollah-controlled newspaper Al Akhbar wrote that the prospect of impeachment weakening Trump’s electoral campaign “is similar to that of his potential main rival,” arguing that Joe Biden was also tainted by the process. Most Iranian media tended to copy Western sources, but two themes prevailed among outlets offering original content: portrayal of impeachment as a scandal that has tainted Trump’s presidential legacy, or neutral analysis of how impeachment may or may not harm his reelection chances. A few analytical pieces suggested that he might be able to transform the scandal into an asset for his campaign, since it may “lead to more popularity among the middle class.” While most Iranian articles leaned against Trump, few appeared to praise Democrats. Turkish articles generally depicted impeachment as a “gift” to Trump’s campaign. SETA, a think tank that supports President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, claimed that what “hasn’t killed Trump will make him stronger.” Sabah News, another pro-Erdogan source, wrote that impeachment will “unite Republican senators and members of the House of Representatives around him.”
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Media, News Analysis, Domestic politics, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Arab Countries, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Siautu Alefaio
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Of all the earth’s regions, the Pacific is one of the most prone to natural disasters. Climate-related disasters such as floods, droughts, and tropical cyclones make the headlines, along with other natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. These may be accompanied by crises in public health. Today, many Pacific Island countries rely heavily on government relief and international aid when they face a disaster. Traditional sources of resilience can still play an important role, however, both within local communities and within the broader diaspora of Pacific communities in Aotearoa-New Zealand, Australia, and the US. A better understanding of Pacific cultures from within and a better recognition of the role of the Pacific diaspora and of churches in Pacific communities would also help improve development efforts and disaster response.
  • Topic: Development, Humanitarian Aid, Natural Disasters, Diaspora
  • Political Geography: Australia, New Zealand, Asia-Pacific, United States of America
  • Author: Alison D. Nugent, Ryan J. Longman, Clay Trauernicht, Matthew P. Lucas, Henry F. Diaz, Thomas W. Giambelluca
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Hurricane Lane, which struck the Hawaiian islands on 22–25 August 2018, presented a textbook example of the compounding hazards that can be produced by a single storm. Over a four-day period, the island of Hawaiʻi received an average 17 inches of rainfall. One location received 57 inches, making Hurricane Lane the wettest tropical storm ever recorded in the state and the second wettest ever recorded in the US. At the same time, three wildfires on the island of Maui and one on Oʻahu burned nearly 3,000 acres of abandoned agricultural land. As the global climate warms, the number and strength of hurricanes is expected to increase, both in Hawaiʻi and in the Pacific region generally. A better understanding of the relationship between hurricanes and global climate change is critical in order to predict the vulnerability of people and resources during a severe weather event and to plan an appropriate course of action.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Natural Disasters, Natural Resources, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: North America, Asia-Pacific, Hawaii
  • Author: Nancy Davis Lewis, Jonathan D. Mayer
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Experience in Asia suggests that public health and medical capacity are critical for an effective response to an emerging infectious disease. Political will and previous experience with disease outbreaks also play a role. Singapore ignored an important segment of its population and is now experiencing a huge spike in cases. China and Vietnam were able to enforce draconian measures, while in Japan and Hong Kong, civil society had a greater role in initiating effective controls. In several countries, local political outcomes have been affected by the perceived success or failure of leaders in controlling the crisis.
  • Topic: Health Care Policy, Leadership, Crisis Management, Public Health, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, Asia, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong
  • Author: Christopher A. McNally
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: With both the US and China facing a long economic slowdown, the bilateral relationship between the globe's two largest economies faces massive challenges. Making matters worse, Washington and Beijing have attempted to divert domestic attention away from their own substantial shortcomings by blaming each other. Given the economic uncertainty, each side has limited leverage to force the other into making concessions. Harsh rhetoric only serves to inflame tensions at the worst possible time. For better or worse, the US and China are locked in a messy economic marriage. A divorce at this time would exact an enormous cost in an already weakened economy.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Economy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Andew Mason, Sang-Hyop Lee, Donghyun Park
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Elderly populations in Asia are expanding more quickly than other age groups. This shift in population age structure had two major impacts: demand for income support for the elderly will rise because their labor income tends to be extremely low; and gross domestic product (GDP) and other aggregate economic indicators will grow more slowly as growth in the effective labor force declines. In countries where government programs play an important role in old-age support, tax rates will have to rise or benefits will have to be curtailed or both—all options with significant political costs.
  • Topic: Demographics, Labor Issues, Population, GDP, Economy
  • Political Geography: Asia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: James H. Spencer, Sumeet Saksena, Jefferson Fox
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: The current COVID-19 pandemic, which started in Wuhan, China, underscores what the public health community has warned about for more than two decades—the risk of viral diseases capable of spreading from animal to human hosts. The first outbreaks of “bird flu” (highly pathogenic avian influenza—HPAI, subtype H5N1)—raised similar concerns 20 years ago, concerns that have persisted with the outbreak of SARS in 2002–2004 and COVID-19 today. A recent study compared information on infrastructure and other aspects of economic development in Vietnam with outbreaks of avian influenza. While this research focuses on avian influenza in Vietnam, the study of links between infrastructure characteristics and new and reemerging health risks has broad applicability, especially given the global importance of today’s rapidly expanding urban landscapes.
  • Topic: Infectious Diseases, Urban, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Vietnam
  • 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: Emily J. Munro
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: Prevention strategies warrant more attention and can be a framework to apply to situations with different levels of urgency. The cases of the Arctic, the Sahel and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic demonstrate the value of prevention strategies in diverse ways. Anticipation is closely linked to prevention, and we should do more to understand how the future may unfold, and then act on the findings to help us to prevent crises and conflict. The interaction of issues often lies at the centre of the policy challenges we face today. It is necessary to unpack these interactions in order to strengthen our responses. Surprises cannot be entirely avoided, but we should place more emphasis on considering the implications of crises and ensure better integration of our approaches across the short, medium and long term.
  • Topic: Crisis Management, Coronavirus, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Sahel, Arctic, Global Focus
  • Author: Max Paul Friedman
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institute for Latin American and Iberian Studies at Columbia University
  • Abstract: Columbia University ILAS panel on Democratic presidential candidates and Latin America. Among leading Democratic candidates some basics are widely shared. They agree that military force should be a last resort and that long-term occupations are damaging. They promise to reinvest in diplomacy and rehabilitate the US image abroad, as well as trying to achieve US policy goals, by rebuilding alliances and recommitting to multilateralism on climate change, on nuclear arms control. They want to use foreign aid and international institutions to improve human security, address the root causes of migration, and seek diplomatic solutions to conflicts. There is a rough division between the mainstream, Obama-style approach represented by Joe Biden and the mayor from South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttegieg, who both believe that US alliances and international institutions are force multipliers for the United States. Together, the so-called moderate candidates have about 40% of the Democratic voter support in surveys. The progressive wing is represented by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who want to reduce US military activity abroad and also reform the global economic order in order to reduce inequality, conflict, and environmental damage. Together, Sanders and Warren have about 40% of the Democratic vote as well.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Elections, Democracy
  • Political Geography: South America, Latin America, 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: Simon Adams
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  • Abstract: This year the world will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Charter of the United Nations. But celebrations recognizing this historical landmark will occur at a time when the entire post-1945 structure of human rights, humanitarianism and multilateral diplomacy are under threat. Not since the UN was first formed have so many people been displaced by persecution, conflict and war. Not since the peak of the Cold War has the UN Security Council appeared so bitterly divided and incapable of decisive action. And as a new decade begins, there are renewed threats to international peace and security, and fresh assaults on human dignity.
  • Topic: Genocide, Human Rights, Social Movement, Refugees, Syrian War, Responsibility to Protect (R2P), UN Security Council
  • Political Geography: China, Yemen, United Nations, Syria, Chile, Myanmar, Global Focus, Xinjiang
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  • Abstract: A letter to the UN Human Rights Council from a number of NGOs (African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS); AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network); Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS); Center for Reproductive Rights; Central African Network of Human Rights Defenders (REDHAC) CIVICUS; Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) – South Sudan; Crown The Woman – South Sudan; DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project); Dominicans for Justice and Peace; Geneva for Human Rights / Genève pour les Droits de l’Homme; Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P); Human Rights Watch; International Commission of Jurists; FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights); International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR); International Service for Human Rights; Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada; Legal Action Worldwide (LAW); National Alliance for Women Lawyers – South Sudan; Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN); South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network (SSHRDN); World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)).
  • Topic: Civil Society, Human Rights, United Nations, NGOs
  • Political Geography: Africa, United Nations, South Sudan
  • 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: Hassan Mneimneh
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Hudson Institute
  • Abstract: In 2020, Lebanon should be celebrating its centenary. It is not. Instead, it is close to terminal collapse as a polity, an economy, and even as a society. Lebanon is under Iranian occupation, although ascertaining this condition may demand some attentive consideration from the uninitiated. Iran’s proponents assess it as a confirmation of the “Axis of Resistance” against imperialism and Zionism; its detractors ascribe it to a deliberate plan of Iranian expansion across the region. However, the Iranian occupation of Lebanon may be rooted in Lebanon’s own tumultuous history rather than in Tehran’s designs. Iran in Lebanon may be more an artifact of history than a product of strategy. In fact, the outcome of Lebanon’s present course may not yield Iran any tangible advantage. And it certainly seems to be on the verge of destroying Lebanon.
  • Topic: International Relations, Corruption, Terrorism, Non State Actors, Radicalization, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Bennett Murray
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: As the United States and People’s Republic of China jostle for influence among member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Russian Federation has also declared the bloc a priority. Southeast Asian nations, in turn, would like third powers to counterbalance Beijing and Washington in the region. However, Russia has not made a huge impression in the bloc since its first summit with ASEAN in 2005. Economic success has been mostly limited to bilateral trade centered around arms sales, while security partnerships have not been forthcoming. Part of the problem is that Russia lacks historic ties in its former Cold War rivals, which are also ASEAN’s largest economic powerhouses, to lean on. More crucially, Southeast Asian nations perceive Moscow as deferential to Beijing’s geopolitical ambitions in the region.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Geopolitics, Soft Power, Economic Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Thomas J. Shattuck
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Once again, the future of Kuomintang (KMT), the political party headed by Chiang Kai-shek for decades and that favors a closer relationship with Mainland China, is in doubt due to the results of the recent presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan. President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was reelected in a landslide against her opponent Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang. Tsai received a record 8+ million votes, and the DPP retained its majority in the country’s national legislature by winning 61 seats—though it did lose seven compared to the 2016 election when the party won its first-ever majority. The blowout victory puts the KMT’s future into question—though more senior analysts note that this conversation occurs after every election, particularly the 2016 election, and nothing really changes. Maybe, just maybe, this time will be different.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Reform, History , Kuomintang
  • Political Geography: Taiwan, Asia
  • Author: Louisa Keeler
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: The small Gulf state of Oman’s identity is closely—if not inextricably—linked with the person of Sultan Qaboos, who passed away on January 10 after nearly 50 years in power. He singlehandedly transformed the country from a sleepy, closed-off country comprising disparate groups to an interconnected, modern, and unified state that has proven itself an invaluable player on the international scene. Within Oman, his portrait is ubiquitous, and his name is on countless mosques, hospitals, and institutions throughout the Sultanate, a sign of both his revered status and proof of his impact on society. Now that he is gone, he leaves behind an untested successor who is not particularly well known to the international community. Qaboos’ presence will be missed during one of the tensest moments since 1979 between the United States, Iran, and the Arab Gulf states, countries which have relied on Oman as a badly needed messenger and facilitator for negotiations. If there was ever a good time for Sultan Qaboos to die, this was not it.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Domestic politics, Monarchy, Sultan Qaboos
  • Political Geography: Oman, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: The North Korean government response to the coronavirus has been extreme, but prudent and reasonable in context. It has closed the border to China almost entirely to both goods and people though surely some transports are still getting through. No travel is allowed to or from China although there must be exceptions to this rule as well. The state (under the banner of the Red Cross, whose branch in North Korea operates as a government entity) has dispatched people around the country to inform people about the virus. No reports have been confirmed at this time of writing, but exile journalists based in South Korea have reported several deaths from the virus from North Korea. Its actions have been blunt and all-encompassing, mainly because the state lacks the necessary capacity to act differently. North Korea doesn’t have the sort of equipment required to monitor people coming from China or to test people at the pace required.
  • Topic: Government, Health, Authoritarianism, Border Control, Coronavirus, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Asia, North Korea
  • Author: Adam Garfinkle
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Sadness and tragedy come in many forms. One form consists in knowing how to solve a problem in theory, but realizing at the same time that what that would take in practice is not available. That is the case now with the tragedy unfolding in Idlib. There is a way to turn the crisis into an opportunity, but it would take wise and bold leaderships simultaneously in Washington, Jerusalem, Riyadh, Ankara, and the capitals of Europe. And that is precisely what we lack. What should be done? The U.S. government should privately propose, organize as necessary, and backstop as required a joint Israeli-Saudi intervention, coordinated with an on-going Turkish intervention, to save the million-plus refugees now facing imminent annihilation in Idlib Province, in Syria.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Intervention, Conflict, Syrian War, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Felix Chang
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: The novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which arose in China and swept around the globe, has devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands. But however large the health impact of COVID-19 ultimately is, hundreds of millions more have already felt its economic impact. With people worldwide ordered to social distance and stay at home, entire industries have been shuttered. And though national economies will recover in time, fully restoring them may prove to be a slow process. No doubt, the longer the disease lingers, the longer an economic recovery will take. That could create one more economic casualty: China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Topic: Infrastructure, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Coronavirus, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Joseph de Weck
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Do you want to know how Beijing would like Europe to act? Take a look at Switzerland. Switzerland and China have been close for decades. It was the first Western nation to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in January 1950. Bern wanted to protect investments in the new People’s Republic from nationalization and hoped Swiss industry could lend a hand in rebuilding China’s infrastructure after the civil war. Being friendly to China paid off, but only 30 years later, once reformer Deng Xiaoping took the reins of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In 1980, Swiss elevator producer Schindler was the first foreign company to do a joint venture in China. Today, Switzerland is the only continental European country to have a free trade agreement (FTA) with China.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, International Trade and Finance, Treaties and Agreements, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Switzerland, Sweden
  • Author: Felix Chang
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Affronts to Australia by China’s top diplomat in Canberra and the Chinese Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper reached new heights in April 2020. What prompted their verbal barbs was the Australian government’s backing for an independent review into the origins and spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). While Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison may have regarded such a review as a way to avert future pandemics, Beijing saw it as support for finger-pointing at China. Whichever is the case, the affronts shone a light on how Beijing has come to view Australia and what it and other countries in the Indo-Pacific region might expect from China in the future. Still, China’s diplomatic and editorial barbs were surprising. China has long worked to move Australia closer into its orbit and away from that of the United States. And, by and large, those efforts had been paying off. Over the last decade, several Australian foreign policy analysts had come to believe that greater accommodation of China would be needed to ensure Australia’s future prosperity. Indeed, Canberra has already shown more sensitivity on issues, like Taiwan, which Beijing deemed strategic. But rather than being content with Australia’s gradual shift, China has undertaken actions that could undermine it, from cyber-espionage to political influence-buying in Australia. China’s most recent affronts are likely to deepen Australian concerns over what Chinese power means for the region.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, Economy, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Australia
  • Author: Geoffrey Sloan
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: This essay draws on the author’s previous work, specifically: The Geopolitics of Anglo-Irish Relations in the 20th Century. The greatest failure of the European referendum campaign in 2016, which can be attributed to both sides, was the inability to articulate an understanding of Britain’s geopolitical relationship to Europe. By geopolitics, I do not mean its current usage: interpreted merely as a synonym for international strategic rivalry. I refer, instead, to classical geopolitics, which is a confluence of three subjects: geography, history, and strategy. It draws attention to certain geographical patterns of political history. It fuses spatial relationships and historical causation. It can produce explanations that suggest the contemporary and future political relevance of various geographical configurations.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Brexit
  • Political Geography: Britain, Europe
  • Author: Alexander Luck
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: On June 6, the Wall Street Journal set off an avalanche of commentary by reporting that U.S. President Donald Trump ordered a drastic reduction in U.S. troops deployed in Germany within a space of only six months. The move was met with significant pushback in Washington and Brussels, causing Congressional Republicans to raise their concerns in letters and public statements. Trump’s announcement, however, was in fact an extension of earlier plans mooted in June 2019, when the administration first suggested moving at least 1,000 troops from Germany to Poland. At the time, Trump suggested that the proposed move was to “affirm the significant defense cooperation between our nations.” Washington picked up this potential troop move again in a rather unrelated context following a spat over the German refusal to participate in a naval mission in the Persian Gulf to deter Iran, reinforcing the notion Trump keeps using American deployments in Germany as a bargaining chip for any interaction on foreign policy with the Merkel government.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Armed Forces, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Felix Chang
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Resting at the eastern end of Bhutan is the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary. Spanning some 750 square kilometers, it is spread out across a densely forested area of the Himalayan Mountains. The sanctuary is far better known for its unique flora and fauna (including the red panda and, reputedly, the fabled yeti) than its geographic boundaries. But the latter is precisely what brought it to international attention in June 2020. Early that month, Bhutan sought a grant for the sanctuary from a global environmental organization that funds sustainable development projects. Unexpectedly, China’s representatives to that organization opposed the grant. Their reason: China considers the sanctuary to be “disputed territory.”
  • Topic: Development, Environment, Territorial Disputes, History
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Bhutan
  • Author: Yaroslav Shevchenko
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: The Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China are certainly the two most prominent authoritarian regimes in the world today, with their quasi-alliance characterized as an “axis of authoritarians” and portrayed as a major threat to the West and global liberal democracy. However, despite unmistakable similarities that exist between Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia, the reality is far more complex. Their respective responses to the COVID-19 crisis shed some light on differences between the political-governance models of these two countries.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Economy, Crisis Management, COVID-19, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Eurasia, Asia
  • Author: Anna Borshchevskaya
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: It is no secret that Moscow is increasingly utilizing so-called “private military contractors” (PMCs) to pursue foreign policy objectives across the globe, especially in the Middle East and Africa. What has received less attention is that Moscow’s deployment of PMCs follows a pattern: The Kremlin is exploiting a loophole in international law by securing agreements that allow contractors to provide local assistance. The problem is, however, Russian PMCs are not simply contractors. This pattern of Russian behavior presents a new challenge that Western policymakers should address, as it speaks to broader Russian influence in Africa in the context of great power competition. This challenge is about Moscow’s erosion of broader behavioral norms.
  • Topic: International Law, Military Affairs, Private Sector
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Robert E. Hamilton
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: On August 26, Politico reported that U.S. service members were injured after an altercation with Russian forces in northeast Syria. This pattern of Russian challenges to U.S. forces was enabled by the Trump administration’s decision to retreat from parts of northern Syria in 2019, allowing Russia to fill the void. Until this decision was made, the two countries had agreed to make the Euphrates River the deconfliction line to keep U.S. and Russian forces separated. Russia stayed on the west side of the river, and the United on the east side, where this incident took place. Robert Hamilton, Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, commented on the story and warned that it will not be a one-off incident: “We need to respond to this immediately and forcefully. Russian forces deliberately escalated against U.S. partners when I was running the ground deconfliction cell for Syria in 2017, but tended to be careful when U.S. forces were present. Unless we make it clear that we’ll defend ourselves, these escalations will continue with dangerous and unpredictable results.” Below, we offer readers an excerpt from a chapter written by Robert Hamilton from a forthcoming edited volume on Russia’s Way of War in Syria.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, War, Military Strategy, Military Affairs, Troop Deployment
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Syria, United States of America, North America
  • Author: Leslie Rogne Schumacher
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: In July 2013, the Sunday Telegraph issued a report on the escalating refugee crisis in Malta. In the previous decade, Malta had seen thousands of Africans make their way to the tiny island nation, which lies just over a hundred miles from the Tunisian coast. The newspaper wanted to get some reactions from Maltese citizens on the way they were coping with this influx of desperate, often sick and traumatized, and almost uniformly poor North and Sub-Saharan Africans. Some Maltese told the Sunday Telegraph’s reporters that they had experienced no problems with their new neighbors, but others accused the Africans of being dirty, unruly, and possibly dangerous. “Every night you see them around here, drinking and making a mess,” claimed Raymond Zammit, while Gerard Camelleri said “the kids feel afraid to play in the parks” and warned that “in another few years, Malta is going to be African.” In September 2014, an anti-immigration rally in Malta saw its participants claim that the “real Maltese” were at risk of extermination due to the refugee crisis, with one saying that Malta must be “cleared of African invaders, who want to destroy Maltese culture and civilisation.”
  • Topic: Migration, Refugees, History , Borders
  • Political Geography: Italy, Mediterranean, Malta
  • Author: June Teufel Dreyer
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: According to geologists, rare earths are not rare, but they are precious. The answer to what appears to be a riddle lies in accessibility. Comprising 17 elements that are used extensively in both consumer electronics and national defense equipment, rare earth elements (REEs) were first discovered and put into use in the United States. However, production gradually shifted to China, where lower labor costs, less concern for environmental impacts, and generous state subsidies enabled the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to account for 97 percent of global production. In 1997, Magniquench, then-America’s leading rare earths company, was sold to an investment consortium headed by Archibald Cox, Jr., son of the same-named Watergate prosecutor, with two Chinese state-owned metals firms, San Huan New Materials and China National Nonferrous Metals Import and Export Company. The chairman of San Huan, son-in-law of paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, became chairman of the company. Magniquench was shut down in the United States, moved to China, and reopened in 2003, where it fit in well with Deng’s Super 863 Program to acquire cutting-edge technologies for military applications, including “exotic materials.” This left Molycorp as the last remaining major rare earths producer in the United States until its collapse in 2015.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Natural Resources, Exports, Supply Chains
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Maximilian Hess
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Armenia’s accession to a Russian-mediated settlement with Azerbaijan over their long-running conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, known as Artsakh to Armenians, on November 10 marks a major, perhaps irreversible, loss for Yerevan. But it is not just Armenian forces who stand defeated. It also marks the trouncing of a liberal approach to the region and the supremacy of realist power politics.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Territorial Disputes, Armed Conflict
  • Political Geography: Eurasia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh
  • Author: Nadav Tamir, Nimrod Goren, Lior Lehrs, Yonatan Touval, Elie Podeh, Ksenia Svetlova, Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, Merav Kahana-Dagan, Barukh Binah, Roee Kibrik
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Following the publication of the Trump plan, Mitvim Institute experts argue that this is not the way to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace. This document includes initial commentaries by Nadav Tamir, who claims that Israel needs a real peace plan; Dr. Nimrod Goren, who calls on the international community to say “no” to the Trump plan; Dr. Lior Lehrs, who explains that on the Jerusalem issue, Trump shatters the status quo and previous understandings; Yonatan Touval, who argues that Trump takes problematic diplomatic practices of his predecessors to the extreme; Prof. Elie Podeh, who contends that the Trump plan is not even an opportunity for peace; Former MK Ksenia Svetlova, who warns that the Trump plan might endanger Israel’s warming ties with Arab countries; Dr. Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, who claims that while the EU remains committed to the two-state solution, it struggles to respond to the Trump plan; Merav Kahana-Dagan, who identifies an opportunity to bring the Palestinian issue back to the forefront; Amb. (ret.) Barukh Binah, who calls on Israeli leaders to seek diplomatic, not only security, advice; and Dr. Roee Kibrik, who thinks that Israelis should decide what type of country they want to live in.
  • Topic: Politics, Territorial Disputes, Peace, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Jerusalem, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Nimrod Goren
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: In February 2019, Israel Katz was named Israel’s interim foreign minister, and three months later his appointment became permanent. This ended a period of almost four-years without a fulltime foreign minister, during which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) significantly declined. A year into Katz’s term, an assessment can be made as to whether his appointment has strengthened the MFA and left a policy imprint. This, while taking into consideration the turmoil in Israeli politics since early 2019 and the understanding that deeper change requires a ministerial tenure longer than a year. This article sums up Katz’s first year on the job, based on media reports and information published by the MFA. It examines both intra-ministerial and policy aspects, and concludes that Katz is operating in Netanyahu’s heavy shadow, has failed to address the deep budgetary crisis faced by the MFA, and has focused on developing ties with Gulf States and combatting anti-Semitism.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Financial Crisis, Benjamin Netanyahu
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Gulf Nations
  • 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: Matteo Villa, Marta Foresti, Elena Corradi
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Migration is often envisioned as a movement from origin A to destination B. But, even for forcibly displaced people, migration trajectories are much more complex and can be made up of multiple displacements. This study aims to look at how decisions to migrate are shaped and what it is that drives, diverts or deters migratory movements across borders. It focuses on how education in emergency (EIE) affects the migratory decisions of forcibly displaced people. What impact does EIE have on the living conditions of forcibly displaced people in countries of transit? How does the perspective of education in emergency affect their decisions on when, where, and how to migrate further?
  • Topic: Education, Migration, Displacement
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy
  • Author: Giulia Di Donato
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: During the last four decades, China experienced impressive economic growth, becoming one of the leading powers of the global economy. After a century of humiliation imposed by Western and Japanese colonial powers, today the country is demonstrating a strong desire to achieve its national rejuvenation (guojia fuxing). Indeed, under the iconic leadership of President Xi Jinping, China is adopting an increasingly assertive international behavior, balancing the need to protect its sovereignty and strategic interests related to economic and security issues, and the ambition to restore its role of a great power[1]. In this context, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) - a massive infrastructure project to improve connectivity between the East and the West, increase regional cooperation and facilitate trade and investments - has been described as China’s grand strategy championing its global governance ambitions[2]. Indeed, BRI-participating economies represent more than one-third of global GDP, and over half of the world’s population (OECD 2017).
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Economy, Grand Strategy, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Matteo Villa, James F. Myers, Federico Turkheimer
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: In an ongoing epidemic, the case fatality rate is not a reliable estimate of a disease’s severity. This is particularly so when a large share of asymptomatic or pauci-symptomatic patients escape testing, or when overwhelmed healthcare systems are forced to limit testing further to severe cases only. By leveraging data on COVID-19, we propose a novel way to estimate a disease’s infected fatality rate, the true lethality of the disease, in the presence of sparse and partial information. We show that this is feasible when the disease has turned into a pandemic and data comes from a large number of countries, or regions within countries, as long as testing strategies vary sufficiently. For Italy, our method estimates an IFR of 1.1% (95% CI: 0.2% – 2.1%), which is strongly in line with other methods. At the global level, our method estimates an IFR of 1.6% (95% CI: 1.1% – 2.1%). This method also allows us to show that the IFR varies according to each country’s age structure and healthcare capacity.
  • Topic: Health, Pandemic, Data, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy, Global Focus
  • 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: Matteo Villa
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: COVID-19’s lethality in Italy is a highly discussed figure. When compared with other major countries, Italy’s 9.9% case fatality rate (CFR) as of 24 March 2020 is the highest by far. But relying on this figure is misleading. By itself, the CFR tells us almost nothing about COVID-19’s plausible lethality (infected fatality rate, or IFR). On the opposite, recent studies place China’s IFR at 0.7%. By relying on this figure, ISPI’s best estimate for COVID-19’s plausible lethality in Italy is 1.1%. The gap between the IFR and the CFR figures can be largely attributed to the number of infected persons that have not been tested and, therefore, escape counting. ISPI estimates that the number of active cases in Italy is at around 530,000 as of 24 March 2020, or almost ten times larger than the official count of 55,000 active cases. This paper shows that the CFR is an unreliable indicator of COVID-19’s plausible lethality, and there is not enough evidence to suggest that Italy’s IFR is much higher than expected. On the opposite, a direct comparison between the CFR and the IFR is much better placed to paint a more realistic picture of the evolution of the ongoing epidemic.
  • Topic: Health, Pandemic, Data, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy
  • Author: Eleanore Ardemagni, Ahmed Nagi, Mareike Transfeld
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: As the war in Yemen enters its sixth year, plenty of new and traditional security providers operate, and compete, at the local level. Changes in security governance describe quick political fragmentation and reordering of security relations: in many cases, the agents of protection are, contemporarily, agents of coercion.1 In the eyes of local communities, multiple security actors fill the same roles and perform similar or overlapped duties. As violence and instability persist, Yemenis have paradoxically had to deal with a rising number of local, “national” and foreign security providers in their everyday life, especially in areas held by the Houthi insurgents. Each territory has its own particularities; but some general trends can be identified, depicting a country where local communities fluctuate between bottom-up decentralization and self-governance. Yemen remains fractured into three main competing political-military entities claiming legitimacy: the internationally-recognized government relocated in Aden, the “quasi-state” of the Houthi insurgents based in the capital Sanaa, and the self-proclaimed and secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC) in Aden and surrounding areas. In the eastern part of Yemen, local authorities remain formally under the internationally-recognized government (as in the case of the Mahra governorate). But beneath these rival “states”, what happens at a community level? Who really provides security on the ground? And since 2015 onwards, what has changed, or not, in terms of security provision and governance?
  • Topic: Security, Governance, Law Enforcement, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Gulf Nations
  • 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: Matteo Colombo
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean have been enthusiastically received by international observers, although the current price dynamics advises caution. This commentary both explores the opportunities of political and economic collaboration for the states of the region and beyond, and analyses the financial hazards of gas extraction and selling in a global scenario characterised by low prices and decreasing demand. The arguments put forward are that considerable public investment from regional and European states and a clear stance towards Turkey are necessary conditions to exploit gas opportunities and that the time has come for governments to take these steps. In greater detail, European states and regional governments should soon make a final decision on whether or not to build a pipeline from the gas fields of Egypt, Israel and Cyprus to Italy (EastMed) and on if Turkey should be included in the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF): a regional platform to manage gas prices and the energy flow from producing to consuming states.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Regional Cooperation, Natural Resources, Gas
  • Political Geography: Europe, 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: Camille Lons
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Once marginal in shaping the geopolitics of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean, Gulf power projection and competition have become a central driver of the politics of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. The political turmoil that engulfed these states created both threats and opportunities for Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the rich and ambitious states of the Arabian Peninsula. Their involvement, which combined economic aid, political support and at times military assistance, was structured around their notion of what is the desired or acceptable role of Islamist movements in Arab politics. On the one hand, Qatar supports Islamist movements and most notably the Muslim Brotherhood as instruments of influence and popular appeal, while the UAE and Saudi Arabia perceive them as a security and ideological threat to their regional influence and domestic stability.
  • Topic: Politics, Regional Cooperation, Maritime, Strategic Competition, Rivalry
  • Political Geography: Libya, Syria, Egypt, Qatar, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Nael Shama
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: After many years of being the Middle East’s backyard, the Mediterranean has over the past decade become its flashpoint, hosting a toxic mishmash ofmilitarized conflicts, border disputes and energy competitions. If these divisions are not contained using constructive diplomacy and viable multiparty agreements, regional instability will continue to pose a threat to all Mediterranean littoral states.
  • Topic: Economics, Natural Resources, Maritime, Conflict, Geography
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Mediterranean
  • Author: Haizam Amirah-Fernandez
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: There is something deeply and comprehensively flawed in the EU’s relations with its Mediterranean neighbourhood. After more than 50 years of European cooperation, agreements, declarations and plans with the southern Mediterranean and the Arab countries, only one new democratic state (Tunisia) has emerged. A benevolent observer would say this democratisation process was not initiated as a result of the EU’s resolute support for a population demanding freedom from an authoritarian regime. A blunter observer, however, would argue that Tunisians managed to topple their former autocrat despite the support he received from certain European quarters until the very last minute. So much for decades of European pro-democracy rhetoric.
  • Topic: International Relations, Democratization, European Union, Crisis Management, Trade
  • Political Geography: Europe, Mediterranean
  • Author: Bahgat Korany
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Why did the January-2020 Berlin Declaration on Libya fail to limit this country’s flare-up, and the more recent Cairo Declaration in June could face the same fate? It is because this Libyan case is but a reflection of the predicament of the East Mediterranean and the whole MENA insecurity complex: the inter-connectedness of different elements of instability, geopolitical as well as domestic, entangling several international/regional powers and local actors/militias. So-called “new wars” are multiplying and the State – this classical bedrock of international order – is declining. This insecurity complex tends to be dominated by what Thomas Friedman of the New York Times called in a different context Black Elephants. As a metaphor, Black Elephants is itself a combination of two well-known English metaphors: the “elephant in the room”, which denotes a basic or risky topic that we choose to ignore or neglect ; and “black swans”, which denotes unexpected occurrences. I use this double metaphor to indicate that both past policies and new events trap the East Mediterranean into multi-layered conflicts, and a thick insecurity complex. While here the emphasis is mainly on domestic dynamics will be also taken into account. Country examples such as Libya, Syria or Lebanon are cited to demonstrate the argument.
  • Topic: Security, Regional Cooperation, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Mediterranean
  • Author: Valeria Talbot
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Over the last years, Turkey has increased its activism in the Mediterranean, becoming a key and assertive player in regional politics and crises. From the Eastern Mediterranean gas dispute to the Libyan war, Ankara has not hesitated to flex its muscles to safeguard its interests and achieve its goals. Turkey's activism is part of a wider foreign policy, which has become more and more militarized since 2015, aiming at extending its geopolitical influence in the Middle East and its surrounding regions. This includes a significant maritime component, the so-called Mavi Vatan or the "Blue Homeland" doctrine, for the control of waters in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea through military power projection. It is not by chance that Blue Homeland is the name of the largest naval exercise (involving 103 military ships and 20,000 soldiers) in Turkey's history which was launched at the end of February 2019 to test its ability to carry on war simultaneously in the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean. A more active role for the Turkish Navy in national defence as well as in energy geopolitics competition is one of the pillars of this maritime doctrine, which also relies on the development of an indigenous defence industry.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Natural Resources, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Mediterranean
  • Author: Matthew Wilson
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: From the moment he first declared his candidacy for the presidency of the United States on a strongly nationalist platform promising to “make America great again,” Donald Trump has been dogged by accusations that he is too cozy with explicitly racist, fringe-right figures and movements. Periodically, critics have seized on phrases or images in Trump’s communications that they argue send subtle messages of encouragement or solidarity to Nazis and white supremacists. This began during the 2016 campaign, when former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke expressed enthusiasm for Trump’s presidential bid. When asked for his attitude regarding the support, Trump at first equivocated and professed insufficient knowledge of Duke and his movement, before explicitly disavowing Duke and the Klan some days later. The issue arose again during Trump’s first year in office, when he asserted that there were “very fine people, on both sides” of clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia between anti-Confederate statue protestors and far-right elements. Trump’s defenders insist that the “very fine people” he was referring to were members of local heritage groups and not the violent extremists who descended on the city from outside (and, indeed, in the same press conference Trump clarified that he was “not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists because they should be condemned totally”). The issue, however, has not gone away; over the last several years, critics have periodically spotted images in Trump administration communications that they allege hearken back to historical European fascism, and recently he has been accused of using phrases with regard to law enforcement and protests that echo American segregationists. Just recently, the Trump campaign drew criticism for retweeting a video of a parade of his supporters in Florida, during which one participant shouted “White Power!” While the campaign later removed the video and claimed that they had not noticed the offending phrase, the incident reignited critics’ claims that Trump is at best indifferent toward—and at worst actively solicitous of—white nationalist support for his presidency.
  • Topic: Politics, Domestic politics, Far Right, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Naser al-Tamimi
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: With more than 136 countries (end-July 2019) reported to have signed up to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI hereafter) since it was announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, estimates for China's potential BRI investments vary significantly, from around US $1 trillion to as much as US $8 trillion. China’s spectacular economic rise over the last three decades has been accompanied by a sharp increase in its energy demand. As a result, China is the world’s largest energy consumer. As its economy continues to grow, even at lower rates than before, its dependence on oil and gas imports will increase over the next two decades.
  • Topic: Oil, Economy, Soft Power, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Gautam Chikermane
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: India’s middle class will count a few rupees, bank depositors will get a little security, privatisation enthusiasts will chew on a new player in the market. But other than high-sounding grandiose statements, India’s Budget 2020 has delivered no expectations. This was preordained, of course. So, if anyone is feeling disappointed, clearly s/he is not reading the economic signals in the economy or the approach of Narendra Modi’s government to it clearly. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had little room for manoeuvre. Her Budget shows how little. In a line: Budget 2020 is yet another wasted opportunity.
  • Topic: Markets, Politics, Budget, Finance, Narendra Modi
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Gentiola Madhi
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: On Wednesday the 5th of February the European Commission proposed a revised methodology for the accession process for candidate and potential candidate countries. This methodology will be applied to Albania and North Macedonia, although for Montenegro and Serbia there has also been foreseen an opt-in in case they want to join. The document strives to inject new dynamism into the enlargement process in the Western Balkans, while attempting to introduce more clarity and predictability, stricter monitoring as well as improved incentives for the soon-to-be negotiating countries to deliver on EU reforms. The negotiating chapters have been divided into six clusters, where the fundamentals cluster will be the first to open and the last to be closed.
  • Topic: European Union, Democracy, Regional Integration
  • Political Geography: Europe, Balkans, Albania, North Macedonia
  • Author: Jessica Obeid
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Lebanon defaulted on its debt for the first time in the country’s history. Many factors have contributed to this economic and fiscal crisis, but at the heart of them is the electricity sector, accountable for more than $39.5 billion, equivalent to 43 percent of the public debt, and embodying the core structural issues of Lebanon; a non-functioning confessional system built on the foundation of vested interests.
  • Topic: Debt, Infrastructure, Financial Crisis, Economy, Electricity
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Irene Tuzi
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Since October 17, 2019, unprecedented popular protests have erupted in Lebanon motivated by demands for socio-economic rights and the reform of a highly corrupted and sectarian political system. The deterioration of economic and social conditions in Lebanon has also affected the 1.5 million Syrian refugees as well as the Palestinians and other communities of displaced people living in the country. Syrians, in particular, expressed an exceptional empathy with the Lebanese revolution and although with a diversity of responses, many have taken part in the uprising.
  • Topic: Syrian War, Hezbollah, Revolution, Political Movements
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Marina Calculli
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Lebanon’s sovereign default comes at a heavy price for Hezbollah. This is not simply because of Hezbollah’s powerful role within the government that failed to repay a $1.2 bn bond on 10 March 2020. This is mainly because Hezbollah’s rivals are likely to use the current financial crisis to impose an external authority over Lebanon and increase pressure on the ‘Party of God’ to disband its armed wing.
  • Topic: Security, Financial Crisis, Economy, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Tom Rhodes
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: While there is never a good time for a country to face an epidemic, it could not come at a worse time for a country in transition like Sudan. Prior to the first cases of the coronavirus confirmed on 13 March, the country already faced a humanitarian and economic crisis. In February, the inflation rate was at 71% and prices were double those cited in 2019, according to the US-funded food monitoring body, the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS). The Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peace-building Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, told the UN Security Council recently that Sudan’s humanitarian needs were severe, with 9.3 million people needing aid by the end of 2019.
  • Topic: Economy, Humanitarian Crisis, Transition, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan
  • Author: Chantal Meloni
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: For the past 15 years the figure of Omar al-Bashir, the former president of Sudan, has epitomized the struggle of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to fulfill its mandate, i.e. to end impunity for the worst crimes of concern to the international community as a whole. In 2005, the former ICC Prosecutor – Luis Moreno Ocampo - had promptly opened an investigation into the atrocities committed in Darfur after receiving a referral by the United Nations Security Council (Resolution n. 1593 of 2005), which permitted the Court to affirm its jurisdiction over Sudan, not a state party to the ICC. In the context of this investigation, two warrants of arrest were issued against al-Bashir, in 2009 and 2010, for the most serious crimes, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and even charges of genocide. It is estimated that over 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million forced to flee their homes in Darfur as a result of military campaigns led by the Sudanese army and pro-government militias against ethnic minorities since 2003.
  • Topic: Genocide, International Law, International Criminal Court (ICC), Omar al-Bashir
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan
  • Author: Yasir Zaidan
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Only a few short months following the one year anniversary of the Sudanese revolution, Khartoum is facing a global pandemic and a deteriorating economic situation. Over the last decade, Sudanese people have been suffering from inflation and gas shortages as a result of losing 75 percent of its oil revenue that was assumed by South Sudan after the separation of the two states. The failing economy that contributed to the fall of the Bashir's regime is now getting worse, and the transitional government has yet to implement any fundamental reforms to rescue a weak transitional period in Sudan. The government's failure to achieve these reforms stems from deep ideological divisions inside the revolution's political coalition.
  • Topic: Oil, Economy, Transition
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan
  • Author: Manfred Gerstenfeld
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: An important tool in understanding the dynamics of antisemitism is the identification of moments when its boundaries shift. This occurred with the Trump Peace Plan, the antisemitism crisis in the British Labour party, the UN’s first World Conference against Racism, the huge outburst of antisemitism in France in 2000, and the German welcome policy for refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Topic: Politics, Ideology, Peace, Anti-Semitism, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: Hanan Shai
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The conquest of southern Lebanon in Operation Peace for Galilee, and Israel’s long sojourn in the area, had political and military justification. But defects in the IDF’s deployment during the operation, and later in its protracted security activity, culminated in the May 2000 hurried withdrawal that continues to this day to negatively affect Israel’s national security.
  • Topic: National Security, War, Conflict, Hezbollah, Israel Defense Forces (IDF)
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Israel resides at the cusp of the widening US-Chinese divide, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent visit to Israel attests. Pompeo’s visit was for the express purpose of reminding Jerusalem that its dealings with Beijing jeopardize its relationship with Washington.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, Arms Trade, Trade
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Israel, Asia, Palestine, North America, United States of America
  • Author: George N Tzogopoulos
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Greece, Israel, and five other countries of the Eastern Mediterranean have established the East Med Gas Forum. Turkey is not a member and is employing its own muscular approach in the region. The US would like the Forum to be more inclusive, specifically toward Ankara. Athens and Jerusalem could launch a diplomatic initiative to explore Turkey’s participation, as they have nothing to lose and much to gain from such an initiative.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Gas, Trade
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Israel, Greece, Palestine, Mediterranean
  • Author: Emil Avdaliani
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Many argue that the coronavirus pandemic will ultimately benefit China more than the rest of the world, especially the US. After all, America is now the worst-hit country on earth in terms of human casualties. But the crisis could in fact help the US reorganize its geopolitical thinking toward the People’s Republic, resulting in a radical break in which Washington’s political and economic elites are newly unified against a rising Beijing.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: It is early days, but first indications are that the global coronavirus pandemic is entrenching long-drawn Middle Eastern geopolitical, political, ethnic, and sectarian battle lines rather than serving as a vehicle to build bridges and boost confidence. Gulf states are taking contradictory approaches to the problem of ensuring that entrenched conflicts do not spiral out of control as they battle the pandemic and struggle to cope with the economic fallout.
  • Topic: International Relations, Bilateral Relations, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Dan Gottlieb, Mordechai Kedar
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The coronavirus crisis has exposed Arab and Islamic notions of fraternity, mutual commitment, and solidarity as hollow rhetorical slogans. Each country in the region is focused entirely on its own efforts to survive economically, socially, and politically as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc.
  • Topic: Government, Health, Economy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • 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: Anne Herzberg
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: UN treaty bodies are increasingly violating their mandates as part of discriminatory anti-Israel campaigns. In March 2020, the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) embraced this disturbing trend by adopting a BDS agenda after being convinced to do so by the NGO Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA).
  • Topic: Human Rights, Politics, United Nations, BDS, NGOs
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Norway, Palestine
  • Author: Asaf Romirowsky
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Strategically, Israel’s fundamental military premise is defensive but its tactics are offensive—a result of its geography and absence of territorial depth. Israeli decision-making has always been driven by the active defense ethos, and this is reflected in Israeli filmmaking and TV-making.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Culture, Media, Film, Israel Defense Forces (IDF)
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • 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: Manfred Gerstenfeld
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: A number of conspiracy theories have quickly emerged linking Jews and Israel to the coronavirus pandemic. These are new mutations of historical strains of antisemitic conspiracy theories, including the “poisoning of gentiles” motif and the accusation that the Jews want to control the world. These theories are all linked to the most popular antisemitic conspiracy theory of all, the modern mutation of the ancient blood libel that claims that Israel behaves like the Nazis and has Nazi-esque intentions toward the Palestinians.
  • Topic: History, Judaism, Anti-Semitism, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Gershon Hacohen
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The Jordan Valley, in its full scope and broadest definition, is essential to Israel’s national security. Its retention by Israel requires not only military deployment but a comprehensive development plan—i.e., the construction of housing, roads, and infrastructure—that will establish this territory as Israel’s eastern wing.
  • Topic: National Security, Politics, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Jordan Valley
  • Author: Roie Yellinek
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: China and Iran have a close relationship, but Beijing’s influence over Tehran is questionable. Its response to the killing of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani offers clues to its view of its own role in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Bilateral Relations, Economy, Political stability, Qassem Soleimani
  • Political Geography: China, Iran, Middle East, Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Roie Yellinek
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: In 2009, China Radio International (CRI) began broadcasting in Hebrew. This venture has proven a success for the Chinese and a failure for the Israeli media, which uncritically swallow the messages sent out by CRI’s Hebrew team.
  • Topic: Politics, Mass Media, Media, YouTube
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Israel, Asia
  • 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: Katerina Davidova, Vít Havelka, Jana Juzová, Christian Kvorning Lassen, Danielle Piatkiewicz, Zuzana Stuchlíková
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Europeum Institute for European Policy
  • Abstract: Experts from EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy comment on the State of the Union address (SOTEU) given by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen on 16 September 2020. Topics of the commentaries: Christian Kvorning Lassen: General Impressions – A Visionary Speech Challenged by Political Reality; Christian Kvorning Lassen: A Stronger European Health Union is Needed; Christian Kvorning Lassen: Migration – Ambitious rhetoric, dubious feasibility; Danielle Piatkiewicz: Multilateralism: Europe’s Call to Global Action – Taking the Lead; Kateřina Davidová: EU’s climate momentum not quashed by the pandemic as new target is presented; Jana Juzová: European Neighbourhoods – Vague Reassurances, Economy First; Zuzana Stuchlíková: Next Generation EU, Rule of Law and Conference on the Future of Europe; Vít Havelka: The EU and the UK fights over blame for Brexit fiasco
  • Topic: Climate Change, Health, Migration, European Union, Multilateralism, Rule of Law
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Christian Kvorning Lassen
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Europeum Institute for European Policy
  • Abstract: Christian Kvorning Lassen, Deputy Director of the EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy, comments on the US presidential election. The US elections will come down to the wire, and will be determined by mail-in votes. While this was fully expected during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was also the worst-case scenario given Trump’s persistent attempts to delegitimize mail-in votes, despite lack of clear evidence of their fraudulence. Much like 2016, the key battleground states are Pennsylvania (20 EC votes), Michigan (16) and Wisconsin (10), with mail-in votes deciding their outcome. As of this writing, Pennsylvania has counted 700.000 out of 2.5 million mail-in votes, of which Biden has won 71.7% of them to Trump’s 21.3%. Michigan has counted 425.000 out of 2.48 million, with Biden winning 65% to Trump’s 33%. Finally, Wisconsin still needs to count 1.3 million mail-in votes. Should the trend of Biden winning 2/3 of all mail-in votes, Biden will be a clear election winner, giving the Biden camp cause for optimism.
  • Topic: Elections, Donald Trump, Pandemic, Domestic Policy
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, United States of America