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  • Author: Bart Gaens
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: China is challenging the regional balance of power in East Asia through a military buildup and an increasingly assertive foreign policy. The US is forced to find the right balance between cooperating with China while benefiting from its economic rise, and countering China's regional reach by carrying out its self-declared "pivot" to Asia in spite of domestic and budgetary constraints. With just over one year in office, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has received wide domestic support for his ambitious plans to revive Japan's economy through his threefold policy of Abenomics. At the same time, however, he has implemented a number of significant policies in the defence and security sphere. In response to China's military rise, the Abe administration increased and recalibrated the defence budget. Furthermore, in order to reinforce the alliance with the US, the government approved the creation of a US-style National Security Council, passed a Secrecy Bill, and aims to reverse Japan's self-imposed ban on exercising the right to collective self-defence. Under the banner of "proactive pacifism", the Abe cabinet is seizing the momentum caused by the changing regional power dynamics in order to edge closer towards "breaking away from the postwar regime". A proposed revision of Japan's constitution, unchanged since 1947, symbolizes the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) objective to bring about a more autonomous role for Japan both in the security alliance with the US and as an international actor.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, Asia
  • Author: Jyrki Kallio
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Although China's statements about the Ukrainian crisis have been weighed very carefully, there are concerns that China is drawing lessons such as 'might is right' and 'geopolitics is all that matters' from the crisis. The hawks in China have adopted a similar tone to that of the Kremlin, with both wishing to see a relatively diminished Western influence in the international arena. The Chinese Dream is all about national rejuvenation, which entails redressing past grievances. Nevertheless, the Dream need not turn into a nightmare for other powers. The increase in China's military budget does not indicate growing ambitions of a global power projection. China's primary concern remains stability both within and without its borders.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Ukraine, Asia
  • Author: Kristi Raik, Juha Jokela, Niklas Helwig
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The EU has responded to the Ukraine crisis with a set of political and economic sanctions against Russia which constitute a qualitatively new step in the EU sanctions policy. The EU sanctions against Russia are exceptional and have strategic importance due to a combination of three factors: big power rivalry, the context of a major European crisis with global ramifications, and the costs of the sanctions for the EU itself. The EU has managed to maintain its fragile unity and has applied its collective diplomatic and economic weight in very difficult circumstances. The sanctions have not provided an alternative to diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis - on the contrary, hardening sanctions have been used as a way to put pressure on Russia to seriously engage in diplomacy. The impact of the sanctions on daily developments in Ukraine has been limited and uncertain, but the sanctions have imposed a long-term cost on Russia for violating key international norms. The policy process of Russia sanctions has exposed problems of leadership and coordination. The latest reform of the EU foreign policy machinery has streamlined the preparation of sanctions, but the current system still lacks the necessary resources to match the growing importance of the EU sanctions policy.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Power Politics, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine, Asia
  • Author: Elina Sinkkonen
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The number of netizens in China is growing year on year and the increase in the use of mobile technologies to access the internet is the most notable trend of late. Around half of the Chinese population are now internet users. The Chinese leadership has tightened internet control since August 2013. In February 2014, China established Central Internet Security and Information Leading Group, headed by President Xi Jinping, to monitor Chinese cyberspace. Defamatory social media posts were criminalized, and the first sentence was imposed in April 2014. Despite stricter internet control, criticism of the state and politicians has often been tolerated in social media, whereas any content that promotes offline collective action is systematically censored. However, the idea that the development of the internet in China would lead to significant political change seems unwarranted in the current circumstances. Poll data released on September 9 show that almost 90 per cent of the Chinese respondents harbour negative views about Japan. Internet forums and increasing commercialization of the traditional media are contributing to this public opinion trend, which complicates the handling of China's turbulent relations with Japan.
  • Topic: Politics, Communications, Mass Media, Public Opinion
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, Asia
  • Author: Teemu Sinkkonen
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Since the stabilization of the Georgian-Russian conflict, no further progress has been achieved and the conflict is in danger of freezing again. Leaders on both sides are taking full advantage of the tension that exists between them, while the people living on the boundary line are paying a heavy price because of the conflict. The EU has assumed considerable responsibility for the resolution of the conflict, but due to insufficient coordination at the operational level and a lack of coherent political support, it has been increasingly ignored by both parties. The Georgian-Russian conflict offers a great window of opportunity for the EU to define its overall strategy for the conflict management it so desperately needs.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Europe, Asia, Georgia
  • Author: Katri Pynnöniemi, Sinikukka Saari
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The political system that Vladimir Putin established during the first decade of the 2000s is often referred to as 'the power vertical'. The term suggests a stable, streamlined and effective centre-led system. Yet, this image does not quite correspond with Russian reality. The system creates inefficiency, encourages corruption and is hostile towards bottom-up political initiative. The current leadership acknowledges that Russian stability is on shaky ground and therefore the system is in need of modernization. The economy is clearly a priority for the leadership: it believes that the political system's modernization should emerge gradually and in a highly controlled fashion from economic achievements. The current system in Russia is hostile to innovation and prone to corruption and therefore Medvedev's modernization plan is unlikely to succeed unless transparency and open competition within the system are considerably enhanced. This will be difficult to achieve because the elite benefits from the current corrupt and non-transparent system where the lines of responsibility are unclear. The West should not expect dramatic changes and radical liberal reforms in Russia. Western actors should, nevertheless, actively support and encourage economic and political reforms in the country and engage with it through international cooperation on specific issues such as anti-corruption policy. By stepping up its engagement with Russia, the West can demonstrate that a prosperous, competitive and modern Russia is also in the interests of the West.
  • Topic: Democratization, Politics, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Igor Torbakov, Vadim Kononenko
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: As the Kremlin believes that the global economic downturn is increasing the trend towards greater regionalism, the strategic conclusion is to strengthen Russia's position as the centre of its "own region" - post-Soviet Eurasia. In order to enhance its geopolitical posture in the ex-Soviet area, Russia has been pursuing a two- track policy: it is buying up assets from, and giving out loans to, its distressed neighbours on a massive scale. Several forces appear to be working at cross-purposes with the Kremlin's ambitions: 1) the state of Russia's own economic system; 2) the wiliness and cunning maneuvering of Moscow's "allies"; and 3) the growing competition on the part of the other centres of power - the European Union and China. Ultimately, the Kremlin's desperate efforts to turn Russia into a geopolitical leader of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) are likely to be frustrated by Russia's lack of a coherent long-term strategy and by its socio-political system's dearth of appeal.
  • Topic: Globalization, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, Asia, Soviet Union
  • Author: Anna Korppoo
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The 10-15% reduction target by 2020 announced by Russia reflects neither the country's efficiency potential, nor modeled emissions trends. With emission reduction measures, Russia could commit to a target of ca. -30% by 2020. Transferring the surplus emission allowances Russia gained under the Kyoto Protocol due to the economic restructuring of the 1990s represents an extreme threat to both the environmental and market integrity of the Copenhagen agreement as it could be used to offset real domestic emission reduction measures in other countries. But it seems politically unlikely that Russia would join without transferring the surplus under the Copenhagen agreement. Countries should recognize the threat posed by the surplus, and offer a cooperative strategy to deal with it. However, pushing through a 'cancel or discount' approach to the surplus problem by three-quarter majority, which could be brought together without the co-operation of the surplus-holding countries, should be kept as a reserve strategy. More ambitious targets - beyond the 25-40% suggested by the IPCC - for the Annex I industrialized country group, especially for the surplus holding countries including Russia, could absorb the transferred surplus. However, given the current low pledges of Annex 1 countries, higher targets are unlikely to absorb the whole surplus, and therefore, a basket of approaches should be applied. To gain credibility on this issue of vis-à-vis Russia and to avoid Russia setting the tone, before Copenhagen the EU must adopt an internal solution to deal with the surplus of its new member states. If expecting to transfer the surpluses, the other surplus holding countries including Russia could announce national surplus use plans prior to the Copenhagen climate talks. In order to minimize a scenario of Russia blocking the Copenhagen process in the final hours, key countries should publically engage Russia on climate and the Copenhagen talks. Important Annex I countries, especially the US, should send very high-level representatives to Moscow like they have sent to China and India.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Europe, India, Asia
  • Author: Alexandru Luta
  • Publication Date: 10-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The recent elections for the lower house of Japan's Diet herald the end of the Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) domination of Japanese politics. The winner, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), aims to thoroughly reform the way the country is governed. The strategic goals of the DPJ's reform agenda are to shift the locus of policy-drafting away from civil servants to the legislature, and to bring the latter firmly under the control of the Prime Minister's Cabinet. In order to be able to work towards its strategic goal, the DPJ needs tactical victories to maintain its popularity with the electorate. The climate negotiations' high profile makes domestic climate policy a natural area for the DPJ to differentiate its political brand from that of the LDP. Just as with governance reform, the DPJ has time and again asserted its commitment to pro-active climate goals both in pre-and post-electoral speeches, at home and abroad. Therefore it is very likely to continue pouring political capital into this policy area. The division between major ministries about how to formulate Japanese climate policy presents a willing Cabinet with structural advantages to assert its leadership successfully. The wider reforms currently being implemented further strengthen the new government's position. There are some factors that might limit the ability of Japan's new leadership to fight climate change. These include how their relationship with domestic media outlets shapes their approval ratings, how the positions of other stakeholders develop, how other electoral promises conflict with the new climate platform, and how the climate negotiations progress on the international level.
  • Topic: Democratization, Government, Politics, Governance
  • Political Geography: Japan, Israel, Asia
  • Author: Yury E. Fedorov
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: In November 2009, the 'Law on Amendments to the “Law on Defence”' proposed by President Medvedev entered into force. It allows the Kremlin to dispatch troops outside Russia for four purposes: to counter armed attacks against Russian armed forces, other troops and bodies deployed beyond its borders; to counter or prevent an armed attack against another country if this country has requested Russia to do so; to protect Russian citizens abroad from an armed attack; and to combat piracy and guarantee the safety of shipping. The law is an attempt to close the gap between Moscow's strategic goals, primarily the establishment of its geopolitical dominance over the former Soviet republics, and Russia's legislation, which restricted its ability to deploy armed forces beyond national borders. In effect, the amended legislation enables the Kremlin to deploy its armed forces abroad in a wide range of situations, precisely because of a lack of clear criteria. The wording of 'Medvedev's amendments' sheds light on some plans and scenarios that may be taking shape in Moscow. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Russia may plan to ignite large-scale disturbances and ethnic clashes in Sevastopol or in Latvia and Estonia, which may be used as a pretext for Russian military intervention. A Russo-Ukrainian conflict in Crimea would pose not so much a military as a political challenge for Europe and the West. Even though Ukraine does not belong to these organizations, if NATO and the EU failed to respond to Russian intervention in Crimea with strong political and economic measures, their strategic relevance would be seriously undermined. If NATO did not defend its member states in the Baltic, the strategic role of the Alliance would be reduced to zero. The aforementioned scenarios fall into the worst-case category, yet there are numerous precedents in Russia's history which demonstrate that worst-case scenarios can become reality. European dependence on Russian energy supplies and interest in Russia's support in resolving the Iranian nuclear problem and the conflict in Afghanistan, as well as the Obama administration's interest in Russia's partnership in nuclear issues, constrain Western ability to respond. However, the West could and should make it quite clear that new Russia's military interventions will result in the country's political ostracization. Furthermore, the West could propose and develop an internationally recognised mechanism regulating the most important aspects of humanitarian intervention. In particular, it should minimise the ability of individual states to make unilateral decisions to intervene militarily if the UN Security Council were unable to make firm decisions. Such mechanisms could be discussed and developed in the frameworks of the UN, the OSCE, the so-called Corfu process and similar international forums.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Law
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia