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  • Author: Ben Fishman
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: After the fall of Sirte, Erdogan and Putin’s desired ceasefire can only be achieved with Washington’s support. Over the past week, regional and European actors have increased their diplomatic activity around Libya in response to intensifying violence in the nine-month-old civil war. On January 8, less than a week after the Turkish parliament approved sending forces to support the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian leader Vladimir Putin met in Istanbul and called for a Libya ceasefire to begin on January 12. Whether or not Moscow and Ankara manage to pause the violence temporarily, their growing influence in Libya represents an epic failure of Western attempts to resolve the conflict diplomatically. The longer-term effort to jumpstart Libya’s political transition requires a wider international effort at peace and reconciliation—something Russia and Turkey can support but not lead. Putin and Erdogan seemed to acknowledge that fact at their summit, endorsing a long-planned multilateral conference in Berlin aimed at recommitting all relevant actors to support an end to hostilities and respect the UN Security Council’s mandatory but widely ignored arms embargo. Even assuming Putin is serious and withdraws Russian mercenaries from the frontlines, a full, lasting ceasefire cannot transpire until the other actors who support Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) agree to withdraw their equipment and personnel for a fixed period while negotiations are launched—especially the United Arab Emirates, which provides the LNA with critical air superiority. At the same time, Turkey would have to take commensurate de-escalatory steps of its own. The United States is the only actor that holds enough weight with all the foreign parties to bring about an authentic ceasefire. Despite being consumed with crises in Iran and Iraq, Washington should expend the diplomatic effort required to pursue durable stability in Libya before the country slips further toward endemic chaos.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, United Nations, Conflict, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya, North Africa, United States of America
  • Author: Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: During the war years in Syria, the northwest, specifically Idlib, has become a site of heavy internal displacement. Observers on the ground recognize the green buses traveling to Idlib carrying migrants who have refused reconciliation agreements with the Damascus regime. Since around 2014, a range of jihadist, Islamist, and Salafi actors have wielded control in the area, the most recent being the al-Qaeda offshoot Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which has ruled—ineffectively and brutally—through its so-called Syrian Salvation Government. But the group's reign is unlikely to last long if current trends persist. The regime's recent move against the town of Maarat al-Numan suggests plans for a broader takeover in the northwest, aided by Russian firepower and other allies such as Iran. In this Policy Note filled with local insights, jihadism expert Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi presents the current scene in and around Idlib province, the last Syrian outpost still run by independent rebels. Absent an intervention by Turkey, the Assad regime will likely prevail in a campaign that quashes the insurgency at a high humanitarian cost.
  • Topic: Al Qaeda, Displacement, Military Intervention, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Ben Fishman, Charles Thépaut
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: If the latest conference is to succeed, the principal actors stoking the civil war must endorse a genuine ceasefire and a return to Libyan internal dialogue. On January 19, international leaders will convene in Berlin to discuss a way out of the nine-month civil war between the so-called “Libyan National Army” led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar and the internationally recognized Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. The Germans led several months of preparatory efforts at the request of UN envoy Ghassan Salame, but had been reluctant to choose a specific date until they were assured that the event stood a reasonable chance of producing practical steps to improve the situation on the ground and jumpstart the UN’s stalled negotiation efforts between the LNA and GNA. Chancellor Angela Merkel finally took that step after several key developments unfolded earlier this month, including a January 8 ceasefire proposal by Russian president Vladimir Putin and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Putin’s subsequent failed attempt to have each side sign a more permanent ceasefire agreement in Moscow on January 13 (the GNA signed but Haftar balked, though most of the fighting has paused for the moment). Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been averse to engage on Libya during his tenure, but he is expected to attend the Berlin conference alongside National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. Accordingly, the event gives the United States a chance to play a much-needed role on several fronts: namely, pressuring the foreign actors who have perpetuated the war and violated the arms embargo; working with Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia to codify a ceasefire at the UN Security Council; and backing Salame’s efforts to reinvigorate the Libyan national dialogue, which Haftar preempted by attacking Tripoli last April despite European support to Salame. Since 2011, Libya has struggled to establish a legitimate transitional government despite three national elections and the creation of at least four legislative bodies. Challenges to the 2014 election results eventually led to rival governments in the east and west, and the division solidified when Haftar started the first civil war with support from his allies Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. That war halted in 2015, but several years’ worth of domestic and international efforts failed to bring Sarraj and Haftar to an enduring resolution.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil War, United Nations, Conflict, Negotiation, Conference
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya, Germany, North Africa, United Arab Emirates, Berlin, United States of America
  • Author: Anna Borshchevskaya
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As in other conflict zones, Moscow cares little about reaching a peace deal so long as it can outmaneuver the West strategically while securing port and energy access—with private contractors playing an increasingly important role. The Kremlin is now openly treating Libya as another focal point of its Middle East activities. After years of U.S. neglect, the country has turned into a proxy war playground, and President Vladimir Putin is vying to become the chief power broker. Earlier this month, he tried (but failed) to get Khalifa Haftar to sign a ceasefire agreement in Moscow with Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). Putin also participated in the January 19 Berlin conference aimed at getting the parties back on the path toward a political solution. And though the prospects for such a deal remain uncertain, Moscow’s involvement in Libya will continue either way.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Civil War, Geopolitics, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Libya, North Africa
  • Author: Frank Aum, Jacob Stokes, Patricia M. Kim, Atman M. Trivedi, Rachel Vandenbrink, Jennifer Staats, Joseph Yun
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: A joint statement by the United States and North Korea in June 2018 declared that the two countries were committed to building “a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.” Such a peace regime will ultimately require the engagement and cooperation of not just North Korea and the United States, but also South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan. This report outlines the perspectives and interests of each of these countries as well as the diplomatic, security, and economic components necessary for a comprehensive peace.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Diplomacy, Economy, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Korean Peninsula, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This policy paper sets out the various interests and goals of global powers (the US, Russia, China and the EU) in the Mediterranean, and the measures they are undertaking to implement them. The document also describes Israeli policies vis-àvis the powers’ activities in this region, and points to the principles that should guide them. The paper is based on a July 2019 meeting in Jerusalem of the research and policy working group on Israel in the Mediterranean, held at the initiative of the Mitvim Institute, the Hebrew University’s Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations and Haifa University’s National Security Studies Center.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Middle East, Israel, United States of America, Mediterranean
  • Author: David Carment
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI)
  • Abstract: After three years of limited discussion, the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine renewed their peace talks to resolve the separatist conflict in Eastern Ukraine (Donbas). Efforts to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Donbas began five years ago with the meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine. This framework, developed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), attempted to facilitate a dialogue between Russia and Ukraine through the mediation of an impartial actor, and it culminated in the Minsk I (September 2014) and then Minsk II (February 2015) agreements. The Minsk II agreements comprised a 13-point peace plan, chief among which is an arrangement specifying support for the restoration of the Ukrainian-Russian border. While the implementation of the military portions of the Minsk II agreements were finalized within three months of signing, the political and security portions remained unresolved. Though President Vladimir Putin has declared his intent to protect the Russian-speaking peoples of the region, he has also stated he has no interest in reclaiming Eastern Ukraine. Not surprisingly, since Russia’s ultimate goal is undeclared, the conflict has proved very difficult to resolve.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Territorial Disputes, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine, Canada, France, Germany, United States of America
  • Author: Rawi Abdelal, Aurélie Bros
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Sanctions have become the dominant tool of statecraft of the United States and other Western states, especially the European Union, since the end of the Cold War. But the systematic use of this instrument may produce unintended and somewhat paradoxical geopolitical consequences. The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation in the field of energy are particularly illustrative of this phenomenon.
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, Sanctions, Geopolitics, Secondary Sanctions, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Filippo Cutrera
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: BRICS Policy Center
  • Abstract: The present paper has three main objectives: first, to show that, over the first decade of existence of the group, between 2009 and 2018, the BRICS have manifested an increasing interest in expanding their cooperation beyond the traditional areas of economy and development to the field of global security; second, to present the content of their common security agenda and how it has developed throughout this period; third, to identify the main factors influencing the agenda-setting process of the group as well as the main challenges to further advancement. The research will conclude that the high levels of informality in the group’s cooperation and heterogeneity in the interests of its members have enabled BRICS to formulate common positions and to establish cooperation mechanisms on a broad range of issues of international security.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, National Security, Regional Cooperation, International Security
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, India, South Africa, Brazil
  • Author: Tatiana Mitrova
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: The fate of the “Russian Energy Strategy Up to 2035” paper—a key document defining the country`s strategic priorities in this critically important industry and submitted by Russia’s Energy Ministry every five years—illustrates well the contradictory predicament of Russia’s energy sector. In 2015, after two years of preparations, the latest version was submitted to the government, but national authorities have not approved it until now. Behind the scenes, many conflicting interests prevent the setting of a clear and coherent long-term vision.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Gaiane Safarova
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Like every country, Russia has a very specific demographic footprint; its fertility, mortality, and migration rates, as well as its age composition, all affect its performance domestically and on the world stage. Russia’s current demographics were shaped by its history, particularly crises like World War II, and its future will be deeply affected by conditions like its dropping fertility rate and aging population
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Sergei Markedonov
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: The outbreak of fighting in April 2016 between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the breakaway republic of Nagorno-Karabakh introduced new uncertainty to the South Caucasus. Russia’s policies are crucial here, just as they are in the region’s other ethno-political conflicts, in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This insider’s perspective on the Kremlin’s involvement in the South Caucasus highlights Russia's security concerns. The post-Soviet neighborhood's different conflict zones require a differentiated approach.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Julian Lindley-French
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI)
  • Abstract: The purpose of this short briefing paper is to consider the capability and utility of contemporary Russian forces in relation to President Vladimir Putin’s strategic goals. Specifically, this paper examines the critical role played by Russia’s “New Look” military force in the realization of Moscow’s political goals via complex strategic coercion. Complex strategic coercion is the use of all national means and beyond by a “securitized” state such as Russia to systematically undermine the command authority, as well as the political and social cohesion of adversary states and institutions. This end is achieved by creating and exploiting divisions within diverse societies, interfering in national political processes and exacerbating tensions between democracies. Complex strategic coercion is underpinned by the threat of overwhelming conventional military power against weaker states at a time and place of the aggressor’s choosing. This type of coercion is allied to the implicit threat of nuclear and other means of mass destruction to confirm the changed facts on the ground by preventing strategic peer competitors from mounting a successful rescue campaign. Western strategists increasingly confuse strategy, capability and technology, thus undermining deterrence and defence efforts. Russian Chief of the General Staff Gen. Valeriy Gerasimov has been pioneering precisely the fusion of the three elements of warfare for a decade. The modernization of Russia’s armed forces must thus be seen in the context of a new form of complex strategic coercion that employs systematic pressure across 5Ds: disinformation, destabilization, disruption, deception and implied destruction. Russia’s strategic goal is to conduct a continuous low-level war at the seams of democratic societies, and on the margins of both the EU and NATO, to create implicit spheres of influence where little or no such influence would otherwise exist. In the worst case, complex strategic coercion would be used to mask Russian force concentrations prior to any attack on NATO and EU states from above the Arctic Circle and Norway’s North Cape in the north, through the Baltic States and Black Sea region and into the southeastern Mediterranean. The strategy’s enduring method is to use the implicit threat of force to keep the Western allies permanently off-balance, strategically, politically and militarily, and thus to offset any innate advantages afforded Western leaders by either their forces or resources. If the Alliance concept of deterrence and defence is to remain credible, an entirely new and innovative concept of protection and projection must be considered as a matter of urgency.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Military Strategy, Deterrence, Modernization
  • Political Geography: Russia, Canada
  • Author: Ferry de Kerckhove
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI)
  • Abstract: The art of war has changed considerably since the end of the Second World War. In the last 15 years, the centre of gravity has slowly shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The West is increasingly being destabilized. Hybrid warfare and cyber-attacks have become increasingly effective alternatives to both hard and soft power. Russia is a major player in this domain; so is Iran. Other players are joining the fray, most of them hostile to the West, such as Iran and Russia’s client states. The barriers between civilian and military are fading quickly. All-out war now happens in a space that’s invisible to the naked eye. Not only is such warfare threatening us, but it also has consequences we have barely begun to assess. The divide between good and bad is blurring. Marshall McLuhan said the medium is the message. Today, the medium and the message are an undecipherable continuum where evil and lies coexist with truth and goodwill. Technological prowess increases vulnerability, but technology is also at the heart of corresponding systems of security. Thus, we have fully entered a new arms race where deterrence comes from the other side knowing what you don’t want him to discover, but what you want him to fear. Voltaire said: “If you wish to speak to me, let us start by defining the meaning of our words.” In this day and age, this mantra is particularly applicable to the definition of contemporary threats as well as of the targets, or even who is in the sights of Russian and Middle Eastern leaders. “Cyberspace is a domain characterized by the use of electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum to store, modify, and exchange data via networked systems and associated physical infrastructures. In effect, cyberspace can be thought of as the interconnection of human beings through computers and telecommunication, without regard to physical geography.” Consequently, “(c)ybersecurity is the practice of protecting systems, networks, and programs from digital attacks. These cyberattacks are usually aimed at accessing, changing, or destroying sensitive information; extorting money from users; or interrupting normal business processes. Implementing effective cybersecurity measures is particularly challenging today because there are more devices than people, and attackers are becoming more innovative.” Discussions focus on whether Russia or China is the heavyweight in terms of threat. Some argue that China is more subtle while Russia is more of a rogue. But it is undeniable that China’s attempt to change the fundamental paradigm of international relations, while using and hopefully subduing the existing international order’s mechanisms to its advantage, represents a holistic approach and is thus more threatening to the world if it even partly succeeds. Indeed, the planet’s centre of gravity is moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific and that means the global threat comes from China. If we needed a reminder, in 2014 Chinese hackers stole the personal information of more than 22 million people connected to U.S. security clearance processes. Not bad for five years ago!
  • Topic: Security, Science and Technology, Cybersecurity
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: What makes the militia milieu so unique and important for understanding today’s Russia is that it finds itself at the intersection of state institutions, patronage mechanisms, criminal structures, and grassroots illiberal activism. Abroad, the Kremlin plays through it one of its major “hybrid warfare” cards, outsourcing activities traditionally conducted by intelligence entities and allowing for plausible deniability. The militia realm thus seems destined to play a growing role in Russia’s law-enforcement, military and intelligence culture both at home and abroad. Marlene Laruelle is Research Professor and Associate Director of the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at the George Washington University (Washington DC) and Co-Director of PONARS-Eurasia. She has been Associate Research Fellow at Ifri’s Russia/NIS Center since January 2019.
  • Topic: Security, Nationalism, Military Affairs, Ideology
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Benjamin H. Friedman, Justin Logan
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Defense Priorities
  • Abstract: The United States intervened in Syria’s civil war in two ways: (1) anti-Assad efforts—through aid to rebels to help foster regime change and with airpower, troops and support to a militia—and (2) anti-ISIS efforts—through aid to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to destroy the Islamic State’s territorial caliphate. The first mission was an ill-considered failure, the second a success.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil War, Military Strategy, Peacekeeping, Military Affairs, Military Intervention, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Iran, Syria
  • Author: Marco Siddi
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Gas trade between the European Union and Russia increased considerably in both 2016 and 2017, despite the ongoing political crisis. Simultaneously, two long-standing disputes in the EU-Russia gas relationship – regarding Gazprom’s monopolistic practices and the EU’s third energy package – were settled. Russian companies have invested in new infrastructural projects for the export of gas to Europe, including the launch of the Yamal LNG terminal in December 2017 and the construction of the TurkStream and Nord Stream 2 pipelines. However, significant challenges remain for the relationship, most notably the intra-EU controversy on Nord Stream 2 and uncertainty about future gas transit in Ukraine.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, International Political Economy, International Affairs, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Jussi Lassila
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The Kremlin has cast a cloud over the horizon for millions of Russian citizens. People do not perceive the forthcoming pension reform as a necessary measure for sustaining economic and social stability. Rather, it has ignited a collective sense of anger among the people that they have been cast adrift by the elite
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Philip Breedlove, Alexander Vershbow
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: North Central Europe has become the central point of confrontation between the West and a revisionist Russia. Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia is determined to roll back the post-Cold War settlement and undermine the rules-based order that has kept Europe secure since the end of World War II. Moscow’s invasion and continued occupation of Georgian and Ukrainian territories, its military build-up in Russia’s Western Military District and Kaliningrad, and its “hybrid” warfare against Western societies have heightened instability in the region have made collective defense and deterrence an urgent mission for the United States and NATO
  • Topic: International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Barbara Kunz
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: France and Germany are key in shaping European policies toward Russia. However, while the general public is largely skeptical of Vladimir Putin in both countries, the picture is more diverse in the political realm. Whereas Germany remains focused on multilateralism and a rules-based international order, French political parties have been split on Russia. The differences between and within France and Germany impact on Franco-German relations and go beyond the question on how to deal with Russia.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Dima Adamsky
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: This monograph argues that the Syrian experience may leave a major imprint on Russian strategic thought and operational art. It explores Moscow’s Syrian campaign and seeks to answer the following questions: How did the Russian art of strategy manifest itself? How did Moscow design the campaign and then estimate its operational performance, judged against its own ends? Which lessons has the Russian strategic community learned? How might these insights project on Moscow’s future strategic behavior? Which strategic trends are more likely than others?
  • Topic: War, Military Strategy, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Flemming Splidsboel Hansen
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: The basic tenet of the Russian disinformation strategy is the claim that all news is constructed and therefore contested. In the best postmodern tradition they claim there is no ‘objective news’ – only different, rivalling interpretations which purport to show different aspects of what may be called ‘reality’. And what the Russian media outlets present are merely possible explanations which serve as alternatives to the stories offered by Western media. It is a strategy which is both cunning and elegant as it preys on the enlightenment tradition and on the vulnerabilities of liberal democratic media. The Russian authorities seem to believe that (dis-) information campaigns hold great prospects. In a 2017 article, the Russian Chief of Staff informed the public about the Russian military thinking on the topic of ‘war’ and on the role of the non-military or "non-kinetic" in this. It seems premature to conclude that this thinking sees the possibility of war as an exclusively non-kinetic activity – this at least was not announced in the article – but the development points strongly in this direction and we should therefore expect to see an increased Russian focus on (dis-) information campaigns designed to bring well-defined outcomes. There will not be any easy or fix-it-all solutions to this development. Rather, liberal democracies, especially vulnerable as a result of their free media culture, should prepare themselves for a long-term commitment to countering disinformation and to building up cognitive resilience to ensure that the former has minimal effect.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Andrew J. Tabler
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In this new Transition 2017 paper, Institute expert Andrew J. Tabler argues that Syria remains de facto partitioned, making the establishment of safe zones in non-Assad-controlled areas the Trump administration's most expedient course of action. Moreover, it would further Washington's cause to drive a wedge into the country's Russia-Iran alliance, and both isolate and pressure the Assad regime. If Washington's objectives in Syria are to defeat U.S.-designated terrorist groups and stem the outflow of refugees, President Bashar al-Assad is under no circumstances the right person to entrust with these missions. Simply in practical terms, he lacks the manpower to retake and hold the two-thirds of Syrian territory outside his control any time soon, despite having sufficient support from Russia and Iran to maintain control in large parts of the country. But more important, Assad is an avowed adversary of the West, undeserving of its cooperation.
  • Topic: International Relations, Civil War, International Security, International Affairs, Neoimperialism
  • Political Geography: Russia, America, Iran, Syria
  • Author: Mikhaïl Souslov
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: This paper traces the evolution of the diaspora policies and visions from the early 1990s to the present, and argues that the understanding of Russian “compatriots abroad” has never been the same; rather, it travelled a long road from revanchist irredentism of the red-brown opposition in the 1990s, to the moderately liberal pragmatism of the early 2000s, to the confrontational instrumentalization of Russian “compatriots” as a lever of Russia’s soft power in the late 2000s, and, finally, back to the even more confrontational, irredentist and isolationist visions after the Ukrainian crisis of 2014.
  • Topic: International Relations, Migration, International Affairs, Diaspora
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Bobo Lo
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: The influence these great powers exert, on themselves and others, is uneven and difficult to predict. Alongside a public consensus on a “democratic world order”, there are significant differences of perspective and sometimes conflicting interests. It is far from clear whether the Russia-China-India matrix can form the basis of an emerging network of cooperation, or whether its contradictions foreshadow an increasingly problematic engagement.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, India
  • Author: Flemming Splidsboel Hansen
  • Publication Date: 10-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: The Russian regime is ready to re-set its troubled relationship with the USA. While hopes are high, specific expectations are lower and the Trump presidency may eventually offer Russia a smaller action space than suggested by the campaign statements. The 2016 US presidential election was unusually dramatic. Part of the drama was allegedly provided by the Russian authorities as some of their state-spon- sored hackers broke into servers of the Democratic National Committee and released compromising emails immediately prior to the July 2016 Democratic Party Convention.
  • Topic: Elections, Geopolitics, Key players to watchPolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, America
  • Author: Andreas Bøje Forsby
  • Publication Date: 10-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Relations between Washington and Beijing are likely to face major change once Donald Trump takes over the White House. This DIIS Policy Brief by Andreas Bøje Forsby offers an overview of US-China relations and how they are likely to develop with Donald Trump in the Oval Office. If Trump follows through on his protectionist campaign statements, China will be targeted by economic sanctions against its export industries. In most other respects, however, the Chinese may actually come to benefit from a Trump presidency, whose ‘America First’ slogan suggests a more self-centered, even neo-isolationist US foreign policy. Most importantly, a Trump administration is unlikely to sustain key elements of the US rebalance to Asia like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the efforts to build a strategic network of like-minded states in the region to counter the rise of China.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, Elections, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, America
  • Author: Flemming Splidsboel Hansen
  • Publication Date: 12-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Senior researcher and research coordinator Flemming Splidsboel Hansen explores Russia’s Syria agenda as part of a DIIS initiative to understand the geopolitics of nonwestern intervention in Syria. The Kremlin presents Russia’s political and military involvement in Syria as an unconditional success. Its overall aim of putting Russia firmly back on the geopolitical map has been met. It is now clear that the key to any negotiated settlement to the conflict in Syria lies in Moscow. Moreover, Russia now seems to be close to a position where it may dictate the composition of the future Syrian regime and, not least, decide whether Syrian president Bashar al-Assad will remain in the presidential palace or be forced into exile. The costs of the military operations have been acceptable to the Russian public. Defence observers estimate that the first year of military operations cost the Russian armed forces 65 bn Rubles (approximately one bn USD) and some 20 deaths (combat and non-combat). The financial costs may be partially offset by increased future weapons sales. There is a high probability, however, that Russia will find itself embroiled in a complicated sectarian conflict in Syria from which there is no easy exit. This would test Russian public support for the military involvement in Syria. Already now Russian media comments suggest some degree of frustration over the alleged lack of fighting capacity and will on part of the Syrian armed forces. The Russian public may want to see a plan for an orderly exit from Syria, and this puts pressure on the Kremlin to deliver. However, the Syrian regime may not be able to survive without Russian military support, and Russian policy-makers may therefore soon be facing difficult choices.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, Syria
  • Author: Toivo Martikainen, Katri Pynnöniemi, Sinikukka Saari
  • Publication Date: 11-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Russia has perceived itself as a great power and has sought international acknowledgement of its status for years. The fact that Moscow regards the post-Soviet space as its sphere of ‘privileged interests’ and the sovereignty of the other post-Soviet states as subordinate to Russia’s national interests is nothing new. Likewise, Russia has persistently objected to the dominant role played by the US in world politics, and the enlargement of NATO. It has attempted to influence the security policy orientation and political choices made by post-Soviet states, and other states neighbouring Russia, such as Finland. These goals are well-established and are likely to remain fundamentally un- changed for years to come.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Affairs, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Finland
  • Author: Kirill Rogov
  • Publication Date: 11-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The recent 2016 Duma elections were planned by the Kremlin to attest to the fact that the period of troubled political development – which began during the previous 2011 Duma elections – is over. Further, the elections served to test Putin’s consolidated authoritarianism on the eve of the forthcoming presidential elections in 2018. While successful in terms of preserving full control over the new Duma, the election results nevertheless demonstrated that the patriotic enthusiasm evoked by the annexation of Crimea has largely been exhausted. The pressure on the opposition, new electoral rules and reliance on regions with so-called “administrative voting” secured a victory for the party of power, but in urban regions the turnout was very low and voting for the Kremlin’s party did not differ much from 2011 patterns. Although the direct effect of the economic crisis on people’s political attitudes is still moderate, the continued long-term stagnation in the Russian economy that started even before the fall in energy prices remains the major challenge for regime stability. Ambiguous election results force the Kremlin to seek new instruments of political consolidation. The Kremlin’s most probable strategy may be to combine toughening authoritarian institutions with maintaining high tension in the international arena in order to prolong the ‘rally around the flag’ effect domestically, by attempting or promising “authoritarian modernization” to gain support in urban regions. As the presidential election date approaches, both Putin’s foreign and economic policies could become even riskier than they have been to date.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Political Economy, International Affairs, Elections, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Yan Vaslavsky
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: Vladimir Putin delivered his Annual Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly at St. George’s Hall of the Great Kremlin Palace on December 1. The state-of-the- nation address is regarded as a major speech over a 12-month period. It usually recounts the progress and outlines national priorities and the development agenda for the near future. This format is not unique1, but it tends to command attention of the general public at home and abroad as well as of parliamentarians to whom, judging by its very name, it is addressed.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Cooperation, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, Global Focus
  • Author: Matthew Crosston
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: Vyacheslav Volodin was elected as head of the Collective Security Treaty Organization’s Parliamentary Assembly during the 9th Plenary Session of the CSTO’s PA in St. Petersburg on November 24th. Thus concludes a relatively fast and interesting transition personally for the influential Volodin, who in just three months has gone from the first deputy chief of President Putin’s staff in the Kremlin to being elected to the Russian Duma from his native Saratov to quickly becoming that body’s Speaker, officially putting him fourth in line in terms of Russian political power, behind the President, Prime Minister, and speaker of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the national parliament.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Political Theory, Political Power Sharing
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Mark Galeotti
  • Publication Date: 12-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Since 2014, Russia has mounted an extensive, aggressive, and multi-platform attempt to use its military and the threat of force as instruments of coercive diplomacy, intended to divide, distract, and deter Europe from challenging Russia’s activities in its immediate neighbourhood. The main elements are threats of potential military action, wargames which pointedly simulate such operations, the deployment of combat units in ways which also convey a political message, and intrusions close to and into European airspace, waters and even territory. The actual impact of these policies is varied, sometimes counter-productive, and they depend on coordination with other means of diplomacy and influence. But they have nonetheless contributed to a fragmentation of unity within both NATO and the European Union. ‘Heavy metal diplomacy’ is likely to continue for the immediate future. This requires a sharper sense on the part of the EU and its member states of what is a truly military move and what is political, a refusal to rise to the bait, and yet a display of convincing unity and cross-platform capacity when a response is required.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Mathieu Duchâtel, François Godement
  • Publication Date: 11-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: In September 2016, Russia held joint naval manoeuvres in the South China Sea with China, bringing some of its best ships to the party. Two weeks later, China shied away from joining Russia in a veto of yet another Western resolution on Syria at the UN. The discrepancy sums up the extent and the limits of the strategic convergence between both countries. The “axis of convenience” between China and Russia has, without question, grown larger. And the positive dynamics pushing cooperation forward are largely economic. But there is also a negative dynamic, coming from the West. Both countries have a perception of regime insecurity that emerges from the international promotion of democracy, and the attractiveness of corruption-free and comparably safe Western societies for individuals, be they Chinese or Russian.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, China
  • Author: Chris Westdal
  • Publication Date: 04-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI)
  • Abstract: Canada and Russia are on speaking terms again. Our government has abandoned Stephen Harper’s policy of vocal disdain and the attempted isolation of Russia. We stand against Russian “interference” in Ukraine but, in the words of Global Affairs Minister, Stephane Dion, “the more we disagree, the more we have to discuss.” This paper describes the setting of Canada-Russia re-engagement in terms of current tension in East-West, NATO-Russia relations and of heightened Canadian foreign policy aspiration; rehearses the case for earnest, long-term Western and Canadian engagement, with investment of senior attention and talent; cautions that, though a bit of spring has sprung, there is a lot of ice to thaw, as bilateral sanctions are likely to be lifted only in step with allies and the implementation, halting at best, of the Minsk peace plan; assesses Russia’s vulnerabilities and the record of its interventions in Georgia, Ukraine and Syria; recommends active Canadian support, by all means, for Ukrainian-Russian reconciliation and for a better fence, a “mending wall” between Russia and NATO; and suggests formats and first steps toward the normalization of bilateral and multilateral relations with our Arctic neighbour.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Cooperation, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, Canada
  • Author: Simeon Djankov
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In the 15 years of President Vladimir Putin's rule, state control over economic activity in Russia has increased and is greater today than in the immediate postcommunist era. The concentration of political and economic power in Putin's hands has led to an increasingly assertive foreign policy, using energy as a diplomatic tool, while plentiful revenues from extractive industries have obfuscated the need for structural reforms at home. The West's 2014 sanctions on Russia have brought about economic stagnation, and with few visible means of growth, the economy is likely to continue to struggle. Watching Europe struggle with its own growth, in part because of deficiencies in its economic model, Russia will not be convinced to divert from state capitalism without evidence of a different, successful economic model. Changing course can only be pursued in the presence of political competition; the current political landscape does not allow for such competition to flourish
  • Topic: Economics, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Sinikukka Saari
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The traditional cornerstones of the popularity of the Putin regime – stability, growing prosperity, the increased status of Russia in international affairs – seem to be rapidly eroding, which has led many observers to predict major changes in Russia in the near future. However, there are significant structural issues – alongside the mechanisms of 'political technology' and the outright oppression of dissent – that support and maintain the Putin regime, regardless of its malfunctioning and undisputed failings. Even in the unlikely event of Putin suddenly disappearing from the political scene, significant hurdles remain for the restructuring of the Russian economy and political system. No major modernisation or reform mode is to be expected. The EU and Finland should base their policies on a realistic assessment of Russia's long-term trajectory. There are unlikely to be any shortcuts to success, and no western policy is likely to produce positive results in the short term. What is needed now is a long-term perspective and principled policies, while acknowledging that only the Russians can change Russia's political direction.
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Katri Pynnöniemi, Charly Salonius-Pasternak, Mika Aaltola, Kristi Raik
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: New turbulence in the international environment is pushing Estonia and Finland closer together in the foreign and security policy domain. The Ukraine crisis has re-introduced old geopolitical constraints and concerns about national security and sovereignty, limiting the room for manoeuvre for small states. Estonia and Finland took similar positions on many key issues regarding the Ukraine crisis. The common ground is based on both countries' attachment to the liberal world order and Western structures. However, there are deep-rooted differences between the Estonian and Finnish positions on the way to handle Russia and the need to adjust security arrangements, notably the role of NATO in the Nordic-Baltic region. It is common in Finland to see Estonia's approach as unhelpfully hawkish, and common in Estonia to see Finland's approach as too accommodating towards Russia. Shared interests stem from an understanding that the weakening of the security of one country inevitably weakens the security of the other. As both countries are investing more in national security and defence, relevant bilateral cooperation is increasing.
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Finland, Estonia
  • Author: Anna Borshchevskaya
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: After two rounds of peace talks in Geneva failed to resolve the Syrian crisis, Moscow proposed in December 2014 its own peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition. Earlier this month, Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov confirmed that the talks would take place January 26-29, according to Russian press reports. Bogdanov has described the talks as "consultative" and "preparatory," without any preconditions or set agenda. They could, he said, lead to more concrete discussions. Although the United States is not participating in the Moscow talks, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry expressed hope on January 14 in Geneva that they "could be helpful."
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Moscow
  • Author: Stanislav Secrieru
  • Publication Date: 11-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: For the first time since the outbreak of the war in Donbass, the situation on the frontline is nearly a proper cease-fire. This is the outcome of the interplay of three factors: the political-military balance in Donbass, sanctions and Russia’s military intervention in Syria. Nevertheless, it is premature to assume that military options in Donbass are no longer in the cards. Russia is likely to use force if needed to repel a Ukrainian attempt to retake parts of the area, to obstruct the Minsk process if it goes in a disadvantageous direction for Moscow, or to seize more territory if there is further political and social turmoil in Ukraine. To minimize the risks of an eruption of violence in Donbass, the EU and U.S. should prolong the sanctions, fine-tune the diplomatic pressure on both sides to implement and uphold the Minsk Protocols, and pay more attention to the political and economic transformations in the rest of Ukraine.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Defense Policy, Politics, Military Strategy, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine
  • Author: Kamran Ismayilov, Konrad Zasztowt
  • Publication Date: 10-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Azerbaijan recently had to face a wave of criticism from the European institutions (the OSCE and the European Parliament) due to its government’s undemocratic practices. In response, Baku accused its European partners of Islamophobia and declared the suspension of parliamentary cooperation in the framework of the EU’s Euronest. The Azerbaijani ruling elite also blames the West of supporting a “fifth column” in Azerbaijan (meaning civil society organisations) as well as of giving political support to its arch-enemy Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. At the same time authorities in Baku are displaying their developing political partnership with Russia. This paper examines the consequences of the crisis in relations between the EU and Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani-Russian rapprochement for the prospects for EU-Azerbaijan energy projects and regional security in the South Caucasus.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Security, Civil Society, Politics, Governance
  • Political Geography: Russia, Azerbaijan
  • Author: Alan Riley
  • Publication Date: 11-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Germany may be seeking to expedite the construction of Russia's Nordstream 2 pipeline by shielding the controversial project from tough the laws of the European Union (EU), according to a transcript of talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Energy Minster Sigmar Gabriel, Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Alan Riley writes in "Nordstream 2: Too Many Obstacles, Legal, Economic, and Political to Be Delivered?".
  • Topic: Energy Policy, International Law, International Trade and Finance, Natural Resources, European Union
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: It has been 348 days since Russia moved into Crimea, kicking off an increasingly serious threat not just to the Ukrainian people but to wider European stability In the nearly one year since the armed fighting began, Russian President Vladimir Putin has pushed aside assumed psychological barriers of behavior that the EU and NATO had hoped would bolster their decreased military deterrent towards armed aggression A meeting this Wednesday between Russia and its armed proxy Ukrainian separatists, Germany, France, and Ukraine shows how serious the crisis has become, with real concerns as to what happens when talks can\'t stop the shooting Russia will insist any agreement make official the rebel gains of the last year, which would then mark the second time European borders have been remade by force in this conflict, since Russia has demonstrated it will escalate more so than the EU or NATO.
  • Topic: NATO
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The recent Islamic State video showing a young child apparently shooting and killing a captive is another tragic example of extremist groups not just preying on children but turning children into predators In creating what they call 'cubs of the caliphate' who become killers at a young age, the Islamic State is attempting to ensure its future regardless of territorial losses, by putting children on a path from which there is almost no return In January the group released a video showing another child shooting alleged Russian agents, with the same message that it is grooming the next generation of killers Potential Islamic State affiliate Boko Haram also uses young children to kill, forcing them to become suicide bombers to devastating effect; and the group has no shortage of victims given its propensity for kidnapping.
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Peter Harrell
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center for a New American Security
  • Abstract: U.S. and European sanctions on Russia mark a significant evolution in the sanctions toolkit. Officials deployed novel types of financial and energy sanctions to create a regime that imposed significant costs on Russia while minimizing collateral impacts on the U.S. and European economies. The U.S. and European decision to create these new tools was driven by the need to take an innovative approach to sanctions against an economy twice the size of the combined gross domestic products (GDPs) of all other countries subject to significant U.S. economic sanctions and on Russian companies that play an important role in global markets. These developments, while tailored to Russia’s unique circumstances, hold important lessons for the future of sanctions policy.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Cold War, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: James Andrew Lewis
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Gulf has become a flashpoint for cyber conflict. Cyberspace has become an arena for covert struggle, with the United States, Israel and other nations on one side, and Iran and Russia on the other. Iran has far outpaced the GCC states in developing its cyber capabilities, both for monitoring internal dissent and deploying hackers to disrupt or attack foreign targets. Several such attacks over the past two years were likely either directed or permitted by Iranian state authorities. Even if Iran holds back from offensive actions as nuclear talks progress, the growth in Iranian capabilities remains a potential security threat for other Gulf states. The GCC countries have begun to develop their defensive capabilities, but they will need to expand their defenses and collaborate more effectively to deter future threats.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Defense Policy, Development, Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: That nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the UK, U.S. and Germany) were extended beyond the 20 July 2014 deadline was neither unexpected nor unwelcome. The parties ha d made enough headway to justify the extension, which was envisioned in the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) that was signed in November 2013 and came into force in January, but given the political and technical complexity, they remain far apart on fundamental issues. Unless they learn the lessons of the last six months and change their approach for the next four, they will lose the opportunity for a resolution not just by the new 24 November deadline but for the foreseeable future. Both sides need to retreat from maximalist positions, particularly on Iran's enrichment program. Tehran should postpone plans for industrial- scale enrichment and accept greater constraints on the number of its centrifuges in return for P5+1 flexibility on the qualitative growth of its enrichment capacity through research and development.
  • Topic: Development, Diplomacy, Economics, Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Iran, Middle East, France
  • Author: Kenneth B. Moss
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Cyber technology could change not only the conduct of war itself; it could alter the way governments and others initiate hostilities and war. Existing international laws need to be reviewed to make sure they address the capabilities and accountability of cyber operations in conflict and war, and the participation of China, Russia and other states in negotiations is critical.
  • Topic: International Law, Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: Russia, China
  • Author: Jakob Aarøe Jørgensen
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Leading up to the NATO Summit in September, the crisis in Ukraine has vindicated some NATO members' fears of Russia. This could cause NATO to revert to a narrow focus on Article 5 defense. Yet, other issues still pose threats and NATO should remain vigilant towards security challenges from the Middle East.
  • Topic: Security, NATO, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Middle East
  • Author: Anna Gelpern
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The escalating crisis in Ukraine has prompted the United States and Europe to impose the toughest economic sanctions against Russia since the end of the Cold War. Continued instability and military conflict in eastern Ukraine are straining Ukrainian finances. Despite a generous international support package, the government faces shrinking revenues, rising costs, and a spike in foreign debt payments over the next two years.
  • Topic: Cold War, Debt, Economics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Asia
  • Author: Anders Åslund
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Ukraine has experienced a year of unprecedented political, economic, and military turmoil. The combination of Russian military aggression in the east and a legacy of destructive policies leading to pervasive corruption has plunged the country into an existential crisis. The West, meanwhile, has been largely paralyzed with uncertainty over how to assist Ukraine without reviving Cold War hostilities. Yet all is not lost for Ukraine. A tenuous ceasefire, along with the successful elections of President Petro Poroshenko in May and a new parliament in October offer an opportunity for economic reform. If the current ceasefire in the east holds, Ukraine has a great opportunity to break out of its vicious circle of economic underperformance. Yet, the window of opportunity is likely to be brief. The new government will have to act fast and hard on many fronts to succeed.
  • Topic: Corruption, Governance, Self Determination
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine
  • Author: Anders Åslund
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Ukraine has experienced a year of unprecedented political, economic, and military turmoil. The combination of Russian military aggression in the east and a legacy of destructive policies leading to pervasive corruption has plunged the country into an existential crisis. The West, meanwhile, has been largely paralyzed with uncertainty over how to assist Ukraine without reviving Cold War hostilities. Yet all is not lost for Ukraine. A tenuous ceasefire, along with the successful elections of President Petro Poroshenko in May and a new parliament in October offer an opportunity for economic reform. If the current ceasefire in the east holds, Ukraine has a great opportunity to break out of its vicious circle of economic underperformance. Yet, the window of opportunity is likely to be brief. The new government will have to act fast and hard on many fronts to succeed.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Economics, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine
  • 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: András Rácz
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The destabilization of Ukraine and the possible escalation of the crisis have presented a direct security risk to the Visegrad countries - Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary - particularly concerning military security, the potential interruption of energy transit, and the possible influx of refugees. These factors have forced the Visegrad states to show unprecedented unity and activism in addressing the crisis. However, regarding the possibility of sanctioning Russia, the Visegrad Group is unable to take a joint position. The main reason for this is that Russia does not pose a direct military threat to the region. Consequently the individual policies of the Visegrad countries towards Russia are defined by a constellation of geopolitical concerns, normative motivations, business interests and domestic political ambitions, which are decidedly different in all four cases. Domestic political motivations, such as the will to increase domestic legitimacy, and concerns over the economic effects of sanctions, obviously influence the foreign policy actions of the Visegrad governments. However, Viktor Orbán of Hungary was the only one to break the Visegrad solidarity on Ukraine with his domestically-motivated remarks in May 2014 and demanding autonomy for Hungarians living in the Trans-Carpathian region. As most normative, business and domestic political motivations are of a lasting strategic nature, it is highly likely that the general incoherence of the Visegrad region regarding Russia will prevail.
  • Topic: Security, Politics, International Security
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Poland
  • Author: Sinikukka Saari
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Russia is not likely to resort to overt political pressure on Georgia in the run-up to Georgia's signing of the Association Agreement with the EU (27 June), and the NATO Summit in Wales (4-5 September). This is partly due to its weak levers and the fact that they cannot be strengthened within a short time span. Instead, Russia is likely to apply a dual strategy by strengthening its indirect 'influence tools' that are operating within Georgian society, as well as by continuing dialogue and pragmatic cooperation with the Georgian leadership - at least for the time being. Moscow is likely to stand firm on the issue of the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In all likelihood, Russia will seek to increase its control over the territories, and to hamper any rapprochement between Georgia and the separatist territories. Despite the fact that the Russian intervention in Ukraine is likely to deter and delay substantial progress in the cooperation between Georgia and Russia, both sides seem to be willing to continue on the path of 'normalisation'. A practical compromise on the Georgian westward course seems to be emerging: in all likelihood Georgia will sign the Association Agreement with the EU without much Russian interference, but NATO will not offer Georgia a Membership Action Plan at the Summit.
  • Topic: International Relations, NATO
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Georgia
  • Author: Katri Pynnöniemi
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Three articles written by Russian foreign policy analyst Sergei Karaganov and published at the turning points of the Ukraine conflict shed light on how the reasoning on Russia's strategic interests in Ukraine has evolved amid the conflict. The meaning of the conflict, as explained in the first essay, is that Russia is drawing a line of defence against Western interference in its sphere of interest. In the second essay, the assertion that with the Crimean operation Russia has forced the West to put an end to the Cold War, is reconfigured into a choice that Russia needs to make between the Western or non-Western path. Finally, in an essay written after the downing of flight MH17, it is argued that without de-escalation the situation in Donbass will become a threat to Russian national security. The evolution of the argumentation shows that some sort of 'reality check' has occurred in the vicinity of the general line. However, while the dangers inherent in the conflict are recognized, Karaganov fails to acknowledge Russia's active involvement in the conflict.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Cold War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine
  • 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: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Every Olympiad is a complex and, until the end, uncertain endeavor. In the case of the 2014 Winter Games, which begin February 7 in Sochi, Russia, the challenges and vulnerabilities are far more significant and numerous than usual. It will be the first (and almost certainly the last) Winter Games in the subtropics. Virtually the entire infrastructure had to be built from scratch and in haste, with abuse of laborers and corruption overhead likely further compromising the construction. While various interest groups exploit every Olympiad to draw international attention to their causes, protests in Sochi could be particularly intense. Finally, and most ominously, Sochi is next door to a fundamentalist Islamic uprising in which terrorism claims victims almost daily. For the sake of the athletes and millions of fans, one hopes that none of these potential problems will precipitate a disruption, much less a crisis or bloodshed. Yet in their choice of location and the manner in which they have gone about organizing the Games, the Russian authorities have greatly increased that risk. By highlighting some key features and practices of Vladimir Putin's regime, a major setback at the Olympiad could deal a serious blow to the regime's legitimacy, prompt national soul searching, and trigger another round of civil resistance in search of reforms.
  • Topic: Corruption, Islam, Insurgency, Infrastructure, Governance
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Steven Blockmans
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for European Policy Studies
  • Abstract: The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine has unleashed a storm of grief and anger in the EU and around the world. Heads of state and government have joined the public outcry and called for tough action against those directly and indirectly responsible for this heinous crime. The EU's reaction, however, has been lame so far by comparison.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Territorial Disputes, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine
  • Author: Michael Emerson, Denis Cenusa, Tamara Kovziridse, Veronika Movchan
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for European Policy Studies
  • Abstract: While EU and US sanctions against Russia over its aggression in Ukraine, and Russia's counter-sanctions, are much discussed due to their evident political significance, less attention has been given to Russia's punitive sanctions against the three Eastern European states – Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia – that have signed with the EU Association Agreements (AA), which include Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) provisions. This paper therefore documents these trade policy restrictions and embargoes imposed by Russia, and provides some first indications of their impact. The immediate impact on trade flows, especially for agri-food products, has been substantial, albeit with some leakage through Belarus. The main instrument for the Russian measures has been allegations of non-conformity with Russian technical standards, although the correlation of these allegations with movements in Russia's geopolitical postures makes it obvious that the Russian technical agencies are following political guidelines dressed up as scientific evidence. These measures also push the three states into diversifying their trade marketing efforts in favour of the EU and other world markets, with Georgia already having taken significant steps in this direction, since in its case the Russian sanctions date back to 2006. In the case of Ukraine, Russia's threat to cancel CIS free trade preferences infiltrated trilateral talks between the EU, Ukraine and Russia, leading on 12 September to their proposed postponement until the end of 2015 of the 'provisional' implementation of a large part of the AA/DCFTA. This was immediately followed on 16 September by ratification of the AA/DCFTA by both the Rada in Kyiv and the European Parliament, which will lead to its full and definitive entry into force when the 28 EU member states have also ratified it. However Putin followed the day after with a letter to Poroshenko making an abusive interpretation of the 12 September understanding.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Power Politics, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia
  • Author: Gerald Stang
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Union Institute for Security Studies
  • Abstract: Russia is often seen as a land of extremes – and the narratives for this month's Winter Olympics in Sochi reflect that view. From the record-length 65,000 km Olympic torch run (which included trips to outer space, the north pole and the bottom of the world's deepest lake) to the incredible $51 billion price tag and the Ian Flemingesque threat of attacks from black widow terrorists, the Sochi games have a distinctly Russian flavour. The Kremlin appears to have envisioned the games as a national triumph, not unlike the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with organisational, architectural and sporting successes that could unite the country. However, with global headlines dominated by stories of corruption, human rights abuses, anti-gay laws and the very real threat of terrorist attacks, one might be forgiven for wondering whether the Russian government regrets its decision to bid for the games.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Security, Political Violence, Islam, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Nicu Popescu
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Union Institute for Security Studies
  • Abstract: For the best part of the last two decades, EU-Russia summits have alternated between being upbeat events where new grand integration initiatives were launched – the creation of four common spaces in 2005, the partnership for modernisation in 2010 – and rather unfriendly encounters where success was seemingly measured on how impolite the partners could be to one another.
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, International Trade and Finance, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Lysa John
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxfam Publishing
  • Abstract: In July 2014, a new multilateral and Southern-led development bank is expected to be launched by the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – better known as the BRICS. The BRICS Development Bank will provide a fresh source of finance for developing and emerging economies to meet their development needs. Little has been made public regarding the proposed Bank's core mandate or activities but while governments negotiate the technicalities of the Bank, it is critical that they also provide a solid vision of the principles, priorities and objectives on which the Bank's activities and operations will be premised. This policy brief recommends that these include commitments to: ending extreme poverty and inequality, with a special focus on gender equity and women's rights; aligning with environmental and social safeguards and establishing mechanisms for information sharing, accountability and redress; leadership on the sustainable development agenda; the creation of mechanisms for public consultation and debate; and the adoption a truly democratic governance structure.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Gender Issues, International Cooperation, Poverty
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, China, Europe, India, Asia, South Africa, Brazil, South America
  • Author: Xenia Avezov, Timo Smit
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
  • Abstract: The transition towards multipolarity in the international system has concerned many observers in recent years. They fear'an era of disorder and greatly diminished multilateralism owing to miscalculation, uncertainty and distrust between the new and established powers'. This is based partly on the assumption that multipolarity will create competition rather than cooperation as international actors promote or object to intervention in conflicts based on their own geostrategic, economic or political interests.
  • Topic: Security, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Syria
  • Author: Siemon T. Wezeman, Pieter D. Wezeman
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
  • Abstract: The volume of international transfers of major weapons in 2009–13 was 14 per cent higher than in 2004–2008 (see figure 1). The five biggest exporters in 2009–13 were the United States, Russia, Germany, China and France and the five biggest importers were India, China, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, War, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Russia, United States, China, India, Paris, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Kacper Rękawek
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Terrorists constantly seek the spotlight and attacking major sporting events constitutes a seemingly perfect springboard for global notoriety. As the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi are nearing, the global public is understandably concerned about the July 2013 North Caucasian jihadi threats to either disrupt the Games or prevent them altogether. Are the recent Volgograd bombings all the terrorists could muster in anticipation of the Olympics or is there more to come? It is worth analysing some of the options the Caucasus Emirate might be considering in relation to their stated intent to disrupt or force the cancellation of the Olympics. All of the options are derived from information on previous terrorist attacks on other sporting events that could provide clues for counter-terrorism authorities in Russia and neighbouring countries to use when securing these Olympics.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Security, International Organization, Terrorism, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Ryszarda Formuszewicz
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The tougher tone in Germany’s policy towards Russia reflects changes in Berlin’s perception of the eastern giant and in its own self-perception as a power willing to play a more active international role. This readiness for leadership could cement Germany’s status as a key international player whilst handing it the influence necessary to secure its own primary economic interests vis-à-vis Russia. However, it will also require Germany to critically address the long-standing premises of its policy towards Russia, and its appetite to overturn old assumptions remains limited. Lessons drawn by Germany now, in particular with regards to the causes of the Ukraine crisis, will prevail as a guideline for its Russia policy, and as such will also be decisive in the prospects for Polish–German cooperation.
  • Topic: Security, Economics, Power Politics, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Germany
  • Author: Stanislav Secrieru
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Eurasian integration has been formally elevated to a new level. On 29 May, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan signed in Astana the founding treaty of the Eurasian Economic Union. However, problems related to integration, enlargement and international cooperation with the EEU indicate the effort is far from a point of no return. Despite the upbeat mood in Moscow, integration remains weak and selective, and in several important fields has been shelved until 2025. At the same time, the enlargement process has encountered security-related obstacles and triggered additional costs for Russia.
  • Topic: Security, International Cooperation, Treaties and Agreements, European Union
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Maya Rostowska
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Despite the reigning consensus that the Russian economy is facing trouble ahead, some indicators suggest that the situation is not as dire as first appeared. Moreover, it may seem that the fiscal situation in the country—particularly its copious foreign currency reserves and substantial sovereign wealth funds—could still help extricate Russia from its economic difficulties. However, the very difficult budgetary situation in the regions and the staggering levels of debt of its companies suggest that economic problems could hit the country hard. Investors should remain vigilant of social and political tensions and the possible further deterioration of the business environment in Russia.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Politics, Governance, Budget
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Elzbieta Kaca, Roderick Parkes, Anita Emőke Sobják
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The EU is inevitably a geopolitical player, but it seeks to avoid fulfilling this role by all means. This has resulted in increased instability in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) region. In order to bring healthy political choices to its troubled eastern neighbourhood, the EU should follow a 12-point plan focusing on a more nuanced policy towards Russia, stronger regional ties between Eastern partners, tailored EU conditionalities and an integration approach better suited to EaP countries, as well as improving EU political capacities in the region.
  • Topic: Self Determination, European Union, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine
  • Author: Artur Kacprzyk
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: In the context of the Ukraine crisis, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Romania have called for significant strengthening of NATO’s deterrence and defence policy and for permanent deployments of Allied troops in the region. This position is, however, not shared by the rest of the Central and Eastern European NATO members. Similar to Western European countries, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia do not feel as threatened by Russia’s actions and do not support moves that could damage their political and economic relations with Moscow. Fundamental differences among the current positions of the regional Allies indicate a profound divide between Central and Eastern European NATO members.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, NATO, Economics, Politics, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine
  • Author: Oliver Stuenkel
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: Emerging powers frequently stress the importance of sovereignty and the inviolability of international law. As a consequence, many Western observers expected that emerging powers such as Brazil would be quick to condemn Russia's annexation of Crimea. Yet Brazil remained neutral and abstained from the UN General Assembly resolution that criticised Russia. Together with the other BRICS countries, it opposed suggestions to exclude Russia from the G-20, thus markedly reducing the effectiveness of Western attempts to isolate President Putin. Brazil's unwillingness to criticise Russia may have less to do with its opinion on Russia's annexation of Crimea per se and more to do with Brasília's scepticism of Western attempts to turn Russia into an international pariah. From Brasilia's perspective, pushing countries against the wall is rarely the most constructive approach. In addition, many in Brazil are wary of a global order that privileges the U.S. and allows it to flout many norms that apply to everyone else, arguing that these double standards are far more damaging to international order than any Russian policy. Finally, Russia annexed Crimea at a time when anti-Americanism around the world still runs high as a consequence of the NSA spying scandals, making alignment with U.S. positions politically costly at home.
  • Topic: Emerging Markets, Politics, Sovereignty
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia, Brazil, South America
  • Author: Balkan Devlen
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: From the start of the Ukrainian crisis Turkey kept a low profile and adopted a strategy best described as "don't poke the Russian bear". Russia is a major Turkish trading partner and Turkey relies heavily on Russian natural gas for its energy needs, while Turkish prime minister Erdogan has also been dealing with serious domestic challenges in the last year. Therefore, due to both external and internal factors, Turkey will avoid confronting Russia directly and will pass the buck to the U.S. and EU. In the short to medium term there are three plausible scenarios under which Turkey will change its current policy. They include the oppression of Crimean Tatars by the Russian authorities; military confrontation in the Black Sea between Russia and NATO; or a more unified, tougher stance against Russia by the West. In the long term Turkey most likely will revert to its traditional role of balancing Russia by strengthening its ties with the West, while reducing its energy dependence on Russia.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Governance
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Turkey, Ukraine, Asia
  • Author: Varun Sahni
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: The statement by India's national security adviser on March 6th 2014 referring to "legitimate" Russian interest in Ukraine was unsurprisingly criticised in the West, but appreciated in Russia. Most observers missed other important elements in the statement: reference to Ukraine's internal issues; recognition that both Russian and other interests were involved; and emphasis on a peaceful settlement, reconciliation and negotiation. Debate on the Ukrainian crisis has been largely absent in India due to preoccupation with national elections, widespread consensus that Russia is a dependable "friend of India", and sneaking admiration of President Putin for his "decisiveness" in promoting Russia's interests and open defiance of the West. While China and Pakistan have deployed historical/ethno-cultural arguments to dispute Indian sovereignty over territories that India considers its own, India has consistently rejected claims to alter the territorial status quo on grounds of kinship across sovereign borders.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Sovereignty, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, India, Asia
  • Author: Chris Alden
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: Assessments of the official Chinese reaction to the crisis in Ukraine have focused primarily on China's abstention in the vote on a UN Security Council resolution condemning Russian actions and, to a lesser degree, on the three-pronged Chinese proposal for addressing the crisis. However, by examining an array of Chinese sources, including media reports, editorials, and research think-tank publications, a number of viewpoints are presented that provide a better sense of the scope of Chinese thinking on the subject. These concentrate on the notion of Chinese neutrality, Western interference, the domestic sources of the Ukrainian crisis, and possible policy options available to Chinese decision-makers. Understanding these provides a more nuanced understanding of Chinese reactions to the Ukrainian crisis and its possible significance for China.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Mass Media
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Ukraine, Asia
  • Author: Elizabeth Sidiropoulos
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: South Africa did not join in the chorus of condemnation against Russia's annexation of the Crimea, instead adopting a position that in part mirrored language used by Russia to explain its actions, but in other ways reflected key principles of South African foreign policy. Together with its fellow BRICS members, South Africa opposed the imposition of sanctions and was critical of suggestions that Russia might be excluded from the G-20 Summit in Australia later in the year. Non-interference in the internal affairs of states and the inviolability of borders have been central organising principles of African affairs since decolonisation. South Africa's approach must be understood in the context of a desire to see the balance of forces change to reflect the rise of emerging powers. The West's unilateral actions since the end of the cold war have not sat well with the South African government. Civil society elements aligned to the ruling tripartite alliance have condemned what they perceive as Western propaganda against Russia and the West's involvement in stirring unrest in Maidan Square, Kiev. Furthermore, from a realpolitik perspective, South Africa accords its alliance with the BRICS states high priority. Yet, as a relatively small country, it is in South Africa's interests to encourage adherence to a set of global rules that are respected by all.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Sovereignty
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, Ukraine, South Africa
  • Author: Andrey Makarychev, Licínia Simão
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: It was not until 2007 that the concept of development assistance became part of the Russian foreign policy toolkit. This policy brief explains Russia's development assistance policy – mainly towards Africa – as an effect of the country's global commitments and socialisation dynamics, on the one hand, and Moscow's growing interest in exploring the potential of soft power as an indispensable element of its diplomacy, since both aspects are interrelated. The policy brief also looks at the mismatches between Russia's normative discourse in its assistance towards Africa, and the economic and geopolitical interests it pursues simultaneously. This provides room for reflection on the specificities of so-called South-South cooperation, with which the BRICS grouping in particular is often associated.
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, Moscow
  • Author: Franklin D. Kramer, Melanie J. Teplinsky
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Cyber has become the new conflict arena. It ranks as one of the greatest national security challenges facing the United States for three reasons. First, as the revelations about the National Security Agency's (NSA's) activities suggest, cyber offense has far outpaced cyber defense. Second, cyber capabilities are prevalent worldwide and increasingly are being used to achieve the strategic goals of nations and actors adverse to the United States. Third, it is highly unlikely that cyber espionage and other cyber intrusions will soon cease. While the NSA disclosures focus on the United States and the United Kingdom, there is little doubt that China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and others are engaged in significant cyber activities. The fundamental question is whether the cyber realm can, consistent with the national interest, be made more stable and secure.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Science and Technology, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, United Kingdom, Iran, North Korea
  • Author: Pinar Dost-Niyego, Orhan Taner
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: The recent events in Ukraine have revived the question of European dependence on Russian natural gas. The security of Europe's natural gas supply has been a consistently important issue in Russian-European Union (EU) relations. Russia provided 34 percent of EU gas in 2012, and Russian policies can have a direct impact on EU supplies. After the West-Russian confrontation over Ukraine, a lot has been said about the 'US shale gas revolution' and the possibilities of the United States becoming an energy exporter for future European energy needs. Although US energy independence seems to promise new perspectives for future European energy security, as well as for the balance of power in the Middle East, this is not for this decade. We cannot expect that the European Union would be able to cut off all of its energy relations with Russia, but we can foresee–or at least agree–that the European Union should diversify its natural gas supplies.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Economics, Energy Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Ukraine, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Christopher Musselman
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: The Ukraine crisis demonstrates that European security can no longer be taken for granted and that NATO and the broader transatlantic community are struggling to address emerging security challenges. Whether Russia is classified revanchist, expanding its sphere of influence, or seeking to create regional hegemony, Putin's actions in both Crimea and eastern Ukraine are a stark reminder that the era of geopolitical competition in Europe is far from over. The transatlantic community must be ready to deal with similar challenges in the decades ahead.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: There are clear and compelling economic imperatives for Iran to accept a nuclear agreement with the P5+1 (U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany) by a November 24 deadline. The Iranian public has chafed under comprehensive sanctions since 2010 and expect President Hassan Rouhani to deliver a nuclear agreement that enables the economy to recover and grow. U.S. and other P5+1 officials stress the economic opportunities for Iran that will result, including the eventual re-opening of Iran's oil and gas sector to foreign investment. Major international firms are poised to re-enter the Iranian market in the event of a nuclear deal, although firms will initially be cautious due to lingering uncertainty.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Arms Control and Proliferation, Islam, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Iran is attempting to link greater cooperation against the so-called Islamic State (IS) organization to concessions by the P5+1 (US, UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany) in negotiations on Iran's nuclear program Iran and the P5+1 remain far apart on the core issue of Iran's uranium enrichment program, increasing the likelihood that the talks will be extended beyond the current deadline of November 24 Iran requires a nuclear deal to satisfy public expectations and to increase its influence on regional events, including the US-led effort against IS A key Iranian goal is to dissuade the coalition from expanding the anti-IS campaign to include destabilizing the Assad regime in Syria.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, United Kingdom, Iran, Middle East, France, Germany, Syria
  • Author: Elena Jarocinska
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center for Social and Economic Research - CASE
  • Abstract: In this brief, Elena Jarocinska summarizes the main thrust of Russian federal fiscal institutions and discusses their specific features. She describes the evolution of federal fiscal regulations since the establishment of the Russian federal state. As a conclusion, she offers the following policy recommendations: tax autonomy of subnational governments which is currently very limited should be increased; federal aid should be further formalized and made more transparent; regulations should not be changed from year to year to provide for a more stable environment; and subnational interests should be better protected at the institutional level.
  • Topic: Monetary Policy, Reform, Tax Systems, Institutions, Fiscal Policy, Trade, Post-Socialist Economies
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Central Asia, Caucasus, Eastern Europe
  • Author: David Nusbaum
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Nuclear research reactors are used in many countries for many different purposes. Most of the reactors are used for research (mainly in physics), training for nuclear operators and engineers, materials testing in radiation conditions, or the production of radioiso¬topes for medicine and industry. Some countries, like Iran, are building new reactors ostensibly to fill these needs. Many of these reactors operate with highly enriched uranium (HEU) nuclear fuel — in most cases, enriched to around 90 percent, the same as fuel for nuclear weapons. The production and fabrication of HEU fuel, and the handling, transport, and storage of both fresh and spent fuel containing HEU entails considerable proliferation, security, and safety risks as well as very high costs. The global stockpile of highly enriched uranium was about 1500 tons in 2012, which was enough for more than 60,000 simple, first gen¬eration implosion weapons. About 98 percent of this material is held by the nuclear weapon states, with the largest HEU stockpiles in Russia and the United States.
  • Topic: Security, Education, Energy Policy, Health, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Iran
  • Author: Jakob Vestergaard, Robert Hunter Wade
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: More than three years after the International Monetary Fund (IMF)'s governing body agreed to reform the organization's governance so as to better reflect the increasing economic weight of dynamic emerging market economies in the world economy, only microscopic changes have been made. Emerging market and developing countries (EMDCs) have become increasingly frustrated with Western states for clinging to their inherited power, in the IMF and other important international economic governance organizations. The emerging cooperation among the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) – as seen in the advanced-stage negotiations to establish a Development Bank and a Contingent Reserve Arrangement – sends a “wake up and smell the coffee” call to the West, and the latter will carry a heavy responsibility for eroding global multilateral governance if it continues to drag its heels on the needed adjustments.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Emerging Markets, International Monetary Fund, Governance, Reform
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, India, South Africa, Brazil
  • Author: Anders Åslund
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Since gaining independence in December 1991, Ukraine has vacillated between the European Union and Russia for economic and political cooperation. Until recently neither had offered Ukraine much, but in the last few months, things have heated up. Ukraine's intention to sign an Association Agreement for political association and economic integration with the European Union has raised a furor in the Kremlin, which is now trying to block Ukraine from aligning itself with the European Union. Moscow has imposed trade sanctions in clear violation of its obligations in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is pursuing an intense confrontation.
  • Topic: Economics, Treaties and Agreements, World Trade Organization, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine, Asia, Moscow
  • Author: Juha Käpylä, Harri Mikkola
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: With exciting economic opportunities and serious environmental challenges, the Arctic is transforming and re-emerging as a geopolitically important region. Major global players within and without the Arctic are paying greater attention to the region. While Russia is a traditional Arctic state with significant economic and security interests in the region, China, the US and the EU have also expressed their Arctic interests more explicitly. They are keen to tap into the economic potential and have a say in the way the region becomes accessed, exploited and governed. As a result, the Arctic is no longer a spatially or administratively confined region, but is instead taking its new form in the midst of contemporary global politics. The globalization and economization of the Arctic will most likely downplay environmentalism and reduce the relative influence of the indigenous people and small Arctic states in Arctic affairs. Arctic governance is also likely to turn more complex and complicated as the economic and political stakes are raised.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Climate Change, Development, International Trade and Finance, Oil, Natural Resources
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Europe
  • Author: Maria Nozhenko
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Debates on nationalism acquired a great deal of significance in Russia in the summer of 2013, with the activities of right-wing nationalists increasing during this period too. Modern Russian nationalism has its roots in anti-immigrant sentiments, mainly as a consequence of failed nation-state building in the post-Soviet period. Most right-wing organisations are marginalised, with membership and support relatively low. But the anti-immigrant ideas which these organisations propagate currently enjoy high levels of support in Russian society. Over the past eight years, the activities of right-wing nationalists have been largely limited to 'the streets', due to the lack of opportunities open to nationalist parties to participate in electoral processes. The prospects for Russia's right-wing nationalist organisations will depend on the regime's approach to 'illegal' immigration, but also on the state's overall policy towards right-wing nationalism. Three scenarios are seen to be possible at this juncture: 'marginalised nationalists', 'underground nationalists', and 'incorporated nationalists'.
  • Topic: Nationalism, Politics, Immigration
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Sean Roberts
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Following Vladimir Putin's presidential election victory in March 2012, the Russian political system has undergone significant change. The latest changes affect the way regional elections are conducted. However, a number of puzzles remain, not least the intentions of the Putin administration. Alongside liberalising reforms, such as the return of direct elections for regional governors and the easing of party registration requirements, we see new restrictions that close the political field. Nonetheless, the events of the past 20 months do reveal a distinct change in the reform process, as the Putin administration reluctantly adjusts to unfavourable political and economic conditions. In Putin's first two presidential terms, 2000-2008, reform was 'progressive', aimed at extending the Kremlin's power and authority. The latest changes, in contrast, are 'reactive' and involve an inevitable loss of control over political processes. One immediate implication is that political processes will become less predictable, as the Kremlin tries to reorganise its system of governance. But, in the longer-term there is a danger that the use of political reform as a substitute for democratic change will undermine the legitimacy of the entire political system.
  • Topic: Corruption, Democratization, Political Economy, Governance
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The 2008–09 financial crisis demonstrated that gas and oil exports could no longer serve as Russia's engine of economic progress and the source of a steady rise in personal incomes. Russia needed to dramatically change its investment climate through deep institutional reforms that would boost economic liberty, expand the rule of law and property rights, diminish corruption, and create more political choices for its citizens. Such reforms are all the more urgent now as Russia's economy is slowing to a crawl and trust in President Vladimir Putin is steadily declining. Yet the Kremlin has chosen to address these challenges with authoritarian consolidation, buying short-term stability at the expense of the country's longer-term prosperity and progress. Elements of the Kremlin's massive propaganda campaign include militarized patriotism and patriotic education; a selective recovery of Soviet symbols and ideals; the ultraconservative Russian Orthodox Church as the moral foundation of the regime; the promotion of a culture of subservience; and the intimidation, stigmatization, and repression of civil society and its vanguard, nongovernmental organizations. Yet instead of producing the consolidation and unity expected by the Kremlin, this campaign may yield polarization, radicalism, and violence that will prevent the country's peaceful and inclusive transition to a more dignified version of citizenship.
  • Topic: Corruption, Emerging Markets, International Trade and Finance, Oil, Natural Resources, Governance, Authoritarianism, Reform
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Jean Pascal Zanders
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Union Institute for Security Studies
  • Abstract: Since the chemical weapons (CW) attacks on the Ghouta district just outside Damascus on 21 August, political developments have taken several unexpected twists leading Syria to become the 190th party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Russia and the United States reached agreement on a framework for the dismantlement of Syria's chemical warfare capacity, in which the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as well as the United Nations will play central roles. Western threats of military force – although they undeniably contributed to Syria's acceptance of the deal – have receded for the time being. And while the deferral of international justice regarding the Ghouta strikes will frustrate many parties, the emphasis on disarmament may actually open up the prospect of a negotiated end to the conflict.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, International Law, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Daniel Gorevan
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxfam Publishing
  • Abstract: The world was rightly appalled by the use of chemical weapons in Damascus on 21 August 2013. If the recent diplomatic initiatives by the USA and Russia mean that these weapons are never again used, it would be a great achievement. But it won't be enough.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Crime, Human Rights, International Law, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: Geneva, Russia, Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Ondřej Ditrych
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institute of International Relations Prague
  • Abstract: The Putin regime seems to have chosen to publicly expose Ryan Fogle not simply as a “tit-for-tat” for the embarrassing release of footage by the FBI of the meetings of “illegals” detained in the U.S. (2010) with Russian diplomats, but to gesture toward domestic audiences and to humiliate the U.S. in order to weaken its position in mutual negotiations, knowing that Washington may not be in the position to retaliate.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Intelligence, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States
  • Publication Date: 06-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Human Rights First
  • Abstract: As part of the United States plan to begin military withdrawals from Afghanistan in 2014, the Department of Defense (DOD) contracted with the Russian state owned arms dealer, Rosoboronexport, to provide helicopters to the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF). DOD has continued and expanded its purchases from Rosoboronexport even while acknowledging that the Russian arms dealer has enabled mass atrocities by supplying Syria's Bashar al-Assad with weapons that have been used to murder Syrian civilians.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Economics, Human Rights, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Anna Maria Dyner, Kinga Dudzinska
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Small border traffic (SBT) between the Republic of Poland and the Russian Federation has proved to be a success story in its social, economic and cultural dimensions. Issuing local residents with permits to cross the border between Russia's Kaliningrad region and several counties in Poland's Pomorskie and Warminsko-Mazurskie voivodships has boosted mutual contacts, benefitted the tourism and retail sectors, and spurred scientific collaboration, youth exchanges, and cooperation among NGOs. Fears of increased crime in border regions or violations of the SBT agreement proved unfounded. At the same time, SBT has revealed an array of challenges facing both countries, including a need for the expansion of border crossing infrastructure and deepening regional and intergovernmental cooperation, especially with the eventual start of visa-free traffic or for such events as the World Cup finals in Russia in 2018.
  • Topic: Crime, Non-Governmental Organization, Bilateral Relations, Infrastructure
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Anita Sobják
  • Publication Date: 07-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Despite months of internal political wrangling, Moldova seems to be making steady progress in its Association Agreement with the EU. But the domestic political crisis has revealed many truths about both Moldova's European policy and the EU's transformative power. As such, the road to the EU remains murky as long as several variables remain in place: the ongoing tensions in the governing alliance, lower public support for European integration in Moldova, and Russia's re-emerging leverage via Transnistria. That is why Poland, together with its partners, should look for new ways to keep Moldova as the pacesetter of the Eastern Partnership.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Regional Cooperation, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Maria Raquel Freire
  • Publication Date: 03-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: TThis policy brief focuses on the interplay of external actors in the South Caucasus, i.e. the EU, NATO and Russia, looking specifically at how political and security relations have been shaped. Three main issues are highlighted: firstly, that the South Caucasus is a heterogeneous area and that the concept of being a region in its own right is underdeveloped; secondly, that despite the enlarged involvement of international players in the area, the South Caucasian countries retain agency and are not mere agents of foreign role-players; and, thirdly, that the area is characterised by processes of competition and collaboration that do not necessarily meet common agendas, despite shared interests regarding regional stability. The paths of the three South Caucasian republics has been different, with Armenia being dependent on Russia, Azerbaijan pursuing a policy of independence regarding external players, and Georgia assuming a pro-Western, anti-Russian position. The lack of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, EU involvement in crisis management in the wake of Georgia's 2008 war with Russia, a diminished NATO presence and increased Russian assertiveness in the area are central elements to understanding ongoing policies and practices. This complex framework suggests the need to address challenges and opportunities in the South Caucasus in terms of the complexity of the actors and factors at play.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, NATO, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Caucasus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia
  • Author: Pavel K. Baev
  • Publication Date: 02-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: Russia's plans for chairing the G20 in 2013 go further than staging a pompous summit in St Petersburg similar to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vladivostok in September 2012. Russian leadership feels an acute need to re-establish a solid international profile eroded by the evolving domestic crisis, which undermines the credibility of Putin's regime.
  • Topic: Corruption, Democratization, Emerging Markets, International Organization
  • Political Geography: Russia, Norway, Asia, Moscow, Syria
  • Author: Evanthia Balla
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution
  • Abstract: The South Caucasus, situated as it is at the crossroads of Eurasia's major energy and transport corridors, continues to play a vital role in the world's security affairs. After the end of the cold war the South Caucasus emerged as a key region in the geopolitical contest among regional and global powers. The South Caucasus states of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are constantly performing a balancing act in their relations with the U.S., Russia, Turkey and Iran. Armenia has developed strong political and economic ties with Iran in order to counter the Turkish-Azerbaijani axis. Azerbaijan seeks to reinforce its links with the West, especially the U.S., as its main extraregional source of diplomatic and economic support, while it remains cautious towards both Russian and Iranian ambitions in the region. Especially after the 2008 war with Russia and the loss of its provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia has reinforced its links to Western powers and structures while strengthening its ties with Turkey. Both Turkey and Iran are trying to increase their influence in the region, while promoting their national interests in the international arena.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Economics, Islam, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Patrick Nopens
  • Publication Date: 02-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: EGMONT - The Royal Institute for International Relations
  • Abstract: Three major geopolitical events are putting the stability of the Eastern Mediterranean at risk. Most of the region is in a deep monetary and economic crisis. The Arab Spring is causing turmoil in the Levant and the Maghreb. Gas and oil discoveries, if not well managed, could further destabilise the region. At the same time, Russia and Turkey are staging a comeback. In the face of these challenges, the EU approaches the Greek sovereign debt crisis nearly exclusively from a financial and economic viewpoint. This brief argues that the EU has to develop a comprehensive strategy for the region, complementing its existing multilateral regional framework with bilateral agreements in order to secure its interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.
  • Topic: Security, Debt, Oil, Regime Change, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Turkey, Arabia