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  • Author: Philip Remler
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The central task for Russian foreign policy in the era of President Vladimir Putin has been to regain the undisputed recognition that Russia is a world power like the Soviet Union before it, a status to which Russia feels entitled.1 The United Nations (UN) is Russia’s most important venue for putting its global aspirations and achievements on display. Russia’s status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council boosts its claim to be part of a global oligarchy and grants it the power to veto or undermine initiatives that it deems contrary to its interests. The concepts underlying Russia’s use of the UN to promote its aspirations form the subject of this paper. Russia, like the Soviet Union before it, devotes great resources to its missions at the UN, especially New York and Geneva. It traditionally cultivates extensive expertise among its mission members, appointing them to UN postings several times over their careers and leaving them in place for long periods. Russian diplomats are noted for their abilities in drafting highly technical UN documents in English—none more so than Sergey Lavrov, currently Russia’s foreign minister and formerly its permanent representative to the UN from 1994 to 2004.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Sovereignty, Power Politics, Law, Geopolitics, Legitimacy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United Nations
  • Author: Robert Springborg, F.C. "Pink" Williams, John Zavage
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The United States, Russia, and Iran have chosen markedly different approaches to security assistance in the Middle East, with dramatic implications for statebuilding and stability. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is the world’s testing ground for the effectiveness of security assistance provided by global and regional powers. That security assistance has contributed to the intensity and frequency of proxy wars—such as those under way or recently wound down in Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq—and to the militarization of state and substate actors in the MENA region. Security assistance is at the core of struggles for military, strategic, ideological, and even economic preeminence in the Middle East. Yet despite the broad and growing importance of security assistance for the region and for competition within it between global and regional actors, security assistance has been the subject of relatively little comparative analysis. Efforts to assess relationships between the strategic objectives and operational methods of security assistance providers and their relative impacts on recipients are similarly rare.
  • Topic: Security, Geopolitics, Political stability, State Building
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Christian Ruhl, Duncan Hollis, Wyatt Hoffman, Tim Maurer
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: As cyber insecurity has become a growing problem worldwide, states and other stakeholders have sought to increase stability for cyberspace. As a result, a new ecosystem of “cyber norm” processes has emerged in diverse fora and formats. Today, United Nations (UN) groups (for example, the Group of Governmental Experts [GGE] and the Open-Ended Working Group [OEWG]), expert commissions (for example, the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace), industry coalitions (for example, the Tech Accord, the Charter of Trust), and multistakeholder collectives (for example, the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace) all purport to identify or operationalize various normative standards of behavior for states and/or other stakeholders in cyberspace. As some of these processes wind down (for example, the Global Commission) and others wind up (for example, the OEWG), cyber norms are at a crossroads where each process’s potential (and problems) looms large.
  • Topic: Security, Science and Technology, Cybersecurity, Geopolitics, Norms
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Harith Hasan, Kheder Khaddour
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Over the past nearly two decades, the presence of a variety of state and nonstate military and security forces has transformed the Syrian border district of Bukamal and the neighboring Iraqi district of Qa’im. Following the end of the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s caliphate, Iranian-backed militias began to play a major role in the area, turning it into a flashpoint between Iran and its allies on the one side and the United States and Israel on the other. The strain of tensions and the threat of instability are liable to ensure that this heavily securitized part of the border will remain a magnet for conflict for years to come.
  • Topic: Geopolitics, Islamic State, Conflict, Borders
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Ken Godfrey, Richard Youngs
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Ten years ago, the European Union’s (EU’s) member governments agreed on important council conclusions designed to raise the profile of the union’s support for democracy across the world. In late 2019, EU member states are likely to agree on new democracy conclusions and then, in 2020, on an updated and more operational action plan. They recognize that the strategic context has changed dramatically in the last decade, and the union needs to take on board many lessons about what has worked and not worked in its policies since 2009. Many policymakers hope that the change in leadership of the EU institutions in late 2019 might rejuvenate the bloc’s commitment to international democratic norms, after a period in which the priority has shifted to security issues. This working paper assesses the evolution of EU democracy support policies in recent years and proposes a number of improvements that a new policy framework might offer. The union has focused on improving microlevel tactics, but it most urgently needs a rethink at the macrolevel of its democracy strategies. Ironically, in the last ten years EU approaches to democracy have slowly become more sophisticated and sensitive at the implementation level yet have lost traction because they have failed to keep up with larger political and strategic changes within and beyond Europe. The paper proposes ten action points built around the need for the EU to be more proactive and flexible in supporting democracy and to link democracy support to the union’s changing approach to geopolitical challenges.
  • Topic: Governance, Democracy, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Paul Stronski
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: After a decades-long absence, Russia is once again appearing on the African continent. The Kremlin’s return to Africa, which has generated considerable media, governmental, and civil society attention, draws on a variety of tools and capabilities. Worrying patterns of stepped-up Russian activity are stirring concerns that a new wave of great-power competition in Africa is now upon us. U.S. policymakers frequently stress the need to counter Russian malign influence on the continent. On a visit to Angola in early 2019, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said that “Russia often utilizes coercive, corrupt, and covert means to attempt to influence sovereign states, including their security and economic partnerships.”1 Advocates for a more forceful Western policy response point to high-visibility Russian military and security cooperation in the Central African Republic and the wide-ranging travels of Russian political consultants and disinformation specialists as confirmation that Russia, like China, represents a major challenge in Africa. Yet is that really the case? Are Russian inroads and capabilities meaningful or somewhat negligible? Hard information is difficult to come by, but any honest accounting of Russian successes will invariably point to a mere handful of client states with limited strategic significance that are isolated from the West and garner little attention from the international community. It remains unclear whether Russia’s investments in Africa over the past decade are paying off in terms of creating a real power base in Africa, let alone putting it on a footing that will expand its influence in the years to come. Nevertheless, Russia increasingly looks to Africa as a region where it can project power and influence. President Vladimir Putin will welcome leaders from across the continent to Sochi in late October for the first Africa-Russia summit, a clear indication of the symbolic importance that Africa holds for the Kremlin right now.2 It is clear that Russian inroads there would be far more limited but for the power vacuums created by a lack of Western policy focus on Africa in recent years. That state of affairs gives Russia (and other outside powers) an opportunity to curry favor with the continent’s elites and populations. More than anything else, it is opportunism that propels Russia’s relatively low-cost and low-risk strategies to try to enhance its clout and unnerve the West in Africa, just as in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Power Politics, Democracy, Geopolitics, Peace
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Eugene Rumer
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The 2015 Russian military intervention in Syria was a pivotal moment for Moscow’s Middle East policy. Largely absent from the Middle East for the better part of the previous two decades, Russia intervened to save Bashar al-Assad’s regime and reasserted itself as a major player in the region’s power politics. Moscow’s bold use of military power positioned it as an important actor in the Middle East. The intervention took place against the backdrop of a United States pulling back from the Middle East and growing uncertainty about its future role there. The geopolitical realignment and instability caused by the civil wars in Libya and Syria and the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia have opened opportunities for Russia to rebuild some of the old relationships and to build new ones. The most dramatic turnaround in relations in recent years has occurred between Russia and Israel. The new quality of the relationship owes a great deal to the personal diplomacy between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but Russia’s emergence as a major presence in Syria has meant that the Israelis now have no choice but to maintain good relations with their new “neighbor.” Some Israeli officials hope that Moscow will help them deal with the biggest threat they face from Syria—Iran and its client Hezbollah. So far, Russia has delivered some, but far from all that Israel wants from it, and there are precious few signs that Russia intends to break with Iran, its partner and key ally in Syria. Russian-Iranian relations have undergone an unusual transformation as a result of the Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war. Their joint victory is likely to lead to a divergence of their interests. Russia is interested in returning Syria to the status quo ante and reaping the benefits of peace and reconstruction. Iran is interested in exploiting Syria as a platform in its campaign against Israel. Russia lacks the military muscle and the diplomatic leverage to influence Iran. That poses a big obstacle to Moscow’s ambitions in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Geopolitics, Military Intervention
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Andrew Weiss, Eugene Rumer
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Amid the widespread attention the Kremlin’s recent inroads in Africa have attracted, there has been surprisingly little discussion of South Africa, a country which, for nearly a decade, unquestionably represented Russia’s biggest foreign policy success story on the continent. As relations soared during the ill-starred presidency of Jacob Zuma (2009–2018), the Kremlin sought to wrest a geopolitically significant state out of the West’s orbit and to create a partnership that could serve as a springboard for expanded influence elsewhere in Africa. Moscow’s strategy was multifaceted, capitalizing on well-established close ties with Zuma, a former African National Congress senior intelligence official with extensive Soviet bloc connections. Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior officials pursued a series of initiatives, such as the inclusion of South Africa in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) grouping and the launch of ambitious forms of cooperation between state-backed energy interests primarily in the nuclear sector. Yet relations were undermined by the Kremlin’s propensity to overreach, to lean too heavily on the legacy of Cold War–era relationships forged with leaders of national liberation movements, and to take advantage of cultures of corruption. The controversy arising from a massive $76 billion nuclear power plant construction deal triggered strong pushback and legal challenges from South Africa’s institutional checks and balances, civil society groups, and independent media. Key parts of the Russian national security establishment view civil nuclear power exports as an important tool for projecting influence overseas while creating revenue streams for sustaining intellectual and technical capabilities and vital programs inside Russia itself. Yet such cooperation is often a two-edged sword. On the one hand, costly projects such as the one pushed by Zuma typically make little economic sense for the purchasing country, spurring uncomfortable questions about who stands to benefit. On the other hand, heavily subsidized projects pursued mainly for geopolitical reasons risk saddling Russia’s nuclear power monopoly Rosatom with burdens it can ill afford. Ongoing investigations of high-level corruption during the period of so-called state capture under Zuma shed remarkable light on how the Kremlin operates in Africa and other parts of the world. In retrospect, the sustainability of Moscow’s embrace of South Africa was highly questionable due to its paltry tool kit. Russian involvement in the South African economy is miniscule compared to that of other trading partners such as the EU, China, the United States, India, and the UK, accounting for a mere 0.4 percent of South Africa’s foreign trade. While the Soviet Union was an important patron during the anti-apartheid struggle, modern-day Russia offers little in the way of practical assistance for helping South Africa deal with its deep-set economic and societal challenges.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, National Security, Geopolitics, Nuclear Waste
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, South Africa