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  • Author: Douglas Barrie, Lucie béraud-Sudreau, Henry Boyd, Nick Childs, Bastain Giegerich, James Hackett, Meia Nouwens
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: In 2019, European governments’ combined defence spending, when measured in constant 2015 US dollar terms, surpassed the level reached in 2009, before the financial and economic crisis led to a series of significant defence-spending cuts. However, a different strategic paradigm – one that Europe is struggling to adjust to and which is once more a concern for European governments – has re-appeared in this past decade: great-power competition. Russia attempted to change international borders in Europe through the use of force in 2014 by annexing Crimea and continues to support an armed insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Moscow’s challenge to Euro-Atlantic security exists in multiple dimensions: as both a conventional military and also a hybrid-warfare issue, with Russia working to dislocate existing societal alignments and disrupt political processes in Western states. The poisoning of a former Russian intelligence officer (and of his daughter) in the United Kingdom, attributed by the British government to Russia, underlines further how much the character of conflict has changed. How to manage the challenge Russia poses without simply reverting to Cold War logic remains a worrying problem for governments in NATO and the European Union member states. Meanwhile, European security establishments are beginning to recognise the growing political, economic and military influence of a rising China. Although less of an immediate challenge, China’s growth in these areas has possible profound consequences in the long run. Indeed, in December 2019, NATO declared: ‘We recognise that China’s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance.’2 For the United States, China has already become the pacing military threat. The US Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, released in June 2019, opens with the assertion that ‘the Indo-Pacific is the Department of Defense’s priority theater’. In other words, the European theatre is not. European analysts and officials have begun to wonder whether the US might begin to see Europe through an Asian lens, seeking to generate European commitments to the Indo-Pacific region, or at the very least getting Europeans to take on greater responsibility for their own security and thereby freeing up US resources. Although there will be some elements of the US military presence in Europe that are indispensable to US military action in other regions of the world, that might not be enough to sustain Washington’s firm commitment to European security in the future, regardless of who occupies the White House. Significantly, not even the US has the capability to fight two major wars simultaneously any more, meaning binary choices regarding focus are inevitable. As some observers have argued, Europeans need to urgently assess what Washington’s choices in this regard – and their implications for Europe – might look like. Considering both how to deter Russia and what a European contribution to containing China might entail represents a major challenge for Western European nations, which have relegated defence to a secondary position, as almost a discretionary activity. European states partially demobilised in the 1990s and early 2000s, intellectually and in terms of their force structures, in response to the end of the Cold War. For example, according to IISS data, in 1990 West Germany alone was thought to be able to field 215 combat battalions and the UK 94. Today it is a fraction of that. However, security challenges relating to regional instability, crisis management and transnational terrorism – which all dominated the previous two decades – have not disappeared. On the contrary, all these still demand attention and the investment of European resources. While there is a growing recognition among Europe’s analytical community, and some governments, that things cannot simply continue as before in terms of regional security and defence, coherence and resolve among core actors in the Euro-Atlantic sphere have weakened. The US administration has intensified its call for better transatlantic burden sharing, at the same time displaying a cavalier attitude to the collective-defence commitment enshrined in NATO. France’s President Emmanuel Macron has also expressed severe doubts about the viability of NATO’s collective-defence mission. In addition, the British decision to leave the European Union in 2020 implies that the EU has lost one of its most militarily experienced and one of its most capable member states. There is a tendency among many observers and some politicians to argue that European NATO and EU member states need to clarify the political dimension of their defence ambition, via-à-vis greater strategic autonomy, before resolving the problem of how to meet this ambition militarily, at what cost and in what time frame. Indeed, at times, the debate about European strategic autonomy seems to focus more on the degree of independence from the US that its various proponents would like to achieve and less on the military requirement that autonomy is meant to respond to. It is now widely accepted across Europe that Europeans need ‘to do more’ for their own security and defence. Most of the intellectual energy allocated to this aspiration is spent on achieving better coordination – and even a level of integration – among European armed forces. This is useful, but only if it is directed at building capability to provide for the defence of Europe. The existing military capabilities of the European NATO member states fall short when compared to the force requirements generated by the political–military level of ambition as defined by NATO, or for that matter the EU.5 However, this should not be an excuse to lower the level of ambition, nor should the assumption that Europeans are unable to defend themselves be declared an inevitability. Defence output is the result of political, financial and military choices by governments. To think systematically about the challenge of providing capabilities that can meet Europe’s emerging military requirements, The International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Hanns Seidel Foundation convened a group of thinkers and practitioners from Germany and the UK. The group took seriously the US assertion that Europe needs to be able to provide for its own defence. If Europeans can achieve this, they will be valuable partners to the US in upholding and strengthening the liberal international order on which Euro-Atlantic prosperity and security depend. Meeting twice in 2019, the group discussed threat assessments, debated European capability gaps and scoped potential approaches to addressing them. The following pages draw on the group’s deliberations but do not represent a consensus position.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, NATO, Regional Cooperation, European Union, Military Spending
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, North Atlantic, Asia, North America
  • Author: Hans Binnendijk, Daniel S. Hamilton, Charles L. Barry
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Transatlantic Relations
  • Abstract: The NATO Alliance faces simultaneous dangers to its east, to its south, and from a series of security challenges unbounded by geography, at a time when disparate allied responses to a host of challenges are tearing the seams of European unity and American political figures have even questioned the need for NATO. Europe risks turning from an exporter of stability to an importer of instability. The vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace is challenged by a Europe fractured and anxious. The Alliance must be revitalized for the new world rising before us. An overarching Alliance strategy must rely on NATO’s ability to provide a full spectrum of deterrent and defense tools to provide collective defense for all of its members, together with an ability to project stability and resilience beyond its borders using an array of tools for crisis management.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, NATO, International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Partnerships, Alliance
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, North America
  • Author: Michel Duclos
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Russia and Iran are allies in Syria not out of mutual sympathy, but for pragmatic reasons. According to many reports, Iranian leaders—notably including Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Al-Quds force of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC)—were instrumental in convincing Vladimir Putin to send his air force to Syria and save Bashar al-Assad’s skin in September 2015
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran
  • Author: Victor Esin
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: The stabilizing role of the INF Treaty is still relevant. Its importance has even increased against the background of the sharp deterioration of relations between Russia and the West in recent years due to the well-known events in Ukraine, aggravated by mutual sanctions and NATO’s military build-up near Russian borders. Preserving the INF Treaty, which has now become the subject of controversy and mutual non-compliance accusations between Russia and the United States, is therefore doubly important.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Nonproliferation, Deterrence
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe
  • Author: Jan Cingel
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO)
  • Abstract: Armenia is a landlocked country situated in the South Caucasus region. History of the region was shaped by the clash of three major empires: Ottoman, Persian and Russian trying to win control over it. The modern history of Armenia began in 1991, when the country seceded from the crumbling Soviet Union. Those were difficult years as the fledgling country was in ongoing war with its new post-USSR neighbour – Azerbaijan. The war was waged over “Nagorno- Karabakh”, a region that was mostly populated by ethnic Armenians, however was formally part of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic within the USSR. In the international arena, Armenia joined the UN in 1991, the Russia-led defence pact called the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) in 1994, and also in that year, NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP). Armenia became part of the EU’s Eastern Partnership (EaP) in 2009 and until September 2013 had been negotiating the EU’s Association Agreement (AA), which included a free trade agreement. Two months before the intended completion of negotiations, and after a visit of then President Serzh Sargsyan to Moscow, Armenia announced that it would cancel negotiations with the EU on the AA and that it was going to join the emerging Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) instead. Armenia joined the EAEU in 2014.
  • Topic: NATO, Post Colonialism, United Nations, Revolution
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Soviet Union, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ottoman Empire
  • Author: Krševan Antun Dujmović
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO)
  • Abstract: For more than half a decade Ukraine has been one of epicenters on the map of geopolitical crises in the world and consequently drawn a lot of international attention worldwide. Ever since it gained its independence form the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine was a of the country also changed. Ukraine has been dominated by Russia as the Russian Empire penetrated deep toward the Black Sea in the 17th century, and the position of inferiority towards Moscow was also the case in the USSR. The first upheaval dubbed the Orange Revolution sort of buffer zone between the West and East, between the United States and European allies on the one hand, and the Russian Federation on the other. With the change of political elites and their political preferences, the orientation in 2004, brought to power Viktor Yushchenko, who tried to conduct reforms and bring Ukraine closer to the West, but the effect of his Presidency were ephemeral. President Viktor Yanukovych turned Ukraine’s sight towards Russia again, but also kept the process of EU association alive before suddenly deciding not to sign the Association Agreement with the EU just days before the planned signing ceremony on 29th November 2013. This Yanukovych’s abrupt turn from EU in favor of stronger ties with Russia triggered the wave of massive public demonstrations which later become known as the Euromaidan and subsequently the Ukrainian revolution in February 2014. The Euromaidan Revolution toppled Yanukovych and the new pro-Western government was formed. Russia soon reacted to the change of tide in Ukraine by annexing the Crimean peninsula in March and soon the armed conflict between the pro- Western government in Kiev and Russia backed rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts broke out. Ever since the spring of 2014, Ukraine has been engulfed in a brutal conflict in the east of the country that is hampering its efforts to reform and get closer to the EU. Nonetheless, Ukrainian leadership is under the new President Volodymir Zelensky is striving to forge stronger links with the West and the EU.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Military Strategy, European Union, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Ukraine, Eastern Europe, Crimea
  • Author: Bassma Kodmani
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The Collapse of the Syrian state is largely a reality. Both Russia and Iran, Assad’s allies, know he is not the guarantor of the continuity of the state any more but continue to hold on to him to sign off on projects that consolidate their control. This paper argues that instead of a failed state, a two-headed system has emerged, with Iran and Russia each pushing for their own vision of the country.
  • Topic: Imperialism, Fragile/Failed State, Authoritarianism, Military Intervention, Repression
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Iran, Middle East, Syria, Damascus
  • Author: Ben Barry, Douglas Barrie, Lucie béraud-Sudreau, Henry Boyd, Nick Childs, Bastain Giegerich
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: The study applies scenario analysis – with scenarios set in the early 2020s – to generate force requirements, and assesses the ability of NATO’s European member states to meet these requirements based on data from the IISS Military Balance Plus online database. The cost of closing the identified capability shortfalls through equipment acquisition has been estimated. The objective of the study is to enable informed policy dialogue both in Europe and in a transatlantic setting. The study explicitly does not intend to predict future conflicts nor the intentions of any of the actors involved. Neither does it wish to prescribe a certain path of action to be pursued by European NATO governments. The first scenario examined deals with the protection of the global sea lines of communication (SLOCs). In this scenario, the United States has withdrawn from NATO and has also abandoned its role of providing global maritime presence and protection, not just for its own national interest but also as an international public good. It thus falls to European countries to achieve and sustain a stable maritime-security environment in European waters and beyond, to enable the free flow of international maritime trade, and to protect global maritime infrastructure. The IISS assesses that European NATO members would have to invest between US$94 billion and US$110bn to fill the capability gaps generated by this scenario. The second scenario deals with the defence of European NATO territory against a state-level military attack. In this scenario, tensions between Russia and NATO members Lithuania and Poland escalate into war after the US has left NATO. This war results in the Russian occupation of Lithuania and some Polish territory seized by Russia. Invoking Article V, the European members of NATO direct the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) to plan Operation Eastern Shield to reassure Estonia, Latvia and Poland, and other front-line NATO member states, by deterring further Russian aggression. European NATO also prepares and assembles forces for Operation Eastern Storm, a military operation to restore Polish and Lithuanian government control over their territories.
  • Topic: NATO, Military Strategy, Maritime, Free Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe
  • Author: Nilsu Gören
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: Turkey and NATO are experiencing a mutual crisis of confidence. Turkish policy makers lack confidence in NATO guarantees and fear abandonment—both prominent historical concerns. At the same time, policy makers within the alliance have begun to question Turkey’s intentions and future strategic orientation, and how well they align with NATO’s. One important factor contributing to this mistrust is Turkey’s recent dealings with Russia. Turkey is trying to contain Russian military expansion in the Black Sea and Syria by calling for a stronger NATO presence at the same time that is seeking to diversify its security strategy by improving ties with Russia and reducing its dependence on the United States and NATO. Turkey’s contradictory stance is no more apparent than in its evolving policy regarding the Syrian civil war. The threat topography of NATO’s southern flank reflects a complex web of state and non-state actors involved in asymmetric warfare. The Turkish shoot down of a Russian jet in 2015 highlighted the complexity and helped to precipitate military dialogue between NATO and Russia in Syria. Since then, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan seem to have overcome their strategic differences in their preferred outcome for Syria and have de-escalated the tensions following several rounds of peace talks headed by Russia, Turkey, and Iran and involving some, but not all, factions involved in the Syrian conflict. Yet several important questions about Turkish security policy and its impact on Turkish-U.S./NATO relations remain. What are the security implications of Turkey’s military actions on the southern flank? How is the continued fight against extremism in the region, including ISIS, likely to affect relations? And how should the West respond to Turkey’s security ties with Russia, including the Russian sale of advance military equipment to Ankara? The answers to all of these questions depend in part on whether Turkey’s behavior with Russia in Syria is a tactical move or a strategic shift away from NATO. Understanding these dynamics is key to devising policies and actions to minimize security risks between the U.S., NATO, and Russia. This paper argues that Turkey has economic and political interests in developing closer relations with Russia, but that these interests are not as strong as Turkey’s strategic alliance with the West, and NATO in particular. Turkish policymakers, who lack confidence in NATO, are pursuing short-term security interests in Syria as a way to leverage Western acquiescence to their interests regarding the Kurdish populations in Syria and Iraq. These objectives, however, are not aligned with Russia’s security objectives and do not add up to a sustainable long-term regional security strategy. In the short term, Turkey’s contradictory approaches to relations with NATO and Russia are likely to lead to ambiguity and confusion in the regional security architecture, with Syria being the most visible example of this disarray. To combat this approach, U.S. leadership and NATO should work to convince Turkey that the alliance takes Turkish security concerns in Syria seriously and to minimize the risks of Turkey’s acts as a spoiler in the region. For instance, addressing Turkish concerns over Washington’s arming of the Kurdish rebel group, the YPG, in northern Syria, will go a long way to resolving the key issue motivating Turkey’s decision to partner with Russia.
  • Topic: NATO, National Security, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Turkey, Syria
  • Author: Rachael Gosnell
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: While concern about renewed international competition in the Arctic has attracted significant attention, the continuation of cooperation and adherence to international rules and norms of behavior is a far more likely outcome. The magnitude of activity in the region remains below historic Cold War levels and accounts for a very small percentage of overall global military activity. Further, stakeholders have thus far exhibited adherence to international law, and venues for dialogue offer an alternative to an Arctic security dilemma. Sound adherence to the principles of deterrence, international norms, and continued cooperation in forums such as the Arctic Council will ensure the region remains stable into the future.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Arctic