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  • Author: Flavio Fusco
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Located at the heart of the Middle East, connecting the Levant to the Persian Gulf, Iraq has always been at the centre of regional dynamics. Yet, the country is today reduced to a quasi-failed state fundamentally damaged in its political, social and economic fabric, with long-term consequences that trace a fil rouge from the 2003 US-led invasion to the emergence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) and the country’s current structural fragility.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, European Union
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Oleksiy Melnyk
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Razumkov Centre
  • Abstract: The current reaction of the West to provocative threats by Russia is both prompt and concrete, but for political statements to reach the desired effect, they must be supplemented by substantial practical steps.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Deterrence
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Markus Jaeger
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: The Biden administration has just issued its Interim National Security Strategic Guidance. The guidance document states the need to “build back better at home” and acknowledges that “international economic policies must serve all Americans” – a theme often referred to as “foreign policy for the middle class”. While the interim guidance does not preclude cooperation with China in selected policy areas, it is unambiguous in considering China a strategic competitor. The prospect of intensifying China-US geopolitical and (geo)economic competition is bad news for Germany, which has high value trading and investment relationships with both countries.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, National Security, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Germany, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jussi Lassila
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Among the most signifcant events in Russia in 2020 were the Covid-19 pandemic, reactions to the protests in Belarus, and the poisoning of top opposition politician Aleksey Navalny. Te frst two were clearly events of international signifcance, but so was the medical treatment given to Navalny, frst in Omsk and then in Berlin, after he suffered from symptoms of poisoning dur- ing a flight from Tomsk in Siberia to Moscow in August. In December, a joint study by the investigative journalist groups Bellingcat and The Insider, along with CNN, Der Spiegel and Naval- ny’s FBK Foundation, showed that it was difficult to find more con- clusive evidence of the Kremlin’s involvement in the assassination attempt by a chemical weapons- related poisoning group under the FSB that had been following Na- valny for years. This kind of op- eration would hardly have been possible without the blessing of high-level intelligence. Te ques- tion of whether the FSB leader- ship was proactive in resolving the “Navalny problem” or whether the order came from the Kremlin is irrelevant. Te revealed pattern confrms the long-standing trend of the strengthened role of the se- curity services, especially the FSB, in Russian politics. It is consistent with Putin’s approach to political processes being increasingly seen as issues of national security. Navalny’s self-confidence and style in the revelation videos related to the investigation, receiving ap- proximately 45 million views in less than a month, underscore the extent to which the FSB failed. The target did not die or become paralyzed, but recovered relatively quickly and bounced back, playing for higher and more radical stakes than before. Navalny’s role and reputation as the Kremlin’s most prominent critic has been based on the political pressure on the Kremlin generated by expos- ing elite corruption. While the will- ingness of citizens to see Navalny as an alternative to Putin varies consid- erably – with the majority indifer- ent to politics as a whole – Navalny’s numerous revelations have created an alternative to Russia’s ofcial re- ality, the political potential of which the regime obviously fears.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Conflict, Regionalism, Domestic Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Matti Pesu, Henri Vanhanen
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: In his recent op-ed, President Sauli Niinistö reintroduced the idea of an Arctic summit. The timing of the meeting could be favourable. As the 50th anniversary of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act is approaching, Niinistö also hoped for a revitalization of the “Spirit of Helsinki”. The aim is hampered by global tensions, however.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Europe, Finland, Arctic
  • Author: Vuk Vuksanovic
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belgrade Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: What challenges the new American administration will face in the Balkans, and how should it approach them? Read in the latest analysis of BCSP researcher Vuk Vuksanović. When Joseph Biden defeated Donald Trump in the 2020 US presidential elections, the Balkan countries were not neutral on that race. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić made a failed bet on Trump, hoping that under Trump, he will get a less painful settlement of the Kosovo dispute and an opportunity to finally make Belgrade a partner of Washington, after several decades. Vučić still congratulated Biden for his win alongside several other Balkan leaders who were probably happier about Biden’s win than him. US foreign policy towards the Balkans under Trump has been marked by transactional logic and disdain towards the European Union, best symbolised in the economic normalisation agreement between Belgrade and Priština brokered in September 2020 by Trump. Many policy hands, including Nicholas Burns, former US diplomat and one of Biden’s advisors, now expect that Biden will display US leadership in the region while cooperating closely with the European Union. The US foreign policy will have to deal with three sets of challenges: the unresolved Kosovo dispute, democratic backsliding in the region, and the presence of non-Western powers like Russia and China. While US power is a necessary element in resolving these challenges, the Biden administration will not be able to offer quick fixes.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Governance, Elections, Leadership
  • Political Geography: Europe, Serbia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Nona Mikhelidze
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: On 25 March, one month after Russia registered its first confirmed case of Coronavirus, President Vladimir Putin announced a week of paid national holiday and invited Russians to stay home in a televised address to the nation. Further measures were subsequently introduced to limit the spread of the virus, while authorities prepared emergency plans to safeguard socio-economic conditions in the country. Initiatives included providing a new support package to businesses hit by the pandemic, a monthly bonus to medical personnel and the construction of new hospitals, following the Chinese model. Meanwhile, the constitutional referendum meant to extend Putin’s term limit as president was postponed. Originally scheduled for 22 April, this delay is due to Putin’s concern for public health and the multidimensional impact of the pandemic, a perfect storm involving quarantine measures, declining living standards, inflation and a weakened exchange rate, rising prices and increased job insecurity. Taken together, these challenges could jeopardise the outcome of the referendum. A recent poll conducted by the Levada Center in March highlighted a very slim majority (45 per cent) in favour of Putin’s constitutional amendments.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Health, Soft Power, Coronavirus, Vladimir Putin
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Italy
  • Author: Emil Avdaliani
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Though analysts tend to portray Russia’s foreign policy as truly global (that is, independent of Europe, the US, and China), the country is plainly tilting toward Asia. The Russian political elite does its best to hide this development, but the country is accumulating more interests and freedom to act in Asia than in Europe or anywhere else.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Geopolitics, Global Security
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eurasia, Asia
  • Author: Joseph de Weck
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Do you want to know how Beijing would like Europe to act? Take a look at Switzerland. Switzerland and China have been close for decades. It was the first Western nation to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in January 1950. Bern wanted to protect investments in the new People’s Republic from nationalization and hoped Swiss industry could lend a hand in rebuilding China’s infrastructure after the civil war. Being friendly to China paid off, but only 30 years later, once reformer Deng Xiaoping took the reins of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In 1980, Swiss elevator producer Schindler was the first foreign company to do a joint venture in China. Today, Switzerland is the only continental European country to have a free trade agreement (FTA) with China.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, International Trade and Finance, Treaties and Agreements, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Switzerland, Sweden
  • Author: Geoffrey Sloan
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: This essay draws on the author’s previous work, specifically: The Geopolitics of Anglo-Irish Relations in the 20th Century. The greatest failure of the European referendum campaign in 2016, which can be attributed to both sides, was the inability to articulate an understanding of Britain’s geopolitical relationship to Europe. By geopolitics, I do not mean its current usage: interpreted merely as a synonym for international strategic rivalry. I refer, instead, to classical geopolitics, which is a confluence of three subjects: geography, history, and strategy. It draws attention to certain geographical patterns of political history. It fuses spatial relationships and historical causation. It can produce explanations that suggest the contemporary and future political relevance of various geographical configurations.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Brexit
  • Political Geography: Britain, Europe
  • Author: Alexander Luck
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: On June 6, the Wall Street Journal set off an avalanche of commentary by reporting that U.S. President Donald Trump ordered a drastic reduction in U.S. troops deployed in Germany within a space of only six months. The move was met with significant pushback in Washington and Brussels, causing Congressional Republicans to raise their concerns in letters and public statements. Trump’s announcement, however, was in fact an extension of earlier plans mooted in June 2019, when the administration first suggested moving at least 1,000 troops from Germany to Poland. At the time, Trump suggested that the proposed move was to “affirm the significant defense cooperation between our nations.” Washington picked up this potential troop move again in a rather unrelated context following a spat over the German refusal to participate in a naval mission in the Persian Gulf to deter Iran, reinforcing the notion Trump keeps using American deployments in Germany as a bargaining chip for any interaction on foreign policy with the Merkel government.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Armed Forces, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Heinrich Brauß
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: President Trump wants to withdraw US troops from Germany because it spends too little on defense. US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, however, is trying to present the decision as the result of a strategic analysis. That seems grotesque. The withdrawal not only weakens NATO, but also the security of Europe and America’s ability to act. The Europeans must finally close their capability gaps, and Germany must make its armed forces fully operational earlier than planned.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, NATO, Armed Forces, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Adam Traczyk
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: Zbigniew Rau, who was appointed foreign minister on August 26, will help align the trajectory of Polish diplomacy with the government’s general line. His appointment fits into the logic of a larger government reshuffle, expected this fall, which aims for a greater centralization of power. His higher standing in the governing PiS party may, however, halt the gradual loss of relevance of Poland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe, Poland, Belarus
  • Author: Claire Demesmay, Milan Nič
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: Part of French President Emmanuel Macron’s European policy is to improve the position of his country in the Eastern European member states of the European Union. Although this is not a change of strategy, but only a new method, it creates favorable conditions for intensified Franco-German dialogue on European strategic issues
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Regional Cooperation, Bilateral Relations, European Union
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, France, Germany, Baltic States
  • Author: Roderick Parkes
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: British political institutions have shown resilience during the Brexit crisis. London apparently believes it has the scope to put EU talks behind it and recalibrate its position in the world. The British government is carrying out an integrated review of defense, aid, and foreign policy and preparing its presidency of the COP26 climate talks and G7. By contrast, its neighbors are gripped by the notion of Britain’s further constitutional deterioration. Their perceptions could well become self-fulfilling.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Climate Change, Politics, Brexit, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Britain, Europe
  • Author: Maja Bjelos, Vuk Vuksanovic, Luka Steric
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belgrade Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: According to a public opinion survey Serbian citizens identify Russia and China as their greatest friends. As the country's most important foreign policy priorities, citizens recognize preserving Kosovo as part of Serbia, strengthening cooperation with neighboring countries and strengthening cooperation with Russia. More than half of the citizens do not support Serbia's membership in the EU. Most respondents (40%) perceive Russia as Serbia’s best friend, and 72% believe that Russia’s influence in the country is positive, which is an increase of 11% compared to the results of the survey from 2017. Only two percent of people believe that Russia’s attitude towards Serbia is hostile. After Russia, second place on the list of friends is reserved for China (16 percent of respondents). The growth of positive attitudes towards China is especially visible after the beginning of the pandemic, which is proved by the fact that 75% of respondents believe that China provided the most assistance to Serbia in the fight against the pandemic, although there are no official data on the amount of Chinese aid. According to available data, the largest donor was the European Union (EU), and only 3% of Serbian citizens recognize that. In addition, almost 90% of respondents believe that the Chinese influence in the country is positive, which is an increase of over 30 percent compared to the survey from 2017. Although EU membership has been a strategic goal of Serbia since 2005, only 9% of respondents believe that it is the main foreign policy priority of Serbia. Citizens recognize the preservation of Kosovo as part of Serbia, strengthening cooperation with neighboring countries and strengthening cooperation with Russia as the three most important foreign policy priorities. Although Serbia is a candidate for EU membership, only 20% of respondents believe that the state should harmonize its foreign policy with Brussels. The results of the survey show that the majority of 51% do not support Serbia’s membership in the EU, compared to 46% of respondents who would opt for membership. This result indicates that the number of opponents of European integration has increased since 2017, when only 35% of citizens voted against EU membership. The number of respondents who believe that Serbia is surrounded by mostly friends in the region has almost doubled compared to 2017 and now is over 40%, but there is a slight increase in the opinion that Serbia has more enemies in the neighborhood, which now think a little less than 50% of citizens. When asked who Serbia’s biggest enemy is, 30% of respondents identified Croatia, 20% Albania and 13% the United States. Slightly more than 70% of the respondents believe that there will be no outbreak of armed conflict in the Balkans in the next five years, which is an increase of 20 percent compared to 2017. The powerful emotional pull of the Kosovo dispute is also demonstrated by the fact that 52% of respondents believe that Serbia should intervene militarily in Kosovo in the case of a conflict and 47% of respondents would personally join their compatriots in the case of conflict. In contrast, 69% of respondents said that Serbia should not intervene if the same situation occurred in Montenegro, and 58% if the conflict broke out in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the majority of citizens would not get involved in those conflicts. It is encouraging that two thirds of those interviewed believe that lasting peace between Serbs and Albanians is possible, and half of all respondents think that it is possible to achieve this only in the case of a peaceful settlement of the dispute over the status of Kosovo. Public opinion survey was conducted by CeSID for the needs of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) in the period from September 15 to October 5, 2020, on a representative sample of 1,200 citizens of Serbia.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Governance, Public Opinion, Leadership, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Europe, Serbia, Balkans
  • Author: Riccardo Alcaro, Nathalie Tocci
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: A coalition government that is largely, if not entirely, alien to mainstream party politics has run Italy since June 2018. The coalition is made up of the League, a right-wing anti-immigration party, and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (Movimento 5 Stelle, M5S), which refuses to categorize itself as either left or right wing. While the two parties did not campaign on a joint agenda, and actually competed in the March 2018 election, a number of important commonalities are present, particularly if one looks at party politics not through the horizontal “left-right” prism but through a vertical “open-closed” one.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Elections, Political Parties, European Parliament, Domestic Policy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy, European Union
  • Author: Daria Kazarinova
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: t the end of the second decade of the 21st century, problems of global security have become the main issues on the agenda of all regions of the world. Russia’s relations with the West have already entered the stage of the so-called new Cold War “with the elements of arms race, remilitarization and the split of the European continent, under the severance of political and economic contacts between the leaders of rival countries and the degradation of diplomacy”.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Geopolitics, Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eurasia
  • Author: Alexander Pivovarenko
  • Publication Date: 06-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: May 5, Vyacheslav Volodin, the State Duma’s Speaker, paid a significant visit to Serbia for working negotiations with President-Elect Aleksandar Vučić, acting Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić, President of the National Assembly Maja Gojkovic, Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej and other officials. The parliamentary delegation’s trip came at a difficult time. Montenegro’s accession to NATO and internal political changes in Macedonia are reconfiguring the military and political landscape of the region. All the events are unfolding amid a massive information campaign mounted by the mass media and Western pundits capitalizing on the issue of Russian influence in the Balkans, with yet another information attack being launched on the day of Volodin’s visit. Moreover, Russia’s relations with Montenegro have reached their lowest point over the past year. In its turn, Serbia is completing the phase of consolidation of Vučić’s regime. The agenda includes the creation of a new government, which may require new parliamentary elections. It is noteworthy that the President-Elect, however, fails to command total popular support. At the same time, Vučić is singled out for allegations and fierce criticism for embracing Euro-Atlantic integration. When it comes to Russia’s assets and liabilities in the Balkans, Volodin’s stay in Serbia, therefore, was of particular importance.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, NATO, Parliamentarism
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Serbia, Montenegro
  • Author: Akop Gabrielyan
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: ANALYSISOPINION NATO-Russia Relations: Overcoming Agony 17.07.2017Featured Image Akop A. Gabrielyan – the founder and the leader of the “Consensus” youth NGO, expert in the policy of the post-soviet states. If anything, the central tenet of the Hippocratic oath: first do no harm – Primum non nocere – is the first motto to be applied to today’s dialogue between Russia and NATO, a military and political organization. The dialogue essentially boiling down to interaction between Russia and the United States, the alliance’s leader, has offered fewer grounds for optimism over the years. Noticeably worse relations, whose downward spiraling trend is too serious a phenomenon to be even referred to as “the Cold War”, are degenerating into an agony. This is testified by some experts predicting an unavoidable military conflict and a real deterioration in the situation amid the Ukraine and Syria conflicts that Russia and NATO (the US) treat differently. For instance, Moscow officially suspended a deal with the US to prevent mid-air collisions over Syria in response to America’s attitude towards April’s deadly chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib province.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, NATO, Partnerships, Alliance
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eurasia, United States of America
  • Author: Matthew Crosston
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had a brief visit at the White House on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, which was followed by all of the typical press conferences and media interviews expressing new found agreement and harmony. It is yet another example in the Presidency of Donald Trump where explicitly bold and brash campaign trail criticism ended up not just softened but utterly reversed.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, NATO, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Syria