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  • Author: Makysm Bielawski
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Razumkov Centre
  • Abstract: We are witnessing how the authoritarian states of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China are trying to destroy the unity of democratic Europe by means of economic expansion. Therefore, the infrastructure projects are used for this purpose. Consequently, it is appropriate to equate “Nord Stream-2” and "Belt and Road Initiative". If the projects are implemented, the EU security will be unbalanced; as a result, it will affect the interests of the USA. The American government, regardless the party affiliation, is aware of such challenges. Therefore, obviously, after the inauguration of the new President of the United States, the containment policy of JSC “Gazprom” will only enhance. This will be facilitated by the position of Joseph Biden, which he has voiced on several occasions since 2015 during negotiations with the EU leadership and which is generally described as “unprofitable agreement”.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Natural Resources, European Union, Gas
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Ukraine
  • Author: Mykola Sunhurovskyi
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Razumkov Centre
  • Abstract: This question arises after reviewing numerous comments by domestic and foreign experts on Russia amassing its troops near the border with Ukraine. Most assessments in different variations boil down to the statement that this is nothing but the Kremlin’s informational and psychological operation (bluff) to step up pressure on Ukraine and its Western partners for them to cede down.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Territorial Disputes, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • 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: Leonid Issaev
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The operation of the Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria was perceived by the world community as a demonstration of strength, unveiling Moscow and the Kremlin's readiness to defend its interests in the Middle East by military means. It is not surprising that the Russian military presence in Syria has generated a lot of speculation about the possibility of a repetition of the Syrian ‘scenario’ in other hot spots in the region, such as Yemen. We believe that such generalizations are inaccurate and simplify the multifaceted situation. First of all, the Syrian case is rather an exception for Moscow. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the communist ideology, Russia became more pragmatic, its policy got rid of the prefix ‘pro’, and, in principle, it is trying to serve its own interests. It is not surprising that the rejection of messianic ideas forced Russia to reconsider its attitude to conflicts, including ones in the Middle East. The best example of Russian pragmatism is the Kremlin's policy on the Yemeni crisis since its beginning in 2011 until now.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Affairs, Conflict, Air Force
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Yemen, Syria
  • Author: Nawar Samad
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: A Russian business delegation visited Lebanon in late June 2021 to offer support to the country by cultivating projects in the oil sector, development plans for the energy industry as well as the ports in Beirut and Tripoli. For the past two years, Lebanon, which is going through the worst economic and financial crisis in its history, and has been trying to secure international aid to survive, is now facing the attractive Russian economic bailout offer. Although such an offer is welcomed by Lebanon, the Russian initiative raises concerns across the West, and particularly in the United States, which is in control of Lebanon’s banking system and still has significant influence on the state’s politics and financial sector. The United States believes that it is not possible to dissociate this Russian offer from Moscow’s desire to expand its influence in a region, in which it already established military presence and gained access to the Eastern Mediterranean, where a conflict is underway over investment of newly-discovered gas fields.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, Financial Crisis, Gas
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Rahim Rahimov
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended a military parade in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku on December 10 to celebrate Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenia in the war over the Karabakh region that ended with the Russia-brokered armistice on November 9-10. The Russian historian, Andrey Zubov, describes the Baku parade as an occasion “rather to celebrate the birth of a new geopolitical alliance than the victory over Armenia”1 . Following the parade, Russia imposed a ban on tomato imports from Azerbaijan in its flagship manner and Russian peacekeepers attempted to do something around the town of Shusha in Karabakh resembling what they have done in Georgia: “borderization”. Azerbaijani state TV, other media outlets and public figures widely and explicitly condemned such behavior of the Russian peacekeepers as a jealous response to the parade demonstration of Armenia’s Russian-made weapons and military equipment captured by the Azerbaijani armed forces or destroyed using Turkish-made Bayraktar drones . Erdogan and the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, watched Turkish soldiers march alongside with Azerbaijanis on the central streets of Baku to the joy of local residents who took to the streets despite the COVID-19 related restrictions in order to salute them. This scene shows a major Russian weakness vis-àvis Turkey in Azerbaijan. Unlike Moscow, whose perception in Azerbaijan is controversial, Ankara enjoys nation-wide support. Recently leaked Russian secret files reveal that it is much more difficult for Moscow to develop proRussian civil society organizations and soft power instruments in Azerbaijan than even in staunchly pro-Western Georgia.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Turkey, France, Georgia, South Caucasus
  • Author: Mariam Mikiashvili
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: As far as the contemporary Russian perspective is concerned, the former Soviet states can be categorized into two geographic groups. The states other than the Baltics, that is. We shall call Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan “the Western Six.” The former Soviet Central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan – shall be included in “the Eastern Five.” The basis of such a grouping is a country’s geographic location vis-à-vis the Caspian Sea. It would be no news to claim that the prevention of the color revolutions and the democratization of the post-Soviet space has always been the fundamental aim of Russia.1 This translates into the objective to preserve the Russia-approved social and political “stability.” However, the specific Russian actions for the maintenance of the “stability” in various post-Soviet states differ fundamentally. In some of them, “stability” is to be ensured by the internal destabilization of a country as well as subversive actions towards a central government, whereas in others the task is implemented through Russia’s constructive approaches towards a central government and state consolidation. So, to what extent are Russia’s attitudes towards a post-Soviet state influenced by the state’s own politics or regime type? What are the places where “central government,” “state” and “regime stability” are synonymous in the eyes of Russia? What does this “stability” even imply and how is it different from simple “authoritarianism,” the most acceptable model of governance to Russia? Would “democratization” be a precise labelling as the alternative to “stability?” Does democratization in every post-Soviet state cause a similar reaction from Russia?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Democratization, Political stability, Geography, Post-Soviet Space
  • Political Geography: Russia, Caspian Sea
  • Author: Benyamin Poghosyan
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: The 2020 Karabakh war has significantly shifted the geopolitics of the South Caucasus. Armenia suffered a tough defeat while the non-recognized Republic of Artsakh (Republic of Nagorno Karabakh) lost almost 80 percent of its territories. Azerbaijan won a decisive victory and took not only territories outside of the former Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAR) but 30 percent of NKAR itself. The November 10 trilateral statement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia not only stopped the war in Karabakh but ushered in a new era in regional geopolitics.1 The key features of the new status quo are the increased role of Russia and Turkey and the significant reduction of Western involvement. However, the South Caucasus is far away from stability and, most probably, volatility will continue. We will seek to analyze the main interests of the key regional and external players and what may play out in a short/mid-term perspective.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, War, Geopolitics, Political stability, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh
  • Author: Giorgi Surmava
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: On January 26, 2021, during a phone conversation between the President of the United States, Joseph Biden, and the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, a decision was confirmed by the parties to extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START, CHB-3) without any preconditions for five more years from February 5, 2021 to February 5, 2026 after which the sides exchanged diplomatic notes. New START was the last treaty still in force with regard to nuclear armaments as the United States left the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) under the Trump administration. At the same time, the Trump administration was also against extending New START without changes as it was set to expire in February 2021. Russia, on the other hand, was opposed to any kind of changes to this treaty. In a very short while after Biden’s arrival to power, the treaty was extended by five years without any changes. What was the reason for this decision? Why was the prior presidential administration against this and why did the new one make efforts to achieve an agreement in a short period of time? What can we expect to happen next? These are the questions that we will attempt to answer in this publication.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States of America
  • Author: Zurab Batiashvili
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: The Montreux Convention signed on July 20, 1936 strictly regulates the presence of naval warships of non-Black Sea nations (including the United States) in the Black Sea, limiting their aggregate tonnage (thereby limiting their number), their maximum period of stay within the Black Sea and so on. Such a regime creates a problem of access by Western powers to the Black Sea which negatively influences Georgia’s security environment. However, much has changed in the Black Sea after the Convention was signed – the Second World War took place, the Cold War was concluded, the Soviet Union collapsed and new states arose in its place – Russia, Ukraine and Georgia while Romania and Bulgaria became member states of NATO, Russia annexed Crimea, Turkey distanced itself from the West and so forth. In such conditions, a document signed in the 1930s remains a militarypolitical anachronism, unable to address new requirements and realities. That said, the issue of reviewing it remains problematic as it depends on numerous factors.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, History, Military Affairs, Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Georgia
  • Author: Giorgio Uzarashvili
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: The 2020 attack on SolarWinds is one of the largest cyber-intelligence campaigns in US history which inflicted significant damage on agencies such as the US Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).1 Incidentally, SolarWinds is a US-registered company that provides a wide range of IT-related services to the private and public sectors, including tools used for the remote management of the network’s infrastructure.2 Later, in April of this year, the attack was officially attributed to the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (СВР - Служба Внешней Разведки). Its consequences were severe not only due to the fact that the attacker, with high probability, gained access to at least part of the information held by the above-mentioned US agencies, but also primarily for the demonstrative effect of this operation. In particular, the attacker demonstrated that no one is protected against Russian cyber-intelligence actors, including the agencies directly in charge of ensuring the information security of the national critical infrastructure throughout the country. Consequently, the attack on SolarWinds negatively affected the US not only in terms of security, more specifically cyber security, but it also poses a significant challenge to its reputation. Namely, this incident questions whether or not US security forces have highly qualified personnel and appropriate technical equipment to protect significant information assets and prevent similar attacks. Moreover, there is a threat that this precedent will encourage similar actions by other hostile actors against the US in the future, primarily China and Iran.
  • Topic: Security, Intelligence, Science and Technology, Cybersecurity
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States of America
  • Author: Giorgi Badridze
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: One of the fundamental problems of international relations is that people from the countries whose political system is based on the rule of law and human rights often do not understand the logic of conduct of authoritarian regimes. Incidentally, this is equally the case with the relatively conservative and completely liberal observers. Such misunderstanding has, on many occasions, produced catastrophic outcomes. The most vivid illustration of this is the 1930’s policy of appeasement. Despite the facts that Nevil Chamberlain was motivated by the noble goal of averting the war, the wrongful assessment of the Hitler regime brought about the bloodiest war in history. In this paper, I will attempt to evaluate some aspects of Russian foreign policy which, in my humble opinion, are misunderstood in the West and have resulted in serious complications for Russia’s neighbors and the West itself and which continues to represent a clear and present danger. Naturally, I do not intend to diminish the achievements of generations of brilliant diplomats, analysts and political leaders whose wisdom, vision and courage contributed to many triumphs of Western civilization in its struggle with tyrannies. Today, the world needs precisely the type of leaders who would be ready to see the reality that the ideals of human dignity, freedom and democracy are again under threat and that they must be defended.
  • Topic: International Relations, Authoritarianism, Appeasement
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Miriam Heß
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: The European Union should actively address the problematic use of counterterrorism by non-European states – especially Russia – and make it a permanent aspect in developing counterterrorism strategies and agendas. Failing to address the misuse of counterterrorism sends the wrong signal not only to those with reason to fear geopolitical interference by their countries of origin, but also to states that pursue “anti-terrorist-operations” in the form of abductions and executions abroad.
  • Topic: European Union, Counter-terrorism, Geopolitics, Risk
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Didi Kirsten Tatlow, András Rácz
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: China and Russia want to maintain Germany’s political status quo: Centrist, at times mercantilist policies, have often worked in their favor. Now, with the Green Party ascendant and public opinion shifting, neither Russia nor China can be sure that classic "centrism” will emerge after September. Russia and China will increase their influence and interference efforts in the run-up to the election and beyond, using informational, political, and cyber tactics, and economic and political networks.
  • Topic: Economics, Politics, Public Opinion, Elections
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Eurasia, Asia
  • Author: Dina Smeltz, Brendan Helm, Denis Volkov, Stepan Goncharov
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  • Abstract: As Russia and China grow closer through economic ties, a joint Chicago Council on Global Affairs-Levada Analytical Center survey finds that the Russian public sees little downside to the growing bilateral relationship. With China and Russia on the outs with the United States, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have broadened bilateral economic and military cooperation over the last few years. Recent cooperation has included energy and infrastructure projects, and even a little bit of panda diplomacy. While some observers warn about the potential risk that Russia may grow too dependent on Beijing, a joint Chicago Council on Global Affairs-Levada Analytical Center survey finds that the Russian public sees little downside to the growing bilateral relationship.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Bilateral Relations, Public Opinion, Survey
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Eurasia, Eastern Europe, Asia
  • 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: Jussi Lassila
  • Publication Date: 09-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Maintaining the ruling party’s overwhelming majority was an obsession for the Kremlin, regardless of the growing dissatisfaction. The election result, achieved through blatant fraud, further undermines the Kremlin’s connection with citizens.
  • Topic: Corruption, Governance, Authoritarianism, Elections, Democracy, Leadership
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Giuliano Garavini
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Oil markets are facing a perfect storm. The scissors of supply and demand are moving against one another, generating increasing pain on the oil industry and the political and financial stability of oil-producing countries. Global oil demand is dropping due to the recession induced by the COVID-19 shut down of economic activity and transport in the most industrialized countries. Goldman Sachs predicts that global demand could drop from 100 million barrels per day (mdb) in 2019 to nearly 80 mdb in 2020.1 If confirmed, this would be single biggest demand shock since petroleum started its race to become the most important energy source in the world.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Oil, Global Markets, Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Global Focus
  • 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: Huba Wass de Czege
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: Does The US Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028 lack a clear theory of victory? A comparative analysis of the development of MDO and the historical concepts of Active Defense and AirLand Battle reveals the necessity of greater insight into sources of Russian and Chinese behavior and countering mechanisms, what constitutes effective deterrence, and greater clarity regarding the political will of Allies to assist in this deterrence.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Armed Forces, Military Affairs, Army
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout may rewrite the security as well as the political and economic map of the Middle East. The crisis will probably color Gulf attitudes towards the region’s major external players: the US, China, and Russia. Yet the Gulf States are likely to discover that their ability to shape the region’s map has significantly diminished.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, International Relations, Security, Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Middle East, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: As tens of thousands more refugees are shunted by Turkey toward Europe and a new phase of the brutal Syrian war unfolds, Russia, Turkey, the EU, and the international community are being handed the bill for a flawed short-term approach to the nine-year conflict that lacked empathy for the millions of victims and was likely to magnify rather than resolve problems.
  • Topic: War, Refugees, Syrian War, International Community
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The relationship between Russia and China is based on shared short-term strategic interests, but their differences lie just beneath the surface. Occasionally they erupt into the public eye, as occurred when Russia recently accused China of technology theft. The dynamic of the Russian-Chinese alliance is similar to that of Moscow’s alliances with Turkey and Iran, which also function by focusing on immediate interests and putting off serious differences as long as possible.
  • Topic: Crime, Science and Technology, Arms Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Eurasia, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • 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: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is at odds with just about everybody. He is on opposite sides with Russia in Syria as well as Libya and is trying the patience of his US and European allies. Turkey and Russia are testing the limits of what was always at best an opportunistic, fragile partnership aimed at capitalizing on a seemingly diminishing US interest in the Middle East, already evident under President Barack Obama and continuing under Donald Trump, who is haphazardly redefining what he sees as America’s national interests.
  • Topic: Security, Geopolitics, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya, Syria
  • Author: Miroslav Tuma
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institute of International Relations Prague
  • Abstract: The New START Treaty, which limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons, will expire in February 2021. According to the assessment of most arms control experts and, for example, the former US and Russian Foreign Ministers, the non-extension of the New Start Treaty will have a number of negative effects. What are the possibilities of the subsequent development if the last US-Russian control-arms contract New START is not extended? And what would that mean for strategic use of the universe? The unfavorable security situation in the world in recent years is characterized, among other things, by deepening crisis of the bilateral arms-control system between the USA and Russia, built since the 1970s. The urgency of addressing this situation is underlined by the fact that both countries own about 90% of all nuclear weapons that they modernize, introduce new weapon systems into their equipment, and reduce the explosiveness of nuclear warheads and thus their declared applicability in regional conflicts. The culmination of this crisis may be the expiry of the US-Russian New START treaty which limits the number of deployed nuclear warheads and strategic carriers. Concerns about the consequences of non-prolongation are, among others, raised by the expected disruption of space strategic stability, which could occur as a result of eventual termination of the complex verification system. In addition to notifications, the exchange of telemetry and information, on-the-spot inspections, etc., the termination would relate in particular to the contractual non-interference in the verification work carried out by National Technical Means (NTMs).
  • Topic: Security, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Susanna Rabow-Edling
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Toynbee Prize Foundation
  • Abstract: The Russian Empire has often been associated with autocracy, illiberalism and backwardness. However, Russian liberal intellectuals worked to modernise and liberalise their country, while preserving its international influence and position as a world power. In Liberalism in Pre-revolutionary Russia: State, Nation, Empire (Routledge, 2018), Susanna Rabow-Edling looks at the history of liberal nationalism in the Russian Empire, covering the period between the Decembrist revolt in 1825 and the October Revolution in 1917. She examines liberal tendencies in the Empire and how they are intertwined with notions of nation and empire. Susanna Rabow-Edling is Associate Professor in Political Science and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Uppsala University in Sweden. In our conversation, we discussed the development of different Russian liberal theories, the role of nationalism in a multi-ethnic empire, and the parallels between Russian and Western liberal ideologies.
  • Topic: State Formation, Empire, Revolution, Nation-State, Liberalism, Russian Revolution
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Oscar Sanchez-Sibony
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Toynbee Prize Foundation
  • Abstract: Capitalism versus Communism. To many, the latter half of the twentieth history was deeply shaped by the confrontation between these two ideological and socioeconomic systems. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, capitalism's triumph was credited to its valorization of money and protection of markets, among other factors; and, as the story continues, Communists failed, in part, because they suppressed markets and globalization. Yet, how much of this historical picture holds true? To Oscar Sanchez-Sibony, a good deal of Cold War histories are founded on generally held misconceptions about the political economy of the Soviet Union. Not only do they ignore the intense engagements between the Soviets and the world, they often miss the mark by neglecting the larger financial and economic architecture that facilitated such exchanges and economic growth in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). There is a larger story to be told about the rise of global capitalism and the Soviet Union. These are the themes of Red Globalization: The Political Economy of the Soviet Cold War from Stalin to Khrushchev (2014). Making use of archival documents from Russian archives, Sanchez-Sibony provides a rich account of how a young Bolshevik state navigated through the world's economic crises, while seeking favorable trading partners in the West for investments. This interview also ventures into topics and figures such as Depression Stalinism, Anastas Mikoyan, and Soviet-Global South relations. This book provoked much debate, and will be a must-read for years to come for anyone interested in histories of the Soviet Union, global capitalism, and the global Cold War. Oscar Sanchez-Sibony is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Hong Kong, where he teaches and researches subjects in Soviet history, Stalinism, and capitalism. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago under the guidance of Sheila Fitzpatrick. Toynbee Foundation had the pleasure to talk with him about his career and the development of his research.
  • Topic: Cold War, Communism, Globalization, History, Capitalism, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Soviet Union
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: In this issue of Turkeyscope Dr. Soner Cagaptay analyzes the evolution of Turkey's foreign policy with respect to both Syria and Libya.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Geopolitics, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya, North Africa, Syria
  • Author: Tony van der Togt
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: A global multilateral rules-based order, supported by a pro-active and interventionist United States, is gradually being replaced by a more fragmented world, in which geopolitics and geo-economics are becoming the dominant factors and universal rules, norms, and values are increasingly questioned. For the EU such developments are particularly challenging, as it has long perceived itself as a post-Westphalian soft power, mainly projecting its norms and values in its relations with both its direct neighbors and the world at large. A more isolationist US, a more assertive Russia, and the growing global influence of China have raised questions about the EU’s place and role in the world, which become even more pertinent after Brexit. Therefore, Commission President Von der Leyen intends to lead a “geopolitical Commission” and we are hearing calls for European strategic autonomy or even strategic sovereignty.
  • Topic: International Relations, European Union, Geopolitics, Multilateralism
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Martin Sieg
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: In Moldova, the weakness of the Eastern Partnership has been over-reliance on incentives, rather than a lack thereof. Veto players who hid their true interests by claiming allegiance to the European cause hijacked the EU’s soft power. The EaP’s shortcoming was lack of means and readiness to make these key opponents of political reforms keep their commitments. Its core challenge is how to overcome the resistance of these veto players who have been obstructing transformational goals.
  • Topic: Politics, Reform, European Union, Partnerships, Oligarchy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Moldova, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Bennett Murray
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: As the United States and People’s Republic of China jostle for influence among member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Russian Federation has also declared the bloc a priority. Southeast Asian nations, in turn, would like third powers to counterbalance Beijing and Washington in the region. However, Russia has not made a huge impression in the bloc since its first summit with ASEAN in 2005. Economic success has been mostly limited to bilateral trade centered around arms sales, while security partnerships have not been forthcoming. Part of the problem is that Russia lacks historic ties in its former Cold War rivals, which are also ASEAN’s largest economic powerhouses, to lean on. More crucially, Southeast Asian nations perceive Moscow as deferential to Beijing’s geopolitical ambitions in the region.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Geopolitics, Soft Power, Economic Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Yaroslav Shevchenko
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: The Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China are certainly the two most prominent authoritarian regimes in the world today, with their quasi-alliance characterized as an “axis of authoritarians” and portrayed as a major threat to the West and global liberal democracy. However, despite unmistakable similarities that exist between Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia, the reality is far more complex. Their respective responses to the COVID-19 crisis shed some light on differences between the political-governance models of these two countries.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Economy, Crisis Management, COVID-19, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Eurasia, Asia
  • Author: Anna Borshchevskaya
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: It is no secret that Moscow is increasingly utilizing so-called “private military contractors” (PMCs) to pursue foreign policy objectives across the globe, especially in the Middle East and Africa. What has received less attention is that Moscow’s deployment of PMCs follows a pattern: The Kremlin is exploiting a loophole in international law by securing agreements that allow contractors to provide local assistance. The problem is, however, Russian PMCs are not simply contractors. This pattern of Russian behavior presents a new challenge that Western policymakers should address, as it speaks to broader Russian influence in Africa in the context of great power competition. This challenge is about Moscow’s erosion of broader behavioral norms.
  • Topic: International Law, Military Affairs, Private Sector
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Robert E. Hamilton
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: On August 26, Politico reported that U.S. service members were injured after an altercation with Russian forces in northeast Syria. This pattern of Russian challenges to U.S. forces was enabled by the Trump administration’s decision to retreat from parts of northern Syria in 2019, allowing Russia to fill the void. Until this decision was made, the two countries had agreed to make the Euphrates River the deconfliction line to keep U.S. and Russian forces separated. Russia stayed on the west side of the river, and the United on the east side, where this incident took place. Robert Hamilton, Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, commented on the story and warned that it will not be a one-off incident: “We need to respond to this immediately and forcefully. Russian forces deliberately escalated against U.S. partners when I was running the ground deconfliction cell for Syria in 2017, but tended to be careful when U.S. forces were present. Unless we make it clear that we’ll defend ourselves, these escalations will continue with dangerous and unpredictable results.” Below, we offer readers an excerpt from a chapter written by Robert Hamilton from a forthcoming edited volume on Russia’s Way of War in Syria.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, War, Military Strategy, Military Affairs, Troop Deployment
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Syria, United States of America, North America
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Hudson Institute
  • Abstract: It is not the caliphate that the world’s Muslim powerhouses are fighting about. Instead, they are engaged in a deepening religious soft power struggle for geopolitical influence and dominance. This battle for the soul of Islam pits rival Middle Eastern and Asian powers against one another: Turkey, seat of the Islamic world’s last true caliphate; Saudi Arabia, home to the faith’s holy cities; the United Arab Emirates, propagator of a militantly statist interpretation of Islam; Qatar with its less strict version of Wahhabism and penchant for political Islam; Indonesia, promoting a humanitarian, pluralistic notion of Islam that reaches out to other faiths as well as non-Muslim centre-right forces across the globe; Morocco which uses religion as a way to position itself as the face of moderate Islam; and Shia Iran with its derailed revolution. In the ultimate analysis, no clear winner may emerge. Yet, the course of the battle could determine the degree to which Islam will be defined by either one or more competing stripes of ultra-conservativism—statist forms of the faith that preach absolute obedience to political rulers and/or reduce religious establishments to pawns of the state.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Islam, Politics, Ideology
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Indonesia, Turkey, Middle East, Asia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar, United Arab Emirates
  • Author: Jahaan Pittalwala
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  • Abstract: Since April 2019 Syrian government and Russian forces have carried out a brutal offensive in northwest Syria, resulting in the deaths of over 1,500 civilians. As the bombings intensified in mid 2019, international outrage grew as airstrikes regularly hit health facilities, schools, displacement centers and other civilian objects, including those on a “deconfliction” list established by the UN to help facilitate their protection. Any joint action by the UN Security Council (UNSC) in response to these attacks was actively blocked by China and Russia, the latter of which was directly involved in the military offensive. Amidst frustration that perpetrators were being systematically shielded from accountability, and faced with few other diplomatic options, ten members of the UNSC issued a démarche to the UN Secretary-General requesting an investigation into attacks on civilian objects.
  • Topic: International Law, United Nations, Responsibility to Protect (R2P), UN Security Council, Atrocities
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Syria, Global Focus
  • Author: Makysm Bielawski
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Razumkov Centre
  • Abstract: The beginning of the operation of the pipeline Nord Stream-1 at the end of 2012 became a powerful driving force for the disrupting of the strategic balance in Europe. This project has weakened the constraining mechanisms of dependence of the Russian transit on the Ukrainian gas transportation system and has tied the essential part of the European elites with the interests of the Kremlin by the economics chains. It laid the stable foundation for Russia to provoke the war against Ukraine at the beginning of 2014. The aim of the project Nord Stream-2 lies in even greater balance disrupting of the forces in Europe and exacerbation of the discord inside NATO.
  • Topic: Military Affairs, Gas, Submarines
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Makysm Bielawski
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Razumkov Centre
  • Abstract: Stalin proposed to use energy resources in order to solve geopolitical problems, leveling the needs of the state, immediately after the end of World War II. Hegemony above everything. For the first time such political tools of influence was tested in 1948, despite the acute shortage in domestic market, through supplying the oil and oil products to Finland and Bulgaria. Along with energy supplies, Finland made concessions to the Soviet Union and undertook to renounce NATO membership and remain a de jure non-aligned state.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, History
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Hironori Fushita
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in Russia has been slower than in other European countries, but the number of infected people has surged since late March, especially in Moscow, and has exploded since April. As of April 14, the number of people infected with the novel coronavirus in Russia was 201,122 (up 2,774 from the previous day), with 1,694 recovering and 170 dead1. The following article will provide an overview of the spread of the novel coronavirus infection in Russia and the government's countermeasures, as well as the impact of this infection on the future of Russian politics
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Governance, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eurasia
  • Author: Bobo Lo
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the dismal state of global governance. The rules-based order has given way to a new world disorder, dominated by narrow self-interest. The crisis of the liberal order reflects a collective Western failure to live up to its principles. The actions of Donald Trump have damaged the moral authority of the West. There is a future for liberalism in global governance, but on a more inclusive and less antagonistic basis. The primary focus must be on meeting universal challenges, such as climate change, pandemic disease, and global poverty.
  • Topic: Coronavirus, Pandemic, COVID-19, International Order
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Eurasia, Asia
  • Author: Dania Koleilat Khatib, Aref Bijan
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Over the last few years, Russia has emerged as a significant power broker and military actor in the Middle East. Russia's intervention in the Syrian crisis since 2015 has revived its relations with neighboring countries. This increase in Russia's activity has led to convergence and divergence with other countries in the region. One of those countries is Turkey, which had cooperated at times and had differences at times with Russia in the Middle East, especially in the Syrian and the Libyan crises. Ankara and Moscow are fully engaged in the global competition trying to increase their power and influence. They face off in Syria and Libya. In Syria, Turkey supports the rebels in the North West while Russia supports the Assad regime. In Libya, Turkey supports the Government of National Accord (GNA) while Russia supports Libyan National Army (LNA). Their relation becomes more intricate as both parties got involved in the Caucus, a region of prime importance to both countries. In the vicinity of Russia, the oil route goes Tbilisi-Baku ending up in Ceyhan Turkey. While Turkey supports Azerbaijan, Russia supports Armenia. The Caucus crisis showed how the two countries are rivals that are ready to accommodate each other on a quid pro quo basis. The cease happened concurrently with a partial withdrawal of Turkey from some posts in the North West in Syria. Was there an agreement between Erdogan and Putin in this regard? There are no proofs; however, the various events that are happening from the Caucus to North Africa suggest that those two powers are rivals that are ready to accommodate each other. To add to that, the American retrenchment has encouraged the two powers to flex their muscles in the region. Therefore, given the developments in the region, this article has tried to examine the paradox of Russian-Turkish relations and their strategy in Libya and Syria.
  • Topic: Bilateral Relations, Conflict, Strategic Competition, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Turkey, Middle East, Libya
  • Author: Marina Solntseva
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: Russia postponed its national vote on constitutional changes to July 1, 2020. Due to restrictions on freedom of movement and assembly from COVID-19, mass protests are unlikely to result. Nevertheless, managing growing social discontent may well be the Kremlin’s next big challenge as it prepares for September’s regional and parliamentary elections. Given its upcoming EU presidency and Council of Europe chairmanship, Germany could make a positive difference in protecting human rights and EU values in Russia.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Elections, European Union, Protests
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia
  • 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: András Rácz
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: After two weeks of heavy fighting, the new war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh is likely to escalate further. International actors have so far been unable to broker a ceasefire. In this case, the EU, with its limited leverage, can add most value by leading a response to the inevitable humanitarian catastrophe. EU diplomatic efforts should be led by France and Germany, coordinated with other member states, and also with Russia, to the extent necessary.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, War, European Union, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Russia, France, Germany, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh
  • Author: Lee Willett
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Russia’s Syrian campaign has demonstrated the returning challenge the West faces in the underwater domain. Combat operations in Syria have been an opportunity for Russia’s military forces to prove on operations a new generation of capabilities, just as Operation ‘Desert Storm’ in 1991 saw the United States demonstrate its own new generation of military technology. One of the first weapons fired in ‘Desert Storm’ was a Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM), launched on the first day from several surface combatants. Two days later, a Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) became the first submarine to fire Tomahawk in combat.[1] The USN’s re-roling of its SSNs as primary power projection platforms in the 1990s/early 2000s underlined the shift in Western focus in the underwater battlespace away from the primary Cold War task of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) to counter Soviet naval activity. Simply, the strategic collapse of the Soviet Union saw what was a significant submarine threat disappear almost overnight, and with it – for that moment, at least – the Western requirement for ASW capability. Today, the underwater threat is back. Since 2008 – which saw both Russian naval forces engaged in the Georgia campaign and the re-emergence of regular deployments by Russian submarines (and surface ships) south of the Greenland-Iceland-UK (GIUK) gap – naval power has been central to Russia’s strategic resurgence.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Military Affairs, Weapons , Maritime
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eurasia, Middle East, Syria, Mediterranean
  • Author: Bobo Lo
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: The rise of Asia is the central challenge of Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy, calling into question long-standing assumptions about Russia’s place in the world. Moscow is now more committed to engagement with the Asia-Pacific than it has ever been. This reflects belated recognition of the region’s critical importance in global affairs. Russia’s ambition to become a major player in the Asia-Pacific faces considerable hurdles. Overcoming them will depend on larger changes in its foreign policy mindset — an uncertain prospect at best.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Economy, Vladimir Putin
  • Political Geography: Russia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Marcelo Montes
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI)
  • Abstract: We will examine how Putin's Russia has accepted the rules of the liberal international order and managed to take advantage of them, enduring the long and difficult post-Soviet transition, in peace and with its integrated territory.
  • Topic: Cold War, Liberal Order, Nation-State, Post-Socialist Economies
  • Political Geography: Russia, Soviet Union
  • Author: Paulo Botta
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI)
  • Abstract: The main objective of this study is to analyze the presence of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea and in the East Mediterranean Sea, taking into account the operations in Syria and the overall strategy employed in this region.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Navy, Oceans and Seas, Seapower
  • Political Geography: Russia, Syria, Mediterranean, Black Sea
  • Author: Emil Avdaliani
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: As Russia increases its geopolitical involvement across the globe, the concept of “Global Russia” has been gradually taking hold. Though Russia is inherently weak, it is likely that Moscow will continue its global initiatives throughout the 2020s. Only by the end of that decade and into the next is there likely to be a gradual decline in Russia’s adventurism abroad.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Geopolitics, Grand Strategy, Elites
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Global Focus