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  • Author: Wolfgang Pusztai
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: After the massive defeat of the Libyan National Army (LNA) at the hands of Operation Burkan Al-Ghadab (Volcano of Rage) - which supports the internationally recognized Government of Accord (GNA) - the new frontline is just west of Sirte, a city 370 km southeast of Tripoli and 350 km southwest of Benghazi, strategically located at the entrance to Libya’s Oil Crescent. While Turkish combat drones, air defense, artillery, electronic warfare and Special Forces form, together with about 10,000 Syrian mercenaries, the backbone of Operation Volcano, hundreds of mercenaries from the Russian private-military company Wagner fight for the LNA. Much more important, in May some 12 to 16 MiG-29SM/SMT and 4 to 6 Su-24M fighter jets arrived in Libya from Russia via Syria and operate now mainly from the Al Jufra air base (about 230 km south of Sirte). The Egyptian President Al-Sisi announced on June 20 that his country will intervene militarily, if the Sirte - Al Jufra line is crossed by pro-GNA forces. The political opponent of the GNA, the internationally recognized House of Representatives (HoR) has already officially requested Egyptian military support. However, Turkey and Russia are now the two key foreign players on the ground in Libya. Actually, the GNA is fully dependent on Turkish support.
  • Topic: Armed Forces, Conflict, Syrian War, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Turkey, Libya, North Africa, Syria
  • Author: Theo Neethling
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: In recent years, Russian president Vladimir Putin has increasingly placed a high premium on re-building Russia’s global influence in Africa. During the heyday of the Soviet Union, Russian influence on the continent was significant, especially on an ideological level. The Cold War with the United States made Africa a land of contention, with the two superpowers waging proxy wars by aligning and supporting different African movements, fuelling conflict on the continent by providing political support, money and weapons. However, when the Soviet Union disintegrated, and superpower rivalry ended, Africa lost its strategic role. There is little doubt that, today, much of Moscow’s involvement in Africa relates to Putin’s desire to revive his country’s great-power status. In this context, Africa has become strategic in at least two ways: for the economic benefits stemming from its mineral wealth, and for providing Russia with a market to export weapons and military assistance, often merging these two interests in an arms-for-resources approach.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Natural Resources, Weapons , Conflict
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Ruslan Mamedov
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Despite the existence of global and regional formats for discussing ways to resolve the Libyan conflict, national reconciliation has not been achieved for eight years. This is largely due to the lack of necessary conditions and the existence of conflict at the local, regional and global levels. Russian influence on Libyan events is often exaggerated. Moreover, the media likes to raise this topic, because it allows the various parties to the conflict to divert attention away from the real problems and lack of agreement between the main players fighting for leadership in the Libyan issue. At the same time, the Russian approach assumes rather a tactical nature of interaction with various players on the Libyan settlement.
  • Topic: European Union, Geopolitics, Conflict, Proxy War, Reconciliation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Libya, North Africa
  • Author: Luiza Khlebnikova
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: The world has been focusing almost exclusively on the events in Syria and Russia’s role in them, ignoring a perennial core regional issue – the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2019, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip kept protesting and calling upon Israel to end the blockade of their territory and to lift restrictions on the movement of people and goods. The current US policy under the Donald Trump administration, as many prominent American and Russian experts - including Daniel Kurtzer and Vitaly Naumkin - point out, undermines the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. The hopes of the Palestinian people for their own state keep waning. Mostly, it is a result of the White House’s unilateral moves: the cut of US bilateral assistance programs to Palestinians, as well as contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the overturn of the US position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which are no longer considered illegal. “The deal of the century” promised by Donald Trump since 2016, has not been revealed in its entirety yet, however, its chances of success are extremely low.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Conflict, Negotiation, Mediation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Idlib has been the delayed battle in the Syrian conflict throughout its various stages, but this seems to be coming to an end, as many indicators reveal. For example, Russia, for the time being, is keen to resolve Idlib’s issue which would reinforce the specter of military intervention. Moscow indicates that there are no options left for the parties to the Sochi agreement, pointing also to the difficulty of implementing its terms. The 10 points-agreement has not achieved its purpose for five months, given the terrorist organizations’ control over the area, in particular al-Nusra Front. This happens amid lack of actions from the Turkish side, which has threatened, more than once, to deter those who jeopardize the agreement, which compelled it to agree, ostensibly, with the other parties on launching a military offensive in Idlib. Despite the challenges and consequences of this option, it is the scenario that looms large over the Syrian scene at present.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Military Affairs, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Publication Date: 11-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Moscow hosted a new round of talks in an effort to reach a settlement for the conflict in Afghanistan, on November 9, dubbed as “Moscow Format Consultations on Afghanistan”. Moscow considered that the potential gain would be the participation of Taliban representatives for the first time in two years, since the launcg of the talks. These talks witnessed two previous rounds, which did not yield any results. They were mainly a regional dialogue with the neighbouring countries concerned with the Afghan issue. Although Russia says there has been a considerable progress in the talks, this does not negate the fact that they still face many challenges that were evident in the outcome of the meeting. However, Moscow will likely continue its efforts to hold further talks, especially in the light of the evolving situation on the ground, namely ISIS moving from Syria and Iraq and some Middle Eastern countries to Afghanistan. Such move is considered an eminent threat to Moscow’s national security and interests.
  • Topic: Taliban, Islamic State, Conflict, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Russia, South Asia, Eurasia
  • Author: Lada Kochtcheeva
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: With the advance of globalization, the spread of new technologies and communication, diffusion of power to non-state actors, as well as the emergence of new forms of rivalry and statecraft, the concept of “gray zone” conflict has very recently produced substantial debates in the US and internationally. Most analysts do not view this phenomenon as entirely new, but they distinguish certain characteristics of gray zone and argue that it will progressively depict and challenge the international system in the near future. The gray zone form of conflict is usually defined by the presence of several crucial elements including rising revisionist states that seek to alter some aspect of the existing, status quo international order, incremental or gradual strategy often ambiguous, and unconventional tools, which are short of outright war. Actors using a gray zone method strive to achieve their goals while minimizing the scope and scale of actual fighting[3]. Russia’s actions in Eastern Europe are often described by the theorists of gray zone conflict as using multi-instrument strategies while employing direct action. China’s use of incremental approaches to produce a critical basis for its claims in the South China Sea also represents a prominent example of the gray zone conflict.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Globalization, Conflict, Gray Zone
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eastern Europe, United States of America
  • Author: Maxim A. Suchkov
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: The American military strike on a Syrian airbase has rather demonstrated President Trump’s burning desire to adopt a more hawkish stance – both at home and abroad – than has been launched merely in retaliation for the terrible chemical attack. At home, it was a gimmick to consolidate his position in Congress, secure bipartisan support (primarily GOP’s approval), cement his voting base, and shed the image of the Kremlin’s lackey, which has increasingly been weakening his presidential mandate and left little room for political maneuver. Moreover, this step was due to receive the approbation of the major “domestic sponsors”, including the military-industrial complex, the oil industry, and financiers. Finally, it can be treated as the comeback of the “strong leader”, the translation of Trump’s election pledge into a policy.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Conflict, Syrian War, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Syria, United States of America