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  • 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: Emil Avdaliani
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Russian foreign policy since the mid-2000s tends to be perceived in contradictory terms: as either a negative for Russia or the product of a grand strategic vision on the part of the Russian leadership. It is also often falsely perceived as representing a break with the past. Moscow’s foreign policy moves need to be viewed with a balanced perspective and should be placed in their historical context.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, History, Geopolitics, Grand Strategy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Bobo Lo
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: Putin’s foreign policy will remain grounded in long-standing assumptions about Russia, the West, and international order. There will be broad continuity in Russian foreign policy over the course of Vladimir Putin’s current presidential term. Any policy changes will be stylistic, not transformative. The Kremlin is committed to asserting Russia as a global power, although it will be tactically flexible in pursuing this ambition. Putin will present different faces to the West: sometimes accommodating, at other times assertive and even confrontational. But there will be no compromise on core principles.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Grand Strategy, Vladimir Putin
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia
  • 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: John R. Haines
  • Publication Date: 05-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Several weeks after winning a plurality in Bulgaria’s late March parliamentary election, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov did something unprecedented: he brought the nationalist United Patriots (Obedineni Patrioti) into his coalition government. The United Patriots is an electoral alliance of three parties, the IMRO[2]-Bulgarian National Movement (VMRO-Bulgarsko Natsionalno Dvizhenie), the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (Natzionalen Front za Spasenie na Bulgaria), and Attack (Attaka). Their inclusion in the coalition government has given rise to concern among Bulgaria’s NATO allies (and many Bulgarian themselves) about what the Bulgarian Socialist Party’s Korneliya Ninova called Mr. Borissov’s “floating majority, his unprincipled alliance”[3] (plavashti mnozinstva, bezprintsipni sŭyuzi). That concern is well placed for several reasons. Only a few years ago, even the nationalist IMRO-BND and NFSB excluded the radical Ataka[4] from their electoral alliance dubbed the “Patriotic Front” (Patriotichen front) because of Ataka’s positions on Russia and NATO. Even then, however, the Patriotic Front’s “nationalist profile” (natsionalisticheskiyat profil) was so far to Bulgaria’s political right to cause Mr. Borissov to exclude the Patriotic Front from his coalition government. He did so with the active encouragement of his center-right European People’s Party allies across the European Union. “Nothing against the PF, but unfortunately the things Valeri Simeonov [a PF leader, more about whom anon] proposes do not correspond to our Euro-Atlantic orientation,” said Mr. Borissov at the time.[5]
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Nationalism
  • Political Geography: Russia, Bulgaria