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  • 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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