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  • Author: Marijke Verpoorten, Nik Stoop
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Political Violence @ A Glance
  • Abstract: On January 1, 2021, the European Conflict Minerals Act came into force. It aims to regulate the trade in four minerals—tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold, also known as 3TG—that are often sourced from conflict-affected countries where the profits may allow armed groups to finance their activities. The regulation aims to break the link between minerals and conflict by ensuring that European Union (EU)-based companies only import minerals from conflict-free sources. If companies import minerals from conflict regions, the law requires them to report where the minerals were mined, the location of processing and trade, and the taxes and fees that were paid.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Conflict, Minerals
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Navin Bapat
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Political Violence @ A Glance
  • Abstract: The risk of terrorism is often overstated. Americans are more likely to die from everyday risks, such as driving, drowning, or being hit by lightning, than from terrorist attacks. I’ve often criticized the willingness of leaders to politicize terrorism, arguing that this results in ‘othering’ that harms racial and ethnic minorities, and, in some cases, in very large, costly, and brutal wars. I therefore do not say this lightly: In the case of the US, however, white supremacists like those who engaged in the mob attack on the US Capitol, are a clear and present danger to the human security of the American nonwhite population and to national security.
  • Topic: Violent Extremism, Far Right, White Supremacy, Racism
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Nina von Uexkull, Halvard Buhaug
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Political Violence @ A Glance
  • Abstract: While former US President Donald Trump frequently denied man-made climate change, the Biden administration has pledged to make climate change a priority, including for national security. In line with years of thinking within the defense sector, the Biden-Harris team refers to climate change as a “threat multiplier,” pointing to risks of regional instability and resource competition driven by worsening environmental conditions. This perspective also aligns with the initiatives of other countries that have pushed climate security in the UN Security Council and other international bodies.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Climate Change, International Security, Conflict, Armed Conflict
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  • Abstract: After four dark years during which President Donald Trump systematically weakened the United States’ commitment to multilateralism, international law and universal human rights, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect congratulates President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their impending inauguration. As an international civil society organization with its headquarters in New York, we join human rights defenders both here and abroad who view this historic moment with relief and hope. President Biden and Vice President Harris will be sworn in at a time of unprecedented crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous suffering around the world and killed over 380,000 Americans. Globally, more than 80.3 million people are also currently displaced by conflict, persecution and atrocities, the highest number since the Second World War. In all too many countries the laws, institutions and individuals who defend human rights appear to be under threat. This includes the United States, where disturbing political developments over the last four years led to the proliferation of online hate speech, the criminalization of asylum seekers and a prejudicial “Muslim Ban” aimed at refugees.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Elections, Responsibility to Protect (R2P), Atrocities, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Flavio Fusco
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Located at the heart of the Middle East, connecting the Levant to the Persian Gulf, Iraq has always been at the centre of regional dynamics. Yet, the country is today reduced to a quasi-failed state fundamentally damaged in its political, social and economic fabric, with long-term consequences that trace a fil rouge from the 2003 US-led invasion to the emergence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) and the country’s current structural fragility.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, European Union
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Lorenza Errighi
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: If 2020 was the year of “mask diplomacy”, as countries raced to tackle the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and acquire the necessary protective gear and equipment, 2021 is likely to be remembered as the year of “vaccine diplomacy”. Growing competition between states to secure the necessary quantities of vaccines to inoculate their population has already become an established feature of the post-COVID international system and such trends are only likely to increase in the near future. It normally takes up to a decade to transition from the development and testing of a vaccine in a laboratory to its large-scale global distribution. Despite current challenges, the speed of COVID-19 vaccination campaigns is unprecedented. To put an end to the current pandemic – which in one year has led to the loss of 2.6 million lives and triggered the worst economic recession since the Second World War – the goal is to ensure the widest immunisation of the world population in a timeframe of 12 to 18 months. In this context, COVID vaccines emerge as instruments of soft power, as they symbolise, on the one hand, scientific and technological supremacy and, on the other, means to support existing and emerging foreign policy partnerships and alliances with relevant geopolitical implications. From their experimentation in laboratories, to their purchase and distribution, the vaccine has emerged as a significant tool for competition between powers, often associated with the promotion of competing developmental and governance models across third countries.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Health, Vaccine, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Vedran Džihić, Paul Schmidt
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: In societies devastated by the pandemic, the EU needs to leave its conventional tool-box behind and urgently speed up the Europeanisation of its neighbours in Southeast Europe. The coronavirus pandemic has deepened the vulnerabilities affecting Western Balkan countries and exposed the weakness of their state institutions, especially in the health sector and social protection. At the same time, related to the limited effectiveness of the EU enlargement process over the past years, the progress of reforms has stagnated and some countries have even experienced concerning regressions in the rule of law. The outbreak of the coronavirus crisis has meanwhile increased the presence of other geopolitical players in the region, mainly in the context of competition over vaccinations, not only of China but also of Russia and the United Arab Emirates. Awareness is growing that the EU and the West is not the only available partner. As other powers not known for their democratic practices use or misuse the Western Balkans to promote their interests, the vision of a free, democratic and truly European Balkans is no longer self-evident.
  • Topic: European Union, Institutions, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, Eastern Europe, Balkans
  • Author: Nicoletta Pirozzi
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The European Union is struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has swept through European societies and economies, causing more than 500,000 deaths (and counting) and a GDP downturn of –6.4 per cent in 2020. This is the third big crisis – and possibly the most dramatic – to impact the EU over the last 12 years, following the economic and financial crisis in 2008– 2010 and the extraordinary influx of migrants arriving on European shores in 2015–2016. All these crises produced asymmetrical consequences on the member countries and citizens. The already marked differences among member states have been exacerbated, making a unified response by EU institutions difficult in the process and suboptimal in the outcome. Indeed, especially during the first wave of the pandemic in Europe, the actions and statements of national leaders revealed a deep rift within the EU and the Eurozone, leading to nationalistic moves in border control and the export of medical supplies. Citizens were therefore exposed to the negative consequences of a Union with limited powers in sectors such as health and crisis management. Meanwhile, important decisions such as the approval of the Next Generation EU package and the new budget for 2021– 2027 risked ending in failure due to the opposition of some member states.
  • Topic: Regional Integration, Crisis Management, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Julius Caesar Trajano
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: Marine plastic pollution has worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic. Nuclear technology provides a sustainable and scientific approach to tackling this environmental problem. Can it help Southeast Asian countries battle plastic pollution?
  • Topic: Environment, Science and Technology, Pollution, Pandemic, COVID-19, Nuclear Energy
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia
  • Author: Alistair D.B. Cook
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: As the confrontation between the protestors and the military in Myanmar continues to deteriorate, now more than ever is the time for regional diplomacy. Countries in the region can be the bridge needed to the people in Myanmar and the wider international community
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Affairs, Regional Integration
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia, Myanmar
  • Author: Jose M. L. Montesclaros
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: With vaccines not expected to fully roll out until 2024, lockdowns remain a critical priority to save lives today. February 2021 marks the end of a year of COVID-19, and the opportunity to re-visit and improve the way lockdowns are implemented in the year ahead.
  • Topic: Pandemic, ASEAN, COVID-19, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Julius Caesar Trajano
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: Despite Duterte’s desire to shift Philippine security policy away from its treaty alliance with the US, Manila remains a close American ally. Key domestic, strategic and humanitarian factors actually make the alliance healthier. The Biden administration might just wait for Duterte to finish his term in a year's time.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Alliance
  • Political Geography: Philippines, North America, Asia-Pacific, United States of America
  • Author: Julius Caesar Trajano
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The recent swarming of Chinese militia boats in Whitsun Reef may indicate that President Duterte’s appeasement strategy towards China does not really work. Asserting the Arbitral Ruling must therefore be explored by Manila.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Militias
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Vietnam, Philippines
  • Author: Alistair D.B. Cook, Joel Ng
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The military coup in Myanmar has caused widespread human insecurity. The reaction of Asian countries and investors will influence Myanmar’s prospects, but further deterioration will compound difficulties.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Partnerships, Political stability, Human Security
  • Political Geography: East Asia, Myanmar
  • Author: Andrew Preston, Darren Dochuk, Christopher Cannon Jones, Kelly J. Shannon, Vanessa Walker, Lauren F. Turek
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)
  • Abstract: Historians of the United States and the world are getting religion, and our understanding of American foreign relations is becoming more rounded and more comprehensive as a result. Religion provides much of the ideological fuel that drives America forward in the world, which is the usual approach historians have taken in examining the religious influence on diplomacy; it has also sometimes provided the actual nuts-and-bolts of diplomacy, intelligence, and military strategy.1 But historians have not always been able to blend these two approaches. Lauren Turek’s To Bring the Good News to All Nations is thus a landmark because it is both a study of cultural ideology and foreign policy. In tying the two together in clear and compelling ways, based on extensive digging in various archives, Turek sheds a huge amount of new light on America’s mission in the last two decades of the Cold War and beyond. Turek uses the concept of “evangelical internationalism” to explore the worldview of American Protestants who were both theologically and politically conservative, and how they came to wield enough power that they were able to help shape U.S. foreign policy from the 1970s into the twenty-first century. As the formerly dominant liberal Protestants faded in numbers and authority, and as the nation was gripped by the cultural revolutions of the 1960s, evangelicals became the vanguard of a new era in American Christianity. Evangelicals replaced liberal Protestants abroad, too, as the mainline churches mostly abandoned the mission field. The effects on U.S. foreign relations were lasting and profound.
  • Topic: International Relations, Religion, International Affairs, History, Culture, Book Review, Christianity, Diplomatic History
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus
  • Author: Dustin Walcher, Lindsay M. Chervinsky, James F. Siekmeier, Kathryn C. Statler, Brian Etheridge, Seth Jacobs
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)
  • Abstract: Seth Jacobs can write. Rogue Diplomats is a book that specialists and educated general readers will enjoy, and the reviewers agree with my assessment. It is, in Kathryn Statler’s words, “an absolute page-turner.” Lindsay Chervinsky writes that it “… is a serious diplomatic history that contributes to our understanding of the field and U.S. history, but is also fun – a quality that isn’t always associated with historical scholarship, but should be welcome.” Brian Etheredge finds that Jacobs’ “vignettes are beautifully told,” and that he “has an eye for the telling quote and writes with a verve and sense of irony that captivates.” He is “a master storyteller at the top of his game.” In sum, Jacobs elucidates important episodes of U.S. diplomacy and entertains in the process. That alone is a substantial accomplishment.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, History, Diplomatic History, Dissent
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Thomas W. Zeiler, Grant Madsen, Lauren F. Turek, Christopher Dietrich
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)
  • Abstract: When David Anderson, acting as a conduit for editors at the Journal of American History, approached me at a SHAFR meeting in 2007 to write a state-of- the-field essay, I accepted, in part because we were sitting in a bar where I was happily consuming. The offer came with a responsibility to the field. I was serving as an editor of our journal, Diplomatic History, as well as the editor of the digitized version of our bibliography, American Foreign Relations Since 1600: A Guide to the Literature. Because these positions allowed me to survey our vibrant field, accepting the offer seemed natural. And I was honored to be asked to represent us. Did I mention we were drinking? I’m sure that Chris Dietrich accepted the invitation to oversee this next-gen pioneering Companion volume from Peter Coveney, a long-time editorial guru and booster of our field at Wiley-Blackwell, for similar reasons. This, even though there were times when, surrounded by books and articles and reviews that piled up to my shoulders in my office (yes, I read in paper, mostly), I whined, cursed, and, on occasion, wept about the amount of sources. What kept me going was not only how much I learned about the field, including an appreciation for great scholarship written through traditional and new approaches, but both the constancy and transformations over the years, much of it due to pressure from beyond SHAFR that prompted internal reflections. Vigorous debate, searing critiques, sensitive adaptation, and bold adoption of theory and methods had wrought a revolution in the field of U.S. diplomatic history, a moniker itself deemed outmoded.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, History, Diplomatic History
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus
  • Author: Christopher McKnight Nichols, Heather Marie Stur, Brad Simpson, Andy Rotter, Michael Kimmage
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)
  • Abstract: The title of this book evokes numerous Donald Trump tweets, statements, and threats over the past five years. It also raises questions: was Trump pro-West or not, and how does his administration and its policies compare to those of his predecessors? Trumpism and the related, inchoate policies of “America First” were firmly positioned against the organizational structures and assumptions of the so-called liberal international order, or rules-based order. Trump’s targets ranged from NATO to the World Health Organization (WHO). From his speech at Trump Tower announcing his run for office to statements we heard during his efforts to contest the results of the 2020 election, Trump promulgated racist, particularist claims about which peoples and groups counted (white ones), which immigrants should be allowed in (northern European) and which should be banned (Muslims, those from “shithole” countries), and what wider heritages they fit into or “good genes” they were blessed with.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Liberal Order, Donald Trump, Anti-Westernism, Rivalry, Clash of Civilizations, America First
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus
  • Author: Daniel Bessner, Michael Brenes
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)
  • Abstract: The U.S. academic job market is in total freefall. As the American Historical Association’s (AHA) 2020 jobs report bluntly stated, “History Ph.D.s who graduated in the past decade encountered fewer opportunities and more competition on the academic job market than any cohort of Ph.D.s since the 1970s.”1 And this was before the COVID-19 pandemic, which, the 2021 jobs report noted, has resulted in numerous “program closures, enrollment declines, and faculty layoffs.”2 It’s not an exaggeration to say that, even if things improved tomorrow (which they won’t), there will be several “lost generations” of historians who will never secure stable academic employment. The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) is well aware of these depressing and disturbing trends. Under the leadership of past-SHAFR presidents Barbara Keys and Kristin Hoganson, the organization recently established a Jobs Crisis Task Force to begin to deal with the new material and structural realities of U.S. higher education.
  • Topic: Labor Issues, Higher Education, Academia, Diplomatic History
  • Political Geography: United States
  • 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: Makysm Bielawski
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Razumkov Centre
  • Abstract: Starting from August 2020, each gas supplier individually sets the gas price for residential consumers, whereas the latter were given the opportunity to choose the company with the most favorable offer. This was called the "opening of the gas market".
  • Topic: Markets, Gas, Liberalization
  • Political Geography: Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Makysm Bielawski
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Razumkov Centre
  • Abstract: Maksym Bielawsky, the leading expert of energy programs at the Razumkov Center, provided answers to the TOP-12 questions about current model of Ukraine’s natural gas market.
  • Topic: Markets, Gas, Tariffs
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Makysm Bielawski
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Razumkov Centre
  • Abstract: Ukraine's economy and energy system urges serious and comprehensive energy cost reduction solutions to improve the resilience of the economy and to favor strategic convergence with the European Union, strengthen the participation as a Contracting Party in the Energy Community as well as ensure full implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Hydrogen
  • Political Geography: Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Vasyl Yurchyshyn
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Razumkov Centre
  • Abstract: The net outflow of almost $870 million of direct foreign investments from Ukraine, as reported by the National Bank of Ukraine, is annoying news, however, it did not surprise anyone. Clearly, this is partly due to the Coronavirus crisis. But even in the pre-crisis period, direct investment in the world economy was very cautious. Specifically, investment volumes also decreased in 2018−2019, with average annual decrease by 10%, while the 42% collapse in global flows in the pandemic year of 2020 came as no surprise. It is also “natural” that the outflows occur from emerging or weakened economies to the so-called safe havens — developed countries with strong capital.
  • Topic: Investment, COVID-19, Capital
  • Political Geography: Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • 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: Volodymyr Omelchenko
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Razumkov Centre
  • Abstract: Achieving climate goals is the economic policy priority. In fact, Ukrainian Green Deal is the best economic tool for Ukraine’s gradual entry into a single European political and economic space and its achievement of sustainable development goals, as defined by the UN resolution of 25 September 2015.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Sustainable Development Goals, Economic Policy
  • Political Geography: Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Vasyl Yurchyshyn
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Razumkov Centre
  • Abstract: Last week was marked by two events that are likely to have a negative impact on the banking system. The first concerns the adoption of the Law on Restructuring of Foreign Currency Consumer Loans. From the first glance, this event seemed to be highly welcomed, as it would lead to easing of debt pressure for many households. However, this is only one side of the coin. Indeed, first, in the banking sector this situation may mean the formation of imbalances that will need to be normalised. Secondly, and more importantly, there is reason to believe that the decision to restructure was actually made not for economic but for political and populist reasons.
  • Topic: Law, Currency, Banking
  • Political Geography: Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Nobumasa Akiyama
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: On January 20, 2021, a new administration will take office in the United States. This could lead to changes in US-Iran relations. The Trump administration continued to provoke Iran by withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), tightening sanctions, and killing Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani. Meanwhile, the incoming president Joe Biden and key members of his diplomatic team are oriented toward a return to the JCPOA. In the midst of all this, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a nuclear scientist who is believed to have played a central role in Iran's nuclear development, was murdered. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded by saying he would retaliate at an "appropriate" time, and an advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said he would take "decisive" action. Although the US is not believed to have been directly involved in this incident, there are concerns that it will cast a dark shadow on the diplomacy between the US and Iran over the JCPOA. Shortly thereafter, Iran's parliament passed a law that obliges the government to take steps to expand nuclear activities that significantly exceed the JCPOA's limits and to seek the lifting of sanctions. The new US administration will need to be very careful not to overlook either hard or soft signals, to analyze Iran's future course, and to take diplomatic steps to reduce Iran's nuclear and regional security threats.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, JCPOA, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Scott Lincicome
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Both the American left and right often use “national security” to justify sweeping proposals for new U.S. protectionism and industrial policy. “Free markets” and a lack of government support for the manufacturing sector are alleged to have crippled the U.S. defense industrial base’s ability to supply “essential” goods during war or other emergencies, thus imperiling national security and demanding a fundamental rethink of U.S. trade and manufacturing policy. The COVID-19 crisis and U.S.-China tensions have amplified these claims. This resurgent “security nationalism,” however, extends far beyond the limited theoretical scenarios in which national security might justify government action, and it suffers from several flaws. First, reports of the demise of the U.S. manufacturing sector are exaggerated. Although U.S. manufacturing sector employment and share of national economic output (gross domestic product) have declined, these data are mostly irrelevant to national security and reflect macroeconomic trends affecting many other countries. By contrast, the most relevant data—on the U.S. manufacturing sector’s output, exports, financial performance, and investment—show that the nation’s total productive capacity and most of the industries typically associated with “national security” are still expanding. Second, “security nationalism” assumes a need for broad and novel U.S. government interventions while ignoring the targeted federal policies intended to support the defense industrial base. In fact, many U.S. laws already authorize the federal government to support or protect discrete U.S. industries on national security grounds. Third, several of these laws and policies provide a cautionary tale regarding the inefficacy of certain core “security nationalist” priorities. Case studies of past government support for steel, shipbuilding, semiconductors, and machine tools show that security‐​related protectionism and industrial policy in the United States often undermines national security. Fourth, although the United States is not nearly as open (and thus allegedly “vulnerable”) to external shocks as claimed, global integration and trade openness often bolster U.S. national security by encouraging peace among trading nations or mitigating the impact of domestic shocks. Together, these points rebut the most common claims in support of “security nationalism” and show why skepticism of such initiatives is necessary when national security is involved. They also reveal market‐​oriented trade, immigration, tax, and regulatory policies that would generally benefit the U.S. economy while also supporting the defense industrial base and national security.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, National Security, COVID-19, Free Market, Deindustrialization
  • Political Geography: China, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Alex Nowrasteh
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: A cost‐​benefit analysis finds that the hazards posed by foreign‐​born spies are not large enough to warrant broad and costly actions such as a ban on travel and immigration from China, but they do warrant the continued exclusion of potential spies under current laws. Espionage poses a threat to national security and the private property rights of Americans. The government should address the threat of espionage in a manner whereby the benefits of government actions taken to reduce it outweigh the costs of those actions. To aid in that goal, this policy analysis presents the first combined database of all identified spies who targeted both the U.S. government and private organizations on U.S. soil. This analysis identifies 1,485 spies on American soil who, from 1990 through the end of 2019, conducted state or commercial espionage. Of those, 890 were foreign‐​born, 583 were native‐​born Americans, and 12 had unknown origins. The scale and scope of espionage have major implications for immigration policy, as a disproportionate number of the identified spies were foreign‐​born. Native‐​born Americans accounted for 39.3 percent of all spies, foreign‐​born spies accounted for 59.9 percent, and spies of unknown origins accounted for 0.8 percent. Spies who were born in China, Mexico, Iran, Taiwan, and Russia account for 34.7 percent of all spies. The chance that a native‐​born American committed espionage or an espionage‐​related crime and was identified was about 1 in 13.1 million per year from 1990 to 2019. The annual chance that a foreign‐​born person in the United States committed an espionage‐​related crime and was discovered doing so was about 1 in 2.2 million during that time. The government was the victim in 83.3 percent of espionage cases, firms were the victims of commercial espionage in 16.3 percent of the cases, and hospitals and universities were the victims of espionage in 0.1 percent and 0.3 percent of the cases, respectively. The federal government should continue to exclude foreign‐​born individuals from entering the United States if they pose a threat to the national security and private property rights of Americans through espionage. A cost‐​benefit analysis finds that the hazards posed by foreign‐​born spies are not large enough to warrant broad and costly actions such as a ban on travel and immigration from China, but they do warrant the continued exclusion of potential spies under current laws.
  • Topic: Crime, Immigration, Risk, Espionage
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Scott Lincicome, Inu Manak
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: With several Section 232 tariffs still in place, and the status of other investigations unclear, the law presents an early test for the Biden administration and a signal about its future trade policy plans. President Biden took office at the height of modern American protectionism. The trade policy legacy he inherited from the Trump administration puts the United States at a crossroads. Will Biden go down the problematic path of executive overreach like his predecessor, or will he forge a new path? We may not need to wait long to find out. In his first trade action, President Biden reinstated tariffs on aluminum from the United Arab Emirates under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which authorizes the president to impose tariffs when a certain product is “being imported into the United States in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair national security.” Though infrequently used in the past, Section 232 was a favored trade tool of the Trump administration, which was responsible for nearly a quarter of all Section 232 investigations initiated since 1962. While Congress has constitutional authority over trade policy, Section 232 gives the president broad discretion to enact protectionist measures in the name of national security. Why is this law a problem? First, the statute’s lack of an objective definition of “national security” permits essentially anything to be considered a threat, regardless of the merits. Second, the law’s lack of detailed procedural requirements encouraged the Trump administration to cut corners in applying the law, thus breeding cronyism and confusion. Third, President Trump took advantage of the law’s ambiguity to shield key Section 232 findings from Congress and the public, undermining both transparency and accountability. The Trump administration’s abuse of the rarely used Section 232 has allowed the statute to become an excuse for blatant commercial protectionism, harming American companies and consumers and our security interests. It’s unclear whether the Biden administration will continue this troubling trend or seek reform. The best course of action would be the latter: Biden should avoid using Section 232 and support congressional efforts to rein in presidential power, thus ensuring an end to the calamitous episodes that were common during the Trump era.
  • Topic: National Security, Trade Policy, Protectionism
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Neal McCluskey
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In one year, COVID-19 contributed to the permanent closure of at least 132 mainly low‐​cost private schools. But that was better than some feared. As COVID-19 struck the United States in March 2020, sending the nation into lockdown, worry about the fate of private schools was high. These schools, which only survive if people can pay for them, seemed to face deep trouble. Many private schools have thin financial margins even in good economic times and rely not only on tuition but also on fundraisers, such as in‐​person auctions, to make ends meet. When the pandemic hit, many such events were canceled, and churches no longer met in person, threatening contributions that help support some private schools. Simultaneously, many private schooling families faced tighter finances, making private schooling less affordable. Finally, families that could still afford private schooling might have concluded that continuing to pay for education that was going to be online‐​only made little sense.
  • Topic: Education, COVID-19, Private Schools
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: John Mueller
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: China, even if it rises, does not present much of a security threat to the United States. Policymakers increasingly view China’s rapidly growing wealth as a threat. China currently ranks second, or perhaps even first, in the world in gross domestic product (although 78th in per capita GDP), and the fear is that China will acquire military prowess commensurate with its wealth and feel impelled to carry out undesirable military adventures. However, even if it continues to rise, China does not present much of a security threat to the United States. China does not harbor Hitler‐​style ambitions of extensive conquest, and the Chinese government depends on the world economy for development and the consequent acquiescence of the Chinese people. Armed conflict would be extremely—even overwhelmingly—costly to the country and, in particular, to the regime in charge. Indeed, there is a danger of making China into a threat by treating it as such and by engaging in so‐​called balancing efforts against it. Rather than rising to anything that could be conceived to be “dominance,” China could decline into substantial economic stagnation. It faces many problems, including endemic (and perhaps intractable) corruption, environmental devastation, slowing growth, a rapidly aging population, enormous overproduction, increasing debt, and restive minorities in its west and in Hong Kong. At a time when it should be liberalizing its economy, Xi Jinping’s China increasingly restricts speech and privileges control by the antiquated and kleptocratic Communist Party over economic growth. And entrenched elites are well placed to block reform. That said, China’s standard of living is now the highest in its history, and it’s very easy to envision conditions that are a great deal worse than life under a stable, if increasingly authoritarian, kleptocracy. As a result, the Chinese people may be willing to ride with, and ride out, economic stagnation should that come about—although this might be accompanied by increasing dismay and disgruntlement. In either case—rise or demise—there is little the United States or other countries can or should do to affect China’s economically foolish authoritarian drive except to issue declarations of disapproval and to deal more warily. As former ambassador Chas Freeman puts it, “There is no military answer to a grand strategy built on a non‐​violent expansion of commerce and navigation.” And Chinese leaders have plenty of problems to consume their attention. They scarcely need war or foreign military adventurism to enhance the mix. The problem is not so much that China is a threat but that it is deeply insecure. Policies of threat, balance, sanction, boycott, and critique are more likely to reinforce that condition than change it. The alternative is to wait, and to profit from China’s economic size to the degree possible, until someday China feels secure enough to reform itself.
  • Topic: Government, GDP, Geopolitics, Economic Growth
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Arzan Tarapore
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: The still-unresolved Ladakh crisis has created a new strategic reality for India, marked by renewed political hostility with China, and an increased militarisation of the Line of Actual Control. This new strategic reality imposes unequal costs on India and China. India is likely to defer much-needed military modernisation and maritime expansion into the Indian Ocean — which would impair its ability to compete strategically with China. In contrast, China incurred only marginal material costs; it was probably more concerned with the prospect of continued deterioration in its relationship with India. Even that cost was more threatened rather than realised, and largely reduced when the disengagement plan was agreed.
  • Topic: Crisis Management, Strategic Competition, Militarization, Disengagement
  • Political Geography: China, South Asia, India, Asia
  • Author: Patrick Porter, Michael Mazarr
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: There is a growing bipartisan consensus in Washington on a tighter embrace of Taiwan, which may soon become a stronger implied US commitment to go to war in the event of a Chinese invasion. Taiwan matters to US security and the regional order, and the United States should continue to make clear that aggression is unacceptable. But those advocating a stronger US security commitment exaggerate the strategic consequences of a successful Chinese invasion. The stakes are not so high as to warrant an unqualified US pledge to go to war. American decision-makers, like their forebears confronting the seeming threat of communism in Indochina, may be trapping themselves into an unnecessarily stark conception of the consequences of a successful Chinese invasion of Taiwan. It would be irresponsible for the United States to leave itself no option in the event of Chinese aggression other than war. But nor should Washington abandon Taiwan. There is a prudent middle way: the United States should act as armourer, but not guarantor. It should help prepare Taiwan to defend itself, to raise costs against aggression, and develop means of punishing China with non-military tools.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, Territorial Disputes, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: China, Taiwan, Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Greg Raymond
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: China has land borders with mainland Southeast Asia and strong strategic imperatives to develop land routes to the sea. It has both potential and motivation to pursue an infrastructural sphere of influence in the Mekong subregion through Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects joining southern China and mainland Southeast Asia. The poorer states, especially Laos and Cambodia, have been receptive to the BRI and infrastructure investment, but Thailand and Vietnam, strong states and protective of sovereignty, have been more cautious. This means China’s impact is significantly varied across the subregion. China’s Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar are in some cases dissolving borders and in others carving out Chinese-controlled enclaves, all increasing the People’s Republic of China (PRC) presence and influence.
  • Topic: Infrastructure, Foreign Direct Investment, Regional Integration, Borders, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Southeast Asia, Laos, Myanmar
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Oxford Economics
  • Abstract: The rising value of remittance flows into developing countries in recent years is often not widely appreciated. At a macro level, remittances support growth and are less volatile than other private capital flows, tending to be relatively stable through the business cycle. At a micro level, remittances benefit recipient households in developing countries by providing an additional source of income and lower incidences of extreme poverty. Remittances act as a form of 'social insurance', supporting households' capabilities to resist economic shocks. Remittances help recipient households to increase spending on essential goods and services, invest in healthcare and education, as well as allowing them to build their assets, both liquid (cash) and fixed (property), enhancing access to financial services and investment opportunities. Understanding the role and importance of remittances is particularly important at the current juncture, with the global economy experiencing a uniquely sharp and synchronized shock as a result of COVID-19. This report examines the available evidence on remittance flows and their potential economic effects. The report explores and shows how remittance flows remain a crucial lifeline in supporting developing economies through the current pandemic crisis and into the recovery. Although remittances slowed during the pandemic, they remained more resilient than other private capital flows, making them even more important as a source of foreign inflows for receiving countries. While the World Bank estimates that remittance flows to developing countries (low-and-middle income economies) contracted by 7.0% in 2020, this decline is likely to have been far less severe than the downturn in private investor capital. Looking forward, the World Bank predicts that remittance flows to developing countries will contract by a further 7.5% in 2021. But the outlook remains subject to a high degree of uncertainty with both upside and downside risks. A wider set of dynamics – including central bank data outturns for 2020, economic outlooks for the world economy in 2021, survey data and remittance consumer market fundamentals – suggest that while there are downside risks, there is also potential that 2020 and 2021 will not turn out as weak as predicted by the World Bank and for a period of strong remittance growth in the medium-term as sender economies recover and demand from developing economies remains high.
  • Topic: Development, Recovery, Economic Development , Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Michael Mariano, Adam Sacks
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Oxford Economics
  • Abstract: We all remember our first concert or seeing our favorite band live, but rarely do we think of the stagehands, lighting techs, and ushers who worked hard to deliver these memorable experiences or the impact they have on our local, state, and national economies. In order to better understand the economic impact this important industry has across the United States, Oxford Economics developed a customized framework to analyze the impact of the concerts and the live entertainment industry's nationwide economic contributions in 2019 and conducted an in-depth analysis of the economic impacts of live event venues, artists, and visitor spending in terms of economic output, labor income, taxes, and jobs. Due to the pandemic putting a pause on live events in 2020, this report examined 2019 data to ensure a complete analysis could be conducted that is in line with regular performance of the industry. The industry drives significant economic activity that supports businesses, households, and government finances across the United States. In the wake of COVID-19, live events were shut down for over a year. Beyond the cultural loss involved, the US economy has incurred massive losses in GDP, employment, household income, and tax revenue due to the absence of live events. After a year of isolation, many crave getting back to enjoying memorable live experiences safely in 2021 and into the 2022 and 2023 seasons, which position the industry for growth in the coming years. The Concerts and Live Entertainment Industry, as defined by this report, includes all live musical performances, such as festivals and concerts, and comedy shows held in amphitheaters, clubs, theaters, arenas, stadiums, and other venues. Not included in this analysis are theater, Broadway, sporting events, and family shows.
  • Topic: Economics, Culture, Music, popular culture, Entertainment
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Kevin Rudd
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Asia Society
  • Abstract: The year 2020 was a devastating one, but also a year of great change and transformation as the world adapted with difficulty to meet challenges largely unprecedented in living memory, and the trends of global power appeared to shift dramatically. And it was a revelatory year — one that pulled the lid off the true extent and meaning of our globalized, interconnected world, revealed dysfunction present in our institutions of national and international governance, and unmasked the real level of structural resentment, rivalry, and risk present in the world’s most critical great power relationship — that between the United States and China. 2020 may well go down in history as a great global inflection point. It is thus worth looking back to examine what happened and why and to reflect on where we may be headed in the decade ahead. The Avoidable War: The Decade of Living Dangerously, the third volume of ASPI’s annual Avoidable War series, does precisely that. It contains selected essays, articles, and speeches by Asia Society and ASPI President the Hon. Kevin Rudd that provide a series of snapshots as events unfolded over the course of 2020 — from the COVID-19 pandemic, through an implosion of multilateral governance, to the impact on China’s domestic political economy. Finally, it concludes with a discussion of the growing challenges the world will face as the escalating contest between the United States and China enters a decisive phase in the 2020s. No matter what strategies the two sides pursue or what events unfold, the tension between the United States and China will grow, and competition will intensify; it is inevitable. The Chinese Communist Party is increasingly confident that by the decade’s end, China’s economy will finally and unambiguously surpass that of the United States as the world’s largest, and this will turbocharge Beijing’s self-confidence, assertiveness, and leverage. Increasingly, this will be a “decade of living dangerously” for us all. War, however, is not inevitable. Rudd argues that it remains possible for the two countries to put in place guardrails that can prevent a catastrophe: a joint framework he calls “managed strategic competition” that would reduce the risk of competition escalating into open conflict.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Power Politics, Governance, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, United States of America
  • Author: Brian Kagoro
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR)
  • Abstract: Peacebuilding is an overtly political act laden with sociocultural assumptions, preferences and values. It is also an act impelled by the geoeconomic and geopolitical considerations of both the protagonists and some "invisible hands" with a stake in the ongoing conflict. In essence, the process of defining African peacebuilding and its socioeconomic value is both revolutionary and futuristic in pointing to a possible trajectory for the development of the sector beyond its bureaucratic organizational forms. This discussion paper explores the relationship between the African philosophy of Ubuntu and the practice of peacebuilding in historical and contemporary Africa. In particular, it seeks to establish Ubuntu's actual and potential value-added to shaping the theory and praxis of peacebuilding in Africa.
  • Topic: Peacekeeping, Conflict, Social Roles, Mythology
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Author: Jasmina Brankovic
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR)
  • Abstract: The Fourth African Transitional Justice Forum, held 0n 26–28 October 2020, addressed the state of transitional justice on the continent, specifically its contribution to the African Union's 2020 theme of the year, "Silencing the Guns," amid the challenges and opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Forum panels focused on development, violent extremism, victims' experiences and fundraising in relation to African-led transitional justice.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Violent Extremism, Transitional Justice, Peace, Reconciliation , Pandemic, African Union, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Author: David A. Lake
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Political Violence @ A Glance
  • Abstract: The collapse of the Afghan government illustrates the larger dilemma in all statebuilding attempts. The statebuilder wants to build a government strong enough to stand on its own. To do this, the new state must win the support of the people it hopes to rule. This need not be the entire population of a country—no government wins universal praise—but it must be a sufficiently large share of the population that it has room to maneuver, favoring some groups with a policy, and other groups with another policy, but not always sitting on the knife’s edge between repression and rebellion. In short, the statebuilder wants to build a state that is legitimate.
  • Topic: War, Military Affairs, Counter-terrorism, Afghanistan, War on Terror, State Building
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Asia
  • Author: Karam Saeed
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: On January 27, 2021, the political climate in Tunisia was charged up, following the parliament’s approval on a cabinet reshuffle on January 26, supported by 144 parliamentarians. This included new ministers joining the government of ‘Hichem Mechichi’, which had been formed on August 24, 2020. The proposed amendments intensified the political crisis in the country, against the backdrop of President Kais Saied’s announcement of his rejection of the cabinet reshuffle under the claims of the potential corruption of some ministers. Yet, Mechici resorted to the parliamentary majority led by Al-Nahda movement to gain the confidence of the parliament. Despite the lapse of a week since the new reshuffle won the confidence of the Parliament, the President rejected summoning the new ministers to take the constitutional oath, which paves the way for more complications in the Tunisian scene. Furthermore, the Parliament's approval of the amendments may fuel a constitutional struggle between the Prime Minister and the President.
  • Topic: Government, Conflict, Demonstrations
  • Political Geography: North Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Ahmed Abdel-Alim Hassan
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The internationally-supported political dialogue forum in Geneva succeeded in selecting a new government, including Abdul Hamid Mohammed al-Dabaib as Prime Minister, and Muhammad Al-Manfi as President of the Presidential Council as well as two other members of the Council. These results were well received internally, regionally and internationally, which raises a key question relevant to the ability of the new government, though temporary, to effect positive accomplishments leading to the general elections in December 2021.
  • Topic: Politics, Conflict, Transition, Khalifa Haftar, Dialogue
  • Political Geography: Libya, North Africa
  • Author: Abdel Latif Hegazy
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The Turkish foreign policy has witnessed changes since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002. Turkey initially adopted a ‘zero problems with neighbors’ policy and resorted to solving regional issues through diplomatic mechanisms, leading to improving its relations with the countries of the region. However, following the outbreak of the Arab uprisings end of 2010 and the collapse of several major Arab regimes, resulting in a leadership gap within the region, Ankara sought to foster its influence in the region. This was clear in abandoning the ‘zero problems’ policy, engaging in the region's military conflicts and providing support to the Muslim Brotherhood to enable its rule in some Arab countries. These policies have led to tensions in Turkey's relations with many countries in the region, such as Egypt and Syria, as well as interrupted relations with countries that were considered its allies, such as the US and the EU, leaving Turkey with ‘zero allies’. Turkish officials defend their country's policies by launching the term ‘precious loneliness’, clarifying that Turkey's foreign policy is based on a set of values and principles that achieve its national interests, and that sometimes one may have to stand up alone to defend the values that one believes in. Nevertheless, since late 2020, Turkey's foreign policy has made a shift towards appeasement and the pursuit of improving relations with many countries in the region, with the EU and the US. Perhaps one of the most significant official statements indicating the desire to resolve issues is Erdogan's call in November 2020 to open diplomatic channels and reconciliation with all countries in the region for a quick resolution of conflicts. He also mentioned that they have no implicit or explicit prejudices, enmities or hidden agendas against anyone, and that they sincerely and cordially call on everyone to work together to set a new stage in the framework of stability, safety, justice and respect. This change has raised questions about Ankara's real motive, whether it aims to improve its foreign relations or it simply seeks to compensate for the losses incurred by its regional policies, relieve the pressures imposed on it and to penetrate the fronts that counter its role in the region.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Regional Cooperation, Appeasement
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Mervat Zakaria
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Uncovering the limitations of the Chinese Iranian agreement The Economic Cooperation Agreement signed between Iran and China in March 2021 unfolded a development plan that includes China injecting $ 400 billion into various sectors of the Iranian economy. This grants Tehran an opportunity to increase the pressures imposed on the new US administration, regarding resumption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action held with the P5+1 in 2015, as well as confronting the surrounding regional threats and alleviating internal pressures by improving the Iranian standard of living.
  • Topic: Economics, International Cooperation, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: China, Iran, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Karam Saeed
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The stripping of a young man on June 8, by Tunisian police in the district of Sidi Hassine, west of the capital Tunis, has sparked a wave of angry protests that swept the whole country. The popular tensions do not stem only from a rejection of violations by the security forces of the cabinet headed by Hichem El Mechichi. Rather they are being stoked by the escalating political polarization among the presidency, the cabinet and the parliament. This is accompanied with the underperformance of state institutions failing to carry out their essential functions, in addition to the deteriorating living conditions, the messy monetary policies, increasing reliance on borrowing from other countries, while at the same time cutting subsidies. All of this triggered the recent wave of protests.
  • Topic: Economics, Protests, Institutions, Police
  • Political Geography: North Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Hussam Ibrahim
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: After the announcement of the victory of Ebrahim Raisi, Iran's hard-line judiciary chief, various analysts raised questions about the future of US-Iranian relations, particularly in light of major determinants. The most prominent of which is Ebrahim Raisi himself, who is subject to US sanctions, and his term, which may coincide with reaching a new nuclear agreement between Washington and Tehran, as well as the current debate in Washington’s political circles regarding the situation in Iran.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Elections, Hassan Rouhani
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Mahmoud Qassem
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: About a year and a half following the first Berlin conference on the Libyan crisis held in January 2020, the ‘Berlin 2’ conference was held on June 23, 2021 raising a number of questions. Some of the questions pertain to the future of this crisis and the outcome of such interactions, in light of the significant momentum accompanying the current internal and external developments. The post ‘Berlin 2"’conference interactions were shaped according to two tracks, one of which is optimistic about the possibility of building on the outcomes of the conference and adopting a settlement path in Libya, while the other is loaded with anticipation and uncertainty, particularly with the ongoing challenges and issues that may undermine any future developments.
  • Topic: Conflict, Negotiation, Crisis Management, Conference
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Libya, Germany
  • Author: Rania Makram
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Israel and Iran are witnessing significant political changes that affected the ruling elites. The developments came in the wake of early legislative elections held in Israel in March leading to the formation of a new coalition government headed by Naftali Benett, leader of the right-wing party Yamina. In Iran, presidential elections held on June 18, were won by hardline chief justice Ebrahim Raisi. The internal political dynamics in Tel Aviv and Tehran cast a shadow on the whole political landscape in both countries, and are projected to have an impact on the trajectory of the non-traditional conflict between the two sides, which escalated over the past few months.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, International Relations, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Anwar Ibrahim
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The election, which was held in Ethiopia on Monday, June 21, 2021, was the most complicated election that the country has witnessed in more than three decades, or, more accurately, since the 1994 constitution was approved. The reason is that this election was held amid lots of internal challenges, not to mention the strong criticism of its legitimacy (both domestically and internationally) even before it was held. Ethiopians are warily looking forward to the results, which are supposed to be announced within a few days, despite that it is not unlikely that these results will escalate the tensions in an already unrest-ridden country.
  • Topic: Government, Elections, Conflict, Political Parties
  • Political Geography: Africa, Ethiopia, Tigray
  • 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: Ahmed Nazif
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The political crisis in Tunisia has been spiraling over the past months with no solution in sight. The reason, in part, is that the country’s constitution, approved in 2014, features complex intertwined interests of the governmental institutions. This situation eventually led to the current conflict between the president, on one side, and the parliament and the government, on the other. In an attempt to resolve the current gridlock, President Kais Saied, on several occasions, called for a radical change of the current political system, while the Islamist Ennahda Movement and its allies fear that they might lose the electoral privileges they have gained thanks to the power-sharing system and the current voting system. The last of Saeid’s calls came up more detailed and within a clearer framework to be shaped by “national dialogue.”
  • Topic: Government, Constitution, Political Crisis, Dialogue
  • Political Geography: North Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Mustafa Gamal Omar
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: While many Libyans look forward to implement the outcome of the Berlin II Conference on Libya and achieve stability across their country, others believe that the first steps towards such stability should be through breaking the deadlock on unresolved issues. Such issues require urgent but decisive action, and the most prominent of which is the reopening of the coastal road between Sirte and Misrata. The announcement on June 20, 2021, by head of the National Unity Government, Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah, that the main coastal highway will be re-opened, following months of talks on a ceasefire, has revived Libyan hopes. The move is projected to yield significant political, security and economic benefits for the country. However, according to media reports circulated in late June, the 5+5 committee, formally named the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission, decided to put off the re-opening of the vital highway, claiming that only damages will be repaired, which made the situation murky once again. The 5+5 committee, on July 2, dispelled the confusion by announcing that the highway linking Sirte to Misrata will be re-opened over the next week upon the completion of maintenance work. Member of the committee, Major General Faraj Al-Sousaa, confirmed that arrangements were underway for the re-opening.
  • Topic: Government, Armed Forces, Conflict, Ceasefire
  • Political Geography: Libya, North Africa
  • Author: Abdel Latif Hegazy
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: On June 7, 2021, Ali Erbaş, President of Directorate of Religious Affairs in Turkey, and İbrahim Ärän, Director of the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), signed a cooperation protocol to establish a religious channel for children, which would be the first of its kind in Turkey. Within this context, Erbaş, said, "We have not been able to present Islamic values to children over the past years, since we used to show them animated cartoons designed by foreign companies." He emphasized the need to exert efforts to sustain children with correct religious knowledge. The government’s establishment of a religious channel for children has raised questions regarding the dimensions and motives of this step currently, particularly since there is a Turkish tendency to politicize and use religion to serve the political and electoral motives of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
  • Topic: Politics, Religion, Children, Islamism, Erdogan
  • Political Geography: Turkey
  • Author: Muthana Al-Obeidi
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The New Mashriq Plan, which was announced in the Baghdad tripartite summit (which brought together president Abdel-Fattah El-sisi of Egypt, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and the Iraqi prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi), stimulated a lot of analyses, which reflected two opposing views. Some analysts seemed to be overly optimistic about the outcomes of this Iraqi-Egyptian-Jordanian project. On the other hand, others adopted a more skeptical, even pessimistic, attitude, believing that it will fail to achieve its purpose, on account of the many challenges it has to face. Despite all the analyses available about the project, questions are still being raised, such as: How did the project develop? What is its economic agenda? What about its political dimensions? And, last but not least, what will its future be like?
  • Topic: Economics, Politics, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Egypt, Jordan
  • Author: Ahmed Nazif
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: On the 64th anniversary of the Republic, President Kais Saied chose to declare ‘state of imminent danger’, invoking the constitution shaped by the Islamist Ennahda movement. On July 25, Saied took exceptional decisions ousting the government led by Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, freezing the activities of parliament, and stripping parliament members of legal immunity. He considers the measures necessary for saving the state. The political forces took different stands depending on their position in the political hierarchy as well as their closeness to President Saeid.
  • Topic: Corruption, Government, Politics, Governance
  • Political Geography: North Africa, Tunisia
  • 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: Rania Makram
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Iran’s water shortage crisis is neither new or surprising and was predicted by experts and officials several years ago. As far back as 2015, former Iranian agriculture minister, Isa Kalantari, warned that water scarcity would force 50 million Iranians to leave the country. Later, he claimed that a 'water war' might hit rural areas. However, this early warning has not triggered an effective policy to preempt or solve the crisis already hitting the country. More than 12,000 villages have run out of water and around 7,000 rely entirely on water deliveries by tankers, according to Hamid-Reza Mahbubfar, a member of Environmental Risks and Sustained Development. The ecologist explained that 90 percent of surface and underground water resources have been used up. The water crisis triggered a series of political upheavals due to its implications for the population in affected villages and towns. In recent weeks, protests broke out in several Iranian cities over water scarcity and the resulting environmental problems.
  • Topic: Environment, Natural Resources, Water, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Hamdy Abdul Rahman
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Two years after the overthrow of Sudan’s former president Omar al-Bashir, political transition is going through a critical and highly complicated phase. The government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is facing diverse challenges and hurdles, including widespread popular protests against fuel and consumer price increases, as well as resurgence of violence in Darfur region. If the situation remains unchanged, the country can fall in a fresh structural crisis that would prompt key figures of the ousted regime to make a comeback to power. It should be noted that over the past decade, prior to the fall of al-Bashir regime, had already faced huge challenges. The secession of South Sudan caused economic shocks to Sudan, while the civil war did not only damage the Sudanese economy, but also caused an increase in the number of refugees and internally displaced persons. This article seeks to discuss the country’s political transition and challenges facing it while also explaining what the interim government should do to bring the country back to the right track.
  • Topic: Government, Displacement, Crisis Management, Transition
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan, South Sudan
  • Author: Hussam Ibrahim
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: On July 25, 2021, Tunisian President Kais Saied announced a series of decisions, most notably the dismissal of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and freezing the Parliament for 30 days. Although there is widespread internal support for these decisions, both at the public level and among the political forces, the Ennahda movement has adopted a stand against them, based on a misinterpretation of the views of Western countries, particularly that of the US administration headed by Joe Biden. The Ennahda believes that Washington would reject or at least condemn President Saied's decisions. However, the US administration's official moves and statements reflect its implicit approval of Saied's decisions. This raises several questions about the nature of the Biden administration's stance and why Ennahda and liberal voices in Washington failed to force the US administration to adopt a position against those extraordinary decisions.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Elections, Parliamentarism, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: North Africa, Tunisia, United States of America
  • Author: Ammar Ali Hassan
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: It is normal and even realistic that the apparent political propensity of religious groups and organizations, led by the MB, would place the issue of "adaptation" on its agenda. Some groups are preoccupied with presenting themselves to the society by speech and presence in order to win its acceptance, particularly during the election seasons. Other groups are hostile and seek to subdue people and to change their ideas and ideals by force, refusing to advance on the map of society through peaceful settlements, where elections come as a key step. They view democracy as a "blasphemous process", which they should not consider or delve into.
  • Topic: Ideology, Violence, Islamism, Muslim Brotherhood
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Irfan Yar
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: As the US completes its troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, Taliban has seized security vacuum to launch massive assaults. The group has unleashed violent chaos across the country and captured more than two-third of the territory, as per senior EU official estimates. On one hand, the insurgents have tightened their grip on seizing the provinces through military means. On the other hand, the insurgents claim that they want to resolve the issue in peaceful ways. “We are committed to finding a diplomatic solution for Afghanistan; the US-Taliban Doha agreement and the Intra-Afghan dialogue are the proofs that the Taliban want to solve the issue through negotiations,”[ii] said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy leader of the Taliban, on Wednesday, in Doha. Furthermore, Taliban leaders urge governors, military leaders, and other Jamiat Islami party leaders to surrender and put an end to the 40-years long conflict via negotiations. So, the question is, why have the Taliban fighters intensified violence and, at the same time, stress on making peace?
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Taliban, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, South Asia, Kabul
  • Author: Mahmoud Gamal
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: Algeria's mediation endeavors are based on a well-established foreign policy of creating stability in the region and maintaining the status quo, for fear of any radical change that could lead to chaos and instability. This rule stems mainly from the political memory that has been lingering since the events of the ‘Black Decade’, which almost destroyed Algeria and its stability. This analysis highlights indications of the growing Algerian mediation endeavors in various recent crises in the region, such as the situation in Tunisia following president Kais Saied's decisions on July 25, 2021, the Libyan crisis and the complex political transition, the crisis of the Renaissance Dam between Egypt and Sudan on the one hand and Ethiopia on the other, as well as the crisis in Mali.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Transition, Mediation
  • Political Geography: Africa, Algeria, Ethiopia, Mali
  • Author: Hussam Ibrahim
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The United States, with its influential institutions, plays a significant role in influencing the course of regional dynamics in the Middle East. That is why, some regional political forces are keen to enter the American political to be able to assert some influence on Washington's position. The Ennahda movement in Tunisia is a clear example, particularly as it recognizes the importance of affecting the position of the US administration and pushing it to pursue its own interests during the current crisis with President Kais Saied. Accordingly and despite the Ennahda movement's denial of its recent contract with a PR company in Washington, the US Department of Justice confirmed the Ennahda's contract with Burson Cohn & Wolfe (BCW) dated July 28, 2021, only 3 days after the announcement of the extraordinary decisions of President Saied. Through this, the movement attempted to promote its alleged story of the ‘coup’, and to justify its position to the Biden administration, the Congress, the media and US think tanks. This raises several questions around the magnitude of the movement of the Ennahda within the US, and what messages it is attempting to deliver to US circles, and whether it will succeed in getting Washington's support on the current crisis.
  • Topic: Public Relations, Crisis Management, Ennahda Party
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, Tunisia, United States of America
  • Author: Nawar Samad
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: On July 26, 2021, Lebanese President Michel Aoun appointed former Prime Minister Najib Mikati, to form a new government, after Saad al-Hariri's apology ending a rough 9 months path of fruitless negotiations with President Aoun. Despite optimism surrounding the formation of the new government by Mikati, highlighted by President Aoun’s statement on August 14 that he hopes "white smoke" will appear soon with regards to the formation of a new government, a key question remains: Will Mikati succeed in dismantling the complications that hindered forming a new government, particularly with the emergence of new domestic and regional dilemmas?
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Military Affairs, Elections
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Ignacio Saiz
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institute for Development and Peace
  • Abstract: Of the many dimensions of inequality that the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified, inequality between countries is one of the most glaring, yet one of the least effectively addressed. While the pandemic’s immediate health impacts have been felt in countries across all income levels, its eco- nomic consequences have been particularly dev- astating in countries of the Global South. Fuelling these inequalities is the disparity of resources that countries count on to respond to the crisis. International cooperation has never been more essential to address this disparity and enable all countries to draw on the resources they need to tackle the pandemic and its economic fallout. Besides the provision of emergency financial support, wealthier countries and international financial institutions (IFIs) need to cooperate by lifting the barriers their debt and tax policies and practices impose on the fiscal space of low- and middle-income countries. As this article explores, such cooperation is not only a global public health imperative. It is also a binding human rights obli- gation. Framing it as such could play an impor- tant role in generating the accountability and political will that has so far been sorely lacking.
  • Topic: Fiscal Policy, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Erica Shein, Alexandra Brown
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: International Foundation for Electoral Systems
  • Abstract: Contentious elections are a stress test for governments. Trust is hard won, easily lost and very difficult to restore. Election audits can enhance voters’ confidence in the results, if they are grounded in the law and performed by well-trained officials, and follow a predictable, transparent and observable process. A new guide from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) focuses on the risk-limiting audit (RLA), a type of post-election tabulation audit that relies on statistical evidence to confirm that the election outcome is correct. Compared to other types of audits, RLAs can be more effective and efficient. The U.S. has been the primary laboratory for RLA testing, with more than 60 piloted and 10 states currently requiring or allowing them. A long-time partner of election administrators around the world, IFES is dedicated to expanding the range of tools available to reinforce confidence in the electoral process and ensure that outcomes reflect the will of the voters. Risk-Limiting Audits: A Guide for Global Use considers how RLAs could have global application and utility – particularly to build trust in election results. The guide provides a basic framework for testing RLAs in diverse contexts by outlining foundational prerequisites and operational, legal and regulatory considerations. IFES will continue to refine and expand on this primer as new findings emerge.
  • Topic: Elections, Risk, Audit
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Vladimer Papava, Vakhtang Charaia
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic and the global economic crisis caused by it presented the world with numerous severe problems. This economic crisis will henceforth also be referred to as the “coronomic crisis” which is based on the concept of “coronomics.” This term was created through the combination of the two words corona and economics and introduced in order to draw attention to the problem of the influence of the spread of the coronavirus on economies. One of the problems exacerbated by the coronomic crisis is the quick and significant growth of the public debt (the sum of the government’s domestic and external debts). It must be pointed out that according to standards, the overall external debt of a country is divided into several components: government, central bank, commercial banks, company loans and other sectors. The traditional question is as follows: should certain states fear the growth of the public debt despite the fact that the interest rate of the loans may not be particularly high? In a standard case, the answer to this question is yes;4 however, certain specific issues require clarification. For example, the proven indicator of public debt – its ratio to the gross domestic product (GDP),5 does not allow for the comparison of specific countries with one another, let alone being an impeccable measure of their success or failure. The analysis of a state’s economic capabilities is absolutely necessary as debts are taken both by rich as well as poor countries during extreme difficulties (like a pandemic) and economic advancement alike (for example, for infrastructural development).
  • Topic: GDP, COVID-19, Public Debt, Economic Crisis
  • Political Geography: Eurasia, Georgia
  • 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: Levan Bodzashvili
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: The purpose of the following article is, on the one hand, to introduce the current trends in the utilization of artificial intelligence in the field of national security and defense and, on the other hand, to initiate a research discussion in order to determine the necessity and the feasibility of the use of artificial intelligence for small countries like Georgia. We will also seek to define its importance at the strategic level in terms of ensuring integration and military compatibility. The article also incorporates strategic initiatives of a recommendatory nature which should be discussed in the security sphere as well as at the level of research organizations and the government. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the fastest growing field of technology which is already one of the top priorities in the national security strategies of most countries. The reason for this is that artificial intelligence technologies can alter the ways war is conducted.1 It enables defense, military, cyber security, intelligence and counterintelligence, information and cyber operations, logistics, manufacturing and strategic management/control of autonomous military vehicles. It has already been used by the United States, Israel, China, Russia and many other countries. Artificial intelligence also plays an important role in anticipating and planning national and geopolitical events such as, for example, the program of the director of the United States Intelligence Agency (IARPA)2 which conducts constant research in this area as well as more than 140 operational and research projects of the Central Intelligence Agency which use artificial intelligence. An important and also revolutionary project is SAGE3 which was developed by the Universities of Fordham, Stanford and Columbia in conjunction with the Intelligence Agency and which predicts geopolitical events through artificial intelligence-based projections. High-precision algorithms enable the predicting of events which is a crucial factor in reinsuring national security risks and threats.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, National Security, Science and Technology, Artificial Intelligence
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • 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: Grigol Julukhidze
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: The Three Seas Initiative (3SI) aims to strengthen ties in the region of the wider Central Europe (between the Baltic, Adriatic and Black Seas) which creates a solid foundation for economic development in terms of energy, transport, digital communication and the economy. It was established as a forum for cooperation between 12 countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Hungary. The area comprising the countries belonging to the Three Seas Initiative constitutes almost one-third of the total area of the European Union. Over 112 million people live there. The region is experiencing stable economic growth and a limited unemployment rate. The priority for the 3SI is to build a coherent and well-integrated infrastructure in Central Europe which will render the possibility to make up for development lags resulting from historical events. As a result, the infrastructural and economic inequalities of the common European market will be reduced and this will limit the division of the EU into less and more developed areas of integration. The most important added value of the Initiative is the assurance of political support at the highest level of state authorities for investments which have so far been a neglected field of cooperation between the Central European countries. The Three Seas is, therefore, pro-European and complementary to the existing regional cooperation formats (Ministerstwo Spraw Zagranicznych, 2020).
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Communications, Infrastructure, Economic Development
  • Political Geography: Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Georgia, Croatia, Latvia, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia
  • 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: Megi Benia
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: Since the end of the Cold War, with five waves of its enlargement, NATO remains committed to the open door policy. Even though these decisions have significantly strengthened the security of the Alliance, skepticism towards NATO enlargement stays on the agenda of debates in academic and policy circles. After regaining independence from the Soviet Union, each of the Baltic States clearly stated their desire to become members of European and EuroAtlantic organizations. In 2004, each of these states became full-fledged members of the North Atlantic Alliance. However, similar to the current situation, the accession of the Baltic States was not widely accepted in the academic and political circles of the time. While the Clinton administration did commit to “keep the membership door open” for the Baltics, neither official bodies nor professionals viewed the decision as a positive sign.1 Even George Kennan had made his case against the Baltic entrance into NATO underlining that historically these nations had been “part of Russia longer than they were part of anything else.”2 Despite all of the difficulties, the Baltic nations joined the Alliance and thus proved that this enlargement and the open door policy overall is a guarantor of the security of the Euro-Atlantic region. Therefore, using the example of the Baltic States, the paper will try to emphasize the importance of NATO enlargement for peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region. The paper will demonstrate three main areas where the Alliance benefited the most from this wave of enlargement: a) enhanced peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region by the increased number of democratic, economically sustainable countries in Europe; b) the increased defensibility of NATO’s eastern flank and c) the increased ability to strengthen NATO’s resilience towards non-traditional security threats.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, NATO, Alliance
  • Political Geography: Baltic States
  • 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: Gvantsa Chachanidze
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: One Belt, One Road is no doubt the most ambitious project of the century. The initiative was first announced by China’s President Xi Jinping in 2013. He said that China founded a massive infrastructure program that would involve 140 states and 30 international organizations. Xi’s grandiose ambition is to build a global network of infrastructure to ease commerce, investment and connectivity with China. Originally, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) consisted of the Economic and Maritime Silk Road. Eventually the Digital Silk Road, the Belt and Road Space Information Corridor and the Health Silk Road were added to the list. The BRI helps China gain economic advantage by sending goods to European and other foreign markets cheaper and faster than competitors while also ensuring low-cost access to natural resources via BRI corridors. In fact, the shortage of natural resources is a huge issue for both Chinese economics and society. China wants to establish a strong and wealthy society by 2049 by increasing competitiveness and ensuring stable energy imports. The New Silk Road has been continuously portrayed by China’s authorities as an economic cooperation project based on a “win-win” collaboration that promotes global peace and development.
  • Topic: Markets, Infrastructure, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • 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: Tato Kvamladze
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: Some defense economists argue that the full-scale self-sufficiency of the defense industry, which can also be termed defense autarky, may not be necessary for future wars. Due to weapon systems becoming increasingly sophisticated and highly technological, producing these systems requires the growing importation of components and sub-systems for the manufacturing of indigenous and advanced weapons and equipment; even the United States defense contractors import components and sub-systems from many different foreign countries. “The transformation of arms production has created opportunities for many states. Through defense industrial partnerships, recipient states can now exploit foreign component technology and technical knowledge to produce advanced military systems.” Therefore, no country has a comprehensive domestic defense-industrial base (DIB) because all countries rely on technology imports. Even though defense autarky is not necessary, some countries with strong or moderate economies are still trying to develop an autonomous DIB to decrease the influence of arms supplier countries. However, even countries with developed economies have weaknesses in designing, developing and producing advanced weapon systems because they “suffer from shortages of skilled personnel and sufficient scientific and technical infrastructure to pursue breakthroughs and applied research in many critical defense technologies.”
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Military Affairs, Defense Industry
  • Political Geography: Eurasia, Georgia
  • Author: Erekle Iantbelidze
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: The transfer of the international political reality to a new multi-polar prism makes geopolitics, as one of the directions of interdisciplinary education, more important in the current situation. The development of digital and scientific technologies has moved the phenomenon of the balance of power to a new stage and for a number of states and intergovernmental organizations, the term geopolitics has become the flagship of security strategy, cultural domination and democratic processes. In terms of the new “geopolitical commission,” the action plan of Ursula von der Leyen rests on two main principles – Europe’s climate and digital transition (European Parliament, 2020). Therefore, in the conditions of a war of values, geopolitics and digitalization, technological development has become a super-important component that the European Union is attempting to bring to the forefront as it wrestles with the world’s foremost states (China, India, Russia, Turkey). As the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, stated, Europe must not become a playground for other great powers and it must take the role of a geopolitical leader in the world (Barigazzi, 2019). It must also be pointed out that the geopolitical nature of Europe also envisages the development and gradual expansion of its neighborhood policy. That said, the associated partners within the Eastern Partnership (EaP) format (Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine) have bigger ambitions and goals than the development of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) and the full implementation of the Association Agreement (AA) (European Commission, 2019).
  • Topic: Science and Technology, European Union, Geopolitics, Free Trade
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Megi Benia
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: NATO is a major military organization responsible for security in the Euro-Atlantic space. Consequently, the current security environment in the world and, especially, in Europe stimulates debates about NATO’s readiness to resist an armed attack. However, these debates are normally held around the Alliance’s Article 5 as a key component of collective defense and in this process, the principles of Article 3 are ignored, something which is a wrong approach. NATO’s Article 3 states that: “In order to more effectively achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack” (NATO, Resilience and Article 3 2020). Therefore, fulfilling obligations under Article 3 is a crucial part of the organization’s main idea of collective defense as it enables NATO to fulfil the obligations of Article 5. However, one must remember that in today’s unpredictable security situation, “capacity to resist armed attack” (NATO, Resilience and Article 3 2020) means not only military readiness. To be able to deploy rapidly during operations or a potential armed attack, military forces need the support of transport systems, satellite communications and power supplies, etc. However, it is a well-known fact that these systems are highly vulnerable during an attack in both peace and war.
  • Topic: Security, NATO, Infrastructure, Resilience
  • Political Geography: Europe, United States of America
  • Author: Ryan C. Berg
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: urbulent politics and a deep shakeup in Brasilia have many concerned for the stability of Jair Bolsonaro’s administration. The stampede of ministerial exits started early this week with the resignation of foreign minister Ernesto Araújo. The defense minister followed suit shortly thereafter. By day’s end, six ministers had either resigned or moved to new posts — about one-third of Bolsonaro’s cabinet. Perhaps more concerning than the political overhaul was what transpired one day after the ministerial shakeup: the leadership restructuring within Brazil’s armed forces — occurring, no less, one day before the 57th anniversary of the military coup. The heads of all three major branches — the army, the navy, and the air force — resigned en masse, purportedly over concerns for their independence, handing Bolsonaro the opportunity to handpick their successors. Brazil witnessed something analogous only once before — in 1977, under the turbulent rule of military dictator Ernesto Geisel. This has left some Brazil watchers fretting that an insecure Bolsonaro could be laying the foundations “for his own January 6.”
  • Topic: Politics, Military Affairs, Authoritarianism, Democracy, Populism, Jair Bolsonaro
  • Political Geography: Brazil, Latin America
  • Author: Tyson Barker
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: The EU and the United States are expected to launch a Trade and Technology Council (TTC) on the sidelines of the US-EU Summit in mid-June, which could present a rare opportunity to jumpstart the EU-US technology relationship. Against the backdrop of rapid technological change, a transatlantic digital technology community could be a 21st-century answer to the Coal and Steal Community – a big democratic project that reaches across borders, knits like-minded communities together in a manner that reinforces shared values, and codifies standards of market access, increased interdependence, and intensified political dialogue.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Governance, European Union, Democracy, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Europe, United States of America
  • Author: Shahin Vallée, Daniela Gabor
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: The ECB has been forced – in part by the COVID-19 crisis – to review its bilateral arrangements with foreign central banks. But the recent changes made by the ECB fall short of the European Commission’s ambitions to boost the international role of the euro. We suggest the ECB should put in place an alternative three-pillar framework to improve the international role of the ECB and cement its pivotal role in the international financial system.
  • Topic: European Union, Banks, International System, European Commission
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Anna-Lena Kirch
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: Overall, as the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, the EU proved capable to act. Crisis management addressing the pandemic benefited from the fact that Germany held the presidency of the EU Council in the second half of 2020 and could build upon its traditional approach: developing European capabilities, including all governments, and being prepared for the unexpected. Now, going forward, Germany needs to use its experience with complexity and uncertainty to help form a strategic doctrine for the EU.
  • Topic: European Union, Crisis Management, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany
  • 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: Markus Jaeger
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: The Biden administration has just issued its Interim National Security Strategic Guidance. The guidance document states the need to “build back better at home” and acknowledges that “international economic policies must serve all Americans” – a theme often referred to as “foreign policy for the middle class”. While the interim guidance does not preclude cooperation with China in selected policy areas, it is unambiguous in considering China a strategic competitor. The prospect of intensifying China-US geopolitical and (geo)economic competition is bad news for Germany, which has high value trading and investment relationships with both countries.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, National Security, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Germany, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Milan Nič, Julian Rappold
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: The next months will show whether Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán can retain his influence in Europe even outside its largest political family. Having left the center-right European People’s Party before his party was finally pushed out, Orbán is now trying to regroup and unite the populist and Euroskeptic forces in European Parliament. What looks like a defeat could still be turned to his advantage if it leads to a lasting reshuffle of political alliances and strengthens illiberal voices.
  • Topic: Politics, European Union, Populism, European Parliament
  • Political Geography: Europe, Hungary
  • 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: Christoph Sperfeldt
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Millions of people worldwide are stateless or do not have proof of their legal identity. As a result, they face daily obstacles from lack of access to a range of social, political, and economic rights. Around 40 percent of the identified stateless population live in the Asia Pacific region, with the majority of them residing in the countries of Southeast Asia. While some of these people are refugees or migrants, most belong to minorities living in the country where they were born. Their lack of proof of nationality or other forms of legal identity poses significant challenges to human rights, governance, and development. International conventions aim at improving their status, but have been poorly subscribed. Much of the work to solve the problems will have to be done at the national level, where interest is increasing. Since the forced mass exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar, many have reached the shores of Malaysia and Indonesia, driving home the implications of unresolved situations of statelessness.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Citizenship, Stateless Population, Nationality
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Malaysia, Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Charles Dunst
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s close relationship with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has led scholars and policymakers alike to suggest that Beijing’s backing will keep him in power. While Hun Sen himself seems to believe this to be true, his reliance on China is actually enflaming Cambodian discontent to such an extent that his planned patrimonial succession is at risk. Given the fragility of regimes mid-succession, Hun Sen’s Chinese shelter is augmenting the potential of his clan’s fall. Yet as Hun Sen faces increased domestic opposition, he will only further deepen ties with China in hopes of remaining in power, thereby creating a vicious cycle from which escaping will prove difficult.
  • Topic: International Relations, Power Politics, Bilateral Relations, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Cambodia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Laura Brewington, Kelli Kokame, Nancy Lewis
  • Publication Date: 09-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Climate change impacts--temperature and rainfall changes, extreme events, sea-level rise, and ocean acidification--are amplifying health risks in vulnerable populations throughout the Pacific Islands, and also influence their mobility. This nexus of climate change, health, and migration is evident in the experience of the Marshall Islands. The nation and its population are dispersed over almost two million square kilometers of ocean, with sizeable diasporas in the United States. Climate impacts in the Marshall Islands exacerbate ongoing health threats, such as limited drinking water supplies, inadequate nutrition, and poor infrastructure. The out-migration of Marshallese is largely motivated by health, economic, education, and environmental reasons; therefore, planning for migrant movements should include adaptation strategies that also reduce health risks. A better understanding of how health, mobility, and climate change interact will help shape policy responses and provide useable climate information for focused, timely interventions that maximize health and well-being among populations in motion.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Health, Migration, Infrastructure
  • Political Geography: Asia-Pacific, Marshall Islands
  • Author: Allison Peters, Pierce MacConaghy
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Third Way
  • Abstract: Malicious cyber activity poses one of the greatest threats to America’s national, economic, and personal security. Yet, the perpetrators of these crimes largely operate with pure impunity and face little consequences for their actions. This is particularly the case for cybercriminals who cost the US economy anywhere from $57 billion to $109 billion in 2016 alone.1 Since 2015, the United States has imposed targeted sanctions (e.g., asset freezes, travel bans) on over 300 individuals and entities in response to malicious cyber activity.2 Many of these sanctions were issued under the cyber-related sanctions program administered by the Department of Treasury and established by a series of Executive Orders under Presidents Obama and Trump and bills passed by Congress.3 Sanctions have largely been imposed on individuals with ties to Iran, Russia, and North Korea, and, in about half of these cases, sanctions have followed indictments. An overwhelming majority of these sanctions have targeted individuals with suspected links to government entities and, only recently, have cyber sanctions targeted cybercriminals.4 As targeted sanctions increasingly become a tool deployed by the US government to punish malicious cyber actors, it remains unclear whether they are having an impact in changing behavior. Research on the impact of sanctions more broadly indicates that sanctions can be an effective tool to impose consequences on bad actors and change their actions when employed multilaterally, as part of a coherent strategy, and effectively messaged.5 However, imposing sanctions on malicious cyber actors without continuously reassessing their impact and the expected reciprocal actions by the target(s), risks a number of potentially negative outcomes. While Congress introduced legislation in the 116th Congress to impose new or codify existing cyber-related sanctions into law,6 it has not exercised the necessary oversight over the Executive Branch’s strategy in issuing cyber-related sanctions and determining their efficacy. With other countries now following America’s lead in issuing these sanctions, the time is ripe for the new Congress to push for an inter-agency, holistic assessment of the impact of US cyber-related sanctions.7 And with cybercrime increasingly threatening all sectors of the US economy, Congress must call for an evaluation as to whether sanctions on non-state cybercriminals should increasingly be used.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Sanctions, Cyberspace, Digitalization
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Garcia, Pat Shilo
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Third Way
  • Abstract: The 116th Congress experienced events like no other in American history, including unprecedented levels of malicious cyber activity. Global estimates say that ransomware attacks have increased by 148% since February 2020, with many US hospitals and schools falling victim and having their operations suspended.1 Leading up to and during the pandemic, Members of the 116th Congress responded and drafted cybersecurity legislation, introducing 316 bills to tackle the issue—a 40% increase from the previous Congress. This memo presents a comprehensive analysis of the cybersecurity legislation introduced in the 116th Congress and is a successor to our memo assessing the cybersecurity legislation in the previous Congress. Unlike the 115th Congress, the two chambers of the 116th were each under the control of a different party. Still, more than half of the introduced bills were bipartisan, including 85% of the bills signed into law. However, only 11% of the introduced bills focused on imposing consequences for the human actors behind cyberattacks, such as imposing sanctions or strengthening laws to prosecute criminals to hold them accountable for their actions. Following the trend of past congresses, most of the bills focused on protecting data and securing critical infrastructure. But while defending data and infrastructure is important, the lack of legislation to address the challenges of imposing consequences on the human actor suggests that Congress should prioritize introducing and passing bipartisan legislation that reduces the impunity with which malicious cyber actors, particularly cybercriminals, act. Here are the main takeaways from the bills introduced last Congress: Cybersecurity-related legislation increased by 40% since the 115th Congress. Of the 316 bills introduced, 14 became law, with nine related to appropriations or agency authorizations legislation. However, only 36 of the 316 bills introduced in the 116th Congress, and just three of the 14 provisions signed into law, focused on imposing consequences on the human actors behind cyberattacks. Cybersecurity remains a largely bipartisan issue. Over 50% of all legislation and 85% of all bills signed into law had a bipartisan co-sponsor.
  • Topic: Security, Science and Technology, Cybersecurity, Legislation, Cyberspace
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Garcia
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Third Way
  • Abstract: With Congress struggling to pass stand-alone cybersecurity legislation, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is now the primary vehicle to pass all matters of cybersecurity legislation. Because the annual defense bill typically requires provisions to have a tie to national security, other cyber issues, like those pertaining to criminal justice, tend to be excluded. As a result, the authorities and resources awarded to Department of Defense (DoD) cyber mission far outpace those provided to civilian agencies responsible for partnering with state, local, private, and international partners. With ransomware and cyber incidents at an all-time high, Congress should either include a new title in future Defense bills to bolster US cyber enforcement and civilian agencies’ capabilities or pass a cyber-omnibus bill to fix policy gaps and provide commensurate funds to federal and local agencies to combat malicious cyber activity. In this paper, we analyzed the last five NDAAs (2017-2021) to chronicle Washington’s reliance on the NDAA to shepherd through a wide swath of cybersecurity legislation. We found that: Members of Congress included 290 cyber-related provisions in the past five NDAAs, with the past two NDAAs accounting for 60% of those provisions. In fact, the FY 2021 NDAA contained 380% more cyber-related provisions than the FY 2017 NDAA. The 179 cyber-provisions included in the past two NDAAs far outpace the 14 cybersecurity bills that the 116th Congress passed (two of which were those NDAAs). Across 13 categories, three of the top four were aimed at the DOD core cyber missions, such as changing organizational processes and structures, protecting DoD assets, and engaging with foreign partners while deterring nation-state adversaries. In FY 2020, the number of non-DoD-related cyber provisions began increasing, such as supply-chain security and industrial policy, critical infrastructure protection, and election security. The provisions in these NDAAs helped improve US offensive cyber capabilities, implement measures to deter cyber adversaries, and shore up our cybersecurity defenses, all of which are needed. But because cybersecurity is a multifaceted issue that expands beyond national security and touches on criminal justice, workforce development, private-sector collaboration, and privacy issues, Congress must ensure it takes a holistic approach when creating cybersecurity laws.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Science and Technology, Military Strategy, Legislation, Cyberspace
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Josh Kenway, Michael Garcia
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Third Way
  • Abstract: The process that determines when and how the US government discloses unknown cybersecurity vulnerabilities to relevant companies or withholds them for government purposes lacks sufficient accountability, transparency, and public trust. Malicious actors do not hesitate to exploit “zero-day vulnerabilities,” or vulnerabilities that a company has had zero days to patch, with Chinese-based hackers most recently using a zero-day in Microsoft Exchange Servers to infect hundreds of thousands of systems.1 Yet, the government also uses zero-days to carry out activities that are in the nation’s interest and, as a result, does not tell the impacted software or hardware vendor about the vulnerability. In this case, the government determines that the benefit of not disclosing the vulnerability outweighs the consequence of a bad actor potentially exploiting the vulnerability for nefarious purposes. In 2010, the US government created the Vulnerabilities Equities Process (VEP) to convene federal agencies that represent a range of national interests—including security, intelligence, foreign policy, commerce, and civil rights and liberties protection—to weigh distinct perspectives on how vulnerabilities should be patched or briefly kept open for law enforcement, intelligence gathering, or military purposes. However, the VEP is not codified in law and has failed to deliver greater transparency around government retention of vulnerabilities nor ensures accountability for the government’s decisions. Congress and the Biden administration should address deficiencies with the VEP to increase transparency, strengthen accountability, build public and industry trust, and establish a world-leading model for decision-making around what to do about high-value vulnerabilities. This paper details seven steps for the Biden administration to enhance transparency and accountability in the VEP while preserving government priorities, as well as flexibility for the defense of democratic values and institutions.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Science and Technology, Governance, Cybersecurity, Transparency
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Aaron Clarke
  • Publication Date: 09-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Third Way
  • Abstract: Cyber attacks in the United States continue to devastate and disrupt day-to-day operations in the private and public sectors. Marked by events like the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline that created gas shortages and increased prices, cybercrime impacts everyday citizens, even if they are not directly targeted by an attack. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported that in 2020 there were “over $4 billion in cybercrime losses reported to the U.S. government.”1 This growing cybersecurity threat has only been exacerbated by the rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and exposed network vulnerabilities from those working from home during the pandemic.2 In response to this influx of cyber attacks, the Biden Administration has taken steps to both bolster the federal government’s ability to detect and respond to cyber attacks as well as protect its own systems.3 The Department of Energy (DOE) and DHS have both made cybersecurity a top priority in their latest initiatives. President Biden called on DOE to launch a 100 day plan aimed at preventing disrupted services for electric utilities, and DHS announced a series of 60-day “sprints” to support private and public partners against ransomware.4 The FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act also created the first U.S. National Cyber Director, tasked to lead the implementation of U.S. cyber policy and strategy, and rapidly improve cybersecurity defense capabilities. Although ransomware attacks have spiked, the federal government has made inroads on combatting cyber criminals. The Cyber Enforcement Budget for FY2022 should continue funding and seek to build on the key improvements and actions taken by the Biden administration. In this guide, we will look at the budget implications for cyber enforcement, recommendations for Congress, and provide a detailed breakdown of the proposed budget’s funding allocations. Specifically, we recommend that Congress should: Restore the $15 million of funding cut from the State Homeland Security Program. The program provides critical grants to states that require recipients spend at least 10% of their grants on cybersecurity needs. Require an alignment of cybercrime goals and outcomes across law enforcement agencies within the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and Treasury. Ensure that federal agencies are prepared to implement President Biden’s cybersecurity executive order.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Science and Technology, Law Enforcement, Budget, Cybersecurity
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America