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  • Author: Anna Borshchevskaya
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Moscow is in Syria for the long haul and will continue to undermine American efforts there. In recent months, Moscow intensified its activities in Syria against the backdrop of a changing US administration. The Kremlin sent additional military policy units to eastern Syria, and continued diplomatic engagement through the Astana format, a process that superficially has international backing but in practice excludes the United States and boosts Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Moreover, Moscow also unveiled at its airbase in Syria a statue to the patron saint of the Russian army, Prince Alexander Nevsky. A growing Russian presence in Syria will further hurt Western interests.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Conflict, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Sahar Khan
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The international community is focused on the ongoing intra-Afghan peace process, which has steadied despite several challenges. There are two developments, however, that will have a lasting impact on the process: The International Criminal Court’s investigation into war crimes committed by the Taliban, Afghan forces, and US forces, and the strategic evolution of the Taliban as a legitimate political actor.
  • Topic: Security, International Law, Terrorism, Taliban, Conflict, Peace
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Russia, South Asia, Eurasia
  • Author: Pavel K. Baev
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The recent incidence of war in the Caucasus has shown that, when facing deep domestic troubles, Russia and Turkey demonstrate strikingly different patterns of international behavior. While Russia has become more cautious in responding to external challenges, Turkey has embarked on several power-projecting enterprises. Its forceful interference in the long-smoldering conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh took Russia by surprise and effectively secured a military victory for Azerbaijan. Moscow has assumed the main responsibility for terminating hostilities by deploying a peacekeeping force, but its capacity for managing the war zone and its commitment to deconflicting tensions with Turkey remain uncertain. The United States and the European Union have few levers for influencing this interplay of clashing agendas of local actors and regional powers and fewer reasons to trust Russian and Turkish leaders to put peacebuilding ahead of their ambitions.
  • Topic: Security, War, Geopolitics, Grand Strategy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Turkey, Caucasus, Middle East
  • Author: Agnieszka Legucka
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Russia in April this year updated its policy on international information security (IIS). Compared to the previous version of the document from 2013, Russia points to the possibility of an inter-state conflict as a result of activities in cyberspace. Russia also promotes the concept of “sovereign internet” and aims to increase its influence in the field of global regulations concerning the development of the network. The publication of the document confirms the priority for information security in the national security strategy and in the foreign policy of the Russian Federation.
  • Topic: Security, Internet, Non-Traditional Threats, Information Technology , Cyberspace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Anna Maria Dyner, Arkadiusz Legieć
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Taking advantage of the withdrawal of the U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan, Russia intends to strengthen its influence in that country by increasing contacts with the Afghan government and the Taliban. The aim is to become a key mediator in the peace process, which will enable it to influence the participants, increase control over the situation in Afghanistan, and use it in relations with the countries of the region. Russia’s policy may make the stabilisation of Afghanistan more difficult and undermine the effects of the efforts made by NATO countries during the stabilisation mission.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, NATO, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Russia, South Asia, Eurasia
  • Author: Łukasz Maślanka
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: France uses the idea of EU strategic autonomy as a tool in its own foreign policy. France’s aim is to redefine the Union’s partnership with the U.S. and NATO. Hence, the activity of President Emmanuel Macron in emphasising the differences between the positions of the U.S. and the EU, especially in relations with China and Russia. Macron’s rhetoric worries other European countries and hides the real problems in EU security policy, such as insufficient financing of the Common Security and Defence Policy as well as the lack of a clear definition of strategic autonomy.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, European Union, Strategic Autonomy
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, France, United States of America
  • Author: Agnieszka Legucka
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: So-called “sovereign internets”, which are networks cut off from the global internet, is attractive to authoritarian regimes such as Russia, China, and Iran. Russia declares that it has achieved the technical capacity to implement it, which would allow the Russian authorities more control over society but could cause problems for business. The Russian authorities therefore will limit its use to a preventive measure at key moments and for blocking foreign networks and communicators inside Russia to try to control public moods in the country.
  • Topic: Sovereignty, Internet, Networks, Cyberspace
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Agnieszka Legucka
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: During a meeting in Moscow on 11 January, the representatives of Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan discussed the situation after the ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict. The peacekeeping force of the Russian Federation located in NK remains the guarantor of the cessation of the fighting. The practice of Russian conciliation so far differs from that of UN peacekeeping operations and strengthens Russia’s military position in the region. A challenge for it will be Turkey’s growing ambitions in the South Caucasus, as well as the lack of an agreed status for NK, which in the future may lead to the resumption of military operations in this territory.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, United Nations, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh
  • Author: Aldo Ferrari, Eleonora Tafuro Ambrosetti, Maxim Matusevich, Marianne Belenkaya, Andrei Kolesnikov, Alicja Curanović, Alexander Graef, Paola Magri
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: What drives Russia’s foreign policy in Vladimir Putin’s times? Why did the Kremlin decide to annex Crimea, occupy South Ossetia, intervene in Syria, or give its blessing to Nord Stream II? When explaining Russia’s foreign policy, the consolidation of Putin’s autocratic tendencies and his apparent stability despite many economic and political challenges have contributed – at least in the West – to an excessive “Putin-centrism” and the relative neglect of other agents of domestic politics. As a result, many facets of the country’s foreign policy decisions are misunderstood or shrouded under a thin veil of vagueness and secrecy. This Report attempts to fill this gap, exploring the evolving distribution of political and economic power under the surface of Putin’s leadership to assess the influence of different “lobbies” on Russia’s foreign policy. Who decides what in Moscow? The answer, unsurprisingly, is not always “Vladimir Putin”. All of the contributions in the volume underline the complexity of Russia’s decision-making process beneath the surface of a monolithic and increasingly personalistic government.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Politics, Authoritarianism, Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, Eurasia
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: The year 2020 was characterized by the intensification of US-China confrontation and strategic competition, which had been pointed out in the Strategic Annual Report 2019, in all areas from military and security affairs as well as dominance in advanced technologies and supply chains to narratives on coronavirus responses. Amid this confrontation, the rules-based international order faced even more severe challenges; the multilateral framework established after World War II with the United Nations at its core lost its US leadership and fell into serious dysfunction. While the international community is struggling to cope with the rapidly expanding outbreak of the novel coronavirus, China has been moving to expand its influence through increasingly authoritarian and assertive domestic and international policies on the rule of law and territorial issues, as well as through economic initiatives such as the existing “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) and its responses to the pandemic. The confrontation with the United States is becoming more and more pronounced, and the Indo-Pacific region is turning itself into divided and contested oceans. In this transforming strategic environment, expressions of support for the vision of a rulesbased “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) that Japan has been promoting for the past several years, or announcements of similar visions have followed one after the other. The year 2020 also saw significant strengthening of the cooperative framework among four countries – Japan, the United States, Australia, and India (QUAD) – together with the enhancement of bilateral cooperation between countries in this group. At the same time, progress was also made in a regional cooperation framework that includes China with the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement in East Asia. The Strategic Annual Report 2020 looks back at major international developments since last year’s Report through the end of 2020, focusing on the transformation of the strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific region and the response of the international community.
  • Topic: International Relations, Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy, Science and Technology, Bilateral Relations, Multilateralism, COVID-19, Destabilization
  • Political Geography: Russia, Japan, China, Middle East, United States of America, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: James M. Acton
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Ambiguity about whether a weapon is nuclear-armed prior to its launch is an underappreciated, serious, and growing danger. Rising geopolitical tensions and the decay of arms control are exacerbating the risk that such pre-launch warhead ambiguity could lead to nuclear use in a crisis or conflict. Recent developments in technology—as well as potential future advances, such as the development of ambiguous intercontinental missiles—further add to the danger. A first step toward reducing these risks is to enhance awareness among decisionmakers of the causes and potential consequences of ambiguity. Unilateral and cooperative risk-mitigation measures could further reduce the danger of escalation, including in conflicts between the United States and Russia or the United States and China.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, United States of America
  • Author: Yehuda Shaffer, Stefan D. Cassella
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: In the past few years, a number of European banks have been implicated in money laundering scandals in countries such as Cyprus, Malta, Latvia, and, most recently, Scandinavia. Although European and international voices are putting pressure to take further action by all including the banks against this, the issue continues to emerge in the continent. In this short article, we attempt to explain this trend and how might it be resolved.
  • Topic: Crime, Economics, Finance, Business , Financial Crimes, Banks, Currency
  • Political Geography: Russia, Soviet Union, Latvia, Scandinavia, Cyprus, Malta
  • Author: Gabriel Delsol, Claire M. Metelits
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: For several decades, US security policy in West Africa focused on transnational terrorist organizations, domestic armed groups, and the general spread of instability. This article argues that an increase in digital authoritarianism in West Africa, facilitated by Russia and China, is an emerging threat and necessitates increased attention by the US security community.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Governance, Law, Authoritarianism, Cybersecurity
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, China, West Africa
  • Author: Hannan Hussain
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Despite limited numerical strength, al Qaeda exercises sufficient leverage over contending Taliban factions and continues to cultivate an enduring interest in attacking U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. To break the al Qaeda-Taliban nexus, Washington must upgrade its verification metrics, and initiate COVID-19 recovery assistance that limits al Qaeda’s influence-building in Afghanistan.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Terrorism, Taliban, Al Qaeda, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Russia, South Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Wilder Alejandro Sanchez
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Since achieving its independence after the fall of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has maintained warm relations with the United States. The country regards the United States both as a potential source for trade and investment and as a partner to balance the influence of Russia and China in Central Asia, a perspective which underlines the importance of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s February visit to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. During the visit, Pompeo was generous in his praise for Kazakhstan and highlighted the importance of bilateral ties, while criticizing China’s detention of hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, Kyrgyz, and ethnic Kazakhs in so-called “re-education” camps.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism, War, Bilateral Relations, Conflict, Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, Central Asia, Kazakhstan, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Neil Watts
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: While the global economy is shuddering under repeated blows from the coronavirus-induced economic contagion, North Korea continues to sustain its fortress economy. North Korea—known by its formal title as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)—continues to grab headlines amidst the global turmoil with its staged ballistic missile launches and, less noticeably, its ongoing illicit trade. Despite the combination of a comprehensive United Nations sanctions regime and stringent unilateral sanctions imposed by individual countries and the European Union, the isolated country somehow continues undeterred, and sustains its nuclear and ballistic missile programs without missing a beat. A great deal has been written about the regime’s ability to prevail, and many theories abound, but the inevitable conclusion is the old adage that all roads lead to Rome—or, in this case, Beijing.
  • Topic: Sanctions, Business , Multilateralism, Illegal Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Asia, North Korea, United States of America
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: What’s new? Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy came to power in 2019 promising to bring peace to Ukraine’s Donbas region, where government and Russian-backed separatist forces are locked in low-level combat. Yet a full, sustained ceasefire remains elusive. Although casualties have dropped from their 2014-2015 peak, fighting continues to kill soldiers and civilians. Why does it matter? Each of the warring parties wants a ceasefire but only if it will lead to peace on its own terms. All prefer to tolerate continued fighting rather than stop the shooting under conditions they deem unfavourable. What should be done? A comprehensive ceasefire is likely unattainable under today’s political conditions. In its absence, the parties should pursue sectoral bilateral disengagements with clear humanitarian and related goals, even as they seek a durable political settlement through talks.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Peace, Armed Conflict
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: With the Syrian regime’s offensive in Idlib paused, the time is now for a deal sparing the rebellion’s last stronghold the full wrath of reconquest. The parties should pursue an improved ceasefire including the regime, Russia, Turkey and the Islamist militants entrenched in the province. What’s new? A Russian-backed Syrian regime offensive against rebel-held Idlib halted when Russia and Turkey negotiated a ceasefire in March. Turkey is sending reinforcements, signalling a military response to what it deems a national security threat. For now, this step may dissuade Russia from resuming the offensive, but the standoff appears untenable. Why does it matter? Successive Russian-Turkish ceasefires in Idlib have collapsed over incompatible objectives, diverging interpretations and exclusion of the dominant rebel group, Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is UN-sanctioned and considered by Russia and others a terrorist organisation. A Russian-backed regime offensive to retake Idlib likely would result in humanitarian catastrophe. What should be done? All actors should seek a more sustainable ceasefire – optimally including HTS, notwithstanding legitimate concerns about the group – that avoids the high military, political and humanitarian price of another offensive. Turkey should push HTS to continue distancing itself from transnational militancy and display greater tolerance for political and religious pluralism.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Conflict, Syrian War, Islamism, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: To help Ukraine find peace, the EU, NATO, and member states must seek new approaches to arms control discussions with Russia and European security as a whole. They should also consider a more flexible sanctions policy, such that progress in Ukraine may lead to incremental easing. What’s new? Russia’s Ukraine policy, including its military intervention, is driven both by Moscow’s goals in Ukraine itself and its longstanding desire to revise Europe’s security order. Western responses are similarly driven by both Ukraine-specific and Europe-wide interests. A sustainable peace plan must address both sets of factors. Why does it matter? Efforts to make peace in Ukraine by solving problems specific to Ukraine only will fail, because the causes of the conflict are both local and geostrategic. A truly sustainable peace should address European security as a whole to make Russia, its neighbours and the entire continent safer. What should be done? European states should engage Russia in discussions of European security, including regional and sub-regional arms limitations. They should also consider adjusting the current sanctions regime to allow for the lifting of some penalties if Russia contributes to real progress toward peace.
  • Topic: NATO, War, Sanctions, European Union, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Jakob Lindgaard, Moritz Pieper, Cecilie Felicia Stokholm Banke
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Turkey-NATO relations are still sufficiently strong to keep the relationship from the brink, a new DIIS-report finds. But more dynamics are also gaining strength to render further troubles increasingly likely. The future of Turkey’s NATO membership has been the subject of heated debate of late, from both outside and within Turkey. What ramifications will Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air anti-missile system have for Turkey’s NATO future? Has the Syrian conflict exposed deep strategic differences between Turkey and other key NATO members? In response to such questions, a number of foreign policy practitioners as well as researchers and long-standing Turkey watchers have cautioned that a number of centripetal forces – dynamics that keep member states together - remain sufficiently strong at a structural level to keep Turkey-NATO relations on track. There seems to be widespread agreement on both sides that the alternative is simply worse. At the same time, the report also argues that these centripetal forces are losing their strength, and that centrifugal forces pulling the alliance apart are gaining strength and salience. Barring wild card developments, the net result is that this will increase the likelihood of further troubles ahead for Turkey-NATO relations The report is based on an analysis of the published policy commentary, scholarly literature, as well as a series of semi-structured interviews conducted with practitioners and academic experts during the course of 2019.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, NATO, Diplomacy, International Organization
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Turkey, Middle East, Denmark