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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: Bob Deen, Sam Roggeveen, Wouter Zweers
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: The Union State of Russia and Belarus was forged in the 1990s through a series of bilateral treaties but has largely remained a paper tiger – at least until now. For well over two decades Belarusian President Lukashenko has had a complicated love-hate relationship with the Kremlin, milking the Russian Federation for energy subsidies and other economic benefits while simultaneously zealously guarding his country’s sovereignty and shielding its state-owned enterprises from Russian takeovers. Although co-operation in the military domain has advanced considerably, the more far-reaching provisions of the Union State, such as a joint constitution, monetary union and a single energy market, have never materialized. While Belarus has generally aligned its foreign policy outlook with the Russian Federation and acceded to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, at various moments Lukashenko tried to keep his geopolitical options open as his relations with the Kremlin deteriorated. Among other things, he sought closer relations with the European Union following the 2008 Georgia conflict and the 2014 Ukraine crisis. The EU, in turn, has alternated between defending its democratic values by imposing sanctions on Lukashenko and his regime for human rights abuses, and then lifting those again a few years later, hoping to lure Belarus away from Russia’s sphere of influence. These hopes proved to be in vain. The Presidential elections of August 2020 and their repressive aftermath have again led to a turning point in Belarus’ relations with the West and with the Russian Federation. Relying on Russian support to remain in power and facing a series of European sanctions, Lukashenko is now again under pressure by the Kremlin to make far-reaching concessions and to advance the integration of Belarus and Russia within the Union State framework. As both the stability of the Lukashenko regime and the outcome of the integration process remain uncertain, this report identifies six scenarios for the future of Belarus and further elaborates the consequences of four of them.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Sanctions, Military Affairs, European Union, Integration
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Belarus
  • 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: Giorgi Surmava
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: On December 21, 2020, by Decree #803 of the President of the Russian Federation, the Northern Fleet became the only one throughout the history of Russia to have the authority of a military district. In particular, the decree states that in order to ensure the integrity and inviolability of the territory of the Russian Federation, the Northern Fleet should be considered a strategic-territorial interdisciplinary union of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation which has the tasks of a military district. The Northern Fleet is responsible for the largest territorial zone of Russia. This territory is mostly an ice desert which has strategic importance for Russia. It runs along the North Sea Route which is 7,300 nautical miles from Yokohama to Rotterdam (11,200 nautical miles through the Indian Ocean). In addition, this territory contains a large supply of hydrocarbons and other mineral or marine resources. The shorter lines between the US and Russian strategic missiles and their intended targets also pass through this area.
  • Topic: Natural Resources, Military Affairs, Geopolitics, Navy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Georgia
  • Author: Aleksandre Kvakhadze
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: On November 25, 2020, a document titled "Plan of measures for the formation of a common socio-economic space between the Russian Federation and Abkhazia" was published on the government websites of the Russian Federation and internet resources belonging to the unrecognized Abkhazia. The document was signed by Aslan Bzhania, the de facto president of Abkhazia, Alexander Ankvab, the prime minister, and Dimitri Kozak, the deputy head of the Russian presidential administration. The document consists of 45 paragraphs and covers issues such as customs and tax legislation, energy, healthcare, education, social security, economy and real estate. Alongside every paragraph in the document, the relevant responsible agency and the estimated years of its implementation is indicated. Most of the agreement provisions entail the harmonization of the legislations of Russia and Abkhazia. This document is a logical continuation of the recognition of Abkhazia's sovereignty by Russia in 2008, and the subsequent agreements. Notable among these agreements is the 2014 "Alliance and Integration Agreement", which, among many other clauses, includes the transfer of command of Abkhazia's de facto armed forces to the Russian General Staff. The aforementioned document was met with mixed assessment in Abkhazian political circles and media. Inal Khashig, a journalist and editor-in-chief of the “Chegemskaya Pravda” newspaper, positively assesses the prospect of an increase in pensions and budget salaries under the agreement, but is wary of a number of points in the document.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Government, Governance, Legislation, Society
  • Political Geography: Russia, Caucasus, Georgia, Abkhazia
  • Author: Giorgi Surmava, Zurab Batiashvili, David Batashvili, Nika Petriashvili
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: The following anthology is dedicated to the Black Sea security situation, an issue that drew particularly focused attention following the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia, when the Kremlin began rapid militarization of the peninsula, while also strengthening its military capabilities in the entire Black Sea basin. The Russian-Ukrainian War was soon followed by the active intervention of Russia in the Syrian conflict, further emphasizing the importance of the Black Sea, as it was precisely through the Black Sea that Russia aided hostilities in Syria and established communication lines with a Russian naval base there. Russia's active engagement in the Black Sea precipitated increased NATO interest towards the region. In recent years, NATO experts have been actively discussing the so-called "Black Sea dimension", that is, the need to develop a new strategy for the region which reflects the improved capabilities of NATO and its individual member states in the Black Sea, forging closer ties with local partners, increasing visits of naval vessels to the Sea, and resisting Russian military domination in general. The exacerbation of the situation in the Black Sea is a significant challenge for Turkey, in particular. The Montreux Convention grants Turkey a special role, which it is trying to maintain, and yet the Russian aggressive policy in the region cannot but trouble it. What role can Georgia play in this situation? What challenges or opportunities does the return of the Black Sea to the strategic map of the world bring for Georgia? This anthology presents the views of four experts from the Rondeli Foundation: General Giorgi Surmava reviews the military capabilities of the Black Sea countries; the Turkish perspective is introduced by Zurab Batiashvili; David Batashvili discusses the Russian point of view; while Alex Petriashvili deliberates the Western approach and the role of Georgia.
  • Topic: Security, Military Affairs, Conflict, Annexation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Ukraine, Crimea, Black Sea
  • Author: Giorgio Bilanishvili, Zurab Batiashvili, Nika Petriashvili, Giorgi Surmava
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: After the occupation and annexation of Crimea in 2014, the epicenter of hostilities shifted to eastern Ukraine, specifically to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The Russian-speaking population was not loyal to Kyiv even before that but the events in Crimea and the Russian assistance invigorated the local separatists who, along with adventurers backed by the regular Russian troops, managed to gain control over parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The fighting turned out to be quite bloody and long lasting. There were large casualties on both sides, including civilians. Coupled with a high-profile incident of the downing of a passenger plane, it caused a wide international reverberation and world interest in resolving the conflict. The efforts of the leading OSCE countries had led to a certain agreement and the cessation of intense hostilities by September 2014. A quadripartite agreement (Germany, France, Russia, Ukraine) was achieved on the separation of the parties and a ceasefire. The line of contact was divided into sectors and precincts where a group of OSCE military observers began to monitor the “silence” regime. Since then, the intensity and scale of the hostilities have been significantly reduced. However, every now and then the situation would worsen which was followed by a new agreement on a ceasefire and the establishment of a “silence” regime. It should be noted that since March 2021, the number of incidents has increased dramatically. At the same time, regular Russian troops began to gather along Ukraine's eastern borders and Crimea.
  • Topic: International Relations, National Security, Military Affairs, Conflict, Separatism, Annexation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Ukraine, Eastern Europe, Crimea
  • Author: Giorgio Bilanishvili
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: On June 2, 2021, the new National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation was approved. It is a guiding document for Russia's security policy planning process; however, as a public document, it also has a significant political implication as it is saturated with political messages reflecting Russia's position on various important issues. Russia's new National Security Strategy is the fifth such document. The first document, which was approved as early as in 1997 by then President of Russia, B. Yeltsin, was called the Concept of National Security. At the beginning of 2000, the decree on the amendments to this document was signed by V. Putin who, at the time, was only the acting president of the Russian Federation. Afterwards, at a meeting of the Russian State Council in September 2008, then President, D. Medvedev, declared the need to develop a new strategy. It should be noted that this session was officially dedicated to the "conflict in South Ossetia." As a result, the National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation, which was supposed to be active up until 2020, was approved in May 2009; however, this strategy did not last as far as 2020 - in late 2015, it was replaced by a new national security strategy developed by Russia after the annexation of Crimea and the armed aggression in eastern Ukraine. These events created a whole new reality which also strained relations between Russia and the West, eventually reflected in the strict tone towards the West in the 2015 National Security Strategy. As for the National Security Strategy, it was developed in accordance with the requirements of the Federal Law on Strategic Planning in the Russian Federation adopted in 2014. According to this law, the National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation must be adjusted every six years. A new National Security Strategy was developed and approved on July 2, 2021, precisely in line with the requirement of this six-year period of the law.
  • Topic: International Relations, National Security, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Georgia, Crimea, Russian Federation
  • 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