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  • Author: Philip Remler
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The central task for Russian foreign policy in the era of President Vladimir Putin has been to regain the undisputed recognition that Russia is a world power like the Soviet Union before it, a status to which Russia feels entitled.1 The United Nations (UN) is Russia’s most important venue for putting its global aspirations and achievements on display. Russia’s status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council boosts its claim to be part of a global oligarchy and grants it the power to veto or undermine initiatives that it deems contrary to its interests. The concepts underlying Russia’s use of the UN to promote its aspirations form the subject of this paper. Russia, like the Soviet Union before it, devotes great resources to its missions at the UN, especially New York and Geneva. It traditionally cultivates extensive expertise among its mission members, appointing them to UN postings several times over their careers and leaving them in place for long periods. Russian diplomats are noted for their abilities in drafting highly technical UN documents in English—none more so than Sergey Lavrov, currently Russia’s foreign minister and formerly its permanent representative to the UN from 1994 to 2004.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Sovereignty, Power Politics, Law, Geopolitics, Legitimacy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United Nations
  • Author: Andrew Weiss
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: A blend of new threats and opportunities is causing Moscow to take greater risks and embrace more flamboyant policies in Europe. The Kremlin’s relationships with Italy and Austria shine a spotlight on how Europe’s domestic troubles have opened many doors for Moscow.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Populism, Far Right
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Italy, Austria
  • Author: Paul Stronski
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Eurasia is squeezed between a rising China and an aggressive and unpredictable Russia. The United States should remain engaged with the region to help it resist Russian advances. Since 2014, Russia has redoubled its efforts to build a sphere of influence, operating frequently under the flag of Eurasian integration. Its undeclared war in Ukraine and hardball tactics vis-à-vis other neighbors demonstrate the lengths to which it is willing to go to undermine their independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. Moscow has pushed hard to expand the membership and functions of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the formal vehicle for cross-regional integration of political and economic activity. However, Russia’s limited economic resources and lack of soft-power appeal; the engagement with the region by other outside powers, including the European Union, China, Turkey, and the United States; and societal change in neighboring states are creating significant long-term obstacles to the success of Russian neo-imperialist ambitions and exposing a large gap between its ends and means. Russia’s ambitions in Eurasia are buffeted by unfavorable trends that are frequently overlooked by analysts and policymakers. Russia’s own heavy-handed behavior contributes to both regional upheaval and instability as well as to the creation of diplomatic headwinds that constrain its own room for maneuver.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Geopolitics, Regional Integration
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Philip Remler
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: As the battle between Armenia and Azerbaijan heats up, Russia struggles to contend with a vastly more complicated landscape in the South Caucasus. Since shortly after the Soviet Union’s collapse, Russia’s aims and policies in the South Caucasus have been constant, but its capabilities to project power and influence have fluctuated. Russia’s engagement with the entire Caucasus region is best characterized as a tide. Its power and influence began to ebb at the start of the Karabakh conflict—with the February 1988 massacre of Armenians in the Azerbaijani city of Sumqayit being the key galvanizing event.2 After that, the tide receded rapidly, leaving even Russian possessions in the North Caucasus without effective central control. The First Chechen War marked low tide, which only began to rise with the Second Chechen War, beginning in 1999. Until about 2004, Russia was too weak and internally divided to project power and influence in the wider Caucasus region in a meaningful way. To be sure, Russian influence was never gone completely, even during the lowest ebb of the tide. Russia still marshaled greater resources than the new states of the Caucasus could muster, and it threw its weight around. But in the 1990s, Russia did not have a unified governing apparatus, but rather a mass of competing clans among which regional actors could maneuver. For example, after the Soviet collapse, Moscow left the Russian military units in the Caucasus to their own devices. Those units served as mercenaries, arms suppliers, and logistics providers to both sides in the Karabakh conflict. It took a decade for Moscow to reassert its so-called power vertical in the Caucasus, symbolized by President Vladimir Putin’s success in 2004 in finally ousting chief of the general staff Anatoliy Kvashnin.3 Russia’s assertiveness in the region grew steadily thereafter, with sharp upticks after the 2008 war with Georgia and Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, History, Territorial Disputes, Conflict, Elites, Soviet Union
  • Political Geography: Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, South Caucasus
  • Author: Richard Sokolsky, Eugene Rumer
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: U.S.-Russia relations will remain frosty for years, but even Cold Wars eventually thaw. The United States should prepare now to act decisively when this one finally does, even if it takes a decade. U.S.-Russian relations are at the lowest point since the Cold War. Almost all high-level dialogue between the two countries has been suspended. There are no signs that the relationship will improve in the near future. However, this situation is unlikely to last forever—even during the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union maintained a limited but meaningful dialogue; the two countries eventually will reengage, even if mostly to disagree, and new U.S. and Russian leaders could pursue less confrontational policies. What is the agenda that they will need to tackle then—perhaps as far in the future as 2030?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Eugene Rumer, Richard Sokolsky, Aleksandar Vladicic
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Russian foreign policy remains focused primarily on Europe. That said, Moscow’s diplomatic foray into Asia hinges on its burgeoning strategic partnership with China. Much has been written about Russia’s so-called pivot to the Asia-Pacific since its 2014 invasion of Ukraine and break with the West, but there is less to this supposed strategic shift than meets the eye. The country is and will remain a European—rather than an Asian—power by virtue of its history, strategic culture, demographics, and principal economic relationships.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Demographics, Diplomacy, History, Partnerships, Strategic Interests
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Eugene Rumer, Richard Sokolsky
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Russia will remain a formidable adversary for the United States, yet they have a shared interest in avoiding outright war. Time and patience will be needed to rebuild the relationship. Russian strategic culture is a product of several key factors: a long history of wars and adversarial relations with other European powers; an open geographic landscape that puts a premium on strategic depth; and an elite given to embracing a narrative of implacable Western hostility toward Russia. Historically, Europe has been by far the most important geographic theater for Russia, and it remains so to the present day. The national narrative of Vladimir Putin’s Russia emphasizes the legacy of World War II in Europe and the critical role Russia played in the defeat of Germany. Both support the Kremlin’s claim to special rights in the affairs of the continent.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Culture, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Eugene Rumer
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The 2015 Russian military intervention in Syria was a pivotal moment for Moscow’s Middle East policy. Largely absent from the Middle East for the better part of the previous two decades, Russia intervened to save Bashar al-Assad’s regime and reasserted itself as a major player in the region’s power politics. Moscow’s bold use of military power positioned it as an important actor in the Middle East. The intervention took place against the backdrop of a United States pulling back from the Middle East and growing uncertainty about its future role there. The geopolitical realignment and instability caused by the civil wars in Libya and Syria and the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia have opened opportunities for Russia to rebuild some of the old relationships and to build new ones. The most dramatic turnaround in relations in recent years has occurred between Russia and Israel. The new quality of the relationship owes a great deal to the personal diplomacy between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but Russia’s emergence as a major presence in Syria has meant that the Israelis now have no choice but to maintain good relations with their new “neighbor.” Some Israeli officials hope that Moscow will help them deal with the biggest threat they face from Syria—Iran and its client Hezbollah. So far, Russia has delivered some, but far from all that Israel wants from it, and there are precious few signs that Russia intends to break with Iran, its partner and key ally in Syria. Russian-Iranian relations have undergone an unusual transformation as a result of the Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war. Their joint victory is likely to lead to a divergence of their interests. Russia is interested in returning Syria to the status quo ante and reaping the benefits of peace and reconstruction. Iran is interested in exploiting Syria as a platform in its campaign against Israel. Russia lacks the military muscle and the diplomatic leverage to influence Iran. That poses a big obstacle to Moscow’s ambitions in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, Geopolitics, Military Intervention
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Judy Dempsey
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is in search of a new narrative. While Russia's involvement in Eastern Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea will not give NATO a new sense of solidarity, these events have highlighted what the alliance and its members must urgently do. It is time for all NATO countries to engage in a real strategic debate about why defense matters and what members should do to uphold the transatlantic relationship.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, NATO, Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Reform
  • Political Geography: Russia, North Atlantic, Ukraine
  • Author: Alexey Malashenko
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Russia has spent over a decade trying to recapture the influence the Soviet Union once enjoyed in the Middle East, but President Vladimir Putin's attempts to position Moscow as a key regional player have come up short. With revolutions across the Arab world overturning old orders and ushering in Islamist governments, Russia's chances for strengthening its position in the region look increasingly slim. The Kremlin must change course and ensure that its approach to the Middle East and Islamists reflects post–Arab Spring realities.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Islam, Post Colonialism, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Russia, Middle East, Soviet Union, Arabia