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  • Author: Philip Remler
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Over the past decade, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has been returning to its origins as a Cold War–era Conference – a forum where states and blocs, often antagonistic to one another and espousing opposing ideals, can air their frictions and hostilities. The OSCE was created without legal personality and with the liberum veto of the consensus principle. These constraints stunted the growth of executive capabilities and bound the OSCE closely to the will of its participating States. That rendered most mediation efforts ineffective, especially where an OSCE state is both belligerent and mediator in the same conflicts. Peace operations have been more effective – notably the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine – but the same factors have tightly constrained its activity. Though all participating States committed themselves to democratic governance, rule of law and respect for human rights, these ideals failed in much of the former Soviet Union, and autocrats have used the organisation’s lack of legal personality and the consensus principle to hobble the OSCE’s efforts. If the OSCE’s participating States want it to remain an Organization, not a Conference, they must take action to secure its executive autonomy.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Peacekeeping, Democracy, Conflict, OSCE
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eurasia, Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Flavio Fusco
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Building on emerging debates on the need to develop de-escalation mechanisms for the Middle East, the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) and the Brussels-based Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), with support from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, launched a one-year research and outreach project entitled “Fostering a New Security Architecture in the Middle East”. Connected to the research, an expert survey targeting European, US, Russian, Middle Eastern and Chinese experts and practitioners was conducted on key themes, principles and approaches associated with a potential new security architecture for the region. The results of the survey – first published in an edited book volume jointly published by IAI and FEPS in November 2020 – are analysed below, complete with tables and infographics on key themes associated with the research project and the search for new, inclusive mechanisms for dialogue and de-escalation in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Security, Foreign Policy, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Giuliano Garavini
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Oil markets are facing a perfect storm. The scissors of supply and demand are moving against one another, generating increasing pain on the oil industry and the political and financial stability of oil-producing countries. Global oil demand is dropping due to the recession induced by the COVID-19 shut down of economic activity and transport in the most industrialized countries. Goldman Sachs predicts that global demand could drop from 100 million barrels per day (mdb) in 2019 to nearly 80 mdb in 2020.1 If confirmed, this would be single biggest demand shock since petroleum started its race to become the most important energy source in the world.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Oil, Global Markets, Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Global Focus
  • Author: Nona Mikhelidze
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: On 25 March, one month after Russia registered its first confirmed case of Coronavirus, President Vladimir Putin announced a week of paid national holiday and invited Russians to stay home in a televised address to the nation. Further measures were subsequently introduced to limit the spread of the virus, while authorities prepared emergency plans to safeguard socio-economic conditions in the country. Initiatives included providing a new support package to businesses hit by the pandemic, a monthly bonus to medical personnel and the construction of new hospitals, following the Chinese model. Meanwhile, the constitutional referendum meant to extend Putin’s term limit as president was postponed. Originally scheduled for 22 April, this delay is due to Putin’s concern for public health and the multidimensional impact of the pandemic, a perfect storm involving quarantine measures, declining living standards, inflation and a weakened exchange rate, rising prices and increased job insecurity. Taken together, these challenges could jeopardise the outcome of the referendum. A recent poll conducted by the Levada Center in March highlighted a very slim majority (45 per cent) in favour of Putin’s constitutional amendments.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Health, Soft Power, Coronavirus, Vladimir Putin
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Italy
  • Author: Ehud Eiran
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Israel is still holding to its traditional security maxim. Based on a perception of a hostile region, Israel’s response includes early warning, deterrence and swift – including pre-emptive – military action, coupled with an alliance with a global power, the US. Israel is adjusting these maxims to a changing reality. Overlapping interests – and perhaps the prospect of an even more open conflict with Iran – led to limited relationships between Israel and some Gulf states. These, however, will be constrained until Israel makes progress on the Palestine issue. Israel aligned with Greece and Cyprus around energy and security, which may lead to conflict with Turkey. Russia’s deployment in Syria placed new constraints on Israeli freedom of action there. The US’s retrenchment from the Middle East is not having a direct effect on Israel, while the Trump administration’s support for Israel’s territorial designs in the West Bank may make it easier for Israel to permanently expand there, thus sowing the seeds for future instability in Israel/Palestine. The EU could try and balance against such developments, but, as seen from Israel, is too divided to have a significant impact. Paper produced in the framework of the FEPS-IAI project “Fostering a New Security Architecture in the Middle East”, April 2020.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Gas, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Cyprus, United States of America, Mediterranean
  • Author: Dario Cristiani
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Russia’s return as a major geostrategic actor in the Mediterranean is one of the most significant trends characterising this area over the past few years. Part of a broader geopolitical pluralization of this space, Russia’s 2015 intervention in Syria marked a new phase in Moscow’s Mediterranean engagement. Based on a stringent logic of intervening where other powers leave strategic vacuums, Russia has succeeded to carve out an increasingly central role in Mediterranean equilibria, despite its limited resources. Russian diplomatic and economic support for the Syrian regime in Damascus had steadily increased since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in 2011. Yet, it was Moscow’s direct military intervention in September 2015 that signalled a decisive upgrade in engagement. Moscow’s military involvement shifted the tide of the conflict, proving decisive in avoiding the collapse of the Syrian regime, which is also backed by Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah.
  • Topic: Civil War, Diplomacy, Geopolitics, Economy, Military Intervention, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Wilfred Wan
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: In a difficult geopolitical environment marked by increased tensions among nuclear-armed and nuclear-allied states, there has emerged an urgent and widespread call for the implementation of practical measures to reduce the risk of nuclear-weapon use – whether intentional or inadvertent. A concerted effort to take risk reduction forward must address the spectrum of use scenarios by drawing on past activities, building on existing agreements and considering innovative approaches. NATO will have a key role to play, given the nuclear nature of the Alliance and the involvement of its members in strategic and regional competition. Alliance activities past and present can provide insight relevant to the development of multilateral risk-reduction measures. At the same time, in highlighting the dynamism and multi-faceted nature of risk, they underline the scale of the challenge ahead.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, NATO, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Risk, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Ekaterina Stepanova
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: As Russia has become a major external player in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region due to its military engagement in Syria since 2015, it has acted as a balancer and mediator in several regional controversies and has continued to serve as a security guarantor for the Syrian state. This course has brought Moscow some practical dividends, such as growing economic and military-technical cooperation with select MENA countries, and has spurred its broader international profile. However, entering the 2020s, the risks of more active engagement in the Middle East have also mounted, making Russia’s balancing act more difficult. In three cases where Russia’s involvement has been visible (Syria, Libya and the Israeli-Palestinian problem), evolving developments challenge Moscow’s acquired influence and multi-vector approach, but also create new opportunities for its engagement and mediation. Above all, the 2020 US–Iran crisis catalysed the urgent need for structured regional dialogue, especially across the Persian Gulf. While this requires direct interaction between the region’s main antagonists, the initial impulse to unlock the trans-Gulf impasse might need to come from the outside. A process-oriented blueprint for inclusive multilateral security in the Gulf proposed by Russia in 2019 is a step in the right direction, but to be activated it may need to come as part of some broader international initiative.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Israel, Libya, Palestine, North Africa, Syria
  • Author: Giovanna De Maio
  • Publication Date: 02-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: This paper reflects on the crisis over Ukraine from the Russian point of view bearing in mind the deterioration of the relationship between Moscow and Kiev and the international retaliation against Russia’s aggression. What does Ukraine represent for Russia? Did the events in Maidan affect how Russia perceives Ukraine? These questions are addressed by analysing the discourse on Ukraine by the main stakeholders of Russian society: the political and economic elites, civil society, the mass media and academia, the general public and the Orthodox Church.
  • Topic: International Relations, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine
  • Author: Geoffrey Pridham
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The International Spectator
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The European Union has a unique opportunity to develop a positive strategy towards Ukraine. A pro-EU government is now in power in Kyiv, there is a revived civil society pressing for democratic reforms and the actions by Russia have both reinforced Ukraine's pro-West line and led to the priority given Moscow being questioned by some member states. It is therefore essential to grant Ukraine a membership perspective to strengthen this trend and encourage Kyiv to confront and overcome the basic problems that face the country.
  • Topic: International Relations, Government, Reform
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine, Moscow