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  • Author: Eugene Rumer, Richard Sokolsky, Paul Stronski
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Russia has big Arctic plans, but how they will be realized is uncertain. For the United States this will likely mean the return to a Cold War–like environment rather than a new chapter in great-power competition in the Arctic. Russia’s Arctic ambitions have attracted increasing attention in the West over the past decade as climate change opens up new opportunities in the region for navigation and exploration of its riches. For its part, Moscow casts a wary eye on what it sees as a challenge from the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to its position and ambitions there. The Kremlin’s rhetoric about Western encroachment has become more strident, in sync with its enhanced military posture and ambitious economic and infrastructure projects.
  • Topic: NATO, Cold War, Infrastructure, Geopolitics, Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, North America, Arctic, United States of America
  • 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: Chloe Berger, Cynthia Salloum
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: Russia’s presence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a significant component of contemporary Russian foreign and security policy. Moscow’s approach to NATO’s South1 has undoubtedly undergone considerable change since the collapse of the Soviet Union. During the Cold War, it had built a set of alliances with Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Algeria and Libya, among others, which gave Moscow important leverage throughout the region. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan stirred resistance and opposition in the Muslim world, marking a major turning point in its Middle Eastern foreign policy. With the demise of its empire, in addition to its economic and military weaknesses, Russia faced a series of new challenges: a further disintegration of its own south, notably in the South Caucasus, the rise of radical extremism in Chechnya and Dagestan and a NATO programme of partnerships and cooperation that threatened its influence. All of these constrained Moscow’s foreign policy at large, including its Middle Eastern arrangements. In pursuing interests above values, Russia, in the last twenty years, developed channels of dialogue and cooperation with several Sunni Arab states traditionally close to the US, including Saudi Arabia, while deepening diplomatic and military ties with Iran and the Syrian regime. Russia maintained relations with Fatah and recognized Hamas after it won the Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, while successfully engaging pragmatically with Israel.2 Keeping contacts open with all relevant parties marks continuity between Soviet and Russian foreign policies. Moreover, in the last decade, the increasing instability across the Middle East and North Africa after the Arab Spring, from which Moscow kept its distance, offered new opportunities for influence and power projection, most notably in Syria and Libya. Putin is tracking two main objectives there: one is building status as a regional actor; the other is enhancing his prestige domestically.3 From the Libyan power vacuum to the US retreat from Afghanistan, the Kremlin is making the most of strategic opportunities and may continue to do so. However, it remains to be seen whether its regained confidence will lead to a more permanent Russian presence and influence. In the South, Moscow has today a relative free rein. But an increasingly mature European Union and most importantly a powerful and more strategically oriented US under President Biden may seriously constrain Russia’s room for manoeuvre. Several drivers, ranging from domestic and economic politics to regional and global geopolitics, could explain Russian involvement in the MENA. Firstly, Russia is building a defensive strategy aimed at reinforcing its front line against Western encroachment and Islamist terrorist attacks. Secondly, it is displaying an expansionist drive, aimed at controlling at least parts of the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean by consolidating old alliances and building new coalitions including with business and arms traders. Thirdly, Russia’s presence in the MENA can be seen as a classic zero-sum game of power politics with the US whereby Moscow is trying to fill the void left by Washington. Last, but certainly not least, it is also driven by domestic considerations that strengthen Putin’s grip on power, and Russia’s regional influence and international prestige. While all these factors play a role, this edited volume shows that opportunism and contingency remain key variables to explain Russian behaviour in the MENA. All of these drivers were somehow on display in Syria, which became an ideal case-study to explain Russian policy in the South. Yet, beyond the specific rationale, some questions still remain about Russia’s future role and influence in the region. Is the MENA region significant enough to help Russia recover a status of global power beyond regional leadership? Do status and prestige suffice, and if so, at what cost? What are Russia’s current and future investments in the region and what are their consequences on trade, energy, and its military posture? What would the real benefits of a Russian return to the MENA region be for its economy and power? Most importantly, what would be the consequences of an assertive Russia for NATO and its partners in the South?
  • Topic: Defense Policy, NATO, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, North Atlantic, North America
  • Author: Schuyler Foerster, Jeffrey A. Larsen
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: This Research Paper addresses four key issues: 1) a holistic definition of strategic stability, highlighting the principal sources of instability in Europe and identifying requirements for strengthening stability in Europe; 2) an examination of recent NATO efforts to shore up its defense and deterrent capabilities, while underscoring the need to address defense against non-military threats to stability; 3) a discussion of how a comprehensive arms control agenda could contribute to strategic stability, including wide-ranging discussions with Moscow about Russia’s place in an evolving European security framework; and 4) an analysis of three different strategic approaches that NATO might pursue, each of which combines enhancements to military and non-military defense and the possibility of a broader collaborative security agenda. The continuing volatility of NATO’s strategic environment will require that NATO maintain its long-established strategies of deterrence, defense, and reassurance. However, a strategy that depends almost exclusively on the deployment of military forces will be insufficient to sustain strategic stability in the long run. NATO also requires a clear and purposeful strategy that incorporates both defense and dialogue – including arms control policies – as integral and complementary tools for addressing threats. The authors recommend that NATO should proceed to shape a new Strategic Concept by outlining a 21st century Harmel Doctrine, emphasizing both defense and dialogue with Russia as complementary paths to improving strategic stability. Simultaneously, NATO should fulfill its requirements for a 21st century strategy for deterrence and defense in dealing with nuclear, conventional, cyber, hybrid, and other military and non-military threats. For the foreseeable future, NATO will need to craft a strategy for security and stability in Europe based on the assumption that Russia does not share the West’s worldview and will likely continue to seek to undermine the stability and cohesion achieved in Europe following the end of the Cold War. If Russia proves unwilling to engage in a meaningful collaborative security relationship, NATO will be justified in embarking on a 21st century version of a renewed “containment” policy that includes the reintroduction of even greater military capabilities in Europe. In all cases, NATO should ensure that Alliance cohesion – including its transatlantic security link – is preserved even as it deliberates difficult strategic questions.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, NATO, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, North Atlantic, North America
  • 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: Asbjørn Thranov, Flemming Splidsboel Hansen
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Russia has proposed an international regime governing the use of cyber and information operations. However, ‘digital sovereignty’ means something very different in Moscow than it does in Washington. In September 2020, the Russian authorities launched a new initiative to regulate the use of cyber and information operations by states. The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, introduced the debate by suggesting that Russia and the USA lead the way by signing a bilateral agreement restricting their activities in the field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). The two states, so Putin suggested, should establish regular dialogue and set up a ‘hot line’. Putin also proposed a new agreement on cyber and information operations that should ‘exchange guarantees against interference in the internal affairs of the other side, including into electoral processes, inter alia, by means of the ICTs and high-tech methods’. Shortly afterwards, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, added more details. In a statement, he drew a dark picture of the world ‘facing a real cyber pandemic’, pointing to the risk of cyber attacks against critical infrastructure and the interference by some states in the internal affairs of other states. ‘It is high time’, so he claimed, that the international community agreed on a regime to regulate the use of ICTs. Russia has proceeded to promote the new initiative at the current 75th session of the UN General Assembly, which has responded with a decision to renew the mandate of the open-ended working group on the security and use of ICTs in 2021-2025.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Diplomacy, International Organization, Science and Technology, Cybersecurity, Internet, Cyberspace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Flemming Splidsboel Hansen
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: A survey of current Russian strategies and military thinking about the Arctic points to clear separate military and development goals. Leading Russian military commentators usually include both in their analyses, often highlighting the softer development aspect of security. Moreover, much of the military writing identifies broad possibilities for international co-operation in the Arctic. Key findings Russian military commentators usually insist that all relevant actors need to act with care to avoid a deterioration of the situation in the Arctic. Russian military writing contains a strong focus on the development of the Russian Arctic. Russian military writing identifies broad possibilities for co-operation in both the military and civilian fields.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Climate Change, Diplomacy, Environment, International Organization, Oil, Power Politics, Gas, Minerals
  • Political Geography: Russia, Arctic
  • Author: Aaron Y. Zelin
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Even as U.S. policymakers must stay focused on the Assad regime’s culpability, they also face a complex web of power dynamics in which Russia, Turkey, Iran, Israel, and other actors are attempting to secure their various interests. After a decade of civil war in Syria, the core antagonist remains the Assad regime, which in 2011 ruthlessly suppressed peaceful protestors and has since tortured and executed tens of thousands of detainees. The regime also bears responsibility for fostering the growth of the Islamic State, in part by releasing Syrian jihadists at the start of the war. Yet even as U.S. policymakers must stay focused on Assad’s culpability, they also face a highly complex web of power dynamics in which Russia, Turkey, Iran, Israel, and other actors are attempting to secure their various interests. In this Policy Note, expert Aaron Zelin details how the world’s counterterrorism and Great Power challenges converge in Syria, and how they must be addressed holistically. To this end, he proposes policies on the diplomatic, humanitarian, legal, economic, and military fronts that can calm the fears of U.S. allies such as Israel, Jordan, and Turkey, and perhaps inspire a more robust opposition, backed by a diverse set of local and diaspora activists.
  • Topic: Counter-terrorism, Syrian War, Strategic Competition, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, United States of America
  • Author: Salome Minesashvili
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Georgia`s foreign policy, especially the implementation of international agreements, is best understood in the context of domestic contestation among alternative foreign policy views. • Nativist views exert increasing influence on the Georgian public. Georgia’s European partners should engage the Georgian public through civil society support and people-to-people contacts, to build trust and facilitate open debate. • The exclusive character of differing foreign policy positions further fuels the extreme political polarization. The government and opposition should be encouraged to come together over shared democratic values, instead of playing up the differences. • Pluralism and tolerance should be encouraged in the public and media debate.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Treaties and Agreements, Public Opinion, Europeanization, Polarization
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eurasia, Georgia
  • Author: Tamta Gelashvili, Helge Blakkisrud, Nino Kemoklidze
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: De facto states – unrecognized secessionist entities that eke out a living on the margins of the international system – are often heavily dependent on external patron states for economic aid and investment. When the parent state – the state that the de facto state seeks to break away from – responds to the secessionist attempt by imposing sanctions or economic blockades, this further exacerbates such dependency. Moreover, due to their lack of international recognition, de facto states often have limited opportunities to engage with the outside world beyond the patron and the parent state. However, closer examination of one such de facto state, Abkhazia, reveals that de facto states can enjoy some bounded independent economic agency. Abkhazia’s maneuvering between Russia as “patron,” Georgia as “parent state,” and the wider international community (here exemplified by the EU) in the sphere of trade and economic interaction has important implications for de-facto state conflict transformation.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Economics, Emerging States, Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Jakub M. Godzimirski
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: This Policy Brief presents the most recent data on the performance of the Russian energy sector and discusses its strategic importance in the current setting.
  • Topic: Security, Energy Policy, Grand Strategy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Sergey Naryshkin
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Affairs: A Russian Journal of World Politics, Diplomacy and International Relations
  • Institution: East View Information Services
  • Abstract: Seeking to ensure their national interests, states have traditionally taken advantage of opportunities offered by what is known as intelli- gence diplomacy, involving official bilateral or multilateral collaboration between foreign intelligence services. Foreign intelligence services have accumulated considerable experi- ence in working together in various areas, and this applies not only to allied countries. this experience conclusively proves that partnership makes it possible to solve many problems – those related to intelligence and those outside the bounds of “classic” intelligence operations. the experience of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, which is cur- rently marking its 100th anniversary, is interesting and instructive. Created on December 20, 1920, the Foreign Department of the Cheka, the original predecessor of Russia’s foreign intelligence services (the Foreign Department-the First Main Directorate-the SVR), established first official contacts with several intelligence services of other countries. Fair partnership agreements at that time were signed on the initiative of other countries’ intelligence services. this clearly shows that right from the start Russia’s intelligence service had a reputation as a strong, useful and reliable partner.
  • Topic: Security, Intelligence, International Cooperation, Spy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Andrey Bystritsky, Alexander Sharikov
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Affairs: A Russian Journal of World Politics, Diplomacy and International Relations
  • Institution: East View Information Services
  • Abstract: THIS ARTICLE aims to show what place Russia occupies in the global online information space among the leading countries and suggests ways to expand and deepen the study of Russia’s image in the international community – research that is highly relevant in the current global situation. We will start with a general look at Russian-language scholarly literature on the subject and then follow principal trends in its study. Then we will point out which parts of this very complex scholarly field remain poorly explored, formulate new methods of research, and present the findings of a pilot project based on these methods. This study was conducted in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Internet, International Community, Information Technology
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: M. Patrick Hulme, Tai Ming Cheung
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC)
  • Abstract: Growing distrust in East Asia, especially in the security arena, is increasingly critical as new and long-standing hotspots— including the Taiwan strait, Korean peninsula, East China Sea, and South China Sea—become more volatile. The need for confidence-building measures is clear, and a central tool of confidence building is defense transparency. The Defense Transparency Index (DTI), a project of the University of California’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, ranks six countries on their efforts to promote transparency in defense and national security, including the People’s Republic of China, Japan, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the Republic of Korea, and the major external powers most involved in the region—the United States and Russia.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Geopolitics, Transparency
  • Political Geography: Russia, Japan, Taiwan, East Asia, Asia, North Korea, Korea, East China, United States of America
  • Author: Pavel K. Baev
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Russia received notably high attention in United States President Joseph Biden’s first foreign policy speech, delivered at the State Department last Thursday, February 4. President Vladimir Putin may take pride in earning a personal mention and a place ahead of China; although the latter was specifically recognized as the US’s top peer competitor, while Russia was characterized mainly as the world’s foremost troublemaker (Izvestia, February 5). Biden asserted he is taking a tougher tone with Moscow compared to his predecessor but said he also has to deal with a rather different Putin. Indeed, the accumulation of authoritarian tendencies, exorbitant corruption and aggressive behavior in recent years has produced a new quality to Putin’s maturing autocratic regime, making it less liable to be moved by criticism coming out of Washington.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Sanctions, Protests
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, United States of America
  • Author: John C. K. Daly
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Amidst growing political dissatisfaction, the Russian government is grappling with the apparent vulnerabilities of the country’s internet. On February 1, Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairperson of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, acknowledged during an extensive interview with Russian media what foreign analysts have long suspected: disconnecting Russia from the internet is possible (TASS, February 1). And as if to provide a rationale for such potential action, the previous week, the Federal Security Service’s (FSB) National Coordination Center for Computer Incidents (NKTsKI) reported a threat of possible cyberattacks by the United States and its allies against Russia’s critical infrastructure (Interfax, January 22).
  • Topic: Government, Internet, Repression
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Paul A. Goble
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Azerbaijan’s victory in the Second Karabakh War (September 29–November 9) has had a transformative effect on the country. It not only changed the attitudes of its population, whose members now feel themselves to be heroes rather than victims (see EDM, January 21), but also bolstered the diplomatic weight and possibilities of the Azerbaijani government in its dealings with other regional states. In prosecuting a triumphant war against Yerevan, Baku demonstrated its own ability to act. But just as importantly, Azerbaijan has shown to peoples and governments in the Caucasus and Central Asia that it is a force to be reckoned with, in part thanks to its growing links with Turkey. Moreover, that alliance makes possible an appealing path to the outside world for all who join it. That reality is causing countries east of the Caspian to look westward to and through Azerbaijan in their economic planning and political calculations. At the same time, however, these developments are generating concerns in Moscow and Tehran, which oppose east-west trade routes that bypass their countries’ territories and instead favor north-south corridors linking Russia and Iran together. As a result, Azerbaijan’s recent successes in expanding links with Central Asia set the stage for new conflicts between Azerbaijan and its Turkic partners, on the one hand, and Russia and Iran, which have far more significant naval assets in the Caspian, on the other (see EDM, November 27, 2018 and February 20, 2020; Casp-geo.ru, December 24, 2019; Chinalogist.ru, November 21, 2019).
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Conflict, Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Central Asia, Middle East, Azerbaijan