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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: 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: 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: 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: 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
  • Author: Paul A. Goble
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Given the Vladimir Putin regime’s past reliance on oil exports, it is perhaps no surprise that Moscow has been casting about for some other raw material it can sell abroad now that hydrocarbon prices have fallen and Russian government revenues along with them. But its apparent selection of water as “the new oil” that it can sell to water-short China is again outraging Russians. Indeed, the policy may soon lead to the repetition of protests against such projects that roiled the country east of the Urals in 2019 and 2020. And this could complicate Russia’s relations not just with China but with Mongolia and Central Asian countries as well. By focusing exclusively on the possibility of foreign profits rather than the concerns of its own population, the Putin regime—wittingly or not—is recapitulating some of the steps the Communist leaders fatefully took in the years preceding the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
  • Topic: Natural Resources, Water, Domestic Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Alla Hurska
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: On February 19, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NSDC) imposed sanctions on Ukrainian tycoon and politician Viktor Medvedchuk and his wife, Oksana Marchenko (Pravda.com.ua, February 19). Medvedchuk is a leader and people’s deputy of the pro-Russian party Opposition Platform–For Life, the largest opposition faction in the Ukrainian parliament. Moreover, he is a close acquaintance of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The NSDC sanctions list also includes five Russian nationals and Ukrainian national Nataliya Lavreniuk. The latter is Marchenko’s friend and the common-law spouse of Taras Kozak (already under sanctions), a people’s deputy from the same political party and Medvedchuk’s business partner. Apart from targeting those eight individuals, sanctions were imposed on nineteen associated businesses, including firms that own aircraft and operate direct flights from Kyiv to Moscow as well as a number of joint stock companies registered in Russia, Moldova and Portugal (Pravda.com.ua, February 20). These measures came two weeks after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ordered the shutdown of several television channels—ZIK, NewsOne and 112—connected to Kozak. The move was described by Zelenskyy as a necessary step to fight Russian propaganda. But according to the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) and the NSDC, these actions were motivated by more complex issues. Specifically, the three aforementioned TV channels were being financed by limited liability company trading house Don Coal (Rostov, Russia), which receives revenue from smuggling coal out of the Luhansk and Donetsk “people’s republics” (LPR/DPR) (Pravda.com.ua, February 4).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Oil, Sanctions, Coal
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Pavel Felgenhauer
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: The Second Karabakh War, between Armenia and Azerbaijan, began on September 27, 2020, and ended on November 9, 2020, with a Russian-brokered and guaranteed agreement. The conflict claimed the lives of thousands of Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers. But after 44 days of fierce fighting, it concluded with Yerevan soundly defeated: Armenia lost territory occupied during the First Karabakh War in 1992–1994 as well as over 30 percent of prewar Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast—a region of Soviet Azerbaijan majority populated by ethnic Armenians. Today, the rump self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR or “Artsakh”)—still controlled by Armenians and not recognized by anyone—is fully surrounded by Azerbaijani troops and territory. The rump Karabakh “republic’s” perimeter is guarded by some 2,000 Russian “peacekeepers” who also control the so-called Lachin corridor, the only highway left open from Armenia proper to Karabakh through the city of Lachin. The future of the rump NKR and its Armenian population is unclear. Baku refuses to discuss any special administrative status for the territory, insisting Armenians born in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast or their descendants must disarm and apply for Azerbaijani citizenships to stay as a minority inside Azerbaijan. In turn, the NKR leadership has declared Russian an official language alongside Armenian to avoid use of Azerbaijani Turkish (Izvestia, February 17). Officials in Stepanakert (Khankendi in Azerbaijani) apparently hope this may tempt Moscow to keep its peacekeepers in Karabakh permanently and maybe eventually agree to annex the NKR outright.
  • Topic: Weapons , Conflict, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Eastern Europe, Nagorno-Karabakh
  • Author: Amund Osflaten
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Military and Strategic Studies
  • Institution: Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: This article examines the Russian strategic culture after the Cold War. That is, what perspective on the use of military force is guiding the Russian strategic community? It compares Russian conflict behavior in the 1999 Second Chechen War, the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, and the 2014 Russian Invasion of Crimea to find systematic components of Russian strategic culture. Consequently, this analysis systematically describes the development of Russian conflict behavior after the Cold War and elucidate the underlying and persistent Russian strategic culture. The analysis points to a continuing emphasis on conventional forces. Moreover, the employment of conventional force is enabled by peacetime preparations, and then deception and secrecy in the initial period of the conflict.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Military Affairs, Post Cold War, Strategic Planning
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • 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: Giuliano Bifolchi
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Rest: Journal of Politics and Development
  • Institution: Centre for Strategic Research and Analysis (CESRAN)
  • Abstract: Terrorism and jihadist propaganda are among the primary threats of the contemporary era. Because of the high number of foreign fighters from the post-Soviet republics among the rank of the Islamic State, there is a general concern about jihadist propaganda in the Russian language. Kavkazcenter has appeared as one of the main websites in the Russian language to support Imarat Kavkaz (Caucasus Emirate) and regional militant groups. Firstly, this paper examines scientific literature useful to classify Kavkazcenter as a jihadist portal or a media agency. Secondly, the research focuses on the website Kavkazcenter investigating its structure, ideologies and connection with the Arab-Muslim world and the international terrorist network. Finally, this investigation intends to describe if Kavkazcenter represents a serious threat not only for the Russian national security but also for the entire post- Soviet space and the European Union itself, where North Caucasian migrants and refugees live.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Propaganda, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Post-Soviet Europe
  • Author: Makysm Bielawski
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Razumkov Centre
  • Abstract: We are witnessing how the authoritarian states of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China are trying to destroy the unity of democratic Europe by means of economic expansion. Therefore, the infrastructure projects are used for this purpose. Consequently, it is appropriate to equate “Nord Stream-2” and "Belt and Road Initiative". If the projects are implemented, the EU security will be unbalanced; as a result, it will affect the interests of the USA. The American government, regardless the party affiliation, is aware of such challenges. Therefore, obviously, after the inauguration of the new President of the United States, the containment policy of JSC “Gazprom” will only enhance. This will be facilitated by the position of Joseph Biden, which he has voiced on several occasions since 2015 during negotiations with the EU leadership and which is generally described as “unprofitable agreement”.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Natural Resources, European Union, Gas
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Ukraine
  • Author: Mykola Sunhurovskyi
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Razumkov Centre
  • Abstract: This question arises after reviewing numerous comments by domestic and foreign experts on Russia amassing its troops near the border with Ukraine. Most assessments in different variations boil down to the statement that this is nothing but the Kremlin’s informational and psychological operation (bluff) to step up pressure on Ukraine and its Western partners for them to cede down.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Territorial Disputes, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Oleksiy Melnyk
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Razumkov Centre
  • Abstract: The current reaction of the West to provocative threats by Russia is both prompt and concrete, but for political statements to reach the desired effect, they must be supplemented by substantial practical steps.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Deterrence
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Gonul Tol, Philip Breedlove, Iulia Joja, Yoruk Isik, Mamuka Tsereteli
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Video
  • Institution: Middle East Institute (MEI)
  • Abstract: Russia’s largest military buildup since the 2014 annexation of Crimea is taking place along the Ukrainian border and in the Black Sea. Moscow has resorted to escalatory measures, announcing the closing of the Kerch Strait and the Azov Sea to foreign ships and cutting off Ukraine’s ability to export. In response, the West has reacted with warnings and invitations to dialogue while Turkey is trying to walk a fine line between Russia and Ukraine. To prevent further escalation of the crisis, much will depend on the Biden administration’s response. What are possible conflict scenarios of Russia towards Ukraine and the Black Sea? What options does the West have in deterring Russian aggression in the region? In what ways is this significant to the long-term US regional strategy? How is Russian military buildup significant not only for Ukraine, but also for the broader stability of the Black Sea region?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Territorial Disputes, Military Affairs, Navy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Crimea, Black Sea
  • Author: Nada El Abdi
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Liberty and International Affairs
  • Institution: Institute for Research and European Studies (IRES)
  • Abstract: Since September 2015 and the Russian military intervention in the country, the interests in Syria have been numerous and of great importance for the actors involved in this conflict. The interests in Syria are numerous and of great importance for the actors involved in this conflict. Russia, like the Allies and opponents of the Bashar Al-Assad regime, is fighting for geopolitical, geo-economic, or ideological reasons. The Middle East region finds itself shaken by the sharp resurgence of a confrontation between actors allied to the United States, other allies of Russia, and this Syrian crisis thus impacts the geopolitical configuration of the region. This paper presents an analysis of the Russian intervention strategy in Syria. We argue that Russia intervened in Syria to strengthen the already existing Russian-Syrian alliance, to curb extremist proliferation, and to take advantage of Syria's strategic position. The objective is to determine the reasons for the Russian military intervention in Syria related to energy and geo-economic interests. The Russian intervention in Syria was an ideal opportunity to draw closer to several powerful states in the region and a way to benefit from positive spin-offs on its arms market and hydrocarbon road plans. Despite the risks and costs associated with defending the Syrian regime, Moscow has secured its political and economic power in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, Geopolitics, Military Intervention, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Rafał Lisiakiewicz
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Nowa Polityka Wschodnia
  • Institution: Faculty of Political Science and International Studies, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń
  • Abstract: Th e article presents an idea of the possible Russian - Chinese strategic economic partnership at the beginning of the 21st century. Th e author indicates the main factors infl uencing Russian Federation foreign policy towards China from the perspective of a neoclassical realism.Th e author stands that according to J. Rosenau, the main factors determining the Russian foreign policy are idiosyncratic and role. Th en he analyses the Russian documents of foreign policy, economic data and geopolitical ideas. On that ground, he makes a simple analyse using the neoclassical realism model, that’s integrates Foreign Policy Analyse and International Relations Th eory, joining independent and intervening variables, to support the article’s hypotheses. Th at hypotheses say that, fi rstly, Th e Peoples Republic of China (PRC) plays a role of diversifi cation of Russia’s international economic ties; and secondly, Th e PRC status as a Russia’s strategic partner is at issue, despite the official declarations of both sides.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Partnerships, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Eurasia, Asia
  • Author: Paul Stronski, Richard Sokolsky
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Over the past two decades, and especially since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, the Kremlin has intensified its engagement with international institutions. This paper evaluates the drivers of this involvement, Russian views of three of these organizations, and Moscow’s success in achieving its objectives.
  • Topic: International Relations, Regional Cooperation, Multilateralism, Institutions
  • Political Geography: Russia, Global Focus
  • 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: Robert Springborg, F.C. "Pink" Williams, John Zavage
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: The United States, Russia, and Iran have chosen markedly different approaches to security assistance in the Middle East, with dramatic implications for statebuilding and stability. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is the world’s testing ground for the effectiveness of security assistance provided by global and regional powers. That security assistance has contributed to the intensity and frequency of proxy wars—such as those under way or recently wound down in Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq—and to the militarization of state and substate actors in the MENA region. Security assistance is at the core of struggles for military, strategic, ideological, and even economic preeminence in the Middle East. Yet despite the broad and growing importance of security assistance for the region and for competition within it between global and regional actors, security assistance has been the subject of relatively little comparative analysis. Efforts to assess relationships between the strategic objectives and operational methods of security assistance providers and their relative impacts on recipients are similarly rare.
  • Topic: Security, Geopolitics, Political stability, State Building
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: George Perkovich
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: For decades, policy debates in nuclear-armed states and alliances have centered on the question, “How much is enough?” What size and type of arsenal, and what doctrine, are enough to credibly deter given adversaries? This paper argues that the more urgent question today is, “How much is too much?” What size and type of arsenal, and what doctrine, are too likely to produce humanitarian and environmental catastrophe that would be strategically and legally indefensible? Two international initiatives could help answer this question. One would involve nuclear-armed states, perhaps with others, commissioning suitable scientific experts to conduct new studies on the probable climatic and environmental consequences of nuclear war. Such studies would benefit from recent advances in modeling, data, and computing power. They should explore what changes in numbers, yields, and targets of nuclear weapons would significantly reduce the probability of nuclear winter. If some nuclear arsenals and operational plans are especially likely to threaten the global environment and food supply, nuclear-armed states as well as non-nuclear-weapon states would benefit from actions to physically reduce such risks. The paper suggests possible modalities for international debate on these issues. The second initiative would query all nuclear-armed states whether they plan to adhere to international humanitarian law in deciding if and when to detonate nuclear weapons, and if so, how their arsenals and operational plans affirm their intentions (or not). The United Kingdom and the United States have committed, in the words of the 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, to “adhere to the law of armed conflict” in any “initiation and conduct of nuclear operations.” But other nuclear-armed states have been more reticent, and the practical meaning of such declarations needs to be clarified through international discussion. The two proposed initiatives would help states and civil society experts to better reconcile the (perceived) need for nuclear deterrence with the strategic, legal, and physical imperatives of reducing the probability that a war escalates to catastrophic proportions. The concern is not only for the well-being of belligerent populations, but also for those in nations not involved in the posited conflict. Traditional security studies and the policies of some nuclear-armed states have ignored these imperatives. Accountable deterrents—in terms of international law and human survival—would be those that met the security and moral needs of all nations, not just one or two. These purposes may be too modest for states and activists that prefer the immediate prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons. Conversely, advocates of escalation dominance in the United States and Russia—and perhaps in Pakistan and India—will find the force reductions and doctrinal changes implied by them too demanding. Yet, the positions of both of these polarized groups are unrealistic and/or unacceptable to a plurality of attentive states and experts. To blunt efforts to stifle further analysis and debate of these issues, the appendix of this paper heuristically rebuts leading arguments against accountable deterrents. Middle powers and civil society have successfully put new issues on the global agenda and created political pressure on major powers to change policies. Yet, cooperation from at least one major nuclear power is necessary to achieve the changes in nuclear deterrent postures and policies explored here. In today’s circumstances, China may be the pivotal player. The conclusion suggests ways in which China could extend the traditional restraint in its nuclear force posture and doctrine into a new approach to nuclear arms control and disarmament with the United States and Russia that could win the support of middle powers and international civil society. If the looming breakdown in the global nuclear order is to be averted, and the dangers of nuclear war to be lessened, new ideas and political coalitions need to gain ascendance. The initiatives proposed here intended to stimulate the sort of analysis and debate from which such ideas and coalitions can emerge.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Environment, Nuclear Power, Weapons , Deterrence
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Russia, China, India, Global Focus, United States of America
  • 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: 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: 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: Erik J. Dahl
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Political Science Quarterly
  • Institution: Academy of Political Science
  • Abstract: In this valuable new book, Austin Carson examines the phenomenon of covert military intervention, which he defines as occurring when an external major power secretly provides military assistance during war. Carson argues that such interventions are more common than might be expected and that they often lead to a puzzling dynamic, whereby an adversary detects the intervention but does not publicize it. Carson’s use of the term “covert” follows the conventional definition of government activities designed to conceal the actor’s role in that activity, but by focusing on covert military intervention, he is studying a phenomenon different from “covert action,” which in the American context usually refers to activities undertaken by the Central Intelligence Agency, rather than by military forces. This book is therefore a complement to other works on covert action, including Lindsey A. O’Rourke’s recent Covert Regime Change: America’s Secret Cold War.
  • Topic: Military Intervention, Book Review, Conflict, Political Science
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Russia, Ukraine, Israel, United States of America
  • Author: Sakari Ishetiar
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Public and International Affairs (JPIA)
  • Institution: School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
  • Abstract: Russia’s abstention from UNSCR 1973, which allowed a no-fly zone in Libya and ultimately led to the collapse of the Qadhafi regime, has resounded across both Russian foreign policy and the security environment of the Near East. Competing theories claim the abstention was either a carefully-planned strategy or a tactical miscalculation, but the result—Russian rejection of regime decapitation and Western distaste for further intervention—is easily observed. In addition to tangible military and political benefits, the chaotic and unsustainable Libyan status quo bolsters Russia’s political capital by discrediting that of the West. Although Russia is unlikely to intervene kinetically in Libya, it can passively destabilize the country at almost no cost, stymying Western efforts to end the crisis. Only by recognizing and accommodating Russia’s interests in Libya can the West negotiate a lasting settlement for Libya and secure vital U.S. interests in the region.
  • Topic: Civil War, Sovereignty, Military Affairs, Military Intervention, Conflict, UN Security Council
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Libya, North Africa
  • Author: Sagatom Saha, Theresa Lou
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Public and International Affairs (JPIA)
  • Institution: School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
  • Abstract: Increasing military and economic cooperation between Russia and China has led some to believe that America's two primary adversaries are joining together in an anti-U.S. alliance. However, this emerging relationship amounts to little more than a convenient alignment rather than a steadfast alliance. This analysis delves into emerging Sino-Russian competition and cooperation in Central Asia and the Arctic to illustrate diverging strategic interests and also provides recommendations for U.S. policymakers to capitalize on divides between America's competitors.
  • Topic: Grand Strategy, Alliance, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Strategic Competition
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Eurasia, Asia, North America, Arctic, 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