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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: 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