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  • Author: Jussi Lassila
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The Kremlin has cast a cloud over the horizon for millions of Russian citizens. People do not perceive the forthcoming pension reform as a necessary measure for sustaining economic and social stability. Rather, it has ignited a collective sense of anger among the people that they have been cast adrift by the elite
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Andrew J. Tabler
  • Publication Date: 02-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In this new Transition 2017 paper, Institute expert Andrew J. Tabler argues that Syria remains de facto partitioned, making the establishment of safe zones in non-Assad-controlled areas the Trump administration's most expedient course of action. Moreover, it would further Washington's cause to drive a wedge into the country's Russia-Iran alliance, and both isolate and pressure the Assad regime. If Washington's objectives in Syria are to defeat U.S.-designated terrorist groups and stem the outflow of refugees, President Bashar al-Assad is under no circumstances the right person to entrust with these missions. Simply in practical terms, he lacks the manpower to retake and hold the two-thirds of Syrian territory outside his control any time soon, despite having sufficient support from Russia and Iran to maintain control in large parts of the country. But more important, Assad is an avowed adversary of the West, undeserving of its cooperation.
  • Topic: International Relations, Civil War, International Security, International Affairs, Neoimperialism
  • Political Geography: Russia, America, Iran, Syria
  • Author: Flemming Splidsboel Hansen
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: The basic tenet of the Russian disinformation strategy is the claim that all news is constructed and therefore contested. In the best postmodern tradition they claim there is no ‘objective news’ – only different, rivalling interpretations which purport to show different aspects of what may be called ‘reality’. And what the Russian media outlets present are merely possible explanations which serve as alternatives to the stories offered by Western media. It is a strategy which is both cunning and elegant as it preys on the enlightenment tradition and on the vulnerabilities of liberal democratic media. The Russian authorities seem to believe that (dis-) information campaigns hold great prospects. In a 2017 article, the Russian Chief of Staff informed the public about the Russian military thinking on the topic of ‘war’ and on the role of the non-military or "non-kinetic" in this. It seems premature to conclude that this thinking sees the possibility of war as an exclusively non-kinetic activity – this at least was not announced in the article – but the development points strongly in this direction and we should therefore expect to see an increased Russian focus on (dis-) information campaigns designed to bring well-defined outcomes. There will not be any easy or fix-it-all solutions to this development. Rather, liberal democracies, especially vulnerable as a result of their free media culture, should prepare themselves for a long-term commitment to countering disinformation and to building up cognitive resilience to ensure that the former has minimal effect.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Mikhaïl Souslov
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institute Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: This paper traces the evolution of the diaspora policies and visions from the early 1990s to the present, and argues that the understanding of Russian “compatriots abroad” has never been the same; rather, it travelled a long road from revanchist irredentism of the red-brown opposition in the 1990s, to the moderately liberal pragmatism of the early 2000s, to the confrontational instrumentalization of Russian “compatriots” as a lever of Russia’s soft power in the late 2000s, and, finally, back to the even more confrontational, irredentist and isolationist visions after the Ukrainian crisis of 2014.
  • Topic: International Relations, Migration, International Affairs, Diaspora
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Bobo Lo
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Institute Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: The influence these great powers exert, on themselves and others, is uneven and difficult to predict. Alongside a public consensus on a “democratic world order”, there are significant differences of perspective and sometimes conflicting interests. It is far from clear whether the Russia-China-India matrix can form the basis of an emerging network of cooperation, or whether its contradictions foreshadow an increasingly problematic engagement.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, India
  • Author: Yan Vaslavsky
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Rethinking Russia
  • Abstract: Vladimir Putin delivered his Annual Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly at St. George’s Hall of the Great Kremlin Palace on December 1. The state-of-the- nation address is regarded as a major speech over a 12-month period. It usually recounts the progress and outlines national priorities and the development agenda for the near future. This format is not unique1, but it tends to command attention of the general public at home and abroad as well as of parliamentarians to whom, judging by its very name, it is addressed.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Cooperation, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, Global Focus
  • Author: Flemming Splidsboel Hansen
  • Publication Date: 12-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Senior researcher and research coordinator Flemming Splidsboel Hansen explores Russia’s Syria agenda as part of a DIIS initiative to understand the geopolitics of nonwestern intervention in Syria. The Kremlin presents Russia’s political and military involvement in Syria as an unconditional success. Its overall aim of putting Russia firmly back on the geopolitical map has been met. It is now clear that the key to any negotiated settlement to the conflict in Syria lies in Moscow. Moreover, Russia now seems to be close to a position where it may dictate the composition of the future Syrian regime and, not least, decide whether Syrian president Bashar al-Assad will remain in the presidential palace or be forced into exile. The costs of the military operations have been acceptable to the Russian public. Defence observers estimate that the first year of military operations cost the Russian armed forces 65 bn Rubles (approximately one bn USD) and some 20 deaths (combat and non-combat). The financial costs may be partially offset by increased future weapons sales. There is a high probability, however, that Russia will find itself embroiled in a complicated sectarian conflict in Syria from which there is no easy exit. This would test Russian public support for the military involvement in Syria. Already now Russian media comments suggest some degree of frustration over the alleged lack of fighting capacity and will on part of the Syrian armed forces. The Russian public may want to see a plan for an orderly exit from Syria, and this puts pressure on the Kremlin to deliver. However, the Syrian regime may not be able to survive without Russian military support, and Russian policy-makers may therefore soon be facing difficult choices.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, Syria
  • Author: Mark Galeotti
  • Publication Date: 12-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Since 2014, Russia has mounted an extensive, aggressive, and multi-platform attempt to use its military and the threat of force as instruments of coercive diplomacy, intended to divide, distract, and deter Europe from challenging Russia’s activities in its immediate neighbourhood. The main elements are threats of potential military action, wargames which pointedly simulate such operations, the deployment of combat units in ways which also convey a political message, and intrusions close to and into European airspace, waters and even territory. The actual impact of these policies is varied, sometimes counter-productive, and they depend on coordination with other means of diplomacy and influence. But they have nonetheless contributed to a fragmentation of unity within both NATO and the European Union. ‘Heavy metal diplomacy’ is likely to continue for the immediate future. This requires a sharper sense on the part of the EU and its member states of what is a truly military move and what is political, a refusal to rise to the bait, and yet a display of convincing unity and cross-platform capacity when a response is required.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Chris Westdal
  • Publication Date: 04-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI)
  • Abstract: Canada and Russia are on speaking terms again. Our government has abandoned Stephen Harper’s policy of vocal disdain and the attempted isolation of Russia. We stand against Russian “interference” in Ukraine but, in the words of Global Affairs Minister, Stephane Dion, “the more we disagree, the more we have to discuss.” This paper describes the setting of Canada-Russia re-engagement in terms of current tension in East-West, NATO-Russia relations and of heightened Canadian foreign policy aspiration; rehearses the case for earnest, long-term Western and Canadian engagement, with investment of senior attention and talent; cautions that, though a bit of spring has sprung, there is a lot of ice to thaw, as bilateral sanctions are likely to be lifted only in step with allies and the implementation, halting at best, of the Minsk peace plan; assesses Russia’s vulnerabilities and the record of its interventions in Georgia, Ukraine and Syria; recommends active Canadian support, by all means, for Ukrainian-Russian reconciliation and for a better fence, a “mending wall” between Russia and NATO; and suggests formats and first steps toward the normalization of bilateral and multilateral relations with our Arctic neighbour.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Cooperation, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Russia, Canada
  • Author: Jyrki Kallio
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Although China's statements about the Ukrainian crisis have been weighed very carefully, there are concerns that China is drawing lessons such as 'might is right' and 'geopolitics is all that matters' from the crisis. The hawks in China have adopted a similar tone to that of the Kremlin, with both wishing to see a relatively diminished Western influence in the international arena. The Chinese Dream is all about national rejuvenation, which entails redressing past grievances. Nevertheless, the Dream need not turn into a nightmare for other powers. The increase in China's military budget does not indicate growing ambitions of a global power projection. China's primary concern remains stability both within and without its borders.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Security
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Ukraine, Asia
  • Author: Sinikukka Saari
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Russia is not likely to resort to overt political pressure on Georgia in the run-up to Georgia's signing of the Association Agreement with the EU (27 June), and the NATO Summit in Wales (4-5 September). This is partly due to its weak levers and the fact that they cannot be strengthened within a short time span. Instead, Russia is likely to apply a dual strategy by strengthening its indirect 'influence tools' that are operating within Georgian society, as well as by continuing dialogue and pragmatic cooperation with the Georgian leadership - at least for the time being. Moscow is likely to stand firm on the issue of the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In all likelihood, Russia will seek to increase its control over the territories, and to hamper any rapprochement between Georgia and the separatist territories. Despite the fact that the Russian intervention in Ukraine is likely to deter and delay substantial progress in the cooperation between Georgia and Russia, both sides seem to be willing to continue on the path of 'normalisation'. A practical compromise on the Georgian westward course seems to be emerging: in all likelihood Georgia will sign the Association Agreement with the EU without much Russian interference, but NATO will not offer Georgia a Membership Action Plan at the Summit.
  • Topic: International Relations, NATO
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Georgia
  • Author: Stephen Blank
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Neither the current US administration nor US academics recognize Russia as a major Asian power. Although Russia faces many obstacles to becoming a credible Asian actor, Moscow is making resolute diplomatic overtures to secure its Asian standing. Stephen Blank argues that these activities merit US attention because they enhance understanding of Asian international relations and offset the pronounced ethnocentrism of so much American writing on the subject.
  • Topic: International Relations, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Asia, Moscow
  • Author: Anders Åslund, Andrew Kuchins
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Whither Russia? Russia's economic circumstances as well as its articulated goals hold the answer to this eternal question. Drawing on our analysis in the forthcoming book The Russia Balance Sheet, we outline here a policy approach for the Barack Obama administration. We believe our views reflect to some degree an emerging consensus for the new administration's Russia policy. Russia is important for US foreign policy in many ways. The United States needs a more constructive relationship with Russia to address many core global security issues including nuclear security and nonproliferation, terrorism, energy, and climate change.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Economics
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States
  • Author: Enika Abazi
  • Publication Date: 04-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: Kosovo's independence has revealed shifting strategic landscapes, security concerns and domestic developments in regional and international politics with significant implications for all actors in the region. Russia calculated to restore its lost 'superpower' status and control Serbia's strategic oil industries. Turkey's prompt recognition of independence increased its impact and prevented a stronger Greek-Serb- Russian axis in the region, while strengthening its Western identity. Kosovo's independence will be a test case for keeping peace and stability in the Balkans within the new dynamics of regional and international politics.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Asia, Kosovo, Balkans, Albania
  • Author: Pavel K. Baev
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The self-assertive rhetoric of the Russian leadership, in which President Putin's Munich speech marked a shift towards a more aggressive style, has been translated into such demonstrative actions as the resumption of regular patrols by Long Range Aviation and the unilateral suspension of the CFE Treaty. Despite new funding and against confident self-assessments, Russia's strategic arsenal continues to shrink, and many key modernization projects, such as the Bulava missile for strategic submarines, have encountered setbacks. The need for brandishing the diminishing capabilities is driven by the desire to deter the perceived threat of a 'coloured revolution' sponsored by the West, the urge to assert a more solid status than just that of an 'energy super-power', and the complicated intrigues surrounding the on-going reconfiguration of the political leadership. Expanding demonstrations of the dilapidated strategic arsenal increase the risks of technical failures but fall far short of initiating a new confrontation of the Cold War type. The most worrisome point in Russia's ambivalent power policy is Georgia, which has been the target of choice for multiple propaganda attacks, but which now faces the challenge of an external intervention in its domestic crises since Moscow has built up usable military instruments in the North Caucasus. Russia's desire to secure higher international status does not amount to malicious revisionism; so over-reaction to its experiments with muscle-flexing could constitute a greater risk to the Western strategy of engagement than underestimating its ambitions.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Vadim Kononenko
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Russia's current foreign policy should be understood as an element of the political regime that was built under Vladimir Putin's leadership. The major domestic impact on foreign policy seems to stem from the inclination among the elites and the power groups to maintain the power status quo in the country whilst profiting from the economic ties with the West. In this context the West becomes perceived as an unwanted external political factor on the one hand, and as a source of profits and financial stability for the Russian elites on the other. The current political system has given rise to a specific kind of foreign policy and diplomacy that both actively criticizes and challenges the West in rhetoric, while furthering economic ties between Europe and Russia's major business players. This contradiction is not self-evident as it is often couched in the assertive discourse of “strong state” and “national interest”. In reality, it is the “special interests” of Russia's state-private power groups and networks that lie behind the country's international standing. As long as the internal order in the country remains as it is, it is not feasible to expect any critical rethinking on foreign policy. The scope for public and expert debate has shrunk tremendously as foreign policy-making becomes increasingly bureaucratic and profit-driven. The prevailing climate of tense relations and diplomatic bickering in Russia-Western relations may linger despite the change of president. This does not mean that stabilization of relations or even engagement with Russia should be ruled out, however. Western actors should pay close attention to the domestic development in Russia, particularly the economic side. Further growth in the economy will push Russia towards a more intense (both in terms of cooperation and competition) interaction with the West. It is in the interests of the West to respond to this development in a consistent and constructive way by anchoring Russia in the rule-based economic environment.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Hiski Haukkala
  • Publication Date: 04-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The post-Cold War EU–Russia relationship has been based on erroneous premises: Russia has not been willing to live up to its original aims of pursuing a western democratic and liberal path; nor have the European Union and its member states been able to develop a coherent policy line that would have consistently nudged Russia in that direction. The lack of a genuinely shared understanding concerning the relationship has resulted in chronic and growing political problems and crises between the parties. The increasingly fraught nature of the EU–Russia relationship has also played to Russia's strengths. It has enabled Russia to re-assert its sovereignty and walk away from the commonly agreed principles and objectives already codified in the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement of 1994. The erosion of the original central aims of the partnership has not resulted in an atmosphere of working relations. Although Russia has been able to get its own way in most of the issues, a relationship worthy of the name “strategic partnership” is currently more elusive than ever. Instead of toning down its relations with Russia, the EU should seek to re-invigorate its approach to the country. It should also acknowledge that despite the current problems the EU's policy on Russia has, by and large, been based on sound principles. Democracy, the rule of law, good governance, respect for human and minority rights, and liberal market principles are all factors that are badly needed in order to ensure a stable and prosperous future for Russia. The EU should, through its own actions, also make it clear to Russia that it deserves respect and needs to be taken seriously. It would be prudent to proceed from the sector that seems to be the key to the current relationship: energy. By pursuing a unified internal energy market and subsequent common external energy policy, the EU might be able to make Russia take the Union level more seriously again. It would also deprive some of the main culprits – Russia and certain key member states alike – of the chance of exploiting the economic and political deals cut at the bilateral level to the detriment of the common EU approach to Russia.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
18. Putin-3
  • Author: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: In the past nine years, Russian foreign policy has been examined several times in these pages. At no other time, however, has its direction been as troubling as it is today. To understand the causes of this disturbing evolution and to gauge its future course, the changes have to be examined in the context of the regime's ideological and political transformation since 2000, when Vladimir Putin was elected president.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, International Relations, Security, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Rose Gottemoeller
  • Publication Date: 10-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Washington and Moscow's failure to develop a working relationship could lead to a dangerous crisis—perhaps even a nuclear one. There is an immediate need to grab onto the superstructure of the relationship through the STA RT and CFE treaties, both of which require urgent action. A new architecture should follow that to broaden the relationship, including the creation of a new future for security in Europe. Both capitals need to devise a strategy as well as a mechanism to manage the relationship and prevent future crises. A commission of past presidents—U.S. and Russian—would have the authority to confront these monumental tasks.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, America, Europe, Washington, Eastern Europe, Moscow, Georgia
  • Author: Sinikukka Saari
  • Publication Date: 12-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The Duma election and its results reinforce the prevailing undemocratic trends in Russia. The changes in electoral laws, the election campaign and its biased coverage in the Russian media, the Russian authorities' hostile attitude towards international election observation and the so-called Putin's Plan leave very little hope of democratic pluralism developing in Russia anytime soon. Russia's political system has been built gradually over the years. The system aims at controlling the competition for power and securing the political elite's interests. The system is characterised by non-transparent and manipulated political processes, misleading doublespeak on democratic norms, and the misuse of soft and hard administrative resources. Putin's overwhelming popularity does not compensate for the lack of democratic accountability. Likewise, his possible premiership would not strengthen parliamentarism in Russia because the decision is driven by instrumentalism towards political institutions. Instead, it would create a dangerous precedent for an ad hoc separation of power. Western actors should be more aware that the stability that Putin is often praised for bringing about is not build on solid ground, and they should change their policies accordingly. Promoting democracy – and thus longterm stability – in Russia is in western actors' interests.
  • Topic: International Relations, Democratization, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia