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  • Author: Simeon Djankov
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In the 15 years of President Vladimir Putin's rule, state control over economic activity in Russia has increased and is greater today than in the immediate postcommunist era. The concentration of political and economic power in Putin's hands has led to an increasingly assertive foreign policy, using energy as a diplomatic tool, while plentiful revenues from extractive industries have obfuscated the need for structural reforms at home. The West's 2014 sanctions on Russia have brought about economic stagnation, and with few visible means of growth, the economy is likely to continue to struggle. Watching Europe struggle with its own growth, in part because of deficiencies in its economic model, Russia will not be convinced to divert from state capitalism without evidence of a different, successful economic model. Changing course can only be pursued in the presence of political competition; the current political landscape does not allow for such competition to flourish
  • Topic: Economics, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Stanislav Secrieru
  • Publication Date: 11-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: For the first time since the outbreak of the war in Donbass, the situation on the frontline is nearly a proper cease-fire. This is the outcome of the interplay of three factors: the political-military balance in Donbass, sanctions and Russia’s military intervention in Syria. Nevertheless, it is premature to assume that military options in Donbass are no longer in the cards. Russia is likely to use force if needed to repel a Ukrainian attempt to retake parts of the area, to obstruct the Minsk process if it goes in a disadvantageous direction for Moscow, or to seize more territory if there is further political and social turmoil in Ukraine. To minimize the risks of an eruption of violence in Donbass, the EU and U.S. should prolong the sanctions, fine-tune the diplomatic pressure on both sides to implement and uphold the Minsk Protocols, and pay more attention to the political and economic transformations in the rest of Ukraine.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Defense Policy, Politics, Military Strategy, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine
  • Author: Kamran Ismayilov, Konrad Zasztowt
  • Publication Date: 10-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Azerbaijan recently had to face a wave of criticism from the European institutions (the OSCE and the European Parliament) due to its government’s undemocratic practices. In response, Baku accused its European partners of Islamophobia and declared the suspension of parliamentary cooperation in the framework of the EU’s Euronest. The Azerbaijani ruling elite also blames the West of supporting a “fifth column” in Azerbaijan (meaning civil society organisations) as well as of giving political support to its arch-enemy Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. At the same time authorities in Baku are displaying their developing political partnership with Russia. This paper examines the consequences of the crisis in relations between the EU and Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani-Russian rapprochement for the prospects for EU-Azerbaijan energy projects and regional security in the South Caucasus.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Security, Civil Society, Politics, Governance
  • Political Geography: Russia, Azerbaijan
  • Author: Oliver Stuenkel
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Emerging powers frequently stress the importance of sovereignty and the inviolability of international law. As a consequence, many Western observers expected that emerging powers such as Brazil would be quick to condemn Russia's annexation of Crimea. Yet Brazil remained neutral and abstained from the UN General Assembly resolution that criticised Russia. Together with the other BRICS countries, it opposed suggestions to exclude Russia from the G-20, thus markedly reducing the effectiveness of Western attempts to isolate President Putin. Brazil's unwillingness to criticise Russia may have less to do with its opinion on Russia's annexation of Crimea per se and more to do with Brasília's scepticism of Western attempts to turn Russia into an international pariah. From Brasilia's perspective, pushing countries against the wall is rarely the most constructive approach. In addition, many in Brazil are wary of a global order that privileges the U.S. and allows it to flout many norms that apply to everyone else, arguing that these double standards are far more damaging to international order than any Russian policy. Finally, Russia annexed Crimea at a time when anti-Americanism around the world still runs high as a consequence of the NSA spying scandals, making alignment with U.S. positions politically costly at home.
  • Topic: Emerging Markets, Politics, Sovereignty
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia, Brazil, South America
  • Author: András Rácz
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The destabilization of Ukraine and the possible escalation of the crisis have presented a direct security risk to the Visegrad countries - Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary - particularly concerning military security, the potential interruption of energy transit, and the possible influx of refugees. These factors have forced the Visegrad states to show unprecedented unity and activism in addressing the crisis. However, regarding the possibility of sanctioning Russia, the Visegrad Group is unable to take a joint position. The main reason for this is that Russia does not pose a direct military threat to the region. Consequently the individual policies of the Visegrad countries towards Russia are defined by a constellation of geopolitical concerns, normative motivations, business interests and domestic political ambitions, which are decidedly different in all four cases. Domestic political motivations, such as the will to increase domestic legitimacy, and concerns over the economic effects of sanctions, obviously influence the foreign policy actions of the Visegrad governments. However, Viktor Orbán of Hungary was the only one to break the Visegrad solidarity on Ukraine with his domestically-motivated remarks in May 2014 and demanding autonomy for Hungarians living in the Trans-Carpathian region. As most normative, business and domestic political motivations are of a lasting strategic nature, it is highly likely that the general incoherence of the Visegrad region regarding Russia will prevail.
  • Topic: Security, Politics, International Security
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Poland
  • Author: Anders Åslund
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Ukraine has experienced a year of unprecedented political, economic, and military turmoil. The combination of Russian military aggression in the east and a legacy of destructive policies leading to pervasive corruption has plunged the country into an existential crisis. The West, meanwhile, has been largely paralyzed with uncertainty over how to assist Ukraine without reviving Cold War hostilities. Yet all is not lost for Ukraine. A tenuous ceasefire, along with the successful elections of President Petro Poroshenko in May and a new parliament in October offer an opportunity for economic reform. If the current ceasefire in the east holds, Ukraine has a great opportunity to break out of its vicious circle of economic underperformance. Yet, the window of opportunity is likely to be brief. The new government will have to act fast and hard on many fronts to succeed.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Economics, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine
  • Author: Maya Rostowska
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Despite the reigning consensus that the Russian economy is facing trouble ahead, some indicators suggest that the situation is not as dire as first appeared. Moreover, it may seem that the fiscal situation in the country—particularly its copious foreign currency reserves and substantial sovereign wealth funds—could still help extricate Russia from its economic difficulties. However, the very difficult budgetary situation in the regions and the staggering levels of debt of its companies suggest that economic problems could hit the country hard. Investors should remain vigilant of social and political tensions and the possible further deterioration of the business environment in Russia.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Politics, Governance, Budget
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Artur Kacprzyk
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: In the context of the Ukraine crisis, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Romania have called for significant strengthening of NATO’s deterrence and defence policy and for permanent deployments of Allied troops in the region. This position is, however, not shared by the rest of the Central and Eastern European NATO members. Similar to Western European countries, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia do not feel as threatened by Russia’s actions and do not support moves that could damage their political and economic relations with Moscow. Fundamental differences among the current positions of the regional Allies indicate a profound divide between Central and Eastern European NATO members.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, NATO, Economics, Politics, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine
  • Author: Maria Nozhenko
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Debates on nationalism acquired a great deal of significance in Russia in the summer of 2013, with the activities of right-wing nationalists increasing during this period too. Modern Russian nationalism has its roots in anti-immigrant sentiments, mainly as a consequence of failed nation-state building in the post-Soviet period. Most right-wing organisations are marginalised, with membership and support relatively low. But the anti-immigrant ideas which these organisations propagate currently enjoy high levels of support in Russian society. Over the past eight years, the activities of right-wing nationalists have been largely limited to 'the streets', due to the lack of opportunities open to nationalist parties to participate in electoral processes. The prospects for Russia's right-wing nationalist organisations will depend on the regime's approach to 'illegal' immigration, but also on the state's overall policy towards right-wing nationalism. Three scenarios are seen to be possible at this juncture: 'marginalised nationalists', 'underground nationalists', and 'incorporated nationalists'.
  • Topic: Nationalism, Politics, Immigration
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Simon Saradzhyan, Nabi Abdullaev
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Union Institute for Security Studies
  • Abstract: This Occasional Paper outlines alternative scenarios for Russia's short-term future with a focus on potential outcomes of the March 2012 presidential elections. To construct these scenarios, the paper first identifies key predetermined factors in Russia's domestic and foreign policy domains. The paper then outlines and analyses key factors of uncertainty, which the authors define as events that could be 'game changers', having the potential to lead to a significant change in the course of Russia's development over the coming twelve months. The paper goes on to present three scenarios, based on three different interpretations of key areas of uncertainty and their interaction with predetermined factors. The paper concludes which scenarios are more probable and which are more favourable for Russia and by extension for its partners, and primarily the European Union.
  • Topic: Corruption, Democratization, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe