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  • Author: Veera Laine
  • Publication Date: 10-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: In recent years, the Russian state has been described as becoming “more nationalistic”. In the time period encompassing the Sochi Winter Olympics, the occupation of Crimea, the war in Donbas that continues to this day, air strikes in Syria, and the state seeking new legitimacy during the deepening economic crisis in Russia, many notions have been connected to growing nationalism. But nationalism as such is an ambiguous concept. Moreover, there is hardly any state in today’s global system that could be said to be totally devoid of nationalistic argumentation. Therefore, the way in which the Russian state leadership is using nationalism in order to achieve its political goals requires a critical empirical study. Authoritarianism, conservatism, and even imperialism have been discussed as “new” features of the Russian state. But the change in the self-understanding of the Russian state is not a result of one factor, such as strengthening national pride, but rather a wide range of ideas that have been reshuffled in relation to each other. This Working Paper focuses on the state-led nationalism in this changing ideational environment between the years 2012 and 2016, and how it has been received by the people.
  • Topic: Nationalism, International Affairs, Power Politics, Authoritarianism, Neoimperialism
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Toivo Martikainen, Katri Pynnöniemi, Sinikukka Saari
  • Publication Date: 11-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Russia has perceived itself as a great power and has sought international acknowledgement of its status for years. The fact that Moscow regards the post-Soviet space as its sphere of ‘privileged interests’ and the sovereignty of the other post-Soviet states as subordinate to Russia’s national interests is nothing new. Likewise, Russia has persistently objected to the dominant role played by the US in world politics, and the enlargement of NATO. It has attempted to influence the security policy orientation and political choices made by post-Soviet states, and other states neighbouring Russia, such as Finland. These goals are well-established and are likely to remain fundamentally un- changed for years to come.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Affairs, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Finland
  • Author: Kirill Rogov
  • Publication Date: 11-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The recent 2016 Duma elections were planned by the Kremlin to attest to the fact that the period of troubled political development – which began during the previous 2011 Duma elections – is over. Further, the elections served to test Putin’s consolidated authoritarianism on the eve of the forthcoming presidential elections in 2018. While successful in terms of preserving full control over the new Duma, the election results nevertheless demonstrated that the patriotic enthusiasm evoked by the annexation of Crimea has largely been exhausted. The pressure on the opposition, new electoral rules and reliance on regions with so-called “administrative voting” secured a victory for the party of power, but in urban regions the turnout was very low and voting for the Kremlin’s party did not differ much from 2011 patterns. Although the direct effect of the economic crisis on people’s political attitudes is still moderate, the continued long-term stagnation in the Russian economy that started even before the fall in energy prices remains the major challenge for regime stability. Ambiguous election results force the Kremlin to seek new instruments of political consolidation. The Kremlin’s most probable strategy may be to combine toughening authoritarian institutions with maintaining high tension in the international arena in order to prolong the ‘rally around the flag’ effect domestically, by attempting or promising “authoritarian modernization” to gain support in urban regions. As the presidential election date approaches, both Putin’s foreign and economic policies could become even riskier than they have been to date.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Political Economy, International Affairs, Elections, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Sinikukka Saari
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The traditional cornerstones of the popularity of the Putin regime – stability, growing prosperity, the increased status of Russia in international affairs – seem to be rapidly eroding, which has led many observers to predict major changes in Russia in the near future. However, there are significant structural issues – alongside the mechanisms of 'political technology' and the outright oppression of dissent – that support and maintain the Putin regime, regardless of its malfunctioning and undisputed failings. Even in the unlikely event of Putin suddenly disappearing from the political scene, significant hurdles remain for the restructuring of the Russian economy and political system. No major modernisation or reform mode is to be expected. The EU and Finland should base their policies on a realistic assessment of Russia's long-term trajectory. There are unlikely to be any shortcuts to success, and no western policy is likely to produce positive results in the short term. What is needed now is a long-term perspective and principled policies, while acknowledging that only the Russians can change Russia's political direction.
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Katri Pynnöniemi, Charly Salonius-Pasternak, Mika Aaltola, Kristi Raik
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: New turbulence in the international environment is pushing Estonia and Finland closer together in the foreign and security policy domain. The Ukraine crisis has re-introduced old geopolitical constraints and concerns about national security and sovereignty, limiting the room for manoeuvre for small states. Estonia and Finland took similar positions on many key issues regarding the Ukraine crisis. The common ground is based on both countries' attachment to the liberal world order and Western structures. However, there are deep-rooted differences between the Estonian and Finnish positions on the way to handle Russia and the need to adjust security arrangements, notably the role of NATO in the Nordic-Baltic region. It is common in Finland to see Estonia's approach as unhelpfully hawkish, and common in Estonia to see Finland's approach as too accommodating towards Russia. Shared interests stem from an understanding that the weakening of the security of one country inevitably weakens the security of the other. As both countries are investing more in national security and defence, relevant bilateral cooperation is increasing.
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Finland, Estonia
  • 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: 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: 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: Katri Pynnöniemi
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Three articles written by Russian foreign policy analyst Sergei Karaganov and published at the turning points of the Ukraine conflict shed light on how the reasoning on Russia's strategic interests in Ukraine has evolved amid the conflict. The meaning of the conflict, as explained in the first essay, is that Russia is drawing a line of defence against Western interference in its sphere of interest. In the second essay, the assertion that with the Crimean operation Russia has forced the West to put an end to the Cold War, is reconfigured into a choice that Russia needs to make between the Western or non-Western path. Finally, in an essay written after the downing of flight MH17, it is argued that without de-escalation the situation in Donbass will become a threat to Russian national security. The evolution of the argumentation shows that some sort of 'reality check' has occurred in the vicinity of the general line. However, while the dangers inherent in the conflict are recognized, Karaganov fails to acknowledge Russia's active involvement in the conflict.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Cold War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine
  • Author: Kristi Raik, Juha Jokela, Niklas Helwig
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The EU has responded to the Ukraine crisis with a set of political and economic sanctions against Russia which constitute a qualitatively new step in the EU sanctions policy. The EU sanctions against Russia are exceptional and have strategic importance due to a combination of three factors: big power rivalry, the context of a major European crisis with global ramifications, and the costs of the sanctions for the EU itself. The EU has managed to maintain its fragile unity and has applied its collective diplomatic and economic weight in very difficult circumstances. The sanctions have not provided an alternative to diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis - on the contrary, hardening sanctions have been used as a way to put pressure on Russia to seriously engage in diplomacy. The impact of the sanctions on daily developments in Ukraine has been limited and uncertain, but the sanctions have imposed a long-term cost on Russia for violating key international norms. The policy process of Russia sanctions has exposed problems of leadership and coordination. The latest reform of the EU foreign policy machinery has streamlined the preparation of sanctions, but the current system still lacks the necessary resources to match the growing importance of the EU sanctions policy.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Power Politics, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine, Asia