Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s 26-year rule — one of the world’s longest — is itself testament to his regime’s unwillingness to change. Most of Belarus’s immediate neighbours — particularly Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland — are far more prosperous. Now, with the farce of last week’s vote and the subsequent renewed violence that Minsk is willing to use on its citizens, Belarus finds itself at the very bottom of the post-Soviet legitimacy league table. But others share a portion of blame for this saga. The West — and the EU in particular — have failed the people of Belarus.
Russia — as ever in its relationships with the Soviet Union’s other successor states — has much to answer for.… Seguir leyendo »
In the wake of a whistleblower’s report that alleged Donald Trump linked military aid to Ukraine to the latter’s willingness to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential elections, and his son, Hunter, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has initiated a formal impeachment inquiry. Chatham House experts explore the impact of this latest turn of events.
Questions abound for Congress and for foreign allies
For more than a year, Democrats worked to investigate President Donald Trump’s potential involvement in Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Now, in the span of a week, they appear to have decided that the subject of a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi and alleged subsequent efforts by the Trump administration to prevent the release of a related whistleblower report constitute clear, impeachable offences.… Seguir leyendo »
There is no world leader with a more contradictory attitude toward Russia than Emmanuel Macron.
The French president was ostensibly the ‘least apologist’ candidate of those running in the first round of the 2017 elections. Compared to the Russian-funded Marine Le Pen on one end of the spectrum, and the radical leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon on the other, Macron seemed a model of moderation.
To the Kremlin, he must have been perceived as the least desirable candidate for its interests, which is why they hacked the servers of his party, En Marche, just prior to the vote in a last-ditch attempt to derail the campaign.… Seguir leyendo »
The Kremlin famously demands ‘respect’ from the world’s leading powers and international organizations. But it shows little respect itself for the rules-based international order. Indeed, it rejects the very notion that such an order exists.
Where most Western governments see an imperfect liberal capitalist system – even one in retreat – Moscow’s ruling elites see the slow passing of a hegemonic, US-led world order in which the ‘rules’ are slanted in the West’s favour and Russia’s ‘natural rights’ have been ignored.
In this context, the Russian leadership does not consider its interests to lie in following others’ rules. This presents a number of practical challenges for those in the West who nonetheless need to deter or respond to Russian aggression.… Seguir leyendo »
Contrary to the worst fears, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, the two controllers of 92% of the world’s nuclear weapons, did not fall out badly and Trump did not concede a Soviet-era sphere of influence to Russia. But their unprecedented meeting in Helsinki has still given a win to the Kremlin and sent shockwaves through the United States, with effects on American foreign and domestic policy that will play out over the coming weeks and months.
Just by getting the summit held, the Kremlin scored a post-World Cup goal – the event, at least for a while, puts Russia on a par with the United States in terms of political weight, a key Russian objective.… Seguir leyendo »
If confirmed, the attack on double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter would be the second known Russian state-sponsored murder in the UK, following the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. Other suspicious cases are now being reopened.
What principles should guide an effective response?
- Effective measures are more than symbolic. They impose costs that punish unacceptable actions and deter future ones. The UK’s response to Litvinenko’s death – expelling four diplomats, imposing visa restrictions for officials, and suspending security service liaison – was clearly not sufficient enough to deter the latest attack. Symbols matter, but only if they credibly convey intentions about the consequences of further action.
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Pity Boris Johnson’s Foreign Office briefing team this week. Following on swiftly from his hitherto unsuccessful diplomatic efforts in Iran to release British dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from prison, the UK foreign secretary will have an equally difficult – in truth, fruitless – ‘away game’ with another stubbornly anti-western power this week in the form of Russia.
There is a strain of thought, particularly virulent among diplomats, that one should “always be talking”. This is outwardly reasonable – “jaw-jaw rather than war-war”. But what if the other side is doing both at the same time? What if war is being waged against you (using a variety of methods, none of which include the overt use of military force) at the very same time as words – smooth diplomatic words – are being exchanged?… Seguir leyendo »
There are many disagreements between Russia and the West at present – Syria, Ukraine, Iraq, Kosovo, human rights, energy deals – to name a few. But it is European security, and specifically the security orientation of post-Soviet countries, that constitutes the crux of the fallout. James Nixey and Richard Sakwa present two perspectives on this key geopolitical debate.
It is impractical and immoral to abandon the post-Soviet states to Moscow
It is often stated in outwardly reasonable commentary that the West must ‘listen to Russia more’ or ‘respect Russia’s legitimate interests’. While not necessarily untrue per se, such statements always need unpacking as they frequently conceal a different exhortation.… Seguir leyendo »
For all its pretences toward the primacy of sovereignty, the Russian leadership is rarely shy about venting its views on the foreign policies and geopolitical orientations of other states. Yet on the question of Britain’s membership of the European Union, the Kremlin has been relatively silent.
Overt efforts to swing the UK one way or another are few and far between. An assessment by former NATO official Ben Nimmo of stories in the sanctioned parts of Russian media has found a small numerical bias in favour stories promoting the advantages of Britain leaving the EU, but overall, the evidence is slim.… Seguir leyendo »
Sport can be exploited by politicians, eager for some of its popularity and excitement to rub off. But when sport itself ‘goes bad’, through scandal, it normally follows that politicians, like corporate sponsors, keep their distance.
In Russia, however, the usual rules do not apply. For starters, sport in that country, as with much else—business, history, culture—is indelibly intertwined with politics. And while, as in all countries, a team’s or an individual’s performance is a matter of national pride, the exposure of malfeasance in Russian sport is perceived in that country as an attack on the nation as a whole—another example of foreigners’ Russophobia alongside that shown by the NATO expansionists, the regime topplers and the Ukraine lovers.… Seguir leyendo »
It must have been a galling week for the Russian President. While presiding over a safe, well-run Sochi Games, President Vladimir Putin’s key foreign policy objective — to hold sway over Ukraine’s place in the world — has slipped through his fingers. At the very moment of his crowning Olympic glory, Putin probably had the second worst week of any world leader — after Viktor Yanukovych.
It is tiring to repeat truisms but this is not the Cold War and Russia is not the Soviet Union mark II — not with 2% of the world economy and a tanking workforce population.… Seguir leyendo »