While Russia appears to have prevailed in its latest showdown with Turkey in Syria—helping Damascus to blunt Turkey’s operations around Idlib and securing an advantageous cease-fire afterward—Moscow’s longer-term strategy for Syria has become murkier after the crisis. This uncertainty is primarily due to Russia’s new oil price war with Saudi Arabia, which seems to strike at one of the pillars of Moscow’s approach by undermining the prospects for Saudi financial support for Syrian reconstruction and raises new questions about the Kremlin’s motives and objectives.
Western analysts have long generally believed that Russia’s goal in Syria has been to force a political settlement to the fighting that would guarantee President Bashar al-Assad’s continued rule, at least for the time being.… Seguir leyendo »
Turkey’s October invasion of Syria forced the United States to withdraw from territory it de-facto controlled along the border and prompted the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to reach a narrow, security-focused arrangement with the Syrian regime to return to a series of towns and territory in the northeast. The Turkish armed forces have separately reached an agreement with the United States and Russia for a safe-zone, spanning the territory between Tel Abyad and Ras al Ayn and extending down to the M4 highway. This Turkish zone fall far short of Ankara’s original plan to take control over the entirety of the northeast, but prompted the Syrian Kurds to invite the regime and the Russian Federation back to territory Damascus had abandoned in 2012.… Seguir leyendo »
In a December 2nd conference call, the leaders of Russia and China will officially launch a new era in relations between the two countries. The largest gas exporter and the fastest growing large market in the world will be connected by a pipeline system that will link the gas fields of Eastern Siberia with Shanghai; the pipeline network will extend more than 6,000 km. Russian gas exports, of course, will not turn to the East (the European market remains the most important area), but they will acquire a second foothold, and its importance will grow in the long term.
In the five years that have passed since the signing of the 30-year agreement between Gazprom and CNPC for the supply of more than 1 trillion cubic meters of Russian gas to China (the largest gas contract in world history), the Chinese market has grown by 67%, necessitating a two-fold increase in imports.… Seguir leyendo »
It’s safe to assert that human memory is very short. When the latest crisis in Catalonia broke out, almost no one remembered about Galician nationalism, the long and painful history of the Basque struggle for national self-determination, or that every Spanish autonomous community has its own supporters of further autonomy, expansion, and separatism. The conflict between national self-determination and resistance to Castilian Spanish rule is quite complex. The Basque experience is also relevant in modern times, and Madrid relies on it in its combined policy of forceful suppression and the ability to put loyal politicians in power in Catalonia.
It is noteworthy that Catalan separatism does not evoke much sympathy or support in the nationalistically-oriented Basque Country or Galicia.… Seguir leyendo »
Latin America was once named the “seething continent” (continente en erupción). Current events, including the dissolution of parliament and dual power in Peru, the on-going confrontation between the government and parliament in Venezuela, as well as mass protests and the state of emergency in Ecuador, make us wonder if we are not on the verge of a new “Spring”; not an Arab one, but a Latin American one.
The similarity seems illusory. First, Latin America is extremely diverse, and tensions that have struck a number of countries are in no way connected (or are only distantly connected) with each other. There is little in common with the much more homogeneous Arab East.… Seguir leyendo »
Not to be accused of plagiarism, I at once confess that this title was prompted by the excellent book by Jacques Hogard’s1, I read already some years ago. This highly decorated French colonel, a participant of the 1999 NATO war against Serbia over Kosovo, became utterly disillusioned by double standards of Western countries in the process of this so-called ‘humanitarian war’. I do not know whether the damage done to the body, and especially to the soul, of the Old Continent is indeed mortal, but the wounds inflicted by this cowardly aerial bombardment in alliance on the ground with a terrorist organisation (recognised earlier as such by the US State Department) has indeed left deep scars on the body politic of Europe and beyond.… Seguir leyendo »
Twenty years ago, on March 24, 1999, NATO aircraft dropped the first bombs on Yugoslavia, a sovereign and independent country. The air attacks were preceded by the absolutely symbolic negotiations at Rambouillet that resulted in the US and the UK putting forward a demand that 30,000 NATO troops be deployed in Kosovo, which amounted to Belgrade’s actual loss of control over that territory. Henry Kissinger wrote that the “Rambouillet text, which called on Serbia to admit NATO troops throughout Yugoslavia, was a provocation, an excuse to start bombing. Rambouillet is not a document that an angelic Serb could have accepted. It was a terrible diplomatic document that should never have been presented in that form.”… Seguir leyendo »
On March 4-5, 2019, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev paid an official visit to Bulgaria. The purpose of the trip was the normalisation of bilateral relations in connection with the European Union’s sanctions policy against Russia, the deepening of trade and economic cooperation between Russia and Bulgaria, the discussion of topical issues of Russian-Bulgarian investment, scientific, technical and cultural/humanitarian cooperation, as well as the implementation of joint projects in the energy, industry and tourism sectors.
During the talks, the Russian prime minister and his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borisov discussed the prospects for Russian-Bulgarian rapprochement on the most pressing issues affecting bilateral cooperation, mainly regarding a possible resumption of “frozen” energy projects.… Seguir leyendo »
The BRICS countries are creating a single payment system, BRICS Pay, as part of the drive to establish a common system for retail payments and transactions between the member countries. In the near future, these countries plan to introduce a special cloud platform, which will connect their national payment systems. An online wallet will be developed with access to these payment systems, as well as a mobile application similar to Apple Pay, which can be installed on smartphones for purchases in any of the five BRICS countries, regardless of which currency the payment and the money in the account of the buyer are denominated in.… Seguir leyendo »
The development of Algeria’s relationship with Russia has been sufficiently constructive, writes Oleg Barabanov, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club. Therefore, it is in Moscow’s interests to promote stability in Algeria, taking measures to prevent civil chaos, especially in the form of a new civil war.
The current president of Algeria, 82-year-old Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has been in power since 1999. In recent years, he has not appeared in public for months at a time, and has received very few people. According to rumours, he has suffered a stroke and is currently in hospital in Geneva, Switzerland with serious health complications.… Seguir leyendo »
The Spanish exception has ended. With the arrival of VOX into the scene Spain will join its neighbours in having an ultra-right-wing party in the Parliament. This circumstance will be confirmed on April 28 when the country will go to the polls to vote for a new Government. The current one, led by the socialist Pedro Sánchez, lasted less than a year, a record in modern Spanish history. Sanchez arrived to power thanks to the votes of the Catalan independentists, who supported his motion of no confidence against his centre-right rival Mariano Rajoy, who was weakened after several corruption scandals in the PP party, and the same independentists were also the ones who brought him down by voting against Sanchez’ 2019 budget.… Seguir leyendo »
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced he would be stepping down, in a surprise statement posted on his Instagram account. His statement caused a stir both in Iran and abroad. Political scientists and journalists vied to try to explain what prompted him to take this step. The prevailing story is that Zarif was not invited to the meeting between Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President of Syria Bashar al-Assad who arrived in Tehran for the first time after the start of the Syrian crisis. Many experts interpreted the presence of Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force Maj-Gen Qassem Soleimani alongside President Hassan Rouhani as a sign of the reduced role of the Iranian Foreign Ministry in Syrian affairs.… Seguir leyendo »
The meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un, held on 27-28 February in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, was a disappointment. The parties announced that they had failed to reach an agreement. According to the post-summit statements made by Donald Trump and DPRK Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, the main stumbling block was the price that the North Koreans demanded in exchange for the dismantling of their nuclear centre in Yongbyon.
Pyongyang insisted that the Americans should lift their economic sanctions against the DPRK, which were detailed in five resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council in 2016 and 2017.… Seguir leyendo »
In early February, the US Senate approved Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, which is yet to pass through the House of Representatives and be signed into law by the President. More likely than not, it will be accepted in its present wording. For Russian public and private companies it is of importance from the point of view of its further codification of anti-Syria sanctions. Russia has consistently supported the government forces and is Syria’s crucial long-term partner in terms of its rebuilding as well as its economic development. To some extent, the bill enhances the sanction risks for them but will do little to change the situation in a fundamental way.… Seguir leyendo »
Ex Oriente Lux, Ex Occidente Lex
The rising trade tensions and contradictions among the largest economies of the world in the past several years have been largely ascribed to factors ranging from increasing inequality within countries to cross-country asymmetries in trade balances as well as the reign of the “new normal” of lower growth rates in the world economy for longer. While all these explanations could well be valid, there may be another possible factor at play, namely the crystallization of alternative visions of economic globalization espoused by the largest economies of the Global South. The changing balance in the world economy is giving rise to new dimensions of competition and rivalry on the world scene.… Seguir leyendo »
The first summit outlined the general framework of the new relations but the second should be devoted to solving more specific tasks. During the negotiations the sides will try to agree on specific mutual concessions. On the one hand, each side will seek to present the outcomes of the summit as its own victory, and this is much more important for Trump, since he relies on public opinion to a much greater extent than Kim. On the other hand, neither side is ready to take any actions that may affect its prestige and/or defense capability.
Both Trump and Kim are taking risks but in different ways.… Seguir leyendo »
Spain can hold extraordinary general parliamentary elections as soon as April 28, this year, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said after the national parliament voted against the draft state budget. The “technical” socialist government has not worked even nine months, having taken over in June 2018, not through a PSOE victory in the elections, but after a vote of no confidence for the conservative People’s Party cabinet due to the National Court verdict on the political corruption scandal, known as the Gurtel case, implicating right-wing officials.
The socialists’ position in the current Cortes Generales, the country’s legislative body, is relatively weak: the PSOE parliamentary group accounts for 84 of 350 members.… Seguir leyendo »
The security situation in the Middle East is in flux. Since 2011, the region has been undergoing a major historical transformation. Reaching the culmination of this transition will take much more time, according to Randa Slim, Director of the Track II Dialogues initiative at the Washington-based Middle East Institute and a non-resident fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced and International Studies (SAIS) Foreign Policy Institute, who was interviewed by on the sidelines of the Valdai Club Middle East Conference.
The war in Syria, when it started, constituted an apex in the evolving security and political dynamics of this historical transformation.… Seguir leyendo »
According to Iran’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Seyed Kazem Sajjadpour, who is also president of the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS), Russia, Iran and Turkey complement each other well in the post-war reconstruction of Syria, which is a multi-dimensional process. He was interviewed by on the sidelines of the Valdai Club Middle East Conference in Moscow.
Iran, Russia, and Turkey play an important role in Syria. An interesting aspect of the process is the way that the three nations complement each other: each adds value in restoring peace and security in the country. They can be of equal help in the nation’s multi-layered reconstruction process.… Seguir leyendo »
The Syrian civil war erupted in 2011 between forces loyal to President Assad and rebel forces demanding political freedom and an end to corruption and the high unemployment the country was suffering at that time. To exacerbate the problem, in 2007 – 2010the country had also been suffering from a severe drought, which resulted in an estimated 1.5 million Syrians relocating from rural areas to towns and cities, causing an additional strain on resources.
Since then, the Syrian population has faced war, genocide, terror and sectarian violence. The power struggle between Assad’s forces and the rebels left a power vacuum in various parts of the country, which ISIS and the remnants of al-Qaeda were able to exploit.… Seguir leyendo »