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Analysis

A battleground of identity

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the post-Soviet space has become a battleground for world and regional powers competing over economic, political and security dominance. This rivalry has been accompanied by a competition between different identity narratives, which are instrumentally used to attract, or intimidate, the societies in the post-Soviet states. The most illustrative region in this regard is Central Asia.

The collapse of the Soviet Union brought new opportunities to its former republics, now states, to integrate or ally with organisations and powers from outside the region. It also allowed them to build new co-operative projects with other post-Soviet states. Such co-operation, though, was not limited to economic, political and security relations. The most fundamental questions the newly independent states had to address, at that time, were those regarding their own cultural and national identity. Therefore, the public debate focused heavily on issues like religion, language, alphabet, historical heritage and state tradition. These topics generated serious emotions, including among ordinary people.

March 5, 2019 - Adam Balcer

Belarus in the multipolar world

Strong political and economic ties with Russia prevent Belarus from becoming a fully neutral and independent state. And any change of geopolitical orientation or integration with the West is out of the question. The only option Minsk has, if it wants to maintain sovereignty, is to find its place in the multipolar world, one that is now coming into view.

Recent talks about the possible incorporation of Belarus into the Russian Federation have brought wide attention to the country and its place in the changing world. It sparked a series of discussions on Belarus’s neutrality and multipolarity, which have been the foundation of the republic’s foreign policy since the collapse of the Soviet Union. First stipulated in Article 18 of the 1994 Constitution, it was repeated and further developed in official state documents. Yet for almost two decades, these two important principles were reduced to words on paper while the behaviour of the Belarusian authorities, especially President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, displayed a completely different approach. Indeed, almost since the beginning of his rule, Lukashenka was tightening co-operation with Russia. The milestone agreement in this regard, concluded in 1999, established the Union State of Russia and Belarus.

March 5, 2019 - Krzysztof Mrozek

Transdniestria’s new opening?

The multipolarity of today’s world is changing Transdniestria. The unrecognised para-state that until recently was almost exclusively dependent on Russia, now trades with the European Union. While this new reality may not have reduced Russia’s influence in the region, it has certainly offered Transdniestrian oligarchs a new business opportunity.

A quick look at the breakaway territory of Transdniestria’s trade balance confirms that its authorities’ narrative, which assumes near-sacred political and historical ties with Russia, does not match the economic reality. In 2018 as much as 36 per cent of Transdniestrian exports were sent to European Union states, while only ten per cent made it to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU, a customs union made up of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan – editor’s note). Ukraine and Moldova are also important recipients of Transdniestrian products.

March 5, 2019 - Piotr Oleksy

Can the Three Seas bring a new balance to European politics?

The Three Seas Initiative has evolved into a geopolitical and geo-economic grouping of primarily post-communist EU member states. Despite their diversity and differences in policies towards Russia, the members are showing certain common interests.

The Three Seas Initiative was originally developed as a geopolitical alliance of NATO/EU member states of “New Europe”: from Estonia to Croatia, connecting the Baltic and Adriatic Seas. The initiative was officially launched in 2015 as the Adriatic-Baltic Sea Initiative by Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and has been referred to as the ABC (Adriatic, Baltic, and Black Sea) Initiative, first designated by Polish President Andrzej Duda. It has also been referred to as “the vertical”, considering the north-to-south direction of the bloc of countries which make up the initiative.

March 5, 2019 - Petar Kurecic

Customs wars in the Balkans

The implementation of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (or CEFTA) offered hope of economic growth and more efficient integration with the EU. However, differences in the trade balance and international political disputes have hindered the region's economic integration. The recent trade wars could threaten it altogether.<.I>

The idea of free trade has become so well incorporated into the public discourse on European integration that any infringement of its principles is either overlooked as a minor incident or unintended behaviour of a less experienced partner. Meanwhile, a regular customs war broke out in the Balkans. Slowly and quietly, in a manner unusual for the region, the Balkan governments have mustered their best warriors to fight their enemies in the trenches of bureaucratic regulations. The very traditions of the Byzantine and Ottoman courts laid the foundations for impermeable administrative fortresses hampering free trade and European integration of the region.

March 5, 2019 - Jan Muś

Ukrainian election and thorny politics of language

In a crass move to help his re-election campaign, President Poroshenko is playing language politics which goes against the diverse reality and tolerant values of Ukraine after Maidan.

February 11, 2019 - Nikolas Kozloff

Can major non-NATO Ally status temporarily solve Georgia’s security dilemma?

Despite almost two decades of fanfare regarding Georgia’s pursuit to join NATO, the North Atlantic Alliance has yet to adopt a common position on the concrete timeframe of Georgia’s eventual membership. Given NATO’s protracted, uneven handling of Georgia’s enrolment process, might Georgia be better off seeking closer bilateral relations with the United States?

February 5, 2019 - Eduard Abrahamyan

The future of the security and defence sector in Ukraine

Ukraine is continuing the process of establishing democratic civilian control over the security and defence sector.

January 7, 2019 - Yuriy Husyev

The long shadow of the dissenter: Challenges to public intellectual practices after 1989 in Hungary

The Hungarian story of how the social role of public intellectuals was undermined may help us make sense of what is happening elsewhere today. Hungary’s case highlights that the real danger to critical commentary and its functions in society arises not out of new media platforms, but out of the demise of the democratic multitude.

“In the 1970s and 80s, I met a fair number of western writers, most of them through György Konrád. In our conversations, the mystery that intrigued them the most was this one: how can opposition writers in Central Europe command such respect, play such an exceptional role in politics and in society – a role that they [the western authors] cannot dream about anymore.” Hungary’s prominent public intellectual Sándor Csoóri made this observation in 2006. At that time Csoóri, a one-time luminary of the Hungarian Narodnik tradition and of the post-1989 political universe as a whole, had been a bitter man for a decade and a half. He had been in the fulcrum of a controversy surrounding remarks he made concerning Jewish-Hungarian relations and the cleavage inscribed into them by the Holocaust.

January 2, 2019 - Gergely Romsics

Tsars and boyars on the Muscovite court

Two prominent historians of the second half of the 20th century – Richard Pipes and Edward Keenan – delivered two radically different explanations for the Russian phenomenon. Clearly, these two competing theories are the offspring of their time. The Pipes perspective stems from the harsh 1960s while the Keenan concept of “Muscovite folkways” was the product of the 1970s era of détente.

Since the rise of the Russian Empire, western scholars, diplomats and politicians specialising in Kremlinology have been trying to resolve the great conundrum about the core of the Muscovite power structure. Two prominent historians of the second half of the 20th century – Richard Pipes and Edward Keenan – delivered two radically different explanations for the Russian phenomenon.

January 2, 2019 - Tomasz Grzywaczewski

Can Israel accept Russia in its backyard?

Military intervention in Syria put Russia in Israel’s neighbourhood starting in 2015. This, on top of the 1.4 million Russian-speaking Jews already living in Israel, has made for an interesting dynamic in Russian-Israeli relations.

For contemporary Israel, Russia is not just a country that is more than three thousand kilometres away: Russia is already in Israel. Having absorbed more than one million “Russian” Jews, Israel is not the same anymore. What is more, the Middle East has, again, become a strategic region for the Kremlin. By intervening in neighbouring Syria, and backing Bashar al-Assad in his struggle to stay in power, Russia has made spectacular inroads into Israeli national security debates.

January 2, 2019 - Agnieszka Bryc

Russia’s role in the Middle East – a grand plan or opportunism?

Russian military engagement in the Syrian war has been a big game changer. Whatever the tactical successes and failures, the sheer fact that Russian troops are present in Syria sends a clear message.

Since the start of the decade, Russia has been taking advantage of major security developments in the Middle East: the Arab Spring, including faltering regimes in Egypt and Libya; the United States’ light footprint approach, i.e. its withdrawal from Iraq and reliance on proxies in Syria and Yemen; and the growing tensions in the Gulf between Iran and the Sunni Arab states. The apex of Russia’s engagement arrived in 2015 when Moscow decided to provide militarily support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the Syrian war. Russian military intervention did not end in quagmire. Instead it empowered Assad’s forces to crush most of the rebelling groups, thus tipping the balance of power in Assad’s favour as per Russian objectives.

January 2, 2019 - Wojciech Michnik

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