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Analysis

Is Abkhazia being absorbed by Russia?

After the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, Moscow recognized the independence of the separatist regions of Georgia – Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region. After the recognition, Moscow pursued relations with both regions, which Georgia considers to be occupied by Russia, as those with equal states. Moscow took into account the sentiments of the local population and the political elite in the occupied regions, especially in Abkhazia, and refrained from intense pressure. However, after the start of Russia's full-scale military aggression in Ukraine in 2022, Moscow's attitude has changed.

Before the August 2008 war, Moscow formally recognized the territorial integrity of Georgia and refrained from relations with the separatist regions at the official level. It was only after the August war when the situation changed. Russia recognized the independence of both regions, after which Moscow's influence over Sokhumi (the capital of occupied Abkhazia) and Tskhinvali (the capital of the occupied Tskhinvali region) increased in all directions. In particular, the fourth and seventh military bases of the Russian defence ministry and Federal Security Service’s border service were established to ensure the security of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region. The budget and economic life of the occupied regions are also completely dependent on Russia.

April 11, 2024 - Mamuka Komakhia

It is time to take the improvement of the Ukraine-EU border seriously

Since the start of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, the country’s border with the EU, particularly that with Poland, has been in the limelight for reasons both good and bad. While in recent months it mainly attracted attention due to the Polish farmers and freight carriers’ blockade, the overall problems related to the Ukraine-EU border are far more complex and require a more comprehensive set of solutions.

When Polish President Andrzej Duda travelled to Kyiv at the height of Ukraine-Poland relations in May 2022, he talked mostly about Russia’s aggression and the need to enhance cooperation. But he also touched upon another, no less important matter. Namely, that Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine which caused a massive exodus of people during a short period exposed the Ukraine-Poland border’s subpar condition, adding that the border must “unite, not divide”. This statement was warmly greeted in Ukraine, as by then the border had turned into the country’s lifeline, with dozens of hubs created in bordering Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary to quickly process all sorts of critical supplies.

April 11, 2024 - Lesia Dubenko

Defence diplomacy: Ukraine and the Global South

Based on previous experience, strategic communications – including defence diplomacy – are usually built on the principle of the “Five Ms”: messages, messengers, media, mediums and mechanisms. The messages should be tailored carefully to the audience, addressing political narratives, shared historical experiences, socio-psychological aspects, instrumental issues and cultural affairs. Ukraine should come out strong in the messaging and other pillars of this strategy when trying to cooperate with the “Global South” and procure military support.

April 11, 2024 - Omar Ashour

Henry Kissinger’s legacy and European geopolitics

With its assertiveness, Russia persistently pursues its unjustifiable goals through various means, reminiscent of Henry Kissinger's theories on power politics. However, despite great effort, Russia's track record of significant victories on the battlefield remains lacking. This presents an opportune moment for Europe and the broader western world to assert their dominance.

On November 29th 2023, a brilliant statesman, celebrity diplomat, exponent of power politics and influential scholar passed away at his home in Connecticut. Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state, had advised dozens of policymakers during his outstanding long career. His legacy is assessed on a rather bittersweet note due to Kissinger’s realpolitik style of understanding global affairs. The notorious Nobel Peace Prize winner remains a controversial figure in rethinking power and strategy in philosophical and even existential terms.

April 11, 2024 - Erekle Iantbelidze

A super elections year: Romania’s 2024 political landscape

This year Romanians will experience an unprecedented four elections: local, European, presidential and parliamentary. The ruling mainstream parties have already demonstrated their joint strategy to curb the rise of populist and extremist parties. How the society will vote in this marathon of democracy remains unknown.

Romania has never had four rounds of elections in a single year. However, 2024 brings them all: European, local, presidential and parliamentary. Over the past year, there have been discussions about the possibility of merging some of them, especially European and local elections. Yet, until recently, the political calculations within the governing coalition did not favour this option as a means of simplifying the electoral calendar.

April 11, 2024 - Eugen Stancu

The rise of the pro-Putin Revival party in Bulgaria

The Bulgarian far-right Revival presents themselves as “the only patriotic party” in Bulgaria. However, a review of their public discourse uncovers a rather disturbing fabric of their patriotism – a strange mix of anti-NATO rhetoric, unrefined populism, xenophobia, and profanity. Their sudden electoral success raises many suspicions.

From an underdog with merely 37,896 votes in the 2017 parliamentary election, Bulgaria’s Revival party (Vazrazhdane) has managed to gain 358,174 votes in the 2023 election and to secure itself 37 seats in the country’s 240-seat parliament. Its meteoritic rise is often used as an argument justifying the shameful union between the reformists (PPDB) and the establishment (GERB; DPS) in Bulgaria which, in turn, resulted in the election of Nikolay Denkov’s government in 2023. The marriage of convenience between PPDB, GERB, and DPS, which emerged in 2023, is presented as a Euro-Atlantic micro alliance protecting Bulgaria from the malicious influence of Vladimir Putin’s circles allegedly channelled by Revival – an account that feeds into the current dominant geopolitical narrative.

April 11, 2024 - Radosveta Vassileva

Empire or democracy

Democracy and imperialism are mutually exclusive. No empire was, is or can be democratic. The British Empire was not, the imperial People’s Republic of China is not, nor will imperial Russia become a democracy, even when a self-professed democrat is installed at its helm. The necessary precondition of democratization in an empire is decolonization.

In February 2024, the death (or rather, extrajudicial killing) of the leading Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny sent shock waves across the democratic world. It could have been a subdued affair, as in the case of the Chinese 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. Beijing arrested him on trumped up charges in 2008 and withheld medical care, leading to the dissident’s premature death in 2017. The Chinese authorities did not want to turn Liu Xiaobo into a martyr for democracy. Hence, he was cremated and his ashes scattered at sea. No grave means no pilgrimage site.

April 11, 2024 - Tomasz Kamusella

Presidential pseudo-election in Russia: what does it tell us about Putin’s regime?

The 2024 “presidential election” (March 15th to 17th) is intended to consolidate Putin’s neo-totalitarian grip on Russia. The West should not recognize its results and hamper the Kremlin’s efforts to pursue its aggressive goals both in its foreign and domestic policy.

March 12, 2024 - Maria Domańska

Economies of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine in 2023 – the devil is in the details

The ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine has influenced the economies of the three countries engaged in the conflict. While the similarities in the institutional setups of these economies have resulted in some resemblances regarding the results of this impact, there are also notable differences in what has happened in them.

February 26, 2024 - Kacper Wańczyk

Unravelling the anti-immigrant discourse in Poland’s 2023 election campaign

In the digital age, with information flowing freely and narratives shaping perceptions, there is less and less hope of arriving at a point at which one objective truth prevails or even exists. This leaves us with the task of understanding discourses surrounding political events and processes. From that vantage point, one may look at the case of immigration to Poland and how it appeared in last year’s electoral campaign.

February 21, 2024 - Maciej Makulski

War, inflation and central banks

The people who head the central banks of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia are usually regarded both in the West and in the expert circles of their countries as the most liberal or technocratic in the economic governance structures. They are all well-read, experienced and have contacts abroad. However, the institutional reality of Belarus, Russia and even Ukraine is that all three central banks remain heavily dependent on the presidential centres.

In the many economic analyses of the countries involved in the war on the borders of the European Union, little attention is paid to the role of the central banks of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. However, a look at their functioning allows us to gain not only a better understanding of the current economic policies of Kyiv, Minsk and Moscow but also an insight into the peculiarities of these countries' economic systems.

February 7, 2024 - Kacper Wańczyk

What role can Romania play in facilitating Western Balkan integration?

Recent geopolitical developments have resulted in renewed discussions on the enlargement of the European Union – including in the Western Balkans. Many factors will determine how these talks go in 2024 but some local actors may have significant input. Through its experience, Romania can be one of these actors and play a unique role in this process.

The new geopolitical context stemming from Russia’s ongoing brutal war on European soil has had profound effects on the geopolitical dynamics of the European Union’s enlargement. After many years of inertia and stagnation, enlargement seems to be back at the top of the EU agenda. The geopolitical decision made by the European Council in June 2022 to grant Ukraine and Moldova candidate status was followed by the (re-)opening of previously stagnating accession negotiations with the countries of the Western Balkans (Albania and various ex-Yugoslav states).

February 7, 2024 - Marius Ghincea Miruna Butnaru-Troncotă

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