Tuesday, 10 March 2015 00:00

Russia and the Arab Spring

The Russian attitude to the Arab Spring—a mixture of skepticism, caution and mis-trust—was for a long time poorly understood outside the country. In the West, which initially saw in the Arab Spring the familiar battle between “democracy from below” and “dictatorship from above,” many accused Moscow of sympathizing with outdated au-thoritarian regimes, even facilitating their behavior, and of being incapable of keeping up with the times.
Later, the situation changed. As democratic revolutions were replaced by civil con-flicts (some more peaceful, others more bloody, all exacerbated by ethnic or religious differences) Russia’s conservative position started to find support, both within the Mid-dle East and beyond. The breakthrough Russo-American agreement on Syrian chemical weapons opened the door to the Geneva II talks, bringing factions within Syria to the same talks table, and also helping regulate the Iranian nuclear issue.
To understand the factors that shaped the Russian attitude to the Arab Spring, we need to review recent Russian history and how the situation has changed Russia’s bor-ders. In this article, we will attempt to circumscribe these factors, and offer insights into their true nature.

At the moment, the center of global economic and political gravity is rapidly shifting to the Asia-Pacific Region. This region possesses vast financial, resource-related, industrial and human potential. As the center of global development rapidly shifts to the East, Rus-sia regards the Asia-Pacific Region as the engine of the world economy, the key to which is a burgeoning China.
In contemporary international relations the fast-moving rise of the PRC has become a crucial issue that concerns both Western and Russian political leaders, scholars and common citizens. The true intentions of the Chinese leadership as it pursues its foreign policy course remain quite nebulous and ambiguous. In various spheres and at a various levels of Russian society there are quite a few discussions and disputes about what, in fact, lies behind the global phenomenon of the “rise” of China, what consequences it entails for Russia, and how Moscow should organize its relations with Beijing.

As a bridge between the Middle East, the former Soviet republics, and the Euro-Atlantic zone, the Caspian Sea is increasingly at the center of the global geopolitical and commercial game. In addition to its strategic location, the Caspian Sea, according to analysts, could contain between 6 and 10 percent of the world’s gas reserves, and from 2 to 6 percent of the world’s oil reserves. Defined in 1921 as an Irano-Soviet sea, the Caspian rapidly became a source of tension after the fall of the USSR. The increased number of littoral states, rising from two to five, made it necessary to redraw national sea borders and, maybe even more importantly, to redistribute the ownership of the resources lying under the Caspian seabed. As a regional agreement was never reached, each country has started granting permits for the extraction of hydrocarbons in what it considers to be its territorial waters. These conflicting claims recently led to a generalized and alarming military buildup across the region. As a result, in the past several years a number of armed incidents have been reported that have contributed to further destabilizing an already volatile region.
The government of Poland has addressed a number of difficult national security issues since the nation regained its independence from Soviet control in 1989. Longstanding border disputes with neighboring countries and the perceived disparate treatment of Polish minorities in these countries are just two examples of the many external security challenges Poland faced head-on after its emergence from the Warsaw Pact. Poland’s leadership has also addressed a number of internal security problems, such as the modernization of its Cold War-era military and the transfer of control of the armed forces from the Polish General Staff to civilian authorities within its Ministry of Defense. Notwithstanding these daunting security challenges, Poland’s decision to support elements of a U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) program on its sovereign soil has arguably posed the most complex national security dilemma for Polish leaders in this most recent chapter of its long national history. This essay will examine the decision to support the BMD program from the perspective of the Polish government, focusing in particular on the BMD program proposed and eventually implemented by the Obama Administration in 2009. After providing a historical summary of the United States’ BMD program as it applies to Poland, the article will examine the domestic context within Poland, and how this context influenced the actions of government officials charged with evaluating the BMD program. The essay will then review Poland’s national interests in accepting a BMD program on its soil, and will discuss how Polish officials negotiated with the Obama Administration to gain concessions in support of these national interests. Finally, the essay will examine how the decision to support the BMD program affected Poland’s long-term relationships with neighboring countries within the European Union (EU) and, most importantly, Russia. By allying with the United States and, to a certain extent, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on BMD, Poland put itself in the middle of a highly contentious international dispute. Given the security guarantees, military modernization, and potential economic aid that resulted from this eventual support, however, the decision by the Polish government will likely prove to be a beneficial one, as Poland continues to rapidly emerge from the shadows of the Warsaw Pact.
In the Lopota Valley, a picturesque spot situated near Georgia’s mountainous northeast border with Russia’s Dagestani autonomous region, a series of skirmishes took place on the 28th and 29th of August 2012 that cost the lives of two troops from elite units of the Georgian Ministry of the Interior, a military doctor, and eleven gunmen identified as North Caucasus Islamist insurgents, leaving a few Georgian military personnel injured and one insurgent, a Russian citizen, captured by Georgian special forces. While the circumstances of what happened in the vicinity of the north Kakhetian village of Lapankuri have not yet been sufficiently revealed, the event might have considerable implications for the security situation in the entire region of the North and South Caucasus. The purpose of this article is to analyze various perspectives and issues related to this incident and to prove that the hostage crisis in the Lopota Valley indicates the existence of and the foreshadowing of much greater regional instability. The article shall outline the general course of events and those responsible for the incident. It will then introduce various perspectives on the incident from Georgian, Russian, and Dagestani authorities and sources, and analyze the short-term and long-term implications of the incident.
Each instance of communication via the Internet depends on the transfer of confidential, readily available, and authenticated information. If this information is read, altered, or forged in any way, it jeopardizes the secure and safe operation of any service depending on the transfer of data. Thus, the exploitation of data can be leveraged in ways that can have devastating effects on modern societies. The problem with a networked society is that the international conventions on the use of force fail to sufficiently safeguard the world from the instability caused by computer attacks. This article seeks to remedy the situation by defining what kinds of actions carried out via computerized networks constitute a use of armed force or armed conflict. This article applies the existing Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC) to three cases of computer-based attacks carried out by nation-states. In doing so, the aim is to highlight the legal limitations on actions that can be taken to respond to computer attacks.
Significant changes in the global strategic landscape over the past two decades include the fall of the Iron Curtain and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, accelerated globalization, increasing reliance on digital information technologies in all aspects of life, the rise of China and India, global financial crises, the political revolutions of the Arab Spring, and the emergence of violent Islamist extremism as a key feature of the geopolitical landscape. Yet at the same time, many of the key dynamics of the international arena remain unchanged from twenty years ago, including the volatility and instability of the Middle East, the lack of development in most of Africa, the ever-increasing integration of the global economy, and the preeminence of the United States as an actor in global affairs, with other states, such as the United Kingdom, Germany, and Russia also playing key roles. Among all that has changed and all that remains the same, new issues have emerged, few of which merit consideration in isolation. Rather, the complex and interconnected nature of today’s international system demands analysis that accounts for the relationships between actors and issues and considers the multiplicity of effects that their interaction unavoidably creates. Two key features of the current strategic environment—the two that are the focus of this article—are the indispensability of information technology in all aspects of modern life and the continued significance of Russia as an actor on the global stage. Driven by the growing dependence of modern society on digital technology and the vulnerability of digital systems to cyber threats, cybersecurity has emerged as a critical national security issue, spawning a growth industry that researches solutions to the technical, legal, and policy challenges of the day.
The last two decades have witnessed a tectonic upheaval in the international political milieu. In Eastern Europe, the collapse of the Soviet Union meant the sudden emergence of newly independent states and required a quick and proper reaction to the changing geopolitical context. Such is the challenge confronting Russia and the European Union (EU), the two major players in the region. In times of economic crisis and political uncertainty, both parties seek to achieve their goals and protect their interests in the shared vicinity by expanding cooperation with their neighbors. However, each side is conducting its actions in a different fashion, according to its own strategic plans. The pressing issue coming out of this situation is whether it is possible to label this dual struggle for broader political clout a new strategic competition. Or it is just an inevitable process of restructuring the regional political environment – a process that is still incomplete after the dissolution of the Soviet Union? Thus, this essay examines the practical nature and the ideological background of both the EU and Russian approaches and policies towards the common proximity of the former Soviet republics.
The TOPAZ International Program (TIP) was the final name given to a series of projects to purchase for testing in the United States the TOPAZ-II, a space-based nuclear reactor of a type that had been more fully developed in the Soviet Union than in the United States. The TOPAZ-II represented the more than twenty years of the Soviet space program’s experience with nuclear thermionic power system technology, which matured during the period from 1969 to 1990. In the changing political situation associated with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it became possible for the United States to not just purchase the system, but also to employ Russian scientists, engineers, and testing facilities to verify its reliability. The TIP presented the only opportunity for Russian scientists and engineers to continue the development of thermionic space nuclear power systems for civil (non-defense) applications, as funding for these efforts in the USSR had been cut off. The TIP became the first prominent example of international cooperation between Russia and the United States in a formerly highly classified area of technology following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The essay analyses the role of NATO in the post Cold War period by conducting a comparison of the cases of NATO’s operations in Kosovo and Libya. The article reveals the enhanced weight of the Alliance member states and the European countries’ active role in protecting their regional interests and also show how the state interests of the USA and Russia played a significant role in the two cases. This analysis of the behavioral patterns of the former Cold War adversaries could provide a useful interpretation and perhaps an explanation of the current events in Ukraine. The pursuit of power continues to dominate the international relations arena as the confrontation between the USA and Russia is far from over.

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