Wednesday, 20 September 2017
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Russia

By Lauren Goodrich

This past week saw another key success in Russia's resurgence in former Soviet territory when pro-Russian forces took control of Kyrgyzstan.

The Kyrgyz revolution was quick and intense. Within 24 hours, protests that had been simmering for months spun into countrywide riots as the president fled and a replacement government took control. The manner in which every piece necessary to exchange one government for another fell into place in such a short period discredits arguments that this was a spontaneous uprising of the people in response to unsatisfactory economic conditions. Instead, this revolution appears prearranged.

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By Jorge Rivera

Last week, President Obama and his Russian counter-part President Medvedev signed an agreement for further reductions to their nuclear arsenal. It is being labelled as the most significant pact for a generation, and will limit the number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550, which is 30% lower than the deployed strategic warhead limit of the 2002 Moscow Treaty. It also limits the number of deployed and non-deployed inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) to 800 launchers.

The effects of this pact will take several years to be fully realised but it will put pressure on NATO to re-evaluate its stance on its nuclear capabilities. NATO's nuclear deterrence strategy has evolved significantly since the end of the Cold War as has the Alliance's force posture in order to meet the new security challenges. Changes to the international security environment on the other hand have posed serious obstacles to the nuclear free world that President Obama envisioned in his speech in Prague, Czech Republic 2009. However, the arduous journey towards complete worldwide nuclear disarmament has begun this month, albeit slowly, creating ripples rather waves in this area of policy.

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By Guy Birks

The dissolution of the bipolar bloc system that broadly defined and framed the purpose of modern armed forces in the West has been supplanted by a more integrated and interdependent international environment. The purpose of modern armed forces has consequently been altered and adjusted to fit the changing nature of international relations. The principle of sovereignty has shifted from a position of inviolability to one where the international community can become involved in the internal affairs of a state and a region if it is deemed that a state poses a threat to international stability. Intervention in Somalia, Former Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan are examples of the proactive, expeditionary defence against instability. The direct defence of the homeland as a strategic premise and priority for Britain and the United States has been replaced by a concern to defend against instability through expeditionary intervention. The focus of defence now resolves around the shift from a conventional all-embrasive threat towards the expeditionary defence against unconventional threats from failing or failed states.   However, the examples of India and China - key geostrategic states with prominent armed forces – indicate that defending against instability frequently involves activities which protect and defend the homeland and its immediate locale.

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As part of the Russia in the 21st Century series, the UK Defence Forum has published the following papers:

Regional study RS 70 - Crime and corruption in modern Russia, by Adam Dempsey, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum.

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By Roshani Palamakumbura

In February, President Medvedev signed into law the much awaited new military doctrine. It has taken 4 years to draft and will define Russian security posture for the next decade. A new military doctrine is very much needed.  Since the 2000 Foreign Policy Concept (FPC) - the last time Russia updated its security posture - new challenges have arisen and some old challenges have continued to fester. Violence has been increasing in Ingushetia and Dagestan, many conflicts in Russia's "near abroad" have been frozen rather than resolved and Russian troops are entrenched in Chechnya and North Ossetia. The hailed victory in the 2008 Georgian conflict was fought entirely with equipment dating from the 1970s and brought to light glaring gaps in capabilities.

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Two Russian policemen were shot dead in Chechnya last week, swinging the spotlight back onto the far southern corner of the Russian Federation, where two bloody civil wars (or anti-terrorist actions, according to taste) have been fought over the last fifteen years.

Despite the continued influence of rebel forces, in 2009 Moscow announced that the situation in Chechnya had improved to such extent that it felt able to end its military operation against the rebels which had been underway since the end of significant combat operations in the second Chechen war in May 2000. On the 16th April 2009 Medvedev issued a decree officially ending the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya, marking the end of a ten-year conflict that cost tens of thousands of lives, but which had attracted relatively little outside attention.

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A recent Gallup poll shows that Americans see the U.S. as the world's top military power now but doubt whether this will be true in 20 years. Only about a third of Americans believe the U.S. will still be ranked first militarily in 2029.

Americans are intuitively smart, and they have taken note of a disturbing trend occurring outside the headlines: investment in military modernization is declining during a time of rapid military build-ups abroad. They are right to be concerned.

In recent months, Heritage has drawn attention to several areas where the U.S. Armed Forces are at risk of losing vital capabilities the nation has enjoyed for the last half-century. Continued cuts in future defence investments proposed in President Obama's 2010 and now 2011 budgets are putting long-held U.S. military advantages in jeopardy. These cuts are coming at a time when the U.S. military is already experiencing shrinking margins of technological superiority relative to the rest of the world.

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The UK Defence Forum has just published a study by Patrick Nopens entitled the impact of climate change on the geopolitics of the Arctic.
(www.ukdf.org.uk – in members' area, password protected).

Here's the introduction.

Climate change will cause major physical, ecological, economic, social, and geopolitical adjustment. The Arctic, more specifically, is undergoing some of the most rapid and drastic climate change on earth. This is leading to a new interest in the region, not only by the Arctic states, but also by other major powers.

Even though it was the shortest route for intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers, and the main base of the Soviet submarine fleet during the Cold War, until recently, the Arctic remained a geopolitical backwater. The relative lack of interest in the Arctic did not prevent conflicts of interest, but these did not lead to major tensions.

 

By George Friedman

We are now at the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the collapse of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe. We are also nearing the 18th anniversary of the fall of the Soviet Union itself. This is more than simply a moment for reflection — it is a moment to consider the current state of the region and of Russia versus that whose passing we are now commemorating. To do that, we must re-examine why the Soviet empire collapsed, and the current status of the same forces that caused that collapse.

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By George Friedman and Peter Zeihan

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden toured several countries in Central Europe last week, including the Czech Republic and Poland. The trip comes just a few weeks after the United States reversed course and decided not to construct a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in those two countries. While the system would have had little effect on the national security of either Poland or the Czech Republic, it was taken as a symbol of U.S. commitment to these two countries and to former Soviet satellites generally. The BMD cancellation accordingly caused intense concern in both countries and the rest of the region.

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By Brigadier (Ret) Patrick NOPENS

The West and Russia have no alternative but to engage each other in European security matters. This engagement should reach further than mere discussions and result in concrete cooperation. From a Western point of view, the background to any security dialogue remains the close association between the European Union and the Atlantic alliance and the need to reconstruct a partnership with Russia.

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By Brigadier (Ret) Patrick NOPENS

In June 2008 the Russian president Medvedev made a first proposal in Berlin for a new European security architecture in the form of a legally binding treaty.

After the war in Georgia, Russia began promoting a new approach in security more actively. In October 2008, in Evian, Medvedev proposed an international conference to discuss security questions in Europe.

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In the 'Great Game' of the 19th century, global powers attempt to gain political control of a key region and therefore access to its resources and exploit its geographical position.

The expression was used particularly for what was in effect a confrontation between the Russian empire and the British Empire over the northern approaches to the Indian Raj – India, Pakistan, Afghanistan.

The Caspian Sea Basin (CSB) is currently an arena for geopolitical competition amongst a range of players from both inside and outside the region.

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by Brad Glosserman

The United States has scaled back plans to deploy a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. While that decision reflects a new assessment of the Iranian threat to Europe, most attention is being paid to its impact on relations with Russia. But the decision has equally important implications for Asia. It underscores two critical facts: first, the notion of discrete "theaters" is a fiction; second, the U.S. has to closely engage its Asian allies as it develops its strategic doctrine.

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by Nile Gardiner, Ph.D. and Sally McNamara

Reports in the Polish media strongly suggest that the Obama Administration is about to abandon its plans for "third site" missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. Abandoning the third site would represent a huge turnaround in American strategic thinking on a global missile defense system and a massive betrayal of two key U.S. allies in Eastern and Central Europe. Such a move would also significantly weaken America's ability to combat the growing threat posed by Iran's ballistic missile program and would hand a major propaganda victory to Moscow.

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By George Friedman

A months-long White House review of a pair of U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations slated for Poland and the Czech Republic is nearing completion. The review is expected to present a number of options ranging from pushing forward with the installations as planned to canceling them outright. The Obama administration has yet to decide what course to follow. Rumors are running wild in Poland and the Czech Republic that the United States has reconsidered its plan to place ballistic defense systems in their countries. The rumors stem from a top U.S. BMD lobbying group that said this past week that the U.S. plan was all but dead.

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By George Friedman

For the past several weeks, STRATFOR has focused on the relationship between Russia and Iran. As our readers will recall, a pro-Rafsanjani demonstration that saw chants of "Death to Russia," uncommon in Iran since the 1979 revolution, triggered our discussion. It caused us to rethink Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Russia just four days after Iran's disputed June 12 presidential election, with large-scale demonstrations occurring in Tehran. At the time, we ascribed Ahmadinejad's trip as an attempt to signal his lack of concern at the postelection unrest. But why did a pro-Rafsanjani crowd chant "Death to Russia?" What had the Russians done to trigger the bitter reaction from the anti-Ahmadinejad faction? Was the Iranian president's trip as innocent as it first looked?

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By Peter Zeihan

This coming weekend marks the 10th anniversary of Vladimir Putin's assumption of a leadership position at the Kremlin. Much has happened since Putin's appointment as first vice prime minister in August 1999, but Russia's most definitive evolution was from the unstable but semidemocratic days of the 1990s to the statist, authoritarian structure of today.

While it has hardly been clear to STRATFOR that Putin would survive Russia's transition from tentative democracy to near-police state, the transformation of Russia itself has always fit with our predictions. Authoritarian government is a geographically hardwired feature of Russia.

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By George Friedman

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Georgia and Ukraine partly answered questions over how U.S.-Russian talks went during U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Russia in early July. That Biden's visit took place at all reaffirms the U.S. commitment to the principle that Russia does not have the right to a sphere of influence in these countries or anywhere in the former Soviet Union.

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By George Friedman

At Friday prayers July 17 at Tehran University, the influential cleric and former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani gave his first sermon since Iran's disputed presidential election and the subsequent demonstrations. The crowd listening to Rafsanjani inside the mosque was filled with Ahmadinejad supporters who chanted, among other things, "Death to America" and "Death to China." Outside the university common grounds, anti-Ahmadinejad elements — many of whom were blocked by Basij militiamen and police from entering the mosque — persistently chanted "Death to Russia."

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