Friday, 01 July 2022
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According to the elite newspapers and journals of opinion, the future of foreign affairs mainly rests on ideas: the moral impetus for humanitarian intervention, the various theories governing exchange rates and debt rebalancing necessary to fix Europe, the rise of cosmopolitanism alongside the stubborn vibrancy of nationalism in East Asia and so on. In other words, the world of the future can be engineered and defined based on doctoral theses. And to a certain extent this may be true. As the 20th century showed us, ideologies -- whether communism, fascism or humanism -- matter and matter greatly. Bit there is another truth, opines Robert D Kaplan, Chief Geopolitical Analyst of Stratfor.

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Tajikistan officials seized 67 kilogrammes of synthetic drugs in Tajikistan on May 22, one week after the head of Russia's Federal Drug Control Service, Viktor Ivanov, called drug production and trafficking in Central Asia a pressing issue. Ivanov said up to 40 per cent of Central Asian gross domestic product comes from criminal activities, especially from narcotics, and that Russia should fight the problem more actively. He added that Russia plans to implement 22 new counternarcotics programs in Central Asia to help protect its interests in the region. The flow of drugs from Central Asia into Russia is a significant problem for Moscow.Though completely eradicating drug trafficking is impossible, Moscow would like to gain as much control as it can over the illicit trade. This would let Moscow justify increasing its presence and influence in Central Asia, allowing it to counter U.S.activity there and preparing Russia for increased volatility in the region following the United States' exit from Afghanistan.

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Lithuania announced on March 2 that it will lease a Norwegian Floating Storage and Regasification Unit in 2014. The unit, an offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG)
degasification ship, theoretically could provide more than enough natural gas to meet Lithuania's needs. The relatively new technology, which is mobile and able to
be leased, helps small countries avoid the large up-front costs of building LNG facilities and thus could change the energy landscape for coastal countries in Russia's periphery. However, Moscow will retain significant influence over Lithuania's energy supplies in the near term.

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Recent American and South Korean intelligence reports speculate that North Korea may be preparing for its first nuclear tests since 2009. Satellite images show that North Korea has dug an 800 metre tunnel at its test site at Punggye-ri. Experts believe that the tunnel will be ready for a nuclear test when it reaches 1 kilometre, which South Korea believes may occur in early April.

Adam Dempsey, Research Associate for the UK Defence Forum, has recently undertaken a study of North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. His report outlines the development of Pyongyang's programme and ballistic missile capabilities.

In keeping with many aspects of North Korean life, Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme is shrouded in secrecy and subject to speculation. Official estimates of North Korea's programme are varied and remain primarily reliant on open-source intelligence. To complicate matters, Pyongyang's nuclear missile development may have benefitted from illegal exchanges involving the A.Q. Khan network.

Adam's full report is available here.


By Oliver Jones

Much has been made over recent years of the emerging threat of "cyber-attacks" on Western targets. Governments have become increasingly vocal on these threats, publishing a range of materials and proposing a number of policies. In the United States the government has taken steps which include the establishment of the US "Cyber-Command", alongside the US senate debating a so called "kill switch bill", which proposes to grant the president emergency powers over the internet. In the UK the cyber threat is also a growing concern. The recent Strategic Defence and Security Review and the UK National Security Strategy have both identified the sphere of "cyber Security" as a "Tier 1" threat or risk . Outside of government circles the issue is also becoming increasingly debated. Recently the popular periodicals "Foreign Affairs" and "The New Yorker" have both released articles detailing and debating the issue.

What however is the threat from this new "cyber domain", does it represent a new paradigm in warfare? Popular perceptions stemming from fictitious sources, such as the 2007 blockbuster Die Hard 4.0 in which the US comes under assault from "cyber-Terrorists" who target key infrastructure to cause a "fire sale" attack with potentially devastating consequences, suggest that cyber-warfare represents a devastating new strategic weapon capable of the kind of destruction only previously threatened by "WMD's". What's more the threat of cyber-attack is also characterised as being an emerging "asymmetric" threat. This idea of cyber-war is also lent credence from sources such as "Unrestricted Warfare," a proposal for Chinese military strategy, written by two Peoples Liberation Army colonels, whereby China seeks to beat a technologically and military superior opponent through the use of imaginative strategies which utilise measures that avoid direct military confrontation and instead attack their adversary through other avenues. Also adding to this perception of the cyber threat are the events like those in Estonia in 2007, where the Government and other sectors came under sustained denial of service attacks during a diplomatic spat with Russia over the relocation of "the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn". This and similar ideas certainly suggest that cyber-war does represent a threat in this way and this idea has been championed by American authorities on cyber-war. Richard A. Clarke, a former White House official with responsibility for the field, this year published "Cyberwar" a proposal for US strategy which prophesizes a particularly apocalyptic vision of a Chinese cyber-attack with mass casualties.

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Editor's note: This is the sixth installment in a series of special reports that Dr. Friedman will write over the next few weeks as he travels to Turkey, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Poland. In this series, he will share his observations of the geopolitical imperatives in each country and conclude with reflections on his journey as a whole and options for the United States.

By George Friedman

The name "Ukraine" literally translates as "on the edge." It is a country on the edge of other countries, sometimes part of one, sometimes part of another and more frequently divided. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was divided between Russia, Poland and the Ottoman Empire. In the 19th century, it was divided between Russia and Austria-Hungary. And in the 20th century, save for a short period of independence after World War I, it became part of the Soviet Union. Ukraine has been on the edge of empires for centuries.

My father was born in Ukraine in 1912, in a town in the Carpathians now called Uzhgorod. It was part of Austria-Hungary when he was born, and by the time he was 10 the border had moved a few miles east, so his family moved a few miles west. My father claimed to speak seven languages (Hungarian, Romanian, Slovak, Polish, Ukrainian, Russian and Yiddish). As a child, I was deeply impressed by his learning. It was only later that I discovered that his linguistic skills extended only to such phrases as "What do you want for that scrawny chicken?" and "Please don't shoot."

He could indeed make himself understood in such non-trivial matters in all these languages. Consider the reason: Uzhgorod today is on the Slovakian border, about 30 miles from Poland, 15 miles from Hungary and 50 miles from Romania. When my father was growing up, the borders moved constantly, and knowing these languages mattered. You were never sure what you'd be a citizen or subject of next or who would be aiming a rifle at you.

My father lived on the edge until the Germans came in 1941 and swept everything before them, and then until the Soviets returned in 1944 and swept everything before them. He was one of tens of millions who lived or died on the edge, and perhaps nowhere was there as much suffering from living on the edge than in Ukraine. Ukraine was caught between Stalin and Hitler, between planned famines and outright slaughter, to be relieved only by the grinding misery of post-Stalin communism. No European country suffered as much in the 20th century as Ukraine. From 1914 until 1945, Ukraine was as close to hell as one can reach in this life.

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Editor's note: This is the final installment in a series of special reports that Dr. Friedman wrote during his travels to Turkey, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Poland. In this series, he shared his observations of the geopolitical imperatives in each country and now concludes with reflections on his journey as a whole and options for the United States.

By George Friedman

I have come home, a word that is ambiguous for me, and more so after this trip to Romania, Moldova, Turkey, Ukraine and Poland. The experience of being back in Texas frames my memories of the journey. The architecture of the cities I visited both impressed and oppressed me. Whether Austro-Hungarian mass or Stalinist modernism, the sheer size of the buildings was overwhelming. These are lands of apartments, not of private homes on their own plots of land. In Texas, even in the cities, you have access to the sky. That gives me a sense of freedom and casualness that Central Europe denies me. For a man born in Budapest, with a mother from Bratislava and a father from Uzhgorod, I can't deny I am Central European. But I prefer my chosen home in Austin simply because nothing is ever casual for me in Central Europe. In Texas, everything is casual, even when it's about serious things. There is an ease in the intensity of Texas.

On my return, some friends arranged a small dinner with some accomplished and distinguished people to talk about my trip. I was struck by the casualness of the conversation. It was a serious discussion, even passionate at times, but it was never guarded. There was no sense that a conversation carried with it risk. I had not met some of the guests before. It didn't matter. In the region I was born in, I feel that I have to measure every word with care. There are so many bad memories that each word has to be measured as if it were gold. The simplest way to put it, I suppose, is that there are fewer risks in Texas than in Central Europe. One of the benefits of genuine power is speaking your mind, with good humor. Those on the edge of power proceed with more caution. Perhaps more than others, I feel this tension. Real Texans may laugh at this assertion, but at the end of the day, I'm far more Texan than anything else.

Or perhaps I speak too quickly. We were in the Kiev airport on the way to Warsaw. As I was passing through security, I was stopped by the question, "Friedman? Warsaw?" I admitted that and suddenly was under guard. "You have guns in your luggage." For me, that statement constituted a near-death experience. I looked at my wife, wondering what she had done. She said casually, "Those aren't guns. They are swords and daggers and were to be surprises for my husband." Indeed they were. While I stood in mortal terror, she cheerily chatted up the guards, who really couldn't make out what she was saying but were charmed nonetheless by her complete absence of fear. In my case, the fear came in layers, with each decade like another layer in an archaeological dig. For her, memory is a much simpler thing.

The region I visited is all about memories never forgetting, never forgiving and pretending it doesn't matter any more. Therefore, the region is in a peculiar place. On the one hand, every past grievance continues to live. On the other hand, a marvelous machine, the European Union, is hard at work, making the past irrelevant and the future bright. In a region not noted for its optimism, redemption is here and it comes from Brussels.

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Editor's note: This is the seventh installment in a series of special reports that Dr. Friedman is writing as he travels to Turkey, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Poland. In this series, he shares his observations of the geopolitical imperatives in each country and will conclude, in the next installment, with reflections on his journey as a whole and options for the United States.

By George Friedman

To understand Poland, you must understand Frederic Chopin. First listen to his Polonaise and then to his Revolutionary Etude. They are about hope, despair and rage. In the Polonaise, you hear the most extraordinary distillation of a nation's existence. In the Revolutionary Etude, written in the wake of an uprising in Warsaw in 1830 crushed by Russian troops, there is both rage and resignation. In his private journal, Chopin challenged God for allowing this national catastrophe to happen, damning the Russians and condemning the French for not coming to Warsaw's aid. Afterward, Chopin never returned to Poland, but Poland never left his mind.

Poland finally became an independent nation in 1918. The prime minister it chose to represent it at Versailles was Ignacy Paderewski, a pianist and one of the finest interpreters of Chopin. The conference restored the territories of Greater Poland, and Paderewski helped create the interwar Poland. Gdansk (the German Danzig) set the stage for Poland's greatest national disaster when Germany and the Soviet Union allied to crush Poland, and Danzig became the German justification for its destruction.

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Editor's note: This is the second installment in a series of special reports that Dr. Friedman will write over the next few weeks as he travels to Turkey, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Poland. In this series, he will share his observations of the geopolitical imperatives in each country and conclude with reflections on his journey as a whole and options for the United States.

By George Friedman

A borderland is a region where history is constant: Everything is in flux. The countries we are visiting on this trip (Turkey, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Poland) occupy the borderland between Islam, Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity. Roman Catholic Hapsburg Austria struggled with the Islamic Ottoman Empire for centuries, with the Ottomans extending northwest until a climactic battle in Vienna in 1683. Beginning in the 18th century, Orthodox Russia expanded from the east, through Belarus and Ukraine. For more than two centuries, the belt of countries stretching from the Baltic to the Black seas was the borderland over which three empires fought.

There have been endless permutations here. The Cold War was the last clear-cut confrontation, pitting Russia against a Western Europe backed and to a great extent dominated by the United States. This belt of countries was firmly if informally within the Soviet empire. Now they are sovereign again. My interest in the region is to understand more clearly how the next iteration of regional geopolitics will play out. Russia is far more powerful than it was 10 years ago. The European Union is undergoing internal stress and Germany is recalculating its position. The United States is playing an uncertain and complex game. I want to understand how the semicircle of powers, from Turkey to Poland, are thinking about and positioning themselves for the next iteration of the regional game.

I have been accused of thinking like an old Cold warrior. I don't think that's true. The Soviet Union has collapsed, and U.S. influence in Europe has declined. Whatever will come next will not be the Cold War. What I do not expect this to be is a region of perpetual peace. It has never been that before. It will not be that in the future. I want to understand the pattern of conflict that will occur in the future. But for that we need to begin in the past, not with the Cold War, but with World War I.

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By Lana Jarsdell

The Russian constitution barred Vladimir Putin from running for a third consecutive term for the office of President of the Russian Federation (Chapter 4, Article 81.3).[1] This however did nothing to put to rest murmurings amongst political elites worldwide that Putin was not ready to relinquish the reigns of power just yet.

Prime Minister Putin has played a more dominant role in government than any other predecessor in this position. According to many Russian politicians, the status of the Kremlin under Putin's premiership has been reduced to nothing more than a representative establishment. Political analyst Dimitry Oreshkin asserts; "...the centre of power has been unquestionably transferred to the White House."[2]

The first sign that Putin would continue his dominant role in Russian politics came just a week after the presidential election during the first cabinet meeting to assign key politicians to their posts. Putin sat in the same seat he held as President, whilst newly elected President Medvedev, sat to one side, in a seat usually occupied by subordinate members of the cabinet.[3] During the meeting, Medvedev outlined which key politicians would be appointed to the roles of Foreign Minister and Energy Minister as well as who would be the new head of the security services and the Secretary of the Presidential administration. In a predictable, albeit unprecedented turn of events, all of these posts went to Putin loyalists. These appointments have historically been the responsibility and privilege of the President, and never before been so dominated by a Prime Minister. Putin's disregard for convention cemented the belief that he remains the driving force in the supposed new age of Russian Politics.

The Constitution of the Russian Federation clearly defines the separation of powers between the President and the Prime Minister. Chapter 4 of the constitution is specific to the rights and responsibilities of the President. It stipulates that he shall determine the domestic and foreign policy and is required to formally appoint federal ministers in the government, including the Prime Minister, Judges of the Supreme Court and Chairman of the Federal Bank, with the respective federal ministries reporting directly to him. He also has the power to call elections and dissolve the government; and can also call a state of emergency and impose military law if there is a perceived threat to national security.

The Prime Minister is bound by the rules set out in Chapter 6 of the constitution. It maintains that the Prime Minister's role is secondary to the president as the head of the cabinet of ministers. His role is to implement the policies determined by the President. The civil service reports to the PM and he usually chairs the cabinet meetings. There are powers at the PM's disposal, namely the co-ordination and control of economic and fiscal, social and labour policy.[4]

As Chairman of the government of the Russian Federation, one can understand how Putin's power is constitutionally, greatly diminished. However, he has been successful in maintaining control over the reins, and in doing so has made himself into a powerful Prime Minister who eclipses and undermines a perceived weak President.

Although Medvedev's popularity continues to increase, Putin is still regarded as the number 1 politician in Russia. The Levada centre, an independent polling company, released figures in late 2009 that show the number of people who trust the President had dramatically increased over the course of the summer. In May, the figure was 10.9%, but by August it had almost doubled to 20.6%. That said, even though Putin's figure did not increase on such a scale, his rating is much higher than that of Medvedev, rising from 27.5% to 28% respectively.[5]

Olga Kryshtanovskaya, Director of the Elite Studies Centre at the Institute of Sociology in Moscow's Academy of Sciences, believes that the tandem power share between the President and Prime Minister is key to their popularity. Although Medvedev is developing into a statesman, he has yet to do anything that outshines his predecessor's achievements.

The problem for Medvedev is that people still regard him as Putin's successor and merely a subordinate rather than an independent head of state. A poll by Radio Free Europe concluded that 66% of Russians are convinced that Medvedev is under the control of Putin.[6]

One reason for Putin's domestic popularity lies in the fact that he was president during Russia's largest economic boom in decades when people witnessed the re-emergence of Russia as a key state in world political and economic affairs. As Maria Lipman, a Moscow based Political Scientist, suggests,"...For the people of Russia, Putin is clearly the man in charge...the one who protects everybody..." [7]

Like his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, Putin nominated a candidate whom he wanted to succeed him. Yeltsin defended his decision to choose Putin during his New Year address. "I tried to find a man whose fundamental values are freedom, the market, and progress, together with civilized states. I thought it was important for him to have a strong will." [8] Putin's public justification of Medvedev's nomination was of a similar tone. He stated that his personal and working relationship with Medvedev had spanned over 17 years and he fully supported his candidacy, asserting that he trusted Medvedev was the man who could form the next government that would continue to ensure Russia's growth in the 21st century. In reality however, Putin is more likely to have based his decision on the preservation of his political status rather than taking steps towards liberalisation and democratisation. By selecting a younger candidate, Putin was able to maintain the interest of the younger generation of supporters, while, simultaneously, preserving the continued cooperation of the older generations who were keen to see change take place to ensure Russia moves forward in the new era. Following his election, Medvedev was quick to appoint Putin for the role of Prime Minister. This has led many to assume that a deal was made with the siloviki (men in power) to ensure that the system of personal power that has been firmly established in the political sphere since the start of the century is set to continue.

Medvedev is a protege of Putin. He is considered to be a weak and bureaucratic player who will require Putin's support if he is to successfully secure political power. He is an economic liberal whose focus and experience lies mainly within the domestic sphere. This should prove to be useful in terms of formulating domestic policies. His lack of experience in foreign policy however, means he will need to rely on Putin's advice and support until he is able to successfully command his own political presence. Since the economic crisis began, there have been several summits designed to plan how the world's states will cope. Medvedev's presence at these summits has provided him with opportunities to gain experience in the field of foreign policy.

Yet behind the scenes, Medvedev's wings have been tightly clipped, severely limiting his exercise of power. The Russian constitution states that the responsibility for devising foreign policy falls to the President, whilst the Prime Minister is accountable for its implementation. Putin chose Sergei Lavrov to remain as Foreign Secretary after the election. Lavrov is regarded as a tough and sophisticated diplomat with a very strong CV. Although Lavrov was considered an outsider in Putin's government, the power shift from the Kremlin to the Prime Minister's office has meant that his influence has increased. Regardless of the power-share, there are two camps within the government. The Pro Putin faction have successfully secured the majority of power, with very few Medvedev appointments. The perception of Medvedev outside of Russia is that of a much more liberal and democratic leader than his predecessor; who has been highly criticized and condemned for actions that contradict the democratic reforms he promised at the turn of the century.

Aside from their supposed tandem power share, cracks have been beginning to show in the Putin Medvedev partnership. Medvedev is all too aware of the impressions people hold and has become increasingly keen to shed the image of the subordinate. His state of the union address set out plans to modernise Russian society and its' lagging economy. These policies back up his arguments that he is not merely a subordinate who will follow the will of his predecessor, but rather tackle these issues from a very different angle to Putin. He links political and economic reform to social change, and has stated that he wants to attempt to resolve the 'persistent social ills that plague Russian society.'[9]

If Putin simply wanted a pawn, he had a wide selection to choose from that consisted of candidates from inside his circle of former KGB colleagues and who were his personal friends. The main factions within the Kremlin are the Technocrats, and the Siloviki. The Siloviki form a hierarchy of men with influence and power in the Kremlin. They include people like Igor Sechin, Viktor Ivanov and Nikolai Patrushev. These men have all held positions either in Government, or in large private enterprise.[10]

Medvedev was not one of these men. He was a technocrat; a man who Putin felt would be more likely to stay in line with the White House. Nominating Medvedev was also a way in which Putin could ensure that the Siloviki don't become too powerful. His choice says a lot about Putin's deep-rooted belief that even though he was hesitant to relinquish his seat, he wanted an individual who, whilst following the party line, also had Russia's best interests at heart. Medvedev is an accomplished lawyer and professor and was one of Putin's closest advisors during his presidency.

Throughout these years, Putin had been acting in accordance with Medvedev's advice, so claims that he is unable to lead without Putin's dictation seem to lack substance. During the Putin years, Medvedev occupied powerful seats near the top of the Kremlin hierarchy, but was never actually the top man; instead he held influential posts without attracting public scrutiny. Because of this, many falsely believe that Medvedev was new to the world of politics and was an obscure choice for Putin's nomination for the presidency, when he was, in fact, an obvious choice for those in the Kremlin.

After Putin's election in 2000, Medvedev became chairman of the board at Russia's largest company, Gazprom. This job saw the emergence of a very different character. The usually soft-spoken Medvedev showed himself to be a ruthless executive who possessed the necessary skills and talent to lead a successful organization.

Medvedev may have been characterized by foreign media as lacking the charisma of his predecessor, yet this is an impression that, according to his former colleagues and employees, couldn't be further from truth. In order to successfully get rid of this impression, Putin was essential to Medvedev's presidential bid. Initially the Russian electorate knew very little about Medvedev. It wasn't until the last months before the election that their perception changed in his favour. Because of Putin's influence in Russia, his nomination and support for Medvedev meant that the public was quick to change their opinions. Kremlin controlled state media gave Medvedev blanket coverage during the election. Putin went so far as to address the electorate in the run up to polling day, telling them that in order to ensure Medvedev is able to effectively perform his duties, he requires popular approval. Like the USA, televised presidential debates are common in Russia. Yet Medvedev's refusal to appear in such debates was a tactic that would ensure the electorate was unable to compare him with the other candidates.[11] Following Medvedev's nomination, his popularity ratings massively increased from around 20% to 79%.[12] This left political analysts, at home and abroad, bewildered as to the sudden popularity of a relatively unknown candidate.

The question on people's minds was why Medvedev? Was this, as many analysts suggest, an attempt by Putin to play puppeteer for the next four years, and to continue shaping Russian Politics in preparation for his return? International journalists who were looking for answers favoured this argument. Such was the belief in Putin's political prowess, that even following Medvedev's election, a number of publications still speculated that it would not be long before he would be back in the Kremlin; a claim on which Medvedev has so far declined to comment.[13]

Yet Medvedev is nevertheless developing his own political presence, especially with the international community. Each man surrounds himself with an inner circle of people inside the Kremlin and the White House. Because Medvedev is beginning to come out of Putin's shadow, the role of those closest to them should not be overlooked. Medvedev and Putin have always been keen to deny rumours of a rift between them, but those surrounding them are keen to portray their own man with the higher profile, which will inevitably lend itself to further controversy.

Putin faces bigger potential political challenges than Medvedev. Medvedev constitutionally has the authority to dismiss Putin, whereas Putin lacks such power, which makes Medvedev the biggest threat to Putin, as well as being his lifeline. As the Prime Minister, Putin is charged with fiscal and economic responsibility. If he continues in his role as PM, he faces the possibility that the public would blame him for the government's inability to properly address economic issues. This would cause serious damage to the reputation he has worked to build for so long and runs the risk of possibly denying him the presidency in 2012, should he choose to run. However, if he resigns from his post, or worse, is dismissed, then he faces political oblivion, making a presidential campaign in 2012 almost impossible. Furthermore, the public considers Putin to be the most powerful politician in Russia, and so in their eyes, if Putin is not able to successfully deal with such a crisis, then no one can, thus exacerbating the situation.[14]

Putin is regarded as the strategic Prime Minister of Russia, whilst Igor Shuvalov is seen to be the technical Prime Minister; he became the chair of the Council for development of financial markets. This usually falls under the auspices of the Prime Minister, however, Putin is not even on the Council, which could imply that economic issues are not paramount to him. This could signify that to Putin, there are more important tasks at hand, most importantly, foreign policy, where he has been intent on continually exerting his influence. He has created new institutions that have taken away some of the responsibility from the Foreign Ministry. The Federal Agency for CIS Affairs, which is headed by Putin's own appointed minister makes a clear point that Putin regards the CIS as under Russian jurisdiction.[15]

The Agency was set up to help strengthen Russian policies implemented in the region, with the Kremlin explaining that the time was right for Russia to successfully enhance its influence in the commonwealth region using peaceful methods. Valery Mikhaylov, the deputy of the former CIS States First Department stressed that the need for such an agency is required to help those countries in the commonwealth and address the challenges they face under the patronage of Russia.[16] Such an organisation would in other circumstances be applauded, such as the USAID programme. Yet the Agency is different to similar programmes, in that it will continue to work in the region regardless of the political climate in any particular country. A Kremlin source has said that "Whatever our relations with one country or another, this department will do its business: give grants, provide libraries with literature in the Russian language, work with NGOs. At the same time, the President and the government can wage war with the neighbours as much as they want."[17]

His participation in foreign policy debates is a sign that he is far from ready to relinquish his power, constitutional or not. Putin's interest in the CIS implies that he does not regard the region as being included in foreign policy negotiations. He leaves the 'real' foreign policy to Medvedev, without appearing to interfere or contradict his constitutional confines. By focusing his influence on the "near abroad", and possibly regaining some power in those nearby states, he is shaping the future political landscape in an area where there are real possibilities to consolidate power. The states in question are on Europe's doorstep; therefore any dealings with the EU will be directly with Putin himself, as unlike Medvedev, his zone of influence may pose more challenges to EU foreign policy. This simultaneously undermines Medvedev in the eyes of the west and secures his position in Russia.

Although Medvedev and Putin deny any rifts in their tandem power share, there have been instances where the two have tried to out shine the other. In his first State of the Union address in November 2008, Medvedev announced a plan that was implicitly intended to relax some of the un-democratic civil restrictions introduced during Putin's presidency.[18] He intervened in January 2009, to prevent the State Duma from passing a bill that would allow the FSB to formally suspect anyone with contact to a foreign national of treason and espionage. This would have done nothing for Russia's association with the West, a relationship that Medvedev is keen to develop.

Medvedev has also made promises to reform the justice system, to ease media restrictions, democratise politics and advance Russia's relationship with the international community. We have yet to see how successful these changes will be and whether they will be able to withstand the challenges that are inevitably going to come from within the government.

Putin's future looks uncertain. At the beginning of Medvedev's presidency, it was evident that Putin was still Russia's premier leader and his return to the presidency in 2012 would be inevitable. As time goes on, and Medvedev has begun to step out of the shadows, we begin to see that there is a possibility that Putin may have underestimated his successor. Medvedev has already achieved what Putin failed to do during his presidency; to improve his status in the West, and the polls suggest that his popularity is surging. He has yet to actually implement any policy that will define his presidency, but time will tell if he has the staying power of his predecessor.

Conversely, Putin would not be regarded in the manner he is if he was not a formidable character. He is nothing, if not a statesman, and he knew exactly how to play his cards when his presidential term was ending. He may appear to be taking a back seat, he may appear to be delegating many of his responsibilities, but he is in no way fading away from politics. Medvedev does have the power to dismiss Putin, but without him, he would lack public support for his presidency, and Putin knows this. His future may not be guaranteed as it was before, but his influence is far from fading. He has continued to shape Medvedev's government, and will most likely continue to dominate Russian politics after 2012. Whether he does this as President or Prime Minister is yet to be determined, most probably by Putin himself.

[1] Constitution of the Russian Federation,

[2] Daily Telegraph, May 12th 2008

[3] ibid.

[4] Constitution of the Russian Federation

[5] Levada Centre,

[6] Russia News, May 11th 2010.

[7] BILD News Putin vs. Medvedev, August 12th 2008.

[8] Radio Free Europe,


[10] Bremmer & Charap, Washington Quarterly, Winter 2006-2007.

[11] Bloomberg, March 1st 2008.

[12] Reuters, December 27th 2007.

[13] Medvedev interview with Le Figaro 2008.

[14] Caucasian Review of International Affairs, Vol 3 (2) Spring 2009.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Kommersant July 31st 2008.

[17] Ibid.



By George Friedman

The United States has captured a group of Russian spies and exchanged them for four individuals held by the Russians on espionage charges. The way the media has reported on the issue falls into three groups:

That the Cold War is back, That, given that the Cold War is over, the point of such outmoded intelligence operations is questionable, And that the Russian spy ring was spending its time aimlessly nosing around in think tanks and open meetings in an archaic and incompetent effort.

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By George Friedman

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited some interesting spots over the July 4 weekend. Her itinerary included Poland and Ukraine, both intriguing choices in light of the recent Obama-Medvedev talks in Washington. But she also traveled to a region that has not been on the American radar screen much in the last two years namely, the Caucasus visiting Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The stop in Poland coincided with the signing of a new agreement on ballistic missile defense and was designed to sustain U.S.-Polish relations in the face of the German-Russian discussions we have discussed. The stop in Ukraine was meant simply to show the flag in a country rapidly moving into the Russian orbit. In both cases, the trip was about the Russians. Regardless of how warm the atmospherics are between the United States and Russia, the fact is that the Russians are continuing to rebuild their regional influence and are taking advantage of European disequilibrium to build new relationships there, too. The United States, still focused on Iraq and Afghanistan, has limited surplus capacity to apply to resisting the Russians. No amount of atmospherics can hide that fact, certainly not from the Poles or the Ukrainians. Therefore, if not a substantial contribution, the secretary of state's visit was a symbolic one. But when there is little of substance, symbols matter.

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By Ariel Cohen, PhD

As President Medvedev of Russia is coming to visit Barack Obama, the Administration's spokesmen are desperately trying to convince us that the "reset" policy with the Russia has paid off. They argue that Russia and the United States have developed a real partnership, as demonstrated by the signature of the New START treaty, Russian support for the U.N.'s sanctions on Iran, and transit agreements to move troops and supplies into Afghanistan through Russian territory and air space.

Senator John Kerry (D-MA), the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, thinks that a new era of U.S.-Russian cooperation has dawned. A closer look at the bilateral relationship, however, reveals that the cost for this cooperation and its often symbolic success has been very high.

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By George Friedman

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will brief French and Polish officials on a joint proposal for Russian-European "cooperation on security," according to a statement from Westerwelle's spokesman on Monday. The proposal emerged out of talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev earlier in June and is based on a draft Russia drew up in 2008. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be present at the meeting. Andreas Peschke said, "We want to further elaborate and discuss it within the triangle [i.e., France, Germany and Poland] in the presence of the Russian foreign minister."

On the surface, the proposal developed by Merkel and Medvedev appears primarily structural. It raises security discussions about specific trouble spots to the ministerial level rather than the ambassadorial level, with a committee being formed consisting of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Russia's foreign minister.

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By Peter Zeihan

STRATFOR often discusses how Russia is on a bit of a roll. The U.S. distraction in the Middle East has offered Russia a golden opportunity to re-establish its spheres of influence in the region, steadily expanding the Russian zone of control into a shape that is eerily reminiscent of the old Soviet Union. Since 2005, when this process began, Russia has clearly reasserted itself as the dominant power in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Ukraine, and has intimidated places like Georgia and Turkmenistan into a sort of silent acquiescence.

But we have not spent a great amount of time explaining why this is the case. It is undeniable that Russia is a Great Power, but few things in geopolitics are immutable, and Russia is no exception.

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The UK Defence Forum has recently published the above regional study by Roshani Palamakumbura, research intern.

The article can be read here.


By Alex Shone

Russia is currently investing substantial efforts into a dramatic renovation of its military forces and establishment. This has taken place across all of their military branches; Army, Navy and Air Force. Within this investment some trends are discernable that allude to wider Russian military thinking towards perceived, future threats. This process of modernisation, when analysed in conjunction with approaching Russian military exercises for June (Vostok-2010), indicate gravitation towards the enhancement of individual soldier capabilities; as well mobility and effective, rapid deployment. As such, Russia is investing in new small arms, helicopters and a new generation of digitised communication systems.

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As part of the Russia in the 21st Century series, the UK Defence Forum has recently published the abovementioned paper by Alex Shone, research intern.

The paper can be read here.


By Dr Robert Crowcroft

If there is one observation that everyone thinks to be true, it is that the United Nations is a humanitarian vehicle for doing good around the world. Perhaps. But certainly not in the sense that is usually presented to Western publics. The UN Charter was shaped by the wartime 'Big Three' (America, Britain, and the Soviet Union) and ratified on 24 October 1945; yet this document was decidedly not a vehicle for Utopianism and delusion. Instead, it constituted a thoroughly conventional framework for a 'Concert' of the major powers, through which these states would impose stability on the rest of the world. The difficulty is that in contemporary public debate there exists deep misunderstanding as to what the United Nations is for. At a time when financial stringency is likely to further diminish the West's standing, parliamentarians and other opinion-formers need to be far more aware of how the UN was actually conceived.

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By Baker Spring

The White House plans to submit the April 8, 2010, the Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms Treaty (New START) between the Russian Federation and the United States of America to the Senate for ratification today. The Senate should focus less on the text of the Treaty, its Protocol and Annexes because these documents were made available to the Senate and the public earlier. Instead, the Senate should focus more on the two documents that will accompany today's submission and that have so far not been made public. The first is the section-by-section analysis of the Treaty. The second is the so-called Section 1251 report.

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