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Politics Coronavirus CSS Blog

Europe’s Outlier: Belarus and Covid-19

Image courtesy of Benno Zogg.

This blog belongs to the CSS’ coronavirus blog series, which forms a part of the center’s analysis of the security policy implications of the coronavirus crisis. See the CSS special theme page on the coronavirus for more.

Instead of taking meaningful measures, the Belarusian government downplayed the threat of the coronavirus and suggested obscure cures. This is a dangerous bet by a regime afraid of economic downturn and appearing weak – similar to several other regimes with strongman leaders. Given Belarusians lack faith in the government’s response and official data, they are taking personal responsibility for their fate. This goes against the grain of the political culture in the country and underscores that authoritarian regimes’ habitual methods may reach their limits during such a crisis.

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International Relations

Central Asian States: Is Intra-Regional Integration Possible?

Image courtesy of the Kremlin.ru. (CC BY 4.0)

This article was originally published by the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) on 3 October 2019.

For a long time, the five Central Asian republics have presented a puzzle to researchers and policymakers regarding regional cooperation. They have a range of historical, linguistic, religious and political aspects in common: they were all part of the same bloc, the Soviet Union; they have Russian as a lingua franca, while most national languages are part of the Turkic linguistic family and largely mutually intelligible; Sunni Islam is the region’s predominant religion; and they exhibit similar political systems. Furthermore, Central Asian states share the fate of being situated in a largely neglected, landlocked region surrounded by more populous, powerful neighbours, namely Russia and China.

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International Relations

From Belarus with Love: The Limits of Lukashenko’s Dalliance with the West

Image courtesy of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 3 April 2019.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its intervention in Eastern Ukraine demonstrated not only its unpredictability but also its willingness to violate agreements and use force to alter borders and destabilize countries in its neighborhood. These events not only shocked the West; they also shook Russia’s allies to the core, not least Belarus. Long branded as “Europe’s last dictatorship,” this Eastern European state is considered Russia’s staunchest ally. And indeed, no country is culturally closer or politically, militarily, and economically more integrated with Russia than Belarus.

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Security Economy

Turkmenistan Reaches its Limits with Economic and Security Challenges

Image courtesy of US Department of State/Flickr.

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 31 July 2018.

With Iran and Afghanistan as neighbors, Turkmenistan is often overlooked due to its proximity to geopolitical hotspots. Recent measures by its government to restrict emigration may seem peculiar without greater context on the challenges facing the country. Economic mismanagement and issues in securing the country’s border against the Taliban and the Islamic State (ISIS) and affiliated groups are just some of the signs that without a change in approach, there is a risk of a destabilization in the country. With endemic corruption, systemic flaws, and a totalitarian leader, the impact of larger failings in Turkmenistan could have potentially significant geopolitical repercussions.

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Security

Organized Crime: Fueling Corruption and Mali’s Desert War

Image courtesy of Magharebia/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 27 February 2018.

In discussions of Mali’s chronic problems, one factor tends to be overlooked: organized crime. Illicit activities have a long tradition in remote areas across the Sahel. Mali’s vast north, an area larger than France, is sparsely populated, and historically marginalized by the Malian state. Many people survive by smuggling items like subsidized food or cigarettes. Criminal rents are how people make a living in the marginalized north, but have also funded a myriad of armed groups and corruption networks. Efforts by international actors like the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA), or by regional alliances like the G5 Sahel, increasingly recognize the threat organized crime poses to regional security, governance, and economic development. But why have their efforts fallen short?