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Dealing with the Russian Bear: Improving NATO’s Response to Moscow’s Military Exercise Zapad 2017

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This article was originally published by Istituto Affari Internazionali on 12 October 2017.

Major military exercises are never a simple routine but carry important political significance. This is the case with the recent Russian military manoeuvres of Zapad 2017, which took place in Belarus as well as in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad – bordering the territory of two NATO Baltic States – on 14-20 September. The exercise was closely monitored by European and US military and political elites and caused considerable concern in Poland and the Baltic states.
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The S-400 Deal: Russia Drives another Wedge between Turkey and its NATO Allies

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This article was originally published by The Institute for National Security Studies on 18 October 2017

The recent statement by Turkish President Erdogan that Ankara had made an advance payment to Russia for the purchase of two S-400 air defense batteries, combined with Russia’s confirmation of this report, constitutes a significant development that adds to the question marks about Turkey’s future in NATO. This development also strengthens Russia’s standing in the Middle East, because it is another expression of the rapprochement between Moscow and Ankara. However, the Turkish-Russian rapprochement does not by itself reduce the leverage available to the West in its relations with Turkey, above all the defense relations in the context of NATO and the extensive trade between Turkey and the European Union. While many believe that Turkey will remain a NATO member for the foreseeable future, they note at the same time that Turkey is a problematic member of the alliance that is already suffering from quite a few internal tensions.
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What Russia’s Middle East Strategy Is Really About

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This article was originally published by Geopolitical Futures on 11 October 2017.

Moscow’s policy isn’t about becoming a leader in the region but accumulating influence to use closer to home.

A new balance of power is solidifying in Syria. Iran, Turkey and Russia have all played a role in the conflict there – jockeying for position and even agreeing in September to set up zones of control. But Russia in particular has deftly managed the game up to this point, and it is emerging from the Syrian civil war with a strong hand. Ultimately, Russia’s goal is to parlay its position in the Middle East into advantages in areas that matter more to Moscow. To some degree, it has achieved this, but it’s still unclear whether its strategy will be successful enough to score Russia an advantage in the area it cares about the most: Ukraine.
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Russia and the West: Handling the Clash of Worldviews

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This article was originally published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) on 4 October 2017.

While defending the EU’s interests and values, we should continue to retain bridges with the Russian people.

I arrived in Moscow as the EU’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation exactly four years ago. At the time, relations with Russia were strained but still functioning. Our efforts to engage Moscow had not yielded much but still allowed open channels of communication. But only a few months later, our relations with Russia plunged to their lowest point since the Cold War because of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its military intervention in eastern Ukraine. » More

An End in Sight for Ukraine… Maybe

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This article was originally published by Geopolitical Futures (GPF) on 28 September 2017.

There are early indicators that Russia and the U.S. may settle for neutrality in Kiev right now.

The conflict in Ukraine has developed an interminable quality. We are now over three years into the war in Donbass, and every day brings new updates on cease-fire violations or steps forward and backward on implementing the Minsk accord. This can make it hard to determine when conditions have actually changed. There have been a few key developments lately, however, that suggest real change is in the offing. » More

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