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The Russian Orthodox Church, the situation in Syria and the crisis in the Greater Middle East

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In a speech delivered on May 6 last, Patriarch Kirill – the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church – defined the Russian war in Syria as a conflict “against global terrorism” and hence suggested a “holy war” to free not only the Middle East, but also the entire Christian civilization, from this  “fierce and deceitful enemy”.Russia as a “third Rome”, after the first falling and the second failing because it surrendered to the profane world.

Patriarch Kirill believes that Christians are in terrible danger in many countries – and this is the reason why the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church cherishes good memories of the meeting he had in Cuba with Pope Francis.

A meeting that, as Patriarch Kirill said, “took place in the right place and at the right time”. After one thousand years.

The Church of Rome has realized that modern society is failing and that an alliance of religions is needed to save the world.  This is an idea that the Patriarch of Moscow has always had and, after the USSR collapse, Russia can finally work freely with the West.

And Patriarch Kirill has certainly been the least pro-Soviet of the Orthodox Fathers.

In other words, the Russian Church – closely linked to the new regime of Vladimir Putin, who never forgets his role as believer – is thinking of an   agreement – not necessarily hegemonic – with the Roman Church.

An agreement to overcome the “two worlds”, the East and the West, and unite and federate the Middle East, the cradle of the Faith (and of the Faiths) and strategic axis between the East and the West.

By explicit admission and also by tacit activity of the Pope, the Catholic Church has now become not only the “field hospital” of the world crisis, but the only geopolitical point of reference of the poor and miserable people of the old “Third World”, which is experiencing one financial crisis after the other.

However, we are still in a pro-Western area.

Conversely, the Russian Church intends to maintain its traditional role in the East so as to become the only “voice of the poor” against the old and new imperialism, but in a new multipolar context beyond the old US and Western hegemony.

Hence Patriarch Kirill proposal for a single anti-terrorist coalition operating in the world.

On February 19 last, in Moscow, when the Orthodox Patriarch received the Patriarch of Antioch, John Yazigi X – born in Latakia and supporter of Bashar al-Assad – he recalled that “ISIS was discrediting the image of Islam with the whole world”.

Patriarch Kirill wants to separate the jihad from mass Islam and unite the latter to make it support his interreligious dialogue project, which should manage the future distribution of power in the Middle East.

Said distribution will not be State-based, but religious and community-based – hence beyond the spheres of influence madly designed in the desert by the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

A communication strategy that, in this case, associates Patriarch Kirill with Pope Francis.

As we have seen, they both want to separate the jihad from current Islam, although it seems that they do not perceive the profound practical and theoretical transformation modern jihadism has brought about in the symbols and practice of any forms of contemporary Islamism – from the Afghan “resistance” against the Russian troops until Bin Laden.

After the current sword jihad, nothing – even in the Quietist Islam – will be the same as before.

In this case, however, separating the wheat from the chaff can allow something new: the emergence of an Islam not only peaceful, but with two other characteristics: the fact of being national, and not vaguely and violently universalist, and with a new and strong, relationship with the local and regional political authorities.

An Islam typical of the old Caliphate, but capable of having a wide echo, instead of the Islam damned and cursed by everybody and now at the end of its war with its new Caliphate.

In fact, Patriarch Kirill thinks that ISIS is “anti-Arab” and it is also “destroying the Middle East”.

In other words, the Russian Orthodox leaders – who certainly do not speak without Vladimir Putin’s permission – think that the Caliphate’s jihadism wants to weaken the current Middle East States, with a view to delivering them to non-State entities, behind which the Patriarch sees above all the New West, dissolving the old national and religious identities into a postmodern and harshly materialistic and capitalist medium.

Patriarch Kirill’s apparently “backward” ideas have a clear relationship with Orthodox Russia’s foreign policy: abortion, easy divorce, drugs, propaganda for homosexuality are all psychological warfare operations designed to destroying States, religious communities and, above all, social solidarity, with a view to paving the way for atheism but, in particular, for the post-capitalist social fragmentation and atomization.

It would be the end of the Middle East, which would be turned into a cultural desert, much more than the jihad has done so far.

As Pope Francis said at the meeting held last February with the representatives of “Economia e Unione”, overcoming capitalism is now a well-acquired fact, thus going well beyond the traditional social doctrine of the Church.

As the Pope said, capitalism “knows philanthropy, but not communion.”

According to Patriarch Kirill, whose Church is much more integrated into the Russian financial and political system than Catholicism in the West, capitalism is an asset as it produces the goods for the poor.

According to the Russian Patriarch, it is the Orthodox Church which  distributes the superfluous and corrects society and its economy.

Traditionally, Orthodoxy is a Church that is not only Sponsa Christi, but bodily and practical presence of Jesus Christ among the people and in history.

The Roman Church is a different case, because it operates above all with Catholic laity and personal persuasion – in a much more anti-religious world than the one typical of the current Slavic world.

Furthermore, in the encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate, the decisive mechanism for society and the economy is that of a liturgical and sacred culture that generates a gift economy.

According to Patriarch Kirill, however, peace in the Middle East can be certainly achieved with the new relationship established with the Church of Rome, but above all by reactivating the old “Orthodox Imperial Society of Palestine”, which shall reacquire all the huge and ancient Russian properties in the Middle East.

The Society also wants to reacquire the Israeli side of the Monastery of Saints Cyril and Methodius and put back in order the Monastery of Alexandrovsky in Jerusalem, as well as the other eleven churches and the three Orthodox sites still owned by the Russian Orthodox Church outside the motherland.

One of the largest and symbolically most important properties of the Churches in all the Sacred Places, which Patriarch Kirill (and Putin) will use with extreme subtlety to conquer Middle East peoples’ minds and hearts.

The cross of the Slavic Church has two inscriptions in Russian, which are very important, especially today: “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet” (Isaiah, 62).

Hence Patriarch Kirill’s underlying idea is to return to the pre-revolutionary situation when there were over 100 Orthodox schools and education institutes in 50 different cities throughout Syria.

An immense cultural and political presence that no media propaganda can supplant and replace.

Currently 500 Palestinian children are already attending the Russian school in Bethlehem, opened under the aegis of the Imperial Society.

For the Slavic Orthodox Church, the destabilization strategy in Ukraine and the one in the current Middle East with the jihad is one and one only and mainly concerns the persecution of Christian peoples throughout the area, as well as in the Maghreb region.

It is related to the geopolitics of the atheistic and consumerist destabilization carried out by the Western countries that have fomented at first the Caucasus insurgency and later the “Arab Springs”.

Patriarch Kirill believes that the Westernization outside the EU and United States has already failed.

It is easy to understand how the Russian Patriarch rightly believes that the “Arab Springs” are at the origin of the current destabilization in the Middle East and of its de-Christianization.

The Western countries do nothing – or, indeed, very little – to rescue and then host the Middle East Christian migrants. Only the Russian Church and the Vatican have taken actions in this regard, in spite of the difficult conditions also caused by the presence of many migrants from Ukraine.

Patriarch Kirill supports a theology of the new community and religious regionalization in the Middle East, against the globalization that has favoured a satanic “modernization”, namely that of the jihad.

Hence another asset of the Russian Church, which is preparing Russia’s expansion throughout the region, between Syria, Iraq, the Lebanon and Palestine, by taking credit for the protection of Christians, including those faithful to Rome.

As the Melchite (hence Catholic) Archbishop of Syria – Joseph Absi -– says, this leads to the additional Orthodox asset of deciding to put an end to all the rivalries between the Middle East Christian Churches, which weaken the Faith faced with a fierce and unscrupulous enemy.

Ferocious as a fanatic, modernizer as a post-modern.

Either sword jihad or pro-Western mass atheism – destroying the differences in the Middle East is not Patriarch Kirill’s nor Putin’s goal.

There are 22 local Churches in communion with the Church of Rome throughout the Middle East and many argue that – considering the needs for local autonomy in the new Middle East – the union between the Orthodoxy and the Roman Church should be based on a pluralistic project “to separate the communion from the authority”.

Patriarch Kirill’s goals also include support for the small, but growing Catholic community speaking Hebrew and operating in Israel, as well as defining fixed dates for pilgrimages to the Holy Land so as to maintain a continuous flow of faithful from abroad.

According to Patriarch Kirill, all Christian communities are protected in Israel.

And the Jewish State can develop – without losing its identity – into a political entity protecting religious minorities throughout the Middle East.

The great presence of Russian migrants in the Jewish State makes many Orthodox pilgrims “feel at home” and the current agreement between Russia and Israel on passports makes everything easier.

Also at religious level, the Russian Orthodoxy is essentially a geopolitical project to protect all Christian minorities throughout the Middle East – as “major shareholder” of Christianity – as well as to collaborate with the Vatican, which still has a pro-Western geopolitics, and finally create a cultural and religious climate to support Russia’s operations.

In short, Patriarch Kirill wants Israel to collaborate to his interreligious project. He particularly appreciates the significant presence of the Jewish State in Russia and proposes a relationship between Orthodox people and Judaism, foreshadowing – at religious level – the future bilateral and preferential relationship between Russia and Israel.

As to Saudi Arabia, the Russian Church has supported President Putin’s policy of opening, by maintaining that all the Islamic countries, often hit by ISIS, such as Saudi Arabia, must enter an interreligious alliance against extremism and terrorism in a multilateral context.

Moreover, within the framework of the complex Lebanese issue, as early as the visit paid by Patriarch Kirill in the Lebanon in 2011, the Slavic Orthodox Church has been referring to the support for Syria to defend peace and religious pluralism also in the Lebanon.

The 2001 visit had been planned with the Vatican support and the establishment of a specific relationship between the Orthodox Church and the Maronites,  in particular, who have always been faithful to Rome.

Hence, while in the Greater Middle East, the Westerners ally with vast Islamic communities known as “moderates”, the Russian Orthodox Church becomes the united pole of all the Christians in the region. Furthermore, while the Vatican reduces its presence in the core of the Islamic world, to avoid retaliation or to promote dialogue with the Mohammedans in Europe, the Russian Church establishes a stable relationship with all religious faiths in the region. Finally, while Islam has its own statehood, the Orthodox Russia treats us amicably; while Judaism discusses in theological terms, the Russian Church extends the interreligious debate also to Israel.

Hence, for Russia, the construction of religious hegemony, which seems to be the necessary shadow of Putin’s project for multipolar control over the Middle East after the United States being forced to leave the region, due to the many mistakes made, thus leaving it in the hands of unreliable “friends”.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Putin’s post-Soviet world remains a work in progress, but Africa already looms

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Russian civilisationalism is proving handy as President Vladimir Putin seeks to expand the imaginary boundaries of his Russian World, whose frontiers are defined by Russian speakers and adherents to Russian culture rather than international law and/or ethnicity.

Mr. Putin’s disruptive and expansive nationalist ideology has underpinned his aggressive

 approach to Ukraine since 2014 with the annexation of Crimea and the stoking of insurgencies in the east of the country. It also underwrites this month’s brief intervention in Kazakhstan, even if it was in contrast to Ukraine at the invitation of the Kazakh government.

Mr. Putin’s nationalist push in territories that were once part of the Soviet Union may be par for the course even if it threatens to rupture relations between Russia and the West and potentially spark a war. It helps Russia compensate for the strategic depth it lost with the demise of communism in Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

However, equally alarmingly, Mr. Putin appears to be putting building blocks in place that would justify expanding his Russian World in one form or another beyond the boundaries of the erstwhile Soviet Union.

In doing so, he demonstrates the utility of employing plausibly deniable mercenaries not only for military and geopolitical but also ideological purposes.

Standing first in line is the Central African Republic. A resource-rich but failed state that has seen its share of genocidal violence and is situated far from even the most expansive historical borders of the Russian empire, the republic could eventually qualify to be part of the Russian world, according to Mr. Putin’s linguistic and cultural criteria.

Small units of the Wagner Group, a private military company owned by one of Mr. Putin’s close associates, entered the Centra African Republic once departing French troops handed over to a United Nations peacekeeping force in 2016. Five years later, Wagner has rights to mine the country’s gold and diamond deposits.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Russian mercenary presence persuaded President Faustin-Archange Touadera that the African republic should embrace Russian culture.

As a result, university students have been obliged to follow Russian-language classes starting as undergraduates in their first year until their second year of post-graduate studies. The mandate followed the introduction of Russian in the republic’s secondary school curriculum in 2019.

Mr. Touadera is expected to ask Mr. Putin for Russian-language instructors during a forthcoming visit to Moscow to assist in the rollout.

Neighbouring Mali could be next in line to follow in Mr. Touadera’s footsteps.

Last month, units of the Wagner Group moved into the Sahel nation at the request of a government led by army generals who have engineered two coups in nine months. The generals face African and Western sanctions that could make incorporating what bits of the country they control into the Russian world an attractive proposition.

While it is unlikely that Mr. Putin would want to formally welcome sub-Saharan and Sahel states into his Russian world, it illustrates the pitfalls of a redefinition of internationally recognised borders as civilisational and fluid rather than national, fixed, and legally enshrined.

For now, African states do not fit Mr. Putin’s bill of one nation as applied to Ukraine or Belarus. However, using linguistics as a monkey wrench, he could, overtime or whenever convenient, claim them as part of the Russian world based on an acquired language and cultural affinity.

Mr. Putin’s definition of a Russian world further opens the door to a world in which the principle of might is right runs even more rampant with the removal of whatever flimsy guard rails existed.

To accommodate the notion of a Russian world, Russian leaders, going back more than a decade, have redefined Russian civilisation as multi-ethnic rather than ethically Russia.

The Central African Republic’s stress on Russian-language education constitutes the first indication in more than a decade that Mr. Putin and some of his foreign allies may expand the Russian world’s civilisational aspects beyond the erstwhile Soviet Union.

Some critics of Mr. Putin’s concept of a Russian world note that Western wars allegedly waged out of self-defense and concern for human rights were also about power and geopolitical advantage.

For example, pundit Peter Beinart notes that NATO-led wars in Serbia, Afghanistan, and Libya “also extended American power and smashed Russian allies at the point of a gun.”

The criticism doesn’t weaken the legitimacy of the US and Western rejection of Russian civilisationalism. However, it does undermine the United States’ ability to claim the moral high ground.

It further constrains Western efforts to prevent the emergence of a world in which violation rather than the inviolability of national borders become the accepted norm.

If Russian interventionism aims to change borders, US interventionism often sought to change regimes. That is one driver of vastly different perceptions of the US role in the world, including Russian distrust of the post-Soviet NATO drive into Eastern Europe and independent former Soviet states such as Ukraine.

“People with more experience of the dark side of American power—people whose families hail from Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Haiti, or Mexico, where US guns have sabotaged democracy rather than defended it—might find it easier to understand Russian suspicions. But those Americans tend not to shape US policy towards places like Ukraine,” Mr. Beinart said.

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Neighbours and Crises: New Challenges for Russia

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Through all the discussions that accompanied the preparation of the Valdai Club report “Space Without Borders: Russia and Its Neighbours”, the most clear question was whether Russia should or should not avoid repeating the historical experience of relations with its near abroad. This experience, in the most general terms, is that after Russia pacifies its western border with its foreign policy, the Russian state inevitably must turn to issues related to the existence of its immediate neighbourhood. With a high degree of probability, it will be forced to turn to its centuries-old method for solving problems that arise there: expansion for the sake of ensuring security.

Now Russia’s near abroad consists of a community of independent states that cannot ensure their own security and survival by relying only on their own forces; we cannot be completely sure of their stability. From Estonia in the west to Kyrgyzstan in the east, the existence of these countries in a competitive international environment is ensured by their link with one of the nuclear superpowers. Moreover, such connections can only complement each other with great difficulty. As the recent developments in Kazakhstan have demonstrated, they are not limited to the threat of an external invasion; even internal circumstances can become deadly.

The dramatic events in that country were intensified by external interference from the geostrategic opponents of Russia, as well as international terrorists, but it would be disingenuous to argue that their most important causes are not exclusively internal and man-made. We cannot and should not judge whether the internal arrangements of our neighbours are good or bad, since we ourselves do not have ideal recipes or examples. However, when dealing with the consequences, it is rational to fear that their statehood will either be unable to survive, or that their existence will take place in forms that create dangers which Russia cannot ignore.

In turn, the events experienced now in relations between Russia and the West, if we resort to historical analogies, look like a redux of the Northern War. The Great Northern War arose at the beginning of the 18th century as the result of the restoration of Russia’s power capabilities; the West had made great progress in approaching the heart of its territory. Within the framework of this logic, victory, even tactical victory, in the most important (Western) direction will inevitably force Russia to turn to its borders. Moreover, the reasons for paying more attention to them are obvious. This will present Russia with the need to decide on how much it is willing to participate in the development of its neighbours.

The developments in Kazakhstan in early January 2022 showed the objective limits of the possibilities of building a European-style sovereign state amid new, historical, and completely different geopolitical circumstances. More or less all the countries of the space that surrounds Russia, from the Baltic to the Pamir, are unique experiments that arose amid the truly phenomenal orderliness of conditions after the end of the Cold War. In that historical era, the world really developed under conditions where a general confidence prevailed that the absolute dominance of one power and a group of its allies creates conditions for the survival of small and medium-sized states, even in the absence of objective reasons for this.

The idea of the “end of history” was so convincing that we could accept it as a structural factor, so powerful that it would allow us to overcome even the most severe objective circumstances.

The Cold War era created the experience of the emergence and development of new countries, which until quite recently had been European colonies. Despite the fact that there are a few “success stories” among the countries that emerged after 1945, few have been able to get out of the catch-up development paradigm. However, it was precisely 30 years ago that there really was a possibility that a unipolar world would be so stable that it would allow the experiment to come to fruition. The visible recipes of the new states being built were ideal from an abstract point of view, just as Victor Frankenstein was guided by a desire for the ideal.

Let us recall that the main idea of our report was that Russia needs to preserve the independence of the states surrounding it and direct all its efforts to ensure that they become effective powers, eager to survive. This desire for survival is seen as the main condition for rational behaviour, i.e. creating a foreign policy, which takes into account the geopolitical conditions and the power composition of Eurasia. In other words, we believe that Russia is interested in the experiment that emerged within the framework of the Liberal World Order taking place under new conditions, since its own development goals dictate that it avoid repeating its past experience of full control over its neighbours, with which it shares a single geopolitical space.

This idea, let’s not hide it, prompted quite convincing criticism, based on the belief that the modern world does not create conditions for the emergence of states where such an experience is absent in more or less convincing forms. For Russia, the challenge is that even if it is technically capable of ensuring the immediate security of its national territory, the spread of the “grey zone” around its borders will inevitably bring problems that the neighbours themselves are not able to solve.

The striking analogy proposed by one colleague was the “hallway of hell” that Russia may soon face on its southern borders, making us raise the question that the absence of topographic boundaries within this space makes it necessary to create artificial political or even civilisational lines, the protection of which in any case will be entrusted to the Russian soldier. This January we had the opportunity to look into this “hallway of hell”. There is no certainty that the instant collapse of a state close to Russia in the darkest periods of its political history should be viewed as a failure in development, rather than a systemic breakdown of the entire trajectory, inevitable because it took shape amid completely different conditions.

Therefore, now Russia should not try to understand what its further strategy might be; in any case, particular behaviour will be determined by circumstances. Our task is to explore the surrounding space in order to understand where Russia can stop if it does not want to resort to the historical paradigm of its behaviour. The developments in Kazakhstan, in their modern form, do not create any grounds for optimism or hopes for a return to an inertial path of development. Other states may follow Ukraine and Kazakhstan even if they now look quite confident. There are no guarantees — and it would be too great a luxury for Russia to accept such a fate.

This is primarily because the Russian state will inevitably face a choice between being ready for several decades of interaction with a huge “grey zone” along the perimeter of its borders and more energetic efforts to prevent its emergence. It is unlikely that Moscow would simply observe the processes taking place on its immediate periphery. This is not a hypothetical invasion of third forces — that does not pose any significant threat to Russia. The real challenge may be that in a few decades, or sooner, Moscow will have to take on an even greater responsibility, which Russia got rid of in 1991. Even now, there seems to be a reason to believe that thirty years of independence have made it possible to create elements of statehood that can be preserved and developed with the help of Russia.

from our partner RIAC

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Do as You’re Told, Russia Tells the Neighborhood

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The Kremlin has always argued that it has special interests and ties to what once constituted the Soviet space. Yet it struggled to produce a smooth mechanism for dealing with the neighborhood, where revolutionary movements toppled Soviet and post-Soviet era political elites. Popular movements in Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, and most recently Kazakhstan have flowered and sometimes triumphed despite the Kremlin’s rage.

Russia’s responses have differed in each case, although it has tended to foster separatism in neighboring states to preclude their westward aspirations. As a policy, this was extreme and rarely generated support for its actions, even from allies and partners. The resultant tensions underlined the lack of legitimacy and generated acute fear even in friendlier states that Russia one day could turn against them.

But with the activation of the hitherto largely moribund six-nation Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Kazakhstan seems to be an entirely different matter. Here, for the first time since its Warsaw Pact invasions, Russia employed an element of multilateralism. This was designed to show that the intervention was an allied effort, though it was Russia that pulled the strings and contributed most of the military force.

CSTO activation is also about something else. It blurred the boundaries between Russia’s security and the security of neighboring states. President Vladimir Putin recently stated the situation in Kazakhstan concerned “us all,” thereby ditching the much-cherished “Westphalian principles” of non-intervention in the internal affairs of neighboring states. The decision was also warmly welcomed by China, another Westphalia enthusiast.

In many ways, Russia always wanted to imitate the US, which in its unipolar moment used military power to topple regimes (in Afghanistan and Iraq) and to restore sovereignty (in Kuwait.) Liberal internationalism with an emphasis on human rights allowed America and its allies to operate with a certain level of legitimacy and to assert (a not always accepted) moral imperative. Russia had no broader ideas to cite. Until now. Upholding security and supporting conservative regimes has now become an official foreign policy tool. Protests in Belarus and Kazakhstan helped the Kremlin streamline this vision.

Since Russia considers its neighbors unstable (something it often helps to bring about), the need for intervention when security is threatened will now serve as a new dogma, though this does not necessarily mean that CSTO will now exclusively serve as the spearhead of Russian interventionist policy in crises along its borders. On the contrary, Russia will try to retain maneuverability and versatility. The CSTO option will be one weapon in the Kremlin’s neighborhood pacification armory.

Another critical element is the notion of “limited sovereignty,” whereby Russia allows its neighbors to exercise only limited freedom in foreign policy. This is a logical corollary, since maneuverability in their relations with other countries might lead to what the Kremlin considers incorrect choices, like joining Western military or economic groupings.

More importantly, the events in Kazakhstan also showed that Russia is now officially intent on upholding the conservative-authoritarian regimes. This fits into a broader phenomenon of authoritarians helping other authoritarians. Russia is essentially exporting its own model abroad. The export includes essential military and economic help to shore up faltering regimes.

The result is a virtuous circle, in the Kremlin’s eyes. Not only can it crush less than friendly governments in its borderlands but it also wins extensive influence, including strategic and economic benefits. Take for instance Belarus, where with Russian help, the dictator Aliaksandr Lukashenka managed to maintain his position after 2020’s elections through brutality and vote-rigging. The end result is that the regime is ever-more beholden to Russia, abandoning remnants of its multi-vector foreign policy and being forced to make financial and economic concessions of defense and economics to its new master. Russia is pressing hard for a major new airbase.

A similar scenario is now opening up in Kazakhstan. The country which famously managed to strike a balance between Russia and China and even work with the US, while luring multiple foreign investors, will now have to accept a new relationship with Russia. It will be similar to Belarus, short of integration talks.

Russia fears crises, but it has also learned to exploit them. Its new approach is a very striking evolution from the manner in which it handled Georgia and Ukraine in 2008 and 2014, through the Belarus and Armenia-Azerbaijan crises in 2020 to the Kazakh uprising of 2022.

Russia has a new vision for its neighborhood. It is in essence a concept of hierarchical order with Russia at the top of the pyramid. The neighbors have to abide by the rules. Failure to do so would produce a concerted military response.

Author’s note: first published in cepa

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