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Category: Russia and Eurasia

July 31, 2020

Of Russian Influence in Germany - Russian Roulette Podcast Episode 104

In this episode of Russian Roulette, Heather Conley sits down with Dr. Jeffrey Mankoff and Tabea Wilke to discuss elements of Jeff’s report “With Friends Like These: Assessing Russian Influence in Germany.” This report is the Germany case study of an ambitious year-long CSIS initiative to analyze Russian influence activities in the United Kingdom

July 28, 2020

With Friends Like These: Assessing Russian Influence in Germany

As Europe’s unquestioned heavyweight and a country with deep political, economic, and cultural ties to Russia, Germany has been a frequent target of Russian influence activities. Yet compared to other countries, Germany has proven relatively resilient. In this report, Jeffrey Mankoff examines the nature and tactics of Russian influence operations

Feb. 4, 2020

Qassem Soleimani: Moscow's Syria Decision – Myth and Reality

On January 3, 2020, Iran’s Special Forces leader– IRGC Quds Force – Major General Qassem Soleimani, was killed by an American drone strike outside of the Baghdad International Airport in Iraq. Commentators noted that Soleimani had been the subject of a United Nations (UN) travel ban and an asset freeze by the United Nations Security Council (UNSCR) since 2007.  Soleimani had, however, traveled frequently to Syria, Iraq and Lebanon in the decade since these prohibitions. Notably, Soleimani also reportedly made a covert trip to Moscow in July of 2015 that was conspicuous for its flouting of UN travel restrictions and for the lore associated with it having facilitated what became a precipitous escalation in Russian intervention into the Syrian civil war.

Jan. 31, 2020

Baltics Left of Bang: Nordic Total Defense and Implications for the Baltic Sea Region

Sponsored by the U.S. National Defense University (NDU) and the Swedish National Defense University, this paper is the second in a series of Institute for National Strategic Studies Strategic Forums dedicated to the multinational exploration of the strategic and defense challenges faced by the Baltic states. The December 2017 U.S. National Security Strategy described Russia as “using subversive measures to weaken the credibility of America’s commitment to Europe, undermine transatlantic unity, and weaken European institutions and governments.” The U.S. and European authors of this paper, along with many others, came together in late 2017 to explore possible responses to the security challenges facing the Baltic Sea Region (BSR). This second report highlights early research and gaming insights indicating the importance of total defense and comprehensive security, whole-of-society approaches to deterrence and defense of the Baltic Sea Region from Russian aggression. It also provides recommendations for how the Nordic and Baltic states can leverage aspects of total defense and comprehensive security to generate a credible asymmetric defense and build societal resilience.

Nov. 7, 2019

Baltics Left of Bang: The Role of NATO with Partners in Denial-Based Deterrence

This paper is the first in a sequence of INSS Strategic Forums dedicated to multinational exploration of the strategic and defense challenges faced by Baltic states in close proximity to a resurgent Russia that the U.S. National Security Strategy describes as “using subversive measures to weaken the credibility of America’s commitment to Europe, undermine transatlantic unity, and weaken European institutions and governments.” The American and European authors of this paper, along with many others, came together in late 2017 to begin exploration of the most significant Baltic states security challenges through focused strategic research and a series of multinational, interactive theater wargames sponsored by the U.S. National Defense University and Swedish Defence University. This first paper highlights early research and wargaming insights indicating the importance of denial-based deterrence for protection of the Baltic states from potential Russian aggression. It also provides recommendations for how the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the United States, and the Baltic states can best improve their ground, maritime, and air forces to generate credible denial-based deterrence.

Oct. 8, 2019

Putin Heads For Riyadh

At their summit later this month, Putin and his Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) hosts will highlight progress on the economic agenda laid out during King Salman’s October 2017 visit to Moscow.  Questions about the American commitment to protect the free flow of energy from the region will play in the background, and Putin will lobby the Saudis to buy Russian air defense systems.  The Russian president will use the September 14 strikes on Saudi energy facilities and the lengthy Yemen conflict to advance Moscow’s Concept for Collective Security in the Persian Gulf and encourage peace talks.  Moscow and Riyadh will underscore their intent to continue working together in OPEC+ to stabilize global oil prices, and use the Riyadh summit to bolster the room for independent action on the world stage of their energy tandem.  

May 30, 2019

The Mueller Report: The Missed Accelerants to Putin’s Interference

The March 2019 Mueller Report – discussed by Mueller himself in a brief, televised press conference on May 29, 2019 - provides enormous detail on the patterns and impacts of Russian interference in America’s 2016 election that were authorized by the very top leadership in Moscow.  However, the report does not explore the context behind Moscow’s choice for this brazen course of action.  Combining Mueller’s insights and my past research and writing about President Vladimir Putin’s increasing appetite for foreign policy risk taking, this Strategic Insight contends that three main accelerants and one huge contextual factor encouraged Putin’s fateful early 2014 choice to meddle in and manipulate the US electoral process. 

March 25, 2019

Russian Challenges from Now into the Next Generation: A Geostrategic Primer

U.S. and Western relations with Russia remain challenged as Russia increasingly reasserts itself on the global stage. Russia remains driven by a worldview based on existential threats—real, perceived, and contrived. As a vast, 11-time zone Eurasian nation with major demographic and economic challenges, Russia faces multiple security dilemmas internally and along its vulnerable and expansive borders. Exhibiting a reactive xenophobia stemming from a long history of destructive war and invasion along most of its borders, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and perceived Western slights, Russia increasingly threatens others and lashes outward. However, time is not on Russia’s side, as it has entered into a debilitating status quo that includes unnecessary confrontation with the West, multiple unresolved military commitments, a sanctions-strained and only partially diversified economy, looming domestic tensions, and a rising China directly along its periphery. Washington still has an opportunity to carefully improve U.S.-Russia relations and regain a more stable relationship in the near term, but only if activities and initiatives are based on a firm and frank appreciation of each other’s core interests, including those of their allies and partners.

March 6, 2019

Moscow Advances Ties to Iran's Regional Rivals

In INSS’s Strategic Perspectives No. 27 – “Between Russia and Iran: Room to Pursue American Interests in Syria,” I argued that Russia’s solution to restraining Iranian behavior in Syria has been one of addition and mediation rather than subtraction. Since then, there have been dramatic developments in the region and in U.S. policy on Syria. Despite -- and at times thanks to -- these twists and turns, Moscow has kept its ties with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey on track, while doing little more than marching in place in its management of relations with Iran. Here are the recent highlights and the future implications for American policy in Syria.

Jan. 2, 2019

Between Russia and Iran: Room to Pursue American Interests in Syria

President Donald Trump has underscored containing Iran’s sway as a key element in establishing a “strong and lasting footprint” in Syria as the United States moves toward bringing its Soldiers home. In pursuing this key American objective, this paper recommends that Washington take advantage of the “daylight” between Russia and Iran, and that it be American policy at all levels to work to expand it. This long-existing “daylight” was underscored in 2018 by calls in Moscow for Iran to withdraw its forces from some or all of Syria, and by Putin’s positive regard at the summit in Helsinki with President Trump for Israel’s security requirements.