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Russia in the Middle East: From sidelines to centre stage

21-11-2018

In 2011, it looked as if the Arab Spring uprisings would deal a further blow to Russia's declining influence in the Middle East, by toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, one of Moscow's few remaining allies in the region. In 2015, Russia launched a military intervention. Though it came at an enormous humanitarian cost, the campaign succeeded in saving Assad's regime, at the same time as reversing the Middle Eastern fortunes of Russia as Assad's main international backer. Russia's involvement ...

In 2011, it looked as if the Arab Spring uprisings would deal a further blow to Russia's declining influence in the Middle East, by toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, one of Moscow's few remaining allies in the region. In 2015, Russia launched a military intervention. Though it came at an enormous humanitarian cost, the campaign succeeded in saving Assad's regime, at the same time as reversing the Middle Eastern fortunes of Russia as Assad's main international backer. Russia's involvement in Syria has given its relations with neighbouring countries a new momentum. Despite divergent interests, Iran, Turkey and Israel cooperate with Russia and acknowledge its leadership in Syria. Russia's success in imposing its agenda in Syria has bolstered its influence throughout the wider region. Although Moscow's role is not always a constructive one, it has become a key actor and sometimes a mediator in regional conflicts from Libya to Yemen. Russia's regional clout is also helped by its skilful use of energy cooperation to further economic and geopolitical interests. Russia's drive to become a major Middle Eastern player should be seen in the wider context of global geopolitical rivalry with the United States. Moscow's growing influence in the region is as much the result of Western policy failures as its own strength.

Renewed chemical attack in Syria

12-04-2018

As the conflict in Syria enters its eighth year, Parliament is due to debate the situation, following a recent escalation. The Assad regime is suspected of having carried out a toxic gas attack on the besieged town of Douma near Damascus on 7 April 2018, killing around 80 people and injuring hundreds. The United Nations Security Council debated the attack during an emergency meeting on 9 April 2018, during which Russia denied Syrian regime responsibility for the attack. The EU has strongly condemned ...

As the conflict in Syria enters its eighth year, Parliament is due to debate the situation, following a recent escalation. The Assad regime is suspected of having carried out a toxic gas attack on the besieged town of Douma near Damascus on 7 April 2018, killing around 80 people and injuring hundreds. The United Nations Security Council debated the attack during an emergency meeting on 9 April 2018, during which Russia denied Syrian regime responsibility for the attack. The EU has strongly condemned the latest use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict, and the United States, France and the United Kingdom have signalled their willingness to respond with air-strikes in order to uphold the global ban on the use of chemical weapons.

North Korea [What Think Tanks are thinking]

22-09-2017

North Korea has stepped up its nuclear plans with the underground detonation of a hydrogen bomb and tests of its first suspected Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), moves perceived as a major threat to global security. Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly on 19 September, US President Donald Trump threatened to 'totally destroy' North Korea if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies against that country. The isolated communist regime of Kim Jong-un has continued ...

North Korea has stepped up its nuclear plans with the underground detonation of a hydrogen bomb and tests of its first suspected Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), moves perceived as a major threat to global security. Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly on 19 September, US President Donald Trump threatened to 'totally destroy' North Korea if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies against that country. The isolated communist regime of Kim Jong-un has continued its nuclear programme, despite repeated rounds of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council and diplomatic efforts to diffuse the conflict.

North Korea: Possible scenarios

12-09-2017

On 3 September 2017, North Korea conducted a sixth nuclear test, its most powerful yet, claiming to have successfully tested a miniaturised hydrogen bomb that would fit in an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The North Korean crisis, which has a long history, has now the potential to develop into a large-scale conflict affecting a large variety of actors across the globe. Pyongyang has become a global threat combining increasingly sophisticated nuclear weapons and missiles programmes that ...

On 3 September 2017, North Korea conducted a sixth nuclear test, its most powerful yet, claiming to have successfully tested a miniaturised hydrogen bomb that would fit in an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The North Korean crisis, which has a long history, has now the potential to develop into a large-scale conflict affecting a large variety of actors across the globe. Pyongyang has become a global threat combining increasingly sophisticated nuclear weapons and missiles programmes that could strike the USA and even Europe. This has been made possible by the international community's lack of a common strategy and Chinese support for the North Korean regime. All the while, this 'hermit kingdom', which a 2014 United Nations (UN) report accused of crimes against humanity, has continued to feed its traditional anti-American rhetoric and has succeeded in taking its devastating human rights record off the international agenda. As the international community tries to resolve the current crisis, analysts have identified a number of possible scenarios: reinforcing international sanctions to push Pyongyang to the table to negotiate an agreement to renounce its nuclear programme in exchange for economic support and a guarantee of not being attacked; performing a pre-emptive strike against its nuclear sites, undergoing the risk of retaliation against Seoul; and assenting to North Korea's demand to be recognised as a de facto nuclear power and to conclude the peace treaty that was never signed at the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War ─ which ultimately is Kim's real goal and the reason for this escalation.

NATO in figures – ahead of the Warsaw summit

05-07-2016

The end of the Cold War and the 2001 terrorist attacks in the USA changed the face of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The alliance has developed, with interventions both within and outside Europe (the Balkans, Afghanistan, the African Horn, and Sub-Saharan Africa). More recently, the alliance has increasingly organised exercises in Europe, in order to reassure its members in the face of military build-up to the East of its borders.

The end of the Cold War and the 2001 terrorist attacks in the USA changed the face of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The alliance has developed, with interventions both within and outside Europe (the Balkans, Afghanistan, the African Horn, and Sub-Saharan Africa). More recently, the alliance has increasingly organised exercises in Europe, in order to reassure its members in the face of military build-up to the East of its borders.

Activation of Article 42(7) TEU France's request for assistance and Member States' responses

04-07-2016

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, France requested aid and assistance from the other Member States based on Article 42(7) TEU. This represented the first activation of the mutual assistance clause since the Lisbon Treaty introduced it in 2009. Member States expressed their solidarity and political support to France instantly and unanimously. Within days, several Member States, including Germany and the United Kingdom, decided on a series of contributions. More decisions ...

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, France requested aid and assistance from the other Member States based on Article 42(7) TEU. This represented the first activation of the mutual assistance clause since the Lisbon Treaty introduced it in 2009. Member States expressed their solidarity and political support to France instantly and unanimously. Within days, several Member States, including Germany and the United Kingdom, decided on a series of contributions. More decisions followed or are still pending, subject, in some cases, to parliamentary approval. This allows France to reconsider its engagements and redeploy its military. There is also a window of opportunity to strengthen political cooperation, as Member States have expressed their full support for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria. Furthermore, it could contribute to enhancing intelligence-sharing and the stepping up of counter-terrorism cooperation, particularly in the aftermath of the 22 March 2016 terrorist attacks in Brussels.  This is the second update of a briefing published in December 2015 and first updated in April 2016.    

Libya after Gaddafi: A challenging transition

13-06-2016

Five years after the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has finally made a breakthrough towards ending the two-year conflict that has seen the country divided between two rival governments and parliaments, each allied with loose coalitions of armed militias fighting each other. The resulting power vacuum has led, not least, to the rise of ISIL/Da'esh in Libya and, to the country's increasing role as a departure point for migrants hoping to reach Europe. A political solution to reduce the instability ...

Five years after the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has finally made a breakthrough towards ending the two-year conflict that has seen the country divided between two rival governments and parliaments, each allied with loose coalitions of armed militias fighting each other. The resulting power vacuum has led, not least, to the rise of ISIL/Da'esh in Libya and, to the country's increasing role as a departure point for migrants hoping to reach Europe. A political solution to reduce the instability in Libya is critical, both for Libya and for its neighbours.

Syria: Turning commitments into action

13-06-2016

What started as local anti-government protests in the city of Daraa in 2011 quickly evolved into a popular uprising. The conflict has since cost the lives of 470 000 people and resulted in the displacement of almost 11 million. This is no longer a revolution but an internationalised conflict hijacked by big-power politics, and Syrians and their neighbouring countries are paying the price.

What started as local anti-government protests in the city of Daraa in 2011 quickly evolved into a popular uprising. The conflict has since cost the lives of 470 000 people and resulted in the displacement of almost 11 million. This is no longer a revolution but an internationalised conflict hijacked by big-power politics, and Syrians and their neighbouring countries are paying the price.

Activation of Article 42(7) TEU - France's request for assistance and Member States’ responses: European Council Briefing

11-04-2016

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, France requested aid and assistance from the other Member States based on Article 42(7) TEU. This represented the first activation of the mutual assistance clause since the Lisbon Treaty introduced it in 2009. Member States expressed their solidarity and political support to France instantly and unanimously. Within days, several Member States, including Germany and the United Kingdom, decided on a series of contributions. More decisions ...

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, France requested aid and assistance from the other Member States based on Article 42(7) TEU. This represented the first activation of the mutual assistance clause since the Lisbon Treaty introduced it in 2009. Member States expressed their solidarity and political support to France instantly and unanimously. Within days, several Member States, including Germany and the United Kingdom, decided on a series of contributions. More decisions followed or are still pending, subject, in some cases, to parliamentary approval. This allows France to reconsider its engagements and redeploy its military. There is also a window of opportunity to strengthen political cooperation, as Member States have expressed their full support for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria. Furthermore, it could contribute to enhancing intelligence-sharing and the stepping up of counter-terrorism cooperation, particularly in the aftermath of the 22 March 2016 terrorist attacks in Brussels. This is an updated version of a Briefing published in December 2015.

Sanctions over Ukraine: Impact on Russia

11-03-2016

In early 2014, Russia violated international law by annexing Crimea and allegedly fomenting separatist uprisings in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass. The European Union, the United States and several other Western countries responded with diplomatic measures in March 2014, followed by asset freezes and visa bans targeted at individuals and entities. In July 2014, sanctions targeting the Russian energy, defence and financial sectors were adopted. These sanctions have not swayed Russian public ...

In early 2014, Russia violated international law by annexing Crimea and allegedly fomenting separatist uprisings in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass. The European Union, the United States and several other Western countries responded with diplomatic measures in March 2014, followed by asset freezes and visa bans targeted at individuals and entities. In July 2014, sanctions targeting the Russian energy, defence and financial sectors were adopted. These sanctions have not swayed Russian public opinion, which continues to staunchly back the Kremlin's actions in Ukraine. The diplomatic impact has also been limited, particularly now that Russia's military intervention in Syria has helped it to break out of diplomatic isolation. On the other hand, sectoral sanctions have proved painful, aggravating the economic downturn triggered by falling oil prices. Sanctions have affected the Russian economy in various ways. The main short-term impact comes from restrictions on Western lending and investment in Russia. Oil and gas production remains unaffected for the time being, but in the long term energy exports are likely to suffer. Meanwhile, Russian counter-sanctions are benefiting the agricultural sector, but consumers are losing out in terms of choice and price. So far, the overall impact of sanctions has been to isolate Russia from the global economy and hold back economic modernisation.

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