President Putin also took part in the vote for the approval of amendments to the Constitution, here on July 1 2020 at a polling station in the building of the Russian Academy of Sciences. | Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

What Does the New Russian Constitution Mean for European Security?

In 1993, Russia literally had to fight to adopt its new constitution. In October that year, the then president Boris Yeltsin ordered tanks to shell the White House in Moscow (seat of then Supreme Soviet, now of the Russian government), where plotters were hoping to restore the Soviet Union and roll back democratic reforms. In 2020, no show of force was required to amend the constitution (if we are to ignore the military parade on the Red Square on the eve of the seven-day-long referendum), and yet the consequences of this move for both Russia and its neighbours might be even more drastic than those 30 years ago.

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In this Sunday, March 22, 2020, photo supplied by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, military trucks load onto an Il-76 cargo plane in Chkalovsky military airport outside Moscow, Russia. Nine hulking Il-76 cargo planes are being loaded at the Chkalovsky military airport in Moscow as Russia prepares to send medical personnel and supplies to Italy to help the country's efforts against the coronavirus. The mission include eight mobile medical teams along with medical equipment and aerosol disinfection trucks is to begin Sunday, one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin offered the aid in a telephone conversation with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, whose country has confirmed more than 53,000 coronavirus cases and over 4,800 deaths. (Alexei Yereshko, Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP) |
Military trucks load medical supplies onto an Il-76 cargo plane in Chkalovsky military airport outside Moscow, Russia. (Alexei Yereshko, Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

From Russia with Love?! Putin and the Pandemic

For Russia the novel SARS-CoV-2 still seems to be the best of a bad lot, as the country still reports relatively low numbers of infected people. But, if coupled with other pre-existing problems (power transfer and economic hardships), the pandemic could exacerbate an already unstable situation and lead to new unpredictable foreign policy moves. Russia’s strategy in times of SARS-CoV-2 is most likely going to be threefold: further working on its global image by sending aid and offering assistance; shifting its focus from the near abroad to great power politics; and doubling up the ongoing information warfare if the first two do not bring immediate results.

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Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev prior to the cabinet meeting in Moscow on 15 January 2020 (Photo: picture alliance/AP Photo).

Lost in Transition? Putin’s Strategy for 2024

Speculations about “Транзит“ or transfer of power have circulated in the Russian mass media since Vladimir Putin got elected as the President of the Russian Federation for the fourth time in March 2018. The turbulent political events of the first weeks of 2020 shed some light on Putin’s strategy for his future. In case he chooses to leave the president’s chair, he will hardly be able to fully control the handover of power and will likely face some unintended consequences.

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Normandy Format Summit Held in Paris | Photo: picture alliance/ZUMA Press
Normandy Format Summit Held in Paris | Photo: picture alliance/ZUMA Press

What Does the Normandy Summit Mean for the Peace Process in Ukraine?

The beginning of conflict in Eastern Ukraine is nearing its sixth anniversary. The concerted effort of Russian, French, German and Ukrainian leaders to settle this issue diplomatically has yielded few tangible results so far. The recent meeting in Paris of four leaders gives ground for cautious optimism. What have the parties agreed upon? What problems remain and what has changed since the last round of Normandy negotiations?

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Antonov-Flugzeuge stehen
Antonov An-30 Flugzeuge stehen auf dem Militärflugplatz Kubinka bereit für Beobachtungsflüge | Foto: picture alliance/Russian Look.

Dunkle Wolken am Offenen Himmel. Verlassen die USA den Open Skies Treaty?

Steht nach dem Ende des INF-Vertrages der nächste Meilenstein der Rüstungskontrolle vor dem Aus? Laut der rüstungsnahen und gemeinhin gut informierten Zeitschrift „Defense News“ konfrontierte die US-Regierung Mitte November Verbündete mit ihrer schon länger vermuteten Absicht¹, aus dem Open Skies Treaty (OST), dem Vertrag über den Offenen Himmel, auszutreten.² Das zentrale Argument: Der Vertrag gefährde die nationale Sicherheit der USA und er könne durch den Rückgriff auf eigene hochauflösende Satellitenbilder ersetzt werden. Es heißt, dass die USA den Schritt für Januar 2020 angekündigt hätten. Noch vor wenigen Wochen hatten sich die Europäer für einen US-Verbleib stark gemacht, denn nach dem INF-Vertrag droht nun einem nächsten Pfeiler europäischer Sicherheit das Ende.

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The Chernobyl nuclear power plant sarcophagus | Photo: Petr Pavlicek/IAEA via Wikimedia

Chernobyl’s Fallout, Beyond Radiation

“What’s it like, radiation? Maybe they show it in the movies? Have you seen it? Is it white, or what? Some people say it has no color and no smell, and other people say that it’s black. Like earth. But if it’s colorless, then it’s like God. God is everywhere, but you can’t see Him.” Like so many others affected by the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the interviewee in Svetlana Alexievich’s Voices from Chernobyl, struggled to grasp how something too small to be perceived by our senses could have such an enormous effect on human affairs.

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Nils Schmid and Vera Rogova at the Schlangenbad Talks 2018 | Photo: Olga Gladushevskaya
Nils Schmid and Vera Rogova at the Schlangenbad Talks 2019 | Photo: Olga Gladushevskaya

“It is not enough to diagnose a crisis – we also have to actively deal with it.” An interview with Nils Schmid

A crisis or even the end of the liberal, multilateral world order is a frequently-heard diagnosis these days. In her interview with Nils Schmid, Member of Parliament for the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), Vera Rogova asks about possible coping strategies, Chinese and Russian influence and Germany’s current and future role in international politics.

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Preperations for the 1945 San Franisco Conference, a milestone for the current world order
Preperations for the 1945 San Franisco Conference, a milestone for the current world order | Photo: UN Photo | CC BY NC ND 2.0

“Recalibrating European security”?: A reply

Hans-Joachim Spanger rightly points to the main challenges to European security emphasizing that new challenges could only be adequately addressed against the backdrop of the global political changes of the last ten to twenty years. He makes a worrying diagnosis of the current state of European security, and provides some practical recommendations for improving the situation. However, we should not give up upon the existing order with its liberal norms and principles so quickly as this would strengthen those actors that seek to undermine it.

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