The Cyber Dimension in the Russia-Ukraine War

Maria Makurat

The crisis between Ukraine and Russia has been showing us actively how a hybrid war is taking place in Europe. Since Thursday, the 24th of February 2022, we have been hearing daily reports of the invasion as well as an increased activity in the cyber domain. Government officials as well as private actors are increasingly engaging in cyberspace. Anonymous, the international hacker group, has launched multiple cyberattacks on the Kremlin’s official websites and state media in an effort to disrupt Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and raise awareness of its implications among the Russian public.

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Weaponising History: Putin’s Strategy for Domestic and Foreign Policy Success

Ariel Koh

On 28 December 2021, Memorial International, Russia’s oldest human rights group, whose aim was to preserve memories of Soviet-era totalitarianism to educate the populace, promote democracy and ‘restor[e] historical truth’, was ordered shut by the Russian Supreme Court. In a year that witnessed the arrest of Putin’s most prominent opponent, Alexei Navalny  – who was also tried for the defamation of a war veteran – crackdowns on a specific historical narrative that complements Putin’s domestic and foreign objectives point towards his increased ambition to restore Russia’s former greatness.

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The EU should take away the knife from Russia: salami tactics and Nord Stream 2

Claudia Iris Comandini

Imagine February 2023 Ukraine is surrounded by four battalions of troops. Gusts of wind are blowing so fiercely that even the heavy tactical gears worn by Russian soldiers seem like rice paper umbrellas. One could count 175.000 heads deployed on ground and sea, if there was any other than a civilian out there to actually give testimony. The war had been announced and more than ever Ukraine was on the verge of witnessing how the European Union had not kept its promises of being a beacon of democracy. 

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Alexander Lukashenko: A Threat to EU Security.

Pasha Wilson

Since August 2020, the EU has imposed sanctions on Belarus in response to the ‘neither free, nor fair’ presidential election of Alexander Lukashenko, as well as his military’s violent suppression of peaceful protestors and journalists opposing the party in power. In retaliation, Lukashenko’s regime has aimed to destabilise the EU through fuelling illegal movement of migrants into the EU. Lukashenko is exploiting the desperation of migrants travelling from war-torn countries in the Middle East and using them as pawns in his political warfare with the EU. Belarusian soldiers are actively encouraging migrants to travel freely through Belarus, with the false promise of open borders into the EU bloc via Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania. Free travel is advertised through the ‘tourist’ packages being sold to migrants, which reportedly cost between $3,000 and $4,000 and include a Belarusian visa and flight tickets to Minsk.

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Weaponisation of Refugees: A New Low for Europe

In retaliation for ongoing sanctions imposed by the European Union on Belarus after its disputed presidential election in 2020, President Lukashenko vowed earlier this year to allow migrants to cross Belarus’ borders into EU member states. In a widely publicized move, Belarus is granting easily accessible tourist visas to migrants, many of whom are Syrian refugees residing in Iraq. Supposed travel agents operating in Iraq organize these special tourist visas and flights to Belarus, promoted by the Belarusian government, for desperate refugees. This loophole enables refugees to bypass treacherous boat trips across the Mediterranean and instead travel to Belarus, drive to its border, and walk into one of its three EU neighbour states: Poland, Lithuania or Latvia. Belarusian soldiers are even enabling refugees to cross their border. Consequently, the EU has accused Belarus of purposefully trafficking in migrants hoping to enter the EU in order to destabilize the region as part of a coordinated attack.

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Crisis in the Near Abroad: Russia’s military build-up, and its place in the post-Soviet story

The West must accept that Russia will continue to speak for its own people in a world it considers unfair.

Russia’s relationship with Europe appears to be falling apart at a worrying pace. Events seem to be moving so quickly that it seems inevitable that the contents of this article will be incomplete by the time anybody reads it. In recent weeks, Joe Biden has ordered new sanctions on Russia, hunger-striking opposition leader Alexei Navalny is reportedly close to death, Russia has increased its military presence on its border with Ukraine, and revelations have shown that the perpetrators of the 2018 Salisbury Poisoning were also linked to a bomb blast in the Czech Republic in 2014. 

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Remnants of Soviet Imperialism in Russian Identity: Assessing the Annexation of Crimea Seven Years On

After the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the post-Soviet space faced both a political and an identity vacuum. While several of the newly independent states sought to redefine their foreign policies and forge new relations with the West, Russia struggled to redefine its identity as the successor of the Soviet Union. The new Russian Federation was simultaneously tasked with addressing geopolitical concerns of Western influence in the region as well as tackling Soviet nostalgia within its identity formulation. In fact, this Soviet nostalgia, coupled with the threat of Western interference, led Russia to adopt a strategy of maintaining deliberate control over the post-Soviet states. Ukraine, having both geographical as well as cultural significance for Russia, became crucial for the articulation of a post-Soviet Russian identity. Russia has, thus, adopted a two-pronged approach to its involvement in Ukraine: thwarting Western influence in the region and advocating an Eastern Slavic identity that premises a union between Ukrainians and Russians.

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New Faces on Old Tensions: Understanding the Decline of EU-Russian Relations

Following the fall of the Soviet Union’s European empire in 1989, there was some hope within security circles that the end to near-constant confrontation and conflict in Europe had finally been achieved. In 1991, three quarters of a century had passed since the outbreak of the First World War; very few in government could remember a time when the threat of continent-wide conflict was lower than in that year.

The newly-formed European Union (EU) saw the potential to establish a new security situation on the continent; as late as 1999, the EU declared it its aim to see “a stable, democratic, and prosperous Russia…governed by the rule of law and underpinning a prosperous market economy”. Fifteen years later, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill incorporating Crimea into the Russian Federation, directly violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in the process. So what happened? How, in less than two decades, did we get from the end of history to the new Cold War?

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The European Union’s Refugee Crisis: A Way Forward

On Friday 16th October, the King’s Think Tank launched its first event of the year, a panel discussion focusing on ‘Europe’s Migrant Crisis’. The panel included Dr Jeff Crisp, a Research Associate at the University of Oxford’s Refugee Studies Centre; Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London; Mr James Mates, Europe Editor of ITV News and Jakob Muratov, President of the European Affairs Policy Centre at the Think Tank. The vibrant discussion covered the impact of mass migration with regards to the migrants themselves, border control and the necessary response to overcome the problems facing Europe.

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NATO and an Ethical Foreign Policy: A Reply

A few weeks ago, in our first blog of the academic year, Steven Male compellingly argued for a more ethical foreign policy, and posited several suggestions as to how this may be achieved under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. Within this piece however, there was one aspect that I found myself fundamentally disagreeing with – the idea that membership, and unquestioning support, of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), was absolutely key to any ethical foreign policy. I felt this played into the common, and flawed, assertion that Putin’s Russia is an expansionist, imperialist power bent on world domination, and that only NATO’s expansion could stop it. I, and in fact many pre-eminent scholars on Russia, including McCgwire, Rynning, and Karabeshkin, disagree with this, both on the idea that Russia is indulging in unprovoked expansion, and that NATO is either a protector of European security or an ethical body. This author believes that if NATO is to perform as an ethical body in foreign policy, or represent a genuine protector of European security, it must undergo a process of self-examination of its actual effectiveness, and a reappraisal of its behaviour. Continue reading “NATO and an Ethical Foreign Policy: A Reply”