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TOPIC: geopolitics

Geopolitics

Swan Lake In Kherson? Why Russia’s Future Is Looking So Dark

Ukrainians, Russians and much of the rest of the world are still trying to make sense of Moscow’s decision last week to abandon the southern city of Kherson. Do not, for certain, underestimate the significance.

Through the fog of war, we are beginning to see more clearly the significance of the Russian army’s stunning retreat from Kherson, territory that Vladimir Putin had declared his own with an annexation ceremony just a month before.

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Yes, events are accelerating. The war in Ukraine now appears suddenly to be heading toward its inevitable conclusion, and Putin toward his demise.

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Eyes On U.S. — No 'Vague Rouge,' No Final Results: How The World Makes Sense Of Midterms

While some breathed sighs of relief that the Republicans' predicted "red wave" sweep didn't happen, others chuckle at how long it takes to count the votes. And then there's Senõr Musk...

PARIS — Three full days later, and there's still no real clarity on the U.S. midterms — but the world has gotten used to American elections dragging out for days or even weeks, for both political and technical reasons.

One French journalist wondered if there’s a simpler way.

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Eyes On U.S. — How The World Is Tracking A High-Stakes Midterm Election

The international media is tuning in closely to Tuesday’s U.S. midterms, with global ramifications for everything from the war in Ukraine to action on climate change to the brewing superpower showdown with China.

PARIS — It’s becoming a bi-annual November ritual: International reporters touch down in some small American town or so-called “battleground state” that we’re told could decide the fate of the next two or four (or more) years in the United States — and the world.

Reporting for French daily Le Monde, Piotr Smolar was in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, where “culture wars” were infecting the schools ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections. Meanwhile, Smolar's French broadcast colleagues at France Info were in the ever crucial state of Florida, talking to locals at the grocery store about the economy.

“The prices are crazy. I’m a veteran, I spent 16 years in the army and this is what I get when I come home,” said a man named Jake in the city of Melbourne, Florida. “We’re counting every penny. It’s Biden’s recovery plan that put us in this situation.”

Yes, it will likely be local issues that determine the results of the midterm elections, where Republicans have a strong chance of taking back control of Congress and deal a potentially fatal blow to some of President Joe Biden’s signature policy objectives.

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Tensions In Norway Border Town, A Perfect Kremlin Recipe To Divide The West

In a remote region of Norway, a tense standoff is taking place between a tiny town and its giant neighbor to the east, Russia. The Kremlin is accused of using the area as as a staging ground for its policies to divide the West.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has led to its most tense relations with the West since the Cold War, playing out in the halls of international diplomacy and the global movement of arms and energy supplies. But the showdown is also alive on more local settings, most recently pitting Norway's remote northeastern region of Finnmark against its giant neighbor to the east.

The latest escalation in a series of events occurred last Saturday when Russian Consul General Nikolai Konygin was set to give a speech in the small town of Kirkenes to commemorate the Red Army’s liberation of the town from Nazi Germany and their Norwegian collaborators.

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Konygin, who was accompanied by visitors the Russian border city of Nikel, was met with Norwegian protesters who turned their back on the Consul General during the speech and began waving Ukrainian flags. The scene looked like a miniature battlefield as the Russian entourage remained facing the consul general while waving Russian flags.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Cameron Manley

Chechen Pride Or Kremlin Ambitions? Tracking Kadyrov's Long Game

Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of Chechnya, is one of the most recognizable (and hawkish) figures in the orbit of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But beyond his online bluster, he is keeping his options open as Moscow loses ground in the war in Ukraine.

-Analysis-

In a war where most Russian military commanders choose to remain in the shadows, and regular soldiers are prohibited from using their phones, one man stands out from the rest: Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya.

The day Russian President Vladimir Putin declared his "special military operation," it’s hard to forget the 12,000 "volunteer" soldiers amassed in the central square in the regional capital, Grozny, as Kadyrov hailed the start of the invasion and pledged to send a wave of Chechen volunteers into Ukraine.

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Eight months ago, at the moment of the highest stakes for Putin, it was a clear sign that the once rebellious Muslim-majority republic could be counted on in Moscow.

Ukraine's military intelligence tracks the origins of the Russian forces who've invaded their country — those from the Chechen Republic are referred to as "Kadyrovtsy."

But while the 46-year-old leader's flexing continue, the last two months of Ukrainian gains on the battlefield — and Moscow's increasingly brutal response and ominous threats — have altered the equation.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Anna Akage

Why Iran Has Decided To Arm Russia, And The Price To Pay

After months of trading barbs with Ukraine's allies in the West, Tehran is now fully engaged alongside Moscow in the conflict, most notably with supplies of so-called Kamikaze drones. Although the fact that Iran still denies its activities is a sign that the partnership is loaded.

-Analysis-

In Ukraine, they’ve been nicknamed “mopeds” for the sound of their motors as they terrorize from the air. The Shahed-136 kamikaze drones striking Kyiv, Lviv, Dnipro, and Odessa are also the most visible sign that Iran has officially entered the war in Ukraine as an active military partner for Russia.

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These drones, which have a range of more than 1,000 kilometers, are being launched from Crimea and Voronezh in southwestern Russia. They cost far less than missiles, and although they don't have the same destructive power, they can kill humans and disable critical infrastructure at any moment on any street in any Ukrainian city.

U.S. intelligence, which had warned this past summer that Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to buy a large batch of drones, are now reporting that Iran is also planning to sell ground-to-ground ballistic missiles to Moscow. On top of this, there are multiple reports that Iran is sending military advisors to train Russians to use their weapons.

After limiting itself in the first months of the war to rhetorical barbs aimed at Ukraine’s allies in the West, the past two weeks have thus seen a major escalation of Tehran’s role alongside Moscow.

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Geopolitics
Christian Bueger

Nord Stream Sabotage: Why Underwater Pipelines Are So Vulnerable

Whatever caused the damage to the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, it appears to be the first major attack on critical “subsea” (underwater) infrastructure in Europe. It’s now widely thoughtnot least by Nato – that the explosions that led to major leaks in the two pipelines were not caused by accidents.

The alliance says they were a deliberate act of sabotage.

The attacks occurred in the exclusive economic zones of Denmark and Sweden and demonstrate the risks that Europe’s subsea infrastructures are facing. This raises the question of the vulnerabilities of European pipelines, electricity and internet cables, and other maritime infrastructure. Europe will have to revisit its policies for protecting them.

But it is still unclear how the attacks were carried out. The investigations will probably take months to complete. Still, there are two likely scenarios.

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Geopolitics
Beesan Kassab, Daniel O'Connell, Ehsan Salah, Hazem Tharwat and Najih Dawoud

Patronage Or Politics? What's Driving Qatar And Egypt Grand Rapprochement

For Cairo, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil,” with anger directed at Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, and others critical of Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood ouster. But the vitriol is now gone, with the first ever visit by Egyptian President al-Sisi to Doha.

For the first time since coming to power in 2014, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi traveled to Doha last month on an official visit, a capstone in a steadily building rapprochement between the two countries in the last year.

Not long ago, however, the photo-op capturing the two heads of state smiling at one another in Doha would have seemed impossible. In the wake of the Armed Forces’ ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, Qatar and Egypt traded barbs.

In the lexicon of the intelligence-controlled Egyptian press landscape, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil” working to undermine Egypt’s stability. Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, was banned from Egypt, but, from its social media accounts and television broadcast, it regularly published salacious and insulting details about the Egyptian administration.

But all of that vitriol is now gone.

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Geopolitics
Oleksandr Demchenko

One By One, The Former Soviet Republics Are Abandoning Putin

From Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Tajikistan, countries in Russia's orbit have refused to help him turn the tide in the Ukraine war. All (maybe even Belarus?) is coming to understand that his next step would be a complete restoration of the Soviet empire.

-Analysis-

KYIV — Virtually all of Vladimir Putin's last remaining partner countries in the region are gone from his grip. Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan have refused to help him turn the tide in the Ukraine war, because they've all come to understand that his next step would be a complete restoration of the empire, where their own sovereignty is lost.

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Before zooming in on the current state of relations in the region, and what it means for Ukraine's destiny, it's worth briefly reviewing the last 30 years of post-Soviet history.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) was first created in 1992 by the Kremlin to keep former republics from fully seceding from the former Soviet sphere of influence. The plan was simple: to destroy the local Communist elite, to replace them with "their" people in the former colonies, and then return these territories — never truly considered as independent states by any Russian leadership — into its orbit.

In a word - to restore the USSR.

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Geopolitics
Juan Gabriel Tokatlian

How South American Oceans Can Sway The U.S.-China Showdown

As global rivalries and over-fishing impact the seas around South America, countries there must find a common strategy to protect their maritime backyards.

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — As the U.S.-China rivalry gathers pace, oceans matter more than ever. This is evident just looking at the declarations and initiatives enacted concerning the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Yet there is very little debate in South America on the Sino-American confrontation and its impact on seas around South America, specifically the South-Eastern Pacific (SEP) and South-Western Atlantic (SWA). These have long ceased to be empty spaces — and their importance to the world's superpowers can only grow.

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THE CONVERSATION
Kevork Oskanian

How Russia's Setbacks In Ukraine Could Reignite Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict

Azerbaijan’s recent shelling of Armenia is the worst hostilities since the war in 2020 over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. While in the past, Russia, a historic ally of Armenia, sought to restore peace, the Kremlin may make a different calculus this time.

-Analysis-

Almost two years ago, what is now referred to as the “Second Karabakh War” broke the uneasy truce which had been in effect between Armenia and Azerbaijan since 1994. After 44 days of intense fighting – with thousands of dead on both sides – it ended in a precarious, Russian-mediated ceasefire on November 10, 2020.

The nine-point document setting out the terms of the ceasefire in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region of the South Caucasus largely cemented the gains made by Azerbaijan during the war. Among others, it provided for a withdrawal of Armenia’s troops from Azerbaijan and the restoration of economic and transportation links between the two countries.

This is particularly important for Azerbaijan, whose access to its Nakhchivan exclave is separated by Armenia’s Syunik province. The agreement also included arrangements for the stationing of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh until at least 2025.

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Geopolitics
Priyanjali Malik*

Commonwealth Countries Will Now Decide To Keep Calm, Or Move On

A difficult colonial history shared by 52 of the 56 current members of the Commonwealth was deftly obfuscated by pomp and circumstance. With the Queen’s passing, tensions may now bubble to the surface.

-Analysis-

NEW DELHI — Turning 21 on April 21, 1947, the then Princess Elizabeth in a broadcast from South Africa dedicated her life to the Commonwealth and Empire, declaring that her “whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong”.

Four and a half years later, she was proclaimed queen and spent the first few decades of her reign watching that "imperial family’" shrink rapidly. In 1957, Ghana and Malaysia became the first colonies to seek independence after her accession; Britain’s last colony, Hong Kong, was returned to China in 1997. In the intervening four decades, Empire crumbled, leaving only memories of the time when Britannia ruled the waves.

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