Author Archives: John P. Ruehl

Sanctions batter Russia as the Kremlin attempts to overcome them

Western economic punishments on Russia continue to severely limit its economic prospects. But they also risk hastening the development of sanctions evasion techniques and rival economic mechanisms outside the control of Brussels and Washington.

Immediately after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the U.S., the UK, and the EU placed major sanctions on Russia to constrict its economy and restrain its war effort. Having been updated several times since, these sanctions have compounded the effects of the previous sanctions placed on Russia in 2014 after it annexed Crimea. Continue reading

Why support for Ukraine could dwindle in the final months of 2022

With the U.S. midterm elections looming and Europe’s economic situation deteriorating, the threat of reduced international support for Ukraine could limit Kyiv’s options heading into the new year.

Since February 24, 2022, Ukraine’s armed forces have successfully defended much of their country. But without American assistance, the Ukrainian military campaign would have likely floundered months ago. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. has provided the lion’s share of military aid to Ukraine, alongside enormous financial and humanitarian assistance. With the U.S. midterm elections to be held on November 8, 2022, both President Joe Biden’s administration and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy fear that these channels of support for Ukraine will diminish significantly. Continue reading

How Europe has navigated its energy crises

A multifaceted response from Europe has so far prevented its energy woes from creating widespread social and economic destabilization. But with winter approaching, the crisis is far from over and risks are getting worse.

While European energy prices have eased slightly in recent months, stress continues to build across a continent that has long been dependent on access to cheap Russian energy. Continue reading

France’s influence in Africa faces strains from locals and foreign competitors

The recent visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to Algeria is an attempt by Paris to hold on to the economic and cultural control it once had over its former colonies.

France’s ongoing affair with Algeria reflects the complicated relationship it has with many of its former colonies in Africa. The French first began to establish trading posts on the Senegalese coast in the early 17th century and launched several expeditions against Barbary pirates and slave traders in North Africa in the mid-to-late 17th century. The French invasion of Ottoman Algiers in 1830 then transformed France’s relationship with Africa and launched the beginning of French colonialism into the interior of the continent. Continue reading

Where does Russia receive its aid from?

While Ukraine has received enormous aid from around the world since the Russian invasion began in February, open support for Russia should not be dismissed.

On August 24, Ukraine’s independence day, the U.S. provided a $3 billion military aid package to the country. The additional assistance adds to more than $80 billion worth of support that Kyiv has already received between January 24 and August 3, the majority of which was provided by the U.S., the UK, and the EU. In addition to gaining access to Western weapons systems, military data, and training, the Ukrainian armed forces have further been augmented by foreign volunteers serving in the International Legion. Continue reading

Did Nancy Pelosi accelerate Chinese-Russian military cooperation with her Taiwan visit?

China had warned of “serious consequences” in the lead-up to the visit but has avoided any significant military escalation so far.

Following the chaotic U.S. departure from Afghanistan in August 2021 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Washington has sought to reaffirm its commitment to its allies and partners. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan on August 2 assuaged nerves in Taipei and underlined the island’s status as a key component of the U.S. Pacific strategy. Continue reading

Russia and the European Union continue transition to wartime economies

Russia and the West have signaled their intent to commit to a long-term confrontation over Ukraine. While Russia has clearly felt the effect of sanctions, the EU remains vulnerable to Russian attempts to use energy to divide member states.

Having declared victory over the “economic blitzkrieg” of Western sanctions in March, Russian President Vladimir Putin must contend with continued Western financial support to Ukraine as it combats Russian forces. In addition, the Kremlin will be forced to finance the reconstruction and integration of conquered Ukrainian territory. Continue reading

The Kremlin seeks to exploit growing wariness over refugees in Europe

Instability and rising living costs have caused significant growth in refugee and other migrant numbers globally. The opportunity to exploit the crisis will not be missed by other countries, most notably Russia.

Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, more than 7 million Ukrainian refugees have left the country till mid-June. While some 1.5 million ended up in Russia, the rest have mostly entered the European Union, where they have been granted the right to live and work for up to three years, in addition to receiving welfare, education, housing, food, and medical assistance. Continue reading

Will the Ukraine conflict turn private?

The expanding use of private military and security companies in recent years suggests that they may take a leading role as the Ukraine conflict develops.

Since the turn of the century, private military and security companies (PMSCs) have played an increasingly important role in conflict zones. Because the lines between private military companies and private security companies are often blurred, the all-encompassing PMSC term is used to describe them. Continue reading

The Ukraine war’s role in exacerbating global food insecurity

The effects of the war in Ukraine have brought much of the world’s attention to energy prices. But food insecurity is also rising and will likely get worse.

With some of the world’s most fertile land, Ukraine’s nickname as the breadbasket of Europe is an understatement of its agricultural potential. Together with Russia, the two countries account for roughly 14 percent of global corn exports, 22 percent of rapeseed/canola exports, 27 percent of wheat exports, and 30 percent of barley exports, as well as almost 70 percent of the world’s sunflower oil exports. Russia is also the world’s top exporter of fertilizer, and so the global food system faces the simultaneous challenges of Western sanctions on Russia and steeper costs of both growing and importing food. Continue reading

Why Biden can’t woo the Middle East

Since the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last August and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the White House has been desperate to showcase U.S. strength on the world stage. But the Biden administration has struggled to rally traditional Middle Eastern allies against Russia, raising questions over U.S. influence in the region.

For decades, U.S. policy in the Middle East has relied on coordination with the Saudi-led Gulf states, Israel, Egypt and Turkey. Since the Obama administration, however, relations between Washington and its core regional allies in the Middle East have floundered, confounding the United States’ ability to manage Middle Eastern crises and formulate consensus in the region. Continue reading

What would a potential CSTO intervention in Ukraine look like?

While Russia’s original and shifting objectives in Ukraine remain unclear, the Kremlin is increasingly wary of a publicized, drawn-out conflict. A potential intervention by its military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), could give Russia a diplomatic victory and an acceptable path to de-escalating its campaign if it can leverage its influence over member states effectively.

Russia’s attempts to build an alliance between former Soviet states began shortly after the Soviet collapse in 1991. This led to the signing of the Collective Security Treaty (CST), which came into effect in 1994, by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Designed to coordinate military policies and collective defense between member states, the CST failed to promote any real military integration, and Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan chose to leave in 1999, during the renewal of the treaty. Continue reading

The war in Ukraine is sending Russia-China relations in new directions

While the Ukraine crisis may put some strain on the Chinese-Russian relationship, it has also spurred deeper collaboration between them. Based on a shared desire to undermine the United States’ global order, their constructive partnership will not only endure the blowback from the Ukrainian invasion but is likely to expand.

With the world’s attention focused on Ukraine in the weeks since Russia began its invasion of the country on February 24, there has been fervent debate among foreign policy experts on how Russia’s relations with the West will be affected. Officials in Moscow and Western capitals have traded barbs at each other in the media, while sanctions and counter-sanctions have already begun to bite. Continue reading

Why is China fanning the flames of ethnic politics in the Balkans?

The fragile geopolitical nature of the Balkans has allowed Russia to consistently undermine Western integration attempts in the region. While foreign interference is nothing new in Europe’s underbelly, it has historically been limited to regional powers and the U.S. But China’s recent collaboration with Russia in supporting ethnic separatism in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) reveals that Beijing is happy to challenge the West and to highlight EU and NATO vulnerabilities within Europe. If Western pressure over China’s policies in Xinjiang and Taiwan increases, China’s enhanced coordination with Russia will further erode the West’s delicate balancing act in the Balkans. Continue reading

Historical differences will not erode an advantageous 21st-century Chinese-Russian partnership

Cautious cooperation, lingering distrust, and outright conflict have characterized the Sino-Russian relationship for hundreds of years. But alongside natural reasons to collaborate, a shared animosity toward the United States ensures positive relations will endure.

The 21st century has seen the forging of “cooperative” relations between China and Russia, with the benefits of this new partnership outweighing the historical differences between these two countries that share a mutual goal to diminish the dominance of the United States in world affairs. Continue reading