Posts From Hugo Blewett-Mundy

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Insights Politics

Erdogan Seizes a Strategic Opportunity in Afghanistan

Following the Taliban takeover, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has decided that Turkey will maintain a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan while its fellow NATO allies complete their evacuation. This development in Turkish foreign policy may be seen as part of a shift in strategic thinking in Ankara. Although Erdogan’s assertive approach to foreign affairs has shored up his political standing at home, it has resulted in Turkey becoming increasingly isolated. With the situation in Afghanistan deteriorating, Erdogan is seizing the opportunity to reinvigorate his country’s strategic regional importance.

Europe Politics

Slow EU Enlargement Affords Hungary Leverage

Serbia, North Macedonia, and Albania have agreed to a border-free travel zone between their countries. Although it is an effort to open up their economies following the COVID-19 pandemic, the regional initiative also reflects frustration with the European Union for its slow accession process. Meanwhile, in taking over the Visegrad Group presidency, Hungary has made Balkan EU accession one of its key priorities. This puts Hungary in a strong political position. The risk of a migration crisis in Europe following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan means that the EU has little choice but to intensify its enlargement agenda.

Europe Security

Why Turkey Could Help us Understand Putin’s Intentions in Ukraine

Russia has staged the largest mobilisation along the eastern Ukrainian border since the Annexation of Crimea in 2014. Iuliia Mendel, spokesperson for the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, stated that Moscow had stationed more than 40,000 soldiers near the separatist-held region of Donbas along with an additional 9,000 in Crimea. The sudden increase of Russian military presence in the region comes amid deepening defence cooperation between Turkey and Ukraine. This development in the Ukraine conflict follows a pattern of strategic rivalry between Ankara and Moscow in Libya and Syria. Although on opposing sides in each of these crises, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, share the same geopolitical goal of undermining Western pre-eminence in the post-Cold War system of international relations. Initiative in defence and security in the conduct of relations that Moscow and Ankara exercise with third countries means it is likely the crisis in eastern Ukraine will intensify.

Politics South and Central Asia

Russia-Armenia Ties Complicate Turkish Regional Plans

In ending Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Russian-brokered accord between Armenia and Azerbaijan in November 2020 removes the Azerbaijani condition for the creation of a regional stability pact in the South Caucasus first proposed in 1999. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, hopes that Armenia will now take the steps needed to establish such a security system. However, the political crisis in Armenia since the November ceasefire calls into question whether Yerevan will have the willingness to commit to this regional initiative.

Europe Security

The Turkish intervention in Nagorno-Karabakh may favour EU interests

As mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Russia has sought to maintain influence in Azerbaijan and Armenia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In pursuing a strategy based on balancing competing Armenian-Azerbaijani interests over the disputed territory, Moscow is able to wield leverage in the South Caucasus without antagonising either Baku or Yerevan. However, the Turkish intervention on the issue in 2020 in full support of Azerbaijan tilted the power-balance of the conflict and cemented Ankara as a new security actor in the region.

Europe Security

A Common European Defence Policy may realise Georgia’s NATO ambitions

Since the Russo-Georgian conflict in 2008, Moscow has compromised the territorial integrity of Georgia through its occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Despite NATO’s concerns that offering a Membership Action

Europe Politics

Can the EU work with Biden in the Balkans?

The Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) signed in December provides access to the Chinese market for European investors while protecting China’s existing rights in EU trade. However, US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, voiced concern over the deal, stating Washington would welcome early consultations with Brussels when addressing Beijing’s economic relations. The lack of coordinated EU-US strategic thinking on China poses a risk to Euro-Atlantic integration in the Western Balkans. 

Europe Politics

Recovery from Covid-19 in Eastern Partnership Countries Faces Political Hurdles

With the support of the European Union, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced in December a scaling up of its financial support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the EU’s Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries. However, potential for economic recovery from the pandemic in the region is undermined by EU marginalisation of issues in corruption and Russian subversion capabilities. It is unlikely that sustainable private-sector growth will be realised until the EBRD fiscal approach is complemented with a strategy to address these political challenges.

Europe Politics

Reality of Post-Communist Transitions Risks Entrenching EU-Central Europe Divide

Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, and his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, argue that new powers handed to the European Commission, allowing the EU to withhold payments of the €750bn Covid recovery package from member states that fail to meet EU standards on the rule of law, are a politically motivated attempt to target their countries. 

Europe Security

Absence of an EU-Turkey strategic partnership undermines regional security

The European Council summit in December 2020 presented an opportunity for Brussels to formalise a strategic partnership with Turkey to manage the crises in the Eastern Mediterranean, Syria and Libya. Instead, it exposed divergence between France and Germany over how the EU should confront Ankara’s assertive foreign policy. Whilst French President Macron is in favour of putting strong pressure on Turkey’s President Erdogan, German Chancellor Merkel believes that it is vital to remain open to dialogue. This lack of strategic clarity puts regional security at risk given the importance of Turkish cooperation with Brussels over handling common issues in irregular migration and local conflict.