Russia Seeks to Circumvent the Advancing Western Alliance in Africa

The broad coalition built last week for supplying main battle tanks to Ukraine signifies a new surge in strengthening the unity of the US-led Western alliance, and Russia has had no response to this upgrade.

It will take a few months to train and equip new armored battalions in the Ukrainian army for breaking through the Russian trenches in Donbas, but the political reverberations of this agreement are instantaneous, and the new level of Western unity may be discomforting for some actors in the Global South.

The South African Minister of International Relations, Naledi Pandor, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Lavrov in January 2023. Photo: Ministry of International Relations of South Africa

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, paying a working visit to South Africa on January 23, tried to impress upon the attentive hosts that their position of neutrality could become less strict due to the hostile West’s escalating pressure on Russia (RIA Novosti, January 27). Yet, while few practical results came from Lavrov’s labors, the fake anti-colonial discourse finds more than a few receptive audiences (Izvestiya, January 27).Read More

Diplomacy Isn’t Delusional

Why it’s wise for Ukraine to engage with an adversary like Putin.

Putin and Zelensky meet in France in 2019. Photo: Ian LANGSDON / POOL / AFP / Flickr. CC BY 2.0

Sven G. Holtsmark offers a rebuttal to our December Commonweal article in which we discussed possible negotiations over Ukraine by referencing an ancient Greek account of war on the island of Melos (also posted on the PRIO blog here and here).

We appreciate Holtsmark’s engagement with our piece and believe our divergence may not be as significant as he claims. We do, however, disagree with him that our approach is in any way detached from reality.Read More

Davos Meets Ramstein: Russia’s Global Standing Takes a Hit

Two events of profound, and maybe even decisive, importance for the outcome of the Ukraine war happened last week: the Davos gathering of the World Economic Forum and the meeting of top defense officials from some 50 members of the Western coalition at the Ramstein air base in Germany.

Leopard 2A5 main battle tank during a teaching and combat demonstration. Photo: Bundeswehr/Modes/Wikimedia Commons

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Ukraine Is Not Melos, and Russia Is Not Athens

Let’s keep Thucydides out of Russia’s war against Ukraine

Kyiv under Russian attack in March 2022. Photo: Lynsey Addario for The New York Times / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

“Ukraine is confronted with a stark choice: fight on through a bitter winter with death raining from above, or initiate negotiations with Russia under unfavourable terms. Two-and-a-half millennia ago, the leaders of the Greek island of Melos confronted a similar choice.”

The quote is from the opening paragraph of an article in Commonweal Magazine, December 22, 2022: “Right on Its Side, but Not Might? The lessons an ancient Greek war can teach Ukraine today.” The authors, Gregory M. Reichberg, Stein Tønnesson and Henrik Syse, are research professors at PRIO. Their text was republished on PRIO Blogs 3 January this year.Read More

Fear and Loathing in the UN Security Council

The war in Ukraine has changed the atmosphere and the dynamics within the UN Security Council.

Security Council Meets on Maintenance of Peace and Security of Ukraine. Photo: UN Photo / Eskinder Debebe

The five permanent members and veto powers of the Council distrust each other, and diplomats fear that the war will have long-lasting negative effects on other matters.

How did Norway and the other elected members of the Security Council work under these circumstances in 2022? Is it rational for states like Norway to allocate time and resources to serving on the Council when great power politics seem to dominate its agenda?

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As War Against Ukraine Lengthens, Russia Shifts Top Brass

Combat operations in Ukraine have largely contracted to a 10-mile battleground between Bakhmut and Soledar. During this fierce fighting, the command structure of Russia’s “special military operation” was suddenly upgraded on January 11.

Vladimir Putin in 2019 with Minister of defense Sergei Shoigu and the new top leader of the “special military operation” Valery Gerasimov. Photo: / Wikimedia Commons

General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the Russian General Staff, is now in charge, and the previous commander, General Sergey Surovikin, has become subordinate to Gerasimov as one of his three deputies (Izvestiya, January 12).Read More

Land and Mining in the Green Energy Transition

Global mining uses more than 57.000 km2 of land. This area is likely to expand in the coming years due to a rising mineral demand for low-carbon technologies.

The open pit of the Greenbushes mine, Western Australia, seen from the public mine lookout. Photo: Calistemon / Wikipedia / Calistemon / CC BY-SA 4.0

The more strategic minerals become, the more critical the land becomes below which they are found. This poses a number of challenges.

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Better Arms for Ukraine, Zero Response from Russia

No cease-fire can possibly mute artillery barrages in Donbas, but the intensity of political battles exceeds the intensity of this cannonade.

Turkish Bayraktar Drone. Photo: Ukrainian Army / Wikimedia Commons

Russian stubborn and costly attacks on Bakhmut may yield only tactical success, but in geo-strategic terms, it is the shift in Western positions on supplying heavy arms to Ukraine that signifies the most significant development in the war since the start of 2023.

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Russia, China and New Power Dynamics in the Sahel Region

France’s announcement to withdraw its forces from the Sahel in November 2022, alongside growing dissatisfaction with the nation’s presence in the region, opens the door for other actors to exercise greater influence in the Sahel and West Africa.

Photo via Twitter / @swimming_free

As the security situation in the Sahel deteriorated dramatically over the past decade, the international response has predominantly been led by Western actors, especially France and the European Union (EU).Read More

Putin’s Lonely Christmas Amid His Hopeless War

It was a striking image for a traditional season of joy and hope: Russian President Vladimir Putin attending the Orthodox Christmas service all alone in one of the Kremlin’s cathedrals.

Vladimir Putin celebrating a less isolated Christmas in 2019. Photo: The Presidential Press and Information Office / Wikimedia Commons

This loneliness stands in contrast with his persistent attempts to show himself actively engaging with subordinates, particularly servicemen — for example, during his visit to the Southern Military District’s headquarters on December 31, 2022 (, December 31).

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