As NATO Gains New Strength, Moscow Resorts to Nuclear Bluff

On March 23, the historic process of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) enlargement passed a critical milestone as Finnish President Sauli Niinistö signed into law legislation on accession to the Alliance approved by parliament.

Finland’s President Niinistö signs NATO legislation 23 March 2023. Photo: Matti Porre/The Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

In response, the Kremlin merely expressed regret about this development and reiterated the absence of any threat from Russia to its North European neighbors (Rossiiskaya gazeta, March 16).

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Soft Power and Disinformation: The Strategic Role of Media in Wagner’s Expansion in Africa

After its first steps on the African continent in Libya in 2017, the Wagner Group has been deployed in Sudan, Mozambique, Madagascar, the Central African Republic, and at the end of 2021 in Mali. This rapid expansion over the years contributes to the instability and insecurity in these regions.

Russian and Central African Republic flags are waived by demonstrators gathered in Bangui on March 5, 2022 during a rally in support of Russia. Photo: Carol VALADE / AFP

The paramilitary Russian group known for its cruelty and human rights violations focuses primarily on protecting the ruling governing elites and developing a predatory approach to exploit local resources.

One important part of the Wagner group’s playbook – as Raphael Parens has labelled their strategy –  relies on Russian media influence and disinformation campaigns amongst local populations.Read More

Four Complications for the Rushed Putin-Xi Summit

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Moscow, which started yesterday and is expected to go for three days, is certain to be rich in pomp and ceremony. Yet, its content remains rather uncertain.

Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin in Moscow March 2023. Photo:

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in most cordial terms, invited his Chinese counterpart during their video conversation on December 30. But Xi, according to the transcript, did not acknowledge the invitation at the time (, December 30).

The date of the visit was announced only last week, and the rush was likely caused by Beijing’s desire to give a new impetus to its “peace plan” for the Russo-Ukrainian war, announced by the Chinese Foreign Ministry on February 24 without much effect (Nezavisimaya gazeta, March 14).

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Taiwan Is Feeling the Pressure from Russian and Chinese Autocracy

Taiwan is where Russia’s war in Ukraine and China’s economic underperformance overlap and produce a dangerous resonance.

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Photo: The Russian Presidential Press and Information Office

The war may be far away from Taipei, but it brings material problems, like delays in deliveries of U.S. armaments, and disturbing changes in the regional security environment. The end of China’s fast-paced economic growth has resulted in political shifts as attempts to regain familiar dynamism, so prominent in the discourse of the recent 14th National People’s Congress, alternate with resorts to aggressive nationalism.

Taiwan, like Ukraine, faces real challenges from a mighty neighbor and doubts about its security. One hopes that the lessons learned from the unfolding disaster in Europe are not lost on Beijing.Read More

Monks and Militias in Myanmar

The political implications of ultra-nationalist Buddhist monks and ideologies in Myanmar received much attention in the years before the 2021 military takeover.

A photo taken by a regime soldier shows junta troops and Pyu Saw Htee members resting during operations in Sagaing Region in 2022. Source: Myanmar Now

As Myanmar has turned more violent since the coup, ultra-nationalist monks have been radicalised further.

  • What role are these monks playing in the political landscape of Myanmar today?
  • And what is their rationale for supporting the military?

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China Adjusts Limits on Partnership With Russia

The Russian army’s ongoing struggle to capture Bakhmut might appear to be primarily a tactical episode in the larger geo-strategic picture of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

However, it also affects the key political interactions shaping this picture, including the formally cordial, but in fact rather uneasy, relations between Moscow and Beijing.

Putin with Xi Jinping before the expanded meeting of the 2022 SCO Council of Heads of State. Photo TASS /

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Russia-Ukraine War Compels Japan to Reassess China Challenge, Shift Course on Security

Against the backdrop of the grisly Russia-Ukraine war, the security situation in East Asia may appear conducive to the continuation of the long peace that the region has enjoyed for decades.

However, the devastating European war has cast a long shadow eastwards.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shakes hands with Xi Jinping at their meeting in Bangkok in November 2022. Photo: FMPRC

While Russia’s military presence in Asia is deeply curtailed as most of its conventional capabilities are redeployed to the Donbas front in Ukraine, the behavior of maverick North Korea has become more reckless and China’s policy has become less predictable and more assertive.

As a result, Japan has adopted a more proactive approach to its international security environment predicated on enhancing its military capabilities and deepening security cooperation with key allies and partners, starting with, but not limited to, the U.S.Read More

China’s Plan for Ukraine Is No Plan at All

China’s position paper won’t contribute to peace in Ukraine, but it does offer useful insights into how Beijing conceives of its global role.

Chinese top diplomat Wang Yi with Vladimir Putin in 2018. Photo: Wikimedia Commons /

On February 24, one year after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, China released a paper on “China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis.”

In classic Beijing style, the document unpacks China’s official position in 12 points. These points repeat previous Chinese positions on the conflict, and in this sense do not offer anything new in terms of Beijing’s rhetoric and supposed neutrality. They do, however, offer several useful insights into China’s own perception about its role in the international arena as well as its positioning with respect to global dynamics of power.Read More

Renewable Energy, Renewable Conflicts? How a Lithium Rush in Zimbabwe Is Raising Tensions

In October 2022, lithium prices reached an all-time high.

Lithium is an essential component for electric vehicle batteries, and with the current high ambitions in electrification of transport, demand for the mineral has been rapidly increasing, hitting a record price of $74,475 per tonne in October 2022.

Artisanal chrome mining in Lalapanzi, Midlands Province. Photo: Ernest Muvunzi, Fotokulture Films

In Zimbabwe, where some of the world’s largest deposits of lithium are found, the surging prices have led small-scale and artisanal miners to turn to mine lithium ores.Read More