Vol 18, No 4 (2018): Grand Strategy and Syrian Crisis: Coalition Wars of the Great and Rising Powers


‘Mutually Assured Obstruction’? Russia, the West and Political Dilemmas of Syria’s Reconstruction

Bartenev V.I.


In the view of an apparent change in balance of power in Syria in 2017-2018 the challenges of reconstruction of the territories affected by a durable and highly destructive conflict have quickly risen to the forefront of the international agenda. A sheer scope of physical damage and humanitarian crisis in the country and a catastrophic lack of financial resources needed to mitigate consequences of a military confrontation and come back to normal life leave no doubt that the reconstruction process will imply a considerable external support. This paper identifies the particularities of Russia’s and the Western countries’ approaches to Syria’s reconstruction based on available public sources and their respective perceptions of related political dilemmas. Such a comparison has been made neither by Russian scholars who have touched upon the reconstruction agenda only sporadically or examined only the Russian motives, nor by foreign experts who have not studied the Russia’s initiatives scrupulously yet. The first section summarizes publicly available information about the bilateral Russian-Syrian dialogue on reconstruction and the main dimensions of the Russian efforts aimed at ensuring a more active engagement of the established donors in reconstruction of Syria. The second section examines the origins and a subsequent evolution of the key representatives of the ‘Group of Friends of the Syrian People’ (primarily, the U.S. and the EU countries) positions on rebuilding Syria. Special attention is paid to identifying similarities and differences between the circumstances surrounding Syria’s reconstruction and the international context around implementation of other large post-conflict reconstruction programs, primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan. The conclusion is drawn that ‘mutually assured obstruction’ and the development of two parallel reconstruction processes to the west and to the east of the Euphrates River will have an extremely negative impact on both Syria and a wider region. Prevention of this scenario entails a wide range of reputational, economic and political-strategic risks for all actors inside and outside Syria.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2018;18(4):755-774
pages 755-774 views

Syrian Factor in Russian-US Relations (2011-2018)

Kosov A.P.


Russia and the United States, pursuing their national interests in the Middle East, were also involved in the Syrian conflict. As a result, in the second decade of the 21st century, Syria became one of the irritants in Russian-US relations. The protests that began in Syria in 2011 within the framework of “the Arab Spring” led to a serious political confrontation between Assad’s regime and the opposition with the participation of external geopolitical players. Pursuing their national interests in the Middle East Russia and the USA were also involved into the conflict, which made Syria one of the irritators in the Russian-US relations. The purpose of the article is to consider the impact of the Syrian conflict on the evolution of RussianUS relations. Employing general scientific and special historical methods the author uses the mass media materials and the documents published by the governmental and expert structures as well as publications of Russian and Western researchers to explore the impact that the Syrian conflict has on the Russian-US relations. The author analyses the reaction of the US and Russia to the events in Syria and shows their approaches to them. The USA supports the opponents of President B. Assad while the Russian Federation defends the interests of the official Damascus, which made them participants in the Syrian conflict. A conclusion is drawn that the opposing views of Moscow and Washington on the conflict in Syria remains an insurmountable obstacle to the diplomatic settlement of the Syrian issue. Even the common threat from ISIL has not made Russia and the US partners in the Middle East. The author explains this by the fact that the solution to the Syrian conflict has been held hostage to the tense Russian-US relations which have considerably deteriorated since the Ukrainian crisis.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2018;18(4):775-789
pages 775-789 views

“Syrian Issue” in Turkish-US Relations

Alieva A.I.


Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, the United States of America and the Turkish Republic have been active supporters of a replacement of the Syrian government and the resignation of the President B. al-Assad. The search for a solution to the “Syrian issue” has opened up broad opportunities for Turkish-American cooperation. The article observes the most important areas of this interaction and attempts to explain the intensification of the Turkish-American contradictions in the context of the events of recent years in Syria. The twopart structure of the article reflects the logic of Turkish-American relations development as a result of rapid change of the balance of power in Syria and the region. Two phases are clearly visible. AmericanTurkish cooperation, including joint work to strengthen the combat potential of the Syrian opposition, took place in the early stages of the Syrian conflict in 2011-2013. However, by 2014 it was replaced by the two states’ rivalry for influence in the Syrian Arab Republic. The “Kurdish issue” became the main reason for the deepening differences between the allies. It started to determine Ankara and Washington’s behavior to all the participants of the conflict in Syria. Intensification of struggle against terrorism in the Syrian Arabic Republic revealed deep differences in both Turkish and American governments’ approaches towards the key participants of the Syrian conflict. The author concludes that today the United States and Turkey are acting on the Syrian direction based on the unconditional priority of their own national interests, but not the formal allied obligations binding them.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2018;18(4):790-805
pages 790-805 views

The Bundeswehr Usage in the Struggle against ISIS - A Part of Western Coalition?

Trunov P.O.


In the middle - second half of 2010s the Euro-Atlantic community faces with the necessity to struggle against international terrorism at the huge arc of unstable states including Mali, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Unlike the first Western coalition (2001-2014) designed to fight al-Qaeda, focused on the struggle against ISIS the second Western coalition does not become the unifying mechanism of a significant part of anti-terrorist military efforts by Western countries. The article covers the reasons of this tendency on the example of Germany as the emerging power. The key methods of the investigation are the exploration of the important military steps (contingents’ deployment, the change of their tasks and the number of troops) in the format of event-analysis and comparative analysis. The paper aims at exploration of the features of military tools’ usage by Germany in the struggle against international terrorism in conjunction with the activity of the second Western coalition. The article considers the reasons of the late German joining the activity of the second coalition at the Syrian and Iraqi theatres of war. In this regard the scientific research covers the main forms of mostly non-military Bundeswehr usage in Mesopotamia and focuses on the cooperation with France. The article also explores the determination of these tendencies. The paper pays attention to German military build-up under NATO activity in Afghanistan and shows that the reasons of it are the strengthening ISIS positions in the country and the failures of Germany and its ISAF partners in the process of Afghan security forces creation in 2002-2014. The scientific research explores the forms of Bundeswehr usage for the struggle against international terrorism at the phone of extension of the areas of this activity at the continent. The author tries to create the scheme of Bundeswehr usage for the struggle against ISIS and its friendly oriented forces at the arc of unstable states from Mali to Afghanistan. The article concludes about the contours of German perspective military presence in the countries which are going on the road of internal stabilization.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2018;18(4):806-822
pages 806-822 views

Iran’s Contemporary Anti-Terrorism Approach: “Hard” and “Soft” Elements

Jabbari Nasir H., Bahriev B.K.


The article deals with “hard” and “soft” elements of Iran’s contemporary anti-terrorism approach. The authors state that fighting against terrorism today demands a comprehensive approach, and though force-based approach has always prevailed over “soft” tools in realization of anti-terrorist strategies of states, in modern world realities without a psycho-ideological component combating terrorism does not seem to succeed. A balanced universal model of using these two components does not exist, as everything in this context depends on specifics of a country or a region. But the need for considering “soft” aspects becomes more relevant. Iran is an active player in combating international terrorism, though it does not have a unified document or specific strategy with defined “hard” and “soft” tools of anti-terrorism fight. The force-based element of Iran’s counter-terrorism approach at the present stage obviously prevails over the non-powerbased. The country’s active military involvement in solution of the Syrian crisis, supporting military groups, which fight against radical element in the region and tough policy towards drug traffic is an important source of income for extremist factions, proves the matter. “Hard power” approach in fighting against terrorism leads to physical extermination of terrorists, however, consideration of the survival of their ideas in modern info-communications century reveals the significance of the issue of “soft” instrument use in anti-terrorism strategy. In fight against terrorism in this dimension, Iran resorts to “soft power” and public diplomacy. The cultural, religious and scientific potentials as well as educational institutes and information resources are actively utilized to construct a correct understanding of Islam and its positive image, to delegitimate and deconstruct narratives of radical Islamists.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2018;18(4):823-836
pages 823-836 views

Beyond the Involution of Europe? Monism and Relations with Russia. Part 1

Sakwa R.


The crisis in relations between Russia and the European Union (EU) is part of the broader breakdown of the post-Cold War security order. This essay focuses on structural interpretation and identifies four interlinked processes shaping the crisis: tension between the logic of the enlargement and transformation; a dynamic of involution and resistance; the problem of monism, whereby the expanding self is unable adequately to engage with the un-integrated other; and the recent emergence of ‘other Europes’ that may potentially overcome involution. The erosion of the Atlantic system provides an opportunity for delayed institutional and ideational innovation. Based on the methodology of classical realism and modern constructivist theories, the author analyzes how the lack of mutual understanding and mistakes in understanding the intentions and actions of Russia, on the one hand, and the West, on the other, led to deep structural and cognitive contradictions that managed to renew confrontation between the Euro-Atlantic bloc and Russia. The author comes to the conclusion that the impossibility of implementing the “Greater Europe” project with the participation of Russia led to a deepening of the contradictions between Russia and the West, and also forced Moscow to look for an alternative to European integration in the “Greater Eurasia” project. At the same time, the European Union also entered a crisis stage, as evidenced by Brexit.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2018;18(4):837-858
pages 837-858 views


Essay on the Phenomenon of the Totalization of War

Gadzhiev K.S.


A world free from wars and bloody conflicts was the ideal preached at all times by the best minds of mankind. But man fought in the extreme antiquity, he continues to fight in our days and, apparently, will fight while there are human communities. Representations of the types and nature of wars and armies, defense systems, means and methods of force corresponding to changing realities developed, but at all times human communities in various forms and hypostases did not consider the peace to be a supreme good. In many respects the history of mankind itself appears as an uninterrupted series of wars of tribes, peoples, nations, empires, clans, parties, etc. Some tried to subjugate foreign countries and peoples; others thirsted for military glory, while thirds considered it better to die standing, than to live on their knees. In any case, the justifications for wars always found the most convincing, since man, judging by his deeds, acted as if subconsciously guided by the Mephistophelian maxim - there is nothing in the world that is worth pity. It is also not accidental that from the earliest times skeptics never ceased to assert that homo homini lupus est , that is, man is a wolf to man. And from this formula followed another, no less well-known postulate - bellum omnium contra omnes , i.e. war of all against all. However, this is only one side of the history of mankind. The other side is that the state of an absolute, endless war of all against all would be fraught with the prospect of mutual extermination of countries and peoples. The antithesis of war is peace, every war ends in peace, and different tribes, peoples, human societies, and states from the very beginning sought some kind of modus vivendi, as well as the generally accepted and respected norms and rules that ensure it. In the present article, the author analyzes the causes and forms of the totalization of the war for the last century, especially in the context of global trends - globalization, the information and telecommunication revolution.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2018;18(4):859-871
pages 859-871 views

United Nations Observer Mission and ECOMOG Intervention in Liberia’s Peace Process

Tijjani M.A.


The Liberian civil war which began in 1989 exhibited all the manifestations and consequences of post cold-war intra-state conflict, state collapse, ethnic conflicts and political fragmentations. The late response of the United Nations at intervening in the impasse adds a new dimension when studying the Liberian question. Therefore, this article critically examines the peacekeeping efforts and role played by the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) and Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) during the war. The author pays particular attention to the collaboration efforts of the UNOMIL and ECOMOG in restoring peace and stability in Liberia. The article provides a historical background of the Liberian civil war which led to the deployment of the UNOMIL and ECOMOG highlighting the successes and failures of the UN and ECOWAS contingents as regards the rivalry that existed between the UNOMIL and the ECOMOG peacekeeping force in Liberia in the process of restoring peace and stability in the country. In exploring the ineffective international response in the Liberian crisis and the challenges ECOMOG faced in restoring a semblance of peace in the country, the author analyzes the views of various scholars on the subject as well as those of some participants and victims of the war granted in interviews after the war. A case study and concrete historical method is used in this study as well as reliance on interviews to study the various ramifications of the UNOMIL and ECOMOG interventions and the aftermath of the conflict. The paper concludes after a thorough and tentative research on the subject matter that the UNOMIL and ECOMOG deployment and intervention in Liberia’s civil war and the human rights abuses and the humanitarian assistance were during the conflict, in which some successes were recorded in the humanitarian arena largely due to ECOMOG’s ability to restore a semblance of order and peace which allowed international humanitarian agencies to return to Liberia. The late political response of the UN to Liberia’s crisis which was not until October 1992 impeded the effectiveness of the international response in the Liberian crisis which propelled the pivotal role that regional organizations began to play in keeping peace and ensuring security and stability on the Continent. The plethora of scientific work and publications by scholars on the Liberian question, including those of Russian academicians is indicative of the relevance of the study especially as it pertains the lessons learned from the successes and failures of the various attempts at peacekeeping in Liberia.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2018;18(4):872-887
pages 872-887 views


Priorities of Russian and Chinese Development Cooperation to Asia and Africa: A Comparative Analysis

Degterev D.A., Li Y., Trusova A.A., Cherniaev M.S.


The subject of the study covers the priority areas (both geographical and sectoral) of development cooperation provided by the Russian Federation and the Peoples’ Republic of China to the Asian and African states. The authors conduct a comparative analysis of the main recipients of assistance from the two countries, as well as its main sectors for 2011-2014. The methodological basis of this study is based on the principles of reliability and scientific objectivity. The study applied the method of comparative analysis, which includes elements of both quantitative and qualitative approach. The authors present the methodological challenges that arise while collecting statistical data and comparing aid flows of new donors. The data on development cooperation of the PRC (recipients, directions, volumes) presented in the AidData project is widely used. Data on Russian development cooperation is partially presented in OECD statistics, but it covers only data on the total amount of assistance to recipients. Since the data on Chinese aid is available for the period of 2000-2014, and on Russian aid - for 2011-2017, the study period for data comparison includes 2011-2014. The result of the study is summarized in the table with the top-10 recipients of the Russian and the Chinese assistance to countries in Asia and Africa. Quantitative data on the flows of Russian and Chinese aid is complemented by qualitative data on specific assistance projects and the characteristics of their implementation, which allows to form a more complex picture of the two new donors’ flows and outline directions for coordinating their efforts in Asia and Africa.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2018;18(4):888-905
pages 888-905 views

Russian-Vietnamese Cooperation in Energy Sector

Nguyen T.L., Chernenko E.F.


The abundance of energy resources including renewables and non-renewables is central to the development of energy sector. However, other decicive factors like technology and human resources turn naturally-bestowed gifts into economic gains for properity. In the circumstance of being an invaded country in the 1950s, the young Democratic Republic of Vietnam prioritized formation of energy sector in the economic development plan to be more self-reliant in energy security for a harsh war against much more powerful enermies. A single international source of supports for the very young country at that time was communist allies. The Soviet Union assumed a major responsibility as the largest benefactor for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the war-time. In addition to millitary and logistic aids for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in North Vietnam to struggle with the US-backed Government of the Republic of Vietnam in South Vietnam for unification, the Soviet Union also actively supported it to implement the 5-year economic plans for socialism development including formation and development of the energy sector. In the post-war time, they continued to support the newly-unified country, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, to develop the energy sector as its spreadhead economic sector. The Russian Federation and Vietnam continue to deepen the bilateral cooperation in energy sector with the successful management of multibillion dollar joint-ventures in the oil and gas industry and implement many projects in the energy sector as a whole after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In assessment of the achivements of Russia- Vietnam cooperation, the bilateral parternship in energy sector emerges as the most prominent area of cooperation over the 68-year old history of cooperation. This article is aimed to provide a brief history of bilateral cooperation in the energy sector with an emphasis on the central role of the Soviet Union and later Russian Federation in forming and developing the energy sector of Vietnam. Prospects of cooperation are also a matter of analysis in this article.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2018;18(4):906-924
pages 906-924 views

Brazil’s 2019 BRICS Presidency: What to Expect from the Start of a New Decade of Cooperation and the J. Bolsonaro’s Administration

Popova I.M.


BRICS is now entering a new decade of its activity. The institute enters a new decade in the conditions of a general multilateralism crisis, the growth of protectionist and nationalist sentiments even in the most liberal states, the leaders do not want to be responsible for solving key problems and do not have the power to cope with challenges by themselves. On the one hand, BRICS members need to deepen and intensify the cooperation to compensate for possible losses in cooperation with western partners, and, on the other hand, consolidate their position on strengthening their influence in the global governance system as a whole. BRICS membership has been one of the key priorities for Brazil’s foreign policy for the last years. This membership allows the country to develop relations with other major regional powers, and to consolidate the position on the most important issues both for BRICS countries and the entire system of global governance. Brazil’s numerous economic problems and a serious political system crisis led to the election of a radical anti-establishment candidate Jair Bolsonaro. BRICS agenda requires transformation to preserve and increase its influence and relevance in the international system. Under these conditions Brazil will begin its presidency in the institution. This study presents an analysis of the general context in which BRICS is now functioning, the problems and goals of Brazil’s current socio-economic and political development and the objectives of its foreign policy and the opportunities and limitations that are brought by Brazil’s presidency in BRICS.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2018;18(4):925-941
pages 925-941 views


“Caspian Constitution” and New Horizons of Cooperation between Azerbaijan and Iran

Agazade M.M.


In the modern world the struggle for access to hydrocarbon fields and for routes to world markets has a significant impact on the political and economic processes at the global and regional levels. One of the regions in which the energy factor plays a significant role is the Caspian basin, which has rich oil and gas fields, as well as significant transport potential that can reliably connect Russia, South Caucasus and Central Asia with the European region. In view of the geopolitical, geostrategic and energy importance of the Caspian Sea, the solution of the question on its legal status was one of the central tasks in the foreign policy of the Caspian states. The problem of determining the international legal status of the Caspian arose due to the cessation of the existence of the USSR and the increase of number of Caspian littoral states interested in the territories of the Caspian from two (USSR and Iran) to five (Russian Federation, Republic of Kazakhstan, Republic of Turkmenistan, Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) and Republic of Azerbaijan (RA)). From that moment, the protracted period of their negotiations on relevant issues on a bilateral and multilateral basis began, which resulted in the signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian in August 2018, or so-called “Caspian Constitution”. This article examines the main milestones in the development of this problem and notes the importance of the signed “Constitution” in terms of the interests of the RA and Iran. At the same time, the author pays special attention to the adoption of the aforementioned Convention, which may further influence to the Azerbaijani-Iranian relations. The author notes that today favourable conditions have been created for energy cooperation between Baku and Tehran in the Caspian Sea, and also emphasizes the key importance of solving the problem of the legal status on the Caspian Sea for security and developing economic relations between the two countries, in particular, its role in the international energy corridor project. In addition, the importance of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Iran in the field of transit traffic in the framework of the “North-South” international transport corridor project has been analyzed. The author concludes that the signed Convention will serve as an additional impetus for the development of bilateral cooperation.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2018;18(4):942-954
pages 942-954 views


R2P: Concept, Aspirational Norm or Principle? Interview with Professor Alex J. Bellamy, University of Queensland (Australia)

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Professor Alex J. Bellamy is Director Asia Pacific Centre for R2P, Professor of Peace & Conflict Studies, University of Queensland, Non-Resident Senior Advisor, International Peace Institute (New York). He is the author of Kosovo and International Society [Bellamy 2002], Security Communities and Their Neighbours: Regional Fortresses or Global Integrators? [Bellamy 2004], Understanding Peacekeeping [Bellamy, Williams, Griffin 2004], International Society and Its Critics [Bellamy 2005], Just Wars: From Cicero to Iraq [Bellamy 2006], Fighting Terror: Ethical Dilemmas [Bellamy 2008], Responsibility to Protect: the Global Effort to End Mass Atrocities [Bellamy 2009], Responsibility to Protect: A Defence [Bellamy 2014], Providing Peacekeepers: The Politics, Challenges, and Future of United Nations Peacekeeping Contributions [Bellamy, Williams 2013] and Massacres and Morality [Bellamy 2012]. Alex J. Bellamy is one of the editorial board of Ethics & International Affairs, co-editor of The Global Responsibility to Protect Journal. In his interview, Prof. Bellamy talks about institutionalization of R2P concept that would be able to help in prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Prof. Bellamy identifies three categories of situations where it’s proving very difficult to protect civilians.
Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2018;18(4):955-964
pages 955-964 views

International Actors’ Role in the Syrian Crisis. Interview with Nourhan El Sheikh, Professor of International Relations, Cairo University, Member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs

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Professor Nourhan El Sheikh is a Professor of International Relations, Faculty of Economics & Political Science, Cairo University, Member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs. She is the author of Russian-American Relations from Cold War to Cold Peace [El Sheikh 2018], Soviet and Russian Attitudes toward Arab Unity from the Beginning of the 20th Century to the Present [El Sheikh 2013], Russian Foreign Policy in the Middle East in the 21st Century [El Sheikh 2010], Role of the ruling elite in the restructuring of foreign policy - A study of the Russian situation (1985-1996) [El Sheikh 2000]. Prof. El Sheikh regularly gives lectures at Nasser Higher Military Academy (Egypt), the Institute of Arab Research and Studies (Arab League), and the Institute of Diplomatic Studies at the Egyptian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and other institutions and research centers. In her interview, Prof. El Sheikh talks about influence of nonregional actors such as the United States and Russia in the Syrian crisis. Prof. El Sheikh expresses the constructive role of Russia in the resolution of this conflict and fighting international terrorist groups.
Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2018;18(4):965-972
pages 965-972 views


Book Review: Vasiliev, A.M. (2018). From Lenin to Putin. Russia in the Middle East. Moscow: Tsentrpoligraf publ., 670 p. (in Russian)

Ponomarenko L.V., Lukianova G.O.



Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2018;18(4):973-976
pages 973-976 views

Book Review: Owen Jones, M., Porter, R. & Valeri, M. (Eds.). (2018). Gulfization of the Arab World. Centre for Gulf Studies, University of Exeter, Gerlach Press, 166 p

Savicheva E.M.



Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2018;18(4):977-980
pages 977-980 views

Book Review: Zvyagelskaya, I.D. (2018). Middle East and Central Asia. Global Trends in Regional Performance. Moscow: Aspect Press, 224 p. (in Russian)

Kirichenko V.P.



Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2018;18(4):981-983
pages 981-983 views
pages 984-987 views
pages 988-991 views

Book Review: Nigusie Kassae V.M. (2016). Haile Selassie I - Emperor of Ethiopia. Moscow: RUDN University publ., 424 p. (in Russian)

Volpe M.L.



Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2018;18(4):992-995
pages 992-995 views

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