"Putin’s Sick Political Imagination is Behind the Ukraine War"
Column. Sick imagination can create serious problems for a person prone to experience unrestrained flights of fancy. Sick political imagination of a person who is the head of an undemocratic and militarily powerful nuclear-armed state can cause unfathomable disaster for neighboring countries and the world at large. This is what is happening right now with Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, writes historian Igor Torbakov.
The Vision of an Empire Drives Russia’s Policy towards Ukraine
Column. The face-off between Russia and the European Union over Ukraine is a confrontation between the modern and the postmodern imperial-like entities. While the EU's vision promotes the association of nations based on values and principles, Russia clings to a model based on territory, kinship and the "unity of fate." These two approaches are hardly reconcilable, writes historian Igor Torbakov.
Putin's expected election victory is also his dilemma
Interview. The opposition has been silenced and everyone knows that Vladimir Putin's ruling party “United Russia” will win the forthcoming election to the national parliament, the State Duma. Still, those in power in the Kremlin have reason to worry, says Andreas Umland, a researcher at the Center for Eastern European Studies.
Putin and Europe – À la recherche du temps perdu
Analysis. It is highly unlikely that Vladimir Putin is a connoisseur of Marcel Proust’s literary imagination. And yet in a way the Kremlin leader’s warped sense of history, revealed once again in his recent disquisitions on the origins and outcomes of the Second World War, is "Proustian" in that he appears to be desperately "searching for lost time" – when Russia (in its Soviet guise) dominated eastern half of Europe and was on the friendliest of terms with Germany. Much as he is concerned with the past, though, Putin is above all a consummate manipulator who instrumentalizes history in pursuit of political ends, writes historian Igor Torbakov.
Populist leaders exploit the pandemic for political purposes
Analysis. Global disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has provided a window of opportunity for populist leaders to manipulate government structures and broader societal norms. As the health crisis continues to evolve and fluctuate, it has become increasingly clear that some decision makers are keen to either avoid or co-opt health and emergency response policies and agendas in order to concentrate power and dismantle national democracy, writes Christina De Paris, research assistant at the University of Gothenburg.
Will Belarus become Ukraine?
Analysis. The history and politics of post-Soviet Belarus and Ukraine are very different. The current Belarusian transformation could be leading to results similar to those of the 2018 Velvet Revolution in Armenia, rather than to those of the 2013–2014 Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine. Yet, Moscow’s pathological imperialism towards Russia's Eastern Slavic “brother nations” may mean that the future of Belarus will be more similar to that of Ukraine than currently appears to be the case, writes UI research fellow Andreas Umland.
Utrikesmagasinet is an independently edited online magazine, owned by the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI). The mission of UI is to inform and enrich the public debate by promoting interest in and knowledge of foreign affairs and international relations. Managing editor of Utrikesmagasinet is Ola Westerberg and publisher is Ylva Lindahl. According to the editorial rules of Utrikesmagasinet writers are responsible for the content of their articles. We mostly publish articles in Swedish only, but on this page you find our recently published articles in English.
“Living Like a King”: Putin’s Bizarre Historical Imagination
Analysis. The latest Alexei Navalny exposé about President Vladimir Putin’s supposed seaside “palace” is remarkable in more ways than one. To be sure, the two-hour film seen by tens of millions of Russians within several days of its release is above all a story of monumental corruption and monumentally bad taste. Yet it is also a story of the Kremlin leader’s peculiar political mindset and warped historical imagination, writes historian Igor Torbakov.
Erdoğan's war in Syria – a path to disaster
Analysis. Turkey’s latest moves have put immense pressure on the EU and Russia, but it has nothing to do with neo-Ottomanism. Instead strong anti-Kurdish underpinnings and Turkish nationalism are the main drive of Erdoğan’s foreign policy in Syria and elsewhere. This combined with the fact that Erdoğan is surrounded by an entourage of people who dare not tell him differently could mean Turkey is heading for disaster.
Russian-Iranian Relations in a Sanctions Era
Analysis. Russia and Iran are both under Western sanctions, and every prolonged sanction period seems to strengthen the relation between them. Recent meetings between the countries have attracted a substantial amount of attention, mainly because of the Kremlin’s defiance of US sanction threats against countries who trade with Iran. UI´s intern Kiana Islamian gives an insight into the Russia-Iran relationship.
The global rise of family values
Analysis. How can we understand and describe what appears to be a global trend of increased contestation and political polarization around gender and sexuality? This was one of the main questions in a roundtable discussion at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI). Emil Edenborg, Research Fellow in the UI Global Politics and Security Programme, writes about the discussion on how ”traditional values” has become a political battleground.
Vietnam: Globalized Party-State
Analysis. Vietnam’s Communist Party takes an unorthodox path to a market economy and the country is increasingly integrated into the global economy. But the Party may need to move beyond the party-state for full potential, writes Börje Ljunggren, former Swedish ambassador to Vietnam and China. The current model does not offer sufficient space for truly dynamic domestic development.
Russia and China: diverging partners
Analysis. Russia and China are two important players on the Eurasian continent that have had different approaches to the concept of Eurasia on several occasions. UI’s intern Anna Zotééva spoke with Igor Denisov, a Russian expert on Russia-China relations, about Russian-Chinese cooperation in the Eurasian region and prospects for the future.
From a failed state to the epicenter of change
Analysis. Recent developments in Iraq can infuse optimism for the future of the land of the earliest civilization of human history. President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adil Abdulmehdi have a good chance of steering Iraq out of crisis and potentially make it the epicenter of change in the Middle East, writes Cengiz Çandar, Senior Associate Fellow at the UI.
Centralization paved the way for ISIS
Analysis. The lesson to be drawn from the rise and fall of ISIS is that the old formulae of over-centralised unitary nation-states is a recipe for disaster in a region distinguished by an extremely high level of cultural and religious diversity and geo-strategic significance, writes Kamran Matin, Associate Research Fellow at the UI. In this article, he gives the historical background to and explains developments in Iraq and Syria and the rise of the Islamic State.
Russian church’s imperial vision challenged
Analysis. Since the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine’s political leaders have worked to achieve independent status for the Kyiv Patriarchate in direct challenge to the geopolitical views and ambitions of the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church. In that conflict, Moscow is facing the possibility of geopolitical setback, writes UI Senior Fellow Igor Torbakov.
Rethinking the “Russian World” concept
Analysis. More than a quarter century after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there is still no consensus in Russia on what kind of polity it is. In the struggle over how to define the Russian state, the Kremlin cherry-picks from nationalist tropes in pursuit of its policy goals, writes UI Senior Fellow Igor Torbakov.