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PISM Bulletin

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Editors: Sławomir Dębski (PISM Director), Bartosz Wiśniewski (Head of Research Office), Rafał Tarnogórski (Managing Editor), Anna Maria Dyner, Sebastian Płóciennik, Patrycja Sasnal, Justyna Szczudlik, Jolanta Szymańska, Marcin Terlikowski, Tomasz Żornaczuk

20 February 2019
no. 26 (1272)
Euro-Atlantic Integration of North Macedonia
On 12 February, Macedonia changed its name to North Macedonia. This is the result of the Prespa Agreement, concluded in June 2018 with Greece, which in return unblocked Macedonian accession talks with NATO and the EU. Macedonia has already signed the protocol to join the North Atlantic Alliance and Greece was the first to ratify it. It is expected that in the course of one year, North Macedonia will join NATO, and in June will start accession negotiations with the EU. Acceleration of the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkans is an important goal of Poland, so it is worth considering rapid ratification of the protocol.

Tomasz Żornaczuk
19 February 2019
no. 25 (1271)
Rising Tensions in China-Taiwan Relations
China (PRC) is trying to limit Taiwan’s international space and undermine support for the island’s incumbent ruling party. The U.S. actively supports Taiwan, as part of the American president’s policy towards China. This year, one may expect an increase in Chinese pressure on Taiwan because of upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for early 2020 on the island. China’s activity gives insight into how it may try to influence U.S. allies.

Justyna Szczudlik
18 February 2019
no. 24 (1270)
Cryptocurrencies as Instruments of State Economic Policy: Challenges and Opportunities
Virtual currencies (“cryptocurrencies”) rely on decentralised payment systems independent of the control of state institutions. However, some countries are interested in creating their own cryptocurrencies, citing low costs and speed of transactions. National digital currencies could stabilise a financial system that uses private cryptocurrency. Their use, however, may challenge, for example, the effectiveness of economic sanctions or combating terrorism financing.

Damian Wnukowski
15 February 2019
no. 23 (1269)
The Future of Afghanistan: Talks between the U.S. and the Taliban
Recent progress in negotiations between representatives of the U.S. and the Taliban gives an opportunity to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan and the NATO mission there. The breakthrough comes at a time when the Taliban are the strongest since 2001, and the administration of President Donald Trump is seeking to withdraw troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible. This gives the negotiating advantage to the Taliban and risks breaking the talks. Withdrawal of foreign forces before an agreement on an intra-Afghan political deal can be reached could lead to the escalation of the civil war and the Taliban taking full power.

Patryk Kugiel
14 February 2019
no. 22 (1268)
Legal Issues Related to the U.S. Withdrawal from the Nuclear Agreement with Iran
The exit from the nuclear agreement with Iran (JCPOA) deprived the U.S. of the possibility to use UN-legitimised means of pressure. Instead, the U.S. is building pressure through unilateral sanctions that also affect non-American entities. The agreement, however, remains in force. As long as the other participants believe Iran respects it, it is unlikely that the suspended UN sanctions on Iran will be re-imposed. In the long run, the unilateral sanctions will lead to tensions between the U.S. and the EU. The deficit of confidence, also on the part of Iran, will make it difficult to find a way out of the situation.

Szymon Zaręba
13 February 2019
no. 21 (1267)
Russia and South Korea: Unsuccessful Attempt at Cooperation
In the last 10 years, Russia and South Korea developed several cooperation strategies, most of which have not been implemented. Among them, the most important were ambitious energy and transport projects. However, the need to involve North Korea, and U.S. sanctions against Russia, presented obstacles to their implementation. Thus, cooperation between Russia and South Korea is currently limited, and will not weaken the close South Korean-NATO relations.

Jakub Benedyczak
12 February 2019
no. 20 (1266)
Political Consequences of the U.S. Federal Government Shutdown
The U.S. federal government shutdown in December-January ended but that does not mean the end of the political dispute between President Donald Trump and the opposition Democrats in Congress. The crux of the conflict remains the president’s demand to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico. If the president, with the Republicans (GOP), and the Democrats want to avoid another shutdown, they must reach a compromise before 15 February. The Republicans’ scepticism of another shutdown makes the Trump administration more likely to reach an agreement with the Democrats in time. If not, the president may seek to bypass Congress to get wall funding. 

Mateusz Piotrowski
11 February 2019
no. 19 (1265)
Iran Faces an Economic Crisis: Structural Issues More Problematic Than Sanctions
President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the nuclear agreement (JCPOA) with Iran has impacted the Iranian economy, contributing to the weakening of the currency and the decline in GDP. However, the most important challenges for Iran’s economy are structural problems, including bad governance, corruption, and excessive public sector participation. Attempts to solve these issues have been criticised by ultra-conservatives in Iran who are interested in maintaining the status quo. If reforms were to be successful though, that would create an opportunity for the EU to implement a wider trade mechanism with Iran while stifling the U.S. objections. 

Karol Wasilewski
08 February 2019
no. 18 (1264)
Problems and Challenges in Relations between Belarus and Russia
Disputes between Russia and Belarus have grown in recent months, caused by the deadlock in agreeing the price of energy sources and the negative consequences this will have for the Belarusian economy. Moreover, Russia will use political and propaganda tools to maintain Belarus’ dependence. The Belarusian authorities have limited possibilities to oppose such activities. One option could be to seek support, especially economic, from European Union countries.

Anna Maria Dyner
07 February 2019
no. 17 (1263)
Germany’s New European Eastern Policy
Germany’s response to challenges in relations with Russia and partners from Central Europe is the broad vision of the new European Eastern policy. This policy indicates a combination of dialogue with criticism in relations with Russia, reviving relations with the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries, and deepening cooperation with the countries of Central Europe. Yet this initiative lacks concrete proposals and contains internal contradictions, which, combined with the current state of European and international policy, call its success into question.

Lidia Gibadło
06 February 2019
no. 16 (1262)
The Effect of the Vox Party’s Success on Spanish Politics
In December 2018, the Spanish conservative party Vox unexpectedly received 10.97% of the votes in regional elections in Andalusia. It allowed the establishment of a centre-right government in the region. The polls show that the party also has the chance to introduce representatives to the European Parliament (EP). Also, their support could be necessary to create a centre-right coalition after the parliamentary elections that will take place at the latest in 2020. This coalition may implement some of Vox’s demands, which would create new areas of collaboration between the governments of Poland and Spain.

Maciej Pawłowski
05 February 2019
no. 15 (1261)
The Assumptions of the New U.S. Missile Defence Review
The Missile Defence Review assumes the continuity of U.S. and allied missile defence systems, including within NATO. Studies on new, ambitious and costly technologies, are the most controversial elements of report. The shape and schedule of these projects are unclear, which risks causing disputes in NATO on arms control and the development of more advanced offensive systems by Russia and China.

Marcin Andrzej Piotrowski
04 February 2019
no. 14 (1260)
The State of Slovakia’s Smer-SD Party Ahead of the Presidential and European Parliamentary Elections
In the months before the March presidential and May European Parliamentary (EP) elections, Smer–Social Democracy party in Slovakia maintains the greatest support in the polls. Its position will not be harmed by the departure from politics of its chairman, long-standing prime minister Robert Fico, who has applied to be a judge on the Constitutional Court. The party can be strengthened by the victory of Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president of the European Commission (EC) in the presidential election. He openly criticises Russia's activities, including the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

Łukasz Ogrodnik


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