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Foreign policy expert Robin Niblett discusses how to ensure Putin upholds the Minsk II agreement

Robin Niblett speakerIn an op-ed for Reuters, Director of Chatham House Robin Niblett discusses what brought Putin to the bargaining table over Ukraine, and how to ensure he upholds the Minsk II agreement. Robin outlines three possible reasons:

  1. Ukrainian resistance.
  2. The growing impact of Western economic sanctions.
  3. The transatlantic debate over providing arms to Ukrainian forces.

However, Robin also notes that important to recognise that “this agreement is broadly similar to the September 2014 agreement and, given that it does not clearly advance Putin’s strategic goals, conflict may again resume.” With these concerns in mind, Robin suggests that the allied governments should consult quickly to clearly set Western expectations and demands:

  1. State that any future spread of the conflict beyond the existing cease-fire line would be seen as an attack on the political sovereignty of the government in Kiev.
  2. Make clear that they will not consider easing any of the current economic sanctions until the Minsk II agreement has been completed in full.
  3. Include unfettered inspections by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
  4. Ensure the Ukrainian government’s securing control of its border with Russia.

He goes on to argue that although military assistance by the West may not be any more effective than economic sanctions, “both policies are principally about imposing costs on Russia for its actions and accepting costs on North America, Europe and their close allies.”

Click here to read the full article.

For more information on how to book Robin Niblett as a keynote speaker for your conference or client event, please get in touch with Leo von Bülow-Quirk at or call on +44 (0) 20 7792 8000.

Crisis in Ukraine: Briefing by Sir Roderic Lyne

Roderic LyneFollowing on from the first round of Ukraine’s Presidential Elections, we spoke to Sir Roderic Lyne (based here in London) about the outlook for the country, what’s driving Putin and what the West can do about it.

“As the West does not seem prepared to commit the huge, multi-year resources necessary to enable Ukraine to resist Russian pressure, the short-term prospect is for an unheroic accommodation which will satisfy most of the Kremlin’s aims. This will not make for a sustainable long-term solution. Ukraine will remain a problem for years to come.”

Click here to read a summary of our discussion

For information on Sir Roderic’s speaking availability, please contact our Co-founder, Alex Hickman, at or call +44 (0) 20 7792 8004

Geopolitics speaker John Hulsman on China’s new anti-West axis

John HulsmanIn today’s City A.M. Dr John Hulsman, a leading geopolitical speaker and analyst, explains what he believes is the biggest story since the end of the Cold War: China’s new anti-West axis.

Focusing on the seismic global shift instigated by President Putin’s huge gas deal with China’s Xi Jinping last month, the new economic tie-up that John’s political risk firm predicted ahead of the fact, John argues that the deal is first and foremost about geopolitics. This follows from Putin’s brief visit to Shanghai last month, where Xi proposed a new regional Asian security organisation, including Russia, Turkey, and Iran, but excluding the US.

John therefore see gas deal as “part of a larger Sino-Russian diplomatic gambit – admittedly still in its very early stages – presenting the first real geopolitical challenge to the United States in a generation.” He goes on to warn that “if China and Russia find general common cause and move closer to each other than either is to America, the global chessboard is irrevocably altered.”

Click here to read the full article.

For information on John’s speaking availability, please contact our Managing Partner, Leo von Bülow-Quirk, at or call +44 (0) 20 7792 8000

Robin Niblett: the West should not blame itself for Putin’s actions

Robin NiblettIt was a great to catch up this morning with Robin Niblett, Director of Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs). Over breakfast on Piccadilly he shared some fascinating thoughts on the implications of the Ukraine crisis for the global political order – in particular what it tells us about the different approaches of Russia and China to their regional neighbours.

His thoughts are neatly summarised in a recent article of his for I have provided a brief summary below…

Many in Southeast Asia believe the West backed Putin into a corner over Crimea: what else did the West expect Putin to do in the face of NATO expansion and the EU’s efforts to bring Ukraine into it’s orbit? Instead of provoking Russia, the West should adopt the more accommodating tactics Southeast Asian states have been using vis-a-vis their own large assertive neighbour, China.

But, Robin argues, it’s misleading to compare Russia and China, because they have very differing approaches towards their neighbours. China has a win-win attitude: it has tried as much as possible to smooth over potential territorial tensions with its Southeast Asian neighbours, and has sought to increase  economic ties. The idea is that the increasing strength of their neighbours will support China’s rise, both politically and economically.

By contrast, Russia’s is a much more confrontational ‘winner takes all’ attitude. In the name of Russian security and regional hegemony, Putin has sought to weaken Russia’s neighbours, creating a series of economic ‘black holes’ and ‘frozen conflicts’ that have made the region highly volatile.

It is Putin, then, who has painted himself into a corner – the West is not to blame.

For further information about Dr. Robin Niblett, email Leo at, or give him a call on 0044 (0) 20 7792 8000.

John Hulsman: a Goldilocks assessment of Putin

In his latest posting for City A.M., John Hulsman, a leading expert on political risk, argues that the Western weakness in responding to the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine comes from a failure to grasp Putin’s motives.

John shows that on the one hand there is Senator John McCain, the leading American neoconservative hawk who believes that Putin is another Adolf Hitler, and that the West must quickly wake up to this horrifying fact. However, as John points out, “every foreign policy challenge does not approximate 1939. Hitler alone was Hitler, with very few other problems posing such a clear cut distinction between good and evil.”

On the other hand, ex-British Army head Lord Dannatt suggests that British troops be retained in Germany to force the Kremlin to realise that the British mean business. Again, John points out that the present crisis does not signal a reversion to the Cold War; Russia is simply not strong enough, and the West’s level of commitment has fallen since 1991. John adds that under-reactions are just as dangerous as over-reactions – the predicament of Goldilocks.

John believes that NATO’s present command has the correct assessment of Putin; they are worried about the Russian-speaking areas which are not covered by the alliance’s security blanket, particularly eastern Moldova and eastern Ukraine. Based on this insight, Putin can be said to be “intent on restoring the perception of Russian national greatness, after two decades of Western encroachments into what he regards as his sphere of influence…[he is] intent on snatching up as much Russian-speaking territory adjoining his country as possible.”

What is the “just right” response that the West should take? Click here to find out.

John Hulsman: “the West can still best a crumbling Russia”

John HulsmanFollowing his hugely popular pieces on Russia’s takeover of the Crimea, John Hulsman, prolific foreign affairs commentator, continues to offer his sought after analysis of the situation.

In this morning’s City A.M. article, John argues that although Putin has won the Crimea, he should lose the long game. Over just a few days the Russian President has “weakened Western standing, crippled the new Ukrainian government…and secured primary Russian interests.” In comparison, President Obama’s less measured response shows a discrepancy between his real world options and his “maximalist Wilsonian rhetoric.”

In other words, the threat to place economic sanctions on Russia would be a dramatically terrible idea. John explains that this is because we now live in a world of interdependence advocated by leftish foreign policy, which in this case is a great handicap when considering that Russia supplies one third of Europe’s gas supply.

However, despite this state of affairs John demonstrates that like Putin, the West too has the ability to demarcate spheres of influence:

  1. First, make specific threats – that the US is prepared to fight a war for all the exposed members of the alliance.
  2. Second, Nato should forward deploy troops to the Baltic states and Poland, as a physical gesture of the West’s continued solidarity.
  3. Third, a new missile defence system should be deployed in Poland. This physical reinforcement, coupled with rhetorical clarity, would go a long way towards calming our allies’ fears.
  4. Lastly, the West must be prepared to play a long game, all the while calmly seeing that we hold most of the geopolitical cards.

The last point pertains to the fact that Russia is solely dependant on oil and gas to survive. With the US now embarking on its shale gas revolution, the opportunity is rife to imperil Russia’s great power pretensions.

Click here to read the full story.

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