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Hackers, Hoodies, and Helmets: Technology and the changing face of Russian private military contractors

July 25, 2022

The first time Russia invaded Ukraine in the twenty-first century, the Wagner Group was born. The now widely profiled private military company (PMC) played an important role in exercising Russian national power over the Crimea and portions of the Donbas—while giving Moscow a semblance of plausible deniability. In the near decade since, the Russian PMC sector has grown considerably, and is active in more than a dozen countries around the world. PMCs are paramilitary organizations established and run as private companies—though they often operate in contract with one or more states. They are profit-motivated, expeditionary groups that make a business of the conduct of war. PMCs are in no way a uniquely Russian phenomenon, yet the expanding footprint of Russian PMCs and their links to state interests call for a particularly Russian-focused analysis of the industry. The growth of these firms and their direct links to the Kremlin's oligarch network as well as Moscow's foreign media, industrial, and cyber activities present a challenge to the United States and its allies as they seek to counter Russian malicious activities abroad.The accelerating frequency of PMCs found operating around the world and the proliferation of private hacking, surveillance, and social media manipulation tools suggest that Russian PMCs will pose diverse policy challenges to the United States and allies going forward. This issue brief seeks to offer an initial exploration of these questions in the context of how these PMCs came about and how they are employed today. The section below addresses the origin and operations of PMCs in Russian international security strategy, and also profiles the changing role of technology in conflict and the activities of these PMCs. The last section closes with a set of open research questions.

International Attitudes Toward the U.S., NATO and Russia in a Time of Crisis

June 22, 2022

This Pew Research Center analysis focuses on public opinion of the United States, Russia and NATO in 17 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. The report draws on nationally representative surveys of 19,903 adults from Feb. 14 to May 11, 2022. All surveys were conducted over the phone with adults in Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea. Surveys were conducted face to face in Poland and Israel and online in Australia.Data collection began a week prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and Japan. All other countries began fieldwork the same day as or shortly after the invasion. Due to the time it takes to translate, program and test questions on our international surveys, we prioritized gathering data at the start of this significant international event rather than delaying, or pausing, fieldwork to add questions specifically about the war or the actions taken by world leaders in response. Analysis focuses on ratings of Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, the countries they lead and NATO as the war in Ukraine was unfolding. In this report, the data is discussed in the context of over a decade of cross-national trends.Views of Russia and NATO also include data from the United States. We surveyed 3,581 U.S. adults from March 21 to 27, 2022, after the start of the war in Ukraine. Everyone who took part in this survey is a member of the Center's American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories.

Spotlight on Poland: Negative Views of Russia Surge, but Ratings for U.S., NATO, EU Improve

June 22, 2022

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to a dramatic shift in attitudes in Poland, a key European partner and one which only three decades ago was part of the former Soviet Union's Eastern Bloc. Negative attitudes among Poles towards Russia are at all-time highs since Pew Research Center began tracking opinion on this question in 2007, with virtually unanimous negative opinions of the Russian state. Currently, 94% see Russia as a major threat, up from 65% who said this in 2018, and 94% have no confidence at all in Russian President Vladimir Putin -- also an all-time high. The sharp decline in positive attitudes toward Russia has benefited Poland's western allies, specifically the United States, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (Poland is a member of both NATO and the EU). Around nine-in-ten Poles have a favorable view of the U.S., NATO and the EU, all of which represent the highest shares since 2007. In terms of Poland's relationship with the U.S., the increase in favorable attitudes toward America coincides with a strong 82% confidence rating for U.S. President Joe Biden, a marked increase from the 51% who had confidence in former President Donald Trump in 2019. In addition, roughly two-thirds in Poland see having a close relationship with the U.S. as more important than having one with Russia. Only 1% want a closer relationship with Russia, while 28% volunteer that both are equally important. Just three years ago, more than half of Poles (53%) offered that both relationships are equally important.

Attacks on Hospitals from Syria to Ukraine: Improving Prevention and Accountability Mechanisms

June 14, 2022

When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, it soon began implementing one of its frequent--and criminal--tactics that it had already been using in its military intervention in Syria: bombing healthcare and medical facilities. Syrian government forces first began targeting health workers in Syria in 2011 at the start of the Syria crisis, and Russia joined them in targeting the healthcare system upon its official entrance to the conflict in 2015. Over the course of the conflict, over 90 percent of 601 recorded attacks on medical facilities were attributable to either Syrian or Russian forces. In Ukraine, Russia has reportedly perpetrated more than 200 attacks on healthcare facilities and ambulances since the start of the invasion. The well-documented pattern of targeted attacks on healthcare in Syria and Ukraine undermines long-established and hard-won provisions under international humanitarian law intended to protect civilians during conflict. Despite the scale of the problem, which extends beyond Syria and Ukraine, there has been no prominent criminal prosecution of any alleged perpetrators of attacks on healthcare in any conflict, no establishment of a UN mandate dedicated to this issue, and no task force created by national governments specifically aimed at prevention of and accountability for these crimes. The international community's failure to compel meaningful action to stop the criminal practice of targeting healthcare in conflict after conflict has resulted in continued deaths of health workers and civilian populations.In a new issue brief by the Atlantic Council Strategic Litigation Project's Elise Baker and Gissou Nia, the two propose recommendations to UN bodies, the World Health Organization, national governments and other institutions and decision makers for concrete actions to prevent future attacks and advance accountability for past ones.

“Anyone can die at any time”: Indiscriminate attacks by Russian forces in Kharkiv, Ukraine

June 13, 2022

From the beginning of their invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russian forces launched a relentless campaign of indiscriminate bombardments against Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-biggest city. They shelled residential neighbourhoods almost daily, killing and injuring hundreds of civilians and causing wholesale destruction, often using widely banned cluster munitions.

Charity in times of war

June 6, 2022

The full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in one way or another has significantly affected all life processes in the country. The charity and civil society were no exception and were among the first mechanisms that managed to quickly mobilize and adapt their work to the challenges of wartime.In the short period since February 24, many changes have taken place in the field of charity. Many new volunteer, community-based and charitable organizations and initiatives have been established. The existing organizations changed the focus of their main activity. At the same time, there is an unprecedented increase in the number of donations and support for the sector.In addition to the changes, there are a number of challenges faced by representatives of Ukrainian charity – including logistical difficulties, loss of staff due to evacuation, inability to continue ongoing projects or consolidate efforts and resources to implement statutory activities due to a general change in priorities.However, all changes and developments should be thoroughly systematized and verified to assess their feasibility and scale. Consistent research and relevant data enable choosing the most appropriate strategy for working with the sector, which certainly needs support.Keeping our hands on the pulse of Ukrainian philanthropy, we at Zagoriy Foundation decided to conduct a qualitative study of the sector during the full-scale war to identify and describe the main changes and trends and contribute to effective development and support of the sector.

How Best (Not) to Address the Ukraine Crisis

June 6, 2022

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has disrupted global wheat, corn, and other markets. Given relatively low global stocks for major staple foodstuffs, many analysts predict that food insecurity will increase among poor households in low-income countries. Understandably, many world leaders, including the Biden administration, are concerned about how to best address a potential global hunger crisis. However, in the rush to "do something," leaders need to consider the most efficient policies to address the crisis and avoid ill-considered policies that may do little to address the actual problems and could result in unintended consequences that may linger well past the crisis itself.The most effective way of addressing global food supply concerns would be an immediate end to the war and rebuilding critical infrastructures such as rail lines, storage facilities, and port facilities to allow Ukraine's agricultural sector access to global markets. To that end, the UN secretary general's efforts to end the blockade of Ukraine grain shipping and support the establishment of a blue corridor by sea or a green corridor overland to move foodstuffs from Ukraine should be supported. Unfortunately, the likelihood of a quick end to the war looks increasingly faint, and Russia has given no signs that it would consider granting safe passage of Ukraine food exports through the Black Sea.The Biden administration has recently put forward a set of proposals aimed at increasing US agricultural production, lowering fertilizer costs, and providing humanitarian food aid to those hurt by the sharp increase in agricultural prices. Here we consider these proposals and other questionable policies such as opening the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and conclude by discussing policies that could provide more immediate relief by addressing and mitigating constraints in the vegetable oil market.

Russia, the use of force and self-defence – The continued relevance of Public International Law

June 1, 2022

In a speech delivered by Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, justifying his invasion and attack on Ukraine on 24 February 2022, he claimed that he was lauching a 'special military operation' in self-defence due to the expansion of NATO eastward, and the increasing military, technology and other capabilities of Western states posing a security threat to Russia (Putin, 2022). He also argued that the Russian Federation was acting in collective self-defence with the Ukrainian regions: Donetsk and Luhansk, which had declared independence earlier in Feburary 2022 and had been unilaterally recognised by Russia. Without providing evidence Putin claims, that the Russian-speaking population of Donetsk and Luhansk are "facing humiliation and genocide, perpetrated by the Kyiv regime" (Putin, 2022). He alleged that the 'special military operation' was not an occupation, nor did it intend to interfere with the interests of the Ukrainian people, but rather that it was a response to the hostage-taking of Ukraine by neo-Nazis and Western powers. It should come as no surprise that the West's perspective is the exact opposite, accusing the Russian Federation of violating international law and the rules governing self-defence (Kerr, 2022). In the face of Russia's unjustified use of for against Ukraine, and the apparent inability of the international community's mechanisms and institutions to reign, Putin, in the continuined relevance of international law needs to be reviewed. To determine whether public international law is still alive and well, it is first necessary to look at the relevant law that governs the situation, the context and actions of the relevant stakeholders, and the enforcement mechanisms of the United Nations. Of course, it has become clear that the Russian Federation has committed violations of international law beyond the use of force prohibition in their armed attacks in Ukraine, which is beyond the scope of this article.

Individual Giving and Philanthropy in Turkey 2021

May 31, 2022

This study is a continuation of the research on individual giving and philanthropy in Turkey conducted in 2004, 2015 and 2019 by TÜSEV. The main goals of this research are to provide an overview of: individuals' perceptions of civil society organisations in Turkey; their engagement with CSOs; giving practices, and to track behaviors and trends in these areas through time. For this study as for previous ones, the authors and research team have collected and analysed data from interviews with a representative sample of the voting-age population in Turkey. The fieldwork for this report focused on the year before October-November 2021, a period of significant challenges including Covid-19, lockdowns and natural disasters. The authors take into account the impact of these events in their evaluation of how both the giving behavior and the attitude toward civil society and philanthropic activities in general have developed and changed. The report also provides a comparative analysis of the change that took place in the field of individual giving in Turkey over a 15-year period.Previous studies can be accessed from TÜSEV website: https://www.tusev.org.tr/en/research-andpublications/online-publications

Ukraine: Bridging humanitarian response

May 25, 2022

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, a wide range of responders, both established organisations and first-time relief providers, have emerged to address the growing needs. At the national level, the Government of Ukraine (GoU) is attempting to centralise the reception and coordination of aid. At the oblast and local levels, the GoU, Oblast Military Administrations (OMAs), and hromadas (municipalities), alongside national and local NGOs and the Ukrainian Red Cross Society, have been distributing and providing aid to the affected population. With the networks and connections they have previously built, especially with public administrations, national NGOs present prior to the 2022 invasion may have considerable capacity to engage in the response. Insecurity has disrupted the activities of some of those NGOs, however, and led their staff to evacuate, particularly in the conflict-affected areas.At the same time, civil society organisations (CSOs), faith-based networks, and a considerable amount of newly emerged volunteers and volunteer networks are providing vital humanitarian response, particularly at the local level. While their capacity may be limited, they are more agile in their ability to reach the affected population even in the most hazardous areas and may have a better understanding of local needs. Civil society sees their contributions to the humanitarian response as a way of participating in the national effort.The international response, consisting of UN agencies and INGOs, considerably scaled up its presence since February, but a strong national response with its own coordination, processing, and delivery procedures characterises the environment it operates in. Population displacement, conflict dynamics, and differing local implementations of national directives mean that international organisations juggle supporting government entities, operating with established humanitarian responders, and establishing new relationships with more fluid ad hoc networks.The multitude of different responders involved at the local level, both new and established, has led to a number of issues, including parallel structures and a lack of respective understanding of how different levels of response are working to address needs. The ways in which the response operates (in terms of the coordination and delivery of assistance) considerably vary by oblast and even hromada. It has been impossible to quantify the impact and reach of the response of local formal and informal organisations, networks, and volunteers.These challenges make it difficult for local and international responders to effectively work together and create cohesion between the different levels of response. Regardless of the challenges, the GoU, NGOs, the international humanitarian system, and informal structures all play an important role in the response, demonstrating a need to enhance relationships, collaboration, and information-sharing between local and international levels of response.

Waiting for the Sky to Close: The Unprecedented Crisis Facing Women and Girls Fleeing Ukraine - Regional Assessment Report

May 25, 2022

The global humanitarian community is failing to meet the needs of women and girls displaced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and adequately support women- and girl-led organizations on the frontlines of the emergency response, according to a new, seven-part regional assessment from VOICE, in partnership with HIAS.The reports were developed by VOICE's 10-member assessment team, who spent four weeks speaking to women's rights organizations, frontline workers, local NGOs, government workers, United Nations agency actors, and internally displaced and refugee populations in Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. VOICE also conducted virtual interviews with women's rights groups and other local organizations in Ukraine.The reports paint a vivid picture of the challenges faced by women and girls who have been displaced by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, as well as the need to ensure that women's rights organizations and other local actors are integrated into response design and leadership from the beginning.

Waiting for the Sky to Close: The Unprecedented Crisis Facing Women and Girls Fleeing Ukraine - Ukraine Assessment Report

May 25, 2022

The global humanitarian community is failing to meet the needs of women and girls displaced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and adequately support women- and girl-led organizations on the frontlines of the emergency response, according to a new, seven-part regional assessment from VOICE, in partnership with HIAS.The reports were developed by VOICE's 10-member assessment team, who spent four weeks speaking to women's rights organizations, frontline workers, local NGOs, government workers, United Nations agency actors, and internally displaced and refugee populations in Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. VOICE also conducted virtual interviews with women's rights groups and other local organizations in Ukraine.The reports paint a vivid picture of the challenges faced by women and girls who have been displaced by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, as well as the need to ensure that women's rights organizations and other local actors are integrated into response design and leadership from the beginning.