Author Archive

Neil Macfarlane

Professor MacFarlane is a specialist on Russian foreign policy and the regional dynamics of the former Soviet Union, with particular reference to that regions southern tier. He is also interested in the impact of international organisations in the management and resolution of civil conflicts and also in the political and economic transitions of former communist states.

After a career in the United States and in Canada, he moved to Oxford in 1996 as the first Lester B. Pearson Professor of International Relations.From 2005 to 2010 he was Head of the Department of Politics and International Relations. From 2008 to 2010 he was Deputy Head of the Social Sciences Division at Oxford. He is currently a member of the Council of the University and serves on numerous University committees.

Beyond Oxford, he was a Faculty Associate of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy from 2004 tto 2010. He held a visiting appointment at the College of Europe (Bruges) in 2007-2008, where he taught a course on the contemporary security agenda.In the summer of 2008, he was S. Rajaratnam Professor of Strategic Studies at the Nanyang Technological University (Singapore). He iwas a a visiting professor at the Centre for Social Sciences (Tbilisi State University, Georgia) from 2010 to 2013, and has a strong interest in higher education reform in the former Soviet Union.

He is an associate research fellow in the Russia-Eurasia Programme at Chatham House, and he chairs the board of the Center for Social Sciences, Tbilisi, Georgia.

A funny thing happened in Moscow in September. Meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow at the beginning of the month, Armenia’s President Sargsian announced that Armenia had decided to join the Eurasian Customs Union. The Customs Union and the more general Eurasian Union project are an effort to foster re-integration in the former Soviet space. Sargsian’s statement effectively amounted to a retreat from the agreement between Armenia and the EU on Association. After three years of intense and successful negotiation with the EU, Armenia dumped the project.

On the first of October, 2012, Georgia held parliamentary elections. In Western capitals and analytical circles, it was widely believed that Mikheil Saakashvili’s ruling United National Movement (UNM) would be returned to power. Most polling on political rankings supported this expectation. Some analysts had suggested that the highly unequal impact of Georgia’s impressive growth record was generating significant social discontent, undermining the ruling party’s position. Deepening inequality, sporadically high inflation, persistently high unemployment, and deepening poverty might translate into opposition votes. These people were dismissed as misinformed or deluded cranks, me included.

There is a lot of talk around Russia-Georgia relations these days. One venue is the current “Geneva Process,” established in 2008 to attempt to sort out the mess created by the Georgian-Russian war. After seventeen meetings, there is no evidence of any significant progress. There is also a substantial array of informal processes involving all kinds of well-intentioned people from London, Washington, Georgia and Russia. They haven’t had any discernible impact either. Outsiders have a substantial interest in the normalization of the bilateral relationship. The situation between Georgia and Russia complicates the Western reset of relations with the Russian Federation. The unresolved conflict between the two obstructs Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization. Although the situation on the ground …