New Advanced Analytical Techniques Course – opportunity for collaboration

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I’ve just started the last course of the Mercyhurst Applied Intelligence Analysis Program, which deals with the application of various structured methodologies to the analysis process. I’ve had to select a particular technique to work for in the following 2 months in relations to a topic that is of national security concern.

My chosen technique is situation assessment, and I’m working together in a team of 5 on various issues pertaining to Russia. And here is my topic:

Russia’s recent election has confirmed Dmitry Medvedev as Vladimir Putin’s heir. Western leaders are speculating as to the course and conduct of Russian foreign policy under the new leader. Medvedev has publicly stated that he will continue to assert Russia’s renewed strength on the international arena. But as events in Kosovo have shown, Russian foreign policy continues to be shaped by forces beyond its control.

Provide a current assessment of Russian foreign policy towards the Balkans in light of Dmitry Medvedev’s accession to the Russian presidency.

In the course of the next weeks, I’ll be posting thoughts and findings on this topic and some more theoretical things related to the methodology. If you are visiting my blog and have any information that you think is pertinent and you would like to share, I will be grateful and certain to acknowledge your contribution (if you wish so, of course).


You can leave your comments on the blog or email me at


This is my planned outline so far, but it is subject to change upon my instructor’s input:

The purpose of a situation assessment is to gather context specific information and evidence to inform the decision-maker. As a methodology, it resembles an analysis of the external environment in a business context. In political science, it is more frequently referred to as a case study. A case study typically focus around a singular theses. The situation assessment outlines the process of gathering and analyzing the information needed to make an explicit evaluation of the thesis (i.e. Russian FP) in its “environment” (i.e. Russia’s role in the international/regional arena).


1. Historical background of Russia’s FP toward the Balkans

This doesn’t appear to be a part of a situation assessment according to the sources I was able to find, but I think it will add value to this particular thesis, so I’m rather keen to include it. One of my reasons for doing so will be to explain later on in the analysis why the Christian Orthodox card Russia’s been flashing toward the West should not be taken at face value.

2. Collect and evaluate internal and external stakeholders’ perceptions about Russia’s FP to the Balkans

This part of the analysis will focus on Russia’s bilateral relations with the different Balkan countries, as well as the EU and the U.S. I intend to use the SWOT technique to collect this type of information, as it will bring focus to the analysis by breaking it down into four broad categories:

S – strengths of Russia’s FP toward the Balkans

W – weaknesses of Russia’s FP toward the Balkans

O – external opportunities that might move the Russian agenda forward

T – threats that might hold Russia’s ambitions back

3. Evaluate the impact of specific events on actors

Here, I’d like to discuss Russia’s position on the independence of Kosovo. Why was this position taken and did it achieve its planned results? If not, will Medvedev abandon this course of “action” or continue along the same lines?


4. Define previous implied foreign policy strategies

Here I would like to examine Putin’s legacy and a few different scenarios for change under Medvedev. Given the unique Putin-Medvedev relationship, I will attempt to ascertain the extent of influence the two actors will have on shaping future Russian FP based on a political personality assessment.



Think tank on the Future of Books

Another great serendipitous find – The Institute for the Future of the Book. It’s a Brooklyn/London-based think tank dedicated to the evolution of reading and writing in the digital age.  Some of their projects include The Googlization of Everything – a book in progress that visitors to the site can contribute to, aiming at the following 3 questions: What does the world look like through the lens of Google? How is Google’s ubiquity affecting the production and dissemination of knowledge; and How has the corporation altered the rules and practices that govern other companies, institutions and states? Another book in progress project to which readers can contribute is the Without Gods project, or a history of atheism. Lewis Lapham of Harper’s Magazine has a page on the site, entitled Operation Iraqi Quagmire, which features Lewis’ comments on US foreign policy toward Iraq. Finally, a title that caught my eye because I spent the last year of my studies in Classics researching and writing on the topic of perceptions of memory and writing in the ancient world, The Gates Memory Project is a collaboration project between Flickr and The Institute for the Future of the Book. Unfortunately, this last one appears to be at a stall, with the last blog entry dating back to 2005. Nevertheless, there are some interesting posts in the archives.