Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

8
Jul

Fighters from forces aligned with Libya's new unity government fire anti-aircraft guns from their vehicles at Islamic State positions in Algharbiyat area, Sirte, June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

Although there has been some progress in forming a national unity government in Libya, “unity” is a rather inapplicable word for the country. In reality, friction between various political actors remains high. Ultimately, perhaps a form of disunity—confederation, rather than centralization—is the best model for Libya.

Libyan politics: A primer

During the summer of 2014, the Libyan leadership, after an initial hint of cooperation, split into two governments:

  • One, headquartered in Tobruk and based on a secular matrix, was recognized internationally. It received support from the House of Representatives and was abetted by General Khalifa Haftar and his so-called National Libyan Army. Externally, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia have supported this government because of its anti-Islamist ideology. In May 2014, Haftar launched “Operation Dignity” against the Islamist militias, supported by the Zintan brigades (consisting of the Civic, al-Sawaiq, and al-Qaaqa brigades), and the militias coming from the ethnic minorities of Tebu and Fezzan.
  • The other, headquartered in Tripoli, was Islamic in nature. It was supported by the new General National Congress (GNC) and was part of the Libya Dawn group of pro-Islamist militias (which included groups from Misrata, Amazigh, and Tuareg). Qatar, Sudan, and Turkey have supported this government for different reasons, including to earn a more prominent place on the global stage or to support the Muslim Brotherhood.

But it gets more complicated, since it wasn’t just the Tobruk- and Tripoli-based governments that competed to fill the power vacuum post-Gadhafi. The constellation of militias and brigades has changed continuously. There are Salafist groups such as:

  • Ansar al-Sharia Libya (or ASL, located between Benghazi and Derna);
  • Muhammad Jamal Network (between Benghazi and Derna);
  • Al-Murabitun (in the southeast, around Ghat, Ubari, Tasawah, and Murzuq);
  • Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (or AQIM, in the southwest and northeast of Libya); and
  • Ansar al-Sharia Tunisia (or AST, located between Derna and Ajdabiya). Read more…

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5
Jul

RICHARD SOKOLSKY is a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former member of the U.S. Secretary of State’s policy planning staff.

In a pre-retirement interview[1] on May 1, NATO’s top military officer, General Philip Breedlove, warned that the Russian military might not be ten feet tall but was “certainly close to seven.” NATO’s war planners are right to worry about the Russian military threat to its eastern flank. Fortunately, the alliance may be in a stronger position than it thinks—and although its leaders may not realize it, what is important is that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his generals almost certainly do.

NATO’s efforts to build a stronger deterrent and defense posture in the east are necessary and long overdue. But they may not be enough to de-escalate the alliance’s confrontation with Russia and reduce the risk of a direct conflict. Two years after NATO launched plans to beef up defenses on its eastern front, a midcourse correction is needed to reduce the risk of a collision with Russia.

NATO’s perception of the Russian threat has changed dramatically since Moscow gobbled up Crimea. Once thought to be outmanned and outgunned[2] by NATO, Russia is now seen by many observers as a superior military force, poised to overrun an alliance that is “outnumbered, outranged, and outgunned[3]” on its eastern flank. From the West’s perspective, Russia is a revisionist, neoimperialist, and expansionist power determined to overturn the post–Cold War European security order, destroy NATO’s cohesion, and restore its sphere of influence throughout the former Soviet Union. As a military alliance with a collective security commitment at its core, NATO should be reinforcing its exposed eastern flank with a more persistent presence of heavier forces to reassure these countries of NATO’s resolve and capacity to make good on its Article 5 commitment. Military organizations are prone to plan conservatively, and NATO is basing its plans on a worst-case scenario.

From where Putin sits, however, “the correlation of forces,” to use an old Soviet phrase, probably looks quite different. From the Kremlin’s perspective, in its decision to spread east, NATO has muscled in on Russia’s traditional turf. Meanwhile, Moscow believes the United States seeks to subvert the Putin regime by promoting democracy in and around the country. Russia’s estimates of the military balance with NATO are permeated by a deep sense of inferiority in terms of conventional Prompt Global Strike capabilities, nuclear weapons, missile defenses, cyberweapons, and even the much-hyped hybrid forms of warfare. The Russian general staff, like NATO’s military planners, are basing their plans on worst-case thinking as well. Read more…

June 29, 2016; www.foreignaffairs.com

1
Jul

Spain held its second general election in six months on Sunday, after political leaders failed to form a governing coalition in the wake of December’s inconclusive vote. However, results from Sunday’s voting didn’t move the needle much from December, and Spain, once again, faces the prospect of continued political deadlock.

Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP) managed a better showing this time around, winning 33 percent of the vote, up from 29 percent in December. This gives the party 137 seats in the Spanish parliament, but leaves it short of the 176 seats needed for a majority, so Rajoy must now find coalition partners. 

The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) came in second with 22.7 percent of the vote and 85 seats, followed by the Unidos Podemos coalition—comprising Podemos and an alliance of far-left and communist parties known as Izquierda Unida—with 21 percent and 71 seats, and the center-right Ciudadanos with 13 percent and 32 seats. In the December vote, the PSOE won 22 percent of the vote, Podemos 21 percent and Ciudadanos 14 percent.

Rajoy is certainly in a better position to form a government than he was in December, but, as Antonio Barroso, a political analyst, told the AP, “It is unlikely that other parties will rapidly give him their support.” Already the PSOE and Ciudadanosrejected Rajoy’s proposal of a “grand coalition” of moderate parties. Read more….

Maria Savel is an associate editor at World Politics Review. Published on Thursday, June 30, 2016

 

24
Jun

A tragic split

Written on June 24, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, EU Expansion, Europe, Foreign Policy

HOW quickly the unthinkable became the irreversible. A year ago few people imagined that the legions of Britons who love to whinge about the European Union—silly regulations, bloated budgets and pompous bureaucrats—would actually vote to leave the club of countries that buy nearly half of Britain’s exports. Yet, by the early hours of June 24th, it was clear that voters had ignored the warnings of economists, allies and their own government and, after more than four decades in the EU, were about to step boldly into the unknown.

The tumbling of the pound to 30-year lows offered a taste of what is to come. As confidence plunges, Britain may well dip into recession. A permanently less vibrant economy means fewer jobs, lower tax receipts and, eventually, extra austerity. The result will also shake a fragile world economy. Scots, most of whom voted to Remain, may now be keener to break free of the United Kingdom, as they nearly did in 2014. Across the Channel, Eurosceptics such as the French National Front will see Britain’s flounce-out as encouragement. The EU, an institution that has helped keep the peace in Europe for half a century, has suffered a grievous blow.

Published in the Economist on June 24th, 2016
13
Jun

The Swedish Migration Agency in Malmo, the southern port city on the border with Denmark, occupies a square brick building at the far edge of town. On the day that I was there, Nov. 19, 2015, hundreds of refugees, who had been bused in from the train station, queued up outside in the chill to be registered, or sat inside waiting to be assigned a place for the night. Two rows of white tents had been set up in the parking lot to house those for whom no other shelter could be found. Hundreds of refugees had been put in hotels a short walk down the highway, and still more in an auditorium near the station.

When the refugee crisis began last summer, about 1,500 people were coming to Sweden every week seeking asylum. By August, the number had doubled. In September, it doubled again. In October, it hit 10,000 a week, and stayed there even as the weather grew colder. A nation of 9.5 million, Sweden expected to take as many as 190,000 refugees, or 2 percent of the population — double the per capita figure projected by Germany, which has taken the lead in absorbing the vast tide of people fleeing the wars in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere.

That afternoon, in the cafeteria in the back of the Migration Agency building, I met with Karima Abou-Gabal, an agency official responsible for the orderly flow of people into and out of Malmo. I asked where the new refugees would go. “As of now,” she said wearily, “we have no accommodation. We have nothing.” The private placement agencies with whom the migration agency contracts all over the country could not offer so much as a bed. In Malmo itself, the tents were full. So, too, the auditorium and hotels. Sweden had, at that very moment, reached the limits of its absorptive capacity. That evening, Mikael Ribbenvik, a senior migration official, said to me, “Today we had to regretfully inform 40 people that we could [not] find space for them in Sweden.” They could stay, but only if they found space on their own.

Nothing about this grim denouement was unforeseeable — or, for that matter, unforeseen. Vast numbers of asylum-seekers had been pouring into Sweden both because officials put no obstacles in their way and because the Swedes were far more generous to newcomers than were other European countries. A few weeks earlier, Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, had declared that if the rest of Europe continued to turn its back on the migrants, “in the long run our system will collapse.” The collapse came faster than she had imagined. Read more…

By James Traub, Feb. 10. 2016; www.foreignpolicy.com

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