Archive for the ‘Security’ Category

10
Aug

Nato’s challenge from within

Written on August 10, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in News, Security

At the 1949 signing ceremony for the Washington Treaty that created NATO, a band played show tune selections from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, including “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, what NATO itself calls the cornerstone of the alliance, commits members to come to each other’s defense. Sixty-six years after NATO’s creation, a recent Pew Research Center survey of people in nine NATO nations, representing the lion’s share of NATO defense spending, suggests public commitment to Article 5 “ain’t necessarily so.”At a time of tensions with Russia not seen since the Cold War, many publics in the Western alliance are divided in their support for a potential military confrontation with Moscow over its territorial ambitions. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, NATO’s challenges are now not just “from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic,” but at home.

Read more…

Published on August 6th by Bruce Stokes in foreign policy.com

18
May

Putin and Victory Day

Written on May 18, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in Regions, Security

susana-197x300Susana Torres Prieto. Associate Professor of Humanities at IE University and IE Business School 

A colleague from Moscow’s Higher School of Economics told me a few months ago that, since he was a child-and he is over fifty now-there were only two big holidays in Russia, Victory Day, or Den Pobedy, in Russian, and New Year. He, who is now more often seen in anti-Putin demonstrations than in any other political rally, was trying to describe the magic, the solemnity of that celebration since he can remember, the happiness brought about by the unattainable feeling of pride of being Russian, or Soviet back then. And I guess he was trying to claim that Russia’s national holiday belonged to the Russians, not to President Putin.

It might be difficult to have a national day that does not commemorate some deed or feat that may offend others. Apparently that is why Putin, when he was president for the first time, tried to establish a new holiday back in 2005, the Day of National Unity on November 4th, to avoid, first of all, having to celebrate the October Revolution on November 7th and,  maybe, in an attempt of trying not to upset his good friend, the then-chancellor Gerhard Schröder, by putting too much emphasis on celebrating the victory over Nazi Germany. The date was chosen because it marked the ascension of the Romanov Dynasty to power after the Russian people, united despite being tsar-less, expelled the Poles from Russia, thus putting an end to the so-called Times of Troubles. Why President Putin chose this precise date only one year after Poland had joined the EU and not, for example, the date of the victory over the Mongols might be something worth investigating, as well as why commemorating, as if in passing, the ascension of the last Imperial Dynasty to the Russian throne. Much Freudian analysis could be done on the latter.

The fact of the matter is that long gone are the days in which Mr. Putin made jokes with his German counterparts and practiced his fluent East German with Chancellor Merkel. When Putin inherited a broken country at the beginning of this century, he had so many fronts to fight he had to do it, whether he liked it or not. Nothing was quiet in none of the fronts. Oligarchs were constantly trying to checkmate the economy, Chechnya was still in the front page of the news, terrorism was acting in the very heart of Moscow, and a deep feeling of desperation was gripping all those who, unable to make fabulous fortunes in 24 hours, had to remain in the country. It seemed, more blatantly evident than ever, that the Prince of Salina was right: “everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same”. However, things have changed in a decade or so, and if anyone is surprised by the display of military might that President Putin made last Saturday in Moscow, maybe other facts should be taken into account, such as that Crimea is probably going to be Russian for ever, that Putin has signed more trade agreements with India and China in the last few months than in a whole decade (in order to purchase from them, by the way, what he used to purchase from Europe, and at a much better price), that Europe is still energetically dependent from Russia to a considerable extent, and that the Russian economy is undergoing a hard time now probably rather due to the price of oil than to foreign economic sanctions.

When President Putin spoke last at the IMF, back in December, he used the old rhetoric of the Russian bear, a metaphor as old as the Crimean War, to describe the relations between Russia and the West. Some analysts, and some  politicians, interpreted his words as a not-so-veiled threat, but in fact it was a much more effective slogan in terms of national politics. As the display of power he made in Moscow evidenced–a corollary of his annexation of the Crimea–he continues to feed into this intangible feeling of making Russians proud of being Russians, proud of celebrating Victory Day. Opinion polls show that in that area he is certainly going in the right direction. Time will tell if Europe is strong enough to de-claw the bear.

 

30
Jan

Arantza de Areilza, Dean of IE School of International Relations, interviews Danilo Türk, former President of the Republic of Slovenia, on the changing security landscape of Europe

9
Jan

After the attack on the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead and five injured, Twitter comments are pouring in from around the world.

Many take the form of one of the magazine’s specialties, cartoons. Foreign Policy has compiled some of them here.

4
Jan

The last year was a bad one for international peace and security. Sure, there were bright spots in 2014. Colombia’s peace process looks hopeful. The last round of Iran’s nuclear talks was more successful than many think. Tunisia, though not yet out of the woods, showed the power of dialogue over violence. Afghanistan bucked its history and has, notwithstanding many challenges, a government of national unity. President Barack Obama’s restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba can only be positive.

But for the most part, it has been a dispiriting year. Conflict is again on the rise after a major decrease following the end of the Cold War. Today’s wars kill and displace more people, and are harder to end than in years past.

The Arab world’s turmoil deepened: The Islamic State captured large swathes of Iraq and Syria, much of Gaza was destroyed again, Egypt turned toward authoritarianism and repression, and Libya and Yemen drifted toward civil war. In Africa, the world watched South Sudan’s leaders drive their new country into the ground. The optimism of 2013 faded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ebola ravaged parts of West Africa, and Boko Haram insurgents stepped up terrorist attacks in northern Nigeria. The international legal order was challenged with the annexation of Crimea by Russia, and war is back in Europe as fighting continues in eastern Ukraine.

So what do the last 12 months tell us is going wrong?

On a global level, increasing geopolitical competition appears, for the moment at least, to be leading to a less controlled, less predictable world. This is most obvious, of course, with regard to the relationship between Russia and the West. It’s not yet zero-sum: The two nations still work together on the Iran nuclear file, the threat of foreign terrorist fighters, and, for the most part, on African peacekeeping. But Russia’s policy in its neighborhood presents a real challenge, and its relationship with the United States and Europe has grown antagonistic.

China’s relations with its neighbors also remain tense and could lead to a crisis in the East or South China Seas. The struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia shapes the contours of violence between Sunnis and Shiites across the Middle East. Major Sunni powers are themselves divided: The contest between the Saudis, Emiratis, and Egypt on the one hand, and Qatar and Turkey on the other, plays out across North Africa. Elsewhere on the African continent, powers jostle in Somalia and in South Sudan’s increasingly regionalized war; and the DRC has long been a venue for its neighbors’ competition over influence and resources.

Rivalry between major and regional powers is nothing new, of course. But hostility between big powers has stymied the U.N. Security Council on Ukraine and Syria — and leaves its most powerful members less time and political capital to invest on other crises. As power gets more diffuse, antagonism between regional powers matters more. Competition between powerful states increasingly lends a regional or international color to civil wars, rendering their resolution more complex. Read more…

By Jean-Marie Guéhenno: Jean-Marie Guéhenno is president and CEO of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

Published on January 2, 2015 in http://foreignpolicy.com

 

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