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  • Author: Thomas G. Mahnken, Grace B. Kim
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: On NATO’s entire Eastern and South-Eastern flank, the Allies face a major, pressing and subtle challenge. Using sub-conventional grey zone tactics, Moscow has repeatedly tried, and at times succeeded, in expanding its influence, eroding international norms, undermining the rules-based in- ternational order, and shifting the balance of power in its favour. Preventing Russia from launching such op- portunistic acts of aggression is particularly import- ant because its armed forces are developing the ability to attack quickly – under the cover of increasingly capable defences – countries on their periphery in a clear effort to impose a fait accompli.1 NATO countries are at a particular disadvantage in this type of compe- tition. Their force structures consist of expensive and technologically complex information-gathering platforms, such as satellites and manned aircraft, which due to their high costs are also scarce and employed with reluctance by states who generally hesitate to put them in harm’s way. Additionally, the prohibitively high cost of these platforms deters some countries from investing in these types of capabilities. As debates within NATO about cash, capabilities and contributions continue to hold the stage, highlighting Allies’ needs for different types of capabilities – less expensive, more resilient, and relatively more disposable – is important.2 Equal- ly critical is the need for Allies to develop new concepts of operations as well as new organi-zations to employ them effectively. The solution may not involve fielding exotic new capabilities so much as employing existing ones in innovative ways. It will also benefit greatly from approaches that allow Allies and partners to participate fully. If we do not adapt, we risk being surprised by potentially catastrophic events in a future conflict.
  • Topic: NATO, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, Surveillance
  • Political Geography: Europe, North Atlantic, Eastern Europe, North America, Southern Europe
  • Author: Olivier Rittimann
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: What is commonly known as the “Ber- lin Plus” arrangements, signed in March 2003, provides for the European Union (EU) to draw upon NATO’s assets and capabilities for operations in which the Alliance would not be militarily involved. Following lengthy delays incurred by the Cyprus question, it was only as of 2003 that the agreement was successfully implemented with the transfer of operations from NATO to the EU in both the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (2003) and then in Bosnia-Herzegovina (2004). The Berlin Plus agreement guarantees EU access to NATO planning capabilities, which contribute to EU- led military operations through the identification of command options, procedures for release and recall of NATO assets and capabilities, and the exchange of classified intelligence under reciprocal security protection rules. At the end of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia (1999), the EU had no defence staff fit to plan nor conduct an operation, and it is only fifteen years ago that member states established national Operation Headquarters (OHQ), which nations make available for EU operations, as was done in 2006 in the Demo- cratic Republic of Congo and in 2007 in Chad. At the end of the 1990s, the Berlin Plus proposal made em- inent sense: it prevented any duplication (by the EU) of assets and fostered the emergence of a European operational culture. But is the Arrangement still fit for purpose almost 20 years later?
  • Topic: NATO, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Europe, North Atlantic, North America
  • Author: Chloe Berger, Cynthia Salloum
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: Russia’s presence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a significant component of contemporary Russian foreign and security policy. Moscow’s approach to NATO’s South1 has undoubtedly undergone considerable change since the collapse of the Soviet Union. During the Cold War, it had built a set of alliances with Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Algeria and Libya, among others, which gave Moscow important leverage throughout the region. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan stirred resistance and opposition in the Muslim world, marking a major turning point in its Middle Eastern foreign policy. With the demise of its empire, in addition to its economic and military weaknesses, Russia faced a series of new challenges: a further disintegration of its own south, notably in the South Caucasus, the rise of radical extremism in Chechnya and Dagestan and a NATO programme of partnerships and cooperation that threatened its influence. All of these constrained Moscow’s foreign policy at large, including its Middle Eastern arrangements. In pursuing interests above values, Russia, in the last twenty years, developed channels of dialogue and cooperation with several Sunni Arab states traditionally close to the US, including Saudi Arabia, while deepening diplomatic and military ties with Iran and the Syrian regime. Russia maintained relations with Fatah and recognized Hamas after it won the Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, while successfully engaging pragmatically with Israel.2 Keeping contacts open with all relevant parties marks continuity between Soviet and Russian foreign policies. Moreover, in the last decade, the increasing instability across the Middle East and North Africa after the Arab Spring, from which Moscow kept its distance, offered new opportunities for influence and power projection, most notably in Syria and Libya. Putin is tracking two main objectives there: one is building status as a regional actor; the other is enhancing his prestige domestically.3 From the Libyan power vacuum to the US retreat from Afghanistan, the Kremlin is making the most of strategic opportunities and may continue to do so. However, it remains to be seen whether its regained confidence will lead to a more permanent Russian presence and influence. In the South, Moscow has today a relative free rein. But an increasingly mature European Union and most importantly a powerful and more strategically oriented US under President Biden may seriously constrain Russia’s room for manoeuvre. Several drivers, ranging from domestic and economic politics to regional and global geopolitics, could explain Russian involvement in the MENA. Firstly, Russia is building a defensive strategy aimed at reinforcing its front line against Western encroachment and Islamist terrorist attacks. Secondly, it is displaying an expansionist drive, aimed at controlling at least parts of the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean by consolidating old alliances and building new coalitions including with business and arms traders. Thirdly, Russia’s presence in the MENA can be seen as a classic zero-sum game of power politics with the US whereby Moscow is trying to fill the void left by Washington. Last, but certainly not least, it is also driven by domestic considerations that strengthen Putin’s grip on power, and Russia’s regional influence and international prestige. While all these factors play a role, this edited volume shows that opportunism and contingency remain key variables to explain Russian behaviour in the MENA. All of these drivers were somehow on display in Syria, which became an ideal case-study to explain Russian policy in the South. Yet, beyond the specific rationale, some questions still remain about Russia’s future role and influence in the region. Is the MENA region significant enough to help Russia recover a status of global power beyond regional leadership? Do status and prestige suffice, and if so, at what cost? What are Russia’s current and future investments in the region and what are their consequences on trade, energy, and its military posture? What would the real benefits of a Russian return to the MENA region be for its economy and power? Most importantly, what would be the consequences of an assertive Russia for NATO and its partners in the South?
  • Topic: Defense Policy, NATO, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, North Atlantic, North America
  • Author: Andris Banka
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: In recent years NATO has markedly increased its presence in the Baltic states. Relatively “light”, yet highly diverse multinational forces have been placed across the Alliance’s frontline with an underly- ing objective: to deter Russia. In this effort, the United States has served as a critical ballast. The Pentagon has directed sophisticated military exercises and rotated US service members throughout the region. These mea- sures, however, often did not align with US President Donald Trump’s spoken words nor written tweets. This obvious dichotomy disoriented Allied governments and shook bedrock assumptions about US security commitments. As political power changes hands in Washington, this lends an opportunity for a retooling of the transatlantic partnership. Domestically, incoming US President Joe Biden ran on the platform “Build Back Better”. In the spirit of that slogan, this Policy Brief lays out policy cor- rectives that both sides of the Atlantic could pursue to strengthen the US-Baltic security link.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, NATO, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Europe, North Atlantic, North America
  • Author: Heinrich Brauss, Christian Mölling
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: NATO must “stay strong militarily, be more united politically, and take a broader approach 1 globally”. When launching the reflection pro- cess on NATO’s future role, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg set these three priorities to frame his vision of NATO 2030. At their meeting in London in December 2019, NA- TO’s political leaders mandated a “forward-looking re- flection process” on how NATO should further adapt to ensure it was able to successfully cope with a world of competing great powers due to the rise of China and Russia’s persistently aggressive posture, together with instability along NATO’s southern periphery, new trans- national risks emerging from pandemics, climate change and disruptive technologies. Establishing a unified stra- tegic vision is vital for upholding the Alliance’s cohesion, credibility and effectiveness. Looking forward, what does this mean for NATO’s military dimension?
  • Topic: NATO, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Europe, North Atlantic, North America
  • Author: Nathalie Tocci, Riccardo Alcaro, Francesca Caruso, Silvia Colombo, Dario Cristiani, Andrea Dessì, Flavio Fusco, Daniela Huber
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Winds of change are blowing in North Africa and the Middle East. They originate from Washington, where the new Biden administration is expected to abandon its predecessor’s zerosum, erratic approach and take steps towards supporting regional balances and cooperation. Effects are visible especially in the Gulf, with the US pondering its options to re-activate nuclear diplomacy with Iran and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates grudgingly agreeing to put their feud with Qatar on ice. One way or another, these winds of change are working their way through the Levant, the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya. Admittedly, they are still feeble and can easily fade out like a morning breeze. Were that to happen, Europeans would be amongst the most affected – aside, of course, from regional populations themselves. It is now high time for the EU and its member states to leave the backseat they have (un)comfortably been sitting in for years, seize the opportunity of a cooperative US administration and work to play a more proactive role in North Africa and the Middle East commensurate with their considerable financial, diplomatic and military resources.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Military Affairs, Finance
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, North Africa, United States of America
  • Author: Daniela Huber
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Historically speaking, the European Community and then the European Union have always reacted with paradigm changes in their foreign policies to watershed moments in the Middle East. In response to the two Arab-Israeli wars in 1967 and 1973, the European Community actually set up its own foreign policy in the first place and initiated the Euro-Arab Dialogue. After the Camp David Accords, the nine foreign ministers came out with the Venice Declaration in 1980 which reminded its partners in Washington and Tel Aviv that the Palestine question had been ignored and set the parameters for diplomacy in the 1990s. After the Cold War, however, the European Union became absorbed into the so-called Middle East Peace Process (MEPP), resulting in less independent EU agency on Israel/Palestine. This trend has become particularly obvious over the past four years of the Trump presidency, during which time the EU seemed almost paralyzed. While Europeans are now counting on the incoming Biden administration, during the election campaign Joe Biden stated that he will leave the US embassy in Jerusalem and that he is also favourable of the normalization deals between Israel and certain Arab states which President Trump had pushed for. At the same time, the Biden team seems hesitant to return to negotiations.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Human Rights, Territorial Disputes, European Union, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Maria-Louise Clausen
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Denmark assumed leadership of NATO Mission Iraq in late 2020. The Iraqi people’s perceptions of their personal security and of those who provide it can impact the success of this mission. A recent survey provides new insights. At a time of political turmoil and insecurity in Iraq, NATO has vowed to step up its commitment in the region. This happens at a time of increased resistance to the US presence in Iraq, and a deteriorating security situation due to the escalation of the conflict between the US and Iran taking place on Iraqi soil, as well as signs of an Islamic State resurgence. Security is a major concern in Iraq. When respondents were asked to select their most important concern for the Iraqi government to address, the most common choice was ‘maintaining security and stability’ (30.5%), closely followed by the job situation (27.5%), and corruption (26.2%). This should be read in conjunction with the fact that 71.7% of respondents stated that they experience their personal security as currently either only partially or not at all ensured. This was most pronounced among the surveyed Shias, with only 18.8% indicating that they feel fully or partly secure in contrast to 46.7% of Sunni respondents.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, NATO, Democratization, Diplomacy, International Organization, Non State Actors, Fragile States, Violence, Peace, Police, Justice
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Middle East, Denmark
  • Author: Dennis Ross
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A reimagined approach to Iran nuclear talks could extend the country’s breakout time, preserve U.S. negotiating leverage, and strengthen American alliances in Europe and across the Middle East. In the first in a series of TRANSITION 2021 memos examining policy challenges across the Middle East, esteemed diplomat and policymaker Dennis Ross provides an innovative approach to reengaging Iran in nuclear diplomacy. His ideas have the potential to extend Iran’s breakout time, preserve U.S. negotiating leverage, and strengthen U.S. alliances in Europe and across the Middle East. Ross explains: “If regime change is not a realistic or advisable goal, the objective must be one of changing the Islamic Republic’s behavior. While this would be difficult, history shows that the regime will make tactical adjustments with strategic consequences when it considers the price of its policies to be too high.” In the coming weeks, TRANSITION 2021 memos by Washington Institute experts will address the broad array of issues facing the Biden-Harris administration in the Middle East. These range from thematic issues, such as the region’s strategic position in the context of Great Power competition and how to most effectively elevate human rights and democracy in Middle East policy, to more discrete topics, from Arab-Israel peace diplomacy to Red Sea security to challenges and opportunities in northwest Africa. Taken as a whole, this series of memos will present a comprehensive approach for advancing U.S. interests in security and peace in this vital but volatile region.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Nuclear Power, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Erwin van Veen, Nancy Ezzeddine
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: Engaging in the conflict cycle in other countries to gain outcomes favourable to one’s own interests is akin to playing in the champions league of foreign policy. Doing this effectively and responsibly requires a coherent and full-spectrum political strategy as well as the diplomatic, financial, developmental and military means to deliver it. It is clear from the scope of the security interests articulated in the European Union’s (EU) Global Strategy (2016) and its many associated foreign policy statements that the EU intends to meet these requirements. However, study of EU institutional policies and interventions in the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars highlights that it falls well short of doing so. As a result, EU institutions are not well placed to intervene effectively in high intensity conflicts with existential features such as these two civil wars. With this problem in mind, the core recommendation of the paper is to increase the effectiveness of EU interventions in high-intensity conflicts by institutionalising full-spectrum decision making, policy implementation and force deployment modalities for the EU as a whole, as well as for EU coalitions of the willing. The parallel existence of such tracks will enable the EU to act jointly in conflicts where Member States have more or less compatible foreign policy preferences with matching intensity preferences, and to act in part in conflicts where Member States have more or less compatible foreign policy preferences with a mixed distribution of intensity preferences (like Iraq or arguably Syria). EU foreign policy inaction, including institutional paralysis, will continue to occur where Member States’ foreign policy preferences are largely not compatible and have high-intensity preferences.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, European Union, Military Intervention, Conflict, Institutions
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Middle East, Syria