Our Columnists

Helsinki and Paris – a New Security Architecture for the Euro-Asia Space

Dr Adrian Pabst, Senior Lecturer in Politics, School of Politics and IR, University of Kent; Visiting Professor, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Lille (Sciences Po), specially for wpfdc.org

1. Europe’s new schism?

The continual crisis in Ukraine is perpetuating an East-West schism that was never overcome after the end of the Cold War. Even if there is no all-out war between the major powers involved in the Ukrainian conflict, Europe faces the distinct prospect of a permanent divide at its very heart. The EU increasingly looks like an annex to the United States, which has historically oscillated between isolationism and interventionism. Indeed, since 1893 Washington has practiced regime change (especially in its own ‘backyard’), [1] but it has also periodically retreated from international affairs – whether in the years prior to 1917 or indeed by refusing to participate in the League of Nations during the interwar period. Today the US is once again meddling in European affairs while at the same time pivoting away from the Euro-Atlantic space to the Asia-Pacific rim in order to shore up its interests against the rising power of China (a theme to which I will return shortly).

Meanwhile, Russia has been repeatedly rebuffed by the West in the 1990s and early 2000s, especially in relation to common security arrangements, and it has had to confront an increasingly aggressive brand of Western liberalism – as John Mearsheimer has recently argued in an article in Foreign Affairs [2]. In response, Moscow has turned its attention to Central Asia and the Far East, tightening relations with Eurasian neighbours and other partners as part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). However, there are risks that Russia might become excessively dependent on supplying cheap resources to China. Meanwhile there are signs that Beijing is much more interested in consolidating its own sphere of influence than forging a strategic alliance with Moscow, which it tends to view as a junior partner rather than an equal ally.

For all these and other reasons, the EU and Russia risk finding themselves on the margins of global geo-politics rather than at the forefront. After more than 500 years at the centre of international affairs, the whole of Europe seems increasingly bereft of ideas and incapable of acting as a force for good.

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The Nature of the Protests in Hong Kong

Raffaele Marchetti, Professor of International Relations, LUISS University, Italy, specially for wpfdc.org

Once again street protests and harsh confrontation with the government. Once more the acronym already used many times in the movement “Occupy.” Again governments who fear destabilization from outsiders.

The protests going on in the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong have a triple face. On the one hand they are the result of political dynamics internal to the People’s Republic of China, although arising from the legacy of the long period under the British Crown. On the other are linked in many ways to the demonstrations occurred in recent years in many parts of the world. A third dimension, which remains underexplored so far, relates to the wider policies of international democracy promotion.

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EU Democracy Promotion through Civil Society

Raffaele Marchetti, Professor of International Relations, LUISS University, Italy, specially for wpfdc.org

This is the second of a short series of articles on democracy promotion. The topic has been picked up because of its increasingly controversial nature in international politics. In the first two pieces, the democracy promotion policy carried out by the US and the EU are analyzed. In the remaining articles, a more comparative and critical examination will be developed.

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The Battle for Civilisation

Dr Adrian Pabst, Senior Lecturer in Politics, School of Politics and IR, University of Kent; Visiting Professor, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Lille (Sciences Po), specially for wpfdc.org

In my previous essay, I argued that ISIS and the Islamic State are demonic forces that pose an existential threat to civilisation. We face a battle against barbarism, not a clash of civilisations. Fighting the barbarians who slaughter innocent men, women and children is a battle for civilisation – for ancient ways of life, ancestral homeland, millennia-old traditions and different faith communities such as Oriental Christians and the Yazidi who confront an impossible choice: forced conversion, expulsion or death.

Faced with this horror, we need an alliance of civilisations. That means nothing less than a thorough rethink of our foreign policy and a complete strategic re-alignment. What is required is an end of support for either secular nationalists or Sunni extremists and a radical rapprochement with the forces that can defeat ISIS and the Islamic State – the Kurdish Pershmerga, Iran, Syria and Russia. Fanciful? No doubt. But small steps will merely exacerbate the current crisis. Unprecedented events call for extraordinary measures.

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The Social Costs of the EU-Russia Split

Raffaele Marchetti, Professor of International Relations, LUISS University, Italy, specially for wpfdc.org

There is a big discussion about the high costs that EU Member States and Russia are going to pay as the result of the current waves of sanctions and countermeasures related to the Ukrainian crisis. Currently, the EU exports to Russia € 140 billion, conversely Russia exports to the EU around €180 billion. It is difficult to predict the precise amount of trade that will be lost but it is clear that sanctions on one side, and announce plan for import substitutions on the other will definitely damage the economic intercourse between the two partners.

What has been much less discussed are the social costs attached to the current crisis. They do not occupy the front pages of the newspapers, they are less apparent, but, I would argue, more profound and persistent. And, as a consequence, definitely more worrying.

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The Battle against Barbarism

Dr Adrian Pabst, Senior Lecturer in Politics, School of Politics and IR, University of Kent; Visiting Professor, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Lille (Sciences Po), specially for wpfdc.org

Introduction

For the past few weeks, the world has watched on in horror as ISIS has intensified its barbarian campaign, killing thousands in unspeakably brutal ways and expelling many more. Eyewitness reports tell a gruesome story of summary executions, beheadings and crucifixions – Christians being nailed alive to crosses and left there to be bleed to death. The severed heads and mutilated bodies have been paraded outside conquered villages. Those Christians who have not already been butchered face a brutal choice: convert to Islam, leave, or die by the sword. Most have abandoned their ancestral lands, which in all likelihood ends the uninterrupted 1,700-year presence of Christian communities in northern Iraq.

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Commonwealth and Covenant: from Liberal ‘Dialogue’ and Unilateral Sanctions to the Cooperation among Civilisations

Dr Adrian Pabst, Senior Lecturer in Politics, School of Politics and IR, University of Kent; Visiting Professor, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Lille (Sciences Po), specially for wpfdc.org

1. Introduction

In my previous essay, I argued that liberal ‘dialogue’ fails to promote peace, tolerance and mutual understanding and can even foment both conflict and war. I also discussed the difference of genuine, robust debate and the need to recover the best traditions that grew out of the Axial Age – the strangely coincident fusion around the second century BC of philosophy with theology that centred on a theoretical and practical critique of predominant norms of absolutist power and its foundation upon an irreducible polytheism. Arguably, the advent of critical thought and political resistance was from the outset inextricably intertwined with an appeal to (highly diverse forms of) plural unity connected with religious transcendence – whether in Plato, Buddha or Confucius.

In this essay, I want to show how the notions of commonwealth and covenant can help us re-envision proper cooperation among civilisations whilst preserving their own integrity and irreducible diversity. My argument is that the concept of commonwealth describes multi-national forms of associations that share risks, rewards and resources and that are bound together by substantive ties rather than merely formal, abstract standards (as for liberalism). I also suggest that the concept of covenant is key as it indicates a fundamental concord among the people, often inspired by religious traditions of covenantal ties between God and creation.

Before I can make this case, I will briefly focus on the way in which liberal ‘dialogue’ is inextricably intertwined with a punitive regime of unilateral sanctions that perpetuates conflict and is therefore wholly at odds with the purported liberal commitment to de-escalation and the resumption of cooperation.

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The End of Liberal ‘Dialogue’ and the Difference of Debate: Renewing the Promise of the Axial Age

Dr Adrian Pabst, Senior Lecturer in Politics, School of Politics and IR, University of Kent; Visiting Professor, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Lille (Sciences Po), specially for wpfdc.org

1. Introduction: the current crisis of meaning

There is little doubt that the contemporary world faces a crisis of meaning. After the end of the Cold War, the relative stasis of bi-polarity gave way to a global dynamic that was increasingly unpredictable and volatile. Europe’s ‘multilateral moment’ was quickly supplanted by American hegemony, but the last ten years have witnessed the rise and fall of US unipolarity and the emergence of a multipolar disorder. The ideological battle between capitalism and communism has mutated into a contest for global market shares and central state power at the expense of the autonomous, largely self-regulating intermediary institutions of civil society on which vibrant democracies and market economies ultimately depend.

We have moved from a world of concrete and tangible threats to a world of nebulous risks that exacerbate global uncertainty. Instead of the quest for the common good or the good life, the emphasis has shifted decisively in favour of utility maximisation and the pursuit of individual happiness amid a growing concern with ‘risk management’ (political, financial, environmental, epidemiological, etc.).

Long-term strategic thinking has largely given way to short-term tactical responses to event – without any guiding principles. Amid hypocrisy and double standards, appeals to universal values such as democracy and human rights ring increasingly hollow.

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The Nature of the EU and Its External Projection

Raffaele Marchetti, Professor of International Relations, LUISS University, Italy, specially for wpfdc.org

What is the EU? This is a question that has occupied the debate in the European Union and beyond for many years. Of course the political significance of the question is high because it constitutes a precondition for interpreting its foreign policy action and hence to understand its role in global politics.

One way of addressing the question would simply be to associate the EU to the American superpower. The EU as the closer (and relatively loyal) ally of the US would be the answer. This way, however, the agency of the EU, its autonomy, would be denigrated, if not denied altogether. And yet, there have been hints of a EU autonomous political agency. It is for this reason that we cannot be satisfied with a simplistic response in terms of bandwagoning with the US.
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