Tag Archives: EU

Cyprus, the Mediterranean Pivot

The declared objective of the government of Nicosia is to use the geo-strategic position of Cyprus, between Europe and the Middle East, to make the country a true energy hub, with a central role in commercial transit and in the provision of European energy.




[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n recent years the Eastern Mediterranean has increased its own strategic importance at an international level following significant discoveries of hydrocarbons. In this region the recent offshore findings of natural gas are radically changing its geostrategic and economic status. Before achieving the ambitious objective of becoming a net exporter of energy the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, and Cyprus in particular, must confront regional challenges and interests-be they of an economic, politico-strategic or, inevitably energy-infrastructure nature-of the major powers in the area.

Two years on from the great discoveries of the Leviathan and Tamar fields on the Israeli coast, December 2011 was the turn of Cyprus: the USA company Noble Energy reported an initial discovery of offshore gas in block 12 of Aphrodite, with an energy potential estimated at between 5-8 trillion cubic feet (140-230 billion cubic metres). Evidence suggests that this area is an extension of the Levante basin: it is still the subject of an initial exploratory phase and, therefore, these initial estimates are considered conservative, with the prospect of their rising in the coming years. There is therefore a potential wealth for the island of enormous proportions. According to some experts, in fact, Cyprus could potentially be sitting on a goldmine of at least 60 trillion cubic feet (1.7 trillion cubic meters) of gas, not considering the potential of the petroleum: it could generate revenue of up to $ 400 billion once commercially exploited.

The declared objective of the government of Nicosia is to use the geo-strategic position of Cyprus, between Europe and the Middle East, to make the country a true energy hub, with a central role in commercial transit and in the provision of European energy. A perspective, however, which does not consider the tensions and several unresolved questions that could hinder the energy development of the island, itself essential in reviving an economy in deep crisis.

Firstly, the strong political destabilisation resulting from the 1974 Turkish military invasion which produced a de facto division of the island, between the Turkish-Cypriot north and the Greek-Cypriot south. The discovery of energy resources in the southern part of Cyprus, as well as an absence of results from research conducted thus far into the offshore areas of the north, have added a new and relevant source of friction in relations between Nicosia and Ankara. The island’s peculiar political situation could therefore constitute a brake on the development of the country’s economy, capable of affecting decisions regarding investment by foreign companies, especially those who have strong interests in Turkey. The latter, in fact, threatened repercussions for those companies which intend to enter into agreements for the exploitation of resources with the Cypriot government. Such is the case for Eni S.p.A. which has seen the suspension of all projects undertaken with Turkey, due to its agreement to exploration signed with Nicosia in January. Ankara, in fact, maintains that such energy resources are located in international waters and that they should benefit all of the island’s inhabitants, and not only Greek-Cypriots. Turkish interests, profoundly connected to energy, therefore emerge. Furthermore, relations between Cyprus and Israel, in particular those relating to a possible project for the liquefaction of gas for export, feed the prospect of an energy partnership. Excluding Ankara, this could provide an alternative route for the transport of gas to Europe and Asia, obstructing the great Turkish mission to become a regional energy hub. According to several analysts, this prospect was one of the reasons behind the rapprochement between Turkey and Israel which, enabling the former to maintain its centrality as the country of transit, and the latter to have optimal conditions available for the export of its gas. Whilst in the long term, the economic advantages of cooperation between Nicosia, Tel Aviv, Athens and Ankara could be more convincing, in the short term, energy pressures feed tensions in an already established hotspot.

It is probable that Turkey’s firm stance on the Cyprus question is one of the reasons behind the Russian decision not to accept the bailout plan hastily proposed by Nicosia, in exchange for licenses for the exploitation of gas fields. To this must be added, among others, the European position and the special relationship between Berlin and Moscow, sealed by the agreement on the Nord Stream gas line, which might have suffered setbacks if Putin had decided to approve a bailout plan for a member country within the EU. Moscow’s position, then, is understandable when considering the multiplicity of interests that the country shares with other regional players, such as Germany, Greece and Turkey: these can be safeguarded only by a strategy of ambiguous realpolitik. Although the issue of the Cypriot bailout has put pressure on the relationship between Nicosia and Moscow, it is difficult to imagine a rupture of relations between the two countries, but rather a redefinition in the interests that still bind them. Moscow, in fact, has long-standing ties with the island of Aphrodite, ranging from banking and finance, to real estate and military strategy. There are strong suspicions, for example, regarding the role played by Cyprus in the trafficking of weapons from Russia to Damascus.

Brussels, for its part, seems determined to impose comprehensive change on the Cypriot business model and on its banking system, thus affecting its status as a tax haven for the offshore investments of Russian magnates. Discoveries of gas in the Cypriot Sea represent a great opportunity for Europe to diversify energy supplies, with respect to Russia’s dominant role. Cyprus’s economic problems, however, which have led to the forced levy on bank deposits, also herald strong domestic discontent:  the EU should not exacerbate the economic situation because, as the multiple demonstrations on the island show, anti-European sentiment is particularly widespread amongst the population and could become a source of political instability. This could obstruct a possible solution to the conflict with Turkey, a central obstacle in Ankara’s access to Brussels.

The framework outlined above seems far from optimistic given that, at least in the short to medium term, the European iron fist on bank accounts, the withdrawal of Russian support and Turkish pressure clamp the island in a vice which will only increase internal malaise and aggravate the downturn in the national economy. A situation which seems as if it will be unable to improve until exploitation of the energy resources of the Aphrodite gas field is at full capacity, something which may require several years.

On the contrary, within an extended timescale the need for cooperation between the main players involved can only increase, due to pressures deriving from the stabilisation of the Cypriot economy and the gradual exploitation of the rich intra-European gas fields. Turkey has already signalled to this effect: conscious of its role as transit towards international markets, Ankara has proposed to Nicosia its help in the development of gas, noting on the other hand that the benefits of such discoveries should be shared by all the inhabitants of the island. In conclusion, one aspect is more certain than others: without a resolution of the dispute over sovereignty of the island, an issue that has dragged on for 40 years now, eventual regional cooperation seems difficult to envisage.


Original Article: Cipro, il pivot del Mediterraneo

Translated by Lois Bond

Photo Credit: magisstra

Hezbollah: A History of the “Party of God”

Hezbollah: A History of the “Party of God” is an exceptional dispassionate analysis of Hezbollah’s early and later years, and should be required reading for anyone interested in the organization or Lebanese history.


Hezbollah flag


Hezbollah: A History of the “Party of God”
Harvard University Press
ISBN 978-0-674-06651-9
Pages: 244

Hezbollah is a movement full of contradictions operating in a country that challenges mainstream Western perceptions of the Middle East. This is the group which has an acute awareness of new media and propaganda, creating a video game and museum surrounding the 2006 war with Israel along with agreeing to play paintball with a group Western journalists and researchers in 2011. The group has also been a suspected actor in attacks on Western targets, most notably the bus bombing in Bulgaria last July, an event which has resulted in recent pressure from Israel and the US for the group to be added to the EU’s designated terrorist list. The group has also been on the US State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list since 1997.

One of the first things done in Dominique Avon and Anaïs-Trissa Khatchadourains’ book, Hezbollah: A History of the “Party of God”, is to state that they will be writing clearly about the organization. This means avoiding terms like ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorist’. For the authors engaging in the debate about what these terms mean (if anything), in an academic context, is neither useful or necessary.The authors brilliantly expose the contractions demonstrated by Hezbollah, summed up in this passage:

When the battles are few, the gap grows between the daily practice of its sympathizers and its discourse. That presents a Cornelian dilemma: the Hezbollah cannot call for an Islamic regime, which would run the risk of losing it allies and some its followers; it also cannot declare that such is not is long-term objective, since that would run the risk of acknowledging that the Islamic Republic of Iran did no inaugurate an era of “God’s government on earth” and that its fundamental structure is not superior to a liberal state, one that is pluralist to varying degrees.

The text is full of nuanced sections such as this. Presenting a fair, accurate, and compelling analysis of the Hezbollah. This is a welcome departure from the information typicallly disseminated by governments and journalists on the organization. The core question explored is how does an organization balance its revolutionary rhetoric with its responsibilities as a member of government.

One critique is of the book’s format. Part I includes 90 or so pages of Hezbollah history in three chapters from 1982-2009. Then the book shifts to 60 plus pages of reproducing Hezbollah documents in English, including the organization’s Political Charter of 2009 and the Open Letter of 1985. The authors then return to their own analysis for a concluding chapter. This is a difficult transition for the reader, from historical analysis, to primary sources, and then back to analysis. One wonders why the authors did not make their argument using quotes from primary sources in a narrative and then provide the primary sources in their entirety in an appendix.

Despite their odd placement, having a solid English translation of these documents in English is an extremely useful resource for the casual reader and researcher alike. In addition to primary source documents the authors have also included a lexicon, which is exceptional at demystifying terms that new researchers to the topic might not know (Adū) and  clarifying the meaning of terms readers may think that they know (Jihād). Two useful maps are located in the back of the text, including one showing the ethno-religious geography of Lebanon and the layout of Beirut. The text also includes a portraits section, detailing significant biographical information on the organization’s key actors. However the most useful supplementary material is the Organizational Chart of the Hezbollah detailing the political, social, and military wings of the party.

Despite its brevity (under 120 pages when not including the translated primary sources) the book feels quite dense. Some of this may be due to the fact that it was written in French and then translated to English by Jane Marie Todd. Practically his means that the text is a bit of a slog to get through, this is further exacerbated by the confusing shift to primary documents and then back to narrative discussed above. Despite these shortcomings, the book is an exceptional dispassionate analysis of Hezbollah’s early and later years and should be required reading for anyone interested in the organization or Lebanese history.


Photo Credit:  upyernoz

Europe Needs Modern Journeymen

Recently Berlin was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Elysee treaty of friendship between Germany and France. The celebration gave rise to several discussions on the status of the European project and the possibility of a political union.

One long standing criticism of supporters as well as opponents of European unification has been the assessment that the European project is very much a elitist idea and undertaking driven by intellectuals and politicians in a top down process. What Europe is lacking is a demos, it’s a Europe without Europeans. Several smart measures have been suggested to remedy this issue, but many are so disconnected from the times we are living in that the are just borderline ridiculous; who still believes that French intellectuals or German novelists are important for European understanding is really lost to this century; this is the old elitist discourse we need to get rid off.

The European experience needs to be made tangible for everyone. University students who have understood the importance of Europe on more than just the intellectual level; on the emotional level, often have enjoyed the benefits of the Erasmus program. However, it is an abomination that such programs that support student mobility across Europe have mainly been limited to university students who due to the nature of their profession have a high affinity to the international world anyway.

What we need in Europe is a massive program to facilitated the exchanged of young trainees and professionals; blue-collar workers. They are most important for the future of the Europe and need to understand that there is something beyond their immediate environment that has important implications for their lives. Giving them the opportunity to learn about foreign countries and cultures is crucial in establishing the necessary awareness. On the more concrete side of things, they will also be able learn new technics and ways of doing business that will enrich their lives and work at home. This idea is not a pipe dream; an historical precedent exists.


Photo credit: fdecomite

Euro-sceptic? Eur-so-silly

David Cameron’s speech is a mere publicity stunt instrumented to falsely ensure us of democratic legitimacy, through making it seem as though we all have a choice over our country’s future.


united nations flag


Today Prime Minister David Cameron declared he is set to make negotiations with the EU in relevance to treaty changes and the euro. As you would expect from a politician (especially a Tory), Cameron is presenting us with a more tactical, underlying negotiation which is quite simply, “A vote for Conservatives in the next election is a vote for an in/out of the European Union referendum.

Last month, Anti-EU party UKIP increased its share of the vote from 6 per cent to 9 per cent. This rise in popularity massively reflects the British populaces increasing intolerance of the EU, and a prime reason for this is the general attitude towards immigration. Take for instance YouGov’s latest poll for the Sunday Times, which revealed, rather unsurprisingly, that 67% of people believe that immigration has been a ‘bad thing for Britain’ with the second majority, 18% believing it has been ‘neither good nor bad’.

It was Gordon Brown who coined the term ‘British jobs for British workers’. In 2011, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) produced a report that made the headlines; take for instance the Daily Mails’ choice, ‘Migration is killing off jobs: 160, 000 Britons have missed out on employment because work was taken my foreigners’ – not quite the snappy title I was hoping for. Alongside Brown’s pledge, this outbreak of outrage in the media was symbolic of the increasing mass hostility towards immigration. One could even argue not only did it encourage public opinion towards the topic, but created it too. Nonetheless, the subject of supposed scandal here is as shallow as scandal gets. Firstly, a job is a job – I’m not quite sure what makes it British. (According to Chris Bryant, this is ‘hospitality construction and agriculture’) . More importantly, the allegation that immigrants ‘fill the limited vacancies which exist in the fragile UK economy’ is pure fiction. This is the lump of labour fallacy; the notion that there is no such thing as limited jobs.

Then again, these are the type of people complaining about “no jobs”.

The article goes on to manipulatively inform its readers that immigration is ‘full of loopholes, such as an exemption for so-called “intra-company transfers”, which allow firms to bring in thousands of their existing staff from abroad’. It is absolutely absurd to undermine the act of bringing competently skilled workers into the British labour force a “loophole” in immigration policy, considering that is a chief beneficiary of immigration.

Cameron believes the best way to create a democratically accountable Europe is for the British population to vote on whether they want to be a part of it or not. He says, “It is time for the British people to have their say. This will be your country… a choice about your country’s destiny.” Other than sounding like Uncle Sam encouraging young American boys to sacrifice themselves in the name of war, it is utter rubbish. Whilst Nigel Farage has successfully infiltrated popular opinion through highlighting the costs of the UK’s EU membership, the government has failed to educate the British people on the benefits.

The only source the British people of this “democracy” have to base their views on, are newspapers – the most popular being subliminally fascist tabloids such as the Daily Mail. Cameron’s speech is a mere publicity stunt instrumented to falsely ensure us of democratic legitimacy, through making it seem as though we all have a choice over our country’s future . Well, democracy doesn’t mean shit when the people don’t know shit.

It is time for UKIP, the Tory’s and the like, to realise that leaving the EU may cover the odor of the turd that this situation is, but it certainly won’t stop the UK from being in a faecal matter.


Photo Credit: dimnikolov

Oil And Gas Pricing- Too Close For Comfort?

Separating gas indexation from oil prices would mean that major gas suppliers in Europe would lose income. Therefore they prefer that gas indexing is coupled with oil, ensuring it’s long-term gas supply contracts and bringing it closer to controlling an EU wide natural gas monopoly.


US California high gas prices sign[dhr]

Gas has been indexed to oil prices ever since the 1960s. It was convenient for gas sellers and gas buyers to have ‘certainty regarding both volume and price as the gas was priced in the contracts at the price of the competing fuels’, this has resulted in a lack of ‘gas-to-gas competition’ and higher than necessary prices for consumers, according to Oil & Gas UK Economic report 2011.

Currently, 90% of the gas consumed in Continental Europe is sold under long-term contracts with oil price indexation that have been extended beyond 2030. One of the main strengths of indexing gas price to oil is to have the security of supply, if gas is to be sold at the continental supply hubs, countries need to know that gas will always be there in order not to risk energy shortage. However the recent US shale gas boom has unleashed a new age of cheap gas, which could trigger changes in gas indexation to oil.

Back in 1989 The Monopolies and Mergers Commission found that there was no competition between gas and oil. The decision to keep gas prices reliant on oil comes from the companies’ interests in keeping high gas prices in the spot market. John Huggins, former director of Gas Transportation, British Gas, said: ‘Changing this situation is likely to be a slow process unless there is a shock to the system from a sudden influx of extra supplies into the spot market.’

Recently Ofgem, the energy regulator, has launched investigations into claims that power firms are manipulating the wholesale price of gas. Because the prices are inflated on the wholesale market, the domestic bills are increasing too. Mr. Clark, Financial Secretary to the Treasury at the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme focused on the need to fine the profiteering power companies: ‘ when it’s as serious as this they should be punished very severely.’ However it is not clear how this would benefit the taxpayer since the fine would simply be passed on to consumers through increased bills and there is no mention of customers receiving compensation payments. This approach of dealing with the symptoms of a malfunctioning trading system rather than the causes is by no means a long-term solution.

At the same time Europe’s commitment to implement the third Energy Liberalisation Package, which says that energy supply, production and transmission activities must be separated in order to promote regional solidarity and security in gas supply is being compromised. The EU law requires ‘all energy companies active in the European market to run their supply, transport and sales businesses separately’.

However eight EU countries including Russia (Gazprom), Germany, France refused to start ‘full ownership unbundling’ in which a parent company sells its transmission networks to a different firm. Gazprom, the Russian state owned natural gas producer, is increasing its’ influence in Europe and reinforcing it’s supply chain. Recently during an asset swap with German BASF, Gazprom took over its’ natural gas trading and storage businesses. Separating gas indexation from oil prices would mean that Gazprom, the leading gas supplier to Europe, would lose income. Therefore it prefers to keep the indexing coupled with oil ensuring it’s long-term gas supply contracts and bringing it closer to controlling an EU wide natural gas monopoly.

One major threat to Gazprom’s near monopoly of the EU gas market and the old-world thinking regarding oil and gas indexing is the recent advent of shale gas. Shale gas deposits are evident in many EU countries and could quickly diversify the supply and lead to a rethinking of the pricing structures. The sudden increase in gas output from shale gas could lead to genuine gas- to-gas competition and lower prices for consumers.


Photo Credit:  youtube_user_willtrade4food

European Separatism: Three Weddings & A Funeral

Nations only break up over clear and irreconcilable differences between different groups found within a country. In the context of the the recent wave of European separatism Belgium seems to be the only real contender for separation.


Catalonia Is Not Spain


Since the re-election of President Barack Obama, the White House has received numerous petitions totaling over 100,000 signatures from various states (mostly Texas) asking for permission to secede from the Union for the perceived violate of the citizen’s rights as Americans. Although this may just be a case of some sore losers, the idea of separation from a state has moved back into the forefront recently, especially in Europe.

In September, approximately one million Catalonians marched through the streets of Barcelona demanding greater autonomy for their nearly bankrupt region. Belgium appears to be heading to a national divorce between the French and Flemish portions of the culturally and economically divided country. Meanwhile, the Scots have agreed with the Brits to a Fall 2014 referendum on independence, so the clock is ticking on the United Kingdom. At the same time the Germanic influenced northern Italian region of South Tyrol appears to want to flee the “taxing oppression” of Rome by establishing their own free state in the Alps.  It seems that the adage “if you don’t like [X country] you can get out” still holds true today. The question is what is driving this separation anxiety and what are the prospects for these new countries if they do break away? History shows us that there are few examples of the peaceful separation of a nation into separate and distinct units, with the vast majority of national divorces coming as a result of a civil war or the collapse of an authoritarian regime. Looking around the world, the peaceful and amicable division of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia is one of the few successful examples that can be cited.

When pondering a national divorce, much like a troubled marriage, you have to look to the causes of the problems and whether or not the parties involved actually do want to see the division go through without immediate (or long term) regrets. Nations only break up over clear and irreconcilable differences between groups found within the current geographic boundaries, which is why these divorces are so often bloody. Many of the above examples do not show these reparable issues with much of the current separatist sentiments originating from the 2008 financial crisis and revolving around the question of who is to blame and why. Although the causes of the financial crisis are well known and the ripple effects of the contagion that followed have been charted; the treatment for the disease in many cases appears to be just as bad as the illness itself. This of course has been austerity that governments of Europe have been trying to implement, which has sparked protests across Europe as the average person feels they are paying the price for the perceived greed of bankers and the ignorance of governments. This austerity has resulted not only with anger towards national governments but dissatisfaction within parts of various nations’ populations towards other groups who are seen as taking more than their fair share.

It is from this dissatisfaction that the separatist sentiment grows, people feel betrayed and disconnected from their national government and for security they look towards local and regional structures as well as historical cultural or linguistic ties for a measure of safety. The separatist tendencies that develop then act as a form of threat to the national government accountable in an effort to leverage greater influence for their local, regional or cultural concerns. Unfortunately, for these local concerns, due to the interconnected nature of the world today, their separatist decision making and threats have impacts far beyond the scope of conflict that many separatist supporters perceive.

Many believe that forming a new country is relatively easy. You would vote yes in a referendum, negotiate a separation package and declare independence but it is not that simple. Multilateral agreements that have been signed by the current states may not pass onto the breakaway region as the new state would have not been a signatory to the original agreement. In the case of these potential European breakaways, this could mean no EU membership, the loss of the Euro and exclusion from European organizations. There are the questions of transferring their share of a national debt to the new nation. How do you divide up the debt? What formula can be used? More or less every policy area from immigration to environment and economic to military would have to be analyzed and codified by this new nation.

This brings us back to the turmoil within Europe, and looking at the situations objectively the odds are not in the favour of the want to be countries. Frankly, the protests in Spain are little more than a call for greater tax and spending rights (similar to those of the famously separatist Basque region) as Catalonia much like the rest of Spain is nearly bankrupt and could not financially survive on its own. For South Tyrol, although their Governor calls his citizens the “First Class Passengers” of the ship that Italy is and plans a constitutional challenge to the new tax measures, a new state of just over 500,000 people would likely struggle to maintain economy competitiveness within Alpine Europe. As for the Scots, although it is approximately 2 years from the referendum date, latest polls of referendum voting intentions from this past October show a 28% Yes vs 53% No, meaning that First Minister Alex Salmond has a lot of hearts and minds to win over in order to overturn the status quo in the coming two years. This leaves Belgium which seems to be the only real contender for separation. After almost two years without a functioning national government only ended when a six-party coalition was formed, recent local elections saw separatist leader Bart De Wever elected Mayor of Antwerp, a position that will be used as a springboard to set up a showdown in the 2014 national elections where the fate of Belgium will likely be decided.


Photo Credit: imcountingufoz

[JR] [JH]

Will The Dragon Swallow The Bear?

If Russia’s future boils down to a choice between the East and the West, maybe it’s just about time for Moscow to start reconsidering its troubled relationship with Europe


The Kremlin, Moscow, Russia


“Russia’s death will come in either of two ways – from the East by the sword of the awakened Chinese, or through the voluntary merger with a pan-European republican federation”. These stunning words were written by Konstantin Leontyev, a Russian philosopher, already in 1891. His judgment might be very close to the truth if one takes a closer look at what has been happening within the last decade in the vast, wild country of Far Eastern Siberia. Spanning over spectacular 6.2mln square kilometers, Far Eastern District is home to a mere 6.2 million people (population of Israel). Those 6 millions are mostly native Russians as well as some semi-nomadic indigenous tribes, who live in the wilderness breeding reindeers and cattle. Yet, since the collapse of Soviet Union, Siberian lands East of Baikal Lake have become home to hundreds of thousands (precise numbers are unknown) of Chinese, whose community has been growing exponentially every year since 1998.  Russia and China share a 2,038 mile-long border – one the longest in Asia. But there is a stark difference between a life in the South and the North – Chinese border provinces house ca. 110 million people, who have harvested the fruits of economic boom and indulged in development and unprecedented wealth for over a decade, whereas their Slavic neighbours were left with a feeling of gloom, frustration and abandonment by Moscow, watching from far away how the Russian cities West of Ural blossomed, showered with oil and gas money.

This is why scarcely populated, undeveloped and relatively impoverished Russia’s Far East has become an increasingly attractive destination for China’s investments. One of the areas of such investment is farming. Infinite amount of uncultivated land makes a perfect opportunity for the production of cheap food for Chinese markets. For example, in the Birobidzhan oblast, Stalin-made Jewish enclave, Chinese companies have already rented out hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland and more is being bought or rented every year for cultivation. These companies do not hire locals, but bring their compatriots to do the seasonal work in the field. In the cities, Chinese businessmen run numerous enterprises, from shopping malls to vodka distilleries, hiring Chinese workers, and flooding Siberia with Chinese products, capital and culture. The invasion from the South makes Russians feel a bit like strangers in their own country but little choice they have, they accept for the most part foreigners’ presence. Without them, their cities and villages would never gain an equally good opportunity to advance economically. Nevertheless, fear of being overwhelmed by a populous and powerful neighbour is also spreading. To demonstrate just how much attention Chinese influx draws among Russian policymakers, one can look at Prime Minister Medvedev warning directed towards China in August this year, in which he stated that it is “important not to allow negative manifestations, including the formation of enclaves made up of foreign citizens”, as well as emphasized Russia’s need to defend itself against “excessive expansion by bordering states”.

On the other hand, Far Eastern District was the only Russian governorate in 2009 to experience a growing, rather than contracting, economy.  This growth was fuelled by Beijing’s growing appetite for Siberian great riches above and underneath the ground – timber, oil, gas and steel. Kimkan mine near Birobidzhan, now owned by a Chinese conglomerate IRC, holds ca. 1bln tonnes of iron ore and that’s just one single mine in this enormous country. Now, Kimkan’s iron has replaced imports from Brazil as a cheaper, more available source. Chinese lumberjacks smuggle thousands of tons of timber from Russia and sell them to wood mills back at home. China is also interested in Siberian water reservoirs as more and more of its cities suffer from water shortages, whereas Baikal lake contains a fifth (!) of world’s sweet water.  Yet, the most important project so far, which skyrocketed the value of Chinese-Russian trade, was the opening of an oil pipeline in January last year. This pipeline carries almost 15mln tones of oil every year directly into China. Another 15mln tons are transported to the Kozmino seaport near Vladivostok, and shipped to farther regions of Southern China. The pipeline project also was politically motivated on Moscow’s side – Putin wanted to send a message to EU that it’s not irreplaceable as a trade partner, and Russia doesn’t appreciate how Brussels constantly patronizes her and preaches how to run its domestic politics. If in Putin’s eyes, China is a better alternative than the EU, should then Russia view Chinese penetration of its Far Eastern territories as a security threat?

A threat from China does not come in a form of unparalleled value of trade between the two countries or from what is, as of now, the best period in Sino-Russian relations in history. The threat comes in size disparities, as Russia will never be able to compete with China, financially, economically nor militarily. Firstly, Russian state control of its Far Eastern territories is weak and Chinese are taking advantage of it very well. Scarce population in the area is mostly to be blamed, but widespread corruption and general social malaise are also at play. Declining native Russian population facilitates Chinese buyout even more. Moreover, Moscow also becomes increasingly dependent on China on its hard currency inflow – China has already taken over Germany as Russia’s biggest partner, whereas Russia is only on the eighth place in China’s trade balance and fifth in energy trading. With Russian physical presence virtually vanishing year by year, Far Eastern District, and in the end all of Siberia might become a Chinese dominion, which will fuel its titanic industrial sector, making China largely resilient to fluctuations in global resource prices. In the worst-case scenario, it will also allow China to become a virtually invincible military power, which will wield huge human resources, enormous industry to produce firearms, as well as its own, reliable source of energy and materials right from across the border. Russia’s traditional military strategy, which worked so well in past wars with Europe and which can be summed up as “human quantity over arms quality” supported by insurmountable resource capacity, will lose any value in the face of a conflict with 1bln-people-strong country. Fears of losing Siberia to China can be far-fetched, but looking at a current dispute between China and Japan over Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, Chinese takeover of Siberia cannot be ruled out and should definitely become a central theme in Russian foreign policy thinking. Russia still aspires to be a peer to other global powers in this increasingly multilateral world, but a powerful neighbour encroaching on its greatest treasures can substantially impede its ability to exercise a successful foreign policy.

So if Russia’s future boils down to what Leontyev prophesied over a hundred years ago, a choice between the East and the West, maybe it’s just about time for Moscow to start reconsidering its troubled relationship with Europe.


Photo Credit yvescosentino

Germany: The Illusionary Giant

It is a mistake to depict Germany as a hegemonic power; in fact, Germany is a illusionary giant.  It yields much less power within the EU than many believe and its influence is actually decreasing.



[dropcap]“M[/dropcap]r. Tur Tur, the illusionary giant, is a gentle and modest person, and tragically alone because everybody is afraid of him when he seems to be a giant from the distance.” Increasingly, Germany’s stance in Europe looks like Mr. Tur Tur from Michael Ende’s fairy tale: Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver. While I write these words, protesters are crowding the streets of Athens to protest the austerity measures that Greece has been subjected to. They blame the European giant: Germany. Clearly, when people make a national past-time out of burning your flag you have reached a special status as a country. This privilege is reserved for powerful and despised states (such as the US or Israel). For Germans this sight is new and understandably uncomfortable. They ask what they have done to deserve such treatment. The complexities of the financial entanglement escape the normal citizen and they perceive the behavior of Greek protesters as ungrateful at best; after all Germany has bailed out Greece with their tax money. The current German government has avoided explaining the benefits of the Euro and a stable Greece to its population leaving a lot of frustration on both sides; Greeks affected by the austerity measures and Germans mistreated for their charitableness. Germans have forgotten what happened when the former social democratic and green government reformed the social and unemployment system (in Germany the reforms are known as Hartz IV and Agenda 2010). The reforms brought down the government. And while it is those reforms that many today say are responsible for German stability and good performance, it is nothing compared to the revolution in Greek society that has been taken place over the past months.

This mismatch between public perception and reality extends further. Germany is really not the giant that many believe it to be. In addition to a lack of strategic visionGermany is losing political clout in Europe; it has lost key European allies and its ability to dominate the direction of anti-crisis policies in Europe. The Paris-Berlin axis was destroyed by the election of Francois Hollande, and other traditional allies have either withdrawn from rescue mechanisms or have increased the demand for regulation of recipient countries. In contrast to smaller countries, Germany cannot veto policies when such a veto might cause chaos on the financial markets. A German exit from the Euro is not a credible threat: it has long been noted that such a maneuver would lead to a rise of the new currency’s value and a disaster for the export-dependent German economy.

Domestically, Germany might be less stable than the mainstream perception currently suggests. Instability related to currency has high impacts on the German economy and a renewed crisis in the US economy would have a severe impact on German exports. For the past years Chancellor Merkel has dragged her feet on several important issues. The demographic development in Germany is dramatic, and dwindling immigration will soon have an impact on the country’s economy. When it comes to education Germany ranks far bellow the level that would be necessary for a major industrial nation today. Merkel’s government has taken any steps to address those issues and in general has proven to be rather inefficient when it comes to policy-making.

I have said before that it is a mistake to depict Germany as a hegemonic power; in fact Germany is a illusionary giant, it yields much less power within the EU than many believe and its influence is actually decreasing. With necessary reform left unattended, the economic success the perception is based on might also be a straw fire.


Photo Credit: Pennello

Germany Should Grow A Pair

The worst economic crisis since 1929 is not a time for a step-by-step policy Merkel-style, but for radical change that will save the European Union from marginalisation within global politics.


European Union Flags Diplomacy Sovereignty


In 1862, Bismarck famously proclaimed that German territories should be unified with blood and iron. Unification was supposed to secure German territories from a geopolitical threat posed by powerful France, Britain and Russia.  Nine years later, a German alliance won a war with France. Bismarck used the victory to force smaller duchies and kingdoms of the Reich to yield their power to the Prussian throne. Unified Germany became a global superpower and plays this role until today. Now, it is time for Germany to do the same with the rest of EU and secure Europe’s status in an increasingly multilateral world.

But Germany of the 19th century is different from EU of the 21st, yesterday’s emphasis on blood and iron has been replaced today by capital and budgets. Conventional wars are no longer commonplace, and Europe does not need an army the size of America’s to secure its interests around the globe. Today’s wars are fought within stock markets; businessmen are soldiers and central banks are the supreme commands. A country’s strength is no longer measured by the number of tanks owned, but by its macroeconomic results and the capital it operates.

How does the European Union plan to compete with the globe’s biggest players if it does not even possess a unified financial and budgetary system? Within the current Eurozone system, the currency is common, but budget policies are made independently by each members, a decision no state would ever allow in its domestic financial system.  Imagine if each of England’s counties could run their own budgets and carry their own borrowing costs, but use the same currency to calculate their debts. It simply does not work that way.  Sooner or later, poorer counties would run out of cash and would have to introduce their own currencies to regulate their debt. In the Eurozone, the European Central Bank wants to avoid this situation by showering the indebted countries with virtual money, which prolongs their agony, rather than cures their disease. In addition, private investors go for an easy buck, taking advantage of ECB’s bailouts by demanding irrationally high interest on loans for peripheral Eurozone states.

The Eurozone, and in the long-term all of the European Union needs fully integrated public financing. The next logical step towards a unified Europe is to introduce Eurobonds and centralised budgeting policy financed through a common federal income tax. This will reduce investors’ speculations and put an end to irrational welfare spending by reckless politicians. It will also significantly accelerate EU’s decision-making and improve balanced development across the EU. The list of profits is long and enticing.  Many would argue that public financing operated by Brussels would not be perfect and it would give yet another area where bureaucrats’ limitless imagination could thrive, but that’s a small price to pay if we still want the EU to count in the global arena.

The question is how can it be achieved. Multilateral negotiations so far have been extremely successful in establishing a European institutional framework, but one has to remember that this was before Europe suffered an identity crisis, and at a time when the economy was prosperous and future seemed bright. It will be hard to rebuild confidence for the EU within society. Southerners already fear German hegemony, while the Germans don’t want to hand out money for laziness and incompetency. The only country which can really make a difference is the good old Deutschland, which is viewed in the South to be a sort of a boogeyman, who wants to turn all those Italians and Greeks enjoying their life on the beach into blond, blue-eyed robots working 24/7. This image is plain idiotic and dangerous for all of Europe, as it demonises what is the only possible way for Europe to survive.  To make things worse, the United Kingdom bails on common budgetary discipline to safeguard its financial sector, while Hungary descends into a semi-autocratic regime. It seems that the last big European country which is still enthusiastic about the European project is Poland,  but that doesn’t really change much in a wider picture.

That’s why it is so important for Germany to finally get over its post-war trauma, grow a pair, and lead Europe to fully-fledged federal union, the United States of Europe. The worst economic crisis since 1929 is not a time for a step-by-step policy Merkel-style, but for radical change that will save the European Union from marginalisation within global politics. European countries can fool themselves into believing that they can go on profiting from the common European framework without giving up sovereignty, but sooner or later they will have to realise there is no way for the EU to maintain its position in the world without committing itself to a federal system with common budget and central executive. Europe of Nations, which some Eurosceptic circles propose, is no alternative to United Europe and it will not grant us security in the long-term and in the end, seal our doom.


Photo Credit: futureatlas.com

China’s Growing Role In Counter-Piracy Operations

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has now maintained a counter-piracy presence in the Indian Ocean for four years. This begs the question: why is China becoming increasingly cooperative in counter-piracy operations?


PLA Missile Tracking Ship


[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he rise of China is one of the prominent issues that scholars of International Relations encounter today and will continue to do so in the future. The PLAN deployment is a fascinating component of the wider China debate as it represents the first time that Chinese vessels have conducted a ‘far-seas’ operation to protect Chinese interests since the fifteenth century. Even more remarkable is the fact that the typically isolationist and paranoid Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is now openly cooperating with a variety of traditional foes in the area of counter-piracy; states such as India, Japan and the US are now closely communicating and operating in conjunction with their PLAN counterparts in the Indian Ocean.

This raises a series of intriguing questions. From a Chinese perspective, what are the motivating factors behind this operation? Is it economic, political or geostrategic concerns that have driven the PLAN to cooperate in the Indian Ocean? Is this deployment merely benign in nature or does it imply an element of self-interest? Why is China cooperating over the issue of piracy when it refuses to align itself with international norms, for instance, human rights?

PLAN Deployment

This deployment did not arise out of a policy vacuum; when Jiang Zemin was replaced by Hu Jintao in 2002 he affirmed that the PLAN must develop towards ‘far-seas defence, enhancing the far-seas manoeuvring operations capabilities’. In the years since Hu’s statement, there has been a significant evolution in the PLAN capacity from a ‘near-seas active defence’ strategy (jinhai jiji fangyu) to ‘far-seas operations’ strategy (yuanhai zuozhan). Chinese defence expenditure has enlarged year after year in line with its burgeoning economy; official figures show that, prior to the PLAN counter-piracy operation began, defence expenditure rose to RMB417.876 billion (USD65.71 billion) in 2008, representing an increase of 17.5% upon the previous year. Thus, with an enlarged budget and a new ‘far-seas’ doctrine, the naval modernisation observed in the PLAN has certainly influenced the Chinese decision to join the international response in the Indian Ocean.

Traditionally, the East and South China Seas have been the significant regional chokepoints that had a strategic bearing on Chinese interests; however, as mentioned in the introduction, the Indian Ocean has now become a crucial expanse for China due to piracy, rising energy demand and trade interdependence. Hijackings, such as the Tianyu 8 and Zhenhua 4 incidents, are appropriate examples of how piracy is detrimental for Chinese trade.

Subsequently, the passing of UN Security Council resolutions 1814, 1816 and 1838 provided the PLAN with the supranational authority it required and it joined the international counter-piracy effort on 26 December 2008, becoming fully operational on 6 January 2009. In searching for legitimacy to conduct this operation, it is expected that the presence of the EU, NATO and CTF-151 counter-piracy task forces had a positive influence upon China’s decision.

Chinese caution towards a potential deployment can be explained by the realpolitik that remains embedded in a post-Mao China and an enduring belief in the adages of Deng Xiaoping. A former PRC leader himself, Deng recommended that the Chinese leadership ‘bide time’, maintain a low profile and take advantage of international opportunities to gradually maximise its power and position in the world. China seemingly aspires to take advantage of the unique situation of Somali piracy rather than become an established torch-bearer of international peace and security. By participating in counter-piracy operations, China is afforded the opportunity to deploy into the far-seas without an immediately hostile reaction from the international community.

Counter-Piracy Cooperation

The PLAN signified upon the initiation of the deployment that its undertaking would primarily consist of the independent escort of Chinese and foreign vessels. Despite its underdeveloped operational capabilities in comparison with other naval forces, it is clear that China wishes to be both seen and consulted as an equal within the international counter-piracy effort. China is not comfortable with communicating openly with institutions such as the EU and NATO as they do not represent a single voice but a multitude of perspectives; Beijing much prefers to conduct dialogue on a bilateral basis.

In the wider operational dimension, China has repeatedly declined proposals to integrate with the collective maintenance of the International Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC). Again, China does not wish to integrate itself within a multinational command structure. Instead, China conducts its escort operations approximately ‘five nautical miles north and south of the IRTC’ rather than within the box system. Whilst the PLAN is still a ‘green-water’ navy and their model of participation is not unusual among the other independent actors, the refusal to participate in the IRTC indicates that China is not prepared to truly contribute to the ‘global good’ in a manner that is harmonious with the Western world, as much as its rhetoric suggests otherwise.

However, there are now signals that China’s actions in the Indian Ocean might begin to match their rhetoric; their counter-piracy strategy is outwardly evolving to incorporate a greater degree of coordination with the broader counter-piracy coalition. The first year of the PLAN was characterised by unilateralism, but the De Xin Hai hijacking on 19 October 2009 served to alter PLAN perceptions on counter-piracy cooperation when maritime cooperation could have prevented such an episode. It is widely agreed that only rigorous cooperation and coordination can help the international community to deal with the problem of piracy in an efficient way at sea.

Accordingly, the PLAN has taken progressive steps to enhance coordination with other navies in the Indian Ocean. Firstly, the key to successful and effective coordination is to communication and consequently, a web-based communication system entitled Mercury has been introduced amongst all naval forces apart from Iran. Secondly, China concluded an agreement in January 2012 with its traditional enemies, Japan and India, to strengthen coordination and adjust each other’s escort schedules to achieve maximum efficiency in the fight against piracy.

Lastly, and most importantly, are the coordination mechanisms of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) and the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) group. China was a founding member of the CGPCS as it is based around ‘voluntary cooperation’ in counter-piracy rather than under the command of another power or institution. SHADE is a scheme that assembles the wider counter-piracy community for regular meetings in Bahrain. China has now participated in the rotating chairmanship of the SHADE meetings and even expressed an interest in a co-chair position, usually held by the EU, CMF or NATO. However, this initial interest never materialised.

Nevertheless, it is patently clear that China is unwilling to enhance collaborative efforts with the wider counter-piracy community. Reasons for collaborative deficiency in Chinese foreign policy vary from a lack of operational experience to a lack of political will; it is true that much mistrust remains over ideological differences and issues such as human rights and Taiwan.

PLAN Motives

This defensive position is reflected in the PLAN’s counter-piracy deployment and their coordination with the international effort in several ways: firstly, the Indian Ocean represents a vital strategic arena in which China’s energy security is increasingly vulnerable. Secondly, China has evidently taken extra care not to arouse the ‘China threat’ theorem in its counter-piracy and wider foreign policies. Secondly, China is clearly endeavouring to protect Chinese national interests through the PLAN deployment and their naval modernisation. Thirdly, Chinese naval diplomacy in the Indian Ocean signifies a defensive policy, not one of aggression. Lastly, China is practicing ‘security through cooperation’ unilaterally with traditional foes.

What is clear is that the Indian Ocean is a vital arena for China; every year some 100,000 cargo ships pass through the Indian Ocean, as well as 66% of the world’s oil shipments. The significance of this expanse becomes apparent upon learning that Chinese total energy consumption from 2005 to 2012 has risen 60% and is predicted to increase a further 72.9% between now and 2035. Accordingly, there is now a growing energy demand within China to sustain its economic growth and, as the majority of China’s oil imports derive from Africa (Angola, Sudan) and the Middle East (Saudi Arabia), it is obvious that the Indian Ocean is the critical route for its external energy requirements.

China has been determined to dispel the ‘China threat’ theory. Before the PLAN deployed in the Indian Ocean, they waited patiently to gauge the international reaction to the counter-piracy mission. They also ensured that the deployment had the authorisation of both the Somali government and the UN. In line with the maxims of Deng Xiaoping, China knows that any sign of aggressive behaviour would be criticised by the international community and potentially harm their development. Thus, China is essentially employing a neo-Bismarckian strategy, manoeuvring peacefully towards Great Power status without provoking the international community into a counter-balancing reaction.

This is embodied within China’s ‘peaceful rise’ policy. Chinese actions and rhetoric attest to this guiding principle in the CCP’s foreign policy; the counter-piracy operation in aid of the global commons allows China to justify their naval modernisation, along with the opportune location of the piracy problem. China speaks of a foreign policy that pursues ‘peace and promotes friendly cooperation with all countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence’, in addition to Hu Jintao’s ‘harmonious world’ vision.

Moreover, Chinese counter-piracy policy is distinctly aimed towards the protection of Chinese national interests. There is an evident gap between China’s defensive interests and its actual capabilities; therefore, it is aiming to close this gap through the advancement of the PLAN’s operational capabilities, increased field experience and the acquisition of modern naval assets. For example, China has now acquired its first ever aircraft carrier, the ex-Soviet Varyag, and it is expected to become operational by the end of 2012.

By coordinating in the counter-piracy effort, China is able to learn how a ‘far-seas’ fleet is operated, offer PLAN personnel invaluable experience for future expeditions, and gain knowledge from other international naval forces. Thus, China has evolved its naval strategy to meet the demands of its expanding interests in the Indian Ocean and it can therefore be deduced that the PLAN deployment is an extension of this defensive strategy.

As a result of the PLAN’s new ‘far-seas’ mantra, the counter-piracy deployment has also increased Beijing’s diplomatic network across the Indian Ocean. After each task force rotation, the PLAN ‘sails along the East coast of Africa and visits Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Madagascar and the Seychelles’ to parade the Chinese flag and to foster goodwill within these countries. Further Chinese engagement with the Indian Ocean littoral states consists of port and refuelling developments at Gwadar in Pakistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Chittagong in Bangladesh with the Seychelles also offering China an invitation to establish a military presence on the islands.

Yet, by cooperating to some extent with traditional regional adversaries, China hopes that it can begin to assuage their doubts about their growth as a power and hopefully continue along the path of development. On cooperation in counter-piracy and the wider Indian Ocean region it is imperative that China ‘go along to get along’ in protecting their national interests.

As Donald Rumsfeld proffered, it is ‘the mission that determines the coalition’ and the issue of piracy has clearly determined China’s participation and cooperation with the international community in the Indian Ocean. From a Chinese perspective, they have participated out of self-interest; on a wider scale, their participation has been facilitated by the ad-hoc regime that has emerged. For China to protect its national interests and continue on its path towards a ‘peaceful rise’ it now appreciates that ‘problems will be global – and solutions will be, too’; this is what truly accounts for Chinese cooperation in counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean.


Photo Credit: Michael R Perry

The Fourth Reich Rises?

No one seems to understand what Germany wants. Does Germany have big plans? A European strategy of hegemony?


german empire


Amid the international finance crisis the role of Germany has become central to the fate of the continent and for many appears to be the only hope for solving this quagmire. At the same time many seem to fear the creation of a German empire built on the shoulders of the other European countries and infiltrating EU institutions. Italian newspapers speak of the Fourth Reich, while Italian politicians on live TV ask their German colleagues if they think a United States of Europe would be blond and blue eyed. The sentiment among many seems to follow the lines of: “What they did not achieve with tanks in 1940, they are now doing with the Euro”. Many see it as a foregone conclusion that Germany wants to lead. In last week’s issue of Germany’s biggest quality weekly Die Zeit, the newspaper asked literates from all over Europe to describe their countries’ view on Germany. One of them first asserted that Germany wants to lead Europe and than goes on to denote what the country had to do and not to do as the European hegemon.

On the other side of the fence, some deplore German inactivity. In late 2011 Poland’s Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski stated: “I will probably be the first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity”. This is a little surprising from a politician from a country that suffered tremendously from German occupation during the Second World War and whose press has not abstained from playing the Nazi card when the two countries were involved in a conflict.

This very well illustrates the ambiguity surrounding the perception of German foreign policy in Europe. No one seems to understand what Germany wants. Does Germany have big plans? A European strategy of hegemony?

The problem is, Germany does not know itself. Important is the insight of Germany’s profound lack of a foreign policy strategy and a lack of interest within the general population and political elites beyond situational attention driven by the media cycle. A sophisticated foreign policy elite that would gain wider attention is lacking; the most important foreign policy intellectuals are two old men. While journalist Peter Scholl-Latour has been explaining the “Orient” to the German audience for the better half of the last century, former Chancellor, proverbial chain smoker and 90 years old statesman Helmut Schmidt basically covers the rest of the world (… and economy).

Their influence can be easily deduced by the metres of bookshelf space the two inhabit in Germany’s bookshops. Younger protagonists are hard to come by (which does not mean that they do not exist here & here). As a result German foreign policy often is erratic and uncoordinated despite the fact that Germany is covering large parts of the EU budget (highest absolute contributor) and makes substantial contributions to other international organisations such as the UN (third largest contributor in 2011). Germany is often said to hold nowhere as many senior positions within these organisation as would be suggested by the contributions. Further, while Germany diplomats in New York are lobbying for, and even sponsoring, UN resolutions against weapons trafficking, the German government is selling large quantities of Leopard 2 tanks to countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) amid the Arab Spring.

The lack of a sophisticated strategy is often deplored by foreign policy professionals in Germany (the reasons for such lackings are so plentiful that they deserve their own article). This however, does not mean that Germany lacks strategic paradigms all together. There used to be crucial interests of German foreign policy making: reunification was central but became obsolete after the Cold War. Reunification was prepared by the “East policies” and détente was the vehicle for that. Another central paradigm is the special relationship with Israel: in 2008 Angela Merkel elevated Israel’s security to the level of “raison d’Etat” of Germany.

Other paradigms continue to shape foreign policy making: for Germany the suggestion of integration into supranational organisation is not an attempt to fix its own power into place. Rather, it is a logical consequence of another main line of German foreign politics. After the Second World War – and under occupation – integration into a supranational organisation was the only way for Germany to ensure the other European states that it would not become a revenge power again and opened the way to regain lost sovereignty from the occupation powers. This was a major purpose of “Westintegration”. Multilateralism is in general highly valued by many decision makers. Hegemonic thinking rarely exists. The core tenet of German foreign policy has been the “culture of restrained”. This for a very long time meant that Germany would not aggressively formulate and push for national interests. This is not to say that Germany is following any foreign interests: professionals that have interacted with German embassies can confirm that the country’s diplomats will often help companies to get a foot into the door. However, in the German tradition supporting its own economy has always meant creating economic welfare through cooperation and integration. During the financial crisis the culture of restrained has arguably suffered to a certain degree. However, reviewing German suggestions for how to tackle the problem fits German post-1945 tradition. It aims for further integration, not hegemony.

Arguing that Germany is bound on a course of recreating a Nazi like European hegemony is the wrong conclusion. When dealing with the democratic republic that Germany has been for almost 70 years now, Europeans should keep in mind this quote from Anika Leithner’s 2009 book Shaping German Foreign Policy: “ I often hear foreigners say what they would do if they had Germany’s wealth, its size or its population. I never hear them say what they would do if they had Germany’s past”. They should get used to Germany formulating national interests more obviously than it she has done in the past. However, the lessons of the past are well learned, becoming a hegemony is not one them.

The news from the Fourth Reich? It does not exist.

Top 10 Middle Eastern Developments To Watch (Part 2)

The second part of a two-part piece providing the top 10 Middle Eastern developments to keep your eye on. In this section:  the Egyptian constitution, oil and gas in Cyprus and Israel, Indo-Pakistani relations, Afghanistan, and terrorism in the Yemen and the Sinai.


Middle Eastern[dhr]

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his piece follows on from Top 10 Middle Eastern Developments To Watch (Part 1).

5. Egyptian constitution

This issue should be at the top of Israel’s security agenda. Two important things to watch out for: the timing of the new constitution’s inception and the division of powers between president, parliament and the military. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) might want to delay the passing of the constitution for as long as possible in order to buy some time and attempt to undermine Muslim Brotherhood’s legitimacy in Egyptian society’s eyes. Such efforts would ultimately prove to be fruitless, but they might just be enough to keep Egypt under control for long enough to wait for the Iranian crisis to fade away. The last thing the Egyptian military would want to deal with is a president letting Iranian warships through the Suez Canal bound for Tel Aviv to avenge bombarded nuclear facilities. Or, more likely, an Egyptian president happily letting through cargo ships loaded with guns destined for Hezbollah and Hamas. Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafis, SCAF understands very well that Egypt cannot afford an open conflict with Israel.

The new constitution will stipulate the division of powers in Egypt – the presidential system is likely to be preserved. However some of the powers might be kept by SCAF, transforming the Egyptian system to resemble the Turkish model of division of power. Nevertheless, parliamentary control over state-owned enterprises has already had some repercussions for Egypt’s gas trade with Israel: Cairo has scrapped the deal according to which Israel would buy gas for prices below the market value and has stopped delivering gas. Israel points out, and rightly so, that the supply shutdown is in violation of the economic annex to the peace treaty of 1979.

Leaving Israel aside, the constitution of Egypt will permanently change the course of Levantine and North African politics. Egyptian society has always played the pioneering role in the Arab World, and once again it will be leading the way. The legal framework of the constitution might determine the future success or failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in mending the country’s crippling economy and society, troubled with deep sectarian divides. This success or failure will also determine whether Islamism is just another stop, after Arab nationalism, on the Arab journey to seek its identity’s final destination.

4. Oil and gas bonanza in Israel, Jordan and Cyprus

Cyprus and Israel are soon to become new gas Eldorado. The discovery of natural gas in the Israeli and Cypriot exclusive economic zone (EEZ) waters, some 50km west of Haifa, as well as the discovery of world’s second biggest reserve in of oil shale in Israel and Jordan can bring a huge cash flow to these countries and permanently change the geopolitics of the Levant. Cyprus and Israel are already working on unitization of gas extraction in Aphrodite deposit, which lies on the border between the Israeli and Cypriot EEZ. Extraction at Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan gas deposits are planned to be fully operational by 2020. Israelis intend to use the FLNG technology – a floating extraction plant – or simply put a ship, which extracts, liquefies and pumps gas onto tank ships, which then sail off to ports.

Russia and South East Asian countries are already interested in buying, but the EU might also be keen to get the goods, since now, more than ever, it seeks to diversify from its main energy source (yes, I mean Russia). Cyprus also plans to build a pipeline, starting at Aphrodite deposit, going to the Cypriot coast, then to Crete and finishing in Greece. Nicosia hopes the revenue will stabilize its economy and free it from all future economic shakedowns in Greece, to which it is currently dangerously tied.

There is, as always, a dark side to these new discoveries. History teaches us that there is a well-documented proportionate correlation between rivers of cash and rivers of blood. It would be far-fetched to claim the new gas and oil deposits will precipitate a major war, but conflicts, so far only diplomatic, have already started. Lebanon unilaterally announced that Israel’s water border should be moved 22m (!) south. Moving the border south gets Lebanon roughly 500 square kilometers extra sea territory for their exclusive exploration, and the sole rights to profits from any resources, live or fossilized. Cypriot activities are already causing irritation in Ankara, which claims that by signing EEZ agreements, Cyprus opens Pandora’s box with regard to its northern neighbours’ claims. Turkey sees no good in Cyprus bathing in gas dollars and might step up its diplomacy to limit Greek Cypriot profits.

Shale oil is a different story. Luckily enough, most of Israel’s shale oil reserves lay in Israel proper, not in the West Bank, hence no need to launch another campaign to “explain” her actions in the Palestinian territories. Israel and Jordan are in an early stage of negotiations (read: declarations were made and everybody went home) with Jordan regarding potential cooperation in oil extraction in order to increase profits. Israel is blessed in that matter, as natural gas is necessary to vaporize oil trapped in shale stones and having both resources, it makes the future Israeli industry self-sustainable and insulated from global market’s price fluctuations.

Altogether, Israel’s combined oil and gas resources are worth a striking $717 billion, and Cypriot Aphrodite $129 billion. This fortune will undoubtedly have an impact on the Middle East for at least the rest of this century.

3. Indo-Pakistani rapprochement

Pakistan and India will have friendly and warm relations – and it’s not just a fantasy of a college student reading too many IR books on international dialogue. This April Manmohan Singh and Asif Ali Zardari met in New Delhi. Although the meeting lasted only 30 minutes, cautiously and proportionately to the current state of bilateral relations, it fairs well for the future of the two countries. Both governments have already considered opening more border crossings to encourage trade exchange (currently limited to one land border crossing in Wagah – a crossing which rather serves tourists coming to watch the odd daily show of nationalism and popular rivalry, then cargo trucks). Banks are also supposed to have exchange offices in order to facilitate investments and, most importantly, peace negotiations have finally resumed first time since their suspension following the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

One may wonder why have India and Pakistan decided right this moment to amend relations. For India, the main motivations is the potential threat from China. As Beijing becomes a global superpower, New Delhi wants to divert its efforts from the half a century old conflict with its western neighbour to counter growing Chinese influence. A similar story can be drawn from Pakistan’s rationale, but for Islamabad the threat comes from the Spin Ghar mountains and the Taliban hiding in their caves. Pakistan has virtually no authority in the Federally Administered Tribal Territories (FATT) and obviously wishes to change it. Terrorism in the FATT is raging, causing strife with the US and undermining the Pakistani government’s prestige in international arena. However, a two front conflict is beyond anyone’s capability (Germany tried it twice: it didn’t work out) and rapprochement with India seems like a natural move if Pakistan genuinely wants to step up its counterterrorism campaign.

2. Post-war Afghanistan

NATO leaves Afghanistan in 2014. It’s a fact: the decision has been made and there is no coming back. It is going to leave an Afghan government controlling Kabul’s government district and maybe few streets nearby whilst the Taliban are more powerful than ever since the invasion in 2001. This topic does not require much deliberation – post-war Afghanistan will turn into the same kind of extremist state as it did after Soviet troops left in 1989. The country has, in essence, a failed economy, lacking in infrastructure and possessing a society that has hardly developed since the initial American action.

1.  Yemen and the Sinai Peninsula – new havens of terrorism

Yemen has suffered from domestic turmoil for quite some time. It wasn’t only the anti-government protests, which erupted after the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, but even earlier there were reports of tribal conflicts over water supplies.

Yemen is virtually on the verge of becoming a failed state. Just a couple of days ago, terrorists detonated a bomb at the Policy Academy in Saana. President Saleh might be gone, but Yemen has to face much bigger challenges than Libya, Tunisia or Egypt. The State’s authority over its territories is limited to major cities, leaving terrorists, financed by Iran, thriving in the North and the South of the country. Hadi’s new government has virtually no resources to increase its presence in rebellious provinces or to undertake reforms, which would revive the non-existent economy. And since Yemen has minute natural resources, none of the Western states is keen on entering a substantial and comprehensive development aid project. Since half of Yemen’s population already lives for less then $2 a day, the country can already be seen as a giant harvesting ground for terrorist organizations. Yemen might draw attention of the West, when it will be already infested with Al-Qaeda and Iran-backed terrorist cells. It is an extremely volatile situation right now which can go from bad to extremely dangerous within a few years if the US is not willing to step up its counter-terrorism activities in Yemen.

A threat on a different but still very serious level comes from the Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian territory east of the Suez Canal has virtually become an outlawed territory after Mubarak’s downfall, falling into the hands of gangs of Bedouin smugglers. It is already estimated that the smuggling industry in Sinai is worth around $0,5 bln. Everything can be contraband – from food and weapons to sex slaves and drugs. Indeed, the Sinai has become one of the major human trafficking spots, where Bedouins kidnap Sudanese refugees desperate to reach Israel, and sell them to Europe and elsewhere. These gangs operate technicals – the Somali-“Black Hawk Down” type – as well as anti-tank missiles, machine guns, RPGs and many more. A development severely worsening the situation is the progressing radicalization of traditionally religion-neutral Bedouins. The culprit for this is Hamas in the nearby Gaza Strip, who trade with Bedouins and recruits operatives to mount attacks on Israel from Egyptian territory. Since Mubarak left the government, there were around 200 incidents of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians in Eilat or the Negev desert, as well as sabotage attacks on pipelines, which supply gas to Israel. The gas flow has already been suspended a couple of times leaving Israel with gas shortages over the year. This picture indicates that the Sinai might become, alongside Yemen, another haven for Al-Qaeda and Hamas terrorists. The result might be a regional disaster – any major attack on Israel from Egyptian territory will shred the peace treaty into tatters.

EU-Israeli Relations: Time For Sanctions?

EU-Israeli relations must drastically change if the EU wishes to uphold the values they claim to embody. If they do not, the EU will bear part of the responsibility for the Israeli occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people.


EU-Israeli Relations[dhr]

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f there is anything the politicians in the European Union’s parliament have become experts on, it is devising and applying economic and diplomatic sanctions on countries they deem as ‘outlaw’ states. Their list of targets is wide-ranging: Syria, Belarus, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and, of course, Iran. In many cases, the justification for the implementation of sanctions is sound, usually instigated by the abuse of human rights and a lack of political freedom.

If we accept these reasons as sufficient for the implementation of sanctions against a foreign country, then we should ask why none are being applied to Israel. To be sure, one could immediately object that it is useless to engage in such talk since the EU does not regard Israel as an ‘outlaw’ state such as the examples mentioned above.

It is at this point that the interesting fact of the matter lies. Recently, the EU has published two reports outlining the persistent violation of international law and human rights on behalf of Israel against the native Arab population. Before asking further questions, some factual quoting is in order.

The two reports are the EU Heads of Mission report on East Jerusalem published in 2011 and the European Neighbourhood Policy on Israel published in mid-May of this year.

The latter highlights irregularities in most areas it investigated. In the field of “freedom of association and freedom of expression and the media”, the report notes that “an increasing number of bills that can be labelled as potentially discriminatory or even anti-democratic” were proposed in the Knesset and the ones which have been passed “are examples of laws that raise concerns, as they can…alienate the Arab Israeli minority”.

Moreover, the “progress on the situation of the Arab minority was limited”. Furthermore, “the exercise of media freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly remained problematic in the occupied Palestinian territory in 2011”, “Israeli detentions of Palestinian journalists…continued” and “the situation of Palestinian human rights defenders remained critical”.

The report also noted that due to the acceptance of Palestine as a member of UNESCO, “Israel temporarily suspended the transfer of Palestinian tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, contrary to its obligations under the Paris Protocol”, the document which outlines the economic relations between Israel and Palestine signed in April 1994 as part of Oslo 1.

The report went on to highlight that “settlement construction and expansion continued in the West Bank…with a surge in settlement activity at the end of 2011” and that “this undermines the prospects for a two-state solution”.

On the issue of administrative detention, the report notes that “there was a sharp increase in the number of administrative detainees” and that “the EU has repeatedly conveyed its concerns about this practice to the Israeli authorities in the framework of regular political and human rights dialogue”.

Not even children were spared. The report informs us about “insufficient protection of children during arrest and detention” with the abominable “cases of solitary confinement of children” continuing.

Further complaints include breach in freedom of religion for the Arab Christian minority, Palestinian social and economic rights being “hampered by Israeli restrictions on freedom of movement” and property rights coming under “particular strain…due to the demolition of their homes by Israel” in Area C of the West Bank.

If you find these findings harsh, then take a look at the EU Heads of Mission report on East Jerusalem. Here we find out that “Israel is actively perpetuating its [i.e. East Jerusalem’s] annexation by systematically undermining the Palestinian presence in the city through the continued expansion of settlements, restricting zoning and planning, ongoing demolitions and evictions, an inequitable education policy, difficult access to health care and the inadequate provision of resources and investment”.

The report explicitly acknowledges that “Israel’s actions in East Jerusalem have run counter to its stated commitment to a sustainable peace with the Palestinians” and “in accordance with international law, the EU regards East Jerusalem as occupied territory” thus considering “the construction of the separation barrier illegal under international law where it is built under occupied territory.”

The document continues with extensive and detailed criticisms of Israel’s settlement policy, archaeological projects supposedly searching for biblical artifacts, “planning, demolitions, eviction and displacements”, the “residency status”, “access and movement” of the native Arab population and inequalities in the allotment of education and health resources for local Arabs.

In a few words, the two reports highlight the almost total disregard of basic human rights on behalf of the Israeli political establishment when dealing with its native Arab population. They explicitly demonstrate violations of international law and the adoption of discriminatory policies on the behalf of Israel.

If the EU is fully aware of these facts, the obvious question is not only why the Union does nothing to put real pressure on Israel, such as its beloved threat and implementation of diplomatic and economic sanctions, but especially why it is doing the exact opposite by increasing its economic and diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

If the politicians in the European parliament want to uphold the values they claim the EU embodies, and if they do not want to smack of hypocrisy, they need to drastically change its relations with Israel and begin to consider the use of sanctions. Until they do so, they bear part of the responsibility for the Israeli occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people.

Multilateral Diplomacy In A Post-9/11 World.

How valuable is multilateral diplomacy in a post-9/11 world?
{Department of War Studies, King’s College London}



[dropcap]M[/dropcap]ultilateral diplomacy is academically defined as diplomacy conducted via conferences attended by three or more states on the basis of generalised rules of conduct[1], while a UN envoy has defined it in simpler terms, depicting the diplomatic form as ‘a bunch of countries pushing their own barrows, but in the one room.’[2] The rise of multilateral diplomacy can be traced back to the nineteenth century when the Concert of Europe sat around the table together at the Congress of Vienna. Yet, this mode of diplomacy developed in its full form in the twentieth century with the creation of the League of Nations in the aftermath of the First World War and with the United Nations, the embodiment of multilateral diplomacy, born after the Second World War. Today, the United Nations has a worldwide membership and the global landscape is peppered with economic and regional institutions that are multilateral in nature, such as the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the G20.[3]However, the multilateral structure has been confronted with a multitude of challenges since the inception of the United Nations in 1945 and the relevance of both multilateral diplomacy and the UN has been vigorously debated, which begs the question: is multilateral diplomacy still relevant in a post 9/11 world?

This article will argue that, in an increasingly interdependent and globalised world, multilateral diplomacy is of value more so than ever before in its history. The UN, if reformed accordingly, will continue to be used as a viable multilateral channel to counter fresh global challenges which confront not just a few states but all states. In which case, multilateral diplomacy will indeed continue to hold importance and utility in a twenty-first century world. The first section will argue that, after a period of American unilateralism in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the arrival of Barack Obama at the Oval Office has rejuvenated multilateral diplomacy and substantially restored UN credibility. The second section will posit that the effects of globalisation have preserved multilateral diplomacy as an essential tool for the international community in adapting to the global issues of the twenty-first century. The third section will acknowledge that the UN is not perfect and that reform in the Security Council and its peacekeeping missions would restore the standing of the institution as the effective multilateral vehicle for the powers of the world and consequently increase the value of multilateral diplomacy. The final section will summarise and conclude the key points that have been argued in this article.

US Foreign Policy: From Unilateralism to Multilateralism

At the turn of the last century, 189 world leaders convened at the Millennium Summit and approved the Millennium Declaration which outlined eight specific goals that the United Nations was to achieve by 2015.[4] Yet, just a year later the 9/11 terrorist attacks tilted the world upon its head. The Security Council was rallied into action after the attacks and unanimously backed the United States against the threat which had caused so much devastation.[5] However, a wounded United States became increasingly relentless and unilateral in their ‘War on Terror’; when the Security Council refused to authorise a US attack upon an allegedly nuclear-armed Iraq, the United States, led by George. W. Bush, launched the assault anyway without UN approval.[6] This has been referred to as the ‘crisis of multilateralism’, as the United States undermined the very institution of which it is the biggest financial contributor and the most influential player.[7] If the founding member of the UN was refusing to follow the guidelines of the institution then why should other states follow the rules? This act set a worrying precedent for the rest of the world and, as Kofi Annan asserted, ‘undermined confidence in the possibility of collective responses to our common problems’.[8] Other instances of American unilateralism are Bush’s abstention from the Human Rights Council, his refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol and the US departure from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The United States was losing sight of the benefits that multilateral diplomacy has to offer.

However, the arrival of Barack Obama at the Oval Office has revived multilateral values within US foreign policy. The Obama administration has realised that it must now engage with the UN and this has marked a ‘transitional moment in the history of multilateralism’.[9] In his 2010 National Security Strategy, Obama acknowledged the fact that the US had been successful after the Second World War by pursuing their interests within multilateral forums such as the United Nations and not outside of them.[10] The global financial crisis of 2008 and the European Union’s sovereign debt crisis have demonstrated just how interdependent the economies of the western world are and these crises have created an age of austerity in which multilateralism is needed more than ever before.[11]  The US has overstretched its resources and is now currently winding down two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; they have realised that they simply do not have the means to conduct their foreign affairs exclusively anymore.

Clear indications of Washington’s improved multilateral engagement with the UN since Obama’s inauguration, and the changing attitude in US foreign policy, are the economic sanctions negotiated over Iran, Obama’s decision for the US to join the Human Rights Council and, more specifically, its participation in the recent Libya mission. In Libya, the US provided support for the mission, yet played a subdued role in the campaign, allowing its European counterparts to take the lead. In contrast to his predecessor, Obama is displaying pragmatism rather than sentimentalism in his search for partners, making alliances in order to adapt to the emerging multipolar world; this is typified by Obama’s recent visit to the Asia-Pacific and his tour of South America (Brazil, Chile and El Salvador) in 2010. For the time being, US unipolarity looks to be a thing of the past; its foreign policy is changing from Bush’s unilateralism at the start of the century to a more multilateral approach at the beginning of a new decade under Obama.[12] This is the correct precedent that the most powerful nation in the world should be setting for other states to follow. The fact that the US is now engaging with the UN to counter global problems has restored the credibility that the UN had lost after the Iraq debacle and, by setting this example, other nations will follow suit and the international community as a whole can only benefit. From this change in US foreign policy, it is clear that multilateral diplomacy is of more value today than it was a decade ago.

Multilateral Diplomacy in a Globalised World

Towards the end of George W. Bush’s second term in office, Ban Ki-moon asserted that the forthcoming period would be the ‘most intense period of multilateral diplomacy ever in the United Nations’ history’.[13] The Secretary-General’s claim is debatable but there are substantial reasons to believe that this statement is likely to prove accurate. As the world becomes smaller through advances in technology and communications, and the more interdependent the world becomes, the further multilateral diplomacy will develop as a vehicle for international cooperation on major global issues. Regional multilateralism is beginning to develop further with the creation, in the last decade, of organisations such as the African Union and the Eurasian Union, the continued enlargement and integration of the European Union after 9/11, and established organisations such as NATO and the Arab League remaining prevalent.[14] Growing regional organisations in the multilateral system such as the EU can be of useful assistance to the United Nations and both have already outlined their will to cooperate.[15] A fully integrated and stable Europe which specialises in soft power can only be an advantage to the multilateral system and the international community. Additionally, other regional organisations have cooperated together to produce flourishing results, such as the Arab League’s recent coordination with NATO allies on the successful Libya campaign.

It is this need to cooperate in an increasingly globalised arena that ensures that multilateral diplomacy still holds value in today’s world. 9/11 symbolised the era of globalisation and the borderless evils that it has bred. The attackers used the internet, mass travel and the attack itself was covered across the world by the mass media. International threats now permeate the unregulated global space and are no longer conscious of territorial borders; issues such as disease, famine, terrorism, transnational crime, cyber warfare, nuclear proliferation, migration, economic security and climate change all rank high on the international agenda.[16] These global issues are precisely why the United Nations requires assistance from regional organisations and are consulting with non-state actors from civil society more frequently. Since 9/11, international institutions have played an important role in multilateral counter-terrorism, energy security and nuclear non-proliferation, whilst non-state actors have assisted with the reconstruction efforts of areas struck by disaster or war and have supported scores of people affected by disease and famine.[17] Participants in multilateral diplomacy are evidently rising and, as a result, it is becoming increasingly polygonal as the threats that now confront the world affect the security of humanity as a whole and not solely the security of states.

Multilateral diplomacy looks set to continue in importance because of these threats and also because of an emerging multipolar world. The world is now moving away from US hegemony and the emerging states of Brazil, China, Turkey, South Africa and India are becoming important regional powers. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that ad-hoc coalitions of the willing are to decrease in importance as states will have to accommodate the new power centres of a multipolar world. In a recent speech, Paddy Ashdown made the intriguing point that the emergence of a multipolar world in the twenty-first century will bear some resemblance to the nineteenth century ‘Concert of Europe’ whereby states will have to cooperate with each other upon common interests and not upon mere common values.[18] On his first trip to Europe, President Obama outlined this idea, asserting that the United States were no longer ‘looking to be patrons of Europe’, but to be ‘partners of Europe.’[19] Major powers will become increasingly pragmatic in their diplomatic relations and will have to work outside of fixed alliances to achieve their economic and foreign policy aims. Consequently, it is reasonable to assume that multilateral diplomacy will be nothing short of essential in an increasingly multipolar world.

United Nations Reform

With the United States now working multilaterally through the UN and with the onset of a multipolar world, it appears that multilateral diplomacy will continue to be relevant in the twenty-first century, with the United Nations as the foremost institution for international cooperation. However, the United Nations is not perfect and for multilateral diplomacy to be effective and efficient in an increasingly challenging environment, the UN must embark upon a programme of comprehensive reform. The Security Council is especially outdated and reform of the Council has been debated at length with many proponents for modifying the most powerful UN organ.[20] The fundamental purpose of the Security Council is to ensure the ‘maintenance of international peace and security’ and the permanent members of the Security Council consist of China, Russia, France, Britain and the US (otherwise known as the P5).[21]  This power arrangement represents the world in which the Security Council was created, and there have been calls for the Security Council to be enlarged to represent the real distribution of power in the world today, with the emerging nations of Brazil, China, Turkey, South Africa and India specifically referred to.[22]. It can also be argued that France, Britain and Russia are shadows of their former selves and that Japan and the EU deserve a seat on the Council as Japan is one of the biggest financial contributors to the UN’s budget and, if the EU was to be given a seat, Britain and France would retain influence within the council.

However, there remains a lack of consensus over the exact countries to bestow membership upon and what power these countries will hold within the Council itself[23], and there has also been much proposed reform which has failed to enact real change to the formation of the Security Council such as the Razali Paper.[24] Reform is especially difficult to achieve as all of the P5 retain the power to veto any modification to the Council and, understandably, none of the members wish to relinquish the power in their hands. Nevertheless, reform to the Security Council is essential to maintaining its authority and credibility in a burgeoning multipolar world. The Security Council has had its successes; the fact that a quarter of all Security Council resolutions in the UN’s history were implemented from 2001 to the present, that the Anglo-French led mission in Libya was successful[25], and that the sanctions placed upon Iran through the International Atomic Energy Agency were pushed through with the coordination of the P5+1 group[26], illustrates that the Security Council continues to be of use in a modern world that is more demanding than ever.[27] Yet, this does not negate the fact that reform to the Security Council by enlarging its membership to become more representative of the world today would make it more credible and effective.

Reform to the UN’s peacekeeping operations is a necessity also; the value of multilateral conflict prevention is evident as there are presently sixteen UN peacekeeping operations situated on four continents and there have been some notable successes in Namibia, Nicaragua and El Salvador.[28] These successes have been tempered by a number of UN failures in its peacekeeping mandate, specifically in the 1990s. In 1994, the Security Council refused intervening action in the Rwandan Civil War and approximately 800,000 people (a mixture of Tutsis and Hutus) were killed. This led to UN admittance that their reaction had been a failure. This, combined with the UN failure to intervene in the 1995 Sbrenica massacre and the placing of food aid in the hands of warlords in Somalia in 1993, offers evidence for the need of swifter multilateral action and emphasises the fact that the UN must reform its peacekeeping operations to provide quicker warning and response times.[29]  The Brahimi Report asserted that a lack of a standing army in the UN was hindering its response time to atrocities.[30] The notion of a standing army in the UN is plausible but it is a simple fact that powerful states need to contribute more to the UN’s peacekeeping operations; such contributions would ensure that the failures of the 1990s would not be repeated. As stated above, the UN is not perfect; there is always room for improvement and if reforms to the Security Council and the UN’s peacekeeping operations serve to make these divisions of the UN more efficient and effective, the credibility of the institution in the international community would be greatly improved and this would only serve to increase the value of multilateral diplomacy.


It is realistic to conclude that multilateral diplomacy remains relevant in a post 9/11 world and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Multilateral diplomacy, especially through the United Nations, plays a crucial role in the global interaction of sovereign states and non-state actors. After 9/11, multilateralism undoubtedly experienced a period of crisis with the onset of the Iraq War yet, today, Barack Obama has shifted US foreign policy from a unilateral to a multilateral stance in light of the economic downturn and the emergence of a multipolar world. This position has restored UN credibility and revitalised multilateral diplomacy. The increasingly global nature of the threats that the world faces and the interdependency that is present amongst states mean that multilateral diplomacy remains, and will continue to remain, relevant in the twenty-first century. The Libya campaign and the efforts to counter Iran’s nuclear threat are perfect examples of multilateral diplomacy being used effectively in a post 9/11 world. Furthermore, with reform to the United Nations, by increasing and altering the membership of the Security Council in order to represent the current global hierarchy, and by learning from past failures and by increasing commitment to ensure fast and responsive peacekeeping operations, the UN will be in better shape to deal with the problems of the globalised world. By taking all of these factors into account, it is therefore logical to concur with G. R. Berridge that ‘multilateralism is here to stay’.[31]

[toggle title=”Citations”]

[1] Berridge and James (2003); Keohane (1990), p. 732; Ruggie (1993), p. 11.

[2] Downer diary, Spectator Magazine (2011).

[3] The United Nations Today (2008), p. xvii.

[4] UN Millenium Declaration (2000).

[5] Resolution 1368 (2001).

[6] See Ikenberry (2003), and Glen (2006), p. 312; Also, the Security Council did approve the US occupation of Iraq after the fighting had ended with Resolution 1483 (2003).

[7] Hutchings speech (2003).

[8] Newman, Thakur, Tirman (2006a), p.1.

[9] Forman (2009), p. 1; Brimmer speech, Brookings (2011).

[10] National Security Strategy (2010).

[11] Hamilton and Quinlan (2011).

[12] Obama speech, Strasbourg (2009).

[13] Ban Ki-moon press conference (2007).

[14] Mylonas and Yorulmazlar (2012).

[15] EC Commission, The European Union and the United Nations: The Choice of Multilateralism, (2003).

[16] Abbot, Rogers, Sloboda (2006).

[17] Romaniuk (2010).

[18] Ashdown speech (2011).

[19] Obama speech, Strasbourg (2009).

[20] Wilenski (1993), p. 442; Annan (2005); Weiss (2003).

[21] UN Charter, Chapter V, Article 24.

[22] Slaughter, Foreign Policy (2011).

[23] Muldoon (1999), pp. pp. 7–77.

[24] Razali Paper (1997); Weiss (2003), p. 149.

[25] Resolution 1970 (2011); Resolution 1973 (2011); Quarterman (2011).

[26] P5+1 members consist of US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany; Resolution 1929 (2010); Duss (2011).

[27] Forman (2009), p. 3.

[28] Current UN peacekeeping operations, of note, in Kosovo, Sudan, Haiti, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan.

[29] Tanner (2000), p. 557.

[30] Brahimi Report (2000).

[31] Berridge (2005), p. 170.


The Shared Neighbourhood: EU-Russia Relations

To what degree has the ‘shared neighbourhood’ been a cause of tension between the EU and Russia? And what are the future prospects for the relationship in the region?
{Department of War Studies, King’s College London}



[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n the aftermath of the Warsaw Pact’s disintegration in 1991, the political map of Eastern Europe was redrawn and new sovereign states emerged in the post-Soviet space. Less than a decade later, the ambitious European integration project began its formation and, consequently, the European Union expanded both its membership and its borders with enlargement rounds in 2004 and 2007. As a result of the greater external security problems posed by enlargement, the EU launched the European Neighbourhood Policy in 2003 and the Eastern Partnership in 2009, becoming more involved in the post-Soviet space than ever before.[1] These events brought the European Union and Russia into a direct competition for influence over what has been referred to as the ‘shared neighbourhood’.[2] The EU-Russia relationship has become increasingly defined in recent years by their competing policies in the region.[3]Yet, the region of today appears unchanged from the neighbourhood prior to the ‘colour revolutions’ and the creation of the ENP. This begs the question: if the ENP has failed to affect change in the region then to what degree has the ‘shared neighbourhood’ been a cause of tension between the EU and Russia?

This article will argue that the neighbourhood has been a catalyst for tension between the EU and Russia due to the attachment that the latter has to its former empire but that, despite this underlying tension, the EU’s ineffective policies towards the neighbourhood states have rendered their involvement in the region no more than an irritation to Russia. This essay will also speculate that tensions over the ‘shared neighbourhood’ are likely to diminish even further in the near future. The first section will analyse how tensions have been created in the relationship between the EU and Russia because of the former’s growing involvement in the latter’s perceived ‘sphere of influence’ with specific focus on the case of Ukraine. The second section will examine how these tensions have not heightened due to the ineffectiveness of the EU’s neighbourhood strategy. The third section will argue that economic interdependence and the current global political and economic context suggest that tensions between the EU and Russia in the neighbourhood will be relatively minimal for the foreseeable future. The final section will summarise and conclude the key points that have been argued in this article.

The ‘Near Abroad’

With the division of the former Soviet Union only two decades old, the Russia of today naturally retains a cultural, historical and ethnic connection to the former members of the Russian empire. In terms of territorial losses, the Kremlin currently controls only 685km of Black Sea coastline in comparison with the 2,935km they held before 1989 which has led Putin to describe Russia’s loss of territory as the ‘biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century’.[4] Russia’s attachment to the neighbourhood is clearly demonstrated in the Russian discourse with Dmitry Medvedev stating that Russia has ‘privileged interests’ in a region which, in the Russian elite, is unofficially referred to as the ‘near-abroad’ (blizhznoe zarubezhe).[5] Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the European Union’s increasing involvement in Russia’s perceived ‘sphere of influence’ has been met with frowns in Moscow and subsequently created tension in the EU-Russia relationship. Russian disapproval has been expressed through its rhetoric and actions in response to EU policies in the neighbourhood. For instance, when the EaP was launched in 2009, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that the policy was a blatant ‘attempt to extend the EU’s sphere of influence’.[6]

The EaP was initiated in a period of uncertainty for Russia in the neighbourhood. Russian policy is primarily focused upon retaining the ability to influence the political and economic situations of these states yet, the preceding ‘colour revolutions’ of Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan revealed tremors of political change in the neighbourhood with the Russian elite believing that these uprisings were sponsored by the West.[7]  Additionally, the war with Georgia in 2008 alienated neighbourhood states from Russia with not one state recognising South Ossetia or Abkhazia’s independence. These events and perceptions have made Russia more alert and proactive in the neighbourhood for fear of relinquishing their significant influence in the region. It is Russia’s view of the world through a Hobbesian lens that informs their position on the neighbourhood and constructs a post-Soviet paranoia that is so evident in their conduct towards the region. The Russian elite treat EU and Russian competition here as, essentially, a zero-sum game in which a neighbourhood that is closer to the EU will only result in losses for Russia and gains for the EU. In contrast with the Russian view, the EU discourse towards Russia is one of cooperation in the neighbourhood but, at present, the EU has thus far failed to persuade Russia that the EaP is not an anti-Russian scheme.

The case of Ukraine is an appropriate example of the tension caused by EU involvement in Russia’s perceived ‘sphere of influence’. In the ‘shared neighbourhood’, Ukraine is the most sensitive case from a Russian perspective; the ‘Orange revolution’ of 2004 and the 2010 election illustrated that Ukraine is a nation torn between Russia and the EU. It is geopolitically situated between the two, approximately 21% of its population is Russian and it has deep cultural and historical links with Russia.[8] The Russian ambassador to Ukraine has even stated that ‘Ukrainians and Russians are a single nation’.[9] Moreover, Ukraine acts as a transit country for Russia’s essential gas exports to Europe and the tensions caused by EU involvement in such an important state were clearly shown in Russia’s reaction to a deal struck between Brussels and Kiev to modernise Ukraine’s gas pipelines; in response, Putin called for a review of Russia’s relationship with the EU since the latter was clearly disregarding the former’s interests in the region. Additionally, despite a recent deal over the extension of the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s lease at Sevastopol in return for Ukrainian gas discounts, Russia has threatened Ukraine with trade sanctions if they decide to sign the DCFTA with the EU instead of joining the Russia-founded Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan.[10] Russia’s use of threats and sanctions in the neighbourhood exhibit the influence that they bear in the region and indicate the extent to which Russia will go to maintain their authority in light of growing EU involvement.[11] Accordingly, the EU’s involvement in the ‘shared neighbourhood’ has indeed been a catalyst for tension in the EU-Russia relationship, predominantly as a result of Russia’s roots in the region, their comprehensive mistrust of the West and their determination to maintain their soft and hard power in their ‘near-abroad’.

The EU’s Ineffective Neighbourhood Strategy

When the European Neighbourhood Policy was created in 2003 it sought to create a ‘ring of friends’ and develop a ‘zone of prosperity’ around the European Union’s newly extended borders.[12] The ENP was followed by the establishment of the EaP at the Prague Summit in 2009; this extension of the ENP focused specifically on the states in the ‘shared neighbourhood’, aiming to promote social and economic reforms in the region and the adjustment of the participating states’ legal structures to the EU’s acquis communautaire.[13] These policies came to fruition as the external security of the EU rose in significance after its borders had expanded. The EU was now increasingly interested in a region that Russia had perceived to be its own. The neighbourhood area is characterised by poor governance and political instability which has brought new security threats to the front door of the EU; threats such as frozen conflicts, transnational crime, terrorism, human and drug trafficking, illegal immigration and corruption now all populate the EU agenda.[14] The EU has attempted to stabilise the region by projecting its own normative political model onto these states in the hope of attracting them westwards. Yet, the vast majority of academic analysis has been extremely critical of the ENP and has deeply questioned its effectiveness.[15] This is, for the most part, an accurate analysis of a policy which has failed in achieving its goals in the shared neighbourhood. Despite the EU’s relatively small successes in the region, today it appears no different from the neighbourhood that the ENP was created to stabilise nearly a decade ago.

After the promise of the ‘colour revolutions’, the neighbourhood states that the ENP and EaP focus on have evidently regressed towards greater authoritarianism in recent years. Ukraine has retreated from the West after the 2010 election of Viktor Yanukovych whilst Georgia has also moved backwards. Belarus, who was accepted into the EaP, has moved away from the EU after Lukashenko suppressed the opposition in the aftermath of the corrupt 2010 election; currently Moldova is the only neighbourhood state that is displaying a marked improvement.[16] This is further evidence of the EU’s impotence in the region; these states are hardly a ‘ring of friends’. Frozen conflicts remain in Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia and a recent review of the ENP is an indication itself that the policy is not having the desired impact in the neighbourhood.[17] Yet, the review is simply more of the same strategy that had failed previously. This raises the question: from a European perspective, why is the ENP (and EaP) not having the desired effect in the shared neighbourhood?

The EU’s financial support for the ENP has increased 32% from €8.4 billion in 2000-2006 to €11.2 billion for 2007-2013 and they have offered member states association agreements that extend the prospect of a free trade zone and visa liberalisation.[18] However, it is the EU’s failure to extend the prospect of membership that is truly hampering their strategy in the region. This form of ‘enlargement-lite’ is simply not enough to bring substantial political, social and economic change in the neighbourhood and it has rendered these states as ‘outsiders’ to the EU.[19] Without the prospect of membership the EU has undoubtedly lost credibility and leverage in the region.[20] Of course, change is also dependent on the political will and actions of the neighbourhood states, yet if there is no substantial incentive to change then the political motivation will evaporate as it evidently has already. In the EU, there are also diverging approaches towards the neighbourhood which hampers the ENP’s potential impact in the region; for example, Angela Merkel was the only major EU leader to attend the EaP’s launch at the 2009 Prague summit.[21] Unless the EU is able to form a coherent and unified approach to the neighbourhood, that offers EaP states a light at the end of the tunnel, tensions in the EU-Russia relationship will only diminish; Russia is no longer fearful of the EU eroding its influence in the region due to the lack of a credible challenge from the EU’s policies.

Cooperation and the Road Ahead

The fact that tensions in the EU-Russia relationship have not heightened significantly, as a result of the EU’s ineffective policies, is exacerbated by the growing cooperation and economic interdependence between the two in the aftermath of the Union’s enlargement. The EU is currently Russia’s largest trading partner with nearly half of Russia’s overall trade turnover attributed to the EU in 2010.[22] Furthermore, Russia is the EU’s third largest trading partner, the world’s top oil producer (12.9%) and holds nearly a quarter of the world’s natural gas reserves (23.9%).[23] The Russian economy is dependent on exporting these resources and the EU offers vital ‘security of demand’ for these exports. Both Putin and Medvedev are conscious that Russia needs the EU if it is to modernise although they have not publicly admitted as much; whereas, the EU’s discourse towards Russia has been one of cooperation and not competition, with Catherine Ashton stating that ‘Russia is a major partner for the EU’.[24] Indeed, there has been encouraging cooperation, especially over migration, with proposed visa free travel between the EU and Russia and progress on the Kaliningrad visa issue.[25] In other areas, the EU is supporting Russian membership of the WTO; both have signed a Partnership for Modernisation and continue to collaborate on the four Common Spaces.[26] Despite the various differences and problems between the EU and Russia, increasing cooperation and economic interdependence in the relationship provides a firm justification to assume that, on the whole, EU-Russia relations will not be destabilised by competition in the ‘shared neighbourhood’.

There are further reasons to believe that tensions over the shared neighbourhood will weaken in the near future. The recent Russian elections, that were allegedly manipulated, demonstrate that the prospect of internal change in Russia is relatively low; without a political transformation in Russia, Russian perceptions will remain and the impact of the EU’s policies in the neighbourhood is unlikely to improve.[27] These elections also mark the return of Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin who, in his first two terms as Russian President, displayed neo-imperialist ambitions, aiming to return Russia to ‘Great Power’ status. He was especially proactive in the neighbourhood and this strand in Putin’s policy is to be expected to continue in his forthcoming term. The notion of a Eurasian Union has been proposed by Putin and this initiative is likely to be pursued; the Nabucco pipeline, which is planned to bypass Russia, is likely to be blocked and it has recently been announced that Russia is to increase its defence spending by 60%, from $42 billion to $66.3 billion in 2013.[28] These developments, combined with the abandonment of NATO expansion to Georgia and Ukraine, present a high probability that Putin will consolidate Russia’s position and presence in the neighbourhood. Thus, the EU’s hopes of incurring real change in the region appear increasingly bleak and its activity in the region will seemingly decrease.

Furthermore, the neighbourhood is decreasing in importance on the EU’s agenda with the Union primarily focused on the sovereign debt crisis, the unfolding events of the Arab Spring and other global issues such as Iran’s nuclear program.[29] Also, as mentioned in the previous section, the neighbourhood states have gone backwards in their political development; this is to continue for the foreseeable future. Thus, with the return of Putin, the neighbourhood states’ democratic regression and the downgrading of the neighbourhood’s importance on the EU’s agenda, Russia’s influence in the neighbourhood appears to be increasingly secure.  These factors, combined with growing economic interdependence, all indicate that tensions in the EU-Russia relationship, regarding the ‘shared neighbourhood’, are likely to diminish in the near future as Russia consolidates its position in the region.


Romano Prodi famously stated that the EU and Russia go together like ‘vodka and caviar’; however, in the neighbourhood this has been far from the case.[30]  It is realistic to conclude that tensions in the EU-Russia relationship have been caused by the ‘shared neighbourhood’ but they have also been limited by the impotence of the EU’s neighbourhood policy; it is also reasonable to assume that in the future, tensions in the relationship will decline. The arguments put across in this article to support these claims are numerous. The Russian view of the competition for influence in the neighbourhood as a ‘zero-sum game’, its deep distrust of the West and attachment to its former empire have all contributed to a negative reaction toward increased EU involvement in its ‘near-abroad’. Yet, the ineffectiveness of the EU’s neighbourhood policy has limited tensions in the relationship as Russia is less concerned with the threat of growing EU influence in the region. The EU’s impact has been stymied by the lack of an accession proposal to the neighbourhood states and an incoherent approach to the neighbourhood within the EU.

The expected outlook for EU-Russia tensions in the ‘shared neighbourhood’ is that they are to diminish with the economic interdependence of the relationship more important than ever and the return of Vladimir Putin to the Russian presidency. This, combined with the fact that the EU’s attention has been diverted away from its eastern borders by its internal sovereign debt crisis and the Arab Spring, indicate that EU-Russian interaction regarding the neighbourhood will presumably decrease and therefore, tensions will be relatively muted in the near future.

To summarise, the ‘shared neighbourhood’ has been a considerable cause of tension due to third party involvement in Russia’s perceived ‘sphere of influence’ but in the case of the EU, tensions have flat lined as a result of the EU’s lacklustre strategy. The future prospects for the relationship in the region remain static; Russia is likely to consolidate its position in the neighbourhood and the EU has other priorities that rank higher on its agenda. Overall, the ‘shared neighbourhood’ will be a subdued issue in the EU-Russia relationship for the foreseeable future as the EU cannot compete with Russia in the region.

[toggle title=”Citations & Bibliography”]

Resources that were useful in the research for this essay included basic information and documents on the European Neighbourhood Policy found at 
http://ec.europa.eu/world/enp/index_en.htm and, similarly, key information and documents on the Eastern Partnership found at http://www.eeas.europa.eu/eastern/index_en.htm. Also, official information on EU-Russia relations from the EU perspective was found at http://eeas.europa.eu/russia/ whilst the European External Action Service’s Country Strategy Papers 2007-2013 for Russia and the neighbourhood states were found at http://eeas.europa.eu/sp/index_en.htm.

[1] European Commission: COM (2003) 104, COM (2004) 373 and COM (2008) 823.

[2] The term ‘neighbourhood’ will refer to the six countries covered in the EaP in Fig.1: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

[3] For a thorough account of the EU-Russia relationship see Haukkala (2010).

[4] Hanson, Nixey, Shevtsova and Wood (2012), p. 34; Putin speech, 12 February 2004.

[5] ‘A Conversation with Dmitry Medvedev’, (2008).

[6] Lavrov on 21 March 2009, see: http://euobserver.com/9/27827

[7] Klitsounova (2009), p. 105.

[8] Bogomolov & Lytvynenko (2012), p. 10.

[9] Ibid, p. 5.

[10] Ibid, p.38.

[11] Other examples are the 2006 and 2009 Russia-Ukraine gas disputes.

[12] European Commission: COM (2003) 104; European Commission: COM (2004) 373 final.

[13] European Commission: COM (2008) 823.

[14] European Security Strategy (2003).

[15] Edwards (2008); Barysch (2010); Wolff & Whitman (2010).

[16] Popescu and Wilson (2011), p.2.

[17] European Commission: COM (2011) 303.

[18] Popescu and Wilson (2011), p.2.

[19] See Smith (2005).

[20] See Popescu and Wilson (2009); Edwards (2008), p.46.

[21] Leonard and Popescu (2007), pp. 27-50.

[22] EU-Russia Trade Statistics, European Commission: http://ec.europa.eu/trade/creating-opportunities/bilateral-relations/countries/russia/index_en.htm.

[23] ‘The European Union and Russia: Statistical Comparison’, Eurostat (2007); BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2011.

[24] Ashton speech, Strasbourg, 13 December 2011.

[25] See Sagrera (2010); Barroso speech, 15 December 2011; European Commission: COM (2011) 461.

[26] See introduction in Potemkin (2010) and Dettke (2011).

[27] BBC News: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17257644.

[28]‘Putin’s Grandest Dream: Could His ‘Eurasian Union’ Work?’, The Atlantic, 18 March 2012; Reported in RIA-Novosti: http://en.rian.ru/mlitary_news/20100730/160003543.html.

[29] ‘The EU’s response to the Arab Spring’, 16 December 2011, Brussels.

[30] Russia Times interview with Prodi: http://www.mefeedia.com/news/23653610.


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