Kim Jung-un and Moon Jae-in met for the first time in April, 2018 [South Korea Gov.]

▲Kim Jung-un and Moon Jae-in met for the first time in April, 2018 [South Korea Gov.]


North Korea has always utilized its nuclear power as a leverage for negotiation in world politics. Nuclear weapons, asymmetric power, are the last measure for North Korea which lacks absolute military and economic power. Although North Korea lags behind the United States and South Korea in military/economic power, its possession of nuclear weapons renders it a significant threat to other countries. Recently, however, they have continued to develop their nuclear power in disregard of international regulations. In other words, they have not used nuclear issue as a leverage for negotiation to induce economic support. They have rather concentrated on completing nuclear development, not considering persuasion from peripheral countries. This attitude can be attributed to the fact that the development of their nuclear power is almost complete. Many experts say that North Korea judges the recognition of their nation with nuclear power to be a more powerful negotiation tool (Korea times, 2016).

In this situation, South Korea has been trying many different kinds of strategies to resolve the nuclear crisis because security is their main goal: United States-South Korea joint military exercises and United Nations sanctions against North Korea are some of those strategies. Despite these oppressive methods using hard power, North Korea has refused to participate in negotiations.

Most recently, however, North Korea has discarded its previous stance for a more peaceful and amicable position following the PyeongChang Olympics. Discussions about nuclear power are proceeding and the nation has even declared that they will stop developing nuclear power.

Diverse causes such as international relations or economic needs influence their transition. This essay would argue that the soft power strategies of South Korea are substantially influencing North Korea. Therefore, an analysis of South Korea’s soft power strategies is necessary in order to figure out the successful way to resolve the nuclear crisis.

Importance of soft-power strategies in policies against North Korea

North Korea has justified its dictatorship through the development of its ‘Juche’ ideology which is very unique. This ideology is established on the theory of ‘rule by class’ which stems from Marxism-Leninism. In addition, the regime has combined it with Confucianism that portrays a dictator as a father of family (Jung Seong Jang, 1999). Through this justification, a dictator is located at the top of class, which would complete the communist ideal. People are taught this ideology thoroughly and anyone who violates the ideology is punished. To open up this society which has formerly been ideologically closed, their ideology should be undermined by other attractive ideology, culture, and symbol.

However, North Korea has effectively blocked it. For example, recently, many people in North Korea have covertly shared TV shows and music from South Korea. People who are caught enjoying this culture are severely punished by the government. In these types of societies, oppression through hard power strategies doesn’t affect making any kind of change in internal society. It rather could be used to enhance internal solidarity because the potential offenders such as United States or South Korea are postulated as certain enemies to North Korea, which requires internal solidarity to people. North Korea has actually depicted capitalism, United States and South Korea as the main enemies in media. It intends to induce loyalty from people.

As a result, the regime have developed nuclear weapons successfully under strong censorship. Nuclear power is the main key to maintain the dictatorship. The declaration of ‘Nuclear-Economy parallel development’ from the start of Kim Jung-Eun’s government implies that the regime would ensure nuclear weapon as a measure to maintain its system. In this situation, sending the message that its system can coordinately survive alongside South Korea in world politics is important. Not only oppressive strategies but also appropriate strategies which attract North Korea to negotiate are needed.

Analysis of South Korea Soft Power Strategies

In this analysis, I will employ a different concept of soft power compared from the one given by Joseph Nye. Nye’s original concept of soft power focuses on types of behavior. In terms of his concept, co-optive power such as attraction and persuasion also constitutes soft power regardless of the type of resource (Joseph Nye, 2013). However, the concept of soft power I will use focuses on what types of resources users use regardless of the type of behaviors. Therefore, any kinds of power exerted by only soft resources such as images, diplomacy, agenda-setting and so on could be soft power. It is a resource-based concept compared to Nye’s concept which is behavior based (Geun Lee, 2011).

I use this concept because using hard resources such as military power and economic regulation to resolve the nuclear problem in North Korea has been ineffective so far. Therefore, using the concept of soft power which is based on soft resources makes it possible to analyze different kinds of soft power and find ways to improve it.

According to the thesis by Geun Lee (2011: p.9) who used the concept I mentioned above, there are 4 categories of Soft Power. I will use these categories to analyze the soft power strategies of South Korea.

1. Application of soft resources – Fear – Coercive power (or resistance)

2. Application of soft resources – Attractiveness, Safety, Comfort, Respect – Co-optive power

3. Application of soft resources (theories, interpretative frameworks) – New ways of thinking and calculating – Co-optive power

4. Socialization of the co-optive power in the recipients – Long term soft power in the form of “social habit”


1. Oppression through diplomacy: Two-track diplomacy

South Korea takes advantage of soft power strategies that request a global mutual-assistance system in order to oppress North Korea. Based on diplomatic capabilities, South Korea has tried to make it clear that all countries in world politics are demanding a solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis. Through these strategies, it wants to provoke fear in North Korea that it would be impossible to restore its relationship with the world. These strategies have been influential because they are harmonized with United Nations’ Security Council resolutions. Especially, the two-track diplomacy conducted by the president Moon-jae-in in the United Nations general assembly in 2017 is evaluated to be successful. He gave North Korea two options in order to attract them to negotiate (The fact, 2017). The president Moon-jae-in stressed the importance of cooperation about nuclear crisis among countries in his address to the general assembly. Moreover, he discussed the issue with the presidents of United States and Japan and pushed for a firm stance against the North Korea nuclear problem. However, at the same time, he declared that South Korea is ready for peaceful negotiation and discussion if North Korea wish to negotiate and stop developing its nuclear power. By offering two options, South Korea not only aimed to incite fear in North Korea but also left room for North Korea to appear at the negotiation tables.

Strategies using diplomatic capabilities are valuable because they can induce coercive power through soft resources. However, it would be difficult to judge the effectiveness if North Korea didn’t show any reaction to these strategies. Moreover, the cooperation with Russia and China is very important to persuade North Korea because they are maintaining amicable relationships with North Korea against United States and Japan. In the situation that North Korea has aimed to complete development of nuclear weapons for negotiation, diplomatic oppression is not effective itself for making change.


Joint statement by the leaders of North and South Korea, in April 2018 [South Korea Gov.]

Joint statement by the leaders of North and South Korea, in April 2018 [South Korea Gov.]


2. Sports and culture: Peaceful gesture

The attempt to converse through sports and culture is one of the soft power strategies used by South Korea in order to solve the nuclear crisis. This strategy intends to obtain North Korea’s cooperation in non-political areas which could then spread to political negotiations. As a result of this strategy, South Korea and North Korea formed a unified team during the last Olympics and Asian games (Yonhapnews, 2018). However, for it to be a success, their cooperation should not be limited to the non-political area, but instead should lead to a constructive conversation in politics. In these terms, South Korea’s peaceful gesture in the Pyeong-Chang winter Olympic is seen to have brought about positive change. Before the Olympics, many politicians and experts were skeptical to the gesture because North Korea conducted the 6th nuclear test in 2017, ignoring South Korea’s message (Korea times, 2018). In extension of the two-track diplomacy strategy, nevertheless, the South Korea government has continually shown a desire to cooperate with North Korea. These strategies focus on cooperation only in soft power domains such as sports, culture, and music rather than domains that expose serious political intension.

In the United Nations general assembly which adopted a truce for the Pyeong-Chang Olympics, gold medalist Kim-yun-a required North Korea to participate in Olympics on her address (Chungang, 2017). Moreover, in the event for praying successful Olympics, the president Moon-jae-in sent another peaceful gesture mentioning that South Korea would wait for the participation of North Korea until the beginning of Olympics (Voakorea, 2017). This strategy ended up having successfully attracted North Korea. As a result, they composed a unified ice hockey team and diplomats were dispatched from North Korea during the Olympics to watch the game with South Korean government officials. And then, they exchanged cultural performances in Pyeong-Chang and Pyeong-yang. Finally, the efforts led to the summit meeting between South-North Korea, and North Korea even declared that it would stop developing nuclear power and establish cooperation with South Korea.

It is too early to judge whether North Korea will stop developing their nuclear influence. However, it is a success in the sense that South Korea has attracted North Korea into conversations. Especially, South Korea has effectively taken advantage of the situation that all countries in international relations pay attention to the nuclear crisis of North Korea. They continuously pull North Korea into the center of world politics and leave North Korea without alternative option. Continuous agenda-setting and issue making has finally attracted North Korea.

3. Agenda-setting and framing

It is important to continuously set agendas about issues which are related to North Korea’s violations concerning the nuclear crisis and human rights. Although North Korea is isolated from world politics, it can’t operate its system if it refuses to cooperate or trade with other countries. As a result, it do not want to be in constant conflict with world politics. Therefore, the focal point of agenda-setting South Korea should impress is the negative effects of nuclear policies and dictatorship of North Korea. Moreover, South Korea should recognize that the goal of developing nuclear influence of North Korea is not to declare war but to ensure protection for their political system. South Korea needs to continuously stress that political system of North Korea would be insured after nuclear dismantlement. These strategies change thoughts of North Korea and induce it to participate in negotiations.

However, South Korea has not been effectively employing this strategy. Agenda-setting which might arouse direct conflict with North Korea could aggravate their relationship. This explains its unwillingness to resort to this strategy. On the other hand, the United States show effective agenda-setting which relates to the nuclear crisis mentioning Iran as a positive example of a successful negotiation.

South Korea needs to set and frame the agenda about similar issues closely related to North Korea. For example, the rebellion against the dictatorship in Syria and the resulting death of the dictator in Yemen which stem from tyrannical politics could be a negative precedent. Also, the agreement with Iran that acquired economic support by abandoning nuclear development could be a positive precedent. Through this agenda setting, South Korea should change the thought of North Korea about their nuclear policies. If this strategy succeeds, North Korea will obtain a new interpretative framework, which could lead them to negotiate.

4. Competition of system: North Korea defector and Korean wave

The last type of soft power strategy is a fundamental solution to provoke change. While the strategies I mentioned above directly targets the North Korea government, this strategy mainly targets the people and the society of North Korea. Promoting economic, cultural superiority could influence the North Korean people and then it could lead to movements which would require a transition from the current society. There are many different kinds of way to conduct this strategy and it is abstract in that we can’t measure how much it could influence society. However, it could also be a strategy which North Korea fears the most in the sense that it could provoke change from the bottom of the society. In addition to this, it could arouse fundamental doubt about the ‘Juche’ ideology or nuclear development which is maintained by an exploitative system.

One of these strategies is the policy concerning defectors. South Korea has been implementing policies which accept defectors and help them adjust to the South Korea society. These defectors get a chance to be independent through re-socialization. And then, some of them carry out activities which denounce the horrible reality of the internal society of North Korea. If their voice became influential in world politics, it could become a greater threat to the North Korea system. In 2012, some defectors testified against the internal violation of human rights in UNCHR to gain attention from the world (Newsis, 2016).

In addition, recently, Korean dramas and music are covertly shared within the North Korea society (Daily NK, 2018). It could also provoke a social movement to call for change. Because the contents reflect a much higher standard of living, it triggers curiosity and admiration from North Korean people. These strategies lead society of North Korea to socialize with the co-optive power in the recipients. Ultimately, long term soft power could threaten North Korea itself.

Limits and conclusion

This essay has analyzed the strategies South Korea has used in order to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis. South Korea threatens North Korea utilizing consensus among countries. Strategies its government has shown such as the speech of the president Moon-jae-in in the United Nations general assembly, the winter Olympics which reflected a desire for peace and the two-track diplomacy are totally different from the consistently conservative policies that the previous governments showed during the last ten years. In addition, the declaration of the Trump’s administration that they would continuously pressure North Korea about nuclear issues offered the opportunity to react to North Korea’s nuclear policies. In this process, active joint response among South Korea, United States and Japan is also necessary.

However, it is true that there are some drawbacks. In order for North Korea to eventually accept nuclear disarmament, South Korea absolutely needs to cooperate with Russia and China which are not only in a good relationship with North Korea but also in a comparatively competitive relationship with the United States and Japan. If South Korea will succeed in gaining their support, the process of reaching an agreement concerning nuclear issues would be much easier.

Eventually, in contrast with the hard power strategies with hard resources, soft power strategies with soft resources can only be effective when South Korea offers the second attractive option. The options are diverse. The main point is that North Korea should recognize the positive effects of abandoning nuclear.

Also, South Korea should recognize that the effect of soft power strategies is maximized when it coexists with economic / military oppression through hard power. In other words, South Korea must take into account Joseph Nye’s smart power to solve the nuclear crisis.

In this process, the most important thing is to persuade North Korea by offering an attractive choice. The reason why North Korea desires to have a summit meeting with South Korea and the United States is because they judge that the choice would be more profitable. Therefore, the South Korean government needs to reflect upon what objectives North Korea has when they accept to negotiate. For example, China’s economic opening is an example of a good precedent that North Korea could follow. South Korea needs to give North Korea a blue print such as the example of China and lead the agreement about the nuclear problem.

Lastly, it is difficult to apprehend the effectiveness of soft power strategies with soft resources, mentioned by Geun Lee, in the sense that the data and the figures about this strategy are not easy to measure in contrast with hard power strategies. Also, many causes exist concerning change of North Korea. Therefore, further research needs to establish a system to get concrete and scientific data in order to apprehend the complex causes and effects of this strategy such as that stem from smart power strategies.



Geun Lee (2009) A theory of soft power and Korea's soft power strategy, Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, 21:2, 205-218, DOI: 10.1080/10163270902913962

Joseph S. Nye. JR. (2013) HARD, SOFT, AND SMART POWER. In: Andrew F. Cooper, Jorge Heine, and Ramesh Thakur(eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy, pp.559-574

Jung Seong Jang. (1999) Theoretical Structure and Characteristics of the Juche Ideology. 북한연구학회보, 3:2, 251-273

Chungang ilbo, (2017) 김연아, 평화올림픽 위해 UN에서 4분 영어연설 [Online] Available.

DAILY NK. (2018) 어쩔 수 없이 인도영화를 처벌강화에 南드라마 시청 주춤 [Online] Available.

Korea Times. (2018) 북한, 평창올림픽 참가 놓고 정치권 장외설전 가열 [Online] Available.

Korean Times. (2016) 왜 북한은 핵개발을 멈추지 않는가? [Online] Available.

Newsis. (2016) 탈북자들, 유엔 인권위에서 강제낙태와 고문 등 증언 [Online] Available.

The Fact. (2017) 文대통령’데뷔전’ UN본부 입성… ‘북핵 파문’ NYPD ’긴장’ [Online] Available.

Voakorea. (2017) 문재인 한국 대통령 “북한 평창올림픽 참가 끝까지 기다릴 것” [Online] Available.

Yonhapnews. (2018) 27년 만에 ‘남북 단일팀’ 출범 임박… 올림픽은 사상 최초 [Online] Available.

Categorías Global Affairs: Asia Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Análisis

Satellite imagery of the Jordan River [NASA]

▲Satellite imagery of the Jordan River [NASA]

ANALYSISMarina Díaz Escudero

Water is an essential natural resource, not only for individual survival on Earth, but also for nation-states and their welfare; having an effect on socio-economic development, trade, health and population productivity.

As a natural determinant of power, its accessibility must be considered by states in their policies on national security; “hydropolitics” being the branch of study for this phenomenon. Although it has been, and continues to be, a major source of inter-state conflict, it is an arena in which cooperation and diplomacy between rival countries can set the ground for further political agreements, effectively leading to more stable and peaceful relations.

On the other hand, when water is used as a natural border or must be shared between various countries, concurrent cooperation between all of them is essential to find an effective and non-violent way to approach the resource. Otherwise, an overlapping of different, and potentially contradictory, bilateral agreements may lead to frictions. If one of the concerned countries is not present in negotiations, as some historical events suggest (e.g. 1992 multilateral negotiations in Moscow, where Lebanon and Syria where not present), this will always constitute an obstacle for regional stability.

Moreover, although 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, factors such as economic interests, climate change, and explosive population growth are also challenging the sustainable distribution of water sources among countries. The future effects of this scarcity in the region will demand consistent political action in the long-term and current leaders should bear it in mind.

Water availability and conflict in the MENA region

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is known as an arid and semi-arid region, with only 1% of the world’s renewable water resources. On average, water availability is only 1,200 cubic meters, around six times less than the worldwide average of 7,000 cubic meters.

As global temperatures rise, more frequent and severe droughts will take place in the region and this will make countries which already have socio-economic rivalries more prone to go to war with each other. According to the World Resources Institute, thirteen of the thirty three states that will suffer from worse water scarcity in the twenty-first century will be Middle Eastern countries.

To cite the findings of the National Intelligence Council (NIC) report, Global Trends: Paradox of Progress, more than thirty countries – nearly half of them in the Middle East – will experience extremely high water stress by 2035, increasing economic, social, and political tensions.

Although claims to the land were and are the main motives for much of the current conflict, water, as part of the contested territories, has always been considered as a primary asset to be won in conflict. In fact, recognition of the importance of water lent the term, the “War over Water”, to conflicts in the region, and control over the resource constitutes a significant advantage.

Despite there being several water bodies in the Middle East (Nile, Euphrates, Tigris…), the Jordan River basin is one of the most significant ones today in terms of its influence on current conflicts. The Jordan River Basin is a 223 km long river with an upper course from its sources up to the Galilee Sea, and a lower one, from the latter to the Dead Sea. Territories such as Lebanon, Israel and the West Bank are situated to its West, while Syria and Jordan border it to the East. Water scarcity in the Jordan watershed comes from many different factors, but the existence of cultural, religious and historical differences between the riparian countries (situated on the banks of the river) has led to a centuries-long mismanagement of the source.

Tensions between Zionism and the Arab world on regards to the Jordan River became noticeable in the 1950s, when most Arab countries rejected the Johnston Plan that aimed at dividing the water by constructing a number of dams and canals on the different tributaries of the river. The plan was based on an earlier one commissioned by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) and was accepted by the water technical committees of the five riparian countries. Nevertheless, the Arab League didn’t give the go-ahead and even hardened its position after the Suez Crisis.

In spite of this, Jordan and Israel decided to abide by their allocations and developed two projects, the Israeli National Water Carrier (to transport water from the north to the center and south) and Jordan’s East Ghor Main Canal (King Abdullah Canal). In retaliation and with severe consequences, Arab states reunited in an Arab Summit (1964) and decided to divert Jordan’s headwaters to the Yarmouk river (for the Syrian Arab Republic and Jordan), depriving Israel of 35% of its Water Carrier capacity.

This provocation led to a series of military clashes and prompted Israel’s attack on Arab construction projects; a move that would help precipitate the 1967 Six-Day War, according to some analysts. As a result of the war, Israel gained control of the waters of the West Bank (formely Jordan-annexed in the 1948 war and today still controlled by the Israeli Civil Administration) and the Sea of Galilee (today constituing about 60% of the country’s fresh water).

Later, in 1995, by the Article 40 of the Oslo II political agreement, […] Israel recognized Palestinian water rights in the West Bank and established the Joint Water Committee to manage and develop new supplies and to investigate illegal water withdrawals. Nevertheless, the loss of control over water in the West Bank has never been accepted by neighbouring Arab countries as, despite the agreement, much of the water coming from it is still directly given to Israeli consumers (and only a smaller fraction to Palestinians living under their control).

Role of water in Syrian-Israeli hostilities

Hostilities have been covering the agenda of Syrian-Israeli relationships ever since the Armistice Agreements signed by Israel with each of the four neighbouring Arab countries in 1949. This is compounded by the fact that there is seldom mutual agreement with resolutions proposed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

The Golan Heights, a rocky plateau in south-western Syria, was taken away by Israel in the aftermath of the Six-Day War and is still considered an Israeli-occupied territory. In 1974 the Agreement on Disengagement was signed, ending the Yom Kippur War and resulting in the formation of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), a buffer zone separating the Israeli portion of the Golan Heights and the rest of Syria. Although Israel kept most of the Golan Heights territory, in 1981 it unilaterally passed the Golan Heights Law to impose its jurisdiction and administration on the occupied territory (refusing to call it “annexation”). These laws did not receive international recognition and were declared void by the UNSC.

The fact that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated in April 2016 in a weekly cabinet meeting that “the Golan Heights will remain forever in Israeli hands” has once again triggered the rejection of UNSC’s members, who have declared that the status of the Heights “remains unchanged.”

Rainwater catchment in the Golan Heights feeds into the Jordan River and nowadays provides a third of Israel's water supply. Although “Syria has built several dams in the Yarmouk river sub-basin, which is part of the Jordan River basin”, the Golan Heights are likely to remain an important thorn in future Israeli-Syrian relationships.


Map of the Jordan River Basin [Palestinian Authority]

Map of the Jordan River Basin [Palestinian Authority]


Water as a casus belli between Lebanon and Israel

In March 2002, Lebanon decided to divert part of the Hasbani (a major tributary of the Jordan upper course) to supply the lebanese Wazzani village. Ariel Sharon, the former Prime Minister of Israel, said that the issue could easily become a "casus belli". According to Israel, Lebanon should have made consultations before pumping any water from the Springs, but both the Lebanese government and Hezbollah (a shi’a militant group) condemned the idea.

The Wazzani project, according to Lebanon, only aimed to redevelop the south by extracting a limited amount of water from the Hasbani; 300 MCM per year (they drew 7 MCM by the time). The actual conflict with Israel began when Lebanon started constructing the pumping station very close to the Israeli border.

The United States (US) decided to establish a State Department water expert in order to assess the situation “and cool tempers” but in 2006, during the Lebanon war, the pumping station and other infrastructures, such as an underground water diversion pipe which run Letani river water to many villages, were destroyed.

Although Israeli-Lebanese tensions have continued due to other issues, such as spying, natural gas control and border incidents, water source domination has been a significant contributor to conflict between the two states.

Inter-Arab conflicts on water allocation

Some inter-Arab conflicts on regards to water distribution have also taken place, but they are small-scale and low level ones. In 1987, an agreement was signed between Jordan and Syria which allowed the latter to build twenty five dams with a limited capacity in the Yarmouk River. Later on it was proved that Syria had been violating the pact by constructing more dams than permitted: in 2014 it had already constructed forty two of them. New bilateral agreements were signed in 2001, 2003 and 2004, but repeated violations of these agreements by Syria in terms of water-allocation became unsustainable for Jordan. Most recently (2012), former Jordan's water minister Hazim El Naser stressed the necessity “to end violations of the water-sharing accords.”

Although these are low-level tensions, they could quickly escalate into a regional conflict between Jordan, Syria and Israel, as a decrease of water from the Yarmouk released by Syria to Jordan may prevent Jordan to comply with its commitments towards Israel.

Regional cooperation: from multilateralism to bilateralism

Since the beginning of the last century, attempts to achieve multilateral cooperation and a basin-wide agreement between the five co-riparian countries have been hindered by regional political conflict. Boundary definition, choices about decision-making arrangements, and issues of accountability, together with other political divisions, can help explain the creation of subwatershed communities of interest instead of a major watershed agreement between all neighbour countries.

The Israeli-Palestine peace process begun in 1991 with the Conference in Madrid, attended by all riparians: Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. Co-sponsored by the US and the Soviet Union as representatives of the international community, it addressed several regional issues, such as environment, arms control, economic development and, of course, water distribution (in fact, water rights became one of the trickiest areas of discussion).

In 1992, multilateral negotiations about regional cooperation continued in Moscow but this time they were only attended by Israel, the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation and the international community; Syria and Lebanon were not present. “After the failed Johnston plan, external efforts to achieve a multilateral agreement through cooperation on water sources were attempted by the Centre for Environmental Studies and Resource Management (CESAR) […] As Syria and Lebanon did not want to participate in a process involving Israel, (it) ran parallel processes for Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan on the one hand, and Syria and Lebanon on the other hand.”

As a matter of fact, bilateral instruments grew in importance and two treaties, between Israel and Jordan/Palestine respectively, were signed: The Treaty of Peace between The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and The State of Israel (1994) and The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Oslo II, 1995). Discussions about water use and joint water management played an important role and were included in the annexes.

In 1996, the Trilateral Declaration on Principles for Cooperation on Water-Related Matters and New and Additional Water Resources was signed by Israel, Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and in 2003 the first two initiated a plan called Roadmap for Peace which included the revival of cooperation on regional issues like water.

Although Israel and Syria started some negotiations to solve the Golan Heights’ problem in 2008, after the break out of the Syrian civil war distrust between both actors has increased, leaving the most important thorn in multilateral regional negotatiations still unsolved. Nevertheless, “a new government in Syria after the end of the war may provide new opportunities for improved bi- and ultimately multilateral cooperation,” says the FAO. The previous year (2007) Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic also signed some agreements “in regard to shared water in the Yarmouk river basin.”

Role of Non-Governmental Organizations

Civil society has also been an important platform for resource-management discussions between riparian countries.

Middle Eastern rhetoric, according to the BBC, “often portrays the issue of water as an existential, zero-sum conflict - casting either Israel as a malevolent sponge sucking up Arab water resources, or the implacably hostile Arabs as threatening Israel's very existence by denying life-giving water.”

For this reason, in 2010, Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME, also called EcoPeace Middle East) stressed the importance of replacing this win-lose approach for a compromising perspective of mutual gains for all. In this way, their proposals don’t “include quantitative water allocations, but the implementation of a joint institutional structure that is continuously tasked with peaceful conflict resolution over water resources; […] defining water rights not as the access to a certain water quantity, but as a broader bundle of rights and duties to access and use the available water and to uphold quality and quantity standards.”

Through “The Good Water Neighbors” project (2001), the NGO tried to raise awareness about the negative consequences of leaving this issue unmanaged and reiterated its willingness to strenghten ”institutional capacities for collaboration in the region.” According to the staff, Israel, Jordan and Palestine could develop a certain interdependence, focused on water (Israel to Jordan/Palestine) and solar-generated electricity (Jordan to Palestine/Israel), in order to facilitate the powering of desalination plants and produce more cleanwater for sale.

The use of this type of political support for transboundary cooperation, based on water access but focused on solving less cultural and sensitive problems (like environmental sustainability), as a means to opening up avenues for dialogue on other political issues, could be the key for a lasting peace in the region.

According to Gidon Brombert, cofounder and Israeli director of FoEME, adopting “healthy interdependencies is a powerful way to promote regional water and energy stability as a foundation for long-lasting peace between our people.”

A testament to the success of these initiatives is the fact that Jordan and Israel scored 56.67 under the Water Cooperation Quotient (WCQ) 2017, which means that there is currently zero risk of a water-related war between both states (50 is the minimum score for this to apply).

Final key points and conclusions

There is no doubt that water issues have been a key discussion point between riparian countries in the Jordan River watershed since the late nineteenth century, and rightly so, as the only way to achieve a long-lasting peace in the region is to accept that water management is an integral part of political discourse and decisions. Not only because it is an essential factor in the conflicts that arise between states, but because agreements on other political matters could be furthered through the establishment of sound agreements in the hydropolitical arena.

In other words, a “baby-step” approach to politics should be applied: peaceful discussions on this and other matters leveraged to talk about other sources of conflict and utilized to improve political relations between two parties. The Korean conflict is a good example: although both Koreas are far from agreeing with regards to their political outlook, they have been able to cooperate in other fields, such as the Winter Olympic games. Communication during the games was used to subtly suggest avenues for a political reapproachment, which now seems to be progressing satisfactorily.

As for multilateral-bilateral conditions of negotiations, it is important to take into account the fact that the Jordan River basin, mainly due to its geological condition as a watershed, has to be shared by several different countries, five to be exact. This may seem obvious but clearly many actors don’t see its implications.

Understandably, it is very difficult for a state to manage various bilateral agreements concerning the same asset with countries that are mutually at odds with one another. Their contents can overlap, creating contradictions and making the achievement of a general arrangement not only disorganized, but also challenging. Notwithstanding, a multilaterally agreed distribution of the basin’s water – taking into account the necessities of all riparians simultaneously, could more easily pave the way for further cooperation on other, pressing, political issues.

Last but not least, it is important not to forget about policies related to other regional affairs, and their potential effect on water management. Climate change, for instance, will certainly affect water availability in the MENA region and the Jordan River basin, easily disrupting and modifying past and future agreements on the resource’s allocation and distribution. Attention should also be paid to interest groups and to the economic situation of the countries involved in the negotitations, as these will be determinant in states’ decisions about the implementation of certain future projects.

Categorías Global Affairs: Oriente Medio Energía, recursos y sostenibilidad Análisis Arabia Saudita y el Golfo Pérsico

The Fleet was restored in 2008 due to the geopolitical alliances of Venezuela

Of the US naval forces, the most often in the news have been the Sixth Fleet (Mediterranean) and the Seventh Fleet (Persian Gulf). The Fourth Fleet usually goes unnoticed. In fact, it is hardly staffed and when it needs ships it must borrow them from other units. However, its restoration in 2008, after its deactivation in 1950, indicates that Washington does not want to neglect security in the Caribbean in the face of the movements of Russia and China.

El USS Dwight D. Eisenhower llegando en 2010 a Mayport, Florida [US Navy]

▲The US S Dwight D. Eisenhower arriving at Mayport, Florida, in 2010 [US Navy]

ARTICLEDania del Carmen [Spanish version]

The Fourth Fleet is part of the United States Southern Command. It is located in Mayport, Florida, and its area of operations are the waters surrounding Central and South America. The ships currently based at Mayport do not strictly belong to the base and as of today they do not have any forward deployed ships in South America. The staff stationed at the fleet is about 160 personnel and a mixture of military, federal civilians and contractors. As part of the US Naval Forces Southern Command (USNAVSO) they work at the shared headquarters and the commander of the Southern Command is also commander of the Fourth Fleet, currently the Rear Admiral Sean S. Buck.

It was originally established in 1943, during Second World War, to protect the US against Axis surface raiders, blockade runners, and submarines. After the war ended in 1945, the FOURTHFLT was only kept active until 1950. At that moment its area of operations was handed over to the Second Fleet, which had just been established to support the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).[1]

The Fourth Fleet was reactivated in 2008, during the presidency of George W. Bush, as a way of monitoring possible threats coming from the anti-US sentiment fueled by the then president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez. During this time Venezuela was receiving loans from Russia, money which was destined to arms purchases and military development. Later on that year, Venezuela performed a joint naval exercise with Russia in the Caribbean Sea as a way to show support for Russian intentions of growing its geopolitical presence as a counterbalance to US power.

The fact that Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador had a similar ideology to Venezuela gave Washington reasons to reestablish the fleet as a reminder that they were still the sole military power in the Western Hemisphere. Although the territory of US was no threatened, preventing any menace to the free access to the Panama Canal has been a permanent assignment for the South Command. In the last years Russia has sought to expand its military footprint in the Americas, through particular dealings with Cuba and Nicaragua, whereas China has increased its investments in the area for the Panama Canal.

Current activity

According to the mission statement on the USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT’s website, the US Fourth Fleet “employs maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships that foster regional security in the USSOUTHCOM Area of Responsibility.”
As mentioned previously, when ships and other equipment are assigned to SOUTHCOM and the Fourth Fleet, they are provided by other Navy commands with wider geographic responsibilities far from the American homeland.[2]

The FOURTHFLT has three main lines of action: Maritime Security Operations, Security Cooperation Activities and Contingency Operations.

—As for its Maritime Security Operations, it currently provides maritime forces to Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF South) in support of Operation MARTILLO. The JIATF South “conducts detection and monitoring (D&M) operations throughout their Joint Operating Area to facilitate the interdiction of illicit trafficking in support of national and partner nation security.” It uses the resources of the Fourth Fleet or temporarily employs other assets, like the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group or individual ships from other fleets such as the Norfolk, VA-based Fleet Forces Command or the Third Fleet, headquartered in San Diego, California. For its part, the Operation MARTILLO mainly aims to combat international drug trafficking, enhance regional security, and promote peace, stability and prosperity throughout Central and South America. As part of the Operation MARTILLO, in a joint operation with the U.S. Coast Guard the USS Vandegrift successfully stopped in 2014 a suspicious vessel off the coast of Central America. Security personnel found almost two thousand pounds of cocaine. More recently, in January 2015, the USS Gary and the US Coast Guard successfully seized more than 1,6 metric tons of cocaine from a go-fast vessel. However, the absence of dedicated Fourth Fleet assets demonstrates that its counternarcotics missions are a lower priority for the US Navy than other operations, although they are significantly less demanding, operationally speaking.

—Regarding Security Cooperation Activities, its two main premiere partner nation engagement events are Exercises UNITAS and PANAMAX. UNITAS was conceived in 1959 and first performed in 1960. It is an annual exercise and its purpose is to demonstrate US commitment to the region and to the value of the strong relationships with its partners. PANAMAX dates back to 2003 and it has become one of the largest multinational training exercises in the world. It is primarily focused on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal, one of the most strategically and economically crucial pieces of infrastructure in the world.

—Lastly, the Fleet is always ready to conduct Contingency Operations: basically humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The US Navy’s hospital vessel regularly travels throughout the Caribbean and Central America area to provide humanitarian support. As part of the program Continuing Promise 2015, the Comfort visited a total of 11 countries, from Guatemala to Dominica, carrying out procedures like general surgery, ophthalmological surgery, veterinary services and public health training. This was the Comfort’s fourth trip as part of the Continuing Promise initiative. According to SOUTHCOM, the vessel previously participated in the mission’s 2007, 2009 and 2011 incarnations.

Objectives met at reasonable cost

As an integrated part of the Southern Command, the Fourth Fleet has supported SOUTHCOM when dealing with major operations such as the response to the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010. The FOURTHFLT served as the Navy Component Commander during the Operation Unified Response which was the Navy’s largest ever contingency response in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

In regards to budgetary implications, spokesperson Ruiz claims SOUTHCOM does not exclusively rely on the US Navy “for maritime resources to accomplish important missions [...] Other important interagency partners, such as the US Coast Guard and US Customs and Border Protection also provide key sea and air platforms and forces to support those missions. Therefore we are looking at a good counterbalance of expense-reward.”

In addition to developing effective humanitarian actions, at a limited economic cost, the Fourth Fleet does not fail to fulfill its purpose of helping the United States have a significant presence in the Western Hemisphere in the eyes of the Latin American and Caribbean States, and also of superpowers such as Russia and China.


1. The Second Fleet itself was deactivated in 2011 and reestablished in 2018.

2. REICH, Simon and DOMBROWSKI, Peter. The End of Grand Strategy. US Maritime Operations In the 21st Century. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, NY, 2017. p. 144

La Flota fue restaurada en 2008 debido a las alianzas geopolíticas de Venezuela

De las fuerzas navales de EEUU, la Sexta y la Séptima Flota –con base el Mediterráneo y en el Golfo Pérsico, respectivamente– son las que tradicionalmente más han aparecido en las noticias. Usualmente la Cuarta Flota pasa desapercibida. De hecho, apenas cuenta con personal, y cuando necesita barcos debe tomarlos prestados de otras unidades. Sin embargo, su restauración en 2008, después de haber sido desactivada en 1950, indica que Washington no quiere descuidar la seguridad en el Caribe frente a los movimientos de Rusia y China.

El USS Dwight D. Eisenhower llegando en 2010 a Mayport, Florida [US Navy]

▲El USS Dwight D. Eisenhower llegando en 2010 a Mayport, Florida [US Navy]

ARTÍCULODania del Carmen [Versión en inglés]

La Cuarta Flota es parte del Comando Sur de Estados Unidos. Está ubicada en Mayport, Florida, y su área de operaciones son las aguas que bañan América Central y del Sur. Los barcos que tienen su base en Mayport no pertenecen estrictamente a la base y en la actualidad no existe ninguno desplegado en las aguas de la región. El personal estacionado en la flota es de aproximadamente 160 personas, incluyendo militares, civiles federales y contratistas. Trabajan en el cuartel general del Comando Sur de las Fuerzas Navales de EEUU (USNAVSO). El comandante del Comando Sur es también comandante de la Cuarta Flota, actualmente el contraalmirante Sean S. Buck.

Originalmente se estableció en 1943, durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial, para proteger a EEUU de acciones navales de Alemania, tanto ataques de superficie, como de operaciones de bloqueo e incursión de submarinos. Tras terminar la guerra en 1945, la FOURTHFLT se mantuvo activa hasta 1950. En ese momento, su área de operaciones fue entregada a la Segunda Flota, que acababa de establecerse para apoyar a la Organización del Tratado del Atlántico Norte (OTAN).[1]

La Cuarta Flota fue reactivada en 2008, durante la presidencia de George W. Bush, como reacción a posibles amenazas derivadas del sentimiento anti-estadounidense promovido por el entonces presidente de Venezuela, Hugo Chávez. Durante ese tiempo, Venezuela recibía préstamos de Rusia para la compra de armas y para el desarrollo militar venezolano. En 2008 Venezuela realizó un ejercicio naval conjunto con Rusia en el Caribe como forma de apoyo a las intenciones rusas de aumentar su presencia geopolítica, en contrapeso al poder de Estados Unidos.

El hecho de que Nicaragua, Bolivia y Ecuador tuvieran una ideología similar a la de Venezuela reforzó el convencimiento de Washington de reactivar la flota, como recordatorio de que EEUU mantenía su interés en ser el único poder militar en el hemisferio occidental. Aunque el territorio de EEUU difícilmente podía verse amenazado, prevenir cualquier situación de riesgo en el libre acceso al Canal de Panamá ha sido una tarea permanente para el Comando Sur. En los últimos años, Rusia ha buscado expandir su presencia militar en las Américas, a través de relaciones particulares con Cuba y Nicaragua, mientras que China ha incrementado sus inversiones en el área del Canal de Panamá.

Actividad actual

Según indica la página web de USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT en su apartado de “misión”, la Cuarta Flota “emplea fuerzas marítimas en operaciones cooperativas de seguridad marítima para mantener el acceso, mejorar la interoperabilidad y establecer asociaciones duraderas que fomenten la seguridad regional en el área de responsabilidad del USSOUTHCOM”. Como se ha mencionado, cuando se asignan barcos y otros equipos a SOUTHCOM y la Cuarta Flota, estos son provistos por otros comandos de la Armada estadounidense con responsabilidades geográficas más amplias, con base en otras partes del mundo[2].

La FOURTHFLT tiene tres líneas principales de actuación: operaciones de seguridad marítima, actividades de cooperación de seguridad y operaciones de contingencia.

—En cuanto a sus operaciones de seguridad marítima, actualmente proporciona fuerzas marítimas a la Interagency Task Force South (JIATF South) en apoyo de la Operación MARTILLO. La JIATF South “realiza operaciones de detección y monitoreo (D&M) en toda su área operativa conjunta para facilitar la interdicción del tráfico ilícito en apoyo de la seguridad nacional y de la nación socia”. Utiliza los recursos de la Cuarta Flota o emplea temporalmente otros activos, como el USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group o naves individuales de otras flotas como Norfolk, VA Fleet Forces Command o la Tercera Flota, con sede en San Diego, California. Por su parte, la Operación MARTILLO está dirigida principalmente a combatir el tráfico internacional de drogas, mejorar la seguridad regional y promover la paz, la estabilidad y la prosperidad en América Central y del Sur. Como parte de la Operación MARTILLO, en una operación conjunta con la Guardia Costera de los EEUU, el USS Vandegrift detuvo en 2014 a un buque sospechoso frente a las costas de América Central. El personal de seguridad encontró casi dos mil libras de cocaína. Más recientemente, en enero de 2015, el USS Gary y la Guardia Costera de EEUU decomisaron más de 1,6 toneladas de cocaína de una embarcación rápida. Sin embargo, la ausencia de activos dedicados de la Cuarta Flota demuestra que sus misiones antinarcóticos son una prioridad menor para la Armada de EEUU, aunque son significativamente menos exigentes, desde el punto de vista operativo.

—En lo que respecta a las actividades de cooperación de seguridad, los dos principales eventos de participación con otras naciones son los ejercicios UNITAS y PANAMAX. UNITAS se concibió en 1959 y se realizó por primera vez en 1960. Es un ejercicio anual cuyo propósito es demostrar el compromiso de Estados Unidos con la región y con el mantenimiento de relaciones sólidas con sus socios. PANAMAX se remonta a 2003 y se ha convertido en uno de los ejercicios de entrenamiento multinacionales más grandes del mundo. Se centra principalmente en garantizar la defensa del Canal de Panamá, una de las infraestructura más estratégicas y económicamente importantes del mundo..

—Por último, la Flota siempre está lista para llevar a cabo operaciones de contingencia: básicamente asistencia humanitaria y ayuda en casos de desastre. El buque hospital de la Armada de EEUU viaja regularmente por toda el área del Caribe y América Central para proporcionar apoyo humanitario. En el marco del programa Continuing Promise 2015, el buque Comfort visitó un total de 11 países, desde Guatemala hasta Dominica, llevando a cabo procedimientos como cirugía general, cirugía oftalmológica, servicios veterinarios y capacitación en salud pública. El buque participó previamente en los programas de 2007, 2009 y 2011.

Objetivos cumplidos a coste razonable

Como parte integrada del Comando Sur, la Cuarta Flota ha actuado en operaciones humanitarias importantes, como la respuesta al terremoto en Haití en enero de 2010. La FOURTHFLT tuvo el comando naval en la Operación Respuesta Unificada, que fue la mayor respuesta de contingencia en asistencia humanitaria y ayuda en desastres.

El presupuesto para esas misiones no depende solo de la Marina, como declaró un portavoz del Comando Sur, sino que también hay una contribución de recursos de “otras entidades estadounidenses, como la Guardia Costera y la agencia de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza, las cuales también aportan plataformas y fuerzas, tanto marítimas como aéreas, que son clave para el apoyo de esas misiones. Por lo tanto, estamos buscando un buen contrapeso de gasto-recompensa”.

Además desarrollar actuaciones humanitarias efectivas, a un coste económico limitado, la Cuarta Flota no deja de cumplir también el propósito de que Estados Unidos tenga una presencia militar significativa en el Hemisferio Occidental ante los ojos de los Estados latinoamericanos y caribeños, y también de superpotencias como Rusia y China.


1. La Segunda Flota se desactivó en 2011 y se restableció en 2018.

2. REICH, Simon and DOMBROWSKI, Peter. The End of Grand Strategy. US Maritime Operations In the 21st Century. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, NY, 2017. p. 144

Categorías Global Affairs: Norteamérica Seguridad y defensa Artículos Latinoamérica

WORKING PAPER / N. Moreno, A. Puigrefagut, I. Yárnoz


The fundamental characteristic of the external action of the European Union (EU) in recent years has been the use of the so-called soft power. This soft power has made the Union a key actor for the development of a large part of the world’s regions. The last decades the EU has participated in a considerable amount of projects in the economic, cultural and political fields in order to fulfil the article 2 of its founding Treaty and thus promote their values and interests and contribute to peace, security and sustainable development of the globe through solidarity and respect for all peoples. Nevertheless, EU’s interventions in different regions of the world have not been free of objections that have placed in the spotlight a possible direct attack by the Union to the external States’ national sovereignties, thus creating a principle of neo-colonialism by the EU.


The European Union's soft power: Image branding or neo-colonialism Download the document [pdf. 548K]

Categorías Global Affairs: Unión Europea Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Documentos de trabajo

[Simon Reich and Peter Dombrowski, The End of Grand Strategy. US Maritime Operations In the 21st Century. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, NY, 2017. 238 pages]


REVIEWEmili J. Blasco [Spanish version]

The concept of Grand Strategy is not univocal. In its most abstract sense, used in the field of geopolitics, Grand Strategy refers to the geopolitical imperatives of a country and determines what a State must necessarily do to achieve its primary and fundamental purpose in its relationship with others, usually in terms of power. In a lesser degree of abstraction, Grand Strategy is understood as the principle that should govern the way a country confronts conflicts on the international stage. This is what, in the case of the United States, is usually called a Presidential Doctrine and aims to create a norm for the response, especially in the realm of military force, to the challenges and threats that could arise.

This second meaning, more concrete, is the one used in The End of Grand Strategy. Its authors do not question that there are geopolitical imperatives that should determine the action of the United States over time. What they reject is the intention of giving a unique strategic response to the variety of security risks facing the country. “Strategies have to be calibrated according to operational circumstances. They exist in the plural, not in a singular grand strategy,” say Simon Reich y Peter Dombrowski, who are professors at Rutgers University and at the Naval War College, respectively, and experts on defense issues.

For these authors, “the notion of a grand strategy entails the vain search for order and consistency in a ever-more complex world», «the very idea of a single, one-size-fits-all grand strategy has little utility in the twenty-first century. Indeed, it is often counterproductive.”

Despite the unique doctrines sometimes invoked in some presidencies, in reality different strategic approaches coexist in the same mandate or there are even specific strategies that transcend presidencies. "America does not favor one dominant strategy, nor can it", warn Reich and Dombrowski. 

The End of Grand Strategy. US Maritime Operations In the 21st Century

“The concept of grand strategy is debated in Washington, academia, and the media in the 'singular' rather than the 'plural'. The implication is that there is one path to securing US interests in a complicated world. The debaters also tend to accept a fundamental premise: that the United States has a capacity to control events, and so it can afford to be inelastic in the face of a changing, and increasingly challenging, strategic environment”, write the authors.

The book examines the US military operations so far this century, focusing on naval operations. As a maritime power, it is in this domain where the US action has greater strategic expression. The result of that examination is a list of six strategies, grouped into three types, that the United States has operated in “parallel” and “by necessity”:

1. Hegemony. It rely on American global dominance: a) primacist forms are commonly associated with American unilateralism; in the twenty-first century it included a neoconservative nation-building variant (Iraq and Afghanistan); b) leadership strategy or «cooperative security» is a traditionally liberal coalition in which the United States assumes a primus inter pares role; it aims to secure greater legitimacy for American policies (military drills with Asian partners).

2. Sponsorship. It involves the provision of material and moral resources in support of policies largely advocated and initiated by other actors: a) formal strategies that are specifically authorized by international law and protocols (collaboration against pirates and terrorists); b) informal strategies that respond to the request of a looser coalition of states or policy entrepreneurs rather than being authorized by intergovernmental organizations (interceptions at the sea).

3. Retrenchment: a) isolationism wants to withdraw US forces from overseas bases, reduce US alliance commitments and reassert American sovereignty through stricter border control (barrier against drug-trafficking from South America); b) restraint, which implies selective engagement or offshore balancing (Arctic).

The description of all these different actions shows that, in contrast to the theoretical approach seeking a unifying principle, in reality there are a variety of situations, as the military knows. “Military planners, by contrast, recognize that varied circumstances require a menu of strategic choices», say Reich y Dombrowski. «American policy, in practice, does not replicate any single strategy. It reflects all of them, with different strategic approaches applied, depending on circumstance.”

The authors conclude that “if observers were to accept that no one grand strategy is capable of prescribing responses to the full of threats to American national security, they would necessarily recognize that the primary purpose of a grand strategy is only rhetorical —a statement of values and principles that lack operational utility.” “By definition, the architectural design of any single, abstract strategy is relatively rigid if not indeed static –intellectually, conceptually, analytically, and organizationally. Yet that one grand strategy is expected to work in a context that demands enormous adaptability and that routinely punishes rigidity. (...) The military's leadership is far more aware that scholars or policymakers of that inherent problem.”

Which are the benefits of a plurality of calibrated strategies? According to the authors, it underlines to the policymakers and the public the limits of the US power; it shows that the US is as well influenced by global forces that cannot completely domain, and it tempers the expectations about what the US military can achieve.

[Simon Reich and Peter Dombrowski, The End of Grand Strategy. US Maritime Operations In the 21st Century. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, NY, 2017. 238 pages]


RESEÑA Emili J. Blasco [Versión en inglés]

El concepto de Gran Estrategia no es unívoco. En su sentido más abstracto, utilizado en el campo de la geopolítica, la Grand Strategy se refiere a los imperativos geopolíticos de un país y determina aquello que necesariamente debe hacer un Estado para conseguir su propósito primario y fundamental en su relación con otros, normalmente en términos de poder. En un menor grado de abstracción, la Gran Estrategia se entiende como el principio que debe regir el modo con que un país afronta los conflictos del escenario internacional. Es lo que, en el caso de Estados Unidos, suele denominarse Doctrina de un presidente y aspira a crear una norma para la respuesta, especialmente la militar, que deba darse a los retos y amenazas que se presenten.

Este segundo sentido, más concreto, es el utilizado en The End of Grand Strategy. Sus autores no cuestionan que haya imperativos geopolíticos que deban marcar una determinada actuación de Estados Unidos, constante en el tiempo, sino que se pretenda dar una respuesta estratégica única a la variedad de riesgos de seguridad con los que se enfrenta el país. “Las estrategias deben ser calibradas de acuerdo con las circunstancias operacionales. Existen en plural, no en una singular gran estrategia”, advierten Simon Reich y Peter Dombrowski, profesores de la Universidad de Rutgers y del Naval War College, respectivamente, y ambos expertos en asuntos de defensa.

Para ambos autores, “la noción de una gran estrategia supone la vana búsqueda de orden y coherencia en un mundo cada vez más complejo”, “la misma idea de una sola gran estrategia que sirve para todo tiene poca utilidad en el siglo XXI. De hecho, a menudo es contraproducente”.

A pesar de las doctrinas que en ocasiones se invocan en algunas presidencias, en realidad a menudo coexisten diferentes aproximaciones estratégicas en un mismo mandato o incluso hay específicas estrategias que trascienden presidencias. “Estados Unidos no favorece una estrategia dominante, ni puede hacerlo”, advierten Reich y Dombrowski.

The End of Grand Strategy. US Maritime Operations In the 21st Century

“El concepto de gran estrategia se debate en Washington, en la academia y en los medios en 'singular' en lugar de en 'plural'. La implicación es que hay un camino para asegurar los intereses de Estados Unidos en un mundo complicado. Los que debaten incluso tienden a aceptar una premisa fundamental: que Estados Unidos tiene la capacidad de controlar acontecimientos, y que de esta forma se puede permitir no ser elástico ante un entorno estratégico cambiante y cada vez más desafiante”, escriben los dos autores.

El libro examina las operaciones militares estadounidenses en lo que va de siglo, centrándose en las operaciones navales. Como potencia marítima, es en ese dominio donde la actuación de EEUU tiene mayor expresión estratégica. El resultado de ese examen es una lista de seis estrategias, agrupadas en tres tipos, que EE.UU. ha operado de modo “paralelo” y “por necesidad”.

1. Hegemonía. Se apoya en el dominio global de Estados Unidos: a) las formas primacistas están comúnmente asociadas al unilateralismo estadounidense, que en el siglo XXI ha incluido la variante neoconservadora del nation building (Irak y Afganistán); b) estrategia de liderazgo o “seguridad cooperativa” está basada en la coalición tradicional en la que Estados Unidos asume el papel de primer inter pares; busca asegurar una mayor legitimidad a las políticas estadounidenses (ejercicios militares con socios de Asia).

2. Patrocinio. Implica la provisión de recursos materiales y morales en apoyo de políticas básicamente defendidas e iniciadas por otros actores: a) estrategias formales, que están específicamente autorizadas por la ley y los protocolos internacionales (colaboración contra piratas y terroristas); b) estrategias informales, que responden a la petición de una coalición laxa de estados u otros emprendedores en lugar de estar autorizadas por organizaciones intergubernamentales (capturas en el mar).

3. Atrincheramiento: a) el aislacionismo quiere retirar las fuerzas estadounidense de las bases exteriores, reducir los compromisos de EEUU en alianzas internacionales y reasegurar el control estadounidense mediante un estricto control de la frontera (barrera contra el narcotráfico procedente de Sudamérica); b) contención, que implica participación selectiva o equilibrio desde fuera (Ártico).

La descripción de todas esas distintas actuaciones demuestra que, frente al enfoque teórico que busca un principio unificador, en realidad hay una variedad de situaciones, como saben los militares. «Los planificadores militares, por el contrario, reconocen que una variedad de circunstancias requiere un menú de elecciones estratégicas”, dicen Reich y Dombrowski. “La política estadounidense, en la práctica, no replica ninguna estratégica única. Refleja todas ellas, con la aplicación de aproximaciones estratégicas diferentes, dependiendo de las circunstancias”.

Los autores concluyen que “si los observadores aceptaran que ninguna gran estrategia es capaz de prescribir respuestas a todos las amenazas a la seguridad de Estados Unidos, reconocerían necesariamente que el propósito primario de una gran estrategia es solo retórico –una declaración de valores y principios a los que les falta utilidad operacional”. “Por definición, el diseño arquitectónico de cualquier estrategia única y abstracta es relativamente rígido, si no estático de hecho –intelectual, conceptual, analítica y organizacionalmente. Y sin embargo se espera que esa única gran estrategia funcione en un contexto que reclama una enorme adaptabilidad y que rutinariamente castigo la rigidez (...) El liderazgo militar es mucho más consciente que los académicos o los políticos de este problema inherente».

¿Cuáles son los beneficios de una pluralidad de calibradas estrategias? Según los autores, subraya a los políticos y los ciudadanos los límites del poder de Estados Unidos, muestra que EEUU también está influido por fuerzas globales que no puede dominar del todo y atempera las expectativas sobre lo que puede conseguir el poder militar estadounidense.

Categorías Global Affairs: Norteamérica Seguridad y defensa Reseñas de libros

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and President Donald Trump during a meeting in Washington in 2017 [White House]

▲Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and President Donald Trump during a meeting in Washington in 2017 [White House]

ANALYSIS / Naomi Moreno

Saudi Arabia used to be the only country in the world that banned women from driving. This ban was one of the things that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) was best known for to outsiders not otherwise familiar with the country's domestic politics, and has thus been a casus belli for activists demanding reforms in the kingdom. Last month, Saudi Arabia started issuing the first driver's licenses to women, putting into effect some of the changes promised by the infamous Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) in his bid to modernize Saudi Arabian politics. The end of the ban further signals the beginning of a move to expand the rights of women in KSA, and builds on piecemeal developments that took place in the realm of women’s rights in the kingdom prior to MBS’ entrance to the political scene.

Thus, since 2012, Saudi Arabian women have been able to do sports as well as participate in the Olympic Games; in the 2016 Olympics, four Saudi women were allowed to travel to Rio de Janeiro to compete. Moreover, within the political realm, King Abdullah swore in the first 30 women to the shura council − Saudi Arabia's consultative council − in February 2013, and in the kingdom's 2015 municipal elections, women were able to vote and run for office for the first time. Finally, and highlighting the fact that economic dynamics have similarly played a role in driving progression in the kingdom, the Saudi stock exchange named the first female chairperson in its history − a 39-year-old Saudi woman named Sarah Al Suhaimi − last February.

Further, although KSA may be known to be one of the “worst countries to be a woman”, the country has experienced a notable breakthrough in the last 5 years and the abovementioned advances in women’s rights, to name some, constitute a positive development. However, the most visible reforms have arguably been the work of MBS. The somewhat rash and unprecedented decision to end the ban on driving coincided with MBS' crackdown on ultra-conservative, Wahhabi clerics and the placing of several of the kingdom's richest and most influential men under house arrest, under the pretext of challenging corruption. In addition, under his leadership, the oil-rich kingdom is undergoing economic reforms to reduce the country's dependency on oil, in a bid to modernize the country’s economy. 

Nonetheless, despite the above mentioned reforms being classified by some as unprecedented, progressive leaps that are putting an end to oppression through challenging underlying ultra-conservatism traditions (as well as those that espouse them), a measure of distrust has arisen among Saudis and outsiders with regards the motivations underlying the as-of-yet seemingly limited reforms that have been introduced. While some perceive the crown prince's actions to be a genuine move towards reforming Saudi society, several indicators point to the possibility that MBS might have more practical reasons that are only tangentially related to progression for progression's sake. As the thinking goes, such decrees may have less to do with genuine reform, and more to do with improving an international image to deflect from some of the kingdom’s more controversial practices, both at home and abroad. A number of factors drive this public scepticism.

Reasons for scepticism

The first relates to the fact that KSA is a country where an ultraconservative form of shari'a or Islamic law continues to constitute the primary legal framework. This legal framework is based on the Qur'an and Hadith, within which the public and many private aspects of everyday life are regulated. Unlike in other Muslim majority countries, where only selective elements of the shari'a are adopted, Wahhabism – which is identified by the Court of Strasbourg as a main source of terrorism − has necessitated the strict adherence to a fundamentalist interpretation of shari'a, one that draws from the stricter and more literal Hanbali school of jurisprudence. As such, music and the arts have been strictly controlled and censored. In addition, although the religious police (more commonly known as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice) have had their authority curbed to a certain degree, they are still given the authority to enforce Islamic norms of conduct in public by observing suspects and forwarding their findings to the police.

In the past few years, the KSA has been pushing for a more national Wahhabism, one that is more modern in its outlook and suitable for the kingdom’s image. Nevertheless, the Wahhabi clergy has been close to the Al Saud dynasty since the mid-18th century, offering it Islamic legitimacy in return for control over parts of the state, and a lavish religious infrastructure of mosques and universities. Therefore, Saudi clerics are pushing back significantly against democratization efforts. As a result, the continuing prevalence of a shari'a system of law raises questions about the ability of the kingdom to seriously democratise and reform to become moderate.

Secondly, and from a domestic point of view, Saudi Arabia is experiencing disharmony. Saudi citizens are not willing to live in a country where any political opposition is quelled by force, and punishments for crimes such as blasphemy, sorcery, and apostasy are gruesome and carried out publicly. This internal issue has thus embodied an identity crisis provoked mainly by the 2003 Iraq war, and reinforced by the events of the Arab Spring. Disillusionment, unemployment, religious and tribal splits, as well as human rights abuses and corruption among an ageing leadership have been among the main grievances of the Saudi people who are no longer as tolerant of oppression.

In an attempt to prevent the spill over of the Arab Spring fervor into the Kingdom, the government spent $130 billion in an attempt to offset domestic unrest. Nonetheless, these grants failed to satisfy the nearly 60 percent of the population under the age of twenty-one, which refused to settle. In fact, in 2016 protests broke out in Qatif, a city in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich, eastern provinces, which prompted Saudis to deploy additional security units to the region. In addition, in September of last year, Saudi authorities, arguing a battle against corruption and a crack down on extremism, arrested dozens of people, including prominent clerics. According to a veteran Saudi journalist, this was an absurd action as “there was nothing that called for such arrests”. He argued that several among those arrested were not members of any political organization, but rather individuals with dissenting viewpoints to those held by the ruling family.

Among those arrested was Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, an influential cleric known for agitating for political change and for being a pro-shari'a activist. Awdah's arrest, while potentially disguised as part of the kingdom’s attempts to curb the influence of religious hardliners, is perhaps better understood in the context of the Qatar crisis. Thus, when KSA, with the support of a handful of other countries in the region, initiated a blockade of the small Gulf peninsula in June of last year, Awdah welcomed a report on his Twitter account suggesting that the then three-month-old row between Qatar and four Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia may be resolved. The ensuing arrest of the Sheikh seems to confirm a suspicion that it was potentially related to his favouring the renormalization of relations with Qatar, as opposed to it being related to MBS' campaign to moderate Islam in the kingdom.

A third factor that calls into question the sincerity of the modernization campaign is economic. Although Saudi Arabia became a very wealthy country following the discovery of oil in the region, massive inequality between the various classes has grown since, as these resources remain to be controlled by a select few. As a result, nearly one fifth of the population continues to live in poverty, especially in the predominantly Shi’a South where, ironically, much of the oil reservoirs are located. In these areas, sewage runs in the streets, and only crumbs are spent to alleviate the plight of the poor. Further, youth opportunities in Saudi Arabia are few, which leaves much to be desire, and translates into occasional unrest. Thus, the lack of possibilities has led many young men to join various terrorist organizations in search of a new life.


Statement by MBS in a conference organized in Riyadh in October 2017 [KSA]

Statement by MBS in a conference organized in Riyadh in October 2017 [KSA]


Vision 2030 and international image

In the context of the Saudi Vision 2030, the oil rich country is aiming to wean itself of its dependence on the natural resource which, despite its wealth generation capacity, has also been one of the main causes of the country's economic problems. KSA is facing an existential crisis that has led to a re-think of its long-standing practice of selling oil via fixed contracts. This is why Vision 2030 is so important. Seeking to regain better control over its economic and financial destiny, the kingdom has designed an ambitious economic restructuring plan, spearheaded by MBS. Vision 2030 constitutes a reform programme that aims to upgrade the country’s financial status by diversifying its economy in a world of low oil prices. Saudi Arabia thus needs overseas firms’ investments, most notably in non-oil sectors, in order to develop this state-of-the-art approach. This being said, Vision 2030 inevitably implies reforms on simultaneous fronts that go beyond economic affairs. The action plan has come in at a time when the kingdom is not only dealing with oil earnings and lowering its reserves, but also expanding its regional role. As a result, becoming a more democratic country could attract foreign wealth to a country that has traditionally been viewed in a negative light due to its repressive human rights record.  

This being said, Saudi Arabia also has a lot to do regarding its foreign policy in order to improve its international image. Despite this, the Saudi petition to push the US into a war with Iran has not ceased during recent years. Religious confrontation between the Sunni Saudi autocracy and Iran’s Shi’a theocracy has characterized the geopolitical tensions that have existed in the region for decades. Riyadh has tried to circumvent criticism of its military intervention in the Yemen through capitalizing on the Trump administration's hostility towards Iran, and involving the US in its campaign; thus granting it a degree of legitimacy as an international alliance against the Houthis. Recently, MBS stated that Trump was the “best person at the right time” to confront Iran. Conveniently enough, Trump and the Republicans are now in charge of US’ foreign affairs. Whereas the Obama administration, in its final months, suspended the sale of precision-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia, the Trump administration has moved to reverse this in the context of the Yemeni conflict. In addition, in May of this year, just a month after MBS visited Washington in a meeting which included discussions regarding the Iran accords, the kingdom has heaped praise on president Trump following his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

All things considered, 2018 may go down in history as the irreversible end of the absolute archaic Saudi monarchy. This implosion was necessitated by events, such as those previously mentioned, that Saudi rulers could no longer control or avoid. Hitherto, MBS seems to be fulfilling his father’s wishes. He has hand-picked dutiful and like-minded princes and appointed them to powerful positions. As a result, MBS' actions suggest that the kingdom is turning over a new page in which a new generation of princes and technocrats will lead the breakthrough to a more moderate and democratic Saudi Arabia.

New awareness

However, although MBS has declared that the KSA is moving towards changing existing guardianship laws, due to cultural differences among Saudi families, to date, women still need power of attorney from a male relative to acquire a car, and risk imprisonment should they disobey male guardians. In addition, this past month, at least 12 prominent women’s rights activists who campaigned for women's driving rights just before the country lifted the ban were arrested. Although the lifting of the ban is now effective, 9 of these activists remain behind bars and are facing serious charges and long jail sentences. As such, women continue to face significant challenges in realizing basic rights, despite the positive media endorsement that MBS' lifting of the driving ban has received.

Although Saudi Arabia is making an effort in order to satisfy the public eye, it is with some degree of scepticism that one should approach the country's motivations. Taking into account Saudi Arabia’s current state of affairs, these events suggest that the women’s driving decree was an effort in order to improve the country’s external image as well as an effort to deflect attention from a host of problematic internal and external affairs, such as the proxy warfare in the region, the arrest of dissidents and clerics this past September, and the Qatari diplomatic crisis, which recently “celebrated” its first anniversary. Allowing women to drive is a relatively trivial sacrifice for the kingdom to make and has triggered sufficient positive reverberations globally. Such baby steps are positive, and should be encouraged, yet overlook the fact that they only represent the tip of the iceberg.

As it stands, the lifting of the driving ban does not translate into a concrete shift in the prevailing legal and cultural mindsets that initially opposed it. Rather, it is an indirect approach to strengthen Saudi’s power in economic and political terms. Yet, although women in Saudi Arabia may feel doubtful about the government’s intentions, time remains to be their best ally. After decades of an ultraconservative approach to handling their rights, the country has reached awareness that it can no longer sustain its continued oppression of women; and this for economic reasons, but also as a result of global pressures that affect the success of the country's foreign policies which, by extension, also negatively impact on its interests.

The silver lining for Saudi woman is that, even if the issue of women's rights is being leveraged to secure the larger interests of the kingdom, it continues to represent a slow and steady progression to a future in which women may be granted more freedoms. The downside is that, so long as these rights are not grafted into a broader legal framework that secures them beyond the rule of a single individual − like MBS − women's rights (and human rights in general) will continue to be the temporary product of individual whim. Without an overhaul of the shari'a system that perpetuates regressive attitudes towards women, the best that can be hoped for is the continuation of internal and external pressures that coerce the Saudi leadership into exacting further reforms in the meantime. As with all things, time will tell.

Categorías Global Affairs: Oriente Medio Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Análisis Arabia Saudita y el Golfo Pérsico

WORKING PAPERA. Palacios, M. Lamela, M. Biera [Spanish version]



The European Union (EU) has been specially damaged internally due to some disinformation campaigns, which have challenged its legislation and its very values. The different operations of disinformation alongside the communicative incapacity of the European Union’s institutions have generated a feeling of alarm in Brussels. Just a year before the celebration of the elections to the European Parliament, Europe has concentrated a lot of his efforts in challenge the issue of disinformation, generating new strategies, challenges, objectives and workshops such as the Stratcom Task Force or the group of experts of the European Commission.


Disinformation warfares: Russian campaigns and Western counteractionDownload the document [pdf. 375K]

DOC. DE TRABAJOA. Palacios, M. Lamela, M. Biera [Versión en inglés]


La Unión Europea (UE) se ha visto especialmente dañada internamente por campañas de desinformación que han cuestionado su legislación y sus mismos valores. Las distintas operaciones desinformativas y la incapacidad comunicativa de las instituciones de la Unión Europea han generado un sentimiento de alarma en Bruselas. Apenas un año antes de la celebración de las elecciones al Parlamento Europeo, Europa ha concentrado muchos de sus esfuerzos en hacer frente al desafío desinformativo, generando nuevas estrategias y grupos de trabajo como el Stratcom Task Force o el grupo de expertos de la Comisión Europea.


Guerras desinformativas: las campañas rusas y la reacción occidentalDescargar el documento completo [pdf. 381K]

Categorías Global Affairs: Unión Europea Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Documentos de trabajo