Entradas con Categorías Global Affairs Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza .

Special forces (Pixabay)

▲ Special forces (Pixabay)

ESSAY Roberto Ramírez and Albert Vidal

During the Cold War, Offensive Realism, a theory elaborated by John Mearsheimer, appeared to fit perfectly the international system (Pashakhanlou, 2018). Thirty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, this does not seem to be the case anymore. From the constructivist point of view, Offensive Realism makes certain assumptions about the international system which deserve to be questioned (Wendt, 2008).The purpose of this paper is thus to make a critique of Mearsheimer’s concept of anarchy in the international system. The development of this idea by Mearsheimer can be found in the second chapter of his book ‘The Tragedy of Great Power Politics’.

The essay will begin with a brief summary of the core tenets of the said chapter and how they relate to Offensive Realism more generally. Afterwards, the constructivist theory proposed by Alexander Wendt will be presented. Then, it will be argued from a constructivist approach that the international sphere is the result of a construction and it does not necessarily lead to war. Next, the different types of anarchies that Wendt presents will be described, as an argument against the single and uniform international system that is presented by Neorealists. Lastly, the essay will make a case for the importance of shared values and ideologies, and how this is oftentimes underestimated by offensive realists.

Mearsheimer’s work and Offensive Realism

‘The Tragedy of Great Power Politics’ has become one of the most decisive books in the field of International Relations after the Cold War and has developed the theory of offensive realism to an unprecedented extent. In this work, Mearsheimer enumerates the five assumptions on which offensive realism rests (Mearsheimer, 2014):

1. The international system is anarchic. Mearsheimer understand anarchy as an ordering principle that comprises independent states which have no central authority above them. There is no “government over governments”.

2. Great powers inherently possess offensive military capabilities; which means that there will always be a possibility of mutual destruction. Thus, every state could be a potential enemy.

3. States are never certain of other states’ intentions. All states may be benign, but states could never be sure about that, since their intention could change all of a sudden.

4. Survival is the primary goal of great powers and it dominates other motives. Once a state is conquered, any chances to achieve other goals disappear.

5. Great powers are rational actors, because when it comes to international policies, they consider how their behavior could affect other’s behavior and vice versa.

The problem is, according to Mearsheimer, that when those five assumptions come together, they create strong motivations for great powers to behave offensively, and three patterns of behavior originate (Mearsheimer, 2007).

First, great powers fear each other, which is a motivating force in world politics. States look with suspicion to each other in a system with little room for trust. Second, states aim to self-help actions, as they tend to see themselves as vulnerable and lonely. Thus, the best way to survive in this self-help world is to be selfish. Alliances are only temporary marriages of convenience because states are not willing to subordinate their interest to international community. Lastly, power maximization is the best way to ensure survival. The stronger a state is compared to their enemies, the less likely it is to be attacked by them. But, how much power is it necessary to amass, so that a state will not be attacked by others? As that is something very difficult to know, the only goal can be to achieve hegemony.

A Glimpse of Constructivism, by Alexander Wendt

According to Alexander Wendt, one of the main constructivist authors, there are two main tenets that will help understand this approach:

The first one goes as follows: “The identities and interests of purposive actors are constructed by these shared ideas rather than given by nature” (Wendt, 2014). Constructivism has two main referent objects: the individual and the state. This theory looks into the identity of the individuals of a nation to understand the interests of a state. That is why there is a need to understand what identity and interests are, according to constructivism, and what are they used for.

i. Identity is understood by constructivism as the social interactions that people of a nation have with each other, which shape their ideas. Constructivism tries to understand the identity of a group or a nation through its historical record, cultural things and sociology. (McDonald, 2012).

ii. A state’s interest is a cultural construction and it has to do with the cultural identity of its citizens. For example, when we see that a state is attacking our state’s liberal values, we consider it a major threat; however, when it comes to buglers or thieves, we don’t get alarmed that much because they are part of our culture. Therefore, when it comes to international security, what may seem as a threat for a state may not be considered such for another (McDonald, 2012).

The second tenet says that “the structures of human association are determined primarily by shared ideas rather than material forces”. Once that constructivism has analyzed the individuals of a nation and knows the interest of the state, it is able to examine how interests can reshape the international system (Wendt, 2014). But, is the international system dynamic? This may be answered by dividing the international system in three elements:

a) States, according to constructivism, are composed by a material structure and an idealist structure. Any modification in the material structure changes the ideal one, and vice versa. Thus, the interest of a state will differ from those of other states, according to their identity (Theys, 2018).

b) Power, understood as military capabilities, is totally variable. Such variation may occur in quantitative terms or in the meaning given to such military capabilities by the idealist structure (Finnemore, 2017). For instance, the friendly relationship between the United States (US) and the United Kingdom is different from the one between the US and North Korea, because there is an intersubjectivity factor to be considered (Theys, 2018).

c) International anarchy, according to Wendt, does not exist as an “ordering principle” but it is “what states make of it” (Wendt, 1995). Therefore, the anarchical system is mutable.

The international system and power competition: a wrong assumption?

The first argument will revolve around the following neorealist assumption: the international system is anarchic by nature and leads to power competition, and this cannot be changed.  To this we add the fact that states are understood as units without content, being qualitatively equal.

What would constructivists answer to those statements? Let’s begin with an example that illustrates the weakness of the neorealist argument: to think of states as blank units is problematic. North Korea spends around $10 billion in its military (Craw, 2019), and a similar amount is spent by Taiwan. But the former is perceived as a dangerous threat while the latter isn’t. According to Mearsheimer, we should consider both countries equally powerful and thus equally dangerous, and we should assume that both will do whatever necessary to increase their power. But in reality, we do not think as such: there is a strong consensus on the threat that North Korea represents, while Taiwan isn’t considered a serious threat to anyone (it might have tense relations with China, but that is another issue).

The key to this puzzle is identity. And constructivism looks on culture, traditions and identity to better understand what goes on. The history of North Korea, the wars it has suffered, the Japanese attitude during the Second World War, the Juche ideology, and the way they have been educated enlightens us, and helps us grasp why North Korea’s attitude in the international arena is aggressive according to our standards. One could scrutinize Taiwan’s past in the same manner, to see why has it evolved in such way and is now a flourishing and open society; a world leader in technology and good governance. Nobody would see Taiwan as a serious threat to its national security (with the exception of China, but that is different).

This example could be brought to a bigger scale and it could be said that International Relations are historically and socially constructed, instead of being the inevitable consequence of human nature. It is the states the ones that decide how to behave, and whether to be a good ally or a traitor. And thus the maxim ‘anarchy is what states make of it’, which is better understood in the following fragment (Copeland, 2000; p.188):

‘Anarchy has no determinant "logic," only different cultural instantiations. Because each actor's conception of self (its interests and identity) is a product of the others' diplomatic gestures, states can reshape structure by process; through new gestures, they can reconstitute interests and identities toward more other-regarding and peaceful means and ends.’

We have seen Europe succumb under bloody wars for centuries, but we have also witnessed more than 70 years of peace in that same region, after a serious commitment of certain states to pursue a different goal. Europe has decided to do something else with the anarchy that it was given: it has constructed a completely different ecosystem, which could potentially expand to the rest of the international system and change the way we understand international relations.  This could obviously change for the better or for the worse, but what matters is that it has been proven how the cycle of inter-state conflict and mutual distrust is not inevitable. States can decide to behave otherwise and trust in their neighbors; by altering the culture that constitutes the system, they can set the foundations for non-egoistic mind-sets that will bring peace (Copeland, 2000). It will certainly not be easy to change, but it is perfectly possible.

As it was said before, constructivism does not deny an initial state of anarchy in the international system; it simply affirms that it is an empty vessel which does not inevitably lead to power competition. Wendt affirms that whether a system is conflictive or peaceful is not decided by anarchy and power, but by the shared culture that is created through interaction (Copeland, 2000).

Three different ‘anarchies’

Alexander Wendt describes in his book ‘Social Theory of International Politics’ the three cultures of anarchy that have embedded the international system for the past centuries (Wendt, 1999). Each of these cultures has been constructed by the states, thanks to their interaction and acceptance of behavioral norms. Such norms continuously shape states’ interests and identities.

Firstly, the Hobbesian culture dominated the international system until the 17th century; where the states saw each other as dangerous enemies that competed for the acquisition of power. Violence was used as a common tool to resolve disputes. Then, the Lockean culture emerged with the Treaty of Westphalia (1648): here states became rivals, and violence was still used, but with certain restrains. Lastly, the Kantian culture has appeared with the spread of democracies. In this culture of anarchy, states cooperate and avoid using force to solve disputes (Copeland, 2000). The three examples that have been presented show how the Neorealist assumption that anarchy is of one sort, and that it drives toward power competition cannot be sustained. According to Copeland (2000; p.198-199), ‘[…] if states fall into such conflicts, it is a result of their own social practices, which reproduce egoistic and military mind-sets. If states can transcend their past realpolitik mindset, hope for the future can be restored.’

Ideal structures are more relevant than what you think

One of the common assertions of Offensive Realism is that “[…] the desire for security and fear of betrayal will always override shared values and ideologies” (Seitz, 2016). Constructivism opposes such assertion, and brands it as too simplistic. In reality, it has been repeatedly proven wrong. A common history, shared values, and even friendship among states are some things that Offensive Realism purposefully ignores and does not contemplate. 

Let’s illustrate it with an example. Country A has presumed power strength of 7. Country B has a power strength of 15. Offensive Realism would say that country A is under the threat of an attack by country B, which is much more powerful and if it has the chance, it will conquer country A. No other variables or structures are taken into account, and that will happen inexorably. Such assertion, under today’s dynamics is considered quite absurd. Let’s put a counter-example: who in earth thinks that the US is dying to conquer Canada and will do so when the first opportunity comes up? Why doesn’t France invade Luxembourg, if one take into account how easy and lucrative this enterprise might be? Certainly, there are other aspects such as identities and interests that offensive realism has ignored, but are key in shaping states’ behavior in the international system.

That is how shared values (an ideal structure) oftentimes overrides power concerns (a material structure) when two countries that are asymmetrically powerful become allies and decide to cooperate.


After deepening into the understanding that offensive realists have of anarchy in the international system, this essay has covered the different arguments that constructivists employ to face such conception. To put it briefly, it has been argued that the international system is the result of a construction, and it is shared culture that decides whether anarchy will lead to conflict or peace. To prove such argument, the three different types of anarchies that have existed in the relatively recent times have been described. Finally, a case has been made for the importance of shared values and ideologies over material structures, which is generally dismissed by offensive realists.

Although this has not been an exhaustive critique of Offensive Realism, the previous insights may have provided certain key ideas that will contribute to the conversation. Our understanding of the theory of constructivism will certainly shape the way we tackle crisis and the way we conceive international relations. It is then tremendously important that one knows in which cases it ought to be applied, so that we do not rely completely on a particular theory which becomes our new object of veneration; since this may have dreadful consequences.



Copeland, D. C. (2000). The Constructivist Challenge to Structural Realism: A Review Essay. The MIT Press, 25, 287–212. Retrieved from

Craw, V. (2019). North Korea military spending: Country spends 22 per cent of GDP. Retrieved from

D. Williams, P. (2012). Security Studies: An Introduction. (Routledge, Ed.) (2nd ed.).

Finnemore, M. (2017). National Interests in International Society (pp. 6 - 7).

McDonald, M. (2012). Security, the environment and emancipation (pp. 48 - 59). New York: Routledge.

Mearsheimer, J. (2014). The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. (WW Norton & Co, Ed.). New York.

Mearsheimer. (2007). Tragedy of great power politics (pp. 29 - 54). [Place of publication not identified]: Academic Internet Pub Inc.

Pashakhanlou, A. (2018). Realism and fear in international relations. [Place of publication not identified]: Palgrave Macmillan.

Seitz, S. (2016). A Critique of Offensive Realism. Retrieved March 2, 2019, from

Theys, S. (2018). Introducing Constructivism in International Relations Theory. Retrieved from

Walt, S. M. (1987). The Origins of Alliances. (C. U. Press, Ed.). Ithaca.

Wendt, A. (1995). Constructing international politics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Wendt, A. (2008). Anarchy is what States make of it (pp. 399 - 403). Farnham: Ashgate.

Wendt, A. (2014). Social theory of international politics (p. 1). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wendt, A. (2014). Social theory of international politics (p. 29 - 33). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Categorías Global Affairs: Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Ensayos Global

The struggle for power has already started in the Islamic Republic in the midst of US sanctions and ahead a new electoral cycle

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaking to Iranian Air Force personnel, in 2016 [Wikipedia]

▲ Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaking to Iranian Air Force personnel, in 2016 [Wikipedia]

ANALYSISRossina Funes and Maeve Gladin

The failing health of Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei, 89, brings into question the political aftermath of his approaching death or possible step-down. Khamenei’s health has been a point of query since 2007, when he temporarily disappeared from the public eye. News later came out that he had a routine procedure which had no need to cause any suspicions in regards to his health. However, the question remains as to whether his well-being is a fantasy or a reality. Regardless of the truth of his health, many suspect that he has been suffering prostate cancer all this time. Khamenei is 89 years old –he turns 80 in July– and the odds of him continuing as active Supreme Leader are slim to none. His death or resignation will not only reshape but could also greatly polarize the successive politics at play and create more instability for Iran.

The next possible successor must meet certain requirements in order to be within the bounds of possible appointees. This political figure must comply and follow Khamenei’s revolutionary ideology by being anti-Western, mainly anti-American. The prospective leader would also need to meet religious statues and adherence to clerical rule. Regardless of who that cleric may be, Iran is likely to be ruled by another religious figure who is far less powerful than Khamenei and more beholden to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Additionally, Khamenei’s successor should be young enough to undermine the current opposition to clerical rule prevalent among many of Iran’s youth, which accounts for the majority of Iran’s population.

In analyzing who will head Iranian politics, two streams have been identified. These are constrained by whether the current Supreme Leader Khamenei appoints his successor or not, and within that there are best and worst case scenarios.

Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi

Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi had been mentioned as the foremost contender to stand in lieu of Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei. Shahroudi was a Khamenei loyalist who rose to the highest ranks of the Islamic Republic’s political clerical elite under the supreme leader’s patronage and was considered his most likely successor. A former judiciary chief, Shahroudi was, like his patron, a staunch defender of the Islamic Revolution and its founding principle, velayat-e-faqih (rule of the jurisprudence). Iran’s domestic unrest and regime longevity, progressively aroused by impromptu protests around the country over the past year, is contingent on the political class collectively agreeing on a supreme leader competent of building consensus and balancing competing interests. Shahroudi’s exceptional faculty to bridge the separated Iranian political and clerical establishment was the reason his name was frequently highlighted as Khamenei’s eventual successor. Also, he was both theologically and managerially qualified and among the few relatively nonelderly clerics viewed as politically trustworthy by Iran’s ruling establishment. However, he passed away in late December 2018, opening once again the question of who was most likely to take Khamenei’s place as Supreme Leader of Iran.

However, even with Shahroudi’s early death, there are still a few possibilities. One is Sadeq Larijani, the head of the judiciary, who, like Shahroudi, is Iraqi born. Another prospect is Ebrahim Raisi, a former 2017 presidential candidate and the custodian of the holiest shrine in Iran, Imam Reza. Raisi is a student and loyalist of Khamenei, whereas Larijani, also a hard-liner, is more independent.



1.1 Ebrahim Raisi

In a more likely scenario, Ebrahim Raisi would rise as Iran’s next Supreme Leader. He meets the requirements aforementioned with regards to the religious status and the revolutionary ideology. Fifty-eight-years-old, Raisi is a student and loyal follower of the current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Like his teacher, he is from Mashhad and belongs to its famous seminary. He is married to the daughter of Ayatollah Alamolhoda, a hardline cleric who serves as Khamenei's representative of in the eastern Razavi Khorasan province, home of the Imam Reza shrine.

Together with his various senior judicial positions, in 2016 Raisi was appointed the chairman of Astan Quds Razavi, the wealthy and influential charitable foundation which manages the Imam Reza shrine. Through this appointment, Raisi developed a very close relationship with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is a known ideological and economic partner of the foundation. In 2017, he moved into the political sphere by running for president, stating it was his "religious and revolutionary responsibility". He managed to secure a respectable 38 percent of the vote; however, his contender, Rouhani, won with 57 percent of the vote. At first, this outcome was perceived as an indicator of Raisi’s relative unpopularity, but he has proven his detractors wrong. After his electoral defeat, he remained in the public eye and became an even more prominent political figure by criticizing Rouhani's policies and pushing for hard-line policies in both domestic and foreign affairs. Also, given to Astan Quds Foundation’s extensive budget, Raisi has been able to secure alliances with other clerics and build a broad network that has the ability to mobilize advocates countrywide.

Once he takes on the role of Supreme Leader, he will continue his domestic and regional policies. On the domestic front, he will further Iran's Islamisation and regionally he will push to strengthen the "axis of resistance", which is the anti-Western and anti-Israeli alliance between Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Shia Iraq and Hamas. Nevertheless, if this happens, Iran would live on under the leadership of yet another hardliner and the political scene would not change much. Regardless of who succeeds Khamenei, a political crisis is assured during this transition, triggered by a cycle of arbitrary rule, chaos, violence and social unrest in Iran. It will be a period of uncertainty given that a great share of the population seems unsatisfied with the clerical establishment, which was also enhanced by the current economic crisis ensued by the American sanctions.

1.2 Sadeq Larijani

Sadeq Larijani, who is fifty-eight years old, is known for his conservative politics and his closeness to the supreme guide of the Iranian regime Ali Khamenei and one of his potential successors. He is Shahroudi’s successor as head of the judiciary and currently chairs the Expediency Council. Additionally, the Larijani family occupies a number of important positions in government and shares strong ties with the Supreme Leader by being among the most powerful families in Iran since Khamenei became Supreme Leader thirty years ago. Sadeq Larijani is also a member of the Guardian Council, which vetos laws and candidates for elected office for conformance to Iran’s Islamic system.

Formally, the Expediency Council is an advisory body for the Supreme Leader and is intended to resolve disputes between parliament and a scrutineer body, therefore Larijani is well informed on the way Khamenei deals with governmental affairs and the domestic politics of Iran. Therefore, he meets the requirement of being aligned with Khamenei’s revolutionary and anti- Western ideology, and he is also a conservative cleric, thus he complies with the religious figure requirement. Nonetheless, he is less likely to be appointed as Iran’s next Supreme Leader given his poor reputation outside Iran. The U.S. sanctioned Larijani on the grounds of human rights violations, in addition to “arbitrary arrests of political prisoners, human rights defenders and minorities” which “increased markedly” since he took office, according to the EU who also sanctioned Larijani in 2012. His appointment would not be a strategic decision amidst the newly U.S. imposed sanctions and the trouble it has brought upon Iran. Nowadays, the last thing Iran wants is that the EU also turn their back to them, which would happen if Larijani rises to power. However it is still highly plausible that Larijani would be the second one on the list of prospective leaders, only preceded by Raisi.




2.1 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

The IRGC’s purpose is to preserve the Islamic system from foreign interference and protect from coups. As their priority is the protection of national security, the IRGC necessarily will take action once Khamenei passes away and the political sphere becomes chaotic. In carrying out their role of protecting national security, the IRGC will act as a support for the new Supreme Leader. Moreover, the IRGC will work to stabilize the unrest which will inevitably occur, regardless of who comes to power. It is our estimate that the new Supreme Leader will have been appointed by Khamenei before death, and thus the IRGC will do all in their power to protect him. In the unlikely case that Khamenei does not appoint a successor, we believe that there are two unlikely options of ruling that could arise.

The first, and least likely, being that the IRGC takes rule. Moreover, it is highly unlikely that the IRGC takes power. This would violate the Iranian constitution and is not in the interest to rule the state. What they are interested in is having a puppet figure who will satisfy their interests. As the IRGC's main role is national security, in the event that Khamenei does not appoint a successor and the country goes into political and social turmoil, the IRGC will without a doubt step in. This military intervention will be one of transitory nature, as the IRGC does not pretend to want direct political power. Once the Supreme Leader is secured, the IRGC will go back to a relatively low profile.

In the very unlikely event that a Supreme Leader is not predetermined, the IRGC may take over the political regime of Iran, creating a military dictatorship. If this were to happen, there would certainly be protests, riots and coups. It would be very difficult for an opposition group to challenge and defeat the IRGC, but there would be attempts to overcome it. This would be a regime of temporary nature, however, the new Supreme Leader would arise from the scene that the IRGC had been protecting.

2.2 Mohsen Kadivar

In addition, political dissident and moderate cleric Mohsen Kadivar is a plausible candidate for the next Supreme Leader. Kadivar’s rise to political power in Iran would be a black swan,  as it is extremely unlikely, however, the possibility should not be dismissed. His election would be highly unlikely due to the fact that he is a vocal critic of clerical rule and has been a public opposer of the Iranian government. He has served time in prison for speaking out in favor of democracy and liberal reform as well as publicly criticizing the Islamic political system. Moreover, he has been a university professor of Islamic religious and legal studies throughout the United States. As Kadivar goes against all requirements to become successor, he is highly unlikely to become Supreme Leader. It is also important to keep in mind that Khamenei will most likely appoint a successor, and in that scenario, he will appoint someone who meets the requirements and of course is in line with what he believes. In the rare case that Khamenei does not appoint a successor or dies before he gets the chance to, a political uprising is inevitable. The question will be whether the country uprises to the point of voting a popular leader or settling with someone who will maintain the status quo.

In the situation that Mohsen Kadivar is voted into power, the Iranian political system would change drastically. For starters, he would not call himself Supreme Leader, and would instill a democratic and liberal political system. Kadivar and other scholars which condemn supreme clerical rule are anti-despotism and advocate for its abolishment. He would most likely establish a western-style democracy and work towards stabilizing the political situation of Iran. This would take more years than he will allow himself to remain in power, however, he will probably stay active in the political sphere both domestically as well as internationally. He may be secretary of state after stepping down, and work as both a close friend and advisor of the next leader of Iran as well as work for cultivating ties with other democratic countries.

2.3 Sayyid Mojtaba Hosseini Khamenei

Khamenei's son, Sayyid Mojtaba Hosseini Khamenei is also rumored to be a possible designated successor. His religious and military experience and dedication, along with being the son of Khamenei gives strong reason to believe that he may be appointed Supreme Leader by his father. However, Mojtaba is lacking the required religious status. The requirements of commitment to the IRGC as well as anti-American ideology are not questioned, as Mojtaba has a well-known strong relationship with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Mojtaba studied theology and is currently a professor at Qom Seminary in Iran. Nonetheless, it is unclear as to whether Mojtaba’s religious and political status is enough to have him considered to be the next Supreme Leader. In the improbable case that Khamenei names his son to be his successor, it would be possible for his son to further commit to the religious and political facets of his life and align them with the requirements of being Supreme Leader.

This scenario is highly unlikely, especially considering that in the 1979 Revolution, monarchical hereditary succession was abolished. Mojtaba has already shown loyalty to Iran when taking control of the Basij militia during the uproar of the 2009 elections to halt protests. While Mojtaba is currently not fit for the position, he is clearly capable of gaining the needed credentials to live up to the job. Despite his potential, all signs point to another candidate becoming the successor before Mojtaba.



Albeit the current regime is supposedly overturned by an uprising or new appointment by the current Supreme Leader Khamenei, it is expected that any transition to democracy or to Western-like regime will take a longer and more arduous process. If this was the case, it will be probably preceded by a turmoil analogous to the Arab Springs of 2011. However, even if there was a scream for democracy coming from the Iranian population, the probability that it ends up in success like it did in Tunisia is slim to none. Changing the president or the Supreme Leader does not mean that the regime will also change, but there are more intertwined factors that lead to a massive change in the political sphere, like it is the path to democracy in a Muslim state.

Categorías Global Affairs: Oriente Medio Análisis Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Irán

[Francis Fukuyama, Identidad. La demanda de dignidad y las políticas de resentimiento. Deusto, Barcelona, 2019. 208 p.]

RESEÑAEmili J. Blasco

Identidad. La demanda de dignidad y las políticas de resentimiento

El deterioro democrático que hoy vemos en el mundo está generando una literatura propia como la que, sobre el fenómeno contrario, se suscitó con la primavera democrática vivida tras la caída del Muro de Berlín (lo que Huntington llamó la tercera ola democratizadora). En aquel momento de optimismo, Francis Fukuyama popularizó la idea del “fin de la historia” –la democracia como instancia final en la evolución de las instituciones humanas–; hoy, en este otoño democrático, Fukuyama advierte en un nuevo ensayo del riesgo de que lo identitario, despojado de las salvaguardas liberales, fagocite los demás valores si sigue en manos del resurgente nacionalismo populista.

La alerta no es nueva. De ella no se movió Huntington, que ya en 1996 publicó su Choque de civilizaciones, destacando la potencia motriz del nacionalismo; luego, en los últimos años, diversos autores se han referido al retroceso de la marea democrática. Fukuyama cita la expresión de Larry Diamond “recesión democrática”, constatando que frente al salto dado entre 1970 y el comienzo del nuevo milenio (se pasó de 35 a 120 democracias electorales) hoy el número ha decrecido.

El último célebre teórico de las relaciones internacionales en escribir al respecto ha sido John Mearsheimer, quien en The Great Delusion constata cómo el mundo se da hoy cuenta de la ingenuidad de pensar que la arquitectura liberal iba a dominar la política doméstica y exterior de las naciones. Para Mearsheimer, el nacionalismo emerge de nuevo con fuerza como alternativa. Eso ya se observó justo tras descomposición del Bloque del Este y de la URSS, con la guerra de los Balcanes como ejemplo paradigmático, pero la democratización de Europa central y oriental y su rápido ingreso en la OTAN llevaron al engaño (delusion).

Han sido la personalidad y las políticas del actual morador de la Casa Blanca lo que a algunos pensadores estadounidenses, entre ellos Fukuyama, ha puesto en alerta. “Este libro no se habría escrito si Donald J. Trump no hubiera sido elegido presidente en noviembre de 2016”, advierte el profesor de la Universidad de Stanford, director de su Centro sobre Democracia, Desarrollo y Estado de Derecho. En su opinión, Trump “es tanto un producto como un contribuidor de la decadencia” democrática y constituye un exponente del fenómeno más amplio del nacionalismo populista.

Fukuyama define ese populismo a partir de sus dirigentes: “Los líderes populistas buscan usar la legitimidad conferida por las elecciones democráticas para consolidar su poder. Reivindican una conexión directa y carismática con el pueblo, que a menudo es definido en estrechos términos étnicos que excluyen importantes partes de la población. No les gusta las instituciones y buscan socavar los pesos y contrapesos que limitan el poder personal de un líder en una democracia liberal moderna: tribunales, parlamento, medios independientes y una burocracia no partidista”.

Probablemente es injusto echar en cara a Fukuyama algunas conclusiones de El final de la historia y el último hombre (1992), un libro a menudo malinterpretado y sacado de su clave teórica. El autor luego ha concretado más su pensamiento sobre el desarrollo institucional de la organización social, especialmente en sus títulos Origins of Political Order (2011) y Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Present Day (2014). Ya en este último apuntaba el riesgo de regresión, en particular a la vista de la polarización y falta de consenso en la política estadounidense.

En Identidad, Fukuyama considera que el nacionalismo no étnico ha sido una fuerza positiva en las sociedades siempre que se ha basado en la construcción de identidades alrededor de valores políticos liberales y democráticos (pone el ejemplo de India, Francia, Canadá y Estados Unidos). Ello porque la identidad, que facilita el sentido de comunidad y pertenencia, puede contribuir a desarrollar seis funciones: seguridad física, calidad del gobierno, promoción del desarrollo económico, aumento del radio de confianza, mantenimiento de una protección social que mitiga las desigualdades económicas y facilitación de la democracia liberal misma.

No obstante –y este puede ser el toque de atención que pretende el libro–, en un momento de recesión de los valores liberales y democráticos estos van a acompañar cada vez menos al fenómeno identitario, de forma que este puede pasar en muchos casos de integrador a excluyente.

Categorías Global Affairs: Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Reseñas de libros Global

[Pablo Simón, El príncipe moderno: Democracia, política y poder. Debate, Barcelona 2018, 272 páginas]


RESEÑAAlejandro Palacios

El príncipe moderno: Democracia, política y poder

Las relaciones internacionales son guiadas en cada Estado por una serie de líderes e, indirectamente, por partidos políticos que son elegidos de manera más o menos democrática por los ciudadanos. Por tanto, la alta volatilidad del voto que vemos extenderse hoy en nuestras sociedades repercute indirectamente en la deriva del sistema internacional. Este libro trata de hacer un repaso a los sistemas políticos de algunos países para tratar de explicar, en esencia, cómo los ciudadanos interactúan dentro de cada sistema político. La pertinencia del libro está, pues, más que justificada.

De hecho, al entender las tendencias de voto de los ciudadanos, moldeadas por las divisiones sociales y el sistema político al que se enfrenten, nos podemos hacer una idea de por qué han emergido líderes políticamente tan radicales como Trump o Bolsonaro. A modo de ejemplo, no resulta lo mismo votar en un sistema mayoritario que hacerlo dentro de un sistema proporcional. Tampoco votan igual jóvenes y adultos, habitantes de la ciudad y del campo ni los hombres y las mujeres (divisiones conocidas como la triple brecha electoral).

El autor del libro, el politólogo español Pablo Simón, toma como punto de partida la Gran Recesión de 2008, momento en el cual comienzan a emerger nuevas opciones políticas fomentadas, en parte, por la pérdida de confianza tanto en los partidos políticos tradicionales como en el sistema en sí. Paralelamente, la obra intenta reivindicar la importancia de la existencia de una ciencia política que, como tal, sea capaz de tomar una afirmación popular sobre un tema relevante, contrastarla empíricamente y extraer conclusiones en su mayoría generales que ayuden a confirmar o desmentir dicha creencia.

Pablo Simón combina además el análisis práctico de casos reales en diferentes países con aclaraciones teóricas. Esto ayuda a que los lectores menos familiarizados puedan seguir fácilmente las explicación de los fenómenos a los que va haciendo referencia, consiguiendo así que este libro sea accesible para el público en general y no únicamente para un público especializado en teoría y análisis político.

La comparación que el autor hace de los diversos sistemas políticos de varios países (habla de España, pero también de Francia, Bélgica y Estados Unidos, entre otros) hace de este libro un excelente manual de consulta para todos aquellos que, sin dedicarse expresamente a ello, quieran tener una idea global de los sistemas de partidos en el resto del mundo y del porqué de las dinámicas políticas actuales.

Como contrapunto al esfuerzo de divulgación lógicamente hay una menor profundidad en ciertos aspectos abordados. Pero precisamente ese afán divulgativo hace del texto algo ameno de leer tanto por la claridad y concisión de su contenido (no excesivamente técnico y con aclaraciones teóricas) como por su extensión (apenas 275 páginas). En definitiva, un libro el cual constituye el manual perfecto para todos aquellos interesados en el funcionamiento de la política en sentido amplio, sus casusas y efectos.

Categorías Global Affairs: Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Reseñas de libros Global

La sorpresa electoral de Thierry Baudet y la nueva derecha holandesa

Holanda ha conocido los últimos años no solo el declive de algunos de los partidos tradicionales, sino que incluso el nuevo partido del populista Geert Wilders se ha visto superado por una formación aún más reciente, liderada por Thierry Baudet, también marcadamente de derecha pero algo más sofisticada. El terremoto político de las elecciones regionales de marzo podría llevarse por delante la coalición de Gobierno del liberal Mark Rutte, quien ha dado continuidad a la política holandesa a lo largo de los últimos nueve años.

Thierry Baudet, en un spot publicitario de su partido, Foro para la Democracia (FVD)

▲ Thierry Baudet, en un spot publicitario de su partido, Foro para la Democracia (FVD)

ARTÍCULOJokin de Carlos Sola

El pasado 20 de marzo se celebraron elecciones regionales en los Países Bajos. Los partidos que conforman la coalición que mantiene en el poder a Mark Rutte sufrieron un fuerte castigo en todas las regiones, y lo mismo ocurrió con el partido del celebre y polémico Geert Wilders. El gran ganador de estas elecciones fue el partido Foro para la Democracia (FvD), fundado y dirigido por Thierry Baudet, de 36 años y nueva estrella de la política neerlandesa. Estos resultados siembran dudas sobre el futuro del Gobierno de Mark Rutte una vez se renueve la composición del Senado el próximo mes de mayo.

Desde la Segunda Guerra Mundial tres fuerzas han protagonizado la política holandesa: la Llamada Demócrata Cristiana (CDA), el Partido Laborista (PvA) y el Partido Popular por la Libertad y la Democracia (VVD), de tendencia liberal. Las tres sumaban el 83% del electorado neerlandés en 1982. Debido al sistema holandés de representación proporcional ningún partido ha tenido nunca mayoría absoluta, por lo que siempre han existido gobiernos de coalición. El sistema también propicia, al no ser castigados, que los pequeños partidos siempre logren representación, dándose así una gran variedad ideológica en el Parlamento.

Con el pasar de los años los tres partidos principales fueron perdiendo influencia. En 2010, tras ocho años de gobierno, la CDA paso del 26% y el primer puesto en el Parlamento al 13% y cuarto puesto. Esta caída llevó por primera vez al VVD al poder bajo el liderazgo de Mark Rutte y provocó la entrada de Geert Wilders y su Partido por la Libertad (PVV), una formación populista de derecha, en la política holandesa. Poco después Rutte formó una Gran Coalición con el PvA. Sin embargo, esta decisión causó que los laboristas bajaran del 24% al 5% en las elecciones de 2017. Estos resultados hicieron que tanto el VVD como Rutte quedasen como el último elemento de la antigua política neerlandesa.

Esas elecciones de 2017 generaron aún mayor diversidad en el Parlamento. En ellas lograron representación partidos como el Partido Reformado, de ideología Ortodoxa Calvinista; el bautizado como 50+, con el objetivo de defender los intereses de los jubilados, o el partido DENK, creado para defender los intereses de la minoría turca en el país. Sin embargo, ninguno de estos partidos tendría tanta relevancia posterior como el Foro para la Democracia y su líder Thierry Baudet.

Foro para la Democracia

El Foro para la Democracia fue fundado como un think tank en 2016, dirigido por el franco-neerlandés Thierry Baudet, de 33 años. Al año siguiente el FvD se convirtió en partido, presentándose como una formación conservadora o nacional conservadora, y logró dos parlamentarios en las elecciones regionales. Desde entonces ha ido creciendo, a costa principalmente de Geert Wilders y su PVV. Una de las principales razones de esto es que Wilders es acusado de no tener más programa que el rechazo de la inmigración y la salida de la Union Europea. Tan celebre como polémico fue el hecho que PVV presentó su programa en tan solo una página. Por el contrario, Baudet ha creado un programa amplio en el que se proponen temas como la introducción de la democracia directa, la privatización de ciertos sectores, el fin de los recortes militares y un rechazo al multiculturalismo en general. Por otra parte, Baudet se ha creado una imagen de mayor talla intelectual y respetabilidad que Wilders. No obstante, el partido también ha sufrido descensos de popularidad por ciertas actitudes de Baudet, como su negacionismo del cambio climático, su relación con Jean Marie Le Pen o Filip Dewinter y su negativa a responder si relacionaba el coeficiente intelectual con la raza.

Elecciones Regionales

Los Países Bajos están divididos en 12 regiones, cada región dispone de un Consejo, el cual puede tener entre 39 y 55 representantes. Cada consejo elige tanto al Comisario Real, quien actúa como máxima autoridad de la región, como al ejecutivo, generalmente formado mediante una coalición de partidos. Las regiones tienen una serie de competencias concedidas por el Gobierno central.

En las elecciones provinciales del pasado mes de marzo el FvD logró ser el primer partido en 6 de 12 regiones, incluidas las de Holanda del Norte y Holanda del Sur, donde se encuentran las ciudades de Amsterdam, Rotterdam y La Haya, que habían sido tradicionales bastiones del VVD. Además de esto consiguió ser el partido con más representantes de toda Holanda. Estos avances se lograron principalmente a expensas del PVV. Aunque estos resultados no garantizan al FvD tener el gobierno en ninguna región, si le dan influencia y eco mediático, algo que Baudet ha sabido aprovechar.

Varios medios relacionaron la victoria de Baudet con el asesinato días previos en Utrech de tres holandeses a manos de ciudadano turco, que según las autoridades tuvo muy posiblemente una motivación terrorista. No obstante, el FvD llevaba tiempo creciendo y ganando terreno. Las razones de su auge son varias: el declive de Wilders, las acciones del primer ministro Rutte en favor de empresas holandesas como Shell o Unilever (empresa donde él trabajó previamente), el desgaste de los partidos tradicionales, que a su vez daña a sus aliados, y el rechazo a ciertas políticas migratorias que Baudet relacionó con el atentado en Utrecht. También los Verdes holandeses han experimentado un gran crecimiento, acumulando el voto joven que antes apoyaba a Demócratas 66.


Resultado de las elecciones regionales holandesas del 20 de marzo de 2019 [Wikipedia]

Resultado de las elecciones regionales holandesas del 20 de marzo de 2019 [Wikipedia]


Impacto en la Política Holandesa

La victoria del partido Baudet sobre el de Rutte afecta directamente al Gobierno central, al sistema electoral holandés y al propio primer ministro. En primer lugar, muchos medios acogieron los resultados como una valoración de los holandeses sobre el Gobierno de Rutte. El mayor castigo fue para los aliados de Rutte, los Demócratas 66 y la Llamada Demócrata Cristiana, que fueron los que más apoyos perdieron en las regiones. Desde que llegó al poder en 2010, Rutte ha logrado mantener la fidelidad de su electorado, pero todos sus aliados han terminado siendo castigados por sus votantes. Por ello cabe la posibilidad que el Gobierno de Rutte no llegue a terminar su mandato, si sus aliados terminan dándole la espalda.

El resultado de las regionales de marzo puede tener un segundo impacto en el Senado. Los neerlandeses no designan a sus senadores de forma directa, sino que son los consejos regionales los que eligen a los senadores, por lo que los resultados de las elecciones regionales tienen un efecto directo en la composición de la cámara alta. Por ello es muy posible que los partidos que conforman el Gobierno de Rutte sufran un gran retroceso en el Senado y eso le complique al primer ministro la aprobación de sus iniciativas legislativas.

La tercera consecuencia afecta de forma directa al propio Rutte. En 2019 Donald Tusk termina su segundo mandato como presidente del Consejo Europeo y Rutte tenía muchas posibilidades de sucederle, pero siendo él el principal activo electoral de su partido, su marcha podría hundir al VVD. Podría ocurrir entonces como sucedió con la salida de Tusk de Polonia, que resultó en una victoria conservadora un año más tarde.

Cualquiera que sea el desenlace, la política holandesa ha demostrado en los últimos años una gran volatilidad y mucho movimiento. En 2016 se creía que Wilders ganaría las elecciones y anteriormente que el D66 arrebataría al VVD el liderazgo liberal. Es difícil predecir la dirección en la que el viento hará girar el molino.

Categorías Global Affairs: Europa Central y Rusia Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Artículos

WORKING PAPER / Alejandro Palacios


Nowadays we are seeing how countries that during the Cold War did not show great symptoms of growth, today are on their way to becoming the world's largest economies during the period 2030-2045. These countries, “marginalized” by the Western powers in the process of implementing a global economic system, aspire to form an economic order in which they have the decision-making power. This is why South-South alliances among formerly "marginalised" countries predominate, and will continue to prevail in the future. Among these, the ZOPACAS (of which I already wrote about in another article), the IBSA dialogue forum or the BRICS group stand out. Throughout this article, special mention will be made to this last group and how the political and economic interests of the great powers within it, mainly of China, prevail when it comes not only to deciding and coordinating the agreed policies, but also to interceding to accept or not the inclusion of a certain country in the group. In this way, China tries to increase its political and economic ties with the African continent which is crucial in China´s strategy to become the leading nation by 2049 (coinciding with the 100th anniversary of its creation).


South Africa’s role in the BRICSDownload the document [pdf. 438K]

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

The Forbidden City, in Beijing [MaoNo]

▲ The Forbidden City, in Beijing [MaoNo]

ESSAYJakub Hodek

To fully grasp the complexities and peculiarities of Chinese domestic and foreign affairs, it is indispensable to dive into the underlying philosophical ideas that shaped how China behaves and understands the world. Perhaps the most important value to the Chinese is stability. Particularly when one considers the share of unpleasant incidents they have fared.

Climatic disasters have resulted in sub-optimal harvest and could also entail the loss of important infrastructure costing thousands of lives. For instance, the unexpected 2008 Sichuan earthquake resulted in approximately 80.000 casualties. Nevertheless, the Chinese have shown resilience and have been able to continue their day-to-day with relative ease.[1] Still, nature was not the only enemy. Various nomadic tribes such as the Xiong Nu presented a constant threat to the early Han Empire, who were forced to reinvent themselves to protect their own. [2]  These struggles only amplified their desire for stability.

All philosophical ideologies rooted in China highlight the benefits of stability over the evil of chaos.[3] In fact, Legalism, Daoism and Confucianism still shape current social and political norms. This is unsurprising as the Chinese interpret stability as harmony and the best mean to achieve development. This affirmation is cultivated from birth and strengthened on all societal levels.

Legalism affirms that “punishment” trumps “rights”. Thus, the interest of few must be sacrificed for the good of the many.[4] This translates to phenomenons present in modern China such as censorship of media outlets, autocratic teachers, and rigorous laws to protect “state secrets”. Daoism attests to the existence of a cosmological order that determines events.[5] Manifestations of this can be seen in fields of Chinese traditional medicine that deals with feng shui or the flows of energy. Confucianism puts stability as an antecedent of a forward momentum and regulates the relationship between the individual and society.[6] From the Confucianism stems a norm of submission to parental expectations, and the subjugation and blind faith to the Communist Party.

It follows that non-Sino readers of Chinese affairs must consider these philosophical roots when analysing current Chinese events. Seen through that lens, actions such as Xi Jinping declaring stability as an “absolute principle that needs to be dealt with using strong hands[7],” initiatives harshly targeting corrupt Party members, increased censorship on media outlets and the widespread reinforcement of nationalism should not come as a surprise. One needs power to maintain stability.

Interestingly, it seems that this level of scrutiny over the daily lives of average Chinese people has not incited negative feelings towards the Communist Party. One of the explanations behind these occurrences might be attributed to the collectivist vision of society that the Chinese individuals possess.  They strongly prefer social harmony over their own individual rights. Therefore, they are willing to trade their privacy to obtain heightened security and homogeneity.  

Of course, this way of living contrasts starkly with developed Western societies who increasingly value their individual rights. Nonetheless, the Chinese in no way fell their values to be inferior to the Western ones. They are prideful and portray a sense of exceptionalism when presenting their socioeconomic developments and societal order to the rest of the world. This is not to say that, on occasion, the Chinese have been known to replicate certain foreign practices in an effort to boost their geopolitical presence and economic results. 

In relation to this subtle sense of superiority shared by the Chinese, it is important to analyse the political conditionality of engaging with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) through economic or diplomatic relations. Although the Chinese government representatives have stated numerous times that, when they establish ties with foreign countries, they do not wish to influence socio-political realities of their recent partner, there are numerous examples that point to the contrary. One only has to look at their One China policy which has led many Latin American countries to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan. In a way, this is understandable as most countries zealously protect their vision of the world. As such, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) strategically establishes economic ties with countries harbouring resources they need or that are in need of infrastructure that they can provide. The One Belt One Road initiative represents the economic arm of this vision while their recent increased diplomatic activity, especially in Africa and Latin America, the political one. In short, the People’s Republic of China wants to be at the forefront of geopolitics in a multipolar world lacking clear leadership and certainty, at least in the opinion various experts.

One explanation behind this desire for being at the centre stage of international politics hides in the etymology of their own country’s name. The term “Middle Kingdom” refers to the Chinese “Zhongguó”, where the first character “zhong” means “centre” or “middle” and “guó” means “country”, “nation” or “kingdom”.[8] The first record of this term, “Zhongguó,” can be found in the Book of Documents (“Shujing”), which is one of the Five Classics of ancient Chinese literature. It is a piece which describes ancient Chinese figures and, in some measure, serves as a basis of the Chinese political philosophy, especially Confucianism. Although the Book of Documents dates back to 4th Century A.D., it wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th Century when the term “Zhongguó” became the official name of China.[9] While it is true that the Chinese are not the only country that believes they have a higher calling to lead others, China is the only nation whose name uses such a concept.

Such deep-rooted concepts as “Zhongguó”, strongly resonates within the social fabric of Chinese modern society and implies a vision of the world order where China is at the centre and leading countries both to the East and West. This vision is embodied in Xi Jinping, the designated “core” leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), who is decisively dictating the tempo of China’s effort to direct the country on the path of national rejuvenation. In fact, at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October 2017, Xi Jinping’s speech was centered around the need for national rejuvenation. An objective and a date were set out: “By 2049, China’s comprehensive national power and international influence will be at the forefront.”[10] In other words, China aims to restore its status as the Middle Kingdom by the year 2049 and become a leading world power.

The full-fleshed grand strategy can be found in “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in a New Era,” a document that is now part of China’s constitution and it’s as important of a doctrine as Mao Zedong’s political theories or anything the CCP’s has previously put forth. The Chinese are approaching these objectives promptly and efficiently and, as they have proven in the past, they are capable of great achievements when resources are available. Sure enough, the world is already experiencing Xi Jinping’s policies. Recently, Beijing has opted to invest in increased international presence to exert their influence and vision. Starting with continued emphasis on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), massive modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and aggressive foreign policy.

The migration and political crisis in Europe and Trump’s isolationism have given China sufficient space to jump on the international stage and set in motion a new global order, albeit without the will to dynamite the existing one. Xi Jinping managed to renew a large part of the members of CCP’s executive bodies and left the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China notably reinforced. He did everything possible to have political capital to push the economic and diplomatic reforms to drive China to the promised land.

Another issue that is given China an opportunity to steal the spotlight is climate change. Especially, after the United States pulled out from the Paris Agreement in June 2017. Last January, Xi Jinping chose the Davos World Economic Forum to show that his country is a solid and reliable partner. Leaning on an economy with clear signs of stability and growth of around 6.7%, many who had predicted its spiralling fall had to listen as the President presented himself as a champion of free trade and the fight against global warming. After expressing its full support for the agreements reached against the emissions of gases at the climate summit held in Paris in 2016, Xi announced the will of “the Middle Kingdom” to guide the new economic globalization.

President Xi plans to achieve his vision with a two-pronged approach. First, a wide-ranging promotion abroad of “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in a New Era.” This is an unknown strategy to the Chinese as there is no precedent of the CCP’s ideas being promoted abroad. However, Xi views Western liberal democracy as an impediment to China’s rise and wants to offer an alternative in the form of Chinese socialism, which he perceives as practically and theoretically superior. The Chinese model of governing provides a way to catch up with the developed nations and avoid the regression to modern age colonialism.[11] This could turn out to be an attractive proposal to developing nations who might just be lured by China’s “benevolent” governance and “generosity” in the form of low-interest loans. Second, Xi wants to further develop and modernize the PLA so that it is capable to ensure national security and maintain Chinese positions in areas where their foreign policy has become more assertive (not to say aggressive) such as in the South China Sea.[12] Confirming that both strong military and economic sustainability are essential to achieve the strategic goal of becoming the centre of their proposed global order by 2049.

If one desires to understand China today, one must look carefully at its origin. What started off as an isolated nation turned out to be a dormant giant that was only waiting to get its home affairs in order before it went for the rest of the world. If there is any lesson behind recent Chinese actions across the political and socioeconomical spectrum is that they want to live up to their name and be at the forefront of the world. This is not to say that they wish an implosion of the current world order although it is clear they are willing to use force if need be. It merely implies that they believe their philosophical ideologies to be at least as good as those shared in Western societies while not forgoing what they find useful from them: free trade, service-based economy, developed financial markets, among other things. As things stand, China is sure to make some friends along the way. Especially in developing regions that might be tempted by their tremendous economic success in the last decades and offers of help “with no strings attached.” These realities imply that we live in a multipolar which is increasingly heterogenous in connection to values and references that rule it. Therefore, understanding Chinese mentality will prove essential to understand the future of geopolitics.  

[1] Daniell, James. “Sichuan 2008: A Disaster on an Immense Scale.” BBC News, BBC, 9 May 2013,

[2] The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Xiongnu.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 6 Sept. 2017,

[3] Creel, Herrlee Glessner. "Chinese thought, from Confucius to Mao Tse-tung." (1953).

[4] Hsiao, Kung-chuan. "Legalism and autocracy in traditional China." Chinese Studies in History 10.1-2 (1976)

[5] Kohn, Livia. Daoism and Chinese culture. Lulu Press, Inc, 2017

[6] Yao, Xinzhong. An introduction to Confucianism. Cambridge University Press, 2000.

[7] Blanchard, Ben. “China's Xi Demands 'Strong Hands' to Maintain Stability Ahead of Congr.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 19 Sept. 2017.

[8] Diccionario conciso español-chino, chino español. Beijing, China: Shangwu Yinshuguan. 2007. 

[9] Nylan, Michael (2001), The Five Confucian Classics, Yale University Press.

[10] Tuan N. Pham. “China in 2018: What to Expect.” The Diplomat, 11 Jan. 2018.

[11]Li, Xiaojun. "Does Conditionality Still Work? China’s Development Assistance and Democracy in Africa." Chinese Political Science Review 2.2 (2017): 201-220.

[12] Chase, Michael S. "PLA Rocket Force Modernization and China’s Military Reforms." (2018).

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

La ruptura con Rusia de los ortodoxos de Ucrania traslada al ámbito religioso la tensión entre Kiev y Moscú

Mientras Rusia cerraba a Ucrania los accesos del Mar de Azov, a finales de 2018, la Iglesia Ortodoxa Ucraniana avanzaba en su independencia respecto al Patriarcado de Moscú, cortando un importante elemento de influencia rusa sobre la sociedad ucraniana. En la “guerra híbrida” planteada por Vladimir Putin, con sus episodios de contraofensivas, la religión es un ámbito más de soterrada pugna.

Proclamación de autocefalia de la Iglesia Ortodoxa de Ucrania, con asistencia del presidente ucraniano Poroshenko [Mykola Lazarenko]

▲ Proclamación de autocefalia de la Iglesia Ortodoxa de Ucrania, con asistencia del presidente ucraniano Poroshenko [Mykola Lazarenko]

ARTÍCULOPaula Ulibarrena

El 5 de enero de 2019 fue un día importante para la Iglesia Ortodoxa. En la histórica Constantinopla, hoy Estambul, en la catedral ortodoxa de San Jorge, se verificó la ruptura eclesiástica entre el rus de Kiev y Moscú, naciendo así la decimoquinta Iglesia Ortodoxa autocéfala, la de Ucrania.

El patriarca ecuménico de Constantinopla, Bartolomé I, presidió el acto junto al metropolitano de Kiev, Epifanio, que fue elegido en otoño pasado por parte de los obispos ucranianos que quisieron escindirse del Patriarcado de Moscú. Tras un solemne recibimiento coral a Epifanio, de 39 años, los dirigentes eclesiásticos colocaron en una mesa del templo el tomos (decreto), un pergamino escrito en griego que certifica la independencia de la Iglesia de Ucrania.

Pero quien realmente encabezó la delegación ucraniana fue el presidente de esa república, Petró Poroshenko. “Es un acontecimiento histórico y un gran día porque hemos podido escuchar una oración en ucraniano en la catedral de San Jorge”, escribió momentos después Poroshenko en su cuenta de la red social Twitter.

El acto contó con el frontal rechazo del Patriarcado de Moscú, que lleva tiempo enfrentado con el patriarca ecuménico de Constantinopla. El arzobispo Ilarión, jefe de relaciones exteriores de la Iglesia Ortodoxa Rusa, comparó la situación con el Cisma de Oriente y Occidente de 1054 y advirtió de que el conflicto actual puede prolongarse "por decenios e incluso siglos".

El gran cisma

Así se denomina al cisma o separación de la Iglesia de Oriente (Ortodoxa) de la Iglesia Católica de Roma. La separación se gestó a lo largo de siglos de desavenencias comenzando por el momento en que el emperador Teodosio el Grande dividió a su muerte (año 395) el Imperio Romano en dos partes entre sus hijos: Honorio y Arcadio. Sin embargo, no se llegó a la ruptura efectiva hasta 1054. Las causas son de tipo étnico por diferencias entre latinos y orientales, políticos por el apoyo de Roma a Carlomagno y de la Iglesia oriental a los emperadores de Constantinopla pero sobre todo por las diferencias religiosas que a lo largo de esos años fueron distanciando a ambas iglesias, tanto en aspectos como santorales, diferencias de culto, y sobre todo por la pretensión de ambas sedes eclesiásticas de ser la cabeza de la Cristiandad.

Cuando Constantino el Grande mudó la capital del imperio de Roma a Constantinopla, esta pasó a ser denominada la Nueva Roma. Tras la caída del imperio romano de Oriente a manos de los turcos en 1453 Moscú utilizó la denominación de “Tercera Roma”. Las raíces de este sentimiento comenzaron a gestarse durante el reinado del gran duque de Moscú Iván III, que había contraído matrimonio con Sofía Paleóloga quien era sobrina del último soberano de Bizancio, de manera que Iván podía reclamar ser el heredero del derrumbado Imperio Bizantino.

Las diferentes iglesias ortodoxas

La Iglesia Ortodoxa no tiene una unidad jerárquica, sino que está constituida por 15 iglesias autocéfalas que reconocen solo el poder de su propia autoridad jerárquica, pero mantienen entre sí comunión doctrinal y sacramental. Dicha autoridad jerárquica se equipara habitualmente a la delimitación geográfica del poder político, de modo que las diferentes iglesias ortodoxas han ido estructurándose en torno a los Estados o países que se han configurado a lo largo de la historia, en el área que surgió del Imperio Romano de Oriente, y posteriormente ocupó el Imperio Otomano.

Son las siguientes iglesias: la de Constantinopla, la rusa (que es la mayor, con 140 millones de fieles), la serbia, la rumana, la búlgara, la chipriota, de georgiana, la polaca, la checa y eslovaca, la albanesa y la ortodoxa de América, así como las muy prestigiosas pero pequeñas de Alejandría, Jerusalén y Antioquía (para Siria).

La Iglesia Ortodoxa de Ucrania ha dependido históricamente de la rusa, paralelamente a la dependencia del país respecto a Rusia. En 1991 a raíz de la caída del comunismo y de la desaparición de la URSS, muchos obispos ucranianos autoproclamaron el Patriarcado de Kiev y se separan de la Iglesia Ortodoxa Rusa. Esta separación fue cismática y no obtuvo apoyo del resto de iglesias y patriarcados ortodoxos, y de hecho supuso que en Ucrania coexistiesen dos iglesias ortodoxas: el Patriarcado de Kiev y la Iglesia Ucraniana dependiente del Patriarcado de Moscú.

Sin embargo esta falta de apoyos iniciales cambió el año pasado. El 2 de julio de 2018, Bartolomé, patriarca de Constantinopla, declaró que no existe ningún territorio canónico de la Iglesia Ortodoxa Rusa en Ucrania ya que Moscú se anexionó la Iglesia Ucraniana en 1686 de forma canónicamente inaceptable. El 11 de octubre, el Santo Sínodo del Patriarcado Ecuménico de Constantinopla decidió conceder la autocefalia del Patriarca Ecuménico a la Iglesia Ortodoxa de Ucrania y revocó la validez de la carta sinodal de 1686, que concedía el derecho al Patriarca de Moscú para ordenar al Metropolitano de Kiev. Esto llevó a la reunificación de la Iglesia Ortodoxa Ucraniana y su ruptura de relaciones con la de Moscú.

El 15 de diciembre, en la Catedral de Santa Sofía de Kiev, se celebró el Sínodo Extraordinario de Unificación de las tres iglesias ortodoxas ucranianas, siendo elegido como Metropolitano de Kiev y toda Ucrania el arzobispo de Pereýaslav-Jmelnitski y Bila Tserkva Yepifany (Dumenko). El 5 de enero de 2019, en la Catedral patriarcal de San Jorge en Estambul el Patriarca Ecuménico de Constantinopla Bartolomé I rubricó el tomos de autocefalia de la Iglesia Ortodoxa de Ucrania.

La política, ¿acompaña la división o es su causa?

En el Este de Europa es casi una tradición la relación íntima entre religión y política, como ha sido desde los principios de la Iglesia Ortodoxa. Parece evidente que la confrontación política entre Rusia y Ucrania es paralela al cisma entre las iglesias ortodoxas de Moscú y Kiev, e incluso es un factor más que añade tensión a este enfrentamiento. De hecho, el simbolismo político del acto de Constantinopla se vio reforzado por el hecho de que fue Poroshenko, y no Epifanio, el que recibió el tomos de manos del patriarca ecuménico, al que agradeció el “coraje de tomar esta histórica decisión”. Anteriormente el mandatario ucraniano ya había comparado este hecho con el referéndum mediante el que Ucrania se independizó de la URSS en 1991 y con la “aspiración a ingresar en la Unión Europea y la OTAN”.

Aunque la separación llevaba años gestándose, curiosamente la búsqueda de esa independencia religiosa se ha intensificado tras la anexión por parte de Rusia de la península ucraniana de Crimea en 2014 y el apoyo de Moscú a milicias separatistas en el este de Ucrania.

El primer resultado se hizo público el 3 de noviembre, con una visita de Poroshenko a Fanar, la sede de Bartolomé en Estambul, tras la cual el patriarca subrayó su apoyo a la autonomía eclesiástica de Ucrania.

El reconocimiento de Constantinopla de una iglesia autónoma ucrania supone también un impulso para Poroshenko, que se enfrenta a una dura carrera electoral en marzo. En el poder desde 2014, Poroshenko ha centrado en el asunto religioso gran parte de su discurso. “Ejército, idioma, fe”, es su principal eslogan electoral. De hecho, tras la separación, el mandatario afirmó: “nace la Iglesia Ortodoxa Ucraniana sin Putin y sin Kirill, pero con Dios y con Ucrania”.

Kiev asegura que las iglesias ortodoxas respaldadas por Moscú en Ucrania —unas 12.000 parroquias— son en realidad una herramienta de propaganda del Kremlin, que las emplea también para apoyar a los rebeldes prorrusos del Donbás. Las iglesias lo niegan rotundamente.

En el otro lado, Vladímir Putin, que se erigió hace años como defensor de Rusia como potencia ortodoxa y cuenta con el patriarca de Moscú entre sus aliados, se opone fervientemente a la separación y ha advertido de que la división producirá “una gran disputa, si no un derramamiento de sangre”.

Además, para el patriarcado de Moscú —que rivaliza desde hace años con el de Constantinopla como centro de poder ortodoxo— supone un duro golpe. La Iglesia Rusa tiene alrededor de 150 millones de cristianos ortodoxos bajo su autoridad, y con esta separación perdería una quinta parte, aunque todavía seguiría siendo el patriarcado ortodoxo más numeroso.

También este hecho tiene un gemelo político, pues Rusia ha afirmado que romperá relaciones con Constantinopla. Vladimir Putin sabe que pierde una de las mayores fuentes de influencia que posee en Ucrania (y en lo que él llama “el mundo ruso"): el de la Iglesia Ortodoxa. Para Putin, Ucrania se encuentra en el centro del nacimiento del pueblo ruso. Esta es una de las razones, junto a la importante posición geoestratégica de Ucrania y su extensión territorial, por las que Moscú quiere seguir manteniendo la soberanía espiritual sobre la antigua república soviética, ya que políticamente Ucrania se está acercando a Occidente, tanto a la UE y como a Estados Unidos.

Tampoco hay que olvidar la carga simbólica. La capital ucraniana, Kiev, fue el punto de partida y origen de la Iglesia Ortodoxa Rusa, algo que acostumbra a recordar el propio presidente Putin. Fue allí donde el príncipe Vladimir, figura eslava medieval reverenciada tanto por Rusia como por Ucrania, se convirtió al Cristianismo en el año 988. “Si la Iglesia Ucraniana gana su autocefalia, Rusia perderá el control de esa parte de la historia que reclama como origen de la suya propia”, asegura a la BBC el doctor Taras Kuzio, profesor en la Academia de Mohyla de Kiev. “Perderá también gran parte de los símbolos históricos que forman parte del nacionalismo ruso que defiende Putin, tales como el monasterio de las Cuevas de Kiev o la catedral de Santa Sofía, que pasarán a ser enteramente ucranianos. Es un golpe para los emblemas nacionalistas de los que presume Putin”.

Otro aspecto a considerar es que las iglesias ortodoxas de otros países (Serbia, Rumanía, Alejandría, Jerusalén, etc) se empiezan a alinear a un lado u otro de la gran grieta: con Moscú o con Constantinopla. No está claro si esto quedará como un cisma meramente religioso, de producirse, o si arrastrará también al poder político, pues no hay que olvidar, como ya se ha señalado, que en ese área que denominamos Oriente siempre han existido unos lazos muy fuertes entre poder religioso y político desde el gran cisma con Roma.


Ceremonia de entronización del erigido patriarca de la Iglesia Ortodoxa de Ucrania [Mykola Lazarenko]

Ceremonia de entronización del erigido patriarca de la Iglesia Ortodoxa de Ucrania [Mykola Lazarenko]


¿Por qué ahora?

El anuncio de la escisión entre ambas iglesias es, para algunos, algo lógico en términos históricos. “Tras la caída del Imperio Bizantino, las iglesias ortodoxas independientes fueron configurándose en el siglo XIX de acuerdo a las fronteras nacionales de los países y este es el patrón que, con retraso, está siguiendo ahora Ucrania”, explica en la citada información de la BBC el teólogo Aristotle Papanikolaou director del Centro de Estudios Cristianos Ortodoxos de la Universidad de Fordham, en Estados Unidos.

Hay que considerar que es la oportunidad de Constantinopla de restar poder a la Iglesia de Moscú, pero sobre todo es la reacción del sentimiento general ucraniano frente a la actitud de Rusia. “¿Cómo pueden los ucranianos aceptar como guías espirituales a miembros de una iglesia que se cree implicada en las agresiones imperialistas rusas?”, se pregunta Papanikolau, reconociendo el impacto que la guerra de Crimea y su posterior anexión pudo haber tenido en la actitud de los eclesiásticos de Constantinopla.

Existe, pues, una relación clara y paralela entre el deterioro de las relaciones políticas entre Ucrania y Rusia, y la separación entre el rus de Kiev frente a la Iglesia de Moscú. Ambas iglesias ortodoxas están muy imbricadas, no solo en sus respectivas sociedades, sino también en los ámbitos políticos y estos a su vez utilizan para sus fines la importante ascendencia de las iglesias sobre los habitantes de los dos países. En definitiva, la tensión política arrastra o favorece la tensión eclesiástica, pero a su vez las aspiraciones de independencia de la Iglesia Ucraniana ven este momento de enfrentamiento político como el idóneo para independizarse de la moscovita.

Categorías Global Affairs: Europa Central y Rusia Orden mundial, diplomacia y gobernanza Artículos

Tras cuatro años de junta militar, las próximas elecciones abren la posibilidad de retornar a una legitimidad demasiado interrumpida por golpes de Estado

Tailandia ha conocido diversos golpes de Estado e intentos de vuelta a la democracia en su historia más reciente. La Junta militar que se hizo con el poder en 2014 ha convocado elecciones para el 24 de marzo. El deseo, sin éxito, de la hermana del rey Maha Vajiralongkorn de concurrir a las elecciones para acceder al puesto de primera ministra ha llamado la atención mundial sobre un sistema político que no logra atender las aspiraciones políticas de los tailandeses. 

Escena de una calle de Bangkok [Pixabay]

▲ Escena de una calle de Bangkok [Pixabay]

ARTÍCULOMaría Martín Andrade

Tailandia es uno de los países integrantes de ASEAN que más rápido se está desarrollando en términos económicos. No obstante, estos avances se encuentran con un difícil obstáculo: la inestabilidad política que el país arrastra desde principios del siglo XX y que abre un nuevo capítulo ahora, en 2019, con las elecciones que tendrán lugar el 24 de marzo. Estas elecciones suponen un antes y un después en la política tailandesa reciente, después de que en 2014, el general Prayut Chan-Ocha diese un golpe de Estado y se convirtiera en primer ministro de Tailandia encabezando el NCPO (Consejo Nacional para la Paz y el Orden), la junta de gobierno constituida para dirigir el país.

Sin embargo, no son pocos los que se muestran escépticos ante esta nueva entrada de la democracia. Para empezar, las elecciones se fijaron inicialmente para el 24 de febrero, pero poco tiempo después el Gobierno anunció un cambio de fecha y las convocó para un mes más tarde. Algunos han expresado sospechas acerca de una estrategia para que las elecciones no tengan lugar, ya que, según la ley, no pueden celebrarse una vez transcurridos ciento cincuenta días a partir de la publicación de las diez últimas leyes orgánicas. Otros temen que el NCPO se haya dado más tiempo para comprar votos, al tiempo que comentan su inquietud por la posibilidad de que la Comisión Electoral, que es una administración independiente, sea manipulada para lograr un éxito que a la junta militar le va a resultar difícil asegurar.

Centrando este análisis en lo que el futuro depara a la política tailandesa, es necesario remontarse a su trayectoria en el último siglo para darse cuenta de que sigue una estela circular.

Los golpes de Estado no son algo nuevo en el país (1). Ha habido doce desde que en 1932 se firmó la primera Constitución. Todo responde a una interminable pugna entre el “ala castrense”, que ve el constitucionalismo como una importación occidental que no termina de encajar con las estructuras tailandesas (también defiende el nacionalismo y venera la imagen del rey como símbolo de la nación, la religión budista y la vida ceremonial), y la “órbita izquierdista”, originariamente compuesta por emigrantes chinos y vietnamitas, que percibe la institucionalidad del país como similar a la de la “China pre-revolucionaria” y que a lo largo de todo el siglo XX se expresó por medio de guerrillas. A esta última ideología hay que añadir el movimiento estudiantil, que desde los comienzos de la década de 1960 critica la “americanización”, la pobreza, el orden tradicional de la sociedad y el régimen militar.

Con el boom urbano iniciado en la década de 1970, el producto interior bruto se quintuplicó y el sector industrial pasó a ser el de mayor crecimiento, gracias a la producción de bienes tecnológicos y a las inversiones que las empresas japonesas empezaron a hacer en el país. Durante esta época se produjeron golpes de Estado, como el de 1976, y numerosas manifestaciones estudiantiles y acciones guerrilleras. Tras el golpe de 1991 y nuevas elecciones se abrió un debate sobre cómo crear un sistema político eficiente y una sociedad adaptada a la globalización.

Estos esfuerzos se truncaron cuando llegó la crisis económica de 1997, que generó divisiones y despertó rechazo hacia la globalización, por considerarla la fuerza maligna que había llevado el país a la miseria. Es en este punto cuando entró en escena alguien que desde entonces ha sido clave en la política tailandesa y que sin duda marcará las elecciones de marzo: Thaksin Shinawatra.

Shinawatra, un importante empresario, creó el partido Thai Rak Thai (Thai ama Thai) como reacción nacionalista a la crisis. En 2001 ganó las elecciones y apostó por el crecimiento económico y la creación de grandes empresas, pero a la vez ejerció un intenso control sobre los medios de comunicación, atacando a aquellos que se atrevían a criticarle y permitiendo únicamente la publicación de noticias positivas. En 2006 se produjo un golpe de Estado para derrocar a Shinawatra, acusado de graves delitos de corrupción. No obstante,  Shinawatra volvió a ganar los comicios en 2007, esta vez con el Partido del Poder Popular.

En 2008 se produjo una nueva asonada, pero la marca Shinawatra, representada por la hermana del exprimer ministro, ganó las elecciones en 2011, esta vez con el partido Pheu Thai. Yingluck Shinawatra se convirtió así en la primera mujer en presidir el Gobierno de Tailandia. En 2014 otro golpe la apartó a ella e instauró una junta que ha gobernado hasta ahora, con un discurso basado en la lucha contra la corrupción, la protección de la monarquía, y el rechazo a las políticas electorales, consideradas como la epidemia nacional.

En este contexto, todo el esfuerzo de la junta, que se presenta en marzo bajo el nombre del partido Palang Pracharat, se ha centrado en debilitar a Pheu Thai y así eliminar del mapa todo rastro que quede de Shinawatra. Para conseguir esto, la junta ha procedido a reformar el sistema electoral (en 2016 una nueva Constitución sustituyó a la de 1997), de forma que el Senado ya no es elegido por los ciudadanos.

A pesar de todos los esfuerzos manifestados en la compra de votos, la posible manipulación de la Comisión Electoral y la reforma del sistema electoral, se intuye que la sociedad tailandesa puede hacer oír su voz de cansancio del gobierno militar, que además pierde apoyo en Bangkok y en el sur. A esto se añade el convencimiento colectivo de que, más que perseguir el crecimiento económico, la Junta se ha centrado en conseguir la estabilidad haciendo más desigual la economía de Tailandia, según datos de Credit Suisse. Por ello mismo, el resto de los partidos que se presentan a estas elecciones, Prachorath, Pheu Thai, y Bhumjaithai, coinciden en que Tailandia se tiene que volver a integrar en la competencia global y que el mercado capitalista tiene que crecer.

A principios de febrero el contexto se complicó aún más, cuando la princesa Ulboratana, la hermana del actual rey, Maha Vajiralongkorn, comunicó la presentación de su candidatura en las elecciones como representante del partido Thai Raksa Chart, aliado de Thaksin Shinawatra. Esta noticia supuso una gran anomalía, no únicamente por el hecho de que un miembro de la monarquía mostrase su intención de participar activamente en política, algo que no ocurría desde que en 1932 se pusiera fin a la monarquía absoluta, sino porque además todos los golpes de estado que se han dado en el país han contado con el respaldo de la familia real. El último, de 2014, contó con la bendición del entonces rey Bhumibol. Asimismo, la familia real siempre ha contado con el apoyo de la Junta militar.

En aras de evitar un enfrentamiento que dañaba a la monarquía, el rey reaccionó con rapidez y mostró públicamente su rechazo a la candidatura de su hermana; finalmente la Comisión Electoral decidió retirarla del proceso de elecciones.

Gobierno deficiente

Durante los últimos años la Junta militar ha sido responsable de mala gobernanza, de la débil institucionalidad del país y de una economía amenazada por las sanciones internacionales que buscan castigar la falta de democracia interna.

Para empezar, siguiendo el artículo 44 de la Constitución proclamada en 2016, el NCPO tiene legitimidad para intervenir en los poderes legislativo, judicial y ejecutivo con el pretexto de proteger a Tailandia de amenazas contra el orden público, la monarquía o la economía. Esto no solo impide toda posibilidad de interacción y resolución efectiva de conflictos con otros actores, sino que es un rasgo inequívoco de un sistema autoritario.

Han sido precisamente sus características de régimen autoritario, que es como se puede calificar a su sistema gubernamental, las que han hecho a la comunidad internacional reaccionar desde el golpe de 2014, imponiendo diversas sanciones que pueden afectar a Tailandia seriamente. Estados Unidos suspendió 4,7 millones de dólares de asistencia financiera, mientras que Europa ha puesto objeciones en la negociación de un acuerdo de libre comercio, pues como ha indicado Pirkka Tappiola, representante de la UE ante Tailandia, solo será posible establecer un acuerdo de ese tipo con un gobierno democráticamente elegido. Además, Japón, principal inversor en el país, ha empezado a buscar vías alternativas, implantando fábricas en otros lugares de la región como Myanmar o Laos.

Ante el cuestionamiento de su gestión, la Junta reaccionó dedicando 2.700 millones de dólares a programas destinados a los sectores más pobres de la población más pobres, especialmente los campesinos, e invirtiendo cerca de 30.000 millones en la construcción de infraestructuras en zonas aún no explotadas.

Dado que las exportaciones en Tailandia son el 70% de su PIB, el Gobierno no se puede permitir el lujo de tener a la comunidad internacional enfrentada. Eso explica que la Junta creara un comité para gestionar problemas referentes a los derechos humanos, denunciados desde el exterior, si bien el objetivo de la iniciativa parece haber sido más bien publicitario.

De cara a una nueva etapa democrática, la Junta tiene una estrategia. Habiendo puesto la mayor parte de sus esfuerzos en la creación de nuevas infraestructuras, espera abrir un corredor económico, el Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), con el que convertir las tres principales provincias costeras (Chonburi, Rayong, y Chachoengsao) en zonas económicas especiales donde se potencien industrias como las del automóvil o la aviación, y que sean atractivas para la inversión extranjera una vez despejada la legitimación democrática.

Es difícil prever qué ocurrirá en Tailandia en las elecciones del 24 de marzo. Aunque casi todo habla de una nueva vuelta a la democracia, está por ver el resultado del partido creado por los militares (Pralang Pracharat) y su firmeza en el compromiso con un juego institucional realmente honesto. Si Tailandia quiere seguir creciendo económicamente y atraer de nuevo a inversores extranjeros, los militares debieran dar pronto paso a un proceso completamente civil. Posiblemente no será un camino sin contratiempos, pues la democracia es un vestido que hasta ahora le ha venido un tanto ajustado al país.


(1) Baker, C. , Phongpaichit, P. (2005). A History of Thailand. Cambridge, Univeristy Press, New York.

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

Protest in London in October 2018 after the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi

▲ Protest in London in October 2018 after the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi [John Lubbock, Wikimedia Commons]

ANALYSISNaomi Moreno Cosgrove

October 2nd last year was the last time Jamal Khashoggi—a well-known journalist and critic of the Saudi government—was seen alive. The Saudi writer, United States resident and Washington Post columnist, had entered the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul with the aim of obtaining documentation that would certify he had divorced his previous wife, so he could remarry; but never left.

After weeks of divulging bits of information, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, laid out his first detailed account of the killing of the dissident journalist inside the Saudi Consulate. Eighteen days after Khashoggi disappeared, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) acknowledged that the 59-year-old writer had died after his disappearance, revealing in their investigation findings that Jamal Khashoggi died after an apparent “fist-fight” inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul; but findings were not reliable. Resultantly, the acknowledgement by the KSA of the killing in its own consulate seemed to pose more questions than answers.

Eventually, after weeks of repeated denials that it had anything to do with his disappearance, the contradictory scenes, which were the latest twists in the “fast-moving saga”, forced the kingdom to eventually acknowledge that indeed it was Saudi officials who were behind the gruesome murder thus damaging the image of the kingdom and its 33-year-old crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). What had happened was that the culmination of these events, including more than a dozen Saudi officials who reportedly flew into Istanbul and entered the consulate just before Khashoggi was there, left many sceptics wondering how it was possible for MBS to not know. Hence, the world now casts doubt on the KSA’s explanation over Khashoggi’s death, especially when it comes to the shifting explanations and MBS’ role in the conspiracy.

As follows, the aim of this study is to examine the backlash Saudi Arabia’s alleged guilt has caused, in particular, regarding European state-of-affairs towards the Middle East country. To that end, I will analyse various actions taken by European countries which have engaged in the matter and the different modus operandi these have carried out in order to reject a bloodshed in which arms selling to the kingdom has become the key issue.

Since Khashoggi went missing and while Turkey promised it would expose the “naked truth” about what happened in the Saudi consulate, Western countries had been putting pressure on the KSA for it to provide facts about its ambiguous account on the journalist’s death. In a joint statement released on Sunday 21st October 2018, the United Kingdom, France and Germany said: “There remains an urgent need for clarification of exactly what happened on 2nd October – beyond the hypotheses that have been raised so far in the Saudi investigation, which need to be backed by facts to be considered credible.” What happened after the kingdom eventually revealed the truth behind the murder, was a rather different backlash. In fact, regarding post-truth reactions amongst European countries, rather divergent responses have occurred.

Terminating arms selling exports to the KSA had already been carried out by a number of countries since the kingdom launched airstrikes on Yemen in 2015; a conflict that has driven much of Yemen’s population to be victims of an atrocious famine. The truth is that arms acquisition is crucial for the KSA, one of the world’s biggest weapons importers which is heading a military coalition in order to fight a proxy war in which tens of thousands of people have died, causing a major humanitarian catastrophe. In this context, calls for more constraints have been growing particularly in Europe since the killing of the dissident journalist. These countries, which now demand transparent clarifications in contrast to the opacity in the kingdom’s already-given explanations, are threatening the KSA with suspending military supply to the kingdom.



Probably one of the best examples with regards to the ceasing of arms selling—after not been pleased with Saudi state of affairs—is Germany. Following the acknowledgement of what happened to Khashoggi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared in a statement that she condemned his death with total sharpness, thus calling for transparency in the context of the situation, and stating that her government halted previously approved arms exports thus leaving open what would happen with those already authorised contracts, and that it wouldn’t approve any new weapons exports to the KSA: “I agree with all those who say that the, albeit already limited, arms export can’t take place in the current circumstances,” she said at a news conference.

So far this year, the KSA was the second largest customer in the German defence industry just after Algeria, as until September last year, the German federal government allocated export licenses of arms exports to the kingdom worth 416.4 million euros. Respectively, according to German Foreign Affair Minister, Heiko Maas, Germany was the fourth largest exporter of weapons to the KSA.

This is not the first time the German government has made such a vow. A clause exists in the coalition agreement signed by Germany’s governing parties earlier in 2018 which stated that no weapons exports may be approved to any country “directly” involved in the Yemeni conflict in response to the kingdom’s countless airstrikes carried out against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in the area for several years. Yet, what is clear is that after Khashoggi’s murder, the coalition’s agreement has been exacerbated. Adding to this military sanction Germany went even further and proposed explicit sanctions to the Saudi authorities who were directly linked to the killing. As follows, by stating that “there are more questions unanswered than answered,” Maas declared that Germany has issued the ban for entering Europe’s border-free Schengen zone—in close coordination with France and Britain—against the 18 Saudi nationals who are “allegedly connected to this crime.”

Following the decision, Germany has thus become the first major US ally to challenge future arms sales in the light of Khashoggi’s case and there is thus a high likelihood that this deal suspension puts pressure on other exporters to carry out the same approach in the light of Germany’s Economy Minister, Peter Altmaier’s, call on other European Union members to take similar action, arguing that “Germany acting alone would limit the message to Riyadh.”


Following the line of the latter claim, on November 9th last year, Norway became the first country to back Germany’s decision when it announced it would freeze new licenses for arms exports to the KSA. Resultantly, in her statement, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ine Eriksen Søreide, declared that the government had decided that in the present situation they will not give new licenses for the export of defence material or multipurpose good for military use to Saudi Arabia. According to the Søreide, this decision was taken after “a broad assessment of recent developments in Saudi Arabia and the unclear situation in Yemen.” Although Norwegian ministry spokesman declined to say whether the decision was partly motivated by the murder of the Saudi journalist, not surprisingly, Norway’s announcement came a week after its foreign minister called the Saudi ambassador to Oslo with the aim of condemning Khashoggi’s assassination.  As a result, the latter seems to imply Norway’s motivations were a mix of both; the Yemeni conflict and Khashoggi’s death.

Denmark and Finland

By following a similar decision made by neighbouring Germany and Norway—despite the fact that US President Trump backed MBS, although the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had assessed that the crown prince was responsible for the order of the killing—Denmark and Finland both announced that they would also stop exporting arms to the KSA.

Emphasising on the fact that they were “now in a new situation”—after the continued deterioration of the already terrible situation in Yemen and the killing of the Saudi journalist—Danish Foreign Minister, Anders Samuelsen, stated that Denmark would proceed to cease military exports to the KSA remarking that Denmark already had very restrictive practices in this area and hoped that this decision would be able to create a “further momentum and get more European Union (EU) countries involved in the conquest to support tight implementation of the Union’s regulatory framework in this area.”

Although this ban is still less expansive compared to German measures—which include the cancelation of deals that had already been approved—Denmark’s cease of goods’ exports will likely crumble the kingdom’s strategy, especially when it comes to technology. Danish exports to the KSA, which were mainly used for both military and civilian purposes, are chiefly from BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, a subsidiary of the United Kingdom’s BAE Systems, which sold technology that allowed Intellectual Property surveillance and data analysis for use in national security and investigation of serious crimes. The suspension thus includes some dual-use technologies, a reference to materials that were purposely thought to have military applications in favour of the KSA.

On the same day Denmark carried out its decision, Finland announced they were also determined to halt arms export to Saudi Arabia. Yet, in contrast to Norway’s approach, Finnish Prime Minister, Juha Sipilä, held that, of course, the situation in Yemen lead to the decision, but that Khashoggi’s killing was “entirely behind the overall rationale”.

Finnish arms exports to the KSA accounted for 5.3 million euros in 2017. Nevertheless, by describing the situation in Yemen as “catastrophic”, Sipilä declared that any existing licenses (in the region) are old, and in these circumstances, Finland would refuse to be able to grant updated ones. Although, unlike Germany, Helsinki’s decision does not revoke existing arms licenses to the kingdom, the Nordic country has emphasized the fact that it aims to comply with the EU’s arms export criteria, which takes particular account of human rights and the protection of regional peace, security and stability, thus casting doubt on the other European neighbours which, through a sense of incoherence, have not attained to these values.

European Parliament

Speaking in supranational terms, the European Parliament agreed with the latter countries and summoned EU members to freeze arms sales to the kingdom in the conquest of putting pressure on member states to emulate the Germany’s decision.      

By claiming that arms exports to Saudi Arabia were breaching international humanitarian law in Yemen, the European Parliament called for sanctions on those countries that refuse to respect EU rules on weapons sales. In fact, the latest attempt in a string of actions compelling EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to dictate an embargo against the KSA, including a letter signed by MEPs from several parties.

Rapporteur for a European Parliament report on EU arms exports, Bodil Valero said: "European weapons are contributing to human rights abuses and forced migration, which are completely at odds with the EU's common values." As a matter of fact, two successful European Parliament resolutions have hitherto been admitted, but its advocates predicted that some member states especially those who share close trading ties with the kingdom are deep-seated, may be less likely to cooperate. Fact that has eventually occurred.



In contrast to the previously mentioned countries, other European states such as France, UK and Spain, have approached the issue differently and have signalled that they will continue “business as usual”.

Both France and the KSA have been sharing close diplomatic and commercial relations ranging from finance to weapons. Up to now, France relished the KSA, which is a bastion against Iranian significance in the Middle East region. Nevertheless, regarding the recent circumstances, Paris now faces a daunting challenge.

Just like other countries, France Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, announced France condemned the killing “in the strongest terms” and demanded an exhaustive investigation. "The confirmation of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi's death is a first step toward the establishment of the truth. However, many questions remain unanswered," he added. Following this line, France backed Germany when sanctioning the 18 Saudi citizens thus mulling a joint ban from the wider visa-free Schengen zone. Nevertheless, while German minister Altmeier summoned other European countries to stop selling arms to Riyadh—until the Saudi authorities gave the true explanation on Khashoggi’s death—, France refused to report whether it would suspend arms exports to the KSA. “We want Saudi Arabia to reveal all the truth with full clarity and then we will see what we can do,” he told in a news conference.           

In this context, Amnesty International France has become one of Paris’ biggest burdens. The organization has been putting pressure on the French government for it to freeze arms sales to the realm. Hence, by acknowledging France is one of the five biggest arms exporters to Riyadh—similar to the Unites States and Britain—Amnesty International France is becoming aware France’s withdrawal from the arms sales deals is crucial in order to look at the Yemeni conflict in the lens of human rights rather than from a non-humanitarian-geopolitical perspective. Meanwhile, France tries to justify its inaction. When ministry deputy spokesman Oliver Gauvin was asked whether Paris would mirror Berlin’s actions, he emphasized the fact that France’s arms sales control policy was meticulous and based on case-by-case analysis by an inter-ministerial committee. According to French Defence Minister Florence Parly, France exported 11 billion euros worth of arms to the kingdom from 2008 to 2017, fact that boosted French jobs. In 2017 alone, licenses conceivably worth 14.7 billion euros were authorized. Moreover, she went on stating that those arms exports take into consideration numerous criteria among which is the nature of exported materials, the respect of human rights, and the preservation of peace and regional security. "More and more, our industrial and defence sectors need these arms exports. And so, we cannot ignore the impact that all of this has on our defence industry and our jobs," she added. As a result, despite President Emmanuel Macron has publicly sought to devalue the significance relations with the KSA have, minister Parly, seemed to suggest the complete opposite.

Anonymously, a government minister held it was central that MBS retained his position. “The challenge is not to lose MBS, even if he is not a choir boy. A loss of influence in the region would cost us much more than the lack of arms sales”. Notwithstanding France’s ambiguity, Paris’ inconclusive attitude is indicating France’s clout in the region is facing a vulnerable phase. As president Macron told MBS at a side-line G20 summit conversation in December last year, he is worried. Although the context of this chat remains unclear, many believe Macron’s intentions were to persuade MBS to be more transparent as a means to not worsen the kingdom’s reputation and thus to, potentially, dismantle France´s bad image.

United Kingdom

As it was previously mentioned, the United Kingdom took part in the joint statement carried out also by France and Germany through its foreign ministers which claimed there was a need for further explanations regarding Khashoggi’s killing. Yet, although Britain’s Foreign Office said it was considering its “next steps” following the KSA’s admission over Khashoggi’s killing, UK seems to be taking a rather similar approach to France—but not Germany—regarding the situation.

In 2017, the UK was the sixth-biggest arms dealer in the world, and the second-largest exporter of arms to the KSA, behind the US. This is held to be a reflection of a large spear in sales last year. After the KSA intervened in the civil war in Yemen in early 2015, the UK approved more than 3.5billion euros in military sales to the kingdom between April 2015 and September 2016.

As a result, Theresa May has been under pressure for years to interrupt arms sales to the KSA specially after human rights advocates claimed the UK was contributing to alleged violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Adding to this, in 2016, a leaked parliamentary committee report suggested that it was likely that British weapons had been used by the Saudi-led coalition to violate international law, and that manufactured aircraft by BAE Systems, have been used in combat missions in Yemen.

Lately, in the context of Khashoggi’s death things have aggravated and the UK is now facing a great amount of pressure, mainly embodied by UK’s main opposition Labour party which calls for a complete cease in its arms exports to the KSA.  In addition, in terms of a more international strain, the European Union has also got to have a say in the matter. Philippe Lamberts, the Belgian leader of the Green grouping of parties, said that Brexit should not be an excuse for the UK to abdicate on its moral responsibilities and that Theresa May had to prove that she was keen on standing up to the kind of atrocious behaviour shown by the killing of Khashoggi and hence freeze arms sales to Saudi Arabia immediately.

Nonetheless, in response and laying emphasis on the importance the upholding relation with UK’s key ally in the Middle East has, London has often been declining calls to end arms exports to the KSA. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt defended there will be “consequences to the relationship with Saudi Arabia” after the killing of Khashoggi, but he has also pointed out that the UK has an important strategic relationship with Riyadh which needs to be preserved. As a matter of fact, according to some experts, UK’s impending exit from the EU has played a key role. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) claims Theresa May’s pursuit for post-Brexit trade deals has seen an unwelcome focus on selling arms to some of the world's most repressive regimes. Nevertheless, by thus tackling the situation in a similar way to France, the UK justifies its actions by saying that it has one of the most meticulous permitting procedures in the world by remarking that its deals comprehend safeguards that counter improper uses.


After Saudi Arabia’s gave its version for Khashoggi’s killing, the Spanish government said it was “dismayed” and echoed Antonio Guterres’ call for a thorough and transparent investigation to bring justice to all of those responsible for the killing. Yet, despite the clamour that arose after the murder of the columnist, just like France and the UK, Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, defended arms exporting to the KSA by claiming it was in Spain’s interest to keep selling military tools to Riyadh. Sanchez held he stood in favour of Spain’s interests, namely jobs in strategic sectors that have been badly affected by “the drama that is unemployment". Thusly, proclaiming Spain’s unwillingness to freeze arms exports to the kingdom. In addition, even before Khashoggi’s killing, Sanchez's government was subject to many critics after having decided to proceed with the exporting of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, despite worries that they could harm civilians in Yemen. Notwithstanding this, Sánchez justified Spain’s decision in that good ties with the Gulf state, a key commercial partner for Spain, needed to be kept.

As a matter of fact, Spain’s state-owned shipbuilder Navantia, in which 5,500 employees work, signed a deal in July last year which accounted for 1.8 billion euros that supplied the Gulf country with five navy ships.  This shipbuilder is situated in the southern region of Andalusia, a socialist bulwark which accounts for Spain's highest unemployment estimates and which has recently held regional elections. Hence, it was of the socialist president’s interest to keep these constituencies pleased and the means to this was, of course, not interrupting arms deals with the KSA.

As a consequence, Spain has recently been ignoring the pressures that have arose from MEP’s and from Sanchez’s minorities in government—Catalan separatist parties and far-left party Podemos— which demand a cease in arms exporting. For the time being, Spain will continue business with the KSA as usual.


All things considered, while Saudi Arabia insists that MBS was not aware of the gruesome murder and is distracting the international attention towards more positive headlines—such as the appointment of the first female ambassador to the US—in order to clear the KSA’s image in the context of Khashoggi’s murder, several European countries have taken actions against the kingdom’s interests. Yet, the way each country has approached the matter has led to the rise of two separate blocks which are at discordance within Europe itself. Whereas some European leaders have shown a united front in casting blame on the Saudi government, others seem to express geopolitical interests are more important.

During the time Germany, Norway, Denmark and Finland are being celebrated by human rights advocates for following through on their threat to halt sales to the kingdom, bigger arms exporters—like those that have been analysed—have pointed out that the latter nations have far less to lose than they do. Nonetheless, inevitably, the ceasing carried out by the northern European countries which are rather small arms exporters in comparison to bigger players such as the UK and France, is likely to have exacerbated concerns within the European arms industry of a growing anti-Saudi consensus in the European Union or even beyond.

What is clear is that due to the impact Saudi Arabia’s state of affairs have caused, governments and even companies worldwide are coming under pressure to abandon their ties to the oil-rich, but at the same time, human-rights-violating Saudi Arabian leadership. Resultantly, in Europe, countries are taking part in two divergent blocks that are namely led by two of the EU’s most compelling members: France and Germany. These two sides are of rather distant opinions regarding the matter, fact that does not seem to be contributing in terms of the so-much-needed European Union integration.

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