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ENSAYO / Jairo Císcar Ruiz [Versión en inglés]
En los últimos meses las abiertas hostilidades comerciales entre los Estados Unidos de América y la República Popular China han copado las principales cabeceras generalistas y publicaciones económicas especializadas del mundo entero. La denominada “guerra comercial” entre estas dos superpotencias no es sino la sucesiva escalada de imposición de aranceles y gravámenes especiales a productos y manufactura originales de los países enfrentados. Esto, en cifras económicas, supone que EEUU impuso en 2018 aranceles especiales sobre US$250.000 millones de productos chinos importados (de un total de US$539.000 millones), mientras que China por su parte impuso aranceles sobre 110 de los US$120.000 millones de productos de importación norteamericana . Estos aranceles supusieron para el consumidor y empresas americanas un aumento de US$3.000 millones en impuestos adicionales. Este análisis quiere, por tanto, explicar y mostrar la posición y futuro de la Unión Europea en esta guerra comercial de una manera general.
Mediante este pequeño recordatorio de cifras, se ilustra la magnitud del desafío para la economía mundial que supone este choque entre las dos locomotoras económicas del mundo. No es China quién está pagando los aranceles, como dijo literalmente Trump el 9 de mayo durante un encuentro con periodistas , sino que la realidad es mucho más compleja, y, evidentemente, como en el caso de la inclusión de Huawei en la blacklist comercial (y por tanto la prohibición de adquirir cualquier elemento en suelo norteamericano, ya sea hardware o software, sin un acuerdo previo con la Administración), que puede afectar a más de 1.200 empresas norteamericanas y centenares de millones de clientes a nivel global según la BBC , la guerra económica pronto puede empezar a suponer un gran lastre para la economía a nivel global. El día 2 de junio Pierre Moscovici, comisario europeo de Asuntos Económicos vaticinó que de seguir el enfrentamiento tanto China como EEUU podrían llegar a perder entre 5 y 6 décimas del PIB, subrayando de manera especial que "el proteccionismo es la principal amenaza para el crecimiento mundial” .
Como se infiere por las palabras de Moscovici, la guerra comercial no preocupa solamente a los países directamente implicados en ella, sino que es seguida muy de cerca por otros actores de la política internacional, especialmente la Unión Europea. La Unión Europea es el mayor Mercado Único en el mundo, siendo esta una de las premisas y pilares fundamentales de la propia existencia de la UE. Pero no ya está centrada en el comercio interno, sino que es una de las mayores potencias comerciales de exportación e importación, siendo una de las principales voces que abogan por sanas relaciones comerciales que sean de mutuo beneficio para los diferentes actores económicos a nivel global y regional. Esta apertura a los negocios hace que el 30% del PIB de la UE provenga del comercio exterior y le convierte en el principal actor a la hora de hacer negocios de importación y exportación. Por ilustrar brevemente, de acuerdo con los datos de la Comisión Europea  en el último año (mayo 2018-abril 2019), la UE realizó importaciones por valor de €2.022.000 millones (un crecimiento del 7%) y exportó un 4% más, con un total de €1.987.000 millones. La balanza comercial queda, por tanto, en un saldo negativo de €35.000 millones, lo cual, debido al gran volumen de importaciones y exportaciones y el PIB nominal de la UE (tomando como dato 18'8 billones de euros) supone tan sólo el 0,18% del PIB total de la UE. EEUU fue el principal lugar de exportación desde la UE, mientras que China fue el primer lugar de importación. Estos datos son reveladores e interesantes: parte importante de la economía de la UE depende del negocio con estos dos países y una mala marcha de su economía podría lastrar la propia de los países miembros de la UE.
Otro dato que ilustra la importancia de la UE en materia comercial es el de Inversión Extranjera Directa (IED). En el 2018, el 52% de la IED mundial provino de países dentro de la Unión Europea y esta recibió un 38,5% de la inversión total a nivel mundial, siendo líder en los dos indicadores. Por tanto, cabe afirmar que la actual guerra comercial puede suponer un grave problema para la futura economía europea, pero, como veremos más adelante, la Unión puede salir reforzada e incluso beneficiada de esta situación si consigue medrar bien entre las dificultades, negocios y estrategias de los dos países. Pero veamos, primero, las relaciones de la UE tanto con EEUU como con China.
La relación EEUU-UE ha sido tradicionalmente (aunque con altibajos) la más firme de la esfera internacional. Estados Unidos es el principal aliado en defensa, política, economía y diplomacia de la Unión Europea y viceversa. Se comparten el modelo económico, político, cultural; así como la principal organización de defensa colectiva a nivel mundial, la OTAN. Sin embargo, en la denominada relación transatlántica, siempre han habido choques, acentuados en los últimos tiempos de la Administración Obama y habituales con Trump. Con la Administración actual no sólo han surgido reproches a la UE en el seno de la OTAN (respecto al fallo de países miembros en invertir el presupuesto exigido; compartida la crítica con Reino Unido), sino que se ha iniciado un conato de guerra arancelaria en toda regla.
En apenas dos años se ha pasado de las negociaciones del TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), la anunciada base del comercio del siglo XXI que finalmente fracasó en los últimos compases de Obama en la Casa Blanca, a la actual situación de proteccionismo extremo de EEUU y respuesta de la UE. Especialmente ilustrativa es la sucesión de eventos que han tenido lugar en el último año: a golpe de Twitter, en marzo de 2018 EEUU impuso unilateralmente aranceles globales al acero (25%) y aluminio (10%) para proteger la industria americana . Estos aranceles no sólo afectaban a China, también infringían gran daño a empresas de países europeos como Alemania. También estaba en el aire aplicar aranceles del 25% a vehículos de procedencia europea. Tras un duro clima de reproches mutuos, el 25 de julio, Jean Claude Juncker, presidente de la Comisión Europea, anunció junto a Trump un acuerdo para bajar aranceles a productos agrarios y a servicios, y comprometiéndose EEUU a revisar la imposición de los aranceles metalúrgicos a la UE, así como a apoyar en el seno de la Organización Mundial del Comercio las proclamas europeas para una reforma de las leyes de Propiedad Intelectual, las cuales China no respeta . Sin embargo, tras la reiteración de la amistad transatlántica y del anuncio de Trump de “vamos hacia los aranceles cero” , pronto han vuelto a sonar las cajas destempladas. En abril de este año actual, el día 9 de abril, Trump anunció en Twitter la imposición de aranceles a la UE por valor de US$11.000 millones por el apoyo de la UE a Airbus (competencia de las norteamericanas Boeing, Lockheed Martin...), volando por los aires el principio de acuerdo de julio del año pasado. La UE por su parte amenazó con imponer aranceles de €19.000 millones por el apoyo estatal norteamericano a Boeing. Como se ve, la UE, a pesar de su tradicional papel conciliador y muchas veces subyugada a EEUU, ha decido contraatacar y no permitir mas salidas de tono por parte americana. La última amenaza, de mediados de julio, va contra el vino francés (y debido al mecanismo europeo, contra todos los caldos de procedencia europea, incluidos los españoles). Esta amenaza ha sido calificada como “ridícula” , ya que EEUU consume más vino del que produce (es el mayor consumidor mundial) y por tanto, la oferta disponible se podría ver bastante mermada.
Todavía es pronto para ver el impacto real que está teniendo en EEUU la guerra comercial, más allá del descenso del 7,4% de las exportaciones de EEUU a China  y el daño que están sufriendo los consumidores, pero el Nobel de Economía Robert Schiller, en una entrevista para la CNBC  y el presidente de la Organización Mundial del Comercio, Roberto Azevedo, para la BBC; ya han expresado sus temores respecto a que si la situación y las políticas proteccionistas siguen así, podríamos estar frente a la mayor crisis económica desde el fin de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Es difícil dilucidar como será la relación en el futuro entre Europa y su principal socio exportador, EEUU. Todo indica que van a seguir los roces y la elevación del tono si la Administración americana no decide rebajar su retórica y actos contra el libre comercio con Europa. Por último, tiene que quedar claro (y con ánimo de rebajar el tono a veces excesivamente alarmista de las noticias) que entre las amenazas (ya sea por Twitter o portavoces) de ambos lados y la imposición efectiva de aranceles (en EEUU tras el anuncio pertinente de la Oficina del Representante de Comercio de EEUU; en la UE mediante la aprobación de los 28) dista un largo camino, y no hay que confundir actos en potencia y hechos. Es evidente que a pesar de la dureza del tono, los equipos negociadores de ambos lados del atlántico siguen en contacto e intentan evitar en la medida de lo posible acciones perjudiciales para ambos.
Por otra parte, la relación entre China y Europa es francamente diferente a la que se mantiene con EEUU. La Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) (a la que se ha adherido formalmente Italia) supone la confirmación de la apuesta de China por ser el próximo líder de la economía mundial. Mediante esta iniciativa, el presidente Xi Jinping pretende redistribuir y agilizar los flujos de comercio desde y hacia China por la vía terrestre y marítima. Para ello resulta vital la estabilidad de países del Sur de Asia como Pakistán y Afganistán, así como poder controlar puntos vitales de tráfico marítimo como el Estrecho de Malaca o el Mar del Sur de China. El “dragón” asiático cuenta con una situación interna que favorece su crecimiento (un 6,6% de su PIB en 2018 que, siendo el peor dato desde hace 30 años, sigue siendo una cifra abrumadora), ya que la relativa eficiencia de su sistema autoritario y, especialmente, el gran apoyo del Estado a empresas impulsan su crecimiento, así como también poseen las mayores reservas de divisas extranjeras, especialmente dólares y euros, que permiten una gran estabilidad de la economía del país. La moneda china, el Renminbi, ha sido declarada por el FMI moneda de reserva mundial, lo cual es otro indicador de la buena salud que se le augura en el futuro a la economía china.
Para la UE, China es un competidor, pero también un socio estratégico y un socio negociador . China es para la UE su principal socio importador, totalizando el 20,2% de las importaciones (€395.000 millones), y el 10,5% de las exportaciones (€210.000 millones). El volumen de importaciones es tal que, a pesar de que la inmensa mayoría llegan al continente europeo por vía marítima, existe una conexión por vía férrea que, amparada en la BRI, une todo el continente euroasiático, desde la capital manufacturera de China, Yiwu, y la última parada en el extremo sur de Europa, Madrid. A pesar de que parte de lo importado siguen siendo bienes denominados “low-end”, es decir, productos de manufactura básica y precio unitario barato, desde la entrada de China en la OMC, en diciembre de 2001, el concepto de material producido en China a cambiado radicalmente: la gran abundancia de tierras raras en territorio chino, junto con el avance en su industrialización e inversión en nuevas tecnologías (en lo que China es líder) han hecho que ya no se piense en China sólo como productora de bazares en masa; al contrario, la mayoría de las importaciones en la EU desde China fueron maquinaria y productos “high-end”, de alta tecnología (especialmente equipamiento de telecomunicaciones y de procesamiento de datos).
En el citado comunicado de prensa de la Comisión Europea, se advierte a China de que hagan frente a los compromisos adquiridos en los Protocolos de Kyoto y Acuerdos de París respecto a las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero; e insta al país asiático a respetar los dictados de la OMC, especialmente en materia de transferencia tecnológica, subvenciones estatales y prácticas ilícitas como el dumping.
Estos aspectos son vitales para las relaciones económicas con China. En un momento donde la mayoría de los países del mundo firmaron o son parte de los Acuerdos de París para la reducción de la emisión de gases de efecto invernadero, mientras la UE está haciendo esfuerzos para reducir su contaminación (cerrando plantas y minas de carbón; poniendo impuestos especiales a la energía obtenida de fuentes no renovables...), China, que totaliza el 30% de las emisiones globales, aumentó en el 2018 un 3% sus emisiones. Esto, más allá de los nocivos efectos para el clima, tiene beneficios industriales y económicos: mientras que en Europa las industrias están estrechando sus márgenes e beneficio por el encarecimiento de la energía; China, que se alimenta de carbón, provee de energía más barata a sus empresas, que, sin restricciones activas, pueden producir más. Un ejemplo de como afecta el clima en las relaciones económicas con China es el reciente anuncio  de AcerlorMittal de reducir en 3 millones de toneladas la producción total su acero en Europa (sobre 44 millones de producción habitual) debido a los altos costes de la electricidad y al aumento de la importación de países de fuera de la UE (especialmente China) que con excesos de producción están bajando los precios a nivel mundial. Esta práctica, que es especialmente utilizada en China, consiste en inundar el mercado con una sobreproducción de determinado producto (está sobreproducción es pagada con subsidios gubernamentales) para abaratar los precios. Hasta diciembre de 2018, en los últimos 3 años, la UE ha tenido que imponer más de 116 sanciones y medidas antidumping contra productos chinos . Lo cual muestra que, pese a los intentos de la UE para negociar en términos satisfactorios para ambos, China no cumple lo estipulado en los acuerdos con la UE y la OMC. Especialmente espinoso es el problema con las empresas controladas por el gobierno (se está estudiando la prohibición de redes 5G en Europa, controladas por proveedores chinos, por motivos de seguridad), que tienen prácticamente el monopolio en el interior del país; y sobretodo, la tergiversada lectura de la legalidad por parte de las autoridades chinas, que intentan emplear todos los mecanismos posibles a su favor, dificultando o poniendo trabas a la inversión directa de capital extranjero en su país, así como imponiendo requisitos (necesidad de contar con socios chinos, etc.) que dificultan la expansión internacional de pequeñas y medianas empresas. Sin embargo,
La mayor fricción con la UE, sin embargo, es la transferencia forzosa de tecnología al gobierno, especialmente por parte de empresas de productos estratégicos como las de hidrocarburos, farmacéuticas y de la industria automotriz , impuesta por leyes y conditio sine qua non las empresas no pueden aterrizar en el país. Esto crea un clima de competencia desleal y ataque directo a las leyes internacionales de comercio. La inversión directa de capital chino en industrias y productoras críticas en la UE ha provocado que se alcen voces pidiendo mayor control e incluso vetos sobre estas inversiones en determinadas áreas por cuestiones de Defensa y Seguridad. La falta de protección de derechos intelectuales o patentes también son importantes puntos de quejas por parte de la UE, que pretende poder crear mediante la diplomacia y las organizaciones internacionales un clima favorable para el impulso de las relaciones comerciales igualitarias entre ambos países, tal cómo está plasmado en las diversas directrices y planes europeos referentes al tema.
Tal como hemos visto, la guerra comercial no se limita sólo a EEUU y China, sino que terceras partes la están sufriendo e incluso participando activamente en ella. Aquí surge la pregunta. ¿Puede la UE salir beneficiada de algún modo y evitar una nueva crisis? Pese al ambiente pesimista, la UE puede obtener múltiples beneficios de esta guerra comercial si consigue maniobrar adecuadamente y evitar en la medida de lo posible más imposiciones arancelarias contra sus productos y mantiene el mercado abierto. De continuar la guerra comercial y endurecerse las posiciones de EEUU y China, la UE al ser socio principal de ambos podría recibir beneficios gracias a una redistribución del flujo de comercio. Así pues, para evitar la pérdida debido a los aranceles, tanto China como EEUU podrían vender productos con fuertes gravámenes al mercado europeo, pero, especialmente, importar productos desde Europa. Si se llega a un acuerdo con EEUU para levantar o minimizar aranceles, la UE se encontraría ante un inmenso nicho de mercado dejado por los productos chinos vetados o gravados en EEUU. Lo mismo en China, especialmente en el sector automotriz, del cual se podría beneficiar la UE vendiendo al mercado chino. Alicia García-Herrero, del think tank belga Bruegel, afirma que el beneficio para Europa sólo será posible si no se inclina hacia ninguno de los contendientes y se mantiene neutral en el plano económico . También resalta, como la Comisión Europea, que China debe adoptar medidas para garantizar su reciprocidad y acceso al mercado, ya que la Unión Europea sigue teniendo mayor volumen de negocio e inversiones con EEUU, por lo que la oferta china debería ser altamente atractiva para los productores europeos como para plantearse dirigir productos a China en vez de a EEUU. La propia ONU cifra en US$70.000 millones los beneficios que podría absorber la UE gracias a la guerra comercial . Definitivamente, si se toman las medidas adecuadas y los 28 trazan una hoja de ruta adecuada, la UE se podría beneficiar de esta guerra, sin olvidar que, como aboga la propia UE, las medidas coercitivas no son la solución al problema comercial, y espera que, debido a su inefectividad y daño producido tanto a los consumidores como a los productores, la guerra arancelaria llegue a su fin y, si persisten las diferencias, se diluciden en el Órgano de Apelación de la OMC, o en la Corte Permanente de Arbitraje de las Naciones Unidas.
Esta guerra comercial es un tema altamente complejo y con muchos matices; este análisis ha querido intentar abordar gran parte de los aspectos, datos y problemas a los que se enfrenta la Unión Europea en esta guerra comercial. Se ha analizado generalmente en que consiste la guerra comercial, así como las relaciones entre la UE, China y EEUU. Nos encontramos ante un futuro gris, con la posibilidad de que ocurran múltiples y rápidos giros (especialmente por parte de EEUU, tal como se ha visto tras la cumbre del G20 en Osaka, tras la cual ha permitido la venta de componentes a Huawei, pero no ha sacado a la compañía de su blacklist) y del cual, si se dan los requisitos y las condiciones expuestas más arriba, la UE saldrá definitivamente beneficiada, no sólo en el plano económico, sino que si se mantiene unida y haciendo frente común, será un ejemplo de negociación y libertad económica para el mundo entero.
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From Iranian strategic perspective the Sunni-Shi‘a divide is only part of its larger objective of exporting its revolution.
▲ Escena militar de un altorrelieve de la antigua Persia [Pixabay]
ESSAY / Helena Pompeya
At a first glance it may seem that the most important factor shaping the dynamics in the region is the Sunni-Shi’a divide materialized in the struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran over becoming the main hegemonic power in the region. Nonetheless, from the strategic perspective of Iran this divide is only part of its larger objective of exporting its revolution.
This short essay will analyze three paths of action or policies Iran has been relying on in order to exert and expand its influence in the MENA region: i) it’s anti-imperialistic foreign policy; ii) the Sunni-Shi’a divide; and iii) opportunism. Finally, a study case of Syria will be provided to show how Iran made use of these three courses of action to its benefit within the war.
I. ANTI IMPERIALISM
The Sunni-Shi'a division alone would not be enough to rocket Iran into an advantaged position over Saudi Arabia, being the Shi’ites only a 13% of the total of Muslims over the world (found mainly in Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq). Even though religious affiliation can gain support of a fairly big share of the population, Iran is playing its cards along the lines of its revolutionary ideology, which consists on challenging the current international world order and particularly what Iran calls US’s imperialism.
Iran does not choose its strategic allies by religious affiliation but by ideological affinity: opposition to the US and Israel. Proof of this is the fact that Iran has provided military and financial support to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in Palestine, both of them Sunni, in their struggle versus Israel. Iran’s competition against Saudi Arabia could be understood as an elongation of its anti-US foreign policy, being the Saudi kingdom the other great ally of the West in the MENA region along with Israel.
II. SUNNI-SHI’A DIVIDE
Despite the religious divide not being the main reason behind the hegemonic competition among both regional powers Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shi’a), both states are exploiting this narrative to transcend territorial barriers and exert their influence in neighbouring countries. This rivalry materializes itself along two main paths of action: i) development of neopatrimonial and clientelistic networks, as it shows in Lebanon and Bahrain; ii) and in violent proxy wars, namely Yemen and Syria.
Sectarian difference has been an inherent characteristic of Lebanon all throughout its history, finally erupting into a civil war in 1975. The Taif accords, which put an end to the strife attempted to create a power-sharing agreement that gave each group a political voice. These differences were incorporated into the political dynamics and development of blocs which are not necessarily loyal to the Lebanese state alone.
Regional dynamics of the Middle East are characterised by the blurred limits between internal and external, this reflects in the case of Lebanon, whose blocs provide space for other actors to penetrate the Lebanese political sphere. This is the case of Iran through the Shi‘ite political and paramilitary organization of Hezbollah. This organization was created in 1982 as a response to Israeli intervention and has been trained, organized and provisioned by Iran ever since. Through the empowerment of Iran and its political support for Shi’a groups across Lebanon, Hezbollah has emerged as a regional power.
Once aware of the increasing Iranian influence in the region, Saudi Arabia stepped into it to counterbalance the Shi’a empowerment by supporting a range of Salafi groups across the country.
Both Riyadh and Tehran have thus established clientelistic networks through political and economic support which feed upon sectarian segmentation, furthering factionalism. Economic inflows in order to influence the region have helped developed the area between Ras Beirut and Ain al Mraiseh through investments by Riyadh, whilst Iranian economic aid has been allocated in the Dahiyeh and southern region of the country.
Bahrain is also a hot spot in the fight for supremacy over the region, although it seems that Saudi Arabia is the leading power over this island of the Persian Gulf. The state is a constitutional monarchy headed by the King, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, of the Sunni branch of Islam, and it is connected to Saudi Arabia by the King Fahd Causeway, a passage designed and built to prevent Iranian expansionism after the revolution. Albeit being ruled by Sunni elite, the majority of the country’s citizens are Shia, and have in many cases complaint about political and economical repression. In 2011 protests erupted in Bahrain led by the Shi’a community, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates stepped in to suppress the revolt. Nonetheless, no links between Iran and the ignition of this manifestation have been found, despite accusations by the previously mentioned Sunni states.
The opposition of both hegemonic powers has ultimately materialized itself in the involvement on proxy wars as are the examples of Syria, Yemen, Iraq and possibly in the future Afghanistan.
Yemen, in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula, is a failed state in which a proxy war fueled mainly by the interests of Saudi Arabia and Iran is taking place since the 25th of March 2015. On that date, Saudi Arabia leading an Arab coalition against the Houthis bombarded Yemen.
The ignition of the conflict began in November 2011 when President Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to hand over his power to his deputy and current president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi (both Sunni) due to the uprisings product of the Arab Spring.
The turmoil within the nation, including here al-Qaeda attacks, a separatist rising in the south, divided loyalties in the military, corruption, unemployment and lack of food, led to a coup d’état in January 2015 led by Houthi rebels. The Houthis, Shi‘ite Muslims backed by Iran, seized control of a large territory in Yemen including here the capital Sana’a. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-majority nations are supporting the government.
Yemen is a clear representation of dispute over regional sovereignty. This particular conflict puts the Wahhabi kingdom in great distress as it is happening right at its front door. Thus, Saudi interests in the region consist on avoiding a Shi’ite state in the Arabian Peninsula as well as facilitating a kindred government to retrieve its function as state. Controlling Yemen guarantees Saudi Arabia’s influence over the Gulf of Aden and the Strait of Baab al Mandeb, thus avoiding Hormuz Strait, which is currently under Iran’s reach.
On the other hand, Iran is soon to be freed from intensive intervention in the Syrian war, and thus it could send in more military and economic support into the region. Establishing a Shi’ite government in Yemen would pose an inflexion point in regional dynamics, reinforcing Iran’s power and becoming a direct threat to Arabia Saudi right at its frontier. Nonetheless, Hadi’s government is internationally recognized and the Sunni struggle is currently gaining support from the UK and the US.
The Golf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a political and economic alliance of six countries in the Arabian Peninsula which fail to have an aligned strategy for the region and could be roughly divided into two main groups in the face of political interests: i) those more aligned to Saudi Arabia, namely Bahrain and UAE; ii) and those who reject the full integration, being these Oman, Kuwait and Qatar.
Fragmentation within the GCC has provided Iran with an opportunity to buffer against calls for its economic and political isolation. Iran’s ties to smaller Gulf countries have provided Tehran with limited economic, political and strategic opportunities for diversification that have simultaneously helped to buffer against sanctions and to weaken Riyadh.
Oman in overall terms has a foreign policy of good relations with all of its neighbours. Furthermore, it has long resisted pressure to align its Iran policies with those of Saudi Arabia. Among its policies, it refused the idea of a GCC union and a single currency for the region introduced by the Saudi kingdom. Furthermore, in 2017 with the Qatar crisis, it opposed the marginalization of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the UAE and stood as the only State which did not cut relations with Iran.
Furthermore, the war in Yemen is spreading along Oman’s border, and it’s in its best interest to bring Saudi Arabia and the Houthis into talks, believing that engagement with the later is necessary to put an end to the conflict. Oman has denied transport of military equipment to Yemeni Houthis through its territory.
A key aspect of Kuwait’s regional policy is its active role in trying to balance and reduce regional sectarian tensions, and has often been a bridge for mediation among countries, leading the mediation effort in January 2017 to promote dialogue and cooperation between Iran and the Gulf states that was well received in Tehran.
It has always been in both state’s interest to maintain a good relationship due to their proximity and shared ownership of the North/South Pars natural gas field. Despite having opposing interests in some areas as are the case of Syria (Qatar supports the opposition), and Qatar’s attempts to drive Hamas away from Tehran. In 2017 Qatar suffered a blockade by the GCC countries due to its support for Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and militant groups linked to al-Qaeda or ISIS. During this crisis, Iran proved a good ally into which to turn.. Iran offered Qatar to use its airspace and supplied food to prevent any shortages resulting from the blockade. However as it can be deduced from previous ambitious foreign policies, Qatar seeks to diversify its allies in order to protect its interests, so it would not rely solely on Iran.
Iran is well aware of the intra-Arab tensions among the Gulf States and takes advantage of these convenient openings to bolster its regional position, bringing itself out of its isolationism through the establishment of bilateral relations with smaller GCC states, especially since the outbreak of the Qatar crisis in 2017.
Iran is increasingly standing out as a regional winner in the Syrian conflict. This necessarily creates unrest both for Israel and Saudi Arabia, especially after the withdrawal of US troops from Syria. The drawdown of the US has also originated a vacuum of power which is currently being fought over by the supporters of al-Assad: Iran, Turkey and Russia.
Despite the crisis involving the incident with the Israeli F-16 jets, Jerusalem is attempting to convince the Russian Federation not to leave Syria completely under the sphere of Iranian influence.
Israel initially intervened in the war in face of increasing presence of Hezbollah in the region, especially in its positions near the Golan Heights, Kiswah and Hafa. Anti-Zionism is one of Iran’s main objectives in its foreign policy, thus it is likely that tensions between Hezbollah and Israel will escalate leading to open missile conflict. Nonetheless, an open war for territory is unlikely to happen, since this will bring the UyS back in the region in defense for Israel, and Saudi Arabia would make use of this opportunity to wipe off Hezbollah.
On other matters, the axis joining Iran, Russia and Turkey is strengthening, while they gain control over the de-escalation zones.
Both Iran and Russia have economic interests in the region. Before the outbreak of the war, Syria was one of the top exporting countries of phosphates, and in all likelihood, current reserves (estimated on over 2 billion tons) will be spoils of war for al-Assad’s allies.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps took control of Palmira in 2015, where the largest production area of phosphates is present. Furthermore, Syria also signed an agreement on phosphates with Russia.
Iran has great plans for Syria as its zone of influence, and is planning to establish a seaport in the Mediterranean through which to export its petroleum by a pipeline crossing through Iraq and Syria, both under its tutelage. This pipeline would secure the Shi’ite bow from Tehran to Beirut, thus debilitating Saudi Arabia’s position in the region. Furthermore, it would allow direct oil exports to Europe.
In relation to Russia and Turkey, despite starting in opposite bands they are now siding together. Turkey is particularly interested in avoiding a Kurdish independent state in the region, this necessarily positions the former ottoman empire against the U.S a key supporter of the Kurdish people due to their success on debilitating the Islamic State. Russia will make use of this distancing to its own benefits. It is in Russia’s interest to have Turkey as an ally in Syria in order to break NATO’s Middle East strategy and have a strong army operating in Syrian territory, thus reducing its own engagement and military cost.
Despite things being in favour of Iran, Saudi Arabia could still take advantage of recent developments of the conflict to damage Iran’s internal stability.
Ethnic and sectarian segmentation are also part of Iran’s fabric, and the Government’s repression against minorities within the territory –namely Kurds, Arabs and Baluchis- have caused insurgencies before. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States aligned with its foreign policy, such as the UAE are likely to exploit resentment of the minorities in order to destabilized Iran’s internal politics.
The problem does not end there for Iran. Although ISIS being wiped off the Syrian territory, after falling its last citadel in Baguz, this is not the end of the terrorist group. Iran’s active role in fighting Sunni jihadists through Hezbollah and Shi’ite militias in Syria and Iraq has given Islamist organization a motivation to defy Tehran.
Returning foreign fighters could scatter over the region creating cells and even cooperating with Sunni separatist movements in Ahwaz, Kurdistan or Baluchistan. Saudi Arabia is well aware of this and could exploit the Wahhabi narrative and exert Sunni influence in the region through a behind-the-scenes financing of these groups.
 El derrumbe del Status Quo en OM: Las estrategias de seguridad de Irán y AS, David Poza Cano, enero 2017.
 Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Struggle for Supremacy in Lebanon and Bahrain, Simon Mabon, LSE 2018
 Iran and the GCC Hedging, Pragmatism and Opportunism, Sanam Vakil, September 2018
 Reuters ‘Yemen’s Houthis and Saudi Arabia in secret talks to end war’, 15 March, 2018
 Bayoumy, Y. (2016), ‘Iran steps up weapons supply to Yemen’s Houthis via Oman’, Reuters, 30 October.
 Coates Ulrichsen, K., ‘Walking the tightrope: Kuwait, Iran relations in the aftermath of the Abdali affair’, Gulf States Analytics, 9 August, 2017
 Kamrava, M. ‘Iran-Qatar Relations’, in Bahgat, Ehteshami and Quilliam (2017), Security and Bilateral Issues Between Iran and Its Neighbours.
 Confirman en Siria la derrota total del grupo terrorista ISIS, Clarín Mundo. 23 de marzo, 2019
ESSAY / Albert Vidal
What once achieved great successes oftentimes seems to lose its momentum and, sometimes, it even can become obsolete forever. When this occurs, there are usually two options: one can either try to reform it and save it, or adapt to the changes and play resiliently. But taking that decision involves sacrifices, and there will always be victims, no matter what one chooses. We can see this happening today with the World Trade Organization (WTO), particularly in regards to its function as a forum for the multilateral liberalization of trade.
In this essay, I argue that the WTO has lost its function as a forum for the multilateral liberalization of trade; rather, its only function is now to settle disputes through the Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM).
I have developed three main arguments to support my opinion. First, the failure of the Doha Round has marked an inflection point. With tariffs in its lowest point ever, states decided to abandon the WTO structure due to its slowness and resort to other mechanisms such as Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) to liberalize the remaining barriers. The WTO has been deprived of one of its core functions, which could be toxic for smaller economies. Second, the uniqueness and effectiveness of the WTO’s DSM has conquered many hearts in the international arena and most states rely on it to solve its disputes. It has functioned so well, that it is now dealing with some disputes that had previously been part of trade liberalization negotiations. Third, the WTO does not have a clear mandate to decide on today’s most significant trade barriers: behind-the-border barriers. Most FTAs and RTAs deal with them in a more effective way than the WTO. Let’s now develop these reasons.
Toward a system of elites
The first argument that supports my thesis has to do with the failure of the Doha Round and its consequences. If we look back to the average tariff rates of the past decades, we see how they went down from 22% in 1947, to 15% in 1965 and to less than 5% after the Uruguay Round. In 2004, the average tariff rate was less than 3.8%, and global tariffs remained highest in the least developed regions of the planet. The Doha Round, which began in 2001, was thought to address the remaining agricultural subsidies and other minor tariffs that still were in place. But in 2008, talks collapsed due to a lack of commitment by many parties: lobbies in Western countries pushed hard to maintain the agricultural subsidies, while developing economies demanded more protection for farmers.
Suddenly, some countries (in particular the biggest economies) realized that engaging in negotiations within the WTO framework wasn’t worth it, since reaching consensus for such sensitive issues would be an almost impossible task. Besides, very few tariffs actually remained in place. Thus, they decided to resort to other channels, such as Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs). What were the consequences of such drift?
Since 2001, more than 900 FTAs and 291 RTAs have been signed: there has been a true explosion. They are attractive, because they deal with areas where the WTO has failed (e.g., non-tariff barriers and investment). FTAs and RTAs are technically allowed by the WTO, but they are problematic, because the members of such trade agreements end up forming their own blocs to trade freely, which excludes other minor countries. Consequently, FTAs and RTAs are now undermining the multilateral trading system, because them being preferential provokes trade diversion and increased costs. Besides, they reduce the value of a potential outcome from the Doha Round and, by abandoning the WTO framework, it is easier for bigger economies to use their bargaining power.
In short, powerful and rich members have removed the function of freeing trade from the WTO by engaging in FTAs and RTAs. They once came together to give this organization a role in liberalizing trade; now, following the functionalist theory, they have come together again to remove such function. One might ask, what will then happen with the WTO? Actually, not everything is lost.
What remains of the WTO: the most effective international tribunal
A second reason is that the WTO’s DSM has functioned so well, that it has even absorbed some of the issues that were previously dealt with in negotiations. The DSM was created with the aim of resolving trade disputes among members, being one of the two initial functions of the WTO. Since 1995, members have filled more than 570 disputes and over 350 rulings have been issued, most of which have been complied with (compared to less than 80 rulings of the International Court of Justice in a longer span of time). Almost 100 cases have been settled by a mutually agreed solution before advancing to litigation. Such figures make it the most widely used and effective international tribunal in existence.
One might wonder how this is possible. The secret rests in its five features: first, its procedure is extremely quick (it should take just one year to settle a dispute without appeal); second, it allows for Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms and encourages diplomacy before going for the judicial option; third, it allows for appeal; fourth, its panel is made by experts; fifth, it allows for retaliation.
Some may object by pointing out to the paralysis that the DSM is suffering due to Trump’s blockage of nominations to seats on the appellate body, which could leave the system inoperable. My answer to that is that Trump is the exception to the rule, and everything should be going back to normal with the coming administration.
The increasing number of active disputes (Appendix B) does not necessarily mean that law is being broken more often; rather, it is a reflection of the growing faith countries have in the DSM. In fact, the lack of progress in the Doha Round has pushed some countries toward the WTO’s DSM to solve disputes that should have been part of trade liberalization negotiations (e.g., agricultural subsidies).
Non-tariff barriers are better dealt with outside the WTO
A third reason to justify why the WTO no longer functions as a forum for multilateral trade liberalization is that the unclarity of the extent to which the WTO can decide on non-tariff barriers makes states uneasy when it comes to negotiating such issues within the WTO framework. I may also remind that most of the barriers still in place today are non-tariff ones, and the WTO has not yet developed universally recognized rules on them.
Again, solving issues like the harmonization of standards through the required-consensus of the WTO’s rounds is incredibly complex. This means that states prefer either to simply bring them to the WTO’s DSM or to deal with those challenges bilaterally and through regional deals.
That is why, in my opinion, the WTO needs to undertake certain reforms to regain its lost function: it should promote non-litigious dialogue outside the official frameworks. Simultaneously, it should develop relationships with the existing FTAs and clarify the extent to which it will decide on behind-the-border measures.
To put it briefly, the WTO has lost one of its two core functions due to three main factors. The most important one is that many countries are tired of the rigid WTO structure for trade negotiations, and have decided to work toward the same direction but with different methods. At the same time, the DSM has earned a tremendous reputation during almost two and a half decades and, although it is now going through difficult situation, it has a bright future ahead. Lastly, the bulk of barriers to trade that remain standing are so complex, that the WTO cannot effectively address them.
I would like to end by referring to the reflection with which I began this essay. It seems to me that we can still save the WTO as a forum to liberalize trade multilaterally, but we cannot pretend for it to be as it was in the past. It will never again be the central and unique leader of the process. Instead, it will have to develop relationships with existing FTAs, RTAs, and other functioning partnerships and agreements. But at least, we can try to reform it and soften the damaging consequences that are affecting countries outside these elite clubs.
 Meltzer, Op. cit., p. 4.
 Low, P. (2009). Potential Future Functions of the World Trade Organization. Global Governance, 15, 327–334.
▲ 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 http://www.jstor.org/stable/2626757
Craw, V. (2019). North Korea military spending: Country spends 22 per cent of GDP. Retrieved from https://www.news.com.au/world/asia/north-korea-spends-whopping-22-per-cent-of-gdp-on-military-despite-blackouts-and-starving-population/news-story/c09c12d43700f28d389997ee733286d2
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 https://politicstheorypractice.com/2016/03/06/a-critique-of-offensive-realism/
Theys, S. (2018). Introducing Constructivism in International Relations Theory. Retrieved from https://www.e-ir.info/2018/02/23/introducing-constructivism-in-international-relations-theory/
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.
▲ Black Blade 2016, under the EU’s Helicopter Exercise Programme [European Defence Agency, Fisher Maximilian]
ESSAY / Albert Vidal
The purpose of this paper is to project a potential scenario in the European Union (EU) security and defence field around 2030. The European Commission has already developed a three-legged projection (Mogherini & Katainen, 2017), which presents alternative scenarios, the accomplishment of which will depend on the decisions the European Union and its member states take from now on. Thus, as it makes no sense to describe again the three scenarios, I will be focusing on the most ambitious one: a common security and defence.
To do so, I will begin by briefly depicting where we are today, in terms of EU security and defence. Afterwards, I will introduce the core ideas outlined in the Reflection Paper and develop the 3rd scenario. A variety of issues which include funding, industry capabilities and intelligence, among others, will be tackled.
EU Security and Defence in 2019
As of 2019, the security and defence policies of the EU are embedded in the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) which, although having the astronomical combined budget of more than $220 billion in 2016 (How much is spent on defence in the EU?, 2018), it is far from being the military superpower it ought to be. It is true that the EU Global Strategy provides some guidelines for the development of EU’s policies, but for now it is just a vision and hasn’t yet had the time to deliver tangible results. The Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), on the other hand, offers the potential to work toward the achievement of those goals.
Meanwhile, we can appreciate a costly fragmentation of resources which is embodied in the multiplicity of weapons systems in the EU (up to 178) compared to the US, which has around 30 (Munich Security Report 2017, 2017). Duplication is quite pricey: since every EU Member State has to acquire a little bit of everything to cover its wide range of military necessities, we end up having repeated and useless systems and a lot of money is consequently wasted. The lack of interoperability between different European armies complicates the deployments even more and brings equipment shortages. This gives a strong explanation to why less than 3% of European troops are actually deployed (Defending Europe Factsheet, 2017). Besides, the inexistence of a large fund for military operations and research in technology has hindered the development of European-made equipment and has also prevented large-scale operations. If the member states want to launch a military mission, they need to resort to different sources of funding, such as the Athena Mechanism, the African Peace Facility, the Instrument Contributing to Stability and Peace and several Trust Funds, which causes confusion and a loss of efficiency. The aforementioned examples are not thought to be exhaustive; they are just some examples of today’s chaos in the field of security and defence in the EU.
How ambitious is the EU?
The ‘Reflection Paper on the Future of European Defence’ presents three scenarios of incremental cooperation among the EU member states, with each projection having its own principles and reach (Mogherini & Katainen, 2017).
Scenario A is characterized by the lowest degree of cooperation, which would remain voluntary and member states wouldn’t be bound to a common security and defence. The EU would only be able to deploy civilian missions and small-scale military operations; and its defence industry would remain largely fragmented.
Scenario B depicts an EU defence policy with stronger financial resources and a greater ability to project its military power. Duplication would be reduced and cooperation with NATO would increase.
Scenario C is by far the most interesting one, where a real common security and defence policy would be developed, and it would effectively balance the contributions and competencies among the member states (Bierman, 2018). Such will be the main object of analysis of the present paper.
Being this section my contribution to the conversation, I hope to be creative enough without falling into vagueness and imprecision.
a) In regards to the structure, the CSDP will remain as a part of the Foreign Affairs Configuration within the Council of the EU and will evolve into the communitarian decision-making-style; that is, intergovernmental decision making (which requires consensus) will become democratic (only requires majority). This inflection point will accelerate development of this field, since consensus will no longer be necessary. In regards to the material capabilities, national armies will begin their transition toward a unified European army. Right now, this may seem crazy. But Europe has taken similar steps before in other areas; and even if states have lost their national decision-making power on economic issues, no big disaster has happened.
Although member states are now fearful of transferring defence competences to the Union, I believe this will eventually occur. Many worry because member states will be losing sovereignty and control of their own army, and they will be at the mercy of the EU’s will. The problem is that defence is a very dear issue to states and there will be little progress toward efficiency and interoperability unless the EU takes complete control. Europe needs to continue advancing in its integration project to face increasingly challenging crisis; staying still will be synonymous with collapse.
b) Funding will be unified under a single European defence fund that will have a dual purpose. Firstly, it will be devoted to research and development; secondly, it will finance all kinds of operations and cover its costs, be it civilian or military ones (a similar idea to the European Peace Facility). Existing funds such as the Athena Mechanism or the APF would obviously disappear. Ideally, all EU member states would devote the equivalent of a 0.4% of the GDP to such fund, which would account for more than $75 billion.
c) Apart from that, EU member states should spend a minimum of 1.1% of their GDP in defence, which accounted for $206 billion in 2018. A superior body will coordinate the efforts to ensure that duplication doesn’t take place, and that all materials that are produced, acquired and used are interoperable. Thus, member states will have to follow certain guidelines when investing their resources. If we want to avoid having too many radar stations or minesweepers, the superior body will draft a list with the quotas that each unit, vehicle or system will have and will distribute it among the member states. It will probably be the case that only certain countries will be spending on aircraft carriers, but that won’t mean that such carrier belongs to the country that built it. The novelty is that all the equipment and units will be controlled by a unified European Command Center. Defence will be a policy concerning the community of member states.
d) The multiplicity of systems will be drastically reduced and the EU will only produce a small amount of tanks, battleships and aircrafts models. Such specialization and the optimized production will lower the costs of manufacture. This will bring competition among the different actors in the defence industry, which will definitely produce higher quality technology and equipment. The EU could enhance its cooperation with the industries by inviting such companies to the military exercises; so that they can see which gaps do they have and develop innovative ideas.
e) Relations with external actors will change profoundly. As the national external action will be subsumed under the CFSP, the EU will have an even stronger negotiating power when facing foreign threats, such as Russia. Its relationship with NATO will become awkward, since the EU will have its own army capable of performing high-end operations and will be perfectly fitted to deter Russia. At the same time, the EU will be able to pursue a foreign policy that might not suit the interests of the US, so NATO might become a parallel corpus which, although awkwardly separated from the EU, will maintain its ties with it. In some cases, certain countries will find themselves belonging simultaneously to both NATO and the EU CSDP. What will happen is that EU member states may change their membership status to NATO partners.
f) Other improvements will include a readjustment of the training areas and the recruitment processes, which will be brought to an EU scale; this will in turn improve the integration among European soldiers, since they will train jointly from the beginning. Language barriers will be broken and cultural differences will be easily overcome.
g) Nuclear weapons will also be crucial to the future of the CSDP: although it may sound naive that France will give its sovereignty over nuclear weapons to the EU, it still is a possibility that we should not ignore. Maybe we could design a special mechanism on the usage of nuclear weapons by the EU, in which France would have a sort of veto. The UK, on its part, will not be included in the CSDP, and its nuclear weapons and conventional capabilities will continue under their sovereignty.
h) An emphasis will be put on cyber security, Artificial Intelligence systems, quantum technology, laser weapons and autonomous weapons. This is too wide of a topic to be developed here, but what is certain is the need to invest extensively in research. Once all funds come together, research labs and facilities should also start collaborating between them, and this should improve the return on investments.
i) A redesigned Battle Group (BG) concept will impact the way the EU understands its security. Since conflicts after the Cold War have tended to be very localized and asymmetric, it makes little sense to have only such big and numerous forces prepared for combat. What I propose is to create smaller high-readiness special operations forces, which can be deployed in less than 3 days, instead of the 15 days that it takes for Battle Groups. Again, smaller units with cyber support and advanced technology will be a lot more efficient, silent and precise. War is evolving, the EU should as well.
j) Africa will change a lot in the coming years. Right now it is the EU’s primary foreign policy concern and it will probably continue to be in 2030. The EU has realized how dangerous another major crisis in Northern Africa might be, because if mixed with the massive population growth and poverty it may provoke colossal migration waves, as we have never seen. To avoid it, the EU should ideally adopt a double-pronged strategy: on the one hand, it should focus on the development of the region. On the other hand, it should address one and for all the chaos present in certain Northern African countries. I am aware of how complex this is, since regional factions, terrorists and liberation groups are often mixed up. Training the police forces through capacity-building missions and strengthening the judicial system and other governmental institutions is a needed step, which should be followed by more development-focused approaches.
I have laid out in this paper where we are today in terms of EU Security and Defence, and I have then further developed the ideas proposed by the 3rd scenario of the Reflection Paper, the most ambitious one. But, what is the utility of projecting such scenario? Well, the EU is facing today multiple challenges that range from terrorism, to migration and a potential internal disintegration. Brexit means that the strongest European army is leaving and the EU now needs to rethink itself. This is a critical point for the future of Europe: crisis means a crucial time in which a decisive change is impending. We need to think extreme during onerous times and consider proposals that would have otherwise remained in the shade.
 The ‘Reflection Paper on the Future of European Defence’ sets the different scenarios for moving towards a security and defense union
 USD $220 billion is the aggregate amount that all countries participating in the CSDP spend in defense
 The European Union Global Strategy was adopted on 28 June 2016
 Interoperability is defined as the intellectual capacity of military professionals to come together in one formation, face one common problem and try to develop solutions for it. Its biggest challenges are logistics, communication systems and a common understanding of what ‘interoperability’ actually means (Piatt & Leed, 2014). Today, the lack of interoperability creates an opportunity cost of $27 billion a year (Europe is starting to get serious about defence, 2017)
 CSDP will continue to be subsumed to the Common Foreign Security Policy (CFSP). As part of Scenario C, I also envisage the community asserting its rule over the CFSP But this is a different topic that we will not tackle here
 The legal restrictions on financing military activities from the EU’s budget would disappear
 According to the GDP in 2018; in 2030 it will probably be a bigger amount.
 According to the European Parliament, joining up the EU defense market would save $27 billion a year (Europe is starting to get serious about defence, 2017).
 Another proposal is an EU military conscription, which would diminish the costs greatly
 Given that we are projecting Scenario C, we are aiming for a coherent CSDP
 Battle Groups would then be used as back-up forces for longer and bigger operations
Bierman, B. (2018). A Critical Analysis of the Future of the EU’s CFSDP. Global Affairs & Strategic Studies. Retrieved March 1, 2019, from
Crisis. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Defending Europe Factsheet. (2017). Retrieved from
Europe is starting to get serious about defence. (2017). The Economist. Retrieved from
How much is spent on defence in the EU? (2018). Retrieved from
Mogherini, F., & Katainen, J. (2017). Reflection Paper on the Future of European Defence. Brussels. Retrieved from
Munich Security Report 2017. (2017). Munich. Retrieved from
Piatt, W., & Leed, M. (2014). The Future of European Collective Defense. Washington DC: Center for Strategic & International Studies. Retrieved from
▲ The Forbidden City, in Beijing [MaoNo]
ESSAY / Jakub 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. 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.  These struggles only amplified their desire for stability.
All philosophical ideologies rooted in China highlight the benefits of stability over the evil of chaos. 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. 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. 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. 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,” 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”. 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. 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.” 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. 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. 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.
 Daniell, James. “Sichuan 2008: A Disaster on an Immense Scale.” BBC News, BBC, 9 May 2013, www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-22398684.
 The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Xiongnu.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 6 Sept. 2017, www.britannica.com/topic/Xiongnu.
 Creel, Herrlee Glessner. "Chinese thought, from Confucius to Mao Tse-tung." (1953).
 Hsiao, Kung-chuan. "Legalism and autocracy in traditional China." Chinese Studies in History 10.1-2 (1976)
 Kohn, Livia. Daoism and Chinese culture. Lulu Press, Inc, 2017
 Yao, Xinzhong. An introduction to Confucianism. Cambridge University Press, 2000.
 Blanchard, Ben. “China's Xi Demands 'Strong Hands' to Maintain Stability Ahead of Congr.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 19 Sept. 2017.
 Diccionario conciso español-chino, chino español. Beijing, China: Shangwu Yinshuguan. 2007.
 Nylan, Michael (2001), The Five Confucian Classics, Yale University Press.
 Tuan N. Pham. “China in 2018: What to Expect.” The Diplomat, 11 Jan. 2018.
Li, Xiaojun. "Does Conditionality Still Work? China’s Development Assistance and Democracy in Africa." Chinese Political Science Review 2.2 (2017): 201-220.
 Chase, Michael S. "PLA Rocket Force Modernization and China’s Military Reforms." (2018).
ESSAY / Marina Díaz Escudero
Since 2015, Europe has been dealing with an unprecedented scale of migration from different parts of the world, mainly from MENA (Middle East and North Africa). People flee their countries due to war, bad living conditions or a lack of opportunities for wellbeing.
Although Europe characterises itself for its solidarity, liberty, values and respect for other countries and cultures, such a large flow of inmigration seriously tests the European project. For instance, the Schengen system of passport-free travel could collapse as fearful countries enhance their border controls, to the disadvantage of European citizens. “The Schengen system is being more and more questioned and most opinion polls highlight the correlation between the fear of inmigration and the distrust of the citizens of the member states towards European institutions.”1 The migration crisis is also considered a “threat for the European project’s constitutional stability and for its fundamental values” (Spijkerboer, 2016). 1
Divisions between northern and southern EU countries, and between them and the Visegrad countries have clearly intensified due to this problem, specially after the approval, in 2015, of some quotas of relocation of refugees that were critisised and voted against by Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Due to this lack of consensus but also due to the delay of other EU countries in complying with the quotas, a treaty was signed between the EU and Turkey in March 2016 so that most refugees arriving to Europe through Greece would be inmediately returned to Turkey2.
Understandably, EU countries are mostly concerned with the prevention of illegal inmigration and with border-control policies, as well as with the need of reaching an agreement for an egalitarian distribution of arriving migrants, most of them being asylym seekers and refugees. Nevertheless, this will probably not be enough to satisfy both the European citizens and the migrants: root causes of migration may need to be solved as soon as possible to prevent people from fleeing their homes. This gives the EU food for thought: addressing the migration problem without focusing on the prevention of migration in the countries of origin may not be a lasting, long-term solution. “The instability, insecurity, terrorism, poverty, famine and climate change besetting large parts of Africa and the Middle East are the root causes of migration, but the European Union (EU) governments have come around to this too late, engaging essentially in damage-limitation exercises at our borders.”3
According to World Bank data, in 2017 over 8 million migrants came from “the Arab world” and from these, 6 million fleed the Syrian Arab Republic4. The war in Syria, originally between Bashar al Assad’s regime and the rebel opposition, and currently a proxy war involving various international actors, turns the country into one of the greatest sources of migrants. The fact that over a million of them live in Lebanon (currently accounting for a 30% of the population) , a country who didn’t sign the 1951 Refugee Convention and who has been trying to deport the migrants for years now, is worrying. Due to the “fuelling tensions between Lebanese host communities and the Syrian refugees” the Lebanese government has taken some more restrictive measures towards migrants, such as the banning of the construction of formal refugee camps. This for sure puts additional pressure on the EU5.
In order to comprehend the European Union’s vision and strategy on Syria, and whether the institution and its members are willing to fight the root causes of its situation, one must consider the words of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, in her discourse at the Conference of Brussels in April 2018:
“[In this conference] we had representatives of over 85 countries and international organizations, international and Syrian civil society. […] We identified common ground on at least 2 or 3 issues: one is that there is no military solution to the war in Syria and that there is a need that everyone recognizes to relaunch the political process. The second element on which I have not found any divergent view is the key role of the United Nations in leading this political process. This is extremely important for us, the European Union, because we have always consistently identified in the UN and in Staffa de Mistura the only legitimate leadership to ensure that the political process represents all Syrians in intra-Syrian talks and happens along the lines of the United Nations Security Council resolutions already adopted. The third element is the need to support Syrians inside Syria and in the neighbouring countries, with humanitarian aid, financial support but also to support hosting communities, in particular neighbouring countries”.6
The Vice-President of the European Comission basically makes three clear statements: the European institution will by no means intervene militarily in Syria, neither will it take the initiative to start a political process or peaceful negotiation in the country (it will only support the UN-led process), but it will clearly invest economically both in the country and in its citizens to improve their conditions.
Defence of the UN-led political process
Once a solely-European military intervention has been discarded (due to a lack of consensus among countries on a common defense policy and to the already effective existence of NATO in this regard), the EU considers its role in a political solution to the Syrian conflict, which would clearly reduce migration numbers.
According to the European Council in its conclusions on Syria of April 2018, “the momentum of the current situation should be used to reinvigorate the process to find a political resolution of the Syrian conflict […] A lasting peace in Syria is the ultimate objective of the EU”.7 The Council makes clear that it will not create a new EU-led political process but that it will support the UN’s: “…any sustainable solution to the conflict requires a genuine political transition in line with UNSCR 2254 and the 2012 Geneva Communique negotiated by the Syrian parties within the UN-led Geneva process.”
The UN currently takes part in two parallel processes: inter-Syrian conversations in Geneva and the Conversations in Astaná. The first looks for a dialogue solution to the conflict and participants are the Syrian government, a delegation from the opposition and the UN Special Envoy for Syria. Until now, 9 rounds of conversations have taken place, the last focused on the elaboration of a new constitution for the country. The second process is promoted by Russia, Iran and Turkey, guarantors of the peace process in Syria. Conversations started in 2017 with the aim of consolidating the cease-fire and preparing the way for a political solution to the war. The last round of conversations took place in Sochi this past July8.
But things aren’t as easy as they seem.
UN special envoy for Syria will soon be replaced by the Norwegian Geir Pedersen making future lines of action unpredictable for us. We know, however, what the starting point will be. In the ordinary UN session celebrated on the past 20th december, de Mistura stated that they had “almost completed the job of starting a constitutional commitee to write a constituional reform, as a contribution to the political process, but still have to go one more mile.”9
Such a commiteee would be composed of 150 persons, a third of which should be appointed by the Syrian regime, another third by the opposition and the last one by UN designated persons. This last point has been repeatedly opposed by Syria. The biggest problem at the moment is that the UN is not fully comfortable with the 50-name list proposed by Iran, Russia and Turkey9.
On the other hand, the strategy of the US, a very relevant actor in this process due to its position in the UN as a permanent member of the Security Council (with veto power on resolutions), has been unclear for a long time. US Special Envoy to Syria Joel Rayburn stated in November that the objectives of the US in Syria were three: the defeat of the Islamic State, the withdrawal of all Iranian-commanded forces and “a political settlement under the auspices of the UNSC Resolution 2254 and the political process supported by the UN in Geneva.”10
In other words, it seemed that unless the first two objectives were covered the US wouldn’t wholeheartedly compromise for a definitive political settlement in Syria and given US relevance, the UN would have it very difficult to advance the political process anytime soon. Most recently however, there was a turn of events: in December the US declared its intention of gradually withdrawing its troops from Syria. “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump presidency.”11
Does this mean that the US is finally willing to head its efforts towards the third objective? US diplomat Rodney Hunter said: “the US is ready to impulse the political process, to isolate more the regime diplomatic and economically, we are willing to do it.” 9
Although a positive answer would facilitate discussions for peace and thus, EU involvement, a reduction of violence in the region (and therefore a reduction of migration to Europe) is not assured for two reasons: the US now leaves Turks with free hands to attack Kurdish militants and, although ISIS has lost 95% of its territory, “2,500 Isis fighters remain […] The group retains the capacity to do even more damage, especially if let off the hook now.” 11
Soft power: humanitarian aid and investment
Given the fact that the EU can not really influence the military and political/diplomatic decisions regarding the Syrian conflict, it has been focusing, since the beginning of the war in 2011, on delivering humanitarian aid and development support to the country and its nationals. The next phrase from the European External Action Service summarises very well the EU’s aims on this respect: “Our objective is to bring an end to the conflict and enable the Syrian people to live in peace in their own country.”12
Although bilateral, regional and technical assitance cooperation between the EU and the Syrian government came to an end due to the violent situation that was emerging in the country, the international organization directly supports the Syrian population and its neighbours13.
Through the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), the EU worked hand in hand with its neighbours to the East and South (including Syria) with the aim of fostering stabilization, security and prosperity and achieving cooperation in key areas like the “promotion of democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights and social cohesion.”14 After the cease of cooperation between the EU and the regime, support to the ENP countries is given through the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), with a predicted budget of 15 billion dollars (2014-2020)15.
Under the financing og the ENI, the Commission approved in November a special measure “to help the Syrian population to cope with the effects of the crisis and prepare the grounds for a sustainable peace.”16 The main action has been entitled as “Preserving the prospects for peace and stability in Syria through an inclusive transition” and counts with a maximum contribution of EUR 31 million. According to the European Comission, if the Syrian situation turns into a “post-crisis state-building and reconstruction scenario,” special measures will be revised in order to suit the new needs of the population14.
The ENP is part of the EUGS or European Union Global Strategy (for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy) presented by Federica Mogherini to the EU Council in 2016, and whose main aim is to achieve an integrated approach and a “coherent perspective for EU’s external action.”15 As part of this broader strategy, the EU wishes to prevent fragile contexts from becoming serious humanitarian crises17.
Within this, another particular strategy for Syria was developed in 2015, the EU Strategy for Syria. Some of its most important objectives are “saving lives by addressing the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable Syrians across the country,” “promoting democracy, human rights and freedom of speech by strengthening Syrian civil society organisations” and “support the resilience of the Syrian population and Syrian society.”18 The European Council, in its Conclusions on Syria of 2018, agreed that the objectives of the “European Union Strategy on Syria” remain valid.
Although all these initiatives are well-intentioned and show that the EU is not only concerned about the end of the war but also with how it will be done and its aftermath, history has proved that Western political intervention in the Middle East is far from optimum for the region. In the 1916 the Sykes-Picot agreement between France and the UK drew an artificial political line on the territory that would later trigger the Arab-Israeli conflict and promote present ISIS action. Later on, the US-leaded intervention in Iraq in 2003 (one of its objectives being the “liberation” of the Iraqi people) has caused an increase of Sunni-Shiite tension, the rise of Al-Qaeda and the strenghtening of Iran in the region.
The point here is that the EU might be interested in helping Syria and its citizens in ways that improve living conditions and welfare opportunities without messing up with the country’s cultural, social and political system. Imposing the notion of democracy in these states, knowing that they have a completely different historical and cultural background, might not be a feasible solution.
Thus, other types of EU initiatives like the New Partnership Framework (NPF, June 2016), focused on the role of economic development in fighting the root causes of migration, might be more effective in the long-term. “It will address all aspects of this migration crisis, from its root causes to the daily tragedies that occur in the Mediterranean. These ambitions […] illustrate EU's willingness to address specific migratory challenges, but also the long-term drivers of migration.”19
Through the NPF, the EU explains how private investment can be a very useful tool for promoting the economic growth and development of Syria, which would in turn improve the living conditions of its citizens making it less necessary to flee their homes in search of a better place to be. “Instead of letting irregular migrants risk their lives trying to reach European labour markets, European private and public resources should be mobilised for investment in third countries of origin. If deployed intelligently, leveraged use of the limited budget resources available will generate growth and employment opportunities in source as well as transit countries and regions […] This should adress the root causes of migration directly, given the high impact of those investments in terms of employment and inequality reduction.” This is what the EU calls innovative financing mechanisms.
This project is called the External Investment Plan and is being organized in three steps. First, the mobilization of scarce public resources in an attractive way to attract private investment. Then, helping local authorities and private companies to be known in the international investor community. Finally, the EU would try to improve the general business government by putting a solution to some corruption issues as well as some market distortions. “The EU, Member States, third countries, International Financial Institutions, European bilateral development institutions, as well as the private sector, should all contribute.” The EU hopes to collect, through this External Investment Fund, a total of 62 billion euros.
Long story short, European countries believe in the expansion of this type of innovative financing “in those fragile and post-conflict countries which are often important for migration flows but where the potential for direct private or public investment is currently limited.”
An interesting factor to take into account in this matter is who will be the most involved international actor in the project. Will it be the US, allowing us to compare the current situation with the 20th century Marshall Plan? (where investments in infrastructure and the spread of domestic management techniques was also a key element). Or could it be Russia? As the President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce stated in March 2018, “$200 billion to $500 billion will be needed for the reconstruction of the Syrian economy, and the first priority will, as President Bashar al-Assad has said, be given to Russian businesses.”20 What is clear is that investing in Syria will clearly give the investor country some important influence on the newly-recovered state.
Conclusions and forecast for the future
Since the beginning of the crisis in 2011, Syria has been one of the major sources of migration towards Europe. Although EU members currently need to discuss the prevention of illegal inmigration and the distribution of legally coming asylum seekers, some attention must also be given to the elimination of factors that activate migration in the country of origin.
While it is true that a definitive end to the war between the regime and the opposition would be the best and most inmediate solution for disproportionate fleeings from Syria, the EU doesn’t seem to be able to intervene more than it already does.
Not having an army of itself (and not seeming to want it in the near future) and being the “assistant” of the UN in the political and diplomatic resolution of the conflict, it can only apply its soft power tools and instruments to help to the country and its citizens.
Although humanitarian aid is essential and the EU is sparing no expense on it, the institution has come to realise that the real key to improving Syria’s situation and the wellbeing of its citizens may be investment and development. This investment could be “short-term”, in the sense that foreign countries directly invest in Syria and decide what the money will be used for (i.e reconstruction of buildings, construction of new infrastructure…) or “long-term”, in the sense that the main role of the EU is improving the country’s business governance to facilitate the attraction of private investors in the long-term.
Regarding the last option it is very important that “the receptor countries establish transparent policies, broad and effective that propiciate an appropiate atmosphere for investment, with the consequent formation of human resources and the establishment of an appropiate institutional climate.”21 Taking this into account, Syria will be a difficult challenge for the EU, as in order to achieve an appropiate institutional climate, a diplomatic solution to the conflict and a peaceful political transition will be required, as well as the collaboration of the future government in promoting political transparency.
All in all, the EU is clearly aware of the root causes of migration and is developing feasible strategies to counter them. The rate of progress is still slow and it may be due to the fact that, in order to effectively apply many of this soft power strategies (except for the humanitarian aid), the receptor country must be stable and ready to collaborate. In other words, EU investment and development plans will most probably bear fruit when the war is over, a peaceful political transition is on the move and the general atmosphere is favourable for economic growth and innovation.
Political stability in Syria could be achieved through two scenarios: the success of the UN-led process and the drafting of new constitution for the country; or the victory of one of the sides (most probably the Syrian regime) and its establishment in power. Meanwhile, the EU and its members will have three challenges: developping the forementioned long-term investment strategies in the view of a future peace (while mantaining already-functioning soft power initiatives), dealing with the refugee crisis at the European borders, and preserving the European project and unity by avoiding major disagreements on migration policy and an exacerbated fear of inmigration.
Moreover, one of the key issues that will need to be followed closely in the following months is the effect that the, maybe early, withdrawal of US troops can have on the region and on the power dynamic between the actors, together with the potential changes in US strategy with regards to the UN-led process.
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ENSAYO / Manuel Lamela
La habilidad de comunicar, de tejer alianzas, de generar una narrativa… Son características propias de lo que a día de hoy se entiende por diplomacia pública. Pese a que abarca gran variedad de temas y áreas podemos decir que nos estamos refiriendo al poder en su faceta comunicativa, por el cual los Estados compiten en una carrera de ideas con la finalidad de apropiarse del “relato” y generar una mayor influencia a escala global. Esta pugna por el dominio del pensamiento no es novedosa, pero en la última mitad del siglo XX se generaron conceptos para ilustrar este conflicto entre Estados, que quizás antes de la Guerra Fría se encontraba en un segundo plano, y aparecieron estudios para analizar este tipo de estrategias. Pese a esto, basta echar un ojo a los clásicos para ver claras referencias a lo que actualmente entendemos por Diplomacia Pública; así en obras como el “Arte de la guerra”, de Sun Tzu, se da gran importancia y valor a la información, tanto interna como externa, y se presenta su control como sinónimo de triunfo en la mayoría de los casos.
Pese a la novedad del concepto, la Diplomacia Pública ha sufrido diversos cambios y transformaciones con la entrada del nuevo siglo. Junto con la importancia de los actores no-estatales ya presentes en la pasada centuria, ahora nos encontramos con un aumento significativo del peso que tienen los individuos a la hora de moldear o de influenciar en las políticas de sus Estados. El incremento sin duda se debe a la aparición y “democratización” de internet y más recientemente a la dependencia total que existe en las poblaciones del uso de redes sociales. Dejando de lado el debate sobre si las redes sociales aportan beneficios o más bien su uso descontrolado genera déficits, el cual no viene al caso en este análisis, lo que está claro es que las RRSS crean una clara situación de vulnerabilidad propicia para la intervención y control estatal, tanto de carácter nacional como extranjero.
Dada esta metamorfosis en términos de diplomacia, se han empezado a acuñar diversos conceptos como diplomacia en red, diplomacia de la ciberseguridad, etc., que actualmente están presentes en la mayoría de estrategias de los Estados y que engloban los fenómenos tratados en el párrafo anterior. Dentro de estos nuevos planes estratégicos los think tanks adquieren una gran relevancia e importancia como generadores de ideas y moldeadores de la opinión pública dada su naturaleza híbrida de aunar práctica con teoría y su misión de acercar al gran público la política exterior de sus diversos Estados. Los think tanks son, sin ninguna duda, un claro ejemplo de ejercicio de soft power. Se posicionan como pilares ideológicos en la construcción de nuevas narrativas generando una ventaja competitiva frente al resto.
Historia y liderazgo anglosajón
La hegemonía anglosajona a la hora de cimentar los valores e ideas que constituyen el orden internacional liberal está estrechamente relacionada con los orígenes de los primeros think tanks y su función dentro de esas sociedades. Los think tanks modernos surgen durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial como salas seguras donde el Ejército estadounidense podía elaborar y planificar estrategias de carácter bélico. Rand Corporation se funda en 1948 con el objetivo de promover y proteger los intereses de Estados Unidos en el exterior. Financiado y patrocinado por la Administración, RAND inspirará y servirá como ejemplo para la aparición de nuevos think tanks ligados al Gobierno estadounidense. Aunque la mayoría de los think tanks de renombre aparecen en la década de 1950, hay diversos ejemplos previos, tanto en la sociedad americana como en la británica, que nos ilustran de manera más evidente el porqué de su liderazgo en la carrera de la generación de ideas.
A finales del siglo XIX se funda en Reino Unido la Sociedad Fabiana, organización de carácter sindicalista y que pondrá los cimientos para la creación del Partido Laborista. Al otro lado del Atlántico los ejemplos abundan: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) y Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, creada por el expresidente Herbert Hoover, surgieron previos a la década de 1920 y ejemplifican la importancia de este tipo de asociaciones en la sociedad estadounidense. Pero si hay un caso que merece la pena destacar es el de Brookings Institution, que nace en 1916 bajo el nombre de Institute for Government Research (IGR). Esta corporación filantrópica es una de las primeras organizaciones de carácter privado dedicada al estudio y al análisis de las políticas públicas a nivel nacional; con el paso de los años su importancia y relevancia irá aumentando hasta constituirse como el think tank más prestigioso e influyente del globo.
A partir de la década de 1980 el fenómeno del think tank se multiplicó y se expandió a Europa continental, donde se comenzaron a crear asociaciones dedicadas al análisis y la investigación en esos campos. La producción intelectual en el viejo continente había escaseado de manera preocupante tras la guerra. Por lo que la necesidad de volver a poner en funcionamiento la máquina de las ideas era vital para dar sentido a la nueva Europa unida y obtener cierta independencia respecto al mundo anglosajón. Hoy en día el 55% de los think tank que del mundo están repartidos entre EEUU y Europa occidental.
Con la entrada del nuevo siglo hemos visto un incremento importante en el número de think tanks en el continente asiático, con la misión de renombrar y reconducir las ideas occidentales e incluso de generar ideas propias, lo que se conoce popularmente como el “Asian Way”. Sin duda, la irrupción de China como gran potencia mundial es esencial en el incremento de think tanks en Asia. El “dragón dormido” busca consolidar su posición mundial con la creación de una nueva diplomacia que exporte el ideario chino a todos los rincones del mundo, un proceso en el que la nueva ruta de la seda jugará un papel fundamental como canal de distribución. Junto a China la otra amenaza al dominio occidental es Rusia, que gracias a su gran calidad en términos de capital humano en cuestiones de inteligencia y diplomacia siempre se posiciona como una férrea competidora, pese a que sus recursos materiales sean menores. En el caso de Latinoamérica y África su contribución continúa siendo residual y con una influencia limitada al nivel regional; el número de think tanks de estos dos continentes suponen menos del 20% a nivel mundial.
Tipología de think tanks
En este análisis ya se han mencionado dos formas diferentes de think tanks: el caso de RAND como una asociación ligada estrechamente al Gobierno estadounidense y el caso de Brookings como organización independiente. Dentro de la comunidad de think tanks existe una gran diversidad y podemos categorizarlos en función de su financiación, de si presentan o no ideología, de su composición, de su enfoque disciplinar… Hoy en día la clasificación de think tanks más importante es la que nos brinda anualmente la Universidad de Pensilvania con su informe “Think Tanks and Civil Society Program”. Este reporte se dedica a evaluar y clasificar los diferentes think tanks que existen en la actualidad.
El informe aporta las siguientes categorías:
Los think tanks ligados al ámbito universitario o gubernamental continúan suponiendo la mayoría de los casos, mientras que los grupos de investigación con ánimo de lucro constituyen una minoría creciente.
La influencia de las ideas en la política de EEUU
Es interesante analizar cómo el libro de Robert D. Kaplan “Fantasmas Balcánicos” influyó de manera decisiva en la intervención americana en la guerra de los Balcanes, y paradójicamente conducirá años más tarde, en 2003, a la invasión de Irak. El mismo Kaplan en otra de sus grandes obras, “La Venganza de la Geografía”, culpa a las altas esferas de la sociedad estadounidense de contagiarse de un idealismo desenfrenado que dio lugar a menospreciar el trascendental papel que juegan la historia y la geografía física al determinar el futuro de las naciones.
El papel que jugaron las diversas presiones ejercidas por think tanks americanos en la invasión de Irak constituye el perfecto ejemplo para ilustrar la capital importancia que pueden llegar a tener las ideas a la hora de conducir la política exterior de un Estado.
Originalmente los think tanks nacieron como cuerpos consultivos orientados a prestar ayuda y consejo al Gobierno estadounidense. Con el avance de la Guerra Fría y más adelante con la revolución de internet la necesidad de ideas y la formulación independiente de políticas se convirtió en primera necesidad para Estados Unidos, que vio en los think tanks la mejor solución posible para nutrirse del consejo de expertos.
La capacidad de generar ideas nuevas y originales alejadas del estrato político junto con la capacidad educativa, son dos de los principales factores que han propiciado que en la actualidad se considere a los think tanks como referentes a la hora de dar forma a la política exterior de EEUU. La directa influencia que poseen es una de las características fundamentales que los distingue de los existentes en otras regiones, como en Europa, donde se encuentran más atados al ámbito académico; en EEUU los Think tanks ejercen un verdadero impacto sobre las políticas del Estado. En estas “fábricas de pensamiento” es dónde se construyen los valores e ideas con los que se intentará edulcorar la política exterior y así expandir su ámbito de influencia a todos los rincones del globo. La misión de identificar y dar solución a futuros problemas y conflictos es otra de las tareas principales que cumplen los think tanks. No siempre se consideran aliados gubernamentales y muchas veces lideran la crítica más feroz; en cualquier caso, la autonomía de la que gozan es lo que hace que sean percibidos como un activo de gran valor dentro de la sociedad estadounidense.
La exportación del modelo a Europa
En Europa el número de think tanks se ha multiplicado desde la década de 1980, pero su número y relevancia siguen muy distantes respecto al mundo anglosajón. En el listado de think tanks más importantes creado por la Universidad de Pensilvania solamente dos pertenecen a la Unión Europea: el Institut Français des Relations Internationales y el belga Bruegel. El modelo americano de think tank ha sido tanto alabado como criticado, y la opción de imitarlo se ha discutido en muchos países y se ha llevado a cabo en muchos otros. Los críticos a su implantación opinan que la historia y la tradición juegan un papel fundamental que hacen extremadamente difícil la exportación del modelo.
Tradicionalmente en Europa las universidades han sido las encargadas de desarrollar el ideario europeo, y en el pasado tuvieron gran éxito haciendo de Europa la vanguardia de la humanidad. Pero en la actualidad Europa no goza del papel protagonista que tenía en otras épocas históricas; el hecho es que se ha visto superada a nivel ideológico por EEUU y no ha tenido más opción que la de comulgar con este último para hacer frente a amenazas mayores. Esto último, junto a la mayor complejidad que presentan los problemas en el panorama actual y la situación que vive la Unión Europea, hacen que se necesite renovar el contrato social europeo y generar una nueva narrativa que agrupe a los ciudadanos europeos en torno a una nueva causa, con el espíritu de los Tratados de Roma como gran referente y punto de partida.
Para llevar a cabo tan ardua tarea los think tanks se presentan como una de las posibles soluciones y herramientas de ayuda. Dada su naturaleza de aunar el ámbito académico y el político, la creación de nuevas ideas y valores que revitalicen la sociedad europea permitirán aspirar a cualidades más elevadas. Otro de los factores fundamentales es la flexibilidad que presenta el modelo de think tank, que generará mayor accesibilidad dentro de la sociedad civil, haciendo que los ciudadanos se sientan partícipes y que, en última instancia, la participación política aumente, de forma que los lazos de confianza se refuercen en vez de resquebrajarse, como se pronostica que ocurra. Como mencionábamos en el caso estadounidense, el valor educativo es otra de las características principales y servirá como solución para varios de los problemas que asolan a día de hoy Europa, como el caso del ascenso de partidos extremistas de distinto signo.
Europa tiene el deber de generar una narrativa con la que sus ciudadanos se identifiquen y sin duda el poder de las ideas jugará un papel fundamental en el éxito o fracaso de esta tarea.
El fenómeno think tank ya constituye a día de hoy uno de los modelos sobre los que gravita la diplomacia pública de diversos Estados. El eterno conflicto por dominar las esferas de pensamiento mundial seguirá presente, por lo que los think tank seguirán creciendo y desarrollándose, obteniendo cada vez más relevancia a nivel internacional. En la jerarquía de dominio, las ideas ocupan el último escalón, por detrás de los individuos, de la geografía física y la historia; sin embargo, al ser las ideas una pura creación intelectual humana, se constituyen como fuerza de control y de movimiento del primer escalón, los individuos.
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Cristina Ariza Cerezo. (2016). El panorama ideológico estadounidense: el caso deForeign Policy Board. 1/11/2018, de IEEE Sitio web.
Katarzyna Rybka-Iwanska . (2017). 5 reasons why Think tank are soft power tools. 1/11/2018, de USC Center for Public Diplomacy Sitio web.
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ESSAY / María Granados
Most scholars and newspapers (1) claim that the inequality gap is widening across the globe, but few provide an explanation as to why this apparently growing concern occurs, nor do they look into the past to compare the main ideologies regarding potential solutions to such problems (i.e.: the Austrian School of Thought and Keynesianism). The following paper attempts to do so by contrasting interventionist and libertarian approaches, to ultimately give an answer to the question.
Alvin Toffler predicted and described what he called ‘The Third Wave’, a phenomenon consisting of the death of industrialism and the rise of a new civilisation. He focuses on the interconnection of events and trends, (2) which has often been ignored by politicians and social scientists alike. Notwithstanding, J.K. Galbraith points out that the economy is shaped by historical context, and attempts to provide an overview of the main ideas that have given birth to current economic policies; (3) while Landes's focus on the past suggests inequality is not a new phenomenon. (4) Hence, its evolution cannot be overlooked: On the one hand, it led Marx to proclaim that private capital flows invariably lead to property concentration in consistently fewer hands; on the other hand, it led Kuznets to believe that modern economic growth would make developed countries to reach out geographically, spreading process to developing countries thanks to major changes in transport and communication. (5) First and foremost, we shall delve into the why question, sustained by the premise that there is, in fact, inequality, which sets up the foundation for economic studies. (6) Piketty asserts that ‘arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities’ are generated ‘when the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income’. An advocator for open markets and the general interest, he rejects protectionism and nationalism, (7) but is it possible to establish justice through capitalism?, and, more importantly, is capitalism the most suitable system to do so?
Famous liberal philosopher Adam Smith wrote on the matter of state intervention that public policy should only be used insofar as it stimulates economic growth. (8) Freedom of trade made economies specialise through the division of labour, and so it resulted on low prices and an abundant supply of marketable products. The critique on corporations, state-chartered companies, and monopolies, made him conclude that the State should control (9) common defence, the administration of justice, and the provision of necessary public works. Contrary to popular belief, he was also in favour of a proportionate income tax. (10) David Ricardo added that a tax on land rents was necessary to prevent landowners from an increase share of output and income. In the nineteenth century, Marx pursued the destruction of the inevitably accumulated private capital. In the same period, realist theories (11) were embraced by Müller and List, among others, who viewed the state as a protector for the citizens, the equality provider. What all of the aforementioned theories have in common is that the State does play a role to a certain extent on the prevention of ‘unfairness’. (12) Although thinkers may well be a product of their times, John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich August Von Hayek have heavily influenced current policies regarding inequality. Arguably, their thoughts stem from the above-mentioned ideas: the input of Marx’s Capital in the Keynesian welfare state is contrasted with Smith's liberal approach (‘let the invisible hand be’) Hayek embraced. During the Great Depression, the preference for liquidity made Keynes focus on the shortage of the demand, to suggest that the corrective action of the government, borrowing and spending funds, was the best way out of the crisis. Several concepts were born or renewed, such as public work, or the social security system, and, more importantly the ‘deliberate deficit’. His theory regarded the deliberate unbalance of public budget so that more money would flow into the economy, sustaining demand and employment. (13)
Libertarians would argue that Ricardo failed to foresee that technological progress was going to diminish the dependence on agriculture, therefore decreasing and stabilising land price. Marx also rejected the likelihood of a long-lasting technological development. The latter challenged his ideas, since an increase in productivity and efficiency led to higher salaries and better living conditions, providing more opportunities for the workers. Indeed, with industrialisation came an improvement in the essentials of life. Mitchell, Schumpeter and Robbins, who studied the business cycle, theorised that the economy was a tendency whose problems had no prevention or cure. Thus, inequality had to be allowed to run its course, since it would eventually decrease. In the Post-Keynesian Revolution, the interaction of the wage-price spiral caused inflation. Hayek rhetorically asked the interventionists: ‘in our endeavour consciously to shape our future in accordance with high ideals, we should in fact unwittingly produce the very opposite of what we have been striving for?’ (14) The OPEC crisis in 1973 made governments apply the Austrian School to WIN, (15) removing any obvious impediments to market competition (i.e.: government regulation). Milton Friedman, in favour of the classical competitive market system, followed Hayek’s liberalism. He did write about the negative income tax, consisting of securing a minimum income for all by controlling money supply; nonetheless, he agreed with what Hayek stated in 1945: The more the state organises, plans and intervenes, the more difficult it is for the individual to choose freely, to plan for itself. For Hayek, private property was ‘the most important guarantee of freedom’. The division of the means of production amongst independent citizens was his concept of fairness. (16) Professor of Economics Walter E. Williams introduces The Road to Serfdom explaining Hayek’s underlying three premises: If using one individual to serve the purpose of another is morally wrong (slavery), taking money from one individual to serve the purpose of another is just as wrong; collectivists or interventionists cannot ignore that free markets produce wealth; and men cannot know or do everything, thus, when the government plans, it assumes to know all the variables. (17)
In 1945, when Hayek challenged the Keynesian perspective, multilateralism arose, giving birth to institutions at the global and regional levels. (18) Currently, whilst there is a tendency to focus on ‘global’ problems and solutions, Piketty (19) asserts that globalised capitalism can only be regulated through regional measures, stating that ‘unequal wealth within nations is more worrisome than unequal wealth between nations.’ Specifically, he proves that salaries and output do not catch up with past wealth accumulation. He believes that taxing capital income heavily could potentially kill entrepreneurial activity, and decides that the best policy would be a progressive annual tax on capital. Despite Hayek’s premise being the unknown, thereof disgraceful consequences of interventionism; Stiglitz disbelieves that trickle-down economics will address poverty, considering that it is precisely the lack of information what makes the ‘invisible hand’ fail. Neoliberal assumptions are heavily critisised by Stiglitz, who evaluates the role of the IMF and other international economic institutions’ performance, concluding that their programs have often left developing countries with more debt and a more corrupt, richer, ruling government. Moreover, good management ultimately depends on embracing the particular and unique characteristics of each country’s economy. (20) At this point, one could ask itself, is justice a biased concept of the west? Landes claims the rich (in IPE, developed countries) will solve the problem of pollution, for instance, because it is them who have more to lose. (21) This could result in a natural redistribution of wealth. By contrast, he demonstrates that the driving force of progress was seen as ‘Western’ on the realms of education, thinking and technique; until the uneven dissemination made people reject it. (22) The egalitarian society is seemingly in between both of the main economic branches previously discussed: It includes the free will of the rich to tackle current problems the so-called globalization poses; (23) the free-will of developing states to apply national solutions to national problems, and the impulse of international cooperation and regional political integration.
To conclude, history evidences most economists, thinkers and scholars resort to the state to try to distribute wealth evenly. The way they portray the same problem makes them disagree on the way to solve it, but there is an overall agreement on the need to intervene to a certain extent to prevent the inequality gap from broadening. In Galbraith’s words: ‘Economics is not, as often believed, concerned with perfecting a final and unchanging system. It is in a constant and often reluctant accommodation to change.’ (24) On this quest for justice, it may be worth realising that the concept of unfairness cannot be taken for granted.
1. E.g.: Lucas Chancel in The Guardian in Jan. 2018, Piketty (2014), Ravenhill (2014), David Landes (1999).
2. Toffler, Alvin (1980). The Third Wave. New York: Bantam Books.
3. Galbraith, John Kenneth. (1987). Economics in Perspective. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Trade and Reference.
4. Landes, David. (1999). The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. London: Abacus.
5. Nobel Lectures, Economics 1969-1980, Editor Assar Lindbeck, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1992.
6. The aim of the subject being the allocation of scarce resources (according to e.g.: L. Robbins).
7. Piketty, Thomas. (2014). Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge, US: Harvard University Press. p. 7
8. Galbraith, John Kenneth. l.c. f.f. 8
9. E.g.: through the imposition of tariffs or taxes following the canon of certainty, convenience, and economical to assess and raise.
10. Read Smith, A. (1776). An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. 1998 edition. Milano: Cofide. Book V: On the Revenue of the Sovereign or Commonwealth; Chapter II: On the Sources of the General or Public Revenue of the Society; Part II: On Taxes. I.
11. For more on the theories that shaped economic thought, read Paul, Darel, and Amawi, Alba, (Eds.). 2013. The Theoretical Evolution of International Political Economy: A Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press. See p. 16-19 and p. 153 for Realism, p. 95 and 102 for Friedrich List.
12. Note: Even in socialism, prior to the State’s dissolution, workers had to become the ruling government to ensure the process ensued.
13. Keynes, John Maynard. (1936). The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money. Cambridge: Palgrave MacMillan.
14. Hayek, Friedrich A. (1945). The Road to Serfdom. Reader’s Digest. Combined edition, 2015: The Institute of Economic Affairs. p. 40
15. Whip Inflation Now
16. Ibid. p. 41
17. Ibid. Introduction
18. Read Ravenhill, John. (2014). Global Political Economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
19. Pikkety, Thomas. l.c., pp. 303-304, 339 f.f.
20. Stiglitz, Joseph. (2003). Globalization and its Discontents. London: Penguin.
21. Landes, David. l.c. P. 516
22. Ibid. p. 513
23. Hirst develops the following points: In the 1870-1914 period there was as much economic integration as now; most transnational corporations are not truly ‘global’; the Third World is becoming marginalised with regards to the movement of capital, employment and investment; and supranational regionalisation is a more relevant trend than that of Globalization. Hirst, Paul, et al. (2009). Globalization in Question. Oxford: Polity.
24. Galbraith, J.K. l.c. Chapter 22, p. 326.
Chancel, Lucas (coordinator). World Inequality Report. Wid.world: Executive report. World Inequality Lab, 2018, pp. 4–16.
Galbraith, John Kenneth. (1987). Economics in Perspective. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Trade and Reference.
Hayek, Friedrich August (1945). The Road to Serfdom. Reader’s Digest. Combined edition, 2015: The Institute of Economic Affairs.
Hirst, Paul, et al. (2009). Globalization in Question. Oxford: Polity.
Keynes, John Maynard. (1936). The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money. Cambridge: Palgrave MacMillan.
Landes, David. (1999). The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. London: Abacus.
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Did the Provisional IRA lose its ‘Long War’? Why are dissident Republicans fighting now?
ESSAY / María Granados Machimbarrena
In 1998, the Belfast Agreement or Good Friday Agreement marked the development of the political relations between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. Several writers, politicians and academics claimed the British had won the ‘Long War’.(1)
However, according to other scholars and politicians(2), the armed struggle has not left the region. The following paper delves into the question as to whether the war is over, and attempts to give an explanation to the ultimate quest of dissident Republicans.
On the one hand, Aaron Edwards, a scholar writing on the Operation Banner and counter- insurgency, states that Northern Ireland was a successful peace process, a transformation from terrorism to democratic politics. He remarks that despite the COIN being seen as a success, the disaster was barely evaded in the 1970s.(3) The concept of ‘fighting the last war’, meaning the repetition of the strategy or tactic that was used to win the previous war(4), portrays Edward’s critique on the Operation. The latter was based on trials and tests undertaken in the post-war period, but the IRA also studied past interventions from the British military. The insurgents’ focus on the development of a citizen defence force and the support of the community, added to the elusive Human Intelligence, turned the ‘one-size-fits-all’ British strategy into a failure. The British Army thought that the opponents’ defeat would bring peace, and it disregarded the people-centric approach such a war required. The ‘ability to become fish in a popular sea’, the need to regain, retain and build the loyalty and trust of the Irish population was the main focus since 1976, when the role of the police was upgraded and the Army became in charge of its support. The absence of a political framework to restore peace and stability, the lack of flexibility, and the rise of sectarianism, a grave socio-economic phenomenon that fuelled the overall discontent, could have ended on a huge disaster. Nonetheless, Edwards argues the peace process succeeded because of the contribution of the Army and the political constraints imposed to it.(5)
In 2014, writer and veteran journalist Peter Taylor claimed that the British had won the war in Northern Ireland. He supported his statement through two main arguments: the disappearance of the IRA and the absence of unity between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Former Minister Peter Robinson (DUP Party) firmly rejected the idea of such a union ever occurring: ‘It just isn't going to happen’. Ex-hunger striker Gerard Hodgins was utterly unyielding in attitude, crying: ‘We lost. (...) The IRA are too clever to tell the full truth of what was actually negotiated. And unionists are just too stupid to recognise the enormity of what they have achieved in bringing the IRA to a negotiated settlement which accepts the six-county state.’ They were all contested by Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, a political fighter and defender of a united Ireland, and Hutchinson, who stated that the republicans were fighting a cultural battle to eradicate Britishness. He agreed that the war had changed in how it was being fought, “but it is still a war” he concluded.(6) Former IRA commander McIntyre disagrees, in his book he suggests that the PIRA(7) is on its death bed. So is the army council that plotted its campaign. ‘If the IRA ever re-emerges, it will be a new organisation with new people’.(8)
There is an important point that most of the above-mentioned leaders fail to address: the so- called cultural battle, which is indeed about the conquest of ‘hearts and minds’. Scholars(9) find there is a deep misunderstanding of the core of republicanism among politicians and disbelievers of the anti-GFA groups’ strength. In fact, there has been an increase on the number of attacks, as well as on the Provisional movement’s incompetence. Historical examples show that the inability to control the population, the opponent’s motivation, or the media leads to defeat. E.g.: C.W. Gwynn realised of the importance of intelligence and propaganda, and H. Simson coined the term ‘sub-war’, or the dual use of terror and propaganda to undermine the government.(10) T.E. Lawrence also wrote about psychological warfare. He cited Von der Goltz on one particular occasion, quoting ‘it was necessary not to annihilate the enemy, but to break his courage.’(11)
On the other hand, Radford follows the line of Frenett and Smith, demonstrating that the armed struggle has not left Northern Ireland. There are two main arguments that support their view: (1) Multiple groups decline the agreement and (2) Social networks strengthen a traditional-minded Irish Republican constituency, committed to pursue their goals.
In the aftermath of the GFA, the rejectionist group PIRA fragmented off and the RIRA was born. The contention of what is now called RIRA (Real IRA) is that such a body should always exist to challenge Great Britain militarily. Their aim is to subvert and to put an end to the Peace Process, whilst rejecting any other form of republicanism. Moreover, their dual strategy supported the creation of the political pressure group 32CSM.(12) Nonetheless, after the Omagh bombing in 1998, there was a decline in the military effectiveness of the RIRA. Several events left the successor strategically and politically aimless: A new terrorism law, an FBI penetration, and a series of arrests and arms finds.(13) In spite of what seemed to be a defeat, it was not the end of the group. In 2007, the RIRA rearmed itself, an on-going trend that tries to imitate PIRA’s war and prevents the weaponry from going obsolete. In addition, other factions re-emerged: The Continuity IRA (CIRA), weaker than the RIRA, was paralysed in 2010 after a successful penetration by the security forces. Notwithstanding, it is still one of the richest organisations in the world. Secondly, the Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH) is politically aligned with the RSF and the RNU. They have not been very popular on the political arena, but they actively contest seats in the council.(14)
In 2009, the Independent Monitoring Commission acknowledged an increase in ‘freelance dissidents’, who are perceived as a growing threat, numbers ranging between 400-500. The reason behind it is the highly interconnected network of traditional republican families. Studies also show that 14% of nationalists can sympathetically justify the use of republican violence. Other factors worth mentioning include: A growing presence of older men and women with paramilitary experience; an increase of coordination and cooperation between the groups; an improvement in capability and technical knowledge, evidenced by recent activities.(15)
In 2014, a relatively focused and coherent IRA (‘New IRA’) emerged, with poor political support and a lack of funding, but reaching out to enough irredentists to cause a potential trouble in a not so distant future.
Von Bülow predicted: ‘[Our consequence of the foregoing Exposition, is, that] small States, in the future, will no more vanquish great ones, but on the contrary will finally become a Pray to them”.(16) One could argue that it is the case with Northern Ireland.
Although according to him, number and organisation are essential to an army,(17) the nature of the war makes it difficult to fight in a conventional way.(18) Most documents agree that the war against the (P)IRA must be fought with a counterinsurgency strategy, since, as O’Neill thoughtfully asserts, ‘to understand most terrorism, we must first understand insurgency.’ In the 1960s, such strategies began to stress the combination of political, military, social, psychological, and economic measures.(19) This holistic approach to the conflict would be guided by political action, as many scholars put forward in counterinsurgency manuals (e.g.: Galula citing Mao Zedong’s ‘[R]evolutionary war is 80 per cent political action and only 20 per cent military’.(20) Jackson suggests that the target of the security apparatus may not be the destruction of the insurgency, but the prevention of the organisation from configuring its scenario through violence. Therefore, after the security forces dismantle the PIRA, a larger and more heavy response should be undertaken on the political arena to render it irrelevant.(21)
One of the main dangers such an insurgency poses to the UK in the long term is the re-opening of the revolutionary war, according to the definition given by Shy and Collier.(22) Besides, the risks of progression through repression is its reliance on four fragile branches, i.e.: Intelligence, propaganda, the secret services and the police.(23) The latter’s coordination was one of the causes of the fall of the PIRA, as aforementioned, and continues to be essential: ‘(...) these disparate groups of Republicans must be kept in perspective and they are unlikely, in the short term at least, to wield the same military muscle as PIRA (...), and much of that is due to the efforts of the PSNI, M15 and the British Army’ maintains Radford. Thus, ‘Technical and physical intelligence gathering are vital to fighting terrorists, but it must be complemented by good policing’.
Hence, unless the population is locally united; traditional, violent republican ideas are rejected, and the enemy remains fragmented, the remnants of the ‘Long War’ are likely to persist and cause trouble to those who ignore the current trends. There is an urgent need to understand the strong ideology behind the struggle. As the old Chinese saying goes: ‘It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperilled in a hundred battles’.(24)
1. Writer and veteran journalist Peter Taylor, Former Minister Peter Robinson (DUP Party), ex-IRA hunger striker Gerard Hodgins, and former IRA commander and Ph.D. Anthony McIntyre.
2. M. Radford, Ross Frenett and M.L.R. Smith, as well as PUP leader Billy Hutchinson and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.
3. Edwards, Aaron. “Lessons Learned? Operation Banner and British Counter-Insurgency Strategy” International Security and Military History, 116-118.
4. Greene, Robert, The 33 Strategies of War. Penguin Group, 2006.
5. Edwards, Aaron. l.c.
6. Who Won the War? [Documentary]. United Kingdom, BBC. First aired on Sep 2014.
7. Provisional IRA
8. McIntyre, Anthony. Good Friday: The Death of Irish Republicanism, 2008.
9. E.g.: R. Frenett, M. L. R. Smith.
10. Pratten, Garth. “Major General Sir Charles Gwynn: Soldier of the Empire, father of British counter- insurgency?” International Security and Military History, 114-115.
11. Lawrence, T. E. Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph. New York: Anchor, 1991.
12. ‘The 32 County Sovereignty Movement’
13. For instance, Freddie Scappatticci, the IRA’s head of internal security, was exposed as a British military intelligence agent in 2003.
14. Radford, Mark. ‘The Dissident IRA: Their “War” Continues’ The British Army Review 169: Spring/ Summer 2017, 43-49 f.f.
15. ‘Terrorists continue to plot, attack and build often ingenious and quite deadly devices’ Ibidem.
16. Von Bülow, Dietrich Heinrich. ‘The Spirit of the Modern System of War’. Chapter I, P. 189. Cambridge University Press, Published October 2014.
17. Von Bülow, D.H., l.c. P. 193 Chapter II.
18. Indeed, some authors will define it as an ‘unconventional war’. E.g.: ‘revolutionary war aims at the liquidation of the existing power structure and at a transformation in the structure of society.’ Heymann, Hans H. and Whitson W. W., ‘Can and Should the United States Preserve A Military Capability for Revolutionary Conflict?’ Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, Ca., 1972, p. 5.p. 54.
19. O’Neill, Board E. Insurgency and Terrorism: From Revolution to Apocalypse. Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, 2005. Chapter 1: Insurgency in the Contemporary World.
20. Galula, David. Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice. London: Praeger, 1964.
21. Jackson, B. A., 2007, ‘Counterinsurgency Intelligence in a “Long War”: The British Experience in Northern Ireland.’ January-February issue, Military Review, RAND Corporation.
22. ‘Revolutionary War refers to the seizure of political power by the use of armed force’. Shy, John and Thomas W. Collier. “Revolutionary War” in Peter Paret, ed. Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1986.
23. Luttwak, Edward. (2002). Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace. Cambridge, US: Belknap Press.
24. Sun Tzu. The Art of War. Attack By Stratagem 3.18.
Edwards, Aaron. Lessons Learned? Operation Banner and British Counter-Insurgency Strategy International Security and Military History, 116-118.
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Greene, Robert. The 33 Strategies of War. Penguin Group, 2006.
Heymann, Hans H. and Whitson W. W.. Can and Should the United States Preserve A Military Capability for Revolutionary Conflict? (Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, Ca., 1972), p. 5.p. 54.
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McIntyre, Anthony. Good Friday: The Death of Irish Republicanism, 2008.
O’Neill, Board E.. Insurgency and Terrorism: From Revolution to Apocalypse. Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, 2005.
Pratten, Garth. Major General Sir Charles Gwynn: Soldier of the Empire, father of British counter-insurgency? International Security and Military History, 114-115.
Radford, Mark. The Dissident IRA: Their ‘War’ Continues The British Army Review 169: Spring/Summer 2017, 43-49.
Ross Frenett and M.L.R. Smith. IRA 2.0: Continuing the Long War—Analyzing the Factors Behind Anti-GFA Violence, Published online, June 2012.
Sepp, Kalev I.. Best Practices in Counterinsurgency. Military Review 85, 3 (May-Jun 2005), 8-12.
Sun Tzu, S. B. Griffith. The Art of War. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964. Print.
Taylor, Peter. Who Won the War? [Documentary]. United Kingdom, BBC. First aired on Sep 2014.
Thompson, Robert. Defeating Communist Insurgency. St. Petersburg, FL: Hailer Publishing, 2005.
Von Bülow, Dietrich Heinrich. The Spirit of the Modern System of War. Cambridge University Press, Published October 2014.