What’s Eating Turkey? Ankara and the Islamic State

Protesters expressing their solidarity with the victims of the Suruc terror attack. Image: Voice Of America/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 30 July, 2015.

On July 20, Turkey suffered one of its deadliest suicide bombing attacks in recent memory, which claimed more than 30 lives. While the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has not yet claimed responsibility, all signs point toward them as the culprits. The location, timing, and the identity of the victims were just too specific to think otherwise.

The setting of this grisly attack was the town of Suruc, the pathway to the Syrian town of Kobane, where ISIL lost a long and bloody battle to the YPG (People’s Protection Units), which enjoyed American air support. The timing was also distinctive. The suicide attack took place the day after Syrian Kurds and their sympathizers in Turkey celebrated the third anniversary of the “Rojava [Western Kurdistan] Revolution” of 2012,when the PYD (Democratic Unity Party) formally declared its intention to govern and defend Kurdish-populated areas in Syria in the wake of the withdrawal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces from these enclaves. » More

Values and Interests in EU Foreign Policy

European map with Ukraine in focus. Image: ClkerFreeVectorImages/Pixabay

Anyone remotely familiar with EU foreign policy will be no stranger to invocations of European values underpinning, and, indeed, driving, European external action. From policies on climate change and agriculture to trade to defence and security, the rhetoric generated by various EU bodies typically elucidates a “set of common values” that the respective policies promote or embody. A crucial nuance is that ‘values,’ which have been incorporated into the primary law of the European Union through the Lisbon Treaty, are juxtaposed to ‘interests.’  This juxtaposition often means that if and when the EU fails to live up to its much-touted values, it is charged with ‘hypocrisy.’  The inconvenient truth, however, is that like all actors, Europe has interests as well as values, and these are frequently at odds with each other across virtually every policy area. More often than not, interests, far from being ‘inspired’ by values, have proven insular, short-sighted, and at times downright mercenary. At the same time, it is naïve to expect Europe’s policymakers to pay more attention to the plight of Syrian refugees than domestic populations’ preoccupation with keeping their own welfare and prosperity undisturbed by crises engulfing much of the world outside the Continent.  The solution, it would then seem, lies in doing away with the gratuitous narrative emanating from Brussels that continues to raise unjustified expectations by placing values at the rhetorical heart of European foreign policy. » More

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How Could the Baltic States Deter a Russian Invasion?

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė participating in a military ceremony. Image: Kapeksas/Wikimedia

Commentators have used Moscow’s tacit support for separatists in eastern Ukraine as an opportunity to speculate whether the Baltic states possess the capability to deter a similar Russian intervention. While this ‘scenario’ is unlikely to happen any time soon, it nevertheless warrants serious consideration given that NATO’s north-eastern flank is home to a sizeable ethnic Russian community. As a starting point, strategic planners in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania might want to factor Russia’s 2008 military campaign against Georgia into their calculations. Doing so might help them to determine the most effective response for the ultimate ‘worst case scenario’ – an all-out invasion by Russian forces. » More

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Federica Mogherini’s First Seven Months in Office: a Balancing Act Between Supranational and Intergovernmental Decision-Making

Federica Mogherini meeting with John Kerry at the headquarters of the E.U. External Action Service in Brussels, Belgium. Image: US Department of State/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by LSE EUROPP, a blog hosted by the London School of Economics, on 24 June, 2015.

At the start of her term as the EU’s High Representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini moved her office to the Berlaymont building, home of the European Commission. This move was part of her proposed strategy of working more closely with the European Parliament and the Commission and as such was an indication that the new EU foreign policy chief was not going to be catering simply to the Member States.

Since the start of her term she has been faced with growing instability both inside and outside Europe, which demand both short-term crisis responses and long-term strategic revisions. To what extent has Mogherini’s strategy of working more closely with the EU institutions in formulating EU foreign policy been prevalent in what she has done so far as the EU’s High Representative? » More

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The Myth of Entangling Alliances

US President Harry Truman signing the North Atlantic Treaty on 24 August, 1949. Image: Abbie Rowe/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 9 June 2015.

For the first 165 years of its history, the United States did not form any alliances besides the one it signed with France during the Revolutionary War. Instead, U.S. leaders followed George Washington’s advice to “steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world,” a recommendation subsequently enshrined in Thomas Jefferson’s inaugural pledge: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” » More

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