The CSS Blog Network

The Era of Mutual Assured Disruption

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This article was published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) on 16 February 2017.

The five forces that are ‘liquidising’ global security.

As the liberal order frays and geopolitical competition returns it is natural that people turn to Henry Kissinger.  No one has a more finely-grained understanding of power politics, and his treatise on World Order sits on the bed side tables of many global leaders (even if few have actually read it).

But Kissinger’s ideas of order represent an impossible aspiration in the world of ISIS and fake news. They are designed for a slower world and powerful states, rather than our age of permanent uncertainty, rapid change and disruption.

Many traditional concepts – even well-tested ones – have been overtaken by events. Deterrence, alliances, even diplomacy seem out of fashion; old certainties are gone. Kissinger’s order was based on two pillars: legitimacy and balance of power. The defining moment of his world view was the Peace of Westphalia. He laments the disappearance of the split between domestic and foreign policy. But, in spite of the return of power politics, the world is not Kissingerian any more.

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One Year after the Sanctions: Is Europe Ready for the Belarus Crisis?

This article was originally published by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) on 9 February 2017.

The results of the ongoing normalization in relations between the EU and Belarus have been very modest, as have the domestic changes, which the turn in the European policy was intended to assist. Meanwhile, Moscow reacted to Alexander Lukashenko’s perceived “drift to the West” by toughening its approach towards Minsk. A new crisis in the east of Europe may be in the making.

On February 15, 2016, the EU decided not to prolong the sanctions it had imposed five years earlier on the regime of Alexander Lukashenko in response to brutal repressions against the Belarusian political opposition. The sanctions were lifted as a reward granted to Minsk in return for the release of remaining political prisoners, for the less oppressive presidential campaign of 2015 and – perhaps above all – for Belarus’s refusal to fully support Russia in the conflict over Ukraine. At the same time, the decision was driven by hopes and expectations that the normalization of relations between Europe and Belarus would stimulate the latter to start domestic liberalization and economic reforms.

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The New Arab–Israeli Alliance

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This article was originally published by World Affairs on 20 January 2017.

During the early years of the Obama administration, conventional wisdom in Washington held that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict trumped everything else in the Middle East, that no problem could be resolved until that one was out of the way. “Without doubt,” former president Jimmy Carter said, “the path to peace in the Middle East goes through Jerusalem.” The reason, said his former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, now a professor of foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University, is because, “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the single most combustible and galvanizing issue in the Arab world”.

Similar views were expressed across the political spectrum, from President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Defense Secretary Chuck Hegel and General David Petraeus.

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The Politics of Legality and UN Resolution 2334

Benyamin Netanyahu

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This article was originally published by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) on 18 January 2017.

Synopsis

UN Resolution 2334 condemning Israeli settlements was passed by the Security Council only because the US did not exercise its usual veto. As expected, the resolution was strongly opposed by Israel, which threatened to cut its funding to the United Nations. As we face an uncertain global order, it is crucial that countries work within the international system.

Commentary

UNITED NATIONS Resolution 2334, and the abstention vote by the United States, was a significant exercise in international diplomacy and its relationship with international law. The resolution condemned Israel’s illegal but expanding settlement project and demanded that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the ‘occupied’ Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” The resolution was adopted with 14 votes in favour with only the US abstaining.

The passing of the resolution, made possible because of the US’ holding back its usual veto demonstrated that the decision to do the right thing through the international system is not necessarily based on the legality of the issue. While international law is clear on the illegality of settlements, this resolution was only adopted because key actors, such as the US, decided it was time to do the right thing. This allowed the Security Council to produce a fair outcome.

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Trump’s Troubling Bilateralism

Trump

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This article was originally published by Carnegie Europe on 20 January 2017.

Supporters of the EU should be troubled by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s remarks in a joint interview with the Times and Bild published on January 16. Trump said not only that Britain’s exit from the union would “end up being a great thing” but also that the EU would continue to break apart. Trump explained, “People, countries, want their own identity.”

Speaking on British radio the same day, Theodore Malloch, a university professor tipped to become the next U.S. ambassador to the EU, added that the United States may lure more countries out of the EU by offering trade deals on bilateral bases.

Trump was more mixed on NATO, if not altogether reassuring: “I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. Number one it was obsolete. . . . Number two the countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay. . . . With that being said, NATO is very important to me.”

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