The CSS Blog Network

Too Close for Comfort: European Geostrategy and the Transatlantic Alliance

Image courtesy of the European Council President/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The question for Europe now is whether it needs to de-couple its strategy toward regional great powers from that of the United States.

Geopolitical competition has made a roaring come back in recent years. Russian President Vladimir Putin, always on the cutting edge of new fads, welcomed the new era with flair last week by introducing an entire new generation of nuclear weapons aimed at the United States.

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The Real and Hidden Costs of Russia’s Foreign Policy

Image courtesy of Vitaly V. Kuzman. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

This article was originally published by the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) in February 2018.

Russia is set to hold presidential elections on 18 March 2018, and Vladimir Putin has expressed his intention to run for another term. His high approval ratings, the vast administrative resources at his disposal and the non-competitive political environment in Russia make the outcome a foregone conclusion. However, if the election result is predictable, it is still unclear what direction the country will take afterwards. In recent years, Russia has resorted more and more frequently to military force to advance its foreign policy objectives. This overreliance on force, however, came with a price tag attached. In this context, it is useful to explore whether Russia’s foreign policy will take a softer and more economic-oriented turn after the elections. Alternatively, if Russia continues down the same path, which factors will be responsible?

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Has a Trumpian Grand Strategy Finally Stepped into the Light?

Image courtesy of ZIPNON/Pixaby.

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 29 January 2018.

Much ink has been spilled in the last 12 months over whether President Donald Trump can have a grand strategy and, if so, what form it takes — or should take. Before Trump had even assumed office, Micah Zenko and Rebecca Lissner accused the president of “strategic incoherence” and a transactional approach to international relations focusing on bilateral deals. Hal Brands differed from this view by characterizing Trump’s grand strategy as “resurgent nationalism,” while other scholars argued that the president is following a Jacksonian tradition of American foreign policy based on “national honor” and “reputation.” More boldly, Richard Burt, a Cold Warrior who served at the highest levels of the U.S. national security establishment, harkened back to Nixon and Kissinger in prescribing “a grand strategy of great-power balancing” or else “all bets are off.”

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What Europe Can Do for the Western Balkans

Image courtesy of Kaufdex/Pixabay

This article was originally published by European Council on Foreign Relations on 13 October 2017.

It is high time for the EU to move beyond ‘stabilocracy’ and stand up to ethnic nationalist kleptocrat political leaders.

The Balkans are not as exciting as they once were. The large-scale violence that made the region a central concern of European policy in the 1990s is no longer a feature of Balkan politics.

That’s progress, of course. But the absence of violence does not mean an absence of problems. Persistent economic weakness, growing public frustration with leaders, and renewed ethnic tensions have created a volatile mix beneath the surface calm. As Europe’s attention to these issues wavered, outside actors – most notably Russia, but also Turkey and China, began to assert themselves. If the European Union wants to maintain stability and influence in its own troubled backyard, it will need to re-engage with the Balkans.

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Perceptions of EU foreign policy in the MENA region

Image courtesy of Wasfi Akab/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by openDemocracy on 12 August 2017.

In Arab countries, the EU is not seen as providing stability or promoting democracy. Asked what policies the EU should prioritise, survey respondents wanted ‘economic support’ and ‘economic development’.

Findings from the 2014 ArabTrans research in six MENA countries – Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia – shed light on what citizens think of the EU and whether its policies address their concerns. The EU recognised at the time of the Arab Uprisings that its policies had failed the people of the region and in 2011 it declared an intent to focus on promoting deep and sustainable democracy and inclusive economic development.

However, in practice the EU did not adapt its policy to address popular demands for social justice and economic rights but continued to promote a narrow procedural definition of democracy, to support authoritarian rulers and to implement liberal economic policies that have proved not to support economic development. This inability to address the structural causes of economic and political polarisation pose a serious risk to the Union’s long-term goals in the region.

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