June 3, 20211 Comment

A look into Military Strategy with Michael Rainsborough

In this interview our contributors Javi and Marco continue their journey through the Intelligence Strategy and some of its classics. From their last article about "The Book of Five Rings" Marco and Javi have drawn some questions that Professor Rainsborough answers with delicacy and showing his wide knowledge on the topic and his skills to relate books written centuries ago with the current reality.

Interviewing Team: Javier Olaechea and Marco Verrochio.

June 3, 20211 Comment

European Security Challenges I: The footprint of power rebalancing

By Sonia Martínez and Giovanni Rasio.

European Security
"#G7Biarritz" by The White House via CreativeCommons

Currently, Europe faces several security challenges as there exists no popular support to equip the Union with substantial military capabilities to defend itself. There is no consensus among leaders regarding European Strategic Autonomy, the key aspect of European defence planning. And if this decision is made, European leaders need to craft a common strategy. This query would entail further questions, such as: what the risks of this enterprise are, who would join, or what are the next steps. Unless the United States abruptly decided to abandon its commitment embodied in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European defence configuration is unlikely to vary. Since the beginning of the Cold War, the United States has always acted as the security guarantor of Europe. In particular, the long-standing American support for the Old Continent's defence and security has historically pivoted around the role of NATO. As a full-fledged multilateral security alliance, NATO has provided an effective shield against the threats arising in Europe’s Eastern neighbourhood. The Organisation also represented the main framework through which Member States’ forces have engaged in military operations under American guidance. 

European Security Approaches

Nonetheless, as positions concerning defence diverge, propelling European self-defence would put the unity of the block under pressure. Europe should not stand solely on its feet, as transatlantic support has and will prove crucial, but it must undoubtedly increase its defence autonomy to a great extent. According to Chancellor Merkel, the ‘task of the future’ for Europe is to take destiny into its own hands.

After a rather unipolar age, the EU should use the global power rebalancing scenario to its benefit. New challenges are compelling the US to shift its focus and resources from Europe and the Middle East towards a different context: the Indo-Pacific region. This rebalancing dynamic, which partially began with the so-called Pivot to Asia during the Obama Administration, culminated with the Indo-Pacific Strategy introduced by President Trump. The attention required by the US posture in the Pacific, combined with Trump’s proneness to threatening European allies to withdrawal the American troops, have somehow pushed Washington and Europe far from each other.

The Union beyond question needs a more autonomous security approach. This is certainly the viewpoint of President Macron, who advocates for ‘European autonomy’ in defence matters, based on the principle of interoperability. This approach evokes a Union capable of delivering both soft and hard power. The German approach is comparatively different. It is based on cooperation, support, and it emphasises the importance of strong transatlantic relations. A coordinated European approach is needed to secure the continent in an unprecedented environment marked by COVID-19 and a complex setting on the East wing. 

Impact of European Security Approaches on Strategy

Given the ever-changing uncertain global outlook, observing strategic moves conducted by other global actors is paramount. After Brexit, the UK pivoting from Europe to a global strategy adds a layer of complexity for the EU’s security approach and defence. In January 2021, the European Union officially lost an important partner for its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Indeed, other than having one of the most powerful militaries in the world, the United Kingdom - together with France - has historically covered a key role in terms of nuclear deterrence and expeditionary capabilities for the European Union. After leaving the EU, the UK aims to revive a more global dimension of its foreign policy, allowing London to regain a leading role on the international stage. The Integrated Review 2021 offers a first glimpse of the new ‘Global Britain’, conveying that the UK will be the first European country to tilt to the Indo-Pacific region, thus inevitably shifting its focus away from a continental perspective.

Further crucial points need to be addressed in common security matters of the EU. The EU's internal and external security issues are becoming increasingly intertwined. An updated version of the 2016 EU Global Strategy and the implementation of tailored policies are required to counter potential security threats. Initiatives such as the establishment of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PeSCo) and the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) are turning points for a coordinated approach to security in the continent. The Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) comprises both assets and capabilities of Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), dealing among others with crisis management. And yet, this task remains a vital milestone to secure Europe.

This is even more essential concerning the EU's southern and eastern neighbours. In this regard, Karrenbauer highlights the need to pay attention to the four cardinal points. The CFSP, in fact, is a model based on multilateralism that aims to demonstrate that this sort of international order functions.However, European multilateralism will not prove successful without coordination and agility. When negotiating on security, the unanimity factor implies that if member states do not arrive at a consensual position or only negotiate a superficial agreement, other states might most likely make a rapid move only to benefit themselves. 

Member States should work together concerning security matters in the direction of strategic autonomy. The region should take on its hard power responsibility in an uncertain multipolar environment. As there is an inevitable overlap between internal and external security threats, exchanging information is key in joint efforts to achieve an effective defence strategy. As Kramp-Karrenbauer, German Minister of Defence, wrote, Brexit exhibits the results of a European policy that feeds on sentiment instead of devising ideas for a common European future. Brexit has arguably fissured relations between the UK and the EU, as press biases indicate. Europe needs to cooperate to bring forward a common defence framework which rises above politics. The way ahead should be a combination of more strategic autonomy and stronger transatlantic relations; while the former will be critical, the latter has proved crucial. The US rebalance of power, the rise of extremism, the pandemics and Brexit are all increasing the temperature of the stove. European leaders should know better: a watched pot never boils.

An in-depth analysis of Russia’s motivation in the region will be published next month on ITSS.

May 31, 20212 Comments

Give a little yelp for our vets: the hidden pandemic

By: Sofia Staderini, Leigh Dawson, and Julia Hodgins.

‘Death row dogs’ is not a headline that would be warmly welcomed at any time of the year, let alone in the midst of a global pandemic. With over 164 million virus cases and nearly 3.5 million deaths worldwide, it is hard to argue against the fact that COVID-19 has shaken the foundations of humanity to its core. Cases of rapidly deteriorating public mental health have skyrocketed, caused by excessive lockdowns, the closure of businesses, disconnection from loved ones and lack of time outdoors. The Australian Government has invested more than $5.7 billion (AUD) in mental health services and support in the past 12 months alone - and Australia has had very little COVID-19 spread since the virus’s inception. To cure our boredom pangs, the world turned to pet adoption creating a boom for the pet sector.  

However, as lockdown restrictions eased, people grew tired of their four-legged friends and began handing them into shelters, putting them up for further adoption and treating them with neglect. With many rescue centres at capacity due to ‘buyer’s remorse’, many pets are being euthanised - as they had not been adequately socialised with humans during the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, this began to overwhelm the vet services market worldwide - especially women veterinarians. Unfolding from that, and considering the safety protocols, a main consequence of this boom is the stress amongst vets, a factor powerful enough to impact human security and community health. 

This month, the team Culture Society and Security discusses stress within vets reviewing the VetsSurvey 2020,conducted by CM Research Ltd., a multi-method study that collected data from 5000 veterinary professionals (veterinarians, veterinary nurses, and veterinary technicians) in 91 countries spread across the planet, contrasting with other perspectives.

The veterinary industry as a mirror of the effect of pandemic management 

With an approximate 25% rise in pet adoptions during the first pandemic months, the stress level of new owners had a positive effect, inversely proportional to the psychophysical pressure felt by veterinarians. Indeed, to overcome the stress of anti-contagion measures, many people considered the possibility of adopting an animal.  Workers in the healthcare industry covered one of the areas that had been most challenged and jeopardized by the pandemic. According to the findings of “VetsSurvey” conducted by CM Research LTD, 66% of vets feel they have too much work and not enough time. 

Unsurprisingly, the countries with the highest stress levels among vets are in line with Bloomberg's "Covid Resilience Ranking," which analyzes both the Covid-status and the quality of life, based on government actions and the consequences at the societal, political, economic, and health levels.  The increased adoption of puppies is closely linked to lockdown interventions and the need for psycho-physical comfort. The policies of the respective governments, which have resulted in high levels of stress on the part of the vets, show a managerial incompatibility between the interests of different citizens. 

The study, on the other hand, points to a larger problem.  As we find great similarities between the data concerning the veterinary industry and global dynamics, we can only emphasize that the stress experienced by veterinarians is a drop in the bucket of the psychophysical consequences caused by the pandemic and its management.

Gender equality and stress

The “industry gender domination” argument turns into a fallacy with intoxicating ‘alpha-male-ish’ aftertaste, to say the least, when females are numerically superior. Gender distribution in the vet industry, unusually, looks as 68% women and 31% men, explained by an 8% increase of women entering the trade since 2016 based on comparisons of earlier data with survey findings. Despite women outnumbering men two-to-one, CM Research observes that this industry is, simply, as unequal as others.

While figures might suggest female domination, a juicy catch to dispute inequality at least in STEM, female superiority is not the equivalent of equality. The study found that women seem “more likely to want to remain an employee”, speaking volumes about career expectations and a supportive environment. Furthermore, female vets report being suggested to interrupt a pregnancy as it harms their careers, and being “the wrong sex” as reason for not being promoted or offered a partnership.

Figure: Vets' Career Prospects by Gender. CM Research - VetsSuvey 2020

Consequently, the levels of stress are more pronounced in women vets, who likely are the main caregivers at home while coping with higher workloads due to the COVID ‘Pet Boom’. According to the researchers, stress levels decrease over age but gender patterns prevail, proving to be structural. Interestingly, the gender difference in the “compassion fatigue score” is smaller than in other categories, suggesting that despite increasing demands women still find ways to exercise compassion. 

In the business of caring for animals, non-dimmable compassion added to consistent resilience do not mean drivers for women’s career advancement. Topping this with the peculiarity that women’s socialisation unfolds into greater empathy, seeking protection, and nurturing the group in the midst of crises, as analysts observed. Why is this happening amid numeric superiority? Why are we not surprised?

Figure: Levels of Stress, Burnout and compassion fatigue. By CM Research VetsSurvey 2020

The overwhelming surge of workload for vets worldwide disproportionately affects women despite gender outnumbering, suggesting that global trends, pre-COVID and COVID-driven, are profoundly underpinned in society; here is a call for policy support at local governments and professional unions levels. A larger and more urgent task is to explore new avenues to reach gender equality, as numeric superiority - let alone parity - do not work. Rather, those exacerbate the stress in female vets who exercise high levels of resilience, holding compassion up at the expense of their own sanity while enduring ferocious competition from their male colleagues.

As COVID-19 edges the planet into a multifaceted security crisis, its ripple effects on human and non-human beings are still to be spotted and understood. Amongst those taking the hardest toll, furry buddies and their female Vets should be counted.

May 31, 20211 Comment

China and the Belt and Road Initiative: An Interview with Alice Politi

Alice Politi from the Lau China Institute at King's College London answers some fundamental questions on the implications of the Belt and Road Initiative in a post-pandemic world.

Interviewer: Carlotta Rinaudo.

May 28, 20211 Comment

The Nile River: The Lifeblood of the Horn of Africa

By: Ivan Tommasi & Edoardo Casarotto

At the beginning of April, a meeting took place in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), organized by the president of the African Union and president of the DRC, Felix Tshisekedi, between the foreign ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.

The trilateral summit was the latest attempt to re-establish negotiations between the three main countries of the Nile basin who are fighting over a 10 year-long issue: the Ethiopian Great Renaissance Dam (GERD) project in the Ethiopian Blue Nile, near the border with Sudan.

This latest attempt to reach an agreement has been a failure and the dispute between the parties has intensified: Cairo and Khartoum accuse Addis Ababa of refusing any legally binding agreement on the shared use of Nile’s water.  The Ethiopian government, on the other hand, blames Sudan of changing its position on its water security and criticizes Egypt for rejecting any Ethiopian guarantees on Egypt's water security.

The latest round of negotiations ended with an escalation of statements even going so far as to intend the military option, a non-solution that would surely do more harm than good.

In order to understand what is happening today in the Horn of Africa, we need to take a few steps back.

Troubles began in April 2011, when the Ethiopian government started the construction of the GERD, the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa with a planned capacity of 6,5 GW with the goal of meeting the country's clean energy demand and beginning to export part of its surplus.

Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa and suffers from a chronic shortage of electricity caused by rapid economic growth - about 10% annually since 2004 - which requires more energy than the available supply, thus undermining the country's development. Ethiopia has the potential to utilize the water resource through eight major basins with exploitable hydropower potential around 45-50 GW. Currently, the installed capacity is 4,5 GW. After the last round of negotiations, Ethiopia unilaterally decided to start filling the dam reservoir starting next July.

While the project will surely support the Ethiopian economy, Sudan and Egypt beg to differ.

In truth, Khartoum has been accused of changing its position several times during the negotiation period, swinging from support for the project vis-à-vis vested interests in Ethiopian electricity exports to fear for water security and its own domestic dams. In this regard, Sudan counts 3 hydropower plants on the Blue Nile, downstream of the GERD, which may suffer damage from fluctuations in river flow caused by the upstream dam. For this reason, Sudan wants a legally binding agreement to avoid any unpredictable changes in water flow and, after the failure of the April dialogue round, is counting on the United States, United Nations, and European Union to work with the African Union to lead the Nile negotiations.

Egypt is the second major player in the game. The country has historically lived in close symbiosis with the Nile, also known as the “lifeblood river” for the ancient civilization of Egypt. Its waters account for 95% of the total water needs for 105 million Egyptians, and the country has already suffered in the past from the construction of other dams that have altered the flooding and flow of sediment its food supply rests upon: at least 30% of the country's working population is employed in agriculture dependent on the Nile.

In addition, Egypt defends and claims the agreements from the colonial era (1929 and 1959) granting water sharing with Sudan: 55.5 billion cubic meters per year for Cairo and 18.5 billion cubic meters for Khartoum, leaving out all the other riparian countries. Moreover, the old agreements granted Egypt the right to veto projects higher up the Nile that affect its share of the water.

After the colonial era, Egypt was considered the most powerful country in the region and shared control over the use of the river with Sudan until the mid-1990s. Today, the slow development of upstream countries has raised the need to find new ways to share and manage the waters of the Nile: this is when a new process for cooperation based on two parallel tracks started. One is technical in nature, with the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) functioning as a transitional cooperation agreement. The other track is more political, featuring the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA), which is to promote the creation of a legal framework managing the basin. For the first time, countries upstream and downstream of the Nile Basin had a common, all-encompassing platform where they could discuss, consult, and implement effective techniques to manage shared water resources.

In 2010, this initiative was eventually discontinued due to irreconcilable differences. Still, it remain important, for it allowed upstream countries to fully realize what a critical resource the Nile River is. Within this framework, all riparian countries had the opportunity to strengthen relations, improve technical capacity, and learn new ways to exploit their natural resources, although the process yielded fewer results than expected.

Analyzing the recent history of the Horn of Africa, it can be concluded that the idea of GERD was born precisely as a result of this multilateral approach and the kind of awareness by upstream countries of the river’s immense potential. GERD could have been an opportunity to relaunch transnational management of those natural resources shared by the riparian countries instead of being held hostage by nationalistic political discourse that overlooks possible mutual benefits and remains tied to post-colonial agreements that cannot take into account the socio-economic needs of the region.

With mature political leadership, visionary regional cooperation and equitable international and regional leadership, the Nile could become an opportunity to create interdependence among the riparian countries and initiate a virtuous spiral for economic growth with positive impacts in several areas: shared management preventing climate change and drought, energy pools to meet the growing demand for electricity in the entire region, and sharing of sustainable agricultural methods with less water consumption, increasing industrial interdependence whilst creating new trade channels.

The hope of seeing a future of energy security, food security and economic development in a historically depressed area of the world is linked to the virtuous management of the lifeblood of the Horn of Africa, the Nile.

May 24, 20212 Comments

On Counterespionage and missed Opportunities: The Biot Case (English and Italiano)

By: Maria Chiara Aquilino and Alessio Moroni.

The Biot case, which has had wide resonance in the Italian as well as in the international media landscape, has generated multiple questions about how the Italian intelligence services have operated. While many of these have been deeply discussed, the alternative roads that might have been taken by the secret services to tackle the case have not been dealt with in-depth. Hence, this article aims to shed light on the missed opportunity for Italy to exploit the case to pursue counterespionage practices which would have allowed the official to become a false deserter selling fake intelligence to the Russian spy. The research on the case was conducted by reaching out to notable professors in the field and asking for their point of view. Thanks to their analysis, the piece attempts to understand if the aforementioned scenario could have been feasible. 

Throughout the debate with the experts, what emerged was that the counterespionage action was hypothesized by some. Indeed, this was the case of Professor Tiberio Graziani, Chairman of Vision and Global Trends at the International Institute for Global Analyses: ‘In the opaque landscape that plays in the background of the espionage and counterespionage operations everything is possible, even that the Biot case was actually a sophisticated way to sneak the Italian official in the alleged spy network of the Russian Federation located in our country. According to this idea, Biot would have been presented as a false deserter, whose objective was to provide fake intelligence, or truthful information, yet not too vital neither for the national security, nor for NATO allies, so as to confuse the Russian intelligence services, while validating the Italian official as pro-Russia agent.

Yet, something doesn’t sound right. Indeed, the scarceness of the money offered, ROS intervention, the mediatisation of the affair’s discovery and of actors’ arrests, even of the naïve declarations made by the official’s wife released to the press on his capture suggest that behind the case lies something else. 

What makes the episode even less clear is in fact the mediatisation of it. Normally, these kinds of episodes are kept away from the media, yet this was not the case. However, the event surely served as a chance for the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to underscore the nation’s loyalty to NATO.’

On the contrary, a notable Italian analyst in the field has claimed that such a hypothesis would have proved to be unfeasible from a geopolitical perspective. ‘The Italian government seemed mainly interested in giving a twofold signal. On one side, the effectiveness and loyalty to Atlanticism. On the other, making a gesture to push for more cautiousness while keeping the dialogue with Russia alive. Therefore, no counterespionage effort could have led to the same results. Actually, it may be possible that Biot’s attempt to share our intelligence has been facilitated.’ 

In between these two viewpoints stands Professor Mario Caligiuri, President of the Società Italiana di Intelligence. When interviewed, he stated that both pathways could have been taken, yet due to a costs and benefits analysis, the second choice was preferred. Moreover, this claim is further developed in his article on the geopolitical web magazine Formiche, where he argues: ‘Espionage is a primary international actor and as others it is subjected to a mediatisation process. It has always existed and nowadays spies are more fundamental than ever as one fights in a fluid and undefined scenario, where the war on information with the aim to conquer minds has become crucial. […] The circumstances confirm how geostrategic interests always see Russia opposed to the United States. It is not by chance that in the US there is a strong geopolitical school of thought that is still considering Russia the chief enemy, even before China. This is because while the latter represents an economic adversary, the former is actually a military one.’ He then concludes with a stance less focused on geopolitics, but eventually more concerned about the whole mediatisation processes that cases like this undergo: ‘Services must constantly legitimize their purpose, above all when operating abroad, thus sometimes they could value as meaningful some small operations that could be ultimately amplified and embellish reporting for the headquarters.’(Caligiuri, 2021).

By exploring the current debate around the potential opportunity for Italy to deliver counterespionage activities, what ultimately emerged is that overall a strong feeling of geopolitical hostility between the Atlantic Alliance and Russia would not allow the pursuit of such a strategy. However, given the uncertainty of details that still casts a shadow on the case, the idea of counterespionage practices does not seem to be unfeasible. Indeed, the analysis offered turns the potential missed opportunity into a likely hypothesis, which is yet hidden by secrecy. As a result, one may eventually be led to think that a counterespionage plan of action has been covertly implemented by Italy, in order to handle the case and exploit the occasion at its best. This way, not only would Italy confirm his Atlanticist stance on the international level, but it would have also benefited from having cleverly sneaked one of its spies in the Russian intelligence network.


Il caso Biot, che ha avuto un'ampia risonanza nel panorama mediatico italiano e internazionale, ha generato molteplici domande su come i servizi segreti italiani abbiano operato. Mentre molte di queste sono state discusse a fondo, le strade alternative che avrebbero potuto essere intraprese dai servizi segreti per affrontare il caso non sono state affrontate in modo adeguato. Quindi, questo articolo mira a far luce sull'opportunità persa dall'Italia di sfruttare il caso per perseguire pratiche di controspionaggio. In questo modo, il funzionario avrebbe potuto essere trasformato in un falso disertore che vendeva informazioni false alla spia russa. 

La ricerca sul caso è stata condotta contattando importanti professori del settore, chiedendo il loro punto di vista. Grazie alla loro analisi, il pezzo ha cercato di capire se il suddetto scenario avrebbe potuto essere effettivamente realizzabile. 

Durante il dibattito con gli esperti, è emerso che l'azione di controspionaggio è stata effettivamente ipotizzata da alcuni. È il caso, infatti, del professor Tiberio Graziani, Chairman del Vision and Global Trends presso Institute for Global Analyses: "Nel panorama opaco che gioca sullo sfondo delle operazioni di spionaggio e controspionaggio tutto è possibile, anche che il caso Biot fosse in realtà un modo sofisticato per infilare il funzionario italiano nella presunta rete spionistica della Federazione Russa situata nel nostro Paese". Secondo questa idea, Biot sarebbe stato presentato come un falso disertore, il cui obiettivo sarebbe stato quello di fornire informazioni false, o veritiere, ma non troppo vitali né per la sicurezza nazionale, né per gli alleati della NATO, in modo da confondere i servizi segreti russi, convalidando il funzionario italiano come agente pro-Russia.

Eppure, qualcosa non quadra. Infatti, la scarsità del denaro offerto, l'intervento del ROS, la mediatizzazione della scoperta dell'affare e degli arresti degli attori, persino le ingenue dichiarazioni della moglie del funzionario rilasciate alla stampa al momento della sua cattura fanno pensare che dietro il caso si nasconda altro. 

Ciò che rende l'episodio ancora meno chiaro è infatti la sua mediatizzazione. Normalmente, questo tipo di episodi viene tenuto lontano dai media, ma non è stato questo il caso. Tuttavia, l'evento è sicuramente servito al Ministero degli Esteri italiano per sottolineare la fedeltà della nazione alla NATO".

Al contrario, un notevole analista italiano del settore ha sostenuto che una tale ipotesi si sarebbe rivelata irrealizzabile dal punto di vista geopolitico. 'Il governo italiano sembrava principalmente interessato a dare un duplice segnale. Da un lato, l'efficacia e la fedeltà all'atlantismo. Dall'altro, fare un gesto per spingere a una maggiore cautela mantenendo vivo il dialogo con la Russia. Pertanto, nessuno sforzo di controspionaggio avrebbe potuto portare agli stessi risultati. In realtà, è possibile che il tentativo di Biot di condividere la nostra intelligence sia stato facilitato". 

Tra questi due punti di vista si colloca il professor Mario Caligiuri, presidente della Società Italiana di Intelligence. Intervistato, ha dichiarato che si sarebbero potute percorrere entrambe le strade, ma a causa di un'analisi dei costi e dei benefici, è stata preferita la seconda scelta. Inoltre, questa affermazione è ulteriormente sviluppata nel suo articolo sulla rivista web di geopolitica Formiche, dove ha sostenuto che: 'Lo spionaggio è un attore internazionale primario e come gli altri è sottoposto a un processo di mediatizzazione. È sempre esistito e oggi le spie sono più che mai fondamentali perché si combatte in uno scenario fluido e indefinito, dove la guerra all'informazione con l'obiettivo di conquistare le menti è diventata cruciale. [...] Le circostanze confermano come gli interessi geostrategici vedano sempre la Russia opposta agli Stati Uniti. Non è un caso che negli Stati Uniti esista una forte scuola di pensiero geopolitico che continua a considerare la Russia il principale nemico, ancor prima della Cina. Questo perché mentre quest'ultima rappresenta un avversario economico, la prima è in realtà un avversario militare". Conclude poi con una posizione meno incentrata sulla geopolitica, ma alla fine più preoccupata dell'intero processo di mediatizzazione che casi come questo subiscono: "I servizi devono costantemente legittimare il loro scopo, soprattutto quando operano all'estero, quindi a volte potrebbero valutare come significative alcune piccole operazioni che potrebbero essere alla fine amplificate e abbellire il reporting per il quartier generale" (Caligiuri, 2021). 

Esplorando l'attuale dibattito intorno alla potenziale opportunità per l'Italia di svolgere attività di controspionaggio, ciò che alla fine è emerso è che nel complesso un forte sentimento di ostilità geopolitica tra l'Alleanza Atlantica e la Russia non permetterebbe il perseguimento di una tale strategia. Tuttavia, data l'incertezza dei dettagli che ancora getta un'ombra sul caso, l'idea di pratiche di controspionaggio non sembra essere irrealizzabile. Infatti, l'analisi offerta trasforma la potenziale occasione mancata in un'ipotesi probabile, che è ancora nascosta dal segreto. Di conseguenza, si potrebbe alla fine essere portati a pensare che un piano d'azione di controspionaggio sia stato attuato segretamente dall'Italia, per gestire il caso e sfruttare al meglio l'occasione. In questo modo, non solo l'Italia avrebbe confermato la sua posizione atlantista a livello internazionale, ma avrebbe anche tratto vantaggio dall'aver abilmente intrufolato una sua spia nella rete dell'intelligence russa.

May 24, 20211 Comment

Lucia Gennari on the Immigration Policies in the Mediterranean Sea

The ITSS Human Rights team interviews Lucia Gennari, lawyer of ASGI and member of Inlimine project within the association. This podcast provides an explanation about immigration practices and the phenomenon of outsourcing border control related to the Mediterranean route. In particular, new practices have arisen due to the impact of Covid-19 in the Mediterranean context; consequences of these practices on migrants have been discussed in the final part of the podcast.

Interviewing Team: Luca Mattei and Diletta Cosco.

May 20, 20211 Comment

Security and Cooperation: Egypt’s role between Regional and International Powers

The ITSS Africa team interviews Muhammad Musaad Alaraby, from Biliotheca Alexandrina’s Center of Strategic studies, analysing Egypt’s role in the international cooperation in the security field. Together we discussed the current situation in Egypt, and its position between Europe and Africa. Finally, we concluded with a snapshot of possible future scenarios regarding Egypt’s security and cooperation internationally.

Interviewing Team: Alessandra Gramolini, Rebecca Pedemonte, and Michele Tallarini.

May 20, 20211 Comment

How Poverty Breeds Insecurity

By: Ludovica Aicha Brambilla.

The Global Humanitarian Overview 2021 has projected a historic level of food insecurity, with famine looming in several countries, due in large part to conflict and systemic violence. This forecast took into account the rising trend of the last two years; in 2019, in fact, seventy-seven million people in over 22 countries have experienced starvation due to armed violence. The new 2021 Global Report on Food Crises has confirmed that conflict has been the main driver of food crises also in 2020. Throughout the past year, up to 100 million people in 23 countries have experienced starvation because of violence and insecurity. The evidence that conflict causes food insecurity is well established. For instance, the FAO reports of the past decade have highlighted a recurring figure: The proportion of undernourished people is almost three times as high in countries in conflict than in other developing countries. This is also the result of the rapidly increasing civil displacements which can result in conflicts between social groups, causing food insecurity and a significant loss of income, resulting in acute famine and poverty.

However, these factors can sometimes interplay the other way round. Often poverty fosters conflict dynamics and insecurity; resource scarcity is a key factor of mass migrations and displacements which can result in conflicts between social groups. Economic inequalities are often seedbed for instability and represent a crucial contributing factor of violence together with socio-cultural and political factors. But poverty exacerbates all human vulnerabilities exposing people to a series of different types of risks. The condition of insecurity driven by privation concerns every dimension of life and it binds with multiple factors which reinforce each other and only eventually result in violence. 

For instance, poverty is a key element when addressing food insecurity issues. Food security is a condition in which everybody has regular access to nutritious food, thanks to one’s own livelihood or a safety net provided by the state or any other organisation. Ensuring food security means guaranteeing the production of a sufficient amount of food in total and, especially, that everybody can access such vital resources. The Nobel Laureate in Economics Amartya Sen stated that the root cause of the continuation of world hunger is the continuation of poverty, despite the increasing total prosperity. In fact, even in periods of tight food markets, there is enough food available, but a large number of people are just too poor to afford it. 

Many families, especially in developing countries, are particularly vulnerable to high food prices and they lack proper training on how to produce more food more sustainably. Agricultural development plays a key role in generating the incomes needed to ensure food security. In fact, two-thirds of the poor live in rural areas where agriculture is the dominant sector, but poor farmers are extremely vulnerable to the decline in agricultural output and aren’t able to benefit from basic infrastructures and access to markets. Income growth is necessary but the composition of growth matters too, as more equal growth is likely to lead to long-lasting food security. As a matter of fact, other compliments such as safe drinking water, awareness regarding adequate nutrition and access to health services are vital. In light of this approach, to tackle the causes of hunger, the policy objective should be the implementation of social norms dedicated to improving the conditions of the poor rather than concentrate on the overall agricultural production. 

Food insecurity is, indeed, the result of many factors chained together. Some of them include privation and low wages coupled with poor education and inadequate health assistance. Malnutrition can be both a cause and a result of health problems. This depends on the quantity and quality of the food a person eats; the diet which a person can access must be sufficiently balanced otherwise a vicious circle begins. In this context, the crucial matter of health care deprivation and discrimination against women deserves a special mention. In fact, the vicious circle starts with maternal malnutrition and pours out, becoming a mass phenomenon further feeding famine and insecurity. The level of education is an important piece of the puzzle. Education significantly influences the information available and the possibility to obtain a well-paid job by which one can access sustainable and healthy food. But the possibility of having access to education and completing it depends precisely on the state of indigence. Malnutrition affects school performance and the diseases, often related to poor nutrition, reduce one’s opportunities in the labor market. In this way, the vicious cycle keeps feeding itself, pressing people in the tight grip of the poverty trap. 

Ultimately, hunger driven by poverty can be both a cause and a consequence of conflict. The threats to food security can trigger unrest and provides a tangible reason for the instigation of violence. The 2015 FAO report Peace and Food Security estimated that post-conflict countries with high food insecurity are 40% more likely to relapse into conflict within a 10-year timespan. The report also highlighted how the increase in food prices in 2008 together with cuts in food subsidies, reduced real incomes triggering food riots in many countries. 

Thereby, investing in food security may strengthen the effort to prevent conflict and achieve stability. To build long-lasting peace, it is essential to understand the mutual link among poverty, food security and conflict.

May 17, 20211 Comment

Cybersecurity talks with Andrea Rigoni

Andrea Rigoni talks about the most important trends and challenges in the world of cybersecurity. This is ITSS Verona Member Series on International Systems, section on Artificial Intelligence Cybersecurity and Space. Andrea Rigoni has been working in the Information Security Sector for more than 25 years, he serves as an advisor to NATO and the UN, he also served as advisor to the Italian Prime Minister, and is now Partner at Deloitte Risk Advisory, focusing on cybersecurity. 

Interviewing Team: Tommaso Baiocco, Zrinka Borić, Renata Safina and Arnaud Sobrero.