February 19, 2024No Comments

Anant Mishra on the current security and political situation in Afghanistan

In this session, Professor Mishra discusses the capacity of the security forces to control the territory, the Islamic State Khorasan Province, and the division within the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Professor Anant Mishra is a Visiting Fellow at the International Centre for Policing and Security, University of South Wales.

Interviewers: Agostino Bono and Camilla Cormegna - Crime, Extremism and Terrorism Team

December 4, 2023No Comments

Quill Robinson on the Nexus of Climate Change and Security

Quill Robinson talks about the intersection of climate and security. He delves into the topics of energy security, the role of China and the U.S., and shares his thoughts on COP28 (about to take place in the week of the interview's recording).

Quill Robinson is a Senior Program Manager and Associate Fellow in the Energy Security and Climate Change Program at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Interviewers: Idriss El Alaoui Talibi, Michele Mignogna, Iris Raith, Frederik Steinhauser - Defense & Procurement Team

October 23, 2023No Comments

Mr. Saji Prelis on Youth, Peace and Security

Mr. Saji Prelis talks about Youth, Peace and Security. Mr. Saji Prelis is the Director of children & youth programs at Search for Common Ground (SFCG).

In this session, Mr. Prelis talks about how the agenda first started, why Resolution 2250 is considered historic and the efforts that have led to it. He also discusses what challenges the efficient implementation of the YPS agenda are today and ends sharing tips for youth activists for their advocacy on youth-inclusion and YPS in their work.

Interviewer: Balkis Chaabane, Human Security Team

September 25, 2023No Comments

The Complex Path to Climate-Neutral Militaries

Authors: Michele Mignona, Iris Raith, Frederik Steinhauser - Defense & Procurement Team

Introduction

As climate change intensifies, militaries around the world are gradually recognizing the need to climate-proof their forces. That is crucial given that climate change has a clear impact on militaries – and vice versa. Transitioning armed forces to be more sustainable and climate-resilient brings important benefits but also poses challenges. This piece explores the advantages of armed forces pursuing climate neutrality. It will also discuss the difficulties like technology constraints that militaries face in greening defences. Next, the approaches of the US, Russian and Chinese militaries will be considered regarding their adaptation efforts to climate change. Finally, the role of organisations like NATO and the EU in driving climate action in militaries will be analyzed. Their target-setting, funding initiatives and interoperability mechanisms influence allied armed forces to mitigate emissions while maintaining operational readiness.

Advantages of going climate-neutral

Transitioning armed forces to be more sustainable and climate-resilient brings significant strategic and operational benefits. One major advantage is increased energy efficiency and cost savings. By reducing reliance on fossil fuels and shifting to renewable energy sources, militaries can significantly cut costs, especially for fuel-intensive operations. For instance, the US military's use of Advanced Medium Mobile Power Systems (AMMPS) in Afghanistan cut fuel consumption by 21%. Moreover, local renewable energy production also reduces the vulnerable supply lines required for transporting diesel and other fuels to forward locations. This increases the self-sufficiency of missions, decreasing dependence on external actors, which may jeopardize a mission’s efficacy.  

Furthermore, investing in technologies and infrastructure resilient to climate impacts allows militaries to maintain readiness as operational environments change. Adaptive planning, training and capabilities preserve the armed forces' effectiveness as extreme weather affects theatres of operation. For example, NATO's Cold Response exercises in Norway help prepare troops to operate in Arctic conditions. Additionally, transitioning away from fossil fuels will reduce the major environmental footprint of militaries as institutional polluters. For instance, the UK aims to cut military emissions by 70% through measures like biofuel use. This contributes to global climate change mitigation efforts. 

Proactively climate-proofing defences keeps militaries ahead as innovators and standard-setters in a climate-altered world. It also promotes their strategic position compared to adversaries, slower to adapt. 

Disadvantages & Challenges

Major global military powers have adopted a diverse energy portfolio, encompassing oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, hydropower, biofuels, wind, and solar energy. This diversification not only bolsters energy security strategies but also serves as a bedrock for system resilience. Shifting towards a greater reliance on electricity entails an increased dependency on minerals crucial for the functioning of electrical systems. These minerals, predominantly sourced from regions like China and countries where Beijing holds substantial economic and infrastructural sway, present a new set of challenges. This dynamic sets the stage for geopolitical competition among nations vying for access to these pivotal resources, where China has a strategic advantage. Transitioning from a diversified energy mix to one focused primarily on electricity will introduce challenges for a country’s military, like potential cyberattacks and threats to the supply chains.

A key challenge for the military in implementing environmental policies is maintaining long-term commitment and funding, especially in light of pressures to increase military capacity and shifting priorities. The insecurities and challenges within geopolitics, coupled with escalating threats from adversaries, compel nations to prioritize military preparedness. This often leads to reluctant transitions towards climate-neutral armies, as they lack prior experience in this domain.

For instance, Russia’s war in Ukraine has prompted questions about whether the West needs to rebuild its military-industrial capacity in preparation for a large-scale war. Following the Russian invasion, European nations announced increases of nearly €200 billion to their defence budgets. The pressure to spend quickly threatens to entrench further Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels for defence at a moment when policymakers are aiming to shift to climate-neutral forces.

Furthermore, policymakers are concerned about countries or adversaries lacking the necessary financial resources or the willingness to pursue complete decarbonization of their militaries. A recent study conducted by a British officer concluded that, given current capabilities and modes of combat, an electrified land force might struggle to achieve the same levels of firepower, protection, and mobility as a force relying on fossil fuels.

Source: Image by Robert Waghorn from Pixabay

The big powers: how China, Russia and the US militaries are adapting

Given the transnational nature of climate change, governments from all over the world have a shared responsibility to address it; however, it is questionable whether the interests of the world's three military superpowers, China, Russia, and the United States, are aligned. They differ in their approaches to addressing climate change and even more so in their views on how it affects the armed forces.

China's leadership avoids tying climate change to military might despite acknowledging its possible security consequences due to its links to the fossil fuel industry of the country, Sino-US rivalry and the consequent “conspiracy attitude” among some Chinese policymakers, and strategic secrecy regarding its military. Overall, there is little information available publicly on China's consideration of climate change, even though it very likely might have a significant impact on its military infrastructure.

Russia acknowledges climate change's security implications but opts for a national approach over international securitization, preferring to wait for the issue to materialize rather than preventing it. Moscow sees economic opportunities with climate change and minimizes the role of the armed forces, except in the Arctic, where defrosting reveals important natural resources.

The US takes the most proactive approach to climate change security, with integrated strategies, risk assessment, Arctic geopolitical competition, and disaster relief efforts, defining this issue as a priority. Clearly, it is common belief that this should not come at the cost of operational effectiveness. However, political divisions affect climate security actions.  

NATO & the EU: Towards Climate Security Leadership

Remarkably, organisations such as NATO and the EU are important actors concerning climate security. NATO is intensifying its focus on environmental security, aiming to obtain a pivotal role in adapting to climate change security. It addresses risks to military operations, disaster relief, energy efficiency, and climate mitigation. Annual assessments, adaptation measures, emissions analysis, and collaboration with partners are also central to NATO's 2023 Climate Change and Security Impact Assessment.

The EU is a pioneer when it comes to green policies. However, the military sector has been largely omitted in light of the EU pacifist policies. Nonetheless, things are rapidly changing. In this context, incorporating the military sector into the European Green Deal policies would reduce emissions, enhance strategic autonomy, modernize operations, spur innovation, and boost the EU's credibility in combating climate change. 

Conclusion

As climate change intensifies, militaries must innovate to cut emissions while maintaining readiness. Though approaches differ, organizations like NATO and the EU are driving climate action through target-setting and funding initiatives. With visionary leadership, armed forces can spearhead transformative change towards climate-resilient, sustainable societies.

June 26, 2023No Comments

Cultural Question and Cyber Quandary: Making Sense Of TikTok Bans Worldwide

Authors: Maria Makurat (Cyber Security and AI Team) and Anurag Mishra (USA Team)

TikTok and the “Ban Hammer”

The debate of apps such as TikTok being a security threat to individuals as well as countries has been going on for a while. Several articles, studies and other blog articles have been, and are still being released on this hot topic. One of the main concerns remains: TikTok is collecting data of users against their consent whilst one is also not using the app. Since TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese-owned company, many Western countries and especially the US are highly sceptical and states such as Montana have even taken the initiative to ban the app altogether. What does this mean for cyber as well as cultural security issues? Many factors and international events surround this debate such as TikTok already being banned in India, the issues of the Chinese state  being seen as a spy and whether one can see TikTok as a surveillance weapon? Cyber security as well as cultural issues tie into the debate where we see theories of whether we have a “cyber war” in relation to social media platforms as well as cultural matters if TikTok is having a negative impact on countries. This article explores the issues highlighted above and opens up possible questions that still need to be asked.

Montana Mounts a “Blackout Challenge” to TikTok

Senate Bill #149 of the 68th legislature of Montana, which was introduced by state senator Shelley Vance makes the offering of the app on any application store illegal and prescribes a fine of $10,000 per day for each time someone accesses TikTok, “is offered the ability” to access it, or downloads it. Governor Greg Gianforte, a Republican from Montana, had approved the law on anticipating potential legal challenges. Although the law is not set to be enforced until January 1, 2024, there are doubts about the state's ability to implement it effectively. The impact of this new legislation in Montana is expected to be more significant than the existing TikTok bans already implemented on government devices in approximately half of the states and at the federal level in the United States.

From the outside, the one-of-a-kind ban looks like an assault on ByteDance’s data-gathering exercise but also has a deeper purpose of extinguishing the app’s ability to influence the impressionable youth of America.

One of the major reasons why TikTok became the conservative eyesore and a major cause of worry for parents was the “Blackout Challenge.” Also known as the "choking challenge" or the "pass-out challenge," it involved urging individuals to hold their breath until they lose consciousness as a result of insufficient oxygen. While the Blackout Challenge was the biggest troubling online challenge, causing as many as 20 children to lose their lives, a slew of similar troubling trends made TikTok infamous. "Dry-scooping," climbing on tall stacks of milk crates, removing your own IUD, and eating massive amounts of frozen honey and corn syrup, and the list goes on.

The problem with TikTok does not end there. When juxtaposed with the wider scheme of things, TikTok appears to be one of the many arrows in the Chinese quiver. The issue of Chinese Police Stations coming up on the United States’ territory has landed many in the stew and has made the American government restive. Taking a leaf out of India and some European countries’ books, several states in the US decided to ban TikTok on office/government-issued phones and devices. As of April, 34 American states have banned TikTok on government-issued devices. The idea behind banning the mischievous app has largely been to secure any data leaks. India was the first country to ban TikTok and several other Chinese mobile applications nationwide, citing national security concerns. India banned TikTok as early as June 2020. At first, the ban was seen as a mild yet conclusive response to the PLA’s misadventure across the Sino-Indian border, but as more countries put restraints on the Chinese app, the Indian government’s official position on the ban seems to have been vindicated.

Reservations and concerns abound TikTok and have only gone on to grow in the past three years. Not just the adversaries and rivals but even allies like Pakistan and North Korea have blocked TikTok. The question nevertheless remains whether TikTok is just an online pastime or a phisher. 

Source: Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/PuNW11NRjI4

Weapon of Mass Surveillance: TikTok and its Cyber Security Issues?

The debate surrounding TikTok being a security issue has been around for a while. Several individuals as well as companies had their doubts but as of around April 2023, one has been seeing a surge in states and countries being serious about banning the popular app. The major concern lies within the fact that TikTok is owned by a Chinese company and several discrepancies have arisen concerning the security of the app. It is being repeatedly “expressed that TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, may put sensitive user data, like location information, into the hands of the Chinese government.” This together with political tensions between Russia, China and the West in relation to the Ukraine war add to the TikTok debate with companies being concerned that data is being stolen. Countries find themselves recently in much more complicated relations.

One can link this to traditional international affairs theories such as whether we will even have a “cyber war” (discussion by Thomas Rid)  and how social media is being “weaponized” (discussed by P.W. singer, Emerson T. Brooking and Dr Andreas Krieg). “In so doing, social media has evolved from a mere distraction machine into a tool of sociopolitical power, galvanising public awareness and civil-societal activism.” It is being discussed that ever since the 2016 elections in the US with Russian interference, that other social media platforms, where TikTok can possibly also be an instrument, can be used to spread false information and not only be used as a tool by itself to collect data. Countries such as Germanyalso increasingly see the issue of social media platforms being used to spread false information as well as collecting data (BIS: Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik). The so-called “Digitalbarometer 2020” released by the BIS, stated that in Germany for the year 2020, every fourth individual was affected by some type of cyber-attack and every third was affected financially. Whilst Germany has not released a law that forbids the use of TikTok, it is being discussed by the Federal Minister of the Interior and Community that one needs to stay alert and be aware of the possible consequences.

This issue is also being discussed very intensely by scholars such as Dr Andreas Krieg (recent work “Subversion - The strategic weaponization of narratives”) and Dr Kathleen Hall Jamieson (Cyber-War : How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President). We see both now in the international affairs academic world as well as the communications and cultural disciplines a debate, on how social media platforms are being weaponized (see also this blog article on hate speech on social media). Now perhaps more than ever, interdisciplinary communication between different academic strands is needed to address the issue. So we see it is not only the issue of TikTok being owned by a Chinese company and the possible spread of false information but also the physical issue of collecting data. We have both cultural/ethical and cyber security issues.

To Ban, or Not to Ban?

To mitigate the goodwill loss and the loss of business that TikTok has encountered, it would be wise for the company to make itself more transparent and even sell stakes, as beseeched by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. The company will also need to come clean on the accusations of data theft and spying. The root of all remains the involvement of the Chinese state in its corporate entities and in the long run, such involvement will not go unnoticed by the countries hosting Chinese businesses. When considering all these factors, open questions remain such as if we will see other countries following suit in banning TikTok and how likely is it that more organisations will take action? Do we see a certain cyber war taking place in the realm of social media or is it more an issue of moral and ethical values? Younger generations still use TikTok in their daily life, especially since this is also linked to businesses (such as Infleuncers as well as big companies) which could prove problematic in the future. Perhaps stronger rules are required that regulate the use of TikTok and its data collection if the app is to be further used. It remains to be seen how this develops and whether individuals will be concerned with the use of the app.

January 23, 2023No Comments

The Middle East in 2023: From Revolution to Survival

Author: Omri Brinner and Chantal Elisabeth Hohe.

2022 brought about several game-changing developments in the Middle East and beyond. These events - from domestic political instability, through the weakening of American influence in the region, to the protests in Iran - will all leave a mark in 2023, a year that is shaping to be decisive for the Middle East’s future.

Of the many things to monitor in the region during 2023, four issues stand out the most, largely due to their international significance. These are the American involvement in the Middle East; climate change and the region’s efforts - or lack of - to counter it; the domestic upheaval in Iran and its global impact; and the economic situation across the region, with a growing number of countries in economic disarray (Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Yemen).

Image Source: https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/protests-in-iran-the-regime-s-trail-of-blood-a-8775e064-e031-4f80-8a87-5ec4cb59246c 

The US in the Middle East

Going into 2023, the United State’s role in the Middle East is undefined. Had it been clear and obvious, American officials wouldn’t have to reiterate that their country will remain pivotal as it once was. The facts on the ground suggest less American physical involvement. There are less American troops in the region; American diplomacy has been weakened; and one is much more exposed to alternative soft power than before. In that sense we are expected to see declining American presence across the region. Diplomatically, the US is losing grip as well. While it largely has Israel on its side in its competition with China and Russia, other allies - most notably Saudi Arabia - are becoming less and less dependent on the US, fueling a multipolar world where the US is now one of many, rather than the one. The US can stay assured that it will continue to have leverage over several individuals and countries in the coming year, but all in all - and much due to the multipolar inertia across the region - this leverage is not infinite, and further distancing from American policies are likely to follow. This dynamic played out in the relations between President Biden and the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin-Salman, where the latter refused to give-in to American pressure on oil prices, proving that the American leverage on him and his country is limited. In other words, American superiority will not only continue to be challenged from afar, but also from within the region itself.

Iran

2023 might very well be the year of the Persian Spring. The revolutionary protests that began in September have the potential to spin the regime out of control and to create a new reality in the country, and the region. What started as a social protest against the state’s brutality and the killing of Masha Amini has developed into a full regime-change movement, with the slogan “death to Khamenei” gaining momentum and legitimacy on social media. It is of course possible that the harsh and lethal crackdown by the state will break the back of the revolution, but these past few months and the ones to follow will certainly change Iran and affect the region as a whole, whichever way the wind blows.

Furthermore, in light of the internal turmoil and the fact that the Iranian nuclear deal is all but alive, it is likely that Iran will push to both enrich as much uranium as possible and to create destabilizing chaos across the region in the coming months. All in all, what happens in Iran during 2023 will determine the near future of the Middle East.

Climate

After a rather unsuccessful COP27 failed to produce actionable policy solutions or real commitments from the international community, a decisive year lies ahead for the Middle East, where people will continue suffering from the consequences of the climate crisis. Most prominently, water scarcity will lead to an increasingly dire situation, fueling food insecurity, economic downturn, civil unrest, and violent extremism. That said, several innovative start-ups and promising technologies are on the rise, with the GCC countries upping the funding to accelerate developments in the field. Hope now lies upon the Abu Dhabi COP28, set to take place in November and, ironically, hosted by UAE’s National Oil Company CEO, with civil society organizations and academia urging for serious action.

Economy

A cleavage in economic performance is increasingly visible among Middle Eastern countries, with the oil-based GCC monarchies witnessing continuous growth - whereas others are facing economic decline, leading to or exacerbating existing socio-political turbulences. The economic outlook for 2023 indicates that inflation is likely to surpass 30% in numerous countries, with Syria at 63% and Lebanon at a staggering 167% . Further regional actors, such as Iran, Turkey, Egypt, and Yemen, face economic hardship while also having to tackle political challenges, civil unrest, and violent conflicts. Overall, domestic and international factors - such as the war in Ukraine - are likely to deepen a looming recession and the energy crisis. While it is likely that wealthy GCC countries will continue to support struggling regional allies, countries such as Yemen, Libya and Lebanon will continue to be used as arenas for proxy wars, further deepening their economic troubles.

November 9, 2022No Comments

Michele Tallarini on Radicalization and Extremism in the Sahel

The ITSS Africa team interviews Michele Tallarini, a researcher at the University of Bergamo, analysing Sahel’s and North Africa’s radicalization and extremism dynamics. Through his direct experience in the field, Michele Tallarini offers an insight into the main reasons that lead local people to radicalization in the area and concrete strategies to help local communities to be more resilient to the issue. 

Interviewer: Rebecca Pedemonte.

September 26, 2022No Comments

Another suspicious move by China: Indivisible Security

Author: Ho Ting (Bosco) Hung.

China has consistently declared its willingness to play an important role in international security, in an attempt to gain greater exposure on the international stage. Nonetheless, its active expansion and coercive policies have threatened the West, thus being perceived as a security challenge to many countries. Still, China shows no hesitance in demonstrating its willingness to involve in international security. At the Boao Forum in April 2022, Xi Jinping put forward the Global Security Initiative to ‘meet the pressing need of the international community to maintain world peace and prevent conflicts and wars’. While most of the GSI’s principles are reiterating China’s foreign policy, a concept worth noting is the idea of indivisible security. The concept’s genuine meaning remains unclear, but considering the sensitive times, it promotes the notion that China could make use of the term to build up a Chinese-oriented order in international security.

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/explosion-the-war-the-military-2096161/

What is Indivisible Security?

The concept of indivisible security is not new, but it is highly contested. The term was first used in the 1975 Helsinki Final Act to emphasise the benefit of cooperation. It means that the security of states in the same region is inextricably linked with each other, so no country should pursue its security at the expense of others. Therefore, the term conveys a positive meaning.

Despite the consensus reached by the signatories on the concept, other countries have put forward their own set of indivisible security principles. Remarkably, Russia considers NATO’s pursuit of indivisible security a security threat. The Kremlin has been discontent with NATO’s eastward expansion and reiterated that NATO should not make its security arrangements at the expense of Russia’s security. This is also used as a justification for its attack on Ukraine.

From China’s perspective, it is debatable what indivisible security truly means in its context. China has acknowledged that no country should pursue its security at the expense of other's security. At the same time, China also emphasizes that strengthening or expanding military blocs could not guarantee regional security, while all countries’ security concerns should be considered seriously.

Sensitive Time, Sensitive Concept

The decision to put forth this concept at a sensitive time when Russia is fighting with Ukraine could be, at best, a call for wholehearted cooperation on security issues, but at worst, a cunning move. 

China has always blamed NATO and the United States for provoking the Russia-Ukraine War. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian claimed ‘The Russia-Ukraine conflict, to a large extent, is the result of Western arrogance and successive mistakes over the last 30-plus years and NATO’s eastward expansion is the root cause of the ongoing conflict.’ He also criticized NATO for engaging in bloc confrontation and making trouble, which largely matches the indivisible security principle ‘strengthening or expanding military blocs could not guarantee regional security’. 

Meanwhile, Beijing has been actively attempting to strengthen its security ties with other countries, especially non-Western countries, to expand its sphere of influence. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has frequently stressed the importance of mutual respectcooperation, and equality in security issues. In other words, China has expressed its concerns about other countries’ security needs and shown its reluctance to become a hegemon on the international stage.It has therefore been attempting to build its image as a responsible and collaborative leader in security affairs.

Together with China’s past criticisms of the West and its eagerness to expand its security ties with other countries, China’s intention of putting forward the concept at the peak of the Russia-Ukraine military conflict is suspicious. China could make use of the notion of indivisible security to accuse the West of ignoring non-Western countries’ security needs, like Russia’s. It could also depict the West’s unilateral efforts of building or strengthening security alliances as a threat, which could by no means guarantee regional security. This way, China could justify that the West is a troublemaker by leveraging the concept of indivisible security. 

On the other hand, China could make use of the term to contrast its attitude on security issues with the West. It could continually reiterate its respect for other countries’ security concerns and passion for collaborating with the international community hand in hand to pursue peace. This allows China to try and shape itself as a saviour of the world’s security while attempting to depict the West as a devil who only brings turbulence and disruption to peace more legitimately. Therefore, Beijing’s concept of indivisible security is an attempt to establish itself as a leader in international security and aims to defeat the West in the competition for supreme discursive power in the international arena.

We Must Stay Cautious

Admittedly, the development of the concept of indivisible security in a Chinese context is still at an initial stage. Chinahas not shown its intention to use this concept to intervene in the Russia-Ukraine War. However, it is beyond dispute that Beijing has been hostile to the West’s dominance in the security field and become more ambitious in recent years. With the escalating Sino-Western tensions, it remains possible that China could weaponize the notion to challenge the West and its approaches to security affairs. The international community must stay alert to China’s promotion and new interpretation of the concept, to fully understand the intention of the adoption of the notion and be prepared for another battle for the leadership position in international security.

April 13, 20221 Comment

Enlargement of NATO to Eastern Europe: Reasons and Consequences for European Security

By: Alessandro Spada.

Introduction

Today, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) is an intergovernmental military alliance among the US, Canada and 28 European countries – but it has not always been this  large. Indeed, when Nato was first conceived in 1949 it was made up of just 12 members: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the UK and the US. The creation of the Alliance pursued three essential purposes: “deterring Soviet expansionism, forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent, and encouraging European political integration”. The accession process is regulated by Article 10 of the Treaty and other European Countries can be invited to participate. The aspiring member countries must meet key requirements and implement a multi-step process including political, economic, defence, resource, security and legal aspects. In case they are experiencing any issue, they can request assistance, practical support and the advice by a NATO programme, which is called the Membership Action Plan (MAP)

Image Source: The Expansion of NATO Since 1949

Past enlargements

After the end of the Cold War, we can witness four different waves of NATO expansion to Eastern Europe. The first important wave of expansion to the East was launched by the reunification of Germany in 1990. On 12th September 1990, the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, commonly known as Two Plus Four Treaty, was signed by the foreign ministers of  the Federal Republic of Germany, the GDR, France, Russia, the UK and the USA. The Treaty regulated all the foreign policy aspects of German reunification, including the membership to Nato, and imposed the withdrawal of all the foreign troops and the deployment of their nuclear weapons from the former East Germany and also the prohibition to West Germany’s possession of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. On October 3rd 1990, the  German Democratic Republic and Federal Republic were reunited again.

As to the second wave, the new member countries were Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. First, on 15th February 1991 they formed the Visegrad Group. Then, on 1st January 1993, Czechoslovakia split into two independent countries: Czech Republic and Slovakia. In 1997, Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary took part in the Alliance’s Madrid Summit and on 12th March 1999, the three former Warsaw Pact members joined NATO. The main reasons were: “to ensure thecountry’s external security”, to impede “the possibility of a great war in unstable Central Europe” and for Poland also “to advance its military capabilities”.

In May 2000, a group of NATO candidate countries created the Vilnius Group (Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia). The Vilnius Group resorted to the Membership Action Plan which was introduced by NATO for the first time at the 1999 Washington Summit. In addition, Croatia joined the Vilnius Group in May 2001. The Summit of the NATO Aspirant countries “Riga 2002: The Bridge to Prague” started the path towards the alliance’s membership which took place in Riga, Latvia, on July 5-6, 2002, where the leaders of NATO member and aspirant countries gathered for the last time before the NATO 2002 Prague Summit in November. On 29th March 2004, the largest wave of enlargement in alliance history materialized, except for Albania and Croatia. For Baltic states and Bulgaria, NATO membership symbolized their wish to be part of the European family. NATO was perceived not just merely as a military alliance with security guarantees under Article 5, but as a symbol of higher development, where Baltic states could find their proper place. Moreover, it was the attempt to escape Russian influence, in favor of the protection provided by the American strategic nuclear umbrella and a collective defence.

The same path of the Vilnius Group was followed by the Adriatic Charter of European  countries. The Adriatic Charter was created in Tirana on 2nd May by Albania, Croatia and Macedonia and USA for the purpose to obtain their North Atlantic Alliance admission. Albania and Macedonia were previous participants of MAP since its creation in 1999, while Croatia joined in 2002. Moreover, Macedonia also took part in Nato's Partnership for Peace (PfP) in 1995. On 1st April 2009, the North Atlantic Alliance officially annexed Albania and Croatia after their participation in the 2008 Bucharest Summit. Macedonia accession was postponed because of a dispute on the formal name with Greece. Macedonia became NATO's 30th country on 27th March 2020. Montenegro emulated the same path of the latter, but joined three years before on 5th June 2017, after the Accession Protocol signature in May 2016. For Montenegro itself, the major incentives to join NATO were the future eventuality of EU membership, the highest prestige of the Atlantic Alliance and to achieve “Nato’s security guarantee”.

Future enlargements

Bosnia Herzegovina is the only potential candidate which joined the Membership Action Plan on 5th December 2018.  In spite of Georgia and Ukraine expressing the will to start their path to the North Atlantic Alliance, their situation is still uncertain. The primary reason remains the need to meet all necessary requirements through important reforms focused on key areas; and, the current Russia-Ukraine war.

Consequences for the European Security

On one hand, many consequences, which were the main reasons for NATO expansion to the East, materialized in reality. For example, the inclusion of Eastern Europe nations in the military agreement have promoted democratic reform and stability there, provided stronger collective defense and an improved ability to address new security concerns, improved relations among the Eastern and Central European states, fostered a more stable climate for economic reform, trade, and foreign investment, and finally, improved NATO's ability to operate as a cooperative security organization with broad European security concern,” as stated in the clear purposes contained in a prepared statement of the Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright on 23rd April 1997.

On the other hand, in spite of NATO's open door policy with Russia, the latter constitutes  the largest threat for European security once again in the energy, political and military field. Indeed, the current conflict in Ukraine shows the evident ambition to create a new Russian empire by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Many warnings about Russia’s reaction were expressed in the declarations of Biden’s CIA director, William J. Burns, when he worked as counselor for political affairs at the US embassy in Moscow in 1995. On 26th June 1997, a group of 50 prominent foreign policy experts that included former senators, retired military officers, diplomats and academicians, sent an open letter to President Clinton outlining their opposition to NATO expansion”In the end, the father of the Cold War containment doctrine, George F. Kennan described the NATO expansion as a “tragic mistake”.

Conclusion

The current Russian invasion in Ukraine puts in clear evidence the necessity for the EU countries to accelerate the formation process of the European Army. They will have to achieve energy independence by using Russian gas, diversifying their own supplier countries and to invest massively in the green economy. Moreover, the EU must strengthen its common foreign policy, implementing an effective diplomatic action and speaking with one voice to cope with the great tensions around Europe and the rest of the world. If not, the European project will risk crumbling. 

April 6, 2022No Comments

Security Relations between Italy and the Middle East (Italiano)

By: Sarah Toubman and Filippo Grassi.

Italian state security has become evermore intertwined with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in recent days, as the invasion of Ukraine by Russia has highlighted the need for Europe to secure a renewable, multi-origin energy supply, as well as the importance of European food supplies in North Africa. The impact of war on Ukrainian and Russian harvests has not only caused wheat shortages in European markets, but also devastated grain imports across the MENA region, such as in Tunisia, Morocco and Libya. European sanctions on Russian oil and gas have also sent the cost of energy soaring, leading European leaders to seek other sources of fuel, including in the Middle East. War in Eastern Europe could see Western Europe and the EU seeking out a stronger partnership with the MENA region in both trade and diplomacy. However, Europe and the MENA region would have to overcome historic and contemporary tensions in order to achieve closer collaboration.

Currently, Egypt imports 54.5% of its wheat from Russia, while Tunisia imports 47.7% of the grain from Ukraine. With this year’s harvests rotting in warehouses in Eastern Europe as war rages, the Middle East and North Africa must seek alternative supplies to feed their populations. Numerous EU countries could stand to benefit. France is a huge global wheat producer, growing 30.1 millions ton of the grain in 2020--less than Russia’s 85.9 million ton harvest, but more than the 24.9 million tons Ukraine raked in the same year. Germany also produced a competitive 22.2 million tons in 2020. Although Italy grew a more modest 6.7 million tons, the country did export over $24.8 millions in wheat in 2020. Thus, Middle Eastern and North African nations could reasonably seek to procure more EU and Italian grain exports.

European leaders are already considering the increased purchase of oil and gas from the MENA region. Such measures would ensure energy diversity and security for the continent, and further damage the Russian economy, which the EU hit with a package of sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine. For example, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian held talks with officials from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on March 27th on possibly increasing energy purchasing from the Middle East. The Foreign Minister also held a similar discussion withQatar's Minister of State for Energy Affairs, Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, on the 28thConsidering the increase in calls for joint European energy procurement, such a move by France could also strongly influence Italian oil and gas purchasing habits.

Further Western European importation of Middle Eastern and North African gas and oil would serve to strengthen a pre-existing trade relationship between Italy and MENA. While the EU as a whole imported 27, 41, and 47 percent of oil, gas, and coal, respectively, from Russia in 2019, it also imported 9% of oil from Iraq, 8% of oil from Saudi Arabia, 8% of natural gas from Algeria, and 5% of its gas from Qatar. While Italy also imported roughly 44% of natural gas from Russia in 2016, its imports from the MENA region vastly exceeded that of the EU, with 37% of gas coming from Libya or Algeria.

However, in order to establish mutual food and energy security, Italy and the MENA region would have to build stronger ties in both the trade and diplomatic spheres, working through historic and contemporary tensions. To this day, Italy’s relations with the MENA region are still damaged by the country’s legacy of colonization in Libya and the Horn of Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries, as well its support for France’s colonization of Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco

More contemporary events have also impacted the relations between Italy and MENA. The migrant crisis which began in 2010 and intensified in 2015 saw millions of refugees from Asia, Africa and the Middle East fleeing to Europe following conflicts at home. At some points in the crisis, the majority of migrants were crossing over from North Africa into Italy, regardless of their country of origin. This created a situation of mutual blame and distrust between Libya and Italy, as foreign migrants were often either denied entry to Italy and left to drown at sea, or detained and mistreated at centers in Libya. Italian politicians such as former Prime Minister Matteo Salvini often made inflammatory comments about immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa. At one point, Salvini defended a colleague for shooting a Moroccan immigrant, and even faced kidnapping charges for detaining a boat of 147 refugees.

Tensions between Italy and the MENA region have also flared due to incidents involving Italian researchers and businesspeople on the African continent. In 2015, Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni was kidnapped, tortured, and killed in Cairo after allegedly being extorted for money. In December 2021, Patrick Zaki, an Egyptian student at the University of Bologna, was finally released after being unlawfully detained and beaten in Mansoura, Egypt, for almost a year. Marco Zennaro, a Venetian entrepreneur, was also detained in Sudan for almost a year before his release.While these events have weakened the diplomatic relationships between Italy and the MENA region, some hostilities in recent memory have actually served to strengthen their strategic ties. While they did not meet their strategic goals, Italian peacekeeping troops in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War in the 1980s have been lauded for their “sustained neutrality, respectful behavior and minimal [use of] force.”

In a 2017 article, scholar Elisabetta Brighi observed that in the Middle East, “Italy has pursued a number of strategic interests—in the areas of migration, energy, security, and geopolitics—in parallel to, yet sometimes in open contrast to, a set of normative commitments to human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.” Italy has also had to contend with “the peculiar role of corporate interests—particularly those of oil and energy companies—in the country’s definition of ‘national interests.’ The need for Italy to balance strategic, human rights, and energy interests in the Middle East and North Africa has only become more crucial in recent weeks and will only continue to grow in coming years. As Italy and Western Europe seek diverse and secure energy sources outside of Eastern Europe, North Africa may too turn their grain purchasing power to the West. In order to create such a relationship of mutual security between the two regions, leaders must seek diplomatic solutions to long-standing strategic and human rights concerns.

Image Source: https://static01.nyt.com/images/2017/08/19/world/19Migrants2/19Migrants2-superJumbo.jpg?quality=75&auto=webp

ITALIAN TRANSLATION

La sicurezza dello stato italiano è diventata negli ultimi giorni sempre più legata alla regione del Medio Oriente del Nord Africa. Infatti l’invasione dell’Ucraina da parte della Russia ha evidenziato, da un lato, la necessità per l’Europa di assicurarsi un approvvigionamento energetico rinnovabile e diversificato, dall’altro ha posto l’accento sull’importanza delle forniture alimentari europee in Nord Africa. L’impatto della guerra sui raccolti ucraini e russi non solo ha causato carenze di grano nei mercati europei, ma ha anche colpito duramente le sue importazioni in tutta la regione MENA, così come in Tunisia, Marocco e Libia.

Inoltre, le sanzioni di Bruxelles sul petrolio e sul gas russo hanno causato un’esponenziale crescita del costo dell’energia, portando i leader europei a cercare nuove fonti di carburante, in particolar modo anche in Medio Oriente

A tal proposito, la guerra in Ucraina potrebbe spingere l’Europa occidentale e l’Unione Europea a formare una partnership più forte con la regione MENA sia a livello commerciale che diplomatico. Per raggiungere un livello di collaborazione più stretta, è necessario tuttavia che l’Europa e i paesi del MENA superino le tensioni storiche e contemporanee che pervadono nei loro rapporti internazionali.

Attualmente l’Egitto importa il 54,5% del suo grano dalla Russia, mentre la Tunisia importa il 47,7% del grano dall’Ucraina.  Con i raccolti di quest’anno che marciscono nei magazzini dell’Europa dell’Est, mentre infuria la guerra, il Medio Oriente e il Nord Africa si devono adoperare per individuare forniture alternative per sfamare la propria popolazione.  

Questa situazione rappresenta un’opportunità per numerosi paesi dell’UE di coprire il vuoto lasciato da Russia e Ucraina.  La Francia, per esempio, è un grande produttore globale di grano con 30,1 milioni di tonnellate raccolte nel 2020, meno delle 85,9 milioni di tonnellate russe, ma più delle 24,9 milioni dell’Ucraina nello stesso anno. Anche la Germania, seppur in modo minore, contribuisce alla produzione europea di grano, avendo prodotto nel 2020 circa 22,2 milioni di tonnellate. Un altro paese che potrebbe giocare un ruolo importante nella regione si tratta dell’Italia. Nonostante questa abbia raccolto “solo” 6,7 milioni di tonnellate, il paese ha esportato oltre 24,8 milioni di dollari in grano nel 2020. Il sostegno dei paesi europei garantirebbero quindi  ai paesi del Medio Oriente e del Nord Africa la possibilità di attingere dal mercato europeo e di soddisfare la propria domanda interna.

Dall’altro lato, i leader europei stanno già considerando di incrementare il proprio acquisto di petrolio e gas dalla regione MENA. Tale misura infatti garantirebbe una diversificazione del mercato e una sicurezza energetica per il continente europeo, danneggiando contemporaneamente l’economia russa, che l’Unione Europea ha già colpito imponendo dure sanzioni dopo l’invasione dell’Ucraina. Diverse azioni sono state quindi intraprese dai governi europei. Per esempio, il Ministro degli Esteri francese Jean-Yves Le Drian ha avuto colloqui con alcuni funzionari dell’Arabia Saudita e degli Emirati Arabi Uniti il 27 marzo su un possibile aumento degli acquisti di energia dal Medio Oriente. Inoltre il Ministro ha avuto anche una discussione simile con il Ministro di Stato del Qatar per gli affari energetici, Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, il 28 dello stesso mese. Considerando l’aumento delle richieste di acquisti congiunti di energia in Europa, una tale mossa della Francia influenzerebbe fortemente anche le abitudini italiane di acquisto di petrolio e gas.

Un’ulteriore incremento nell’importazione di gas e combustibili fossili dal Medio Oriente e Nord Africa servirebbe a rafforzare una preesistente relazione commerciale tra l’Italia e il MENA. Nel 2019 l’Unione Europea ha nel complesso importato il 27,41 e 47% di petrolio, gas e carbone rispettivamente dalla Russia, ma ha anche importato il 9% del petrolio dall’Iraq, l’8% dall’Arabia Saudita, l’8% del gas naturale dall’Algeria e il 5% dal Qatar. In linea con i dati europei, l’Italia ha importato quasi il 44% del gas naturale dalla Russia nel 2016, mentre le sue importazione dalla regione MENA hanno superato di gran lunga quelle dell’UE, con il 37% del gas proveniente dalla Libia o dall’Algeria.

Tuttavia, al fine di stabilire una reciproca sicurezza alimentare ed energetica, l’Italia e i paesi del MENA dovrebbero perseguire nuove forme di collaborazione economica e diplomatica. Ad oggi le relazioni dell’Italia con la regione del MENA risentono ancora del passato imperialista di Roma, in particolare della colonizzazione della Libia e del Corno d’Africa nel XIX-XX secolo, e del sostegno alla colonizzazione francese di Algeria, Tunisia e Marocco.

Ad aggravare lo status diplomatico tra Italia e paesi del Medio Oriente e del Nord Africa si aggiungono anche eventi più contemporanei come la recente crisi migratoria. Questa, iniziata nel 2010 e intensificatasi nel 2015, ha visto milioni di rifugiati provenienti dall’Asia, dall’Africa e dal Medio Oriente fuggire in Europa in seguito alle guerre scatenatesi nei loro paesi. In alcuni momenti della crisi, la maggior parte dei migranti stava attraversando l’Italia dal Nord Africa, partendo specialmente dalla Libia. Questo ha creato una situazione di tensione e sfiducia tra i due paesi e a livello internazionale, dal momento che ai migranti stranieri veniva spesso negato l’ingresso in Italia e lasciati annegare in mare, oppure detenuti e maltrattati nei centri di detenzione in Libia. I politici italiani come l’ex Primo Ministro Matteo Salvini hanno spesso lanciato commenti infiammatori sugli immigrati provenienti dal Medio Oriente e dal Nord Africa, aumentando le tensioni e suscitando forti attriti tra le diverse comunità multietniche. Un esempio è la dichiarazione con cui Salvini difese un collega reo di aver sparato a un immigrato marocchino, oppure il processo che l’ex Primo Ministro ha dovuto affrontare  per le accuse di rapimenti di 147 rifugiati, impossibilitati a scendere in Italia dalla barca della ONG Seawatch.

Tuttavia, le tensioni tra l’Italia e la regione MENA sono esplose anche a causa degli incidenti che hanno coinvolto ricercatori e imprenditori italiani, in particolar modo nel continente africano. A tal proposito è necessario ricordare come nel 2015 il dottorando italiano Giulio Regeni venne rapito, torturato e ucciso al Cairo dopo una presunta estorsione di denaro. Allo stesso modo nel Dicembre 2021, Patrick Zaki, uno studente egiziano dell’Università di Bologna, è stato finalmente rilasciato dopo essere stato detenuto illegalmente e picchiato a Mansoura, in Egitto, per quasi un anno. Alla triste lista si può aggiungere anche Marco Zennaro, un imprenditore veneziano, tenuto prigioniero in Sudan per quasi un anno prima del suo rilascio.

Mentre questi eventi hanno indebolito le relazioni diplomatiche tra l’Italia e i paesi del MENA, alcune ostilità di recente memoria sono in realtà servite a rafforzare i loro legami strategici. Nonostante non abbiano raggiunto i loro obiettivi strategici, le truppe di pace italiane a Beirut durante la guerra civile libanese negli anni ’80 sono state lodate per la loro “neutralità sostenuta, il comportamento rispettoso e il minimo uso della forza”.

In un articolo del 2017, la studiosa Elisabetta Brighi ha osservato che in Medio Oriente “l’Italia ha perseguito una serie di interessi strategici – nelle aree della migrazione, dell’energia, della sicurezza e della geopolitica – in parallelo, ma talvolta in aperto contrasto con una serie di impegni normativi per i diritti umani, la democrazia e lo stato di diritto”. L’Italia ha dovuto anche fare i conti con “il ruolo peculiare degli interessi corporativi – in particolare quelli delle compagnie petrolifere ed energetiche – nella definizione di interessi nazionali del paese”. La necessità per l’Italia di bilanciare gli interessi strategici, dei diritti umani e dell’energia in Medio Oriente e Nord Africa è diventata più cruciale nelle ultime settimane e continuerà a crescere nei prossimi anni. Mentre l’Italia e l’Europa occidentale cercano fonti energetiche diverse e sicure al di fuori dell’Europa Orientale, anche il Nord Africa potrebbe rivolgere il proprio potere d’acquisto di grano in Occidente. È necessario quindi che si instaurino nuove forme di collaborazione e che i leader cerchino soluzioni diplomatiche a problemi strategici e di diritti umani di lunga data.