April 13, 2022No Comments

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.

November 26, 2021No Comments

Middle East: Toward a Sustainable Regional Security System?

By: Martina Gambacorta.

Image: This amazing tangled knot of a diagram, made by U.K. data journalist David McCandless, displays the key players and notable relationships in the Middle East. What it communicates is something no one doubts: the Middle East is a confusing place. Image Source: https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/ng-interactive/2014/sep/24/friends-and-enemies-in-the-middle-east-who-is-connected-to-who-interactive

Without doubt, security is the first and fundamental objective of governments involved in the building of a sustainable regional security in the Middle East but it is not the only one. On one hand, different actors are cooperating to counter the Iranian threat and the affiliated militias. On the other hand, multilateral cooperation is taking a way forward from the mere security interests, while economic and thus political aims are now being prioritized. One of the things that emerged  especially in the last 20 years, is that the US role in the region is vitally important but it works much better when it is done through multilateral efforts of allies. In an ideal World one would see the inclusion of Russia and China in this multilateral work, but if not, it is up to the countries of the region, the US, the EU and other willing actors to try to take action to address the regional challenges. Up to now military action has played an important role—through aviation, maritime and border security; but we are moving toward an increased non-military cooperation. 

In Middle Eastern minds, a unified front would play a decisive role in dealing with major fundamental challenges that are undermining the regional stability, such as Iran. Nonetheless, such unified front would not only look at allies, but would strive to include enemies too. Saudi Arabia and Iran informal talks are a clear proof of how the two want to avoid a collision that would destabilize their respective systems of power.

In this frame, the Middle Eastern geopolitical scene has been shaken in recent years by a completely unexpected, almost paradoxical, convergence such as that between Saudi Arabia and Israel. In this case, the most significant episodes were perhaps the apparently repeated meetings, between 2016 and 2018, between the influential Saudi prince Turkī al-Fayṣal, former head of the secret services, and Tzipi Livni, co-secretary of the largest Israeli opposition party, together with General Amos Yadlin and his colleague Ya'akov Amidror, formerly head of military intelligence and National Security Advisor. Since those years, an intelligence-sharing program has begun between Saudi Arabia and Israel to monitor both the pro-Iranian non-state actors in the region, from Ḥizbullah to the ḥūṯī, and the advancement of the Iranian missile program. 

In Riyadh, the hope is that Israel—through its influence on groups in Washington—will be able to coordinate robust pressure on the US political establishment to activate containment of Iran, by introducing or re-imposing sanctions, and possibly helping to reactivate Washington's commitment to defending the interests of all its traditional Middle Eastern allies. The Saudis therefore offered new demonstrations of loyalty to the United States, including a willingness to open a new chapter to secure Israel's future in the region.

Such normalization reflects nothing but the footsteps traced by Obama, Trump and Biden’s presidencies to leave responsibilities to local actors whenever US interests are not at stake. Also, it reflects a profound need for a sustainable regional security system that could develop simultaneously to the creation of ties of political and economic-financial nature and access to resources. An example is the announcement of the giant Dubai Port (Dp) World that it intends to settle in the Israeli port of Haifa or the maritime expansion strategy of the United Arab Emirates. This demonstrates a need for new funding and space to stay afloat in a crisis environment. 

In this sense, the "Abraham Agreements" go toward this direction but do not come out of nowhere, in that  they represent a tactical convergence between the interests of the actors involved. The Arab Gulf countries, including Qatar and Oman, have been cultivating economic-financial, intelligence and security relations with Israel for years, behind the scenes or in a semi-formal manner. 

In 2015, the Emirates granted the Jewish state to establish diplomatic representation at the International Renewable Energy Agency based in Abu Dhabi. Together with Egypt, Qatar has been the main mediator between Hamas and Israel for years. In 2018, Oman formally received Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the same year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an interview that Israelis "have a right to have their own land" and that Saudi Arabia "has no problems with Jews". Also in 2018, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khaled ben Ahmad Al Khalifa even went so far as to take Israel's side against Iran. Commenting on the umpteenth air raid in Syria attributed to the Jewish State Air Force against alleged Iranian military bases, he stated that "Israel has the right to defend itself and eliminate sources of danger".  

If the Turkish threat is added to the Iranian one, the Jewish state could be—together with Russia—a new factor of protection. Behind the curtain of the agreements also hides Saudi Arabia. If Bahrain has signed an agreement with Israel, it is because Riyadh has given the green light. Saudi Arabia then granted the opening of its airspace to air links between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv. To do more, Mohammed bin Salman must wait to formally take power, so that his father - the over eighty and sick King Salman - passes away. Mohammed bin Salman’s ambition is to become the protector of all the holy places of Islam. Science fiction, at least for now. 

Is this frame a solid basis for a sustainable regional security system? It is too early to answer and in the following 20 years changes will shape a new frame. As presented in this article,  advances have been made and different actors are building a new unified front. Nonetheless, unanswered questions still remain. One of this concerns Iran and the future of the JCPOA. Should a comprise be found, and sanctions reduced, the unified front will undoubtedly accommodate the US. Nonetheless, the JCPOA works have proofed to be a failure in the past, and unexpected outcomes cannot be excluded. Moreover, the JCPOA will not be enough to tackle other issue but the nuclear one. While allies are talking to each other, and enemies are being included in such dialogue, religious and ethnic differences won’t be easily overcome through politics and economics.

November 9, 2021No Comments

Interview with H.E. Amb. Khaled Zekriya, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Italy

An interview with H.E. Ambassador Khaled Ahmad Zekriya, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Rome, Italy; regarding the recent events in Afghanistan and the importance of the international community's cooperation to avoid Taliban's violence and terrorism.

Interviewer: Shahin Modarres.

October 1, 2021No Comments

Iran and the International Community: A Frame

In this interview, the Ambassador Giulio di Sant’Agata, former Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, tackles a complex issue: the International Community's response to the Iranian threat.

Interviewer: Martina Gambacorta

September 20, 20212 Comments

Afghanistan Fallout: Time to Rethink Pak-US Relations?

By: Mariam Qureshi

Prime Minister Imran Khan during his speech at the National Assembly of Pakistan in June 2021. 
Source: https://www.dawn.com/news/1632376

United States’ longest war in Afghanistan has finally come to a haphazard end. The Taliban remain undefeated and now control Afghanistan. How does the United States intend to utilise its alliance with Pakistan to preserve peace and security in the country without having boots on the ground?

United States’ (US) longest war came at an astronomical cost with 66,000 to 69,000 Afghan troops and 2,500 US troops killed, and over $2 trillion spent since the war began in 2001. In addition, 2.7 million Afghans were forced to migrate and another 4 million were internally displaced. Despite this, the US-backed Afghan military rapidly collapsed, and the Taliban spared no time in taking over and establishing an interim government. Taliban-controlled Afghanistan has increased the fear of terrorism and the return of Al-Qaeda to the region. The shrinking economy and curtailed women and human rights have further worsened the socio-economic situation in Afghanistan.

The Biden Administration was heavily criticised for the haphazard US evacuation before the September 1st deadline, leaving behind its’ allies and US citizens in Afghanistan. Antony Blinken, President Biden’s Secretary of State, rushed to defend the chaotic US pull-out from Afghanistan in the first official testimony to the members of Congress since the exit. In his opening remarks, he stated there was no chance of extending the US stay in Afghanistan because if 20 years and billions of dollars did not suffice, another year or five would not have made much of a difference. At this point, many have turned to Pakistan, expecting it to play a vital role in preserving peace and stability in the region.

However, the Pakistan-US relationship is at a low. Blinken asserted the need for Washington to reassess its relationship with Pakistan. Whilst acknowledging Pakistan’s contribution to the US endeavour in Afghanistan, Blinken also stated that at times Pakistan acted against US interests. “This is one of the things we're going to be looking at in the days, and weeks ahead — the role that Pakistan has played over the last 20 years. But also, the role we would want to see it play in the coming years and what it will take for it to do that,” he said. Blinken also stated that Pakistan must ‘line up’ with the broader international community in denying the legitimacy of the Afghan Taliban, unless they ensure free travel, the protection of women and children’s rights, and guarantee no safe haven for terrorism again. 

Pakistan assisted the US in its War on Terror in 2001, under the leadership of President General Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan signed the framework of cooperation in terms of Air Lines of Communication (ALOC) and Ground Lines of Communication (GLOC), which granted the US Military access to Pakistani ground and airspace. This allowed for operations to be conducted swiftly in Afghanistan and the agreement remains in place to date. General Musharraf, the then Pakistani President, also allowed US troops access to airbases and granted permission for military aircraft to deploy from Pakistani soil. Then, in 2019, Pakistan took the initiative to facilitate the Afghan-US peace dialogue to reinstall peace in the region. The increased engagement with the US during the early years of the 2001 War in Afghanistan created a domestic security challenge for Pakistan. The increased terrorist attacks on Pakistani soil compromised Pakistan’s international image and the burden of incoming Afghan refugees fleeing their war-torn country crippled Pakistan’s already weak economy and limited resources. The mismanaged Pak-Afghan border, Durand Line, became the gateway for drug smuggling, human trafficking, refugee migration, and cross-border terrorism after 9/11. Although Pakistan is the largest trading partner of landlocked Afghanistan, its economic ties have dwindled over the years due to political and security tensions in the region. Pakistan also suffered a loss of 70,000 lives with a further $150 billion loss to its economyas a result of this war. Therefore, a stable Afghanistan is also in Pakistan’s best interest.

However, the tension between the US and Pakistan is evident and is hampering the creation of a viable strategy for Afghanistan moving forward. Despite being a critical ally to the US in its war in Afghanistan, President Biden has not reached out to Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan since assuming office in January 2021. Regardless of the repeated assurances from Washington in keeping close contact with Pakistan and working together in devising a strategy for Afghanistan, Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf conveyed Pakistan’s displeasure at the delay in the phone call from the White House. 

In an interview in June, Journalist Jonathan Swan asked PM Imran Khan if he would allow CIA presence in Pakistan to conduct cross-border counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan against Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Taliban. PM Khan replied with a stern ‘absolutely not’.  Later, Pakistan Foreign Office officially denied any reports claiming the presence of US bases in Pakistan. In a recent speech at the National Assembly of Pakistan, PM Khan clarified that Pakistan could be ‘partners with the United States in peace but never in conflict’. PM Khan lamented that past decisions to join the US in its war against terrorism which jeopardized the security of Pakistan and came at a heavy price for Pakistani civilians and soldiers. This suggests a policy divergence from the longstanding Pak-US cooperation.  

PM Khan has reiterated his position in several interviews that he believes in a political solution to the Afghanistan problem. In a recent interview with CNN, he emphasized the need for an inclusive government and the assurance of women and human rights in Afghanistan. PM Khan clarified that he wants the international community to find a diplomatic solution to pressure the Taliban government into protecting women and human rights, exercising inclusive governance, and ensuring there's no safe haven for terrorism on Afghan soil, in exchange for international recognition and desperately needed aid. He elaborated that the conclusion of the two-decade-long war has proven that Afghanistan and its’ people cannot be controlled by outside forces and that a puppet government cannot survive in Afghanistan. 

Pakistan, under PM Imran Khan, desires a stable and peaceful Afghanistan and is not interested in negotiating with the US on future military endeavours. Moving forward, this will have implications on the Pak-US relationship, which will, by extension, also reconfigure the security situation in the region. If the Pak-US alliance is in jeopardy and the US looks towards India for a potential alliance, Pakistan might increasingly look to China for support. All key states have a stake in Afghanistan, which seems dangerously close to collapse. Only time will reveal how the alliances are reconfigured in a post-war scenario in the region. 

June 17, 2021No Comments

A reflection on climate change and security with Dr. Duraid Jalili (Part I)

In the first part of this interview, ITSS Human Security team members Esther Ruiz and Arsan Sheik interview Dr. Duraid Jalili on climate change and security.

Dr. Duraid is a lecturer at King’s College Defence Studies Department and he is also the founder and co-Director of the Environmental Security Research Group. In this first part of the interview,  he talks about the new security challenges driven by natural disasters and the adaptation of national security and military strategies to climate change.  Stay tuned for the second part of the Podcast!

Interviewing Team: Esther Ruiz and Arsan Sheik

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

European Security Challenges

Currently, there exists no popular support to equip the Union with substantial military capabilities to defend itself against common threats. 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 questions such as what the risks 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 pivoted around 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. 

Approaches to Security

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. However, 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 the Indo-Pacific. 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 complexity to the EU’s defence strategy. In January 2021, the European Union officially lost an important partner for its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Other than holding one of the most powerful militaries in the world, the United Kingdom, together with France, has historically proved essential in 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. This would allow 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.

Moving forward

Initiatives such as the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PeSCo) and the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) are turning points for a coordinated approach to security. 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. The unanimity factor implies that if member states do not arrive at a consensus other states might make a move to solely benefit themselves.

Conclusion

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. There is an inevitable overlap between internal and external security threats. Exchanging information is crucial 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 possibly fissured relations between the UK and the EU, as press biases indicate.

Europe needs to cooperate to bring forward a common defence framework that 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 pandemic and Brexit are increasing the temperature of the stove. European leaders should know that a watched pot never boils.

Here is an in-depth analysis of Russia’s motivation in the region.

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.