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The paper presents the challenges to stability arising in the MENA region and having a possible impact on Western peace and security. It identifies the regional actors' efforts to maximize their power, Russia's revisionist efforts, China's ambitions, as well as the phenomena (or asymmetric threats) of migration and terrorism. The paper focuses on the competition of power and concludes that the strategic value of the region around the South Eastern Mediterranean has increased, that Western states should determine and coordinate their policies, and their institutions should increase their efforts and presence, cooperating, among others, with other pro-Western countries in the region.


The purpose of this paper is to discuss the short- and long-term challenges to Western security, appearing in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.1 To do so I am going to present the policies of both regional and international actors, who, as they compete for power and hegemony in the region, endanger peace and stability. In my opinion the reasons of the current instability remain systemic, non-domestic, and in no case due to religious antagonisms. After all, in Syria, Iraq, or Libya, no-one is fighting over the issue who is the rightful successor to Prophet Mohammed, but over who is going to control, partially or totally, these three states.

This approach, focusing on power competition, is rather a traditional one. It distances itself, however, from the two dominant and often aphoristic tendencies that are usually adopted by some of the political literature and the press in order to understand these issues and analyse the events of this region. The first claims that the basic cause of what is happening in the region is a competition for energy resources (hydrocarbons), provided by the simplistic approach of geography to international politics, usually supported with maps and (often imaginary) plans for pipelines. The second approach focuses on intra- or inter-faith hate and clashes. It claims that the cause of the instability in the region is religion, appearing both as a competition between the two dominant Muslim denominations, Sunni and Shia Islam, and as an effort of some of their factions to wage a war against the infidels of the region and, more generally, of the West. 

Obviously, in my perspective, both explanations are essentially inadequate as they focus on the partial and not the general... Download the paper

Δημοσιευμένο στην κατηγορία Ενδιαφέροντα
Τρίτη, 03 Μάρτιος 2015 21:17

NATO's Most Problematic Member: An Authoritarian Turkey

By Ted Galen Carpenter

This article appeared on Aspenia Online on February 11, 2015.

Worries about Turkey's conduct are growing rapidly among fellow NATO members. There are multiple concerns, some of which have surfaced periodically before, while others are either new or at least much more salient. All of them are now combining to make critics wonder whether Turkey is a reliable or even a tolerable ally. Seth Cropsey, a Senior Fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute in the United States, denounces what he termed "Turkey's contempt for NATO principles." International media mogul Conrad Black urges NATO members to "get tough with Turkey."

One issue, Turkey's continuing occupation of northern Cyprus, is a long-standing irritant, but it has acquired new relevance given NATO's stance against Russia's actions in Ukraine. Ankara's forces invaded Cyprus and amputated some 37% of that country's territory in 1974. Turkey subsequently established a client state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which even today enjoys virtually no international recognition. Since Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004, it has become increasingly awkward for countries that are part of both that organization and NATO to ignore the ongoing occupation of a fellow EU member's territory.

Recent developments have made Turkey's stance on the Cyprus issue even more of an embarrassment, especially to the United States as NATO's leader. It is rather difficult for Washington to condemn Vladimir Putin's regime for annexing Crimea or setting up puppet states in the occupied Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia when a NATO member is guilty of similar behavior.

Disgruntled Americans and other Westerners also view Ankara's overall foreign policy with mounting suspicion. US supporters of Israel especially regard Turkey's increasingly frosty treatment of that country as a manifestation of hostility toward both Western interests and Western values. Ankara's conduct regarding ISIS has aroused additional concerns that Turkish leaders are conducting a cynical flirtation with radical Islamist forces in the Middle East. Not only did President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government drag its feet on supporting air strikes against ISIS by the United States and other NATO allies, but there were indications that Turkish leaders actively impeded measures to weaken the terrorist organization. For an agonizingly long period of time, the Erdoğan regime did little to assist besieged Kurdish defenders trying to thwart the attempt by ISIS forces to conquer the city of Kobane on the Turkish-Syrian border.

And as if Ankara's behavior on the foreign policy front was not a sufficient worry, there are ominous signs of mounting authoritarianism in Turkey's domestic affairs. Civil organizations and independent press outlets repeatedly find themselves under siege. Steven A. Cook, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, documents the extent of Erdoğan's consolidation of power, contending that "he has become the sun around which all Turkish politics revolve."

Cook notes in an article on that most of the Turkish press now exhibits support bordering on adoration for the President and his policies, and the dominance of that view is largely the result of "forced sales of newspapers and television stations to Erdoğan cronies." Perhaps even more unsettling than the transformation of an independent Turkish press into cogs in a partisan political machine is the media's participation in the President's growing cult of personality. Media outlets routinely refer to Erdoğan as "Buyuk Usta or Great Master." Cook notes that the atmosphere and imagery is sometimes "positively North Korean-esque."

Former supporters of Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party are now treated as enemies of the state, not merely political opponents. At the end of October, Turkey's National Security Council branded the Gülen Movement, once the government's most significant political ally, as a threat to national security. Erdoğan personally presided over the meeting at which that charge was adopted. At the beginning of February, the Turkish government revoked the passport of Gülen's leader, Fethullah Gülen, who resides in the United States. That decision effectively stranded him in exile without even a modicum of due process. Such actions smack of petty political retaliation against a critic of the regime, with an intent to intimidate other potential critics. In December, the US State Department formally protested the arrest of more than two dozen leading media figures — all of whom appeared to be vocal opponents of the Erdoğan administration.

The government's increasingly oppressive hand is evident in other respects. When investigators conducted a wide-ranging probe of official corruption, leading to the resignation of four government ministers, Erdoğan's regime retaliated by purging hundreds of police officials and prosecutors. It also pushed through laws giving the President tighter control over the judiciary. According to Reuters, a few weeks later, Erdoğan ominously asserted that the judiciary and other state institutions must be "cleansed of traitors."

Granted, Turkey is not the only NATO country exhibiting worrisome autocratic behavior. US officials have expressed alarm at the apparent authoritarianism and corruption enveloping Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government in Hungary. Orban's crackdown on human rights groups is disturbingly similar to Vladimir Putin's campaign against domestic opponents. One of Orban's targets is the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, which, ironically, had supported him a decade earlier when he was under intense pressure from political adversaries.

Over the past few years, harassment of media outlets, civil organizations, and other critics of Orban's rule has steadily grown. In rhetoric reminiscent of Putin, Orban has been reported as asserting that such groups are "paid political activists attempting to assert foreign interests in Hungary." The Prime Minister now touts the alleged virtues of autocracy, citing China, Russia, Singapore and Turkey, as models of successful countries that Hungary should consider emulating. Orban has even reportedly proposed mandatory drug testing for journalists.

Budapest's authoritarian drift, combined with the government's growing foreign policy flirtation with Russia has alarmed not only officials in other NATO countries but pro-Western elements in Hungary itself. Such concerns were evident at the beginning of February when thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets of the capital to protest Orban's policies and urge visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel not to accord his regime any deference.

As bad as domestic political trends are in Hungary, however, they pale in comparison to the manifestations of autocracy in Turkey. The rising tide of domestic authoritarianism there is not a small concern, nor purely a domestic issue. True, NATO has previously tolerated illiberal regimes and even outright dictatorships as members. Founding member Portugal was a quasi-fascist country under Antonio Salazar. Throughout the Cold War, the military was the decisive power broker in Turkey's political system, and on occasion the country even lapsed into outright military rule. Greece suffered under a brutal military dictatorship in the late 1960s and early 1970s without forfeiting its NATO membership.

But it would be far more difficult in the 21st century for the Alliance to look the other way as a member succumbs to dictatorial impulses. During the Cold War, it was widely understood that NATO was primarily an anti-Soviet defense association. The professed commitment to liberal democracy, while important, was secondary. But in the post-Cold War era, NATO leaders repeatedly stress the organization's commitment to democracy and human rights. It would be more than a little embarrassing to have a Putin-style autocracy emerge in NATO's ranks. Yet that is now an embryonic worry with respect to Hungary and a looming danger with respect to Turkey.

Source: CATO Institute

Δημοσιευμένο στην κατηγορία Ενδιαφέροντα
Κυριακή, 23 Νοέμβριος 2014 11:05

Τhe Balkans are somehow lost in the transition

Στις 5 Νοεμβρίου ήμουν ανάμεσα στους προσκεκλημένους Έλληνες ακαδημαϊκούς στη συνάντηση των μελών της Κοινοβουλευτικής Συνέλευσης του ΝΑΤΟ. Παρακάτω μπορείτε να διαβάσετε την ομιλία μου προς τα μέλη της Συνέλευσης.

Κουσκουβέλης Βουλή ΝΑΤΟ


Ladies and gentlemen,
My topic is "A Greek perspective on security challenges in the Balkans". Obviously is the perspective of a Greek scholar, and not of the government or any other institution of this country.

My main thesis is that, twenty five years after the end of the Cold War, the Balkans are somehow lost in the transition and face several security challenges.

I will start with a brief account of what has happened in the last twenty five years, and, then, I will list ten possible security threats for the region.

The reality of the post-Cold War era was hard and caused changes in the region - some of which were extremely painful. The collapse of communism in neighbouring countries and the opening of borders led to the first wave of about 600.000 economic immigrants in Greece, with obvious economic, political and social consequences.

Since 1991, a decade of wars has started in the former Yugoslavia: in Croatia (1992-1993), in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1993-1996), in Kosovo (1999-2000). To these wars, one should add two major crises, almost civil wars, the first in Albania (1997), and, the second, in FYROM, to which Greece assumed a particularly stabilizing role.

However, Greece and especially my region, the region of Macedonia, were negatively affected by these events. Former Yugoslavia was the land access to the rest of Europe that was lost for about a decade, leading to the rise of transport costs for Greek products, and to the consequent loss of markets.
A result of these changes was the appearance of new states, one of which, the FYROM, in the northern borders of Greece, claiming not just a name, but also land, and a great part of Hellenic history and culture. This dispute remains unsolved, due basically to irredentist claims against Greece, and to the lack of willingness to compromise from the government of Skopje.

During the same period, Bulgaria and Romania went through their own hardships, and their economic and political restructuring.. Ultimately, the two countries joined all Western institutions and, in 2007, they have joined the EU.
Greece has thus acquired for the first time land borders with the EU, and this offers a sense of security for the international transports sector. A feeling of security has been also created for the Greek investments in the two countries, which, as you may know, are important. Over time and progressively, new investment opportunities are created in areas such as education, culture, tourism, new technologies.

Without forgetting the beneficial for the region accession to the EU of Slovenia and most recently of Croatia, Bulgaria's and Romania's EU membership contributed to a more effective cooperation in areas of "low" politics, such as the fight against crime, immigration, environment, energy, transports, etc.
Of particular importance is the increase in the free movement and cross border installation of citizens. Something similar to the free movement of citizens is happening in the world of businesses. The development of regions across the border has already begun, because of the free movement, leading to further cross border cooperation.

Furthermore, Greece and the region are now benefiting of an East-West highway connection (via Egnatia, from the Ionian Sea to Turkey) and the whole region of Macedonia will benefit from the construction of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), transferring natural gas from Azerbaijan all the way through Turkey, Greece, and Albania, to Italy. The improvement of the railway linking Thessaloniki with Skopje, Sofia and Constantinople will benefit great the countries linked.

Yet, there are several threats to the security of the region, resulting from the past and present causes. I prepared and present you a list of ten:

1. Interstate disputes resulting out of revisionism and ultra-nationalism.

2. Inter-ethnic tensions

3. Corruption

4. Organized crime

5. Religious radicalism

6. Demographic pressures and imbalances

7. Related to demographic imbalances are the emigration and immigration pressures

8. Environmental issues

9. Poor economic performance
Based on 2013 data, the following may be noted:
• Although their real GDP growth rates (on average) were higher during the last decade than the respective in the EU(28), they continue to be the poorest in terms of GDP per capita (with the exception of Greece), which remains less than half of EU(28).
• They are characterized by relatively higher inlfation rates (exception: disinflation in Greece and in Bosnia & Herzegovina).
• Unemployment rates are double on average than the respective in EU(28) countries.
• Nominal monthly wages in FYROM, Bulgaria, and Romania are less than 200 Euros/month, when the average in the Balkan region is around 300, and in Greece around 700 Euros/month.

10. International Environment
The precarious stability of the region was, and is still threatened by conflicts in Europe's near abroad. The events of the so-called "Arab spring" in Northern Africa, the war in Libya, and the war in Syria and Iraq have produced, besides the huge toll of human and material destruction, an important flow of refugees towards Europe through Greece and Italy, often with tragic consequences. Moreover, to these events one should add the Ukrainian crisis, which provoked negative consequences in many sectors, particularly the economic, for all countries in the region.

Finally, and this will conclude my presentation, the stability and well being of the region depends from the behaviour and the involvement of outside the region states (from the Northeast, the East, and the Southeast).
In my opinion, any government inside and especially outside the region, before acting, should bear in mind that all Balkan states have opted for a European orientation, and the consequent stability and prosperity. Self restraint from all actors inside and outside the Balkans, inviolability of borders, deepening of democratic institutions, and economic development will benefit all peoples of the region.




Δημοσιευμένο στην κατηγορία Κουσκουβέλης - Εξωτερική Πολιτική
Παρασκευή, 01 Νοέμβριος 2013 09:34

Greece should not waste opportunities

For three years now, Greece deals with the issues of its economic crisis. Parallel to them, the foreign policy issues continue to increase and need to be addressed. It seems, however, that there is no strategy for them. Even worse, the foreign policy issues seem to have being sacrificed to the crisis' alter, when Greece could just act in a smart way, by, for example, delimiting its Mediterranean Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and turn it and its resources into one of the tools that would help the country address its economic problems.

Certainly there have been meetings of Greek officials with their counterparts from FYROM, Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, and, most recently, Egypt. Yet, important questions remain unanswered. What is Greece's policy towards Turkey? Is it a policy of settlement of disputes from a position of equal strength, is it a policy of bandwagoning, or a policy of appeasement? What is the country's goal in the new round of negotiations with FYROM, regarding the name issue? Will Greece support actively the Cypriot efforts in order to end the Turkish illegal occupation? What will Greece do about the declaration and delimitation of a Mediterranean EEZ and when?

Reasonably, one could argue that when you are in debt you can not easily perform foreign policy. This is wrong in the context of Greek bilateral relations. First, to put it simply, Greece does not owe money to Ankara, Skopje or any of its neighbors. Secondly, it still maintains some other comparative advantages in relation to them, especially its participation to both the EU and NATO. Thirdly, even in lean years, foreign policy is a matter of priorities, strategy and determination; the attitude of each country towards international issues is a matter of political ability and choices.

Cyprus is showing Greece and everyone how a small country, under the threat of the invader, assessed correctly the emerging energy context in its region and moved decisively. Late President Papadopoulos allied with U.S. and Israeli economic interests in order to search for hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean. Former President Christofias, with a communist ideological background, brought Cyprus into an alliance with Israel. Their moves have begun to bear fruit, judging by the perspective of natural gas exploitation, and by the statements of powerful governments on the exploitation of the Eastern Mediterranean energy resources and the Turkish illegal occupation.

Contrary to Cyprus, it seems that Greece, although it may only gain from the emerging situation, has not done much towards benefiting from the new energy opportunities. Greece, however, may only gain by closely cooperating with Israel and Cyprus – the only democratic states in the Eastern Mediterranean. The three states may provide valuable energy resources to their partners, and offer, in comparison to other routes (i.e., via Turkey), an alternative and safe route for the streaming of energy towards the West.

Thus, Greece must define as soon as possible its foreign policy objectives, gain international support, and act accordingly. No opportunities should be wasted, especially when, in the medium-term, they can contribute to the country's exit from the economic crisis.

Δημοσιευμένο στην κατηγορία Κουσκουβέλης - Εξωτερική Πολιτική

Σήμερα αργά το απόγευμα πέτυχα να συνδεθώ διαδικτυακά και να παρακολουθήσω εξ ολοκλήρου δύο πολύ καλές αγορεύσεις νομικών της χώρας μας.

Ο W. Michael Reisman, Καθηγητής στη Νομική Σχολή του Yale, ανέπτυξε ένα κύριο ζήτημα, καθαρά δικονομικό, το αν δηλαδή το Διεθνές Δικαστήριο της Χάγης έχει την αρμοδιότητα να δικάσει και να αποφασίσει για τη συγκεκριμένη διαφορά, δηλαδή την κατά τους Σκοπιανούς παραβίαση της Ενδιάμεσης Συμφωνίας με την παρεμπόδιση των Σκοπιανών να ενταχθούν στο ΝΑΤΟ.  

Σύμφωνα με τον δικηγόρο της χώρας μας όλα τα θέματα που προέκυψαν ανάγονται στο όνομα και γι’ αυτό το Δικαστήριο δεν έχει αρμοδιότητα να επιληφθεί της υπόθεσης.  Επιπλέον, απέρριψε με νομικά επιχειρήματα την άποψη που ανέπτυξαν τα Σκόπια ότι η απόφαση 817 του Συμβουλίου Ασφαλείας του 1993 δεν είναι δεσμευτική για τα Σκόπια.  

Ο Καθηγητής υπογράμμισε ότι η υποχρέωση των Σκοπίων με βάση τις αποφάσεις ένταξης στον ΟΗΕ και την Ενδιάμεση Συμφωνία είναι η χρήση του προσωρινού ονόματος μέχρι τη συμφωνία μεταξύ των δύο πλευρών και, κυρίως, να διαπραγματευτούν για το όνομα με καλή πίστη.  Και αυτό, χρησιμοποιώντας δηλώσεις Σκοπιανών ηγετών, συμπεριλαμβανομένου και του Τσερβένκοφσκι, ο Reisman απέδειξε ότι τα Σκόπια δεν το έπραξαν.

Τελευταίος για σήμερα το απόγευμα αγόρευσε ο Γάλλος Alain Pellet (Αλαίν Πελέ), Καθηγητής στο Πανεπιστήμιο Paris Ouest, Nanterre/La Défense, ο οποίος λόγω χρόνου δεν ολοκλήρωσε την τοποθέτησή του.  Έθεσε και αυτός θέμα αρμοδιότητας του Δικαστηρίου, στη βάση του επιχειρήματος, ότι το Δικαστήριο υπεισέρχεται σε ένα κατ’εξοχήν πολιτικό ζήτημα.  Συγκεκριμένα, υποστήριξε πως αν το Δικαστήριο αποφασίσει για το αν τα Σκόπια έπρεπε ή δεν έπρεπε να εμποδιστούν να ενταχθούν στο ΝΑΤΟ, τότε αυτό θα σήμαινε ότι: πρώτον, το Δικαστήριο θα παρενέβαινε σε μία καθαρά πολιτική διαδικασία και, δεύτερον, το Δικαστήριο θα υποκαθιστούσε το ΝΑΤΟ, δηλαδή τον φορέα που αποφασίζει για το αν και ποια χώρα θα ενταχθεί.

Ο Αλαίν Πελέ επίσης απέδειξε, χρησιμοποιώντας δηλώσεις διπλωματών (μάλιστα φιλικά προσκειμένων κατά τη Σύνοδο του Βουκουρεστίου στα Σκόπια, όπως του πρεσβευτή της Τσεχίας) ότι η μη ένταξη των Σκοπίων ήταν απόφαση του ΝΑΤΟ και δεν έγινε ποτέ ψηφοφορία για την ένταξη των Σκοπίων, ώστε να μπορεί οποιοσδήποτε να επιχειρηματολογήσει ότι αποδεδειγμένα κάποια χώρα ήταν αντίθετη στην ένταξη των Σκοπίων.  Η απόφαση ήταν του ΝΑΤΟ και γι αυτό αν υπάρχει κάποια συγκεκριμένη διαφορά επί του θέματος, τότε αυτή θα έπρεπε να είναι μεταξύ των Σκοπίων και του ΝΑΤΟ και όχι με την Ελλάδα.

Δημοσιευμένο στην κατηγορία Κουσκουβέλης - Εξωτερική Πολιτική
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