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Ηλίας Κουσκουβέλης

Ηλίας Κουσκουβέλης

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Spoiler Alerts is pretty fond of classic works of international relations. Over the past half-year, it's been interesting how certain classic works come to mind in trying to think about where we are today.

Trying to get a grip on the current moment is difficult. It seems as though we are poised uneasily between the existing liberal international order and whatever Team Trump and the Populist Legion of Doom manages to stumble into create while in office. The stock market seems perfectly unruffled about this; I am not so sanguine.

As I try to figure what's going on, there are three quotes from three classic works that I cannot shake. The problem is that I'm not sure which one is correct.

The first comes from Kenneth Waltz's 1979 realist bible, "Theory of International Politics":

The texture of international politics remains highly constant, patterns recur, and events repeat themselves endlessly. The relations that prevail internationally seldom shift rapidly in type or in quality. They are marked instead by a dismaying persistence.

It is easy to say that nothing that is happening right now is normal, that the world has changed. It is harder but no less important to think about whether what seems strange right now does not amount to significant change in the future. President Trump vowed that he would get along well with Russia, but it's funny how forces beyond Trump's control have made that much less likely. Maybe, for all of the current craziness, the status quo will endure.

The second quote comes from John Maynard Keynes's tell-all about the Versailles treaty, "The Economic Consequences of the Peace." Keynes was convinced — correctly, as it turned out — that the treaty was too harsh toward Germany and would depress economic growth going forward. He also had lots of dishy things to say about the leaders at Versailles. But what makes this book stand out now is Keynes's ode to what life was like in 1914, before the war started and economies closed up. His first chapter highlights what the war and its aftermath cost Europeans:

What an extraordinary episode in the economic progress of man that age was which came to an end in August, 1914! The greater part of the population, it is true, worked hard and lived at a low standard of comfort, yet were, to all appearances, reasonably contented with this lot. But escape was possible, for any man of capacity or character at all exceeding the average, into the middle and upper classes, for whom life offered, at a low cost and with the least trouble, conveniences, comforts, and amenities beyond the compass of the richest and most powerful monarchs of other ages. The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, in such quantity as he might see fit, and reasonably expect their early delivery upon his doorstep; he could at the same moment and by the same means adventure his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprises of any quarter of the world, and share, without exertion or even trouble, in their prospective fruits and advantages; or he could decide to couple the security of his fortunes with the good faith of the townspeople of any substantial municipality in any continent that fancy or information might recommend.

What is particularly sobering is what Keynes said regarding how geopolitical animosities affected people's confidence that the status quo would persist.

Most important of all, [the inhabitant of London] regarded this state of affairs as normal, certain, and permanent, except in the direction of further improvement, and any deviation from it as aberrant, scandalous, and avoidable. The projects and politics of militarism and imperialism, of racial and cultural rivalries, of monopolies, restrictions, and exclusion, which were to play the serpent to this paradise, were little more than the amusements of his daily newspaper, and appeared to exercise almost no influence at all on the ordinary course of social and economic life, the internationalization of which was nearly complete in practice.

This passage might resonate more if the Trump administration's more insane trade ideas come to fruition.

Finally, there is Thucydides's "History of the Peloponnesian War." I've long been a fan of this history, but with each passing year the passage that stands out more and more is his description of how war and revolution affected daily life in Greek city-states. See if this sounds familiar:

Revolution thus ran its course from city to city, and the places which it arrived at last, from having heard what had been done before, carried to a still greater excess the refinement of their inventions, as manifested in the cunning of their enterprises and the atrocity of their reprisals. Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries. In fine, to forestall an intending criminal, or to suggest the idea of a crime where it was wanting, was equally commended until even blood became a weaker tie than party, from the superior readiness of those united by the latter to dare everything without reserve; for such associations had not in view the blessings derivable from established institutions but were formed by ambition for their overthrow; and the confidence of their members in each other rested less on any religious sanction than upon complicity in crime. The fair proposals of an adversary were met with jealous precautions by the stronger of the two, and not with a generous confidence. Revenge also was held of more account than self-preservation.

The next time someone tells me that Thucydides is not relevant to the problems of the 21st-century world, I think I'll just read that passage aloud until they cry uncle.

So, talk amongst yourselves: Which of the passages quoted above speaks the clearest to you, and why?

Original text: Drezner, Daniel. Which classic work of international relations offers the most pertinent description of today?. The Washington Post. 


Λευκωσία: Η Τουρκία πρέπει να υφίσταται κόστος για τη συμπεριφορά της, δηλώνει ο καθηγητής Διεθνών σχέσεων, Ηλίας Κουσκουβέλης. Σε συνέντευξή του στον «Φ» και σχολιάζοντας την τακτική των εντάσεων που υιοθετεί η Άγκυρα στο Αιγαίο, ανέφερε πως η Τουρκία επιλέγει αυτή την οδό καθώς δεν έχει κόστος. Ως απάντηση σε αυτές τις ενέργειες θα πρέπει να γίνονται κινήσεις χαμηλού κόστους και ρίσκου, αλλά υψηλής απόδοσης.

Ο καθηγητής Κουσκουβέλης εκτιμά πως η Τουρκία δεν θα προκαλέσει θερμό επεισόδιο, χωρίς να αποκλείει οτιδήποτε, καθώς έχει άλλα ανοικτά μέτωπα (Κούρδους και τζιχαντιστές). Τονίζει δε πως στη θεωρία της Στρατηγικής η άμυνα θεωρείται πιο εύκολη από την επίθεση, και ο επιτιθέμενος πρέπει να υπερέχει στο πολλαπλάσιο από τον αμυνόμενο.

Ο Ηλίας Κουσκουβέλης είναι καθηγητής Διεθνών Σχέσεων, διευθυντής του Ινστιτούτου Διεθνών, Ευρωπαϊκών και Αμυντικών Αναλύσεων (, πρώην πρύτανης του Πανεπιστημίου Μακεδονίας (t: @kouskouvelis).

Η Τουρκία επέλεξε την τακτική των εντάσεων και την κλιμάκωση στο Αιγαίο. Γιατί αυτή η τακτική; Έχει σχέση μόνο με τις εσωτερικές εξελίξεις στην Τουρκία ενόψει δημοψηφίσματος;

Ασφαλώς ο Ερντογάν επιθυμεί τις ψήφους των ακραίων της Τουρκίας. Ωστόσο, δεν προκαλεί την ένταση μόνο ενόψει του δημοψηφίσματος. Η ένταση οφείλεται και στην υπόθεση της μη έκδοσης των Τούρκων στρατιωτικών, και στις διαπραγματεύσεις για το Κυπριακό και γενικότερα τις σχέσεις της με τη Δύση.

Είναι απλό. Η Τουρκία έχει διαπιστώσει ότι τέτοιου είδους κινήσεις δεν της κοστίζουν κάτι. Συνεπώς, μόνο να κερδίσει έχει, πιέζοντας την Ελλάδα και, μέσω αυτής, την Κύπρο και την Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση. Ταυτοχρόνως δείχνει και μέσα και έξω πόσο ισχυρή και αποφασισμένη είναι.

Έχω επανειλημμένα τονίσει ότι η Τουρκία πρέπει να υφίσταται το κόστος αυτής της συμπεριφοράς. Και δεν εννοώ τη χρήση βίας. Εννοώ διπλωματικές και επικοινωνιακές κινήσεις, οι οποίες προκαλούν κόστος, π.χ., στην εικόνα που προσπαθεί να προβάλει, στις οικονομικές της σχέσεις, στην παρουσία της σε διεθνείς οργανισμούς. Δηλαδή, κινήσεις χαμηλού κόστους και ρίσκου, αλλά υψηλής απόδοσης.

Θεωρείτε πιθανό ένα θερμό επεισόδιο μεταξύ Ελλάδος και Τουρκίας;

Το μέλλον δεν το γνωρίζει κανείς. Ωστόσο οι πιθανότητες, κατά την άποψή μου, είναι μικρές. Και τούτο δεν το λέω για να εφησυχάσουμε, αλλά διότι θεωρώ πως η Τουρκία έχει δύο πολεμικά μέτωπα ανοιχτά στο εξωτερικό, στη Συρία και στο Ιράκ, και άλλα δύο στο εσωτερικό, με τους Κούρδους και τους τζιχαντιστές.

Η τυχόν προσπάθεια να ανοίξει και ένα ακόμη θεωρώ ότι θα έχει μεγάλος κόστος και ολέθριες συνέπειες για την ίδια. Και δεν θα αναφερθώ στην ικανότητα των Ενόπλων Δυνάμεων της χώρας. Απλώς θα θυμίσω ότι στη θεωρία της Στρατηγικής η άμυνα θεωρείται πιο εύκολη από την επίθεση και ο επιτιθέμενος πρέπει να υπερέχει στο πολλαπλάσιο από τον αμυνόμενο. Χώρια που, σε μία τέτοια περίπτωση, οι ένοπλες δυνάμεις της Τουρκίας θα κινητοποιηθούν και θα έχουν αυτές τον πρώτο λόγο στη χώρα.

Η σημερινή θέση της Τουρκίας ως περιφερειακή δύναμη πού βρίσκεται;

Κοιτάξτε, όπως το είχα πει και πριν από χρόνια στην εφημερίδα σας, η Τουρκία βρίσκεται στην κατωφερή πλευρά του κύκλου της ισχύος της. Οι μέρες της επιρροής στη Μέση Ανατολή αποτελούν παρελθόν.

Αυτή τη στιγμή, αφού έπεσε στα πόδια της Ρωσίας, προσπαθεί να αντιμετωπίσει τεράστια ζητήματα στο εξωτερικό και στο εσωτερικό. Η υπόθεση με το ISIS δεν έχει τελειώσει. Στη Συρία ο Άσαντ, τον οποίο προσπάθησε ο Ερντογάν να ανατρέψει, ανέκαμψε. Οι Τούρκοι έχουν εισβάλει, με την ανοχή των Ρώσων, αλλά έχουν «κολλήσει» εδώ και εβδομάδες στην Αλ Μπαμπ (ενδεικτικό του αξιόμαχου των Ενόπλων της Δυνάμεων).

Οι Κούρδοι της Συρίας παραμένουν ισχυροί και συνεχίζουν να εξοπλίζονται από τις ΗΠΑ, παρά την αλλαγή της κυβέρνησης.

Στο εσωτερικό της τα τρομοκρατικά χτυπήματα δεν θα σταματήσουν και ως γνωστό η οικονομία της πηγαίνει από το κακό στο χειρότερο.

Βέβαια η Τουρκία διαθέτει μία προνομιούχα γεωγραφική θέση και συνεχίζει να διαθέτει σημαντικά ποσά για εξοπλισμούς. Όμως το ζήτημα είναι για πόσο καιρό θα συνεχίσει να μπορεί να ξοδεύει σε εξοπλισμούς και να χρηματοδοτεί τα στρατεύματά της στο εσωτερικό, στο Ιράκ, στη Συρία, στην Κύπρο.

Θα επηρεασθούν οι ισορροπίες μετά την εκλογή του προέδρου των ΗΠΑ, Ντόναλντ Τραμπ;

Είναι νωρίς ακόμη για να κρίνουμε. Θα πρέπει να δούμε κινήσεις και πράξεις, όπως η ενίσχυση των Κούρδων της Συρίας με πολεμικό υλικό των ΗΠΑ.

Βέβαια ο Ερντογάν προσπαθεί να πουλήσει στο εσωτερικό του ότι έχει σχέσεις με τον Τραμπ.

Ωστόσο, όπως είναι γνωστό, κάποιοι άλλοι στην περιοχή έχουν καλύτερη σχέση με τον Αμερικανό πρόεδρο. Και αυτοί είναι άσπονδοι φίλοι του Ερντογάν: ο Νετανιάχου και ο Σίσι.

Στον βαθμό δε που δεν επηρεάζονται τα σχέδια και οι προτεραιότητες των ΗΠΑ για τον Ειρηνικό, θεωρώ ότι η παρουσία των ΗΠΑ στην περιοχή θα είναι πιο έντονη και, μάλιστα, πιο αποφασιστική, όχι μόνο για να αντιμετωπισθεί το ISIS, αλλά και για λόγους κύρους.

Πρέπει να γίνει κατανοητό ότι οι Ρεπουμπλικανοί έχουν διαφορετική αντίληψη από τους Δημοκρατικούς και για τη σημασία, και για τη χρήση, και για τους σκοπούς χρήσης της ισχύος εν γένει, ειδικά της στρατιωτικής.

Μέσα σε αυτό το κλίμα συνέρχεται εντός Μαρτίου διάσκεψη για το Κυπριακό. Μπορεί να υπάρξει αποτέλεσμα πριν από το δημοψήφισμα στην Τουρκία;

Ούτε πριν, ούτε μετά το δημοψήφισμα θα αλλάξει στάση η Τουρκία. Αυτό πρέπει να το κατανοήσουν και στην Ελλάδα, ακόμη δε περισσότερο στην Κύπρο.

Η Τουρκία θα αλλάξει στάση μόνο όταν βρεθεί στην ανάγκη να το πράξει ή όταν με τις κινήσεις Κύπρου και Ελλάδας θα αναγκασθεί να το πράξει. Αλλά αυτό -και δεν θα κουραστώ να το επαναλαμβάνω- χρειάζεται στρατηγική σε βάθος χρόνου, με όραμα, πίστη, επιμονή και υπομονή.

Η Τουρκία είναι πάνω στο άλογο! Γιατί να αφιππεύσει; Επειδή το εύχονται μερικοί και κάποιοι άλλοι διαδηλώνουν μαζί με Τουρκοκυπρίους στην πράσινη γραμμή; Ή επειδή ο Σουλτάνος της Άγκυρας θα θελήσει να φανεί φιλεύσπλαχνος και ελεήμων;

Είστε εξ εκείνων που εκτιμούν πως ο Ερντογάν μετά το δημοψήφισμα θα αλλάξει στάση στα ελλαδοτουρκικά και το Κυπριακό;

Ξεκάθαρα και για μία ακόμη φορά όχι. Δεν έχει λόγο να το κάνει. Μπείτε στη θέση του μέσου Τούρκου πολιτικού και σκεφτείτε όπως αυτός. Τι έχει που να τον πιέζει ώστε να αλλάξει στάση έναντι της Ελλάδας και της Κύπρου.

Οι ΗΠΑ δεν έχουν ακόμη κάνει αισθητή την παρουσία τους και οι επικεφαλής Ευρωπαϊκών Δυνάμεων (Μέι, Μέρκελ) επισκέφτηκαν τον Σουλτάνο στο παλάτι του.

Αυτά που πιέζουν τον Ερντογάν και την Τουρκία δεν σχετίζονται με την Ελλάδα και την Κύπρο. Σχετίζονται με τα ζητήματα που προανέφερα και που ορισμένες φορές τυχαίνει να μας ευνοούν και να μας δίνουν πίστωση χρόνου.

Συνέντευξη στον Κώστα Βενιζέλο. Δημοσιεύτηκε στον Φιλελεύθερο την Κυριακή 12.02.2017


The Republic of Cyprus finds itself between a rock and a hard place. As the most complex issues remain unresolved, it is getting clear that at least at the moment we are not close to an agreement that will reverse the consequences of the illegal invasion and occupation, according to international law. The Economist has depicted the situation vividly with a cartoon showing Anastasiades and Akinci trying to shake hands but being bullied by Erdogan. However, the international pressure for a "solution" is growing as German Chancellor's and British PM's remarks on Cyprus, during their respective recent visits to Turkey, reconfirm.

Overemphasizing the "momentum for a solution" and the "last chance for a solution" can lead to two dangerous consequences: either the conclusion of a hasty agreement which will finally be for one more time rejected by the people or a non-agreement, and the threat of a de facto "solution" of the "Cyprus question". Both developments are unwanted, and for that reason, they should be avoided. Yet, the latter constitutes a disastrous, provocative and totally incompatible with the normative structure of the current international order development. Therefore, it should be deconstructed.

To this background, the Cypriot government needs a new strategy. Cyprus is a small state. But smallness should not be mistaken for impotence. "Small but smart" states are successful because they recognise that the international system is anarchical, competitive, and, therefore, a self-help system. Nonetheless, they are aware that despite their smallness they can pursue their interests. Then, it goes without saying that Cyprus has to be proactive.

The Republic of Cyprus should have five priorities.

First, exploit the circumstances in the international system. The situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, the potential of gas resources and cooperation with other small states in the region, as well as the levels of competition between different great powers should be taken into account. It would be easier to make an analysis if we knew what the current US administration thinks about the "Cyprus question" and how far this "love affair" between Putin and Trump will go. What we know at the moment is that the Trump Administration is close to Israel and Egypt, and also that there are people within the Administration appearing to have close ties with Turkey. Where will the Administration strike the balance? We don't know yet, as it is very soon. What is for sure is that the Republic of Cyprus should invest in its partnerships in the region and avoid miscalculations.

Second, employ appropriate argumentation. In its effort Cyprus should equally draw on legal, technical and moral argumentation, targeting both the leaders and the international public opinion. Cyprus has underused its legal advantages. In addition, it has not clarified what the consequences of a dysfunctional settlement would be. What is more, it has not stressed to a satisfactory degree, the moral perspective of the Cyprus question. For example, Republic of Cyprus has failed to create a powerful narrative and achieve international recognition of the "Cyprus question" and of the Republic's rights. Several, opinion makers, journalists, politicians ignore the illegal invasion and occupation aspect and portray Greek Cypriots as avid expansionists. Moreover, there is an argument suggesting that the Greek Cypriots should oversee the illegal invasion and occupation because it was provoked by the Greek side and therefore Greeks also have their share of responsibility. Such an argument is totally absurd; in this case, Europe should not be liberated in the WWII because of the mistakes European Powers had made in their policies towards Hitler's Germany, or the EU should not impose the recent sanctions on Russia because Europeans have also responsibilities for its invasion in Ukraine. The Republic of Cyprus should use an active and effective political communication strategy and make use of traditional and new media in order to project its positions.

Third, the Republic of Cyprus should manage its reputation. The Turkish side, as well as several opinion makers, policy makers, and scholars, have portrayed the Greek side as rigid. Yet, the Greek Cypriots yearn for the reunification of their island. To this aim, they have made many concessions, without the expected reciprocity. Cyprus has to remind everyone who tends to forget easily that it is a constructive partner and that it works according to international law and in the benefit of everyone at the table.

Moreover, the Republic of Cyprus has an impressive record of recent achievements that have rendered it a respectable small state. For example, despite the pessimism, Cypriots managed to make reforms, and overpass the economic crisis. Furthermore, in spite of doubts regarding Cyprus' ability to cope with the administrative requirements of its EU membership, the Republic has managed to be an active member-state in issues that are of its interest and, what is more, to hold a successful EU Presidency. Last but not least, Cyprus makes every effort to create value in the region; Cyprus, Israel, Egypt and Greece, through their growing cooperation in many different sectors, try to bring about peaceful change and increase opportunities for prosperity and growth in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Nonetheless, it is not only the reputation of a small state that matters but also the reputation of its more powerful opponent. Turkey is a serial violator of UNSC Resolutions calling for the withdrawal of its army from the island. Cyprus should spare no effort to express its concern over the authoritarian turn of Turkey, the massive violations of human rights, and Erdogan's provocative actions and statements.

Fourth, Cypriots should be reflective on their own lessons from the past. The Republic of Cyprus knows well what the consequences of an unfair settlement will be. If political arrangements are again dysfunctional, any solution will be unviable and will put in danger Cyprus' hard-won achievements. Cypriot politicians should also recognise that unity pays back and should try to form a common position. The rejection of the Annan Plan by the 76% of the Greek Cypriots shows that society is united in their demand for a fair, functional, and viable solution. Politicians have to follow. Furthermore, the history of negotiations reveals that red lines and a clear position help. That is why the recent developments on the security guarantees are important.

Fifth, Cyprus should harness its newly founded partnerships and its EU membership. Lesser powers in the area, which also are threatened by Turkey, big powers, such as France, Italy and the US with which Cyprus shares a common interest in its gas resources exploitation, Turkish Cypriots, who want to escape from Turkey's control, and the EU, may come as effective partners. The EU's reaction to the outcomes of the current negotiations, as well as to Turkish provocative behaviour can be critical. Cyprus has to lobby hard for its positions within the EU and remind to its partners firstly, that in a case of a settlement it should be unacceptable for Turkey to have any kind of influence or presence to an EU member state; secondly, that, in a case of a non-agreement, Turkish aggressiveness and the threat of a de facto solution have to become EU issues, and Cyprus cannot be left alone. The current negotiations over the Cyprus question come as a critical test for the EU. It has to prove whether it is capable of defending both its values and its interests and in this context, they also come as an opportunity for the EU to show what it stands for.

By: Ilias Kouskouvelis, Professor of International Relations at the University of Macedonia, Greece and Revecca Pedi, PhD, Teaching Fellow at the Department of International and European Studies, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece

First Published on Cyprus Weekly



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