Articles and analysis


Beijing's ambitions shouldn't be treated as an existential threat to the United States, argues Professor Anatol Lieven

Lieven passport photoA central distinction in Realist international relations thought is that between vital and secondary national interests. Vital interests are threats to a state's survival, and can take the form either of conquest and subjugation from outside, or the promotion of internal subversion aimed at destroying the existing political and ideological order – the strategy followed by the USSR across much of the world during the Cold War, and by the USA against the USSR and allied regimes.
Rivalry between the USA and China is not a battle to the death of this kind, and it is very important that the USA not see it as such. The phrase "a new cold war" is a cheap journalistic formula, but it contains real dangers. The geopolitical competition with China is quite different from that with the USSR, and if the US establishment frames it in the terms of the cold war, it may do great damage to the USA and the world in general. For while the Cold War with the Soviet Union stemmed originally from the Soviet revolutionary threat and the evil nature of Stalin's regime, many of the ways in which this rivalry was imagined and therefore conducted by the USA did terrible damage to America's own politics, culture and public ethics.
When states permanently threaten each other with destruction from without or within, even periods of peace have the character of temporary armed truces requiring permanent military and ideological mobilization. This breeds in turn continual international tension and domestic repression, and a cultural atmosphere of fanaticism, hysteria and conspiratorial thinking in all the countries concerned.
We have learned this again over the past generation. The contemporary Middle East is a tragic example of how an entire region can be crippled by the threat of internal revolutions backed by rival ideological states; but our European ancestors learned it more than 350 years ago, and tried to do something about it. The great achievement of the Peace of Westphalia was to end in Europe – for the space of 144 years – ideologically-driven mass rebellions against existing states supported by other states.
Crucial to the Westphalia settlement was the principle of Cuius Regio, Eius Religio – "Whose Realm, His Religion"; in other words, that the ruler of a country dictated the religion of his or her subjects without interference from other states belonging to the other religion. Rivalries and conflicts would continue, but states and regimes would no longer pose existential threats to each other.
All this changed again with the French Revolution. Once again, states threatened the basic identity of other states, and did so in part by stimulating internal rebellion. Once again, endangered states responded with ferocious mass repression. Assassination and the execution of defeated enemies returned to the European scene. The French Revolution spawned socialist revolution and conservative counter-revolution, which later characterized the Cold War.( More follows on next page)

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kristina new2By Prof Kristina Spohr (March 2018)
As the polar ice caps melt, Russia and China are leading the race to control the lucrative and strategically important shipping lanes and natural resources of the High North.
On 14 December 2017 Vladimir Putin gave his annual end-of-year media conference, which lasted nearly four hours and was televised across Russia. The British and American media focused on Putin's unsurprising announcement that he was going to run for re-election in 2018. A far more interesting story went largely unreported.

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GnadXL-0179 39796 Hoffotografen KopieWhat are the trajectories of change within the multidimensional relationship between Russia, the US, the European Union and the post-Soviet space? Dr Oliver Gnad considers plausible narratives about how this quadrilateral relationship – and the world – will look like after the end of the next policy cycle ending around the year 2024.
2024 marks not only the end of the next presidential term in Russia but also the end of Donald Trump's second term in office (or the end of the first term of a subsequent incumbent in the White House). By that time we will either see the US and Europe drifting further apart (i.e. US with Europe or the US in Europe) or finding a new transatlantic narrative.
Also, the year 2024 marks the midterm of the EU budgetary cycle (2020-2027) which will heavily reflect the EU's ambition to come to grips with a Common Defence and Security Policy. More importantly, developments within the EU will decide upon the question whether the Union will be able to consolidate itself, whether it will enlarge further (Balkans), whether it will deepen (monetary union, tax union, foreign and defence policy, immigration) or whether it will end up as a two-speed Europe – either by will or force.

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