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Παρασκευή, 22 Σεπτέμβριος 2017 12:38

The US, China and the Real Thucydides’ Trap

During the last decade there has been a lot of discussion among international relations experts and foreign policy analysts on whether the rise of China as a major international player could lead to a confrontation with the United States. Most recently, with China's activities in the South China Sea, the Korean peninsula crisis, and the new U.S. administration, this discussion was reanimated. The debate was also fueled by Graham Allison and his question, that is, whether the U.S. and China may avoid what he called the "Thucydides' trap", and not go to war. Further, it was reported that Allison briefed President Donald Trump's National Security Council on what Thucydides and his work could teach them about U.S.-China relations. The same author says that war between the two is not inevitable. The answer is correct, not just because a person of his academic authority says so, but simply because the content of the so-called "trap", attributed to Thucydides, is not right. The real trap, the one Thucydides warns for more than 2.400 years now, is different than that described by Allison.

The phenomenon of international politics students turning to ancient thinkers, such as Thucydides, in order to find answers in strategic matters, is not new. What authors often do is pick a phrase from Thucydides, separate it from the rest of the text, and build an argument, which projects rather their ideas than those of the classical author. This is precisely the case with the so-called "Thucydides' trap". Obviously, the work of Thucydides belongs to everyone; and everybody may use it and build upon it. Yet, a few things need to be respected, if the "trap" to go to war is linked with the name of Thucydides, and, most important, if it is linked with the possibility of a war between two major and, in this case, nuclear actors.

At first, one needs to bear in mind that ancient Greek thinking is multi-causal and not uni-causal, as the thinking of Western modernity. Therefore, maintaining initially that just the fear of a competitor's growing power could lead to war, may be seen as cherry picking; and, afterwards, saying that "Thucydides does not really mean inevitable" may appear as inconsistency. Read more...

Δημοσιευμένο στην κατηγορία Άρθρα Γνώμης
Παρασκευή, 22 Σεπτέμβριος 2017 12:34

The Fallacies of the Cyprus “Problem”

In the early morning of July 7, 2017, another round of negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations on the so called Cyprus "problem" has ended in Switzerland. Some are trying to understand why. Others, however, have ostensibly entered the "blame game" and/or misinformation, unjustly pointing the finger to the government of the Republic of Cyprus, because, allegedly, it did not make the necessary concessions, so as to satisfy Turkish demands. For those who are trying to understand why, I am arguing, hereinafter, that none should have expected these negotiations (or any previous) to succeed. They were doomed to fail for three reasons, which constitute the fallacies of the so-called Cyprus "problem".

Fallacy One

The first fallacy is that international actors, international organizations, diplomats, and analysts are trying to understand first and deal then with a "problem", and not with a case of pure and brutal military invasion perpetrated by Turkey in 1974 and still preserved illegally until today.[1] This is where all starts and all ends: in the thought dominating (our) minds that we are to deal with a "problem" and not with a flagrant violation of almost all fundamental principals of the United Nations Charter and a series of non implemented compulsory decisions of the Security Council.

In fact, Turkey still maintains some 40.000 heavily armed troops on the island, presenting since 1974 an every day threat for the very existence of what is left territorially of the Republic of Cyprus, making us wonder how the Republic of Cyprus' citizens – EU citizens since 2004 – and its economy may endure such a situation. Turkey, as demonstrated in the negotiations, has not the intention to withdraw its occupation forces from the island (BBC 2017). Most important, even if those troops were to be reduced, Turkey was adamantly against abandoning the status of the guarantor power, contrary to the intention of the other two guarantors (the U.K. and Greece).

Why? The official narrative says in order to guarantee the rights and the security of the Turkish Cypriots (TRTWORLD 2017). Obviously, this is neither the real nor a convincing reason, as Turkey, given its record of human rights, cannot guarantee the rule of law, especially in an EU country. The real motive is the expansionist policy of Turkey, and its tactic to exercise through Cyprus pressure on the Republic, on Greece, on the EU, and more broadly, on the West.

Fallacy Two

It is clear that Turkey does not want to contribute to "solving" the problem. And this is the second fallacy committed by those who consider Turkey well-intentioned to solve the Cyprus "problem" under the rule of the AKP Party and of Erdogan, and given Turkey's current and favorable general and regional distribution of power. Read more...

Δημοσιευμένο στην κατηγορία Άρθρα Γνώμης

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

 

Δημοσιευμένο στην κατηγορία Κουσκουβέλης - Εξωτερική Πολιτική
Κυριακή, 05 Φεβρουάριος 2017 20:02

This is why Macedonia’s name matters! Thank you Mr. Tajani!

The “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (hereinafter FYROM) and Greece are in dispute over the former’s name, since the time of its independence (1992). FYROM insists on using its communist era name (“Macedonia”), while Greece reacts. It is obvious that Greece did not oppose the formation and does not oppose to the existence of a state in its northern border, especially when the social and commercial relations between Greeks and FYROM’s citizens (either Slavs or Albanians) are very good. Thus here, it is not a case similar to the stance – just to mention one case – of Turkey opposing the formation of any Kurdish state outside its borders. 

On the contrary, Greece has supported the unity of FYROM in 2001 – when the country came close to a civil war – and has provided military assistance to the country’s government. What Greece simply wants through negotiations is that the name of its neighbor does not create confusion and allows the clear distinction between, on the one hand, FYROM’s history and culture, and, on the other, his own. 

It is so simple: a larger population than the one of FYROM, live in Macedonia (you see, here I have to clarify:) of Greece, study at the University of Macedonia, produce goods linked to the region (i.e., Macedonian wine), and undoubtedly speak the same language as Alexander the Great and Aristotle. For years the counterargument I have consistently heard is that everybody knows that ancient Macedonia, Alexander the Great and Aristotle are Greek. Who may be confused? 

Reality however works in mysterious ways and an EU personality, first a Commissioner and now the EU Parliament’s President, fell into the trap of the name and distorted the very basics of History. Mr Tajani, visited in February 2016 Skopje and said the following: “Macedonia is a beautiful country. Everyone in Italy knows Macedonia. Why? Because Alexander the Great and Philip of Macedon are very popular ancestors of yours. Without Alexander [the Great] we would have no Europe because he was the first king who stopped the invasion by Iran and those countries. That’s why they call him Alexander the Great. He strengthened the European borders”. 

Of course Mr Tajani, after the reactions of Greek MEPs, corrected his statement. But the point is not there! The point is that Mr Tajani got confused – as perhaps many others – with a country named “Macedonia”. From there it was rather easy for him, as for many, to slip and fall into the trap.

This event demonstrates that names do matter, and Mr Tajani has to be thanked. They matter in every day life, they matter in business (who can label his product after the name of another trademark?), and they do matter in politics, particularly international. Consequently, it demonstrates why, as Greece argues, a solution should be found in a name that clearly distinguishes among the two what is most important: their culture!

 

Πηγή:mignatiou.com

Δημοσιευμένο στην κατηγορία Κουσκουβέλης - Εξωτερική Πολιτική
Πέμπτη, 29 Δεκέμβριος 2016 18:37

The Cyprus question: a critical test for the EU’s future

Up to now, 2016 has been a tough year for the EU. The refugee crisis, growing public discontent due to economic crisis and austerity, mounting populism, and BREXIT have put the European project in danger.  Recently, an unpredictable US President-elect has been added to the EU’s headaches, as nobody knows how the transatlantic partnership and the ‘West’ will look like under the Trump Administration. Amidst all this uncertainty one thing is for sure: the EU has to survive and for that reason to find its place in this new world and prove for what it stands. The negotiations over the Cyprus question are lying ahead as a crucial test; a test, which as all tests can be either an opportunity or one more slap in the face of the EU.

If the Cyprus question was a hard puzzle for the EU to solve in the past, now that it is connected with an erratic Turkish foreign policy and the turmoil in the Eastern Mediterranean, it is becoming a crucial issue on which the EU cannot be an observer; it needs to be proactive and have a clear position.  The EU’s stance towards the developments concerning the settlement of the Cyprus question is important for the process of the negotiations and their outcome, and also for the EU’s future. Whatever the EU is going to do or not to do, is going to send strong messages inside and outside Europe, to the world in general and to the Eastern Mediterranean in particular.

It has been consistently argued that there is a momentum for a solution, and also that this is the last chance for a peaceful settlement. The ‘last chance’ argument is strongly supported by Turkish Cypriots, namely that if a solution is not to be found this time, an annexation by Turkey constitutes a highly possible development. Despite the fact that such an argument is totally incompatible with the normative structure that underpins European and EU’s international relations for decades, it has gained much popularity; maybe not unjustifiably, if we consider the recent increase in Turkish unpredictability and authoritarian behavior. Therefore, the next few months are critical.

The EU should be prepared for the case of an agreement, as well as for the potential of the Cyprus question to remain unresolved and for the negotiations to be continued. In the case of settlement, the EU should safeguard that it will be viable and compatible with the EU Law. It should make clear that it would be unacceptable for Turkey to have any kind of influence or military presence to an EU’s member state. If the two parts won’t manage to reach an agreement, Turkish aggressiveness and the potential of a de facto solution will become an EU issue; Cyprus is an EU member state and it cannot be left alone.

In any case, if the EU accepts any solution other than the one reversing the consequences of the illegal invasion and occupation, then it will give a carte blanche to Vladimir Putin and any other leader with revisionist ambitions. In its recently drafted Global Strategy the EU states that “[W]e will not recognise Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea nor accept the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine”. Will the EU accept any settlement that would legitimize the illegal invasion and occupation, and destabilize Cyprus, one of its smallest member-states? Moreover, it will give the opportunity to populists and anti-EU voices all across the continent to contend that for one more time the Union gives into Turkey’s demands.Nonetheless, it will show to other small states in the Central and Eastern Europe that if threatened by a more powerful neighbour, the EU is incapable of providing any help and support. All in all, for one more time in 2016, the EU’s influence and status will be decreasing.

In contrast, if the EU fights for a fair and viable solutionnot only as an issue of justice, but also, and most importantly, as a matter of order in the international system, then it is going to prove that values and interests can go hand in hand, and that there is a reason for which we need both pragmatism and idealism in international politics. It will restore its status and show why Europe and the world need the EU. In less than six months since the BREXIT referendum and the publication of the EU’s Global Strategy, the Cyprus question provides the best opportunity for the EU to prove that it not only talks the talk, but also it walks the walk!

First Published on NEW EUROPE

Δημοσιευμένο στην κατηγορία Κουσκουβέλης - Εξωτερική Πολιτική
Κυριακή, 09 Οκτώβριος 2016 07:36

The Refugee crisis: Is this the Europe we aspire to?

The European integration project, throughout its history, has faced various political and economic crises. None of them, however, was so closely related to its moral foundations as the refugee crisis. With hundreds of thousands of war and environmental refugees, and of economic migrants knocking at its door, Europe appears to be uncomfortable, indecisive, politically divided, and old in its reflexes. Nationalistic and xenophobic feelings have surfaced, damaging Europe's unity, moral prestige and interests.

In the last two years the refugees flow towards Europe was strong. Hundreds of thousands of people have crossed the sea to Italy and Greece. Those in Greece moved north and engaged the "Balkan route". And, there xenophobic governments first stopped them, then let them through, and, finally sealed their borders. It is true, close to a million managed to reach Germany, but then, under the pressure of the far right and of electoral results, this government had also to change its policy.

Now the refugees are caught in a trap. Many have stayed in Greece and Italy, and others in some Balkan or Central European country. All of them, however, are trying to find alternative routes to the North. Those are the "lucky" ones that have crossed the sea, which most of them had never seen in their lives; they have spent fortunes to pay smugglers and black marketers; they waited for days in front of police stations or borders; they have walked thousands of kilometers carrying their babies and the elderly, just in order to face closed gates, racism, and police brutality.

This situation, despite the efforts undertaken, remains "unacceptable". There are states that still block or hinder decisions, as very recently in Vienna. They still ask, forgetting how many souls were lost at sea, that Greece and Italy stop them... They consider refugees to be a threat to their culture, to their social and religious fabric. It seems they are forgetting that hundreds of thousands of their citizens fled to the EU countries in the 1990s after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. Worst, many of their citizens seem to forget fundamental Christian principles or ignore the messages sent by the Pope himself. Most important is that they violate the very foundations of European integration, to that extent that European governments and all of us, citizens, need to answer the question: is this the Europe we aspire to? Is this Europe that aspires to peace, democracy, prosperity and human dignity?

No! The Europe we want for us and our children is the one shown by the average citizen who gave food, water, clothes, shelter, and medicines to the refugees; is the one shown by the men and women of the Greek and Italian coast guards or navies, and by those who saved lives at sea; it is the Europe of volunteers who assisted human beings! This is the Europe from which the governments need to be inspired in their decisions, while responding to legitimate domestic and international security concerns.

It is certain that the refugee crisis will not stop until conflicts in the Middle East and in Africa end, until hunger and draught are dealt with. And this will certainly take a long time... Until then, Europe will have to deal with thousands of human beings fleeing war zones or famine, and has to do it according to its values. It is in the interest of the EU and of its member states. Otherwise the damage to the EU foundations, values, prestige, but also to the economic and political interests, will be much greater than any other cost some shortsighted governments are afraid of.

Published on New Europe

Δημοσιευμένο στην κατηγορία Κουσκουβέλης - Εξωτερική Πολιτική

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Δημοσιευμένο στην κατηγορία Κουσκουβέλης - Εξωτερική Πολιτική
Παρασκευή, 01 Φεβρουάριος 2013 22:33

Συνέντευξη για το σχέδιο "Αθηνά"

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Παρακολουθήστε τη συνέντευξη μου στην εκπομπή της ΕΤ3 "1+ένα" για το σχέδιο "Αθηνά"

Δημοσιευμένο στην κατηγορία Κουσκουβέλης - Παιδεία
Δευτέρα, 11 Μάρτιος 2013 11:18

The Problem with Turkey’s “Zero Problems”

My most recent research work: The Problem with Turkey’s “Zero Problems”, is now published in the current issue of the Middle East Quarterly. 

The article discusses the status of Turkey's international relations under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) from the perspective that the AKP's decisions show the political party's insincerity in carrying out its "zero-problems with neighbors" foreign policy. The AKP's policy is stated to be one in which the government eliminates or minimizes as much as possible its relations with neighboring countries. Turkey's current and historical relations with Greece, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Israel are discussed.

You can find the full article here.

 


 

Η πιο πρόσφατη ακαδημαϊκή δημοσίευση μου, ένα άρθρο με τίτλο Το πρόβλημα με τα μηδενικά προβλήματα της Τουρκίας κυκλοφόρησε στο τρέχον τεύχος του Middle East Quarterly.

Το άρθρο πραγματεύεται τις διεθνείς σχέσεις της Τουρκίας υπό το κόμμα της Δικαιοσύνης και της Αναπτυξης (AKP), υποστηρίζοντας ότι οι αποφάσεις του AKP αποδεικνύουν την ανειλικρίνεια του πολιτικού αυτού κόμματος στο να ακολουθήσει μια πραγματική εξωτερική πολιτική μηδενικών προβλημάτων με τους γείτονες. Η πολιτική του AKP έχει καθοριστεί ως πολιτική που περιορίζει ή μειώνει κατά το δυνατό τις σχέσεις με τις γειτονικές χώρες. Εξετάζονται οι τρέχουσες αλλά και οι ιστορικές σχέσεις της Τουρκίας με την Ελλάδα, την Κύπρο, το Αζερμπαϊτζάν, τη Συρία, το Ιράκ, το Ιράν και το Ισραήλ.

Tο άρθρο είναι διαθέσιμο εδώ.

 

Δημοσιευμένο στην κατηγορία Κουσκουβέλης - Εξωτερική Πολιτική

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