Contributions for this issue were received from Francesca Buratti, Laura De Marchi, Chiara Franco, Alessio Stilo and Antonella Tropeano.
East Central European foreign policy identity in perspective : back to Europe and the EU’s neighbourhood / Elsa Tulmets. - New York : Palgrave MacMillan, 2014. - xiii, 326 p. - ISBN 978-0-230-29130-0
The literature on Central and Eastern European countries in the aftermath of the Cold War has largely focused on their transitions to democracy and market economy, while the evolution of their foreign policies has remained relatively unexplored. Even when it has been taken into consideration, scholars have often looked at the strategies of accession to NATO and the EU without considering how these countries’ foreign policies have unfolded once such accessions have been achieved.
In this remarkably well-researched volume, which stems from a post-doctoral research project, the author attempts to fill this gap by investigating the foreign policy role of six Central-East European countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovenia), and in particular the way in which they have redefined their policy towards the Eastern and Southeastern neighbourhoods after their accession to the EU.
Following a “middle-range constructivist approach” (4), the research combines the study of foreign policy identity (mainly through discourse analysis) and foreign policy behaviour. In so doing, elements of foreign policy analysis, European studies and International Relations are brought together. The originality of the theoretical approach emerges especially from how foreign policy identity is defined: the definition encompasses a “first-order identity”, the political self, and a “second-order identity”, the historical self (13-4).
The argument is that the end of the Cold War, considered a “critical juncture”, brought about a redefinition of Central Eastern European countries’ political self, meaning that they broadly embraced the set of Western norms and values (Ch. 1). That process, defined as a “return to Europe”, was centred on the objectives of EU and NATO accessions. Once EU and NATO accessions were achieved, their historical self played a role in shaping their “rediscovery of the East”, meaning that the combination of political solidarity and moral responsibility towards postcommunist countries with which they share a common past has prompted them to review their foreign policy roles towards Eastern and Southeastern neighbours, while acting within an EU framework. As a consequence, their newly-developed foreign policy roles have been shaped by both the logic of European integration and the legacy of the past.
The author’s deep knowledge of the history, society and culture of the countries considered is certainly an added value, and allows the readers to grasp the differences between the six case-studies, thus contributing to deconstructing the image of the region as a monolithic bloc.
The volume fits very well into the literature on Europeanisation of national foreign policy, building on the previous research in this still underinvestigated domain, including Tonra’s seminal work and Wong and Hill’s more comprehensive study. Indeed, in line with the Europeanisation approach, the author raises the question of how the EU has influenced the six countries’ policies vis-à-vis their Eastern and Southeastern neighbours (top-down dimension) and, at the same time, to what extent these countries have contributed to shaping the EU’s policies towards such regions (bottom-up dimension). The argument is that the process of adaptation has been mutual: not only have Central and Eastern European countries adapted to EU policies, but they have also contributed to shaping them according to their own historical identity. Most notably, they are deemed to have contributed to designing and implementing the European Neighbourhood Policy.
In addition to offering food for thought to scholars interested in EU enlargement, Europeanisation of foreign policy and the EU neighbourhood, the book provides both national and European policymakers with a useful tool for gaining a better understanding of the multi-level dynamics unfolding within the EU and along its borders. (Chiara Franco)
Climate change and European security / Richard Youngs. - London ; New York : Routledge, 2015. - vii, 144 p. - ISBN 978-1-138-79727-7 ; 978-1-138-79728-4 (pbk) ; 978-1-315-75725-4 (ebk)
This book has the ambitious objective of not simply analysing the link between climate change and European security but also assessing how this affects governments’ geostrategies.
To do so, the author adopts a practical approach, focusing on what the European Union and its member states have been doing. The structure of the book is quite clear: each chapter starts by listing a set of problems which are then analysed and discussed in the body of the chapter, and finally summarized in a few concluding remarks. Despite the difficulty of the subject, which requires a specialized vocabulary, the text is by no means hard to understand: the author provides numerous clarifications to help readers who may not have an in-depth knowledge of this study area.
Youngs develops his analysis in eight chapters. After explaining why climate change has to be considered a threat for European security, he turns in more detail to the specific areas affected by climate change, i.e. energy policies, defence strategies, conflict prevention policies and the geo-economics of climate change.
In the author’s view, climate change should not be considered an abstract issue or a whim brought to the public’s attention by powerful environmental lobbies. On the contrary, climate change has already shown its effects by intensifying such phenomena as natural disasters, hunger and food insecurity and, most of all, state fragility. Moreover, climate change may introduce some innovation in classical legal categories: in a not too distant future, it might become a condition for justifying preventive war or a core factor in defining a new migrant category. In order to strengthen his thesis, Youngs quotes Ian Morris who affirms that “no other factor will come close as a determinant of geopolitics, not even China’s rise or the devastating post-2008 financial crisis” (11). Therefore, given the inevitable consequences that climate change will bring, the author devotes an entire chapter to analysis of the two main possible future scenarios: a liberal and cooperative approach or a more realistic, self-help security strategy. Overall, the main idea is that something in the EU security agenda has changed in response to the climate change threat, but concrete implementation of the agenda is still hindered by so-called “institutional inertia” (46). Furthermore, given its apparently non-concrete nature, climate change is destined to take second place to more urgent contingencies such as the Arab Spring and the financial crisis.
The author’s position is quite clear cut. He feels that more radical changes are needed: climate change has to be a central aspect of the European Union Common Foreign and Security Policy. Good intentions and soft law commitments are no longer sufficient to deal with the issue and this study contributes to bringing the controversial phenomenon of climate change into the spotlight. In sum, this is an important contribution, concentrating essential but at the same time comprehensive information in a single book. For this reason, the study could represent a starting point for future research.
Politicians, diplomats and in general those in decision-making positions should take this far-sighted analysis as a warning call. Of course, it is also intended for anyone interested in international dynamics since it stimulates a different way of reading international relations: the implications of climate change could overturn the current international system, creating new and unexpected alliances throughout the world. It is in this context that the EU has good chances of taking a leading role. (Antonella Tropeano)
Debating European security and defense policy : understanding the complexity / Maxime H.A. Larivé. - Aldershot ; Burlington : Ashgate, c2014. - xviii, 262 p. - (Global interdisciplinary studies series). - ISBN 978-1-4724-0995-9 ; 978-1-4724-0996-6 (ebk) ; 978-1-4724-0997-3 (ePUB)
With this book, Maxime H.A. Larivé seeks to clarify the debate on the evolution and probable outcomes of the European Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). In order to provide a comprehensive overview of the subject, the author sets out the different positions, both optimistic and sceptical, that characterise the issue, one of the most controversial of the EU integration process.
The book is broken down into chapters that constitute an articulated answer to ten different questions, in the form of a debate. The debate structure allows the author to provide two different answers to each question: one more optimistic and the other less confident in the progress and outcomes of CSDP. Yet, the work also has a central question to which each single query relates. The author proposes a reflection on why European integration in the field of security and defence always seems to have come up against major hurdles to its definitive completion. The book is structured in a functional way that guides the reader in discovering and examining this crucial subject in depth.
The chapters are organized into three different sections, each bringing together questions on the theoretic background, the historical evolution of CSDP, and the actors, structures and processes engaged in its implementation. The result is an overarching analysis that delves into the most crucial aspects of the subject, including the role of the United States and NATO in the promotion (or obstruction) of CSDP over the decades and the implications of the recent financial crisis on the engagement of EU member states in this field.
Despite its dichotomous structure, the general impression that the book gives of CSDP is of a complex mechanism that is still far from functioning in a proper and effective way. The shortfalls of CSDP become apparent in its practical implementation and the reluctance of member states to move ahead, obstructing the attainment of its objectives.
The argumentation in the various chapters is generally supported by the most relevant IR theories (namely neorealism, neoliberalism and social constructivism) and empirical data on CSDP missions and their legal/institutional instruments (such as the European Security Strategy of 2003). The information thus gathered reveals a shift in the evolution of CSDP towards an ever more bureaucratic body unable to act as a coherent political subject in the most crucial IR matters, for example the upheaval in the MENA region caused by the Arab Spring.
One of the book’s most important contributions to the discussion of CSDP and the debate over European Union foreign policy management is the analysis and comparison of the two High Representatives that were in charge of the Union’s foreign affairs and security policy from 1999 to 2013. The figures and policies of Javier Solana and Catherine Ashton are subjected to a detailed analysis that seeks to highlight their respective strengths and weaknesses in the making and implementation of CSDP.
The author does not present the book as an essay on the history and evolution of CSDP (for that purpose Larivé refers to the work of Jolyon Howorth – who also authored the Foreword), but rather as a contribution and tool for all those who want to form a personal opinion on the issue. Moreover, the plain language and schematic structure make the book suitable for students aiming to acquire a critical awareness of the subject. Larivé succeeds in putting readers in an active position, challenging their opinions and knowledge of the subject. (Laura De Marchi)
Humanitarian intervention and legitimacy wars : seeking peace and justice in the 21st century / Richard Falk. - London ; New York : Routledge, 2014. - x, 223 p. - (Global horizons ; 14). - ISBN 978-0-415-81517-8 ; 978-0-415-81553-6 (pbk) ; 978-1-315-76117-6 (ebk)
The concept of humanitarian intervention is commonly linked with the idea of the “responsibility to protect”. Yet these terms differ, as the first refers to interventionary practices driven by geopolitical interests and strategic considerations (especially by the United States), rather than by norms of human rights and justice.
In this book Richard Falk, distinguished international law scholar at the University of Princeton and former United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, provides an extraordinary overview of the nature of conflicts in the early 21st century, and offers a critical analysis of modern military interventions, even when apparently carried out for “humanitarian” or “legitimate” reasons. Notably, he refuses to insert hard power interventions in the category of “legitimacy wars”, restricted, in his view, to activities of soft power, based on civil society initiatives.
The volume, a collection of writings produced by the author over almost a decade, is divided into four sections. In the first part, the author examines the dilemma of humanitarian intervention and goes through the debate about civil society’s position regarding the use of force. In fact, civil society actors play a significant role in reframing the normative discussion around the legitimacy/legality of humanitarian interventions, and they often shape public attitudes and national statements concerning military occupation in foreign countries. He points to the lack of appreciation received by the Goldstone report – prepared by a team established by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) during the Gaza War in April 2009 as an independent international fact-finding mission to investigate alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the Palestinian territory – as a valid example of the UN’s inability to uphold basic human rights when their violation is in accord with important geopolitical priorities.
The second part presents the errors committed throughout the occupations of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Kosovo in support of the above-mentioned critique of humanitarian intervention as an instrument pursuing geopolitical purposes and the diplomacy of power in the post-colonial world. The counter-proliferation justification used in 2003 for Iraq and the counter-terrorism rationale used in 2011 for Libya are both condemned. The controversial air strikes that accompanied regime-changing interventions in fact stimulated civil strife in Iraq after 2003 and led to the emergence of a “failed state” in Libya after 2011. The military attacks, not followed by effective state-building strategies and responsible for even more chaos in the two countries, is further contested.
The third part focuses on the dramatic situation in Syria. Falk insists on the desperate need to involve global institutions to end the Syrian conflict by means of diplomatic steps. In particular, he identifies possible solutions, among which to take the Iran war option off the table and promote a security framework for the Middle East with the definition of a nuclear weapon-free zone, possibly with the involvement of Israel. The chapter concludes with a mention of Edward Snowden – an American computer professional who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in June 2013 – with the intent of questioning the legality and morality of the massive regime of secret and unregulated surveillance of the US government conducted in the name of national security.
The last section is in favour of legitimacy wars, that is where military and violent activities are subordinated to the pursuit of fundamental rights, above all the right of self-determination. Non-violent tactics guided by the principles of international law (such as the anti-apartheid campaign and the current global solidarity movement in support of Palestine) will give future interventions moral weapons based on resistance, and will make armed struggle something to be considered only as a last resort.
The volume is a persuasive contribution to a better understanding of the misconception of humanitarian intervention, clarifying the theoretical and conceptual bases of the responsibility to protect and legitimacy wars. Falk firmly condemns the US government’s policy driven by geopolitical power concerns and disapproves of the use of hard power without respect for national sovereignty and international law. The subjects addressed are explained in detail and enriched with case studies widely supported by scientific and academic sources. It will certainly be of interest to students and experts of international relations theory, peace studies and global politics. (Francesca Buratti)
The transformation of Russia’s armed forces : twenty lost years / edited by Roger N. McDermott. - London ; New York : Routledge, 2015. - xii, 245 p. - ISBN 978-1-138-80530-9
This book is based on a special issue of the Journal of Slavic Military Studies edited by Roger McDermott, and brings together chapters by international experts on defence, security, strategy and the Russian military from the US, UK, Israel and Russia. The essays analyse, from both historical and contemporary analytical perspectives, a wide range of policy issues facing Moscow in terms of military modernisation, defence planning, future warfare, cyber warfare and information warfare capabilities, as well as “progress” on the reform of the armed forces and of nuclear policy.
The chapters deal with different aspects of the transformation of Russia’s armed forces in order to provide a complete overview of the process of reform and transformation of the Russian military doctrine. Most of the articles describe strengths and weaknesses of this transformation. Moscow’s vision of future wars and security challenges is thoroughly examined as a part of its political culture embedded in a political authoritarianism that replicates Tsarist and to some extent Soviet patrimonialism. According to Stephen Blank, author of the second chapter, the entrenched nature of this political system has created a unique situation and mentality in Russia’s “defence establishment” that has led to a threat assessment that conflates external and internal enemies essentially as representatives of the same hostile Western forces.
Going over the nature of the problems encountered in the reform period, the book addresses the roots of Russia’s limited defence policy planning capacity, and seeks to outline and explain many of the reform reversals in the period 2009-12. The authors, especially Roger McDermott in the third chapter, underline the importance of a significant systemic weakness in Russian defence planning originating in the Soviet period, which effectively renders the planning process blind: the absence of reliable military statistics. McDermott holds that without reliable statistics, the process is, at best, based on guesswork and, at worst, results in confusion and trial and error. The lack of reliable military statistics also makes the task of conducting sound operational analysis, crucial in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of organisation, training and equipment, impossible and restricts the capability of the General Staff to conduct a “lesson learned” postconflict examination of operations.
The author of the eighth chapter, Keir Giles, describes current developments in overhauling both the form and content of the Russian military machine, with the intention of turning it into a force ready and capable of 21st century conflict, as Russia sees it. Looking to build a modern and network-centric military, Russian military theorists and decision-makers have focused on increasing access to information as the decisive aspect in future conventional conflicts. As suggested in Daniel Goure’s chapter, the new Russian military doctrine even suggests the possibility of achieving strategic objectives via cyber weapons, without the use of traditional force.
Beyond providing a well-structured and rigorous analysis of Russian security issues, the contributors’ authoritative accounts emphasize the deep-seated historical factors and strategic culture affecting the Russian military, as well the impact of the current debate within the Russian military élite. Despite its clarity and conciseness, the book targets those who already have some familiarity with strategic and military issues or, at least, those with some knowledge of Russian history because of the technical language and focus on Russian military thought and practices. (Alessio Stilo)