Contributions for this issue were received from Giovanni Finarelli Baldassarre, Margherita Bianchi, Federico Palmieri, Fraser Cameron, Karolina Muti.
The EU and Russia in their ‘contested neighbourhood’ / Laure Delcour. - London ; New York : Routledge, 2017. - ix, 169 p. - (Routledge studies in European foreign policy ; 4). - ISBN 978-1-138-18557-9; 978-1-315-64437-0 (ebk)
In her book The EU and Russia in Their ‘Contested Neighbourhood’, Laure Delcour investigates the way in which the Eastern Partnership countries select, adopt and apply EU norms. The dependent variable of this research is the “domestic legal, institutional and policy sectorial change in response to the EU demands under the Eastern Partnership”. The author analyses her dependent variable using three explanatory variables: rule selection, rule adoption and rule application.
With this book, Delcour joins the debate on the role of the EU in its relations with European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) countries, specifically the ones covered by the institutional umbrella of the Eastern Partnership. Yet, the book innovates this debate, observing the matter from a more homogeneous and comprehensive perspective. Indeed, Delcour tries to avoid a too Euro-centric approach, and criticizes the “top-down” perspective predominant in the relevant literature. In so doing, she relies mainly on policy transfer studies, as well as the literature on post-Soviet transformation. On the one hand, policy transfer studies allow her to consider not only the macro-level analysis of political relations between international actors, but also the meso- and micro-levels, which are often disregarded in the study of EU external relations. On the other hand, by referring to the literature on post-Soviet transformation, Delcour goes in depth, highlighting the specificities and particularities of the polities of former Soviet countries. In particular, she enriches her work through sociological lenses in order to explain the uniqueness of the EU’s role in this geopolitical region.
Nor does the book neglect the importance of the ‘norm-giving’ actors trying to influence the policies of the countries in the region. The actions of the two major international actors contesting each other’s influence in the region – the EU and Russia – are evaluated carefully, making the book one of the few addressing relations between the post-Soviet countries, Russia and the EU after the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union.
In order to understand the EU’s actions (and Russia’s counteractions) in its eastern neighbourhood, Delcour studies four different countries in the region and two policy sectors. Thus, she considers the domestic legal, institutional and policy sectorial changes taking place in Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia in response to the EU’s demands in the fields of food safety and migration.
The book is divided into eight chapters through which the author develops her analysis in an ordered, structured and consequential way. In the first chapter, the subject is introduced exhaustively and an overview of the structure and the contents provided. In the second chapter, the theoretical framework of the analysis is laid out. After these two introductory chapters, Delcour delves directly into the subject of her research. In Chapter 3, EU policies pursued in the post-Soviet space are analysed, whereas in Chapter 4, the same analysis is conducted highlighting Russian policies. Chapter 5 offers a precise comparative approach shedding light on the reasons behind the different EU policies in the four post-Soviet countries. Chapters 6 and 7 consider the factors that simplified (or prevented) norm transfer from the EU to these states in the field of food safety and migration. In Chapter 8, Delcour summarizes the findings of her research and shows which variables most effectively explain the domestic response to the policy changes required by the EU.
In conclusion, the book addresses a widely discussed topic in an original, well structured and exhaustive way. The rational sequencing of the arguments makes the book approachable by non-specialised readers, even if the vocabulary in some passages is rather complex.
Giovanni Finarelli Baldassarre
Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI)
EU security policy and crisis management : a quest for coherence / Nicole Koenig. - London ; New York : Routledge, 2016. - xi, 183 p. - (Routledge studies in European security and strategy). - ISBN 978-1-138- 96134-0
Security concerns have historically been fundamental in the construction of Europe’s identity and have widely contributed to its transatlantic ties. From Saint-Malo on, a strong debate and some major instruments have been put in place to improve the EU’s weak position as a security provider on the global stage. A sense of urgency has been felt particularly since the US’ gradual disengagement from Europe and as a result of the many challenges that a multipolar and rapidly changing world are posing in the European Neighbourhood.
The architecture of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) was reshaped by the Lisbon Treaty, with the aim of overcoming some of its main limitations: short-term strategies, lack of coordination and capabilities, modest impacts. What Nicole Koenig explores in her work is indeed to what extent and why EU responses are – or are not – coherent in the post-Lisbon setting.
Coherence comprises policy consistency, common objectives, compliance and interaction among domestic, intergovernmental and institutional levels. The distinction between ‘vertical’, ‘horizontal’ and ‘institutional’ coherence allows the reader to comprehend the obstacles behind the pursuit of a single voice, as the EU is a multi-layered governance system and security management a particularly sensitive domestic issue. A broad examination of EU missions in Libya, Somalia and the Sahel results in three different degrees of coherence, respectively denoted as ‘low’, ‘relatively high’ and ‘intermediate’. This comparative analysis hence responds to the first question by revealing the varying nature of outcome coherence, a dependent variable influenced by many dynamics.
Independent variables are then examined. By carrying out the analysis through rationalist-constructivist lenses, the answer lies in the complex combination between political salience and the weight of embedded norms. The author focuses on three influential European powers, namely France, the UK and Germany, considered crucial pillars in the definition of EU engagement. Empirical evidence suggests that when stakes are high, member states are prone to act in line with their interests, while if stakes are low or uncertain, they tend to conform to their embedded domestic norms. These dynamics are expected to lead to divergent positions within the EU and to affect the degree of coherence negatively. Conversely, when decisions are isolated from national contexts, both lenses suggest that more coherent EU action is likely. The ‘relatively high’ degree of coherence reached in Somalia, for example, is due to the low level of interest polarisation: member states had common economic priorities, and this was reflected in shared efforts to counter piracy. On the contrary, Libya shows that strong conflicting interests and rooted norm behaviours left space only for ‘blurred’, uncoordinated action.
Moreover, despite the establishment of convergence mechanisms to support a common EU external action, the study shows that the new structure itself actually creates problems. If supranational entrepreneurs such as the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) have overlapping competences, successful coordination is constantly challenged by competition and bureaucratic resistance.
Nicole Koenig concludes by underlining the rationale behind the quest for coherent EU action and by emphasizing the EU’s security responsibilities in these troubled times. This appeal is especially valid at a time when Brexit, on the one hand, and Trump, on the other, are putting the fragile equilibrium of European security into question once again.
The work provides an extensive and thought-provoking assessment of the obstacles to a truly integrated European Common Security and Defence Policy today. Nevertheless, as acknowledged by Koenig herself, the research is limited to African events, all of which unfolded within a restricted timeframe. Moreover, without questioning the strategic role of the EU member states chosen, including Italy’s role in analysis of the Libyan crisis might have provided a more complete picture. Overall, the author uses an innovative approach, offering scholars and students an original and stimulating perspective for reading recent EU developments in security matters.
Université libre de Bruxelles
Theorising NATO : new perspectives on the Atlantic Alliance / edited by Mark Webber and Adrian Hyde-Price. - London and New York : Routledge, 2016. - 248 p. - ISBN 978-0-415-68899-4
Mark Webber, Professor of International Relations and Head of the School of Government and Society at the University of Birmingham, and Adrian Hyde-Price, Professor of Political Science at Gothenburg University, are the editors of a collection of essays on NATO as seen through the numerous lenses of International Relations theory. The authors claim that a “particular beast” such as NATO cannot be explained merely by means of one IR theory. Several perspectives are needed to shed light on different aspects of the organisation: Webber calls this approach “analytical eclecticism”.
The book opens with five contributions on NATO, described in the light of some of the most important IR theories: neo-realism, neo-classical realism, institutionalism, liberalism and constructivism. The research questions at the heart of each contribution are the same and deal with NATO’s nature, purpose, beneficiaries and persistence in the post-Cold War era.
While the application of some of the traditional IR theories, in particular, realism and institutionalism, is well suited to NATO’s nature and purpose, a military-centred organisation and, as such, an institution, the application of theories such as liberalism and constructivism is, though not unprecedented, considerably harder and requires a deeper explanatory effort. In this regard, the contribution on NATO and constructivism by Trine Flockhart (University of Kent) stands out as remarkably effective, particularly thanks to a broad but precise review of the relevant literature by constructivist scholars.
The chapters devoted to the minor theories – securitisation theory, risk society theory, public good theory and organisational learning theory – provide some new insights into NATO, offering thought-provoking material useful in reinforcing analyses built upon one or more of the major theories. Once again, some theories are easier to apply to NATO and its characteristics – securitisation theory, for instance – than others. Among these, the application of risk society theory in the interesting contribution by Michael John Williams (New York University) is noteworthy as remarkably rich and well structured.
The contents of the individual contributions to the book are not revolutionary. Some add something new to the academic debate on the Atlantic Alliance, but none of them clearly stand out as ground-breaking. But then again, they were not intended to be. What matters is the general approach. Consistent with the editors’ view, it is the combination of the different approaches that eventually offers a new and interesting outlook on NATO. The non-competitive, mutually reinforcing coexistence of different theoretical points of view contributes to providing the reader with a novel portrait of the Atlantic Alliance.
Theorising NATO is a useful exercise, worth reading for students and scholars of both NATO and IR theory. For NATO specialists, Webber and Hyde-Price’s book provides new answers to old questions – especially the ones connected to NATO’s persistence in the post-Cold War era. Both Flockhart’s constructivist analysis and the contribution on securitisation by Gabi Schlag (Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg) offer answers to this question that are not superficial. For IR theory enthusiasts, Theorising NATO attests concretely to the importance of theory in International Relations and provides a practical and powerful demonstration that multiple theoretical points of view can coexist and reinforce one another harmoniously, if considered with sufficient analytical eclecticism.
Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI)
Inglorious Empire : what the British did to India / Shashi Tharoor. - London : Hurst, 2017. - xxix, 295 p. - ISBN 978-1-84904-808-8
Theresa May’s first overseas trip was to India in the hope of starting the process of a UK-Indian Free Trade Agreement. But she and the Brexiteers who are calling for ‘Empire 2’ should read this well written, detailed account of British rule in India to try and understand what India really thinks of the UK. Playing on the UK’s allegedly benevolent colonial role in India is unlikely to win friends. With a mass of detail and statistics, Shashi Tharoor, a former senior UN official and foreign affairs minister for the Indian National Congress, demolishes the still widespread view in the UK that British rule brought numerous benefits to the subcontinent.
The India that the British gradually conquered in the middle of the 18th century was responsible for 23 percent of global GDP. When the British departed in unseemly haste 200 years later, this percentage had dropped to just over 3 percent. The British industrial revolution was built on the back of India’s thriving manufacturing, especially shipbuilding and textiles. India’s booming textile sector was destroyed by the imposition of punitive tariffs so that ‘the dark satanic mills’ in England could profit. The forced de-industrialisation of India meant that millions had to resort to subsistence agriculture, thus worsening rural poverty.
Britain treated India as “a cash cow”, extracting huge revenues in taxation that helped maintain the UK’s global empire. Tharoor takes aim at the notion of “Clive of India” as if he belonged to the country “when all he did was ensure that a good portion of the country belonged to him”. Huge numbers of Indians were forced to move and work in other British colonies, from Uganda to Malaya.
More than a million Indians were mustered to help protect the British Empire in the First World War – with a 10 percent casualty rate. They had been promised progressive self-rule, a promise quickly forgotten. Instead of a path towards democracy and self-rule, the British passed the infamous Rowlatt Act vesting extraordinary powers in the government to deal with ‘sedition’. Public protests against this draconian legislation were quelled ruthlessly, most notoriously in the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh (Amritsar) massacre.
Tharoor demolishes other assertions that the British brought democracy, a free press and the rule of law to India. In fact, the British pursued a continuous policy of divide and rule, muzzled the press and dispensed one form of justice for the white man and another for Indians. Racism was endemic, apartheid practised and any fraternising discouraged. There was no path to the top for Indians working in the Indian Civil Service.
There was little sign of enlightened despotism, an argument made by some apologists for the British in India. The British presided over several terrible famines, forced opium on India and built the railways to move goods and troops.
Although Britain emerged ‘victorious’ from the Second World War, again with massive help from India, it was seriously weakened, and despite Churchill’s pretensions, could no longer sustain its presence in India. But far from undertaking an orderly withdrawal, it scuttled out in a matter of months engaging Sir Cyril Radcliffe, a civil servant who had never been to India nor had any understanding of the country, to draw partition lines with the result that millions of Hindus and Muslims were killed in an orgy of violence.
Tharoor admits that there were some decent British officials, such as Sir Arthur Cotton who built a dam across the Gadavari; and the British did introduce tea, cricket and the English language to India; but the overall balance sheet is extremely negative. He holds the ‘benefits of Empire’ thesis by Niall Ferguson in particular scorn, noting that, while the British proclaimed the virtues of free trade, they destroyed the free trade that Indians had carried on for centuries. The British left India with a literacy rate of 15 percent, a life expectancy of 27, almost no manufacturing and 90 percent of the population living in poverty.
While much of his critique is justified, Tharoor might also have cast a more critical eye on how the Indian elites treated their own people and on the invidious caste system that still prevails today.
That said, India has enjoyed remarkable growth in recent years and made an enormous contribution to global security simply by ensuring domestic stability, not an easy task in a huge, multi-national, multi-religious state like India. It should have had a permanent seat on the UN Security Council long ago.
The colonial era is often misrepresented in Britain, as indeed it is in other countries with an imperial past, including France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal and Spain. If the EU, or a post-Brexit UK, is to enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship with India, then a proper understanding of the imperial past is a necessity. This book is thus essential reading for all those involved with or interested in the most populous country in the world.
EU-Russia Centre, Brussels
The transformation of Italian armed forces in comparative perspective : adapt, improvise, overcome? / Fabrizio Coticchia, Francesco N. Moro. - Farnham ; Burlington : Ashgate, 2015. - x, 151 p. - (Military strategy and operational art). - ISBN 978-1-4724-2751-9
This well-structured research study by Coticchia and Moro aims to contribute to analysis of the defence transformation process underway in Italy, comparing it to France and the United Kingdom, both affected by changes in a similar way. The period covered by the study goes from the end of the Cold War to 2014.
The main research questions are the following: What drives change and innovation in military organisations? How and why do they change? How does learning take place?
Focusing on exogenous factors, traditional IR theories tend to overlook the endogenous dimension of change, considering it self-explanatory. Quite the opposite, the authors’ claim that innovation and change in a complex organisation like the military is far from linear or unidirectional. Therefore, they attempt to look inside the “black box” of military innovation. Strategic and military cultures, legacies, organisational set-ups are elements that have to be “unpacked”. Coticchia and Moro analyse bottom-up sources of military and inter-organisational learning, as well as their institutionalisation through three interacting factors: doctrine and strategic framework, budget and resource allocation, force structure and deployment. More in detail, military doctrine is widely regarded as a crucial indicator of institutional learning, whereas the budget is considered a good check of coherence between means and ends. Deployment indicates how change translates into activity. Each of these components has a role in shaping transformation.
The study is further enriched by the comparative perspective that looks at defence transformation in France and the United Kingdom as well. Indeed, the countries considered share a common effort towards an organisational restructuring and revision, due to some extent to common activism in deployment while being subject to significant budget cuts. Nevertheless, analysis of both France and the United Kingdom remains rather marginal. In fact, as underlined by the authors, it is the Italian case that deserves the most attention, and not only because of the paucity of research addressing it. The lack of an autonomous and proper defence policy throughout the Cold War, and then the large-scale activism in military operations since the 1990s denote a substantial transformation that has turned Italy into a security provider and leading European supplier of Blue Helmets. Thus, is the very extent of change that makes it particularly interesting.
In Chapter 4, the most important military operations are critically evaluated (Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya). The empirical observation of the process of adaptation to the environment, namely learning in the field, coupled with the inquiry about if and how forces and equipment deployed on the ground were coherent with the type of mission, are the most absorbing parts of the book. Coticchia and Moro argue that feedback from operational experience has been central in promoting transformation at the institutional level for all countries analysed, but especially for Italy, where intense deployment became a key driver of change. Chapter 5 considers patterns of learning, notably how military organisations recast their institutional design to address challenges arising from operational experience.
Overall, the book is well structured, comprehensible and certainly succeeds in opening the “black box” of change, yet it cannot be considered exhaustive. The institutionalist approach, while undoubtedly necessary to reach a deeper understanding of how change happens, makes the reader lose the broader picture occasionally. The volume is suited for an audience that already has a background in IR or Strategic Studies or is familiar with defence studies and wants to gain deeper insight into contemporary military organisations and their recent transformations.
University of Bologna