The traditional cornerstones of the popularity of the Putin regime – stability, growing prosperity, the increased status of Russia in international affairs – seem to be rapidly eroding, which has led many observers to predict major changes in Russia in the near future.
However, there are significant structural issues – alongside the mechanisms of ‘political technology’ and the outright oppression of dissent – that support and maintain the Putin regime, regardless of its malfunctioning and undisputed failings.
Even in the unlikely event of Putin suddenly disappearing from the political scene, significant hurdles remain for the restructuring of the Russian economy and political system. No major modernisation or reform mode is to be expected.
The EU and Finland should base their policies on a realistic assessment of Russia’s long-term trajectory. There are unlikely to be any shortcuts to success, and no western policy is likely to produce positive results in the short term. What is needed now is a long-term perspective and principled policies, while acknowledging that only the Russians can change Russia’s political direction.
Targeted sanctions are political acts that infringe upon the enjoyment of fundamental rights by designated individuals and entities, especially the rights of defence and the right to an effective remedy. Increasing international attention has therefore been paid to the legal implications of targeted sanctions.
Targeted sanctions must meet basic standards of fair and clear procedures not only to guarantee the rights of individuals, but also in order to be a credible and effective foreign policy tool.
To date, concerns over fair treatment have been addressed in a fragmented and piecemeal way. Judicial review before European courts has provided an important incentive for change, especially for the creation of the office of the UN Ombudsperson.
A holistic approach should be developed, which not only emphasizes retrospective review of sanctions, but would also address concerns in the initial phase of their adoption. Increased attention should be paid to the use of confidential information and the right of designated individuals to receive information.
Efforts to strengthen legality aspects in the use of targeted sanctions must take account of the circumstances in which these measures are taken. Concerns for international peace and security, and especially for the authority of the Security Council, must be balanced against the protection of fundamental rights.
The new EU leadership has restructured the way the European Commission manages its external relations. The High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini, was formally put in charge of coordinating the work of the Commissioners’ Group on External Action and relocated her offices to the Commission building.
Under the new approach, the Commission aims to be more closely involved in the preparation of Foreign Affairs Council meetings. Regular meetings of external action Commissioners are supposed to foster a common position, as well as increase the Commission input on sectoral policies and instruments ahead of ministerial meetings.
In the face of the gravitational shift towards the Commission, it is in the interests of member states to ensure that the EEAS remains, despite all its teething troubles, the political hub of EU external relations, and to invest in its development accordingly.
An in-depth examination of the externally relevant policies within the remit of the Commission reveals that, across all issues, EU foreign policy can improve by a joint approach combining the political perspective of the EEAS with the sectoral expertise of the Commission.
Kristi Raik, Mika Aaltola, Katri Pynnöniemi, Charly Salonius-Pasternak: Pushed together by external forces? The foreign and security policies of Estonia and Finland in the context of the Ukraine crisis
New turbulence in the international environment is pushing Estonia and Finland closer together in the foreign and security policy domain. The Ukraine crisis has re-introduced old geopolitical constraints and concerns about national security and sovereignty, limiting the room for manoeuvre for small states.
Estonia and Finland took similar positions on many key issues regarding the Ukraine crisis. The common ground is based on both countries’ attachment to the liberal world order and Western structures.
However, there are deep-rooted differences between the Estonian and Finnish positions on the way to handle Russia and the need to adjust security arrangements, notably the role of NATO in the Nordic-Baltic region. It is common in Finland to see Estonia’s approach as unhelpfully hawkish, and common in Estonia to see Finland’s approach as too accommodating towards Russia.
Shared interests stem from an understanding that the weakening of the security of one country inevitably weakens the security of the other. As both countries are investing more in national security and defence, relevant bilateral cooperation is increasing.
The ISIL surge has inspired a new generation of jihadist terrorists.
The large number of foreign volunteers in Syria may cause a global terrorism blowback when ISIL is defeated in Syria/Iraq. This underlines the need for common goals and policies regarding the foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon.
The EU has not been able to take a decisive role regarding the Syrian conflict and foreign terrorist fighters, but it can still play an important role in coordinating the responses of the member states.
The EU could take a role in establishing common guidelines for social media regarding extremist material and agitation for violence.
Finding common ground with Turkey on information gathering and sharing would be essential in preventing the travel-for-terrorism cause.
Countries bordering Syria and Iraq are in danger of ISIL spill-over effects in the form of potential affiliates and organizations emulating the rebel group. Egypt and Libya are also likely to become breeding grounds for such groups.
The Ukraine crisis has reminded Europeans of the importance of defence policy, thus amplifying the main message of the December 2013 European Council on security and defence.
Many of the proposals put forward by the December summit are currently being worked on, but the Ukraine crisis creates additional challenges for the EU, highlighting the strategic divergence within the Union and posing fundamental questions about its role as a security provider.
Regarding concrete achievements, the EU’s defence ministers recently adopted a policy framework for systematic and long-term defence cooperation, and the Commission has also begun to work energetically towards achieving its key objectives in the defence sector.
Ultimately, however, the success of the EU’s efforts will depend on the commitment of the member states.
Tensions and difficulties have emerged again in the Middle East together with the stalled peace process, which is a great concern for the EU.
The EU has established two Civilian Crisis Management missions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as instruments of the Common Security and Defence Policy to promote the objectives of the Middle East Peace Process.
Both missions, EUPOL COPPS and EUBAM Rafah, have been successful in training, advising and mentoring the Palestinian security sector to combat terror and prevent it, and to operate with the Israeli security forces to maintain order.
However, the full potential of the two missions has not been utilized as instruments to promote the peace process principles in terms of emphasizing democracy and accountability as being fundamental to an independent state.
It is time for the EU to link its state-building initiatives in the Occupied Palestinian Territory with a clear political position at the “high-politics” level and to translate them into reality.
If the focus of these two CSDP missions is not shifted away from polishing the already smooth-functioning Palestinian security apparatus and more towards reflecting the political aims of the peace process, it begs the question of whether these missions can continue to serve as useful instruments for the EU to promote the peace process.
Charly Salonius-Pasternak: Deeper defence cooperation: Finland and Sweden together again?
Finland and Sweden are increasing their bilateral defence cooperation. Officially, it is restricted to peacetime and international crisis management operation activities, but it nonetheless has national territorial defence impacts.
The planned deepening of cooperation between Finland and Sweden builds on the already extensive daily cooperation between the two countries.
Both Finland and Sweden see deeper cooperation as an important addition to cooperation within the EU, NATO, and NORDEFCO frameworks, as well as other significant bilateral cooperative relationships.
Fruitful cooperation will require strengthening trust among military and political actors, as well as an acknowledgement of differing perspectives regarding the role of the defence industry in security and defence policy formation.
Cooperation may continue to deepen as the momentum for it builds, or through a binding agreement developing into a defence alliance – Defence Alliance Finland-Sweden (DAFS).
András Rácz & Sinikukka Saari: The new Minsk ceasefire: A breakthrough or just a mirage in the Ukrainian conflict settlement?
The new Minsk ceasefire agreement empowers Russia-backed separatists with a number of leverages over Ukraine. If implemented, the agreement could provide a functioning framework for a mutually acceptable political settlement. In the event of non-implementation, a re-eruption of hostilities is highly likely.
With Finns remaining divided over the potential benefits of NATO membership, Finland’s political leadership seeks to strengthen the role of the EU as a security community. At the same time, Finland is aware of the challenges currently faced by the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy and does not expect rapid progress.
Podemos is offering a serious alternative to the other left-wing parties and breathing new life into the rather stale political atmosphere in Spain, but it falls short of offering realistic solutions to foreign and European policy issues, which makes it difficult to beat the leading conservative party.
In trying to understand Russia’s actions in the context of the war in Ukraine, it is important to approach the use of the bear metaphor critically. In domestic use, the metaphor creates an image of a country acting in self-defence and deflects attention away from systemic problems.
A nationalistic mood has characterized the Russian president’s speeches, the aim of which is to mobilize the Russian people against an external threat at a time of crisis. Even though Vladimir Putin’s interpretation of nationalism emphasizes national cohesion, his message may simultaneously strengthen ethnic nationalism in Russia.
Canada will pass the chairmanship of the Arctic Council to the United States in May 2015. The two states have distinctly different agendas, and the change is likely to herald discontinuity in Arctic governance.This may reoccur in 2017 unless Finland rediscovers its traditional Arctic policy for its chairmanship agenda.
Moldova’s parliamentary elections resulted in a victory for the EU-oriented parties, which have governed the country since 2009. However, the strong support for the pro-Russian parties indicates that the country is still deeply divided, despite the recent successes on the road towards European integration.
If the EU offers a formal dialogue to the Eurasian Economic Union, it is unlikely to lead to reciprocal economic liberalization, or reverse the general political dynamics in EU-Russia relations. Rather, just like the “Partnership for Russia’s Modernization” before it, this would become yet another stillborn undertaking.
The strength of ISIL (Da’ish) has been assured by its adversaries’ weakness. The movement can also bank on support from several regional players, who have now, paradoxically, joined the anti-ISIL coalition. Any effective strategy to defeat the jihadis must be based on a shared goal and sequenced to ensure long-term success.
The Palestinian Authority is stepping up its involvement in the international community and in international institutions. These practical moves are no substitute for a negotiated solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, but they do seek to bolster Palestine’s position in future peace talks.
With a Republican victory in the midterm elections, it seems likely that the party’s policy formulations will increasingly influence US foreign policy.Instead of simply opposing Barack Obama’s policies, the Republicans have achieved a stronger position whereby they can more actively pursue compromises with the president.
Turkish social science research has been steeped in interpretations according to which Turkey’s 20th century political history is marked by an uneven struggle between an “omnipotent Kemalist state” and a rather powerless society. This argument has been very coherently used by the governing Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) in its articulation of the (Kemalist) Westernizer as the “domestic other”.
This paper argues that Turkey’s European Union membership negotiation process under the current AKP regime can only be adequately explained based on these premises. Turkey’s EU accession negotiations started in October 2005, six years after the EU had confirmed the country’s official candidate status. As of the beginning of 2015, only one of the 35 negotiation chapters has been completed. Thus, as the tenth anniversary of the kick-off of the accession negotiations is approaching, it is an appropriate time to ask some very basic questions concerning its nature. The present working paper tackles this issue by concentrating on the following questions: What is the nature of the AKP as a political movement, and how best to evaluate Turkey’s EU bid under its rule?
The paper first presents a Western view of Turkey that has been widely held during the last decade. This is followed by a short summary of the main factors that induced the EU to start official membership negotiations with Turkey. After this, the AKP’s attempt to destroy what its leadership asserts is the old Kemalist regime and replace it with a “New Turkey” is evaluated. This evaluation leads to an outline of the main factors behind the AKP’s EU accession negotiations.
The paper argues that it is highly unlikely that the AKP can ever establish a workable liberal democracy in Turkey. A further observation directly following on from this is that the AKP regime will never be able to fulfil Turkey’s EU aspirations. The dominant image of Turkey as a European country firmly in the Western camp no longer corresponds with reality. Internally, the current regime believes that Turkey’s Westernization has been a degenerating process – a historical mistake – that has now been annihilated. As the internal state legitimation no longer requires anchoring Turkey to the West, but rather making the West a counter-image, a radical redefinition of Turkey’s national interests and position in the world has come about.
Debates on the war-making powers of the US Congress and the President have been topical of late. President Barack Obama’s actions in relation to Libya (2011), Syria (2013), and more recently the “targeted” actions against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, have raised discussions about the powers of the President as the Commander-in-Chief vis-à-vis the powers of Congress. If and when should the President seek congressional authorization for the use of US armed forces?
This Working Paper argues that Congress has constitutionally established but contingently manifest powers when it comes to decision-making on war. To examine this, the paper explicates the procedures of congressional involvement in the decision-making process on war and illustrates congressional debates on the war powers between the branches of government. The recent cases of Libya and Syria are examined in more detail to indicate the (aspired) role of Congress.
The powers between the branches of government are not static but rather (re)interpreted and (re)defined in different political contexts. War powers are one example to explicate the constitutional powers of the US Congress and the President that are divided, and to examine how these powers are considered and debated. While the debates are considered against the backdrop of the Constitution, the question to consider is how they relate to the political realities and power relations in changing political settings.
The Working Paper also explicates the role of Congress in the broader perspective rather than through the legislative record and voting only, even though the members of Congress have particularly emphasized debate (and voting) in the decision-making process. Concepts such as collective judgment, popular sovereignty and separation of powers are used in this context to indicate the role of Congress in this field. The changing nature of war and the concept of war pose new challenges for understanding and defining the powers related to “war making”, and are reflected in the continuing debates concerning the scope and relevancy of the power of Congress (and the President) when it comes to decision-making on the use of US armed forces.
András Rácz & Arkady Moshes: Not Another Transnistria: How sustainable is separatism in Eastern Ukraine?
The situation in Eastern Ukraine is often compared with that of Transnistria, the separatist region of Moldova. However, the two cases differ for a number of reasons, all of which will make the “Novorossiya” project much harder for Russia to sustain than Transnistria.
First and foremost, unlike Transnistria, the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in their current shape will be unable to influence the everyday political and economic functioning of Ukraine. Vis-à-vis the rest of Ukraine, they are much smaller than Transnistria is in relation to Moldova. The main energy pipelines leading to Ukraine do not cross the separatist territories, and with the economic ties getting severed, the main instrumental function of a frozen conflict – namely to constantly influence and destabilize the target country – is likely to be lost.
There are also several other factors, including: the lack of ethnic, national, linguistic or cultural background that would provide identity foundations for the Novorossiya project; the reliance of the separatists on the continuous, massive presence of the Russian military; the damage already inflicted on Russia’s international reputation; the effect on Russian domestic politics; the need for considerable financial assistance from Russia to the separatist territories; and the risk of increasing soft security challenges directly affecting Russia.
In addition to all this, it cannot be guaranteed that the separatist elites will always be fully obedient to the will of Moscow. The a priori readiness to defend and support the action of the local authorities will limit Moscow’s room for maneouvre.
Costly both politically and economically, the Novorossiya project is able to serve the Russian strategic objectives vis-à-vis the rest of Ukraine much less than Transnistria was able to do so vis-à-vis Moldova. Hence, one probable scenario is a further escalation of hostilities to expand the separatist-controlled territory, which may unfold relatively soon. However, in the medium term, the gradual restoration of Ukraine’s constitutional order in the territory should also be considered possible, within the framework of a larger international compromise and provided that reforms progress in Ukraine.