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Michael Gove gives talk to Forum on Geopolitics

last modified May 12, 2017 12:31 PM
The Forum on Geopolitics hosts Michael Gove
Gove gives a talk at the Alison Richard Building The Forum on Geopolitics was delighted to host Michael Gove in the Department of Politics and International Studies for a talk to an audience of faculty and students entitled "My Vision for Europe after Brexit". Mr. Gove focused particularly on the merits of the nation-state governance model, noting that the dream of a unified Europe was used by autocrats against nascent nationalist movements and creates a political elite that can hamper institutional change. 

Conversely, noted Gove, the model of nation states acknowledges that while empires can bring unity, and a pleasing authority for some, empires cannot provide for institutional change at the same speed as the nation state. The post-WWII European compact sought to ensure a high standard of living to citizens, and in exchange rulers in Europe would be drawn from an open elite. As with other models of empire, the European elite have fallen out of sync with Europe, leading to the sense of alienation that has enabled the rise of extremist parties. 
Prof. Simms in conversation with Michael Gove
The nation state model, argued Gove, forces leaders to be responsible for their electorate. Brexit, argued Gove, will continue to rejuvenate democracy in Britain. The post-Brexit government will be capable and accountable to the British electorate in a way it has not been since 1973. Britain must, noted Gove, continue to respect its commitment to international development and the multilateral institutions that play a role in ensuring its security. Brexit places upon Britain a duty and an obligation not to leave Europe. Brexit was a vote upholding democracy, and not a retreat from it. 

 

Westphalia for the Middle East Berlin Workshop

last modified May 07, 2017 09:06 PM

The Forum on Geopolitics, in collaboration with the Körber Foundation, held the third workshop of the second phase of its joint project, ‘A Westphalia for the Middle East’, in Berlin on 27-28 April 2017. The project seeks to draw inspiration from the Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years War in 1648, in order to determine new approaches towards conflict-resolution and confessional co-existence in the contemporary Middle East; not by imposing an external model, but rather by trying to encourage a settlement reached by local actors with the help of a toolbox of mechanisms and techniques that proved so effective in addressing analogous geopolitical challenges in the historical experience of the 1640s. Following the previous meetings, in which we elaborated on the elements and nature of a hoped-for regional settlement for the Middle East, the latest workshop was dedicated to discussing the international dimensions to such a settlement. In particular, we assessed the merits of a possible system of regional and international guarantees of the settlement, modelled loosely on the Westphalian guarantor system which contributed significantly to the successful conclusion of a comprehensive peace treaty in 1648, as well as to the long-term safeguarding of the peace. The workshop was attended by over twenty high-profile participants from the Middle East, Europe, the United States, and Russia. Represented among them were politicians, academics, journalists, and senior figures from the UN, the Arab League, the EU, and various NGOs. A full report on the event will be forthcoming in the next two weeks.

Report on Workshop- 'Elements of a Regional Peace Settlement for the Middle East'- Amman, Jordan 22-23 January 2017

last modified Mar 14, 2017 10:46 AM
Report on Workshop- 'Elements of a Regional Peace Settlement for the Middle East'- Amman, Jordan 22-23 January 2017

Sunrise over King Abdullah I Mosque, image credit Andrew Moore

The Forum on Geopolitics of the University of Cambridge and the Körber Foundation are pleased to present this report of the January 2017 workshop 'Elements of a Regional Peace Settlement for the Middle East' held in Amman, Jordan as part of the Westphalia for the Middle East project

 

Opening Remarks by Prince Faisal Ibn Al Hussein 

The Workshop opened with a statement of welcome from Prince Faisal Ibn Al Hussein, who praised the aims of the Westphalia project, and noted the award of the Westphalia Peace Prize to King Abdullah in October 2016. The Prince emphasised the need for religion to inspire the best motives of humanity, compassion and constructiveness, rather than the worst, of divisiveness and hatred.  He also expressed concern about the uncertainties around the new presidency in the US; especially the possibility of the US embassy moving to Jerusalem.

Opening Presentations

This was followed by a presentation from Michael Axworthy and Patrick Milton which recapped the history of the 30 Years War and the Westphalia Treaty, pointed up some of the key parallels with the present situation in the Middle East, and suggested four main areas for development in the workshop:

  1. The geographical scope of a possible treaty;
  2. The need for parties to the treaty to set out their core security interests openly and transparently;
  3. Measures to harmonise clashing interests (rights of ruled vis a vis rulers, mechanisms for resolution of disputes, regional assembly, provision for guarantor powers); and
  4. The question of which powers could act as guarantors. 

On 23 January His Excellency Dr Fayez Tarawneh (Chief of the Royal Hashemite Court) made a presentation, passing to the participants the best wishes of King Abdullah. In his statement he emphasised the plight of refugees; 1 in 5 of those now living in Jordan were Syrian refugees (along with a larger number of Palestinians who had been there longer). It was necessary to include justice for the Palestinians in any future settlement in the Middle East, on the basis of a 2-state solution; it was a mistake to see the Daesh problem as somehow separate. It was also highly desirable for Egypt to take a greater role. But peaceful resolution was possible just as Westphalia had been possible. In answer to a suggestion from two participants, Dr Tarawneh was cautious about the idea of Jordan hosting a possible new peace initiative; possibly after the forthcoming Arab summit, to be held in Amman in March 2017. Later it was suggested that if Jordan were to do such a thing, the initiative would have to be shared with others.

Session One

Much of the first session focused on the real and perceived security interests of regional states. Saudi Arabia was on the defensive (the comparison was again drawn, as in previous workshops, with Habsburg Austria), following the perceived contraction of US interest in the region. Iran’s stance was based on defensive attitudes derived from the period of the Iran-Iraq war 1980-88, plus the long-standing effects of sanctions and the fear of encirclement by US power projected into the region; but was perceived as aggressive by many of her neighbours. Russian intervention had created an opportunity for Iran, and the two countries had prevailed in Syria; Russia was now a major regional actor. It was sometimes more difficult to change perceptions than to change facts; but it could be possible to make progress if each country could make plain what were and what were not their prime security concerns, tied in to what each considered to be legitimate zones of influence (and non-influence).

It was suggested that for Iran, prime interests were the removal of the US military threat, the establishment of a regional security structure in the Gulf region (including Iraq), and then Afghanistan/Pakistan. As for zones of influence, Iran was primarily concerned with her immediate neighbours; not Yemen or Libya, but Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon, possibly with Lebanon in a somewhat different category. Iran had observed the acceptance – or encouragement - by Arab states of US intervention over the years. Now that IS/Daesh were the most pressing threat, Iran had little confidence that the Arab states could deal with it.  There was also a concern in Iran – both in government and among the people – that Israel was now manipulating Arab states to its own ends.

In parallel, Saudi Arabia’s core interests were suggested as the achievement of regional stability, and removal of the Iranian threat. Yemen, the GCC states, Syria and Jordan were necessary parts of the kingdom’s zone of influence.  But the self-defined interest of Iran should not simply be allowed to override the wishes of the Syrian people. In Iraq, the Saudis had concerns about the direction of Turkish policy but felt central Iraq was more a matter for Turkey. 

For Turkey (whatever ‘romantic’ aspirations had appeared in the past), the prime concern was that no Kurdish state should emerge, whether as such or in de facto form through arrangements for regional autonomy. Later it was suggested that Russia was looking for an exit strategy in Syria (though no Russian participant was present this time): Russia wanted the port at Tartus, and to have a continuing oversight, but for the fighting to be over and a stable settlement in place.

In further discussions, a number of participants noted that the area of conflict between the stated interests of Iran and Saudi Arabia did not seem all that great. Both confirmed that their other interests were more pressing to them than Lebanon or the Palestinian issue, for example (for Iran it was more a question of influence than interest as such). It was noted that the leadership of Hamas had changed direction and (by implication) Iranian involvement had lessened. There was some discussion of Hezbollah in Lebanon; it was suggested that for some in the GCC, there was no difference between Hezbollah and IS/Daesh as non-state actors. Others argued that there was a difference; IS/Daesh were likely to disappear but Hezbollah would stay. One view suggested that events had forced a contraction of Saudi demands; previously they had wanted confederation in Iraq and partition is Syria, but the latter at least was no longer practicable. There was perhaps a parallel with Habsburg acceptance of the abandonment of earlier maximalist demands at Westphalia.

Session Two

In session two, it was argued from the point of view of the GCC states that whatever might be said about interests or perceptions by others, the fears the GCC had about Iran were not just perceptions – they were based on facts. People there believed that Iran was building a new Empire; building its own security at the expense of the security of others, and creating non-state actors to do its bidding.  People in the GCC states would be looking to the new administration in the US to put Iran ‘back in its box’.   From the Iranian point of view, it was necessary to find security solutions within the region, rather than looking to solutions from outside; if external guarantors were needed, the right and legitimate guarantor was the UN. One participant said that it would be necessary for regional states to take responsibility for past mistakes and for the future; over the years it had become tiring to hear regional voices portraying themselves as victims. Others recalled the widespread view in the region that a degree of external involvement was necessary if a peace settlement were to prosper. 

Session Three

In session three, participants were reminded that two essential mechanisms that had brought success at Westphalia were the idea of a universal peace congress (it was vital that such a congress be as inclusive as possible), and the arrangement whereby all contracting parties were guarantors for all articles of the treaties. In addition, prompted by the scepticism from some about the chances of peace in the Middle East now, and the obstacles in the way of it, another suggested that it was perhaps useful to remember that Westphalia had succeeded despite the fact that not all the warring parties were exhausted by the conflict (France and Spain fought on until 1659), despite the fact that the parties certainly did not trust each other (trust was not really established for a generation or more) and the treaty did not even benefit from a ceasefire (fighting continued even while the negotiations were going on).

Discussion turned to the question of norms or principles that could make a starting-point for a possible treaty negotiation. Consensus over common norms in the Middle East was weak; to make peace it would be necessary to create institutions and monitor compliance also – there had to be scepticism as to whether all this was possible (it was to be expected that some parties might sign up to principles and then flout them later, when other pressing interests appeared to override them), but it was necessary to try.  It could be that some of the discussions in the earlier Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) forum, in which several of the present participants had also taken part (though no Iranian had taken part), could be of help – before those talks finally broke up, they had produced a list of norms similar to what was being talked about here. One suggestion was to draw up a list of common principles to use as a starting-point, and then to begin work on relatively uncontroversial sub-regional issues; maritime security for example. 

These ideas were addressed mainly toward the rivalry between Iran and the GCC states.  Among the norms listed from the GCC side were – state monopoly on the use of force; non-intervention in other states; counter-terrorism; counter-piracy; combating drug trafficking.  This was complemented later from the Iranian side with the following suggestions for a draft document of principles: mutual respect, including for security interests; the preservation of territorial integrity; peaceful settlement of disputes; arms control and disarmament, and a WMD-free zone; open trade and investment, business; free navigation, free flow of oil. 

Session Four

In the fourth and final session the participants were again reminded of the difficulty of the Westphalia process; the ‘rough wind’ of Westphalia. Some participants there would not sit in the same room as others, and there were some killings in the cities where the talks were held. Crucial was the final push for peace by the ‘third party’ of German princes and cities after the original French initiative lost momentum; the third party were effective not because they were tolerant or secular-minded, but because they prioritised peace above everything else.  The key to success was the mutual guarantee of the treaty provisions by all parties, across state and religious boundaries.

There was some scepticism that Iran for example would be trusted or accepted by other regional states and peoples as a guarantor; but it was pointed out later that the peace process had to create trust, not the other way round; the Westphalia peace had succeeded not because its guarantors had been generally trusted (they were not) but because their concerns were woven into the treaty provisions in such a way as to make it their interest to uphold the peace. Others suggested that Iran’s stronger position in the region had come about not by any Iranian aggression, but through the action of the US and other Western powers, and to some extent, the Arab countries’ own actions or inaction.

From the Iranian point of view, the best way to proceed could be to go for sub-regional settlements; the Palestinian/Israel question on one side, possibly with the US and/or others as guarantors; and on the other side, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the GCC, and Iraq, with the UN Security Council as a guarantor (though others suggested that the UNSC could not operate effectively as a guarantor – hence the attractiveness of an interlocking system of guarantors from the region that were also parties to a treaty, as at Westphalia). Another suggestion was to look at what was happening in Astana. There, Iran, Turkey and Russia had positioned themselves as guarantors for a possible future settlement on Syria – but there were risks if others – the GCC and the US for example - were not involved (others suggested that a durable peace would need to answer the concerns of all in Syria, including the opposition groups). Building on the results of the workshop in Amman, the next workshop to be held in Berlin in April will mainly focus on the role of external actors in a peace settlement for the Middle East.

Donald Trump: The Making of a World View

last modified Jan 27, 2017 12:45 PM
“When Donald Trump enters the White House, he will do so with a worldview that has been constantly advanced and relatively consistently articulated in countless statements over the past three decades. Don't say he didn't warn you.”

 

On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump won the American presidential election, to the joy of some and the shock of many across the globe. Now that Trump is Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful country on Earth, Americans and non-Americans alike have been left wondering what that means for the world. It has been widely claimed that Trump's foreign policy views are impulsive, inconsistent and that they were improvised on the campaign trail.

Drawing on interviews from as far back as 1980, historians and the Forum on Geopolitics's own Charlie Laderman and Brendan Simms show that this assumption is dangerously false in their new e-book Donald Trump: The Making of a Worldview

Laderman and Simms reveal that Trump has had a consistent position on international trade and America’s alliances since he first flirted with the idea of running for president in the late 1980s. Furthermore, his foreign policy views have deep roots in American history.

Trump will not necessarily enact these positions at once when he is sworn in. Many presidents reverse positions when faced with the responsibility for high office. However, as Henry Kissinger emphasised, there is little time to learn on the job and policymakers will primarily consume the intellectual capital that they bring to the office. This book sketches out the worldview that Trump brings to the Oval Office, assembling the sources so that readers can also form their own view of it. And while Trump has shown remarkable consistency over time, there have been some major policy shifts over the years.

Donald Trump: The Making of a World View will reveal on what basis and under what circumstances Trump changes his mind. For Trump, almost every international problem that has confronted the United States is explained by the idiocy of its leaders. After decades of dismissing America’s leaders as fools and denouncing their diplomacy, Trump now must prove that he can do better.Over the past three decades, he has been laying out in interviews, articles, books and tweets what amounts to a foreign policy philosophy.

This book reveals how the worldview of the 45th President of the United States was formed, what might result if it is applied in policy terms and the potential consequences for the rest of the world.

Series report: "A Westphalia for the Middle East Phase I"

last modified Oct 13, 2016 09:10 AM

Report on Phase One of the seminar series and project “A Westphalia for the Middle East”

Dr. Michael Axworthy (University of Exeter)
Dr. Patrick Milton (Freie Universität Berlin)
Prof. Brendan Simms (University of Cambridge)

Contents

  1. Summary of themes and main results  
  2. The Middle Eastern Problem  
  3. The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation  
  4. Crisis and War in early seventeenth-century central Europe and in the current Middle East  
  5. The Peace of Westphalia: peace negotiations at the congress towns of Münster and Osnabrück  
  6. Westphalia: applicable to the Middle East?  
  7. Westphalia’s impact in Central Europe, and the implications for a possible ‘Westphalian’ settlement in the Middle East  
  8. Lessons for the Middle East   
  9. Impact   



1. Summary of themes and main results

‘A Westphalia for the Middle East’ is a project and seminar series convened by Michael Axworthy (Exeter), Brendan Simms (Cambridge), and Patrick Milton (FU Berlin), with financial assistance from the DAAD-Cambridge Research Hub for German Studies, and Institution Quraysh for Law and Policy. It constitutes one of several ‘Laboratories for World Construction’—policy-oriented and collaborative research projects which are run by the University of Cambridge’s new Forum on Geopolitics, established by Prof. Simms in 2015 at the Department of Politics and International Studies. The Laboratories assemble informed multi-disciplinary teams of academics and practitioners with the aim of tackling the most pressing, and seemingly intractable, current international geopolitical challenges through rigorous analysis, deep historical knowledge, and research.

As one such Laboratory, ‘A Westphalia for the Middle East’ investigates how lessons from the experience of confessional and power-political strife in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Central Europe can be used to inform steps toward the resolution of contemporary conflict in the Middle East, given the analogous nature of the conflicts and constellations in both epochs. Specifically, the aim is to determine how seventeenth-century central European conflict-resolution models relating to the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation – chiefly the Peace of Westphalia (1648) which ended the Thirty Years War, and its mechanisms of politico-confessional co-existence – could serve as an inspiration for attempts to solve the geopolitical and sectarian challenges of the contemporary Middle East. A particular concern of the analysis has been to avoid (and refute) the widespread and tenacious myth that Westphalia inaugurated a system of state sovereignty and non-intervention in domestic affairs.

Phase One of the series consisted of four seminars and took place between March and May 2016 at the University of Cambridge, and at King’s College London. The purpose of this phase was to investigate the early modern European experience in depth, in order to extract key insights and questions for Phase Two (planned for 2017), during which the outlines of a Westphalia-inspired peace settlement for the Middle East will be developed in greater detail. The seminars brought together three constituencies which have hitherto operated largely independently of each other: experts on Early Modern German history, specialists on the Middle East, and policy practitioners, in order to create an innovative forum for discussion and to explore and test the application of history laterally and counter-intuitively. Each speaker’s presentation on the Thirty Years War and Westphalia received commentary by a respondent with Middle East expertise. The three seminars focussing on early modern central Europe were preceded by an introductory session identifying the main Middle Eastern problems that need to be addressed. As was the case with the subsequent sessions, each presentation by experts on the Middle East had an assigned early modernist as a commentator. This set-up served to integrate the two parts of the project, constantly stressing the comparative aspects of the analysis.

The speakers demonstrated that far from enshrining a system of independent state sovereignty and non-intervention, the treaties of Westphalia actually increased the scope for appeal from within states to supra-statal legal institutions, and for external intervention in domestic matters, while also securing minority religious rights on a more secure footing. This occurred through the opening up of domestic confessional matters and rights to international scrutiny, and by empowering external guarantors to intervene in defence of stipulations which often dealt with local inhabitants’ liberties. Just as the legal norms established by Westphalia served to dampen conflict, provide means for the settlement of disputes and outlaw violence even, to some extent, when they were breached, so the establishment or re-establishment of similar norms through a treaty, with similar mid-to-long-term effects, must be the aim of a settlement in the contemporary Middle East.  The conflicts leading up to the conclusion of the peace of Westphalia and those affecting the Middle East were found to be broadly analogous; in many cases the closer we examined the detail, more parallels emerged. Therefore the project concept, of using Westphalia not as a blueprint for a new treaty for the Middle East, but rather as a toolbox of potential elements toward a future solution, appeared justified. Objections and challenges from regional experts were met and welcomed: rather than presenting findings, the purpose of the series was to create a space for the exchange of knowledge, and for debate, and to arrive at new insights together. Speakers and commentators included Ronald G. Asch, Ali Ansari, Volker Arnke, Michael Axworthy, John Bew, Philip Bobbitt, Guido Braun, Maria-Elisabeth Brunert, Malik Dahlan, Ralf-Peter Fuchs, Payam Ghalehdar, Martin Jacques, Laura James, Michael Kaiser, Christoph Kampmann, Frank Kleinehagebrock, Raphael Lefevre, Toby Matthiesen, Patrick Milton, Jonathan Powell, Michael Rowe, Mohammad Shabani, Brendan Simms, Andreas Whittam Smith, Gareth Stansfield, Andrew C. Thompson, Anuschka Tischer, David Trim, and Peter H. Wilson.

2. The Middle Eastern Problem

Before diving in to the details of early modern German history to identify which features and mechanisms could be useful for future peace-making in the Middle East, we needed first to set out the nature of the problem, to establish why something like a Westphalian solution is needed, and how it could be applied.

The prime current trauma is plainly the continuing strife in Syria, which draws in both regional actors and powers beyond the region to fight a proxy war, while facilitating the rise of Islamic State/Daesh. But that conflict has linked up with the continuing strife in Iraq, where IS/Daesh have made major gains: it was necessary to recognise that IS/Daesh enjoyed substantial support from some Sunni communities. There is serious fighting elsewhere in the wider region, notably in Yemen and in Libya; the situation in Bahrain is still tense and there is concern that conflict could spill over into other states where the confessional and ethnic balance is delicate, such as Lebanon and Jordan. The long-running dispute between Israel and the Palestinians is still unresolved.  Above and beyond the immediate local conflicts and tensions, the regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the related confessional tension between Sunni and Shia, have become a major factor in fuelling conflict. The confessional disputes, the use of proxies and the way outsiders are drawn into conflict out of a perceived need to protect their own security all echo the historical experience of Europe, and particularly Germany, in the seventeenth century.

It was striking that just as historians debate the role of religion in the conflicts of seventeenth-century Europe, so also, while some analysts argue against religion as the motivating force in contemporary conflict in the Middle East, favouring the influence of underlying geopolitical or economic factors instead, others continue to stress the direct effect of sectarian hostility. Speakers observed that external intervention had lost credibility since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but others pointed out that a Westphalia-style peace conference, or indeed any lasting settlement, was hard to envisage without the facilitating role of external powers. The P5+1 talks with Iran had been a constructive precedent for diplomatic engagement by external powers with the region.

The European-style state system established in the Middle East after the demise of the Ottoman Empire was widely perceived to have broken down, without any adequate replacement having emerged. Participants recognised that the Westphalia myth, in appearing to support a European-based model of independent nation-states, may have contributed to this failure. The agency of local actors should not be overlooked; the tendency to blame outside intervention for all the problems of the region was too prevalent. Although the current crisis in the Middle East was unmanageable in its severity and complexity and had gone beyond the capability of external forces to control it, both too much and too little outside involvement in the region could be detrimental to stability and chances for reconstruction. One of the prime messages of the Westphalia settlement, the success of the concept of conditional sovereignty, is of great relevance and potentially of great benefit in the Middle East context.

3. The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation

The Peace of Westphalia was simultaneously an international peace treaty between the Emperor and the crowns of France and Sweden, along with their respective princely allies at the end of the Thirty Years War, and a fundamental constitutional law for the Holy Roman Empire. Its peace-conserving terms and constitutional mechanisms thus applied first and foremost to the specificities of that polity. For this reason, any discussion of whether, or how, to apply lessons from Westphalia to a contemporary context requires a basic grasp of what kind of an entity the Empire was.  The absence or relative absence in the Middle East of such an overarching legal-political framework was noted at various points during the discussions, though others noted that the region should not be regarded as a blank slate, and that there were traditions and structures that could form a basis for future development.

Despite an unresolved historiographical debate about whether or not the Empire was a state, and if so, what kind of state, most historians now agree on the basics. It was a mixed monarchy in which functions of statehood and sovereignty were shared among complementary levels: 1. The complex hierarchy of hundreds of Imperial Estates (Reichsstände - princely territories or Imperial cities) at the lower level; 2. The ten regional districts (Reichskreise) encompassing several neighbouring Imperial Estates at the intermediary level; and 3. The handful of central Imperial institutions—the Imperial Diet (Reichstag), the supreme Imperial judicial tribunals (Reichshofrat and Reichskammergericht), the Imperial chancery (Reichskanzlei), and the office of the Emperor—at the higher level. At least among the political and social elites of the Empire, there was a strong sense of belonging and of proto-nationhood which developed over the course of a millennium, and in which the recognition of the Emperor’s overlordship was virtually unchallenged for most of the Empire’s long history. The overlordship of the office of the emperorship existed in three capacities: as the head of a political hierarchy of Estates, as the judicial apex of a legal system whereby the Emperor was the highest judge, and as the feudal overlord over all other fief-holders in the Imperial realm.

But the Emperor was by no means an absolute ruler over a centralised monarchy. According to the protean body of treaties, laws and customary practice collectively constituting the Imperial constitution, the numerous constituent parts of the Empire—the Imperial Estates, i.e. territories ruled by princes of varying ranks, or city-councils—possessed considerable prerogatives associated with statehood. These included the ability to conduct individual foreign policies (including the right to wage war, conclude peace and alliances, dispatch embassies), and the right to rule over their subject populations (including the administration of territorial justice and the raising of taxes according to customary practice). The Emperor himself was an Imperial Estate in his hereditary lands of Austria and Bohemia (the Habsburg Monarchy) and was elected by the seven, later nine, highest-ranking Imperial Estates, the prince-electors. The Imperial Estates were the ‘immediate’ subjects of the Emperor (their subjecthood to the Emperor was not mediated through any intervening lord), while the population groups within the Imperial Estates were subjects both of their territorial prince, but also the ‘mediate’ subjects of the Emperor.

4. Crisis and War in early seventeenth-century central Europe and in the current Middle East

The fundamental problem behind the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) was competing visions of constitutional balance, which occurred on two levels: between the prerogatives of the emperor and those of the princes, as well as between the princes (including the Habsburg emperor as an Imperial Estate) and their respective subject populations within their territories. The question of how the confessional divisions caused by the Reformation should be managed and accommodated by the Imperial constitution was related to both of these issues. The speakers highlighted the Imperial-constitutional and confessional, as well as the international dimensions of the crisis which plunged central Europe into three decades of destructive warfare, prolonged and exacerbated by external interventions (Denmark 1625, Sweden 1630, France 1635).

The analogy between the two epochs and periods naturally demands an imaginative leap, in light of the intervening four centuries and contrasting political, socio-cultural and economic contexts. Nevertheless, many of the basic constellations were found to be remarkably similar: the length and intensity of conflict; the staggering complexity of the disputed issues; the importance of internal rebellions escalating into wider conflicts; the sucking in of foreign powers and exporting of instability; the intensity of religious animosity among militants; the multipolarity of the international context; the existence of numerous non-democratic monarchical princely dynasties; the fusion (and confusion) of confessional and political/constitutional matters; the terrible intensity of human suffering; the exploitation of new forms of information technology to exacerbate sectarianism; the fading of a unifying effect of hostility to the Ottomans and to Israel. Participants also discussed the phenomenon of the return of religion as a destabilising factor in both contexts: early seventeenth-century Europe and in recent Middle Eastern history. Despite structural deficiencies (chiefly the ignoring of subjects’ concerns in what was a state-centric solution), the 1555 Religious Peace of Augsburg had established a durable working compromise between Catholic and Lutheran princes (inaugurating the second longest period of peace in German history, surpassed only by 1945—present), but Imperial politics became confessionally confrontational again from late-sixteenth century, as have sectarian relations in the Middle East in the last thirty-or-so years.

The participants recognised the relevance of often contentious historiographical debates among experts on the Thirty Years War to the accuracy and persuasiveness of the Middle East/early modern European parallels. On one side of the debate, the interpretation of the Thirty Years War as not being a religious war, but instead resulting from competing interpretations of the Imperial constitution in which confession was enmeshed with law and politics—an Imperial Civil War—seems to paint a picture less analogous to the Middle East than other interpretations of the Thirty Years War, which stress the role of growing confessional antagonism and polarisation in the road to conflict, and the importance of incremental internationalisation in its perpetuation.

5. The Peace of Westphalia: peace negotiations at the congress towns of Münster and Osnabrück

Having established the broadly analogous nature of conflict preceding the Peace of Westphalia in central Europe and that in the current the Middle East, the main parts of the seminar discussions turned to the nature of Westphalia as a possible inspiration for a future Middle East settlement.

The speakers demonstrated that peace negotiations continued throughout the Thirty Years War, in parallel to hostilities. Although there were several important breaks in the fighting when it seemed as if peace had been achieved (1623-24, 1629-30, 1635), peace-making proved to be a more challenging task than expected, and it took five years of negotiations (1643-48) at the Westphalian congress towns of Münster and Osnabrück for definitive treaties to finally be concluded. A lasting peace was so elusive because there was a repeated failure to engage in effective crisis containment. As the war was fought over competing visions of the chiefly confessional elements of the constitutional balance of the Empire, the Habsburgs’ practice of punishing and dispossessing enemies (both noble subjects in their hereditary lands, and Imperial Estates) as ‘notorious rebels’, created an altered constitutional balance in favour of a more hierarchical, centralised Imperial monarchy. This in turn triggered foreign (Danish, Swedish, and French) interventions by powers who saw the transformation of the Empire into a power potentially capable of power-accretion and -projection as a threat to their own interests (especially given the Emperor’s family alliance with Habsburg Spain). The expropriation and displacement of rebel nobles produced large exile communities around which other Habsburg enemies could rally, and helped to recruit troops for use by the foreign intervening powers. Because systems of regular war financing collapsed from the 1620s, rebel lands and territories needed to be redistributed to allies to ensure their continued assistance. The inability to return these as concessions without losing the means to achieve victory perpetuated conflict. The belligerents fought on not to exterminate the enemy but to achieve an acceptable settlement, which paradoxically made it more difficult to end the war.

The eventual success of the peace negotiations at Westphalia was in no small measure due to the participation of most Imperial Estates, which made it a ‘universal’ (i.e. general, multilateral) congress, and permitted the achievement of a compromise settlement which was satisfactory to all members of the Empire. An all-inclusive congress on this scale was unprecedented and it was the willingness of the participants to explore unknown diplomatic terrain that helped the congress succeed. The role of informal discussion among the envoys and dignitaries in developing more formal structures, and eventually, treaty provisions, was important to the success of Westphalia. Also vital was the late arrival on the scene of a core grouping of princes from both religions who were prepared to compromise and who acted as informal mediators between the emperor and foreign crowns. Such a cross-confessional party was unprecedented and greatly propelled the peace process forward in its final phase. The increased activism of the Imperial princes to the peace process in 1647–48 amounted to an ultimatum to Emperor Ferdinand III (r. 1637–57), forcing him to reach a settlement or risk losing their support entirely. This intervention occurred at a crucial moment when the congress risked complete collapse as it had become clear that the Spanish–French peace accord, which was also being negotiated, would not be achievable at Münster (it was only concluded at the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659). The intervention of this “third party” thus ensured that, although a universal peace accord would be unattainable, peace would be secured in the crucial central European theater of the Empire.

The settlement reached at Westphalia consisted of three main elements: a reformed Imperial constitution; related to this, a revamped religious settlement for the Empire; and an international peace treaty. The peace treaties re-activated the ‘Eternal Territorial Peace’ that had been proclaimed throughout the Empire in 1495. This Eternal Peace, together with the simultaneous establishment of a supreme Imperial judicial tribunal whose jurisdiction extended between and within the Imperial Estates, and at which ruling princes could be convicted, had arranged the Empire as an order of peaceful legality. This order of collective security had outlawed inter-territorial violence and provided for the judicial—as opposed to the military—settlement of conflicts. The Religious Peace of 1555 had been an attempt to integrate the confessional factor into the constitutional framework predicated upon peace and the rule of law. It embodied, for the first time, the recognition of the importance of managing religious coexistence legally and politically within the framework of the Eternal Peace, while bracketing out intractable questions of theological truth. It was this basic framework that was optimised at Westphalia, by extending the protection of the Eternal Peace to Calvinists as a third recognised confession, and by reducing the excessive authority of princes over their subjects in religious matters.  

The participation of the Imperial Estates affected the eventual balance between the Emperor’s and the princes’ prerogatives that was reached with the adjusted constitutional settlement of 1648. According to the compromise, the princes’ ‘territorial superiority’ was enshrined, giving them a degree of political autonomy, as was their right of participating in decisions on major Imperial policy areas, concluding alliances with other Imperial Estates and foreign powers, maintaining armies, waging war and making peace. On the other hand, their alliance-making capacity was limited by the caveat that alliances must not be directed against the Emperor, the Empire or the peace settlement. The princes remained subjects of the Emperor as their feudal and judicial overlord, and the Empire and its supreme courts retained judicial oversight over their territories and jurisdiction within them. The still-widespread view of an ‘Westphalian system’ that supposedly created an order of equal, sovereign states that do not intervene in each other’s domestic affairs is therefore fallacious.

The true diplomatic masterstroke of the peace settlement was its optimised religious constitution, which laid the foundation for an improved ‘juridification’ of sectarian conflict. After long negotiations and numerical haggling, 1624 was selected as the ‘normative year’ according to which the confessional possessions, rights of public (demonstrative) worship, and the confessional status of each territory were frozen. The princes’ ability to impose their faith onto their subjects through the ‘Right of Reformation’ was thereby effectively abolished. Princely conversions (a possible parallel in the Middle East being revolutions) should no longer have consequences for the subject populations’ religious liberties. A graded form of toleration was applied to all adherents of the recognised confessions. The success of the normative year derived from its gradual acceptance, during the 1630s and 40s, as a benchmark for the re-setting of confessional conditions to a mutually agreed, negotiated point in time. It can be rated as a successful peace-seeking effort on the part of electoral Saxony and other Imperially loyal, Lutheran princes. It was an innovative vehicle for the re-establishment of trust, which had been eroded between the confessional groups from the later sixteenth-century.

As an international peace treaty, Westphalia granted the foreign crowns a limited amount of territory from the Empire as ‘compensation’ for their efforts at defending ‘German Freedom’ (princely prerogatives) on behalf of the Imperial Estates. While Sweden, and indirectly France, had also championed Protestant rights at the peace congress, both crowns were frustrated at the tenacious loyalty of the Imperial Estates to its Empire, a factor which scuppered proposals of radical curtailments of the Emperor’s prerogatives and authority. The external guarantee of the peace settlement by France and Sweden was of long-term significance because it provided the crowns with a right to intervene in the Empire, after a certain sequence of steps, in order to defend Westphalian terms and stipulations.

6. Westphalia: applicable to the Middle East?

The relative absence of normative consensus on legitimacy and an overarching political framework in the Middle East was noted as an impediment to a successful implementation of an analogous peace settlement; centuries of co-existence under the feudal-political and legal umbrella of the Empire produced a tenacious sense of belonging despite civil war, and the Imperial constitution was a shared reference system in Germany. These factors explain the continual willingness among most belligerents to countenance peace and contributed to the success of the treaties, which were explicitly conceived as a pax christiana (Christian Peace). The development of a comparable framework in the Middle East merits consideration; indeed the widespread desire in the Middle East for the achievement of a stabilising and pacifying overall structure was noted. The former Ottoman Empire had historically functioned as an overarching order; as had the idea of a unitary territory of Islam, going back to the time of the Abbasids in the eighth and ninth centuries.  The institutions of the United Nations were widely accepted as legitimate across the region.

Despite undeniable contextual contrasts, much can be learned from the successful settlement of a highly complex and challenging set of problems in the 1640s. Given the importance of inclusivity at the Westphalian peace talks, the question of granting a seat at the negotiating table to entities such as IS/Daesh becomes salient. In the Westphalian case, non-state actors such as the Bohemian and Austrian exiles sought representation but were excluded as their participation would have been intolerable to the Habsburgs. Similarly, the Habsburg negotiators successfully exempted (with minor caveats) the Emperor from the duty of respecting subjects’ new Westphalian confessional rights within his own hereditary lands, where the Emperor as a territorial ruler retained a virtually unfettered Right of Reformation. Through a series of such opt-outs and exemptions, as opposed to blanket applicability, similar challenges in the Middle East could possibly be overcome—be they the question of admitting IS/Daesh as a negotiating partner, or the probable unwillingness of the King of Saudi Arabia, like the Emperor in Vienna before him, to countenance legally grounded interferences or interventions in his kingdom.

A graded form of religious toleration of this kind, guaranteeing a minimum level of rights and security for minority groups, yet still recognising a dominant, official confession in most territories, could possibly have a greater chance of general acceptance and therefore practical success in the Middle East, than an attempted blanket imposition of full universal toleration.

In light of the strong mistrust of external intervention among local actors in the Middle East, one would need to consider carefully who the external guarantors of any Middle Eastern settlement should be, so as to ensure success—the importance of the general acceptance of the guarantee among inhabitants of the Reich after 1648 (although less so during the sole rule of Louis XIV) is relevant in this context.

Discussion also centred around the question of whether the negotiation process at Westphalia might serve as a useful model for a Middle East peace process. Mediators played a role at Westphalia, and in the Early Modern period mediating could be seen to bring prestige, whereas a stance of neutrality often had negative connotations. The length of the congress had advantages as well as disadvantages; as military conduct became locked into the peace negotiation. Pre-modern European concepts of honour prescribed the insistence upon achieving an ‘honourable peace’ (pax honesta), and the willingness to continue fighting in pursuit thereof in the hope of achieving one more victory so as to improve one’s bargaining position at the negotiating table, largely accounts for the longevity of the congress.

7. Westphalia’s impact in Central Europe, and the implications for a possible ‘Westphalian’ settlement in the Middle East

A crucial aspect of assessing the success of any peace treaty and its suitability as an inspiration for future settlements, is an examination of its long-term impact. Along with investigating the effects of Westphalia in central Europe over the subsequent century and a half, the participants also discussed the implications for framing a long-term solution to the challenges faced in the contemporary Middle East.

An important aspect of the Peace of Westphalia’s long-term impact was the innovative guarantor system, whereby the settlement and its terms were guaranteed by the signatories: it set up a collective security system encompassing the internal guarantors (Emperor and princes) and the external guarantors (France and Sweden). The external guarantee integrated this system into the broader international order of Early Modern Europe.

The guarantee became most salient when the integrity and the constitutional balance of the Empire was under threat. This threat often emanated from one or more of the guarantors themselves (Emperor/French king). Remaining guarantors would then usually step in and defend the Westphalian order—either out of ideological conviction, or geopolitical self-interest (these considerations often merged). As the Emperor could not be forced to adhere to Imperial law through internal judicial mechanisms, the external guarantee was widely seen among Germans as a necessary complement to the existing structure. This additional level of external control encouraged restraint on the part of both Emperor and princes, deterring obvious breaches of the peace and the law, and incentivising the respect for confessional rights and princely prerogatives extended and confirmed at Westphalia. The guarantor system also proved able to evolve and grow in response to shifting international currents: Sweden’s geopolitical decline over the course of the 18th century made it less capable of exercising the guarantee effectively (although in formal terms it retained that status until the demise of the Empire in 1806), while Russia’s growing power was reflected in its acquisition of the guarantor status in 1779. A guarantor system for the Middle East would need to be similarly flexible in order to adapt to changing circumstances.

In short, the system of a pacific, pacifying, non-expansionary European centre policed by flanking guarantor powers depended on the guarantors’ non-abuse of their position for the advancement of power-political self-interest. Despite abuse of the system (notably by Louis XIV), the norms established by Westphalia exercised a restraining influence; when abuses or breaches took place, they were considered in the light of the provisions of Westphalia, and were judged accordingly.

There was a widespread normative acceptance in the Holy Roman Empire of the principle of outside intervention for the protection of rights/liberties, and a corresponding entrenched tradition of Germans seeking foreign assistance: this, along with the decentralised nature of the Empire, was possibly a pre-condition for an effective external guarantor system, as was the guarantors’ own restraint.

Despite the application of this principle being the most loaded in the context of the Middle East, many participants believed that an analogous external guarantee would need to be central to a future settlement. In order to find appropriate external guarantors for a future Middle Eastern settlement, one would need to establish mechanisms that reflect prevailing power distributions, but that also possess legitimacy. Some suggested that Europe in the Early Modern period had a greater degree of cultural homogeneity than the Middle East now. In that sense Sweden and France as guarantors were not as ‘external’ as the USA and the EU would be to the Middle East, for example. The UN might be the only potential external guarantor with sufficient legitimacy as it contains Middle Eastern representation, although its legitimacy to some extent comes at the cost of effectiveness. For an external guarantee system to be effective it needs to be backed up by military force, even if that force is never used. While the US and the EU might now be reluctant to sign up to a guarantee entailing a potentially military commitment, Saudi Arabia and Iran might be less hesitant; and Turkey might also be willing to take a greater role., In this context one must face the risk of guarantor interventions exacerbating existing tensions on the ground, not least for being perceived to be guided solely by self-interest, as was the case in France’s guarantee under Louis XIV. Therefore, establishing a structure in which guarantors’ perceptions of their interests closely match what is necessary for the maintenance of the structure, is crucial. Interventionism has always been a feature of the Middle East, as in Early Modern Central Europe, and the contribution of the lessons of Westphalia and its guarantee could include the development of a rules-based framework for intervention. In the contemporary Middle East, depending on the case in question, there is often either too much or too little intervention. A failure to intervene can have more disastrous consequences than intervening (migration crises, humanitarian disasters, and the expansion of militant-held territory)

While the external guarantee of Westphalia was important for the longevity of the settlement in central Europe, its internal guarantee was at least as important. In safeguarding the optimised Imperial constitution, the Empire and the princes guaranteed each other in a recalibrated set-up. A central aspect of this was the improved religious constitution, which successfully banished religious war from central Europe from then onwards.

The long-term value of the framework established at Westphalia was that it protected minority rights (of the three main recognised confessions) throughout the Empire. This helped to transform the perception of toleration from a vice to a virtue, and further strengthened a political culture based on the primacy of legality, rejecting the principle that might is right.

Instead of confessional conflict being eradicated, it was transformed into legal processes – another example of the ‘juridification’ of conflict characteristic of the Holy Roman Empire. Litigation became crucial in defusing tensions and turning hot conflict into moderate tension, notably during the German confessional crisis of 1719, which did not result in armed hostilities.

The prince-bishopric (Imperial Estate) of Osnabrück was examined as a case-study where special tailor-made arrangements were devised to ensure successful peaceful cohabitation of the confessions. As a compromise, it was determined that the ruler (who governed for life from the time of his appointment) would alternate between a Catholic elected by the local cathedral chapter, and a Protestant appointed by neighbouring Brunswick-Lüneburg. While confessional disputes continued on the ground, these were largely defused through litigation, negotiations and diplomacy, rather than being settled by force.

From the Middle East perspective this could help provide guidance on how to translate chaos into pluralism through legal and institutional structures – something that is still lacking in the region (although it was noted that there are legal traditions that could serve as a basis,). But we also recognised the risk of institutionalising confessional antagonisms and binaries by embedding them into legal structures. One of the chief triggers of confessional disputes in the post-Westphalian Empire was princely conversions; a phenomenon which is absent in the Middle East. The potentially fruitful application of Osnabrück-style sharing arrangements at the micro-level in the Middle East, such as in Jerusalem, was noted. In fact, such carefully calibrated local-level sharing arrangements that were conducive to confessional co-existence did formerly exist in places such as Syria and Yemen, but have now been swept away.

The existence of two supreme judicial tribunals as high courts of the Holy Roman Empire was a crucial aspect of the defence of the peace terms of Westphalia, and of the juridification of conflict in general. The courts served more as mediators between princes in conflict than as definitive suppliers of verdicts (although this also occurred) – another instance of less formal conflict resolution often working better than formal. By including both Catholics and Protestants among its judges, the courts regained a degree of confidence among both religious groupings (although the latter often complained of bias).

By accepting appeals from subjects who could sue their rulers at the courts, the Imperial judiciary acted as a safety-valve against pent-up popular discontent which could have erupted into Arab Spring-style unrest. The courts helped to maintain the status quo and in particular the conditional sovereignty that limited Imperial princes’ freedom of action in confessional and other matters, by overseeing and policing their conduct, including their treatment of subjects. This recognition that ‘Westphalian sovereignty’ is a myth is important as a belief in the Westphalian myth has a deleterious practical effect on policy-making today. It was also noted that the UN already has a courts system with international competence as well as conflict-resolution mechanisms.

It is sometimes claimed that the heterogeneity of actors in the Middle East undermines the chances of reaching an effective settlement. But the Holy Roman Empire also contained diverse actors. There was a greater degree of normative consensus in the regions affected by the Thirty Years War than in the Middle East now, but the Westphalia treaties were successful in developing that consensus and building norms to a new level that prevented conflict. The success of Westphalia shows what can be achieved if all parties can be brought to focus on mutual confidence-building and norm-establishment.  

8. Lessons for the Middle East

Allowing for a natural range of views, and healthy criticism notwithstanding, the expert participants agreed that the fundamental idea of the project, of history informing ideas for practice in the present, had been validated in this case.

One cannot expect to transport solutions wholesale as blueprints or templates to the present, but the experience of Westphalia shows, importantly, that peace can always be brought about in spite of the complexity, duration and intensity of any conflict.

Achieving peace:

The main lesson derived from the European experience in the 1640s is that an effective settlement should be preceded by a conference or congress in which the main regional actors come together to negotiate a settlement. Participation should be as inclusive as is possible—however, certain disruptive or otherwise unpalatable actors may be excluded (Habsburg rebel exiles; IS/Daesh). Participants must be willing to work flexibly and break new diplomatic ground in order to achieve peace. If they are as yet unwilling to do so in the Middle East, the experience of the Thirty Years War suggests that yet more bloodshed will eventually compel this willingness.

The initiative recognises that a central part of the problem is Saudi/Iranian rivalry. Accordingly, a major part of the initiative, if it is to succeed, must necessitate bringing representatives from both to participate actively and constructively. In this connection, the parallel between Saudi Arabia’s centrality to Sunnism in the contemporary Middle East and the Habsburg emperor’s centrality in the Holy Roman Empire and in the Westphalia settlement, may be useful.

The peace terms:

A new settlement must build on traditional religious, legal and other structures native to the region, just as Westphalia was squarely based on a pre-existing but re-negotiated Imperial constitution.

While there is no desire to impose a European template, application of the underlying principles of Westphalia to the Middle East merits consideration. According to a close reading of the 1648 treaties, this might take the following shape:

  • A limitation of sovereignty for most states/rulers in the region—this would result from giving subjects and citizens the right to appeal to a higher legal authority – some form of court - as was the case in the Holy Roman Empire. Respect for basic rights of religion, property and due process could be enforced collectively or by external guarantors. States would not be obliged to introduce a fully free press, democratic reforms or gender equality (though these could be stipulated as aspirations for the medium term) and existing rulers could be entitled to rule for life. Crucially, though, this prerogative would be conditional upon their respecting subjects’ mutually agreed basic rights, as well as their non-use of military force against other states, or of arbitrary violence or arrest of their own subjects. In the case of transgression, subjects or other rulers could take an offending prince/government to court, and serious or persistent offenders could be deposed from power and replaced, through a collective effort, possibly with the help of the guarantors
  • While the settlement must be palatable to most of the powerful actors in the region, an important lesson from Westphalia is that if it is to work, it must also be guaranteed by external powers. These must be willing to enforce the settlement (including, in extremis, militarily) out of a natural combination of self-interest and conviction. Enforcing a right of intervention for the protection of the peace and its terms might therefore entail a degree of coercion, at least with regard to some of the local actors.
  • A ‘normative year’ for the Middle East – local states and actors identify a mutually agreed point in time to which the rights of public worship and dominant confession would be set. Minority rights would be safeguarded (This might entail, depending on which date is chosen, for example, the return of Sunni, Shia, Christian, Yazidi and other communities that have suffered displacement and/or genocide in Syria and Iraq). No subject/citizen could be legally excluded from civic office on the basis of religion.
  • The normative year provision would also imply the principle that established borders between states in the region would be preserved and upheld as part of the settlement, as was the case at Westphalia.


The seminars of Phase Two (2017) will address the practical political consequences of the fallacious myth of Westphalia in the post-1945 period, before considering in greater detail the features that might form the basis of the internal, and the international dimensions of a new peace settlement for the Middle East. The final seminar will be treaty-drafting exercise in which the main topics (or treaty paragraph headings) of a final peace treaty are identified. 

9. Impact

The main themes and ideas behind the project were set out in an article that appeared in the New Statesman magazine on 21 January 2016, by Michael Axworthy, Brendan Simms and Patrick Milton, entitled ‘Ending the new Thirty Years War’. The project was also mentioned in an interview conducted by Internationale Politik und Gesellschaft/Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung with one of the leading German professors specialising in early modern Germany, Siegrid Westphal, as well as several online blogs and articles.

Officials from of the German Federal Foreign Ministry attended several of the seminars (as did some British officials, and diplomats from European and Middle Eastern embassies in London). The German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier delivered a speech at the Osnabrücker Friedensgespräche on 12 July 2016 during which he endorsed the concept: http://www.ofg.uni-osnabrueck.de/ofg_2016/gespraech_2016_4-2.htm; he did so again in an article in Foreign Affairs that same month, and in another speech, at the Hamburg ‘Historikertag’ in September. In addition, the convenors were invited to participate as moderators at a workshop at the German Foreign Ministry’s annual Botschafterkonferenz (a conference in Berlin for German ambassadors and senior diplomats, at the end of August 2016) on the themes of the project, in order to present its findings and stimulate new policy ideas.  The concept was also mentioned by King Abdullah of Jordan in his acceptance speech when he was awarded the Westphalia prize in Münster in October 2016.  Phase Two of the project will be undertaken in cooperation with the Hamburg-based Körber Foundation, which will also provide full funding.  
 
 

The United States would survive a Trump presidency – but what about the rest of the world? - New Statesman, 7 Oct 2016

last modified Oct 13, 2016 09:15 AM

This article first appeared in the New Statesman, 7 October 2016.

The United States would survive a Trump presidency – but what about the rest of the world?

It would be wrong to hope that either domestic or international checks and balances will constrain Trump abroad. Geopolitically, the result would be unpredictable – at best.

By Brendan Simms

The conventional wisdom about Donald Trump runs something like this. Trump is a buffoon. His solutions to world problems are not policies at all, but merely a set of contrarian reflexes. They will soon be ­exposed in the next televised presidential debate against his rival Hillary Clinton, who put in a strong performance during the first round. He is, critics say, a mere pied piper whose "deplorable" followers suffer from false consciousness about their true economic interest. Trump's election would be a disaster, the argument runs, but his policies will soon prove impracticable.

The conventional view is wrong. Although his personal behaviour is often clownish or boorish, and he has shown astonishing ignorance of some important international issues, Trump has a perfectly coherent world-view and strategy which are rooted in certain established American traditions, even if these are now largely defunct. Most of his followers know exactly what they are voting for and they are right to believe that he will deliver, or at least attempt to do so. As for the idea that a Trump presidency would be a disaster, that is completely wide of the mark. It is actually much worse than most people think. President Trump has the potential to be an unmitigated catastrophe – if not for the United States, then certainly for the rest of the world.

Far from taking a leap in the dark, Trump supporters know that they will be voting for a clearly defined package of domestic and foreign-political measures. With Trump, in ways that are not really true of his predecessors, or of Hillary Clinton, the two spheres cannot be usefully separated. He stands for the protection of American jobs at home, and therefore for a restrictive trade policy abroad. He wants to get tough on terrorism by having recourse to torture, in both the United States and the rest of the world. He wants to increase military spending. He wants to "put America first" and increase investment in schools and infrastructure in the United States, and therefore eschews "nation-building" abroad.

We should not assume that this is just rhetoric. First, because Trump has been saying all this, or much of it, for years in his writings and in off-the cuff statements. He is no mere opportunist. Second, because we know from scholarly analysis of recent campaigns, such as the one carried out by the former White House adviser and political scientist Steven Schrage, that presidential policies often quite closely track those advanced during the campaign. Third, because Trump emerges from the confluence of two long-dormant but now resurgent American political traditions: the blunt, early-19th-century appeal of Andrew Jackson to the "common man" and the protectionist isolationism that produced the Smoot-Hawley tariffs and the Charles Lindbergh of the 1930s.

When contemplating Trump, critics often focus on his domestic consequences. They foresee an empowering of white supremacist discourses and a surge in hate crimes, especially against Muslims. These are reasonable fears, but the threat Trump poses to politics within the United States is probably overstated. There will certainly be an increase in racial tension and other forms of unpleasantness, but American society is resilient, diverse and fundamentally decent, even if some of it is currently trying to prove the opposite. The US is not seriously at risk of lapsing into the kind of populist authoritarianism we see in many other parts of the world. Moreover, the nature of the American constitution is such that Trump will be very constrained in what he can do at home: by Congress, by the courts and various other checks and balances.

There are far fewer impediments, however, to presidential power in foreign policy. As so much of Trump's domestic programme depends on what he does abroad, the rest of the world will be much more exposed to a Trump presidency than the Americans themselves.

Trump's impact on the world will initially be a matter of style. He has shown himself to be misogynistic, vindictive, xenophobic and unafraid to trample on the feelings of veterans or the bereaved. This would be neither here nor there – tastes differ, after all – were it not that Trump's personality will translate internationally into an instinctive rapport with other "outspoken" leaders such as Vladimir Putin in Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey or Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines. In the event of disagreement between them and Trump, we might expect a degree of vituperation on both sides in ways that are not compatible with the long-established dignity of the presidency of the United States.

Style will soon become substance. At best, a Trump presidency will lead to the "Berlusconification" of international politics, which will become extended reality-TV events, at least in so far as they relate to the United States. More seriously, his antics will empower and encourage a coarsening of the discourse between states and about world problems. Here, the contrast with Presidents George W Bush and especially Barack Obama, whatever one thinks of their policies, could not be sharper.

Trump's style will matter in international politics for another reason. First, despite all his rhetoric about deal-making, where his business experience is considerable – and he has sometimes shown a capacity to compromise – he seems to have a very limited and belligerent idea of what constitutes a successful diplomatic negotiation. Rejecting notions of "win-win", Trump views a political "deal" as the imposition of his will on the other side. "In the end," he writes of one successful transaction in his bestselling book The Art of the Deal, "we won by wearing everyone else down." It is therefore no surprise that he cleaves to an essentially mercantilist view of world trade in which, say, Japan's gain is America's loss. Given his severe anger management issues, the great danger is that a clever adversary will get under his skin, provoke outbursts, and either make a laughing stock of the greatest power on Earth or precipitate a confrontation.

Second, Trump favours a particularly intuitive style of decision-making. He has gone on record as saying that people "are surprised by how quickly I make big decisions, but I've learned to trust my instincts and not to overthink things". Of course, it is true that international politics often requires leaders to make speedy decisions, yet it is deeply worrying to think what Trump's instincts will lead to when he has the proverbial finger on the button. This problem has already been commented on by a phalanx of Republican national security experts, none of whom thinks he should be entrusted with the nuclear codes.

No reliance should be placed here on the restraining force of his advisers, or of the bureaucracy in the US state and defence departments. Trump has already signalled that he will not listen. When asked a few months ago to identify those he consulted most often on foreign affairs, he replied: "I'm speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I've said a lot of things." The foreign policy "team" he has produced during the campaign is the weakest and most obscure that anybody has encountered in living memory.

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NW Simms.jpg 

 

The essence of Donald Trump's vision for the world is the revival of American national greatness. He wants to "make America great again". "Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo," he says. His slogan "America First" is an unashamed borrowing from the isolationist platform of the 1920s and 1930s.

By contrast with every single Democratic and Republican president since the Second World War, including George Bush, Jr, Trump rejects the international liberal order. In office, this will be reflected in his opposition to global human rights initiatives, whether that be the banning of torture, or collective action to help Syrian refugees (whom he sees not as victims but as an Islamist national security threat). He will ride roughshod over human rights sensitivities when building his wall with Mexico. On the environment, Trump is likely to abrogate the Paris accord on greenhouse-gas emissions and to press ahead with work on the disputed Keystone oil pipeline between Canada and the US, as well as other projects.

He may well also play fast and loose with the national debt, having suggested that he may not repay it or the interest in full. "I've borrowed knowing that you can pay back with discounts," he explains, adding that "I would borrow knowing that if the economy crashed you could make a deal". But he may find that his ability to bounce back no fewer than four times from business bankruptcy may not be a transferable skill.

The other area in which Trump plans to tear up the international rulebook, and here the parallels with his opposition to gun control are evident, is the field of nuclear non-proliferation. He has repeatedly welcomed the idea of a Saudi, or South Korean, or Japanese nuclear bomb. The thinking is that this will achieve a balance of terror, which will keep the peace better than costly American intervention.

Cumulatively, all this will cause considerable disruption. It will unravel many of the webs of international society carefully woven over the past six decades or so. It may well make the Korean Peninsula or the Gulf even more unsafe. It will certainly make life unpleasant for Mexico. And it will lead to the end of the United States acting as the world's policeman. The US will step up the number of global snatch-squads in the war on terror, certainly, but will cease to exercise a general superintendence over the defence of democracy and human rights. No Iraqs, perhaps, but also no interventions in Bosnia or Kosovo. The worst, however, is yet to come.

At the heart of Trump's revolt against the liberal order, undoubtedly, is economics. Reviving the national economy is essential to his vision of making America great again. Central to that project is a revision of the terms of trade. Trump is convinced that the US is getting a raw deal, not only from its enemies, but also – and most importantly – from its friends. He might well overturn the North American Free Trade Agreement, will probably disavow the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and is most unlikely to go through with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, assuming it is not killed off first on the other side of the Atlantic. He would not be above leaving the World Trade Organisation altogether. Above all, Trump will take on China, which he accuses – with considerable justice – of currency manipulation and sharp practices. At the very least, he will instruct the US ­department of commerce to take cases against China and he may well embark on a full-scale trade war.

If Trump's grand strategy will begin with economics and trade, it will not end there. His measures will unleash their own, essentially geopolitical dynamic. At the moment, the Chinese are contemplating the prospect of a Trump presidency with remarkable insouciance. They seem to regard him as one of their own, a man who will not bother them with human rights sermons, and with whom they can do business. In some ways they are right: he is one of them. That, however, is the problem. Trump shares their ­zero-sum view of the world, and he explicitly intends to prevail at their expense.

***

Nobody has ever looked inside the "black box" of an all-out trade confrontation between China and the United States. Even if one thinks – as this author does – that some form of reckoning with China is necessary, Trump is surely the man temperamentally least suited to lead it. His strategy may revive American manufacturing, but modern supply chains are such that China is inextricably stitched into the US industrial ecosystem in ways that could defy safe unravelling. Yet one thing is clear: China, which holds a huge chunk of the US federal debt, will bitterly resist any attempt to repudiate it. Moreover, if unplugged from the US market, particularly at a time of falling European demand, China will face vast economic dislocation and consequent internal unrest. One way or the other, the reaction to any such measures by the Americans will be violent, with a countdown to conflict comparable only to the one triggered by Franklin D Roosevelt's decision in 1941 to freeze all Japanese assets in the US and impose an oil embargo on Japan.

Another arena where Trump will give the kaleidoscope an almighty kick is Europe. His hostility to the European Union – the principal instrument of the continental order hitherto strongly supported by the United States – is well documented. This will add yet another problem to the long list already confronting Brussels and the national governments. As if that weren't bad enough, Trump will encourage the European "deplorables": Alternative für Deutschland in Germany, Jobbik in Hungary and the French Front National. His xenophobia and authoritarian personality will chime with them; his protectionism may even resonate on the European left. He will therefore be much less isolated in Europe than many like to think.

Worse still, the example of a wall with Mexico may well inspire similar endeavours in Europe – in the Balkans and the Mediterranean (where some barrier is necessary to defend the external boundary of the Schengen passportless travel zone), but also in central Europe and perhaps even within the core of the EU, thus destroying free movement of people on mainland Europe. The period from 1989 to 2016 may become known as "the interwall era". The walls will go up across Europe and we may not see them brought down again in our lifetime.

But the deadliest threat to European security is Trump's attitude to Nato. He has repeatedly questioned whether the United States should continue to protect Europe, most of which fails to pay its agreed contribution to the common defence. Here – unlike in the cases of South Korea and Japan, which largely pay their way on defence – he has a point. It is negated, however, by his undisguised admiration for Putin, the single greatest threat to the stability of the European order. One of Trump's top military ­advisers, Michael T Flynn, a retired general, is a Russia enthusiast. One of his most trusted former confidants, Paul Manafort, served as a long-term political consultant to the disgraced ex-president of Ukraine and Russian stooge Viktor Yanukovych. One of his few named foreign policy advisers, Carter Page, also has close links to Russia.

Everything points to a President Trump lifting sanctions on Putin before time and recognising Russia's annexation of Crimea. He is also highly likely to undermine the value of Nato's Article 5 guarantee of collective defence, which will place the Baltic and Black Sea states and Poland in the firing line. Yet he seems oblivious to this danger, largely because he does not take Russia seriously in economic terms. It is one of the many failings of his foreign policy, and a surprising one, given his general belligerence, that he
does not take other factors, such as ideology or raw military power, much into account.

Geopolitically, the results of all this are entirely unpredictable and could lead to a different global strategic balance. In effect, Europe will be left on its own to stand against Russia and defend Western values worldwide. Putin may be emboldened to take risks, in Ukraine, in eastern and northern Europe, and elsewhere. On the other hand, he may prefer to explore a strategic partnership with Trump. That will surely begin with a joint effort to support the Assad regime in Syria, and probably develop into an alliance against China. In that case, we will be in a genuinely tripolar or even quadripolar world, in which the relationship between the Russo-American alliance, the British-European confederation and the other Eastern dictatorship, China, will be one of unstable equidistance.

***

Finally, it would be wrong to hope that either domestic or international checks and balances will constrain Trump abroad. The executive will be bound to obey most of his orders in theory and probably all of them in practice. It is true that the military, the CIA and law-enforcement officers might, as the former National Security Agency and CIA director Michael Hayden has suggested, refuse to follow an "illegal" order. It is also possible that Congress might hold up international trade measures in so far as they relate to treaties. The EU may even be so appalled that it rallies in the face of Trump.

Yet this is wishful thinking. Crucial questions, such as whether to deliver on a Nato Article 5 guarantee in Europe, are matters to be decided by the executive alone, and for good reason. Moreover, Trump will have much of the United States behind him in making his initial foreign policy moves. Demand that the Europeans "pay up" for their own defence? Why not? Beat up on China's protectionism? What's not to like? As for Isis, even Homeland's Peter Quinn thinks that the solution is to "pound Raqqa into a parking lot". It would take superhuman moral and political courage to stop Trump early on. And with Europe, the idea that it will show resolve in the face of an external threat is, sadly, a sign of the triumph of hope over experience. Many Europeans, in fact, will cheer him on. At home and abroad, Trump will the harvest low-hanging fruit first, and then invest the capital gained in riskier enterprises. When he does really overstep the mark, it will be too late.

There is a very thin silver lining in all of this, at least for Britain: Trump is a known enthusiast for the United Kingdom. He has come out strongly against Scottish independence. He will almost certainly favour London over Brussels in trade matters. Above all, with him in the White House, Theresa May will be the only grown-up left among the major military powers of the West. The EU will almost certainly try to compensate for the loss of an interlocutor in Washington by moving closer to London. Britain will probably also benefit from an outflow of American "creatives" after a Trump victory – at least, of those for whom Canada isn't far away enough. Britain may well also attract talent from around the world that would otherwise have gone to Silicon Valley or other centres of innovation in the United States.

In short, President Trump is likely to deliver a severe shock to both the US and the rest of the world. Although at home there are clear limits to what he can achieve, there are far fewer constraints abroad. There is little doubt, therefore, that the Americans, and probably the British, will survive Trump. The question is: will the rest of us?

Brendan Simms is an NS contributing writer. His latest book is "Britain's Europe: a Thousand Years of Conflict and Co-operation" (Allen Lane)

 

Recent event: 2016's Race to Change the World: How the U.S. Presidential Campaign Can Reshape Global Politics and Foreign Policy

last modified Sep 28, 2016 10:21 AM

On 11 and 12 July, CRASSH, POLIS and the Forum on Geopolitics hosted a major international conference focusing on the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the implications that this will have for future U.S. foreign policy.

The conference took place shortly before the Democratic and Republican Party nominating conventions, and right at the height of a protracted period of post-Brexit uncertainty in British politics. Sessions focused on the global challenges facing the next president, the role that a president can personally play in an international context, and the state of the 2016 campaign itself.

The Forum on Geopolitics chaired a panel on 'Europe and the United States: priorities for cooperative action'.

The discussion was greatly enriched by the central participation of Secretary Madeleine Albright and Congressman Vin Weber in each of the panels across the two days, along with that of a number of key U.S. allies and trading partners.

Speakers included:

  • Madeleine Albright (former U.S. Secretary of State)
  • Vin Weber (Republican Party strategist and former Congressman)
  • Ambassador Peter Ammon (German Ambassador to the United Kingdom)
  • Sir Richard Dearlove (former head of MI6)
  • Sir Malcolm Rifkind (former Defence and Foreign Secretary)
  • Baroness Julie Smith (House of Lords)
  • Prof. Stef Halper (Cambridge)
  • Dr. Nigel Bowles (Oxford)
  • Peter Hill (FCO Director for Strategy)
  • Prof. John Bew (King's College London)
  • Prof. Simon Goldhill (Cambridge)
  • Prof. David Runciman (Cambridge)
  • James Rublin (Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State)

2016's Race to Change the World: How the U.S. Presidential Campaign Can Reshape Global Politics and Foreign Policy

Report on 'A Westphalia for the Middle East' Seminar Four: 11 May 2016

last modified Jun 30, 2016 12:56 PM

Report on 'A Westphalia for the Middle East' Seminar Four: 11 May 2016.
'Maintaining the Peace—the impact of Westphalia during the subsequent 150 years'

We held the final instalment of Phase One of the seminar-series on 11 May 2016 at the War Studies Department of King's College London. The speakers and participants discussed the long-term impact of the Peace of Westphalia on central Europe in order to evaluate its success as a peace treaty, and simultaneously assessed the implications this has for framing a long-term solution to the challenges faced in the contemporary Middle East.

The main speakers were:

  • Keynote: Jonathan Powell (InterMediate)
  • Patrick Milton (FU Berlin)
  • Andrew C. Thompson (Cambridge)
  • Volker Arnke (Osnabrück)
  • Frank Kleinehagenbrock (Würzburg)

Chairing the panels and commentating were:

  • John Bew (KCL)
  • Laura James (Cambridge)
  • Michael Axworthy (Exeter)
  • Ali Ansari (St. Andrew's)
  • Andreas Whittam Smith (First Church Estates Commissioner)

The participants were welcomed by co-convenors Brendan Simms (Cambridge) and Michael Axworthy (Exeter), who also officiated as chairman of the convenors.

The following points emerged from the presentations and discussions:

  • An important aspect of the Peace of Westphalia's long-term impact was the innovative guarantor system, whereby the settlement and its terms were guaranteed by the signatories: it set up a collective security system encompassing the internal guarantors (Emperor and princes) and the external guarantors (France and Sweden). The external guarantee integrated this system into the broader international order of Early Modern Europe.
  • The guarantee became most salient when the integrity and the constitutional balance of the Empire was under threat. This threat often emanated from one or more of the guarantors themselves (Emperor/French king). Remaining guarantors would then usually step in and defend the Westphalian order—either out of ideological conviction, or geopolitical self-interest (these considerations often merged). As the Emperor could not be forced to adhere to Imperial law through internal judicial mechanisms, the external guarantee was widely seen among Germans as a welcome complement to the existing structure. This additional level of external control probably encouraged restraint on the part of both Emperor and princes, deterring obvious breaches of the peace and the law, and incentivising the respecting of confessional rights and princely prerogatives enshrined at Westphalia. The guarantor system also displayed an ability to evolve and grow in response to shifting international currents: Sweden's geopolitical decline over the course of the 18th century made it less capable of exercising the guarantee effectively (although it remained officially bestowed with that status until the demise of the Empire in 1806), while Russia's concurrent (and commensurate) advance was reflected in its acquisition of the guarantor status in 1779. A guarantor system for the Middle East would need to be similarly flexible in order to adapt to changing circumstances.
  • The system of a pacific, pacifying, non-expansionary European centre policed by flanking guarantor powers depended on the guarantors' non-abuse of their position for the advancement of power-political self-interest.
  • There was a widespread normative acceptance in the Holy Roman Empire of the principle of outside intervention for the protection of rights/liberties, and a corresponding entrenched tradition of Germans seeking foreign assistance: this, along with the decentralised nature of the Empire, was possibly a pre-condition for an effective external guarantor system, as was the guarantors' own restraint.
  • Despite the application of this principle being the most loaded in the context of the Middle East, many participants believed that an analogous external guarantee would be central to a future solution. The comparable consensus deficit on issues such as norms and the law, however, would make this challenging. In order to find appropriate external guarantors for a future Middle Eastern settlement, one would need to establish mechanisms that reflect prevailing power distributions, but that also possess legitimacy. Some suggested that Europe in the Early Modern period had a greater degree of cultural homogeneity than the Middle East now. In that sense Sweden and France as guarantors were not as 'external' as the USA and the EU would be to the Middle East, for example. The UN might be the only potential external guarantor with sufficient legitimacy as it contains Middle Eastern representation, although its legitimacy to some extent comes at the cost of effectiveness. For an external guarantee system to be effective it needs to be backed up by military force. While the US and the EU would be reluctant to sign up to a guarantee entailing a potentially military commitment, Saudi Arabia and Iran might be. However, in this context one must be cognisant of the risk of guarantor interventions exacerbating existing tensions on the ground, due to their actions being guided solely by self-interest, as was the case in France's guarantee under Louis XIV. Therefore, identifying a constellation whereby guarantors' perceptions of their interests most closely match the upholding of an overall structure is crucial. Interventionism has always existed in the Middle East, as in Early Modern central Europe, and the contribution of the lessons of Westphalia and its guarantee could include the development of a rules-based framework for intervention. In the contemporary Middle East, depending on the case in question, there is often either too much or too little intervention. A failure to intervene can have more disastrous consequences than intervening (migration crises, humanitarian disasters, and the expansion of militant-held territory)
  • While the external guarantee of Westphalia was important for the longevity of the settlement in central Europe, its internal guarantee was at least as important. In safeguarding the optimised Imperial constitution, the Empire and the princes thereby guaranteed themselves in a recalibrated set-up. A central aspect of this was the improved religious constitution, which successfully banished religious war from central Europe from then onwards.
  • The long-term value of the framework established at Westphalia was that it protected minority rights (of the three main recognised confessions) throughout the Empire. This helped to transform the perception of toleration from a vice to a virtue, and further strengthened a political culture based on the primacy of legality, that eschewed principles of 'might is right'.
  • Instead of confessional conflict being eradicated, it was transformed into legal processes – another example of the 'juridification' of conflict characteristic of the Holy Roman Empire. Litigation was thus crucial in defusing tensions and turning 'hot' conflict into 'moderate' tension, such as during the German confessional crisis of 1719, which did not result in armed hostilities.
  • The prince-bishopric (territorial state) of Osnabrück was examined as a case-study where special tailor-made arrangements were devised to ensure successful peaceful cohabitation of the confessions. As a compromise, it was determined that the ruler (who governed for life from the time of his appointment) would alternate between a Catholic elected by the local cathedral chapter, and a Protestant appointed by neighbouring Brunswick-Lüneburg. While confessional disputes continued on the ground, these were largely defused through litigation, negotiations and diplomacy, rather than being settled by force.
  • From the Middle East perspective this could help provide guidance on how to translate chaos into pluralism through institutionalisation as a reference point, which is still lacking in the region (although it was noted that there are legal traditions that could serve as a basis, and that one should not assume a 'blank slate'). However, the risk of institutionalising confessional antagonisms and binaries by embedding them into legal structures was also discussed. One of the chief triggers of confessional disputes in the post-Westphalian Empire was princely conversions, which is absent in the Middle East. The potentially fruitful application of Osnabrück-style sharing arrangements at the micro-level in the Middle East, such as in Jerusalem, was noted. In fact, such carefully calibrated local-level sharing arrangements that were conducive to confessional co-existence did formerly exist in places such as Syria and Yemen, but have now been swept away.
  • The existence of two supreme judicial tribunals as high courts of the Holy Roman Empire was a crucial aspect of the defence of the peace terms of Westphalia, and of the 'juridification' of conflict in general. The courts served more as mediators between princes in conflict than as definitive suppliers of verdicts (although this also occurred). By including both Catholics and Protestants among its judges, the courts regained a degree of confidence among both religious groupings (although the latter often complained of bias).
  • By accepting appeals from subjects who could sue their rulers at the courts, the Imperial judiciary acted as a 'safety-valve' against pent-up popular discontent which could have erupted into Arab Spring-style unrest. The courts helped to maintain the status-quo and in particular the 'conditional sovereignty' that limited Imperial princes' freedom of action in confessional and other matters, by overseeing and policing their conduct, including their treatment of subjects. This recognition that 'Westphalian sovereignty' is a myth is important as a belief in the Westphalian myth has a deleterious practical effect on policy-making today. It was also noted that the UN already has a courts system with international competence as well as conflict-resolution mechanisms.
  • It is sometimes claimed that the heterogeneity of actors in the Middle East undermines the chances of reaching an effective settlement. But the Holy Roman Empire also contained diverse actors. There was a greater degree of normative consensus in the regions affected by the Thirty Years War than in the Middle East now, but the Westphalia treaties were successful in developing that consensus and building norms to a new level that prevented conflict. The success of Westphalia shows what can be achieved if all parties can be brought to focus on mutual confidence-building and norm-establishment.

 

The “Vote Leave” Campaigners Haven’t Thought It Through

last modified Jun 30, 2016 01:15 PM

The “Vote Leave” Campaigners Haven’t Thought It Through

Charlie Laderman, 22 June 2016
Via http://www.libertylawsite.org/2016/06/22/the-vote-leave-campaigners-havent-thought-it-through/

On the day that Britain decides whether its destiny lies within or without the European Union, I will be in California. On the surface, I could not be more far removed from the Brexit dilemma. The cool, clear Californian air seems a world away from the toxic atmosphere currently engulfing Britain. And yet, California offers a unique vantage point on the EU referendum. For the Golden State is the clearest example of a polity rendered, at times, almost ungovernable by a mania for direct democracy.

In recent years, Britain has experienced its own direct democracy craze. In 2011, Britain held its first nationwide referendum in decades on whether to change the voting system. Three years later, Scotland voted on whether it wished to secede from the United Kingdom. And this Thursday, Britain's third major referendum in five years will reveal whether Britons wish to remain members of the European Union. Arguably, the three most crucial decisions on the country's constitutional makeup over the past decade have been put to the people.

Remarkably, these recent referenda have occurred under a Conservative prime minister. The party has been the historic defender of representative democracy and parliamentary sovereignty. Yet under pressure from populist Eurosceptic and nationalist forces, David Cameron's premiership has witnessed a significant shift towards popular sovereignty.

In theory, though, the EU referendum is not legally binding on Parliament. MPs would still have to pass legislation taking Britain out of the EU, if that is what the people decide, and they would not necessarily have to abide by the referendum result. In practice, it would be almost politically inconceivable for politicians to overrule the popular choice, even though previous European plebiscites, such as the Irish referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, were re-run after politicians refused to accept the initial decision of voters.

Boris Johnson, the Conservative MP and former mayor of London, has argued that "you cannot express the sovereignty of Parliament and accept the 1972 European Communities Act." It is true that, under the 1972 Act, if there is a conflict between an act of the British Parliament and EU law, then EU law prevails. However, Parliament passed the European Communities Act and it can repeal this legislation if it wished, ensuring that Parliament remains sovereign. Consequently, a majority in Parliament could vote for Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

More thoughtful conservative Eurosceptics, such as the polemical political commentator Peter Hitchens, favor this route as it upholds parliamentary sovereignty. They are uneasy about the ramifications of a referendum as it threatens that principle. By contrast, Johnson and many other "Vote Leave" campaigners appear blind to this. Ironically, they regard the referendum, an expression of popular sovereignty, as the means to restore parliamentary sovereignty, seemingly oblivious to the potential conflict between the two.

There are signs that Britons are getting tired of direct democracy, though. The scientist and public intellectual Richard Dawkins, never one to shy away from controversy, declared: "It is an outrage that people as ignorant as me are being asked to vote [in the EU referendum] . . . we live in a representative democracy not a plebiscite democracy." This view was echoed by the comedian David Mitchell: "That is so totally what I think, but I didn't realize until I heard it." Both Dawkins and Mitchell are adamant that the EU referendum "should be a matter for parliament."

Yet if Britain votes to leave the European Union, we are likely to witness further referenda in the coming years. Scottish Nationalist leader Nicola Sturgeon has refused to rule out a second Scottish Independence referendum if Brexit occurs. Furthermore, Sinn Fein has threatened a new vote in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, on unification with Ireland (an EU member) in the event of Brexit. In the immediate aftermath, at least, Brexit would mean the two parts of Ireland would be separated by an EU land border. This would put pressure on the "Good Friday Agreement," which is woven into a broader European process of integration. The resulting border controls and customs checks would potentially impact trade and the free movement of peoples between the two countries.

Ultimately, therefore, to maintain a great nation, and its greatest gift to the modern world, representative democracy under a parliamentary system, a vote to Remain, at least on this occasion, is the only option.


- See more at: http://www.libertylawsite.org/2016/06/22/the-vote-leave-campaigners-havent-thought-it-through/#sthash.u9HpBHYF.9vH0HTfd.dpuf

Report on 'A Westphalia for the Middle East' Seminar Three: 23 April 2016

last modified May 13, 2016 04:06 PM

Report on 'A Westphalia for the Middle East' Seminar Three: 23 April 2016

'The Peace of Westphalia — Setting up the solution'

We held the third seminar of the series 'A Westphalia for the Middle East' on the afternoon of 23 April in the Alison Richard Building, University of Cambridge, before a lively audience.

The seminar was in some ways the centrepiece of Phase One of the series (the first four seminars which set out the geopolitical problems and crises in central Europe c.1570—1648, and the resolution of these problems with the Peace of Westphalia), as it directly tackled the questions of how peace was achieved at the Westphalian peace congress, what the terms of the peace were, and which lessons this can furnish for a possible solution to the challenges of the Middle East.

The main speakers were:

  • Peter H. Wilson (Oxford)
  • Maria-Elisabeth Brunert (Bonn)
  • Ralf-Peter Fuchs (Duisburg-Essen)
  • Guido Braun (Bonn)
  • Anuschka Tischer (Würzburg).

Chairing the panels and commentating were:

  • Christoph Kampmann (Marburg)
  • Laura James (Cambridge)
  • Ronald G. Asch (Freiburg)
  • Andreas Whittam Smith (First Church Estates Commissioner)
  • David Trim (Archives, Statistics and Research, Seventh-Day Adventists)
  • Payam Ghalehdar (Cambridge).

Co-convenors Brendan Simms (Cambridge), Michael Axworthy (Exeter), and Patrick Milton (Freie Universität Berlin) welcomed the participants and introduced the event. Michael Axworthy officiated as chairman of the convenors.

Having established the broadly analogous nature of conflict preceding the Peace of Westphalia in Central Europe and that in the current the Middle East (ME), the seminar turned to the nature of Westphalia as a possible inspiration for a future ME settlement. The main points to emerge include the following:

  • Peace negotiations continued throughout the Thirty Years War, in parallel to hostilities. Although there were several important breaks in the fighting when it seemed as if peace had been achieved (1623-24, 1629-30, 1635), peace-making proved to be a more challenging task than expected, and it took five years of negotiations (1643-48) at the Westphalian congress towns of Münster and Osnabrück for definitive treaties to finally be concluded. A lasting peace was so elusive because there was a repeated failure to engage in effective crisis containment. As the war was fought over competing visions of the chiefly confessional elements of the constitutional balance of the Empire, the Habsburgs' practice of punishing and dispossessing enemies (both noble subjects in their hereditary lands, and Imperial Estates, i.e. ruling princes of the German territories) as 'notorious rebels', created an altered constitutional balance in favour of a more hierarchical, centralised Imperial monarchy. This in turn triggered foreign (Danish, Swedish, and French) intervention. The expropriation and displacement of rebel nobles produced large exile communities around which other Habsburg enemies could rally, and who helped recruiting troops for use by the foreign intervening powers. Because systems of regular war financing collapsed from the 1620s, rebel lands and territories needed to be redistributed to allies to ensure their continued assistance. The inability to return these as concessions without losing the means to achieve victory perpetuated conflict. The belligerents fought not to exterminate the enemy but to achieve an acceptable settlement, which paradoxically made it more difficult to end the war.
  • The eventual success of the peace negotiations at Westphalia were in no small measure due to the participation of most Imperial Estates, which made it a 'universal' (i.e. general, multilateral) congress, and permitted the achievement of a compromise settlement which was satisfactory to all members of the Empire. An all-inclusive congress on this scale was unprecedented and it was the willingness of the participants to explore unknown diplomatic terrain that helped the congress succeed. A core cross-confessional grouping of princes that were ready to compromise emerged as a third party, and functioned as an informal mediator between the Emperor's and foreign crowns' plenipotentiaries, which greatly propelled the peace process in its final phase. The role of informal contacts and discussions, as well as non-verbal forms of communication among the envoys and plenipotentiaries was recognised, although more research is needed on this topic.
  • The settlement reached at Westphalia consisted of three main elements: a reformed Imperial constitution; related to this, a revamped religious settlement for the Empire; and an international peace treaty. The participation of the Imperial Estates affected the eventual balance between the Emperor's and the princes' prerogatives that was reached with the adjusted constitutional settlement of 1648. According to the compromise, the princes' 'territorial superiority' was enshrined, giving them a degree of political autonomy, as was their right of participating in decisions on major Imperial policy areas, concluding alliances with other Imperial Estates and foreign powers, maintaining armies, waging war and making peace. On the other hand, their alliance-making capacity was limited by the caveat that alliances must not be directed against the Emperor, the Empire or the Peace settlement. The princes remained subjects of the Emperor as their feudal and judicial overlord, and the Empire and its supreme courts retained judicial oversight over their territories and jurisdiction within them. The still-widespread view of an 'Westphalian system' that supposedly created an order of equal, sovereign states that do not intervene in each other's domestic affairs is therefore fallacious.
  • The true diplomatic masterstroke of the peace settlement was its optimised religious constitution, which laid the foundation for an improved 'juridification' of sectarian conflict. After long negotiations and numerical haggling, 1624 was selected as the 'normative year' according to which the confessional possessions, rights of public (demonstrative) worship, and the confessional status of each territory were frozen. The princes' ability to impose their faith onto their subjects through the 'Right of Reformation' was thereby effectively abolished. Princely conversions (a possible parallel in the ME being revolutions) should no longer have consequences for the subject populations' religious liberties. A graded form of toleration was applied to all adherents of the recognised confessions (to which Calvinism was added). The success of the normative year derived from its gradual acceptance, during the 1630s and 40s, as a benchmark for the re-setting of confessional conditions to a mutually agreed, negotiated point in time. It can be rated as a successful peace-seeking effort on the part of electoral Saxony and other Imperially loyal, Lutheran princes. It was an innovative vehicle for the re-establishment of trust, which had been eroded between the confessional groups from the later sixteenth-century.
  • As an international peace treaty, the foreign crowns gained a limited amount of territory from the Empire as 'compensation' for their efforts at defending 'German Freedom' (princely prerogatives) on behalf of the Imperial Estates. While Sweden, and indirectly France, had also championed Protestant rights at the peace congress, both crowns were frustrated at the tenacious loyalty of the Imperial Estates to its Empire, a factor which scuppered proposals of radical curtailments of the Emperor's prerogatives and authority. The external guarantee of the peace settlement by France and Sweden was of long-term significance because it provided the crowns with a right to intervene in the Empire, after a certain sequence of steps, in order to defend Westphalian terms and stipulations.


Because the settlement is envisaged as in some way a possible inspiration for a future Middle East settlement, and the parallels between the two regions/epochs largely end before the opening of the congress, discussions of applicability to the Middle East were of a more speculative and tentative nature than in the previous seminars.

The relative absence of normative consensus on legitimacy and an overarching political framework in the ME was again noted; centuries of co-existence under the feudal-political and legal umbrella of the Reich produced a tenacious sense of belonging despite civil war, and the Imperial constitution was a shared reference system in Germany. These factors explain the continual willingness among most belligerents to countenance peace and contributed to the success of the treaties, which were explicitly conceived as a pax christiana (Christian Peace). The possible creation of a comparable framework in the ME merits consideration; indeed the widespread desire in the ME of the achievement of a stabilising and pacifying overall structure was noted. Nonetheless, the former Ottoman Empire did historically function as an overarching order.

Despite undeniable contextual contrasts, much can be learned from the successful settlement of a highly complex and challenging set of problems in the 1640s. Given the importance of inclusivity at the Westphalian peace talks, the issue of granting a seat at the negotiating table to entities such as ISIS becomes salient. In the Westphalian case, non-state actors such as the Bohemian and Austrian exiles sought representation but were excluded as their participation would have been intolerable to the Habsburgs. Similarly, the Habsburg negotiators successfully exempted (with minor caveats) the Emperor from the duty of respecting subjects' new Westphalian confessional rights within his own hereditary lands, where the Emperor as a territorial ruler retained a virtually unfettered Right of Reformation. Through a series of such opt-outs and exemptions, as opposed to blanket applicability, similar challenges in the ME could possibly be overcome—be they the question of admitting ISIS as a negotiating partner, or the probable unwillingness of the King of Saudi Arabia, like the Emperor in Vienna before him, to countenance legally grounded interferences or interventions in his kingdom.

The graded form of religious toleration, which guaranteed a minimum level of rights and security for minority groups according to the normative year, yet still recognised a dominant, official confession in most territories, could possibly have a greater chance of general acceptance and therefore practical success in the ME, than an attempted blanket imposition of full universal toleration.

In light of the strong mistrust of external intervention among local actors in the ME, one would need to consider carefully who the external guarantors of any Middle Eastern settlement should be, so as to ensure success—the importance of the general acceptance of the guarantee among inhabitants of the Reich after 1648 (although less so during the sole rule of Louis XIV) is relevant in this context.
Discussion also centred around the question of whether the negotiation process at Westphalia might serve as a useful model for a ME peace process. Mediators played a role at Westphalia, and in the Early Modern period mediating could be seen to bring glory, whereas a stance of neutrality often had negative connotations. The length of the congress had advantages as well as disadvantages; as military conduct became locked into the peace negotiation. Pre-modern European concepts of honour prescribed the insistence upon achieving an 'honourable peace' (pax honesta), and the willingness to continue fighting in pursuit thereof in the hope of achieving one more victory so as to improve one's bargaining position at the negotiating table, largely accounts for the longevity of the congress.

Finally, it was pointed out that rather than serving as a model (which might evoke problematic notions of a template or blueprint), Westphalia might more usefully be conceived as providing a 'toolbox' in aid of peace-making in the Middle East.

EVENT REPORT Brexit: The Day After - held 20 April 2016, Westminster

last modified Apr 22, 2016 04:54 PM

EVENT REPORT
Brexit: The Day After - held 20 April 2016, Westminster

(Please note that the second event in the series will take place on Wednesday 27 April. Register now at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/brexit-the-day-after-the-day-after-constitutional-implications-for-england-scotland-and-the-union-tickets-24083170411)

On Wednesday 20 April, the Forum on Geopolitics (www.coggs.polis.cam.ac.uk) held an event at Westminster exploring the likely consequences of a 'Brexit' - specifically in terms of the consequences for Britain's relationship the EU, other allies, and the balance of power. This event was kindly hosted by Ben Gummer MP and chaired by Simon Heffer.

Our speakers considered what might come next for Britain and Europe - whether Brexit would isolate Britain, fracture the United Kingdom, cause further instability on mainland Europe, embolden an expansionist Russia, invite further terrorist attacks, and generally shatter Europe's best hope for the future; or whether it would liberate the British and other Europeans to realise their potential free of the shackles of Brussels.

The speakers were:

  • Kate Hoey MP
  • Peter Hitchens
  • Tristram Hunt MP
  • Nicholas Soames MP
  • Bronwen Maddox
  • Bernard Jenkin MP
  • Stephan Shakespeare (CEO of YouGov, presenting polling data commissioned for this event)

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS DRAWN BY FORUM ON GEOPOLITICS

(Please note that this summary represents the views of the Forum regarding the key points of the debate, rather than those of the speakers)

It is clear from the debate and from the new polling material that politicians and the public are seeing the in/out debate too narrowly in terms of what leaving or remaining would mean for Britain. Most seem to believe two contradictory things at the same time, namely that
(a) leaving the EU will not have a negative impact on the rump EU, or affect levels of integration, and that
(b) a British departure would greatly increase the likelihood of other exits, and thus the chances of total disintegration.
It may be, therefore, that the debate is missing a key aspect, which is - whether Britain is 'in' or 'out' - the question of what sort of continental European order is good for Britain and what sort of impact the decision in June will have on it.

THE DISCUSSION

What was striking about the polling material produced, and most of the discussion, was that very few people have taken into account the likely impact of a Brexit on the rest of Europe. To the extent that people engaged with this question, some 'leavers' thought Brexit would lead to a 'liberation' of other European countries from the shackles of Brussels. Yet some 'remainers' argued that a British exit would encourage disintegrative tendencies, such as the French National Front and Jobbik in Hungary. Polling data suggests that a majority of voters believe that other countries will only leave the EU in the next ten years if Britain goes first.

Concern was raised by some 'remainers' regarding Britain's relationship with the United States in the event of 'Brexit', and questioned Britain's future status as leading power and the implications this would have for national security and for the promotion of democracy. A 'Brexit' would, it was argued, be 'a gift' to some prominent adversarial forces.
Some on the 'leave' side felt however that Britain's importance on the international stage was more influenced by NATO than EU membership, and emphasised our various allies' self-interest in urging us to stay in the EU; Britain should, they felt, regain its dignity by charting an independent course.

The conversation also considered Britain's subsequent interactions with the EU and Eurozone. The 'leave' side argued an impassioned case for Britain's inherent importance to Europe, regardless of EU membership, and cited the German car industry to make the case that surely the EU member states would see it in their interests to provide Britain with a comfortable exit followed by a role of special influence, privilege and market access, but with no responsibility within the future bloc.

The 'remainers' argued that this was baseless fantasy, unsupported by any such indications from the EU member states, and that the very uncertainty about the progress of the negotiations - including the possibility that it would be a new leader of the Conservative Party who would lead those negotiations - meant that embarking on this course was taking overwhelming risk with a slim probability of proportionate reward.

Most of the focus of the conversation, therefore, was on the effect of 'Brexit' on Britain. This included some consideration of the effects on party and parliamentary politics, and on the Union with Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Much of this discussion emphasised the economic consequences - positive and negative - for Britain, with little concern for any economic impact on the EU, the Eurozone or the global economy. It was striking to note that to the extent that numbers were cited by either side, there was fundamental disagreement on their accuracy and relevance. This absence of hard data, and vagueness and imprecision regarding specific impacts on various components of British trade, and on the actual financial value Britain contributes to and receives from the EU on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis, is - the 'remainers' argued - the very reason why risk outweighs reward. They argued against allowing abstract nationalism to impoverish the country and weaken its status.
Some 'Leavers' argued however that the heart of the matter is not economics or value, but British dignity and democratic independence.

We would like to thank our speakers once again for leading a lively and thought-provoking discussion.

---

The second of this two-event series will take place on Wednesday 27 April from 5-7pm at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
Details can be found here: http://www.coggs.polis.cam.ac.uk/events/after-brexit-2

Register now.

Report on 'A Westphalia for the Middle East' Seminar Two: 19 March 2016

last modified Apr 01, 2016 12:58 AM

Report on 'A Westphalia for the Middle East' Seminar Two: 19 March 2016

'The sixteenth and seventeenth century crisis in central Europe - Setting up the problem'

We held the second Seminar of the series 'A Westphalia for the Middle East' on the afternoon of 19 March in the Alison Richard Building, University of Cambridge, before an enthusiastic audience.

A Westphalia for the Middle East: Session 2

The Seminar took place under the title 'The Peace of Westphalia – Setting up the Solution'. We designed it to explain the origin and course of the Thirty Years War, explaining the nature of the complex conflicts in Germany and Europe in the 17th century and establishing the context for the Peace of Westphalia, while continuing to point up parallels with the contemporary Middle East (ME); following on from our previous seminar at KCL on 2 March.

The main speakers at the event were Michael Kaiser (Max Weber Stiftung/Cologne), Peter Wilson (Oxford), and Christoph Kampmann (Marburg). Chairing and commentating were Ali Ansari (St Andrews), Andreas Whittam Smith, Malik Dahlan (Quraysh Foundation), and Philip Bobbitt. Brendan Simms (Cambridge) and Patrick Milton (Freie Universität Berlin) welcomed the participants and introduced the event on behalf of the Forum for Geopolitics, and Michael Axworthy officiated as chair of the convenors.

Some of the main points that emerged included -
1. The erosion of certainties and the loss of faith in unifying structures and structures for dialogue in the years preceding the outbreak of war in 1618; Spaniards took over from Turks as popular bogeymen; moderates were marginalised and a sense grew that normal politics was dissolving into the false certainties of sectarianism, which coincided with institutional paralysis in the consultative bodies of the Holy Roman Empire.

2. Many myths persist about the 30YW – e.g. that Germany was a victim, and that the war was senseless and ran out of control. But in fact the German states retained 'agency' (an echo of comments about the ME in our first seminar) and the commanders had plans, objectives and their own idea of control up to the end of the 1640s; what looked out of control to civilians had nonetheless a logic and a form of control for commanders. One way to see the 30YW was as an Imperial Civil War, with management of the Imperial constitution and especially church property and ecclesiastical territory as the prime points at issue.

3. It is common to see 30YW as a war in which neighbouring states fought proxy wars on German territory (an echo of the victim idea) but equally, external powers were sucked into the conflict as it became imperative to protect their interests. War was not inevitable; moderates were always in a majority and all of the participants were militarily weak most of the time.

4. The 30YW took place against a background of longer-term dynastic struggles in Europe; between France and Spain since the late 15th century, and between Spain and the Netherlands since the 1560s; internationalisation of the conflict was delayed, but after the catastrophe (for the Imperialists) of the Swedish intervention in 1631, the Emperor strove hard to de-internationalise the conflict and appeal to Imperial sentiment, through the conclusion of the Peace of Prague (1635), which drew in almost all German princes. By this stage, however, the war had arguably become irreversibly internationalised with the foreign crowns determined to remain engaged and belligerent until the Imperial constitutional balance returned to a less monarchical and more federal equilibrium, and until they had secured other forms of 'compensation' for their interventions on behalf of so-called German Liberties.

5. Parallel between the exploitation of new technologies for exacerbating sectarianism in the 17th century (pamphleteering) and now (internet, twitter); and between the (fading) unifying effect of hostility to the Ottoman Turks in 17th century Europe, and hostility to Israel in the contemporary ME, also fading as sectarianism and other tensions gained ground.

6. When wars drag on, spread, deepen and just keep going, like the 30YW, they enter a new category and raise questions about the health and viability of underlying structures. We look at the ME crisis now, but that crisis also questions our own assumptions about the national state and relations between states.

7. The relevance of often-contentious historiographical debates among experts on the Thirty Years War to the accuracy and persuasiveness of the ME/16th-17th C. central Europe analogy was recognised. On one side of the debate, the interpretation of the 30YW as not being a religious war, but instead resulting from competing interpretations of the Imperial constitution in which confession was enmeshed with law and politics—an Imperial Civil War—seems to paint a picture less analogous to the ME than other interpretations of the 30YW, which stress the role of growing confessional antagonism and polarisation in the road to conflict, and the importance of incremental internationalisation in its perpetuation.

8. The return of religion as a phenomenon both in Europe at the turn of the 16th-17thC. and in the ME of the last decades: The 1555 Religious Peace of Augsburg had established a durable working compromise between Catholics and Lutherans (inaugurating the second longest period of peace in German history, surpassed only by 1945—present) but Imperial politics became confessionally confrontational again from late—16th C, as have sectarian relations in the ME in the last 30-or-so years.

9. Consequently, as in the first seminar (a conceptual parallel in itself), some questioned the tendency to sideline, qualify or otherwise relegate the importance of religion. The idea of an underlying cause of the war being the radicalism of Calvinists and the drive of the Emperor to roll back the Reformation with the help of Spanish troops and Spanish gold still had its adherents.

10. An obvious difference between the two epochs/regions is the absence in the ME of an overarching and hierarchical constitutional-political framework such as the Holy Roman Empire, with a shared and binding legal-political culture and national identity. Nevertheless, a parallel can be discerned between the Emperor and the King in Saudi Arabia now; the latter with the responsibility and prestige as custodian of the holy places, central to Islam as a whole, but without the Imperial culture of the former at his disposal, which in the end had been a prime mechanism for bringing the war to an end.

11. Law and legal structures had been important in facilitating the Westphalia peace; parallels in the ME needed to be explored; the questions of state sovereignty and conditional sovereignty were central as they had been in the first seminar.

12. The instincts of Germany and Europe in the 17th century had been highly conservative – yet the idea of a universal congress which brought about the Westphalia peace had been a bold and ground-breaking innovation (largely French-inspired) - similar boldness was needed in the ME now.

13. One way to view 1648 is that the Empire was reinventing itself (after the previous effort at the end of the 15th century) - similarly, reasonable to see ME as a post-Imperial (post-Ottoman) space in which the post-1918 arrangements had failed.

----------------------------------------

Our next seminar will be on 23 April, in Cambridge, when we will explore the Westphalia treaties and their immediate context in more detail.

As before, all those who have attended up to now are invited for the next and successive seminars, but please do confirm your attendance if you have not already done so. We urge everyone to keep coming and to keep contributing as they did so effectively on 2 and 19 March.
In particular, we are looking forward to the second phase of the project, which will take place in the first months of 2017; this is planned in outline but we are still very much open to ideas and offers for participation.

Nick Butler FT blog report on Forum on Geopolitics 'Nightmare Lecture': 'The Big Freeze'

last modified Mar 29, 2016 07:55 PM

Prof Nick Butler (KCL) has posted the below Financial Times Blog report on the 14 March Forum on Geopolitics 'Nightmare Series' lecture at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

The original can be found at http://blogs.ft.com/nick-butler/

This event was kindly sponsored by Absolute Strategy Research.

RUSSIA AND EUROPE: NIGHTMARES AND REALITIES

NICK BUTLER

Russia locks on gas supplies to Ukraine

Is Europe trapped in a state of dependence on Russian gas? What would
happen if by some accident, let alone a strategic decision taken in
Moscow, the gas stopped coming. Would eastern Europe grind to a halt,
and would the west, led by Germany, sue for peace on any terms ?

This was the core topic for debate last week at a seminar organised by
the Geopolitics Forum at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge [4] as part
of their series on nightmare scenarios. With wide participation from
within the university and beyond, we were able to go beyond the
headlines to build an analysis based on facts. It is worth setting out a
few of those facts.

* First, dependence is at the very least mutual and if anything in a
buyers' market power it is skewed to the importing nations. Russia
supplies about 30 per cent of Europe's gas needs and 60 per cent of
its imports. Those are serious numbers but they are dwarfed by the 90
per cent dependence of Russia on Europe as a buyer of its gas.

* Second, Russian gas is now the swing supplier. European gas demand
has been falling and although flat in 2015 is it 20 per cent below the
level reached 10 years ago. All that decline has fallen on the shoulders
of Gazprom and explains why the company has around 100bn cubic metres of
stranded gas — developed but not producing in the Bovanekovo field in
the Yamal peninsula of west Siberia.

* Third, several countries in eastern Europe are indeed 100 per cent
dependent on Russian supplies of gas. But that does not mean that their
economies would collapse if the gas supplies were cut off for whatever
reason. Gas in each case is a small percentage of national energy
consumption, probably reflecting a desire to avoid such a risk.
Europe's main importer of gas is Germany – a country well able to
replace the gas either through imports from elsewhere or by increasing
its use of coal. A cut off of gas to Germany would be a problem – but
a problem easily and quickly solved.

* The fourth factual point reinforces the story on the true direction
of dependence. The much touted pivot to the east with President Vladimir
Putin's theatrical visits to China to sign vast deals has come to very
little. A detailed and expert analysis [5] from the Oxford Energy
Insitute shows that neither the volumes nor the price of such trade has
been agreed. Indeed, even the route — whether via the Power of Siberia
line from east Siberia to north-east China or the alternative line from
west Siberia to Xiangjing in western China has not been agreed. In a
buyers' market there are no doubt a host of countries – led perhaps
by Iran – offering long-term gas supplies to China at very attractive
prices. It is hard to see Russia earning any revenue from sales of gas
to China before 2025. Until then, and perhaps for a long time
afterwards, Russia will remain dependent on the European market to
maintain its export revenue and to keep the 373,000 people who are
employed by Gazprom in work.

Gas, then, is not a weapon the Russians can use lightly, if at all, and
it is perhaps not surprising that since 1968, when the gas trade began,
supplies to Europe have never been interrupted despite numerous periods
of tension — such as the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the
turmoil around the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. Supplies to
Ukraine have, of course, been interrupted on two occasions but that has
more to do with the lack of payment for the gas than anything else.

What Russia would like is a secure market for its gas — a guaranteed
volume of sales at a stable price. Mr Putin has said as much in the
past.

The fact that the situation in the market is one of interdependence does
not remove the concerns about Russian intentions or about the extent to
which Moscow has destabilised the economy of Ukraine to the point where
a serious exodus of people to neighbouring European states cannot be
ruled out. Given the failure of the EU to manage the problems of
migration from Syria, the prospect of an influx of hundreds of thousands
of desperate Ukrainians is indeed a nightmare scenario. In such
circumstances, Europe led by Germany might indeed sue for peace, or at
least stability with Ukraine neutralised and Russia promised a protected
share of the European gas business.

But the nightmare scenario is not the only possible outcome of the
current situation. The reality is that Russia needs the European energy
market more than Europe needs Russian gas. In the end, if Mr Putin wants
to stay in power he will have to pay attention to his country's
deteriorating economy. Perhaps from its position of relative strength
Europe could then negotiate a deal which traded a part of what Moscow
wants — for instance access to a part of the gas market on competitive
terms – for a new and improved relationship across the security
agenda.

Nightmares are often based on false fears and perhaps as one participant
at last week's seminar said Russia will one day become a normal
country. Perhaps, although given Russia's behaviour in Turkey over the
last few months — where gas prices have been hiked and supply
contracts broken — simply to punish the Turks for their behaviour in
relation to Syria normality and the trust which goes with it, that still
seems a long way off.

Links:
------
[1] http://blogs.ft.com/nick-butler/author/nickbutler/
[2] http://blogs.ft.com/nick-butler/2016/03/21/russia-and-europe-nightmares-and-realities/#respond
[3] http://blogs.ft.com/nick-butler/files/2016/03/GettyImages-84207096.jpg
[4] http://www.coggs.polis.cam.ac.uk/news/nightmare-series-report
[5] https://www.oxfordenergy.org/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/NG-102.pdf

Nightmare Lecture: 'The Big Freeze' - a report by Tony Barber (Europe Editor, FT)

last modified Mar 17, 2016 03:35 PM

On Monday 14 March at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, Prof Nick Butler (KCL) delivered a 'Nightmare Series' lecture, in which he discussed the consequences for Europe of a geopolitically motivated Russian zero-supply gas disruption. Jānis Kažociņš, National Security Adviser to the President, Republic of Latvia, acted as respondent.

This event was kindly sponsored by Absolute Strategy Research.

Tony Barber, Europe Editor of the Financial Times, wrote the following piece on the event (original here):

Under what circumstances might Russia cut off gas deliveries to Europe for a prolonged period of time, and what might be the consequences? Such a scenario may seem too absurd to contemplate. Russia depends heavily on energy exports to Europe and likes to be known as a reliable supplier. Even in the gas crises of 2006 and 2009, the Russians did not go so far. Why would Moscow do something that, on the face of things, would harm its own interests more than it would advance them?

All this was the topic of a fascinating lecture and discussion I attended this week at Corpus Christi college, Cambridge University, organised by the historian Brendan Simms and his Forum on Geopolitics. The underlying premise of this event was that people in government, business and academia have an obligation to consider “nightmare scenarios”, however improbable. After all, geopolitical events are inherently unpredictable.

The main speaker was Nick Butler, familiar to Financial Times readers as the writer of a regular blog on energy issues. A former BP executive and British government adviser, he has a deep knowledge of the Russian economy, its energy sector and the forces that shape the Kremlin’s foreign policy.

Butler’s starting point was that low world energy prices are seriously squeezing the Russian economy.

Moscow’s attempts to compensate for declining European gas demand by ramping up exports to China have so far got nowhere. Imagine, then, a “nightmare scenario” in which Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, reacted to these pressures by launching a foreign policy adventure similar to the 2008 war against Georgia, the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the recent intervention in Syria’s civil war. What might he do, and how would the west respond?

Butler suggested that Putin might rekindle the separatist conflict in Ukraine’s south-eastern Donbas region. This might trigger reinforced western economic and other sanctions against Russia. Putin might then cut off gas supplies to Europe.

Were this to happen, the disruption to the economies of western Europe – even Germany, the main importer of Russian gas – would not be particularly severe, Butler thought. It might be worse in some of the EU’s central and eastern European member-states, but it would still be manageable.

The country to suffer the most would be Ukraine, where territories under the Kiev government’s control would be vulnerable to a Russian and Donbas separatist squeeze on coal and electricity as well as gas supplies. Kiev might declare a two-day working week to save energy (memories here of the 1974 three-day week in the UK!). Ukraine would plunge towards economic collapse, and huge numbers of Ukrainians might flee westwards into Poland, Germany and beyond – as refugees from Syria and elsewhere are doing now.

At this point, the British, French and German governments, for which migration is the most neuralgic of issues, would be ready for a deal with Putin. The US would denounce Russia’s destabilisation of Ukraine, but it would be clear to Putin and his advisers that Washington would never use military force on Ukraine’s behalf.

So the crisis might end, Butler said, in a deal struck largely on Russian terms. Ukraine would be turned into an officially neutral state, but its leadership would be Russian-oriented or Russian-tolerated. The Donbas would be quasi-independent.

For its part, Europe would have to sign a new, long-term energy supply contract with Russia. It would commit the Europeans to buying large quantities of gas for 25 years at a fixed price 20 per cent above prevailing market levels, Butler speculated.

As the former BP man stressed at the outset, he was not saying any of this was likely to happen. But if Brendan Simms invites you to paint a nightmare geopolitical scenario, then that is what you paint.

For my part, I thought it was a compelling argument that, if a nightmare were to erupt, it would erupt out of a combination of three factors – a) Russia’s energy problems; b) the conflict over Ukraine’s future; and, most importantly, c) Europe’s recognition that Russia, however truculent a partner, cannot in the end be denied a place in the European geopolitical and economic order.

---------------------------------

This event was very kindly supported by Absolute Strategy Research.

Further events in the series will be announced in due course. To register interest, please email .

Report on A Westphalia for the Middle East: Session 1

last modified Mar 08, 2016 12:43 PM

We held the first Seminar of the series 'A Westphalia for the Middle East' on the afternoon of 2 March in the Department of War Studies, King's College London, in front of a large and lively audience.

The Seminar took place under the title 'The Development of the Middle Eastern Problem since 1914 and the Failure of Sovereignty'. It was intended to set the scene for the remaining seminars in the first part of the series, by setting out the nature of the problem in the Middle East (ME), with some preliminary commentary about the Westphalia analogy; emphasising the need to distinguish between the real Westphalia, and the myth.

Some of the main points that emerged included -

  • The importance, albeit elusive, of religion; even if it is not always or necessarily the prime motivating factor, it was used as a cover for hegemonic aggrandizement for example, and as in the 17th century, for state-building; sectarianism could also fuel fear and potential miscalculation about the motives of other actors.
  • State-building in the ME had historically been a forced rather than an organic process, moving from nationalism to sectarianism. Sovereignty had been only conditional for many countries in the ME for much of their history.
    the agency of local actors should not be overlooked; the tendency to blame outside intervention for all the problems of the region was too prevalent.
  • Although the current crisis in the ME was unmanageable in its severity and complexity and had gone beyond the capability of external forces to control it, both too much and too little outside involvement in the region could be detrimental to its stability and chances for reconstruction.
  • The disintegration of Syria had had political causes, but sectarianism had been exploited by the Assad regime and various other parties to protect and aggrandise their positions (echoing the first point) - the 1989 Taif agreement in Lebanon and its outcome was potentially a case study for our project as an attempted solution to the Lebanese civil war with some Westphalia-style features.
  • Iraq had broken up and new entities had appeared; IS was popular with at least some Sunnis, and was the prime enemy for none of the other regional actors. A new state model could be emerging; a kind of managed chaos of peripheral states with spheres of influence, and power centres with vaguely defined hinterlands.
  • There was no regional integration in the Middle East; outside help would be needed to create a regional structure that could accommodate diverse confessions and ethnicities— diachronic analysis could demonstrate ways in which a Westphalia-style order could deliver mechanisms capable of defusing social and religious tensions.
  • Some questioned the possibility of a Westphalia solution in a region marked by bad state actors that were not honest brokers; there was also a radical legitimacy problem with outside intervention.
  • Nevertheless, several participants also noted the unlikelihood of ME actors coming together to resolve problems collectively without external participation; the P5+1 talks with Iran had been a constructive precedent for diplomatic engagement by external powers with the region; others remarked on personal experience of people from the region asking about the history of religious strife in Europe and the solutions that had been found for it.
  • The feasibility of applying conditional sovereignty – a flexible concept that did not simply stand for partition or any other single form of solution.
  • The unwieldy complexity of the problem; pointing to the need for flexibility and variable geometry in any possible solution – something that a Westphalia approach could offer.

We agreed the lively discussion had confirmed both the level of interest in the subject-matter, and the validity of the concept of analogy between 17th century Europe and the Middle East now.

Our next seminar will be on 19 March, in Cambridge, when we will be starting to explore the 16th—17th century experience in more detail.

This series has been supported by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) with funds from the Federal Foreign Office (FFO) and by Institution Quraysh for Law & Policy. It is being run in conjunction with King's College London and the University of Exeter.

We urge everyone to keep coming and to keep contributing as they did so effectively on 2 March. In particular, we are looking forward to the second phase of the project, which will take place in the first months of 2017; this is planned in outline but we are still very much open to ideas and offers for participation.

Report on Corpus Christi College's recent panel event: 'On the Brink'

last modified Nov 05, 2015 10:37 AM

Report by Corpus Christi College

Cambridge was buzzing with activity and full of alumni, guests and members of the University and colleges on Friday 16 October, the first day of Cambridge's launch of its biggest ever fundraising campaign, and nowhere more than Corpus. We held two spectacular events during the day; in the early afternoon Professor Chris Andrew gave a fascinating lecture on 500 Years of Cambridge Spies, bringing the story into the current era with intriguing revelations about the espionage activities of Corpus alumnus, Cedric Belfrage.

Later in the day the McCrum theatre began filling up until it was standing room only. Corpus Fellow Commoner Tim Sebastian expertly moderated an impressive panel of experts in a war game, On the Brink, in which a Russian plane invades British air space and is shot down after attempts to communicate with the pilot fail. The panel, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary, Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6, Stephen Evans, former NATO assistant Secretary General for Operations and Jonathan Haslam, former Chief Press Secretary to John Major, were challenged to decide what action to take in the immediate aftermath to avoid war with Russia. Tim kept the pace fast with interjections about developments in the field, in particular from the Kremlin, and pushed the panel to respond. Students who had been involved from the beginning acted as a Parliament and asked awkward questions of the panellists until at the end the audience was asked to give a vote of no confidence. The fact that the vote was defeated says a lot about the persuasive performance of our panellists.

The panel were then questioned by the audience, many of whom had an involvement in the military, diplomatic service or a connection with Russia and the Baltic states and this extended the narrative into new and interesting territory. Finally everyone moved to the Master's Lodge for drinks and then into Hall for a grand dinner. Students, alumni, guests, staff and Fellows filled the Hall and continued the discussion with the enthusiasm of an audience highly charged and excited by the scenario they had just witnessed.

Lecture by Dr John Bew (KCL): 'Castlereagh and the Congress of Vienna - a model for our times?'

last modified Oct 22, 2015 02:18 PM

On Wednesday 21 October, Peterhouse and the Forum on Geopolitics at POLIS hosted a public lecture by former Peterhouse Fellow, Dr John Bew (KCL), exploring the diplomatic strategies and statecraft of Viscount Castlereagh, and the lessons we might apply to the challenges currently facing British foreign policy.

The much-maligned Lord Castlereagh is often presented as the paragon of 'realism' in international affairs. Henry Kissinger wrote his doctoral thesis on Castlereagh and Metternich, and their diplomacy at the time of the Congress of Vienna. Yet Castlereagh has also been seen as an alliance builder and a multi-lateralist - one of the driving forces behind the system of congress diplomacy which aimed to restore order to Europe after the tumult of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. In recent times, concerns about the maintenance of a stable world order have emerged. There have also been calls for a 'return to realpolitik' in the west.

In this talk, Dr John Bew outlined the five fundamental tenets of Castlereagh's approach to foreign policy, and offered a new interpretation of Castlereagh's understanding of power. Dr Bew made a powerful case for the pressing need for a greater sense of strategy and purpose in present-day British foreign policy thinking, and in particular, for that thinking to be infused with a more nuanced sense of history and a more sophisticated interpretation of the intersection of national interest and humanitarian values.


About Dr John Bew

Dr John Bew (matric. 2005), Is a reader in History and Foreign Policy at the War Studies Department at King's College London and Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence. Dr Bew is also contributing writer at the New Statesman and a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, American Interest, National Interest, New Republic and Irish Times. From 2007-10, he was Lecturer in Modern British History, Harris Fellow and Director of Studies at Peterhouse.

About this lecture series

This lecture is one of several 'kick-off' events in support of a longer-term project to build a Centre for Geopolitics at POLIS. This Centre, the Centre of Geopolitics and Grand Strategy (CoGGS, www.coggs.polis.cam.ac.uk) is a proposed new interdisciplinary Centre for the study of grand strategy and statecraft at the University of Cambridge. Our vision is to bring together the brightest students and the most innovative international thinkers from academia, politics and business, to study Britain's role in Europe, and Europe's role in the world, in their broadest historical and intellectual contexts. The central discipline will be the history and politics of the state system, but we will also draw from the disciplines of geography, economics, political economy, business and risk management, divinity, sociology and law to offer a truly innovative research and teaching environment, which will also provide insights to the wider world. Please see www.coggs.polis.cam.ac.uk for further information regarding our events programme and development plans.

If you are interested in the Centre, please contact Dr Maeve Ryan, Development Coordinator for CoGGS, (mcr39@cam.ac.uk), or Dr Saskia Murk Jansen, Peterhouse Development Director (saskia.murkjansen@pet.cam.ac.uk)

Recent event: 'Dark Water': Security in the Black Sea region

last modified Oct 26, 2015 09:16 AM
Recent event: 'Dark Water': Security in the Black Sea region

'Dark Water': Security in the Black Sea region

On 15 October at Cripps Court auditorium, Magdalene College, The Cambridge Review of International Affairs, in collaboration with the Forum on Geopolitics, hosted 'Dark Water: Security in the Black Sea Region'.

On 15 October 2015 the Cambridge Review of International Affairs with the Forum on Geopolitics, hosted an interdisciplinary panel entitled Dark Waters: Security in the Black Sea Region. Speakers included Vice Admiral Ian Corder, the UK Military Representative to NATO and the EU, Dr. Anna Dolidze, Deputy Defence Minister of the Republic of Georgia, and Dr. Slawomir Raszewski, Department of War Studies, Kings College London. We were further delighted to include Mr. Bruce Clark, Religion & Ethics Correspondent and former International Security Editor at The Economist, as moderator.

The panelists addressed a myriad of security concerns facing the Black Sea region, including but not limited to issues of maritime jurisdiction, energy security as related to the highly politicised commodity of gas, and increasing terrorist and separatist threats. All panelists addressed the growing role Russia played in the region, citing Russia's actions as a growing military concern and calling for a need to deter Russia's "adventurism" in the Black Sea region.

Nationhood for Scotland and Catalonia: a threat or an opportunity for the EU?

last modified Jul 24, 2015 11:31 AM

On 30 June 2015, The Forum on Geopolitics at the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), University of Cambridge, supported by Diplocat, Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia, and The Delegation of the Catalan Government in London hosted a colloquium "Nationhood for Scotland and Catalonia:
Threat or opportunity for the EU?". Videos of the conference presentations and keynote address are available here.

Catalonia and Scotland

Background

The so-called 'Edinburgh Agreement' between David Cameron and Alex Salmond to allow a binding referendum on Scottish independence stands in sharp contrast with the Spanish government's outright opposition to allowing a similar vote in Catalonia. This highlights the distance between different conceptions of democracy coexisting within the European Union, which are rooted in the diverse political cultures of nations with different historical backgrounds.

The European project is faced with the democratic peaceful demands of Catalonia and Scotland willing to be recognized as nations within the EU. In so doing, they invoke the right to self-determination and adopt a pro-democracy and pro-European Union stand. This takes place at a time when the traditional nation-state is being challenged by transnational and global governance, a time in which belonging to the nation acquires a fundamental role in legitimizing the political aspirations of national minorities across Europe and beyond.

Programme

This colloquium explored whether the rise of demands for self-determination in Scotland and Catalonia unravels or in fact reinforces the trend towards greater European political integration by examining:

  • The key reasons that have prompted the shift from devolution to secession in both Scotland and Catalonia
  • The novel political structures and new social attachments that may emerge as a response to demands for self-determination
  • The novel instruments and actors leading political mobilisation and social change
  • The international consequences of secessionism in EU

 

Speakers:

Session One – Chair: Dr. Charles Jones

'The dangers of Catalan Secessionism'

– Dr. Jeff Miley, University of Cambridge

'The Opportunities of Catalan Secessionism'

– Professor Montserrat Guibernau, Queen Mary University of London

Session Two – Chair: Prof. David Runciman

'The consequences of the SNP results in the 2014 Referendum and their potential impact upon UK and EU politics'

– Professor David McCrone, University of Edinburgh

Session Three – Chair: Baroness Julie Smith

'Defense implications of Scottish and Catalan secessionism'

– Professor Malcolm Chalmers, RUSI

Session Four – Chair: Prof. Montserrat Guibernau

Keynote Address

– Mr Antoni Bassas, former Washington correspondent (2009-2013) for TV3; currently Journalist and Audiovisual Chief of Ara newspaper

 

With thanks to Diplocat: Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia for kind support of this event and a drinks reception.

For more information on the work of Diplocat, please visit: http://www.diplocat.cat/en/

Masterclass on Britain's role in the world: Jonathan Powell

last modified Jun 01, 2015 08:52 AM
Masterclass on Britain's role in the world: Jonathan Powell

(c) https://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/people/qa-with-jonathan-powell/2009909.article

On Thursday 21st May 2015, CoGGS held a Masterclass on Britain's role in the world with British diplomat and author Jonathan Powell. Mr Powell served as the first Downing Street Chief of Staff, under Prime Minister Tony Blair, from 1997 to 2007.

He began by reflecting on his experience in the Foreign Office, informing the class that when he first entered the diplomatic service, during Margaret Thatcher's premiership, his principal training consisted of being given a copy of Harold Nicholson's 'Diplomacy' and a guide to placement.

Mr. Powell offered insights from his involvement in major diplomatic negotiations, including the Sino-British talks on the sovereignty of Hong Kong, arms control talks in Stockholm and the CSCE negotiations in Vienna, the 2+4 talks on German unification, the Northern Ireland peace talks and his current role as the UK special envoy to Libya and as CEO of the charity Inter Mediate. He suggested that responsibility for decision making in diplomacy had been increasingly sucked upwards in recent decades and that it was increasingly the preserve of prime ministers. The most important Foreign Office work now occurs in multilateral institutions.

Mr. Powell bemoaned the lack of historical perspective that underpins diplomatic analysis. Having recalled a masterful memorandum that Sir. John Fretwell wrote on German unification, placing events in their historical context, he lamented the failure of diplomats and policymakers to see the Arab Spring in its larger perspective. History should teach us that revolutions are likely to trigger a counter-revolution and that it would be wrong to think the Arab Spring is over.

He regretted that the basis on which Britain has built its foreign policy since 1945 is on the verge of collapsing. Having lost its Empire, Britain's world role was dependent on the Transatlantic Relationship and a leading role in Europe. While the personal relationship between leaders can enhance U.S./UK relations, Mr. Powell argued the ties between the intelligence communities and armed forces of the two countries were equally important. Reflecting on his own experience dealing with the Clinton administration over Kosovo, he stressed that British leaders should give advice to U.S. presidents but shouldn't be seen to be directing their actions. The cutting back of Britain's military forces threatens its role as America's most dependable ally.

Even more concerning to Mr. Powell was Britain's diminished role in Europe. This also threatened Britain's significance to Washington. While the Blair government had attempted to build a troika with Germany and France, Britain was now on the sidelines in the Ukrainian crisis and the threat of leaving the EU left it further marginalized. Britain's diplomatic isolation would also leave it incapable of adopting a sensible policy of humanitarian intervention when it was required.

He urged Britain's leaders to propose a positive agenda on Europe and to learn the lessons from past interventions rather than focusing on fighting the final five minutes of the last campaign. Mr. Powell stressed how difficult it was for Britain to have an independent foreign policy and said that, rather than punching above its weight in the world, Britain had now left the ring and was barely boxing at all.

However, he saw hope for the future in a new generation of British diplomats and confided to the class that Tony Blair had once told him that he wished he's done something useful at University and studied history rather than law!

RAND Europe-Forum on Geopolitics seminar on 'Foreign Fighters: Threats and Responses', May 21 2015, Pembroke College

last modified May 28, 2015 10:58 AM

RAND Europe and the Forum on Geopolitics held the second of three RAND-POLIS (Department of Politics and International Studies) seminars at the University of Cambridge on May 21st. The seminar discussed the phenomenon of 'foreign fighters'; UK citizens travelling to join conflicts in the Middle East and North and Sub-Saharan Africa, and the UK government's response to the security challenges that follow.

The seminar was chaired by Kate Robertson, an Associate Analyst for the Defence, Security and Infrastructure (DSI) Research Group at RAND Europe. The debate was led by Martha Turnbull, Head, National Security Research Analyst Group, Foreign & Commonwealth Office; Alistair Bunkall, Defence Correspondent, Sky News; Valerie Smith, Head, Africa Team, Cabinet Office, with the goal of promoting engagement between policymakers, academics, research analysts and the media.

The seminar programme was held at Pembroke College in collaboration with the Forum on Geopolitics and two other University of Cambridge research institutes: the Centre for European Geopolitics and the Centre for Science and Policy.

Discussion opened with an assessment of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL); its presence in Syria and Iraq and its recruiting methods. Syria emerged as the most unique foreign fighter effort to date; with recruits from as many as 100 different countries, amounting to the largest international mobilisation effort since the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). ISIL's strategies for recruitment of foreign fighters are more robust and persuasive than those of other extremist organisations such as Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab. Part of ISIL's success lies in its ability to manipulate both broadcast and social media outlets to attract additional foreign fighters and to maintain recruitment momentum. Furthermore, ISIL's recruitment strategy is internationally oriented and inclusive and might even seem glamorous when compared with other organisations in sub-Saharan Africa which are far more nationalistic, regional and exclusive.

At present, policymakers are aware that ISIL's strategic priority is to retain the territory it has captured while continuing to expand where it can. The situation might change radically, however, in the event of an external intervention in Syria or Iraq, which could incentivise foreign fighters to plan and commit terrorist attacks abroad. For the governments concerned – Western, African and Middle Eastern – the outflow of foreign fighters, and their return with hostile intent and capability, could be a generational problem.

With this prospect in mind, it is imperative that greater effort is devoted to understanding why and how people are recruited to become foreign fighters. And it is just as vital that effort is taken to disrupt the financial networks that allow terrorist organisations to recruit, grow and spread. These two sets of measures will be essential if the recruitment of foreign fighters within the UK and abroad is to lose its appeal and if attacks by returning foreign fighters are to be prevented.

Paul Kennedy 'Nightmare Series' lecture at St John's College - "The Day 1.5 Billion People Lost Their Water"

last modified May 18, 2015 07:20 PM

On Friday 15 May 2015, Prof. Paul Kennedy delivered the inaugural Forum on Geopolitics 'Nightmare Series' lecture at St John's College, Cambridge. This event was kindly supported by Absolute Strategy Research.

Prof. Kennedy spoke on the topic of water security, in a talk entitled 'The Day 1.5 Billion People Lost Their Water'.

He began by painting a picture of an accidental and cataclysmic contamination event on the Tibetan Plateau: the crash of a covert military flight delivering highly toxic nuclear waste to a treatment facility in China, and the scattering of this waste over a region that is the source of the great waterways of south, southeast and east Asia, including the Ganges, Irrawaddy, Mekong and Yang-Tse-Kiang rivers.

Prof. Kennedy emphasised that one of the most powerful geopolitical forces unleashed by such a 'nightmare' circumstance would be the mass panic of up to 1.5 billion people, and a disruption of economic activities sufficient to topple multiple governments. He also discussed the probability of any state or international organisation possessing the means or willingness to prepare for geopolitical risks of this magnitude.

The lecture was followed by a lively Q&A session, chaired by Prof. Robert Tombs.

About the Nightmare Series

In this series, the Forum on Geopolitics invites leading geopolitical thinkers and practitioners to reflect upon their own personal 'nightmare' scenarios: the greatest potential disasters they see on the horizon of the next five to ten years. Speakers outline the precipitating event, or series of coincident circumstances that they dread, because of the cascade of political, military, economic and social consequences that would follow. They then reflect on ideal strategies and mindsets that could prepare governments and other key stakeholders to prevent, mitigate or cope with the anticipated consequences.

The Forum on Geopolitics will run three more in this series of public lectures in 2015, and in parallel, will offer a series of private, subscription-only lunches for senior political figures, military experts and executive-level representative of key private sector interests. The overall objective of the series is to demonstrate the need for building capabilities in innovative, strategic thinking at the highest levels of policy-making and decision-making, and to showcase to practitioners, the private sector and public opinion the value of using cutting-edge academic thinking to prepare for the 'real world' geopolitical events that may well be just around the corner.

About Prof. Kennedy

Professor Kennedy is director of International Security Studies at Yale University. He obtained his BA at Newcastle University and his DPhil at the University of Oxford. He is a former Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton University, and of the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, Bonn. He holds many honorary degrees, and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) in 2000 for services to History and elected a Fellow of the British Academy in June 2003.

He is the author or editor of nineteen books, including The Rise of the Anglo-German Antagonism, The War Plans of the Great Powers, The Realities Behind Diplomacy, Preparing for the Twenty-First Century and The Parliament of Man: The Past, Present and Future of the United Nations. His best-known work is The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (Random House), which provoked an intense debate on its publication in 1988 and has been translated into over twenty languages. He is on the editorial board of numerous scholarly journals and writes for The New York Times, The Atlantic, and many foreign-language newspapers and magazines. His monthly column on current global issues is distributed worldwide by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate/Tribune Media Services.

His latest book, published by Random House in 2013, examined mid-level problem-solvers during the Second World War and was entitled Engineers of Victory. He is now preparing the revised edition of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers and beginning a new study entitled Victory at Sea.

'Waterloo - the first NATO operation?'

last modified May 20, 2015 03:24 PM

On Monday 11 May 2015, Peterhouse, the Forum on Geopolitics and the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge hosted a lecture on

'Waterloo: the first NATO operation?’

By Brendan Simms.

The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker called recently for the establishment of a European army. The former Chief of the Defence Staff, Lord Bramall, called Waterloo ‘the first NATO operation’. With Europe facing urgent challenges to the south and east, Prof. Simms seized the opportunity of the 200th anniversary of Waterloo to reflect upon its complex legacy for the present day.

In this wide-ranging and well-attended talk, Simms considered the evolution over several centuries of a coalition tradition in Europe, and in particular, the centrality of Germany to this tradition. He went on to explore the comparable nature of the allied effort at Waterloo and the dynamics of NATO, commenting on the way in which these examples represent a community of both values and armies, and a device through which to mobilise German resources in the pursuit of common European security. Gneisenau's retreat from the battlefield and reappearance the following day in support of Wellington was, he argued, Waterloo's "Article 5" moment.

The lecture was followed by a lively Q&A session, chaired in the absence of the Master - who was unavoidably in Hong Kong - by the former Master and sometime Governor of Hong Kong, Lord Wilson of Tillyorn.

About the speaker
Brendan Simms has been a Fellow in History at Peterhouse since 1993, and is Professor of the History of European International Relations. He is the author of 'Europe: the Struggle for Supremacy, 1453 to the Present' (Penguin Press, 2013), and – most recently – of 'The longest afternoon: The 400 men who decided the battle of Waterloo' (Allen lane, 2014), a study of the King’s German Legion and its legendary defence of the farmhouse of La Haye Sainte.

About the series

This lecture will be followed by another in this series at the same time and place on 21 October. The speaker on this occasion will be former Fellow John Bew, speaking on the subject of Castlereagh and the Congress of Vienna.

Masterclass on US views of contemporary European order: Richard Haass

last modified May 05, 2015 02:38 PM

On Thursday 23 April, the Forum on Geopolitics held a 'Masterclass on US views of contemporary European order' with Dr Richard Haass, President of the US Council on Foreign Relations.

Dr Haass began by speaking of the European project as a great success. He said it was easy to overlook the triumphs of European integration. It has prevented an inter-European war and resolved the German question. While we tend to think of the economic rationale for Union today, Haass stressed the political factors that underpinned European integration.

Haass spoke about the two big question marks that threaten this successful legacy. Firstly, he spoke about the economic threat posed by the Eurozone crisis. Secondly, he spoke about the return of geopolitical competition to the European continent as a result of Russian assertiveness.

Haass argued that the major economic problems that Europe faces today are a result of national governments rather than the EU. Nevertheless, domestic problems within European nations are exacerbated by structural problems with the EU, the most critical being that of an economic union without fiscal consolidation. As there is no consideration of what European nations should spend their military budgets on, the whole ends up being much less than the sum of its parts. Consequently, Europe punches below its weight in the world and this undermines the Atlantic partnership. As a remedy, Haass expressed his wish that "Europe were more European," with more integrated, centralised planning for how Europe pools its resources for security and defence spending.

Further information on Dr Haass can be found here.

'Scotland, the British Question and the European Problem: A Churchillian Solution' by Brendan Simms

last modified Apr 30, 2015 12:13 PM

'Scotland, the British Question and the European Problem: A Churchillian Solution'

by Brendan Simms, Zeitschrift für Staats- und Europawissenschaften (ZSE)
Volume 12 (2014), Issue 4, P. 456-483

Abstract

Continental Europe and the United Kingdom face a series of interlocking constitutional, economic and strategic challenges today, ranging from the Scottish Question, through the English Problem, the relationship between London and Brussels, the threat of Russian territorial revisionism in the east, to the future of the common currency and thus of the Union itself. This article shows that all these problems not merely interact with and aggravate each other, but that they all have their origin in one great European question, which is how to order the continent and relations within the British Isles in such a way as to ensure the survival of parliamentary government against external attack. After looking back at the historically successful Anglo-American models of political union, both of which were primarily devised in order to repel potential aggressors, the article finishes with a recommendation for a full federal union of the Eurozone, in confederation with the United Kingdom to manage the single market. It would solve all these problems by creating a state robust enough to solve the euro crisis and to deter Mr Putin, and thereby Europe so strong as to render it unappealing for Scots wishing to break away from the United Kingdom, who would then have no other home except full independence outside of both Unions, which is improbable.

Heute stehen sich Kontinental-Europa und das Vereinigte Königreich einer Reihe von miteinander verketteten Problemen gegenüber, nämlich der Schottischen Frage, der daraus entstehenden Englischen Frage, dem Verhältnis zwischen London und Brüssel, der Gefahr des russischen territorialen Revisionismus im Osten sowie der Zukunft des Euros und damit auch der ganzen Europäischen Union. Dieser Aufsatz zeigt, dass sich diese Probleme nicht nur potenzieren, sondern auch ihren Ursprung in der Europäischen Frage haben, nämlich der Frage, wie man den Kontinent und die Britischen Inseln ordnen soll, um die parlamentarische Regierungsform gegen einen Angriff von außen zu schützen. Nachdem er die Anglo-Amerikanischen Unionen als im Ursprung Unionen für die Abwehr potentieller Gegner charakterisiert hat, empfiehlt dieser Aufsatz die Etablierung einer Politischen Union der Eurozone in Konföderation mit dem Vereinigten Königreich, um den gemeinsamen Markt zu organisieren. Ein solches Gebilde würde die aufgezeigten Probleme lösen, indem ein Staat errichtet wird, welcher robust genug wäre, um die Eurokrise zu überwinden und Herrn Putin abzuschrecken, und damit so stark, dass es für Schotten, die dem Vereinigten Königreich entkommen wollten, unattraktiv würde, da sie keine andere Heimat hätten als die völlige Unabhängigkeit von Britannien und Europa, was höchst unwahrscheinlich wäre.

Full article text is available here.

Successful identification of only full skeleton retrieved from Battle of Waterloo in 200 years

last modified Apr 22, 2015 09:36 PM
Successful identification of only full skeleton retrieved from Battle of Waterloo in 200 years

Rare discovery of full skeleton from the site of the Battle of Waterloo

From The Independent, 05 April 2015.

The 200-year-old skeleton found under a car park on the site of the Battle of Waterloo has been identified as a Hanoverian with a hunchback, fighting to liberate his homeland from Napoleonic occupation.

Military historian Gareth Glover believes the soldier to be Friedrich Brandt, 23, a private in the King's German Legion of George III, who was killed by a musket ball that was still lodged between his ribs when he was found in 2012.

Researchers identified a curvature of the spine but that didn't deter the man who Mr Glover believes was fighting for Britain to help liberate parts of his homeland that had been occupied by Napolean.

He said: 'He suffered from a curvature of the spine which meant he probably would have been rejected from any modern army in the world.'

Dominique Bosquet, an archaeologist working to recover the skeleton with the Walloon government in Belgium, said the find was 'unique'.

Read the full article here.

(James Dunn)

Forum on Geopolitics and RAND Europe panel discussion on 'Perspectives on UK Foreign and Defence Policy'

last modified Apr 22, 2015 09:32 PM

On Thursday 5 March 2015, POLIS, the Forum on Geopolitics and RAND Europe co-hosted a panel discussion exploring perspectives on UK Foreign and Defence Policy. This event represented the first in a series of workshops aimed at bringing academics and practitioners together to think in collaborative, interdisciplinary and strategic ways about pressing issues in international relations.

The panel featured the following:

  • Con Coughlin, Defence Editor, The Daily Telegraph, and author
  • Sam Selvadurai, Strategy Adviser, Defence and International Security Issues, FCO Policy Unit
  • Tom McKane, former Director General for Security Policy at MoD; RUSI Senior Associate Fellow and Visiting Senior Fellow LSE

The event was well attended by Cambridge students and faculty and by practitioners from a range of backgrounds. Short presentations were followed by a themed Q&A session, in a wide-ranging discussion that included discussion of:

  • British perspectives on the most likely threat landscape within the next five to ten years, and the nature of those threats
  • Key blockers to effective security preparation and response, including the absence of an agreed set of priorities deemed to be Britain's 'national interest'
  • The detrimental impact on Britain's security of a pattern of low engagement within the body politic with operational considerations
  • Ways in which the next security review could and should be conceptualized to achieve maximum benefit to Britain's security priorities

The second and third events in the series will be held in Michaelmas term 2015, on the topics of foreign fighters and cyber security respectively.

For details of these events, and to register interest, please contact

Charles Clarke Lecture on the "Too Difficult" Box and the 'insoluble' foreign policy problems facing the UK

last modified Apr 22, 2015 03:49 PM
Charles Clarke Lecture on the "Too Difficult" Box and the 'insoluble' foreign policy problems facing the UK

Prof Brendan Simms chairs the post-lecture Q&A at The Theatre, Peterhouse, 4 Mar 2015

On Wednesday 4 March, it was the great pleasure of Peterhouse and the Forum on Geopolitics at POLIS to host the former Home Secretary Charles Clarke, who delivered a lecture entitled 'The "Too Difficult" Box: What to do with the 'insoluble' foreign policy problems facing the UK'.

Charles Clarke was Secretary of State for Education and Skills, 2002-2004, and then Home Secretary until 2006. He now holds Visiting Professorships at the University of East Anglia, Lancaster University, and University College London, and works with educational organisations internationally. He has recently published ‘The “Too Difficult” Box’, an analysis of the problems which need to be overcome in promoting change.

In a wide-ranging and insightful talk, Clarke compared the threat landscape facing Britain today to the historical landscape of the past four decades, and explored the likely priorities of the coming years, and pointing to the importance of constructing well-concerted threat responses, prioritising strategic thinking in decision-making, and ensuring that a long-term view is taken within government and in the country as a whole to understanding Britain’s national interest in key foreign policy theatres. This lecture was very well attended by university faculty and students, Petreans old and new, and practitioners across many related fields. It was followed by a drinks reception at Peterhouse.

This lecture was one of several ‘kick-off’ events in support of a longer-term project to build a Centre for Geopolitics at POLIS. This Centre, the Centre of Geopolitics and Grand Strategy (CoGGS), is a proposed new interdisciplinary Centre for the study of grand strategy and statecraft at the University of Cambridge. Our vision is to bring together the brightest students and the most innovative international thinkers from academia, politics and business, to study Britain's role in Europe, and Europe's role in the world, in their broadest historical and intellectual contexts. The central discipline will be the history and politics of the state system, but we will also draw from the disciplines of geography, economics, political economy, business and risk management, divinity, sociology and law to offer a truly innovative research and teaching environment, which will also provide insights to the wider world. 

There will two further lectures in this series in May and October 2015:

  • ‘Waterloo: the first NATO victory’ by Prof. Brendan Simms (Peterhouse Theatre, 11 May, 5pm)
  • ‘Castlereagh and the Congress of Vienna’ by Dr John Bew (Peterhouse Theatre, 21 October, 5pm)

If you are interested in learning more about the work of the Forum on Geopolitics and our plans for the Centre for Geopolitics and Grand Strategy, please contact , Development Coordinator.

 

‘The “Too Difficult” Box: The Big Issues Politicians Can't Crack’, edited by Charles Clarke, was published by Biteback Publishing in 2014 and awarded the Practical Politics Book of the Year at The Paddy Power Political Book Awards 2015.

https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/the-too-difficult-box

 

 

Colloquium on 'Unions of States in Historical Perspective'

last modified Apr 22, 2015 07:54 PM

On Monday 16 March, The Project for Democratic Union (PDU), Henry Jackson Society and the Forum on Geopolitics co-hosted an event at Millbank Tower aimed at exploring a diverse series of historical case studies of political union, and what lessons we can derive about how to tackle the urgent challenges facing present-day Europe.

The panel of speakers was comprised of graduate students, past and current, from LSE and the University of Cambridge. The programme covered a wide chronological, geographical and thematic range.

  • Ingram Davidson (Cambridge) argued a case for recognising some essential conceptual and causal linkages between the two major political unions of 1707, in a paper entitled 'The Anglo-Scottish and the Spanish Unions of 1707'. 
  • Adam Malczak (LSE) presented a lively and compelling paper on one of the more unusual political unions of the modern era: 'Union or unequal partnership: The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the perils of powerful legislatures'.
  • Daniel Robinson (Cambridge) explored how, as early as 1880, the influential historian, Sir John Seeley, argued vehemently for a united state of Europe, only to reverse this position within a few years: 'Sir John Seeley, the "United States of Europe", and the Imperial Federation Movement'.
  • Francesca Foglia (LSE) demonstrated how certain aspects of the constitutional settlement created in the aftermath of the mid-nineteenth century Swiss civil war provide elements of an alternative model for successful, consultative, multi-cultural federalism: 'The Evolution of Swiss Federalism and its Finalité Politique'.
  • Vsevolod Samokhvalov (Cambridge) concluded the colloquium with a probing investigation of regional specificities in recent events in Ukraine: 'Decentralisation, Federalism and Secession in Ukraine'.

The ensuing discussions were chaired by:
Dr John Bew
Reader in History and Foreign Policy at the War Studies Department at King's College London (KCL) and Director of KCL's International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence. He is the author of numerous works relevant to the understanding of the British constitution, including Castlereagh: Enlightenment, War and Tyranny, was published (Quercus Press, 2011) and The Glory of Being Britons: Civic Unionism in Nineteenth-Century Belfast (Irish Academic Press, 2009).

Dr Charlie Laderman
Research Fellow at Peterhouse Cambridge and the author of numerous articles on US foreign policy and humanitarian intervention in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Denis MacShane
Former Europe Minister of the United Kingdom and the author of Brexit: How Britain will leave the Union (I.B. Tauris, 2015).

Prof. Brendan Simms
Professor of the History of European International Relations at Cambridge University and the President of the Henry Jackson Society and the Project for Democratic Union. He is the author of 'Europe: The struggle for supremacy, 1453 to the present' (Penguin Press, 2013).

 

Westminster panel discussion on 'The Future of England, Scotland and the Eurozone: Different Sides of the Same Question?'

last modified Apr 22, 2015 07:54 PM

On Monday 16 March, at the House of Lords, Lord Lexden OBE chaired a panel discussion co-hosted by The Henry Jackson Society and The Project for Democratic Union, exploring how British and European unions interrelate, and the implications of current challenges, risks and opportunities for the survival of these unions.

The panel featured Prof. Baroness Smith of Newnham, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University, and Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords; Vernon Bogdanor CBE, FBA, Research Professor at the Institute for Contemporary British History, King’s College London; and Dr. John Bew, Reader in History and Foreign Policy at the War Studies Department and Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, King’s College London.

The panel discussion and the lively Q&A session that ensued teased out some important points regarding the circumstances that make and break unions between unequal partners, the importance of building union structures based on viable models and precedents, and how having a coherent sense of British interest has been historically vital to constructing an effective relationship with Europe – and how this sense has been eroded and lost in the last ten to twenty years.

The robust nature of the union with Scotland was pointed out – as evidenced by the proven lack of will within the majority of the electorate to submit to a lower standard of living as a price for political independence – although the panel was in agreement that the question is far from resolved, and the composition of government in the aftermath of May’s election will be a decisive factor in how this story unfolds.

A contradiction in British thinking regarding Europe was noted: a desire to construct a stronger and tighter Eurozone, yet a loosening of overarching EU structures to make it more attractive for Britain to stay in. The panel agreed that a critical factor in the balance of this question will be whether the British media will opt to engage constructively in the coming months, listening and taking the time to create a forum and a framework that will draw the national conversation away from reductionist rhetoric towards a meaningful debate about the best interests of the people of Britain and the European Union. At the heart of this must be an honest conversation about why Europe matters – why the bonds that unite us are about more than just economics, and what the dismantling of those bonds would really mean for the peace and security post-war Europe has come to regard as natural.

Click here to view the full event transcript.


Biographies

Vernon Bogdanor CBE, FBA is Research Professor at the Institute for Contemporary British History. He was formerly Professor of Government at Oxford University, and Senior Tutor and Vice-Principal at Brasenose College.

He has written widely on government and politics, including books such as The People and the Party System, The Monarchy and the Constitution, and Power and the People: A Guide to Constitutional Reform. Most recently, he has edited a book entitled The British Constitution in the Twentieth Century, and authored The New British Constitution. He has been an adviser to government and parliamentary bodies on many occasions, and in 1998 was awarded the CBE for services to constitutional history. He is a Fellow of the British Academy.

Baroness Smith of Newnham is Director of the European Centre and Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University, a Fellow of Robinson College, where she is a Graduate Tutor and Director of Studies in Politics, and a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords. Baroness Smith served as Head of the European Programme at Chatham House from 1999 until 2003, and was Deputy Director of the Centre of International Studies in Cambridge till 2009. She is currently a Vice-Chair of the Liberal Democrats’ Federal Policy Committee and serves the General Election manifesto working group. Baroness Smith has also served on numerous policy working groups, particularly focusing on European and Defence matters, and chaired the Party’s working group on Security in 2007-08 and the Defence working group in 2012-13.

Dr. John Bew

Reader in History and Foreign Policy at the War Studies Department at King’s College London (KCL) and Director of KCL’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence. He is the author of numerous works relevant to the understanding of the British constitution, including Castlereagh: Enlightenment, War and Tyranny, was published (Quercus Press, 2011) and The Glory of Being Britons: Civic Unionism in Nineteenth-Century Belfast (Irish Academic Press, 2009).

 


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Donald Trump: The Making of a World View

Jan 26, 2017

“When Donald Trump enters the White House, he will do so with a worldview that has been constantly advanced and relatively consistently articulated in countless statements over the past three decades. Don't say he didn't warn you.”

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