Does the World Hate Russia?

Photo: Kremlin.ru [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Kremlin.ru [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

A large segment of the academic literature reflects on the power of attraction, known as well as soft power, of the European Union and the United States. But what about Russia? and Putin? What are the global perceptions of Putin’s Russia since the turn of the century? In a recent survey produced by the Pew Research Center, most of the world – aside from China, India, Ghana and Vietnam – has a largely unfavorable opinions of Russia and Putin (see below).

Russia-Image-World Opinion

The concept of soft power is a very theoretical concept famously developed by Joseph Nye in his book ‘Soft Power: The Mean to Succeed in World Politics’ (1998). His argument is directly connected with the earlier work produced by Antonio Gramsci. But Nye was able to take the core of Gramsci’s argument and bring it at the global level in order to talk about foreign policy. Gramsci was mostly concerned about domestic Italian politics and non-change in the 30s. When talking about opinions and perceptions, the concept of soft power is certainly directly connected as it does influence state’s foreign policy. But let’s take a look at the way the transatlantic community see and perceive Russia and Putin.

Transatlantic Perceptions of Russia and Putin

The US-Russian perceptions are very much aligned with change of leadership in the US (from Bush to Obama), policy change (failed 2009 reset policy and the pivot), and the regional crises (Ukraine, Syria) and domestic narratives controlled by Putin. The graph below claims that the opinions have worsened on both sides of the Altantic. The last two years of the Bush administration were a period little more stable between the two superpowers despite the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia. With the election of President Obama and his tentative to soften and deepen the relationship with Russia, the opinions of one another become more favorable in Russia (+13 point of %) than in the US (+6 point of %) though. From 2010 to the invasion of Crimea, the options were pretty stable. The lowest point was in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea and the beginning of the war in Eastern Ukraine.

Russia-Image-US-Russia

Considering the European views and opinions of Russia, the Pew did not produce a graph, but included a set of numbers at the end of the survey. The transatlantic opinion is very homogenous since 2007 (since chart below). Not surprisingly France and the United Kingdom have had the most favorable opinion of Russia, and Poland the lowest in recent years. The US is in the mix of the transatlantic opinion. However, it would have been interesting to see how the Baltic and Nordic EU Member States (Finland, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Denmark) and Eastern EU Member States (Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Austria) perceive Russia over the years. The survey failed in providing the data for these states.

Source: Pew Research Center. 2015. p.11
Source: Pew Research Center. 2015. p.11 / Data compiled by Politipond

Vladimir Putin, Global Villain?

A big part of the negative views of Russia in the US and Western Europe is directly connected to the person of Vladimir Putin. The press, academia, and think tank communities (here are some excellent works and examples such as book by Fiona Hill, and a book review of Karen Dawisha’s manuscript) have created some type of admiration/incomprehension around the person of Vladimir Putin. There is a certain fascination about Putin in the US and Western Europe as Vladimir Putin has been framed as either an irrational actor, or a master of realpolitik (read here and here previous analyses). In any case, the US and Americans have never had the highest degree of confidence in Putin.

Even though the impacts of Russian influences on the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine and 2008 war in Georgia were not major, as demonstrated by the data below, in affecting the confidence in Putin, the turning point was the incursion in Crimea and ultimately its annexation. Then with the lingering war in Eastern Ukraine, and even the ‘accidental’ targeting of the civilian Malaysian flight last summer, they have contributed in lowering the confidence and trust in Vladimir Putin. In some ways, the low degree confidence has been materialized in the isolation of Vladimir Putin, whom has been absent (or more accurately kick out of the G-8) of the recent G-7 meeting. In addition, Putin has not demonstrated being serious in trying to solve the Ukrainian crisis, as he was never committed to make the Minsk Protocol II work.

Russia-Image-Putin & US

All these graphs and data provided by the Pew highlight one common trend, most of the world share a common negative perceptions of Russia and his president. In the 21st century, it is quite rare to find such unanimous position on an issue. More seriously these data demonstrate that Putin’s Russia is not concerned about global perceptions. Putin has a vision for Russia and has demonstrated that he can not only remain in power (which he has done since 2000), control the domestic narrative (through playing the nationalist card and  limiting the freedom of press and civil society), and advance Russian interests where and when required.

European and American sanctions are certainly hurting the Russian economy, already weakened by the historically low prices of hydrocarbons, but Putin has been tactical in choosing which issues are important to fight for. For instance Ukraine is, but Iran was not so much as Putin, with his Chinese counterpart, agreed on the Vienna agreement in July. Putin will continue to fascinate and certainly won’t stop in leading Russia where he desires, with or without the approval of global opinions.

(Copyright 2015 by Politipond. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission).
Advertisements

Agenda on Migration – Forget about Soft Power and Solidarity

photo_verybig_168517

With the death of 600 migrants in April, the EU and its Member States have been working on finding a solution to a serious and pressing regional crisis. In a matter of a month several proposals, with diverging philosophical orientation, have been drafted. On the one hand, the Juncker’s proposal, initiated by the European Commission, seeks in deepening the integration process through an harmonization and homogenization of EU immigration and asylum policies. While on the other hand, the Council of the EU agreed on the creation of a military CSDP naval mission, EU Naval Force in the Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR-Med), in order to disrupt smugglers. Even thought the Juncker’s proposal addresses a long-term need, it fosters opposition in most EU Member States, while EUNAVFOR only provides a quick and superficial fix to the problem of mass migrations. So far the EU and its Member States have not found the proper answer to this crucial regional crisis.

The Juncker’s Proposal: European Agenda on Migration

The European Commission presented its European Agenda on Migration on May 13th in order to contain and solve the current crisis taking place in the Mediterranean sea. The publication of the Commission’s agenda is a reaction of the massive influx of migrants and refugees coming from Libya, a transit country (read here a previous analysis on the migration crisis). Ensuing the largest human tragedy causing the death of 600 migrants in mid-April and an extraordinary European summit meeting leading to no real lasting solutions, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the Commission, declared on announcing its Agenda that “We will be ambitious. We will be bold.”

The Agenda produced by the Commission laid out several policies. The first one consists in finding solutions through immediate actions:

  • Tripling the capacities and assets for the Frontex joint operations Triton (off the coasts of Italy) and Poseidon (off the coasts of Greece) in order to save lives;
  • destroying criminal smuggling networks through a possible Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) operation in the Mediterranean to dismantle traffickers’ networks and fight smuggling of people. Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief, was at the UN Security Council on May 11th seeking for a UNSC resolution allowing EU Member States “to deploy military force to seize and destroy smugglers’ ships before they take on their human cargo”;
  • Relocation of migrants;
  • an EU-wide resettlement scheme to offer 20,000 places distributed in all Member States. The EU budget will dedicate an additional €50 million in 2015/16 to solve this problem;
  • Working with third countries in order to solve the root causes of migrations;
Source: EurActiv
Source: EurActiv

The infogram produced by EurActiv (see above) illustrates which EU Member States are the largest recipients of migrants and refugees and the main destinations. No surprise in finding Germany, France, Sweden and Italy as the main destination for migrants and refugees.

The second dimension of the Commission’s Agenda is about managing migration better on the long run.

  • first, the EU wants to address the root causes of migrations, crack down on smugglers and traffickers, and provide clarity in return policies;
  • second, develop better border management capabilities and increasing the power of Frontex;
  • third, develop a common asylum policy at the EU level. The Commission wants to create a Common European Asylum System;
  • fourth, a new policy on legal migration in order to attract skilled workers to the EU. The Commission wants to solidify a Europe-wide scheme, called the Blue Card Directive;
Source: European Commission
Source: European Commission

National Oppositions to the Juncker’s Proposal

All the EU Member States are not welcoming these new directives. For instance, the United Kingdom has announced that it would not participate in any quota scheme to distribute refugees across EU. In the case of Britain and Ireland, both countries have an ‘opt out clause’ allowing them to decide to participate or not on a specific program of this nature. The Home Office of the UK already released a statement saying that “We [Britain] will not participate in any legislation imposing a mandatory system of resettlement or relocation.” For Denmark, the country has an opt-out right where they do not participate at all. “The exemptions granted to the three countries are making it difficult for the commission to impose binding quotas on the 25 remaining EU member states, EU sources told AFP.”

The position of several EU Member States challenges the concept of European solidarity. “The European Council clearly stated that we need to find European solutions,” said First Vice-President Frans Timmermans “based on internal solidarity and the realisation that we have a common responsibility to create an effective migration policy.” Dimitris Avramopoulos, Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner, underscored the same message when saying that “In a spirit of greater solidarity, we are determined to implement a comprehensive approach that will improve significantly the management of migration in Europe.”

France already announced over the weekend that it was against the provision (read here a piece by Politico on France’s position). In case the quotas were to be implemented, “France would be asked to accept 14.17 percent of all those who reach the EU, while Germany would receive 18.42 percent, Italy 11.84 percent, and Spain 9 percent.” Instead France would be in favor to increase the number of asylum seekers. “Asylum is a right, attributed according to international criteria …” said French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, “That is why the number of its beneficiaries cannot be subject to quotas, one is an asylum seeker or not.” The Commission’s plan was rejected by seven other EU Member States, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and Poland. These ought to be added to the three EU Member States with opt-out rights like Britain, Ireland and Denmark.

The difference between the quota system and the current asylum rules is quite simple. By implementing a quota system, the Commission seeks in helping frontline states, like Greece, Italy and Spain, and sharing the burden across the EU. While the current system of asylum, established under the Dublin II, stipulates that the asylum seekers ought to ask for asylum in the country of arrival. The Commission’s plan is in fact a strategy in order to avoid frontline countries to be overflow by migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in case of an explosion of migrating flux as predicated for 2015 and the coming years.

This agenda produced by the Commission is unlikely to be adopted as such. The foreign ministers discussed the agenda on May 18th, and will be preparing for the final plan for the June 25 EU leaders meeting.

The Military Option – EUNAVFOR to Combat Migration

Photo: Lynsey Addario for The New York Times
Photo: Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Ensuing the May 18th meeting between European foreign and defense ministers, the EU agreed on the launch of a CSDP naval mission in order to stop and disrupt smugglers in the Mediterranean. In the conclusions of the meeting, the Council argued that “This [global security environment] calls for a stronger Europe, with a stronger and more effective Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).”

The EU naval force – EUNAVFOR Med – will be based in Rome and headed by Italian Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino. EUNAVFOR Med will cover the Southern Central Mediterranean road and work in partnership with Libyan authorities. It will receive an initial 12 month mandate and a budget of €11.82 million for the first phase. As per HR Mogherini, EUNAVFOR will follow a specific progression: first stage, planning and assessment of smuggling networks; second stage, searching, seizing and disruption of assets of smugglers within the framework of international law.

However, in order to launch the naval mission, several crucial aspects will need to be discussed and agreed on. First, the EU will need more talks, and then reach an agreement on a resolution, under Chapter VII, from the United Nations Security Council. So far, it is yet unclear if the UNSC will be granting a resolution to the EU for such type of operation off the coast of Libya as it could establish a precedent for other maritime migration routes throughout the world. Additionally, Russia has already expressed its opposition to the use of jets and helicopters for the mission. Second, the EU Member States will have to agree on whom will be providing the required military capabilities and forces. It was already a problem with the Frontex’s operation Triton, so it may be another difficult negotiations for this one.

Last but not least, some wonders about the usefulness of such military operation. For instance, “Military operations in the Mediterranean are only really likely to have any impact” said Elizabeth Collett, the director of the Migration Policy Institute Europe, to the New York Times, “as one very small piece in a far more comprehensive strategy to address smuggling.”

Another Lost Opportunity?

The migration crisis illustrates once again a central problem for the EU and its Member States, the Member States.  How to solve a global crisis requiring greater cooperation and integration without deepening the EU? In other words, more Europe is necessary in order to address a crisis as a bloc, but some Member States are either calling for less Europe or are cheery-picking. The challenge of the Juncker Commission and other EU institutions is how to advance the interests of the Union when most Member States are not willing to deepen and increase cooperation at the EU level.

Picking the Juncker’s proposal would allow the EU and its Member States to harmonize their immigration policies at the EU level. Choosing the Member States’ route of military action will only be a quick and temporary fix. In any case, both proposals do not address the root causes of the problems of mass migrations from MENA and Central Africa. If the EU and its Member States want to be a ‘security provider,’ they will have to do more than a naval mission in the middle of the Mediterranean sea.

(Copyright 2015 by Politipond. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission).

A Book Presentation – Debating the CSDP

Tobias Schwarz/Reuters
Tobias Schwarz/Reuters

A paradox is taking place in Europe. On the one hand, armed conflicts, traditional state invasions, revolutions, terrorist activities among others are taking place at the European Union’s doorstep. On the other hand, the EU is going through a process of risk-aversion and lack of strategic vision combined with progressive demilitarization as most EU Member States are barely investing in their national armies, in R&D, and even in their commitments to the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). With the current types of threats and the global shift of power, one would expect the EU and its 28 Member States to maintain and/or at least increase their spending and investments in defense and security policies. The book, Debating European Security and Defense Policy. Understanding the Complexity, asks a simple question: “Why has the integration process of the EU security and defense policies been so unpredictable?” (p.4)

9781472409959.PPC_PPC Template

This overarching research question has allowed the author to demonstrate throughout 12 chapters the multitude of dimensions and variables affecting the integration and/or demise of the CSDP from the 1950s to today. Debating European Security and Defense Policy is a journey into the European construction and broader narratives of a commitment among the initial six Member States to the current EU-28 to develop a common approach, policy and thinking to security and defense. Such project is directly intertwined to the story of European integration as the first attempt goes back to 1954 with the European Defense Cooperation (EDC) promoted and killed by the French, and supported by the US under President

Credit: Chancel ‘Get this idea well and truly into your head!’ This cartoon depicts the threat that would hang over France if it were to ratify the Treaty establishing the European Defence Community (EDC).
Credit: Chancel
‘Get this idea well and truly into your head!’ This cartoon depicts the threat that would hang over France if it were to ratify the Treaty establishing the European Defence Community (EDC).

Eisenhower. The evolution of European defense is closely linked to the integration process of the Union and saw several phases of integration. The problem of harmonization and integration in defense is similar to the one on fiscal policy. Both policies are causing headaches for Member States as they are at the crossroad between traditional state sovereignty and EU integration. Defense and fiscal policies are some of the most controversial to harmonized as they are forcing Member States to identify up to what point integration is necessary without affecting too much the sanctity of national sovereignty.

Purpose, Debate and Skepticism about the CSDP

The idea of this book fermented throughout my research for my Ph.D. dissertation seeking to look at the different degree of integration in EU defense and security. During a very insightful interview with a top expert in a highly renowned and respected Washington think tank, the interviewee told me: “your dissertation ought to start with the ESDP [this was before the 2009 Lisbon Treaty] and terminate with the ESDP.” For some reason, such comment/advise has stayed with me all these years and could be the words than fostered my desire to dig deeper into the topic of the CSDP.

The goal of this book was to decorticate the CSDP into manageable pieces centered on relevant debates. This work shall be seen and understood more as a reflection with diverging narratives and be read as such rather than a linear storyline. The manuscript is organized around three main parts: part one, the theoretical debates (positivist approaches) around the CSDP; part two, the historical and strategic evolutions of European Security and Defense Policy; and, part three, the Actors of the CSDP such as the Member States, the different institutions (Parliament, Commission, Council, EEAS) and agencies (European Defense Agency), the High Representative, and the CSDP (read here the table of contents).

This work distinguishes itself from the existing body of literature by the structure of the argument and chapters (access here to the introduction). Each chapter, answering an overarching research question, is divided into two sub-level research questions underscoring two-sides for each theme. Instead of evolving in the gray area as the entire literature on the topic, the book purposely answers each question through a yes and no answer. The reason behind such model is to demonstrate to the reader how successful or not the EU and the Member States have been in promoting and developing the CSDP. Such approach has demonstrated to be very effective in order to foster discussion and a debate.

Additionally, the book features a foreword written by Dr. Jolyon Howorth, undeniably one of the most accomplished researchers on the topic (read here his latest analysis on the 2011 Libyan military operation). His argument fits perfectly with the purpose of this book to underscore the existing debate on the CSDP. As he writes “Prior to 2009, the overall mood was upbeat, optimistic and constructive. Most scholars writing in the late 1990s and early 2000s were confident that the creation of a European defense capacity was an important new development, both for European integration and for European security. […] All this began to change around the time of the ratification of the Lisbon Treat. The mood among scholars switched to one of uncertainty, pessimism, skepticism” (p. xi).

One of the most interesting chapters to write and research on was about the impacts of the 2008 financial crisis on the CSDP (Chapter 7). Theoretically (as informed by neoliberalism), the financial crisis should have been a vector contributing to the fostering of integration in security and defense policies; but the EU has seen another evolving trend: mini-clusters or sub-EU defense integration. Member States have instead increased spending on sub-regional defense cooperation initiatives with their closest neighboring states sharing similar national security problems like the Visegrad Group (as well known as the V4 composed of Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), Weimar Triangle (Poland, Germany and France), Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO composed of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) among others. A debate among EU experts exist as some claim that these sub-regional initiatives will ultimately spill-over at the regional level – meaning the CSDP –, while others (myself included) see a trend lowering the deepening process of defense and security integration at the EU. This could lead to a multi-speed Europe in the realm of defense and security.

The CSDP, A Priority in the Future of the EU?

Once again, the CSDP does not appear to be on the list of priorities of the EU-28 for the coming year or even decade. Almost a year ago, the 27 heads of states and governments (Croatia was not part of the EU yet) met at the December defense summit (read analyses on the summit here, here and there), wherein they all committed to deepening European defense, and famously agreed that “defense matters.” One major way to empower the CSDP since the 2008 financial crisis has been through an increase in the pooling and sharing (P&S) of military capabilities among the Member States in order to decrease the levels of duplication at national levels.

From “defense matters” to “what defense?” the EU-28 has not expressed a great interest in empowering the CSDP. The usual argument of Pooling & Sharing (P&S) has been a way for Member States to avoid to develop and commit behind a clear strategic vision requiring credible European forces and strategic thinking. Additionally, the pillars of the CSDP, the Big 3, have been shifting away their interests from the CSDP to more national policies. Historically, European defense has evolved thanks to Franco-British initiatives. With the current distance between Paris and London for political and ideological divergences, the CSDP is slowing declining. Additionally, France has increasingly gone alone since the Libya mission in order to advance its interests and influence in Africa; Britain is fighting against the EU and trying to identify its future outside of the Union; and Germany is struggling in maintaining a standing national army and values its influence over other EU

Source: Getty
Source: Getty

policies (nevertheless, Falk Tettweiler argues that the CSDP fits in German mindset for its contribution to crisis management and prevention, civilian missions, and its multilateral nature).

Debating European Security and Defense Policy comes at the time where the CSDP is not a priority for European capitals and remains a mystery to most European citizens. This manuscript seeks to identify the important problems facing the EU and many themes of debate challenging European experts. The new EU leadership, President Tusk, President Juncker and HR Mogherini, seems to have brought a new wind into their respective positions (even though President Van Rompuy has done an excellent job). It may be that this new group of EU leaders could reinvigorate the CSDP and EU foreign policy, at least at the European level.

The book is available for purchase here on Ashgate’s website and here on Amazon.

(Copyright 2014 by Politipond. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission).