Category Archives: Eurasia

Red Lines and Blurred Lines – When Do We Go to War?

Rhetoric and deeds are escalating, both in Washington, D.C. and in Pyongyang. It is clear that the regime of Kim Jong-un is trying to achieve nuclear status by all available means. And it is equally clear that the different voices from the Trump administration do not add up to a clear strategy.

Red lines are mentioned, but vaguely, and bombastic declarations (‘fire and fury’) are alternating with diplomatic invitations to negotiate.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world is repeating the mantra that ‘there is only a diplomatic solution’. Similar words are used when it comes to China’s artificial reefs and new debates on sovereignty, and Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the continuing meddling in Ukraine’s affairs, which is a rather boring continuation of ordinary robbery.

The invitation to this week’s debate is to take positions on this mantra: That ‘there is no other solution’. Empirically, this is obviously wrong. There were and are military solutions to conflicts, and sometimes economic sanctions work as well. In addition, it is often not a good idea to take certain moves off the table, even when they are not preferred, because then an adversary can calculate how far the opponent will go in resisting him.

But to make things easier, let’s focus on the main problem: aside from matters regarding the DRPK, are there values or interests in the early 21st century for which it is legitimate (or even required) to go to war? Despite our sophisticated knowledge about escalatory risks and the disastrous effects of WMDs? If not, for what do we maintain armies, then?

– Klaus Segbers

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Tweets from the Oval Office – How should we react to Trump’s foreign policy?

As expected, the first two weeks of the new US government were erratic. While governance by Twitter (and intermittently by judges) is something of a new political science concept, these first economic, social and cultural decisions are quite consistent with pre-election statements.

There is an ongoing debate in western and Asian capitals on how to respond. Wait and see? Making bold statements to indicate limits of the accessible? Trying to be friendly? What is your take?

– Prof. Klaus Segbers

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Homogenization of Global Culture

One of the most common arguments concerning the cultural dimensions of globalization is that processes of globalization are creating a homogenous global culture. This argument tends to come from a group of scholars who we referred to in Unit One as “hyperglobalizers”, scholars who view almost everything in domestic and global politics, economics, culture and society as being connected to and influenced by globalization. There are two perspectives on the homogenization of global culture within the hyperglobalizers’ ranks. One group is the pessimistic hyperglobalizers. They argue that a homogenous global culture is emerging, premised on Anglo-American values of consumerism and capitalism. This ‘soulless consumer capitalism’ (Barber 2007) is, according to pessimistic hyperglobalizers, overwhelming more vulnerable cultures and contributing to perceptions that globalization is in fact ‘Americanization’ or ‘Westernization’. In short, the cultural dimensions of globalization amount to little more than a cultural form of neo-imperialism spearheaded by the American ’empire’.

The values disseminated by transnational media feed the belief that globalization is in fact creating a homogenous global culture, a culture that is dominated by Anglo-American pop culture images, products and values (Crothers 2007). The formation of these transnational media conglomerates and the images and values they disseminate tend to lead to the depoliticization of society and the weakening of civic bonds. One of the most glaring developments of the last two decades has been the transformation of news broadcasts and educational programmes into shallow entertainment shows built around the branding and selling of consumer commodities like cars, watches, perfume, or handbags. Given that news is less than half as profitable as entertainment, the corporate media are increasingly pursuing higher profits by ignoring journalism’s traditional separation of newsroom practices and business decisions. Partnerships and alliances between news and entertainment companies are fast becoming the norm, making it more common for publishing executives to press journalists to cooperate with their newspapers’ business operations. A sustained encroachment on the professional autonomy of journalists is, therefore, also part of cultural globalization.

Optimistic hyperglobalizers, such as Kenichi Ohmae (1990; 1995), concur that a homogenous global culture is emerging but view this in a much more positive light than their pessimistic counterparts (Berger and Huntington 2002). They see the spread of Anglo-American values as promoting the rise of democratic politics and increases in personal freedoms in a variety of areas, including trade. While espousing the virtues of market values, these optimistic hyperglobalizers often do not consider the many negative effects of consumerist culture in numerous contexts around the world.
Some authors espousing a ‘cosmopolitan’ perspective (Held 2004) also view the emergence of homogeneity in global culture as a positive development. The rise of a global culture is promoting the spread of liberal cosmopolitan values concerning justice and democracy. Through the expansion of technologies in communication and travel, globalization is creating a global civil society, with increased participation and greater identification amongst people across traditional cultural and geographic divides, particularly in relation to ethics and politics, as we saw in the previous unit. Culture is no longer tied to fixed localities but is able to unite people across vast distances, contributing to the thickening of a progressive global social imaginary (Beck 2005; Held 2004).

But is a global culture actually emerging? It is difficult to deny the existence of powerful homogenizing trends like those outlined above or to deny that these trends are having a significant impact on local cultures, but does this mean that a uniform global culture in the American image is developing that will overwhelm and eventually diminish or wipe out traditional, historical local cultures?

Written by Manfred B. Steger & Erin K. Wilson

Would you submit to radical populists?

Interesting and troubling things are happening.

In Austria, the two classical people’s parties have been pulverized, from a solid absolute majority to 22% in the recent presidential elections. In Germany, a similar trend is materializing, though more slowly, and not (yet) as dramatically. But chances are that here, the (formerly) two big parties, the social democrats and conservatives, will also lose their majority. In France, the Front National may make it next year into the second round of the presidential elections, and even may win (an outcome narrowly avoided last weekend in Austria where the FPÖ almost made it). In the USA, two out of the remaining three presidential candidates are outspoken and successful populists. A Trump or Sanders presidency would change the country. In Hungary and Poland, this is already a reality, to the puzzlement and horror of the EU. Also in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, populists are gaining in influence. The recent referendum on accepting an association agreement with Ukraine was instructive.

The question this week is not an easy one. Let’s assume for a moment that in one of the major EU countries, and/or in the US, an outspoken simplifier would make it into the presidency, and start changing the independence of the legal institutions, the media, or the educational sector – how would we react? Let’s take as one extreme Houellebecq’s ‘Submission’, where a clear majority of professors are bribed into converting to Islam. And, as another option on the opposite side, a mass defection from political pressure. What would be the likely outcome in the case that radical populists take over the executive power in a major Western country as the result of a relatively normal election? What would we do?

– Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers

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Turkey – a reliable (regional) partner in global conflicts?

Without any doubt, Turkey is one of the most important neighbors for the EU, and an important partner for China, Russia (despite current hostilities) and the U.S. (as a NATO member). In addition, Turkey is a front state – neighboring to Syria, and being in violent disputes with Kurdish groups. Turkey also is a gatekeeper for the current flows of migrants to the north, especially from Saria’s civil war.
At the same time, Turkey’s ambitious president Erdogan turns out to be increasingly seduced by the prospect of accumulating power, formally and in reality. Especially for journalists, academics and people in the legal system the times are getting harder. If the current clear trend towards more authoritarianism will continue, is hard to predict.
This week’s question is: How do Turkey’s neighbors and partners address this increasing authoritarian inclination of the ruling AKP party, and how far should the EU move toward cooperation on the refugee issue without losing credibility? Is a visa-free regime with Turkey the right avenues to follow?

– Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers

The Most Important Political Issues of 2016

 

Global Matters has polled our select group of experts on what political issues they believe will be the most important in 2016. In order to do this, we provided a list of eleven major issues, and asked each expert to select 3 issues which they believed would be important in the year ahead. Of these, the most important issue was given 3 points, the runner-up 2 points, and the final issue 1 point.

The eleven issues which they selected from were as follows:

  • The emergence of populist movements
  • Daesh/ the Islamic State, and related terrorism
  • The rise of artificial intelligence/cyborgs
  • Climate change
  • Unregulated migration
  • The erosion of the EU
  • The meltdown of China’s economy
  • A collapsing Russia
  • A populist republican administration in the US
  • A new financial crash
  • Military action in the South or East China Sea

Following our poll of 12 experts, this was the result:

Global Matters Graph UpdateAs can be seen several issues dominated our experts’ concerns. Among these the threat posed by the Islamic State (also known as Daesh) was viewed as the most important and pressing issue for 2016. Following closely behind was the issue of ‘unregulated migration’ relating to the large number of refugees who have entered Europe over the last year.

Climate Change, a hot topic following the Paris Conference, also was viewed as an important issue for the year ahead, as nations begin to implement policies which will tackle this global problem. A final issue which has emerged as important was the risk of a new financial crash, perhaps triggered by a slowdown (or meltdown) of China’s economy.

Do you agree with our experts? Which issues would you score as the most important in 2016, and why? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

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The Changing Political Climate on Global Warming

 


Against all odds and expectations, the Paris Conference on climate change was a partial success. For the first time almost 200 governments agreed on reduction targets for emissions, on external controls, and on an aim to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees.
While according to many experts these results are not good enough, they nevertheless constitute significant progress.

So, the questions are:

Why did this happen now?

And how can we navigate between the unrealistic expectation that the postindustrial countries will agree to reduce their living standards to make energy consumption more sustainable, and the equally unrealistic assumption that developing countries should agree to slow down their growth?

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Defeating Daesh Post Paris Attacks

Here we go again, and fall, and fail again.

Last Friday, organized fighters who march in the name of the prophet produced carnage at six sites in Paris.

This follows earlier attacks in Paris in January, Copenhagen later this year, then Sharm El Sheikh, Beirut, and now Paris again. If there are still people thinking we have to talk to those ‘warriors’ it would be sad. We – the Western societies thinking of themselves as liberal ones – have to act.

Three issues are particularly relevant:

One, we should not compromise on our liberal values and behavior. Whoever wants to come to our societies has to accept our general rules of living.

Two, we have to improve massively intelligence capabilities and external border controls in the EU.

Three, we have to organize a negotiation process including, for the time being, Russia, Iran and representatives of the Assad regime. This won’t be easy, nor nice, but we have to eradicate the Daesh threat with all available means.

Do our experts think that this is achievable now?

Failed State Or Rising Power: The New Russian Enigma


Not just as viewed from Europe, but now globally, there is a new Russian Enigma:

Is Russia moving towards becoming a failed state, or is it a re-emerging world power?

On one side, the country certainly managed to put Europe in disarray, following the annexation of Crimea in March 2014, and the subsequent war against Ukraine in the southeastern Donbas region. As well, with armament programs are on the rise, there is worryingly lose talk about the role of its nuclear weapons. Accompanying this are unexplained moves and deliveries of materiel to Syria. Further affirming this ‘world power’ status, Russia has nuclear weapons and, by default, a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

At the same time however, the economy of Russia is in a bad state: the Ruble has lost much of its value over the last 12 months and GDP is negative over the year, harmed by a low oil price and a particularly unbalanced and unsustainable economy feeling the bite of western sanctions. What’s more, there is little Russia can export besides oil, gas and armaments – certainly not the profile of a global power.

What kind of lessons can we draw from such a contradictory profile and behavior? Is it more beneficial to contain Russia, to (re)engage it, or to simply ignore it?

By Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers, Program Director of the Center for Global Politics

How should we view the staging of historical memory?

Anniversaries come and go, but now and then some are elevated to a specific interest, and play the role of a crucial date. This year, 2015, makes the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. In May the Russian authorities organized a huge parade on Red Square in Moscow. Then, for the 3rd of September, the Chinese ruling party have planned something similar on Tiananmen Square in Beijing. In both cases, some foreign governments faced the quandary of whether or not they should attend and participate.

The reason for this is not some small historical squabble over this or that detail, but rather the value of these commemorations within the current paradigm. In practice, history is not what has been, but rather what we need it to be today.

So what attitude should governments hold towards the staging of historical memory?

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