Centralization paved the way for ISIS
Analysis. The lesson to be drawn from the rise and fall of ISIS is that the old formulae of over-centralised unitary nation-states is a recipe for disaster in a region distinguished by an extremely high level of cultural and religious diversity and geo-strategic significance, writes Kamran Matin, Associate Research Fellow at the UI. In this article, he gives the historical background to and explains developments in Iraq and Syria and the rise of the Islamic State.
Russian church’s imperial vision challenged
Analysis. Since the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine’s political leaders have worked to achieve independent status for the Kyiv Patriarchate in direct challenge to the geopolitical views and ambitions of the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church. In that conflict, Moscow is facing the possibility of geopolitical setback, writes UI Senior Fellow Igor Torbakov.
Detentions and growing tensions in Belarus
Analysis. Around two dozen high-profile journalists were detained in Belarus in one of the biggest intimidation campaigns in years. Emerging details of this sudden and surprising sweep highlight growing tensions in the country, with its authoritarian regime seeking a balance between necessary pro-market reforms and the preservation of President Alexander Lukashenka’s autocratic rule. Meanwhile, there is a growing window of opportunity for the EU to influence pro-democracy processes in the country, with voices from civil society emerging at the bottom, and an attempted geopolitical shift away from Russia at the top, writes Maxim Eristavi, research fellow at the Atlantic Council.
Rethinking the “Russian World” concept
Analysis. More than a quarter century after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there is still no consensus in Russia on what kind of polity it is. In the struggle over how to define the Russian state, the Kremlin cherry-picks from nationalist tropes in pursuit of its policy goals, writes UI Senior Fellow Igor Torbakov.
High Stakes at the Kim-Trump Summit
Analysis. The outcome of the successful summit between the two Korean leaders depends largely on how North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un’s upcoming meeting with the US president Donald Trump goes. As with anything involving Trump, this is difficult to predict, writes UI fellow Ulv Hanssen. Success would mean tremendous success, and failure would mean tremendous failure. There is little chance of anything in between. And in a worst-case scenario it will bring us to the brink of war.
Vladimir Putin – a tsar without loyal subjects?
Analysis. President Vladimir Putin is commonly described as a modern-day Tsar of Russia. In his public appearances, he often acts as a tsar-benefactor of ordinary Russians who does everything possible to strengthen the nation and to protect it from internal turmoil and external threats. However, do Russian people see him as a tsar? UI research fellow Natalia Mamonova answers this question by analysing popular attitudes to Putin and his tsarist behaviour.
Our Development Model Has to Change
Analysis. Looking at ecological and economic realities, time has come for demanding a new Enlightenment, one that fits our time and circumstances. The current development model – in particular the economy – was designed in the empty world, with a population between 1 and 2 billion people. Today the world is full, with a population soon to be 8 billion. We have to change our thinking, our religions and our economic doctrines to avoid a collapse of the ecosystem and the global economy. This is the conclusion in a new report, Come On!, written by Ernst von Weizsäcker and Anders Wijkman, co-presidents of the Club of Rome. Below is a slightly edited extract from the book.
Historical Revisionism in Russia and Turkey
Analysis. Like his counterpart in Russia, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is looking for a historical role model that can help him justify cloaking his presidency in regal trappings. And like Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Erdogan is bypassing the revolutionary and republican eras, and focusing on the late imperial period. Putin’s new favorite role model seems to be Tsar Alexander III (r. 1881-1894). For Erdogan, it is Sultan Abdulhamid II (r. 1876-1909), writes UI Senior Fellow Igor Torbakov.
Putin has found his Royal Role Model
Analysis. In his quest for historical legitimation, President Vladimir Putin has focused on the late imperial period. It was when the empire was ruled by an assertive monarch who successfully managed to modernize a vast realm, while suppressing domestic dissent and keeping Western rivals at bay. From that period Putin seems to have found his historical role model: Tsar Alexander III, writes UI senior fellow Igor Torbakov.
Denmark embraces US Middle East Policy
Analysis. There are huge political differences between Sweden’s and Denmark’s Middle East policies. Denmark is faithfully, almost submissively, following Washington, while Sweden has a policy of its own. The attitude of the Danish governments in the last decades' security policy is remarkable, writes Lars Erslev Andersen, Senior Associate Fellow at the MENA programme at the UI. Denmark's affinity to the US is almost not questioned in the Danish foreign policy debate.
The authoritarian shift in Central Europe
Analysis. In many EU countries democracy and the rule of law is under pressure. Governments accumulate more power and limit the independence of the courts and the freedom of the media. The book Hotet mot rättsstaten i Europa addresses the worrying developments in Hungary and Poland. Luca Karafiath, intern at the UI, writes that it is clear that the reforms after the fall of Communism, failed to consolidate a democratic political culture after four decades of totalitarian rule.
The Middle East Needs a Vision for Peace
Analysis. European integration can be a model of inspiration for visionary leaders in the wider Middle East, as a means of ending the cycle of conflicts and finding a durable solution. In the first half of the 20th Century Europe went through similar destructive wars that the Middle East is undergoing now. But after World War II distinguished personalities in Europe found an antidote to extreme nationalism: common structures, institutions and integration. Omar Sheikhmous, an independent analyst, shows how the Middle East could learn from the European example. The author, a former researcher at Stockholm University, is one of the Founders of PUK, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
Possible Scenarios in a post-IS Middle East
Analysis. Four scenarios are likely to characterize the future of the MENA region: The Fractured State, Generation Displaced, Contagion Effect and Superpower shift. This means Living on the Edge for the majority of the citizens in the Middle East and North Africa, says professor Beverley Milton-Edwards, from Queen's University and Brookings Doha Center. In her key-note address at a UI seminar, Beverley Milton-Edwards also gave examples of how the Trump Administration is at war with itself over its MENA policy. She takes Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Israeli state as one example. Read her speech here.
Syrians blamed for Lebanon’s problems
Analysis. As political tension along the sectarian divides between Shia-,and Sunni-muslims is on the rise in Lebanon, Syrian refugees are increasingly blamed for the country’s economic and structural problems. Today, around 1.5 million Syrians has taken refuge in Lebanon. The historical wounds of the Lebanese civil war has given way for a climate ripe of unease and contempt for Syrian refugees, writes Simon Fiedler, intern for the MENA program at the UI.
East Jerusalem – a place of insecurity
Analysis. No embassies are located in Jerusalem, since Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem has never been accepted by the international community. In East Jerusalem thousands of Palestinian homes have been demolished. But for the individual the most problematic aspect is probably the insecurity of residence, writes Johan Schaar, former head of development cooperation at the Consulate General of Sweden in Jerusalem.
Putin sees his and Russia’s fate intertwined
The Kremlin’s decision last year to create Russia’s National Guard was Russia’s biggest and potentially most consequential reform of law-enforcement agencies over the last decade. A decree last May will also make it possible to put the Armed Forces under the command of the new National Guard, whose in number of troops now is believed to exceed the Russian Army’s land forces. UI senior fellow Igor Torbakov explains how the Kremlin is preparing for a potential “color revolution” in Russia.
Core issues left aside in Fatah-Hamas deal
Analysis. Despite hope among Palestinians after the latest reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas, decades of internal struggles over leadership and territory, international pressure and profound ideological and tactical differences make the prospects for Palestinian unity look unlikely, writes Lucia Ardovini, Research Fellow at UI's MENA programme. But more progress has been made this time than ever before.
Still Room for Agreements with Russia
Analysis. Today’s Russia is an unsatisfied power, which has problems with most of its neighbors. But the Finnish veteran diplomat René Nyberg, who has served as ambassador in both Moscow and Berlin, notes that there is still room for agreement with Russia – even on missile defense.
The US and China on a Collision Course
Analysis. A new book, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? by Graham Allison is focusing on the risk of war between the United States and an ascending China. Börje Ljunggren, senior associate fellow at UI, has read the book. Predictability is crucial, he concludes.
Afghanistan – NATO's credibility at risk
A strategic shift is required in Afghanistan. Having pursued a military strategy for 16 years – unsuccessfully – a strategy centered on the search for a political settlement is required.Kai Eide, Norway's former ambassador to Sweden, NATO & former UN special representative in Kabul
Trump's cruise missiles – motivated by domestic politics
What should have been the action after the recent use of gas in Syria? The proper procedure under the UN Charter – that the US was instrumental in creating – would have been for the Security Council to order investigation and action.Hans Blix, former foreign minister of Sweden, former UN weapons inspector in Iraq
North Korean Threat Tests US-Sino Relations
President Donald Trump plans to host China's President Xi Jinping at a two-day summit in Florida in April. North Korea's nuclear breakout will be high on the agenda between the leaders of the world's two largest economies. Nothing less than a grand bargain is needed now, when East Asia is facing its most acute and trying security challenge in many years, writes Börje Ljunggren, Senior Associate Fellow at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs and Sweden's former Ambassador to China.
Five issues will shape the EU@60 agenda
Analysis. On 25 March the Heads of State and Government of 27 European Union member states will meet in Rome to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome and stake out the future direction of EU integration. The meeting, and its planned declaration, was supposed to be the culmination of efforts to insert a new dynamism into cooperation following the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the union. However, recent developments within the institutions and key member states have taken precedence over the more visionary agenda. Björn Fägersten, Director of UI's Europe and Hilda Grönwall, Intern at the Europe program, outline five key issues – on and off the official agenda – that will shape the event and its outcome.
Utrikesmagasinet is an independently edited online magazine, owned by the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI). The mission of UI is to inform and enrich the public debate by promoting interest in and knowledge of foreign affairs and international relations. Managing editor of Utrikesmagasinet is Leif Hallstan and publisher is Ylva Lindahl, an editor for Landguiden at UI. According to the editorial rules of Utrikesmagasinet writers are responsible for the content of their articles. We mostly publish articles in Swedish only, but on this page you find our recently published articles in English.