Q&A with Giedrius Česnakas: Russia, and the West

Q&A with Giedrius Česnakas: Russia, and the West

Dr. Giedrius Česnakas, is Vice Dean of the Faculty of Political Science and Diplomacy at Vytautas Magnus University

Fuad Shahbazov (FS): Russia has become a strong headache for the North Atlantic Alliance once again, how would you estimate the current relationship between Russia and NATO?

Giedrius Česnakas (GČ): From my perspective, Russia, with its aggressive actions missed an opportunity to become normal regional power, to become a reliable partner of the West against raising China, which form my perspective, is the greatest threat to Russia. Being partner and not an adversary of NATO Russia could “soften” NATO, and make much more impact that it does today. While Russia was cooperating with NATO, threat from Moscow in NATO was perceived as a delusion of the Baltic States. Before the occupation and annexation of Crimea, NATO was losing itself, it was not sure about its role and causes of existence. After Russia’s aggression NATO found the basis for its existence once again, found reassurance in its role, and started to make its military presence in the states that joined after 1999 more noticeable.

It would seem that possibilities for deep cooperation between NATO and Russia are lost for a very long time, however, mutual fight against terrorism could lead to some cooperation, but it would not be deep.

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Turkey in the Middle East: The Tacit Revisionist

Turkey in the Middle East: The Tacit Revisionist

By Zenonas Tziarras

Source: The Independent (Getty Images)

Turkey has lately moved to the epicenter of world politics, and rightly so. The jury is still out on whether that is a good or a bad thing and that is because of its handlings with regard to the Islamic State (IS) crisis in Iraq and Syria. Indeed, Turkey’s indecisiveness and belated actions in the face of the potential fall of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane and the advancements of IS more generally, bring to mind the Turkish foreign policy of the past.

Through the delay to take action or the refusal to allow Western allies to use its military bases, Turkey demonstrated a well-known reluctance to engage regional security problems, a suspicion toward Western powers, and a pro-status quo tendency. These were the very features that characterized the foreign policy of Turkish Republic for the most part of its history; a doctrine very much influenced by the founder of Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, and the military-bureaucratic establishment. Similarly, Turkey’s opportunism, namely, its wish to be on the right side of history without being willing to play its part, draws parallels between today and 1945 when Turkey joined the Allies of World War II only a couple of months before the end of the war and after its outcome had already been decided. Continue reading

Fighting for a Seat: The US Midterm Elections

Fighting for a Seat: The US Midterm Elections

By Marianna Karakoulaki

Almost a month before the US Midterm Elections which are to be held on November 4, and the US public is called to decide their next representatives at the House of Representatives as well as the Senate. Just two years after Obama’s re-election, things are looking rather tough for the Democrats as polls seem to favor the Republican Party for both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

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The Rise of Iran

The Rise of Iran

by Zenonas Tziarras

Source: Reuters

One could be led to believe that it all started in 2013 with the election of Hassan Rouhani to the presidency of Iran. Rouhani, along with his moderate and reformist agenda, bore much optimism among Western countries that Iran might shift direction towards a more pragmatic and less anti-Western foreign policy. But this was not what put Iran to the epicenter of the Middle East and international politics.

Iran’s increasing influence and rising role in the broader region has been prompted by three main developments: a) the Iraq war of 2003; b) the withdrawal of the American troops from Iraq by 2011; c) and the failure of Western policies in the case of Syria’s civil war in conjunction with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (henceforth, ISIS). Rouhani and the new round of negations about Iran’s nuclear program are only “the cherry on the pie.”

After the international isolation that Tehran faced following the 1979 theocratic revolution, the gradual dis-empowerment of Iraq (see, the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and the 1991 Iraq war), especially after the 2003 United States-led invasion, allowed it to exploit the significant power vacuum that emerged. The Shiite governments of Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Nouri al-Maliki that followed enhanced Iran’s influence over Iraq and triggered an intrastate sectarian conflict. This was perhaps the most important implication of the Iraq war as Iran is often called the big winner. Continue reading

The Geopolitical Impact of ISIS: Actors, Factors, and Balances of Power in the Middle East

The Geopolitical Impact of ISIS: Actors, Factors, and Balances of Power in the Middle East

by Zenonas Tziarras

The ISIS Threat

Generally speaking, the emergence of ISIS has posed a significant security threat to regional and international states alike; a threat which challenges the stability and territorial integrity of regional states as well as Western regional interests. As known from International Relations and particularly Realism literature, (mutual) security threats are one of the most important factors in the formation of different kinds of alliances. As such, it is without surprise that we see unlike partnerships to emerge, such as the ones mentioned below.

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Kashmir Dispute and Kashmir Floods Disaster – A Causal Link

Kashmir Dispute and Kashmir Floods Disaster – A Causal Link

by Haifa Peerzada

Kashmir encountered its worst floods in the last 60 years, in which the exact toll of disaster still remains to be accounted for.  Though the relief operations are still going on, there does not seem to be any coordinated effort on the part of the state government or that at the Centre for easing the magnitude of the disaster that engulfed Indian administered Kashmir and the Pakistan administered Kashmir. Though the mainstream Indian media have reportedly been glorifying the efforts of army and other para military troops in Kashmir but they have completely discredited the efforts of local Kashmiri volunteers whose rules were more instrumental in providing rescue and relief operations to the flood victims in the inundated areas. Besides, very less or no analysis has been done on the direct causal link between this catastrophic disaster and the Kashmir dispute.

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Iraq Could Threaten Obama’s Long Term Policies

Iraq Could Threaten Obama’s Long Term Policies

by Marianna Karakoulaki

On August 7th, Barack Obama made a statement concerning the crisis in Iraq in which he announced targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death.” Although there are calls for ground troops, President Obama has excluded this option as ground troops might mean a new long term presence in the country. In addition to about 455 U.S. security forces and 100 military personnel working in the Office of Security Cooperation in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, 130 troops have been sent in order to provide humanitarian assistance and assess the situation, 160 in a pair of operations centers — one in Irbil and one in Baghdad — working with Iraqi security forces.

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Fifteen Years after the Kargil War and the Kashmir Dispute

Fifteen Years after the Kargil War and the Kashmir Dispute

By Haifa Peerzada

It has been 15 years since Kargil War ended and yet there does not seem to be any substantial improvement in the estranged relations between India and Pakistan. Let us take a sneak preview of the last 15 years to see the recurring events and compare them with the fundamental trends. This is an essential exercise, to see where the existential rivalry between India and Pakistan stands today, which has not helped the resolution of the Kashmir dispute in so far as inter-state axis of the issue, is concerned. The so called peace process or the composite dialogue between India and Pakistan has been more of a roller coaster ride, as the obstacles in the peace process have not abated, even till date.

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What about the Women: The Missing Voice at the Peacemaking Table

What about the Women: The Missing Voice at the Peacemaking Table

By Sthelyn Romero

As war and conflict continue to plague our world and the international community attempts to negotiate peace, an important question to ask is where are all the women? It is clear that what is missing from the negotiating table is women. This highlights the growing gap between global commitments to peace and the harsh realities of the peace process itself. Many countries are starting to incorporate women into peace negotiations but is female participation effective? Can women influence the language that goes into these peace agreements?

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Grassroots Level Democracy in Kashmir

Grassroots Level Democracy in Kashmir

By Haifa Peerzada

As the elections are underway for a much awaited change of political leadership in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, some of the basic essentials of good governance have not been given much attention or they have been ignored. With the killing of a Sarpanch associated with PDP, the issue of fragile self-governance at local levels in Jammu and Kashmir has again come to fore. This issue cuts right at the core of a larger issue which seeks to devolve more powers to the local authorities which may in turn lead to better development and good governance, free of corruption. But even this seems to be co-opted by the power politics in which various political parties religiously indulge.

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