European Council on Foreign Relations

Why fighting the “war on terror” in Libya is a mistake

Since the end of the Cold War, it has become common (and convenient) for Middle Eastern leaders to depict their opponents as “terrorists” as a way to gain support, military or otherwise, from powerful Western governments to act against them. American and European involvement in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) has only increased such practices.

Libya’s ruling elite is unfortunately no different. In his speech before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last week, acting Libyan head of state Ageela Saleh said that the international community had to provide arms and training to the Libyan army “in its war against terrorism”, noting that the Dawn coalition, which also happen to be the adversaries of the Tobruk government, included “Al-Qaeda ideologists”.

This “war on terror” narrative plays into the concern of most European governments that Libya’s large ungoverned

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Andrew Wilson on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine

Andrew Wilson's latest book Ukraine Crisis: What it Means for the West (Yale University Press) will be in the shops in advance of official publication on 14 October, and and e-book version will be available soon. Readers/listeners can check out the following podcast, where the three main themes of the book are discussed.

The middle section is obviously about Ukraine and deconstructing the many myths about its politics, identity and history from the current swirl of propaganda. The crisis was not about Russia when it started; it began with the attempt by Ukrainians to have a more successful revolution than in 2004 (the so-called ‘Orange Revolution’). And initially, the prospects were good; which is precisely why Russia has intervened, not only to try and crush any hope of change but to put the very shape, strength and survival of the Ukrainian state in question. So the book is also

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Real referenda: Putin’s worst nightmare

Some of the Russian comments on the Scottish referendum result have been unintentionally hilarious. Observers basically complained that the count was conducted in the open, in one case in an “aircraft hangar”, rather than safe behind closed doors. Experts from the Donetsk People’s Republic spotted obvious falsification.

Apart from providing some welcome light relief after such a fraught campaign, this tells us three important things.

First, the Kremlin was locked into expecting a ‘yes’. Russia’s view of Europe sees only a dysfunctional EU and sick nation-states being overthrown from below. Russia claims to be a conservative power, but not in the nineteenth century Concert of Europe-sense with the Tsar standing firm with other rulers. Modern Russia stands for the opposite – the Kremlin hides behind the Russia Today logo of ‘Question More’ to promote any minority force that

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ECFR this week: 19 September 2014

Scotland has voted no to independence but ECFR Director Mark Leonard says the political trends in Scotland are also reshaping many nations that do not face imminent break-up. In his commentary “Why Scotland looks like the canary in the independence coal mine”, he points out the changing nature of self-government and nationalism and notes that the dynamics of the Scottish campaign are increasingly true of many other democracies where established parties huddle together to defend the current order from insurgent political forces that paint themselves as popular tribunes in the face of entrenched elites. 
 
Edouard Tétreau, Senior Policy Fellow and Head of ECFR’S Paris office, writes that EU member states trying to protect their own economic and strategic interests have “rendered Europe neglected and negligible”. He argues that for the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall

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Dissecting Juncker’s Commission: view from the Netherlands

One of Holland's brightest diplomats is moving to the heart of Brussels’ bureaucracy. Known for his energy, language skills and social media addiction (the first pictures from a European Commission meeting have already been posted on Facebook), former diplomat Frans Timmermans quickly gained popularity as the Dutch foreign minister after years as social-democratic MP. A more vital and visible minister than his predecessors, Timmermans is seen as having put the Netherlands back on the map in international relations with his constant travels and good personal relations with other leaders. He especially received a lot of praise for his moving speech at the UN Security Council after the crash of flight MH17 over Ukraine. It came as no surprise when he was nominated for a European commissariat, although the exact responsibilities of the newly invented position were unexpected: As EC

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