European Council on Foreign Relations

A false debate about arming Syria’s rebels


Europe is increasingly divided between those in favour of arming Syrian rebels and those against it. However, notwithstanding the broader uncertainty over the merits or not of providing military support (I am against), it could be argued that, for European actors, this is an entirely false debate.
Put simply, even if Europe decides to end the embargo in May and provide lethal aid, its assistance will remain so limited that it will be irrelevant to shifting the balance of power on the ground or Assad’s mindset. Europe’s inherent caution and risk aversion on the issue means that weapons supplied will inevitably be extremely limited in capability, aimed at avoiding the dangers associated with them falling into the wrong hands or being turned on regional allies. However, given the regime’s considerable ongoing military strength, any meaningful support for an armed approach

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Greenland: a great power pattern?

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts on Greenland by the Danish member of ECFR's China programme, Jonas Parello-Plesner, from his visit there. Click for part 1 - part 2 - part 3 - part 4


My point of arrival and departure in Greenland is at the air strip in Kangerlussuaq, a former Cold War era US military base selected for its excellent weather conditions. The runway is almost 3km long, the largest in Greenland. The photo was taken from the summit of a nearby hill after a brisk hike, and if you have extraordinarily good eyesight you might spot that the US military presence isn’t entirely gone: two USAF C-130 aircraft are parked in the far corner. One (and there’s no way you can see this on the photo) is even equipped with skis – making it basically an enormous flying snowboard.

I asked a local about the US presence, and was told that the planes are used to assist

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Hollande seeks strong ties with Rabat

Breaking with a decades-long tradition of having Morocco as the first destination for a French President’s first official visit to North Africa, Francois Hollande’s two-day (April 3-4) stop in Morocco came three months after his historic trip to its rival Algeria in December.

The French President’s trip to Casablanca, the economic capital of Morocco, which was carefully planned by French and Moroccan business circles, and during which he was accompanied by nine ministers and more than fifty business leaders, signaled that France is aiming to consolidate relations with its main ally in the Maghreb. Hollande seeks to reclaim the Republic’s status as Morocco’s first commercial partner after losing that title to Spain last year.

Despite the fact that his trip took place amid a political storm in France around the indictment of the former Minister, Jerome Cahuzac, Hollande’s agenda

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Flying into Greenland


Today, I’m traveling to Greenland to stay for ten days to get the local flavour on the debate about Chinese investments in Greenland, and will be sending over a series of blog posts. (This earlier blog of mine has more background.)

Since 2010, Greenland, as a self-ruled territory under the Kingdom of Denmark, has had the right to negotiate its own underground resources. This has changed its international status. When Greenland’s minister for Industry and Mineral Resources Ove Karl Berthelsen travelled to Beijing in 2011, he was warmly received by Li Keqiang, a Chinese top leader. Attracting such a high-level showing can be hard for independent European nation-states.

Where China goes, wider international attention tends to follow. Even the mere possibility of Chinese capital inflows into Greenland, otherwise off the map for international attention, has sparked articles in

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The X, Y and Z of European defence

Last week Herman van Rompuy spoke at the European Defence Agency's annual bash in Brussels. On such occasions, the tried and tested mix of self-congratulatory talk and formulaic wisdom about EU defence policy (CSDP) is usually the norm.

Not so this time. In a climate rife with speculation about what budget cuts might possibly come next, the EU president’s speech was a low-key affair. There were no major announcements, or toothless forays into geostrategy. He took stock of progress (more accurately, lack of it) since the last EU council on defence, and discussed a couple of "hands-on" proposals in view of the next one in December.  

Chief amongst these was the need for a more coordinated approach in the realm of capabilities and defence planning. In particular, he asked how member states might “set common priorities for investments, and effectively coordinate [their] budgets”.

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