3rd Anniversary of the Yazidi Genocide

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Article by Barbora Mrazova, 2nd year BA International Relations at KCL, currently volunteer with the STEP-IN project in Iraq

3rd of August is a sad day for all Yazidis, especially those that live in northern Iraq. Also, for all of us, who watch them remembering it. Three years ago, a Yazidi genocide by the Islamic State happened with the international community standing by. Before Yazidi people suffered 72 genocides – but this was the first one in the 21st century.

 Yazidis are a minority group, mostly living in Northern Iraq. Before the genocide on August 3rd, 2014, many Yazidis were living around the Sinjar mountain east of Mosul. Some in the surrounding villages and some in the Sinjar city. They were forced to flee their homes after ISIS started to take over their territories and there was no one left to protect these defenseless people.

 As a result, they ran onto the Sinjar mountain. People were running (the majority of Yazidis don’t have a car) and behind them ISIS was chasing them on Toyotas. They had no other option, since ISIS surrounded the mountain from all sides. For a few long days, they were without water, food, shelter, or another set of clothes. US, UK, and Australia made some emergency airdrops of canned food and water to people trapped on the Sinjar mountain, but it was too little and too late. Some never accessed these airdrops.

 Everyone was desperate. First of all, from dehydration and hunger but also because there was no access to news and they did not know what is actually going on around the mountain. Then, people started to receive messages, that ISIS is taking women and children to captivity and executing men right on the spot.

 On August 5, 2014 Vian Dakhil, Iraqi Kurdish MP, delivered a speech in the Iraqi parliament on behalf of the Yazidis that were trapped on the Sinjar mountain. She said: “I beg you, Mr. Speaker, my people are being slaughtered… For the past 48 hours, 30,000 families have been besieged on mountain Sinjar without food or water. They are dying… Our women are being taken captive and sold on the slave-market… Stop this massacre.” After this very emotional speech, full of tears, Dakhil almost collapsed. Nevertheless, she brought the international attention to the terrible atrocities that were carried out by the hands of Islamic State on Yazidis.

 This genocide resulted in a huge number of deaths and even greater number of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons). Up to this day, some Yazidis have already returned to their destroyed homes, but the majority is staying in camps like Dawoodyia or Cabartoo located in Kurdistan region of Iraq.

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Children of Dawoodyia camp, waiting until the exhibition will start. 

Today, on August 3, 2017, STEP-IN contributed with a small exhibition to a commemorate day of the genocide in Dawoodyia camp. For us in STEP-IN, it was one of the saddest experiences from our time in Iraq. This feeling of powerlessness to help people that came was crushing. Especially when we have seen those, whose personal stories we know. It was very hard to see little children with posters in their hands, on which there were pictures of mass graves with bodies of their families, neighbors and friends from their villages posted by ISIS on social media. Also, they had printed pictures with faces of those men that were killed right on the spot by ISIS, or even a picture of parents holding their beheaded daughter.

There are no words to describe what Yazidi people went through. We cannot understand their pain when they remember the day of the genocide. We can only try.

 During the exhibition, I wanted to do a short interview with Mukhtar (the leader of the people) of Dawoodyia camp. He tried very hard to at least explain in a few sentences what happened on this day. But then tears started to run down his face. He apologized but could not continue. One of our employees tried to finish but the same repeated. The memories are still too painful. Yazidi people suffered too much.

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Young girl holding a flag of Kurdistan and wearing a head bandana with the date of the genocide during the exhibition

We ask ourselves: What can we do for them? Not much. But what we can do, we will. STEP-IN’s mission right now, among others, is to provide primary healthcare for people living in Dawoodyia camp. We are aware, that this is only a drop in the sea, but if we can help to at least a few people, we will continue to do so.

It does not matter whether we are Christians, Muslims or Yazidis, Iraqis or Europeans. We are all humans. Therefore, we must act human and help each other as much as we can, regardless of our differences.

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A photo from the exhibition in Dawoodyia camp, Kurdish part of Iraq

 

 

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Helmut Kohl – Chancellor of German Unity

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By Julia Huentemann, a 1st year International Relations student at King’s College and Editorial Assistant at International Relations Today. 

Helmut Kohl – the Chancellor of the German Reunification and a pioneer for the European Unification – died Friday 16th June, 2017 at the age of 87.

Leaders from all over the world issued their grief about the loss of a great politician and a great European patriot in an official European ceremony in Strasbourg on 1 July 2017. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission and a close friend of Kohl, delivered an emotional and very personal speech recalling that neither the EU enlargement towards the East nor the introduction of the Euro would have been realized without Kohl. Bill Clinton, former US president, said ‘farewell my friend’ and stated that Kohl´s legacy is the chance to be part of something bigger than the personal career: the striving for a better world with mutual respect where no nation is dominated and no nation dominates others. The French president Emmanuel Macron praised Kohl´s merits concerning the German-French relation as a foundation for a united and peaceful Europe and called to appreciate and maintain these achievements. He remembered the legendary act of reconciliation with Francois Mitterand and Helmut Kohl holding hands at the graveyard of Verdun. Finally, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor who had dissociated from Kohl during his lifetime, addressed the audience full of praise about Kohl´s life achievement: when he entered office in 1982 Germany was divided, when he left office in 1998, Germany has been reunited and the European unification has been in great progress. Without Helmut Kohl millions of people, including herself, would not have had the chance to live a life in freedom and peace and this is why she bowed before him in gratitude and humility.

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Even though Kohl was not without controversy in Germany, undisputed tribute was paid to him for his unshakeable confidence in the German Reunification and the European Integration, his commitment and his political instinct for the feasible. He realized the unique opportunity for a German Reunification with the blessing of USSR´s Michail Gorbatschow and the Western nations and courageously took the chance before the historic timeframe closed again. Due to his integrity, his solid reliability and his political fairness he enjoyed the highest respect and strong confidence among the political leaders and therefore managed to overcome the concerns about a reunited Germany.

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Besides his belief in the German Reunification he had a vision of a united Europe which became the driving force for his acting. As a graduate in History he was well aware of Germany´s responsibility and his political goal was to contribute to a free and peaceful community of all European nations with a united Germany amidst it. According to Juncker he saw the euro as a means of ensuring peace in Europe and therefore fought for the introduction of the euro.

A ceremony in Strasbourg, at the heart of Europe and the border of Germany and France, is symbolic for Kohl´s political legacy. It is now up to us to maintain this legacy and to make Europe great (again). ;  )

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The anatomy of TERROR

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By Diana Ecaterina Borcea, a first year War Studies Undergraduate at King’s College London and European Editor for International Relations Today.

 10:35pm Monday, May 22nd 2017. Massive explosion taking place at the Manchester Arena, shortly after the end of 20.000 people packed concert.

Two months earlier, on March 22nd, a 52-year-old British citizen drove a car into the pedestrians on the south side of the Westminster Bridge.

The timeline of the UK terrorist attacks started to count more and more incidents and deaths of the innocent since the beginning of the year, leading the detectives into the hunt for a terrorist network, especially after the Iraqi Islamic State’s responsibility claim over the bombing which happened earlier this week. However, the public proved itself to be increasingly confused in the attempt to contour a broader understanding of what the terrorists are looking for in their operations – or even better – what the real terror is meant to achieve.

Considering that UK has just been through the worst attack since 2007, the polarization of a pure anti-humanity agenda, successfully restored under the international spotlight since the beginning of the year proved once again, its underlying permanent influence over the global society, regardless of the geo-political targeting of the attacks. Therefore, what is actually primarily important to understand is the concept that describes best the perpetrators’ intentions in their offensive procedure, which essentially relies on the very definition of terror. They aim for publicity (which by its own means both attracting other individuals or groups on the side of the perpetrators and breaking the rational will of the targeted mass), they generally intend to deteriorate the image of a recognized government in the eyes of both the world and their own citizens, they inspire a super-wave of collective guilt amongst the individuals and ultimately, strive for a socio-political (and sometimes economic) paralysis of the targeted state-system, once the faith and the support of the masses are completely lost. From this point of view, UK’s constant response to the attacks can be theoretically interpreted as being antiterrorist, because it mainly relies on collective national security measures meant to keep sheltering the rights of the citizens and the rule of law. However, the increasing density of the attacks does raise some vital questions about the state’s protective capability, given the large numbers of casualties caused only since the beginning of this year. The more successful attacks, the lower the people’s faith in their own security and safety and implicitly, the lower the trust in the state’s protective ability. So what will happen next?

It is clear that unlike the Unites States, the British government does not see terrorism as warfare, nor does it look at it through the crime analogy. What UK has actually done so far is considering terrorism as being a matter of disease, which implies a cause-symptom treatment based on arrests and increased prevention through additional security measures. It is certainly important to note the achievements of this approach, as so far the danger of a social paralysis has been avoided and regardless of the extent of the destruction caused by the perpetrators of extreme violence, life went on. But how long will this last for?

A more relevant idea to bear in mind when dissociating terrorism is that due to the ever-changing nature of the phenomenon (including the targeting vision, the conduct of the operations, the tactics and devices used etc.), there is not and will never be a clear, comprising and universally valid definition for the case. This fact itself plays an important role in the broad understanding process of how and why the perpetrators act the way they do against the society. The psychological view of the attacker prototype does explain the individual’s perspective before and during the ‘pull of the trigger’, as it acknowledges the psychological map and processes taking place in human mind, which are, to a certain extent, quite similar to the ones of a soldier on the battlefield. It fails, however, to identify the vague transition between the ideological, religious, political, economic or personal motivation of an individual to carry out an act of extreme violence and the actual process of making it happen. In other words, there is no clear link between the theory and the practice of inducing terror. What is more, the group cohesion theory can barely justify the determination and outstanding operational focus of the terrorist groups and yet, it does not even reach the lone wolves’ case studies. Perhaps, this is one element that makes the latest London attacks stand out in the series of the recent attacks, because if the individuals acted on their own, one can hardly identify – not to mention understand – the mental realm of the terrorist. Thus, there is a general state of confusion between the target and the shooter. Unlike traditional warfare, the war on terror is not just asymmetrical from the grand strategic point of view, but it is also extremely irregular when it comes to the individual level of analysis.

Therefore, the thinner the correlation between the victim and the killer, the more endangered the conditions of life, regardless of the geographical zone discussed. What is certain, though, is that the continuation of the attacks against the human society has become in the past decades, an inherent matter of reality. Whether the hits similar to the one Britain took earlier this week will intensify or not, it is important to remember that terrorism is now a big part of the world we live in. The attackers are not prone to fundamental changes on any level of analysis, but what needs consideration is how (from the citizens to the states and to the international community) the society will ‘digest’ and cope with this traumatizing reality and the first step on this path is actually deciding whether the surviving mechanism of the world as we know it is actually that bulletproof against terror as we thought it was.

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MOAB’s and Afghanistan – Another Day, Another Munition Dropped

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By William Reynolds, a 2nd year undergraduate studying War Studies. From a British Armed Forces background, William follows the military capabilities of the West and the security issues in the Middle East with great interest, placing special emphasis on COIN and the experiences of individuals on the ground. William has worked as a Research Fellow for Dr Whetham in the Centre of Military Ethics and is a spammer of many articles on the King’s Middle East and North Africa Forum (MENA).

The recent deployment of a GBU-34 Massive Ordinance Air Blast (MOAB) munition over ISIS territory in Afghanistan has grabbed headlines and sparked debate on President Trump’s strategy. Many attribute this deployment to a more muscular approach and possible signalling to both Syria and North Korea that the current administration is not messing around. This, of course, is reliant on one massive assumption: That Trump gave the order for the strike.

The MOAB is indeed one of the largest non-nuclear weapons that the US possesses in their inventory. However, the GBU-43 (MOAB) that was deployed has been incorrectly labelled as the most powerful in the US armoury. That honour falls to the GBU-57A/B Massive Ordinance Penetrator (MOP) at 30,000 lb (or 14,000 kg). Nevertheless, the MOAB cannot be considered to be in a ‘special category’ such as that which nuclear weapons inhabit. To the planners on the ground, the MOAB is simply another tool for the job. Indeed, during the Vietnam campaign is was not uncommon for the MOAB’s predecessor, the BLU-82 ‘Daisy Cutter’ to be deployed regularly against the National Liberation Front (NLF) and North Vietnamese Army (NVA). The MOAB simply falls into the same category as a Hellfire missile or 2,000 lb JDAM.

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It is with this in mind that we must question whether Trump explicitly ordered the deployment of such a munition. In general terms, an air strike is called in through a Forward Air Controller (FAC) who is deployed forward with the combat troops. FAC’s don’t necessarily control what ordinance is dropped. Close Air Support (CAS) strikes are not tailored fit for the platoon’s on the ground, rather they make do with whatever assets are assigned to that area of operations. Now a MOAB is most certainly not a munition deployed in the CAS role. Thus, there was pre-planning involved, possibly placed as a useable asset for the push into the ISIS-held region. Such munitions have proved valuable in the past when clearing out insurgents from rough terrain. The Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan and Ho Chi Minh trail in Vietnam springing to mind.

Ultimately, the buck could have theoretically stopped anywhere along the chain of command. It could have gone as far as CENTCOM Commander Votel, the regional commander in Afghanistan or simply the acting commander of the occurring operation. Whoever did indeed give the go ahead, it does not signal a clear change in strategy. The US has always been focused on killing the insurgent. Whilst not particularly favourable in population-centric warfare, they are certainly good at it.

What commentators on the Afghan war should be looking at was the recent deployment of US Marines back into Helmand province. Whilst numbering only 300, the deployment of Marines usually signals an urge to regain the initiative and go on the offensive. Marines are shock troops first and foremost. Their deployment may signal a change in strategy in the region. Indeed, the deployment to Helmand in itself is a signal of sorts. Helmand has always been the stronghold of the Taliban post-2004, with multiple British, American and Dutch offensives turning up little in terms of major gains for ISAF. The deployment of Marines in the region can only mean the focus shifting away from the maintenance of Kabul’s security.

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This possible change in strategy has further intrigued commentators who note that as of today (09/05/17) NATO has requested additional troops from the UK to be deployed in Afghanistan. This will not mean another British Battle Group will place their feet on the tarmac of Camp Bastion again. But it does signal a possible resurgence of military power into the graveyard of empires.

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Bibliography:

https://www.mca-marines.org/site/styles/gallery_photo_image/public/importedFiles/files/1_461.jpg?tok=ONvy9loy-USMC

https://ichef-1.bbci.co.uk/news/624/media/images/78130000/jpg/_amoc-cct-2014-151-062.jpg-CampBastionMemorial

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Marine Le Pen and women’s rights: a personal opinion

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By Elise Lauriot Prevost, a second year Undergraduate studying International Relations at King’s College London.

Women’s rights have not been central in the French elections, as they are not in most elections. They never seem to be a priority even though women statistically represent 50% of the electorate. However, there is a chance that in two weeks a woman may become President. This woman is Marine Le Pen. Her opponent, Emmanuel Macron, a man, has pledged to do more about women’s rights than Le Pen. This is easily explained by looking at the party she represents, the Front National. Nonetheless, what is concerning is not only that woman’s rights are so absent from her program but more so how she frames her ‘slight’ concern.

A quick comparison of the two candidates programs on women’s rights shows us that:

  • Emmanuel Macron wants there to be parity in the candidates running for the legislative elections and in the directors of state agencies.
  • Marine Le Pen does not mention this.

 

  • When it comes to equal pay Macron would like to ‘name and shame’ companies that do not pay men and women the same and enforce by conducting regular checks.
  • Marine Le Pen does mention equal pay and does not give any concrete measures on how she would achieve this. Still she is against positive discrimination.

 

  • When it comes to women’s rights Emmanuel Macron would be stricter on ‘small infractions’ such as cat calling and other ‘antisocial behavior against women’ by imposing “on the spot” fines.
  • Marine Le Pen wants to defend women’s rights by fighting against Islamism which, for her, is the biggest threat against women’s fundamental rights. [1]

 

It is on this last point that I would like to focus on. This idea of Islamism and a repression of women rights has its roots in the colonization of North Africa by the French. The French quickly developed an obsession with veiling and unveiling woman which is obviously still the case with the recent ‘burkini’ scandal. Additionally, the 2005 ‘Loi contre les signes religieux ostensibles’ was passed as a matter of ‘laicité’ but would never have made it through had it not been for the campaign by French feminists that headscarves are just a sign of a Muslim woman’s oppression. Many authors have justifiably argued against this[2]. This removes a Muslims woman agency and her right to choose for herself. The headscarf also has a long history of being used as a form of rebellion against colonial authorities. Obviously, the headscarf does not equal fundamental Islam but for Marine Le Pen it seems to. By reducing Muslim women to their headscarves it completely removes their agency.

On top of this discourse with colonial and purely racist undertones there is another problem with what she is saying. As a French woman, I personally have never felt that Islamism was the biggest threat to my rights. Far from it. I feel that my reproductive rights are more threatened by the ‘family’ lobby (La Manif Pour Tous) in France which is mostly Catholic. I personally have been more put down, belittled and on the receiving end of lurid comments by white ‘French’ men than by the people Marine Le Pen blames, ‘immigrants’.  Obviously, I am generalizing here but my biggest concerns are everyday cat calling, being belittled by male peers and most importantly the fact that I still have to work twice as hard to get a job, an interview or even just to be taken seriously because I am a woman. And this has absolutely nothing to do with Islamism. What shocks me the most is that Marine Le Pen is arguably the most powerful woman in France today and to get there it must not have been easy.

I dislike her with every fiber of my being and would never excuse anything she says but, woman to woman, I am certain that she has felt the same sexual discrimination that I have. She has had to work twice as hard to get where she is, she has had to answer questions which a man never gets asked such as why have you put your career in front of your family? etc. I do not agree with her ideas but I am sure that she has been victim to as much and even more sexual harassment because of her prominent position. I am sure that people questioned her taking over from her father on the basis that she was a woman. With all this said I still struggle to understand why she does not take women’s rights more seriously. I am sure that she has had her rights questioned by way more non Islamic fundamentalists than Islamic fundamentalists. Women’s rights may not appeal to all her voters but she has tried to soften her image and distance herself from her father and party. How can a woman who has definitely experienced sexual harassment reduce it to Islamic Fundamentalism. You can be blinded by your ideas but work place harassment, belittlement is an everyday reality for woman and for her too.  How can you vote for someone who is so blinded by their racist and extremist ideology that they do not even take into account what affects them on a daily basis?

Bibliography:

[1] <http://www.rtl.fr/girls/identites/macron-le-pen-le-match-des-programmes-pour-les-droits-des-femmes-7788256778&gt;.

[2] Najmabadi, Afsaneh. “Gender and Secularism of Modernity: How Can a Muslim Woman Be French?” Feminist Studies 32, no. 2 (2006): 239.

 

 

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Venezuela and Democratic Authoritarianism

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By Victoria Noya, a Venezuelan 3rd year International Development student, currently studying abroad in East Asia.

On December 2015 many Venezuelans gained new hope and optimism for their country, as the Opposition party secured three fifths of seats at the National Assembly, the legislative branch of Venezuela’s government. This was arguably a democratic victory that countered the government’s long standing authoritarian behaviour. However, as many expected, that optimism was short-lived. The Supreme Court, which abides by every whim and fancy of the central government, would go on to prohibit the legislature from naming a handful of members of the electoral council. Nevertheless, since the Venezuelan government has been playing a hybrid regime of authoritarian action with democratic facade and discourse, it came as a huge surprise when on March 29th, under the pretence of the National Assembly’s “contempt”, the Supreme Court decided to usurp the National Assembly[1], ruling that all the National Assembly’s powers would go to the Supreme Court. This has been interpreted by many as a “self-inflicted coup d’état”[2], since what was once a political body that kept the authoritarian regime in check, would no longer continue to do so.

For about 15 years Venezuelans have been living under a de facto dictatorship. At least in the sense that all democratic activity is in some way either restricted or influenced by the government. For example, freedom of speech, a right that goes hand in hand with democracy. Although the government has never spoken against it, it just so happened that throughout the past 15 years, news agencies that are anti-Chavez have been bought up one by one, by entities with Chavista agendas. This type of corruption seeps into essentially every industry that Venezuela has left. Additionally, it is the vox populi that elections are rigged. The subtlety of the government’s totalitarianism was key to establishing Venezuela’s government as a hybrid regime, and it allowed the president and his party to legitimately remain in power. March 29th wouldn’t be the first time the Supreme Court had abused its power, but it would be the first time that their grasp for power was so blunt.

Since March 29th, many peaceful protests led by the opposition have  turned violent, an occurrence that for the past couple of years, is no longer unusual. The blunt decision sparked outrage, since Venezuelans have never actively, perhaps not even knowingly, supported the government’s authoritarianism. This is why the interpretation of “self-inflicted coup d’etat” isn’t quite accurate, it’s more like the government was being honest about what they are: an authoritarian dictatorship. Whether it be because of international or internal pressure, President Maduro later urged the Supreme Court to reverse their decision[3], which only means that the government is back to being dishonest, and that nothing is going to change in the future.

Before I go on, it is important to expand where Venezuela finds itself now. With the progression of Chavez’s presidency, so grew a new political ideology: Chavismo. This populist anti-US ideology gained much popularity among the lower classes, who were told that the government would support them and that their hardships were at the hand of the upper classes as well as US “imperialism”. This repeated discourse over more than 15 years created a social divide that had never existed before. The divide is exemplified in political elections, where Chavistas are extremely loyal to Chavez and his legacy, and society is divided by an intense hostility between die-hard Chavistas and Opposition followers. After Chavez’s death, his legacy remained. The government has targeted the passionate loyalty of Chavistas to ensure power, which means that even under Maduro, a widely unpopular president, Chavistas are unlikely to turn to the Opposition. Insanely high crime rates add to the heightened tensions and fear that has become part of Venezuelan’s daily life, to the point that all new cars being bought are bulletproof – that is, if there even are cars to sell and enough money to buy them, given that inflation is at 800%[4]. Venezuela’s chaotic wasteland of an economy depends on oil exports. The 2014 drop in oil prices had a drastic effect on the economy, but only because decades of high oil revenue with mass deprivatization and virtually no investment in industry or infrastructure, meant the country was not equipped to deal with a sudden drop in government revenue. Today, shortages and scarcity has become the norm in Venezuela: there is no food and no medicine, and prolonged water and electricity cuts are more likely than not. Protests are a regular occurrence, most often for food and medicine shortages, and most recently expressing their disappointment at the Supreme Court.

Given the state of Venezuela today, it is easy to see why the Supreme Court chose to solidify the government’s power. The government likely felt they were losing their grasp on the country due to the economic and social turmoil it faces. That being said, I fear that President Maduro’s demand that the Supreme Court reverse its decision means that any change in the social or political sphere of the country is very unlikely. Firstly, the Venezuelan people may interpret the National Assembly’s regained control as a victory, even though it is not. While the National Assembly was and is able to keep the central government in check to some extent, the Supreme Court and central government have always had more power and could play the National Assembly like a chessboard. Secondly, since it was President Maduro who publicly stated his disapproval of the Supreme Court’s actions, the “blame” is shifted from the central government to the Supreme Court, thus shedding the government in a false democratic light, and solidifying its popularity among voters. Furthermore, banning the leader of the Opposition[5], Henrique Capriles, from candidacy in the upcoming 2018 elections is the same behaviour displayed by the central government since the Opposition began gaining recognition, long before Chavez’s passing. It is with a heavy heart that I give a pessimistic prediction of Venezuela’s future, regardless of any external factor, the core problem is the central government’s reluctance to give up power no matter the cost to society.

Bibliography:

[1] The Economist, Venezuela leaps towards dictatorship, March 2017

[2] Luis Almagro, secretary-general of OAS, The Economist March 2017

[3] The Economist, The Venezuelan Government’s Abortive Power Grab, April 2017

[4] Reuters, CNBC, Venezuela 2016 inflation hits 800 percent, GDP shrinks 19 percent: Document, Jan 2017

[5] Ulmer and Ellsworth, Leading Venezuela Opposition figure barred from office 15 years, April 2017

PHOTO: JUAN BARRETO / AFP

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Cybersecurity and Economic Espionage: The Case of Chinese Investments in the Middle East

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By Sharon Magen, a master’s student at SciencesPo in the field of International Security.

Introduction

The recent usage of emerging technologies for purposes of cyber-attacks or acts of cyber-espionage and the subsequent threat posed to the national security interests of governments in the economic sphere specifically is the cornerstone of this paper. Although many have referred to cyber security risks that are directly connected to the security sphere, national security threats posed by cyber-attacks or acts of cyber-espionage in the economic sphere have not been dealt with to the same extent, a rather puzzling state of affairs.

As cyberspace is increasingly utilized for espionage purposes in various areas, it is imperative to further study the possibility of exploiting cyberspace for intentions of espionage in the international economic arena specifically; far-reaching economic globalization has made the international economic scene vastly interconnected, thus intensifying the world economy’s vulnerability to possible cyber security breaches and intensifying the repercussions of a possible breach on national security interests on a wide scale. It is this lack of contemporary research regarding the utilization of cyber means in order to conduct economic espionage and the subsequent consequences regarding national security that has driven me to further examine this subject in this paper.

The growing importance of further observing this phenomenon, where cyber means may be utilized by foreign entities in order to conduct economic espionage so as to achieve strategic goals, has provided for the incentive of this research. The growing risk to national security posed by economic espionage by cyber means, coupled specifically with China’s economic and political rise, rather intensifies the importance of dealing with this issue. As a country seeking to become a game-changer in the global arena, it is plausible that China, significantly more than other countries, makes use of economic espionage through cyber means to the fullest extent, so as to achieve its goals in other spheres, such as the security and political spheres. It is therefore my belief that this issue should be further studied, in order to assert whether cyber espionage in the economic sphere is a threat posed by China especially, and should therefore be taken into consideration while assessing economic integration which Chinese entities.

During the past few decades, cyber interconnectedness and vast economic integration have transformed the global marketplace into an arena in which state actors and others may utilize cyber means to conduct economic espionage and advance other strategic goals. The current global reality of international cyber and economic interconnectedness presents a new type of threat to national security, as these cyber means may be utilized by foreign actors as vessels for conducting harmful economic espionage. In this case, foreign governments, through private or state-owned companies, may choose to target certain economies or foreign companies in order to make an investment which will inter alia allow that government to conduct cyber espionage in the economic sphere, such as obtaining new technologies, an act that may tip the scale in favor of the investing country, that otherwise would not have been able to receive these technologies.

This phenomenon cements cyber espionage in the economic arena as an undeniable threat to national security nowadays. This accusation is mostly directed today towards China by the United States, as Chinese companies, whom are mostly state-owned, are suspected of utilizing global cyber and economic integration as a vessel for conducting economic espionage. However, it is contended by some that China in fact is not the sole committer of cyber espionage in the economic sector, and therefore should not be targeted as such.

All countries today engage in economic espionage through cyber means to a certain degree, and therefore the question in this paper will deal with the reason for the behavior of the United States, spearheading the notion that China conducts gross economic espionage through means of cyber, whilst it is maintained that other countries do so as well. This research underlines the imperativeness of further study of world cyber integration and the economic espionage risk it entails. Although international cyber integration may present an opportunity for growth, countries must take into consideration the risk of exposing their economy to economic espionage via cyber means.

Past Research Pertaining to Cyber Economic Espionage

According to Mary Ellen Stanley, technological advancements and economic integration have vastly altered the perception of national security in the intelligence sphere, due to wide-ranging cyber economic espionage.[i] Similarly, Matthew Crosston argues that typical types of international economic activity may constitute an intelligence collecting structure through means of cyber, meant to aid as an added aspect of military might enhancement.[ii] Alongside these assertions, Souvik Saha specifically stresses the United States’ standpoint which emphasizes the Chinese encompassing involvement in economic espionage, and the undeniable national security threat it poses.[iii] Furthermore, Magnus Hjortdal stresses that cyberspace is a pivotal element in China’s strategy to ascend in the international system, and that one of the key reasons for this is conducting economic espionage to gain strategic advantage.[iv]

However, Ibrahim Erdogan argues that cyber economic espionage is an immensely lucrative industry in which all countries participate,[v] and therefore cannot be attributed to one specific country. Furthermore, when it comes to the United States specifically, Duncan Clarke contends that even allies of Washington, such as Israel, have been committing acts of economic espionage against the United States for years. According to Clarke, Israeli intelligence units continue to utilize existing networks for collecting economic intelligence, including computer intrusion,[vi] thus rendering the argument maintaining that cyber economic espionage against the United States is an act of war spearheaded by its foes, redundant. The assertion that many other countries, apart from China, commit cyber economic espionage acts against Washington, including allies, and are not reprimanded, weakens the severity of China’s acts and the argument made against it by the United States intelligence community, that it is indeed the forefront of the cyber economic espionage.

Regarding the integrity of the American intelligence agencies’ assessments, John Yoo contends that intelligence and national security agencies in the United States do not always depict an accurate portrayal of national security threats.[vii] In other words, it is plausible that the United States uses untruthful means to protect the nation’s security, thus arguably sacrificing the integrity of the government’s efforts. Robert Bejesky similarly throws into question the reliability of these organizations’ assertions; according to Bejesky, allegations maintaining that executive encouragements may induce intelligence assessments to support the position preferred by the executive branch are not without basis. The CIA for instance has a long history of politicizing intelligence, and at a 2001 panel held at a Harvard conference deliberating the account of the CIA, it had been maintained that the agency does not conduct its role faithfully when it comes to sharing unpleasant truths with the executive branch.[viii]

If so, it is feasible to comprehend that although cyber economic espionage may pose a national security threat, the United States’ formal accusation of China being the main committer of cyber economic espionage may be biased. Although China may be committing acts of economic espionage through means of cyber, it cannot be confirmed at this point that it spearheads this area more than any other country.

Growing Interconnectedness

During the past few decades, technological developments have immensely changed today’s governments’ perception of national security. Conventional acts of espionage which can be traced to a certain perceptible entity have merged significantly with cybersecurity, thus rendering the identity of the intelligence threat ambiguous, and exposing new domains in which harmful data collection may occur, such as the global marketplace.[ix] Today, the world is moving towards a single global economy, due to financial integration.[x] This current reality of cutting-edge technology and worldwide economic integration, has changed the face of espionage, and has created a world in which national security can be harmed, inter alia, via cyber means in the global marketplace.

Today there currently is a necessity to balance a nation’s economic affluence and its national security, as economic globalization may become a vessel for espionage through means of cyber, the bedrock of connectivity in today’s international market. The key methods through which international economic integration may enable cyber economic espionage, are when a foreign state-owned or government associated body conducts business in the host country, or when a foreign entity acquisitions a local business within the country.[xi] It can be contended that this type of activity is not merely a manifest of economic policy, but also functions as a well-planned intelligence collecting scheme intended to serve as an additional facet to military rivalry.[xii] Although it cannot be affirmed that cyber espionage intentions are the main incentive for economic integration, it can be asserted that economic integration enables the possibility of conducting cyber espionage activities. Countries may abuse economic integration in order to conduct cyber economic espionage so as to enhance military might.

In this regard, many claim that China is currently spearheading the sphere of cyber economic espionage.[xiii] According to this approach, China intends to harness today’s worldwide market espionage possibilities in order to enhance its regional and global supremacy. Washington especially perceives Beijing’s intention to commit economic espionage through cyberspace as a dire national security hazard, as China’s success in conducting effective economic espionage may translate into a sharp increase in China’s power potential relative to the United States. China’s current investment policy in economies such as the United States consists of mergers and acquisitions which enable opportunities for undesirable proliferation through means of cyber of intellectual property and trade secrets to Chinese firms.[xiv],[xv]

This type of activity is particularly problematic when Chinese multinational corporations, which are mostly government owned, attempt to purchase American companies with strategic significance or deal with critical infrastructure and assets. According to most recent assessments from the United States intelligence community, there is a heightened assertiveness within China’s international policies, and as part of this it has resorted to massive cyber economic espionage.[xvi] Moreover, according to Pentagon reports, China will continue to aggressively collect sensitive American technological information through cyberspace espionage.[xvii]

However, it can be contended that this assertion, that China is the main global conductor of cyber economic espionage, is meant to serve certain political policies in the United States, rather than represent an accurate status of global cyber economic espionage. Although FBI Director James Comey had stated in May 2014 that the Chinese government blatantly seeks to use cyber espionage to obtain economic advantage for its state-owned industries, Robert Gates, then former United States Secretary of Defense, openly stated that as much as 15 countries at that time were conducting economic espionage in order to take possession of American trade secrets and technology,[xviii] thus shifting the focus from China being the sole leading committer of this act. Furthermore, it has been contended that the United States National Security Agency (NSA) itself had committed cyber economic espionage activities against France.[xix]

Given the circumstances, the main question that arises in this regard is why the vast majority of official American security and intelligence bodies spearhead the notion that China is currently the worldwide main conductor of economic espionage through cyberspace, whilst it is maintained by other sources that other countries are committing cyber economic espionage acts as well, including the United States itself. It can be asserted, that though China does not actually head the world cyber economic espionage sphere, leading security and intelligence institutions in the United States promote this assertion in order to support political needs and policies towards China, who’s growing regional and world dominance is perceived as a threat to the continuation of Washington’s own world dominance and strategic might. In other words, it can be asserted that China’s rise poses a political threat to the United States, a fact which leads to American prosecution of Chinese interests in the economic sphere.

Therefore, another question that arises in this regard is whether other countries similarly argue that China is the global forefront of cyber economic espionage. If it is asserted that other countries equally claim that China is indeed the global leader of cyber economic espionage, another question that would arise in this regard would refer to the reasons supporting this argument. If other countries contend that China is the world leader of cyber economic espionage, despite it being asserted that many other countries in fact participate in cyber economic spying, the question is why they do so. It is my assumption that this is due to security motives, having to do with China’s rise and the security threat it poses via economic growth. This would assist in asserting the assumption that China’s rise de facto poses a threat to American strategic interests.

That being the case, it can be argued that the vast majority of official American security and intelligence bodies currently head the notion that China is the forefront of global cyber economic espionage in order to serve political and foreign policy purposes, and do not therefore portray an accurate assessment of the global cyber economic espionage scene. According to other sources there are a number of global actors that currently take part in cyber economic espionage, therefore not leaving the field for any singular country to spearhead. However, I contend that it is possible that the formal approach of the vast majority of the American intelligence institutions towards China in the cyber economic espionage sphere is intended to serve the United States’ grand strategy towards China’s rise, as they hold the belief that China’s rise may pose a threat to American strategic interests.

The hypothesis claiming that the United States leads the global notion that China is the current forefront for international cyber economic espionage due to political, foreign policy and security reasons can assist in understanding the gap between the popular claim within the American intelligence community and other entities regarding China’s role in the current cyber economic espionage arena. Many contend that China’s vast economic growth coupled with its enhancing military capabilities places it on a collision course with the United States.[xx] It can be asserted that in order to battle against China’s rise, the United States advocates an argument which depicts China as a country with minimal respect for intellectual property, sovereignty, and other critical factors that comprise the bedrock of global trade. International trade serves as China’s bread and butter, fueling its growth and ability to expand its military capabilities. If the United States can damage China’s ability to conduct global trade by asserting that it promotes cyber economic espionage, it would thus damage Beijing’s capabilities in the security sphere.

 My methodology for examining this theoretical assumption entails the assessment of other countries’ approach to China’s supposed cyber economic espionage intentions. If other countries similarly claim that China is the main conductor of global cyber economic espionage, despite the fact that it has been asserted that other countries take part in such espionage acts as well, it would be vital to assert what are the reasons for this type of behavior. In order to assess the approach of other countries towards Chinese cyber economic espionage, I contend that it would be most affective to focus on countries that are not western, such as the Middle East countries. This in my opinion may contribute in portraying a more balanced assessment of other countries’ approach towards China’s cyber economic espionage intentions.

Consequently, in this paper I examine the approach of select Middle East countries to China’s massive involvement in world trade and the possibility of its gross cyber economic espionage activities, in order to assess Washington’s claim. To this end, I examine the cases of Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The rationalization for choosing these two countries is such; the main nexus that binds Beijing to the Middle East region concerns economic security, as more than half of China’s oil and natural gas imports are sourced from the countries of the region.

However, in contrast to the majority of other actors in the region, hydrocarbons do not play a big role in Turkey’s relations with the China, thus making Ankara a meaningful choice for a study of relations with China within the Middle Eastern context. If so, an outtake on the Turkish possible responses to Chinese alleged cyber economic espionage may provide an original contribution on investigating this matter. Regarding the UAE, it is important to note that the federation is only the third largest economy in the Middle East behind Saudi Arabia and Iran. Being a source of oil and natural gas imports for China, but not one of China’s principal suppliers, the UAE represents a significant case study in this sense, as it cannot be characterized as being overly essential to Chinese interests. Therefore, the UAE’s approach to Chinese cyber espionage intentions will not be tilted in favor of Beijing.

If proven that these two Middle Eastern countries have taken action against Chinese economic transactions, it can be affirmed that this is due to the national security threat posed by cyber economic espionage. The apprehension that through cyber economic espionage China could access key economic interests in a host country’s economy and realize its interests regardless of the host country’s interests could in my opinion propel them into taking action against Chinese economic transactions, thus initiating the suspension or cancellation of Chinese backed investments and so on.

 In order to measure these Middle Eastern countries governments’ approach to possible Chinese cyber economic espionage through, I will examine possible objections and restrictions made at a government level towards Chinese economic transactions and Chinese funded projects within the country. I contend that upon presenting a consistent trend of government level objections to projects funded by the Chinese, it can be affirmed that this is due to the fact that there is a tangible threat to national security posed by cyber economic espionage, enabled by economic integration.

Turkey

Although more than half of China’s oil and natural gas imports are sourced from the countries of the Middle East region, thus deepening Beijing’s dependence on the region, hydrocarbons do not play a pivotal role in Turkey’s relations with China. Nonetheless, Turkey is a rising power in the region, and has not directly experienced the upheavals felt in the Arab world in the past few years, a fact which still places Ankara as a pivotal partner of Beijing in the region, in the economic and political spheres alike.[xxi] Regarding the Turkish government’s stance on possible Chinese cyber economic espionage activities, it is important to note that in November 2015, Ankara had cancelled a 3.4 billion dollars long-range missile defense system tender provisionally awarded to a Chinese state owned firm in 2013.[xxii]

Turkey had originally entered negotiations in 2013 with the China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CPMIEC) to finalize the billion dollar contact. Even though French-Italian consortium Eurosam and US-listed Raytheon had also submitted offers, the Turkish government had preferred talks with the Chinese company, a fact which raised serious concerns over the compatibility of CPMIEC’s systems with NATO missile defenses, as Turkey is a member. In its official statement given by a representative from Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s office, the Turkish government had declared that it had cancelled the deal with China mainly because Turkey had decided to launch its own missile project.[xxiii]

Though the Turkish government officially maintained that the core reason for its cancellation of the multi-billion dollar deal with the Chinse frim had been its decision to self-develop the long-range missile defense system, it can be contended that this was actually done because of concrete concern within the Turkish government regarding Chinese cyber economic espionage. As previously asserted, Turkey had led a comprehensive process in order to decide on a foreign company to lead this project. If Turkey had indeed wished to self-develop this defense system, it would have done so from the beginning, and would not have conducted a complete procedure so as to choose a foreign firm to conduct this project.

In other words, it can be argued that after Turkey had decided to continue with CPMIEC in order to further this project, serious concerns had risen within the Turkish government and out of it regarding subsequent possible exposure of sensitive NATO systems to Chinese eyes. Although the deal did not explicitly determine the direct exposure of critical and classified systems to the Chinese, this transaction could have enabled Chinese access to systems through which harmful data collection could be conducted. Transactions such as this may inadvertently permit foreign penetration through means of cyber, as foreign firms gain access and exposure to computerized systems through which such infiltration may be conducted. Such harmful data collecting activities through means of cyber that are enabled by seemingly innocent business transactions are especially perilous when these transactions involve critical infrastructure of the host country.

If so, it is significantly plausible that Turkey had canceled this multi-billion-dollar deal with China due to cyber economic espionage concerns. Although it can be contended that other motives had brought the Turkish government to the decision to call-off the collaboration with the Chinese state-owned firm, such as the formal Turkish response that contended that Turkey had decided to self-develop the long-range missile defense system, this, as stated, is problematic to comprehend as Turkey had initiated a long process of selecting a foreign contractor. If so, it can be contended that the Chinese cyber economic espionage threat was a pivotal motive in Turkey’s decision to call-off the deal, as it is perceived as a real danger by the Turkish government to its national security.

UAE

The UAE is a federation comprised of seven separate emirates, which together represent the third largest economy in the Middle East behind Saudi Arabia and Iran. The UAE has the seventh largest proven reserves in the world of both oil and gas, and in 2010 China imported 64,500 tons of liquefied natural gas from the UAE valued at more than 23 million dollars. Furthermore, the China Petroleum Engineering and Construction Corporation (CPECC) assisted with the construction of the Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline Project, which now enables the transport of 1.5 million barrels of crude oil per day from Abu Dhabi’s collection point at Habshan to the export terminals at Fujairah. Oil transported through the pipeline bypasses the narrow Strait of Hormuz, which Iran has repeatedly threatened to block if it is attacked militarily. However, it is imperative to point out that the 3.3-billion-dollar project had experienced repeated delays, initiated by the UAE.[xxiv]

Although it had been officially stated that The UAE has been forced to delay the construction of a pipeline allowing oil to bypass the Strait of Hormuz due to construction problems,[xxv] according to industry sources close to the project, the reason for the delay was that although CPECC was already preparing to commission the pipeline, the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Petroleum Operations (ADCO) was not involved in this initial preparation process, a rather perplexing situation, as ADCO would first have to make sure that the commissioned pipeline design suited its standard prior to commencing the production procedure.[xxvi]

The Chinese commencement of designing the pipeline without the participation and involvement of ADCO, the UAE state firm in charge of the project, plausibly points to the fact that there was a Chinese intention to commit an act of sinister nature, regarding the construction of the pipes; such pipelines include highly sophisticated control software that can be hacked and even manipulated prior to its assembling. In 2004 for instance, Thomas C. Reed, an Air Force secretary in the Reagan administration, wrote that the United States had effectively implanted a software Trojan horse into computing equipment that the Soviet Union had bought from Canadian suppliers, used to control a Trans-Siberian gas pipeline.[xxvii]

If so, it is quit plausible that the Chinese had begun the UAE commissioned pipeline design without involving ADCO because they had something to hide, such as the insertion of cyber espionage measures. This would not be an isolated incident for the Chinese, as in 2013 The former head of the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Michael Hayden, contended that it is clear that Chinese telecoms giant Huawei spies for Beijing,[xxviii] a fact which rather solidifies the argument that China indeed utilizes business transactions in order to conduct cyber espionage. In the case of the Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline Project, the numerous delays due to Chinese repetitive exclusion of ADCO from the pipeline design process can be explained by the fact that CPECC had engaged in illicit activities concerning the manufacturing of the pipeline, namely the insertion of cyber espionage measures. However, it is important to note that in this case, although it can be contended that China had engaged in cyber economic espionage, the UAE had only delayed the project, and had not opted to cancel it entirely.

If so, it is apparent that although these two Middle East countries do not share Washington’s vehement stance towards the Chinese cyber economic espionage threat, there is an understanding of the possible threat, reflected by their cancellation or delay of business transactions with Chinese firms. Although none of these Middle East countries have gone out and exclaimed, as the Americans have, that China makes use of cyber means in order to conduct economic espionage, their behavior towards major Chinese investment points to a government level comprehension that Chinese economic conduct differs from that of other countries, due to a heightened threat of cyber economic espionage.

These two Middle East countries, as others, are not cemented in great power politics such as the United States, and therefore lack the incentive, as well as the protective means, to denounce Chinese economic conduct due to Beijing’s use of such demeanor in order to conduct cyber espionage and enhance its strategic might. Therefore, although it is possible to witness a government level resistance to major business transactions with Chinese firms, it is mainly done so through inconspicuous ‘soft’ methods such as project suspension. However, project suspension coupled with cancellation of business transactions with Chinese firms in my opinion forms a stable foundation for the argument that Chinese business transactions specifically are not treated the same as transactions done with firms from other countries, therefore pointing to the fact that they pose a threat.

However, due to the fact that the anti-China steps taken in the economic sphere are mostly discreet, it is speculative to assume that these steps were taken in light of Chinese cyber economic espionage intentions. Even when publically announcing the suspension or cancellation of Chinese funded projects, those governments do not state that this is due to misconduct rooted in cyber economic espionage. That being said, it can be conferred from their actions that Chinese economic conduct is in fact treated differently than economic transactions originating from other countries, a fact which perhaps further solidifies the American notion that China’s economic behavior is not innocent, for if it were so, there would be no publically announced suspension or cancellation of major Chinese funded projects in both countries.

In the literature review section of this paper, I have noted Crosston’s approach, which states that typical types of international economic activity may constitute an intelligence collecting structure, meant to aid as an added aspect of military might enhancement. Additionally, according to Saha, recent assessments from the United States intelligence community contend that there is an intensified decisiveness within China’s international policies, and as part of this it has resorted to substantial cyber economic espionage. China’s focus on the infrastructure, energy and telecommunication sectors in terms of business transactions, which are all considered critical to national security, may suggest that the Chinese indeed intend to utilize information gained by means of cyber through economic integration in these sectors for strategic purposes. The suspension and cancellation of key Chinese funded projects, prima facie due to technical reasons, suggests that these governments see Chinese further economic involvement in their countries as a threat.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is feasible to comprehend the vast impact of global cyber interconnectedness and economic integration on the perception of a country’s national security. Whilst pertaining to be of economic nature only, typical types of international economic activity may constitute an intelligence collecting structure through cyber means, meant to aid as an added aspect of a nations’ power enhancement. International economic conduct may permit opportunities for proliferation of economic intelligence through means of cyber into the investing country’s hands, thus compromising the receiving country’s national security. The American claim that China currently spearheads cyber economic espionage worldwide by means of economic integration seems to be sustained by other governments as well, further to the reaction of the governments of Turkey and the UAE to business transactions with Chinese firms. Although these countries’ reaction is not as intense and straightforward as that of the American government, it is nevertheless apparent that they are striving to restrict or monitor it, at the very least.

In regards to the main question of this research, dealing with the reason for the official American intelligence bodies approach, claiming that China is currently the worldwide main conductor of cyber economic espionage, whilst it is maintained by other sources that other countries are committing economic espionage acts as well, in light of the findings regarding the two previously examined Middle East nations, it can be contended that the United States does so because Chinese investments in particular are conceived as a national security threat, a notion shared by other countries. As seen in the cases Turkey and the UAE, the suspension or suspension of Chinese projects, point to the fact that business transactions with Chinese firms are indeed looked upon, not only by the United States, as a source of peril. Although some sources may maintain that China is no different than any other country when it comes to cyber economic espionage, it is in fact proven that other countries, and not only the United States, perceive China specifically as an ominous threat when it comes to economic integration and possible cyber economic espionage.

Even though the global market place is becoming increasingly interconnected via cyber means, countries must take into consideration the risk of exposing their country to national security risks, due to the fact that international economic integration may prove to be a vessel for cyber economic espionage. Indeed, in this research it has been asserted that the United States is not exaggerating in its description of the cyber economic espionage intentions of the Chinese; rather, as a superpower, it is one of few countries that have the prerogative to openly state their opinion on the matter. It is critical therefore, to assess Chinese business transactions differently than those originating from other countries, in light of the fact that the Chinese specifically use economic integration means in order to conduct cyber espionage and enhance Beijing’s military and strategic might on the path of its rise.

Bibliography:

[i] Mary Ellen Stanley, “From China with Love: Espionage in the Age of Foreign Investment,” Brooklyn Journal of International Law 40, no. 3 (2015): 1033-1079.

[ii] Matthew Crosston, “Soft Spying: Leveraging Globalization as Proxy Military Rivalry,” International Journal of Intelligence & Counterintelligence 28, no. 1 (2015): 105-122.

[iii] Souvik Saha, “CFIUS Now made in China: Dueling National Security Review Frameworks as a Countermeasure to Economic Espionage in the Age of Globalization,” Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business 33, no. 1 (2012): 199-235.

[iv] Magnus Hjortdal, “China’s use of Cyber Warfare: Espionage Meets Strategic Deterrence,” Journal of Strategic Security 4, no. 2 (2011): 1-24.

[v] İbrahim Erdoğan, “Economic Espionage as a New Form of War in the Post- Cold War Period,” USAK Yearbook of International Politics and Law no. 2 (2009): 265-282.

[vi] Duncan Clarke, “Israel’s Economic Espionage in the United States,” Journal of Palestine Studies 27, no. 4 (1998): 20-35.

[vii] John Yoo, “The Legality of the National Security Agency’s Bulk Data Surveillance Programs,” Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 37, no. 3 (2014): 901-930.

[viii] Robert Bejesky, “Politicization of Intelligence,” Southern University Law Review no. 40 (2013): 243-551.

[ix] Mary Ellen Stanley.

[x] Lucyna Kornecki and Dawna Rhoades, “How FDI Facilitates the Globalization Process and Stimulates Economic Growth in CEE,” Journal of International Business Research 6, no. 1 (2007): 113-126.

[xi] Mary Ellen Stanley.

[xii] Matthew Crosston.

[xiii] Stuart Malawer, “Confronting Chinese Economic Cyber Espionage with WTO Litigation,” New York Law Journal, December 23, 2014.

[xiv] “Foreign Spies Stealing U.S. Economic Secrets in Cyberspace,” The Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, April 14, 2016, https://www.ncsc.gov/publications/reports/fecie_all/Foreign_Economic_Collection_2011.pdf

[xv] Souvik Saha.

[xvi]  Ibid.

[xvii] Geoff Dyer, “China in ‘Economic Espionage’,” Financial Times, May 19, 2012.

[xviii] Zachary Keck, “Robert Gates: Most Countries Conduct Economic Espionage,” The Diplomat, December 17, 2015, http://thediplomat.com/2014/05/robert-gates-most-countries-conduct-economic-espionage/

[xix] “WikiLeaks Reveals NSA’s Economic Espionage against France,” Progressive Digital Media Technology News, Jun 30, 2015, http://search.proquest.com/docview/1692699265?accountid=14765

[xx] Souvik Saha.

[xxi]Altay Atli, “A View from Ankara: Turkey’s Relations with China in a Changing Middle East,” Mediterranean Quarterly 26, no. 1 (2015): 117-136.

[xxii] “Turkey Says ‘yes’ to China’s Trade Initiative, ‘no’ to its Missiles,” South China Morning Post, November 15, 2015, http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/1879097/turkey-says-yes-chinas-trade-initiative-no-its-missiles

[xxiii] “Turkey Cancels $3.4 Bln Missile Deal with China,” The French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China, November, 15 2015, http://www.ccifc.org/fr/single-news/n/turkey-cancels-34-bln-missile-deal-with-china/

[xxiv] Manochehr Dorraj and James English, “The Dragon Nests: China’s Energy Engagement of the Middle East,” China Report 49, no. 1 (2013): 43-67.

[xxv] “UAE Delays Project to Bypass the Strait of Hormuz,”. Al Bawaba, January 9, 2012,

http://www.albawaba.com/business/uae-delays-project-bypass-strait-hormuz-408210

[xxvi] “UAE Delays Oil Pipeline to Bypass Hormuz to June,” Oil & Gas News, January 16, 2012,http://search.proquest.com/docview/916274658?accountid=14765

[xxvii] John Markoff, “Old Trick Threatens the Newest Weapons,” The New York Times, October 26, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/27/science/27trojan.html?_r=2&ref=science&pagewanted=all

[xxviii] “Huawei Spies for China, Says Former NSA and CIA Chief Michael Hayden,” Business Insider, July 19, 2013,http://www.businessinsider.com/huawei-spies-for-china-says-michael-hayden-2013-7

 

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Why ISIS will not succeed in Afghanistan

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By Lily Hess, a 2nd year undergraduate Student studying International Relations. She is currently studying abroad, and is the Foreign Editor of International Relations Today.

In 2014, a worrying development occurred in Afghanistan: The spread of ISIS’ Khorasan branch into several provinces, with its stronghold in Nangarhar. Following its stunning successes in Syria and Iraq, ISIS decided to expand its franchise outside the Arab world. The Khorasan branch encompasses South Asia in general — including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Afghanistan had appeared as a particularly promising country for expansion, given the limited control of its weak government and extensive history of jihadist wars against Western invaders and the “indel” regimes they support. ISIS’ strategy was to use its reputation, superior resources, and the internal discord of local competitors, like the Afghan Taliban, to recruit and integrate existing militants in Afghanistan to build up its own force there. [1]

Currently the Afghan Taliban and ISIS are at war with each other, while both also fight the NATO-backed Afghan government forces. Why didn’t ISIS decide to simply cooperate with groups like the Taliban, a jihadist group that is well-organized and holds long-established networks? This answer may stem back to the foundations of ISIS in Syria. The predecessor of ISIS is the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), al-Qaeda’s previous branch in Iraq. At the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, al-Qaeda saw a ripe opportunity to expand its operations. It tasked the ISI with helping to establish its new Syrian branch, and the Jabhat al-Nusra was declared in 2012. [2] However, al-Qaeda kept ambiguous its connection to al-Nusra in order to give it more leeway to gain the support of other local fighter groups in Syria. At the same time, the leadership of ISI itself wanted to spread its operations into Syria and establish itself as a separate group from al-Qaeda. These tensions culminated to the point where ISI announced that al-Nusra was it’s Syrian subsidiary, but from then on its existence would be unnecessary because ISI would reform itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Most of al-Nusra rejected this association, and in the process had to let loose that it was a branch of al-Qaeda. [2] ISI’s (newly ISIS’) announcement was followed with a series of large victories in Syria and Iraq, which propelled it to international attention. But it’s brutal tactics and hunger for sole control caused other militant groups, including al-Nusra, to increasingly oppose the new group. Al-Qaeda also denounced and dropped its Iraq branch, now ISIS.

 The hostility between ISIS and al-Qaeda has been transcribed into the South Asian theater, owing to the ties between al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But ISIS’ vitriol toward the Afghan Taliban also stems from what it believes are ideological deficiencies. It denounces the Taliban’s adherence to local tribal laws instead of a blanket application of a strict form of Sharia Law claiming  the Taliban a puppet of Iran and Pakistan’s intelligence service, in order to present its illegitimacy. Before the world knew that Mullah Omar had been dead for years, ISIS publicly assailed his “nationalist” worldview as opposed to trying to unite all Muslims. After he was found to have been dead, ISIS accused the Taliban of deceiving their followers and being untrustworthy for hiding his death. [3] Indeed, the revelations of Mullah Omar’s death stirred unrest within the Taliban as a power struggle ensued. When Mullah Mansour emerged as the leader, it disaffected a number of its members, some of whom then joined ISIS in Afghanistan.

On top of the discord within the Taliban, ISIS also has used other inter-group tension to recruit top fighters. The two original leaders of ISIS’ Khorasan branch are solid examples of these: The leader, Hafiz Saeed Khan, was a former chief of the Orakzai branch of the Tehreeke-Taliban Pakistan who was passed over for the highest position in the organization. The second-in-command (but since deceased), Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim, a former commander in the Afghan Taliban, had perceived an unfair tribal representation in its shura council, and was frustrated over whether Mullah Omar was alive or not. By itself, ISIS also had the advantage of resources over the other groups. Owing from its victories in Syria and Iraq, the group became rich from oil, antiquities, kidnapping, extortion, and other activities. Furthermore, it was willing to spend large sums of money to expand its networks in South Asia. Finally, its sophisticated media campaign was far more advanced than the Taliban’s. [1] Overall, ISIS had the perfect opportunity to use it many advantages to unseat the Taliban and become the dominant insurgent force against the state and expand its “caliphate”.

However, since its early successes in recruiting militants to its cause, ISIS has been facing severe failures in Afghanistan. The main cause of this ultimately originates from its core brutality and intolerance for local practices of Islam and society. Afghanistan’s tribal variations and provinciality, which have long bedeviled the Afghan government’s attempts at constructing a national identity, now bedevil ISIS’ attempts at garnering local support. The group is a foreign import, and does not understand the local people as much as the indigenous Taliban. The largest ethnic group in Afghanistan — and the majority of Taliban fighters — are Pashtuns. ISIS has criticized the tribal code of Pashtuns called Pashtunwali, which does not help their recruitment of Taliban fighters. [3] While the Taliban can be harsh, ISIS is brutal to another level, to the point where it alienates the local population. In fact, ISIS has minuscule local support and no cooperation with other militant groups in Afghanistan. The majority of its fighters in Afghanistan are actually former members of the Pakistani Taliban that were driven out by Pakistani military operations in its tribal areas. [4] In the competition between ISIS and the Taliban, this gives the Taliban two legitimacy advantages: They can claim to be the indigenous and (comparatively) moderate group. Meanwhile, ISIS is being targeted from all sides as American drone strikes, Afghan operations, and clashes with the Taliban batter down the group. The Khorasan Branch is geographically far from its central leadership in Iraq and Syria. Owing to the recent challenges it faces there, it seems unlikely that the central command would place the Khorasan Branch as a high priority and send aid. The group has been virtually eradicated from South and West Afghanistan. [5] While the Taliban now holds more territory than ever since the US-led invasion in 2001, ISIS has lost more than half the districts it once held in Afghanistan. [6]

In the future, ISIS’ influence in Afghanistan is likely to steadily decline, especially if it loses most of its territory in Syria and Iraq. However, the risk of spread to other regions is always present. Many of the fighters are likely to return to their home countries eventually, and this may be troubling news for Central and South Asia. ISIS has recently been attempting to control territory in Northern Afghanistan in order to create a corridor for militants from Central Asian states it borders and Afghanistan. [5] While it is highly unlikely that ISIS will ever succeed in conquering Afghanistan and adding it to the “caliphate”, remnants of the group will disseminate to neighboring regions, where they can remain as a small but perpetual threat.

Bibliography:

Picture credit: Link: https://southfront.org/vilayat-khorasan-isis-takes-over-afghanistan/

1 = Jones, Seth G. “Expanding the Caliphate: ISIS’ South Asia Strategy.” Foreign Affairs. 11 June 2015. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/afghanistan/2015-06-11/expanding-caliphate

2 = Mendelsohn, Barak. The Al-Qaeda Franchise. New York City: Oxford University Press, 2016. Print.

3 = Barr, Nathaniel and Bridget Moreng. “The Graveyard of Caliphates.” Foreign Affairs. 13 January 2016. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/afghanistan/2016-01-13/graveyardcaliphates

4 = “ISIS increasing recruitment from Pakistan, Afghanistan: US.” Financial Express. 24 March 2017. http://www.financialexpress.com/world-news/isis-increasing-recruitment-from-pakistanafghanistan-us/600632/

5 = “IS in Afghanistan: How successful has the group been?” BBC. 25 February 2017. http:// http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-39031000

6 = Gidda, Mirren. “Why ISIS is Failing to Build a Caliphate in Afghanistan.” Newsweek. 25 March 2017. http://www.newsweek.com/afghanistan-isis-taliban-caliphate-kabulbombing

 

 

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Are they MAD to deploy THAAD?

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By William Reynolds, a 2nd year undergraduate studying War Studies. From a British Armed Forces background, William follows the military capabilities of the West and the security issues in the Middle East with great interest, placing special emphasis on COIN and the experiences of individuals on the ground. William has worked as a Research Fellow for Dr Whetham in the Centre of Military Ethics and is a spammer of many articles on the King’s Middle East and North Africa Forum (MENA).

East Asia has seen a significant deployment of military hardware by the US and its allies in response to increasing military activity on the part of the Chinese. The deployment of Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) systems in South Korea and the planned deployment of the Japanese Izumo class Helicopter Destroyer in disputed regions have certainly raised the ire of the Chinese. Whilst one could speculate what the Chinese response to such activities will be, this piece will simply focus on why said deployments have taken place, and what about them has provoked the PRC.

THAAD

THAAD is one of the most modern Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) systems available to the US in the short to intermediate ranges. The system operates by destroying an incoming missile via the kinetic energy of its own missile system. However, the drawback to the device is that it can only target the incoming weapon system once it is in its terminal phase of the flight. Essentially, the incoming missile is on its final approach when THAAD is finally able to identify, lock on and attempt to destroy the target.

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Therefore, its deployment in South Korea (it should be operational by April according to PACOM sources) is clearly a result of North Korean missile testing. Assuming Mr Kim finally decided to watch the peninsula burn, THAAD would operate as South Korea’s very best hope of knocking out any incoming North Korean nukes.

So with THAAD only able to knock out intermediate missiles, and therefore unable to touch China’s ICBM’s, why does China view the deployment as a threat? There are two possible theories at this time. The X-band radar, which tracks targets for THAAD, is a powerful piece of kit. If it were to be turned westwards and pointed at Mainland China it could penetrate deep into Chinese territory. Naturally China is not particularly keen on US SIGINT monitoring Chinese airspace, where their own missile tests could be at risk. However, this assumes that the radar will be pointed that way. As the diagram highlights, pointing X-band westwards completely neutralises its primary task of watching North Korea for possible threats. It would be easier for USPACOM (United States Pacific Command) to deploy submarines or additional ISTAR (Information, Surveillance, Targeting Acquisition, and Reconnaissance) assets to watch the Chinese rather than waste expensive BMD systems on simple surveillance.

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The second, and far more likely, possibility is Chinese fear of containment. China has always viewed the Korean peninsula a vital security interest and the threat of a US, RoK and Japanese integrated missile defence system is intolerable. Regional missile defence complicates much of China’s military planning and security interests as THAAD operates as an area denial system for much of China’s hardware. A common phrase in any military is ‘move to live’. Area denial weapons hamper and restrict options for the Chinese military if the region did indeed come to blows. Just as NATO worries about the A2/AD (Anti-Access/Area Denial) systems in Kaliningrad, so does China worry about such systems on the Korean Peninsula.

This fear of containment influences much of China’s actions in the region. If one were to stand in Beijing, they would see the RoK and Japan to the East, Taiwan to the south and an increasingly US friendly Vietnam to the southwest. Whilst none of these countries operate as one single unit, the real possibility that these states, with US backing, could act to prevent Chinese movement clearly permeates Chinese policy. THAAD, as of this time, cannot be deployed on such a regional scale under one system. However, technology improves and the Americans have become quite adept at innovation when it comes to war.

This is not to say that China is justified in its opposition. Unable or unwilling to curtail North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, China has little right to interfere in the sovereign security decisions of the RoK. Indeed, it was China’s own policies that brought THAAD closer to the RoK. One cannot also help but view said opposition to a Korean BMD as hypocritical. After all, China is developing its own BMD system.

The Izumo

The JS Izumo represented a significant maritime development for the JMSDF (Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force). In the same class as the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Invincible, the ‘helicopter destroyer’ Izumo allows Japan to project power with both its helicopter detachment and on-board marines. Indeed, the designation ‘helicopter destroyer’ (DDH) is a somewhat new concept. Most destroyers in fleets around the world have the capacity to house one or two helicopters in order to conduct anti-submarine warfare or stop and searches. However, no known destroyers have the capacity to house such a vast quantity of aircraft. It is simply safer to ditch the political narrative and refer to the Izumo as what it truly is: a light aircraft carrier.

It is this designation that concerns China. Aircraft carriers are the offensive weapons of the fleet. Able to deploy air assets over large areas, carriers can project the power of its nation right into your city. Even if they have no airbases nearby. Thus, the deployment of one into the South China Sea, where Japan has no stakes or claims, is a worrying turn of events for China. Officially, the deployment is to test the ship on long duration operations. But it’s list of visits: Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, infer a different story. One could argue that this is a statement from the Japanese. That they are willing to leave their own waters and interests in order to support other Asian states in their quarrels. With the Izumo, they now have the capacity to do so.

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Conclusion

China’s concerns with recent military activity are indeed justifiable. The deployment of THAAD and the Izumo show a significant jump in the ‘West’ orientated states security policies and manoeuvring. However, what China fails to realise is that it was through its own actions that such policies were brought about. A muscular belligerence concerning the ‘Nine-Dash’ line and the Senkaku Islands has forced states to respond in kind. To many it may be viewed as the US asserting its hegemony in what should clearly be China’s region. However, China has failed to pick its fights well and has done more to unite the East-Asian states than anything the US could come up with. With President Trump we cannot be sure what US policy will continue to be. But Japan, and many other states in the region, has taken up the baton. We may very well see a more assertive collection of East Asian states on the horizon.

Bibliography:

http://www.lockheedmartin.com/content/dam/lockheed/data/mfc/photo/thaad/hr/mfc-thaad-info-web-page-intercepting-hr.jp

 

 

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Is Romania finally making its first steps towards democracy?

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By Luca Patriniche, a first-year History undergraduate at King’s College London

The newly-appointed Social-Democratic (PSD, now in coalition with ALDE) government of Sorin Grindeanu approved an emergency ordinance (OUG13), during the night of 31 January 2017, which alters the Romanian penal code and reduces penalties for abuses of power. The order stipulated more lenient punishments for corruption. There was also an amnesty for those convicted of certain corruption offenses, which amounts essentially to the legalization of corruption. PSD proposed further measures that would ban protests deemed to be of “extremist nature” and free from jail those serving sentences of up to five years for offenses including abuse of power. All these measures would be a clear breach of democratic principles – they bear an uncanny resemblance to the new measures passed secretively in the night by the illiberal Law & Justice (PiS) government in Poland. Similarly to PiS, PSD’s first line of defense to criticism is their pro-social measures to ‘help the poor’, that are ‘the will of the people’.

The main beneficiary of PSD’s ordinance would have been the PSD president Liviu Dragnea. PSD won parliamentary elections in December 2016 with 46% of the vote, but President Klaus Iohannis (of the National Liberal Party, or PNL)’s anti-corruption drive since 2014 bars those with convictions from public office, thus preventing a Dragnea premiership. Dragnea has a suspended two-year sentence for vote-rigging and is being prosecuted in a separate case for abuse of power. The proposed changes would likely be made with the intention of making Dragnea prime minister. The changes would pardon and shorten the sentences of those convicted of corruption, including of many PSD politicians, and allow future abuses of power.

For a week after 31 January 2017, there was every night (in temperatures often below minus 10 degrees Celsius) between 300,000 and 600,000 people protesting in Romania (population of 20 million), making them the biggest protests since the Revolution of December 1989 against Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu. The protests have continued, albeit in much smaller numbers, as protestors want to ensure the Grindeanu government does not try to introduce a watered-down version of the ordinance after the proposals were withdrawn and Justice Minister Florin Iordache resigned. They call for the resignation of the entire Grindeanu cabinet. There were large protests outside Romania as well, in the Romanian diaspora of 4 million (compared to 20 million in Romania).

“Awaken, Romanian, from the deadly slumber into which the barbaric tyrants have sunk you!”[1] These opening lines of the Romanian national anthem, a song often sung at the protests for its message of liberty and patriotism, show the cynicism of the protestors and the mismatch between the reality of political, economic and social life in Romania and the optimism that followed the 1989 revolution. Corruption continues to pervade everyday life in Romania, and many are dissatisfied with the current state of affairs, the country’s trajectory in the past 28 years and its prospects, particularly in relation to neighbouring countries that are perceived to have transitioned more successfully since 1989. The protests are in favour of well-functioning, transparent and accountable institutions.

Other popular slogans showed the same bitterness. Referring to the defensive way in which former Justice Minister Iordache avoided uncomfortable questions 24 times at a single press conference with “altă întrebare” (“another question”, in English), there were also cries of “altă întrebare, altu’ între bare” (“another question, another one behind bars”), calling for Iordache’s imprisonment. Protesters denounced the PSD as the “red plague” and declared that Ceaușescu was not, in fact, dead, but alive and simply disguised as Dragnea. References were also made to the 1990 ‘Golaniad’ protests against the transitional National Salvation Front (FSN) government of Ion Iliescu, during which the protestors often sang: “Better to be dead than a communist!” That 1990 protest called for the barring of former Communist Party (PCR) officials from public office; people have the grievance today that old members of the party, or those who formed advantageous connections pre-1989, are still privileged, or even that the style of governance today and lack of transparency and integrity resembles the old days.

Other popular slogans refer to the PSD’s late-night decree signings (“like thieves in the middle of the night”) or the anti-democratic nature of the decrees (“in a democracy, thieves stay in jail”) , but they all use the idea of this PSD government and many before them since 1989 having consistently stolen and blighted Romania’s chances to improve herself. Cynicism and bitterness reflect the national feeling about politics since 1989.

To understand this latest bout of anger at politics, one should consider the last year and a half in Romanian politics. The fire in the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest in October 2015 killed 64 people. Already lax safety regulations were said to have been avoided by way of a bribe to the local council, thus helping the fire to spread. Corruption had killed. This sparked a wave of anti-government protest, eventually resulting in the resignation of then prime minister Victor Ponta (PSD), himself facing allegations of tax evasion, money-laundering, plagiarism of his doctoral thesis, and of being involved in the suspicious ‘suicide’ of a prosecutor. The National Anti-Corruption Agency (DNA), under Laura Kövesi, continued Iohannises anti-corruption drive with renewed strength, arresting many politicians. After one year of technocratic government, the December 2016 parliamentary elections returned the PSD to power. The fact that a new party, the urgently-named Save Romania Union (USR) came third, being led by Nicușor Dan (an academic turned activist) and Clotilde Armand (a French businesswoman turned activist), shows the dire situation in Romanian politics. PSD then proposed Sevil Shaiddeh for prime minister, which President Iohannis vetoed on the grounds of her inexperience and thus vulnerability to being exploited by Dragnea, as well as because of her husband’s previous role as a minister for tropical and subtropical fruit in the Syrian Agriculture Ministry from 1988 to 2010, the government of Assad. This sparked a minor constitutional crisis which ended with the eventual formation of the Grindeanu government in January 2017, whose actions have provoked the recent protests.

he above does not answer the question but is essential to understanding the nature of the protests and having an idea of how successful protest can be. The fact that hundreds of thousands, a sizeable chunk of the Romanian population, turned out to protest peacefully, often in bitterly cold weather, shows great determination. The fact that the government soon backed down on its proposals and that Iordache resigned shows that protest can have a significant impact on policy. This would appear to be the first step towards true democracy and rule of law. The effectiveness of protest in causing political change depends on local conditions such as the flexibility of rulers and the determination, co-ordination, and mobilization of protesters. In Romania’s case, these factors in 2017 were, at least at face value, very much in favour of the protesters. However, the victory for the protesters is provisional; there is a long battle for them to safeguard Romanian democracy.

Romanians’ resilience is commendable given 28 years of underwhelming political development and proposed political changes that are clearly anti-democratic, and which endangers much-needed attempts by Iohannis and the DNA to fight the corruption that is endemic and damaging to the Romanian economy and society.

The protests inspired civic creativity. Considering again the protest slogans, one can see they show bitterness, but they also show humour and creativity; a hint of positivity, in other words. They show a unique Romanian style of protest. The protest has been common in Romania since 2012. Protesters are therefore energetic, enthusiastic and organized. Volunteers provide protesters with food and tea and keep peace amongst the protesters, so as to avoid attracting police responses. The streets can thus act as the main guardians of democracy if the politicians are not so keen to protect it. The Romanian culture of protest since 2012 has tended to be less conflict-based than elsewhere and it makes use of modernity. The protesting becomes humorous – funny custom-made posters were used. A good example of this is a play on a Coca-Cola advert: “Enjoying Coca-Cola since 1886” became the sarcastic “Enjoying corruption since 1989”. Video projections of Romanian flags onto buildings and huge puppets, particularly of Dragnea in a prisoner’s uniform, have also been used. These show cynicism but also creativity and satire – protest is not about displaying anger, but it is satire instead. The protesters show passion but are good-natured and fun. “Distracție plăcută!” (“Have a good time!”) was often wished to those going to the protests. The protests’ humour and good-naturedness are advantageous because it makes the protests less obviously ideological and less antagonizing and more an occasion for unity against a clear problem of corruption.

Protesters have made good use of technology. It helps their cause as well as it has helped to gain significant international attention for these protests. Social media can be used to further deride incompetent politicians. Social media enables a leaderless, inclusive and fairly spontaneous movement. The protests have also echoed modern tastes; many slogans and signs resembled Facebook messages or tweets. #rezist has become synonymous for the 2017 protests. Iohannis’s election in 2014 was aided by many sharing a “keep calm and vote Iohannis” photo and by making him the most “liked” European politician on Facebook.

Romanian protests have also managed to unite those fed up with corruption and poor governance, providing unity across different socioeconomic groups. A Facebook video of an elderly Bucharest street cleaner went viral, as she was shouting passionately at the young protesters to rise up and to be brave Romanians and take back their country after the politicians stole it. A desire for the rule of law unites these people who previously might have been politically detached by disillusionment. They have consolidated their unity in the last few years since it has been more or less the same demographic that has been protesting at each wave. As these people tend to be young, there is an element of being different from mainstream society, often associated with the older generations and the poor, rural population, particularly as these groups are seen as voting PSD and seen as having been paid by PSD to stage counter-protests in PSD’s favour.

he humor, unity, creativity and modernity of the protests may well be able to cause real political change, but that would require a real grassroots anti-corruption movement, similar perhaps to Beppe Grillo in Italy. Despite the undeniable Romanian energy for protest, there is no such movement with the level of impact that Grillo has. There are further problems; the protesters were not united on certain issues, such as how to engage the police, after a few incidents of hooliganism. PSD remains dominant in Romanian politics also, despite all the bad press for it.

The DNA and Iohannis are spearheading the anti-corruption drive, but they are not innocent either. Iohannis risks politicizing the protests by declaring himself explicitly on the side of the protesters against the Grindeanu government, and the DNA’s quick prosecutions suggest it benefits from a privileged but questionable network of information-sharing.

A reform of public services and government institutions is needed for there to be a truly democratic political class. This would mean local authorities, national and state institutions need reform, like the army, police or postal service. Local and national authorities must be created such that they are compatible with a competent and honest Western EU state. This would mean cutting through the networks of influence, nepotism, and corruption that make up Romanian ‘godfather capitalism’, which combines several elements. First, there is the renewed influence of the Orthodox Church (Romania is currently building the largest Orthodox cathedral in the world in Bucharest), arguably primitive, unwanted and unnecessary. Second, there is almost exclusively non-violent corruption (bribery) and incompetence among untrained politicians. Third, the lack of training of politicians, exacerbated by a poorly-paid political class in a country where voters and politicians alike are not so much ideological as simply looking to make some extra money where possible, leads to incompetent, incoherent government. This puts the political class in conflict with the justice system, but collusion between the two sides blocks the transition to a truly democratic political class.

The minimum gross monthly salary in Romania is 1450 lei (about 235 euros); the average gross monthly salary is 3130 lei (about 685 euros). A deputy in the lower house of parliament has a starting monthly salary of 5400 lei (about 1180 euros), not including perks. Perks include a certain immunity from prosecution, which is useful when the justice system would otherwise pursue corrupt politicians. People are left with little money after their living costs, so find it difficult to save. Thus many voters are tempted by PSD promises of higher salaries and pensions. The politicians are better off, but still poor by European standards, and given their position of power, are likely to abuse it and try to make extra money where possible. This problem affects all. The only political ideology becomes to make extra money where possible. Politicians have frequently migrated across the political spectrum to different parties, including between PSD (centre-left) and PNL (centre-right). The result of prioritizing personal profit itself is the outcome of a lack of funding and incentives, leading to incompetent, incoherent and dishonest politicians and political parties.

This is added to the social problems that entrench the old power networks. The Romanian diaspora numbers almost 4 million. The younger generation is tempted to leave but the old and the poor (many of them PSD voters) remain and continue to vote PSD, which as the largest party, attracts the networks of corruption and dishonesty. The other parties are not necessarily less corrupt, but PSD enjoys an unhealthy political dominance. The inter-generational rift does not help. Furthermore, the quality of the education system, apart from a few good schools, is declining. Like other public services, quality is stagnant because of lack of funding and incompetence. As many jobs are in the public sector, Romania also has many individuals dependent on those in power, which only further entrenches dishonesty.

Protests are undeniably effective in Romania in bringing about the short-term change of policy and politicians. OUG13 was cancelled and Iordache resigned. That brought some relief from endemic corruption and satisfied citizens’ dissatisfaction with corrupt politicians. The magnitude and ingenious methods of the protests consolidate the street’s role as a visible and influential actor in politics and politicized many. International attention on Romania, partly a result of Romanians’ use of technology to make others abroad elsewhere aware of the situation, would certainly have pressured the government to act as it did. However, there are many rifts in Romanian society, as shown by the mostly old people who were at the pro-PSD counter-protests, having been told Iohannis would cut their pensions. Deep reform is needed to stem corruption and entrenched networks of elitism and dishonesty. The political system would have to become more coherent and honest as well. There are also the very tricky demographic problems to solve. The population is ageing and declining, and the young and skilled go abroad, so the result is that it is very difficult to put more funding into services like education. Political parties like USR offer hope of a more honest future, but there is still a long way to go before such parties become large enough to have influence. If the current young and educated generation keep to their ideals of honesty, then that is encouraging for the future. However, this should not disguise the fact that deep reform is needed. The protest was able to cause political change, but without deep reform, the post-1989 situation of stagnant political development may well continue, in other words, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”.[2] A large grassroots political movement for honesty, of which these protests are a small first step, would surely be a step towards that. The protesters’ determination alone won’t bring true democracy, but one has to wait to see whether their determination can develop into a serious political movement to challenge the status quo.

 

Bibliography:

[1] Romanian National Anthem, Desteapta-te, Romane!, (lyrics by Andrei Muresanu)

[2] Daltrey, Townshend, Won’t Get Fooled Again, 1971

 

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