Tag Archives: United Kingdom

The anatomy of TERROR


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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How Refugee Admission could save, and not destroy the UK

refugee crisis

By Paula Koller-Alonso, a first year History & International Relations King’s College London undergraduate

Trump’s travel ban has urged us to take a second look at the refugee crisis and the new cataclysm of migration diaspora. Politics and opinions on the topic are generally split between conservatives believing that the immigration influx will create a security breach and liberals encouraging the intake of refugees as a chance to be humanitarian heroes. Yet between the polar opposites, one consequence of the crisis has not been substantially analysed: the idea that mass refugee intake might just be what saves the UK demographic and economy.

The British parliament voiced a plan in 2015 to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next years, which seemed reasonable and morally noble. However, this plan was mainly limited to unaccompanied children, at times, as Amnesty International’s newest campaign reveals, tearing families apart and prohibiting the entry of these kids’ parents. Furthermore, 20,000 refugees is a marginal number compared to what the UK’s neighbours are accepting: In one weekend in 2015, 20,000 refugees were welcomed in the city of Munich. 13,000 refugees alone arrived on a Sunday, more than the total number of refugees seeking asylum in the UK in the whole of 2015. To put that into perspective, 20,000 people are only equivalent to 0.03% of the total population, whilst Germany expected 800,000 asylum seekers in 2016, which was a total 1% of their population. So then it has to be asked – why is the UK so afraid to be more generous in their humanitarian aid to give asylum to refugees fleeing civil war?

Having watched the media in recent months gives a partial answer to the question. An increased number of terrorist attacks, many linked to radical terrorist groups, in Western Europe creates an atmosphere of fear and an increase in security protocols. Trump’s travel ban itself forbid the entry of citizens from targeted Middle Eastern countries, stating that it was “about terror and keeping [the] country safe”. However, apart from discriminating against a religion and ethnicity, the travel ban and the refusal of a higher number of refugee intakes, also obscures the advantage a country can gain from receiving asylum seekers.

Considering OECD statistics, the birth rate in the UK has gradually decreased in the last 45 years. As a result, concerning the demographic development, there has been an increase of 4.23% in the elderly population, and a decrease of 6.3% in the young population. Admitting refugees in the UK would therefore strengthen the demographic gap in the population, which would benefit the country in a long-term perspective. Consequently, it would reinforce economic productivity, as its increased labour supply would fuel the GDP and taxation backflows. The UK could then be placed on a higher power basis in the international system, through its increased economic strength – a necessary and welcomed step in the wake of the post-Brexit Sterling devaluation.


Reference: OECD.org

Although it seems morally incorrect to refer to refugee asylum as an economic policy to strengthen the country, it may be necessary to highlight these advantages in order to urge politicians to turn a humanitarian crisis into a political requirement. There are still more than 4 million Syrian refugees displaced in the Middle East, and now is the time to welcome them, rather than reject them – not only because it is inhumane not to do so, but also because it could highly benefit the UK.

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The Brexit: Is Europe stumbling toward the abyss?


Tomass Pildegovičs is a first-year International Relations student from Riga, Latvia.

*This is a modified version of the article, ‘The Brexit Dilemma: A Baltic Perspective’ By Tomass Pildegovičs, originally published by the Latvian Institute of International Affairs on January 20, 2016.

Source: http://liia.lv/en/blogs/the-brexit-dilemma-a-baltic-perspective/



From the moment he secured a victory in parliamentary elections last May, Prime Minister David Cameron has been a vocal proponent of a referendum on the United Kingdom’s secession from the European Union, otherwise referred to as the “Brexit”. [1] After a thorny renegotiation process lasting many months, the upcoming British referendum has started to dominate the European political agenda. The reformed membership presented by Mr. Cameron has come under a great deal of scrutiny domestically, particularly in regard to promises of liberating UK business from “EU red tape and political interference” and reinforcing the position of those EU member states that are not part of the Eurozone. [2] Further demands expressed by the British Prime Minister included the strengthening of oversight by national parliaments, restrictions on subsidies, tax credits, and child benefits for EU migrants as well as an end to the assumption of “ever closer union.” [3] In fact, as part of the recent renegotiation process that finished in February, Mr. Cameron visited 18 European capitals, a modus operandi unmatched in activity by any of his predecessors in recent history. [4] With the date of the referendum getting ever closer, the public discussion of the issue has reached a fever pitch, with prominent political figures drumming up support for both camps. It is evident that when the people of the United Kingdom go to polling stations this June, they will be making a decision of tremendous magnitude, not only for the UK, but for all of Europe.

From an EU perspective, a Brexit would mark a fundamental challenge to the integrity and future prospects of the Union. In 2014, the United Kingdom accounted for 12.6% of the population and 16% of the GDP of the EU, the second most of any individual member state. [5] The UK has arguably the greatest political clout and military capacity of any EU member state, thus enabling the EU to play an active role in shaping the international political agenda. For most EU member states, the EU serves as an instrument for addressing the challenges posed by globalization and consolidating the advantageous position and relative affluence of Europe on the global stage. In the case of UK secession, the EU would lose a permanent member of the UN Security Council as well as one of the most influential actors in the IMF, the World Bank, the G8, the G20, the OECD, IEA, the UNFCC and the FSB. [6] Hence, the EU’s ability to influence the international political discourse would decline substantially, enabling actors such as the United States and Russia to exert a greater sway over European affairs. Moreover, a Brexit would directly contribute to a reduction of the gravitational pull exerted by the EU, which is particularly important in the context of its Eastern Partnership policy. It is critical that the EU retains one of the greatest advocates of an active effort to strengthen links with the eastern neighborhood, which includes Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Belarus. Should the UK leave, countries such as Ukraine and Moldova would be less incentivized and driven to proceed with the rigorous reform programs demanded by the EU. Therefore, UK secession would enable further Russian encroachment upon the nations of the eastern neighborhood.

Furthermore, there is a fundamental ideological divergence between the UK and the other leading EU stakeholders, most notably France and Germany. Whereas France and Germany continue to espouse a vision of a united greater Europe, the UK seeks to disentangle itself from a range of European commitments. For example, whilst Eastern European member states continue to demonstrate support for increased integration in the form of the Eurozone, British support for the Euro is at the paltry benchmark of 20%, with an overwhelming 70% against the idea of UK membership in a European economic and monetary union with a single currency. [8] Evidently, the UK and the continental member states have dissimilar if not different visions of what the EU should represent.

Nevertheless, a divergence in vision does not have to be irreconcilable to the point of divorce. From the French and German point of view, increased integration must remain a voluntary political enterprise, which cannot be imposed upon a member state. The EU must be pliant enough to be accommodating of different speeds at which member states pursue their Europeanization policy. Naturally, the historical and geopolitical context has galvanized certain member countries, most notably the Baltic States, to be more proactive on the matter, in order to consolidate an increasingly important position in the European fabric. Yet the historical distinctiveness of the United Kingdom must similarly be recognized, accepting its desire to maintain a distance on a range of issues that are politically negotiable. For example, the past decade has shown that it is not essential that all EU member states join the Eurozone, with countries such as Sweden, Poland and the UK experiencing economic growth while partaking in the integral mechanisms of the union. Also, there is clearly enough room for compromise on the issue of welfare benefits and tax credits for migrants. There are viable alternatives for easing the burden borne by the generous UK welfare system without violating fundamental EU principles. For example, current EU law already allows for differential treatment of unemployed migrants, as they do not contribute to the economy of the host nation via taxation. [9] The recent renegotiation process demonstrated great potential for cooperation between the parties. The most pressing of Mr. Cameron’s demands were accommodated, whilst maintaining a red line in regard to the very pillar of the EU- the freedom to work and live anywhere in the European Union. It would be politically dangerous if member states resorted to constructing barriers within the EU, and countries with fluid workforces, like Poland and the Baltic States, would be victimized the most. Although the skepticism and resentment of the British people has not fully dissipated despite Mr. Cameron’s deal, it is essential to the sustainability of the union that renegotiating UK membership does not include curbing basic freedoms granted by the EU. The abandonment of fundamental EU principles would foster political divisiveness and perhaps spawn referendums on secession in other member states.

In light of the altered security landscape in Eastern Europe, it is evident that the actor standing to benefit the most from a Brexit would be Russia. Reeling from the impact of economic sanctions of the West, Russia has suffered a considerable loss of stature internationally. Additional factors such as the dropping price of oil and the plummeting value of the Russian ruble present acute threats to the stranglehold that President Vladimir Putin has on political capital in Russia. Henceforth, a range of domestic and international issues has forced Mr. Putin’s hand and led to a costly gamble in Syria with the intent of regaining an international platform by force. However, another political instrument at Russia’s disposal is internal EU fragmentation, largely along north-south and east-west lines. The Kremlin has a number of allies in European politics, most notably far-right parties such as France’s National Front, Golden Dawn in Greece, Jobbik in Hungary, and Ataka in Bulgaria. [12] Each of these parties, in addition to benefiting from Russian funding and enjoying rising popularity, employ a vehement anti-EU rhetoric. There is already a significant level of friction within the EU; ergo, a Brexit would only further exacerbate the existing fault lines. While the European Union is not a military organization, it acts as a coalescent and unifying European framework. Hence, EU fragmentation would not bode well for the continent’s ability to withstand a major geopolitical crisis, such as Moscow’s continued violations of international law in Ukraine. In the current geopolitical context, a Brexit would be detrimental to the European security landscape.

Albeit not cataclysmic in itself, UK secession from the EU would establish a dangerous precedent, challenging the very principles and ideological foundation of the Union. Despite the adversity faced by the EU in the recent past, the promise of a united Europe has never been more important. It is a promise that the United Kingdom must continue to subscribe to because the future of Europe is at stake.




[1] “Cameron, Brexit and Russia”, The Moscow Times, May 11, 2015, http://carnegieeurope.eu/2015/05/11/cameron-brexit-and-russia/i8fe


[2] “Why, and how, Britain might leave the European Union”, The Economist, April 29, 2015, http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/04/economist-explains-29


[3] “EU referendum: What are David Cameron’s demands in the EU talks?”, The Independent, November 7, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/eu-referendum-what-are-david-cameron-s-demands-in-the-eu-talks-a6725741.html


[4]David Cameron steps up European tour as EU negotiation deadline looms”, The Independent, January 6, 2016, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/david-cameron-steps-up-european-tour-as-eu-negotiation-deadline-looms-a6799861.html


[5] Member States Factsheets, Eurostat, January 2015, http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/statistics/factsheets/pdf/eu_en.pdf


[6]BREXIT: the impact on the UK and the EU”, Global Counsel, June, 2015, http://www.globalcounsel.co.uk/system/files/publications/Global_Counsel_Impact_of_Brexit_June_2015.pdf

[7] Standard Eurobarometer 82, Survey conducted by TNS opinion & social at the request of the European Commission, Directorate-General for Communication, Autumn 2014,  http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb82/eb82_first_en.pdf

[8] Ibid.


[9] “Why David Cameron’s four year benefits cut for EU migrants won’t work”, The Independent, November 10, 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/why-david-cameron-s-four-year-benefits-cut-for-eu-migrants-wont-work-a6729151.html


[10] ”What will become of them?”, The Economist, May 28, 2015,  http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21652356-even-if-britain-votes-leave-eu-its-european-migrants-may-stick-around-what-will-become


[11] “Latviešu skaits ārzemēs arvien pieaug”, Neatkarīgā, October 24, 2012, http://nra.lv/latvija/82075-latviesu-skaits-arzemes-arvien-pieaug.htm


[12] “Putin’s Western Allies”, Foreign Affairs, March 25, 2014, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/russia-fsu/2014-03-25/putins-western-allies


[13] “Britain to station troops in Baltic region ‘to deter Russian aggression”, The Guardian, October 8, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/oct/08/britain-station-troops-poland-latvia-lithuania-estonia-russian-aggression

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