There was fighting talk at last week’s NATO summit in Wales. The alliance’s leaders pulled few punches in criticizing Russia’s actions in Ukraine and agreed on plans to counter future provocations by Moscow. The U.S. corralled a posse of its allies to coordinate the fight in Iraq against the Islamic State. After a summer characterized by global turbulence and ill-concealed uncertainty in both the U.S. and Europe over how to react, the summit signaled that the West has some sense of shared purpose.
The violent Basque separatist group ETA took shape in Franco's Spain, yet claimed the majority of its victims under democracy. For most Spaniards it became an aberration, a criminal and terrorist band whose persistence defied explanation. Others, mainly Basques (but only some Basques) understood ETA as the violent expression of a political conflict that remained the unfinished business of Spain's transition to democracy. Such differences hindered efforts to 'defeat' ETA's terrorism on the one hand and 'resolve the Basque conflict' on the other for more than three decades.
Worlds apart, two leaders are planning to intervene in worsening conflicts outside their borders, and citing humanitarian concerns as their rationale. In Iraq, President Barack Obama and his administration are considering how to contain the violent march of radical Islamist militants and provide help to those whom the Islamists threaten with extermination. In the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a convoy of 280 trucks with what the Russians describe as “humanitarian aid” for the embattled region.
Europe’s strategic situation is simultaneously precarious and curiously comfortable. From eastern Ukraine to northern Africa, conflicts crowd in on the European Union (EU). Yet the bloc’s security may actually benefit from the ongoing instability in cases such as Ukraine, Mali and even Syria. The longer these conflicts absorb the energies of potential foes, ranging from Russian President Vladimir Putin to various Islamist radical groups, the less likely they are to menace the EU directly.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced last Wednesday that he plans to propose a resolution to the U.N. Security Council to send Russian “peacekeeping” forces to the site of the flight MH17 crash.
The conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, not to mention the war in Syria, have presented diplomats with emotional testimonies of civilian suffering, even alleged crimes against humanity. Yet the 15-member Council has been unable to end these conflicts. The problem is not that the major world powers don’t care. It is that they care too much.
The United Nations Security Council has different tools at hand to maintain international peace and security. Yet, beside prominent blue helmets and controversial sanctions, another sophisticated instrument often goes unnoticed: Political Missions.
The Annual Review of Global Peace Operations and the Review of Political Missions have evolved into the Global Peace Operations Review, an interactive web-portal presenting in-depth analysis and detailed data on military peacekeeping operations and civilian-led political missions by the United Nations, regional organizations, and ad-hoc coalitions. The website can be accessed here Global Peace Operations Review