The European Union & the Syrian Refugee Crisis

By Isaac Kfir

Reportedly, the EU will receive more than a million asylum seekers in 2015. The Union already has seen more than 330,000 people arrive by sea, of whom 210,000 landed in either Greece or Italy. In the previous eight months, around half a million people entered through illegal border crossings, which is double what took place in 2014.[1] The arrival of these individuals is often facilitated by criminal organizations.

“Our society demands classifications; individuals need to have designations that allow a state to identify the obligations, duties, and responsibilities of the state toward the person.”
The Syrian refugee crisis has two principle implications for the Union. First there is the question of whether the EU’s inability to provide an effective solution to the current refugee “crisis” stems out of the size of the crisis—i.e., the claim is that the EU simply does not have the means to provide shelter, food, etc. to the hundreds of thousands of people flocking to the EU. This, therefore, is a question of capability and capacity: since January 2015, the EU has had to contend with more than 470,000 refugees and migrants from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, many of whom lack documentation. Claiming lack of capacity may sound somewhat odd, as after all the EU is composed of enormously wealthy states, so naturally one can ask how could it not be able to provide basic security to those fleeing?

The answer is two-fold. First, the EU is still reeling from the economic crisis of 2009 and the accession of many members that are not financially strong. Even Germany is feeling the pinch; it is believed the current crisis will cost the country between 9 and 10.5 billion. The EU is still waiting to see how the Greek crisis will be played out, even though Alexis Tsipras and Syriza were returned to office, because the International Monetary Fund has not given complete backing to the bailout and has demanded an “explicit and concrete agreement” on debt relief from the Greece’s Eurozone creditors.[2] Furthermore, many of the EU’s eastern and southern states remain in a precarious financial situation. Second, we live in an era of rules and regulations, so one cannot simply take a group of people and place them somewhere. Put differently, consideration has to be taken vis-à-vis the health and safety of refugees—food distribution, the type of shelter provided (one can make do with tents only until winter comes), medical facilities and checkups, etc. Notably, the EU has to contend with around 600,000 people who have no nationality, which is worrying as it means that these individuals, and particularly the children who are often born in “exile,” remain stateless. It is increasingly difficult for a stateless person to acquire a nationality, especially as some of the Council of Europe countries do not grant nationality on the grounds that one was born within their jurisdiction.[3]

“Art. 63 of the Lisbon Treaty recognizes that the EU has duties and obligations toward those seeking refuge, and these duties include providing protection, either as a subsidiary concept or temporary one.”
Another issue that emerges is that of length of time: how long can the EU and the member states provide for refugees, especially when their legal status is undetermined: are they all classified as refugees, are they temporary refugees, etc. Our society demands classifications; individuals need to have designations that allow a state to identify the obligations, duties, and responsibilities of the state toward the person. This need may explain why, in 2015, despite seeing record applications, only 1.6% of the refugee applications made in Germany were accepted, although Germany allowed a further 7% of applicants to remain in the country but only on a temporary basis.[4] Designation is also important because it identifies the rights that one has; one’s status determines what one is entitled to receive. One has to wonder, for example, what will be the status of the individuals that Germany has accepted over the last few weeks: will they automatically be granted refugee status, which means that they can travel within the member states (the ones that have acceded to the Dublin Regulations)? This situation is why Germany’s decision to effectively, and unilaterally, suspend the Dublin Regulations casts a long shadow on the future of the EU.

The second implication that the Syrian refugee crisis has raised for the EU relates to the identity of the Union. This question begins with the divisive statement of Hungary’s Victor Orban, that Muslims are not wanted in Hungary, and even though Orban was criticized for being unchristian and ungenerous, one has to wonder whether his comments are reflective of the views of many ordinary people.[5] Moreover, this issue concerns the image that the EU seeks to promote, which is that of a paragon of human rights. In the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU declares that it was founded on “the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities” (Art. 1a). Under this rubric the EU has a very high commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights. Art. 63 of the Lisbon Treaty recognizes that the EU has duties and obligations toward those seeking refuge, and these duties include providing protection, either as a subsidiary concept or temporary one. Additionally, the EU has to abide by the principle of non-refoulement (Art. 33) under the Refugee Convention, which prohibits a host country from expelling or returning a refugee “to the frontiers of territories where” their lives or freedoms may be threatened. This principle of non-refoulement is enshrined in EU law (Art. 78(1) TFEU).[6]

There are a number of other ways that the current migration wave is impacting Europe. First, it can be argued that the infusion of more people into Europe can help address a number of structural population problems. There are a number of countries in Europe that are seeing net emigration, for instance. Looking at Spain, in 2012 outflows rose to 1.2% whereas inflows fell to 0.8% of the domestic population. This balance changes the composition of the population, adding diversity, but at the same time it creates concern for those worried about losing their culture (this concern is often manifested in the views of extremist movements, who see foreign inflows in negative terms). Europe is in the midst of a demographic crisis. Birth rates are falling, making immigration an important tool in addressing ageism (in the 1980s immigration raised Europe’s total population by around 100,000 annually, whereas in the 1990s, it was 600,000, and today its closer to a million).[7] If we are to look at great historical migration, one has to wonder whether the United States would be as strong as it is if not for the large Irish inflow of the 1840s, or the Chinese migration in the 1870s and 1880s that helped build much of the American West.

Notably, the OECD makes it clear that migration has many positive aspects. Forty-seven percent of America’s workforce and 70% of Europe’s is migrant. Migrants may be well-educated, counter-acting a nation’s “brain drain,” or at the other end of the educational scale, willing to take jobs that locals may not want. When working, they contribute to the public purse when they pay taxes. Immigration also can have a positive cultural (and nationalist) impact: just look at the successful German and French national soccer teams, which now have many players with immigrant roots.

To understand why the recent waves of migrants have become such a crisis, it is worth noting that in 1956, Europe faced another refugee problem, when more than 180,000 Hungarians crossed over to Austria and Hungary. In the space of 10 weeks, 100,000 individuals were resettled in 37 different countries. Notably, the refugees ranged from garage mechanics who ended up in South America to innovators and entrepreneurs, one of whom founded Intel in San Francisco (semi-conductor pioneer Andrew Grove was born András István Gróf in Budapest, Hungary, in 1936). The evidence is that many of these Cold War refugees fared well. However, at the moment the EU is facing almost a million asylum seekers, which is exponentially more than it faced in the 1950s. Interestingly, in 1992 when a unified Germany saw 400,000 asylum applications, it opted to deal with the issue by narrowing its asylum legislation, making it harder for people to apply for refuge in Germany. This policy, some have suggested, created an atmosphere of fear that fueled the rise of far-right Republican Party, which won seats in Baden-Württemberg, and the German People’s Union (DVU), which won 10% of the seats in Schleswig-Holstein. There were also several attacks against asylum seekers and refugees, which painted Germany, always worried about far right extremism, in negative light.[8]

“People will only stay at their country of origin for so long; once they recognize the hopelessness of their situation, they will seek an alternative.”
Nevertheless, one would assume that the EU is sufficiently advanced to deal with such a large quantity of people. There is an element in the current crisis of states not living up to their obligations under international law—maybe not so much when it comes to refugee law, but in addressing root causes. Most of the conversion surrounds the number of people fleeing to Europe, but we are not looking at why this crisis is happening. The reality is that in the Middle East people are fleeing to save their lives, from the Syrian Assad regime, from its opposition and from Islamic State, from belligerent elements in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the migration from sub-Saharan Africa, the Congolese, etc. The EU’s commissioner on migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, captured this point by declaring, “The majority of people arriving in Europe are Syrians in need of our help, … There is no wall you would not climb, no sea you would not cross if you are fleeing violence and terror”.[9] Put simply, until the problem is addressed at its roots, the problem will remain. Obviously, every large population movement has an economic element to it, as there are enormous costs linked with providing aid to those fleeing persecution.

Ultimately, the threat to the EU is fragmentation. We are already noticing lines being drawn, and there is enormous discord between the members on how to deal with the crisis. In truth, the roots of this problem lie with the Schengen Agreement and the Dublin Regulations because they both allow the richer northern countries to leave the migration issues to the southern and eastern states, without providing aid and assistance. For decades the rich northern members have ignored the refugees and migration issue, which is why it has become a crisis. Furthermore, it has been the lack of response to what was taking place in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria that has created much of the problem. People will only stay at their country of origin for so long; once they recognize the hopelessness of their situation, they will seek an alternative.


[1] Reuters, “OECD tells Europe to act fast on migrants, adapt long-term too.” Thompson Reuters Foundation, Sept. 22, 2015,

[2] Heather Stewart, “IMF will refuse to join Greek bailout until debt relief demands are met.” The Guardian, July 30, 2015,

[3] Emma Batha, “European refugee crisis risks creating generation of stateless children.” Thompson Reuters Foundation, Sept. 20, 2015.

[4] Nicola Abé, et. al, “Sharing Burdens: Germany to Urge Shift in EU Refugee Policy,” Der Spiegel, Sept. 22, 2015,

[5] Zan Strabac & Ola Listhaug. “Anti-Muslim prejudice in Europe: A multilevel analysis of survey data from 30 countries.” Social Science Research 37.1 (2008): 268-286; Harald Schoen, “Turkey’s bid for EU Membership, Contrasting Views of Public Opinion, and Vote Choice. Evidence from the 2005 German Federal Election.” Electoral studies 27.2 (2008), pp. 344-355; Liz Fekete, “Anti-Muslim racism and the European security state.” Race & Class 46.1 (2004): 3-29.

[6] M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece, Application no. 30696/09, Council of Europe: European Court of Human Rights, Jan. 21, 2011.

[7] Reuters, “OECD tells Europe to act fast on migrants, adapt long-term too,” Thompson Reuters Foundation, Sept. 22, 2015,

[8] Nicola Abé et. al, “Sharing Burdens: Germany to Urge Shift in EU Refugee Policy.” Der Spiegel, Sept. 22, 2015,

[9] “Walls and violence will not solve migrant crisis-EU Commissioner.” Reuters, Sept. 17, 2015,

Q&A: Isaac Kfir on the Refugee Situation in Europe

(Re-published from SU News, Sept. 10, 2015) Refugees from several countries, including Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia, are fleeing violence in their homelands and seeking asylum by the tens of thousands in Europe. Such a large population movement is creating problems for Turkey, the Eastern European states and the European Union (EU) as there appears to be no mechanism to accommodate the influx.

Isaac Kfir, a visiting assistant professor of law at the College of Law, a research associate with the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism and a co-director of the Mapping Global Insecurities project at the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs at the Maxwell School, explains some of the complexities facing the migrants and the European states.

Kfir teaches such courses as “Postconflict Reconstruction and the Rule of Law,” “EU Law and Policy” and “International Human Rights Law,” along with the upcoming spring seminar “Refugee and Asylum Law,” which focuses on the UN Refugee Convention as the basis of most domestic refugee legislation and emerging issues.

What has exacerbated the refugee situation is the fact that the UNHCR is increasingly asked to fulfill two almost impossible roles: a refugee agency and a humanitarian one.
Q: Why has this wave of migrants become such a crisis in Europe? Is it just because of the sheer number of people? Or are the European Union policies or international laws regarding refugees and asylum seekers not being implemented properly?

A: The word “crisis” is somewhat of misnomer because Europe is only being asked to address 6 percent of the world’s refugee population. There are nearly 60 million displaced persons in the world—19.5 million are refugees and 38.2 million people are displaced, meaning those who have not left their country of origin but have been forced to flee their homes. Most refugees are located in non-Western countries, such as Kenya, Iran and Pakistan.

The number of people currently heading to Western Europe is unprecedented in that it is more than what took place in 1956 after the Soviet Union invaded Hungary, which led to around 180,000 Hungarians fleeing to mainly Austria and also some to Yugoslavia. Interestingly, within the space of two years, the U.S. had resettled around 38,000 Hungarian refugees, with other countries such as Canada, Britain, West Germany, Australia, Switzerland and France also taking in thousands of refugees. In the 1990s, Europe faced another large population movement as the Balkans imploded, leading to humanitarian military action against President Milosevic’s Serbia to help stop the flow of people.

The EU countries are signatories to the UN Convention on Refugees [1951] and the 1967 Optional Protocol, and they must also abide by the European Convention on Human Rights. The key problem is that the convention was adopted in 1951 and is ill-suited to deal with many contemporary crises. The convention was a reaction to the Second World War and no one assumed that we would face a permanent refugee situation. The UN agency that deals with refugees—the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)—was not even a permanent agency, but one that had to have its mandate renewed, until the 2000s.

What has exacerbated the refugee situation is the fact that the UNHCR is increasingly asked to fulfill two almost impossible roles: a refugee agency and a humanitarian one, with very limited resources, which may explain why the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres recently stated that the agency is “broke.” There are simply too many crises, which is why Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs recently noted that the global humanitarian budget for all countries stands at $19.52 billion, of which only $7.15 billion has been raised.

Second, within Europe there is a legal and policy issue that is largely responsible for the crisis. First, in the 1980s, Europe adopted the Schengen Agreement, which allows nationals of the member states to travel without passports within the Schengen Area. The aim was to remove much of the red tape that tends to slow down trade and commerce.

In 1990, the European Community adopted the Dublin Regulations, which were revised in 2003 [Dublin I & II]. The aim of Dublin was to create a European system—Common European Asylum System—to address asylum seekers: individuals seeking refugee status within any of the member states of the EU. Dublin states that when a person enters the EU, they must claim asylum at their point of entry. If a person enters in Greece, this is where they must register and be processed upon receiving a refugee status. The individual is then permitted to travel anywhere in the EU.

In practical terms, however, what was happening was that the rich, Western European countries were shifting responsibilities to the poorer members by simply referring to the letter of law. For example, Britain, France and Germany would accept refugees, as long as they had been processed at the point of entry.

The problem is that the countries that are having to process the asylum application, such as Greece, Hungary and Romania, are too poor to handle application processes, as these are fact-based. The person applying for refugee status has to prove that they are fleeing persecution in their country of origin, which is why they are seeking international protection. Often the process takes months and the countries at the southern and eastern parts of the EU are overwhelmed by the numbers.

Consequently, individuals seeking refuge are kept in detention facilities as their applications are processed. In 2011, the European Court of Human Rights determined in a watershed case—M.S.S. v. Belgium & Greece—that returning an asylum seeker registered in Greece back to Greece from Belgium would result in inhuman and degrading treatment. The court reached the decision because of the conditions that the individual faced in detention facilities in Greece. Basically, the conditions were so bad that they amounted to torture.

Q: What could be done to alleviate the situation?

A: First, at its source, there is a need to address the reason why people are fleeing Syria, Central Africa and Iraq: pervasive insecurity. We need to think what would we do, if we faced marauding gangs bent on enslaving, sexually abusing and killing all those who face them. The people who are fleeing are doing so because they have faced such horror for over a decade …

To read the complete Q&A, click here.

Recent History Supports Iran Agreement

By Louis Kriesberg, Maxwell Professor Emeritus of Social Conflict Studies, Syracuse University

The evidence favoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in July 2015, is before our eyes. It was negotiated between the Iranian government and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China and one other: Germany (P5+1). For much of the time prior to the negotiated interim agreement, the US pursued a highly bellicose policy toward Iran and Iran speeded its development of a nuclear program that could be preparatory to having nuclear weapons capability. That history also makes evident why the rejection of the signed Iran agreement is likely to have extremely grave consequences for the US.

The negotiations followed a well-regarded strategy for untangling protracted highly complex conflicts: tackle a single element in the conflict and settle it.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, Iran was helpful in several ways, including overthrowing the Taliban by supporting the Northern Alliance Afghan troops, helping establish the government in Kabul headed by Karzai, and denying sanctuary to escaping Al Qaeda members. Nevertheless, in President George W. Bush’s first State of the Union address, in January 2002, he called Iran, together with Iraq and North Korea, an “Axis of Evil.” The Iranian government could reasonably believe that it was threatened by the US. It energetically sped the advancement of nuclear programs that could enhance the development of nuclear weapons as well as nuclear energy. The Bush administration chastised the Iranian government and imposed some economic sanctions. These actions certainly did not slow Iran’s nuclear development program.

President Barack Obama’s administration undertook a different strategy. It recognized Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, engaged with Iranian officials with civility and respect, and explored possible arrangements that might preclude Iran’s attaining nuclear weapons. At the same time, the Obama Administration was able to expand UN Security Council sanctions on Iran for failing to cooperate on earlier resolutions and its continued uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities. As in most successful negotiations, a blend of carrots and sticks proved effective.

In August 2013, Hassan Rouhani became president of Iran, following the bombastic and extremist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Serious conversations now began and in November 2013, the Joint Plan of Action was a pact signed between Iran and the P5+1 countries. It provided for a short-term freeze of portions of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for decreased economic sanctions on Iran. This was implemented and it ultimately led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The negotiations followed a well-regarded strategy for untangling protracted highly complex conflicts: tackle a single element in the conflict and settle it. That was done. The JCPOA is a well-crafted, narrow agreement that does not foreclose further actions relating to Iran about many contentious issues and even possible cooperative matters, for example those regarding ISIS. It also enables the US, in solidarity with other signers of the agreement, to negotiate various extensions of the JCPOA, as they expire and when Iran is much further from having nuclear weapons grade uranium than it presently has.

If Congress rejects the signed agreement, US leadership and credibility in the world will be badly damaged. No “re-negotiation” is really feasible. Hardliners in Iran can claim vindication that the US cannot be trusted, and there would be no incentive for Iran to renew negotiations for harsher terms. Nor is it likely that all the other signers of the agreement would renew negotiations after such a development in the US. Iran would naturally resume its nuclear development program. The likely further consequences would be awful to contemplate. I urge readers to encourage members of Congress to approve the agreement and not to return to policies that have so drastically failed in the recent past.


Industrialized Killing: Accountability & Justice for Syria

A Robert H. Jackson Center interview with David M. Crane (July 20, 2015)

David M. Crane, former Chief Prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone (2002-2005) has worked to gain and provide support to Syria. In conjunction with Syracuse University College of Law students, Crane heads the Syrian Accountability Project (SAP). Crane and SAP work with several international organizations to provide impartial analysis of open source materials. The goal of these collaborations is to fairly prosecute President al-Assad, his subordinates, and members of the Syrian Opposition for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and violations of the Syrian Penal Law.

Having David Crane on the Board at the Jackson Center has been a tremendous success. So, we wanted to gain some insight into what his lecture might entail. Below are introductory questions concerning Crane’s lecture “Industrialized Killing: Accountability and Justice for Syria”

Q: Why did you decide to title your lecture “Industrialized Killing”?

A: To raise awareness of the horror that is taking place in Syria.

Q: What first interested you in finding justice for Syria?

A: The beast of impunity must be faced down wherever it raises its ugly head. This is the 21st Century…mankind cannot turn its head and look away.

Q: What in your career led you to believe you could do something for the Syrian people?

A: As the founding Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone I developed a unique expertise to create a justice mechanism for oppressed peoples.

Q: How did you arrive at the idea for the Syrian Accountability Project (SAP) at SU Law?

A: Initially a seminar the project grew into an internationally recognized justice organization based on the techniques we used in successfully prosecuting a head of state and the leadership of the warring factions in West Africa.

Q: What are your goals for SAP?

A: Our goals are to develop a trial package for a future local, regional or international prosecutor to use in seeking justice for the Syrian people.

Q: How or where do you envision judicial action for Syria? How can we avoid westernized justice once a Court is established?

A: Be aware that a justice mechanism is for and about the victims…the people of Syria.

Q: How do you think the IS problem affects the likelihood of justice in Syria?

A: The IS phenomenon complicates the entire process and may even permanently derail a justice mechanism, but that should not stop of us from our project.

Q: Does IS change the likelihood of President Assad stepping down?

A: I don’t see President Assad stepping down. He may survive this.

Q: Do you have an opinion on the White House’s shift from demanding Assad’s removal to appeasing the Russians, focusing on IS, and stepping away from the Syrian Civil War for the time being?

A: The reality now is that Syria has become a sideshow in a larger geopolitical event and the administration has to deal with what is not what they would like it to be.

Q: Should the US be heavily involved in bringing the Syrian Conflict to a close, should the effort be global, or should the region be tasked with solving the issue?

A: The US is and has to be involved in this even though it is a reluctant participant. The EU and the Arab States have to step up as well.

NATO Needs to be Better at Waging Networked Warfare

natologoBy Octavian Manea

(Re-published from Defence Matters, July 27, 2015) Many of the lessons that the Alliance learned over the past decade in the Afghan theater (working with local population to counter propaganda, strengthening institutions of local government, using strategic communication) remain highly relevant as we face increased Russian hybrid aggression across the whole European spectrum. It is the conclusion emphasized in an exclusive interview for Defence Matters by Former SACEUR, Admiral James Stavridis.

The alliance learned a lot in terms of waging counterinsurgency in Afghanistan as well as in terms of providing support and enabling a host nation government. Is the Afghan stability operation legacy of NATO applicable in the proxy war in Ukraine? In the end the vulnerabilities in the fabric of state and society are a core raw material used there.

Yes I very much do. I think that a great deal of what we have learned in Afghanistan would be very helpful as we face increased Russian aggression not only in Ukraine, but across the whole European spectrum: counter-IED, working with local population to counter propaganda, strengthening institutions of local government, using strategic communication to move messages to large groups using all media (radio, print, internet, social networks), interoperability-the ability to bound together our forces to operate coherently, the use of UAV and intelligence gathering. All of this knowledge that we gained in Afghanistan is very applicable in what I would call counter-hybrid warfare.

Having in mind the Afghan legacy of the Alliance, do you see a role of NATO in the fight against ISIS?

I do. It is very important that NATO should be prepared to respond to the Islamic State in three ways.

First, it’s the instability along the Turkish border. This is one of NATO’s main borders crossed literally by millions of refugees. The potential of Islamic State to use refugee flows to get into Europe and NATO is extremely high. The border region of Iraq and Syria is a very clear danger to NATO.

Secondly it is the Mediterranean Sea and the ability of the Islamic State particularly in Libya to create instability and get into the refugees streams crossing to Italy and Europe. We also need to be prepared for the jihadists who hold European Union passports and are currently in the fight in Syria and Iraq. They are going at some point be able to come back to Europe. That is principally an intelligence, police and legal challenge, but NATO as an alliance can be helpful providing cyber, intelligence, information capabilities and in cases where there is higher degree of militarized activity. There are some places where the Alliance can be helpful even within the borders of Europe itself.

NATO is a full spectrum alliance, so it should be able to deal with both low and high-end spectrum warfare. What can NATO do in order to deter and respond to hybrid warfare?

First we have to study, observe and learn what the Russians are doing. Much of what is called hybrid warfare has been around for thousands of years. What is unique is combining all of the elements together, what is new is the cyber and the social networking component of it and taking them together and applying it in a European country. We need to study, understand the phenomena and reverse engineered so we could defeat it. We will not be able to rely on traditional military capabilities to stop this kind of activity. We will need to use many of the tools of the hybrid warfare themselves. It takes a network to defeat a network. And hybrid warfare is networked warfare. That means that NATO needs to be vastly better in cyber, much better in our strategic communications, our use of the social networks, we need to be able instantly to disprove the propaganda and the lies that are emanating from Moscow and much better in assisting the Ukrainian military in order to defend their nation against this invasion. We have work to do …

To read the entire article, click here.

Octavian Manea (MAIR ’13) was a Fulbright Junior Scholar at SU Maxwell School and a 2013 recipient of a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Security Studies through INSCT.

Rethinking Command & Control Systems in Emerging Nuclear Nations

By David Arceneaux, Ph.D. Student, SU Maxwell School

(Working paper research funded by the Andrew Berlin Family National Security Research Fund)

Introduction: Rethinking Peter Feaver’s Framework

What factors explain command and control systems in emerging nuclear nations? Command and control systems are the operational means by which a state plans the management, deployment, and potential release of nuclear weapons.[1] When evaluating emerging nuclear powers, researchers often devote attention to the quantity and quality of a state’s physical nuclear arsenal while overlooking command and control structures.[2] These measures of nuclear capacity, however, are more useful for generating estimates of a state’s nuclear intentions than accounting for how a nuclear state’s organizations might operate in practice.[3] Any explanation of how these states operate in practice must account for the role of command and control. By explaining the factors that affect command and control systems within emerging regional nuclear states, researchers can better understand the practical employment of nuclear capabilities, which offers insight into how destabilizing future proliferators may be for regional and global security.

Nuclear proliferation is a timely topic of study. At the time of this paper’s writing, the United States and Iran have reached a tentative deal that the US hopes will prevent the development of an Iranian nuclear arsenal.[4] Furthermore, concerns over North Korea’s ability to weaponize its nuclear capability have once again arisen. Adm. Bill Gortney—commander of NORAD and US Northern Command—recently suggested that North Korea’s KN-08 delivery platform might be able to deliver a nuclear missile to the US west coast, despite the fact that the system remains untested.[5] This pair of observations demonstrates two different policy issues, however: nuclear proliferation and post-proliferation behavior. Although research on nuclear proliferation is extremely important, the prioritization of this topic has obfuscated the importance of understanding what states will do with nuclear weapons once they are acquired. A diverse arrangement of potential nuclear postures is available to regional nuclear powers, and it is the posture—not proliferation itself—that causes insecurity. Iran and North Korea have clearly demonstrated that some states desire nuclear weapons and are willing to incur great costs to acquire such capabilities. This study aims to shift focus to the study of post-proliferation behavior in regional nuclear states. By doing so, we may obtain a better understanding of the conditions under which nuclear proliferation is more or less threatening to regional and global security.

When Peter Feaver first explored the origins of regional power command and control systems in 1992, he faced a paucity of data on these systems.[6] The most recent nuclear event at this time was India’s “peaceful” nuclear explosion in 1974, which was not followed by another atomic test until India weaponized its latent nuclear capabilities in 1998.[7] Feaver explicitly noted this obstacle to inquiry, stating that “[r]eliable data on existing or developing systems of command and control in emerging nuclear nations are scarce.”[8] Conscious of these limitations, he established a deductively derived framework for evaluating an emerging nuclear state’s command and control systems as data became available. Feaver’s model has long served as a central framework for debating nuclear stability in proliferating regions, but it has recently been called into question for lacking systematic empirical evaluation. For instance, Vipin Narang plainly asks of the model: “Does the pattern of command and control arrangements match the theoretical predictions?”[9] Although this question remains relevant to explaining the conduct of new nuclear states, it nevertheless remains unanswered. Even with the newfound availability of evidence, no effort has been made to evaluate Feaver’s propositions.[10] This essay takes this lack of empirical evaluation as a point of departure.

In this project, I aim to further the literature on command and control structures in emerging nuclear nations by disaggregating the two key explanations from Feaver’s framework into their constitutive elements and subjecting the proposed hypotheses to evidence from the cases of India and Pakistan. Using observations from South Asia, I argue that a key factor in explaining an emerging nuclear state’s command and control system is the state’s preexisting pattern of civil-military relations. More specifically, this essay demonstrates that an increased level of military intervention in politics allows military organizations to institutionalize more responsive command and control procedures,[11] which may in turn increase the likelihood of preemptive or accidental nuclear use …[12]

To read the complete working paper, click here.


[1] This definition borrows from Vipin Narang, Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), p. 4. Alternative definitions are referenced at a later point in this project.

[2] See, for example, Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press, “The Nukes We Need: Preserving the American Deterrent,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 88, No. 6 (November/December 2009), pp. 39-51; Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press, “The End of Mad?: The Nuclear Dimension of U.S. Primacy,” International Security, Vol. 30, No. 4 (Spring 2006), pp. 7-44; Kenneth N. Waltz, “Nuclear Myths and Political Realities,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 84, No. 3 (September 1990), pp. 731-745.

[3] Peter D. Feaver, “Command and Control in Emerging Nuclear Nations,” International Security, Vol. 17, No. 3 (Winter 1992/93), p. 160. Emphasis in original.

[4] For a simple and useful overview of the points of contention and tentative results of the negotiations between the US and Iran, see William J. Broad and Sergio Pecanha, “A Simple Guide to the Nuclear Negotiations with Iran,” New York Times (2 April 2015), available at: <>.

[5] Jon Harper, “NORAD Commander: North Korean KN-08 Missile Operational,” Stars and Stripes (7 April 2015), available at: <*Situation%20Report&utm_campaign=SitRep04%2F08>.

[6] Feaver, “Command and Control in Emerging Nuclear Nations,” pp. 160-187.

[7] India’s permanent representative to the United Nations at the time of the test strongly asserts that India’s test was “conducted exclusively for peaceful purposes” and “had no military or political implications.” For the full statement, see Rikhi Jaipal, “The Indian Nuclear Explosion,” International Security, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Spring 1977), pp. 44-51. For an authoritative explanation of the development of India’s nuclear program, see Ashley J. Tellis, India’s Emerging Nuclear Posture (Santa Monica: RAND, 2001).

[8] Feaver, “Command and Control in Emerging Nuclear Nations,” p. 160.

[9] Narang, Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era, p. 26.

[10] Although no effort has been made to use recent evidence to test Feaver’s framework, Feaver calls for such a study to be conducted. He observes, “As more information about emerging nuclear arsenals becomes available, the framework should be tested by comparing the expectations derived from the two propositions against data from specific countries.” Feaver, “Command and Control in Emerging Nuclear Nations,” p. 180n41.

[11] For arguments on the offensive nature of military organizations, see Barry R. Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain and Germany Between the World Wars (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984); Jack Snyder, “Civil-Military Relations and the Cult of the Offensive, 1914 and 1984,” International Security, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Summer 1984), pp. 108-146; Stephen Van Evera, “The Cult of the Offensive and the Origins of the First World War,” International Security, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Summer 1984), pp. 58-107.

[12] Scott D. Sagan, “The Perils of Proliferation: Organization Theory, Deterrence Theory, and the Spread of Nuclear Weapons,” International Security, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Spring 1994), pp. 66-107.

NATO’s Paradigm Shift: Searching for a Traditional Security-Human Security Nexus

NATO_Affiliations(Re-published from Contemporary Security Policy (July 2015)) NATO’s identity has been in persistent crisis. Since September 11 and even more since intervention in Afghanistan, the alliance seeks to define a role for itself in the 21st century. Further overseas interventions like Afghanistan or Libya seem beyond its current ability and will. Nevertheless, the Russian engagement in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea have galvanized interest in the alliance, with many, particularly in the USA and Eastern Europe, calling for a major revision of NATO to ensure that the West can withstand a new Cold War.1

[pullquoteright]The alliance still faces a security environment that includes everything from an assertive Russia to humanitarian crisis in Africa and the Middle East.”[/pullquoteright]The question of identity refers to the fact that NATO was created as a defensive security alliance, aimed to protect its member states from an attack by the Warsaw Pack. Once the Cold War ended, NATO was transformed into an organization engaged in complex peacekeeping operations, as the alliance had the military skills and the commitment to democracy promotion to aid societies in conflict transition into democracies. As NATO looks beyond Afghanistan, it is somewhat unclear what it stands for and what, more importantly, it can offer its member states that increasingly seem unsure on how to use and view the alliance. Additionally, the alliance has to contend with the American strategic pivot; attempts by Europeans to reignite enthusiasm for integration through a common defence, security and foreign policy; and, a growing demand within the Eurozone for defence spending cuts.2 Simply, it seems that Europe (mainly Germany) and the USA not only have different visions for the alliance, but also for the global affairs. The dichotomy between Europe and the USA was clearly seen with the German reaction to statements by General Philip Breedlove, Commander of U.S. European Command, particularly on the Ukraine, describing General Breedlove’s comments as ‘dangerous propaganda.’3

A core assumption on which this paper is based is that institutions matter.4 Stephen Walt has noted that although the arrangements that lie at the heart of all institutions vary, what binds them is a commitment for mutual military support against an external actor(s) should a specified set of circumstances emerge. This is also why Walt has pointed out that alliances can come to an end if there is for example a change in the security environment. Walt identifies a number of factors that may precipitate the demise of an alliance: domestic politics, changing demographic and social trends, regime change or ideological divisions, declining credibility, a belief that there is no longer a genuine commitment to provide assistance and more.5 Over a decade ago, Celeste Wallander pointed that the assets that NATO developed during the Cold War for political consultation, decision-making, and for military planning, coordination and implementation could be used once the Cold War ended. Wallander emphasized that in the post-Cold War period, there was a willingness and a desire to adapt the alliance to the new security realities, which meant that some programmes were reduced and others created.6 These changes were essential to make the alliance an effective tool.

This article shows that NATO has to adapt to the new security environment, recognizing that it is unlikely to engage in further Afghanistan- or Libya-type operations. But the alliance still faces a security environment that includes everything from an assertive Russia to humanitarian crisis in Africa and the Middle East. One way for NATO to remain relevant is by developing a new agenda and an identity tailored on addressing the link between fragile states and Islamist extremism, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa region, which poses a direct and immediate threat to the NATO member states and international security. NATO has the maritime capabilities to patrol the Mediterranean (and engage in traditional security and protect Europe’s southern borders which are more susceptible to infiltration) and other areas that are turbulent such as West Africa or the Gulf, as well as advance neoliberal democratic values through such programmes as Partnership for Peace …

To read the full article, click here.


1. See Matthew Kroenig, ‘Facing Reality: Getting NATO Ready for a New Cold War’, Survival, Vol. 57, No. 1 (2015), pp. 49–70; See also the forum convened to respond to Kroening in Survival, Vol. 57, No. 2 (2015), pp. 119–44, with responses by Egon Bahr, Götz Neuneck, Lukasz Kulesa, Steven Pifer, Mikhail Troitskiy and Kroenig.
2. It is important to emphasize that even though it remains largely unclear what is NATO’s budget and the specific amount that each member provides the alliance, the assumption is that the cost of keeping NATO is large. The Dutch Court of Audit, which is an independent organization that reviews government spending has called for a greater debate about NATO’s spending and the fact that the whole system, including NATO’s budget for military, civilian and investment projects was USD 3.27 billion in 2013, without explaining how much its member contributes. Anthony Deutsch, ‘Dutch Auditor Calls for More Transparency on NATO Spending’, Reuters, 10 June 2014.
3. Matthias Gebauer et al., ‘Breedlove’s Bellicosity: Berlin Alarmed by Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine’, Spiegel Online International, 6 March 2015.
4. Gilles Andréani, ‘Why Institutions Matter’, Survival, Vol. 42, No. 2 (2000), pp. 81–95; Adam Przeworski, ‘Institutions Matter?’,Government and Opposition, Vol. 39, No. 4 (2004), pp. 527–40.
5. Stephen M. Walt, ‘Why Alliances Endure or Collapse’, Survival, Vol. 39, No. 1 (1997), pp. 157–63.
6. Celeste A. Wallander, ‘Institutional Assets and Adaptability: NATO after the Cold War’, International Organization, Vol. 54, No. 4 (2000), pp. 731–32.

Why Did the Taliban Go to Tehran?

Taliban_FightersBy Farhad Peikar

(Re-published from The Guardian, May 22, 2015) Reports of an official Taliban delegation’s clandestine visit to Iran this week raised eyebrows in both Kabul and Tehran: why would Iran, a Shia powerhouse involved in proxy wars with several Sunni states and sectarian groups in the Middle East, host a radical Sunni militant group on its soil?

The two erstwhile foes once came to the brink of a full-blown war against each other. However, when it comes to regional politicking the two have found much in common, including their fear of the spread of the Islamic State influence in the region.

In 1998, Tehran deployed more than 70,000 forces along the Afghan border in a clear show of military might and threatened to invade Afghanistan and avenge the deaths of at least eight Iranian diplomats at the hands of Taliban in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif that year. Iranian generals predicted they would topple the Taliban regime within 24 hours, but the situation was defused when the United Nations interfered.

Then, when the US-led coalition forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001 for harboring Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of attacks on 11 September 2001, Iran tacitly supported the operation.

However, more than a decade later, the two archrivals seem to be willing to coexist in the face of the growing threat posed by Isis. This dovetails with another shared goal: pushing the United States and its western allies out of Afghanistan.

While Tehran may not wish to see a return of a Taliban government on its eastern border, Iranian officials would not have a problem seeing the Taliban becoming part of the current western-backed Kabul administration through a much-awaited reconciliation …

To read the full article, click here

Farhad Peikar (MPA/MAIR ’13)—a graduate of INSCT’s CAS in Security Studies program—is a former Afghanistan bureau chief for Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA).

The Accidental Counterinsurgent

Iraqi_insurgentBy Octavian Manea

(Re-published from Small Wars Journal, May 13, 2015) A discussion with Emma Sky, the author of the just published book The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq (Public Affairs, 2015).

SWJ: What prepared you for this Gertrude Bell kind of journey, for the role of the accidental counterinsurgent operating in a field where 80% is about politics (as Galula would remind us), doing a job where you had to “be more of a missionary than a soldier” (as one officer said)?

Emma Sky: When I went out in Iraq, the first time in 2003, I was not at all read or versed in counterinsurgency. It was not something that I was interested in or thought about, I had never worked with militaries. My background was in development and I had spent a decade working in Israel and Palestine and when you work in development and conflict mediation, people are very much at the center of what you do. The way I framed things had more to do with how the environment shapes people’s behavior. I think we are all products of our environments. If you change the environment, people’s behavior will change. This is the background that I came with. Everybody you meet, how you treat them, will affect whether they are your friend or your enemy. This is generally my approach to life.

SWJ: If I understand well the book, my impression is that you are at the other side of the spectrum from Rory Stewart who is highly critical about COIN and grandiose nation-building schemes. But there are times when we may need to embrace nation-building or state building. In this sense what are some of the necessary lessons that we need to have in mind next time?

Emma Sky: I am not that different than Rory Stewart on this. Rory may be at the far end of the spectrum, but I am closer to him. I am not a believer in big nation building efforts. When we look to Iraq today there is nothing to be seen from a decade of our efforts. So you have to ask why. Why after spending billions of dollars is nothing to be seen from it? I think part of the problem is that we are looking for technical solutions to things that are inherently political. It is all about politics. You quoted Galula saying it is 80% politics. I would say it is 90-95% politics.

The violence is an extension of politics. People use violence to achieve political ends. The main problem that we had is how we frame the situation and we framed it in terms of good guys/bad guys so good guys would be put in power and the bad guys would be excluded. In reality it is a power struggle between different groups. Probably civil war is a more accurate term than insurgency, because insurgency assumes that the government is legitimate. Civil war is more of a competition between a vast array of groups for power and resources. What we saw in Iraq was that those excluded from power tried to bring down the whole new order that we introduced and those that we empowered basically extracted the resources of the state for their own purposes, subverted the democratic institutions that we introduced and used the security forces that we trained and equipped to go after their political rivals.

Our focus should be much more on peace agreements, mediating between the different groups, because if you don’t get that right all the technical assistance that you provide is worthless in the end. Look how much we spent training and equipping the Iraqi army and the first time they were really tested by the Islamic State they fled. This had to do with the leadership, the governance of the security forces, there was so much politicization, so much corruption, so much political interference that completely undermined the chain of command. So conducting more training, providing more equipment does not deal with the problem of the governance of the security forces. So the issues are mostly political. We had all these plans to develop ‘them’ as if they were the passive recipients of our benevolence – and we don’t pay enough attention to the politics. In Iraq and Afghanistan we could have done much more right from the beginning to broker inclusive peace agreements.

SWJ: There is a lot of discussion about ancient hatred in the Middle East these days. Is this concept explaining anything? There was a moment during the 1990s when the collapse of the former Yugoslavia and the successive ethnic wars were perceived through similar lenses. George Kennan himself used the metaphor during the 1990s to advise against a Western intervention in the Balkans.

Emma Sky: When you look to the history of a country like Iraq, most of their history people have lived together, peacefully, they haven’t gone through sectarian wars like we had in Europe. There was not a 30 years war as in Europe. When we arrived in Baghdad in 2003, 30% of the population was intermarried. We blame ‘ancient hatreds’ for the violence partly to absolve ourselves of any responsibility for what’s happened and partly out of ignorance. People don’t understand what is going on in the Middle East so it is easy to say that everything has to do with Sunni and Shia. It is a simplistic explanation.

When you look at the conflict today, it has definitely become much more sectarian, so there is a new dynamic in the region. But the root causes have to do with power and the shifts in the balance of power which was caused by the Iraq war and the way in which we left Iraq which gave the impression that Iran was the victor, that Iran has driven America out of Iraq. Previously it was Iraq that acted as a bulwark against Iran’s expansion and without a strong Iraq, Iran is projecting its power through the region. Iran and the Gulf states have been supporting extreme sectarian actors, turning local grievances over poor governance into proxy wars against each other. That is what made the Middle East more sectarian and led to the break down of societies that coexisted for centuries …

To read the full article, click here.

Octavian Manea (MAIR ’13) was a Fulbright Junior Scholar at SU Maxwell School and a 2013 recipient of a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Security Studies through INSCT.