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War and Peace hosts Olya Oliker and Hugh Pope recording with Bulle Media from Brussels, July 2019 CRISISGROUP / Julie David de Lossy
Podcast / Europe & Central Asia

War & Peace

War and Peace is a podcast series from the International Crisis Group, in which Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope interview experts about all things Europe and its neighbourhood, from Russia to Turkey and beyond. Their guests shed new light on everything that helps or hinders prospects for peace.

Season 3

Episode 7: New Ways to Think About Nuclear Weapons

The threat posed by nuclear weapons is changing and policy-makers are struggling to keep up. As the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference approaches, it is clear that the nuclear security field needs a new way of thinking. Nuclear-weapon states are expanding their arsenals and non-proliferation efforts have faltered: it is estimated that Tehran’s nuclear breakout time is now less than a month away, following Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran deal in 2018 that had extended that timeline to 12 months.

This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Special guest-host Ali Vaez, Crisis Group’s Iran Project Director, are joined by Dr Emma Belcher, President of Ploughshares Fund, to ask whether and how bold innovation can solve some of these intractable challenges. They discuss the ways in which policy debates have, or have not, evolved, the continued dominance of deterrence theory and the wave of new, diverse and creative thinkers challenging stale ideas. They also discuss the resumption of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1, prospects for other non-proliferation efforts and hopes for a nuclear-weapon-free future.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify 

Make sure to learn more about Dr Belcher’s work at Ploughshares Fund by visiting ploughsares.org and listening to Ploughshares podcast Press the Button.

This episode is part of our continuing War & Peace sub-series on nuclear weapons and strategy. Click on our special coverage page here to listen to more episodes and benefit from a range of perspectives about everything from deterrence to civil defense to nuclear-weapons-free zones.

Episode 6: One Year On from the Ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh

On 10 November 2020, a Russian-brokered ceasefire put an end to a devastating war in Nagorno-Karabakh that killed some 7,000 people. But it did not bring peace. The year since has seen the situation grow increasingly uneasy. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have fortified their military positions along the state border and continue to exchange deadly fire: mid-November saw the worst escalation of fighting since the war’s end. Meanwhile, as Russian peacekeepers patrol in Nagorno-Karabakh, the region’s political status remains contested and talks are intermittent.

This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope are joined by Olesya Vartanyan, Crisis Group’s senior analyst for the South Caucasus. They discuss the recent violent flare-ups along the line of contact, the roles – planned and unplanned – played by Russian peacekeepers, Turkey’s role and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. They also discuss prospects for negotiation and ask what can be done to put an end to post-Soviet Eurasia’s longest-lasting conflict. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

For more information, make sure to explore Crisis Group’s Nagorno-Karabakh page and to check out Olesya’s recent op-ed for the Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) ‘A Risky Role for Russian Peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh'.

Episode 5: German Foreign Policy After Merkel 

After sixteen years at Europe’s helm, Angela Merkel is stepping down from power. The federal election in September also marked an end to the long-term hold her political party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), had had over German politics. Merkel’s likely successor, Olaf Scholz, is now looking to forge a “traffic light coalition” between his Social Democratic Party (the SPD, whose trademark color is red), the Greens and the Liberals (yellow). While Scholz and his allies have made ambitious commitments to modernise Germany, it remains unclear what, if anything, this portends for foreign policy. Foreign affairs have so far taken the back seat during coalition negotiations, eclipsed by domestic concerns. Still, Germany’s new chancellor will be forced, however reluctantly, to contend with tremendous geopolitical shifts on the continent and further away. 

This week on War & Peace, Hugh and Olga are joined by Jana Puglierin, Head of the European Council on Foreign Relations’ Berlin Office, to make sense of Germany’s future under a new chancellor. They discuss the deprioritisation of foreign policy, possible sticking points between coalition members, the future of the transatlantic alliance with the United States, and increasingly bitter relations with Russia, Turkey and China. They ask whether Scholz’s chancellorship will chart a new course for Europe, and how Germany and the continent are poised to contend with a world of great-power competition. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information, explore Crisis Group’s work on Europe and its neighbours by checking out the regional pages on the left hand side of our website. You can follow Jana’s work on the ECFR website

If you want to hear more about Merkel’s legacy, make sure to check out EuroPod's latest podcast, available in four languages. 

Episode 4: Europe’s Balancing Act in Western Sahara

Exactly a year ago, in November 2020, an old conflict on the south-western edge of Europe burst back into flames. After almost 30 years of ceasefire, the pro-independence Polisario Front and Morocco went back to battle stations in Western Sahara. European states have so far taken a timid stance in response, preferring not to involve themselves in another intractable conflict. Nonetheless, the new focus on Western Sahara is unsettling many relationships, particularly with Morocco. For its part, the Kingdom has taken a hardline response to even the most limited of criticisms: Rabat’s ambassador to Germany was even recalled after a public spat in May. A recent verdict from the European Court of Justice excluding Sahrawi goods and fish from a trade deal risks further ratcheting up tensions. So, how will conflict in Western Sahara affect Europe’s relations with Morocco? 

This week on War & Peace, Hugh Pope is joined by Intissar Fakir, Director of the Middle East Institute’s North Africa and Sahel Program, and Riccardo Fabiani, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for North Africa. They discuss Morocco’s successful hardball strategy, the Polisario’s desperate gambit, Rabat’s troubled alliance with Spain and France, and the ramifications of the Trump administration’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty. They ask whether Europe’s arms-length stance is another example of regional powers flexing ever-growing influence at the expense of  the “big players” in the Old Continent’s capitals.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify 

For more information explore Crisis Group’s work on Europe, Morocco, and Western Sahara, by checking out the regional pages on the left hand side of our website. Make sure to take a look at our recent report ‘Relaunching Negotiations’. 

Episode 3: The Migration Lessons of Afghanistan and Syria

In 2015, over a million people fleeing conflict arrived at Europe’s borders. The continent showed itself to be woefully underprepared, struggling to address the unfolding catastrophe at its doorstep: as decision makers wrangled over asylum quotas, a humanitarian crisis escalated to dramatic proportions. Six years later observers fear that “another 2015” could be imminent after Kabul’s fall to the Taliban. 

In this episode of War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope welcome Liz Collett, Senior Adviser to the Director of the International Organization for Migration to ask how seriously we should take contemporary parallels with 2015. They also talk about the continued impact of the pandemic on global mobility, how climate change is transforming the future of migration, and ask how states can better protect both vulnerable migrants and internally displaced people.  



Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify 

For more information explore Crisis Group’s work on Europe, Afghanistan and its neighbours, check out the regional pages on the left hand side of our website. 

Episode 2: What's at Stake for Russia in a Taliban-led Afghanistan

The Taliban’s dramatic toppling of the Afghan government prompted much soul-searching in the West. But for those closer to Kabul, anxieties about how the Taliban’s takeover will shape the region’s future are even more acute. Where some see risk, however, others see considerable opportunity. Russia’s position, for one, remains ambiguous: while Moscow seems unlikely to formally recognise the new government, it has cultivated a cordial relationship with the Taliban. For their part, Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbors seek to balance possible economic and political collaboration and looming security threats.

So, as the dust settles in Afghanistan, what’s driving policymakers in Russia and Central Asia?  In this new episode of War & Peace, Olga Oilker and Hugh Pope are joined by Ivan Safranchuk, Senior Fellow at Moscow’s Institute of International Studies, to discuss the role they will play in shaping Afghanistan’s future and to ask whether the country can avoid becoming the arena for yet more great-power competition. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify 

For more information explore Crisis Group’s Afghanistan, Russia and Central Asia regional pages and make sure to read Ivan’s latest article here.

Episode 1: Big Data and Global Security

As rapidly developing data technology outpaces governance structures and their ability to adapt, the long-term impact of increasingly data-driven economies on security and society remains uncertain. What happens when personal data ends up in the hands of those in power?

In the first episode of the third season of War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope are joined by Jim Balsillie, co-founder of Research in Motion, now known as BlackBerry, and founder of the Balsillie School of International Affairs, the Centre for Digital Rights and the Arctic Research Foundation, to discuss the intersection of technology and governance. They talk about the new global rule of law framework that was created to regulate technology and the dangers still presented by exploitative tech firms and anti-democratic governments looking for asymmetrical leverage. Jim also explores how data autonomy should be balanced with the ideals of democracy and how future generations will look back with concern on this era of lax personal data security.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information, explore Crisis Group’s Technology and War global issue page.

Season 2

Episode 22: Defusing Tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean

Tensions flared in the eastern Mediterranean in mid-2020 when Turkey sent seismic research ships into waters contested with Greece and the Republic of Cyprus. While neither Turkey nor Greece seeks war with the other, competition over sovereignty and natural resources is reviving long-running geopolitical rivalries.

To discuss the various interests at play in their maritime standoff and how actors such as the EU and U.S. can help push the parties toward reconciliation, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope are joined by Nigar Göksel, project director for Turkey. Together, they draw on key findings detailed in Crisis Group’s latest report on the issue – “Turkey-Greece: From Maritime Brinkmanship to Dialogue” – and assess whether recently restarted talks between President Erdogan and Prime Minister Mitsotakis signal a positive turn in strained relations and might lower the risks of regional conflict.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Eastern Mediterranean Rivalries page.

Episode 21: Understanding the Russian-origin Muslim Diaspora

Successive waves of Muslim-origin migrants have fled Russia since the 1990s. While some simply sought a better life, hundreds of thousands left due to conflict or persecution.  Jean-François Ratelle, professor at the University of Ottawa, joins Olga and Hugh for an in-depth look at the resulting diaspora across Western Europe, Ukraine and Turkey.

Together they unpack Crisis Group’s latest findings, from the various obstacles migrants face in transit and their increasingly cold reception in host countries to the way gender norms have evolved once settled. Jean-François explains that by oversimplifying the needs and experiences of such a diverse group, government policy has tended to alienate rather than support Muslims of Russian origin, to everyone’s detriment. These unique insights and ongoing research, he hopes, will help temper security concerns by informing a more nuanced approach to integrating these communities in their respective contexts. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information, browse Crisis Group’s Special Coverage page for our developing series on the Russian-origin Muslim diaspora.

Episode 20: The Under-loved Logic of Nuclear-free Zones

In 2004, the UN Security Council recognised that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery constitutes a threat to international peace and security. While common discourse has generally normalised the existence and purpose of nuclear weapons, a growing movement within international relations is calling for a world without them. Is a new normal under construction?

María Antonieta Jáquez, counselor at the permanent mission of Mexico to the UN and member of the Mexican foreign service since 1994, tells Olga and Hugh that this is already the norm for most of the world. In fact, the shift against nuclear proliferation gained traction as early as the 1960s, underpinned by principles of international humanitarian law and embodied in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). While 116 countries have signed such treaties since then, the question remains: have nuclear weapons really deterred wars? Jáquez makes the case for global disarmament and shares what inspires her diplomatic efforts to bring about a new reality in a field often too preoccupied by theories of deterrence and power projection.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Episode 19: Venezuela’s Multifaceted Crisis and Europe

Venezuela’s multifaceted crisis has no solution in sight: from the massive migration problem – the number of Venezuelan refugees surpasses the Syrian crisis this year – to widespread hunger, the need for a regime transition and a shortage of vaccines against COVID-19. What can the European Union (EU) do to push for a sustainable future in Venezuela?

In a special episode prepared in collaboration with the Open Society European Policy Institute, Olga and guest co-host Mariano de Alba talk to Venezuelan activist Roberto Patiño about the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and Roberto’s social initiatives, which feed thousands of children daily and provide hot meals during the pandemic to health workers. They discuss what a possible transition would look like in Venezuela and the importance of negotiation. They also talk about what role the EU could play to this end and the recent agreement between the World Food Programme  – funded by the EU and U.S. – and Maduro’s regime. Roberto says Europe should take more political risks with respect to Venezuela and lead the multilateral game in Caracas.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information explore Crisis Group’s Venezuela page and read the report, Comunidad Venezuela: Una agenda de investigación y acción local.

Episode 18: Peacemaking in Cyberspace

What happens behind closed doors during peace talks? Adam Cooper, senior program manager at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and host of The Mediator’s Studio, talks to Olga and Hugh about the hidden world of peace diplomacy and how social media has changed it. 

Adam shares what he has learnt from talking to seasoned mediators on his podcast, the challenges they face behind-the-scenes, especially when online disinformation has to be factored into the process. They also discuss cybermediation as a response to the increased deployment of digital tools by conflict actors, the question of who is responsible for monitoring the dissemination of harmful content online and other negative – and positive – cyber trends on his radar.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

For more information make sure to listen to The Mediator's Studio podcast and to explore Crisis Group's Peace, Justice and Reconciliation & Technology and War pages. 
 

Episode 17: Has the Spread of Nuclear Weapons Added to Global Stability?

Maintaining the balance of power is considered essential to stability and peace. What happens when nuclear weapons enter the equation? Petr Topychkanov, senior researcher at the SIPRI Nuclear Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-proliferation Program, tells Olga and Hugh that nuclear proliferation in South Asia has lessened the intensity of traditional warfare fuelled by local geopolitics. Together they explore what his findings mean more broadly for doctrines of deterrence.

It’s not just new nuclear states that pose new challenges for conflict prevention. Petr weighs in on the question of how inclusive and transparent arms control discussions should be, given China is currently excluded from the U.S.-Russia strategic dialogue and the UK has opted for a nuclear policy of ambiguity. He also discusses how artificial intelligence, among other new technologies, is altering the nature of warfare and to what extent nuclear weapons encourage restraint in the face of these growing capabilities.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information:

Episode 16: Colonial Amnesia and Racial Justice in Europe

The Black Lives Matter protests that engulfed the U.S. last year sparked similar anti-racism demonstrations in London, Paris, Brussels and several other cities across Europe. The challenge now is how to channel this newfound momentum into meaningful conversations and concrete changes, both nationally and regionally. 

Dr. Liliane Umubyeyi, research coordinator at Avocats Sans Frontières, and Dr. Amah Edoh, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and African Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tell Olga and Hugh about a global conference they recently co-organised that brought together scholars, activists and policymakers from Africa, Europe and North America to explore how to do just this. 

They discuss why these grievances came to the fore amid a pandemic, the need for transnational spaces that allow for the continued exchange of ideas and best practices, the way some states use “colonial amnesia” as a political strategy, the intersections between race, gender and class and the challenges that arise from pursuing redress through the judicial apparatus.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.  

For more information, visit the event website here.

Episode 15: What’s the Point of Nuclear Weapons Today?

Nuclear weapons sometimes sound like a throwback to another era, but they don’t just remain on stand-by. Nuclear-armed nations are investing heavily in creating more sophisticated and diverse nuclear arsenals. 

After the end of the Cold War, NATO, like the U.S. and Russia, significantly reduced its reliance on nuclear weapons and nuclear policy took a back seat. Then came the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014 and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. Since then, there has been a renewed interest in nuclear capabilities and a focus on the alliance’s nuclear policies to make sure that NATO forces are a deterrent to Russia. 

Jessica Cox, Director of Nuclear Policy at NATO, explains to Olga and Hugh why nuclear weapons still matter to the alliance and to what extent nuclear powers like Russia pose a threat to NATO allies. They also talk about the latest nuclear technology, the alliance’s deterrence capability and why NATO does not support the nuclear ban treaty that entered into force in January. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

Episode 14: Europe’s Colonial Legacies

Indonesia was the first country to proclaim its independence after the Second World War, setting in motion a significant chapter of post-colonial history by doing so. In his latest book, Revolusi, Belgian cultural historian and prolific author David van Reybrouck examines the Dutch East Indies’ past and places it in a global context. A five-year project spanning over 200 interviews with living eyewitnesses, he tells Olga and Hugh why he undertook it, and how (spoiler alert: even the dating app Tinder helped him out).

In both his new book and his previous volume on Belgian colonial history, Congo: The Epic History of a People, David says his hybrid read-and-interview research technique allows him to challenge political myopia in former colonising countries and set the stage for a fuller reckoning of the way Europe has hidden the darkest pages of its colonial history.

They also discuss what David calls a new kind of evangelisation, in the form of exporting the Western model of elections-based democracy, and his case for a lottery-based system. Drawing on his book Against Elections and innovations already taking place in Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands, he explains what makes elections another way of empowering elites, why exporting the Western version of the ballot box elsewhere is wrong, and how an alternative model that returns policymaking to citizens might be a solution. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Episode 13: Planning for Nuclear Armageddon

While the threat of imminent nuclear armageddon may not be at the forefront of the average person’s mind today, it was a real, globe-spanning fear not so long ago during the Cold War. Absent the treaties and confidence-building measures developed since to mitigate the risk of such an event, U.S. and Soviet civil defence then was totally consumed with the daunting task of planning for the worst.

So how does a state prepare for the event of a nuclear attack? How do you ensure continuity of government in a country laid waste? How conscious are ordinary citizens of this reality and how involved are they in preparedness efforts?

Olga and Hugh debate these all-important questions from the height of their salience to now with Edward Geist, policy researcher at the RAND Corporation and author of the book Armageddon Insurance: Civil Defense in the United States and Soviet Union, and Ivan Kalugin, Moscow-based researcher and Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) affiliate. Together they discuss how the two superpowers went about tackling them, from the survivability of essential infrastructure and public information campaigns to the logic of mutually assured destruction and the rumoured existence of automatic launching systems known as the ‘Dead Hand’.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Episode 12: Police, Protests & Populism in Central Asia

Central Asia is no exception to the protests that have emerged with renewed vigour on a global scale, a phenomenon made more visible against the backdrop of COVID-19 restrictions. 

Although the grievances driving them are context-specific, deep socio-political divisions and populist leaders are recurring themes, says Dr Erica Marat. A professor at the U.S. National Defense University and a post-Soviet security expert, she joins Olga and Hugh to discuss what connections can be drawn between collective action and protest-policing dynamics spanning the U.S., Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. 

Central Asian regimes bear the legacy of the Soviet era, and yet even the most autocratic among them are in constant adaptation, borrowing tactics from around the world to survive. Protest movements are evolving in the same way. Erica shares her findings about these trends, explaining the rise of ‘uncivil’ society, who the so-called “Kyrgyz Trump” is, and why Kazakhstan is a repatriation model for ISIS-affiliated citizens. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information:

Explore Crisis Group’s regional analysis on our Central Asia page 

Erica Marat, The Politics of Police Reform: Society against the State in Post-Soviet Countries, Oxford University Press

Episode 11: Reviving Dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia

Thirteen years after Kosovo broke away from Serbia to become de facto independent, political inertia continues to stall the largely European-driven dialogue process aimed at reaching an understanding between the two parties and thus securing lasting stability for the region. On the back of our recently published report, “Relaunching the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue”, Crisis Group’s Balkans expert Marko Prelec joins Olga and Hugh to examine why that is. 

Taking a step back from the state of talks today, Marko lays out the historical context for the current impasse, and what the obstacles have been to changing the uneasy status quo. Beyond leaving the door wide open for the dispute to escalate, Kosovo’s unresolved status has tainted domestic political discourse and continues to bar both it and Serbia from accessing the European Union and otherwise participating in the international community.

Failure to breathe new life into talks also comes at a human cost, he explains, having met people on both sides whose lives are curtailed by mutual non-recognition. Does the new year bear any signs that Pristina and Belgrade are willing to make the compromises necessary to resolve their dispute?

Tune in to find out!

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information, read our new report Relaunching the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue.

Episode 10: Turkey’s Trials and Errors

Ankara’s assertive foreign policy choices delight many at home. But they can puzzle and anger its counterparts as Turkey experiments with increasingly militarised postures in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, the South Caucasus and the ongoing wars in Libya and Syria.

Ambassador Selim Yenel, Turkish ambassador to the EU until 2017 and now president of the Istanbul-based think-tank Global Relations Forum, joins Olga and Hugh to help make sense of what is driving Ankara in a changing world. Together they dive into the making of a regional power, the costs of undercutting dialogue with hard-power moves, the imperative of undergoing reforms at home, and what can be done to revive Turkey’s EU accession process. 

Arguing that Turkey’s recent shifts have been more reactive than proactive, Ambassador Yenel urges all sides to cool down rhetoric and calls for a return to more empathetic diplomacy. Even if NATO member Ankara has made mistakes – for instance in the purchase of S-400 ground-to-air missiles from Russia – he says others have too, and thus Turkey deserves to be met halfway.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information, explore Crisis Group’s Turkey page and visit the Global Relations Forum website.

Episode 9: Europe Has Much to Prove in 2021

With the international system in major flux as we turn the page on 2020, Ambassador Gérard Araud believes one main thing is clear: 2021 opens a new, more dangerous chapter.

A Crisis Group trustee who represented France on the world stage for over three decades, most recently as ambassador to the United States (2014-2019), Araud gives Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope a decidedly sceptical take on the state of power politics, describing destabilising international rivalry, leaderlessness and a descent toward the law of the jungle. 

Together they also touch on why Brexit has only just begun its destructive path, how the impact of COVID-19 is accelerating the surge in nationalism testing Western societies and how the interlocking crises in the Eastern Mediterranean reveal where the European Union’s strengths and weaknesses really lie. 

Ambassador Araud does highlight one hope: that the urgency of transnational risks, particularly on the question of climate change, could propel a multilateral coalescence around ways to address them. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information, read Ambassador Gérard Araud’s weekly column in Le Point.

Episode 8: Personal Reflections on 2020, between Europe and the Middle East

“I think I should kill you”. 

So began one especially fraught encounter in Hugh Pope’s critically acclaimed memoir, Dining with Al Qaeda, now out in an updated edition. He joins Olga Oliker as co-host-turned-guest for this week’s episode to reflect on how his three decades of reporting in the Middle East remain relevant for Western readers grappling to understand the region today. 

Olga and Hugh then reflect on the year that was and how COVID-19 became a phenomenon that has both disrupted life as we knew it and accelerated broader geopolitical trends. While physical borders have been reinforced and personal horizons shrunk to the here and now, the unprecedented reality of lockdown in a digital era has also allowed for a reimagined sense of identity and community. 

What big questions remain to be unpacked on War & Peace in 2021?

Tune in to find out!

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information:

Visit www.hughpope.com to find out more about Dining with Al Qaeda: Making Sense of the Middle East

See The Covid-19 Pandemic and Deadly Conflict page

Episode 7: Twenty-first Century Threats

Sir John Sawers, former chief of the British secret service MI6 and Executive Chairman at Newbridge Advisory, joins Olga and Hugh for a dynamic conversation on the changing global balance of power and emerging threats that will shape multilateral diplomacy. 

Drawing on 40 years of international service, Sir John describes how Western interventionism has evolved since the early 1990s, the implications of a rising China and declining U.S. for the international system, what motivates and hinders Russia at home and abroad, as well as how medium-sized powers are exploiting these fluctuations along the way. 

He also outlines a major concern: how will advances in the virtual sphere increasingly impact the physical world?

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Episode 6: The Future of NATO

The geopolitical landscape has transformed dramatically since NATO was established in 1949. As a transatlantic alliance that seeks to safeguard democratic values and the rule of law, how well has it adapted through the years and what should its priorities be going forward? 

Who better to dive into these questions with than Rose Gottemoeller? The former NATO Deputy Secretary-General (2016-2019) was the organisation’s most senior woman official to date. She was previously the chief U.S. negotiator on arms control, and is today a distinguished lecturer at Stanford University and research fellow at the Hoover Institution. She joins Olga and Hugh to share her thoughts on the challenges of rebuilding the transatlantic relationship, responding to emerging threats outside of NATO’s traditional mandate and preserving its core principles in an ever-changing world.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Episode 5: Europe’s Impact Depends on Internal Strength, Not the New U.S. President

The prospect of a Biden administration brings new opportunities for European security and foreign policy, but many challenges remain. Joining Olga and Hugh to discuss the evolution of U.S.-Europe relations and its impact on the world is Nathalie Tocci, Director of the Istituto Affari Internazionali and Special Adviser to EU High Representative Josep Borrell.

The EU is tethered in some ways to U.S. leadership, but not entirely, says Nathalie. Developing its internal strengths will be key to greater impact in the conflicts and crises unfolding within its sphere of influence. 

A steady decline in the American-centred liberal world order has meanwhile made way for competing visions of the values and principles that underpin global politics. Where does this leave European hopes that a Biden administration will strengthen multilateralism? 

Tune in to find out!

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information, explore Nathalie's monthly column for Politico here.

Episode 4: Why Gender Matters in the Fight Against Terrorism

2020 marks two decades since the formal integration of gender into the UN’s mandate of conflict prevention and resolution. According to Aleksandra Dier, Gender Coordinator at the UN Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), the inclusion of gender-sensitive analysis has lagged far behind in the global effort to understand and fight terrorism. 

She joins Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope for a wide ranging conversation on the value of gender as a cross-cutting lens in the counter-terrorism field, touching on how extremist groups across the ideological spectrum exploit gender dynamics and norms in their recruitment strategies, the gendered impact of counter-terrorism measures and how well legislation at the national level is keeping up with these insights.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information, see the UN Analytical Brief on the prosecution of ISIL-linked women here and explore Crisis Group’s Gender & Conflict page. 

Episode 3: Russian Digital Diplomacy

Hugh and Olga are joined this week by Oleg Shakirov, Senior Expert at the Center for Advanced Governance and Consultant at the Moscow-based PIR Center, for a discussion on how Russian foreign policy and diplomacy have evolved in the 21st century. 

Oleg describes Russia’s launch into the digital age over a decade ago, and the ways it has since harnessed these new platforms to project its desired self-image into the public sphere. By asserting its place in the virtual realms of real-time politics and competing narratives on disinformation, Russia has joined its Western counterparts in transforming the status quo of international relations. 

Has Moscow managed to tilt the balance of power in its favour?

Tune in to find out!

For more information, see Oleg's research into Russian aid during the COVID-19 pandemic here

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Episode 2: Rethinking an End to Ukraine’s Costly War

Why have ceasefire agreements repeatedly fallen apart since the war in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region erupted six years ago? And how has this political inertia shaped the lives of civilian populations divided by the line of separation? 

Drawing on the two latest instalments in our Peace in Ukraine series, Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for Ukraine Katharine Quinn-Judge unpacks these questions with Olga and Hugh. Fighting between government troops and Russian-backed separatists persists at a slow simmer, says Katharine, a result of the failure to achieve a lasting ceasefire at the front line. European leaders have met with both sides over the years to broker peace, but agreements have faltered in the face of unwillingness on either side to compromise on their respective narratives of the broader conflict. 

A sense of urgency over securing a political solution has been lost with the advent of COVID-19, and it remains to be seen how long the current truce will hold. In the meantime, the dynamics of the war have altered the socio-economic landscape of frontier villages beyond recognition, a double-edged phenomenon, Katharine explains. Breaking the deadlock will require a fundamental rethinking of who stands to benefit from establishing zones of disengagement and a recentring of the humanitarian imperative in future negotiations.

The question of whether the Ukrainian government envisions the eventual reintegration of separatist-held areas will be ever more critical as the years go by. Tune in to find out more!

For more information, see our reports: Peace in Ukraine (II): A New Approach to Disengagement and Peace in Ukraine (III): The Costs of War in Donbas

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Episode 1: How a Bad Brexit May Sour European Security Cooperation

As the end of the transitional period and negotiations for Britain to leave the EU draws near, a ‘no-deal’ or a very limited deal is increasingly likely. Even if a deal is reached, it will be far from a comprehensive framework on how to integrate the two trading systems and contentious issues are likely going to be kicked into next year. Future negotiations could spill over into important areas such as defence and security.

Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, co-Chair of Crisis Group's Board, joins Olga and Hugh for the first episode of a new season to discuss what both a ‘no-deal’ and a limited deal would mean for the future relationship between the UK and the EU, as well as their respective relationships with other actors such as the U.S., NATO and Russia. They also discuss Malloch-Brown’s work as chair for the Best for Britain campaign to keep Britain in Europe, what Brexit tells us about the state of global politics and what must change to better address the concerns of today.

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Season 1

Episode 22: Energy Policy and Pipeline Politics

To conclude our first season, Olga and Hugh talk energy security with Alissa de Carbonnel, Crisis Group’s Deputy Program Director for Europe and Central Asia. They assess who is dependent on who in the Russia-Europe relationship, the impact of energy on conflicts, what an increasingly assertive U.S. policy will achieve, and how energy prices in a COVID-19 era could affect Russia.

We’ll be back in September with a brand new season. Until then, stay safe!

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Episode 21: Will Protests in the U.S. Bring the Systemic Change Needed?

Last week, for the very first time in Crisis Group's history, we published a statement on the events unfolding in the U.S. The murder of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man, triggered protests across the country against structural inequality. Similar protests have since erupted around the world as many countries reckon with their own histories of entrenched racial discrimination. 

Dan Schneiderman, Crisis Group’s Head of Advocacy and Research for the U.S., joins Hugh and Olga to discuss the meaning of these recent events. They look at the militarisation of the police, the impact the protests will have on the U.S.'s global credibility, and their potential to bring about the systemic change being demanded.

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Episode 20: How COVID-19 Makes Afghanistan’s War Still More Deadly

After two decades of conflict in Afghanistan, many hoped that a peace deal between the U.S. and the Taliban, signed on 29 February 2020, would mark the beginning of a peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Instead, the peace process has stalled as the two sides struggle to agree on issues necessary to begin the negotiations. The Taliban has since steadily escalated violence against Afghan security forces, while the U.S. has resumed airstrikes.

In addition to the uptick in violence, Afghanistan’s minister of public health has warned that up to 25 million Afghans could eventually be infected with COVID-19, out of a population of about 36 million. Even with very limited testing, numbers continue to rise. At the same time, the public health crisis may pale compared to severe food insecurity, a shrinking economy, and yet more people who are unable to make money to put food on the table.

Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Afghanistan Andrew Watkins talks with Olga and Hugh about sentiment among Afghans suffering under these overlapping crises, which states could serve as neutral negotiators for the peace process, the role of the EU and its member states in Afghanistan’s future and what could happen if the U.S. withdraws its troops without an intra-Afghan peace deal.

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Episode 19: The OSCE's Role in a COVID-19 World

As COVID-19 cuts a deadly swathe across the globe, its political impact is only starting to be felt and could last long after the virus is contained. 

George Tsereteli, President of the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, joins Olga and Hugh to discuss how the 57-nation OSCE is coping in these unprecedented times, what action it is taking to mitigate the effects of the crisis and what the long-term consequences could be. They assess the threat to multilateralism in a post-pandemic world, how populations may be vulnerable in breakaway post-Soviet statelets, the challenges to governance in many democracies, and what it means that key elections are being postponed.

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Episode 18: The Russian and European Roles in Ending Ukraine’s War

What will it take to end the war in Ukraine? 

A plan for what happens inside Ukraine is a prerequisite for peace in the six-year civil war. But that will not suffice if the conflict’s broader geostrategic underpinnings are not addressed, explains Olga, our host-turned-guest for this week’s episode. Russia’s intervention on its neighbour’s territory was largely driven by fears of Western encroachment in its sphere of influence. For NATO and EU member states, these actions pose a deep threat to European stability and security. 

Olga and Hugh discuss what can be done to break the impasse and move toward a durable peace. Broader security concerns in both Europe and Russia must be taken into account. “You can’t fix Ukraine without fixing the rest of the problem”. 

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For more information, see our report: Peace in Ukraine I: A European War.

Episode 17: Turkey in the Time of COVID-19

Turkey’s many paradoxes and its place on a global crossroads come into focus in a discussion about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic with Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council of Foreign Relations. She joins Olga and Hugh for this episode of War & Peace from her home in Istanbul to talk about a faltering economy, Ankara’s “lone wolf” foreign policy, some opportunities missed by the government, and overall, an often heart-warming popular response.

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Episode 16: Libya’s Battle for Tripoli

Libya has been in a near constant state of war since Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was toppled back in 2011, morphing into local conflicts between pro- and anti-Islamists. On 4 April last year, forces commanded by General Haftar laid siege to Tripoli, the home of the internationally recognised government. Fighting on the city’s outskirts has been terribly destructive. Meanwhile weapons continue to flow into the country from foreign backers.

The onset of COVID-19 has not broken the diplomatic paralysis that pervades the conflict. UN Security Council members are divided, NATO countries support different sides and the EU’s focus on migration has hampered its ability to develop any coordinated, effective response. The UN call for a global ceasefire to mobilise against the pandemic was followed by an upsurge of fighting around Tripoli.

Claudia Gazzini joins Hugh and Olga on War & Peace this week to discuss realities on the ground, the role of foreign powers and much more. Tune in now!

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Episode 15: Getting EU-Turkey Relations Back on Track

One hour after 34 Turkish soldiers were killed in Idlib, Syria’s last rebel-held bastion, Turkey opened its borders to Greece, prompting thousands of migrants to head for the frontier in the hope of crossing into Europe. 

Berkay Mandıracı, Crisis Group’s Turkey expert and our guest on War & Peace, sheds light on what triggered Ankara’s decision, what implications it could have on the fragile 2016 migration deal with the EU and what can be done at this critical moment to strengthen rapidly declining EU-Turkey relations.

One thing is clear: as the humanitarian situation on the Turkey-Greece border and in Idlib deteriorates and the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic grows, cooperation between the EU and Turkey is growing ever more urgent. Joint work to help refugees and migrants is the most promising place to restart it.

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For more information, see Berkay’s recent commentary: Sharing the Burden: Revisiting the EU-Turkey Migration Deal

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Episode 14: Deconstructing Islamic State’s Appeal in Central Asia

The conflicts in Syria and Iraq drew between 12,000 and 15,000 fighters from Central Asia. Noah Tucker, expert on Central Asian issues and our guest on War & Peace this week, helps us understand why. 

No overwhelming single factor accounts for such a huge number of people going to fight with the Islamic State. “For every 10 people who join, there are 10 different life stories, and often 10 different reasons”, Noah explains.

But the deep inequalities found in Central Asian countries can help explain. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Central Asia underwent rapid modernisation and radical economic changes. While not unique to the region, the additional challenge of constructing a political system from scratch produced clear winners and losers while whole sections of society were left behind with no mechanism for changing the balance. The Islamic State offered a different path to addressing these injustices, an alternative theory on how to construct a government and distribute resources more fairly.

Noah, Olga and Hugh go on to examine the gendered element, the role of ethno-nationalism as state ideology and much more on this week’s episode. Tune in now! 

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Episode 13: Bringing Home Europe’s ISIS-affiliated Women and Children

Over 13,500 foreign nationals who went to fight for ISIS are currently detained in Syria, among them women and children living in abhorrent humanitarian conditions. Western governments have largely failed to repatriate their citizens, afraid of the potential domestic political pushback. 

For Crisis Group’s Gender Director Azadeh Moaveni, these governments should start by bringing home the children and women formerly associated with the group. She urges European leaders to do more to shift public rhetoric from being hostile and dehumanising, explaining to Olga and Hugh how this group is far from monolithic. For her, working on gender in conflict means ensuring that women are not just seen as passive victims or inherent peacebuilders, that their full agency is explored, and that the structural conditions that first encouraged them to join militant groups are understood. 

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For more on this, see our report: Women and Children First: Repatriating the Westerners Affiliated with ISIS

Episode 12: Of Nightclub Bouncers and Arms Control

“Policies today are geared toward power, strength and pushing back. They are not geared toward talking to each other, and that is the prerequisite for arms control”. 

For Ulrich Kuehn, our guest on War & Peace this week, we have entered an age of regression of predictability in the international military balance. States are gradually dismantling many of the treaties won in hard negotiations during and after the end of the Cold War, arguing that they have become obsolete.

What does this mean for those countries who depend on cooperative mechanisms, but who have little say in what happens to them? And what are the implications for Europe? Does it have the political and military strength to be an autonomous arms control actor?

Tune in now to find out more, including why it’s sometimes useful to think of deterrence in terms of how nightclubs view their bouncers. 

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Episode 11: A 2020 Peace Agenda for the EU

Europe is closer than global powers like the U.S., China and Russia to many of the decades-old wars and new crises threatening peace and security around the world. As the old multilateral order fragments, European leadership is urgently needed to prevent and mitigate deadly conflict.

Crisis Group’s EU experts Giuseppe Famà and Lisa Musiol join Olga and Hugh in the studio this week to discuss the crises where Josep Borrell, the EU’s recently appointed Vice President and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, can help the EU and its member states rise to the challenge.

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For more see Crisis Group’s recent briefing and upcoming EU Watch List 2020.

 

Episode 10: Ground Reality in Nagorno-Karabakh 

The dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh is the longest-running conflict that accompanied the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. War over the territory broke out in 1992 between Armenians and Azerbaijanis.  A ceasefire was brokered in 1994, but decades of negotiations have failed to resolve the conflict.

Our guest this week is Olesya Vartanyan, Crisis Group’s Analyst for Europe’s Eastern Neighbourhood. She explains that grievances and tensions had existed long before the conflict erupted, and that recent calm only papers over years of stalemate that have entrenched positions and isolated Armenians and Azerbaijanis from one another. 

Does Olesya see a way out of the current deadlock? Have a listen to find out.

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For more information on this conflict, see our recent report: Digging out of Deadlock in Nagorno-Karabakh and our Visual Explainer, which features a uniquely detailed map of the front lines and interactive data charts on reports of casualties and on the use of heavy weaponry, drones and special operations in the conflict zone. 

 

Episode 9: Russia in 2020

2019 was a good year for Russia. The country rejoined the Council of Europe, the first case of sanctions being lightened since its 2014 annexation of Crimea. It confirmed the country’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement. It welcomed close to fifty African leaders to the inaugural Russia-Africa summit in Sochi. Moscow even made progress with Kyiv, although less as a result of Russian diplomacy than the efforts of Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy. 

Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, joined Olga and Hugh to reflect on 2019 and discuss what 2020 might bring. They weigh in on everything from Syrian reconstruction to arms control to who President Putin might want to win the U.S. presidential election.

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Episode 8: Bridging the EU-Russia Divide

Russia’s relationship with the European Union has been mired in tension and mistrust since Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014. But while relations at a political level are strained, in Russian society there is an appetite for more engagement. 

Sabine Fischer is Team Leader for the Public Diplomacy EU and Russia Project, which seeks to build engagement between the EU and Russian civil society on bilateral and global issues and to strengthen mutual understanding where possible. She talks to Olga and Hugh about the project, Western perceptions of Russian foreign policy, how the new European Commission should engage Russia, and how the West can balance its rejection of the Crimea annexation with its broader policies toward Russia.

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Episode 7: Holding the EU Flag High

The European Union has invested more in its eastern neighbourhood than in any other region around the world. In the Balkans, for example, huge financial, political and security resources have been mobilised, often behind the flagship policy of offering EU membership to qualifying countries. The wars of the 1990s and the economic hardships that followed have been largely overcome, but enlargement has stalled and the region’s uncertainties continue. The logic of EU enlargement is in even greater trouble further east in Turkey. Here media freedoms have shrunk, relations have strained over Turkey’s incursion into north-east Syria and the two sides are struggling to find a common policy on helping almost four million Syrian refugees in the country. 

Angelina Eichhorst, Deputy Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia/Director of Western Europe, Western Balkans, and Turkey at the European External Action Service, joins Hugh and Olga this week to discuss how the EU and its eastern neighbours can navigate periods of more strained relations and why continued engagement and dialogue is crucial for long-term stability and prosperity.

“We must shape our interests together. We cannot do this by sitting at different tables”.

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Episode 6: Defeating Populism

“Populism attaches itself to whatever issue provokes fear and outrage [and] hate speech leads to hate crime”. 

Populist parties have risen up across Europe and beyond, galvanising electorates and threatening the multilateral institutions needed to address transnational challenges like globalisation, deadly conflict, digital transformations and the climate emergency.

Heather Grabbe, Policy Director for Open Society European Policy Institute, joins Olga and Hugh on this week’s episode of War & Peace to discuss how populism works, why its appeal has grown in recent years, and the threat it poses to European democracy. From its ideological adaptability and the role of digital media in amplifying its message to its role in fuelling deadly conflict, they examine what can be done to address the grievances that these parties feed off. 

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Episode 5: Russia's Winning Streak

Russia’s role on the international stage is rapidly expanding. It is taking over Washington’s monopoly as the Middle East’s power broker, building its influence in Africa and deepening military ties with China. 

In some places, Russia is moving into a vacuum left by U.S. retrenchment. But it is also doing well globally because it is pragmatic about what success means. Its priority is positioning itself to be in the strongest possible place as the new global order shakes out. 

This week, Olga and Hugh discuss what Russia’s winning streak means for arms control, Ukraine, Turkey, the Middle East and a rising China.

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This podcast was recorded on 30 October 2019. 

Episode 4: Europe’s Hidden Strengths

The turmoil since the United Kingdom’s 2016 referendum on leaving the European Union has exposed deep fissures not just within British society, but also problems within Europe as a whole. Indeed, a tide of nationalist parties has swept through the continent on an anti-EU platform, triggering heated debate about the union’s true value. 

Jeremy Shapiro, Research Director at the European Council on Foreign Relations, is Olga and Hugh’s guest to discuss these shifting dynamics in the War & Peace studio. Together they reflect on the meaning of European sovereignty, the EU’s relationship with the U.S. under an antagonistic president and the need for a common policy toward their Russian neighbour. 

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Anna Kovalenko, Deputy Head of the President's Office, Ukraine

Episode 3: Ukraine’s Zelensky Revolution

Anna Kovalenko had just completed a diploma in theatre studies in 2013 when the people of Ukraine gathered on the streets of Kiev to demonstrate against the government’s reneging on an agreement with the European Union. Anna became one of the leaders of these protests, later known as the Euromaidan Revolution. 

Five years on, the country is locked in a protracted conflict with Russia-backed separatists and its relationship with the EU has suffered due to corruption and failed political reform. Many challenges lie ahead for recently elected President Zelensky, a former actor who is now also embroiled in a scandal regarding a July telephone call with U.S. President Trump. 

Anna, Deputy Head of the President’s Office, joins Hugh and Olga to discuss security sector reform, reaching a peace deal with Russia and much more. 

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This podcast was recorded on 30 August 2019.

 

Episode 2: Europe in the World

“We have failed to export stability, to the extent that we are now importing instability.” 

Europe’s security outlook has shifted dramatically in the last few years. Russia has broken out of the “Cold War consensus”, the Middle East is “on fire” and North Africa is “in chains”. Surrounded by this dangerous instability, Europe is facing a number of its own internal challenges, from migration to the internal debates polarising its citizens, especially in Britain. 

Bert Koenders, a former Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, a UN envoy and a Crisis Group Trustee, joins Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope this week to explore these issues and discuss ways forward. 

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This podcast was recorded on 10 July 2019.

Episode 1: Europe and Iran 

What was so significant about the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and how important was Europe’s contribution to it? Why has U.S. President Trump’s ripping up of the accord and subsequent “maximum pressure” strategy not worked? Amid the ongoing standoff between the U.S. and Iran, what role can the EU and Russia play in salvaging the deal and averting a military confrontation?

Rob Malley, a negotiator of the Iran deal, joins Olya and Hugh to explore these questions. 

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This podcast was recorded on 4 September 2019.

This podcast series was produced by Bulle Media