April 20, 2011

English summary

This issue of Diplomaatia focuses mainly on current revolutionary developments in the Middle East and North Africa. It is still too early to say to what extent comparisons between these developments and the events in Eastern Europe in 1989 are justified, but by now it is obvious that changes in the region are substantial and irreversible. It is also too early to provide a full-scale analysis of the meaning of the events or to predict their eventual outcomes, but our authors offer a variety of analytical and geographical perspectives on the events, their historical and socio-political background and our own relationship to the part of the world, which seemed to be doomed to live under dictatorships.

This issue of Diplomaatia focuses mainly on current revolutionary developments in the Middle East and North Africa. It is still too early to say to what extent comparisons between these developments and the events in Eastern Europe in 1989 are justified, but by now it is obvious that changes in the region are substantial and irreversible. It is also too early to provide a full-scale analysis of the meaning of the events or to predict their eventual outcomes, but our authors offer a variety of analytical and geographical perspectives on the events, their historical and socio-political background and our own relationship to the part of the world, which seemed to be doomed to live under dictatorships.

English summary

This issue of Diplomaatia focuses mainly on current revolutionary developments in the Middle East and North Africa. It is still too early to say to what extent comparisons between these developments and the events in Eastern Europe in 1989 are justified, but by now it is obvious that changes in the region are substantial and irreversible. It is also too early to provide a full-scale analysis of the meaning of the events or to predict their eventual outcomes, but our authors offer a variety of analytical and geographical perspectives on the events, their historical and socio-political background and our own relationship to the part of the world, which seemed to be doomed to live under dictatorships.
In the opening essay, historian Mart Nutt writes about the historical context of the current events in the Middle East. He describes the different phases in the formation of the Arab identity – from the spread of Islam in the days of Muhammad in the 7th century to the nationalist and language-based pan-Arab movement of the 19th and the 20th centuries – and the emergence of the contemporary Arab states that are now shaken by unrest. Putting the current situation of the Arab world in its historical context, Nutt argues that the era of military dictatorships established in the 1950s is irreversibly over.
Journalist Päivi Arvonen describes the Egyptian revolution as it was seen on the streets of Cairo and also analyses the background of the ongoing developments. She claims that although the magnitude and the eventual success of the uprising surprised even those Egyptians who initiated the demonstrations, people have been frustrated and dissatisfied for years. Arvonen asserts that although changes will be hard and slow and despite the fact that there is a lot of fear and insecurity after the initial euphoria, the proud Egyptians have a strong will to create the first Arab democracy.
Defence policy analyst Kaarel Kaas follows the recent events in Libya, concentrating on the military intervention by the allied forces against the Gaddafi regime. In his opinion, the operation, which is called ‘Odyssey Dawn’, has proceeded without any great surprises. At the same time, Kaas claims that given the nature of the conflict and the geographical characteristics of Libya, the conflict may linger for a long time, even if the military intervention is terminated quite soon.
Elina Viilup, a research fellow at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, focuses on the European Union’s response to the events in the Arab world. She writes that the EU’s slow and hesitant reaction to the revolutions is a sign of weakness of its common foreign policy. The Lisbon Treaty provided the EU with legal means to take a stand as a united body, but the Union and its High Representative have not made much use of them. Viilup argues that the impact and the credibility of the EU will ultimately depend on the Union’s capability to conduct a ‘value-based but realistic’ common foreign policy.
Sociologist Kristiina Koivunen tackles the Middle Eastern revolutions from the perspective of Kurdistan and asks whether a sudden chance to gain more freedom and democracy in the area will also offer the Kurds new possibilities for nation-building. Koivunen gives an overview of Kurdistan’s history and its current situation, writing that like many of their neighbours, the Kurds have also been protesting against the authoritarian regimes under which they live. She raises the question whether the Kurdish leaders will be able to use the opportunity offered by general unrest in the region to unite their people and to find a political solution to the ‘Kurdish question’.
The last essay by journalist Edward Lucas addresses a different topic. As a year has passed since the Polish tragedy in Smolensk, followed by some major efforts at reconciliation between Poland and Russia, he provides a thorough analysis of the development of Polish-Russian relations and the situation in Central Europe in general, including Poland’s relations with Germany and the USA. Lucas argues that in spite of the initial efforts at reconciliation, today the relationship between Poland and Russia is far from unproblematic. In his view, the presentation of a strong and united front by the countries of the EU and NATO offers a better way to deal with Russia than pragmatism and the formation of bilateral relations.

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