Paris Terror Attacks, Security Discourses of Russia and EU

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Hossein Mofidi Ahmadi, Ph.D. in International Relations &
Visiting Researcher at the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies

Cooperation for Management of Regional Crises

Recent terrorist attacks in the French capital, Paris, must be considered as a turning point in the emergence and rise of security discourses of effective international powers as well as a watershed in their foreign policy approaches, especially to developments in the Middle East. This issue also includes Russia and the European Union. It seems that one of the effects and consequences of these terror attacks was more closeness between security and foreign policy positions and actions of the European Union and Russia, especially with regard to developments in Syria and Iraq. The closeness was also a result of further strengthening of Russia’s extroverted security discourse and adoption of a more extroversive security discourse by the European Union.

An overview of Russia’s foreign policy in the face of developments in the Middle East will reveal that this policy has been more founded on geopolitical considerations and has been mostly following an extroversive approach. This country’s geopolitical considerations have been, in turn, based on countering further weakening of Russia’s spheres of influence in the Middle East and preventing the spillover of threatening factors into Russia’s borders. Russia’s extroversive approach has been also based on demonstrating the positive role of this country within framework of the “normative order of the international system” and as an effective global power.

The logic underlying this approach in Russia’s foreign policy should be sought in the security discourse that is embedded in the country’s national security documents as well as its military doctrines, especially the “Russian National Security Strategy to 2020” and the “Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation.” In fact, these two documents are symbols that underline Russia’s role as a country acting to “promote security of international system” by taking advantage of its various sources of power. By the way, these documents have stipulated with regard to all factors of threat that any kind of threat posed against the allies of Russia would be practically considered as a threat against Russia itself.

Paris terror attacks will lead to strengthening of Russia’s geopolitics-based and extroversive security discourse. These attacks will shore up the geopolitical logic of Russia’s effort which is aimed at preserving and bolstering regional nation-states as the most important factor for countering jihadist Takfiri groups and preventing further spread of their influence. These terror attacks will also boost the legitimacy of Russia’s military strikes in Syria, which on their own have invigorated Russia’s role as an effective actor in maintaining the “normative order of the international system,” and have also led to recognition of this country’s influence in certain parts of the Middle East.

An overview of the European Union’s security policy in the face of the developments in the Middle East, at least up to recent years, will strengthen this proposition that this policy has been more based on such foundations as “geoculture” and “soft power” of this Union and has been mostly introversive. Geocultural foundations of the European Union’s security policy toward the Middle East must be studied within framework of two main strategies of this Union which include the “neighborhood policy,” and the “Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.” The main focus of these two strategies is to prevent spread of security crises in neighboring countries of the European Union by promoting European norms which are based on liberal democracy that prevails in these countries.

The “introversive” approach of Europe’s security discourse is mostly rooted in the European countries’ historical experiences earned through tackling security risks and terrorist attacks in Europe as well as through good understanding of threats resulting from such risks. Available information, including reports by European police organizations, uphold this proposition that during recent decades, terrorist attacks in Europe have mostly taken place by domestic and local groups and most of such attacks have been carried out within the European Union and in various European counties. In fact, in view of their vast experience with regard to domestic terrorism, European countries have been more inclined in their fight against terrorism to put the highest emphasis on the lawmaking process, as well as strengthening of the police force and the judiciary inside European countries in order to punish terrorists.

It seems that terrorist attacks in Paris have left their mark on geocultural characteristic and “introversive” approach of the European Union’s security discourse. These attacks, which can be studied on the basis of developments that have taken place in the Middle East and North Africa in recent years, are sign of the failure, or at least, low success of the European Union’s “soft power” strategies for fighting security threats arising from neighboring countries. This issue has increased the number of failed nation-states and created a sweeping wave of immigrants that seek asylum in Europe. In fact, emergence of direct and immediate security threats from countries like Syria, not only highlights the need to pay more attention to “hard power” tools, geopolitical elements, as well as the components of “high politics,” but also stresses the need to maintain nation-state structures in the Middle East on the basis of their “sovereign right” in Europe’s security policies. Of course, this issue is by no means tantamount to discarding the elements of soft power by the European Union as the most important factor that props up the power of the European Union within the “normative order of the international system.”

It appears that terrorist attacks in Paris will possibly increase the European Union’s attention to geopolitical elements and components of “high politics,” on the one hand, which will make the Union’s security discourse more extroversive and highlight the importance of preserving regional nation-states in the policies of the Union. On the other hand, these attacks will increase the legitimacy of military strikes against Daesh terrorist group, which will serve as an important factor in bolstering cooperation between the European Union and Russia for the management of the ongoing crises in the Middle East and North Africa. Some aspects of this cooperation will be recognition of Russia’s sphere of influence in these regions by the European Union, an effort by Russia to take advantage of the European Union’s capabilities for the management of these crises, and recognition of Russia’s spheres of influence by the United States of America.

Key Words: Paris Terror Attacks, Security Discourses, Russia, EU, Cooperation, Regional Crises, Syria, Iraq, Extroverted Security Discourse, Russian National Security Strategy, Military Doctrine, Middle East and North Africa, Geopolitical Elements, High Politics, Spheres of Influence, Neighborhood Policy, Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, Mofidi Ahmadi

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*Photo Credit: Russia Insider