Interview – Eva Koulouriotis

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Eva J. Koulouriotis is a political analyst specialising within the Center East with a concentrate on: the Syrian revolution and the worldwide and regional battle round it; Iran, Iraq, Israel and Turkey’s position within the Center East; the implications of US, EU and Russian involvement within the area; jihad and jihadist organisations and Greek-Turkish relations. Koulouriotis has held a number of positions with the European Union of Ladies (EUW), being the Vice President of the Hellenic Part since its institution and most not too long ago being appointed because the Interim President of the newly established Tradition Fee of the Worldwide EUW Council. Previous to this, she labored for quite a lot of private and non-private organisations in a number of international locations, with a concentrate on enterprise organisation, improvement and strategic planning. From a younger age, she labored for the New Democracy political get together in Greece. Koulouriotis has contributed to a variety of each Greek and worldwide media, together with Al-Quds Al-Arabi, The New Arab, Al-Sharq Qatar, Annahar, Orient Information, Arab Information, Huffington Publish Greece, the Greek weekly Paraskinio and RT. She is the founding father of the Athena Discussion board for Peace and Safety, a global coverage suppose tank, and of the cultural motion ‘Ginomai Politis’ (Turning into a Citizen). Eva may be discovered on Twitter @evacool_.

The place do you see probably the most thrilling analysis/debates taking place in your area?

The Center East normally is the principle a part of my research, however the Syrian disaster is of specific curiosity, as a result of with a view to perceive it, one additionally has to know the worldwide balances of energy. And never solely that. If you’re learning Syria, you’ll have to research jihadist teams, which is one thing I’m very fascinated about. It’s a must to research the worldwide powers, together with the variations that happen inside them (comparable to between the Obama and Trump durations) and between them (comparable to between Russia and the US) and the way they react to points in Syria. You may as well see how the international locations of the Center East work together with one another, for instance relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia had been unhealthy after which improved, how this impacts the Syrian battle and the way this turns into obvious on the bottom. Consequently, the Syrian disaster is sort of a mirror of better worldwide geopolitical points. That’s why I watch it intently.

How has the way in which you perceive the world modified over time, and what (or who) prompted probably the most important shifts in your considering?

I’ve been concerned in politics since I used to be a baby. My household, particularly my father, was actively concerned and had deep political considering and historic information which he instilled in me by recurrently supplying me with historical past books. I’ve labored for a very long time in overseas international locations, so I used to be given the chance to get in contact with many peoples and cultures. Initially, I centered on European points as a result of my involvement within the New Democracy get together. Nonetheless, after I was in Ukraine after which in Kosovo as head of the missions of the Greek Medical doctors of the World, my curiosity in worldwide affairs expanded. Then, throughout the Iraq conflict in 2003 and onwards, I turned to the Center East and commenced to check it extra as a result of I realised that with a view to perceive the larger image, I needed to pay extra consideration to this area. But it surely was not simple. It took me a very long time touring, speaking to individuals, studying, monitoring and researching till I felt mature sufficient to speak and analyse what was taking place within the Center East. I didn’t need to rush to do it with out having a deep and built-in information of the problems.

The overseas coverage of Turkey and the position it performs within the Center East and wider area have been key themes of your analysis and writing. Are you able to establish any particular elements which led to your curiosity on this topic? What are a number of the principal challenges you have got confronted in pursuing this, significantly in regard to gaining an understanding ‘of the sector’?

To begin with, as a Greek, all through my life I turned acquainted with the stress between Greece and Turkey, which is a actuality. Secondly, the very first thing we study in school together with the alphabet is that there’s a drawback with Turkey. The identical occurs in greater schooling, within the military, in politics and in our day by day lives. I used to be lucky, nevertheless, to have two extremely educated and cultured mother and father, who helped me cope with issues utterly in a different way from childhood. Even if my maternal grandfather was born in Istanbul and fled to Greece, he by no means instilled in his kids, and consequently in me, a hatred for Turkey. As an alternative, my household tried to make me perceive Turkey from one other extra goal perspective.

Greek-Turkish relations have usually been tense, with their ups and downs. But when I need to be a political analyst who understands what is going on in Tora Bora in Afghanistan or the ideological battle between varied Islamic organisations, I need to additionally have the ability to perceive what is going on between Greece and Turkey, on and beneath the desk or behind closed doorways, irrespective of how difficult. Because of this, I’ve regarded for critical and mature solutions about Greek-Turkish relations, talked to Turks and Greeks who come from Turkey or who stay there, and have slowly acquired, I imagine, an goal strategy. Objectivity on this case, after all, is just not at all times good, as a result of once you discuss Turkey in purely analytical slightly than emotional phrases, Greeks take into account you to be a traitor and that you don’t love your nation. That is particularly the case once you criticise the Greek authorities, as I typically do, for its overseas coverage and level out its errors. That is the most important problem for me, however I feel I’ve reached a ample degree of maturity in evaluation in order that after I discuss geopolitics, I utterly eradicate private emotion.

In regional conflicts spanning from Syria to Libya, Turkey and Russia have been supporting opposing factions. Nonetheless, there are an growing vary of areas by which these two international locations are cooperating and a notion that Turkey is transferring nearer to Russia on the expense of the West. How would you describe the present state of Turkey-Russia relations and the way are these contradictions greatest understood?

I’m used to saying that in politics there aren’t any everlasting associates and no everlasting enemies, there are solely widespread or conflicting pursuits that change from one second to the subsequent. There have been quite a few wars between Russia and Turkey all through historical past. However when international locations get to the purpose the place they perceive actuality very properly, they separate financial points from politics. This occurred between Russia and Turkey when Erdogan got here to energy and commerce relations between the 2 international locations developed considerably. This doesn’t imply that they aren’t enemies, since Turkey is a member of NATO, nor that they don’t disagree on varied points. However they might additionally agree, as was the case with the conflict in Iraq, the place each Russia and Turkey opposed the US invasion as a result of they each had pursuits there, or US sanctions on Iran, with which each have vital commerce relations.

However when the revolution in opposition to the Assad regime in Syria broke out, issues modified given Turkey’s geopolitical place and the truth that Syria was Russia’s final foothold within the Mediterranean after the autumn of Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein and Egypt’s rapprochement with the US. Russia’s want for Syria and Obama’s imprecise technique for the disaster that had erupted gave Moscow the inexperienced mild to intrude. However, Turkey’s lengthy border with Syria was sufficient to place it in the midst of hearth. Initially, Erdogan tried to contact Assad, in an effort to vary his thoughts. Their financial relations had been significantly good, particularly from 2007 to 2011, and the residents of the 2 international locations may transfer between them with out even needing a passport. However when the revolution in Egypt succeeded, Turkey thought of it sure that the identical would occur in Syria, so it determined that it had to decide on the ‘proper facet’ – the opposition. Regardless of the completely different stance of Russia and Turkey within the Syrian disaster, enterprise continued as traditional.

The turning level got here when a Russian army plane was shot down by Turkey in 2015. The non-supportive angle of Turkey’s allies on this disaster triggered injury and altered the way in which Turkey views each NATO international locations and Russia. Then got here the failed coup in 2016, which Turkey blamed on its allies, though not shouting it, marking a significant shift in Turkey’s relations with Russia and the West. Turkey started to lean extra in the direction of Russia politically. Erdogan’s first go to overseas after the failed coup was to Moscow. Then, Putin visited Istanbul and within the context of their understanding Russia supported, with its air power, the Turkish Operation Euphrates Defend by bombing ISIS in entrance of Turkish troops. Then the circle of Astana talks on the Syrian disaster started by which the 2 international locations had the higher hand over Iran, till they reached the present state of cooperation in northern Syria.

Erdogan has managed to convey the next message since 2016: “If Russia or the West needs me on their facet, they need to fulfill me”. Neither facet needs to lose Turkey. It’s a dangerous technique, however to date it has labored very properly. He has superb relations with Russia and Putin doesn’t take into account him to be a NATO enemy. We noticed within the latest battle between Armenia and Azerbaijan the mutual respect that exists between the 2 leaders. On the similar time, Erdogan creates a sense within the West that in the event that they put quite a lot of strain on him, he’ll flip much more in the direction of Moscow, in order that they should be cautious how they deal with him. Therefore the latest superficial sanctions in response to Turkey’s buy of a Russian air defence system. For my part, the place Turkey will likely be in the long run will rely on the approaching 4 years of a Biden presidency. That’s, whether or not he’ll carry it nearer to the West or push it additional in the direction of the East.

In the course of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh Warfare, fought between Azerbaijan and Armenia, it was reported that Turkey supplied intensive assist to Azerbaijan, even together with the deployment of Turkish-backed fighters from Syria. What are Turkey’s principal pursuits within the area and does Turkish involvement match inside a broader sample of interventionism in different areas?

It’s a incontrovertible fact that Turkey not solely intervened by sending Syrian opposition troops, but in addition Turkish particular forces and Turkish-made weapons that considerably contributed to the victory of Azerbaijan. It’s sure that that is half of a bigger plan that Turkey has and the intervention in Nagorno-Karabakh can’t be separated from that. This plan started after the Justice and Growth (AKP) get together’s rise to energy, which aimed to make Turkey a robust nation by exploiting its geopolitical place and dynamics. Thus, as soon as the nation had stabilised economically, it used these benefits by intervening and attempting to impose its affect exterior its borders, simply as different highly effective international locations all over the world do. On this context, Turkey turned concerned in Syria, northern Iraq, Libya and most not too long ago in Nagorno-Karabakh. As well as, there’s a Turkish army presence in Qatar and Somalia, a rustic of nice strategic significance, the place it trains the Somali military.

There’s a big quantity of propaganda that speaks of ‘neo-Ottomanism’, makes an attempt to revive the Ottoman Empire and of making conflicts in varied international locations. In truth, Turkey’s presence exterior its borders has nothing to do with non secular or nationalist motives. It’s merely a rustic whose authorities is looking for the most effective methods to pursue its pursuits. Thus, it seized the chance to get entangled within the Libyan battle, as Libya is an important nation as a result of its strategic place and energy-producing sources. Turkey obtained the inexperienced mild to intervene in Libya from the US, as was the case in Syria the place Turkey had European and American assist and nonetheless has it with a view to preserve its presence in Idlib and northern Syria.

In Azerbaijan, Turkey’s pursuits clearly differ from these it has in different areas. Every area has its personal traits. In northern Syria, Turkey seeks to stop terrorist assaults linked to the presence of the Kurdistan Employees Social gathering (PKK) there, in addition to to be on the negotiating desk for a political resolution to the Syrian disaster. In northern Iraq, it once more needs to discourage the PKK and in addition acquire a stake within the oil firms working there. For Turkey, Libya is the entry level into the African continent and a possibility for power exploitation. Lastly, Turkey not too long ago signed an settlement price $5 billon with Azerbaijan for the development of homes in Nagorno-Karabakh by a Turkish firm. Bilateral relations are very heat as Azerbaijan realises that Turkey was the nation which contributed most decisively to its victory in opposition to Armenia. My sources have knowledgeable me that there will likely be much more agreements sooner or later, comparable to on the development of a gasoline pipeline to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and Turkey, and it goes with out saying that the worth of Azeri gasoline will likely be rather more advantageous for it. One other vital profit secured by Turkey with this victory is the way in which by which international locations of the area which share a typical origin understand Turkey, that’s, as a dependable buddy and protector. This may translate into financial earnings, as we’ve already seen from the choice of Uzbekistan to cease shopping for Chinese language drones and purchase Turkish drones as an alternative.

In conclusion, every nation should promote its personal pursuits. Some international locations have governments that know how you can take the correct steps, on the proper time and in the correct place, whereas others don’t. That is what Turkey is doing, with a lot luck after all, and making certain the most effective outcomes. This doesn’t, nevertheless, imply that Turkey has expansionist aspirations. Making use of such labels is a function of media propaganda. By this logic, we should always name Macron the brand new Napoleon due to the big French presence in Central Africa and name Russia the brand new Soviet Union due to its affect within the international locations of the Center East, Central Asia and Africa. Every little thing is said to the prism we see it by way of. For the Syrian opposition, for instance, the involvement of Turkey was useful. For me as a political analyst, Turkey is a rustic that’s in search of new markets for its merchandise, new power sources and financial and political empowerment, which is sweet for its individuals. Another international locations will endure in consequence, however that is the character of geopolitics.

Latest months have seen rising tensions between Turkey and different international locations within the NATO alliance, specifically Greece and France. How do you anticipate Turkey’s position inside NATO to evolve in future?

Beginning with the context, it’s sure that we’ve entered a brand new period the place the place of the US is just not because it was within the late Nineties, largely as a result of China’s financial rise. Latest cyber-attacks present that it’s weak and the pandemic made that weak spot extra obvious. After the top of the Chilly Warfare, the US was a superpower with out NATO, so the allies adopted its needs. However now it realises that with a view to stay sturdy it should re-approach its allies. Now greater than ever it must be a member of NATO. We are going to see this throughout the Biden administration. He’ll attempt to shut the rifts created by Trump, particularly along with his European allies, primarily France and Germany.

On this context, the US will search to maintain Turkey, which possesses NATO’s second largest military, a part of the NATO alliance. For a lot of causes as talked about above, Turkey has clearly approached China and Russia on varied points, such because the Turkish Stream pipeline, the Syrian disaster and Libya, the place communication with Moscow is shut. Furthermore, the tensions within the Mediterranean and the crack that Greece is inflicting in Europe with its ‘both with me or in opposition to me’ angle is just not as unhealthy for Turkey as it’s for the West. If Turkey chooses the opposite facet, it can open an enormous marketplace for it in China and Central Asia, whereas in a doable foreign money conflict it may commerce within the nationwide currencies, the Turkish lira and the yuan. So, it isn’t Turkey that wants the West as a lot because the West wants Turkey.

Nonetheless, Turkey stays near the West. Erdogan doesn’t need to depart the West, which is why he instantly raised the difficulty of EU membership. He believes that the West is preferable to the East. However the latest tensions within the jap Mediterranean and the angle of France, which in my view is behind these tensions, undermine EU and NATO cohesion. In latest articles I clarify the position of Macron and how he makes use of Greece for this function. That is primarily as a result of Turkey is concerned in African international locations comparable to Libya, Mali, Chad, Niger, which France needs to maintain to itself, but in addition due to Macron’s private want to guide. The US won’t be pleased to see two alliance members conflict. If it takes the facet of Greece, a Western nation posing the dilemma of ‘both me or Turkey’, then Turkey will flip to the East.

These case research are helpful for making the next level. So long as there’s a controversial plan coming from Paris, supported by quite a lot of UAE-led international locations and utilizing Greece as a entrance in opposition to Turkey, there will likely be a pressure that’s unhealthy for each Greece and Turkey, even whether it is good for France. France sells plane to Greece, gross sales which might clearly not happen beneath different circumstances, and France makes use of this as a bargaining chip over Libya.

Whether or not Turkey’s worldwide presence and tensions with Greece will have an effect on its position in NATO’s future is clearly within the fingers of the Individuals. If Biden chooses to observe in Obama’s footsteps, pushing Turkey into Russia’s arms, then the rift with NATO may widen. If Biden is extra rational – and I feel he will likely be primarily due to his shut associates who perceive that the US wants Turkey in the event that they should confront Russia, which he sees because the primary enemy – then the problems will likely be resolved. There will likely be some settlement resolving America’s concern about Turkey’s buy of the Russian S-400 missile system and tensions will likely be decreased. Biden also can cut back Greek-Turkish tensions. France will retreat in entrance of the US.

You have got argued that there’s a “cautious calm within the Japanese Mediterranean following the victory of Joe Biden in US presidential elections”. What had been the principle causes of the present tensions within the Japanese Mediterranean and what position, if any, is the US prone to play as a mediator?

Certainly, there’s calm within the jap Mediterranean which began earlier than the US elections. Each side perceive that America’s future is vital for the way forward for the area. Till Biden clarifies his overseas coverage, the state of affairs will stay stagnant. That’s the reason the EU won’t impose more durable sanctions on Turkey till March 2021, as they need to see how Biden will transfer first. Whether or not Biden takes a tough line or the alternative, then the EU will observe go well with. It’s sure that France will strongly strain Biden to take a tough line, however the White Home has the higher hand. As I stated above, regardless of Obama’s position in quite a lot of crises, I imagine that Biden will likely be cheap in the way in which he handles Turkey and disappoint those that anticipate the alternative.

Along with your work as a political analyst, you have got additionally labored extensively with the European Union of Ladies. How does the organisation try in the direction of its purpose of strengthening peace “on the idea of justice and the free cooperation of peoples”? What are a number of the challenges you face in your work with the Tradition Fee?

As a member of New Democracy get together, I began working within the get together’s worldwide relations part at an early age. On this context, I obtained concerned with the European Union of Ladies. The EUW is a pan-European organisation with 17 member international locations and was based in 1953, earlier than the Treaty of Rome in 1957. It was based by European ladies working to advertise peace, justice and cooperation between European international locations, which they thought of may solely be achieved by growing the affect of ladies. To attain these targets, working commissions have been set as much as handle varied points in numerous coverage areas. It has an advisory position to the Council of Europe and a Particular Advisory position to the United Nations Financial and Social Council (ECOSOC). By way of the work of the commissions, the organisation additionally contributes to the work of the European Parliament by way of the European Folks’s Social gathering Ladies’s (EPPW) Part and the nationwide MEPs. One of many working commissions is the newly fashioned Tradition Committee, which I used to be appointed chairman of by the Worldwide Council till the subsequent elections.

Tradition is a really broad and multifaceted idea. It’s significantly attention-grabbing that in all European languages ​​the phrase ‘tradition’ (cultivation) is used as an alternative of the phrase civilization, which expresses a broader social idea. Within the Greek language we use the identical phrase for each ideas: ‘civilisation’ (politismos). And it’s because in historic Greece the citizen (politis) was the centre of society: ‘metropolis’ (polis) – ‘civilian’ (politis) – ‘civilization’ (politismos). I turn out to be a Citizen, that’s, an entity built-in within the Metropolis (Polis) in order that I derive the rights from Democracy. Politismos (tradition) implies refined morals, non secular improvement, high-level behaviours between individuals and aesthetic expression developed with out nihilism. Tradition is all the things we’re: politics, social behaviour, meals, language, household and friendship, enterprise ethics, faith, the way in which we costume, music, literature, cinema, design and structure.

The job of the Tradition Fee is to advertise the idea of tradition and to think about the safeguarding of cultural heritage, cultural change and inventive creation within the nations of the European Union and past. It’s involved about whether or not ladies have entry to, take part in and contribute to all features of life. This encompasses our proper to actively interact in figuring out and deciphering cultural heritage; deciding which cultural traditions, values or practices are to be stored, reoriented, modified or discarded; to advertise an intercultural dialogue, mutual respect and acknowledgement of the variations and of the widespread values and to find out and implement proposals geared toward selling the combination of the cultural dimension of the EUW members.

What’s crucial recommendation you might give to students of Worldwide Relations?

Firstly, if one needs to analyse worldwide politics, they have to have the ability to separate themselves from their feelings as a person and as a citizen of a specific nation. For instance, a Palestinian who has skilled the lack of a member of the family as a result of Israeli actions is prone to hate Israel and vice versa. When analysing the Israeli-Palestinian battle, they won’t be able to be neutral.

Secondly, speaking a couple of area that’s utterly unfamiliar by way of tradition, traditions, customs and mentality is the most important mistake Western analysts make. Due to this fact, anybody coping with completely different international locations needs to be properly acquainted with the traditions of those societies, their religions and the way in which they suppose and stay. They need to converse and socialise with individuals within the area and, lastly, learn its historical past with out participating their feelings in relation to peoples and religions. They need to face the problems freed from any prejudice, dogmatism, political opinions or private desire. When one succeeds at this, after having talked to many individuals and browse in depth their historical past, then they might attempt to research the politics of the area. One will need to have the flexibility to understand the truth there precisely in order that they will make right analyses and be led to the correct conclusions and never unfold fallacies.

Objectivity, impartiality, absence of feelings and composure are the traits of a superb analyst. Let’s construct a era of self-respecting students of worldwide relations that won’t be the obedient devices of their employers. Solely on this case will they not be in a tough place to vary their angle when the media they work with change their place in the direction of a rustic. On this means they may preserve their vanity, acquire the respect of others and can have the ability to have a transparent conscience that they haven’t lied to anybody.

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