Home Today Interview – Eva Koulouriotis

Interview – Eva Koulouriotis

Eva J. Koulouriotis is a political analyst specialising within the Center East with a give attention to: the Syrian revolution and the worldwide and regional battle round it; Iran, Iraq, Israel and Turkey’s position within the Center East; the results 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 Women (EUW), being the Vice President of the Hellenic Part since its institution and most lately 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 give attention to enterprise organisation, growth and strategic planning. From a younger age, she labored for the New Democracy political social gathering 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 assume tank, and of the cultural motion ‘Ginomai Politis’ (Changing 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 discipline?

The Center East usually is the principle a part of my examine, however the Syrian disaster is of specific curiosity, as a result of so as to perceive it, one additionally has to grasp the worldwide balances of energy. And never solely that. If you’re learning Syria, you’ll have to examine jihadist teams, which is one thing I’m very all in favour of. You must examine the worldwide powers, together with the variations that happen inside them (comparable to between the Obama and Trump intervals) and between them (comparable to between Russia and the USA) and the way they react to points in Syria. It’s also possible to see how the international locations of the Center East work together with one another, for instance relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia have 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 carefully.

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 toddler. My household, particularly my father, was actively concerned and had deep political considering and historic data which he instilled in me by often supplying me with historical past books. I’ve labored for a very long time in international international locations, so I used to be given the chance to get in contact with many peoples and cultures. Initially, I targeted on European points because of my involvement within the New Democracy social gathering. Nevertheless, 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, through the Iraq battle in 2003 and onwards, I turned to the Center East and started to check it extra as a result of I realised that so as 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 folks, 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 data of the problems.

The international 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 few of the major challenges you may have confronted in pursuing this, notably in regard to gaining an understanding ‘of the field’?

Initially, 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 be taught at college together with the alphabet is that there’s a downside with Turkey. The identical occurs in increased schooling, within the military, in politics and in our each day lives. I used to be lucky, nonetheless, to have two extremely educated and cultured mother and father, who helped me take care of issues fully 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 a substitute, 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 occurring in Tora Bora in Afghanistan or the ideological battle between numerous Islamic organisations, I have to additionally be capable of perceive what is occurring between Greece and Turkey, on and underneath the desk or behind closed doorways, irrespective of how difficult. Because of this, I’ve appeared for critical and mature solutions about Greek-Turkish relations, talked to Turks and Greeks who come from Turkey or who dwell there, and have slowly acquired, I consider, an goal strategy. Objectivity on this case, after all, is just not at all times good, as a result of once you speak about Turkey in purely analytical moderately 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 usually do, for its international coverage and level out its errors. That is the most important problem for me, however I believe I’ve reached a ample degree of maturity in evaluation in order that after I speak about geopolitics, I fully eradicate private emotion.

In regional conflicts spanning from Syria to Libya, Turkey and Russia have been supporting opposing factions. Nonetheless, there are an rising vary of areas wherein 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 finest understood?

I’m used to saying that in politics there aren’t any everlasting mates and no everlasting enemies, there are solely frequent 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 numerous points. However they could additionally agree, as was the case with the battle 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 towards 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 USA. Russia’s want for Syria and Obama’s imprecise technique for the disaster that had erupted gave Moscow the inexperienced gentle to intrude. However, Turkey’s lengthy border with Syria was sufficient to place it in the course of hearth. Initially, Erdogan tried to contact Assad, in an effort to vary his thoughts. Their financial relations had been notably good, particularly from 2007 to 2011, and the residents of the 2 international locations might 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 aspect’ – the opposition. Regardless of the completely different stance of Russia and Turkey within the Syrian disaster, enterprise continued as standard.

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 brought on injury and adjusted 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 drive, the Turkish Operation Euphrates Defend by bombing ISIS in entrance of Turkish troops. Then the circle of Astana talks on the Syrian disaster started wherein 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 aspect, they need to fulfill me”. Neither aspect needs to lose Turkey. It’s a dangerous technique, however thus far it has labored very properly. He has excellent 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, so 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. In my view, the place Turkey can be in the long run will rely on the approaching 4 years of a Biden presidency. That’s, whether or not he’ll deliver it nearer to the West or push it additional in the direction of the East.

Through the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, fought between Azerbaijan and Armenia, it was reported that Turkey offered in depth help to Azerbaijan, even together with the deployment of Turkish-backed fighters from Syria. What are Turkey’s major pursuits within the area and does Turkish involvement match inside a broader sample of interventionism in different areas?

It’s a indisputable fact that Turkey not solely intervened by sending Syrian opposition troops, but additionally 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) social gathering’s rise to energy, which aimed to make Turkey a powerful 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 lately 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 enormous quantity of propaganda that speaks of ‘neo-Ottomanism’, makes an attempt to revive the Ottoman Empire and of making conflicts in numerous international locations. The truth is, Turkey’s presence exterior its borders has nothing to do with spiritual or nationalist motives. It’s merely a rustic whose authorities is looking for one of the best methods to pursue its pursuits. Thus, it seized the chance to get entangled within the Libyan battle, as Libya is an important nation because of its strategic place and energy-producing sources. Turkey bought the inexperienced gentle to intervene in Libya from the USA, as was the case in Syria the place Turkey had European and American help and nonetheless has it so as to keep 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 forestall terrorist assaults linked to the presence of the Kurdistan Employees Occasion (PKK) there, in addition to to be on the negotiating desk for a political answer to the Syrian disaster. In northern Iraq, it once more needs to discourage the PKK and likewise achieve 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 lately signed an settlement value $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 towards Armenia. My sources have knowledgeable me that there can 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 value of Azeri gasoline can be far more advantageous for it. One other important benefit secured by Turkey with this victory is the way in which wherein international locations of the area which share a standard origin understand Turkey, that’s, as a dependable pal and protector. This can translate into financial earnings, as we have now 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 the best way to take the precise steps, on the proper time and in the precise place, whereas others don’t. That is what Turkey is doing, with a lot luck after all, and guaranteeing one of the best outcomes. This doesn’t, nonetheless, imply that Turkey has expansionist aspirations. Making use of such labels is a function of media propaganda. By this logic, we must always name Macron the brand new Napoleon due to the large 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 part is said to the prism we see it by means 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 nice for its folks. Another international locations will endure because of this, however that is the character of geopolitics.

Latest months have seen rising tensions between Turkey and different international locations within the NATO alliance, particularly 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 have now entered a brand new period the place the place of the USA is just not because it was within the late Nineties, largely because of China’s financial rise. Latest cyber-attacks present that it’s susceptible and the pandemic made that weak point extra obvious. After the tip of the Chilly Conflict, the USA was a superpower with out NATO, so the allies adopted its needs. However now it realises that so as 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 through 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 numerous 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 towards me’ angle is just not as unhealthy for Turkey as it’s for the West. If Turkey chooses the opposite aspect, it can open an enormous marketplace for it in China and Central Asia, whereas in a attainable foreign money battle it might commerce within the nationwide currencies, the Turkish lira and the yuan. So, it’s not Turkey that wants the West as a lot because the West wants Turkey.

Nonetheless, Turkey stays near the West. Erdogan doesn’t need to go away the West, which is why he all of a sudden 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 for my part is behind these tensions, undermine EU and NATO cohesion. In latest articles I clarify the role of Macron and how he uses Greece for this objective. 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 additionally due to Macron’s private want to steer. The US won’t be blissful to see two alliance members conflict. If it takes the aspect 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 few UAE-led international locations and utilizing Greece as a entrance towards Turkey, there can 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 underneath 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 arms of the Individuals. If Biden chooses to comply with in Obama’s footsteps, pushing Turkey into Russia’s arms, then the rift with NATO might widen. If Biden is extra rational – and I believe he can be primarily due to his shut associates who perceive that the US wants Turkey in the event that they need to confront Russia, which he sees because the primary enemy – then the problems can be resolved. There can be some settlement resolving America’s concern about Turkey’s buy of the Russian S-400 missile system and tensions can be decreased. Biden can even cut back Greek-Turkish tensions. France will retreat in entrance of the US.

You’ve gotten argued that there’s a “cautious calm within the Japanese Mediterranean following the victory of Joe Biden in US presidential elections”. What have 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 may be calm within the jap Mediterranean which began earlier than the US elections. Either side perceive that America’s future is vital for the way forward for the area. Till Biden clarifies his international coverage, the scenario 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 comply with 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 mentioned above, regardless of Obama’s position in quite a few crises, I consider that Biden can be affordable in the way in which he handles Turkey and disappoint those that anticipate the alternative.

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

As a member of New Democracy social gathering, I began working within the social gathering’s worldwide relations part at an early age. On this context, I bought concerned with the European Union of Girls. 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 might solely be achieved by rising the affect of girls. To realize these targets, working commissions have been set as much as deal with numerous points in several coverage areas. It has an advisory position to the Council of Europe and a Particular Advisory position to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). By way of the work of the commissions, the organisation additionally contributes to the work of the European Parliament by means of the European People’s Party Girls’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 notably fascinating 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 is because in historic Greece the citizen (politis) was the centre of society: ‘metropolis’ (polis) – ‘civilian’ (politis) – ‘civilization’ (politismos). I change into 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 growth, high-level behaviours between folks and aesthetic expression advanced with out nihilism. Tradition is every little thing we’re: politics, social behaviour, meals, language, household and friendship, enterprise ethics, faith, the way in which we gown, 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 trade and creative 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 elements of life. This encompasses our proper to actively interact in figuring out and decoding 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 frequent values and to find out and implement proposals aimed toward selling the mixing of the cultural dimension of the EUW members.

What’s a very powerful recommendation you possibly can give to students of Worldwide Relations?

Firstly, if one needs to analyse worldwide politics, they have to be capable of 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 because 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 fully unfamiliar by way of tradition, traditions, customs and mentality is the most important mistake Western analysts make. Subsequently, 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 assume and dwell. They need to converse and socialise with folks within the area and, lastly, learn its historical past with out partaking their feelings in relation to peoples and religions. They need to face the problems freed from any prejudice, dogmatism, political views or private desire. When one succeeds at this, after having talked to many individuals and skim in depth their historical past, then they could attempt to examine the politics of the area. One should have the power to understand the truth there precisely in order that they will make appropriate analyses and be led to the precise conclusions and never unfold fallacies.

Objectivity, impartiality, absence of feelings and composure are the traits of a superb analyst. Let’s construct a technology 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 troublesome place to vary their angle when the media they work with change their place in the direction of a rustic. On this approach they may keep their vanity, achieve the respect of others and can be capable of have a transparent conscience that they haven’t lied to anybody.

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