Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 07.4.17

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • European Union foreign ministers adopted a common strategy on Syria
  • Extremism and Counter-Messaging
  • RUSI-RIAC-Report-Russia-UK-Security-Relations
  • Recalibrating U.S. Strategy toward Russia: A New Time for Choosing
  • Will Rouhani’s Visit Reduce Differences with Moscow
  • Carnegie Moscow: The Storm Clouds of 2017: Russia’s New Protests
  • Der Papst in Ägypten: In etwa einem Monat…..

Massenbach*European Union foreign ministers adopted a common strategy on Syria,

on the eve of the Brussels Conference “Supporting the future of Syria and the region”.

Brussels – European Union foreign ministers adopted Monday a common strategy on Syria, on the eve of the Brussels Conference “Supporting the future of Syria and the region”.

Addressing reporters on the sidelines of a meeting in Luxembourg, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini detailed the plan for the new strategy on Syria, which she said required the international community to unite and to facilitate a political solution to the conflict.

“For the European Union, it is essential, first of all, to find a framework to ensure a genuine political transition, supporting the work of the UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura,” Mogherini stated.

The High Representative also stressed the need for a serious and inclusive transition in Syria, based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the Geneva Declaration on Syria.

She also called on the international community to follow the EU’s lead on humanitarian aid and to adopt measures aimed at strengthening Syrian civil society.

The Common Strategy, as presented by Mogherini, underlines the need to hold accountable those responsible for war crimes and to set the bases for reconstruction, reconciliation and the stabilization of the country once a political agreement is found to pave the way to the transition.

On the other hand, the EU official said she believed it “would be impossible” to return to the status quo in Syria after peace is restored in the country.

She noted that while international efforts continued to search for a peace settlement, the Syrian people should ultimately agree on any political outcome.

“This is for the Syrians to decide, that is clear,” she said, adding: “Any solution that can be acceptable by all Syrians, we will support it.”


From our Russian News Desk. (The views expressed are the author‘s own.)

  • Will Rouhani’s Visit Reduce Differences with Moscow
  • RUSI-RIAC-Report-Russia-UK-Security-Relations


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Carnegie Moscow: The Storm Clouds of 2017: Russia’s New Protests

The recent mass anti-corruption protests called across Russia on March 26 pose an unexpected challenge to the Kremlin. The protesters are younger and less prosperous than their counterparts in 2011–2012. If Russia is on the brink of a new kind of revolution, then all sides need to act responsibly.

If the Russian authorities thought they could mark the anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution in a dull and peaceful way, they may need to think again.

After the nationwide anti-corruption protests that rippled across Russian towns and cities on March 26, the current regime in the Kremlin now has some revolutionary material to work with. This at least gives the authorities the chance to show that they can deal with street protests better than previous Russian rulers did.

It has long been accepted wisdom that Russians, in contrast to people of other nations, are indifferent to the material wealth of their leaders, maybe because they are accustomed to this situation or because they wish they could be so lucky. Or perhaps, the story goes, Russians remember that the last effort to strip the elite of its privileges, in the perestroika period, ended up with ordinary people losing even more.

Of course, neighboring Ukraine also had its anti-corruption revolt in 2013, the Maidan, but that was made easier by the perception in Kiev and elsewhere that Viktor Yanukovych was an outsider, not “one of us.” That is not the case in Russia, and history suggests that Russians are generally prepared to put up with this kind of arbitrary rule for even longer.

This makes the fact of mass unauthorized demonstrations to protest against the alleged corruption of prime minister Dmitry Medvedev—as revealed by anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny—even more surprising.

Medvedev still looks young and willing to engage with the modern world through gadgets and use of social media. He seems to be much closer to the young protesters than grim-faced directors of state-run enterprises like Igor Sechin. Yet the scale of last Sunday’s rallies shows that Medvedev had also managed to alienate a lot of people across Russia.

Perhaps many of the protesters were former supporters of Medvedev, irked by the realization that he is not as close to them as he seems and still resentful of the way his once-promising presidency ended with him handing back the keys of the Kremlin to Vladimir Putin in 2011. That action was the cause of the last round of mass protests to shake Russia in the winter of 2011–2012.

There are two important differences between last weekend’s protests and those of 2011–2012. The current ones are unusual for being triggered not by a specific event, such as an election, murder, or arrest, but by what is generally considered a permanent and unchanging phenomenon in Russia: high-level corruption. They were also much wider in scope geographically, embracing the whole of Russia. In fact, they were probably the biggest of their kind since the perestroika period and the end of the Soviet Union in 1991.

These protests were not concentrated just in Moscow; they were less “glamorous”—as their detractors liked to call them at the time—than the ones of five years ago. In 2011–2012 it was the Moscow middle class that mainly voiced its discontent, demanding that the state treat it with respect. In that sense, it was a protest about prosperity as well as dignity. The current protest is both more naïve and more terrifying for the authorities. It is an uprising of the poor, not confined to Moscow but with a wide regional span across more than 100 cities. That undermines the Kremlin’s story that this is merely about spoiled Moscow brats rocking the boat while the regions crave stability.

Although we lack exact data, the demonstrators also seem to be younger now. Many of them appear to have been first-time protesters. In the absence of an obvious political crisis, any protest movement needs a large number of very young and fearless participants who are guided only by general feelings of discontent with the economic situation and a sense of injustice about the world. And when the authorities crack down hard on teenage protesters, that tends to draw in grown-ups too.

Having promised to demonstrate that they can handle revolution better than the unfortunate last tsar of Russia, Nikolai II, the current rulers in the Kremlin have to walk a fine line between a forceful response and excessive violence. They should know that the people being unhappy with someone’s palaces isn’t a good enough cause for a revolution, but a response with excessive violence is. That is what happened as a result of Viktor Yanukovych’s crackdown on the Maidan in 2013. While seeking to discourage protests, the Russian regime will have to respond in a way that won’t actually encourage them.

Identifying Medvedev, an ostensibly liberal government official, as the target of protests has also strengthened the protest movement. Many decry Navalny for being ambiguous and cowardly in his decision to go after Medvedev rather than, say, President Putin or Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. But once the defenders of liberal Medvedev authorize a full-scale crackdown on dissent, divisions within the protest movement will disappear. A harsh response eliminates the distinction between officials who are good or bad, close or distant. In that context, everyone becomes distant and bad.

As for Medvedev himself, the protests are expected to weaken his clout inside the system, but for the time being they will also make him stronger on the outside. As long as the system works the way it always has, no government official can be removed as a result of street protests. If the regime’s adversaries—the opposition, the State Department, street protesters—picked Medvedev as the system’s weakest link, then that link must be strengthened. So in the short term at least, the protests will have the opposite effect of what is intended.

It was perhaps inevitable that the intra-elite struggle that has broken out in the transition period that precedes Putin’s reelection in 2018 for his final term in office would also be waged on the streets. But this is not the kind of managed public politics members of the ruling elite intended. Yet the dangers to the entire regime are so high here that it is impossible to call Alexei Navalny, who has now asserted himself as Russia’s main opposition figure for the third time (after the 2011 protests and the Moscow mayoral election), a pawn in someone else’s political game.

That fact makes the situation more clear, but not less complicated. We traditionally demand that the government act responsibly, but the tragic experience of the revolution Russia endured a hundred years ago (an experience whose meaning, arguably, we have still not fully grasped) means we must also demand responsible behavior from the opponents of the government, especially the revolutionary-minded ones.

The storm clouds that broke over 1917 are still present in Russia’s historical memory. The Project1917 website of Mikhail Zygar features testimonials from the participants of the 1917 events that resemble social network posts of today. We read how people celebrate, cheer, and express doubt and indignation. When reading the posts written by poets, high school and university students, journalists, noble officers, and selfless housewives, we can’t help but be on their side. But we also know what happened next. If we reject that historical knowledge, even out of the best intentions, we will be betraying many fine and honorable people from both our past and present.

****************************************************************************************************************** Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* CSIS-Report Launch:

Recalibrating U.S. Strategy toward Russia: A New Time for Choosing

March 30, 2017 … Nowhere are the challenges facing the United States more evident than in U.S. policy toward Russia. Drawing on scholars across several disciplines and perspectives, CSIS conducted a year-long study that sought to achieve two goals. First, to provide policymakers with a clearer understanding of Russia’s strategic motivations and objectives, along with the tools it uses to advance its goals. Second, to lay out a comprehensive strategy to secure U.S. and transatlantic interests in the face of the complex Russia challenge set. The authors view Russia’s shift toward a more belligerent security posture as an enduring reality, not an aberration. It is the product of long-standing Russian beliefs, coupled with an increasing recognition that it can advance them more effectively today than was possible in years past. The authors argue, however, that neither the United States nor its allies in Europe have made the necessary conceptual shift to accept the long-term Russia challenge, nor determined the strategic objectives that their policies should advance. The West’s approach to date has been insufficient to meet the threat, and dissonance among allies is only serving to embolden Russia and broaden its goals. The United States must, therefore, center its Russia policy and, indeed, its European and global strategies on an unadulterated assessment of interests, priorities, and vulnerabilities and identify achievable objectives and, on this basis, articulate acceptable trade-offs against other global requirements. To this end, this report offers the framework for a comprehensive strategy toward Russia, one derived from analysis and insights regarding key elements of past U.S. policy toward Russia; historical Russian reactions to major events on its periphery; and the tool sets each side can bring to bear in advancing its national interests


… President Putin has made his preference clear. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian security policy has been suffused to greater and lesser degrees with a sense that the West did not accord it sufficient respect as a great power … Moscow today is viewing its options through the lens of a security dilemma that defines U.S. strength as its own weakness, and vice versa. It sees control of its periphery as central to its own security, and Putin may be seeking to reap domestic political benefits through foreign escapades abroad. Russia is testing its tools of coercion, which are increasingly unconstrained by the rule of law, and finding them sufficiently effective to meet its objectives. It does not want a war, but it is finding it can get a lot done without one. Accommodating Russia’s preference would mean more than developing a new understanding with Russia about Europe’s security. It would mean rethinking the values and organizing principles, including the role of the United States in the world … Defending the international system against Russian attempts to undermine it will require addressing two interrelated problems. First is the degree of disrepair within the West’s core institutions, which has been exposed and exploited by the second (more obvious) problem—Russia’s renewed aggression and opportunism. The first cannot be expected to spontaneously fix itself and requires concerted action across the United States and Europe to revitalize our institutions and inoculate our societies against illiberal trends. The second will not abate while Moscow is reaping such benefits from the situation as it stands. Indeed, Russia’s incentives today appear to push it toward more activism, rather than less. The weaknesses that have been revealed in the current international system extend beyond and are rooted deeper than the Russia challenge, but Russia is exploiting the West’s vulnerabilities and increasing them … Russia’s rebellion against Western-prescribed rules, norms, and values makes use of a range of military and nonmilitary levers. Its nonmilitary coercive tools, such as cyber infiltration and political influence operations, are being used to strong effects. It is likely still calibrating what can and cannot be done at acceptable risk, but insofar as these tools can be impactful at less human and financial cost than military tools, the United States and Europe dismiss these capabilities at their peril … The United States and its allies must chart a clearer course in their Russia strategy, and take a bolder approach in its implementation. A bolder approach to Russia does not equate to warmongering or taking reckless action without concern for the consequences. It also does not mean challenging Russia at every opportunity … This will entail lessening the West’s sensitivity to Russia’s reflexive protestations and false indignation, while also taking into account Russia’s interests and perspective … U.S. strategy should aim to defend the current global order, protect the transatlantic relationship, and manage the Russia challenge in a way that avoids direct hostilities, discourages the sowing of global instability, and builds ties with the Russian people … The Unites States and its allies will not be credible critics of Russian aggression if they do not provide a strong alternative example. Among other things, this requires practicing what we preach, standing up for human rights and democracy in Russia and elsewhere, reinvesting in NATO and expanding NATO-EU cooperation, reevaluating global interests and establishing clear priorities, and building resilience among allies and partners … Finally, engagement with Russia on areas of mutual interest is not only wise but necessary …For now, the United States and its allies may wish to focus on areas where cooperation is both advantageous and feasible. This may include: improving crisis communications and transparency measures, maintaining nuclear nonproliferation and moving forward on bilateral nuclear and conventional arms control, and working together in the Arctic … Attention should be paid to any potential opportunities for interaction across these pillars …

Abbreviated Version:


Middle East

Der Papst in Ägypten: In etwa einem Monat…..

Der Papst in Ägypten: In etwa einem Monat wird Papst Franziskus wieder auf Auslandsreise gehen, und das besuchte Land war lange nicht auf den Listen der Vatikanbeobachter.

Auch wenn das Programm noch nicht veröffentlicht ist, braucht es nicht viel, um zu raten, was stattfinden wird. Da wird natürlich die Begegnung mit dem Staat sein, also mit Präsident Abd al-Fattah as-Sisi. Kritiker der Welt, bereitet euch jetzt schon einmal vor, dagegen an zu schreiben.

Dann wird es eine ökumenische Begegnung geben mit dem Patriarchen der koptisch-orthodoxen Kirche, Tawadros II., gerne auch Papst Tawadros genannt, denn das ist sein Titel in seiner Kirche.

Einer muss halt anfangen: Shimon Peres (l) und Mahmud Abbas, dahinter der Papst beim Friedensgebet in den Vatikanischen Gärten 2014

Einer muss halt anfangen: Shimon Peres (l) und Mahmud Abbas, dahinter der Papst beim Friedensgebet in den Vatikanischen Gärten 2014 (c) Reuters

Natürlich wird er die Katholiken – dort vor allem koptisch-orthodoxe – besuchen und allgemein bei diesen Treffen die Rolle der Christen würdigen.

Und dann ist da die Azhar Moschee und Universität, eine der wichtigsten sunnitischen theologischen Institutionen des Islam. Gemeinsam hatte man erst unlängst eine Tagung veranstaltet, der Imam der Moschee war auch bereits bei Papst Franziskus, es steht also zu vermuten, dass der Papst das irgendwie erwidern wird. In einer Moschee war er bei seiner Türkeireise ja schon und der Dialog mit dem Islam steht seit Anfang an, seit seinem ersten Empfang für das diplomatische Corps im Vatikan 2013, auf seiner To-Do Liste.

Viel Dialog also. Was natürlich auch die üblichen Bedenkenträger auf den Plan rufen wird. Was wie üblich aber den Papst nicht davon abbringen wird, das zu machen, was er für nötig hält.

Und das ist nun einmal der Dialog.

Der Papst in Ägypten, bei Kopten und Muslimen

In einen Dialog kann man nicht eintreten, wie die schräge deutsche Formulierung sagt, indem man vorher festlegt, worüber man redet und sich also vorab abstimmt. Dialog ist, wenn einer anfängt und damit ein Risiko eingeht, etwa das, abgelehnt oder missverstanden zu werden. Aber so ist das zwischen uns, einer fängt an und dann ist der andere oder sind die anderen dran. Das ist Dialog.

Dialog ist nicht statisch, ist kein Nähe- und Abstandsverhältnis, Dialog entsteht im Gehen, im Reden, im Tun. Und dieser Papst wird nicht müde zu betonen, wie wichtig es ist, immer und mit allen zu reden. „Einer der Titel des Bischofs von Rom ist Pontifex, das heißt Brückenbauer – Brücken zu Gott und zwischen den Menschen. Ich wünsche mir wirklich, dass der Dialog zwischen uns dazu beiträgt, Brücken zwischen allen Menschen zu bauen, so dass jeder im anderen nicht einen Feind, einen Konkurrenten sieht, sondern einen Bruder, den er annehmen und umarmen soll!“, so die bereits angesprochene Rede des Papstes vor den Diplomaten.

Es ist ein Thema, das er nicht nur den Diplomaten mitgibt, sondern auch am Familientisch platziert, buchstäblich: „wenn man nicht mehr miteinander spricht und jeder auf seinem Mobiltelefon herum tippt“, stirbt Dialogkultur.

Meine eigene Identität empfangen

Was also braucht es für einen Dialog, und machen wir mal den Konfliktfall auf: was braucht es für den Dialog mit dem Islam? Nicht die Abgrenzung, die Schulzuweisung, die Einsortierung des gesamten Islam in die Schublade „Gewalt“. Darauf kochen einige ihr Süppchen und spielen mit der Angst, Dialog und damit Fortschritt erzielt man aber nicht.

Man braucht eine eigene Identität, das ist richtig. Die bekomme ich aber nicht dadurch, dass ich mich auf einem festen Fundament wähne und Bücher oder Sätze heran ziehe. Auch der Verweis auf das „Abendland“ hilft nicht, das ist so dermaßen schillernd durch die Geschichte, dass man schon genauer werden muss.

Christlich gesehen bekomme ich Identität durch den Namen, den Gott mir gibt. Also durch Berufung. Identität ist also etwas, was ich suchen und hören muss, nicht etwas, was ich habe und das ich in Abwehrstellung bringen kann.

Was braucht es noch für den Dialog? Zeit. Bereitschaft. Theologie. Offenheit, auch die kritischen Dinge anzusprechen. Klugheit. Geduld. Fragen. Orte des Dialogs. Einen eigenen Glauben (auf Englisch heißt „interreligiöser Dialog“ passenderweise „interfaith“). Und was die Angst vor dem Islam angeht, gab es an diesem Mittwoch ein interessantes Zitat von Kardinal Walter Kasper bei einer Buchvorstellung. Dort sagte er „Ich habe keine Angst vor dem Islam, ich habe aber Angst vor der Angst der Christen vor dem Islam.“

Papst Franziskus hat keine Angst. Wenn ihn etwas charakterisiert, dann sicherlich das. Er agiert angstbefreit. Und wenn er in einem Monat in Ägypten sein wird, dann können wir hoffen, dass der Dialog – oder besser die vielen einzelnen Dialoge – einen Anstoß bekommen.

Es wäre natürlich einfacher, auf dem eigenen Mobiltelefon herum zu tippen, sprich die Wirklichkeit nur gefiltert wahr zu nehmen und den Dialog, das Risiko, nicht zu suchen. Weiter bringen tut uns das nicht. Und genau deswegen fährt der Papst nach Ägypten.


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Extremism and Counter-Messaging
The West has to fight radicals on both the military and ideological battlefield.

International military efforts against the Islamic State are showing signs of progress – even if at a snail’s pace. However, the anti-IS coalition is not winning the far more significant struggle against the jihadist narrative, despite the tremendous amount of resources being deployed in building counter-narratives. The problem is not resource availability but rather political disagreements between the forces fighting IS. These disagreements are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.

Earlier this week, I attended a conference organized by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. The event brought together senior U.S., European and Middle Eastern officials, executives from Facebook and Google, academics and journalists to discuss the challenge of countering online radicalization and extremism. Several topics were addressed, including technological innovation, encryption and censorship. The central topic, however, was counter-messaging, which remains an Achilles’ heel for those aiming to fight jihadism.


Spanish police arrest an 18-year-old Moroccan woman suspected of recruiting other women via the internet to the jihadist group Islamic State, in Gandia on Sept. 5, 2015. JOSE JORDAN/AFP/Getty Images

The concept of counter-messaging has gained more attention since the 9/11 attacks, as it is increasingly clear that military power alone is insufficient to defeat jihadism. Islamist terrorist entities are a manifestation of a much deeper problem – the proliferation of religious extremism and radicalism in Muslim-majority countries and the West. This extremism has produced different types of violent Islamist actors, who subscribe to a variety of radical views. The formation of the Islamic State out of al-Qaida is but one example.

Simply keeping up with the growing complexity of this landscape is a massive undertaking. None of this, however, compares with the Herculean task of trying to confront the ideologies that motivate jihadism to stop people from becoming radicalized and carrying out attacks. Extremism and radicalism are often recognized only when attacks take place. However, extremist ideas continue to attract and inspire people even when violent acts are not committed. Aiding the flow of these ideas and, with it, the spread of jihadism is the same technology that we use in our everyday lives.

Though designed as a means to enable the free flow of information in real time, the internet ironically sustains the engine of terrorism and insurgency. This is because Islamist radicals spend a great deal of time using it to recruit, preach, spread their message and communicate how to carry out attacks. A casual examination of jihadist videos, among other material, is enough to underscore the extent to which jihadists have exploited this technology to develop sophisticated psychological operations, as is evidenced by a BBC report that IS videos have improved in quality. While ungoverned spaces in the Middle East and elsewhere continue to act as staging grounds for jihadist activity, a great deal of radicalization actually takes place online.

Therefore, as we engage this enemy through conventional military means, it also has to be confronted in cyberspace. Success in this virtual battlespace is a function of our ability to prevent jihadist actors from recruiting individuals. The physical battlespace is where a combatant picks up a weapon, whereas the virtual battlespace is where the civilian becomes a combatant in their mind. In this virtual battlespace, the enemy targets individuals who are susceptible to radical ideas. Thus, the weapon of the enemy is a message, which must be destroyed with a counter-message.

Both messaging and counter-messaging consist of two parts: the means of dissemination and the content that is being disseminated. In terms of the former, the United States and its allies have the best capabilities on the planet. They can produce high-quality counter-messaging material and spread it through social media platforms. However, while they have strong technological capabilities, they have not been able to provide an inspiring counter-message, and this is why the United States is unable to compete with jihadists.

This situation is akin to having the best delivery system without the required payload. The warhead here is a narrative that can help in efforts to deconstruct the jihadist narrative. Jihadists don’t have to make their own delivery systems – they can just use technologies produced in the West. Their edge is that they have a message – an area in which their opponents remain weak.

Since the narrative is a religious one, it is only natural that the United States, a largely non-Muslim, secular republic, cannot offer a counter-narrative. This issue is even more problematic because adherents of this religion are themselves having a hard time countering the jihadist narrative. Radicals and extremists have a better command over religious texts and are more persuasive and effective in communicating their religious messages than those we call (for lack of a better term) moderates.

And this is where the problem becomes even bigger. While numerous types of radicals and extremists exist, their underlying narrative is the same. They argue that the solution to the world’s problems is the establishment of Shariah. Meanwhile, many moderates do not share the same view of what moderate Islam means. More importantly, moderates do not have a coherent counter-narrative that the masses can comfortably relate to and believe is authentic and legitimate.

The situation gets further compounded when the West gets involved in this fray. The West naturally prefers to partner with actors it can relate to. Usually, these are secular, liberal individuals and groups. But they are a commodity in short supply in Muslim communities around the world.

The West’s attempts at counter-messaging are also unsuccessful because many view these attempts with suspicion. Even religious leaders who enjoy support among the masses risk undermining their credibility if they participate in a counter-messaging exercise. By no means are we saying that there is no way to square this circle. But unless we find a way around this predicament, counter-messaging is unlikely to work, and we will run around in circles between a host of moderates and extremists. This issue is more important than ever because there are signs that IS and others will seek to further exploit these means in the future after losing territory. And right now, there is no good defense ready to meet them on this new battlefield.–pFTiaafan2f3JgYzNikOCVh-ZGOpeM65H4VJ6dP30tjN9JUYECqoYuKF0mMAQGNoo0A1gM857W0fWRzfD0SaDXNnWLwTmzFq4MlhZFxByKrkrFSM&_hsmi=49638239



see our letter on:

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*



04-04-17 RUSI-RIAC-Report-Russia-UK-Security-Relations.pdf

04-04-17 Will Rouhani’s Visit Reduce Differences with Moscow.docx