Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud after signing a joint statement on the restoration of diplomatic relations, with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang in the background.
China’s Saudi-Iran mediation represents a successful case of its forays into the Middle East. | Photo: Mehr News Agency via wikimedia commons | CC BY 4.0

The Power of Not Using Power: China and the Saudi-Iranian Rapprochement

The intensifying systemic rivalry between great powers also involves contesting the most effective approaches to conflict resolution and mediation. The most recent Beijing-mediated détente between Saudi Arabia and Iran has ignited heated debates regarding its longevity and China’s rising profile in the region. While the Middle East may still be a region largely inhospitable to outsider mediation, there are three good reasons why Beijing’s latest foray into Middle East peace diplomacy may be effective. The article argues that China’s hitherto successful mediation between Saudi and Iran lies in its power of not using power—the ability to leverage its growing geoeconomic influence while refraining from the use of coercive power in regional affairs. This approach aims at providing an alternative approach to external powers’ engagement in Middle East peace affairs.


Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Damascus
Steps towards normalization: In 2018, the UAE reopened its embassy in Damascus. | Photo: Fars Media Corporation via wikimedia commons | CC BY 4.0

Arab States’ Incentives Towards (not) Normalizing Relations with Syria – Islamists and Drug Trafficking?

Syria has returned to the stage of regional diplomacy with the readmission of Damascus to the Arab League after a 12-year suspension. The country’s comeback is the outcome of regional diplomatic efforts that started in 2018 but reached their climax after the devastating earthquake in Syria and Turkey in February. Normalization with Syria comes without any accountability for the crimes the Syrian regime has committed against its own people nor a change in behavior that would signal the end of the suffering of Syrians. We argue that despite international and regional factors setting the stage, domestic factors are Arab states’ main incentives for normalization.


Two penguins at the shore with a ship in the background and a boat that has people with orange jackets on it.
Danco Island, Antarctica: The small island is a landing spot for tourists and home to a Gentoo penguin colony. | Photo: Derek Oyen via Unsplash

Is Antarctica Still Exceptional? The Case for “Co-opetition” at the South Pole

Antarctic diplomacy has famously shielded the continent of peace, science, and environmental protection from outside conflict and war. This “exceptionalism” is now being tested by Russia’s war against Ukraine and the belief that international strategic competition between great powers is spilling over into the Antarctic. In order to keep the Antarctic exceptional, however, it would be wise to refocus on what has made Antarctic diplomacy so successful in the first place: cooperation in order to compete, or “co-opetition.”


White wall with crack
Decoupling is a process that is fraught with tensions. | Photo: AYOUB AALLAGUI, Unsplash

Decoupling and the “New Cold War”: Cautionary Lessons from the Past

An emerging “new Cold War” appears to pit democracies, led by the US, against autocracies, led by Russia and China. But the analogy between today’s regime competition and that of the “old” Cold War is deceptive. China and Russia today are much more closely intertwined with Western democracies than the Soviet Union ever was. These linkages will complicate the conflict considerably. There is already growing pressure to engage in “decoupling”, that is, to break these interdependencies. Research on past instances of decoupling shows that such processes often exacerbate conflict. This research offers four lessons about the general dynamics of decoupling – and little cause for optimism about today’s disengagement processes.


Putin and Xi at their meeting in Moscow
The Sino-Russian partnership differs significantly from the Western community of nations. | Photo: via wikimedia commons | CC BY 4.0

Xi and Putin’s Strategic Tango: Unpacking the Complexities of Russia-China Relations After the 2023 Moscow Summit

The March 2023 state visit of Chinese president Xi Jinping to Russia has attracted significant attention, and has been described as symbolic of growing cooperation between authoritarian states opposed to the current world order. However, as we argue in a recently-published article based on a review of Russian and Chinese expert statements, this partnership should best be understood as a limited, strategically motivated cooperation against shared threat perceptions. Meanwhile, there is much less agreement on normative questions, let alone a shared vision of an alternative world order.


President Ilham Aliyev sitting with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanjahu with flags of Azerbaijan and Israel.
The alliance between Israel and Azerbaijan recently celebrated 30 years of diplomatic ties. | Photo:, wikimedia commons | CC BY 4.0

Why Israel Backs Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: It’s Not About Armenia

Amidst the devastation caused by the recent earthquakes in Turkey on 6 February, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian made a strong statement warning against the threat posed by the Zionist regime to peace and stability in the region. Specifically, he pointed to Israel’s involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, where Azerbaijan emerged victorious with significant support from Israel in the form of technology and arms. But why did Israel get involved in a conflict thousands of miles away, with no direct interests? In this post, we’ll take a closer look at Israel’s strategic partnerships with Azerbaijan and Turkey, and how they tie into its involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.


Der ukrainische Präsident Selenskyj bei Gesprächen mit den Regierungschefs von Polen, Tschechien und Slowenien
Der ukrainische Präsident Selenskyj bei Gesprächen mit den Regierungschefs von Polen, Tschechien und Slowenien | Photo: President Of Ukraine | Public Domain

Schießen und verhandeln – in vielen Konflikten kein Gegensatz

Schon kurz nach dem Überfall auf die Ukraine begannen die Kriegsparteien zu verhandeln. Viele Kommentare kritisierten, es passe nicht zusammen, zu verhandeln und gleichzeitig zu schießen. Ein einflussreicher Forschungsstrang in der Politikwissenschaft widerspricht dem. Ihm zufolge fassen viele Konfliktparteien Krieg als Teil des Verhandelns auf. Begreift man das vor allem als erschreckende Beobachtung und weniger als zynische Politikempfehlung, dann wird verständlicher, warum viele Verhandlungen erst spät oder nie zu einem Ende des Krieges führen.


Two fingers and a fist
The recognition of armed non-state actors is a deeply ambivalent process. | Photo: Francis Alÿs, Children Game #14: Stone, Paper and Scissors, 2013. © F. Alÿs

The Tricky Politics of Recognizing Armed Non-State Actors

The new volume “Armed non-state actors and the politics of recognition” by editors Anna Geis, Maéva Clément, and Hanna Pfeifer discusses armed non-state actors and their strategic pursuit of being recognized as political actors. It includes methodological considerations as well as case studies from China, Ireland, Lebanon, Nigeria and, Sudan among others. The contributions study the strategic choices that state leaders, citizens, international organizations, and others make in granting such recognition, denying it, or recognizing on their own terms.


Wer eine neue Außenpolitik will, braucht auch ein neues Außenministerium! | Photo: © Gryffindor via Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain

Wer eine neue Außenpolitik will, braucht auch ein neues Außenministerium

Afghanistan, Belarus, Äthiopien, Bosnien. Als neue Außenministerin wird Annalena Baerbock vom ersten Tag an von aktuellen Krisen gefordert sein. Auch der Koalitionsvertrag enthält ehrgeizige Ziele. Neue Abrüstungsinitiativen etwa, einen anderen Umgang mit China und Russland und vor allem eine „Klimaaußenpolitik“, die möglichst viele Länder davon überzeugen soll, die Klimakatastrophe zu verhindern. Doch wenn Baerbock diese Herausforderungen wirklich angehen möchte, wenn sie eine neue, aktivere, strategischere Außenpolitik will, braucht sie ein anderes Auswärtiges Amt. Denn das Ministerium, so formulierte es etwa der FDP-Außenpolitiker Graf Lambsdorff „pfeift auf dem letzten Loch“. Es ist schlicht nicht aufgestellt für eine Außenpolitik des 21. Jahrhunderts.


Dag Hammarskjöld am 6.1.1959 (© UN Photo/JO)
Dag Hammarskjöld am 6.1.1959 (© UN Photo/JO)

Die UN als globaler „Streitraum“. Zur Aktualität von Dag Hammarskjölds Erbe

Dag Hammarskjöld? War das nicht der mit dem mysteriösen Flugzeugabsturz im Kongo? Außerhalb des kleinen Kreises derer, die sich intensiv mit der Geschichte der Vereinten Nationen beschäftigen, verblasst die Erinnerung an den zweiten UN-Generalsekretär zunehmend. Wir wollen den 60. Todestag von Dag Hammarskjöld zum Anlass nehmen, um nochmals einen Blick auf dieses „Wunderkind aus Schweden“ […]