26 February 2014

IB Global Politics: Examples of signaling and coercive diplomacy

'morning folks. We have some real gems to work with in the news today. First up, Russian President Putin has ordered military exercises in the western Russia. Along with the drills, which are scheduled to last through the weekend, the Reuters article pains a comparison between statements offered by Russian PM Medvedev regarding Russian interests under threat in Ukraine and those then-President Medvedev made before invading Georgia in 2008. 

The second case involves a suspected Israeli air strike on Hezbollah military targets in the Bekaa Valley, southern Lebanon. A Hezbollah spokesperson claimed that the attack violated the sovereignty of Lebanon. In contrast, Israeli PM Netanyahu reiterated his claim to protect Israel's security.

Both examples are consistent with Thomas Schelling's concept of coercive diplomacy. Neither Russia nor Israel are relying on their military actions or signals to deter the activities of others; western-oriented Ukrainians, NATO, the EU, and the US in the former case, Hezbollah and Iran in the latter. Rather, the threat and (possible) use of force is used by actors to compel adversaries into changing their behavior. The Russian position may be that they are willing to use force to protect their perceived interests in Ukraine. This is not to deter action on the part of NATO/EU/US as none of those entities would use force in the first place. The audience for Russia's military signals may very well be oriented towards Ukrainian politicians and citizens as a reminder that current and future political decisions about the future of the Ukraine have consequences. 

Interestingly, this notion of coercive diplomacy is even extended to the actions of non-state actors. The BBC article quotes Eyal Ben-Reuven, a former deputy head of the Northern Command in Israel as saying that. "Israel has always stayed as the main objective for Hezbollah and Iran...a terror organization gets these kinds of capabilities not for deterrence, but for acts." Hezbollah's pursuit of advanced weaponry, long range rockets, and other offensive capabilities are not designed to deter Israeli actions but to compel it into submission, defeat, and/or destruction. From the Israeli perspective, Hezbollah may not be able to be deterred into a defensive posture, especially with the backing of Iran. Consequently, the (probable) Israeli use of force on Hezbollah targets is designed to signal to Hezbollah, its allies in the Assad regime and in Tehran that the strategy of pursuing advanced offensive weapons will be met with force. 

Those of you with interest in the latter topic would be well served to read Rapp-Hooper, M. (2014, February 25). How does the nuclear deal with Iran affect Hezbollah and its regional influence? Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved from