In an inspiring article, “Rediscovering a Sense of Purpose: The Challenge for Western Think-tanks,” published in the last issue of International Affairs in 2018, Robin Niblett, the director of The Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House, argues that think-tanks, expert institutions—independent of governments, business-funded, and aspiring to influence foreign policymaking—are facing existential challenges that may prove to be the toughest in their history. Their independence and credibility as institutions contributing to policymaking with public good in mind have been put into question. Niblett writes about organisations of the Western world, but his definition of a think-tank is fairly wide, embracing both private and state-owned entities, no matter their legal status. And when discussing think-tanks’ post-Cold War expansion, he also applies the notion to research institutes in Russia and China, thus ignoring the system-of-government context.
Europą Wschodnią zajmujesz się zawodowo od 20 lat, jako naukowiec, następnie analityk i ekspert - m.in. jako kierownik Biura Badań i Analiz w Polskim Instytucie Spraw Międzynarodowych, następnie wieloletni wicedyrektor Ośrodka Studiów Wschodnich, a od trzech lat jako jego dyrektor. Jak przez te lata zmienił się Wschód?
At a time when the North Atlantic Council’s session in Brussels was still a distant prospect, an overwhelming majority of the security community believed it unlikely to generate real thrills, and thought the political debate would be largely confined to the continued implementation of the 2016 Warsaw Summit decisions. Only later it turned out, the atmosphere among Allies was thickening every single day despite the fact that most European countries got used to Washington’s traditional rumblings about defence spending. Actually, the North Atlantic Alliance has never been a gentlemen’s club avoiding money talks. The question of burden sharing – or, perhaps more accurately, the sharing of responsibility – was regularly raised up back in the time of the Cold War, when the menace of a large-scale conventional war was so much probable, and when successive U.S. administrations and Congresses regularly rebuked the Europeans for insufficient investments in their own military capabilities. This time, too, European leaders expected a ritual diatribe that Donald Trump had spared them from the very beginning of his term at the White House. It looked as if he had exhausted all instruments of pressure on partners in the Alliance, the more so as he had not been given too many pretexts for using such instruments. Over the past two years, NATO has worked intensely and effectively on adapting its capabilities to address the latest threats – and the results are quite satisfactory, considering the growing pressure on the Alliance from the new (or resurfacing) conflicts and the armaments dynamics in countries such as China, India and Russia. This is particularly true when it comes to the trend of implementation of new technologies, which is difficult to follow by namby-pamby European bureaucracies.
The second largest continent and home to 1.2 billion people, Africa lags far behind other parts of the world in terms of economic development. Its combined nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of an estimated $2.2 trillion is lower than the figure for France alone. Measured by economic potential, individual countries of central Africa are comparable with Polish voivodships, or provinces. The nominal GDP of Poland, the world’s 23rd largest economy, equals that of 22 countries in central and southern Africa taken together – from Botswana to Ethiopia – populated by 500 million inhabitants.
Sławomir Dębski: It seems that European integration has been decelerating. It has become more and more difficult to achieve unity. Tensions between the United States and Europe have also heightened. Perhaps there is a trade war ahead of us. Many observers claim that we are witnessing the disintegration of the West. I believe they exaggerate. What is your opinion?