In Ivan Katchanovski, Multipolarity

Dec 1, 2015 interview with Ivan Katchanovski, School of Political Studies University of Ottawa, published in English on Original interview was published in the French-language Metro free daily in Montreal, Canada. Spanish-language versions were published in Latin America.

Q: Why has the decision to enter war in Syria been made (by Germany)?

This decision is largely a response to the Paris terrorist attacks, which are linked to ISIS. The decision was made by German government following an appeal from the French president. But Germany is also motivated by its desire to play a greater role on the international stage after the end of the Cold War and after the unification of East Germany with Wester Germany. An ongoing large influx of refugees and migrants, a large proportion of whom are from Syria, is another reason for the German involvement in the war in Syria.

Q: Is it a big step for the country? Why yes/no?

This is a big step for Germany in terms of the Syrian conflict. The German military intervention in Syria is also likely to make it one of prime targets of terrorist attacks by ISIS. The bombing of a Russian passenger plane in Egypt on October and then Paris massacre on November 13 were undertaken by ISIS and its affiliates to a large extent in response to the Russian and French bombing of ISIS. But the German military intervention follows its similar military interventions in other countries in recent years and decades, such as Afghanistan, Mali, ex-Yugoslavia, and Libya.

Q: Why did it take so long for Germany to enter?

These military interventions after the end of the Cold War already broken a de facto taboo against involvement of German military forces in other countries following World War II. But there is still remains certain reluctance to use military force abroad because of the German role in World War II. |Germany opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and it did not participate in bombing of Libya in 2011. A recent YouGov/DPA poll showed that 39% of Germans opposed the military involvement against ISIS, while 45% supported. Some 71% Germans believed that such intervention would increase the threat of terrorist attacks in Germany.

Q: Could Germany make a difference? Why yes/no? How?

The size and the scope of the announced German military deployment are currently relatively limited. There are no plans to deploy German military forces on the ground in direct combat against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The German military involvement in the current form might have a certain effect but it is unlikely by itself to defeat ISIS. But the size and the scope of this involvement might significantly change in the future.

Q: Could German involvement bring problems to the country from ISIS?

The German military involvement is likely to raise a possibility of a terrorist attacks by ISIS in Germany. In the YouGov/DPA poll, 71% Germans believed that such intervention would increase the threat of terrorist attacks in Germany. Germans abroad can also become a target of ISIS terrorist attacks. The Interior Minister of Germany estimates that 760 German citizens  joined ISIS, and that 200 returned to Germany. In addition, more ISIS members might infiltrate Germany under guise of refugees.

Q: What to expect in the future?

The course of wars is difficult to predict. This applies to the civil war in Syria and military interventions of many countries in this war, including Germany. But it is not very likely that the war in Syria would end soon or that ISIS would be defeated soon. The Western states led by the US on the one hand and Russia, Iran, and the Assad government on the other hand have conflicting views how to resolve the conflict in Syria, even though all of them are threatened by ISIS and wage military campaigns against ISIS.

Ivan Katchanovski publishes on and here on Facebook.


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