SOLD OUT: London event – the changing face of counterterrorism

Photo 24.11. crowd whitehall

WHEN: Wednesday, August 17, 2016 from 17:30 – 19:00 

WHERE: Whitehall, London, United Kingdom – Exact location to be confirmed to attendees


From Paris to Brussels,, Nice, Orlando and beyond, Western states appear to be facing an almost unprecedented tempo of militant attacks – although they pale in comparison to those in truly front-line nations such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria. With a growing number of such incidents apparently involving single radicalized individuals, often with mental health problems, how can one really define “terrorism”? And with recent attacks in Europe and North America now helping drive domestic politics, what can be done to protect civilians while avoiding further polarizing communities and deepening divisions?

Peter Apps [moderator] – executive director, PS21. Reuters global affairs columnist

Nigel Inkster – former deputy chief, MI6, now head of transnational threats and political risk for international Institute for Strategic Studies

Omar Hamid – former Pakistani police officer, now head of Asia-Pacific risk at IHS

Julia Ebner – policy analyst specializing in European militant threats, Quilliam Foundation

Frederic Ischebeck-Baum – Sir Michael Howard Centre Fellow at King’s College London and PS21 fellow.


You can sign up here.


The PS21 Team.

PS21 update week ending August 5

Apologies for the delayed update this week – was traveling in Paris last week which was a fascinating experience but inevitably nudged me a little behind.

Over the last 10 days, we’ve had some great updates on the PS21 website including this look at the current situation in the South China Sea. We also have the latest addition to our Imagining 2030 series, this time looking at the potential bleak future for young people in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, on, I’ve been looking at just how much worse 2016 could get, whether Vladimir Putin is really trying to get Donald Trump elected president and also examining what Americans really want from the world this election season.

PS21 is relatively light on events this August, but the one event we do have coming up in Whitehall on August 17 should be seriously good. If  the militant threat is the story of the summer – and that definitely feels like the case for now – it’s as good a panel as you could possibly expect.

We also have some really great events coming up for September including looking at potential scenarios for tensions in the Baltic states, I look back at 911 15 years on and a discussion on migration in Europe. Stay tuned for further details.

Peter Apps

Executive Director, PS21

Global affairs columnist, Reuters news



The changing face of counterterrorism

Wednesday, August 17, 530 p.m. for 6 p.m. start. Whitehall – attendees to be notified of exact location

From Paris to Brussels,, Nice, Orlando and beyond, Western states appear to be facing an almost unprecedented tempo of militant attacks – although they pale in comparison to those in truly front-line nations such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria. With a growing number of such incidents apparently involving single radicalized individuals, often with mental health problems, how can one really define “terrorism”? And with recent attacks in Europe and North America now helping drive domestic politics, what can be done to protect civilians while avoiding further polarizing communities and deepening divisions?

Peter Apps [moderator] – executive director, PS21. Reuters global affairs columnist

Nigel Inkster – former deputy chief, MI6, now head of transnational threats and political risk for international Institute for Strategic Studies

Omar Hamid – former Pakistani police officer, now head of Asia-Pacific risk at IHS

Julia Ebner – policy analyst specializing in European militant threats, Quilliam Foundation

sign up here

South China Sea : The Saga continues

Portion of a Qing scroll on battling 19th Century piracy in the South China Sea (Wikipedia)


Berivan Dilan is a recent graduate from Maastricht University in International Relations, and is starting an MSc in International Political Economy at LSE.  


On 12th July 2016, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea at The Hague ruled that Chinese claims to territorial rights in the South China Sea have no legal basis, after a case was brought to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2013 by the Philippines. The tension in the South China Sea is at a fever pitch, with China vowing that it “will take all necessary measures to protect its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,”[i] countered by the U.S. sending an aircraft carrier and fighter jets to the region. This ruling certainly does not mark the end of the South China Sea dispute. In fact, this ruling might just have opened up Pandora’s Box.


The South China Sea has been home to territorial disputes for many decades. The disputes involve claims among several states that all have an interest in the fishing areas, potential natural resources and strategic control of one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. China asserts that its historical claim to these prized waters predate the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) however Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Brunei beg to differ and believe the international law regulating the delimitation must be adhered to.


Why does China claim this area?

Money, money, money goes to explain much of China’s so-called “win win” approach to its contemporary foreign policy decisions. The area in question without doubt offers huge economic benefits to the PRC: from the potential for unique access to the immense fishing area, strategic control of one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, and increased access to exploiting potential natural resources (i.e. oil) are to name a few examples. Geopolitically, its security would have been strengthened had the Court chosen to favour China in this dispute, given the current dominance of U.S. backed naval resources in the region. It would be naïve not to recognize the material realities of the dispute. However, in addition to the economic and geopolitical dimensions, there is a third dimension which is often neglected by the popular accounts of the dispute, namely the historical dimension. China is not only claiming the South China Sea because it has vested interests in the region, but also because China views the area claimed within the nine-dashed line as historically theirs. In order to understand Chinese foreign policy fully, particularly as it re-emerges as a superpower, it is necessary to understand the ancient Chinese conception of world order.


In order to understand the way the PRC is currently acting, first one needs to look at the concept of Tianxia, which can be broken down into three parts: the world (in a geographical sense), the will of the people, and the world institution[ii]. What is important to note is that Tianxia does not refer to a nation state as we interpret it, but to a world or society: “traditional China did not see itself as a nation-state or even as an empire with separate subject peoples, but rather as the centre of civilisation.” [iii] This led to the ancient Chinese idea of Sinocentrism, the idea that China is the undisputed centre of civilisation. In the Sinocentric world order China has a hegemonic position. In the past when China aimed to create a Sinocentric world order, it did so by socialising foreign rulers into accepting China’s centrality and superiority. In fact, in some periods, the Chinese rulers were able to accomplish this with some Western visitors as well as in the system of tributary and vassal states.


As China re-emerges as a superpower, it seems clear that this Sinocentric viewpoint is being taken on-board once more by its leaders. Gone are the days of Xiaoping’s “bide one’s time” philosophy, the nation is now taking a lead with assertive foreign policy choices, such as refusing the tribunal’s ruling in the South China Sea dispute, despite being a UNSC power. China will not easily give up its territorial claims in the South China Sea. The first Chinese interaction with Western international law in the 19th century was not easy. China experienced it as traumatic, leaving memories of humiliation, domination and oppression. The unequal treaties signed in this time period, such as the Treaty of Nanking, encroached upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and exemplified how foreign imperialism managed to reduce the Middle Kingdom to a society with semi-colonial status. The Chinese saw international law as one of the tools used by the west to restrain ‘wild foreign consuls’[iv]. Although today international law is part of China’s advancement strategy to catch up with the developed countries, “early Chinese experience with international law still remains a key to the understanding of the present Chinese attitude towards international law”[v]. The Chinese claim to the South China Sea is based on unverifiable historical claims and while this does not hold much power in international law, the Chinese government will not back down any time soon.


What happens next?

The tribunal has no powers to enforce its ruling. China has rejected the ruling and maintained its presence in the South China Sea claiming that it has the right to set up an air defence zone. The U.S. has framed the outcome of the case as a test of China’s respect of international law. China’s rejection could lead to reputational damage, as well as alienating its neighbours if it maintains the current course of action and language. However, it is playing well to its citizens at home who are increasingly seeking a more active role for China in international relations. Whether the tensions in the South China Sea will escalate to a military encounter between China and the U.S., is unclear. However, this ruling has created more uncertainty and unease for both sides. In any case, it is clear that the situation in the South China Sea goes much deeper than merely economic and geopolitical power. To understand contemporary foreign policy decisions made by the PRC, one must look further than simply realpolitik. It seems that China’s assertiveness is a reassertion of an age old worldview which has influenced Chinese governance and self-understanding for over two millennia.


Project for Study of the 21st Century is a non-national, nongovernmental, nonpartisan organization. All views expressed are the author’s own. Interested in contributing? Email us at E-mail us at


[i] Reuters. (2016). China vows to protect South China Sea sovereignty, Manila upbeat. Retrieved July 17, 2016, from

[ii] Zhao, T. (2006). Rethinking Empire from a Chinese Concept ‘All-under-Heaven’ (Tian-xia,). Social Identities, 12(1), 29-41.

[iii] Nathan, A. J., & Scobell, A. (2015). What Drives Chinese Foreign policy. In China’s search for security (pp. 1-37). Columbia University Press.

[iv] Zhaojie, L. (2001). Legacy of modern Chinese history: its relevance to the Chinese perspective of the contemporary international legal order. Singapore Journal of International & Comparative Law, 5, 314-326.

[v] Zhaojie, L. (2001). Legacy of modern Chinese history: its relevance to the Chinese perspective of the contemporary international legal order. Singapore Journal of International & Comparative Law, 319.

Imagining 2030: Out of a desert

Imagining 2030 is a series in which PS21 writers describe the world as they see it in 14 years time. 

Jorge Vanstreels writes on the Middle East and Foreign Policy for a variety of publications and is based in Belgium. His regional travels have led him through the West Bank, the Syria-Jordan border, or Tunisia’s deep south. He is currently pursuing his Master of Law at the University of Antwerp. Follow him on Twitter @Jorgevs


In an unknown spot somewhere in the deserts of Arabia far away from any capital stood the tiny village of Ar-Rashid on a plateau surrounded by dunes. It was night and the village was covered in a type of darkness only found in remote places. The sky was vaguely lit up with all possible stars large and small. Seen from space, not even a minuscule light was visible to pinpoint the village in the grand, dark sea the desert formed.


On a plateau, a few houses had been built of cheap bricks and covered with thin metal roofing. Three unpaved roads gave the village some sense of orientation. In the evening, the call to prayer from the administrative town some distance away was heard. Ahmed stood at the entrance of his parent’s house. Indeed, tonight his decision was final. He looked nervously to the dunes at the horizon. Their rolling shapes stood out against the lighter night sky. His father came in and Ahmed asked if he wanted to go out for a walk. Sure, said his father, a tall man in his late 30’s with curly black hair that was starting to turn slightly grey.


“What’s up?” he asked his son. Ahmed just shrugged his shoulders. “Let’s go out,” the father said. They walked to the dunes at the end of the road. Their sharp forms stood out in dark-grey against the brighter night sky. After they had climbed the top of a dune they sat down. There was silence as both looked up at the sky.


“Look”, his father said, pointing to a bright light just above the horizon to their right. It moved slowly higher describing an arc. His father’s arm followed the object’s motion until it was above them.


“When I was young,” he said, “the movement would go so much slower. You could follow that plane through the sky for more than two minutes.” Now it had flown across their vast horizon in less than a minute. Ahmed thought of those inside, looking down into what would surely be nothing.  “The times of progress,” his father smiled, dreaming of a gleaming, supersonic object they knew only from images.


Ahmed looked to his father. He was nervous, unsure as to how he would react. “So, tell me. What is on your mind?” Ahmed stayed silent. He thought of his friends. Of all those hours, those infinite days spent in a spot you could not find on a map. He had the sense the rest of the world had a sure time and place while his had not. He bit tensely on his lip while looking up at the sky. “I am going to leave,” he said, “tomorrow morning.”


There was silence from his father.


“With the bus I will go to the capital; it is decided and I do not want to change my mind,” he said, trying to sound decisive. A multitude of stars large and small was scattered generously around; the combined glow gave the night sky a pale luminosity. In between the top of the dunes shadows formed and valleys could be seen. His father sighed heavily. Although his father knew why his son wanted to leave, he asked him why. Ahmed sensed his father knew very well, but he did not tell him that.


Their country had in the last few years slipped into violence. Although the remote provinces had been spared, all the major cities had witnessed serious riots by thousand youths. They would chant slogans for justice. It was not clear what they meant by that. Aggravating it, or perhaps fueling it, was the scarcity of jobs .The country was bankrupt, as petroleum was globally out of favor.


On the dunes, a breeze swept some sand away into the air. “Father, thirty years ago you left. You risked your life to reach Europe, leaving our grandparents behind, with them trembling for your life each night. Grandmother says it cut her life short ten years. Why did you go?” Ahmed said, almost with exasperation, “What was there to find that even death could not scare you?” There was a shrug of the shoulders.


“Look son, nothing has changed. Not here, nor in those place we dream of. If someone is young like you, there is still nothing you can call a future.” He paused. “Sure, there’s a roof. There’s a bed, there’s a meal. That is it. At my age, one learns to accept that.” His father continued, “When I was as young as you I went to Europe for something better, yes. I felt angry. My parents did not understand, begged me to stay. So I shut up until I left them as a thief in the night.”


A silence. “Why did you come back?”


“I worked two years; hard. Nothing there made me happy. All the money was sent back here; then I was sent out of the country, as I did not have papers. Not that I was bothered, I had grown indifferent. So I said: better poor at home, then work and sadness and no home soil.”


Ahmed grinned.  “Yeah, that makes some sense.”


Then his father asked, “You will go to the city to protest, yes? With the imam and all his followers, right? You want to join him. You want to fight. For justice.” He said the last word with a hint of cynicism. His son nodded, looking to the sand between his feet. “All my friends are there”, he said, “Everybody goes. We have to defend the honor of our future. I can’t explain father, but you should understand. You hated your world too.”


Indeed his father had. With age, the hate had transmuted into a peaceful bitterness. Their country was not the only one. The whole of the Middle East had seen order disappear. Monarchies had fallen, autocrats had gone, borders had been redrawn, countries broken apart, others stitched together. In the days of Ahmed’s father the frustrations of the young had been channeled into religious extremism; now a different kind of extremism had emerged in the region, carried by progressive imams in cities, a new political view that merged Islam with Marxist principles of class struggle. It called for the overthrow of the established order, by blood and force if necessary. Many youngsters had heeded the call of the new Revolution.


Ahmed asked in a sudden outburst of anger, “our country, this vast country full of people is only for those corrupt and maliciously rich. They as Gods and only they decide; high up on their thrones, treating us as cattle, against the very will of Islam. Not as humans. Do you think they care for even one single moment? They couldn’t care less than for a grain of sand.”


”They do not care,” his father said softly.


Ahmed continued, “Nothing has changed, father. You left to find something better, you did not get it. What will we do? Wait until what? Until the sand has run us over and everybody forgets about honor or dignity? No. What does our religion say? We have to fight against the forces of evil. They are fighting in the streets. That’s where history goes, that’s where we have to stand, even if blood flows.”


“Look, father, I understand you do not want me to go. But what is there for me, here? Emptiness,” he gestured impatiently to the horizon.


The state, as in all provinces, had given basic education in the nearest administrative town. In the times of his father, university was free when petroleum was still selling. After that, the crisis had hit hard. Now only the very rich or the connected could afford higher education. Ahmed knew the basics of mathematics, some English, a few centuries of history, too much religion, and that was it. On television, all saw the archetype of the successful Arab man in smart suit, fast car and next to him a beautiful woman. Ahmed said firmly. “They who rule against God have to go. It is not just. I will not stay here doing nothing.”


His father stayed silent, looking to the dark slopes and valleys in front of them. ”I cannot say and I will not say you are right; however I cannot stop you either, my son,” was the only thing he said.


It was uncertain whether the time ahead would bring a better future. Uncertain too was whether the anger of the young would once again transform the region, this time for good. What was sure was that the unknown would be reached through an inevitably violent upheaval.


It was still dark when Ahmed left the house. His father would tell his mother, later. On the road the bus came. The doors closed. The engine creaked. The sun rose, fast.


Interested in contributing a piece to the series? E-mail us at

Project for Study of the 21st Century is a non-national, non-ideological, non-partisan organization. All views expressed are the author’s own.

PS21 update week ending July 15

Great PS21 discussion on Tuesday this week on the world after the referendum. Since then, of course, we’ve had both a new Prime Minister and, slightly more controversially, a new Foreign Secretary. It will be fascinating to see where things go from here.

Three columns of mine on in the last 10 days also looking at the rapidly changing world. The first looks at the rise of May and ponders how, if Hillary Clinton also wins in November, three of the world’s largest six economies will likely be led by women by the middle of January next year. But these are, of course, interesting times – the other two pieces look at the rising risk of conflict firstly in Europe and then also in Southeast Asia.

These are, as we say, interesting times. On the PS 21 website, meanwhile, William Farmer ponders the growing relationship between India and Africa.

All best and as always, many thanks for being part of this fascinating journey.

Peter Apps

Global affairs columnist, Reuters

Executive director, PS21




We regret that the discussion on NATO/the defense of Europe scheduled for Thursday, July 21 has been postponed. We will let you know a new date in due course.


PS21 Summer Networking Drinks

Wednesday, July 27, six p.m. Neo Bankside, Southwark, SE1

As Britain reaches the end [hopefully?] of a fascinating and seismic political season, join PS21 for drinks and conversation as we ponder what on earth the rest of the year might have in store.

You can sign up here.


Russia and Europe

Tuesday, July 19, three p.m. Thomson Reuters, 1333, H Street Northwest, Washington DC

PS21 global fellow Ali Wyne talks to Fiona Hill, former US National Intelligence Officer for Russia and now head of the Europe program at the Brookings Institution. Where will Europe go in the aftermath of the UK referendum, what is motivating Vladimir Putin and how can the US influence events in a continent that has previously given the world some of the worst conflicts in human history.

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Friendship & Cooperation? – India’s African Strategy


William Farmer is a recent graduate from King’s College London, specializing in Postcolonial Africa and political risk.

In its relations with the African continent, the Indian state claims that historical and cultural commonalities between the two naturally engender unique and mutually-beneficial foreign relations. The main tenets of such solidarity are a shared colonial past, helped by the large Indian diaspora in Africa, and the history of the Non-Aligned Movement, of which India, and many African nations were members. This sentiment was also evident at the UN in 2010; India’s representative to the UN, Hardeep Singh Puri, remarked that ‘India’s own links with Africa go back a long way. They are anchored in a history of civilizational contact and friendship across the Indian Ocean. Our friendship and cooperation has been further strengthened through a common journey of anti-colonial struggle and post-colonial nation-building.’[1] This narrative attempts to set India apart from other foreign actors in Africa, such as China or Western nations, whose policies in Africa are often branded as “neo-colonial” and exploitative.


The cultural commonality of India and Africa is used by the Indian state to supplement a narrative of benevolent policy towards Africa. Specifically, the Indian state has argued that their colonial and Non-Aligned past engenders an aptitude for capacity building projects; in other words, it is the ideal nation to “develop” Africa. This can be seen with initiatives such as the Pan-African e-Network, which has been running since February 2009. It is a project that shares Indian skills (namely education and healthcare expertise) with African audiences, connecting ‘53 African countries into one network through satellite, fiber optics and wireless links to provide tele-education, tele-medicine and voice and video conference facilities’.[2] The blueprint of the Pan African e-Network is supposedly ‘within the framework of South-South cooperation.’[3] Even the name of the project evokes notions of the Non-Aligned Movement, with prominent Pan-Africanists such as Nkrumah professing staunch support for the Non-Aligned Movement.


Nevertheless, the relevance and provenance regarding this narrative of cultural and historical commonality is dubious at best. When examining Indian policy in Africa more broadly, it becomes apparent that it is not particularly unique nor benevolent; rather, Indian policy more closely resembles that of China, or Western nations. This is ironic, as India expressly defines its own policies in Africa against that of these competitors. Despite the lengths the Indian state goes to, to differentiate their relationship with Africa from China’s, India has been seen to follow China’s lead. This can be seen in a number of different ways, but primarily through its investment in raw materials. The Indian Department of External Affairs has made this clear, stating that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ‘is very rich in natural resources’ and that ‘there is tremendous possibility of enhanced bilateral cooperation.’[4] India, much like China, traded in Africa largely to gain natural resources to service infrastructure advancements in their respective home nations. In 2010, 91 per cent of India’s imports from Africa were primary commodities – this meant that India bought very few processed materials or products from Africa.[5] It is plain to see that India is, in fact, extracting natural resources from Africa in a manner strikingly similar to China, and that the Indian narrative of cultural similarity and cooperation is, in this context, nothing more than a pretext for the extraction of natural resources.


The provenance of India’s narrative of a shared colonial and non-aligned past is equally suspect. Rather than India’s colonial past engendering a relationship across the Indian Ocean that benefits Africa, it can be seen to imbue an unequal and prejudiced relationship. Under the British Empire, Indians were seen as more “civilised” than Africans. With the break-up of Germany’s colonies after the First World War, members of the Indian diaspora in East Africa, with a clear belief in the Indian “civilising mission” in East Africa, lobbied to annex German Tanganyika to British India, as recompense for India’s contribution to the war effort.[6] This thinking has persisted: the experiences of African students in India provides a clear example. In 2013, Jalandhar in the Punjab experienced a series of racially-motivated attacks. Twenty-one Congolese exchange students were arrested and Indian state officials stated that the Congolese ‘stole the bag of the [Indian] victim’, but the Congolese students claimed that this was not the case, and that one student was ‘beaten with a cricket bat in what appeared to be a racist attack.’[7] The Congolese students in question, as well as the president of the Association of African Students in India (AASI) argued that racism against Africans was a big issue in India, particularly in the Punjab. Christophe Okito, AASI president, claimed that ‘many of them [Indians] believe that black people are cursed by the gods, destined to be slaves, whereas white people here are seen as intrinsically successful.’[8] This negative attitude towards Africans, with specific reference to slavery, implies that Africans in India are aware of the colonial roots of this racism.


The mere fact that India positions itself to be a nation fit to take part in “developing” Africa articulates an assumed hierarchical and neo-colonial relationship. Arturo Escobar’s theory of development discourse likens the practice of “development” to colonialism, as the “development” of one people by another presumes the “developer” to be more civilised than their recipients of “development” efforts.[9] This theory helps to explain the racially-hierarchical nature of India’s work in Africa.


This article is not aimed to vilify foreign actors in Africa. Rather, deconstructing foreign policy narratives – such as India’s – aims to provide a case study of the problems presented by the utilisation of cultural or historical commonality for political and economic ends. This article is also a call to those in foreign policy, arguing that they should be equally as critical when considering the role of culture and history in foreign relations. First of all, such narratives can be largely irrelevant to the true practices of states, as shown by the nature of Indian investment in Africa. Secondly, cultural and historical narratives are often used to ingrain a false sense of cooperation and solidarity between nations. The failure of both Indian and African states to accept the real nuance in their relationship – including the hangover of a colonial, racial hierarchy between Indians and Africans – shows that simplified and reductive notions of non-aligned and post-colonial solidarity do not reflect the true nature of India-Africa relations.



Project for Study of the 21st Century is a non-national, nongovernmental, nonpartisan organization. All views expressed are the author’s own.


[1] India’s Foreign Relations – 2010 Documents, ed., Avtar Singh Bhasin, (Geetika Publishers), page 2283.

[2] Ibid, page 2284.

[3] Ibid.

[4] ‘India-DR Congo Relations’, Embassy of India, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, accessed 20/3/16,

[5] Standard Chartered, ‘Africa-India Trade and Investment: Playing to Strengths’, Standard Chartered, On the Ground, Global Research, (08/08/2012), page 5.

[6] Dhruba Gupta, ‘Indian Perceptions of Africa’, South Asia Research, 11:2, (1991), page 163.

[7]  ‘DR Congo shop attacks over arrests in India’, BBC News, 19/06/2013, accessed 23/05/2016,

[8] Christophe Okito, quoted in, accessed 14/4/2016.

[9] Arturo Escobar, Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World, (Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 1995), page 9.

PS21 update week ending July 1

The increasingly brutal fallout of the Brexit vote continues, but we are moving towards some degree of clarity on who is going to wind up running the country, at least in the short term – probably, anyhow. At the beginning of last week, I wrote a piece for Reuters suggesting we might end up in months if not years of messy hiatus while the government decides whether or not trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

I think that’s slightly less likely now – Home Secretary Theresa  May, now the front runner for the Conservative leadership, looks rather more like she has decided to take that step, although there is little clarity on timescale. Still a lot uncertain, however – and last night’s PS21 discussion on British politics after the vote really showcased that. A really great panel and some really great discussions.

As you can see below, we have some further great events coming up. Look forward to seeing you there…

Peter Apps

Global affairs columnist, Reuters

Executive director, PS21



Britain in the world after Brexit

Tuesday, July 12 2016, six p.m., King’s College London

After the referendum, where does the United Kingdom go next? PS21 pulls together a panel to discuss the future of Britain and the world as it begins – probably, or at least  possibly – the process of extricating himself from the European Union. Is that iit for British power and influence? What is the future of UK relations with Europe outside the EU? Can it rebuild and grow other alliances? And what, if any,  might its approach to the outside world now be?

Peter Apps [moderator] – Global Affairs Columnist, Thomson Reuters. Executive Director, PS21

Lt Gen Sir Graeme Lamb –  Former  Director, UK Special Forces

Catherine Fieschi – Director, Counterpoint

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Assertive Russia, Unstable Europe?

Tuesday, July 19, 6 p.m., Thomson Reuters

PS21 global fellow Ali Wyne interviews former US national intelligence officer for Russia Fiona Hill, now head of the Europe program at Brookings, on an increasingly unpredictable continent and the inner workings of the Kremlin.

Sign up details to follow Friday

Further London events

Save the date

The defense of Europe after Warsaw, Brexit

Thursday, July 21, 6 p.m., King’s College London

In the aftermath of the UK referendum and Warsaw NATO summit, PS21 looks at ongoing tensions with Russia and the defense of Europe. Moderated by Reuters global defense correspondent  Peter Apps  with speakers including former NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe Lt Gen Sir Richard Shirreff

London networking drinks

Wednesday, July 27, 7pm


Exploiting the Electorate: Lessons from Brexit

Caitlin Vito is a research Events Administrator at the International Institute
for Strategic Studies (IISS); Formerly at NATO, Political Affairs and Security Policy Division 


On June 16th British Member of Parliament Jo Cox was shot and killed by one of her own constituents. In the midst of outpourings of grief and cross-party condemnation, her death also allowed a moment of reflection. How had Britain reached this point?

To answer that, one couldn’t help but think of the heated debates on Brexit in the weeks prior to her death, with both the Remain and Leave camps hurling accusations at each other. Both accusing the other of whipping up hatred and fear among the British electorate. Sadiq Khan, the pro-Remain London mayor lambasted his predecessor, pro-Brexiter and former London mayor, Boris Johnson for unleashing ‘Project Hate’, of stirring up xenophobia and fears of immigrants flooding into the UK. In return, the pro-Brexit camp attacked the Remain side for running a ‘Project Fear’ campaign, which they argued exaggerated to the British public the costs of leaving the EU.

These catchy one-liners were quickly sucked up by the media and became the labels with which to hastily dismiss and discredit opposing arguments. ‘Project Fear’ and ‘Project Hate’ have exposed, and in many ways exacerbated, a visible and growing polarization of British politics and society. The referendum debate was framed in black and white, allowing little space for balanced discussion, and further breeding distrust and a corrosive contempt for the other side. Where arguments are boiled down into sound-bites, politics finds itself easily drifting towards the extremes.

Similarly, the Brexit campaign brought far-right anti-immigrant sentiment from the margins into public discourse. A leading Brexiter and head of the anti-immigration political party UKIP, Nigel Farage, even employed a campaign banner that depicted hordes of migrants and refugees crossing the EU border with the slogan of “BREAKING POINT: the EU has failed us all”. Immediately, many pundits pointed out similarities to propaganda used by the Nazis in the 1930’s. Jo Cox’s murderer also had longstanding neo-Nazi leanings. His decision to act at a time when politicians and the media were stoking divisions and polarizing discourse through extreme populist rhetoric was likely not a coincidence.

The trend seen in the UK, towards polarization and division, is shared across the Atlantic in the United States, where demonization has been seen throughout the US presidential election campaign. Donald Trump is a master of populist rhetoric, dividing voters with his early call for a temporary ban on Muslim migration and labeling all Mexicans crossing the US border ‘rapists’. The real life consequences of this are playing out across America, with a number of civil-rights organizations voicing serious concerns about the rise in hate speech and violent acts by far-right groups, many of whom coincidentally also openly support Trump.

The vote for Brexit and the rising popularity of Trump reflects a significant number of people on both sides of the Atlantic who are justifiably angry and frustrated with the status quo. Many of them feel that they have not been included in the economic and social benefits of globalization and closer integration. Instead of focusing efforts towards bringing these people into the fold of prosperity, many politicians and media figures have exploited the electorates’ frustrations for their own short term political and financial gain. The murder of Jo Cox and the rise in hate crimes are markers of the ripple effects these dynamics have as they play out across society. People now need politicians and a media which does not try to take opportunistic advantage in division, but seeks to build longstanding bridges.

Uncertainty lies ahead from the fallout of the British vote. Therefore, it is important that the forces polarizing the debate are now reined in. The inevitable calls for unity, urged by many politicians following the vote, must be followed by real action.



Project for Study of the 21st Century is a non-national, nongovernmental, nonpartisan organization. All views expressed are the author’s own.

PS21 update – Brexit special

“That’s it, we’re out,” said Jonn Elledge shortly after midnight when they announced the result from Wolverhampton.

It’s been a fascinating period. Last week, a couple of days before the vote, I wrote a column for Reuters pondering what it would take to restore the divisions in the country after the vote. The morning off the result, I suggested what should happen next. Within barely 48 hours, things in the country was so confused that I was writing something rather different.

Things are still, it is fair to say, uncertain.

Unfortunately, it’s a apparently a myth that the Chinese characters for crisis and opportunity are the same – they are not. Still, PS21 is aiming to take advantage of the situation ruthlessly anyhow with a series of discussions over the next few weeks and months. We will be looking at Britain’s place in the world post- referendum, the defense of Europe as well as much broader topics such as the nature of the nationstate in the 21st century and what kind of immigration policy might actually work.

See the first of those below. Other exciting stuff going on that I look forward to filling you in on in due course.

All best,


Upcoming Events

British politics after the Brexit vote

Monday, July four, six p.m.,, King’s College London

So, the Brexit vote happened. But that, for now, is about all we can conclusively say. What next for British politics? We look ahead to the final days of David Cameron, the prospects for potential Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the deeply unpredictable future of the Labour Party. More broadly than that, though, what did the vote tell us about a deeply divided nation usually conflicted about where it goes next?

Peter Apps [moderator] – Global Affairs Columnist, Thomson Reuters. Executive Director, PS21

Rob Colville – Author and commentator for Politico Europe, Financial Times

Jennifer Brindisi – Political Consultant. Former Executive Director, Young Professionals in Foreign Policy

Gurjinder Dhaliwal – Labour Party and Remain campaigner

Jonn Eledge – Editor of CityMetric and journalist at New Statesman

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PS21 update week ending June 11

Two excellent discussions this week, one with counterterrorism expert Richard Barrett at the Cabinet Office  in London and a second on potential futures for US foreign policy with an expert panel in Washington DC. As always, some great expertise on display and some really good discussions.

Two more events coming up in London in the next couple of weeks, one on the changing face of intelligence at King’s College London on Wednesday and then a networking drinks the following week. The latter will take place the day before the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union – and attendees will have the chance to  place bets on what they see as the likely percentage results.

Look forward to seeing you there. And as always, many thanks for being part of the PS21 community.




The Changing Face of Intelligence

Wednesday, June 15, 6 p.m., King’s College London

From the growth of cyberspace to the application of open source information, the intelligence landscape – both for the government and private sector – is starting to see significantly change. PS21 looks into the changing sources of information, the needs and wants of those consuming intelligence, and asks how that shadowy world looks set to change in the years to come.

Peter Apps [moderator]global affairs columnist, Reuters. Executive director, PS21

John Bassett – former head of GCHQ London and Washington stations

Christiaan Triebert – an open source intelligence (OSINT) specialist at Bellingcat. Tracking conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen especially, he also provides UK transparency group Airwars with Geolocations of alleged civilian casualty incidents.

Metsa Rahimi – regional head of intelligence, UK and Middle East, Deutsche Bank. Member of the board and trustee, PS21

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016 from 17:30. 

Blue Boar Restaurant – 45 Tothill Street, London, SW1H 9LQ

PS21 cordially invites you to our next networking event at the Blue Boar. A great opportunity to meet, mingle and catch up. Given that this is the day before the Brexit vote, we will also be holding a suitably themed competition on the outcome, with the opportunity to win a free drink!

To RSVP click here.

Further events to follow shortly

PS21 Update Week Ending May 27

Dear all,

Firstly, apologies for PS21 missing its weekly email. Until the middle of the week, I was still slogging my way across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2.

Came ashore straight into three days with the British Army who, in their infinite wisdom, have just commissioned me as a reservist. A fascinating experience, as well as a great way to explore the changing – and unchanging – natures of conflict. It’s also, of course, an opportunity to give something back for the money the British welfare state has spent on me and my disability over the last decade.

We have some really fantastic events in June. In Whitehall on June 7, we have what should be a great discussion with former UK and UN counterterrorism specialist Richard Barrett. The following day in DC, we have the latest in our series of discussions on foreign policy and the US election with an all-star panel which I am of one, I’m certainly really looking forward to watching online.

On the PS21 website, our latest in the Imagining 2030 series saw Scott Cheney Peters and collaborators from the Center for International Maritime Security casting their eyes forward. Meanwhile on Reuters, I took a look at the sudden and dramatic furore this month around Obama foreign policy advisor Ben Rhodes and the White House bubble.

As always, many thanks for being part of the PS21 family. Many interesting developments and discussions to come, both in terms of the subject matter we will be looking at and the evolution of the institution itself.


Peter Apps

Executive Director, PS21

Reuters global affairs columnist




Tuesday, June 7, 6 PM. Whitehall, London, exact location to be confirmed to attendees

From ISIS to the various Al Qaeda franchises, the battle against Islamist extremism has changed constantly since the attacks of September 11, 2001. In the aftermath of the Brussels and Paris attacks, how is the nature of the threat evolving? What is the best way of countering violent extremism in vulnerable populations at home – and could some of the steps currently being taken prove counterproductive? Just how worried should we be – and how much weight should really be put on the fight against terrorism in an era which also has so many other challenges?

 PS21 talks to Richard Barrett, former senior British intelligence official, head of the United Nations Al Qaeda and Taliban monitoring team 2004-13 and one of the world’s leading experts on the changing jihadist threat.

Moderated by Peter Apps, Reuters global affairs columnist and executive director of the Project for Study of the 21st Century.

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Wednesday, June 8, 6 PM. Thomson Reuters, 1333 H St. NW., Washington DC

With the  rise of  isolationist rhetoric with Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders — and, of course, the more conservative foreign policy stature of Hillary Clinton — the 2016 election is shaping up to offer a foreign policy range rarely seen in recent American history. As it faces the rise of rival powers and budget constraints the US faces some difficult decisions. What do the politics and geopolitics of this year’s face-off tell us about policymaking in the years and decades to come?

Ali Wyne [moderator] – PS21 Global Fellow. Nonresident Fellow, Atlantic Council

Nikolas Gvosdev – Prof. of National Security Studies, mouseUnited States Naval war College

Rachel Rizzo – Research Associate, Center for a New American Security

Alexander Ward – Associate Director, Scowcroft Center, Atlantic Council

Chris Jackson – Pollster, Ipsos

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The Republican Convention: Smooth sailing for Trump?


Anne Shannon Baxter is an American living in London and a recent graduate from SOAS with an MA in International Studies & Diplomacy. 

For nearly twelve months the world looked on in astonishment as fifteen Republican candidates fought a dirty school-yard scrap to win their party’s nomination. Now the dust has settled leaving just one triumphant winner, real estate mogul Donald Trump. With Kasich and Cruz out of the race, Mr. Trump is the presumed Republican nominee, as there are no candidates running against him in the remaining primaries. The result has crushed the possibility of the Republican Convention being brokered, contested, or even open, leaving many political commentators disappointed.


“Brokered”, “contested”, “open”. All of these terms have been thrown around and used interchangeably when talking about the upcoming Republican Convention set to take place in Cleveland, Ohio on 7th July. But what do each of these terms actually mean, and are they indeed interchangeable? When discussed on news programs these terms alluded to some form of impending mayhem, invoking a sense of dread within the Republican Party. Some sympathetic political commentators and pundits have argued that a contested/open/brokered convention must be avoided at all costs, as it may further divide the party and cause irreversible damage. Yet, others believe an open convention was the Republican Party’s Hail Mary attempt at stopping Donald Trump from receiving the nomination.


The terms “brokered”, “contested” and “open” are all used to refer to a scenario in which no candidate has the “magic number” of 1,237 delegates required to receive the Republican nomination at the outset of the Convention. In such a scenario, the delegates must cast their votes on the floor of the convention in a series of ballots, until one candidate receives 1,237 votes and the nominee is chosen. The term “brokered” refers to a time when powerful political brokers made deals in the backrooms of convention halls and told delegates how to vote. A brokered convention was common practice in the 19th and early 20th centuries, as candidates rarely received the required majority of votes, and multiple rounds of votes took place during the convention itself to choose a nominee. This has changed because delegates are chosen through democratic means and brokers no longer exist in the modern political system. A contested convention is similar to a brokered convention, but without the historical reference to political brokers. The last contested Republican convention was in 1976 when Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford entered the Kansas City convention hall without having secured the nomination. Both candidates then attempted to woo delegates to their side.  After the first ballot, Gerald Ford was announced as the Republican nominee with a majority of delegates. Thus, an open convention broadly refers to both a historically brokered and modern contested convention. If Kasich and Cruz had not dropped out of the race, they could have kept Trump just shy of the 1,237 number and paved the path for an open convention.


That this path was blocked is good news for the Republican Party’s image, as the consequences of an open convention could have been extremely damaging. The primary campaign, so far, has been marred with violence and partisan divisions that would have reached a new high, or low, if faced with an open convention. Despite this, even when Mr. Trump receives his 1,237 delegates, the chances of every Republican at the convention, delegate or otherwise, ‘falling into line’ behind the nominee are slim. There may no longer be brokers on the floor, and the nominee may not be contested, but rest assured, the 2016 Republican Convention starring “The Donald” will go down in history.


Project for Study of the 21st Century is a non-national, non-ideological, non-partisan organization. All views expressed are the author’s own.