A framework for analysis

The following analytical framework is established to examine the viability and success of permanent neutrality. Neutrality variables presented below are derived from discussions on functions of neutralisation and the review of theoretical approaches in Chapter 1. For ease of analysis, these factors are placed in two categories: external factors/variables and internal factors/ variables.

External factors/variables

Geopolitical position and importance

The term geopolitics denotes the relationship between geography and political and strategic decision making. According to Merriam-Webster, geopolitics is “a study of the influence of such factors as geography, economics, and demography on the politics, and especially the foreign policy, of a state”.1 As a distinct field of study, geopolitics was introduced by Halford Mackinder (1861-1947). In his famous article “The Geographical Pivot of History”,2 Mackinder presented a historical analysis of the connection between geography and socio-political developments in the world; however, the Swedish/Gennan scholar Rudolf Kjellen coined the term geopolitics in 1899. Subsequently, German scholars such as Kjellen, Friedrich Ratzel,3 and Karl Haushofer4 rigorously studied the influences of geographic and demographic factors on power relationships in continental Europe and excelled in the field of geopolitics. In its contemporary usage, however, geopolitics is often a military and strategic concept focused on analysing the significance of areas of land, sea, and space based on the perceived interest of the great powers.

Geopolitical position on the other hand refers to the economic and strategic relevance of a state’s location in the context of regional and international power politics. Geopolitical significance, or lack of it, depends on

A framework for analysis 31 the special economic and geographical features of a state in relation to its neighbouring and global powers. States that are located adjacent to major natural resources, conununication and transit routes, straits, and sea lines, or in a zone of competitive interest of two or more great powers are considered strategically vital. The great powers either are in control of such strategically vital areas or are determined to exercise control, even if it comes with a price. Hence, strategically vital states are not suitable candidates for permanent neutrality. According to Neuhold, “[A neutral’s] territory must not be regarded as so vitally important by any Great Powers that it would be ready to pay even higher prices to obtain the possession of that piece of land”.5 States with significant but not vital geopolitical features could find permanent neutrality a practical foreign policy.

Geopolitical position therefore is an important determinant of whether a state could choose a policy of permanent neutrality or not. Karsh argues that “action and interaction of states, as well as friendships and enmities among them, are determined largely by geo-strategic realities”.6 In the case of small and weaker states located in a zone of great powers contestation, geopolitical features, most importantly their geography and the nature of contestation among the surrounding powers, act as a kind of force majeure that leaves the small and strategically located states with limited foreign and security policy options.

Dynamics of external powers’ conflict and competition (balance of power)

Study of conflicts and their dynamics requires an extensive and multidisciplinary approach, which is beyond the scope of this section. However, to facilitate their understanding and examination, scholars of IR have attempted to categorise conflicts into different stages. Alker, Gurr, and Rupesinghe,7 for example, have categorised conflicts, on the basis of three main variables: use of violence, level of groups’ hostilities, and sequential expectations, into the following six phases:

  • 1. Dispute/conflict emergence
  • 2. Crisis/escalation
  • 3. Limited violence
  • 4. Massive violence
  • 5. Abatement/de-escalation
  • 6. Settlement

Each stage of conflict demands a different conflict management strategy. Neutralisation, according to Black, could be applied in two periods within the cycle of conflict. The first period takes place between stages two and three mentioned above, which are moving from crisis into limited violence. The goal of neutralisation in this period would be to “prevent the outbreak of a violent clash in an area already subject to the intrusion of competitive political interests of outside actors”.8 The second period, at stage five, is abatement or military stalemate “in which neither side can hope to gain a decisive advantage at the existing level of conflict and in which the principal parties fear the consequences of uncontrolled escalation”.9 The goal at the military stalemate stage would be to terminate or at least moderate the conflict.

Neuhold, on the other hand, exclusively stresses the military stalemate phase featuring a balance of power and conflict abatement or détente, as the key conditions for a successful neutralisation. He argues that “an approximate balance of power between adversaries in whose conflict a neutral wish not to be involved” and “low conflict intensity between conflicting parties”10 are equally important prerequisites for viable permanent neutrality. Edgar Bonjour has also underlined the need for a balance between conflict parties, arguing that “equilibrium of rival great powers is the air in which neutrality of small states thrives”.11

Consensus and agreement of neighbouring and the great powers

The word consensus is derived from the Latin root consentiré, which means: “to feel the same”; however, a more refined definition of consensus is “an idea or opinion that is shared by all the people in a group”.12 In the field of conflict management, where it is mostly used, consensus is defined as a cooperative group process where all group members see the final outcome as agreeable. According to Butler and Rothstein, “consensus strives to take into account everyone’s concerns and resolve them before any decision is made”.13 However, it has been emphasised that consensus is not unanimity, and the final outcome of the process will not be the best preference of each participant.

Building consensus among the stakeholders in conflicts is one of the key steps before an agreement is reached. In situations of regional and international conflict, a military stalemate is often seen as a prelude to crafting consensus on alternative (non-military) solutions, such as neutralisation. Thus, antagonists could consider neutralisation as a consensus resolution to their' dispute.

In the case of neutralisation, a consensus may emerge among the major stakeholders that declaring the state in question permanently neutral will serve everyone’s relative interest. Such consensus is normally followed by a neutralisation agr eement, which is either drafted and signed or endorsed

A framework for analysis 3 3 and guaranteed by regional and international stakeholders. Existence of a multilateral agreement is a major condition that distinguishes permanent neutrality from other forms of neutrality. According to Wicker:

permanent neutrality exists by reason of treaties alone and has no other authority than that conferred in their provision. No state can neutralise itself, however faithfully at whatever cost the principle of neutralisation may be observed. A contract and the interdependent relationship of several states is in all cases necessary.14

International recognition, in the form of an agreement or treaty among the external powers to uphold, respect, and, in some instances, guarantee the sovereignty of the candidate state, has been an integral feature of all previous instances of neutralisation.

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