The topic for the 2016 Leangkollen Security Conference was “NATO’s Southern Flank: Great Powers, Jihadists and Refugees”. This year we focused on the troublesome southern periphery and its implications on Europe and the transatlantic relationship.
NATO´s Southern Flank
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The title: "NATO´s Southern Flank: Great Powers, Jihadists and Refugees", covers a cluster of problems facing the Alliance, Europe and the Middle East at the beginning og 2016. It seems like ages ago since the Arab spring brought hopes about democracy and prosperity to the large MENA region. Since then we have witnessed the collapse of efficient state powers in some countries, and the reestablishment of authoritarian regimes in others. The old Sykes-Picot-state system has vanished. Syria has been torn apart in a brutal civil war, producing millions of refugees. The arrival of IS/Daesh, claiming an "Islamic caliphate" on Syrian and Iraqi territory, has complicated the situation from 2014. This has sparked a new "power rivalry" in the region which involves both internal and external powers. The still remaining stable states: Turkey, Iran and Saudi-Arabia, seem to be playing out their rivalry on the battlefield in the fragile states of Syria, Iraq and Yemen. And at present, four out of five permanent members of the UN Security Council are bombing in Syria to fight IS/Daesh, and to secure their own interests in the future geopolitics of MENA.
To Europe the consequences have been increasing fear and reality of Jihadists launching terror attacks on European soil, and recruiting Europeans to fight their brutal war for the "right faith". And as 2015 came to its end, it became clear that Europe was caught in the middle of the largest migration crisis since the Second World War. Millions of refugees have caused severe stress on common European agreements and solidarity, with a real danger of EU disintegration. Thus, we ended this Conference by looking closer at how we can handle these complex challenges and whether the tools we have at our disposal are sufficient.