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SNF Dialogues

The Butterfly Effect: Entangled Geopolitics


Just hours after the first debate between the two candidates vying to become President of the United States, the SNF DIALOGUES, in collaboration with iMEdD (the incubator for Media Education and Development, a nonprofit organization), met live at snfdialogues.org to discuss new global geopolitical balances and evolving international relations.

The discussion featured Dr. George Tzogopoulos, Senior Fellow at the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies and ELIAMEP, Director of EU-China Programmes at the Centre International de Formation Européenne, and Lecturer in International Relations at the Democritus University of Thrace; Constantinos Filis, Executive Director of the Institute of International Relations; Brady Kiesling, author and former U.S. diplomat; and Katerina Sokou, journalist and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council.

In their commentary, among a wide range of topics, the speakers touched on a shifting system of international relationships, how what happens in the voting booth in the U.S. can affect its ground rules, and the roles of the European Union, the United States, and Turkey within it.

Constantinos Filis, addressing global geopolitical changes, said, “Globally, the world is more volatile than it has been in decades. Geopolitical shifts are taking place, and what is extremely unpleasant for Greece is the dismantling of the international legal system, as a result of which a great deal of emphasis is placed on foreign exchange diplomacy and the countries that practice it. A great example is President Trump, who does not believe that the U.S.-EU front should remain unbroken, something that revisionist powers such as China, Russia, and Turkey are trying to exploit.”

On U.S. domestic affairs, George Tzogopoulos commented that “Democrats have fallen into the trap of analyzing domestic affairs in the United States solely in relation to what President Trump is doing, rather than developing their own agenda that can inspire American citizens. Whether we agree or disagree with it, the U.S. president is doing what he had said he would do before the November 2016 elections, when the American people voted for him.”

Brady Kiesling, discussing the United States’ role in the international system, said that “after World War II, the United States acted as the main legislator of a new international community. It is now abundantly clear that Donald Trump is bored, and does not have the patience for an international system that is so painfully slow. He tried to replace this stage with something that features bilateral forces and balances at its core. We are seeing, however, that the results are not so good. The question is: How can we return to something more stable that helps Greece and other smaller countries? A Biden win will not significantly change U.S. policy in the Mediterranean, since it is mainly experts and diplomats who are involved in this region.”

Katerina Sokou, who participated in the discussion live from Washington, D.C., asserted, “Trump’s decision to choose bilateral cooperation does not work, and it creates problems with traditional U.S. allies, something that is emphasized by Joe Biden who, if elected, will try to return to multilateral diplomacy and international treaties. As Nicholas Burns said: If President Trump is re-elected, we will not be able to recognize the United States within four years.”

Robin Niblett, Director of Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, gave a video interview that was aired as part of the webcast. He spoke, among other things, about the geopolitical power of Europe, mentioning that “the EU was transformed from a free trade area into a ‘Community’ before it even became a community. They call themselves a ‘Union,’ even though they were still only a community. And, now, the EU calls itself a ‘geopolitical actor,’ while it only has just begun to emerge as a geo-economic actor. I find it difficult to see how the EU can function by geopolitical criteria, especially since foreign policy remains an intergovernmental activity. Europe can become a geopolitical power, based on an alliance of willing parties, and not limited by the EU.”

Tara Varma, Head of Office and Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, also gave an interview for the DIALOGUES webcast, in which she said, “We know that Europeans need to build a new relationship with Turkey and Erdogan. We rely on them on the issue of immigration, but, on the other hand, they somewhat use this as blackmail against us, and the Europeans should think about what kind of relationship they want with Turkey. I don’t think we have the luxury not to have this conversation.”

The DIALOGUES are curated and moderated by Anna-Kynthia Bousdoukou.

*The opinions expressed by DIALOGUES participants are solely their own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) or iMEdD. Speakers’ remarks are made freely, without prior guidance or intervention from the team.


Wednesday 30 September 2020
09:00 EET


The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) DIALOGUES discussed new geopolitical balances and evolving relations between countries.



Constantinos Filis

Constantinos Filis

Executive Director of Institute of International Relations
Brady Kiesling

Brady Kiesling

Author & Former U.S. Diplomat
Robin Niblett

Robin Niblett

Director of Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs)
Katerina Sokou

Katerina Sokou

Washington DC Correspondent/ Nonresident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council
George Tzogopoulos

George Tzogopoulos

Senior Fellow at BESA and ELIAMEP, Director of EU-China Programmes at CIFE, Lecturer in International Relations at the Democritus University of Thrace
Tara Varma

Tara Varma

Head of office & Policy Fellow European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)