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Table of contents :
Contents
Exploring the link between historical memory and foreign policy: an introduction
Abstract
Defining collective memory and history
Establishing the nexus between historical memory and foreign policy
The application of historical analogies
The construction of (populist) historical narratives
The creation of memory sites
The marginalisation and forgetting of the past
The securitisation of historical memory
Acknowledgements
References
‘Remember Iraq!’ Learning theory and the 2013 non-decision on air strikes against Syria
Abstract
Foreign policy learning theory
A survey of events
Polish reluctance versus Danish readiness
The House of Commons surprise
Denmark stays on track
Obama hesitates and involves Congress
‘Remember Iraq!’ means different things
Does the theory ‘win’ on its own home ground?
Historical lessons: some further reflections
Conclusions
Was Syria policy improved by Iraq?
References
The role of historical narratives in Ukraine’s policy toward the EU and Russia
Abstract
Introduction
Narrating stories as a cognitive structuring of people’s experiences
Making use of historical narratives in Ukrainian foreign policy discourse
The Kyivan Rus
The Cossack Hetmanate
The Soviet Union
Conclusion
Acknowledgements
References
Populism, historical discourse and foreign policy: the case of Poland’s Law and Justice government
Abstract
Introduction
Populism, history and foreign policy: a conceptual framework
Populism and historical discourse
Historical discourse and foreign policy
Against ‘pedagogics of shame’: the populist logic of PiS’ historical discourse
Implications for foreign policy practice: relations with Germany and Ukraine
Germany
Ukraine
Conclusion
Acknowledgements
References
Foreign policy and physical sites of memory: competing foreign policies at the Jasenovac memorial site
Abstract
Political memory and foreign policy
Physical sites of memory and foreign policymaking
Jasenovac as site of foreign policy construction
Jasenovac in Croatia’s foreign policy
Jasenovac in Serbian foreign policy
Jasenovac in the foreign policy of Republika Srpska
Conclusion
Acknowledgments
References
Silencing history: forgetting Italy’s past during the refugee crisis in Europe
Abstract
Introduction
The politics of forgetting the past
Collective memory and forgetting
Italy’s colonial past and the politics of forgetting
The myth of the ‘good Italian’
Italian postcolonialism and migrations
Recent migration to Italy and the rise of anti-migrant discourses
Forgetting the past and Italian official discourses on migration
Conclusion
Acknowledgements
References
Understanding the persistence of history-related issues in Sino–Japanese relations: from memory to forgetting
Abstract
Introduction
Collective memory in international relations
From memory to three kinds of forgetting
Memory as fading away and denial
Forgetting as inherent to remembering
Forgetting and Sino–Japanese relations
Forgetting as fading away
Forgetting as denial
Forgetting as inherent to memory
Conclusion
References
Historical memory and securitisation of the Russian intervention in Syria
Abstract
Introduction
Copenhagen school of securitisation: defining the grammar of security
Historical memory and the construction of (in)security
Methodology
Dynamics and agents of (de)securitising moves
Securitisation and de-securitisation by pro-government actors
USA and ISIL against Russia—securitising the intervention
No new Cold War—de-securitising the intervention, securitising the Russia-West crisis
De-securitisation and counter-securitisation by oppositional actors
Syria is not a threat—de-securitisation of the intervention
Putin in Syria is a threat—counter-securitisation of the intervention
Conclusion: historical memory and securitisation in Syria
References
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Historical Memory and Foreign Policy Edited by Lina Klymenko · Marco Siddi

Historical Memory and Foreign Policy

Lina Klymenko Marco Siddi •

Editors

Historical Memory and Foreign Policy

Spin-off from International Politics, Special Issue “Historical Memory and Foreign Policy”, Volume 57, Issue 6, December 2020

Editors Lina Klymenko Tampere University Tampere, Finland

Marco Siddi Finnish Institute of International Affairs Helsinki, Finland

ISBN 978-3-031-15193-4 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022 Chapter “Understanding the persistence of history related issues in Sino–Japanese relations: from memory to forgetting” is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). For further details see license information in the chapter. This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

Contents

Exploring the link between historical memory and foreign policy: an introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lina Klymenko and Marco Siddi

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‘Remember Iraq!’ Learning theory and the 2013 non-decision on air strikes against Syria . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Hans Mouritzen

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The role of historical narratives in Ukraine’s policy toward the EU and Russia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lina Klymenko

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Populism, historical discourse and Foreign Policy: the case of Poland’s Law and Justice government . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . David Cadier and Kacper Szulecki

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Foreign policy and physical sites of memory: competing foreign policies at the Jasenovac memorial site . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jelena Subotic

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Silencing history: forgetting Italy’s past during the refugee crisis in Europe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Marco Siddi

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Understanding the persistence of history-related issues in Sino–Japanese relations: From memory to forgetting . . . . . . . . . . . . Karl Gustafsson

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Historical memory and securitisation of the Russian intervention in Syria . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mykola Makhortykh

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International Politics (2020) 57:945–953 https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-020-00269-x ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Exploring the link between historical memory and foreign policy: an introduction Lina Klymenko1 · Marco Siddi2 Accepted: 15 October 2020 / Published online: 4 November 2020 © Springer Nature Limited 2020

Abstract This article introduces the special issue ‘Exploring the Link between Historical Memory and Foreign Policy’. It sets the scene for the individual case studies by illustrating how memory and foreign policy are linked in a complex and reciprocal way. Several mechanisms of (ab)using historical memory in foreign policy discourses are identified, including the application of historical analogies, the construction of historical narratives, the creation of memory sites, the marginalisation and forgetting of the past and the securitisation of historical memory. The contributions to the special issue are introduced according to this conceptual frame. The article highlights how these mechanisms are deployed in different national and political contexts, as well as how a state’s politics of memory influences its foreign policy and relations with other states. Keywords  Historical memory · Foreign policy · Narratives · Politics of memory · Securitisation Foreign policy debates are replete with references to historical events. Political leaders often construct analogies with the past in order to justify foreign policy decisions in the present. In the USA and Western Europe, decision-makers have propagated narratives about the presumed ‘lessons learned’ from appeasing Hitler in the late 1930s in order to mobilise support for military interventions in the Balkans and the Middle East. In Russia, analogies have been drawn between the post-2014 Ukrainian governments and wartime Ukrainian nationalists and Nazi collaborators, which in turn allowed the pro-Russian factions in Donbas to be depicted as anti-fascist fighters. Accordingly, pro-Russian separatists presented the 2014 Crimean status referendum as a choice between either ‘returning to Russia’ or a descent into fascism * Lina Klymenko [email protected] 1

Tampere University, Tampere, Finland

2

Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Helsinki, Finland



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and chaos. In countries such as Poland and Ukraine, the recent (re)construction of official identity narratives around nationalist themes, intended mostly for domestic political purposes, has spilled over to the foreign policy arena and caused tensions with neighbouring countries. A similar development has occurred in East Asia, where nationalist and self-absolving narratives about the Second World War have marred Sino-Japanese relations, most notably. Why and how do political leaders refer to historical events in foreign policy discourses today? What goals do they hope to achieve, and what are the sometimes unintended foreign policy consequences of their (ab)use of historical memory? How do they shape domestic collective memories in pursuit of their international agendas, and which relevant historical events do they forget, reinterpret or obscure through their selective narratives? These are some of the central questions that we address in this special issue.

Defining collective memory and history We define ‘collective memory’ as the shared memories held by a community about the past, a subjective image of the past constructed by political actors in the present based on a community’s current social and historical necessities (Hunt 2010, 97; Pakier and Stråth 2010, 7). We argue that, thanks to their discursive power and access to the media, political leaders are particularly well-positioned to shape collective memories and adapt them to the pursuit of foreign policy objectives. In the second half of the twentieth century, as Huyssen argues, collective memory and history writing became the subject of astounding academic interest. Interest in historical memory surged in Western societies in the 1960s, during decolonisation and the emergence of new social movements that explored the history of the twentieth century from a critical perspective. In the 1980s, memory debates intensified in Europe and the USA, sparked by testimonies of Holocaust survivors. Moreover, after 1989, memory debates emerged in post-Communist countries in Eastern and Central Europe, former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union (Huyssen 2000, 21–26). Today, the issues of memory and forgetting remain politically relevant in numerous contexts, including the Middle East, South Africa, Rwanda, Nigeria, Latin America, Australia, Japan, China and Korea. As Müller explains, what contributes to the growing scholarly, public and media interest in collective memory processes are the changes in technology and data collection that gave way to a profound shift in mnemonic techniques and practices. Moreover, the passing away of Holocaust survivors, forced labourers and soldiers of the Second World War—who had immediate experience of recent Western (European) history—triggered intensive debate about the past. There is also a growing moral culture of redress that allows some groups and individuals to have their particular experience of injustice and trauma recognised. For politicians and the public, historical reconstruction was no longer about ‘how it really was’, but about the instrumental use of the past with the purpose of making moral claims and prompting political actions (Müller 2002, 13–19). Reprinted from the journal

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In the context of the growing memory literature in humanities and social sciences, an intense debate on the relationship between the concepts of memory and history emerged (Müller 2002, 22–25; Fogu and Kansteiner 2006, 299–304; Langenbacher 2010, 27–28). For some scholars, memory and history are two distinct, albeit mutually dependent conceptions that reinforce each other and overlap. In this understanding, historical knowledge derives from memory, whereas memory often needs to be ‘corrected’ by historical knowledge (Müller 2002, 22–25). Following the rise of the postmodern paradigm of academic inquiry, other scholars advocate that neither memory nor history is objective, as they are both subject to socially conditioned selection and interpretation (Fogu and Kansteiner 2006, 299). Ultimately, as some scholars claim, ‘history versus memory’ can be seen as a false dichotomy because what scholars are interested in is the role of the past—that is, the uses of the past—in political decision-making processes (see Müller 2002, 24–25).

Establishing the nexus between historical memory and foreign policy This special issue advances our understanding of the uses of the past in foreign policy-making. It originated in the section entitled ‘Exploring the Link between Historical Memory and Foreign Policy’ that we organised at the annual Pan-European Conference (PEC) of the European International Studies Association (EISA) on 12–15 September 2018 in Prague, the Czech Republic. Taken as a whole, the special issue offers theoretical, methodological and empirical insights into the relationship between the politics of memory and international relations. First, the articles analyse highly relevant case studies concerning the foreign policy of Russia, Ukraine, China, Japan, the USA, Poland, Denmark, the UK, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Italy. Second, they build on and further develop the findings of existing volumes on the role of collective memory and historical discourse in international politics (see Müller 2002; Bell 2006; Langenbacher and Shain 2010; Resende and Budryte 2013). In doing so, they cross disciplinary boundaries and draw on the insights of Memory Studies, International Relations, Media Studies, Sociology and Linguistics. Third, the articles explore a variety of theoretical concepts that shed light on how memory and foreign policy are linked in a complex and reciprocal way. In their study of the connection between foreign policy-making and the uses of the past, they discuss the following mechanisms: (a) the application of historical analogies, (b) the construction of historical narratives, (c) the creation of memory sites, (d) the marginalisation and forgetting of the past and (e) the securitisation of historical memory. Fourth, the articles make use of a number of methodological approaches (such as discourse analysis, narrative analysis and content analysis of securitising moves) and a broad range of qualitative and quantitative data (newspaper articles, policy documents, commemorative speeches, interviews with policymakers and the observation of memory sites). Furthermore, the articles highlight the interdependence of the international, national, regional and local dimensions of memory practices and history writing. Although they mostly focus on national case studies of foreign policy-making, they also reveal how representations of historical events evolve through interaction between political actors at the international level of analysis. 3

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The application of historical analogies Hans Mouritzen’s article opens the special issue by reminding us that the voluminous literature on the political uses of the past (and its alleged lessons) was initiated by historians and political psychologists. Mouritzen applies learning theory, an approach developed by political psychologists such as Jack Levy, to investigate how the ‘lessons learned’ by four countries that participated in the 2003 war against Iraq—the USA, the UK, Poland and Denmark—influenced their decision-making regarding a possible military intervention in the Syrian civil war in August–September 2013. Learning theory asserts that lessons learned and analogies with the past influence and can be used to legitimise decision-making. As the war against Iraq had broadly come to be seen as a failure by 2013, Mouritzen expected that its ‘lessons’ restrained or overruled incentives for military intervention in Syria, a context that bore some resemblance to the 2003 Iraqi conflict. The analysis proved this expectation to be correct. Debates about a possible Western military strike in Syria focused on risks derived from the 2003 war in Iraq: reliance on misconstrued intelligence, launching an attack without a UN Security Council mandate, the possibility of ‘entrapment’ (a protracted conflict with no exit options), the failure of so-called humanitarian interventions and the lack of benefits for the West. Therefore, political leaders and especially parliaments in the USA, the UK and Poland were reluctant or even opposed to launching a military attack. Only Danish leaders seemed ready to support military action if their allies (the USA in particular) chose this option. Nonetheless, the Danish position did not refute the tenets of learning theory. As Mouritzen shows, the ‘lessons’ of Iraq also featured in Danish debates, but were superseded by more influential, long-standing narratives that stressed the importance of prioritising the alliance with the USA and supporting US foreign policy. The construction of (populist) historical narratives As Lina Klymenko’s contribution shows, narratives also play an important role in shaping foreign policy decisions. Klymenko investigates how post-2014 Ukrainian policymakers made use of historical narratives to underpin their foreign policy agenda, which focused on opposing Russia and pursuing NATO and EU integration. Ukrainian leaders reinterpreted the history of Kyivan Rus, the Cossack Hetmanate and the Soviet Union through narratives that were intended to convey Ukraine’s historical proximity to (Western) Europe and distance from Russia. In these narratives, ‘Europe’ and ‘Russia’ were conceptualised as different political, cultural and religious spaces. Klymenko examines how language was used to create this dichotomy. For instance, Ukrainian leaders defined Europe as a ‘home’ and a ‘family’ and associated it with Christianity, a democratic political order and cultural innovation. Conversely, they tended to characterise Russia in derogatory terms (‘Moscow’s horde’) and linked the country to the notions of colonialism, authoritarianism, backwardness and aggression. Reprinted from the journal

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Importantly, Klymenko notes that these narratives were not simply about Ukraine’s past; in fact, they primarily concerned Ukraine’s future. By constructing a shared history with (Western) Europe, Ukrainian leaders appealed to their counterparts in the European Union to acknowledge a common past and hence a common future. Therefore, historical narratives were used to justify Ukraine’s aspiration to completely separate itself from Russia’s integration projects and pursue deeper integration with the European Union. As Klymenko observes, Ukrainian narratives on Europe and Russia resembled those constructed by Eastern and Central European leaders in the 1990s to validate their countries’ ambitions to join the EU and NATO. The use of narratives of national victimhood to corroborate foreign policy discourse emerged with particular clarity in post-2015 Poland, during the government of the nationalist, conservative and populist party Law and Justice. This is the subject of David Cadier and Kacper Szulecki’s article, which provides insights into the relationship between populism, memory politics and foreign policy. As Cadier and Szulecki show, Law and Justice leaders adopted historical narratives that tend to frame Poland or the Polish nation as an underdog or a victim and castigate internal and external adversaries as ‘elites’, thus reproducing the dichotomy that constitutes the conceptual foundation of populist discourse. Polish liberal politicians were antagonised as the domestic elite, whereas Germany in particular was framed as Europe’s hegemon, the EU-level elite that imposed cultural liberalism and undermined Polish interests. The Manichean logic of populist discourse also emerged in Polish leaders’ totalising and moralistic historical narratives about victims, heroes and perpetrators. According to these narratives, a country of victims and heroes such as Poland cannot include any perpetrators. This was the logic behind the so-called Holocaust law, introduced by the Law and Justice government to criminalise claims about Poland’s complicity in the Holocaust or other Nazi crimes. The law caused international controversy and a backlash from Israeli and US politicians in particular, revealing how populist memory politics at home tends to spill over and arouse conflict in the international arena. Polish leaders’ blending of nationalism with a populist self-representation as the historical underdog also prevented a nuanced debate on Polish–Ukrainian historical relations and caused diplomatic tensions with Ukraine, where the post-2014 government was simultaneously advancing its own nationalist memory discourse. The creation of memory sites Ukrainian narratives pursued international recognition of Ukraine’s foreign policy goals through the strong, negative Othering of another country (Russia). As Jelena Subotic’s article reveals, a similar discursive technique was deployed in other contexts. Subotic shows that the leaders of Croatia, Serbia and the Republic of Srpska used the memory of the Second World War to draw attention to each other’s historical crimes and pursue mutually exclusive foreign policy claims. In particular, she highlights how physical sites of traumatic memory serve as locations of foreign policy construction—notably as material and visual repositories of narrative claims of 5

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past violence that are easily invoked for current foreign policy demands. The scope of these demands can vary: they can be claims for foreign restitution, reparations and apologies, or they can even back up aggressive claims on territory. Moreover, physical sites of memory work as analogies: they are visual prompts of violence that happened in the past and a warning for the future. It is their future-facing dimension in particular that makes them critical elements in foreign policy construction. Subotic provides evidence for these assertions through an analysis of recent Croatian and Serbian narratives concerning the Jasenovac concentration camp, where the fascist Independent State of Croatia murdered more than 80,000 Serbs, Jews, Roma, communists and others in 1941–1945. In Croatian political narratives, the memory of Jasenovac was reinterpreted fundamentally to link the atrocities of the Second World War to the suffering endured by Croatians during the 1990s (due to ‘Serbian aggression’), as well as to delegitimise Communism and signal Croatia’s willingness to join a European memory space. In Serbian narratives, the history of the camp was used to highlight the suffering of Serbs in both the past and the present, with particular reference to the Kosovo question. In the Republic of Srpska, Jasenovac was also used to claim that Serbs were victims of genocide, thereby deflecting attention away from their role as perpetrators during the wars of the 1990s. This argument supported claims for retaining the Republic of Srpska’s autonomy within Bosnia. The marginalisation and forgetting of the past Foreign policy narratives are shaped not only by what a country remembers about its past, but also by what is forgotten. The article by Marco Siddi explores the issue of memory and forgetting in Italian leaders’ foreign policy narratives concerning the post-2014 refugee reception crisis in Europe. Drawing on memory politics and postcolonial literature, he argues that these narratives tend to be based on forgetting Italy’s history of colonialism and migration, as well as the myth of the ‘good Italian’. Italians never fully confronted their country’s racist and criminal colonial history; instead, after the Second World War, domestic discourses portraying them as ‘good people’ incapable of committing criminal acts and as victims of Nazi occupation became dominant. Within these discourses, Italian colonialism was either forgotten or reframed as a short-lived experience constellated with positive achievements. However, the 60-year-long colonial experience did play a role in the construction of Italian national identity through its heritage of racialised Othering and xenophobic clichés. Thus, ‘Italianness’ coincided with ‘whiteness’ and ‘Catholicism’. Due to the failure to critically confront Italy’s colonial history, racist images, discourse and practice survived and resurfaced in societal and political narratives when Italy became the country of destination for numerous African and Asian asylum seekers. Siddi’s article shows that forgetting is a central component of memory politics and foreign policy discourses because the selection of specific events to build a narrative inevitably implies marginalising or excluding other historical facts. Citing Paul Ricoeur (2004), he highlights that this marginalisation can occur when influential social actors strip individuals of their power to recount their actions and memories themselves. However, as the widespread societal acceptance of the myth Reprinted from the journal

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of the ‘good Italian’ shows, forgetting tends to be facilitated by the complicity of national public opinion, which prefers to avoid certain topics and adopts a ‘wantingnot-to know’ attitude. The oblivion of Italy’s colonial past in the domestic public discursive arena emboldened some Italian political leaders to claim that the country can play a leading role in multilateral contexts because, allegedly, it does not have a ‘colonial tradition’ and is thus unhindered by the legacy of colonial crimes. Karl Gustafsson’s article expands the investigation of the mechanisms of forgetting and their influence on foreign policy through an analysis of the role they play in Sino–Japanese relations. According to Gustafsson, three understandings of forgetting are particularly useful for the analysis of Sino–Japanese memory politics. Forgetting can be understood as a passive fading away of memory, following Maurice Halbwachs’ (1992) conceptualisation, and as active denial. Both fading away and denial shape Chinese and Japanese memory politics, which largely revolve around the Second World War. The museums analysed in the article—the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders—were framed as attempts to prevent the fading away of memory, with the declared foreign policy goal of preserving peace. However, each museum foregrounded a specific perspective on the war experience (the victims of nuclear attacks on Japan and of Japanese crimes in the war in China, respectively) and implicitly marginalised other perspectives (Japanese war crimes, on the one hand, and the suffering of Japanese civilians, on the other). This led to discursive conflicts between Japan and China when they sought international recognition of the narratives enshrined in the museums through an inscription in UNESCO’s World Heritage and Memory of the World programmes. These discursive conflicts exemplify the third category identified by Gustafsson, forgetting as inherent to memory. We forget through reinterpretation and adaptation of our memories, which allows us to maintain a coherent sense of self and define goals or lessons for the future. Such reinterpretation and adaptation also imply the marginalisation of the other side’s memory, a phenomenon that is clearly at work in Sino–Japanese relations. Hence, Gustafsson argues that in order to avoid discursive conflicts and de-securitise collective memory, an understanding of forgetting as inherent to remembering should inform international memory politics, including Sino–Japanese relations. The securitisation of historical memory Gustafsson’s article also reveals that discursive securitisation is often inherent in memory politics because political actors tend to portray denial and fading away as existential threats to collective memory. As fading away occurs passively, without any action from a ‘threatening’ external actor, the preservation of collective memory can be understood as a security issue even in the absence of a securitising move. Therefore, memory and forgetting are particularly susceptible to securitisation. Drawing on this observation and the work of the Copenhagen School of International Relations, Mykola Makhortykh’s article analyses the relationship between securitisation theory and the politics of memory through an examination 7

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of Russian governmental and oppositional narratives concerning Russia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war in 2015–2018. Makhortykh argues that historical memories perform multiple functions within the grammar of security. They can be evoked to define an existential threat to a referent object, such as the state, by drawing parallels with traumatic events of the past. They can also be used to identify a ‘point of no return’, namely the conditions under which the threat causes irreparable damage to the referent object. Most notably, historical memories can be mobilised to construct a ‘way out’ of the threat and especially to legitimise the use of extraordinary means to confront the threat. Makhortykh shows that, thanks to its malleability, historical memory can be used by different actors to securitise, counter-securitise or de-securitise a current issue. This is illustrated through reference to Russian public discourses on the Syrian civil war. While Russian President Vladimir Putin and governmental narratives evoked the memory of the Chechnya wars in the 1990s to argue that Russia faced a similar threat in Syria and thus to justify military intervention, the systemic opposition party Yabloko counter-securitised the issue by arguing that the intervention itself was an existential threat because it could lead to a ‘new Chechnya’. Furthermore, the anti-systemic opposition headed by Alexei Navalnyi attempted to de-securitise the debate by arguing that the Syrian civil war did not pose a threat to Russia and by exposing the government’s manipulative uses of history. Acknowledgements  We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for reviewing the articles for the special issue and the journal editors for their work. Lina Klymenko would also like to thank the students in her course on the uses of the past at Tampere University, Finland. Intense discussions in class have encouraged her to explore this topic further.

Compliance with ethical standards  Conflict of interest  The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

References Bell, Duncan. 2006. Memory, Trauma and World Politics—Reflections on the Relationship Between Past and Present. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Fogu, Claudio, and Wulf Kansteiner. 2006. The Politics of Memory and the Poetics of History. In The Politics of Memory in Postwar Europe, ed. Richard Ned Lebow et al., 284–310. Durham: Duke University Press. Halbwachs, Maurice. 1992. On collective memory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Hunt, Nigel. 2010. Memory, War and Trauma. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Huyssen, Andreas. 2000. Present Pasts: Media, Politics, Amnesia. Public Culture 12 (1): 21–38. Langenbacher, Eric. 2010. Collective Memory as a Factor in Political Culture and International Relations. In Power and the Past: Collective Memory and International Relations, ed. Eric Langenbacher and Yossi Shain, 13–49. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. Langenbacher, Eric, and Yossi Shain (eds.). 2010. Power and the Past. Collective Memory and International Relations. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. Müller, Jan-Werner (ed.). 2002. Memory and Power in Post-War Europe: Studies in the Presence of the Past. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Exploring the link between historical memory and foreign policy:… Pakier, Magorzata, and Bo Stråth (eds.). 2010. Introduction. In A European Memory? Contested Histories and Politics of Remembrance, 1–20. Oxford: Berghahn. Resende, Erica, and Dovile Budryte (eds.). 2013. Memory and Trauma in International Relations: Theories, Cases and Debates. London: Routledge. Ricoeur, Paul. 2004. Memory, History, Forgetting. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Publisher’s Note  Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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International Politics (2020) 57:954–972 https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-020-00207-x ORIGINAL ARTICLE

‘Remember Iraq!’ Learning theory and the 2013 non‑decision on air strikes against Syria Hans Mouritzen1 Published online: 17 January 2020 © Springer Nature Limited 2020

Abstract Statesmen sometimes seek to legitimize contemporary foreign policy decisions by referring to a ‘historical lesson’, derived from an allegedly analogous situation in the past. According to foreign policy learning theory, such lessons may also be decisive for the actual decisions. Learning theory is here being tested against four national decision processes in August–September 2013 regarding air strikes against Syria. The four countries participated militarily in the March 2003 Iraq intervention. The latter being defined as reasonably ‘similar’ to the Syria project and also as a failure, learning theory expects the 10-year-old memory to decisively restrain their 2013 decisions. Was this really the case, or were the countries driven more by, for example, contemporary 2013 concerns focusing at the situation in and around Syria? The theoretical expectation turns out to be fulfilled in the USA, the UK, and Poland, but is disappointed regarding Denmark, where a rivalling lesson, i.a., proved stronger. Keywords  Foreign policy learning · Historical analogies · House of Commons (UK) · Iraq · President Obama · Syria When exploring the link between historical memory and foreign policy, as we do in this special issue, learning theory is an essential tool. According to learning theory, statesmen sometimes make a contemporary foreign policy decision by referring to a lesson derived from an ‘analogous’ situation in the past. Such a historical lesson induces them to either repeat what is construed as a success or avoid what is seen as a failure. This is often window-dressing for public consumption: a rhetorical lesson, a way to justify the contemporary decision at stake, even though it was taken for other reasons. However, it may also be decisive for the contemporary decision: a cognitive lesson. How much are statesmen driven by such cognitive lessons from a particular event in the past instead of contemporary concerns? * Hans Mouritzen [email protected] 1



Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), Østbanegade 117, 2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark Vol:.(1234567890)

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In the wake of president al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war in August 2013, a declared ‘red line’ for US president Obama, major (and a few minor) Western powers considered a military response. Seen from outside, the situation had certain resemblances to the foreplay leading up to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003: a Middle East dictatorship was accused, based on Western intelligence sources, of having or using weapons of mass destruction. UN weapons inspectors were involved to investigate the matter, but a veto of military action was expected from the UN Security Council. Like human beings, states learn more from their own vivid experience than from that of their neighbour or any broader experience (Jervis 1976; Reiter 1996, p. 71; Mumford 2015, p. 3). It would therefore be particularly interesting from the viewpoint of learning (‘lessons of the past’) theory to investigate how countries participating militarily in the March 2003 US-led ‘coalition of the willing’—with only three European participants: the UK, Poland, and Denmark—responded to the 2013 situation. Public debate had been sharp in these countries, especially in the USA and the UK, about the March 2003 decision to attack Iraq with (at best) a questionable UN mandate; Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destructions had not been found, intelligence failure had been disclosed (Jervis 2006),1 and subsequent attempts to impose democracy in Iraq had been less than successful. In the light of civil war and resistance to the occupation during the following years, the intervention increasingly came to be seen as a failure that shattered the career of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and became a burden to the presidency of George W. Bush.

Foreign policy learning theory Before proceeding to the four cases (the USA, the UK, Poland and Denmark), the theory and hypothesis to be tested in them should be stated more in detail. The voluminous literature on leaders’ use of lessons of the past (historical analogies)2 in foreign policy-making has thrived within FPA (foreign policy analysis) and constructivism in recent years, but was initiated by historians (May 1973) and political psychologists (cf. Jervis 1976; Janis 1989) before the labels of ‘FPA’ or ‘constructivism’ had even been heard of. Learning theory asserts that lessons of the past—typically based on dramatic geopolitical events—will not just legitimize later, allegedly similar, decisions to a wider audience, but they may also affect the actual decisions under the proper conditions. It should be emphasized that ‘learning a lesson’ in this theory does not imply that foreign policy has been improved in any objective sense—only that it has been affected by the construed narrative from an allegedly analogous situation (Levy 1994, pp. 291–294).

1

  Moreover, it seems that neoconservative leaders like Vice-President Dick Cheney had ‘adapted’ intelligence conclusions to fit the political agenda. 2   Cf., among several others, Khong (1992), Reiter (1996), Brunk (2008), or Siniver and Collins (2015).

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As argued by Levy (2003, pp. 274–275), a weakness of especially psychological approaches to foreign policy studies has been that psychological variables are seldom related to the external situation (the material context) in which they occur. The same goes for actors’ cognitive constructions and their discourses, including any lessons of the past. However, the interaction between a lesson and the contemporary reality in international politics, in which it is applied, is crucial if one believes in a reality existing independently from actors’ narratives (epistemological realism, Popper 1972).3 A historic lesson is added to other concerns. It may reinforce contemporary incentives or restrain them (Mouritzen 2009, pp. 175–182), depending on the circumstances; in a few cases, it may even overrule them. Moreover, decision-makers will either themselves be convinced by the alleged lesson of the past (a cognitive lesson), or they will use it rhetorically because others, notably parliamentarians or public opinion, will likely buy into it (e.g. Khong 1992; Mumford 2015).4 As the Iraq intervention had come to be seen as a failure, it follows that its lesson should be expected to restrain or overrule any incentives towards military intervention in Syria 10 years later. ‘Restrain’ means here that decision-makers were affected in the direction of more limited strikes against Syria. ‘Overrule’ means that they were led to abandon any military plans. The hypothesis to be tested in this article is therefore the following: The negative foreign policy lesson learnt from the 2003 Iraq intervention should be expected to restrain, or even overrule, decision-makers’ incentives towards military action against Syria in September 2013. This tendency should be especially strong in the countries participating militarily in the Iraq intervention. The a priori resemblances between the two situations (2003 and 2013), together with our focus on countries participating militarily in 2003, mean that we can expect a pool of cases illustrating how foreign policy learning takes place. Also, our four cases are ‘most likely cases’ (Eckstein 1975) for learning theory: it is given optimal conditions to succeed (if theoretical expectations, nonetheless, are disappointed in such a case, it should be seriously considered to abandon the theory).5 Below, after a brief survey of events, we shall firstly analyse the four, almost synchronic, national decision processes regarding Syria 2013. Were any ‘lesson from Iraq’ similar in all four cases, or were there important nuances? How did any lesson compete with more general incentives or incentives pertaining directly to the Syria situation at hand? Did any lesson from Iraq 10  years earlier really restrain

3

  Epistemological realism is argued by Karl Popper in his ‘Two faces of common sense: an argument for common-sense realism and against the commonsense theory of knowledge’, pp. 32–106 in Popper (1972). The work of Reiter (1996), for example, implicitly respects this distinction. Cf. also p. 407 in Mouritzen and Runge Olesen (2010). 4   Both Snyder (1990) and Larson (1991) warn that lessons are often more rhetorical than cognitive, i.e. they serve to legitimize behaviour taken for other reasons. A lesson may of course be both rhetorical and cognitive. 5   Both ‘most likely’ and ‘least likely’ case studies are subtypes of so-called crucial case studies (‘crucial’ because they provide a maximum of feedback from case to theory).

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decision-makers as predicted? Having thus confirmed or rejected the above theoretically derived hypothesis, we can possibly draw conclusions for learning theory. Finally, we ask, as in the theoretical literature, what benefits or dangers follow from the learning of foreign policy lessons? Regarding Syria in particular, should we in hindsight be ‘grateful’ that decision-makers learnt a lesson from Iraq?

A survey of events According to French, British and US intelligence, the al-Assad regime was responsible for a chemical gas attack on its own civilians in Ghouta, Damascus, on 21 August 2013. This was denied by the regime itself, supported by Russia. The accusation was officially aired on 26 August by US Secretary of State John Kerry, adding that the President would shortly announce a US reaction.6 During the following days, prospective contributors to a military action against al-Assad considered the situation and their possibilities. The USA, the UK, and France were preparing for a brief military strike, whereas Turkey wanted more enduring action, also without UN approval.7 Russia and China, feeling betrayed by the West over Libya, repeated their resistance to such plans. In Europe, Germany ruled itself out of any military action and appealed to the Security Council to take a unified position. Turning to our countries selected here, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk excluded a Polish participation on 28 August. The day after, by contrast, the Danish government found support in the parliamentary foreign policy committee for its willingness to contribute with military force against the al-Assad regime. Later the same day, however, the British House of Commons narrowly decided against Prime Minister Cameron’s plan for British participation in such action. On 31 August, US President Obama declared his decision for a limited strike against Syria, but added that he wished a prior authorization from the US Congress.8 This never materialized, however, partly because the congressional process was overtaken by unexpected diplomacy. At a press conference in London on 9 September, US Foreign Minister Kerry replied to a question, whether al-Assad could avoid a US attack. Almost jokingly, he answered in the affirmative—provided that al-Assad, contrary to any expert expectation, accepted to abandon all of his chemical weapons arsenal to international forces9 (a few days before, at the G20 meeting

6

  https​://www.washi​ngton ​post.com/news/world​views​/wp/2013/08/26/read-the-full-trans​cript​-kerry​ s-speec​h-on-syria​-chemi​cal-weapo​ns-and-the-need-to-respo​nd/?nored​irect​=on&utm_term=.38a5f​aa01c​ 1c. 7   https​://www.nytim​es.com/2013/10/18/world​/middl​eeast​/erdog​an-syria​-rebel​s-leadi​ng-ally-hesit​ates-31month​s-in.html. 8   For references, see the in-depth analyses of these decisions in the subsequent sections. 9   Cf. pp. 1045–1046 in Bentley (2014).

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in St. Petersburg, Obama had allegedly taken Putin aside and told him that ‘if he forced Assad [sic!] to get rid of the chemical weapons, that would eliminate the need for us taking a military strike’).10 With the intervention of Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, this episode led to al-Assad’s surprising acceptance of the proposal and subsequently its implementation, ended by June 2014, through OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) and international forces.11Also, Syria announced it would join the Chemical Weapons Convention (Phillips (2016), p. 181).

Polish reluctance versus Danish readiness Let us now turn to the decisions in each of the four selected countries. Poland came out clearly against a military intervention in Syria. According to Prime Minister Donald Tusk, ‘we have experiences from this part of the world [the Middle East], which shows that military intervention, even from the most obvious and noble motives rarely produces the desired effect’, referring to Poland’s experience of sending troops to Iraq.12 He was supplemented by Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Piechocinski (leader of the junior coalition party): ‘all military actions in this region—with Iraq and Lebanon13 being an example—transform big problems into bigger ones and create external instability in place of the existing internal instability’. He added that an intervention in Syria would pose a threat not only to its neighbourhood but also to world markets and stock exchanges.14 The backcloth for both of these statements was a speech by Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski on the Polish Armed Forces Day (15 August, i.e. before the gas attack in Damascus). In the President’s words, ‘we will decidedly abandon the overzealous expedition policy we uncautiously [sic] adopted in 2007. Polish troops will no longer be hastily expedited to the world’s antipodes’.15 Instead, he emphasized the importance of territorial defence. This so-called Komorowski doctrine as well as the views specifically concerning a Syria operation should be seen on the background, not least, of a marked lack of popular support for the Polish operations abroad.16 It is conceivable that incentives behind the façade were less diplomatic. Poland’s security concerns after the Cold War have been strictly limited to its own salient 10

  Obama’s own account to Goldberg (2016), p. 15.  Denmark became the leader of a multinational maritime transport operation, cf. Brems Knudsen (2014). 12   Wednesday 28 August. Cf. http://www.thene​ws.pl/1/10/Artyk​ul/14557​3,Polan​d-will-not-join-strik​eson-Syria​. 13   Possibly, this should be Libya instead of Lebanon, referring to the 2011 NATO intervention in this country. 14   Daily News, 29 August, no. 168/2013. These governmental statements were not accompanied by any debate in the Sejm, the Polish parliament. 15   Daily News, 16 August, no. 159/2013. 16  Cf. Milczanowski at https​://pulas​ki.pl/en/new-strat​egy-in-the-fight​-again​st-isis-what-role-for-polan​d/ (2016). Poland had also sent troops to Afghanistan, but abstained from participating in the Libya campaign. 11

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environment, i.e. its Russian ‘arch enemy’. Therefore, military or other efforts elsewhere have been seen as ‘payment’ for US/NATO deterrence of Russia (in this sense, Poland has a pronounced quid pro quo reasoning as distinct from Denmark, as we shall see). However, Poland felt this deterrence to be inadequate; with the Georgia intervention 2008 and increased Russian exercises (Zapad) it wanted not only an increase in the size and frequency of allied exercises on its soil, but also the permanent deployment of NATO combat forces in Poland.17 But the hint by US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld in the foreplay to the Iraq war that US bases in Germany (‘old Europe’) could be moved eastwards (to ‘new Europe’) had proven to be without any substance. Also, Polish disappointment with the Obama administration’s scaling down of its planned missile defence in Poland some months earlier (March 2013) may have played a role.18 Generally, Polish voices were not listened to in Washington according to frustrated Polish commentators.19 In sum, in the words of Piotr Buras, ‘…having participated in expeditions in Afghanistan and Iraq, Poland tends to opt out from any military adventures abroad’.20 Whereas the Polish leaders had thus cut off debate at an early stage, the Danish political climate was different. Between 25 August, roughly, and 31 August, some kind of Western military operation seemed likely, and Danish politicians discussed Denmark’s possible role therein. There were actually two phases; until 27 August, the government (centre-left) wholeheartedly stood behind the UN Security Council. As expressed by Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt, ‘from the Danish side, we have all the time emphasized the UN-track. It has always big consequences to act without a UN mandate’.21 Foreign Minister Søvndal even took a polemic stance against the liberal and conservative parties: ‘I will remind the two parties of the chaos, they have contributed to in Iraq, because they chose to let Denmark participate in a war without international legitimacy’.22 At this point in time, Søvndal still described a UN mandate as realistic, if just UN weapons inspectors could provide the necessary evidence. Although the voters were reportedly sceptical to Danish military participation without a UN mandate,23 the government turned around on Tuesday 27 August: ‘if the UN Security Council will not react in the current situation, we have to consider alternative patterns of reaction’.24 ‘If the Security Council cannot [live up to its responsibility], alternative scenarios come closer. Also Denmark must relate to that’.25

17

  Ibid.  Cf. https​://www.nytim​es.com/2013/03/17/world​/europ​e/with-eye-on-north​-korea​-us-cance​ls-missi​ledefen​se-russi​a-oppos​ed.html?_r=0. 19   Cf. Milczanowski, op. cit. 20   https​://www.ecfr.eu/artic​le/comme​ntary​_divid​ed_polan​d_faces​_forei​gn_polic​y_cross​roads​4047 (22 September 2015). 21   Ritzau 26 August 2013. 22   Berlingske (Danish daily), 23 August 2013. 23   According to Gallup, 64% of the voters disagreed or partly disagreed in Danish participation without a UN mandate (Berlingske 27. August 2013). 23% agreed. 24  Thorning-Schmidt, Politiken.dk. 25  Søvndal, Jydske Vestkysten (Danish daily). 18

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The foreign policy committee held a meeting (confidential, as always) on 29 August, where the government gained political support for participation in military action. ‘I have indicated to our closest allies, and the US knows this, that if the UNtrack is blind, Denmark will be ready to consider alternative options’, the prime minister said after the meeting.26 But she added that ‘Denmark has not been requested to contribute to military action’.

The House of Commons surprise British governmental statements had led to the expectation that the UK was going to be an integral part of an imminent military attack on Syria; Britain can go to war without the express consent of Parliament (Kaarbo and Kenealy 2017, p. 65). However, in the wake of popular reluctance after the Iraq experience,27 there had been calls for the government always to seek the political approval of Parliament (the Libya attacks of 2011 had been debated and voted upon, but only after the event). The Syria debate took place on Thursday, 29 August in the House of Commons, and unexpectedly the House did not approve of air strikes against the al-Assad regime. Cameron became the first prime minister to lose a parliamentary vote (272 vs. 285 votes) on military action since 1782 (Strong 2015, p. 1123). He lost labour support and failed to co-opt a sufficient number of conservative and liberal democrat backbenchers. Since the outcome became decisive for Britain’s role in the conflict (and affected other countries as well), it is crucial here to analyse the arguments presented by the major non-voters. In the formulation of Labour Leader Ed Miliband, ‘people are deeply concerned about the chemical weapons attacks in Syria, but they want us to learn the lessons of Iraq’.28 Most MPs used Iraq as a cautionary tale (Kaarbo and Kenealy 2017, p. 73). Several sub-lessons of the Iraq intervention were present in the debate. One was about failed intelligence. Looking back on Iraq, according to Miliband, MPs wanted ‘compelling evidence’ of the Syrian regime’s guilt; the so-called evidence in 2003 of weapons of mass destruction had subsequently been deemed to be false. A broader theme, partly linked to Iraq, was about the alleged failures of liberal interventionism, be it in the name of human rights, democracy or good governance (as practised by the Tony Blair government, starting in the Kosovo war of 1999). Few MPs went so far as to reject the interventionist role for Britain generally; it was tied very much to negative memories of the invasion of Iraq 10 years earlier (and to a lesser extent experiences from Afghanistan and Libya). According to David Lammy (Labour), for instance, the Iraq war had shown that ‘liberal intervention can fail—and it can fail badly’ (Strong 2015, p. 1127). In the words of James Arbuthnot 26

  Ritzau 29 August 2013.   The public opposed a limited military attack by two to one (50% vs. 25% regarding British missiles fired from ships off the coast of Syria). In the words of Peter Kellner, ‘The shadow of Vietnam constrained United States foreign policy for decades…Iraq is now casting a similar shadow over British foreign policy’. Cf. https​://yougo​v.co.uk/topic​s/polit​ics/artic​les-repor​ts/2013/08/28/syria​-and-shado​w-iraq. On the US Vietnam lesson, cf. Snyder (1990), pp. 299–304. 28   http://www.usato​day.com, ’Britain will not join USA in strike on Syria’. 27

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(cons.), Britain should not act as the ‘international policeman’; ‘when we have done so in the past, the world has not tended to thank us’ (ibid.). A theme, often closely related to liberal interventionism, is that of Atlanticism or the ‘special relationship’ with the USA. This occurred only modestly, though. Ed Miliband used it against intervention, attacking the government for following ‘a timetable set elsewhere’ (ibid., p. 1129), i.e. in Washington. Although Cameron did his best to refute such suspicions, there was a déjà vu among many MPs that they had been hastily summoned, just like over Iraq in 2003, to meet a deadline for air strikes arbitrarily set by the US military (ibid.). A fourth theme was that of (the lack of) a UN mandate for an attack on Syria. Due to Russian resistance, such a mandate was unlikely to be forthcoming. Again, we are back at the Iraq parallel, since that intervention occurred with a highly questionable mandate; according to the then UN Secretary General, it was even illegal.29 Although there were a few UN hardliners in the debate, most took a more nuanced approach. According to Ed Miliband, the UK ‘should strain every sinew’ to make the UN process work (ibid., p. 1127), but he refused to rule out acting without Security Council approval in any thinkable case.

Denmark stays on track Danish politicians, like others, were caught off guard by the House of Commons vote and its termination of the British government’s plans for an attack on Syria. ‘I am surprised that the British parliament does not back up its own prime minister’, as expressed by Mette Gjerskov, the Social Democratic chairman of the foreign policy Committee. But she added that ‘Denmark makes its own decision about any military interference in the conflict’.30 As formulated by Foreign Minister Søvndal, the British decision puts Denmark in a ‘real dilemma’. It gives rise to ‘second thoughts’ [eftertanke]. But we must also reflect, ‘how we can come to the rescue of a desperate Syrian population’.31 Defence Minister Nikolai Wammen still kept the door open for Danish participation with the USA and without a UN mandate. He was convinced about the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons: ‘as Kerry emphasized [30 August], precisely the experiences from Iraq have caused extra American caution with the evidence’, Wammen replied to a journalist’s parallel with then Foreign Secretary Colin Powell, who in 2003 had presented ‘proofs’ to the UN Security Council of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.32

29

  https​://www.thegu​ardia​n.com/world​/2004/sep/16/iraq.iraq.   Politiken.dk, 30 August 2013. 31   TV2 News, 30 August 2013. 32   Information.dk, 30 August 2013. 30

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In connection with the Stockholm meeting on 4–5 September between Obama and the five Nordic prime ministers, Thorning-Schmidt was alone among the Nordics to support military action33 (and possibly Danish participation, although she emphasized that no request had been forthcoming). She had full confidence in US intelligence. As Mette Gjerskov, the Social Democratic head of the foreign policy committee, had previously said: ‘I note that the Americans are pretty sure [rimeligt sikre] of what they are saying…Evidence will presumably be shortly forthcoming’.34 In public at least, there was no ‘Iraq shadow’ over leading Danish politicians’ trust in US intelligence, quite to the contrary.

Obama hesitates and involves Congress The US aggregate stance regarding a Syria intervention can safely be labelled a ‘non-decision’. Let us see how that came about. As soon as Obama and his closest advisors were convinced that his famous red line35 had been grossly overstepped, hectic preparations were started in Washington aiming towards military action against the Syrian regime, including close contacts with British and French military planners (the British became redundant on 29 August, as we saw). On Friday, 30 August, John Kerry held a forceful speech presenting the evidence that al-Assad was responsible. Although he emphasized that no decision had been made, the general expectation among the President’s advisors was that strikes would follow over the weekend. On Saturday, Obama declared his decision for a limited strike on Syria, with no ‘boots on the ground’. The big surprise, however, was that the president added that he wished a prior authorization of this step from the US Congress (though not constitutionally required). As Congress was still in summer recess, this process could mean a 14 days delay of military action, if not its abandonment. Hearings were held in the foreign policy committees of both the Senate and the House of Representatives on 3 and 4 September as preludes to expected debates and votings in the full chambers the week after. At the same time, an opinion poll showed that 48% of the public opposed the air strikes; only 29% were supportive.36 This unavoidably affected congressional opinion. According to a preliminary survey by 7 September,37 the prospects were indeed bleak for the desired authorization. House members were opposed to or leaning against Obama’s plan by a crushing 6–1 margin (192 against 30), whereas senators were more evenly divided. Obama, being in St. Petersburg for a G-20 meeting, acknowledged the difficulties his plans were facing. Given the loss of US credibility in the world that could thus be anticipated, John Kerry’s press conference on 9 September that sparked the Kerry-Lavrov plan for disarming al-Assad of chemical weapons was surely a gift from heaven to the White 33

  https​://www.aften​poste​n.no/verde​n/i/zG551​/Stolt​enber​g-etter​-midda​gen-Obama​-er-utalm​odig.   Politiken (Danish daily), 28. August 2013 (‘Danskerne skal lige vænne sig til tanken om at gå uden om FN’). 35   ‘A red line for us is [when] we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized’. Quoted from p. 10 in Chollet (2016). 36   ‘Public Opinion Runs Against Syrian Air Strikes’, Pew, 3 September 2013. 37   Associated Press: ‘House of Representatives tentative about Syria attack’, 7 September 2013. 34

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House. This broke off the painful congressional process, of course. Still, it is imperative for our purpose here briefly to map the congressional concerns behind the reluctant attitudes towards US military action. The difficulty is that the committee hearings in both chambers were carried out mostly by establishment politicians with a good deal of prior expert knowledge, but hardly being representative of feelings among rank and file members, let alone the general public. Still, the impression reflected by senator Christopher Coons (dem.) seems indicative: As I have listened to Delawareans in recent days, I think they reflect a nation that is wary of war and that is wary of inadvertently repeating some of the challenges of our engagement in Iraq. I’ve heard specific and pointed concerns that we not rush into action based on uneven or inaccurate intelligence, that we not be drawn into a civil war we don’t fully understand or where we can’t discern the good guys from the bad guys, and more than anything, that we not commit to an open-ended participation…38 In other words, much was seen through the prism of the Iraq war: first and foremost the suspicion of faulty (or politically distorted) intelligence, but also the risk of being dragged into a war from which an exit is difficult (the Iraq occupation had just had its tenth anniversary at the time).39 The Congress resolution on Iraq had authorized the use of force as President Bush ‘determines to be necessary and appropriate’ and the defence of ‘the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq’40; also, it should be the policy of the USA to remove the Saddam Hussein regime and promote a democratic replacement. In plain words, the Bush administration could basically do what it wanted in Iraq. The Iraq theme was so obvious to everyone that it was taken up ‘preemptively’ by many adherents of military action. They spent a lot of time arguing why the Iraq analogy was indeed misleading. In particular, the risk of faulty intelligence was addressed; Kerry almost desperately appealed to his former congressional colleagues: Now, I remember Iraq. Secretary Hagel41 remembers Iraq…We voted. And so we are especially sensitive, Chuck and I, to never again asking any member of Congress to take a vote on faulty intelligence. And that is why our intelligence community has scrubbed and rescrubbed the evidence. We have declassified

38

  ‘Full transcript: Kerry, Hagel and Dempsey testify at Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria’, Washington Post staff, 3 September. 39   Cf. also, for instance, senator Tom Udall (dem.), going all the way back to the Kuwait war of 1991: ‘The Iraq war began as an international effort to kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait…this limited military action eventually led to what is one of the biggest blunders in US foreign policy…’ Cf. ‘Full transcript: Kerry, Hagel and Dempsey…’, op.cit. 40  Cf. https​://www.congr​ess.gov/bill/107th​-congr​ess/house​-joint​-resol​ution​/114/text. 41   Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel, a former senator like Kerry, also witnessed in these hearings.

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unprecedented amounts of information, and we ask the American people and the rest of the world to judge that information.42 The entrapment lesson—the risk of being dragged into a lengthy war through mission creep—was addressed by the limited mandate requested by the President, although these assurances were met by a good deal of distrust. Would the President come back later for a broader authorization? Whereas the risk of faulty intelligence and entrapment were the major aspects of the alleged Iraq lesson, the hearings also encompassed arguments of a more general nature or pertaining directly to the Syrian situation at hand: • Spillover, the unintended consequences occurring in warfare, specifically: will

al-Assad retaliate inside Syria or against US allies on the borders of Syria? How would the USA in turn respond? (ibid.) • The nature of the regime opposition: ‘it seems like initially, the opposition was maybe more Western-leaning, more moderate, more democratic, and as time has gone by, it’s degraded, become more infiltrated by al-Qaida’ (ibid.). In other words, the USA risked assisting its own enemies and contributing to further chaos in Syria. Thus, although a lesson of the past (Iraq) became the main theme of the hearings, they also included arguments being unrelated to that experience. At the end of the day, as indicated by the Pew polling,43 both sets of arguments made the administration’s task of convincing the full Congress quite unlikely to succeed. More broadly then, what caused the US stalemate (or non-decision) regarding military strikes in the situation? To answer that, we need to return to the Oval Office: why did the President, allegedly having made up his mind, take the legally unnecessary step of involving Congress, thus delaying the strikes and (presumably) favouring the enemy on the ground?44 According to Chollet’s (2016) insider testimony, …many believe that going to Congress was just a cynical move by the president to pass the buck and avoid strikes. I never believed this to be true, and remain unaware of any evidence to prove such an assertion. (p. 23). We do know that Obama made his decision very much on his own (ibid.) and also that he told his closest aids at the crucial time that he ‘wanted to “break the cycle” of presidents not going to Congress before using force’ (ibid., p. 7). Be it as it may with this legal motive (its credibility is weakened by Obama’s own use of force against Libya in 2011 without a congressional mandate). More likely, with caution, patience and careful lengthy deliberation (ibid., p. xvi) being essential ingredients in Obama’s whole foreign policy legacy, he was simply genuinely in doubt as what to do. This is corroborated by Obama’s own later words: he had ‘press[ed] the pause button’ (Goldberg 2016, p. 16). And he had been able to ‘pull back from the immediate 42

  Cf. ‘Full transcript: Kerry, Hagel and Dempsey…’, op.cit.   ‘Public Opinion Runs Against Syrian Air Strikes’, Pew, 3 September 2013. 44   So he could hide essential installations, possibly move some into Russian base facilities. 43

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pressures and think through in my own mind’ (ibid.) what to do. One can agree with Chollet that the ‘cynical’ interpretation (in the above quote) is going too far. But by postponing things (‘press the pause button’) while he would be in Stockholm and St. Petersburg, ‘something might turn up’, to paraphrase Mr. Micawber in ‘David Copperfield’. This is not to say that Obama had anticipated the diplomatic accomplishment of Kerry and Lavrov that, together with the threat of force, led to the safe elimination of over 1300 tons of chemical materials. No one had seen that coming. But Obama knew he would be meeting state leaders, including Russian president Putin, during the coming week. It seems that Obama exploited his legal consideration in a situation of genuine doubt to win time. And something did turn up, as we now know.

‘Remember Iraq!’ means different things The imperative ‘remember Iraq!’ in the context of a planned military effort is meant as a warning of the form: ‘don’t do it!’ However, we have seen so far that there were different aspects of the alleged Iraq lesson at play in the four selected countries; different reasons why ‘Iraq’ was such a scary word. For the sake of survey, I shall formulate the major (ideal-typic) sub-lessons that occurred in the cases: 1. Don’t intervene in country x; your decision may be based on misleading or politically misconstrued intelligence as in the case of the Iraq intervention (‘intelligence’). 2. Don’t intervene in country x without a mandate from the UN Security Council; you saw what happened in the case of Iraq, where such a mandate was absent (‘UN mandate’). 3. Don’t intervene in country x; as illustrated by the Iraq experience, we should not be the policeman of the world telling others how to frame their societies according to allegedly universal principles (human rights, democracy or good governance). We don’t understand non-Western cultures adequately (‘anti-policeman’). 4. Beware of open-ended interventions like in the case of Iraq; without a prior exit strategy, we risk being dragged into a lengthy war (‘entrapment’). 5. Don’t participate in an intervention in country x; our country did not get sufficient benefits in terms of its own defence needs, e.g. from its sacrifices in the Iraq war (‘lack of payment’). These analytically separate sub-lessons were not evenly distributed among our four cases. In the US Congress, ‘intelligence’ and ‘entrapment’ were by far the dominant ones. They were advocated by sceptics, of course, but also preemptively addressed by adherents of military action. ‘UN mandate’ was virtually absent. ‘Anti-policeman’ was mentioned a few times by sceptics, but hardly related to by

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adherents. By contrast, Obama’s declared motives were unrelated to any Iraq lesson; he even said: ‘This is not Iraq, and this is not Afghanistan’.45 Among the victorious sceptics in the UK House of Commons, ‘intelligence’ and ‘anti-policeman’ were the dominant sub-lessons. ‘UN mandate’ did occur a few times. In the Danish case, this UN sub-lesson played a role in the initial phase (the others were absent); after the turnaround on 27 August, even this version was gone. In the Polish case, Donald Tusk’s quoted argument about ‘experiences from this part of the world’ obviously refers to Iraq; it is vaguely formulated, but seems to fit best with the ‘anti-policeman’ sub-lesson. The more narrow ‘lack of payment’ seems to have been involved as well, although not in official statements. These alleged Iraq lessons interacted, in turn, with contemporary arguments, be they general ones or specifically about the situation in Syria. We shall now see how these interactions shaped policy in each of the four countries.

Does the theory ‘win’ on its own home ground? In this study, the theory is applied on its home ground in four most likely’ cases, namely cases where the theory is given optimal opportunities: all four selected countries participated in Iraq without a UN mandate, the Iraq intervention was generally seen as a failure, and the situation at stake occurred only 10 years later and has several resemblances to Iraq as seen from outside. We therefore expect restraining (or even overruling) influence from some kind of Iraq lesson in all four national Syria decisions. If this is not found, the theory will be in trouble, unless some really good ‘excuses’ can be identified. How, then, do the findings here relate to the theoretical expectations? In the Polish case, expectations are more than fulfilled. We saw an early and unequivocal decision against participation, and the main reason given for this by government leaders referred to the Iraq experience (although there were also contemporary arguments against). The Polish Iraq lesson was not only about the intervention as such, but also about Polish disappointment with its own (lack of) benefits from taking part. The UK House of Commons decision, which became decisive for Britain’s role, was a clear confirmation of the theoretical expectations. The Iraq lesson was displayed in its intelligence aspect, its anti-policeman aspect, and to a minor extent its UN mandate aspect. To put it bluntly, had there been no Iraq intervention (contrafactually speaking), the UK would have participated in Syria. The parliamentary decision was, after all, quite narrow. And presumably, the House of Commons would not have been allowed a decision-making role in the first place; the apparent parliamentarization of British security policy can be traced back to rising frustrations with the Iraq occupation (and to some extent Libya’s sliding into anarchy from 2012, cf.

45

  His formulation when welcoming lawmakers to the White House on Tuesday 3 September. Cf. ’Senate committee approves resolution authorizing US strike on Syria’ (AP 4 September).

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Strong 2015 or Phillips 2016). In short, the UK Iraq participation prevented a (much narrower) Syria intervention from happening. How does the US stalemate (prior to the surprising epilogue from 9 September) relate to our theoretical expectations? Obama’s genuine doubt, in the interpretation here, that led him to a postponement by following the Congress track was hardly due to any lesson, not even from Iraq. In the evaluation of Chollet, Obama is not a man of universal formulas (like lessons); he prefers specific decisions tailored to specific problems.46 His (questionable) legal motive had nothing to do with Iraq. All this being said, it is obvious that once the ball was in Congressional hands, the Iraq lesson certainly had a restraining influence, notably regarding the intelligence aspect and the entrapment aspect (the virtual absence of the UN aspect is remarkable). Again contrafactually, if the congressional chambers had been favourably inclined, there is less likelihood that Kerry would have been tempted by Lavrov’s initiative. Thus, air strikes would eventually have taken place. In other words, the Iraq lesson did have a restraining effect as theoretically expected. The Danish case is the only one apparently causing problems for the theory. The Iraq lesson in its UN mandate aspect had a restraining effect in the first phase, but by 27 August this was gone (whereas other aspects of the lesson had never been present in the first place). Had UK and US military action occurred, Denmark would have joined if asked to (even without the UK, possibly). The theoretical expectation fails, in other words. In strict methodological terms, failure in a most likely case should lead one to consider whether the theory should be seen as falsified. There are at least two possible interpretations of the observations: 1. That the Danish Iraq lesson (the UN mandate) is a thin icing on the cake (a rhetorical lesson) that is unimportant behind the façade (as a cognitive lesson). 2. Strong stimuli from allied colleagues on 27 August made a strong impression on Thorning Schmidt, implying that the Iraq (UN) lesson was overruled by a rivalling lesson construed in 2002–2003 by Fogh Rasmussen, liberal prime minister at the time. The first interpretation threatens the theory. Danish Social Democrats had publicly criticized Fogh Rasmussen for leading Denmark to war in Iraq without a UN mandate in March 2003 (after the seeming end of hostilities in May they approved of the Danish presence, since there was now a UN mandate behind it).47 The Social Democratic criticism has been maintained ever since, but it may be more of instrumental party politics (a rhetorical lesson) than a driving force. Already before Iraq, Denmark—led by a Social Democratic government—had participated in NATO’s air campaign against Yugoslavia/Serbia (the Kosovo war 1999) as part of ‘humanitarian intervention’ without a UN mandate (Mariager and Wivel 2019b).

46

  P. xi in Chollet (2016). Obama’s extensive speech on 31 August, explaining his motives, had no ‘lesson from Iraq’ (https​://obama​white​house​.archi​ves.gov/the-press​-offic​e/2013/08/31/state​ment-presi​dentsyria​). 47   Resolution 1483 (2003), adopted by the UN Security Council on 22 May.

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The second interpretation is that Thorning-Schmidt was persuaded by allied prointervention colleagues. We know that she had contacts on 27 August with at least Cameron, French Prime Minister Hollande, and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, and presumably she had watched Kerry’s speech the evening before.48 Their views superseded any UN concerns according to this hypothesis. Thorning-Schmidt emphasized the importance of ‘listening to our most important allies … And they are the British, the French and the Americans’.49 Moreover, ‘it is a direct continuation of not only Social Democratic, but also Danish foreign policy through [rigtig] many years that we so clearly support our allies’. This sounds like a continuation of Fogh Rasmussen’s super Atlanticism (Mellander and Mouritzen 2016, pp. 457–459). The latter was based on his ‘anti-small state’ lesson from 2002 to 2003: Denmark should not be afraid to be assertive, if required, and at times display its military abilities to compensate for its small state ‘cowardice’ after 1864 and its ‘free riding’ in NATO during the Cold War (ibid.) The legitimate objection here would be that Fogh Rasmussen’s lesson was a very personal one and therefore could be expected to vanish the day he resigned. But again, Social Democrats have never challenged this lesson, even though they are one of its major scapegoats; they may even have internalized it.50 This interpretation is supported by an almost prophetic formulation in the government’s programme of 2011: ‘Intervention to protect the civilian population must as a rule [som altovervejende hovedregel] be made on the basis of a mandate from the UN Security Council. But if the Security Council is unable to act…it may be necessary, as an exception, that Denmark participates…’51 This programmatic intention is in line with Fogh Rasmussen’s military activism, while also paying due respect to the UN.52 If the internalization interpretation is valid, the cognitive Iraq lesson was simply superseded by another cognitive lesson, and the case is thus actually supporting learning theory rather than threatening it. The two interpretations formulated here—of which the second would actually support the theory, since it remains in the domain of lessons—require further corroboration. Without access to, notably, the minutes of the Danish foreign policy committee at the 29 August meeting, they remain suggestive. Nonetheless, a major report of 201953 with access to such confidential information has investigated the Danish decision-making processes leading up to participation in the Kosovo war, the Afghanistan war, and the Iraq war, showing a remarkable continuity. In public, the prevention of humanitarian disaster and the protection of democracy or the 48

  Jv.dk (Jydske Vestkysten, Danish daily), 27 August 2013.   Politiken, 3 September 2013. 50   Compare this version of Danish foreign policy identity with its Polish counterpart: Poland perceives itself as a victim of others’ historic misdeeds (Poland’s partitions, e.g.; cf. also p. 174 in Zwolski 2017); they are therefore indebted to Poland. Thus, when Poland offers military contributions outside its own salient environment, it demands specific ‘payments’ in return. Denmark does not, since Denmark is basically still paying back on perceived old debts (the Fogh Rasmussen lesson). 51   http://stm.dk/publi​katio​ner/Et_Danma​rk_der_staar​_samme​n_11/Reger​ingsg​rundl​ag_okt_2011.pdf. 52   ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) was decided by the UN 2005 World Summit (cf. §§ 138 and 139; http://um.dk/da/udenr​igspo​litik​/folke​rette​n/folke​rette​n-a/respo​nsibi​lity-to-prote​ct/). The prescribed collective military action should be taken though the Security Council according to § 139. 53  Mariager and Wivel (2019a). The report has been summarized in English in Mariager and Wivel (2019b). 49

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international legal order were emphasized, whereas relations with Washington were decisive behind the facade. Strangely as it may sound, considerations about the substance—be it Kosovo, Iraq or Afghanistan—were largely absent. Should this pattern be valid also regarding Syria 2013, it supports the hypothesis emphasizing the views of major allies, notably the USA. Also, the report emphasizes the learning factor, referring to Danish war-fighting abilities displayed in Bosnia 1994 (‘Operation Bøllebank’) and the fact that Denmark successfully participated in the Kosovo war without a UN mandate. Both of these learnings were applied in the later situations investigated. It can be added here that they were also clearly relevant to Denmark’s 2013 war readiness, where a UN mandate was again being absent. They were synthesized in Fogh Rasmussen’s lesson, also stressing the importance of following the USA. So although access to non-public sources are unavailable regarding the Syria case, the continuity of war decisions supports the second interpretation that the Iraq lesson was simply superseded by a more powerful lesson in the Danish case.

Historical lessons: some further reflections Conclusions This piece has focused on the interplay between a historical lesson and the contemporary reality, in which it is applied (the distinction between the two is an epistemological point in itself). It was found that different aspects of the Iraq lesson played a role in the different cases under investigation. A certain lesson may reinforce or restrain leaders’ contemporary incentives, or in a few cases even overrule them. We found, in accordance with learning theory, that the Iraq lesson had a restraining influence on the August/September 2013 Syria decision in the USA and even an overruling effect in the UK and Poland. By contrast, expectations were disappointed regarding Denmark. However, possible ‘excuses’ could be identified in this case. Since the Iraq lesson was apparently superseded by another rivalling lesson, the case is actually supporting learning theory rather than threatening it, as it seemed at first sight. Our attempt to falsify foreign policy learning theory through testing it in four most likely cases has therefore been unsuccessful. It is important to note, however, that the Iraq lesson interacts with more general incentives or incentives pertaining directly to the Syria situation. Other theories stressing contemporary incentives—for instance theories with a realist trademark— are not being weakened by these findings. Learning theory can be combined with a realist theory in specific explanations.54

54

  On such combination, cf. Mouritzen 2017.

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Was Syria policy improved by Iraq? As stipulated initially, historical learning does not by definition improve contemporary foreign policy. But empirically, did the Iraq lesson improve the investigated Syria policies? In hindsight, should we be ‘grateful’ that decision-makers learnt a lesson from Iraq? Generally, the historical analogies inherent in foreign policy lessons seldom fit contemporary reality; they may be better or worse, but generally ‘politicians are bad historians’ as expressed by Ernest May (1973).55 On this background, should lessons be consciously avoided in foreign policy decision-making? Of course, neither state behaviour nor human action takes place from a tabula rasa.56 Indeed, our preconceptions, including past experience, constitute a framework for all human experience. There are sediments at the elite level or in the broader public that reflect the national geopolitical events of the last century or so. The sticking point is when experience is construed as prescriptive historical analogies to the current situation. The typical fallacy is that only one particular situation provides inspiration; the decision-making elite (or the political culture at large) falls victim of ‘group think’,57 where it is obsessed or hypnotized by the same cognitive lesson. Or leaders have chosen a rhetorical lesson that can be ‘sold’ to the public, meaning that it must be close in time and space (typically the country’s last major war, still in vivid memory). But this is seldom the most relevant analogy (Jervis 1976, pp. 246, 269; Khong 1992, pp. 12–14; Reiter 1996). It may even have been chosen, because leaders fear to be on thin ice and anticipate controversy. In the absence of relevant social science prescriptions, decision-makers must do with vague general assumptions coupled with the consideration of several (candidate) historical analogies. Preferably, they provide divergent contemporary recommendations so as to provoke serious debate among decision-makers58; the main thing is to avoid group think and the obsession with only one alleged lesson. However, we have found countervailing pressures in all cases investigated here, possibly with the exception of Poland. In the case of the UK and the USA, the Iraq incentives contradicted most contemporary incentives, whereas there seemed to be a competition between two rivalling lessons in the Danish case. And such crosspressures are the best medicine against group think. As always, one should not neglect the importance of sheer coincidence. If we look at the outcome of the whole episode, we saw how 1300 tons of chemical materials, which had been a serious threat to Israel, Jordan, and Turkey, for example, were handed over by Syria and then safely destructed.59 Lucky circumstances played a role for this to happen, as we saw, but also political competence on the part of 55

  Cf. also, among others, p. 218 in Siniver and Collins (2015) or Miller (2016).   Cf. Karl Popper, ‘The Bucket and the Searchlight: Two Theories of Knowledge’, pp. 341–361 in Popper (1972). 57  That is, those self-reinforcing mechanisms eliminate any sound criticism of a prevailing view. Cf. Janis (1989). 58   Cf., among others, Stevenson (2014). 59   It cannot be excluded, of course, that a minor part of the stockpiles remained in Syria. 56

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the US administration and Russia. But then again, should we praise the Iraq lesson for giving diplomacy a chance? Obama’s delaying of the process was due to other reasons, but the reluctance of Congress was, indeed, to a significant extent induced by this lesson. So yes, lessons may under special circumstances favour beneficial solutions. With the benefit of hindsight, however, some Obama critics have later argued that his lack of intervention caused the Middle East to be dominated by Iran and Russia.60 This assertion, though, is beside the point here, since the intervention at stake did not intend to cause regime change in Syria. And the further question of Western boots on the ground is a different and much broader discussion. Compliance with ethical standards  Conflict of interest  The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.

References Bentley, M. 2014. Strategic Taboos: Chemical Weapons and US Foreign Policy. International Affairs 90 (5): 1033–1048. Brems Knudsen, T. 2014. Danish Contributions in Syria and Mali: Active Internationalism in a Changing World Order’. In Danish Foreign Policy Yearbook 2014, ed. N. Hvidt and H. Mouritzen, 76–109. Copenhagen: DIIS. Brunk, D. 2008. Curing the Somalia Syndrome: Analogy, Foreign Policy Decision Making, and the Rwandan Genocide. Foreign Policy Analysis 4 (3): 301–320. Chollet, D. 2016. The Long Game. How Obama Defied Washington and Redefined America’s Role in the World. New York: Public Affairs. Eckstein, H. 1975. Case Study and Theory in Political Science. Handbook of Political Science, vol. 7, 79–127. Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley. Goldberg, J. 2016. The Obama Doctrine. The Atlantic, 6–15, April issue. Janis, I.L. 1989. Crucial Decisions: Leadership in Policymaking and Crisis Management. New York: Free Press. Jervis, R. 1976. Perception and Misperception in International Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP. Jervis, R. 2006. Reports, Politics, and Intelligence Failures: The Case of Iraq. The Journal of Strategic Studies 29 (1): 3–52. Kaarbo, J., and D. Kenealy. 2017. Precedents, Parliaments, and Foreign Policy: Historical Analogy in the House of Commons Vote on Syria. West European Politics 40 (1): 62–79. Khong, Y.F. 1992. Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Larson, D. 1991. Bandwagon Images in American Foreign Policy: Myth or Reality? In Dominoes and Bandwagons, ed. R. Jervis and J. Snyder, 85–111. New York: Oxford University Press. Levy, J. 1994. Learning and Foreign Policy: Sweeping a Conceptual Minefield. International Organization 48 (2): 279–314. Levy, J. 2003. Political Psychology and Foreign Policy. In Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology, ed. D. Sears, L. Huddy, and R. Jervis, 253–284. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mariager, R., and A. Wivel. 2019a. Hvorfor gik Danmark i krig? Uvildig udredning af baggrunden for Danmarks militære engagement i Kosovo, Afghanistan og Irak. Copenhagen: Krigsudredningen. 60

  Critics in the Washington foreign policy establishment and among US allies. Cf., for instance, the survey (and countercriticism) by Chollet (2016) pp. 19–26. Many regional actors felt betrayed. Some critics have even claimed that Obama’s non-decision emboldened Putin’s actions in Ukraine the following year (referred in Phillips (2016) p. 182).

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‘Remember Iraq!’ Learning theory and the 2013 non-decision… Mariager, R., and A. Wivel. 2019b. ‘Denmark at War: Great Power Politics and Domestic Action Space in the Cases of Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq’, Danish Foreign Policy Review 2019, 48–73. Copenhagen: DIIS. May, E. 1973. “Lessons” of the Past. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Mellander, M., and H. Mouritzen. 2016. Learning to Assert themselves: Small States in Asymmetrical Dyads. Two Scandinavian Dogs Barking at the Russian Bear. Cooperation and Conflict 51 (4): 447–467. Miller, P. 2016. Graveyard of Analogies: The Use and Abuse of History for the War in Afghanistan. Journal of Strategic Studies 39 (3): 446–476. Mouritzen, H. 2009. Past Versus Present Geopolitics: Cautiously Opening the Realist Door to the Past. In Rethinking Realism in International Relations, ed. Annette Freyberg-Inan, Ewan Harrison, and Patrick James, 164–188. Baltimore: John Hopkins. Mouritzen, H., and M. Runge Olesen. 2010. The Interplay of Geopolitics and Historical Lessons in Foreign Policy: Denmark Facing Post-war Rearmament. Cooperation and Conflict 45 (4): 406–428. Mouritzen, H. 2017. Combining “Incompatible” Foreign Policy Explanations: How a Realist Can Borrow from Constructivism. Journal of International Relations and Development 20 (3): 631–658. Mumford, A. 2015. Parallels, Prescience and the Past: Analogical Reasoning and Contemporary International Politics. International Politics 52 (1): 1–19. Phillips, C. 2016. The Battle for Syria. International Rivalry in the New Middle East. New Haven: Yale UP. Popper, K.R. 1972. Objective Knowledge. An Evolutionary Approach. Oxford: Clarendon. Reiter, D. 1996. Crucible of Beliefs. Learning, Alliances, and World Wars. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Siniver, A., and J. Collins. 2015. Airpower and Quagmire: Historical Analogies and the Second Lebanon War. Foreign Policy Analysis 11 (2): 215–231. Snyder, J. 1990. Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition. Ithaca: Cornell UP. Stevenson, D. 2014. Learning from the Past: The Relevance of International History. International Affairs 90 (1): 5–22. Strong, J. 2015. Interpreting the Syria Vote: Parliament and British Foreign Policy. International Affairs 91 (5): 1123–1139. Zwolski, K. 2017. Poland’s Foreign-Policy Turn. Survival 59 (4): 167–182.

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International Politics (2020) 57:973–989 https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-020-00231-x ORIGINAL ARTICLE

The role of historical narratives in Ukraine’s policy toward the EU and Russia Lina Klymenko1 Published online: 20 April 2020 © Springer Nature Limited 2020

Abstract The article argues that policymakers often make use of historical narratives in order to underpin their foreign policy agenda. It duly explores how the structure of such a narrative is realized linguistically and illustrates this point by exploring a recent shift in Ukrainian foreign policy discourse. It is argued that in order to justify its pro-EU foreign policy agenda, the Ukrainian political leadership has promoted the understanding that Ukrainians have historical experiences that are similar to Europeans and different from Russians, and that this justifies Ukraine’s aspirations to distance itself from Russia and become an EU member. Keywords  Historical narrative · Foreign policy · Interpretive research · Ukraine · EU · Russia

Introduction Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and its ongoing support for pro-Russian separatist forces in Ukrainian Donbas have profoundly changed Ukraine’s policy toward the EU and Russia. The foreign policy agenda of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, elected in May 2014, and the pro-Western coalition formed in the Ukrainian parliament following the early parliamentary elections in October 2014 seemed to end Ukraine’s oscillation between two specific foreign policy projects—European integration (with the EU) and Eurasian integration (with Russia). The Ukrainian president proclaimed a course of Euro-Atlantic integration for Ukraine, thereby elevating EU and NATO membership as Ukraine’s foreign policy priority. In 2014, Ukraine and the EU signed political and economic components of Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the EU (Government Portal 2019), and in 2018, the Ukrainian parliament adopted a * Lina Klymenko [email protected] 1



Faculty of Business and Management (Politics Program), Tampere University, Kanslerinrinne 1, 33100 Tampere, Finland

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national security law in which it cited EU and NATO membership as forming one of Ukraine’s principles of national security (Parliament of Ukraine 2018a). At the same time, in 2018, the Ukrainian parliament adopted a law on maintaining Ukraine’s sovereignty over the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. In accordance with this law, the parliament recognized Russia’s actions in Donbas as an act of armed aggression that violates both the 1994 Budapest Memorandum—signed between Russia, the UK and the USA and assuring Ukraine security due to its accession to the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty—and the 1997 Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership Treaty signed between Ukraine and Russia (Parliament of Ukraine 2018b). While following media reports in the context of this foreign policy development, I observed that the Ukrainian political leadership referred to Ukrainian history on numerous occasions and, more precisely, to the history of Ukraine’s relations with what today constitutes Russia and the EU. For example, on July 28, 2018, while commemorating the Christianization of the Kyivan Rus, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claimed that by introducing Christianity more than 1000  years ago, Prince Volodymyr the Great had not only made a religious, but also a political—a European—choice (Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko 2018c). The Ukrainian president’s mention of the Christianization of the Kyivan Rus (considered to be the prototype of the current Ukrainian nation-state) as a part of shared European history is an example that reveals how political leaders make use of historical narratives in interstate relations and foreign policymaking. Some previous studies in Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA) and International Relations (IR) have already explored how policymakers use narratives of the past to provide the populations of their countries with a collective identity and common values. For example, Subotić (2013) has examined Serbian and Croatian narratives of the Communist era as an expression of states’ self-representation. In other studies, Subotić (2015, 2016) has also explored Serbia’s narrative of Kosovo as a matter of Serbia’s ontological identity and the use of WWII genocide narratives in Serbian–Croatian relations in the 1990s. Sverdrup-Thygeson (2017) has investigated how Chinese policymakers have propagated a narrative of Sino-African history to promote a sense of shared identity between China and Africa. In my previous works (2016, 2017, 2019), I have explored how Ukrainian policymakers have forged Ukrainian national identity through the narratives of the Communist era and WWII. Whereas the function of these historical narratives as a mobilizing and legitimizing tool of foreign policy has been widely discussed in previous studies, more attention should be paid to how this process works precisely. Embedded in constructivist ontology and interpretive epistemology (Yanow and Schwartz-Shea 2014), this article focuses on an analysis of the narrative structure. More specifically, my aim is to uncover how a country’s political leadership organizes the country’s historical experiences by describing what the narrative characters did within a particular space and time frame, and how the described events are ordered and linked to each other. The examination of the language used by policymakers, that is, how narrative characters are addressed and which characteristics are attributed to them, further

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The role of historical narratives in Ukraine’s policy toward… Table 1  Historical narratives in Ukrainian foreign policy discourse Narrative

Time

Space

The Kyivan Rus

Ninth–thirteenth centuries

The Cossack Hetmanate

Seventeenth–eighteenth centuries

The Soviet Union

Twentieth century

Europe

Russia

Christianity Modernization Democracy Partnership

Colonialism Aggression Authoritarianism Backwardness

unpacks the specific features of the historical narratives and their use in foreign policy discourse.1 I take Ukrainian foreign policy as a case study and argue that Ukrainian policymakers have made use of historical narratives to underpin their pro-European foreign policy agenda. In other words, the Ukrainian political leadership has narrated Ukrainian history from the time of the Kyivan Rus, the Cossack Hetmanate, and the Soviet Union era in a way that legitimizes the current shift in Ukraine’s relations with the EU and Russia (see Table 1). For the Ukrainian political leadership, Europe and Russia constitute two opposing cultural–political spaces, and the future of Ukraine is envisioned in Ukraine’s joining only one of these spaces—that of Europe. The article rests on an analysis of political statements by the Ukrainian president, laws adopted by the Ukrainian parliament and position papers written by the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory in relation to the history of Ukraine and Ukraine’s contemporary relations with neighboring countries. During his presidency, President Poroshenko has been actively involved in a re-evaluation of Ukrainian history, with some observers even arguing that he created a specific ideological regime of history, language and culture. In his initiatives, the president relied heavily on the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory established in 2006 under the auspices of the Ukrainian government. The re-formatted institute and its newly appointed head, Volodymyr Viatrovych, played an active role in drafting and lobbying the 2015 decommunization laws (see Kasianov 2019). The institute in turn found support in the Ukrainian parliament given the re-configuration of the Ukrainian party system in the aftermath of the 2013–2014 Euromaidan Revolution (see Klymenko 2017).

1

 In analyzing historical narratives in Ukrainian foreign policy discourse, I relied on Polkinghorne’s (1995) work on narrative configuration in qualitative analysis. Polkinghorne argues that the researcher’s analysis of qualitative data first presupposes an identification of themes (and their relationships) that are often inductively derived from the collected data and then the presentation of his or her research report in the form of a coherent narrative that would be plausible for the reader. In other words, in the first step the researcher moves from narratives to common elements and in the subsequent step synthesizes the analyzed data by moving from common elements to narratives. For a broader overview of interpretative research methods, see Dvora Yanow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea’s work (2012, 2014).

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Narrating stories as a cognitive structuring of people’s experiences My understanding of a narrative is grounded in the multidisciplinary works of interpretive narrative researchers. Specifically, I draw on works on social and political narratives that offer not only a conceptualization of a narrative, but also insights into how narratives can be identified and analyzed in a research process (Patterson and Monroe 1998; Polkinghorne 2005; Wagenaar 2011; Shenhav 2015).2 Within this research, a narrative is understood as a personal or collective subjective cognition of the events happening around us, as a sense-making of the world, and as a mode of communication that is embedded in a particular cultural and political context. Hence, a narrative is characterized by its constructivist nature and is thus not necessarily true or false. It is structured in a particular way through the sequential and causal ordering of events that the narrative characters experience within a particular time and space frame—a narrative structure that is realized through linguistic means, such as the choice of vocabulary.3 The psychologist Polkinghorne (2005) views a narrative as a cognitive structuring that people use to temporally organize their actions and events. By narrating a story, people give meaning to particular events that they find important. Such a narrative structuring occurs retrospectively; in other words, a narrative unveils a person’s experience from the present perspective, not the past. As a cognitive process, a narrative helps us to understand how people organize events and incidents, for example by naming objects and linking events. This structuring takes on the form of a plot, through which a person weaves together individual elements to demarcate the beginning and the end of the story, selects specific events to be included in the story, orders these events, and makes the meaning of these events explicit. According to Polkinghorne, narrative structuring is characterized by the reconstruction of past events, narrative smoothing and the availability of cultural plots. He makes these characteristics explicit by explaining that life stories are not a simple recollection of the past, but an interpretation of past events in the context of present needs. The recollection of past experiences should be seen not as a replay of videotapes, but rather as a reconstruction of the past that undergoes interpretation. Narrative structuring involves a ‘smoothing’ process, namely the simultaneous condensation of the story and an expansion of its parts—all in order to produce a plausible explanation of events. Eventually, the interpretation of events is embedded within the repertoire of stories that are available in one’s culture, and is characterized by a particular gender, social standing, cultural background and so forth (Polkinghorne 2005, pp. 3–10). In his work on social narratives, Shenhav (2015) maintains that whether told by organizations, groups, families, cities, countries or companies, stories are part

2

  Some scholars distinguish between a narrative and a story. For them, a narrative is a succession of events, while a story is a chronological sequence of events and the description of characters (see Shenhav 2015, p. 19). I do not make such a distinction. 3   There is a growing scholarship on various sorts of narratives in international relations (see Berenskoetter 2014; Krebs 2015; Oppermann and Spencer 2016; Miskimmon et al. 2017), yet this article concentrates specifically on the use of historical narratives in foreign policy discourse.

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of people’s lives, varying in content, form and goal. Narratives, he explains, can establish a bond between members of a particular community and strengthen the emotional attachment between them. The stories that we tell can explain our identity—who we are and where are we heading—and can also act as reactions to situations that either a person or a collective experiences. Stories are used for justifying people’s actions and for mobilizing and persuading others. In other words, stories are used to structure people’s societal and political behavior. Under this definition, story creation entails the selection of certain events, characters and views, and this means that other views are going to be overshadowed or marginalized. In essence, the stories that people tell can reveal their understanding of their place in the world at a certain time (Shenhav 2015, pp. 1–8). According to political scientists Patterson and Monroe (1998), narratives play an important role in political behavior, as we (as individuals or collectives like nations or groups) create narratives to understand political events happening around us and to communicate this understanding to a community. As Patterson and Monroe argue, ‘[..] narrative also refers to the ways in which we construct disparate facts in our own worlds and weave them together cognitively in order to make sense of our reality’ (Patterson and Monroe 1998, p. 315). Patterson and Monroe identified several characteristics of a narrative. First, a narrative is usually about human beings that act as characters in the narrative. By analyzing the behavior of these characters, we interpret the events that take place around us. Second, a narrative usually presents what is held as ordinary and canonical and, in this way, it incorporates silences, that is, it omits information. Third, a narrative is usually constructed from a sequence of events that reflect how we recall and recount what is taking place around us, which means that a narrative is not necessarily about being true or false. And finally, narratives reveal the narrator’s perspective, that is, how the narrator or speaker organizes their experiences of daily life. For Patterson and Monroe, narratives often reflect the speaker’s identity, and hence, they often function as autobiographical accounts of the narrator. Thus, narrators tell not only what happened in the past, but also how they envision the future and how they conceive of themselves in relation to others (Patterson and Monroe 1998, pp. 315–317). In his work on interpretation in public policy analysis, Wagenaar (2011) emphasized four characteristics of narratives. For him, narratives—or, as he terms them, ‘stories’—are open-ended. This means that storytellers are concerned with providing an understanding of the events that happened and the choices made in everyday life. Wagenaar argues that stories are temporary and interactive. Hence, they are adjustable to the situation, and both the teller of the story and the audience may shape the story in a reciprocal way. Second, he sees stories as subjective. They are about characters or concrete people, but the plausibility of the story and its persuasiveness depends on the way in which the characters are portrayed. Stories reflect the way in which we master reality, and the real-life dilemmas are connected to concrete people, not to abstract issues. Therefore, when we discuss these dilemmas, we take sides and engage with everyday reality through an engagement with people. Third, stories are value-laden, which means that they are connected to moral questions. The characters in the stories have moral importance, and when we prefer one type of character over another, this becomes a question of moral concern. As a fourth issue, 35

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stories are action-oriented, in that they are told in order to provoke an action or to justify it. The story is not credible in the sense of its trustfulness or rightness, but more in the sense of offering a convincing connection between actions and consequences. Overall, stories function as an explanation, justification and instruction. Thus, they explain past actions and serve as an orientation for future actions (Wagenaar 2011, pp. 208–216).

Making use of historical narratives in Ukrainian foreign policy discourse The Kyivan Rus The Ukrainian policymakers’ narrative of the Kyivan Rus propagates the idea that in the ninth–thirteenth centuries, Ukrainians had their own nation-state, a prototype of the present-day Ukrainian state. This entity was culturally similar to Europe and different from Russia (see also Kuzio 2005). At the same time, the narrative promotes the belief that the Kyivan Rus was a European state, whose connection to Europe was grounded in the establishment of political alliances with Western and Eastern European countries through the marriages of the children of Prince Yaroslav the Wise to monarchs in Europe. Moreover, the Christianity adopted by Prince Volodymyr the Great is seen as an example of the common historical legacy between Ukraine and Europe. An example of such assertions is Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim concerning Princess Anna Yaroslavna. In May 2017, in an interview for the French media, the Russian president referred to the daughter of Prince Yaroslav the Wise as the Russian Princess Anna who later became Queen of France (Official Website of the President of Russia Vladimir Putin 2017). In response, President Poroshenko objected to this statement and replied that the named queen was in fact of Ukrainian origin. Her marriage to the French King Henry I, he asserted, demonstrated a century of Ukraine’s belonging to Europe. As the president stated: A lot of people are trying to stop our course of re-unification with Europe. It is certainly about re-unification because historically we were part of Europe. It goes back to the history of the ancient Ukrainian Prince Yaroslav the Wise and his Kyivan daughter Anna Yaroslavna, whom Putin tried to steal from us to make her part of Russian history. Today, Europe became a witness to his action (BBC Ukraine 2017).4 The Ukrainian president hence asserted not only a century-long tradition of Ukrainian statehood, but also pointed to a long history of friendly French–Ukrainian relations and of Ukraine’s belonging to Europe. This idea was further enacted during a visit by the Ukrainian president to France, where in June 2017 he laid a wreath 4

  All translations from Ukrainian into English are by myself.

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on the monument to Anna Yaroslavna in Senlis near Paris. In front of a crowd that joined him for this ceremony, he stated that Anna Yaroslavna is a symbol of a century-long partnership between France and Ukraine. Hence, the president concluded that her role in France showed that the fate and fortune of Ukraine lay in Europe (Radio Svoboda 2017). The Christianization of the Kyivan Rus by Prince Volodymyr the Great was also presented by the Ukrainian political leadership as a part of European history. For example, in February 2015 the president signed a decree for the commemoration of the millenary of the death of Prince Volodymyr the Great. The decree laid out a number of commemorative activities that had to be performed by the government, the National Academy of Sciences and city administrations in order to popularize the prince’s historical heritage. As we can read in the preamble to this decree, its purpose was as follows: To preserve and establish the traditions of Ukrainian statehood; to serve as a reminder of the role of the historical heritage of Rus-Ukraine in the establishment of the Ukrainian statehood; to acknowledge the importance of the adoption of Christianity for the development of the Ukrainian society as an inseparable part of the European civilization; to commemorate the memory of Volodymyr the Great, the prominent statesman, the Prince of Kyiv, the creator of the medial European state Rus-Ukraine on the occasion of the millenary of his death (Parliament of Ukraine 2015e). Hence, as the text of this decree reveals, the Ukrainian policymakers believed that the Christian religion played a defining role in the European identity. The Kyivan Rus of Prince Volodymyr the Great is seen in this respect as a European state and as the prototype of today’s Ukraine. In this context, in November 2017 the Ukrainian president also signed a law that introduced a new public holiday—the celebration of Christmas according to the Gregorian calendar (on December 25) (Parliament of Ukraine 2017). Hence, while sending his greetings on Christmas Eve in December 2017, the president argued that from that time onwards, Ukrainians should celebrate Christmas with the majority of Christians in the world and particularly those in Europe (Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko 2017e). The Cossack Hetmanate The Ukrainian policymakers’ narrative of the Cossack Hetmanate of the seventeenth–eighteenth centuries also promotes the idea that Ukrainians and Russians have different historical experiences. Similar to the narrative of the Kyivan Rus, the Cossack Hetmanate is also seen by the Ukrainian political leadership as a prototype of the current Ukrainian nation-state. In this context, Russians are perceived as colonial rulers, and the Ukrainian Cossack leaders are branded as fighters for Ukrainian statehood. Moreover, the Cossack Hetmanate is portrayed as sharing certain cultural and political traditions with Europe, whereas Russia is framed as a different cultural–political space. 37

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For example, the Cossack Hetman Ivan Mazepa is portrayed by the Ukrainian political leadership as a resistance fighter against Russia. The history of the Russian–Ukrainian relations during the Mazepa rule is primarily associated by Ukrainian policymakers with the 1709 Battle of Poltava, in which Mazepa sided with Swedish King Charles XII against the army of Russian Tsar Peter I. While unveiling a monument to Hetman Mazepa in the city of Poltava and also when commemorating the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the town of Baturyn as Mazepa’s residence, the Ukrainian president underscored that Mazepa had become a symbol of Ukraine’s resistance against Russia (Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko 2016b, 2019). He further compared Mazepa with George Washington, Simon Bolivar and Mahatma Gandhi, whom he named ‘fighters against imperial forces,’ and noted that all of these persons were considered by the empires against which they fought as traitors, whereas in the colonized countries they are seen as fighters for freedom and independence (Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko 2019). Mazepa’s struggle against Russia is simultaneously presented as a struggle for Ukraine’s rapprochement with Europe. In this context, whereas Europe and Ukraine are associated with modernization and enlightenment, Russia is perceived as a backward and barbaric country. This was particularly visible in the president’s speech on the occasion of the 350th anniversary of the establishment of Baturyn as Mazepa’s residence, where he used certain metaphors to underscore the difference between Russia’s and Ukraine’s relations with Europe. By saying that Russian Tsar Peter I was ‘hacking a window to Europe,’ the president implied that Russia in those days was an uncivilized and backward country. In contrast, Ukraine is depicted as being welcome in the European community as an equal and trustworthy partner. As the president stated: This had to be a wonderful European state. It was not in vain that the Hetman made many efforts to build churches and to develop culture, arts and science. We should not forget: When Peter I was hacking a window to Europe, Ukraine under Mazepa’s rule was walking in through a door (Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko 2019). In March 2015, the president also signed a law on the introduction of October 14 as a new public holiday—the Defenders of Ukraine Day (Parliament of Ukraine 2015d). According to the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, which pushed the president to adopt this holiday, the Defenders of Ukraine Day grew out of the Christian and national liberation movement’s tradition of commemorating the Ukrainian army. More specifically, the institute explained that October 14 is a day usually celebrated by Orthodox and Greek Catholic believers in observance of the Virgin Mary. Notably, she was first celebrated during the time of the Kyivan Rus and later became a patroness of Ukrainian Cossacks, particularly during Mazepa’s rule (Ukrainian Institute of National Memory 2019b). The Cossack Hetmanate narrative further advocates that Ukraine was already a part of democratic Europe even at that time. For example, another Cossack Hetman, Pylyp Orlyk, is honored for creating the first Ukrainian constitution. During his visit to Sweden in November 2016, President Poroshenko visited the State Archive of Reprinted from the journal

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Sweden and, after examining a Latin variant of the Orlyk constitution, stated that: ‘This is one of the first constitutions on the European continent and a symbol of the Ukrainian Cossack state and democracy. It is very important for Ukrainians’ (Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko 2016a). In his speech in 2017 on the Day of Ukraine’s Constitution, the Ukrainian president emphasized that the origins of the current Ukrainian constitution adopted in 1996 lie in the 1710 Orlyk constitution. He further argued that the adoption of the Orlyk constitution is proof that Ukraine already shared the notions of democracy, fundamental freedoms and good governance with Europe 300 years ago. As he stated: Today, on the Day of Ukraine’s constitution, in front of the monument dedicated to the great Ukrainian Hetman Pylyp Orlyk, we remember that the Ukrainian constitutional thought is 300  years old. Ukrainians have carried over centuries the understanding of equality, democracy and rule of law. We are creating such a state today. We are finally returning to the European home through the ratification of the Association Agreement with the EU, and through the adoption of the visa-free regime on June 11—and this is not only the right of visa-free travel to the EU, but also a final goodbye to the Russian empire. And we are re-unifying with a family, a part of which we have been for centuries (Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko 2017c). The Soviet Union In the narrative of the Soviet Union, the Soviet era of 1917–1991 is presented as a period of Russia’s occupation of Ukraine. Russia is perceived here as having inflicted suffering on Ukrainians, and Ukrainians are portrayed as having fought for Ukrainian statehood. In other words, Russia is seen as a colonial power and Ukraine as a colonized country (see also Klymenko 2017). In particular, the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UNR) that emerged during the 1917–1921 Ukrainian Revolution is considered a model for the quest by today’s Ukrainian nation-state to preserve its statehood against Russia’s aggression. In a manner similar to the previously analyzed narratives, in the narrative of the Soviet Union the Ukrainian political leadership propagates that Ukrainians experienced the twentieth century very differently from Russians, but similarly to people in (Eastern) European countries. The understanding that the Soviet Union was an empire in which Moscow stripped Ukraine of its sovereignty was a concept first laid out in the de-communization laws adopted by the Ukrainian parliament in April 2015. The law on the condemnation of the Communist and Nazi regimes defined the Communist regime of 1917–1991 as both ‘criminal’ and ‘totalitarian,’ in that it carried out state terror characterized by the violation of human rights. The law therefore prohibited the dissemination of Communist (and Nazi) symbols (Parliament of Ukraine 2015g). Another de-communization law regulated the access to Communist archival information and prompted the creation of a centralized state archive (Parliament of Ukraine 2015a). An additional law on honoring the fighters for Ukraine’s independence in the twentieth century identified a number of personalities and 39

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groups that are seen as having participated in the political or armed struggle for Ukraine’s independence, stemming from the period of the Ukrainian Revolution, the inter-war period, WWII, and the dissident movement of the late Soviet period (Parliament of Ukraine 2015b). The Ukrainian Institute of National Memory has explicitly explained that with the latter law, Ukraine has acknowledged Soviet Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine and Russia’s occupation and annexation of the entire Ukrainian territory (Ukrainian Institute of National Memory 2019a). Various events in the history of Soviet Ukraine are presented as periods of Russia’s control over Ukraine. For example, the 1917–1921 Ukrainian Revolution is conceptualized by Ukrainian policymakers as a struggle for Ukrainian statehood. In a decree issued on the occasion of the centenary of the Ukrainian Revolution in January 2016, the Ukrainian president laid out a number of commemorative activities. According to the decree, the commemoration was designed to honor the Ukrainian tradition of the struggle for independence and unity in the forms of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UNR) and the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic (ZUNR) (Parliament of Ukraine 2016). Moreover, the commemoration of the Battle of Kruty is viewed as honoring those young Ukrainian volunteers that fell in what is termed ‘Russia’s war against Ukraine’ (see also Klymenko 2020). The struggle by Ukrainians against Russia is portrayed as a struggle against a barbaric and backward country. This comparison was particularly noticeable in the president’s speech in January 2017 on the Memorial Day of Kruty Heroes when he used the metaphor ‘horde’ in reference to Russia. As the president stated: Today we commemorate the heroic deeds of young Ukrainians, […] students of the Kyiv higher education institutions and students of middle schools. On January 29, 1918, soon after the proclamation of the UNR’s independence, they halted the advance of the Moscow-Bolshevik horde toward Kyiv for several days. The heroic Battle of Kruty is forever inscribed in the national history, most of all as an example of freedom-loving and courageous Ukrainian people (Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko 2017d). In this regard, the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory claimed that the Ukrainian Revolution led to the restoration of Ukrainian statehood, the determination of Ukrainian territory and its borders, the establishment of Ukrainian national symbols (such as the coat of arms, flag and anthem), the reinstatement of Kyiv as the Ukrainian capital, the acknowledgment of the official status of the Ukrainian language, culture and history, and the creation of a tradition of a national army and a fight for independence. In conclusion, the institute argued that today’s Ukraine is the successor to the Ukrainian state that arose during the 1917–1921 Ukrainian Revolution (Ukrainian Institute of National Memory 2019c). At the same time, Ukraine’s struggle for independence in the early twentieth century is seen as a part of European history and more precisely as a part of the Eastern European past. Ukraine is narratively embedded in the context of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern European countries’ struggles for independence in the early twentieth century. While many of those countries became independent, Ukrainians are seen as having lost their chance. The Ukrainian president stated on Reprinted from the journal

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the commemoration of the centenary of the UNR’s proclamation of independence and the unification between the UNR and ZUNR: In reality, after the dissolution of the empires only Finland proclaimed its independence earlier than Ukraine. The Baltic countries, the countries of Central Europe, and the Balkan countries [gained independence] later than us. It is just that they kept their independence, but we did not! And why this happened [is something] we have to figure out today (Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko 2018b). The man-made famine of 1932–1933 (known as the Holodomor) and the political repressions of the 1930s are further presented in the policymakers’ historical narrative as Russia’s oppression of Ukrainians (see also Klymenko 2016; Kasianov 2010). In 2018, on the Memorial Day of Victims of Political Repressions in Bykivnia Memorial Park near Kyiv, the Ukrainian president lamented that Bykivnia bore the victims of the Moscow Communist regime (Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko 2018a). He further argued that the 1937–1938 Great Terror was a continuation of the Holodomor, which is seen as a part of Moscow’s policy of eliminating Ukrainians. In line with the Holodomor law adopted by the Ukrainian parliament in 2006, in 2017 the president highlighted that the Holodomor constituted a Ukrainian genocide. He further demanded that Russia—as the legal successor to the Soviet Union—should likewise acknowledge the Holodomor as a genocide of Ukrainians and should take responsibility for the crimes of the Soviet regime. As he explained in more detail in a speech on the commemoration of the Holodomor: The main motive behind the organization of the Holodomor was that Ukrainians were the second largest population of the Soviet Union and had a huge cultural-historical heritage, with their own traditions of statehood and experience of a national liberation struggle. Ukrainian intellectual circles and the Ukrainian economically independent peasantry did not accept Moscow’s policy, and that is why the regime aimed to liquidate Ukrainians as a nation that would have raised the question of independence sooner rather than later (Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko 2017b). In the narrative of the Soviet Union, WWII is also framed as a struggle by Ukrainians for independence from Russia (see also Klymenko 2019). The aforementioned law on honoring the fighters for Ukraine’s independence recognized the ultra-nationalist, anti-Semitic and extremist Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) as fighters for Ukrainian statehood (Parliament of Ukraine 2015b). As the Ukrainian president stated on May 9, 2015, during the commemoration of the end of WWII, ‘It [the UPA] was marching ahead of its time; it saw Ukraine as an independent state and not part of the Soviet Empire’ (Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko 2015). Both the 2015 presidential decree and the de-communization law on the commemoration of victory over Nazism in WWII require the Ukrainian public to honor the members of the Ukrainian national liberation struggle, 41

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apparently referring to the OUN and the UPA (Parliament of Ukraine 2015c, f). The Ukrainian Institute of National Memory also explained that the above-mentioned Defenders of Ukraine Day that takes place on October 14 is also known in Ukrainian history as the date of the UPA formation in 1942 (Ukrainian Institute of National Memory 2019b). At the same time, the Ukrainian policymakers’ narrative of the Soviet Union forges an understanding that Ukraine and European countries share a common history. This idea has been further enacted by the Ukrainian political leadership through the establishment of May 8 as a Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation (Parliament of Ukraine 2015c). As the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory explained in 2015, the introduction of this new commemorative day meant that Ukraine had started a new tradition of WWII remembrance, similar to that seen in European countries. With this move, Ukraine abandoned the Russian format of a Victory Day celebration and launched a new form of commemoration of war victims and war veterans (Ukrainian Institute of National Memory 2015). In 2016 and 2017, while commemorating the anniversaries of the end of WWII, the Ukrainian president further emphasized that with the establishment of a new commemorative day, Ukrainians have joined the European countries. As stated in his 2017 speech: ‘It is now natural that for the fourth year in a row, we commemorate May 8 together with many European countries as the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation. At 23:00 on May 8, 1945, the fighting stopped and Europe experienced the first minute of a long-awaited peace’ (Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko 2017a). The promotion of shared European history is also visible in the president’s speech delivered at a commemorative meeting with leaders of mostly Central European countries held in Gdansk on May 7, 2018. At the meeting, the Ukrainian president urged the European community to recognize Ukraine as a part of Europe, as in his opinion Ukrainians had made a great contribution to the victory over Nazism. As he stated: ‘Millions of Ukrainians gave their lives for the victory over fascism, and that is why Ukraine deserves to be a part of the European family’ (Radio Svoboda 2015).

Conclusion This article aimed to show how policymakers refer to past events in order to promote a certain foreign policy agenda. In contrast to previous studies on the use of historical narratives in foreign policymaking (Subotić 2015, 2016; Klymenko 2016, 2017, 2019; Sverdrup-Thygeson 2017), my goal was to uncover how the structure of such narratives—expressed through linguistic means—contributes to policymakers’ endeavors. By reviewing the works of interpretive narrative researchers (Patterson and Monroe 1998; Polkinghorne 2005; Wagenaar 2011; Shenhav 2015), the article discussed the notion of narrative as a social and political phenomenon, along with its structure and function. As a case study, the article examined Ukrainian foreign policy discourse in the context of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support for the separatist forces in Ukrainian Donbas. My intention was to unpack how the Ukrainian political leadership has promoted certain historical narratives that underpin Ukraine’s current shift Reprinted from the journal

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toward the EU and away from Russia. The analysis of narratives of Ukrainian history from the eras of the Kyivan Rus, the Cossack Hetmanate and the Soviet Union reveals that Ukrainian policymakers have promoted an understanding that Ukraine has historical experiences similar to those of the EU countries and different from Russia. Similarly to what has been observed by other narrative researchers (see Polkinghorne 2005, pp. 3–10), these narratives share a common structure in that they describe the events that happened to a collective (the Ukrainian nation) in a certain time frame (over centuries) in a certain space (Europe or Russia). In each of the three narratives, Europe and Russia are conceptualized as different political, cultural and religious spaces. In choosing between those ‘civilizations’ (as Europe and Russia are often called in these narratives), Ukraine is portrayed as sharing commonalities with the EU and differing from Russia. For example, whereas Europe is associated with the Christian religion, a democratic political order and cultural innovation, Russia is linked to notions of colonialism, authoritarianism, backwardness and aggression (see Table 1). Metaphorically, Europe is often called a ‘home’ and a ‘family,’ whereas Russia is described as an ‘empire’ and ‘Moscow’s horde.’ Given the structure of these historical narratives, it becomes evident that they should be understood not only as narratives of Ukraine’s past, but also as narratives of Ukraine’s future. In fact, the historical narratives created by Ukrainian policymakers serve to project their envisioned destiny of Ukraine. As narrative researchers emphasize, through narrating our past experiences, we tell the audience not only where we come from, but also how we envision our future (see Patterson and Monroe 1998, pp. 315–317; Shenhav 2015, pp. 1–8). In the case of Ukrainian foreign policy, the Ukrainian political leadership has used historical narratives to justify Ukraine’s aspiration to completely separate itself from Russia’s integration projects and become an EU member. The narratives created by the Ukrainian political leadership can thus be read as follows: ‘Since we Ukrainians have historical experiences different from Russia’s, we are entitled to be a nation-state independent from Russia, and since we share a common European history, we hold the right to EU membership.’ In this way, by drawing a causal link between Ukraine’s past and present, the Ukrainian policymakers appealed to the EU community to acknowledge their common European history, which in turn justifies their common future. As pointed out by some scholars, by describing a common past, people and political institutions suggest that they have a common identity and they urge other political actors to recognize it (see Patterson and Monroe 1998, p. 316). Moreover, through the construction of historical narratives, the Ukrainian policymakers elevated the question of Ukraine’s EU membership as a moral concern for the EU. This is particularly evident in the speeches in which the Ukrainian president pointed out Ukraine’s role in the making of Europe, for example by emphasizing the efforts Ukrainians made in the development of European democracy in the eighteenth century, and in fighting Nazism in WWII. As highlighted by narrative researchers, the moral importance of the stories is in fact one of its essential features, since by telling a story we do not engage with abstract issues, but rather deal with everyday reality and the questions deemed important to our personal lives and the life of a collective (Wagenaar 2011, p. 213). Phrases such as ‘We are finally returning to the European home,’ ‘We 43

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are re-unifying with the [European] family’ or ‘Our course of re-unification with [Europe]’ found in the president’s speeches create the illusion that today’s Ukraine is an old political and cultural formation, as are Europe and Russia. This historicizing of countries’ origins seems to be a recurrent feature in the foreign policy discourses of other countries. As previous studies have shown, a similar narrative of common European history was used by political leaders in Central European countries in the early 1990s to justify their ambitions to become EU members (Tulmets 2014). In terms of limitations, it is acknowledged that this article remains limited as to what Ukrainian policymakers said in their narratives about the past. As such, it does not unpack those aspects of the past about which they remained silent. As we know from research on narratives, telling a story involves selective appropriation, meaning that it is up to the narrator as to what to include in and omit from his or her story. Hence, the constructive nature of a narrative allows for different stories about the past (Polkinghorne 1995, p. 10; Patterson and Monroe 1998, p. 316). In fact, previous studies have observed how historical narratives became a point of contestation in interstate relations in the post-Communist region, for example in the context of Serbian and Croatian narratives of the Communist era (Subotić 2013), and Estonian and Russian narratives of WWII (Lehti et  al. 2008). In reference to Ukraine, some works have pointed to the contested interpretation of the 1932–1933 famine in Ukraine and Russia (Klymenko 2016), and of WWII (specifically that of the OUN and the UPA) in Ukraine, Russia and the EU (Shevel 2015; Klymenko 2019), so further examinations of similar cases would provide an interesting extension to this study.5 Acknowledgements  I would like to express my gratitude to Mykola Makhortykh, Marco Siddi, Jelena Subotić, Oleksii Polegkyi and the two anonymous reviewers for giving me excellent suggestions on how to improve this article.

References BBC Ukraine. 2017. Poroshenko: Putin Namahavsia Vykrasty Annu Yaroslavnu do Rosiiskoi Istorii. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/ukrai​nian/news-40096​632. (Accessed: 31 October 2017). Berenskoetter, F. 2014. Parameters of a national biography. European Journal of International Relations 20 (1): 262–288. Government Portal. 2019. Association Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine. Available at: https​://www.kmu.gov.ua/en/yevro​pejsk​a-integ​raciy​a/ugoda​-pro-asoci​acyu. (Accessed: 23 April 2019). Kasianov, G. 2010. Danse Macabre. Holod 1932–1933 Rokiv u Politytsi, Masovii Svidomosti ta Istoriohrafii (1980-ti–Pochatok 2000-kh). Kyiv: Nash Chas.

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  Moreover, the historical narratives (particularly that of the Soviet Union) and consequently the foreign policy promoted by the Ukrainian political leadership during Poroshenko’s presidency were contested by some domestic political and societal actors. See, for example, Klymenko (2017) on the discussion of decommunization laws by political parties in the Ukrainian parliament and Shevel (2016) on public perception of the removal of monuments dedicated to Communist leaders and the renaming of streets and other toponymical locations in Ukraine.

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The role of historical narratives in Ukraine’s policy toward… Kasianov, G. 2019 Ukraine prepares to grasp the nettle of its history politics—Again. Available at: https​ ://carne​gie.ru/comme​ntary​/80001​. (Accessed: 21 November 2019). Klymenko, L. 2016. The Holodomor law and national trauma construction in Ukraine. Canadian Slavonic Papers 58 (4): 341–361. Klymenko, L. 2017. Cutting the umbilical cord: The narrative of the national past and future in Ukrainian de-communization policy. In Law and memory: towards legal governance of history, ed. U. Belavusau and A. Gliszczyńska-Grabias, 310–328. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Klymenko, L. 2019. Forging Ukrainian national identity through remembrance of World War II. National Identities 22 (2): 133–150. Klymenko, L. 2020. The meaning of Kruty: Remembering the 1917–1921 Revolution and the struggle for Ukrainian statehood. In 1917 and the consequences, ed. G. Besier and K. Stokłosa, 96–110. London: Routledge. Krebs, R.R. 2015. Narrative and the making of US national security. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kuzio, T. 2005. Nation building, history writing and competition over the legacy of Kyiv Rus in Ukraine. Nationalities Papers 33 (1): 29–58. Lehti, M., M. Jutila, and M. Jokisipilä. 2008. Never-ending Second World War: Public performances of national dignity and the drama of the bronze soldier. Journal of Baltic Studies 39 (4): 393–418. Miskimmon, A., B. O’Loughlin, and L. Roselle. 2017. Forging the world: Strategic narratives and international relations. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Official Website of the President of Russia Vladimir Putin. 2017. Sovmestnaya Konferentsiya s Prezidentom Frantsii Emmanuelem Makronom. Available at: http://kreml​in.ru/event​s/presi​dent/news/54618​. Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. 2015. Vystup Prezydenta Ukrainy pid Chas Urochystostei z Nahody Dnia Peremohy nad Natsyzmom u Druhii Svitovii Viini. Available at: http://www.presi​dent.gov.ua/news/vistu​p-prezi​denta​-ukray​ini-pid-chas-uroch​istos​tej-z-nagod​i-d35278​. (Accessed: 3 March 2016). Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. 2016a. Prezydent Vidvidav Derzhavnyi Arkhiv Korolivstva Shvetsii, de Zberihaietsia Latynskyi Variant Konstytutsii Pylypa Orlyka. Available at: https​://www.presi​dent.gov.ua/news/prezi​dent-vidvi​dav-derzh​avnij​-arhiv​-korol​ivstv​a-shvec​ iya-de-38744​. (Accessed: 24 April 2019). Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. 2016b. Vystup Prezydenta pid Chas Vidkryttia Pamiatnyka Hetmanu Ukrainy Ivanu Mazepi u Poltavi. Available at: https​://www.presi​dent. gov.ua/video​s/vistu​p-prezi​denta​-pid-chas-vidkr​ittya​-pamya​tnika​-getma​nu-ukr-192. (Accessed: 27 November 2019). Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. 2017a. Vystup Prezydenta pid Chas Uchasti v Aktsii ‘Persha Khvylyna Mury’. Available at: http://www.presi​dent.gov.ua/news/vistu​ p-prezi​denta​-pid-chas-akciy​i-persh​a-hvili​na-miru-u-den-37079​. (Accessed: 10 July 2018). Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. 2017b. Vystup Prezydenta Ukrainy Pid Chas Vshanuvannia Pamiati Zhertv Holodomoru 1932–33 Rokiv v Ukraini. Available at: https​:// www.presi​dent.gov.ua/news/vistu​p-prezi​denta​-ukray​ini-pid-chas-vshan​uvann​ya-pamya​ti-zhe-44698​. (Accessed: 10 December 2018). Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. 2017c. Vystup Prezydenta z Nahody Dnia Konstytutsii Ukrainy. Available at: https​://www.presi​dent.gov.ua/news/vistu​p-prezi​denta​-ukray​ini-znagod​i-dnya-konst​ituci​yi-ukray​i-42106​. (Accessed: 24 April 2019). Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. 2017d. Zvernennia do Ukrainskoho Narodu u Zviazku z Dnem Pamiati Heroiv Krut. Available at: http://www.presi​dent.gov.ua/news/ zvern​ennya​-do-ukray​insko​go-narod​u-u-zvyaz​ku-z-dnem-pamya​ti-g-39798​. (Accessed: 8 November 2017). Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. 2017e. Zvernennia Prezydenta z Nahody Sviatkuvannia Rizdva Khrystovoho za Hryhorianskym Kalendarem. Available at: https​://www. presi​dent.gov.ua/news/zvern​ennya​-prezi​denta​-ukray​ini-z-nagod​i-svyat​k uvan​nya-rizdv​a-45226​. (Accessed: 24 April 2019). Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. 2018a. Vystup Prezydenta na Tseremonii Vshanuvannia Pamiati Zhertv Politychnykh Represii. Available at: https​://www.presi​dent.gov. ua/news/vistu​p-prezi​denta​-na-cerem​oniyi​-vshan​uvann​ya-pamya​ti-zhert​v-47562​. (Accessed: 6 May 2019). Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. 2018b. Vystup Prezydenta Ukrainy na Urochystomu Zibranni z Nahody Dnia Sobornosti Ukrainy ta 100-richchia Proholoshennia

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L. Klymenko Nezalezhnosti UNR. Available at: https​://www.presi​dent.gov.ua/news/vistu​p-prezi​denta​-ukray​ini-nauroch​istom​u-zibra​nni-z-nagod​i-45530​. (Accessed: 6 May 2019). Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. 2018c. Vystup Prezydenta z Nahody 1030-Richchia Khreshchennia Kyivskoi-Rusi Ukrainy. Available at: https​://www.presi​dent.gov.ua/ news/vistu​p-prezi​denta​-z-nagod​i-1030-richc​hya-hresh​ennya​-kiyiv​sko-48870​. (Accessed: 14 May 2019). Official Website of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. 2019. Ivan Mazepa Stav Spravzhnim Symvolom Ukrainskoho Sprotyvu Rosii—Prezydent u Baturyni. Available at: https​://www.presi​dent.gov. ua/news/ivan-mazep​a-stav-sprav​zhnim​-simvo​lom-ukray​insko​go-sprot​ivu-r-53866​. (Accessed: 24 April 2019). Oppermann, K., and A. Spencer. 2016. Telling stories of failure: Narrative constructions of foreign policy Fiascos. Journal of European Public Policy 23 (5): 685–701. Parliament of Ukraine. 2015a. Pro Dostup do Arkhiviv Represyvnykh Orhaniv Komunistychnoho Totalitarnoho Rezhymu 1917–1991 Rokiv, No 316-VIII. Available at: http://zakon​2.rada.gov.ua/laws/ show/316-19. (Accessed: 6 April 2016). Parliament of Ukraine. 2015b. Pro Pravovyi Status ta Vshanuvannia Pamiati Bortsiv za Nezhalezhnist Ukrainy u 20 Stolitti, No 314-VIII. Available at: http://zakon​3.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/314-19. (Accessed: 30 March 2016). Parliament of Ukraine. 2015c. Pro Uvichnennia Peremohy nad Natsyzmom u Druhii Svitovii Viini 1939– 1945 Rokiv, No 315-VIII. Available at: http://zakon​3.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/315-19. (Accessed: 30 March 2016). Parliament of Ukraine. 2015d. Pro Vnesennia Zmin do Statti 73 Kodeksu Zakoniv pro Pratsiu Ukrainy, No 238-VIII. Available at: https​://zakon​.rada.gov.ua/go/238-19. (Accessed: 24 April 2019). Parliament of Ukraine. 2015e. Pro Vshanuvannia Pamiati Kniazia Kyivskoho Volodymyra Velykoho— Tvortsia Seredniovichnoi Yevropeiskoi Derzhavy Rusy-Ukrainy, No 107/2015. Available at: https​:// zakon​.rada.gov.ua/go/107/2015. (Accessed: 24 April 2019). Parliament of Ukraine. 2015f. Pro Zakhody z Vidznachennia u 2015 Rotsi Peremohy nad Natsyzmom u Yevropi ta 70-i Richnytsi Zavershennia Druhoi Svitovoi Viiny, No 169/2015. Available at: http:// zakon​2.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/169/2015. (Accessed: 1 April 2016). Parliament of Ukraine. 2015g. Pro Zasudzhennia Komunistychnoho ta Natsional-Sotsialistychnoho (Natsyskoho) Totalitarnykh Rezhymiv v Ukraini ta Zaboronu Propahandy Ikhnioi Symvoliky, No 317VIII. Available at: http://zakon​5.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/317-19. (Accessed: 30 March 2016). Parliament of Ukraine. 2016. Pro Zakhody z Vidznachennia 100-Richchia Podii Ukrainskoi Revolutsii 1917–1921 Rokiv, No 17/2016. Available at: http://zakon​.rada.gov.ua/go/17/2016. (Accessed: 13 November 2017). Parliament of Ukraine. 2017. Pro Vnesennia Zmin do Statti 73 Kodeksu Zakoniv pro Pratsiu Ukrainy Shchodo Sviaktovykh i Nerobochych Dniv, No 2211-VIII. Available at: https​://zakon​.rada.gov.ua/ go/2211-19. (Accessed: 24 April 2019). Parliament of Ukraine. 2018a. Pro Natsionalnu Bezpeku Ukrainy, No 2469-VIII. Available at: https​:// zakon​.rada.gov.ua/go/2469-19. (Accessed: 23 April 2019). Parliament of Ukraine. 2018b. Pro Osoblyvosti Derzhavnoi Polityky iz Zabezpechennia Derzhavnoho Suverenitetu Ukrainy na Tymchasovo Okupovanykh Terytoriiakh u Donetskii ta Luhanskii Oblastiakh, No 2268-VIII. Available at: https​://zakon​.rada.gov.ua/go/2268-19. (Accessed: 23 April 2019). Patterson, M., and K.R. Monroe. 1998. Narrative in political science. Annual Review of Political Science 1 (1): 315–331. Polkinghorne, D. 1995. Narrative configuration in qualitative analysis. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 8 (1): 5–23. Polkinghorne, D. 2005. Narrative psychology and historical consciousness: Relationships and perspectives. In Narration, identity, and historical consciousness, ed. J. Straub, 3–22. New York: Berghahn Books. Radio Svoboda. 2015. Ukraina—Tse Novyi Front Yevropy—Poroshenko v Gdansku. Available at: https​:// www.radio​svobo​da.org/a/27000​625.html. (Accessed: 8 May 2019). Radio Svoboda. 2017. Poroshenko Poklav Kvity do Monumenta Korolevi Anni Kyivskii u Frantsii (video). Available at: https​://www.radio​svobo​da.org/a/28580​238.html. (Accessed: 12 May 2019). Schwartz-Shea, P., and D. Yanow. 2012. Interpretive research design: Concepts and processes. New York: Routledge. Shenhav, S. 2015. Analyzing social narratives. New York, NY: Routledge.

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International Politics (2020) 57:990–1011 https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-020-00252-6 ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Populism, historical discourse and foreign policy: the case of Poland’s Law and Justice government David Cadier1   · Kacper Szulecki2 Published online: 19 June 2020 © Springer Nature Limited 2020

Abstract This article analyses how, in Poland, the populist political orientation of the ruling party (Law and Justice—PiS) has coloured the historical discourse of the government and has affected, in turn, its foreign policy and diplomatic relations. We argue that the historical discourse of the PiS government is a reflection of the party’s reliance on populism as a  political mode of articulation in that it seeks to promote a Manichean, dichotomic and totalizing re-definition of the categories of victim, hero and perpetrator—and of Poland’s roles in this trinity. The article details the direct and indirect repercussions of PiS populist-inspired historical posture on Poland’s foreign policy by analysing its policies towards—and relations with—Ukraine and Germany. As such, the article sheds light on the under-explored links between populism and historical memory and makes a contribution to the nascent scholarship on the foreign policy of populist governments. Keywords  Populism · Foreign policy · Memory · Poland · Germany · Ukraine

Introduction As made explicit in the words of President Andrzej Duda upon entering office, the populist Law and Justice party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość—PiS) came to power with the intention both to ‘bring necessary corrections’ to Poland’s foreign policy (Duda 2015a) and to ‘fight for historical truth in relations with neighbours’ through an ‘active historical policy’ (Duda 2015b). These two undertakings have been pursued in parallel and have affected one another. Since the party won an

* David Cadier [email protected] Kacper Szulecki [email protected] 1

Sciences Po, Paris, France

2

University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway



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absolute majority in the legislatives elections of 2015 and took the reins of executive power, the historical policy of the PiS government has had, indeed, direct and indirect implications for the country’s foreign policy and diplomatic relations. This is most visible in relation to the international repercussions of the adoption of the IPN Act amendment (also dubbed the ‘Holocaust law’ abroad) as well to Poland’s policies towards two of its immediate neighbours, namely Germany and Ukraine. The PiS leadership has often resorted to anti-German rhetoric in political and historical debates while Polish–Ukrainian bilateral relations have deteriorated over historical memory. This contrasts not just with the policies and discourse of the previous government (Civic Platform, Platforma Obywatelska—PO), but also more profoundly with what had constituted Poland’s foreign policy tradition since 1989. The geopolitical and ontological project of the ‘Return to Europe’, which has for long been seen as going through Germany, and the strategic project of seeing Ukraine integrated in Euro-Atlantic structures have constituted, since 1989, crucial vectors in Poland’s foreign policy tradition (Kuzniar 2009; Zając 2016). But, in castigating Germany’s politico-cultural hegemony in Europe and going as far differentially emphasizing Poland’s ‘Easterness’ in that context, and in threatening Ukraine of blocking or delaying its (hypothetical) future accession to the EU, the PiS government appeared ready to discard—rhetorically at least—both vectors when put in the balance against memory politics. How profound are these apparent shifts and how are they linked to PiS’ posture on memory politics? What characterizes—and is distinctive in—the historical policy of the PiS government? How has it influenced or affected its foreign policy, in what sense and to what extent? In tackling these questions, the present article aims to address two empirical and theoretical puzzles. On the one hand, it unpacks the content and foundations of the historical discourse and policy of the PiS government with a view to determine how much they are a reflection of the party’s populist orientation. On the other hand, it sheds light on how historical discourse, whether reflecting an ideological, strategic or accidental practice by governments, can spill over foreign policy. In doing so, we thus approach the question of the relationship between history and foreign policy from two sides: we look at how domestic historical policy can have immediate repercussions on diplomatic relations and at how populist-historical discursive practices can be reflected in—and influence—foreign policy. From a political and ideological point of view, PiS can be characterized as a conservative, nationalist and populist party (Szczerbiak 2017; Stanley and Czesnik 2019; Rooduijn et  al. 2019). Conservatism and, especially, nationalism certainly constitute important foundations in the party’s attitudes and approach towards historical memory. Yet, they are not sufficient to explain, in themselves, the contrasts and characteristics noted above. For instance, while the nationalist positioning of the PiS government could have led to expect a renewed and radical emphasis on Russia in its historical discourse and foreign policy, even more so as the party had made of the 2010 Smolensk plane crash a ‘foundational myth’ when in the opposition, the distinctiveness of PiS positions in its first years in office pertained more to Germany

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or Ukraine than to Russia.1 Similarly, while PiS’ conservatism helps elucidate some of the government’s positions on the Communist period, such as the emphasis on the illegitimate character of the regime to the extent of denying the period between 1945 and 1989 as counting as Polish statehood (see for instance: BBC 2018), it appears less relevant in explaining its distinctive attitudes towards World War II and the Holocaust. As detailed below, these attitudes can be characterized as a proactive attempt to promote a Manichean, dichotomous and totalizing re-definition of Poland’s role and place in the victim-hero-perpetrator trinity. With regard to the first of the aforementioned puzzles, we argue that, beyond its nationalist and conservative roots, the historical discourse of the PiS government is also a reflection of its reliance on populism as a political practice and discursive mode of articulation. There is little scholarship available on the relationship between populism and memory politics, and the article thus aims to make a contribution in that sense. We identify a number of patterns by which populist practice or rhetorical strategies might be reflected in historical discourse, which we illustrate with reference to the case of PiS. Identifying what characterizes and animates the historical discourse of the PiS government does not suffice, however, to anticipate, capture or understand its effects on foreign policy. This requires identifying the pathways through which history and memory, as it is processed by societies and used by governments, might come to influence foreign policy outputs. We approach historical representations as discursive constructions, which allows both to integrate their contingent and constructed nature and to conceptualize their effects on foreign policy outputs. Policy-makers constantly have to articulate their policy preferences with historical markers from the nation’s security imaginary and, as such, shape and are constrained by the structures of signification in which foreign policy is formulated and debated (Weldes 1999; Waever 2002; Hansen 2006). Through their articulatory practice, policymakers and political leaders produce meaning and representations of Self and Other that come to inform the definition of the national interest and enable certain policies while disabling others. We argue that the historical discourse of the PiS government is empowering certain resonant rhetorical commonplaces, interpretations and narratives which turn some policy options more operational and ‘legitimate’ while effectively ruling out alternatives (compare: Krebs and Jackson 2007). As such, by shedding light on how historical narratives animated by the articulatory practice of populism come to influence foreign policy practice, we contribute to the nascent but growing literature on the relationship between populism and foreign policy (Chryssogelos 2017; Verbeek and Zaslove 2017; Plagemann and Destradi 2019; Wojczewski 2019; Cadier 2019b).

1

  Russia became prominent in the historical discourse of the PiS government as of 2019 and in the context of a historical dispute over the causes of World War II and responsibility for the Holocaust largely triggered by Vladimir Putin. See: ‘Russia and Poland’s Holocaust War of Words, in Quotes’, The Moscow Times, 20 January 2020. https​://www.themo​scowt​imes.com/2020/01/28/russi​a-and-polan​ds-holoc​ aust-war-of-words​-in-quote​s-a6906​6.

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The argument is developed in successive steps. First, relying on the work of Ernesto Laclau and his followers, we conceptualize populism as a discursive practice and set forth a number of hypotheses about how it might translate or be reflected into historical narratives. Subsequently, building on the discourse analysis literature in Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA), we present the theoretical framework underpinning our investigation of the influence of memory politics and historical discourse on foreign policy. Then, we analyse the PiS government’s domestic historical discourse showing how it reflects the party’s populist orientation. Finally, case studies of Warsaw’s policies towards Germany and Ukraine and a discussion of the international implications of the IPN Act elucidate how the historical posture of the PiS government has spilled over Poland’s foreign policy. The conclusion summarizes the findings and their implications for the study of the relationship between populism, history and foreign policy.

Populism, history and foreign policy: a conceptual framework Populism and historical discourse The task of capturing the specific characteristics of populism is rendered intricate by the historical, geographical and political diversity of the movements coming under—but rarely claiming—this label. In this context, scholars of comparative politics have set forth and relied on different theoretical lenses to define and characterize populism, conceptualizing it alternatively as a thin or ‘thin-centred ideology’ (Mudde 2004; Stanley 2008), a political strategy (Weyland 2017), a political style (Moffitt and Tormey 2014) or a discourse (Stavrakakis and Katsambekis 2014). In our endeavour to unpack how the PiS government’s populist orientation underpins its attitude towards historical memory and affects, in turn, its foreign policy, we regard the theoretical position conceptualizing populism as a discourse as being the most promising and most appropriate. Quite simply, it is as discourse that historical representations are accessible to the analyst and it is thus at this level that their relationship to populism and foreign policy can (and should) be investigated. The approach conceptualizing populism as a discursive mode of political articulation has been above all developed by Laclau (2005a, b), building on the broader social theory he established with Chantal Mouffe (2001) and that has been expanded by their followers (Howarth et  al. 2000; Howarth and Torfing 2005). The basic epistemological contention of this position—and of discourse analysis more generally (Jørgensen and Phillips 2002; Dunn and Neumann 2016)—is that language is performative and relational. It is performative in the sense that it does not simply express or reflect but more profoundly constitutes social reality. Language is also relational in the sense that meaning and social identities are constructed through contingent relations between terms (or signifiers). Actors produce, reproduce and contest these relations through their discursive practices: they mobilize, weave together and establish chains of connotations between pre-existing linguistic elements in a bid to construct arrangements of meaning—a process referred to as articulation (Laclau and Mouffe 2001, 105). Discourses are produced out of these Reprinted from the journal

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articulatory practices and constitute, as such, ‘social and political construction that establishes a system of relations between different objects and practices, while providing positions with which social agents can identify’ (Howarth and Stavrakakis 2000, 3). Populism is one such discourse. It is performative in the sense that it does not simply ‘express some kind of original popular identity [but] actually constitutes the latter’ and it is relational in the sense that this identity is constructed in opposition to ‘the power’ (or ‘elite’) and around the nodal point ‘the people’ (Laclau 2005b, 48). What makes a movement populist then is not its actual political or ideological contents, but the particular logic of articulation of these contents (ibid. 33). This logic is characterized by two processes: the construction of an equivalential chain between unsatisfied demands and the creation of an internal frontier dichotomizing the social. On the one hand, the populist discourse establishes a link between heterogeneous social demands on the negative basis that they remain unfulfilled. Particular demands find themselves aggregated with other unrelated demands, thus losing their particularistic character to acquire a universal one and forming a chain of equivalence that constitutes a popular subject (ibid. 35–38). This leads the populist discourse, on the other hand, to advance an antagonistic representation of society as being divided between two camps, the power (or establishment) and the underdog. PiS very much relies on these two processes in its political discourse, which helped it gain power by aggregating dispersed grievances of different groups and classes under the joint notion of ‘Poland in ruin’—depicting a weak state in which the societal majority suffers poverty in contrast to and because of the alienating liberal elite. What is likely to be consequential for policy in particular is the mechanisms or articulatory practices through which the aforementioned internal frontiers and equivalential chains are constructed. The first is the totalization and castigation of the ‘power’ that is accused of frustrating social demands and that is denounced and opposed by populism, for the creation of a chain of equivalence and an internal frontier necessarily imply to represent the other ‘side’. Thus, as emphasized by Laclau, ‘there is no populism without discursive construction of an enemy’ (Laclau 2005b, 39). The second is the structuring of populist discourse around the nodal point of ‘the People’. The populist articulatory practice constitutes ‘the people’ and ‘the elite’ as the antagonistic poles of social reality, which can alternatively be defined in political, socio-economic, cultural or historical terms, open to constant re-definition or contestation. For instance, PiS politicians interchangeably castigate the representatives and supporters of the opposition of being liberal (in contrast to the conservative People), detached economic beneficiaries of unjust transformation (which exploited the People) or imitating the West (and scorning the pristine traditional People). Characteristically of the populist discourse, ‘the people’ is systematically constructed as an ‘underdog’ in a down/up political antagonism, while by contrast the nationalist discourse constructs ‘the people’ as ‘nation’ in an in/out political antagonism (De Cleen and Stavrakakis 2017). In the light of the above, we can expect the articulatory practice of populism to be reflected in historical discourses in two possible ways: either through the ‘construction of an underdog as an historical agent’ (Laclau 2005b, 47) or, conversely, through the construction of the historical agent as an underdog. 53

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On the one hand, populist actors might mobilize historical representations, symbols and narratives in the articulation of the populist discourse—that is in the creation of an internal frontier, the construction of a chain of equivalence, the interpellation of the popular subject or the othering of the elites. These articulations never take place in a political vacuum and thus research ought to study the ‘complex and antagonistic language games’ developed in a specific political culture around the claim of incarnating people’s interest and identities (Stavrakakis 2017, 538), games that might involve ‘recognition and idealization, rejection and demonization’. On the other hand, the structure or logic of articulation of populism can be replicated in historical discourse. Concretely, this would translate into dichotomous historical narratives that tend to position the country (or nation) as an underdog on a vertical axis and to castigate historical adversaries as ‘elites’. Historical discourse and foreign policy After having formulated a number of hypotheses about how populism as an articulatory practice might affect or be reflected in historical discourse, we now briefly turn to specifying how we expect the latter to influence foreign policy outputs. While rarely put in doubt, the ‘political consequences’ of collective memory, its effects on power constellations and policies, remain undertheorized (Müller 2002). The rich literature on memory studies has documented the contextual, contingent and politically consequential nature of historical memory (Halbwachs 1992; Lebow et al. 2006), yet without shedding light on the mechanisms by which it conditions policy outputs. On its part, the FPA scholarship grounded in cognitive psychology did endeavour to theorize such a causal pathway (Vertzberger 1986; Khong 1992; Houghton 1996), but often at the price of ignoring the contingent nature of historical memory and of treating it, instead, as given and unproblematic. We contend that the post-structuralist lens of discourse theory presented above allows both to integrate the constructed and contingent nature of historical representations and to conceptualize their effects on policies. Applying the same theoretical lens in studying, on the one hand, the relationship between populism and historical memory and, on the other hand, the relationship between historical memory and foreign policy also allows retaining continuity and coherence in our overall analytical framework. Discourse theory approaches foreign policy as a political argument. More specifically, it emphasizes and studies the ‘constitutive significance of representations of identity for formulating and debating foreign policies’ (Hansen 2006, 5). In promoting a policy preference or justifying a policy choice, it is indeed ‘always necessary for policy-makers to be able to argue where “this takes us” and how it resonates with the state’s vision of itself’ (Waever 2002, 27). For instance, in the foreign policies of Central European countries, the institutionalization of the ‘Return to Europe’ narrative had long meant that any policy options that would make a country appear ‘Eastern’ rather than ‘Western’ was deemed illegitimate (Szulecki 2015; Cadier 2019a, 84). Representations of identity and of the polity itself are not fixed, however, but subject to continuous negotiation, reproduction and contestation. In promoting their policy preferences or justifying their policy choices, policy-makers construct and Reprinted from the journal

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temporarily fix meaning through their articulations of the cultural raw materials and linguistic elements that constitute a state’s security imaginary and they produce, as such, specific representations of international politics and of the place of the state within it (Weldes 1999, 97–103). The manner in which meaning is produced and attached to various objects or subjects of international politics is ‘constituting particular interpretive dispositions which create certain possibilities [for policies] and preclude others’ (Doty 1993, 298): representations of foreign policy situations and of the national interest will condition how the former will be tackled and the latter defended. In other words, in promoting particular articulations of cultural and historical raw materials constitutive of a state’s security imaginary, a populist-inspired historical discourse might promote specific images of Self and Others, influencing how relations among states are represented and how the state might act. By delimiting the realm of the possible in terms of policy articulation and by creating interpretative dispositions, historical discourse contributes to disable certain policy choices while enabling others and, as such, influences foreign policy outputs. In analysing foreign policy, historical discourse must thus be approached as ‘framings of meaning and lens of interpretation rather than as objective historical truths’ (Hansen 2006, 7).

Against ‘pedagogics of shame’: the populist logic of PiS’ historical discourse In Poland, there has been a ‘high demand for historical narrations’ among the public, one that has been driven and fuelled by ‘political uses of history’ (Mink 2017, 36). The Polish context is notably characterized by a polarization between the proponents of a critical understanding of Polish history—an approach initiated in the samizdat (underground) literature under Communism that aims at complementing the deeply engraved collective memory representations of Polish victimhood and heroism with an exploration of Polish guilt—and those vehemently rejecting such approach as unpatriotic. This polarization owes at least as much to political than to academic cleavages and has become more acute since the 2000s (Traba 2009). PiS has had a clear, persistent and proactive position in these debates: it has long vilified the critical approach, dubbing it the ‘pedagogy of shame’ and charging it with undermining national strength by hinting that Poles should be ashamed of their nation. As expressed by PiS politician and Deputy Minister of Culture and National Heritage Jarosław Sellin, the party asserts that ‘wise historical policies should maintain pride in [Poland’s] past achievements’ and wishes to ‘put an end to the allegations that history should be left to historians only’ (cited in: Żuk 2018, 1052). Since it came to power, the PiS government has sought, through its historical policy, not only to undo the projects associated with the critical approach, but also more profoundly to ‘overturn the historical narratives in place up to 2015 by advancing a hegemonic vision of [Polish] history in the twentieth century’ (Mink 2017, 45). It has done so through administrative and legislative acts, such as the takeover of the World War II Museum in Gdansk, the establishment of a Polish National Foundation and state support for the nongovernmental Polish League Against Defamation, 55

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and finally the IPN Act that criminalized mentions of Polish involvements in crimes committed during WWII and extended the mandate of the Institute of National Remembrance (Instytut Pamięci Narodowej—IPN) to protecting Poland’s reputation abroad (Janicki and Władyka 2015; Charnysh and Finkel 2018; Siddi and Gaweda 2019). What is generally referred to as the ‘IPN Act’ is, in fact, a 2018 amendment to the 1998 legislation formally entitled the ‘Act on the Institute of National Remembrance’. The amendment notably changed two of its articles (Article 2 and 55a), introducing a fine and a possible 3-year prison sentence for any claims made ‘publicly and contrary to the facts, that the Polish Nation or the Republic of Poland is responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich’ (Bucholc and Komornik 2019; IPN 2018). In essence, the aim is to promote a ‘set of interpretations of past event as correct understandings of [the] nation’s historical experiences’, which can then be used by the government to legitimize contemporary ideologies and policies since remembrance constitutes a ‘powerful instrument of social mobilization, identity construction and political competition’ (Wawrzyński 2017, 297, 294). To be sure, PiS historical policy ought to be placed in context: it takes root in the domestic debates and polarization described above and it largely filled a gap left open by the previous governments (Harper 2018), ramping up some instruments of memory politics that were already in place (such as the IPN). In addition, it should be noted that several of PiS core positions are actually shared across the board in Poland,2 while many of those that are distinctive often proceed from its nationalist and conservative political ideology and agenda. At the same time, however, we argue that the manner in which PiS’ historical arguments are articulated also reflects the discursive practice of populism to a significant extent. In its structure, PiS’ historical discourse partly reproduces the dichotomous and totalizing logic of articulation that characterizes populism. The gist of PiS historical argument on WWII, and the core of its revision of Holocaust historiography as reflected in the amended IPN Act, is that victims cannot be perpetrators (but can be heroes): the (undeniable) heavy suffering of Poland and its people in the conflict means that they cannot be associated with or accused of acts that belong to the perpetrator category. This appeared clearly, for instance, when, in reacting to a new US law on compensations for spoiled properties of individual Polish Jews, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki declared ‘let’s remember the tragic history of the Polish nation … we were the most murdered victims here during WWII and for this reason we will never agree to [pay] any compensation for anyone’, while the PiS chairman Jarosław Kaczyński stated that ‘Poland has no [financial] war obligations, whether from a legal point of view or from the point of view of fundamental morality and decency’.3 In PiS’ historical discourse, the categories of ‘victims’ and ‘perpetrators’ 2

  This is true, for instance, of the emphasis on Poland’s martyrdom and heroism in WW2, the adherence to the totalitarian paradigm equating Nazism and Communism or the belief in a special Polish role in Europe’s history (see: Siddi and Gaweda 2019, 4). 3  ‘Premier: nie będzie zgody na wypłatę odszkodowań z naszej strony’, PolskieRadio24, 05/05/2019. https​://polsk​ierad​io24.pl/5/1222/Artyk ​ul/23036​54,Premi​er-nie-bedzi​e-zgody​-na-wypla​te-odszk​odowa​ n-z-nasze​j-stron​y.

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are totalized and essentialized, just as for the categories of ‘people’ and ‘elites’ in the populist discourse. In addition, as for populism (Mudde 2004), this dichotomy is essentially moralistic: ‘attention is drawn to past tragedies in ways that could achieve moral and political gains’ (Charnysh and Finkel 2018). Secondly and more acutely, PiS has mobilized historical representations, symbols and narratives in the articulation of its populist discourse. In creating an internal frontier and othering the elites, PiS representatives have often taken the past as point of reference. They have notably discursively opposed the ‘bad elites of the liberalcommunist past’ to a ‘simple and real nation’, along the lines of a ‘dichotomous’ and ‘timeless’ division of society (Żuk and Żuk 2018, 137). In charging domestic liberal elites—such as the former dissident intellectual Adam Michnik and his influential daily Gazeta Wyborcza—with conceiving and promoting the ‘pedagogy of shame’, PiS politicians have sought to represent them as traitors ready to complicity sell out the pride of the Polish nation and to present themselves, by contrast, as patriotic defenders of the honour of the Polish people (Szulecki 2019, ch. 10). More specifically, PiS representatives have regularly established parallels between contemporary and past political antagonisms or between current and old elites, implicitly or explicitly associating liberal elites, and especially the former PO government and its policies, with the Communist regime or even with Nazi Germany.4 PiS politicians have regularly accused the liberal elites that oversaw the post1989 transition of having been complacent with Communist apparatchiks (see for instance: Duda 2015c) and actually came to represent the 1989 Roundtable talks as a ‘betrayal’ where ‘Communists shared power with their former agents’.5 This led the current Defense Minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, to claim that it is only under the PiS government that Communism officially ended in Poland (Mazzini 2018). This reinterpretation of history and the representation of a ‘communist-liberal past’ is directly relevant for foreign policy: following its electoral victory, PiS brought significant personnel re-shuffles upon the MFA, in the name of purging former agents of the Communist police but also, in practice, diplomats deemed too close to the ideas or leaders of the previous government. Finally and more generally, the PiS has sought to other liberal domestic liberal elites by castigating them as having been timelessly subservient to external powers. In Parliament, Jarosław Kaczyński directly addressed PO members in these terms: ‘you are the external party today, you are compromising Poland, you are against Poland. You have always been’.6 As

4

 For instance, in taking over the Gdansk WWII museum, which had been initially conceived by an historian close to the PO in line with the memory politics of the previous government, the PiS Deputy Minister of Culture Jarosław Sellin argued that ‘changes were necessary because the original exhibition purportedly adopted a German point of view’ (Siddi and Gaweda 2019, 10), while the former PO leader Donald Tusk, a member of the borderland Kashubian minority, is often depicted as a Nazi in PiS-related fringe right media. 5  ‘Podczas Okrągłego Stołu komuniści podzielili się władzą z własnymi agentami? Zybertowicz wyjaśnia’, Dziennik.pl, 07/02/2019. https​://wiado​mosci​.dzien​nik.pl/polit​yka/artyk​uly/59076​1,zyber​towic​ z-wales​a-okrag​ly-stol-komun​isci-agenc​i-wladz​a-prl-solid​arnos​c.html. 6  ‘Kaczyński do PO: “Jesteście partią zewnętrzną”’, Gazeta Prawna, 09/03/2017. http://www.gazet​ apraw​na.pl/artyk​uly/10260​95,kaczy​nski-do-po-parti​a-zewne​trzna​-pis.html.

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noted by Żuk and Żuk (2018, 142), the discursive categories of ‘external party’ or ‘abroad’ have a strong resonance in the ‘historical and martyrological awareness of Polish society’ as they evoke the Partitions of Poland and the loss of independence between 1795 and 1918 as a result of foreign invasions. Similarly, in PiS political discourse, the populist practices of creating a chain of equivalence and interpellating the popular subject have also relied at times on the articulation of historical raw materials. The chain of equivalence established between frustrated social demands is best exemplified by PiS foreign policy motto of ‘Rising from our knees’, which in its political subjectivization amounts to constructing an underdog as an historical agent. According to PiS logic, just as for ‘the people’ on the domestic political scene, Poland has been kept down on the regional scene by EU elites and European powers (Germany especially), with the complicity of domestic elites. In that sense, the motto reflects the kind of vertical political antagonism that was identified above as characterizing the populist discourse and the way it constructs identities. Historical resources are also mobilized to empower the figures of victim and hero, which are both fuelling the populist narrative of moral superiority of the (Polish) People. Clear parallels exist between the categories of victims and underdogs: PiS’ ‘reactivation of the myths associated to Polish martyrology’ (Kurska 2016) can at least partially be read as a feature of its populist discourse with the victim presented as historical underdog, but morally victorious. The nation’s ‘unique’ historical experience of martyrdom and courage is to justify its broader international mission. Krzysztof Szczerski, President Duda’s chief of staff and one of the key PiS foreign policy architects, wrote in a programmatic book that he was hoping Polish emigrants could ‘re-evangelise Europe’ as in his views ‘many countries are waiting for [Poland], the homeland of Saint John Paul II, to show the way again’.7 Here and elsewhere, PiS politicians implicitly invoked the image of Poland as a ‘Christ of Nations’, that is of a morally superior victim that has suffered for the greater good of Europe (Harper 2018, 133). Populism’s idealization of the people as pure and infallible (Müller 2016) can be seen as underpinning both a glorification of its heroism and a rejection of accusations of any historical wrongdoings. However, while the main audience for the party’s historical revisionism is at home, by casting the nation as a uniform agent, contrasted with other nations, PiS blurred the line between domestic and international narratives and its historical policies spilled over diplomatic relations and Poland’s reputation. The amended Article 55a of the IPN Act sparked international controversy and a flood of critique not only from foreign media and academics, but also diplomats and politicians, most importantly from Israel and the USA. For instance, the White House is said to have imposed a ban on Presidential-level meetings between the USA and Poland to protest against the act.8 Beyond this specific case and as we now analyse, PiS broader 7

 Cited in: ‘Minister Krzysztof Szczerski proponuje wystawianie Polakom katolickich paszportów’, Newsweek Polska, 24/04/2019. https​://www.newsw​eek.pl/polsk​a/minis​ter-krzys​ztof-szcze​rski-propo​nujewysta​wiani​e-polak​om-katol​ickic​h-paszp​ortow​-to/gr2e2​3s. 8

  ‘Trump and Poland: From Love to Hate in Under Nine Months’, Daily Beast, 03/09/2018. https​://www. theda​ilybe​ast.com/trump​-and-polan​d-from-love-to-hate-in-under​-nine-month​s.

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historical posture had repercussions on its relations with—and policies towards— Ukraine and Germany.

Implications for foreign policy practice: relations with Germany and Ukraine As noted in Introduction, the most salient alterations in Poland’s foreign policy rhetoric and diplomatic relations under the PiS government have pertained to Germany and Ukraine. In this section, we substantiate this point and analyse how historical representations and narratives related to these two countries have been articulated in Polish foreign policy discourse. We notably aim to determine whether and how much these articulations reflect the populist logic and to understand the implications for foreign policy practice. The cases of Ukraine and Germany offer variations for the analysis, both in terms of context and results. The respective attitudes of these two diplomatic interlocutors have, indeed, been markedly different: while Germany has maintained a (traditional) cautious approach towards historical memory as well as an explicit acknowledgement of its own historical guilt, Ukraine has displayed a much more offensive and confrontational posture, being itself engaged in a process of national identity building as well as in a war (Klymenko 2019). Furthermore, variations are also apparent in Warsaw’s own approach: while the PiS government has deliberately instrumentalized historical representations of Germany as a rhetorical device in its populist political discourse as well as foreign policy strategy, in the case of Ukraine it is more PiS domestic remembrance policy and its reactions to Kyiv’s own memory politics that have indirectly spilled over Warsaw’s diplomatic posture. Germany In a famous speech pronounced in Berlin in 2011, the then Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski declared that he was now ‘fearing German power less than German inaction’ (Sikorski 2011). In doing so, he was both casting aside Poland’s historical anxieties towards its powerful neighbour and calling for German leadership in Europe. In stark contrast, the PiS government regularly emphasizes historical grievances between the two countries and denounces Germany’s hegemonic position in Europe. Historical references to Germany are frequent in PiS foreign policy discourse. They notably appear along three patterns: diplomacy serving as a transmission belt for historical policy; historical experience invoked in the context of foreign policy strategy; and historical narratives being put at the service of populist politics. First, PiS historical policy translated into foreign policy to the extent that some of its constitutive statements or claims relating to Germany have been transmitted through diplomatic channels. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) took an active role in promoting the Polish historical narrative on World War II and in monitoring and combatting, through its network of embassies abroad, associations made between Poland and the Holocaust. For instance, on the Ministry’s webpage listing 59

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and detailing the thematic priorities of Polish diplomacy, ‘German Concentration Camps’ was listed along categories such as ‘Security Policy’, ‘Foreign Economic Policy’, ‘International Organizations’, ‘Polish Aid’ or ‘Eastern Partnership’.9 To be sure, a proactive denunciation of the fallacious expression ‘Polish Death Camps’ has been a constant of Polish diplomacy: between 2008 and 2015, the previous government had issued 913 statements in response to mentions of this expression (Poland’s Holocaust Law 2018). What is distinctive in the approach of the PiS government is, as evoked above, the totalization of the categories of victims and perpetrators and the regular insistence on Germany’s role. Accusing Berlin of attempting to diminish its responsibilities for the crimes committed during WWII the PiS has sought, instead, to emphasize them, notably by inviting for the term ‘Nazi’ to be systematically replaced by ‘German’ in historical accounts.10 Relatedly, parallels between Nazi and contemporary Germany have also been established and stressed in the context of PiS government’s revival of Polish demands for war reparations, which (Communist) Poland had initially renounced in the 1950s but that the PiS now demand from Germany as a long overdue historical justice (Poland Revives German War Reparations Demand 2017). Second, the PiS government has activated references to its historical experience in a strategic or instrumental manner. The rhetorical attacks against Germany and aforementioned emphasis of its WWII crimes seemingly redoubled, in fact, after the PiS government faced a Rule of Law infringement probe from the European Commission. World War II references were also mobilized in the debates on the refugee crisis. Invoking a clear distinction between good and evil, victims/heroes and perpetrators, they became an easily available tool for deflecting moral arguments raised against Poland’s refusal to accept even the smallest number of refugees. With Germany positioning itself as a champion of humanitarianism, Poland was—even if not explicitly— cast as a villain in European debates. The PiS government’s insistence on history as a forever returning reality and particularly the continuous reminding of Germany of its Nazi past can be read as an attempt to acquire, in these debates, a more favourable position of moral superiority in place of moral inferiority. It amounts, in other words, to a strategic (use of) historical narrative (see: Subotić 2016; Introduction of the Special Issue). Through a discourse analysis lens, whether the invocation of historical narratives and representations reflects an ideological belief or is used strategically is not relevant; they equally contribute to shape the structure of meaning in which foreign policy is formulated and debated and, as such, foreign policy action. Third and directly related to our concern here, PiS has also mobilized historical representations and narratives in the context of its populist logic of political articulation. PiS’ anti-German posture and rhetoric, which was already apparent when the party was in power between 2005 and 2007 (Longhurst 2013, 366), is largely rooted

9

 See: https​://www.msz.gov.pl/en/forei​gn_polic​y/germa​n_conce​ntrat​ion_camps​/.   For instance, in replacement of the expression ‘Polish death camp’, the Polish MFA has proposed the following on its aforementioned dedicated webpage: ‘German (Nazi) concentration camp/extermination camp in the territory of German-occupied Poland’. See: https​://www.msz.gov.pl/en/forei​gn_polic​y/germa​ n_conce​ntrat​ion_camps​/. 10

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in its national-conservative ideology. Germany is cast as the historical Other to the Polish nation and as the hegemonic power imposing cultural liberalism to the rest of Europe. But there is also something distinctively populist in the way Germany is represented—namely as the ‘elite’ or ‘establishment’—and in the way Poland’s identity is constructed in opposition—namely as an ‘underdog’—in the political and foreign policy discourse of the PiS government. Germany is charged with keeping Poland down (or on its ‘knees’) and with encroaching on its sovereignty, through its assets in the Polish economy and media, and with the complicit help of Polish domestic liberal elites, notably those from the previous PO government (Balcer et al. 2017, 4). It is in the context of this framing of Berlin as the ‘establishment’ of Europe frustrating Polish political demands that PiS policy-makers have not hesitated to invoke a distinctive historical ‘Eastern’ identity for Poland as a justification for rejecting Germany’s policies, cultural model and historical accounts.11 Such representation of Poland’s identity marks a significant departure from the ‘Return to Europe’ narrative, which had constituted both an ontological and geopolitical project for Poland and other Central European countries, leading policy-makers to emphasize their state’s Western identity and reject any associations with the ‘East’ (hence the insistence on ‘Central Europe’)  (Cadier 2012; Szulecki 2015). In that sense, PiS foreign policy practice reflects and feeds into a broader trend in Central Europe, namely the partial rejection of normative conformity and identification with the West in the context of a regional counter-hegemonic strategy (Kazharski 2018). In Poland, the formalization of this strategy is grounded in the political orientation of the current government and notably relies on populist articulations of historical references to Germany in foreign policy discourse. To what extent has PiS government’s, partially populist-inspired, historical discourse on Germany been reflected into its foreign policy practice? It should be noted first of all that there has been, overall, a discrepancy between a confrontational and uncontrolled rhetoric on Germany and rather cautious policy decisions. In addition, the rhetorical elements showcased above do not represent Poland’s foreign policy discourse towards Germany in its entirety: they have been paralleled by more traditional, positive diplomatic references to the close relationship between the two countries (see for instance: Szczerski 2016). Nevertheless, without having radically overturned it, the PiS government has brought upon concrete alterations in Poland’s Germany policy, especially in its first year in power. Upon entering office, it formulated four conditions for a normal partnership with Germany that were largely deemed as ‘prohibitive’ by analysts (Kuźniar 2016, 13). Most tellingly, in its programmatic speech on Poland’s foreign policy priorities for 2016, Foreign Minister Waszczykowski’s downgraded Germany from the place of top priority partner in the EU—which it had been occupying in Polish diplomacy since 1989—and conferred that role, instead, to the UK (Waszczykowski 2016). The aforementioned conditions were eventually dropped and Germany regained its place as top priority partner in

11

 See the interview with the director of President Duda’s press office: ‘Zawsze będziemy krajem Wschodu: Z Markiem Magierowskim rozmawia Łukasz Pawłowski’, Kultura Liberalna, 24/05/2016. https​://kultu​ralib​eraln​a.pl/2016/05/24/marek​-magie​rowsk​i-andrz​ej-duda-ocena​-prezy​dent/.

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the 2017 speech (in the meantime, the UK had voted to leave the EU), but these two outputs clearly illustrate PiS government’s foreign policy preferences. More profoundly, as expressed by German diplomats’ characterization of the PiS government as ‘unresponsive’ and as having ‘disappointed’ their own government, the bilateral relationship has deteriorated overall and reached one of its lowest point since 1989 (Buras and Janning 2018, 5). To be sure, the PiS government’s populist and historical discourse is not the sole constituent of its positions and decisions on Germany— opposing visions on the future of the EU, responses to the migration crisis, or contentious dossiers such as NordStream 2 and the desire to break with the pro-German orientation  of the PO government have also played a role. But this discourse has certainly enabled and empowered this policy direction and has been reflected in diplomatic practices, with implications for the texture of the bilateral relationship. Ukraine Ukraine has been a top priority of Polish diplomacy since it became independent in 1991. An independent and Western-oriented Ukraine is regarded by Polish foreign policy elites as a necessary geopolitical buffer against Russia’s power in the region and as being vital for Poland’s own security (Zwolski 2018, 180–181). This vision has notably lead Warsaw to be one of steadiest supporters of Ukraine’s accession to NATO and the EU. Furthermore, the advent of a democratic and friendly Ukraine is central to certain ideas and self-understandings that have been informing Poland’s foreign policy over the past decades, such the grand strategy project of ULB (an acronym for Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus) coined by émigré intellectuals Juliusz Mieroszewski and Jerzy Giedroyć (Szulecki 2016, 23), and the recurring idea of ‘Prometheanism’ (Kowal 2019).12 Overall, in its foreign policy decisions or in multilateral forums such as the EU or NATO, the PiS government has re-affirmed rather than put into question the traditional Polish geopolitical vision of Ukraine. But its domestic remembrance policy has spilled over its diplomatic relations with Kyiv, which have been marked by tensions over historical memory and have seen the Promethean idea being increasingly side-lined. An important factor prompting a rhetorical shift on Ukraine has been the tension between the ULB rationality, which purposefully brackets off historical animosities as unhelpful bygones, and PiS historical discourse in which Ukrainians are vilified as perpetrators in the same categories as German Nazis. In this relationship, the Poland’s victim figure rises to prominence, as the most significant symbol of Polish martyrdom at the hands of Ukrainian nationalists is the 1943–1944 Volhynia massacres, which saw some 60–100,000 Polish civilians killed. While the scale and atrocity of these events are historically undeniable, the blending of a nationalist lens and a populist articulation of the historical underdog suffering from alien Others obscures the broader context of Polish–Ukrainian relations in which the massacre occurred. 12

  Prometheanism emerged already under Poland’s century long partitions and ascribed a pivotal role to Poland as the Prometheus of Eastern Europe, carrying the flame of freedom to its fellow nations to the East.

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Unwilling to see Ukraine’s own griefs against Polish oppression as legitimate, the result of this meeting of a nationalist historical discourse and a populist denial of anything beyond own martyrdom fuels confrontation and spills over to bilateral relations in a context where Kyiv was itself adopting an uncompromising and radical posture. The resulting escalation in memory conflict between the two governments, which is analysed below on the Polish side (for an analysis of Ukraine’s policies, see Klymenko 2019), sharply contrast with the rather positive societal relations between the two countries, as illustrated by the fact that the massive recent influx of Ukrainian labour migrants have been well integrated in Poland. In this atmosphere where indeed on both sides of the border a nationalist perception dominates, the dynamics of radicalization cripples political dialogue. In July 2016, the Polish parliament voted on an act commemorating ‘all the citizens of the II Republic [of Poland] bestially murdered by Ukrainian nationalists’, called the Volhynia massacres ‘genocide’ and established a national day of remembrance (Sejm 2016). A monument commemorating the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) in South-Eastern Poland was dismantled, triggering Kyiv’s retaliation in the form of banning Polish exhumations and commemoration in Volhynia, as well as the work of Poland’s IPN on Ukrainian territory as long as the monument is not rebuilt. When in October 2016 Poland’s Minister of Culture and vice-PM Piotr Gliński visited Kyiv, he was unable to settle these issues with his counterpart, while IPN’s deputy director emphasized that ‘there will be no consent’ for attempts to build ‘triumph arches’ for UPA in Poland.13 PiS government emphasized martyrdom and the figure of the victim as the only legitimate one capturing the Polish experience of the wartime relations with Ukraine. Not surprisingly then, when the deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory drew parallels between the UPA and Poland’s Home Army (AK), casting the wartime ‘perpetrators’ on par with the ‘heroes’, Waszczykowski declared him a persona non grata in Poland and issued several travel bans, putting President Duda’s planned visit to Kyiv in question. Essentialized historical self-identifications (as victims) and essentializing neighbouring Others as (heirs to) perpetrators leads to a vicious circle in which every action of the other side is interpreted through historical-nationalist lens, thus confirming expectations and escalating distrust. In contrast to the German dossier, we can see that the employment of these historical commonplaces is not strategic action, but habitual and ‘organic’ in character, emerging from discursive practices rather than rational calculation. The Ukrainian MFA, echoing the historical letter issued by Polish Catholic bishops to their German counterparts in 1965 (Wigura 2013), asked for historical grievances to be dealt with in Christian fashion by ‘forgiving and asking for forgiveness’—a statement that was met with instant resistance from Waszczykowski.14 13

  ‘Polskie ekshumacje wciąż zakazane’, Rzeczpospolita, 26/10/2017. https​://www.rp.pl/Polit​yka/31026​ 9815-Polsk​ie-ekshu​macje​-wciaz​-zakaz​ane.html. 14  ‘Tyklo u Nas’, wPolityce.pl, 04/11/2017. https​://wpoli​tyce.pl/polit​yka/36551​4-tylko​-u-nas-waszc​ zykow​ski-o-oswia​dczen​iu-ukrai​nskie​go-msz-dosc-niefr​asobl​iwie-kopiu​ja-droge​-ktora​-polsc​y-bisku​pizapro​ponow​ali-niemc​om.

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As a party eager to drag in some fringe right constituencies, PiS has long flirted with milieus that cherish memories of Poland’s eastern Borderlands (Kresy), ranging from nostalgic ‘friends of Galicia’ to more revisionist radicals. This connection pushes the question of Poland’s eastern Borderlands up on the foreign policy priority list. Foreign Minister Waszczykowski used his visit to Lviv, a Polish city until the war, to accuse Ukraine of anti-Polonism and a lack of good will in bilateral relations, using the example of the treatment of the Defenders of Lwów military cemetery.15 Among these right-wing groups in particular, the historical image of ‘wild’ Ukrainian nationalists, the vilified UPA and the ideological leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), Stepan Bandera, are powerful and easily overwrite good neighbourly political collaboration. The rise of nationalism in Ukraine after 2014 was a seed that fell on the fertile soil of Poland’s security imaginary and fed the equalization of Ukrainians with ‘Banderites’. Despite clear nationalist and conservative credentials, these groups and by consequence, much of PiS mainstream, follows discursive tropes disseminated by Communist propaganda, which exploited the figure of the Ukrainian nationalist insurgent for its own purposes. The amendment of the IPN Act in 2018, apart from the ‘Holocaust clause’ in Article 51, also included a change to Article 2, which added crimes against Polish citizens committed by ‘Ukrainian nationalists’.16 While in 2019 it was declared unconstitutional and void by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal and blocked by the President, it caused a recurring controversy in Ukrainian media and among Ukrainian historians and policy-makers. In spite of its radical rhetoric, however, the PiS government has not fundamentally altered Poland’s foreign policy when it comes to Ukraine. Warsaw has continued to advocate Ukraine’s accession to the EU and NATO (in these multilateral forums especially), provide the country with economic support, and be actively engaged in initiatives condemning the 2014 annexation of Crimea and Russia’s actions in Eastern Ukraine.17 Symbolically, the PiS government has also carried forward and concretized the project of establishing a joint Polish–Lithuanian–Ukrainian brigade. However, diplomacy has at times been hijacked by domestic political considerations over historical memory. In the direct and unpredictable style that characterizes populist leadership, PiS representatives did not hesitate to make statements contradicting the policy pursued. For instance, during a meeting with a rightwing discussion club, the deputy MFA Jan Parys stated that ‘it is not the case that

15

 ‘Witold Waszczykowski na Ukrainie: "Komu przeszkadzały te lwy? Kto wszczyna problemy?"’, Gazeta Prawna, 05/11/2017. https​://www.gazet​apraw​na.pl/artyk​uly/10827​78,ukrai​na-witol​d-waszc​ zykow​ski-zlozy​l-hold-obron​com-lwowa​-na-cment​arzu-orlat​.html. Also known as the «Eaglet Cemetery» and constituting a part of Lviv’s largest historic cemetery, the Defenders of Lwów memorial is the burial site for the Polish soldiers and volunteers, as well as American and French allies, who died during the Polish–Ukrainian conflict over Lwów/Lviv in 1918 and the Polish–Soviet War of 1920. 16   The proposed amendment to Article 2, while passed through the Sejm with the support of the PiS majority, was proposed by the nationalist wing of the right-wing populist Kukiz’15 Movement. 17  Paweł Wroński, ‘Dalej wspieramy Ukrainę’, Gazeta Wyborcza, 16/12/2015. http://wybor​cza. pl/1,75968​,19351​493,dalej​-wspie​ramy-ukrai​ne.html?disab​leRed​irect​s=true.

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the existence of Ukraine is a condition for a free Poland … Ukraine needs Poland, Poland can very well do without Ukraine’.18 Similarly, invoking the example of Greece’s policies towards North Macedonia, Foreign Minister threatened to veto Ukraine’s hypothetical future accession to the EU unless Kyiv changes course in its memory policies.19 Thus, overall, while Poland’s economic and security relations with Ukraine remain relatively smooth, the contention around historical matters has undermined the broader political climate since 2016, ‘disorganizing Polish–Ukrainian relations’ as a think tank expert noted (cited in: Szoszyn 2017).

Conclusion Through an analysis of the case of Poland under the rule of the PiS government, this article has provided some insights into the relationship between populism, historical discourse and foreign policy. We have found a clear overlap between the political logic of articulation of populism and the historical discourse of the PiS government. On the one hand, the structure of the latter reflects that of the former in its Manichean, dichotomous and moralistic components. This is notably exemplified by the re-definition and totalization of the categories of victims, heroes and perpetrators in PiS historical discourse. The victim figure especially has become central to PiS domestic populist politics. This is made possible in the Polish context by the broad resonance and unquestionability of national martyrdom (Sitnicka 2019). But this also tends to confirm the links between populism and victimization that have started to receive attention elsewhere: just as re-elaborations of collective memories towards victimization appear to create cultural opportunity structures favourable for the rise of populism (Caramani and Manucci 2019), we can expect populist governments to have a greater tendency to emphasize victimization in their historical policy. On the other hand, the PiS government has often mobilized historical representations, symbols and narratives in its populist articulatory practice of creating an internal frontier, othering the elites and interpellating the popular subject as underdog. The castigation of liberal elites as undermining national strength by promoting a ‘pedagogy of shame’ about the past, the likening of these elites to historical foes or perpetrators such as Nazi Germany and the Communist regime, the invocation of the mythology around the heroic martyrdom of Poles and the political slogan of Poland ‘raising from its knees’ on the European scene all provide potent examples in that sense. These findings on how populism translate into a specific approach to memory politics would, of course, benefit from being tested in other national contexts, but they tend to indicate that, just as foreign policy (Wojczewski 2019), historical policy 18

 See: https​://natem​at.pl/22497​5,zdumi​ewaja​ca-wypow​iedz-szefa​-gabin​etu-witol​da-waszc​zykow​skieg​ o-istni​enie-ukrai​ny-nie-jest-warun​kiem-istni​enia-wolne​j-polsk​i. 19  ‘Waszczykowski dla "wSieci" o stosunkach polsko-ukraińskich: Nasz przekaz jest bardzo jasny: z Banderą do Europy nie wejdziecie’, wPolityce.pl, 3/07/2017. https​://wpoli​tyce.pl/polit​yka/34708​3-waszc​ zykow​ski-dla-wsiec​i-o-stosu​nkach​-polsk​o-ukrai​nskic​h-nasz-przek​az-jest-bardz​o-jasny​-z-bande​ra-doeurop​y-nie-wejdz​iecie​.

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can constitute a terrain for populist articulatory practice and the (re)production of a collective identity of the people. The shift in historical and foreign policy discourses under the PiS government has been especially salient when it comes to Germany and Ukraine. The patterns by which PiS populist articulation of historical representations has permeated foreign policy discourse as well as the implications in terms of foreign policy practice and outcomes have varied, however. In the case of Ukraine, the implications have been limited. The remembrance policy of the PiS government and correlated domestic political considerations have, along with Kyiv’s own confrontational posture in memory politics, indirectly impinged on the bilateral relationship, complicating diplomatic and political dialogue. Yet, this has not led to a re-definition of Poland’s national interest or foreign policy identity nor to a re-consideration of Poland’s policies towards and support to Ukraine—an independent and West-oriented Ukraine continues to be regarded by most mainstream policy-makers in Warsaw as a geopolitical barrier against Russia’s threat and as a necessary condition for Polish national security. In the case of Germany by contrast, the mobilization of historical representations in PiS foreign policy discourse has not only been the mark of diplomacy serving as transmission belt for its domestic remembrance policy, but also more profoundly a function of its populist political strategy. The PiS government has largely articulated Poland’s identity against Germany and has utilized historical references to World War II to claim moral superiority as victim/underdog, especially in response to the controversies around Poland’s refusal to welcome Muslim migrants. Without having driven or determined in and by itself foreign policy choices, this discourse has accompanied and enabled a partial change of direction in Poland’s policy towards Germany as well as a deterioration of diplomatic relations. As hinted by discourse theories in foreign policy, PiS populist articulation and historical discourse could have more long-term effects on policies if it durably installs new representations of Self and Other. Beyond the case of relations with—and policies towards—Ukraine and Germany, another important and concrete policy outcome was the international controversy around the IPN Act amendment of 2018, which attempted to institutionalize Polish victimhood, erase the remembrance of complicity in Jew-killing, and pave the way for a heroic grand narrative at home and abroad. The poorly prepared legislation and the broader rhetoric surrounding it led to an important international controversy which hurt Poland’s image abroad and made it vulnerable to attacks by other actors eager to promote their own revisionist historical policy, such as Vladimir Putin. The former director of Warsaw’s POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, who was forced to step down after a year-long stand-off with the PiS Minister of Culture who attempted to take over yet another critical and unruly historical institution, suggested that the damage done to Poland’s international reputation as related to the Holocaust and World War II remembrance ‘makes it unprepared for the kinds of attacks’ that Moscow had launched (Dariusz Stola cited in Tygodnik Powszechny 2020). Our analysis has shed light on how populist politics and its ramifications in historical discourse can affect foreign policy. More than translating into a clear and concrete foreign policy program, populism spills over foreign policy and feeds a Reprinted from the journal

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proclivity to over-prioritize domestic politics, engage in undiplomatic diplomacy and indulge in conspiracy theories (Cadier 2019b). This tendency was particularly visible in the recurring domestic struggle that PiS politicians led against what they dubbed a ‘pedagogics of shame’, or as we would see it—a critical approach to recent Polish history—of which the IPN Act was the most important, but by no means the only example. In its historical discourse on—and policies towards—Ukraine and Germany, the PiS government has also clearly sought to target and distinguish itself from its political opponents of the PO. All governments mobilize historical strategic narratives in foreign policy and populists are not necessarily to be expected to do so more often, but they are certainly more likely to gear these narratives against their domestic political opponents. The impact of the historical policy of the PiS government on Polish foreign policy has been mainly evidenced through direct and abrasive—probably often uncontrolled and maybe sometimes unplanned—statements. Populists disregard for norms of ‘appropriate’ political behaviour as a mean to represent the ‘people’ and oppose the ways of the ‘elite’ (Moffitt and Tormey 2014) is likely to find a particular resonance when it comes to memory politics with other states and to diplomatic relations more generally. In a leaked document, the Polish MFA acknowledged that Poland’s international reputation had been damaged in the process, but it attributed this outcome to a ‘lack of understanding’ of foreign observers about Polish internal developments and to their reliance on ‘the opinions of intellectuals and politicians associated with the opposition’ (Wieliński 2018). Acknowledgements David Cadier has received  funding from  the European Union’s  Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant No. 769886.

Compliance with ethical standards  Conflict of interest  On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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International Politics (2020) 57:1012–1029 https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-019-00204-9 ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Foreign policy and physical sites of memory: competing foreign policies at the Jasenovac memorial site Jelena Subotic1  Published online: 5 November 2019 © Springer Nature Limited 2019

Abstract This article contributes to the growing scholarship on the relationship between political memory and foreign policy by analyzing how physical sites of traumatic memory serve as locations of foreign policy construction. Specifically, I explore how physical sites (such as concentration camps, killing sites, or memorials) serve to construct foreign policy through the enduring meaning they have as mate‑ rial reminders of collective trauma. I illustrate the argument with a case study of Jasenovac, the commemorative site of the largest concentration camp administered by the Independent State of Croatia during World War II. The Jasenovac site is a particularly useful case for my argument because it is a site of contested memory and conflicting national narratives. Most significantly, it is the site of production of three distinct foreign policies—of Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia’s Republika Srpska— which all use the Jasenovac site to pursue very different and mutually exclusive for‑ eign policy claims. Keywords  Memory · Foreign policy · Collective trauma · Jasenovac · Serbia · Croatia · Republika Srpska On April 12, 2019, a group of 2000 people gathered at the site of the Jasenovac Memo‑ rial complex in Croatia to commemorate the victims of the Jasenovac concentration and death camp, where between 1941 and 1945 fascist Independent State of Croa‑ tia (NDH)1 murdered more than 80,000 Serbs, Jews, Roma and antifascist activists and sympathizers. This small commemoration, however, was an unofficial ceremony

1

  The Independent State of Croatia is most often referred to in the literature in its original name as Neza‑ visna Država Hrvatska (NDH). Between 1941 and 1945, NDH controlled most of what is today Croatia, significant parts of today’s Bosnia-Herzegovina, and some northwestern regions of what is today Serbia. * Jelena Subotic [email protected] 1



Department of Political Science, Georgia State University, 38 Peachtree Center Ave. Suite 1018, Atlanta, GA 30303‑2514, USA Vol:.(1234567890)

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organized by the Croatian Jewish, Serb, and Roma communities, joined by the Croa‑ tia’s Alliance of Anti-Fascist Fighters, who have since 2016 boycotted the official Croatian government ceremony at the same site, in protest at government’s inaction against historical revisionism and the rise of the far right (Vladisavljevic 2019). A day later, on 13 April, Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović made her own visit to Jasenovac, and on 14 April, the Croatian government organized yet another sepa‑ rate, official ceremony at the site, where the speaker of the Croatian Parliament gave a speech (Hina 2019). The Serbian media paid considerable attention to this Croatian infighting, and made it a point to note that ‘the Croatian top state echelon was boycotting the joint ceremony’ (Telegraf 2019), implying that it was the Croatian state that was refusing to properly memorialize the crimes of Croatia’s fascist past. And while the Jasenovac memorial site negotiated different ceremonies on dif‑ ferent days, across the Sava river from the main camp site, there was a yet another completely different commemoration taking place. This was the commemoration at Donja Gradina, the location of Jasenovac mass graves. Donja Gradina, however, is not in Croatia, but is in Bosnia–Herzegovina, and specifically in Bosnia’s Repub‑ lika Srpska (RS) entity. Here, the annual ceremony takes a very different tone. The emphasis is on Serbian victims of Jasenovac, the number of dead prominently dis‑ played is 700,000 (and not 83,000 as the Jasenovac memorial site determined), and the main political message from speakers (who typically include Croatian Serb com‑ munity representatives, leaders from RS and often from Serbia proper) is, ‘Croatia is desperately trying to deny the genocide the Ustasha2 committed on its territory during World War II—and we will not allow it’ (ATV 2019). Jasenovac has had an outsized presence in the national imaginations of Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia–Herzegovina since the end of WWII, as the central location of Croatia’s genocidal policies against its Jews, Serbs, Roma, communists, and others the NDH regime deemed political opponents. While during communist Yugoslavia (1945–1991), Jasenovac was a prominent memorial location and received top artis‑ tic treatment—its towering ‘flower memorial’ is a masterpiece designed by one of Yugoslavia’s most prominent artists—it is in the aftermath of Yugoslavia’s collapse in 1991 that Jasenovac became a major actor in the foreign policy of the region. It is this aspect of Jasenovac—its instrumentalization in international politics—that this article is interested in exploring. To explain how commemorative sites, such as the one at Jasenovac, become such focal points in interstate relations, this article explores ways in which physical sites of traumatic memory serve as locations of foreign policy creation. My main argu‑ ment is that physical sites of commemoration (such as locations of concentration camps, killing sites, or memorials) serve to construct foreign policy through the enduring meaning they have as material reminders of collective trauma. Through regularized and routinized commemorative practices—museum exhibitions, mourn‑ ers’ gatherings, political speeches, performative candle lighting, flowers or objects placement—these sites clearly contribute to the construction of state identity, as the robust literature on memorialization and identity has already demonstrated (Gillis 2

  Ustasha were the Croatian fascist militia who ruled the NDH, an Axis ally, from 1941–1945.

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1994; Spillman 1997; Moore and Whelan 2007). I want to take this scholarship fur‑ ther and show how physical sites of memory do much more—they not only shape how a state comes to think of itself domestically, but also how it projects itself internationally. Specifically, I argue, physical sites of memory serve a critical role in foreign pol‑ icy making—as material, visual, repositories of narrative claims of past violence that are easily invoked for contemporary foreign policy demands. They are material summaries of violence or injustice that serve as shortcuts for larger foreign policy claims. They work as analogies—they are visual prompts of violence that happened in the past and a warning for the future. And they exist in real time and space and are thus much more readily available for the articulation of historical claims and narratives. The article proceeds as follows. I first elaborate on the relationship between political memory and foreign policy, and present my theoretical argument about the importance of physical sites of memory for foreign policymaking. I then illustrate the argument with a case study of the Jasenovac commemorative site. I first present a brief history of the Jasenovac camp, as well as the overview of the most significant historical and political debates regarding the camp. I then analyze Jasenovac as the site of production of three distinct contemporary foreign policies—of Serbia, Croa‑ tia, and Bosnia’s Republika Srpska entity, and especially as the site of localization of the three foreign policies toward each other. I conclude with some general comments about the role of material culture in international politics.

Political memory and foreign policy Significant work exists establishing that political memory sits at the core of state identity (Olick and Robbins 1998). As the Introduction to this Special Issue points out, the importance of political memory to state foreign policy has over the past few decades received significant scholarly attention. In addition to the foundational work at this nexus (e.g., Edkins 2003; Bell 2006; Langenbacher and Shain 2010), more recent work has specified the relationship between memory and foreign policy in few distinct ways. Political memory creates and maintains a particular state biography through pub‑ lic narratives (Berenskoetter 2014), which are then used to guide contemporary for‑ eign policy (Subotić 2016). Memory of trauma often sits at the core of state identity and shapes state foreign policy directly (Resende and Budryte 2014). In some cases, state identity is defined specifically by the incorporation of past trauma into contem‑ porary sense of self (Wang 2008; Mälksoo 2009; Subotic 2018). In others, a sense of shared trauma can create a feeling of a transnational community of memory that crosses state boundaries (Hutchison 2010). Perhaps the strongest example of such shared trauma is the trauma of the Holocaust which, memory scholars have argued, has over time become denationalized, deterritorialized, cosmopolitan memory that transcends the immediate victims of Nazi atrocities, and becomes—supposedly— the global memory of humanity (Levy and Sznaider 2002; Baer and Sznaider 2017). 73

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Physical sites of memory and foreign policymaking Building on this research, I suggest that an understudied aspect of the relationship between traumatic political memory and foreign policymaking is the way in which physical sites of traumatic memory serve as locations of foreign policy creation. Specifically, I argue that physical sites of commemoration (such as concentration camps, killing sites, or memorials) serve to construct foreign policy through the enduring meaning they have as material reminders of collective trauma. Physical landscape—and sites of memory embedded in it—can themselves be understood as constructions of particular political interests (Forest and Johnson 2002), such as particular foreign policy agendas. Physical sites of traumatic memory serve as locations of state history construction through the material representation of the past (Forest et al. 2004). They are highly emotionally charged, symbolic spaces where various political actors routinely transmit their policy agendas to the broader public (Forest et  al. 2004). Physical sites of memory, therefore, act as ‘mnemonic and affective devices to the reshaping of collective memories and national identities’ (Bădescu 2019, 184). As Yanık and Hisarlıoğlu argued in their analysis of Turkish contemporary ‘nec‑ ropolitical spaces,’ these sites continue to serve the needs of the nation state through their physical spatial and narrative rearrangements (Yanık and Hisarlıoğlu 2019). Sites of memory are not natural features of the physical landscape—they are mate‑ rial designs aimed for a particular kind of memorial representation (Nora 1989; Gil‑ lis 1994; Forest and Johnson 2002). These physical sites of memory often become nationalized, and then anchored to represent collective memory and national identity (Savage 1994). Official memorial sites further perform a collective memory building function by inviting visitors to be a part of the collective narrative and themselves contribute to the construction of a particular national past (Yanık and Hisarlıoğlu 2019). Physical sites of traumatic memory, then, are ‘embodied sites of affect’ (Dzi‑ uban and Stańczyk 2019), which continuously remind the national body politic both of its past, but also of its responsibility to prevent the collective trauma from repeating in the future. They serve as memory, but also as warning. It is this futurefacing aspect of memory sites that makes them critical elements in foreign policy construction. Physical sites of traumatic memory are material ‘traces of the past’ and the past’s direct manifestation. This gives them immense power to be readily mobilized for his‑ torical narrative construction, which then forms the basis of foreign policy claims. The scope of these foreign policy claims can vary—they can be claims for foreign restitution, reparations, and apologies. Or they can be more aggressive claims on the territory on which these sites rest, such as claims of ‘necropolitics’ that argue that the state should control the territory on which its dead are buried. Physical sites of memory become weaponized as political actors use them as nar‑ rative tools when making foreign policy claims. These sites easily resonate and are understood as analogies (e.g., what happened here in the past is similar to what is happening now), as metaphors (e.g., this site is the symbol of our nation’s victimiza‑ tion), or as parables (e.g., the lesson of this trauma is that we must protect our peo‑ ple). And while the focus of this article is on a particular site in the Western Balkans, Reprinted from the journal

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this type of foreign policy making at sites of traumatic memory has been evident in many other historical and geographic contexts. Perhaps the most well-known of these moments is the German Chancellor Willy Brandt’s falling to his knees at the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising site in 1970. Physical sites of traumatic memory, therefore, can also be sites of reconciliation and forgiveness, even if short-lived, as was the case with the Serbian/Croatian moment of reconciliation that followed then Serbian president Boris Tadić’s apology at the site of the Vukovar massacre and then Croa‑ tian president Ivo Josipović’s apology at the site of the Paulin Dvor killing in 2010.3 To illustrate the power of physical sites of memory for foreign policy construc‑ tion, I now turn to the case of Jasenovac, the commemorative site of the largest con‑ centration and death camp administered by the fascist Independent State of Croatia during WWII. As a site of contested memory and conflicting national narratives, Jasenovac is the site of production of three distinct foreign policies—of Serbia, Cro‑ atia, and Bosnia’s RS entity—which all use the Jasenovac site to pursue very differ‑ ent and often mutually exclusive foreign policy claims.

Jasenovac as site of foreign policy construction Jasenovac camp complex was established in August 1941 and was run by the Naziallied Independent State of Croatia.4 It consisted of five sub-camps and was located on the bank of the river Sava. After decades of controversies about the exact num‑ ber of victims, the scholarly consensus today sits at around 85,000 killed, 50,000 of whom were Serbs, 13,000 Jews, 16,000 Roma, and the remainder communists and enemies or perceived enemies of the Croatian Ustasha regime.5 Jasenovac was truly a dreadful place, with gruesome low-tech technology of extermination through star‑ vation, burning alive, decapitations, and other unimaginable cruelties. The Jasenovac site, even though, or precisely because it was by far the largest camp in the NDH, was completely destroyed and razed at the end of the war, first by the retreating Ustasha and then by the advancing Yugoslav communist partisan army. What remained from the rubble local villagers took away as cheap building material (Mataušić 2003). Jasenovac, therefore, remained officially unmemorialized for the first few decades after the war. In 1966, a huge monument in the shape of a flower was erected and has since become iconic, a premier example of Yugoslav communist architectural representa‑ tion of WWII. The Jasenovac memorial museum opened in 1968. The first exhibi‑ tion was modest, and displayed mostly inmates’ items found during exhumations,

3   http://www.novos​ti.rs/vesti​/naslo​vna/polit​ika/aktue​lno.289.html:30650​8-Josip​ovic-Izvin​io-sam-se-zasrpsk​e-zrtve​. 4   The following brief history of the Jasenovac camp builds on Subotić (2019). 5   These numbers are the confirmed identified victims by the Jasenovac Memorial Site, which is a data‑ base in progress. Since this number includes only identified victims, the actual death toll is likely higher, http://www.jusp-jasen​ovac.hr/Defau​lt.aspx?sid=6711. While the Jasenovac Memorial Site is a state insti‑ tution, it has maintained its scholarly independence. Its database of victims is largely congruous with other scholarly estimates.

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letters, testimonies of resistance, deportation orders, as well as various weapons of mass murder.6 Significantly, the memorial was deliberately constructed as an abstract object, placed on top of the remains of the camp, which therefore became unreachable for further archeological excavations, and did not include any original traces of the camp structure (Colls 2015, 292–305). The purpose of this was to make the story of Jasenovac, and with it, the larger story of NDH atrocities, disappear from the postwar Yugoslav narrative because it represented inconvenient and unus‑ able past, unhelpful for the efforts at constructing postwar Yugoslav multicultural ideology of ‘brotherhood and unity.’ During the Croatian war of independence (1991–1995), the Jasenovac site became a location of armed conflict between Croatian Serb rebel forces and the Croatian Army.7 The Jasenovac site was occupied by Serb rebels and seriously dam‑ aged in the fighting, the main damage to the site inflicted deliberately by Croatian forces in 1991. The terrain was littered with land mines, which seriously hampered postwar reconstruction. The documentary material—some 7700 museum exhibits— was removed and taken by Serb forces to Republika Srpska, and some to Belgrade. Until 1997, 2 years after the end of the Croatian war, there were no commemora‑ tions of any kind at the site and Jasenovac did not exist as a commemorative space in Croatia. Repairs on the Jasenovac site began in 1998. The return of removed objects required lengthy negotiations between Croatia and RS, and involved direct media‑ tion by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. According to Museum estimates, a full third of the items were lost in the war, destroyed, or stolen (Mataušić 2003). The remaining 70% were finally returned to Jasenovac in 2001, and the Flower Memorial was repaired in 2002. The new permanent exhibition at Jasenovac was inaugurated in 2006. Jasenovac in Croatia’s foreign policy In the early years after Croatia’s independence, the center-left government of prime minister Ivica Račan (2000–2003) made reopening of Jasenovac a priority, partly out of its political commitment to fighting right-wing revisionism, but also as part of its European Union accession strategy. Successive Croatian governments also did not oppose the rebuilding of Jasenovac and continued to support its construction. With the change of government in 2003, however, and the return of the right-wing Croatian Democratic Union to power, this commitment to Jasenovac became much less clearly a commitment to remember the Holocaust or the war crimes against the Serbs, or to criminalize the NDH. It instead became a commitment to use the geno‑ cide of WWII to mnemonically interpret the more recent war of the 1990s as a gen‑ ocide against Croats by Serbs. For example, addressing the 2005 commemoration

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  Jasenovac Memorial Site, http://www.jusp-jasen​ovac.hr/Defau​lt.aspx?sid=6560.   It was not just the Serb paramilitaries and the Croatian Army that displayed disregard for the historical significance of the site during the Croatian war. The UN peacekeeping mission, UNPROFOR, also stock‑ piled confiscated heavy ammunition in one of the complex buildings. Mataušić (2003). 7

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event at Jasenovac, then Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said, ‘We should not forget the aggression that Croatia endured because we too were victims of a ter‑ rible madness of Nazism and fascism, and we, Croatian citizens, Croats, know the best what it is like to suffer from aggression’ (Banjeglav 2012, 115). Sanader then repeated this speech during his visit to Yad Vashem in 2005, de facto ‘identifying Croatians as the “new Jews” and Serbs as “the new fascists,”’ and thus firmly affix‑ ing the memory of the Holocaust to Croatia’s victimization, first during WWII and then during the war of Yugoslav succession in the 1990s (Radonić 2010, 56). The new interpretation of Jasenovac was also evident in the way in which postindependent Croatia decided to narrate the history of Jasenovac at the former camp site. This interpretation is important for both for Croatian domestic, but also its for‑ eign policy. Most of the visitors to the Jasenovac memorial center are foreign, not Croatian, with the majority of visitors coming from neighboring countries of the former Yugoslavia (Slovenia, Bosnia–Herzegovina, and Serbia). The memorial pres‑ entation prepared at the site, then, is geared toward the foreign gaze—both that of the former Yugoslav states but also the larger international visitor body from Europe and elsewhere. The presentation itself was therefore designed to serve Croatia’s for‑ eign policy objectives because it was meant to represent Croatia’s past and Croatia’s present understanding of that past in a very particular manner, one that disconnects today’s Croatia from the legacy of its fascist predecessor. This disconnect, then, makes it easier for Croatia to claim that it belongs to the European ‘core,’ and not its non-European fringes. Instead of focusing on the historical context of the NDH from which Jasenovac emerged, the permanent exhibition, inaugurated in 2006, focused on select indi‑ vidual victims and presented their personal artifacts, stories about their prewar life, and a few objects found in excavating the destroyed camp site.8 The documentary material displayed included largely decontextualized NDH documents, as well as a few photographs from the period, including a photograph of a 1941 meeting of NDH leader Ante Pavelić with Adolf Hitler, which was supposed to make the con‑ nection for the visitor between NDH and Nazism. While the focus on the victims is not objectionable and is by now the standard of Holocaust museum expositions everywhere, the problem with the current Jasenovac exhibition is that the narrative of what, exactly, happened at Jasenovac is almost completely missing, an absence further compounded by the fact that there are no material remains of the camp, so the Jasenovac past had to be completely reconstructed and reimagined. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this display—and one that most directly speaks to the particular way post-independence Croatia wanted to present itself to the world—was the presentation of the NDH as a puppet Nazi state, with lim‑ ited independence and closely following Hitler’s orders, while historical evidence suggests NDH pursued its genocidal policies—especially against the Serbs—with limited input from Berlin. Further paradox of the Jasenovac exhibit is that in the exclusive focus on victims the role of the perpetrators (and their portrayal and identification) is almost completely absent, creating an impression that Jasenovac 8

  The following description of the Jasenovac permanent exhibition builds on Subotić (2019).

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somehow just happened, and dehistoricizing it from the genocidal policies of a homegrown Croatian regime (Radonić 2010). But for the main political narratives in Croatia, Jasenovac remained a site of opportunity to link the atrocities of WWII with Croatian contemporary political needs: to secure the memory of its 1990s war of independence, to signal Croatia’s readiness to join the European memory space, and to delegitimize communism. At the official inauguration of the Jasenovac Memorial Museum in 2006, then Prime Minister Ivo Sanader made all three connections: We need the truth about Jasenovac and its victims because, let’s not forget, it was the lies about Jasenovac and exaggerated numbers that were part of the justification for Greater Serbian aggression against Croatia. We need the truth in the broader region of this part of Europe so we can turn to the modern val‑ ues of Europe, which has overcome its old divisions and conflicts… In the Homeland War we have overcome all these divisions, strengthened our anti‑ fascist foundations, but also condemned that other communist totalitarianism, raised the paradigm of a new united and reconciled Croatia, and that is our commitment in the new Europe (Government of Croatia 2006). But it was especially the new Jasenovac memorial that presented a great opportu‑ nity for the realization of Croatia’s EU ambitions. The memorial director was proud that the new exhibit was designed ‘to meet the standards of the Council of Europe and the EU.’9 Croatian media also approved of this European turn via Jasenovac, editorializing, for example, ‘if this rhetoric had emerged earlier and been perpet‑ uated longer, our image in the world would have been much more positive. This would also have eased our entry into the European community.’10 It is here that Croatia’s treatment of traumatic memorial sites for its foreign policymaking needs to be understood within the broader contemporary European memory framework, which has, since the 2008 Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Totalitarianism, moved to decentralize the Holocaust from the core traumatic memory of Europe’s twentieth century, and equate its crimes with crimes of communism.11 It is in this context that we can understand the decentralization of the Jasenovac site as the main site of traumatic memory and its replacement with Bleiburg, the site of communist partisan massacre of Croatia’s retreating Usta‑ sha forces, their family members, as well as other POWs, at the end of WWII in May 1945.12 From the realm of unofficial diaspora commemorations, the Bleiburg ceremonies in post-Yugoslav Croatia became fully state sanctioned, and the Croa‑ tian government designated the Day of Bleiburg Commemoration every May, as a day of memory of Croatian victims in the struggle for freedom and independence

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  Vjesnik, August 18, 2004.   Novi list, April 25, 2005. 11   The subsequent two paragraphs build on Subotić (2019). 12   The 1945 massacre is referred to as Bleiburg in Croatia because the commemorations occur annually at Bleiburg, Austria, even though the actual killing took place on different locations in what is today Aus‑ tria and Slovenia. 10

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everywhere. It is also not incidental that commemorations at Bleiburg have since become full-fledged neo-Nazi and neo-fascist gatherings, where old black uni‑ forms and black flags of the WWII fascist Croatian militia are proudly displayed, to increasing discomfort of Austria, on which territory this event takes place (Subotic 2018). For Croatia, therefore, while Bleiburg with its memory of Croatian victimi‑ zation at the hands of communists is a valuable asset for its foreign policy needs, Jasenovac represents a mnemonic problem—it is the central location of Croatia’s unusable past and as such is only a foreign policy liability. The memory of Jasenovac is also increasingly domestically contested as even its basic history has come under assault from emboldened revisionist forces that deny the criminality of the Ustasha regime and attribute the horrors of Jasenovac to Yugo‑ slav communists instead (Goldstein 2017). A new narrative has emerged that claims that the story of Jasenovac is ‘overblown’ and that its high death toll was fabricated by Yugoslav communist and later Serbian nationalist propaganda. This narrative has further morphed into the claim that Jasenovac was in fact not a fascist camp at all, but was run by communists as a place of ‘mass execution of Croatian patriots’ after the end of WWII (Milekic 2017). This narrative is promoted by established, as well as revisionist historians, including a brand-new research ‘institute’ which purpose is to determine the truth about this ‘communist’ camp.13 Another high-profile revisionist push was the film Jasenovac the Truth, which received the official award by the city of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. The film purports to show evidence that Jasenovac was in fact run by communists. The ‘evi‑ dence’ for these claims is almost comical in its amateurish forgery. There are fake newspaper headlines, images of bodies turning up on the banks of the river which is located upstream from the camp, photographs of apparently ‘happy and content’ Serb and Jewish inmates which turned out to be photographs of a football team from 1978 (Milekic 2017). This revisionism has become so mainstream and state spon‑ sored that in 2018 Croatian president called for the creation of an international com‑ mission to determine the truth about the camp between 1941 and 1945 ‘but also after’—indicating that the narrative that Jasenovac was a communist camp after the war was now accepted at the top seat of power (Hina 2018). Amidst all this Holocaust revisionism, Croatian leaders tried to nurture a close relationship with Israel. For example, Croatia’s president Grabar-Kitarović paid a visit to Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem in 2015, and in an emotional statement apologized for crimes against the Jews committed by Croatian fascists during WWII (Milekic 2015). The same year, however, she refused to attend the annual commemoration at Jasenovac (Milekić 2016). The mnemonic centrality of Jasenovac, therefore, cannot be ignored, nor can its physical presence, a constant reminder of the past today’s Croatia would rather not discuss. So instead, Croatia misdirects it—to represent itself internationally as a good European citizen that memorializes its difficult past fully and appropriately. Jasenovac is a foreign policy symbol of an imagined multicultural, European Croatia that may not, in fact, fully exist. 13

  See the Institute’s Web site, at https​://drust​vojas​enova​c.wordp​ress.com/about​/.

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Jasenovac in Serbian foreign policy In the run up to the wars of Yugoslav succession in the late 1980s, Jasenovac was an important element of the Serbian narrative about a timeless ethnic struggle between Croats and Serbs, about Croatian ‘genocidal character’ that was worse than that of the Nazis, and about Serbs being the principal victims of the WWII genocide. Dur‑ ing the war, some of the material from the original Jasenovac exhibit was taken to Belgrade, where it was displayed at the Museum of Genocide Victims in 1994, in the exhibition Jasenovac—a System of Ustasha Death Camps. This exhibit was meant to demonstrate ‘the genocidal tendencies of the Croatian people’—and had tremendous public appeal in Serbia at the time (Van der Laarse 2013). Jasenovac—the camp and the story about the camp—has played a direct part in Serbian foreign policy in various ways throughout the post-Yugoslav war period, during the rule of Slobodan Milošević, but also after his ousting in 2000. For exam‑ ple, on January 27, 2017, the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized a highprofile exhibition and conference on Jasenovac in New York.14 The Serbian gov‑ ernment spared no resources for this major event that included witness testimonies, newly commissioned artwork, as well as an academic symposium, announced as ‘intended to mobilize the global public to contribute to the preservation of the uni‑ versal values such as peace, freedom and the protection of human rights,’ in a clear jab at Croatia’s revisionism, especially regarding Jasenovac (Pantovic 2016). But the goal of this particular representation of Jasenovac was much broader, and it was explicitly linked to attempts to improve Serbia’s fraught international relation‑ ships, especially with Europe. Vasilije Krestić, a notable Serbian historian, said in his conference address that the exhibition was ‘in line with the foreign policy inter‑ ests of the Republic of Serbia—the only country charged for genocide twice before the International Criminal Court in the Hague,’ and ‘addressed the challenges in the international arena, while contributing to the protection of Serbia’s foreign policy interests.’15 Similarly, one of conference participants Serbian Orthodox Bishop Irinej said, ‘I always ask myself when will us Serbs have the chance to, in major world centers such as New York and Washington, present the facts about the suffering of our peo‑ ple so that everyone knows what happened to us’ (Sretenović 2017). This instru‑ mentalization of Jasenovac for direct foreign policy needs is a continuation of the long-term interest of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the construction and diffu‑ sion of the narrative about Serbian suffering at Jasenovac. For example, in 2003, the Church established its Jasenovac Committee of the Synod of Bishops, which stated goal was ‘the preservation of remembrance of this new Serbian Kosovo, of

14

  The description of the New York event builds on Subotić (2019).   Krestić was referring to Bosnia’s and Croatia’s unsuccessful lawsuits against Serbia for genocide in the wars of 1991–1995 in front of the International Court of Justice. Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, press release, January 26, 2017, http://www.mfa.gov.rs/en/press​-servi​ce/state​ments​/16132​-27-janua​ry2017-inter​natio​nal-holoc​aust-day-and-exhib​ition​-jasen​ovac-the-right​-to-remem​beran​ce. 15

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the Great-martyred Jasenovac,’ where the reference to Kosovo indicates that it is now Jasenovac, the site of Serbian suffering, that should be the identity core of the Serbian nation.16 This focus on Serbian suffering is evident in the title of the New York exhibi‑ tion—Jasenovac-Right to Not Forget—which itself was insinuating that Serbian vic‑ tims were being marginalized in the global memory of WWII and that new efforts at correcting for this perceived memory gap should be a central element of Serbian foreign policy. In 2018, the exhibition was opened again, this time at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. It was mired in controversy, as the government of Croatia issued an official protest to the UN for hosting an exhibition that falsified history (Rudic 2018). Serbia’s international appeals and the weaponization of Jasenovac for its foreign policy are also part of the broader Serbian foreign relations, especially its strong and valued relationship with Israel. A group of Israeli Holocaust scholars have directly cooperated and helped host, co-organize, and promote Serbia’s Jasenovac exhibi‑ tions, projects, and Church-related activities, as well as engaged in Republika Srp‑ ska-hosted projects that denied or minimized the Srebrenica genocide (Peled 2019). Perhaps most important is that nurturing Serbia’s close ties with Israel has resulted in Israel continuing to not recognize Kosovo’s independence, Serbia’s top foreign policy priority. These developments are also part of the broader context of the sharp anticommu‑ nist turn in post-Yugoslav Serbia, which manifests itself, among else, with a sweep‑ ing rehabilitation of many WWII fascist collaborators, including the full-scale reha‑ bilitation of the WWII Axis-allied Chetnik movement, which is now presented in history textbooks and major history museum exhibitions as an ‘antifascist movement from the right.’17 Chetnik leader Dragoljub Mihailović was rehabilitated in 2015, while Milan Nedić, head of the Serbian quisling government under Nazi occupation, who directly assisted Nazi authorities in the annihilation of Serbian Jews was nar‑ rowly denied rehabilitation after a series of trials (Insajder 2019). But it is Jasenovac itself—the camp as well as the narrative of the camp—that continues to be one of the central issues in Croatian-Serbian foreign relations. Jase‑ novac is also a central feature of Serbia’s broader foreign policy messaging. Often, commemorations at Donja Gradina (the part of the Jasenovac complex that sits across the Sava river on RS territory, and on which much more below) serve as direct sites of Serbia’s foreign policy making. At the 2017 commemoration there, Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić used the occasion to make an impassioned defense of Serbia’s borders against ‘Albanian expansionism’ (a reference to Koso‑ vo’s 2008 declaration of independence that Serbia did not recognize). Describing the Serbian people as ‘not ordinary’ as they were ‘slaughtered and killed in this way 16

 Communiqué of Jasenovac Committee of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, 2005, http://www.jasen​ovac-info.com/2005/?lang=en&s=sedni​ca-05071​4. 17   While the Chetniks initially fought on the side of the Allies, by the fall of 1941 they have switched sides, and for the remainder of the war fought on the side of the Axis. For a much deeper treatment of Holocaust revisionism in Serbia that is beyond the scope of this article, see Byford (2013) and Subotić (2019).

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[at Jasenovac],’ Vučić pledged, ‘we will never allow Flash and Storm again’ (N1 2017).18 The narrative import of Jasenovac/Donja Gradina for Serbia’s relationship with RS is clear—it is a useful metaphor in Serbia’s continuing rejection of an independ‑ ent Kosovo through a rhetorical allusion to the dangers of an imagined ‘Greater Albania.’ It is also useful as an argument in the proposed RS unification with Serbia. But it also serves as a weapon in the continuing denial of the Srebrenica genocide— by both Serbian and RS leaders.19 For example, Bosnian Serb leader Dodik argued that since Serbs fought on the side of the allies, and not the Nazis and Ustasha in WWII (and were therefore the victims of the Ustasha genocide), they could not be ‘genocidal people’ guilty of genocide in Srebrenica (Moll 2013, 918). The denial of Serb-committed genocide therefore continues to be politically important for Bosnian Serb elites in their fight to keep RS autonomous, and not integrated with the rest of the Bosnian federation. In 2018, Serbian defense minister Aleksandar Vulin spoke at the Donja Grad‑ ina commemoration and said: ‘Serbia was a guarantor and keeper of peace in the Balkans.’ His message was very clear: ‘Never again will the Serbian people calmly accept to be taken to camps, exterminated, and deported. Never again.’20 The com‑ memorative site provided a continual reminder of the trauma and oriented Serbian foreign policy in consistent ways—to perceive Croatia as a threat and an untrustwor‑ thy neighbor, to nurture a special relationship with RS as an extension of the Serbian continuous community, but also to consider renegotiation of Serbia’s territory— most immediately, Kosovo’s declaration of independence—as an unacceptable move of dismembering Serbian body politic, akin to dismembering Serbian bodies at sites of atrocities (Subotić 2016). At the May 2019 commemoration ceremony at Donja Gradina, Serbian prime minister Ana Brnabić compared Jasenovac to Auschwitz and said, ‘Every day we must insist on the truth about Jasenovac, just as we insist on the truth about Aus‑ chwitz.’21 But a more interesting part of prime minister’s speech is the listing of various locations of Croatian Ustasha WWII-era crimes. Brnabić said Jasenovac was a ‘symbol, the largest mass execution site, for crimes that covered the entire territory of the NDH, from pits in Herzegovina to Livanja, to Kozara and Grmeč, and all of Drina—[these] are the burial grounds of one people, who were the victims of one executioner.’ What is remarkable in this statement is that the prime minister is mark‑ ing the memorial territory of Serbia to be the memorial topography of the entire for‑ mer NDH by designating these spaces as ‘necropolitical,’ also bluntly ignoring the many other victims of the NDH regime (Jews, Roma, communist partisans, many of whom were not Serbs) and excluding them from this geography of memory. She also subtly signaled Serbia’s own positioning in WWII on the side of antifascism,

18

  Vučić was refering to two Croatian military operations in 1995 that ended the Croatian war and were followed by the almost complete exodus of Croatia’s Serb civilians from the country. 19   I thank an anonymous reviewer for raising these very important points. 20   http://mondo​.rs/a1097​137/Info/Ex-Yu/Jasen​ovac-Donja​-Gradi​na-godis​njica​.html. 21   https​://www.b92.net/eng/news/polit​ics.php?yyyy=2019&mm=05&dd=06&nav_id=10676​5.

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clearly reminding everyone that Croatia was, in fact, a truly fascist state, by conclud‑ ing her speech with, ‘Death to fascism. Long Live Serbia.’22 Jasenovac in the Ser‑ bian foreign policy continues to make this narrative connection. Jasenovac in the foreign policy of Republika Srpska Republika Srpska is a state in waiting. Formed as a compromise by the 1995 Day‑ ton Peace Accords, a flawed peace agreement that, while bringing the fighting to an end also rewarded Bosnian Serbs with territory they have conquered and held through ethnic cleansing and genocide (Chandler 2000; Dahlman and Tuathail 2005; Tuathail 2006). This ethnic entity within the state of Bosnia–Herzegovina is neither independent nor sovereign but it has much of the trappings of statehood—a con‑ stitution, apparatus of force (police and the military), judiciary, education system, alphabet, as well as its own code and system of memorialization. While the uncer‑ tain political status of RS is one of the key continuing destabilizing factors within Bosnia, its leaders have since 1995 largely consistently advocated for either full independence or, more opaquely, some form of union with Serbia. RS, therefore, is a state imagined (Björkdahl 2018). RS also bases its identity not only on the war of Yugoslav succession—of which RS was, in the territorial sense, the biggest winner, but also on the memory of WWII and atrocities committed against the Serbs by the NDH—most directly at Jasenovac, a part of which (Donja Gradina, the location of Jasenovac mass graves) has since 1995 been on RS territory. The genocide of Serbs by Croats is then memorialized quite directly, on the territory of this political entity. Jasenovac, therefore, is quite physically a site of divided memory and contrasting foreign policy. The visual image of the two sites also presents a stark difference. While Jasenovac (Croatia) has an established and professional museum, Donja Gradina is in ruins, with poorly main‑ tained site and almost no information available to visitors (Colls 2015, 305). Here the Serbian narrative prevails. Commemorations at Donja Gradina are designed to present an alternative narrative of Jasenovac to the one at the main site, and always include the greatly exaggerated Serbian number of 700,000 killed in the camp. These commemorations are big state affairs, often with presidents of RS and Serbia in attendance. They are also frequently used for RS foreign policy messag‑ ing needs. In June 2018, RS National Assembly held a ‘forum of Republika Srp‑ ska fighters’ at the site. The purpose of this event was to remind both RS citizens but also the international community of the history of Serbs on this location, and then project this history into RS future. ‘The keepers of the past are the fighters for the future’—a very aggressive rhetorical statement—was the forum’s logo. More directly, this event connected the history of the Donja Gradina/Jasenovac site with RS creation during what the authorities called a Yugoslav ‘civil war,’ but specifi‑ cally focused on the history of Serb suffering in Bosnia–Herzegovina—the history

22

  http://mondo​.rs/a1184​192/Info/Ex-Yu/Donja​-Gradi​na-logor​-Jasen​ovac-komem​oraci​ja.html.

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that can be avoided if RS maintains its semi-independence and especially its inde‑ pendent armed forces.23 Milorad Dodik, chairman and Serb member of the tripartite Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (and former RS president), has on numerous occasions activated the Jasenovac trope in arguing how RS needs to survive as a safe haven for the Ser‑ bian people so that atrocities like those at Jasenovac are not repeated. At the 2017 commemoration at Donja Gradina, Dodik said the creation of the RS was so that ‘Serbs can have their freedom.’ He elaborated, ‘Had the Serbs in 1941 have Repub‑ lika Srpska they would not have gone through Jasenovac. Republika Srpska is cre‑ ated so Serbs could be free, because whenever they did not have their state, they suf‑ fered. The past century was the century of our suffering, and this must be the century of our coming together, not to carry out revenge against the others, but so that this never happens to us again.’24 The physical site at Donja Gradina serves as a basis for continuing demands for RS statehood and, therefore, for continuing regional insta‑ bility. In March 2019, RS government announced plans for the construction of a permanent memorial at the Donja Gradina site.25 Even though the Jasenovac site already has very elaborate memorial representation, a modern museum and a tower‑ ing monument of international fame, RS wants to mark the physical site that is on its own territory in its own, and presumably very different way than the way in which Jasenovac is currently memorialized at the main site in Croatia. It is this need for a physical manifestation of political memory that then serves foreign policy needs, as it is the physical site that provides a setting for foreign policy messages to be trans‑ mitted to important international actors. Other RS activists called Donja Gradina ‘the greatest Serbian city under the ground, which needs to become much more visible and appreciated at home and abroad,’ and the construction of a new memorial ‘the most important project of the highest national priority.’26 Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić stated this quite directly: ‘the idea is to create something that would be the largest joint monument, on the territory where Serbs live,’27 indicating that the issue of memory cannot be entrusted in the care of Croatia, where the expansive Jasenovac memorial site com‑ plex is located, just across the Sava river. Dipping into the deep historical well of Serbian ‘necropolitics’—especially the massive exhumations and reburials of Serbs carried out as part of Serbian nationalist mobilization in the late 1980s (Verdery 1999)—president Vučić again identified state territory with the ethno-national dead to further sow mistrust in Croatia and support Serbia/RS unification.

23

  Donja Gradina Memorial, “A Forum of the Fighters of the Republic of Srpska,” 26 June 2018, http:// www.jusp-donja​gradi​na.org/en/news/a-forum​-of-the-fight​ers-of-the-repub​lic-of-srpsk​a. 24   https​://www.rtvbn​.com/38618​55/donja​-gradi​na-sjeca​nje-na-zrtve​. 25   https​://www.blic.rs/vesti​/repub​lika-srpsk​a/jasen​ovack​a-fabri​ka-smrti​-poten​cijal​ni-proje​ktant​-iz-njujo​ rka-gradi​ce-memor​ijaln​i/y34t6​7k. 26   https​://www.blic.rs/vesti​/repub​lika-srpsk ​a/najve​ci-srpsk​i-grad-pod-zemlj​om-utvrd​ivanj​e-istin​e-ogenoc​idu-u-jasen​ovcu/v80l2​nx. 27   https​://www.nezav​isne.com/novos​ti/ex-yu/Vucic​-i-Dodik​-za-Memor​ijaln​i-kompl​eks-u-Donjo​j-Gradi​ ni/51464​7.

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Dodik was very explicit in making this connection and projecting RS foreign policy goals through the future memorial site to be located at Donja Gradina: ‘I can neither forgive nor forget what the Ustasha and the NDH did to the Serbs.’ However, Dodik added, ‘this will be a place of memory of great suffering in the concentra‑ tion camp Jasenovac, but also of peace and gathering, because nobody wants any conflict nor revenge.’28 Implicit in this was that some kind of justice is owed to RS, but through its forgiveness and leadership it will not be sought. ‘RS does not want more than what is owed by the Dayton Accords, it wants peace and liberty, but also to protect its constitutional rights,’29 Dodik said at Donja Gradina, a veiled threat at attempts to reconfigure Bosnia as a unitary state and strip away RS autonomy. Jase‑ novac here, across the river Sava, represents nothing less than a desire for sovereign statehood.

Conclusion Political memory sits at the foundation of state identity, but it also shapes and influ‑ ences foreign policy of the present. It is, however, not just the various historical nar‑ ratives that mold how foreign policy is understood and pursued—it is also the physi‑ cal manifestations of memory that play a role in this policy construction. It is at the sites of traumatic memory, such as locations of concentration camps, execution sites, or memorial settings that political memory is embodied, and where its long reach is maintained as a continuous reminder of past trauma. It is those physical commemorative sites that provide a lasting reservoir of traumatic memories that are easily activated, mobilized around, and weaponized in the pursuit of contemporary foreign policy objectives. Reengaging the study of international politics with the study of material culture, the goal of this article was to expand our understanding of how political memory influences foreign policy by locating the construction of for‑ eign policy at physical sites of memory and point to the many ways in which physi‑ cal remains of the past are actors of foreign policy in the present. As the cases of Serbia, Croatia, and Republika Srpska demonstrated, physical sites of traumatic memory are lasting reservoirs of narrative tropes that work not only to solidify a sense of state identity but also to engage in a persistent process of foreign policy dialogue, where the site of mass atrocity is used to make terri‑ torial, statehood, and EU membership claims. Jasenovac for Serbia, Croatia, and Republika Srpska is a site of continuous foreign policy renegotiation—these for‑ eign policy claims happen routinely in discussions about Jasenovac—past and pre‑ sent—but they also happen at the site itself, where its continuing traumatic memory amplifies and often distorts any attempts to come up with a common, shared remem‑ brance. And while the declared goal of memory projects across the European space

28   https​://www.klix.ba/vijes​ti/bih/vrh-srbij​e-i-rs-a-u-donjo​j-gradi​ni-moram​o-da-zivim​o-u-miru-jedni​ -s-drugi​ma/19050​5047. 29   https​://www.klix.ba/vijes​ti/bih/vrh-srbij​e-i-rs-a-u-donjo​j-gradi​ni-moram​o-da-zivim​o-u-miru-jedni​ -s-drugi​ma/19050​5047.

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has often been for various European countries on the periphery to join a common, ‘core,’ European memory culture, the contestation over Jasenovac shows that physi‑ cal spaces of memory and narratives about those spaces instead can be continuing sources of divisive foreign policy conflict. Acknowledgments  I would like to thank  Lina Klymenko and Marco Siddi for inviting me to participate in this project, as well as journal editors and two anonymous reviewers for very helpful feedback on ear‑ lier version of this article.

Compliance with ethical standards  Conflict of interest  The author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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International Politics (2020) 57:1030–1046 https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-020-00209-9 ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Silencing history: forgetting Italy’s past during the refugee crisis in Europe Marco Siddi1  Published online: 17 January 2020 © Springer Nature Limited 2020

Abstract Most scholarly analyses of memory politics investigate how historical events are remembered selectively in order to justify political choices. Recent research has shown that ‘silencing the past’, notably the omission of relevant historical events, is also an important aspect of memory politics. This article examines how Italian leaders silenced significant periods of Italy’s history during the refugee and migrant crisis in 2014–2018. Drawing on memory politics and postcolonial literature, the article argues that Italian foreign policy discourses are based on both historical oblivion and the long-standing myth of the ‘good Italian’. The myth negates the controversial aspects of Italy’s colonial experience and permeates the country’s self-perception as an international actor. Italian foreign policy narratives also silenced the highly relevant precedent of Italian migration abroad. The focus is on the public speeches of Italy’s main political actors, notably national ministers and the leaders of the largest parties in parliament. Keywords  Italy · Memory · Forgetting · Postcolonialism · Foreign policy · Migration

Introduction Italy can and should be a protagonist of a new season of sincere and concrete multilateralism. We can be one because we have no skeletons in our closet, we don’t have a colonial tradition, we haven’t dropped bombs on anyone and we haven’t put the noose around the neck of any other economy. We are Italy and Italians, a people that is used to being respected for the quality of our products

* Marco Siddi [email protected] 1



Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Arkadiankatu 23B, P.O. Box 425, 00101 Helsinki, Finland Vol:.(1234567890)

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and actions. (Manlio di Stefano, Italy’s Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, cited in L’Espresso 2019) Manlio Di Stefano’s statement reveals a defining aspect of Italy’s official politics of memory and foreign policy since the Second World War: the attempt to silence and whitewash Italy’s highly controversial colonial past and draw a positive historical image of Italians, both in absolute terms and in comparison with other European nations (notably France, the UK and Germany).1 Nationalist, right-wing and centreright politicians have been the main proponents of apologetic and self-exculpating narratives about Italy’s colonial past and sometimes even celebrated Italian colonialism as part of the country’s supposed bygone grandeur (Ponzanesi 2016: 374). Di Stefano himself is a member of the populist Five Star Movement, which was in a coalition government with the far-right League from June 2018 to August 2019 (for early scholarly analyses of this government, see Bressanelli and Natali 2019; Newell 2019). However, with few and contingent exceptions (such as the Italian Communist Party’s support of anti-colonial movements during the Cold War, or individual initiatives of former presidents of the republic), the silencing of colonial history has been a bipartisan feature of postwar Italian politics. In the postwar years, the new democratic state attempted to construct itself in opposition to colonial liberal (1861–1922) and fascist (1922–1943) Italy. At the same time, it tried to avoid compensation claims from the former colonies or criminal proceedings against army and colonial officials. Hence, the rupture with the past did not involve a critical analysis of, let alone an admission of responsibility for the colonial period. All these factors concurred in crafting an official discourse that silenced the colonial past and skirted responsibility for colonial crimes. The fact that Italy lost its colonies during the Second World War, and thus was not directly involved in the decolonisation process between the 1950s and 1970s, enabled Italian politicians to avoid the relevant debates that occurred in other colonial countries. Moreover, postwar Italy did not have large ethnic minorities originating from the former colonies—and, until the 1980s, from any other foreign countries. This meant that, in addition to repressing the memory of its colonial past, republican Italy and Italians could construct their national identity along strongly racialised lines, where ‘Italianness’ coincided with ‘whiteness’ and Catholicism. This understanding of national identity became deeply engrained both among officials and the public opinion and continues to influence current domestic and foreign policy discourse (Lombardi-Diop 2012; Ponzanesi 2016). Drawing on memory politics and postcolonial literature, this article argues that current Italian foreign policy discourse is largely based on both historical oblivion and the long-standing myth of the ‘good Italian’. As will be shown, this is particularly true of official narratives concerning the recent refugee and migrant crisis in Europe. In this context, both Italy’s colonial past and its (enduring) history as an 1

  Answering criticism to his statement cited above, Di Stefano argued that a distinction should be made between a ‘colonial tradition’, such as that of France and the UK, and ‘episodes’ such as those concerning Italy (see his personal Facebook page, https​://www.faceb​ook.com/Manli​oDiSt​efano​/). His assumption is that approximately 60 years of Italian colonialism can be bracketed as an episode.

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emigrant nation (Choate 2008) are suppressed in order to focus on the presumed security threat of migration. The article starts with a theoretical analysis of forgetting the past in memory politics. It then moves on to analyse the specificities of Italian forgetting, most notably the silencing of Italy’s colonial crimes and the related construction of the myth of the ‘good Italian’. These issues are further elaborated with reference to postcolonial scholarship on Italy, which has (belatedly) acquired an important position in academic debates since the 2000s. The subsequent empirical analysis investigates how silencing the past was an essential premise and constitutive element of Italian official narratives during the recent refugee and migrant crisis in Europe.

The politics of forgetting the past Collective memory and forgetting The term ‘collective memory’ refers to the shared memories held by a community about the past. It is an image of the past constructed by subjectivity in the present, based on a collective’s current social and historical necessities (cf. Siddi 2017 for more detailed discussion). The selection and dissemination of discourses about a country’s past has been termed ‘politics of memory’ (Lebow et al. 2006). The politics of memory involves actors who use their public prominence to propagate discourses about the past that are functional to current political goals (Lebow 2006). Thanks to their public prominence, state leaders and leading politicians enjoy the discursive power to influence a country’s official memory narratives. By doing so, they can pursue both domestic and foreign policy goals. For instance, a state leader could use a narrative about the past (for instance, the negative effects of appeasement towards Hitler in the 1930s) to construct analogies with the present and justify foreign policy decisions (portray Saddam Hussein as a ‘new Hitler’ and justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003). Often, domestic and foreign policy goals are interlinked in the politics of memory: a particular historical narrative may serve the purpose of both corroborating a foreign policy decision and of uniting domestic public opinion behind that decision (cf. Klymenko 2019; Siddi 2017). While the effects of selective remembrance or the distortion of historical events in official memory have been analysed in scholarly literature (see for instance the volume by Lebow et  al. 2006), less attention has been devoted to the politics of forgetting. Forgetting is a central component of memory politics: dominant narratives are constructed through a selection of events that almost inevitably implies marginalising or leaving out other events that are not seen as consistent with the narrative. Like selective remembering, selective forgetting can justify or permeate both domestic politics and foreign policy decisions. While the politics of forgetting can occur in different ways and for different reasons (see Ricoeur 2004), this paper explores a specific type of forgetting, in which leading state actors and institutions take a central role. As Ricoeur (2004: 448) has argued, these actors may ‘impose a canonical narrative by means of intimidation or seduction, fear or flattery. A devious 91

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form of forgetting is at work here, resulting from stripping the social actors of their original power to recount their actions themselves’. While leading politicians can play a central role in the politics of forgetting, their efforts to confine certain historical events to oblivion can only be successful if they are endorsed by a substantial part of society. As Ricoeur (2004: 448–449) argued, social actors’ dispossession of memory is ‘not without a secret complicity, which makes forgetting a semi-passive, semi-active behaviour, as is seen in forgetting by avoidance (fuite), the expression of bad faith and its strategy of evasion motivated by an obscure will not to inform oneself, not to investigate the harm done by the citizen’s environment, in short a wanting-not-to know’. Partial or selective memory can also be seen as a form of forgetting (Ricoeur 2004: 449). As we shall see below, the politics of forgetting characterised Italian narratives concerning the country’s colonial and migrant past and influenced official Italian domestic and foreign policy discourses regarding the refugee crisis in Europe in the 2010s. Italy’s colonial past and the politics of forgetting Italy’s official politics of memory marginalises and represses the country’s colonial experience. The Italian colonial empire included Eritrea, Somalia, Libya and, even if only for a short (but significant) period, Ethiopia. In Europe, Albania and the Dodecanese islands of Greece were also Italian colonies. Italy’s colonial experience took place between the late 1880s and 1943. It started later and ended earlier than that of other European colonial powers such as France, the UK or Portugal. However, it was a constitutive part of national politics for over five decades, in a period that largely coincided with the foundation of the modern Italian state and the formation of national identity. As Ben-Ghiat (2006) has argued, the empire was central to the construction of both national identity and national conceptualisations of modernity, particularly during fascism. Many Italian intellectuals embraced colonialism as a means to strengthen national identity. According to the fascist vision, the imperial experience would produce a new type of human being, disciplined and patriotic; this ‘regeneration’ embodied the fascist idea of modernity. Significantly, the fascist regime reached the peak of its popularity in the wake of the conquest of Ethiopia in 1936 (Ben-Ghiat 2006: 382, 386). In its colonial empire, Italy committed a vast range of crimes2 on a large scale, including what can be seen as genocide. In the liberal (prefascist) period, they included summary executions and deportations as a tool to maintain order, mass repressions and the burning of Tripoli in 1911. During the fascist period, Italy used chemical weapons in the conquest of Libya and Ethiopia and constructed concentration camps in Libya (especially in Cyrenaica) to detain the civilian population during large-scale repressions. Mass repressions and arbitrary killings also took place in Ethiopia against the Coptic Church, in the fight against the anti-colonial resistance and throughout the colonial occupation (1936–1941). The crimes perpetrated 2

  By crimes, I intend acts that contravened laws and norms to which Italy had subscribed at the time (Labanca 2004: 303–304).

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against the Cyrenean population and Ethiopian resistance fighters can be regarded as instances of genocide. According to available estimates, around 100,000 Libyans had died as a result of Italian policies by the early 1930s, out a population of less than a million (Labanca 2004: 304–306; Del Boca 2003). Criminal acts were committed during both wars of conquest and the ordinary colonial administration (Labanca 2004: 302). Throughout the colonial period, women in the colonies were subject to further discrimination; many were either forced into prostitution or into domestic and sexual servitude for Italian colonists (a phenomenon called Madamismo in Italian, cf. Iyob 2000). Italy’s colonies also served as testing ground for strategies of mass repression that would later be applied during Italy’s occupation of Greece and Yugoslavia in the Second World War (Ben-Ghiat 2006: 383). Moreover, Italy’s colonial empire had legacies—for both Italians and the colonised countries—that lasted well after 1943. As far as Italy and Italians are concerned, many Italian settlers remained in Libya and Ethiopia in the first postwar decades. Italy lost all its colonies with the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947, despite diplomatic efforts (endorsed by all political forces) to salvage at least part of the empire. As other European powers retained their colonial possessions, the loss of empire left many Italians ‘feeling wronged rather than repentant’ (Ben-Ghiat 2006: 390). In postwar Italy, there were no critical public debates on the colonial experience and crimes, nor any related trials. Conversely, national myths about the innate goodness of the Italian colonialist became entrenched and have persisted until today. In addition, Italy continued to seek a privileged relationship with its former possessions and was in charge of an UN-authorised trusteeship over Somalia from 1949 to 1960. Having lost all its colonies during the Second World War, Italy did not have to confront the process of decolonisation in the 1950s–1970s, as for example France and the UK did. This, together with the fact that very few people from the former colonies were allowed to settle in Italy, helped insulate the country from contemporary and sometimes critical European debates on colonialism and its legacies (Lombardi-Diop and Romeo 2012: 6–7). An active official politics of denying and forgetting Italian colonial crimes, while only remembering the supposed positive aspects of Italian colonialism, contributed to the widespread ignorance of Italian public opinion regarding the country’s colonial past. The official politics of suppressing the colonial past encompassed the following main aspects. Firstly, postwar Italian governments rejected Ethiopia’s requests to put on trial presumed war criminals, ‘using delay, trickery and every possible expedient’ (Labanca 2004: 308). Secondly, they actively impeded the emergence of truth about Italian colonial crimes. In the postwar years, the Italian ministry of foreign affairs entrusted former colonial officials with the task of publishing documentation regarding the alleged achievements of Italian colonialism. A large sum of money was spent to publish fifty volumes, which critical historians have defined as a ‘colossal, costly and almost incredible effort of mystification’ (Del Boca 2003: 18). For decades, access to colonial and military archives was controlled by and only granted to people associated with the former colonial administration (Del Boca 2003: 19; Morone 2010). Even today, critical discussions of Italian colonialism are mostly confined to academic environments, despite the numerous scholarly publications that have appeared in recent years (cf. Triulzi 2006: 433; De Donno and Srivastava 2006). 93

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Finally, both official and societal discourse promoted the myth of the ‘good Italian’, which is elaborated upon below. As a result, in Italian mainstream public debates, colonialism has been remembered mostly in exotic terms and for the infrastructural projects that were implemented in the former colonies (Labanca 2004: 309). According to Triulzi (2006: 430), memory of the colonial past in Italy can be portrayed as a pendulum oscillating between an ‘all-out desire to forget’ and the ‘nostalgic recollection of a past which is selectively remembered and re-enacted to suit Italy’s new role in the postcolonial age’. This re-enactment occurred in particular as a response to immigration and took the form of a revival of an ‘idealised and assertive colonial memory’ (Triulzi 2006: 430). This selective memory and forgetting has fuelled feelings of cultural and racial superiority, which shape the new postcolonial encounter between Italian citizens and the disenfranchised ex-colonial subjects. Italy’s colonial experience was significant also in that it contributed to creating a national identity in opposition to black people (Ponzanesi 2016: 376), including a sense of racial entitlement that survives at present (Lombardi-Diop and Romeo 2015: 368). Discourses and practices forged in relations with the colonial empire had an impact on the development of metropolitan conceptions of race (Ben-Ghiat 2006: 383). The imposition of racial laws and apartheid in the colonies institutionalised racial discrimination. By 1937, an apartheid regime was in force in Italian East Africa, including racist segregation in public places in cities, the expropriation of native land and ghettoisation. Marriages between Italian citizens and colonial subjects were banned in order to prevent the alleged contamination of the so-called Italian Aryan-Mediterranean race. These developments in the colonial empire paved the way for the adoption of racist, anti-Semitic ideology and legislation in Italy in 1938 (De Donno 2006: 405–409).3 After 1945, the lack of sufficient critical analysis and public debate on colonial racist practices allowed racist discourse to survive and be deemed acceptable in democratic Italy. Therefore, race has been a central element not only in Italian nationalist narratives, but also in the country’s cultural discourse and national identity construction. Through race, the profound differences of class, gender and political belief that hindered the notion of a united Italy were repressed and forgotten (Re 2010; Lombardi-Diop 2012: 176). As recent research has highlighted, today’s rampant xenophobia is inseparable from the failure to process Italy’s racist foundations and dispel the myth of the ‘good Italian’ (Patriarca and Deplano 2018). The myth of the ‘good Italian’ Forgetting the colonial experience was part of a broader politics of forgetting Italy’s controversial past, including most notably the crimes committed during the fascist period and the Second World War. Before switching allegiance to the Allied side in

3

  Moreover, scholarly research has refuted apologetic claims according to which Italian colonisers violated race laws for humanitarian reasons. As Barrera’s work (2003) has shown, settlers were in agreement with their government regarding the subordination of the colonised and sought contact with the locals mostly to take advantage of them.

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September 1943, Italy had been in an alliance with Nazi Germany and participated in, or single-handedly launched4 the invasions of France, Albania, Greece, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. During this time, Italian troops had been responsible for war crimes and played a role in facilitating the Holocaust (see for instance Rodogno 2005). Before the war, Italy adopted anti-Semitic and racist legislation. However, official Italian memory of the postwar years focused entirely on the anti-Nazi and anti-fascist Resistance that took place in northern and central Italy in 1943–1945. The Resistance also constituted the foundational myth of post-1945 republican Italy (even if political parties sometimes disagreed on its interpretation, cf. Fogu 2006). The quest for a ‘usable past’ (Moeller 2002) is a common feature of state building after major historical dislocations, and the selection of the Resistance as a foundational myth was meant to bolster Italy’s new anti-fascist and democratic identity. At the same time, this narrative obfuscated Italians’ role as perpetrators and denied any continuity between fascist Italy and postwar Italy. Italians were able to reinvent themselves as anti-fascist by forgetting that many of them ever were fascist. In the dominant official narratives, Italians were portrayed as predominantly antifascist; if anything, they had been victims of Nazi and fascist crimes. At the root of this discourse was the myth of the ‘good Italian’ (Italiani brava gente), which attributed to Italians an innate humanism that prevented them from committing criminal acts (Fogu 2006: 145 and 169). The myth was propagated through numerous media, including the highly influential national cinema, and became ‘the quintessential expression of a truly collective memory’ (Fogu 2006: 147). From Roberto Rossellini’s Rome, Open City (1945) to Gabriele Salvatores’ Mediterraneo (1991) and Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful (1999), Italians were presented as good folks. Symptomatically, a popular movie on Italy’s participation in the war against the Soviet Union was titled Italians Good People (Italiani Brava Gente 1964). In the movie, the ‘evil’ German allies, rather than the Soviets, were portrayed as the main antagonists of the ‘good’ Italian soldiers. Moreover, particularly in the first postwar decades, ‘an active policy of censorship and suppression of information concerning the fascist wars of aggression ensured the removal of the most troubling fascist past from memory’ (Fogu 2006: 152). Hence, the myth of the ‘good Italian’ became a pervasive narrative in Italian politics and society, shaping self-conceptions of Italians’ behaviour both in the African colonies and on European war fronts. This oblivious and largely mendacious narrative also shaped the self-perception of postwar republican Italy in international politics. Ignorance or denial of Italy’s colonial crimes and complicity in wars of aggression led Italians to think that they had always been a relatively pacific nation, unable and unwilling to commit atrocities such as those perpetrated by Nazi Germany or the British and French colonial empires. The lack of reflection on Italy’s pre-1945 racist policies allowed numerous racist practices to survive in democratic Italy, both in what was seen as acceptable language and in societal behaviour. The fact that postwar Italian identity was (re)built around Catholicism and whiteness further reinforced racialisation processes through the automatic exclusion of whoever was not 4

  Fascist Italy invaded Greece in October 1940 without prior consultation with Nazi Germany.

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seen as white or Catholic. The lack of substantial immigration from the former colonies and other countries in the first postwar decades corroborated Italy’s self-perception as a demographically and culturally homogenous nation (Lombardi-Diop and Romeo 2012: 7). Historical oblivion and racialising discourses became a defining element of Italy’s postcolonial condition.

Italian postcolonialism and migrations The whitewashing and repression of Italy’s colonial experience has shaped the country’s current postcolonial condition, which is highly relevant to ongoing Italian debates on the refugee and migrant crisis. The notion of the ‘postcolonial’ is based on the understanding that the economic and cultural effects of colonialism are still present in the former colonising country, for instance through the unjust treatment and exclusion of migrants from the Global South and the reinstatement of the imbalances of the colonial system in today’s international relations (LombardiDiop and Romeo 2012: 2). The concept of postcolonialism includes the processes of racialisation, gendering and cultural transformations prompted by the legacy of colonialism and migrations (Lombardi-Diop and Romeo 2012: 2). The concept is thus highly relevant to understanding current Italian politics and society, including national debates on migration and Italy’s Southern Question. Italy has a long history of both transatlantic and trans-Mediterranean migrations; approximately 26 million Italians left the country between 1876 and 1976 (Choate 2008: 244). However, the history of Italians as a migrant nation—which continues today—has only a minor role in official memory and in current public debates, which are dominated by migration to, rather than away from Italy. Recently, scholars have analysed Italian emigration and Italy’s pursuit of a colonial empire as related phenomena. For instance, Labanca (2007) argued that, by acquiring colonies in Africa, Italy hoped to redirect migration abroad towards its colonial empire. Propaganda in liberal and fascist Italy depicted the colonies as an extension of national territory that would accommodate and satisfy the needs of masses of Italians. This propaganda targeted in particular the many poor and unemployed in Italy’s South (the Mezzogiorno), a part of the country that has been described as Italy’s internal colony. The description of the South as internal colony is based mostly on the subaltern and racialised way in which it was integrated in the national project during national unification, as well as on its relative poverty (cf. Gramsci 2005; LombardiDiop and Romeo 2012: 4–5; Ponzanesi 2016: 375). Even after the end of its colonial empire, Italy continued to be an emigrant nation and did not experience any major influx of migrants from the ex-colonies or other African countries for several decades. This was also due to Italy’s highly restrictive citizenship policy towards former colonial subjects (Deplano 2018). Small groups of people arrived from the former colonies in the 1950s and 1960s, most notably Eritrean women who followed returning Italian families for which they had worked during the colonial period, or Somali students sent by the Italian trusteeship administration to train future political cadres. As recent research has shown (Deplano 2018: 402–405), they often experienced racial discrimination. It was only from the 1980s Reprinted from the journal

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onwards that Italy, while not ceasing to be an emigrant nation, became a destination or a passageway for migrants (as it had already been in antiquity), particularly from Eastern Europe and the Global South. However, even while the number of migrants increased and Italy became a multicultural society, Italianness continued to be associated with specific cultural and biological (whiteness) traits, thereby constructing a normativity of Italian whiteness (Lombardi-Diop and Romeo 2012: 9–10, 18). In this context, racism and exclusionary practices against immigrants became widespread since the late 1980s (Lombardi-Diop and Romeo 2015: 374). Most significantly, racist images, behaviour and praxis that originated in colonial times were reactivated and resurfaced in the public sphere, where they combined with new narratives portraying migrants as a threatening Other (Ponzanesi 2016). They also reinstated relationships of power created by colonialism (Lombardi-Diop and Romeo 2015: 367). One of the most conspicuous examples of this was the opening of detention camps for refugees on the Libyan coast, in cooperation with Gadhafi’s regime (following the 2008 Italian-Libyan treaty), where human rights were violated repeatedly and systematically. While the camps purportedly had very different goals from those created by fascist Italy in Cyrenaica in the 1920s and 1930s, their resemblance to the camps of the colonial past was perversely remarkable. Even more worrying was the fact that, due to Italy’s politics of forgetting the colonial past, few Italians realised this resemblance. The perceptions of many Libyans and other Africans may have been fundamentally different, however, given the persistence of colonialism—and, in the case of the Arab World, even of anti-colonial resistance against fascist Italy, epitomised by the Libyan fighter Omar al-Mukhter—in their collective memory (Labanca 2010a: 12–13). Hence, when thousands of African and Albanian migrants arrived Italy in the 1990s and 2000s, long-standing racial clichés and prejudices re-emerged, as if they had been bequeathed from the colonial period to present generations. According to the official census, the number of foreigners living in Italy increased from 356,159 in 1991 to 1,334,889 in 2001 and 3,769,518 in 2011 (Colucci 2019: 428). In Italian society, a racist system of perceptions and practices became the routine and permeated personal conversations, the media and the political debate (Triulzi 2006: 434). Even recent fictional works published by Italian authors that seemed interested in processing the colonial past ended up perpetuating colonial clichés and presented almost exclusively the perspectives of colonisers (Labanca 2010b; Stefani 2010). As Chambers (2008: 7) has argued, current xenophobia is related to the failure to confront and critically reflect on the colonial past, a past that continues to shape national configurations of identity, culture and modernity. In Italy, the politics of forgetting the colonial past has thus been functional to the current dominance of xenophobic discourses vis-à-vis migration and to the country’s foreign policy posture (Ponzanesi 2016: 375). Recent migration to Italy and the rise of anti‑migrant discourses As argued, both the construction of national identity within racial and religious boundaries and the failure to come to terms with Italy’s racist past contributed to 97

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Italians’ opposition to the settling of migrants (Lombardi-Diop and Romeo 2015: 368). Even in Italian scholarly environments, migration was for a long time analysed only from the standpoint of labour market demand and other economic considerations. Migrants were not conceptualised as people or social actors (Dal Lago 2010: 5). Since the 1990s, Italian political and media debates on migration have often focused on its alleged link with criminality. Migrants tend to be lumped together in terms of a single and uniform community, which also facilitates attributing the blame of crimes committed by a few to this entire, constructed community (Dal Lago 2010: 5–6). In the 2000s, centre-right governments criminalised the very act of migrating—outside very few and limited legal channels—through the introduction of a new category of crime (in Italian, reato di immigrazione clandestina). Since 2011, Italy effectively blocked also the annual quota system that regulated entry for third-country national workers (the so-called decreto flussi). As Dines and Rigo (2016: 164) argued, the ensuing lack of agricultural workers was offset by the illegal employment of numerous asylum seekers that crossed the Mediterranean Sea in the 2010s, leading to a ‘refugeeisation of the workforce’. Keeping large groups of migrants and asylum seekers in a precarious legal and economic condition was hence geared to the needs of Italy’s dysfunctional economy, particularly (but not only) the agricultural sector in the South of the country (Dines and Rigo 2016). Here, many local entrepreneurs and powerful criminal organisations welcomed the availability of underpaid seasonal labour, unable to demand better work conditions via legal channels (Dal Lago 2010: 8). The effects of globalisation and the 2008 economic crisis—notably the worsening labour conditions—also played a role in the rise of anti-migrant discourse (Colucci 2019: 428–429). Modern Italy’s national identity has been constructed around the idea of whiteness and clear cultural and territorial boundaries. As Appadurai (2006) has argued, globalisation blurs these boundaries and may cause anxieties about the presumed loss of economic sovereignty and well-being, leading in turn to antimigrant sentiment and calls for cultural purification. These processes were particularly strong in post-2008 Italy due to the combined effect of the economic crisis and the growing challenge to the established idea of the country as a culturally homogenous nation. Greater precariousness led to a ‘growing and pervasive feeling of fear’ (Colucci 2019: 429). Political forces, particularly on the right side of the spectrum, attempted to stoke fears about economic uncertainty and identified migrants as easy scapegoats (Dal Lago 2010: 6–7; Urso 2018). As right-wing and extreme right parties (most notably Lega Nord and Alleanza Nazionale) joined government coalitions in 2001–2006 and 2008–2011, their anti-migrant discourse acquired institutional endorsement and was more easily mainstreamed via the media. As Ponzanesi (2016) has shown, colonial constructions and negative (and usually gendered) images of black Otherness were prominent in Italian societal and institutional debates in the 2010s. It was against this background that the migrant and refugee crisis entered the Italian political and societal context. The number of asylum seekers arriving to Italy by sea increased with the onset of the Arab Spring, together with the number of those who died en route. In 2011, 64,261 people arrived to Italy in this manner. Arrivals decreased to 13,267 in 2012, but then increased to 42,925 in 2013, 170,100 in Reprinted from the journal

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2014, 153,842 in 2015, peaking at 181,436 in 2016. In 2017, the number dropped to 119,247 (Colucci 2019: 430). A further and more drastic drop appears to have occurred in 2018 and the first months of 2019 (Ministero dell’Interno 2019). The share of those seeking political asylum upon arrival has increased, reaching 123,482 in 2016. However, the majority of asylum requests have been rejected since 2015, also due to the constant tightening up of the right to asylum. The relocation of some asylum seekers to other member states of the European Union (EU), as desired by the Italian government, has been a serious bone of contention within the Union. As the dispute escalated, both the EU’s internal and external borders have become increasingly militarised. Moreover, in 2016–2017 the Italian government made controversial agreements with several factions controlling different parts of Libya in order to stop migrants from crossing the sea towards Italy (Colucci 2019: 430–435). The Italian debate around migration became more heated after 2015 due to other developments. The dichotomy Christian/Muslim, which had already become polarised after 9/11, was exacerbated further following the 2015–2016 terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. The terms ‘migrant’, ‘Muslim’ and ‘terrorist’ were often juxtaposed and even equated in mainstream Italian (and European) discourses. Moreover, the Italian political debate became more polarised when a new draft law regulating the attribution of citizenship was discussed in 2015–2017. The new draft law essentially addressed the condition of second generation immigrants by allowing them to apply for Italian citizenship at birth if they satisfied certain conditions (such as being born in Italy, having at least one parent with a regular permanent stay permit, cf. Lombardi-Diop and Romeo 2015: 381, note 32). Right-wing parties vocally opposed the law. Although centre-left forces were in government and enjoyed a relative majority in parliament, the draft law was eventually discarded due to the lack of a political majority that would support it in the decisive parliamentary vote. Numerous (especially centrist) politicians believed that the law would be unpopular and withdrew their support (Colucci 2019: 435–436). Meanwhile, in this increasingly heated context, hate crimes against immigrants, Muslim citizens and Roma grew exponentially (Lombardi-Diop and Romeo 2015: 374).

Forgetting the past and Italian official discourses on migration The link between migration, Italy’s postcolonial condition and the politics of forgetting the colonial past became particularly evident during the Five Star-League government in Italy in June 2018. The statement by Manlio Di Stefano (cited in L’Espresso 2019) reported at the beginning of the article is a glaring example. His claim that Italy does not have ‘a colonial tradition’ and did not ‘drop bombs on anyone’ highlights how oblivion and ignorance of the country’s history has pervaded Italian politics. As a prominent government official and representative of the largest party in parliament, Di Stefano felt entitled to make a public statement blatantly disregarding ascertained facts and historical evidence. What is more, when reminded of Italy’s actual colonial past, Di Stefano insisted on his argument and claimed that Italian colonialism was just an ‘episode’ of little importance. Significantly, he juxtaposed his denial of Italy’s colonial past to a reiteration of the myth of the ‘good 99

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Italian’ (‘a people that is used to being respected for the quality of our products and actions’). This shows how both themes concur in the official repression of memory concerning Italy’s crimes perpetrated in the first part of the twentieth century. The fact that Di Stefano used this ‘cleansed’ narrative of Italian history to advocate the role of protagonist in international affairs demonstrates the link between Italy’s politics of forgetting and foreign policy. Di Stefano’s statement was not an isolated case. Indeed, other instances show an even clearer link between Italy’s postcolonial condition, the politics of forgetting and official foreign policy discourses related to migration. In January 2019, Deputy Prime Minister and Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio (cited in La Repubblica 2019) argued that There are dozens of African states where France prints its own currency, the colonial franc, and then finances French public debt with that currency. Macron first lectures us, then continues to finance [French] public debt with the money that he uses to exploit African countries. If we want to stop departures [of migrants from Africa to Europe], let us start by addressing this topic, and let’s do it also at the UN, not just within the EU. […] [We should] start sanctioning those countries that do not decolonise Africa because what is happening in the Mediterranean is the result of the actions of some countries that even want to lecture us. Echoing Di Maio’s argument, Alessandro Di Battista—one of the most prominent Five Star politicians—argued: […] Above all France, through its geopolitical control of that area where 200 million people live and use banknotes and coins printed in France, manages the sovereignty of entire countries, preventing their legitimate independence, their monetary and fiscal sovereignty and their possibility to run expansionary fiscal policies. As long as this currency won’t be torn, which handcuffs African peoples, we can keep talking about open or closed ports [in Europe], but people will continue to flee, to die at sea, to look for other routes and try to come to Europe (cited in La Repubblica 2019). While Di Maio’s and Di Battista’s statements identified a link between postcolonialism and migration, they did so only to attack the policies of a country that they perceived as an antagonist. Their argument (wrongly) presupposed that Italy does not have postcolonial relations and interests in African countries, despite the fact that most migrants started their trip across the Mediterranean to Italy from Libya, a former Italian colony where Italy has considerable economic interests.5 Oblivion of Italy’s colonial past and postcolonial present, as well as the myth of the ‘good Italian’, provided the foundations for Di Maio’s and Di Battista’s claims. They were also fundamental constituents of a foreign policy narrative, which highlights how

5

  The central role of Italian energy company ENI in the Libyan oil sector, as well as Italy’s large oil imports from Libya, is evidence of such interests.

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the politics of forgetting and Italy’s postcolonial condition influence current Italian foreign policy. While Di Stefano, Di Maio and Di Battista are all members of the Five Star Movement, the narratives described so far were by no means a prerogative of Five Star politicians. Matteo Salvini—the leader of the League, Minister of the Interior and Deputy Prime Minister in 2018–2019—also argued that ‘The problem of migrants has many causes, there are those [countries] that deprive African people of wealth, including France. Paris has interests that clash with those of Italy in Libya and has no interest in stabilising the situation’ (cited in Di Santo 2019). Significantly, Salvini admitted that Italy had interests in Libya, but framed them as legitimate and beneficial to the latter. Conversely, he portrayed French policies as destabilising Libya. Salvini’s rhetoric usually included anti-migrant, xenophobic and anti-EU claims. In his speeches on migration, he repeatedly argued that ‘Africans should stay in Africa’ and practically implied that the very act of migrating (with very few and arbitrary exceptions) is criminal and a threat to Italy. In order to make this argument, Salvini simultaneously had to silence Italy’s past and present as an ‘emigrant nation’ (Choate 2008). Hence, the very essence of Italy’s stance towards immigration in 2018–2019 was based on denying the country’s past. While this stance was welcomed by a substantial part of ‘complicit’ Italian public opinion (cf. Ricoeur 2004: 448), European politicians from countries hosting Italian migrants highlighted its inherent contradictions.6 The silencing of Italy’s migrant and colonial past was not only a feature of the Five Star-League government. Ministers of the previous two governments, led by a centre-left majority (2013–2018), contributed to the framing of migration as a threat in official discourse. They also promoted discourses that silenced Italian migration and reflected Italy’s postcolonial condition. Marco Minniti, Minister of the Interior from June 2016 to January 2018, engineered and praised agreements with the Tripoli-based Libyan government and Libyan warlords to prevent migrants from crossing the Mediterranean. These agreements ‘violated refugees and migrants’ rights through the externalization of border control to countries outside Europe […] trapping tens of thousands of people in Libya, where they are at risk of serious human rights violations’ (Amnesty International 2019). According to Amnesty International (2019), Italy was therefore complicit in the torture of migrants in Libya due to its efforts to keep them on Libyan territory. What is more, the Italian government helped to establish a system of detention centres in Libya where human rights were violated. As argued, these centres were reminiscent of Italy’s policies in Libya in the 1920s and 1930s, when civilians were deported to detention camps against their will, and often died as a result. Nevertheless, no prominent Italian politician discussed this historical precedent, nor were there any noteworthy societal debates. The

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 Most notably, Jean Asselborn—Luxembourg’s Minister of Foreign, European Affairs and Immigration—reminded Salvini that ‘In Luxembourg we had thousands of Italian immigrants. They came as migrants, who worked in Luxembourg so that you in Italy could have money to pay your children’ (cited in Sandford and Miner 2018).

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lack of such debates can be seen as a consequence of Italy’s politics of forgetting the colonial past. Even while criticising the xenophobic discourses of right-wing political parties, Minniti (2018) described migration as a ‘problem’. He also argued that ‘a modern left cannot break a, let’s say, sentimental link with those who are in a rage or are afraid’, a clear reference to anti-migrant and xenophobic discourses that became dominant in Italy in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis and globalisation processes (cf. Appadurai 2006). Minniti’s statements epitomised the political strategy on migration of Italian governments led by centre-left majorities in the 2010s. These governments realised that, in a difficult economic context, immigration was a highly popular scapegoat that could be used by right-wing parties to draw voters’ support. However, rather than developing a competing political narrative, centre-left governments oscillated between providing a moderate version of the same narrative and mimicking it completely (cf. Urso 20187). Many statements of Matteo Renzi, a prominent member of the centre-left Democratic Party and prime minister from February 2014 to December 2016, are exemplary in this respect. For instance, Renzi declared that Italy should abandon the ‘feel-good and third-worldist narrative according to which we have the duty to welcome anyone who fares worse than we do’ (cited in Il Fatto Quotidiano 2017). Renzi also argued that Italy should help migrants ‘at [their] home’, and whoever came to Italy ‘should take into account our identity’, which was ‘first of all cultural, civic, spiritual, social’. By defining Italian identity in spiritual (that is, Catholic) terms, Renzi reiterated both right-wing discourses and, most notably, twentieth-century constructions crafted in the fascist and colonial period. Such definition ignored Italy’s growing cultural diversity and highlighted the lack of historical awareness of Italy’s discrimination against religious minorities, such as Italian Jews, Roma and non-Christian Italians (cf. Patriarca and Deplano 2018). The systematic silencing of Italy’s discriminatory past, both at home and in its former colonial empire, played a fundamental role in making such exclusive definitions of Italian identity acceptable even to allegedly more liberal and leftist voters.

Conclusion This article illustrated how Italy’s politics of memory and its postcolonial condition influenced discourses on foreign immigration, as well as the country’s foreign policy posture, during the post-2014 European refugee and migrant crisis. It argued that Italy’s long-standing politics of forgetting its colonial and migrant past played an important part in the current rise of anti-migrant and xenophobic discourses. As Italians never confronted their country’s racist and criminal colonial history, numerous colonial clichés, racist discourses and practices resurfaced when Italy became the destination of thousands of African migrants. Due to the deep-rooted self-perception

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  This is corroborated by Urso’s (2018) finding that, when in government, left-wing parties tend to use fewer humanitarian arguments and endorse securitized narratives.

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of Italians as a ‘good people’, both politicians and the public opinion largely failed to recognise the racism and the colonial tropes inherent in their anti-migrant discourses and policies. In this context, Italian politicians only cited colonialism to blame other European countries—France in particular—for allegedly causing the migration of Africans to Europe. Conversely, Italy’s colonial past was silenced or denied. In fact, Italian foreign policy in Africa continues to be conditioned by the legacies of its colonial history. Colonialism has had profound consequences for Rome’s relations with Libya, Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia (see for instance Calchi Novati 2008). Furthermore, Italy remains a ‘migration crossroads’. Hundreds of thousands of Italian citizens have moved their residency abroad in recent years (Colucci 2019: 437–438).8 The very fact of condemning migration to Italy or considering it a problem, while millions of Italians moved abroad and many more continue to do so, is contradictory and encourages the official silencing of a highly significant part of Italian history and present. However, the inexorable transformation of Italy into a multicultural society—as statistics on immigration since the 1990s show—could put pressure on Italian politics and public opinion to confront the country’s colonial and migrant past, as well as its postcolonial condition. Long-standing conceptualisations of Italian identity in terms of whiteness and Catholicism will most likely become increasingly contested and lead to social conflict due to the exclusion of a growing number of people that live in Italy. Furthermore, both other European countries and political actors in former Italian colonies have recently challenged Italian foreign policy narratives based on assumed, positive self-conceptualisations.9 The combined effects of domestic developments and external pressure may eventually induce a long overdue public and official debate on Italy’s repressed colonial past. Acknowledgements  The author would like to thank Dr. Lina Klymenko and Dr. Elisa Pascucci for their comments on earlier drafts of this article.

Compliance with ethical standards  Conflict of interest  The author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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International Politics (2020) 57:1047–1062 https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-020-00219-7 ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Understanding the persistence of history‑related issues in Sino–Japanese relations: from memory to forgetting Karl Gustafsson1,2  Published online: 30 January 2020 © The Author(s) 2020

Abstract Disputes over collective memory are a common source of bilateral friction in international politics. For example, differences over war memory have negatively impacted Sino–Japanese relations for many decades, despite apologies and other attempts to deal with the problems. Why are history-related issues so persistent? Existing explanations suggest, for example, that efforts to improve relations have been insufficient, or that collective memory is used instrumentally for political expediency. This article contributes to this discussion by shifting the conceptual focus from memory to forgetting. It argues that dominant notions of forgetting as fading away and denial often facilitate an understanding of collective memory in terms of security. It suggests that a conceptualization of forgetting that sees it as inherent to all remembering could ameliorate tension over collective memory by making those involved in international memory politics recognize that not only others forget, but that they themselves also do so as they remember. Keywords  Collective memory · Forgetting · Security · Foreign policy · China · Japan

Introduction Bilateral disagreements over how to remember the past are common in international politics. Such disputes often play a central role in intractable conflicts over territory and resources, making them even more difficult to resolve. In some cases, collective memory-related disputes continue to disturb interstate relations even though attempts are made to improve relations and overcome differences over how the past is remembered. * Karl Gustafsson [email protected] 1

Department of Economic History and International Relations, Stockholm University, Universitetsvägen 10, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

2

Swedish Institute of International Affairs, PO Box 27035, 102 51 Stockholm, Sweden



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Relations between China and Japan present us with a case that epitomizes the persistence of history-related issues. Collective memory related to Japanese aggression in China in the 1930s and 1940s has negatively impacted bilateral relations for many decades. After the war, Japan adopted a constitution which is often referred to as ‘pacifist’, and has subsequently stuck to a peaceful path. Sino–Japanese relations then developed from a situation in which Japan did not even recognize the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to normalization of bilateral relations in 1972. In addition, Japanese prime ministers and other government representatives have made numerous apologies. Nonetheless, history-related problems have not gone away. Why have conflicts over collective memory persisted in relations between Japan and China despite efforts to deal with the issue, for example through high-level apologies? The Sino–Japanese case can shed light on general questions related to international memory politics: Why are disputes over collective memory so persistent? Why are the foreign policy actions that are meant to ameliorate collective memory often insufficient and unsuccessful? In research on Sino–Japanese relations, several existing explanations can be found: Some have suggested that apologies have been insufficient or inefficient because they have been followed by actions by Japanese politicians that are seen as nullifying them, such as the denial of the aggressive nature of Japan’s invasion of China. Others have argued that the problem persists because collective memory is used for political expediency, for example by the Chinese government or right-wing Japanese politicians. According to another argument, the problem persists because collective memory is key to fulfilling identity needs. While these explanations all highlight important aspects of Sino–Japanese memory politics, this article seeks to contribute by shifting the focus from memory to forgetting. The growing literature on how the politics of the past influence foreign policy and international relations has used concepts such as collective memory, trauma and remembrance, while the concept of forgetting has not been discussed in much detail. This article draws on recent work in memory studies where a conceptual shift from memory to forgetting has started to occur (e.g. Augé 2004; Connerton 2008; Whitehead 2009: 154; Plate 2016). It argues that shifting the focus from memory to forgetting and engaging in depth with the concept of forgetting can advance our understanding of international memory politics in general and why such issues are so persistent in particular. In doing so, the article discusses different understandings of forgetting and how they impact on international memory politics. Crucially for understanding why history-related problems have been so persistent, the notions of forgetting that dominate in Sino–Japanese memory politics—as fading away and as denial—tend to discuss forgetting in terms of security. Importantly, forgetting as fading away involves seeing memory as threatened by forgetting even in the absence of any securitizing move or threatening actor. Forgetting as fading away is passive, and it is believed that it will occur unless we guard against it. Various actors seek to protect the collective memories that they espouse from the threat of fading away through a range of measures, for example by constructing museums, memorials, archives and by holding commemorative ceremonies. Forgetting as denial, by contrast, is active. It involves other actors denying ‘our’ memory. In the Reprinted from the journal

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face of denial, they often escalate their activities and seek international recognition of the memories they hold dear. While these two influential ways of understanding forgetting are useful for understanding much of what goes on in Sino–Japanese memory politics, they are nonetheless incomplete. They fail to take into account that forgetting is also productive. A third notion of forgetting that regards it not simply as a ‘failure of memory—a disremembering’ (Plate 2016: 144), but as a ‘component of memory itself’ (Augé 2004: 15), it is argued, can help us better understand international memory politics. The various measures that are used to prevent forgetting at the same time actively produce it. Active forgetting thus appears not only in the form of denial but is also inherent to remembering itself (Plate 2016: 144). If international memory politics were to be informed by such a conceptualization of forgetting and those involved in it were to recognize that not only others forget, but that we all do so as we remember, it could ameliorate bilateral tension over collective memory. The next section briefly reviews research on international memory politics in International Relations (IR) in general, and in the context of Sino–Japanese relations in particular, highlighting some of the preoccupations and limitations of this literature. Following this review, the article moves on to a discussion of the concept of forgetting. The section that then follows explores and provides examples of how this discussion of forgetting can inform our understanding of Sino–Japanese memory politics. The conclusion further discusses the implications of the findings of the analysis and provides suggestions for future research.

Collective memory in international relations The political and social significance of how societies remember the past has received increased scholarly attention in the past decades. This growing IR literature has suggested that conflicts over collective memory are difficult to resolve. Why is this? Why are disputes over collective memory so persistent? In research on the empirical case with which this article is concerned, that is Sino–Japanese relations, several existing explanations can be identified: Some have suggested that Japanese attempts to resolve the issue, for example through expressions of remorse, have been insufficient or that they have failed because they have been followed by actions by Japanese politicians that are seen as nullifying them, such as the denial of the aggressive nature of Japan’s war (e.g. Lind 2008; Suzuki 2008; Gustafsson 2019a). There is some truth to such explanations. At the same time, however, they sometimes appear to focus excessively on the apologies per se or on how they are received within Japan, while paying insufficient attention to the role of Chinese collective memory. Others have argued that collective memory is used for political expediency, for example by the Chinese government or right-wing Japanese politicians (e.g. He 2009; Wang 2012; Pugliese and Insisa 2017). It is thus believed that the Chinese government has used references to Japanese wartime aggression to seek to extract concessions from Japan. However, even though such attempts certainly have been made and may have been relatively successful in the past, more recently they have 109

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been less successful as many Japanese have come to believe that Japan has apologized sufficiently (e.g. Fukuoka 2018). Others argue that state actors use war memory to increase legitimacy or to put pressure on the other state. While politicians certainly do attempt to use collective memory strategically, such arguments suggest that government actors are more or less in control of collective memory and able to switch the issue on and off as they please. However, even when both sides have tried to improve relations, as they did for example around 2007–2008 when several highlevel state visits took place, the results were relatively modest. According to another argument, the issue persists not because it is used strategically but because collective memory is central to the fulfilment of identity needs: attachment to identity is understood as so important that it trumps attempts at improving relations. As a result, nationalist, rather than conciliatory or cosmopolitan commemoration, has dominated. This presents an obstacle to resolving disputes over collective memory (e.g. Rose 2005; Zarakol 2010; Gustafsson 2014; Shibata 2016; Saito 2016). This article is sympathetic to and overlaps in part with this approach, but seeks to contribute to it by highlighting the key role played by forgetting in constructing and maintaining a coherent sense of self. The perspectives discussed above all present important findings that arguably have some bearing on the persistence of disputes over collective memory. The point of this article is thus not to dismiss, but to complement existing scholarship. In doing so, it seeks to contribute not only to research on Sino–Japanese relations, but to research on the international politics of memory more broadly. This broader literature has explored the links between collective memory and foreign policy (Müller 2002; Zehfuss 2007; Laffey and Weldes 2008; Lawson and Tannaka 2010; Subotić 2019b; Pusca 2014; Dian 2017; Klymenko 2019), the role of trauma in international politics (Edkins 2003; Bell 2006; Resende and Budryte 2013; Klymenko 2016), how the legacies of past wars influence interstate reconciliation (Rose 2005; Auerbach 2009; Mannergren Selimovic 2017; Siddi 2017; Khoury 2018; Gustafsson 2019b), the securitization of collective memory (Mälksoo 2014; Strukov and Apryshchenko 2018) and the relationship between memory and ontological security (Zarakol 2010; Gustafsson 2014; Mälksoo 2015; Rumelili 2018; Subotić 2019a). Even though some of this IR scholarship does refer to forgetting, and the existence of a dialectic between remembering and forgetting is sometimes acknowledged, most research focuses on memory and does not discuss forgetting in detail. In shifting the focus from memory to forgetting, the next section raises and addresses fundamental questions concerning the relationship between forgetting and security, such as what exactly constitutes existential threats and security measures in the context of international memory politics (cf. Buzan et al. 1998: 22–23).

From memory to three kinds of forgetting In memory studies, a ‘discursive shift’ has already started to ‘take place from memory to forgetting’ (Whitehead 2009: 154). Some have argued for a move from memory studies to oblivion studies (Plate 2016). As part of this ongoing turn, scholars have begun to explore the concept of forgetting not just as the loss of or the flipside Reprinted from the journal

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of memory, but as a concept in its own right which is considerably more complex than often suggested. It has thus been argued that forgetting is not a singular concept. Instead, there are different types of forgetting that occur in different ways. Paul Connerton, for example, has argued (2008), based on numerous historical examples, that there are at least seven types of forgetting. Others have responded that some of the kinds of forgetting that Connerton identifies can be subsumed within a smaller number of categories (Erdelyi 2008; Singer and Conway 2008; Wessel and Moulds 2008a). In what follows below, I will first discuss three understandings of forgetting that I suggest are particularly useful for understanding Sino–Japanese memory politics. Memory as fading away and denial For Maurice Halbwachs, who coined the term ‘collective memory’, to view memory as collective means that people are seen as remembering the past as members of groups. These groups construct memory collectively through a selective process where the group’s past is reconstructed in the light of the present (Halbwachs, 40). In Halbwachs view, collective memory is primarily shared through everyday communication among those who experienced events. As they gradually pass away, the memory of what happened in the past often fades away (Halbwachs 1992). For Halbwachs then, forgetting is understood as a passive fading away of memory. Many scholars who have built on Halbwachs’ work have similarly been concerned with memory rather than forgetting and as such have also tended to approach forgetting primarily in terms of such a passive fading away of memory. The common understanding of forgetting as passive can be traced to its etymological roots. ‘Forgetting’ in languages such as English and German means loss of memory or failure to remember (Plate 2016: 145). The Japanese (忘れる, wasureru) and Chinese (忘, wáng) terms have similar meanings. The Chinese character wáng (忘) consists of two parts, one of which means to die or lose (亡), while the other means heart, feeling or mind (心). In other words, to forget in Japanese and Chinese means to lose that which previously was in one’s heart (or mind) (Tōdō et al. 2018). Given these etymological roots, it is understandable that forgetting often tends to be understood as a passive fading away. Much of the academic literature echoes this understanding (Plate 2016: 145). However, the Latin word ‘oblivion’ has a different etymology: ‘Oblivion refers to the condition or state of being forgotten. Its Latin root, “oblivisci”, means “to take away”, and so suggests it is active, not the passive loss of memory implied by its Germanic counterpart’ (Plate 2016: 146). The other common understanding of forgetting is active and actor-centric. It sees the threat of forgetting in terms of denial (cf. Wessel and Moulds 2008b; Connerton 2008: 60–61). It identifies actors who are seen as seeking to deny collective memory. In international memory politics, it is typically other states or actors associated with those states that are depicted as seeking to deny memory. The observation that collective memory is ‘seen to be at risk … by dying generations and official denial’ (Olick et al. 2011: 4) illustrates that fading away and denial are two conceptualizations of forgetting that are regarded as operating at the same time. 111

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Importantly, forgetting, both as fading away and as denial, tends to be seen as almost inherently bad and threatening. In memory studies, commentary about a contemporary pervasiveness of a fear of forgetting as well as a view of forgetting as a threat is abundant. Forgetting is often understood as negative, while remembering is seen as positive. Some even describe forgetting as a ‘villain’ and remembering as a ‘hero’. Others speak of forgetting as ‘terror’ and a ‘cardinal sin’ (Plate 2016: 145). For example, it has been stated that: ‘our secular culture today, obsessed with memory as it is, is also somehow in the grips of a fear, even a terror, of forgetting’ (Huyssen 2000: 28). The fact that even within memory studies, forgetting is often spoken of as a ‘villain’, ‘terror’ and ‘sin’ against which precautions must be taken, shows the extent to which discussions of forgetting tend to be permeated by a language of security. In terms of securitization theory (Buzan et al. 1998), for many actors involved in memory politics, as well as for many scholars of collective memory, it appears that forgetting as fading away and denial are understood as existential threats to collective memory. In securitization theory, actors turn issues into security problems through securitizing moves. By contrast, when it comes to forgetting as fading away, it seems that collective memory is understood as a security issue even in the absence of a securitizing move and in the absence of a threatening enemy. This means that security measures are adopted even when a particular collective memory is not threatened by an enemy. It thus seems that compared to many other issues collective memory might be particularly susceptible to securitization. It is almost as if to some degree it is always securitized. The language we use to speak of memory and forgetting seems to be complicit in the securitization of collective memory. This means that when a statement or act is interpreted as denial this happens in a context where memory is already thought of in terms of security. The actor-centric forgetting as denial involves seeing a particular agent as responsible for the threat. There are numerous measures for preventing forgetting. At the individual level, we might tie a piece of string around a finger, set an alarm or write down what we wish not to forget on a blackboard. At the societal level, collectives use cultural resources—they construct monuments, museums, libraries and archives, and organize commemorative ceremonies to prevent memory from fading away. Jan Assmann has thus suggested that ‘[i]f we concede that forgetting is the normality of personal and cultural life, then remembering is the exception, which—especially in the cultural sphere—requires special and costly precautions. These precautions take the shape of cultural institutions’ (2011: 335). Others speak of ‘technologies of memory’ that make it possible to record memories in different ways and thereby increase our capacity to remember and reduce the risk of forgetting (1999: 342), or an ‘infrastructure dedicated to keep the memory alive—consisting of memorials, museums, documentation, curricula, commemorations and civil societal organizations’ (Langenbacher 2010: 29). Such initiatives and sites of memory are seen as necessary to ‘block the work of forgetting’ and thereby help collectives remember the past (Nora 1996: 19). Forgetting as denial, by contrast, often triggers international efforts to gain support and recognition for the memory that is seen as being denied as well as harsh criticism of the actor seen as responsible for denial. Reprinted from the journal

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Forgetting as inherent to remembering Importantly, the influential understandings of forgetting as passive fading away and active denial are incomplete. Forgetting, both individual and collective, also occurs in more subtle and not necessarily conscious ways, for example through retelling and adaptation (Stone and Hirst 2014). Forgetting, in such an understanding, is ‘not so much the dissipation of the original trace but a result of the cumulative reconstructions of successive rememberings which, over months and years’, result in ‘a progressively less faithful rendition of the original story’ (Erdelyi 2008: 274). Others view the interplay between remembering and forgetting in terms of ‘doing gardener’s work, selecting, pruning. Memories are like plants: there are those that need to be quickly eliminated to help the others burgeon, transform, flower’ (Augé 2004: 17). Forgetting, in other words, is necessary in order to cope, if not to survive (e.g. Erdelyi 2008: 275). We forget through reinterpretation and retelling and thereby turn uncomfortable memories into ones we can more easily live with. We adapt our memories and forget some experiences in order to be able to function and go on. We cannot remember everything. All the information would overwhelm and confuse us. Our memory would become ‘saturated’ (Augé 2004: 20), and it would make it impossible for us to maintain a coherent sense of self. We therefore exclude and forget what does not fit (Wessel and Moulds 2008a: 290). On an individual level, this is done through autobiographical memory, that is ‘recollections of personally experienced events’ (Wessel and Moulds 2008b: 291). The insight that we remember in ways that enable us to have a coherent sense of self is similar to arguments that stress the importance of a biographical narrative for ontological security (Steele 2008), but further specifies the role of forgetting in the construction of such autobiographies. Autobiographical memory is reconstructive in that when we remember it is not just as if we retrieve records from an archive. Instead, we ‘reassemble information about earlier experiences according to present goals, beliefs and concerns’ (Wessel and Moulds 2008b: 291). Such autobiographical memory is key to constructing and maintaining, as well as to adjusting, a coherent and continuous sense of self, which helps guide present and future behaviour. Forgetting helps groups construct a coherent sense of self in at least two ways—(1) through active and deliberate attempts to make the past fit with the group’s current goals, and (2) as a consequence of the passive and often unconscious ways in which what is in line with the group’s selfunderstanding and goals is incorporated while that which does not fit is excluded (Wessel and Moulds 2008a: 290–291). In for example museum exhibitions, we see how current goals are emphasized in the lessons the exhibitions convey to visitors. Museums and archives provide limited storage places that make up the group’s collective knowledge base. In the same way, officially sanctioned commemorative activities also require funding and a selection therefore needs to be made (Wessel and Moulds 2008a: 290–291, 2008b: 294–295). This selection tends to be made in a way that seeks to maintain a coherent sense of self and highlights current and future goals or lessons. Viewed from this perspective, Pierre Nora’s large inventory of French ‘sites of memory’ (lieux de memoire) can be criticized for omitting uncomfortable and divisive episodes in France’s past and for not sufficiently paying attention to ‘sites of 113

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forgetting’ (lieux d’oubli). Most notably in this regard, Nora has been criticized for omitting much of the history of French imperialism (Anderson 2004). In the context of international politics, autobiographical memory can be useful for connecting with others and establishing relationships. By talking with others about our pasts, we reveal who we are. Based on such revelations, we can connect with those who share similar past experiences, thereby strengthening our relationships (Wessel and Moulds 2008b: 291–292). By changing how it remembers past occurrences, a state might redefine its relations with other states that it went to war with in the past, thereby making possible more conciliatory relations. They may also seek to deepen relations or even form alliances with other states by stressing shared or similar experiences. UNESCO’s World Heritage and Memory of the World programs provide platforms for safeguarding memory and heritage meant to be shared by humanity as a whole. These initiatives are based on conceptions of forgetting as fading away (e.g. UNESCO 1972; Zon 1999). For individual states, these programs offer opportunities for safeguarding their collective memory from forgetting as fading away and denial by gaining international recognition. However, such initiatives may also exacerbate conflict over memory since they further expose different collectives not only to each other’s autobiographical memory but also to their forgetting. In other words, the internationalization of memory arguably makes contestation more likely since what one group has forgotten in the process of remembering may very well be what another remembers. In such cases, we may see states compete for international recognition. The next section explores how such competition plays out in Sino–Japanese relations.

Forgetting and Sino–Japanese relations This section illustrates how forgetting as outlined in the previous section can help shed light on Sino–Japanese bilateral memory politics by focusing on the memory of the 1937 Nanjing massacre and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. These brief empirical illustrations are not meant to exhaust but only to exemplify some ways in which the discussion of forgetting above can inform analysis of international memory politics. Forgetting as fading away Understanding forgetting as fading away entails viewing it as a threat that exists even in the absence of an enemy seen as attacking a memory by denying it. The construction of museums, memorials and archives constitutes key measures for protecting collective memory from fading away.

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In both China and Japan, hundreds of museums deal in different ways with the war that took place in the 1930s and 1940s.1 The two museums focused on here— the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders are arguably not only the most visited but also the most high-profile memory sites in their respective countries. They have both received UNESCO recognition and play key roles in highly publicized commemorative ceremonies. Japanese peace museums tend to be explicitly described by those who operate them as vehicles for passing on the experiences of survivors to generations who have not themselves experienced war, in order for memory not to be forgotten through fading away. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is one of Japan’s most visited museums with 1,680,923 visitors in 2017 (Hiroshima-shi 2018). As the Hiroshima survivors pass away, museum exhibits and lectures become ways ‘to pass down the experience of the A-bomb survivors and to raise awareness about the importance of peace’ (Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, n.d.). The museum’s peace message is explicitly linked to calls for abolishing nuclear weapons and implies support for specific policies or goals, such as Japan’s three non-nuclear principles of not manufacturing, not possessing and not harbouring nuclear weapons. In other words, the point is not just to remember for the sake of remembering but also to promote particular foreign policies. It is not only the museum exhibition as such that is used to prevent forgetting. The museum hosts an annual high-profile ceremony on 6 August to commemorate the first ever use of an atomic bomb against human beings. Since 1951, the ceremony has included a speech, labelled a ‘peace declaration’, by the mayor of Hiroshima. The 2018 speech clearly stressed the dangers of forgetting: ‘If the human family forgets history or stops confronting it, we could again commit a terrible error. That is precisely why we must continue talking about Hiroshima. Efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons must continue based on intelligent actions by leaders around the world’ (Matsui 2018). In other words, protecting collective memory from forgetting as fading away is understood as necessary for securing peace. In China, a key function of patriotic education, which focuses to a large extent on modern Chinese history, and especially the War of Resistance against Japan, is arguably to protect collective memory. Patriotic education, according to a key policy document, is meant to make Chinese understand how their forefathers remained indomitable in the face of foreign aggression and fought bloody wars for national independence under the pivotal leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, which is still in power. Education, then, seeks to make sure that certain episodes, interpreted in a particular way, are not forgotten. Such patriotic education is conducted not only at schools, but also through school visits to sites such as war museums, officially labelled ‘patriotic education bases’ (aiguozhuyi jiaoyu jidi) (Central Committee of the CPC 1994).

1

  The museum exhibitions discussed in this article have been visited several times by the author. During these visits, the author has photographed exhibits, taken notes and purchased printed material covering the content of the exhibitions. Quotes from exhibitions are based on such material.

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One of the most prominent patriotic education bases is the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders, which is one of the world’s most visited museums with reportedly 8,000,000 visitors in 2014 (China Daily 2015). Former Chinese president Hu Jintao has pointed out that the museum ‘is a good place to conduct patriotic education’, and that: ‘we can never forget this painful history’ (quoted in Zhu and Zhang 2008: 292). The main exhibition’s conclusion goes even further in stressing the importance of remembering as it states: ‘To forget history is an act of betrayal’. The need for remembering is linked to future action in phrases such as: ‘past experience, if not forgotten, serves as a guide for the future’ (Zhu and Zhang 2008), and to the importance of supporting the Chinese Communist Party’s policies and goals. As the exhibition’s conclusion states: ‘The Chinese people will unswervingly stick to the path of peaceful development and strive for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people’. In other words, attempts are clearly made not only to make sure that particular episodes are not forgotten, but also to define the lessons the collective should learn from those memories. Documents issued by the Chinese government have also stressed the educational importance of commemorating days of ‘national shame’ related to the War of Resistance against Japan (Central Committee of the CPC and the State Council 2004: 75–91). For example, in February 2014, it was reported that China had passed a law establishing the Memorial Day for the Nanjing Massacre victims (13 December) as a national commemoration day. The title of a newspaper article hinted at the reasons for adopting the legislation: ‘Keeping the memory alive’. Similarly, the director of the Nanjing museum commented: ‘Holding memorials through legislation safeguards the truth of the history of the Nanjing Massacre’ (Global Times 2014). The Nanjing Memorial Day is a high-profile event where top leaders such as Xi Jinping deliver speeches. It is clear that in both Japan and China these memorial sites, which are used for commemoration ceremonies on key anniversaries, offer opportunities for countering what is understood as the threat of forgetting as fading away. Importantly, the memory that is to be protected includes clearly stated lessons and goals that it is believed should be learned. Such lessons, moreover, function as justifications for specific foreign policies. Forgetting as denial The Nanjing museum exhibition’s conclusion explicitly references the threat of forgetting as denial as it states that ‘facts do not vanish simply because some people glibly insist on trying to deny them’ and ‘to deny a crime will only allow the crime to be repeated’. The museum also contains a section labelled ‘Safeguarding Historical Truth’, which includes a photograph of Chinese people protesting against the activities of Japanese right-wingers who deny the veracity of the Nanjing massacre. The threat of forgetting as denial was a key motivation for the 2014 nomination for inscription of archival documents related to the Nanjing massacre in the UNESCO Memory of the World (MoW) Register. Even though it is better known for its museum exhibition, the Nanjing memorial hall also has an archival function. It Reprinted from the journal

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houses documents and artefacts along with objects that have been created for the sole purpose of being exhibited, such as statues and paintings. In 2015, UNESCO approved the application for inscription. During the application screening process, the Japanese government protested several times (Nakano 2018). For example, it commented that it was ‘extremely regrettable’ that China was ‘using UNESCO for a political purpose’ while explicating the Japanese government’s official position that during the Nanjing massacre ‘the killing of a large number of noncombatants, looting and other acts occurred’, but that ‘there are numerous theories as to the actual number of victims, and the Government of Japan believes it is difficult to say with any certainty’ (Suga 2014). The official Japanese position thus does not deny that atrocious acts were committed in Nanjing. According to the official Chinese perspective as articulated in the exhibition in Nanjing, however, a victim count of 300,000 people, a figure literally set in stone at the Nanjing memorial hall, cannot be questioned. This means that the Japanese position that ‘it is difficult to say with any certainty’ how many were killed is nonetheless seen as constituting denial. Following the decision to include the documents in the register, it was reported in China that: ‘Researchers and the public cheered … saying the inscription marks an “international recognition and consensus” of records that have been distorted by the Japanese right wing’. Similarly, museum curator Zhu Chengshan described the inscription as ‘global recognition’ and said that henceforth ‘any act of denial will be impotent’ (Xinhua 2015b, emphasis added). Furthermore, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying called the Nanjing massacre ‘a historical fact recognized by the international community’, and remarked that: ‘[f]acts should not be denied and history not re-written’ (Xinhua 2015a). Similarly, curator Zhu commented: ‘Seven decades have passed since WWII, but the lessons of war have not been learned in some countries, and that is why we applied to list the documents’ (Xinhua 2015b). The purpose of the inscription was clearly to protect national collective memory from forgetting as denial by elevating Chinese memory to global memory. Not only China but also Japan has sought to protect collective memory through UNESCO inscription. In 1996, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial was made a UNESCO World Heritage site. At the time, the Chinese delegation to UNESCO criticized the inscription, arguing that it was not Japan, but other Asian countries and peoples that suffered the most and that those who still attempt to ‘deny this fact of history’ could use the inscription for ‘harmful purposes’. This, the Chinese delegation argued, would ‘not be conducive to the safeguarding of world peace and security’ (UNESCO 1996: Annex V). Forgetting as inherent to memory The empirics discussed above seem to fit well with the understandings of forgetting as fading away and as denial. The actors involved certainly appear to act based on such understandings. However, adopting a notion of forgetting as inherent to 117

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memory makes possible other interpretations. For such an approach, forgetting is key to constructing a coherent sense of self. The official Japanese position on the Nanjing massacre referred to above is a case in point. Even though it acknowledges that ‘a large number’ of Chinese were killed, nothing is said about what exactly this means except that ‘it is difficult to say with any certainty’. Officially describing the number in terms of uncertainty could be seen as a way of seeking to avoid acknowledging that it was an exceptionally large massacre and thereby seek to maintain a coherent and positive sense of self. The inscription of the Nanjing massacre documents by UNESCO provides the Chinese version of events—a version where there is no uncertainty whatsoever about the number of victims—with international recognition and gives it more attention internationally. In addition, by increasingly framing its war against Japan as part of a worldwide Anti-Fascist War and inviting foreign leaders to its military parade that commemorates the end of the war, the Chinese side has sought to link its memory to that of other states and to thereby gain allies in the contest with Japan over memory. All this arguably makes it more difficult for the Japanese side to dismiss the Chinese version and maintain a coherent sense of self. The Chinese criticism of UNESCO’s inscription of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial can be understood in a similar way. Remembering Japanese victimhood was said to be a potential threat both to the collective memory of other Asian states and to peace because the inscription of the site could be used for harmful purposes by those involved in forgetting as denial. The Chinese criticism of the Japanese memory of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is not only that it forgets about the Chinese victims of Japan’s war of aggression. The problem is also that Japanese are remembered as victims. It almost appears as if it is demanded not just that Japan remembers Chinese victims but also that it forgets Japanese ones. In other words, it is not just that the Japanese site forgets what the Chinese delegation considers it crucial to remember, but also that the Japanese memory reminded the Chinese delegation that forgetting is inherent to their own remembering. Being reminded of its own forgetting arguably threatens China’s coherent sense of self and leads it to criticize Japanese denial even more forcefully. It is perhaps the case that states criticize other states for failing to remember or for denying memories to avoid facing the fact that forgetting is inherent to their remembering as well.

Conclusion This article has addressed why disputes over collective memory are so persistent. To do so, it has sought to move beyond the common focus on memory and instead argued for a greater engagement with recent work in memory studies on the concept of forgetting. Based on this approach, the analysis conducted above has highlighted the dominance of certain understandings of forgetting as one hitherto not acknowledged reason for why disputes over collective memory tend to be so persistent. The understanding of forgetting as fading away frames collective memory as always fundamentally threatened by forgetting and motivates actors to think of collective memory as always threatened. In other words, the article has demonstrated that collective Reprinted from the journal

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memory tends to be understood in terms of security even in the absence of securitizing moves and even when collective memory is not threatened by an enemy. The notion of forgetting as denial is also common among actors in Sino–Japanese memory politics. With this notion, forgetting comes to be ascribed to actors and memory politics becomes more confrontative. The case of the inscription of the Nanjing massacre archival documents clearly illustrates the centrality of this understanding of forgetting as a motivation for the inscription as well as how it involved a bilateral escalation of memory politics. While those involved in international memory politics typically appear to think about forgetting as fading away and as denial, they do not seem to embrace the third understanding—forgetting as inherent to memory. This article has used this understanding of forgetting as an analytical concept. As such, it has suggested that when an actor depicts or criticizes others for engaging in forgetting as denial, they do so not just to criticize them for forgetting, but perhaps more importantly to hide that they themselves are engaged in forgetting. Ascribing forgetting to others is thus a way of denying that forgetting is inherent to remembering. The threat of the other’s memory is twofold: it forgets what we think ought to be remembered, but it also reminds us of our own forgetting. When the other state’s collective memory receives international recognition through prestigious programs run by organizations such as UNESCO these threats are intensified and maintaining a coherent sense of self becomes increasingly difficult. This suggests that for de-securitization of collective memory to take place, an understanding of forgetting as inherent to remembering needs to not only be used as an analytical lens, but it also needs to inform international memory politics as such. Awareness that forgetting is integral to remembering in general is necessary in order to recognize that it is not only others who forget, but that we also do so as we remember. Acknowledging that our remembering also involves forgetting could perhaps facilitate dialogue. Funding  Funding was provided by Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation (Grant No. 2016.0036).

Compliance with ethical standards  Conflict of interest  There is no conflict of interest. Open Access  This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by/4.0/.

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K. Gustafsson UNESCO. 1996. Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage: World heritage committee twentieth session. New York: UNESCO. Wang, Z. 2012. Never forget national humiliation: Historical memory in Chinese politics and foreign relations. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. Wessel, I., and M.L. Moulds. 2008a. How many types of forgetting? Comments on Connerton (2008). Memory Studies 1(3): 287–294. Wessel, I., and M.L. Moulds. 2008b. Collective memory: A perspective from (experimental) clinical psychology. Memory 16(3): 288–304. Whitehead, A. 2009. Memory. London: Routledge. Xinhua. 2015a. China hails UNESCO listing of Nanjing massacre files. 10 October, http://www.china​ .org.cn/world​/2015-10/10/conte​nt_36785​003.htm. Accessed 30 Jan 2019. Xinhua. 2015b. UNESCO listing of Nanjing massacre shows global consensus. 10 October, http://www. china​.org.cn/china​/2015-10/10/conte​nt_36781​283.htm. Accessed 29 Jan 2019. Zarakol, A. 2010. Ontological (in)security and state denial of historical crimes: Turkey and Japan. International Relations 24(1): 3–23. Zehfuss, M. 2007. Wounds of memory: The politics of war in Germany. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Zhu, C., and Q. Zhang. 2008. Qinhua rijun Nanjing datusha yunan tongbao jinianguan chenzhan tuji [Collected images of the exhibition of the Memorial Hall of the victims in the Nanjing massacre by Japanese invaders]. Beijing: Changcheng chubanshe. Zon, D.H. 1999. UNESCO memory of the world program: The Asia-Pacific strategy. Kuala Lumpur: National Archives of Malaysia. https​://web.archi​ve.org/web/20050​22819​2535/http://www.geoci​ties. com/seapa​vaa/whats​new/memor​y.htm. Accessed 9 Dec 2019.

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International Politics (2020) 57:1063–1081 https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-020-00232-w ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Historical memory and securitisation of the Russian intervention in Syria Mykola Makhortykh1 Published online: 11 April 2020 © Springer Nature Limited 2020

Abstract Memories of the past conflicts are a major part of Russian foreign policy discourse. Scholarly literature highlighted the widespread use of Second World War references in Russian discourse during the Ukraine crisis. However, the use of historical memory in the context of Russia’s intervention in Syria remains underinvestigated. Applying securitisation theory, the paper analyses a set of political statements made by Russian pro-government and opposition politicians between 2015 and 2018. The analysis identifies several ways in which they integrate memory and security discourse. These include pro-Kremlin actors’ justifications of the intervention through references to the War on Terror and Chechen Wars; the anti-systemic opposition’s de-securitisation of the Syrian conflict by exposing manipulative uses of history; and the systemic opposition’s counter-securitisation of the intervention itself as an existential threat to Russia through references to the Soviet–Afghan war. The paper concludes by discussing the relationship between historical memory and security discourse. Keywords  Securitisation · Historical memory · Russia · Syria · Actors

Introduction In today’s Europe, historical memory increasingly becomes a key constituent in the process of constructing different aspects of domestic and foreign policies as matters of collective (in)security (Strukov and Apryshchenko 2018). The intersections between historical memory and (inter)national security vary from the use of postSoviet nostalgia for stalling the criticism of Putin’s policies in Russia (Kalinina 2014) to the deployment of whitewashed narratives of the glorious past for public mobilisation by the populist parties in Central Europe (Benazzo 2017) to the * Mykola Makhortykh [email protected] 1



Institute of Communication and Media Studies, University of Bern, Fabrikstrasse 8, 3012 Bern, Switzerland

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magnification of secessionist sentiments by reiterating memories of historical injustices in Western Europe (Cameron 2018). All these diverse examples involve the instrumentalisation of historical narratives and societal practices associated with them. The major purpose of these instrumental uses of the past is to draw parallels between current and historical threats and (de)legitimise certain approaches for addressing present political issues. The extensive appropriation of historical memory as part of (in)security discourse is particularly well documented in the case of armed conflicts involving European countries.1 The recent example is the Ukraine crisis, where since 2014 regional and international actors extensively employed references to the past to justify their course of actions.2 The use of so-called historical metaphors (Klymenko 2019) was integral for constructing the crisis in Ukraine as a matter of international security in Eastern and Western Europe. The instrumental use of memory was particularly pronounced in the case of Russia, where references to the past were deployed for justifying the annexation of Crimea and the subsequent Russian involvement in Eastern Ukraine (Peace and Yuchshenko 2018). Until now, historical memories remain an integral part of discursive strategies which determine how the conflict in Ukraine is represented and how its possible resolution is imagined (Dreyer 2018; the Introduction to this issue). The current article advances the discussion of the place of historical memory in the international (in)security discourse.3 To do so, it examines how references to the past are employed by Russian actors to (de)construct another conflict Russia is involved in—the Syrian civil war—as a matter of existential threat and (de)legitimise Russia’s military intervention. The conflict started in 2011 as an internal strife between the Assad regime and opposition, but gradually turned into an international crisis involving regional (Turkey, Iraq, Israel) and global (USA, Russia, EU) actors. The beginning of Russian air strikes in September 2015, followed by the deployment of Russian private contractors turned the tables on Assad’s opponents and allowed the regime to re-install its control over the large part of Syria. At the same time, the intervention resulted in the further deterioration of relations between Russia and the West.4 The choice of Russia as the article’s case study is attributed to several reasons. Russia is known by the intense use of historical memories in its foreign policy discourse that led to  frequent “memory wars” (Blacker and Etkind 2014) with its neighbouring countries. Yet, the use of the past in relation to Russia’s foreign policy in regions other than Eastern Europe remains understudied. Similarly, little is known about the differences in the use of historical memories by various categories

1

 See Bates (2009) on memory instrumentalisation during the Kosovo 1999 intervention, Angstrom (2011) on historical memory and the War on Terror, Wertsch and Karumidze (2009) on the role of history during the Russian-Georgian war in 2008. 2   For more information, see Gaufman (2015), Siddi (2017) and Makhortykh (2018). 3   For some examples, see Mälksoo (2009), Gaufman (2015; 2017), Strukov and Apryshchenko (2018). 4  For additional information on the Russian intervention and its role for Russia’s foreign policy, see Notte (2016), Dannreuther (2018) and Siddi (2019).

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of Russian political actors and specific discursive strategies involving references to the past. For addressing these lacunae in the current scholarship, the article employs a conceptual framework of the Copenhagen School of Security Studies. It analyses a set of political statements made by Russian government officials and opposition politicians from the beginning of the Russian military intervention in Syria in September 2015 until August 2018. Specifically, it traces the presence of historical references in securitising and de-securitising moves produced by these actors and explores the specific discursive role of these references. By doing so, the article addresses the following questions: How did the use of historical memory by Russian actors evolve over the course of the Russian intervention in Syria? Which memories were employed for securitising and de-securitising moves more frequently and for what reasons? And, finally, how can we conceptualise the place of historical memory in the grammar of international security today? Copenhagen school of securitisation: defining the grammar of security For analysing how Russian actors (de)constructed the intervention in Syria as a matter of existential (in)security, the article relies on the theoretical framework of securitisation developed by the Copenhagen School of Security Studies. Buzan, Wæver and de Wilde (1998, p. 24) define securitisation as a process of transforming specific issues into matters of collective security that shifts these issues out of the realm of the normal politics. To securitise a specific issue and justify the use of extraordinary means (for instance, military force) for dealing with it, actors use securitising moves. These moves are based on security utterances (also known as speech acts) which usually take the form of political statements. The success of each securitising move is determined by two major factors: the internal consistency of the speech act (if the speech act follows the grammar of security) and the external position of the actor (if the social status and resources allow the actor to reach the target audience) (Buzan et al. 1998, p. 32). The current article focuses on the first factor and asks how references to the past can influence the internal consistency of a speech act. To answer this question, it examines the position of historical memory within the grammar of security, namely a set of constitutive rules determining the discursive composition of securitising moves (Vuori 2011, p. 107). According to the Copenhagen School, the three basic components of the grammar of security are the existential threat, the point of no return and the way out (Buzan et al. 1998, p. 32). The existential threat is always defined in terms of the referent object (what is at stake) that is threatened. The definition of a referent object varies between different security sectors and can include environment, state sovereignty or national identity. The point of no return determines the conditions under which the existential threat deals irreparable damage to the referent object (for instance, the military defeat resulting in the loss of sovereignty). The way out determines the course of actions required to avoid reaching the point of no return and to protect the referent object from the threat. 125

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The concept of the grammar of security is further developed by Vuori (2011). Unlike Buzan et  al. (1998) who adopt a high-level perspective, Vuori examines securitising moves on the elementary speech act level. According to this approach, each securitising move can be divided into three sequential components: (1) claim (to define a referent object and an existential threat); (2) warning (to define the conditions under which the threat is realised—the point of no return); and (3) request (to define what has to be done to address the threat—the way out). Unlike claim and warning components, which usually follow a similar structure, the format of the request component depends on one of the five main strands of securitisation. These strands are defined according to the goal of a securitising move and include moves made for (1) raising an issue onto the agenda, (2) legitimating future acts, (3) deterrence, (4) control, and (5) legitimating past acts (Vuori 2011, p. 195). In some cases, securitisation can be countered through de-securitising moves. These moves allow actors opposing securitisation to resist the transition of an issue from the realm of the normal politics and deny the use of security logic (Vuori 2011, p. 6). In addition to de-securitising moves, securitisation can be countered through reverse-securitisation or counter-securitisation. Both reverse- and counter-securitisation moves present an actor securitising a certain issue as a source of existential threat (for example, by turning securitising rhetoric of an oppressive government against this government). The difference is that reverse-securitisation uses the same arguments deployed by a securitising actor against this actor, whereas counter-securitisation can adopt a different set of arguments (Vuori 2011, p. 126). Historical memory and the construction of (in)security The Copenhagen School increasingly recognises historical memory as an influential factor in securitisation framework. Being an essential means of organising knowledge about the past on the societal level, historical remembrance has definitive impact on how security issues are constructed (Vuori 2011, p. 51). Unsurprisingly, it leads to the growing presence of references to the past in international relations, where the “vocabulary of history” (Gong 2001, p. 49) is used to communicate (in) security. Historical memory performs multiple functions within the grammar of security. References towards the past, in particular “a bitter history and memories of previous wars” (Buzan et al. 1998, p. 60), can facilitate the process of constructing specific issues as matters of existential security. Historical memories can be evoked to define an existential threat (for instance, by drawing parallels with the earlier threats to the same referent object) and the point of no return (for example, by citing the past suffering to emphasise the possible consequences of the current threat). While such instrumental uses of the past are particularly common in the case of military threats (Buzan, Wæver and de Wilde 1998, p. 60), the growing number of studies shows that the same principle applies to other security domains such as the ones dealing with environment and politics. Another way of using historical memory is related to the way out component of a securitising move. By referring to the past tragedies or glories, a securitising Reprinted from the journal

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actor can instrumentalise the audience’s historical consciousness to legitimise the use of extraordinary means used to deal with the threat in the past (Jutila 2015). An example of such use of historical memory is framing Saddam Hussein as Hitler to legitimise the use of military force against Iraq during the Second Gulf War (Angstrom 2011). Often, the use of the past to mobilise support for a suggested way out intertwines with its use for framing the point of no return, as for instance during the securitisation of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. By representing their opponents as successors of Nazi Germany, pro-Russian actors instrumentalised memory to present the consequences of the existential threat (the physical destruction of Russophone population) and the way out (the use of violence against their opponents) (Gaufman 2017; Makhortykh and Lyebedyev 2015). Despite the increasing recognition of the versatile place of the past within the grammar of security, there are still lacunae in the conceptualisation of the relationship between historical memory and (in)security discourse. Existing scholarship tends to focus on the use of the past as a facilitating condition for presenting an existential threat and the point of no return. Yet, the role of historical memory for constructing the way out of the securitising situation remains understudied, in particular in the context of different strands of way out requests sketched by Vuori (2011). One of these strands—the request for legitimating past acts—is intrinsically related to the past, but the role of historical memory in formulating other requests (for instance, for control or deterrence) remains a pending question. Another lacuna, which the current study attempts to address, is the role of historical memory in different strategies of securitisation, de-securitisation and reverse-/ counter-securitisation. Historical memories of armed conflicts  often constitute a complex amalgamation of pride and sorrow that can be used both to justify the use of extraordinary means and to delegitimise their deployment. A better understanding of what happens when different actors employ powerful historical narratives to promote divergent security discourses—and in what ways the outcomes are influenced by power imbalance between pro-regime and opposition actors—is required. By tracing how different categories of Russian actors use references to the past in the context of the Syrian crisis, this article provides a contribution to fill in this gap.

Methodology For implementing the research, the article uses a corpus of speech acts produced by Russian pro-government and oppositional actors in relation to the conflict in Syria. It examines speech acts produced by two categories of actors to enable the comparison between different strategies of (de)securitisation used by them. In the case of pro-government actors, the article relies on data collected from two web portals: one of the President of the Russian Federation (kremlin.ru) and one of the Government of the Russian Federation (government.ru). In the case of oppositional actors, it uses data from two other portals: the one of Grigorii Iavlinskii (yavlinsky.ru), the leader of systemic oppositional party “Iabloko”, and the one of Alexei Navalnyi (navalny.

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com), the leader of the anti-systemic opposition.5 The decision to use “Iabloko” as a case study is related to it being an example of “liberal” systematic opposition that is critical to Kremlin’s foreign policy. By contrast, “loyal” (Welt 2018) systematic opposition parties—e.g. the  Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) or the  Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LPDR)—are generally supportive of Kremlin foreign politics (Chenoy and Kumar 2017, p. 230), including intervention in Syria.6 Hence, the choice of “Iabloko” is more fitting for the main aim of the study—i.e. to compare discursive strategies used to support and oppose the intervention in Syria. The built-in search functions were used for each portal together with a query “Syria” to retrieve the data from 1 September 2015 until 31 August 2018.7 To examine the resulting corpus of 192 statements, qualitative content analysis was employed. First, statements which actually referred to security and were produced by Russian actors were identified.8 Out of 192 statements, 164 speech acts corresponded to these requirements. Then, the inductive coding approach was used to detect references to specific historical episodes. The following historical events and periods were referenced: (1) 9/11: the terrorist attacks in September 2001 in the USA; (2) Chechen Wars: the First (1994–1996) and Second Chechen Wars (1999–2009); (3) Cold War: the geopolitical conflict between the USA and the Soviet Union; (4) Euromaidan: the Euromaidan protests (2013–2014) in Ukraine; (5) First World War: the First World War (1914–1918); (6) Interwar Soviet Union: the interwar period in the Soviet Union (1922–1939); (7) Iraq War: the US intervention in Iraq and the subsequent armed conflict (2003–2011); (8) Libyan Civil War: the 2011 civil conflict in Libya; (9) Russian Empire: the Russian imperial period; (10) Second World War: the Second World War (1939–1945); (11) Somali Civil War: the civil conflict in Somalia (1986–2012); (12) Soviet–Afghan War: the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan (1979–1989); (13) US War in Afghanistan: the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan (2001–now); (14) Yugoslavia Wars: the series of armed conflict in the territory of former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

5

 The difference between systemic and anti-systemic opposition in Russia is discussed by Turovsky (2015). Systemic opposition is an integral part of the authoritarian regime in Russia. It agrees to play by the regime’s rules and has some access to power. Anti-systemic opposition does not have access to power and aims at regime change. 6  For examples of “loyal” opposition’s attitudes towards intervention in Syria, see Ziuganov (2015; 2016) and Zhirinovskii (2016). 7   While the beginning of the official intervention of Russia in Syria is dated by 30 September 2015, the whole month of September was used to account for the possibility of some Russian actors starting making securitising moves to prepare the ground for the intervention in advance. 8   Because many of the statements were transcriptions of meetings between political actors from Russia and other countries, there were a number of cases when speech acts were produced only by non-Russian actors; such cases were excluded from the analysis.

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10

Government

8

Anti-systemic opposition

6

Systemic opposition

4 2 2018-7

2018-5

2018-3

2018-1

2017-9

2017-11

2017-7

2017-5

2017-3

2017-1

2016-9

2016-11

2016-7

2016-5

2016-3

2016-1

2015-9

2015-11

0

Fig. 1  Dynamics of securitising moves by different categories of Russian actors

Dynamics and agents of (de)securitising moves The first step of analysis dealt with the dynamics of securitising moves among different categories of Russian actors. To conceptualise the use of historical memory, the article first looked at all securitising moves produced during the period of study, including the ones which did not involve references to the past. Figure 1 shows that the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, produced the largest number of securitising moves. Considering that the majority of Putin’s moves targeted the international audience, such distribution suggests that Russia’s intervention in Syria was primarily projected as a matter of existential (in)security to the non-domestic audience. This observation corroborates earlier arguments (Siddi 2019) that the main purpose of Russian officials was to justify the intervention to the international public and not to convince the Russian population of its necessity. The examination of the dynamics of securitising moves, in particular by governmental actors, also highlights its dependency on the relations between Russia and the US-led international coalition. The number of securitising moves increased around the initial justification of the intervention in September 2015 (Putin’s speech on the 70th General Assembly of the United Nations) and the Russia-US ceasefire deal in February 2016 (Medvedev’s speech during the Munich Security Conference). Similarly, both governmental and oppositional actors became more active after the US-led coalition strikes against the Assad regime in 2017 and 2018. Following the strikes, governmental actors tried to convince both domestic and international audiences that the war in Syria constitutes an existential threat to them, which can be countered by Russia’s continuous support of the Assad regime. By contrast, oppositional actors used coalition strikes to counter the security discourse of Russian authorities and argue that the support of Assad creates more existential risks for Russia. The largest peak of securitising activity was observed in autumn 2017, when Assad forces backed by the Russian air strikes and, assumingly, Russian contractors from the Wagner group re-captured Deir ez-Zor. The increased number of 129

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3

Government 2

Anti-systemic opposition Systemic opposition

1

2018-7

2018-5

2018-3

2018-1

2017-9

2017-11

2017-7

2017-5

2017-3

2017-1

2016-9

2016-11

2016-7

2016-5

2016-3

2016-1

2015-9

2015-11

0

Fig. 2  Dynamics of securitising moves using references to the past

Fig. 3  Dynamics of securitising moves with historical memory components (by historical events)

securitising statements produced by governmental actors, in particular Putin, can be viewed as a means of instrumentalising Russia’s gains from the victory over ISIL, most notably by emphasising the threats associated with ISIL to highlight the benign role of Russia in the conflict. However, it can also be indicative of the discursive preparations to justify the attack on the anti-Assad opposition, which was often referenced as part of ISIL by the Russian officials.

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After examining the general dynamics of securitising moves, the analysis focused on the moves involving historical memory. The distribution of memoryrelated securitising moves shown in Fig.  2 suggests that pro-government actors were responsible for most of them. The dynamics of memory-related moves tended to follow the general dynamics of securitisation by the respective actors; the only major difference was the diminishing use of historical memories by the majority of Russian actors (except Putin) after 2016, when the Assad regime and Russia turned the tide of the conflict in Syria. Finally, the article examined the distribution of historical events to which these securitising moves referred. As shown in Fig.  3, the majority of moves employed memories related to the post-1991 conflicts (Second Gulf War and Libyan Civil War); among the earlier conflicts, the Second World War and the Cold War were referenced most frequently. In terms of dynamics, references to the unsuccessful Western interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya were particularly frequent during the first stages of the Russian intervention in Syria. Following the re-capture of Aleppo by Assad forces and the election of Trump as US President in late 2016, these references become less frequent which can be attributed to Russia’s attempts to find common ground with the new US administration. Instead, both pro-government and oppositional Russian actors focused on memories of the Chechen Wars. References to Chechen Wars were used both to legitimise the military presence in Syria, under the pretext of countering terrorism, and to criticise it by arguing that the intervention increases the probability of terrorist attacks against Russia. Securitisation and de‑securitisation by pro‑government actors The examination of securitising moves produced by the pro-government actors indicated that most of them included broad references to terrorist threats, which were used to justify the Russian intervention for the domestic and international audiences. Within this securitisation strategy, terrorist groups were framed as “enemies of the progress and civilisation” (Putin 2017a), “people driven by the animal instincts of destroying and murdering” (Medvedev 2016d) or “brainwashed murderers” (Medvedev 2016a). Two major referent objects were peace and international security, which had to be protected using military force. USA and ISIL against Russia—securitising the intervention Among all the actors, Putin was the one responsible for the largest number of securitising moves related to the intervention. These moves primarily followed two strands of securitisation: to legitimise past choices (related to Russia’s intervention in Syria) and to delegitimise future choices (related to potential intervention of the Western coalition to overthrow the Assad regime). To implement these strands, Putin presented the civil war in Syria and the fall of Assad as two existential threats which have to be addressed for the sake of Russia and the international community. The discursive construction of both threats as matters of existential (in)security was facilitated by the frequent use of historical references as shown in Table 1. For 131

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M. Makhortykh Table 1  Historical references in securitising moves Government

Syst. opp.

Anti-syst. opp.

President

Total

9/11

3

0

0

2

5

Chechen Wars

3

2

1

8

13

Cold War

7

2

2

1

12

Euromaidan

1

0

1

1

3

First World War

1

0

1

0

2

Inter. Soviet Union

0

0

1

0

1

Iraq War

0

0

0

12

12

Libyan Civil War

5

0

0

9

14

Russian Empire

0

0

1

0

1

Second World War

2

0

2

9

13

Somali Civil War

0

0

0

2

2

Soviet–Afghan War

1

3

2

0

6

US War in Afgh.

2

0

0

6

8

Yugoslavia Wars

0

0

0

2

2

Putin, the ratio between the overall number of moves and the ones involving the use of historical memories was the lowest—0.35 compared with 0.5 for Iavlinskii or 0.44 for Navalny. At the same time, his choice of historical references was also characterised by the largest variety of events used as part of securitising moves. Both in the case of legitimising his past choices and delegitimising future choices of the Western leaders, Putin used references to the past for presenting the point of no return in his moves. In the former case, such references often involved memories of Chechen Wars. An example of it is Putin’s (2015a) speech during the 12th of the Valdai Discussion Club, where he argued that combatants fighting Assad in the Middle East “are a threat for everyone, including us, in Russia”. The referent object used by Putin was security of Russia and the international community threatened by international terrorism. The point of no return in this move was the revival of terrorist activity in Russia as during Chechen Wars, which Putin recollected as “bloody terrorist acts in Budennovsk, Moscow, Beslan, Volgograd and other Russian cities”. Both in this and other securitising moves, Putin emphasised the significant presence of extremists originating from Russia in Syria and argued that unless they would be defeated in Syria, they would come back and revive “terrorist aggression”. Such a threat legitimised Putin’s decision to intervene in Syria presented as the only way out of the security threat. The different set of historical references was used to present the point of no return in the case of delegitimising the intervention of the US-led coalition. In this case, Putin presented the overthrow of the Assad regime as an existential threat for the international community. To construct the point of no return, he referred to the earlier Western interventions in Somalia, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan. An example of it is Putin’s (2015a) speech during the 70th session of the Reprinted from the journal

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UN General Assembly, where he argued that the above-mentioned Western interventions resulted in the formation of “anarchy zones” filled by extremists and terrorists whose “statehood” was destroyed. Similarly, in an interview to the French TF1 channel, Putin (2016) blamed “our Western partners” for destroying Libya and Iraq, which led to the significant increase of terrorist threats for the West and Russia. No new Cold War—de‑securitising the intervention, securitising the Russia‑West crisis The securitising moves of Russian government members, in particular Dmitrii Medvedev, shared a number of similarities with the ones produced by Putin. In both cases, terrorism was presented as an existential threat to be addressed by Russia and the international community. However, in the case of Medvedev, the purpose of securitising moves was different and usually followed the control strand of securitisation (Vuori 2011, p. 208). Specifically, he presented Russia as a world power making a legitimate claim to revive cooperation between Russia and the West to keep the international community safe. International security was the main referent object of Medvedev’s moves. While noting multiple threats to it such as terrorism and the refugee crisis, Medvedev emphasised that these threats are caused by the ongoing confrontation between Russia and the  West. The Russian intervention in Syria was presented as an insignificant episode in the current Russia-West crisis, which threatened the foundations of the world order. The way out of this situation was the restoration of cooperation between Russia and the West and de-securitisation of the Russian intervention in Syria. The role of historical memory in Medvedev’s approach to the grammar of security displayed both similarities with and differences from Putin’s rhetoric. Like Putin, Medvedev relied heavily on history for framing the point of no return. At the same time, Medvedev predominantly used references to the Cold War which he explicitly invoked to “avoid repeating the same mistakes” (Medvedev 2016d). By referring to the Cold War, Medvedev achieved two goals: firstly, he used it to illustrate the potential consequences of the existential threat, namely the confrontation between the West and Russia. Secondly, he evoked the Cold War to emphasis the parity between the West and Russia and put himself into a position of power sufficient to make a control-focused securitising move. An example of this approach is found in Medvedev’s (2016d) speech at the Munich security conference. The speech started with Medvedev evoking the memory of the Cold War to emphasise the unique role of two world’s powers—Russia and the West—in the world’s order. He then noted a number of threats faced by both powers and stressed the necessity to address them together. The possibility to do so, however, was “paralysed” and the relationship between Russia and the West moved towards “a new Cold War” (Medvedev 2016d). The situation was still not as bad as “when there was a wall in the midst of Europe”, but Medvedev noted that an effort is required to prevent the revival of the threat of “the nuclear Apocalypse” (Medvedev 2016d). 133

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In a few cases, Medvedev also employed the memory of the Cold War as a facilitating condition for de-securitising moves related to the Western sanctions against Russia. These moves also followed the control strand as Medvedev referred to the past to emphasise his authoritative right to claim the ineffectiveness of sanctions. Specifically, he regularly noted that the confrontation between the Soviet Union and the West during the Cold War led to the economic sanctions against the Soviet Union, but these sanctions “did not affect in any form the policies of the Soviet Union” (Medvedev 2018) and resulted only in “a waste of money” (Medvedev 2016b). The less confrontational approach chosen by Medvedev also influenced his use of references to the Western interventions in Afghanistan and Libya. Unlike Putin, Medvedev used these references primarily to securitise the terrorist threat and legitimise the use of extraordinary means to counter it. In the interview for Channel 2 of Israeli TV, Medvedev (2016c), for instance, argued that the main task of the international community is to avoid a scenario in which Syria would turn into separate enclaves controlled by “separate terrorist groups” like in Libya. He noted that such an outcome would be a significant threat for neighbouring countries, but did not blame the West for it. Similarly, Medvedev avoided using the US-led invasion of Afghanistan as an argument against the West and referred to it to emphasise the importance of international dialogue and the need to prevent attacks similar to 9/11 Medvedev (2016a). De‑securitisation and counter‑securitisation by oppositional actors Speech acts produced by oppositional Russian actors put a major emphasis on countering the governmental narrative. In particular, the Russian opposition tried to debunk the argument that the military intervention and ongoing support for the Assad regime are required to protect Russia. The focus on the domestic Russian audience characteristic for these moves aligns with the use of (de)securitisation as a political tactics of resistance, which is common for non-democratic political settings (Vuori 2011, p. 119). This resistance to the Kremlin (in)security discourse was a definitive feature of securitising moves produced by both anti-systemic and systemic opposition, but the specific choice of discursive strategies varied significantly between them. Syria is not a threat—de‑securitisation of the intervention In the case of the anti-systemic Russian opposition, the main emphasis was put on the return of a securitised issue (the conflict in Syria) into the realm of normal politics. The main goal of this transition was to present the conflict as an issue which does not require the use of military force outside Russia. This rather conventional approach to de-securitisation (Waever 2000) was implemented through two recurring securitising moves: (1) the rise of (primarily) domestic matters onto the security agenda to contrast them with the conflict in Syria; and (2) delegitimising the Reprinted from the journal

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Kremlin’s decision to intervene in Syria by emphasising the ineffectiveness of the use of military force. The first component of Navalny’s strategy contrasted the Russian involvement in Syria with other issues in the  Russian society. These issues were raised onto the security agenda by presenting them as “real” existential threats as opposed to the “fake” threat of the Syrian crisis. An example of such securitising move is found in the opinion piece titled “Hawthorn and we” (Navalny 2016a) devoted to the mass surrogate alcohol poisoning in 2016. In the piece, Navalny used the physical wellbeing of Russians as a referent object which is existentially threatened by corruption. He referred to the consumption of surrogate alcohol as a direct consequence of corruption that resulted in “a monstrous tragedy of the national scale” which “every year kills more people than all terrorist acts from the Russian history combined” (Navalny 2016a). Using the example of poisoning, Navalny argued that the deteriorating Russian economy and growing poverty led to an increasing number of deaths from surrogate alcohol. The dramatic population loss caused by economic hardships was presented as a point of no return. Under these conditions, economic matters are “a thousand times more important” for Russian national security than “Syria, Aleppo, Ukraine and Trump together” (Navalny 2016a). By stressing the “fakeness” of the security threats coming from the opponents of the Assad regime, Navalny de-securitised the conflict in Syria and claimed that it is used by the Kremlin to distract public opinion from actual existential threats such as corruption. The way out presented by Navalny concerned the adoption of anti-corruption measures as contrasted to the useless military intervention in Syria. From the grammar of security perspective, historical memories usually played a minor facilitating role in the context of such securitising moves. Navalny occasionally employed historical references to present domestic issues as existential threats and to illustrate his argument that the Kremlin used the conflict in Syria to divert public attention from more pressing matters. In one of his anti-corruption investigations, Navalny (2015b) again contrasted the conflict in Syria with threats of a declining economy and widespread corruption leading to “the national catastrophe”. This time, however, he also used a reference to the Soviet period to emphasise the significance of corruption as an existential threat. Specifically, Navalny (2015b) argued that “it is obvious that [today] we have more important problems than Lord Curzon, Entente, Erdogan and some kind of Assad living thousands of kilometres from our borders”. This specific choice of historical references can be attributed to Navalny’s intent to draw parallels between Putin’s Russia and the Soviet Union in the interwar period, which was characterised by the dire economic state and anti-Western propaganda. The second type of securitising moves used by Navalny focused on delegitimising the Kremlin’s earlier decision to start a military intervention in Syria. To achieve this purpose, Navalny emphasised the ineffectiveness of military force as a means of dealing with existential threats such as terrorism. Here references to the past also served as a facilitating condition. Navalny frequently employed memories of the Soviet–Afghan War to demonstrate the futility of using military power for finding a way out of (in)security. An example of such use of the past is found in a 2016 135

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piece, where Navalny criticised the Kremlin for attempting to advance its geopolitical agenda through the military intervention in Syria. Specifically, he compared the intervention with the act of “international assistance to the Afghan people” arguing that, similar to the Soviet–Afghan war, “all geopolitical benefits remained only on the pages of the Pravda newspaper” (Navalny 2016a). Similarly, in another piece titled “Legitimacy vs. Legality”, Navalny  (2015a) referred to the Euromaidan and Russia’s support of Yanukovych to draw parallels between the ineffectiveness of (militarily) backing political leaders who lost support within their own countries. An even more explicit use of historical references for de-securitising purposes was found in the YouTube talk “It is time for Volodia to retire and for authorities to listen to us” (Navalny 2018). In the video, Navalny stated that the argument about  battling terrorists from Russia in Syria to avoid terrorist attacks in Russia itself is not valid, because the murder of radicalised individuals does not solve the socioeconomic issues which facilitate radicalisation. To illustrate this point, as well as the ineffectiveness of military interventions, Navalny again referred to the Soviet–Afghan war by claiming that “we already experienced it in Afghanistan: it is impossible to differentiate  between mujahideen and usual peasants. Just talk to everyone who served in Afghanistan and they would tell you that during the daytime these people are peasants and in the night they are mujahideen, they dig out their machine guns and go to kill someone”. The solution proposed by Navalny was to focus on the socioeconomic situation within Russia itself and dedicate funds to “restore Russian cities” and not Syrian Palmyra. Putin in Syria is a threat—counter‑securitisation of the intervention The Russian systemic opposition (Iavlinskii) constructed the Russian intervention in Syria per se as a source of an existential threat. Similar to Navalny, Iavlinskii employed securitising moves to raise a specific issue to the security agenda. However, for Iavlinskii this issue was not corruption or other domestic matters, but the Russian intervention itself. In contrast to Navalny, who de-securitised the intervention, Iavlinskii counter-securitised the argument of Putin about the necessity of the intervention. Specifically, he argued that the use of force in Syria is a source of existential threat that can lead to the point of no return, namely the fundamental internal crisis and international isolation of Russia. As Table 1 shows, this strategy was particularly reliant on references to the past. Half of the securitising statements produced by Iavlinskii used historical memories, in particular the traumatic experiences of earlier armed conflicts such as the Soviet–Afghan War and Chechen Wars. He framed the intervention in Syria as a similar source of traumatic experiences and argued that it threatens Russia’s stability by drawing parallels between the current situation and the dissolution of the Soviet Union following the unsuccessful Soviet–Afghan war. An example of this strategy is found in Iavlinskii’s piece from April 2017. Tellingly titled “The Trap” (Iavlinskii 2017b), the piece commented on the US-led coalition’s retaliation strike following the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack. Its main argument was that the Russian intervention in the Syrian conflict is the result of the Kremlin’s incompetence and adventurism, which led Russia into a Middle Eastern Reprinted from the journal

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“trap”. This incompetence posed an existential threat to Russia’s national interests and well-being of its people (two referent objects of the securitising move) as the support of Assad put Russia against the West and engaged it in the Shia-Sunni conflict. Iavlinskii employed references to the past to define the point of no return by drawing parallels between the conflict in Syria and the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. He noted that the current situation is the same as “when the Soviet Union was trapped in Afghanistan” (Iavlinskii 2017b). He developed this point by arguing that the intervention constitutes “a direct threat to the security of the Russian people” (Iavlinskii 2017b), because it can result in the country’s collapse, similar to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The way out of this situation proposed by Iavlinskii was to pull Russian forces out of Syria immediately and to stop “military adventures” which overstretch Russia’s resources. Iavlinskii reiterated his argument in his column from June 2017 titled “The Russian boomerang” (Iavlinskii 2017a). This securitising move followed the same logic as the previous one. Using the same referent objects as before (the well-being of Russian people and Russia’s stability), Iavlinskii argued that the existential threat for Russia is not Jihadism (to which Putin referred as a source of existential threat), but Putin’s irresponsible foreign policy. According to Iavlinskii, the intervention in Syria was an illustrative example of such policy that “significantly increased the threat of war coming from Afghanistan and Central Asia” (Iavlinskii 2017a). To facilitate the transformation of the intervention into the matter of (in)security, Iavlinskii again drew historical parallels between Putin’s Russia and the late Soviet Union. He noted that the Kremlin justified the intervention in Syria to the domestic audience using the same irrational arguments which were employed by the Soviets to justify the intervention to Afghanistan in 1979: “Participating in the Syrian war is justified by it offering a testing ground for Russian weapons…Thirty years ago, we already ‘tested’ and ‘trained’ in Afghanistan” (Iavlinskii 2017a). This parallel articulated the point of no return, which was also presented through the prism of the Soviet–Afghan conflict: “[Because of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan] We lost everything. And then our country was destroyed – including, among other reasons, by this senseless war”. The solution proposed by Iavlinskii was to immediately pull Russian troops out of Syria and focus on Russia’s internal security.

Conclusion: historical memory and securitisation in Syria The examination of securitising moves related to the Russian intervention in Syria shows that government actors, particularly Putin, constructed the crisis in Syria as an existential threat to Russia and the international community. These moves had to justify the use of military force against ISIL and the anti-Assad opposition and refute Western criticism of the Russian intervention. The choice of international community’s well-being as a referent object suggests that securitising moves by Russian officials were mostly addressed to the foreign audience. This suggestion is supported by the use of references to the past international  crises for constructing the point of no return and presenting the restoration of cooperation between Russia 137

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and the West (together with the acknowledgement of Russia’s right to intervene in Syria) as a way out. The analysis of historical references used by Russian government actors in relation to the intervention also supports this interpretation. These references differed significantly from the ones used by Russian actors in the course of the Ukraine crisis. As opposed to the extensive instrumentalisation of Second World War memory in the latter case (Siddi 2017; Makhortykh 2018), the securitising moves in relation to Syria mostly involved references to the Cold War (by Medvedev) and Western military interventions after 1991 together with Chechen Wars (by Putin). These references were primarily used to facilitate the discursive construction of existential threats and points of no return. The only component of securitising moves where historical references were used more rarely was the way out. In the case of oppositional actors, the main purpose was to challenge the Kremlin’s discourse either by de-securitising the threats posed by the anti-Assad opposition (Navalny) or counter-securitising the intervention as a source of existential threat for Russia (Iavlinskii). To do so,  oppositional actors relied on the traumatic memories of conflicts involving Russia in the period of 1980–2000 (the Soviet–Afghan War and the Chechen Wars). The main emphasis was made on conflicts in which Russia did not achieve its goals (the First Chechen War), whereas more successful conflicts (the 2008 Russian-Georgian War) were omitted. The analysis offers several insights concerning the place of historical memory in the grammar of security. References to more traumatic aspects of the past are significantly more frequent in securitising moves. While to a certain degree this can be attributed to the context in which these memories are evoked (namely, armed conflicts), actors rarely reference historical episodes dealing with triumphs or cooperation (such as anti-Hitler coalition which only occasionally was evoked by Putin). Instead, references to the past suffering (for instance, terrorist attacks) are used more often. This corroborates earlier studies which emphasise the important role of historical traumas as part of the securitisation process (Gaufman 2017; Makhortykh 2018). This focus on past traumas translates to historical memory being predominantly used as a facilitating condition for framing either existential threats (what threatens a referent object) or points of no return (what will be the result of threat realisation). By contrast, more positive components of securitising moves—the referent object (what is threatened) and the way out (how to protect what is threatened)—rarely involve references to the past. The emphasis on the use of historical memory for creating a sense of insecurity also results in the less frequent use of the past for de-securitising moves. The analysis also indicates that historical memory is a highly versatile element of security grammar, which can be part of the different strands of securitisation. References to the past turned to be particularly effective in the case of securitising moves focused on raising certain issues to the security agenda (Navalny, Iavlinskii) and (de)-legitimising past and future choices (Putin, Navalny). References to the same historical event can be used by different categories of actors to de-securitise or securitise the issue in question. For example, Putin justified the Russian intervention in Syria by portraying the crisis as an existential threat to Russia similar to the one in Chechnya in the 1990s. On the other hand, Iavlinskii constructed the intervention Reprinted from the journal

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as an existential threat by emphasising that it can lead to new outbursts of violence similar to the Chechen Wars. Compliance with ethical standards  Conflict of interest  On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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