On Tuesday, July 5, 2016, The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted, in collaboration with the European Council on Foreign Relations, and Stiftung Mercator, a discussion with Miguel Ceballos Baron, the deputy head of cabinet to EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström; Mark Leonard, the co-founder and director of European Council on Foreign Relations; and Ian Lesser, GMF’s senior director for Foreign Policy and executive director of the Brussels Office. The discussion was moderated by Rosa Balfour, a senior fellow on GMF's Europe Program.
The discussion began with remarks by Mark Leonard about his work ‘Connectivity Wars,’ which inspired the event. Leonard began by explaining that in this new era of globalization, many people expected that there would be some sort of political superstructure implemented, because “connectivity was meant to end war not create it.” Instead, governments have turned to non-military means to settle disputes, and “the danger now is that the great powers don’t want to go to war, so they’ll disrupt globalization.” Leonard pinpointed three key battlegrounds in the connectivity wars: economic activity, international institutions, and infrastructure of the global economy, and six key players: Russia, Turkey, China, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and the EU.
Ceballos Baron followed Leonard with remarks that focused more on economic tools. He stated that investment was a more important weapon in economic warfare than trade, but it all depended on how much control the investor had over the country it invested in. Trade can still be an effective weapon, but often the threat of an embargo is more effective than the actual embargo.
Lesser finished up the discussion by examining some of the social implications for increasing globalization. He explained that countries have different levels of comfort with globalization and that the public may have anxiety when it comes to trade and globalization, which could lead to an abandonment of the public elites like we are seeing in the U.S. elections. He also discussed the consequences of using force in this changing system, and concluded that, “non-state actors using violence can include the economic consequences of that violence as part of their political agenda,” citing changes in the U.S. market after 9/11 as an example.
The discussion was followed by a question and answer session with the audience consisting of 30 participants ranging from representatives from EU institutions, think tanks, foundations, and academia. The questions focused on the consequences of this new form of warfare. The speakers seemed to conclude that this new system, like any other system, will balance itself in time and continue to evolve as new methods are invented and implemented.