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Robin Niblett, a leading foreign affairs commentator, discusses the need and opportunity to strengthen NATO

Robin Niblett speakerWriting in The World Today, a bi-monthly magazine presenting authoritative analysis and commentary on current topics, Director of Chatham House Robin Niblett argues that in a world of flashpoints and European defence cuts NATO needs strengthening, and now is the chance to do so.

In early September, a NATO summit in Wales is expected to offer a decisive response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, while preparing to confront a more dangerous and unstable world from the Middle East to the South China Sea. NATO members must also ensure that they have the resources and the public support to make a reassertion of their alliance’s strategic purpose meaningful. Robin believes that “drawing these threads together will be difficult” due to these expanding threats and NATO’s own identity crisis.

That being said, Robin argues there are at least three ways in which NATO members could use the summit to strengthen their security outlook:

  1. “Adopt the idea of ‘framework nations’ which take the lead within NATO for coordinating smaller numbers of NATO partners to respond to specific challenges. Under this concept, Germany and Poland could help neighbours enhance their capabilities for collective defence, for example, while the UK and France could bring together NATO members’ expeditionary capabilities.”
  2. “NATO leaders could further develop the partnerships built with non-members during recent operations in Afghanistan and Libya. The UN Security Council is likely to be increasingly paralysed and ad hoc coalitions, sometimes operating under a UN mandate and sometimes not, may become more common.”
  3. “NATO could agree a new plan on how to deal with ‘hybrid’ types of threat that are likely to be far more common in the future. Russia’s actions in Crimea have revealed how tactically effective the use of special forces and intelligence operatives, the mobilisation of proxies, cyber-attacks, mass disinformation campaigns and economic coercion can be.”

Click here to read on.

To find out more about Robin Niblett, or to book him as a speaker, please call Leo von Bülow-Quirk on 0044 (0) 20 7792 8000.

Robin Niblett: the West should not blame itself for Putin’s actions

Robin NiblettIt was a great to catch up this morning with Robin Niblett, Director of Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs). Over breakfast on Piccadilly he shared some fascinating thoughts on the implications of the Ukraine crisis for the global political order – in particular what it tells us about the different approaches of Russia and China to their regional neighbours.

His thoughts are neatly summarised in a recent article of his for I have provided a brief summary below…

Many in Southeast Asia believe the West backed Putin into a corner over Crimea: what else did the West expect Putin to do in the face of NATO expansion and the EU’s efforts to bring Ukraine into it’s orbit? Instead of provoking Russia, the West should adopt the more accommodating tactics Southeast Asian states have been using vis-a-vis their own large assertive neighbour, China.

But, Robin argues, it’s misleading to compare Russia and China, because they have very differing approaches towards their neighbours. China has a win-win attitude: it has tried as much as possible to smooth over potential territorial tensions with its Southeast Asian neighbours, and has sought to increase  economic ties. The idea is that the increasing strength of their neighbours will support China’s rise, both politically and economically.

By contrast, Russia’s is a much more confrontational ‘winner takes all’ attitude. In the name of Russian security and regional hegemony, Putin has sought to weaken Russia’s neighbours, creating a series of economic ‘black holes’ and ‘frozen conflicts’ that have made the region highly volatile.

It is Putin, then, who has painted himself into a corner – the West is not to blame.

For further information about Dr. Robin Niblett, email Leo at, or give him a call on 0044 (0) 20 7792 8000.

At home with Director of Chatham House, Robin Niblett

In a recent article on ‘speaking frankly’ Chatham House director Robin Niblett invited the Financial Times correspondent Annie Berglof into his London home for an interview.

Revealing that the most common question he is asked is “What is the Chatham House rule?” he explains it is to speak frankly without name or affiliation identification but for content to be used publicly – “It’s a byword for confidentiality.” The rule encourages open and free discussion without political repercussion.

Robin discusses the history of Chatham House; from being inspired by the informal, honest talks surrounding Versailles Treaty negotiations in 1919, to taking residence in the London building from which the name comes and the creation of its rule in 1927.

Interestingly, Robin compares US think tanks which are “primarily focused on providing advice to the US government” to Chatham House which is much smaller and has no endowment. He emphasises their global focus – Chatham House is a place to discuss international issues, in fact many emerging countries are attracted to the programme of talks.

Regarding recent security breaches, Robin warns that there is a danger of receiving mass information in this way, that although this appears to expose government thoughts, it has no content or context – “Its a mess” he claims.  In contrast, “at Chatham House information is put into context… we can apply judgement.” He believes that European governments need to be more truthful with their citizens about future hurdles.

The ultimate aim of Chatham House is to be a “safe space to start the conversation” Robin concludes.

Click here to read the article in full

Robin Niblett at Davos on Europe’s economic future

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Robin Niblett, Director of Chatham House, the world’s leading foreign affairs think tank, attended the World Economic Forum at Davos last week. In this clip, Robin talks about Europe’s economic future, and the momentous steps being taken towards closer fiscal union in Europe.
If you’d like to book Dr. Robin Niblett for a speaking opportunity, please email Alex Hickman.


Robin Niblett on global governance challenges in 2013

Robin Niblett, the Director of Chatham House, is one of Europe’s premier authorities on the European Union and the world economy. The Council on Foreign Relations picked him as an expert voice for an end-of-year piece entitled ‘Challenges for Global Governance in 2013’. His contribution is featured below.

“Decision-makers around the world will face a complex international environment in 2013. The following will be among the top global governance challenges:

Avoiding a Lost Decade in Europe

Europe’s leaders took important decisions in 2012 to create a banking union and financial back stops for deficit counties. While a euro collapse is even less likely in 2013 than it was in 2012, European leaders now confront the deeper challenge of closing the competitiveness gap between creditor and debtor countries. Although structural reforms are under way, reintegrating EU financial markets to provide the necessary pools of credit for future growth remains a major concern.

Responding to this challenge is vital to global governance for the simple reason that international stability today depends upon the proper functioning of a multipolar global economy. Europe, China, and the United States have emerged as the three critical hubs of economic growth. If European leaders fail to implement structural reform and drift into a lost economic decade, then the pressure on Chinese and U.S. leaders to succeed in their own economic and fiscal reforms will increase commensurately.

Troubled Transitions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

The sequencing between political and economic reform will do much to determine whether the uprisings across the MENA region will develop along positive or negative trajectories in 2013. Egypt’s President Morsi has gambled that by forcing through rapid constitutional reform so that his Islamist government can now concentrate on delivering economic growth. In contrast, the secular-Islamist coalition government in Tunisia has decided to focus its efforts on building consensus on broad political reform as the prerequisite for stable economic growth.

Both approaches carry significant risks, and Europe, the United States, the IMF, and World Bank will need to support these precarious transitions more actively during 2013 with financial assistance, market opening incentives, and support for foreign direct investment.

Multilateral Security in East Asia

Last year ended with Japan and China in a diplomatic standoff over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands that is likely to persist into 2013. The Chinese leadership appears unwilling to countenance a return to the “status quo ante” of Japanese sovereign control of the islands. At the same time, the new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has campaigned on taking a hard line toward China’s new demands.

China’s approach to the islands reflects a deeper strategic decision to strengthen the lines of communication in and out of the Chinese coastline for its ever-growing energy needs and robust maritime trade. These developments underscore the need for an inclusive, multilateral security architecture in East Asia. How to create such an architecture in a region that is in the midst of a fundamental rebalancing of economic and political power deserves to be at the heart of thinking about global governance in 2013.”

To read the piece in full, click here.

Robin Niblett is one of our exclusive speakers. If you’d like to arrange for Robin to speak at an event you’re holding, please contact us.

Fantastic speakers at Chatham House

A big thank you to Chatham House for a great Christmas drinks evening last night. It was good to catch up with friends, meet new ones, drink healthy amounts of mulled wine and eat (about 7) mince pies (December is no time for moderation).

The evening made me reflect on some of the fantastic speakers and experts whom I’ve seen take the stage there these past 18 months that I’ve been a member. Some of my particular favourites include: John Zogby, DeAnne Julius, John Ikenberry, Adam Posen, Robin Niblett and Wadah Khanfar.

Looking forward to another great year in 2013…


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