Christian Bueger

Strengthening cross-Atlantic cooperation

In contrast to other oceans, such as the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic continues to be a disintegrated space, with only few attempts to bring regional states together under a common institutional umbrella. While parts of the Atlantic have developed very close ties, such as in the Arctic, North-Atlantic, Western Africa or in the South Atlantic, cross-Atlantic relations are only weakly developed.

In autumn 2023 more than 30 regional nations signed the Declaration for the Atlantic to change this situation. The declaration created a new forum: the Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation. An Agenda for Action for the new forum was agreed as well.

The Transatlantic Leadership Network started the Digital Atlantic Initiative to think ahead of how a focus on digital technologies could add to and strengthen the agenda. Over a series of meeting subsea data cables, marine spatial planning and maritime domain awareness were explored.

I had the pleasure to feed into the process with a paper on Maritime Domain Awareness in the Atlantic and presenting it at a group meeting on the 16th of May. In the paper, I briefly discuss the benefits of MDA and present the results of a mapping of existing initiatives in the Atlantic. This leads me to the observation that a notable MDA gap exists in the South Atlantic, and that a cross-Atlantic Coast Guard Function Forum could be a useful next step for strengthening the ties in the region to address issues of marine safety and security.

The Royal Navy’s Quest for Seapower in the 21st Century – A conference visit

The First Sea Lord’s Seapower Conference is the Royal Navy’s annual flagship event, and I had the pleasure to attend and speak at this years iteration.

The 2024 edition was titled “Future navy: Maritime in the 2040s” and the debate firmly focused on the question of what mid-term challenges the Royal Navy faces and through what posture it could address them.

The event was co-organized with the Council on Geostrategy. The Council, founded in 2001, is a relatively young think tanks — if compared to the traditional British intellectual power houses, such as RUSI or Chatham House. The Council’s mission is “to strengthen Britain and re-assert [its] leadership” and it wants to “promote robust ideas” to boost the countries “discursive, diplomatic and military power”.

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How small states make a difference in maritime security – new article

Small island states are major victims of maritime insecurity, not the least because their economies fully depend on the sea. Yet, they are not helpless or just dependent on foreign support.

As Ryan Adeline, Brendon J Cannon, and I show in a new commentary published with War on the Rocks, if small states take decisive action and use capacity building support wisely they can make a major difference.

In the commentary we reflect on a recent counter-piracy operation by the Seychelles Coastguard, and why it is an important template for other countries.

Talk at German Institute for the Protection of Maritime Infrastructures

Germany’s Institute for the Protection of Maritime Infrastructures is a leading institution developing novel technology for the protection of infrastructures at sea. The institute is part of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and located in the old fishing port of Bremerhaven.

On April, 18th I had the pleasure to visit the institute and get an introduction to the technologies developed, including novel sensors and cyber solutions. I also gave a talk introducing the staff members to our understanding of the agenda of Critical Maritime Infrastructure Protection (CMIP) and how it revises the concerns of maritime security and ocean governance more broadly.

The EU’s regional seas – event in Brussels

What are the challenges that the European Union’s maritime security policies need to address in different regional seas? This was the overarching question of a one day seminar held at the Royal Higher Institute for Defence and organized as part of the Belgian presidency of the European Council.

The event titled Enhancing Maritime Security at the Edges of Europe focused on four regionals seas: The North Sea, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, and the Gulf of Guinea.

Panelists at Brussels event. Photo: Chris Trelawny.

In my talk, I firstly introduced a couple of general observations about maritime security from our book Understanding Maritime Security, firstly stressing the importance of maritime security as a connector, and secondly emphasizing the importance of thinking maritime security in 6D.

I then argued that we have to start thinking about regional seas as dense infrastructure spaces which are highly industrialized. In such environments the key problem is not necessarily freedom of navigation or territorial control, but caring for, protecting, and safeguarding critical maritime infrastructures, including shipping lanes, energy platforms, pipelines and cables.

Oceans in focus at International Studies Association conference

In the first week of April the annual conference of the International Studies Association takes place in San Francisco, United States. At this years edition, scholars interested in global ocean politics will gather at the event. Over ten panels focus on the oceans – seven of which are part of the coordinated panel series #OceanicIR – and an informal reception – the Blue Drinks – will allow scholars to network. This continues the tradition established in 2023.

Together with Beth Mendenhall and Bec Strating I am organizing a mini-workshop in which we explore oceanic regions and I am presenting three papers linked to ongoing ocean politics research:

  • Blue Waves – How the Oceans made IR, with Jan Stockbruegger, debunks the myth that IR has been seablind and shows at what moments in time, the oceans were crucial for disciplinary developments.
  • Sneaky Foreign Policy. Small Island Agency in the new age of geopolitical competition, with Anders Wivel, develops a pragmatist-realist framework for the study of small island agency and investigates the case of Solomon Islands.
  • “The ship has reached the shore”: The amalgamation of communities of practice of the high seas, with Maren Hofius, provides an interpretation of the BBNJ negotiations from the perspective of community of practice theory.

Current situation in the Red Sea – media interviews

With intensifying attacks on shipping by the Houthis operating from Yemen, the Red Sea crisis is getting more and more dramatic. One ship has sunk. Before that it’s anchor cut a series of subsea data cables. Now it is expected to lead to an environmental crisis. The first seafarers have died in attacks.

Several naval operations, including task forces led by the United States under the Combined Maritime Forces construct, and the European Union, India and China, have not yet found a way of how the protect shipping and prevent that more ships sink, cables get damaged, and seafarers die.

In the Shadows of the Houthi crisis, also the pirates of Somalia have made a return. A second merchant vessel was taken and is held hostage for ransom.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on attacks in the Red Sea, 12.3.2024

Drawing on decades of studying the region’s maritime security situation and our new book Understanding Maritime Security written with Tim Edmunds (Oxford University Press), I have written a series of commentaries, and also spoke to Der Spiegel (on cables), to Al Jazeera (on Houthi attacks), to Monocle Radio (on EU mission). Find links to the stories and interviews here.

Small islands states in the Indo-Pacific. Visit to Seychelles

During my recent visit to Seychelles, I participated in an event jointly organized by the University of Seychelles and Khalifa University (UAE). The symposium focused on the strategic consequences of Indo-Pacific thinking and geostrategic rivalries for small island states.

Drawing on my earlier research on small states in the Indo-Pacific, how islands face a militarization dilemma, and how they are able to expand their action space through creole foreign policy, I argued during my talk that Seychelles needs to highly alert to geopolitical dynamics and the new vulnerabilities it causes, and indeed needs to rethink its repertoire of foreign policy tools.

Panelists of the Symposium on the Indo Pacific, University of Seychelles, 7.3.2024

As a champion of the blue economy, and its high profile in counter-piracy, Seychelles has navigated such troubled waters extremely well in the past. However, it is now also time for new ideas.

What such new ideas might be, and how Seychelles could utilize its presidency of the Indian Ocean Commission to shape the global agenda, was one of the core issues of my discussion with representatives from the ministry of foreign affairs. Global ocean politics clearly can benefit from leadership of small states, such as Seychelles.