What is the main purpose of international relations and what are the goals of its actors from your professional point of view?
When international relations were established as a field at the end of the First World War, the objective was how to avoid that kind of catastrophe again. It was essentially decided that we need to establish scientific knowledge to answer the questions: why this happened and how to avoid this happening again. As a result, everything failed completely, because we had the Second World War. But that gave rise to different theories, paradigms and ways of looking at things of how do people go to war, what do they do to avoid war and was this war avoidable or not.
Thus, that was the prime objective of how it started. Why did it start? I can't really say how it has gone on, especially looking at things nowadays. I can't really say that it has stuck to that. Since then, it hasn't really deviated that much. On the one hand, we still have state interests as we currently see: power politics, nuclear threat, threat of mass extinction and destruction of the planet. On the other hand, diplomacy, negotiations and all behind the scenes. I would say that the truth is, as always, somewhere in the middle.
Did I get it correctly that the main purpose of international relations as a study is the question of war and peace?
That's how it started primarily. At the same time, the outermost drive was international trade, especially collaborations and cooperation. The more trade between partners, the more stable relations, the more interdependence and, as a result, we are talking about peace or, at least, the absence of war. Finally, to what extent peace is the absence of war, and how much more holistic should peace be to establish the real absence of war? But it is another conversation.
Taking into consideration the current conflict, has the era of a liberal world, which was based on cooperation and interdependence, ended?
Very good question. I guess, it depends on who you ask. When I started my academic career, since my student years, I was very much a firm believer in liberal, international order, cooperation and peace.
But, the more I grew up, the more I wondered whether we ever had a liberal order, to what extent that liberal order was really liberal, or to what extent it was just a bit of that rhetoric. When I take a look at the liberal-democratic states during the Cold War, I find it difficult to accept anybody's argument that they were indeed liberal-democratic.
Maybe, they were liberal-democratic in their own countries (domestic politics), but there's another argument to be said. The role of the UK at the Northern Irish conflict and how they treated the Catholic population; the behaviour of the deep states in the United States in the aftermath of the Second World War; McCarthyism; Red Scare, etc. Even much later in the 70s and the 80s, the behaviour towards the minorities was terrifying. I'm not entirely convinced that was a liberal order.
So, the older I grew, the more it appeared to me that this was a facade and definitely coming to the current era, moving forward to contemporary affairs. It was laughable when someone came out and said: “You know, the United States or the European Union members – they are the most liberal of democratic countries”. Maybe, it is a matter of my personal experience of being Greek and having seen how European peripheral states have been treated by Central or North European states during the international crisis, the financial crisis of 2008, 2010. These double standards, countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Cyprus, Ireland were supposed to tighten the belt, took painful measures, etc. Now we have another crisis. But why are Germany, France and others doing their own thing? Because they can.
Yes, pretty much so. Again, I feel awkward saying it. This makes me uneasy about the whole train of thought, when you see this happening... Essentially, you confirm that the realism is correct. It's uneasy, because there's always the idealist inside us. The vast majority of people, who enter international relations, are idealists, because they want to see more stability and peace, something more positive. In the essence, when you come face to face with reality, your whole objective collapses. It's like there's the floor underneath your feet and it's gone.