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Anticipating strategic surprise: EU lessons from the Arab uprisings and the Ukraine crisis (CANCELLED)

  • Nikki Ikani
Tuesday 17 March 2020
Turfmarkt 99
2511 DP The Hague

Strategic surprise has always been a recurrent feature of the international system. While traditionally (in the predominantly US-focused literature), strategic surprise is associated with sudden military attacks, over the past decade, the European Union has been unexpectedly confronted with slower-burning, indirect and non-kinetic threats to its foreign policy by state as well as non-state actors, such as the Arab uprisings, the rise of ISIS or the Russia-Ukraine conflict. This calls for a re-evaluation for the notion of strategic surprise, especially in the European institutional context. In her research, Dr Ikani assesses the way in which the EU foreign policy system has anticipated these various strategic surprises over the past years. She particularly focuses on the Arab uprisings and the Ukraine crisis, in order to provide a realistic judgement regarding whether the EU should or could have better anticipated these developments, and whether it has learnt its lessons for the future.


Dr Nikki Ikani is a postdoctoral research associate on an ESRC-funded project on learning in European foreign policy in an era of surprise (INTEL). Within the project, she investigates intelligence production and use in the foreign policies of the UK, Germany and the European Union, taking as case studies the Arab uprisings and the Russia/Ukraine crisis. She obtained her PhD from King's College London in 2017 with a thesis on EU foreign policy change, which was shortlisted for the 2018 Global Strategy PhD Prize awarded by Egmont Institute and the European Security and Defence College. Before her PhD she obtained a BA in Public Policy from Utrecht University (2008), a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Amsterdam (awarded cum laude in 2010) and a Master's degree in European Affairs from Sciences Po Paris (2012). Her most recent journal articles have been published in Geopolitics and Intelligence and National Security. Nikki Ikani regularly writes for non-academic media outlets in English, Dutch and French. In 2016, she won the LSE Dahrendorf Essay Competition with an essay on the EU’s response to the Ukraine crisis.

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