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Fact Sheet: The Captive European State Phenomenon

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Breaking down what is meant by the phrase Captive State, a key concept in a recent report published by Tactics Institute.

  • Weak states in South-Eastern Europe, burdened with relatively small economies, high unemployment and powerful organised crime networks, are vulnerable to becoming “captive” as more powerful countries invest in their arms industries, which still retain capacity and quality from the Soviet era;
  • The captive state phenomenon in international relations is a product of a global system characterised by stark inequalities in resources between countries. This power imbalance leads to wealthy states being able to leverage power and control over economically less privileged states;
  • Countries with the wealth and know-how to lobby in foreign capitals can use this influence to enhance their progress towards achieving strategic ambitions;
  • Tactics Institute’s report, The Security Cost of Enlargement Fatigue, outlines how even some powerful, wealthy European Union member states are unable to resist the lobbying power of wealthy regimes. This phenomenon is allowing governments with poor human rights records to gain a foothold in economically weak states on the periphery of the EU. You can download the report here;
  • Balkan weapons are making their way to groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda in the Middle East, but also proliferating within the EU;
  • “Once the economy of production, distribution and political ‘redistribution’ of arms trade has been established, it is difficult to uproot, especially at a point in time when EU political leverage is waning and the political consensus underpinning the Euro-Atlantic partnership is not in peak form.” – Tactics Institute Report;
  • Wealthy states can lobby and sway EU capitals, who are then more willing to turn a blind eye to what is happening on the EU’s periphery, even if it means an increased security risk.
  • Once an economy of production, distribution and political buy-in has been established, it proves difficult to uproot as the captive state has become reliant on it, politically and economically. 

For much more on the phenomenon of captive states, download Tactics Institute’s report, The Security Cost of Enlargement Fatigue, here.