A Field Trip Turned into Conference Participation

Dominika Furtak, The UACES Network |

A UACES Microgrant Report by Nele Marianne Ewers-Peters

In two of my most recent research projects, I analyse the perspectives and roles of different actors in the European security architecture. In the first one, I look more specifically at the triangular relationship between Germany, Russia and the United States, while the second project focuses on the EU-NATO relationship with a particular reference to European strategic responsibility. Both projects aim to examine the relationships of key stakeholders in European security, to investigate the implications of recent security and defence initiatives and projects, particularly by the European Union, and understand the contemporary European security architecture based on these relationships, exchanges and new initiatives.

An essential part of collecting the data for both projects is to go out into the field and carry out interviews. I anticipated to use the UACES Microgrant to conduct my fieldwork on the ground. While I had already been to Berlin in 2019 and 2020, and spent time in Washington, DC for a research fellowship in 2020-2021, the next stop on the list was Russia. However, the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent limitations of travelling between countries put a spoke in my wheel in terms of carrying out my field research on-site. With the idea to conduct face-to-face interviews with officials and representatives from the foreign ministries and researchers from think tanks and academia of Germany, Russia and the United States, my plans were put on ice. Despite the secrecy and discretion in the study of foreign and security affairs, the move from in-person to virtual interviews was quite surprising.

As a way forward, and because my two research projects are somewhat connected, I was able to use the UACES Microgrant to present my second research project on the implications of European strategic responsibility on the EU-NATO relationship at the BISA Annual Conference held on 15-17 June 2022 at the University of Newcastle. Attending the conference and presenting my ideas enabled me to receive very valuable comments and feedback and allowed me to reconnect to the research community after over two years of virtual exchanges and the subsequent feelings of inertia. The invaluable comments and questions from the panel will feed back into the progress of my second research project, while the exchange of ideas and research progress during the coffee and networking breaks will certainly be of great added value also for my first research project. I am thus very grateful to UACES for granting me the Microgrant in the first place, and for their flexibility to financially support my planned field research-turned-into-conference participation.