About Gabriella Gricius
I am a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO where I also act as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. My research focuses on Arctic security using a framework that brings together critical security studies and a relational understanding of expertise. I also work with Dr. Wilfred Greaves and Dr. Whitney Lackenbauer at the North American and Arctic Defense and Security Network (NAADSN), focusing on human security, and am the main database architect of a cross-national selection of polls focusing on national security and foreign policy of Arctic states, and am developing a dataset on Arctic experts.
In my spare time, I write for a variety of online publications including Foreign Policy, Global Security Review, and Riddle Russia amongst many others.
To see more of my publications and learn more about her experience, download my resume below.
My Latest Projects
The Virtual Human Rights Lawyer
I worked as the Co-Coordinator for the Virtual Human Rights Lawyer project (VHRL) within the Public International Law & Policy Group as part of a collaboration with Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Legal Assistance Centre in Namibia and InterCidadania Institute in Brazil in 2018-2019. The VHRL project was designed to help victims of serious human rights violations obtain access to justice and redress. This project aims to build an innovative web application-based chat-bot that enables users to find out how they can access existing global and regional human rights mechanisms in order to obtain some form of redress for the human rights violations they face.
Measuring the Effectiveness of Lustration & Vetting Policies in Ukraine and Georgia
Many of the world's conflicts today are self-sustaining and ongoing, making the application of transitional justice measures difficult. Particularly in Central & Eastern Europe, namely Georgia, and Ukraine where the terminology of 'frozen conflicts' is still very relevant, the question of whether or not transitional justice will be successfully utilized is very much still under debate. My research asked the question of whether or not lustration and vetting policies were effective in the aftermath of Russian armed conflict in Ukraine and Georgia. I presented this research at the Fourth Annual Tartu Conference on Russian and East European Studies and the Third ECPR Conference on Organized Crime in Sofia. It was published in the Journal of Liberty and International Affairs in 2019.
Corrupting or Stabilizing: The Political Economy of Corruption in the Donbass
Russia’s New Soft Power: Financial Diplomacy and the Mir card system
A wide range of normative implications exists between corruption and the stability of de-facto states. While some claim that corruption inherently disrupts institutional development and stumps economic growth, others argue that corruption in some cases acts as a stabilizing factor for authoritarian regimes. Regardless, corruption generally plays a role in the political economy of any state. In de-facto states that still live under the auspices of a 'frozen conflict,' corruption tends to play an outsized role, either or equally impacting the exercise of political authority or the allocation of public goods and services. My research aimed to examine the case study of the Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics (LPR and DPR) and the relationship between corruption and governance in these two regions to better understand how corruption and stability are interrelated. Because of the difficulty of obtaining information, I relied on open-source data for the LPR and DPR and other available data from humanitarian organizations. This research was published with the Kyiv-Mohyla Law and Politics Journal in 2019.
Populism and Authoritarianism
Over the last few years, authoritarian populist parties and politicians have emerged in many different and varying parts of the world. Trump in the United States. Orbán in Hungary. Duterte in the Philippines. Most if not all of these leaders have come to power by utilizing a form of populism. This trend in authoritarian populism is notable in two respects. First, it encompasses a wide swath of the world’s large and powerful countries, many of which are democracies. Second, the trend has broad support in each country’s respective populace. For example, in the United States, Trump was chosen by large portions of the American electorate.
When promises of increased economic growth failed to materialize, globalization has instead resulted in deindustrialization, accelerating inequality and dramatic economic restructuring, political unrest, and a rise in nationalism. These trends were intensified during and after the 2008 financial crisis, making many populations worldwide dissatisfied with the world order. The electoral successes of authoritarian populist parties beg the question if authoritarian populism and its leaders can ever result in truly progressive policies and if populism can be democratic at its core? This chapter has currently been published here.
In a field that claims to study the international, scholars and education in International Relations (IR) often focus on the world as perceived by the West. However, education is inherently political and knowledge production can never be neutral. A decolonial approach to IR begins with the acknowledgment that “entrenched and deeply rooted social and political hierarchies based on exclusionary practices shape both geopolitics and the production of knowledge” (Adamson 2020, 131).
What would IR look like if it was built of voices from below? Would development or peace-making projects have the same naturalized positive narrative that they have today? How would war and international trade appear? This research will argue why IR should be decolonized and what one possible agenda could look like. It was published in New Voices in Postcolonial Studies Magazine 2021
A decolonial approach to Arctic security and sovereignty
Traditional geopolitical theories characterize the Arctic as a zone of potential conflict with the overarching narrative that it is the site of the new Cold War and great power competition between Russia, the United States and China over resources. However, this dominant approach often ignores the extent to which colonial legacies and neocolonial ideas play an instrumental role in influencing these security narratives. There is a need for a more nuanced understanding of Arctic security, particularly as it has to do with how different Arctic states express their sovereignty in practice. A decolonial approach to studying security in the Arctic can better reveal how expressions of sovereignty represent much of the same social and political hierarchies that existed during the colonial era.
In this research, I aim to unpack the security narratives and actions of three Arctic states, Canada, the United States, and Russia, by documenting instances of coloniality of knowledge in text as well as neocolonial actions that each state has taken. With this deconstruction of Arctic narratives, I propose a different perception of sovereignty in the Arctic as being heavily influenced by neocolonial narratives in practice and argue that traditional state-centered conceptions of sovereignty should change to acknowledge 1) the shifting geography of the Arctic, 2) the history and role of Indigenous people who live there and 3) adopt an approach that considers shared sovereignty as a more realistic Arctic version of sovereignty. It was published in the Arctic Yearbook 2021.
Can Exceptionalism Withstand Crises? An Evaluation of the Arctic Council’s Response to
Climate Change and Russia’s War on Ukraine (with Erin Fitz)
For almost three decades, the Arctic Council has been considered exceptional in its approach to domestic, environmental, and geopolitical issues. Russia’s 2022 war on Ukraine and the subsequent pause of the Arctic Council, however, give cause to question whether the Arctic Council remains exceptional in the face of actual crises. We explore this question in two ways: As an endogenous crisis, we provide a systematic literature review of publications on Arctic Council climate change governance. As an exogenous crisis, we explore the Arctic Council’s pause given the Russia-Ukraine war. Taken together, our findings suggest that while the Arctic Council has the potential for exceptionalism, it lacks the capacity to substantively respond to crises. In turn, our study provides further evidence to suggest that even idealized institutions may not truly offer unique methods for withstanding environmental and geopolitical challenges; furthermore, it highlights the precariousness of intergovernmental institutions considered broadly. It was published in Global Studies Quarterly in 2022/2023.
After the onset of Western sanctions in 2014, the Russian National Card Payment System (NSPK) and its corresponding Mir bank cards launched the following year. Five years later, estimates show that 56 million people are using Mir cards, making up more than 20 percent of Russia’s bank card market and will be operational in twelve foreign countries. Traditionally, scholars have examined Russian financial diplomacy as a branch of its soft power approach as an attempt to integrate post-Soviet countries with Russia and Central Asian countries through promoting beneficial economic and cultural relationships. With the Mir card system, Russia is seeking to evolve its soft power and financial diplomacy approach to primarily become less dependent on a dollar-dominated financial system, but also to avoid potentially increasing US sanctions and to overarchingly seek to build a multipolar system. My research investigates how and why Russian financial diplomacy, as a part of its soft power strategy, has evolved over the last two decades and what the advent of the Mir card system portends. This research was published in the Journal of Liberty and International Affairs in 2020.
The Canadian Navy and Human Security
Originally proposed in 1994 by the UN’s Human Development Report, the concept of human security has greatly enlarged the way many scholars and policy-makers think about security. From a military perspective, human security offers an interesting dilemma. On the one hand, it allows a more comprehensive approach to addressing threats and permits a more nuanced understanding of security. On the other hand, the military is an agent of the state and therefore emphasizes state security above people.
As one of the original states promoting human security as a guiding principle of foreign affairs, Canada presents an interesting case for looking at human security in the military. Although human security is no longer the buzzword that it once was, it played an important role in changing the orientation of Canada’s foreign policy. Given the history of incorporating human security into governance, it is worth asking the question of whether this policy trickled down to naval policy. Does the Royal Canadian Naval (RCN) adhere to human security principles today? More importantly, should an institution such as the RCN adopt human security as part of its principles, or is this outside its mandate?
This article was published in 2021 here.
Colonial Identities: Ontological Security in the Arctic
Traditional readings of state-centric security in the Arctic center questions of physical security, political security, and economic security as the primary issues for states. I argue that Arctic states do not just seek traditional security needs – such as survival and physical security – but that they also seek the security of the continuation of their own self-identity, i.e. ontological security (Mitzen 2006). In the case of states in the Arctic, many of the states are former colonial or current neocolonial powers, making the continuation and security of self-identity intrinsically connected to continual colonial behaviors and actions that perpetuate social and political hierarchies from colonial empires.
In this research, I seek to explain how in the Arctic, the ontological security of the United States and Canada relies on following pre-determined patterns of behavior – so-called ‘off the shelf’ approaches to wilderness spaces. This research was published in the Polar Journal in 2022 and presented at ISA-Northeast, IS-ISSS, and NPSA.
Conceptualising the Arctic as a Zone of Conflict.
The Arctic has been conceptualised as a zone of geopolitical competition, an international zone of peace and the dreamlike realm for extractive industries. While states such as Russia and the United States have commenced a militarisation and nuclearisation of the Arctic, other Arctic states like Canada and Norway have mobilised support for Arctic cooperation. Due to changing geopolitical pressures, the desecuritisation of the Arctic in the late 1980s was not successful. This lack of attainment begs the question as to why today, the Arctic seems to be heating up faster than ever.
This article aims to determine how the Arctic is conceptualised as a zone of conflict by the United States and Russia. In doing so, the article examines different analytical dimensions that play a role in this conceptualisation, including the changing natural environment, evolving historical context such as the changing power dynamics between countries, and domestic politics. These different framings of a securitised Arctic help to explain how and why security becomes involved in Arctic discourse. To do so, I draw upon discourses in target states and examine the extent to which these particular discourses are manifested in practice and build on critical geopolitics.
This article won the 15th-anniversary award for Best Paper by a postgraduate student. It was published in the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies in 2021.
Beavers and Lions: Comparing Canadian and Norwegian Arctic Narratives
Narratives are, by their nature, instrumental in how states justify their actions and how they situate events in global politics within their own histories. Taking an ontological security lens provides scholars a way through which to understand how autobiographical narratives influence state behavior in the context of existential anxiety (Mitzen 2006). As two states with distinct Arctic identities, Canada and Norway represent notable cases from which to understand how these autobiographical narratives play out in an Arctic context. In the broader state of anxiousness that these two states experience in the Arctic considering increased global warming and a resurgence of great power competition, understanding how these narratives in the face of uncertainty influence policy matters.
In short, if these narratives are present in current Arctic strategies, we can better anticipate Canadian and Norwegian behavior in the Arctic. This research will explore how key ontological Canadian and Norwegian narratives play out in their most recent Arctic strategies (2019 and 2021, respectively) and the extent to which such narratives are a response to anxiety on the world stage. This piece was presented at Arctic Circles 2022 in Iceland and published with NAADSN.
The European Union’s ‘never again’ Arctic narrative (with Andreas Raspotnik)
Over the past few decades, the European Union has presented itself on the world stage as a norm entrepreneur and global maritime power. However, this claim to power is belied by its recent experience of a surge in crises – both of domestic and international origin. Nonetheless, the EU’s 2021 update to its Arctic Policy noted that, due to the Union’s strategic Arctic interests, full engagement in Arctic matters is a geopolitical necessity for the EU. Given the augmented attention on the Arctic region for climate, economic and, increasingly, for security reasons, this is not surprising. However, it does beg the question of how the EU intends to involve itself more thoroughly in Arctic affairs. This article seeks to explore the extent to which the Union’s foundational narrative of ‘never again’ regarding conflict and war can explain EU actions in the Arctic, the EU as a peaceful maritime power and its broader approach to ocean governance, particularly in the Circumpolar North. It was published in the Journal of Contemporary European Studies in 2023.