CIMSEC High School Scholarship Essay Contest

003_Sonar_Technician_1st_Class_Billy_Trowbridge_points_out_several_features_of_the_control_room_to_Elizabeth_Godin_and_Elizabeth_Palczynski-672x372The Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) is pleased to announce our first annual Maritime Security Scholarship Essay Contest. In an effort to further our mission of spreading awareness of security issues impacting the ocean commons, CIMSEC is issuing a call for papers from secondary school students* around the world.

It’s time to put on your nautical caps and think, read, and write about maritime security. A broad range of paper topics are encouraged, but should exhibit an awareness and interest in maritime or naval affairs. Submissions will be judged on originality of thought, logic, and ability to demonstrate the importance of the chosen topic to maritime security.

Awards

  • First Place: “Hipple Prize for Eloquence in Defense of the Seas” – $500 US
  • Second Place – $250 US
  • Honorable Mention – $150 US

Prize winners and other exceptional essays will be published on CIMSEC’s “Next War Blog” and here on offiziere.ch.

Eligibility
The contest is open to any Secondary/High School Student*, internationally. Submissions should include proof of student status (copy of student ID or transcript) along with the entrant’s full name and address.

Deadline
Contest entries are due no later than 15 January 2015 and the winners will be announced in the early spring.

Submissions
Entries of no more than 1,500 words in length should be emailed in Microsoft Word or .pdf format to [email protected]. Submissions will only be accepted in English, but we will be happy to help with light editing for non-native English speaking entries.

*Anmerkung des Admin: dies entspricht der gymnasialen Stufe, Abitur bzw. Maturität.

Posted in English, Sea Powers | Leave a comment

Personal Theories of Power: Land Power

by Nathan Finney. He is an U.S. Army officer, the Managing Director of the Military Fellowship at the Project on International Peace & Security, the editor of The Bridge, a member of the Infinity Journal’s Editorial Advisory Board and a founding board member of the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum. He holds masters degrees in Public Administration from Harvard University and the University of Kansas, as well as a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Arizona.

This article is part of the Personal Theories of Power series, a joint Bridge-CIMSEC project which asked a group of national security professionals to provide their theory of power and its application. We hope this launches a long and insightful debate that may one day shape policy.

Every war, and every belligerent in every war, manifests a distinctive pattern of strategic behaviour among an expanding list of geographical environments. It is true that modern strategy and war registers trends towards ever greater complexity, ever greater ‘jointness’ to offset and exploit that complexity, and in the maturing potency of new modes of combat…It is no less true, however, that land, even ground, warfare has yet to be demoted to an adjunct, auxiliary, or administrative, role vis-à-vis superficially more modern modes and foci of fighting. — Colin S Gray, Modern Strategy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 165.

In a discussion over the modes of power that are employed to achieve political purpose, the above quote would likely halt all communication before it even started. Some would even immediately engage their cognitive biases and fill their slings with the tried-and-true military service-focused and parochial rhetorical ammunition. The current narratives from the various services can certainly be seen to support such an assertion.

U.S. Army soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, B battery 2-8 field artillery, fire a howitzer artillery piece at Seprwan Ghar forward fire base in Panjwai district, Kandahar province southern Afghanistan, June 12, 2011.

U.S. Army soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, B battery 2-8 field artillery, fire a howitzer artillery piece at Seprwan Ghar forward fire base in Panjwai district, Kandahar province southern Afghanistan, June 12, 2011.

However, while the above quote captures repeated insistence on the importance of land power, the author also indicates that while land power is vital, it is not sufficient, for “In practice, thus far, no single geographical domain suffices as provider of all strategic effect that belligerent states need.” (Colin S Gray, War, Peace, and International Relations (London: Routledge, 2007), 316).

So, when a political decision requires a definitive, more enduring answer, land power will likely be the main element of national power employed — there’s a reason the key theorist of war and land power focused on destroying an adversary’s armed forces, occupying his country, and breaking that nation’s will as his three main objectives in war (Carl von Clausewitz, ed. and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret, On War (New York: Alfrec A. Knopf, 1993), 102). Such use of large amounts of men and women in campaigns of physical control are not the only use for land power, however. While it is the only element of national power that can compel through physical dominance (or as Rich Ganske have described in “Personal Theories of Power: Joint Action” by quoting Rear Admiral Joseph Caldwell Wylie, through a sequential strategy; Wylie quoted by Lukas Milevski, Revisiting J.C. Wylie’s Dichotomy of Strategy: The Effects of Sequential and Cumulative Patterns of Operations“, Journal of Strategic Studies 35, no. 2, January 18, 2012, 223-242), land power can also accomplish tasks through three other approaches to the use of force — assurance, deterrence and coercion — to create strategic effect.

Beyond Physical Control
To Gray, “strategic effect is the [cumulative and sequential] impact of strategic performance on the course of events.” (Gray, Modern Strategy, 19. The “cumulative and sequential” was added to the definition in Colin S. Gray, The Strategy Bridge: Theory for Practice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 18). It is the expression of how well a force translates tactical action into political gain; or said another way, how well the effects of military action maintain alliances and/or force an adversary (or adversaries) to change their behavior to match our desires. Given the fact that land power will likely be the element of national power least used to create strategic effect in today’s environment given its high political cost at home and abroad, how does an Army, as the principle manifestation of land power, provide options to assure, deter, and coerce? [1]

Deterrence and assurance require both credibility and capability. Credibility is created through the perception that force will be used to achieve stated interests. However, without an acknowledged force required to achieve said interests, i.e. the capability, then the threat of its use to deter undesired behavior or assure anxious allies is empty. In the end, an adversary cannot be deterred or an ally assured unless they believe the offending party can be compelled to appropriately change their behavior. While other elements of national power are important to either deterrence or assurance, both require credible and capable land power, the only element of national power that can compel behavior through physical control. The size, capability, proficiency, and posturing of land forces is what provides a credible deterrent and assures allies. As has been shown in Eastern Europe, the lack of a credible and capable force for deterrence can lead to political adventurism by adversarial entities and a failure to assure allies in a region.

Members of the U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade and a Polish paratrooper unit attend a welcome ceremony.

Members of the U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade and a Polish paratrooper unit attend a welcome ceremony.

Coercion is used to impel adversary behavior by shaping choices, either by punishment or denial; both utilize physical and psychological factors. Coercion by punishment is accomplished by damaging or destroying adversary capabilities required to achieve their interests, such as destroying naval assets that are being used in a blockade. Coercion by denial is using force to prevent the adversary from accessing the resources or territory required to accomplish their goals. Land power largely utilizes coercion by denial, such as placing American troops in a threatened country to significantly raise the costs of any action by an adversary. This also provides a degree of assurance for that partner nation. An example is the deployment of U.S. troops to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

The use of these three approaches to force — deterrence, assurance, and coercion — can be seen as largely an attempt to control the choices of an adversary through the threat of force or limited use of violence. In Wylie-speak, since he is in vogue throughout these blog posts, the threat of force or limited use of violence by land forces in this manner reduces the adversary’s choices through a sequential strategy, ideally creating “implications of certainty of the end” through “its persistent exercise…typically steadily reduce the number of viable options open to the enemy.” (Lukas Milevski, Revisiting J.C. Wylie’s Dichotomy of Strategy, 233).

Land Force Considerations Outside of Physical Control
Using land forces to deter, assure and coerce in today’s strategic environment will require three core elements:

  1. The use of smaller, tailorable elements of the Army to accomplish strategic objectives. From a Special Forces detachment supporting a partner nation through foreign internal defense to a battalion task force taking part in a multinational exercise to strengthen NATO, Army forces must be prepared to train, equip, deploy, employ and sustain smaller packages of forces around the world. However, these elements must also be able to tap into larger regionally-focused/based forces to provide flexible options and scale up to conduct operations that provide denial by punishment, or compellence when necessary. The ability to disaggregate for cumulative operations must be matched with the ability to re-aggregate into larger formations — up to Division- and Corps-level — to conduct the combined arms operations required in ground combat across the range of military operations. (David E. Johnson, Hard Fighting, RAND, 2011, 173).
  2. A better balance of combat and enabling capabilities. While the application of land power is largely seen through the action of combat elements, so called “tail” elements are as important, if not more so, to military forces. Even Clausewitz, who purposefully excluded logistics discussions in his magnum opus due to his focus on the fighting itself and its use as a political instrument, recognized that “The provisioning of troops, no matter how it is done…always presents such difficulty that it must have a decisive influence on the choice of operations.” (Carl von Clausewitz, ed. and trans. Hans W. Gatzke, The Principles of War (Mechanicsburg: Stackpole, 1942)). The U.S. Army post-WWII has largely diminished the importance of its enabling capabilities — everything from transportation to engineers to missile defense to logistics — in favor of the “tooth” resident in its combat formations, even to the point of contracting out significant portions of the enabling functions; this in spite of the frequent acknowledgement of the importance of logistics in war (for example, see Martin van Creveld, Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton, 2 edition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), John A. Lynn, Feeding Mars: Logistics In Western Warfare From The Middle Ages To The Present (Boulder: Westview Press, 1994) and Benjamin Bacon, Sinews of War: How Technology, Industry and Transportation Won the Civil War, (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1997)). The Army must create a better balance between combat units to those that project, set, protect, and sustain a theater.
  3.  

    Multiple explosions as the British Python Minefield Breaching System clears a minefield.

    Multiple explosions as the British Python Minefield Breaching System clears a minefield.

  4. Assigning dedicated Army forces to geographic combatant commands and posturing those forces forward. Supporting the two elements above, land forces should be more permanently provided to those that use them in theatre. The value of Army forces is not that they can be made expeditionary, but that they can provide quick and enduring force when properly postured in theater. These elements can be used to conduct any and all of the three uses of force, in addition to be present when compellence, or a sequential strategy, is required.
  5. Conclusion
    In discussions of military power today there is much elaboration upon of the loss of “overmatch capability”. This term is largely meant in terms of the decreasing technological gap between the U.S. and its likely adversaries, from non-state actors with anti-acess/area-denial capabilities to near-peer states with air and sea platforms that look suspiciously like U.S.-technology still in production. Another aspect of overmatch is how presciently forces are postured and organized to prevent conflict through the assurance of allies or the deterrence or coercion of adversaries — or to be used to compel an enemy, if necessary. A decrease in overmatch from this aspect creates risk that the military will not be able to achieve the missions the U.S. requires of it. While we must mitigate risk across all domains, risk to the land domain is the most deadly. For, “Military success in land warfare can have a decisiveness unmatchable by success in the other geographies. If a state loses on land, it loses the war.” (Gray, War, Peace, and International Relations, 313).

    Footnotes
    [1] Elements of this strategic environment are not unique, of course, nor are its impact on the use of land power. For example, Clausewitz acknowledged the facts of limited war in his 10 July 1827 note and Sir Julian Stafford Corbett recognized land power was often ill-suited for limited warfare because of its inherent threat to the territorial imperative in his Some Principles of Maritime Strategy.

    • • •

    CIMSECThe Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank. It was formed in 2012 to bring together forward-thinkers from a variety of fields to examine the capabilities, threats, hotspots, and opportunities for security in the maritime domain. Check out the NextWar blog to join the discussion. CIMSEC encourages a diversity of views and is currently accepting membership applications here.

    The Bridge is a blog dedicated to strategy and military affairs. It was formed in 2013 to bring together forward-thinking junior to mid-grade officers and practitioners from a variety of fields to analyze and write about current and future national security challenges.

Posted in Armed Forces, English, Nathan Finney | Leave a comment

Exploring the psychology of climate change

by Mischa Wilmers. He is an independent journalist based in Manchester covering social justice and international affairs. He has reported from the UK and South America for the Guardian, the Independent, New Internationalist, Deutsche Welle, Huffington Post, Equal Times, the Big Issue in the North, and the Santiago Times.

Global issuesFew climate activists were surprised when a YouGov poll published in late September comfirmed what many already suspected: the British public are not particularly worried about global warming. A minority of 39% responded that they believed climate change posed a serious problem affecting the world as a whole compared to 61% for poverty and 77% for terrorism. When asked which issue they believed presented the gravest global threat only 6% of those polled selected climate change.

Contrast this with the words of UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon who, just two days after the poll was released, warned that humanity has never in its history faced a challenge greater than that of confronting climate change. “The human, environmental and financial cost of climate change is fast becoming unbearable”, he declared in his opening address to the UN climate summit in New York. A month later the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its most comprehensive study to date – a collaboration between thousands of climate scientists drawing together all the available evidence in one synthesised report. “Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems. Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which, together with adaptation, can limit climate change risks,” the report concluded.

The contrast outlined above poses some obvious questions. Why does the disparity between expert opinion and public concern over climate change remain so great and what can be done to address it? Are humans psychologically incapable of facing up to the horrific likely consequences of global warming as described by scientists? These are the themes explored in a recently published book by climate activist George Marshall, titled “Don’t Even Think about It: Why our brains are wired to ignore climate change“. The book argues that society’s apparent lack of concern over global warming is largely down to popular narratives which portray the issue as less immediate than other problems like terrorism.

The title of the book, Marshall concedes, is slightly misleading since he doesn’t believe that we are innately incapable of paying attention to or comprehending the issue. “It’s not so much that we’re wired to ignore climate change… The problem with climate change is that because it does not have immediacy, it’s not something that readily works with our inbuilt threat detectors”, he explains. To give a contrasting example, Marshall cites sensational media stories about immigration which have captured the imagination of millions of people in the UK and fuelled the rise of UKIP. “I live in a rural part of Wales where there’s quite a lot of concern about immigration despite the fact there are virtually no immigrants here”, he says. “Immigration is a very powerful socially conveyed narrative. The issue is that there are things about climate change which make it hard to form a compelling social narrative.”

Whereas stories about immigration and terrorism involve real experiences of real people living in the real world, stories about climate change tend to involve predicted events which could possibly occur to people living in a hypothetical future. Although temperature rises and changes in climate patterns over the long term can be attributed to anthropogenic global warming, scientists are unable to draw a direct link between climate change and individual extreme weather events.

unclimatesummit-zzzz

Furthermore, the victims of such events – who would make compelling protagonists – are often unwilling to accept that anthropogenic climate change is real. After spending time with survivors of floods and hurricanes in the US, Marshall found that many of them were understandably intent on restoring their lives to the way things were before the storm and were hostile to narratives which focussed on the need to change their lifestyles in order to avoid similar disasters in the future.

Marshall says that the dominant narratives on solving climate change tend to appeal to socially liberal people meaning that those with socially conservative values are quickly turned off. The key, Marshall argues, is to create narratives which speak to the full spectrum of human values and concerns.

“A lot of my work at the moment is to work with people with right wing political values and see what climate change would look like from their point of view. And it looks very different”, he says. “Climate change then isn’t a threat to polar bears but it’s a threat to their landscape, their culture, their sense of continuity, it’s a threat to freedom. I quote for example, an anti-abortion campaigner who has taken climate change as being a threat to the unborn child”.

Marshall’s observations are backed up by wealth of research which shows a strong correlation between people’s political affiliations and attitudes to global warming. “People’s world view is clearly the strongest predictor of their attitude towards climate change”, says Professor Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Bristol who has conducted extensive research on the psychology of climate change (cf.: Stephan Lewandowsky, Gilles E. Gignac, and Klaus Oberauer, “The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science“, PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 10, October 2, 2013). “I can ask people four questions about the free market and if they tell me in their responses that they really care about the free market as the best way to distribute goods in a society then I can be almost certain that they will also say climate change isn’t happening and is nothing to worry about”. Many supporters of neoliberal economics recognise that any solution to climate change would have to involve greater interference with and regulation of global markets – a solution which, to their mind, is more dangerous than the problem.

Conservatism and free-market worldview strongly predict rejection of climate science, in contrast to their weaker and opposing effects on acceptance of vaccinations. The two worldview variables do not predict opposition to genetically-modified (GM) foods. Conspiracist ideation, by contrast, predicts rejection of all three scientific propositions, albeit to greatly varying extents. Greater endorsement of a diverse set of conspiracy theories predicts opposition to GM foods, vaccinations, and climate science (Details: Stephan Lewandowsky, Gilles E. Gignac, and Klaus Oberauer,

Conservatism and free-market worldview strongly predict rejection of climate science, in contrast to their weaker and opposing effects on acceptance of vaccinations. The two worldview variables do not predict opposition to genetically-modified (GM) foods. Conspiracist ideation, by contrast, predicts rejection of all three scientific propositions, albeit to greatly varying extents. Greater endorsement of a diverse set of conspiracy theories predicts opposition to GM foods, vaccinations, and climate science (Details: Stephan Lewandowsky, Gilles E. Gignac, and Klaus Oberauer, The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science, PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 10, October 2, 2013).

Responses in climate change polls also vary widely depending on the way the questions are phrased. “The tricky thing is that you have to ask people in a way that doesn’t trigger their political identification,” explains Lewandowsky. “When you do that you find that 70-80% of people know exactly that climate change is occurring, that it’s a real risk and that it’s going to get worse.”

But how do you get people to care? Marshall wants us to rewrite the narratives in a way that makes climate change appear more urgent and real. But there may be psychological dangers in this approach too. According to CRED – the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions – a growing body of scientific evidence shows attempts to scare people into action with fear-based appeals actually result in increased climate scepticism. “Anybody who runs a fear campaign will always combine that appeal to fear with a presumed solution to the problem”, says Lewandowsky. “Fear campaigns are very effective if they offer you the solutions”.

A fear campaign over the spread of ISIS in the middle-east, for example, will swiftly be followed by a proposed bombing campaign in faraway lands. Regardless of whether the strategy is effective or morally virtuous, the solution appears simple. In the case of global warming, Lewandowsky argues, the solutions are complex, nuanced, and less easily digestible.

There are some signs that the green movement is taking note of this. Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party in England and Wales says that over the years there has been a gradual shift within the environmental movement away from fear based appeals and towards a greater focus on people’s primary concerns. “Putting more fear into the system really isn’t a constructive way forward. It’s very important for the Green movement to talk about how we can have a better quality of life because people are living with a sense of insecurity and we’ve got to provide solutions for that. For example, fuel poverty can be tackled by things like home energy conservation, home insulation and other measures”, she says.

Climate activists clearly face a number of challenges in communicating their message. But looking forward, Bennett is hopeful that attitudes to global warming will improve, citing polls which show around 70% of people in Britain now believe that human activity is contributing to climate change despite large sections of the media remaining sceptical. She also insists that the current political climate makes it easier for politicians like her to deliver this message. “I think it’s so much easier now than it would have been before 2007 in that people really are acknowledging that our current system is broken in all sorts of ways”, she explains.

“The economic and social inequality, the fact that young people can’t get jobs they can build a life on. That actually makes people much more amenable to new ideas and new ways of thinking. If you go back to 2007 people were feeling relatively comfortable and safe about the economy and their jobs and that made saying: ‘right we’ve got to change everything!’ a lot more difficult than it is now”.

Posted in Climate Change, English, General Knowledge, Mischa Wilmers | Leave a comment

Making sense of Russia’s international politics: applied legacies

by Patrick Truffer. He graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs and completes a Master of Arts program in International Relations at the Freien Universität Berlin.

Last Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered the annual Presidential Address to the Russian Federal Assembly. With regard to the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and more general to Russia’s international politics, Putin didn’t say more as he did with his speech about the situation in Crimea and the Crimean parliament’s request to join Russia, held in March 2014. On the contrary, in this regard, Putin’s address in March was of more importance to the understanding of Russia’s behavior, which seems to be based on a growing paranoiac world view. This understanding of the behavior is important because even when we think an actor in international politics is irrational, from their perspective, their decisions are perfectly rational (see also Nick Ottens, “Rational Actors Don’t Always Make the Decisions We Would“, offiziere.ch, 03.04.2014). In November, I wrote this short essay, which tries to identify and contextualize legacies in today’s political discourse in Russia, which I like to share with you. It shows that Putin’s use of historical legacies and the selective choosing of emotionally loaded arguments complicates an objective assessment, makes the Russia’s foreign policy appear enigmatic and from an outsider’s perspective irrational.

The Baptism of Saint Prince Vladimir in Chersonesus about 988 (fresco by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1890).

The Baptism of Saint Prince Vladimir in Chersonesus about 988 (fresco by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1890).

In the course of the political crisis and the unrest in the Ukraine that started on 21 November 2013 after the population received the surprising news that the Ukrainian government would not be signing of the association agreement with the European Union, Crimea was separated from Ukraine. The Crimean parliament called for a referendum on the peninsula’s status to be held on 16 March 2014. The results led to a declaration of independence and subsequent application to join the Russian Federation. Putin’s speech on 18 March 2014 was given a few days before the State Duma and the Federation Council were to decide on Crimea’s request. Since the integration of Crimea into Russia was not a matter of dispute in Russia, Putin’s speech should not be understood as an attempt to sway the vote in his own parliament. Instead, it was an attempt to justify the move to an international community that was largely rejecting Russia’s planned move, a sentiment confirmed when the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 68/262 on 27 March 2014 with a vote of 100 to 11 (with 58 abstentions and 24 absentees), which condemned the change in Crimea’s status.

Putin invoked the witness of several historical eras to justify his move. Building on the legacies of the Rus’, he references the ancient city of Chersonesus, near Sevastopol, “where Prince Vladimir was baptised”, to invoke the shared origins of Orthodox Christianity and the common cultural heritage of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. He then emphasizes Russia’s position as “first among equals” by referencing those Russian soldiers buried in Crimea after being killed in the wars to integrate Crimea into the Russian Empire. The death of these soldiers, the Russian majority on the peninsula and the predominance of the Russian language, culture and identity are presented as legitimate grounds from the Russian perspective for the annexation of Crimea. Nikita Khrushchev’s decision in 1954 to assign Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR was not only unconstitutional, but without consideration of the ethnic identity of Crimea’s population. From Putin’s perspective, such a change in Crimea’s status had only been feasible because at that time it seemed impossible that a sovereign Ukrainian state would emerge. Putin argues that Russia, having declared itself the successor state to the Soviet Union after the end of the Cold War, considers the loss of Crimea as “robbery”.

Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR "About the transfer of the Crimean Oblast from the RSFSR to the USSR".

Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR “About the transfer of the Crimean Oblast from the RSFSR to the USSR”.

Putin bases his arguments on the self-determination of people and the equality of ethnic groups. In contrast, the revolutionary forces behind the fall of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych are labelled as “Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites”, who emulate the ideology of Stepan Bandera. Before and after the Second World War, Bandera was the leader of the revolutionary segment of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, whose paramilitary wing (the Ukrainian Insurgent Army) fought for at least part of the war alongside the German Nazis against the Soviet Union for an independent Ukraine. Parts of these organizations participated in ethnic cleansings and the massacres of Jews, Poles and Russians in western Ukraine. Celebrated as heroes in western Ukraine, the leaders of these organizations represent from the Russian perspective the disastrous consequences of nationalism (Andreas Kappeler, “Ukraine and Russia: Legacies of the Imperial Past and Competing Memories“, Journal of Eurasian Studies, vol 5, no. 2, July 2014, p. 107–15). As an example of National Socialist tendencies in Ukraine, Putin references the new Ukrainian government’s intention to allow only Ukrainian to be used as the official language, even in regions where more than 10% of the population speak a different language and regional official languages had already been officially approved. According to this argument, Putin ostensibly bases the status change for Crimea not only on Russia’s legitimate territorial right to the peninsula, but also the need to protect the Russian-majority population:

Those who opposed the coup [in Kiev] were immediately threatened with repression. Naturally, the first in line here what Crimea, the Russian- speaking Crimea. In view of this, the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol turned to Russia for help in defending their rights and lives, in preventing the events that were unfolding and are still underway in Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkov and other Ukrainian cities. — Vladimir Putin, March 18, 2014.

Putin’s speech makes clear whom he holds responsible for the chaos in Ukraine, the instability in the Russian sphere of influence, and at the international level: primarily, the United States, followed closely by the European Union. In contrast to Russia, which claims to follow strictly international law in regard to International Relations, the United States and Europe would have weakened international institutions, exploited them for their own purposes, or simply ignored them. This started with the eastward expansion of NATO, which Russia considers a betrayal (cf.: Michael R. Gordon, “The Anatomy of a Misunderstanding“, The New York Times, May 25, 1997) and then continues with the wars in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, the intervention in Libya, the “Colour Revolutions” and the Arab Spring. Not only does this confirm the predominantly negative discourse in Russia about revolutionary currents as the source of bloodshed and terror, but it also reflects a world view marked by mistrust, conspiracy and a fear of instability that influences Russia’s decisions at the international level.

Putin’s speech shows how the historical legacy starting with the Rus’ in the 9th century to the modern day, the Orthodox Church, the Russian language, culture and identity are being exploited to justify his policies. Selectively choosing emotionally loaded arguments makes objective assessment difficult. Moreover, such arguments are difficult for observers without a background in Russian history to understand, which in turn can make Russia’s foreign policy appear enigmatic and irrational particularly from a Western perspective.

More information
Robert Legvold, “Managing the New Cold War“, Foreign Affairs, June 16, 2014.

Posted in English, Patrick Truffer, Russia, Security Policy | Leave a comment

Chinese Firm Planning a Canal Through Nicaragua Has PLA Ties

by Robert Beckhusen

A Nicaraguan canal would open a connection for China's heaviest container ships.

A Nicaraguan canal would open a connection for China’s heaviest container ships.

A Chinese company is preparing to begin work on the Nicaragua Interoceanic Canal. Once — and if — the canal is ever finished, it will size up to more than 170 miles (about 275 km) and connect the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, with Lake Nicaragua in the middle. It’s a major project — larger than any other geo-engineering project underway in the world. Officially, it’s an opportunity for development championed by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. But critics look at the canal as a boondoggle, and a means by which Ortega is developing a long-term relationship with Beijing — and China’s geopolitical interests. The builders of the canal also have important ties with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

In June 2013, Nicaragua granted canal construction rights to the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Company (HKND), a conglomerate of firms established a year before and headed by Chinese billionaire Wang Jing. Wang is an obscure entrepreneur and it’s unclear how exactly he made his fortune, although much of it appears to have come from telecommunications. The canal project is risky for a little-known developer, especially considering the $50 billion cost, but also potentially very lucrative for Wang. But what’s also worth noting is that Wang has extensive ties with the Chinese military. That’s just one part of a recent investigation on the canal project by Nicaraguan weekly newspaper Confidencial.

HKND is not a single company, but a group of at least 15 different companies. These include Skyrizon Aircraft Holdings, registered in the British Virgin Islands and includes seven Dassault Falcon business jets. HKND includes the Southeast Asia Agriculture Development Group, which invests in mining and agriculture in Cambodia. HKND includes companies for investing in “sports and culture” and the arts. There’s also the telecom company Beijing Xinwei, of which Wang is chairman. This last company is associated with the Chinese military. Beijing Xinwei openly advertises its industrial-scale telecommunications projects, such as cellular towers and broadband communication standards. “Its goal has been more involved in industrial private networks, and so-called ‘special communications,'” reported Confidencial. “That is, government projects linked to the army, rather than the large local market of individual private telecommunications.”

Proposed canal routes in red (2013). Blue: Panama Canal. Most likely, the HKND-canal will follow the second route from the top, south of Bluefields.

Proposed canal routes in red (2013). Blue: Panama Canal. Most likely, the HKND-canal will follow the second route from the top, south of Bluefields.

According to the report, which cited a Guotai Jun’an Securities investment report, Xinwei is working on the People’s Liberation Army’s “brains of the future military network.” The newsweekly also refers to “special communications” as a Chinese industrial term for hardware “related to national interests, such as the military and public safety.” The nature of Xinwei’s involvement in Chinese military networks is unclear. Beijing is heavily focused on improving its strategic and operational-level communications, and has been for decades.

“The command automation data network can support domestic operations and conventional attack options along China’s borders,” Christopher Sterling and Cliff Lord noted in Military Communications: From Ancient Times to the 21st Century. “China still lags behind Western standards for controlling complex joint operations and lacks the robust architecture required to meet the demands of the modern battlefield.”

Part of Xinwei’s work with the PLA is in satellites. The company is working on a “wireless broadband platform” for the BeiDou system of navigation satellites — an alternative to the Global Positioning System and the Russian GLONASS. Xinwei is also working on a constellation of communications satellites. These could have military dual uses. And Xinwei has licenses to deal directly with the PLA, according to Confidencial.

But what does any of this have to do with the Nicaraguan canal? It has to do with who the beneficiaries of the project will be. As Nina Lakhani detailed in The Daily Beast, the project has blown up into a “mix of fury, fear and defiance not witnessed since the Contra War ended in 1988,” Lakhani wrote.

Chinese destroyer Qingdao at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Sept. 6, 2006 (U.S. Navy photo).

Chinese destroyer Qingdao at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Sept. 6, 2006 (U.S. Navy photo).

Nicaraguan activists are upset for several reasons. Not only because of inevitable land evictions to make way for the canal, but there’s the risk of environmental destruction — and allegations of Nicaraguan soldiers intimidating residents along the planned canal route.

“It’s less a concern about the Chinese military than it is an issue of transparency,” blogged James Bosworth, an analyst at Latin America advisory firm Southern Pulse. “If Nicaragua President Ortega has sold off the rights to the Canal to the Chinese government and military as a geopolitical project rather than a profitable development project for the country, then the Nicaraguan people have a right to know.”

There’s reasons to think the project is more the former than the latter. Not that there are no commercial interests for the canal project. But the fact that Beijing is leading the project and is the largest investor means it’s not simply about making money. A Nicaraguan canal would give China and alternative route if relations deteriorated to the point of an American blockade of Chinese shipping through Panama. A Nicaraguan canal could also be built to accommodate super-heavy containers used to ship agricultural products from Brazil to China, and Chinese goods in the opposite direction.

It’s worth noting the Panama Canal wasn’t simply about business when the United States constructed the corridor in the early 20th century. It was the means by which the U.S. would connect its coastlines and exercise naval supremacy over the Western Hemisphere. China’s canal in Nicaragua won’t amount to anything close to that. But it’s an insurance policy, and a foot into Central America.

Posted in China, English, International, Robert Beckhusen, Sea Powers | Leave a comment

Open for discussion: How the US Created the Islamic State

In a short video produced by Vice News and the New York Review of Books, Mark Danner states that the US unintentionally created the Islamic State (IS). He argues that a series of bad political and military-strategical choices – for example the decision to go to war in Iraq in the first place, the dissolution of the Iraqi security forces and the de-Ba’athisation during the US occupation, the humiliation of the Sunnis etc. – planted the seed for the creation of the IS. In fact, since the beginning of the US occupation there were different active offshoots of al-Qaeda in Iraq. IS’s brutality is fueled through Sunni insurgence, their hate against the former US occupiers and against the dominant, rivalling Shias.

Yes, the US invasion in Iraq was a stupid move by former US president George W. Bush. Plenty of decisions of the US during the campaign and the occupation in Iraq were terrible wrong. Even worse, the torture and prisoner abuses in Abu Ghraib represent a moral bankruptcy of the US. Nevertheless, Danner tells us only one aspect of the story. After the US occupation, the creation of IS wasn’t unavoidable and probably the Shia government under Nouri al-Maliki had even a greater impact on the creation of the Islamic State (see also the articles by Hauke Feickert). The Sunni “Sons of Iraq” were never integrated into the Iraqi Armed Forces, despite according promises and the Sunni dominated Anbar province remained underdeveloped. The powerful positions of Shiite politicians in the Iraqi government, Iraq’s political system is even a greater frustration for the Sunni – once more again, election alone makes no democracy.

evolution_of_the_ISAnother important point, which Danner doesn’t take into consideration is the effect of the civil war in Syria in the rising of IS. In Syria again, the Sunnis were one of the main targets of the operations conducted by Assad’s forces. According to a yesterday released publication of the Center for Security Studies at the ETH Zurich, the civil war in Syria gave IS a strategic depth in Iraq. Last but not least the poor morale of the Iraqi Armed Forces facilitated the strategic gains of IS in Northern Iraq.

Danner’s remarks are interesting, but the problem with such retrospective assessment is that afterwards all seems so clear. There is a suggestion of a direct causality from one to another decision, but that is the result of a personal interpretation. The final outcome today is only one possibility of many. When the US troops pulled out of Iraq, everybody knew the huge challenges the government in Iraq has to master — but at this time nobody could forecast the rise of the IS as a reasonable threat for the whole region.

Some people say that history repeats itself. Should that be true, then ask yourself what kind of seed US and NATO troops planted in Afghanistan. Will the Afghan government master the challenges ahead or will we see there another rise of a powerful terror organization in a few years?

Please write your opinion in the comment section below or on our Facebook page “Sicherheitspolitik“. Who is responsible for the creation of the IS? Who should now clean up the mess? Will history repeats itself in Afghanistan? Will we see another save heaven for terrorists in Afghanistan in a few years? How can we deal with this future threat?

More information
Mark Danner, “Iraq: The New War“, The New York Review of Books, September 25, 2003.

Posted in English, Iraq, Security Policy, Terrorism | 2 Comments

Iran’s Moudge Class Assembly at Bander Abbas

Satellite imagery from September 2014 shows new construction activity at a dry dock at Iran’s Bander Abbas naval base.

Satellite imagery from September 2014 shows new construction activity at a dry dock at Iran’s Bander Abbas naval base.

Digital Globe imagery shows Iran making progress assembling ship modules brought out to the dry dock in January. According to measurements taken on imagery, Iran appears to be constructing another Moudge class frigate. The incomplete boat was located adjacent to the Sahand, another vessel in the series, which is still in the process of being fitted out. The two 1,400 ton frigates will support Iran’s goal of projecting force beyond the Sea of Oman.

Experience operating beyond Iranian waters was highlighted most recently in the Iranian press with the country’s efforts fighting pirates off the Horn of Africa. Captain Hossein Sharifi-Nasab told IRNA in November that the navy had escorted over 2,000 commercial vessels in open waters.

Iran joined the international anti-piracy mission in 2008. Since then, Iran’s navy has confronted pirates on at least 150 different occasions in waters ranging from the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean.

In 2007, the Iranian navy and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps navy were restructured with the latter put in charge of security in the strait. As a result, Iran’s traditional navy has been able to concentrate on areas that expand its naval influence.

The latest vessel shown in imagery at Bander Abbas is the fourth vessel under construction that will support Iran’s naval surface forces based in the Gulf. It’s these vessels that deploy further afield supporting Iran’s attempts to create a blue water force. Beyond the Gulf, another Moudge class, the Damavand — also previously known as the Velayet — was constructed on the Caspian at Shahid Tamjidi Marine Industries. Imagery as recent as August shows the boat still located near the floating dry dock at the Bander Anzali-based shipyard.

Military representatives quoted in Iran’s press said the Damavand went through sea trials in July. At the same time, Iran performed UAV tests on-board the vessel—though no reports indicated the type of UAV used.

DG (03AUG12) Khorramshahr

In the meantime, some additional information regarding the Moudge vessel previously observed at the ISOICO shipyard near Bander Abbas has emerged. A review of historical imagery suggests that the hull is actually the Moudge under construction at Khorramshahr. Accordingly, the Khorramshahr-based shipyard has no substantive support equipment to construct the vessel and must therefore utilize equipment at other shipyards. The hull shown in imagery from August 2012 (above) can no longer be observed on 2013 or 2014 imagery.

Although Iran announced that it would build 7 of the ships, only 5 thus far have been confirmed on imagery. The hull at the ISOICO shipyard is now thought to be back inside the fabrication shop.

Iran’s Moudge class are based on the British 1960’s Alvand class (Vosper Mk 5). The vessels measure approximately 94 m in length, displace around 1,400 tons and feature a helicopter flight deck. Armaments include a 76mm gun forward and a 40mm gun aft, torpedoes and four Chinese C-802 surface-to-surface missiles. The lead boat, the Jamaran, was launched in 2007 at Bander Abbas and has been in operation since 2010. The boats represent another important milestone for Iranian self-sufficiency in the indigenous manufacture and repair of military equipment, a priority since the Iran-Iraq war.

Posted in Chris B, English, International, Iran, Sea Powers | Leave a comment

How Indian Shuttle Diplomacy Helped Keep Cruise Missiles Out of the Netherlands

by Nick Ottens

Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers of the Netherlands speaks in the Houtrusthallen in The Hague, October 27, 1985 (ANP)

Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers of the Netherlands speaks in the Houtrusthallen in The Hague, October 27, 1985 (ANP)

October 29, 1983 saw the largest demonstrations the Netherlands had ever seen. More than half a million people took to the streets of The Hague to protest against the conservative government’s decision to place American cruise missiles on Dutch soil in response to the Soviet Union’s deployment of SS-20 intermediate-range missiles in Eastern Europe. The protests divided Dutch society and culminated two years later in a petition that was signed by 3.7 million people. Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers accepted the signatures on October 26 that year in the Houtrusthallen in The Hague.

There, Lubbers defended his government’s decision in front of thousands of opponents of his policy, some of whom literally turned their backs on the prime minister. He did so knowing the missiles would most likely never be placed. India’s prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, would confirm that to him.

The Gandhi Connection
Lubbers spoke about the episode in an interview I conducted with him for Elsevier magazine, the Netherlands’ leading conservative weekly, many years later. Asked if it wasn’t upsetting to confront such strong public opposition to his policy when he already knew it probably wouldn’t have to be carried out, the later United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees shrugged and said, “That’s all right. It didn’t really bother me because I had faith it would end well.”

The christian democrat leader had met Rajiv Gandhi a day earlier when he made a brief stopover in The Hague on a trip back home from Washington DC. Lubbers had been close with Rajiv’s mother, Indira, who was assassinated in 1984. Indira had told her son he should meet Lubbers if he ever had the chance. Rajiv took the advice to heart. Lubbers welcomed him in the Dutch prime minister’s residence just outside The Hague that evening.

During their conversations, Gandhi was interrupted by a phone call. When he returned, he apologized to Lubbers. It seemed the Russians had found out he was in The Hague and asked him, if he could make a stopover in The Hague, surely he could drop by in Moscow the next day as well? Gandhi, already jet-lagged, wasn’t looking forward to the Moscow trip. But Lubbers spotted an opportunity.

Stalling
The cruise-missile debate had polarized Dutch society. The right-wing Telegraaf newspaper accused the peace movement of playing right into the Soviets’ hands by dividing NATO. Left-wingers, including the opposition Labor Party, feared an escalation of the Cold War as a result of American president Ronald Reagan’s tough anticommunist rhetoric. Lubbers’ own christian democrats were split down the middle: the nuclear demonstrations were led by the Church.

Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers of the Netherlands addresses parliament in The Hague, November 22 1982

Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers of the Netherlands addresses parliament in The Hague, November 22 1982 (Anefo/Rob Bogaerts)

To keep the peace, Lubbers, well-versed in the Dutch art of consensus-building, had stalled. The Netherlands supported NATO’s Double-Track Decision to place middle-range cruise missiles in Western Europe to balance against the SS-20s while leaving the door open to removing the missiles again if the Soviets took away theirs. When time came to commit to hosting the American missiles, Lubbers’ government again bought time to wait to see if the Soviets wouldn’t stop their build-up of SS-20s after all.

Lubbers felt strengthened in his delaying tactics by Reagan himself who had assured him during a meeting in early 1983 that he was far from eager to escalate the arms race. But as long as the Soviets wouldn’t withdraw the SS-20s, the West couldn’t signal surrender. “Let them sweat first,” Reagan told Lubbers.

So Lubbers did. The missiles wouldn’t be placed in the Netherlands until late 1985. The prime minister was hopeful that the new spirit of détente in American-Soviet relations, brought about by the appointment of a new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, that spring, would make the whole thing go away.

Shuttle Diplomacy
On October 26, 1985, time was running out. Lubbers was heaving breakfast with Gandhi in The Hague, hours before he was due to address the angry crowd in the Houtrusthallen and days before the Netherlands were supposed to start stationing the cruise missiles. He wondered if the Indian leader couldn’t gauge Gorbachev’s intentions. “India always had good relations with Russia,” Lubbers recalled. Gandhi agreed. He would phone Lubbers once he was back in India and report back. “And that’s how it happened.”

Prime Ministers Ruud Lubbers of the Netherlands and Rajiv Gandhi of India meet at Amsterdam Airport, October 21, 1987

Prime Ministers Ruud Lubbers of the Netherlands and Rajiv Gandhi of India meet at Amsterdam Airport, October 21, 1987 (ANP)

When Gandhi called, the message was encouraging. Gorbachev wanted Lubbers to know he was sincere about the arms-limitation talks with the Americans and said he expected to do a deal with Reagan by the following year. He advised Lubbers to “get in the back of the line” and do what he did best — stall.

In the end, it took a little more than a year before Gorbachev and Reagan signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in Washington DC. But Lubbers knew that day he confronted opponents of his policy in the Houtrusthallen that the superpowers were making progress. He also knew, thanks to Gandhi’s impromptu shuttle diplomacy, that there probably would never be a need for the Netherlands to host the nuclear-armed missiles that millions of its citizens didn’t want.

Family Friend
By the time the INF Treaty was signed, Lubbers had already won reelection and visited Gandhi in India. What he remembered most was a kitchen-table talk he had with Rajiv, his Italian-born wife, Sonia, and their two children, Rahul and Priyanka. It was a “difficult conversation,” Lubbers said, because Gandhi openly talked about the fears he had for the safety of his family. He told Lubbers: “You must realize that I, like my mother, will be killed.” Two years later, he was — by a Sri Lankan terrorist.

Sonia took over the leadership of the Congress Party. Lubbers won his last election that year and formed a government with his old Labor Party rivals. He stood down in 1994 after twelve years in office, having served longer than any previous Dutch prime minister. Before retiring from public life, he served as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for four years. It was in Geneva that the phone rang and another Gandhi was on the line: Rahul, asking for a meeting. His mother had told him he should see Lubbers again if he ever had the chance.

Posted in English, History, India, Nick Ottens, Security Policy | Leave a comment

The Return of the Middle Kingdom

by Major Chad M. Pillai. Major Chad M. Pillai is an Army Strategist in the U.S. Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC). He recently served as a Special Assistant to the Commander, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the 38th Army Chief of Staff. Major Chad Pillai received his Masters in International Public Policy from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in 2009.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan pose for a group photo with participants of the 22nd APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting and their spouses ahead of a welcome banquet in Beijing, capital of China, Nov. 10, 2014.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan pose for a group photo with participants of the 22nd APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting and their spouses ahead of a welcome banquet in Beijing, capital of China, Nov. 10, 2014.

The recent Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting cemented China’s place as a Global Power. Recent critical agreements the Chinese made with both the U.S. and Russia demonstrates its geo-strategic position between the two former Cold War adversaries. Additionally, significant announcements by the Chinese government ranging from plans to invest heavily in a “New Silk Road” to seeking to solidify itself as a space power on par with the Russians and the U.S. adds to its growing prestige. China’s achieved its quest to undo the century of humiliation as the world witnessed the return of the Middle Kingdom atop the international system. 2014 will go down in Chinese history as the year this ancient civilization regained its prominence among the nations of the world and put it on a path to become the world’s leading economic and military power; however, internal and external challenges remain that may obstruct that path.

The Prize of Former Cold War Superpowers
The Ukraine Crisis is escalating geo-strategic tensions between the U.S., NATO and Russia. In response, the U.S. and its Western Allies have imposed strict economic sanctions against Russia, especially its financial sector. This has created two consequences: severely impacting the Russian economy and the value of its currency, and pushed Russia towards China as a means to offset its economic relationship with the West. While China has not publically stated its support or condemnation of Russia’s actions, it recent $400 Billion Natural Gas Deal provides Russia an outlet to offset its economic downturn as a result of Western sanctions. This deal is significant because it provides further evidence that Russia is leveraging the Chinese to break the US Dollar’s strangled hold on the international energy sector, and thereby, weakening the impact of U.S. led sanctions.

While Russia is competing with the U.S. for influence with China, China remains wary of Russia and therefore has also made significant deals with the U.S. During APEC, the Chinese made key agreements with the U.S. on climate change, tariffs; and rules and procedures governing air and maritime encounters between U.S. and Chinese Forces. Of these agreements, the governing air and maritime disputes elevates China in the minds of U.S. policymakers to the same degree the Soviets enjoyed during the Cold War. For China, this recognizes its growing military capability in the Asia-Pacific region and it that the U.S. and its Asian Allies such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia must take seriously. Finally, APEC allowed China to set the scene for its strategic initiatives to counter the U.S.’s Asia-Pacific Rebalance, which the Chinese view with suspicion, by promoting economic and diplomatic efforts of its own in the region.

The Asia-Pacific Dream
China’s answer to the U.S. Asia-Pacific Rebalance is the announcement of its Asia-Pacific Dream that would better connect Asia to markets in Europe by investing heavily in land and maritime infrastructure throughout the region. While China has benefited from the U.S. led international economic system, China seeks to transition to a model more akin to its historical roots where China, and to some degree India, was the epicenter of the global economy. As the U.S. remains pre-occupied with the instability in the Middle East, China, through its Renminbi Diplomacy, is rapidly shifting the loyalties of many Eurasian nations who would be beneficiaries of China’s investment strategy, and eventually squeeze the U.S. out. While the U.S. can provide military protection in the near-term, its own fiscal challenges will allow China to outcompete the U.S. for influence in the long-term. Despite its growing clout in the international arena, China has significant challenges it must overcome internally and external challenges from other regional powers to include the “swing vote” in the region, India.

Adjusted for purchasing power, China's economy is now the world's largest.

Adjusted for purchasing power, China’s economy is now the world’s largest.

Getting Old before Getting Richer
In October 2014, according to the IMF, China overtook the U.S. as the world’s largest economy in the purchasing power parity index. However, the U.S. remains the world’s absolute largest economy by GDP and therefore establishes a tie between the two nations as the world’s largest economies.

Despite this impressive achievement, there are warning signs that China’s economy is entering a period of less rapid growth. Recent data from China forecast slower growth in its industrial sector, a key component in the government’s efforts to raise the standard of living for its people. Without sustained growth, China faces potential political unrest as its unemployment rises and causing a down-turn on the standard of living for its people. This will place greater stress on its social-welfare system as the implications of its “One-Child Policy” create an unstainable model where fewer workers support a larger aging population. This along with further environmental degradation from industrial pollution means China will get Older and Sicker before its gets Richer. This will either lead to positive internal reform or a more dangerous and nationalist China attempting to avert collapse.

India as Swing Vote
Historically, India and China are two vast ancient civilizations that served as the political, economic, and cultural foundations of the Asia-Pacific region. These two nations, through cross-cultural trade and interaction, shaped the regions from Central Asia to South East Asia. This ranged from religious influence, Buddhism, to cuisine such as Thai food, a blend of Chinese and Indian flavors mixed with indigenous ingredients. Despite these interactions and influences, China’s and India’s direct entanglements with each other have been limited as a result of the geographical separation from the Himalayan Mountains. And for most of that early history, China, a unified nation, engaged with a fragmented India. Today, China confronts a unified India whose population will exceed China’s population by 2028.

While India, the world’s largest democracy, lacks China’s central planning discipline, it possesses a talented population competing in information technology, engineering, and industry. And while its middle class is smaller than China’s, it has one major competitive advantage – a greater mastery of the English Language. With the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is doing away with its traditional Non-Alignment Strategy and engaging more with its neighbors and becoming the world’s largest importer of weaponry. This has implications for China as India continues to modernize its armed forces, including its nuclear arsenal, as they attempt to peacefully resolve their border disputes.

The PAK-FA test program has been aggressive, and meant to bring the aircraft to maturity by 2016. Three prototypes are currently flying with the flight tests – two are used for flight testing at Zhukovsky, a third prototype has recently been delivered to the Russian Air Force 929th Chkalov State Flight Test Centre in Akhtubinsk for testing. A fourth FAK-FA prototype was damaged by fire after a demonstration flight arranged for an Indian delegation. The pilot was unharmed and the fire was extinguished quickly, but the aircraft itself was damaged (see photo above).

The PAK-FA test program has been aggressive, and meant to bring the aircraft to maturity by 2016. Three prototypes are currently flying with the flight tests – two are used for flight testing at Zhukovsky, a third prototype has recently been delivered to the Russian Air Force 929th Chkalov State Flight Test Centre in Akhtubinsk for testing. A fourth FAK-FA prototype was damaged by fire after a demonstration flight arranged for an Indian delegation. The pilot was unharmed and the fire was extinguished quickly, but the aircraft itself was damaged (see photo above).

The role of India in the international arena will also change the balance of power as both Russia and the U.S. increasingly seek India as a counter-balance to China’s rise. India’s and Russia’s relationship date to the Cold War and continue today as Russia serves as one of India’s major weapons supplier to include co-development of the Sukhoi PAK-FA stealth fighter. This may provide India the means to compete militarily with China’s emerging 5th generation stealth fighters. At the same time, the U.S. has increased its military-military engagement with India and seeks to become a major supplier of weapons to the Indian Armed Forces. Not only is the U.S. traditional sale of military hardware with India, but also seeks opportunities for joint ventures in the future. Of course, China is also increasing its dialogue with India as a means to incorporate it into its future plans for the region and mitigate creating a future regional peer adversary.

A Multipolar World
The APEC meeting introduced the world to the return of Great Power Politics, where the unipolar world of the post-Cold War has come to an end. The economic shift between the U.S. and China along with the competition between Russia and the U.S. for China’s influence has returned China to its historic position as the Middle Kingdom. Its strategy to invest heavily in the Asia-Pacific region will further cement its central position both regionally and internationally. However, challenges remain both internally and externally. Without necessary reforms, China risks becoming older and sicker before its gets richer, this may create a more dangerous China. However, a Rising India, along with Russian and U.S. engagement with India may temper China’s ambitions and create a future “Gang of Four” – Multipolar World – a balance of power envisioned by President Richard Nixon to maintain global peace.

Posted in Chad M. Pillai, China, English, Russia, Security Policy | Leave a comment

Vice News – Bahrain: An Inconvenient Uprising

Bahrain 2014: The protests are not over. Tens of thousands mourners marched during the funeral procession for Asma Hussain on February 12, 2014. She died of a heart attack when several masked police stormed her home.

Bahrain 2014: The protests are not over. Tens of thousands mourners marched during the funeral procession for Asma Hussain on February 12, 2014. She died of a heart attack when several masked police stormed her home.

After 26-year-old street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of a public building in the Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid on 17 December, 2010, protests broke out in Tunisia. Subsequently, a wave of protests broke out across almost all of the Arab states that people came to dub optimistically the “Arab Spring“. These protests had a socio-economic background, with the main factors being the high rate of unemployment and the lack of investment resulting in poor prospects for young people, despite their relatively high levels of education. For the vast majority of protesters, initially, their movement therefore had less to do with demands for democracy or secularisation.

About four years later, we have come to realise that the “Arab Spring” was followed by a much grimmer “Arab Winter”. The most successful developments took place in Tunisia, which promulgated a balanced constitution earlier this year and organised parliamentary elections at the end of October. However, even Tunisia is a long way from becoming an established, stable democracy. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood failed to seize the opportunities when it was elected to power. After a short period in office for popularly-elected president Mohamed Morsi, the subsequent rise to power of Abd al-Fattah as-Sisi has de facto meant that hardly anything has changed in Egypt. Considering the rather turbulent period under Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood and the uprising of radical Muslims on the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt’s neighbours as well as the European states and the US are not completely unhappy about the final regime change. Yemen, Libya and Syria are all still torn apart by civil wars with various levels of intensity.

The President [Barack Obama] told President Morsy that the United States is committed to the democratic process in Egypt and does not support any single party or group. He stressed that democracy is about more than elections; it is also about ensuring that the voices of all Egyptians are heard and represented by their government, including the many Egyptians demonstrating throughout the country. — Office of the Press Secretary, “Readout of the President’s Call with President Morsy of Egypt“, The White House, 02.06.2013.

Bahrain represents a special case: the protests here are still on-going but have failed to achieve any concrete results, partly because they did not receive any support from Western countries, compared to that shown especially in Libya and also occasionally in Egypt. In addition, media has barely reported any information about the protests in Bahrain, although this can also be attributed to the difficult working conditions for media in the country. According to the “Freedom of the Press 2014″ index published by Freedom House, Bahrain was ranked tenth from the bottom, just ahead of Syria. Any reports that are critical of Islam or of the royal family as well as any calls for regime change are punishable by up to 5 years in prison (see Freedom House, “Bahrain“, Freedom of the Press 2014, 2014). Western governments are unwilling to support the protests in Bahrain largely due to their desire to maintain good relations with the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and its supportive neighbour Saudi Arabia. In March 2011, Saudi troops assisted Bahraini security forces in a crackdown against opposition protests. By the way, a Mowag Piranha armoured vehicle made in Switzerland delivered to Saudi Arabia along with 29 other Piranhas at some point before 1991 was also used in the crackdown (Source: “Schweizer Panzer kam gegen Opposition in Bahrain zum Einsatz”, Tagesanzeiger, March 27, 2011). Brett Davis penned a rather noteworthy article in the middle of October describing the influence of Saudi Arabia and Iran on events in Bahrain for offiziere.ch. Since Bahrain is also the home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, the United States are interested in maintaining stability in Bahrain to ensure maritime security in the Gulf region.

But what is the current situation on the streets of Bahrain? Once again, a short documentary by Vice News provides an insight into the developments that have been taking place in Bahrain since 2011:

Posted in Bahrain, English, Security Policy | Leave a comment