African Drone Apron Update

DG Chabelley

The U.S. continues to expand drone aprons at African airfields in Djibouti and Niger, recent satellite imagery acquired by Digitalglobe confirms.

Space snapshots acquired in July 2016 of Djibouti’s Chabelley airfield show the addition of four more clamshell shelters since previous reporting in March/April 2016. Three new line of sight communication towers and two ku-band primary satellite links were also visible near the new tension hangars. The two shelters remaining on the older apron, located at the eastern ramp, have since been removed. The older apron probably supported drone operations associated with EU NAVFOR.

Adjacent to the apron, a taxi-way extending out to field parking appeared to be repaved while clearing and leveling activity was spotted near the airfield’s perimeter and bivouac site. A makeshift construction compound had been added to the northeast of the airfield outside the access control point. Several earth moving vehicles and dump trucks were on-site at the time of capture. Given the history of the site, the extended taxi-way may eventually support future apron expansions as more drones are put online or relocated from other forward positions. For example, we’ve noted the relocation of drones from Afghanistan in 2014-2015 and the Reapers at Arba Minch were pulled last November.

The additional drones arriving in Djibouti come at the right time. As things get worse in Yemen, additional surveillance measures will be needed. Yemen has become what some observers see as a new “Vietnam”. By all appearances, the peace process is breaking down. The lack of progress advancing toward a unity government peaked last month when the Houthi Shia movement announced the formation of a 10-member “Supreme Council” to govern territory it controls. The UN special envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, suspended talks taking place in Kuwait to be resumed at an unspecified date. As a political solution slips further from reach, the return of military action targeting the Houthis is in full swing, despite brief moments of calm. Of course, that says nothing of the other groups vying for influence.

DG (03JUL16) Niamey

DG (03JUL16) Niamey

Meanwhile in West Africa, recent imagery of Niger’s Diori Hamani in Niamey shows two additional clamshell shelters erected since last year’s update. We’ve noted the ongoing construction activity at the site in other reports. Both tension-shelters were added in 2016, the first (top) during March and the second (bottom) in late June. The first shelter appears to support the basing of more drones. In July, we caught our first glimpse of a Reaper nose protruding from the shelter. What the second shelter supports remains unknown. The site continues to exhibit ongoing construction activity that we’ll continue to watch.

Beyond infrastructure developments, the “Group of Five for the Sahel” agreed in March to create an EU-backed rapid reaction force to counter militants in the region. The agreement is viewed as a mechanism to release pressure on France’s overstretched military presence. Operation Barkhane, France’s largest external operation, has approximately 3,500 troops stationed across the region. France’s main focus for its force has been to counter terrorism and smuggling operations, both symptoms of ungoverned spaces the Western European country sees as a source of instability. Including Barkhane, total French troops on the continent number over 8,000. How successful French forces will be in stabilizing the region — even with the backing of a new rapid reaction force — is debatable, given the lack of a political solution. With no end of French involvement in sight, France may be settling back into a familiar role as the “gendarme of Africa”.

Posted in Chris Biggers, Djibouti, Drones, English, Intelligence, International, Niger | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Russia’s growing influence in the post-Arab Spring Middle East

The Khmeimim airbase near Latakia is a good example of Russias massive footprint in Syria. It is the strategic center of Russia’s military operation in Syria (Revision 1 with additional information provided by Capitain Mike Butora, Swiss Air Force).

The Khmeimim airbase near Latakia is a good example of Russias massive footprint in Syria. It is the strategic center of Russia’s military operation in Syria (Revision 1 with additional information provided by Capitain Mike Butora, Swiss Air Force).

Russia is set to maintain an indefinite presence in its airbase in Syria’s western Latakia province, from where it has been carrying out airstrikes in support of its sole remaining regional ally, the regime in Damascus.

Following the Kremlin’s decisive intervention in the Syrian conflict last September 30, Vladimir Putin lambasted the western powers at the United Nations for, as he sees it, wrecking havoc in the Middle East by supporting the opponents of the various authoritarian regimes there. Conversely he characterized his own country’s intervention in Syria as a necessary move to preserve the stability of the region and combat terrorism.

Part of the move was clearly to ensure that Russia did not lose its only Arab ally. In the post-Arab Spring order Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has remained one of the few leaders in the revolting Arab countries who wasn’t overthrown, like Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, or forced to step-down, like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.

Russia has clearly gained a lot from the failure of the revolts and the reinforcement of authoritarian orders that followed those failed region-wide uprisings. To understand trends in the Middle East it’s important to understand the political situations in the three Middle Eastern bellwether states: Egypt, Iran and Turkey. In all three countries Russia has been gaining significant influence.

Russian president Vladimir Putin meets Turkish president Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last weel for the 1st time since downing of a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M.

Russian president Vladimir Putin meets Turkish president Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last weel for the 1st time since downing of a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M.

After a seven month fallout with Turkey following the November 27 shoot-down incident (which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan apologized for in a letter sent to Moscow in June) the Kremlin has began to restore ties with that country. Turkey has even agreed to cooperate with the Russians in Syria despite their long-held aversion to Russia’s ally in Damascus. This comes as Turkey is becoming more distrustful of, and estranged from, the US – which has been home to Fethullah Gulen, the cleric Turkey accuses of orchestrating the failed coup last month, since 1999. Washington has expressed worry over Turkey’s post-coup crackdown while Moscow simply welcomed the restoration of ties and spoke out against the coup attempt as it took place. Something Erdogan personally thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for during his recent visit to Russia which, incidentally, was his first trip abroad since the failed coup.

We may see a situation develop in the near future whereby Turkey will enhance its already substantial economic ties with Russia and perhaps even cooperate more with them in the military arena given their distrust of Washington and desire to avoid relying solely on its NATO allies. We saw an earlier indication of this when Turkey sought to buy long-range Chinese-made anti-aircraft missiles two years ago only to be warned by American and European companies who have joint military projects that their “partnership in certain fields will be over” if they purchased such missiles. Consequently that deal was scrapped, but the fact that Turkey was and has been seeking, for some time now, to diversify its military and bolster its domestic arms industry is very telling (see also “Turkey’s growing domestic arms industry“,, 21.05.2016).

A not too dissimilar trend has been unfolding with Egypt in recent years. While a long-time US ally, the current regime of President Fatah el-Sisi in Cairo – born of the July 2013 military coup he led before becoming president – knows it cannot rely on Washington given its authoritarianism and rampant human rights abuses. So, Sisi has enhanced ties with Moscow, reportedly ordering a fleet of 46 Russian MiG-29 Fulcrums to diversify its air force, which mostly consists of American technology, so it can remain a formidable power if the day comes when Washington threatens to place an arms embargo on Cairo as part of an attempt to sanction it for its abuses.

On top of this, Iran and Russia are working more closely in the region. In a meeting in early August Putin and the Iranian President Hasan Rouhani met in the Azerbaijani capital Baku for a summit in which Putin said that Moscow-Tehran relations have reached the point of strategic cooperation from the economy to politics. Neither of them want to see the Syrian regime toppled nor the Americans and their NATO allies becoming the predominant foreign power in the region. Also Russia is in the process of delivering Iran advanced S-300 long-range air defense missiles and possibly even a sophisticated fleet of Su-30 Flanker air superiority jet fighters. Possession of both weapon systems would substantially enhance Iran’s ability to defend its airspace and deter adversaries.

Russian AF Tu-22M3 strategic bombers deployed to Hamedan base in Iran (Photo: Warfare Worldwide).

Russian AF Tu-22M3 strategic bombers deployed to Hamedan base in Iran (Photo: Warfare Worldwide).

Strategic cooperation between Moscow and Tehran was aptly demonstrated on August 16 when Russian Tu-22 supersonic bombers, along with Su-34 Fullback fighter bombers, took off from the Hamedan airbase in the western Iranian city of Hamadan and bombed targets in Syria. Basing these strike aircraft in Iran shortened the flight distance of that bombing run from approximately 2,000 to 700 kilometers. The aircraft were also, notably, escorted by Su-30 and Su-35 Flanker air superiority jet fighters based in the Russian airbase in Khmeimim near Latakia in western Syria throughout that strike. That was the first time Russian aircraft operated from Iran throughout this campaign and underscores the extent of the two countries increased cooperation in recent months.

While Russian power and influence in the region may not be predominant, it certainly is a lot stronger and more formidable than it was just a short few months ago.

Posted in Egypt, English, Intelligence, International, Iran, Russia, Security Policy, Syria, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Unlikely Case for Suicide Attacks

by Austin Michael Bodetti. He is a student in the Gabelli Presidential Scholars Program at Boston College. He focuses on the relationship between Islam and conflict in Syria and Sudan.

A picture taken on July 11, 2016 shows Iraqi municipality cleaners looking at posters commemorating the victims of a suicide bomb attack at the site of the explosion which killed nearly 300 people in Baghdad's Karrada district. The blast was one of the deadliest single attacks in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion. (Photo: Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty Images)

A picture taken on July 11, 2016 shows Iraqi municipality cleaners looking at posters commemorating the victims of a suicide bomb attack at the site of the explosion which killed nearly 300 people in Baghdad’s Karrada district. The blast was one of the deadliest single attacks in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion. (Photo: Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty Images)

The complex logic behind suicide attacks has baffled and fascinated the Western world since 9/11. The news media portrays them as symptoms of radicalism stemming from extreme interpretations of Islam, which some conservatives blame for the birth of the phenomenon. Political scientists such as Robert Pape and his supporters, on the other hand, argue that terrorist organizations only conduct suicide attacks against democratic governments occupying foreign countries.

I wanted to know what the radicals and terrorists themselves thought, so I asked around. A subtler reality emerged: they use suicide attacks not when their opponents have military supremacy alone but when, in addition, a political solution to a war appears out of reach.

Representative of Islamic Jihad Movement of Palestine to Iran Nasser Abu Sharif gives a speech during the 5th International conference of Gaza, Symbol of Resistance at Shams Hall in Iran's capital Tehran on January 18, 2015.

Representative of Islamic Jihad Movement of Palestine to Iran Nasser Abu Sharif gives a speech during the 5th International conference of Gaza, Symbol of Resistance at Shams Hall in Iran’s capital Tehran on January 18, 2015.

Nasser Abu Sharif, the representative of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Tehran, told me PIJ’s reason for relying on suicide attacks. “We have come to believe, based on our experience, that the Zionist Entity is unbeatable through negotiations,” he explained. “Martyrdom operations are a weapon to change the enemy’s thinking and force it to reconsider its occupation. Under negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, Israel has increased its settlements exponentially.” [1]

The anti-Semitic, Islamist terminology (“martyrdom operations” instead of suicide attacks and “the Zionist Entity” instead of Israel) might obscure Abu Sharif’s true message: PIJ has chosen suicide attacks as an alternative to the peace process, which, according to PIJ, has gone nowhere. “If Israel left Palestine now, we would throw roses in response and would not cast a stone,” he said.

Whether you believe PIJ or not, countless observers have acknowledged the intractability of the Israeli–Palestinian peace process. Two years ago, Israel suspended negotiations with the Palestinians; last year, it ended contact with EU officials involved in the peace process. Palestine, meanwhile, has accused Israel of genocide and threatened it with the International Criminal Court.

As political solutions seem less likely, military responses such as suicide attacks become more attractive to insurgents. “In suicide bombers, the terrorist organization dispatching them gets a weapon that is horrifying, that can be precisely targeted, that can infiltrate into heavily protected places, and can cause considerable damage,” Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA analyst, said in an email. “In that sense, the suicide bomber is a terrorist group’s ultimate weapon — their version of a cruise missile.”

Taliban Spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi.

Taliban Spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi.

Mohammad Yousuf Ahmadi, the Taliban’s spokesman for the south of Afghanistan, agreed. “When martyrdom operations are used effectively, the enemy flees, and entire villages and regions are therefore liberated,” he said. “Martyrdom operations are the best, most powerful way to defeat the enemy in the military arena, and the enemy’s defeat also ensures changes in his political strategy.”

In Afghanistan too, the peace process has struggled. Problems ranging from Pakistani interference and hardliners in the Taliban to targeted killings of Taliban leaders and the Afghan government’s dependence on Western militaries have prevented a meaningful engagement between both sides. Indifferent to the peace process, the Taliban has reinvested its political energies in military assets: car bombs and suicide attacks. Earlier this year, a Taliban truck bomb killed sixty-four in Kabul.

Suicide attacks are neither an Islamic phenomenon nor a recent one. A nineteenth-century Russian socialist staged the first suicide attack in modern history. During World War II, Japanese pilots conducted Kamikaze raids as the Allies’ strategy of leapfrogging cut supply chains to Tokyo. Throughout the Sri Lankan Civil War, Hindu rebels launched suicide attacks against Buddhist civilians and soldiers. In all three cases, peace processes collapsed and faltered or never started.

Turkey offers the most illustrative example. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a leftist, secularist resistance movement and terrorist organization seeking autonomy for the country’s Kurdish minority, waged a campaign of suicide attacks for years before a ceasefire and peace process lasting 2013-2015. During negotiations, the suicide attacks stopped. After the Turkish government suspended the peace process, PKK suicide attacks hit Ankara and Istanbul, killing dozens.

A man looks out at ruined houses after returning to Cizre, Turkey, on March 2016. The buildings were damaged during clashes between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants associated with the PKK. Cizre, is home to about 130,000 residents, many of whom were allowed back home in March 2016 for the first time in months, discovering widespread destruction resulting from the military operation. (Photo Cagdas Erdogan/Getty Images).

A man looks out at ruined houses after returning to Cizre, Turkey, on March 2016. The buildings were damaged during clashes between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants associated with the PKK. Cizre, is home to about 130,000 residents, many of whom were allowed back home in March 2016 for the first time in months, discovering widespread destruction resulting from the military operation. (Photo Cagdas Erdogan/Getty Images).

Analysts should note that some Islamist resistance movements have even declined to use suicide attacks. “Martyrdom operations are not part of the philosophy behind our military actions,” an official from Ahrar al-Sham, a hardline Islamist paramilitary in the Syrian opposition, told me over WhatsApp. “We can use remotely detonated car bombs to hit the military checkpoints of the regime and its allies. There is no need for martyrdom operations. The lives of our fighters are expensive.”

As Russia intervened in the Syrian Civil War last year and interfered in a difficult peace process, a captain in the Free Syrian Army proposed conducting suicide attacks against Russian soldiers. Though he shunned al-Qaeda’s violent excesses, the commander assured me that he would use any means necessary to defend his country from an enemy who refused to negotiate.

History has proved suicide attacks a multifaith phenomenon if atheists, Hindus, Muslims, and secularists from the PKK to PIJ are willing to use them. Many terrorist organizations see suicide attacks as a last resort and a means to an end. “In principle, we oppose violence and try to avoid violent tactics,” said Abu Sharif. “Of course we are against civilians paying the price for their political leaders. […] When Japan struck Pearl Harbor,” the PIJ representative reminded me, “America responded with nuclear bombs and justified it as necessary to stop the war.” If the West wants to stop suicide attacks, then, it should focus on political solutions to the conflicts that produce them.

[1] With negotiations stalled between the Palestinians and Israelis, the number of settlers in the West Bank now exceeds 350,000 — including about 80,000 living in isolated settlements like Eli and Ofra that are hard to imagine remaining in place under any deal. In addition, there are another 300,000 Israelis living in parts of Jerusalem that Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war and later annexed in a move most of the world considers illegal. (Jodi Rudoren and Jeremy Ashkenas, “Netanyahu and the Settlements“, The New York Times, 12.03.2015).

Posted in Austin Michael Bodetti, English, Security Policy, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

We’re Rapidly Approaching a Terrifying New Age of Automated Warfare

by Darien Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh is a contributor for War is Boring and Reverb Press. He serves on the Board of Directors for Auntie Bellum.

Screenshot 2016-08-06 15.15.24

A Russian Uran-9 unmanned ground vehicle firing an M120 Ataka anti-tank guided missile.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been used for combat purposes since Austria deployed bomb-laden balloons controlled by long copper wires in 1849 during the First Italian War of Independence. Granted, that was a pretty rudimentary display by the standards of contemporary air warfare. UAVs came a long way between Austria’s primitive foray into combat aeronautics and when a U.S. Predator drone fired a Hellfire missile at an enemy target for the first time in Afghanistan on 7 October 2001. That mission failed, but it nevertheless marked a major turning point in the history of remote-operated and automated warfare. Technological advances in those areas immediately began to expeditiously accelerate and continue to do so today.

Since those early days of Operation in Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, drone strikes as a means of neutralizing suspected terrorists have become chillingly commonplace events. Indeed, they are ubiquitous in regions of some countries. The U.S. military and CIA heavily relied on drones for both surveillance and targeted killings under U.S. President George W. Bush’s tenure, and U.S. President Barack Obama substantially increased their usage when he came into office in 2009. As Micah Zenko reports at the New York Times, “Whereas President George W. Bush authorized approximately 50 drone strikes that killed 296 terrorists and 195 civilians in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia, Obama has authorized 506 strikes that have killed 3,040 terrorists and 391 civilians.”

DroneStrikes013015While the U.S. is perhaps the most notorious operator of armed UAVs, it of course isn’t the only country deploying drones for military purposes. The U.K., China, Israel, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, South Africa, and Somalia (reportedly) all have weaponized drones as well. Israel has an impressive fleet of its domestic Heron TP UAV, and plans to triple its size by 2020. In February Nigeria used drones to bomb the terrorist group Boko Haram for the first time. Numerous other countries, such as Russia and India, have surveillance drones like the Searcher, which is also manufactured in Israel, and are in the process of developing weaponized drones. Even terrorist organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic State are trying to acquire or develop weaponized drones — sort of. However, as one source points out, “this is where the distinctions between ‘weaponized drone’ and ‘model-aircraft-with-a-grenade-strapped-to-it’ begin to become important.”

Technology tends to disperse quickly, and the rapid spread of drone warfare is due in part to Chinese and Israeli technology, which can be both less expensive and easier to obtain than U.S. drone technology, for instance. “Whereas U.S. firms are barred by law from selling unmanned aerial vehicles to countries with histories of human-rights abuses,” writes David Axe for the Daily Beast, “Israeli industry suffers no such constraints.” As a case in point, Axe adds that other customers for Israel’s Searcher drones include Thailand, a nation ruled by a unelected military junta, and Azerbaijan, a country saddled with a “poor rights record,” according to Human Rights Watch.

Drone and remote-controlled warfare are most often associated with aircraft, but similar technologies are being applied to land and sea fighting systems as well. Several countries are developing, or already using, automated sentry guns, drone warships and submarines, and unmanned tanks or other “robots”. Weapons developers are also working on technology to integrate more advanced systems. For instance, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Office of Naval Research, and the U.S. Air Force are trying to create “swarms” of inexpensive drones. Another drone program would allow fighter pilots to control small fleets of support craft in combat. There are also plans to have operators control drones with their minds. With these technologies, and others, coming together it’s easy to see glimpses of the fictional Skynet automated defense system from The Terminator franchise in our near future.

Sentry Guns and Robot Tanks are the Ground Combatants of the Future previously reported on South Korea deploying sentry guns along the Demilitarized Zone, and Israel doing the same along its border with Gaza. Israel relies on the weapons far more than South Korea, where they are still in an exploratory phase. Both South Korea’s SGR-1 sentry guns and Israel’s Sentry Tech system have fully-automated and “slave” modes, the latter requiring a human operator. Neither country, however, has gone full auto with the weapons — yet.

In Israel the sentry guns are still remotely operated, and engaging a human target requires confirmation from both the operator and a commanding officer at the control center. Despite this, the sentry guns have still been controversial, with Israeli security forces claiming it targets only terrorists while Palestinian groups claim civilians have been killed. Disputes like this are certain to become more troubling if Israel moves forward with plans to transition the guns to a fully-automated, closed-loop system that will not require any human interaction or oversight. If that happens, the guns will identify targets on their own based on potentially suspicious movements a subject makes or suspicious objects in the subject’s possession. It may be a coincidence, but earlier this year an Israeli firm named Faception announced it had developed a facial recognition program that could identify terrorists, among others, based on the physical traits of their faces.

“The technology is geared to identify a range of specific traits, beyond spotting terrorists, including, for example, identifying extroverts, people with high IQs and even professional poker players,” Israeli daily Haaretz reports. “In a demonstration of the technology’s effectiveness, [CEO Shai] Gilboa said Faception scanned 50 participants at a recent poker competition and picked out four of them as top players. Two of the four finished in the top three of the tournament.”

Programs like Faception sound farfetched, and the potential for them being deployed as part of automated weapons systems definitely raises serious ethical questions, but one thing is certain: Weapons developers are looking for ways to allow systems to identify and engage targets completely on their own. According to Gilboa, at least one homeland security agency has already contracted them to test the system.

Israel is also a leader in the development of small remote controlled tanks and other combat robots. Most of what they’re currently working on is still very limited, by size and functionality. They’re tactical combat robots comparable to those used by police forces and militaries around the world to perform reconnaissance or defuse or destroy bombs. One of Israel’s combat robots, the Dogo, does pack a pistol though.

Moscow may be lacking when it comes to weaponized UAVs, but they’re holding their own as far as remote controlled tanks. The Uran-9 robotic armored vehicle is armed with a 2A72 30mm automatic cannon, a 7.62mm machine gun, and M120 Ataka anti-tank guided missiles. It’s not a big tank, but it can do some damage. “The inclusion of the Ataka missiles gives the diminutive robot the capability to engage and destroy the most modern battle tanks from ranges as great as 8,000 meters,” writes Dave Majumdar for the National Interest. “The robots are also fitted with an array of sensors — including a laser warning system and target detection, identification and tracking equipment.” The Ataka may make it useful to engage heavier tanks when necessary, but the Uran-9 is primarily intended to provide fire support for counter-terrorism units and special operations forces and conduct reconnaissance. It wouldn’t replace main battle tanks.

It’s important to note that Uran-9 is not just a single vehicle. It’s an entire system comprised of the two robotic vehicles that can be used for reconnaissance and fire support, a truck to carry those robots, and a mobile command post. There’s no Western equivalent to the system, though the U.S. and other countries have been researching the possibilities of unmanned ground vehicles, Gladiator Tactical Unmanned Ground Vehicle or Qinetiq’s Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System, for decades.

Rosoboronexport, the manufacturer of the Uran-9, hopes to market the system on the domestic and international. “This is a fast-growing segment of the arms market, so Rosoboronexport will develop and implement a long-term marketing strategy for promoting such pieces of hardware, including as part of integrated security projects,” Boris Simakin, head of Rosoboronexport’s analysis and long-term planning department, told the National Interest.

Uran-9 unmanned ground vehicle.

Uran-9 unmanned ground vehicle.

Unmanned Minesweepers and Submarine Hunters will Patrol the Shores and Oceans Soon
Israeli defense company Elbit announced in February that it had created an unmanned warship dubbed the Seagull. The Seagull’s primary function is to find and neutralize mines in the waters off Israel’s coast. The ship handles every step of this process from start to finish, and even deploys its own underwater submarine drones to help it find submerged mines.

In January U.S.-based Textron Systems also announced it was moving into the building and outfitting phases of making its Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV) the standard unmanned surface vehicle (USV) for the US Navy’s Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS). Like the Seagull, this small USV’s main purpose would be to clear mines out of the way so larger warships could pass through.

Only a few months later, in April, DARPA unveiled the Sea Hunter, a prototype for a fully automated submarine hunter that could patrol the oceans for two or three months at a time without any crew or remote operators. “This is an inflection point,” Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Robert O. Work told Reuters in an interview. “This is the first time we’ve ever had a totally robotic, trans-oceanic-capable ship.” Work estimated ships like the Sea Hunter could see service in the western Pacific within five years.

The US Navy has also been experimenting with lighter combat craft. It conducted an exercise in late 2014 in which remote operators controlled 13 patrol boats at once from a single command console. Rear Admiral Matthew L. Klunder, then Chief of Naval Research, said at the time that he believed up to 20 or 30 small craft could be directed by a single operator. With developments such as these, and taking into consideration the rapid rate with which they’re occurring, it’s safe to predict that USVs will be playing almost as active a role in surveillance and combat operations as UAVs within a decade or two. And the Navy won’t be the only ones using “swarms” or small fleets controlled by a single operator.

Image courtesy of U.S. Navy/John F. Williams (public domain).

A Sea Hunter in Portland, Oregon, on 7 April 2016. (Photo: John F. Williams / U.S. Navy).

Swarms and Drones Controlled Directly by the Operator’s Thoughts Are the Next Phases of Automated Warfare
A program currently under development with the U.S. Air Force would have fighter pilots controlling small fleets of nearby drone aircraft in combat situations. The unmanned craft could perform a variety of functions for the pilots, from surveillance and reconnaissance to weapons delivery against dangerous or difficult-to-approach targets. “We see unmanned vehicles being used for a much wider variety of missions,” Air Force Chief Scientist Mica Endsley told “Today they are primarily used for ISR, long duration missions where we want to collect information. In the future, they will be moving cargo and more manned-unmanned teaming where they are acting as extensions of a manned aircraft.”

Another project envisions swarms of small drones engaging targets. When the Air Force rolled out its 20-year flight plan for small, unmanned aerial systems earlier this year, it included a proposal for what it dubbed “swarming”. The swarms could be organized to attack a single major target or be spread out over a large area to engage multiple targets. While larger and more expensive weapons platforms like Predator drones can be taken down with a single hit, a swarm could suffer several losses but then regroup and still be effective, a capability the Air Force refers to as “self-healing”.

Colonel Brandon “BB” Baker, Chief of the Air Force’s remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) capabilities division, said that swarming technology “changes the game” for future warfare. Lieutenant general Robert Otto, Deputy Chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, echoed this sentiment, saying that the 20-year flight plan was a “vision” for the future of air warfare. “We do believe that small, unmanned aerial systems will be the cornerstone of Air Force ISR as we look through the next 20 years”, Otto added.

If DARPA has any say in it, that future doesn’t just entail swarms of drones and vehicles of various shapes and sizes fighting on land, air, and sea, it also involves some of those craft being controlled by remote operators’ minds. DARPA and the U.S. Air Force awarded Arizona State University’s Human-Oriented Robotics and Control Lab grants totalling $860,000 in 2014 to develop the technology to allow operators to control vehicles with their minds. “The pilot wears what looks like a high-tech swimmer’s cap, equipped with 128 electrodes that detect brainwaves,” Steven Overly writes in a recent article for the Washington Post. “The electrodes identify where thoughts originate in the brain and determine the pilot’s intended commands, and then those commands are communicated to the robots via Bluetooth.”

Panagiotis Artemiadis, the director of the lab, says these types of technologies are the future of warfare, and that the self-healing nature of swarms in particular will give the forces using them substantial advantages. “Ten or 20 years from now, instead of having big expensive aircraft or drones, you can have hundreds or thousands of inexpensive ones you deploy in an area,” Artemiadis told the Post. “Even if you lose half of them, you can still achieve your goals.”

It’s quite possible that some of these technologies will fall by the wayside before they even come to fruition. Regardless, we are undeniably at a point where robotic and automated weapons systems are about to start playing a much larger role in global conflict. The thought of fewer soldiers dying in action is attractive, as is the theoretic possibility of advanced technology decreasing the numbers of civilian casualties. However, the prospect of operators controlling entire fleets of craft with their mind, or of swarms of armed drones pursuing multiple targets over large areas, also presents serious ethical questions. As does the fact that, as drones and automated weapons systems become more advanced and prevalent, developing nations will be at an even greater disadvantage when faced by threats from advanced militaries.

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How big of a threat are drones to Israel’s security?

A Rafael Python 3 air-to-air missile under the wing of an Israeli F-15D Baz. (Graphic by KGyST, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported).

A Rafael Python 3 air-to-air missile under the wing of an Israeli F-15D Baz. (Graphic by KGyST, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported).

In mid-July, an unmanned Russian drone accidentally infiltrated Israeli-controlled airspace on the Golan Heights from Syria and evaded three Israeli attempts to shoot it down. Initially believed to be deployed by the Shiite militia Hezbollah, this lone drone evaded two Patriot surface-to-air missiles and one air-to-air missile fired by an Israeli jet fighter before escaping back over the border.

The incident again raises the question about how vulnerable Israel is to such asymmetrical threats and if the Israel Defense Forces are readily prepared to combat relatively cheap, simple yet effective tools its enemies can deploy against it in a future war.

This isn’t the first time an unmanned drone has violated Israeli air space and raised questions about just how secure Israel’s airspace is. Back in October 2012 Hezbollah flew a drone near Dimona, home to Israel’s undeclared nuclear weapons program. The drone was operating around that area for a whole three hours before being shot down by the Israeli Air Force.

Such small unmanned drones are harder to detect and harder to shoot down than manned fixed wing aircraft. In fact it was the Israelis who initially used drones as effective reconnaissance aircraft against the Syrians in Lebanon back in 1982. Sending small nimble drones over the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, where Syria had deployed a vast array of Soviet-made surface-to-air (SAM) missiles. Israel successfully used some drones as decoys which simulated attack aircraft, leading the Syrians to activate their tracking radars, enabling Israel to then accurately fire anti-radiation missiles at those SAM batteries. A series of devastating Israeli air-strikes effectively took out those batteries and enabled Israel to attain air superiority over Lebanon.

While none of Israel’s current rivals and adversaries have the capability to do such a thing against Israel they nevertheless have the potential to undercut Israel’s military and technological superiority over them and make any war Israel has with them much more expensive for the Jewish state.

The July incident saw Israel shoot two Patriot missiles, a single one of which costs approximately $2 million, and another air-to-air missile which likely cost, at least, tens-of-thousands. During the last two Israeli operations in Gaza (November 2012 and summer 2014 respectively), Israeli Iron Dome missile defense systems were shown intercepting homemade Hamas rockets over South Israel. A single Tamir missile fired from the Iron Dome cost at least $50,000. While a simple Hamas rockets costs approximately $500-1,000 a piece. Furthermore two Tamir missiles have often been fired to intercept a single Hamas rocket.

In a future war could we possibly see Israeli defenses confused or overwhelmed by relatively cheap air bourne weapons deployed by either Hamas or Hezbollah? Firing barrages of expensive SAMs to defend Israel against small drones of questionable effectiveness (the Israelis may reason that it is better to be safe than sorry when unidentified drones violate their airspace, especially when they approach urban areas) could be extremely costly to Israel and could see them expending expensive munitions very quickly.

July 2016 also marked the tenth anniversary of the July 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon, known in Israel as the Second Lebanon War. A rematch could be much more dangerous than the last war, especially since Hezbollah has much more firepower than in the last war and has reportedly garnered sufficient combat experience in its three-year-old operation in Syria.

Also in the last war after 34 days of fighting with Hezbollah Israel’s stockpiles of bombs and munitions, vast quantities of which are required to sustain an offensive campaign against an opponent in that opponents territory, reached levels considered to be dangerously low by the Israeli military. It took a few years for them to be replenished.

Security forces examine debris from Patriot Missiles fired at an unidentified drone that entered Israeli airspace from Syria, July 17, 2016.

Security forces examine debris from Patriot Missiles fired at an unidentified drone that entered Israeli airspace from Syria, July 17, 2016.

More generally modern wars see munitions, especially hi-tech ones, dispensed very quickly. That was true in the Yom Kippur War, when both Israel and its Arab adversaries had to get their respective American and Soviet clients to keep their stocks replenished, and in the 1991 as well as 2003 American war in Iraq. Even the current US air campaign against Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Iraq and Syria has seen the US government sign a recent contract with Boeing to produce more smart bombs to replenish their diminishing stockpiles.

An enemy using elusive techniques, like simple drones of the kind that dodged three missiles last month, against Israel and dragging that country into a protracted conflict they cannot win decisively could have the potential to weaken Israel, damage morale and faith in the military’s ability to rapidly neutralise any threats to Israel’s security. A cost which many of its enemies may be willing to lose a major battle for on the gambit that it might help them win the war in the long-term.

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Trouble in Trinidad and Tobago

by Paul Pryce. With degrees in political science from both sides of the pond, Paul Pryce has previously worked as Senior Research Fellow for the Atlantic Council of Canada’s Canadian Armed Forces program, as a Research Fellow for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an Associate Fellow at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs. He has also served as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces.

According to "Defence Blog", China delivered 20 Dongfeng MengShi 4×4 army light utility vehicle, which is similar to the US-made Hummer H1, to Trinidad and Tobago in June 2015.

According to “Defence Blog”, China delivered 20 Dongfeng MengShi 4×4 army light utility vehicle, which is similar to the US-made Hummer H1, to Trinidad and Tobago in June 2015.

On 10 July 2016, two days before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled against China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, the Chinese news agency Xinhua released an article alleging that the United States had exercised a kind of imperial hegemony over the Caribbean, maintaining “dominance over the entire region” through military means. This was intended to cast American criticism of China’s aggression against the Philippines and other regional neighbours as hypocritical. Yet the Caribbean is not the way station of empire that the Xinhua writers would have one believe. In fact, beyond Cuba’s isolationist approach to trade and diplomacy in the Americas, several countries in the region are experiencing turmoil that cannot be compared to the conflicts on China’s southern periphery and which the US has not, rightly or wrongly, sought to address.

As addressed in a previous piece, Jamaica is in the midst of a painful struggle with organized crime, involving a staggeringly high homicide rate. Haiti is plagued by political instability amid botched elections and a cholera epidemic. [1] Perhaps most disturbingly, Trinidad and Tobago is contending with threats of terrorism from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and other militant Islamist groups. While the thought of ISIS securing for itself a Caribbean enclave might seem fanciful, Trinidad has experienced ruthless terrorist attacks from ISIS-like organizations in the past, particularly from Jamaat al-Muslimeen. Rumoured to have connections to Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya, the group staged a coup attempt in the Trinidadian capital, Port of Spain, in July 1990, holding then-Prime Minister A.N.R. Robinson hostage while occupying the television station and the Red House, where Trinidad’s bicameral legislature meets, for six days. In 1983, Jamaat al-Muslimeen reportedly considered mounting a coup attempt but an internal rift in the organization resulted in the plot being abandoned. In a more recent attack, members of Jamaat al-Muslimeen engaged in a shootout at Port of Spain General Hospital on 24 July 2015.

The threat posed to Trinidad’s security by Jamaat al-Muslimeen is not specifically the result of US foreign policy in the region. Trinidad and Tobago is an oil-rich country, boasting crude oil reserves equivalent to approximately 728 million barrels in addition to estimated natural gas reserves of 25.2 trillion cubic feet (about 713 billion cubic meters). It is possible that Qaddafi’s support for regime change in Trinidad was motivated by a desire to deny the US another vital source of oil. However, perhaps more likely, the previous and ongoing terrorist activities of Jamaat al-Muslimeen have been driven exclusively by domestic conditions in Trinidad. In a country of just over 1.3 million, the Islamic community is rapidly growing but still remains a small minority of the population, comprising just 5.0% of Trinidadians in 2011. Trinidadians of African descent also remain the second largest ethnic community in Trinidad, comprising 36.3% of the population, compared to Indo-Trinidadians that make up 37.6% of the total public. As indicated by United Nations Development Program (UNDP) reporting on Trinidad and Tobago, Trinidadian Muslims of African descent are an economically marginalized demographic in the country, which has clearly contributed to feelings of disenfranchisement and resentment among segments of the population.

Economic inequality may have created the conditions necessary for radicalization, but the under-development of Trinidad’s defence institutions created the opportunity for Jamaat al-Muslimeen to launch its attacks against the Trinidadian secular state. The country has yet to adopt a national security strategy or similar framework to guide force modernization efforts in the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (TTDF). There certainly have been attempts by concerned individuals to correct this, including a February 2011 editorial in the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian and a thesis presented by then-Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Jeffrey of the TTDF at the US Army Command and General Staff College in 2012. Yet such well-developed proposals for force modernization and expansion have yet to be formally adopted.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of National Security contracted Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding in April 2015 to build four 51-metre 28-knot coastal patrol vessels, two 54-metre fast utility boats, and six 11-metre 53-knot interceptors for the Coast Guard. These vessels will be integral to the fight against organized crime and the issue of narcotics trafficking in the Caribbean. But there are as yet no plans to improve intelligence-gathering or intelligence-sharing capabilities in the country, which will inhibit Trinidadian efforts to combat any future ISIS-led campaign in the country. Trinidad and Tobago is well-served by its own Special Forces unit for counter-terrorism operations, and members of that unit frequently engage in joint training activities with US military personnel, but the country’s defence establishment sorely lacks the means to prevent terrorist attacks while they remain at the planning stage.

Concept drawing of the vessels acquired for the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard.

Concept drawing of the vessels acquired for the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard.

Evidently, the region requires greater American involvement, in stark contrast to what the accusations of Xinhua’s writers suggest. With a series of tragic attacks across Europe in recent weeks attributed either to ISIS or to “lone wolf” terrorists sympathetic to that organization, it is important that the US act to prevent ISIS from establishing a foothold in the Americas. Regular exchanges of best practices, as well as an intelligence-sharing mechanism, with the TTDF and the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) would be an appropriate response to the exacerbated threat from militant Islamism in that corner of the Caribbean.

[1] The ongoing Haiti cholera outbreak is the worst epidemic of cholera in recent history, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the first 27 weeks of 2016, Haiti alone have been reported over 21.600 cases (over 776.000 cases and 9.160 deaths since the outbreak in 2010; Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization, “Epidemiological Update: Cholera“, 21.07.2016).

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Now you can hear the Minsk peace agreement (Updated)

According to an article written by Andrew E. Kramer and published in the New York Times, the unarmed civilian observers of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (OSCE SMM) are patrolling only during the daytime. However, to mean that they “miss most of Ukraine war” is an unfair overstatement. The mission of the OSCE SMM is “to gather information and report on the security situation establish and report the facts, especially on specific incidents on the ground. The observers talk to various community groups — authorities at all levels, civil society, ethnic and religious groups and local communities.” (OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, “The Facts“, 26.04.2016). Finally, they report from dozens to hundreds of cease-fire violations daily. Additionally, the Ukrainian Army reports several deaths per week — commensurate with the casualties of the United States Army during the Iraq war — and the UN says nearly 10,000 people have died in eastern Ukraine since March 2014. What would dangerous night patrols (the mandate gives this possibility) of unarmed civilian observers of the OSCE SMM change about that fact?

The teams driving along potholed roads in armored, white Toyota Land Cruisers are not supposed to become human shields separating combatants, but rather to remain close enough to observe the fighting. — Andrew E. Kramer, “Keeping Bankers’ Hours, European Observers Miss Most of Ukraine War“, The New York Times, 27.07.2016.

Even Kramer admits the fact that the OSCE SMM observers are not supposed to separate combatants, he criticizes the OSCE SMM’s patrolling at “bankers’ hours” and the weak mandate of the mission. The question remains, why didn’t give the OSCE the SMM a stronger mandate, which for example, would include armed personal, who would somehow impose the Minsk peace agreement?

The relatively moderate mandate of the OSCE SMM is linked with the OSCE decision making process. Basically the OSCE is a conference of 57 sovereign participating States, which are concerned with early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management, and post-conflict rehabilitation. Every decision — for example the acceptance of a mandate for a monitoring mission — will be adopted by consensus, which means the absence of any objection expressed by a participating State (OSCE Ministerial Council, “Rules of Procedures of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe“, MC.DOC/1/06, 01.11.2006). Russia is one of the participating State, which makes a stronger OSCE mandate very unlikely to pass the decision making process. Actually, having the OSCE SMM established and deployed to monitor the situation on the scene is already a diplomatic success.

In his critic about OSCE SMM’s patrolling at “bankers’ hours”, Kramer forgets to take all the other monitoring means of the OSCE SMM into account. In addition to the patrols, they mainly use unarmed/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV; see video below), static cameras and other aerial surveillance. The OSCE own UAVs, Camcopter S-100, are being provided, flown and maintained by the Austrian company Schiebel under contract to the OSCE and operated under the authority and direction of the OSCE SMM. The first of these UAVs has been operational in the region since the end of October 2014. The Camcopter S-100 has a maximal payload of 50 kg, a range of about 180 km and an endurance of about 6 hours (with about 35 kg payload). By default, Schiebel delivers its UAVs with a daylight-camera, an infrared sensor (3-5 micron band) and a laser rangefinder, but other sensors and equipment are also available. Members of the so called “Donetsk People’s Republicrepeatedly attack surveillance drones to conceal facts of ceasefire violations.

The ultimate goal of the OSCE SMM is to help Ukraine to reduce tensions and facilitate dialogue between all the sides. The mission currently consists of over 700 unarmed civilian observers from more than 40 OSCE participating States, of which 600 work in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The Chief Monitor of the Mission has been given the flexibility to increase the number of monitors up to 1.000. The observers work in small groups in shifts seven days a week. (OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, “The Facts“, 26.04.2016). The OSCE SMM dispatches around 90 patrols a day throughout Ukraine on both sides of the contact line.

Ukrainian soldiers with an armored personnel carrier in Avdiivka, Ukraine. The town is now one of the most active areas of fighting along the line of control between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed rebels. (Photo: Brendan Hoffman, The New York Times).

Ukrainian soldiers with an armored personnel carrier in Avdiivka, Ukraine. The town is now one of the most active areas of fighting along the line of control between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed rebels. (Photo: Brendan Hoffman, The New York Times).

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Pro & Contra “Intermarium” – eigene Sicherheitsallianz der Osteuropäer

von Björn Müller (Facebook / Twitter). Er ist Journalist in Berlin mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheits- und Geopolitik.

Das Intermarium: die Allianz "zwischen den Meeren" (Grafik: Björn Müller / alle Rechte).

Das Intermarium: die Allianz “zwischen den Meeren” (Grafik: Björn Müller / alle Rechte).

Wenn es um mehr Sicherheit und Stabilität in ihrer Region geht, blicken die osteuropäischen Staaten vor allem auf die NATO und die EU. Diskutiert wird aber auch über den möglichen Aufbau einer weiteren Allianz – dem sogenannten “Intermarium”, zu Deutsch “zwischen den Meeren”. Die Vorstellung ist: Die Staaten zwischen der Ostsee und dem Schwarzen Meer schließen sich zu einem Bündnis zusammen. Dahinter steckt die Idee, eine Art Gegenmacht zu Russland zu bilden und so zusätzlich für mehr Stabilität in der Region zu sorgen. Einer der Befürworter einer solchen Allianz der Osteuropäer ist Polens Präsident Andrzej Duda: “Ein Staat ist dann stark, wenn er von Verbündeten umgeben ist. Das ist ein Element des Aufbaus von Stärke. Die Staaten Mittel-Osteuropas denken darüber nach, einen Partnerschaftsblock zu schaffen; beginnend bei der Ostsee bis hin zum Schwarzen Meer und der Adria.” So Präsident Duda im vergangenen Jahr in einem Interview mit der polnischen Nachrichtenagentur PAP.

“Kraftverstärker” für Polens Regionalmachtsambitionen
Die Idee eines solchen Staatenbundes ist nicht neu. Das geopolitische Konzept des Intermariums stammt von Jozef Pilsudski, Präsident der Polnischen Republik zwischen den Weltkriegen. Die damalige Zielsetzung: Ein Bund der nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg in Osteuropa gegründeten Staaten sollte die Unabhängigkeit dieser schwachen Länder zwischen den Großmächten Deutschland und Russland sichern. Doch warum kommt es jetzt zu einer Neuauflage dieses Konzeptes? – Heute ist die EU zerstritten und viele Osteuropäer zweifeln an einer ausreichenden Bündnistreue der NATO im Falle einer russischen Aggression. Das macht das Intermarium mit seinem Kollektivgedanken wieder attraktiv. Vor allem Polens neue national-konservative Regierung postuliert gerne die Idee eines Osteuropa-Bundes. Das Kalkül dahinter glaubt Kai-Olaf Lang zu kennen, Osteuropa-Experte bei der Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik in Berlin: “Auch aus Sicht derjenigen, die jetzt in Polen regieren, geht es primär darum, die intensivierte Kooperation der Länder der Region, als Kraftverstärker zu nutzen. Nicht zuletzt auch als Kraftverstärker für Polen selbst, das natürlich eine Vormachtstellung in der Region hat, wo es in der Regel nur sehr kleine und schwache Länder gibt.”

Eine Intermarium-Allianz wäre aus Sicht Warschaus keine Alternative zu EU und NATO, aber ein Instrument, um andere Länder hinter den eigenen Positionen zu sammeln, um diese im Konzert der Mächte besser durchsetzen zu können. Solche Gedankenspiele hält Eugeniusz Smolar, Experte für Geopolitik am Zentrum für Internationale Beziehungen in Warschau, allerdings für gefährlich: “Weil die NATO auf der Beistandsverpflichtung nach Artikel 5 des Nordatlantikvertrages basiert. Das bedeutet: Einer für alle und alle für einen. Falls Polen und andere Länder eine Art andere Struktur aufbauen würden, dann würde das die Verbindlichkeit des Artikels 5 schwächen und die Einigkeit verringern.”

Spricht gegen das Intermarium: Ungarns Schaukelpolitik zwischen dem Westen und Russland. Hier, im Februar 2015 empfing der Ungarische Ministerpräsident Viktor Obren den Russischen Präsident Vladimir Putin. (Foto: Bilderdienst Regierung Ungarn / Freigabe).

Spricht gegen das Intermarium: Ungarns Schaukelpolitik zwischen dem Westen und Russland. Hier, im Februar 2015 empfing der Ungarische Ministerpräsident Viktor Orbán den Russischen Präsident Vladimir Putin in Budapest. (Foto: Bilderdienst Regierung Ungarn / Freigabe).

Die Tücken des Intermariums
Eine zusätzliche Sicherheitsallianz neben der NATO könnte die Sicherheitsprobleme der Osteuropäer sogar noch verschärfen. Für die NATO-Partner im Westen gäbe es nämlich die Versuchung, bei eskalierenden Konflikten in der Region, dem neuen Bündnis dort den Schwarzen Peter zuzuschieben. Für Marcin Terlikowski vom Polnischen Institut für Internationale Angelegenheiten in Warschau, hat das Intermarium-Konzept aber auch aus einem anderen Grund einen nur begrenzten Nutzen: “Ich würde sagen, dass das Intermarium ein politisches Konzept ist, das nur von Fall zu Fall und von Zeit zu Zeit Anwendung findet. Aber es wird sich nicht zu etwas Beständigem und Robustem entwickeln; einfach deshalb, weil die natürlichen Differenzen der Kerninteressen dieser Staaten zu unterschiedlich sind.” Beispiel EU-Sanktionen gegen Russland: Hier ist die Slowakei näher an der deutschen Haltung eines schrittweisen Abbaus, als an der Position Polens, das die Sanktionen unbedingt aufrechterhalten will. Ungarn wiederum betreibt eine Schaukelpolitik zwischen Moskau und Brüssel, um sich so einen möglichst großen eigenen Handlungsspielraum zu erhalten.

Geopolitik im Sinne des Intermarium-Konzeptes hat bisher eine nur bescheidene Wirkung entfaltet. Ein Beispiel ist die Visegrád-Gruppe, ein lockerer Staatenbund zwischen Polen, Ungarn, der Slowakei und Tschechien. Gemeinsam stellen die Staaten gegenwärtig die sogenannte EU-Battlegroup — also einen rund 1’200 Soldaten starken Eingreifverband der EU. Zu der aber seit Jahren erwogenen weitergehenden Militärkooperation oder gar einer Sicherheitsallianz ist es jedoch nie gekommen.

Intermarium: Chance für Ukraine, Georgien und Moldawien
Eine Intermarium-Allianz wäre allerdings attraktiv für die osteuropäischen Staaten, die weder der EU noch der NATO angehören. Für die Ukraine, Georgien und Moldawien könnte das Konzept ein Mehr an Sicherheit bedeuten — so sieht es jedenfalls Andreas Umland, Osteuropa-Experte am Institut für Euro-Atlantische Kooperation in Kiew: “Es würde doch zumindest den Preis für eine russische Intervention, ob nun militärischer oder nicht militärischer Art, also diesen sogenannten Hybridkrieg, den Russland führt, erhöhen, wenn diese Staaten denn tatsächlich mit Ländern wie Polen, Rumänien in einem Beistandsabkommen verbunden sein würden.”

Immerhin betreibt die EU in der Ukraine, Georgien und Moldawien mit Assoziierungsabkommen eine aktive Erweiterungspolitik. Allerdings sind gerade die Westeuropäer wie auch die NATO nicht bereit, das Sicherheitsdilemma zu lösen, das daraus für diese Staaten entsteht. Denn Russland betrachtet dieses Vorgehen des Westens als aggressives Eindringen in eine Region, die der Kreml als seine Einflusszone betrachtet. Um dieses Problem zu lösen, mache das Intermarium-Konzept Sinn, meint der Osteuropa-Experte Andreas Umland: “Da wäre das Intermarium eine Notlösung, ein Provisorium, das für den Zeitraum, bis diese Länder dann eben auch Mitglieder der Europäischen Union, der NATO werden, zumindest eine größere Sicherheit als jetzt bieten würden. Sicher keine vollkommene Sicherheit, denn die Länder, die für dieses Intermarium, für diesen Block, in Frage kommen würden, sind keine Atomwaffen besitzenden Staaten. Das heißt, das wäre auch keine existenzielle Gefahr für Russland.”

Spricht für das Intermarium: Die Ukraine-Politik der Westmächte wie Deutschland: EU-Anbindung aber kein Schutz vor Russland. Hier, im Juni 2016 empfing die Deutsche Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel den Ukrainischen Ministerpräsidenten Wolodymyr Hrojsman. (Foto: Bilderdienst Regierung Ukraine / Freigabe).

Spricht für das Intermarium: Die Ukraine-Politik der Westmächte wie Deutschland: EU-Anbindung aber kein Schutz vor Russland. Hier, im Juni 2016 empfing die Deutsche Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel den Ukrainischen Ministerpräsidenten Wolodymyr Hrojsman. (Foto: Bilderdienst Regierung Ukraine / Freigabe).

Allerdings würde es die NATO wohl nicht dulden, dass ihre Mitglieder mit Staaten außerhalb der Allianz paktieren und dabei eine klare Beistandsverpflichtung eingehen, die dem Artikel 5 des NATO-Vertrages ähnlich ist. Doch für eine Sicherheitsallianz aus NATO und Nicht-NATO-Staaten gibt es bereits einen Präzedenzfall, sagt Andreas Umland: “2010 hat der NATO-Staat Türkei ein Beistandsabkommen mit dem Nicht-NATO-Staat Aserbaidschan abgeschlossen. Und dort ist im Artikel 2 festgelegt, dass Aserbaidschan und die Türkei sich im Falle eines militärischen Angriffes konsultieren werden und dann nach Mitteln und Wegen suchen werden, um sich militärisch Beistand zu geben. Also es ist keine so direkte Verpflichtung wie im Artikel 5 des NATO-Vertrages.”

Sollte sich der Konflikt zwischen dem Westen und Moskau weiter zuspitzen, wird auch Russlands Druck auf die EU-Aspiranten Ukraine, Georgien und Moldawien stetig wachsen. Dann muss der Westen Farbe bekennen: Bricht er seine Bemühungen ab, diese Länder näher an die EU heranzuführen, oder ergänzt er diese Politik durch sicherheitspolitische Maßnahmen, um diese Staaten zu schützen. Da eine schnelle Aufnahme Georgiens, der Ukraine oder Moldawiens in EU oder NATO unrealistisch ist, könnte das Intermarium-Konzept eine Art Notlösung werden. Eine Notlösung, die letztlich auch im Sinne von EU und NATO wäre.

Hintergrund-Podcasts zum Thema Intermarium

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The Future’s Urban Spaces: Sun Tsu and the Analysis of the Terrain

by Lt. Col. Alessandro Rappazzo (originally published in German), a career officer in the Swiss army, Group Chief Leadership Course II / Staff Course I and author of “Mein Weg: Vorwärts” (only in German). This article is part of his book.

Potential battlegrounds are changing, partly as a result of geopolitical factors and global threat patterns. Ongoing environmental developments are forcing every leader to consider new perspectives. We all know this. The size of future trends, including megacities, demographics, technology and a new generation of people, will have an increasing effect on our society. Verticalization in high-rise buildings, density, vulnerability, globalization, cultures, etc., will affect our analyses more than ever. This article aims to motivate the reader, when assessing the military situation – and in particular when assessing the environment – to abandon tried and trusted thought processes and pursue new ways of thinking.

A ruined fictional town from

A ruined fictional town from “Fallout Universe” – what a megacity devastated by war might look like.


Initial situation

Geopolitics: Cause for concern
It is a fact that the world is constantly changing. From a geopolitical point of view, Europe faces a resurgent dualism, between an ever more cynical Russia and an increasingly more chaotic West. Strategic antagonism in politics, the economy and the military has crossed a threshold into a new era (see “Switzerland’s Security 2015“, Federal Intelligence Service, May 2015, p. 7f). Today, the violence of terrorism has given it access to the geopolitical stage. This is also assisted by the targeted use of social media, which are manipulated by a so-called “caliphate”. We see here a reality that is in a constantly changing state of flux.

The jihadist type of terrorism, which can affect the entire West, is undoubtedly an inseparable element of these changes. This geopolitical development includes terrorism, latent extremism, modern forms of espionage and the proliferation of weapons. These factors are also a cause for concern in Switzerland. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, security policy became a lower priority. In Switzerland, due to the current geopolitical situation, security issues were taken up and brought to the fore in the draft 2016 Security Policy Report. The recasting of this document was based on political, economic and social developments. This shows that the previously stable long warning times have tended to become increasingly shorter (“Switzerland’s Security 2015“, p. 8).

Reality: The twin towers Momo and Uzeir burn in downtown Sarajevo during the war in Bosnia on June 8 1992.

Reality: The twin towers “Momo” and “Uzeir” burn in downtown Sarajevo during the war in Bosnia on June 8 1992.

Terrain: A changing factor
Mastery and knowledge of the terrain is still firmly established as fundamental to military thinking and is often referred to in Sun Tzu’s book “The Art of War“, where he attaches great importance to knowledge and use of the terrain. Today, an in-depth analysis of the terrain should be carried out, based on the diversity of the different types of terrain and the development of these spaces. Population growth, especially in urban areas and its verticalization in high-rise buildings, also leads to changes in individual analysis and evaluation criteria. These criteria are not only linked to urban development, but also to the development and progress of society, living conditions as well as economic and political resources. This analysis raises the question of whether it is not time to make a new assessment of the old analysis criteria (in Switzerland: Mission, environment, opposing resources, own resources and time). Apart from these criteria, the make-up of the forces to be used in these areas is an important question to be considered from the outset. The totality of these new analyses and the in-depth technical and tactical knowledge of the players in these new areas must lead to new developments in military operations in urban areas.

Threat: Basically hybrid in character
Today, the current form of the threat is determined by a component that can be classified as “hybrid”. It covers “any threat to the country, where, at the same time and partly in the same area, governmental and non-governmental players, acting alone, in coordination or under joint leadership, wish to achieve certain objectives and in doing so combine and use regular and irregular as well as conventional and unconventional operations and means” (Swiss Army, “Terms on Command and Control Regulations 17”, May 2015, not publicly available). The military analysis depends on factors that are increasingly networked with each other, where the distinction between “red” and “blue” no longer exists. As a result of the hybrid threat, a new approach must be found in cases of conflict today. Liang and Xiangsui write in their book that “future wars will demand things, for which the majority of soldiers are not prepared: to win unconventionally waged wars and fight battles outside the battlefields” (Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, “Guerra senza limiti: L’arte della guerra simmetrica fra terrorismo e globalizzazione“, Libreria Editrice Goriziana, 2001, p 25, Italian version). This quotation makes us aware that in the hybrid threat we are actually dealing with something that is an established part of modern conflicts. The solution to the conflict no longer lies only with the military, but also with other forces, which are integrated into other security systems.

Reality: The strategically important Donetsk International Airport was completely destroyed during the fighting between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian forces.

Reality: The strategically important Donetsk International Airport was completely destroyed during the fighting between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian forces.


Dealing with the “terrain”

High-rise buildings and the population
In the light of the preceding discussion of the factors and analyses brought about by the new development of the environment, we can see that these criteria of verticalization and the development of urban areas correspond to the reality on Swiss territory. The control (in a security political sense of meaning) of cities such as Geneva, Lausanne, Bern, Basel, Lucerne, Zurich and St. Gallen can no longer take the same form as in the Cold War period, but they must be constantly adjusted to meet new forms of hybrid threats and continuous change in urban areas. Factors such as globalization, technology and the development of the population are in a constant state of flux that have an impact on the elements of analysis for the military and civilian authorities.

Military factor
The future Territorial Formations (military units that serve as regional links between the military and civilian decision-makers, and which have specific knowledge about their areas) must reflect the fact that the main demands will primarily arise in the urban areas. The fact that the focus of military operations will be mainly in urban areas makes it necessary to develop analytical instruments that take account of this reality. In summary, the following quotes make it clear what the next steps will be in future missions and operational methods in urban areas.

From a military point of view, we must have the mind-set that “ignoring megacities, means ignoring the future” (Chief of Staff of the Army, “Megacities and the United States Army: Preparing for a complex and uncertain future“, Strategic Studies Group, June 2014). For the sake of our security, we must pay attention to the following considerations: “An adversary can achieve its strategic objectives by an impairment of the central infrastructure that is critical to the functioning of the state’s governance, economic processes and social life. […] Such an attack is aimed not – as in the past – […] primarily against the integrity of the national territory, but directly against the proper functioning of the country and its institutions up to and including the undermining of national sovereignty and social cohesion “. (Swiss Security Network, “Auslegung des Begriffs Verteidigung”, Report of the Working Group on Defence, Internal and External Security, draft of 31.03.2015, p.4, not online; see also Col. Markus van Wijk, “Operative Schulung (III): ‘Defense’ in einem modernen Szenario“, Allgemeine Schweizerische Militärzeitschrift 09, September 2015, only in German).

Observation of a modern urban terrain requires a new perspective and a more specific analysis than observation of a classic terrain. The need for a description of the terrain, with a detailed list of the various areas, is still the same as it was for Sun Tzu, but it should be done with the urbanized areas of today. If we understand the DNA of the urban centres, we can better identify the threat factors with which we might be faced. These factors can be found in various forms, such as classical threats, religious threats, ideological disputes, economic constraints, power struggles, natural disasters, man-made disasters or simply the implosion of a society.

View of Tokyo from the roof of the Skytree tower. Tokyo, with its surrounding agglomerations, is currently the largest of the megacities (37.8 million inhabitants; about 4.5 times bigger than Switzerland). By contrast, Zurich is tiny (Photo: Yodalica, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license).

View of Tokyo from the roof of the “SkyTree” tower. Tokyo, with its surrounding agglomerations, is currently the largest of the megacities (37.8 million inhabitants; about 4.5 times bigger than Switzerland). By contrast, Zurich is tiny (Foto: Yodalica, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license).

Large urban agglomerations
The population density in Switzerland is high. There are not only cities but also urban agglomerations: Zurich (1.28 million inhabitants), Basel (823,000), Geneva (819,000), Bern (398,614) and Lausanne (389,614). The agglomerations of Basel and Geneva have certain special features: “Switzerland has a diverse urban structure which contains large agglomerations with an international spread but also smaller agglomerations which tend to be of regional importance.” (Federal Statistical Office, “Raum mit städtischem Charakter der Schweiz 2012: Eine neue Dimension der Agglomerationen und weiteren städtischen Raumkategorien“, BFS Aktuell, 18th December 2014, p 3, only in German). The special economic and social features of the five largest agglomerations consist of the high percentage of the population working (79%) and living (73%) there. This will in the future require clear and detailed answers to questions about their degree of resilience and resistance to fragility (Federal Statistical Office, “Raum mit städtischem Charakter der Schweiz 2012”, p.2). To get these answers, the past must be explored, the present understood, and the future planned. It is therefore a matter of determining the DNA, that is, to capture the specific features and characteristics of each city or agglomeration. Once the DNA has been determined by means of an audit, scenarios for the future can be drawn up. These scenarios are the basis for working out the consequences for the different areas of intervention in individual conflicts.

Let us confine ourselves to considering some of the main factors of the previous discussion in more detail and explaining them briefly:

  • DNA: individual character: Every city has its own history, its own dimensions of existence and life. This forces us to differentiate. The starting point is the ability to interpret the essence, the very heart, of the urban agglomeration. To do this we need to analyse their genes, which consist of the following factors: population, movement / flows, threat, territory, housing density, culture and leisure, city organization (e.g. municipal borough, district).
  • Urban audit: Resilience and resistance to fragility: The next phase involves a comparison of the individual factors. The pre-established audit variables of demographics, welfare, commuting flows, environment, economy, infrastructure, mobility and transport, hybrid threats, education, resources, growth, and social aspects, environment, political leadership can change depending on the situation and help us to determine the current state of the agglomeration in question. The results flow into a matrix (area of tension: Value creation – community – habitat – identity) to provide a general picture of the situation that corresponds to current circumstances.
  • Scenarios: Drivers of change: The analysis of the DNA and the results from the audit allow us, by means of the factors of resilience and resistance to fragility, to develop several scenarios to deal with the various conflicts.
Reality: Destroyed buildings in Beirut after the Lebanon War of 2006.

Reality: Destroyed buildings in Beirut after the Lebanon War of 2006.

This analytical process (DNA, Audit, Scenarios) is the result of interdisciplinary work between the various players operating in the field of integrated security. Based on these periodic analyses – made, for example, every five years – it is possible to draw clear consequences for all areas of integrated security. In this context, the following considerations come first to mind (not complete):

  • Territorial Formation – regional, but not local: As a partner of the cantons, the Territorial Formation remains a fixed reference point. First of all, the presence of this formation, depending on the analysis of the terrain, is an important factor when it is considered that their use is mainly focused on urban areas and agglomerations. The typology of the terrain (urban) and the conflict are decisive for the choice of the military units to be used in dealing with the situation. Finally, the role of the Territorial Formation of the future should be to analyse the major centres periodically and to do this in cooperation with the various players who are present on the ground. It is therefore all about the ability to achieve goals by interacting in an even more efficient and innovative manner than was done previously. Analysis of the three elements mentioned above (DNA, Audit, Scenarios) is the factor that allows a small country like Switzerland, which is increasingly forced to adopt a policy of urban verticalization in high-rise buildings, to anticipate and manage future conflicts.
  • Defence – some new thinking: Finally, we must be aware that this is a hot topic, because the analyses penetrate deeply into various aspects of our society. The development of the scenarios will surely give rise to criticism from every angle and from different areas. This probability is also referred to in the above-cited report on the concept of defence, which speaks of “overriding governmental and legal considerations, which lead to scepticism about a new, broader understanding of defence” (Swiss Security Network, “Auslegung des Begriffs Verteidigung”, p. 2).
  • New and old challenges – readiness to act: If we want to overcome future challenges, we must be open and intellectually prepared for new scenarios coming from the hybrid spectrum. We must be ready to deal with a conflict that – precisely because it affects every aspect of life in our society – could be addressed in an area which is not governed by classical military thinking: “In order to get beyond their mind-set, today’s military leaders must therefore be more penetrating and more specific in their approaches” (Liang and Xiangsui,” Guerra senza limiti”, p 156). Although the conventional war is no longer at the centre of our fears, it must still be reckoned with. This means that each of the brushfires (various forms of threat) must imperatively be brought under control. “International armed conflict can begin with violence within the state.” (Swiss Security Network, “Auslegung des Begriffs Verteidigung”, p. 2). Because if we think of war as a fire, we must recognise that a spark is enough to ignite it.
Reality: Aleppo in October 2012.

Reality: Aleppo in October 2012.



This short essay is intended to define the importance of the new areas, to understand their DNA, to identify their strengths and weaknesses using regular (urban) audits, in order to develop subsequent working scenarios. The scenarios can later be used, on the one hand for the training of the different players and, in the worst case, for handling extraordinary situations. Second, it will become increasingly important to define the co-operation set out in the proposed concepts with all the stakeholders. The last point, which also seems important to me, is to empower citizens to cope successfully with the changes that are visibly happening within our society. The aim is not to reinvent oneself, but to adapt our standards to the new circumstances in a contemporary idiom.

Posted in Alessandro Rappazzo, Armed Forces, English, Security Policy, Switzerland | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The strategic significance of US-Russian military coordination in Syria

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at their Tuesday meeting in Laos, during which they talked about an American plan for US-Russian military cooperation inside Syria. This was the second meeting for Lavrov and Kerry over a period of ten days.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at their Tuesday meeting in Laos, during which they talked about an American plan for US-Russian military cooperation inside Syria. This was the second meeting for Lavrov and Kerry over a period of ten days.

The Obama administration recently proposed a new agreement with the Russians concerning military coordination in Syria. Washington essentially suggested that it could work together with the Russian military in Syria against the Syrian-based al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra if Russia agrees to pressure the regime in Damascus to stop bombing certain targets and areas. Moscow has reportedly agreed to take these steps and work with Washington militarily against this common enemy. The consequences of such those two powers coordinating militarily have already been explored. The interesting question that arises from that prospect is how it will enhance the United States’ ability to target al-Nusra.

Incidentally this comes after two incidents, both in June, led some to inquire if the US is already overstretched in its ongoing air war against Islamic State (IS). On June 16 a garrison of US-backed New Syrian Army anti-IS fighters was controversially bombed by two Russian air force Su-34 Fullback jets. Two US Navy F/A-18 Hornets were scrambled to the scene to intercept the Fullbacks, after making visual contact with the Fullbacks the Russian planes flew away. Shortly thereafter the F-18’s departed from the scene after running low on fuel, the Fullbacks then returned and bombed the garrison a second time. On June 30 US air power was supporting the same New Syrian Army fighters on a major offensive against IS-militants in the east. However the jets providing that air cover suddenly diverted course and flew to neighbouring Iraq to participate in the bombing of a major IS-convoy fleeing from the Iraqi city of Fallujah. The New Syrian Army, left without air cover, were subsequently pushed back by IS and their offensive ended in a complete failure.

The New Syrian Army's fighters have reportedly been trained at US-run camps in Jordan. The image, released by the New Syrian Army beginning of July probably shows the captured al-Hamdan airbase / village, located just outside of Abu Kamal Deir in the ez-Zor Governorate of eastern Syria near the border with Iraq.

The New Syrian Army’s fighters have reportedly been trained at US-run camps in Jordan. The image, released by the New Syrian Army beginning of July probably shows the captured al-Hamdan airbase / village, located just outside of Abu Kamal in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate of eastern Syria near the border with Iraq.

Given these precedents it’s worth wondering how coordination with the Russian military would help Washington achieve against al-Nusra, which is primarily based in the Syria’s northwest. Many other groups fighting the al-Assad regime have cooperated with al-Nusra, which has focused on fighting the regime. Its endurance has enabled it to integrate itself into various armed groups fighting al-Assad which are not viewed by Washington and the western powers as terrorist groups and are included in the ceasefire regime established by US-Russian brokerage last February. Russia has said on many occasions that groups that have collaborated with al-Nusra and are part of the ceasefire need to clearly break their ranks with the group if they want to avoid being bombed. The US also wants to see al-Nusra isolated from these groups so it can be targeted more easily.

As IS incrementally loses its territory in both Iraq and Syria it’s clear that Washington is figuring that al-Nusra needs to be contained too before it further entrenches itself in that war-ravaged country. But will direct coordination with Russia really enhance these two powers ability to strike at al-Nusra, and perhaps IS too? Against al-Nusra an alliance with the Russians may make sense, primarily due to the fact that al-Nusra has a particularly strong presence in the northwestern Syrian provinces of Aleppo and Idlib, while IS is in the northeast and east – where the US is already working with a ground proxy – the Arab-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) coalition.

A Russian Kamov Ka-50 flying near the Khmeimim Air Base south-east of Latakia in March 2016.

A Russian Kamov Ka-50 flying near the Khmeimim Air Base south-east of Latakia in March 2016.

Unlike the Americans the Russians have most of the aircraft they use in Syria based in the western part of the country already while the US flies from its bases across the region, primarily from the Persian Gulf monarchies (but also from Turkey’s southeastern Incirlik Airbase). Both countries have also used cruise missiles: the Russians twice in late 2015, ostensibly against IS, and the US once in September 2014, ostensibly against the shadowy Khorasan terrorist group. Additionally both countries have used heavy bombers against their enemies, with Russian Tu-95’s and Tu-160’s flying all the way from Russia to strike their enemies and American B-52’s from Qatar.

There is one thing the Russians have used in Syria which the American’s haven’t, helicopter gunships. Russia has deployed Ka-52 and Mi-35 gunships, among others, to Syria. Those heavily armed flying tanks can be quite effective against militants who possess little, but nonetheless growing, means to counter aerial attacks. They flew air support for the Syrian Army last March helping them to retake Palmyra. The US has recently deployed Apache gunships to its war against IS, but only in Iraqi Kurdistan to support offensives against IS near Mosul, not in Syria.

Teaming up with the Russians against al-Nusra could see the Americans coordinate airstrikes with Russia’s advanced flying tanks, which have adequate range to fly from the Syrian airbase in Latakia to neighbouring Idlib, or further up in Aleppo, and to loiter around the battlefield. American A-10 Warthog attack planes and Predator drones based in Incirlik Air Base in Turkey can also work closely with the Russians across the Aleppo region against these militants.

Using air power alone against al-Nusra is unlikely to defeat it, but it US-Russian coordination would surely be a good start to disrupting that groups attempts to wage jihad across that war-torn land.

More information

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