7 June 2014

Internal Tensions in Iran: Some Underlying Metrics

JUN 4, 2014 

Much of the discussion of the pressures on Iran focuses primarily on policy, and political and military issues. There are, however, some statistics and assessments by international bodies such as the World Bank that help illustrate the forces at work within Iran that shape its politics, economy, and ability to compete with the US and its allies in building up its military forces.

The Burke Chair at CSIS has developed an initial set of metrics that help illustrate these forces entitled Internal Tensions in Iran: Some Underlying Metrics, and which is available on the CSIS website athttps://csis.org/files/publication/140604_iran_metrics.pdf.

Like all such data, the reader should be aware that there are major uncertainties in many of the data, and often conflicting views and perspectives.

This report will be updated and expand in the future, and any additional material and comments would be greatly appreciated. Please send such comments and material to Antony H. Cordesman at acordesman@gmail.com. 





June 5, 2014 · in Analysis

Ever since the conclusion of World War II and the drafting of the new Japanese constitution, Article IX has prohibited Japan from becoming a party to any conflict building a traditional military force. This has become the foundation for Japan’s outlook on regional engagement and its role in the international community. However, ever since U.S. President George H.W. Bush requested Japanese foreign aid during Operation Desert Shield / Storm, the Japanese Self-Defense Force (JDSF) has cautiously expanded its expeditionary capabilities. An open question remains: as Japan seeks to play an expanded, constructive security role in Northeast Asia, as a regional power and in support of American peacekeeping operations, what are the emerging constraints to the JDSF posture vis-à-vis other nations in East Asia? This question is especially relevant in light of the recently released National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) and the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security.

Since early December 2013, the government of Japan has launched a series of new initiatives aimed at revising its outlook on self-defense as well as its overall security posture in Northeast Asia. This drove the creation of foundational documents and organizations such as the National Security Council, the National Security Strategy, the NDPG and pronounced increases in overall JDSF budget and personnel. However, the details of these initiatives bear closer scrutiny. In the most recent (2014) version of the National Defense Program Guidelines, Section III (Japan’s Basic Defense Policy) describes a set of strategies based on the policy of “Proactively Contributing to the Peace.” All the appropriate caveats are in place to assuage concerned parties; however, the sum of the principles poses ominous and difficult questions for Japan’s neighbors with long-standing, yet still fresh grievances such as continual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine and revisionism on the Imperial Army atrocities committed in Nanking.

These priority initiatives in the NDPG include:
1) establishing a comprehensive defense architecture,
2) building a Dynamic Joint Defense Force,
3) bolstering the U.S.–Japan alliance, and
4) promoting active security cooperation.

These herald a new era in Japanese political and military decision-making, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Yet he faces significant domestic headwinds in the form of negative public opinion towards these initiatives as well as the residual economic drag from the complete shutdown of Japan’s nuclear energy sector in the wake of Fukushima.

“India Wants to Modify the Present World Order But Never to Overthrow It”

Posted by DTW Winning
MAY 29

By Pramit Pal Chaudhuri

All geopolitics is local. India’s long-term foreign policy vision will ultimately reflect its domestic political system. And the political choice the country has made is to be a democratic polity, even if it still has a lot of warts. How then do we explain India’s reticence to be a promoter of liberal values and position itself as a democratic nation?

I argue this reflects a combination of factors.

One, India’s poverty has made its populace see democracy as a functional choice rather than an ideological one. Until economic reforms took place, there was a sense democracy was a necessary burden. There is evidence this attitude is changing among a younger generation.

Two, India’s relative weakness militarily and limited capacity in other areas meant it was willing to compromise on democracy and values if security interests were at stake. This pattern can be discerned in its Burma policy, dealings with neighbors like Sri Lanka and, most obviously, in its relations with Russia and China.

Three, India’s political leadership is conscious that it is forging a nation – and that it is roughly at the stage of a 19th -century Western nation. Again, these local motivations can override its better instincts overseas, as seen in its tentative response to the Arab spring.

Otherwise, the Indian establishment is clear in its support for liberal international institutions. India wants to modify the present world order but never to overthrow it.

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri is Foreign Editor of the Hindustan Times.

India’s Nuclear Doctrine: Stirrings of Change

JUNE 4, 2014


India’s nuclear doctrine has not been revisited for over a decade. Reasoned debate on the topic is overdue.

In the beginning of April 2014, at a conference initiated by the Indian government, Manmohan Singh casually urged the creation of a global convention to forswear thefirst use of nuclear weapons. Why the Indian prime minister chose to make this major policy declaration in the last hours of his term in office is a mystery.

To unravel this mystery, it is important to note the context. Singh was addressing a conference at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses (IDSA) titled “A Nuclear Weapon-Free World: From Conception to Reality.” The IDSA is supported by the Indian Ministry of Defense and has been a favored venue for India’s leadership to make important policy declarations on national security. The Indian bureaucracies that deal with foreign policy and security issues often use this forum to articulate their preferences on arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament issues. It would be natural if these bureaucracies wished to commend the virtues of continuity in policy to the new Indian government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took office in May 2014.

Following Singh’s remarks, the then opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) instantly issued a rejoinder in its election manifesto, stating that the party “believes that the strategic gains acquired by India during the [earlier BJP-led] Atal Behari Vajpayee regime on the nuclear programme have been frittered away by [Singh’s] Congress.” Hence, the BJP pledged to “study in detail India’s nuclear doctrine, and revise and update it, to make it relevant to [the] challenges of current times.”

BJP spokespeople clarified that a review of India’s no-first-use policy would be accorded priority if the party came to power. This evoked great concern in some quarters that the BJP would abandon no first use, which has been a central feature of India’s nuclear doctrine since the country conducted a series of nuclear tests in 1998 and established itself as a nuclear weapons state. The BJP’s Modi, campaigning for the 2014 election, subsequently declared that there would be “no compromise” on no first use, which reflected India’s “cultural inheritance” (whatever that means). But as the respected Economic and Political Weeklycommented in an editorial: “Given the BJP’s naturally aggressive posture, such clarifications must be viewed with some scepticism and it is legitimate to explore what may be on the agenda.”

All this rhetoric is par for the course in the heated atmosphere of the Indian electoral process. Disconcertingly, both the Congress party and the BJP have forgotten the historical record. India’s no-first-use policy was originally declared by the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance government after it conducted the May 1998 nuclear tests. The prime minister at the time, Atal Behari Vajpayee, stated thereafter that India would pursue a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons vis-à-vis other nuclear-armed states and would not use these weapons against nonnuclear countries. This restraint was also embedded in the BJP’s draft nuclear doctrine, declared in August 1999, which took several years to be finalized. It was finally endorsed by the Cabinet Committee on Security and officially promulgatedin January 2003.

Consequently, India’s no-first-use policy and its nuclear doctrine are BJP formulations. The Congress party adopted them and, with Singh’s April speech, simply sought to extend no first use globally. This makes the BJP’s concern with its own no-first-use policy and nuclear doctrine part of the mystery of Singh’s proposal.

Counter-Terrorism: The Hidden Menace In Pakistan

June 5, 2014: Islamic terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan is largely a Pushtun problem and is rarely noted outside the region. Pakistani Islamic terrorists are most often noticed when they kill people or blow something up. Most of this mayhem is caused by the Taliban, an organization formed by the Pakistani military in the early 1990s inside the Pakistani tribal territories. The membership was almost entirely Afghan Pushtuns living in refugee camps. After 2001 a Pakistani branch of the Taliban (staffed by Pakistani Pushtuns) was formed. Largely unnoticed (outside of Pakistan) is the fact that the Pushtuns have also been responsible for a lot more of the non-Islamic criminal activity inside Pakistan as well as most of the Islamic terrorism.. 

What is remarkable about this is that the Pushtun tribes comprise only 15 percent of the Pakistani population and are also the poorest and least educated minority. A unique feature of Pakistan is that it's 165 million people are all minorities, although the Punjabis (44 percent of the population) are the dominant one (not just in numbers, but in education and income as well). Closely allied with the Punjabis are the Sindis (14 percent), and together these two groups pretty much run the country. Karachi, the largest city in Pakistani, is in Sind, but contains residents from all over the country. Then there are Seraikis (10.5 percent, related to Punjabis), Muhajirs (7.6 percent, Moslems who came from India after 1947), Baluchis (3.6 percent) and other minorities amounting to about five percent. The Seraikis and Muhajirs live in Punjab and Sind. 

Since September 11, 2001 there have been a lot more Pushtun fleeing to Pakistan's largest city, Karachi. This metropolis contains eight percent of the nation's population (14 million people) and produces a quarter of the GDP. Islamic radicals have long been present in the city. The Taliban have established a presence among the two million Pushtuns there. But a lot of the criminal gangs in Karachi are Pushtun and these are the gangs the Taliban often work closely with. Moreover there are now more murders in Karachi than in the tribal territories and this has been a trend since 2010. Finally, in 2013, the number of terrorist deaths in the northwestern tribal territories fell below 2,000 and the murders in Karachi rose above 2,000. Pakistani security forces are acutely aware of who is doing most of the mayhem. 

Is There a Hidden Message in the Taliban's 2014 Fighting Season

May 31, 2014
A NATO helicopter flies over the site of a suicide attack in Jalalabad May 12, 2014, the first day of the Taliban's declared summer offensive.

Mid-May marks an annual rite observed in Afghanistan for the past 35 years: the start of the spring fighting season. The patterns of nature shape the patterns of warfare: Plant poppy, hunker down for the winter, harvest opium, then go to war. Now that this year's opium crop has been mostly harvested, it is time to fight.

On May 27, President Barack Obama outlined his plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan — leaving 9,800 by the end of 2014, with a full withdrawal by the end of 2016. A couple weeks earlier, however, the Taliban, with their estimated 30,000 soldiers, announced “Khaibar,” their own plan for the operations they will be conducting this spring and summer.

The Taliban generally name each year's offensive after an event or person from early Islamic history. In the strategically significant Battle of Khaibar, fought in the seventh year of the Islamic calendar, or 628 CE, the Muslim forces defeated a much larger army composed of several Jewish tribes and their Arab allies. If the Taliban's choice of this ancient battle has a specific symbolic meaning — and, as in past years, any precise correlation between names and meanings remains conjecture — it could mean several interesting things.

Most importantly, the Taliban's strategy in the following months may be to launch head-on attacks on U.S., U.N., and Afghan forces. The Battle of Khaibar was a frontal assault on a strongly fortified oasis — that was what made it so epic. Indeed, the Taliban's announcement of its spring campaign explicitly notes that the battle “resulted in the conquest of heavily fortified enemy castles and bases.” On May 12, the first day of the campaign, the Taliban launched rockets at the massive U.S. base at Bagram and the well-protected Kabul Airport. No casualties resulted from the rocket attacks, but Taliban assaults on the provincial justice department office in the city of Jalalabad and several police checkpoints in the city of Ghazni left 10 Afghans dead. If they are following the playbook of the original Khaibar campaign, the Taliban will attack positions of military strength rather than focus on soft targets among civilians.

Khaibar was not a religious conflict between Muslims and Jews: During this period, the nascent Muslim community allied with, and fought against, tribes composed of both Jews and unconverted Arabs. Indeed, the Prophet Mohammed was invited to Medina (near Khaibar) to serve as an arbiter between tribes whose feuds were based on politics rather than faith.

From Small Unit Leaders to Rugged Diplomats

June 3, 2014
Overcoming the Tactical-Strategic Divide in U.S. Foreign Policy

American foreign policy and its current generation of practitioners suffer from an almost complete lack of understanding of the critical concept of “feasibility” as it relates to statecraft in conflict zones. Broadly speaking, the people who shape foreign policy are highly educated, can speak the languages associated with their area of expertise, and have spent many years living abroad. Unfortunately, in state-building scenarios such as Iraq and Afghanistan, the professional experience of most policymakers is limited to brief tours in the Green Zone or Bagram. These places, while technically in-country, have absolutely no resemblance to the larger situation on the ground.

The problem, stated simply, is a massive disconnect between the tactical reality and the strategic objective. From my perspective in Afghanistan in 2010, there were some really fine foreign policy ideas being promulgated down to the tactical level. Unfortunately, no one had bothered to ask about the feasibility of implementation.

An example of such an effort is the District Reinforcement Program in Khost Province, Afghanistan. This is a great idea in theory: place USAID and State Department representatives on the ground for 72 hours to walk local Afghan officials through bureaucratic processes in order to facilitate governance and development. Setting aside the fact that the processes put in place were opaque and wholly alien to most sub-governors and district officials, the program was doomed because State and USAID weren’t invested in its success at the tactical level. With only one State Department and one USAID representative, the onus for conducting these operations was left to the person who has become the face of American statecraft the last ten years: the 23-year old platoon leader.

The platoon leader is not formally trained in international development, except for perhaps a short brief on Commanders Emergency Relief Program (CERP) funds. Unless his degree is in political science, he’s not initially prepared to have in-depth conversations about any of the governmental challenges facing the district either. Yet, for a decade or more, local officials in Iraq and Afghanistan have looked to these leaders and their experienced platoon sergeants for justice, arbitration, and advice on how to rule in lawless lands. Company Commanders have hosted large shuras and met with sheikhs to resolve disputes. Through a brief evolution, Fire Support Officers became the de facto non-lethal targeting gurus of the military, seeking opportunities to exploit development projects to win the loyalty of the local populace. With the formal training to marry with their experiences, junior officers and senior NCOs can be formidable allies for established policymakers, providing real on-ground insight into questions of feasibility.

Myanmar: The Heavy Shadow Of China

June 2, 2014: The UN and the United States are pressuring Burma to make the Moslem Rohingya people in Burma citizens. This, it is believed, would halt the violence between Moslems and Buddhists in Burma. That’s unlikely and the problem of countries refusing to grant citizenship to a minority is an old one that is not easily solved. The most notorious example of this is found in Arab nations where it is quite common. The most notorious example is the Palestinians, who are refused citizenship in most Arab countries. This citizenship for migrants issue is less of a problem in Western nations and a few Middle Eastern ones (like Israel and Jordan) but is not really an anti-Palestinian effort as much as it is the continuation of an ancient practice. Burma refuses to consider making the Rohingya Burmese citizens, despite the fact that most Rohingya have lived in Burma for over a century. Some Rohingya still have kin back in Bangladesh but tend to consider themselves Burmese. 

The UN and many Western nations also want the Burmese military to allow the 2008 constitution (created when the military government was still in control) to be modified to eliminate the excessive power of the military in the new democratic government. For example, the 2008 constitution guarantees the military have 25 percent of the seats in parliament and requires 75 percent of the votes in parliament to get the constitution changed. The generals are reluctant to allow these changes because so many Burmese are angry at the decades of bad behavior by the military government. Without some control over the government the generals who ran the military dictatorship, and some of their subordinates could be prosecuted for their crimes. The generals are under a lot of pressure over the constitutional reform issue. Burmese businessmen and foreign investors also back a reduction of military control, mainly because the military is the main source of the widespread corruption that cripples the economy. 

Meanwhile the violence between the Moslem Rohingya and police continues along the west coast. Buddhist clerics now to call for the expulsion of all Moslems, describing Moslems as a persistent threat to all Burmese. But there was never a problem with Islamic radicalism in Burma, thanks largely to the decades of army rule that kept Saudi missionaries and money for Wahhabi (the Saudi flavor of Islam al Qaeda likes) mosques and religious schools out. The military rule also relied on large doses of nationalistic propaganda, which extolled the importance of being Burmese. This meant the ethnic Burmese majority in the south who are overwhelmingly Buddhist. The tribal peoples of the north (who are largely Christian) and the Moslem and Christian minorities in the south were barely tolerated guests who had to keep their heads down. The Rohingya Moslems living near the Bangladesh border were long regarded as illegal migrants. The years of dictatorship suppressed all sorts of disruptive attitudes, but with the military rule gone people are allowed to express themselves and the Buddhist radicals went after the Moslem minority first. Now there are a growing number of Burmese Moslems who see Islamic radicalism as a viable defensive tactic. It isn’t, but it makes sense to the young, determined and stubborn. 

Welcome to the Revolution Why Shale Is the Next Shale

Pipe dreams: a natural gas well in Sichuan, China, November 2013. (Courtesy Reuters)

Despite its doubters and haters, the shale revolution in oil and gas production is here to stay. In the second half of this decade, moreover, it is likely to spread globally more quickly than most think. And all of that is, on balance, a good thing for the world.

The recent surge of U.S. oil and natural gas production has been nothing short of astonishing. For the past three years, the United States has been the world’s fastest-growing hydrocarbon producer, and the trend is not likely to stop anytime soon. U.S. natural gas production has risen by 25 percent since 2010, and the only reason it has temporarily stalled is that investments are required to facilitate further growth. Having already outstripped Russia as the world’s largest gas producer, by the end of the decade, the United States will become one of the world’s largest gas exporters, fundamentally changing pricing and trade patterns in global energy markets. U.S. oil production, meanwhile, has grown by 60 percent since 2008, climbing by three million barrels a day to more than eight million barrels a day. Within a couple of years, it will exceed its old record level of almost ten million barrels a day as the United States overtakes Russia and Saudi Arabia and becomes the world’s largest oil producer. And U.S. production of natural gas liquids, such as propane and butane, has already grown by one million barrels per day and should grow by another million soon.

What is unfolding in reaction is nothing less than a paradigm shift in thinking about hydrocarbons. A decade ago, there was a near-global consensus that U.S. (and, for that matter, non-OPEC) production was in inexorable decline. Today, most serious analysts are confident that it will continue to grow. The growth is occurring, to boot, at a time when U.S. oil consumption is falling. (Forget peak oil production; given a combination of efficiency gains, environmental concerns, and substitution by natural gas, what is foreseeable is peak oil demand.) And to cap things off, the costs of finding and producing oil and gas in shale and tight rock formations are steadily going down and will drop even more in the years to come.

The evidence from what has been happening is now overwhelming. Efficiency gains in the shale sector have been large and accelerating and are now hovering at around 25 percent per year, meaning that increases in capital expenditures are triggering even more potential production growth. It is clear that vast amounts of hydrocarbons have migrated from their original source rock and become trapped in shale and tight rock, and the extent of these rock formations, like the extent of the original source rock, is enormous -- containing resources far in excess of total global conventional proven oil reserves, which are 1.5 trillion barrels. And there are already signs that the technology involved in extracting these resources is transferable outside the United States, so that its international spread is inevitable.

In short, it now looks as though the first few decades of the twenty-first century will see an extension of the trend that has persisted for the past few millennia: the availability of plentiful energy at ever-lower cost and with ever-greater efficiency, enabling major advances in global economic growth.

Terrorism in China: Seeing the Threat Clearly

RUSI Analysis
28 Mar 2014
Research Fellow, Asia Studies

Recent Western and Chinese media focus on terrorism in Xinjiang has diverted attention away from the greater threat that Beijing faces from its ethnic Uighur population: namely a repeat of the large-scale rioting that hit the regional capital of Urumqi in 2009.

There is something innately attention-grabbing about the recent convergence between two of the most important global trends of this century – the spread of Islamic extremism and the rise of China. If we are to believe the account of the Chinese government, both trends collided in Kunming in early March, as a group of alleged Islamist Uighur militants stabbed a mass of innocent civilians in the city’s railway station, killing twenty-nine.

A video released on 19 March by the leader of the rebel Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), Abdullah Mansour, praised the Kunming attack and described it as an ‘expensive offer’ to China to reconsider its Xinjiang policy. While Mansour did not claim responsibility for the attack, his statement is sure to add to the ongoing debate between Western and Chinese commentators on whether China faces a genuine terrorist threat, and whether Uighur militants in China maintain links to overseas groups such as the TIP – which is thought to operate from northern Pakistan.

The attack in Kunming is worrying as it demonstrates a level of organisation and willingness by militant groups to perpetrate atrocities rarely seen outside Xinjiang. Beginning in November 2013 with a Uighur-led attack in Tiananmen Square, China appears to face an escalating threat that is no longer confined to its troubled far-west. Yet media focus on terrorism is obscuring a more important threat that the Chinese government faces: namely a recurrence of the deadly inter-ethnic violence that hit the regional capital of Urumqi in July 2009. The circumstances of that incident are worth bearing in mind, as they almost certainly preoccupy the thoughts of China’s leaders in Beijing.

Official statements on the Kunming incident have predictably focused on the need for swift retribution and punishment of the perpetrators. Yet interestingly, China’s leaders have also shown awareness of the divisive effect that this rhetoric has on ethnic relations. In a speechdelivered in mid-March, Yu Zhengsheng, the official in charge of China’s Xinjiang policy, reportedly criticised certain local governments for harassing ordinary Uighurs during the nationwide crackdown that has followed the Kunming incident. According to Mr Yu, such behaviour is ‘contrary to policy, foolish and plays into the hands of terrorists’.

‘A Clash of Security Concepts’: China’s Effort to Redefine Security

Publication: China Brief Volume: 14 Issue: 11
June 4, 2014

If there was any doubt, last week’s Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore made it clear that China is unhappy with the behavior of the United States in Asia. Following speeches by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that criticized Chinese actions, General Wang Guanzhong departed from his prepared speech to accuse the two countries of revealing a “taste of hegemony” and trying to “stir up trouble” (IISS.org, June 1). But his scripted remarks highlighted something which may be an even more fundamental challenge to the U.S. role in the region: China’s “New Security Concept for Asia.” This concept appears to be an effort to redefine the idea of security on terms that cast China as a regional security provider and the United States as an over-assertive outsider that threatens to undermine regional security. Official Chinese interpretations of the argument largely accords with a headline from the online edition of the People’s Daily: “The Shangri-La Confrontation is a Clash Between Old and New Security Concepts.”

The core of the New Security Concept, introduced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in a May 21 speech at the Conference on Interactions and Confidence-Building in Asia, is the idea that “development is the greatest form of security” (People’s Daily Online, May 21—see also China Brief, May 23). As the largest trading partner of most countries in the region and a major contributor to infrastructure investment, China already has a good claim to be the chief driver of the region’s development. If security is development, China is therefore also the main provider of Asian security—killing two birds with one stone. But to make this argument persuasive, China must refute understandings of security that emphasize traditional concerns such as territory and national sovereignty. This means contesting international norms with the United States. Ultimately, like the earlier Five Principles for Peaceful Coexistence, the New Security Concept will “gradually become a universal norm of international relations” (PLA Daily¸May 23).

This concept is more than a bit of rhetorical slight of hand—it is both an application of the Deng-era verdict that the goal of security policy should be to “maintain a peaceful external environment for development,” and an effort to promote this understanding abroad. It most likely represents beliefs genuinely used in Chinese policy-making: A similar effort is simultaneously underway in China’s domestic security sphere. Xi has recently emphasized the concept of “overall national security,” a comprehensive view of security which has been defined to include both fairly conventional matters such as military and territorial security, and non-traditional fields such as economic, cultural and ecological security (see “Terrorism Fears Push Muscular Approach to ‘Overall National Security,’” China Brief, May 7). What unites this eclectic list is the risk of interruptions to the project of national construction under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. You Ju, a political expert in a military research institute, told People’s Daily online: “The New Asian Security Concept and our Overall Security Concept are closely linked. Every country has its own security needs, and all of them cannot be separated from cooperation with peripheral countries and the path of peaceful development” (People’s Daily Online, May 21).

Both Xi’s and Wang’s speeches, and their analysis by the Chinese media, heavily emphasized the concept of “nontraditional security”—a bridge between Chinese analysis and mainstream international relations theory. When discussing the New Security Concept, Chinese experts point to problems such as terrorism, transnational crime, securing investments overseas and ensuring financial stability, emphasizing transnational issues related to development (Beijing Times, May 22; China.com, May 22). One expert commentary in the party-affiliated Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po brought up the recent anti-China riots in Vietnam as an example of the danger of focusing on an old definition of security, warning that they had already greatly harmed the Vietnamese economy (Wen Wei Po, May 25).

The New Security Concept was introduced at CICA, a forum established by Kazakhstan and populated with countries ranging from the Middle East, to Central and South Asia, to Southeast Asia. But it applies especially to China’s territorial disputes with Southeast Asian countries and India. According to this analysis, the security of China and the region are threatened not by unresolved disputes over territory, but by an “old” or “zero-sum” understanding of security that encourages China’s neighbors to focus on these disputes rather than the positive story of economic growth and integration. “Unfortunately,” a commentary in the military newspaper Liberation Army Daily wrote, “some people have their heads stuck in the past, and cannot get over Cold War thinking” (PLA Daily, May 26). According to this framing, Japan and especially the United States are real threats to the security of Asia—by treating territorial disputes as central issues, and offering political and military support to China’s Southeast Asian neighbors, they encourage those countries to challenge China rather than focusing on the positive side of its rise.

This analysis apparently recognizes that the logic of territorial security pushes many regional powers toward bandwagoning with the United States to “encircle” China—but it frames that logic as the real threat. Thus, as Ruan Zongze, deputy director of the China Institute for International Relations, told Xinhua, the real cause of the arguments in Singapore was old-fashioned thinking: “As you saw, the recently-concluded Shangri-La Dialogue was full of outdated ‘old security concepts,’ or zero-sum security theory” (Xinhua, June 3).

China’s goal for the years ahead is to win a war of ideas­—to make suspicious neighbors into friends not changing its own behavior, but by persuading them to understand their own security in a way that accepts it. Chinese analysis claims that this contest is taking place on favorable ground—ultimately, the People’s Daily “Clash of Security Concepts” story concluded, even U.S. allies will abandon their grievances against China if confrontation threatens the real security of development. “American and Chinese ‘Asian Security Concepts’ will continue to collide—but which one is more conducive to the well-being of the people of Asia, more to the benefit of regional development and more favorable to shared prosperity, history will decide.”

China’s Challenge to the Liberal Order, India’s Attraction to It, and the Possibilities for Western Revitalization in Light of the Global Embrace of Democratic Norms

Posted by DTW Winning
By Stephen Szabo

The rise of the rest has to be to more clearly classified as that part of the non-West which is democratic and that which is not. India and Brazil fall into the first category with China and Russia clearly in the second. This distinction is an important one as values matter in foreign policy. The West is not simply a geopolitical alliance based on interests, for if it was it would have disintegrated with the end of the Soviet threat. The fact is that the West does exist and continues to do so based on its shared values in open political systems and its shared vision of a broader liberal international order.

As Vaclav Havel reminded the West during the Cold War, the nature of the domestic political system of a state has important consequences for its foreign policy; the prospect of the replacement of a democratic hegemon by one based on state capitalism and authoritarianism has important international consequences. The hegemony of the West which characterized the Cold War and immediate Cold War period is now over. The West is facing a serious challenge to its economic and political predominance and it is possible the Western moment in human history will come to an end in this century.

The growing role of China is clearly the most significant challenge to the liberal international order to emerge since the shaping of the Bretton Woods institutions. China is a deeper and more serious challenge to the liberal order than was the Soviet Union. The West cannot contain the PRC as easily as it did the USSR, because the military dimension is not the only dimension of Chinese power and its economic success has enveloped and divided the West. As its economic power grows (it is growing more rapidly than the NIC in its earlier studies anticipated), its political and soft power will grow with it. It stands a good chance of offering an alternative to the liberal international model of the West.

It is a mistake to view the China threat as predominantly a military one; if the United States does so it will risk exacerbating its military and fiscal overstretch. That the rise of China is occurring during a period of crisis and relative decline of the West only makes the consequences more serious and imminent. The fragmentation of Europe, which will be the consequence of the Eurozone financial crisis, allows China the option of playing off Europeans against each other and further fragmenting the EU as an international actor and partner of the United States.

Chinese policies toward Syria in the UN Security Council are a sign of what is to come and how major liberal international institutions will be marginalized. This applies not only to the UN but also to the IMF and the World Bank, as the money China will have to offer for financial bailouts and development aid will dwarf those of these international institutions.

India remains the only other major contender for emerging power status that can reshape the world system. While it will not see itself as part of the West, its democratic system and open society makes it a potential partner of the West. This will combine with its security interests as it seeks to balance a rising China — a country with which it has longstanding territorial disputes which could intensify as the competition for natural resources and the leadership of Asia grows.

Whether India will see its values and interests in the expansion of the international liberal order to include itself, or whether it will be tempted by the legacy of Third World neutralism, will be one of the fundamental questions of this century. Yet the prospects of India joining the West are real, while the possibility of China taking this view are much more remote.

What is clear is that the West must reconstitute and revitalize itself in order to remain at the core of the liberal international order and to slowly expand that core out. The fact that this remains an era of democracies and democratization offers hope for the western model and its prospects for enlargement. The West must regain a sense of self-confidence and unity if it is to offer a model for the emerging new international order.

Stephen F. Szabo is Executive Director of the Transatlantic Academy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States

NATO and Ukraine: The Need for Real World Strategies and for European Partners Rather than Parasites

JUN 5, 2014 

Events in Ukraine have made it all too clear that NATO’s primary function remains deterring war in Europe. The myth that Afghanistan was the key test of NATO had already died with President Obama’s unilateral decision to withdraw U.S. forces at the end of 2014, and events in Ukraine have already shown the United States just how pointless and vacuous the U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) that projected U.S. strategy should focus on Asia and the Middle East as if Europe was somehow “over.”

The practical problem for both the United States and Europe is now to create a level of deterrence that can secure the NATO countries nearest Russia without needlessly recreating some new form of Cold War. It is also to help the non-NATO states on Russia’s borders in ways that help them develop without provoking Russia, but that still give Russia a strong incentive not to repeat what happened in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldavia.

One key element is to make it clear that the US and Europe will not ignore Russia’s actions in the Ukraine. Empty NATO ministerial rhetoric can’t do this. Neither can German inaction because its energy dependence on Russia and outdated angst over the German role in World War II. Neither can French willingness to have President François Hollande have dinner with Putin at the G7 meeting right after having dinner with Obama, and continue to sell Russia precisely the kind of amphibious warships Russia needs for out of area adventures.

Really, sell two Mistral-class amphibious ships that carry troops, landing craft, and helicopters, that then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates asked the French Minister of Defense not to sell in 2010, and which Hervé Morin the admitted were “indeed a warship for power projection!” The last thing Europe and the Atlantic partnership need is a Germany that puts its economy above its security while wallowing in angst, or a new form of self-seeking French appeasement.

This does not mean that anyone should overreact. No one can gain from rushing into a lasting confrontation between the United States, Europe, and Russia. This is not the time to overreact, to turn Ukraine into some kind of morality play as if Ukraine was composed of blameless heroes and Russians were the villains.

After Crimea: The Future of the Black Sea Fleet

Publication: Volume: 0 Issue: 0
May 22, 2014 

Get’man Sagaidachnii, the new Ukrainian flagship as it was the only vessel at sea during the Crimean Annexation. (Source: U.S. Navy photo by MC2 William Jamieson)

Executive Summary

Russia’s March 17 annexation of Crimea capped nearly two decades of increasingly fractious Russian-Ukrainian relations, punctuated by rising tensions over Russia’s lease of Sevastopol and natural gas transit and cost issues. The election of the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych as president in March 2010 seemed to presage a more stable relationship with Russia, but his ouster four years later and Russia’s subsequent takeover of Crimea have sent relations between Kyiv and Moscow to their worst level since the breakup of the USSR. While Russia’s actions have now resolved the issue of Sevastopol and, in acquiring the majority of the Ukrainian Navy, given Russia the most powerful fleet on the Black Sea, they have raised concerns in NATO about possible further Russian intentions and led the West toward imposing sanctions, which, if strengthened, could negatively impact Russian energy exports to Europe via Ukraine. It remains to be seen for how long the Black Sea Fleet’s new regional superiority will remain unchallenged, or whether it will remain a short-term tactical triumph with future negative strategic consequences. 

In the interim, the naval balance of power in the Black Sea has noticeably tilted toward Russia and in the future may change even more with the recent announcement by Russian Navy commander-in-chief Admiral Viktor Chirkov that the Black Sea Fleet over the next six years will be bolstered by the arrival of 30 new warships. The virtual disappearance of Ukraine’s Black Sea fleet and the United States’ increased naval role as a guarantor of the maritime security of Ukraine after Crimea entail a whole new set of challenges for NATO in the Black Sea region unseen by the great powers since the Crimean War. Under sanctions, it remains to be seen whether Russia will be able to adhere to its naval shipbuilding program to significantly bolster its Black Sea Fleet. For the time being, however, Moscow has a much greater naval posture in the region that will require a new set of thinking in Brussels and Washington concerning the future of NATO’s troubled Black Sea flank.

The Geostrategic Shift in the Black Sea After the Annexation of Crimea

Ever since the 1991 collapse of the USSR, the Russian Navy’s lease of Sevastopol as a base for the Black Sea Fleet (BSF) remained a lightning rod for Ukrainian nationalism. On April 21, 2010, the Ukrainian and Russian parliaments ratified the extension of Russia’s lease of Sevastopol for 25 years after the current lease expires in 2017. Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko told a press conference, “What happened in the Supreme Rada is a military usurpation; I am convinced that this is not the end, while former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said the agreement violated the Ukrainian Constitution, which forbade the country from hosting foreign military bases after 2017 and urged Ukrainians to overthrow the Yanukovych administration” (RIA Novosti, April 21, 2010). In Sevastopol, NOMOS Bank’s Center for Black Sea Security Studies Director Sergiy Kulyk said, “For Ukraine, the Black Sea Fleet is like a cancer that will grow larger and more dangerous until 2042” (ISN Security Watch, September 15, 2010). Russia was also not happy with the agreement, as it was unable to remove restrictions dating from the 1997 lease, which limited the size of the BSF by only allowing for ship-for-ship swaps, in which Russia could only replace old warships with similar ones. The same day the renewed lease was announced, Russia reported its plans to buy two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships from France. The BSF’s 25 warships made it the second smallest fleet in Russia’s five naval organizations, outnumbering only the Caspian Sea Flotilla. [1]

RUSI Briefing Examines Possible Russian Military Strategies Against Ukraine

RUSI News, 4 Apr 2014
By Dr Igor Sutyagin, Research Fellow, Russian Studies; 
Professor Michael Clarke, Director General

With elections set to be held in Ukraine in May, the relationship between Russia and Ukraine is about to enter a critical, and perhaps more dangerous period. Russian military planners may take the opportunity to intervene before further erosion of the combat effectiveness of their troops.

Based on current knowledge, expert insight and research, RUSI has published a briefing setting out four military scenarios that now have to be factored into the political calculations for both sides.

They are not predictions nor are they a complete picture of a complex and dynamic situation. Nevertheless, the military dispositions of Ukrainian and Russian forces are becoming more relevant to the political equation, and for a range of reasons they may reduce the time in which politics and negotiation can mitigate the effects of this crisis.

Laos Draws Ire of Neighbors With Mekong River Dam Plans

By Bloomberg News Jun 4, 2014

At a makeshift port on the Mekong river in Northern Laos, traditional wooden boats at... Read More

Laos will push ahead with its ambition to become the “battery of Southeast Asia,” planning a Mekong River dam that has drawn opposition from neighbors and threatens to involve China and the U.S.

Four Mekong River nations are scheduled to meet June 26-27 in Thailand to discuss matters including Laos’ plan to build the Don Sahong dam. The Xayaburi dam has broken ground and construction on the new structure may start as soon as this year, with Cambodia and Vietnam seeking to delay the project.

“Laos remains committed to exporting hydropower and becoming the battery of Southeast Asia,” said Viraphonh Viravong, the country’s vice minister of energy and mines, in e-mailed comments. “Hydropower is a natural choice for Laos.”

Some diplomats have described the Mekong River, which has its source on the Tibetan plateau, as “the next South China Sea,” the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washingtonsaid in a paper in April. The report cited the risk of disregarding international rules and norms, as well as the expansion of Chinese political influence in the region.

“Laos believes it has few options to building up foreign exchange other than building dams and exporting electricity,” said Milton Osborne, a non-resident fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney and the author of a history of the Mekong.

Chinese Influence

Vietnam and Cambodia objected to the first dam, and both countries want a delay in the second until at least the end of 2015, Vietnamese Minister of Natural Resources Nguyen Minh Quang said in April. Political relations between Vietnam and Laos have weakened as China’s influence has grown in Laos, according to Martin Stuart-Fox, an emeritus professor of history at Australia’s University of Queensland.

Power and Order in Asia

JUN 5, 2014 

Asia stands out as the world’s most vibrant region, where rivalries and confrontation coincide with increased economic cooperation and community building. How should we interpret these two dynamics, and what are the implications for U.S. policy? With the support of the MacArthur Foundation, Asahi Shimbun, Joongang Ilbo, and China Times, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) collaborated with Opinion Dynamics Corporation on a survey of strategic elites in 11 Asia Pacific economies. 


Reversing the Revolution in the name of the people?

Andreas Krieg, Lecturer Defence Studies Department, King’s College London, Qatar Armed Forces

General Haftar’s announcement in February to topple the current Islamist government was discounted by many as mere rhetoric. In a country that has not come to a rest since the NATO-led toppling of Gadhafi in 2011, claims by yet another armed group to forcefully take control of the failed state are easily disregarded. However, since the self-declared ‘Libyan National Army’ attacked the parliament in Tripoli last week, it seems that Haftar and his men are a force to be reckoned with. His narrative of acting in the name of a Libyan volonté générale[1] to relieve the country from the grip of the ‘Islamist disease’ sounds familiar[2]. After the military’s intervention in Egypt last year, is just another Arab country falling prey to a reactionary anti-Islamist wave rolling from the Gulf over the Levant to Northern Africa?

At the height of the so-called Arab Spring, many Arabs took a pragmatic approach to governance. The initial popular support for Islamist groups was founded on the belief that they could cater most effectively for the people’s volonté générale. The West and the Arab World’s long-established regimes followed this development with suspicion fuelled by a mix of ignorance and Islamist paranoia. Would the era of secular pan-Arabism give way to an era of Islamist authoritarianism? External stakeholders must have looked at those countries in turmoil with relief when initial popular euphoria for Islamist organizations was replaced by a sober realization that Islamism was not the fast-acting panacea people wanted it to be. Growing public discontent in the Arab World seems to have empowered external stakeholders to put an end to the Islamist spook. In 2013 Saudi Arabia and Qatar scaled back their support for Islamist groups in Northern Syria, the UAE were starting to support the Egyptian military leadership around El Sisi in its fight against the Muslim Brotherhood, and the GCC remains divided about the extent to which Riyalpolitik is to sustain political Islam. The West, fuelled by a jihadi paranoia, put armed support for the Syrian opposition on the back burner, turned a blind eye to the Egyptian military’s intervention last summer as well as provided support for any ‘counterterrorist’ operation in Yemen and Northern Africa.

Erdoğan to Israel, for the Win!

June 5, 2014

From an ugly brawl between the Islamic scholar Fetullah Gülen’s movement and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the Soma mining disaster, 2014 has not been Turkey’s year. Last weekend marked the dual anniversaries of the Gezi Park protests that took place last year and the Mavi Marmara flotilla raid four years ago; both are powerful reminders of the continuing challenges and extreme polarization in Turkey today. Yet amidst Turkey’s most consequential elections in decades, the longer marathon of Turkish politics is just getting started. Unfortunately, like many other democracies, elections seem to bring out the worst in Turkey.

With recent elections providing a strong domestic mandate for Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party, any damage done to Turkey’s international reputation may receive little attention from Erdoğan in the short run. However, he should start paying attention. With an economy and foreign policy that relies on critical alliances, Turkey’s future will be written over the course of the next year and the United States should be a friendly co-author.

American foreign policy towards Turkey has become stale and does not reflect the tectonic shifts of the last four years in Turkey and the broader region. If the United States re-engages with Erdoğan and the larger Turkish polity the right way, Erdoğan would have the necessary incentives to take a few steps back from the anti-Western rhetoric he has been leaning on with greater regularity.

Interestingly, as Turkey looks forward to leading the G-20 summit next year and its centennial – now only eight years away – previously taboo areas offer the greatest hope for successful breakthroughs. These include Armenia, Cyprus, the “Eastern” question (read: Kurdish), and – as I wrote prior to the elections – Israel.

It may seem counterintuitive given the ongoing tenor of Turkish politics, which has seen anti-Semitism on full display from discussions about the Soma mine owner’s Jewish son-in-law to unfortunate new insults (that shall not be repeated on WOTR, which is a family site). Through it all, however, Turkey and Israel have maintained important economic and military ties. Government officials point to the 520 years of shared Jewish–Turkish history and the quadrupling of trade, despite the Mavi Marmaraincidents and insults from both sides.