Surprisingly, but despite the tough political confrontation two world superpowers: the US and Russia have much in common. They very often behave the same way. This is particularly evident in political and military spheres. Their main common feature that usually threatens the smaller states is absolute autonomy in their actions while achieving the status of “superstate”.
The rest of the world becomes a hostage of Russia’s and the US’ decisions and policies. Unfortunately, today the role of “hostage” has gone to Europe. It is Europe who has to change its mind and abandon traditional values, review its policies and even plans for further development.
One example is rising defense spending by both sides that has lead to the parallel European response.
Russia increased its military spending last year by 7.5 percent to $66.4 billion. The United States in its turn remained the leader, accounting for 36 percent of all military spending in the world, according to the SIPRI report. In 2015, Washington increased its defense expenditure 2.4 percent to $596 billion. As a result European NATO states have to declare the planning rise of their military spending for the first time in nearly a decade.
Another recent example that shows existing dependence on each other’s steps is a grandiose Russia’s military parade in Moscow on May 9, 2016. It was held to demonstrate Russia’s military power and its new defense capabilities. The US was also not left out: over 1400 soldiers and 400 vehicles displayed their “dynamic presence” in Europe during Dragoon Ride II. Dragoon Ride is a 2,200-kilometer trek from Germany to Estonia, en route to Saber Strike 16. This convoy will continue through Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and finally ending in Estonia.
U.S. units about to take part in the Saber Strike training exercise in the Baltic countries in June on Friday started a vehicle road. A column of US tanks and vehicles maneuver through smoke and dust to demonstrate Russia the US’s power and resolve.
Such demonstrations of superiority and military might stir up the situation in Europe and divide people into those who support militarization of the region and those who strongly oppose. It should be said that anti-NATO moods manifestation become the integral part of any NATO’s large event as well as anti-Russia rhetoric accompanies any Moscow’s actions. A member of a group of Czech and Slovakian soldiers opposed to NATO, described the US soldiers as “aggressors, killers and occupiers” as Dragoon Ride II paraded through the country over the weekend. As well as Russia was harshly criticized by Media for excessive aggressiveness.
Europe turned to be between two sides, and each of them is not supposed to back down. They play cat-and-mouse with smaller countries and do not care about other states’ interests. Smaller countries such as Slovakia, Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and others look at the US military raid on Europe as if it is normal. While European security first of all is a matter of Europeans themselves.
But Russia and the US ignore the opinion of others, considering their action as the only right steps and do not leave other countries chance to choose its own path.
Globally Top-Respected Experts on Middle East Warn Syrian War May Produce WW III
Abdel Bari Atwan, the retired editor-in-chief (1989-2013) of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi and author of widely respected books on the Middle East, headlined on February 18th, “A superpower confrontation could be triggered by accident in Syria” and he opened: Qatar’s plans to build a gas pipeline to the Mediterranean were a major cause of the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. Seven years on, Syria’s oil and gas reserves east of the Euphrates, and especially around Deir az-Zour, have the potential to trigger World War III.
Four military aircraft were downed over Syria in the course of one week: an Israel F-16 shot down by a Russian-made Syrian missile; a Russian jet hit by an American-made shoulder-fired MANPADS; an Iranian pilotless drone intercepted by Israeli missiles; and a Turkish helicopter brought down in the countryside of Afrin by US-backed Kurdish fighters.
Warplanes from at least six countries crowd Syria’s airspace, including those of the American and Russian superpowers, while numerous proxy wars rage on the ground below involving Arab, regional and international parties.
Atwan goes on to note the reason why the war has ratcheted up after Donald Trump became America’s President: The US has made clear that it has no intention of withdrawing its 2,000 military personnel from Syria even after the expiry of the original pretext for deploying them, namely to fight the Islamic State (IS) group. Administration officials have repeatedly affirmed that these forces will remain indefinitely in order to counter Iranian influence in the country.
Trump has abandoned former U.S. President Barack Obama’s excuse for invading Syria, and replaced it by what is now clearly an American hot war against Iran, which indisputably has become the U.S. President’s target — no longer (even if only as an excuse) ISIS or “radical Islamic terrorism.”
Iran never attacked the U.S. However, Iran did overthrow the U.S.-installed Shah in 1979 and capture the U.S. Embassy, which had ruled Iran (and allowed or disallowed what the Shah did) ever since America’s 1953 coup there overthrew Iran’s democratically elected progressive secular Government and installed instead the Shah’s brutal dictatorship. But the aggression was by the U.S. Government, not by Iran’s Government.
And, after 1979, Iran never committed aggression against the United States; so, the U.S. is entirely in the wrong, now, to be planning (or instructing Israel) how to destroy Iran.
This U.S. President clearly wants an invasion of Iran, which Israel is now preparing to launch.
Iran is an ally of Russia. On February 19th, Russia’s Tass news agency headlined “Moscow calls on US not to play with fire in Syria” and reported the Russian Foreign Minister’s statement: “I once again call on our American colleagues not to play with fire and measure their steps proceeding not from immediate needs of today’s political environment, but rather from long-term interests of the Syrian people and of all peoples of this region.”
Here is a description of what will likely be entailed if Israel launches a military attack against Iran; it was published on February 22nd, by Russian geostrategic expert Peter Korzun, under the headline “Israel and Iran: Inching Toward Conflict”: If Iran itself is attacked, its sites related to its nuclear program will top the list of the prime targets for Israel’s F-35, F-15, F-16, and Kfir fighters, drones, and intermediate-range Jericho missiles. There are different routes they could take, but all of them would require flying through the airspaces of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, or Turkey. None of these Muslim countries will openly allow Israel to use their airspace, but anti-Iran sentiments are strong in the Sunni-dominated Arab states. Some of them might be willing to look the other way. A clandestine agreement to tacitly allow Israeli aircraft to cross their air space is entirely possible. Anger could be vented publicly once the mission has been completed.
Iraq is not focused on monitoring its airspace – it has many other problems to deal with and Israel could take advantage of that. The route through Iraq looks like it might be the best option.
The distance that would need to be covered would be between 1,500 km (930 miles) and 1,800 km (1,120 miles). The aircraft will also have to make a return trip, so in-flight refueling will be a necessity. Israel is only believed to own between eight and ten large tanker aircraft (such as Boeing 707s). That will hardly be enough. The Israeli military is not particularly adept at aerial refuelling. If the aircraft have to fly undetected, the F-35s will have to forgo their externally mounted weapons in order to preserve their stealth capabilities. Then their payload will be reduced to only two JDAM-guided bombs in the internal bay. Pretty underwhelming.
Then Iran’s radars will have to be spoofed, and its air defenses, especially the Russian-made S-300, will have to be knocked out. It won’t be easy.
Israel has a few dozen laser-guided bunker buster bombs (the GBU-28). The Jericho III is an Israeli three-stage solid propellant missile with a payload of more than a ton and capable of carrying multiple low-yield independently targeted reentry warheads. All the targets in Iran fall within its range of up to 6,500 km (4,038 miles). These missile strikes are capable of destroying every command and control site, as well as all major nuclear facilities.
The Heron-2 and Eitan drones can hover in the air for more than 20 consecutive hours to provide guidance and intelligence and to jam Iranian communications and confuse its radar.
Israel would wage electronic warfare against Iran’s military and civilian infrastructure, such as its electric grids and Internet, creating interference with Iran’s emergency frequencies.
After the war has begun, Israel will come under rocket and missile attack from Iran’s proxies: Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah has up to 150,000 rockets that can reach anywhere in Israel. It is true however, that Israel possesses a sophisticated, multilayer, air-defense shield. A first-class intelligence and early-warning system will mitigate the fallout, but substantial damage will be unavoidable.
Israeli troops will have to deploy in the Strip and move across the Lebanese border. But the Shia group will have to fight on two fronts: in Syria to prop up the Assad government, and in Lebanon against Israel. Syria is likely to find itself involved in combat operations. Israel will go to any length to keep Iran and Hezbollah away from its border.
Iran may try to block the Strait of Hormuz. But even if it does not, global oil prices would go up. Iran or its proxies might attack US forces in the Middle East, primarily in Syria and Iraq. Should that happen, Iraq would likely become a battleground between US forces and Iranian proxies, with American reinforcements rushing in. Iran could punish the Americans for their support of Israel in Afghanistan.
An attack against Russia’s ally would be an attack that will significantly weaken Russia. Will Russia come to the defense of its ally, the victim of this uncalled-for invasion by America’s proxy, Israel? Will Russia retaliate by destroying Israel — and maybe destroying also its sponsor?
Most scenarios for a world-ending nuclear war entail “errors,” or else a traditional non-nuclear conflict (perhaps in Syria, or in Ukraine — or it could be in Iran, or in North Korea) producing victory for one side (it could be either the U.S. versus Russia, in Syria, Ukraine, or Iran; or else the U.S. versus China, in North Korea), unless the other side (it could be either Russia versus the U.S., or else China versus the U.S.) blitz-launches almost its entire nuclear arsenal against the other side and against the other side’s strategically key allies. (For example, if Israel invades Iran, then perhaps Russia will launch a blitz-nuclear invasion of both Israel and the United States.) The first-to-strike in an all-out war between the nuclear superpowers will have the best chance of winning (i.e., in military parlance “winning” means simply inflicting more damage on the other side than it inflicts upon the “winner” — regardless of how damaged both sides — and the rest of the world — are). If the U.S. or its allies invade more than they’ve already done (practically all allies of Russia), then a blitz from Russia and/or China would be reasonable, because then obviously the U.S. aims to become conqueror of the entire world — the only super-power. Once one side has lost the traditional conflict in Syria and/or Ukraine, or elsewhere, the other side will either unleash its nuclear stockpile against the other (except for whatever anti-missiles it holds in reserve against any of the enemy’s missiles that haven’t yet been destroyed in that blitz-attack), or else it will surrender to the other. There will be a ‘winner’, but the entire world will be the loser. This is what America’s ‘democracy’ has brought us to.
Billionaires (including owners of controlling interests in weapons-manufacturers whose main or only customers are the U.S. Government and its allied governments — the ‘democratic’ decision-makers who had won political power because of donations from those billionaires) are planning to survive nuclear war. There seem to be two main ways:
Google this line: billionaires moving to “new zealand”
Others are buying bunkers deep underground in countries where they already reside — such as here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here — to protect themselves from the nuclear blasts, though nothing can protect anyone (not even, ultimately in New Zealand) from the resulting nuclear winter, and global famine and die-off.
More about what’s behind this can be seen in an excellent article by Edward Curtin, which has been published at a number of terrific news-sites — especially Greanville Post, Counter Currents, Global Research, and Off-Guardian (all four of which sites are prime ones to visit regularly, if a person wants to understand today’s world) — and it is aptly titled “The Coming Wars to End All Wars”.
originally posted at The Saker
US Nuclear Policy Upgraded
Experts and politicians are familiar with several variants of the 2018 NPR. The Huffington Post published a draft in mid-January. On February 2, in the run-up to the February 5 deadline to meet the central limits of the US–Russia New START treaty, the NPR was officially presented in the Pentagon by representatives of the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the Department of Energy. The full text of the document was then briefly deleted from the Pentagon website.
On February 6, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis personally presented the NPR to the House Armed Services Committee. Witnesses point out that this version differed slightly from the previous one. One of the main changes had to do with the appearance of a chart showing how the US is lagging behind Russia, China and North Korea in upgrading its nuclear arsenal (see Fig.1). In the first draft, the entire Korean Peninsula was shown in the colours of the North Korean flag; in the next version, the chart represented Taiwan as a Chinese territory; in the following one, Russia “lost” the Kuril Islands in their entirety. The latest variant of the chart appears to be true to life, but this minor incident may indicate a certain degree of inattention to detail on the part of those who compiled the document. It is worth mentioning that the NPR summary has also been published in Russian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and French: this suggests that Washington believes it extremely important to inform its allies and adversaries about the US approach to nuclear arms.
The Russian Factor
The Trump administration’s nuclear doctrine specifically emphasizes the degradation of the system of international politico-military relations in the second decade of the 21st century, a process characterized by the quantitative and qualitative increase of challenges and threats to US interests. This situation resulted from the international activity of “revisionist powers”: Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. The document repeatedly mentions this “revisionism”, so it is worth listing the nuclear-related accusations Washington is levelling against Russia.
The NPR accuses Russia of three main “sins”:
- breaching the INF Treaty by testing and deploying a long-range ground-based cruise missile;
- pursuing a “escalate-to-deescalate” strategy. This strategy implies delivering a limited tactical nuclear strike should the threat of losing a conventional conflict become imminent, in order to subsequently impose the terms of conflict settlement on the adversary. This concept belonged exclusively to the realm of journalism until recently, even though renowned experts did discuss it actively and aggressively, albeit somewhat sceptically;
- upgrading its nuclear arsenals, including via the development of various exotic delivery platforms. Everyone seems already accustomed to fantasies about hypersonic glide vehicles, but the mention, in this context, of a strategic intercontinental torpedo with a megaton-class warhead (known as Status-6) is puzzling and unexpected.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s reaction to the publication of the new US nuclear doctrine came in the form of a prompt and fairly apposite comment: “Russia’s Military Doctrine clearly limits the possibility of using nuclear weapons to two hypothetical defensive scenarios: first, in response to an aggression […] involving the use of nuclear or any other weapons of mass destruction, and second, in response to a non-nuclear aggression, but only if Russia’s survival is endangered. The 2014 Military Doctrine introduced a new term, the ‘system of non-nuclear deterrence’, which implies preventing aggression primarily through reliance on conventional (non-nuclear) forces.”
The comment continues: “We are deeply concerned about Washington’s no-limits approach, under which it might use nuclear weapons in ‘extreme circumstances’, which are not limited to military scenarios in the new US doctrine. […] If this is not the doctrinal enhancement of the role of nuclear weapons, what then does Washington imply when it uses the term with regard to Russia?”
One may mock the lexical peculiarities of the Russian comment, but it does contain a commendably succinct and exhaustive description of the country’s nuclear doctrine. It should be stressed that the Foreign Ministry was merely reacting. Had it been proactive in explaining the country’s stance on nuclear weapons and their qualitative and quantitative parameters to partners, opponents and society, all questions regarding Russia’s conceptions and arms may have been resolved before making their way into the NPR and similar documents.
Such positive promotion of Russia’s strategic non-nuclear deterrence concept merits in-depth analysis. In his speech at an open session of the Defence Ministry’s Board in late 2017, General Valery Gerasimov, Russian Chief of the General Staff, provided an exhaustive description of the “non-nuclear deterrence components” being formed in Russia as applied to the weapons systems currently employed. These include the S-400 SAM system, the Bastion coastal anti-ship missile system, submarines and sea-surface ships armed with Kalibr missiles and also, with certain reservations, the Iskander-M theatre missile system (“operational-tactical”). It is worth mentioning that all the aforementioned systems are, to varying degrees, dual-capable, i.e. they can be tipped with nuclear warheads. The problem of dual-capable nuclear/conventional arms is growing ever more acute. In particular, one of last year’s publications by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, under the editorship of James M. Acton, is devoted to this topic.
The US Response
Washington is planning to employ a combination of the following elements in order to deter Russia:
- the US nuclear triad (intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines armed with ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers);
- non-strategic nuclear forces from the USA and other countries in Europe, i.e. B611 aerial bombs and the nuclear sharing concept, which Russia has been criticizing for many years;
- the nuclear forces of British and French allies.
This approach appears to be a serious obstacle to the future of bilateral strategic offensive arms reduction. At the same time, it may also prove instrumental in overcoming the seeming deadlock. Washington, in effect, is introducing its allies’ nuclear arsenals into the Russia–US strategic stability equation, meaning that Russia now has every reason to take these arsenals into account in future talks. Moscow will certainly have to introduce into the equation some of the Russian nuclear components that have until now remained outside the scope of limitation and reduction agreements, and were even excluded from the transparency principle. However, certain progress is possible here, provided that third nuclear countries (ideally China as well) are involved in the process.
Let us now discuss the materiel portion of the NPR: the assessment of America’s needs for nuclear delivery platforms.
The Trump administration believes that America is nowhere near being “great again” when it comes to nuclear weapons. This opinion is not entirely true. Nevertheless, the NPR calls for creation and deployment of new systems in addition to the new B-21 Raider bomber, LRSO air-launched cruise missile, GBSD intercontinental ballistic missile, new Columbia-class submarine (all effectively launched under the Obama administration), and the modernization/service life extension programmes for existing nuclear warheads, which are nearing completion. The document identifies the need for nuclear-tipped sea-launched cruise missiles and lower-yield warheads for Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
The NPR also sets the rather vague objective of developing advanced nuclear delivery platforms and “alternative basing modes”, which may imply mobile ground-based (or airborne!) launchers. Sea-launched cruise missiles are meant to fill the gap caused by the INF-Treaty-related limitations, both in response to Russia’s “transgressions” and in other theatres saturated with missiles of nations not bound by the treaty. Notionally, low-yield warheads for submarine-launched ballistic missiles are meant as a deterrent against attempted use of tactical nuclear weapons in conventional conflict.
The NPR authors believe the US president will thus be able to deliver a nuclear strike that would not result in a full-scale nuclear war. It remains unclear how Washington’s adversary is supposed to distinguish an incoming low-yield munition from a full-blown first-strike weapon. The single-missile argument does not hold water, because a single launch from a submarine with subsequent air burst is considered a classic tactic for blinding enemy early warning and missile defence radars, to be followed by the multiple-launch application of the entire arsenal. Curiously, the UK had such sub-strategic submarine-launched ballistic missiles in its armoury more than 20 years ago. Discussions continue as to whether these munitions are effective. It would appear that the preservation of the “nuclear taboo” proves the usefulness of such munitions. On the other hand, the existence of “serious” strategic weapons in the arsenals of several leading world powers seems no less convincing a reason why nuclear arms have not been used in anger to date.
Apart from the aforementioned aspects of nuclear arms development, the NPR pays special attention to less publicly known components of the US nuclear arsenal: the nuclear command, control and communications (NC3) system and nuclear warheads.
The US NC3 system has long been in need of modernization because it consists largely of slightly modified Cold-War-era technology. At the same time, the NPR emphasizes the increase in, and qualitative changes to, the threats in outer space and cyberspace, the two key command-and-control arenas that apply not only to nuclear arms. To bring the NC3 system up to date and make it reliably stable, the NPR calls for massive reforms, the deployment of new subsystems, and the introduction of protection against all types of threats. It is in this context that the document contains the extremely controversial thesis stating that nuclear weapons may be used in response to a conventional attack on critical infrastructure, even a cyberattack against NC3 systems. The connection between nuclear arms and cyberthreats is becoming a particularly hot topic. It appears that within the debates involving the NPR, the sides would do well to at least reach a mutual understanding of the problem, if not work out common rules of the game.
The NPR contains detailed and tightly deadlined targets for the National Nuclear Security Administration (which formally reports to the Department of Energy but operates independently) to prolong the service life of existing warhead types until 2030 (this may require upgrades, as illustrated by the example of the W-76 warhead for the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile). Also by 2030, the USA must produce up to 80 plutonium pits, which are critical to the manufacture of nuclear charges. In fact, these targets were generally described back in 2007–2008, and their importance was reiterated following the signature of New START in 2010–2011. The USA is not planning to conduct any nuclear tests (with the exception of those required to ensure the safety and efficiency of the nuclear arsenal). On the other hand, Washington does not intend to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty either.
The new NPR pays somewhat less attention to non-proliferation, nuclear terrorism and arms control than the previous versions, and mainly focuses on the rivalry between the superpowers.
According to official estimates made public in late 2017, full implementation of the US nuclear modernization programme will require up to $1.2 trillion through the year 2046. Coupled with massive spending on missile defence (incidentally, the Department of Defense will shortly release a Missile Defense Review, whose title conspicuously omits the word “ballistic”), and the growing needs of all conventional military branches, the planned expenses might be streamlined by postponing the implementation of some projects and completely abandoning others, which is not unknown in the history of the US defence industry.
The Doctrine as the Catalyst of Discussion
The modernization of nuclear weapons is inevitable and even advisable for all nuclear powers. Russia, for one, continues to deploy and develop advanced nuclear systems. Universal nuclear disarmament remains a thing of the distant future; shiny new missiles appear to be safer to handle than rusty old ones, and they are better at deterring potential adversaries.
A number of provisions contained in the NPR make one reconsider the existing attitude towards the role of nuclear arms in the contemporary system of international politico-military relations and start devising new conceptual approaches. It would be an utter mistake to return to “escalation dominance”, the “missile gap,” and other antiquated Cold War theses, which are hardly applicable to the contemporary polycentric nuclear world.
Nuclear weapons as an aspect of great power competition were too quick to disappear from the international agenda (together with the very notions of competition and great power), with the focus shifting towards various global problems associated with sustainable development. The new US NPR clearly indicates the fallibility of this approach. At the same time the discussion spurred by the publication of this document gives one hope for the emergence of a new approach to building a stable multipolar world.
First published in our partner RIAC
Assessing United Nation’s commitment to “resolve conflict”: The need to re-strategize Peacekeeping missions
Numerous peacekeeping missions conducted by the UN “drastically” failed to “maintain peace and security” in the “conflict-rigged” regions. The article focuses on the peacekeeping missions conducted by the UN during the late 1990s, while carefully “assessing the operational mechanism” of the UNTAG in Namibia and its interaction with UNPOL and CIVPOL while keeping in mind the “geo-political” impact of a “failed intervention” and later providing “viable pragmatic solutions” to ensure a “successful implementation of peace-building and peace-keeping initiatives”. Peace-keeping mission’s success depends heavily on “regional political actors”, whereas to ensure a smooth “democratic transition”, support from international aid organizations, non-government institutions remains vital.
Although, “carefully preparing rehabilitation and restructuring programs” while “timely monitoring and evaluating its implementation”, coupled with a “viable pragmatic framework of the peacekeeping mission”, are some of the primary factors responsible for ensuring “regional political cooperation” in an effort to maintain peace.
In the last decade, the world witnessed formulation of various Peacekeeping missions especially strategized to re-vitalise “peace and stability in the region”. However, in the light of frequently increasing international and regional stakeholders such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), power countries such as the US, Britain, Japan, Germany, international institutions such as the European Union (EU), League of Arab States (LAS), Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and African Union (AU), United Nations remains the principle agency whose participation in peacekeeping missions, is “vital”. Today, over 15 peacekeeping missions are deployed under the leadership of UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the principle agency of the UN, which inspite of “formidable expertise and experience” continues to face immense criticism for “fulfilling partial or fraction of expected results”. The criticism highlights two “significant facts”: UN has a habit of “repeating the same mistake in every new mission”, highlighting the “failure to achieve numerous objectives” stated in the “over-ambitious mandate” of UN missions particularly in Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia and Haiti. On the contrary, a large segment of “socio-economic development initiatives” remains “unachieved” as witnessed from its bitter experience in Rwanda and Sudan.
The article emphasis on the need for UN take a “responsible leadership role” in “resolving international conflicts”, disregarding the “pressure from international political arena” or “acute criticism received from military and security experts” on recent “unfavourable outcomes” from peacekeeping missions. The answer to these “unfavourable outcomes” lies within the successes achieved by the UN peacekeeping missions coupled with numerous successful “resolutions” passed the UN Security Council. The particular case of Namibia and the measures successfully implemented by the then UN Transition Assistance Group while ensuring“ peaceful transition of power” through “elections” and paving a way for a “democratically elected government”, are vital to assess and formulate future peacekeeping missions. The article’s focus is to “carefully understand and assess operational mechanism of the UNTAG” which made it a successful peacekeeping mission while understanding the factors responsible for making the mission a success and “simulating those factors in the peacekeeping missions of today”.
History of Namibia and UNTAG formation
To analyse the factors responsible behind UNTAG mission’s successful, it is important to understand the history of Namibia and the scenario which resulted in the formation of UNTAG. The question of “political stability in Namibia” is as old as the UN itself, perhaps older. Series of dialogues, discussion sand multiple responsible actors advocating for a “peaceful solution” in Namibia, were largely “responsible factors” of its success.
The political quest to control Namibia began with the invasion of British led South African Union forces defeated the then German troops during World War I. Although, the “disputed” Namibia came under the supervision of League of Nations “mandate”, the then British dominated troops of South African Union enjoyed “political and administrative” control over the region. However, during post-World War II, the International Court of Justice “over-ruled” the de-facto political and administrative control of South African Union forces on Namibia terming it “illegal and violation of all international laws”, brushing the judgment aside, South Africa continues to treat Namibia as its own “province”. In an effort to achieve independence from the then South African “occupation” of Namibia, a violent faction in the name of South Africa People’s Organization was formed.
Clearly mentioning the “international status” of Namibia, the then United Nations Security Council passed numerous resolutions between the year 1966 and 1968. Namibia was now under direct UN administration, whose responsibility was given to the then formed UN Council on South West Africa. After completing numerous “fact-finding missions”, the UN Council on West Africa agreed that “the South African occupation of Namibia was illegal” and in 1975 declared to “democratically conduct elections under the UN supervision”. While three members of the P5 countries plus Canada and Germany “debated for a peaceful independence”, the then “apartheid gripped” South Africa wanted to retain its “occupation” on Namibia. United Nations, then officially recognized SWAPO as a “responsible stakeholder and partner in peaceful discussions”, in 1976.
The official formulation of the UNTAG peacekeeping mission was complete in early 1978, whereas its mandate was completely “strategized” by the end of the same year, with a principle focus of “carrying out peaceful democratic transition of power while declaring Namibia’s independence”. However, the official deployment of UNTAG was delayed for eleven years only to be implemented after a temporary ceasefire between SWAPO and South African troops in April 1989. The time taken by UN to successfully deploy its peacekeeping mission was largely contributed to the Cold-War which will be significantly addressed in the later section of the article. The UNTAG peacekeeping mission lasted for one complete year and its formal closing came only when the state assembly received a formal declaration from then UNTAG Special Representative on 21st March 1990.
Essential elements of success
To draw an initial assessment of the UNTAG mission in an effort to compare it with other UN peacekeeping missions, it is imperative to first understand the nomenclature of its mandate. The Mandate not only states the “operational mechanism of UN troops on the ground, but also acts a framework strictly defining the actions of UN personnel”, including their “rule of engagement” while highlighting “objectives of the mission” with an interim timeline.
The principle discussion during the “formulation of any UN Mandate” largely rests on Chapter VI or Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. Chapter VI explicitly states the use of military force only in cases when “fired upon” while explicitly mentioning a formal “ratification of all stakeholders”, meanwhile Chapter VII states the use of necessary military force without “formal ratification of any stakeholder”. Today, experts continue to argue on the successes achieved by peacekeeping missions implementing Chapter VII of the UN Charter, as the mission remains “independent” and free to initiate any formal military engagement while inducing “political pressure” if necessary, in an effort to “maintain peace and stability in the region”. The Rwandan genocide is a perfect example, as the mission received only the mandate of Chapter VI making it “impossible to initiate a direct confrontation” with violent factions. In this scenario, the mission failed largely because of an unmatched mandate.
Although, it extensively depends upon the “intensity of conflict and presence of responsible stakeholders”, the mandate including Chapter VI proved to be vital, in case of UNTAG in Namibia, and a perfect example to “implement successful peace and stability in a region” without the direct use of military action.
Furthermore, the responsibility to “build and secure negotiations” further increase the stakes of responsible parties, which can be highlighted from “extensive diplomatic engagements between SWAPO and South Africa.
However, no individual can predict the “the success of peacekeeping mission solely from either Chapter VI or Chapter VII mandates”. Although, the difference will be created when the “mandate is able to fulfill the operational requirements of a peacekeeping mission”. This “burden of responsibility” only lies with the Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council.
Role of international communities
Experts have “traditionally” credited the success of UNTAG peacekeeping mission to “effective communication and coordination” between the then members of United Nations Security Council. This statement is essentially correct, as the global dynamics were “fluid” then, in the light of the Cold War. With “principle of uncertainty” hanging over the mission, the then member nations of the Security Council adopted the 1978 UN Security Council Resolution 435, while ensuring “legal necessities” of the mission and formally deploying the UNTAG forces by the end of Cold War.
In the light of Cuban troops withdrawal from Angola, the then policy makers at the UN were not willing to take any chance of “outgoing clashes” between SWAPO in Namibia and angered Cuban forces, thus delaying the deployment of UNTAG peacekeeping force for over eleven years, even after successful ratification of the then Resolution 435. In the meantime, South Africa was taking desperate “maneuvers” in an effort to retain its “colony” under the apartheid system, rallying behind the then Reagan administration through a strategic partnership agreement: South Africa, however “hesitantly” accepted the UN led leadership of Namibia while forming an alliance with the US to prevent communism from spreading from Mozambique to Angola and South Africa. South Africa made a “political maneuver”, establishing relationship with Washington in the light of the latter’s “involvement in South Africa’s domestic politics”.
Washington on the contrary, needed South Africa’s support, in an effort to address the issue of Namibia’s independence, needing a formal consent from South Africa under the Chapter VI of the UN Charter. Washington refrained to infiltrate militarily in Angola and Namibia, as these “geographies” did not hold much “political value”. Furthermore, Washington could not afford another proxy war especially when the “political and economic” stakes were high, after its recent “costly gamble” in Vietnam.
Taking the communist perspective, which were then Cuba and Angola, with Soviet Union supporting them, Soviet Union could not maintain a grip in Cuba. The winds of “communist politics” were drastically changing course. Moreover, South African military units along with forces of Frente Nacional da Liberaçao de Angola (FNLA) and the National Union for Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) soldiers, financially aided by Washington, began “aggressive” military attacks on Soviet backed Cuban and Angolan troops within Angola. This resulted in “politico-military campaign” supported by both blocs. In 1984, the then President of Angola, declared the withdrawal of its troops, only under three conditions:
a)South Africa must remove all its troops from Angolan territory.
b)Implement Resolution 435, but only under the leadership of UN.
c)Immediately cease all US and South African intervention in Angolan domestic politics.
It remains a fact that, “Post-Cold War period brought a tremendous shift in international politics” which also ended the “stalemate in UN Security Council” making it “effective” to take decisions again. Furthermore, in case of Namibia’s independence, the role of UNTAG peacekeeping mission was vital and received a significant support from international communities (all actors) ensuring a “positive result”. The need for members of the UN Security Council and other international communities to support any UN peacekeeping mission, is absolutely vital, without which, the peacekeeping mission will not be able to deliver necessary progressive results.
Role of regional communities
The success of the UNTAG peacekeeping mission was not only possible because of an extensive support from international communities, the necessary support from regional and domestic cooperation remained vital during “electoral proceedings”. The theory to conduct elections in a conflict state has been “discussed and debated rigorously, many questioning the UN’s state building initiatives, however, in Namibia, without “opening the doors to free and fair elections, UNTAG peacebuilding successes couldn’t have achieved. From a point of “traditional analysis”, there are three key points policy makers must remember. Some may be unique for Namibia, while other case analysis can be “effectively used to reinforce on-going peacekeeping missions while formulate effective operations in the near future”.
a) To begin with, the “root cause of the issue” along with cooperation and coordination between multiple regional stakeholders at various levels provided strength to the “peacekeeping initiatives” right from the beginning. The “stance” taken by multiple stakeholders were “clear” highlighting the difference between “contested parties” and parties “voicing to achieve a same goal”, which separated the “two conflicted parties from other groups”. This eased the efforts taken by the UN military Observer units to monitor ceasefire. Moreover, bilateral communications between the “contesting stakeholders” through mediation from an international inspector, United Nations in this case, easily communicated between the two.
b) It would not be incorrect to state that, the issue in Namibia was “largely one-sided” especially in the context of “regional political turmoil”. Border skirmishes, violent ethnic clashes and resources distribution, did not affect the peace process. The incumbent peace-keeping missions in Sudan and missions in Rwanda, the threats to peacebuilding were extensive.
c) Moreover, the Namibian government institutions, before the deployment of UNTAG peacekeeping forces, were “structurally functioning”, as the institutions did not receive extensive damages in the civil war. With a large section of government institutions still functioning, across the country, UNTAG were able to “operate and carry out constitution election successfully” using such “institutional support”. It is important to note that, the supervision of UN mission in Congo largely failed because of absence of vital “institutional infrastructure”, which were decimated in subsequent civil wars.
While carefully assessing the role of “civil society in the success of UNTAG peacekeeping mission”, it is imperative for domestic entities to play a responsible role, to ensure the success of peacekeeping missions. These domestic entities included regional, local and national political organizations, the press, civil society institutions, non-government agencies, government entities and various minority groups. The responsibility taken by local masses during elections, changed the course of Namibian history. As a matter of fact, the voters appearing to cast votes outnumbered even the UN voting estimation exceedingly by 50:1. The total recorded turn out was at 97 percent.
Besides “cooperation and coordination” from international and domestic stakeholders, the objectives of the UNTAG peacekeeping mission followed by relentless efforts undertaken by its personnel, resulted in successful constitution elections. The mandate of the mission “coupled” the effectiveness and the efficiency of UNTAG personnel in Namibia, which gave desired results. It is imperative for the mission to fulfill “operational goals”, even overlooking the people’s “suspicions”. It is also important to note that, beside UNTAG, there were no “successful” peacekeeping missions that democratically conducted constitutional elections; “UNTAG was swimming in unchartered territories”. If the elections turned out to be a failure or “rigged”, would not only have dissolved the legitimacy of political institutions but could have raised questions on the ability of UN peacekeeping while “extensively” compromising UN position of “neutrality”. Besides South Africa, almost every stakeholder had “certain hidden agendas” forcing them to support UNTAG.
Apart from this “complex political understanding”, there was an “effective and efficient” cooperation and coordination between different military officers, advisors, civilian staffers and UNPOL officers. The mission was not only to observe a ceasefire, but it largely extended to “conducting free and fair elections” which needed the support of UNPOL and civilian staffers. The triggered an “intensely complex, integrated multidimensional response” coupled by “extensive and rigorous communication” within all sectors and command units within UNTAG headquarters. This indeed was a “complex scenario”, especially when the deployed troops hailed from different countries with different command structure and expertise.
Besides communication and integrated command structures, the mission responsibility largely depended on “skilful resourceful officers”, who maintained a direct communique with their headquarters in New York, will facing “numerous threats to peace”.
However, there were series of “frequent rigorous” clashes between SWAPO and South African military units, and fighting began intensive with every clash. This occurred during the initial deployment of UNTAG observers, in a time when the personnel strength was half. The peacekeeping initiatives were further reinforced with diplomatic communique, which resulted in a meeting between UN diplomat and the two “contentious” parties. SWAPO then began to actively participate in DDR (Disarmament, De-mobilization and Reintegration), only when UNTAG was in full strength. With complete in strength, UNTAG headquarters responded actively while establishing an effective communication with all UNTAG mobile and command units, in an effort to quickly resolve the conflict. The failure of timely communication resulted in loss of numerous lives during UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda. Policy makers must note that, communication plays a vital role in de-escalating conflict.
The UNPOL acted as a bridge, connecting commanders in UN HQ directly with the masses. The observers deployed under civilian police units, were strictly instructed to not to take an action directly, rather focusing on the development of local police units, South African police, until the independence of Namibia.
The civilian police units were strictly tasked to maintain “peace, security and the rule of law ”while remain “unbiased” throughout the time. This was quite a difficult task. The local masses were not aware about the civilian police structure, new to their environment, building trust remained vital. Civilian police units conducted numerous peace building public centric initiatives, in an effort to gain trust. South Africa tried to portray a “negative image” about civilian policing, while strengthening their tactics of “guerrilla warfare” in an effort to counter police with an objective to create chaos. With an effective communication with UNTAG HQ and other command and mobile units, the UN successfully countered the insurgency through diplomatic means.
Furthermore, the success of the mission extensively depended on “winning hearts and mind”, the cooperation of the masses and their coordination with the UNTAG observers remained vital. As stated in aforementioned arguments, the mandate of UNTAG was strictly political; “free fair and democratically” conduct constitutional elections. In the past UN peacekeeping operations, “conducting free and fair elections” was no less than a nightmare for officers and commanders of UN. Indeed democratically conducted elections boosts the moral, but if the election fails, the domino effect created by the failure to conduct free and fair elections will instigate cataclysmic events. After the formal declaration of elections, the masses are “vulnerable to violence”. During this time, UN HQ discusses multiple challenges, especially those faced during formulation of a timeline, voter registration and counting procedures, selection of the electoral system, plus the availability of a suggestion/complain box. The responsibility is not limited to only “conducting elections” but ensuring that the electoral candidates do not violate any laws established or install dictatorial control over the government, remains vital for peacekeeping officers to address. UNTAG successfully addressed all the aforementioned “challenges”. Since, Namibian masses had no “electoral” experience, hence, the masses were given “extensive” electoral education. UNTAG HQ successfully distributed numerous multi-lingual pamphlets and distributed them throughout the country. The officers closely worked with religious establishments and local policy leaders in an effort to create awareness among the masses, while spreading the agenda and purpose of the UN mission. Despite facing serious financial challenges, UNTAG successfully achieved its mandate. Considering all stages (from monitoring to implementation), not one issue pertained. The UNTAG officers demonstrated highest “responsible behaviour and completed their task with outmost professionalism while maintaining timely and effective cooperation and coordination with command and mobile units”.
To successfully achieve the mission-mandate, timing was imperative. Timing played a phenomenal role in the success of UNTAG mandate:
a)UNTAG HQ maintained it separate timeline syncing it with the timeline established to conduct elections, which began on the day of its deployment. Furthermore, the role of the stakeholders and their presence were all accounted for, making UNTAG the only agency to conduct elections.
b)Most importantly, the time between the ratification and acceptance of the 1978 Resolution of 435 and UNTAG peacekeeping missions formal deployment in 1989, eleven years were significant for UNTAG to simulate and prepare.
Policy makers must note that, the actual deployment structure remained the same even after its deployment in 1989.This structure was further reinforced with “ready to support” stakeholders. This made UN’s image as a principle agency to carry out peacekeeping missions “concrete” as it relentlessly pursued the then members of the UN Security Council to ratify and adopt the Resolution 435, while “extensively engaging” with all stakeholders.
Moreover, a large section of UN peacekeeping officers, extensively worked on identifying viable pragmatic policies to conduct free and fair Namibian elections in these eleven years. This ensured a “constant flow of information, management of information while maintaining constant and effective communication between the stakeholders. In this case, the preparations were “exceedingly lengthy” and “available time was cautiously and judiciously” utilized in relation to the “mandate and operational mechanism along with personnel management and communique”, which ultimately resulted in the success of UNTAG mission.
Today, peacekeeping missions conducted by UN, continues to face “questions on its legitimacy”. Many experts, think tank policy specialists and political leaders world-wide not only “consider it as an intervention” but also raises questions on “moral and ethnic grounds”. Superimposed by past unsuccessful peacekeeping missions the perception of general masses have drastically changed. Some raises questions on the missions “sustainability”, while many questions the “dilemma of democracy or the rise of dictatorial regimes”.
Policy makers and expert military strategists continue to face numerous challenges in “devising an appropriate peacekeeping strategy”. Every mission is new and seek different approaches, especially in its complexities, stakeholder’s approach and superimposing mandates. Although, one factor that could determine the success of peacekeeping mission, “operational mechanism”, which certainly exists in every mission, if “harness effectively and efficiently” with a right mandate, has the potential to drive mission successfully. However, it will not be incorrect to say that, UNTAG did not face any “complex hostile environment” as compared to UN missions in Rwanda, Sudan and Somalia. However, the successes achieved during UNTAG mission in Namibia, highlights certain “facts” applicable in all future UN peacekeeping initiatives.
a)It is absolutely vital for members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to formulate a “mission centric mandate”.
b)The success of any peacekeeping mission largely depends upon cooperation and coordination at international, national, local and regional levels. This step should be further reinforced by “creating community centric development programs/initiatives”.
Then comes the “eccentricity of timing and pre-planning.
If the mandate is achieved before the estimated established time, the confidence of the people will increase and so does the missions/organizations authenticity and legitimacy. Policy makers must prepare thoroughly, assess and simulate all probable/possible scenarios, in an effort to increase their “effectiveness” to respond to “unprojectable situations”, which are always “possible” during UN peacekeeping operations.
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