This work will discuss the comparative impact the two ‘greater’ Caspian littorals have on global stability based on strategic objectives backed by military power and intervention. The comparison analyzes the United States, China, Russia, Iran, and Israel.
The key areas reviewed are strategic objectives, military power, military intervention, and terrorism support. The information gathered is used to create an ordering system designed to highlight each nation’s impact on global stability. In assessing military might, the following military strength indicator chart was used to measure each nation’s capacity. This chart should be referenced throughout:
Scoring for the ordering system was based upon a scale of one to five, with five representing the highest threat measure. In strategic objectives a score of five was the most globally assertive and intrusive nation. Military power was scored from strongest being a five to lowest being one. Military intervention was based on global intervention operations and resultant instability. In scoring terrorism, a score of five is a nation that is a designated state supporter of terrorism, either directly or indirectly. Finally, the scores were combined to determine most threatening to least threatening for global stability.
Threat Assessment Ordering System
|Country||Strategic Objectives||Military Power||Military Intervention||Terrorism Support||Impact on Global Stability|
The United States outlined in its security strategy that it will lead with purpose, strength, by example, with capable partners, with all the power of the nation, and with long-term perspective. As outlined in Nabudere:
The U.S. believes that as a leader of the “Free World” it has the responsibility to ensure global peace and security and to do this, it needs to develop the resources in the entire world on a “free trade” basis. But, as we have seen, this has been achieved through manipulation and the use and threat of use of force against its weaker opponents in the Third World.
Since September 11, 2001, the United States expanded its perceived responsibility to ensure global peace. The events of 9/11 sparked the United States to embark on a ‘Global War on terrorism’ and the execution of this policy centered on preemptive strikes. As the undisputed world military superpower, the United States has used the preemptive strike policy since 9/11 to weaken Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and remove Saddam Hussein in Iraq. However, this has protracted into a fifteen year global war which has often crossed over into Pakistan. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein has resulted in instability within Iraq with regional implications most vividly seen in the DAESH threat. Finally, the United States has implemented a highly controversial drone program to attack and kill terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria and Somalia.
The strategic objectives of China revolve around regional interest. At present, China is pursuing three core security objectives in East Asia: exerting control over its near seas, promoting China-centered regional economic integration, and defending and advancing Chinese sovereignty claims. China exerts regional leverage while attempting to keep from direct confrontation with the United States. According to the military strength indicator chart, China ranks number three. China has embarked on a long military power buildup over the previous three decades. While China has steadily professionalized its army and naval forces, the emphasis has been on regional power and security. While China still relies on Russia for many key military technologies, China has made its greatest technology strides in space as outlined in Office of the Secretary of Defense:
China possesses the most rapidly maturing space program in the world and is using its on-orbit and ground-based assets to support its national civil, economic, political, and military goals and objectives. China has invested in advanced space capabilities, with particular emphasis on satellite communication (SATCOM), intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), satellite navigation (SATNAV), and meteorology, as well as manned, unmanned, and interplanetary space exploration. Continued strides in space will lead to future technology advances that will benefit China’s military. These advances will allow China to have less dependence on Russia in the future.
China has been involved in both maritime and territorial disputes at various times with Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines. However, China chooses to handle these disputes using “Deng Xiaoping’s dictum from the early-1990s: that China should observe calmly, secure its position, cope with affairs calmly, hide its capabilities and bide its time, be good at maintaining a low profile, and never claim leadership.” While China does not directly support terrorism it is guilty of supplying arms to nations that are clear sponsors of terrorism.
Russia’s strategic objectives under Putin have been to regain legitimacy on the global stage. Russia’s current strategy has revolved around undermining American interests and to attempt to climb back to world power status, politically, diplomatically, and militarily. Russia is the number two military power on the military strength indicator chart. Russia is not afraid to use military might to achieve its objectives. Russia continues to defy the international community with military and technological support being supplied to North Korea. North Korea has been under the watchful eye of the international community for its nuclear weapons ambitions for years. However, since it is the United States leading the effort to deter these nuclear ambitions, Russia has taken actions to assist North Korea. In addition to North Korea, Russia has also provided nuclear technology and military hardware and advisors to Iran. Russia is currently leading a coalition in Syria with its own elite special forces, Iranian Quds Force members, Hezbollah fighters and Assad’s Syrian troops, all supported by Russian air power. Russia continues to embark on a global effort to reassert itself to the top of the world stage and seeks to gain international legitimacy at least on par with the United States.
To define Iran’s strategic objectives it must first be understood that Iran sees itself as the leader of the Islamic Shi’a world. Iran’s strategic objectives, therefore, are built around four overall objectives: export the Islamic revolution; regional dominance in the Middle East; gain nuclear weapons; and lastly overwhelming, if not outright destroying, Israel. Iran’s conventional military power did not make the list on the military strength indicator chart. Jane’s Defense Weekly offers this overall assessment of Iran’s military:
“Iran’s armed forces are limited, despite their size, by a very poor maintenance record caused by lack of spare parts and very poor training, [t]here is little doubt that, at the moment, Iran is not capable of presenting any credible external threat and conventional force projection is almost certainly limited to within its own borders.”
Iran’s military is old and poorly maintained and most of its conventional forces are centered on national defense via missile systems. The key to Iran’s projection of power is through the desire to acquire nuclear weapons and the exportation and support of terrorism against ‘enemies.’
While the nuclear ambitions of Iran have been slowed by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA), the unintended consequence has been financial assistance for the possible support of terrorism:
But as those U.S. officials well know, Soleimani and a host of his Quds Force underlings and proxies are due to have international and EU sanctions lifted on their involvement in Iran’s supposedly now-resolved nuclear program, thanks to the contentious, American-spearheaded Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA), more commonly known as the Iran deal. Sanctions relief, commingled with the $150 billion “signing bonus” Iran is set to get upon implementation of the JCPA, means an inevitable cash infusion for the Quds Force, enabling it to better prop up whatever’s left of the House of Assad, not to mention its other proxies, from Hezbollah to the Yemeni Houthis.
Israeli strategic objectives revolve around an aggressive defense of the state. Israel as a nation is surrounded on all sides by perceived enemy states or terrorist groups. Israel sees itself in a daily struggle for survival. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has embarked on a political propaganda campaign to gather support against Iran’s nuclear ambitions and to stop the United States from signing the JCPOA. The prime minister even accepted a controversial invitation to speak before the United States Congress from Speaker of the House Boehner. This was against the wishes of the White House, which saw this move as an attempt to undermine the administration and ruin the JCPOA deal. Israel is prepared to use any measure to defend its state. While Israel ranks as number fourteen on the military strength indicator chart, in reality it is one of the most advanced forces in the world. Israel backed by the United States is easily the best military in the Middle East.
In addition to superior equipment and training, Israeli forces are proven. “Israel also has one of the region’s most battle-ready armies, a force that has fought in four major engagements since 2006 and has experience securing a few of the most problematic borders on earth.” (Rosen, Bender, and Macias). Israel uses its forces to intervene or conduct preemptive strikes anytime there is a perceived threat. This has included invasions into Lebanon and air strikes on suspected Syrian nuclear facilities. Israel combats terrorism daily and has been in a consistent fight since the creation of its state.
In conclusion, Russia is the most threatening state to global stability. Russia scored a seventeen, placing it two points ahead of the United States. The major difference between Russia and the United States hinged on the indirect support Russia gives to states that sponsor terrorism, support to North Korean and Iranian nuclear ambitions, and direct military interference to assist in the destabilization of Ukraine and support of Syria’s Assad regime. Perhaps surprisingly, the United States scored the highest in most categories, but its high anti-terrorism agenda arguably makes the United States less a stability risk than Russia. While Iran was the leader in state support of terrorism, it is currently isolated as a regional power and severely hampered by a non-modern military. Some may be even more surprised to find China tying for last place in this assessment, but this ranking must be read with a grain of salt: two of its low scores (strategic objectives and military intervention) admittedly are fueled by an historical strategic philosophy that emphasizes stealth and subtle influence over aggressive overtness. For example, if an economic power used for military coercion factor was included in the study, China would undoubtedly score extremely high, challenged only by the United States. This is why all such studies have to be humble in the assessments made: while the information provided here is hopefully enlightening, it must never be taken as a be-all-end-all assessment of global instability and the states that act as the motor of that chaos. Nevertheless, this study shows that the Caspian ‘greaters’ are indeed major factors on the global stage and can choose to be either a force for good or for chaos when it comes to the ways of war and peace.
Nuclearization Of South Asia: Where Do We Stand Now?
Pakistan-India relations have continued to deteriorate since the nuclear test of May 1998. Both the states have faced numerous crisis during which the nuclear weapons have played a very important role. Nuclear weapons have been an effective deterrent force and kept the conflicts from blowing into all-out war. All the recent events suggests that there is a dire need to take transitional measures to reduce the nuclear risks. Nuclear weapons are confusing pieces of technology as their efficiency of destruction is best established when they are not deployed and yet in the same breath, they are to be used when required. This dilemma is further demented when one state is enemy with the other on almost everything. Escalation is both inevitable and perhaps one of the most devastating missteps in nuclear deterrence; one that requires an impressive level of trust. To achieve such a barrier, conventional rivalries need to be revisited, caution needs to be reinstituted and communication needs to be uninterrupted.
From Massive Retaliation of John Foster Dulles to McNamara’s Assured Destruction, nuclear bipolarity changed faces and paved ways for agreements and treaties to replace escalation and deployments. From direct engagements to proxies, from installation of hotlines to breaking ice and bilateralism, even when there was hope the world still endured in fear of an all-out devastation. Still, after all this, what lessons were learnt? How was ‘responsible nuclear weapons state’ defined? More importantly, what was the yardstick beyond which no state possessing such technology dare not tread? States possessing nuclear weapons technology decided not to escalate beyond a certain point and declared that no matter the trust deficit, they were supposed to always adhere to bilaterally settle their disputes. Even after two decades of nuclearization Pakistan and India, admirers of nuclear learning and experts of nuclear deterrence, perhaps were and might still are devoid of such bilateral convictions.
Looking at all the crisis situations in past most importantly the 1999 Kargil conflict, where the things escalated too quickly under nuclear overhang the question arises whether South Asia learnt anything on how close the Kargil was to a showdown of unimaginable proportion? Talking about more recent event ‘Pulwama’, Whatever happened after Pulwama in 2019 cannot be merely set aside as an emotional rhetoric, it was an actual sub-conventional engagement which had the potential to escalate. Like Kargil Pulwama was a chance to reexamine exactly what went wrong for things to go this far. Instead, India initiated overhauling of its force posture and Pakistan played along. South Asia went from Cold Start to Tactical Nuclear Weapons, from asymmetric confrontations to trans-border infiltrations and from hostilities at Line of Control to Abhinandan’s failed leap for glory. Instantly, everyone started crying war with no one to vouch for peace. What we see now is Indian prompted continued escalatory trajectories, distorted sense of stability, a desperate call for third-party mediation and a complete lack of bilateralism.
Nuclear deterrence, in its generic understanding, requires engaging parties to manifest caution while communicating their strategic posture. Confidence Building Mechanisms in that regard are important but as standalone systems are usually inefficient in dealing with their desired results. Soviet Union’s iron curtain is what caused Cuban Missile Crisis but even a man like Khrushchev realized what could have happened and resorted to engaging with Kennedy. For Narendra Modi and his cabinet, the idealized fog of war cast by an iron curtain of fear/ compellence is much more desirable than a chance at cooperation/dialogue. Bilateralism via Track-II might be fruitful but considering how much we distrust one another, it’s highly likely that all such actions would eventually be put to unnecessary speculation of possessing vested interest. Pakistan and India might not resort to an all-out confrontation but their trust deficit is enough to keep low-yield kinetic engagements alive. Pakistan fears for a false flag terrorist activity from India while India is wary of Pakistan trying to internationalize what it considers to be a bilateral issue.
In the past we have seen that issues between India-Pakistan are never resolved instead the hostility has increased so much that mitigation of the conflict looks like a farfetched idea. Both states need third party to get running the wheel of diplomatic engagement. Nuclear strategy is not a circular motion rather it is a spiraling affair with each turn graduating it to a new occasion whilst remaining hinged to a singular immovable point of connection. If nuclear deterrence keeps rotating without graduating, it tends to wear out its capacity to deter. What happens next is either another Kargil or something even worse. Pulwama, like Pathankot was a chance for both states to engage positively whilst maintaining their adversarial relationship and even now things are, in a way, plausible for this to occur. Threat, in this context, is how the current trajectory is moving from trust deficit to zero tolerance which can lead to incalculable repercussions.
If both India-Pakistan do not learn any lesson from the past then the future might not be very welcoming. . Nuclear deterrence is as important as it is frightening and Mutually Assured Destruction is almost certainly a final outcome if bilateralism is sacrificed at the altars of diplomatic inflexibility. An arms race without restraint is as dangerous as an uncontrolled escalation of sensitive flashpoints and both strategies are corrosive if taken without mutual consent.
22 Years of Nuclearization of South Asia: Current Doctrinal Postures
May 2020 marks the 22nd anniversary of the overt nuclearization of South Asia. The evolved nuclear doctrinal postures of both India and Pakistan have been a key component of their defence and security policies. During this period; India has undergone gradual shifts in its nuclear doctrinal posture. The Indian posture as set out in the 1999 ‘Draft Nuclear Doctrine‘ (DND) was based on an assertion that India would pursue the ‘No First Use’ (NFU) policy. The first amendment to this posture, which came out in January 2003, was based on a review by the Indian Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) of the nuclear doctrine. It stated that if India’s armed forces or its people were attacked with chemical and biological weapons, India reserves the right to respond with nuclear weapons. This review could, therefore, be considered a contradiction to India’s declared NFU policy at the doctrinal level. On the basis of this notion, it could be assumed that India has had an aspiration to drift away from its NFU policy since 2003.
Subsequently, the notion of a preemptive ‘splendid first strike‘ has been a key part of the discourse surrounding the Indian and international strategic community since the years 2016-2017. According to this, if in India’s assessment, Pakistan was found to be deploying nuclear weapons, in a contingency, India would resort to such a splendid first strike. With such a doctrinal posture, India’s quest for preemption against Pakistan seems to be an attempt to neutralize the deterrent value of Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities. In this regard, India has been constantly advancing its nuclear weapons capabilities based on enhanced missile programs and the development of its land, sea, and air-based nuclear triad thus negating its own NFU policy. This vindicates Pakistan’s already expressed doubts over India’s long-debated NFU policy. Such Indian notion would likely serve as an overt drift towards a more offensive counterforce doctrinal posture aimed at undermining Pakistan’s deterrence posture. This would further affect the strategic stability and deterrence equilibrium in the South Asian region.
India’s rapid augmentation of its offensive doctrinal posture vis-à-vis Pakistan is based on enhancing its strategic nuclear capabilities. Under its massive military up-gradation program, India has developed the latest versions of ballistic and cruise missiles, indigenous ballistic missile defence (BMD) systems in addition to Russian made S-400, nuclear submarines, and enhanced capabilities for space weaponization. In the same vein, India’s aspiration for supersonic and hypersonic weapons is also evidence of its offensive doctrinal posture. Furthermore, India has been carrying out an extensive cruise missile development program having incredible supersonic speed along with its prospective enhanced air defence shield. Through considerable technological advancements India has shifted its approach from a counter-value to a counter-force doctrinal posture, as it demonstrates its ambitions of achieving escalation-dominance throughout the region. These technological advancements are clear indicators that India’s doctrinal posture is aimed at destabilizing the existing nuclear deterrence equilibrium in South Asia.
Pakistan, on the other hand has been threatened by India’s offensive postures and hegemonic aspirations. Consequently it has to maintain a certain balance of power to preserve its security. Pakistan’s doctrinal posture is defensive in nature and has over the years shifted from strategic deterrence to ‘full spectrum deterrence’ (FSD) by adding tactical nuclear weapons which, it claims, falls within the threshold of ‘minimum credible deterrence’. In this regard, Pakistan too has developed its missile technology based on; short, intermediate, and long-range ballistic missiles. Pakistan’s tactical range ‘Nasr’ missile is widely regarded as a ‘weapon of deterrence’ aimed at denying space for a limited war imposed by India. The induction of ‘multiple independent reentry vehicle’ (MIRV), the development of land, air and sea-launched cruise missiles and the provision of a naval-based second-strike capability have all played a significant role in the preservation of minimum credible deterrence and the assurance of full-spectrum deterrence at the strategic, operational and tactical levels.
Contrary to India’s declared NFU policy, Pakistan has never made such an assertion and has deliberately maintained a policy of ambiguity concerning a nuclear first strike against India. This has been carried out to assure its security and to preserve its sovereignty by deterring India with the employment of Full Spectrum Deterrence (FSD) within the ambit of Credible Minimum Deterrence. This posture asserts that since Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are for defensive purposes in principle, they are aimed at deterring India from any and all kinds of aggression. This has been evident from recent crisis situations as well during which Pakistan’s deterrent posture has prevented further escalation. Therefore, even now Pakistan is likely to keep its options open and still leave room for the possibility of carrying out a ‘first strike’ as a viable potential deterrent against India if any of its stated red lines are crossed.
Hence, the security dynamics of the South Asian region have changed significantly since its nuclearization in 1998. The impact of this has been substantial and irreversible on regional and extra-regional politics, the security architecture of South Asia, and the international nuclear order. As has been long evident India has held long term inspiration to become a great power. There have been continuous insinuations about the transformations in India’s nuclear doctrinal posture from ‘No First Use’ to counterforce offensive posture. The current security architecture of South Asia revolves around this Indian behavior as a nuclear state. In contrast, Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine is based solely on assuring its security, preserving its sovereignty, and deterring India by maintaining a credible deterrence posture. Based on the undeniable threats from India to its existence, Pakistan needs to further expand its doctrinal posture vis-à-vis India. This would preserve the pre-existing nuclear deterrence equilibrium and the ‘balance of power’in the South Asian region.
Israel Shines in the Gulf Where Big Powers Falter, but That Could Prove Tricky
The Firefly, an Israeli-built loitering kamikaze drone, part of the Spike family of missiles that the Jewish state has sold to various European nations, may be one reason why Gulf states, and particularly Saudi Arabia, have cozied up to Israel in a seeming reversal of their past support of Palestinian rights.
If there is one lesson that Gulf states have learned from the United States’ reduced commitment to the region and the strains in US-Saudi relations, it is that putting one’s eggs in one basket is risky business.
That has not prevented the United States from continuing to secure its place as the region’s foremost arms supplier as this month’s arms and related commercial deals prove.
The US Defense Department announced a $2.6 billion USD Saudi deal to acquire 1,000 air-to-surface and anti-ship missiles from Boeing. Within days, Saudi Arabia’s Al Tadrea Manufacturing Company tweeted that it had reached agreement with Oshkosh Defense to establish a joint venture to manufacture armed vehicles in the kingdom.
The Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, disclosed separately that it had recently taken a $ 713.7 million USD stake in Boeing at a time when the company, already suffering major setbacks because of its 737-Max fiasco, took a significant hit as a result of a collapse of the civilian aviation industry.
The continued Saudi arms focus on the United States has not deprived China of opportunities. China has stepped in to help Saudi Arabia produce unmanned military vehicles after the United States refused to sell its MQ-9 Reaper killer drone to the kingdom. Saudi Arabia expects production to start next year.
Like China, Russia has been urging Saudi Arabia to purchase its acclaimed S-400 anti-missile defense system. So far, the kingdom, having watched the United States cancel NATO-member Turkey’s purchase of US F-35 fighter jets and its co-production agreement of some of the plane’s components after it acquired the Russian system, has been reticent to take the Russians up on their offer.
The limitations of Saudi-Russian cooperation have since become obvious with April’s price war between the two major oil producers that sent oil markets into a tailspin from which they are unlikely to recover any time soon.
Israel, like China and Russia and unlike the United States, puts no problematic restrictions such as adherence to human rights and use of weaponry in accordance with international law on its arms sales.
But Israel has one leg up on its Chinese and Russian competitors who maintain close ties to Iran. Israel shares with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) a perception of Iran as an existential threat and a destabilizing force in the Middle East that at the very least needs to be contained.
To be sure, that is a perception that Saudi Arabia and the UAE see reflected in the United States’ maximum pressure policy towards Iran which aims to force the Islamic Republic to “change its behavior,” if not change its regime.
The problem is that maximum pressure two years into the imposition of harsh US economic sanctions has produced little result.
Add to that the fact that the United States has proven to be an unreliable ally when the chips are down, persuading the UAE and other smaller Gulf states to reach out to Iran to ensure that their critical national infrastructure does not become a target in any future major US-Iranian military conflagration.
The watershed moment for the Gulf states was when the United States failed to respond forcefully last spring and summer to alleged Iranian attacks on key Saudi oil facilities as well as oil tankers off the coast of the UAE.
The Trump administration, in a bid to reassure Gulf states, weeks later sent troops and Patriot anti-missile defense systems to Saudi Arabia to help it protect its oil installations, although the United States withdrew two of those systems earlier this month.
It took the killing of a US military contractor in December 2019 for the United States to respond to tens of Iranian-backed attacks on American targets in Iraq. And when it did, with the killing in January of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, Gulf states privately celebrated the demise of their nemesis, but also feared that it was overkill, bringing the Middle East to the brink of an all-out war.
Gulf states are likely to find that cooperation with Israel has its limits too. Israel may be eager to sell weaponry and have the capability to push back at Iran in Syria. If need be, Israel can also severely damage, if not take out, Iranian nuclear and missile facilities in military strikes that Gulf states would be unable to carry out.
But ties to Israel remain a sensitive issue in the Gulf and elsewhere in the Arab and Muslim world. And Israel has so far restricted sales to non-lethal equipment and technology. That could change with a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the establishment of formal diplomatic relations.
Public opinion, however, may be one reason Gulf states have refused to turn unofficial relations into diplomatic recognition, suggesting that there may be greater public empathy for Palestinians than Gulf rulers wish to admit.
That could count for more with Gulf rulers finding it increasingly difficult to provide public goods and services, among which first and foremost jobs, as a result of the global economic crisis and the collapse of oil prices.
Author’s note: This story was first published in Inside Arabia
World Must React to Hindutva Terrorism
The Hindu ideology has transformed into the crude discourses of anti-Muslim platitudes and therefore, existing language of local stereotypes in...
COVID-19: More than a Biological Weapon
While the biological virus is a common enemy of humankind, the political virus born out of certain American politicians is...
Nuclearization Of South Asia: Where Do We Stand Now?
Pakistan-India relations have continued to deteriorate since the nuclear test of May 1998. Both the states have faced numerous crisis...
COVID-19 Intensifies the Urgency to Expand Sustainable Energy Solutions Worldwide
Despite accelerated progress over the past decade, the world will fall short of ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable,...
WTO’s ‘Crown Jewel’ Under Existential Crisis: Problem Explained
World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international body that acts as a watchdog keeping an eye on the rules of...
Yesterday Once More: Me, Anorexia Nervosa and Karen Carpenter
There is no light at the end of the world only solemn-wounds and trees that haunt in the heavenly country...
How Local Governments in China can Utilize New Infrastructure Policy to Promote Development
Authors: Chan Kung and Wei Hongxu* In an effort to promote economic recovery, the central government, local governments, and enterprises have...
Diplomacy3 days ago
Beyond Twiplomacy: Diplomacy and the Digital Fast Forward
Diplomacy3 days ago
A Dose of Communicative Multilateralism
East Asia3 days ago
Predicting the course of US-China relations in the post Covid-19 era
South Asia2 days ago
Youm-e-Takbeer: When A Responsible Nuclear Power Was Born
Americas2 days ago
What do Donald Trump and ultra-conservative Pakistani imams have in common?
Tech News3 days ago
Future Vaccines, Wearable Bio-sensors, Aerospace Navigation: 2020 Cohort of Young Scientists
Americas1 day ago
Murder of George Floyd – On Camera Murder by Neo Ku Klux Klan
EU Politics3 days ago
Japan-EU Leaders’ meeting