NATO strategic response to Ukraine’s annexation by the Russian Federation in March 2014 is currently focused on the forward defense of the Baltic countries, which are increasingly important in Western geostrategic planning and which control from Europe the Arctic zone, the area in which Russia can hit the US interest more easily.
Cleary the Alliance believes that the Baltic countries can be Russia’s next “enlargement”, as happened precisely with Ukraine.
More probably, however, Russia wants to weaken and, indeed, “finlandize” NATO’s Baltic region which, as is also well-known to Russia, is a key point even for the Atlantic interests.
Not to mention the North Pole’s wealth of mining and oil resources, which would really be the economic game changer for the whole Russian system.
And it would also be the Russian solution to replace the Middle East OPEC countries, all with oil wells which are depleting to a greater or lesser extent.
The Russian Arctic region is the area in which approximately 80% of the Far North’s oil is extracted, especially in the Russian autonomous region of Khanty-Mansiysk, in addition to 11 offshore extraction sites in the Barents Sea, 182 in the Kara Sea and a large number (185) in the Russian autonomous region of Nenets.
Hence the Arctic would be the area in which Russia can become the global leader of the oil and gas market.
With specific reference to minerals, in the Russian Arctic area there are large – albeit not yet accurately measured – amounts of copper, gold, nickel, uranium, iron, tungsten and diamonds.
The Russian Arctic area is by far the richest in minerals – and the same holds true for oil and gas, as we have already mentioned.
Russia is protecting its Arctic to avoid future financial dependence on the West and to diversify its economy.
If the United States hit the Russian Arctic, they will destroy the future of Russian resources.
The considerations made above lead us to think that the Russian conflict with NATO in relation to the Baltic countries is also a clash with the Western Alliance for the control, security and safety of the most rational ways of communication between Russia and its Arctic riches.
Hence the aim would be eliminating the possibility of NATO having close bases along the way between Russia and its economic potential in the North Pole.
The issue is whether Russia will be able to fully exploit its Arctic oil and gas.
Gazprom and Rosneft have not yet the technology to extract natural gas and oil, while Western sanctions do not enable Russian companies to obtain the necessary technologies in the West.
And the very limited loans that Russia can obtain in the West – again as a result of sanctions – do not certainly allow the self-funding of these advanced technologies.
According to IAEA, the US oil agency, the Russian Arctic oil will generate profit only when the barrel price reaches 120 US dollars.
However this is not the problem: Russia knows that, in the near future, the Middle East oil will start to run low and it will sell its oil and gas at the highest (fixed) price.
Hence, for the Russian Federation, the ideal solution can only be the stable relationship with China, at least to reach its first strategic goal on its oil and gas market, namely to reduce its dependence on the EU significantly.
Nevertheless there are also other countries on the waiting list.
For example, in November 2014, Russia proposed to India a joint plan for exploiting the oil and gas resources in the Arctic and Siberia, a region that Russia considers to be strategically and politically contiguous to the North Pole.
Currently the amount of natural gas extracted does not meet the expectations of President Putin, who would like to increase the market share of the Russian natural gas from 5% to at least 10%.
It is precisely for this reason that he has urged a partnership on an equal footing with India, together with China.
Hence while NATO is planning its “North’s design”, Russia is developing a Russia-China-India strategic triangle which, for the time being, is mostly economic, but will soon be turned into a political, military and strategic initiative.
For Russia, however, the Arctic is both a geoeconomic issue and a geopolitical and patriotic myth: the Russians participating in a Swedish mission to the North Pole in 2007 planted a titanium Russian flag on the seabed so as to claim the area as “national territory” to all intents and purposes.
In short, on the basis of its current foreign policy doctrine, Russia wants to become a great power, as in the USSR times, but without the limitations of that system.
Hence, above all it fears the encirclement by large and small powers and, in fact, this explains much of Russia’s current postures and attitudes.
Russia’s Arctic strategy, however, is to make their very long polar coast useful also for maritime trade and – as already mentioned – use the North Pole region as the necessary plus to become an oil and economic superpower.
In principle, the Arctic line is much shorter than the one using the Suez Canal. Even China will participate in this project, with its North-Eastern ports, such as Dalian, from which in 2003 the first Chinese icebreaker heading for the Arctic, namely Yong Sheng, left on August 8, which is a lucky day in the Chinese tradition.
From Dalian to Rotterdam, via the Arctic, the Chinese vessel spared thirteen days of navigation compared to the traditional route heading for Suez.
Obviously there is an equally important consideration in Russia’s mind, whereby the Arctic line is the longest border between the Russian Federation and the United States.
This is the reason why NATO is trying to reassure the Baltic countries, which fear above all to end up like Ukraine and hence become the most comfortable passageway for Russia to reach the North Pole from the West and control it.
Russia, however, does not want to “conquer” the smallest Baltic countries – it only wants to have a right of free passage and a strategic and political insurance that attacks on Russia will not be launched from the Baltic region.
Let us revert, however, to NATO operations in
the North Sea and its shores: the naval military exercise BALTOPS, carried out by ships from 17 countries, began on June 5, 2016 and ended on June 20.
As many as 49 ships, with important exercises of submarine warfare, as well as amphibious actions in which 700 Swedish, US and Finnish soldiers participated, and finally with an air force consisting of 61 jet aircraft and the participation of Georgia and thirteen other non-NATO members.
The Atlantic Alliance’s exercises in the North Sea have always been very important: it is in the framework of this type of operations that a submarine, probably a British one, disengaged itself and later went to attack and sink the well-known Russian submarine Kursk equipped with the very advanced VA-111 Skval, a torpedo reaching a speed of 7 to 13 kilometers per second.
In addition to BALTOPS, in November 2014 the three Baltic States created an autonomous military alliance, called NORDEFCO, while Denmark and Sweden agreed on close defense cooperation in January 2016.
For the Atlantic Alliance NORDEFCO should be rapidly extended particularly to the European States such as Germany, Great Britain and Poland and to the United States, almost as an embryo of the “North’s NATO” that some people theorized at the beginning of this millennium
Nevertheless, once again the strategic assessment of the enemy is still based on the old idea – which we deem wrong – whereby Russia would simply like to recover three former Soviet territories, namely Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
We do not believe that this is the Russian strategic motivation: Russia only wants to ensure the security and safety of its sea lines and of its communication with the Arctic, as well as the equivalence of the war potential with the United States on the long Arctic border between the two great countries.
However, there are also Russian territorial claims on the Arctic, which are of considerable political significance.
In 2007, two Mir submersibles reached the maximum depth of the North Pole.
The naval means have scientifically proven that the Lomonosov and Mendeleiev submarine ridges, which reach up to Greenland, are a geological extension of Russia’s continental shelf.
This would enable Russia to claim exploration rights for additional 1.2 million kilometers in the Arctic, which would allow to autonomously exploit the large oil fields of the Chikotka-Murmansk-North Pole region.
It is an evident threat to the almost total hegemony the United States have over the Arctic polar area, which is an essential theme of the US global strategy. The US military bases are scarce and, above all, the US strategy is based on 12 fully-operational icebreakers, in addition to two new recently-built ships.
Once again, however, the United States are lagging behind compared to Russia: the latter has 22 icebreakers and other 19 vessels suitable for the Arctic climate. The United States are better equipped in terms of submarines: they have 41 nuclear ones, while Russia has only 25 units of this type.
With specific reference to the forces on the ground, the United States have three brigades in Alaska, each consisting of three thousand soldiers.
Two new air squadrons, with stealth aircraft, are planned to be deployed in a base near Fairbanks, Alaska.
In short, the largest force in the Arctic is still the American one, while Russia is lagging behind in the construction of its Arctic forces.
And the various attempts made by NATO and the Western countries bordering on the Arctic Ocean to decide, on their own, the control areas and the respective territorial changes, in addition to the presence of US military bases on their share of the North Pole, have led Russia to militarize its Arctic region so as to defend its mining networks and avoid the United States even “listening” their signals.
Hence the current Russian defense network is organized as follows:
1) new air bases in Franz Josef Land and in Tiksi, Naryan-Mar, Alykel, as well as in four other areas;
2) naval bases in Franz Josef Land and in the New Siberia’s islands;
3) infantry bases: the imminent creation of the North Arctic Group and of two Arctic brigades, a motorized infantry one in Murmansk and the other in the Nenets district;
4) the electronic warfare regiment of the Northern Fleet deployed in Alakurtti, near Murmansk;
5) five fixed radar centers in Sredni, Alexandra Land, Wrangel Island, Juzhnii and Chukotka;
6) the air defense positions: the Pantsjr-S1 system has already been adapted to the Arctic climate and the different modes of use in extreme cold weather conditions;
7) a joint strategic command of the Northern Fleet, the Arctic brigades, the air force, the air defense and the electronic and signal intelligence centers.
The Arctic and the control over it are a sort of insurance that Russia will continue to be a global power at energy level, while strategically the North Pole is already part of the US missile defense system, which could weaken the Russian nuclear potential and hence make Russia irrelevant at geostrategic level.
Hence, according to the Russian decision-makers, the Arctic is the region where, in the future, the Atlantic Alliance’s pressure will be mostly felt. The Atlantic Alliance will not operate by making people rise up with “color revolutions”, as there is no population in the Arctic, but it will directly threaten the Russian military apparatus in the region and hence also in South-Central Russia.
Furthermore, considering the now stable tendency to ice melting, the Arctic will increasingly become a potential conventional war area.
Therefore NATO would use the Baltic region as an area to make its operations in the North Pole safe, while a remote and irrational invasion of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia is expected.
Towards Increasingly Complex Multipolarity: Scenario for the Future
A “New World Order” (NWO) is emerging before everyone’s eyes, said Aleksandr Fomin, Russian Deputy Defense Minister, in an interview for RT earlier this month. He is quoted by the outlet as saying that:
“Today we are witnessing the formation of a new world order. We see a tendency for countries to be drawn into a new Cold War, the states being divided into ‘us’ and ‘them’, with ‘them’ unambiguously defined in doctrinal documents as adversaries. The existing system of international relations and the security framework is being systematically destroyed. The role of international organizations as instruments of collective decision-making in the field of security is being diminished. Fundamentally new types of weapons that radically change the balance of power in the modern world are emerging, with warfare getting into new areas – into space and cyberspace. This, of course, leads to a change in the principles and methods of war.”
He did not elaborate any further beyond that but it is still possible to make some reasonable conjectures about the NOW’s contours based on empirical evidence to speculate about possible implications.
The processes described by the Deputy Minister can be attributed to a combination of Trump’s US-Chinese trade war that provoked a new Cold War mostly between those two great powers—or “superpowers” according to some—and a World War C, the full-spectrum paradigm-changing processes catalyzed by the world’s uncoordinated attempts to contain COVID-19. The former resulted in purging the U.S. permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (the “deep state”) of any pragmatic Chinese-friendly influence as well as comprehensively redirecting the might of the American military more fully against the People’s Republic. This second-mentioned observation made it all but impossible for the supposedly Chinese-friendly Democrats to reverse Trump’s grand strategic designs following Biden’s inauguration, which is why they, too, have finally jumped onto the anti-Chinese bandwagon.
As for the World War C, it exacerbated the already intense global competition between the U.S. and China, thereby putting additional pressure on American policymakers to pioneer a strategic breakthrough designed to give them an edge over their top global rival. The specifics of their strategic calculations can only be speculated upon, but it is apparently the case that the previously Russophobic Democrats have recently engaged much more pragmatically with Russia over the past month. This is evidenced by the seemingly surprising de-escalation in Ukraine back in late April from the brink of what many thought would be an all-out war between the two, the U.S. equally surprising decision to impose mostly superficial sanctions on Nord Stream 2, the Pentagon spokesman’s unexpected declaration that Russia is not an “enemy” as well as the upcoming Putin-Biden Summit—despite the U.S. leader previously calling the Russian President a “killer”.
Strategic Designs of the “Deep State”
The Democrats—or rather the “deep state” forces behind them—evidently realized the strategic wisdom of Trump’s grand vision of repairing relations with Russia so that the U.S. can concentrate more fully on “containing” China. This is not due to any newfound appreciation of the Eurasian great power, which many of them still hate with a passion on account of its pragmatic dealings with Trump and implementation of conservative policies that contradict the much more liberal approach preferred by American elites, but due to simple pragmatism countering the geostrategic consequences of Trump’s previous four years of global disruptions. With the U.S. military-industrial complex (MIC) increasingly redirected towards “containing” China more than Russia, as is evident from the doctrines that were promulgated during Trump’s presidency and the subsequent shifts in policies, the “deep state” basically had no other choice but continue the course, no matter how begrudgingly.
This explains the expectation that Bidenэs EU trip will lead to a comparative improvement of relations with Russia, even if only resulting in each of their “deep states” regulating their comprehensive competition with one another more responsibly. Russia would receive a relative relief in pressure along its Western flank while the U.S. could redirect more of its military-strategic focus from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) to the “Indo-Pacific”. The continuation of the Obama-era “Pivot to Asia” under the Trump and Biden Administrations is proven by both of their moves to reduce the U.S. military-strategic commitments in West Asia (Syria/Iraq) and Central-South Asia (Afghanistan). Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan was rather unexpected, considering the Democrats’ prior opposition to any of Trump’s policies, but only speaks to how they have been compelled by the circumstances to revise their grand strategic outlook.
The Eurasian “Balancing” Act
The arguably emerging NWO will be characterized by plenty of “balancing”, especially as regards Russian, Turkish, Indian, and Chinese grand strategies in Eurasia:
The Eurasian great power will seek to optimize its Afro-Eurasian “balancing” act between West and East, the former comprising the U.S./EU while the latter encompassing China vis-a-vis BRI; India with respect to the possibility of jointly leading a New Non-Aligned Movement (Neo-NAM); Turkey insofar as managing their “friendly competition” especially in West Asia, the South Caucasus, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), and perhaps soon in Central Asia as well; and Africa when it comes to scaling up the export of Moscow’s “democratic security” solutions to hybrid war-threatened states.
The West Asian great power will double down on its “Middle Corridor” to China via the South Caucasus, Caspian Sea and Central Asia (made all the more viable after its Azerbaijani ally’s victory in last year’s Karabakh War); expand the aforementioned to more closely connect with its Pakistani ally via a revival of the Lapis Lazuli Corridor; further entrench itself in Northern Syria; leverage its Muslim Brotherhood allies for the purpose of expanding its ideological influence throughout the international Muslim community; and continue making inroads in Africa and CEE (especially through arms sales).
The South Asian great power will attempt to use Russia and the U.S. as “balancing” partners for preventing disproportionate dependence on China (though probably moving closer to Moscow than Washington in response to the latter’s recent pressure upon it via S-400 sanctions threats, negative media coverage of its government, violation of its exclusive economic zone and continued failure to reach a free trade deal); explore a detente of sorts with China for the sake of pragmatism; and revive the joint Indo-Japanese Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) to attract more (mostly Western) stakeholders to its campaign to economically compete with China across the Global South.
The East Asian great power will pursue the formation of a Chinese-Muslim bloc in the Eurasian Heartland by leveraging its strategic partnerships and planned W-CPEC+ connectivity with Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey (which might extend as far as Syria and also facilitate the latter three’s incipient plans to create their own Muslim bloc); increasingly rely on S-CPEC+ to expand Chinese-African connectivity via Pakistan (thus importantly avoiding the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca); intensify trade relations with the RCEP states (especially the neighboring ASEAN); explore improving relations with India for pragmatic reasons (so as to avoid a US-provoked two-front war along their frontier and the South China Sea); and ultimately rally the entire Global South behind it via BRI.
Convergences & Contradictions
With the above insights in mind, it is important to point out some key convergences and contradictions:
- All four great powers are interested in economic connectivity, though India is still reluctant to join BRI and will likely remain that way, hence its desire to revive the AAGC and possibly even incorporate Russia into this trans-continental trade framework (focusing on the Arctic, Far East, ASEAN, and Africa);
- Neither of these primary players has any interest in provoking instability, though Turkey’s efforts to expand its influence across the Ummah via its Muslim Brotherhood allies could prolong instability in West Asia and North Africa;
- Each of them is also actively expanding their influence through regional institutions such as Russia’s Eurasian Union, Turkey’s Turkic Council, India’s BIMSTEC, and China’s BRI-linked structures, all of which could better coordinate if Turkey ever joins the SCO (since it is the only of the four nations that is not a SCO member).
-China’s growing economic influence in Central and West Asia could eventually displace Russia’s traditional and newfound role in those two regions, compelling Moscow to increasingly “accommodate” Beijing to gradually cede its current and envisioned leadership there to the People’s Republic;
-Russia is becoming worried that Turkey’s expansion of influence in Moscow’s traditional “spheres of influence” (South Caucasus and Central Asia) might become “unmanageable”, with the worst-case scenario resulting not in “accommodation” like with China but a more intensified trans-regional competition there;
-India’s predicted revival of the AAGC (including with some role for Russia even if in the Arctic and Far East only, as well as a leading role for the U.S.) will heighten China’s threat perception of the South Asian state if it succeeds in expanding its economic influence across the “Global South” and especially along Beijing’s borders.
This forecasted state of strategic affairs will facilitate certain divide-and-rule schemes by the U.S., which might:
-Intensify its information warfare against BRI all across the Global South in order to provoke color revolutions against Chinese-friendly governments there so as to deprive Beijing of the resources and markets that it requires to sustain its planned growth while perhaps also replacing its lost investments there with AAGC ones;
-Refocus its strategic partnership with India on the economically-driven AAGC as opposed to the military-led Quad in order to provide the South Asian great power with financial, leadership and organizational assistance that it requires to compete with China across the Global South and exploit the U.S. planned hybrid war gains there;
-Consider co-opting Turkey sometime in the future in order to leverage its newfound influence in Russia’s traditional spheres of the South Caucasus and Central Asia, thus provoking the earlier mentioned worst-case scenario of intensified competition in the region.
These speculative schemes can be preempted through the following ways:
-China must successfully convince its targeted audience in the Global South that it is pioneering a truly new model of international relations that is much more beneficial for the majority of their people than that the U.S. seeks to retain (albeit through “Lead From Behind” reforms) even if it still takes time to materialize;
-China and India must seriously consider very difficult mutual compromises in order to restore the lost trust between them, especially in the economic-financial-tech spheres, in order to ensure that BRI and the AAGC converge rather than compete, heralding the best-case scenario of a “Renaissance 2.0”;
-Russia and Turkey must sustainably regulate their “friendly competition” through more than just the trust between their present leaders that has been responsible for managing this so far, necessitating some sort of institutionalized framework among them as well as the states within their overlapping “spheres of influence”.
The NWO that was described up until this point is disproportionately dependent on the following conditions:
-The U.S. and Russia successfully beginning a new era of relations, whereby they sincerely intend to regulate their comprehensive competition more responsibly, with an aim towards eventually clinching a “new détente” that would prospectively consist of a series of mutual compromises all across Eurasia;
-India and Turkey continuing to “balance” between the U.S. and Russia so as to ensure their rise as great powers in an increasingly complex world order, which will in turn improve their strategic leverage vis-a-vis China and enable them to expand their envisioned “spheres of influence” more sustainably;
-China continuing to formulate its grand strategy under the unofficial influence of the Mao-era “Three Worlds Theory” wherein the People’s Republic as the largest developing (“Third World”) nation aims to consolidate its leadership over the Global South through win-win BRI deals that lead to a Community of Common Destiny.
Nobody seems to know for sure what sort of the NWO exactly Russian Deputy Defense Minister A. Fomin envisioned when he shared his thoughts about this with RT earlier in the month, but the present analysis attempted to compellingly make the case that this emerging scenario will represent a much more complex version of multipolarity than the current one. Trump’s U.S.-Chinese trade war, which in turn provoked the new Cold War between these two great powers, combined with the black swan event of a World War C to inspire the U.S. “deep state” to pragmatically recalibrate America’s grand strategy away from its hitherto unsuccessful attempts to simultaneously “contain” both Russia and China. The resultant outcome could fundamentally transform the geostrategic situation in Eurasia, both by providing the U.S. with new opportunities to divide and rule the supercontinent but also by giving Russia and China a chance to finally stabilize it in a sustainable way.
From our partner RIAC
UN: Revealing Taliban’s Strategic Ties with Al Qaeda and Central Asian Jihadists
As the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the deadline for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan draws near, the region has been witnessing sudden adjustments. The Taliban have not only intensified assaults against the Afghan government forces and captured new territories but also began to demonstrate their regional ambitions to reduce Washington’s influence in Central and South Asia. As the US military has completed more than half of its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban believe that they defeated America after 20 years of grueling war. The Taliban leaders, who were driven by the latest military successes, began further setting their own conditions for the neighbors and stepping on the toes of Washington in order to prevent the establishment of a new US military base in Central Asia.
On May 26, the Taliban issued a statement warning Afghanistan’s neighbors not to allow the US to utilize their territory and airspace for any future military operations against them. The Sunni Islamist jihadi group cautioned that facilitating US military operations by neighboring countries in the future will be a “great historical mistake and a disgrace that shall forever be inscribed as a dark stain in history.” They further emphasized that the presence of foreign forces is “the root cause of insecurity and war in the region.” The insurgent group strictly warned without elaborating that “the people of Afghanistan will not remain idle in the face of such heinous and provocative acts”. At the end of the statement, they exerted political pressure on the Central Asian states, threatening that “if such a step is taken, then the responsibility for all the misfortunes and difficulties lies upon those who commit such mistakes.”
Given the past experience of US military presence in the region, the Taliban’s threatening appeal is most likely addressed to the governments of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. After the 9/11 attacks the Kyrgyz, Tajik, and Uzbek governments hosted the American military to wage a campaign against the Taliban, Al Qaeda and their Salafi-Jihadi subsidiaries. But virtually every US military base in Central Asia was suddenly expelled when the personal interests of the regional authoritarian leaders have been infringed upon. Uzbekistan expelled the US base from Karshi-Khanabad amid strong political disagreements over a bloody 2005 crackdown on protesters in Andijan. The Dushanbe and Kulob airports in Tajikistan were used very briefly by the NATO forces. The US base at the Bishkek airport in Kyrgyzstan also was closed in 2014 under heavy Russian hands. It is no secret that following the expel of US military bases, some political leaders of Central Asia became skeptical of Washington, thus further perceiving it as an unreliable partner.
The Taliban’s warning to the Central Asian states is fully consistent with the strategic expectations of Al Qaeda, its loyal and faithful ideological partner in the global jihad, both of which jointly seek to push the US out not only from Afghanistan, but also from Central and Southeast Asia. Based on propaganda releases and the rhetoric on Telegram channels, the Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi groups which are linked to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, strongly supported the withdrawal of US forces from the region. Consequently, Uighur and Uzbek jihadists potentially see the Taliban and Al Qaeda as powerful parent organizations, whose resurgence in Afghanistan offers major advantages for their military and political strengthening. Unsurprisingly, Al Qaeda and Taliban aims to oust the US forces from the region, hence playing into the hands of Moscow and Beijing, considering that both unlikely to welcome an increased US military presence in their backyard.
Taliban leaders are well aware that the possible deployment of US military assets in Central Asia will impede their strategic goal in rebuilding the so-called Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Today Washington is actively working with nations surrounding Afghanistan on the deployment of its troops to support Afghan forces “over the horizon” after withdrawal from the country on September 11. The US air support for the Afghan military could thwart Taliban plans to quickly seize Kabul and force them to sit at the negotiating table with the Ashraf Ghani administration. The Taliban have consistently and clearly emphasized in their numerous public statements opposing the negotiation and power share with the Kabul regime. They consider themselves the only and undeniable military-political force that has the right to rule the country in accordance with Sharia law. The Taliban jihadists are determined to continue waging jihad until establishing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and their emir, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, becomes the country’s “lawful ruler”.
On June 6, 2021, the Taliban once again appealed to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan “to resolve their border issues through a dialogue” and “seeking a logical solution that would benefit both sides.” Recall, during the two-day border conflict between the armed forces of the two post-Soviet countries at the end of April, more than 50 people were killed, hundreds were injured and thousands were forced to leave their homes. In its statement, the Taliban, called on Tajik and Kyrgyz leaders to value “the peace and security of their respective nations.” According to the local analysts, Taliban’s “peace-aiming appeal” looks like a mockery of the Afghan people suffering from their bloody jihad.
Taliban’s “Soft Power” Under Construction
The question to be posed is what kind of leverage does the Taliban has with the Central Asian states to put pressure on them in preventing the possible deployment of new US military bases in the region?
The Taliban, an insurgent Islamist group that has yet to come to power, does not have any economic or political leverage over the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. But it is imperative to mention that the Taliban holds “soft power” tools, such as Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi terrorist groups affiliated with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. These groups challenged the region’s secular regimes, hence aiming to establish an Islamic Caliphate in the densely populated Fergana Valley, sandwiched between Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
It is no secret that the Central Asian post-Soviet countries consider the Al Qaeda-linked Uzbek and Uighur Sunni Salafi-Jihadi groups hiding in Taliban-controlled Afghan soil as a threat to the security of the entire region. Recall, the first group of radical Islamists from Central Asia who found refuge in Afghanistan in the mid-90s was the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which had close and trusting ties with both Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Currently, Uighur fighters of Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) from China’s Xinjiang, Uzbek militant groups such as Katibat Imam al-Bukhari (KIB), Katibat Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ), the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) and Tajik militants of Jamaat Ansarullah (JA) wage jihad in Afghanistan under the Taliban’s umbrella.
The Taliban still strongly support Uzbek and Uighur jihadists despite the 2020 US-Taliban peace agreement that requires the Taliban to sever ties with Al Qaeda and all Central Asian terrorist groups.
In response to documentary evidence of the UN Security Council and the US Defense Intelligence Agency on the Taliban’s close-knit relationship with Al Qaeda and their failure to fulfill the obligation, the Taliban have adopted new tactics to publicly deny the presence of transnational terrorist groups in the country and their ties to them. The Taliban still insist that there are no foreign fighters in the country. But regular UN reports reveal the true face of the Taliban, who are trying to hide their deep network links with Al Qaeda and Central Asian Islamists — a decades-old relationship forged through common ideology and a history of joint jihad.
Thus, a recently released report by the UN Security Council’s Taliban Sanctions Monitoring Team confirms that there are “approximately between 8,000 and 10,000 foreign terrorist fighters from Central Asia, the North Caucasus and China’s Xinjiang in Afghanistan. Although the majority are affiliated foremost with the Taliban, many also support Al Qaeda.” The UN report stated that Uzbek and Uighur jihadists’ ties with the Taliban and Al Qaeda remain “strong and deep as a consequence of personal bonds of marriage and shared partnership in struggle, now cemented through second generational ties.” Further the UN monitoring team revealed Al Qaeda’s core strategy of “strategic patience,” according to which the group would wait for “a long period of time before it would seek to plan attacks against international targets again.”
According to the report, “several hundred Uighur jihadists of Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) located primarily in Badakhshan and neighboring Afghan provinces, whose strategic goal is to establish an Islamic Uighur state in Xinjiang, China.” To achieve its goal, TIP facilitates the movement of fighters from Afghanistan and Syria to China. Abdul Haq al-Turkistani, who is a member of Al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, leads the Syrian and Afghan branches of TIP for more than two decades. According to the UN monitoring group, “Uighur militant Hajji Furqan, the TIP’s deputy emir, is also a deputy leader of Al Qaeda and responsible for the recruitment of foreign fighters.” Such mixed appointments of group leaders highlight the close and deep ties between the troika: Taliban-Al Qaeda-TIP.
The UN report found more evidence of close cooperation between Uzbek IMU jihadists and the Taliban. The report stated that the “IMU fighters are currently based in Faryab, Sar-e Pol and Jowzjan provinces, where they dependent on the Taliban for money and weapons”. The UN monitoring team also highlighted the activities of Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi groups such as KIB, IJU and Jundullah, which are waging jihad in the northern Afghan provinces of Faryab and Kunduz under Taliban shelter and control. “The Taliban has forbidden these groups from launching independent operations, resulting in a reduction of their income.” In conclusion, UN analysts noted that pressure on the Taliban to cut their ties with Al Qaeda and Central Asian Salafi groups has not succeeded. Thus, the UN report once again refuted the Taliban’s assertion that Al Qaeda and Central Asian jihadists are not present in Afghanistan.
Thus, it can be assumed that while US military pressure persists, the Taliban’s tactics will continue to publicly deny their trust relationships and close ties with Al Qaeda, Central Asian jihadists, and other transnational terrorist groups in the country. But as long as the Taliban’s perception of its own level of influence and control in Afghanistan remains high, insurgents will continue to insist that they are abiding by the accord with the US.
The Taliban’s strategy is to build the foundation of their “soft power” through the patronage and protection of Al Qaeda and Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi groups in Afghanistan. Thus, in this complex process, not only material interests, but also common religious roots originating in the Hanafi school of Sunni Islamic theology and mutual sympathy for jihadist ideological visions might play a significant role.
Cyber-attacks-Frequency a sign of Red Alert for India
The biggest target is in terms of transportations, nuclear power plants, Power system Operation Corporation Limited, V.O. Chidambaram Port Trust, Telangana State Load Dispatch Centre, logistic industries and research organisations which eventually can lead to destruction of the whole ecosystem. The confidentiality breach in the case of medical data leak as reported by a German cyber security firm –Greenbone Sustainable Resilience wherein Picture Archiving and Communication Servers were linked to public internet without any requisite protection is a point of concern. Then, there are certain individualistic attacks such as hacking email and financial crimes (banking), etc. In the last two years the attacks radar of focus has been defence, government accounts and the vaccine manufacturing companies.
Cyber Security – Individualistic awareness need of the hour
The target of the individual in a peculiar case which led to heinous crimes casted was due to opening of a document which was a bait to install Netwire- a malware. The bait was eventually delivered through a file and what prompted a person to open that link was a Drop box sent to him on his email was actually opening a Pandora Box of malicious command and control server. An emphasis to understand the technicality that Netwire stands for a malware which gives control of the infected system to an attacker. This in turn paves way for data stealing, logging keystrokes and compromise passwords. In the similar vein the Pegasus used the tactic to infiltrate the user’s phones in 2019.
Cyber Security – Attacking Power Distribution Systems
The intrusions by Chinese hacker groups in October, 2020 as brought out by Recorded Future was done through Shadow Pad which opens a secret path from target system to command and control servers. And, the main target is sectors such as transportation, telecommunication and energy .And , there are different tags that are being used by the Chinese Espionage Industry such as APT41, Wicked Spider and Wicked Panda , etc.
The institutions backing legitimisation
The Institutions which are at working under the cyber security surveillance are the National Security Council and National Information Board headed by National Security Adviser helping in framing India’s cyber security policy .Then, in 2014 there is the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre under the National Technical Research Organisation mandating the protection of critical information infrastructure. And, in 2015 the National Cyber Security Coordinator advises the Prime Minister on strategic cyber security issues. In the case of nodal entity , India’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-in) is playing a crucial role under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology(MEITY).But, there is a requirement of clarity in National Cyber Security Policy of 2013 and the needed updates desired in it respectively.
A cohesive approach – Data Protection and Privacy Importance
The Data privacy i.e. the personal data protection bill is an important imperative in which services of private actors can be bridged through a concerned law which is missing link in that sense. The point of Data localisation falls squarely within this dimension of Section 40 and 41 of the draft bill where in the Indian stakeholders have the capacity to build their own data centres .In this contextualisation there also a need to understand certain technicalities involved in terms of edge computing which in a way is enabling the data to be analysed, processed, and transferred at the edge of a network. An elaboration to this is the data is analysed locally, closer to where it is stored, in real-time without delay. The Edge computing distributes processing, storage, and applications across a wide range of devices and data centres which make it difficult for any single disruption to take down the network. Since more data is being processed on local devices rather than transmitting it back to a central data centre, edge computing also reduces the amount of data actually at risk at any one time. Whereas on the other hand, there is insistence on data localisation has paved the way for companies such as Google Pay to adhere to the policy and synchronise their working with the United Payments Interface (UPI).
What do you understand by Data Share?
In the recent case of WhatsApp privacy issue and drawing in parallel other organisation a similar platform such as Facebook and Google shared the data to the third party with a lopsided agreement and with continuance of the data trade business industry. In 1996 the internet was free so was perceived as carte blanche , a safe harbour falling under the Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act in the United States but with the evolution of the circumstances the laws in that specifications are also required to change in that respect. In relations to the Indian law under the Information Technology Act, 2000 under the Section 69 the Indian government has the powers to monitor and decrypt any information that’s store in any computer resource but on certain conditions such as in regards to the sovereignty, defence and security of the country.
Cyber-attacks understanding on the International Forums
In terms of Lieber Code of Conduct of 1863 or be it Hague Convention of 1899 there is a need of updating the definitions and where in the cyber army falling under the categorisation of civilians , not possessing any of the warfare weapons cause the main weapon that they possess is a malware which is invisible but can have deep repercussions leading to destruction of that particular economy altogether .So, in recent evolving circumstances there is an undue importance to for the target country to respond with equal force and having a right to self-defence in this manner regardless of the attack being from a non-state actor from a third country and masquerading under the civilian garb .Henceforth , there a thorough understanding of the complex environment that one is dealing with , there is undue emphasis to change and respectively update with the current world.
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