[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] R [/yt_dropcap]ecently on June 28, China launched what it calls the most advanced and largest warship in Asia on Wednesday, billing it as a major step forward in the modernisation of its navy. As the first of the new Type 055 guided-missile destroyers – which have a displacement of more than 12,000 tonnes – military experts said it was designed to accompany the country’s future aircraft carrier battle groups.
The destroyer was built at the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai and was equipped with air ¬defence, anti-missile, anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons. The Type 055 destroyer is similar in size to the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke class ships and is billed as a major step forward for Chinese sea power.
USA cannot attack China by sea
Obviously, China is serious about its claims of South China Sea and has been developing its navy on the one hand and the region with modern military facilities, on the other. China claims nearly all of the South China Sea — a vast tract of water through which a huge chunk of global shipping passes. Not only is the South China Sea (SCS) a major shipping route but also a zone of high rich energy resources. Hence USA is also keen to intervene in the dispute and hence there is tension in the region. Several countries have supported the Chinese position on the South China Sea issue.
China has bolstered its claim by building artificial islands including airstrips in the area, some of which are suitable for military use. Other regional powers the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims to parts of the sea, which is believed to harbor significant oil and gas deposits.
The launch of the warship marks an important step towards China’s dream of having a strong and modern naval force, General Zhang Youxia, a member of the Central Military Commission who oversees the army’s equipment, was quoted as saying at the launch ceremony. Military analysts said the Type 055 was in theory the world’s second most powerful destroyer – after the US Navy’s DDG-1000, or the Zumwalt class. The capabilities of the Type 055 surpass South Korea’s DDG-991 and Japan’s ¬Atago class, which have a 10,000 ton displacement.
With its size far exceeding a standard destroyer, the launch of the Chinese-designed and built 055 was as significant as that of an aircraft carrier, affording the ¬People’s Liberation Army Navy advanced sea capability and weaponry development, experts said.
The need to protect the country’s overseas interests and vital waterways used by oil tankers and cargo ships is expected to increase as the country’s ambitious belt and road trade initiative starts to take shape. But unlike the US Navy, which has a true global presence, PLA ships do not have many overseas ports for resupply, according to Beijing-based military ¬analyst Zhou Chenming. “In some respects – such as the size, radar system, missile capacity and the multifunctionality in use – the Type 055 has now caught up, or at least it’s on the same level as the United States’ main ¬destroyer,” Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, said.
With its size far exceeding a standard destroyer, the launch of the Chinese-designed and built 055 was as significant as that of an aircraft carrier, affording the ¬People’s Liberation Army Navy advanced sea capability and weaponry development, experts said.
The need to protect the country’s overseas interests and vital waterways used by oil tankers and cargo ships is expected to increase as the country’s ambitious belt and road trade initiative starts to take shape. But unlike the US Navy, which has a true global presence, PLA ships do not have many overseas ports for resupply, according to Beijing-based military ¬analyst Zhou Chenming.
Li said the warship would play an important role escorting aircraft carriers or the new advanced Type 071 amphibious assault ships, and it could also lead a comprehensive combat group of smaller destroyers and frigates. For these purposes the PLA Navy would need at least 10 Type 055 destroyers, and at the current capacity China could build one or two a year, Li said.
Meanwhile, the sheer size of the warship means there is space for more – and more powerful – weapons. Before the 055, the PLA Navy’s most advanced destroyer was the Type 052D, a 7,500-tonne vessel that squeezed in a flat-array radar, a 64-cell vertical launch system (VLS) and long-range anti-air missiles.
The Type 055, according to the Jane’s Defence Weekly, is over 180 metres long – more than 20 ¬metres longer than 052D. It has a 128-cell VLS and missiles to attack planes, ships, submarines and missiles, making it the most powerful destroyer in Asia. Given its size, it could also serve as a platform to develop the next generation of weapons, such as high-energy radio-frequency equipment, Zhou said.“When you have a bigger home, you can fit in different new furniture.” But Macau-based military analyst Antony Wong Dong said the Type 055 had some “disappointing” design flaws. The relatively low positioning of its flat-array radar system would affect its range of detection, he said, while the use of light aluminum alloy in the upper decks would make it vulnerable to damage.
“Despite its very modern stealth shape, the damage control capability is a big concern,” Wong said. “The design follows the Chinese convention, probably due to a lack of experience … in a combat situation.”
Next, the warship will undergo equipment and sea testing and it is due to enter service next year.
The SCS area may be rich in oil and natural gas deposits; however, the estimates are highly varied. The Ministry of Geological Resources and Mining of the People’s Republic of China estimate that the South China Sea may contain 17.7 billion tons of crude oil (compared to Kuwait with 13 billion tons). However, other sources claim that the proven reserve of oil in the South China Sea may only be 7.5 billion barrels, or about 1.1 billion tons According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA)’s profile of the South China Sea region, a US Geological Survey estimate puts the region’s discovered and undiscovered oil reserves at 11 billion barrels, as opposed to a Chinese figure of 125 billion barrels. The same EIA report also points to the wide variety of natural gas resource estimations, ranging from 190 trillion cubic feet to 500 trillion cubic feet, likely located in the contested Reed Bank”.
The South China Sea is dubbed by China as the “second Persian Sea.” The state-owned China Offshore Exploration Corp. planned to spend 200 billion RMB (US$30 billion) in the next 20 years to exploit oil in the region, with the estimated production of 25 million metric tons of crude oil and natural gas per annum, at a depth of 2000 meters within the next five years.
China claims almost all of the energy-rich South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of maritime trade passes each year. USA is major user of the sea route mainly for trade purposes.
China questions American surveillance activities and other military activities over the South China Sea. China’s construction activities and military preparatory actions have drawn criticism from the USA. The United States is not a claimant in the South China Sea dispute but says it has an interest in ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight in the area.
The USA and China are currently in disagreement over the South China Sea. This disagreement is exacerbated by the fact that the USA is not a member of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Nevertheless, the USA has stood by its maneuvers, claiming that “peaceful surveillance activities and other military activities without permission in a country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), is allowed under the convention.
The South China Sea disputes involve both island and maritime claims among several sovereign states within the region, namely Brunei, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Non-claimants want the South China Sea to remain as international waters, with the United States conducting “freedom of navigation” operations.
There are disputes concerning both the Spratly and the Paracel islands, as well as maritime, areas near to sea, boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin and elsewhere. There is a further dispute in the waters near the Indonesian Natuna Islands. The interests of different nations include acquiring fishing areas around the two archipelagos; the potential exploitation of crude oil and natural gas under the waters of various parts of the South China Sea, and the strategic control of important shipping lanes.
In February 2016, President Obama initiated the US-ASEAN Summit at Sunny lands for closer engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Territorial disputes in the South China Sea were a major topic, but its joint statement, the “Sunnylands Declaration” called for “respect of each nation’s sovereignty and for international law”. Analysts believe it indicates divisions within the group on how to respond to China’s maritime strategy.
China has reacted angrily to a US decision to impose sanctions on a Chinese bank accused of laundering North Korean money. A foreign ministry spokesman urged the US to “stop wrongful actions” to avoid harming co-operation. The US announced the move, as well as sanctions on a Chinese shipping company and two Chinese nationals, on Thursday.
It said the blacklisting was aimed at cutting funds to North Korea’s weapons programmes.
“We will follow the money and cut off the money,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a news conference. But he said the move was not a response to Chinese inaction on North Korea, saying: “This is not directed at China, this is directed at a bank, as well as individuals and entities in China.”
The UN has already imposed several rounds of sanctions on Pyongyang, but China is widely seen as the nation most able to impose economic pain on North Korea. Washington has been pushing Beijing for tougher measures amid a series of missile tests by Pyongyang. But in a tweet earlier this month, President Donald Trump said China’s actions had “not worked out”.
The sanctions mean that the Bank of Dandong will be barred from doing business in the US.
The US Treasury said it had been “a conduit for illicit North Korean financial activity” and facilitated “millions of dollars of transactions for companies involved in North Korea’s WMD (weapons of mass destruction) and ballistic missile programs”. Two Chinese nationals accused of creating front companies for North Korean entities and a shipping company, Dalian Global Unity Shipping, accused of smuggling luxury goods to North Korea, have also been blacklisted. Mnuchin said that the US could impose more sanctions in the future. The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the US action went “against the important spirit” of the apparently friendly meeting between Trump and US President Xi Jinping at the US president’s Florida resort in April.
The sanctions came as the US announced the sale of $1.42bn (£1.09bn) worth of arms to Taiwan, the first such transaction under the Trump administration. US arms sales to Taiwan always anger Beijing because it considers the self-governing island part of its territory. It also came as new South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited Washington for talks with Trump on security issues.
Global arms industry: US companies dominate the Top 100, Russian arms industry moves to second place
Sales of arms and military services by the world’s largest arms-producing and military services companies—the SIPRI Top 100—totalled $398.2 billion in 2017, according to new international arms industry data released today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
The total for the SIPRI Top 100 in 2017 is 2.5 per cent higher than in 2016 and represents an increase of 44 per cent since 2002 (the first year for which comparable data is available; figures exclude China). This is the third consecutive year of growth in Top 100 arms sales.
US companies increase their share of total Top 100 arms sales
With 42 companies listed in 2017, companies based in the United States continued to dominate the Top 100 in 2017. Taken together, the arms sales of US companies grew by 2.0 per cent in 2017, to $226.6 billion, which accounted for 57 per cent of total Top 100 arms sales. Five US companies were listed in the top 10 in 2017. ‘US companies directly benefit from the US Department of Defense’s ongoing demand for weapons,’ says Aude Fleurant, Director of SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.
Lockheed Martin remained the world’s largest arms producer in 2017, with arms sales of $44.9 billion. ‘The gap between Lockheed Martin and Boeing—the two largest arms producers in the world—increased from $11 billion in 2016 to $18 billion in 2017,’ says Fleurant.
Russia becomes the second largest arms producer in the Top 100
The combined arms sales of Russian companies accounted for 9.5 per cent of the Top 100 total, making Russia the second largest arms producer in the Top 100 in 2017—a position that had been occupied by the United Kingdom since 2002. Taken together, the arms sales of the 10 Russian companies listed in the Top 100 increased by 8.5 per cent in 2017, to $37.7 billion. ‘Russian companies have experienced significant growth in their arms sales since 2011,’ says Siemon Wezeman, Senior Researcher with SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. ‘This is in line with Russia’s increased spending on arms procurement to modernize its armed forces.’
In 2017 a Russian company appeared in the top 10 for the first time since SIPRI started publishing its annual Top 100 list. ‘Almaz-Antey, which was already Russia’s largest arms-producing company, increased its arms sales by 17 per cent in 2017, to $8.6 billion,’ says Alexandra Kuimova, Research Assistant with SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.
Along with Almaz-Antey, three other Russian companies in the Top 100 increased their arms sales by more than 15 per cent: United Engine Corporation (25 per cent), High Precision Systems (22 per cent) and Tactical Missiles Corporation (19 per cent).
The UK remains the largest arms producer in Western Europe
The combined arms sales of the 24 companies in Western Europe listed in the Top 100 increased by 3.8 per cent in 2017, to $94.9 billion, which accounted for 23.8 per cent of the Top 100 total. The UK remained the largest arms producer in the region in 2017, with total arms sales of $35.7 billion and seven companies listed in the Top 100. ‘The combined arms sales of British companies were 2.3 per cent higher than in 2016,’ says Fleurant. ‘This was largely due to increases in the arms sales of BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and GKN.’
BAE Systems, which is ranked fourth in the Top 100, is the UK’s biggest arms producer. Its arms sales rose by 3.3 per cent in 2017, to $22.9 billion.
Other notable developments
- The arms sales of Turkish companies rose by 24 per cent in 2017. ‘This significant increase reflects Turkey’s ambitions to develop its arms industry to fulfil its growing demand for weapons and become less dependent on foreign suppliers,’ says Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher with SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.
- Taken together, the arms sales of the four Indian companies ranked in the Top 100 totalled $7.5 billion in 2017, representing a 1.9 per cent share of Top 100 arms sales.
- Sales of the top 15 manufacturing companies listed in the Fortune Global 500 totalled $2311 billion in 2017. This is almost 10 times greater than the total arms sales of the top 15 arms producers ($231.6 billion) in 2017, and almost six times greater than the total combined arms sales of the Top 100 ($398.2 billion).
Modern Russian Defense Doctrine
On December 26, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new military doctrine for the Russian armed forces. The document identifies the expansion of NATO and efforts to destabilize Russia and neighboring countries as the biggest security threats. This doctrine somehow is Continuation Russia’s military doctrine previous in the years 1993 – 2000- 2010.
In the Tsarist, Soviet, and Russian military tradition, doctrine plays a particularly important role. The state’s defense or military doctrine possesses a normative and even, often a juridical quality that should be binding on relevant state agencies, or at least so its adherents would like to claim. Doctrine is supposed to represent an official view or views about the character of contemporary war, the threats to Russia, and what policies the government and armed forces will initiate and implement to meet those challenges. Thus beyond being a normative or at least guiding policy document, defense doctrine should also represent an elite consensus about threats, the character of contemporary war and the policies needed to confront those threats and challenges.
Since 2002 President Vladimir Putin has regularly called for and stated that a new doctrine, to meet the challenges of the post September 11 strategic environment will soon appear. However, no such doctrine has yet appeared or is in sight. In 2003 the Defense Ministry published a kind of white paper that foreign observers then called an Ivanov doctrine after Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. But no Russian authority has followed suit. This document argued that the Russian forces must be ready for every sort of contingency from counterterrorism to large-scale conventional theater war and even nuclear war. Ivanov and the General Staff also argue that the forces can and must be able to handle two simultaneous regional or local wars. This guidance also evidently follows Putin’s direction that the armed forces must be able to wage any kind of contingency across this spectrum of conflict even though he apparently had ordered a shift in priorities from war against NATO to counter-terrorist and localized actions in 2002-03.
Within this spectrum of conflict, most published official and unofficial writing about the nature of threats to Russia repeatedly states that terrorism is the most immediate and urgent threat to Russia, that Russia has no plans to wage a war with NATO, i.e. a large-scale conventional or even nuclear war, and that Russia sees no visible threat from NATO or of this kind of war on the horizon. Indeed, Russian officials like Putin and Chief of Staff, Colonel-General Yuri N. Baluyevsky have recently renounced the quest for nuclear and conventional parity with NATO and America, a quest whose abandonment was signified in the Moscow Treaty on Nuclear Weapons in 2002. Yet the absence of doctrine suggests an ongoing lack of consensus on these issues. And this discord is particularly dangerous at a time when Russian leaders perceive that “there has been a steady trend toward broadening the use of armed forces” and that “conflicts are spreading to larger areas, including the sphere of Russia’s vital interests,” because they may be tempted to follow suit or react forcefully to real or imaginary challenges.”
Indeed, if one looks carefully at Russian procurement policies and exercises, both of which have increased in quantity and intensified in quality under Putin due to economic recovery, we still find that large-scale operations, including first-strike nuclear operations using either ICBM’s or tactical (or so called non-strategic) nuclear weapons (TNW) predominate, even when counterinsurgency and counter-terrorist exercises are included. In other words, the military-political establishment, rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding, still believes that large-scale war, even with NATO or China is a real possibility. Ivanov’s speech to the Academy of Military Sciences on January 24, 2004 excoriated the General Staff for insufficient study of contemporary wars and for fixating on Chechnya. Blaming it for this fixation, he said that,
“We must admit that as of the present time military science has not defined a clear generalized type of modern war and armed conflict. Therefore the RF Armed Forces and supreme command and control entities must be prepared to participate in any kind of military conflict. Based on this, we have to answer the question of how to make the military command and control system most flexible and most capable of reacting to any threats to Russia’s military security that may arise in the modern world.”
Ivanov had earlier observed that Military preparedness, operational planning, and maintenance need to be as flexible as possible because in recent years no single type of armed conflict has dominated. The Russian armed forces will be prepared for regular and anti-guerrilla warfare, the struggle against different types of terrorism, and peacekeeping operations.
Baluevsky has also since argued that any war, even a localized armed conflict, could lead the world to the brink of global nuclear war, therefore Russian forces must train and be ready for everything. These remarks reflect the continuing preference for major theater and even intercontinental nuclear wars against America and NATO over anti-terrorist missions.
Neither are they alone. In 2003, former Deputy Chief of Staff, General (RET.) V.L. Manilov, then First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Defense and Security Committee, told an interviewer that,
Let’s take, for example, the possible development of the geopolitical and military-strategic situation around Russia. We don’t even have precisely specified definitions of national interests and national security, and there isn’t even the methodology itself of coming up with decisions concerning Russia’s fate. But without this it’s impossible to ensure the country’s progressive development. … It also should be noted that a systems analysis and the monitoring of the geostrategic situation around Russia requires the consolidation of all national resources and the involvement of state and public structures and organizations. At the same time, one has a clear sense of the shortage of intellectual potential in the centers where this problem should be handled in a qualified manner.
Since Russian planners cannot develop a truly credible hierarchy of threats or adequately define them or Russia’s national interests they inevitably see threats everywhere while lacking the conceptual means for categorizing them coherently. Lacking a priority form of war or threat for which they must train, the troops must perform traditional tasks and priority missions like defending Russia’s territorial boundaries, i.e. Soviet territorial boundaries, preventing and deterring attacks on Russia, and maintaining strategic stability. They also must participate directly in achieving Russia’s economic and political interests and conduct peacetime operations, including UN or CIS sanctioned peace operations. Consequently coherent planning and policy-making are still bedeviled by multiple threats that haunt senior military leaders. In 2003, Baluevsky said that,
In order to conduct joint maneuvers (with NATO-author), you have to determine who your enemy actually is. We still do not know. After the Warsaw pact disappeared; there was confusion in the general staffs of the world’s armies. But who was the enemy? Well, no enemy emerged. Therefore the first question is: Against whom will we fight?
But the campaign against terrorism does not require massive armies. And NATO’s massive armies have not disappeared at all. No one says “We do not need divisions, we do not need ships, and we do not need hundreds of thousands of aircraft and tanks …” The Russian military are accused of still thinking in World War II categories. Although we, incidentally realized long before the Americans that the mad race to produce thousands and thousands of nuclear warheads should be stopped!
Thus the General Staff and for that matter the Ministry have abdicated their critical task of forecasting the nature or character of today’s wars.
Today, if anything, we see a continuing inclination to turn back the strategic clock towards quasi-Cold war postures and strategies. Much evidence suggests that various political forces in Russia, particularly in the military community, are urging withdrawal from arms control treaties, not least because of NATO enlargement towards the CIS and U.S. foreign and military policy in those areas. In March, 2005 Ivanov raised the question of withdrawal from the INF Treaty with the Pentagon. Since then Russian general Vladimir Vasilenko has raised it again more recently though it is difficult to see what Russia gains from withdrawal from that treaty. Indeed, withdrawal from the INF treaty makes no sense unless one believes that Russia is threatened by NATO and especially the U.S.’ superior conventional military power and cannot meet that threat except by returning to the classical Cold War strategy of holding Europe hostage to nuclear attack to deter Washington and NATO. Apparently at least some of the interest in withdrawing from the INF treaty also stems from the fact that Vasilenko also stated that western missile defenses would determine the nature and number of future Russian missile defense systems even though admittedly it could only defend against a few missiles at a time. Thus he argued that,
Russia should give priority to high-survivable mobile ground and naval missile systems when planning the development of the force in the near and far future. … The quality of the Strategic nuclear forces of Russia will have to be significantly improved in terms of adding to their capability of penetrating [missile defense] barriers and increasing the survivability of combat elements and enhancing the properties of surveillance and control systems.
But then, Russia’s government and military are thereby postulating an inherent East-West enmity buttressed by mutual deterrence that makes no sense in today’s strategic climate, especially when virtually every Russian military leader proclaims that no plan for war with NATO is under consideration and that the main threat to Russia is terrorism, not NATO and not America. Nonetheless Russian generals do not raise the issue of withdrawal from the INF treaty unless directed to do so. As of 2003 the General Staff made clear its opposition to joint Russian-NATO exercises allegedly on the grounds of NATO enlargement and the improvement of missiles. In fact, the military’s enmity to NATO is due to the fact of its existence. As the so called Ivanov doctrine of October, 2003, stated,
Russia … expects NATO member states to put a complete end to direct and indirect elements of its anti-Russian policy, both form of the military planning and the political declarations of NATO member states. … Should NATO remain a military alliance with its current offensive military doctrine, a fundamental reassessment of Russia’s military planning and arms procurement is needed, including a change in Russia’s nuclear strategy.
Alexander Golts, one of Russia’s most prominent defense commentators, observes that the military must continue to have NATO as a ‘primordial enemy’. Otherwise their ability to mobilize millions of men and huge amounts of Russian material resources would be exposed as unjustified. Similarly Western observers have noted the resistance of the military to a genuine military reform, even though the forces are being reorganized. The problem here is well known to the Russian military. Genuine reform is a precondition for effective partnership with NATO. Therefore resistance to reform, in particular, democratization of defense policy, inhibits cooperation with NATO and is therefore deliberately created from within the military and political system. Evidently Russian leaders no longer perceive democratization as a mere ritual for the White House, as in the past, but as a threat to the foundations of Russian statehood, including a threat to the structure of the armed forces and its top command organizations.
This hostility to NATO as such also appears in the growing opposition to continuing to observe the CFE treaty. Since the bilateral partnership with NATO began, Russian officials openly stated that if the Baltic States remained outside the treaty then its future would be at issue along with Europe’s overall security of which it is a key part. Ivanov frequently says that Russia has fundamental differences with NATO over the CFE Treaty and that NATO’s insistence upon Russia withdrawing from Moldovan and Georgian bases as promised in 1999 at the OSCE’s Istanbul summit is a “farfetched” pretext for not ratifying the treaty or forcing the Baltic States to sign it. Thus the Baltic States form “a gray zone” with regard to arms control agreements that could in the future serve as a basis for first-strikes, mainly by air, upon nearby Russian targets. This sums up many of Moscow’s military arguments against the CFE treaty.
Ivanov and other officials, like former Deputy Foreign Minister, linked the CFE to the realignment of U.S. forces and bases in Europe. Likewise, speaking of the connection between the CFE treaty and enlargement, Lt. General Alexander Voronin wrote in the General Staff’s journal VoyennayaMysl©(Military Thought) that,“Russia’s opposition to CIS members’ joining NATO is immutable and that NATO’s failure to take Russia’s interests into account here is very troubling. Russia should fully take into account the alliance’s strategy of spreading its influence to countries neighboring Russia in the west, south, and southeast, uphold its interests, show strong will, make no concessions, and pursue a pragmatic and effective foreign policy. This raises a number of questions: First, why do we have to cooperate with NATO at all? Second, what could be the practical payoff from this interaction? And finally in what areas is it expedient to develop military cooperation with the alliance?”
Voronin’s answer to these rhetorical questions is that it all depends on how soon NATO overcomes Cold War inertia to meet new challenges and threats. In this respect his approach merely confirms earlier military arguments against the CFE treaty.
In 2004 Baluevsky raised the issue that the Baltic States’ membership in NATO would doom the CFE treaty. In 2005 Colonel-General Anatoly Mazurkevich, Chief of the Main Directorate of International Military Cooperation in the Russian Ministry of Defense complained that the CFE treaty has been ignored since it was revised in 1999 and that it is slowly ‘expiring’. Allegedly the CFE treaty can no longer uphold the interests of the parties or stability in Europe and now in a strategic region adjacent to Russia and under NATO’s full responsibility — the Baltic — the region is absolutely free of all treaty restrictions.
Yet since they are critical elements of any democratic reform, the failure to reach a coherent defense doctrine is a critical sign of the failure of Russia’s democratic project. This failure to devise a coherent doctrine that realistically assesses Russia’s capabilities and prospects, is not just a failure to achieve democracy, it also represents an enduring threat to Russia itself, its neighbors and interlocutors.
Author’s note: This article first published in Iran Review
The prospect of the military and security potential of Syrian Kurds and Democratic Alliance
Although it is still difficult to imagine a future for Syria in general, the existence of an autonomous Kurdish region on the northern border of this country, which is increasing its autonomy every day, has become a reality. The borders of the Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) have remained vague so far and may be different from what was officially announced by the PYD of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Syria. So far, the group’s growing efforts to expand its cantons have made it a firm and lasting commitment to mobilize Syrian Kurds in a small, economically sustainable state that extends its borders to the Mediterranean Sea, annoyingly, it can also develop the goals of its Paternal Organization in Kyrgyzstan, the PKK-Kurdistan Workers Party. Thus, the only possible alternative exists to establish a western connection with Aleppo and the Syrian government-controlled area, in which PYD needs to accelerate its timetable to, create a link to the territory with Afrin and Kobani.
It is important to remember that PKK is the origin and source of the Democratic Alliance Party and shares its objectives with the region. The expansion of the territory of the Syrian Kurds to the Mediterranean Sea can both serve to create a facility for the independence of the Turkish Kurdistan and a greater convergence with the KRG. Washington could eventually push the KRG to reopen its borders to Syrian Kurdistan. PYD has not mentioned any ambitions for reaching the Mediterranean Sea in order to build trust. Establishing a link between the 70km gap between the western borders claimed by Syria and the Kurds is a huge obstacle. Not only will the whole region be formed as a non-cohabite population, but Turkey and everyone who controls the land of Alawites will be resolutely opposed. Now, it is no doubt at least some Kurds dream of establishing a Kurdish sector, although they are far from that perspective.
After their victory in Kobani in January 2015, PYD continued to expand its territory. A large part of this expansion was achieved at the expense of ISIL, but the Kurds seized other areas from other insurgent groups in the Azaz corridor and from the Syrian army in Al-Hasaka. Even though these areas are limited to only a few square miles, they are, nonetheless, strategically important, for example, Al-Hasaka is a provincial center. So getting other neighborhoods is significant and important.
In terms of the homogeneity of the Kurdish regions of Afrin, Kobani and Qamishli, PYD is trying to conquer the territories that Arabs and Kurds together in those areas and even some non-Kurdish regions. The ultimate goal of the group is to create a proximity of land between the territories; the goal that led to the withdrawal of the Tell Abyad in the spring of 2015 and the Manbij in recent days technically, the invasion of Manbij was led by the Kurdish-Syrian Arab-Democratic forces, but The Kurds themselves alone make up 90% of the coalition’s members. The victory of February in Al-Shaddadah in the southern province of Al-Hasakah Governorate, a non-Kurdish territory, was based on the control of nearby oil supplies and the shutting down of the ISIL road between Mosul and Raqqa.
Today, the PYD controls an area of nearly two million people, but only 60% of the population is Kurdish. In the eastern canton of Aqa Cizire and the central Canton of Kobani, the Kurds constitute the majority of the 55% of the population. In the Afrin area of the West (part of the official Syrian division), the population is roughly 100 percent, but PYD maps of Syria’s Kurdistan (Rojava) indicate that Canton Afrin eventually ended up with Azaz, Tripoli, the northern part of the North, and the Manbij in the north. The result will be to reduce the Kurdish population and bring it to about 30%. PYD will probably not have an attempt to conquer the Arab and Turkmen territories of Azaz and Tripoli in the next few months, as they have a poor strategic advantage and status.
Whatever the PYD adds to its territory, the non-Kurdish population is integrated in its territory. This is particularly true of the Manbij area between the Euphrates and Afrin, where the Kurds make up less than a quarter of the population. But PYD seems to be moving in the direction of connecting its cantons, and group leaders believe that various kangaroo efforts can help bring a large part of the population under their belt. The names of villages and maps published by the French law office indicate that a significant proportion of the locals’ population, classified formally as Arabs, actually have Kurdish origins. In the case of PYD superiority, these Arabic Kurdish languages can easily select the option of connecting again with their Kurdish origins. In addition, if the Arab refugees who used to live there would no longer return to that area or would like Kurdish asylum seekers to return there on the basis of a PYD invitation, the demographic situation of the region could be fundamentally reformed. This is particularly true in the area of the Tel Aviv region, which is not acceptable to the ISIL-backed Arabs.
Unfortunately, the Kurds may want to overcome their demographic fragility in some parts of northern Syria through ethnic cleansing or unification with Arab tribes who want to take revenge alongside the strongest border actors. For example, many tribes do not want more than eliminate their rivals, the rivals who worked with ISIL and were beside them. This is the same strategy of the Shammar tribe led by Sheikh Hamidi, the tenth al-Hadi in the southeast of Al-Hasaka Governorate. PYD also hopes to capture part of the Kurdish population currently living in Damascus and Aleppo. To meet this, they need to improve the bad economic situation.
The Kurdish community is highly reactionary and can accept Spartan life conditions, but many people leave PYD-controlled areas. In order to stop the decline of the population, PYD needs to improve its economy, which requires free flow of goods both into the region and to other countries. The possibility of improving relations with Turkey and KDP will not be forthcoming, and the timeline for eradicating ISIL and the deterioration of the Euphrates is unclear.
Therefore, the only possible alternative exists to establish a western link with Aleppo and the region under the regime’s control, in which case PYD needs to expedite its timetable to create a real link with Afrin and Kobani. It is important to remember that PKK is the origin and source of the Democratic Alliance Party and shares its objectives with the region. The expansion of the territory of the Syrian Kurds to the Mediterranean Sea can both serve to create a facility for the independence of the Turkish Kurdistan and a greater convergence with the KRG. Washington, pretending to end up, could push the KRG to reopen its borders to Syrian Kurdistan. PYD has not mentioned any ambition to reach the Mediterranean Sea in order to build confidence. Establishing a link between the 70km gap between the western borders claimed by Syria and the Kurds is a huge obstacle. Not only will the whole region be formed as a non-cohabite population, but Turkey and everyone who controls the land of Alawite will be resolutely opposed. Now, it is no doubt, at least some Kurds dream of establishing a Kurdish sector, although they are far from that perspective.
Eventually, the conflict could have spread in other territories, and would advance PKK and PYD regional projects, such as an Alawite government on the coast or an outlying Sunni Arab state in the Far East. The official Kurdish map of Syria now has a western border running its way to the edge of the Alawite land, so the creation of economic relations and the benefits of coastal access to such institutions have not been questioned in the long run.
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