The United Nations should change the way it does business in high-security risk peacekeeping operations, as the UN flag no longer offers ‘natural’ protection to mission personnel, according to a new report, which calls for better training for ‘blue helmets,’ more technology and greater freedom to respond to the threat posed by armed groups.
“Unfortunately, hostile forces do not understand a language other than force,” warns the report, titled Improving Security of United Nations Peacekeepers, arguing that projecting strength is more secure for uniformed and civilian personnel than risk-averse approaches.
Since 1948, more than 3,500 personnel have lost their lives serving in UN peace operations with 943 due to acts of violence. Since 2013, casualties have spiked, with 195 deaths in violent attacks, more than during any other 5-year period in history.
It was in this context that, in November 2017, UN Secretary-General António Guterres appointed Lieutenant General (Retired) Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz of Brazil to lead a high-level review to identify why the UN has had so many casualties caused by acts of violence in recent years, and what should be done to reduce these casualties.
Mr. dos Santos Cruz previously served as Force Commander, of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) from 2013 to 2015 and of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) from 2007 to 2009.
Two other authors are William R. Phillips, a retired United States Army Colonel, and former Mission Chief of Staff of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), and Salvator Cusimano, the Special Assistant to the Director, Africa II Division of the Office of Operations in the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
The review team visited UN peacekeeping operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), Mali and South Sudan, accessed relevant internal UN data and conducted 160 interviews to inform their work.
The report does not address the issue of mandates, but instead confines its conclusions to operational issues in missions in those countries.
The report, which was submitted to the Secretary-General, states that with the influx of armed groups, extremists, organized crime, and other criminal elements and threats, the blue helmet and UN flag no longer offer ‘natural’ protection to peacekeepers.
The review team identified four broad areas where the UN and Member States must take actions to reduce fatalities.
These include (1) changing mindsets so that personnel are aware of the risks and empowered to take the initiative to deter, prevent, and respond to attacks; (2) improving capacities so that the mission and personnel are equipped and trained to operate in high-threat environments; (3) achieving a “threat sensitive mission footprint” that is aligned with mission mandates and limits the exposure of the mission to threat; and (4) enhancing accountability to ensure that those able to take actions to prevent fatalities and injuries live up to their responsibilities.
The UN Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and of Field Support have developed an action plan to implement the report’s recommendations, according to a note to correspondents issued by the Office of the Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General.
The plan focuses on three main areas – operational behaviour and mindset; capacity building and readiness; and support issues – and includes immediate Headquarters and field-level actions.
The Departments have also established an implementation support team led by two senior officials, which will coordinate and monitor implementation of these measures at Headquarters and provide support to field missions.
The Encroaching Impact of Arms Trade on South Asia’s Geopolitics
In his famous farewell address to the American Public in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower had both defined and warned against the encroaching influence of what was then termed as the US’s ‘Military-Industrial Complex. ’Speaking of the growing synergy between the US Military and the US’s fast rising defense and arms industry, President Eisenhower (himself a highly decorated former US General) had taken both time and considerable thought to highlight what he believed was a grave threat to the ideals of peace and prosperity for which the United States had stood for within the Post-War scenario. What’s more, he had said it right in the middle of the Cold War at a time when the US was engaged in an arms race for survival with the Soviet Union.
Six decades later, as one surmises the far-reaching impacts of the same Military Industrial Complex on the present day’s international politics, President Eisenhower’s warning seems more like the realization of a cryptic prophecy more than anything. In fact it has become increasingly difficult to find a parallel to the way the intersection of money and power affects global peace and prosperity, the way it is affected by the intersection of defense and foreign policy at the hands of the world’s arms industries.
This is best exemplified today by how lucrative arms contracts at the state level have increasingly come to take growing precedence over key foreign policy decisions, particularly by the world’s major powers. Thus, it is no secret that the world’s foremost arms importers enjoy considerably close ties with their suppliers. This is markedly apparent in the long history of close ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia which have increased manifold since the latter recently took over India as the World’s largest arms importer. The importance given to Saudi Arabia’s defense contracts in the US is such that the entire diplomatic fallout from the Jamal Khashoggi affair last year was presented as an unnecessary inconvenience by none other than President Trump himself.
The same bonhomie is also visible in the US’s growing defense and strategic ties with India. As the top importer of arms for the entire previous decade, India’s lucrative market for arms contracts is fuelled by its fast rising economy as well as its need to modernize its aging soviet-era platforms.
Whereas the bulk of India’s military hardware is sourced from Russian defense manufacturers, US defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing have consistently eyed gaining a wider share of the Indian market. This includes the delivery of the first of 22 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinook helicopters made to the Indian Air force earlier this month. It also includes a similar deal that was recently signed between the United States and India to purchase 24 Sea Hawk helicopters to further expand the latter’s naval capabilities.
Yet, perhaps the most lucrative opportunity for US defense contractors coming out of India is the Indian Air Force’s latest tender for 114 fighter aircraft to replace its soviet era MiG squadrons. Worth around $18 billion, the Indian government’s requirements are based around developing an indigenous production base built on large-scale transfers of technology, training and maintenance operations. With the long-term goal of reducing its dependence on imports and developing its own local arms industry, India’s requirements thus extend beyond the mere procurement of platforms. Instead, they involve a unique opportunity for the world’s foremost arms manufacturers to gain a long-term foothold within the Indian market, while simultaneously investing in the country’s rapid economic growth.
These aspects are clearly evident in Lockheed Martin’s most recent sales pitch to India regarding the F-21 Fighter Aircraft. Offered as an exclusive India only upgrade of the widely used F-16fighter aircraft, the F-21 is being marketed as a highly viable solution to India’s modernization needs. With its production line planned on being based in India, Lockheed is aiming to build on last year’s announcement that it would be transferring the production of the F-16’s wings to its joint facilities in India by 2020.
If carried through, these developments are likely to have a serious impact on the trajectory of US-India relations for many decades to come. This in turn would also significantly affect both China’s and Russia’s approach to South Asia, particularly with respect to Pakistan. In fact much of the discourse on the development of Indo-US military ties is already based directly on the US’s strategic rivalry with China over the Indo-Pacific region. They very raison d’être for the Quadrilateral alliance, and the re-designation of the US Military’s Pacific Command to the ‘Indo-Pacific Command’ are all cases in point.
However, going back to President Eisenhower’s warning over the encroaching influence of the US’s Military-Industrial Complex, the above developments assume a slightly different context when viewed from the perspective of the US’s powerful defense lobby. That while the benefits of supplanting Russian defense contractors with US ones within India’s growing arms industry may not be stated as an explicit policy objective by the US State Department or the White House ;there are definitely many in Washington that would wholeheartedly welcome such a scenario.
From a purely realist perspective, many would consider the above developments simply as one of the many instances of real politik that characterize our world today. However, for the few idealists left amongst us, it is becoming increasingly difficult to assess whether the US’s major arms agreements are serving as a subordinate corollary to, or a key determining factor of its foreign policy choices. As a super-power that has long predicated its actions on the ideals of maintaining peace, freedom and stability, it is quite troubling to witness its foreign policy so increasingly and unabashedly driven by power, greed and profitability, especially in this day and age.
IISS Research: Europe cannot defend itself without U.S.
International research institutes very often provide assessments which cause just a revolution in the thinking of ordinary people and even politicians. Such reports give impetus to decisive actions and revision of existing strategies and politics.
One of such reports is “Defending Europe: scenario-based capability requirements for NATO’s European members” made by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). An independent open-source high-level assessment of how the defence of Europe, would look if the United States had left NATO and did not contribute militarily has been published in May.
Though it is stated that research paper “does not intend to predict future conflicts nor the intentions of any of the actors involved”, it gives Europe the reasons to rethink situation and take some actions.
The 50-page report applies scenario analysis to generate force requirements, and assesses the ability of NATO’s European member states to meet these requirements.
The experts give two scenarios for the development of events in the absence of financial support from the U.S. The first scenario examined deals with the protection of the global sea lines of communication (SLOCs). In this scenario, the United States has withdrawn from NATO and has also abandoned its role of providing global maritime presence and protection, not just for its own national interest but also as an international public good. It thus falls to European countries to achieve and sustain a stable maritime-security environment in European waters and beyond, to enable the free flow of international maritime trade, and to protect global maritime infrastructure. The IISS assesses that European NATO members would have to invest between US$94 billion and US$110bn to fill the capability gaps generated by this scenario.
The second scenario deals with the defence of European NATO territory against a state-level military attack. In this scenario, tensions between Russia and NATO members Lithuania and Poland escalate into war after the US has left NATO. Russia uses its ally Belarus to deploy troops in its territory.
Belarus (borders Poland and Lithuania) puts its armed forces on alert, its military and air-defence command and control (C2) structures are integrated into Russian networks, and there is a limited mobilisation of reserves. Russian logistic, air defence and C2 units deploy to Belarus, as does the full 1st Guards Tank Army and an air-assault brigade.
This war results in the Russian occupation of Lithuania and some Polish territory seized by Russia. Invoking Article V, the European members of NATO direct the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) to plan Operation Eastern Shield to reassure Estonia, Latvia and Poland, and other front-line NATO member states, by deterring further Russian aggression. European NATO also prepares and assembles forces for Operation Eastern Storm, a military operation to restore Polish and Lithuanian government control over their territories.
The IISS assesses that European NATO members would have to invest between US$288bn and US$357bn to fill the capability gaps generated by this scenario. These investments would establish a NATO Europe force level that would likely allow it to prevail in a limited regional war in Europe against a peer adversary.
The matter is some of the capabilities provided by US forces, such as logistics and sustainment for land forces, may be relatively straightforward if not cheap to replace.
However others are almost unique to the US, and it would be difficult to substitute European capabilities.
One of the implications of this research is the enduring importance of the US in military terms for the defence of Europe. This study provides a reality check for the ongoing debate on European strategic autonomy.
The IISS assesses that the recapitalisation across the military domains would take up to 20 years, with some significant progress around the ten- and 15-year marks.
Europe should also take into account that though this scenario is only hypothetical, in reality Russia and Belarus continue intensive military training. In October they are going to conduct massive joint military exercise Union Shield 2019 simulating joint military activity in case of armed conflict. There is concern that Europe has capabilities to appropriately react on such activities without the U.S.
In other words, the authors of the report demonstrate the direct dependence of the European countries on the U.S. in military sphere and even prescribe a certain path of action to be pursued by European NATO governments. If Europe really wants to be independent, it should start with increasing its capabilities and break a deep dependence on the U.S. and its money.
Turkey is the Guarantor of Peace in the Black Sea region
The wider Black Sea region—which brings together the littoral states plus neighbouring countries—is experiencing a rapidly shifting security environment that combines large-scale conventional military threats, internationalized civil wars and protracted conflicts, as well as weapons of mass destruction (WMD) challenges. As such, a fragile set of states caught between the Euro-Atlantic community, on the one hand, and Russia and its allies, on the other, has emerged as a key interface between the two security communities.
Since the 1990s, most of the world’s identified cases of illicit trafficking of nuclear materials—fissile materials, in particular—have been located in countries around the Black Sea. The nuclear security situation in the region is further complicated by the existence of areas with unstable governance and protracted conflicts such as in Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and areas of Eastern Ukraine since 2014.
The Washington’s open, aggressive behavior in the international arena pushes traditional allies away from it. But despite the escalation of the conflict with Turkey, the United States, being the founding member of NATO, is still pursuing the goal of strengthening its presence in the Black Sea.
main allies of the White House in this region are the leadership of Georgia and
Ukraine, who dream of entry into NATO and accept all the imposed conditions.
However, for more than 80 years the presence of warships of non-Black Sea powers, that could enter the sea via the Bosphorus, has been regulated by the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits. According to it, the total non-Black Sea tonnage, with few exceptions, is limited to 15 thousand ships. It prevents the emergence of something more significant there than a detachment of light forces, one or two large warships. At the same time for warships there are restrictions on the class and duration of stay. In particular, ships of non-Black Sea states can stay in the water area for no more than 21 days.
Any attempts to violate this document will be extremely negatively perceived by Turkey, that should be one of the leading players in the region. It is impossible to revise the convention without the consent of Turkey, and only supporting by Ankara country can provide overwhelming superiority in the Black Sea.
In such a situation, the Pentagon considers it possible to use the navigable channel of Istanbul for the passage of American aircraft carriers, that will connect the Marmara and the Black Sea. A channel of about 50 km in length will run parallel to the Bosphorus, while the Montreux Convention will not extend to it. The construction of Channel Istanbul will be completed in 2023.
By the end of construction, everything will depend on the leadership of Turkey. If Ankara concedes and allows the passage of the US Navy aircraft carriers through the new channel, it will surrender all its positions in the Black Sea to the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, NATO member countries (this is not about Bulgaria and Romania) maintain a military presence in the Black Sea region. The Sea Shield 2019 naval drills ended in mid-April, and the reconnaissance ship HMS Echo of the British Royal Navy continues to carry out its mission in the Black Sea.
The US Navy already has 11 atomic high-speed aircraft carriers, each with about 90 aircraft. If we imagine that a small part of them will be placed in the Black Sea, then Russia will receive a defensive response. And then all the terrible scenarios of hostilities are likely to happen.
There is a hope that the Turkish government has enough resilience and determination in confronting the harsh rhetoric of other NATO partners.
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