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Assessing Washington’s “strategic and military” options in Syria

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For Washington, Eastern regions around Mediterranean holds “vital strategic interests” centrally to which lies Syria, policy makers within the White House and the State Department continue to face numerous challenges on how to adequately and effectively defend these “strategic interests” with “limited yet effective” military engagements. The “horrors” induced by Assad regime in this “complex” battlefield, coupled with the “rise of jihadist elements inside Syrian state”, further fuels an already “complexed battlefield”, which could potentially destroy the strategic interests of the US and their regional allies. Furthermore, the “ripple effect” from the on-going battle could involve neighbouring states.

Moreover, according to one estimate of the UNHCR: the conflict has claimed lives of over 117,000, whereas thousands have been wounded, leaving behind over six million internally displaced, besides devastated cities and towns, with more than half of the population without food and clean water, especially in the light of two chemical attacks. In the background of a “highly intense conflict”, the US even with “enormous military resources”, have fairly limited military option to bring this “saga of death and destruction” to a temporary halt. In the light of an increasingly “intense conflict”, even smaller military engagement could result in further escalation of this conflict. It is imperative for policy makers at the White House to completely “abandon” the option of a “direct military engagement” while redirecting all available resources to “limit the ripple effect within Syria”.

Washington’s strategic interests

Washington’s principle strategic objectives for regions around Mediterranean includes“ sustainable long-term stability, preventing easy movements of radical terror factions, preventing all categories of weapons of mass destruction, reinforcing Israeli security forces, ensuring a flourished economy, while promoting democratic values”. Washington must employ “viable measures” to prevent the reach of Syrian war beyond its boundaries. Furthermore, Washington must address the ethnic conflict between Shia and Sunni carefully and delicately, while systematically limiting this “ethnic” conflict, which is too delicate and vulnerable enough to engulf an entire region and with enough potential to establish “two ethnic centered poles”, giving further opportunity for nations such as Iran, to establish influence. Furthermore, policy makers must [if they have the means and resources readily available]eliminate internal clashes if the costs are acceptable.

Bringing an end to the Syrian civil war

In the background of regional instability, it is imperative for Washington to employ all available resources to prevent Syria from a total collapse. Indeed, the civilian casualties are rising phenomenally, with rapidly intense conflict coupled with the frequent use of chemical weapons, human bodies will continue to rise and so will the difficulties in post war reconstruction. Hence, one seemingly possible outcome, although likely, of the Syrian war will be of a “failed” state, which could become a “possible” hideout for Islamic radical militant factions such as Al-Qaeda and Al Nusra Front. Keeping in mind the on-going “intense clashes”, the damage induced by Syrians in this war will be too “painful” to recover regardless of any victor, especially with widespread lawlessness, death and destruction. With respect to US favoured outcome, the chances are reasonably low; as victors shall either be the Assad regime, left to govern shattered Syrian lands, or some Sunni centric radical militant factions with considerable dominance, but largely the outcome will be “continuous engagement until one side is exhausted”. Even if a “democracy favoured” liberal group emerges from the conflict, the total rehabilitation and reconstruction cost will be too difficult for Syria to bear, even if international aid organizations such as the UN assist financially the possibility for re-emergence of a civil war will remain high.

Keeping in mind the “moral values” of Washington,a large-scale US military intervention in Syria will not be significant enough to overthrow Assad regime or put an end to this conflict once and for all. Policy makers must note that, the Syrian conflict is densely spread in populated cities and towns, and is extensively carried out by multiple elements, and is not limited to a “stubborn” regime, but also extensively involves ethnic religious factions stretching the boundaries beyond a “revolution”. Moreover, Syria is different from other “Arab-spring” countries, the Assad regime, along with over 15% of the Alawiite population, are locked in a “death match”,the only way to achieve their freedom struggle. Many Sunni centred radical factions have called this “struggle as jihad”and are ready to die in this fight. This war is no less than “embedded in ethnicity, dipped in religious colours”,which will continue even after the fall of Assad regime, especially in the light of active “external factors” and “aggressive regional actors”. However, Washington’s strategic interests are best “preserved” if it manages to “contain” the conflict, and this is precisely where policy makers within the State Department should focus.

Bridging the Shia-Sunni clashes

One of the principle factors in Syrian civil war is the wedge that has been created between Shi’a and the Sunni ethnicity, which is rapidly increasing the gap between the two ethnicities. The causes which resulted in the Shi’a-Sunni divide are to “complex” to address in one article, but it will not be incorrect to state that, the Shi’a-Sunni conflict is “densely” gripped in Syrian Civil war. Moreover, major masses in Syria are Sunni whereas the Assad regime hails from Alawi sect, which is roughly 12% of the entire populous. Theologically, the Alawi were tied with Shi’a sect, however, the then Syrian President Hafez Al-Asad (who was an Alawi), after coming to power, received a  fatwa from the then Lebanese religious-leader cum philosopher Musa Al-Sadr stating that the Aalwai’s were community with deep roots in Shi’a Islam, which which further cemented his stand when the Aalwi leader sided with Shi’a Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, highlighting his preference for Shi’a community, a legacy perhaps, passed on to his successor, Bashar Al-Assad.

To protect American strategic interests in the region, it is imperative for Washington to prevent further escalation of Shi’a-Sunni conflict, which has the potential to spread over in neighbouring countries such as Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen; particularly in Iraq, the Shi’a-Sunni ethnic clashes continues to escalate phenomenally, crossing the levels of post-US withdrawal which not only threatens the instability of the state but also has the potential to seriously cripple delicate “post-Saddam reconstruction initiatives”. Furthermore, intense ethnic clashes could further infuriate an already infuriated crisis in Yemen, while fuelling instability in an already “political-dilemma” struck Lebanon.

The issue of chemical weapons

It is in the regional American interests to prevent the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), however, Washington must focus their attention on chemical and biological weapons besides nuclear. Even in the aftermath of a successful Israeli air strike on one of the Syrian nuclear installation in early 2007, a large stockpile of nuclear weapons were hidden by Assad regime, to avert its destruction from probable in-future Israeli airstrikes. Also, on numerous occasions Washington too warned Assad regime against transportation and deployment of these weapons. In early 2013, the State Department confirmed the presence of chemical weapons in Syrian military installations and in late August, the regime deployed chemical attacks on Syrian masses. The then President Obama had warned Assad regime against any further use of chemical weapons on Syrian masses, further stating that the “red line has been crossed” and re-affirmed their announcement of early June “to provide rebel forces with adequate military support”.

The use of chemical attack in late August came amidst international condemnation, diplomatic engagements and threats for armed response, out of which, none of the engagements adequately involved threats against another possible chemical attack or its proliferation or trafficking. Moreover, again in early February, another chemical attack forced international communities to convene a session at UNSC which then established a “temporary ceasefire”. However, with temporary ceasefire in place, the attacks continue to create “horror and havoc” within Syrian masses. As per today, the Trump administration has not yet addressed the issue regarding proliferation and trafficking of chemical weapons within the region. Policy makers must note that, there are multiple avenues to traffic chemical weapons: to begin with, the regime could easily traffic stockpiles of weapons to a third actor (preferable Hezbollah in Lebanon, or any Shi’ite militant group in Iraq), or the rebel forces could easily traffic these weapons within Syria itself, in such a case,the Syrian rebels could seek assistance from Al-Qaeda affiliate Syrian groups who could then transfer these weapons anywhere in the Middle East and beyond.

Preventing the “spill-over” effect

The Syrian conflict is too intense and there is a high possibility for it to engulf neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Israel. It must be noted that, even the slightest spill-over effect of Syrian conflict could potentially destabilize the entire region. The aforementioned neighbouring states share borders with Syria, which are essentially porous, and roughly all of them are currently hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. Hence, these camps could ignite the “fire of resistance” outside Syria, forcing the Syrian forces to cross borders in an effort to counter Anti-Assad factions. An incursion of these Syrian forces, even at an infinitesimal level could further escalate the conflict, which would result ina direct confrontation which in due course, will force the refugees out of these camps.

The “spill-effect” of Syrian conflict on other regional allies of Washington, would prove disastrous for America’s strategic interests. In the event of a Syrian civil war escalating beyond the boundaries, the spill-over would further deepen the Shi’a-Sunni ethnic divide, while opening doors for new actors which could further deteriorate an already deteriorating situation.

Washington’s “viable” military options

Policy makers at White House and State Department continues to face numerous “policy centric” challenges with respect to Syria; in the light of repetitive inconclusive engagement at all levels (military, diplomatic and political)reinforced with Trump administration’s “erratic non-pragmatic policies with respect to Syria”, Syrian civil war must remain a top priority, especially when America’s strategic interests are at stake. Furthermore, Washington must not engage in a direct military confrontation. In an effort to retain strategic interests in Syria, policy makers should focus their attention to some of the viable policies mentioned below:

Deploy military advisors to train the rebel groups which fairly covers, providing logistical support, heavy weaponry assistance and real-time based intelligence. The deployed military advisors can range between two hundred to two thousand, covering a cost of no more than 250$ to 500$ million. The deployment of troops shall be in designated “green zones” which could be established post-discussion with Joint-Chiefs and CENTCOM.

Limited maneuvered attacks and assisting the rebel groups, by specifically targeting HVT’s (High Value Targets), through precision guided bombs or JDAM’s. The objective is to eliminate the target that is valued by the regime or is irreplaceable enough to shatter regime’s power in certain areas. Such targets could be residing in Libya or Lebanon, or in regime HQ’s or safe houses, regime sponsored residential areas, military barracks or signal-intelligence headquarters.

Implement a no-fly zone, this would prevent any Syrian air assets from flying in the airspace to carry out attacks against Syrian communities and rebel groups.

Implement buffer zones, this would provide a safe “casualty collection points” for rebel forces, where they can also, train and receive medical treatment. The author suggests implementing buffer zones on the border with Jordan and Turkey. These buffer zones would provide adequate air cover against Syrian air assets; however, the size of the zone and its location would ultimately determine the staging limit for reinforcements.

Prevent the use of chemical WMD’s, the US must deploy its special forces to identify and destroy chemical weapons in Syria, especially their trafficking routes and technical equipments, making their movements possible. Destroying a chemical weapon on land would prove dangerous as, the wind could potentially change the direction of the chemical, which could result in massive civilian casualties, since its lethal effects could be seen for miles. Identifying the canister location could prove difficult, especially when the number of missiles and the size of it are unknown, thus, intelligence must be real time and accurate. Once the intelligence sources have identified the location of cannisters/missiles, special forces must be deployed for immediate transportation of these cannisters/missiles out from the enemy territories, ensuring that there is no leak. Furthermore, locating chemical weapons is quite difficult particularly when they are small, they can easily be concealed.

It is imperative for policy makers to consider all the aforementioned points as “strategic force implementation packages” but must keep in mind the costs and the benefits of these points, before formulating a response. They must evaluate all possible scenarios/ simulations, individually and in groupings: carefully monitoring their progress. These responses might strengthen Assad regime’s response, as they would definitely see the war as “fight against the West”, selecting some “special forces elements” from the Syrian army and re-tasking them to dedicatedly counter US forces. More importantly, the author advises policy makers to employ more “aggressive yet discreet measures”, but asserts policy makers to retain determination, particularly when it comes to implementing any of the aforementioned points, post which the enemy could aggressively respond.

Conclusion

The Syrian civil war is increasingly becoming complex and with its increasingly “complexity”, the challenges faced by Washington continues to increase. How should policy makers formulate viable pragmatic plan of actions in such complexity? Essentially, Washington wants to see the end of the Syrian Civil war, it is in their interests, but a US “aggressive” response to bring peace on the table, could remind policy makers of their engagement in Vietnam, especially when there are huge lists of commitment and very few allies for support. Moreover, like all civil wars (particularly Lebanon, Rwanda, Somalia)the civil war in Syria will come to an end only when the resources are exhausted (Assad regime and rebel fighters), or when certain external actors stop assisting them with “vital” supplies. Although, the Assad regime has conducted numerous “unspeakable acts of violence and induced terror”, (so did certain rebel groups),Washington does not have enough resources to monitor every violent action induced by Assad regime and respond, which even if policy makers decide to, could potentially further infuriate the crisis. Taking into account the aforementioned arguments, Al-Qaeda and its Syrian affiliate could possibly be the victors, as the US does not have resources to shape Syria’s future.

The best possible option for Washington is to “contain the civil war”, that said, the containment itself will be a difficult especially in the light of recent “escalation”, this is precisely the “point of focus” for US military. Washington must assist regional partners in an effort to “contain the conflict”, dropping the option of a “costly military confrontation”. Furthermore, Washington must distance itself from the Shi’a-Sunni conflictas it would take one fatal error to escalate an already escalated conflict. Policy makers must note that, no country is benefiting from the Syrian civil war, irrespective of their religion or historical relationship/engagement with Washington. If this war escalates, it would engulf every actor. Containment is not only a viable option, but also the best possible one which would benefit every actor, and Washington must effectively initiate a policy on it. Containment will not invite easy choices, and will not immediately deliver results, however, it should remain at the core of Washington’s policy on Syrian civil war.

Anant Mishra is a security analyst with expertise in counter-insurgency and counter-terror operations. His policy analysis has featured in national and international journals and conferences on security affairs.

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U.S Vs China view on the Iranian nuclear proliferation risks

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The Chinese view and philosophy on Iranian nuclear proliferation can be understood through (the Chinese emphasis on the current global security situation and its passing through complex and profound changes, and the challenges of curbing and exacerbating proliferation and nuclear security are exacerbating, while the threat of nuclear terrorism cannot be ignored), which it overlooked and ignored the Western powers and American policies themselves, contrary to the Chinese vision.

 The Chinese understanding regarding confronting the US pressure on Iran over its nuclear program is characterized by the mechanism of Iran’s regional positioning in the Middle East and making it a major regional power, especially after the “strategic partnership agreement with Iran for 25 years in March 2021”, with China intensifying its partnership efforts with other powers to mobilize them and recruit them to the Chinese side to exert collective pressures on the United States of America regarding forcing it to accept the Iranian conditions on negotiating the nuclear proliferation file, and the importance of Washington making concessions in favor of Tehran, especially related to lifting and easing US sanctions imposed on Iran.

   And what can be emphasized here, that it seems important here, in light of the growing competition between the United States and China, that (the countries of the region pay attention to bridging the gaps, liquidating regional conflicts, rebuilding strategic alliances and security initiatives), which makes the region a difficult figure in the face of (all  Attempts to employ it in the context of the conflict between the major powers). The countries of the region should also deepen their relations with the countries and partners of the middle and influential powers in the international system, especially those countries that have permanent membership in the UN Security Council, as well as the European Union, so that there are (alternatives and front lines of defense on the part of these powers to defend their interests in the region  And to impose a balanced equation that prevents exposure to the effects of any new cold war that may affect the region, due to the policies of US-Chinese competition).

   In my personal opinion, that (the Iranians may have another opportunity to negotiate about it by turning back the movement of history), and what I mean here is (Iran’s presentation during the rule of former President “Mohammed Khatami” and after the United States invaded Iraq after 2003, a generous offer to the West from  During what is known, as (Swiss diplomacy), where that show was known at the time, as the “Grand Bargain Deal”).

     By that (Swiss diplomacy) means the (Iranian pledge to be fully transparent about its nuclear file, and to prove stopping its support for Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon, in return for full security guarantees from the United States of America, and full normalization of relations with it), and I believe that Iran according to that  Swiss diplomacy will win the ranks of the international community, including (Israel and the Arab Gulf states as Iran’s staunch enemies in the Middle East).

   China also wants, with the Iranian side, to stick to the 2015 negotiations, known as the “5+1” Group”, which includes: (USA, France, Britain, Russia, China, in addition to Germany with Iran). But, the US withdrawal came unilaterally during Trump’s term in 2018, which formed a series of tensions about the reasons for this American withdrawal in the media and diplomacy, and China’s constant question about (the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency in confronting Washington and its unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear agreement that the USA has signed with Iran in 2015).

    I can also stop here on a serious issue that is rarely touched upon, regarding (the role of the Western, American and even the Israeli media itself towards Iran and mobilizing the whole world against it, by accusing Iran that it is months away from manufacturing the first nuclear weapon, which represents real pressure on the work of the Agency). In my personal opinion, Iran still needs long-term years to complete its nuclear project, especially in light of the severe economic crisis that the Islamic Republic of Iran is suffering from, which lacks sufficient financial, technical and psychological resources and the final decision to possess this nuclear weapon in its final form.

    China is seeking to reach an agreement on a tight and comprehensive framework on the Iranian nuclear program, which guarantees (complete and free international control without US, Israeli or international pressures on uranium enrichment and plutonium residues), which may block any endeavor to manufacture a nuclear weapon, according to the assurances of the American experts themselves in the nuclear technicians file.

   Here, China insists on a number of terms and conditions in advance, regarding the new mechanism relating to (the renegotiation of the Iranian nuclear file against the United States of America), which are:

Calling on China to (lift the economic sanctions imposed by Europe and the United States on Iran), as a prerequisite for goodwill towards Iran.

  China understands the International Atomic Energy Agency’s long-term restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, but China supports the (continuation of uranium enrichment in small, identifiable proportions, for the purpose of Iran’s peaceful nuclear uses in legitimate work such as electricity generation), and so on.

China’s support for the efforts of (reducing the number of Iranian centrifuges by two-thirds, while keeping the rest and monitoring the nature of its peaceful uses).

 China’s monitoring and supervision of the activities (disposal of enriched Iranian uranium under the supervision of the supervisors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, without American pressures), which may be exercised on them to random level of accusations against Iran.

 China agrees with the Iranians not to export nuclear fuel in the coming years, and support (the strategy of not building Iranian reactors that may operate with heavy water generating dangerous nuclear uses, and China’s support for the IAEA’s scarcity of not transferring Iranian equipment from one nuclear facility to another in Tehran for a period of approximately 15 years, in order to ensure integrity and transparency).

The Iranian allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to enter all suspected sites, including: the Iranian military sites, but this is done after “consulting with Tehran itself out of respect for its internal affairs and sovereignty”.

 The necessity of maintaining (the ban on the import of Iranian weapons for an additional five years, and eight years for ballistic missiles).

 China’s requesting from the US and the international community to (release of Iran’s frozen assets, which are estimated at billions of dollars), in order to restore the wheel of development and economic growth for the benefit of the Iranian people themselves.

 China is demanding to (lift the ban on Iranian aviation, as well as on the Central Bank and Iranian companies).

 China’s call to the International Atomic Energy Agency to cooperate with Iran internationally in (the areas of its superiority in energy and technology to benefit from it on the one hand and to integrate and qualify Iran to win the affection of the international community on the other hand).

    Here, we find China’s keenness to (the success of the negotiations of the Iranian nuclear agreement, as a Chinese diplomatic success and victory in the face of Washington), and this was demonstrated through the previous Chinese proposals, which (included a negotiating framework based on mutual concession step by step to make it a success, meaning Iran’s concession in exchange for the concession of the United States of America and IAEA negotiators).

  The Chinese long-term vision is represented in proposing and negotiating all endeavors, proposals, and solutions regarding the Iranian nuclear file, in order to (gain a double international political weight for Beijing as a superpower in the face of American and Western policies, and in support of the Chinese position calling for international pluralism and the existence of a multilateral system that is active in it). If this is achieved, Beijing will be the (first and most international beneficiary of the completion of the Iranian nuclear agreement on conditions satisfactory to all), whether on the political or economic level, and without leaving any clear negative repercussions on the Chinese side itself in the future.

   During the various stages of the negotiations, China also made unremitting efforts to resolve the differences between Washington and Tehran, especially (encouraging Beijing to adhere to the international joint plan of action, which China proposed as a solution to the problem of the Iranian nuclear file), known as: “JPOA”

  The most prominent (proposals for the formulation of the Chinese negotiating framework towards Iran and the international community) to reach a comprehensive solution are the development of Chinese proposals, based on five points, as follows:

  1. Ensuring commitment to dialogue between the (5+1) group and Iran.
  2. Seeking a comprehensive, fair, appropriate and long-term solution.
  3. Follow the principle of solution step by step and alternately.
  4. Creating a suitable atmosphere for dialogue and negotiation.
  5. Ensuring a comprehensive approach to address the symptoms and root causes of the crisis.

  The “Chinese comprehensive solution strategy towards the Iranian nuclear crisis”, is also based on China’s proposal for a comprehensive solution based on four points, the most prominent of which, represented in:

 It is necessary to activate political decisions with Iran, and not just rely solely on technical solutions, given that the (Iranian nuclear file has a political-security character).

  All international parties must meet and move with each other in the middle of the road to achieve the necessary flexibility, and this requires (accepting settlements from all international parties, including Iran).

 Follow the principle of “step-by-step and reciprocal solution”, which is the common item in all the internationally proposed Chinese proposals.

Thinking outside the box to find a comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis, meaning: reaching solutions that may be (new, innovative, technical and technical), as steps in achieving negotiations with Iran.

   The most prominent of these innovative, new and unconventional Chinese solutions for the step of resolving the nuclear crisis with Tehran, is (China’s proposal for a solution that includes redesigning the core of the “Arak Heavy Water Facility” reactor, which will distance it from the nuclear problem by reducing its consumption and reducing the efficiency and degree of its work to the maximum extent), and here, we can note that the Iranian Arak nuclear facility is capable of producing plutonium, a dangerous substance that is usually used to make a nuclear bomb, that is, for military uses. The (Iranian Arak reactor) was a serious obstacle to the progress of negotiations with Iran, until China proposed an innovative solution outside the box, it is (the idea of ​​redesigning the Iranian reactor core so that it is unable to produce plutonium for military purposes).

    China adheres here, in accordance with the text of the previous nuclear agreement with Tehran in 2015, to establish (a mechanism that guarantees common responsibilities among all, especially the group of negotiating countries (5+1), which are the countries that participated in the negotiations with Iran for the purpose of reaching the nuclear agreement), especially at the invitation of China towards a step of the (international integration of Iran in the fields of peaceful nuclear cooperation, as well as providing technical and technical assistance to Iran for peaceful purposes). Hence, China will have a leading role in achieving the future negotiation plan with Iran.

   According to the official Chinese vision, (setting a condition for lifting the sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations, in exchange for Iran imposing long-term restrictions on its nuclear program), that the West suspects is aimed at making an Iranian nuclear bomb in the long run, with China constantly launching a major diplomatic offensive to counter all the unilateral sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States and Europe.

    An official Chinese assertion came, through (a major report issued by the “Chinese People’s Daily”, which is the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party of China, which confirmed that “China’s leadership of talks with Iran has sent a message of hope to the world about the success of Chinese diplomatic efforts towards the solution step”. The Chinese newspaper emphasized the result, by emphasizing of “The facts are now showing that dialogue and negotiations were the only correct and effective path to an appropriate solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, and that a particular country’s threat to use force against Iran and impose unilateral sanctions is unacceptable”. The Chinese People’s Daily concluded its directed primarily speech  to the international community, by emphasizing that: “China is one of the main advocates of the principle of searching for political solutions regarding Iran, and that Iranian talks, according to Beijing’s vision and philosophy have always demonstrated the importance of this philosophy”.

  The confirmation made by the current Chinese Foreign Minister, (Wang Yi) who has assured that: “China and the United States of America bear great responsibilities in protecting the international regime for nuclear non-proliferation, so they should remain in good contact during the negotiations, and trying to instill positive energy towards the negotiation file with Iran”.

   China is trying (to prove its ability before the International Atomic Energy Agency and the international community to convince the Iranians of appropriate solutions, through China’s supervision of the formulation of a neutral agreement that satisfies all parties, through China’s continued close coordination with all relevant parties, including the United States of America itself), and the Chinese attempt to supervise  on all arrangements and play a constructive role during this process.  This is despite the differences between China and the United States of America on everything, starting with (the United States of America signing the AUKUS Defense agreements and the Quad agreement to confront China, electronic security differences between the two parties, the dispute over the value of the Chinese currency, trade differences, and the United States’ ban on dealing with the Chinese company of “Huawei” to introduce the fifth generation of the networks)….etc.

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War Between Russia and Ukraine: A Basic Scenario?

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Concern is growing in the Western media over Russian military activity in the southwestern theatre. There are opinions that Russia is preparing a military campaign against Ukraine. The supposed goal is to break the deadlock of the Minsk Agreements, to impose further coexistence conditions on Kiev and its Western partners, to prevent the US and NATO from “developing” the territory of Ukraine for military purposes, and also to reformat the country’s political system and its state structure. Such rumours are spreading quickly, causing alarm among the political leaders of foreign countries as well as latent, albeit tangible fears in the business community. However, it is still premature to consider such a development as a baseline scenario.

Several circumstances speak in favour of the military scenario outlined by foreign commentators. The first is the recent experience of the Russian armed forces and the political consequences of their use. Moscow intervened in Georgia’s conflict with Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008, quickly changing the situation and recognising the two autonomies as independent states. In 2014, Russia carried out a lightning-fast operation in Crimea, creating conditions for the subsequent referendum on reunification. Later, the Ukrainian army was defeated in Donbass, and the political consequence was the formation of the LPR and DPR. In 2015, Moscow radically changed the military situation in Syria by deploying a compact but highly effective air group. The political result has been the preservation of power in the hands of the Assad government and the defeat of a number of terrorist groups. All these events indicate that Russia is ready to use force suddenly, in a concentrated manner and at the same time to seek concrete political changes.

The second circumstance is that the international political consequences for Russia which resulted from the military campaigns were relatively insufficient. No foreign state has intervened openly in these conflicts. Foreign military aid does not radically alter the balance of power. Economic sanctions in their current form harm the Russian economy, but they are still not the main factor contributing to existing problems. The economy itself is stable. In short, there are no major checks and balances on a new military campaign.

The third circumstance is that Russia is not ready to bear with the existing status quo in relations with Ukraine. Kiev is almost openly talking about sabotaging the Minsk agreements, and is not ready to implement them. The US and the EU cannot or do not want to change this; while at the same time they are verbally calling on Russia to abide by the agreements. Ukraine itself, after 2014, for obvious reasons, has been pursuing an anti-Russian line. The events of 2014 significantly strengthened the position of the nationalists. Any attempt to pursue a political dialogue with Russia is deemed unacceptable. A “mopping-up” of politicians who are in any way loyal to Russia is under way. Militarily weak and fearful of further complications with Moscow, Ukraine is seeking to deepen its defence ties with the United States and its allies, as well as trying to expand military aid and supplies. In Moscow, this is perceived as the “utilisation” of the territory of Ukraine by Western countries and is accompanied with subsequent threats to the strategic interests of Russia. Moscow considers the emergence of Western military infrastructure in Ukraine only a matter of time.

Taking into account these circumstances, a scenario where Russia takes action can be hypothetically considered in the West and in Ukraine in the following vein. With a sudden and decisive blow in several directions at once, Russian troops dismember the armed forces of Ukraine in the East of the country, surround separate groups, or press them against the Dnieper river. The actions of tank and motorised units are accompanied by powerful air, missile and artillery strikes. The Russian Aerospace Forces seize air supremacy. The apotheosis of the operation should be the encirclement and the subsequent capture of Kiev, and the stabilisation of the front line along the Dnieper. The creation of a new Ukrainian state with the capital in Kiev would be announced and recognised by Russia. It would include the previously-independent DPR and LPR. Russia thereby resolves several historical problems at once. The immediate threat to the southwestern borders is removed. Full control over the Sea of Azov and a land corridor to the Republic of Crimea are ensured. Two Ukrainian states appear on the map, one of which should be “friendly and fraternal”.

Even if one fails to write off this scenario as a reflection of existing phobias and nationalist complexes, it still seems unlikely for a number of reasons.

First, such a military conflict is unlikely to culminate in any intelligible agreement. A victory over the armed forces of Ukraine will not by itself lead to a fast peace. The war could develop into a long and sluggish confrontation, especially if part of the territory (for example, Western Ukraine) remains under the control of the Ukrainian armed forces. Capturing the whole of Ukraine is technically possible. However, it will be more costly, and subsequent control would be much more difficult. The option of “two Ukrainian states” would allow Russia to squeeze nationalists out by sending them West. Under a “one Ukraine” scenario, this would be impossible, given all the ensuing consequences.

Second, the conflict would inevitably lead to a sharp change in the Western approach toward providing Ukraine with modern weapons and military equipment. In the United States and in the West as a whole, the new situation would be considered as an emergency and they would not limit funds to support the armed forces of Ukraine. Moreover, in this case, all possible types of conventional weapons will be supplied. Large-scale military aid from the West would prolong the conflict. Russia would not be able to block such supplies. The United States and its allies will not enter open military confrontation with Moscow. However, the level of support for the Ukrainian army will grow significantly.

Third, regarding the Ukrainian issue, Russia would find itself in diplomatic isolation. It is unlikely that any country would voice support for Moscow’s actions. Unlike Crimea and Donbass, we’re talking about a large-scale and open clash between the armed forces, that is, about a full-fledged war. Russia would certainly be on the offensive. This would allow its actions to be classified as aggression without any problems. While the situation in Crimea and Donbass arose against the backdrop of revolutionary events in Ukraine and could be construed as part of a civil conflict, then in this scenario, such conditions are not visible. At the moment, there is no obvious conflict between the East and West of Ukraine. The legitimacy of Moscow’s actions in this case would be extremely weak, if not entirely impossible. In addition, Russia would have to bear responsibility for the civilian casualties, which would be inevitable in a large-scale conflict.

Fourth, all key Western players would introduce qualitatively new sanctions and restrictions against Russia. These would harm a number of Western countries and cause temporary shocks in world markets. But in an emergency situation, the West would take such measures, despite their economic cost. Possible measures include blocking sanctions against all Russian banks, including the Bank of Russia. This would largely cut Russia off from the global financial system. Another possible measure is a ban on the purchase of Russian oil, and then gas. Such bans can be increased gradually in order to avoid crisis situations with fuel supplies in the West itself. But in the event of a war in Ukraine, the West would take these measures. Other, more focused restrictions would be applied to imports and exports of oil and gas. The cumulative damage to the Russian economy would be colossal in scale.

Fifth, controlling Ukraine, even its eastern part, could be problematic. Taking into account the Western sanctions blockade, any transactions with the territories of Ukraine under Russian control would be impossible. Russia would have to take on a huge territory. The big question is whether the Russian market, in the grip of new sanctions, would be able to compensate for the damage to the Ukrainian territories under Russian control. The seizure of territories wouldn’t solve any of the problems facing the Russian economy today.

Sixth, the loyalty of the population of Eastern Ukraine to Russia is not obvious. Despite all the internal disagreements, over the past 30 years Ukraine has developed its own civic identity. The population of the eastern regions may have a negative attitude towards excessive nationalism. However, this does not guarantee their loyalty to Russia. Moreover, the war could finally undermine sympathy for Russia, which has already dwindled over the past six years.

Finally, seventh, the war is fraught with destabilisation of the situation inside Russia itself. There is no demand in society for a war with a neighbour, even despite the odiousness of the anti-Russia discourse in Ukraine. It is quite possible that Russian troops would be able to inflict resounding defeats on the armed forces of Ukraine and push them to the West. The losses, however, would still amount to hundreds, and possibly thousands of fighters. In the event of a possible prolongation of the conflict, human losses would become a permanent factor. Combined with a possible economic crisis, these are not the best conditions for generating public support. While reunification with Crimea was accepted with enthusiasm in Russian society for many reasons, a big war is unlikely to find such support.

In other words, the costs of a possible war far outweigh the benefits. The war is fraught with significant risks to the economy, political stability and Russian foreign policy. It fails to solve key security problems, while it creates many new ones.

The question arises—to whom and under what conditions is this scenario beneficial? First of all, it is attractive precisely as a hypothetical rather than a real situation. In this form, it makes it possible to consolidate Ukraine on an anti-Russian basis, to seek the expansion of Western military aid, and to justify such aid to the West. The threat of war and an exercise of power can also be used by the Russian side. Moscow shows that it is technically ready for a radical scenario and will not allow its “red lines” to be crossed. These “red lines” include a military solution to the Donbass problem. In other words, the scenario has a practical meaning as a tool for information warfare and political signals.

From the point of view of the balance of benefits and losses, neither side is interested in a real war. Therefore, it is hardly worth considering the war scenario as a likely one. However, history knows many examples when rational calculations have failed to put an end to escalation. There is only the hope that this isn’t the case here.

From our partner RIAC

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Defense

Contemporary World and the Era of Hybrid Warfare

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From the start of time, mankind is involved in many wars and conflicts for different reasons. Not so far, in the 20th century World has witnessed two major Wars of Human History also known as the World Wars, where every country was fighting either directly or indirectly with its opponent to serve their self-interests. It is a matter of fact that only World War-I caused around 40 Million Civil and Military casualties around the globe out of which 20 Million deaths were reported and 21 Million wounded cases were reported.

Similarly, World War II caused the death of around 75 million people out of which 20 Million Military and 40 Million Civilian deaths were reported. Not only was that but there were also some 10-15 Million deaths that were caused by war-related disease and famine. But with the start of the 21st century, the new concept of hybrid warfare is introduced in the strategic community that not only covers the traditional means of warfare but also involves the non-traditional means such as proxies, exploitation of population, trade, and economy.

The point to understand is, traditional wars were based on only state-centric approaches, but the hybrid war is not only limited to the state-centric approach as it can also target the individuals of any country easily to serve its interests.

Considering the tools of Hybrid Warfare and Pakistan’s internal security, the importance of drugs and Narcoterrorism cannot be ignored. Pakistan is sharing a border with Afghanistan that is well known for its opium production. Unfortunately, Afghanistan soil was used against Pakistan during recent years under the influence of India and it was reported that several drug trafficking and narcoterrorism activities were conducted by Indian sponsored groups. However, The Taliban Government has announced that they will no longer support the opium production on their land.

But this confirmation from the Taliban Government is not enough to maintain the internal security of Pakistan. Pakistan needs to protect its young generation from this narcoterrorism as the young generation of Pakistan is also one of the most important assets of the country and to whom the future of Pakistan belongs. No doubt, Pakistani Law enforcement agencies are playing their vital role to control drug trafficking but there are numerous weak points in the system that are affecting the whole infrastructure.

According to recent reports, almost every educational institution in Islamabad is a haven for drug dealers and drug suppliers where they are easily targeting the young minds of Pakistan. It’s a matter of fact that authorities are not successfully getting hold of these drug dealers as easily as a young college-going student can easily find them. And in the end, these drugs and narcotics not only affect the mental and physical health of young students but also cost them financially, emotionally, and socially by lacking their confidence and competitiveness.

Authorities need to handle this security threat to the young minds of the nation by controlling the spread of drugs and narcotics in educational institutions. A drug test should be mandatory in educational institutes with strict compliance to be followed. Authorities should also need to engage youth in more extracurricular sports activities by encouraging them with rewards on the national level so that they may find the true reason to stay away from the company of drugs and narcotics. And on the least level, authorities with the contribution of Parents and Teachers, need to share the consequences of drugs on life and a healthy body as an awareness campaign on every platform so that we can make sure that we are protecting our young generation from the silent yet destructive tool of hybrid warfare in the contemporary world.

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