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Defense Day: ‘Moral Force’ of the Pakistan Armed Forces

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The 6th of September is celebrated every year as the Defense Day by every Pakistani, as on this very day, Pakistan’s courageous Armed Forces and the entire nation stood united in 1965 for the defense of the homeland in thwarting the nefarious designs of the enemy which had threatened the territorial integrity of our beloved country through an all-out war. This time, Defense Day has come at a time when Pakistan Pakistan’s Armed Forces are successfully facing all external and internal challenges which are worrying all the citizens. Military thinkers agree that although the physical force will determine the type and scale of war, yet it is the ‘will to fight’ or ‘moral force’ which determines the outcome of war. Clausewitz puts it this way, “One might say that the physical force seems little more than the wooden hilt, while moral factors are the precious metal, the real weapon.”In his book, “Fighting Power: German and U.S. Army Performance, 1939-1945”, Creveld identifies the elements of ‘moral force’, whom he calls “fighting power, the willingness to fight and the readiness, if necessary, to die”. The greater these elements, the less vulnerable an armed force will be to demoralization. ‘Moral force’, then, is the crucial factor in determining the combat power of any belligerent.

During the 1965 war ‘moral force’ was more found in the personnel of Pakistan’s Armed Forces then those of India. When, on September 6, 1965, India started the war, and its forces crossed the international border, on the western front in Lahore, Pakistan’s Armed Forces quickly responded. Indian Regiment had also crossed the BRB canal and captured the town of Batapore (Jallo Mur). The same day, a counter offensive by Pakistanis soldiers, consisting of an armored division and infantry division forced the Indian 15th Division to withdraw to its starting point. In this regard, the huge credit goes to the all men of Pak Army, who were deployed in the Lahore areas of Wahgah, Burki etc. Without bothering for their lives, they fought bravely. Among them, Major Raja Aziz Bhatti played a vital role in the outcome of the Lahore battles and was martyred (Shaheed).Similarly, in case of Sialkot, several soldiers of the Pak Army sacrificed their lives to stop advancement of Indian tanks. The 1965 war witnessed some of the largest tank battles since World War II, and was fought at Chawinda in Sialkot sector—The Battle of Chawinda resulted into victory of Pakistan whose armored forces destroyed 120 tanks of India. As regards aerial warfare between Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and Indian Air Force (IAF), the latter emerged as victorious in the I965 war because, at the cost of their personal safety, the personnel of Pakistan Air Force defeated India. During that war, PAF had destroyed 100 Indian aircraft on ground and in the air, while damaged more than 10—not counting the undermined losses inflicted by PAF’s night bombing. In this respect, Squadron Leader M. M. Alam set new records in history of air warfare on 7th September by defending Pakistan’s airspace, and shot down five Indian aircraft in less than sixty seconds at Sargodha.

In relation to the sacrificing spirit, let us take the example of Flight Lieutenant YunusHussain who fought in air battles fearlessly. During one such engagement, he fought singly against 6 enemy aircraft and shot down 2 Hunters. On 6 September, while attacking Halwara airfield, his small formation was intercepted by a large number of enemy, and although his aircraft was hit, he refused to break off the engagement by disregarding his personal safety, and was martyred. The role of Pakistan Navy in the Indo-Pak war of 1965 is also appreciable. Securing Pakistan’s coasts, it played a vital role in defeating India. The Operation Dawarka marked was launched by Pakistan on September 7. Indian town of Dwarka was chosen to be a target of the attack. The Pakistani operation was successful and its warships harboured in Bombay, making the Indian Navy unable to sortie. In this context, Ghazi, the only submarine successfully attacked heavy ships of the Indian Navy, aiding Operation Dwarka. However, there were many national heroes like Brigadier Ahsan Rashid, Major Raja Aziz Bhatti, SQN LDR M. M. Alam, SQN LDR Sarfaraz Ahmed Rafiqui etc. who fought courageously with the Indian forces.

In fact, it was due to the ‘moral force’ that despite Indian surprise invasion in 1965 and the qualitative and numerical superiority over Pakistan, while showing courage, and by sacrificing their lives, the Pakistani forces not only recaptured the territories from India, but also took Khem Karan from Indian forces including various regions of Rajastan, Sindh, and Chumb in Kashmir. Indian defeat was owing to demoralization of its soldiers. By imbibing the same spirit of the 1965 war, Pakistan’s Armed Forces, during the successful military operations, Zarb-e-Azb, Radd-ul-Fasaad and Operation Khyber 4 have killed many terrorists through ground offensive and many of them surrendered before the Army. And during street to street fighting, without bothering for their lives, and by air-dropping commandos at the risky places, our forces made a great headway in disrupting the Taliban supply routes and links.

During these operations, Pak Army and country’s premier intelligence agency ISIalso recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition from the possession of the terrorists. Undoubtedly, the Pakistan’s Armed Forces have successfully broken the backbone of the foreign-backed terrorists by the military operations Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad which have also been extended to other parts of the country, including Balochistan province and Karachi. Army and ISI have broken the network of these terrorist groups by capturing several militants, while thwarting a number of terror attempts. These operations are obtaining their objectives effectively and rapidly.

It is due to the capabilities of the Pak Army that many insurgents of Balochistan and their leaders have surrendered their arms and decided to work for the development of Pakistan. However, owing to the successful operations of Pak Army and the Rangers, peace has been restored in Balochistan and Karachi, including other vulnerable regions, especially the tribal areas.But, in the recent past, terrorism related events in Balochistan and other regions of the country show that the US-led India, Afghanistan and Israel have again started acts of sabotage to destabilize Pakistan and to damage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).In this respect, in the recent past, new wave of terrorism in Pakistan, killed several innocent people, while various terrorist outfits, particularly the Islamic State group (Also known as Daesh, ISIS, ISIL), and the affiliated faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ur-Ahrar (TTP-JA also known as JuA) claimed responsibility for these brutal acts. TTP based in Afghanistan has its connections with ISIL and other terrorist organizations and affiliated terror groups, including Baloch separatist elements, and all these outfits are promoting the anti-Pakistan agenda of the foreign entities against Pakistan. As part of the double game, CIA, RAW, Mossad and Afghan intelligence agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS) which are in collaboration, are using these terror outfits in weakening Pakistan and especially Balochistan in order to fulfill the covert strategic aims of the US-led India and Israel against Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran.

These external secret agencies are especially supporting the TTP which is hiding in Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan and is behind many terror activities inside Pakistan, as the latter has also become center of the Great Game due to the ideal location of Balochistan. Nevertheless, Pakistan’s Armed Forces have been facing a different war, while enemy is also different, which employs subversive activities of various kinds which also include internal and external challenges. In these terms, Pakistan is in the state of new war, being waged by the Armed Forces and intelligence agencies against terrorists. Externally, from time to time, Pak Army has, boldly, been responding to India’s unprovoked firing at the Line of Control(LoC) in Kashmir. While, the fundamentalist party BJP led by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is implementing anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan agenda.

It is of particular attention that Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Qamar Javed Bajwa said on August 17, 2017 that Pakistan Army was capable to meet all internal and external challenges. In this context, the statement of the DG of Inter Services Publication Directorate (ISPR) Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor pointed out that during a visit to the office of ISPR “where he addressed and interacted with youth, undergoing annual internship programme…Pakistan Army has achieved great successes to rid country of violence and terrorism. However, for enduring peace, the COAS said, each Pakistani had to contribute in respective bit. Every Pakistani is soldier of Operation Rudd-ul-Fasaad”.In response to a question that how did he maintain his morale amid so much of challenges and pressures, “the COAS replied that selfless motivation of his outfit (Pak Army) and hope he sees in future of Pakistan (the youth) keeps him motivated and committed to the cause.” He also assured the students that Pakistan Army was committed to providing them a safe, secure and stable Pakistan.” The COAS advised the students “to remain mindful and vigilant of hostile narratives through social media, as “educated youth is prime target of ISIS and affiliates, be extra cautious.”Earlier, the corps commanders’ conference was held in Rawalpindi on August 7, 2017. According to the press release of the ISPR, “The conference was presided over by General Qamar Javed Bajwa, chief of Army staff (COAS)—undertook a comprehensive review of internal and external security environment—Forum was also briefed about situation along the Line of Control. The Forum acknowledged positive long term effects being achieved through Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad. COAS especially appreciated successful conduct of Operation Khyber 4[Which has been completed now] in a most inhospitable terrain of Rajgal with minimal own casualties which is made possible through high standards of professionalism. Expressing full satisfaction on Army’s commitment to national defence and security, COAS directed that efforts must continue, in concert with other elements of national power to defeat terrorism/militancy in order to establish Rule of Law and uphold supremacy of constitution.”

Evidently on July 6, this year, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) awarded 10 year rigorous imprisonment (RI) along with 8 million pounds fine to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Avenfield graft reference. The court awarded 7 year imprisonment to his daughter Maryam Nawaz along with two million pound fine. The court also sentenced Maryam to one year in prison for submitting false documents in court. It awarded one year RI to her husband Captain (retd) Safdar. Afterwards, they were arrested and sent to Adiala Jail.

Following the verdict, Maryam and Safdar stood disqualified from contesting the July 25 general elections 2018.In this respect, on July 28, 2017, five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan had announced its verdict in connection with the Panama Papers case and disqualified the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in relation to the charges of corruption. It said that Nawaz Sharif is not honest as he failed to disclose un-withdrawn salary as chairman of Capital FZE Jebel Ali, the UAE, London flats etc., while filing nomination papers in the 2013 general elections. Supreme Court had also issued directives to the NAB to file references against the Sharif family on the basis of material collected and referred to by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in its report and other such material as may be available with the Federal Investigation Agency.

On the other side, deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and head of the Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) who started a procession from Rawalpindi to Lahore via GT road on August 9, last year, said that the huge rally had proved that the people of Pakistan have rejected his disqualification. Nawaz Sharif, while forgetting Supreme Court’s various decisions of the past, which went in their favour, declared the verdict of the apex court—conspiracy against his family and government. While, leaders of the mainstream political parties such as Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Jamaat-e-Islami had emphasized the former Prime Minister Sharif to accept the verdict of the Supreme Court. The then PTI Chairman Imran Khan had remarked that by criticizing the decision of the apex court and Pakistan Army in this respect and through rallies of the PML-N, the disqualified P.M. Nawaz Sharif wanted to create rift between his party workers and the key institutes of the country. Some other political leaders, renowned persons and analysts have also expressed similar thought by opining that Nawaz Sharif seems determined to create anarchy in the country. Referring to the meeting of corps commanders held at the GHQ in Rawalpindi on August 7, 2017, ISPR DG stated that Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that Pakistan Army will uphold “supremacy of Constitution and rule of law.”

Besides, it was due to the role of Army that free and fair elections became possible in 2018. In this regard, the Chief Observer, Michael Gahler of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Pakistan expressed satisfaction on overall conduct of the general elections, saying “efforts of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) were impressive and appreciable…EU observers noted the presence of security personnel inside and outside the polling stations did not interfere in electoral process…voting was assessed as well-conducted and transparent.” Apart from many other countries, in a statement, the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, also congratulated the people of Pakistan for free and fair elections. At this critical moment, the Defense Day demands practical national unity, instead of verbal statements. This significant day emphasizes that our political leaders must pledge that they will not manipulate their regional and provincial differences at the cost of the national interests so as to grab political power. In this connection, a blind dedication to one’s own race, tribe and creed should not be allowed to create hatred in one group against the other. They must avoid exploiting present thorny issues in order to increase their vote-bank at the cost of the integration of the country. If any controversy arises, it can better be settled in consonance with the constitution, law, mutual understanding of the government and political parties. In this context, in order to castigate the conspiracy of the external enemies against the integrity of the country, our political leaders, media and human rights groups must also stop manipulating any crisis against Pak Army and ISI whose image are deliberately being tarnished by the external plotters.

True and selfless unity against the external enemies requires that our leaders of political parties must create national cohesion among various segments of society. Especially, our electronic media should give a matching response to malicious propaganda of the US-led some western countries including India and Israel which are distorting the image of Pakistan, its Army and ISI. Nonetheless, the Defense Day demands that by imbibing the spirit of 1965 war, the entire nation must stand with Pakistan’s Armed Forces which have been facing all external and internal challenges courageously and boldly for defense and integrity of the homeland by thwarting the nefarious designs of the country’s enemies.

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Defense

Revitalising the Quad

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With a high-level informal meeting of the Foreign Ministers of US, India, Japan and Australia on the side lines of the last month UN General Assembly meeting, the much needed impetus has gained to the quadrilateral security dialogue (quad) concerning the security of the Indo-Pacific. The genesis of the quad grouping can be traced back to the 2007 Malabar naval exercise, but proclaimed it as an idea for security of the Indo-Pacific by Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe in 2013 with his ‘Security Diamond’ concept and revived it in 2017 with a new security dialogue mechanism. Since then the four member countries have had official level meetings largely on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit. Indeed, quad is a grouping of regional heavyweights in their backyard, Japan in the western Pacific, India in the Indian Ocean and Australia in the southern Pacific along with the most powerful military in the world, the US.  However, China perceived it as a mechanism to counter its rise.  Undoubtedly, the looming China “threat” is the rallying point of the quad formation. 

China views quad as a grouping as well as individual countries differently. Beijing sees quad is a potential military alliance under US leadership against China. At the same time it doesn’t see individual regional countries as a threat and presumably view with varied perspectives: it opposes Japan  being a ‘normal’ military power but is satisfied with an ally of the US; it objects to a strong India-US defence cooperation because US technical support would help India become a regional hegemon in the Indian Ocean theatre; while remain neutral to Australia.

In a similar fashion the member countries also view China “threat” separately- for US, it’s a peer competitor in spite of the economic interdependence  andonly US can afford the magnitude of current trade war, while India and Japan are its neighboring countries and major trade partners so ill-afford to face security challenges or economic misery, and China is Australia’s largest trade partner but no qualms over security. And, India is more reticent in strengthening the quad because of its fear of “ally-entrapment”. Conversely, China continues its expansionism in the maritime domain, now reached upto India’s backyard.  However, no single country can independently challenge China’s might and that China wants this situation continues in future.  

Asia requires a regional balancing mechanism

As realism explains, peace and stability across the regions is ensured through balance of power. If one country emerged as a regional hegemon then it would seek to exploit others and start exercising its will over lesser states. Eminent realist Kenneth Waltzargued “unbalanced power, whoever wields it, is a potential danger to others.” So far, the old cold war centric balancing and US preponderance have been the main pillars of stability in Asia. But with the rise of China that balance is diminishing and Asia seems to be moving in the direction of unipolarity. However, a unipolar Asia with China at the centre would harm the interest of other heavyweights so structure demands a balancing mechanism to contain one-country dominance. The quad formation can be seen as a structurally driven balancing of secondary powers to prevent the region from unipolarity

At the same time, quad faces perspective and structural problems.  No country in the region is willing to formally join in anycounter-mechanism that is being touted as ant-China. And China is vehemently opposing any sort of coming together of these four countries. For instance, when 2007 edition of bilateral India- US Malabar  naval exercise was converted into a quadrilateral, China sent demarche to the participants asking the rationale behind such grouping and since then the four countries  havenever joined together for a naval exercise.

Another perspective problem is how the quad is acceptable for other regional countries. Southeast Asian states fear that the regional politics will be dominated by great power game and Southeast Asia would be a theatre for jostling by these powers. So it upholds its time-tested inclusive approach in all regional formations, and nothing short of inclusivity.

On the contrary, quad must be seen as another regional organisations along with APEC, ARF, EAS and ADMM plus. All these organisations have different objectives, some of it are security oriented, and deliberations are in a consensus manner. However, none of it is able to address hard security issues that if a military clash took place between China and others then it is hardly to manage under such organizations. Though quad is not a region-wide organization but has the potential military capability to contain the threat both individually and collectively, if it is necessary.   At some level the region requires a power balancing mechanism to maintain peace and stability.

Structurally, it is not a formal alliance so does no clear agenda and an action plan, except the idea of the need for preserving rule-based order in the Indo-Pacific. Japan and Australia are close allies of the US while India wants to keep its ‘strategic autonomy’ and doesn’t want to give any commitment to larger regional issues unless it directly confronts New Delhi. As a result, there has been no coherent agenda as to how this mechanism can be brought up. Threat perceptions and the counter mechanisms are varied for the quad members. 

Under these circumstances, Quad needs to be kept under the soft balancing tactics as of now. A hard balancing by forming a military alliance would bring a cold war structure  that will destabilize the region. The soft balancing can be converted into a hard balancing according to circumstances that if China ever sought to become a revisionist state.  At the same time, instead of as a leader US should be a facilitator of the quad and the regional countries of India Japan and Australia should be allowed to drive the quad. Today trilateral mechanism blossoms within the quad: US- India-Japan and US-Japan- Australia, but there is no India-Japan- Australia trilateral mechanism.   An India-Japan- Australia regional mechanism under the umbrella of quad can bring more energy to the quad. Also, it necessarily requires an action plan which could convince other regional countries of the importance of the quad in Asian security scenario.

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The Game-changing Fallibility of BMD Systems: Lessons from the Middle East and South Asia

M Waqas Jan

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As the Middle East’s major powers recalculate their defence and foreign policies following last month’s missile strikes on Saudi oilfields, there have emerged some telling lessons with regard to the changing nature of modern warfare. While these lessons are perhaps painfully obvious to the likes of Saudi Arabia who have directly been on the receiving end of these attacks, they are also evident in the near deafening introspection being undertaken by the region’s other power brokers, the United States and Israel as well. This has been made clear by the fact that even after a month since the attacks took place, there remains a definite and near ironic aspect of shock and awe to what was otherwise a quick, covert and precision strike on a highly valuable target.

What’s more, the fact that the strike took place despite the presence of one of the world’s most sophisticated missile defense systems, presents a telling example of how the technological balance in cruise missile development has shifted more in favor of offensive strikes at the expense of a once reliable defensive capability. As such, the ease and precision with which one of the world’s most closely guarded facilities were struck, shows that based on the widespread availability of current technologies, it is perhaps more reliable to count on a missile system’s offensive strike capabilities. Consequently, the opportunity cost of investing in and developing expensive missile defense shields based on this scenario becomes tremendously higher.

These lessons provide valuable strategic import to another nearby region which is also brimming with tensions amongst two extremely well equipped and militarily capable states. This refers to the South Asian region, where both India and Pakistan also seem headed towards a dangerous escalation of hostilities. As a result, both countries would do well to consider the lessons emanating from the above-mentioned Saudi experience. For instance, like Saudi Arabia, India has also been on a military spending spree over the last decade, importing some of the world’s most advanced weapons systems from across the world. Its massive economic growth has given it license to pursue a robust military modernization program that is keenly focused on enhancing its power projection capabilities. However, again like Saudi Arabia, India’s military also remains untested and risks being termed another ‘glitter force’ that is more concerned with procuring arms as a matter of prestige as opposed to operational efficacy. This for instance was clear during India’s aerial engagement with Pakistani Air Force jets in March, during which a sophisticated Israeli origin missile fired by India’s air defenses downed one of India’s own Russian made Mi-17 helicopters. Such lack of operational readiness and blind faith in untested systems is evident in both the Saudi and Indian experience highlighted above.

Specifically, regarding the US made Patriot batteries used by the Saudis and the Israeli made Spyder missiles used by India, the above incidents have shown that the efficacy and reliability of these systems in the real-time conflicts of today is quite patchy at best. If anything, any form of over-reliance on these systems runs the risk of a grave miscalculation which in effect is multiplied by the regional complexities of both their respective security environments. These miscalculations are already on display in the increasingly volatile Middle East, as the Western backed and Saudi led military alliance is just realizing. With the vulnerability of such missile defense systems now increasingly evident, there has also arguably been an element of deterrence that has been further reinforced. Consequently, the path to de-escalation appears a lot more rational than one which may escalate towards all-out war. The case of South Asia too was similar where the aerial engagement between nuclear weapons capable India and Pakistan, also ultimately reinforced the latter’s conventional deterrent while exposing gaps in the former’s much touted aerial defenses.

Yet, considering that the case of South Asia remains infinitely more precarious due to the presence of two adversarial nuclear weapons states, the above described developments pose additional yet considerably more important implications when applied to the region’s nuclear deterrence framework. In effect, they erode the belief that ballistic missile defense systems can serve as the backbone to what many a state would consider a winnable nuclear war. These primarily comprise of Nuclear Weapons States such as the US and India which in the recent past have increasingly relied on concepts such as counterforce, pre-emption and precision as key themes within their official military thinking. All under the premise that Missile defense shields offer a reliable and credible defense against an adversary’s pre-emptive or secondary nuclear strikes as part of their strategic calculus. India’s much vaunted purchase of the Russian made S-400 system presents a clear example of such a strategy.

In contrast however, the fallibility and faltering reliability of such air defence systems shows the immense dangers of adopting such an approach within scenarios that have the potential of irreversibly altering life on earth as we know it. Considering how peace and stability in the South Asian region is precariously balanced between Pakistan and India’s nuclear deterrence framework, the unreliability and increasing fallibility of missile defense systems thus warrant a serious re-evaluation of the strategic calculus of both nuclear weapons capable India and Pakistan.  

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Protracted Asymmetric Geopolitical Conflict

Dayan Jayatilleka

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Each of us has his own definition of “geo-history”, and mine is the interface of the “geopolitical” and the “world-historical.”

We are marked by two anniversaries, that of the start of WW II in 1939 and its end in 1945. Fascism was a unique regime of terror, with a strategy of unbridled ‘exterminism’ and therefore constituted a unique political evil in world history. However, outside of its type of regime, strategy and tactics, was its ‘grand strategic’ goal also unique or was it not? Is there a resemblance or homology between, on the one hand, the doctrine of Ein Reich, the telos of world domination, a Thousand Year Reich, and the military moves of Germany and its Axis partners in the run-up to WWII, and on the other, that of a unipolar world order and global military expansionism; of open-ended unipolar global leadership? Is there a continuity or homology between on the one hand, the wartime US Grand Area planning for the postwar world (the documents of which were unearthed by Noam Chomsky), and the present Indo-Pacific strategy and on the other hand, the notorious earlier search for Lebensraum? Is the Indo-Pacific strategy an insistence on “maritime Lebensraum”?

If the answer is yes, and the two paradigms can be superimposed upon each other, then history provides only one answer: the united front and its extension, a global grand alliance. But a united front and grand alliance with whom, to what end?

Politics is combat. International politics is international combat. By the “suicide” of the Soviet Union (that post-mortem verdict was Fidel Castro’s), the Empire was unbound and it is now threatening world peace and the future of humanity itself. Every single arms control agreement (bar one) has been unilaterally renounced, but before that came the rollback of the Yalta and Potsdam agreements with the destruction of former Yugoslavia and the expansion of NATO. Now the empire seeks to dominate the entire global theatre in all possible spheres. This should not come as a shock or surprise. It is almost a law of physics (perhaps it should be called ‘geophysics’) that once unwisely unbound, the Empire would uncoil, spread, expand, and seek to dominate—in short, that the Empire would seek to behave as an empire.

The geohistorical question facing humanity today is how to constrain the Empire, but not return to the old delusions of how to do so. The Empire must be initially counterbalanced and then constrained– bound– permanently, until, as in the case of the Roman Empire, there is a benign change of beliefs (in this case, political) from within its own society, its own citizenry and not as before, a change in its external posture which proves in the long geo-historical term, to have been merely ephemeral, conjunctural, even tactical.

The Empire’s strategy as concerns Russia is quite simple to understand. It is a re-run of the strategy that enabled them to prevail in the Cold War. It is to provoke Russia into an arms race and exceed prudent spending limits, cause economic hardship and generate enough discontent that the citizenry, especially the young, will agitate, thereby causing psychological exhaustion and catalyzing peaceful democratic “regime change”, bringing into office a capitulationist/collaborationist administration sooner or later, in the wake of the end of President Putin’s term. Meanwhile, what is being played out in Hong Kong foreshadows the geohistorical endgame envisaged by the Empire for China and Eurasia as a whole.

By its global offensive, imperialism has potentially overstretched itself morally, ethically and politically. Not since Vietnam has imperialism had a potential target profile which is so large and so exposed. The targeting of Iran when that country has not violated the JCPOA can be turned into a massive indictment on the twin grounds of reason and logic as well as of natural justice. Similarly, the targeting of Venezuela can be exposed for the absurdity that someone who did not even run for Presidential office should be recognized as the legitimate President of a country. So also, the unilateral withdrawal from arms control agreements can be exposed for the danger this poses to humanity.

One of the most important principles of asymmetric political resistance is the identification of the most important strategic real estate as the moral high ground. The moral or moral-ethical high ground is the seizure and occupation of that terrain of argument which is recognized and recognizable as more rational, reasonable and of broader benefit to humanity, assuring “the greatest good of the greatest number” according to universal values and norms and not merely national or regional values and norms.

The main axial routes and themes of the political struggle should be Peace and Sovereignty. Firstly, these are themes that have a universal or near-universal resonance. Secondly, they allow the critic to fight for and occupy the moral high ground because the West has only a toehold on the moral high ground in all these cases. Thirdly, they are also the main achievements of humanity that are threatened by the Western offensive. Fourthly, they are themes that are likely to have resonance among peoples the world over, albeit with greater or lesser emphasis in different areas of the globe.

This great struggle cannot be waged with the guiding ideology solely of or governed solely by “State Interest” or “National Interest.” It can only be waged by the recovery of the spirit of “internationalism” that was present in the entire Soviet period. It is little appreciated that Stalin, the father of ‘Socialism in One Country,’ and political leader of the Great Patriotic War waged an international campaign against fascism. Even in periods of isolation and siege, Stalin’s perspectival approach was never one of a cultural or civilizational preoccupation. The struggle for Peace and Sovereignty, Against Interventionism and Global War, requires the building of global opinion and a global movement.

A contemporary Realist would immediately grasp the opportunity which has opened up in post-Cold War history, namely of compensating at least partially for the loss of those territories and Russia’s Western buffer, the rollback of Yalta and Potsdam and the USSR’s wartime gains and the advance of the NATO borders up to Russia, by the geostrategic gains on the Eastern front through the renewal of partnership with China. Obviously, this has been recognized and acted upon but it has yet to be optimized by the kind of diverse yet solid strategic relationships that the USA has through NATO in the West, and Japan and many other states in other parts of the world. A Realist would recommend a re-visiting, retrieval and revision of Article 1 of the 30 Treaty signed by Stalin and Mao, which recognizes that the security of Russia and China are indivisible and that any aggression against one will be regarded as aggression against the other and responded to accordingly.

There is a contradiction between the Western project of the encirclement of Russia and the intellectual response to that encirclement. One of the reasons for that contradiction is the fact that academies and think tanks have been shaped and formed by and sometimes in the decades of ‘peaceful coexistence’ and later ‘détente’ with the West and are almost structurally unprepared for the change in the global geopolitical-geostrategic ‘ecology’ as it were. These institutions were formed or reshaped by party edict as adjuncts of the tasks of negotiation with the West and the competition (which became enmity for a period) with China. They are structurally oriented towards the West; their institutional faces are turned westwards. Their entire spirit and ethos are those of partnership with the West and suspicion of China stemming from the 1960s and 1970s.

Institutions need to reflect the tasks of the new times, those of facing the West as an adversary in a protracted Cold War encompassing a global hybrid war; facing encirclement by the West and the global offensive of the West. Perhaps new joint analytical and academic institutions should evolve as intellectual-scientific superstructures of the SCO, BRICS, the Astana process and most importantly the partnership with China. A Russo-Sino joint think-tank or ensemble of think-tanks of Advanced Studies, as an intellectual microcosm or advanced prototype of a strategic alliance (not merely a strategic partnership) seems an imperative need.

The threat to Russia is nothing less than deeply, profoundly existential. If Iran is disaggregated by military action two things will result simultaneously. In a small scale equivalent of the collapse of the USSR and the dawning of the unipolar moment after the Cold War ended, there will be a dramatic shift of the balance of forces within the global Islamic community or ummah, to the Wahhabi/Salafists, just as in return to pre-1979, Western power is projected right back into an arena dangerously proximate to Russia’s ‘soft underbelly’ as the western analysts have always seen it. The intermediate ‘buffer state’ may not always remain so. Any deep damaging of Iran will also have global grand strategic implications of tightening the encirclement of Eurasia and weakening China.

Iran’s capacity for deterrence and if deterrence fails, its capacity for prolonged resistance and the same of Venezuela, will decide the level of resistance far away from Russia’s frontlines. If Afghanistan ended the USSR by bleeding it white, then the most effective Western policy in that theatre was to equip the so-called mujahidin with shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles to neutralize Soviet air power. If the USSR had not been so enmeshed in détente as to hold back the SAM-6s from and provide only a minimum supply of SAM-7s to the Vietnamese, then the damage inflicted on the US may have been such that it could not have gone on the offensive in Afghanistan a mere three years after the withdrawal from Saigon. While the US had no compunction in providing shoulder-fired to the Afghan mujahidin, with whom they had nothing in common ideologically, knowing full well that they would cause Soviet casualties especially among pilots, the USSR did have compunctions in providing SAM-6 batteries and a far more generous quantity of SAM-7s to the Vietnamese who were ideological comrades. The Vietnamese used to wryly remark to those of us in the Vietnam solidarity movement in Asia, that had the USSR provided them with the quantity and quality of air defense missiles that it gave the Arab states in the same period, the early 1970s, the Vietnamese would certainly have used them more effectively and with less losses than did the Arab armies.

That is perhaps the best single piece of explanatory evidence as to why the US recovered so fast from the Vietnam defeat while the USSR unilaterally withdrew from the Cold War and collapsed. It was a matter of will, and the consistent clarity of the US that the USSR was the enemy, and the determination to prevail over it. Later, the successor state of the USSR, the Russian state, with the Russian armed forces as its core, was seen as the enemy—even when the Russian administration and leadership may have been seen as a useful quasi-ally, partner and even ‘friend.’ Thus, on the questions of Iran and Venezuela, a contemporary Russian ‘dialectical and historical Realist’ analysis would consider a ‘reverse Brzezinski.’

China appears caught in a contradiction within an irony. The contradiction is that having entered the world capitalist order dominated by the West and become a major player within it, it now finds itself vulnerable to both economic and military threats simply because it proved to be strong enough to be an economic competitor but not strong enough to prevent, deter or prevail over a military build-up triggered by the inherently hierarchical and hegemonistic character of the system it had bought into. The irony is that China had found itself caught in a contradiction because it had forgotten Mao’s theory of contradictions which draws a fundamental distinction between antagonistic and non-antagonistic contradictions. China regarded the competition between itself and the West as a purely economic and therefore non-antagonistic contradiction, but the world system being not only an economic system but one of power, China’s peaceful rise was perceived by the West not as a ‘friendly’ or non-antagonistic contradiction but precisely as an antagonistic one, to be responded to not merely by economic means but also by military means, namely the biggest build-up of an armada in recent history through the Indo-Pacific strategy.

The irony is a dual one, because it was China that first cautioned the USSR about the idealistic and utopian nature of the project of “peaceful economic competition” with the West, but later pursued it with greater zeal and success than the USSR ever did or could. In the 1960s and 1970s, China had established a methodology of identifying the contradictions in the world at any given period and went on to hierarchize those contradictions. The listing would naturally shift over time and became irrationally anti-Soviet at one point; an irrationality that lasted a long period. However, the methodology of discerning, identifying and ranking contradictions was a realistic one, because it alerted China or anyone who used the dialectical framework, to the reality of antagonism, of hostility, in the world arena.

If the world’s foremost military power which disposes of the greatest destructive force known by history, regards one or more countries as adversaries, indeed as The Other(s), and backs up this policy perspective with the actual offensive disposition and concentration of men and material over time, then basic survival instinct should dictate that the states designated and treated as adversaries should seek to combine their military and non-military strengths to countervail and deter such a power which regards them with hostility and as threats. There are several such countries but only two such great powers, and these are Russia and China, in whichever order. Those who opine that Russia can slip out of this siege by living down a perception of a special relationship with China and associating as closely or even more closely with other great or big powers, seem to forget that Western moves against Russia’s interests preceded its renewed hostility to China.

The bottom line is that in any objective, dialectical and historical Realist analysis of Russia’s core interests, no relationship with Europe can be a substitute or even on par with a partnership with China. Not all vectors are equal, and some are certainly more equal than others.

Since neither Russia nor China can countervail the US-led Western alliance on its own, a closer equation is needed between the two than between either Russia or China and any other big power or powers. No other big power, however friendly, is the target of unremitting and adversarial Western action, and therefore will not take the same risks for either Russia or China as each of them should logically do for each other, since they both stand threatened and targeted. A Concert of Big Powers cannot be a substitute for a defensive United Front or coalition of states, of which the Russia-China relationship will be the main alliance, consisting of those sovereign states actively threatened in a military-economic sense by the West.

These are the strictly personal views of the author.

From our partner RIAC

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