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NATO at 70: Anniversary Amid a Crisis

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The NATO countries’ shared decision to extend the current mandate of the organization’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg until September 2022 demonstrates the desire of the North Atlantic Alliance to ensure the continuity of its activities and priorities. The NATO member states expressed their support for Mr. Stoltenberg’s effort aimed at “the adaptation and modernization of NATO.”

Jens Stoltenberg’s term as NATO Secretary General was originally scheduled to run out in the fall of 2018, but in December 2017, the leadership of the Alliance decided to extend his mandate until September 2020.

The decision to extend Mr. Stoltenberg’s term in office until 2022 was reportedly dictated by purely practical considerations, including his forthcoming meeting with US President Donald Trump.

Their planned meeting was initially reported on March 27 by the Turkish news agency Anadolu Ajansi. The information was later confirmed by President Trump’s press service, which said that the two would meet at the White House on April 2 ahead of the upcoming 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The press service emphasized that Trump and Stoltenberg will discuss NATO’s “unprecedented” successes in world politics, and the distribution of obligations between its members, including the issue of financing the Alliance.

Jens Stoltenberg would apparently hate to meet Donald Trump, the leader of the country which is NATO’s primary financial and military-technical contributor, in the status of an outgoing leader, or, in American political parlance, a lame duck. All the more so now that the relations between the Alliance members on both sides of the Atlantic are the most strained in the organization’s entire 70-year history.

The creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949 signaled the start of the military-political confrontation between the West and the East in addition to the ideological differences that existed between the Soviet Union and the Western nations.

According to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Jens Stoltenberg’s predecessor as NATO Secretary General, “NATO was born into a dangerous world. As the Soviet shadow deepened across Europe, 12 nations from both sides of the Atlantic committed to individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law determined to stand together to safeguard their security.”

NATO’s first Secretary General, Ismay Hastings, had a wider view of the tasks facing the alliance though. According to him, the purpose of NATO was to “keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.”

In keeping with the terms of the North Atlantic Treaty concluded in Washington on April 4, 1949, NATO sought “to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area.”
The document emphasized the organization’s resolve “to unite their efforts for collective defense and for the preservation of peace and security.”

Over the course of the decades that followed, the NATO leadership was often very constructive in dealing with its potential adversary, namely the Soviet Union. As early as in 1954 (following the death of Joseph Stalin), Washington and Brussels reportedly mulled integrating the Soviet Union into the North Atlantic Alliance. Confrontational ideology then prevailed, however, and the creation of the Warsaw Pact Organization in 1955 secured inter-bloc divisions in Europe.

Despite their existing confrontation, the great powers, the USSR and the United States, were still able to come together and find geopolitical ways out of the most difficult moments of world history, most notably the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. A raft of nuclear and conventional arms control accords signed during the 1970s and 1980s also proved the NATO and Warsaw Pact countries’ and their leaders’ ability to agree on key global security issues.

The negative turn in NATO’s behavior in terms of theory and practice occurred during the late-1980s and early-1990s. The breakup of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, as well as the growing instability in and around the former Soviet republics created in Brussels and Washington dangerous illusions about their own exclusiveness and the uselessness of the system of military-political checks and balances. The promise given to the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev regarding NATO’s refusal to deploy its military structures close to the Russian borders in exchange for Moscow’s concessions regarding German unification and other issues was never met. Moreover, NATO’s plans in Eastern Europe and the ex-Soviet republics posed a serious threat to Russia’s strategic interests.

The tragic developments happening in the former Yugoslavia became a crucial point with NATO seeing them as a convenient excuse for “pushing Russia aside,” bolstering its position in a strategically important part of Europe and, simultaneously, working out scenarios of actions (including military) in a new situation of its global dominion. In 1994-1995, NATO aircraft were used for the first time in a major military operation in Europe, namely in Bosnia and Herzegovina, beyond the territorial responsibility of the Alliance. Mass-scale bombings of Bosnian Serb positions by NATO aircraft during the ethnic and civil conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina were meant to ensure a military victory for the local pro-Western forces, while simultaneously causing maximum damage to the Serbs, viewed by the West as being Russia’s allies.

The large-scale military operation against the Bosnian Serb Republic (Republika Srpska), codenamed “Deliberate Force,” was launched on August 30, 1995, continued for two weeks and resulted in numerous civilian casualties.

By the way, coordinating the NATO airstrikes was the commander of the local Muslim forces, Rasim Delic, who showed the NATO command Serbian targets for immediate missile and bomb attacks. Such cooperation characterizes NATO’s actions in Bosnia and Herzegovina (just like its 1999 aggression against Yugoslavia) not as a peacekeeping operation, but rather as powerful military support for one of the parties engaged in a conflict, which flies in the face of the fundamental principles of peacekeeping.

There is another thing indicating that the 1995 Western operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina was a rehearsal of their subsequent actions in Kosovo and other strategically important regions of Europe and the world. Both in 1995, and 1999, incidents with clear signs of being faked were used as a formal reason for the bombings. While in 1999 NATO was quick to show to the world the victims of Serb-organized “ethnic cleansing” in the Kosovo village of Racak, even though reports said that it was the work of Kosovo Liberation Army militants in civilian disguise, in Bosnia and Herzegovina an explosion at the Markale street marketplace in Sarajevo played a similar role. Bosnian Serbs provided documented proof that “Muslims simply planted the bodies of their soldiers killed at the front and gave them up for the victims of the explosion,” and Russian officers at the headquarters of the UN Sector Sarajevo testified that from the Serbian positions it was theoretically impossible to hit the market with mortar fire. This was all in vain though,  because the Bosnian Muslim leaders and Western allies were playing out their own military scenario, apparently prepared well in advance.

The NATO bombings of Yugoslavia, which began 20 years ago, on March 24, 1999, ushered in a new era in international relations. For the first time in the history of post-war Europe, NATO launched, without any UN mandate, a military operation against a sovereign non-member state. Even the Soviet military interventions in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968 look more logical from a legal standpoint, since both these socialist countries were Warsaw Pact members. NATO’s actions in March-June 1999 were precursors of military operations later carried out by both the Alliance per se and a number of its leading members, led by the United States elsewhere in the world – from Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 to their desire to call the shots in Ukraine and other post-Soviet countries. 

The United States was then pursuing a very special goal in the Balkans, a goal which clearly went beyond NATO’s scope. By supporting Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians, Washington expected to score propaganda points in the Islamic world, which later helped it to at least partially offset the protests over its operations in Muslim countries, primarily in Afghanistan and Iraq. In June 1999, the US commander of NATO’s “Operation Allied Force,” General Wesley Clark, issued a handwritten order to resist Russian peacekeepers who had moved into Kosovo in line with a pertinent decision by the United Nations – a move that was fraught with grave consequences for the entire world.

Therefore, it would hardly be an overstatement to say that NATO’s 20-year-old military campaign helped stoke up tensions in other areas of ethnic and religious conflicts – and not only in terms of encouraging separatist sentiments. It was certainly with those power scenarios earlier implemented in the Balkans in mind that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili ordered his NATO-trained troops to storm Tskhinval in 2008.

Russia is naturally worried by NATO’s desire to play a more active and sometimes even provocative and aggressive role beyond the area of its military-political responsibility. Suffice it to recall the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest that was preceded by titanic efforts by Washington to draw Ukraine and Georgia into the anti-Russian bloc under the pretext of the imaginary “Russian threat.” Even though the plan fell through due to the European members’ lukewarm response to it, it was perfectly clear that the United States and its allies now view NATO not only as a means of countering the Soviet/Russian “threat,” but also as a tool for promoting their own interests in various parts of the globe, including those in the areas of Russia’s historical interests, disregarding the fact that this is destabilizing the existing system of international relations.

NATO’s reluctance to halt its eastward enlargement is a continuation of the “old policy when Russia was perceived at least as an adversary,” Russian President Vladimir Putin then emphasized.

“The inability to change the subject, as [Winston] Churchill said, is a sign of radicalism,” he added.

Orchestrated and provoked by the West, the 2014 crisis in Ukraine gave NATO another convenient excuse for moving its infrastructure closer to the Russian borders. As General Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO Allied Command Operations, later admitted, it was exactly when the Alliance got seriously hooked on the idea of turning Poland and the Polish Baltic Sea port city of Szczecin into its largest base in Eastern Europe.

The Times quoted General Breedlove as saying that even though possible bases were being discussed, the Polish city and port of Szczecin, located on the Baltic Sea coast, was seen as a favorite choice for setting up a military base. For fairness’ sake, however, it should be noted that Szczecin was returned to Poland after the end of WWII thanks to the constructive position of the Soviet Union: the resolution of the Potsdam Peace Conference redrew the earlier agreed new Polish-German border running along the Oder River (Szczecin is located just west of the river).

Meanwhile, working together, Russia and NATO could have defused a number of real crises that in recent years have emerged in various parts of the world. During his tenure as NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen emphasized that the North Atlantic Alliance should actively prepare to ward off “future threats,” including the situation in Afghanistan, international terrorism, cyber crime, drug trafficking; and to ensure nuclear missile security. However, Russia’s desire to cooperate with NATO on all these key modern-day threats and challenges has invariably been rejected by the United States and its allies. By announcing America’s withdrawal from existing treaties and arms control arrangements, President Donald Trump is simultaneously twisting the arms of his European allies forcing them to toe Washington’s line from energy to trade, and spend more on defense.

The current crisis of NATO, including domestic problems facing its members ahead of the Alliance’s 70th anniversary, has certainly not been lost on Western analysts and the media. The Times observer Roger Boyes sarcastically remarked that if it were not for Russia, NATO could well have fallen apart by now.

“Consider this: only one in ten Germans currently considers Donald Trump to be a reliable ally. Absurdly, some consider his unpredictability to be the biggest threat to world peace. Little wonder that the birthday party in Brussels is set to be a muted affair,” he wrote.

The differences of opinion that currently exist between the United States and Europe (above all, between Washington and Berlin) are skillfully being used by other world players. And not just by China or Iran, but also by Turkey, which wants to play an increasingly active role in Eurasian affairs.

“Turkey has managed to negotiate itself into a privileged position because its location allows NATO to project influence inside the Middle East,” The Times rightly notes.

Turkish warships are participating in NATO’s “Sea Shield” naval exercises, currently underway in the Black Sea.

The fact that Ukrainian and Georgian warships are also taking part in that drill means that Brussels still thinks in the categories of “containment” and “blockade” of Russia, instead of trying to engage in a dialogue with Moscow on key global issues – including those posing a direct threat to NATO countries themselves.

First published in our partner International Affairs

Peter Iskenderov, senior research assistant at RAS Slavic Studies Institute, candidate of historical sciences

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Defense

Insecurity of India’s Nuclear Weapons

Ali Raza

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After 1945, it came into the knowledge that nuclear weapons are the most destructive, lethal and powerful weapon on the planet earth, which can wipe out hundreds of thousands of people in short span of time. That’s why global community, particularly the U.S. and Former Soviet Union agreed on formulation of stringent globally accepted principles to secure these destructive weapons. India is the first country that brought nuclear weapons in South Asia by detonating nuclear device back in 1974 and yet again in 1998.However, since than safety and security of these weapons under the control of violent Hindutva regime has considerably attracted much of the scholars’ attraction.

Terrorism has become an increasing concern within international society but so far there has been less focus on one particular aspect of the problem that is nuclear terrorism. Yet, within the context of South Asia this is of special significance, given the number of insurgencies and freedom struggles with transnational linkages, and the nuclearisation of this region since 1998. Of all the South Asian states, India’s nuclear facilities are perhaps the most vulnerable to nuclear terrorism, given India’s expansive nuclear programme, much of it not subject to IAEA safeguards. In addition, the vulnerability of India’s nuclear facilities is further aggravated by its thriving underworld and more than a dozen insurgencies going on within the Indian states, as well as the freedom struggle in Indian Occupied Kashmir.

India’s nuclear programme has developed at an exceptionally fast pace. However, because a few of such facilities are under international safeguards, there is little knowledge about the levels of safety of the various nuclear facilities. Of the ten operational power plants, only four are under IAEA safeguards. According to an Indian parliamentary report, 147 mishaps or safety-related unusual occurrences were reported between the years 1995-1998 in Indian atomic energy plants. Of these, 28 were of an acute nature and 9 of these 28 occurred in the nuclear power installations. Thus, the state of Indian nuclear facilities raises serious concerns as they seem to be vulnerable to a high probability of terrorist attacks, thefts and accidents. The scale of the programme aggravates the problems, as there are plans for the building of pressurized heavy water reactors, fast breeder reactors and thorium reactors on a commercial scale.

Apart from the risk of falling of nuclear weapons and related technology in the hands of terrorists, if one looks at the leadership of India and try to analyse the factor of rationality in the decision making of use of nuclear weapon it clearly suggests that the current leadership i.e. BJP is not only hawkish in its nature but equally believes in use of force for political gains, which further leads us to the assumption that the nuclear decision making is equally occupied by the Hindu hardliners.

During the recent Pulwama Crisis, it has been learnt that BJP’s irresponsible behaviour should suffice for all Indians to understand that India will remain hyphenated with Pakistan for foreseeable time. India planned to use Brahmos missile that could carry nuclear warhead. India’s behaviour clearly shows that nuclear weapons are in wrong hands. Because the yield and potential related to the nuclear weapons are absolutely detrimental and possession of such weapons in wrong, less responsible and extremist hands is a threat for the entire world.

The only purpose of nuclear weapons is to acquire deterrence in order to avoid the possibility of war. But, India is showing the attitude that it will use these weapons for the purposes of war fighting, which is unacceptable to international community.  

The track record of India in the field of nuclear weapons and related technology is much muddier. India initiated arms race in the region, and, it is leaving no stone unturned e.g. advancements in sea-based nuclear capabilities and militarisation of space. Most importantly the recent ASAT test, which is in fact a compelling factor for neighbouring states to think in the same way in order to acquire comparable technologies for equalizing the defence capabilities. These alarming acts of India can bring the entire region at the verge of instability, which in fact could prove dire for the peace of the entire globe keeping in view the economic, natural resources, political and security factors of the region.

The time has come for the international community to break its silence and stop their patronage for India and take serious note and steps regarding the possession of nuclear weapons by India in relation to its aggressive and immature behaviour and mind-set of its leadership, which can lead entire globe to the unacceptable disaster. Since, Kashmir is flash point between both nuclear armed states it is only India which is triggering it by its continuous atrocities in Kashmir. Most importantly existence of ISIS in India is also a foremost point of concern especially keeping in view the nuclear program of India, according to the recent development ISIS claimed for the first time that it has established a “province” in India, after a clash between militants and security forces in the contested Kashmir region killed a militant with alleged ties to the group. This is not only the matter, which solely related to the stability and security of South Asia. This time instability is knocking the door of entire globe in the form of India. The continuous negligence of international community with respect to Indian nuclear weapons will definitely disturb the stability as well as peace of the entire globe.

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Why the U.S. is silent about military exercises in the Baltic States

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The Baltic States are in the anticipation of the annual large scale military exercise Saber Strike.

The well-known annual international exercise held since 2010 by the United States Army Europe (USAREUR) is focused on the Baltic States. These countries consider this event as a key element of participants’ training on command and control as well as interoperability with regional partners. The Saber Strike exercise aims to facilitate cooperation amongst the U.S., Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and allied and partner nations.

Usually these maneuvers take place in June. Thus, it is logical to assume that the time of the military exercise is coming, but this year event is never mentioned.

There are two ways of situation development. The first one is – Saber Strike 2019 will not be held at all. The second one is the information about Saber Strike 2019 is classified.

The first assumption is unlikely taking into account the U.S. and NATO desire to strengthen the position in the region. This assumption is also contradicted by the increasing number and scale of international and national military exercises in the Baltic region.
So, the second assumption is most likely. But the question arises about the aim of hiding the information or its content. It is widely proclaimed that NATO and the U.S. put transparency about the exercises in the head. This principle is either one of the key priorities of all international organizations including UN and OSCE. Transparency of activity helps to build international peace and trust.

It is especially surprising after NATO expressed concern about transparency of Russian and Russia-Belarus military drills which were held near the Baltic State’s borders. Unlike allies, opponents give preliminary information about planned exercises. By the way, some facts can be find on Internet about joint exercise Union Shield 2019 that will take place in autumn in Russia.

BulgarianMilitary.com  quoted  Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu who stated in 2018 that “Union Shield 2019” exercise would be only defensive and emphasized: “First and foremost, and I would like everyone to hear that, our drills are solely of defensive nature. We do not plan any offensive actions as compared to the [NATO] military exercises. We, undoubtedly, are doing this not as a response to some drills but as a response to the threats which exist today and which, to our big regret, grow every year.”

From time to time we can read about the preparations for Russian-Belarusian exercise “Union Shield 2019”. Thus on March 12-14, the Belarusian-Russian command-staff training on working out the interaction of military authorities, formations and military units in the framework of the regional grouping of troops (RGT) was carried out jointly, as well as improving the RGT control system.

“The general staffs have embarked on the preparation of the Union Shield 2019 exercise, which will be the main event of joint training of the military command and troops in 2019 and which will further improve the system of military security of the Union State,” Belarusian Minister of Defense Andrei Ravkov noted. According to him, such events help check the quality and level of combat readiness of the regional group of troops, to see the real capabilities of weapons and the ability to carry out combat tasks.
True or not, but information is available. It is not very detailed but at least it is provided in advance. At least they name it as defensive.

As far as Saber Strike is concerned, everything is vaguely and therefore scary. What is the aim of it? Does it have defensive or offensive nature? When and who will come to the Baltic States? The approach “no comments” is not the best one in this case. The Baltics want and should know. Our opponents should be aware either. Otherwise their respond could be unexpected and even destroying. Uncertainty causes panic and rejection among local population.

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Libya Crisis: Role of Regional Players

Syeda Dhanak Hashmi

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Libya remains in a chaotic state after the fall of Muammar Gadhafi. The United Nations-backed government struggles to exercise control over territory held by rival factions, escalating geographical and political divisions between the East, West, and South. But it’s political and security crisis continues as the two authorities compete for legitimacy and territorial control and have left scores of thousands displaced inside Libya and interrupted access to basic services to the Libyans.

At present, a hazardous military conflict is ongoing in Libya between east-based forces loyal to Field Marshal Haftar and armed groups allied to the UN-backed government in Tripoli. The WHO has given higher estimates of casualties where 392 people have been killed and about 2,000 wounded in the ongoing armed clashes south of Tripoli. Recently, Khalifa Haftar’s bid to tumble the UN-recognized government has displaced 50,000 people and urged his forces to “teach the enemy a greater and bigger lesson than the previous ones” during Ramadan, saying the holy month had not been a reason to stop previous battles in the eastern cities of Benghazi and Derna.

The armed militias and terrorist groups are using the nation as a base for radicalization and organized crime, further adding fuel to the fire and posing a threat to the region and beyond. The civilians are harassed and victimized by the militias and armed groups, but nothing has been done so far as the international involvement has remained too apprehensive to avert an all-out fight for the capital. The Courts, on the other hand, are semi-functional, and various impediments obstruct access to fair trials. Hence, there is a threat of proxy war between regional powers if this full-fledged conflict will remain unchecked. The UN is required to play an integral role by encouraging the parties to return to the negotiating table and proposing a new three-track strategy addressing the core political, military and financial concerns of both sides. If external actors are serious in their calls, now is the time to act to stop this full-fledged war.

The conflict escalates further when Libyan National Army (LNA) under Haftar’s command launched an attack, named ‘Flood of Dignity’, with the specified aim of capturing the capital, despite repeated warnings by Libya’s international partners. LNA began to advance on Tripoli after Haftar returned from Riyadh, believing that the international supporters, i.e., the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, France and Russia would stand by them. Although the US had warned him verbally not to move into western Libya, where the UN-backed government is based and has tried to influence Haftar to accept a political deal with Faiez Serraj, the head of the Tripoli-based government, to unify Libya’s divided institutions, including the military, making Haftar the head of the armed forces, but he disagreed arguing that the presence of militias in Tripoli would increase the security issue and frustrate the ordinary Libyans.

The military strength and external support of LNA is evident but its victory in Tripoli cannot be predicted. As for now, this conflict could spread to other parts of Libya, as Misratan forces have openly stated that they aim to cut-off LNA supply lines in central Libya which will eventually worsen the conflict. To avoid this catastrophic intensification in Tripoli involving regional powers, Libya’s partners should take serious actions. The regional powers should abstain from supporting the offensive militarily, and endorse their support for UN-led negotiations. Moreover, the UN Security Council should demand for an instant culmination of hostilities, and impose sanctions on military commanders and political leaders escalating confrontations.

Furthermore, the UN should introduce a three-pronged strategy including a political track, which should not only be restricted to a deal between Haftar and Serraj rather should also include political representatives from rival parties to ensure an equal and practical solution. Second, a military track should be presented, involving senior military commanders from both sides, along the lines of the Egypt-led military dialogue to agree on new security arrangements for the capital; and in the last place, a financial track, to bridge the gap of the financial institutions which emerged in 2014 as a result of political disturbances, by bringing together representatives from Libya’s divided Central Bank.

In conclusion, Libya has witnessed frequent setbacks and external interference over the past eight years which have facilitated the non-state actors such as ISIS to gain a foothold. Keeping in view the present scenario, the menace of terrorism could become a self-fulfilling prophecy as new jihadists are joining the conflict. What will happen in the fight for Tripoli is now largely reliant on how the UN and international players of the region will respond to it. Although the external powers, including the US, UK, France, Italy, the UAE, Egypt and Russia, have condemned the escalation, but none of them included the threat of sanctions and made any explicit mention to support the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli. Therefore, it can be assumed that the external powers are providing assistance to Haftar in his ambition to seize the capital and power.

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