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Understanding Egypt’s Limited Involvement in the Arab NATO

Irina Tsukerman

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Authors: Irina Tsukerman, Mohamed Maher*

During President Sissi’s visit to the White House, some press reports talked about Egypt’s withdrawal from the planned Middle Eastern and North African defense alliance which became known as MESA, and in popular parlance, referred to as the “Arab NATO”. The idea of the alliance, initiated and backed by President Trump, is to create a structure that would bring together powers to oppose Iran’s regional meddling. According to sources cited by Reuters, some of the reasons for the withdrawal included uncertainty over President Trump’s political future, lack of formal structure for the alliance, and lack of traction by the other potential members.

Egypt has always been against the policy of alliances throughout its modern history, and therefore its refusal to participate in the Arab NATO or Mesa  was expected.

Indeed, in 2018, when the discussions were held with lower level Saudi defense officials, many have expressed doubts about the success of MESA, at least in part due to the potential membership by the Anti-Terrorism Quartet’s regional rival Qatar, under the boycott by KSA, UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain since June 2017. The Saudis at the time and five others of the would be members of this defense initiative, despite differences on many other defense matters, all agreed that Iran is a major regional threat, and would be willing to work closely to coordinate with the White House . The alliance would be in essence  a pact focused on countering the Islamic Republic’s influence.

Like NATO, such coordination would not necessarily be dependent on the administration in office; the Obama administration never completely denied that Iran-backed groups presented a threat.  However, the lack of framework, mechanism for addressing internecine tensions and grievances, and the odd fellowship of the would-be members spelled doom for this idea. Similar efforts had failed in the past for the same reasons. Tensions between Doha and the ATQ were but one problem plaguing the tentative alliance. Under President Trump’s proposal, Morocco with its well equipped and well trained military would not be part of it, but Bashir’s Sudan would have been.

Now that Omar Bashir has fallen from power, Sudan’s future is unclear. It enjoys support from a number of state actors, and the symbolic Sudanese contingent remains in Yemen, but Sudan’s ability to commit to any long term plans is doubtful. Qatar, with its tiny military, does not add much on the defense side; moreover, it is closely aligned to Iran politically and economically. Aside from aggravating several of the potential MESA members with its funding of the Muslim Brotherhood, attacks through the state mouthpiece Al Jazeera, and close defense relations with Turkey, Qatar cannot be trusted at this point not to play for both sides, or to adhere to defense goals of the group.  Following the imposition of the boycott on Doha by the ATQ, Qatar claimed that this boycott pushed it closer to Iran, despite evidence of growing relations prior to June 2017. 

Why is Trump’s vision of MESA failing?

The White House devoted some diplomatic efforts to securing the lifting of the boycott, but Qatar refused to meet any of the demands put forth by the ATQ, including Egypt, and the prospects for the reunification of the Gulf seem bleak in the short term. Egypt, one of the major players in the region was one of the contingencies on which MESA depended. With Cairo out of the picture, the Trump administration will have to rethink its approach to regional security. Part of MESA’s purpose would be to create an independent regional force, to go along with the diminishing role of the United States.

Unfortunately, what that would entail was never clearly defined. For instance, the Arab Coalition fighting the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen receives intelligence and logistical support from the US, but the operations are not fully integrated. Morocco once comprised part of the forces in Yemen, but eventually withdrew following tension with Saudi Arabia. Sudan greatly diminished the number of its forces over time, while Egypt retained only a small number from the start. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates likewise had different priorities in Yemen, with KSA, which is regularly attacked by the Houthis, prioritizing the opposition to the Iran expansionism.  UAE, by contrast, like Egypt was more concerned about the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Overtime, the Coalition came to rely increasingly on assorted mercenaries to supplement diminishing forces.

And the presence of the pro-Iran Hezbollah, which trained, armed, and supplied Yemen – and which likewise threatened Morocco with the backing of the separatist Polisario group, was widely cited by the Saudi embassy in the U.S., but at no point was clearly addressed by the White House, nor was there ever a plan to address its presence. For the Arab NATO to have even a glimmer of hope, resolving these differences and assuring a greater level of coordination and mutual support between these members for Yemen, and greater level of US government buy in would be the first test. So far, however, too many forces appear to be pulling in different directions; the United States is more concerned about eliminating Al Qaeda and ISIS, and have expressed concerns about rumors of the Coalition members cutting deals with Al Qaeda. At the same time, the US has been unwilling to reassess the grounds for its presence and to commit to a greater level of support and involvement. From Egypt’s perspective, if the current on the ground realities cannot be handled even by the initiators of the MESA project, the prospects for future success appear to be rather bleak. 

Executing the Mission without MESA – what is the path for the United States?

If Arab NATO is not to be in the form as envisioned by the White House,  the US will be forced to develop stronger bilateral defense relationship with each of the key players, and figure out a different way of engaging the pivotal actors in countering Iran’s expansionism.  If MESA is to be resurrected, its members need to be at least a somewhat cohesive force; so only the countries that are more or less on the same page and are not likely to attack each other should be considered for membership. Furthermore, any Arab NATO should model itself closely upon the real NATO, including creating a formal structure of alliances, finding a way of separating PR and trade grievances from defense commitments, receiving formal training from the US and other Western NATO members, and creating Centers of Excellence which capitalize on each members’ strengths and which would create interdependency and assuage regional rivalries. Furthermore, a certain level of fluidity in alliances makes sense in contemporary multipolar defense landscape. For some countries, addressing joint border issues makes sense, and a natural alliance will occur. Others will see Iran as the top priority, while still others may be more concerned about jihadist presence. Whatever the case may be, rigid structure of the original NATO which emerged out of the bipolar Cold War scenario, may no longer be applicable at all, much less towards MENA.

Does that mean that Egypt can never be relied upon to counter Iran’s rising hegemony? From all appearances, it seems that Egypt is content with maintaining a modest diplomatic relationship with the Islamic Republic. Part of the reason for its difference with the rest of the ATQ on this matter is the fact that Egypt currently prioritizes addressing the threats by Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood, while Tehran does not appear to present an immediate existential danger.

Understanding the Divide within the Anti-Terrorism Quartet

Additionally, Cairo’s priorities since Abdul Fattah al-Sisi took power have consistently centered around countering the danger of radical Islamism, both in Egypt and abroad. Cairo is likewise currently fighting a fierce regional battle with Turkey and Qatar, who support the Muslim Brotherhood in the region. Relative to these challenges, countering the Iranian threat is a lower priority for Egypt.

Thanks to MB financial backing, terrorist threats have spread throughout the regions; infiltration of ISIS member and other groups in Sinai keep Egypt occupied and require a great deal of financial expenditures and military focus. The situation in Libya until recently has likewise been a major military concern; Qatar’s interference in regional matters, such as backing Sudan over a dam-related dispute with Egypt were likewise more immediate items of interest from Cairo’s perspective.  Although Iran had previously worked with the short-lived Muslim Brotherhood Morsi government on establishing stronger military and intelligence ties with Egypt, since President Sissi’s tenure began, Iran focused its energies elsewhere.

The Muslim Brotherhood, with support from Ankara and Doha, is seen as an existential threat; Iran is not.

IN that sense, the Gulf States and Egypt have differing priorities; combating Iran’s expansionism is one of the top priorities for KSA, UAE, and Bahrain, but it apparently is not so for Egypt.

Similarly, the Gulf States, despite significant differences with Erdogan’s Turkey, need Turkey’s involvement in Syria to oppose Assad and Iranian incursion, although they, too, distrust Erdogan’s geopolitical ambitions. Cairo, on the other hand, in part by growing closer to Russia, has made peace with Assad retaining power, and prefers Assad to the instability of jihadist groups at war, the expansion of Muslim  Brotherhood, and the strengthening of Ankara.

Why Egypt Prioritizes Response to the Turkish Threat

Egypt’s and Turkey’s historical relationship is fraught with friction; some of the old tensions are now playing out with Ankara’s Islamist leadership in charge.  Some old Ottoman street names, for instance, have fallen casualty of the more recent strife. Egypt was under Ottoman control from the 16th through the early 20th century. Although there are many historical, cultural, and religious ties, the countries have had periods of tensions, such as during the Nasserist period in the 1950s and 60s, when the Kemalist Turkey moved in a pro-Western direction. Erdogan’s support for Morsi created a long term problem for his relations with the Sissi government. In 2013, Egypt expelled the Turkish ambassador following a diplomatic crisis. Erdogan permanently banned the Egyptian ambassador from entering Turkey and declared him to be a persona non grata in response. The reason for this cold start to relations was Turkey’s involvement in the Arab Spring which brought Morsi to power in the first place, and later, its meddling in Syria.

Erdogan welcomed the heads of the Muslim Brotherhood, who fled Egypt and openly touted his ties with that organization. Increasing evidence of Erdogan’s trade ties with ISIS created a further obstacle to the relationship with Egypt, which suffers from ongoing terrorist attacks. President Sissi on the other hand, proposed, recognizing the Armenian genocide, a sore point for Turkey, particularly under Erdogan. In February 2019, the government implicitly recognized the genocide, further exacerbating the divide. Other members of the Egyptian government proposed granting asylum to Fethullah Gullen, Erdogan’s Islamist political rival, currently under protection in the United States.

  Furthermore, Egypt has arrested a number of individuals in 2017; that group was accused of espionage in favor of Turkey, as well as money laundering, and assorted related crimes.  The two countries have also been engaged in an ongoing media war. These exchanges reflected the geopolitical tensions. Egypt was irked by Turkey’s interest in projecting greater power into Africa, including its incursions into the Red Sea. Not the least of it was the general sense that Turkey seeks to be the new Sunni leader of the Muslim world, displacing the traditional role played by Egypt and Saudi Arabia in that regard. Its media coverage attacking the heads of state in these two countries reflected Erdogan’s populist move to rile up any pro-Muslim Brotherhood elements.

Turkey and Qatar’s growing presence in Africa threatens to reignite the pro-Muslim Brotherhood sympathies, which can spread like fire across borders of unstable neighboring countries, or exploit existing vulnerabilities even in more secure states. Both of these states have been generously funding humanitarian and ideological outreach efforts, which hit much closer to home than Iran. Egypt, then, finds itself having to focus on securing itself from these efforts – and leaving the less immediately urgent battles to its Gulf counterparts.

How Egypt is Getting the Best of Both Worlds

For Cairo, this arrangement seems to be the best of both worlds: while remaining a Gulf ally, Egypt is able to preserve an attitude towards Iran’s actions in the region that reflects some of Cairo and Tehran’s shared strategic interests. The two states have similar perspectives on major regional issues such as support for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and the need to subject the Israeli nuclear program to international oversight.

 The position of the two countries on the Syrian issue is notably aligned—even at the expense of Egypt’s Gulf allies. Cairo openly supports Assad, Tehran’s traditional ally. And against expectations, Egypt voted in the Security Council in favor of the Russian decision on Syria in October 2016—supported by Iran and opposed by Saudi Arabia—a decision that infuriated Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, Egypt has not been pushed towards a significantly more bellicose position by its Gulf allies and continues to limit itself to activities like its participation in the Warsaw Conference. Based on these and other indicators, it seems that Egypt and Iran have no intention of seriously clashing in the near future.

There are other reasons for Egypt’s position on this issue. First, there is the traditional isolationist argument present to some extent in any society, which calls for focusing Egypt’s foreign policy exclusively on matters of direct and immediate interest to Egypt’s national interests. While that argument is not prevalent, despite some presence among government officials, it does press the issue of priorities. Second, coordination of efforts thus far has been mostly lip service. There have been some isolated joint military exercises; Egyptian advisers to Saudi defense have played an influential role. Nevertheless, for theArab NATO to succeed and for Egypt to want to return to an active role in regional efforts, several things need to happen – and there are certainly opportunities for these issues to be addressed.  

Recommendations for saving MESA and bringing Egypt back to the table

Goals and limitations of the alliance need to be clearly defined; responsibilities of each member need to be delineated; financial commitments must be clear, transparent, and have enforcement mechanisms for collection to avoid the pitfalls of the Western NATO discrepancies.

Most successful Iranian operations, including naval exercises, are geared towards asymmetrical warfare. While MESA member states are increasingly well equipped with modern weaponry, up until this point the training regimen was largely geared towards large scale traditional confrontations, which is no longer the present, much less the future of contemporary warfare. For that reason, all states which aspire to be a members should agree to restructure their forces in such a way that effective asymmetrical preparation became possible. This would give Egypt additional advantage in any future confrontation with jihadist groups or its priority adversarial forces. In other words, this would be a win-win situation, as all members would benefit in some way from such an arrangement.

 While there needs to be a minimal agreed upon financial commitment among all members, building trust in any formalized alliance also requires balancing strengths and weaknesses, creating a way of compensating for any inherent vulnerabilities.  That means that where some members are best position to contribute well trained and battle hardened forces, others may be better positioned to contribute financially while they commit to developing the level of preparation that would facilitate their participation in any potential confrontations, and still others might provide other essential types of expertise.

Because Iran is not a top priority for Egypt, it is important to underscore that Iran’s detrimental effect in the region is not constrained by military prowess and destruction alone. Cybesecurity, financial crimes, alliances with assorted organized crimes schemes, the advance of soft power, law fare and economic warfare, and lobbying and PR in the West are all part of Iran’s geopolitical strategy – and while Egypt may not suffer the effects of Iran’s combat plans directly or in the immediate foreseeable future, it is not immune from the other global activities by Iran and its proxies.

Finally, it is important to note that Turkey, Qatar, and Muslim Brotherhood and its backed organizations such as Hamas, are increasingly growing closer to Iran. Hamas is fully funded by Iran; Egypt’s diplomatic successes in dealing with Hamas recently are noteworthy; however, Iran’s determination to destabilize the region and to utilize Syria and regional battles to exact influence have continued unabated.  For that reason, it is in Egypt’s best interests to separate its worst enemies from each other and from Iran.   The issue, then, is how to address Egypt’s relationship with Assad and how to avoid exacerbating the differences with the Gulf States over Syria’s role. The answer to that is: carefully, and incrementally, by focusing on small issues, where, for instance, Egypt can exercise diplomatic influence over Russia and Assad to pressure Iran, whereas in exchange the Gulf States can worker closer with Egypt on securing its interests against incursion by Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood. 

The United States has limited options if it wants to exert the “maximum pressure” on the Islamic Republic. It can return to a more hawkish role in the Middle East, expand its presence in Syria and Iraq, figure out an effective and legal way of disrupting Hezbollah operations and IRGC financing and arming of the Houthis or else increasing its forces on the ground and incorporating Hezbollah into its counterrorism mission. It can also invest into soft power projects along with its Middle Eastern counterpart that could counter Iran’s ideological influence. It could even build additional bases, including in Saudi Arabia, in the future to deter attacks from Houthis or various jihadist groups. Alternatively, if the US seeks in the long term to minimize its presence in the region without sacrificing the region to Russia and Iran as now appears to be the course, it will need to do a lot more in the short term to ensure that the bloc of states the Trump administration is counting on to pick up the leadership role in countering Iran’s malign influence does not disperse to be co-opted, weakened, or countered by the adversary. It needs to invest time, effort, and human resources into creating a coherent mechanism for delivering a workable strategy towards a clearly defined objective – rolling back Iranian influence and bankrupting the regime to the point that it can no longer present a security threat to anyone in the region.

*Mohamed Maher is an Egyptian journalist and researcher based in the United States.

Irina Tsukerman is a human rights and national security attorney and analyst based in New York. She has written extensively about geopolitics, foreign policy, and security issues for a variety of domestic and international issues and her writing has been translated into Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, and Indonesian.

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Defense

Who Needs A Proxy War In The Caucasus?

prof. Zlatko Hadzidedic

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Image source: Azerbaijan Ministry of Defence

All proxy wars are, by definition, delusional. Usually, two client-states wage a war, one against another, while, actually, their war advances interests of some other states, commonly their sponsor-states.  The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh is not a simple proxy war: its proxiness and delusional character exponentially grow as the conflict unfolds on the ground.

For, it is conceived as a war that was supposed to draw two major regional powers, Russia and Turkey, into a mutual conflict, on the assumptions that Russia is going to act as Armenia’s sponsor-state, ready to enter the war on the side of its presumed proxy, and that Turkey is going to act as Azerbaijan’s sponsor-state, ready to enter the war on the side of its presumed proxy. Yet, as the conflict unfolds, it becomes transparent that these assumptions were deeply wrong and that the proxiness and delusional character of this very war are skyrocketing beyond the absurd.

Turkish rapprochement with Russia, which is a logical consequence of Turkey’s geopolitical reversal caused by its failure to become a candidate for membership in the European Union after so many years of begging, has not remained unnoticed by relevant circles in the West. While the United States has tried to persuade the Turks to remain its most reliable ally and refrain from turning towards Turkey’s natural geopolitical environment, that is, towards other Eurasian powers, France’s foreign policy, with a British support, has chosen a different strategy.

Assuming that the close encounters between Russia’s and Turkey’s troops on the soil of Syria and Libya were an expression of a true potential for their mutual conflict, rather than a careful choreography conceived by these two powers to deceive their potential adversaries in the Euro-Atlantic bloc, France and Britain have created a strategy to draw Russia and Turkey into a mutual conflict through their presumed proxies, Armenia and Azerbaijan. For this purpose, they used the traditional bonds between France and Armenia, based on the presence of the numerous Armenian diaspora in France. Due to these historical bonds, it was not difficult for France to persuade the Armenian leadership to fall into a trap of a new war with Azerbaijan, as France’s (and Britain’s)de facto proxy. However, the basic assumption was that in the further development Russia will automatically take Armenia’s side, as it once did, in the times of Boris Yeltsin. In other words, Armenia was pushed into the war by France (and Britain), so as to make it seem as if Russia did it, in order to eventually draw Russia into a conflict with Turkey, which was assumed to be on the side of Azerbaijan in case of Armenian attack. A cunning plan, isn’t it? Yet, these assumptions, as well as the strategy derived from them, have proved to be a farcical failure.

For, Putin’s Russia is not Yeltsin’s Russia. Yeltsin allowed himself to be drawn into a geopolitical game constructed for Russia’s ultimate destruction, the game of creation of ethnically exclusive territories, like Nagorno-Karabakh, or South Ossetia, to be followed by their secession from the states to which they originally belonged and annexation by the states with which they shared common ethnic identity. In other words, this game was a game of endless ethnic cleansing and creation of ethnically exclusive territories, which would eventually destroy not only Russia with its numerous ethnic minorities, but also the entire zone of Eurasia with its numberless ethnic groups. This was a recipe for the ultimate destruction of the entire Eurasian space, carefully planned in the inner circles of the Anglo-American foreign policy establishment, and recklessly adopted by Yeltsin and many other post-Soviet politicians. However, Putin is not Yeltsin, and he did understand the destructive potential of the concept of ethnically exclusive territories when applied to the post-Soviet space: if every ethnic group were to claim its own exclusive territory, and then unification with its ethnic kin in other states, there would be no more territorially compact states in Eurasia, including Russia itself.

A similar pattern was previously applied to the Soviet Union, when its republics were stimulated to claim independence on the basis of ethnic identity and presumed right to self-determination. This process ended up with the total dissolution of the Soviet Union. Of course, full application of this pattern generates a process of endless dissolutions: for, all ethnic minorities within these newly-proclaimed states may well claim secession from these states, since the underlying assumption, adopted by many local ethnonationalist leaders, is that these ethnic groups’ survival is possible only within their own ethnically exclusive statelets. To put it briefly, it is a pattern of geopolitical fission, with the consequences similar to those of nuclear fission. Among other destructive processes triggered in the post-Soviet space, this pattern also led to the Armenian invasion of Azerbaijan’s territory and creation of the ethnically exclusive territory of Nagorno-Karabakh for Armenian ethnic minority in Azerbaijan, with the ultimate goal of its secession from Azerbaijan and annexation by Armenia.

The same pattern was also promoted in the Balkans, again by Britain and France, in their initiatives for ethnic partition of Bosnia in the 1990s and annexation of its territories by Serbia and Croatia, and recently, for exchange of ethnic territories between Serbia and Kosovo. The concept of ethnically exclusive territories as the only safe environment for survival of ethnic groups, therefore, is not the invention of some ‘wild tribes’ in the Balkans or the Caucasus. It is a premeditated strategy for permanent destabilization of any geopolitical zone, wherever applied. Its authorship needs to be finally attributed to those who are always present in their application – the British and French foreign policy establishments. Yet, this time, in the case of the second Armenian-Azeri war, this hook has not been swallowed by its main targets, Russia and Turkey.

Having been aware of the fact that the Armenian attack on Azerbaijan was generated by some other players, who were not even too careful to hide its role in it (such as President Macron of France), and that the very concept of ethnically exclusive territories has served as a tool for permanent destabilization of both Russia and the rest of Eurasia, Russian foreign policy reacted in a way that was precisely the opposite from the reaction of Yeltsin’s foreign policy in the case of the first Armenian-Azeri war. Instead of automatically taking Armenia’s side and further promoting the concept of ethnically exclusive territories, as designed by the Anglo-French axis, Russia took a neutral position and thereby has practically given a green light to Azerbaijan to regain control over Nagorno-Karabakh and restore its full sovereignty and territorial integrity. In this way, the very concept of ethnically exclusive territories has been delegitimised, not only in the Caucasus, but also in the entire post-Soviet space. Yet, it remains to be delegitimised in the Balkans.

Russia has probably made such a radical geopolitical turnover in tacit agreement with Turkey, so as to be safe about its outcome and the foreseeable consequences. Their rapprochement has thus been elevated to a level of potential strategic alliance. At the same time, Turkey has strengthened its credibility in the post-Soviet space and the rest of Eurasia, but not in the conflictual mode against Russia. This improvement of Turkey’s international standing has been based on its principled defence of Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, that is, principled respect for international law, not on an aggressive implementation of a pan-Turkic programme that would eventually include all Turkic peoples, including Azeris, into some imagined Greater Turkey. The same applies to Russia and its abandonment of presupposed pan-Orthodox sentiments in the case of Armenia, although these have yet to be abandoned in the Balkans, in the case of Russia’s flirting with the Greater Serbian programme of ethnically exclusive territories.

In any case, both Russia and Turkey have thus made an important step out of the straitjacket tailored for them when the concept of ethnically exclusive territories was inserted into Eurasian geopolitical space. In that way, they have also created a geopolitical framework for Armenia and Azerbaijan to make a step out of their proxy roles, in which they were given a task to inscribe their respective ethnically exclusive territories. In other words, what has been generated is a geopolitical potential for peace between these two countries and their reconstitution along civic-inclusive, instead of ethnic-exclusive, lines.  

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Analysing INF Treaty: US withdrawal and its implications towards Asian Allies

Romana Khalid Gill

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United States of America and Soviet Union signed a treaty of “Intermediate Range Nuclear Force” during 1987 (also known as Cold War era). The basic purpose of this treaty was to prevent further destruction in the world, but US has engaged the complete world into an arms race. Both the super powers were enthusiastic to abide by the rules of this treaty but, later on US suspected Russia for violating the rules. This research paper is basically to analyze the position of US in the continent Asia whether it will be able to suppress China, as China is the emerging threat towards its hegemony. This research paper is supported by the “offensive realism theory” which was provided by John Mearsheimer. According to this theory, when any state develops strong in any region of strategic importance, different powers intervenes to suppress it in order to maintain their own dominancy.

The main reason behind America withdrawal from “INF treaty” was to construct missiles of that much longer ranges which can counter China and creation of those missiles was actually banned under that treaty. According to the research US actually wanted to suppress China by highlighting the Russia’s non-Compliance as a pretext. Furthermore, due to lack of policies and strategies in Asia-Pacific region US was actually unable to contain China and other Asiatic states for deploying missiles within their territories. The data has been collected from primary and secondary sources and analytical methodology has been applied. Primary data composed of interviews of political parties and American government on News Channels, talk shows and official websites whereas secondary data collected from journals articles, newspapers and reports of “SIPRI”.

Introduction:

Ronald Reagan representing United States and Michael Gaurbachev representing Soviet Union signed “Intermediate Range Nuclear Force (INF)” Treaty in year 1987. Under this treaty both states were obliged to eliminate all missiles having range of between 500 to 5500 Kms[1].Russia at that time was having SS 20 Missiles which was capable of destroying whole Europe with its range, the basic purpose of US behind initiating this treaty was to dismantle such types of missiles of Russia[2]. Under this treaty, a total of 2692 missiles (US 846 and Soviet Union 1846) were destroyed and hence it is known as the most successful treaty of the Cold War Era[3].

US blamed Soviet Union of violating the rule of “INF treaty” under which both of the states were not allowed to construct missiles having range more than 500 KMs, these allegations formed the cause of weakening of this treaty. Russia countered those allegations by giving a statement that those 9M729 missiles have a range of 480 KMs which does not exceed the range mentioned in the treaty[4]. Obama Administration made the first allegation on Soviet Union but never provided any evidence in their complete tenure. Donald Trump elected as US President after Obama in 2016, and suspended the treaty on 2nd Feb 2019 providing time of Six months to Soviet Union to comply on this treaty otherwise US will withdraw from this treaty then by using Russian Violation of treaty as a pretext, US officially announced its withdrawal from the treaty on 2nd August 2019[5]. The basic purpose of America to withdraw from this treaty was to contain China emerging as a super power as China was not the part of this treaty.

US hegemony is greatly threatened by rapid emergence of China as a super power. US has always used its powers against the states which threatened its position in the world as one could see US fought against Germany in World War I, as Germany was gaining a dominant position in Europe and similarly, during world war II America overpowered Japan and Soviet Union during the Cold War era. As currently, there is no state in Europe which can threaten US so it shifted its focus towards Asia to gain dominancy. The emergence of China is the real threat to US hegemony therefore US aims to hold INF treaty in Asia-Pacific region to be centric.US is facing a lot of criticism due to few steps it has taken in recent times which has not only affected the mutual trust of the states but has also put security of Europe at stake. They are facing the criticism of increasing the risk of military conflict in the world.

Significance:

US is desirous to develop a level playing field which includes the construction of all kinds of weapons i.e. Air, Naval, and ground-based intermediate missiles. There is a risk of enhancement in Arms race in the world due to withdrawal of America from INF. Much work has been done on “INF treaty” about its history and importance but this paper will analyze the United States interest and its policies in Asia after withdrawing INF treaty.

Objectives:

  • To examine United States reasons behind withdrawing from INF treaty
  • To examine the United States policies in countering China

Hypothesis:

US hegemony was threatened due to emergence of China as a super power in Asia therefore it withdrew from the INF Treaty

Research Questions:

Was Russian noncompliance the only reason for United States to withdraw itself from INF treaty?

Will US be able to contain China in Asia?

Methodology:

Primary and secondary data is primarily used to support Hypothesis and analytical methodology has been applied. Data has been taken from “Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)”, “China Global Television Network (CGTN)” and from Arms control and Disarmament websites. News articles, journals articles,news clipping, documentaries, research papers and magazines have been addressed in this research.

Limitations:

Not many books are available on the topic. Had to take help from newspaper clippings, opinion articles, talk shows or panel discussions, YouTube documentaries and news channels. Post 9/11 period has been taken to address the INF treaty.

Theoretical Framework and Discussions:

Realism is the most noticeable theory of International Politics. This theory sees the world with the logical and realistic point of view. It accomplishes the two significant idea of global relations; “Security” and power or force”. For each country “security” is the prime interest and to satisfy this interest, power is a primary source. Power and security can be called as the two sides of same coin. The state removes its insecurity from the persuasion of power which creates insecurity for another states Two speculations have been taken for the justification of hypothesis Classical Realism and Neorealism and it is further subdivided into two positions: “Offensive and Defensive realism”. Basically, Classical realism focus on Human nature and linked power with it that Human is greedy and selfish because of this war happened but in order to analyze Neo realism it is more appropriate in this contemporary world they discuss that International system is anarchic and this structure determines the behavior of states due to which states pursue power. In addition to this, two factorstalk about power but in different perspective. Offensive realism theory proposed by John Mearsheimer’s deals with maximization of power rather than security and seek towards hegemony than equality[6].Whereas Defensive realism theorists believe that state must seek power enough for its security rather than accumulating excessive power.

However, in order to apply this theory United States is focusing on offensive realism because hegemon state will use all its power to prevent the rise of competitor in order to stay dominant. Now US did not bother about the security of European states and withdrew INF treaty that has arisen the factor of arm race in the world. So, there is no central authority that can take authentic decisions due to which states create its own self-help system to ensure its own survival.

Russian noncompliance was a reason for United States behind termination of “INF treaty” but it was not a fact Trump was more worried about China missiles because it was not a part of this treaty and it was successfully developing numbers of missiles whose ranges are more than “INF” limits. Whereas, United States was prohibited under this treaty and was not allowed to test or deploy ground-based missile because of this US capability was becoming under threatened by the China[7]. On the other hand, Russia was in favor of this treaty because Russia position is different now as compared to 1980’s era. Soviet Union was split in 1991 and the states that were under Soviet Union associated themselves with “North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)” thus United States have an advantage to deploy its missiles here and target Russia in a minute. For example, Estonia is near to Russia and it can target Russia in a second. So, Russia does not want termination of this treaty so that US do not deploy its missiles here because in response Russia is unable to reach territory of United States[8].

Russia made a draft resolution for the preservation of the INF treaty and submitted to the 74th meeting of General Assembly but it was rejected by the “United Nation Disarmament committee” because it comes under Security Council[9]. Russia tried its best to preserve its treaty but unable to achieve success because US already made its mind since 2018 and US security advisor John Bolton told Russian President Putin that Trump has already made his mind to withdraw from this treaty in Moscow[10]. In addition to this, director of the “Center for Security Cooperation in the Chinese ministry of national defense” without supporting any states Zhou Bo has mentioned in an interview on “world insight China Global Television network” that if there was any problem related to Russian missiles then it was the duty of US to investigate it. Though, Russia showed positive gesture as they invited US for the inspection of missiles but America denied to visit[11]. In addition to this, United States denied this inspection because they were working on missiles if they accept this invitation then US has also reveal its information regarding missiles because Russia was also accusing that US is working on missiles formation i.e. Aegis shore and US is making planning to deploy these missiles in Poland[12].Continuous debate along with counteraccusation game was going on. Russia statements regarding development of US missiles are showing authentic observations because US tested intermediate missiles just after seventeen days of withdrawal from INF[13]. It means that US was working on these missiles for many years.

There were two reports regarding China Ballistic missiles. In 2013 first report was published by “National Air and space Intelligence Centre” that China consumes utmost diverse ballistic missiles[14].Moreover, second report was published by Pentagon in 2018 that China is improving its missiles[15]. In prior to this, United States seek hegemony in Asia continent and want to counter China by deploying its missiles in Asian allies’ states and announced that they will deploy missiles “sooner rather than later”[16]. Moreover, United States trying to form new treaty in which China must also become a part of it but China denied to join any treaty that make its capability limited. As China is becoming a continental power and intermediate missiles are its backbone so adherence to any treaty would create a huge asymmetry and might cause an unbalanced power between strategic rivals then it would be difficult to compete them.

United States has again opted the policy of “Containment” against China as it made it against Soviet Union in Cold war. However, question arises that will US be able to contain China in Asia? In order to analyze China and Soviet Union, China is far superior than Soviet Union financially and strategically. US made progress in containing Soviet Union since it was inside frail, however in case of China it would be troublesome on the grounds because China’s procurement power is bigger than United States and has fabricated strong military in South China Sea[17]. China has opted winning heart mind scheme in its surrounding areas by building economic corridor, though United States consistently relied on hard power and consistently centered around military innovation. Rivalry among US and China is consistently there, in light of the fact that both are following nationalism and need to secure own national interest so collaboration would be difficult among them and it is very hard to contain China for United States.

US and Asian Allies:

As China is emerging and creating a military threat to United States. So, United States pull out INF treaty so that it makes itself free from the limitations and make a missile of those ranges that are banned under this treaty only to contain China. Three perspective could be made on US withdrawal: First intermediate missiles are inexpensive for US than air and naval assets, it will be good to deter China and more survivable than air and sea-based missiles. However, US did not consult with its Asian Allies before withdrawing the treaty that will these states allow US to deploy its missiles on their territory[18]. For US it would be one of the difficult tasks to attain because it is digging itself into one of the most complicated process i.e. long process of negotiation will take place between US and its Asian allies.

Japan and South Korea are the two allies of US in Asia. In order to analyze both states want good relations with China. The Government of Japan opposed the US decision regarding a withdrawal from INF treaty. Likewise, it will not allow US to deploy its missile on their territory. Moreover, Japan is bound with their customs and has to take consent from the local governors and administration. Japan does not want another challenge from its neighbor country along from their public because US military are deployed in Japan through “Status of force agreement (SOFA)” and they are operating there without respecting Japan domestic laws and Japan took decision to revise SOFA agreement in 2018[19]. So, public opinion is also playing role in Japan decision making and majority of people are not in the support of deployment of missiles in their territory along with unable to face other repercussions from its neighboring state China.

South Korea and United States relations are becoming weaker after 2016. In 2016 US deployed “Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD)” in South Korea to counter North Korea missiles. In result China retaliated and made sanction on economic and diplomatic efforts that costed South Korea approximately seven billion dollars[20]. In addition to this, if South Korea again deploy US missiles then it would face repercussions and its relation with China will affect. Furthermore, in order to analyze the leadership of Korea, they did not want now any sanctions from China and trying to make peaceful Korean peninsula.

Guam is there where US can deploy its missiles but it is very small island about thirty miles long and ten miles wide. China is far from Guam approximately 3,000 km and currently US is lacking this range of missiles to target China[21].

Australia is left with only the option but it will also cost US expensively because to target China US require Intercontinental ballistic missiles instead of intermediate missiles because from this region China is 5500 km far away and currently US is bound with the New strategic reduction arm treaty that does not allow US to develop these ranges missiles. Again, US did not consult with Australia regarding deployment of missiles. Australia is also not willing to deploy US missiles as its Prime minister also expressed this statement in an interview[22].

So, United States always make its policies or agreements with the states but whenever it feels the threat related to their dominancy it withdraws itself from agreements unilaterally. Either it is related to climate agreement or arms control agreement. US always look towards its interest if it is fulfilling then it will follow it otherwise it will withdraw itself from the treaty. As offensive realism theory explain that international system is anarchic not in means of chaos but lack of central political authority is there that leads states towards self-help system to ensure its survival. And this is the perspective that US is continuously using offensive behavior and tried it best to use all its power to prevent the rise of competitor and thus it withdraws from INF only to increase its power so that it would be able to contain China.

On the other hand, United States has undermined the trust of states. Before taking this step, US must know that many states are having missiles technology there is no monopoly over it[23]. Now every state will make more missiles to ensure its survival and thus give emergence to new arm race in the world.

US took verdict on withdrawal from INF arrangement rapidly because of absence of legitimate arranging or approaches in regards to containing China. First no vital strategies were made with Asian Allies particularly Japan and South Korea. These two states are bound to their administration order for deploying intermediate missiles in their region. Public perceptions or recognition and assessment are additionally impacting in their administration arrangements. Research explored that authority of Asian states needs great relations with China rather than United States because China is economically more strengthened then US and it is near to them and cannot take any risk against China so that in future, they face more difficulties. Furthermore, absence of clear strategy with respect to containing China will give no achievement in future as US secretary of states has referenced that it will send its missiles sooner in Asia however it is time taking procedure and will take a very long time to execute. In addition to this, if Russia was violating the rules of INF treaty, at that point why confirmations or evidences were not exposed by US government? United States always back out from the treatise whenever their security becomes threatened. Currently, US is only left with one treaty named as “New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty” that was also signed amid US and Soviet Union during cold war. It is expected that US could withdraw from this last cold war treaty in 2021 as President Trump already indicate this factor in his speech as well. Thus, US will free itself from all the restrictions and chances of arm race will be increased among the states either developing or developed states.

Conclusion:

Russian noncompliance was just a pretext for United States of America. Its main reason was to contain China and want to make INF treaty Asia-Pacific centric but it would be difficult for the United States after agreement termination, because for deployment of missiles, it needs Asian allies’ states to offer its launch sites for missiles within range of China. It is clear that which country will provide its territory along with future repercussions from China. In this contemporary world, China has opted winning heart mind strategy in its region whereas United States always believed on hard power and always focused on military technology to achieve its hegemony and this concept is becoming blur in modern world. Competition between US and China always there because both are following nationalism and want to protect their own national interest so cooperation would be difficult amid them and it is quite difficult to contain China for United States in South Asia region.


[1] “US. Department of State: Treaty Between the United States of America And the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on The Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty)”, 2009-2017

[2]Ivan Tselichtchev, “If Trump blows up US-Russia nuclear treaty, China will pick up the pieces”, South China Morning Post, 10 November 2018

[3]Lori Esposito Murray, “What the INF Treaty’s Collapse Means for Nuclear Proliferation”, Council on Foreign Relations, August, 1, 2019

[4] Alexander Lanoska, “The INF Treaty: Pulling Out in Time”, Air University, no.13 (Summer 2019): 53-54

[5]Ibid.

[6]Glenn H. Snyder, “World-Offensive Realism and the Struggle for Security: A Review Essay”, The MIT Press 27,no.1 (summer 2002)

[7]Andrey Baklitskiy, “What the end of the INF treaty means for China”, Carnegie Moscow Center, December 2, 2019

[8]Ivan Tselichtchev, “If Trump blows up US-Russia nuclear treaty, China will pick up the pieces”, South China Morning Post, 10 November 2018

[9]Ibid.

[10]Julian Borger, “European diplomats mount last-ditch effort to stop US scrapping INF treaty”, The Guardian, 18 November 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/18/inf-treaty-european-diplomats-us-russia

[11] “End of the INF treaty: China’s position”, YouTube video, 17:29, accessed August,2019,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxcURttIaok

[12]Alexander Lanoska, “The INF Treaty: Pulling Out in Time”, Air University, no.13 (Summer 2019)

[13]“INF nuclear treaty: US tests medium-range cruise missile”, BBC News, 20, August 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-49405499

[14] Alexander Lanoska, “The INF Treaty: Pulling Out in Time”, Air University, no.13 (Summer 2019): 56

[15] Alex ward, “The US just withdrew from an important nuclear arms treaty with Russia. Don’t panic — yet”, VOX, August 2, 2019, https://www.vox.com/world/2019/8/2/20750158/inf-treaty-trump-russia-withdraw

[16]Shannon Bugos, “US completes INF treaty Withdrawal”, Arms control Association, September,2019

[17]Will Saetern, “US cold war containment strategy against China may not end the Soviet way. Instead, it could explode into armed conflict”, South China Morning Post, September 17,2018

[18] Pranay Vaddi, “Leaving the INF Treaty Won’t Help Trump Counter China”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 31, 2019

[19] Ibid.

[20]Ibid.

[21]Ibid.

[22] “Australia won’t host U.S. missiles, prime minister says”, August,5,2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-usa-missiles/australia-wont-host-us-missiles-prime-minister-says-idUSKCN1UV0IB

[23] Malik Qasim Mustafa, “US withdrawal from the INF treaty: Implications for global strategic stability”, Institute of strategic studies Islamabad, ed. Najam Rafique (ISSI, 2018)

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Defense

UN salutes new Libya ceasefire agreement

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Warring parties in Libya on Friday agreed an historic ceasefire, which was hailed by the head of the UN Support Mission in the country (UNSMIL), who led the mediation, as a courageous act that can help secure a “a better, safer, and more peaceful future for all the Libyan people”.

“I would like to salute you, because what you have accomplished here takes a great deal of courage”, said UNSMIL chief, and Acting Special Representative, Stephanie Williams, at a press conference in Geneva. “You have gathered for the sake of Libya, for the sake of your people, to take concrete steps to end their suffering.”

The country has been roiled by division and conflict, since the overthrow of former dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011. Supporters of the UN-recognized Government in Tripoli have been under siege for months, following an offensive by forces of the rival administration of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Commander Khalifa Haftar.

UN-led mediation by the 5+5 Joint Military Commission, representing the two sides, yielded Friday’s agreement, that Ms. Williams said could help secure “a better, safer, and more peaceful future for all the Libyan people.

“I salute your sense of responsibility and your commitment to preserving Libya’s unity and reasserting its sovereignty”, she said of the accord.

Hopes of ‘lasting ceasefire’

She said the two sides had come together first and foremost, as Libyans, together: “The road was long and difficult at times, but your patriotism has been your guide all the time, and you have succeeded in concluding an agreement for a successful and lasting ceasefire.”

I hope that this agreement will contribute to ending the suffering of the Libyan people and enabling the displaced, both outside and inside the country, to return to their homes and live in peace and security.”

The UNSMIL head said the agreement “represents an important distinguishing mark for Libya and the Libyan people. I very much hope that future generations of Libyans will celebrate today’s agreement, as it represents that decisive and courageous first step towards a comprehensive settlement of the Libyan crisis that followed.”

Work lies ahead

Ms. Williams said there was “much work ahead in the coming days and weeks to implement the commitments contained in this agreement” adding that it was important to continue focused negotiations, “as quickly as possible in order to alleviate the many hardships that this conflict has caused to the Libyan people.”

She said she knew that the Libyan people “can count on you” and added that “the United Nations is with you and the people of Libya. We will do our utmost to ensure that the international community lends its full and unwavering support to you.”

Secretary-General hails ‘fundamental step toward peace and stability’

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the ceasefire, telling journalists in New York on Friday that represented “a fundamental step toward peace and stability in Libya.”

“I congratulate the parties for putting the interest of their nation ahead of their differences…Too many people have suffered for too long. Too many men, women and children have died as a result of the conflict”, said the UN chief.

The agreement was negotiated within the framework of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission with talks facilitated by the UN on the basis of Security Council resolution 2510 and 2542.

It is the result of four rounds of negotiations held since February of this year, Mr. Guterres reminded.

“I call on the international community to support Libyans in implementing the ceasefire and in bringing an end to the conflict. This includes ensuring the full and unconditional respect for the Security Council arms embargo.

“And I urge the Libyan parties to maintain the current momentum and show the same determination in reaching a political solution to the conflict, resolving economic issues and addressing the humanitarian situation.”

The UN chief said UNSMIL was making preparations to resume the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum – which stalled when fighting escalated last year – adding that it will be preceded by a series of meetings and consultations that would facilitate “the resumption of inclusive, intra-Libyan political talks – Libyan-led and Libyan owned.”

“There is no military solution for the conflict in Libya. This ceasefire agreement is a critical step. There is much hard work ahead”, he warned.

Momentum for global ceasefire builds

The UN chief also stressed that Friday’s breakthrough comes in the context of his repeated calls for a global ceasefire, so that all energies an be focused on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the inspiration of the Libyan agreement, now is the time to mobilize all efforts to support the mediations taking place to end the conflicts in Yemen, Afghanistan and in Armenia and Azerbaijan – where active hostilities are causing immense suffering for civilians”, he said.

“There is no military solution for any of these conflicts.  The solution must be political.” 

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