Thirty-one years ago, US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty placing a curb on nuclear weapons after decades of Cold War competition. Although the treaty persisted through to the end of the Soviet Union, it started showing signs of aging as early as mid-2000s. Not only did the treaty govern land-based nuclear delivery systems, it also barred the US from pursuing certain conventional precision strike systems for ground-based and maritime strikes. With President Trump’s withdrawal from the treaty on August 2, 2019 and Russia following suit, the INF is effectively a dead letter now.
Since the security environment has drastically changed in the last two decades, the time is ripe for looking closely at what to expect from US strategy and tactics, now that America remains free from the treaty’s restrictions.
From America’s point of view, the terms defined under the INF treaty have been out of step with the contemporary security environment. It has put the US and its allies at a relative disadvantage compared to China, as Beijing, not being a signatory to the INF treaty, has freely developed land-based missiles. Whereas Washington, under this treaty, was barred from doing so since it prohibited the United States and Russia from possessing, producing, or testing land-based ballistic and cruise missiles capable of ranges between 500–5,500 kilometers, including both conventional and nuclear-armed missiles.
However, Chinese experts have largely viewed the U.S. withdrawal as emblematic of a more aggressive U.S. nuclear and missile posture as well as a means for Washington to pressure Moscow. The US withdrawal from the INF treaty by citing China as one of the reasons gives a loud and clear message to Beijing that Washington is now in a strategic competition with it. As the obstacles for the US to develop and deploy cutting-edge ground-based medium and intermediate-range weapon have been removed, perhaps China would try to counter the new and upcoming US capabilities by further enhancing its investments on missile technologies and other countermeasures.
Even though leaving the INF treaty is not a magic bullet that completely addresses American concerns, it does pave the way for much-needed possibilities for the US to reset its military balance vis-à-vis China. Washington has a solid opportunity to turn the tables now. As a short-term response to balance China militarily, the US could deploy intermediate-range land-based missiles on its own as well as its allies’ territories along the Western Pacific region. Weapons capable enough of denying China the use of surrounding coastal waters would act as a powerful deterrent against any potential Chinese aggression.
But the US would find this onerous since China, by never being a part of the INF Treaty, has produced and tested a wide range of land-based ballistic and cruise missiles. The entire United States already lies within China’s range. As a result, the demise of the INF treaty could now lead to a potential nuclear arms race between the US, China and Russia. But for the US to increase its short- and medium-range capacity in the region, it would first need allies willing to host such facilities. As of now, it is quite hard to imagine either Japan or South Korea agreeing to host such weapons on their territory.
The INF Treaty being one of the most important diplomatic watersheds has also served as a foundation for the security of Europe. But now that the treaty is dissolved, there have emerged a number of implications for the US and its allies’ security interests in the region.
In this regard, the US can be expected to adopt the following approaches. First, it could begin by enhancing its, sea-launched nuclear deterrent. This would allow Washington to pose a viable deterrent for Moscow’s intermediate-range missiles in the region without deploying American missile defense systems on European soil. Next, America could also expand the production and development of its ballistic and cruise missile arsenal to counter any contingency operations for the future. The US must ensure that it stays technologically superior against its potential adversaries in this arena.
The long-term strategy, however, is more likely to be focused on how Russia perceives the West now and has accordingly shifted its strategy towards a more offensive posture. If Russia considers itself on the offensive side now because of the decline of the West, the US could be forced to further shore up its its trans-Atlantic alliances. This can be achieved over the long-term by leading NATO into the Russian sphere of influence by acceding Georgia into NATO and then further expanding it to Bosnia, Belarus and Moldova as well. However, the ramifications such a move would pose in terms of a Russian response cannot be underestimated either.
In 1987, the INF treaty played a major role in relaxing Cold War tensions. But today, amidst the revival of great power competition, the US is self-purportedly fighting with one arm tied behind its back. With the US and China on the brink of a new major power competition, it is important for policymakers on all sides to prevent rising tensions from causing a major crisis. As a result, it has now become important for the US to formulate and implement policies that characterize its changed mindset on how it deals with both Russia and China as strategic rivals. The US could expand NATO, facilitate in aligning its Allies’ strategic outlook and further ensure that it expands its defense capabilities so that the safety of its European and Asian allies stays intact, while also ensuring that other US interests abroad also remain protected. If, however, US policy remains hesitant and reactionary, there is a real danger that the United States will not be prepared for the challenges a post-INF world has in store for it.
Preparing For The Next Round Of Belligerent Nationalism
“It must not be forgotten that it is perhaps more dangerous for a nation to allow itself to be conquered intellectually than by arms.” – Guillaume Apollinaire, “The New Spirit and the Poets” (1917)
More than anything else, a nation-state survives along with the corresponding society’s intellectual and moral underpinnings. In the case of US President Donald Trump’s patently childish “Space Force,” neither precondition is evidenced. And at the same time that Trump has been abandoning essential treaties with Russia and economic arrangements with China, this president acts as if extending belligerent nationalism into space is somehow a rational plan.
Quite plainly, Donald Trump, who prides himself on “attitude, not preparation,” is sorely mistaken. Prima facie, any such extension of geopolitical competition would be anything but gainful. Among many other things, Space Force expresses the reductio ad absurdum of a dissembling president’s wholesale indifference to wisdom and ethics. It will only heighten the probability that America could be “conquered intellectually,” not “by arms.”
There is more. Space Force represents an ironic reaffirmation of past Trump policy failures. Where it is correctly understood as a logically derivative posture from this president’s “America First,” the operational role of his “Force” will be to extend Realpolitik or power politics to places where it has never existed before, still-pristine and “vertical” places. Significantly, as Realpolitik has never worked here on earth, any intelligent observer should feel compelled to ask: Why should belligerent geopolitics now work on a “galactic” level?
There are multiple ironies to be considered. As is the case of Donald Trump’s foreign and domestic policies in general, Space Force will be founded upon myriad failures of the past. In essence, these failures are all aspects of the “balance of power world system originally bequeathed at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. This conflict-oriented state system, an “everyone for himself” pattern of interminable international warfare, was born at Westphalia, immediately following the Thirty Years’ War. Though certain “Westphalian” zero-sum interactions might still have been more-or-less tolerable before the appearance of nuclear weapons, they are unsustainable in our bitterly acrimonious and proliferating nuclear world. Unassailably, they are even more dramatically unsustainable at this fearful time of worldwide disease pandemic.
It’s not complicated. What America needs today is not just another gratuitous or destined-to-fail weapon system (how could it possibly “succeed” if it doesn’t calculably contribute to this country’s “assured destruction capability”?), but rather a more conspicuous, well-intentioned presidential commitment to global interdependence/worldwide cooperation. Although true that – at least for the foreseeable future – the United States must take appropriate steps to ensure the overall credibility of American nuclear deterrence, it is not true that such credibility requires retaliatory “coverage” in all prospective theatres of large-scale military engagement.
Even if the Russians should “succeed” in militarizing space first – and even if this militarization were to involve nuclear elements – a fully suitable U.S, countervailing strategy could still remain entirely on this planet. In these calculations, the prospective aggressor (here Russia) would be unconcerned with the geographic origins of any American retaliatory destruction. After all, those origins would have no material consequence as long a US retaliatory strike were judged sufficiently probable and “assuredly destructive.”
This is an absolutely key reason why the United States has no identifiable need for maintaining any specific supremacy in space. Expressed differently, this means that an American president can readily maintain an indispensable US “assured destruction” capability vis-à-vis Russian and/or China without adjusting principal target sets according to ever-changing venues of enemy missile deployments. As far as what president Trump has called his newly proposed space force “super-dooper missile” – not exactly the terminology of a scientist or military professional – it represents only a caricatural reference, one more appropriate for 1950s-era children’s’ television programming than for any seriously complex US strategic reality.
Nuclear strategy is certainly a “game” that an American president should always be prepared to “play,” perhaps even for the indefinite future, but not without some conspicuous prior understandings of history, science and very elementary formal logic.
Going forward, US President Trump must remain systematically aware of all conceivable circumstances that could place us in extremis atomicum, but this focus will need to be broadly conceptual, and not childishly centered on American “super” missiles or reassuringly “big” bombs.
Instead of “America First” (Trump’s overall term for a system that willfully punishes the Many for the presumed benefit of a contrived Few), a rational American president should reject all derivatives and corollaries of “Westphalian” dynamics. Accordingly, any foreign policy that naively seeks to maximize America’s own well-being at the zero-sum expense of other states and peoples would be acting against certain binding norms of international law and contra its own national security interests at the same time.
Sadly, nothing could possibly be more apparent to anyone who bothers to think logically and historically about such literally existential matters.
The world is a system. Everything, therefore, is interrelated. Among other things, no American foreign policy success can be achieved at the willfully sacrificial expense of other countries and peoples. No such presumptive success is sustainable if the rest of the planet must thereby expect a more violent and explosive future. In this connection, it would be difficult to argue that Donald Trump’s Space Force could in any way lead us toward a less violent or less explosive global future.
A manifestly corrosive American national tribalism is being “protected” by U.S. Space Force. Nothing more. When all cumulative policy impacts are taken into careful analytic account, this “soulless” derivative of “America First” and belligerent nationalism will emerge as anything but patriotic. What else should we reasonably conclude about a planned U.S. military posture that would injure this country and various other countries abjectly, unambiguously and at the same time?
Among other basic issues here, it is effectively impossible to calculate the vast number of associated interactive effects of these significant injuries, especially where they would expectedly be “force-multiplying” or synergistic. By definition, wherever a synergistic injury would obtain, the “whole” of any inflicted harm would be greater than the tangible sum of its “parts.”
Today, at a time when America’s fight against worldwide disease pandemic should represent this nation’s very highest-priority security challenge, US Space Force offers a strategic posture that is wholly misconceived and prospectively lethal. Left in place, it will further exacerbate a deliberate presidential choice of gratuitous belligerence as the favored style of American military interaction. Ironically, what is required, instead, is the readily decipherable opposite of Space Force.
This means, in essence, a broadened US leadership awareness of human and societal interconnectedness.
History is duly instructive. From the 1648 Peace of Westphalia to the present fragmenting moment, world politics have been shaped by a continuously shifting balance of power and , correspondingly, by variously relentless correlates of war, terror and genocide. Ideally, of course, and against all calculable odds, hope should continue to exist. But now, even under the most imaginably optimistic circumstances, it should surely sing more softly, unobtrusively, even in a prudent undertone.
For Americans now increasingly endangered by Trump’s visceral or seat-of-the-pants foreign policies, more will be required than superficial or sotto voce modulations. Soon, merely to survive on this imperiled planet, all of us, together, will have to rediscover an individual human life, one consciously detached from narrowly ritualistic patterns of conformance, mindless entertainments, shallow optimism or any other disingenuously contrived expressions of some utterly imagined tribal happiness. At a minimum, such survival will demand a prompt and full-scale retreat from what Donald Trump has termed “America First” and from all of its rapidly dissembling correlates. In this regard, Trump’s Space Force is the foreseeable result of a much deeper societal pathology, a know-nothing American populism that drives out intellect and reason in favor of incessantly deliberate mystifications and collective self-delusion.
Thomas Jefferson and America’s other Founding Fathers had already understood something very basic: There is always a necessary and respectable place for serious erudition. By learning from history, Americans may yet glean something from “America First” that is necessary to opposing any actual iterations of Space Force. They may learn, even during this national declension Time of Trump, that a ubiquitous mortality is more consequential than any glittering administration promises of “supremacy,” “advantage” or “victory.” Our current time on earth is more meaningfully a time of agony than of algorithm.
In The Decline of the West, first published during World War I, Oswald Spengler asked importantly: “Can a desperate faith in knowledge free us from the nightmare of the grand questions?” This remains a vital query, but one that will never be adequately raised in our universities, on Wall Street or absolutely anywhere in the Trump White House. Still, we may learn something productive about these “grand questions” by studying American roles and responsibilities in a radically changing world politics.
This task must be about intellectual struggles, not weapons per se.
At that point we might finally come to understand what has thus far eluded us. The most suffocating insecurities of life on earth can never be undone by militarizing space and by abrogating pertinent international treaties. To argue otherwise is to further mar a wholesale unfamiliarity with world and national history with inexcusable derelictions of both logic and science.
In the end, even in Trump-era American foreign policy decision-making, truth is exculpatory. In what amounts to a uniquely promising paradox, Space Force could help illuminate a blatant lie that may still let us see the underlying truth. This truth is peremptory and not really mysterious or unfathomable. Americans require, after all, a substantially wider consciousness of unity and relatedness between individual human beings and (correspondingly) between adversarial nation-states.
There is no more urgent requirement.
Though seemingly oriented toward greater American power and security, building an American Space Force would merely propel this country’s disordered military strategy from one untenable posture of belligerent nationalism to another. What the proponents of Space Force ignore, inter alia, is that all national security options should always be examined from the standpoint of their cumulative impact. If the credible effect of this new America First policy initiative will be to spawn various reciprocal postures of belligerent nationalism among principal foes (i.e.., Russia and potentially China) the net effect will prove sorely destabilizing and comprehensively negative.
At this exceedingly precarious moment in world and national history, the president of the United States must do everything possible to heed the poet Apollinaire’s warning of “intellectual conquest.” Though “force of arms” will assuredly remain a derivative source of military power and threat, America’s principal emphasis must now be placed on variously promising concepts and ideas, not on expanding the “hardware” or tactics of willful human destructiveness. Instead of withholding funds from the World Health Organization, Donald Trump must finally acknowledge the interminable futility of belligerent nationalism, and – correspondingly – take certain tangible steps toward expanded worldwide cooperation.
Could this actually happen? To be sure, the probable likelihood of any success here is bound to be very small, but the time-dishonored alternatives are all uniformly misconceived and inherently catastrophic. If America’s president should retain even a tiny remnant of leadership commitment to rational decision-making, he will quickly understand that U.S. Space Force is the reductio ad absurdum of a long-dying belligerent nationalism or Realpolitik.
It is hardly a medical or biological secret that the factors common to all human beings greatly outnumber those that differentiate one from another. Accordingly, unless leaders of all great states can finally understand that the survival of any one state will inevitably be contingent upon the survival of all, true national security will continue to elude every nation on earth, even the most “powerful.”
The bottom line? The immediate security task must remain a proper conceptualization and refinement of national nuclear strategy. Simultaneously, however, President Trump must somehow learn to understand – together with all other far-sighted national leaders – that Planet Earth is an organic whole, a fragile unity that exhibits rapidly disappearing opportunities for avoiding successive war and dismemberment. To seize these residual opportunities, Washington must learn to build solidly upon the foundational insights of Francis Bacon, Galileo and Isaac Newton, and upon the much more recent summarizing observation of Lewis Mumford: “Civilization is the never ending process of creating one world and one humanity.”
Obviously, the United States has no inherently special obligations in this regard, nor can it afford to build its own most immediate security policies upon narrowly distant hopes. Still, if expressed as an ultimate vision for more durable and just patterns of world politics, Donald Trump might recognize the indissoluble link between America’s own physical survival and that of the wider international system. In the final analysis, merely to keep itself “alive,” America will have to do whatever it can to preserve the global system as a whole. For the moment, this is an idea insurmountably far from the consciousness of America’s current president.
To instruct still further from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man, “The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of `everyone for himself’ is false and against nature. No element could move and grow except with and by all the others with itself.”
 The seventeenth-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal remarks prophetically in Pensées: “All our dignity consists in thought….It is upon this that we must depend…Let us labor then to think well: this is the foundation of morality.” Similar reasoning characterizes the writings of Baruch Spinoza, Pascal’s 17th-century contemporary. In Book II of his Ethics Spinoza considers the human mind, or the intellectual attributes, and – drawing further from Descartes – strives to define an essential theory of learning and knowledge. Much of this effort was founded upon familiar ( to Spinoza) certain Jewish sources.
 “Who is to decide which is the grimmer sight,” asks Honore de Balzac, “withered hearts, or empty skulls?”
 See, by this author, Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order, Lexington Books, 1984; and Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy, Lexington Books, 1983. Regarding philosophical foundations of Realpoliitk: “Right is the interest of the stronger,” says Thrasymachus in Bk. I, Sec. 338 of Plato, THE REPUBLIC (B. Jowett tr., 1875). “Justice is a contract neither to do nor to suffer wrong,” says Glaucon, id., Bk. II, Sec. 359. See also, Philus in Bk III, Sec. 5 of Cicero, DE REPUBLICA.
 Power politics or a “balance-of-power” has never been more than a facile metaphor. Despite its name, it has never had anything to do with ensuring or ascertaining equilibrium. As such, balance has always been subjective, a matter of assorted individual perceptions. Adversarial states in this “Westphalian” dynamic can never be sufficiently confident that strategic circumstances are suitably “balanced” in their particular favor. In consequence, each side to any contest or competition must perpetually fear that it will somehow be left behind, this creating ever wider and even cascading patterns of national insecurity and collective disequilibrium.
 Says French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man: “The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of `everyone for himself’ is false and against nature.”
 International law remains a “vigilante” or “Westphalian” system. See: Treaty of Peace of Munster, Oct. 1648, 1 Consol. T.S. 271; and Treaty of Peace of Osnabruck, Oct. 1648, 1., Consol. T.S. 119, Together, these two treaties comprise the Peace of Westphalia.
 The Devil in George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman observes correctly that “Man’s heart is in his weapons….in the arts of death he outdoes Nature herself….when he goes out to slay, he carries a marvel of mechanisms that lets loose at the touch of his finger all the hidden molecular energies….”
 We may think here of the applicable Talmudic metaphor: “The earth from which the first man was made was gathered in all the four corners of the world.”
 Understood at purely conceptual levels, US strategic thinkers must inquire accordingly whether accepting a visible posture of limited nuclear war would merely exacerbate enemy nuclear intentions, or whether it would actually enhance this country’s overall nuclear deterrence. Such questions have been raised by this author for many years, but usually in explicit reference to more broadly theoretical or generic nuclear threats. See, for example, Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis (1972); Louis René Beres, Terrorism and Global Security: The Nuclear Threat (1979; second edition, 1987); Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (1984); Louis René Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (1986); and Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (2016).
 As a child growing up in New York City in the 1950s, I am reminded of “Captain Video” and “Tom Corbett Space Cadet.” Plainly, such earlier children’s programs are not a proper model for US strategic forces, anywhere.
 See, by Louis René Beres at Harvard Law School: https://harvardnsj.org/2020/03/complex-determinations-deciphering-enemy-nuclear-intentions/ See also, by this author, at US Army War College, https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/nuclear-decision-making/ and at Modern War Institute, West Point (Pentagon) https://mwi.usma.edu/theres-no-historical-guide-assessing-risks-us-north-korea-nuclear-war/
 For the most part, these dynamics describe a more-or-less variable condition of “chaos.” Though composed in the seventeenth century, Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan may still offer us a vision of this condition in modern world politics. During chaos, which is a “time of War,” says the English philosopher in Chapter XIII (“Of the Natural Condition of Mankind, as concerning their Felicity, and Misery.”): “… every man is Enemy to every man… and where the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Still, at the actual time of writing Leviathan, Hobbes believed that the condition of “nature” in world politics was less chaotic than that same condition extant among individual human beings. This was because of what he had called the “dreadful equality” of individual men in nature concerning the ability to kill others. Significantly, however, this once-relevant differentiation has effectively disappeared with the continuing manufacture and spread of nuclear weapons, a spread soon apt to be exacerbated by an already-nuclear North Korea and by a not-yet-nuclear Iran.
 According to Article 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties: “…a peremptory norm of general international law is a norm accepted and recognized by the international community of states as a whole as a norm from which no derogation is permitted and which can be modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law having the same character.” See: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Done at Vienna, May 23, 1969. Entered into force, Jan. 27, 1980. U.N. Doc. A/CONF. 39/27 at 289 (1969), 1155 U.N.T.S. 331, reprinted in 8 I.L.M. 679 (1969).
 One may be usefully reminded here of Bertrand Russell’s trenchant observation in Principles of Social Reconstruction (1916): “Men fear thought more than they fear anything else on earth – more than ruin, more even than death.”
 Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung both thought of “soul” (in German, Seele) as the intangible essence of a human being. Neither Freud nor Jung ever provided any precise definition of the term, but it was not intended by either in some ordinary or familiar religious sense. For both psychologists, it represented a recognizable and critical seat of mind and passions in this life. Interesting, too, in the present analytic context, is that Freud explained his predicted decline of America by making various express references to “soul.” Freud was plainly disgusted by any civilization so apparently unmoved by considerations of true “consciousness” (e.g., awareness of intellect, literature and history); he even thought that the crude American commitment to perpetually shallow optimism and material accomplishment at any cost would occasion sweeping psychological or emotional misery.
 From the standpoint of classical political and legal philosophy, such a national policy would be the diametric opposite of the statement by Emmerich de Vattel in The Law of Nations (1758): “The first general law which is to be found in the very end of the society of Nations is that each Nation should contribute as far as it can to the happiness and advancement of other Nations.”
 On this indispensable awareness, we may learn from the ancient Greek Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, “You are a citizen of the universe.” A broader idea of “oneness” followed the death of Alexander in 322 BCE, and with it came a coinciding doctrine of “universality” or interconnectedness. By the Middle Ages, this political and social doctrine had fused with the notion of a respublica Christiana, a worldwide Christian commonwealth, and Thomas, John of Salisbury and Dante were looking upon Europe as a single and unified Christian community. Below the level of God and his heavenly host, all the realm of humanity was to be considered as one. This is because all the world had been created for the same single and incontestable purpose; that is, to provide background for the necessary drama of human salvation. Only in its relationship to the universe itself was the world correctly considered as a part rather than a whole. Said Dante in De Monarchia: “The whole human race is a whole with reference to certain parts, and, with reference to another whole, it is a part. For it is a whole with reference to particular kingdoms and nations, as we have shown; and it is a part with reference to the whole universe, which is evident without argument.” Today, of course, the idea of human oneness can and should be fully justified/explained in more purely secular terms of understanding.
 See by this author, at Oxford University Press: https://blog.oup.com/2016/04/war-political-victories/
 Says Jose Ortega y’Gassett about science (Man and Crisis, 1958): “Science, by which I mean the entire body of knowledge about things, whether corporeal or spiritual, is as much a work of imagination as it is of observation….The latter is not possible without the former.”
 Included in this assessment must be the expanding risks of US Presidential nuclear decision-making. By this writer, see Louis René Beres, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists https://thebulletin.onuclear rg/2016/08/what-if-you-dont-trust-the-judgment-of-the-president-whose-finger-is-over-the-nuclear-button/
 In stark contrast to President Trump, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of WHO, spoke modestly, intelligently and purposefully: “COVID-19 does not discriminate between rich nations and poor, large nations and small. It does not discriminate between nationalities, ethnicities, or ideologies. Neither do we,” he said. “This is a time for all of us to be united in our common struggle against a common threat, a dangerous enemy. When we’re divided, the virus exploits the cracks between us.”
 In partial reply, we may consider Karl Jaspers in Man in the Modern Age (1951): “Everyone knows that the world situation in which we live is not a final one.”
 Federico Fellini, the Italian film director, once commented wisely: “The visionary is the only realist.”
 Louis René Beres’ earlier book, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (1984) was already organized around this same core assumption.
 There have been prophets of global integration in the modern era, especially Condorcet, Immanuel Kant, Auguste Comte and H.G. Wells. For the very best treatment of these prophets and their still-indispensable ideas, see W. Warren Wagar’s The City of Man (1963) and Building the City of Man: Outlines of a World Civilization (1971). Professor Wagar was a great visionary himself, one with whom I earlier had the honor to work at Princeton (World Order Models Project) in the late 1960s.
Gulf Sands Shift as Anchors of Regional Security Loosen
China and the Gulf states are in the same boat as they grapple with uncertainty about regional security against the backdrop of doubts about the United States’ commitment to the region.
Like the Gulf states, China has long relied on the US defense umbrella to ensure the security of the flow of energy and other goods through waters surrounding the Gulf in what the United States has termed free-riding.
In anticipation of the day when China can no longer depend on security provided by the United States free of charge, China has gradually adjusted its defense strategy and built its first foreign military facility in Djibouti facing the Gulf from the Horn of Africa.
With the People’s Liberation Army Navy tasked with protecting China’s sea lines of communication and safeguarding its overseas interests, strategic planners have signaled that Djibouti is a first step in the likely establishment of further bases that would allow it to project long-range capability and shorten the time needed to resupply.
But Chinese strategic planners and their Gulf counterparts may part ways when it comes to what would be acceptable geopolitical parameters for a rejuvenated regional security architecture.
A rejiggered architecture would likely embed rather than exclude the US defense umbrella primarily designed to protect conservative energy-rich monarchies against Iran and counter militancy.
In contrast to China and Russia, Gulf states, as a matter of principle, favor identifying Iran as the enemy and have cold shouldered proposals for a non-aggression agreement. But for that they need the United States to be a reliable partner that would unconditionally come to their defense at whatever cost.
For its part, China goes to great lengths to avoid being sucked into the Middle East’s myriad conflicts. Adopting a different approach, Russia has put forward a plan for a multilateral security structure based on a non-aggression understanding that would include Iran.
No doubt, China, unlike Russia, wants to postpone the moment in which it has no choice but to become involved in Gulf security. However, China could find itself under pressure sooner rather than later depending on how Gulf perceptions of risk in the continued reliance on the United States evolve.
One factor that could propel things would be a change of guard in the White House as a result of the US election in November.
Democratic presumptive candidate Joe Biden, as president, may strike a more internationalist tone than Donald J. Trump, though a Biden administration’s relations with Saudi Arabia could prove to be more strained. Similarly, Mr. Biden’s focus, like that of Mr. Trump, is likely to be China rather than the Middle East.
By the same token, China’s appraisal of its ability to rely on the US in the Gulf could change depending on how mounting tensions with the US and potential decoupling of the world’s two largest economies unfolds.
China’s increased security engagement in Central Asia may well be an indication of how it hopes to proceed in the Gulf and the broader Middle East. China has stepped up joint military exercises with various Central Asian nations while its share of the Central Asian arms market has increased from 1.5 percent in 2014 to 18 percent today.
Founded in 2001 as a Central Asian security grouping, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has expanded its relationships in South Asia and the Caucasus, and admitted Iran as an observer.
Referring to China’s infrastructure, telecommunications, and energy-driven Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that seeks to link the Eurasian landmass to the People’s Republic, China and Central Asia scholar Raffaello Pantucci explained that: “China is expanding its security role in Central Asia to protect its interests in the region and is increasingly unwilling to abrogate security entirely to either local security forces or Russia.”
“By doing so, Beijing is demonstrating an approach that could be read as a blueprint for how China might advance its security relations in other BRI countries,” Mr. Pantucci wrote.
Central Asia may find it easier than the Gulf to accommodate the Chinese approach.
The problem for most of the Gulf states is that taking Chinese and Russian concerns into account in any new security arrangement would have to entail paradigm shifts in their attitudes toward Iran.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – which has recently made overtures to Iran, insist that any real détente has to involve a halt to Iranian support for proxies in various Middle Eastern countries as well as a return to a renegotiated agreement that would curb not only the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program but also its development of ballistic missiles.
Caught between the rock of perceived US unreliability and the hard place of Chinese and Russian geopolitical imperatives, smaller Gulf states, including the UAE, in contrast to Saudi Arabia, are hedging their bets by cautiously reaching out to Iran in different ways.
They hope that the overtures will take them out of the firing line should either Iran or the United States, by accident or deliberately, heighten tensions and/or spark a wider military confrontation.
To be sure, various Gulf states have different calculations. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have adopted the most hardline position toward Iran. Oman and Qatar have long maintained normal relations, while the UAE and Kuwait have made limited overtures.
In the short run, Gulf states’ realization of China and Russia’s parameters could persuade them to maintain their levels of expenditure on weapons acquisitions. And, in the case of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to pursue the development of a domestic defense industry, despite the economic fallout of the pandemic, the drop of oil and gas prices, and the shrinking of energy markets.
Probably, so will recent Iranian military advances. Iran last week publicly displayed what is believed to be an unmanned underwater vehicle that would allow the Revolutionary Guards’ navy to project greater power – because of its long-range, better integrated weapons systems – and more efficiently lay underwater mines.
The vehicle put Iran in an even more elite club than the one it joined in April when it successfully launched a military satellite, a capability only a dozen countries have. When it comes to unmanned underwater vehicles, Iran rubs shoulder with only three countries: the United States, Britain, and China.
Iran’s advances serve two purposes: they highlight the failure of the United States’ two-year-old sanctions-driven maximum pressure campaign to force Iran’s economy on its knees, and, together with massive US arms sales to Gulf countries, they fuel a regional arms race.
To be sure, Russia and China benefit from the race to a limited degree too.
In the ultimate analysis, however, the race could contribute to heightened tensions that risk putting one more nail in the coffin of a US-dominated regional architecture. That in turn could force external powers like China to engage whether they want to or not.
“China is quickly learning that you can’t trade and invest in an unstable place like the Middle East if you don’t have the means to protect your interests,” said Israeli journalist David Rosenberg. “Where business executives come, warships and commando units follow, and they will follow big.”
Author’s note: This story was first published in Inside Arabia
The Difficulties of Balancing Military Confrontations in Europe
Tensions between the West and Russia since 2014 have created a tense military balance focused on Europe. There is an increasing armed activity that climbs up in the Baltic and Black Sea regions. These activities take forms such as deployment of troops, large-scale exercises, and close contact at common sea areas and borders. Although direct attack is not seen as a realistic scenario for both parties, current trends increase the risks of misunderstandings, dangerous accidents and uncontrolled escalation of tension. Although the existing communication channels have reduced the likelihood of undesirable results to date, the level of interaction between the parties is low.
Traditionally, the dispatch and management of tension-boosting threats is handled through trust-and security-building measures, as well as through weapons control tools. These are created to provide some degree of predictability to confrontations, to provide greater stability between intense political tensions. However, in the last two decades, a serious resolution of arms control mechanisms has been observed at the regional and global level.
This model even prevented the Ukraine conflict, which has its roots in the abolition of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Agreement of America and NATO’s reluctance to approve the Conventional Forces (CFE) Agreement in Europe and the Adaptation Agreement of this agreement. Due to the perceived blocking policy of the West, Russia gradually withdrew from the second document after 2007 and also changed its previous positive attitude towards military security.
The process of building a stack of weapons since 2014 has been accompanied by discussions about the renewal of the Vienna document, which systematized confidence building measures, difficulties in the implementation of the Open Skies Treaty and a general sense of hopelessness within the arms control community.
The Treaty of Russian-American Mid-Range Nuclear Forces (INF), which ended on August 2, 2019, was the last element of the old set of institutions that fell from value. The future of the New Strategic Weapons Reduction Treaty, which remains the last solid document on the limitation of nuclear forces, is still pending.
In the midst of these developments, several high-level politicians encouraged the re-stability in Europe through the revitalization of treaty-based restrictions in the military field. For example, in 2016, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for “Restarting arms control as a tried and tested tool for risk reduction, transparency and confidence in Europe”.
Subsequently, his successor Sigmar Gabriel called for “preventing the damage of proven agreements”. He then suggested: “We must do everything we can to protect and develop these contracts and, if necessary, show the courage to return to a new path, for example, the traditional weapon control system”.
Calls for greater predictability in the face of deep divisions in Europe are definitely commendable. Thanks to these calls, arms control has re-entered the international agenda (primarily through the OSCE Structural Dialogue). However, it is not enough to try to protect the mechanisms and even the principles negotiated in the past for the success of the military restrictions.
It is important to reflect on major changes that make the straightforward application of old records less promising and require the redesign of the very basic principles of gun control dogmas.
Russia did not receive enough security guarantees from the West in the 1990s and 2000s. As a result, the level of mobility of the Russian military force and even the degree of unpredictability in the deployment became a compensation for the gap between NATO and conventional forces.
At the same time, it was a logical way to triangulate the combination of a large region, a relatively small population and a reduction in military spending. The drastic structural reforms implemented after 2008 and the large-scale instant exercises carried out by Moscow since 2013 have led to the establishment of new principles that have turned Russia into a more effective military force.
The desire to achieve more mobility also paved the way for NATO to decide to revive two powers related to logistics and transatlantic communication. These developments raised mutual concerns about the unpredictability of the other party in potential crises in Russia and the West.
These criteria may not be fully applied to new doctrinal priorities. Today’s armies associate threats over time rather than geography, quality rather than quantity, and integrated networks, not specific weapon types. The size of the armies decreased, but the percentage of units with high readiness increased.
Therefore, applying advanced military systems carries the risk of miscalculations and misperceptions. It is not the real potential of technologically superior skills that have the greatest destabilizing effect, but the uncertainties about untested tools and applications.
For example, the strategic trilogy concept that featured during the Cold War (including intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine missiles and heavy bombers) opposed the traditional split between the Land, Navy and Air Force. Today, it is important to think equally creatively about reducing complexity while maintaining the validity of any potential limitation in the military field on the one hand.
This does not necessarily mean that they will avoid any commitment. However, the current political transformations undermine European actors in an effort to organize military positions, making possible arrangements more fragile.
However, there is a qualitative difference between the current situations. At that time, concerns about Asia led to changes in regime design, these are very important for the fate of Asia today. Given the ongoing trends in power transition, Europe’s prospect of isolation from external influences can be expected to decrease further. In terms of strategic stability, efforts to reinstate weapon constraints will be defined by the transition from a two-factor balance between Russia and the United States to a multilateral equation where China, as well as India and some other states, have a greater role.
This assessment shows that many of the premises developed for arms control in the second half of the 20th century were no longer valid. It is very important to adapt to the features that define modern agile forces to promote meaningful institutions that provide greater predictability and increased control. This requires the ability to regulate dynamic positions, qualitative criteria rather than quantitative criteria, and integration tools rather than only vehicles with striking capacity.
The need to reconsider the basic categories that define the various levels and aspects of military balance is not unimportant. In particular, strategic stability becomes an increasingly reduced concept, with the emergence of new skills that can affect it. Also, there are new ways to harass, force, and overthrow opponents outside of the war, which can disrupt stability. Since the ability to regulate depends on the ability to define regulatory objects, serious conceptual work should be done before possible negotiations on future weapon control.
Finally, global power transitions mean that successful arms control in Europe requires greater sensitivity to developments elsewhere. Regional actors must either find ways to minimize the wider reflections of local regulations in an increasingly interconnected world; either try to turn certain mechanisms into global norms; or design regimes to strengthen them, rather than putting pressure on other major areas of operation.
Pandemic Recovery: Follow the trail of silence
When common sense becomes the enemy of state; deep silence slowly slips and slides, covering high and low competence in...
Engaging with Local Stakeholders to Improve Maritime Security and Governance
Illicit activity in the maritime domain takes place within a complex cultural, physical, and political environment. When dialogue is initiated...
Beneath the Skin of America’s Protest
Just a few short weeks after Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was killed while jogging near his home in Georgia, George Floyd’s...
Turkey Faced With Revolt Among Its Syrian Proxies Over Libyan Incursion
Relations between Turkey and Syrian armed groups that used to be considered cordial due to massive support provided by the...
The Great Reset: A Unique Twin Summit to Begin 2021
“The Great Reset” will be the theme of a unique twin summit to be convened by the World Economic Forum...
Preparing For The Next Round Of Belligerent Nationalism
“It must not be forgotten that it is perhaps more dangerous for a nation to allow itself to be conquered...
Sikhs And Justice: An International Humanitarian Law Approach To The Study Of Operation Bluestar
6th of June 1984 is considered as the darkest day in the history of the Sikhs all around the world....
East Asia3 days ago
Sino-India clash: A crisscross of geo-politics and geo-economics
Newsdesk3 days ago
New $25 Million Support Will Help Djibouti Grow its Economy and Improve Access to Services
East Asia2 days ago
A comparative analysis of the socialist and the capitalist approach towards COVD-19: China and the U.S.
Americas3 days ago
Beware, the Blame-Game Will Backfire
International Law2 days ago
A legal analysis of the United Nations response to Covid 19: How the Security Council can still help
Tourism3 days ago
Restrictions on Tourism Travel Starting to Ease but Caution Remains
Diplomacy2 days ago
Covid19: Upgrading Diplomacy and Statecraft to prepare the new normal
Middle East1 day ago
Who are the real betrayers of Egypt, Critics or Sycophants?