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NATO Was Never Only About Russia

Karsten Riise

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It is today sadly forgotten, that NATO was created not with one, but with two objectives. The second objective of NATO was to retain inner peace, that is, keep the peace amongst NATO’s own members. When NATO was created, future peace between Germany and its neighbors was yet far from secured, especially as seen from the perspective of Germany’s neighbors at the time, not least France. Thus, the saying of NATO-creator Lord Ismay included that NATO should “keep the Soviet Union out”, but also “the Germans down”, that is, to keep NATO members safe, also from themselves. NATO was never only about Russia.

Today Germany is a great and constructive neighbor in Europe. But Europe sadly still sees other inner-neighbor relations, which unfortunately cannot yet be considered absolutely stable. One only needs to refer to the afterglows of the Yugoslav wars. From that perspective, it can be argued that all Balkan countries should be part of NATO — not to protect them against “Russia”, or to strengthen NATO externally for that matter, but simply to enhance the safe development of all the Balkan countries concerning one another. Bosnia-Herzegovina is especially relevant here since the country is not even fully stabilized internally yet. There are also other less warm neighbor issues, but still potential minority-heats, notably related to eastern NATO members. NATO keeps all such inner-relations from potentially flaring up, which may also be said to be in the interest of Russia, and of Russia’s partner in the Balkan area, Serbia. We should note too, that the EU also has a vital and overlapping interests to co-work in this region.

The Caucasus is here another and very separate question. It is difficult to see any possible NATO enlargement in the Caucasus as stabilizing, perhaps somewhat on the contrary. And the EU is also a more distant partner in the Caucasus. Turkey is, on the other hand, a new and also interesting discussion. Some (perhaps even a kind of “choir”) have started to discuss, whether Turkey still “fits” into NATO. On the other hand, to retain peace (again, not in relations with Russia, but here Turkey-Greece and even Cyprus), there is still an argument that peace can be best served with Turkey continuing as partner in NATO (no matter which nationality of weapons Turkey should wish to buy, actually).

An important discussion can start to revolve around whether the USA still belongs to NATO. Right-sizing is not enlarging; it is a change of configuration. Such a change in configuration is possible in that the USA (and we already see increasing Atlantic fractions) could leave NATO, and let the Europeans (including East-European states) take full responsibility for their own safety (including allowing all the Balkan countries into such an EU-NATO arrangement).

Letting the USA out of NATO would imply subsuming the European part of NATO into the EU. Such a possible development can have many advantages for the countries concerned, as well as for Russia.

First of all, subsuming a “NATO-excluding-the-USA” into the EU would, as mentioned, force the Europeans (including the eastern ones) to take full responsibility for their own security. This will prevent “moral hazard” of political escalations in the hope that the USA will “save” them or spend money on them for new US bases in their location. An EU-NATO (without the USA) would have to find new ways of working with the UK as well as with, of course, Russia.

Second, there is sometimes a profound need for measures outside Europe, where security and civilian efforts need to be thoroughly coordinated. Using NATO “out-of-area” tends to be a recipe for disaster today, and the NATO-bombing creating a collapse of Libya was one such catastrophic example. Complex civilian needs during conflict basically cannot be taken care of by NATO, because NATO as an organisation (though big enough in bureaucracy) is simply not designed for civilian efforts in connection with conflict. NATO was created to deter an all-destructive war, which would probably not have left much civilian life left to “reconstruct” afterwards. The cold-war scenario was therefore so totally different from the many extremely complicated social-economical-etchnical-religious-resource-climate-poverty types of civilian-military problems, which we see around in the world of today. That is why NATO interventions automatically, because of the organization’s outdated design to focus so heavily on a now defunct “all-or-nothing” type of armagedon-conflict tends to create purely military, and hence quite destructive, approaches. NATO is still so much designed as a hammer, that sadly too many problems seem to be perceived as if they had the shape of nails. As another example of the results of this, take a look at Afghanistan, where most of NATO’s “military-civilian” approaches in reality tended to become too much “military-more-military” approaches.

NATO is designed as a pure military organization, an by all means, militaries are (still) designed only to destruct, not to construct. NATO simply does not have notable resources for civilian efforts to go with its military efforts. In parallel to this, we regrettably also see in the USA a very unfortunate long-term general tendency to militarize US foreign policy, sometimes at the expense of resources and focus for civilian US foreign policy. Tools should be designed for situations, not the other way around. But instead of embarking on the long overdue redesign of the setting of NATO, a lot of western politicians instead sadly try to redesign perceptions of today’s security-realities in Europe, trying to make the modern world’s security perception look more like the old “them-or-us” type, which existed during the cold war. But there is a better road, which can be taken. The EU does have a constructive other tradition than NATO’s “all-out-war-preparedness” to build on, and the EU is still totally far from the over-militarized development path, which the USA unfortunately has taken. The EU has developed a robust and broad civilian-oriented conflict management capability. The EU already has quite a range of experience with civilian “out-of-area” missions. And the EU is already developing in a direction to integrate all these political management dimensions: The civilian capabilities, and now increasingly upcoming, also an EU military dimension.

We must remember, that military is politics with other means, and military should not be a destructive stand-alone option, but part of as a series of differentiated political tools. Not just a “hammer”, but very varying shades and shapes of tools, within a fully integrated political civil-military toolbox. It therefore can make enormous sense to leave the NATO fully over as a new institutional part of the EU. To enable the EU to manage the full range of all political dimensions, in case a non-European conflict might benefit from European assistance: military, civilian and economical.

Some caveats here include the potential issues this would involve especially in relation to France, but a broader context to all the EU countries. An EU-NATO without the USA will, of course, be centered on France, a country with archaeological remains of imperial thinking and ambitions, and its own possible “military-industrial-political” complex, which might take on an arms race of its own. It is also to be avoided to intervene just for the sake of it — be it under “do-good” or imperial intentions. Because once bureaucratic institutions have been erected for any purpose whatsoever, their inner dynamic is that they urge their surroundings to be made use of. These effects cannot be entirely avoided, but might (hopefully) be mitigated by the full range of EU member countries.

Therefore, even taking account of the caveats just mentioned above, there is a possibility that a lot of positive things could potentially be achieved by letting the USA leave NATO and allowing for the rest of NATO to be subsumed into the EU.

From our partner RIAC

Master of Science (Econ) from Copenhagen Business School, University degree in Spanish Culture and Languages from University of Copenhagen

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Defense

The Chinese Navy: A new force is rising in the East

Themistoklis Z. Zanidis

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The information coming to the West from various sources, either open or closed, regarding the Chinese Navy, concludes on the finding that in the last couple of decades an extensive program of modernization and numerical expansion of the Navy, by the Chinese authorities, is underway. The fundamental pillar of China’s (not-so-future) Navy, known as the People’s Liberation Army Navy PLAN, (will be) for its aircraft carriers; cruisers; destroyers; amphibious assault ships; and submarines. In general, China is arming with modern multi-purpose ships, with the purpose of attacking and defending capabilities. Its discernible ambition is to use its fleet against the dominant US Navy, whose presence is pronounced in the China Sea and consequently in the Pacific Ocean. As a matter of fact, the Chinese Navy is already considered to be the second most powerful in the world, exceeding historical Naval Powers such as the United Kingdom and Japan. Indicatively, we note the fact that the once dominant Royal Navy is currently comprised of only 9 destroyers and 2 aircraft carriers, while the Chinese, respectively and exceeds those numbers.  It is the swiftest growing Navy in the world. Literally, since 2014, the Chinese Navy has launched more warships than the Royal Navy has on duty today.

This article will be focusing on the rapid development of the Chinese Navy, which incidentally is only one aspect of Beijing’s overall maritime strategy (another aspect refers to the construction of military bases on tiny islands within the entire Chinese Sea and abroad, as in Djibouti).  China aims to secure the homeland from a possible attack from the sea and to protect their vulnerable maritime supply lines. In the Chinese strategic culture, the Age of Humiliation is of paramount importance, because it had been the period when the Chinese were subservient to Westerners. Therefore, the Never Again of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) is the legitimizing substance which keeps it in power but simultaneously a commitment that satisfies the nationalist Chinese instincts. China is keen to return to its former position, before its contact with the Western Powers, so its policy is towards this strategic target.

It was not until the 1990’s that the Chinese forces consisted of out-of-dated naval vessels with limited offensive and defensive capabilities. Furthermore, the Chinese fleet was limited to about 150 main units (destroyers, frigates, submarines) and no conventional aircraft carriers. Today, China has both fiscal and technological ability to build domestic projects at a rapid pace. In order to understand the class size of the Chinese naval armaments program we will note that in 2016 and 2017 the country’s Navy launched 18 and 14 units respectively, while the US Navy launched only 5 and 8.

 The Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates that in the forthcoming 15 years, the Chinese Navy will deploy 430 surface units and 100 submarines, while other valid US estimations set this number up to 530. The U.S. Pentagon estimates that this year alone (2020) the Chinese Navy will deploy 78 submarines; 60 stealth-guided-missile ships; 40 corvettes fit for the environment of the Chinese Sea (while 60 more are waiting to be delivered); 24 modern all purpose frigates; 20 state-of-the-art destroyers; 12 cruisers with a delivery horizon in the current decade; 4 fleet support ships; 3 helicopter carriers; 5 ships of amphibious assault missions; and 2 aircraft carriers with the third already under construction.

The informed reader may be concerned as this extensive construction of warships is inconsistent with the Silent Rise which was the official doctrine of the Chinese government until recently. According to it, the country should, at all costs, continue its uninterrupted economic growth, capitalizing on the globalization. This will happen only if the country manages not to provoke the United States as well as neighboring countries, many of which are close allies to Washington (like Japan and South Korea). However, it seems that the Chinese elite is increasingly abandoning this doctrine while adopting a more provocative stance through a peculiar nationalism, especially as economic growth decelerates. In this context, the extensive reinforcement of the Chinese Navy is deliberated and resulting in an increasing concern of neighbor states and the United States, which realizes that the balance of naval power is gradually turning at its expense. China, in order to become a great power again should secure its sovereignty, especially the homeland, from possible attacks. This is incidental to the expulsion of all the American forces which are based in the region and specifically from the China Sea. The Chinese high strategy can only be fruitful with the presence of a modern and powerful Navy (blue-water Navy) combined with an extensive network of military bases which Beijing is rapidly building on tiny, sometimes disputable, islands throughout the China Sea. With those facts and the Chinese demands, no state including the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Japan, feels safe, although the published Chinese military doctrine remains chiefly defensive.

Regarding the Chinese Navy, it’s noticeable that the modernization program is traced back only to 2012, when President Hu Jintao, during the 18th Congress of the CCP, ordered the country to be transformed into a sea power. More recently, President Xi Jinping declared that the current situation urges China to develop its naval forces promptly. This statement was followed by a 55% increase in defense spending between 2015 and 2020, making China the world’s second-largest spender behind the United States (China’s defense spending is estimated at $260.8 billion in 2019). The significance of the Navy for the country’s leadership is reflected in its budget, which increased by 82%, reaching $57 billion. As a result, six shipyards across the country have lifted the burden of building an advanced fleet capable of dealing with the dominant US Navy. The construction of advanced warships is the implementation of the Chinese Dream, the vision of the current President for a powerful China which is respected home and abroad.

The result of this policy is astonishing.  In 2018 China became the country with the most warships on order, surpassing South Korea with 43.9% share in global orders. In February 2020, at the peak of the Covid-19 crisis, China fell to 4th place with a 35% share in global orders, a testament to the country’s industry dynamics. Despite the impressive armament program, it should be noted that a capable naval force consists not only of modern warships, but also as a key component consists of  well-trained crews who have a deep knowledge of the maritime environment. This knowledge can largely be taught in naval schools, but actual engagement with the maritime environment is also required. Seamanship is exactly that, the long-term contact with the sea and the valuable experience that a nation acquires from this contact. For many centuries China has become a land power by turning its back on the sea. The current leadership seems to have understood this historical mistake and tries to change it by turning the Chinese people back to the sea from their school years.

Today, the US Navy is the most powerful in the world as it enables the United States to demonstrate its power globally. At the same time, it protects peace and free navigation on the high seas.  It is a key contribution to world trade which is essentially maritime, and eventually to the global economy. Chinese officials occasionally admit that despite the Chinese Navy’s numerical superiority, it still lags behind technologically from the US Navy. Even in terms of tactics and training, the US Navy is a highly professional force tested in real war conditions as distinct from the Chinese which has not yet demonstrated its true value and capabilities in realistic conditions. However, the situation across the China Sea seems to be tilting in favor of the Chinese side as its naval forces are dramatically strengthened due to the proximity of the area of operations to the Chinese coastline.

Beijing’s growing military network is making it increasingly difficult for U.S. ships to sail safely into the disputed area to effectively support their allies. One of China’s main targets now is Taiwan which is considered Chinese territory. As a result, Chinaωstrongly opposes any attempt towards Taiwanese independence and that is the main reason behind China’s amphibious force, a capable force ready to invade the island at any time.The Chinese leadership seems to have fully recognized the domains in which it lags behind its main rival and is trying to fill the gap by developing more and more contemporary navy ships and continuous crew training in order to be ready to cope with a realistic conflict. Similarly, the United States is closely monitoring the progress of its most important rival for the world’s hegemony.

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Who Exactly Fights For The UN-backed Sarraj Government?

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The latest turn of the tide in the Libyan conflict ended in the forces loyal to the Government of National Accord led by Fayez al-Sarraj pushing back the Libyan National Army and establishing full control over the capital Tripoli and the surrounding areas. Coverage of these developments in Western media was shaped along the tune of justice being restored by legitimate forces. Is that narrative off-key, and what exactly are these ostensibly legitimate forces?

First and foremost, the recent successes achieved by the GNA were only made possible by military support provided by Turkey, who supplied Sarraj with drones, military advisors and Syrian fighters recruited among the Turkish proxies notorious for their criminal tendencies. Contrary to the narrative enforced by the West depicting the GNA militias as a legitimate regular army, in reality these forces are little more than a bunch of criminals and radical elements financed by the Turkish intelligence.

Knowing this, it makes sense that the GNA forces resort to any means, including those explicitly forbidden by the international humanitarian law. The GNA supporters, however, choose to ignore these crimes turning a blind eye to the violations of Geneva conventions committed both by the fighters and their backers.

Finding evidence of these crimes presents no difficulty, as the fighters make little effort to hide them. In fact, they often unknowingly document their own atrocities. Perhaps the most telling example is the video published on the official Facebook page of the militia named Tripoli Protection Force that features armed members of the group driving in a vehicle marked with Red Crescent symbols. The raid showed on video ended in capture of a number of people who were promptly declared agents of the LNA. The video is still online.

When the GNA militants are not busy driving medical vehicles, they engage in torture of civilians such as these Egyptian workers who were violently beaten and abused by the fighters. The Egyptian nationals had been working in Tarhuna before the town was captured by the militias loyal to the GNA.

UN expressed “deep concern” over the detention and torture of Egyptians in Tarhuna, urging the authorities in Tripoli to investigate the incident. In its turn, Egypt took offense and claimed that it will launch an independent investigation, emphasizing that it is ready to make a strong response to the GNA aggression.

These examples are but a small part of the violations committed by the GNA militias. Despite the support it receives from the UN and its foreign backers, the GNA will not be able to contribute to a safer, stable Libya, unless it gives up on the radicals who do not abide by the law. It has long been evident for everyone except the GNA allies abroad.

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Sino-American Rivalry: Impact on South Asian Security

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The US-China relationship is an extremely complex one; it is driven by many different dimensions each dimension has got its own logic. The United States of America, being a dominant power of the world, has engaged itself with many nations throughout the world. Mainly it has engaged itself in those regions of the world from where it considers any entity could pose a threat to its interests as well as its dominance. Washington has remained an influential state because of its active involvement in most parts of the world for its national interest, particularly economic benefits. However, China being a re-emerging power, wants to influence the world through its engagement with more nations employing initiatives such as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) or via economic engagement with various nations. However, the nature of relations between Washington and Beijing has changed ever since Donald Trump’s presidency. Under the Trump Administration, the US has shifted from viewing China as a strategic partner to a strategic competitor. There are multiple areas where Trump Administration has challenged Beijing, such as trade and economy, Asia-Pacific region, technology, Chinese military modernization, South Asian region, and Beijing’s pursuit for alternative global markets.

In this regard, the South Asian region assumes much importance when it comes to great powers politics such as the US and China. Over the time, the occurrence of events, incidents and initiatives such as 9/11 and Chinese BRI have added more significance to the region for great powers politics. On one hand, the incident of 9/11 provided a reason for the US to engage itself in the region actively, particularly Afghanistan, under the pretext of the War on Terror or security issues. On the other hand, active Chinese involvement through BRI compelled the United States to increase its influence by engaging with more nations in South Asia for containing China and its initiative. When it comes to South Asian security, three countries, namely Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, hold much importance in determining the security of South Asia. The presence of American forces in Afghanistan after the incident of 9/11 has presented a dilemma for Beijing. Because it considers presence of the US troops at its backyard as a severe threat. In this regard, China wants the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan to fulfil its desires by engaging more actively with Kabul for its development and stability through BRI or other economic engagement.

Moreover, peace and stability in Kabul is Beijing’s fundamental interest because chaos in Afghanistan could trigger extremism, terrorism, and fundamentalism resultantly that will threaten not only the peace, security and stability of the region but can spill over into the adjacent Xinjiang region of China. However, Afghanistan is considered the “graveyard of empires” therefore, China does not want to risk its position by getting involved in Afghan affairs that are not in the interest of the people of the country. Similarly, China supported the “Peace Deal” between the US and Taliban representatives on February 29, 2020, in Doha, Qatar. After the US forces withdrawal from Afghanistan, it is highly likely that China is going to deepen its involvement in Afghanistan further because it fears the return of Uygur militants in Xinjiang after a withdrawal of US troops. While the United States wants to engage India in the region to counter China, in this regard, since long, the US has been supporting Delhi in defense and trade ties to minimize the influence of Beijing in South Asia. As the US former Secretary of State John Kerry said that America wants to see India in a more dominant role in South Asia. However, American support towards India and giving it special waivers not only generate serious threats for China but also for Pakistan. Similarly, China and Pakistan have been trying to further strengthen their relations by increasing cooperation in multiple fields via the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

As far as the American history about problem-solving of this region is concerned, it portrays bad picture where the US has the most significant stake in spoiling the regional peace along with generating various problems such as the birth of terrorism, gun culture, deaths and destruction, economic instability and many other issues as well. The emergence of gun culture and terrorism within Pakistan started after its alliance with the US during Afghan War and in War against Terror. It is mostly believed that the growing Sino-American rivalry is one of the primary reasons behind the worsening security conditions in South Asia. However, the friction between both countries could trigger new conflicts resultantly it would push the region into turmoil. Any misadventure created because of American support and favour to India and its policies of sidelining Pakistan and China in Afghan issue at this stage could further escalate the tensions among regional states resultantly invoking threats for the peace and stability of the region. In this regard, there is a dire need that both the US and China review their policies concerning South Asia and try to avoid conflict or misadventure for the sake of peace, stability and development of the region.

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