There are many reactions to the Munich Security Conference and the speeches of Macron, Pompeo, Laschet and Steinmeier. Two are documented here. Firstly, the more pro-Russian perspective in the person of Dr. Alexander Rahr, who calls for a reinvention of the EU and proposes a Franco-German working group that, based on the eroding power and cohesion of the West, has a more European orientation along Macron’s proposals, wants compromises in adhering to liberal values and seeks a balance with Russia.
The conclusion of this year’s Munich Security Conference is that the US is ruthlessly fighting to maintain its global monopoly on power and the status of the only world order power. The EU-Europeans cling desperately to the idea of the liberal order of values under Western leadership, which is waning every year. China and Russia enjoy their power roles, but are still too weak to put their sole stamp on the new world order.
The EU complains about the lack of multilateralism. But what does the EU mean by this: the sole power of the West? Russians and Chinese complain that the EU only hopes for America’s appreciation, but does not want Russia and China to shape the new world order. Meanwhile, the United States is demanding that Germany and other Europeans mercilessly ostracize Russia and China as opponents and stop all technology and gas deals with them. The American Secretary of State Pompeo spoke of the permanent victory of the West, but meant only „America first“.
The helplessness of the EU results in the fact that it continues to lose its role in shaping world politics. Steinmeier, Kramp-Karrenbauer, Maas – they all complained and complained. But today the EU is militarily weak, meanwhile also economically battered and weakened by internal conflicts. Despite constant calls from French President Macron, it lacks the will to take control of the action itself.
Macron tried to wake up the EU at the Munich Security Conference. He envisions a new European architecture that also includes Russia. But the other EU countries do not follow him; if they move closer to Russia, they fear the weakening of the transatlantic community and the sell-off of their beloved liberal values.
The liberal European elites, the powerful media and the business world lack the imagination to emancipate themselves from America. This reveals what the sovereignty of the EU actually was in the post-war years and the 30 years after the turnaround. The pressure to act is not yet strong enough for the EU. The transatlantic navel show of a western elite at the Munich Security Conference, which is convinced that it is not doomed, reminds outsiders of the warning words of the late Foreign Minister Westerwelle about late Roman decadence.
France and Germany should quickly set up an informal working group to develop the concept of a future European architecture. The prerequisite is that the group is not dominated by transatlantic think tanks or representatives of Soros foundations. After a lively exchange with Russians, Britons and Central Eastern Europeans, the results would then be presented to the heads of state for further use. Time is short: the EU has to learn to think outside the box, even if it has to cut back on its liberal focus on values. “
The second major contribution is from General ret. Wittmann in the Tagesspiegel, who criticizes the speechlessness of the EU and NATO and calls for a new strategic NATO concept in the tradition of the Harmel report:
„President Macron’s description of NATO as“ brain dead „was certainly unsuccessful. But, critical reference to inadequate consultation and coordination in the alliance was justified. This does not only apply to specific occasions, such as the uncoordinated withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria and their invasion by Turkey. There has always been a debate culture in NATO that spares many sensitive issues. On existentially important questions such as Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions or China’s rise there have never been any serious consultations in the NATO Council. The reason appears to be twofold To be concerned: Disagreement leads in public to the assumption that NATO stands before the breaking up or dealing with a region outside of NATO territory creates suspicion that NATO wants to intervene militarily there, and the alliance must free itself from such inhibitions. It should raise „consultation“ on a new core function of NATO – in addition to the three core functions defined in the strategic concept of 2010: collective defense, crisis management and cooperative security.
That would be an explicit revaluation and activation of Article 4 of the Washington NATO Treaty. Already in the short “London Declaration” of the heads of state and government after its meeting on the 70th anniversary of NATO in December 2019, there was twice talk of „consultation“: It was reaffirmed that NATO is the essential forum for security consultations and decisions. And the Secretary General was asked to put forward the proposal for a „forward-looking process of reflection“ to further strengthen „the political dimension of NATO, including the consultations“. This is an emaciated version of the proposal, the president Macron and Secretary of State Maas had done. They wanted a more fundamental strategy debate. So it is to be hoped that the “reflection process” leads to the decision leads to renew the strategic concept of NATO .
This is the basic document of NATO, which has so far been decided about every ten years as the decisive specification of the NATO Treaty. The current one dates from 2010 – long before the Russian aggression against Ukraine, which catapulted NATO „back into the Article 5 world“ to the question of the alliance case. The pendulum moved for more than two decades priorities for NATO and member states‘ armed forces towards foreign missions. Defense of the country and the alliance no longer seemed to be necessary. In 2014, given the concerns particularly in Poland and the Baltic States, it had to be demonstrated convincingly: If NATO could not help its partner Ukraine militarily, every square meter of NATO territory is taboo for Russia. With the Wales Summit in 2014, NATO’s greatest reorientation began since the fall of the Berlin Wall: once again towards national and alliance defense.
The consequences affected aspects such as operational readiness, reinforcement planning, exercise, leadership, air surveillance – up to the „improved front presence“ with multinational NATO battalions in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. All of this and the new look at Russia is not reflected in the current strategic concept, nor is the development of the past ten years in terms of threats, such as new weapon technology, cyber threats, security-related consequences of climate change, militarization of space and “hybrid warfare”. The latter is not a completely new phenomenon, but it is a new challenge: a method that combines open and covert military and non-military resources and that can (and should) make it difficult for the Alliance to respond collectively. In the Ukraine conflict, Russia demonstrated the seamless orchestration of military and non-military instruments: military threats beyond the Ukrainian border, use of paramilitary units without sovereignty badges, cyberattacks against Ukrainian infrastructure and the support of „separatists“ with military equipment.
The threats mentioned are to be countered increasingly by strengthening the “resilience” of societies, military structures and critical infrastructure. This keyword, borrowed from psychology, means resilience and flexible responsiveness. This task of NATO is so crucial that it should also be included as an additional core function in a new strategic concept. Why are you not yet in the process of designing a new strategic concept? Like over ten years ago, there is a fear that this work will be a “divisive process”. Secondly, one wants to avoid a debate on the political and strategic foundations of NATO during Trump’s presidency. On the military side of the headquarters, in the responsibility of the military committee, at least the military strategy policy document MC 400 was revised.
But it cannot remain there, not least because this document is classified as „NATO-confidential“. With the decision at the time to publish the strategic concept of 1991, NATO opted for transparency and confidence-building the public. She owes the world her right to exist, discloses the threats and skills required under the circumstances that have changed since 2010. It is time for a new strategic concept for the transatlantic alliance. This was also intended to counter the nonsensical talk about an „identity crisis“ of NATO. The new strategic concept must analyze the changed conditions in the field of security policy, represent the interaction between institutions and actors, and convincingly explain the continuing importance of the transatlantic link and the growing responsibility of Europe for its own security. „Consultation“ and „Resilience (Development)“ should finally be understood as core functions.
Also needed is a new strategic concept that substantiates the role of the “European pillar” in NATO, based on the “Common Security and Defense Policy” of the EU, which can only be successful, complementary, not competitive with NATO. The strategic challenge should also face up to the challenge posed by China and Russia’s place in the European security order. A Dedicate concept – provided that Russia ends the violation of the rules agreed for them. The range of dialogues offered by NATO based on the harmony philosophy (defense and relaxation, firmness and willingness to talk) should be specified.“
Brigadegeneral Retired Dr. Klaus Wittmann is a senior fellow of the Aspen Institute Germany and teaches contemporary history at the University Potsdam.
A new NATO concept expanded to include the functions of consultation and resilience is certainly necessary, as well as paired with a new version of the Harmel report (the latter has also been suggested by General ret. Kujat). In my opinion, however, this will not happen while Trump is still in office, as the transatlantic relationship after him will no longer be the status quo ante. In addition, the suggestion of Prof. Alexander Rahr is interesting no longer to wait, but to set up a Franco-German working group that at least design an architecture of the European pillar that was in line with Macron’s proposals, so that one finally has a basis for discussion. This is no longer expected under Merkel, but hopefully the next black- green government will tackle this question. Armin Laschet accused the current Merkel government of inactivity in Europe on the MSC, while, despite being invited, Spahn and Merz never even came to the MSC.
However, Merz who is considered to be more transatlantic than Laschet due to his former position as chief of the Atlantic Bridge and member of Blackrock also pointed out that Germany and the EU should now actively react to Macron´s proposal as in the future there won´t be a better and more pro-European French president and Marine Le Pen was just waiting for her chance in the next presidential elections. And Merz is now also a supporter of a China Bridge, a new organization pushed by former CSU minister Friedrichs. At the MSC Laschet and Baerbrock had a panel together, but Baerbrock has no concrete ideas except the normal phrases that she was for „more Europe“ and for human rights. While the Greens would have with Omnid Omnipour or even with Cem Özdemir an excellent foreign minister, their time is over at the Greens. Hopefully, Laschet or Merz as next chancellor will make foreign and security policy a chief issue and not delegate it to green idealists.
Remember the last green foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, who made no significant contributions except for the Yugoslavia war and the Iraq war, and Schröder made clear to him who was the waiter and who was the chief and cook, especially in relations with China and Russia, in which Eurasianist Schröder had even the Eurasiazisation of the G7 to a G9 with Russia and China in mind. The Green Fischer was more the liberal human rights transatlantic and had a strong ally in Madeline Albright, who later included him in her consulting firm and as a lobbyist for the Nabucco pipeline, while Schröder accepted positions with Putin, Gazprom and Rosneft as well as Rothschild, whereby Macron was also employed by Rothschild before he started En Marche.
AKK, which had already unsuccessfully wanted EU or NATO missions in northern Syria, was also speaking at the MSC and their suggestion of an EU mission in the Persian Gulf with German participation was gratefully received by Macron as France is already there with the first warships and Macron proposed a vote in the EU about such a joint mission to get a picture of the mood, as well as sending a Coalition of the Willing as the first European mission to set a precedent. However, the Europeans do not want to participate in the US mission in the Persian Gulf, since they do not share Trump’s maximum pressure policy and the termination of the Iran deal and do not want to be drawn into a U.S.-Iranian war, but first only to secure the international trade routes and their own ships Which position a Brexit-Gb under Johnson will take remains to be seen.
Three comments on General Wittmann’s contribution to a new strategic NATO concept in the Tagesspiegel. The Harmel report proposed a new NATO strategy based on the transition from Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) to flexible response and the willingness to engage in dialogue with the Eastern Bloc. Similarly, one might also have to expand the flexible response, also based on the new weapon systems and new international players
Furthermore, the question arises to what extent a new strategic NATO concept also takes into account the questions that Michael O Hannon raises in his recently published book „The Senkaku Paradox“ – that is, how NATO will react to a limited hybrid warfare of Russia, be it in the Baltic Gaps or on the part of China around Taiwan, the South China Sea or the East China Sea- whether NATO and the USA respond massively to this or contain the local aggression of small stakes and respond with massive economic warfare, as he outlines in his book:
America needs better options for resolving potential crises
In recent years, the Pentagon has elevated its concerns about Russia and China as potential military threats to the United States and its allies. But what issues could provoke actual conflict between the United States and either country? And how could such a conflict be contained before it took the world to the brink of thermonuclear catastrophe, as was feared during the cold war?
Defense expert Michael O’Hanlon wrestles with these questions in this insightful book, setting them within the broader context of hegemonic change and today’s version of great-power competition.
The book examines how a local crisis could escalate into a broader and much more dangerous threat to peace. What if, for example, Russia’s “little green men” seized control of a community, like Narva or an even smaller town in Estonia, now a NATO ally? Or, what if China seized one of the uninhabited Senkaku islands now claimed and administered by Japan, or imposed a partial blockade of Taiwan?
Such threats are not necessarily imminent, but they are far from inconceivable. Washington could be forced to choose, in these and similar cases, between risking major war to reverse the aggression, and appeasing China or Russia in ways that could jeopardize the broader global order.
O’Hanlon argues that the United States needs a better range of options for dealing with such risks to peace. He advocates “integrated deterrence,” which combines military elements with economic warfare. The military components would feature strengthened forward defenses as well as, possibly, limited military options against Russian or Chinese assets in other theaters. Economic warfare would include offensive elements, notably sanctions, as well as measures to ensure the resilience of the United States and allies against possible enemy reprisal.
The goal is to deter war through a credible set of responses that are more commensurate than existing policy with the stakes involved in such scenarios.“
The third question is to what extent such a new Harmel report also considers the possibility of diplomatic solutions in the sense of a New Eastern Policy with Russia, as well as arms control agreements after the terminated INF contract, the possible termination of START and other new weapon systems for which there are still no arms restrictions as cyber or space weapons. At the moment, all the militaries in the world are currently busy modernizing their weapon systems and China has announced that, on the one hand, it wants to increase the scope and, on the other hand, it will only be ready for armaments agreements once the modernization has been completed and negotiations should take place on this new basis.
From our partner RIAC
Why the “Coronavirus Ceasefire” Never Happened
Six months ago, when COVID-19 had just moved beyond the borders of China and embarked upon its triumphant march across Europe and North America, politicians and foreign affairs experts started discussing what will happen after the virus is vanquished. The debate that ensued balanced the fears and concerns of pessimists with the hopes and expectations of optimists, with the latter believing that the pandemic and the global recession that followed would inevitably force humankind to put its differences aside and finally unite in the face of common challenges.
Six months later, we can say without any doubt that, unfortunately, the optimists were wrong. The pandemic did not bring about the changes in world politics they had been hoping for, even with the ensuing recession making things worse. And we are unlikely to see any such changes in the near future. Sadly, COVID-19 did not turn out to be a cure-all for regional conflicts, arms races, the geopolitical competition and the countless ailments of humankind today.
These persisting ailments are more than evident in relations between Russia and the West. No positive steps have been made in the past six months in any of the areas where the positions of the two sides differ significantly, be it the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, the unrest in Syria, the political instability in Venezuela or the war in Libya. The fate of the New START and the nuclear nonproliferation regime remains unclear. Moscow continues to be the target of new economic and political sanctions. Russia and the West are locked in an intense information war. There are no signs of a “coronavirus ceasefire,” let alone a full-fledged peace agreement, on the horizon.
Of course, Moscow has placed the blame for the lack of progress squarely on the shoulders of its western partners. While this may indeed be true in many respects, we must admit that the Kremlin has hardly been overflowing with ideas and proposals over the past six months. Even if Moscow did want to reverse the current negative trends in global politics, it has not taken any steps on its own to do so. Nor has it proposed any large-scale international projects, or even tried to temper its usual foreign policy rhetoric and propaganda.
On the contrary, the various troubles that have befallen Russia in the “coronavirus era” – from the public unrest in Belarus to the unfortunate poisoning of Alexei Navalny – are explained away as the malicious intrigues of Russia’s geopolitical opponents. For all intents and purposes, the Kremlin is in the same position now, in September 2020, that it was in back in March. The chances of another “reset” or at least a “timeout” in relations have disappeared completely, if they ever existed in the first place.
So, why did the “coronavirus ceasefire” never happen? Without absolving the West of its share of responsibility, let us try to outline the obstacles that Russia has put in the way of progress.
First, in an environment of unprecedented shocks and cataclysms, there is always the hope that your opponent will eventually suffer more as a result than you will. Many in Russia see the 2020 crisis as the final damning indictment of the West and even an inglorious end to the market economy and political liberalism in general.
The recent statement by Aide to the President of the Russian Federation Maxim Oreshkin that Russia is poised to become one of the top five economies in the world this year is particularly noteworthy. Not because the country is experiencing rapid economic growth, but because the German economy is set to fall further than the Russian economy. If you are certain that time is on your side and that you will emerge from the crisis in better shape than your opponents, then the incentives to work towards some kind of agreement hic et nunc are, of course, reduced.
Second, the current Russian leadership is convinced that any unilateral steps on its part, any shifts in Moscow’s foreign policy, will be perceived in the West as a sign of weakness. And this will open the door for increased pressure on Moscow. Not that this logic is entirely unfounded, as history has shown. But it is precisely this logic that prevents Russian leaders from admitting their past foreign policy mistakes and miscalculations, no matter how obvious they may have been. This, in turn, makes it extremely difficult to change the current foreign policy and develop alternative routes for the future. In fact, what we are seeing is a game to preserve the status quo, in the hope that history will ultimately be on Moscow’s side, rather than that of its opponents (see the first point).
Third, six and a half years after the crisis in Ukraine broke out, we are essentially left with a frozen conflict. Turning the large and unwieldy state machine around, rewiring the somewhat heavy-handed state propaganda machine, and changing the policies that determine the everyday actions of the army of “deep state” officials is tantamount to changing the trajectory of a supertanker carrying a load of hundreds of thousands of tonnes. It is perhaps even more difficult, however, to change the opinion that has taken shape in Russian society in recent years about the modern world and Russia’s place in it. Just because the Russian people are tired of foreign politics, this does not mean that they will enthusiastically support an updated version of Mikhail Gorbachev’s “new thinking” of the second half of the 1980s or the ideological principles of Boris Yeltsin and Andrei Kozyrev’s foreign policy of the early 1990s.
Fourth, the balance of power between the agencies involved in the development and practical implementation of Russia’s foreign policy has changed significantly in recent years. The role of the security forces has been growing in all its aspects since at least the beginning of 2014. Conversely, the role of diplomats, as well as that of the technocrats in the economic structures of the Russian government, has been dwindling with each passing year. It is the security forces that are the main “stakeholders” in Donbass, Syria, Libya and even Belarus today. It would be fair to say that they have had a controlling interest in Russia’s foreign policy. The oft-quoted words of Emperor Alexander III that Russia has only two allies, its army and its navy, perfectly reflect the shift that has taken place in the balance of powers between these agencies. We should add that this shift was largely welcomed and even supported by a significant part of Russian society (see the third point). Of course, the siloviki are, due to the specifics of their work, less inclined to compromise, concessions and basic human empathy than diplomats, economists and technocrats.
All these factors preventing the conceptual renewal of Russia’s foreign policy can equally be applied to its geopolitical opponents. Politicians in the West are also hoping that time is on their side, that Moscow will emerge from the crisis weaker and more vulnerable, and thus more malleable than it was before. They also believe that any unilateral steps, any demonstration of flexibility in relations with the Kremlin, will be met with an even tougher and more aggressive policy. Negative ideas about Russia have also taken root in the minds of people in the West, and foreign policy is being “militarized” there just as much as it is in Russia.
Thus, neither the coronavirus nor the economic recession will automatically lead to a détente, let alone a reset in relations between Russia and the West. We are, in fact, moving in the opposite direction, once again running the risk of an uncontrolled confrontation. However, this unfortunate situation is no reason to give up on the possibility of signing new agreements, even if COVID-19 will no longer be in our corner moving forward.
From our partner RIAC
India’s strategies short of war against a hostile China
Since India’s independence several peace and border cooperation agreements were signed between the India and China. Prominent among them was the Panchsheel Agreement signed in 1954. A majority of the agreements were signed between 1993 and 2013. Recently genuine efforts were made by PM Narendra Modi by engaging Xi Jinping at the Wuhan and Chennai summits. But China is nowhere near to settling the border dispute despite various agreements and talks at the military and civilian levels.
After the 1962 war peace was largely maintained on the Indo China border. During the Mao and Deng era consensus building was the norm in the communist party. XiJinping appointed himself as chairman of the communist party for life. Today power is centralized with XiJinping and his cabal. Through Doklam and Galwan incidents Xi Jinpinghas disowned the peaceful principles laid down by his predecessors. China’s strategy is to keep India engaged in South Asia as it doesn’t want India to emerge as a super power. After solving a crisis on the border China will create another crisis. Beijing has declining interest in the niceties of diplomacy. Under Xi Jinping China has become more hostile.
China has been infringing on India’s sovereignty through salami tactics by changing the status quo and attempting to own the border territory. At Galwan on Xi Jinping’s birthday the PLA demonstrated hooliganism by assaulting Indian border positions. China violated the 1996 and 2005 bilateral agreements which states that both armies should not carry weapons within 1.24 miles on either side of the border. India’s Foreign Minister S Jaishankar mentioned that the standoff situation with China in Galwan Valley of eastern Ladakh is “surely the most serious situation after 1962.”China is constructing infrastructure, increasing forces and deploying weapon systems on the border.
Options for India
India led by PM Narendra Modi has implemented a realist foreign policy and a muscular military policy.India ended the age of strategic restraint by launching special operations and air strikes in Pakistan. Since the Galwan incident India has increased the military, diplomatic and economic deterrence against China. India is constructing military infrastructure and deploying weapon systems like SU 30 MKI and T 90 tanks in Ladakh. India banned a total of 224 Chinese apps, barred Chinese companies from government contracts and is on the verge of banning Huawei. Other measures include excluding Chinese companies from private Indian telecommunications networks. Chinese mobile manufacturers can be banned from selling goods in India.
India should offer a grand strategy to China. India has a plethora of options short of war. Future talks should involve an integrated strategy to solve all the bilateral issues and not just an isolated resolution of a localized border incident. All instruments of military and economic power and coercive diplomacy should be on the table.
China expects other nations to follow bilateral agreements and international treaties while it conveniently violates them. India should abrogate the Panscheel agreement given China’s intransigence and hostility. China claims 35,000 square miles of territory in India’s northeast, including the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. China occupies 15,000 square miles of India’s territory in the Aksai Chin Plateau in the Himalayas. India’s primary objective is to take back territories like Aksai Chin. While the secondary issue is the resolution of the border issue and China’s support to Pakistan. India can leverage the contemporary geopolitical climate to settle all issues. India can target China’s soft underbelly characterized by issues like Taiwan, Xinjiang and the economy. China raises the Kashmir issue at international organizations. As a countervailing measure India can raise Xinjiang at international organizations and conferences.
China has been militarily and diplomatically supporting Pakistan against India. Pakistan is a rentier and a broken state that sponsors terrorism. India can establish bilateral relations with Taiwan thus superseding China’s reunification sensitivities. China has territorial disputes with 18 countries including Taiwan and Japan. India can hedge against China by establishing strategic partnerships with US, Australia, Japanand Vietnam.
An overwhelming military is a deterrence for China’s belligerent foreign and military policy. The 1990Gulf War demonstrated the capabilities of high technology weapon systems. As compared to China’s rudimentary weapons systems India has inducted 4th and 5th generation weapons like the SU 30 MKI, AH 64 Apache and T 90 tanks. The deterrence capacity of fighter aircrafts is reduced as they cannot target China’s coastlines due to their restricted range. Full deterrence can be achieved by ICBMs and nuclear powered submarines. With these weapons India can target centers of gravity like Shanghai and Shenzhen.
China is not a signatory to arms limitations treaties like Start I and Start II. China continues to expand its nuclear weapons stockpile and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) like DF 21 and DF-26B which are banned by the INF Treaty. India is a law abiding stable democracy in an unstable region with two hostile nations on its flanks. US and Russia can relax the arms control mechanism considering India’s’ impeccable record on peace and non proliferation. This will allow India to buy Russian weapon systems like Zircon and Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, Topol and Bulava ICBMs and Yasen and Borey class SSBN submarines. While US can sell SSBN submarines and C4ISR gathering platforms like RC 135 and RQ 4 Global Hawk.
China remains a security threat for Asia. As China foments instability the APAC region from South Asia to South China Sea remains volatile. The Quad can be expanded to include Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia and multinational naval exercises can conducted in the South China Sea.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend. China fought small wars with India, Vietnam and Soviet Union. Vietnam defeated the PLA at Lang Son in 1979 with advanced weapon systems and guerilla warfare. India can increase militarily cooperation with Vietnam. China attacked the Soviet Union on the Ussuri river leading to heavy PLA casualties. Historically relations between Russia and India have been close. As a result of the Indo Soviet Friendship Treaty China did not support Pakistan during the 1971 war. India can enhance its military and diplomatic ties with Russia to the next level.
Strategic partnership with US
Its time for a partnership between the world’s largest and the world’s biggest democracies. India and the US have a common objective to preserve peace, maintain stability and enhance security in Asia. India’s reiteration at leaders’ level and international forums that both countries see each other as allies for stability in the APAC region is not enough. India has to go beyond the clichés of the need for closer ties.
Due to the China threat the US is shifting its military from Europe and Middle East to the APAC region.US and India can establish an Asian equivalent of NATO as China’s destructive policy frameworks and threatening postures remain a strategic threat. India should enhance and deepen cooperation with the US intelligence community in the fields of MASINT, SIGINT, GEOINT, TECHINT and CYBINT. Both countries can form an alliance of democracies. If China militarily or economically targets one of the member country then the alliance can retaliate under a framework similar to Article 5 of NATO. Thus power will be distributed in the APAC region instead of being concentrated with China. A scorpion strategy will ensure that China does not harass its neighbors. The strategy involves a military pincer movement by India from the west and US from the East against a hostile China. India can conduct joint military exercises with the US in Ladakh. China cannot challenge Japan and Taiwan due to the US security agreements with these countries.
The world has entered the age of instability and uncertainty. The 21st century is characterized by hybrid warfare through military and coercive diplomacy. South Asia is not a friendly neighborhood where peaceful overtures lead to harmonious relations. China is a threat to India even in the context of a friendly relationship. Diplomatic niceties have no place in India’s relations with China. India can impose costs on China which can be more than the benefits offered by normalizing relations. The application of measures short of war without engaging the PLA will reap benefits. India can fulfill its national security requirements and global responsibilities through a grand strategy.
A policy of engagement and deterrence is crucial against an antagonistic China. While India attempts to develop cooperative ties with China it will need to continue to enhance and implement its military and coercive diplomatic strategies. China does not represent a direct military threat to India but at the same time one cannot deny that challenges remain.
COVID-19 and Challenges to the Indian Defence Establishment
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an uncertain situation all over the world. It is defined as the greatest challenge faced by the world since World War II. At a certain point, the pandemic had forced world governments to announce lockdowns in their respective countries that led to more than half of the human population being home quarantined. Since then, social distancing, travel bans, and cancellation of international summits have become a routine exercise. Most sectors such as agriculture, health, education, economy, manufacturing have been severely hit across the globe. One such sector which is vital to national security that has been impacted due to the pandemic is defence.
The effect of influenza and pneumonia during WWI on the US military was huge. The necessity to mobilise troops across the Atlantic made it even ideal for the diseases to spread rapidly among the defence personnel and civilians. Between mid-1917 and 1919, the fatalities were more so due to the disease than getting killed in action. Due to COVID-19, there have been many implications within the defence sector. Amid the ongoing transgressions in Ladakh, it becomes imperative to analyse the preparedness of the Indian defence establishment to tackle the challenges at hand.
Disrupting the Status Quo
Many personnel in the Indian armed forces have been tested positive for COVID-19. This puts the operational capabilities at risk. In one isolated incident, 26 personnel of the Navy had been placed in quarantine after being tested positive for COVID-19. The French and the Americans had a great challenge ahead of them as hundreds of soldiers were getting infected onboard their Naval vessels. Furthermore, the Army saw some cases being tested positive as well. In one such incident, the headquarters of the Indian Army had to be temporarily shut down because of a soldier contracting the virus. These uncalled disruptions are very dangerous for our armed forces. These disruptions challenge the recruitment process and training exercises.
Since the Indian Army has been involved in quarantining tasks, this exposes the personnel to the virus. As a result of this, the first soldier was tested positive on March 20 in Leh. Among them, those who work as medical personnel are even more exposed to the virus. In order to enforce damage control to the operational capabilities, the Army made sure that the non-essential training, travel, and attending conferences remained cancelled. They called off any foreign assignments and postings for the time being. The Army also made it a point to extend leaves for that personnel who were already on absence. This was a major preventive measure adopted to prevent further infection.
As a result of the lockdown that had been imposed nationwide, the defence services were forced to temporarily stall all the activities that relate to soldiering during peacetime. These activities include training, pursuing professional qualification, fitness tests and regimes, equipment maintenance such as unit assets and stores, up-gradation of the cadres among others. Since the Indian Army boasts of a force that has signed up voluntarily to guard the borders, most of the troops are away from their families, which makes it even more difficult during the times of crises. The mega biennial naval exercises scheduled to be held in Vizag were cancelled due to COVID-19. A total of 41 navies were planned to be a part of the joint exercises called MILAN. The Service Selection Board (SSB) training and the recruitment process have been put to a halt as well. This will severely impact the intake process for this year.
The Army’s capable of operating in a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) environment and has sufficient equipment like infantry vehicles, helicopters and tanks which can operate without any hassles. Since instances of chemical warfare have been witnessed in West Asia and other regions in the last two decades, the focus of the Army has been on that and not on biological warfare. Most Armies believe that bio-weaponry is still fictional and won’t come into play any time soon. Naturally, due to this mindset, most Armies are not capable of handling biohazards. This is a major setback in the time of COVID-19 and has to be addressed.
Riding Down the Slope
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Indian economy has been nose-diving day by day. This is some bad news for the defence sector since the military spending will possibly be reduced as a result of the slowdown. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), India’s GDP will grow at 1.9 per cent. This is one of the lowest in the history of post-independent India. Allocations and spendings will naturally take a hit and will take a long time to revive again. Defence manufacturing will also face a setback and discourage indigenous players who are looking at getting involved in the manufacturing and innovation sector. MoD has already received the Ministry of Finance’s circular that called for the defence spending to be limited to 15-20 per cent of the total amount allocated. This will ensure that the defence budget is not the priority for the finance ministry. A gap of Rs. 1,03,000 crore has been highlighted between the requirement and the allocated money. More than 60 per cent of this allocated amount anyway goes towards paying salaries and pensions. This means that the modernisation efforts will face a major slowdown in the next two years. Defence procurement is already difficult due to the bureaucratic hurdles, now the monetary crunch only adds more woes.
Moreover, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had announced earlier that more than 9,000 posts belonging to the Military Engineering Services (MES) will be abolished in the said industrial division. The reason cited was that this would bring about a balance to the expenditure. Due to the lockdown, the military development has taken a hit and has seen a decline in the production of freights. As of now, there is no manufacturing that is ongoing as far as fighter planes or aircraft, in general, is concerned. Some of the signed defence deals and contracts are said to be reviewed due to the financial crunch. India’s defence budget is expected to see some cuts due to the economy slowing down. The pandemic has worsened this even further. There is already an existing order to cap the spending for the first quarter of this fiscal year. Most of the payments that are being disbursed is largely that of paying for the existing contracts. This will diminish any scope for procurement of newer defence equipment that helps in modernising the armed forces in the long run. According to a report, it says that the Ministry of Defence is looking at a savings of anywhere between Rs. 400 and 800 billion in the 2020-21 financial year. To quote Yuval Noah Harari from his recent article in the Financial Times would seem relevant in this case, “Many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life. That is the nature of emergencies. They fast-forward historical processes. Decisions that in normal times could take years of deliberation are passed in a matter of hours.” India has displayed the significant political will to make impactful decisions during the pandemic. The question is, how far and how soon can we push ourselves to be prepared on all fronts?
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