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Turning Gulf Security Upside Down

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Like many paradigms across the globe, the pandemic and its associated economic downturn have changed the paradigm shaping debates about Gulf security that was inevitably set to gradually migrate from a unipolar US defense umbrella that shielded energy-rich monarchies against Iran to an architecture that was more multilateral. In many ways, the pandemic’s fallout has levelled the playing field and not necessarily in ways that favour current policies of Gulf states.

Saudi Arabia’s relations with the West are increasingly being called into question, with the Saudi–Russian oil price war in March potentially having broken the camel’s back. The Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stand to lose at least some of the financial clout that allowed them to punch above their weight even if they are likely to exclude arms purchases from their austerity measures.

Weakened financial clout comes at a moment when the Gulf states and Iran are gearing up towards an arms race in the wake of Iran’s recent satellite launch and unveiling of an unmanned underwater vehicle against the backdrop of the 2015 international agreement that curbed the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme inching towards collapse. The unmanned underwater vehicle puts Iran in an elite club, of which the only other members capable of producing them are the United States, Britain and China.[1] The satellite adds Iran to a group of only about a dozen countries able to do launches of their own. [2]

Add to this the fact that none of the regional players — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Iran, Turkey and Israel — feel secure that any of the external powers — the United States, China and Russia — are reliable security and geopolitical partners.

Gulf states have, for years going back to the era of Barak Obama if not Bill Clinton, increasingly perceived the United States as unfortunately their only option on the premise that they are not willing to change their policies, particularly towards Iran, but one that is demonstrably unreliable, unwilling to defend Gulf states at whatever cost, and at times at odds with them in terms of policy objectives.

The Gulf states’ problem is that neither Russia nor China offer real alternatives at least not on terms that all Gulf states are willing to accept. Russia is neither interested nor capable of replacing the United States. Moreover, its Gulf security plan is at odds with at least the policy of Saudi Arabia.

The plan calls for a security arrangement modelled on that of Europe under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). It would be an arrangement that, unlike the US defence umbrella in the Gulf, includes Iran, not directed against it. It would have to involve some kind of regional agreement on non-aggression.[3]

Saudi Arabia, under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has made clear that it is not interested, as is evident in the pandemic where it has refrained, in contrast to other Gulf states, from reaching out to Iran with humanitarian aid even though it last year engaged in an indirect exchange with the Islamic Republic. That exchange died with the killing by the United States in January of Iranian general Qassim Soleimani.

The Elephant in the Room

China is obviously the elephant in the room.

Logically, China and the Gulf states are in the same boat as they grapple with uncertainty about current regional security arrangements. Like the Gulf states, China has long relied on the US defence 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 signalled 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 like with the Russians, 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, particularly with regard to Iran. Any new architecture would break the mould of Chinese engagement in the Middle East that is designed to shield the People’s Republic from being sucked into the region’s myriad conflicts.

The assumption has long been that China could at best postpone execution, but that ultimately, it would have no choice but to engage in the politics of the region. More recently, influential Chinese analysts are suggesting that China has another option: turn its back on the region. That may seem incredulous given China’s dependence on Middle Eastern energy resources as well as its significant investments in the region.

These analysts argue, however, that China is able to diversify its energy sources and that Chinese investment in the Middle East is but a small percentage of overall Chinese overseas investment. They describe Chinese Middle Eastern economic relations as past their heyday with economies of both in decline and the prospects of the situation in the Middle East getting worse before it becomes better.

“China–Middle East countries is not a political strategic logic, it’s an economic logic. For China, the Middle East is always on the very distant backburner of China’s strategic global strategies … Covid-19, combined with the oil price crisis, will dramatically change the Middle East. (This) will change China’s investment model in the Middle East … The good times of China and the Middle East are already gone… Both China and the Middle Eastern economies have been slowing down … In the future, the pandemic, combined with the oil price problem, will make the Middle East situation worse. So, the China economic relationship with the Middle East will be affected very deeply,” said Niu Xinchun, director of Middle East studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), widely viewed as China’s most influential think tank.[4]

Pessimistic forecasts of economic prospects in the Middle East bolster Niu’s prediction. Data and analytics company GlobalData predicted in an email that depressed oil markets and prices in the Middle East and North Africa would lead to a contraction in non-oil sectors, including construction. “Construction activity for the remainder of 2020 is set to see poor performance … In addition, public investment is likely to be moderate, which will translate into fewer prospects for private sector businesses to grow — especially within sectors such as infrastructure. Expected increase in taxes, selected subsidy cuts and the introduction of several public sector service charges will influence households’ purchasing power, having a knock-on effect on future commercial investments,” said GlobalData economist Yasmine Ghozzi.

Moreover, the downplaying of Chinese economic interest in the Middle East fits a pattern of reduced Chinese capital outflows. “What we may not have seen is how much China has retreated financially already for the past four years … Especially since 2016, China’s outflows have come down dramatically in both lending and investment. Foreign direct investment is now at about 30 per cent of what it was in 2016,” said Agatha Kratz, associate director of Rhodium Group, an independent research provider.[5]

To be sure, Chinese officials and analysts have consistently maintained that the Middle East is not a Chinese priority, that any future battles with the United States will be fought in the Asia Pacific, not in the Gulf. Their assertions are backed up by the fact that China has yet to articulate a comprehensive policy towards the region and in 2016 issued its one and only white paper on policy towards the Arab world that essentially was an elaboration of its basic foreign and defense policy principles.

More likely than China seriously entertaining turning its back on the Middle East is the probability that it is sending the region a message that is not dissimilar from what Russia is saying: get your act together and find a way to dial down the tension. It is a message that appears to varying degrees to have been heard in the smaller Gulf states but has yet to resonate in Riyadh. It is also a message that has not been rejected out of hand by Iran.

Discussing a possible extension of a United Nations arms embargo against Iran, Saudi Ambassador Abdallah Al Mouallimi, arguing in favour of a prolongation, suggested that it would serve Russian and Chinese interests even though they would not agree with that assessment. “They have their views, we respect their views, but their interests would be better served and promoted with the embargo extended,” said Al Mouallimi.[6]

A Chinese Communist Party newspaper made days later a first reference in the People’s Republic’s state-controlled media to reports of an alleged secret 25-year multi-billion-dollar co-operation agreement in Iran amid controversy in the Islamic Republic. Chinese officials and media have largely remained silent about Iranian reports of an agreement worth anywhere between US$120 billion and US$400 billion that seemingly was proposed by Iran, but has yet to be accepted by China.[7]

Writing in the Shanghai Observer, a subsidiary of Liberation Daily, the official newspaper of the Shanghai Committee of the Communist Party of China, Middle East scholar Fan Hongda argued that the agreement, though nowhere close to implementation, highlighted “an important moment of development” at a time that US–Chinese tensions allowed Beijing to pay less heed to American policies.[8] Fan’s suggestion that the US–Chinese divide gave China more room to develop its relations with Iran will not have gone unnoticed in Riyadh and other Gulf capitals.

An Emerging Tug of War

How all of this may shake out could be determined by the emerging tug of war in the Middle East between China and the US. Israel has already been caught up in it and has made its choice clear, even if it still attempting to maintain some wiggle room. Nonetheless, Israel, in the ultimate analysis, knows where its bread is buttered, particularly at a moment where the United States is the only backer of its annexationist policies. In contrast to Israel, the US is likely to find the going tougher when it comes to persuading Gulf states to limit their engagement with China, including with telecom giant Huawei, which already has significant operations in the region.

Like Israel, UAE officials have sought to convey to the US that they see relations with the United States as indispensable even though that has yet to be put to a test when it comes to China. Gulf officials’ stress on the importance of ties will, however, not shield them from American demands that they review and limit their relations with China, nor its warnings that involvement of Huawei could jeopardise sensitive communications, particularly given the multiple US bases in the region, including the US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain and the forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command, or Centcom, in Qatar.

The US Embassy in Abu Dhabi, in a shot across the Gulf’s bow, last month rejected a UAE offer to donate hundreds of coronavirus tests for screening of its staff. The snub was designed to put a dent in China’s health “Silk Road” diplomacy centered on its experience with the pandemic and ability to manufacture personal protective and medical equipment.

A US official said the tests were rejected because they were either Chinese-made or involved BGI Genomics, a Chinese company active in the Gulf, which raised concerns about patient privacy. The US softened the blow when the prestigious Ohio-based Cleveland Clinic sent 40 nurses and doctor to its Abu Dhabi subsidiary. The Abu Dhabi facility was tasked with treating the UAE’s most severe cases of coronavirus.[9]

The problem for the US is that it is not only Trump’s policy or lack thereof towards the Middle East that undermines confidence but it is also policies that, on the surface, have nothing to do with the Middle East. The United States has been asking its partners including Gulf states to give it time to develop an alternative to Huawei’s 5G network. Yet at the same time, it is barring the kind of people entry that technology companies need to develop systems.

A Silver Lining

No matter how the tug of war in the Middle East evolves, the silver lining is that, like China, the United States despite its desire to reduce its commitment cannot afford a power void in the region. That is what may create the basis for breaking the mould.

It will require a backing away from approaches that treat conflicts as zero-sum games not only on the part of regional players but also of external players, like in the case of the US versus Iran, and it will require engagement by all regional and external players. To achieve that, players would have to recognise that in many ways, perceptions on both sides of the Gulf divide are mirror images of one another: all parties see each other as existential threats.

Failure to break the stalemate risks conflicts becoming further entrenched and threatening to spin out of control. The opportunity is that confidence-building measures and a willingness to engage open a door towards mutually acceptable regional security arrangements and conflict resolution. However, for that to happen, major powers would have to invest political will and energy at a time when they feel they have bigger fish to fry and prioritise geopolitical jockeying.

In a twist of irony, geopolitical jockeying may prove to be an icebreaker in a world, and certainly a region, where everything is interconnected. Increasingly, security in the Gulf is not just about security in the Gulf. It is not even just about security in the Middle East. It is about security in the Mediterranean, whether one looks at Libya on the sea’s southern shores, Syria in the east, or growing tension in the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean. And it does not stop there with regional rivalries reaching into the Black and Caspian Seas and into Central Asia.

Finally, there are the grey and black swans built into partnerships and alliances that are either becoming more fragile like those of the United States or ones that have fragility built into their DNA like the ties between Iran, Turkey, China and Russia. Those swans could at any moment swing the pendulum one way or another.

To be sure, contrary to Western perceptions, relations between Iran, Turkey, Russia and China are not just opportunistic and driven by short-term common interests but also grounded in a degree of shared values. The fact of the matter is that men like presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei find common ground in a view of a new world order that rejects democracy and the rule of law; disregards human and minority rights; flaunts, at least for now, violations of international law; and operates on the principle of might is right.

That glue, however, is insufficient, to prevent Turkey and Russia from ending up on opposite sides of conflicts in Libya and Syria. It is also unlikely to halt the gradual erosion of a presumed division of labour in Central Asia with Russia ensuring security and China focusing on economic development. And it is doubtful it would alter the simmering rivalry between Iran and Russia in the Caspian Sea and long-standing Russian reluctance to sell Iran a desperately needed anti-missile defense system.

In short, fasten your seat belt. Gulf and broader regional security could prove to be a bumpy ride with unexpected speed bumps.

[1] “Iran’s UUV to add new dimension to its warfare capability: Forbes”, Tehran Times, 30 May 2020, https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/448370/Iran-s-UUV-to-add-new-dimension-to-its-warfare-capability-Forbes.

[2] Mike Wall, “Iran launches its 1st military satellite into orbit: reports”, Space.com, 22 April 2020, https://www.space.com/iran-launches-first-military-satellite.html.

[3] Theodore Karasik, “Is Russia’s ‘old’ Gulf security plan the best it can do?”, Arab News, 20 July 2019, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1533096.

[4] Niu Xinchun speaking on “How are China’s Relations with the Middle East Evolving During the COVID-19 Pandemic?”, Chatham House, 19 May 2019, https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2721841274725780.

[5] Agatha Kratz speaking on “China and the Mediterranean Region in and Beyond the Pandemic, German Marshal Fund”, 3 July 2020, https://www.gmfus.org/events/china-and-mediterranean-region-and-beyond-pandemic.

[6] Joyce Karam, “Russian and Chinese interests ‘better served’ if Iran arms embargo is extended, says Saudi official”, The National, 2 July 2020, https://www.thenational.ae/world/the-americas/russian-and-chinese-interests-better-served-if-iran-arms-embargo-is-extended-says-saudi-official-1.1042822.

[7] Seth J Frantzman, “Iran media discuss 25-year deal between Iran and China”, The Jerusalem Post, 3 July 2020, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/iran-media-discuss-25-year-deal-between-iran-and-china-633739.

[8] Fan Hongda, “Iran announced a 25-year comprehensive cooperation plan with China, can Sino-Iranian relations get closer?” [观察家 | 伊朗宣布与华25年全面合作计划,中伊关系能否进一步走近?], Shanghai Observer, 20 June 2020, https://www.shobserver.com/news/detail?id=264494.

[9]Interview with the author, 8 June 2020.

Author’s note: This story first appeared as an MEI Insight

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and three forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africaas well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism and China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom.

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European defence still matters but not for Lithuania

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European countries have different points of view on the issue of the EU collective defence and security. These views divide the European Union and continue to weaken the organization.

Some of the EU member states realize the need to turn the EU into a real global military power.

European experts believe, that in order for European countries to be able to defend themselves and choose their own course independently, a consolidation of national defence industries is urgently needed. For this, the EU needs to create a real European Defence Technological and Industrial Base, which can only take shape through the incentives and projects conducted within the European Union.

The EU nations must have defence industries that are capable to allow EU to reduce its dependence on American or Chinese technologies.

Researchers found out that by doing so, member states would avoid losing between €25 billion and €100 billion every year due to their lack of cooperation, and could save 30% of their annual defence expenditure by pooling procurement.

Defence budgets had already been severely impacted by the 2008 crisis, as well as COVID-19, making EU countries more dependent on NATO to ensure their security. As a consequence, safeguarding the investments made in the EU defence and industry sector appears to be a matter of real urgency and a vital issue in terms of the sovereignty of European nations.

Other European countries such as Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia which are not ready to make their own sufficient investment in the European defence, prefer to completely rely on NATO and the U.S. The Baltic states cannot imagine their security without the United States’ involvement, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda says.

“All Baltic states are very clear that the United States’ involvement in our collective defense system is a critical factor and we can hardly imagine our 100 percent security without the United States’ involvement,” the president told journalists in Rukla.

In his words, Lithuania does not see the aspiration for Europe’s strategic autonomy as “some sort of competition with the US’s involvement in NATO activity”.

“Lithuania sees it as NATO capability’s complementary factor, and in no way there can be any opposition or competition between these two things as, otherwise, NATO’s ability to properly do its mission would be affected,” he said.

The Lithuanian leader also said he told that to French President Emmanuel Macron visiting Lithuania.

Taking part in a discussion with students of Vilnius University earlier, in his turn, Macron said Europe should be more sovereign and invest more into technology, defense to reduce its dependence on the United States and China.

“European defense is a phrase one could not utter five or ten years ago. We imagined that we can put our defense into the hands of NATO, but now we have already established a fund for the implementation of joint programs and we have structural cooperation on defense,” Macron said.

“We cannot always rely on the power that is on the other side of the Atlantic, which is probably focusing more on China and cannot give us so much attention. Therefore, it’s very important for us to be able to protect ourselves,” the French leader said.

The opposite positions could lead to a greater gap between European countries and dissatisfaction with existing frame of the organization.

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Who Needs A Proxy War In The Caucasus?

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Image source: Azerbaijan Ministry of Defence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction:

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

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

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

Significance:

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

Objectives:

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

Hypothesis:

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

Research Questions:

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

Will US be able to contain China in Asia?

Methodology:

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

Limitations:

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

Theoretical Framework and Discussions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

US and Asian Allies:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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


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

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

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

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

[5]Ibid.

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

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

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

[9]Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[19] Ibid.

[20]Ibid.

[21]Ibid.

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

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

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