The 20th century ended on a high note for the Liberal-Capitalist world, with the fall of the communist states of the Soviet Union, leaving the United States as the single remaining, unipolar power of the world, asserting its national interests and objectives on states across the globe. The dawn of the 21st century saw the coming of the long and bloody, global war on terror with theatres of war across the Islamic world i.e. West Asia & North Africa, Central Asia, in South Asia as well as instances in Southeast Asia. This century has also witnessed the return of the Russians as an important player in these regions. However, one of the main causes of concerns in today’s geopolitical domain is the uncontainable rise of an aggressive and expansionist People’s Republic of China, under the helm of the dictatorial leader – Xi Jinping – considered to be one of the strongest, most assertive leaders of the communist country since Mao Zedong.
The Chinese Premier has previously managed to gather enough support among the ranks of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to win an important vote in 2018, through which the National People’s Congress permitted Xi to remain leader for life, by amending constitutional guidelines which enforced a two-term limit on its Presidents (BBC 2018). Since then, however, things in China have been going south for the CCP’s chosen one. While we may not talk a lot about it due to lack of information from China, the country and the leadership is in fact submerged in domestic issues in challenges. Being a dictatorial country with extremely low political and civil freedoms, much of the news in China is monitored and censored by the government; therefore, neither Chinese citizens nor foreign media outlets are privy to the happenings inside China. The communist government has alongside private citizens in the IT sector developed an entirely independent internet ecosystem, preventing outside/western contact and connections within China. These independent social media platforms provide Beijing with a backdoor entrance to conduct internet surveillance on its citizens. While this prevents western influence and contact with its citizens, it also prevents Chinese citizens from spreading ‘misinformation’ to the outside world. However, we know for a fact that the Chinese government is engaged in civil rights abuses against certain Muslim communities in the North-western autonomous province of Xinjiang, where – what may be over a million – Uyghur Muslim citizens are detained in mass detention camps, going through ‘re-education’ and to ensure citizens’ adherence to the CCP. We also know for a fact that the controversial National Security Law passed in Hong Kong undermines the 1997 One Country, Two Systems principle, based on which Hong Kong and Macau were returned to the Chinese by the British and the Portuguese.
The National Security Law is athwart to the cause for which all protestors and activists who have been staging events and raising their voices against Beijing’s excessive authority and assertiveness in the Special Administrative Region. Most recently, Jimmy Lai – the pro-democracy activist and founder of Apple Daily – was arrested on charges of collusion with foreign organisations and agents. The law makes even the mildest form of activism against Beijing a crime against the state. Infrastructure in China is also posing a major threat to citizens. Experts suggest that China has over 94,000 dying dams, with most of them built in the Mao era. The Guangxi dam collapsed on June 7 this year, hitting the nearby plains with some of the worst floodings it has experienced. The main cause of concern would be the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze river, which is also one of the dams at risk. The collapse of this dam could very well add tens of thousands of residents to the death toll, with over 500 million people living in and around the basin of the river. This is not all; many ranks among the CCP are unhappy with Xi’s management of the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan. Due to this mismanagement, the entire world is experiencing a major economic slowdown, and China has been under the spotlight.
Therefore, the Chinese regime has, over the years, resorted to the political tactic of distraction, many a time through the use of coercive force. The People’s Liberation Army (Navy) (PLA(N)) alongside the Chinese militia has been increasingly becoming assertive in the South China Sea and the broader Indo-Pacific region. It has boosted its naval capacity through the commissioning of the Liaoning and Shandong aircraft carriers, providing it with formidable naval air cover in the South China Sea, as well as giving it the strong arm it needs to flex against the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).The United States has regularly engaged in the enforcement of freedom of navigation in the sea through which trillions of dollars’ worth of cargo passes every year, with several naval exercises supported by aerial operations. While the Chinese are gaining a foothold in the region through the construction of full-fledged military bases on shoals and reefs, one should not forget the foothold that the United States already has in the region through its network of alliances and cooperation treaties with almost all the states engaged in the dispute against the Chinese. Amid high tensions in the region, Washington’s Pacific Command (USPACOM) very recently conducted naval exercises involving the USS Ronald Reagan Strike Group. “Integration with our joint partners is essential to ensuring joint force responsiveness and lethality, and maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said US Navy Commander Joshua Fagan, Task Force 70 air operations officer aboard USS Ronald Reagan(Goh and Navratnam 2020).
Tensions are also at an all-time high between New Delhi and Beijing. Over the night of 15th June, 20 soldiers of the Indian Army were killed in action in the Galwan Valley area of Eastern Ladakh sector. Since then, both sides have mobilised along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh as well as other areas along the International Boundary shared by the two Himalayan states. While talks have been taking place at both military and diplomatic levels, not much progress has been made toward de-escalation of build-up. The Ministry of Defence and the Indian Army has over the months made it explicitly clear to Beijing that India’s bravest will not stand down until the PLA withdraws from the LAC. The Chinese Communist Party and Xi speak of how the border disputes with India are of equal importance to the Chinese government as is the South China Sea dispute; both of which have portrayed Beijing’s aggressive expansionist policies. Beijing speaks of solving disputes through peaceful means and diplomacy, while the PLA flexes its muscles and threatens coercion through the conduct of live-fire military drills & exercises in Tibet. As per a report by the CCP’s People’s Daily, “the exercise … tested the coordinated strike capability of multiple units and put new equipment to the test in a combat situation”(Zhen 2020).
As such, China under Xi Jinping has gotten itself involved in several military disputes across the continent, from East Asia to the IOR. While several world powers critique its aggression, Beijing is engaged in establishing overseas military reach and capability through the construction of military bases and ports. China is attempting to gain a strong foothold not only in its backyard but also across the Indian Ocean Region and thePacific. The Chinese regime has been using its economic might (while it lasts) to coerce nations into granting the PLA and its several branches access to land suitable for the construction of bases. Some of the states that are being bullied by Beijing include of tiny Pacific island nations such as Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Tonga; South Asian countries such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are falling into Chinese debt traps and there already exists a PLA Base in Djibouti, with Gwadar in Pakistan another potential threat.
Pacific & Oceania
The United States has traditionally maintained dominance in the Pacific since the late 1890s when it acquired the Philippines as a protectorate from the Spaniard crown. It shared dominance in the region alongside the British in Southeast Asia. This dominance was challenged in the second world war, with the large-scale Japanese invasions of Southeast Asia with the intent of creating a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere ‘liberated’ from the grasp of Western colonial rule. However, this imperialist Japanese concept quickly faded away with the end of the war in 1945. Since then, the American Navy has been the undisputed power in the Pacific and the regions surrounding it.
However, with the onset of the 21st century, the Chinese have risen to a comfortable position of power supported heavily by its thriving industrial base and capacity. The world’s factory – China – has benefitted heavily from its ties with business organisations from across the world, all seeking a base of production with minimal costs and maximised profits. Since the late 1980s, China made commendable efforts in opening up its closed economy to the private sector – both domestic and international. 30 or so years later, China is second only to the world’s largest economy – the United States. This economic might has enabled the Communists in Beijing to assert their interests in its backyard – in the South China Sea and increasingly in the East China Sea.
In the South China Sea, Beijing has imposed sovereignty over vast territories, violating the sovereignty of all neighbouring states’ exclusive economic zones. The Chinese abide by a self-imposed demarcation on maps, called the ‘Nine-Dash Line’, which vaguely demarcate Chinese claims over a major part of the Sea and claim sovereignty over the disputed Paracel and Spratly islands. The Chinese justify this demarcation through attempts of connecting dots from ‘historical claims’ of Chinese presence in the sea. Beijing contests the sovereignty of Malaysian, Vietnamese, Bruneian, and Filipino exclusive economic zones. The Philippines has in the past brought the dispute before an international tribunal, which said that there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or resources. The tribunal in The Hague, in 2016, said China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights. It also said China had caused “severe harm to the coral reef environment” by building artificial islands (BBC 2016). The aggressive expansionist policies adopted by Beijing are a major threat to the continuance and sustenance of an international, multi-polar world order, which threatens basic maritime norms – freedom of navigation. The South China Sea and the Indonesian straits to its south (specifically the Malacca) are one of the busiest transit areas in the world of commercial shipping, with trade worth over 3.4 trillion USD passing through annually. As such, the United States, Japan, and Australia have all expressed major concerns regarding the dispute.
As mentioned in previous paragraphs, China has been engaging in coercive diplomacy to acquire permissions to build military bases and ports in the regions surrounding the South China Sea. Beijing has its eyes on the Southern Pacific island country of Tonga. This region has not seen such ‘strategic competition’ since the island-hopping campaign of the second world war. As per reports by the UK based Oxford Analytica, the Chinese have four objectives in extending their foothold into the Southern Pacific island complex:
“One is to extend its security perimeter into a region hitherto the preserve of the US and its allies and to create a buffer between China and its neighbours.
The second is to press forward with its diplomatic contest with Taiwan. Of the 17 countries worldwide that still have full diplomatic relations with Taiwan and none with Beijing, six of them are Pacific Island states – the Solomon Islands, Palau, Nauru, Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Marshall Islands.
Beijing’s third objective is to gain access to the natural resources of the South Pacific and its islands, especially fish and timber. China is already the largest trading partner for most of the islands and has about $30 billion invested among them.
The fourth objective is to draw the South Pacific nations into Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative by selling them infrastructure, especially port facilities to benefit Chinese commerce and the long-range deployment of its navy”(Manthorpe 2019).
The entrance of the Chinese in the South Pacific is an especially alarming event for the Australians. Canberra has been actively speaking up against Chinese aggression in the South China Sea and is a long time critique of Beijing’s expansionist policies. Being a member to QUAD, Australia regularly holds military exercises alongside India, the United States, and Japan to boost military-level cooperation and countering the growing Chinese sphere of influence in the region. However, bilateral and/or multilateral drills aimed at deterring PLA(N) influence will not be enough if Beijing were to set up a military base in Australia’s backyard. The only time that the Australians imposed national emergency and curfews was during world war two with the onset of the Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia, which was also localised only to the areas surrounding the northern portcity of Darwin which came in the crosshairs of Japanese aerial bombers. The establishment of a Chinese base in the South Pacific region will put all of Australia in a state of constant alarm for the first time since the second world war. In order to access the Pacific, the Chinese have to navigate through the American-friendly waters of Taiwan, the Philippines and Japan. However, a base in the Southern Pacific islands can provide the Chinese with direct access into the Pacific and threaten American and Australian presence in the oceanic region.
Tonga is an island country with a population barely creeping over 100,000 citizens and a GDP of about 450 million USD. Beijing in 2006 provided the country’s government with 108 million USD in loans for reconstruction and infrastructure development after notorious rioting in its capital – Nuku’alofa. This loan amounts to nearly 25% of the tiny nation’s GDP, thereby placing itself in a cycle of debt. This makes the 171 island country a prime target for the Chinese to set up a military base, in return for covering Tongan debt to Beijing. As per the Lowy Institute – an Australian think-tank, the Chinese have paid 1.5 billion USD in loans and aid to the several island nations of the Southern Pacific since 2011, enabling Beijing to employ its debt-trap tool of coercive diplomacy. China uses the Belt and Road Initiative to better facilitate trade between member-states; and at the same time uses debt-traps to take over ports for uses of both civilian as well as military nature, for example – Hambantota in Sri Lanka (Perry 2019).
Another island country in the region was previously under the Chinese scanner for establishing a PLA base on its soil. East Timor is placed in a strategically relevant position, right off the Wetar Strait – one among the four major straits of Southeast Asia. The Chinese proposal to build and operate a surveillance radar facility on East Timor’s north coast was made in December 2007 but was viewed with suspicion by senior East Timorese officials who consulted with the US and Australia before rejecting the project(Dorling 2011). These radars and surveillance could be used by the PLA to survey American and Australian Naval manoeuvring in the region and provide Beijing with valuable Naval intelligence and a pair of eyes looking down over the Australian continental shelf. Since then, the Chinese have shifted their attention to other countries in the region, such as Vanuatu. As per reports from 2018, Beijing had approached the government of the 80 island country to establish a permanent military base and presence in the region. Vanuatu also declined Beijing’s unofficial proposal to set up a base on their soil, citing their non-aligned status and disinterest in militarisation. Canberra and Wellington have both expressed their concern about the growing Chinese sphere of influence in the region and have jointly decided to invest in these countries, in order to prevent the poverty-struck region from slipping into Chinese debt-traps. All of this comes as the Chinese regime’s attempt to project power beyond its traditional backyard. To ensure that this expansion remains in check, Australia and New Zealand have in the past practised a policy of ‘strategic denial’ – ensuring that no foreign, unfriendly power gains influence in the region that it maintains as its own ‘patch’. The Australians have also set up committees for providing financial assistance to Pacific island countries in the fields of both infrastructure development and trade, promising amounts up to 2.5 billion AUD (Köllner 2020).
The Americans and Australians currently have in place an arrangement with Papua New Guinea, another nation in the Indo-Pacific region, which permits their navies access to and dock at the Lombrum naval base on Manus Island, in return for its development. The governor of the island claimed that the signing parties had failed to deliver on their promise, resulting in the federal government announcing its intention of reviewing the deal. The Chinese almost secured a deal for ports in PNG earlier, however, the deal fell through at the last minute. Experts say that in a post coronavirus world with devastated economies, PNG will be eager for aid and assistance and there is a possibility that they could turn to China for help(EurAsian Times Desk 2020). At the same time, research vessels of the PLA(N) are being sighted more often in the region, mapping the deep waters of the Pacific and the many straits connecting the Indo-Pacific. Military analysis of GPS satellite data from 2019 revealed two Chinese research vessels entered PNG’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) north of Manus Island, just weeks after US Vice President Mike Pence announced a joint redevelopment of the ageing Lombrum naval base.(Greene 2019). The ABC News Network in Australia interviewed a retired two-star admiral James Goldrick, who once headed Australia’s Border Protection Command believes Chinese mapping of the world’s oceans is now on the same scale as Soviet maritime operations during the height of the Cold War.
“It’s very similar to the pattern of Soviet Union behaviour in the 1960s, 70s and 80s and the Soviets’ knowledge of the world’s oceans was really quite enormous. Chinese naval intelligence gatherers will not be shining a (GPS satellite) beacon, they’re not required to by law, and of course, it’s quite possible some of the government-owned ships aren’t always radiating on their beacons to show where they are and who they are.” (Greene 2019)
Indian Ocean Region
As of today, Beijing has just one overseas military base in Djibouti – a country which also hosts American, French, Italian and Japanese military bases, some of which also host British, German and Spanish troops. India has for longhad a goal of gaining a foothold in the strategically important Horn of Africa, which was realised in 2018 when Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and PM Narendra Modi agreed to host Indian troops in the Japanese base in Djibouti;with the objectives of countering the threats faced due to piracy activity as well as to keep in check aggressive Chinese expansionism – through its ‘String of Pearls’ strategy in the IOR. However, New Delhi is looking to solidify its position in the region and is on the lookout for establishing a permanent Indian military base in the strategically placed African country.
In Djibouti, the PLA and the PLA(N) hold the fort at a 590 million USD support base, located 5 km west of Djibouti City. The support base is placed right next to the Chinese operated Port of Doraleh. Lying next to the mouth of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, connecting to the Indian Ocean, the strategically placed base provides China with the means to secure its major commercial shipping interests coming from or via West Asia and North Africa. An estimated 60% of China’s oil imports find their origin in this region – another reason justifying the purpose of the establishment of an overseas military base. Djibouti is involved in several other Chinese developmental projects, including sub-projects of the BRI such as the Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway project. The setting up of this base also gives the Chinese the clout they are seeking, establishing themselves as an international economic – and now also – a military power with overseas bases. It provides a central command in the region for the conduct of peacekeeping operations in Northern Africa and also counter-piracy ops in the Arabian Sea off the Somali coast.
The establishment of this base comes as a discomfort to the West, who have traditionally maintained a presence in the region of such comparable scale. The United States and its allies are all concerned with the presence of a PLA base within 10 km of their own. Worries about espionage are constant and so is the ‘tit-for-tat’ game of accusations. In 2018, the US Department of Defense accused the PLA Support Base of using laser weapons against pilots attempting to land in Western bases, adding on that in one case, two pilots on a cargo plane suffered minor eye injuries as they approached to land. China has rejected the allegations, saying they are “inconsistent with facts”(BBC 2018).In 2017, the PLA held their first-ever live-fire exercises from their first-ever overseas base. The exercises saw the deployment of the PLA’s Marine Corps, using a wide array of personal weapons and elaborate weapons systems – from pistols to ICVs to mortar and artillery. Beijing-based military expert Li Jie said:
“The troops had to be on combat alert at all times because of the region’s complex political conditions and Djibouti’s geographic importance. The PLA troops based in Djibouti should be able to protect themselves and resist attacks from terrorists, pirates, local armed forces, or even foreign troops” (Chan 2017).
Beijing-based military commentator Zhou Chenming said the high-profile drills were a message to local militants “not to harass” the PLA troops.
“Since the political situation in Djibouti is very unstable, the troops need to let local armed groups know of their combat strength. They need to tell them that the Chinese forces are there not only to set up the logistics base but must also be able to deal with all kinds of security challenges” (Chan 2017).
The PLA support base in Djibouti since last year has been going through a phase of construction and renovation to expand its capacity to handle military ware and equipment. Through open-source intelligence, analysts have been able to find new developments at the base. The naval pier along the base has been extended to +330 metres in length on both sides, which is more than enough to help facilitate China’s latest additions to its Navy – the Liaoning and Shandong aircraft carriers, Type 071 and the under-construction Type 075 amphibious assault vessels as well as Destroyers. This new development increases the capability and overall lethality of the base. Construction material and equipment was also seen along the large Heliport in the centre of the base, suggesting that the Chinese are looking into further expand their hangars and improve on existing helicopter facilities. The construction of a new quay may also suggest that the PLA may expand on the number of in-house piers at the base(Sutton 2020).
China’s Belt and Road Initiative also extends into India’s staunch terror-supporting neighbour Pakistan via the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, stretching between Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China and all through the length of Pakistan – from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to Baluchistan. The CPEC ends at the civilian port of Gwadar in western Pakistan which is being developed by Chinese and is under the operational control of the China Overseas Port Holding Company, leased to the same company till the year 2059. Therefore, questions arise in New Delhi and indeed Washington as to China’s intentions with the deep-sea port. While Beijing denies any military or naval involvement in the project, sources report what seems to be a high-security compound being built by the Chinese, which some believe could support naval operations. From a Chinese perspective, it would be ideal to build barracks for a garrison of Chinese marine corps in the insurgent region to protect what is a major investment in Gwadar.The compound comes complete with sentry towers and pillboxes along with fortifications and high walls with barbed wire (Sutton, China’s New High-Security Compound In Pakistan May Indicate Naval Plans 2020).
However, it remains unclear whether Islamabad has handed over the operations of the port for the PLA(N) as well, considering that a majority of Sino-Pak agreements go unannounced to the public or are not available to the public. The port is protected by Pakistani soldiers stationed there to protect the hundreds of Chinese workers working on its development and construction. Gwadar would be of great benefit to the Chinese, not only because it helps strengthen its foothold in the IOR, but also because once completed and secured, it can act as the economic lane of communication which would free Beijing of its dependency on the Malacca straights. The CPEC would secure the roadways and railway transit lines of its energy resources coming from West Asia and Africa, and a naval base at Gwadar would ensure its safety. The mouth of the Malacca is under the keen eyes of the Indian Armed Forces’ Andaman & Nicobar Islands tri-services joint command which undermines China’s economic security in case of conflict. As of today, a blockade of Chinese commercial shipping would severely cripple Beijing, which depends on West Asia and North Africa for a majority of its oil imports coming via these straits.
It is known to the world that Beijing has been looking into the Maldives as a potential location for a sub-pen since 1999. However, these aims were side-lined and not given much attention until the arrival of Xi Jinping on the hot seat of the CCP. Fast forward to the year 2017, reports by Maldives based anti-corruption NGO Transparency MV suggest that the country during the administration of the Chinese puppet Abdulla Yameen leased the Feydhoofinolhu atoll (land area: 38,000 square metres) to Beijing for 50 years, for four million USD. As of February 2020, China has destroyed surrounding reefs to build a man-made island structure to expand the size of the island to 100,000 square metres: similar to what it does in the South China Sea (Spratly islands).
Open-source intelligence portals showed the presence of a lot of construction material and equipment on the new man-made portion of the island, along with fish farms on the existing shorelines (Francis 2020). The island is barely 1000 km from the South Indian coastlands and even closer to the Lakshadweep islands, posing a major security risk to New Delhi. However, since the coming to power of Ibrahim Solih, New Delhi has poured its resources unto Malé with several infrastructure projects and credit in a bid to counter Chinese expansionism in the region. At present, India is engaged in an array of projects in the Maldives including water and sewerage projects on 34 islands, airport redevelopment at Hanimadhoo, and a hospital and a cricket stadium in Hulhumale(Ramachandran 2020). The Indian Minister of External Affairs also recently announced India’s intention of funding the Greater Malé Connectivity Project, a 6.7 km-long bridge and causeway link that will connect the Maldivian capital Malé with the neighbouring islands of Villingili, Gulhifahu and Thilafushi. It also includes the building of a port at Gulhifahu and an industrial zone in Thilafushi(Ramachandran 2020). The Maldivian economy, however, remains in a grey area, drowning in a tremendous debt of over a billion USD to China. Perhaps New Delhi’s granting of credit to Malé could sway the Maldives to India’s sphere of influence in the region – a paramount interest for South block in New Delhi.
About 950 km to the northwest of the Maldives lies the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, with which India has had mixed relations. Sri Lanka’s former President and current Prime Minister – Mahinda Rajapaksa, has led the country into a Chinese debt trap. The long-time politician requested for loans multiple times, without any denial from Beijing. Loans were procured to build a major deep-sea port along one of the busiest sea lanes of communication of the world at Hambantota in the southern part of the island country. However, the 1.4billion USD worth project failed to attract trade and commerce, with only 34 vessels docking at the port. With the tremendous amounts of debt owed to China running the country deeper into the debt trap, the Sri Lankan government agreed to lease the port at Hambantota and 60 square kilometres of land surrounding it for 99 years, as repayment for debt owed to Beijing. The debt deal also intensified some of the harshest accusations about President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative: that the global investment and lending program amounts to a debt trap for vulnerable countries around the world, fuelling corruption and autocratic behaviour in struggling democracies(Abi-Habib 2018). With the Rajapaksa administration being voted out of office in 2015, the new government under Ranil Wickremesinghe had little choice but to comply with Beijing’s will. However, the Prime Minister also made it very clear to the world that Sri Lanka’s Port Authorities were in fact in a commercial joint venture with Chinese merchants and port authorities. Addressing a programme at London’s Oxford University on Monday, Wickremesinghe said some people are seeing “imaginary Chinese Naval bases in Sri Lanka” (PTI 2018). However, it remains unclear as to what Beijing’s intentions truly are. It is perhaps another move to secure sea lanes of connections that connect the Chinese mainland to its energy interests in West Asia and Africa passing through the straits of Malacca. Even if Hambantota remains a civilian project, access to it by PLA(N) assets such as frigates and submarines in the IOR could provide it with the resources these assets may require to extend the duration of operations in the region.
China is also present in the former war-torn state of Myanmar. China is notorious for using debt diplomacy as a tool to gain control over infrastructure assets. Tensions of the same have ensured that Myanmar reduced the amount of funds China has invested to 1.3 billion USD for the Kyaukpyu port project. The port, on the eastern shores of the Bay of Bengal is not very far from Vishakhapatnam, the Indian Naval headquarters of the Eastern Command. This investment has the potential to act as one of the many pearls of China’s String of Pearls strategy in the IOR. The Kyaukpyu port will be an addition to China’s global Belt and Road Initiative, connecting the port to China by sea and also through a road link for which construction plans and agreements are being drawn up. Following Myanmar’s concerns of falling into a debt-trap, China will invest 70 per cent of the $1.3 billion while Myanmar will finance the rest in the initial phase(Patranobis 2018). This port could be of equal importance to Beijing as is the port in Gwadar. The Kyaukpyu port could further liberate the Chinese dependence on the Malacca strait for trade and commerce. Beijing will definitely push for the construction of an all-weather road to connect the port to China by road, similar to CPEC.
Many have believed that Gwadar would be the PLA’s second and latest addition to its overseas bases, if at all. However, without gaining much attention, Beijing managed to reach an agreement with the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan to establish a military/paramilitary base in the country’s eastern borderlands, near the Wakhan corridor.
The Chinese base is located at a strategically important region, placed approximately 12 km from the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan and 30 km from the Chinese border, at an altitude of 3860 m above sea level. The base is seen to have three main buildings and supported with storage facilities and/or garrisons. It is connected with a roadways system, however, not with power lines, which imply the reason why solar panels can be seen supporting what could be power generators, in the north-western part of the facility. The base also hosts a helipad in the south-western corner. It is guarded by a series of pillboxes and sentry watch posts along the multi-layered fencing/wall.
Beijing has formally denied the presence of its troops in Afghanistan in the past. However, the presence of a base in Tajikistan would imply its interest in entering the country to secure strategic interests alongside the Afghans. The Chinese have also in the past conducted joint military exercises with the Afghan Armed Forces in counter-terrorism and anti-insurgency operations. China has had a long-lasting border dispute with the Tajiks, claiming that Dushanbe is unable to grasp control over its border with neighbouring war-torn Afghanistan, and as a result of that radical Islamists have been causing troubles at the Sino-Tajik border. These Islamists – China claims – are the same who brew up tensions in the Xinjiang autonomous region and ‘poisons’ the minds of the native Uyghur Muslims with propaganda directed against the Chinese state.
While the international community worries about these developments, Beijing’s eagerness to have boots on the ground in this spot appears to stem from concern about the potential for unrest from Islamist Uyghur militants. An unknown number of Uyghurs are believed to have left their homes in the Xinjiang region in the last five years or so to join the ranks of militant groups in West Asia. Like other governments in Central Asia, China is uneasy about the arguably implausible prospect of those fighters returning to their native land(Eurasia Net 2019).
Being a former Soviet Republic, Tajikistan is party to the Commonwealth of Independent States – a multi-national organisation led by Russia to protect the sovereignty and improve regional ties between all former Soviet States. As such, Russia considers China to be ‘creeping into its strategic backyard’. Beijing is by far Tajikistan’s more generous creditor. At last count, the outstanding debt stood at around $1 billion, although this figure may be even greater depending on how one is counting. This lending has not been without its costs. In 2011, Tajikistan ceded territory to China in return for an unspecified amount of debts being wiped off the slate. Officials in Dushanbe have spoken little about this deal, but have sought when quizzed to sell it as a financially advantageous way to settle what had been a long-standing territorial dispute(Eurasia Net 2019).
As of today, it remains unknown whether Beijing has any interests in Afghanistan, other than protecting its domestic issues, i.e. the issue of Uyghur Muslims being rallied against the Communist Party of China.
The Chinese government under its dictatorial Premier, Xi Jinping- has adopted several aggressive and expansionist policies & stances across multiple fronts. It has decided to undermine the cruciality that its domestic policies hold in the eyes of its citizens and is constantly distracting them through an aggressive foreign policy. Being a totalitarian, communist state, China has also actively engaged in the censorship of social media and through the development of an independent internet ecosystem has managed to rid its citizens of viable access to the world outside of the Chinese borders.The People’s Liberation Army of China and its various branches have been one of the largest benefiters of Xi’s expansionist policies. Some consider the Premier to be the strongest man on the captain’s seat since the time of Mao Zedong.
Over the years, tensions between Beijing and Washington plus allies has been on the increase, and the American administration has decided not to take lightly China’s increasing aggression. The South China Sea has become one of the most important fronts for the cold war that is going on between the Americans and the Chinese, with neither willing to compromise on their national interests. The Pacific has always been America’s stronghold, since the end of the second world war. However, China has come to challenge that dominance by increasing the presence of its naval and air assets in the region. Up till now, vessels of the PLA(N) have had to steam through the sovereign waters of Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines to access the vast ocean. Beijing has been on the lookout for land to develop a naval base in the Southern Pacific Islands in a bid to gain direct access to the ocean. However, this effort has returned little to no results, with the Australians and New Zealanders investing in their backyard to keep out the risk of Pacific states falling to Chinese debt traps.
In the Indian Ocean Region, China has had much more success due to the comparative lack of western assertiveness in the region. The United States and its allies have a high military reach and presence in West, South and Southeast Asia, but have been unable to prevent marginal countries from making consequential deals with Beijing. China’s debt traps intensified some of the harshest accusations about President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative: that the global investment and lending program amounts to a debt trap for vulnerable countries around the world, fuelling corruption and autocratic behaviour in struggling democracies, says Maria Abi-Habib. Sri Lanka and the Maldives (and soon possibly Myanmar) have fallen for such deals with Beijing, handing over the Hambantota port and the Feydhoofinolhu atoll respectively under Chinese authorities’ control as repayment for deferred loans. China’s String of Pearls strategy in the IOR is unfolding with success – slow but steady: From the East African coastline in Djibouti, to a deep-seaport in the Arabian Sea at Gwadar, Pakistan; from the southern port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka to Kyaukpyu in Myanmar and Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh along the Bay of Bengal.
The world has seemed to have taken a Chinese base in eastern Tajikistan with a pinch of salt. No one is asking what China’s intentions really are, being so close to the Afghan border. If it is really to prevent Uyghur escalation in Xinjiang, then one must ask: what is China doing in the autonomous region that it feels can radicalise the Muslim community against the Chinese Communist Party and the state?India’s interests in Central Asia are at risk, with Dushanbe’s Ayni Airbase and Farkhor Airbase being the Indian Air Force’s steppingstone into helping rebuild war-torn Afghanistan.
Perhaps China’s intentions and its outlook toward the world outside of its borders can be summarised into one line: “’Remember’, a Chinese soldier told a reporter nosing around a remote spot in eastern Tajikistan. ‘You never saw us here’”(Eurasia Net 2019).
Abi-Habib, Maria. 2018. How China Got Sri Lanka to Cough Up a Port. 25 June. Accessed August 22, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/25/world/asia/china-sri-lanka-port.html.
BBC. 2018. China’s Xi allowed to remain ‘president for life’ as term limits removed. 11 March. Accessed August 15, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-43361276.
—. 2016. South China Sea: Tribunal backs case against China brought by Philippines. 12 July. Accessed August 19, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-36771749.
—. 2018. US accuses China of pointing lasers at its pilots from Djibouti base. 4 May. Accessed August 20, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-43999502.
Chan, Minnie. 2017. Live-fire show of force by troops from China’s first overseas military base. 25 September. Accessed August 20, 2020. https://web.archive.org/web/20170926034001/http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2112780/live-fire-show-force-troops-chinas-first-overseas.
Dorling, Philip. 2011. Timor rejected Chinese spy offer. 10 May. Accessed August 20, 2020. https://www.smh.com.au/world/timor-rejected-chinese-spy-offer-20110509-1efv1.html.
Eurasia Net. 2019. Tajikistan: Report confirms significant Chinese security presence in Pamirs. 19 February. Accessed August 23, 2020. https://eurasianet.org/tajikistan-report-confirms-significant-chinese-security-presence-in-pamirs.
EurAsian Times Desk. 2020. Can Australia Lose A Strategic Naval Base To China In Papua New Guinea? 12 June. Accessed August 20, 2020. https://eurasiantimes.com/australia-could-lose-strategic-lombrum-naval-base-as-papua-new-guinea-could-review-deal/#:~:text=Australia%20could%20lose%20access%20to,Chinese%20presence%20in%20the%20region.
Francis, Xavier. 2020. Beijing Expanding Presence In Maldives Could Trigger Another Clash Between India, China? 13 May. Accessed August 22, 2020. https://eurasiantimes.com/beijing-expanding-presence-in-maldives-could-trigger-another-clash-between-india-china/.
Goh, Brenda, and Shri Navratnam. 2020. U.S. Navy carrier conducted exercises in South China Sea on Aug. 14. 15 August. Accessed August 15, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-southchinasea-usa-defence/us-navy-carrier-conducted-exercises-in-south-china-sea-on-aug-14-idUSKCN25B065.
Greene, Andrew. 2019. Chinese surveillance near PNG expanding as Australia and US begin Manus Island naval upgrades. 21 April. Accessed August 20, 2020. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-21/china-increases-surveillance-near-png/11028192.
Köllner, Patrick. 2020. Australia and New Zealand Face Up to China in the South Pacific. July. Accessed August 20, 2020. https://www.giga-hamburg.de/en/publication/australia-and-new-zealand-face-up-to-china-in-the-south-pacific.
Manthorpe, Jonathan. 2019. China targeting Pacific isles for strategic bases. 10 June. Accessed August 19, 2020. https://matangitonga.to/2019/06/10/china-targeting-pacific-isles-strategic-bases.
Patranobis, Sutirtho. 2018. Too close for comfort: China to build port in Myanmar, 3rd in India’s vicinity. 9 November. Accessed August 22, 2020. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/china-myanmar-ink-deal-for-port-on-bay-of-bengal-third-in-india-s-vicinity/story-Lbm4IwOMuqrNvXGv4ewuYJ.html.
Perry, Nick. 2019. China Comes to Tonga. 10 July. Accessed August 20, 2020. https://thediplomat.com/2019/07/china-comes-to-tonga/.
PTI. 2018. Sri Lanka rejects US claims, says no Chinese military base at port. 11 October. Accessed August 22, 2020. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/sri-lanka-rejects-us-claims-says-no-chinese-military-base-at-port/articleshow/66163389.cms?from=mdr.
Ramachandran, Sudha. 2020. Has India Won the Match Over the Maldives? 19 August. Accessed August 22, 2020. https://thediplomat.com/2020/08/has-india-won-the-match-over-maldives/.
Shih, Gerry. 2019. In Central Asia’s forbidding highlands, a quiet newcomer: Chinese troops. 18 February. Accessed August 23, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/in-central-asias-forbidding-highlands-a-quiet-newcomer-chinese-troops/2019/02/18/78d4a8d0-1e62-11e9-a759-2b8541bbbe20_story.html.
Sutton, H I. 2020. China’s New High-Security Compound In Pakistan May Indicate Naval Plans. 21 August. Accessed June 2, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/hisutton/2020/06/02/chinas-new-high-security-compound-in-pakistan-may-indicate-naval-plans/#312210a1020f.
—. 2020. Satellite Images Show That Chinese Navy Is Expanding Overseas Base. 10 May. Accessed August 20, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/hisutton/2020/05/10/satellite-images-show-chinese-navy-is-expanding-overseas-base/#21ae60726869.
Zhen, Liu. 2020. China-India border dispute: PLA flexes military muscle with live-fire drill in Tibet. 18 August. Accessed August 19, 2020. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/military/article/3097868/china-india-border-dispute-pla-flexes-military-muscle-live-fire.
India’s Maritime Security Strategy in the ‘Century of Seas’
21st century has been very aptly called the “Century of the Seas”. The core argument of the “Father of Sea Power,” Alfred Thayer Mahan’s- “The Influence of Sea Power” was that the secret to Empire building was the Sea Power or the Naval Strength of a nation. This has been proved repeatedly and still holds a lot of relevance today, specifically for a country like India which possesses a very strong maritime asset having a coastal length of 7516.6 km with world’s second largest peninsular area of 2.07 million sq. km. Regrettably, India has suffered from an intellectual vacuum historically with regards to policy making in the maritime domain in spite of being one of the oldest seafarers in the world, its maritime history dating back to 3000 BC (Indus Valley Civilization). But with the shift in power dynamics from Euro Atlantic to Indo Pacific, it has realized that its geopolitical aspirations cannot be fulfilled without giving the due importance to Maritime domain. The Government certainly thinks that India is ready to explore and expand its maritime domain by not just observing from the shore but by obtaining a larger stake in it.
India’s approach to Maritime security is quite holistic, it is not just about deploying battleships or policing the seas like Britain did in 19th century and China is doing now. Our intentions were made noticeably clear on the international forum when Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high- level debate on maritime security in the United Nations Security Council in the month of August last year. This unanimous adoption of the “Presidential statement” was the UNSC’s first ever outcome document on this theme in which issues like piracy, economic development, marine environment, and illegal fishing were discussed. SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region) initiative taken in 2015, focused on Sustainable use of oceans with cooperative measures. As a part of this policy, our Navy assisted many countries in the Indian Ocean Region in tackling piracies, disaster relief, search and rescue. A framework for security, safety, and stability in the region was the key objective of this mission. India aims to create a holistic and congenial maritime environment for not just its neighbors but for all the international players.
India’s soft power was always ahead of its hard power but for the last decade it has been trying to strike a balance by cautiously and carefully expanding its Maritime Power so that it does not threaten its neighbors while protecting its interests. Indian Navy has stepped up its overseas deployment by securing agreements with other strategically located nations for military access to their bases which include Indonesia’s Sabang Port, Oman’s Duqam port, America’s base at Diego Garcia and French base on reunion island. India has also invested in commercial ports like Chabahar which is under controversy at present but to build a large information radar network and boost cooperation with partners across the region, investment in commercial ports present in countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Seychelles, and Mauritius etc. must be given priority.
To demonstrate its pursuit through interoperability, India has become a part of various bilateral, trilateral, and multilateral partnerships and has drastically improved its Naval Diplomacy. It conducts and participates in a plethora of complex Naval Exercises with countries which share common interests and strategic convergence like UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Vietnam, Britain, Philippines, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Indonesia, Singapore, Brazil, and Quad members. These exercises serve the objective of demonstrating a shared vision of free and open Indo-Pacific. India also hosted the IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) meet where the respective NSAs
discussed and agreed to setup their cooperation around Marine Security in 2021, it also invited these members were also invited to be a part of MILAN 2022 exercise in which more than 40 countries participated. Walter Ladwig argued that Indian Naval Expansion, thus shaping the maritime strategy existing today, involves three things: prevent intrusion from hostile powers, project power based off India’s interests, protection of the SLOCs.
The Naval Strategy forms a major part of Maritime Security Strategy, and the latest Doctrine by the Indian Navy released in 2015 -” Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy” is the revised and updated version of the previously outlined strategy released in 2007- “Freedom to Use the Seas: India’s Maritime Military Strategy”. A bold change in tone and sharpening of India’s Maritime aspirations can be observed. Primary areas of interest as understood from the doctrine involve India’s immediate coastal neighborhood, the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea, the Andaman Sea, the gulfs of Aden and Oman, Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. A significant amount of emphasis is given to the commanding of the sea and controlling of the chokepoints thereby securing the sea lines for open trade and communication. Indian Ocean has a roof over its head, which is not a good thing for a water body because the only entry and exit points in it are through 9 choke points or the navigational constrictions. These can easily give rise to transnational crimes which are dangerous from geostrategic aspect. From developmental aspects in the Indo-Pacific and the Asia-Pacific regions, the major chokepoints to be protected are Strait of Malacca which hosts 50% of world’s merchant fleet capacity, the Bab-el-Mandeb, which has principal oil shipping lanes, and the Strait of Hormuz, 40% seaborne crude oil passes through it.
Secondary area of India’s Strategic Maritime interest includes the South and East China Sea, Southeast Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, the Western Pacific Ocean, Antarctica, and the West coast of Africa. To increase its Naval presence in these areas, India has started pushing towards marine expansion, power projection and naval modernization. India’s maritime force is transitioning into a “building navy” which was previously considered as a “buying navy”, that confirms its alignment with India’s “Make in India” for attaining self-sufficiency and self-reliance. The strategy of modernization and indigenization of the aircraft carriers, frigates, destroyers, submarines, corvettes, combat aircrafts and patrol crafts may sound promising but will only be effective if the delay gaps between the dates of delivery and actual commissioning are reduced. Ensuring Secure Seas states that “in order to ensure sustained presence, the Indian Navy will comprehensively address the twin issues of ‘reach’ and ‘sustainability’ of naval forces.” This will include the concepts of longer operational cycles, mixing the force ratio between strike groups, enhancing logistical support and extending reach through naval air power.
There are many driving actors that influence the changing paradigm of India’s Maritime Security Strategy. The nuclear-powered countries, Pakistan, China, United States, and other non-state actors play a vital role. Pakistan Navy’s face value does not seem to be capable of posing a threat to India, but it does possess sea-based nuclear armament and under-sea warfare elements which present a significant challenge. Just like any other nation in the region, Pakistan also has economic stakes in the Indian Ocean. Typically, it does not have any “Blue-water” aspirations but when combined with the strength of PLAN, it can indeed become formidable to be countered. China, is clearly marching towards becoming the global superpower by directing its energy towards the sea
1 Walter Ladwig, “Drivers of Indian Naval Expansion,” in The Rise of the Indian Navy: Internal Vulnerabilities, External Challenges, ed. Harsh V. Pant (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012), 25.
2 Directorate of Strategy, Concepts and Transformation, Ensuring Secure Seas.
or in theoretical terms following the Mahanian principle. It has exponentially increased its footprint in the Indian Ocean region in recent years which is directly posing a threat to the stability of this area. But the document ‘Ensuring Secure Seas’ see China as a partner in maritime cooperation and not as a threat. According to John Garver, the PLAN has sufficient capability “to seize the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal as an effort to control the Strait of Malacca chokepoint.” In terms of technology, Indian and Chinese navies are equally equipped but India has an advantage in aircraft carriers whereas China in undersea warfare.
US Navy is one of the most powerful navies in the world, and being an economic superpower, Indian Ocean Region is of great strategic concern for US. PRC’s growing relations with Pakistan has strengthened US’s relations with India, it has emerged as a strategic maritime partner. Deals signed between Ministry of Defence, India and American contractors have further built up the cooperative security in the region so even after being capable, US navy certainly does not have the intent to dominate India in the maritime domain. India’s Naval Doctrine has mandated that the “Indian Navy will project combat force in and from the maritime domain, and undertake offensive action for national defence.” This projection of combat force will involve a consolidated effort across the spectrum of maritime warfare to include anti-surface, anti-submarine and anti-air warfare demonstrated from all platforms in the navy’s inventory. The Indian Navy’s aspirations for power projection and sea control are similar in maritime doctrine to the United States, whose proven combat operations at sea can attest to success of said doctrine. This conceptual mirroring will allow for better cooperation among the two maritime nations.
The maritime strategy of a country must be in alignment with the economic and political realities of it. Indian Navy’s new doctrine “Securing the seas” elevates it above its previously assigned ‘Cinderella Service’ role. India has high diplomatic, economic, and military stakes in the Indian Ocean Region. Interestingly, last decade has witnessed the shifting contours of India’s attitude, it has become more aggressive, upfront, and competitive in this domain. India is already a key player and the main security provider in the region, if it sustains the momentum that it has set, China’s assertiveness cannot stop it from becoming the leader in the evolving Maritime architecture.
 Walter Ladwig, “Drivers of Indian Naval Expansion,” in The Rise of the Indian Navy: Internal Vulnerabilities, External Challenges, ed. Harsh V. Pant (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012), 25.
 Directorate of Strategy, Concepts and Transformation, Ensuring Secure Seas.
 Century of the seas- unlocking Indian maritime strategy in 21st century
The Profits Side of the War in Ukraine
The war business is extremely profitable, because governments are willing to spend anything in order to win. In a country such as Russia, where all of the weapons-manufacturing firms are 50%+ owned by (controlled by, and serve) the Government itself, profits are not the main objective, national-defense is; but, in a fully (or nearly fully) capitalist country, such as the U.S. and its allies, the people who control the decisions are actually private investors, and profits are their main (or only) objective; and, so, the controlling investors in ‘defense’ firms hire agents (including politicians) in order to control each of their main markets, which are their own country and the countries that those investors are allied with. Also, in order for their weapons to be able to be used, target-nations are needed, whom those armaments-investors (and their news-media) declare to be their nations’ “enemies” and consequently to be lands that their weapons should be targeted against (if “enemy”) or to defend (if “ally”). Both “allies” and “enemies” are needed, in order for these investors to have a thriving armaments industry; and both “allies” and “enemies” are needed in order for those companies to have markets (their own nation, and its “allies”) and to have targets (the “enemies”). The key here is that in order to maximize the profits of armaments-firms’ investors, they need to control their own Government, because that Government will determine which other nations are also markets (“us”), and which other nations are instead targets (“them,” or “enemies”). These investors therefore need to control, above all, their own Government, in order for them to succeed, to be, themselves, “winners” at the investing-game. These investors also tend to control their nation’s ‘news’media, because those businesses validate the Government’s “allies” and “enemies”; and thereby validate its invasions (so as to pump their weapons-sales). And this is the way that capitalism functions; and it is the way that imperialism (which is a natural adjunct to capitalism, because capitalism serves investors above all — not workers, nor consumers, but specifically investors) has always functioned, in order to produce wars (which serve only the wealthiest).
Perhaps the world’s largest and most effective marketing organization for U.S.-and-allied armaments manufacturers is NATO, but many others (perhaps not so well known) also exist, and sometimes provide more candid information to the public.
Here are relevant highlights from an interview with Ukraine’s Government, at a major recent international trade-show by U.S.-and-allied weapons manufacturers, as published by the trade magazine for America’s armaments-industry, National Defense, whose publisher is the National Defense Industrial Association:
by Stew Magnuson, 15 June 2022
The war-torn nation desperately needs artillery and artillery rounds, but what can truly give it the upper hand over its Russian invaders are long-range precision weapons such as armed Predator drones, loitering munitions and the multiple launch rocket system.
Denys Sharapov, Ukraine’s deputy minister of the defense in charge of procurement, support for weapons and equipment, and Brig. Gen. Volodymyr Karpenko, land forces command logistics commander, spoke with National Defense Editor in Chief Stew Magnuson and other reporters through an interpreter in the Ukraine Ministry of Defense’s booth at the Eurosatory conference in Paris on June 15. …
At Eurosatory this week, you’re meeting a lot of defense companies. What are your expectations since they normally sell through their own countries? What’s the purpose of talking with companies and not countries?
Sharapov: So those are parallel processes. There are constant government negotiations on all levels, diplomatic levels, military levels, ministry-to-ministry — both ministers of foreign affairs, ministers of defense — I believe this is not only an ongoing dialogue, but this is unprecedented dialogue.
It doesn’t matter whether we work with private enterprises or government enterprises, any weapon transfer is made upon the decision of the government. So that’s why we are really hoping for the support of those governments. …
Our readers are about 1,800 corporate members of the defense industrial base in the United States. What message do you have for them? And what do you need from them urgently?
Sharapov: The [Ministry of Defense] is concentrating currently on fulfilling all the needs of the armed forces. You asked a question about needs. First, you have to understand that the frontline is 2,500 kilometers long. The frontline where there is active combat in more than 1,000 kilometers long. That’s like from Kyiv to Berlin. … As of today, all the people in all of our armed forces and within the defense and security sector is up to one million people. And we have to support them all. We have to supply them with small arms, with personal protection gear and with the means of communication. …
We have received a large number of weapon systems, but unfortunately with such a massively expendable resource, it only covers 10 to 15 percent of our needs. We need artillery, we need artillery rounds, infantry fighting vehicles, combat vehicles, tanks. We really need air-defense systems and the multiple launch rocket system.
Also, high-precision weapon systems, because we believe that high-precision weapon systems will give us an edge over the enemy, the upper hand in this war.
There is a debate in the United States about whether to send Ukraine armed Predator drones. How important are they to your fight?
Sharapov: The party that will win in this war will be the party that will first start using contemporary high precision equipment and weapon systems. And those drones that you mentioned, they are a part of the modernized, highly accurate, highly precise, modern equipment. …
As of today, we have approximately 30 to 40, sometimes up to 50 percent of losses of equipment as a result of active combat. So, we have lost approximately 50 percent. Approximately 1,300 infantry fighting vehicles have been lost, 400 tanks, 700 artillery systems. …
Equipment that has gone to the rear of the frontline is maintained solely by Ukrainian specialists that have been trained by different foreign companies for that specific purpose. …
Quite unfortunately for us, we have become the biggest consumer of weapons and ammunition in the world. And we’re hoping to receive support from the entire Europe and the entire world. …
At Eurosatory this week, you’re meeting a lot of defense companies. What are your expectations since they normally sell through their own countries? What’s the purpose of talking with companies and not countries? …
We really expect that the governments we’re cooperating with will fully support their weapons factories in support of Ukraine.
My first Eurosatory was 20 years ago. And all those years Ukraine was a seller of weapons. And this is the first exhibition when instead of being a seller of the weapons, we have become the largest consumer. This is the first year of Eurosatory where we are represented not by our industry, but instead by our ministry of defense, who is the consumer, who is the client, the purchaser of all these weapon systems. …
You can trust us with your weapons, your technologies, to use them to best of our abilities. We know how to use them. We know how to fight a war with them.
And it is largely due to the efforts of the Ukrainian armed forces that many foreign brands are currently on the front pages of newspapers. People are naming their children Javelin.
A good example of how this works is that Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, which is one of America’s leading marketers of U.S. invasions and wars; and his Amazon Web Services subsidiary supplies the cloud-computing services to the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and entire Intelligence Community; so, he, himself (as Amazon’s top stockholder), is a major U.S. Government contractor. Subscribers to news-media in America are paying subscription fees in order to be inundated constantly with propaganda to increase the sales by contractors to the U.S. Government. The controlling investors derive part of their wealth (in Bezos’s case, a major part of it) from their Government, and another part of their wealth from selling to the subscribers to (and advertisers in) their publications and news-networks the propaganda that will cause the U.S. public to vote for their preferred political candidates and against the ones that those investors don’t prefer. This makes the entire operation “democratic,” even if the winning candidates of each of the two political Parties — both candidates — back even larger ‘defense’ expenditures by the one government in the world, the U.S. Government, that already spends approximately half of the entire world’s costs for ‘defense’.
The United States Government, and the Governments in Europe, don’t have enough money to protect the health of their people, and to provide the educational systems that they need, and to reduce crime, and to maintain and improve the infrastructure for them, but instead are prioritizing weapons-production, in order to defeat Russia on the battlefield of Ukraine, which borders Russia. That is their top priority. Ukraine has threatened Russia ever since Obama’s coup there in 2014. That was the opening round of World War III. Ukraine is an authentic national-security interest of Russia, because it’s on Russia’s doostep. That’s why Obama grabbed it. But Ukraine isn’t an authentic national-security interest of the United States, nor even of other nations in Europe. None of them were not only on Russia’s border but couped by the U.S. Government in 2014 and thereby transformed from being neutral to being rabidly anti-Russian. Russia struck back on 24 February 2022, which precipitated the current explosive boom for U.S.-and-allied armaments firms and their investors. Those investors are being well served by their Governments. But those nations’ publics are not. Is this democracy? Or is it instead fascism? Will one find reliable, trustworthy, evidence on that matter, in the newsmedia to which one has subscribed? In a time of war, should one seek-out to access, on a regular basis, especially newsmedia from countries that one’s own Government labels as being “enemies”? In a capitalist country, how can a person intelligently seek-out truth regarding international relations? It’s a real problem. Therefore, it is a problem that’s ridiculed (as ‘conspiracy theory’ or such) by all of the mainstream media in those countries. Sometimes, some things are too true to be publishable within the mainstream. That’s especially common in a dictatorship. Anyway, it is the case in U.S.-and-allied countries today.
The New Nuclear Arms Race
Nuclear weapons are currently an international security issue. Lessons learned from past events have contributed to a global fear of such weapons. Simultaneously current events are indicating a global trend in nuclear proliferation, especially among powerful actors. States in possession of nuclear weapons are focusing on developing their nuclear capabilities and expanding their programs. Why is that so? Why are states still building nuclear weapons? Are these states conscious of the dangerous consequences involved? Are we experiencing the threat of a nuclear war?
In this paper, we will first define the term nuclear proliferation since it is key to understanding the different aspects of international security. Next, we will look at the different existing models explaining the current trend of nuclear proliferation and link these models to past events. Eventually, we will try to understand the recent developments in the field of international insecurity and analyze whether there is currently an international source of a nuclear threat.
It is important to understand the term nuclear proliferation. To do so, we need to define “proliferation”. The Cambridge Dictionary offers the following definition: “the fact of something increasing a lot and suddenly in number or amount“ (Cambridge Dictionary 2022). To simplify this definition, proliferation can be understood as “growth and propagation” (Rizky 2022).
So, what is nuclear proliferation? Nuclear proliferation is “a spectrum of possible activities related to the exploration, pursuit, or acquisition of nuclear weapons by states” (Rizky 2022). Therefore, it refers to the sudden rise in the number of weapons in circulation. Indeed, powerful states are focusing on developing their nuclear capabilities by building new weapons, perfecting their capability to build such weapons as well as investing financially in nuclear technology and its sophistication.
The main actors currently owning nuclear weapons are Russia, the United States, China, North Korea, Pakistan, India, Israel, France, and the United Kingdom (SIPRI 2021). However, not all of them are taking part in this pursuit of nuclear proliferation.
Reasons for the proliferation of nuclear weapons
Now that the meaning of nuclear proliferation is clear, another question emerges. Why do states still build nuclear weapons? International relations studies often offer an “obvious answer” to this question. Namely the idea of national security. States justify the building of nuclear weapons to ensure their national security in case of an external military threat. It is assumed that no alternative can guarantee their national security like nuclear weapons do (Sagan 1996).
However, this is an important question regarding the current global events and needs a more precise explanation. It is necessary to have a wide range of possible answers to envision the future of international security and its potential nuclear threat.
The answers can be divided into four different categories, respectively models. Namely the Security Model, which refers to the simple and basic answer found in most studies. The second one is the Norms Model, followed by the Domestic Politics Model and finally the Model we will be referring to as the Technological Race Model (Sagan 1996).
In Sagan’s article “Why Do States Build Nuclear Weapons?” (Sagan 1996), he explains the three first models mentioned above. The first model refers to a state’s response to an external threat. States that have the financial resources, build nuclear weapons because it seems to be the safest option to ensure their national security. Weak states, however, states that could not invest in such expensive weapons, have the option to join alliances, such as an alliance with a nuclear power that would become an ally in case of a nuclear threat (Sagan 1996).
Under this category, I believe there is also the idea of international anarchy. A powerful state hearing about another one building a nuclear weapon might consider this as a sign of potential threat. George Shultz explains this phenomenon as “Proliferation begets proliferation” (Shultz 1984).
Indeed, the proliferation started by one state will encourage another one to do the same and therefore take part in this nuclear proliferation as well (Sagan 1996). This phenomenon can be perceived as a post-war strategic reaction. In World War II the United States launched nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These events provoked the current trend of nuclear proliferation. The USSR, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, and Pakistan all reacted in a similar way. They invested in the development of nuclear weapons, widened their nuclear capabilities, and intensified their national research in nuclear technology (Rizky 2022).
This leads us to the next model, namely the Norms Model. Sagan explains this category as followed: “Nuclear weapons decisions are made because weapons acquisition, or restraint in weapons development, provides an important normative symbol of a state’s modernity and identity“ (Sagan 1996).
Indeed, nuclear weapons nowadays are a symbol of prestige and power. Therefore, powerful states follow this unwritten, international norm to ensure their global recognition. They take part in this nuclear proliferation race to show what they are financially and technologically capable of.
Sagan argues that the symbol of possessing nuclear weapons is similar to the symbol of a state’s Olympic team or national airline. In some states, national airlines are established more to demonstrate their technological capabilities and valuable human capital of scientists than to offer an additional domestic mode of transportation (Sagan 1996).
I believe this is also the motivation behind the third model of Technological Race. Globally, the United States (US) has been recognized as the leader in advanced technology and artificial intelligence. Especially when looking at Silicon Valley and its potential. Nonetheless, in the past few years, the US has been caught up by China, which has now become its biggest competitor. This indeed provoked the US to invest even more in its research and that is exactly what it did in its nuclear technology sector (Rizky 2022).
As we can see, this model refers to one country’s whole image as a leader in technology. But, this is only the case from a technological perspective. There exists another model from a political perspective, namely the Domestic Politics Model.
This category demonstrates nuclear proliferation as a tool to ensure domestic political interest. Not necessarily national interest, but the personal interest of at least one politician respectively, one political actor. Indeed, it could be the military influencing a political decision to get a larger national defense budget and acquire nuclear weapons. In such a case, the perception of an external threat could be worsened to promote the necessity of nuclear weapons (Sagan 1996).
For decades, the world has been focusing on disarmament and reducing the number of nuclear weapons in circulation. Especially the main actors mentioned above were dedicated to promoting different treaties to avoid the spread. However, these public announcements, coming from wealthy, powerful nations in possession of such arms are contradictory to the current trend in nuclear proliferation (Al Jazeera 2022).
Even more surprising is the fact that the idea of disarmament has suddenly disappeared after the Russian attack on Ukraine. In fact, in a matter of months, actors in possession of nuclear weapons have announced to invest in nuclear arms in order to increase, modernize and optimize their arsenal. Countries that wanted to get rid of nuclear arms are now putting strong importance on the capability of their weapons. Russia’s threat of using nuclear weapons against Ukraine has provoked a common global reaction to get ready for potential danger (Al Jazeera 2022).
Therefore, it seems like Russia’s war has already activated a nuclear proliferation trend, stronger and faster than in the past decades. A new nuclear arms race has started, altough this time it is not about technological capability and artificial intelligence. This time it is about being prepared and ready for a potential attack from a country possessing the world’s largest nuclear arsenal (Hille 2022).
To conclude, the Russian attack on Ukraine has provoked large, powerful nations to rush toward the development and modernization of their nuclear arms. This reaction has not only accelerated the proliferation of nuclear weapons but also created a threatening environment.
Nevertheless, I believe there will not be a World War III, even if Russia threatens to use its arsenal against Europe, because too much is at stake. The world is aware of the catastrophic consequences a nuclear attack can cause and has learned from the past lessons. Putin’s behavior is his way of showing the world how powerful he is, what resources he owns, and what he is capable of. There is no need for fear since his announcements are pure arrogance and bluff.
The large nations who joined the nuclear arms race are reacting to his threats as the world expects them to. Namely, appearing to act, preparing, and making sure their arsenal could be operated at any time, even if they are not sincerely planning on doing so. Governments expect to reassure their population by taking action and guaranteeing national security.
Therefore, the reason this nuclear arms race is happening is due to Russia’s threat of nuclear attack and led to international governments taking actions such as discussed in the Domestic Politics Model.
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