Much of the consequences of Putin’s war in Ukraine will, of course, not manifest immediately but rather gradually. However, at least one major change is becoming apparent and noticeable, and this is re-emergence of Germany in global geopolitics. Looking back at the past, Germany has always been a lion of Europe, indeed a powerful and formidable force, even one that is regarded to be able to contend with the ambitious Russia. To be sure, this country famed for its refined industries has been, historically speaking, the only continental power feared by Russia. Compared with Germany, other European countries are more akin to jesters before the Goliath that is Russia.
Now, Putin has awakened the giant force known as Germany. Before that, this force had been in dormant for decades after the end of the Cold War.
In Germany now, tens of thousands of people gathered in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, some holding placards that read “Russia Hands Off Ukraine”, “Putin! You Need Therapy!” and the like. Such zealous spirit of the Germans has never been higher. Europe shares the same sentiment against Russia and this can be seen in major cities in Europe, from Rome to Prague, from Istanbul to Madrid, or from Paris to London. The solidarity born out of loathing against Putin’s Russia is unprecedented in the history of modern Europe.
Noteworthily, just a few weeks ago, the Germans’ attitude towards the influence of Russia on Europe was more or less restrained, hence such change within a short time is something worth pondering.
During the Merkelian era, Germany and Russia had the largest, most enduring, and closest energy relationship in Europe. German politicians chose Russia, whose energy exports to Germany, mainly natural gas, oil and coal, have become the mainstay of the German economy. In 2021, Germany’s natural gas use reached 100 billion cubic meters, and Russia provided half of the supply. In January-October 2021, 34% of Germany’s crude oil came from Russia, and 53% of the hard coal received by German power plants and steelmakers also came from there. German politicians have long tied the country’s world status to Russia, and this has led to dangerous dependence.
Yet even in the West, no one denies the existence of such “dangerous dependence”, the question is how should it be dealt with. Angela Merkel’s governing forces had long adopted a compromising approach that mixes factors such as geopolitical skills, personal friendships, Putin’s European preferences and the European Dream. This was done so with the hope that disaster would not happen, or could be delayed. For the same reason, the new German government, which inherited Merkel’s legacy, was reluctant to take actions that might offend Russia after the crisis in Ukraine erupted. When other European countries were sending anti-tank missiles and other armaments to support Ukraine, Germany merely sent 5,000 helmets. When countries around the world agreed to cut off Russia’s SWIFT system, the only country in Europe that opposed such move was Germany. On the top of that, there were other issues that have not been resolved in the German-American diplomacy long before the war. Germany’s attitude remained the same, as if the collective mind of the nation is solidified. It appeared that such development of Germany was what Russia wanted it to be.
Then, Putin just helped solving the issues that politicians in the West could not handle for so long.
Putin’s irrational assault of Ukraine sparked outrage in the world and changed the how the Germans think, who finally realized and acknowledged Ukraine’s relationship with Europe. They now know that Germany cannot always keep Ukraine as the gatekeeper of Europe, without paying the cost. This is especially true after seeing the war in Ukraine, the scenarios of a future Europe with burning villages and towns, where rockets and missiles soaring through its skylines and where battle tanks roaming about through its streets become real and possible. The proud Europe has now realized the daunting challenge that it has to face now. This is the time that regardless how big the economic cost is, it will have to be the secondary consideration. The Germans are finally waking up.
The German government immediately reversed its prior decisions and agreed to cut off Russia’s SWIFT system, even if it could lead to inflation and energy price problems. Germany also immediately took risky arms transfers, sending the largest batch of high-grade military equipment in Europe to Ukraine. The information I saw was that there were 1,000 anti-tank missiles and 500 anti-aircraft missiles, and these are unprecedented numbers. Theoretically, the number of these anti-aircraft missiles is enough to knock down Russia’s air force on the Ukrainian front twice.
This is certainly a welcoming shift in Germany for the West, but bigger changes are yet to come. Far-reaching and historic geopolitical transformation are taking place in the country, so to speak. Germany announced on February 27 that it would strengthen its military, committing an armed forces fund of USD 113 billion, and keep its defense spending above 2% of GDP from now on. For military spending to exceed 2% of GDP is a long-standing requirement of the U.S. government, as it has been done in at least two U.S. administrations. Yet, Germany had always been reluctant to do the same. They had since enjoyed a long quiet time in the comfort zone after the end of the Cold War, developing the economy and promoting the arts. Now that it is all over, the Germans have risen from their slumber.
The German army not only has a long history, but historically it was also the one with the largest scale. During the Cold War, the German army was the second largest in NATO. At that time, the military strength of West Germany was three times that of East Germany. Moreover, the German army has never lacked technology. Even today, even the U.S. military has to import German arms from tanks to missiles, from guns and ammunition. The re-emergence of German army will be a terrible force of the world’s mainland island in the future.
What happens in Germany could very well happen in the rest of Europe, even in the ever-moderate Sweden and Finland. They may rearm themselves, with NATO, to bring about a wave of post-Cold War rearmament in Europe, thereby completely changing the geopolitical pattern of the world. All these could be what the result of the war in Ukraine.
Putin has aroused a force, one that was a ruling power on the mainland island of the world, and one that had captured 5.75 million Soviet troops during World War II. It is this force that the Russian President has caused to break from its past to face its present. Therefore, even if Putin takes the whole Ukraine, he will lose Europe.
A war where the machine decides who to kill! (LAWs wars)
Which country wants to be attacked by an AI-controlled system with no one in command? Which country wants their soldiers to be killed by an autonomous machine, and potentially, some civilians by mistake? The answer is evidently no one! No country wants that. But which country intends to possess such weapons, then the answer is more ambiguous. The last report of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) reflects this. After a week (25-29 July) of discussion at the Palais des Nations, UN Geneva, the adopted report is hollowed without meaningful conclusion or commitments.
Lethal autonomous weapons
Lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs) are military system that can autonomously search for and engage targets based on programmed constraints and descriptions. LAWs are also known as killer robots.
Autonomous weapons have existed for many years; for example, land mines trigger and kill or an injury without any human action. With emerging technology, including AI, we understand the interest of certain states to include these technologies in weapons to improve their autonomy. Since the 70s, the US has used the Phalanx CIWS, which can autonomously identify and attack incoming missiles. With AI, its capacities are considerably increased! Continuing with the example of mines, Russia’s anti-personnel mines of the POM-3 type are particularly deadly. They are disseminated in the land of operations but do not explode immediately. When activated, they rise in the air before exploding and causing multiple ravages, which can be fatal within a radius of 16 meters. Equipped with sensors and software, they choose their target, when they explode or not, depending on the identity of the people or equipment that approach. There are, unfortunately, so many other systems that will be too long to cite here. To conclude this part, in Libya in 2020, a Kargu 2 drone hunted down and attacked a human target. According to a report from the UN Security Council’s Panel of Experts on Libya, published in March 2021. This may have been the first time an autonomous killer robot armed with lethal weaponry attacked human beings. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_robot]
We quickly understand all potential ethical and legal issues. Autonomous systems can make mistakes; who is responsible then? Like mine killed millions of civilians, new systems may have bias and kill unstintingly, with no one to stop them. The range of potential problems is extensive.
A slow-downed convention
For nine years, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons or CCW, also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention, has tried to regulate it with its GGE. For the most ambitious, it would be a question of agreeing on a treaty, or another international instrument, which would guarantee the prohibition that a weapon can operate autonomously, i.e., without the intervention of human supervision. Many Latin Americans, and European states are now advocating for this outright ban. The answer is less clear-cut for other states, including the USA. They consent to the prohibition of specific weapon systems as well as to a certain regulation but refuse a binding legal framework. Finally, Russia is slowing down all negotiations and reducing its content.
Russia and the game of consensus
A majority of States are now convinced of the need to act significantly, even asking for more days to debate in 2023. But the main problem is the rule of consensus, which prohibits any discussion breakthrough”.
Many little disagreements, for instance, delegations, wasted time discussing whether the CCW is an appropriate forum or the only appropriate forum for dealing with the issue of autonomous weapons.
These discussions have even been theatrical when Russia attacked many times the presence of civil societies to limit their intervention and participation in informal meetings. It was a tool to slow down the discussion, focusing the debate on organizational points. At the same time, we can also be afraid that this Russian posture is appearing in others GGEs. Meanwhile, some other states, like Israel and India, are discrete and do not oppose it. They probably use this condition to their advantage. Russia is doing all the work for them.
Therefore with the refusal of a few states, all the details about elements and possible measures for an agreement on autonomous weapons were removed. All conclusions about what kinds of control are necessary, and possible processes to achieve that control, were taken out. The present conclusions section just outlines the types of proposals discussed, recognizes ethical perspectives, and repeats the respect for international humanitarian law. It confirms then that states are responsible for wrongful acts in accordance with international law [link to report], so no new laws.
Not only are the conclusions disappointing, but the way the discussion was carried out was disappointing, and the mandate for 2023 remains uncertain.
We can not wait on CCW, the urgency of the problem is too critical.
The slow process is to the advantage of countries using these technologies. The Russian POM-3 mines, for instance, have been used in Ukraine, accordingly to Human Right Watch. The development and deployment by Russia and other countries will continue as long as no agreement is reached. LAWs have to be outlaws! And the CCW seems not to be anymore the right platform.
Escalating Big Power Contestation on Taiwan: Can It Lead to War?
Xi Jinping is seeking to hide his humiliation over US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. His premature and unjustifiable warning to the US about the visit caused him embarrassment, and Pelosi’s purposeful visit after the warning not only hyped it, but humiliated him. China is using its Three Warfare Concept which entails public opinion warfare, psychological warfare, and legal warfare along with aggressive military posturing, air violations, firepower power exhibition and some symbolic economic boycott of Taiwan, thus creating heightened tension around Taiwan as a face saving exercise to amuse its domestic constituency. China is attempting to turn it as an opportunity to stoke national sentiments in favour of Xi Jinping on ‘Anti America’ theme highlighting Chinese mutilated version of his heroics to ensure that he doesn’t lose out on his third term in the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) later this year.
The US side has likewise been under similar pressures. Following the announcement of Pelosi’s visit and the contentious debate between President Xi Jinping and Joe Biden, the US found itself in a difficult situation. The USA was unable to cancel the trip in response to Xi’s warning because doing so would have indicated that Joe Biden was caving in to Chinese pressure. This would have been catastrophic for the Biden Administration, which is already struggling to recover from the disaster in Afghanistan and the difficulties brought on by the Russia-Ukraine War. Although the visit was a risky move, it is still unclear whether the US will follow it up by replacing strategic ambiguity with strategic clarity to support Taiwan in any prospective Chinese attack or not.
Can it Lead to War?
With unprecedented military posturing by China, live missile fire East of Taiwan close to its coastline, and US aircraft carrier and maritime forces located not too far, the situation is tense and prone to accidental trigger causing escalation. It does not make any strategic sense for China to invade Taiwan, as it has all the negatives except false bravado, with bright chances of loss of face globally and domestically, in case the operations fail; hence, likely to contend with activities short of war.
Chinese strategist Qiao Liang, a retired PLA Air Force Major General, has warned that taking Taiwan by force is ‘Too Costly’. Chinese redline of “Taiwan going nuclear/declaring independence” has not been crossed as yet, giving no justification for China to cross US red line of ‘Changing status Quo by Force’. Xi Jinping may find it too costly to take such a risk before sealing his third term. The military drills near Taiwan have been conducted by Taiwan and US also in past and the much publicised blockade of Taiwan through military drills, if prolonged may invite similar military drills by US and other democracies in Malacca Strait too, to block Chinese Sea Lines of Communication, beyond the realm of optics of the current Chinese aggressive posture, and it is well aware of this vulnerability.
Taiwanese President Tsai has bravely given bold statements during visit of Speaker Pelosi and earlier to take on Chinese aggression. Taiwan with its national spirit, modern arsenal from US, determined armed forces and US backing is unlikely to give a walkover, although the first onslaught of potential offensive will have to be borne by it, till global response gets activated. Comparisons are being made with Hong Kong, but the major differences is that leadership, hierarchy in Hong Kong and police was manipulated by CCP, whereas the leadership in Taiwan is strong and resolute refusing to give in to Chinese coercion. The need for amphibious assault due to terrain friction makes Chinese misadventure in Taiwan more difficult than Hong Kong.
Chinese amphibious capabilities to capture Taiwan are suspect, more so if US warships like the USS Ronald Reagan are around. China has enough missile arsenals to destroy Taiwan, but such a massive destruction of Han Chinese (95 percent of Taiwanese population is Han), who have relations, investments and inseparable linkages with their relatives in mainland and vice versa will not go well with domestic population of mainland. Over two million Taiwanese live in China, mostly in Coastal areas, and over 20 per cent have married there.
This will also destroy Chinese and Taiwanese economy, which does not suit Chinese leadership struggling to revive its economy marred by trade war, failing BRI and COVID effect. China is top destination for Taiwanese export accounting for approximately 40% of total exports, with Taiwan having overall trade surplus of US$104.7 billion in 2021 with China.
A public opinion poll in Taiwan in 2020 indicated 73 percent people identified themselves as Taiwanese, who were against China, and 77 percent supported democratic movement in Hongkong and this figure has increased in last two years. Getting Taiwanese under its wings will also bring a fresh democratic wave in China, which CCP may not be used to handle. Taiwanese people do not want to sacrifice their democratic freedom and prosperity, which is the main reason for success of President Tsai. The conflict if imposed by China will be deadly and Chinese, who want to win without fighting are not known for their appetite to accept body bags of Han Chinese, for a cause which doesn’t give them economic benefit but takes it away its dream of national rejuvenation, as indicated by General Qiao.
Why Taiwan is a US-China Issue?
PRC may keep claiming Taiwan to be its domestic issue, but it has much greater external dimensions. Diplomatically US may claim to follow ‘One China Policy’ but it treats Taiwan no less than an ally. The Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act of 2019, effective from March 26, 2020 is an indication. The Taiwan Relation Act,1973, Taiwan Travel Act signed 2019, and National Defence Authorisation Act signed earlier this year to facilitate sale of state of the art weaponry and joint exercises justify the statement. US will always like to trade and strategically partner with democratic Taiwan outside Beijing’s influence, and not Taiwan under CCP.
In any potential invasion of Taiwan, the spill over of the battle space to Japan is obvious due to geographic proximity, an ally which US is obligated to protect. Chinese initial offensive can be on Taiwan, but US could join forces with its allies in the region to use their sea and air advantages to cut off Beijing’s maritime lifeline in and outside South China Sea. Chinese supply lines outside Nine dash line are still vulnerable to choking, and it will draw out PLA to get into war outside its comfort Zone. Taking Taiwan by force, therefore involves mobilisation of all its combat resources, expecting an escalation from limited war to an all-out war, as the operation amounts to crossing US redline of “No Change in Status Quo of Taiwan”. Economically Chinese heavy reliance on the US dollar is far from over, and such a war over Taiwan would be a massive economic blow to China, that would see capital flooding out, and companies moving of the country, much sooner than it thought.
If Chinese aggressive posturing, air incursions and military drills announced for four days end as scheduled without escalation, may be that situation may still remain under control, as US and Taiwan have also done military drills in that region earlier. If it escalates into an attempt to unite Taiwan by force, it will certainly up the ante with US, prove China as irresponsible bully, may lead to loss of life of Han Chinese both ways, lead to economic destruction of its one of the largest investors and jeopardise China’s goal of national rejuvenation. Internationally, China may have miscalculated US resolve and Taiwan’s resistance and all may not go their way. If Chinese ambitions grow beyond global tolerance, it has bright chances to bring rest of the world against China. While the visit of Nancy Pelosi may have given a strong message to China, but the US resolve is still under test, because Taiwan can’t be expected to handle Chinese aggression alone, more so if it has been hyped by super power contestation. US therefore must consider starting similar military exercise in Malacca Strait with other navies to remind China of its vulnerable SLOC before it starts blocking Taiwanese shipping.
The aggressive posturing in Taiwan Strait, South and East China Sea will continue, even if the current crisis slows down. PRC’s aim is to pressurise President Tsai Not to declare independence, keep pressure on, hope DPP loses next election and work out favourable arrangements with opposition likely to be favourable to China. Neither China nor US want war, but none wants to give walkover as well, hence this strategic gaming and posturing is on and will continue.
Why would a peaceful country join NATO?
NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is a security alliance between Europe and North America. It was established in the 1949 having goals of protecting democratic freedom but its sole purpose was to counter any future aggression from the Soviet Union and hence this organization was anti-Soviet accord that established the balance of power in Europe. Under the Article 5 of NATO it obliges all member states to protect each other in state of war, this allowed the NATO member states to share their military capabilities and pool their resources in time of attack or invasion. Besides having collective security goals and containing USSR, NATO served as an engine to democratization. NATO clearly was a threat to the sovereignty of USSR and to counter Soviet Union formed the Warsaw Pact, Moscow had all the reasons to justify formation of this pact. After the Berlin wall fell and Soviet Union disintegrated, Germany was faced by a serious question of whether to join NATO or the Warsaw pact. The US President made an offer to Russian President, suggesting that if Germany joined NATO, NATO would stop its expansion. Moscow bought this offer and demolished the Warsaw pact hoping that the west would follow suit that NATO too would dissolve. NATO continued its expansionist process and included ex-Soviet republics as well. The Russian President Putin on many instances asked NATO that against whom this expansion intended to. An organization initially targeted towards countering a country is now getting so close to them that there intensions can even be sniffed from the border, is causing a security dilemma. The war in Ukraine is the living example that US did not do as promise, a stab in the back of Russia. This act is clearly a proactive one and number of US’s political analyst opposed this step.
Ukraine being a sovereign country and knowing its history with Russia still wants to join and the question rises, why? Well Ukraine has become a country just like Afghanistan or Vietnam where the two world powers can have their proxy wars. Former Ukrainian presidents either supported to join NATO or opposed it under the influence of these foreign powers. Joining NATO means taking side with the western power and this would seriously be taken as a treat by Russia, as NATO is an organization that talks about collective security with the help of its military alliance. Why Ukraine wants it? Was Ukraine threatened by the Russians of any invasion or were they forced by the western powers to join? What benefits Ukraine would have after joining NATO?
To answer the above questions one must first understand that situation of security dilemma exits between Ukraine and Russia and to assure its security Ukraine needed backup in the form of NATO. Moscow has adopted a policy toward Ukraine and Belarus throughout Putin’s term in power based on the presumption that each former Soviet country’s national identities are artificial and thus brittle. Vladimir Putin frequently exhibits what historians refer to as the “politics of eternity,” in order to restore the lost essence of the Soviet Empire. One of the reasons why Ukraine needed security assurance. This was only possible if a state stronger than Russia supported and formed alliance with Ukraine, hence Ukraine turned towards joining NATO.
Now that Russia has annexed Ukraine, it clearly depicts the Russian insecurity as well in context with the Western imperialist nature. The people of Ukrainian are still in state of shock as to why Ukraine, a peace loving country wants to join an organization that is more in to waging war rather than building cooperation and peace. The Ukrainian President, Zelensky, recently posed for a Vogue magazine depicting in the background the war torn Ukraine, receiving a major backlash questioning whether all this is just a good background for a cover magazine.
Politics of Pakistan: A Riot or an Opportunity
On 14th August, 1947 Pakistan appeared on the world map as the largest independent Muslim state of that time. Sixty-five...
COVID- a way forward with Sustainability & Biodiversity
Since the onset of the COVID- 19 pandemic, a new unprecedented situation has arisen many new challenges including social, health,...
Seventy-Five Years of India’s Independence
If anyone had asked Jawaharlal Nehru as he made his midnight speech on August 15 and freedom dawned, how he...
‘Immensely bleak’ future for Afghanistan unless massive human rights reversal
The international community must dramatically increase efforts to urge the de facto authorities in Afghanistan to adhere to basic human...
The Policy of Sanctions and the Golden Horde Legacy
The modern policy of sanctions resembles, to some extent, the management practices of the Mongol Golden Horde. One of its elements was a system of labels...
What Is a Sovereign State?
Against the backdrop of the rapid collapse of the US-led world order, the question of which states will survive in...
IAEA: ‘Very alarming’ conditions at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
The situation at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has deteriorated rapidly to the point of becoming “very alarming,” Director General...
Middle East4 days ago
An updated Chinese strategy towards the Arab region: Evidence from Saudi Arabia
Energy4 days ago
Mozambique Risks Economic Stability if it Purchases Russian Oil
Economy4 days ago
What Is Stopping Economic Development Across The Free World?
Economy4 days ago
Another Sri Lanka?: Pakistan’s Economic Crisis
Defense4 days ago
A war where the machine decides who to kill! (LAWs wars)
World News4 days ago
Nuclear-free Mongolia a ‘symbol of peace in a troubled world’
Reports3 days ago
Vietnam’s Economy Forecast to Grow 7.5% in 2022
Southeast Asia3 days ago
Myanmar: Crimes against humanity committed systematically