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We are at war with the West. The European security order is illegitimate



Sergey Karaganov has served as a presidential advisor in the Kremlin both under Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. He is still considered close to Russia’s president and foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. His recent proposals on Russian-speaking minorities in the “near abroad” are known as “Putin doctrine” and Professor Karaganov, who is honorary chair of the Moscow think tank the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, was first to come out publicly about an all-out invasion of Ukraine in 2019. President Putin has mentioned on Feb. 24 that Ukraine’s accession to NATO warrants Russia’s military intervention to prevent it. However, Ukraine didn’t even have a Membership Action Plan for NATO and Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz clearly stated accession was many, many years off.

How can an attack be justified on such grounds?

«For 25 years people like myself have said that NATO expansion would lead to war. Putin said several times that if it came to Ukraine becoming a member of NATO, there would be no Ukraine anymore. In Bucharest in 2008 there was a plan of quick accession of Ukraine and Georgia to NATO. It was blocked by the efforts of Germany and France, but since that time Ukraine has been integrated into NATO. It was pumped up by weaponry and its troops were trained by NATO, their army getting stronger and stronger day by day. In addition we saw a very rapid increase of neo-Nazi sentiment especially among the military, the society and the ruling elite. It was clear that Ukraine had become something like Germany around 1936-1937. The war was inevitable, they were a spearhead of NATO. We made the very hard decision to strike first, before the threat becomes deadlier».

But Ukraine was not about to become a member of NATO, not for at least many, many years. There was time to negotiate.
«We have heard all kinds of promises by Western leaders throughout these 30 years. But they lied to us or they forgot about their promises. We were told at the beginning that NATO would not expand».

How can you think a non-nuclear medium-sized country like Ukraine would ever attack a nuclear giant like Russia? And how can you think this is a Nazi country with a Jewish president elected with over 70% of the votes?
«Ukraine was being built by the US and other NATO countries as a spearhead, maybe of aggression or at least of military pressure, to bring NATO’s military machine closer to the heart of Russia. We can see now how well their forces had been preparing for a war. And Nazis were not only about killing jews. Nazism is about supremacy of one nation over another. Nazism is humiliation of other nations. The regime and the society in Ukraine were going very much like Germany in the 1930s».

You say that NATO promised never to enlarge to the East and Russia was cheated on that. But former Warsaw Pact countries requested to be included in NATO themselves. And Russia signed up to the Founding Act on Russia-NATO relations in 1997, accepting NATO enlargement. No cheating there.
«It was the biggest mistake of Russia’s foreign policy in the last 30 years. I fought against it, because the Founding Act of 1997 legitimized further NATO expansion. But we signed it because we were desperately poor and we still were trusting in the wisdom of our partners. President Yeltsin probably thought that we would sneak between drops of rain, to no avail. As for NATO, it was formed as a defensive alliance. But when the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia was weak, I was shocked when I saw the rape of Serbia in 1999. Then we had an absolutely atrocious war in Iraq waged by most of the NATO members and then we had another clear-cut aggression in Libya, always by NATO. So we do not trust words. But we know that article 5 of NATO, stating that an attack on a NATO member is an attack to all, doesn’t work. There is no automatic guarantee that NATO would come to the defense of a member under attack. Please read article 5 of the Treaty. But this enlargement is an enlargement of the aggressive alliance. It’s cancer and we wanted to stop this metastasis. We have to do it by a surgical operation. I regret we were unable to prevent such an outcome».

We all agree the Iraq war was illegitimate and was a very serious mistake. Corriere della Sera came out against that war at the time. But one grave mistake doesn’t justify a second grave mistake. And the US people could elect a new leader, Obama, that was against the Iraq war and changed American policy. Can Russians have an opportunity to do the same?
«I don’t think that in the foreseeable future we will have any change of power in Russia, because we are fighting a war of survival. This is a war with the West and people are regrouping around their leader. This is an authoritarian country and the leadership is always very attentive to the moods of the people. But I don’t see real signs of opposition. Also, in the US or else nobody was really punished for the war in Iraq, so we have our doubts about the effectiveness of democracy».

Your parallels don’t seem to match. In Libya, Ghaddafi was bombing protest demonstrations from the sky. NATO enforced a no-fly zone that had been called for by a UN Security Council resolution and Russia did not veto it.
«Yes. At that time we believed the reassurances of our Western partners. But then we saw a clear-cut aggression devastating the country. That led us toward total distrust of Western countries, and especially of NATO».

As for the intervention in Yugoslavia in 1999, it was made to stop a war that led to over 10,000 deaths and a UN tribunal charged Milosevic for war crimes, deportation and crimes against humanity.
«The massive killings in former Yugoslavia happened after the NATO’s rape of Serbia. People were killed on all sides. It was a civil war. It was an unspeakable aggression. And the Milosevic trial was a sad and humiliating show by petty people trying to rationalize their previous mistakes if not crimes».

It was a UN tribunal, not a EU tribunal.«We don’t acknowledge the right of that tribunal».

You said that the real war now is against Western expansion. What do you mean?
«We saw Western expansion happening, we see Russophobia in the West reaching levels like antisemitism between the world wars. So war was already becoming likely. And we saw deep pisions and structural problems within Western societies, so we believed that anyway a war was more and more likely. So the Kremlin decided to strike first. Also, this military operation will be used to restructure Russian elite and Russian society. It will become a more militant-based and national-based society, pushing out non-patriotic elements from the elite».

The bottom line question is: Mussolini did not recognize the international order that emerged from the Versailles Treaty in 1919. Does the Kremlin recognize the legitimacy of the European order that emerged from the fall of the Berlin Wall? Do you think this order is legitimate?«We should not recognize the order that was built against Russia. We tried to integrate in it but we saw it was a Versailles system number 2. I wrote that we had to destroy it. Not by force, but through constructive destruction, through refusal to participate in it. But after the last demand to stop NATO was again rejected, it was decided to use force».

So the overall goal of this war is to overturn the presence of NATO in central and eastern European countries?
«We see that most of the institutions are, in our view, one-sided and illegitimate. They are threatening Russia and Eastern Europe. We wanted fair peace, but the greed and stupidity of the Americans and the short-sightedness of the Europeans revealed they didn’t want that. We have to correct their mistakes».

Is the EU part of the institutions that Russia feels are illegitimate?
«No, it’s legitimate. But sometimes we dislike EU policies, especially if they become more and more belligerent».

You seem to believe that an escalation of this war to other countries is inevitable. Is that what you are saying?

«Unfortunately it is becoming more and more likely. Americans and their NATO partners continue support of Ukraine by sending arms. If that continues, it is obvious that targets in Europe could or will be hit in order to stop lines of communications. Then the war could escalate. At this juncture it is becoming more and more plausible. I think the Joint chiefs of staff of US armed forces are of the same opinion as I am».

Denazification is what Ukraine seems to have proven by electing a Jewish president. Demilitarization is the opposite of what Mr. Putin has achieved, as this attack led Ukraine to get heavy weaponry from the West. Plus, Germany and the EU are rearming too, NATO has moved troops closer to Russia’s borders, Western sanctions are now much tighter, while Europe and the US got closer together and Russia is becoming financially isolated. Would you say Putin’s military operation is proving a success, so far?
«Nazism is not only about antisemitism. It is about hating and suppressing all other nationalities. And it was taking over Ukraine. We never know how the military operations end. Demilitarization means destruction of Ukrainian military forces – that is happening and will accelerate. Of course, if Ukraine is supported with new weapons, that could prolong the agony. We can only talk about “victory” in quotes, because there are many casualties on both the Russian and the Ukrainian side. The war will be victorious, in one way or another. I assume demilitarization will be achieved and there will be denazification, too. Like we did in Germany and in Chechnya. Ukrainians will become much more peaceful and friendly to us».

But so far the Russian military had to withdraw after keeping Kiev under siege for one month. It doesn’t look like the military operation is going so well, does it?
«It’s a large military operation, so it has secrets in the way it’s waged. What if the Kiev operation was meant to distract Ukrainian forces and keep them away from the main theater in the South and South-East? Maybe that was the plan. Moreover Russian troops have been very careful not to hit civilian targets, we used only 30-35% of the lethal weapons that we could use. If we had used everything, that would have meant the destruction of Ukrainian cities and a much quicker victory. We did not do carpet bombing like Americans in Iraq. The endgame probably will be a new treaty, maybe with Zelensky still there. Probably it would mean the creation of a country in South and South-East Ukraine that is friendly to Russia. Maybe there will be several Ukraines. But at this juncture it is impossible to predict because, of course, it’s an open-ended story. We are in the fog of war».

There is clear evidence that civilians have been targeted and killed by the Russian in Mariupol, in Bucha and elsewhere. These look very much like war crimes and crimes against humanity and they were deliberate. Should they be persecuted?

«The Bucha story is completely fake-staged, it’s a provocation».

It doesn’t look staged at all.
«I watched the pictures and I am 99% sure. But more in general there is a war and civilians suffer. We know that Ukrainian neoNazi forces have been using civilians as living shields, especially in Mariupol. We have different pictures with you».

It’s rather the opposite: the Russian army did not allow humanitarian corridors.
«We opened them. They were blocked by nationalist forces. I know how our military operates but, of course, this is a war. We face a tragedy».

Did you expect this level of cohesion between Europe and the US?
«Well, the cohesion will collapse because of the problems of the West. But for the time being they were organizing even before this conflict. The West is failing and losing its position in the world, so it needs an enemy – for the moment we are the enemy. I don’t think the unity will last, Europe will not commit the suicide by choosing to lose its independence. I hope our European neighbors will recuperate from this dizziness of hatred».

You speak like some other country started this war, in fact Russia started it.
«I was not for this particular scenario, but it happened. And I support my country. The West committed several aggressions. We are now on the same moral level, we are equal, we are doing more or less like you. I regret that we lost our moral superiority. But we are fighting an existential war».

Sanctions are getting tighter. Will Russia become more dependent on China?
«There is no question about that: we will be more integrated and more dependent on China. It has positive elements but overall we will be much more dependent. I am not very much afraid of becoming a pawn of China like some EU states became pawns of the US. First, Russians have a core gene of sovereignty. Second, we are culturally different from the Chinese, I don’t think that China could or would like to overtake us. However we are not happy with the situation, because I would have preferred to have better relations with Europe. But Chinese are our close allies and friends and the biggest source of Russian strength after Russian people themselves. We are a source of their strength. I would prefer to end this confrontation with Europe. My calculation was to create a safe Western flank to compete more effectively In the Asian world of tomorrow».

You declared that China, not Russia, will emerge as the victor in this war. What did you mean?
«We will be victorious because Russians always are in the end. But in the meantime we will lose a lot. We will lose people. We will lose financial resources and we will become poorer for the time being. But we are ready to sacrifice in order to build a more viable and fair international system. We are talking about Ukraine, but we really want to build a different international system than the one that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union and, in turn, is now collapsing. We all are sinking into chaos now. We would like to build Fortress Russia to defend ourselves from this chaos, even if we are getting poorer for this. Unfortunately the chaos could take over Europe, if Europe doesn’t act according to its interests. What Europe is doing right now is absolutely suicidal».

Is that a threat? Don’t you think nuclear deterrence still applies?
«I know that officially under certain circumstances the US could use nuclear weapons for the defense of Europe and they allegedly could fight for the defense of Europe against a nuclear superpower. There is a 1% chance this might happen, so we have to be careful. But if a n American president takes such a decision inviting devastating response it would mean he is insane».

This war doesn’t look sustainable, including for Russia. It can’t go on for long. What are the elements to agree at least on a real ceasefire?
«First, Ukraine must be a completely demilitarized neutral country – no heavy arms, for whatever of Ukraine remains. This should be guaranteed by outside powers, including Russia, and no military exercises should take place in the country if one of the guarantors is against it. Ukraine should be a peaceful buffer, hopefully sending back some of the arms systems deployed in recent years».

Ukraine needs security guarantees, it needs to be able to defend itself or it will not be a sovereign country anymore.
«I am sorry but Italy and most European countries cannot defend themselves either».

They belong to NATO…
«They have been saving on security. That is how they got themselves into this awkward position that Europe is not considered to be a serious actor in the world. Switzerland and Austria are neutral, but are safe. So can Ukraine».

Do you realize that after what you just said, the debate in Italy will move towards investing more on defense?
«You are welcome. One of the grave mistakes of the Europeans in the last decades is that they didn’t invest in their security, under their ideal of eternal peace. But I think European nations should be able to defend themselves, because they have real threats coming from the South and the world is becoming a very dangerous place as international relations are collapsing. The question is more against whom Italy would like to arm. Against Russia? Well, that would be insane. But you need a more robust military force. You are living in a very dangerous place in the world. If you depend on America, you are selling out your own security and sovereignty because the Americans have their own interests».

The EU seems to be moving towards cutting dependence from Russian energy – first coal, then oil and finally natural gas. Did you expect that?
«I hope you are not suicidal. Of course that would damage Russia, too, but Europe would undermine its economy and its social situation. I hope it will not happen, because you can calculate your own interests. If you don’t want our coal, we will sell it somewhere else. If you don’t want our oil, after a time and some losses, we will sell it elsewhere. And if you don’t want gas, well, well, we can also eventually redirect it after some suffering. Russians support Putin at 81% now, people are ready for a rough period».

Do you think Italy and Europe could do something to broker a deal?
«Not easy, given the situation. But what they could do is try to stop this Russophobia, akin anti-semitism of the previous centuries, this satanization of Russia that would lead us eventually to a worse confrontation than we have now. Even Russian culture is being erased in Europe by a new cancel culture».

From our partner RIAC

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The East Expands into NATO: Japan’s and South Korea’s New Approaches to Security



Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

The 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid can be seen as a momentous occasion not just for NATO but also for security in the Asia-Pacific. For the first time in NATO’s 73-year-long history, Japanese and South Korean leaders participated in the meeting as “Asia-Pacific partners”. For the first time, the Alliance named China a threat in their documents. However, having approached the hic sunt dracones (here be dragons) mark, NATO and its partners will soon have to think about the limits and purpose of expanding the organization’s areas of activity.

The Bargaining Yen

Fumio Kishida was Japan’s first premier to ever attend a NATO summit. Japan’s leader called for enhancing Tokyo’s ties with NATO based on the 2014 Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme. However, he also proposed permanently attaching representatives of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to NATO’s headquarters, mutually exchanging observers at military drills, as well as to regularly involve Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea in NATO’s activities.

We should note Japan’s rather loose interpretation of the concept of indivisible security. For instance, Russia and China insist that the security of any state cannot be bolstered at the expense of other states. However, Kishida believes that security in Europe and the Indo-Pacific are inseparable from each other; therefore, attempts to change the status quo by force in any region should be stopped through joint efforts.

As part of the steps taken to assist European partners amid the events in Ukraine, Tokyo imposed additional sanctions on 70 Russian individuals and companies since Japan “is not ready to provide any military support to the Alliance.” In exchange, Japan hopes that NATO will fully support Japan’s course for militarization. Particularly, Japan is expected to publish its revised National Security Strategy to replace the 2013 Strategy by the end of 2022. Over five years, “the land of the rising sun” will ramp up its defense capabilities by significantly increasing its spending (up to 2% of the GDP) and by stepping up its interactions with the U.S. It is also possible that the Strategy will, for the first time, name China as a clear and present danger to Japan—previously, Tokyo avoided openly labelling China as its adversary.

The West heard the Japanese leadership’s message of European stability being impossible without eliminating the threats in the Asia-Pacific. Ultimately, the NATO 2022 Strategic Concept that determines the activities of member states for the next ten years states that Beijing’s “ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values.” Principal threats include China’s non-transparent conventional and nuclear military build-up, malicious hybrid and cyber operations, confrontational rhetoric and disinformation, attempts to control key technological and industrial sectors, critical infrastructure, and strategic materials and supply chains, and creating strategic dependencies intended to subvert the rules-based international order, including in the space, cyber and maritime domains.

The list would certainly have been incomplete without sending an alarm regarding the deepening strategic partnership between Moscow and Beijing. NATO’s Madrid Summit declaration also contains a statement on competition with China and on Beijing’s challenge to NATO members’ security and development.

At the summit’s sidelines, Kishida attended a trilateral meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol, and then a quadrilateral meeting with South Korea’s President and Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The leaders discussed the threats from China and North Korea, while the U.S. President reaffirmed guarantees to every party present military aid in case of an attack on their states. At the same time, it appears that the idea of putting China on NATO’s agenda and generally under the organization’s purview had been spearheaded by Washington that has less and less strength and willingness to challenge the “dragon” to an honest battle.

Korean Tanks in Polish Woods

Similar to Japan’s leader, South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol noted in his debut NATO summit address that security in any given region has global ramifications. Consequently, a crisis cannot be resolved through the efforts of a regional alliance or union. Therefore, South Korea’s President announced plans to consistently bolster security cooperation between Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo, primarily for counteracting the threat of North Korea’s nuclear missile program. Moreover, since, in Yoon Suk Yeol’s opinion, Pyongyang’s actions posit a major threat to peace and stability and to the non-proliferation regime, all NATO members will need to assist in resolving this problem. Generally, South Korea raised the issue of North Korea’s denuclearization at every event at the Madrid Summit, including the plenary session, the three-party meeting between the leaders of the U.S., Japan, and South Korea, and a dozen of bilateral talks.

In turn, in order to bolster European security, Seoul is ready to expand its economic interactions with NATO states—in particular, to ensure uninterrupted deliveries of semi-conductors—assist in building NPPs and modernizing power facilities, and also ramp up military technical cooperation. Among the successes already achieved by the South Koreans is an agreement to deliver FA-50 jet trainers/light combat aircraft, K-2 main battle tanks, K-9 self-propelled howitzers and AS21 IFVs to Poland, and to participate in building NPPs in the UK, the Czech Republic, Poland, France, Romania and the Netherlands.

Curiously, unlike Japan, Yoon Suk Yeol avoided in every way directly mentioning Beijing in connection with threats to global and regional security. Moreover, Seoul believes that South Korea’s interactions, both with NATO and otherwise, should not be aimed against any specific country. Even though some surveys indicate that only 26% of South Koreans have a positive opinion of China, the country’s leadership is not prepared to oppose Beijing and fully commit to U.S.-led containment initiatives. Besides, in the near future, Yoon Suk Yeol’s administration will have to explain to China its own plans to deploy a second THAAD missile defense unit and Seoul actively arming its navy, air force, and ground forces with state-of-the-art strike missile weapons.

Despite of both Japanese and South Korean leaders attending the 2022 NATO Summit, questions still remain regarding normalizing relations between Seoul and Tokyo. The parties noted that there is potential for improvements and the problems of the past and the future would need to be discussed together. At the same time, internal forces in both states have very mixed feelings concerning the prospects of setting up practical interactions on security issues. Kishida’s government is concerned with South Korea’s growing military capabilities, unacceptable compensation demands to victims of the Japanese occupation, and its intractable stance on the Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo/Takeshima islands). Particularly, Japan vehemently protested Korea’s military drill around the islands on July 30, 2022, although this time the drill was far more modest than before and did not involve a beach landing. One of the few shared sentiments between Seoul and Tokyo is their negative attitude to North Korea’s nuclear missile program, although Japan’s current potential for resolving this matter via talks is small since Tokyo has virtually completely severed contacts with Pyongyang.

Beyond the Purview

According to Le Monde, NATO’s focus on the events in Ukraine does not mean that the Alliance is ignoring threats emanating from beyond the organization’s traditional purview, for instance, like those from the Asia-Pacific. Asia-Pacific’s “collective West” representatives gradually expanding their involvement in the region evidences both the Alliance’s transformation into a certain global security body, and Seoul’s and Tokyo’s transforming approaches to protecting their interests by expanding their partnership network.

Japan is already a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) whose principal and implicit goal is to form a counterbalance to China. In Kishida’s opinion voiced on June 10, 2022 at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Russia’s actions in Ukraine may spur a similar scenario in Asia Pacific, particularly toward Taiwan, especially given a recent surge in the regional activities of China’s People’s Liberation Army. That, however, did not prevent Japan from sending a parliamentary delegation, including two former defense ministers, to Taipei to “discuss extensively the regional security situation in Taiwan, especially in the context of the Russia-Ukraine military conflict.” In this situation, it would be odd to expect anything from Beijing except a protest boosted by military aircraft patrolling around the island.

Yoon Suk Yeol seems intent on significantly increasing South Korea’s role in regional affairs by using the image of a liberal democracy in a crusade against authoritarian regimes around it. However, Seoul intends to wage such a battle solely against the neighboring regime, and even that is not quite a real crusade with clearly defined results. Getting North Korea, to abandon its nuclear weapons though intimidation during an exacerbating East Asian crisis is utterly impossible, particularly in view of Kim Jong Un’s proclaimed readiness for any military action against the U.S.

NATO believes that comprehensive security cooperation with “partners in Asia Pacific” should be conducive to making the international situation more predictable. However, given the Alliance’s track record, should it interfere in the Korean Peninsula or in the Taiwan Strait, there will be little cause to expect a positive outcome.

From our partner RIAC

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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. []

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.

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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.

Way Ahead

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.

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