Pirates, pirogues and politicians: The politics of fishing in Africa

von Peter Dörrie (Homepage / Twitter).

Greenpeace activists paint 'Stolen Fish' on the hull of the illegal cargo vessel Binar 4 before occupying it to prevent the unloading of fish stolen from Guinean waters.

Greenpeace activists paint ‘Stolen Fish’ on the hull of the illegal cargo vessel Binar 4 before occupying it to prevent the unloading of fish stolen from Guinean waters.

The story of maritime fishing in Africa is often told as a simple one. On the one side are the continent’s countless artisanal fishermen and women who have plied the seas for hundreds of years in their dug-out canoes and pirogues. Today, they suffer because of the other side. Greedy fishing fleets from the European Union and Asia taking advantage of exploitative political agreements. Pirate fishermen, abusing many countries’ lack of control over their territorial waters. And greedy local elites that close both eyes, as long as they can line their own pockets.

To be sure, all these characters exist and the problems in Africa’s fisheries are real. But, as almost always, the reality is more complex than this simple tale of good and bad. Fishing is more than a simple economic activity. It is a complex social, commercial and political arena where competing interests clash. Here, the obvious solution not always turns out to be the right one.

Gaoussou Gueye represents one of these interests. He is the president of both the African Confederation of Professional Organizations for Artisanal Fishery and APRAPAM, an organization for the empowerment of local fishermen in his native town Mbour in Senegal. Gueye is busy man nowadays, representing his constituency on panels and conferences from Senegal’s capital Dakar to far away India. But although “this is now a long time ago,” he still remembers working the nets himself.

In Senegal alone 21,000 pirogues leave their ports every day to fish the country’s rich coastal waters, says Gueye. They land 80 percent of Senegal’s total catch, a valuable contribution to food security along the coastline, where most of Senegal’s 14 million people live. Up to a quarter of all jobs in Senegal and other west African countries are linked to fisheries.

But artisanal fishing is under threat, not only in Senegal but across Africa, Gueye says. “Our biggest problem is the lack of fish.” Landings have declined over recent years, casting doubt over the security of jobs and food for Senegal’s coastal communities.

The fears of Senegal’s artisanal fishermen are backed up by scientific findings. The 2013 World Ocean Review found that in the Eastern Central Atlantic, 53 percent of fish stocks are overexploited. A further 43 percent are fully exploited, meaning that they are fished at a rate that barely allows them to regenerate, while only four percent are non-fully exploited (“2 – The Future of Fish – The Fisheries of the Future“, World Ocean Review, 2013, p. 49). The situation is less severe along some other parts of the African coastline. But especially where rich fishing grounds and strong local fishing economies exist, overfishing is dramatic.

Near-coastal ocean regions have been divided into 64 Large Maritime Ecosystems (LME) that cross geopolitical borders. This concept is expected to improve co-operation of countries with regard to international marine conservation. The indi- vidual LMEs are coloured to indicate the intensity of fishing from 2000 to 2004. In many marine regions the fishing pressure has not dropped since then.

Near-coastal ocean regions have been divided into 64 Large Maritime Ecosystems (LME) that cross geopolitical borders. This concept is expected to improve co-operation of countries with regard to international marine conservation. The indi- vidual LMEs are coloured to indicate the intensity of fishing from 2000 to 2004. In many marine regions the fishing pressure has not dropped since then.

Responsible for the overexploitation of marine resources, most experts agree, are not the artisanal fishermen. Instead, European, Chinese, Russian and fleets from a dozen other nations push fishing in Africa beyond sustainable limits. But blaming international corporations doesn’t do the situation justice. For one, African governments and elites want fishing companies to fish their waters. “To be frank, they want the money,” says Isabella Lövin, Member of the European Parliament. She represents the Swedish green party in Brussels and is Vice-Chair of the parliament’s Committee on Fisheries.

Leasing their fishing rights is an important source of income for many African governments. This is true especially for the agreements with the European Union. Most agreements, not only with the EU, are a bad deal for Africa, contributing less to local value added than domestic fishing. African economies could grow by US$400 per year, if they would reserve their fish for their domestic fleets. That is one finding of the FAO’s 2014 State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture report. But fishery agreements provide quick and direct funds to governments. And these are needed for infrastructure development, education and healthcare.

“That is the dilemma for us who want sustainable fisheries and who want fair relations with developing countries,” says Lövin. Since the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon, the EU parliament has to approve new fishery agreements. That gives it considerable influence. “Why don’t we just say ‘stop all these agreements’? Well, if we do that, these ships won’t go away. They would fish under private agreements and there would be no transparency, no control from the EU, no possibility to politically influence the host countries to set up better control mechanisms and coast guards and scientific research. These measures are now coupled with the fishery agreements.”

EU agreements always include a clause that obligates host countries to apply the same conditions to all foreign fleets. This makes them a powerful tool to set and increase standards. The EU can demand these clauses, because it is able and willing to pay handsomely to guarantee access for its fishing fleets. The current agreement between Mauritania and the EU is worth €70 million per year. It is taxpayer money that is spent to secure jobs in oversized fishing fleets and guarantees steady imports.

But demands for sustainability, financial profit and political influence are not always compatible. In the case of fishing, the tension between them can have unintended consequences, says Gerard van Balsfoort. Like Gaoussou Gueye, van Balsfoort represents the interests of fishermen, but this is where the similarities between the two men end. Van Balsfoort is the president of the Pelagic Freezer-trawler Association (PFA). It represents some of the EU’s biggest fishing companies. The PFA member’s ships are floating factories, which process and freeze their catch of species like herring and mackerel on board. That enables them to stay at sea for weeks and months at a time.

Somali pirate Hassan stands near a Taiwanese fishing vessel that washed up on shore after the pirates were paid a ransom and released the crew, in the once-bustling pirate den of Hobyo, Somalia (Photo: Farah Abdi Warsameh).

Somali pirate Hassan stands near a Taiwanese fishing vessel that washed up on shore after the pirates were paid a ransom and released the crew, in the once-bustling pirate den of Hobyo, Somalia (Photo: Farah Abdi Warsameh).

In some years, PFA vessels caught the majority of pelagic fish in Mauritanian waters, Senegal’s northern neighbour. PFA should be one of the main beneficiary of EU fishery agreements, but the current one with Mauritania, says van Balsfoort, “is useless.”

The PFA’s history in Mauritania is fascinating. In the 1990s, fishing activities off Mauritania collapsed. This had geopolitical reasons: Mauritania used to sell the access rights to their pelagic stocks to the Soviet fishing fleet. But these companies experienced a dramatic decline after the fall of the Soviet Union. A NGO approached the PFA, says van Balsfoort, with the request to take up fishing in Mauritania. The organization struck its first, private agreement with the Mauritanian government in 1995.

According to van Balsfoort, this worked well for all parties. The PFA even invested in vessels designed to exclusively fish in Mauritanian waters and building up scientific capacity in Mauritania. “Not for altruistic reasons,” says van Balsfoort, “but if you make big investments, you need to know what you are doing.”

Later, the private agreement got incorporated in an EU agreement with Mauritania. And then, in 2004, the EU expanded eastwards, with Baltic countries like Lithuania and Poland joining. These countries have considerable pelagic fishing fleets. By entering into the EU, these fleets were automatically included in the existing agreement with Mauritania. At the same time, Russia rebuilt its own fleet, parts of which returned to Mauritanian waters. “There were times when 50 to 60 pelagic trawlers were active in Mauritania, of which perhaps 18 were EU vessels,” says van Balsfoort, which led to severe overfishing. “The Mauritanians saw the money coming in and sold their fish two or three times over. They sold to everybody who asked for a licence and the people who were in charge apparently didn’t care too much if stocks could carry that.”

Then, in 2012, the EU and Mauritania negotiated a new protocol, making drastic changes to the conditions. Without success, it tried to balance competing priorities, from environmental protection to financial profits. The outcome was a complete disaster. Fees for EU boats quadrupled, says van Balsfoort, while the vessels now had to stay further out than 20 miles from the coast, compared to 13 miles in the earlier agreements. “The technical and financial conditions under which we had to operate from August 2012 were so harsh that we didn’t go,” says van Balsfoort. “There was no use to go there, because we would loose money.” And because the agreement stipulated that the Mauritanian government had to apply the same rules to everybody, non-EU fleets left as well.

The PFA returned to Mauritania after more than one year. Its members feared that if they weren’t landing at least some fish, they would be left out of the EU’s quota allocation.

While they were gone, Mauritanian companies started to exploit the now recovering stocks of sardinellas. But these were no artisanal fishermen either. Instead, Chinese, Moroccan and Mauritanian businessmen set up fish meal factories. Prices for the product used as animal and shrimp feed have skyrocketed since 2005 in the wake of increased demand from China.

Despite these companies often being Mauritanian on paper, they are a far worse deal for Africa than PFA’s fishing, says van Balsfoort. According to him, they contribute little to economic development or food security. The PFA companies sell all their catch to African countries, where pelagic fish features much stronger than on European menus. “In Nigeria they ask us, why don’t you sell us any sardinella any more,” claims van Balsfoort. “And we say we can’t catch them, they are taken for fish meal in Mauritania.”

Gaoussou Gueye, van Balsfoort’s colleague from Senegal, has a similar bad opinion of what he calls “mixed” companies. “In my eyes, they are more dangerous than illegal fishing,” he says. He thinks that their purpose is to circumvent laws that try to regulate the behaviour of foreign fishing companies.

These Chinese boats were captured by the South Korean coast guard for alleged illegal fishing in South Korean waters in November 2011 (Photo: Dong-Ailbo).

These Chinese boats were captured by the South Korean coast guard for alleged illegal fishing in South Korean waters in November 2011 (Photo: Dong-Ailbo).

Of course illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a huge problem as well. As much as 40 percent of the total catch in western Africa is landing in the nets of pirate fishermen. This puts tremendous pressure on fish stocks. But IUU fishing is only part of the problem. Some governments award confidential fishing licences to foreign vessels, raising the spectre of corruption. This has long raised the ire of environmental NGOs and advocacy organizations. “What you see is these deals that are being cut between international vessels and small elites in many African countries to the cost of artisanal fishermen and women,” says Caroline Kende-Robb. She is the Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel (APP) an organization devoted to the economic development and good governance in Africa.

In its newest report, the APP has focused on the exploitation of African fish stocks. According to Kende-Robb the business features many of the same structures as mining, a sector infamous for corruption and mismanagement. “It is to the advantage of the elite few who are in power,” she says, “and the local fishermen are voiceless and powerless.”

Stronger international conventions and regulations would be one of the best ways to solve this problem, says Kende-Robb. After all, fish are the quintessential international resource, not bound to arbitrary sea borders. At the moment, though, “you got this fragmented pitcher of lots of different players,” she says. “Bilateral agreements, some regional agreements, international voluntary rules the EU regulations. But the result is a coordinated catastrophe.”

“A really critical agreement,” according to Kende-Robb, would be the Agreement on Port State Measures. Negotiated in 2009 under the leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), ensures that pirate fishing vessels can’t unload their catch in signatory states. But only 10 FAO member countries and organizations have ratified the treaty so far. The agreements needs at least 25 participating states to come into force. “What surprises me is that people are not moving faster,” in the face of the increasing overexploitation of the ocean, says Kende-Robb. “People should already be extremely alarmed.”

But there is reason for hope that at least in some countries, the politics of fishing have taken on a positive dynamic. A case in point is Senegal. “Today, the fishermen are heard,” says Gaoussou Gueye. “They are strong. Members of parliament are starting to take notice.”

The 2012 election was instrumental in this development. It brought the opposition candidate Macky Sall to power and with him a new minister for fisheries, Haïdar el-Ali. The government has invested in its capacity to police the fishing grounds. It handed out fines against IUU fishing vessels — US$ 800,000 against a Russian repeat offender in one case.

Gueye thinks that the dialogue between the government and artisanal fishermen in Senegal is working well for the most part. But in the long run, there will be hard choices to make, he says. “We will have to reduce our fishing activities,” to avoid a collapse of the stocks. This would of course have far ranging consequences. The EU cut quotas after stocks plummeted due to overfishing. Many small-scale fishing companies didn’t survive. In the end, large corporations like the PFA made it through the hard years, while local fishermen left the business.

In countries like Senegal, governments will soon have to choose and none of the choices are appealing. Continuing to fish at current levels won’t be an option. But pushing the artisanal fishing community out of business would produce unemployment and threaten food security. Not to mention that local interest groups could turn out to be formidable political enemies. The alternative is to deny foreign vessels fishing licences, cutting off much needed revenue. And, at least in the case of the European Union, it may even strain diplomatic relationships beyond the fishery sector.

Posted in English, Peter Dörrie, Piracy, Security Policy | Leave a comment

Ghost in the (War) Machine

by Robert S. Kim and Stephanie Chenault. Robert S. Kim is one of the partners at the Loew & Kim lawyer’s office. From 2009-2010, he served with the U.S. mission in Iraq as the Deputy Treasury Attaché, responsible for Treasury Department counter terrorist finance and financial intelligence initiatives in Iraq. Stephanie Chenault is the Chief Operating Officer of Venio Inc. and a Strategy Consultant for the Department of Defense. She was assigned to both Multinational Corps – Iraq and Multinational Forces – Iraq in the Operations Directorate from 2003–2005. This article originally appeared on The Bridge, run by Nathan K. Finney (Hompage / Twitter).

A special feeling: united in a community in struggle.

A special feeling: united in a community in struggle.

There exists within the study of philosophy something René Descartes identified as “mind-body dualism” where the body is consigned to physical space and the mind — with all of its complexities and imponderables — to the incorporeal, to the intangible. The “ghost in the machine” is British philosopher Gilbert Ryle’s description of this dichotomy.

This dualism, both physical and non-physical, can be logically extended to war and warring masses. William James’ “The Moral Equivalent of War” (originally titled “The Psychology of the War Spirit”) delivered in 1910 hints at the existence of a ghost that drives the war machine. James, a pacifist, recognized that war brings with it undeniable positive psychological effects on a culture including cohesion, unity, commonality. This is the mind (or ghost) of war. It exists in the non-physical. It is not only concerned with concrete goals such as gaining territory or protecting the security of one’s homeland; it derives satisfaction from the act of going to war itself, from the feeling of being united in a community in struggle.

In this sense the machines of war, the tangible aspects like the economies, the technologies and the warrior’s bodies serve the collective spirit. Breaking the back of the machine — alone — does not a war end or victory deliver. The spirit must be quashed or war ever rages on.

Total War
In the decades after William James wrote “The Moral Equivalent of War” in 1910, the world learned somber lessons about the dark side of that psychological attachment to war. The first half of the 20th Century demonstrated that militarism and the will to wage total war – regardless of the consequences, regardless of any conventional morality, and regardless of any rational calculation of costs and benefits, correlations of forces, or international politics – can take hold in a group of people in a way inconceivable to the rest of the world. Intelligent and well informed people failed to understand the nature of the threat and its malevolence until it had achieved its first successes and devastated the first victims of its conquests. Nazi Germany was one, emerging from the ashes of the First World War to rebuild German military power and lead the German people into waging war and committing genocide that no one in Europe could have imagined in 1914 or even in 1939. Imperial Japan was another, dragging the people of Japan into a war of conquest in Asia whose brutality is remembered bitterly in China and Korea 70 years later. Each had a concept of the unity created by war, which it viewed as a fundamental virtue – in Nazi Germany, Volksgemeinschaft (“people’s community”); in Imperial Japan, bushido (“the way of the warrior”).

Appeasement: Neville Chamberlain holding the paper containing the resolution to commit to peaceful methods signed by both Hitler and himself on his return from Munich.

Appeasement: Neville Chamberlain holding the paper containing the resolution to commit to peaceful methods signed by both Hitler and himself on his return from Munich.

The weak spirit of war within the Western powers left them unable to meet the initial challenge of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in the 1930s. The experience of the First World War had broken their will to go to war, making the avoidance of war an almost universally accepted goal. It not only discouraged them from going to war, but also made it difficult for them to conceive that for their opponents, war was not something to be avoided or a necessary evil, but was rather what they sought and an exalted calling. This mindset propelled Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan from one conquest to the next, until stopped by force, and made them bizarre, suicidal death cults in defeat.

The Islamic State presents complications similar to those of the world wars from 1914 to 1945, with the possibility of becoming the center of a Thirty Years War of the modern world. It emerged resurgent in Syria and in Sunni-inhabited regions of Iraq, from the remnants of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State of Iraq that had been shattered during the U.S. war in Iraq from 2003–2011, not unlike Nazi Germany rebuilding the military machine of defeated Imperial Germany. Like Nazi Germany, it faces western powers weary from the previous war, who after witnessing the early advance of an enemy that has lost none of its will to fight, are finally trying to assemble their response to the threat.

To be sure, there are significant differences – the spirit of war is driven by a twisted vision of Islam as the underlying ideology, not ultra-racist nationalism; the Islamic State is a trans-national, sub-state actor and not a conventional state; and the resources available to the Islamic State are people on the fringes of society and loot, not the population and economy of a major world power. The underlying problem is similar, though: how to defeat a movement with a millennial ideology that is likely to have the will to fight regardless of any rational idea of the odds against it, appears to have the resources to wage a prolonged war, and treats its enemies with no concern for conventional morality, even that of the Islamic faith that it claims to be fighting for.

Shifting Focus from the Machine
Ending the threat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan required the complete destruction of both as states and societies: defeating their armies and navies on the battlefields and on the oceans; destroying their cities from the air; invading their homelands and imposing unconditional surrender; and purging their political systems and societies of militarists and militarism. It was done so thoroughly and successfully during and after the Second World War that both countries are now known for their pacifism and unwillingness to wage war.

The Islamic State and the conditions that gave rise to it, not being contained within borders or in any one particular society, will require a fundamentally different approach. The Islamic State has exploited weak states and civil wars in Iraq and Syria to establish a territory for itself, but its appeal and recruitment extend into friendly states in the Middle East and North Africa and into Europe and the United States as well. Eliminating it, or at least reducing it to a level where it is no more than a minor problem that states in the Middle East and North Africa can handle internally, will require a far subtler approach than waging a world war 75 years ago. U.S. leadership and military power will be important factors, but fighting the Islamic State fundamentally relies on governments, religious authorities and societies in the Middle East and North Africa addressing the problems that have allowed the Islamic State to emerge.

Making the task especially difficult is that the Islamic State has successfully exploited societies devastated by war and sectarian divides that will continue for many years to come. Syria, after several years of civil war between a largely Sunni rebellion and a Shia-led regime, was the first country where the Islamic State took hold. Iraq, once a state with a strong urban and secular culture and an emerging economy, experienced its own thirty years war from the Saddam Hussein regime’s invasion of Iran in 1980 to the end of the U.S. war in Iraq in 2011, which left it impoverished and deeply divided between the majority Shia and minority Sunni communities. Other countries in the Middle East and North Africa may be vulnerable to the emergence of groups adopting the Islamic State banner. Even Europe and North America have experienced disaffected individuals on the fringes of society, from Muslim immigrant communities but also from the non-Muslim native population, inspired by Islamic State propaganda, traveling to the Middle East to join the Islamic State or conducting terrorist attacks in their home countries.

The war in Syria and the Islamic State especially are magnets to disaffected individuals on the fringes of society.

The war in Syria and the Islamic State especially are magnets to disaffected individuals on the fringes of society.

Ghost Warfare
The response to the challenge will be partly military, but it must be political and ideological as well, and those essential elements can come only from the Muslim world. Governments, Sunni and Shia religious authorities, and civil society in Iraq and other countries must work to resolve the sectarian divide and the political problems that have allowed the Islamic State to appear to offer an alternative to many Sunnis in Iraq and Syria.

What the United States and other western powers can provide are military support to the front-line combatants – Iraq and the moderate Syrian opposition – that will enable them to defeat the Islamic State on the battlefield, and leadership of a coalition of Middle Eastern states that will work on the difficult task of working through seemingly intractable political and sectarian problems, in the common interest of preventing a larger conflagration in the region. It will be a long-term task, requiring a degree of patience that the American political process is not known for possessing, and far more complicated than a “war on terror“. It will demand the work of diplomats as much as – or more than – it requires the use of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. It will be a different type of war for a different type of enemy, with the Second World War, the Cold War, and even the wars of the previous decade offering few useful examples from which to draw.

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.” In 1862, Abraham Lincoln spoke these words to Congress just before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, which changed the terms of the American Civil War and the course of American history. In 2014, similarly inspiring and memorable words have not come from the top, but the war is equally new and difficult in nature, and it demands equally new thinking.

Posted in History, International, Leadership, Robert S. Kim, Stephanie Chenault | Leave a comment

Cartoon of the month: Peacekeeper of the 21st Century


At the end of last week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced an ambitious effort to identify and develop weapons systems to enable continued U.S. Military dominance in the 21st century. The new Defense Innovation Initiative — led by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work — would include an effort to develop and field new systems using technologies such as robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, big data and advanced manufacturing, including 3-D printing. That should produce systems that would offset its rivals’ advantages, as atomic weapons did in the 1950s and precision strike and stealth have done today (Source: David Alexander and Andrea Shalal, “Hagel announces push to boost U.S. military’s technological edge“, Reuters, 15.11.2014).

As we see it with the use of Drones, advanced technologies can keep soldiers out of harms way, but probably cost the lives of numerous civilians. So, new technologies may be useful in waging war, but are they also useful to create a secure and peaceful world?

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The cartoon was drawn by Gianlorenzo Ingrami, architect, and Cecilia Alessandrini, teacher. They teamed up in 2009 to make cartoons, which they publish in national magazines and newspapers in Italy. Their satire comes from anger at injustice in the world and they attempt to understand the world better throughout cartoons.

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Posted in Cartoon, English, International, Technology | Leave a comment

Conflict Management in the Central African Republic: A Need for New Approaches

by Patrick Truffer. Patrick Truffer graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs and completes a Master of Arts program in International Relations at the Freien Universität Berlin.

A young anti-Balaka combattant stands guard in a street of the Cattin district of Bangui, on January 18, 2014 (Photo: Eric Feferberg).

A young anti-Balaka combattant stands guard in a street of the Cattin district of Bangui, on January 18, 2014 (Photo: Eric Feferberg).

Since the middle of September 2014, MINUSCA, with the support of the transitional government, has been responsible for stability in the Central African Republic (CAR). This is the eighth international mission since 1997. Critics complain that despite repeated failures, conflict management strategies have not been modified. Since MINUSCA also ignores the root causes of the conflict and adheres to already existing conflict management strategies, it is unlikely to lead a sustainable stabilisation (cf.: Thierry Vircoulon and Charlotte Arnaud, “Central African Republic: the flawed international response“, openSecurity, 19.05.2014; Benedict Moran, “Hanging by a Thread“, Foreign Policy, 22.09.2014).

This case study raises the question of the role, the potential and the pitfalls posed by conflict management strategies for conflict prevention, long-term stabilization and reconciliation. The current conflict in the CAR is discussed in the first section, while the second section examines the conflict management approaches used by the international community. Conflict management considerations and constraints are then discussed in the third section, followed by proposed alternative approaches in the fourth section. The paper closes with a conclusion that goes beyond this specific case and answers the question raised.

Understanding the recent conflict

In 2003, François Bozizé seized power in the CAR in a coup and was “confirmed” by elections held in 2005 and 2011, ruling until his overthrow in March 2013 (regarding the democratic legitimacy of the elections, see: Louisa Lombard, “Election Report: Central African Republic“, The Monkey Cage, 25.01.2011). Important government offices were occupied by members of the Bozizé clan (for example the Ministry of Mines; cf.: US Embassy Bangui, “Leader Of A Failed State: How Bozize Maintains Power“, 14.02.2009). By monopolising public finances and revenues from the diamond and gold sector, Bozizé had installed a kleptocracy, which led to the economic collapse of the state (US Embassy Bangui, “The Weakest Link“, 16.06.2009). Civil-war like unrest then led to the CAR being considered a failed state (cf.: Polity IV, “Authority Trends, 1960-2013: Central African Republic“, 2014).

Because of the Bangui government’s minimal ability to enforce its will, CAR politics has become characterised by the existence of armed rebel groups mostly seeking the same identical goals: a share in the political and economic power (cf.: Alexis Arieff, “Crisis in the Central African Republic“, Congressional Research Service, R43377, 27.01.2014, p. 3). The three main rebel groups signed several cease-fire agreements between 2007 and 2012 under the condition of being given political participation (Human Right Watch, “I Can Still Smell the Dead“, September 2013, p. 31f). Nevertheless, little changed and the 2011 elections did not increase the opportunity to share in political power. Resistance against the central government grew, in particular in the economically and structurally neglected north-east. The rebel groups acting under separate command were however unable to raise the necessary strength for a coup (cf.: US Embassy Bangui, “New CAR Coalition Government – Nothing New, And Not A Coalition“, 23.01.2009). Finally, in September 2012, two of the three main rebel groups came together to form Séléka. As they moved quickly south towards Bangui, Séléka plundered and laid waste to villages. After the overthrow of Bozizé in March 2013, the leader of Séléka, Michel Djotodia, took control of the government as the first Muslim leader of the CAR.

Séléka rebels in northern Central African Republic (Photo: hdptcar).

Séléka rebels in northern Central African Republic (Photo: hdptcar).

Instead of instituting reforms, however, Djotodia continued his predecessor’s kleptocracy. After a successful coup and Djotodia’s attempt to end the ongoing violence by dissolving Séléka, the rebels looted private property, government institutions and the offices of International Organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations (cf.: International Crisis Group, “The Central African Crisis: From Predation to Stabilisation“, Africa Report, no. 219, 17.06.2014). In response to the violence and looting, the anti-Balaka formed as a form of civil defence. Under international pressure, Djotodia abandon his function and paved the way for an interim government, led by Catherine Samba-Panza since 20 January 2014. Before accepting the office, she had no links to rebel groups and had not belonged to Djotodia’s government.

The conflict in the CAR was not an ethnic conflict at first; its main cause was a failure to distribute political and economic power. Until Séléka’s push from the northeast towards Bangui, the country’s Christians, animists – with close ties to the Christian community – and Muslims had lived together peacefully (“Ban returns to airwaves in Central African Republic to call for end to fighting“, UN News Centre, 17.04.2014; Religious composition: 50% Christian, 35% natural religions and 15% Muslims). The origin of the Séléka rebels from the country’s northeast and neighbouring Chad and Sudan meant that the overwhelming majority were Muslim, partly being Arabic-speakers. The violent passage towards Bangui through predominantly Christian regions and the subsequent takeover of the presidency by a Muslim led to a polarization of society and a deep mistrust among the Christian respectively animist and Muslim communities (cf.: “Central African Republic: Religious tinderbox“, BBC, 04.11.2013; Human Right Watch, “I Can Still Smell the Dead”; Moran, “Hanging by a Thread”). The anti-Balaka has been formed by young Christians and animists with less education from rural areas whose families had been killed and villages burnt down. They see the Séléka as foreign and demand its disarmament and expulsion. Important motivation factors are revenge and personal enrichment. The anti-Balaka’s use of violence, especially against Muslims, and the extent of their looting is comparable to that of Séléka (Cf.: Thierry Vircoulon and Thibaud Lesueur, “Central African Republic: The Third Government in Thirteen Months Gets Under Way“, International Crisis Group, 21.01.2014).

Mapping of the conflict in the CAR (own illustration; to enlarge, click on the image). Grey: not critical for the current conflict; Yellow: goals and motivation; Orange: possible spoilers; Red: main source and dynamics of the conflict.

Mapping of the conflict in the CAR (own illustration; to enlarge, click on the image). Grey: not critical for the current conflict; Yellow: goals and motivation; Orange: possible spoilers; Red: main source and dynamics of the conflict.


Conflict management approaches

Attempts to make use of conflict management approaches in the CAR have been unsuccessful since 1997. These included the Disarmamant, Demobilisation, Reintegration and Repatriation process (DDRR), an arms embargo and the 2011 elections. MINUSCA also relies heavily on these same approaches (cf.: Vircoulon and Arnaud, “Central African Republic”). The lacking distribution of political and economic power remains ignored as the main cause of conflict.

The DDRR process is supposed to reintegrate the rebels into the social fabric to ensure they will not take up arms again in the long-term (Lars Waldorf, “Getting the Gunpowder Out of Their Heads: The Limits of Rights-Based DDR“, Human Rights Quarterly 35, no. 3, August 2013, p. 704). There are doctrinal reasons for the high esteem accorded the DDRR process. According to the UN, demobilization is “the single most important factor determining the success of peace operations” (“A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, Report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change“, United Nations, 02.12.2004, Paragraph 227f). But there is no empirical evidence for this thesis (Waldorf, “Getting the Gunpowder Out of Their Heads”, p. 714). The DDRR process between 2007-2012 failed because of financial malfeasance by the Bozizé government and the lack of financing for the reintegration phase. With increasing frequency the lists of alleged rebels or rebel leaders were bloated numerically to bag a greater financial compensation for participating in the process. In addition, the DDRR process can only be sustainable if it is possible to make a living legally with-out resorting to violence (cf.: Waldorf, “Getting the Gunpowder Out of Their Heads”, p. 704). The catastrophic economic situation meant that these conditions were not and still are not present. Therefore without tackling the economic situation, DDRR as part of MINUSCA is predestined to fail.

[…] the last Central African DDR […] saw an original list of under 1,300 ‘rebels’ [, which] swell to over 7,000. […] the DDR process is largely irrelevant to solving the CAR’s political crisis. — US Embassy Bangui, “Rebels Of Opportunity: DDR Unlikely To Solve The Ills Of The Car“, 26.06.2009. See also: Mark Knight and Alpaslan Özerdem, “Guns, Camps and Cash: Disarmament, Demobilization and Reinsertion of Former Combatants in Transitions from War to Peace“, Journal of Peace Research 41, no. 4, 2004, p. 505.

Arms embargos
A sustainable DDRR process ensures that after successful reintegration former rebels will no longer take up arms despite their availability. The flaw in past DDRR processes was their lack of sustainability and not the continued availability of weapons. Nevertheless, the international missions tried to reduce the availability of weapons with an embargo. Not only are the routes by which these weapons enter the country unknown, but an embargo can hardly be enforced due to the lack of controls, widespread corruption and unqualified personnel (Cf.: Jefferson Morley, “UN Bans Arms to Central African Republic“, The Arms Control Association, January 2014). Nevertheless, it is once again part of the MINUSCA mission (United Nations Security Council, “Resolution 2149 (2014)“, S/RES2149, 10.04.2014, p. 11, Art. 31e).

UN Resolution 2149 urges the transitional government to hold “free, fair, transparent and inclusive elections” by February 2015 (United Nations Security Council, “Resolution 2149 (2014)”, p. 3, 6, 9f). This reflects the widespread humanitarian approach of “elections before institutions” (Vircoulon and Arnaud, “Central African Republic”; cf.: Terrence Lyons, “Postconflict Elections: War Termination, Democratization, and Demilitarizing Politics“, Institute for Conflict Analysis an Resolution, Working Paper No. 20, February 2002). In addition, France insisted on early elections, perhaps to have an exit strategy to withdraw its troops (Arieff, “Crisis in the Central African Republic”, p. 7). However, the lack of opportunities for political participation represents only some of the cause of conflict. This divisive conflict has also been exacerbated by the disastrous economic situation. Elections alone are thus unlikely to stabilise the situation. On the contrary, the election campaign period could further fuel the conflict among the stakeholders. Ensuring the security of the elections will thus take up a correspondingly high share of MINUSCA resources (Emily Mellgard, “The Central African Republic: Where Elections Could Do More Harm Than Good“, Council on Foreign Relations, 14.02.2014; Louisa Lombard, “Genocide-mongering does nothing to help us understand the messy dynamics of conflict in the CAR“, African Arguments, 24.01.2014). The provision of the necessary foundations for elections, such as electoral laws and registers, will also pose a burden on the transitional government’s resources. Infrastructure in the CAR is insufficiently developed, additionally complicating the implementation of nationwide elections. This is particularly true during the rainy season from February (Vircoulon and Arnaud, “Central African Republic”).

"I call on my children, especially the anti-balaka, to put down their arms and stop all the fighting. The same goes for the ex-Séléka - they should not have fear. I don't want to hear any more talk of murders and killings. Starting today, I am the president of all Central Africans, without exclusion." --- Catherine Samba-Panza, interim president of the Central African Republic after her election (Photo: Siegfried Modola).

“I call on my children, especially the anti-balaka, to put down their arms and stop all the fighting. The same goes for the ex-Séléka – they should not have fear. I don’t want to hear any more talk of murders and killings. Starting today, I am the president of all Central Africans, without exclusion.” — Catherine Samba-Panza, interim president of the Central African Republic after her election (Photo: Siegfried Modola).


Considerations and constraints

Considerations on the economic situation and possible spoilers
Lacking distribution of political and economic power represents the main cause of the conflict, which has then been aggravated by the economic collapse. Stabilization is viable only by improving the economic situation. Young fighters from rural areas and from the northeast must be offered a realistic perspective for the future. To quickly and noticeably improve the economic situation, economic reconstruction must occur as soon as possible, be decentralized and adapted to regional needs. The prioritisation of projects in agriculture, the trades and infrastructure will ensure employment for this young generation and improve the welfare of the population over the medium-term (International Crisis Group, “The Central African Crisis”). Measures which create additional jobs, such as reconstituting the Forces Armées Centrafricaines (FACA) and the police, must be a priority.

After the collapse of agriculture in the wake of the violence, the diamond and gold sector remains the economic mainstay of the CAR. To finance a long-term economic recovery, this sector needs to be completely reorganised and monitored. The oversight body should include representatives from the government, operators (to avoid spoilers) and all parties in the conflict. Royalties should flow into the state treasury, with a defined proportion reserved for regional administration and projects.

The ceasefire agreement between 2007 and 2012 demonstrated that the rebels are willing to negotiate if promised a share in political and economic power. Whether spoilers, possibly individual rebels or rebel groups as well as stakeholders in the diamond and gold sector, appear will be largely dependent on the success of economic reconstruction and the rebels’ opportunities to participate. These could be kept under control through the holistic “reward-persuade-coerce triangle”. A credible political and economic participation should be made clear to potential spoilers (Persuade). The political involvement in the transitional government and regional projects for the reconstruction of the economy, particularly in the northeast of the country, could curb possible spoilers among the rebels (Reward). Should they still come forth, a robust mandate of the MINUSCA would block them (Coerce).

Considerations on the DDRR and arms embargo
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the DDRR’s objective is “to contribute to security and stability by facilitating reintegration and providing the enabling environment for rehabilitation and recovery to begin” (UNDP, “Practice Note: Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration of Ex-combatants“, 2005, p. 11). It is primarily a confidence-building measure, because DDRR is not tasked with reducing the general availability of weapons. A successful reintegration is essential in the long-term, which will depend on reintegrated rebels being able to earn a living legally without violence (Knight and Özerdem, “Guns, Camps and Cash”, p. 503). If successful, the former rebels will not resort to weapons because they will have been reintegrated into civilian life, and not because there are no weapons available.

DDRR is not a stand-alone process, contrary to how it has been executed in the CAR since 2007. It is part of economic, political and social reforms. In addition, the DDRR process must be coordinated with other conflict management approaches, such as the Security Sector Reform (integration options), elections (creating new conflicts) and with the overall reconstruction programme (job availability). Creating jobs is essential so that former rebels do not get an advantage over other job seekers. This means that for DDRR to succeed, economic conditions must be improved as a whole (UNDP, “Practice Note”, p. 11, 18, 39, 58). Accordingly, the effort and expense of an arms embargo should be critically scrutinised.

Constraints on the transitional government
The transitional government has an integrative character with 135 representatives from various political, civil and religious interest groups, also including anti-Balaka and Séléka members (Arieff, “Crisis in the Central African Republic”, p. 8). However, meetings are rare and it can barely enforce its decisions beyond Bangui (Moran, “Hanging by a Thread”). This is not unusual because the government has not been able to assert its will on a nationwide level since the beginning of the colonial period (Arieff, “Crisis in the Central African Republic”, p. 3). Conflict management strategies must therefore be implemented not only centrally, but also regionally and where possible at a municipal level. A greater regionalization and localization also corresponds to the general recommendations for peacekeeping operations of Lakhdar Brahimi (“Effective peace-building requires active engagement with the local parties, and that engagement should be multidimensional in nature.”; Lakhdar Brahimi, “Comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects“, United Nations, 21.08.2000, paragraph 14). In order to improve the government’s power to enforce its decisions, the police and military, kept weak under Bozizé, must be rebuilt (Stephanie Wolters and Liesl Louw-Vaudran, “Central African Republic’s new president ‘a fresh start’“, Institute for Security Studies, 24.01.2014; cf.: André-Michel Essoungou, “Central African Republic: killings in the time of transition“, Africa Renewal 28, no. 1, April 2014). Due to the constraints under which it is operating, the transitional government must concentrate on the most important issues. These include the reconstruction of the economy, infrastructure and the government. Committing current transitional government resources to the preparation and conduct of elections would be a misplaced expenditure (The UN Security Council had already expressed in UNSCR 2149 its “concern at the collapse of the already fragile administration which limits the ability of the new Transitional Authorities to govern.”; United Nations Security Council, “Resolution 2149 (2014)”, p. 3).

Assessment of the situation and possible conflict management approaches focused on the main conflict source (own illustration; to enlarge, click on the image).

Assessment of the situation and possible conflict management approaches focused on the main conflict source (own illustration; to enlarge, click on the image).


Alternative conflict management approaches

Alternative conflict management strategies are shaped by the resources available and the constraints placed on the transitional government. The strategy presented here uses three alternative conflict management approaches. Some of these approaches have been used previously. Here, however, a different implementation is postulated. Rebuilding the economy, infrastructure and government in the CAR, together with DDRR and elections should be initiated, financed and supervised at a regional, if possible, municipal level. To keep spoilers in check and guarantee a successful implementation of this strategy, an adequate share of the “fruits of peace” must be guaranteed at regional and municipal levels. At the same time, the transitional government’s security capacities should be strengthened. To avoid a drain on resources and a repolarisation of the stakeholders, national elections should only be held after successful Security Sector Reform (SSR) and DDRR processes.

Priority 1: Rebuilding the economy, infrastructure and government
International missions concentrating mainly on DDRR since 1997 have not produced lasting positive results in the CAR. To be successful, an alternative conflict management strategy must focus on rebuilding the economy, infrastructure and government while promoting regional and municipal projects. By focusing on developing the agricultural, trades and infrastructure sectors, jobs will be created, generating income and improving the welfare of the population. Additional jobs could be generated by rebuilding government administrative services, the police and the FACA. In addition, this would create new possibilities for reintegrating rebels and rebel leaders.

Funding would be ensured during the first phase by international contributions, with a second phase funded by royalties from the diamond and gold sector, which will also have to be completely reorganised and monitored. The oversight body should include representatives of the government, mine operators and all parties to the conflict.

The advantages lie in regional and municipal involvement, job creation and sustainable progress for all. The disadvantages are the costs. Many of the new jobs created are not likely to become financially self-supporting in the long-term. The extent to which long-term financing by royalties from the diamond and gold sector is possible remains uncertain.

Priority 2: SSR and DDRR
Until now, SSR does not play a central role in the international missions. It could how-ever make a decisive contribution to reintegrating rebels and rebel leaders and strengthening the transitional government. SSR must be done in parallel with the re-construction of the economy, infrastructure and government and coordinated with the DDRR process. Rebuilding the FACA necessitates a centralised approach, while a regional approach is feasible for the police forces.

A regional approach is possible with DDRR and this might increase its chances of success (Gino Vlavonou, “Understanding the ‘failure’ of the Séléka rebellion“, African Security Review 23, no. 3, September 2014, p. 324; see also the example of the “weapons-free villages” campaign in the Solomon Islands: UNDP, “Practice Note”, p. 42). To reduce the potential for abuse, cash should not be paid for weapons being handed over. Compensations should offer priority access to reintegration support measures and starter packages with food. This would help prevent an unintentional support for the arms trade (UNDP, “Practice Note”, p. 40, 46). By improving the economic situation and the opportunities to make a living legally and without violence will increase the chances of a successful DDRR process through improved reintegration.

The advantages lie in the long-term strengthening of the transitional government and the reintegration of the rebels. The disadvantage is the amount of time required. International troops must remain on hand to suppress any new violence until the SSR is successfully concluded.

Priority 3: Institutionalization before liberalization
This approach, contrary to UN Resolution 2149, gives secondary importance to the implementation of national elections. They should occur in 2-5 years at the earliest, depending on the progress of the other conflict management approaches. This is also in line with the general recommendations for peacekeeping operations of Lakhdar Brahimi (“Delaying elections to build a sufficiently stable environment in which to hold the elections has a better shot at sustainable peace and can set the basis for future successful democratic development”; Lakhdar Brahimi, “Comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects”, paragraph 44). Even if not democratically legitimate, the transitional government should be strengthened and monopolise state power within the SSR framework.

To reduce the lack of democratic legitimacy, the successful implementation of regional projects should be followed by elections at the municipal level and in the prefectures (cf.: Lombard, “Genocide-mongering does nothing to help us understand the messy dynamics of conflict in the CAR”). One side effect would be a transition to a more decentralised political system. This could also contribute to long-term stabilisation, as regional solutions to regional problems would be encouraged. In addition, it would politically bind the conflicting parties more effectively not only to the central government, but also on the regional level.

The advantages lie in the prioritization of rebuilding the economy, infrastructure and government and strengthening decentralised structures. Further political integration of the conflicting parties at regional and municipal levels could eliminate the occurrence of spoilers and new violence. The disadvantage lies in the lack of democratic legitimacy in the transitional government, which could lead to a rebellion against the transitional government and against the international forces. A transparent approach is therefore a top priority.

Ex-Seleka fighters at a checkpoint on the road out of Bossangoa, November 4, 2013. They regularly rob local residents who have to cross the checkpoint to retum to town after searching for food in the countryside (Photo: Marcus Bleasdale).

Ex-Seleka fighters at a checkpoint on the road out of Bossangoa, November 4, 2013. They regularly rob local residents who have to cross the checkpoint to retum to town after searching for food in the countryside (Photo: Marcus Bleasdale).



The conflict in the CAR is an excellent example of how the causes of a conflict can be hidden by ethnic factors and only ferreted out with detailed analysis. The implementation of preset doctrinal approaches without assessing the situation and the factors involved does not bode well. This has been at the root of the failed international missions since 1997 in the CAR. MINUSCA, in place since mid-September 2014, will not achieve sustained stabilisation for the same reasons. For example, the long-term success of DDRR relies on the economic environment. Nevertheless, the improvement of the economic situation in the CAR is not part of the UN Resolution 2149 mandate for MINUSCA. In general, the focus on holding elections raises critical questions regarding the possible hidden intentions of the states participating in the international missions. Elections cannot solve most causes of conflict, but they do provide a welcome exit strategy. In addition, elections may also lead to new conflicts among stakeholders and drain valuable resources that could be better used elsewhere.

The cause of the conflict must be central to any assessment of the considerations and constraints of the situation: what realistically feasible measures could significantly improve the situation as quickly as possible? In the case of CAR, combining different conflict management approaches into a strategy and the importance of decentralised solutions should be considered. Regional or municipal approaches could incorporate the conflicting parties into the stabilisation process and thus reduce the likelihood of spoilers – not only in the case of the conflict in the CAR. With a decentralized strategy, the various measures could be implemented at different speeds and exemplary solutions could be developed to set the path for regions affected with more problems.

The alternative conflict management strategy proposed for the CAR prioritises three different approaches. The first priority should be regional, if possible municipal projects to rebuild the economy, infrastructure and government to create jobs and have a no-ticeably positive effect that will curb spoilers and form the basis for a successful reintegration of the rebels under DDRR. The second priority of the DDRR process and the SSR should be to reintegrate the rebels and at the same time monopolise state power into the hands of the transitional government. National elections would be conducted only as a third priority. Municipal and regional elections would be held earlier to reduce the democratic deficit.

International efforts in the CAR are disappointing because they focus on their own doctrinal ideas rather than on the underlying causes of the conflict. In this case new approaches are needed. Although conflict-specific strategies do not guarantee success, they do have a high potential to cause a change within the conflict. This means that properly designed and implemented conflict management strategies play an indispensable role in conflict prevention, long-term stabilisation and reconciliation.

Posted in Central African Republic, English, Patrick Truffer, Peacekeeping, Security Policy | Leave a comment

Paranoid Russia is Creating Enemies Everywhere

Russian president Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting in Novo-Ogaryovo, west of Moscow, November 14, 2013 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

Russian president Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting in Novo-Ogaryovo, west of Moscow, November 14, 2013 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

Russia’s bellicosity in recent months appears to be prompting its neighbors to deepen cooperation between one another and with the West, creating the very threat to Russian security the country saw in the first place. It is this unfounded Russian sense of insecurity that has aggravated its security situation.

Russia’s apologists insist the West is to blame for this year’s deterioration in East-West relations by pushing NATO ever closer to Russia’s borders and failing to take its legitimate security interests into account. A well-argued example of this position is John J. Mearsheimer’s recent article in Foreign Affairs magazine.

Mearsheimer, who is a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, laments that “the West had been moving into Russia’s backyard and threatening its core strategic interests” for years before the Ukraine crisis erupted this year. For Russian president Vladimir Putin, he believes, “the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected and pro-Russian president — which he rightly labeled a ‘coup’ — was the final straw. He responded by taking Crimea, a peninsula he feared would host a NATO naval base, and working to destabilize Ukraine until it abandoned its efforts to join the West.”

Whether Ukrainians were right, or had a right, to eject President Viktor Yanukovych after he unexpectedly pulled out of an association treaty with the European Union doesn’t factor into Mearsheimer’s argument. Nor does it seem to factor into Russia’s thinking, which helps explain why it “blames” the West for expanding NATO. Whereas the West is supposed to recognize Russia’s “legitimate” security interests, its former vassals in Central and Eastern Europe are denied the same by Russia’s defenders.

Similar, the people of Ukraine are denied a say in their own future — whether to integrate with the rest of Europe or remain dependent on their former Soviet master — for the sake of appeasing a paranoid Russia.

Russia never accepted that NATO was a purely defensive alliance. Even today, it sees the bloc as a threat when chances of it initiating hostilities against Russia are, of course, remote at best.

Russia’s perspective is not altogether unreasonable. Its territory is difficult to defend and its history is one of continuous invasion, the most recent — World War II — being a particularly devastating experience. Throughout the Cold War period, the enormous sacrifices Russia made to defeat the Nazis were reiterated in schools and propaganda over and over again. During the same period, most Russians were convinced the West intended to attack them. As Thomas Kent, an AP journalist, wrote in the most recent issue of Harriman Magazine:

The United States and the rest of NATO looked threatening to ordinary Soviets. If Americans favored Mercator map projections that made Russia look like a colossus stretching across half the globe, Russia favored polar projections that showed their country ringed by U.S. bases and client states. The Soviet press regularly asserted that the United States spared no expense for weaponry. […] When Americans in senior positions regularly denounced and threatened the Soviet Union, their words essentially confirmed for ordinary Russians what their own government was saying about U.S. intentions. — Thomas Kent, “Russia in the Late Years of Soviet Rule“, Harriman Magazine, no. Summer 2014 (July 15, 2014): 16–21.

The people running Russia today grew up in that period. They grew up with an exaggerated threat perception of the West and that seems to continue to inform their worldview today.

The same may be true for the other side. Eastern and Northern Europeans see Russia’s behavior today as proof that it’s falling back into old patterns. So do some strategists further west. Their response is to sever ties with Russia — by imposing economic sanctions — and strengthen their defenses, leaving Russia more isolated and more vulnerable. In effect, Russia’s behavior is creating the very conditions it believed it was only responding to.

Former Soviet satellite state Poland is the most aggressive in pushing the anti-Russian line. It urged a strong NATO response when Russia occupied and annexed the Crimean Peninsula in March and announced last month that it was shifting its military strength east, to face Russia.

Spiegel map Russia Europe

How Russia sees Europe. Map from Der Spiegel

This week, Baltic and Nordic countries and the United Kingdom announced they would improve intelligence-sharing and widen cross-border air force training in the region in response to both Russia’s aggression in southeastern Ukraine — where it is supporting a separatist uprising against the Kiev government — and its regular incursions of NATO airspace.

Even Germany, which has been more sympathetic to Russia than most, condemns its actions in Ukraine and supports the sanctions. According to the Financial Times, it also tried to get China to put pressure on Putin at a time when the Russian leader eyed his Asian neighbor as an alternative destination for oil and gas sales.

The likes of Mearsheimer will argue that the West must simply take Russia’s paranoia as a given and act accordingly — even if that means leaving new allies in Eastern Europe, who want to be part of the West, rather than subjugated to Russia (again), in the cold. Their advice to Western governments is to allow Russia a sphere of influence and conspire with it to ensure the neutrality of countries such as Finland and Ukraine.

Surely we didn’t win the Cold War, though, only to deny the legitimate aspirations of people who know only too well what it’s like to live under the Russian yoke? If the Fins want to be in NATO or the Ukrainians want to join the European Union, that’s between them and those organizations. No one has to ask Russia for permission. Nor should the West have to accommodate Russia’s irrational threat perception. Its paranoia is the problem, not the urge of other countries to defend themselves.

Posted in English, Nick Ottens, Russia | 1 Comment

WEA: Infanteriebrigaden nicht restlos abschaffen!

Ein Kommentar zum Artikel “Die Weiterentwicklung der Armee und die Infanterie” von Eugen Thomann, Redaktor der Allgemeinen Schweizerischen Militärzeitschrift, Oberstlt a D, zuletzt Chef eines Armeestabsteils im Militärischen Nachrichtendienst.

Foto: Geb Inf Bat 85

Foto: Geb Inf Bat 85

Auch wer hinter der Weiterentwicklung der Armee (WEA) steht, will auf die Verteidigungsfähigkeit der Infanterie nicht verzichten. Trotz vordergründiger Übereinstimmung bleiben Zweifel: Wie soll die auf Unterstützungsoperationen ausgerichtete Territorialdivision diese neue Aufgabe gleichsam nebenher erfüllen? Sie bekommt keinen grösseren Stab, keine Feuerkoordinationsmittel, keine Artillerie, keine Genietruppen. Von einem “Kampf der verbundenen Waffen” keine Rede.

Zugegeben, das Infanteriekader qualifiziert sich heute – viel gründlicher als früher – auf den Stufen der Gruppe, des Zuges und der Kompanie im Einsatz verschiedenster unterstellter Mittel und beweist diese Fähigkeit regelmässig in den Gefechtsausbildungszentren. Reicht das wirklich? Zu messen ist das nicht an irgendwelchen überholten Bildern von Panzerschlachten auf weiten Ebenen, sondern beispielsweise an den bitteren Erfahrungen der ukrainischen Armee, die auf Präzisionsartillerie angewiesen wäre und statt dessen überbaute Gebiete mit Flächenfeuer eindeckte, vielleicht eindecken musste. Hier erweist sich die Verteidigungsaufgabe als brandaktuell.

Das Parlament berät einen bundesrätlichen Antrag, der sämtliche (Gebirgs-) Infanteriebrigaden unwiederbringlich auflösen möchte, und das gleich mit Gesetzeskraft; weil er die Struktur der Armee im Militärgesetz festschreiben will – anstelle des heutigen einfachen Parlamentsbeschlusses. Das würde eine wichtige Weiche stellen, und niemand weiss, was das letztlich bedeutet.

Die Territorialdivisionen werden gegenüber den heutigen Territorialregionen verstärkt. Sie sind weiterhin Bindeglied der Armee zu den Kantonen. Bei Einsätzen zur Unterstützung der zivilen Behörden planen und führen sie Katastrophenhilfe-, Sicherungs- und Unterstützungseinsätze; bei der Verteidigung nehmen sie Schutz- und Sicherungsaufgaben im rückwärtigen Raum wahr. […] Neu werden jeder Territorialdivision vier Infanteriebataillone, ein Geniebataillon und ein Rettungsbataillon unterstellt; zudem kann jeder Territorialdivision für Einsätze ein Militärpolizeibataillon zugewiesen werden. Im Gegenzug werden die Infanterie- und Gebirgsinfanterie-Brigaden aufgelöst. Weil die Infanteriebataillone in erster Linie auf die Erfüllung von Sicherungsaufgaben ausgerichtet werden, wäre ihre Zusammenfassung in Brigaden und eine Führung über zwei Stufen (Territorialdivisionen und Brigade) nicht zweckmässig; zudem würden dadurch mehr Stäbe notwendig. — Schweizerische Bundesrat, “Botschaft zur Änderung der Rechtsgrundlagen für die Weiterentwicklung der Armee”, 09.03.2014, S. 21.

Dem vorzuziehen wäre eine Zwischenlösung. Sie könnte mindestens einen Infanteriebrigadestab beibehalten, samt Führungsunterstützung, Feuerkoordination, Artillerie und Genie, indes ohne fest unterstellte Infanterie. Dieser “Rahmen” würde den neuerdings den Territorialdivisionen unterstehenden Infanteriebataillonen im Turnus den praktischen Schliff der Verteidigungsaufgabe vermitteln und im Einsatz die Führungsstrukturen wertvoll ergänzen. Das wäre neu, würde indes an dem Modell der Reserve- oder “Kaderbrigade” anknüpfen, welches, eingeführt mit der Armee XXI, nach wenigen Jahren eindrückliche Ausbildungsleistungen vorzuweisen hat.

Was wäre mit der für die bundesrätliche Vorlage genauestens berechneten Personaldecke? Ja, ohne eine neue Bilanz ginge es nicht. Sie vor einem entscheidenden Kurswechsel zu fordern, darf man dem Parlament wohl kaum verwehren.

Posted in Eugen Thomann, Switzerland | Leave a comment

Rezension: Schlachtfeld Fulda Gap

Von Danny Chahbouni. Danny studiert Geschichte und Politikwissenschaft an der Philipps-Universität Marburg.

Schlachtfeld Fulda Gap, ab 17. November im Handel.

Schlachtfeld Fulda Gap, ab 17. November im Handel.

Der Kalte Krieg ist für die Generation der nach 1989 Geborenen kaum noch in seiner ganzen Radikalität begreifbar: Die Angst vor einem nuklearen Schlagabtausch der Super-Mächte, ständige Militärübungen und vor allem die Existenz von zwei einander feindlich gesinnten deutschen Staaten liegen für junge Menschen heute ähnlich weit zurück, wie die Befreiungskriege gegen Napoleon. So jedenfalls schrieb der US-Historiker John Lewis Gaddis in seinem Werk “Der Kalte Krieg – Eine neue Geschichte“. Die andauernde Diskussion darüber, ob das SED-Regime ein “Unrechtsstaat” war, zeigt deutlich, dass die Aufarbeitung der jüngsten deutschen Geschichte noch lange nicht abgeschlossen ist.

Eine ganze Reihe Stiftungen und Museen versuchen die Geschichte des Kalten Krieges durch historische Forschung sowie historisch-politische Bildungsarbeit aufzuarbeiten, kaum beachtet wird dabei jedoch die Militärgeschichte der beiden Bündnisse. Und das, obwohl gerade die Omnipräsenz des Militärs in beiden deutschen Staaten alltägliches Symbol des Konflikts war.

Point Alpha – einer der heißesten Orte des Kalten Krieges
Eine Ausnahme bildet die Gedenkstätte Point Alpha: Der Observation Post Alpha war ein Vorposten des 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) “Blackhorse” in der Nähe des osthessischen Fulda. Hier ragte der “Thüringer Balkon” am weitesten in die Bundesrepublik hinein und die topographisch günstige Lage dieses Landstrichs, der besser als “Fulda Gap” bekannt ist, machte das Gebiet zu einer Schlüsselstelle in den militärischen Planungen von NATO und Warschauer Pakt. Das 11th ACR fungierte hier als “Augen und Ohren” des V US Corps und der gesamten NATO.

Die Point Alpha Stiftung hat sich neben der Erinnerung an die Teilung Deutschlands auch die Aufarbeitung der militärischen Planungen beider Bündnisse auf die Fahnen geschrieben. Im Rahmen der Schriftenreihe Point Alpha erscheint am 17. November 2014 der zweite Band “Schlachtfeld Fulda Gap: Strategie- und Operationspläne der Bündnisse im Kalten Krieg“. Es handelt sich um einen Sammelband, in dem ausgewiesene Historiker und ehemalige Offiziere ihre Erfahrungen, das militärische Denken der damaligen Zeit und die Planungen für einen Krieg in Europa darlegen. Das 312 Seiten umfassende Buch erscheint in Parzellers Buchverlag in Fulda und kann über die Internetseite der Stiftung und im Online-Shop des Verlags erworben werden.

Historisch bedeutsames Gelände
Der erste Aufsatz des Sammelbandes schlägt eine Brücke in die Gegenwart: Helmut R. Hammerich vom Zentrum für Militärgeschichte und Sozialwissenschaften der Bundeswehr (ZMSBw) führt durch einen Verweis auf die aktuellen Ost-West-Verwerfungen in die Thematik ein. Dabei wird besonders deutlich, wie stark die militärischen Kräfteverhältnisse der Gegenwart noch von der ehemaligen “NATO-Schichttorte” in Westdeutschland entfernt sind. Besonders interessant sind seine Ausführungen zur geostrategischen Lage des Fulda Gap. Bereits Napoleon nutzte 1813 die Lücke zwischen den deutschen Mittelgebirgen, um seine Truppen nach Osten zu verlegen. Die gleiche Route hätte im Fall des Falles auch den Truppen des Warschauer Paktes gedient, um in kurzer Zeit das strategisch bedeutsame Rhein-Main-Gebiet zu nehmen. Die Kräfte, die dies zu verhindern gehabt hätten, wären die Verbände des V US Korps gewesen.

Als Gegenspieler hätten den GI’s die Soldaten der 8. sowjetischen Garde-Armee gegenübergestanden. Matthias Uhl vom Deutschen Historischen Institut in Moskau hat sich intensiv mit Struktur, Bewaffnung und den Planungen dieses Eliteverbandes auseinandergesetzt. Die Sowjetunion verringerte zwar die Zahl ihrer Besatzungstruppen nach dem Ende des Zweiten Weltkriegs, die 8. Garde-Armee blieb jedoch ein äußerst kampfstarker Verband, der bereits 1947 voll motorisiert war. In den folgenden Jahrzehnten blieb die Gruppe der Sowjetischen Streitkräfte in Deutschland (GSSD) fortwährenden Umstrukturierungen und Schwankungen in der Truppenzahl unterworfen. Die 8. Garde-Armee war allerdings – vor allem wegen des vor ihr liegenden wichtigen Geländes – stets mit dem modernsten Gerät ausgerüstet und hatte einen hohen Bereitschaftsgrad. Der Zenit der Stärke kann zu Beginn der 80er Jahre verortet werden, als der Großverband 90’000 Mann umfasste, über 1’235 T-80-Kampfpanzer verfügte sowie über mehr als 2’000 Schützenpanzer, Artilleriegeschütze und Kampfhubschrauber: ein größerer Fahrzeugbestand als der des gesamten französischen Heeres zur damaligen Zeit.

Ein Rückblick auf Strategie und Taktik des Kalten Krieges
In welche strategischen und operativ-taktischen Konzepte die gewaltigen Streifkräfte auf beiden Seiten der Innerdeutschen Grenze eingebunden waren, darüber schreiben General a. D. Helge Hansen, der von 1994 bis 1996 Oberbefehlshaber der Alliierten Streitkräfte in Mitteleuropa war. Aus Perspektive der NVA legt Siegfried Lautsch, Absolvent der Frunse-Akademie und ehemaliger Oberst der NVA, dar, wie sich das militärische Denken innerhalb des Warschauer Paktes in den letzten beiden Jahrzehnten des Kalten Kriegs veränderte. Eine Darstellung zu den Plänen der NATO erfolgt durch Gregory W. Pedlow, den Leiter des Historischen Büros im SHAPE. Diese Ausführungen werden ergänzt durch den Beitrag von Lieutenant Colonel a. D. Roger Cirillo, dem ehemaligen Kompaniechef der B-Kompanie/11th ACR. In seinem Beitrag “Die Verteidigung der Bundesstraße 84″ führt er aus, wie die NATO-Planungen auf Ebene einer Kompanie an vorderster Front umgesetzt wurden und wie sich der Alltag der GI’s an Freedom‘s Frontier gestaltete.

Das "Fulda Gap" war über Jahrzehnte theoretisches Schlachtfeld der Bündnisse. Das Ziel: Die strategisch bedeutungsvolle Rhein-Main-Region zu nehmen bzw. zu verteidigen. Beide Seiten planten zur Zielerreichung auch taktische Atomwaffen einzusetzen. Quelle: Point Alpha Stiftung.

Das “Fulda Gap” war über Jahrzehnte theoretisches Schlachtfeld der Bündnisse. Das Ziel: Die strategisch bedeutungsvolle Rhein-Main-Region zu nehmen bzw. zu verteidigen. Beide Seiten planten zur Zielerreichung auch taktische Atomwaffen einzusetzen. Quelle: Point Alpha Stiftung.

Die größten Heerlager der Weltgeschichte
Torsten Diedrich, ebenfalls vom ZMSBw, widmet sich der Rolle der DDR innerhalb des Warschauer Paktes. Für die UdSSR analysiert Diedrich ein dreifaches Interesse des Kreml am ostdeutschen Juniorpartner: ein militärgeographisches, ein militärisches und ein militärökonomisches. Demnach war die DDR hauptsächlich Pufferzone und wichtiges Aufmarschgebiet für einen Vorstoß nach Westeuropa. Die NVA blieb trotz guter Leistungen eine reine Bündnisarmee, die strukturell mit all ihren Kampfverbänden dem Vereinten Kommando des Warschauer Paktes unterstellt war. Militärökonomisch war die DDR umso wichtiger, wurde doch ein Großteil des Urans für sowjetische Kernwaffen in der sowjetisch-deutschen Aktiengesellschaft “Wismut AG” gefördert und ein Großteil der Logistik des Warschauer Paktes durch die DDR getragen.

In den militärischen Planungen der DDR spielten überdies die Grenztruppen eine besondere Rolle. Militärisch gegliedert und bewaffnet mit leichten Infanteriewaffen, waren sie eine besondere Truppengattung der NVA, die eigentlich Polizeiaufgaben zu erfüllen hatte. Ihre Entwicklung und Rolle im Kriegsfall wird durch den ehemaligen Hauptmann der Grenztruppen, Detlef Rotha, genau untersucht.

Bryan van Sweringen erinnert an die 61-jährige Geschichte des V US Corps, beginnend von der Landung in der Normandie am 06. Juni 1944 bis zur Auflösung im Jahr 2012. Alle drei Artikel machen nochmals besonders deutlich, wie stark militarisiert sowohl die Bundesrepublik als auch die DDR aufgrund ihrer “Frontlage” waren.

Colin Powell, US-Außenminister von 2001 bis 2005, kam zunächst 1958 als junger Leutnant in die 3rd Armored Division (Spearhead) nach Gelnhausen. 1986 kehrte er sogar als kommandierender General des V Corps in das "Fulda Gap" zurück.

Colin Powell, US-Außenminister von 2001 bis 2005, kam zunächst 1958 als junger Leutnant in die 3rd Armored Division (Spearhead) nach Gelnhausen. 1986 kehrte er sogar als kommandierender General des V Corps in das “Fulda Gap” zurück.

Fragiles Gleichgewicht
Eher theoriebezogen ist dagegen der Aufsatz von Matthias Rupp, der sich dem Konzept des “Brinkmanships” widmet und dieses anhand der Krisen um Berlin und Kuba erläutert. Das Brinkmanship gehört zur Spieltheorie und korrespondiert mit der Entwicklung der Abschreckungspolitik. Brinkmanship bleibt dabei, wie der Name es bereits sagt, ein Spiel am Rande des Abgrunds (on the brink). Rupp zeigt sehr anschaulich, auf welch dünnes Eis sich Ost und West politisch begeben hatten. Besonders deutlich wird dies vor dem Hintergrund des immensen Zerstörungspotenzials, welches in der Studie von Oberstleutnant a. D. Michael Poppe dargestellt wird. Poppe vergleicht detailliert und bezogen auf einzelne Waffensysteme das militärische Kräfteverhältnis zwischen NATO und Warschauer Pakt.

Abschließend fasst der Herausgeber des Bandes, Dieter Krüger, die Ergebnisse der Autoren unter der Fragestellung “Wollte die Sowjetunion Westeuropa überfallen?” zusammen. Die populäre Sichtweise, dass der Warschauer Pakt über Jahrzehnte nur auf die Gelegenheit wartete, über die NATO-Staaten herzufallen, muss demnach stark relativiert werden. Interessant ist allerdings sein Augenmerk auf die vielen Missverständnisse und Fehlperzeptionen, vor allem im Zuge der Ereignisse, die als Soviet War Scare in die Geschichte eingegangen sind. Unmöglich wäre eine Eskalation nämlich durchaus nicht gewesen.

Die Point Alpha Stiftung hat mit Band 2 ihrer Schriftenreihe Pionierarbeit geleistet. Die Literatur über den Kalten Krieg ist aufgrund ihrer schieren Anzahl kaum überschaubar, eine Ausnahme bilden dabei jedoch Fragestellungen rund um sicherheitspolitische und militärische Planungen. Oftmals fehlen hier nach wie vor die Quellen, um fundiert arbeiten zu können. Durch das Hinzuziehen ehemaliger hochrangiger Offiziere, die über Jahre als Zeitzeugen in den militärischen Schaltzentralen zugegen waren, konnte dieses Quellenproblem teilweise wettgemacht werden. Der Sammelband vereint erstmals das strategische Denken des Ostens und Westens und zeigt, wie die politischen Vorgaben auf operativ-taktischer Ebene umgesetzt worden wären.

Darüber hinaus gibt er Einblick in die militärischen Strukturen der US-Army und der Sowjetarmee in Deutschland. Ein Standardwerk hierzu fehlt bisher ebenso, wie eine Übersicht über die militärischen Kräfteverhältnisse beider Bündnisse. Besonders bei der Studie von Michael Poppe wird dabei einmal mehr deutlich, wie sehr die beiden deutschen Staaten riesigen Heerlagern glichen. Dass der Kalte Krieg im Herzen Europas niemals heiß geworden ist, wirkt da eher als Glücksfall der Geschichte. Brenzlige Situationen, wie der von Krüger angesprochene “Petrow-Zwischenfall“, zeigen sehr deutlich, dass das atomare Patt kein so sicherer Zustand war wie oftmals angenommen. Am Ende waren es doch die kühlen Köpfe einzelner Personen und eine gehörige Portion Glück, die die Katastrophe verhinderten.

Ein wenig zu kurz – bei all den militärischen Planungen – kommen allerdings die Millionen Zivilisten, die in der Bundesrepublik und der DDR die Hauptlast dieses nie eingetreten Ernstfalls hätten tragen müssen. Wurden sie in den militärischen Planungen als vernachlässigbar angesehen? Im Fulda Gap hätte auf westdeutscher Seite der Bundesgrenzschutz die Zivilpersonen evakuieren sollen, so zumindest gemäß Planung im General Defense Plan des V US Corps, der Anfang der 1980er Jahre durch die HVA aufgeklärt wurde. Ob die als Kombattanten eingestuften Hundertschaften des Bundesgrenzschutzes die richtige Wahl für solch eine Operation gewesen wären, darf zumindest bezweifelt werden. Beide deutsche Staaten hatten umfangreiche Zivilschutzsysteme etabliert, die in diesem Sammelband leider nur sehr peripher erwähnt werden. Das ist allerdings auch das einzige kleine Manko, das der Band aufweist.

Jedem, der sich für die Militärgeschichte des Kalten Krieges interessiert, sei dieses Buch wärmstens empfohlen.

Posted in Book Reviews, Danny Chahbouni, History, Security Policy | Leave a comment

Vice News – Afghanistan: What We’re Leaving Behind

After 13 years Britain and the United States officially ended their combat operation in Afghanistan on October 26, 2014. Britain and the United States handed over their last base in Afghanistan – Camp Bastion and Camp Leatherneck in the southern province of Helmand (cf.: Raissa Kasolowsky, Michael Perry and Kevin Liffey, “Britain ends combat role in Afghanistan, last U.S. Marines hand over base“, Reuters, 26.10.2014). However, in late September the United States and Afghanistan signed a long-delayed security agreement that will allow about 9,800 American troops to remain in the country after the end of 2014. They will be responsible for advising and supporting Afghan security forces and conducting counterterrorism missions against al-Qaeda and its affiliates, but they will not have a combat role.

If we are honest, we have to admit that the mission in Afghanistan was a failure. It is only a question of time before the Taliban will recapture the country. Already now, the violence is increasing. Fighting between the Afghan security forces and the Taliban is chaotic and often indiscriminate, and civilian casualties are rising, as Afghans pay the price for failures of the withdrawing countries.

Vice News correspondent Ben Anderson visited an NGO-operated hospital in Lashkar Gah — one of only two in the Helmand province — to speak with the medical staff as they attempt to manage the ever-growing influx of patients. The short documentary gives an impression about the situation in Afghanistan, the prospect of the country after 2014 and what we are leaving behind.

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China’s Extending Reach

by Paul Pryce. Paul Pryce is a Junior Research Fellow at the Atlantic Council of Canada. With degrees in political science from universities on both sides of the pond, he has previously worked in conflict resolution as a Research Fellow with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces. His current research interests include African security issues and NATO-Russia relations.

PLAAF Ilyushin IL-76TD 20541 at the Perth International Airport, Australia, March 26, 2014 (Photo: Jim Woodrow).

PLAAF Ilyushin IL-76TD 20541 at the Perth International Airport, Australia, March 26, 2014 (Photo: Jim Woodrow).

Obtaining strategic airlift is a challenge every emerging power must confront. African Union peace support operations have routinely failed due to the lack of capacity to transport troops to conflict areas, and recent interventions in Mali and South Sudan have only taken place through the contribution of airlift by European Union members and the United States. NATO has sought to close the gap in airlift capabilities among its own members through the establishment of a consortium which pools resources to purchase and jointly operate Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. As China seeks to exert greater influence globally, though, how are Chinese defence officials pursuing strategic airlift?

Traditionally, China has relied upon the Ilyushin Il-76. A model employed by military and civilian operators in 38 countries, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has encountered no significant issues with the 14 aircraft of this design that it uses as its primary source of strategic airlift. In fact, China has ordered up to 20 more Il-76 transports from the manufacturer in Russia. But even this does not seem to be enough for Chinese officials. Apparently concerned by the country’s reliance upon Russia for the manufacture of much of its aircraft, China is developing its own strategic transport, the Xian Y-20.

Currently, only three prototypes have been produced for PLAAF but the Y-20 is expected to become a mainstay for Chinese military and civilian operators. Although the Y-20 suffers from some pitfalls common to aircraft designed in China, such as relying upon Russian engines, it shows great promise. For example, the expected payload of the Y-20 is 66 tonnes, which is substantially greater than the 42 to 48 tonnes the various configurations of the Il-76 are capable of transporting. The Y-20 will also reportedly have a greater range than the Il-76. Specifically, a Y-20 taking off from one of China’s airbases in Xinjiang could fly as far as Cairo, Egypt before needing to refuel. A Y-20 based in Hainan could reach anywhere in Southeast Asia, further tipping the balance of power in the South China Sea’s ongoing territorial disputes. The Y-20 is also interesting insofar as China is experimenting with new manufacturing technologies. Allegedly 3-D printing will be used in an effort to accelerate the production of these new aircraft. It remains to be seen whether this will compromise the safety or durability of the Y-20 but the test flights of the current prototypes have proceeded without incident.

Xian Y-20 - one of the prototypes.

Xian Y-20 – one of the prototypes.

Although some of the security implications of the Y-20 are concerning, the introduction of this improved strategic airlift capacity for PLAAF offers new opportunities for constructive engagement with China. China has generally relied upon its maritime forces in order to contribute to multinational operations. Since 2008, more than 40 Chinese warships have assisted in efforts to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden. But the range of the Y-20 will allow China to more actively participate in peace support operations throughout Africa. China has committed to deploy more than 700 troops to South Sudan in support of the UN peacekeeping mission in that war torn country in early 2015. With the Y-20, future such deployments could be more commonplace.

This should be a welcome development among American and European policymakers. China’s existing aircraft can already reach disputed territories in the South China Sea from several airbases. But China has already shown a remarkable willingness to participate constructively in African peacekeeping missions even with its current transport capabilities. In 2013, a small detachment of Chinese troops proved valuable to the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA). Between 1993 and 2005, Chinese troops also participated in United Nations operations in Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Sudan. In contrast, aside from a small detachment of American forces assisting Uganda in the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army, the US has refrained from ‘putting boots on the ground’ in Africa ever since the failed intervention in Somalia.

Greater involvement from China may also counter-intuitively enhance the transparency of African security affairs. Until the deployment of EU forces to the Central African Republic in early 2014, the unilateral intervention of French forces was regarded with considerable suspicion by the local populace. The number, disposition, and objectives of the French forces were never made clear. Operation Barkhane, France’s ongoing mission to hunt terrorists in the Sahel region, has also aroused suspicion as French forces roam freely across the borders of sovereign African countries. China has demonstrated an opposition to such ad hoc missions, insisting on only participating in interventions in Africa under the auspices of the UN. This is not to say that China is a paragon of international law; Chinese behaviour in disputes with Japan and Vietnam attests to China’s own unilateralist tendencies. But an increased dependency on China to share the burden in stabilizing failed or failing states would deter some countries from waging secret wars in Africa.

Yet there is one caveat to the Y-20. It seems to have been developed with a view to transporting current equipment used by the People’s Liberation Army, rather than incorporating a forward-looking design. With a payload of 66 tonnes, the Y-20 could transport a single Type-99 main battle tank and little else. The cargo hold is also spacious enough to just fit a Type-99. If the PLA adopts heavier vehicles and equipment in the future, the Y-20 will be unable to meet China’s needs. As such, the Y-20 could simply be intended as a first foray into the design and production of strategic transport, with another design to follow in the 2020’s. Meanwhile, the Y-20 could then be marketed abroad as a cargo freighter for civilian operators, boasting a greater transport capacity than the Boeing 777F that is flown by Cathay Pacific and other cargo airlines around the world.

Whatever China’s ultimate plans for the Y-20 are, it is clear that strategic airlift will not be a challenge for the country. Although Chinese policymakers have sought close relations with Pakistan and Iran in recent years, airbases in those countries will no longer be essential to China’s western logistics as the Y-20 and possible future designs will be able to travel beyond Central Asia before needing refuelling. This will undoubtedly enhance China’s power projection, raising the country’s profile in the international community. This can be interpreted as a threat or a challenge by Euro-Atlantic decision-makers, or it can be seen as an opportunity to manage China’s rise. Affording opportunities for the Chinese to engage constructively in future peace support operations, particularly in Africa, will be the best means of achieving the latter.

More information
The Y-20 is taking part in the Zhuhai Airshow, which starts this week in China (the Video above shows a preparation flight for the Airshow on 07. Nov. 2014). According to David Cenciotti, from The Aviationist, the Y-20 “is a hybrid between the U.S. C-17, the Airbus A400M Atlas four-engine turboprop, and the nose section of the Antonov An-70“. By the way “in July 2009, a former Boeing employee was convicted of selling secret C-17 technical details to China“. Read a summary about the Chinese aircraft displayed at the Zhuhai Airshow on “Information Dissemination“.

Posted in China, English, International, Paul Pryce | Leave a comment

Personal Theories of Power: Cyber Power

by Billy Pope. This article is part of the Personal Theories of Power series, a joint Bridge-CIMSEC project which asked a group of national security professionals to provide their theory of power and its application. We hope this launches a long and insightful debate that may one day shape policy.

cyber-001Cyberspace is enabling new forms of communication, influence, awareness, and power for people around the world. Families use cyberspace to communicate face-to-face over great distances. Financial institutions execute global business and commodity trades at the speed of light through the cyberspace domain. The world’s citizens are granted unprecedented access to information, facilitating more awareness and understanding than at any time in history. Yet the same cooperative domain that fosters so much good for mankind also offers a tremendous source of power. The antithesis of the mutually beneficial electronic environment is a cyberspace where competition and fear overshadow collaboration. This conundrum, however, is not new. Hobbes, in his fundamental law of nature, warns, “That every man, ought to endeavour Peace, as farre as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek, and use, all helps and advantages of Warre.” (Thomas Hobbes, “Leviathan”, Revised student edition, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, 1996, 92). Cyberspace will continue to civilize. As the domain matures, however, so too will the forces that aim to use the cyberspace domain to project power.

Before diving into the concept of cyber power, one must first frame the term power itself. Power, in its most basic form equates to might: the ability to compel a person or group to acquiesce through force. Thucydides captured this concept in his artful depiction of the Melian Dialog, penning the famous phrase, “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”(Thucydides, “History of the Peloponnesian War“, The Penguin Classics, 1972, 406). Hobbes, too, warned that power possessed is power to be used, suggesting every man lives in a state of constant competition with every other man. (Hobbes, 88). In this way, power is the ultimate arbiter, framing both what a man can do and what he should do in the same breath.

The close cousin to might is coercion. Thomas Schelling suggests “Coercion requires finding a bargain, arranging for him to be better off doing what we want — worse off not doing what we want — when he takes the threatened penalty into account.” (Thomas C. Schelling, “Arms and Influence: With a New Preface and Afterword“, The Henry L. Stimson Lectures Series, 2008, 4). Unlike a strategy centered on might, coercion requires insight. Military strategists and theorists who emerged from the Cold War coalesced around a single basic tenet of coercion: one must attempt to thoroughly understand an adversary before coercion can succeed. (Graham T. Allison, “Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis“, 2nd ed, 1999, 404; John J Mearsheimer, “The Tragedy of Great Power Politics“, 2001, 338; Emile Simpson, “War from the Ground up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics“, 2012, 206; Robert Anthony Pape, “Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War“, Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, 1996, 20). Hearkening Sun Tzu’s notion that one must “know the enemy,” this community of great minds suggests in-depth analysis helps determine the bargaining chips in the coercion chess match. (Sun Tzu, “The Illustrated Art of War“, 2005, 205).

Coercion is not limited to massive Cold War-styled conflicts. Non-state actors and other asymmetric threats may also be influenced through coercive strategies. Emile Simpson, in his book “War From the Ground Up“, infuses current counterinsurgency strategies with Aristotle’s concepts of logos, ethos, and pathos to distill the concepts of modern coercion. (Simpson, 202–203). Simpson argues the vital importance of information as a source of power. He suggests the very definition of success in asymmetric conflicts is framed by one’s ability to compel an adversary to accept an imposed strategic narrative. Simpson writes, “In this sense, success or failure in war are perceived states in the minds of one’s intended audience.” (Simpson, 61). In wars where annihilation cannot even be considered as a feasible strategy, one must win with ideas. Coercion offers a framework of thought that centers on this very approach.

The Internet according to "The Internet map".

The Internet according to “The Internet map“.

Why focus so much of an essay on cyber power theory to a lengthy discussion on traditional forms of power? Quite simply, cyber power is still just power at its core. Cyber power will not change the nature of war. Cyber power, at least in the foreseeable future, will not reorganize the international consortium of states, leaving the Westphalian system to flounder in a new electronic world order. Cyber power offers tremendous opportunities to enhance how people interact, cooperate, and even fight. It does not, however, make traditional forms of power obsolete.

Overzealous futurists exuberantly claim that cyber power is a game changer, saying things like, “Cyber war is real; it happens at the speed of light; it is global; it skips the battlefield; and, it has already begun.” (Richard A. Clarke, “Cyber War: The next Threat to National Security and What to Do about It“, 1st ed, 2010, 30–31). The attuned strategist will peer through the chafe, realizing that cyber power offers new, innovative methods by which to project power. The same savvy practitioner will also appreciate that power and conflict are grounded in basic human requirements, psychology, and relationships. Neither Thucydides’ realist notions of fear, honor, and interests, nor Keohane’s collaborative concepts of cooperation and interconnectedness were developed with cyberspace in mind. (Thucydides, 20–21; Robert O. Keohane, “After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy“, 1st Princeton classic ed, 2005, 243). Cyberspace, and in turn any notion of cyber power, however, contains these concepts in troves.

What, then, is cyber power specifically? This author argues it takes two forms. First, cyber power extends and accentuates existing forms of military power. It helps shape the battlefield through intelligence collection and information operations. In some cases it facilitates military effects that were previously only achievable through kinetic means. Second, cyber power is a unique political instrument. Most military professionals are all too familiar with the elements of national power marched out during professional education courses: diplomatic, informational, military, and economic. Cyber power connects to each of these components but also offers new options. Stronger than diplomacy and sanctions, yet not to the level of Clausewitzean war, cyber power expands the spectrum of power projection available to policy-makers.

In its militaristic form, cyber power has proven its worth as an accoutrement to traditional military engagements. Two historical examples of air power employment serve as cases in point. When the United States repelled Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991, the American Air Force disabled Iraq’s integrated air defense system by permanently destroying radar sites, anti-aircraft systems, and electrical switching stations. (Michael R Gordon and Trainor, “The Generals’ War: The inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf“, 1995, 112). In 2007, the Israeli Air Force penetrated Syrian airspace en route to an alleged nuclear reactor at Dier-ez-Zor. Israeli pilots simply flew past Syria’s air defense systems undetected. While Israeli officials have never confirmed the details of this operation, it is widely accepted that a cyber attack blinded the air defense systems, achieving the desired effect, while preserving the systems and their associated personnel from physical destruction. (Charles W. Douglass, “21st Century Cyber Security: Legal Authorities and Requirements“, Strategic Research Project, U.S. Army War College, 22.03.2012, 14). By producing military effects, cyber power enhances more traditionally understood forms of power in terms of might and projection.

The Internet of 2010 according to "The Opte Project" (© 2014 by LyonLabs, LLC and Barrett Lyon; Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License).

The Internet of 2010 according to “The Opte Project” (© 2014 by LyonLabs, LLC and Barrett Lyon; Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License).

The second framework of cyber power, however, places more emphasis on the combination of interdependence and leverage than military might. In this way, the concept of coercion again takes center stage. The United States serves as an appropriate case study. America is the most technologically advanced nation on Earth. The U.S., after all, invented the Internet and gave rise to the framework for cyberspace. Until very recently, the United States maintained control over the mechanisms that form the central nervous system of the Internet and its interdependent connections. (“NTIA Announces Intent to Transition Key Internet Domain Name Functions“, NTIA, Office of Public Affairs, 14.03.2014; Richard Forno, “US Transitioning Internet DNS Control“, The Center for Internet and Society, 14.03.2014). This outright advantage, however, also translates into a serious vulnerability. The U.S. and other similarly connected nations are more dependent on cyberspace for normal societal functions like banking, municipal utilities, and interstate commerce.

Prominent powers are incentivized to exercise cyber power to achieve political effects while attempting to limit vulnerabilities to the same types of actions. Largely non-lethal and quite influential against nations that find themselves dependent upon the domain, cyber power offers attractive options. Some states will attempt more cooperative approaches to limit vulnerability, as Keohane’s post-hegemonic theoretical approach would suggest. At a minimum, capable entities will communicate their abilities to exert influence in the cyber domain to influence the strategic narrative Emile Simpson so aptly describes. The ability to project power in the cyber domain becomes an important source of influence alongside economic, military, informational, and diplomatic leverage. It is in this grand-strategic purview that cyber power holds the most potential.

The difference between these two aspects of cyber power is both strategic and philosophical. In the militaristic sense, cyber might conjures a Clausewitzean approach where engagements form the foundation of strategy and digital blood is the price of victory. (Carl Von Clausewitz, Michael Howard, and Peter Paret, “On War“, 2011, 128). A strategy centered on coercion, leverage, and dependence, however, falls into the realm of Sun Tzu and Liddell Hart where perfect strategies involve very little actual confrontation on the way to achieving political objectives. (Basil Henry Liddell Hart, “Strategy“, 2nd rev. ed, 1991, 324). Familiar in concept yet quite novel in execution, these two methods produce power where none previously existed. Both approaches, however, must be considered as parts of a greater whole that includes the full spectrum of power and political will. Cyber power is poignant and increasingly relevant, but it is not sufficient in and of itself.

While some soothsayers predict cyberspace will reshape the global landscape and the power structures that govern it, this author suggests otherwise. So long as people depend on the physical domains of air, land, and sea for basic survival needs, the physical powers used to protect these domains will remain relevant. That is not to say, however, that cyber power is flaccid. Nations that depend on cyberspace can be held at risk through the exploitation of cyber power for political effects. Whether through direct engagement or a more indirect approach, cyber power is capable of swaying political decisions in the same way others sources of power influence policy. Cyber power is a force to consider as military leaders and statesmen alike contemplate all dimensions of national power.

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CIMSECThe Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank. It was formed in 2012 to bring together forward-thinkers from a variety of fields to examine the capabilities, threats, hotspots, and opportunities for security in the maritime domain. Check out the NextWar blog to join the discussion. CIMSEC encourages a diversity of views and is currently accepting membership applications here.

The Bridge is a blog dedicated to strategy and military affairs. It was formed in 2013 to bring together forward-thinking junior to mid-grade officers and practitioners from a variety of fields to analyze and write about current and future national security challenges.


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