Tag Archives: NATO

What is the Canadian Military? Is it time to rethink?

In contrast in the eyes of many Canadians, Canada is still a country of peacekeepers, yet our nation’s contributions of personnel to UN missions has rarely been lower. So the question needs to be asked, what sort of military should Canada have?




[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ecently there has seen a number of news stories and article emerging about the state of the Canadian military. Questions of whether the navy should re-orientate itself to new challenges in the Pacific (China); the costs of stealth snowmobiles;  the ongoing procurement drama of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and this rather eloquent article on the middle power conundrum regarding military procurement.

A common theme of this discussion is the procurement and fiscal challenges facing the Canadian armed force. A former professor of mine Andrew Richter, wrote on the issue of Canada’s procurement challenges back 2003 titled Along Side the Best? The Future of the Canadian Forces. The article examines Canada’s long history of poor procurement practices and the tough decisions that would have to be made when the next round of procurement came about. Now, a decade later we are seeing this decisions (or lack there of) that Dr. Richter discussed coming to the forefront.

Part of the problem is that Canadians simply don’t care about the military when compared to the broader policy priorities (actual poll results here). The clip in the aforementioned link finds that the military ranks as a long term priority for a paltry 4% of Canadians. These numbers illustrate a rather obvious point that we as Canadians don’t put much stock into defense spending because Canada has no enemies (nation states) and we can easily free ride on the bloated military spending of the United States. As a result the military is seen as something that is nice to have and people want to use for missions that support our values but it is not seen as an essential part of Canadian society or a funding priority.  Despite the aforementioned poll being a year old, the year over year priorities for most Canadians tend to be relatively consistent with minor variation: the economy, health care, tax rates, the environment ranking near the top and the military ranking at or near the bottom. The impact of this policy catch 22 is that this apathy about the Canadian military has carried over into the political realm. The current Conservative government, which campaigned hard on a strong military has placed balancing the budget ahead of it campaign priorities resulting in the Department of National Defense facing steep budget cuts and constrained spending priorities.

This of course brings us to the crux of the real issue, what role do we as Canadians want to see our military play in the world and in turn, what sort of military do Canadians want to pay for? From a political standpoint the federal political parties are only talking about one option: maintaining an increasingly expensive all purpose military. Yes some are willing to ditch the increasingly expensive F-35s but the disastrous Cyclone Helicopter procurement and veiled threats from Lockheed Martin about canceling the F-35 contracts shows what can happen when the government makes a bad decision or changes it mind. The result can be an armed forces that are left empty handed while huge sums of money are wasted and could have been spent on alternative pieces of equipment.

With none of the political parties have engaged the public on the issue what sort of military do Canadians want and what other options are available. All of the parties speak of supporting the armed forces and ensuring our troops are trained and equipped properly for missions that they are sent on but none of them are questioning what sort of missions should we be sending them on. Canada obviously does not fund its military like the United States, yet there is a willingness to want to be able to do everything and be involved in missions that arises just as our armed forces capabilities have deteriorated to a point that may be unsustainable. In contrast in the eyes of many Canadians, Canada is still a country of peacekeepers, yet our nation’s contributions of personnel to UN missions has rarely been lower. So the question needs to be asked, what sort of military should Canada have?

All Purpose Military

Since the end of World War Two, Canada has maintained an all purpose armed forces, which simply means that we have three functioning branches to our armed force (an army, navy and air force). Unfortunately for us, due to years of constrained defense budgets, deferred procurement and expedited emergency replacement purchases all of the proverbial chickens are coming home to roost. With an estimated cost of $490 billion for new equipment, needing to be purchased over the next two decades the that Canadian taxpayers will be paying a high price in order to keep this all purpose capability. In theory maintaining an all purpose military isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it enables Canada to remain flexible in its role and contribute to a wide variety of military missions on the international stage.

The fundamental problem is that Canada will never have a military that can project itself on the international stage alone. Any conflict that Canada becomes involved with, will be as a part of a larger coalition of nations. Since many of our NATO allies and particularly the United States have militaries that are larger and more capable it is likely that Canadian military contributions would just supplement their capabilities. Canada’s contributions would hardly be a deciding factor in any intervention going forward nor would the size of the impact be significant in scale due to the relatively small size of our armed forces.

Canada has never had a large military, and the rising costs are threatening to shrink it even further. The ever rising costs of the F-35s have already illicit comments about buying fewer planes and bombs for those planes. The sheer cost of these new aircraft and buying them in the numbers needed to be able to deploy an effective force is already resulting in other branches feeling pressure with reports of an infantry battalion being cut from the army to help offset the F-35s. Questions about the costs of the shipbuilding contracts as well as the ability of Canadian shipyards to deliver on time and on budget place the navy’s procurement plans in question as well.

What this illustrates is that Canada’s armed forces is underfunded and facing a poorly organized procurement schedule from the standpoint of maintaining a truly all purpose military. Now this isn’t to say that Canadians may not want an all purpose military and it is also safe to say that Canadians would want the best available equipment to keep our soldiers, sailors and airmen safe in whatever mission they sent. But there has been no discussion of what the costs are going to be in order to maintain this military. Would Canadians be opposed to a X percentage defense tax in order to fund the military properly or would they prefer cuts to other spending priorities? There is no answer to this question because no political party is willing to have a serious discussion about what the future of the military will be.

Specialized Military

If funding an all purpose military is deemed to be too costly, an attractive yet under examined alternative is the specialization of the Canadian armed forces. In this context specialization refers to the prioritization of a single branch of the Canadian armed forces both in use and funding, The non-prioritized branches of the military would be shrunk or reorganize to a minimum capability with the cost saving then being spent on enhancing the capabilities of the selected branch.

This specialization is already occurring in Europe where austerity has forced deep military cuts onto several NATO powers. The Dutch Army for example no longer has any tanks as their final two battalions were disbanded in 2011 in order to save money.  What these cuts have resulted in a degree synergy of capabilities between nations like Great Britain and France sharing aircraft carriers or the Dutch-German military cooperation in “a bid to better utilize ‘scarce and expensive resources and capabilities’ at a time when Europe is facing a financial crisis.” For Canada this would mean picking a single service branch and prioritizing it while cutting back the capabilities of the other branches, likely in cooperation with the United States.

Although it is impossible to say exactly what this specialization would look like, I would argue that the Navy or the Air Force likely have the leg up on being chosen as the preferred choice. The reasoning is relatively straight forward as “boots on the ground” missions have gone the way of the dodo for Canada in the UN (see link above) and after Iraq and Afghanistan the desire for western troops being deployed anywhere is in relative short supply. Second, the fact that only the United States shares a land border with Canada means that our army really isn’t needed to deter or defend us from invasion (if the US did invade our army wouldn’t stop them). Under this assumption, the army would likely be turned into a largely reservist force with specialized units like Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) and the Disaster Assistance Response Teams (DART) remaining to fulfill specialized needs as a part of a larger coalition where other countries provide the bulk of land forces.

As for the Navy or Air Force one of these two branches would likely be expanded and possible enhanced likely in the conjunction with out allies designs and desires as well as the capability to defend Canadian interests and sovereignty. So for the navy, it would likely see an expanded ship building program beyond that which is already planned. Since Canada doesn’t have the capabilities to build these vessels ourselves it would likely mean going abroad for some of the ships. One intriguing idea would be the possible purchase of Great Britain’s new aircraft carrier which is currently planned to be mothballed after it completes construction (although a recent policy reversal may change this).

If the Air Force is given primacy, we would likely see an expanded F-35 purchase or possibly diversification of aircraft purchases beyond the F-35. We would also likely see the purchase of attack helicopter, additional heavy lift aircraft, air refueling aircraft, airborne radar and an expanded drone force. These purchases would also be accompanied by a wider variety of ordnance with the adding of larger and more specialized weaponry like bunker busters and air to ground cruise missiles that would give the Canadian Air Force a strategic strike capability.

What we would also likely see is the emergence of some joint capabilities such as a Marine brigade being formed (if the navy is given priority) or an airborne brigade  (if the air force is given priority) with these new units gaining the means through which they can be effectively deployed to limited combat situations abroad. Such a convergence would allow some all purpose capabilities to be maintained but they would likely only be usable in the context of the broader support of allies or a limited deployment such as protecting an embassy or Canadians during a large scale evacuation similar to Lebanon in 2008.

The specialized nature of the single branch would result in Canada striving to become a leader in operations of that branch within NATO and other allied military operations. Canada providing a naval task force to the Persian Gulf in relief of an American one or being willing and able to launch the first round of strikes of an air campaign would become  standard and the norm rather then the current tertiary role that Canada currently provides.

Self-Defense Force

The self-defense role for the Canadian forces would see Canada’s military largely retreating from international deployments. Although some rudimentary capabilities for activities abroad such as the maintaining of our C-17 capabilities to provide humanitarian missions/disaster relief or JFT-2 for counter-terror operations; the bulk of the Canadian military would be transformed into a glorified domestic defense force. The Navy and Coast Guard would be merged into a single entity whose mission would be to police Canadian waters; the air force would be reduced to a minimum number of aircraft to protect our skies from foreign incursions and the army would be reduced largely to reservists whose primary purpose would be to assist in disaster relief and to provide limited aid for international humanitarian missions.

A slightly expanded version of this would see Canada maintain a true “Peacekeeping force” where a small, rapidly deployable force would be maintained that could be deployed for peacekeeping roles that are authorized by the United Nations. This is a double edge sword where fortunately for Canada, UN missions have become increasingly rare; unfortunately the missions that the UN tends to be deployed to have tended to be in far flung parts of the world where Canada has few interests in an effort to stop increasingly intractable conflicts.

The Icelandic Way

Finally, there is the Icelandic way. Let’s be frank, unless the United States invades Canada itself, no other nation will. Despite the rhetoric of the Cold War and Russians coming over the pole or the fantasy that are Red Dawn (the original was better) or Homefront geography dictates that Canada is a countries that is very difficult to attack from any direction but south. So the question is, do we actually need a military?

Although there would likely be some “backlash” from allies about abolishing the Canadian armed forces the fact of the matter is that Canada’s contributions to military endeavors are hardly deal breaking. If Canada hadn’t contributed to Kosovo, Afghanistan or Libya missions it is unlikely that the outcomes would have been any different. Fortunately, Canada can make it up to our allies in other ways if we aren’t willing to fund a military. The Department of National Defense budget estimate for 2012/13 totaled approximate $20.1 billion. Even if we put a portion of that amount towards subsidizing our allies military ventures that we support you would find that it has a major impact. The Kosovo air intervention in 1999 was pegged at $7 billion with another $100-150 billion for reconstruction and peacekeeping; the Libya intervention to remove Qaddafi was a relatively cheap 1.1 billion for the airstrikes; while Afghanistan although totaling likely in the several trillion dollar range, Canada’s portion costed $11.3 billion (excluding long term healthcare costs).

What this shows is that Canada could easily pay for more then its share of a military mission if we wanted to. Even if the 20.1 billion was split with half, with part paying down the national debt and other half being saved to fund military and humanitarian missions in a given year Canada could easily subsidize the costs to our allies for the deployment of their forces.


What is needed in Canada is a serious discussion on the fate of the Canadian military, unfortunately this isn’t a decision that our politicians are willing to have. With what is likely to be half a trillion dollars being spent on the armed forces over the next two decades Canadians need to be asked do they want to spend the money and what will that money buy? If Canadians don’t have this discussion, they risk being saddled with military of exorbitant cost that is without a clear mission or proper capabilities. This in turn will leave Canada isolated on the international stage unable to contribute properly to allied military ventures and lacking the financial flexibility to maintain a long term military operations without finding new sources of revenue or cutting expenses in other parts of the government.


Photo Credit: Mike Kouxommone

Le gambe corte dell’Unione Europea

Sarebbe auspicabile che i Ministri della difesa europei prendessero in attenta considerazione la possibilità di duplicare le proprie capacità, mantenendo distinte le ventisei industrie nazionali della difesa e consolidandole in maniera appropriata.


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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n un recente articolo pubblicato sul Financial Times Philip Stephens ha sostenuto che gli europei hanno scoperto l’interventismo proprio nel momento in cui gli Stati Uniti iniziavano ad abbandonarne l’idea. Ciò si è verificato dopo le campagne di terra e aerea francese in Mali e dopo la battaglia aerea della NATO in Libia. Una linea simile potrebbe emergere anche in Siria a seguito delle dichiarazioni del leader francese e di quello britannico.

Tuttavia, a parte i Tiger e i Typhoon, gli interventi europei hanno avuto sempre una connotazione atlantica. In Mali l’Inghilterra ha fornito alcuni C-17 e lo stesso ha fatto il Canada. Ciò nonostante sono stati gli Stati Uniti a fornire la maggior parte del supporto logistico. L’Air Force statunitense ha impiegato un’ala di C-17 per trasportare a Bamako la maggior parte della terza Brigata Mécanisée. Successivamente, poiché i portavoce del Comando US-Africa provenivano tutti dal mondo diplomatico, il Dipartimento di Difesa ha chiesto alla Francia di saldare i conti (anche se poi le intenzioni di addebitare le spese all’Eliseo vennero meno senza troppi problemi). In seguito, l’Air Force ha accolto la richiesta di fornire tanker aerei a sostegno dell’aeronautica francese.

In Libia il governo di Obama ha adottato una strategia di “guida da dietro”. Iniziato il conflitto, la forza aerea statunitense e il sistema di precision strike ci hanno messo poco a distruggere la contraerea libica. Come è accaduto anche in Mali successivamente, le forze statunitensi hanno sostenuto gli alleati della NATO nel condurre delle campagne contro obiettivi di terra, in particolar modo senza combattimenti diretti. Ciò nonostante non è possibile classificare il conflitto in Libia come un modello per avanzare stime sulla potenza dell’Europa. Nel tentativo di evitare di evitare vittime civili, la NATO ha utilizzato solo munizioni di precisione (precision-guided munitions). Tale scelta ha però causato ingenti problemi alle forze europee giacché la Danimarca ha esaurito le sue scorte e gli altri rischiavano di fare altrettanto. Pertanto gli Stati Uniti sono stati costretti a rifornire i loro alleati attingendo alle proprie risorse. Lo USAF e la Marina hanno continuato a fornire supporto nelle missioni, contribuendo così alla maggior parte della sorveglianza, degli armamenti elettronici e, come nel caso del Mali, al rifornimento.

Pur non essendo queste le capacità di combattimento, ne rappresentano comunque componenti vitali. Nel 2001, il segretario della Difesa statunitense Robert Gates è stato caustico circa le capacità dei membri della NATO di prendere parte alle varie operazioni militari senza il contributo degli Stati Uniti.

Il Military Balance, presentato dall’Istituto Internazionale per gli Studi Strategici, aggiornato a questa settimana (prima settimana di Aprile 2013, ndt), include alcune statistiche che presentano comparazioni sulla difesa. Esso presenta infatti gli inventari dei membri permanenti del Consiglio di Sicurezza dell’ONU e dell’India per diverse categorie di armamenti: stime sulla capacità di proiezione, manovre e così via. A parte il dato palese sulla dominanza degli Stati Uniti sul piano quantitativo, è utile osservare la distribuzione dei blocchi di forze a livello statale. La tabella 1 presenta alcune di queste statistiche che vedono da un lato il Regno Unito e alla Francia, e dall’altro gli Stati Uniti.

Tabella 1: Mezzi di trasporto militari e forze ISTAR, Regno Unito/Francia e Stati Uniti

 Trasporto pesante/medio

Cisterne e multi-role tankers


Aerei da combattimento†

Regno Unito e Francia





Stati Uniti





Fonte: IISS Military Balance 2013

† Include sia l’attacco terreno che la supremazia aerea. I valori relativi agli USA comprendono velivoli di quarta e di quinta generazione.

All’interno di queste categorie logistiche e di supporto, gli Stati Uniti detengono una forza pari a circa dieci volte quella di Regno Unito e Francia insieme. L’unica eccezione concerne i velivoli da combattimento, dove Regno Unito e Francia presentano maggiore potenza di quanto si possa pensare. Tuttavia queste due nazioni registrano una lacuna per quanto riguarda il rapporto di navi cisterna da combattimento rispetto agli Stati Uniti. Il rapporto per gli USA è poco più di sei combattenti per cisterna, mentre poco più di dieci aerei britannici e francesi posso fare affidamento su ogni nave cisterna.

Il fatto che la Francia in Mali e la NATO il Libia abbiano fatto affidamento sull’aiuto degli Stati Uniti per le operazioni aeree, in entrambi i casi distanti diverse ore di volo, indica quanto è lontana l’Europa dall’essere un continente in grado di proiettare la propria forza. Se fosse vero quanto ha scritto Stephens sul Financial Times, e le operazioni in Libia e in Mali rappresentassero davvero i gradini verso interventi europei più partecipati, allora queste lacune dovrebbero essere colmate. Considerando la stagnante economia del continente, è inverosimile poter avere a breve una maggiore disponibilità di fondi. Sarebbe auspicabile invece che i Ministri della difesa europei prendessero in attenta considerazione la possibilità di duplicare le proprie capacità, mantenendo distinte le ventisei industrie nazionali della difesa e consolidandole in maniera appropriata. Il fallimento della fusione tra BAE e EADS nel 2012 ha dimostrato quanto questo sia difficile.


Articolo tradotto da Valentina Mecca

Articolo originale: The European Union’s Short Legs

Photo Credit: dimnikolov

The European Union’s Short Legs

European defence ministers need to take a dispassionate look at what capabilities are duplicated by maintaining 26 separate national defence industries and consolidate appropriately.


EU flag


In a recent article in the Financial Times Philip Stephens argued that Europeans had discovered interventionism just as Americans were setting the idea aside. This came after the French air and ground campaign in Mali and the NATO air war in Libya. A similar line may be emerging on Syria, with the British and French leaders’ statements this week.

Aside from the Tigers and Typhoons, however, the most recent European interventions have had an Atlantic accent. In Mali the British provided a pair of C-17 transports; the Canadians lent another. But the majority of logistic support came from the United States.   The US Air Force used a wing of C-17s to transport most of the 3e Brigade Mécanisée to Bamako.  While US Africa Command spokesmen were publicly diplomatic, the Department of Defence privately intended to send the bill to Paris (the plans to charge the Élysée were quietly dropped). The US Air Force later agreed to a request to provide aerial tankers to support French combat aircraft.

In Libya, the Obama administration settled on the approach of “leading from behind“. At the outset of the war, US air power and precision strike destroyed Libyan air defences in short order. As later in Mali, US forces helped NATO allies carry out their campaign against ground targets mainly without direct combat contributions. But classing Libya as a model for European power projection would be incorrect. In its attempt to avoid civilian casualties, NATO used only precision-guided munitions. This caused severe problems for the contributing European air forces: Denmark ran out, and others ran low. The US had to resupply these allies from its stocks. The USAF and Navy continued to fly around a quarter of all missions, contributing the majority of surveillance, electronic warfare, and – as in Mali – refuelling.

These are not combat capabilities. But they are vital enablers of combat capabilities. In 2011, the US secretary of defence Robert Gates was caustic about the abilities of NATO members to sustain operations without the US.

The IISS Military Balance, updated this week, includes a section on comparative defence statistics. This presents the inventories of the UN Security Council permanent members and India for several categories of military equipment: force projection, manoeuvre, and so on. Aside from the unsubtle observation of the extent to which the US is quantitatively dominant, it is useful to look at how blocks of forces are distributed in each country. Table 1 presents some of these statistics for the UK and France combined and the US.

Table 1: Selected projection and ISTAR forces, UK/France and US

Heavy/medium transport

Tanker and multi- role  tanker/ transport


Combat aircraft †

UK & France










Source: IISS Military Balance 2013
† Includes both ground attack and air supremacy aircraft.US figure includes fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft.

In these logistics and support categories, the US maintains forces roughly ten times larger than the UK and France combined. The exception is in combat aircraft, where the UK and France have more than would be expected. The UK and France have a gap in the ratio of tankers to fighters compared to the US. The ratio for the US is just over six fighters per tanker, while just over ten British and French planes rely on each tanker.

That France in Mali and NATO in Libya had to rely on the US to support their air operations, both times in countries a handful of hours flight time away, is an indication of how far Europe as a continent is from being able to project force. If Mr Stephens in the FT was right and Libya and Mali are steps toward more joint European interventions, these gaps must be plugged. Given the continent’s sluggard economy, the idea that more money will be available to do so is unlikely. It would be better for European defence ministers to take a dispassionate look at what capabilities are duplicated by maintaining 26 separate national defence industries and consolidate appropriately. The collapse of the BAE and EADS merger in 2012 showed how difficult that will be.


The Algerian Hostage Dead: NATO Is Responsible

While the West may be reluctant to put more boots on the ground due to the growing frustration from the general public, we are likely to see more military interventions this decade.


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What do Libya, Mali and Algeria have in common? The three nations have played a pivotal role in the political domino effect culminating over the last week. At least 48 hostages are now thought to have died in a four-day siege at an Algerian gas plant. In response to the Algerian hostage situation Mr Cameron said his government will continue to focus on fighting terrorism: “There is no justification for taking innocent life in this way”.

These are typical words attributed to a politician speaking in the generic foreign policy language. However David Cameron has failed to mention that NATO also played its part in the Algerian hostage crisis. Algerian crisis is a direct consequence of the current Mali conflict and the Mali conflict is the direct result of the Libyan conflict in 2011 as those who supported Gaddafi were thrown out from the country for being black and had nowhere else to go except to join the Mali terrorist groups.

And since it was Cameron and his “peace-seeking” NATO states who encouraged the violence in Libya and helped to carry out a regime change operation, it seems NATO are at least partially responsible for the Algerian hostage crisis. Politics works in funny ways.

Let us examine each claim individually starting with Libya.

The mission to oust Gaddafi and kick start a new dawn for Libya has been claimed by the West to be a success. Yet an uncomfortable truth rarely mentioned in the Western media remains- hundreds of African migrant workers in Libya accused of being mercenaries for Col Muammar Gaddafi were imprisoned and tortured by fighters allied to the new interim authorities.

Indeed it is heavily documented how the victorious rebels were hunting after African mercenaries and the latter had no choice but to escape from the destruction-stricken country. These mercenaries found a new home- Mali. Additionally there are irrefutable claims that homes have been looted, and women and girls beaten and raped. Perhaps removing Gaddafi was a success for the Western nations, but the country is currently in turmoil and is still mostly run by heavily armed mercenaries.

It is clear that the West had a lot of interest in removing Gaddafi. While the UN gave the authorisation to protect the Libyan civilians, this objective turned into a regime change operation. It is not surprising that Russia and China continue to veto any resolutions in regards to Syria as they understand that another aim to protect the Syrian civilians would simply mean regime change in Syria.

We can only speculate what interests the West has in the region. A number of theories have been put forward: oil, a step towards eventually attacking Iran, protecting Israel, all of the above. While impossible to know the truth, it is clear that the West has a grand strategy for the Middle East and Africa.

And so we arrive at the second stage of the domino effect. The current conflict in Mali seems in many ways to mirror the conflict that took place in Libya. Rebels are trying to take over the country and overthrow the government. There is however one difference. The current Mali government is a friend of France whilst Gaddafi refused to get on his knees for the Western powers.

A popular argument used by the politicians is the claim that Libya was a dictatorship while Mali is a democracy and therefore the West has a responsibility to protect Mali from radical extremists. However if this claim was true then the West would have already intervened in Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. However these authoritarian states have good relations with the West and are therefore safe from NATO interventions.

Indeed those who claim that the Mali government are not executing their own civilians like Gaddafi did may be shocked to find that there are growing reports by Amnesty International of extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses in Mali, as troops battle Islamist militants in the West African country.

Residents of Mopti, in the centre of the country, told the Observer of arrests, interrogations and the torture of innocents by the Malian army. Amnesty International says that it has documented evidence of abuse by the Malian army, including extrajudicial killings. It says that in September, a group of 16 Muslim preachers composed of Malian and Mauritanian nationals were arrested then executed by the Malian military in Diabaly. It seems like the French government is trying to protect those that are carrying out human rights abuses.

Undoubtedly the rebels are not saints either. Nevertheless there has to be some consistency from the West. Claiming to be against Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein as they killed own citizens, while at the same time supporting the regimes in Mali, Bahrain and Jordan, who also treat their citizens with cruelty is simply hypocritical.

Of course this is not the first time a Western power has supported brutality. It is also imperative to mention the case of Syria here. Mr Hollande has claimed that the reason why his country is supporting the Mali government against the rebels is because the rebels are Islamic extremists whilst the rebels in Syria are secular.

Mr Hollande’s remarks are are simply wrong as it is well known that a large section of the Syrian rebels are also radical Islamists. The radical rebels who have connections to Al Qaeda seem to be having more influence on the Syrian population than the Free Syrian Army who claim to be secular.

And so thanks to the continuous hypocritical interventions by the Western nations we have arrived at a situation where a BP gas site has been assaulted by terrorists. Whilst undoubtedly investigations will be carried out, it seems more than likely that the terrorists who have carried out the hostage mission are in some way linked to the rebels in Mali.

It is well known that in life, a particular action always leads to a particular consequence. This is called the butterfly effect. International politics is not immune from this phenomenon, as something that began as a mission by the West to oust Gaddafi in 2011 has ended with Western citizens being taken hostage in Algeria. I say “ended” yet it is probable that this is just the beginning of more violence and conflict which will spread to other parts of Africa.

This is rather useful for the NATO states as America and other Western nations have been itching to find an excuse to send more military to the continent now that the Middle East has been “conquered” and squeezed completely dry. And while the resource-plenty and flourishing Africa will now be the new victim of Western interventions, our media and politicians will continue to tell us that our governments are fighting to make the world a safer place by annihilating the terrorists – the same terrorists that arise through Western interventions in the first place.

Just yesterday David Cameron has announced that the war on terrorists will go on for decades and NATO interventions will switch from Afghanistan to North Africa.

Interventions are a destructive cycle. The West intervenes in other regions as a police state under a pretext of supporting democracy, but end up opening a can of worms. Extremism spreads to nearby regions and the locals are angered by the continuous meddling of the West in their affairs and therefore join the terrorist groups which encourages the West to intervene more.

It becomes a permanent circle, or better known as a perpetual war. Alternative solutions to intervention do exist. Empowering regional bodies and governments through international development programs, foreign aid and cooperation are viable alternatives to militarism. While the West may be reluctant to put more boots on the ground due to the growing frustration from the general public, we are likely to see more military interventions this decade. Due to the development of unmanned drones and other rocket-type weaponry, NATO is likely to continue to intrude in the Middle East and Africa. It seems the West never learns.


Photo credit: US Army Africa

A ‘War On Terror’ Or A ‘War On Chaos’?

The European deployments throughout Africa are an entirely different creation to the US-led “War on Terror”. The European “War on Chaos” is one of pragmatic national interest but also of support for those states who play by the rules and protection for the millions under constant threat of violence.




Two and a half thousand French forces are being deploying in Mali in the largest European military deployment by any EU state since 2001. Supported by British and then American logistics in under a week the French have advanced against both columns of the advancing AQIM affiliated fighters, halting them completely in the East and beginning a counter-attack in the North. Bombing raids have struck Islamist positions behind the front lines as West African forces begin to arrive to double the foreign troops fighting to defend Mali’s capital.

The situation in Mali is the most significant action by western forces since the NATO operation in Libya, another in which the French military lead the way, flying 35% of the total offensive foreign air missions of the conflict and 90% of the helicopter missions. But even that is a fragment of French military involvement in the last year. They are the most active western state in the fight against Al-Shabaab in Somalia, formed the bulk of the force which ousted Ivory Coast dictator Gbagbo and are a primary contributor to the European army, the CSDP.

France has never been a passive military power. Ever since its founding as the western branch of Charlemagne’s German Frankish Empire it has been at almost constant war. From its constant conflicts with the British of the medieval period it went on to dominate continental Europe with its huge military and financial strength. Napoleon, perhaps the greatest European tactician in history, conquered the entire continent before his army was struck down by disease. In fact if it wasn’t for this disaster and the allied tactic of attempting to avoid ever facing Napoleon’s genius directly in battle he may have created the first truly European state. It went on to build an empire to challenge that of the British and Spanish, fighting stoically through the First World War and ferociously in the Second, though not always on the same side. As the empires of Europe collapsed France fought over the remains of its global power, only admitting defeat after the disasters of Vietnam and Algeria. Now, after years of struggling to regain its place at the forefront of European military strength it is by far the most active of the Western powers outside America.

Much as this may surprise many, fueled by the completely misplaced British-propaganda stereotype of French as the white-flag-wavers of Europe, it’s not quite as surprising to most as the mere idea of European military action, let alone a dedicated EU military force. The mere thought seems alien to American audiences still unused to their new supporting role in conflicts and horrifying to the eurosceptic English. However, the European CSDP (Common Security and Defense Policy) military has grown from a mere token force to the largest coalition army outside the ISAF in Afghanistan. The European force is now significant enough that it has involved itself in twenty-five foreign operations, all separately from NATO. Presently well over 5,000 European forces operate under the EU flag of the CSDP as well as four naval warships. Alone this is a larger force than any of the militaries involved in Afghanistan other than the United States and Britain.

There is a key difference however between the armed forces of the French and EU compared to that of the USA and Britain, none of these forces have been involved in the reputational suicide of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The unilateral invasion, without international support (unlike Afghanistan or any French missions of the last decade) ruined the international status of the two Atlantic powers as supporters of international order and made them as much pariahs to the developing world as the “Axis of Evil” they fought against. Instead European forces, and 4,500 French forces fighting under the tricolour or the twelve stars, represent a force of stability in conflict-torn areas. They come on invitation and international support and yet lack the need for the sometimes crippling restraint forced on UN peacekeepers.

The European deployments throughout Africa and in potential conflict zones across Europe and Asia are an entirely different creation to the US-led “War on Terror”. The European “War on Chaos” is one of pragmatic national interest but also of support for those states who play by the rules and protection for the millions under constant threat of violence. The French-led war for military stability across the world is mirrored by the German-led battle for economic stability at home in Europe. Together they form two arms of increasingly powerful demands for a unified Europe bringing stability to both its own citizens and those of the world at large. The Germans have expressed their support for the new European military and the French are aligned with them in the push for a new centralised European economic system. A new Europe is being born, one regaining the pride and prestige it had lost for almost a century. The US was forged in the fire of the British Empire, states forced to band together into Union to guard against the return of the world’s most powerful force. The Union of Europe may well be forged from the threat of Eurozone collapse and Islamist terrorism breeding from every failed state and unstable region.

The result may well be a split in the Western world. The liberal continental Europe, one built upon consensus and cooperation, is radically different from the relatively conservative United States, swinging violently between neoconservative interventions and proud isolation, too sure of its own exceptionalism. Between them stands Britain, unsure of which road to take. However, as the Atlantic divides the west and the US turns to the pacific, a lonely island may not have the clout to strike fear as its empire once did. As the French fight in Mali and Somalia, and Germany grants the keys to economic power to the European Union, the European War on Chaos will proceed with or without royal Britannia.


Photo credit: Jerry Gunner

Up Patriots To Turkey

NATO, Siria e Turchia: prove tecniche di guerra contemporanea.




[dropcap]S[/dropcap]taranno arrivando in queste ore, via posta o in kit di montaggio, i quattrocento soldati che la Turchia ha chiesto alla NATO, di cui è membro dal 1952, per difendersi dal nervosissimo Assad. Con i militi giungerà anche una batteria di missili chiamati solennemente “patriot”, anche se non si capisce bene quale sia questa Patria evocata, tanto disparato e multiforme è l’universo-NATO.

Una delegazione è andata in gita –tutto spesato, ça va sans dire– fino alla base militare che ha il poco simpatico nome di Malatya, nel sud del Paese, verso il confine con la Siria, proprio quello che la Turchia vuol proteggere con questi missili nuovi di zecca (ma saranno davvero nuovi, questi missili, o c’è il rischio che siano invece fondi di magazzino della guerra fredda?).

Rasmussen, il segretario generale dell’allegra combriccola (il prossimo, tenetevi forte, sarà l’ineffabile, immarcescibile Franco Frattini) lo aveva annunciato a fine novembre: la NATO autorizzerà la spedizione e i patriottici missili, forniti da Stati Uniti, Olanda e Germania –che ci mette anche i suoi efficientissimi quattrocento prussiani- giungeranno in Turchia e saranno installati nelle province di Gaziantep e Sanliurfa.

Gli States, galvanizzati non si sa perché ad ogni tiro di schioppo, ad ogni colpo di mortaretti, hanno allarmato le portaerei e i velivoli della loro base di Incirlik.

Qualche riflessione emerge sua sponte, sollevata da certe congiunte leggi della fisica e della teoria delle relazioni internazionali. Anzitutto, la Turchia, che esce fuori da due faticosi decenni di tira e molla con una confusa Unione Europea, si è definitivamente rassegnata e anzi trova oggi vantaggioso lasciar perdere la questione dell’adesione ad un continente impoverito e in grave difficoltà.

Ma Erdogan, che i suoi detrattori tacciano di sultanismo, nonostante lui stesso richiami costantemente la grande tradizione ottomana, s’interroga oggi sempre di più su quale sia e debba essere in futuro il ruolo della Turchia nel contesto geopolitico euro-asiatico. E’, questa Turchia, al netto d’ogni considerazione, una potenza insoddisfatta e ambiziosa, nostalgica d’antichi fasti e bramosa di nuovi trionfi.

La sua solidità economica e sociale (se si escludono periodiche scaramouches col PKK), il suo prestigio internazionale, la considerazione di cui gode a cavallo tra Oriente e Occidente – gli uni ne apprezzano la parvenza di democrazia e laicismo, gli altri il suo essere irriducibilmente baluardo della tradizione levantina e musulmana- le concedono poteri speciali.

Compreso quello di fare la guerra, o almeno di assestare colpi decisivi a potenze deboli e discusse come la confinante Siria – la fine della guerra civile, dopo il vasto riconoscimento internazionale alla sua opposizione, tarda ad arrivare- o il temibile Iran – che conferma oggi di dover continuare “per forza” il processo d’arricchimento dell’uranio, per scopi pacifici, of course.

Ma quali saranno le ripercussioni sugli equilibri mondiali dopo che, in barba ad ogni rassicurazione, la Turchia farà esplodere i missili che le sono stati patriotticamente ceduti dalla NATO?

E’ infatti sicuro, e la Turchia l’ha dimostrato nelle scorse settimane, che non si farà scrupolo di rispondere massicciamente ai petardi gettati dall’altra parte della linea di confine.

Ci si troverebbe davanti all’incresciosa situazione di un Occidente che arma una potenza inquieta ed innesca la polveriera medio-orientale; tenendo conto del fatto che Mosca ha già iniziato a tuonare contro la decisione della NATO di rafforzare il confine meridionale turco, saremo costretti nei prossimi mesi ad interrogarci nuovamente sul ruolo e sul significato dell’Alleanza Atlantica che, per legittimare la sua utilità fuori tempo massimo, deve di tanto in tanto fomentare la rissa e costruirsi un nemico.

Battiato qualche anno fa cantava “Up patriots to arms, engengez-vous!”.

La guerra contemporanea mi butta giù.


Photo Credit: osipovva

Has The Surge In Afghanistan Worked?

As the surge in Afghanistan ends it is legitimate to ask to what extent it has achieved its security goals.  It is hardly a secret that the overall picture in Afghanistan encompasses complex economic and political factors above and beyond the security situation.


afghanistan military landscape america strategy


The surge in Afghanistan is officially over: the last of the 30,000 additional American troops deployed by President Obama in December 2009 have left the country.

Of course, 68,000 US troops are still there alongside 38,000 from forty-nine nations [accurate to 10 September] and will remain, in gradually reducing numbers, up to and beyond the end of 2014 as per the agreements reached at the NATO Summits in Lisbon (2010) and Chicago (2012) respectively.

Nonetheless, September 2012 represents a noteworthy milestone in the campaign and has unsurprisingly been marked by active debate in the media as to the success, or otherwise, of the surge. Equally unsurprisingly, the debate has been coloured by the current security situation in Afghanistan, particularly the worrying increase of ‘green-on-blue’ incidents and the US death toll reaching 2,000 (3,195 ISAF fatalities overall)

However, the intrinsic link between security, economics and politics is fundamental to the situation in Afghanistan. At this point we’ll avoid the temptation to insert the usual quotes from Sun Tzu or Clausewitz so suffice to say that improvement in one area will never be achieved without improvement in the others, even accepting that security will never be perfect in Afghanistan.

This has always been the case but is especially pertinent today as we assess the impact of the military surge. As stated by the outgoing NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan, Ambassador Simon Gass, on 19 September:

“[T]he biggest uncertainties about the future of Afghanistan are much more about politics and economics than they are about the security situation.”

On the economic and development side, there have long been questions as to why greater tangible success has apparently been so elusive in Afghanistan, despite the huge amounts of western money that have been thrown at the problem. A simple, even simplistic, answer is that too much money has been haphazardly thrown at a complex range of problems which have never been properly defined or understood.

For example, last week it was reported that British development efforts in Helmand province have in fact gone too far, meaning that many new schools and clinics will be closed because the Afghan government cannot afford to sustain them in the medium- to long-term.

This disclosure will not surprise those with experience of reconstruction and development in Afghanistan but it does serve as a strong reminder, if that were even necessary, of the fundamental need to ensure sustainability and genuine Afghan ownership up to and beyond 2014.

That said, the mistakes admitted to by the British presence in Helmand should not detract from their achievements there. More importantly, they should not undermine the continued international support for development in Afghanistan. Referring to the Tokyo conference in July, Ambassador Gass highlighted the relevance of that support for the future of Afghanistan.

“It gives a high degree of assurance that when our countries say that we will support Afghanistan we mean it, because we have put figures to our promises.”

In short, while uncertainties remain in security, economics and development, the international community does have the means to positively affect the situation, although that depends on the Afghan government assuming its responsibilities, notably in seriously tackling corruption. So improvement will primarily be driven by the Afghans themselves but with a tangible international commitment to support them long-term. In the political sphere, in contrast, the solution lies entirely with the Afghans.

Great challenges and uncertainties lie therein, especially in the context of the Presidential elections to be held in 2014. Since President Karzai cannot stand for a third term, this amounts to the first democratic transition of political power in decades. Aside from the obvious need to at least limit (i.e. greatly reduce) the levels of electoral fraud which marked the 2009 elections, the legitimacy of the next government, and by extension its effectiveness, will depend on the political settlement that will emerge over the next two years.

Partly that will likely require some kind of agreement with the Taliban, or factions within it, but this also requires outreach to all ethnic and political groups in Afghanistan. A general acceptance of the political order – firstly through (relatively) fair and legitimate elections – will be just as essential to long-term security and development as the Afghan security forces and international assistance.

In conclusion, as the surge ends it is legitimate to ask to what extent it achieved its security goals but it is hardly a secret that the overall picture in Afghanistan encompasses complex economic and political factors above and beyond the security situation. That being the case, and contrary to what many commentators would have us believe, even now it is too soon to draw definitive conclusions concerning the future of Afghanistan and certainly not when those are solely based on security incidents.


Photo Credit: The U.S. Army

Would An Independent Scotland Join NATO?

In the 21st century, the security and defence of a nation is not the sole preserve of their national governments – these are international questions which directly impact the wider international community.


scotland nationalism independence sovereignty


In Scotland, an increasingly heated debate has developed over Alex Salmond’s plans to drop the traditional nationalist opposition to NATO membership, in the not-so-unlikely event that Scotland votes to secede from the United Kingdom in 2014. The First Minister and leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party faces a potentially difficult party conference in October if internal disagreement on this issue is aired in public.

The debate thus far has focused almost exclusively on the presence of nuclear weapons in Scotland, specifically Trident submarines based in the Firth of Clyde, which has been a highly controversial issue since the 1980s. While that is a highly pertinent issue from both a political and a practical perspective, it could be argued that the extent to which it dominates the wider debate on NATO membership is detrimental to the interests of Scotland and the Scottish people if and when they declare their independence.

In simple terms, the fundamental question is what place would – and should – an independent Scotland occupy on the world stage? How could an independent Scotland work with other sovereign nations, notably its European neighbours, to ensure its defence and security? Scotland’s people and their elected representatives have yet to truly address these questions in a rational and well-informed manner. Given that the referendum on independence has seemingly been pencilled in for the autumn of 2014, it is high time they did so.

In Scotland, as in many other countries, NATO suffers from misconceptions – often out-dated Cold War notions – as to its role, activities and even its very raison d’être. SNP members opposed to NATO membership have played on these misconceptions by referring to NATO as a “nuclear-weapons based alliance”.

Aside from being factually incomplete, such a stance fails to address wider questions of security and defence which Scottish nationalists surely must answer if their campaign for independence – not to mention the very survival of an independent Scotland – is to be successful.

In that context, it should be recognised that NATO in the 21st century, for all its undoubted faults, remains the only organisation which provides for international cooperation on a range of highly relevant issues such as cyber-security, military interoperability and intelligence sharing, to name but a few. In an age of financial austerity, even larger nations such as France, Germany and Britain have recognised that they cannot afford to go it alone. Even the most fervent nationalist would surely admit that an independent Scotland would be no different.

The relevance of this debate is far broader than internal Scottish politics. Indeed, it is a cause of great concern in London and Washington, as explained by Dr Philips O’Brien of the University of Glasgow in recent testimony to the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee:

“It would be easier for the rest of the UK to negotiate the security arrangement if Scotland remained in NATO – If Scotland is outside NATO, a lot of bets are off… That’s why no-one in the US State Department and Defence Department will go on the record about this. They are very worried about a non-NATO Scotland.”

In other words, any decisions on an independent Scotland’s future within or outwith NATO will not soley be taken in Scotland. Appearing before the same committee, Professor William Walker of St Andrews University referred to the 1958 US/UK Mutual Defence Agreement, which provides the relevant defence co-operation framework for these issues:

“The missiles going up and down the Clyde are American missiles. So the Americans would be part of this discussion; you can’t keep them out.”

It may seem paradoxical or objectionable to Scottish nationalists that sovereignty would not equate to sole decision-making authority on such issues but therein lies an important lesson. In the 21st century, the security and defence of nations is not the sole preserve of their national governments – these are international questions which directly impact the wider international community and must invariably be addressed as such.

This is a reality which the Scottish people and their elected representatives would do well to grasp – and quickly.


Photo Credit: Rhys Asplundh

Is Iraq The Only War Tony Blair Should Be On Trial For?

Kosovo was not a question of defending people from ethnic cleansing and genocide. Tony Blair’s support for intervention led to more deaths than likely would have occurred without the bombing campaign.


B1-B US Bomber on a night mission


Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been back in the headlines recently (though not quite as he would like), with Archbishop Desmond Tutu calling for him to be put on trial, a call supported by, among others, Guardian columnist George Monbiot, who has been promoting citizens’ arrests of Blair. Their argument is that Blair prosecuted an illegal war without UN authorisation, an act of aggression justified on spurious grounds, which led to countless unnecessary deaths.

The facts are certainly on their side, but perhaps more than they themselves realise. For whereas they point only to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, I would suggest that these arguments also hold true for the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia (now Serbia), of which Blair’s UK was, as in 2003, a main instigator.

A Moral War?

Like the attack on Iraq, the bombing of Serbia lacked UN authorisation, and so was illegal under international law. The bombing also carried a terrible direct toll (at least 500 civilian deaths and billions of dollars of damage, as NATO targeted Serbia’s civilian infrastructure), including war crimes such as the deliberate targeting of Serbia’s media.

Despite this, the Kosovo intervention is usually seen as justifiable on humanitarian grounds, as it defended the Kosovars (Kosovo Albanians) from genocide and ethnic cleansing, and liberated them from the oppressive rule of the ‘Serbian Saddam’, Slobodan Milosevic.

It is this justification – the moral case, as Blair would call it – that this article will focus on. As we shall see, the situation was no-where near as black-and-white as presented, and, far from preventing violence or promoting compromise, the NATO bombing actually caused a huge escalation of the conflict and eliminated all possibility of compromise: it caused the very disaster it claimed to be preventing. So if Tony Blair ever does face trial for his wars, there is a strong case for including this one in the Prosecutor’s brief.

Kosovo: The Story Before the Bombing

Kosovo is a case – of which there are many in the world – of a territory contested by two national groups, Serbs and Albanians. Serbs, who by the twentieth century formed about a quarter of the population, considered it an integral part of Serbia, and were never too happy about the presence of an Albanian majority there since the nineteenth century. Albanians, two-thirds of the population, wanted the province to be part of Albania rather than Serbia, and were never too happy with the Serbs being there. Whenever one group had control of the region, they oppressed, abused or persecuted the other, in a fairly predictable cycle.

The most recent part of this cycle began in the late 1960s, when communist Yugoslavia transformed itself into a loose federation of which Kosovo, run mainly by its Albanian majority, was de facto an equal part. Despite this unprecedented degree of autonomy, in 1981 Kosovo was shaken by Albanian riots demanding the severing of the symbolic links with Serbia that remained. Soon, abuses of Serbs by Albanian nationalists, acknowledged and described by the province’s Albanian leaders themselves, and the persistence of separatist feeling in the province, became major issues throughout Yugoslavia.

It was this situation itself which helped lead to Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic revoking Kosovo’s autonomy in 1990, now bringing Albanians under a discriminatory and repressive Serb regime. Faced with Serb military strength, the Kosovo Albanians adopted a largely pacifist resistance. Their openly declared goal, however, was not merely civil rights or autonomy, but secession from Serbia and, ideally, unification with Albania.

In the second half of the 1990s, meanwhile, a group of radicals called the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) – described as ‘a terrorist group’ even by US negotiator Robert Gelbard, among others – began a violent campaign against Serb rule, targeting not just Serbian police and military, but Serb and Roma civilians too, and any ethnic Albanians they deemed ‘collaborators’, or simply rivals. (Former KLA leaders are on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for some of these crimes). Their goal was to provoke Serb response and thereby greater Albanian support for the KLA, and eventually international intervention. As one of their officials later admitted: ‘every single Albanian realized that the more civilians die, intervention comes nearer… The more civilians were killed, the chances of international intervention became bigger, and the KLA of course realized that’.

The KLA managed to take control of much of the province, and, predictably, the Serbs responded with a brutal counter-insurgency campaign, until the threat of NATO bombing in October 1998 forced an uneasy truce and de-escalation. Over the following months the KLA used the ‘truce’ to re-take lost territory – British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook himself noted the KLA was the truce’s chief violator – but the presence of large numbers of OSCE and EU monitors kept the conflict at a relatively low level.

Thus, the conflict in Kosovo before the NATO bombing was one between two rival nationalist forces, a repressive state apparatus on the one hand and a rebel group on the other, with each guilty of crimes. The Serbian counter-insurgency campaign was brutal and often indiscriminate (like many in the world), but the available evidence does not suggest that it had the goal of ethnic cleansing – no Albanians were being forced out of Kosovo. The number of casualties – although high considering the size of Kosovo’s population of two million – was also hardly exceptional: according to the pro-Western Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC) in Belgrade, which has painstakingly documented the killed and ‘disappeared’ of the Kosovo conflict, there were about 1,500 dead in 1998, 300 of them non-Albanians.

The Negotiations That Never Were

Though harshly critical of the Serbian side, Western states at the time did not endorse Albanian nationalist goals. Rather, they advocated a compromise between Serb and Albanian national projects: extensive autonomy for Kosovo within Serbia, as had existed in the 1970s and 80s. In February 1999 negotiations were held in Rambouillet, France, with the supposed aim of reaching this outcome. Serbia’s negotiating platform was for autonomy, but at a lower level than had existed previously, and with built-in protections for non-Albanians (not just Serbs, but also the Roma, Muslims, and other groups in Kosovo). The Albanians, on the other hand, would reluctantly accept expansive autonomy only temporarily, under the condition of a future referendum on independence.

Whether Milosevic was really prepared to compromise is debatable – he was undoubtedly exploiting the crisis to strengthen his own authoritarian rule – but it is notable that his stances were actually closer to the envisaged compromise than the Albanians’. Moreover, just three years earlier he had indeed shown himself willing to claim victory in peace, forcing the Croatian and Bosnian Serbs into abandoning most of their goals.

Negotiations, however, were not given a chance, as Western negotiators instead sabotaged them to create a pretext for bombing, proposing a draft agreement that included a referendum after three years. In a signed promise given behind the back of the Russian negotiator, US Secretary of State Madeline Albright promised the Albanians that this meant a referendum on independence, whose results the USA would respect. This was not a compromise, but the victory of one side, and an agreement that no Serbian government would ever have been able to accept.

When the Serbs rejected the draft in March 1999, NATO then ordered the withdrawal of all OSCE and EU monitors from Kosovo, and began bombing.


Predictably, NATO’s bombing caused a massive escalation of the conflict. Serbian forces now not only cracked down on the KLA but also launched a campaign of ethnic cleansing, executing thousands of Albanians and ordering hundreds of thousands out. When Serbian forces withdrew as part of the June 1999 peace deal (which did not include a referendum on independence), these Albanians were able to return alongside NATO/UN peacekeepers. But so did the KLA, which in turn orchestrated a wave of ethnic cleansing against Serbs, Roma and other non-Albanians, kidnapping and executing many, and forcing the majority to flee the province. As has been revealed and extensively documented by former ICTY chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte and the Council of Europe’s investigator Dick Marty, there is convincing evidence that several hundred of the ‘disappeared’ non-Albanians had their organs removed by the KLA and sold on the international market. Former KLA leaders, such as current Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, remain dominant in Kosovo today, sitting – according to leaked NATO intelligence documents – atop an apex of organised crime, including the heroine trade.

The HLC has reached a figure of about 10,500 Albanians and 2,500 Serbs and others killed or ‘disappeared’ during the whole Kosovo conflict. (10) These numbers testify to the disastrous role played by NATO intervention, as the overwhelming majority of Albanian deaths took place after NATO began bombing, while a further 1,500 Serb civilians were killed or ‘disappeared’ after Yugoslav withdrawal on 10 June 1999. Moreover, although large considering the population size, the total number of Albanian victims was nowhere near the genocidal levels alleged by NATO (US Defence Secretary William Cohen had talked, during the bombing, of ‘about 100,000 military aged men missing… [who] may have been murdered’). Proportionately, in fact, the Kosovo Serbs suffered a similar number of victims, and – shockingly – as many Kosovo Serbs were killed in post-war peace as Albanians during the fighting in 1998.

Before the NATO bombing, meanwhile, there were no refugees outside Kosovo. During the bombing, however, about 800,000 Albanians were forced out, and afterwards about 200,000 non-Albanians, with very few of the latter ever returning.

Kosovo Today

Unsurprisingly, the result of this escalation was not a compromise between Serbs and Albanians. With the province now outside of Serbian control, the Albanians no longer had any incentive to compromise, and Western states eventually abandoned their support for autonomy. Thus, with Western backing, sensible Serbian offers of a Hong Kong-type arrangement for Kosovo were ignored, and in 2008 Kosovo declared independence.

The end result of the whole intervention is thus one great mess: Kosovo is ruled by organised crime, recognised by only a quarter of the world, and still has no control over a Serb-majority region in its north, which functionally remains a part of Serbia. Albanian-Serb relations within Kosovo remain poor and Serbia refuses to recognise the province’s secession, indefinitely hindering its EU prospects. The Kosovo precedent, meanwhile, has been cleverly used by Russia to justify its 2008 war with Georgia and subsequent recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. More devastatingly, the NATO intervention, which took place without UN authorisation, provided an important precedent for the attack on Iraq four years later.


There can be a ‘moral case’ for the NATO bombing only if all the deaths that it caused were inevitable; intervention somehow managed to prevent a far worse sequence of events; and the current situation is the best possible outcome. This seems highly unlikely. Before the bombing the Serbs were conducting counter-insurgency campaigns, not ethnic cleansing, and Western pressure and monitoring was keeping the fighting to a low level. Milosevic had previously shown himself to be susceptible to Western pressure and willing to compromise when necessary, and, even if an agreement proved elusive, it is doubtful that, under the pressure and watchful eye of the West, the conflict would ever have escalated so drastically.

To put it simply, Kosovo was not a question of defending people from ethnic cleansing and genocide, or liberating people from their oppressor. It was a matter of resolving a nationalist dispute between two peoples – and even if that is difficult, bombing one side is usually not the best way to find a solution. NATO’s bombing campaign was illegal, included clear war crimes, and caused the very catastrophe it claimed to be preventing. So if Tony Blair is ever put on trial, there is a strong case for adding it to the list of charges.


Photo Credit: expertinfantry

China’s Growing Role In Counter-Piracy Operations

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has now maintained a counter-piracy presence in the Indian Ocean for four years. This begs the question: why is China becoming increasingly cooperative in counter-piracy operations?


PLA Missile Tracking Ship


[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he rise of China is one of the prominent issues that scholars of International Relations encounter today and will continue to do so in the future. The PLAN deployment is a fascinating component of the wider China debate as it represents the first time that Chinese vessels have conducted a ‘far-seas’ operation to protect Chinese interests since the fifteenth century. Even more remarkable is the fact that the typically isolationist and paranoid Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is now openly cooperating with a variety of traditional foes in the area of counter-piracy; states such as India, Japan and the US are now closely communicating and operating in conjunction with their PLAN counterparts in the Indian Ocean.

This raises a series of intriguing questions. From a Chinese perspective, what are the motivating factors behind this operation? Is it economic, political or geostrategic concerns that have driven the PLAN to cooperate in the Indian Ocean? Is this deployment merely benign in nature or does it imply an element of self-interest? Why is China cooperating over the issue of piracy when it refuses to align itself with international norms, for instance, human rights?

PLAN Deployment

This deployment did not arise out of a policy vacuum; when Jiang Zemin was replaced by Hu Jintao in 2002 he affirmed that the PLAN must develop towards ‘far-seas defence, enhancing the far-seas manoeuvring operations capabilities’. In the years since Hu’s statement, there has been a significant evolution in the PLAN capacity from a ‘near-seas active defence’ strategy (jinhai jiji fangyu) to ‘far-seas operations’ strategy (yuanhai zuozhan). Chinese defence expenditure has enlarged year after year in line with its burgeoning economy; official figures show that, prior to the PLAN counter-piracy operation began, defence expenditure rose to RMB417.876 billion (USD65.71 billion) in 2008, representing an increase of 17.5% upon the previous year. Thus, with an enlarged budget and a new ‘far-seas’ doctrine, the naval modernisation observed in the PLAN has certainly influenced the Chinese decision to join the international response in the Indian Ocean.

Traditionally, the East and South China Seas have been the significant regional chokepoints that had a strategic bearing on Chinese interests; however, as mentioned in the introduction, the Indian Ocean has now become a crucial expanse for China due to piracy, rising energy demand and trade interdependence. Hijackings, such as the Tianyu 8 and Zhenhua 4 incidents, are appropriate examples of how piracy is detrimental for Chinese trade.

Subsequently, the passing of UN Security Council resolutions 1814, 1816 and 1838 provided the PLAN with the supranational authority it required and it joined the international counter-piracy effort on 26 December 2008, becoming fully operational on 6 January 2009. In searching for legitimacy to conduct this operation, it is expected that the presence of the EU, NATO and CTF-151 counter-piracy task forces had a positive influence upon China’s decision.

Chinese caution towards a potential deployment can be explained by the realpolitik that remains embedded in a post-Mao China and an enduring belief in the adages of Deng Xiaoping. A former PRC leader himself, Deng recommended that the Chinese leadership ‘bide time’, maintain a low profile and take advantage of international opportunities to gradually maximise its power and position in the world. China seemingly aspires to take advantage of the unique situation of Somali piracy rather than become an established torch-bearer of international peace and security. By participating in counter-piracy operations, China is afforded the opportunity to deploy into the far-seas without an immediately hostile reaction from the international community.

Counter-Piracy Cooperation

The PLAN signified upon the initiation of the deployment that its undertaking would primarily consist of the independent escort of Chinese and foreign vessels. Despite its underdeveloped operational capabilities in comparison with other naval forces, it is clear that China wishes to be both seen and consulted as an equal within the international counter-piracy effort. China is not comfortable with communicating openly with institutions such as the EU and NATO as they do not represent a single voice but a multitude of perspectives; Beijing much prefers to conduct dialogue on a bilateral basis.

In the wider operational dimension, China has repeatedly declined proposals to integrate with the collective maintenance of the International Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC). Again, China does not wish to integrate itself within a multinational command structure. Instead, China conducts its escort operations approximately ‘five nautical miles north and south of the IRTC’ rather than within the box system. Whilst the PLAN is still a ‘green-water’ navy and their model of participation is not unusual among the other independent actors, the refusal to participate in the IRTC indicates that China is not prepared to truly contribute to the ‘global good’ in a manner that is harmonious with the Western world, as much as its rhetoric suggests otherwise.

However, there are now signals that China’s actions in the Indian Ocean might begin to match their rhetoric; their counter-piracy strategy is outwardly evolving to incorporate a greater degree of coordination with the broader counter-piracy coalition. The first year of the PLAN was characterised by unilateralism, but the De Xin Hai hijacking on 19 October 2009 served to alter PLAN perceptions on counter-piracy cooperation when maritime cooperation could have prevented such an episode. It is widely agreed that only rigorous cooperation and coordination can help the international community to deal with the problem of piracy in an efficient way at sea.

Accordingly, the PLAN has taken progressive steps to enhance coordination with other navies in the Indian Ocean. Firstly, the key to successful and effective coordination is to communication and consequently, a web-based communication system entitled Mercury has been introduced amongst all naval forces apart from Iran. Secondly, China concluded an agreement in January 2012 with its traditional enemies, Japan and India, to strengthen coordination and adjust each other’s escort schedules to achieve maximum efficiency in the fight against piracy.

Lastly, and most importantly, are the coordination mechanisms of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) and the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) group. China was a founding member of the CGPCS as it is based around ‘voluntary cooperation’ in counter-piracy rather than under the command of another power or institution. SHADE is a scheme that assembles the wider counter-piracy community for regular meetings in Bahrain. China has now participated in the rotating chairmanship of the SHADE meetings and even expressed an interest in a co-chair position, usually held by the EU, CMF or NATO. However, this initial interest never materialised.

Nevertheless, it is patently clear that China is unwilling to enhance collaborative efforts with the wider counter-piracy community. Reasons for collaborative deficiency in Chinese foreign policy vary from a lack of operational experience to a lack of political will; it is true that much mistrust remains over ideological differences and issues such as human rights and Taiwan.

PLAN Motives

This defensive position is reflected in the PLAN’s counter-piracy deployment and their coordination with the international effort in several ways: firstly, the Indian Ocean represents a vital strategic arena in which China’s energy security is increasingly vulnerable. Secondly, China has evidently taken extra care not to arouse the ‘China threat’ theorem in its counter-piracy and wider foreign policies. Secondly, China is clearly endeavouring to protect Chinese national interests through the PLAN deployment and their naval modernisation. Thirdly, Chinese naval diplomacy in the Indian Ocean signifies a defensive policy, not one of aggression. Lastly, China is practicing ‘security through cooperation’ unilaterally with traditional foes.

What is clear is that the Indian Ocean is a vital arena for China; every year some 100,000 cargo ships pass through the Indian Ocean, as well as 66% of the world’s oil shipments. The significance of this expanse becomes apparent upon learning that Chinese total energy consumption from 2005 to 2012 has risen 60% and is predicted to increase a further 72.9% between now and 2035. Accordingly, there is now a growing energy demand within China to sustain its economic growth and, as the majority of China’s oil imports derive from Africa (Angola, Sudan) and the Middle East (Saudi Arabia), it is obvious that the Indian Ocean is the critical route for its external energy requirements.

China has been determined to dispel the ‘China threat’ theory. Before the PLAN deployed in the Indian Ocean, they waited patiently to gauge the international reaction to the counter-piracy mission. They also ensured that the deployment had the authorisation of both the Somali government and the UN. In line with the maxims of Deng Xiaoping, China knows that any sign of aggressive behaviour would be criticised by the international community and potentially harm their development. Thus, China is essentially employing a neo-Bismarckian strategy, manoeuvring peacefully towards Great Power status without provoking the international community into a counter-balancing reaction.

This is embodied within China’s ‘peaceful rise’ policy. Chinese actions and rhetoric attest to this guiding principle in the CCP’s foreign policy; the counter-piracy operation in aid of the global commons allows China to justify their naval modernisation, along with the opportune location of the piracy problem. China speaks of a foreign policy that pursues ‘peace and promotes friendly cooperation with all countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence’, in addition to Hu Jintao’s ‘harmonious world’ vision.

Moreover, Chinese counter-piracy policy is distinctly aimed towards the protection of Chinese national interests. There is an evident gap between China’s defensive interests and its actual capabilities; therefore, it is aiming to close this gap through the advancement of the PLAN’s operational capabilities, increased field experience and the acquisition of modern naval assets. For example, China has now acquired its first ever aircraft carrier, the ex-Soviet Varyag, and it is expected to become operational by the end of 2012.

By coordinating in the counter-piracy effort, China is able to learn how a ‘far-seas’ fleet is operated, offer PLAN personnel invaluable experience for future expeditions, and gain knowledge from other international naval forces. Thus, China has evolved its naval strategy to meet the demands of its expanding interests in the Indian Ocean and it can therefore be deduced that the PLAN deployment is an extension of this defensive strategy.

As a result of the PLAN’s new ‘far-seas’ mantra, the counter-piracy deployment has also increased Beijing’s diplomatic network across the Indian Ocean. After each task force rotation, the PLAN ‘sails along the East coast of Africa and visits Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Madagascar and the Seychelles’ to parade the Chinese flag and to foster goodwill within these countries. Further Chinese engagement with the Indian Ocean littoral states consists of port and refuelling developments at Gwadar in Pakistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Chittagong in Bangladesh with the Seychelles also offering China an invitation to establish a military presence on the islands.

Yet, by cooperating to some extent with traditional regional adversaries, China hopes that it can begin to assuage their doubts about their growth as a power and hopefully continue along the path of development. On cooperation in counter-piracy and the wider Indian Ocean region it is imperative that China ‘go along to get along’ in protecting their national interests.

As Donald Rumsfeld proffered, it is ‘the mission that determines the coalition’ and the issue of piracy has clearly determined China’s participation and cooperation with the international community in the Indian Ocean. From a Chinese perspective, they have participated out of self-interest; on a wider scale, their participation has been facilitated by the ad-hoc regime that has emerged. For China to protect its national interests and continue on its path towards a ‘peaceful rise’ it now appreciates that ‘problems will be global – and solutions will be, too’; this is what truly accounts for Chinese cooperation in counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean.


Photo Credit: Michael R Perry

Serbia: Back To Genocide?

Serbia is not a perfect democracy, and the dominance of one party, the Democrats, for the last decade has not helped. Is that cause for concern?


serbia genocide 1


Serbia, it seems, may be returning to the dark days of the 1990s, with former allies of ‘Serbian Saddam’ Slobodan Milosevic and his extreme nationalist counter-part Vojislav Seselj (both charged for war crimes in the Hague), Ivica Dacic and Tomislav Nikolic, recently being elected as Prime Minister and President respectively. As Reuters has pointed out, an alliance of this sort last existed ‘at the close of Milosevic’s disastrous 13-year rule, when his forces expelled almost 1 million ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and NATO bombed in 1999 to wrest the province from him.

This interpretation is what has dominated the headlines in the West, anyway. But such alarmism is unwarranted, as there is unlikely to be any significant change in Serbia’s democratic prospects or its policies towards Kosovo and the EU.

Dacic and Nikolic and their parties, the Socialist Party of Serbia and the Progressives, have changed a lot in the past five to ten years.

Dacic has been referred to as Milosevic’s man, but, much more recently than that, he was an ally of the Democratic and pro-Western President Tadic. The Socialist Party he leads (and which Milosevic founded) had always been closer to the populist and ‘patriotic’ opposition since Milosevic’s fall in 2000, but in 2008 switched sides and joined the Democrats, helping them secure a much-needed parliamentary majority. Dacic became Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister. This about-face was – it was no secret at the time – engineered by Western embassies in Belgrade, and Dacic henceforth became a loyal man in the Democrat-led coalition, including its policy towards Kosovo and the EU. The Socialists entered the most recent elections in that coalition and intending to continue it, and it is only because of Tadic’s surprise defeat that they, again, decided to change sides. Dacic’s promotion to Prime Minister should hardly, therefore, be cause for alarm.

Nikolic, too, has an unsavoury past, but support for him over the past decade has had more to do with dissatisfaction with the rule of the Democrats, in power uninterrupted since 2000, than with support for extreme nationalism. His supporters are the socio-economic ‘losers’ of the transition, whose numbers have grown with Serbia’s current recession. Moreover, his current party, the Progressives, were formed from a 2008 split from Seselj, and have tried to shed their nationalist image.Western embassies probably had something to do with his split from Seselj, and Nikolic has been keen to emphasise his  changed character, taking a former American ambassador as an advisor and even inviting former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a supporter of NATO’s 1999 bombardment of Serbia, for consultations.

The Guardian recently noted Nikolic refusing to rule out the partition of Kosovo, as if this was a radicalisation of Serbian policy. In fact, this was long been an option for Serbia, although officially it is almost always denied, as Serbia refuses to hand over any of its territory. Nikolic and Dacic emphasise their commitment to the territorial integrity of Serbia, as do all the major parties in Serbia, but, despite some nationalist posturing, immediately after the elections Nikolic went to Brussels and confirmed that he would be respecting recent Serbia-Kosovo agreements on ‘normalisation’ and continuing that process, claiming that the EU did not require recognition of Kosovo. Thus, it seems that the same Serbian policy will continue of pretending not to know that they are, bit by bit, being led towards de facto recognition of Kosovo. As Nikolic emphasises, the EU path remains the priority.

Likewise, in relation to Bosnia, where Milorad Dodik, the leader of the Serb entity, Republika Srpska, has been a thorn in the West’s side, there is unlikely to be any real change in Belgrade’s role. Dodik, in fact, had good relations with President Tadic, whom he backed in the May elections.

Nikolic may not initiate reconciliation with Serbia’s neighbours to the same extent as Tadic, and has already committed a few gaffes in this regard, but there is unlikely to be any real deterioration in regional relations, or inter-ethnic relations within Serbia. It is worth remembering that some of the best regional ‘reconcilers’ have had radical nationalists pasts. Former Kosovan President Ramush Haradinaj, for example, who was supported by the West as someone who embraced the idea of a multi-ethnic Kosovo, had to step down in 2004 to face trial in the Hague for horrific war crimes against national minorities committed just a few years earlier. It is notable that, as has become standard practice, the two key Bosniak politicians in Serbia have been given ministries in the new government, one as a deputy prime minister. (Their background is, incidentally, about as radical as Nikolic’s, both formerly advocating the secession of the Serbian region where most Bosniaks live.)

Serbia is not a perfect democracy, and the dominance of one party, the Democrats, for the last decade has not helped. Multiple changes in power are the real test of a democracy, and there shouldn’t be much to fear from Nikolic and Dacic in this respect. Whether they implement the same EU-sought policies as the Democrats, or perhaps the economic programme their voters sought them to implement, remains to be seen, but as far as Serbia’s democratic prospects and its relations with its neighbours go, there is no cause for alarm.

A Strait Explanation For Russia’s Interest In Tartus (Part 1)

Why is Russia so interested in preventing Western intervention in Syria? The first of a two part feature examining the reasons behind Russia’s support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. 


Syria protestor


To the West, Russian actions towards Syria can seem inexplicable, untrustworthy and trapped in the era of great power politics. In October 1939 Winston Churchill famously quipped ‘I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma…’. It seems things have not changed. Churchill offered a potential solution to his own concerns, however. ‘But perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interests’.[1] It is apparent that in the last 73 years nothing has changed.

Russian national interests motivate Moscow’s support of Bashar al-Assad, and they are numerous. They include the prospect of future arms sales to the regime and Syrian debt to the Russian state and businesses, debt which might not be honoured if Assad falls. They also include Russian influence in the Middle East and in the wider world, influence that may be bolstered by Russia’s ability to prevent Western intervention at will in the Middle East. Finally, Moscow has an interest in maintaining the international norm of non-intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign states, an already weakened norm that would be further degraded by Western intervention in Syria.[2] One major interest – an enduring one for Russia – has nevertheless been ignored in media coverage of Russian involvement in the Syrian crisis.[3]

That interest is in maintaining control over the Black Sea. For as long as Russia has existed, it has had an interest in the Black Sea and the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits which control access to it. By extension, it has always had an interest in Anatolia, which straddles this maritime chokepoint. Russia and the Ottoman Empire fought thirteen separate wars from 1568 to 1918, many over control of the Black Sea, as Russia sought to assert its dominance over its southern neighbour. In 1695, Peter the Great used his newly created fleet to attack Ottoman positions and establish his dominance of the Sea of Azov on the northern coast of the Black Sea. Catherine the Great conducted several wars against the Ottomans in the 18th century, securing the Crimea and gaining a further foothold on the Black Sea. In 1827, a combined Anglo-French-Russian fleet decimated the Ottoman fleet at Navarino and in 1828-29 Nicholas I went to war against the Ottoman Empire after it closed the Dardanelles to Russian traffic.

In 1833 he again intervened in Ottoman affairs, this time to protect the Sultan’s government against internal rebellion and thereby secured the Treaty of Unkiar-Skelessi, which provided for closure of the straits in the event of a European war. This secured the Russian coastline in the event of a war against the British and their allies. From 1853-1857, the Crimean War was fought in part because of Nicholas I’s attempts to secure influence over the Ottoman Empire, at expense of the British and French, by becoming the guarantor of all its Orthodox Christian residents. Another war occurred in 1877-1878 as Russia sought to reclaim its access to the Black Sea, severely limited by the treaty ending the Crimean War.  Finally, the First World War saw the last war between the two states, but not the end of Russian interest in Anatolia.

When Turkey joined NATO in 1952, however, the ability of Russia to directly manipulate it by force diminished.  Russia turned to other methods to guarantee its access through the Bosporus and Dardanelles. It found the means to influence Turkey via Syria.[4] Syria and Turkey had strained relations for much of the 20th century resulting from such things as water rights, Syrian support for Kurdish rebels and the secular nature of the Turkish government, and the USSR sought to exploit this for its own benefit. Aid to Syria, already an associate of Moscow, increased significantly in the mid- to late-1950s.[5] Significant aid flows continued for the duration of the Cold War, even as regimes in Syria changed.

In 1971, the same year of Hafez al-Assad’s first visit to Moscow, the Soviet Union concluded a deal with Syria to establish a naval base at Tartus, in direct challenge to the U.S. Sixth Fleet’s dominance of the Mediterranean. By establishing a presence in the Mediterranean, the Soviet Union pushed a potential battlefield with the United States further from its borders. With the end of the Cold War, the naval rivalry which prompted such manoeuvres disappeared, but Russia’s attempts to influence its neighbours did not; Syrian aid continued to flow unabated.[6]

In 2009, by decree of then President Medvedev, Russia established its National Security Strategy to 2020.  The main objectives of this strategy are the ‘sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, and likewise the preservation of civil peace, political and social stability’.[7] To achieve these objectives Russia must guarantee the security of its borders, which requires a degree of influence over its neighbours, either through cooperative measures or otherwise.[8] In that vein, arms sales and economic assistance to Syria have continued to this day. These provide Russia some influence over the Assad regime and, it is hoped, some indirectly over Turkey.  This influence, and the control it helps give Russia over the Black Sea, is a key factor explaining Russia’s actions in the Syrian crisis. Its actions regarding Syria fit into a broader pattern of manoeuvres designed to secure Russian control over the Black Sea, and thereby guarantee the security of Russia’s borders.

Read the second part here.

[toggle title=”Citations”]

[1] Robert Heinl (1966), Dictionary of Military and Naval Quotations, (U.S. Naval Institute), p. 283.

[2] Andrej Kreutz (2007), ‘Russia and the Mediterranean Countries of the Arab East’, In Russia in the Middle East: Friend or Foe?, (Praeger Security International), http://psi.praeger.com/doc.aspx?d=/books/gpg/C9328/C9328-62.xml (accessed 16 July 2012); Dmitri Trenin, ‘Why Russia Supports Assad’, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/10/opinion/why-russia-supports-assad.html?_r=3&partner=rss&emc=rss (accessed 16 July 2012).

[3] Mark Katz mentions the relationship between the Tartus base and the Dardanelles and Bosporus, but argues that the base is designed to facilitate Russian power projection, rather than secure control of the Straits as an end in and of itself. See http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/07/10/moscows_marines_head_for_syria?page=full (accessed 16 July 2012).

[4] Kreutz (2007).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] http://rustrans.wikidot.com/russia-s-national-security-strategy-to-2020. See paragraph 35 (accessed 16 July 2012)

Top 10 Middle Eastern Developments To Watch (Part 2)

The second part of a two-part piece providing the top 10 Middle Eastern developments to keep your eye on. In this section:  the Egyptian constitution, oil and gas in Cyprus and Israel, Indo-Pakistani relations, Afghanistan, and terrorism in the Yemen and the Sinai.


Middle Eastern[dhr]

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his piece follows on from Top 10 Middle Eastern Developments To Watch (Part 1).

5. Egyptian constitution

This issue should be at the top of Israel’s security agenda. Two important things to watch out for: the timing of the new constitution’s inception and the division of powers between president, parliament and the military. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) might want to delay the passing of the constitution for as long as possible in order to buy some time and attempt to undermine Muslim Brotherhood’s legitimacy in Egyptian society’s eyes. Such efforts would ultimately prove to be fruitless, but they might just be enough to keep Egypt under control for long enough to wait for the Iranian crisis to fade away. The last thing the Egyptian military would want to deal with is a president letting Iranian warships through the Suez Canal bound for Tel Aviv to avenge bombarded nuclear facilities. Or, more likely, an Egyptian president happily letting through cargo ships loaded with guns destined for Hezbollah and Hamas. Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafis, SCAF understands very well that Egypt cannot afford an open conflict with Israel.

The new constitution will stipulate the division of powers in Egypt – the presidential system is likely to be preserved. However some of the powers might be kept by SCAF, transforming the Egyptian system to resemble the Turkish model of division of power. Nevertheless, parliamentary control over state-owned enterprises has already had some repercussions for Egypt’s gas trade with Israel: Cairo has scrapped the deal according to which Israel would buy gas for prices below the market value and has stopped delivering gas. Israel points out, and rightly so, that the supply shutdown is in violation of the economic annex to the peace treaty of 1979.

Leaving Israel aside, the constitution of Egypt will permanently change the course of Levantine and North African politics. Egyptian society has always played the pioneering role in the Arab World, and once again it will be leading the way. The legal framework of the constitution might determine the future success or failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in mending the country’s crippling economy and society, troubled with deep sectarian divides. This success or failure will also determine whether Islamism is just another stop, after Arab nationalism, on the Arab journey to seek its identity’s final destination.

4. Oil and gas bonanza in Israel, Jordan and Cyprus

Cyprus and Israel are soon to become new gas Eldorado. The discovery of natural gas in the Israeli and Cypriot exclusive economic zone (EEZ) waters, some 50km west of Haifa, as well as the discovery of world’s second biggest reserve in of oil shale in Israel and Jordan can bring a huge cash flow to these countries and permanently change the geopolitics of the Levant. Cyprus and Israel are already working on unitization of gas extraction in Aphrodite deposit, which lies on the border between the Israeli and Cypriot EEZ. Extraction at Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan gas deposits are planned to be fully operational by 2020. Israelis intend to use the FLNG technology – a floating extraction plant – or simply put a ship, which extracts, liquefies and pumps gas onto tank ships, which then sail off to ports.

Russia and South East Asian countries are already interested in buying, but the EU might also be keen to get the goods, since now, more than ever, it seeks to diversify from its main energy source (yes, I mean Russia). Cyprus also plans to build a pipeline, starting at Aphrodite deposit, going to the Cypriot coast, then to Crete and finishing in Greece. Nicosia hopes the revenue will stabilize its economy and free it from all future economic shakedowns in Greece, to which it is currently dangerously tied.

There is, as always, a dark side to these new discoveries. History teaches us that there is a well-documented proportionate correlation between rivers of cash and rivers of blood. It would be far-fetched to claim the new gas and oil deposits will precipitate a major war, but conflicts, so far only diplomatic, have already started. Lebanon unilaterally announced that Israel’s water border should be moved 22m (!) south. Moving the border south gets Lebanon roughly 500 square kilometers extra sea territory for their exclusive exploration, and the sole rights to profits from any resources, live or fossilized. Cypriot activities are already causing irritation in Ankara, which claims that by signing EEZ agreements, Cyprus opens Pandora’s box with regard to its northern neighbours’ claims. Turkey sees no good in Cyprus bathing in gas dollars and might step up its diplomacy to limit Greek Cypriot profits.

Shale oil is a different story. Luckily enough, most of Israel’s shale oil reserves lay in Israel proper, not in the West Bank, hence no need to launch another campaign to “explain” her actions in the Palestinian territories. Israel and Jordan are in an early stage of negotiations (read: declarations were made and everybody went home) with Jordan regarding potential cooperation in oil extraction in order to increase profits. Israel is blessed in that matter, as natural gas is necessary to vaporize oil trapped in shale stones and having both resources, it makes the future Israeli industry self-sustainable and insulated from global market’s price fluctuations.

Altogether, Israel’s combined oil and gas resources are worth a striking $717 billion, and Cypriot Aphrodite $129 billion. This fortune will undoubtedly have an impact on the Middle East for at least the rest of this century.

3. Indo-Pakistani rapprochement

Pakistan and India will have friendly and warm relations – and it’s not just a fantasy of a college student reading too many IR books on international dialogue. This April Manmohan Singh and Asif Ali Zardari met in New Delhi. Although the meeting lasted only 30 minutes, cautiously and proportionately to the current state of bilateral relations, it fairs well for the future of the two countries. Both governments have already considered opening more border crossings to encourage trade exchange (currently limited to one land border crossing in Wagah – a crossing which rather serves tourists coming to watch the odd daily show of nationalism and popular rivalry, then cargo trucks). Banks are also supposed to have exchange offices in order to facilitate investments and, most importantly, peace negotiations have finally resumed first time since their suspension following the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

One may wonder why have India and Pakistan decided right this moment to amend relations. For India, the main motivations is the potential threat from China. As Beijing becomes a global superpower, New Delhi wants to divert its efforts from the half a century old conflict with its western neighbour to counter growing Chinese influence. A similar story can be drawn from Pakistan’s rationale, but for Islamabad the threat comes from the Spin Ghar mountains and the Taliban hiding in their caves. Pakistan has virtually no authority in the Federally Administered Tribal Territories (FATT) and obviously wishes to change it. Terrorism in the FATT is raging, causing strife with the US and undermining the Pakistani government’s prestige in international arena. However, a two front conflict is beyond anyone’s capability (Germany tried it twice: it didn’t work out) and rapprochement with India seems like a natural move if Pakistan genuinely wants to step up its counterterrorism campaign.

2. Post-war Afghanistan

NATO leaves Afghanistan in 2014. It’s a fact: the decision has been made and there is no coming back. It is going to leave an Afghan government controlling Kabul’s government district and maybe few streets nearby whilst the Taliban are more powerful than ever since the invasion in 2001. This topic does not require much deliberation – post-war Afghanistan will turn into the same kind of extremist state as it did after Soviet troops left in 1989. The country has, in essence, a failed economy, lacking in infrastructure and possessing a society that has hardly developed since the initial American action.

1.  Yemen and the Sinai Peninsula – new havens of terrorism

Yemen has suffered from domestic turmoil for quite some time. It wasn’t only the anti-government protests, which erupted after the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, but even earlier there were reports of tribal conflicts over water supplies.

Yemen is virtually on the verge of becoming a failed state. Just a couple of days ago, terrorists detonated a bomb at the Policy Academy in Saana. President Saleh might be gone, but Yemen has to face much bigger challenges than Libya, Tunisia or Egypt. The State’s authority over its territories is limited to major cities, leaving terrorists, financed by Iran, thriving in the North and the South of the country. Hadi’s new government has virtually no resources to increase its presence in rebellious provinces or to undertake reforms, which would revive the non-existent economy. And since Yemen has minute natural resources, none of the Western states is keen on entering a substantial and comprehensive development aid project. Since half of Yemen’s population already lives for less then $2 a day, the country can already be seen as a giant harvesting ground for terrorist organizations. Yemen might draw attention of the West, when it will be already infested with Al-Qaeda and Iran-backed terrorist cells. It is an extremely volatile situation right now which can go from bad to extremely dangerous within a few years if the US is not willing to step up its counter-terrorism activities in Yemen.

A threat on a different but still very serious level comes from the Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian territory east of the Suez Canal has virtually become an outlawed territory after Mubarak’s downfall, falling into the hands of gangs of Bedouin smugglers. It is already estimated that the smuggling industry in Sinai is worth around $0,5 bln. Everything can be contraband – from food and weapons to sex slaves and drugs. Indeed, the Sinai has become one of the major human trafficking spots, where Bedouins kidnap Sudanese refugees desperate to reach Israel, and sell them to Europe and elsewhere. These gangs operate technicals – the Somali-“Black Hawk Down” type – as well as anti-tank missiles, machine guns, RPGs and many more. A development severely worsening the situation is the progressing radicalization of traditionally religion-neutral Bedouins. The culprit for this is Hamas in the nearby Gaza Strip, who trade with Bedouins and recruits operatives to mount attacks on Israel from Egyptian territory. Since Mubarak left the government, there were around 200 incidents of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians in Eilat or the Negev desert, as well as sabotage attacks on pipelines, which supply gas to Israel. The gas flow has already been suspended a couple of times leaving Israel with gas shortages over the year. This picture indicates that the Sinai might become, alongside Yemen, another haven for Al-Qaeda and Hamas terrorists. The result might be a regional disaster – any major attack on Israel from Egyptian territory will shred the peace treaty into tatters.

A Round Up Of Turkish-Syrian Relations

As Ankara has made such an issue of Bashar al-Assad stepping down, Turkish-Syrian tensions will undoubtedly remain highly strung for as long as the dictator remains in power.


1855 Turkey Syria


[dropcap]T[/dropcap]ensions are rising in the Mediterranean after Syria shot down a Turkish military aircraft. The incident happened as the relationship between the two countries has deteriorated, as the Syrian regime continues to brutally put down an uprising that began last year.

Before the Arab Spring, relations had been improving thanks to an effort by Turkey’s moderately Islamist government to improve relations with its neighbours.

Historically, the relationship between the two neighbors has been antagonistic, due to the fact that the Turkish-led Ottoman Empire dominated the Middle East for centuries. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, one of the components of the rising Arab nationalism was anti-Turkish sentiment. In the Cold War, Turkey joined NATO and was firmly in the western camp, whereas Arab neighbors like Syria, embraced Nasserite socialism and were closer to the Soviet Union. This remained a long-standing issue under the military regime that regularly interfered in Turkey’s domestic politics. They tried to forge closer ties with Western Europe and largely neglected their neighbours. Turkey was much more interested in joining the European Community (after 1993 the European Union), than improving its relations with her Arab neighbors.

There were a number of specific problems that Turkey had with Syria. The first is the status of the province of Hatay (which is where the Turkish aircraft was shot down last month). It has been part of Turkey since before the Second World War, but Syria claims it belongs to them. Syria also used to sponsor the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which has long waged a terrorist campaign against Turkey in the name of an independent Kurdish homeland.

In 2001, the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) took over, and in the next few years the influence of the military in Turkish politics was gradually limited. The new democratic government was more responsive to the policy preferences of the voters, and the country started to move away from its long-standing American orientation and focused on improving relations with the Muslim world. This became clear in 2003 when the Turkish government refused to act as a launching pad for the invasion of Iraq. Turks also began to give up on their long-stalled bid to join the EU.

The so-called “Zero Problems” policy was meant to remove any issues with its neighbors. Giving up on Europe, Turkey sought to establish a role as a regional hegemon, seeking a bigger role for itself in dealing with issues such as Israel-Palestine and the Iranian nuclear problem. In the last decade, relations with Syria had improved dramatically. The countries signed a free-trade agreement and the countries leaders met frequently. Tensions over the PPK also dissipated, as the Erdogan government softened Turkey’s stand on the Kurdish issue.

But this all fell apart once the “Arab Spring” began. Initially Erdogan sought to use his relations with Assad to get the Syrian leader to reform on his own. When this failed Syrian security forces started killing their own people in droves, Erdogan dramatically changed his tone, and became a forceful advocate for Assad stepping down. Tensions have been rising steadily in recent months, due to the presence of refugee camps in Turkey for Syrians fleeing the fighting. These camps are too close to the border, and there have already been a number of incursions by Syrian forces looking for rebels in these camps.

The incident last month was the most egregious yet, with the two Turkish pilots killed. So far the Turkish reaction has been remarkably restrained, considering the bellicosity Erdogan is known for. Many see this as a result of pressure from the United States and EU, who are in no rush for a war to break out in the Mediterranean that could further damage the failing economic recovery. But if there are further incidents, Turkey may be hard to restrain. As Ankara has made such an issue of Assad stepping down, tensions will undoubtedly remain as long as the dictator remains in power.

The Sustained Role Of The US In European Security

Does the United States still have an important role to play in the security of Europe or has the rationale of the transatlantic relationship changed in recent years?
{Department of War Studies, King’s College London}


Security guard


[dropcap]P[/dropcap]rior to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, the relationship that Europe held with the United States was an essential component in the security of Europe. Yet, in the aftermath of the Warsaw Pact’s disintegration, some analysts had already written the obituary of the Atlantic alliance, prescribing a growing divergence in transatlantic relations and casting doubt upon the role of the United States in Europe’s security.[1] The neo-realist view is that the security collaboration across the Atlantic should have concluded with the end of the Cold War.[2]This argument has been made consistently throughout the years succeeding the fall of the Soviet bloc but the transatlantic relationship has maintained its position as the most important relationship in the world. However, the rationale of the relationship has changed in two fundamental ways: first, the removal of the Soviet threat altered NATO’s agenda and second, the United States’ challenge for its European allies to take more responsibility for their own defence has caused the latter to re-evaluate the balance of the alliance.

Despite the modified rationale of the relationship, this article will argue that the underlying principles of the partnership, the common threats that confront it and a conscious European effort to close the capability gap all indicate that the United States will continue to play a substantial role in the security of Europe for the foreseeable future. The first section will analyse how the shared values and economic interdependence of the transatlantic partnership remain central reasons that the United States will still contribute to the security of Europe. The second section will examine the changing focus of NATO and the common threats that the transatlantic partners face and will continue to counter. The third section will argue that the European members of NATO must increase their commitment to the partnership if America is to remain influential in European security.[3] The final section will summarise and conclude the key points that have been argued in this article.

Underlying Principles and the Transatlantic Economy

The association between the United States of America and Europe runs much deeper than a mere relationship of utility and convenience. Common values of freedom, justice and liberty have laid the foundations of the transatlantic partnership for over sixty years and institutions such as NATO form the glue that binds the Atlantic partnership together. An American dominated NATO remains the vehicle for transatlantic security and defence co-operation and a commitment to protect the values of the alliance was re-iterated in NATO’s most recent Strategic Concept document.[4] The rationale of the transatlantic relationship did indeed alter with the dissolution of the Soviet Union but the fundamental principles which formed the bedrock of the transatlantic link remain intact. Presently, Europe represents a zone of peace and democracy and, despite the lack of a common external enemy in the modern security environment, the same remains true today: the United States still has a substantial role to play in European security affairs since the values which underpin the relationship remain as established today as they ever have been. Hillary Clinton added strength to this claim in her recent speech in Paris, outlining that the United States will continue to ensure that peace and security is maintained in Europe for the foreseeable future as the transatlantic bond is an illustration of their shared values.[5]

Nevertheless, it has not been a smooth ride for the relationship since the fall of the Berlin Wall; the advent of the Iraq War in 2003 particularly raised divided opinion on both sides of the Atlantic. Commentators proclaimed that the division over the Iraq War was the biggest crisis in the relationship’s history [6] whilst George W. Bush’s public approval ratings in Europe plummeted to levels never seen before.[7] However, the crisis has been successfully surmounted and today, the transatlantic link remains unbroken, which begs the question: how has the relationship survived despite the worst crisis in its history? It is hard to disregard the fact that a change of leadership aided an improvement in relations after Bush’s tenure; the arrival of Barack Obama at the Oval Office evidently rejuvenated public opinion towards the United States on the European side of the Atlantic whilst Nicolas Sarkozy’s rise to office brought France back into NATO’s integrated military command in 2009.[8] Although did the relationship ever really look in danger of coming to an end? Stanley Sloan has deliberated with the notion that NATO and the transatlantic partnership may be a ‘permanent alliance’ based upon its shared values, history and respect for sovereignty and, even if the partnership may not be everlasting, it is hard to see it coming to an end anytime soon.[9] The alliance has weathered many storms such as the Suez crisis in 1956, Bosnia in the 1990s and the more recent war on terror and the fact that it has remained intact throughout is a testament to its resiliency. Therefore, it is logical to deduce that the United States will continue to hold an important role in the defence of Europe in the near future because of the bond that is shared across the Atlantic.

Additionally, the transatlantic economy is vastly interdependent as the financial crisis of 2008 evidently demonstrated. Through the deep economic integration between both sides of the Atlantic, it is estimated that approximately fifteen million jobs are created and five trillion dollars in commercial sales is generated annually[10]; the economic importance of the transatlantic relationship is obvious as it still accounts for over half of global GDP despite the global recession.[11] As the largest and most significant economic partnership in the world it would surely be too great a risk for the United States to not play a considerable role in European security; the transatlantic economy is so intertwined that it is not purely European interests that are at stake in the security of Europe but also American interests. In this light, the neo-liberalist viewpoint that the transatlantic nations will continue to co-operate on security issues as a result of parallel security aims, common economic interests and comparable ideals and political identities becomes a reasonable assumption.[12] This section has demonstrated how shared economic interests and the underlying principles of the transatlantic relationship will keep the United States significantly involved in European security, the next section will argue that common security interests will maintain America’s role in the security arena of Europe.

Common Security Interests

In modern times, European integration and the enlargement of NATO and the European Union has assembled a Europe that is as stable as it has ever been in its history; the notion of a war on the continent now borders on the absurd. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the main threat to Europe’s security since the signature of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949, NATO’s raison d’être had vanished and the alliance had to establish a new justification for its existence. So, after the Balkan wars of the 1990s, the attacks of 9/11 and with a seemingly secure Europe, a NATO dominated by the United States consequently undertook a new global agenda to combat modern security threats that may endanger its member states.[13] This transformation process has been a success and a recent survey confirmed that a majority of respondents from the US (77%) and Europe (62%) agree that NATO must be equipped to operate in the global arena to facilitate the protection of its members.[14]

Yet, several analysts have questioned the commitment of the US to the security of Europe for the reason that they are currently focusing their attention upon defence issues that lay outside of European territory.[15] It is true that NATO is presently concentrating its efforts upon global issues such as Iran, terrorism, Afghanistan and anti-piracy efforts in the Horn of Africa and there are certainly differing threat perceptions within NATO over where the alliance’s focus should be. For example, the Baltic States are more concerned with the threat of an aggressive Russia on their doorstep rather than global security issues. However, the view that these global issues are not of significant importance to the security of Europe is myopic as these issues unquestionably threaten the security of Europe, if albeit, indirectly. The fact that, internally, Europe is as safe as it has ever been means that the foremost threats to its security are now emanating from outside of its borders; this does not suggest that the United States will have an insignificant involvement in its defence.

Common threats that populate the modern security environment are diverse in the challenges that they present to the alliance and consist of concerns such as economic security (as mentioned above), the Middle East peace process, energy security, cyber warfare, violent extremism, rogue states and nuclear proliferation.[16] Moreover, in spite of Obama’s recent ‘reset’ policy, Russia’s attack on Georgia in 2008 provided a stark reminder of the potential threat that the former Soviet Union poses to European security and that it cannot be taken for granted. Together with a volatile and nuclear armed North Korea now under the control of the youthful Kim Jong-un, an Iran intent on the development of nuclear arms and fertile terrorist hotbeds such as Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan still prevalent, it is clear that the world is not a safe place. For that reason, George Robertson, the former NATO-Secretary General, is realistic when adopting the view that the West ‘still has business in confronting the dark side of globalisation’.[17]

In light of these security threats, the US cannot afford to significantly reduce their involvement in the security of Europe and, regardless of the various criticisms thrown at them, the missions in Libya and Afghanistan illustrate what the alliance can achieve when the US and its European allies co-operate on security matters; this is precisely why NATO remains the most relevant and necessary military alliance today.[18] A strong and stable Europe is in America’s economic and security interests and the common threats that America and Europe both face reasonably suggest that, through NATO, the United States will indeed remain an important player in European security for a considerable time to come.  The next section will analyse how the European members of NATO rely on an alliance dominated by the US and how they must increase their contribution to the alliance if they wish to maintain American interest in the security of Europe.

Rebalancing The Alliance

The United States is the most powerful nation in the world and it is logical for European nations to have aligned themselves with such a force to ensure their security in a hostile and ever-changing security environment. Yet, European reliance upon US resources has become excessive; in 2010 the United States contributed an enormous 72.4% of the total NATO budget compared to 50% ten years prior.[19] The transatlantic alliance is undoubtedly top-heavy with Britain, France and Germany combined only contributing 14.52% of the total NATO budget in the same year whilst the other twenty three NATO members supplied a mere 13% of the budget.[20] Distinguished figures on both sides of the Atlantic have been critical of Europe’s dependence upon the United States’ resources and have warned of the possibility that the United States may reconsider its role in European security unless the European allies endeavour to visibly close this apparent capability and commitment gap.[21]

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has referred to NATO as a ‘timeless alliance’ yet if the European members of NATO are not assertive, American support in the security affairs of Europe may dwindle.[22] To lose the vital support of the most valuable member of the alliance would only be to the detriment of European security and for this reason, the majority of the European members of NATO desire to maintain America’s considerable involvement in their security affairs and view the alliance as a way of sustaining US focus upon their defence.[23] Subsequently, as a result of the United States’ intense participation in European security to date, there appears to be an embedded European complacency that their American partner will constantly support Europe in its security affairs. Thus, the burden-sharing debate, which has been prevalent throughout the alliance’s history, has been growing louder by the year.

In an age of austerity, where the impact of the global economic crisis is being felt around the world and the United States is winding down two expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, American support is not guaranteed.[24] The United States cannot achieve its foreign policy goals unaided anymore and, with the rise of China in mind, Barack Obama has been increasingly multilateral in his search for partnerships in the world.[25] Nonetheless, American politicians have been quick to quell fears that the United States has become less committed to Europe and have provided assurances that Europe and its security does indeed remain a priority despite defence cuts.[26] Still, American policy towards Europe has certainly changed. On his first trip to Europe, President Obama asserted that the United States were no longer ‘looking to be patrons of Europe’, but to be ‘partners of Europe.’[27] Washington wishes that its European allies began to pull their weight in the relationship and shoulder their fair share of the burden if they are to keep playing such a pivotal role in Europe’s defence.

It is necessary that Europe becomes more self-sufficient if they are to deal with their own security problems. The recent Libya campaign, for example, confirmed the wide capability gap between the United States and the European participants.[28] Yet, the fact that America pulled back and left Britain and France to take the lead role in this successful mission marked the instigation of the change that Washington wishes to see in the relationship. As Lord Robertson affirmed, Obama has ‘forced the European nations to confront their own destiny’[29] and it is how the Europeans continue to react to this challenge that will somewhat determine how important a role the United States’ will play in its security. If the European allies make a conscious effort to rebalance the alliance and the Americans begin to see a return for their input then any possible friction within the alliance over the burden-sharing debate will surely evaporate and the United States will continue to contribute significantly to the security of Europe.


It is realistic to conclude that the United States does still have an important role to play in the security of Europe in spite of changes to the rationale of the relationship. The arguments put across in this article to support this claim are numerous. The underlying principles and history that have shaped the partnership represent a relationship not of mere pragmatism but of a much deeper value that will ensure the two sides of the Atlantic are forever associated. In addition, the transatlantic link is institutionally and economically entrenched meaning that it would be damaging to the American economy to diminish their part in the protection of Europe. The alliance has proven its resiliency and withstood numerous crises including its most notable crisis over the Iraq War and it will surely continue to survive these predicaments in the near future. Despite the defeat of the Soviet threat it was founded to offset, NATO has managed to successfully transform its agenda and adapt to the modern security environment and the second section demonstrated that there are a plethora of common security threats that the transatlantic partners will persistently counter together despite the diverse threat perceptions and strategic cultures within Europe. The fact that NATO provides America legality for its actions abroad, combined with these common security threats, point towards the United States remaining the key player within NATO and therefore maintaining an important role in European security.

The danger is that American support in European security affairs will decline if the European allies do not react to the burden-sharing dilemma assertively and with haste because the transatlantic alliance is undoubtedly top-heavy. If the European allies want to eradicate this friction within the relationship and preserve American influence in European security affairs then they have to address the current imbalance within the alliance; Libya was a positive start and if they continue in the same vein then the United States will undoubtedly continue to play a substantial role in European security. To summarise, the rationale of the relationship may have changed but the values and interdependent economies of the partnership, the institutional links, common security threats and NATO’s new global agenda all indicate that the United States is likely to retain an important role in the security of Europe.

[toggle title=”Citations”]

[1] Robert Kagan famously asserted that ‘Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus’. Kagan (2004), p.3; Kissinger, ‘The End of NATO’, The Washington Post, (1990), p. 23; Krauthammer (2002), ‘Re-Imagining NATO’, Washington Post, p. A35.

[2] Simoni (2011), p. 27; Mearsheimer (1990).

[3] The case for greater US-EU cooperation will not be developed here.

[4] NATO Strategic Concept 2010.

[5] Clinton Speech, Paris, (2010).

[6] Allin (2004), p. 663; Sloan (2010), p. 253.

[7] ‘Global Public Opinion in the Bush Years (2001-2008)’, Pew Research Centre (2008).

[8] ‘Obama More Popular Abroad’, Pew Research Center (2010); Kaufman (2011), p. 77; Transatlantic Trends (2010), p.5.

[9] Sloan (2010), p. 281.

[10] Hamilton & Quinlan (2011), p. 13; Shapiro and Witney (2009), p. 24.

[11] Hamilton & Quinlan (2011), p. 20.

[12] Mix (2011), p.6; Simoni (2011), pp. 24-7.

[13] See Aybet and Moore (2010).

[14] Transatlantic Trends 2010, p. 6.

[15] Guérot (2011), pp. 55-6; Kuykendall (2010), p.111.

[16] NATO Strategic Concept 2010.

[17] Robertson speech, Chatham House (2011).

[18] Transatlantic Trends 2011 survey showed that NATO is still seen as essential by 62% of both EU and U.S. respondents.

[19] NATO Defence Expenditures (1990-2010).

[20] Ibid.

[21] Gates speech, London (2011); Major speech, Chatham House (2011); Rasmussen speech, Warsaw (2011).

[22] Scheffer speech, Chatham House (2009).

[23] Alcaro (2011), p. 20.

[24] Jones (2011), p. 152.

[25] Kuykendall (2009), p. 110.

[26] Clinton, Foreign Policy (2011); ‘Obama to recall US troops from Europe’, Financial Times, 9 April 2011; Panetta speech, Carnegie Europe (2011); Lindley-French (2010), p. 50.

[27] Obama speech, Strasbourg (2009).

[28] Panetta speech, Warsaw (2011).

[29] Robertson speech, Chatham House (2011).