Now you can hear the Minsk peace agreement

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Das NATO-Gipfeltreffen in Warschau – Das Experteninterview

Anfangs Juli trafen sich die Mitgliedsstaaten der NATO zum biannualen Gipfeltreffen – dieses Mal in Warschau. Vor gut einer Woche haben wir eine ausführliche Zusammenfassung von Patrick Truffer veröffentlicht. Ausserdem hat Tilman Asmus Fischer, er studierte Geschichte und Kulturwissenschaft an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin und ist als freier Journalist tätig, ein interessantes Interview mit Brigadegeneral a.D. Dr. Klaus Wittmann geführt. Dr. Wittmann ist 1946 in Lübeck geboren, lehrt Zeitgeschichte an der Universität Potsdam und ist Senior Fellow beim Aspen Insitute Deutschland. Er war unter anderem als Truppenführer sowie im Verteidigungsministerium, im NATO-Hauptquartier und als Direktor Lehre an der Führungsakademie der Bundeswehr tätig. Wittmann war Mitglied der 10. Synode und der Kammer für Öffentliche Verantwortung der Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland.

Brigadegeneral a.D. Dr. Klaus Wittmann spricht im Interview über die aktuelle Strategie der NATO in Osteuropa, Perspektiven einer Entspannungspolitik mit Russland und die Herausforderungen des Weißbuchs 2016. Er bringt dabei seine persönliche Meinung zum Ausdruck.

Brigadegeneral a.D. Dr. Klaus Wittmann im Juni 2014 (Foto: Ralf John; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International via Wikimedia Commons).

Brigadegeneral a.D. Dr. Klaus Wittmann im Juni 2014 (Foto: Ralf John; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International via Wikimedia Commons).

Fischer: Erleben wir derzeit in Russland eine Hegemonialpolitik wie zu Zeiten der Sowjetunion?

Dr. Wittmann: “Putin-Versteher” ist ja ein Schimpfwort in der öffentlichen Auseinandersetzung. Ich möchte mich trotzdem als ein solcher outen – natürlich ohne seine Politik zu billigen –, weil es sehr wichtig ist, Putins Motive für die erneute Konfrontation mit dem Westen zu verstehen. Da sehe ich neben dem revisionistischen, geopolitischen, auf eine privilegierte Einflusssphäre zielenden, auch andere.

Fischer: Welche wären das?

Dr. Wittmann: Erstens die Externalisierung von internen Problemen: Man schafft Einigkeit im Inneren, indem man gegen behauptete äußere Feinde vorgeht. Zweitens, die Ukraine zuverlässig aus dem westlichen Orbit herauszuhalten. Drittens Frustration darüber, von Amerika und vom Westen nicht auf Augenhöhe akzeptiert zu werden. Und viertens – eigentlich am wichtigsten: Demokratischer Erfolg und West-Orientierung der Ukraine erscheinen für Putins eigenes Machtsystem als die größte Bedrohung.

Fischer: Was tut in dieser Situation Not?

Dr. Wittmann: So wie die marode Sowjetunion braucht auch Putins Russland in der Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik “Neues Denken”, wie Gorbatschow es genannt hat. Und wir – der Westen, besonders die NATO – sollten das erleichtern durch selbstkritische Anerkennung unseres Anteils an der Verantwortung für die Verschlechterung des Verhältnisses zu Russland in den letzten fast 20 Jahren: in erster Linie, dass viele die politische Psychologie nicht voll verstanden haben, den “imperialen Phantomschmerz”, den Kummer über den Zerfall der Sowjetunion.

Fischer: Welche Schritte müsste Russland in Richtung dieses “Neuen Denkens” gehen?

Dr. Wittmann: Russland müsste aufhören, die Klischees von der konfrontativen NATO zu perpetuieren und zu instrumentalisieren; es müsste erkennen, welche Sorgen in den Nachbarstaaten die behauptete Pflicht zum “Schutz von Russen, wo immer sie leben” hervorruft, ebenso die russische Geschichtspolitik und das Konzept von Einflusssphären. Das Nullsummendenken, wonach angeblich die eine Seite nur auf Kosten der anderen gewinnen kann, muss überwunden werden. Dieses Denken ist allerdings auch der westlichen Seite nicht ganz fremd.

„Vorwärts zum Sieg des Kommunismus!“ -- Sowjetisches Propaganda-Plakat. Die Sowjetunion ist Geschichte, doch der Kummer über den Zerfall der Sowjetunion ist in Russland noch nicht überwunden.

„Vorwärts zum Sieg des Kommunismus!“ — Sowjetisches Propaganda-Plakat. Die Sowjetunion ist Geschichte, doch der Kummer über den Zerfall der Sowjetunion ist in Russland noch nicht überwunden.

Fischer: Dient die nun in Warschau beschlossene NATO-Strategie einer solchen Entspannung oder verschärft sie die aktuelle Situation?

Dr. Wittmann: Die beschlossenen Maßnahmen sind keineswegs “aggressiv”, sondern das Minimum dessen, was die NATO den baltischen Ländern, Polen und sich selber schuldig ist. Vier multinationale Bataillone und eine US-Brigade sind zwar nicht genug für eine voll ausgebildete Anfangsverteidigung, aber ausreichend, um das Kernprinzip der NATO glaubwürdig zum Ausdruck zu bringen: Ein Angriff auf einen wäre ein Angriff auf alle.

Fischer: Geht es also vornehmlich um Abschreckung?

Dr. Wittmann: Man darf nicht übersehen, dass die NATO in Warschau auch das Dialogangebot stark betont hat. Das entspricht ihrer Doppelstrategie seit 1967: Verteidigung und Entspannung, Festigkeit und Dialogbereitschaft. Die Hand gegenüber Russland bleibt ausgestreckt.

Fischer: Was bedeutet diese Dialogbereitschaft konkret?

Dr. Wittmann: Der NATO-Russland-Rat sollte reaktiviert werden. Nach meiner Überzeugung hätte er seit Ausbruch der Krise quasi in Permanenz tagen müssen. Und die NATO-Russland-Grundakte von 1997 enthält viele Themen potentiell konformer Interessen und gemeinsamer Aktion. In der OSZE müsste man zu stärkerem Einvernehmen kommen, was jedoch u.a. durch die Behinderung von OSZE-Beobachtern in der Ostukraine erschwert wird.

Fischer: Wie verändern diese internationalen Entwicklungen die deutsche Sicherheitspolitik, zu der das Bundeskabinett gerade das Weißbuch 2016 beschlossen hat?

Dr. Wittmann: Schwerpunktsetzung, Ausstattung und Ausbildung der Bundeswehr waren in den letzten zwei Jahrzehnten vornehmlich an Auslandseinsätzen orientiert. Landes- und Bündnisverteidigung schienen nachrangig, weil Russland zunehmend zum Partner geworden zu sein schien und weil Deutschland sich nur noch von Freunden umgeben sah. Das galt aber nicht für die NATO als Ganzes, und die Solidarität, die wir als Frontstaat über Jahrzehnte von den Alliierten erwarteten, wird jetzt auch von uns verlangt. Wir sind zurück in der Welt des NATO-Beistandsartikels 5. Das emsige Einsammeln der “Friedensdividende” hat zu Fähigkeitsverlusten geführt, aber finanziell und personell gibt es eine Trendwende, und das Weißbuch betont die deutsche Mitverantwortung in der Welt.

Der russische Außenminister Sergej Lawrow beim Treffen des Nato-Russland-Rats 2009. Letzte Woche hat sich der NATO-Russland-Rat, seit Beginn der Ukraine-Krise 2014 erst zum zweiten Mal wieder zusammengefunden.

Der russische Außenminister Sergej Lawrow beim Treffen des Nato-Russland-Rats 2009. Letzte Woche hat sich der NATO-Russland-Rat, seit Beginn der Ukraine-Krise 2014 erst zum zweiten Mal wieder zusammengefunden.

Fischer: Befähigen will das Weißbuch die Bundeswehr auch im Bereich der “hybriden Kriegsführung“. Wie kann das geschehen, ohne sich Strategien anzueignen, mit denen etwa Russland Gesellschaft und Staat in der Ukraine geschwächt hat?

Dr. Wittmann: Ein neues Schlagwort ist “Resilienz“, Widerstandsfähigkeit von Gesellschaften, digitalen Netzwerken, öffentlichem Dienst und Energieversorgung. Doch gilt es auch, sozioökonomische Probleme zu lösen – und die Attraktivität unseres europäischen Gesellschaftsmodells weiter zu entwickeln. Wir haben uns im Übrigen der “vernetzten Sicherheit”, d.h. der Verknüpfung ziviler und militärischer Elemente, verschworen. Dabei ist auch die Verknüpfung der Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik mit der Entwicklungspolitik von Bedeutung.

Fischer: Wenn all dies gelingt – was könnte das Weißbuch 2026 prägen?

Dr. Wittmann: Eigentlich hat Mark Twain Recht mit seiner Warnung vor Prognosen – “vor allem über die Zukunft”. Aber als Optimist würde ich hoffen, dass in Russland eine zur Zusammenarbeit bereite, vertragstreue Führung am Ruder ist, der Westen im Gegenzug russische Empfindlichkeiten berücksichtigt und kooperative statt konfrontativer Sicherheit herrscht. Dann kann man sich gemeinsam den großen Fragen zuwenden, zu denen die Folgen von Klimawandel und Umweltzerstörung gehören, aber auch die Proliferation von Massenvernichtungswaffen und der Aufstieg Chinas.

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The NATO Summit 2016 in Warsaw: A Summit of Compromises

by Patrick Truffer (original published in German). He graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs and completes a Master of Arts program in International Relations at the Freie Universität Berlin.

At the beginning of July, NATO member states met for the biannual summit, which this time was taking place in Warsaw. The host nation, Poland, made elaborate attempts to use the summit to assert its own interests. Hence “Anaconda 2016“, a military exercise, was run this year between the 7th and the 17th June 2016, with over 31,000 soldiers from 24 NATO states and partner states taking part. This military exercise was therefore the largest of its kind after the Cold War if we discount Russia’s military exercises, which are on an even larger scale. Additionally, the annual military exercise “BALTOPS” also took place between the 3rd June and the 19th June 2016, which involved 6,100 soldiers from 15 NATO states and 2 partner states including Poland.

Poland, along with other Eastern European nations, is looking to convince the other NATO member states that it requires NATO troops to be permanently stationed in Eastern Europe, as well as C2 installations, in light of the threat from Russia. Such permanent stationing would – at least from a Russian perspective – be in breach of the NATO-Russia Founding Act. This means that, after the NATO summit, we are faced with the question, if the Eastern European countries were able to assert their interests during the summit in Warsaw, and what measures NATO is taking to secure its eastern flank. Moreover, the interests of the Eastern European countries seem to compete with the interests of the southern European countries, who, for their part, are in need of a stronger southern flank. This raises also the question of which interests the Southern European countries were able to assert at the summit, and whether a combining strategy exists.

Meeting in Interoperability format at the level of Defence Ministers.

Meeting in Interoperability format at the level of Defence Ministers.

Today, NATO no longer needs to justify its existence given the fact the eastern and southern flank face more challenges than ever before. Additionally, in the wake of Brexit, the defence alliance has to take on an unexpected additional function: the integration of British military power in the European security framework. This involves heightened cooperation on the part of NATO and the EU in the defence against hybrid threats, in the area of Cyberwarfare and the field of maritime security: Even with Brexit, the West will not collapse. However, for the cooperation agreement between NATO and the EU to be, as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg put it, a “historic decision”, it will need to actually be put into effect. Most likely we will only be able to judge it in the long run.

Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow also viewed this year’s meeting as one of the most fateful meetings in the history of NATO, highlighting the varied but concurrent challenges the defence alliance is currently facing (“The NATO Deputy Secretary General A. Vershbow: NATO Summit in Warsaw could be one of the most fateful“, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of Poland, 04.06.2016). The decisions taken in Warsaw are indeed a political signal to Russia, yet do not deserve to be called “historic”. It is hardly surprising for a consensus-based alliance made up of 28 states, then, that this year’s meeting of NATO members turned out rather to be a “Summit of Compromises”.

Germany and France in particular showed themselves to be moderating forces even before the summit took place. Although new multinational battalions of up to 1,000 men will be dispatched to Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from 2017 onwards, but these battalions will not be permanently stationed. Instead, the troops will in fact be rotated (Enhanced Forward Presence). Germany will support the battalion in Lithuania as a framework nation, with the United Kingdom supporting the battalion in Estonia, the USA the one in Poland and Canada the one in Latvia. Before the summit there were rumors that perhaps even a multinational brigade might be stationed in Romania to benefit the southeast, though on the summit no final decision has been made with regards to such an action. As expected, basically, NATO is thereby remaining loyal to the NATO-Russia Founding Act and doesn’t fulfil the wishes of the nation hosting the NATO Summit, which has requested robust, permanently stationed NATO troops and C2 installations.

In any case, these multinational battalions will still act as a “trip wire”. Their offshore presence will ensure that any violation of Baltic or Polish territory would automatically involve several member states, thus unequivocally triggering a case for collective defence (in accordance with article 5 of the NATO Treaty). This strategy has already been tested against the Soviet Union during the Cold War when the stationing of NATO troops along the border between West and East Germany made it abundantly clear that a Soviet attack would lead to a nuclear escalation. With regards to the Eastern European member states, the multinational battalions could be reinforced during a crisis with 5,000 soldiers from the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) within 2-5 days. After these 5 days, as many as 30,000 NATO Response Force soldiers could then be deployed in total.

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Independently of all of this, the USA has been running the European Reassurance Initiative since the Russian annexation of Crimea in March 2014. This initiative comprises a rotating tank brigade that takes part in military exercises in Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. In light of Russia’s plans to station 30,000 soldiers in the western military district, which have the capacity to reach the capital cities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in 60 hours at most, we can hardly say that a credible deterrent exists even if we factor in the U.S. tank brigade. In order to really be able to prevent Russia taking military action in the Eastern European states by making entry into said countries very costly, we would, according to the Rand Corporation (which is relying on the results of a series of practical simulations that took place between summer 2014 and early spring 2015), need to permanently station seven brigades, including three tank brigades, and set up combat support on the ground and in the air (David A. Shlapak und Michael Johnson, “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank“, RAND Corporation, 2016). So, the decision to station four multinational battalions on a rotational basis is at best a kind of “restrained deterrent” — if such a thing could exist. Despite the ostensibly positive response of the Eastern European NATO member states, the deterrent against Russia that was originally hoped for would look different.

This does not mean, however, that such a defensive, cautious approach from NATO would be wrong per se. This is because a permanent stationing of troops would have declared the NATO-Russia Founding Act null and void, and it would have provoked comprehensive countermeasures on the part of Russia. On the contrary, NATO stresses in its final communiqué that it is complying with international agreements, including the NATO-Russia Founding Act, and expects Russia to do the same. NATO deems the following actions to be Russian violations of international agreements: Russia’s annexation of Crimea, general border-breaches and the destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine in particular, Russia’s carrying out of short-term, large-scale military exercises that violate the spirit of the Vienna Document, provocative military actions in the Baltic region, the Black Sea Region and the Eastern Mediterranean, in addition to the aggressive rhetoric regarding the use of nuclear weapons.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg viewing the Global Hawk, Allied Ground Surveillance (AGS) display.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg viewing the Global Hawk, Allied Ground Surveillance (AGS) display.

Regarding the southern flank, the final communiqué from NATO states that the terrorist organisation “Islamic State” represents an immediate and direct threat to NATO member states and the international community as a whole. Even though NATO has been solely involved on the sideline, its member states and many of its partners support the U.S.-led International Alliance against Islamic State. NATO will now supply the alliance with its AWACS aircraft, which are equipped with modern radar and communication technology, though only outside Syrian and Iraqi airspace.

In order to secure the southern flank, NATO will also expand the training missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, set up a Fusion Centre in Tunisia that will provide Tunisian special forces with intelligence, and broaden it’s naval operation in the Mediterranean (Jens Stoltenberg, “Press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Heads of State and Government on Projecting Stability“, NATO, 9. Juli 2016). This new naval operation, known as “Sea Guardian”, is meant to supersede Operation “Active Endeavour“, which was initiated soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in order to uncover and deter terrorist activities in the Mediterranean.

The details of Operation “Sea Guardian” are not yet well known, but it is likely that it will primarily support the EU’s naval operation “Sofia“. Operation “Sea Guardian” is, however, no longer meant to be based on collective defence outlined in article 5 of the NATO Treaty, which was in fact the case for Operation “Active Endeavour”. Probably the new acquired Global Hawk drones (RQ-4B Block 40) will be used, five of which were procured as part of the Alliance Ground Surveillance Program, and which are scheduled to come into operation from 2017 onwards at the Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy. US Air Force Global Hawks are currently already stationed in Sigonella, and these have been visible on satellite images for about a year now. To accommodate them, additional hangars were in fact built on the military airfield a few years ago.

DG-26OCT15-Naval_Air_Station_Sigonella

The differing approaches to securing the two flanks are evident, and they account for the fact the nature of the threat is so varied. However, the measures for protecting the southern flank only partially meet demands, especially from Italy and Turky, of a bigger NATO involvement. As such, the VJTF intended for the eastern flank, for instance, is not being expanded for deployment in the south (Karl-Heinz Kamp, “The agenda of the NATO summit in Warsaw“, Security Policy Working Paper, Bundesakademie für Sicherheitspolitik, Nr. 9, 2015).

Also with regard to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, there is nothing surprising to report: As expected, the Afghan forces are going to continue to receive financial support until 2020, and mission “Resolute Support” will also continue. Given the fact Afghan forces remain weak, NATO ultimately has no other options. What is far more important, however, is the fact that the USA has stopped withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, and the fact that it has kept its military contingent at 8,400 men for the time being. We can expect approximately 6,000 soldiers from the remaining NATO member states (Carol E. Lee und Felicia Schwartz, “Obama to Slow Troop Withdrawal From Afghanistan“, Wall Street Journal, 07.06.2016).

As before, NATO deterrent and defence doctrine is based on both nuclear as well as conventional capabilities. In the long term, however, the missile defence shield will become increasingly important (for details, see: Thomas Karako, “Looking East: European Air and Missile Defense after Warsaw” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 14.07.2016). The setting up of a land-based AEGIS system with SM-3 Block IB missiles (Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System; AAMDS) at the Deveselu Military Airbase in Romania enabled the shield to attain Initial Operational Capability just in time for the summit. The range of the interceptor missiles is around 1,200 km. The second AAMDS is due to be set up at the Słupsk-Redzikowo Airfield (Poland) in 2018 (Radu Tudor, “NATO activates first missile defence site in Europe“, IHS Jane’s 360, 13.05.2016).

As part of Switzerland’s participation in the NATO program “Partnership for Peace“, the Head of the Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports, Guy Parmelin was also invited to Warsaw. His visit was, however, prevented by the fact that he was already take part at the annual Bundesratsreise, when all seven members of the Swiss Federal Council visit a part of Switzerland. Though this wasn’t entirely unwelcome, because of the neutrality of Switzerland, the Swiss Population is by the majority against a closer move to NATO (Tibor Szvircsev Tresch et al., “Sicherheit 2016“, Center for Security Studies (CSS), ETH Zurich, 2016, p. 123). He thus sent Ambassador Christian Catrina, Head of Security Policy in the Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports, to the summit instead, who explained that cooperation with the NATO was progressing as “business as usual” (“auf der üblichen Flughöhe“).

Meeting in Interoperability format at the level of Defence Ministers: Minister of Defence of Spain Pedro Morenes Eulate, Minister of Defence of Sweden Peter Hultqvist and Ambassador Christian Catrina, who was named as "Minister of Defence of Switzerland" by mistake.

Meeting in Interoperability format at the level of Defence Ministers: Minister of Defence of Spain Pedro Morenes Eulate, Minister of Defence of Sweden Peter Hultqvist and Ambassador Christian Catrina, who was named as “Minister of Defence of Switzerland” by mistake.

Conclusion
The decisions reached at the NATO Summit in Warsaw are not surprising. Ultimately the interests of the NATO member states are only being served at a bare-bones level. In other words, the Eastern European NATO member states are being reinforced with multinational battalions rather than permanent ones, yet any breach of the NATO-Russia Founding Treaty will come to nothing not least due to resistance on the part of Germany and France. Consensus decision-making makes NATO averse to taking risks, meaning it will all too happily resort to tried and tested methods. Take, for example, the “trip wire” strategy from the time of the Cold War. Not only is this offshore troop presence a political signal to Russia, but it also (albeit probably unintentionally) illustrates the relationship between NATO and Russia, which is not that different from their relationship during the Cold War. This fact also confirmed by the talks that took place during the NATO-Russia Council after the NATO Summit, which was only meeting for the second time since the crisis in Ukraine began in 2014.

NATO is a civil-run political organisation. Hence the additional offshore troops will not, not even combined with the European Reassurance Initiative that the USA is implementing single-handedly, be able to meet actual military requirements for deterring Russia effectively. The political signal to Russia is clear, though, but only time will tell whether it will be enough (and Donald J. Trump, the 2016 Republican Party nominee for President of the United States, is not helping with his statement, which put the U.S. assistance in the case of a Russian aggression in Eastern Europe in question). The advantage of this political and, from a military standpoint, more defensive approach, however, lies in its fundamental compliance with the agreements outlined in the NATO-Russia Founding Act. This in turn gives Russia no new ammunition in the propaganda war, and it will hardly increase the risk of escalation. In the end, a new arms race is the last thing the NATO member states want.

Measures for strengthening the Eastern European flank indirectly compete with the demands of the Southern European member states for greater NATO involvement on the southern flank. Currently, however, the VJTF is solely focused on the eastern flank, and there are no plans to deploy it on the southern flank. But even here, despite the fact the interests of the Southern European member states have only been partially fulfiled, these restrictions do make a great deal of sense. The nature of the threat on the southern flank and the capabilities of the Southern European armed forces differ significantly from the threat Eastern Europe faces and the modest capabilities the region’s countries possesse. It is thus doubtful that deploying VJTF on the southern flank would be of any added benefit. So, thanks to the support it is providing to the International Alliance Against Islamic State in the form of AWACS aircraft, the expansion of the training mission in Iraq and Afghanistan, the setup of the Fusion Centre for intelligence in Tunisia for supporting Tunisian special forces, not to mention enhanced cooperation with the EU, NATO is on the right track. Nevertheless, it appears that the full potential of the measures that are available for securing the southern flank more effectively have not been exhausted. In particular, there still seems to be a lot of room for closer cooperation with partner countries in the MENA region.

More information

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The Rise of the Islamic State: Four Key Factors for its Unexpected Success – part three

by Andrin Hauri. He graduated from the University of Lausanne with a Master’s Degree in Political Science and holds a Diploma of Advanced Studies in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from the University of Basel.

In its self-assigned mission to restore the long-lost Islamic empire, the Islamic State (IS) has subscribed to a puritanical ideology which is geared towards early Islam. These were tempestuous and violent times, when the Prophet Muhammad waged war on the Arab Peninsula in order to spread his beliefs. As many members of IS see themselves as authentic throwbacks to this era, the group has begun to piously reproduce the social codes and laws of war of this time in today’s context. IS enforces its norms on anybody under its control, while branding those who resist, or follow a different persuasion as apostates worth killing. Common sense dictates that much of what IS does will cause it to lose public sympathy, both among its subjects in the region and supporters around the globe. However, this is not the case. IS knows exactly how its actions affect its audience. In the third part of this series of articles, the author argues that the deployment of various forms of terror as strategic tools is the third key factor for the group’s success.

The BBC published this photo with the caption, "Islamic State (IS) has published images of what appears to be the destruction of the Temple of Baalshamin at the ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria."

The BBC published this photo with the caption, “Islamic State (IS) has published images of what appears to be the destruction of the Temple of Baalshamin at the ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria.”

Broadly speaking, one can identify three forms of terror being applied by IS: Firstly, the destruction of historic sites which the group considers un-Islamic, including the looting and selling of artefacts on the black market. Secondly, extreme forms of violence such as public beheadings and burnings, and, thirdly, the sexual enslavement of girls and women viewed as infidels (see also Rukmini Callimachi, “ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape“, The New York Times, 13.08.2015 and Kaelyn Forde, “How One Woman Exposed The Way ISIS Uses Rape As a Weapon“, Refinery29, 13.08.2015).

The Destruction of Historic Sites
The trail of destruction of historical and cultural sites which IS has left behind is long and painful to read: the roman city of Palmyra, the former Assyrian capitals Nineveh, Nimrud, and Khorsabad, as well as many Shia religious sites, to mention but a few (Andrew Curry, “Here Are the Ancient Sites ISIS has Damaged and Destroyed“, National Geographic, 01.09.2015). After conquering Mosul in summer 2014, the group is reported to have plundered the city’s historic museum and burned over 100,000 books and manuscripts from the central library (Frederick Deknatel, “UN Targets Looting as Islamic State Smashes and Sells Antiquities“, World Politics Review, 05.03.2015). Officially, IS legitimises the destruction of historic objects and structures by calling them heretical to its ideology.

As appalling as these actions look from the outside, besides catering to the abstract religious beliefs of the group they also serve some very worldly purposes. In politics, archaeological evidence is often used as a foundation for power by providing historic support for the claims of one or the other side. IS turns this approach around by attempting to destroy the “before” and “after” in history, leaving only the group and its beliefs as a historical reference point. Through the destruction of these historic records, IS robs the local population of their collective memory beyond the group and, in turn, of parts of their pre-IS identity. However, IS primarily destroys unmarketable antiquities and sells the portable rest. However, these objects can only be officially bought and sold if their origin from illegal excavations can be credibly denied. In this context, the blowing up of historic sites destroys the evidence, serving to conceal the theft and so making the sale of these unique and priceless objects on the international antiquity market possible. Another welcome effect of destroying irreplaceable cultural treasures is the broad media coverage IS receives as a result. By capturing global attention, the group easily multiplies the outreach of its propaganda machine. IS is accounting for this factor by dragging out the destruction of archaeological sites for as long as possible. In the early days of its destructive fury, the terror group blew up the ruins of the historic city of Nimrud in one day, giving it around 20 seconds of footage (Robert Fisk, “ISIS profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relicts to dealers – and the blowing up the building they come from to conceal the evidence of looting“, The Independent, 03.09.2015). Since then, IS has learned from this mistake. The historic site of Palmyra, on the other hand, was blown up one monument at a time, with long periods in between, in order to maximise global media coverage. This indicates that the destruction of heretical symbols out of religious sensibilities, as argued by the terror group, actually takes a backseat to the financial and propaganda value of looting and blowing these sites up.

An image from a video reportedly released by IS in February 2015 showing a statue of an Assyrian deity being damaged in northern Iraq.

An image from a video reportedly released by IS in February 2015 showing a statue of an Assyrian deity being damaged in northern Iraq.

Extreme Forms of Violence
Besides the destruction of irreplaceable cultural treasures, IS has also gained notoriety through the excessive use of extreme forms of violence against perceived external and internal enemies. Be it the beheading of hostages, the incineration, drowning, and mass shooting of prisoners of war, or the rape of minors, the cruelty of IS seems to know no bounds. On the one hand, external spectators are provided with carefully choreographed videos of violence against hostages and prisoners of war. The local population, on the other hand, reports grotesque public punishments of alleged criminals and anyone labelled an apostate. Consumption of alcohol is punished with 80 lashes, thieves lose a hand, highway bandits are crucified, and blasphemers receive the death penalty (Aymenn Al-Tamimi, “The Evolution in Islamic State Administration: The Documentary Evidence“, Perspectives on Terrorism, Vol 9, Issue 4, August 2015, p. 123). Some of these methods of criminal punishment under Sharia law are extracted from the Quran and Hadith and are therefore found in the penal code of other Muslim countries too, even if only rarely carried out. IS, however, seems particularly eager to develop new and more horrific punishments to murder alleged enemies, criminals, and apostates, which go far beyond the prescribed rules in Islamic law. Homosexuals, for example, are of late pushed off cliffs or high buildings (Arwa Damon and Zeynep Bilginsoy, “Amid brazen, deadly attacks, gay Syrians tell of fear of ISIS persecution“, CNN, 06.03.2015). In the face of such atrocities, it is difficult to see past the human tragedies unfolding and to not simply dismiss IS’ actions as the irrational and insane acts of psychopathic killers. However, this terror does indeed serve a number of rational purposes for the group.

The most obvious reason for using terror on the battlefield, of course, is to frighten the enemy into flight or submission. Given its impressive track record, history confirms the effectiveness of such an approach. In fact, human history is littered with rulers far more brutal than the leaders of IS. The Mongolian hordes, for example, acquired a reputation for terror in the 13th century when they conquered an empire spanning from Asia to Europe. All inhabitants of cities which tried to resist Mongolian ambitions were put to the sword after their defeat in order to discourage the resistance of other cities (William McCants, “How ISIL Out-Terrorized Bin Laden“, POLITICO Magazine, 19.08.2015). IS has internalised these historic lessons and has been applying them with great success against its much stronger and more capable foes. The use of terror on the battlefield created many situations in 2014/15 in which Iraqi security forces were up against an enemy smaller in number and less well equipped, but fled the field rather than risk death or, even worse, imprisonment, torture, and brutal execution. The quantity of undamaged US military hardware left behind by fleeing Iraqi troops and now in the possession of IS also clearly bears witness to this fact. IS is well aware of the strategic value of its fearsome reputation. Its fighters even consider it a sacred obligation to terrorise their enemies, striking fear deep into their hearts in order to hasten victory and bring the conflict to a close as quickly as possible (Graeme Wood, “What ISIS really wants“, The Atlantic, March 2015). From their point of view, this extreme violence thus has a “humanitarian” component to it, as it helps to reduce the casualties on both sides in battle. However, against troops directly defending their families or tribal areas, this strategy is less effective or can even harden the soldiers resolve, as seen in the Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

Illustration: Rob Dobi.

Illustration: Rob Dobi.

Another rationale behind IS’ use of extreme brutality is to force obedience among the population. People living in liberal Western democracies have bought into the credo that “hearts and minds” have to be won in order to establish a new state. They seem to have forgotten how many revolutionary states in the past have been established through brutality, that “cutting out the hearts and minds of a population can subdue them faster than trying to win them over” (McCants, “How ISIL Out-Terrorized Bin Laden“). During the French revolution, guillotines were used to decapitate an ever-growing number of perceived enemies of the revolution and, by extension, forced obedience among the rest of the population. The atrocities of the Bolshevik as well as the communist revolution in China followed a similar pattern (Tim Arango, “ISIS Transforming Into Functioning State That Uses Terror as Tool“, The New York Times, 21.07.2015). Such an approach may not be the most sustainable course of action, but history has shown again and again that extreme brutality is a very effective means of carving out a new state. And it seems to work for IS as well, as these actions have so far effectively silenced any dissent.

Besides forcing the population into line, the extreme brutality of IS also brings security and order by deterring criminal activities. After years of war and chaos, this has led to a limited sense of order in the territories under IS control. Reportedly, streets are the safest they have been for a very long time in terms of criminality, and corruption among officials has virtually disappeared. For this, IS is respected by many locals, just as the Taliban were in Afghanistan in the 1990s. If people do not show any signs of disobedience, and follow the imposed morality rules, they are largely left alone. In this context, the fact that the extreme violence perpetrated by IS is regarded in a different light among locals than in the West, for example, must be taken into account. After years of sectarian conflict, war, and anarchy, many Iraqis have become largely desensitised to violence. Before that, they had suffered under the sanction regime imposed by the West in the 1990s and experienced the horrors of Saddam Hussein’s police state, as well as the Iran-Iraq war in which several hundred thousand died on both sides (no reliable figures exist for the toll of the Iran-Iraq War; see Bethany Lacina and Gabriel Uriarte, “The PRIO Battle Deaths Dataset, 1946-2008, Version 3.0 Documentation of Coding Decisions“, Centre for the Study of Civil War and International Peace Research Institute, September 2009, p. 314ff). Given this history, it is perhaps understandable that these people are somewhat inured to IS’ brutality seeing as violence has formed such an integral part of their daily lives for so long (Arango, “ISIS Transforming Into Functioning State That Uses Terror as Tool“).

Finally, the brutality is also meant to shock the West, and thereby provoke a major military reaction. According to the messianic ideology of the terror group, the countdown to the apocalypse will be initiated by the defeat of “the armies of Rome” at Dabiq, in northern Syria, at the hands of the fighters of the caliph (Wood, “What ISIS really wants“). From this point of view, inciting a wider war with Western ground troops is essential. IS wants this escalation of the war — a war it is convinced it will win.

Displaced Yazidis fleeing from ISIS.

Displaced Yazidis fleeing from ISIS.

Sex Slavery
In addition to the destruction of historic sites and extreme forms of violence, IS has introduced a third form of terror within the caliphate: sex slavery. Young girls and women from the communities of religious minorities considered infidels, such as Yazidis, who are Zoroastrians, are enslaved and sold in IS’ sex trade. Around this trade of women and girls, a sophisticated infrastructure has sprung up in the caliphate that includes warehouses with viewing rooms in which to keep and market the victims, as well as a dedicated fleet of vehicles to transport them around. In addition, IS has created a detailed bureaucracy to officiate and regulate sex slavery. The purchase of a slave is registered in a legally attested sales contract, which must then be drafted anew should the victim be resold. Slaves can also be set free by their owner through an official Certificate of Emancipation, for which he will receive a heavenly reward. The terror group justifies this archaic practice of sex slavery by labelling female “nonbelievers” as war plunder, to be sold as concubines (Prem Mahadevan, “Resurgent Radicalism“, Strategic Trends, Center for Security Studies, ETH Zürich, 2015, p. 45-62). According to its ideological teachings, raping girls and women from other religions is seen as a sacred act, which is spiritually virtuous and draws the perpetrator closer to God (Callimachi, “ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape“). By interpreting religious ideas to its advantage, IS embeds the practice into its religious superstructure and this in turn allows it to justify its actions while reaping the benefits.

However, it can be argued that ancient Islamic traditions fail to fully explain this atrocious practice. Other, similar fundamentalist jihadist groups like al-Qaeda or the Taliban have not publicly advocated the reintroduction of sex slavery. Instead, experts interpret this IS policy as an integral part of the terror group’s war against Western modernity, as a riposte to enlightened Western ideas about women’s emancipation and sexuality. The enemy is not the victim or her body, but fundamental Western values and the role of girls and women in today’s modern society. The practice of slavery should be understood as part of the wider, abstract struggle of IS against the West’s prerogative of interpretation of modernity and what value women should have in the world today. By assigning them the narrow roles of either mother or concubine, IS effectively nullifies women’s emancipation and openly attacks Western ideals. Thus, the terror group can be certain of provoking a continuous outcry through media coverage of this issue, while also giving it the opportunity to broadcast their conservative counter-model of modernity to a much larger audience (David Frankfurter, “The true motives behind Islamic State’s use of sexual slavery“, Reuters, 08.09.2015). What would otherwise be a big taboo under the traditional sexual norms of Muslim men, extra-marital sex with a woman purchased to abuse, becomes a religious act. In fact, this social taboo is so paramount that IS had to repeatedly use propaganda articles to justify the policy to its Muslim audience following its introduction as even its core constituency was initially startled (Callimachi, “ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape“). However, since then, sex slavery has become an established recruitment tool used to bait young, religious Muslim men, often from deeply conservative communities, who are banned from engaging in pre- and extra-marital sex. The prospect of casual sex sanctioned by religion, and even considered spiritually virtuous, can be a strong pull factor for young men who are otherwise forbidden from even dating the opposite sex.

In conclusion, IS uses terror successfully as tool to achieve its strategic goals, making it a decisive factor for its success. Three different kinds of terror can be identified, each providing IS with crucial benefits. Firstly, the destruction of historic sites backs up the terror group’s political claims and helps to finance its activities. Secondly, the use of extreme violence demoralises the enemy, forces obedience among the local population, brings relative security to the caliphate, and is being used to bait the West into the desired military intervention with ground troops. Thirdly, the introduction of sex slavery generates funding, exploits those who do not share faith, and serves as a recruiting tool to lure male Muslims from traditional societies to the caliphate. All three forms of terror ensure continued media coverage for IS around the globe, thus increasing its propaganda outreach.

In the last part of this series of articles, the author argues that the extensive and professional use of propaganda is the fourth key factor for IS’ success.

Posted in Andrin Hauri, English, Iraq, Security Policy, Syria, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fallujah Is Just the Start of Iraq’s Longest Battle

by Austin Michael Bodetti. He is a student in the Gabelli Presidential Scholars Program at Boston College. He focuses on the relationship between Islam and conflict in Syria and Sudan.

Iraqi pro-government forces advance towards Fallujah (Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images).

Iraqi pro-government forces advance towards Fallujah
(Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images).

Threatened by military and political enemies, Iraq has struggled in the war against the Islamic State (IS). The Iraqi government has done its best to placate anti-corruption protesters in Baghdad while focusing on campaigns in the north and west of the country at the behest of the American-led coalition bombing IS daily. These two goals have often overwhelmed the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).

After protesters earlier this year breached the Green Zone, which houses many of Iraq’s parliamentarians and most of its ministries, the Iraqi government sought a military victory to offset its political troubles. “Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq appears to have launched the sudden assault on the city of Fallujah last month in an effort to distract from the political turmoil in Baghdad,” reported Newsweek. “And to some extent, it has worked.” Fallujah, once the City of Mosques but now a city of ashes and spent cartridges, brought the Iraqi government the victory that it needed.

The Badr Organization, the largest and oldest of the Shia militias and the closest to the Iraqi government, seems to have ignored the Prime Minister’s Office. — Austin Michael Bodetti, “Fallujah: The Iraq Victory That Could Lose the War“, The Daily Beast, 21.06.2016.

The Third Battle of Fallujah, so named following earlier American operations there during the Iraq War, was a decisive victory for the ISF. It has provided lessons for the upcoming offensive against Mosul, IS’s Iraqi capital and the country’s second-largest city. “The operation demonstrated how rival US and Iranian-backed forces can avoid conflict and even cooperate in the battle against ISIS,” noted Time, “but major questions remain about how to secure and rebuild Fallujah, resettle the tens of thousands of civilians who fled the fighting and establish a sustainable peace in a city that has long been riven by sectarian divisions.” In Fallujah’s southern suburbs, the Iraqi government faces a humanitarian nightmare caring for the thousands of internally displaced people who fled the city. News agencies and newspapers are reporting that Shia militias aligned with the Iraqi government are abusing Sunni civilians. The aftermath might cause more problems than the battle itself did.

The Second Battle of Tikrit’s aftermath may help predict the future of Fallujah and Mosul. “Tikrit is a wounded city where the inhabitants have woken up to a harsh reality,” observed Deutsche Welle. “Just like in Fallujah, many thought that IS would bring back the former Sunni regime and chase out the despised Shiite rulers that took over from Saddam Hussein. Both cities welcomed the group in 2014 with open arms. But when local politicians and high-ranking officials were killed, and Sharia law was introduced, many fled.” As in Fallujah, Shia militiamen committed war crimes and conducted ethnic cleansing in Tikrit. The same will likely happen with the campaign to retake Mosul.

Iraqi pro-government forces advance towards Fallujah (Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images).

Iraqi pro-government forces advance towards Fallujah
(Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images).

The Iraqi government’s willingness to cooperate with Shia militias guilty of crimes against humanity portends that it will sacrifice human rights for its political longevity. A journalist for The Daily Beast present in Fallujah, witnessed that Abdulwahab al-Saadi, a commander of the Iraqi Counterterrorism Service — which is part of the American-backed special operations forces — met Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of the Badr Organization, an Iranian-backed Shia militia. The Prime Minister’s Office had ordered the militia to stay on the outskirts of the city, but the Institute for the Study of War asserted that Badr had entered the city center alongside the Federal Police. Despite American and Sunni pressure, the Iraqi government refuses to discipline the Shia militias.

Obviously, the Shia militias’ offensive against Fallujah complicates things in important ways. They don’t fully respond to the Iraqi government. They frighten the Sunnis, largely because they have participated in ethnic cleansing. — Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former CIA intelligence analyst, said in an email.

A quick victory in Fallujah and the impending offensive against Mosul have raised questions of what will happen for Iraq after the end of IS. “According to experts, the relatively quick sweep by Iraqi security forces of Fallujah in late June still leaves fears on the table that ISIS will continue a push to infiltrate into other areas outside of Iraq and Syria,” said Epoch Times. The Sunni militants’ expansion from Iraq and Syria into Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen and even Indonesia and the Philippines has concerned Western officials for some time. Meanwhile, The Atlantic featured an article describing the hellish conditions that Sunnis fleeing IS-held territory must endure as they avoid vengeful militiamen and find new homes. For them in particular, the future looks bleak.

The strategy for retaking Mosul looks haphazard at best. Though the Prime Minister claimed progress as the ISF retook a military base in Iraq’s north, familiar problems have returned to Baghdad. The Iraqi government had to dismiss officials responsible for the capital’s security after some of the deadliest bombings in Iraq’s history. Protesters, incensed that the ISF’s victory over IS in Fallujah failed to stop such attacks like their government have promised, are clogging the streets. Some Iraqis are demanding that the Iraqi government withdraw militiamen, policemen, and soldiers from the front lines to reinforce and secure Baghdad. Though such measures might prevent more bombings, they would also likely delay the campaign to retake Mosul. For now, Baghdad remains in turmoil.

The ISF have a difficult road ahead as they battle IS in Iraq’s north and west, where its fighters have access to Syria’s strategic depth. For now, the Iraqi Civil War is nowhere near over.

Posted in Armed Forces, Austin Michael Bodetti, English, International, Iraq, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Pressure over its poor human rights record drives Egypt to diversify military

According to Amnesty International the human rights situation continued to deteriorate during 2015. The authorities arbitrarily restricted the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, enacted a draconian new anti- terrorism law, and arrested and imprisoned government critics and political opposition leaders and activists, subjecting some to enforced disappearance. The security forces used excessive force against protesters, refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants. Detainees faced torture and other ill- treatment. Courts handed down hundreds of death sentences and lengthy prison sentences after grossly unfair mass trials. (

According to Amnesty International the human rights situation continued to deteriorate during 2015. The authorities arbitrarily restricted the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, enacted a draconian new anti- terrorism law, and arrested and imprisoned government critics and political opposition leaders and activists, subjecting some to enforced disappearance. The security forces used excessive force against protesters, refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants. Detainees faced torture and other ill- treatment. Courts handed down hundreds of death sentences and lengthy prison sentences after grossly unfair mass trials. (“Amnesty International Report: The State of the World’s Human Rights“, Amnesty International, 2016).

Since coming to power in July 2013 the military-backed regime in Cairo knows it needs to diversify its military, lest it become susceptible to pressure from the outside to amend its policies. This salient reality may be brought home to them by a recent amendment passed in the Italian Senate which may suspend deliveries of spare parts to Egypt’s large fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighters.

The Senate passed the amendment to the draft law in response to a murder case in Cairo. The body of a 28-year-old PhD student, Giulio Regeni, was found in a ditch in Cairo after undertaking work about Egypt’s labour unions for a communist newspaper. There were reportedly torture marks on his body. Rome says Cairo is not doing enough to properly investigate the murder and is consequently very frustrated.

Retired Egyptian Army General Abdel Rafe Darwish told Russia’s Sputnik News that this move could be “a very dangerous decision for Egypt, which has a direct impact on the military might of the military aviation as spare parts have a certain lifespan, after which they cannot be used. Hence they must be continuously supplied to ensure the normal functioning of F-16 fighters.” To avoid this he believes the Egyptian military must diversify the sources from which it acquires its weapon systems. “If we received weapons from different countries, we would not have to depend on a single party in matters of arms and spare parts,” he reasoned.

Since seizing complete power in the July 2013 coup the regime in Cairo has arrested and killed thousands of political prisoners, both Islamist and secular alike in a brutal sweeping crackdown. In August 2013 violent clashes in Rabaa Square in the Egyptian capital between security forces and protesters left at least 817 people, mostly civilians, dead. Cairo has consequently been condemned by human rights organizations for its subversion of democracy and the brutal nature of its crackdown.

A rally outside the Egyptian Embassy in Rome in February 2016 for justice in Giulio Regeni’s death. (Photo: Massimo Percossi / European Pressphoto Agency).

A rally outside the Egyptian Embassy in Rome in February 2016 for justice in Giulio Regeni’s death. (Photo: Massimo Percossi / European Pressphoto Agency).

The Egyptian military fields vast quantities of advanced hardware, from M1 Abrams tanks to over 220 F-16’s. These conspicuously American-made weapons however cannot be acquired, nor easily maintained, without cordial relations with Washington – which provides Cairo with $1.3 billion in military aid each year, in other words $6.5 billion between 2011 and 2015.

However there are legal restrictions in the US for providing Egypt with such aid and equipment. Namely if Cairo does not make tangible process towards reforming and implementing fundamental human rights then Congress can block any administration from sending military aid. Aid was approved but not sent from October 2013 until March 2015 due to the coup and the ensuing crackdown. Nevertheless Congress remained in unison with the administration and the aid continued to flow, likely given the fact the Egyptian military remains engaged in a war against the Islamic States‘ (IS) Sinai-based militants (previously a militant group called Ansar Bait al-Maqdis) and Congress does not want to hinder its ability to fight that group.

That could change and Cairo knows it. It knows it needs to be ready for the day when it can no longer pose as a mere bulwark against IS by using its real war against terrorism as a cover for its much more broader and violent crackdown and political dissent.

Al-Sisi positively glows with happiness as Putin presents him his gift: a Kalashnikov.

Al-Sisi positively glows with happiness as Putin presents him his gift: a Kalashnikov.

Today with a military made-up of primarily American made military hardware, US sanctions or an arms embargo could have a crippling affect. Lack of spare parts could ground much of the Egyptian Air Force, of which the F-16 is the workhorse jet fighter. Consequently buying non-American weapons would lessen the affect of a potential American embargo.

When the US-backed Shah of Iran was overthrown in the Iranian Revolution of 1979 the US imposed an arms embargo on the new regime throughout its existence. In that case in spite of being unable to buy spare parts for its American-made air force the Iranians were able to keep many of their aircrafts flying by cannibalizing some of their aircraft for spare parts to keep others airworthy.

However today the Iranian Air Force is a shell of its former self and in spite of the lifting of sanctions against Tehran, as part of the nuclear deal reached last year, it is unlikely to modernize its decaying air force anytime soon for political reasons.

Egypt appears to have taken clear steps in the diversification direction. It has spent billions ordering at least 24 French-made Dassault Rafale jet fighters (as part of a $5.9 billion package deal which includes two French Mistral helicopter carriers) and has even contemplated buying a fleet of Russian-made MiG-29’s — rumour has it they are already being delivered.

Moscow and Cairo have been on good terms since the actual regime came to power and have even held their first ever joint-naval exercises in the Mediterranean. While Cairo may not be ready to “pivot” towards Moscow friendly relations with that power are definitely significant if the Americans start pressuring them to amend their policies in return for continued military aid and permission to buy American hardware.

Regeni’s death and the consequent diplomatic dispute which may lead to sanctions against the Egyptian military (Italy may call on other western powers to follow suit) could, however, push Cairo to more rapidly diversify its military in anticipation of more western powers seeking to sanction the Cairo regime for its human rights abuses.

More Information
Egypt: Hundreds disappeared and tortured amid wave of brutal repression“, Amnesty International, 13.07.2016.

Posted in Armed Forces, Egypt, English, International | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Das NATO-Gipfeltreffen in Warschau: Gipfel der Kompromisse

von Patrick Truffer (English version). Patrick Truffer absolviert momentan ein Masterstudiengang in Internationale Beziehungen an der Freien Universität Berlin

Anfangs Juli trafen sich die Mitgliedsstaaten der NATO zum biannualen Gipfeltreffen – dieses Mal in Warschau. Aufwendig versuchte das Gastgeberland Polen dies zur Durchsetzung seiner Interessen zu nutzen. So fand beispielsweise zwischen dem 7. und dem 17. Juni 2016 die diesjährige Auflage der Übung “Anakonda” statt, an welcher mehr als 31’000 Soldaten aus 24 Nato- und Partnerländern teilgenommen hatten. Diese Übung ist damit nach dem Kalten Krieg die grösste ihrer Art, wenn von den noch umfangreicheren Übungen Russlands mal abgesehen wird. Zusätzlich fand vom 3. bis zum 19. Juni 2016 die jährlich stattfindende Übung “BALTOPS” mit 6’100 Soldaten aus 15 NATO- und 2 Partner-Staaten statt, bei der Polen ebenfalls teilgenommen hatte.

Zusammen mit anderen osteuropäischen Staaten will Polen die restlichen NATO-Mitgliedsstaaten überzeugen, dass es wegen der russischen Bedrohung permanent stationierte NATO-Truppen und Führungseinrichtungen in Osteuropa braucht. Eine solche permanente Stationierung würde – jedenfalls aus russischer Sicht – gegen die NATO-Russland-Grundakte verstossen (siehe “52. Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz – Teil 5: Kalter Krieg 2.0“, offiziere.ch, 12.06.2016). Nach dem NATO-Gipfeltreffen stellt sich deshalb die Frage, inwiefern die osteuropäischen Staaten ihre Interessen am Gipfeltreffen in Warschau durchsetzen konnten, und welche Massnahmen die NATO zur Absicherung seiner Ostflanke ergreift. Ausserdem scheinen die Interessen der osteuropäischen Staaten in Konkurrenz mit den Interessen der südeuropäischen Staaten zu stehen, welche ihrerseits eine stärkere Absicherung der Südflanke wünschen. Deshalb stellt sich zusätzlich die Frage, welche Interessen die südeuropäischen Staaten am Gipfeltreffen durchsetzen konnten, und ob es eine verbindende Strategie gibt.

Meeting in Interoperability format at the level of Defence Ministers.

Meeting in Interoperability format at the level of Defence Ministers.

Heutzutage braucht die NATO nach keiner Daseinsberechtigung mehr zu suchen – die Herausforderungen an der Ost- und Südflanke sind so mannigfaltig wie kaum je zuvor. Ausserdem hat das Verteidigungsbündnis nach dem Brexit unverhofft eine zusätzliche Funktion zu übernehmen: Die Integration der britischen Militärmacht in die europäische Sicherheitsarchitektur. In diesem Lichte ist auch die verstärkte Kooperation der NATO und der EU bei der Abwehr von hybriden Bedrohungen, im Cyber-Bereich und bei der maritimen Sicherheit zu interpretieren: Ein Zerfall des Westens wird nicht stattfinden. Doch ob es sich bei der Kooperationsvereinbarung zwischen der NATO und der EU – wie NATO-Generalsekretär Jens Stoltenberg es ausdrückte – um einen “historischen Entscheid” handelte, ist von der tatsächlichen Umsetzung dieser gemeinsamen Vereinbarung abhängig und wird wohl erst langfristig beurteilt werden können.

Auch der stellvertretende NATO-Generalsekretär Alexander Vershbow sah die diesjährige Zusammenkunft als eine der schicksalshaftesten in der Geschichte der NATO und unterstrich dabei die vielen unterschiedlichen aber gleichzeitig auftretenden Herausforderungen mit denen das Verteidigungsbündnis momentan konfrontiert ist (“The NATO Deputy Secretary General A. Vershbow: NATO Summit in Warsaw could be one of the most fateful“, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of Poland, 04.06.2016). Die in Warschau getroffenen Entscheidungen sind zwar ein politischer Wink in Richtung Russland, verdienen jedoch die Bezeichnung “historisch” nicht. Kaum überraschend für ein auf Konsens beruhendes, 28 Staaten umfassendes Bündnis wurde auch die diesjährige Zusammenkunft der NATO-Mitgliedsstaaten eher ein “Gipfel der Kompromisse“.

Insbesondere Deutschland und Frankreich zeigten sich bereits vor dem Gipfeltreffen als Bremser. Zwar werden ab 2017 nach Polen, Estland, Lettland und Litauen neu je ein multinationales Bataillon mit bis zu 1’000 Mann entsandt, doch auch bei diesen Bataillonen handelt es sich nicht um permanente Stationierungen sondern um Truppenrotationen (Enhanced Forward Presence). Deutschland wird in Litauen die Führung des Bataillons als Rahmen-Nation übernehmen, Grossbritannien in Estland, die USA in Polen und Kanada in Lettland. Vor dem Gipfeltreffen gab es Gerüchte, dass womöglich gar eine multinationale Brigade für den Südosten in Rumänien stationiert werden könnte — dementsprechendes wurde jedoch nichts entschieden (Niklaus Nuspliger, “Truppen in den Osten, den Blick nach Süden: Die Nato treibt am Gipfeltreffen in Warschau ihre strategische Neuausrichtung voran“, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 8.06.2016, S. 7). Damit bleibt die NATO wie erwartet grundsätzlich der NATO-Russland-Grundakte treu und kommt insbesondere den Wünschen des Gastgebers des NATO-Gipfeltreffens nicht entgegen, welcher robuste, permanent stationierte NATO-Truppen und Führungseinrichtungen verlangte.

Immerhin fungieren diese multinationalen Bataillone wie ein “Stolperdraht”. Ihre vorgelagerte Präsenz garantiert, dass jegliche Verletzung des baltischen bzw. polnischen Territoriums automatisch mehrere Mitgliedsstaaten involvieren würde und damit unmissverständlich ein Bündnisfall (nach Artikel 5 des NATO-Vertrages) in Kraft setzen würde. Diese Strategie hatte sich bereits im Kalten Krieg gegenüber der Sowjetunion bewährt, als durch die grenznahe Stationierung von NATO-Truppen entlang der innerdeutschen Grenze keinen Zweifel hinterliess, dass eine sowjetische Aggression zu einer nuklearen Eskalation führen würde. Im Falle der osteuropäischen Mitgliedsstaaten können die multinationalen Bataillone im Krisenfall innerhalb 2-5 Tage mit 5’000 Soldaten der Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) verstärkt werden. Nach diesen 5 Tagen können mit der NATO Response Force insgesamt bis zu 30‘000 Soldaten in den Einsatz kommen.

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Unabhängig davon betreiben die USA seit der russischen Annexion der Krim im März 2014 die European Reassurance Initiative, welche rotierend eine Panzerbrigade umfasst, die bei Übungen in Bulgarien, Estland, Deutschland, Lettland, Litauen, Polen und Rumänien teilnimmt. Angesichts der von Russland geplanten Stationierung von 30’000 Soldaten im westlichen Militärdistrikt, welche in maximal 60 Stunden die Hauptstädte Litauens, Lettlands und Estlands erreichen könnten, kann auch mit der US-amerikanischen Panzerbrigade kaum von einer glaubhaften Abschreckung gesprochen werden. Um mit einem hohen Eintrittspreis eine russische Militäraktion auf die osteuropäischen Staaten glaubhaft zu verhindern, wären gemäss der Rand Corporation, welche sich auf die Ergebnisse einer Serie von praxisorientierten Simulationen zwischen Sommer 2014 und anfangs Frühling 2015 abstützt, eine permanente Stationierung von sieben Brigaden (davon drei Panzerbrigaden) und die für den Einsatz notwendige Kampfunterstützung in der Luft und auf dem Boden notwendig (David A. Shlapak und Michael Johnson, “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank“, RAND Corporation, 2016). Es kann also beim Entscheid der rotierenden Stationierung der vier multinationalen Bataillone bestenfalls von einer zurückhaltenden Abschreckung gesprochen werden, wenn es so etwas überhaupt geben kann. Trotz den vordergründig positiven Reaktionen der osteuropäischen NATO-Mitgliedsstaaten würde die ursprünglich erhoffte Abschreckung Russlands anders aussehen (Martin Zagatta und Klaus Naumann, “Nato-Gipfel – ‘Man muss Russland klarmachen, dass es so nicht weitergeht’“, Deutschlandfunk, 09.06.2016).

Das heisst jedoch nicht, dass ein solch defensiv, vorsichtiges Vorgehen der NATO per se falsch wäre, denn eine permanente Stationierung hätte die NATO-Russland-Grundakte für null und nichtig erklärt und umfangreiche Gegenmassnahme von Seiten Russland provoziert. Im Gegenteil unterstreicht die NATO in ihrem abschliessenden Communiqué, dass sie sich an internationale Vereinbarungen halte, inklusive der NATO-Russland-Grundakte, und gleiches auch von Russland erwarte. Bei den russischen Verstössen gegen internationale Vereinbarungen zählt die NATO die Annexion der Krim, die Verletzung von Grenzen im Allgemeinen und die Destabilisierung der Ostukraine im Besonderen, die Durchführung von kurzfristigen, gross angelegten Manövern, welche gegen den Geist des Wiener Dokumentes verstossen, provokative Militäraktionen in der baltischen Region, in der Schwarzmeer-Region und im östlichen Mittelmeer, sowie die aggressive Rhetorik bezüglich dem Einsatz von Nuklearwaffen auf.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg viewing the Global Hawk, Allied Ground Surveillance (AGS) display.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg viewing the Global Hawk, Allied Ground Surveillance (AGS) display.

Betreffend der Südflanke hält das abschliessende Communiqué der NATO fest, dass die Terrororganisation “Islamischer Staat” eine unmittelbare und direkte Bedrohung für die NATO-Mitgliedsstaaten und die internationale Gemeinschaft darstelle. Auch wenn die NATO bis jetzt nur am Rande involviert war, so unterstützen ihre Mitgliedsstaaten und viele ihrer Partner die US-geführte Internationale Allianz gegen den Islamischen Staat. Neu wird die NATO ihre mit moderner Radar- und Kommunikationstechnik ausgestatteten AWACS-Flugzeuge der Koalition zur Verfügung stellen, jedoch nur ausserhalb des syrischen und irakischen Luftraumes.

Zur Absicherung der Südflanke kommen ausserdem die Ausweitung der Ausbildungsmissionen im Irak und in Afghanistan, ein nachrichtendienstliches Fusion Centre in Tunesien, welches unter anderem die tunesischen Spezialkräfte mit nachrichtendienstlichen Produkten unterstützen soll, sowie die Ausdehnung des NATO-Marineeinsatzes im Mittelmeer hinzu (Jens Stoltenberg, “Press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Heads of State and Government on Projecting Stability“, NATO, 9. Juli 2016). Dieser neu konzipierte Marineeinsatz soll unter dem Namen “Sea Guardian” die kurz nach den Terroranschlägen am 11. September 2001 gestartete Operation “Active Endeavour” ablösen, dessen Ziel das Entdecken und Abschrecken von terroristischen Aktivitäten im Mittelmeerraum war.

Über die Details der Operation “Sea Guardian” ist noch nicht viel bekannt, doch es ist anzunehmen, dass sie primär den EU-Marineeinsatz “Sofia” unterstützen wird. Jedenfalls soll “Sea Guardian” nicht mehr auf dem Bündnisfall Artikel 5 beruhen, wie dies bei “Active Endeavour” der Fall ist (Angela Merkel, “Pressestatement von Bundeskanzlerin Dr. Angela Merkel anlässlich des NATO-Gipfels am 8. Juli 2016“, Die Bundeskanzlerin, 8. Juli 2016). Dabei könnten auch die neuen Global Hawk Drohnen (RQ-4B Block 40) zum Einsatz kommen, von denen fünf im Rahmen des Alliance Ground Surveillance Programs beschafft wurden und die ab 2017 ab dem Militärflugplatz Sigonella in Italien operationell sein sollen. In Sigonella sind bereits heute Global Hawks der US Air Force stationiert, was auf Satellitenbildern seit rund einem Jahr erkennbar ist. Für deren Unterbringung wurden auf dem Militärflugplatz bereits vor einigen Jahren zusätzliche Hangars gebaut.

DG-26OCT15-Naval_Air_Station_Sigonella

Die unterschiedliche Vorgehensweise zur Absicherung der beiden Flanken sind offensichtlich und tragen dem unterschiedlichen Charakter der Bedrohung Rechnung. Jedoch auch die Massnahmen zur Absicherung der Südflanke kommt den Forderungen — insbesondere von Seiten Italien und der Türkei — nach einem grösseren Engagement der NATO nur teilweise entgegen. So findet beispielsweise momentan kein Ausbau der für die Ostflanke vorgesehenen VJTF statt, so dass sie auch im Süden zum Einsatz kommen könnten (Karl-Heinz Kamp, “The agenda of the NATO summit in Warsaw“, Security Policy Working Paper, Bundesakademie für Sicherheitspolitik, Nr. 9, 2015).

Auch hinsichtlich des NATO-Einsatzes in Afghanistan gibt es wenig Überraschendes: Wie erwartet werden die afghanischen Streitkräfte bis 2020 weiterhin finanziell unterstützt und die Mission “Resolute Support” weitergeführt. Angesichts der immer noch schwachen afghanischen Streitkräften bleibt der NATO schlussendlich auch nichts anderes übrig. Viel entscheidender ist jedoch auch hier, dass die USA ihren Truppenabzug aus Afghanistan gestoppt haben und ihr Truppenkontingent vorerst auf 8’400 Mann belassen. Von den restlichen NATO-Staaten können rund 6’000 Soldaten erwartet werden (Carol E. Lee und Felicia Schwartz, “Obama to Slow Troop Withdrawal From Afghanistan“, Wall Street Journal, 07.06.2016).

Nach wie vor basiert die Abschreckung- und Verteidigungsdoktrin der NATO sowohl auf nukleare wie auch konventionelle Fähigkeiten. Langfristig wird jedoch auch der Raketenschutzschild eine zunehmende Rolle spielen (für Details siehe: Thomas Karako, “Looking East: European Air and Missile Defense after Warsaw“, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 14.06.2016). Rechtzeitig zum Gipfeltreffen erreicht er durch die Inbetriebnahme eines landgestützten AEGIS-Systems mit SM-3 Block IB Raketen (Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System; AAMDS) auf dem Militärflugplatz Deveselu in Rumänien die Initial Operational Capability. Die Reichweite der Abfangraketen betragen rund 1’200 km. Das zweite AAMDS auf dem Militärflugplatz Słupsk-Redzikowo in Polen soll 2018 folgen (Radu Tudor, “NATO activates first missile defence site in Europe“, IHS Jane’s 360, 13.05.2016).

Im Rahmen der Beteiligung der Schweiz am NATO Programm “Partnerschaft für den Frieden” war auch Bundesrat Guy Parmelin nach Warschau eingeladen. Dieser war jedoch wegen der gleichzeitig stattfindenden Bundesratsreise nicht ganz unwillkommen verhindert. Er sendete stattdessen Botschafter Christian Catrina, Chef Sicherheitspolitik im Verteidigungsdepartement, an das Gipfeltreffen, welcher erklärte, dass die Zusammenarbeit mit der NATO “auf der üblichen Flughöhe” verlaufe (Niklaus Nuspliger, “Nato-Gipfel in Warschau: Indirekter Kampf gegen den Terror“, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 09.06.2016).

Meeting in Interoperability format at the level of Defence Ministers: Minister of Defence of Spain Pedro Morenes Eulate, Minister of Defence of Sweden Peter Hultqvist and Ambassador Christian Catrina, who was named as "Minister of Defence of Switzerland" by mistake.

Meeting in Interoperability format at the level of Defence Ministers: Minister of Defence of Spain Pedro Morenes Eulate, Minister of Defence of Sweden Peter Hultqvist and Ambassador Christian Catrina, who was named as “Minister of Defence of Switzerland” by mistake.

Fazit
Die Entscheide am NATO-Gipfeltreffen in Warschau überraschen nicht. Schlussendlich werden den Interessen der Mitgliedsstaaten nur im Sinne eines kleinsten gemeinsamen Nenners entgegengekommen. So werden die osteuropäischen NATO-Mitgliedsstaaten mit zusätzlichen multinationalen, nicht permanenten Bataillone verstärkt, doch ein Bruch der NATO-Russland-Grundakte scheitert nicht zuletzt aufgrund des Widerstandes Deutschlands und Frankreichs. Die Entscheidungsfindung im Konsensprinzip macht die NATO risikoavers und so wird gerne auf Altbewährtes zurückgegriffen, wie es beispielsweise bei der “Stolperdraht”-Strategie aus der Zeit des Kalten Krieges der Fall ist. Nicht nur ist diese vorgelagerte Truppenpräsenz ein politisches Zeichen an Russland, sondern – vermutlich unfreiwillig – zeigt es auch die Beziehungen zwischen der NATO und Russland exemplarisch auf, welche sich denen im Kalten Krieg nicht stark unterscheiden. Dies bestätigten auch die nach dem NATO-Gipfeltreffen stattgefunden Gespräche im NATO-Russland-Rat, welcher sich nach Beginn der Ukraine-Krise 2014 erst zum zweiten Mal wieder traf.

Die NATO ist eine zivil geführte, politische Organisation. So werden die zusätzlich vorgelagerten Truppen, nicht einmal zusammen mit der von der USA in Eigenregie durchgeführten European Reassurance Initiative, den tatsächlichen militärischen Bedürfnissen einer wirksamen Abschreckung gegenüber Russland gerecht. Das politische Signal Richtung Russland ist zwar deutlich, ob es aber ausreichen wird, wird sich erst in Zukunft zeigen. Der Vorteil dieses politischen, militärisch eher defensiven Vorgehens liegt jedoch an der grundsätzlichen Einhaltung der in der NATO-Russland-Grundakte skizzierten Vereinbarungen, was Russland in der Propagandaschlacht keine neue Munition liefert und das Eskalationspotential kaum weiter steigert. Schliesslich haben auch die NATO-Mitgliedsstaaten kein Interesse an einem neuen Wettrüsten.

Indirekt stehen die Massnahmen zur Stärkung der Ostflanke in Konkurrenz mit den Forderungen der südeuropäischen Mitgliedsstaaten nach einem grösseren Engagement der NATO an der Südflanke. Momentan jedenfalls ist die VJTF ausschliesslich auf die Ostflanke ausgerichtet, und ein Einsatz an der Südflanke ist nicht vorgesehen. Doch auch hier – trotz der nur teilweisen berücksichtigten Interessen der südeuropäischen Mitgliedsstaaten – ergeben diese Einschränkungen durchaus Sinn. Der Charakter der Bedrohung an der Südflanke wie auch die Fähigkeiten der Streitkräfte der südeuropäischen Mitgliedsstaaten unterscheiden sich deutlich von denen in Osteuropa. Der zusätzliche Nutzen einer VJTF für die Südflanke wäre deshalb fraglich. Mit der Unterstützung der Internationale Allianz gegen den Islamischen Staat mit AWACS-Flugzeugen, der Ausweitung der Ausbildungsmission im Irak und in Afghanistan, dem Aufbau des nachrichtendienstlichen Fusion Centre in Tunesien, der Unterstützung der tunesischen Spezialkräfte sowie der verstärkten Kooperation mit der EU befindet sich die NATO auf dem richtigen Weg. Trotzdem scheint, dass zur besseren Absicherung der Südflanke noch nicht das volle Potential an möglichen Massnahmen ausgeschöpft wurde. Insbesondere in der intensiveren Zusammenarbeit mit Partnerstaaten in der MENA-Region scheint noch erheblicher Handlungsspielraum zu bestehen.

Weitere Informationen
Charles Recknage, “NATO-Russia Council: From High Hopes To Broken Dreams“, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, 12.07.2016.

Posted in Armed Forces, International, Patrick Truffer, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

America’s failed efforts to establish an anti-IS Syrian fighting-force

A rebel fighter from the “First Battalion” under the Free Syrian Army takes part in a military training on June 10, 2015.

A rebel fighter from the “First Battalion” under the Free Syrian Army takes part in a military training on June 10, 2015.

Since the Islamic State (IS) rose to infamy in the summer of 2014 the United States has been trying to spearhead efforts to build a new Syrian fighting-force outside of Syria to combat these militants on the ground. 
This ultimately led to the creation of the Syrian train-and-equip program, which was initially envisioned the US training 5,000 Syrian fighters, in neighbouring Jordan and Turkey, each year for three years. The plan was then to dispatch these fighters, with close US air support, into the Syrian fray where they would combat the Islamists and retake the Syrian territory which was usurped by IS’s self-styled caliphate.

This train-and-equip program led to the infamous deployment on the 12th of July, 2015 of a mere 54 fighters into northwestern Syria where, within the space of 24-hours, most of them were either killed or fled from Jabhat al-Nusra militants. Militants who managed to capture their leader along with several American-made weapons — which they proudly flaunted in a propaganda video.

Another group of Syrian fighters also specifically established to fight IS by the CIA, Division 30, were sent into Syria the following month. Shortly after they established their headquarters however they were attacked by al-Nusra which rapidly defeated them, leaving them in a state of disarray with its remaining members fleeing and joining other armed groups. Another subsequent deployment of 70 of these fighters in September, 2015 resulted in them instantly surrendering their weapons to al-Nusra and disappearing.

These humiliating failures aptly epitomized the shortcomings of that $500 million program. Since then the US has increased its support to the most successful fighters against IS in Syria, the Kurds. The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) proved their worth against IS when they repelled a major IS siege of the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani in late 2014. After beating IS back from their territories the YPG mounted a series of highly effective counter-offensives against the group, forcing them out completely from the north-eastern provinces of the country. In late 2015 they merged with armed Arabs, Assyrians and Turkmens and formed the coalition known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has been putting IS increasingly on the defensive with close US coalition air support. It’s clear the US sees the SDF as their best bet to liberate large swaths of Syria from IS control.

Fighters of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) carry their weapons at a military training camp in Ras al-Ain, February 13, 2015.

Fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) carry their weapons at a military training camp in Ras al-Ain, February 13, 2015.

However the US has opposed the SDF from advancing against IS in Syria’s north-western border regions. This is primarily because its ally Turkey doesn’t want a force with a large Kurdish component — one they continually insist is connected to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) it is fighting inside Turkish Kurdistan — taking over the only remaining open part of Syria’s border with Turkey.

Consequently the US and Turkey have favoured Arab rebels taking that territory. Here again the failure to defeat IS with non-SDF ground allies is particularly striking. On April 8th, 2016 the US and Ankara appeared to make a breakthrough. Rebels fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) group made headway against IS in the north-west. With the support of both US air-strikes and cross-border Turkish artillery fire these FSA fighters managed to seize several villages from IS along the border, including the strategically-important village of al-Rai. Finally a defeat was afflicted against IS without the use of the SDF, however it was a short-lived victory. IS regrouped and mere days later they recaptured al-Rai and six other villages and afflicted a humiliating blow to that FSA group and to American and Turkish efforts.

While the SDF are not directly on the border with Turkey in the north-west, they have this month undertaken a major advance aimed at cutting IS off from Syria’s north-western border – they already control the entirety of the border from Syria’s east up to the east bank of the Euphrates. The Manbij offensive has proven to be a major strategic success. To date the US coalition is successfully achieving with the SDF what it has failed to do with these groups it has tried to build outside of Syria from scratch.

Nearly a year after the humiliating defeat of the Division 30 fighters by al-Nusra, a similar defeat was suffered in late June of this year by another group of fighters the US trained in Jordan to fight IS. The so-called New Syrian Army (which was controversially bombed by the Russians in June) was created and trained by the Americans and British in Jordan to fight IS in Syria. Deployed from Jordan the group made significant headway against IS in late June. They mounted an offensive against IS at the al-Bukamal border crossing with coalition air cover, the aim of the operation being to cut IS off from part of the Iraqi-Syrian frontier. Coordinated with Iraqi forces at the other side of the border the offensive got off to a good start, advancing towards the crossing the New Syrian Army managed to capture the al-Hamdan airbase. But then, they were ambushed. IS successfully repelled their offensive and managed to seize the airbase along with several of the groups weapons, effectively dashing another coalition attempt to mount a non-SDF ground offensive against IS.

These three unsuccessful efforts bear many similarities: All of these groups battlefield defeats transpired near Syria’s borders (Iraq, Jordan and Turkey), all were non-SDF forces and all were unable to secure their territorial gains against the Islamists for more than a short few days. These failures serve as clear indicators that the US badly needs at least one of these groups to afflict a lasting battlefield defeat against IS to demonstrate that “train-and-equip” is a necessary and worthwhile undertaking that will contribute to IS’s defeat.

A New Syrian Army patrol in late April, 2016 taking a break after a long drive on American supplied pick-up trucks (Rao Kumar, "The New Syrian Army: America’s 'Tip of the Spear' Against ISIS in the Syrian Desert", Bellingcat, 31.05.2016).

A New Syrian Army patrol in late April, 2016 taking a break after a long drive on American supplied pick-up trucks (Rao Kumar, “The New Syrian Army: America’s ‘Tip of the Spear’ Against ISIS in the Syrian Desert“, Bellingcat, 31.05.2016).

Posted in English, International, Syria | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Raketenschutzschild der NATO im Osten: Putins Ärger

von Oberst aD Gregor Anton Roos, ehemaliger Verteidigungsattaché in Wien, Belgrad und Prag.

Radar, Rechner und Raketen der NATO auf dem Militärstützpunkt Deveselu bei Bukarest: Mitte Mai wurde im Beisein von NATO-Generalsekretär Jens Stoltenberg in Rumänien ein neues Raketenabwehrsystem in Betrieb genommen. Russland hat mit heftiger Kritik reagiert.

raketenabwehr

Aus der Sicht der NATO
Für Stoltenberg ist die Inbetriebnahme ein wichtiger Schritt, weil es das erste System dieser Art an Land ist, das in Europa in Dienst geht. Es vereint die drei R (Radar, Rechner und (Abfang-)raketen). Wenn die Staats- und Regierungschefs heute in Warschau zum NATO-Gipfeltreffen zusammenkommen, können Fortschritte beim 2010 in Lissabon auf US-Betreiben beschlossenen Aufbau einer NATO-Raketenabwehr als Speerspitze realisiert werden. In Warschau soll das Projekt weiter vorangetrieben werden und ab 2020 vollständig zur Verfügung stehen.

Schon jetzt sind im spanischen Rota vier US-Schiffe mit Raketenabwehrsystemen im Einsatz. Hinzu kommt eine Frühwarn-Radarstation in der Türkei. Die Kommandozentrale befindet sich auf dem US-Stützpunkt in Ramstein in Deutschland. Schon im Jahre 2018 soll in Polen eine weitere Anlage dieser Art in Betrieb gehen (siehe Graphik Raketenabwehr der NATO).

Das alles diene dem Schutz der Bevölkerung vor den zunehmenden Bedrohungen durch die Verbreitung von ballistischen Raketen aus dem Iran und dem Nahen Osten, wie auf dem NATO-Gipfel 2014 in Wales festgehalten wurde.

Als Wende im Jahre 2014 und als Reaktion auf die Annexion der Krim und den von Russland geschürten Krieg in der Ostukraine hatte die Allianz die praktische Zusammenarbeit mit Russland eingestellt und sich wieder auf Abschreckung in Richtung Osten eingestellt. Es gehe um den Schutz der östlichen Bündnispartner vor einer russischen Aggression angesichts der NATO-Osterweiterung, wobei die Aufnahme des Balkanstaates Montenegro am 19. Mai 2016 beschlossen wurde. In ihrer Beziehung zu Russland kommt aber Bewegung, da beschlossen wurde, den NATO-Russland-Rat einzuberufen und zweigleisig zu agieren: Abschreckung verbunden mit politischem Dialog.

Aus der Sicht Russlands
Der russische Präsident Wladimir Putin sieht in den Schutzschildplänen der NATO eine Unterminierung der globalen Stabilität und die Gefährdung des bei den Nuklearraketen bestehenden Gleichgewichtes. Er sieht darin einen Akt der Feindseligkeit, welcher gegen sein Land gerichtet sei und betrachte dies als “Streben nach absolutem Triumph“. Für Russland ist dies der willkommene Anlass, das eigene Atomwaffenarsenal aufzurüsten. Dabei betonen russische Armeeexperten, der Raketenschirm der NATO könne den strategischen russischen Atomwaffen kaum etwas anhaben. Die neuen russischen “Hyperschall-Raketen” würden alle Abwehrschilde in Europa wie in den Staaten nivellieren. Es sei unmöglich, diese tonnenschweren Meteoriten aufzuhalten, die mit 15-facher Schallgeschwindigkeit vom Himmel stürzen wie die X-101-Luft-Boden-Raketen der Tu-160-Bomber. Und gemäss Aussagen des Kommandeurs der Raketenstreitkräfte, Generaloberst Sergei Karakajew, werde man den Anteil moderner Raketen bis 2022 von heute 56% auf 100% steigern. Die schweren ballistischen Satan-Raketen würden durch Jars-, Bulawa- und vor allem Sarmat-Komplexe ersetzt, die als eigentliche “Raketenabwehrkiller” gelten und allen westlichen Gegenstücken um 30 Jahre voraus seien.

Russland rüstet weiterhin auf: Bis zum Jahre 2020 sollen die russischen Landstreitkräfte mehr als 11’000 neue gepanzerte Kampffahrzeuge sowie rund 14’000 weitere Militärfahrzeuge erhalten.

[…] it is important to keep in mind that Gerasimov is simply explaining his view of the operational environment and the nature of future war, and not proposing a new Russian way of warfare or military doctrine, as [Gerasimov’s] article was likely drafted well before the start of the Maidan protests. — Charles K. Bartles, “Getting Gerasimov Right“, Military Review 96, January-February 2016, p. 31.

“Gerasimov-Doktrin”
General Wladimir Gerasimov ist seit 2012 Generalstabschef der russischen Streitkräfte. Seine “Eckwerte der Gerasimov-Doktrin” sind in diesem Zusammenhang aufschlussreich. Sie fanden zum Teil bereits Anwendung in der Ost-Ukraine, wo Russland den Krieg schürt, und bei der Annexion der Krim. Diese “Doktrin” zeigt klar auf, wie strategisch und taktisch gegenüber einem Angreifer oder gegen Terroristen vorgegangen werden soll.

Gemäss Jānis Bērziņš, Direktor des Center for Security and Strategic Research der National Defence Academy of Latvia können sie wie folgt dargestellt werden (Jānis Bērziņš, “Russia’s New Generation Warfare in Ukraine: Implications for Latvian Defense Policy“, National Defence Academy of Latvia, Center for Security and Strategic Research, Policy Paper, no. 2, April 2014, p. 4; diese Sichtweise wird offensichtlich auch vom Chef der Armee, Korpskommandant André Blattmann geteilt):

  • Start der militärischen Operationen zu Friedenszeiten durch bewaffnete Gruppen (keine Kriegserklärung);
  • Führung der Kräfte im Rahmen einer gemeinsamen Informationssphäre;
  • Bewaffnete Zusammenstösse zwischen hoch-mobilen gemischt regulär-irreguläre Gruppierungen;
  • Vernichtung des gegnerischen militärischen und wirtschaftlichen Potentials durch kurzfristige präzise Schläge gegen strategische militärische und zivile Infrastruktur;
  • Simultane Angriffe auf die gegnerischen Kräfte und die gegnerische Infrastruktur im gesamten Territorium;
  • Massiver Einsatz von hochpräzisen Waffen und SOK, Robotern und Waffensystemen, die nach “neuen” physikalischen Prinzipien wirken (Laser, Strahlung etc.);
  • Einsatz von bewaffneten Zivilisten (vier Zivilisten auf einen Militärangehörigen);
  • Simultaner Kampf zu Lande, zu Wasser, in der Luft und in der Informationssphäre;
  • Einsatz unkonventioneller und indirekter Aktionsformen.

Weitere Informationen
Gemäss Charles K. Bartles, russischer Linguist und Analyst am Foreign Military Studies Office am Fort Leavenworth sei die westliche Auffassung falsch, dass es sich bei der “Gerasimov-Doktrin” um eine neue Art der russischen Kriegsführung und um eine neue russische Militärdoktrin handle. Seine Ausführungen würden bloss seine persönliche Sichtweise auf das operationelle Umfeld und auf die Natur zukünftiger Kriege erklären (siehe Zitat oben).

Posted in Gregor Anton Roos, International, Russia, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Erweiterungsrunde bei Asiens wichtigstem Bündnis

von Björn Müller (Facebook / Twitter). Er ist Journalist in Berlin mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheits- und Geopolitik.

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (dunkelblau = Mitgliedsstaaten; hellblau = Staaten im Beitrittsprozess).

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (dunkelblau = Mitgliedsstaaten; hellblau = Staaten im Beitrittsprozess).

Sie genießt im Westen noch wenig Aufmerksamkeit, aber die Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) ist eines der wesentlichen Bündnisse der Geopolitik. Ursprünglich diente der 2001 gegründete Bund dazu, den zentralasiatischen Rückraum von China und Russland zu stabilisieren. Neben den beiden asiatischen Vormächten gehören noch Kasachstan sowie Usbekistan, Tadschikistan und Kirgisien zur SCO. Inzwischen gibt es zahlreiche Staaten mit Partnerstatus, darunter auch das NATO-Mitglied Türkei. Heute managen China und Russland mit der Allianz-Plattform ihre Machtbalance in Asien und projizieren die Globalstrategie einer multipolaren Ordnung in Richtung Westen.

Vor Kurzem fand der SCO-Jubiläumsgipfel im usbekischen Taschkent stand. Nach 15 Jahren erweitert sich das Bündnis erstmals; aufgenommen werden Indien und Pakistan. Welches Kalkül dahinter steckt und wohin sich die SCO entwickelt, weiß Enrico Fels, Leiter der Forschungsgruppe “Sicherheit und Diplomatie” am Center for Global Studies der Universität Bonn. Björn Müller’s Gespräch mit dem Experten in Sachen SCO kann als Podcast gehört werden:

 
Hinweis: Da die deutsche Bezeichnung Shanghaier Organisation für Zusammenarbeit nebst passendem Akronym SOZ kaum gebräuchlich ist, verwendet der Artikel die englische Bezeichnung.

Posted in Björn Müller, Security Policy | Tagged | Leave a comment