Informal Reign versus Liberal Statehood: The Ashraf Ghani Government

by Dr. Philipp Münch, Lecturer in Security and Armaments Policy at the Military Academy of the German Armed Forces in Hamburg (siehe hier für eine deutschsprachige Version). This article was originally written for the Journal of the Catholic Military Bishop for the German Armed Forces, “Kompass. Soldat in Welt und Kirche“, for the July/August 2018 issue.

Ashraf Ghani (left) and Abdullah Abdullah (right).

Ashraf Ghani (left) and Abdullah Abdullah (right).

Almost every report on the situation in Afghanistan concludes that the country is far from liberal statehood. The latter means that state representatives should enforce laws and regulations that stem from the rule of law and comply with international human rights standards nationwide. However, the scope of the Afghan government is limited. Parts of the country are controlled by insurgents or other rulers who resist government orders without actively using force. However, even many state representatives — including in the field of justice — also ignore the formally well-existing constitutional procedures. Not infrequently, the representatives of the Afghan state sell state goods and items. So, what many Westerners see as “corruption” is widespread in Afghanistan.

All this raises the question of why, despite unprecedented international and Afghan efforts since 2002, it has not been possible to achieve liberal statehood in Afghanistan. This article argues that among the causes that can be found in the country itself, the main reason for the failure lies in the contradiction that liberal statehood presupposes, on the one hand, an assertive, comprehensive rule of a government. For without such, the desired rules and laws cannot be enforced. At least in history, nowhere has it been possible to achieve comprehensive rule by liberal means. On the other hand, however, such a rule can hardly be achieved by liberal means, but the main Western supporters of Afghan governments have been pressing for this since 2001. The article will outline this dilemma through the presidency of Ashraf Ghani.

The term of Ashraf Ghani
Ashraf Ghani became president of Afghanistan in 2014. He more closely corresponded to the ideal Western image of a modern head of state than his predecessor Hamid Karzai. Ghani had studied at the American University of Beirut as well as studied and received his Ph.D. in the United States. After the Afghan communist coup of 1978 and the following conflict, he remained in the United States and worked for the World Bank, among others. Overall, he spent most of his adult life outside Afghanistan, apparently internalizing Western ideals of formal statehood and liberal market economy.

Afghan forces during an operation against the terrorist militia Islamic State.

Afghan forces during an operation against the terrorist militia Islamic State.

Ghani appeared in the presidential election against Karzai as early as 2009 but was significantly defeated due to lack of local support, garnering only 3 percent of the vote. He learned from this: in the run-up to the following election in 2014, he — like his main rival Abdullah Abdullah — secured the support of local rulers across the country. In return, he promised them political appointments. In the second round of voting, Ghani received the most votes. However, the vote counts soon revealed that many of the ballots on both sides were forged. Therefore, Abdullah did not accept the result. Only after intense negotiations and pressure, especially from the US side, did both parties agree to a compromise. This meant that both were predominantly equal and formed a “National Unity Government“. In this government, Ghani was appointed the president, and Abdullah received the specifically created role of a government chief.

Initially, Ghani faced the great challenge of reduced numbers of international troops and amounts of aid payments. As a result, countless Afghans who were employed directly by the international military or aid organizations or indirectly benefited from their payments suddenly lost their income. At the same time, much of the military support for the Afghan security forces disappeared, leaving more dead and wounded. Ghani and Abdullah, whose competencies were not clearly separated, also blocked each other in governance.

Ashraf Ghani’s policy
Ghani’s policy was firmly based on a technocratic ideal that he had internalized at US academic institutions and think tanks as well as during his work at the World Bank. Accordingly, it would be especially important to implement concepts with the appropriate people. These concepts included, in particular, liberal economic reforms, such as those advocated by the international financial institutions. In order to enforce his policy, he gradually succeeded in establishing himself as the clear main decision-maker vis-à-vis Abdullah, despite the unclear competencies. He dealt with matters of almost all departments down to the executive levels and made all key appointments in the Afghan state apparatus. In many cases, Ghani made the appointments, often staffing them from scratch with comparatively young and educated Afghans.

Ghani maintained a generally very close relationship with international donors and troop contributors — including the US in particular. In addition to government investment, better governance, and fighting corruption, he wanted to increase Afghanistan’s economic output, notably through agreements with neighboring states aimed at further opening the Afghan market. He also wanted to use a diplomatic initiative to persuade Pakistan to no longer support the Afghan Taliban. For this, he entered into a highly controversial intelligence collaboration in Afghanistan.

The success of Ghani’s presidency cannot yet be definitively evaluated. It is clear, however, that both camps of the “National Unity Government” hindered each other severely. This prevented coherent policies and rapid formation of a cabinet. Ghani’s technical understanding of politics also hampered his administration. Because of it, he disregarded the importance of balances of power and networks in which Afghan officials are involved. The most obvious consequence was the short-term capture of the capital of the strategically important northeastern province of Kunduz by the Taliban.

There, Ghani had previously dismissed key officials who had commanded armed groups during the jihad and civil war (mujaheddin commanders) and replaced them with young, educated people. However, these were unable to mobilize networks of commanders against the oppressive Taliban. Consequently, Ghani dismissed the new provincial governor and again elected a member of a mujaheddin faction. A similar development was seen in the equally important southwestern province of Helmand.

Regardless of initial lip service and despite Ghani’s initiative, the Pakistani government remained loyal to its old policy of supporting the Afghan Taliban. Even if at times some Taliban factions signaled a willingness to talk, this movement continued its fight against international troops and the Afghan government. Any resounding successes of Ghani’s liberal economic policy, which lacked the money for its investments, were not apparent. Instead, it turned out that without competitive production through trade liberalization, Afghanistan was losing more and more economic power. Ghani and Abdullah allowed the constitutional date for a parliamentary election in 2015 to expire. Likewise, they failed to call a general meeting to change the constitution. Both had promised this before taking office in order to formalize Abdullah’s new office. Because of the lack of success and because he seemed less and less to stick to the ideal of liberal statehood than had been hoped, Ghani’s international supporters began to lose their trust in him.

US Marines with Task Force Southwest (TFSW) observe their surroundings while at a security post for an advising mission with 1st Brigade, Afghan National Army (ANA) 215th Corps as they conduct Operation Maiwand 12 at Camp Shorserack, Afghanistan, March 13, 2018. Operation Maiwand 12 is an Afghan-led, TFSW-assisted, operation with maneuver elements from the ANA, National Directorate of Security, and Afghan National Police forces to expand the security belt around Helmand Province (Photo: Sgt. Conner Robbins).

US Marines with Task Force Southwest (TFSW) observe their surroundings while at a security post for an advising mission with 1st Brigade, Afghan National Army (ANA) 215th Corps as they conduct Operation Maiwand 12 at Camp Shorserack, Afghanistan, March 13, 2018. Operation Maiwand 12 is an Afghan-led, TFSW-assisted, operation with maneuver elements from the ANA, National Directorate of Security, and Afghan National Police forces to expand the security belt around Helmand Province (Photo: Sgt. Conner Robbins).

Dilemmas of liberal statehood
Both Karzai and Ghani saw themselves unable to establish state rule solely under the rules of formal statehood. Although Ghani tried in a much stronger way to implement Western policy and economic concepts. However, to date, this has been unsuccessful. Both ultimately resorted to informal networks to local rulers in order to consolidate their rule. One of the main reasons that liberal statehood could not be established is that it relies on fundamental principles that do not exist in Afghanistan. In particular, this seems to be the absence of a consolidated nationwide rule.

This suggests at least the historical development of liberal statehood in North America and Europe, but also in Southeast Asia. Likewise, all liberal states today were previously authoritarian, even pioneers of modern democracy like the USA and Switzerland. Until the second half of the 20th century, both featured elements that today are considered incompatible with liberal statehood. Looking at the historical development of present liberal states as a process of gradually achieving certain conditions, Afghanistan would be at about the same level as European countries achieved in the early modern period. This means that Afghan heads of state, like once the kings of Europe, are trying to consolidate their rule by attracting competing political leaders through appointments (back then at the court). However, according to today’s Western standards, this form of government is considered “corruption” because state resources are used solely for calming competitors. The resulting bloated government apparatus is indeed inefficient, but at least it provides some stability by immobilizing the stakeholders it employs.

International trusteeship seems conceivable as an immediate solution, in which international stakeholders are using their troops and police to ensure that the orders of the Afghan government are implemented. However, it has been shown that few countries are willing to provide enormous resources and to accept the death of their citizens for this purpose. Besides, there is a real danger that such a trusteeship will lead to a new form of colonialism. Such a tendency can already be observed in many missions with similar goals. Wanting to achieve liberal statehood by liberal means appears to be one of the biggest dilemmas of Western efforts in Afghanistan.

Posted in Afghanistan, Armed Forces, Basics, English, International, Peacekeeping, Security Policy | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Ein weiter Weg: Die russische Militärreform – Teil 2

von Patrick Truffer (an English version follows later). Er arbeitet seit über 15 Jahren in der Schweizer Armee, verfügt über einen Bachelor in Staatswissenschaften der ETH Zürich und über einen Master in Internationale Beziehungen der Freien Universität Berlin.

Dieser Artikel will der Frage nachgehen, welche Faktoren die Reform der russischen Streitkräfte angetrieben haben, wie sich die Fähigkeiten in den letzten 10 Jahren verändert haben und, basierend auf dem neusten staatlichen Rüstungsprogramm, wie sie sich bis 2030 verändern könnten. Im ersten Teil ging es um die Konsolidierungsphase nach dem Ende des Kalten Kriegs; die Unzulänglichkeiten, welche während des Kaukasuskriegs 2008 offensichtlich wurden, und schliesslich zur Serdyukov-Reform führten. In diesem Teil geht es um die progressiv einsetzende Verbesserung der russischen Streitkräfte als Konsequenz der Militärreform, welches im Krieg in der Ukraine und in Syrien sowie in den Grossübungen der letzten beiden Jahren erkennbare wurde.

Der Krieg in der Ukraine und in Syrien

Nach der Absetzung des von Russland unterstützten ukrainischen Präsidenten Viktor Yanukovych Ende Februar 2014 tauchten auf der Krim maskierte, abzeichenlose Soldaten auf, welche mit dem grünen Ratnik Infanteriekampfsystem ausgerüstet waren. Dieses besteht aus atmungsaktivem Kunststoff, der vor Feuer und Splitter schützen soll. Die Soldaten waren mit einer Schutzweste mit Keramikplatten ausgerüstet sowie mit modernen Kommunikationsmitteln, welche sich auf Glonass abstützen konnten. In einer dritten Auflage soll Ratnik ab 2020 die Konnektivität und Kampfeffizienz aller Bodentruppen erhöhen (“Ratnik Russian Future Soldier Modern Infantry Combat Gear System“, Army Recognition, 31.03.2018; Maria Martens, “Russian Military Modernization“, Science and Technology Committee, NATO Parliamentary Assembly, 11.10.2015, S. 9).

Diese “grünen Männchen” gehörten höchstwahrscheinlich zum Moskauer 45. Garderegiment der Luftlandetruppen für besondere Aufgaben und zur 3. Speznas-Brigade. Nebst ihrer modernen Ausrüstung fielen die Soldaten durch ihr selbstbewusstes, diszipliniertes, wenn auch bestimmtes Auftreten auf. Gleich ausgerüstete und disziplinierte Soldaten tauchten ab April 2014 auch in der Ostukraine auf (Hannes Adomeit, “Die Lehren der russischen Generäle“, NZZ, 18.07.2014).

Im Gegensatz zur Annexion der Krim und der Einmischung im Krieg in der Ukraine erfolgte die Militäroperation in Syrien ab Spätsommer 2015 auf Antrag der syrischen Regierung. Seitdem ist Syrien ein wichtiges Trainings-, Test- und Demonstrationsgebiet. Insgesamt sollen rund 250 Systeme, darunter 160 neue oder modernisierte Waffensysteme, getestet worden sein, wobei rund 1’200 Zivilisten von 57 russischen Firmen, Forschungs- und Entwicklungseinrichtungen die eingesetzten Verbände begleitet haben sollen, um Lehren für die weitere Entwicklung ziehen zu können (Julian Cooper, “The Russian State Armament Programme, 2018-2027″, NATO Defense College, Mai 2018, S 3; “Chapter Five: Russia and Eurasia”, The Military Balance, vol. 118, 2018, S. 170).

The military operation in Syria certainly required certain funds, however the main part of the funding came from the Defence Ministry, their resources. Some 33 billion rubles were earmarked in the Ministry’s 2015 budget for military exercises. We simply retargeted these funds to support our group in Syria, and there is hardly a better way of training and perfecting combat skills than under real combat conditions. In this sense, it is better to use motor operating time and combat stock in combat than at a testing range. You, professionals, know this better than anyone else. — Russischer Präsident Vladimir Putin, bei einer Rede vor 700 Offizieren aller Truppengattungen im März 2016 (Vladimir Putin, “Meeting with Russian Armed Forces Service Personnel“, President of Russia, 17.03.2016).

Die auf der Krim, im Osten der Ukraine und in Syrien eingesetzten Verbände haben einen deutlichen Fortschritt im Bereich Führung, Ausbildung, Ausrüstung und Einsatzbereitschaft gezeigt. Auch die Fähigkeiten zur elektronischen Kriegsführung und die Logistik haben sich verbessert (“Chapter Five: Russia and Eurasia”, The Military Balance, vol. 115, 2015, S. 159). Mit der Operation in Syrien haben die russischen Streitkräfte gezeigt, dass sie über genügend See- und Lufttransportmittel verfügen, bzw. diese rasch auf unkonventionelle Art beschaffen können (Einmieten und Umflaggen türkischer Handelsschiffe zu russischen Marine-Schiffen), um eine kleinere Operation ausserhalb ihres eigentlichen Einflussgebietes durchführen und logistisch unterhalten zu können. Die russischen Streitkräfte sind in der Lage sowohl streitkräfteübergreifend (insbesondere zwischen Luftstreitkräften und Seekriegsflotte), wie auch mit ausländischen Partnern zusammenzuarbeiten. Russische Kampfflugzeuge haben beispielsweise die offensiven Operationen der syrischen und iranischen Bodentruppen aus der Luft unterstützt – ein deutlicher Fortschritt gegenüber dem Kaukasuskrieg 2008. Weiter wurden der neue Suchoi Su-34 Jagdbomber und im Februar 2018 zwei Vorserienmodelle des Suchoi Su-57 inklusive eines Einsatzes eines Kh-59MK2 Marschflugkörpers getestet (“Su-57 fifth-generation fighter jets successfully tested in Syria“, TASS, 01.03.2018). Erste Präzisionswaffen wurden zwar bereits mit der Kalibr ab 2011 bei der Seekriegsflotte sowie bei der Kh-38 ab 2012 bei den Luftstreitkräften getestet, doch operationell haben beide Teilstreitkräfte diese neuen Waffensysteme erst in Syrien eingesetzt. Beispielsweise wurden im Oktober 2015 mit 26 Kalibr Marschflugkörpern aus drei Buyan M-Klasse Korvetten und einer Gepard-Klasse Fregatte im Kaspischen Meer 11 Ziele in Syrien zerstört (Dmitry Gorenburg, “What Russia’s Military Operation in Syria can tell us about Advances in its Capabilities“, PONARS Euarasia Policy Memos, no. 124, 18.03.2016, S. 2ff; “Russian missiles ‘hit IS in Syria from Caspian’“, BBC News, 07.10.2015). Im darauffolgenden Dezember wurde eine weitere Kalibr aus einem U-Boot im Mittelmeer abgeschossen. Bis zum heutigen Zeitpunkt verschossen die russischen Streitkräfte im Syrien-Krieg um die 90 Kalibr. Damit verfolgt Russland primär politische Ziele, denn taktisch gab es dazu keine Notwendigkeit. Es geht um eine Machtdemonstration in Richtung NATO, USA und Nachbarstaaten. Die Botschaft dabei ist klar: Nach einem langen Weg ist Russland als Grossmacht zurück. Die produktionellen und finanziellen Möglichkeiten schränken den Einsatz von Präzisionswaffen jedoch ein: Rund 80% der abgeworfenen Munition in Syrien umfasste alte, ungelenkte Fallbomben (Gorenburg, “What Russia’s Military Operation in Syria can tell us about Advances in its Capabilities“, S. 3f).

Die Annexion der Krim und die Einmischung in den Krieg in der Ukraine hat für die russische Rüstungsindustrie negative Konsequenzen, welche die Modernisierung der russischen Streitkräfte zukünftig beeinflussen wird. Durch die Sanktionen wurde der Erwerb westlicher Rüstungsgüter und der damit verbundene Technologietransfer verunmöglicht. Dies bekam insbesondere die Seekriegsflotte zu spüren als der Kauf der beiden Mistral-Schiffe von Frankreich rückgängig gemacht sowie Schiffsantriebe von Deutschland und der Ukraine zurückbehalten wurden. Die fehlenden Schiffsantriebe hatten den geplanten Bau neuer Zerstörer, Korvetten und Fregatten verzögert. Die Ukraine war ausserdem ein wichtiger Lieferant von Flugzeug- und Helikoptertriebwerke. Auch die Wartung der momentan noch 46 SS-18 Satan Interkontinentalraketen wurde von der staatlichen Firma Yuzhmash in der Ukraine sichergestellt. Ab diesem Jahr sollen die SS-18 Satan schrittweise durch die neue, vollkommen in Russland hergestellten RS-28 Sarmat ersetzt werden. Ein weiteres Problem stellen die Sanktionen auf Dual-Use-Güter dar, worunter insbesondere elektronische Komponenten in der Satellitentechnik und in der Drohnennentwicklung fallen. Russland versucht die westlichen Sanktionen so gut wie möglich durch Importsubstitutionen aus Weissrussland und den asiatischen Staaten abzufedern. Dies ist mittelfristig jedoch nicht in allen Bereichen möglich, verursacht zusätzliche Kosten und führt zu Verzögerungen beim Bau moderner Waffensysteme (Julian Cooper, “Russia’s State Armament Programme to 2020: A Quantitative Assessment of Implementation 2011-2015“, Swedish Defence Research, 2016, S. 37ff).

Status Quo

Gemäss der aktuellen russischen Militärdoktrin von Ende 2014 stellt die Ausweitung der militärischen Infrastrukturen der NATO innerhalb der osteuropäischen Mitgliedsstaaten, eine mögliche NATO-Mitgliedschaft der Ukraine und Georgiens und damit verbunden eine politische wie auch militärischen Druckausübung eine Bedrohung für Russland dar. Aus russischer Sicht versuchen die USA und ihre Verbündeten mit einer hybriden Kriegsführung den Einfluss Russlands über seine Nachbarstaaten zu unterbinden. Dabei seien sie bereit Chaos in den russischen Nachbarstaaten zu verbreiten, um eine Grundlage für eine Intervention in diesen Staaten zu bilden und eine pro-westliche Regierung einsetzen zu können (Dmitry Gorenburg, “Russia’s Strategic Calculus: Threat Perceptions and Military Doctrine“, PONARS Euarasia Policy Memos, no. 448, 11.11.2016, S. 2).

Seit 1999 zieht sich diese Bedrohungswahrnehmung wie ein roter Faden durch die Zapad-Übungen, wobei das Schwergewicht der Szenarien auf konventionelle Operationen in regionalen Konflikten mit möglicher Eskalation mit einem konventionell ebenbürtigen Gegner liegt (Stephen J. Cimbala und Roger N. McDermott, “Putin and the Nuclear Dimension to Russian Strategy“, The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, vol. 29, no. 4, Oktober 2016, S. 536).

Soldaten, die keine identifizierenden Abzeichen trugen und es ablehnten zu sagen, ob sie Russen oder Ukrainer waren, patrouillierten vor dem Internationalen Flughafen Simferopol, nachdem sich am 28. Februar 2014 eine pro-russische Menge in der Nähe von Simferopol versammelt hatte.

Soldaten, die keine identifizierenden Abzeichen trugen und es ablehnten zu sagen, ob sie Russen oder Ukrainer waren, patrouillierten vor dem Internationalen Flughafen Simferopol, nachdem sich am 28. Februar 2014 eine pro-russische Menge in der Nähe von Simferopol versammelt hatte.

Nach der Vostok 2010, bei der in einem fiktiven Konflikt mit China Russland am Ende einen regional begrenzten Nuklearschlag vorgesehen hatte, wurde auf weitere fiktive Nuklearschläge als Antwort auf einen konventionell übermächtigen Gegner jedoch weitgehend verzichtet [1]. Dies deckt sich zeitlich mit der Verfügbarkeit von Präzisionswaffen, welche mit konventionellen Sprengköpfen bestückt werden können (Roger N. McDermott und Tor Bukkvoll, “Tools of Future Wars – Russia Is Entering the Precision-Strike Regime“, The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, vol. 31, no. 2, April 2018, S. 192). Mit anderen Worten: Je besser Russland konventionell ausgerüstet ist, umso unwahrscheinlicher wird der Einsatz von Nuklearwaffen. Bei der Zapad 2013 ging es beispielsweise um die Verteidigung Weissrusslands gegen baltische Terroristen, was zu ausgedehnten Operationen in überbautem Gelände und damit zu einem Mix von Aufstandsbekämpfung sowie konventionellen Operationen führte. Gegen Ende der Übung wurde eine gegnerische amphibische Landung an der Ostseeküste mit konventionellen Mitteln abgewehrt (Stephen Blank, “What Do the Zapad 2013 Exercises Reveal? (Part One)“, Eurasia Daily Monitor, The Jamestown Foundation, 04.12.2013). Das ändert jedoch nichts daran, dass der Einsatz von Nuklearwaffen im Rahmen der “Eskalation zur Deeskalation” doktrinal immer noch festgehalten ist – beispielsweise zuletzt in der Doktrin der russischen Marine von 2017 (Katarzyna Zysk, “Escalation and Nuclear Weapons in Russia’s Military Strategy“, The RUSI Journal, vol. 163, no. 2, März 2018).

Bei der letzten Zapad-Übung 2017 ging es um die Abwehr eines hybriden Gegners. Drei koalierende, an Weissrussland angrenzende Staaten, nutzten die verschlechternde wirtschaftliche Situation in Russland und Weissrussland, um mit Hilfe von Informationsoperationen zwischen den beiden Staaten Unfrieden zu sähen. In den ersten 48 Stunden der Übung ging es mehrheitlich um Terrorbekämpfung und die Eindämmung der hybriden Kriegsführung auf weissrussischem Territorium. Es entspricht dem Zeitbedarf, welcher die russischen Streitkräfte im Idealfall für ihre Mobilisation benötigen. Danach wurde eine gegnerische Invasion aus den drei fiktiven Staaten verhindert, wobei deren eindrückliches militärisches Potential an die NATO erinnerte. Schliesslich holten die russischen Kräfte in Weissrussland zum Gegenschlag aus. Am letzten Tag der Übung eskalierte das Szenario in der Barentssee und im Schwarzen Meer (Pavel Felgenhauer, “Lukashenka and Russian Officials Part Ways During Zapad 2017“, Eurasia Daily Monitor, The Jamestown Foundation, 22.09.2017). Die Nordflotte hatte dazu 20 Kriegsschiffe und 5’000 Mann im Einsatz. Ausserdem wurden vom Kosmodrom Plessezk aus zwei RS-24 Yars Interkontinentalraketen eingesetzt (eine aus dem Silo, eine von einer mobilen Plattform), welche Ziele im 6’000 km entfernten Kamchatka in Ostasien bekämpften. Bei dem Einsatz der RS-24 Yars ging es einerseits um einen Test, andererseits um eine Machtdemonstration gegenüber den USA (Daniel Brown, “Russia just finished the Zapad military exercises that freaked out NATO – Here’s what we know“, Business Insider, 25.09.2017; Alex Gorka, “Russia tests Yars RS-24 ICBM as part of its Nuclear Modernization Effort“, Strategic Culture Foundation, 03.10.2017).

Zapad 2017 demonstrierte, dass Russland sein eigenes Territorium und das seiner Verbündeten wirkungsvoll verteidigen kann. Mit ihrer Luftabwehr sind sie auf die Anfangsphase einer militärischen Operation vorbereitet, welche bei den USA und der NATO durch massives Feuer der Luftstreitkräfte gekennzeichnet ist. Die bereits stationierten S-400 Triumf in Kaliningrad und Sankt Petersburg sowie die S-300 Systeme in Weissrussland konnten während Zapad 2017 schnell durch weitere S-400, S-300 und Pantsir-S1 Systeme ergänzt werden. Die Baltische Flotte kann die Luftabwehr zusätzlich verstärken sowie gegnerische Ziele in der Luft, im Wasser und an der Küste bekämpfen. Gleichzeitig können die Luftstreitkräfte Bodenziele ausserhalb des russischen Territoriums mit eskortierten Bombern und/oder taktischen Lenkwaffen bekämpfen. Während der Übung wurde mit einer Iskander-M (kann mit einem nuklearen oder konventionellen Sprengkopf versehen werden) aus dem zentralen Militärbezirk erfolgreich ein 480 km entferntes Ziel in Kasachstan zerstört. An der Zapad 2017 wurden insbesondere Su-27, Su-35S, Su-30SM sowie MiG-31 zur Bekämpfung gegnerischer Kampfflugzeuge, Su-34 als Bomber, eine Su-24MR sowie auf taktischer Stufe rund 30 verschiedene Drohnensysteme zur Aufklärung und Zielbezeichnung eingesetzt (Michael Kofman, “Zapad Watch – Summary of Day Four“, Russia Military Analysis, 18.09.2017). Die C2-Fähigkeiten erlauben es Verbände auf dem gesamten Territorium und auf einer Frontlänge von über 600 km zu führen. Während der Zapad 2017 wurden die terrestrischen Kräfte durch Mi-35M, Ka-52, Mi-28N und Mi-8AMTSh Helikopter unterstützt (Roger N. McDermott, “Zapad 2017 and the Initial Period of War“, The Jamestown Foundation, 20.09.2017). Logistisch sind die russischen Streitkräfte in der Lage auf der Schiene mindestens eine gepanzerte Division über weite Strecken zu verschieben und mindestens ein leichtes Bataillon rasch mittels Lufttransport zum Einsatz zu bringen (Michael Kofman, “Zapad Watch – Summary of Day Five“, Russia Military Analysis, 19.09.2017; Sergey Sukhankin, “Zapad-2017: What Did These Military Exercises Reveal?“, ICDS, 24.10.2017).

Diese Erkenntnisse wurden in der diesjährigen Vostok-Übung erhärtet. Die Hauptziele der Übung bestand in der Überprüfung der Bereitschaft der Streitkräfte, der Fähigkeit Verbände über weite Strecken unter Miteinbezug der zivilen Infrastruktur zu verschieben und der Koordination zwischen Bodentruppen und Seekriegsflotte. Ausserdem nahmen an der Vostok 2018 zum ersten Mal die chinesischen Streitkräfte teil, was auch als politisches Signal gegenüber den USA zu verstehen ist. Bei der Übung wurde ein komplett neuer Ansatz gewählt: Die Verbände des zentralen Militärbezirks hatten die Aufgabe in den Raum des östlichen Militärbezirks einzufallen. Die dazu notwendigen Verbände wurden mittels 1,500 Güterwagons und 50 Transportflugzeugen aus dem zentralen Militärbezirk nach Osten verschoben – im Falle der 31. Luftlandebrigade bis zu 4’500 km (Miko Vranic und Samuel Cranny-Evans, “Analysis: ‘Vostok 2018’ a Window on Russia’s Strategic Ambitions“, Jane’s Defence Industry and Markets Intelligence Centre, 2018). Gleichzeitig verschob die Nordflotte in den pazifischen Raum und versuchte dort den Kampf mit der Pazifikflotte aufzunehmen. Zur Verteidigung wurde der östliche Militärbezirk mit rund 3’500 Mann und 24 Helikopter sowie 6 Kampfflugzeugen chinesischer Verbände sowie mit einer kleineren Anzahl mongolischer Truppen verstärkt. Die eigentlichen Kampfübungen der Bodentruppen und der Luftstreitkräfte wurden im Raum Tsygol in der Region Transbaikalien in der Nähe des russisch-chinesisch-mongolischen Dreiländerecks durchgeführt. Russland setzte dabei 25’000 Militärs, 7’000 Kriegsgeräte sowie 250 Kampfflugzeuge und -helikopter ein (Michael Kofman, “Vostok 2018 Strategic Maneuvers: Exercise Plan“, Russia Military Analysis, 10.09.2018). Bei Luftlandeübungen wurden mehr als 700 Soldaten und 51 BMD-2 Luftlandepanzer mittels Fallschirm in den Einsatz gebracht (Michael Kofman, “Vostok 2018 – Day 3 (September 13)“, Russia Military Analysis, 14.09.2018). Präzisionsmunition wurde während der Übung so gut wie keine eingesetzt, was darauf hinweisen könnte, dass die russischen Streitkräfte nur über wenig Reserven verfügen und diese deshalb eher für den Einsatz in Syrien als für Übungen vorbehalten (Michael Kofman, “Vostok 2018 Days 5-6 (September 15-16)“, Russia Military Analysis, 17.09.2018).

Fussnoten
[1] In 2013, jedoch nicht während der Übung Zapad, wurde ein fiktiver nuklearer Angriff auf Schweden simuliert, wobei sich zwei TU-22M3 Backfire-C Bomber, eskortiert durch vier Su-27 Flanker, rund 30-40 km an die schwedische Insel Gotland annäherten. Dies sind jedoch keine unüblichen technischen Übungen und deshalb nicht überzubewerten (David Cenciotti, “Russian Tu-22M Backfire Bombers Escorted by Su-27 Flankers Simulate Night Attack on Sweden“, The Aviationist, 22.04.2013; Zysk, 2018, S. 9).

Im dritten Teil wird die mögliche Weiterentwicklung der russischen Streitkräfte für die Zeitperiode bis Ende 2030 besprochen und ein abschliessendes Fazit gezogen.

Posted in Armed Forces, History, International, Patrick Truffer, Russia, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why Thailand’s Military Government Needs to Prepare for Climate Change

by Austin Michael Bodetti. He researches the intersection of Islam, culture, and politics in Africa and Asia. He visited Thailand in July 2015.

In just four and a half years in power, Thailand’s military government has found itself facing a plethora of challenges. These difficulties range from a stubborn insurgency waged by Malay separatists in the provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Songkhla, and Yala to growing potential for economic stagnation as bureaucrats in Bangkok fret over a precipitous drop in visitors to one of Asia’s top tourist destinations. Thai generals have also jailed protesters and other opponents as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch continue to criticize the military government for often disregarding human rights. In addition to this variety of dilemmas, the military junta will soon have to confront the rarely discussed problem of climate change. Global warming, like the actions of the military government, is undermining the national security of the Western world’s most important ally in Southeast Asia. Thailand can resolve the majority of these troubles by mixing environmentalism with democratization and reform. Environmentalists and politicians, not generals, can direct Thailand to sustainable development.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cham (left) is talking with the Swiss President Alain Berset (right) during an Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), on October 18, 2018, in Brussels, Belgium. Chan-o-cha is a retired Royal Thai Army general. In May 2014, he staged a military coup against Thailand's civilian government and then assumed control of the country as head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (left) is talking with the Swiss President Alain Berset (right) during an Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), on October 18, 2018, in Brussels, Belgium. Chan-o-cha is a retired Royal Thai Army general. In May 2014, he staged a military coup against Thailand’s civilian government and then assumed control of the country as head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

Despite the rising urgency of the international community’s push to deal with the consequences of global warming, Thailand has continued to struggle with dangerous environmental issues as varied as air pollution, deforestation, soil erosion, and water scarcity. Thailand’s rapid, successful transformation from a developing country to a regional power has likely fueled at least some of these problems.

As the country’s governing body, Thailand’s military bears responsibility for addressing these environmental issues and preventing them from snowballing into an ecological disaster. From a more immediate standpoint, climate change is also interfering with Thailand’s military capability and national security. “The Impact of Climate Change on Occupational Health and Productivity in Thailand,” a report by Nuntavarn Vichit-Vadakan, Sasitorn Taptagaporn, and Uma Langkulsen from Thammasat University noted that heat stroke had become a major issue for the success of Thailand’s recruit training.

The Thai generals responsible for environmental policy have begun implementing a handful of countermeasures. In January 2017, the military government suspended all gold mining operations in an attempt to limit damage to the natural environment. In April 2018, Thailand closed a beach popular with foreign tourists because of damage caused by climate change. Thai officers are also training with their counterparts in Myanmar to coordinate emergency management for natural disasters caused by global warming.

Thai soldiers connected pipes to reroute water away from the Tham Luang Cave in June 2018. The cave was brought to international attention on July 2nd, 2018, when twelve members of a junior association football team and their assistant coach were found deep inside the cave. They had become trapped due to monsoonal flooding.

Thai soldiers connected pipes to reroute water away from the Tham Luang Cave in June 2018. The cave was brought to international attention on July 2nd, 2018, when twelve members of a junior association football team and their assistant coach were found deep inside the cave. They had become trapped due to monsoonal flooding.

Thailand has gone as far as enlisting its most powerful ally in its bid to counter global warming and engage with the environmental movement. In June 2015, the Royal Thai Armed Forces and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) oversaw what a U.S. Defense Department report described as “the fifth annual Pacific environmental security forum”, designed “to develop foreign nation capacity in several environmental security areas through combined projects within the USINDOPACOM AOR”. This step better prepared Thai officers to appreciate climate change’s effects on international security.

Though these efforts suggest that the environmental policy of Thailand’s military government is heading in the right direction, the Southeast Asian country must go further. The Thai leadership needs to combine support for environmentalism with the restoration of democracy and respect for human rights if the military junta wants to blunt the damage of global warming to Thailand’s economy, national security, and future as a whole. Thai officials have acknowledged the consequences of these failures.

“All these factors have contributed to the existing state of natural resources”, the Office of the Prime Minister concluded in its presentation on “the twelfth national economic and social development plan“, which addressed the consequences of economic growth for the many environmental issues facing Thailand. “Forest areas are decreasing. Soil becomes unfertile [sic]. Biodiversity is threatened. Coastal ecosystems are destroyed. Water resources cannot meet consumption demand. Environmental problems escalate simultaneously with the growth of the economy and urbanization.”

Floods and other natural disasters instigated by the side effects of global warming are becoming more pressing concerns for Thais. A number of Twitter users have documented floods that hit Thailand in December 2018, an ominous warning sign. Meanwhile, climate change will likely come to threaten the livelihoods of countless farmers in Thailand, where agriculture comprises 10 percent of gross domestic product and employs as much as 49 percent of the Southeast Asian country’s workforce.

In close contact with nature: A Thai soldier shows a U.S. counterpart how a snake native to Thailand constricts its prey into unconsciousness. Thai soldiers shared their knowledge of the jungle with U.S. troops participating in the Cobra Gold military exercise in Thailand. The annual Cobra Gold has been held since 1982. It serves to improve coordination between the armed forces of the United States and Thailand in both hostile military environments and humanitarian efforts.

In close contact with nature: A Thai soldier shows a U.S. counterpart how a snake native to Thailand constricts its prey into unconsciousness. Thai soldiers shared their knowledge of the jungle with U.S. troops participating in the Cobra Gold military exercise in Thailand. The annual Cobra Gold has been held since 1982. It serves to improve coordination between the armed forces of the United States and Thailand in both hostile military environments and humanitarian efforts.

If the military government wants to take a proactive approach to these problems, the first step should include forging sincere connections with the environmental movement and the rest of civil society. Thai activists have already signaled their interest in supporting the goals of the environmental movement in their homeland, yet the military junta has so far responded by arresting environmentalists.

Despite this danger, 1,250 environmentalists gathered in Chiang Mai, the largest city in Northern Thailand, to demonstrate against plans to replace local forests with upscale housing developments in April 2018. A colonel from the Royal Thai Police said that protesters “focused on environmental issues and not politics”. This admission suggested that the environmental movement is gaining momentum in a country that the news media has long oversimplified as a land of coups d’état and political scandals.

If the military junta wants to prepare Thailand for climate change, the generals in Bangkok must integrate an aggressive environmental policy with democratization, reform, and outreach to civil society and the international community. Only a civilian government representative of Thais across the political spectrum can ensure the kind of mass mobilization needed to respond to global warming.

Maya Bay Beach, known from the movie „The Beach“ starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is overrun by tourists. With 200 ships and 4,000 visitors daily, Thai authorities announced last year that the island would be closed every year for four months to let the local environment to regenerate.

Maya Bay Beach, known from the movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is overrun by tourists. With 200 ships and 4,000 visitors daily, Thai authorities announced last year that the island would be closed every year for four months to let the local environment to regenerate.

Thailand could bolster any engagement with environmentalists by following the Indonesian example of encouraging religious support for the environmental movement. Indonesian activists, clerics, and gurus have framed environmentalism as an obligation for Muslims, whom they portray as responsible for protecting all life. Buddhist monks, meanwhile, have taken a similar approach to responding to the dangers of climate change in Thailand. Mongabay even dubbed them “ecology monks“. Thailand can take advantage of this trend by billing environmentalism as a matter of Buddhist ethics.

The international community can amplify Thailand’s efforts to curb the effects of climate change. The United Nations Development Program has expressed its eagerness to assist Thailand with preserving its mangroves as part of a wider goal “to support local communities through a series of activities focused on increasing knowledge about the importance of preserving marine and coastal ecosystems”. For its part, the UN Environmental Program has been advising Thailand on efficient energy use.

Thailand’s Western allies may offer the Southeast Asian country their own forms of assistance. Australia is already collaborating with Thailand on devising responses to climate change mitigation, such as greenhouse gas removal. The Peace Corps, an American initiative to promote cultural diplomacy in the Global South, has even integrated environmental education into its program in Thailand.

Engagement with civil society and the international community will put Thailand on the path to democratization and sustainable development while preserving the country’s military capability and national security. If the generals now in charge of Thailand cede authority to a civilian government and encourage support for the environmental movement, they can serve as a model for other Asian countries that have struggled with climate change and where militaries wield social influence, including Myanmar and Pakistan. Thailand’s status as a regional power has positioned it well for this role.

Posted in Austin Michael Bodetti, Climate Change, English, International, Security Policy, Thailand | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Brief Reflection on Nairobi’s Riverside Attack

by Paul Pryce. With degrees in political science from both sides of the pond, Paul Pryce has previously worked as Senior Research Fellow for the Atlantic Council of Canada’s Canadian Armed Forces program, as a Research Fellow for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an Associate Fellow at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs. He has also served as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces.

Tragically, on January 15, the Kenyan capital of Nairobi bore witness to another terrorist attack by al-Shabaab, a militant Islamist group based in Somalia and affiliated with al-Qaeda. Gunmen stormed 14 Riverside Drive, a building in the affluent Westlands neighbourhood that hosts a hotel popular among foreign visitors and several government offices, killing 21 people.

People are evacuated by a member of security forces at the scene where explosions and gunshots were heard at the Dusit hotel compound, in Nairobi, Kenya January 15, 2019. (Photo: Baz Ratner).

People are evacuated by a member of security forces at the scene where explosions and gunshots were heard at the Dusit hotel compound, in Nairobi, Kenya January 15, 2019. (Photo: Baz Ratner).

This is only the most recent of attacks perpetrated by al-Shabaab on Kenyan soil, following the September 2013 siege of the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that killed 71, the mass shootings at Garissa University College that killed 152 in April 2015, and numerous others.

These attacks are concerning because they indicate that, despite numerous defeats dealt to al-Shabaab in the Somali Civil War, the group still maintains the capacity to launch successful attacks against civilian targets in neighbouring countries. As such, much analysis in the aftermath of the Riverside attack will no doubt focus on questions of border security and Kenya’s role in Somalia’s intractable internal conflicts. However, it is also important to reflect on the response by the Kenyan authorities to the most recent attack and how crisis management practices have developed in Kenya since the Westgate atrocity.

First, in responding to the Riverside attack, Kenyan security forces demonstrated a much more coordinated approach. Upon surrounding the building, both police and military personnel took direction from the General Service Unit (GSU), a paramilitary force principally concerned with counter-terrorism. In 2013, there was very little coordination between police and military personnel, with different officers attempting to seize operational control. This bureaucratic bickering generated such confusion that a friendly fire incident occurred, with soldiers opening fire on a special forces police unit as they advanced through the building, killing one and injuring another.

Furthermore, in the absence of power plays between the military and police, Kenyan forces carefully and cautiously cleared the Riverside building. This limited the exposure of Kenyan security personnel to harm and ensured relatively few casualties. The Garissa University College attack carried such a heavy death toll in part because the authorities’ response was rushed, leading to a firefight and the detonation of the attackers’ suicide vests. Although two detonations were reported heard at the Riverside building, this occurred before the entry of Kenyan security forces and the source of the detonations is still unclear at the time of this writing.

Kenyan Red Cross workers provide first aid to injured victims. (Photo: Daniel Irungu).

Kenyan Red Cross workers provide first aid to injured victims. (Photo: Daniel Irungu).

However, there were serious issues with government communications during the Riverside attack. Fred Matiang’i, Kenya’s Minister of Interior, announced at 11:00pm local time on January 15 that the Riverside building had been secured and the terrorist threat neutralized. This proved erroneous, as gunfire continued on the scene for more than another four hours. To be the first to share with the nation the news that security has been restored would be a boon to almost any political career, but it is imperative in crisis situations that information be released to the public from a single source and only when that information has been verified. The hasty release of unreliable information can exacerbate a crisis and undermine confidence in public institutions. In the interests of national security, Minister Matiang’i should have deferred to President Kenyatta regarding the timing and substance of the announcement regarding the counter-terrorism response.

In addition, in the coming weeks and months, Kenyan political leaders will need to resist the impulse to revamp the National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism (NCVE), introduced in September 2016, in response to public outrage at the Riverside attack. Prevention and de-radicalization efforts in Kenya are still at an early stage, and it would be regrettable to divest from that approach before it can pay dividends. This sustained commitment to counter-terrorism strategy is vital, especially amid heightened concerns that homegrown terrorists will emerge as a greater threat to Kenyan security than al-Shabaab militants. Indicative of this, in July 2016, a police officer at a police station in Kapenguria, West Pokot County turned his weapon on his colleagues, killing seven in a lone wolf attack before being killed himself by GSU personnel. De-radicalization programs have a role to play in preventing such incidents.

Despite the terrible suffering and loss of life, the Riverside attack could have been even more catastrophic. Clearly, Kenya’s security apparatus has improved, learning from the tragedies at Garissa University College and the Westgate shopping mall. What is now required is the internalization of these lessons by the Kenyan political leadership.

Posted in Algeria, English, Kenya, Paul Pryce, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ein weiter Weg: Die russische Militärreform – Teil 1

von Patrick Truffer (an English version follows later). Er arbeitet seit über 15 Jahren in der Schweizer Armee, verfügt über einen Bachelor in Staatswissenschaften der ETH Zürich und über einen Master in Internationale Beziehungen der Freien Universität Berlin.

Reformen sind schmerzvolle Prozesse, insbesondere innerhalb risikoaversen, komplexen, stark hierarchisch strukturierten und institutionalisierten Organisationen. In ihnen definieren Standardabläufe die Arbeit und die Problembehandlung, insbesondere in einem Umfeld der Unsicherheit. Der Einzelne wird gemäss einem definierten System trainiert, belohnt und befördert – er wird erzogen, Aufgaben in einer ganz bestimmten Art und Weise zu erledigen und sobald diese Person den Status eines Vorgesetzten erhält, wird er auch seine Unterstellten so erziehen. Arbeitsabläufe werden damit so stark in einer Organisation institutionalisiert, dass sie sogar nach dem Ende ihrer Zweckmässigkeit erhalten bleiben und nur gegen Widerstand abgelegt werden. Ein gutes Beispiel dafür ist die Langlebigkeit der berittenen Kavallerie in westlichen Streitkräften. Barry Posen, Professor der Politikwissenschaften und Direktor des MIT Security Studies Program, beschreibt in seinem Buch “The Sources of Military Doctrine” zwei Bedingungen unter denen militärische Organisationen bereit sind, eine grundlegende Reform durchzuführen: Wenn zivile Einflüsse ausserhalb der betroffenen militärischen Organisation dies erzwingen (Politik, Gesellschaft, fehlende Finanzen, fehlendes Personal usw.) oder nach einer Niederlage (Posen, S. 31f, 44).

Schweizer Kavallerieschwadron 1972, ein Veteranen-Traditionseinheit der Schweizer Armee, hier in der Uniform von 1972 defilierend. Als 1972 die Schweizer Armee ihre letzten 18 Dragoner-Schwadronen auflöste, endete damit die letzte echte Kavallerie in Europa

Schweizer Kavallerieschwadron 1972, ein Veteranen-Traditionseinheit der Schweizer Armee, hier in der Uniform von 1972 defilierend. Als 1972 die Schweizer Armee ihre letzten 18 Dragoner-Schwadronen auflöste, endete damit die letzte echte Kavallerie in Europa.

Dass Reformen schmerzvolle Prozesse sind, musste auch die russische Armee erfahren. Formell am 7. Mai 1992 gegründet, war sie über Jahre hinweg eine ideologische Weiterführung der sowjetischen Streitkräfte, stammte doch Personal und Material aus der Roten Armee (Carolina Vendil Pallin, “Russian Military Reform: A Failed Exercise in Defence Decision Making“, Routledge, 2008, S. 51). Auch wenn es mehrere Anläufe zu einer umfassenden Reform der russischen Streitkräfte gab, wurde diese erst rund 16 Jahre später ernsthaft in Angriff genommen. Damit zeigen die russischen Streitkräfte exemplarisch auf, wie hoch der Druck für die Umsetzung einer umfassenden Reform sein muss. Der damit verbundene finanzielle und zeitliche Aufwand ist immens. Die russischen Streitkräfte zeigen jedoch gleichzeitig, was innerhalb von 10 Jahren erreicht werden kann.

Dieser Artikel will der Frage nachgehen, welche Faktoren die Reform der russischen Streitkräfte angetrieben haben, wie sich die Fähigkeiten der russischen Streitkräfte in den letzten 10 Jahren verändert haben und, basierend auf dem neusten staatlichen Rüstungsprogramm, wie sie sich bis 2030 verändern könnten.

Konsolidierungsphase nach dem Ende des Kalten Kriegs

[…] the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and compatriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself. Individual savings were depreciated, and old ideals destroyed. Many institutions were disbanded or reformed carelessly. – Russischer Präsident Vladimir Putin, 2005, an der jährlichen Ansprache an das russische Parlament.

Das Ende des Kalten Kriegs und der Zerfall des Ostblocks stellten die russischen Streitkräfte vor eine anspruchsvolle Herausforderung. Doktrinal setzte die Sowjetunion ihr Schwergewicht auf die Territorialverteidigung gegenüber einem externen, staatlichen Gegner, welcher auf konventioneller Ebene durch eine Massenarmee bekämpft werden konnte. Sowjetische Kommandanten basierten auf einer hohen Waffen- und Mannschaftsstärke, jedoch kaum auf Technologie und Mobilität (Alexei G. Arbatov, “Military Reform in Russia: Dilemmas, Obstacles, and Prospects“, International Security, vol 22, no. 4, April 1998, S. 99).

Aus finanziellen und demographischen Gründen konnte Russland eine solche Massenarmee nach dem Ende des Kalten Kriegs nicht aufrechterhalten. Von den rund 3,4 Millionen sowjetischen Soldaten gingen rund 2,7 Millionen in die russischen Streitkräfte über, wurden bis 1999 jedoch auf rund eine Million zusammengekürzt. Gleichzeitig standen die russischen Streitkräfte unter einem immensen finanziellen und sozialen Druck. Waren während des Kalten Kriegs noch mindestens 15% des BIPs der Sowjetunion für militärische Zwecke vorgesehen, umfassten die Ausgaben für die russischen Streitkräfte 1999 noch rund 3% des um drei Viertel geschrumpften BIPs. Fehlende finanzielle Mittel, eine prekäre wirtschaftliche Situation aber auch der unter den russischen Politikern mehrheitlich herrschende Konsens, dass die USA und die NATO keine militärische Bedrohung darstellen würden, erschwerte die Bemühungen der russischen Generäle einen höheren Anteil des staatlichen Ausgabebudgets zu erhalten.

Statistik über einige wichtige Systeme der russischen Armee (zum Vergrößern auf das Bild klicken).

Statistik über einige wichtige Systeme der russischen Armee (zum Vergrößern auf das Bild klicken).

Die Rahmenbedingungen änderten sich 1999 jedoch grundlegend. Nicht nur stiegen die staatlichen Einnahmen wegen der weltweit steigenden Rohstoffpreise, sondern mehrere internationale Entwicklungen führten zu einer langfristigen Abkehr der Integrationsbestrebungen Russlands in die westlich geprägte Weltordnung und zu einer veränderten Bedrohungsauffassung. Die mit der Aufnahme von Polen, Tschechien und Ungarn nach Osten ausweitende NATO sowie die 12 Tage später erfolgte Bombardierung Jugoslawiens im Rahmen der NATO Operation “Allied Force” führten zu einem nachhaltigen Vertrauensverlust Russlands in die langfristigen Absichten der USA. Nicht nur war Russland mit Jugoslawien kulturell, religiös aber auch militärtechnologisch verbunden und hatte ein militärisches Eingreifen der NATO im UN-Sicherheitsrat zu verhindern versucht, sondern die NATO-Operation zeigte Russland demonstrativ die Effektivität von konventionellen Präzisionswaffen und damit verglichen die Fähigkeitslücken der russischen Streitkräfte auf. Damit nicht genug: Mit der “continuing openness to the accession of new members” beabsichtigte die NATO ihre expansive Osteuropastrategie weiterzuführen. Aus russischer Sicht wandelte die zusätzliche Ermöglichung von “out-of-area” Einsätzen im neuen strategischen Konzept vom April 1999 das nordatlantische Verteidigungsbündnis zu einem offensiven militärischen Sicherheitsinstrument der USA und ihren Verbündeten.

Die im Juni 1999 durchgeführte Übung Zapad war nicht nur die grösste nach 1985, sondern ein politisches Zeichen gegenüber den USA und der NATO. Als Szenario diente eine fiktive NATO-Offensive gegen Kaliningrad und Weissrussland. Die drohende Niederlage Russlands gegenüber dem konventionell überlegenen Gegner wurde gegen Ende der Übung mit dem fiktiven Einsatz von Nuklearwaffen in Mitteleuropa und an der US-amerikanischen Westküste beantwortet (Pallin, S. 114). Strategisch handelte es sich dabei um eine “Eskalation zur Deeskalation”, wobei ein mit Massenvernichtungswaffen und/oder konventionellen Waffen übermächtiger Gegner mit einem lokal begrenzten Nuklearschlag zur Aufgabe gezwungen werden soll. Dieser strategische Ansatz verfolgte bereits die NATO während des Kalten Kriegs gegenüber der konventionell auf dem europäischen Kontinent überlegenen Sowjetunion. Dieses Vorgehen floss schliesslich in die russische Militärdoktrin 2000 ein (Matt- hew Kroenig, “The Renewed Russian Nuclear Threat and NATO Nuclear Deterrence Posture“, Issue Brief, Atlantic Council, Februar 2016).

Im September 1995 - angeblich vom damaligen russischen Verteidigungsminister Pavel Grachev genehmigt - wurden mögliche russische Gegenmassnahmen zur NATO-Osterweiterung diskutiert, darunter der Einsatz taktischer Atomwaffen. Im Oktober 1995 veröffentlichte die Nezavisimaya Gazette eine Karte, die angeblich vom russischen Verteidigungsministerium stammte und einen russischen Atomschlag gegen Tschechien und Polen sowie eine gemeinsame konventionelle Offensive gegen die baltischen Staaten darstellt. (Quelle: Peter Szyszlo, “Countering NATO Expansion: A Case Study of Belarus-Russia Rapprochement“, NATO Research Fellowship 2001-2003, June 2003, p. 9f).

Im September 1995 – angeblich vom damaligen russischen Verteidigungsminister Pavel Grachev genehmigt – wurden mögliche russische Gegenmassnahmen zur NATO-Osterweiterung diskutiert, darunter der Einsatz taktischer Atomwaffen. Im Oktober 1995 veröffentlichte die Nezavisimaya Gazette eine Karte, die angeblich vom russischen Verteidigungsministerium stammte und einen russischen Atomschlag gegen Tschechien und Polen sowie eine gemeinsame konventionelle Offensive gegen die baltischen Staaten darstellt. (Quelle: Peter Szyszlo, “Countering NATO Expansion: A Case Study of Belarus-Russia Rapprochement“, NATO Research Fellowship 2001-2003, June 2003, p. 9f).

Die Realität wies jedoch auf ein innerstaatliches, aus dem Süden stammendes Bedrohungspotential hin, auf welches die russischen Streitkräfte nicht vorbereitet waren. Ausbildung, Ausrüstung und Vorgehen aus der Sowjet-Ära erwiesen sich im Ersten Tschetschenienkrieg zwischen Ende 1994 und Herbst 1996 als völlig unzureichend. Während einer von tschetschenischen Separatisten durchgeführten Serie von Bombenanschlägen auf Wohnhäuser ab Anfang September 1999 kamen 239 Personen ums Leben und mehr als 1’000 Personen wurden verletzt. Bis zum Ende des Zweiten Tschetschenienkriegs 2009 kam es in Russland immer wieder zu medienwirksamen, gewalttätigen Übergriffen tschetschenischer Separatisten. Beispiele sind die Geiselnahme von rund 850 Personen im Moskauer Dubrowka-Theater im Oktober 2002, bei deren Befreiung mindestens 170 Personen ums Leben kamen, oder die Geiselnahme von rund 1’100 Personen (darunter 777 Kinder) in der Schule von Beslan im September 2004. Im Falle Beslans wurde die Erstürmung der Schule durch mehrere T-72B Kampfpanzer, BTR-80 Schützenpanzer und Kampfhelikopter unterstützt. Dabei wurde sowohl mit dem 14,5mm Wladimirow KPW Maschinengewehr des BTR-80 wie auch mit der 125mm Kanone des T-72B auf die Schule geschossen. Dementsprechend hoch waren die Verluste: 334 Tote (Kim Murphy, “Aching To Know“, Los Angeles Times, 27.08.2005). Nicht nur erforderten diese neuen Bedrohungsarten eine andere militärische Struktur, Operationsführung und Taktik, sondern auch andere Gerätschaften, mehr Technologie, Präzisionswaffen und eine höhere Mobilität. Trotzdem sperrten sich die Generäle erfolgreich gegen eine umfassende Reform. Weder war der politische und gesellschaftliche Druck hoch genug, noch waren die dazu notwendigen finanziellen Mitteln vorhanden. Das änderte auch nach 1999 nicht schlagartig, denn trotz höherem Budget flossen bis in die 2000er-Jahre hinein die vorhandenen finanziellen Mitteln mehrheitlich in den Unterhalt, in die Lohnausgaben und in Sozialleistungen anstatt in Forschung, Entwicklung und Rüstung (Mike Bowker und Cameron Ross, “Russia After the Cold War“, Routledge, 2000, S. 223ff). Die fehlenden Investitionen in die Rüstungsindustrie und die Tatsache, dass strategisch wichtige Teile davon sich in der Ukraine befanden, hatte einen bis heute spürbaren Effekt auf die Entwicklung neuer Waffensysteme, welche zwar oftmals vollmundig angekündigt, jedoch nicht in den erwünschten Stückzahlen produziert werden können.

Der halb versunkene U-Boot-Jäger "Slawny" (links) befindet sich am 22. Dezember 1994 im Hafen von Baltiysk in Kaliningrad, einer von nur noch zwei verbliebenen Basen der einst stolzen sowjetischen Flotte.

Der halb versunkene U-Boot-Jäger “Slawny” (links) befindet sich am 22. Dezember 1994 im Hafen von Baltiysk in Kaliningrad, einer von nur noch zwei verbliebenen Basen der einst stolzen sowjetischen Flotte.

Trotz Widerstand einiger Generäle wurde auf politischen Druck in einer Konsolidierungsphase bis 2003 zahlreiche sowjetische Waffensysteme ausgemustert. Diese Systeme waren technologisch veraltet, im Unterhalt zu teuer, zahlenmässig viel zu umfangreich vorhanden und hatten bei der innerstaatlichen Krisenbewältigung keinen Nutzen. Vom Ersten Tschetschenienkrieg geprägt wurde der Fokus auf die innerstaatliche Krisenintervention und ab 1999 – als Kompensation für die fehlenden modernen konventionellen Systeme – schwergewichtig auf den Erhalt des strategischen Kernwaffenarsenals gelegt. Die Strategische Raketentruppe war die einzige Teilstreitkraft, welche personell nahezu vollständig besetzt war, eine hohe Kampfbereitschaft sowie Kommando- und Kontroll-Fähigkeiten aufweisen konnte (Arbatov, “Military Reform in Russia”, 123). Ab 1999 wurden die SS-27 Topol-M (mobile ICBM, non-MIRV) Bestände stetig ausgeweitet, ab 2010 die RS-24 Yars (ICBM, MIRV) eingeführt. Ausserdem kaufte Russland 1999 bzw. 2000 3 Tupolev Tu-95 Bear und 8 Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack (strategische Bomber) von der Ukraine und begann mit der Modernisierung der bestehenden strategischen Flotte (“Russia”, The Military Balance, vol. 100, 2000, S. 117).

Der Kaukasuskrieg 2008 und die Serdyukov-Reform

Seit seinem Amtsantritt im Januar 2004 versuchte der georgische Präsident Mikheil Saakashvili erfolglos mit politischen Mitteln die abtrünnigen georgischen Regionen Südossetien und Abchasien wieder einzugliedern und erwog ab 2005, wenn notwendig, dazu militärische Mittel einzusetzen. Als die georgischen Streitkräfte in der Nacht auf den 8. August 2008 die Sezessionisten in der südossetischen Stadt Tskhinvali mit der Artillerie bombardierten, erwartete Saakashvili, dass mit US-amerikanischer Unterstützung eine Gegenaktion der Russen verhindert werden kann (Heidi Tagliavini, “Lessons of the Georgia Conflict“, The New York Times, 30.09.2009). Die Russen haben jedoch nur auf eine solche Gelegenheit gewartet: Bereits vor dem Kaukasuskrieg 2008 haben sie ihr Truppenkontingent in Nordossetien auf rund 9’000 Mann aufgestockt und in der Grenzregion zu Abchasien die Eisenbahninfrastruktur ausgebaut. Kurz nach der georgischen Bombardierung stiessen die Panzer der russischen 58. Armee durch den Roki-Tunnel nach Südossetien vor. Innert kürzester Zeit standen sich in Südossetien und Abchasien rund 25’000-30’000 russische, sowie 12’000-15’000 georgische Soldaten gegenüber. Russland setzte ausserdem rund 200 Flugzeuge, 40 Helikopter und 1’200 gepanzerte Fahrzeuge ein (Pavel Felgenhauer, “After August 7: The Escalation of the Russia-Georgia War”, in The Guns of August 2008: Russia’s War in Georgia, Routledge, 2009, S. 173; Ariel Cohen und Robert E. Hamilton, “The Russian Military and the Georgia War: Lessons and Implications“, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, June 2011, S. 12). Bei ihrem Vorgehen basierten die russischen Streitkräfte auf der sowjetischen Einsatzdoktrin schnell eine übermächtige Konzentration aufzubauen, bei gegnerischen Kontakt die Wucht auszunützen sowie ohne grosse Feuerunterstützung und Flankenschutz möglichst weit vorzustossen. Für den russischen Erfolg war somit das rasche Einfliessen grosser Mengen gepanzerter Mittel in Südossetien sowie die Eröffnung einer zweiten Front in Abchasien entscheidend – taktisches Können war eher zweitrangig (Cohen und Hamilton, “The Russian Military and the Georgia War”, S. 26ff).

Durch ihre zahlenmässige Überlegenheit haben die russischen Streitkräfte den Kaukasuskrieg 2008 zwar für sich entschieden, die Leistung war jedoch äusserst blamabel. Aus verschiedensten Gründen war der Generalstab bei Kriegsausbruch nicht in der Lage die Operation von Moskau aus zu führen und mit den eingesetzten Verbänden eine sichere Verbindung aufzubauen (Cohen und Hamilton, “The Russian Military and the Georgia War”, S. 23). Zur Not wurden die Verbände über Netze georgischer Telekommunikationsanbieter mittels Mobiltelefon befehligt (Pavel Felgenhauer, “After August 7”, S. 67). Doch auch die Verbände waren nicht auf den Krieg vorbereitet. Gemäss dem russischen Generalstabschef Nikolay Makarov waren nur 17% der Bodentruppen, 5 der 150 Regimenter der Luftstreitkräfte und rund die Hälfte der Kriegsschiffe kampfbereit (Dmitry Solovyov, “Russian Army not fit for Modern War: Top General“, Reuters, 16.12.2008). Das russische globale Satellitennavigationssystem Glonass, Präzisionswaffen, satelliten- oder lasergesteuerte Geschosse, anti-radar Raketen und Drohnen standen nicht zur Verfügung. Fehlender Zugriff auf Satellitenbilder veranlassten die Russen einen Tupolev Tu-22 Bomber zur Aufklärung über Georgien einzusetzen, wo er schliesslich durch die georgische Luftabwehr abgeschossen wurde (Cohen und Hamilton, “The Russian Military and the Georgia War”, S. 34f). Die eingesetzten Helikopter verfügten über keine Ausrüstung zur Freund-Feind-Erkennung und über kein Funksystem, welches mit den Bodentruppen interoperabel gewesen wäre, weshalb sie zur Luftnahunterstützung der Infanterie nicht eingesetzt werden konnten (Dale R. Herspring, “Is Military Reform in Russia for ‘Real’? Yes, But …”, in The Russian Military Today and Tomorrow: Essays in Memory of Mary Fitzgerald, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2010, S. 154). Ausserdem verfügten die Kampfflugzeuge nur über limitierte Fähigkeiten zur elektronischen Kriegsführung und sie konnten während der Nacht nicht eingesetzt werden. Trotzdem sicherte sich Russland die Luftüberlegenheit über das gesamte Gebiet, was aber durch die Tatsache, dass Georgien nur über 8 Kampfflugzeuge und 24 Helikopter verfügte und diese bewusst nicht einsetzte, keine aussergewöhnliche Leistung darstellte (Cohen und Hamilton, The Russian Military and the Georgia War, S. 37).

Ein Konvoi russischer Truppen auf dem Weg durch die Berge zum bewaffneten Konflikt nach Südossetien am 9. August 2008.

Ein Konvoi russischer Truppen auf dem Weg durch die Berge zum bewaffneten Konflikt nach Südossetien am 9. August 2008.

Während den fünf Kriegstagen verloren die russischen Streitkräfte sechs Kampfflugzeuge, wobei vier von den eigenen Truppen abgeschossen wurden (Bettina Renz und Rod Thornton, “Russian Military Modernization“, Problems of Post-Communism, vol 57, no. 1, Februar 2012, S. 48). Trotz fehlender Gegenwehr konnte die amphibische Operation in Abchasien nur mit Müh und Not durchgeführt werden. Dies war der Auslöser für den Kauf der französischen Mistral-Schiffe (Cohen und Hamilton, “The Russian Military and the Georgia War”, S. 51). Bei 60-75% der eingesetzten Kampfpanzer handelte es sich um alte T-62, T-72M und T-72BM, welche über keine moderne Reaktivpanzerung, keine Nachtsichtausrüstung, keine fortschrittlichen Kommunikationsmittel und kein überlegenes Feuerkontrollsystem verfügten (Roger N. McDermott, “Russia’s Conventional Armed Forces and the Georgian War“, Parameters 39, Spring 2009, S. 72). Die sowjetische Einsatzdoktrin gegen die nach westlichen Massstäben trainierten und mit moderner Technologie ausgerüsteten georgischen Verbänden hatte desaströse Konsequenzen: Beinahe alle 30 Fahrzeuge der Kommandogruppe der 58. Armee wurden zerstört, dabei viele der Stabsoffiziere getötet oder verwundet, darunter auch der Kommandant (Cohen und Hamilton, “The Russian Military and the Georgia War”, S. 28f). Einzig die Luftlandetruppen und der Lufttransport von Mannschaft, Ausrüstung und Nachschub hatten im Kaukasuskrieg 2008 überzeugt.

We must focus on the modernization of our armaments. The Caucasian crisis, the Georgian aggression, and ongoing militarization make this task a top priority of our state. – Russischer Präsident Dmitry Medvedev am 11. September 2008 zitiert in Roger N. McDermott, “Russia’s Conventional Armed Forces and the Georgian War”, S. 68.

Einsatzdoktrin, Ausbildung, Führung, Ausrüstung und Infrastruktur der russischen Streitkräfte waren irgendwo zwischen 1970 und 1980 stecken geblieben (Herspring, “Is Military Reform in Russia for ‘Real’?”, 2010, S. 152-56). Das abgegebene Bild im Kaukasuskrieg 2008 stimmte nicht mit den Grossmachtsansprüchen der politischen und militärischen Führung überrein. Dieses bittere Eingeständnis ermöglichte die erste umfassende Reform, welche durch den Verteidigungsminister Anatoliy Serdyukov eingeleitet wurde. Mit der Reform sollten die Streitkräfte einsatzbereiter, mobiler und professioneller sowie technologisch besser ausgestattet werden (Bettina Renz, “Russian Military Capabilities after 20 Years of Reform“, Survival, vol. 56, no. 3, Mai 2014, S. 61). Dazu wechselte Serdyukov in einer ersten Phase von einem auf Divisionen zu einem auf Brigaden basierendem System. Dies sollte zu mehr Handlungsfreiheit, Flexibilität und Führbarkeit verhelfen. Gleichzeitig wurde der Personalbestand um rund 200’000 Mann reduziert. Es handelte sich dabei grösstenteils um reformkritische und ältere Offiziere (Keir Giles und Andrew Monaghan, “Russian Military Transformation – Goal in Sight?“, U.S. Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, 2014, S. 7). Erst in einer zweiten Phase ging es um die Modernisierung der Waffensysteme, was sich jedoch als schwierig erwies. Die Eigenproduktionen basierten ausschliesslich auf sowjetischer Technologie, so dass einige Systeme aus dem Ausland beschafft werden mussten. Im Rahmen der Modernisierungsanstrengungen wurden bei den Bodentruppen ab 2010 mehr als 20’000 T-72 und T-80 Kampfpanzer sowie um die 18’000 Schützenpanzer verschrottet. Die verbleibenden Panzer wurden kampfwertgesteigert – beispielsweise der T-72 zum T-72B3. Insbesondere die Einheiten im südlichen Militärdistrikt wurden mit T-90A Kampfpanzer und BTR-82A Schützenpanzer ausgestattet (Keir Giles, “A New Phase in Russian Military Transformation“, The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, vol. 27, no. 1, January 2014, S. 153). In den Jahren 2011/12 wurden signifikant mehr Kampfflugzeuge an die Luftstreitkräfte ausgeliefert, welche jedoch mit keinen fundamental neuen Technologien aufwarteten. Auch der aus der Serdyukov-Reform stammende Suchoi Su-57 (aka PAK FA T-50) – gemäss russischen Angaben ein Kampfjet der 5. Generation – basiert prinzipiell auf sowjetischer Technologie (Vladimir Karnozov, “Russia places initial Production Order for Stealth Fighter“, Aviation International News, 03.07.2018). Wegen einer nach dem Kalten Krieg vernachlässigten Rüstungsindustrie und dem damit verbundenen Know-How-Verlust gab es bis zum Ende der Serdyukov-Reform grosse Defizite bei der Informations- und Radartechnologie sowie bei den Präzisionswaffensystemen (Jonas Grätz, “Russlands Militärreform: Fortschritte und Hürden“, hrsg. Christian Nünlist und Matthias Bieri, CSS Analysen zur Sicherheitspolitik, no. 152, April 2014, S. 4).

Im zweiten Teil geht es um die progressiv einsetzende Verbesserung der russischen Streitkräfte als Konsequenz der Militärreform, welches im Krieg in der Ukraine und in Syrien sowie in den Grossübungen der letzten beiden Jahren offensichtlich wurde. Schliesslich im dritten Teil wird die mögliche Weiterentwicklung der russischen Streitkräfte für die Zeitperiode bis Ende 2030 besprochen und ein abschliessendes Fazit gezogen.

Posted in History, International, Patrick Truffer, Russia, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reimagining Defence Cooperation in the Bay of Bengal

by Paul Pryce. With degrees in political science from both sides of the pond, Paul Pryce has previously worked as Senior Research Fellow for the Atlantic Council of Canada’s Canadian Armed Forces program, as a Research Fellow for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an Associate Fellow at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs. He has also served as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces.

In September 2018, joint military exercises were held near Pune, India under the auspices of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). These exercises were unusual in that defence cooperation is not one of the fourteen priority areas for cooperation identified by the seven member states (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand). Although counter-terrorism and transnational crime are included as one of the organization’s less-developed priorities, successive meetings of BIMSTEC National Security Chiefs have focused almost exclusively on “soft” approaches to counter-terrorism, including intelligence sharing, de-radicalization programs, and joint investigations into money laundering schemes that could be used to finance terror.

The push to hold these exercises and add a more explicit defence component to BIMSTEC’s work reportedly came from India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But why? With India marking 10 years since the Mumbai terrorist attacks, which led to the deaths of at least 174 people, and general elections expected in April or May of 2019, Modi is eager to remind the Indian public of the improvements to the security situation since he came to power in 2014. Adding BIMSTEC to India’s security toolbox plays somewhat to this domestic political considerations. Another explanation lies in the growing narrative around the idea of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” advanced by the United States under President Donald Trump. By spearheading defence cooperation in BIMSTEC, India may be trying to reassert its own geopolitical agency, as some Indian government officials and strategic thinkers have increasingly expressed concern that the US sees India only as a proxy in its rivalry with China.

Jungle training shooting and precision practice at BIMSTEC, September 14, 2018.

Jungle training shooting and precision practice at BIMSTEC, September 14, 2018.

No matter India’s motivation to push for these exercises, the effort seems to have back-fired. Just a week after hosting BIMSTEC’s annual summit in Kathmandu, the Nepalese government announced that it was withdrawing its participation from the exercises and would only send three military personnel as observers. Then, on September 17th, Nepal initiated a 10-day joint exercise with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) near Chengdu, China – just one day after BIMSTEC concluded its own exercises near Pune. Nepal has long been the subject of a geopolitical tug-of-war between China and India, even escalating to the point that, in 2015, a fuel blockade was instituted by India to protest what seen as growing Nepalese alignment with China. That Nepal, presented with a clear choice between participating in Indian or Chinese-led war games, chose China over India is indicative of the level of influence India is now able to exert over its northeastern neighbour.

Thailand also abstained, though this decision was conveyed to the other BIMSTEC member states well in advance and it was attributed to budgetary considerations. Had the Indian side planned the exercises prior to the start of the 2018-2019 fiscal year, it might well have been possible for the Thai Ministry of Defence to budget accordingly. As such, while it may have been politically embarrassing for Prime Minister Modi that both Nepal and Thailand opted not to join the exercise, few conclusions can be derived from this as to where Thailand stands in the rivalry between China and India.

The small-scale of the Pune exercise also undermines the credibility of BIMSTEC as a tool for regional defence cooperation. Each of the five participating countries sent only an infantry platoon, comprised of 30-40 soldiers. The most advanced equipment in the exercise consisted of a few Indian Army Mi-17 helicopters, used to practice helicopter insertions as part of hostage rescue operations. By way of comparison, joint counter-terrorism exercises organized by the PLA and Tajikistan in October 2016 simulated combined arms operations and involved more than 10,000 soldiers. Substantially greater outreach and military resources will be necessary if Indian policymakers are serious about taking BIMSTEC in this direction.

PUNE, INDIA - SEPTEMBER 14: Jungle training shooting and precision practice at BIMSTEC, a joint Military exercise, organized at Maratha LI, Aundh, on September 14, 2018 in Pune, India. Bimstec (Bay of Bengal initiative for multi-sectoral technical and economic cooperation) nations have sent in troops to participate in the first joint training exercise with the focus of fighting terrorism at the transnational level. The participating contingents are given detailed lecture cum demonstrations and then moved on to the field for practice rounds. At the foreign training node on Friday, cordon and search operations, raid on terrorist hideouts, intelligence gathering ops, and hostage rescue operations were demonstrated by the troops. (Photo by Ravindra Joshi/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)As a confidence- and security-building mechanism (CSBM) among the participating countries, however, the exercise delivered some value. After all, armed conflicts have emerged in recent years between some BIMSTEC members. For example, in 2001, a clash between Bangladeshi and Indian border guards led to the deaths of 19 people and the displacement of thousands of others. In 2006, heavy gunfire was again exchanged across sections of the India-Bangladesh border but no casualties were reported (Supriya Singh, “Bangladesh in 2006: Teetering Political Edifice and Democracy“, IPCS Special Report, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, March 2007, p. 7f). Tensions have persisted on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border since 2000, exacerbated by the activities of militant groups based in Myanmar, such as the Arakan Army. Troops from Thailand and Myanmar would also benefit from the opportunity to train alongside one another, given the history of tensions on their shared border as well.

As the leading military power in the Bay of Bengal region, the future of this initiative will depend on the degree to which India is committed to its success. For the peace and stability of India’s neighbourhood, it would be worth a more deliberate effort.

Posted in English, India, International, Paul Pryce, Security Policy | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Rezension: Sicherheitspolitik Verstehen

Von Marcus Seyfarth. Marcus ist Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Lehrstuhl für Öffentliches Recht, insbesondere deutsches und europäisches Verwaltungsrecht, von Prof. Ulrich Stelkens an der Deutschen Universität für Verwaltungswissenschaften Speyer. Als Mitgründer der Facebookgruppe “Sicherheitspolitik” engagiert er sich ehrenamtlich im sicherheitspolitischen Umfeld.

Sicherheitspolitik verstehenSicherheitspolitik ist gerade für Laien eine schwer zu durchdringende Materie. Mit einem knapp 200 Seiten starken Buch – unter dem Titel “Sicherheitspolitik verstehen: Handlungsfelder, Kontroversen und Lösungsansätze” – haben sich der Generalleutnant a.D. Kersten Lahl und Prof. Dr. Johannes Varwick von der Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg der Aufgabe gestellt, die Grundlagen zum besseren Verstehen zu vermitteln.

Wie gut dies gelungen ist, soll in dieser kurzen Rezension einem prüfenden Blick unterzogen werden. Der Verlag hat uns hierzu dankenswerterweise ein Rezensionsexemplar zur Verfügung gestellt.

Nachdem Deutschland in den 90er-Jahren von “Freunden umzingelt” war, ist im Zuge der letzten Dekade auch im allgemeinen Bewusstsein das Erfordernis einer aktiven Beschäftigung mit Sicherheitspolitik zurückgekehrt. Die Liste der gegenwärtigen sicherheitspolitischen Herausforderungen ist entsprechend lang, beginnend vor der südlichen Haustür Europas in Nordafrika, dem zunehmend aggressiveren Auftretens Russlands in Georgien (2008) und in der Ukraine (seit 2014), die nukleare Aufrüstung in Asien als auch dem jüngst angeschlagenen Verhältnis in den Beziehungen zu den USA. Dazu treten globale Phänomene wie internationaler Terrorismus, Staatszerfall und unkontrollierte Migrationsbewegungen, so dass auch die Autoren konstatieren: “Krisen kennzeichnen heute den Normalfall im internationalen Alltag – und Europa bleibt davon keineswegs unberührt”.

Umso wichtiger sei es den Autoren nach in der öffentlichen Debatte einen breiten und aufgeklärten Diskurs über die Hintergründe, Zusammenhänge, Perspektiven und Risiken zu führen, um eine hinreichende Akzeptanz für oft unbequeme politische Entscheidungen zu gewinnen. Die Autoren warnen eindringlich davor, dass dafür keine einfachen Patentrezepte existieren und viel von den gesetzten politischen Prioritäten und getroffenen Wertungen abhängt. Auch gäbe es immer z.T. erhebliche Ungewissheiten, so dass jegliches Handeln oder Unterlassen keine Erfolgsgarantie mitbringt.

Der Anspruch, den die Autoren bei der Vermittlung der Grundkenntnisse an sich selbst stellen, ist hoch. So heißt es im Vorwort, dass man “ohne dogmatische Verengung, aber auch ohne Scheu vor unbequemen Argumenten die enorme Komplexität heutiger Sicherheitspolitik für die Leserinnen und Leser reduzieren, strategische Zusammenhänge sichtbar machen und auf diesem Wege die Dialogfähigkeit in der öffentlichen Meinungsbildung stärken” will.

 
Gleich zu beginn werden 7 Thesen formuliert, welche einen Bogen das gesamte Werk hindurch spannen. Dazu gehört etwa, dass Prävention in aller Regel die effizienteste und wirkungsvollste Form der Sicherheitsvorsorge ist, ein vernetzter Ansatz aller Akteure und Instrumente unverzichtbar ist, viele verschiedene Perspektiven und Narrative zu berücksichtigen sind, Solidarität und Lastenteilung auch mitunter einen militärischen Beitrag Deutschlands erfordern und die Zukunft der europäischen Sicherheitsvorsorge in multilateralen Verbünden liegt. In sechs Kapiteln (Inhaltsverzeichnis siehe oben) werden jene Thesen weiter vertieft. Dabei wird zunächst ein Blick auf die Grundideen moderner Sicherheitsvorsorge geworfen, zudem wird herausgearbeitet was heute leistbar ist und wünschenswert wäre, und bei all dem die Suche nach der strategisch richtigen Balance bei der Ressourcenallokation nicht vergessen. Zudem wird ein Blick auf verschiedene Denkschulen geworfen, welche die Internationalen Beziehungen durchziehen. In weiteren Kapiteln werden konkrete “Treiber der Unsicherheit” beschrieben, u.a. Pandemien, Auseinandersetzungen um Ressourcen oder Flucht und Migrationsbewegungen oder strategische Handlungsfelder, Instrumente und Akteure der Sicherheitspolitik vorgestellt. Zuletzt wird der sicherheitspolitische Handlungsbedarf für Deutschland umrissen – in diesem Kapitel führt eine Analyse der gegenwärtigen Defizite auf eine Vielzahl von Handlungsempfehlungen für die Politik.

Mit Ausnahme des letzten Kapitels endet jeder Abschnitt mit drei grundlegenden Diskussionsfragen, die sehr breit angelegt sind und ein wenig an eine mündliche Prüfung erinnern. Diese sollen neben der Festigung des Stoffes der Reflektion dienen.

Findet man im Buch leider nicht! Bilder sagen manchmal mehr als Tausend Worte!

Bilder sagen mehr als Worte!

Bewertung
Lobend ist die Zielsetzung sowie das Füllen der Lücke zu erwähnen sicherheitspolitischen Laien einen ersten Kompass mit auf den Weg zu geben. Das Werk bietet inhaltlich auch einen aktuellen Überblick über zentrale Aspekte der Sicherheitspolitik, deren Verständnis unverzichtbar für eine bessere Durchdringung gegenwärtiger Fragen sind.

Stellenweise sind die Ausführungen etwas knapp geraten und wohl dem Anliegen geschuldet, den Umfang des Werkes nicht zu stark ausufern zu lassen. Das ist grundsätzlich ein lobenswerter Gedanke. Doch fehlt es punktuell damit an Raum, um dem Stoff mehr Tiefe oder dem Leser weitere hilfreiche Erläuterungen zu geben. Inhaltlich könnte man etwa die Reformdiskussionen um die Vereinten Nationen weiter ausführen und die Fehler der gegenwärtigen Konstruktionen sowie mögliche Konzepte diese zu beseitigen noch umfassender heraus arbeiten. Dafür könnte in den ersten beiden theoretischen Kapiteln durch eine stärkere Konzentration auf das unbedingt Notwendige Platz geschaffen werden.

Das Lesevergnügen schwerwiegender beeinträchtigt, dass die Autoren dem Ziel der Komplexitätsreduzierung zumindest in sprachlicher Hinsicht nicht vollends gerecht geworden sind. Man muss es ganz offen sagen, die erzählerische Umsetzung ist – wie in der deutschen Fachliteratur leider üblich – über weite Strecken überaus abstrakt, distanziert und wissenschaftlich-professoral gehalten.

Auf die Bedürfnisse der nicht fachkundigen Leser könnten die Autoren durch eine stärkere sprachliche Vereinfachung und Prägnanz, einem bildhaften Erzählstil oder stellenweise tiefer gehenden Erläuterungen noch deutlich besser eingehen. Mit anderen Worten: Laien könnten bei der Reise auf fremdes Terrain noch besser mitgenommen werden. Dazu täte dem Werk die ein oder andere Tabelle oder Grafik zur besseren Übersicht gut, etwa um die Rüstungsausgaben und Kräfteverhältnisse zu veranschaulichen. In der gegenwärtigen Fassung ist das Werk damit eher einem akademischen Publikum mit großem Interesse und genügendem Vorwissen als Überblickswerk empfohlen, weniger der breiten Masse.

Lahl, Kersten und Varwick, Johannes: Sicherheitspolitik verstehen: Handlungsfelder, Kontroversen und Lösungsansätze. Frankfurt/M: Wochenschau Verlag, 2018.

Posted in Book Reviews, Marcus Seyfarth, Security Policy | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Aktau Agreement: Another Kick at the Caspian Can?

by Paul Pryce. With degrees in political science from both sides of the pond, Paul Pryce has previously worked as Senior Research Fellow for the Atlantic Council of Canada’s Canadian Armed Forces program, as a Research Fellow for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an Associate Fellow at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs. He has also served as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces.

The Caspian Sea has long been a potential geopolitical flashpoint. Following the Iranian Revolution and the new regime in Iran’s renunciation in 1979 of the Russo-Persian Treaty of Friendship, questions arose as to the legal status of the Caspian Sea. These questions became more pressing with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, as the Caspian now has five littoral states with conflicting claims – Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, and Turkmenistan – and estimates suggest that this inland sea holds reserves worth 48 billion barrels of crude oil and 292 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. This lack of clarity has at times fueled tensions, such as a series of maritime border incidents in 2000-2001 between Azerbaijan and Iran.

However, there has been significant momentum in 2018 toward clarifying the legal status of the Caspian Sea. In August 2018, the five littoral states signed the Aktau Agreement (text of the agreement), which stipulates that each will have 15 nautical miles of sovereign waters, in addition to a further 10 miles of fishing area, though how to delimit these boundaries is absent from the text of the agreement. If it is ultimately determined that the baseline should be measured from the shorelines of each littoral state, this was a surprising concession by Iran, which has the smallest Caspian shoreline and where some policymakers reportedly still resent the loss of control over the Caspian Sea that resulted from Iran’s defeat in the Russo-Persian War of 1826-1828. For his part, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin heralded the agreement as having “epoch-making significance“.

The Aktau Agreement does not address all points of contention regarding the Caspian Sea, though. Beyond the lack of detail concerning the boundaries, the status of subsoil resources is not discussed. Although Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov stated in a press conference that these issues would be addressed in “a separate agreement“, there is little reason to believe that negotiations beyond Aktau will be any more fruitful than those which precipitated the current, vaguely-worded agreement. As such, tensions over the Caspian Sea are likely to persist in the medium- to long-term.

This situation suits Russia’s short-term interests well. Were the status of the Caspian Sea clarified, Turkmenistan could finally pursue its proposed Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline, a subsea project which would transport approximately 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas each year to Azerbaijan’s Sangachal Terminal, from which the natural gas could be shipped to Turkey and the European Union. Various iterations of this project have been considered since 1999, with each scuttled by border disputes and concerns regarding the security situation in the Caspian region. Although Nord Stream II – an expansion by Gazprom of its existing natural gas pipeline from Vyborg, Russia to a terminal in Greifswald, Germany – would have vastly greater export capacity than the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline, the addition of Turkmen supply to the European market would lower prices and, as a result, would reduce Gazprom’s profits. Without a formal delimitation of the maritime boundaries among the littoral states, it is unlikely that Turkmenistan will be able to proceed with its own competitor to Nord Stream II.

Yet this pre-occupation with pipeline projects undermines Russia’s potential influence in Central Asia and the Middle East. The strategic interests of Russia and Iran currently converge in Syria, and the Aktau Agreement could potentially allow for vessels from the Russian Navy’s Caspian Flotilla to use the northern Iranian port of Anzali. The United States’ sanctions against Iran may also drive Iran closer to Russia, which may go some way toward explaining the concessions offered by Tehran in the Aktau Agreement. But there remains the risk that a violent clash could unexpectedly take place among any of the other littoral states, and refereeing between these parties would draw Russian resources away from other foreign policy objectives. For example, in 2012-2013, tensions ratcheted up between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, when the former accused the latter of undertaking seismic testing in the disputed Kapyaz/Serdar offshore oil field, and subsequently both sides intercepted civilian vessels from the other side in waters beyond their respective zones of control. Adding to these tensions, the Turkmen Naval Forces deployed considerable assets near the aforementioned Kapyaz/Serdar oilfield during its first exercises, held in 2012.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov pose for a family photo during the Fifth Caspian Summit, Aktau, Kazakhstan in August. 12, 2018.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov pose for a family photo during the Fifth Caspian Summit, Aktau, Kazakhstan in August. 12, 2018.

Such a situation could escalate in the future, especially if Russian policymakers are of the mistaken belief that the other littoral states will simply accept the “status quo” now that the Aktau Agreement has been signed. Kazakhstan has been rapidly developing its own maritime forces over the past decade out of concern for the strategic intentions of the other Caspian states. For its part, Iran has also been bolstering its Caspian presence as well, though it suffered a setback in January 2018, when IRIS Damavand, a Moudge-class frigate, sank after an accident at the port of Anzali. With such a military build-up around the Caspian, a robust response would be needed from the Russian Navy to deter violence, were a dispute among the other littoral states to escalate.

Despite the challenge the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline would present to Russia’s gas export strategy, it would be more pragmatic for Russia to press for a lasting resolution to the ongoing disputes surrounding the Caspian Sea. This could be achieved by calling for another Caspian Summit to be held in 2019 – as normally these are held biannually – and showing leadership in the negotiations regarding the delimitation of maritime boundaries and subsea resources. But it is increasingly apparent that Russian policymakers have adopted a kind of “tunnel vision”, regarding Nord Stream II as a vital means of dividing Europe and exerting further control over Ukraine. Under such circumstances, unfortunately, it is unlikely Russia will rise to the occasion, building upon the Aktau Agreement to create a lasting peace.

Posted in English, International law, Paul Pryce, Politics in General | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wagner: A closer look at Russian private security and military enterprise

by Caleb M. Larson. He covers U.S.-American security and foreign policy as well as European defense with a focus on Eastern Europe and Russia. He holds a Bachelor of Art in History from UCLA and a Master of Public Policy from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy.

The Russian private military company Wagner has a complex and convoluted history. Founded in 2013, Wagner has gone through several iterations. An early precursor of Wagner called the Slavonic Corps was sent on a short-lived mission in Syria and was quickly disbanded upon return to Russia. Some of Wagner’s leadership was also arrested, initially indicating little to no coordination with the Russian military or intelligence services. Later missions, particularly in Crimea, Central African Republic (CAR) and Sudan, indicate closer ties to Russian military and intelligence services.

To date, Wagner has conducted operations in Syria and is presumed to be part of a Russian force in the CAR and Sudan. There is also speculation that Wagner has a presence in Libya, although hard documentation is difficult to come by. Wagner’s interests in the countries are purported to operate in vary from economic gain to advancing Russian foreign policy objectives.

Some mercenary of the  Slavonic Corps in Syria presumably in October 2013.

Some mercenary of the Slavonic Corps in Syria presumably in October 2013.

 
Wagner compared to other Private Military Contractors
American Private Military Contractors (PMCs) such as Academi (formerly Blackwater USA), Triple Canopy, and DynCorp typically work under contract in support of larger military missions and have served in logistics, escort, personal protection, or in a training and advisory role, rather than exclusively on the front lines of conflict. These are support missions that are fundamentally different from Wagner’s role. Wagner partners with the Russian military for issues of transportation and logistics, similarly to their western counterparts. However, in both Ukraine and Syria members of Wagner served at times to augment Russian and/or local forces or have served as an “elite infantry“, in direct-action operations, not merely as advisors or trainers. Wagner is also reported to suffer unusually high numbers of casualties for a PMC, which suggests that in some theaters Wagner serves in primarily a combat role, rather than less hazardous non-combat tasks like training and advising.

In CAR and perhaps in Libya, Wagner’s primary mission appears to be the extraction of mineral wealth, securing arms deals, and training local specialist forces, rather than pursuing discernable foreign policy objectives in line with those of their country of origin. This differentiation is important when considering the role of the aforementioned western PMCs, who typically do not operate as independently as Wagner seems to, but are more closely bound to national objectives.

Early iteration: the Slavonic Corps
An early foray by Wagner into Syria began in September 2013, when several hundred (perhaps put to 2,000) Russian volunteers were contracted by the St. Petersburg-based Moran Security Group. These volunteers formed the short-lived Slavonic Corps, a Wagner precursor. According to their corporate website, Moran is a “an international group of companies offering premiere security, transportation, medical, rescue, and consulting services” and operates offices in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Iraq, Sri Lanka, and Guangzhou, China, and has conducted operations in various Middle Eastern and African countries, as well as maritime operations in the Indian Ocean. To date, Moran Security Group has an explicit association with the Slavonic Corps.

The volunteers were contracted rather hastily, some signing contracts on a train station platform and told to be ready to ship out on short notice. During recruiting, volunteers were under the impression that they would be operating in some capacity with the Syrian government and/or the FSB and were promised substantial sums of money within days. The reality was quite different. While there was a Syrian partner, this partner was ostensibly not the Syrian government, but rather a local strongman. At the behest of their Syrian employer, the Slavonic Corps was involved in a single skirmish that ended in near-encirclement and retreat. An opportune sandstorm allowed the Slavonic Corp to slip away and saved their annihilation, resulting in relatively light casualties (“The Last Battle of the ‘Slavonic Corps’“, The Interpreter, November 16, 2013)

The Slavonic Corps spent only about two months in Syria which is much shorter than the contracts stipulated for five months. After returning to their airfield base, the volunteers were transported to Moscow by plane. Upon arrival in Russia, their belongings and social media were searched for information related to their time in Syria. Those of higher rank were reportedly detained while those of lower rank were sent home—without pay.

Some mercenary of the Russian private military company Wagner in the Starobeshevo area of Ukraine’s Donetsk in the Summer of 2014.

Some mercenary of the Russian private military company Wagner in the Starobeshevo area of Ukraine’s Donetsk in the Summer of 2014.

 
Ukraine
In 2014, an iteration of Wagner was involved in the annexation of Crimea along with volunteers, Ukrainian military defectors, and other Russian units. Although operating under the Wagner name, those operating in Crimea were likely not the same individuals who had been to Syria in 2013, although it is possible that some command elements were retained.

Wagner’s actions in Crimea indicated a relatively high level of capability. Although unproven, Wagner is credited by some sources with several assassinations, namely the Luhansk People’s Republic’s Minister of Defense, Oleg Anashchenko, and leaders of several other armed factions, indicating a level of expertise significantly higher than that of inexperienced volunteers. Anashchenko was one of several high-level participants in an unsuccessful coup in 2014 in the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). These killings could demonstrate an instance in which Wagner and Russia coordinate to achieve Russian foreign policy objectives, as a lack of order in the LPR. Infighting among LPR leadership does not stabilize the LPR into frozen conflict and are not in Russia’s interest.

Involvement in Ukraine seemingly allowed Wagner to rebound from their debacle in Syria. Demonstrating high-end capabilities and greatly improved C2 illustrated that Wagner could carry out relatively complex missions in urban areas while avoiding civilian casualties and successfully achieving mission objectives. Their success, particularly in Crimea, was a strong indicator of renewed confidence in the organization.

Syria: second attempt
Wagner’s success in Ukraine at least partially contributed to additional responsibilities and a return to Syria. One event worthy of note was Wagner’s involvement in retaking of Palmyra, a historically important city in central Syria and formerly an ISIL bastion. Wagner was part of a combined Syrian Army/pro-government militia force that appears to have fought in association with Russian air power and suffered several casualties there.

Although Wagner was part of the successful assault on Palmyra, the mission’s success was not due entirely to Wagner’s battlefield prowess. The assembled force was allegedly around 6,000 strong, and Wagner only made up a small part of this group. Russian and Syrian airpower greatly aided the attack, as did superior numbers. Still, success at least by association seemed to have contributed to Wagner’s rehabilitated image as a capable fighting force.

Wagner’s recent involvement in Syria has been relatively well-publicized after the February 2018 debacle near Deir al-Zour in which a mixed Russian-Syrian pro-government force moved on a US commando team in the area. While exact figures are difficult to confirm concretely, casualty estimates range from a couple of dozens to over two hundred (Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “How a 4-Hour Battle Between Russian Mercenaries and U.S. Commandos Unfolded in Syria“, The New York Times, May 24, 2018). Interestingly, Russian military officials denied responsibility for the force massing against US positions. This could indicate that PMCs like Wagner serve as politically expendable cannon fodder for probing the battlefield in place for regular Russian military personnel.

CAR & Sudan Expansion

With the consent of the UN Security Council Committee created pursuant to UNSC Resolution 2127, an allocation of small arms and ammunition from the stocks of Russia’s Defence Ministry was made available to the Central African Army in late January – early February. Five military [sic] and 170 civilian instructors from Russia were sent to train CAR service personnel with the knowledge of this committee. — Artyom Kozhin, “Deputy Director of the Information and Press Department Artyom Kozhin’s answer to a media question on cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Central African Republic“, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, March 22, 2018.

In keeping with the trend of economically profitable expansion, Wagner has most likely established a presence in the CAR and Sudan. Both host contingents of Russian troops, however, it is difficult to say with absolute certainty which contingents and how many of them are employees of Wagner due to the nature of where they are and based on official Foreign Ministry statements. These “170 civilian instructors”, mentioned in a statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation in March 2018, are presumably employees of Wagner.

The CAR contains relatively large mineral deposits, namely diamonds, gold—and uranium. All three are commercially viable, and a Wagner presence in mineral-rich areas could pay large dividends for a company that is not exclusively bound by geopolitical decisions and allowed to gain financially. The Russian contingent there is reportedly operating in or near the regions where these minerals can be exploited, and long-running political instability in CAR due to competing militia groups could help facilitate this mineral exploitation (Ruslan Leviev, “Russian Presence in the Central African Republic“, Conflict Intelligence Team, April 23, 2018). Wagner’s current mission appears to be training the presidential guard of Faustin-Archange Touadéra, perhaps to curry favor for future political or mineral deals.

In November 2017, al-Bashir voiced the possibility of Sudan hosting a Russian naval base on the Red Sea, which would allow Russia to further project power into much of the Middle East, Africa, and parts of the Mediterranean. It could complement the role that Syria has played as a proving ground of sorts for newer Russian equipment, and by providing combat experience, especially to pilots.

Translation: Russian PMCs in Sudan (voiceover)

Libya
Perhaps most speculative is Wagner’s presence in Libya. An article in March 2017 detailed Russia’s involvement in Libya in support of General Khalifa Haftar. Recently, a similar claim was corroborated by a Russian source, which elaborated on possible motivations for a Russian presence in Libya—ranging from recovering money from a Gaddafi-era arms deal, completing a planned Tripoli-Benghazi rail link by Russian Railways, capitalizing on Libya’s oil reserves, being able to control refugee flows into Europe, or perhaps a combination of these issues (Dmitry Kartsev, “Russia Is Suspected of Deploying Troops to Libya, but What’s Moscow’s Play in This Muddy Conflict?“, Meduza, October 11, 2018). At this point in time, these theories are speculative, although a Wagner presence in Libya could give Russia leverage in other areas to advance Russian foreign policy objectives and is perhaps an example of the Wagner-Kremlin axis.

“Patriot”: a new iteration?
Another PMC, Patriot, is reported to be operating in Syria and CAR as well. Patriot seems to be structured in much the same way as Wagner, their recruit pool is ex-military, and Patriot works in tandem with Russian security services, but apparently pay better than Wagner and are more focused on security, training, and personal protection, depending on the theater in question.

Conclusion
PMCs in Russia serve a fundamentally different role than their western counterparts. Typically, operating more like highly trained shock troops rather than pulling guard duty or logistics, Wagner, in particular has served two primary functions—enrichment for the Wagner group itself via operations in minerally lucrative areas, or as an easily-deniable instrument of the Russian Ministry of Defense that fights to advance Russian foreign policy objectives.

Although questions of legality abound, the Wagner model is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Dead Russian soldiers can cause public opinion to sour, while dead and deniable volunteers do not. For that reason, future operations involving Wagner and other PMCs are unlikely to dissipate. Russian PMCs are here to stay.

• • •

Dangerous Investigations
It seems that Wagner is shy of the public and is probably willing to take drastic measures to protect its interests. On July 30, three Russian journalists, Orkhan Gemal, Alexander Rastorguev, and Kirill Radchenko, were killed in the CAR while investigating Wagner’s operations — probably only a coincidence. However, the investigation was funded by ex-oil tycoon Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, but officially the death of the three journalists was due to a robbery. At least two other Russian journalists have also suffered while researching Wagner, including Maxim Borodin, who suddenly fell to his death from a balcony in Yekaterinburg in April, and Denis Korotkov, a Saint Petersburg journalist, forced into hiding after receiving death threats owing to his work on Wagner. (Neil Hauer, “Russia’s Favorite Mercenaries“, The Atlantic, August 27, 2018).
Posted in Caleb M. Larson, English, Mercenary, Russia, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

China’s Long-Range Bomber Flights Pose New Threat to Regional Powers and U.S.

by Darien Cavanaugh. He is writing on politics, foreign policy, global conflict, and weapons platforms has been published at War is Boring, offiziere.ch, The National Interest, Real Clear Defense, Yahoo! News, The Week, Global Comment, and the Center for Securities Studies. To see more of his work, visit his website.

A Xian H-6K Strategic Bomber in flight.

A Xian H-6K Strategic Bomber in flight.

China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has sent its Xian H-6K strategic bombers on an increasing number of long-range flights in the Asia-Pacific region in recent years.

Before 2015, China’s bombers stayed relatively close to its coast and were regarded almost exclusively as a means of deterrence and self-defense. However, the bombers now routinely travel beyond the First Island Chain. The H-6K bombers have traveled 1,000 km from China’s coast during some of these flights, which brought them within striking distance of potential U.S. military targets in the Second Island Chain, most notably Guam.

Map of the First Island Chain and the Second Island Chain.

Map of the First Island Chain and the Second Island Chain (Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2006“, Annual Report to Congress, 2006, p. 15).

The flights are another example of how China’s military doctrine is shifting away from relying primarily on “active defense” and toward developing greater offensive capabilities, enhanced power projection, and achieving strategic goals well beyond its traditional sphere of influence. The flights are also another indicator that China increasingly believes it will be able to effectively compete with the U.S. military in the near future.

A new report from the RAND Corporation chronicles the history of China’s long-range bomber flights in the Asia-Pacific region and places them within the context of the “remarkable strategic transformation” that the PLAAF has undergone over the last two decades. “Once viewed as a backward force equipped with antiquated aircraft flown by poorly trained pilots, the PLAAF has gradually stepped out of the shadow of China’s ground forces and emerged as one of the world’s premier air forces,” the report asserts.

The shift in PLAAF doctrine can be traced back to 1999 when then-president Jiang Zemin began a push to improve both the defensive and offensive capabilities of all branches of the People’s Liberation Army and particularly the PLAAF. One of the most significant doctrinal changes for the PLAAF has been a growing emphasis on air-to-surface combat with the goal of “achieving air superiority by striking enemy aircraft and airfields on the ground” (Derek Grossman et al., “Chinas Long-Range Bomber Flights: Drivers and Implications“, RAND Corporation, 2018, p. 29).  

China’s current president, Xi Jinping, who came to power in March of 2013, has accelerated the modernization of the PLAAF and expanded its strategic goals. In April of 2014, PLAAF commander Ma Xiaotian called for the PLAAF to assume a more active role in China’s maritime security. When Lt. Gen. Ding Laihang became commander of the PLAAF in August 2017, he likewise expressed his desire to continue the PLAAF’s outward expansion. Speaking to a gathering of 1,000 trainee pilots at the PLA Air Force Aviation University in Changchun, Jilin Province, Ding stated that the PLAAF was undertaking “an unprecedented deep reform” and that achieving China’s new strategic goals “requires the ability to project power and make strikes over long distances”. He noted that “exercises on the open seas will become a regular part of training”.

Citizens watch a Xian H-6 Strategic Bomber during a theme exhibition which marks the 90th Anniversary of founding the People's Liberation Army on July 27, 2017 in Beijing, China.

Citizens watch a Xian H-6 Strategic Bomber during a theme exhibition which marks the 90th Anniversary of founding the People’s Liberation Army on July 27, 2017 in Beijing, China.

 
Historical Milestones in China’s Long-Range Bomber Flights
Since 2015, PLAAF’s H-6Ks have flown on at least 38 long-range over-water flights in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the RAND report (Derek Grossman et al., p. 1).

An H-6K strategic bomber crossed the First Island Chain for the first time by passing through the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines in March of 2015. In November of that year, four H-6Ks accompanied by one Shaanxi Y-8 and one Tupolev Tu-154 transport aircraft flew through the Miyako Strait between Okinawa Island and Miyako Island. Both of those flights reportedly flew 1,000 km away from China’s coast. A 2018 U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) report stated that during those flights the bombers flew “within LACM [land-attack cruise missile] range of Guam”.

The first H-6K flight into the South China Sea “likely” occurred in May of 2016 and crossed over Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands. The second flight, which passed over the disputed Scarborough Shoal, occurred in July of 2016, just four days after the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled against China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

After H-6Ks passed by Taiwan on several previous flights, they began circumnavigating the island in November of 2016. According to the RAND report, the PLAAF has conducted at least 14 such flights around the island, some of which included support-aircraft. On at least two occasions the support-aircraft included Sukhoi Su-30, Chengdu J-10, and Shenyang J-11 fighter jets for at least part of the journey, but the fighters broke away from the bombers and other aircraft before approaching Taiwan.

The initiation and rising operational tempo of PLAAF bomber flights is notable because it demonstrates a new capability designed to challenge U.S. military operations and threaten U.S. allies and partners. Bombers are yet another aspect of Beijing’s growing power projection capabilities that will complement its expanding maritime and missile capabilities. — Derek Grossman et al., “Chinas Long-Range Bomber Flights: Drivers and Implications“, RAND Corporation, 2018, p. 1.

 
Disputes over Taiwan and the South China Sea
Strategic signaling and external propaganda are undoubtedly two purposes of the flights, especially in regard to China’s regional rivals and territorial disputes, such as the Spratly Islands and Taiwan, which China still views as a breakaway province. For instance, the PLAAF released images of H-6K bombers flying over disputed waters for the first time in the days following the July 2016 PCA ruling against China.

According to the DoD, in the event of a conflict between China and Taiwan and its allies, H-6Ks could conduct “shorter-range strikes targeting eastern Taiwan from all directions”. Beijing has not been subtle about flaunting its military prowess at Taiwan. After H-6Ks bombers accompanied by Su-30 and J-11 fighters and several support-aircraft circumnavigated Taiwan from north to south in December of 2017, a PLAAF spokesperson referred to the flight as an “island encirclement patrol” and said the PLAAF was “an important force for effectively shaping the situation, controlling crises, containing war, and winning wars” (see also video from the Chinese state television broadcaster CCTV below). The RAND report notes that a post on the PLAAF’s official Weibo account that featured images of the bombers passing near Taiwan suggested they were in Chinese territory, an allusion to China’s claim that Taiwan is still a province of China (Derek Grossman et al., p. 22).

In September of 2016 a large group of PLAAF aircraft, including H-6Ks, Su-30s, and refueling tankers, flew through the Miyako Strait, again. The DoD report from 2017 said this was the PLAAF’s “most complex long-distance strike training to date”. The RAND report cites the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, which implies that the flight was a response to the Japanese Defense Minister Inada Miyazaki’s suggestion that the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force might join the U.S. Navy in patrols of the South China Sea (Derek Grossman et al., p. 15).

The PLAAF began conducting even more antagonistic flights near Japan in July of 2017 when six H-6Ks passed through the Miyako Strait before veering north and flying along Japan’s east coast to the Kii Peninsula in violation of Japan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). “Tokyo has already been contending with air incursions into Japan’s ADIZ by PLAAF and PLAN Aviation fighter aircraft, as well as other types of military aircraft in recent years”, the RAND report notes. “Bombers, however, are a relatively new phenomenon” (Derek Grossman et al., p. 45).

The reactions from regional governments have been somewhat muted, even when China crosses into their ADIZ zones. Japan monitors all of China’s flights near its airspace, and Taiwan intercepts all flights into its airspace, but there has otherwise been little response. Japan did, however, recently tripled the number of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters it is purchasing from the U.S.

For its part, the U.S. has maintained a continuous bomber presence, based primarily out of Guam, in the South China Sea since 2004. Both the U.S. Air Force and Navy continue to patrol near the Spratly Islands and essentially ignore China’s claim to the archipelago.

An H-6k bomber with escort.

An Xian H-6 Strategic Bomber with escort.

 
Limitations and New Capabilities
Despite the considerable improvements to the PLAAF’s capabilities over the past two decades, it still suffers from significant logistical, technological, and experiential limitations. For instance, China does not have yet overseas bases that can provide refueling or other support for long-range bomber missions, nor does it have a viable air-refuelable bomber or support-aircraft. However, according to RAND, China is developing a new model of the H-6, sometimes referred to as H-6N, that will be air-refuelable with a range of 12,000 km. The first test flight was apparently conducted at the end of 2016. At the same time, the DoD report 2018 on the Chinese military acknowledges only that “China may add an aerial refueling capability to at least some H-6s” (emphasis added).

Even if China has developed air-refuelable H-6Ks, or will do so in the near future, it currently does not have any aircraft that are reliably capable of refueling them. China has a few Ilyushin Il-78s it purchased from Ukraine in 2011, but it has not been able to integrate them fully. It also has a fleet of 12 HY-6U tankers, but as the RAND report points out, they are “too small and technologically obsolete to fulfill the needs of long-distance air combat”. (Derek Grossman et al., p. 53)

Another concern for China is that the current range limitations of PLAAF fighters would mean that H-6Ks on long-range missions would not have fighters to defend them and would therefore “be easy targets for American, Japanese, and Taiwanese air defenders long before they could get within range of Guam”.  

The PLAAF is developing a version of its Xian Y-20 heavy transport that can provide aerial refueling capabilities for both bombers and fighters such as the J-11 and the Sukhoi Su-35, which are capable of receiving aerial refueling. Adding a practical refueling tanker to the PLAAF fleet would expand the operational range of China’s bombers by a substantial distance while also enabling fighters and other support-aircraft to accompany the bombers, thus improving the survivability and effectiveness of the bombers in a combat scenario.

Y-20 flight on Airshow China 2016.

Y-20 flight on Airshow China 2016.

In addition to the development of new H-6Ks and Y-20s, China plans to have its Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter and the Xian H-20 stealth bomber that is in the final stages of development integrated into the air force by the mid-2020s. Although several J-20s are currently “in service” with the PLAAF, China is still experiencing difficulties with the jet’s engines and currently relies on Russia to manufacture them.

The H-20’s range is expected to be 10,000 km, with a combat radius of if 5,000 km. Again, the development of a practical aerial refueling craft for the PLAAF would extend that range even further. This would mean that “instead of simply relying on its MRBM [medium-range ballistic missile] and IRBM [intermediate-range ballistic missile] missile forces, the H-20 will provide Beijing with an alternative means of waging counter-intervention operations against U.S. forces at these ranges during a conflict,” the RAND report states (Derek Grossman et al., p. 50, 54).

The H-20 should also feature “nuclear-conventional integration” and may have the capability to deliver up to six KD-20 air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) or other precision-guided munitions using a rotary launcher.

An article in the China Youth Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Youth League of China, boasted that the H-20 will provide the PLAAF with a “strong electronic combat capability” that will enable it to “disturb and destroy incoming missiles and other air and ground targets through a range of equipment including radar, electronic confrontation platform, high power microwave, laser, and infrared equipment”. The article added that the H-20 is also capable of “large-capacity data fusion and transmission” and that it can “interact with large sensor platforms like UAV, early warning aircraft and strategic reconnaissance aircraft to share information and target data”.

The RAND report provided a comparably positive assessment of the benefits the H-20 would bring to the PLAAF:

“The H-20 will provide Beijing with a means of waging counter-intervention operations against U.S. and allied forces at extended ranges throughout the region in the event of a conflict. Additionally, assuming that the H-20 will retain the standoff strike capability of the H-6K, its range using air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) or air-launched ballistic missiles (ALBMs) will be even greater, potentially bringing even more distant targets into range. Coupled with other next-generation aircraft that have entered service over the last several years, including the J-20 fighter and Y-20 transport, these systems will advance China’s capability to project air power throughout Asia and possibly beyond.” — Derek Grossman et al., “Chinas Long-Range Bomber Flights: Drivers and Implications“, RAND Corporation, 2018, p. vii.

While the PLAAF is making formidable strides regarding logistical and technological advancements, it still lacks combat experience. That could prove to be its greatest hindrance to implementing a successful long-range bomber strategy. “Today, China’s military has an increasingly impressive high-tech arsenal, but its ability to use these weapons and equipment remains unclear”, Timothy R. Heath writes in a separate article recently published by RAND. “The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) struggles under the legacy of an obsolete command system, rampant corruption, and training of debatable realism, among other issues”.

More information

Posted in Armed Forces, China, Darien Cavanaugh, English, International, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment