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Defense & Security
Angry bear against the background of the Russian flag

Boil the bear: The risky path in the face of Russian aggression

by Enrico Tomaselli

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском According to the EU, Russia had set several red lines, but then allowed them to be crossed without reacting. Therefore, gradually increasing the temperature can be a good strategy... Whereas, throughout the first two years of NATO's war against Russia in Ukraine, the record of warmongering was almost equally shared between the US and the UK, more recently it has been attributed to Macron. The reasons are diverse, ranging from the great difficulty France is currently facing to the illusion of being able to take advantage of the German crisis to assume European leadership, including the political dwarfism of its president. But the underlying reason is that European leaders, almost unanimously, have essentially resigned themselves to carrying out the task left by the US: taking on the burden of the conflict in the East, supporting Kiev even beyond the last Ukrainian, if necessary. Also in this case, the reasons why Europeans have convinced themselves that they cannot escape this task are multiple. What matters is understanding how they believe they will do it, when they believe they will do it, and, obviously, if they really believe they can do it. Judging by how interventionist statements are intensifying, it seems that the timeline is not so distant; probably, in the European offices, they envision initiating an operational phase at least after the US elections, also to have a clearer idea of the White House's orientations and the timing of their public announcements. At the same time, the evolution on the battlefield does not seem very compatible with these optimistic forecasts: the arrival of good weather has already revitalized the Russian initiative along the entire front line, and the structural deficiencies of the Ukrainian army are evident. Events, therefore, could accelerate. Regarding the how, it seems quite clear that the idea is to boil the Russian bear like the proverbial frog. Step by step, counting on Moscow wanting to avoid an escalation, they will end up letting things happen without a strong response. In conclusion, it is believed that Russia had set several red lines, but then allowed them to be crossed without reacting. Therefore, gradually increasing the temperature can be a good strategy. Furthermore, the public discourse (the narrative used to prepare public opinion) is a mix of nonsense and half-truths, but reading them carefully, the design becomes clear. Macron puffs up his chest and makes aggressive statements, but then between Ukrainian requests and European readiness, the scheme emerges: start by training the Ukrainians in Ukraine (150,000 men...) so they are closer (and prepared) to the front [1]. After all, NATO countries have been training them for years, only the location changes... One imagines that such a debut would be more acceptable to European citizens, and that after all Moscow would not react beyond "strong protests." Then we'll see from there. Clearly, the weak point is the actual possibility of creating the design according to your own scheme. Firstly, the premise is that Russia behaves exactly as expected in Brussels, which, however, is not at all a fact. As always, caught up in their autism, European leaders do not listen, and even if they do, they do not understand. Here, in fact, we are beyond the light statements of Medvedev; when a diplomat like Lavrov clearly says that if Europeans want war they are prepared, it should not be taken lightly. Moreover, when Monti in turn says that "to build Europe" blood must be shed, he is simply more sincere and pragmatic than Macron. The problem, of course, is that a small-step scheme simply runs the risk of resulting in a series of useless steps. The critical problems of the Ukrainian army are basically three: lack of artillery ammunition, lack of personnel, lack of anti-missile and anti-aircraft systems. For the first one, Europeans are unable to remedy it. Even if the Russian industrial relative production did not grow (as it is happening) and remained at current levels, Europeans would take years and years to match it. As for the second one, the difficulties to solve it would be at least the same. Sending even 20-30,000 men would not have a decisive impact. Firstly, we would be talking about men with no real combat experience, let alone in a war of attrition like the one being fought. The logistic support would be very complicated, as the rear would have to be located in Poland and/or Romania, a thousand kilometers from the front. And anyway, even such a figure would amount to 5,000-6,000 men in combat. Irrelevant. It would be necessary to send at least 200 or 300 thousand men, practically the entire European NATO force, to have any impact. The Europeans could transfer almost all of their missile/anti-aircraft defense systems, leaving their respective countries almost defenseless, but this would also have a limited impact over time: the Russians would exploit the large quantities they have to saturate the defenses and destroy the batteries one after another (as Iran did with Israel). The only thing that could introduce an element of discontinuity would be the intervention of the air force. European fighter-bombers taking off from airfields outside of Ukraine, striking Russian rear areas. But this would inevitably bring the war to European soil, as it is clear that at that point the Russians would strike the departure air bases with their ballistic and hypersonic missiles. The same would happen if missile defense batteries from neighboring countries were used. Furthermore, if this level of intervention were to create problems for the Russian armed forces, it is virtually certain that at that point Moscow would resort to tactical nuclear weapons. Because for Russia, the risk of defeat in this war equates to an existential threat. And here Macron comes into play again, boldly promising the coverage of the French nuclear umbrella, the 'force de frappe'. Unfortunately, the comparison with the Russian Federation is ruthless, and the quantity of French nuclear weapons (as well as the aircraft carriers to deliver them to the target) is ridiculously smaller: At most, France can offer the shelter of a cocktail umbrella, and Moscow would turn Paris into a milkshake. Therefore, the European strategy of boiling the Russian bear slowly – though as stupid as a frog - cannot work. Gradualness simply runs the risk of exacting a very high price (in terms of casualties, wounded, destroyed weapon systems, etc.) without achieving any noteworthy result. On the other hand, an acceleration, by promptly engaging a significant force in combat, is practically equivalent to plunging Europe into a prolonged conflict, without equally managing to change the terms of the equation. Without direct intervention from the US, European countries alone are absolutely incapable of significantly engaging Russia [2]. But direct engagement is exactly what Washington shies away from, and they are very aware that once you put boots on the ground, there's no turning back, and the logic of war drags you deeper and deeper. Something they learned well from Vietnam, and they have never forgotten. Therefore, combat continues to present itself as a gamble. It's like having far fewer chips than your opponent and still betting everything without even holding a pair of twos in your hand. In all of this, of course, we have not taken into account at all the fact that there is no unified point of view - beyond the facade - among the different European capitals. Likely, there are countries - not only Hungary, or Slovakia, but also Germany and Italy... - that secretly hope for an immediate collapse of the Ukrainian army, to render any hypothesis of deploying their own forces useless. Although the scenario briefly described is very realistic, it is clear that there are those who believe that Europeans would have an excellent opportunity in a confrontation with Russia. That this is believed possible among political leaders, although dangerously disheartening, is also plausible; much worse is when it is supported by senior NATO military commanders, whose opinion cannot fail to influence political decisions. And quite a few generals, French, German, and from other countries, seem convinced that they can win the game (or perhaps just dream of a moment of glory, after a lifetime behind a desk or playing war games). [3] Certainly, what happens on the European chessboard also depends on what happens elsewhere, because this is a global game where everything is interconnected. The problem is that European leaders not only lack decision-making power, not even marginally, regarding this dimension, but they also completely lack global vision. The real one, of course, not the one that appears in the news. The coming months, therefore, will be full of consequences for the Europeans, but they will also be largely played as pawns, with their movements directed largely from outside, while the effects will be almost entirely at our expense. And it is clear that the interest of the US is to push the Europeans, but not NATO, to assume the risks and burdens of the conflict, which Washington would like to prolong indefinitely. [4] The inadequacy of leadership is another risk factor, in addition to the objectives. In this context, as we see, these leaders tend to curl up like a hedgehog; aware of their own weakness, both against the enemy they are confronting and their own citizens who do not wish to die for Kiev (not even for Washington), they are increasingly moving towards the militarization of public space, the restriction of democratic spaces, and an authoritarian shift. They wage war on the dissent of their citizens today so that they can wage war on Russia tomorrow. And if the European peoples lose this war, they will be dragged into another one, in which defeat could coincide with the extinction of European civilization as we have known it. Notes [1] According to The New York Times, due to the shortage of troops, the Kiev government has asked the US and NATO to "contribute to the training of 150,000 new recruits" within Ukraine so that they can be deployed to the front lines quicker. Obviously, this is a gigantic absurdity. However, these training camps should be located as far away from the front lines as possible to minimize the risk of being targeted (large troop concentrations are obviously an attractive target), and they would require adequate protection against air attacks; the risks and logistical efforts would far outweigh the minimal benefit of having recruits in training a little closer to the battle line. This is blatantly a ploy to bring NATO military personnel onto the ground. [2] A research done by the British newspaper 'The Daily Mail' established that in the event of an open conflict between NATO and Russia, NATO forces would not be sufficient. Although the strength of the Atlantic Alliance appears superior in numerical terms, this superiority is essentially due to the armed forces of the US, without which it significantly deteriorates. Additionally, the research does not consider, even marginally, factors such as industrial production, experience, combat capability, etc. [3] According to the commander of the combined armed forces of the Alliance in Europe, General Christopher Cavoli (USA), the Russian armed forces "lack the skills and capabilities to operate on the scale necessary to exploit any advances to gain a strategic advantage." [4] In this regard, a reputable American magazine like 'Foreign Affairs' has explicitly indicated this direction, and certainly not by chance. According to the FA, which is obviously closely aligned with the State Department, "European countries must do more [...] They should seriously consider deploying troops in Ukraine to provide logistical support and training, to protect Ukraine's borders and critical infrastructure, or even to defend Ukrainian cities. They must make it clear to Russia that Europe is willing to protect Ukraine's territorial sovereignty". After dismissing the idea that this could lead to World War III, the authors cunningly suggest that "a strictly non-combat mission would be easier to sell in most European capitals". However, they immediately stress that "Europe should consider a direct combat mission to help protect Ukrainian territory". In fact, "since European forces would operate outside the framework and territory of NATO, any losses would not trigger a response under Article 5 and would not involve the United States". And to reassure European leaders - to whom the message is clearly directed - they add: "At a certain point, European leaders must ignore Putin's threats, as they are nothing more than propaganda." The article was translated and licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 ES (Atribución-NoComercial-CompartirIgual 3.0 España).

Defense & Security
Troop carrier and tank with Ukrainian flag, Ukraine

The War in Ukraine among contemporary Armed Conflicts

by Anton Bebler

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском Abstract The war in Ukraine is the biggest, bloodiest and longest war in Europe since 1945. Its initial stage holds similarities with several other armed conflicts and wars in the last 50 years on Cyprus and in the territories of the former Soviet Union and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). Among the cases in ex-Yugoslavia the greatest similarity is seen with the war in Croatia (1991–1995). These conflicts stemmed from almost simultaneous breakdowns of two multinational ‘socialist federations’ and their communist regimes. The dissimilarity of the second stage of the war in Ukraine and the war in Croatia is primarily due to the processes of NATO and EU enlargement coupled with the USA’s policy of using NATO enlargement and Ukraine as tools to harm and weaken Russia. The conflict about Ukraine developed into an indirect war between Russia and the US-led West, where Ukraine is the West’s proxy and the main victim. The final outcome of the war in Ukraine will be decided on the battlefield and not around a diplomatic table. Still, it will be very different from that in Croatia. Responsibility for the war in Ukraine and its consequences must be shared between the two direct belligerents, the co-responsible USA and other NATO members. Introduction Among about four dozen contemporary wars, the armed conflict in Ukraine since 2014 stands out as an exceptional event. It involves in its second stage four nuclear powers –one as a direct belligerent and three as providers of many-sided assistance to the second belligerent, with the presence of military personnel of all four nuclear powers on the territory of Ukraine. The war has been the biggest, bloodiest and longest war in Europe since 1945. It has also produced a strong impact on Europe and the broader international community. According to two measures (at least), the war in Ukraine has been exceeded by a number of other wars since 1945, namely those occurring in Asia and Africa. In terms of mortality, it has been exceeded by the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Algeria, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and Iraq. In terms of duration, it is unlikely to be longer than the wars in Vietnam, Algeria, Sudan and Afghanistan. Among all these armed conflicts, the war in Ukraine may be sharply distinguished by the reverse ratio between military and civilian mortality. In the European framework, the central trigger of the first stage of the war in Ukraine was similar to what caused the armed conflicts and outright wars occurring between 1974 and 1999 on Cyprus, in Moldova, Georgia, the Russian Federation, Azerbaijan as well as on the territory of the SFRY. Among the former, the first stage of the war in Ukraine most resembled the war in Croatia (1991–1995). The war in Croatia, which started prior to its international recognition, and the war in Ukraine 22 years after its recognition as an independent state, display a number of similarities that not accidental. The second stage of the war in Ukraine has had several similarities with the war in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1999) which ended up with forceful separation of Kosovo from Serbia. The similarities The wars in Croatia and Ukraine involved two adversary pairs of neighboring and partly overlapping Slavic nations. These wars unfolded in the territories of two defunct ‘socialist federations’ – the SFRY and the USSR. The causes of both wars were closely related to the almost simultaneous breakdowns of these two federations in 1991 and the demise of their communist regimes that had preceded and caused the breakdowns. The institutional structure of the SFRY was modelled after and closely resembled the structure of the older ‘socialist federation’, the USSR. Shared features of the two included the division of each federation into full-fledged republics and autonomies. Most or all of these federal units were ethnically designated. The minorities of the biggest ethnic groups (Serbs and Russians) were not accorded autonomy within other republics. In both cases, war followed the declarations of ‘sovereignty’ and ‘autonomy’ and referenda organized by some members of the Serbian community in southwest Croatia and some members of the Russian and Russian-speaking community living in Eastern Ukraine. In each case, the central governments refused to negotiate with the insurgents and decided to suppress them militarily. The armed conflicts in Croatia and Ukraine developed into partly different combinations of civil and interstate wars. The civil war component referred to an armed conflict between the ultranationalist regime in the former second-most populous republic on one hand, and part of the biggest national minority related to the largest ethnic group in the former federation, on the other. The civil war deepened the divisions based on loyalty within both the Serbian community in Croatia and the Russian community in Ukraine. Each war was fought almost exclusively on the territory of the former second-most populous republic, which suffered the most. In both wars, the two sides were responsible for gross violations of international humanitarian law. International sanctions were applied in these two wars. The causes of each war were tangibly related to profound geopolitical changes underway in Europe about 35 years ago. These changes entailed the slackening and termination of the Cold War between two military-political blocs and the wave of liberal-democratic transformation of political systems in Eastern Europe. Over the span of 3 years, about 30 different state entities declared their sovereignty in the area of 3 ‘socialist federations’ (Yugoslavia, Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia). Of these, 23 entities survived and soon gained universal recognition as sovereign states, including Croatia and Ukraine. The specificity of the war in Ukraine Ancestors of today’s Russians and Ukrainians shared in the distant past close to 400 years of common history in Kievan Rus. In the XIII century this large state formation was destroyed by the invasion of Tatars-Mongols. The subsequent centuries-long domination of Lithuanian and Polish feudal rulers over the ancestors of today’s Ukrainians contributed greatly to their cultural and language distancing from the Russians. In 1648, the Cossack ancestors of some of today’s Ukrainians rebelled against Polish feudal rule, in 1654 begged for protection and voluntarily submitted themselves to Moscow Tsardom. For two and a half centuries, until 1917 they remained as part of the Russian empire, named Ruthenia and later Malorossiya. In 1918, an independent state was proclaimed under the new name Ukrainian People’s Republic. The name Ukraine remained under the Bolsheviks and in 1922 Soviet Ukraine became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union. Over several decades, the territory of Soviet Ukraine was more than doubled by Moscow in several successive stages in 1920–1922, 1939–1940, 1945–1947 and 1954. This was accomplished by including into it the lands of Novorossiya, with millions of Russian and Russian-speaking people in the East and South, as well as annexed parts of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania and part of Moldova in the West. In all of these cases, this was done without their population’s consent. In 1992, all these territorial gains became parts of independent Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, whereas the collective rights of the Russian and Russian-speaking population were left unprotected. From 1945 for more than four and a half decades Ukraine enjoyed Moscow’s symbolic gift – the status of a UN founding member although it had been a constituing part of another UN founding member (USSR). When Ukraine, at Moscow’s initiative attained independence it did not have to apply for UN membership which from then on it deserved. Divergent political and economic developments in the two independent states exposed a number of different interests and of problems unresolved at the time of separation. These issues, in somewhat different combinations during the two stages of the war contributed to three groups of conflictual relations: (1) between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, (2) inside Ukraine and (3) between the Russian Federation and the West, primarily USA. The non-recognition of collective minority rights by the Ukrainian authorities became a growing political problem with the rise of Ukrainian ultranationalism. Combined with divergent attitudes in Western and Eastern parts of the country concerning Ukraine’s relations with Russia, EU and NATO, language-related problems contributed tangibly to political explosions in Ukraine in February/March 2014. Since 1991, two processes have altered the geopolitical map of Europe. These are the Eastward expansion of the US-dominated NATO along with the closely intertwined enlargement of the European Union. The first stage of these two processes in 1990–1991 – the absorption of Eastern Germany into both organizations – had no impact on the internal crisis in Yugoslavia, including the conflict in Croatia. Two decades later, however, the process of NATO expansion had already reached the borders of both Ukraine and Russia, thereby adding a very real extra-regional component to the conflict in and about Ukraine. For over two decades, one of the USA’s geostrategic goals has been by fostering ‘color revolutions’ to bring about regime change in the post-Soviet space, including Ukraine and also Russia. By using Ukraine as a tool, the USA has endeavored to harm and weaken Russia. Under US pressure and notwithstanding German and French objections, at the NATO summit held in Bucharest in April 2008 Ukraine was promised membership in the alliance, yet without stating a date. Openly and strongly opposed by Russia, this decision unleashed a chain of events, 6 years later leading to a war in Ukraine. The European Union and its policy of Eastern neighborhood negatively contributed to these developments. The prospect of an association agreement with the EU deepened the internal political conflict in Ukraine and motivated a mass protest movement that was exploited in February 2014 to stage a US-guided coup d’état in Kyiv. The combination of Ukraine’s promised membership in NATO and the new regime in Kyiv fully dependent on the USA foretold that Russia would certainly lose its old naval base in Sevastopol, for which it had paid high rent since 1992. Moreover, as a NATO naval and air base, Sevastopol would pose a direct threat to Russia and its geopolitical position in the Black Sea and Mediterranean area. To thwart this threat, lightly armed detachments of Russian marines, already legally stationed on Crimea, were ordered to move in unmarked uniforms to take control of the entire peninsula. They did so without facing any resistance, on Kyiv’s strict orders, from the about 22,000 Ukrainian troops or inflicting any casualties. The Ukrainian officialdom then simply vacated Crimea. This takeover was soon followed by a successful referendum accompanied by international observers on approving Crimea’s legal separation from Ukraine and it rejoining Russia. Moscow thus took back Nikita Khrushchev’s present to Ukraine on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of its unification with Russia. First stage of the war in Ukraine Closely related to the dramatic developments in Kyiv, there were uprisings in several Ukrainian cities and proclamations of ‘‘sovereignty’’ and ‘‘autonomy’’ in Lugansk and Donetsk. These uprisings largely featured protests against the discriminatory measures adopted by the new authorities against the Russian and Russian-speaking population. The ultranationalist regime in Kyiv responded on 13 April 2014 by branding the protesters ‘‘terrorists’’, declaring a “wide anti-terrorist operation” and entrusting the Ukrainian Army to carry it out. This military operation launched the first stage of the war in Ukraine. In its attacks on the Donbas autonomists, the Ukrainian Army employed bombers, tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery while battalions of Ukrainian ultranationalist volunteers with neo-Nazi leanings and financed by Ukrainian oligarchs used artillery and light weapons. On the defending side, there were about 35,000 members of the territorial people’s militias of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as well as Russian and other (including Serbian) volunteers. The Russian Federation offered multi-sided support to the two besieged republics, encompassing financial, material, humanitarian and military assistance. Russian professional military personnel were integrated into the local militias and did not operate as separate and regular units of the Russian Army. At the same time, the US and British armed forces offered very sizeable material and other military assistance to the Ukrainian Army, also involving thousands of advisors and instructors. In numbers, they were comparable to the Russian military personnel on the other side of the frontline. By February 2022, this armed conflict had led to 14,000 to 20,000 dead. Two armistice agreements, Minsk 1 and Minsk 2, did not halt the Ukrainian shelling of Ukrainian territory, which was responsible for thousands of casualties among the civilian population of the two self-proclaimed republics. These attacks continued for more than 9 years, accompanied by gross violations of international humanitarian law. In February 2015, Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine signed the Minsk 2 agreement. It was co-signed by the leaders of Germany, France and Russia and unanimously adopted as a resolution by the UN Security Council, thereby becoming part of international law. The Minsk 2 agreement provided for peaceful resolution of the conflict in Donbas. Nonetheless, Petro Poroshenko and his successor Volodimir Zelenski refused to implement most of Ukraine’s 12 obligations, including the key provisions under which Ukraine was to grant constitutionally guaranteed autonomy to the Russian and Russian-speaking population in Donbas. In addition, Zelenski reneged on his pre-election promise that saw him win the election in 2019 and did not stop the war. Second stage of the war in Ukraine On 21 March 2021, Zelenski blatantly violated the Minsk 2 agreement and international law by ordering the Ukrainian Army to liberate the territories of the two republics and Crimea. The bulk of the Ukrainian Army was then relocated to their vicinity, clearly visible by Russian satellites. Instead of peaceful resolution of the conflict, Zelenski, no doubt with the USA’s full approval, thus decided on full-scale military suppression of the Donbas autonomists and on reconquering Crimea, well aware that it would provoke a strong reaction from Russia. On 16 February 2022, upon his order the Ukrainian Army initiated the second and much more violent stage of the war. From that date on, the intensity of Ukrainian shelling started to grow from several tens to 1,500 explosions daily. Combined with movements of Ukrainian troops, this strongly indicated that a massive attack was coming as part of implementation of the March 2021 order. It was very similar to the Georgian offensive against the self-proclaimed Republic of Southern Ossetia on 7 August 2008. This escalation was no doubt coordinated with US President Joe Biden, who publicly predicted that Russia would invade on 16 February 2022. Ukraine’s stepping up the level of violence successfully provoked a predictable Russian response. On the political and legal levels, this entailed the Russian Federation’s recognition of the two republics as independent states, signing two agreements on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance, accepting their pleas for assistance and protection in line with Art. 51 of the UN Charter and invoking the Responsibility for Protect. In the latter the Russian Federation used a very similar justification as did NATO in 1999 for its aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On the military level, Putin was faced with the real prospect of Ukraine quashing the two client Russian-speaking parastates. This would have submitted their discriminated Russian and Russian-speaking majority population to retribution by the Ukrainian ultranationalist and assimilationist regime, causing it to flee en masse across the border. He later explained that moral duty is higher than legality. Putin could not, also for domestic reasons, afford a humiliating political defeat similar to that suffered by Slobodan Milosevic in Croatia in August 1995. Unlike in August 2008 in Georgia, he did not wait for an all-out Ukrainian attack. Putin knew full well that stronger Western sanctions than those currently in place would follow, even if Russia’s response to the Ukrainian offensive were only moderate. Probably on the basis of a faulty assessment of both Ukraine’s capacity and determination to resist and the West’s response, he precipitously and knowingly in violation of international law ordered a ‘special military operation’ with an invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, by a limited contingent of Russian land forces. This move was combined with extensive destruction of the Ukrainian air force, the air defense system, and other military infrastructure. Ignoring an axiom of military science, an invading force of some 90,000 Russian land troops was sent against the Ukrainian Army thrice superior in numbers. It was also grossly insufficient and unprepared to accomplish the officially declared task of “demilitarizing” and “denazifying” entire Ukraine. In spite of its shortcomings, this force managed to swiftly occupy additional 15% or so of Ukrainian territory (some as a diversion and only temporarily) and effectively protected the two republics. It additionally established and secured a land bridge between Crimea and Donbas, made the Azov Sea part of Russia’s internal waters, took control of the largest European nuclear power station at Zaporizhie, and deprived Ukraine of its stocks of plutonium and uranium. These stocks would have been sufficient to make Ukraine the world’s fourth-strongest nuclear power. The latter was an effective response to Zelenski’s earlier declaration that Ukraine was intending to again acquire nuclear weapons. Preventing this dangerous prospect certainly served as an additional and important incentive for Putin’s decision. For USA, the by far most frequent transgressor of international law, provoking Russia into an act of aggression fitted nicely with the their strategic goal. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine provided a perfect occasion for demonizing and isolating it internationally and for uniting the West under USA’s guidance on imposing on Russia an unprecedented array of drastic economic and other sanctions. These punitive measures were expected to quickly ruin the Russian economy, hopefully bring down Vladimir Putin’s regime, defeat Russia militarily without losing American lives, and cause the fragmentation of Russia into several states (as elaborated earlier publicly by Zbigniew Brzezinski and the RAND Corporation). However, these hopes have not materialized. Moreover, the effects of the Western sanctions proved to be more harmful to the EU economies than to Russia while in no way helping Ukraine. The two wars compared Still officially undeclared by both direct belligerents, the war in Ukraine is already twice as long as the war in Croatia, and is still ongoing. There are also other important differences caused by the mismatch between Croatia and Ukraine in the size of their population and territory (approximately 1:10), and by the different configuration and extent of the theatres of war. Further, there are differences in the size and structure of the armed forces involved, in the disparities between Serbia’s and Russia’s military capabilities compared to the respective capabilities of Croatia and Ukraine. The war in Ukraine in its second stage is also unlike the war in Croatia due to the massive use of particular weapons systems (notably drones and missiles). Vast differences also exist in the direct involvement of international organizations and other external actors in the two wars. In the autumn of 1991, the European Economic Community (EEC) sent Croatia its first mission of white-clad and unarmed observers who as impartial intermediaries tried unsuccessfully to stop the armed clashes between the Croatian police and Serbian insurgents. The United Nations established UNPROFOR (UN Protection Force) in February 1992, operating from Zagreb. It was followed by UNCRO (UN Confidence Restoration Operation in Croatia) in 1995–1998, UNTAES (UN Transitional Administration in Eastern Croatia) in 1996–1998, and UNMOP (UN Mission of Observers in Prevlaka) in 1996–1997. For several years, the UN-supported International Conference on Former Yugoslavia was active operating from Geneva. In comparison, there have been no UN or EU peacekeeping or observer missions in Ukraine. The UN General assembly has adopted a number of resolutions related to the war in Ukraine. In several resolutions it deplored and condemned Russia’s invasion with huge majorities for and only five votes against. The OSCE had no observer missions in Croatia, but deployed two such missions in Ukraine, notably the sizeable OSCE Special Monitoring Mission from 2015 until March 2022. In addition, the OSCE played an active role in facilitating the Minsk 1 and Minsk 2 ceasefire agreements. Extra-regional states were not openly involved in the war in Croatia. In 1991–1992, the Croatian forces included 456 foreign fighters (British, French, German et.al.), accompanied by about 2,000 private American military instructors. On the other hand, Ukraine has received huge support from several dozen foreign states, in particular the USA, as well as other NATO and EU members in the form of heavy arms, ammunition, training, intelligence, economic and humanitarian assistance. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, since 2022, 13.387 foreign fighters, mercenaries and volunteers joined the Ukrainian Army of whom 5.962 lost their lives. Polish citizens have been most numerous in both categories – 2.960 enlisted and 1.497 dead. They are followed by Americans and others. This strong external involvement transformed the local war into an extra-regional armed conflict between Russia and the US-led collective West, with Ukraine acting and sacrificing its soldiers and itself as the West’s proxy. The war in Croatia and its outcome were closely linked with the war in neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina, while there has been no similar regional linkage of the war in Ukraine. The war in Ukraine has also had by far a bigger international political and economic impact on other countries, not only in Europe, than the war in Croatia. Most importantly, there are enormous differences between the two wars in the number of dead (at least 1:25), number of refugees and displaced persons (approximately 1:25), and extent of destruction and amount of economic damage (at least 1:20). The war has inflicted considerably greater damage on Ukraine as a state and on Ukrainian society than the war did on Croatia. Since 2014, the population under Kyiv’s control has so far been reduced by at least one-third and the territory by close to one-fifth. It is estimated that the Ukrainian Army, National Guard and volunteers have suffered well over 400,000 deaths. Ukraine has also lost a good deal of its industrial capacity, agriculture, energy generation and critical infrastructure. The war’s continuation suits the USA’s geostrategic, chiefly anti-Russian objectives, whereas Ukraine is paying a horrible price for them. The dragging on war of attrition is sapping Ukraine’s ability to sustain itself, at least in its already rump shape. It increases the probability of Ukraine becoming (again) a landlocked country on less than a half of its territory internationally recognized since 1992. The first stage of the war in Ukraine and the war in Croatia revealed substantial similarities as far as their causes and destructive consequences were concerned. On the other hand the second stage of the war in Ukraine strongly differs by being predominantly an interstate war and the first interstate armed conflict in Europe caused by NATO enlargement. As a result, the war in Ukraine is sharply distinguished by its magnitude, destructive outcomes, violations of international humanitarian law, international impact, and the involvement of great powers. At the beginning of the second stage of the war in Ukraine, the Russian Army pre-empted the anticipated Ukrainian version of an offensive akin to the Croatian operations “Flash” and “Storm”. It not only prevented the possibility of Volodimir Zelenski’s triumphant entrance in Donetsk like Franjo Tudjman’s entrance in Knin. The Russian Federation also annexed four Ukrainian provinces with Russian and Russian-speaking majorities in their populations and the Russian Army occupied a good share of them. In 2014 and 2022, Moscow thus took back a considerable part of former Novorossiya given to Soviet Ukraine in 1920 and 1954. Unlike in Croatia, but like in Kosovo (1999) the war in Ukraine has extended the list of the more than three dozen new or de facto changed borders between European states since 1945. Responsibility for the war in Ukraine In a speech given at the UN General Assembly, US President Joe Biden ascribed Russia with full responsibility for the war in Ukraine. Yet, in fact, a number of states are directly responsible or co-responsible for its outbreak and continuation, including notably USA. First, the war was initiated by the Ukrainian Army in April 2014 according to orders of the Ukrainian interim Presidency. Under two subsequent Presidents Poroshenko and Zelenski, Ukraine violated two armistice agreements and sabotaged realization of the Minsk 2 agreement on peaceful resolution of the Donbas conflict. President Zelenski failed to fulfil his pre-election pledge to end the war, a pledge that had seen him win the election in 2019. On 21 March 2021, he ordered the Ukrainian Army to attack Donbas and Crimea in direct violation of both the Minsk 2 agreement and of international law. The Ukrainian leadership’s orders to steeply increase the artillery shelling of Donetsk from February 16, 2022 on, together with the movement of troops provoked an invasion by the Russian army. This led to the armed conflict transforming from an internal to largely an interstate war. In April 2022, President Zelenski reneged on an initialed agreement with the Russian Federation on resolving the conflict, as forged with assistance from the leaders of Israel and Turkey as intermediaries. Ukraine is responsible for the casualties and damage caused by its forces in Ukraine and in the Russian Federation. On the other hand, the Russian Federation has grossly violated the UN Charter, the Helsinki principles, and a dozen international treaties and agreements by which it guaranteed Ukraine’s security and sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders. In February 2014, it committed an act of aggression by occupying and annexing Crimea. On 24 February 2022, it committed a second act of aggression by invading, occupying and annexing four Ukrainian provinces. The Russian Federation is responsible for the casualties and huge damage the Russian armed forces have caused on Ukrainian territory. The leading NATO members are co-responsible for the outbreak and continuation of the interstate conflict and war in and over Ukraine. This primarily applies to the USA, which knowingly unleashed a chain reaction in the conflictual relations between NATO and Russia. The USA used NATO to embroil EU in this conflict, even though that contradicts the objective economic and other interests of many EU members, notably Germany. This chain reaction led to the political conflict deteriorating into a war in which the USA is using Ukraine as a tool to harm and weaken Russia. Germany and France with their swindling signatures under the Minsk 2 agreement and with subsequent policies for 7 years allowed Ukraine’s sabotaging of peaceful solution of the Donbas conflict. As leaders in the European Union’s collective foreign policy, they encouraged and supported Ukraine’s active preparations for a war with Russia. The Western powers became co-responsible for the transformation from a relatively limited internal war in Ukraine into a wider, much more lethal, bloody and destructive, predominantly interstate war. In April 2022, the USA and Great Britain prevented the conclusion of an initialed Russian-Ukrainian agreement on resolving the conflict. The members of NATO and EU by politically encouraging and by providing arms and funds to Ukraine have been enabling the continuation of this war. Without this intrusion, the war in Ukraine would already be over and very probably on better terms for Ukraine than there will actually be. The NATO and EU members will certainly fail to achieve their main declared goal – Ukraine’s victory and hence Russia’s military and political defeat. This applies chiefly to the leader of the West. After that in Afghanistan, the USA will suffer one more political defeat. On the other hand, the USA has this time been rather successful in realizing several related goals. The USA has solidified its hegemony in the Western camp and in most of Europe, reactivated NATO, attracted two new members Finland and Sweden, bolstered its dominant role in the alliance, subordinated even further and simultaneously economically and politically weakened the European Union, for quite some time poisoned Germany’s and the EU’s relations with Russia, and inflicted very considerable economic and political damage on Russia. Conclusion Ukraine is today much farther away from accomplishing its cardinal strategic goal – to re-establish its sovereignty on the entire internationally recognized territory – than it was in February 2022, let alone in February 2014. Moreover, another goal remains unattained. It was stated in Zelenski’s decree as a condition for lifting the prohibition on any negotiations with the Russian Federation – to remove Putin from the position of President. However, with his mandate expired in May 2024 Zelenski himself will certainly be out of his presidential office much sooner than Putin will be from his. On the other hand, the Russian Federation has achieved some of its strategic goals, albeit not the two declared principal ones – Ukraine’s permanent “neutralization” and “demilitarization”. Due to the two sides’ mutually excluding objectives, the final outcome of the war in Ukraine will not be decided around a diplomatic table as a compromise. Like what happened in Croatia in August 1995 and very recently in September 2023 with the fate of Nagorno-Karabakh, it will be decided on the battlefield. Still, the outcome will be very different from both cases mentioned above and certainly will not be viewed as just by both belligerents. Just like how almost all wars end. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY Baud, Jacques (2023): Ukraine entre Guerre et Paix. Paris, Max Milo. Bebler, Anton (ed.). (2015): ‘Frozen conflicts’ in Europe. Opladen, Barbara Budrich. Brzezinski, Zbigniew (1997): Geostrategy for Eurasia. Foreign Affairs 76 (5): 56–68. Goldstein, Ivo (2008): Hrvaška zgodovina. Ljubljana, Društvo Slovenska Matica. Larrabee, F. Stephen, Peter A. Wilson and John Gordon (2015): The Ukrainian Crisis and European Security. Santa Monica, RAND Corporation. Maver, Aleš (2023): Ukrajina: Od Igre Prestolov do Vojne za Samostojnost. Celje, Celjska Mohorjeva Družba. Pleiner, H. (2023): Der Konflict um die Ukraine. ÖMZ 5: 571–583. Wien. Plokhy, Serhii (2022): Vrata Evrope: zgodovina Ukrajine. Ljubljana, UMCO.

Defense & Security
USA und Nordkorea. Concept fight, War, Business Competition, Summit

Collapse of the Security Council Panel of Experts and the United States' persecutory obsession with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

by Jesús Aise Sotolongo

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Regarding Linda Thomas-Greenfield's visit to the Republic of Korea. At the end of last March (March 28th), due to Russia's veto and China's abstention in the UN Security Council, it did not extend the mandate of the Panel of Experts of the Sanctions Committee overseeing the implementation of punitive measures against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). This joint action by two of the global powers in the multilateral body has destabilized Washington, which angrily seeks an alternative that allows it to maintain its persecutory actions. Panel of Experts It is pertinent to detail that 18 years ago, under Resolution 1718 (2006), the Security Council established the Experts Group or Panel of Experts of the Sanctions Committee to oversee penalties imposed on the DPRK, which is comprised of eight specialists. In compliance with Resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), 2270 (2016), 2321 (2016), 2356 (2017), 2371 (2017), 2375 (2017), and 2397 (2017), the Experts Group has, among other functions: 1. Assist the Sanctions Committee in executing its mandate, as outlined in paragraph 12 of Resolution 1718 (2006) and paragraph 25 of Resolution 1874 (2009); ● Gather, examine, and analyze information provided by Member States, relevant United Nations bodies, and other stakeholders regarding the implementation of measures, particularly focusing on instances of non-compliance; ● Formulate recommendations on actions that the Council, the Committee, or Member States could consider in order to enhance the implementation of measures; ● Submit a midterm report to the Committee and, following deliberations with it, present such report to the Security Council; ● Assist Member States in preparing and submitting national reports on the implementation of specific measures they have adopted to effectively implement the provisions of relevant resolutions; ● Support the Committee's efforts in further developing, improving, and drafting guidance notes for the implementation of resolutions. The members of the Panel of Experts are appointed by the General Secretary of the United Nations, upon the proposal of the referred Sanctions Committee. Members of the Panel of Experts have specialized expertise in areas such as nuclear issues, control of weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms, customs and export controls, non-proliferation policy, trade, finance and economics, air and maritime transportation, and missile and related technologies. The Security Council has urged all States to fully cooperate with the Panel of Experts, particularly by providing any information they possess regarding the implementation of measures. States are encouraged to respond to all requests promptly and comprehensively for information and to invite the Panel of Experts to conduct visits and investigate alleged violations of the sanction’s regime, including inspecting assets seized by national authorities. Its current mandate will expire on April 30, 2024, in compliance with paragraph 1 of Security Council resolution 2680 (2023). Russia’s veto Moscow defended its veto in the Security Council against the renewal of international sanctions monitoring on Pyongyang, stating that it reflects "its current interests." Russia, with its veto, and China, with its abstention, blocked the renewal of the Panel of Experts, and while the sanctions will remain in effect, these actions paralyze the scrutiny of the experts. Russia's so-called "current interests" sparked varied responses ranging from vehement criticism to concerns and speculation. Criticism focuses on Moscow's position undermining multilateral efforts to monitor measures implemented by Pyongyang that circumvent sanctions aimed at blocking its missile-nuclear development, which, according to critics, has implications for international security. Meanwhile, concerns are directed towards the alleged support that the DPRK receives from its regional allies, (Russia and China) for its missile-nuclear development, countries with marked ideological differences and high levels of conflict with the United States. Meanwhile, speculations refer to Moscow's motivations being linked to the support that Russia receives from Pyongyang in arms and ammunition needed for its military operation in Ukraine. Regardless of criticisms, concerns, and speculations, the reality is that we are witnessing the culmination of a gamble that Russia and China have been making in the Security Council for a long time, proposing various initiatives to ease rather than strengthen the sanctions regime and relax its implementation. Meanwhile, their respective governments have issued official statements blaming US hostility and its allies as the fundamental cause for the DPRK choosing nuclear weapons and their delivery systems as the basis of its national defense and continuing to expand and perfect them. Russia's veto and China's abstention have led to the collapse of a structure that has long been in question for a long time, because it could not prevent violations of sanctions by an increasing number of UN Member States. Additionally, it represents a significant victory for the DPRK, which harbored deep animosity towards the Panel of Experts. Furthermore, it confirms the current state of Russo-North Korean and Sino-North Korean political-diplomatic relations in a context of various armed conflicts, both real and potential, that have been shaking the planet. Opposing positions in the General Assembly On April 12th, 2024, the UN General Assembly discussed Russia's veto. Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, argued that his country exercised the veto because UN sanctions against the DPRK have had no significant effect and have only caused a humanitarian crisis for the North Korean people. Meanwhile, China's alternate representative, Geng Shuang, stated that the Korean War has long ended, but the Cold War is still persisting. He reiterated his country's position that "there will be no resolution of the problems if the security concerns of all parties, including the DPRK, remain unaddressed," calling on all actors to work together to adopt a path to peace. He said that tensions are hindering these efforts, and that dialogue is needed, and the Security Council must play an active role. Using a typically Chinese allegory, he stated that "sanctions should not be carved in stone" and added that "harsh sanctions" against the DPRK have had a negative effect on the humanitarian situation in the country. Regarding Russia's new proposal, he expressed hope that Council members will work productively to extend the mandate of the panel of experts, a phrase that justifies China's abstention rather than a veto. The representative of the Republic of Korea to the UN, Hwang Joon Kook, condemned Russia's veto and criticized the military collaboration between Moscow and Pyongyang. He argued that it was vetoed because "Russia did not want the watchtower, the panel, to light its dark spot." He asserted that the Panel had included in its recent report that it had been investigating reports of the arms agreement between the Russian Federation and the DPRK, which constitute a clear violation of multiple Security Council resolutions. Meanwhile, Robert Wood, alternate representative of the United States, said: "...we need to uphold our obligations." He stated that, as the sponsor of the resolution to extend the work of the Panel of Experts, his delegation had sought a broad compromise and that China and Russia had had ample opportunities to discuss sanctions reform in the council. Instead, Russia gave to the Council members an ultimatum that sought one of two outcomes: to avoid sanctions against the DPRK or to silence the panel's investigations, including Moscow's acquisition of arms from Pyongyang for its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Russia's veto undermines the architecture of peace and security and deprives action on one of the Council's most pressing issues, that of peace on the Korean Peninsula. "Russia is already threatening to end the mandate of the UN Sanctions Committee that helps the Security Council monitor and take actions to deter threats to international peace and security (...) that is why it is crucial for all of us to raise our voices today in support of the non-proliferation regime, and opposition to the attempts to silence the information, we need to uphold our obligations." Meanwhile, the DPRK ambassador to the UN, Kim Song, said: "The DPRK greatly appreciates the veto by the Russian Federation..." and argued that the Council's sanctions on his country are a product of U.S. hostile policy. "If the DPRK's position of possessing nuclear weapons for self-defense is a threat to international peace and security, as claimed by the United States and its followers, we should first properly discuss why the United States is not considered a threat to international peace and security, even though it is the only country in the world to have used a nuclear weapon..." As can be seen, the contrasts in statements reflect the adversarial positions of the parties most directly involved in the issue. United States seeks for alternatives As expected, Washington immediately began plotting countermeasures in the face of the imminent dissolution of the Group that it had controlled for years. The United States representative to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, during her recent visit to the Republic of Korea, was tasked with addressing this issue, although no concrete proposals were heard. The agenda crafted for the U.S. Ambassador to the UN included several meetings, even with North Korean defectors, and culminated in a visit to the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas, a moment she deemed opportune to express her concern that the DPRK could freely develop missiles without the oversight of the sanctions monitoring body. She stated that Washington is considering "out-of-the-box" options to monitor Pyongyang's compliance with sanctions. "All possibilities are on the table," and her government is "working closely with South Korea and Japan to seek creative and original ways to move forward" in this regard. At the same time, she urged Russia and China to reverse course, to stop rewarding the "misbehavior of the DPRK," and to protect it from sanctions, which allow it to carry out activities on its weapons programs. The diplomat called on Moscow and Beijing to reverse course and urge Pyongyang to choose diplomacy, come to the negotiating table, and engage in constructive dialogue. Considering all possibilities, she stated that it could be within the UN General Assembly, "entities outside of it." We see that Washington is exploring alternative ways to the Group of Experts to continue investigating Pyongyang's sanction violations. During the press conference, Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said, "I look forward to collaborating with both the Republic of Korea and Japan, but also with like-minded countries, to try to develop options both within and outside of the UN. The point here is that we cannot allow the work that the panel of experts was doing to lapse." The U.S. representative to the UN added that Russia and China, which abstained from voting in favor of the extension, will continue to try to block international efforts to maintain monitoring of UN sanctions against the DPRK. She criticized Russia for violating these sanctions with its purchases of North Korean arms and, also China for shielding the North, stating, "I don't expect them to cooperate or agree with any effort we make to find another path, but that won't stop us from finding that path in the future." Recently, Marcus Noland, Executive Vice President and Director of Studies at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and an expert on Korean affairs, has proposed: ● That the UN General Assembly plays a more significant role in maintaining pressure on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs. This proposal emerged amid the debate over Russia's veto of a resolution to extend the mandate of the panel of experts monitoring sanctions on the DPRK. ● The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), launched on May 31st, 2003, during the George W. Bush era, represents a coalition outside the UN framework, composed of 112 members so far. It aims to stop the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems, and related materials to and from States and non-State actors of proliferation concern. This initiative is part of the foundations of the global regime against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and has maintained strong support as a presidential priority in each of the US’s administrations since its inception. It is known that Washington, in its attempt to ensure the diversification of tools to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and, apparently, foreseeing the eventual deactivation of the Panel of Experts, is seeking to strengthen and expand the PSI. Its active role in this direction involves contributing with experts, diplomats, financiers, military personnel, customs officials, and police; organizing meetings, workshops, and exercises with other States supporting the PSI; and working with specific partner States to enhance their capacity to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. ● Following the example of the United States and South Korea, who recently launched an Enhanced Disruption Working Group and jointly sanctioned six individuals and two entities based in Russia, China, and the United Arab Emirates for supporting the DPRK's weapons of mass destruction programs. According to the expert, in the absence of the Panel of Experts, these sanction’s activities can be expanded and could involve countries allied with the United States. ● Utilization of the Egmont Group, a state-led network of financial intelligence units with 174 members that shares information and collaborates on illicit financial activities. It does not have a mandate in the sanctions area, but that does not mean it cannot be granted one, and if so, the Group could assume an intensified role in monitoring North Korea's sanctions evasion in the financial sphere. The pronouncements of the US Ambassador to the UN at the DMZ suggest that the US State Department is paying attention to Marcus Noland's proposals, which, so far, are identified as the most precise ones that have emerged. However, for now, except for the UN General Assembly, which, due to its plurality, is not likely to be able to assume supervisory functions, the rest of the alternatives lack the authority of the UN as the Panel of Experts of the Sanctions Committee had. Some considerations As the DPRK strengthened its missile and nuclear capabilities, casting doubt on the effectiveness of the sanction’s regime and the performance of the Sanctions Committee's Panel of Experts, this monitoring instrument of the Security Council appeared increasingly biased and uncompromising. Despite Washington and its top allies were intensifying their demands on the State Members to comply with the measures included in the resolutions, many governments avoided implementing the sanctions or did so only partially, in addition, they often failed to submit their reports. The calls from the Chairman of the Sanctions Committee for all Member States to submit their national reports on the implementation of the resolutions comprising the sanction's regime were becoming more frequent, with representatives being reminded that these reports are mandatory. Of all the UN Member States, fewer and fewer delegations were submitting their reports, and some never did. To mitigate the apathy, the Committee held meetings with Regional Groups to ascertain the technical assistance and training needs of Member States for the effective implementation of Security Council resolutions at the national level. It became evident that the most determined to challenge the Panel of Experts were Russia and China, which in the multilateral arena deployed various initiatives to ease the sanctions regime and vetoed new resolutions, while at the same time, they relativized their application bilaterally. Everything seems to indicate that Moscow and Beijing were gauging the "loophole" through which to penetrate and cause the implosion of the Panel of Experts and saw the opportunity by vetoing its extension, which will take effect on April 30. We are witnessing exasperated actions from Washington and its top allies to at least attempt to maintain oversight to contain the nuclearization of the DPRK when they have been unable to do so through other means. However, at the same time, it is observed that the main powers in conflict with the United States are aligned with Pyongyang on various fronts, including the multilateral space, something that is strategically very favorable for all three parties. References Agustín Menéndez. Matando al mensajero: sobre Corea del Norte y las Naciones Unidas – Reporte Asia. Disponible en: https://reporteasia.com/opinion/2024/04/16/matando-mensajero-corea-del-norte-naciones-unidas/ Marcus Noland. Hobbling sanctions on North Korea: Russia and the demise of the UN’s Panel of Experts. Disponible en: https://www.piie.com/blogs/realtime-economics/2024/hobbling-sanctions-north-korea-russia-and-demise-uns-panel-experts Chad O´Carroll. UN General Assembly could monitor North Korea Sanctions, Countries Suggest. Disponible en: https://www.nknews.org/2024/04/un-general-assembly-could-monitor-north-korea-sanctions-countries-suggest/ KBS WORLD. S. Korea Envoy: Russia Vetoed UN Panel Extension to Hide it´s ´Dark Spot´. Disponible en: https://world.kbs.co.kr/service/news_view.htm?lang=e&Seq_Code=184836 UN News General Assembly debates Russia´s veto of DPR Korea sanction Panel. Disponible en: https://news.un.org/en/story/2024/04/1148431 Newsroom Infobae. La embajadora de EEUU ante la ONU visita la Zona Desmilitarizada entre las dos Coreas. Disponible en: https://www.infobae.com/america/agencias/2024/04/16/la-embajadora-de-eeuu-ante-la-onu-visita-la-zona-desmilitarizada-entre-las-dos-coreas/ Ifang Bremer. US exploring alternatives to North Korea sanction panel in and out of UN: Envoy. Disponible en: https://www.nknews.org/2024/04/us-exploring-alternatives-to-north-korea-sanctions-panel-in-and-out-of-un-envoy/ Kim Tong Hyung. Envoy says US determined to monitor North Korea nukes, through UN or otherwise. Disponible en:https://apnews.com/article/us-north-korea-un-sanctions-monitoring-panel-experts-2064dd5d479a672711945f2c6aa6f1 United States Mission to the United Nations. Readout of Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield´s Meeting with Young North Korean Escapees in the-Republic-of-Korea. Disponible en: https://usun.usmission.gov/readout-of-ambassador-linda-thomas-greenfields-meeting-with-young-north-korean-escapees-in-the-republic-of-korea/ Korea Times. US to seek ways to continue sanction monitoring on NK despite uncooperative Russia, China: Envoy. Disponible en: https://m.koreatimes.co.kr/pages/article.asp?newsIdx=372893 United Nations. Security Council Fail to Extend Mandate for Expert Panel Assisting Sanction Committee on Democratic People´s Republic of Korea. Disponible en: https://press.un.org/en/2024/sc15648.doc.htm U.S. DEPARTMENT of STATE. Proliferation Security Initiative. About the Proliferation Security Initiative. Disponible en: http://www.state.gov/proliferation-security-initiative EGMONT GROUP OF FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE UNITS. Disponible en: https://egmontgroup.org/

Defense & Security
Solomon Islands

Russia and China co-ordinate on disinformation in Solomon Islands elections

by Albert Zhang , Adam Ziogas

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Moscow and Beijing likely worked together to sow disinformation globally that was propagated locally by political parties in the lead-up to Solomon Islands’ national and provincial elections on 17 April 2024. Both countries’ propaganda systems accused the United States, without evidence, of using its foreign aid and networks across the country to interfere in voting and of preparing to foment riots and orchestrate regime change in response to an unsatisfactory election result. This campaign adds to a growing body of evidence showing that China’s and Russia’s ‘no limits’ partnership extends to coordinating their disinformation campaigns in the Indo-Pacific. The narratives haven’t gained widespread attention or media coverage in Solomon Islands. Australia, the United States and other Pacific partners should nonetheless be concerned, as Russia and China can be expected to learn from this campaign and will likely use the lessons to further improve their influence operations in the region. Individually, China and Russia are adept and expert at pushing disinformation to disrupt other nations but, by coordinating their efforts, they have a force-multiplier effect. The campaign consisted of an alleged ‘leaked’ letter, articles published on authoritarian state-controlled media outlets and a fringe journal publication, which were then shared and amplified on social media platforms. A fortnight before election day, an unknown author by the name of Richard Anderson published an explosive article in CovertAction Magazine alleging that the US was seeking regime change in Solomon Islands. The US-based magazine was co-founded in 1978 by the late Philip Agee, a former CIA officer who after his retirement became a vocal critic of the agency and of US policy and had reported links with Soviet and Cuban intelligence. The magazine was set up ‘on the initiative of the KGB’, the Soviet Union’s main intelligence agency, according to a book by KGB defector Vasili Mitrokhin and British intelligence historian Christopher Andrew. Anderson had no previous history of writing for CovertAction Magazine. A week after that article was published, Russian state-controlled media agency Sputnik further fuelled the allegations, writing that the US was ‘plotting [an] electoral coup’. This article cited an anonymous source who had ‘intimate familiarity’ with the activities of USAID, the main United States foreign aid and international development agency. This mirrored how Anderson is described in his CovertAction Magazine bio, though Sputnik’s article did not explicitly mention him or his article. Sputnik’s claims were amplified four days later by the Chinese state-controlled tabloid newspaper the Global Times, which did directly reference Anderson’s article and has the potential to legitimise these narratives to an audience the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is actively targeting. During the same period, a poorly fabricated letter from an unconfirmed (and potentially non-existent) IFES project consultant was circulated among Solomon Islanders by an unknown source claiming that the US was seeking a ‘democratic transition by violent means in necessary circumstances.’ The text in this letter mirrored language used by Sputnik’s alleged anonymous source. Figure 1: Paragraph from Sputnik article (top) and a screenshot of the alleged IFES letter (bottom).     To be clear, there is no evidence that the US, or any other country, is supporting violent riots or interfering in Solomon Islands. Ann Marie Yastishock, US Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, has strongly refuted these allegations. This is not the first time the CCP-controlled media has spread disinformation in Solomon Islands or accused the US of seeking to instigate riots in the country. Following the 2021 Honiara riots, the CCP falsely accused Australia, the US and Taiwan of organising the riots, fomenting unrest and discrediting the relationship between Solomon Islands and China. In contrast, Russian media outlets also covered the 2021 Honiara riots but didn’t promote any explicit accusations of US or foreign interference. This time, China and Russia have been in lockstep. In the lead-up to the April elections, Russian state media was more direct and damning in its reporting with the release of Sputnik’s original article and in the subsequent coordination and dissemination of false narratives alongside Chinese state media. While Sputnik published only one follow-up article to the initial investigation, China’s Global Times was more prolific and varied, with six articles alleging US meddling in Solomon Islands. Of these six articles, four explicitly referenced Sputnik’s claims and two referenced US influence operations in more general terms. The indications of Russia-China propaganda coordination in this campaign were further supported by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) post on 19 April 2024 titled ‘The Hypocrisy and Facts of the United States Foreign Aid’. The post on their website claims the US is giving aid to Solomon Islands, among other countries, only because it sees it as a political threat. This was the first article ever published by the MFA to smear USAID. Moscow, however, has consistently campaigned against USAID since it ejected the US agency from Russia in 2012 for ‘meddling in politics’. Russian media has pushed a consistent narrative that the organisation is a US imperialist tool of regime change, accusing it of fomenting civil unrest and coup attempts as far afield as Belarus, Cuba, Georgia and Mexico. However, this latest attack against USAID appears to be the first where Russia’s narratives are working to the benefit of CCP interests. It’s been clear since at least 2018 that Russian and Chinese state media are converging on media narratives that serve their governments’ strategic and political interests. According to leaked documents from Russian state broadcaster VGTRK, Russian and Chinese propaganda entities also signed an agreement to ‘further cooperate in the field of information exchange, promoting objective, comprehensive and accurate coverage of the most important world events’. While previous ASPI research has demonstrated Russian and Chinese state-coordinated narratives on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the repeated re-airing of Sputnik’s conspiratorial claims of interference in Solomon Islands’ elections in Global Times articles indicates this propaganda cooperation is now a global initiative. There was also some evidence of amplification by inauthentic accounts on social media of these narratives, but they were limited and it is unclear whether they were state linked. For example, one X account with the handle @jv79628 shared the original Sputnik investigation. The account posts links almost exclusively from Sputnik, Global Times, Australian website Pearls and Irritations and videos with artificial intelligence-generated voices from the pro-CCP YouTube channel Chinese Revival, which may be linked to the Shadow Play network previously uncovered by ASPI. Other accounts sharing the original Sputnik report, such as @de22580171, pose as pro-Russian US citizens. They share articles mostly from Sputnik or Russia Today. At the time of publication of this report, Russia’s and China’s state media articles, and the accusations contained in them, have had minimal reach into online Pacific communities. In the public Solomon Islands Facebook groups ASPI viewed, online discourse remains more focussed on the emergence of new coalitions and the election of a new Prime Minister than on discussion of foreign influence or interference. According to Meta’s social monitoring tool, CrowdTangle, none of the articles from the Global Times have been shared in open and public Solomon Islands Facebook groups. However, Sputnik’s first article may have been more successful in reinforcing anti-Western sentiments in outgoing Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s O.U.R. Party, who are strong contenders to be part of the coalition that forms the next government. That article was posted on the O.U.R. Party Solomon Islands Facebook page, which is run by the party, on 10 April. It was reshared to several public Facebook groups in Solomon Islands, including news aggregation sites and local island forum pages. This is significant because it is the first time a news article has been posted on the O.U.R. Party Solomon Islands Facebook page, which typically shares positive images of the party’s activities and political campaigns. As of 1 May 2024, the post (below) has had over 180 interactions, which is higher than the average number of interactions a typical post has on this page. Figure 2: Screenshot of Sputnik article posted in O.U.R Party Solomon Islands Facebook page.     Sogavare, a founding member of the O.U.R. Party, has made similar remarks about ‘foreign forces’ previously. According to an article published in the Solomon Star, when US Ambassador Yastishock visited Solomon Islands in late March to present her letter of credentials to Governor-General John Oti, Sogavare claimed foreign forces were ‘intervening in the national general election’ and ‘may fund some political parties and plan to stage another riot during the election to disrupt the electoral process and undermine social stability’. Despite the low online interaction so far, the barrage of US regime change allegations lays the foundation for future narratives that may resurface if Solomon Islands experiences future unrest. Beijing and Moscow can be expected to learn from these disinformation efforts, leaving the US, Australia and their Pacific partners no room for complacency about the threat the regimes pose, nor the need for effective strategic communication. The Russian and Chinese governments are seeking to destabilise the Pacific’s information environment by using disinformation campaigns and influence operations to undermine traditional partnerships. In this digital age, leaders of governments and civil society across the region need to consistently confront and counter baseless lies pushed by authoritarian state media, such as accusations that the governments of Australia and the US are instigating riots. If they fail to do so, partnerships with, and trust in, democratic countries are at risk of deteriorating, which can reduce the development benefits provided to Pacific Island Countries by Western partners. Australia, the US, and other close Pacific partners, such as Japan, New Zealand and the European Union, must take a stronger stance against false and misleading information that is starting to circulate in the region as a result of authoritarian state-backed disinformation campaigns. These nations must also better support and encourage local media and governments to take further steps to identify and combat false information online. This includes providing more training packages and opportunities for dialogue on media-government communication procedures to tackle disinformation and misinformation. Countering the effects of disinformation requires ongoing efforts to call out false statements, educate the public, and build country-wide resilience in the information environment. Greater transparency and public awareness campaigns from the region’s partners can also help to ‘prebunk’—or anticipate and delegitimise—disinformation and alleviate concerns about malign activity.

Defense & Security
The flag of Russia painted on a wall. Military cooperation between Russia and North Korea

Russia and North Korea: Current State and Prospects of Relations

by Konstantin Asmolov

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to North Korea, or the DPRK, which has been under discussion since January 2024, could not only be perceived as a reciprocal visit after the North Korean leader’s visit to the Russian Far East in the fall of 2023 but also as an extremely important step in bolstering relations between Moscow and Pyongyang. Vladimir Putin visited North Korea in 2020, and along with the inter-Korean summit between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il in 2000, this was a landmark event that allowed the DPRK to overcome its foreign policy isolation and Russia to embark on its “pivot to the East.” One could say that the Russian president’s visit to a country, which the Collective West had brandished as a “pariah” state, was a demonstration of Moscow’s reluctance to join the collective condemnation of the Pyongyang regime. Russian-North Korean relations have seen both ups and downs due to Russia’s view on the DPRK’s aspiration to join the nuclear club. On the one hand, Moscow understands Pyongyang’s position, but on the other hand, it does not accept it because it would destroy the existing world order built on the authority of the UN and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Moscow has rather tried to play by the established international rules, and although Russian and U.S. diplomats could argue at length about the extent of sanctions following another nuclear test or missile launch, the idea that every step by the DPRK toward becoming a nuclear power would generate opposition was never questioned. However, since the late 2000s and even more so since the early 2010s, the world has been moving towards a new model of the world order, or rather, it has been a gradual transformation of the old one. The confrontation between the “Collective West” and the “Global South” intensified; the UN and other structures began to turn into a system of justifying double standards, losing the role of an impartial arbiter; and war began making its comeback to politics. In this precarious environment, we see the malfunction of the accepted mechanisms and, although the contours of the new world order have not yet been defined, many elements of the traditional structure of global security are losing their significance. The common political, economic and information space is giving way to the era of blocs, which, due to the competition in the Russia-China-U.S. triangle, inevitably affect Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula. In the meantime, the “Asian NATO,” which was being formed after the trilateral summit in Camp David, seeks to justify its existence by a hypothetical alliance between Moscow and Pyongyang or Pyongyang and Beijing, positioned as an alliance of authoritarian regimes threatening democracy and democratic values. Meanwhile, this cooperation is unproven, to put it mildly, and it is based on innuendos or facts that at best (highly likely) can be regarded as circumstantial rather than direct evidence. Note that the intensification of speculations about some secret arms deals between Moscow and Pyongyang did not begin on the eve of Kim Jong-un’s visit to Russia. This narrative has been on since June-August 2023, against the backdrop of the apparent failure of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, which had suffocated from a shortage of ammunition, among other reasons. This is why the campaign could be viewed as putting pressure on Seoul to reconsider its policy on the supply of ammunition and lethal weapons to Ukraine. In this context, one of the options for further unfolding of events is the so-called “self-fulfilling prophecy” coming true, when cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang may become a response to the actions of their adversaries within the framework of the “security dilemma.” North Korean statements in late 2023 and early 2024 about a radical change in inter-Korean policy and rejection of the unification paradigm caused a stir in expert circles and were even positioned as preparations for a forceful solution to the inter-Korean problem, even though it was more like a model of “non-peaceful coexistence” – something similar to the Soviet-American confrontation in the Cold War era. Meanwhile, South Korean President Yun Seok-yol’s speech in honor of the March First Movement for Independence in 2024, where he actually declared that the liberation of Korea would be fully accomplished only after the elimination of the DPRK, which should take place with the help of the international community, went virtually unnoticed, although in terms of inflaming regional tensions this was a much more serious step. As a result, a more substantial revision of Moscow’s policy toward Pyongyang is expected from the Russian president’s visit to North Korea. The most radical forecasts concern the legitimization of military or military-technological cooperation and, more importantly, Russia’s withdrawal from the regime of international sanctions against the DPRK. As preliminary steps in this direction, Western experts refer to Russia’s position in the UN Security Council, where it first blocked the attempts of the United States and its satellites to further increase sanctions pressure on Pyongyang, and then, using its veto, paralyzed the official group of experts that formally monitored the sanctions regime and its violations that, in fact, proved to be nothing else than another instrument of pressure and name-calling. In this context, Russia’s withdrawal from the sanction regime seems logical, but Moscow is now seriously weighing the risks. On one side of the scale is the benefit of expanding cooperation with the DPRK, as many of its areas are currently blocked by sanctions. On the other is restrictions through the UN, since a situation when a permanent member of the Security Council, which voted in favor of sanctions, openly violates the relevant resolution, will clearly become a reason for a new round of pressure. The arguments that Russia as an aggressor should be expelled from the UN or deprived of its veto power periodically leak into the public domain, and these will have to be reckoned with. That is why Russia’s position currently boils down to the fact that it is against new sanctions, but intends to comply with the old ones, although proceeding from the principle of “what is not forbidden is allowed.” Therefore, when speaking about further expansion of cooperation between the two nations, it is necessary to divide this cooperation into several levels of involvement, the depth of each to depend on a whole set of factors. First of all, the level of confrontation between Russia and the Collective West, the regional situation in Northeast Asia and on the Korean Peninsula, and, to a much lesser extent, on the military and political situation on Russia’s borders. It is not quite likely that Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un sign a number of documents “on the transition to the next level” straight off. Rather, this will be a matter of developing a road map, where a system of cooperation will be worked out in advance, depending on the further development of the situation, with preliminary preparations being made first. The first level of cooperation involves advances in existing areas for collaboration – their intensification is already clearly visible from the increased contacts between the two states in certain areas. First of all, this is the search for ways of economic cooperation that would not violate sanctions or exploit the “gray zones,” at best, to avoid direct accusations. Such work is carried out, including through an intergovernmental commission. The intensification of economic ties, which Western experts pass off as the consequences of the “arms deal,” indirectly proves this, since we are talking about the movement of ships with unknown cargo on board. Second, it is the further development of transportation and communication infrastructure: we can expect not only the construction of a cross-border road bridge and the emergence of a regular railroad service, but also the arrival of Russian cellular communications in the DPRK or the connection of certain segments of the DPRK to the Russian Internet. It is not a question of replacing the existing intranet with something more, but those who have the right or ability to go online will do better. At the same time, cooperation of hacker groups or the training of North Korean specialists in such things will not be possible at the current level of cooperation, but only at the next level, where both countries will be galvanized by a common threat. Third, there are prospects for cooperation in technology. Yet, so far, we’ve been talking not so much about transferring offensive military technologies to the North, but rather about North Korean satellites being launched on Russian carrier rockets, for example, or Russian computing power helping calculate the processes by which a nuclear test will be dictated only by political rather than technological necessity. Fourth, there are prospects for cooperation in tourism, which does not fall under sanctions, given that the DPRK has been investing in attempts to create appropriate infrastructure organized according to European standards. The first group of tourists has already started visiting the DPRK, and if the “first pancake” is not a blob, more tourists will flock to the DPRK from Russia than even from China, as the Chinese have not been visiting Pyongyang too eagerly, despite the fact that the tourist cluster in Wonsan and the modernized cluster in the Kumgang Mountains were originally intended for them. Finally, cooperation in education, healthcare, sports, and culture is very important. Contacts at the level of ministers or their deputies are the clearest sign of diplomatic activity intensification in the spring of 2024. In the future, it may even be a question of saturating North Korean medical centers with Russian equipment or opening a branch of a Russian hospital in Pyongyang with Russian medical staff and modern equipment, designed not only for Russians or other foreigners, but also for the local population. The next level of engagement implies that Moscow and Pyongyang may enter into covert cooperation that violates the sanctions regime but does not directly disregard the UN resolution. Here, it is primarily a matter of using North Korean labor, which has earned a good reputation for its combination of value for money, the lack of criminal inclinations, and relative invisibility not only in Russia’s Far East. Some Russian officials have already announced their desire to import North Korean construction workers, so some Western experts have already accused the countries of organizing such cooperation under the guise of importing students, for example, who, according to Russian law, have the right to work part-time. Other potential areas of cooperation include increased supplies of energy or prohibited dual-use goods that would nevertheless be used for peaceful purposes. In essence, everything that the Western media and biased experts have long accused Moscow and Pyongyang of doing would finally become a reality at this stage. The next level of engagement implies that Russia may bluntly despise the sanctions regime in favor of a full-scale cooperation with the North, including in the military-technical domain. In particular, North Korean construction workers may openly travel to Russia’s Far East under this arrangement. As for military-technical cooperation, Russian carriers will then start launching satellites for dual or military purposes, plus Moscow may start transferring something useful to Pyongyang – more likely elements of technology rather than military equipment. In the extreme case, we could talk about single samples as prototypes for subsequent localization. The same may apply to the transfer of North Korean technologies to Russia, not so much as direct supplies of weapons or armaments, but rather as the creation of opportunities for screwdriver assembly or other options of creating equipment clones. Theoretically, it is possible that the DPRK, while rearming its military units and switching from old to new equipment – for example, from 152 mm caliber to 155 mm caliber – will be dropping “obsolete ammunition” to Russia. However, such options look highly unlikely, because the possibility of an inter-Korean conflict is not going anywhere, and the experience of the North Korean Defense Forces shows how quickly peacetime ammunition stocks are depleted in the event of their use by the standards of a full-scale military conflict rather than a local skirmish. The final level of cooperation, where all restrictions are lifted, can only be possible in case of extreme necessity, as the author believes, because it is associated with too high a level of associated risks. Thus, despite the fact that some representatives of Russia’s patriotic camp would like to take literally the statement that “Russia and the DPRK are in the same trench,” any option of internationalization of the conflict on the Russian side, in the author’s opinion, is not worth the consequences. First, it opens the door for similar actions on either side, which is fraught with volunteers from NATO appearing in sufficient numbers. Second, this would cause logistical and communication problems. Third, a significant part of the Russian mass consciousness will perceive such a step as a weakness of the Kremlin, failing to complete the SMO without external assistance. That is why the author believes that the consequences of the Russian president’s visit to the DPRK are unlikely to have a quick and direct impact on the course of the special military operation. Moreover, in any case, the implementation of the summit decisions will take some time, and the more extensive they are, the more time will be needed to put them into practice. And given the international situation, it will be difficult to separate the long-term consequences of the summit from the reaction to a possible change in the current situation. Anyway, when Vladimir Putin’s visit to North Korea takes place, this will be a landmark demonstration of the new level of relations between the two nations and Moscow’s diplomatic support for Pyongyang. Specific agreements may well be classified as secret, which is why “Scheherazade stops the allowed speeches,” preferring to deal with the analysis of events that have already taken place.

Defense & Security
Ukrainian military woman with Ukrainian flag in her hands on the background of an exploded house

Ukraine is losing the war and the west faces a stark choice: help now or face a resurgent and aggressive Russia

by Stefan Wolff , Tetyana Malyarenko

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Ukraine is now experiencing a level of existential threat comparable only to the situation immediately after the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022. But in contrast to then, improvements are unlikely – at least not soon. Not only have conditions along the frontline significantly worsened, according to the Ukrainian commander-in-chief, Oleksandr Syrsky, but the very possibility of a Ukrainian defeat is now discussed in public by people like the former commander of the UK’s Joint Forces Command, General Sir Richard Barrons. Barrons told the BBC on April 13 that Ukraine could lose the war in 2024 “because Ukraine may come to feel it can’t win … And when it gets to that point, why will people want to fight and die any longer, just to defend the indefensible?” This may be his way of trying to push the west to provide more military aid to Ukraine faster. Yet the fact that the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, publicly accepts that to end the war Ukraine will have to negotiate with Russia and decide “what kind of compromises they’re willing to do” is a clear indication that things are not going well for Ukraine. There are several reasons for what appears to be an increasingly defeatist narrative. First is the worsening situation at the front where Ukraine lacks both manpower and equipment and ammunition to hold the line against Russia. This will not change any time soon. The new Ukrainian mobilisation law has only just been approved. It will take time to train, deploy and integrate new troops at the front. At the same time, Russia’s economy has been resilient to western sanctions and seen growth driven by the war. On top of deliveries from Iran and North Korea dual-use technology, including electrical components and machine tools for arms manufacture, has been supplied by China. Moscow has also managed to produce a lot of its own equipment and ammunition. Much of this is being made in facilities beyond the reach of Ukrainian weapons. This is not to say that all is well with Russian resupplies, but they are superior to what Ukraine can manage on its own in the absence of western support. Bleak outlook This changing balance of capabilities to sustain the war effort, which now increasingly favours Russia, has enabled the Kremlin to adopt a strategy of grinding down Ukrainian defences along long stretches of the front, especially in Donbas in the east, where Russian pressure has been applied in recent months.     There is also a large concentration of Russian troops across the border from Kharkiv at the moment. Ukraine’s second-largest city has come under increased Russian attacks over the past several weeks which has led to mandatory evacuations from three districts in the region. The approximately 100,000 to 120,000 Russian troops would not be sufficient for another successful Russian cross-border offensive, but they are enough to tie down large numbers of Ukrainian forces which, therefore, cannot be used in other potentially more vulnerable areas of the frontline. Short of a sudden collapse of a significant part of the Ukrainian defence lines, a massive Russian advance is unlikely in the foreseeable future. But part of what Russia is trying to do right now with its broad push against Ukraine’s defences is probe for weaknesses to exploit in a larger offensive later in the spring or early in the summer. In this context, it is important to remember Russia’s proclaimed overall goals, especially the Kremlin’s territorial claims to all four of the regions Moscow annexed in September 2022. There is no indication that these objectives have changed, and Russia’s current operations on the battlefield are consistent with this. Capturing the remainder of the Donetsk region would be the first step and provide a basis for subsequent further gains in the Zaporizhzhia region in southern Ukraine and the Kherson region in the centre, especially retaking the city of Kherson, which Ukraine liberated in late autumn 2022. A Ukrainian withdrawal behind better defensible positions away from the current frontline in Donbas would make the former goal – capturing all of Donbas – more achievable for Russia, but deny the Kremlin success in Zaporzhiya and Kherson. It would also frustrate any Russian hopes of capturing the remainder of the Ukrainian Black Sea coast all the way through to Odesa. Whether this Ukrainian strategy can succeed, however, will significantly depend on what kind of western support will be forthcoming and how soon. Help wanted – right now The most optimistic outcome is that Kyiv’s western allies rapidly increase military support for Ukraine. This must include ammunition, air defence systems, armoured vehicles and drones. At the same time, the western defence industrial base, especially in Europe, needs to switch to a similar war footing as in Russia. On that basis, the situation along the frontlines could stabilise and whatever offensive moves Russia has planned now would not gain much new ground. This most optimistic outcome would constitute a slightly improved situation for Ukraine – any more than that is unlikely at present. The worst case would be a collapse of parts of the frontline that would enable further Russian gains. While not necessarily likely as things stand right now, if it were to happen it would also be a major problem for morale in Ukraine. It would empower doubters in the west to push Ukraine into negotiations at a time when it would be weak, even if almost three-quarters of Ukrainians are open to the idea of negotiations. The worst outcome therefore is not Moscow taking Kyiv, but a military defeat of Ukraine in all but name. A major Russian offensive in the summer, if successful, would force Kyiv into a bad compromise. Beyond defeat for Ukraine, it would also mean humiliation of the west and a likely complete fracturing of the so far relatively united front of support for Kyiv, thus further empowering the Kremlin. In such a scenario, any compromises imposed by Russia on Ukraine on the back of Kremlin wins on the battlefield would probably be mere stepping stones in Putin’s unending quest to restore the Russian empire of his Soviet dreams.

Defense & Security
The national flags of NATO members fly outside the organization's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 3, 2023.

NATO anniversary 2024 - 75 years of the defense alliance

by Christina Bellmann

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français What is required of member states between now and the Alliance's anniversary summit in Washington D.C. from July 9 to 11 75 years after its founding, NATO is facing an unprecedented set of challenges. The global security landscape is changing rapidly - from the ongoing war in Ukraine to crucial elections on both sides of the Atlantic. The summit in Washington D.C. will not only be a celebration of the past, but also a crucial marker for the future direction of the Alliance.  NATO is in troubled waters ahead of its 75th birthday - on the one hand, it is not 'brain dead' but offers protection to new members - on the other hand, the challenges are enormous in view of the war in Ukraine.  In the third year of the war, the military situation in Ukraine is serious. The military is coming under increasing pressure and European partners are delivering too little and too slowly.  Western support must be stepped up in order to influence the outcome of the war - Russia's future behavior towards its neighbors also depends on this.  Elections will be held on both sides of the Atlantic in 2024 - the US presidential election in November will be particularly decisive for NATO.  Two thirds of NATO member states are well on the way to meeting the two percent national defense spending target - Germany in particular must ensure that this target is met in the long term.  Now it is up to the leadership of larger countries such as Germany, France and Poland to develop traction in European defense in order to present a future US president with a resilient burden-sharing balance sheet and not leave Ukraine - and the European security order - in the lurch. Return to the core mission In the 75th year of its existence, the North Atlantic Defense Alliance has returned to its core mission: deterrence and defense against a territorial aggressor. NATO defense planning will be reviewed for its resilience before the NATO summit in Washington D.C. from 9 to 11 July 2024. What challenges does the Alliance face in its anniversary year and what needs to happen between now and the NATO summit to make the summit a success? The state of the Alliance ahead of the summit NATO is in difficult waters ahead of its 75th anniversary. On the one hand, it has proven since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression that it is capable of acting and not brain-dead. The two new members, Finland and Sweden, have given up their decades of neutrality because their populations are convinced that they are better protected against Russian aggression within the 30 allies, despite the excellent condition of their military. On the other hand, the admission process has taken much longer than was to be expected given the high level of interoperability of both countries with NATO standards. It took a good twenty months since the application was submitted for both flags to fly on the flagpoles in front of NATO headquarters in Brussels - the internal blockade by Turkey and Hungary is an expression of the Alliance's challenge to maintain a united front against the Russian threat. The Vilnius decision of 2023 to adhere to the previous two percent target for annual defense spending as a percentage of national gross domestic product (GDP) as a minimum figure in future and even to strive for additional spending beyond this is an enormous effort for the members of the alliance - and the biggest point of criticism from its sceptics. The implementation of this goal goes hand in hand with the further development of the defense posture, which was also decided in Vilnius. This includes new regional defense plans that provide for more combat-capable troops that can be deployed more quickly. The Washington summit will show how far the Alliance has come in this respect in a year - gaps between targets and actual capabilities would consequently have to be covered by investments that go beyond the two percent GDP contributions. There are also a number of other important events and factors that will influence the summit. Ukraine's military situation In the third year of the war, the military situation in Ukraine is serious. The fighting has largely turned into a war of position, with high casualties on both sides. The sluggish supply of support from the West means that the Ukrainians have to make do with significantly less than their defense needs. The European Union has failed to meet its promise to deliver one million 155-millimetre shells within a year (by March 2024), while the Russian war economy is producing supplies in multiple shifts. This imbalance is making itself painfully felt in the Ukrainian defense - due to the material deficit, nowhere near enough Russian positions can be eliminated and Russian attacks repelled, and Ukrainian personnel on the front line are depleted. President Volodymyr Zelensky is coming under increasing pressure to mobilize fresh forces for the front. As a result, the Ukrainian military is having to give up some of its terrain in order to conserve material and personnel and take up the most sustainable defensive position possible for the coming weeks and months until relief hopefully comes. comes.1 The Czech initiative to procure half a million rounds in 155 millimeter caliber and 300,000 rounds in 122 millimeter caliber on the world market for Ukraine by June 2024 is urgently needed - but it does not change the fact that Europe and the West are delivering too little and too late, despite the efforts that have been made so far and must continue to be made.2 Even if the US and Europe were to produce at full speed, it would only be half of what Russia produces and receives in support from its allies. Western support therefore urgently needs to be ramped up, as it is of crucial importance for the outcome of the war - and for Russia's future behavior in its neighborhood. Upcoming elections A series of landmark elections will take place on both sides of the Atlantic in the run-up to the summit. The US presidential elections in November 2024 will be of the greatest importance for the future direction of NATO. To date, the USA has been the largest single supporter of Ukraine in the military field; in addition, the USA has decisive weight in the coordination of concrete support from NATO countries - the German Chancellor has repeatedly oriented himself towards US arms deliveries when it comes to the question of German support or even made this a condition for his own commitments.3 While the Democrats in the US Congress continue to support aid packages to Ukraine, the Republican Party is dominated by voices around presidential candidate Donald Trump calling for this "European war" to be left to the Europeans and for domestic challenges to be addressed instead.4 This has led to a months-long blockade of further aid amounting to 60 billion US dollars in the US House of Representatives, which is led by a wafer-thin majority of Republicans. Ukraine urgently needs these supplies to avert shortages in ammunition and air defense. At the time of publication of this Monitor, a release of the funds is not in sight. In terms of foreign policy, there is a bipartisan consensus that the real danger for the USA lies in a systemic conflict with China. Among Republican supporters, impatience with the continuation of the war is increasing, while approval for further support for Ukraine is decreasing. The mood among the general population is similar: between April 2022 and September 2023, the view that the US is doing "too much" for Ukraine increased (from 14% to 41%).5 On the European side, the most important milestone for further support for Ukraine is the election of the new European Parliament from 6 to 9 June 2024. Since the outbreak of the war, approval ratings in the EU for support for Ukraine have been remarkably stable.6 Even in the face of a sometimes difficult economic environment in the 20 eurozone states, approval ratings for the continuation of aid to Ukraine have only fallen slightly in a few EU states - starting from a high level. While the broad center of the EP groups (EPP, S&D and Renew) are united in their support for Ukraine and the transatlantic alliance, the foreign and security policy positioning of the far-right parties of the ECR and ID groups and the non-attached groups is not always clear. According to Nicolai von Ondarza and Max Becker from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), while the ECR parliamentary group "largely plays a constructive and compatible role" in foreign and security policy, including with regard to NATO and Ukraine, parts of the ID parliamentary group such as the French Rassemblement National (RN) or the German AfD either voted against resolutions critical of Russia in parliament or abstained.7 According to Olaf Wientzek from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, both the ECR and ID can expect significant seat gains in the upcoming EP elections.8 In terms of numbers, the ID and ECR groups are competing with Renew to be the third strongest force behind the EPP and S&D - according to current estimates, they all have between 80 and 90 seats. It would be conceivable for the currently non-attached Hungarian Fidesz (currently 13 MEPs) to join both the ECR and ID. In view of the increasing co-decision role of parliament - including for further Ukraine support packages - it is important for the EU how these parties and party alliances position themselves in terms of foreign and security policy.9 In fact, parties in the ID faction represent Russian propaganda within Europe in order to exert influence through disinformation, subversion and mobilization and thus undermine the social consensus with regard to Ukraine and NATO.10 This may also become apparent in individual elections, such as in the eastern German states in September 2024. Economic pressure - prioritizing defence? Global inflation averaged 6.2% in 2023. Current forecasts assume falling inflation rates in the Euro-Atlantic region over the course of 2024 to 2026.11 At the same time, however, global economic growth of 3.1% (2024) and an expected 3.2% (2025) compared to the previous year is well below the projections for the post-pandemic recovery.12 The combination of higher consumer prices and slower economic recovery continues to pose the risk of declining approval for strong support within the populations of the European Ukraine-supporting states. Protests in the face of announcements of cuts in various policy areas have demonstrated this in Germany and Europe over the past year. This does not make it easy to prioritize defence spending from a national perspective for the coming years. In the case of Germany, the defense budget is competing with all other departments in the budget negotiations for 2025, which are calling for an increase in social spending and investments in view of the current burdens on the population.13 At the same time, inflation does not stop at military procurement. As early as 2022, Germany therefore had to cancel a number of planned procurement projects due to increased costs.14 The cost increase also affects the maintenance of existing equipment and personnel. Even if Germany nominally reaches the two percent target in 2024, the increases in national defense spending within the Alliance will actually be lower when adjusted for inflation. Systemic threat from China The increasing systemic confrontation with China is not only identified in the US national security strategy; for the first time, China was classified as a concrete threat by NATO in its Strategic Concept of 2022. China is threatening to annex the democratically governed island of Taiwan to its territory, possibly by military means.15 This would have enormous global escalation potential and far-reaching effects on important international sea routes. Concerns about free trade routes are leading to a convergence of threat perceptions on both sides of the Atlantic. As a result, many European partners are rethinking their relations with China - as is Germany in its China strategy. China's global ambition to restructure the existing multilateral order according to its own ideas does not only affect Taiwan's independence. China's supremacy in key technical and industrial sectors as well as critical infrastructure, rare raw materials and supply chains would lead to a deepening of existing dependencies. Because the USA sees China as a systemic threat to international order, freedom and prosperity, it has been refocusing its efforts since President Obama took office. European NATO partners are therefore expected to invest in Europe's security themselves. Only greater burden-sharing by the Europeans would enable the USA to focus its attention more strongly on the Indo-Pacific. Challenges in new dimensions In addition to the geopolitical challenges outlined above, NATO designated space in 2019 as an additional battlefield to the existing fields - land, air, sea and cyberspace - due to its increased importance.16 In recent decades, China has rapidly expanded its presence in space in both the civilian and military sectors.17 The war in Ukraine has once again underlined the importance of satellite-based intelligence and the significance of connected weapons for combat. In addition, the effects of man-made climate change, which also have an impact on security in the Euro-Atlantic alliance area, have recently become increasingly apparent. At the 2021 NATO summit in Brussels, the Alliance set itself the goal of becoming a leading international organization in understanding and adapting to the effects of climate change on security.18 To this end, it adopted the "Climate Change and Security Action Plan". The NATO countries' homework A successful NATO summit in the anniversary year 2024 would send an important signal of the unity and defense capability of the Euro-Atlantic alliance in the face of Russia's breach of international law in a time of systemic competition. NATO member states are confronted with a complex threat situation ahead of the next summit in Washington D.C.. These give rise to various requirements: More NATO members must reach the two percent target In financial terms, the Washington summit will probably be considered a success if a substantial number of member states reach the two percent target. In 2023, this was the case for eleven countries (Poland, USA, Greece, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Romania, Hungary, Latvia, UK, Slovakia).19 In February 2024, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on the sidelines of a meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group in Brussels that 18 countries would reach the target by the summit.20 Germany, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Denmark, Albania and North Macedonia are the countries that have recently reached the target.21 The newest NATO member, Sweden, increases the number to.19 Achieving the two percent target for defense spending is not an end in itself. The discussion within NATO as to whether one should deviate from the numerical contribution target and instead assess the actual capabilities contributed by the individual member states is not a new one. Amounts of money to measure collective defense remain the simplest way to approximate burden-sharing within NATO - and until all countries have achieved this, it will remain the relevant metric in the political discussion. From NATO's perspective, the gap between the desired capabilities listed in the defense plans and the troop contingents registered by the member states has widened steadily of late. In reality, there is no way around increased defense spending in order to adequately equip the required personnel, who would have to be subordinate to the NATO Supreme Allied Commander (SACEUR) in an emergency - from a military perspective, the demand is therefore increasingly being made that two percent should be the minimum target. In order to achieve all the required capabilities, larger contributions are needed from all nations. Due to the threat situation and political pressure, it seems possible that 21 countries, i.e. two thirds of the member states, will meet the two percent target by the NATO summit in Washington. In addition to the 19 countries mentioned above, these are France22 and Montenegro.23 Turkey wants to achieve the target by 2025,24 although this commitment is uncertain in view of the poor economic situation. Italy wants to spend two percent within the next two years25, while Norway should reach the target by 2026 according to Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere26. Slovenia has set 2027 as the target date for meeting the commitments27, while Portugal, Spain and Belgium have set 2030 as the target date. Canada (1.38%), Croatia (1.79%) and Luxembourg (0.72%) have not provided any information. Reduce bureaucracy, speed up procurement In material terms, the main aim is to convert the increased defense spending into "material on the farm" in a timely manner. To achieve this, the planning and procurement processes in many European countries need to be accelerated, made less bureaucratic and at the same time better coordinated. The common European defense will require massive improvements in the coming years. Some announcements have already been made during the pre-election campaign for the European Parliament; here, too, what counts is how the announcements are implemented after the election. Progress must also be made in the area of research and development in order to invest scarce resources in state-of-the-art systems. The question of joint development versus off-the-shelf procurement of available equipment will also have to be decided in many cases. A rethink in European procurement is essential for this. This is primarily the responsibility of the European nation states: long-term contracts with the arms industry must be concluded urgently, cooperation initiated and loans granted for production. Strengthening EU-NATO cooperation and NATO partnership policy NATO's Strategic Concept and the EU's Strategic Compass show a strong convergence in threat analysis. The EU has effective starting points and tools, particularly for cross-cutting challenges such as combating climate change, the threat of hybrid attacks and the protection of critical infrastructure. With the European Peace Facility and other instruments, a concrete institutional framework has been created to strengthen the European pillar in NATO and contribute to fairer burden-sharing on both sides of the Atlantic. The EU and NATO should further intensify the exchange on common challenges and utilize the strengths of the respective forum. In addition to the partnership with the EU, the member states should continue to promote NATO's partnership policy. 2024 marks the 25th anniversary of NATO's eastward enlargement and the 30th anniversary of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. In view of a global confrontation with Russia and an increasingly aggressive China, it is worth taking a look at the instruments that were devised during the Cold War with a view to 'like-minded' partners outside the Alliance. NATO's partnership policy - adapted to the new circumstances - is an ideal instrument for forging close ties with democratic nations in the Indo-Pacific that share NATO's interests and values.28 Investing in interoperability NATO must continue to act as a "guardian of standards" in favor of military interoperability. This year's major exercises as part of "Steadfast Defender 2024" and "Quadriga 2024" will show, among other things, which weaknesses still exist in the various dimensions of interoperability in practical tests. In addition, care must be taken to ensure that military innovations from pioneers within NATO do not leave the Alliance's other allies behind in technical terms. This does not mean that technological progress is slowed down in a race to the bottom; instead, member states with lower expenditure on research and development must be enabled to catch up more quickly - especially in areas such as space technology and the use of artificial intelligence in warfare, it is becoming increasingly important to avoid the technological gap between the members of the alliance. What does this mean for Germany? The Federal Chancellor's announcement on February 27, 2022 that the establishment of the 100 billion euro special fund heralded a turning point in Germany's security policy was seen everywhere in Germany and within the Alliance as the right decision in view of Russia's aggression. In his speech, Olaf Scholz emphasized that Germany was not seeking this expenditure to please allies. The special fund serves national security. However, the acute threat to European security remains and although the NATO target will be reached in 2024, the future of Germany's defense budget is anything but certain. However, investment in the Bundeswehr's defense capabilities is essential to contribute to credible deterrence. The foundation for securing sustainable defense spending in Germany's medium-term financial planning must be laid now, otherwise two percent - depending on the spending status of the special fund - may already be unattainable in 2026, when the regular federal budget is once again used as the basis for calculating the NATO target. As the budget for 2025 will not yet have been decided at the NATO summit in July 2024, the Chancellor will need to make a credible commitment to the allies that Germany will not fall behind. The Bundeswehr will also have to stretch itself enormously in order to achieve the troop levels announced for the new defense plans. The number of servicewomen and men is currently stagnating at just under 182,000. 29 In order to be able to provide the brigade in Lithuania in addition to the nationally required forces and to meet the division commitment for 2026, the Bundeswehr must come significantly closer to the target figure of 203,300 active servicewomen and men by 2027.30 The questions of how many of the 182,000 soldiers available on paper are also willing to become part of the brigade in Lithuania and how many of the total number are actually deployable in an emergency have not even been asked at this point. What counts now - political leadership The security situation in Europe is serious and NATO has no shortage of challenges in its 75th year of existence. It is in good shape to meet these challenges and has welcomed two strong nations into its ranks, Finland and Sweden. However, it is now important not to let up in the efforts that have been agreed. A united external stance is key here, as the current NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg never tires of emphasizing. His successor will have to continue this. Even more important, however, are actual, concrete and substantial actions - the English expression "put one's money where one's mouth is" must be the leitmotif of all European NATO nations in view of the US elections at the end of the year, regardless of the outcome. Ultimately, political leadership is what counts within the alliance in virtually all the areas mentioned - and it matters now. Many smaller countries in Europe look to the larger member states such as Germany, France and Poland for leadership. This applies both in terms of sustainable compliance with the two percent target and when it comes to political agreement and cooperation in the field of armaments. Here, the larger states have a role model and leadership function that can develop traction and pressure on the Alliance as a whole. This political leadership will be more important than ever for the European representatives in NATO in 2024. At the moment, however, it seems questionable whether the current leadership vacuum can be filled before the NATO summit. Germany, France and Poland have not yet been able to develop a jointly coordinated stance that could have a positive effect. It is therefore also questionable whether the NATO summit will be able to send important signals beyond the minimum objectives. The US presidential election hangs over everything like a sword of Damocles - the erratic leadership style of another US President Donald Trump could be difficult to reconcile with the strategic goals of the alliance. Imprint This publication of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e. V. is for information purposes only. It may not be used by political parties or election campaigners or helpers for the purpose of election advertising. This applies to federal, state and local elections as well as elections to the European Parliament. Publisher: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e. V., 2024, Berlin Design: yellow too, Pasiek Horntrich GbR Produced with the financial support of the Federal Republic of Germany. References 1 Reisner, Markus: So ernst ist die Lage an der Front. In: Streitkräfte und Strategien Podcast, NDR Info, 12.03.2024, online unter: https://ogy.de/0ne7 2 Zachová, Aneta: Tschechische Initiative: Munition für Ukraine könnte im Juni eintreffen. Euractiv, 13.03.2024, online unter https://ogy.de/gofh 3 Besonders eindrücklich bleibt das Beispiel der Lieferung schwerer Waffen in Erinnerung: so rang sich Bundeskanzler Scholz zur Freigabe der Lieferung Leopard-Panzer deutscher Fertigung erst nach amerikanischer Zusage von Abrams-Panzern von militärisch zweifelhaftem Mehrwert durch. 4 Dress, Brad: Ramaswamy isolates himself on Ukraine with proposed Putin pact. In: The Hill, 01.09.2023, online unter: https://ogy.de/c9ow 5 Hutzler, Alexandra: How initial US support for aiding Ukraine has come to a standstill 2 years later. ABC News, 24.02.2024, online unter https://ogy.de/h0z6 6 Grand, Camille u.a.: European public opinion remains supportive of Ukraine. Bruegel, 05.06.2023, online unter https://ogy.de/ipbu 7 von Ondarza, Nicolai und Becker, Max: Geostrategie von rechts außen: Wie sich EU-Gegner und Rechtsaußenparteien außen- und sicherheitspolitisch positionieren. SWP-aktuell, 01.03.2024, online unter: https://ogy.de/a62v 8 Wientzek, Dr. Olaf: EVP-Parteienbarometer Februar 2024 - Die Lage der Europäischen Volkspartei in der EU. Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, 06.03.2024, online unter https://ogy.de/fv9b 9 s. Footnote 7 10 Klein, Margarete: Putins „Wiederwahl“: Wie der Kriegsverlauf die innenpolitische Stabilität Russlands bestimmt. In: SWP-Podcast, 06.03.2024, online unter: https://ogy.de/7i5s 11 Potrafke, Prof. Dr. Niklas: Economic Experts Survey: Wirtschaftsexperten erwarten Rückgang der Inflation weltweit (3. Quartal 2023). ifo-Institut, 19. Oktober 2023, online unter: https://ogy.de/wunq 12 Umersbach, Bruno: Wachstum des weltweiten realen Bruttoinlandsprodukts (BIP) von 1980 bis 2024. Statista, 07.02.2024, online unter: https://ogy.de/5ohz 13 Petersen, Volker: Ampel droht Zerreißprobe: Vier Gründe, warum der Haushalt 2025 so gefährlich ist. N-tv, 07.03.2024, online unter: https://ogy.de/9fcl 14 Specht, Frank u.a.: Regierung kürzt mehrere Rüstungsprojekte. Handelsblatt, 24.10.2022, online unter: https://ogy.de/71z3 15 Vgl. Wurzel, Steffen u.a.: Worum es im Konflikt um Taiwan geht. Deutschlandfunk, 12.04.2023, online unter https://ogy.de/ddc1 16 Vogel, Dominic: Bundeswehr und Weltraum - Das Weltraumoperationszentrum als Einstieg in multidimensionale Operationen. Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, 01.10.2020, online unter: https://ogy.de/c7m1 17 Rose, Frank A.: Managing China‘s rise in outer space. Brookings, letzter Zugriff am 18.09.2023, online unter https://ogy.de/374g 18 Vgl. Kertysova, Katarina: Implementing NATO’s Climate Security Agenda: Challenges Ahead. In: NATO Review, 10.08.2023, online unter: https://ogy.de/ho94 19 Vgl. Statista: Defense expenditures of NATO countries as a percentage of gross domestic product in 2023. Abgerufen am 18.09.2023 online unter https://ogy.de/wtsb 20 Neuhann, Florian: Ukraine-Kontaktgruppe in Brüssel: Eine Krisensitzung - und ein Tabubruch? ZDF heute, 14.02.2024, online unter https://ogy.de/rezf 21 Mendelson, Ben: Diese Nato-Länder halten 2024 das Zwei-Prozent-Ziel ein. Handelsblatt, 15.02.2024, online unter https://ogy.de/quiu 22 Kayali, Laura: France will reach NATO defense spending target in 2024. Politico, 15.02.2024, online unter https://ogy.de/7vdd 23 https://icds.ee/en/defence-spending-who-is-doing-what/ 24 Vgl. Daily Sabah: Türkiye’s defense spending expected to constitute 2% of GDP by 2025. 21.10.2022, online unter https://ogy.de/xtbr 25 Vgl. Decode39: Defence spending: Rome’s path towards the 2% target. 20.07.2023, online unter https://ogy.de/c0g3 26 Waldwyn, Karl: Norwegian defence chief sounds alarm and raises sights. In: Military Balance Blog, International Institute for Strategic Studies, 23.06.2023, online unter https://ogy.de/8b4a 27 Vgl. Army Technology: Russian threat driving Slovenia’s defence budget increase. 02.08.2022, online unter https://ogy.de/c5y7 28 Vgl. Kamp, Dr. Karl-Heinz: Allianz der Interessen. In: IP, Ausgabe September/Oktober 29 Vgl. Bundeswehr. Stand: 31.07.2023, abgerufen am 19.09.2023, online unter: https://ogy.de/m69j 30 Bundeswehr: Ambitioniertes Ziel: 203.000 Soldatinnen und Soldaten bis 2027. Online unter https://ogy.de/3pzs

Defense & Security
Russia and Ukraine Chess Figures

Dissecting the Realist Argument for Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

by Oguejiofor Princewilliams Odera

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français On 24 February 2022, Russian troops pushed into Ukraine from multiple fronts, bombarding cities like Kharkiv and the capital Kyiv. The invasion plunged Europe into its worst security crisis in decades and prompted a massive outpouring of military aid and economic sanctions on Russia from NATO and Western allies (Ramzy 2022). There were warning signs beforehand, as Russia had massed over 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders for months and issued demands to roll back NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe (Roth, Dan, David and Nana 2022). Yet the full-scale invasion still came as a shock via its violation of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and the fundamental principle of the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by force (United Nations 2022). From a liberal perspective emphasizing democratic norms, international law, and human rights, Russia’s actions were indefensible and morally reprehensible. However, six key realist arguments can explain Russia’s rationale for the Ukraine invasion; security dilemmas and geographical insecurity, attempt to regain a sphere of influence, implementation of an offensive realist strategy, revisionism against the U.S.-led liberal international order, diversionary war theory, and autocratic insecurity and domestic politics. Realist Theory and Core Tenets Realism is one of the leading theories in the study of international relations, originating from thinkers like Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and later articulated by 20th century scholars like E.H. Carr, Hans Morgenthau, and Kenneth Waltz (Burchill, Andrew and Richard 2013). It posits that international politics is characterized by anarchy and a struggle for power between sovereign nation-states pursuing their own national interests (Waltz 1979). Key assumptions underpin the bulk of realism: 1. States are the primary actors and the fundamental units of analysis in the anarchic international system with no supranational authority. 2. All states possess offensive military capabilities that render them potentially dangerous to one another. 3. States can never be certain of other states’ future intentions or actions, leading to mistrust and worst-case scenario planning. 4. In this self-help system, states must look out for their own national interests and survival as the principal motive (Waltz 1979; Mearsheimer 2014). 5. While economic and cultural factors are important, military force and power politics take primacy in realist analysis. Realism tends to view human nature as flawed and egoistic, distrustful of lofty ideals like global peace or international cooperation. It emphasizes pragmatism over moral principles and ethics, assuming states will act opportunistically when their interests require it (Carr 1964). The accumulation of military capabilities and economic power is seen as a means for states to increase their relative power and security in an anarchic, zero-sum world (Mearsheimer 2001). Classical realists, such as Hans Morgenthau, place a significant emphasis on human nature and decision-making elites in their understanding of international relations. They argue that politics is governed by objective laws rooted in human nature (Chimni 2017). Morgenthau, in particular, has been described as one of the most important political thinkers of the 20th century and one of the greatest realist thinkers of all times (Chimni 2017). Classical realists believe that their pessimistic vision of human nature is reflected in politics and international relations. In contrast, neorealists or structural realists, like Kenneth Waltz, emphasize the constraints imposed by the anarchic structure of the international system (Lobell 2017). Waltz’s neorealism, first outlined in his 1979 book Theory of International Politics, argues that power is the most important factor in international relations. He posits that the nature of the international structure is defined by its ordering principle, anarchy, and by the distribution of capabilities (measured by the number of great powers within the international system) (Waltz 1979). Within the neorealist school, there are two main schools of thought: defensive realism and offensive realism. Defensive realists, following Waltz, argue that states merely aim to maintain the existing balance of power for survival. They assert that the anarchical structure of the international system encourages states to maintain moderate and reserved policies to attain security. They contend that aggressive expansion upsets the tendency of states to conform to the balance of power theory, thereby decreasing the primary objective of the state, which they argue is ensuring its security (Lobell 2017). On the other hand, offensive realists like John J. Mearsheimer see states as persistently seeking opportunities for relative gain and hegemony when possible. Mearsheimer, in his groundbreaking work “The Tragedy of Great Power Politics”, argues that states seek to maximize their power and influence to achieve security through domination and hegemony. He contends that only by creating an imbalance of power in its own favour will a state be able to maximize its security (Üstündağ 2020; Wivel 2017). The Realist Rationale for Russian Invasion of Ukraine Ukraine shares a 1,500-mile border with Russia, and its core territory was formerly part of Russia until 1991 (Plokhy 2023). From Moscow’s perspective, the prospect of Ukraine aligning with the West and integrating with NATO was an existential threat to Russian power that it could not accept (Lindsay 2022). Realists argue that a Ukraine aligned with NATO could enable the deployment of offensive weaponry close to Russia’s borders and threaten its access to the Black Sea, a warm water port it has coveted for centuries (McCallion 2023). As the core of realist theory warns, the basic structure of an anarchic and self-help system means states can never feel secure about other states’ future intentions or actions (Waltz 1979). When one state enhances its security, it undermines another’s. According to Mearsheimer, “Because no state can ever be sure that other states will not use their offensive capabilities for aggressive purposes, every state is compelled to look for ways to guarantee its own survival” (2014, 77). Seen from this perspective, Russia’s invasion can be rationalized as a pre-emptive move to neutralize what it saw as an imminent strategic threat. Closely related to arguments about great power status is the realist notion of states pursuing spheres of influence or buffer zones to enhance their security. The realist argument is that all great powers in history, including Russia, have sought to control the security dynamics in adjacent regions by maintaining relations with nearby smaller states that are aligned with their interests (Mearsheimer 2019). Ukraine, with its geostrategic position between Russia and Europe, is viewed as critically important terrain in Russia’s desired sphere of influence. Realists argue that rather than the expansion of Western liberal democracy, Russia was fundamentally motivated to invade to reestablish a favourable balance of power, security arrangements, and compliant buffer states on its periphery (Trenin 2022). Allowing Ukraine to align itself closely with NATO and host potential offensive forces was seen as a step too far by Moscow. Beyond defensively reacting to perceived security threats in the region, it can be inferred that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reflects a calculated strategy of offensive realism – persistent and opportunistic efforts to enhance its power economically and militarily to establish regional hegemony (Mearsheimer 2001). Under this view, Putin aimed to take advantage of a window of opportunity and weakness in the West to redraw boundaries and spheres of influence in Europe. Putin is said to want to rebuild a Russian sphere of influence in eastern Europe, principally embracing former Soviet republics such as now independent Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine. He has frequently bemoaned their “loss” after the Soviet Union collapsed. Putin may also hope to demonstrate to the west (and Russians) that the country is still a superpower. (Tisdall 2022, para. 2). Related to the offensive realism interpretation, some realists frame Russia’s invasion as an act of revisionism against the U.S.-dominated liberal international order that emerged after the Cold War (Kotoulas 2022). For decades, Russia complained about perceived encirclement by NATO and about what it viewed as disrespect and disregard for its interests in relation to Ukraine and its own sphere of influence (Sakwa 2022). The realist view is that even after the demise of the Soviet Union, the U.S. and its allies continued to expand in ways that threatened Russia’s core interests and left it feeling boxed in by the steady eastward march of NATO (Smith and Dawson 2022). From this perspective, Russia eventually decided it needed to upset the liberal order and use brute force to re-establish itself as a great power capable of exerting sway on its periphery. Russia under Putin has no intention of entering into an American-run liberal world order but instead wants a multipolar world in which Russia enjoys a blocking position if not an outright veto. This is because Putin himself is ideologically averse to western liberalism (Grant 2022). By forcefully altering borders and facts on the ground in Ukraine, the realist argument suggests Russia aimed to disrupt the Western-centric world order and assert its regional dominance. Another realist interpretation views Russia’s invasion through the lens of diversionary war theory – the idea that leaders may provoke external conflict to divert public attention from domestic turmoil or unpopular policies (Levy and Vakili 1992). There is precedent for Russian leaders using force abroad for domestic purposes, from Stalin’s invasion of Finland in 1939 to Putin’s wars in Chechnya and 2008 invasion of Georgia (Ferraro 2023). From this view, Putin faced a host of domestic challenges in 2022, from economic malaise, rampant corruption and wealth inequality, to the prospect of more anti-regime protests like those in 2020 and early 2022 (Sharifulin 2023; McHugh 2023). “The Russian invasion of Ukraine could have been an attempt by Putin to garner popularity by invoking a distorted interpretation of Russia’s history and playing on Russian nationalism” (Rogers and Yi 2022, para. 3). From the foregoing it is obvious that launching a nationalist, irredentist campaign to reconquer historically Russian lands in Ukraine may have been calculated to bolster Putin’s domestic standing and shift discussion away from internal grievances. The realist logic is that leaders will take aggressive foreign policy actions when domestic audiences become restive, to rally patriotic support and legitimacy. Finally, another related realist explanation rooted in Russia’s domestic politics is the theory of autocratic insecurity, or fear among authoritarian leaders like Putin that if they compromise or appear weak, it could undermine their regime survival (Kuchins and Zevelev 2012). This aligns with defensive realist logic, where states will act pre-emptively and uncompromisingly when core interests and stakes are their very existence. The argument is that Putin saw the 2022 events in Ukraine as an existential threat to his regime’s survival and legitimacy, given its claims to defend ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking populations in Ukraine (Pifer 2023). A miscalculation that resulted in losing influence over Ukraine could inflame nationalist opposition at home and tarnish Putin’s carefully cultivated strongman image. It is evident that Putin’s war is motivated by longstanding concerns that if Russia doesn’t reassert its control over the territories it traditionally dominated, his regime – along with Russia’s status as a great power – will be undermined. The autocratic insecurity thesis suggests Putin felt he had to escalate in Ukraine to ensure his own political survival and Russia’s place as a relevant great power. Counterarguments and Moral Debates While the realist perspective offers several compelling interpretations of Russia’s strategic calculations and motivations underlying the Ukraine invasion, it leaves many fundamental questions unanswered and provokes heated moral debates. First, even if Russia felt genuine security concerns or resented Western encroachment, it had many alternative foreign policy options short of a full-scale war that caused catastrophic death and suffering. Failure to pursue diplomacy or de-escalation is difficult for realists to fully explain or justify. Second, a core tenet of the Westphalian system of nation-states is that countries cannot violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of others through force or aggression. Russia’s actions obliterated this international norm, raising questions about the validity of applying an amoral, power-politics lens that glosses over legal and human rights considerations (Kampmann 2021). Just as a burglar cannot be the judge of his own cause, you cannot allow a nation to be the sole arbiter of its own interests against those of the rest of the world whenever that happens to militate against the general interest and settlements Third, a consistently neglected component in realist thought is the key role of ideological and domestic factors in shaping interests and threat perceptions. Putin’s Russkiy Mir (“Russian World”) ideology views Ukraine as an artificial state and integral part of the greater Russia – a visceral belief that drove many of his decisions as much as geopolitical power calculations (Suslov 2022). The invasion thus cannot be fully explained without understanding the pseudo-historical mythmaking that permeated the Kremlin’s worldview. Finally, while providing interesting insights into Russia’s strategic cost-benefit analysis, realist arguments struggle to wrestle with the ethics and wisdom behind the invasion. Even if the goals aligned with maximizing Russia’s national interests, the terrible human costs and economic damage now suffered by Russia itself cast the decision as potentially catastrophic and self-defeating overreach. Conclusion In conclusion, the realist theoretical prism of international relations offers several potentially compelling rationales for Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine – security dilemmas, spheres of influence, offensive realism, revisionism against the liberal order, diversionary war, and autocratic insecurity. These arguments help elucidate how Russia assessed its strategic interests and the potential costs and benefits surrounding the attack. At the same time, the realist perspective is limited in several respects. It glosses over the war’s violation of international law and sovereignty norms. It cannot fully explain Russia’s diplomatic misfires or the moral dimensions surrounding humanitarian atrocities and the terrible destruction inflicted. And its focus on systemic incentives neglects the key role Russian domestic politics, pseudo-historical mythos, and Putin’s own ideological zealotry played in driving the conflict. Ultimately, while the realist lens provides useful analytical tools for dissecting state behaviour and interests, it is inherently amoral and therefore unsuited to grapple with complex human tragedies such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. References Burchill, Scott, Andrew Linklater, and Richard Devetak. 2013. Theories of International Relations. Bloomsbury Academic. Carr, Edward Hallett. 1964. The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations. New York: Harper & Row. Chimni, Bhupinder S. 2017. “The Classical Realist Approach to International Law: The World of Hans Morgenthau.” In International Law and World Order: A Critique of Contemporary Approaches, 38-103. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781107588196.004. Ferraro, Vincent. 2023. “Why Russia Invaded Ukraine and How Wars Benefit Autocrats: The Domestic Sources of the Russo-Ukrainian War.” Center for Asian Studies/ Russia & Post-Soviet Space Section, University of São Paulo (LEA-USP). https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4522176. Grant, Stephanie. 2022. “Russia’s Ukraine Invasion Is Not Just about Borders or Power. For Putin, It’s about Identity.” ABC News, February 24. abc.net.au/news/russia-ukraine-invasion-borders-power-vladimir-putin-identity/100858372. Kampmann, Christoph. 2021. “The Treaty of Westphalia as Peace Settlement and Political Concept.” In International Law and Peace Settlements, edited by Marc Weller, Matilda Retter, and Attila Varga, 64-85. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108627856.005. Kirby, Jen, and Jonathan Guyer. 2022. “The Increasingly Complicated Russia-Ukraine Crisis, Explained.” Vox, February 23. https://www.vox.com/22917719/russia-ukraine-invasion-border-crisis-nato-explained. Kissinger, Henry. 1994. Diplomacy. New York: Simon & Schuster. Kotoulas, Ioannis E. 2022. “Russia as a Revisionist State and the 2022 Invasion of Ukraine.” In The Russian-Ukrainian War (2014-2022): Historical, Political, Cultural-Educational, Religious, Economic and Legal Aspects, 1-10. Baltija Publishing. https://doi.org/10.30525/978-9934-26-223-4-6. Kuchins, Andrew C., and Igor Zevelev. 2012. “Russian Foreign Policy: Continuity in Change.” The Washington Quarterly 35, no. 1: 147-161. https://doi.org/10.1080/0163660X.2012.642597. Levy, Jack S., and Lily I. Vakili. 1992. “Diversionary Action by Authoritarian Regimes: Argentina in the Falklands/Malvinas Case.” In The Internationalization of Communal Strife, edited by Manus I. Midlarsky, 118-146. Routledge. Lindsay, James M. (Host). 2022. “Putin’s Choices, With Michael Kimmage.” In The President’s Inbox. Podcast audio, March 29. Council on Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/podcasts/putins-choices-michael-kimmage. Lobell, Steven E. 2017. “Structural Realism/Offensive and Defensive Realism.” Oxford Research Encyclopedias, International Studies. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190846626.013.304. McCallion, C. 2023. “Assessing Realist and Liberal Explanations for the Russo-Ukrainian War.” McHugh, D. 2023. “Russia’s Economy Holds Up, but Growing Challenges Test Putin.” The Associated Press, March 13. https://apnews.com/article/russian-economy-ukraine-war-putin-sanctions-0231252b7a145040530245b58590f7f0. Mearsheimer, John J. 2001. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York: W.W. Norton. Mearsheimer, John J. 2014. “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault: The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin.” Foreign Affairs 93, no. 5: 77-89. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24483306. Mearsheimer, John J. 2019. “Bound to Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Liberal International Order.” International Security 43, no. 4: 7-50. https://doi.org/10.1162/isec_a_00342. Pifer, S. 2023. “Russia, Ukraine and Existential War.” Stanford University, The Center for International Security and Cooperation. https://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/news/russia-ukraine-and-existential-war. Plokhy, Serhii. 2023. “Serhii Plokhy: ‘Russia Thought It Was Invading the Ukraine of 2014’.” Chatham House – International Affairs Think Tank. https://www.chathamhouse.org. Ramzy, Austin. 2022. “The Invasion of Ukraine: How Russia Attacked and What Happens Next.” The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/world/europe/why-russia-attacked-ukraine.html. Rogers, K., and J. Yi. 2022. “How the War in Ukraine Might Change Putin’s Popularity among Russians.” FiveThirtyEight, March 11. www.abcnews.com/538. Roth, Andrew, Dan Sabbagh, David Blood, and Nana de Hoog. 2022. “Russia-Ukraine Crisis: Where Are Putin’s Troops and What Are His Options?” The Guardian, February 14. https://www.theguardian.com/international. Sakwa, Richard. 2022. The Russia Scare: Fake News and Genuine Threat. 1st ed. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003177401. Sharifulin, Valery. 2023. “More Corrupt, Fractured and Ostracised: How Vladimir Putin Has Changed Russia in Over Two Decades on Top.” The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/more-corrupt-fractured-and-ostracised-how-vladimir-putin-has-changed-russia-in-over-two-decades-on-top-188761. Smith, N. R., and G. Dawson. 2022. “Mearsheimer, Realism, and the Ukraine War.” Analyse und Kritik 44, no. 2. https://doi.org/10.1515/auk-2022-2023. Suslov, Mikhail. 2018. ““Russian World” Concept: Post-Soviet Geopolitical Ideology and the Logic of “Spheres of Influence”.” Geopolitics 23, no. 2: 330-353. https://doi.org/10.1080/14650045.2017.1407921. Tisdall, Simon. 2022. “The Edge of War: What, Exactly, Does Putin Want in Ukraine?” The Observer, February 12. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/12/the-edge-of-war-what-exactly-does-putin-want-in-ukraine. Trenin, Dmitri. 2022. “Why Realpolitik Still Shapes Russia’s Geopolitics.” Carnegie Moscow Center, February 28. https://carnegiemoscow.org/commentary/86588. United Nations. 2022. “UN Resolution Denouncing Russian Invasion of Ukraine Passes as Moscow Is Further Isolated.” UN News. https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/03/1113152. Üstündağ, G. M. 2020. “A Critical Analysis of Mearsheimer’s “Offensive Realism”: The Rights and Wrongs.” Atlas Journal 6, no. 35: 1005-1013. https://doi.org/10.31568/atlas.553. Waltz, Kenneth N. 1979. Theory of International Politics. Boston: McGraw-Hill. Wivel, Anders. 2017. “Realism in Foreign Policy Analysis.” Oxford Research Encyclopedias. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.475. 

Defense & Security
Press conference by BORRELL, and SHMYHAL, in Brussels, Belgium, on September 5, 2022.

Ukraine: our support in the coming months will be decisive

by Josep Borrell

Last week, I travelled to Poland and Ukraine, where I addressed the Verkhovna Rada and met President Zelenskyy, and others from the country’s political leadership. Despite growing Russian pressure, the Ukrainians remain determined to fight for their independence and freedom, but they need more military support, and they need it now. The quality and quantity of this support by the EU and its member states in coming months will be decisive. For Ukraine, but also for our own security. Last week’s visit to Ukraine was my sixth as High Representative and the fourth since the start of Russia’s full-scale war. I started my journey with a stop-over in Warsaw to discuss the situation in Ukraine with Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski, and the military leadership. We agreed on the need to step up military supplies, including through the European Peace Facility, and the importance of EU-NATO cooperation. Poland’s support to Ukraine has been exceptional. The country is hosting about a million Ukrainian refugees, is a logistic hub for military supplies and hosts one of the headquarters of the EU training mission. In total 60,000 Ukrainian soldiers will have been trained in the EU by the end of the summer. The coming months will be decisive, for both Ukraine and the EU In Kyiv, I met President Zelenskyy, Prime Minister Shmyhal, Foreign Minister Kuleba, and Defence Minister Umerov. All my interlocutors expressed gratitude for the recently agreed €50 billion EU support package, which will provide Ukraine with predictable financing and help pay salaries, pensions and provide public services in the coming years. At the same time, they stressed the country’s dire need for more military assistance. Another major Russian offensive could be starting in the months after the Russian “elections” in March. However, I have found that the Ukrainian people remain determined to continue the fight and I saw their ingenuity and resilience at work. Unlike their Russian counterparts, Ukrainian soldiers know what they are fighting for and do not lack motivation. But they cannot do it without our support, which has to increase urgently. This is the reason why we have been taking stock of planned EU deliveries of military support in 2024 - currently estimated at more than EUR 20 billion - at our last Defence Ministers meeting. I urged EU member states to work with their defence industries in renegotiating contracts and prioritise deliveries of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine. We are also in the process of establishing a 5 billion tranche of the Ukraine Assistance Fund within the European Peace Facility to fund additional deliveries of military support. What the EU and its Member States do in the coming months to provide Ukraine with the tools to withstand a Russian offensive will be decisive, for both Ukraine, but also for the security of the European Union. Air-defence is crucial to stop Russia from terrorising civilians While in Kyiv, I experienced first-hand the daily reality of most Ukrainians and what a difference Western military technology makes in Ukraine. At 5:00 in the morning, the air alarm sounded – as it has done 40.000 times in Ukraine since February 2022 – and we had to take shelter from about 20 Russian cruise missiles heading towards Kyiv. All of them were intercepted by Western-provided air defence systems, but the debris of one of these missiles hit a residency building, tragically killing four people and injuring many more. I visited this building later that day with the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, and met some of the people who had just lost their homes. These Russian missiles serve no military purpose, they are indiscriminate attacks to terrorise the Ukrainian population. In cities with less protection by Western air defence, they are taking a high death toll. On 14 January 2023, for instance, that was the case in Dnipro, where a Russian missile hit a residential building, taking the lives of entire families, 46 people in total. To this day, many children in Dnipro could not return to their classrooms. Schools without shelters are forced to provide classes online. Providing Ukraine with more and better air-defence systems is an urgent priority. They save many lives. The house of Ukrainian democracy During my visit, I delivered a speech to the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s Parliament. I paid homage to the bravery of the Ukrainians who have been fighting, and often paying the ultimate price, to safeguard their country, their families, their culture and their democracy against the Russian attempt to annihilate Ukraine. Ukraine is at the front line between democracy and authoritarian rule and with their fight, Ukrainians are making a decisive contribution to the security of Europe as a whole. If Putin won in Ukraine, our security would be at high risk. This is why we need to change paradigm from supporting Ukraine for “as long as it takes” to committing ourselves to support Ukraine with “whatever it takes” to win the war and win the peace. We need to oppose the claims that Ukraine cannot win and that Putin should be appeased. At the Verkhovna Rada I also met the leaders of all political groups. There is a clear consensus on Ukraine’s European choice among political forces and civil society. I urged members of the Rada to preserve this unity and consensus, which will be essential to advance on the path to EU membership and to implement the necessary reforms. The EU will provide all the support needed along this path but it will fall to the Ukrainians to fight corruption decisively and strengthen the invisible infrastructure that sustains democracy: rule of law, plurality and inclusive governance, the separation of powers, human rights, social cohesion and equality. Liberated territories – clearing mines and fighting impunity In parallel to fighting off the Russian aggressions, Ukrainians are already rebuilding territories liberated from Russian occupation. One of the most dangerous but essential tasks is the clearing of countless deadly mines the Russians left behind everywhere. During my visit, the EU handed over to Ukraine another de-mining system able to clear anti-personnel, as well as anti-tank mines and other unexploded arms. The system is remote controlled and particularly safe to operate. Demining will make it possible for displaced people to return home and for farmers to work their land again. I also visited our civilian EU Advisory Mission, where EU police are training their Ukrainian colleagues. They teach them how to check armed individuals, assist demining operations or how to respond to the discovery of mass graves in liberated territories, both to collect evidence and to provide psychological care to the families of the victims. The trained Ukrainians will in turn pass on their knowledge to many more Ukrainian police officers. The aim is to stabilise the liberated territories and ensure their full and smooth reintegration into the country, and to start war crimes investigations as quickly as possible while witnesses are still available and before potential evidence becomes contaminated. There can be no peace without justice. The battle of narratives In parallel to the battle for Ukrainian territory, a second battle rages. The battle of narratives. It is equally important, because the perception of this war in Europe and the rest of the world will be decisive in order to maintain support for Ukraine, isolate Putin and make our sanctions work. We need to counter the Russian narrative resolutely that this war is about “The West against the Rest”. It is a war in defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of every country and it is a war in defence of the principles of the United Nations Charter. It is about preventing a world where powerful countries change borders at will, and the weak fall prey to the strong. If Putin’s strategy proves successful, it will embolden Russia and other autocracies to pursue their imperialist agendas against their neighbours. This matters not only to Europeans, but also to people in Africa, in South America, or in Southeast Asia. This battle of narratives must also be fought in the EU. As we are approaching the European elections, Europeans need to be aware of what it would mean if Ukraine were defeated and the Russian army took up positions along a much larger part of the EU's border. Contrary to what some may argue, this would not ease tensions; instead, it would create a much more dangerous environment for Europeans, lead to more human rights violations, and cause many more Ukrainians to flee westwards. In the long run, it would be far more costly for us than supporting Ukraine today. Europe’s own security is at stake and we need to do everything we can to step up our support to Ukraine in the months to come.

Defense & Security
Fire and terrorist attack at Crocus town hall. Krasnogorsk, Moscow Region Russia March 22, 2024

The Crocus Hall Terrorist Attack Makes Us Rethink the Future of the World

by Ahmed Moustafa

The Crocus Hall terrorist Incident in Moscow sent shockwaves throughout the city and the world, serving as a stark reminder that terrorism remains a constant threat to global security. Despite efforts made by governments and security agencies to combat terrorism, this tragic event serves as proof that it never truly disappeared. The global failure to effectively identify and combat terrorism is a complex issue due to various factors. The nature of terrorism makes it difficult to identify and prevent, as terrorist groups often operate in secrecy and target vulnerable areas. The constantly evolving tactics and technologies used by terrorists also make it difficult for governments and intelligence agencies to accurately assess potential threats. Another factor contributing to the failure in terrorism identification is the lack of coordination and cooperation among different countries. Political and ideological differences can hinder the exchange of vital information and efforts in identifying and stopping terrorist activities. Addressing the root causes of terrorism, such as poverty, inequality, and political grievances, is also crucial for effective identification and prevention. However, tackling these complex societal issues requires significant political will and resources. The use of advanced technology and social media platforms by terrorists has made it increasingly difficult to identify and monitor their activities. The widespread accessibility and anonymity of social media platforms make it difficult for authorities to track and intercept potential threats. Lastly, there is a lack of effective measures in identifying and preventing radicalization, particularly among vulnerable individuals who may be manipulated and radicalized by extremist ideologies. The spread of misinformation and hate speech online has also contributed to the radicalization of individuals, making them vulnerable to extremist beliefs and actions. Terrorism and its economic impact globally Terrorism has a significant economic impact, but estimating its economic cost is a complex task. Direct costs include immediate financial losses, such as property damage, human life loss, and medical expenses, which can be easily quantifiable. Indirect costs, on the other hand, are harder to measure but can have a significant impact on the economy, such as disruptions to business activities, loss of foreign investment, and decline in consumer and investor confidence. These costs can lead to job losses, decreased production, and a slowdown in economic growth. Intangible costs, such as the psychological and emotional effects on individuals and society, are a challenging aspect of estimating the economic cost of terrorism. The fear and trauma caused by terrorist attacks can have long-lasting effects, affecting productivity and overall well-being. The cost of implementing security measures and anti-terrorism strategies also contributes to the economic burden. Over the last two decades, the world has witnessed a significant increase in terrorist attacks, particularly in regions such as the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. According to the Global Terrorism Index, the economic impact of terrorism in 2020 was estimated at $16.4 billion worldwide. This includes direct costs of $5.22 billion and indirect costs of $11.1 billion. In the United States alone, the total economic cost of terrorism was estimated to be over $1Trillion in the last two decades, with the majority of it being indirect costs. Moreover, the economic cost of terrorism goes beyond immediate financial losses and can have long-term implications. The disruption of global supply chains and the rise of protectionism in trade and investment due to the fear of terrorism can lead to a slowdown in economic integration and international cooperation. This can have a detrimental effect on developing countries, hindering their economic growth and development. Terrorism is a global threat that has been fueled by the shadow economy, which includes activities such as human trafficking, drug and arms smuggling, money laundering, and tax evasion. Terrorist groups use the shadow economy to fund their activities, as they require funds for recruitment, training, weapons, and logistics that traditional financing methods cannot provide. They generate large amounts of money through illegal activities like drug trafficking and extortion. The anonymity and lack of oversight in the shadow economy make it difficult for law enforcement agencies to track and disrupt terrorist financing. Terrorist groups also exploit vulnerabilities within the system, such as hawala money transfer systems and cryptocurrencies and prepaid cards, to fund their operations discreetly. The exploitation of individuals within the shadow economy is a major factor in perpetuating terrorism, as human trafficking is a lucrative business for terrorist groups. This not only fuels the growth of the shadow economy but also perpetuates the cycle of violence and instability in regions where terrorism is prevalent. The cost of mercenaries and hybrid wars worldwide is a contentious issue due to various factors. The recruitment and training of mercenaries can vary greatly depending on the country and organization involved. Governments may contract private military companies, while rebel groups and non-state actors may rely on local recruitment and training. Advanced technology and weaponry, such as drones and cyber warfare systems, also contribute to the overall cost of a hybrid war. Additionally, the use of propaganda and disinformation campaigns also requires significant funds to sustain. The involvement of foreign powers can significantly impact the cost of a hybrid war, as they may provide weapons, training, and aid, leading to a proxy war situation that escalates the conflict and prolongs its duration. The economic impact of a hybrid war, such as infrastructure destruction, displacement of civilians, and disruption of trade and commerce, also has significant financial consequences for the countries involved. The estimated cost of a single hybrid war can range from billions to trillions of dollars. The ongoing conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen have caused immense destruction and incurred exorbitant costs for both sides, resulting in countless lives lost and devastated communities. The West’s misunderstanding of Russia and the Orient is rooted in a long history of colonialism and orientalism, where the West has viewed these regions as exotic and inferior, leading to a lack of understanding of their complex histories, religions, and social systems. This has resulted in harmful stereotypes and a failure to consider the perspectives and opinions of those in these regions. This misunderstanding has had significant consequences for relations between the West and these regions, leading to damaging policies and actions, and escalating tensions. One of the main reasons for this misunderstanding is the narrative of the ‘Other’ created by the West, which exaggerates perceived differences in religion, culture, and politics, often without a deeper understanding of the complexities and nuances of these cultures. Additionally, one-dimensional stereotypes in Western media and popular culture have further cemented negative perceptions of these regions. To address this issue, the West must actively strive towards a more nuanced and accurate understanding of these regions, acknowledging historical and cultural biases, seeking diverse perspectives, and promoting a two-way dialogue and mutual respect between the West and these regions. The West must also recognize and address the damaging effects of their actions and policies on these regions, including the impact of colonialism, imperialism, and cultural appropriation, and actively work towards reparations and a more equitable global order. The terrorist attack in Moscow, which claimed the lives of innocent civilians, underscores the global issue of extremism and terrorism. The Russian government’s ongoing investigation reveals the danger of extremist ideologies and groups posing a significant threat to the entire world. To counter these threats, efforts must be made to relaunch the Counter-Extremism Dialogue between Russia and the Islamic World, a platform for Muslim countries to discuss ways to combat extremism and promote tolerance and understanding. The Russia-Islamic Dialogue on Combating Extremism, initiated by President Putin in 2005, aimed to address the root causes of extremism, such as poverty, marginalization, social media digitization, and lack of education and opportunity. However, subsequent editions have been delayed due to geopolitical tensions and conflicts. The tragic events in Moscow serve as a wake-up call for the urgent resumption of this important platform. Renewing dialogue to combat extremism in the Islamic world will strengthen ties between Muslim countries, send a message of solidarity, and provide a platform for discussing best practices and strategies in combating extremism and promoting tolerance within Muslim communities. It is crucial that representatives from non-Muslim countries also participate in the dialogue, as extremism and terrorism are global problems that require a global response. Renewal dialogue will also provide insight into the complexities and nuances of extremist ideologies, the role of social media and the Internet in the spread of radicalization, and develop effective measures to counter this dangerous trend. By bringing together people from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds, dialogue can facilitate the exchange of ideas and experiences, promoting mutual respect and understanding. Terrorism is a global concern, with constant threats and attacks causing loss of lives and property destruction. Various approaches have been used to address this issue, including military interventions and intelligence operations. However, recent discussions have focused on the potential of culture, economic empowerment, and inclusion as effective treatments for terrorism. Culture refers to the beliefs, values, and customs shared by a particular group, and it plays a significant role in shaping an individual’s identity and sense of belonging. Terrorist groups often exploit cultural differences to recruit and radicalize individuals, so promoting a culture of tolerance, understanding, and acceptance could act as a deterrent. This could be achieved through education, intercultural dialogue, and respect for diversity. Economic empowerment is another potential solution to terrorism, as poverty, lack of opportunities, and unemployment are major factors driving individuals towards extremist groups. By creating economic opportunities and promoting growth in areas vulnerable to radicalization, individuals may be less vulnerable to terrorist organizations’ promises. Economic empowerment programs can also help rehabilitate former terrorists and provide alternative income sources, promoting social stability and economic development. Inclusion, particularly of minority groups, is crucial in addressing terrorism. Marginalized communities often feel neglected and discriminated against, leading to discontent and alienation, which can lead to extremist ideologies. Promoting inclusion and equal opportunities can help individuals feel more connected to society and less likely to turn to violence and terrorism. In conclusion, The failure to effectively combat terrorism globally is due to various factors, including changing terrorist tactics, lack of cooperation, root causes, advanced technology, social media, and inadequate measures to prevent radicalization. To combat terrorism, a comprehensive approach from all countries is needed, including addressing the economic cost of terrorism, addressing the shadow economy, and strengthening regulations to prevent funds flow to terrorist organizations. The cost of mercenaries and hybrid wars is complex, involving recruitment, training, advanced technology, foreign involvement, and long-term consequences. The West’s relationship with Russia and the Orient is a problem, and a deeper understanding and mutual respect are needed to break free from this cycle. The Crocus terrorist attack underscores the need for global cooperation in combating extremism, and dialogue between Russia and the Islamic world is crucial for promoting tolerance and peace. Recognizing the role of culture, economic empowerment, and inclusion in addressing terrorism is also essential.