27 February 2015

The shahs of the military

Feb 26, 2015

Rafale costs Rs 1,100 crore each and the IAF wants 126 of them. This will be in addition to the 272 Su-30 MKI the IAF is in the process of inducting. Su-30 MKI confers far greater lethality than the Rafale and costs about Rs 650 crore each. So why should we buy Rafale?

Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the second and last Shah of Iran from the Pahlavi dynasty, was the son of an Iranian gunnery sergeant, who seized control of that country in 1925 and crowned himself king. Like Rajput kings, who gave themselves extravagant genealogies of being descended from the sun or moon, Mohammed Reza gave himself a 2,500-year-old lineage descending from Cyrus the Great. To him, the surest and simplest way to greatness was to use Iran’s new petro-dollar millions to buy the latest weapons. In 1974, Iran became the first country to operate the then state of the art F-14 Tomcat fighter armed with the even now formidable Phoenix air-to-air missile. The Iranian Air Force bristled with formidable weapons like F-4 Phantom jets which the United States was using to pulverise Vietnam and with which Israel devastated the Egyptian Air Force and tank columns in 1973.

It was said that the Shah was an avid reader of the US weekly magazine, Aviation Week & Space Technology, which was fetched each week fresh off the press by diplomatic courier. Like a manic, who scours mail order catalogues, the Shah used to pick his toys from the weapons showcased in the magazine. Iran, then was a low-income country, but the Shah’s vision was soaring. The Americans encouraged him. The USAF and Navy loved him for he helped in defraying the cost of development of new weapons. Flush with weapons, he imagined Iran as a great power and encouraged by the US, he appointed himself as the keeper of order in the near region. Mohammed Reza Pahlavi’s megalomania blinded him to the reality of Iran and to a Shia theologian called Ayatollah Ruhollah Nasrollah Khomeini. We know what happened next.

This should be a lesson in history for all those strategists who think weapons confer status. India’s diplomatic and military establishment seems gripped by grandiose visions of an India sitting on global high tables such as the UN Security Council. India’s new middle classes talk easily about India becoming a superpower and against this rising tide few are willing to question why. Recent studies reveal that as much as 70 per cent of Indian households lived below the UN Development Programme’s minimum standards. India’s own poverty line is a starvation line that prescribes a minimum caloric norm. Even by that self-serving standard, a quarter of India is excruciatingly poor. Also, it is economically backward with a relatively small manufacturing base supporting a disproportionately large service sector, giving it the economic profile of a post-industrial society like the US or Europe.

India's role in Kabul shrinking


Anita Inder Singh
China's growing interest in Afghanistan suits Pakistan
Afghan President Ghani has paid official visits to China and Pakistan, but has yet to announce a trip to India

Never a troop-contributing country to Nato's effort against the Taliban, India failed to dissuade the US, steered by President Obama's re-election priorities, from withdrawing most of its troops from Afghanistan by 2014. 

But India offered Afghanistan considerable 'soft power'. Over the last decade India gave more than two billion US dollars in Afghanistan in reconstruction aid -- the largest amount of external aid it has given to any country. Most of this investment has been made in Afghanistan's infrastructure, including the construction of highways, hospitals and electricity projects for rural areas. Indian soft power, in the form of Bollywood films and music, and the construction of Afghanistan's new parliament building in Kabul have earned popularity among Afghans, in contrast to the extremist-exporting Pakistan, which Afghans viewed as a destabilising country. 

Since taking over as President of Afghanistan last September, Ashraf Ghani has been trying to stabilise his country. He offered the Taliban, who did their violent best to disrupt last year's presidential election, two seats in his government. Their refusal of his offer signalled the continuation of war and instability in Afghanistan. Afghanistan and the US did sign a bilateral security agreement last year, but Washington's current priorities appear to be the ISIS and the Asia-Pacific - leaving Ghani uncertain how much he can rely on Obama, 

Who will bell the nuclear cat?


Ramesh Thakur
India is the most firmly committed of the nuclear nine to such a goal that would be fully consistent with its policy as the most reluctant nuclear weapons possessor of them all. No other country paused for 24 years between the first test and eventual weaponisation.
A paradox: Nuclear weapons are useful only if the threat to use them is credible but, if deterrence fails, they must never be used for fear of destroying the planet.
Nuke facts
The global total number of nuclear warheads climbed steadily after 1945, peaked in the mid-1980s at more than 70,000.
It has fallen since then to a current total of almost 16,400 stockpiled by the world’s nine nuclear-armed states.
A silver lining is the modest success of the Washington (2010), Seoul (2012) and The Hague (2014) Nuclear Security Summits.
These generated some consensus about the need to ensure that nuclear weapons and fissile material do not get into terrorist hands.

The world faces two existential threats: Climate change and nuclear Armageddon — and the bomb can kill us all a lot sooner and faster. The nuclear peace has held thus far as much because of good luck as sound stewardship, with an alarmingly large number of near accidents and false alarms by the nuclear rivals. Having learnt to live with nuclear weapons for 70 years, we have become desensitised to the gravity and immediacy of the threat. The tyranny of complacency could yet exact a fearful price with nuclear Armageddon. It really is long past time to lift the shroud of the mushroom cloud from the international body politic.

Keeping nuclear nightmare at bay

India’s propensity to let the best become the enemy of the good notwithstanding (the nuclear liability law is a good recent example), the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) has kept the nuclear nightmare at bay for over four decades. The number of countries to sign it embraces virtually the entire family of nations. The number of countries with nuclear weapons is still – if only just – in single figures. Yet at the same time, the nuclear arsenals of the five NPT-defined nuclear weapons states expanded enormously under the NPT umbrella. The global total number of nuclear warheads climbed steadily after 1945, peaked in the mid-1980s at more than 70,000, and has fallen since then to a current total of almost 16,400 stockpiled by the world’s nine nuclear-armed states. 

Paradox of deterrence

The central paradox of nuclear deterrence may be bluntly stated: Nuclear weapons are useful only if the threat to use them is credible but, if deterrence fails, they must never be used for fear of destroying the planet. Second, they are useful for some, but must be stopped from spreading to anyone else. Third, the most substantial progress so far on dismantlement and destruction of nuclear weapons has occurred as a result of bilateral US and Soviet/Russian treaties, agreements and measures, most recently a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). But a nuclear-weapon-free world will have to rest on a legally binding multilateral international instrument such as a nuclear weapons convention. 

Unmasked: ‘Jihadi John’ is IT programmer from London

Feb 27, 2015

One if the world’s most wanted terrorist, code named “Jihadi John”, has been identified as a British national, a resident of west London. The masked ISIS killer, who has featured in several beheading videos of Western hostages, is Mohammed Emwazi.

LONDON: One if the world's most wanted terrorist, code named "Jihadi John", has been identified as a British national, a resident of west London. The masked ISIS killer, who has featured in several beheading videos of Western hostages, is Mohammed Emwazi.

A Washington Post report citing friends, a leading think tank researching foreign jihadists and a British security official quoted by the New York Times identified Emwazi as being the executioner. The Guardian and the BBC in Britain also named him without citing sources. The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King's College in London said it believed the identity "to be accurate and correct". But London's Metropolitan Police dismissed the reports as "speculation" and said it was "not going to confirm his identity".

In his mid-20s, Emwazi is of Kuwaiti decent, and is believed to have been known to the British security services. He was a student of computer programming at the University of Westminster and was revealed to have been a regular at a mosque in Greenwich. The university confirmed that Emwazi had left six years ago, adding, "If these allegations are true, we are shocked and sickened."

He first appeared in a video in August 2014 when he beheaded American journalist James Foley. He was later thought to have played a major role in the beheadings of US journalist Steven Sotloff, British aid worker David Haines, British taxi driver Alan Henning and American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig. He also appeared in a video with the Japanese hostages Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, shortly before they were killed.

US journalist Steven Sotloff kneeling next to a masked Islamic State fighter, known as 'Jihadi John.

Finance minister’s Victor Hugo moment


Arun Jaitley is FM in a govt where BJP enjoys an absolute majority. But that isn’t the only reason to expect him to deliver a more than run-of-the-mill budget.
Written by Harish Damodaran , Shaji Vikraman | February 27, 2015 

Union budgets being analysed threadbare and their presentation getting elevated to the level of public spectacle are largely a post-reform phenomenon. Budgets rarely received such attention in pre-reform India. Even if they did, it wasn’t finance ministers’ budget speeches in Parliament, but the legendary jurist Nani Palkhivala’s elucidation of the proposals in Mumbai’s Brabourne Stadium that attracted maximum eyeballs.

Arun Jaitley’s budget for 2015-16, to be presented on Saturday, will be significant for being the 25th of the post-reform era. But it has the potential to be more than just that. Post-reform India has had three gamechanging budgets. Manmohan Singh’s 1991-92, P. Chidambaram’s 1997-98 and Yashwant Sinha’s 2000-01 Union budgets genuinely broke new ground. Whether Jailey’s will be the fourth in 25 years — the situation demands it should be — will be clear tomorrow.

The context of Manmohan Singh’s “historic” budget is well-known. Indian foreign currency reserves, as in March 1991, were sufficient to finance barely over a month’s imports. Against this background came the swathe of announcements, from the virtual abolition of industrial licensing, opening up to foreign direct investment and slashing the peak customs duty rate to 150 per cent to establishing a statutory independent regulator for capital markets (Sebi, as opposed to the old controller of capital issues), and setting the stage for screen-based trading, compression of settlement cycles and dematerialisation/ electronic transfer of securities through new institutions such as the National Stock Exchange and National Securities Depository Ltd.
Singh’s budget helped to not just restore investor confidence, but also unleashed the era of economic reforms. The shift in policy paradigm was aptly captured in the last part of his speech: “Victor Hugo once said, ‘No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come’… Let the whole world hear it loud and clear. India is now wide awake”.

US wraps up Ebola military mission in Liberia

Feb 27, 2015

The United States on February 26, 2015 staged a military ceremony to end its five-month Ebola mission in Liberia, with the west African nation in recovery from the worst-ever outbreak of the virus. (AFP photo)

WASHINGTON: Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf paid an emotional tribute to the American people as the United States formally wound up its successful five-month mission to combat the west African nation's Ebola outbreak. 

With Liberia now in recovery from the worst outbreak of the deadly virus in history, the visiting Sirleaf thanked the United States for coming to the region's aid in its hour of need. 

"America responded, you did not run from Liberia," Sirleaf told US lawmakers in Washington, expressing the "profound gratitude" of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. 

Liberia, once the country worst hit by Ebola, has registered 4,037 of around 9,600 deaths in the epidemic, which began in Guinea in December 2013. 

At its height in the final four months of last year, Liberia and Sierra Leone were recording between 300 and 550 confirmed, suspect and probable cases a week. 

It was in some of the darkest days in August when the Liberian leader said she reached out to US President Barack Obama and to the US Congress amid "grim and terrifying" international predictions that before the end of January at least 20,000 people would die every month. 

But with US help, including a military force which reached 2,800 personnel at one point, there are now only one to three new infections each week in Liberia. 

"We are chasing the very last element of the chain of transmission we have," Sirleaf said, praising all the international and regional military and aid workers who "reached beyond their fears and ran towards the danger and not from it." 

Sirleaf is due to meet Obama at the White House today to discuss the Ebola response and the gruelling task of economic recovery. 

The US military wrapped up its operation at a ceremony in Monrovia earlier yesterday, although some troops will remain for several weeks. 

"The importance of the progress we see today means more than just the reduction in the number of new or suspected cases of Ebola," said mission commander Major General Gary Volesky. 

Syria refugee crisis nears 'dangerous turning point':UN

Feb 27, 2015

Syrian children play at a refugee camp on the outskirts of the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek. (AFP photo)

UNITED NATIONS: Syria's refugee crisis is approaching a "dangerous turning point" as nearly four million Syrians face worsening living conditions in exile, the UN refugee chief has warned. 

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told the Security Council yesterday that "the nature of the refugee crisis is changing" and called for "massive international support" for countries that have opened their borders to fleeing civilians. 

"As the level of despair rises, and the available protection space shrinks, we are approaching a dangerous turning point," he told the 15-member council. 

Close to 12 million people have been displaced by the nearly four-year war in Syria including 3.8 million who have fled to neighbouring countries such as Turkey, now the biggest refugee-hosting country in the world. 

Guterres warned that almost two million Syrian refugees under the age of 18, many without access to education or jobs, "risk becoming a lost generation" and over 100,000 children born in exile could become stateless. 

"If this is not addressed properly, this crisis-in-making will have huge consequences not only for the future of Syria but for the whole region," he said. 

The refugee chief pointed to the Kuwait donor conference on March 31 as key to help the region cope with the overwhelming strain on services from the influx. 

With Syrians increasingly taking to dangerous boat crossings, Guterres called on European governments to step up its search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. 

Governments should also step forward to take in refugees with flexible visa policies, expanded family reunification, scholarships and private sponsor schemes, Guterres said. 

He praised Germany and Sweden for their help and called on other countries in Europe and the Gulf region to help ease the pressure on Syria's neighbours. 

Dreams without a vision

Dinesh Trivedi
February 27, 2015

A Railway budget is essentially an opportunity for any government to push forward GDP growth by at least 2.5 per cent, but the Modi government, in its second budget, has lost the opportunity again. The huge expectation not only in India but also across the world for a completely new orientation and a path-breaking budget has been belied

For the first time in Indian parliamentary history, to my mind, no Railway budget was presented. It was only a budget speech by the Railway Minister with a statement of intended, pipe dreams. In normal circumstances, a budget must have a vision, a policy, destinations, and achievable targets with timelines. Unfortunately, none of this found mention in Mr. Suresh Prabhu’s speech. And, Mr. Prabhu has left the road map and achievability to “Prabhu”, God, Ishwar, call it by any name or faith!

A Railway budget is essentially a huge opportunity for any government to push forward GDP growth by at least 2.5 per cent. So, this government, in its second budget, has lost the opportunity again. There was huge expectation not only in India, but also across the world for a completely new orientation and a path-breaking budget from this government and Mr. Prabhu in particular. For a government which has come to power with such a thumping majority and promises of “Achhe Din”, these expectations were not unfounded. It’s been a big disappointment, to say the least.

Funding plan

The Minister proposes to invest Rs.8.56 lakh crore over the period of 5 years, from 2015-2019, but does not provide a plan of how the projects are going to be funded. First, the financial condition of the Railways is pitiable. With an operating ratio of 92 per cent in 2014-15 (which implies less availability of capital for investments in infrastructure), it is difficult to finance any projects from its own revenues. The budget places high importance on institutional finance and long-term debt instruments as extra budgetary resource, but this supposition falls apart on a simple premise: how does one expect these “multilateral and bilateral institutions” to invest, solely based on rhetoric, in an organisation which is mired in a financial crisis, thereby undermining its financial credibility in terms of non-availability of a revenue model? There is nothing called a free lunch.

Is Pakistan’s 'War on Terror' Out of Time?

By Jack Detsch
February 24, 2015

With Washington’s patience and money fading, is time running out for Pakistan’s offensive against domestic terrorism? 

Barely a month after Secretary of State John Kerrypaid a surprise visit to Islamabad to parley with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, floating promises of emergency aid to fight militants, Congress has put its gripes with America’s fickle counterterrorism partner in ink. On February 12, the leaders of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, California Republican Ed Royce and New York Democrat Eliot Engel, wrote a letter to Kerry, urging the State Department to consider travel bans, suspending assistance, and imposing sanctions on corrupt officials until Islamabad can regain the initiative against the Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Haqqani network. “We appreciate that you and other senior-level Administration officials regularly raised the need to confront these groups with Pakistani officials,” Royce and Engel wrote, referencing Kerry’s January trip. “Yet it does not appear that this engagement has resulted in any real change in Pakistan’s policies.”

Royce and Engel’s concerns stemmed from Pakistan’s muted response to a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar last December, which left almost 150 people dead. But just hours after Kerry received the note, events in Pakistan continued to inflame that argument. On February 13, three Taliban assailants hurled grenades, exchanged gunfire with police, and detonated a suicide vest at a Shia mosque in Peshawar, leaving 20 dead. The fundamentalists continued their attacks on February 17, when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of people in Lahore, killing five and injuring dozens more.

Those attacks come at a critical time in Pakistan’s fight against the militants. Since June, Islamabad has ramped up operations against Taliban enclaves in North Waziristan, a mountainous slice of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) where Sharif’s government exercises little formal control. Though the effort, dubbed Zarb-e-Azb, has been wracked with false starts and casualties, in welcoming Pakistan’s Interior Minister Ali Khan to Washington on Thursday, Kerry offered praise for the campaign. “They are committed to going after terrorists, all forms of extremism in Pakistan,” Kerry said. “And they are making good on that in their initiatives in the western part of the country and elsewhere, and in their cooperation on counterterrorism.”

Is this the Century of the Dragon?

February 23, 2015

BEIJING -- Seen from the Chinese capital as the Year of the Sheep starts, the malaise affecting the West seems like a mirage in a galaxy far, far away. On the other hand, the China that surrounds you looks all too solid and nothing like the embattled nation you hear about in the Western media, with its falling industrial figures, its real estate bubble, and its looming environmental disasters. Prophecies of doom notwithstanding, as the dogs of austerity and war bark madly in the distance, the Chinese caravan passes by in what President Xi Jinping calls "new normal" mode.

"Slower" economic activity still means a staggeringly impressive annual growth rate of 7% in what is now the globe's leading economy. Internally, an immensely complex economic restructuring is underway as consumption overtakes investment as the main driver of economic development. At 46.7% of the gross domestic product (GDP), the service economy has pulled ahead of manufacturing, which stands at 44%.

Geopolitically, Russia, India, and China have just sent a powerful message westward: they are busy fine-tuning a complex trilateral strategy for setting up a network of economic corridors the Chinese call "new silk roads" across Eurasia. Beijing is also organizing a maritime version of the same, modeled on the feats of Admiral Zheng He who, in the Ming dynasty, sailed the "western seas" seven times, commanding fleets of more than 200 vessels.

Meanwhile, Moscow and Beijing are at work planning a new high-speed rail remix of the fabled Trans-Siberian Railroad. And Beijing is committed to translating its growing strategic partnership with Russia into crucial financial and economic help, if a sanctions-besieged Moscow, facing a disastrous oil price war, asks for it.

To China's south, Afghanistan, despite the 13-year American war still being fought there, is fast moving into its economic orbit, while a planned China-Myanmar oil pipeline is seen as a game-changing reconfiguration of the flow of Eurasian energy across what I've long called Pipelineistan.

And this is just part of the frenetic action shaping what the Beijing leadership defines as the New Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road of the twenty-first century. We're talking about a vision of creating a potentially mind-boggling infrastructure, much of it from scratch, that will connect China to Central Asia, the Middle East, and Western Europe. Such a development will include projects that range from upgrading the ancient silk road via Central Asia to developing a Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor; a China-Pakistan corridor through Kashmir; and a new maritime silk road that will extend from southern China all the way, in reverse Marco Polo fashion, to Venice.

Don't think of this as the twenty-first-century Chinese equivalent of America's post-World War II Marshall Plan for Europe, but as something far more ambitious and potentially with a far vaster reach.

China as a Mega-City

Why Hasn't Maritime Multilateralism Worked in Southeast Asia?

February 24, 2015

Asian maritime disputes stem from deeply entrenched national interests. 

Writing for Flashpoints, my colleague Prashanth Parameswaran is understandably pessimistic about the ability of a “new” multilateral maritime organization to succeed in the East Asian diplomatic milieu. The proposal discussed in Prashanth’s reflections, the Asia Maritime Organization for Security and Cooperation (AMOSC), would ostensibly attempt to create a breakthrough where a host of other international institutions and forums, including ASEAN (and its related processes, including the +3, ADMM, and ARF), have failed. Prashanth gets at a point in his thoughts that I want to state more overtly here: the problem with Asia’s institutions failing to address maritime security issues seriously has nothing to do with the quality or processes of these institutions; the problem stems from widely divergent national interests, particularly between China and other states with maritime interests and claims.

Before you rush to the comments to praise/denounce that assertion as true/false, consider that China’s role in any process to “solve” maritime disputes, in the South China Sea, for example, is central. Beijing’s claim to the waters and land features of the South China Sea is the most capacious by far, as seen in its dashed-line claim to almost the entirety of the sea. Additionally, Beijing’s preference for dealing with disputes diplomatically in bilateral forums over multilateral settings is well-known. Multilateral efforts at merely alleviating practical issues in the South China Sea dispute, such as the ongoing process on a code of conduct for Southeast Asian states and China in the South China Sea, have been entirely rendered stagnant due to Chinese recalcitrance. Most recently, the Chinese delegation to a preparatory meeting for this year’s ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus) refused to allow South China Sea issues onto the agenda. Simply put, on a two-axis chart charting state preferences for multilateralism vs. bilateralism on the horizontal axis and cooperation vs. competition on the vertical when it comes to Asian maritime issues, Chinese preferences are almost certainly in the bottom-left quadrant.

China's Vision for Modernizing the UN

February 25, 2015

February is China’s month to hold the presidency of the United Nations Security Council, a post that rotates monthly among all 15 members (making it a semi-annual position, last held by China in November 2013). Yet China had some lofty goals for this particular stint as president. In particular, China used its position to host a larger debate about the future of the United Nations, and international relations more generally, in the 21st century.

Upon taking over the presidency, China presented a concept paper for a debate that would focus on reconfirming each state’s commitment to the U.N. Charter. The discussion was also intended as a way to kick off the commemoration of the U.N.’s 70th anniversary and “the victory won in the war against fascism.” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi chaired the debate, which took place Monday.

Wang’s statements at the debate emphasized China’s view for how the U.N. should function – an important point, as China is determined to revamp international institutions to be more reflective of the 21st century (which, in part, would involve more influence for China and other developing powers). In accordance with that vision, Wang called for adding “new dimensions” to the U.N. Charter to “bring to it new dynamism and vitality.”

Wang also used the floor to argue for China’s vision of international relations, which centers on respect for each country’s “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity” as well as “their choice of development path and social system.” He warned against countries acting unilaterally or going outside the U.N. to impose their will on others. “We should make sure that justice, not hegemony, will prevail in the world,” Wang said.

While every speaker at the debate confirmed their commitment to the U.N. charter, the debate revealed a fundamental disagreement over how that document is interpreted.

China's Affair with the 'Other Korea'

February 24, 2015 

China is keeping North Korea on life support even as it woos the South.

China is playing good cop/bad cop with South Korea in ways that may be detrimental to the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) security and the U.S.-ROK alliance. While Xi Jinping’s visit to Seoul (pointedly snubbing North Korea) last July was a seductive move to woo the ROK, Chinese defense minister Chang Wanquan’s warning against the ROK deploying U.S. THAAD missile-defense systems earlier this month sought to intimidate Seoul.

Putting the squeeze on Seoul over missile defense is yet another effort by Beijing to have it both ways. On the one hand, China keeps North Korea on life support as Pyongyang builds ever-more-capable ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. It provides North Korea with oil, food and other goods and also protects it at the UN after Pyongyang’s various provocations. This support both ensures the continued division of Korea and helps China maintain a buffer between itself and U.S.-allied South Korea.

On the other hand, China has also become increasingly important to the South Koreans. China is already Seoul’s largest trading partner and has become increasingly important to theSouth Korean economy. This limits South Korea’s ability to pressure China over its North Korea policy.

The Economic Opportunity of Greece’s Exit

FEB 24, 2015 0

TILTON – The first sentence of the 1957 Treaty of Rome – the founding document of what would eventually become the European Union – calls for “an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe." Recently, however, that ideal has come under threat, undermined by its own political elite, which adopted a common currency while entirely neglecting the underlying fault lines.

Today, those cracks have been exposed – and widened – by the seemingly never-ending Greek crisis. And nowhere are they more evident than in Greece's relationship with the International Monetary Fund.

When the euro crisis erupted in 2010, European officials realized that they lacked the necessary expertise to manage the threat of sovereign defaults and the potential breakup of the monetary union. For EU officials, avoiding the eurozone's collapse became the top political imperative, so they turned to the IMF for help. The irregularities in the Fund's resulting intervention attest to how serious the eurozone's problems were – and continue to be.

For starters, the IMF's Articles of Agreement require it to interact only with entities that are fully accountable for the help received: a member country's “treasury, central bank, stabilization fund, or other similar fiscal agency." But the institutions with which the IMF is dealing in the eurozone are no longer responsible for their country's macroeconomic management; that power lies with the European Central Bank. In lending to Greece, it is as if the Fund had lent to a sub-national unit, such as a provincial or city government, without insisting on repayment guarantees from the national authorities.

Managing the ISIS Crisis

FEB 23, 2015

Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, previously served as Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department (2001-2003), and was President George W. Bush's special envoy to Northern Ireland and Coordinator for the Future of Afghanistan. His most recent book is read more

NEW YORK – One day, historians will have their hands full debating the causes of the chaos now overtaking much of the Middle East. To what extent, they will ask, was it the inevitable result of deep flaws common to many of the region's societies and political systems, and to what extent did it stem from what outside countries chose to do (or not to do)?

But it is we who must deal with the reality and consequences of the region's current disorder. However we got to where we are in the Middle East, we are where we are, and where we are is a very bad place to be.

The stakes – human, economic, and strategic – are enormous. Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives; millions have been rendered homeless. Oil prices are low, but they will not remain so if Saudi Arabia experiences terrorist strikes or instability. The threat to the region is large and growing, and it menaces people everywhere, as extremist fighters return home and still others who never left are inspired to do terrible things. Indeed, though the Middle East is facing an abundance of challenges to its stability, none is as large, dangerous, and immediate as the Islamic State.

Those who object to calling the Islamic State a state have a point. In many ways, IS is a hybrid: part movement, part network, and part organization. Nor is it defined by geography. But it does control territory, boasts some 20,000 fighters, and, fueled by religious ideology, has an agenda.

Ultimately, of course, deciding whether to call what has emerged “ISIS" or “ISIL" or the “Islamic State" matters much less than deciding how to take it on. Any strategy must be realistic. Eliminating IS is not achievable in the foreseeable future; but weakening it is.

A strategy must also be comprehensive. First, the flow of money to the Islamic State must be reduced. Lower oil prices help, and there are only so many banks to rob. But extortion continues, as does financial support from individuals. Such flows should be shut down both by governments and financial institutions.

Curtailing the flow of recruits is even more essential. Countries can do more to make it difficult for individuals to leave for Iraq or Syria; a Europe-wide watch list, for example, would help. But nothing would have a greater impact than Turkey deciding that it will no longer allow itself to be a conduit, and that it will enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178, which calls for stronger international cooperation against terrorism.

The Jihadi Ratlines From Europe to Syria

Maria Abi-Habib and Joe Parkinson
February 23, 2015

How Jihadists Slip Through Europe’s Dragnet and Into Syria

Along the southern frontier of the European Union, a small but growing number of aspiring jihadists are blazing trails by road and ferry to Syria’s battlefields, sidestepping heightened airport security and slipping through the holes in Europe’s intelligence dragnet.

Some fighters follow meandering bus routes through several countries en route to the more loosely guarded border of Bulgaria to Turkey. Others engage in what authorities call “broken travel,” using family visits or holiday destinations as an initial leg to mask their final destination.

That was how the wife of Paris terrorist Amedy Coulibaly slipped into Syria days before her husband killed four people at a kosher grocery last month. The woman, Hayat Boumeddiene, drove from France to Spain, then flew to Turkey before joining Islamic State in Syria. She later called for others to join her, in an interview with the militant group also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Western diplomats and intelligence officials say most aspiring European fighters still try to fly directly to Turkey, which borders western Syria.

But the growing use of alternative routes magnifies a security challenge for EU policy makers: How to catch suspected militants without undermining the bloc’s commitment to free movement across a region where passport and customs checks at national borders have been effectively abolished.

U.S. intelligence agencies reported last week that despite greater Western efforts, foreign fighters are streaming into Syria and Iraq to join extremists. An estimated 20,000 foreign militants there include at least 3,400 Europeans. About 100 in Syria are believed to be from the U.S.

Pentagon Weapons Chief To Meet With Ukrainians

Even though they are not allowed to sell to them, U.S. arms makers are meeting with Ukrainian military officials, listening to their weapons wish list.

ABU DHABI – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is expected to meet with U.S. defense companies Tuesday during a major arms exhibition here even though the American government has not cleared the firms to sell Kiev lethal weapons.

Marcus Weisgerber is the global business reporter for Defense One covering the intersection of business and national security. He has been covering defense and national security issues for nearly a decade, previously as Pentagon correspondent for Defense News and chief editor of Inside the Air ... Full Bio

Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s acquisition executive is scheduled to meet with a Ukrainian delegation Monday evening, however Poroshenko is not expected to be there. Kendall, in an interview, said he will be bringing a message of support from the United States.

“I expect the conversation will be about their needs,” Kendall told Defense One a few hours before the meeting. “We’re limited at this point in time in terms of what we’re able to provide them, but where we can be supportive, we want to be.”

Paleoconservatives Are Wrong About Putin

February 23, 2015

The American Conservative prides itself on paleoconservatism, an ideology which quite rightly rejects the neoconservative worldview of Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and the military adventurism of the George W. Bush administration. Unfortunately, the publication gets a lot of other things wrong.

One of the magazine's writers, Daniel Larison, authors a blog whose raison d'etre appears to be less about proposing solutions to complex foreign policy problems than about characterizing the statements of others as "nonsensical," "dishonest," "pitiful," "absurd," "comed[ic]," "ignoran[t]", "reckless," "desperate," "cheap," and (my personal favorite) "muddle-headed."

Last year, I drew ire from Mr. Larison due to an article I wrote about how to deal with the Russian annexation of Crimea. True to form, Mr. Larison wrote, "Alex Berezow's approach to foreign policy might be summed up as 'doing stupid things because Russia won't like them,'" but he proposed no solution of his own.

His criticism was in response to my proposal offive non-mutually exclusive options for the West: (1) Economic sanctions and asset freezes; (2) Diplomatic isolation; (3) Fast-tracking Ukraine to NATO and EU membership; (4) Deploying NATO troops to western Ukraine; and (5) Surrounding Kaliningrad (a Russian exclave buried within the European Union) with NATO troops.

Mr. Larison took particular exception to options 3, 4, and 5. He wrote:


February 23, 2015 

Staunton, February 22 – Russian forces fought in the Donbas the way Soviet forces fought “50 years ago,” a reflection of their lack of contemporary equipment and training and that they are so “unprepared for modern war” that in a war with NATO, they would suffer much the same fate as the Zulus against the British army, Pavel Felgegauer says.

“That does not mean,” the independent Russian analyst says, that Russian forces cannot conduct another campaign like the in Ukraine. They can if the enemy resembles one in Ukraine. Instead, it means that Russian forces are not in a position to defeat modern NATO armies on the field of battle (the-village.ru/village/city/ city-news/176731-army).

But Russia is rapidly rearming and updating its training programs, and as a result, by 2025, a decade from now, Felgengauer says, the world must be “prepared for a world war” between Russia and the West “or for a series of major regional conflicts” over natural resources and spheres of influence.

Although there are some modernized units in the Russian military and the success of certain FSB units in Crimea, the Moscow analyst paints a devastating picture of the overall state of the Russian armed forces:

“The arming and equipment of the soldiers does not correspond to contemporary standards. They do not have the arms, the protection, or the communications” that modern armies do. “Nothing has changed in principle.” Russia doesn’t produce “contemporary rifles or normal bullets, or artillery shells” and consequently “shoots with the old ones.”

Dempsey: Russia's 'lit a fire of ethnicity and nationalism' in Eastern Europe

By Sig Christenson
February 20, 2015

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff .

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (Tribune News Service) — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff likened Russian aggression Thursday to a growing fire that could sweep across Eastern Europe, and warned NATO's unity was at stake

In an interview Thursday with the San Antonio-Express-News, Gen. Martin Dempsey vowed that the United States would defend three Baltic states that are NATO members if pressured in the wake of fighting in the Ukraine.

Echoing British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, who warned earlier this week that Russian President Vladimir Putin could try to inflame ethnic divisions in Estonia, Lithuania or Latvia, Dempsey said the United States was reviewing options with its NATO allies.

The three countries joined the alliance after the Soviet Union collapsed.

"We are considering some things bilaterally, but Putin's principal aim, strategically, is to fragment the NATO alliance," he said. "And if we allow this issue to fragment the NATO alliance, then we will have actually have played into his grand strategy.

"So everything we're considering, we're considering in the context of NATO, but we are looking at options that provide both nonlethal and defensive aid."

Dempsey made his remarks before speaking at the 60th Student Conference on National Affairs at Texas A&M University.

Dempsey also hinted that an increase from the current 3,100 troops in Iraq was a possibility to help the country fight ISIS extremists.

One lawmaker, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has argued that 10,000 troops are needed there, but Dempsey noted the campaign now envisioned by the administration doesn't call for large numbers of ground troops in a direct-combat role.

The American strategy relies on Iraqis to do the fighting and Baghdad's government becoming more inclusive. While Dempsey said "somewhat" more U.S. troops could be sent to Iraq, "I can't conceive of it going to 10,000."

"Can we do it? Sure we can. Have we done it in the past? Absolutely," said Dempsey, who led the 1st Armored Division in Iraq in 2003 and later spent two years in Baghdad leading the effort to train and equip its security forces. "And is that an option? Well, I told you before, as the senior military leader my responsibility is always to have options available when asked."

Hours of Boredom, Moments of Terror: Life of a Drone Operator

Chris Woods
February 24, 2015

Drone warfare: life on the new frontline

Just a three-hour drive from Washington DC on the scenic Virginia coast, Langley Air Force Base is home to one of the most crucial components of the US armed drone programme. Alongside a couple of squadrons of the F-22 stealth fighter, the inhabitants of a large, nondescript brick building deep within the base had been on a permanent war footing for more than a decade. Visitors without the necessary security clearance needed to be escorted front and rear by chaperones waving red glowsticks, a warning to any intelligence analysts who might walk by not to discuss classified operations within earshot. These men and women were part of Distributed Ground System One (DGS-1), a unit that traced its mission back to the 1990s and the earliest days of the Predator programme. A soundproofed viewing window revealed hundreds of intelligence experts working away in a cavernous darkened room, each small cluster of screens indicating an ongoing mission. Their job was to process vast quantities of data from the many aerial platforms (among them Predators and Reapers) now operating above conventional US battlefields. “When you come on shift you go up to your IMS, your imagery mission supervisor, and he will task you out to what bird you’re assigned to,” explained Airman Ray, a young enlisted geospatial analyst.

Some days Ray might pore over feeds from a U2 or an MC-12 Liberty, both manned surveillance aircraft. Other times, he could find himself assigned to a team analysing images from an armed drone. Like everyone else here, Ray was waging war – though in a few hours he would return home. “It’s not something a lot of folk necessarily understand, that our airmen that you’re seeing downtown really are doing a very important national security mission day to day. But they’re kind of incognito in terms of blending in,” said Colonel Lourdes Duvall, vice commander of the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing – home to most of the conventional air force’s 3,500 analysts.

Historically, intelligence analysts had been emotionally distanced from the battlefield images they were seeing. Even in the late 1990s, it might take days for stills photographs from a U2 mission to be processed and analysed. “We were used to looking at photographs, listening in to enemy transmissions which, you know – abstractly lives are on the line and you never handle it cavalierly, but you didn’t get that intimate contact,” said one former senior air force commander.

Report: North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Could Grow Tenfold by 2020

February 25, 2015

Research from the US-Korea Institute and NDU warns North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are developing rapidly. 

A new research project warns that North Korea’s nuclear stockpile could grow from roughly 10-16 nuclear weapons at the end of 2014 to 100 by the year 2020. The North Korea Nuclear Futures Project, a joint collaboration between the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and National Defense University, aims to predict possible futures for North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs over the next five years. The major findings were announced to the press by Joel Wit of the U.S.-Korea Institute and David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security on Tuesday.

The project provided three scenarios for the growth of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs over the next five years. Under the “minimal growth, minimal modernization” scenario – a best care scenario for concerned observers – North Korea conducts no further nuclear or missile tests and its technology progresses slowly. Even under this scenario, North Korea is expected to roughly double its stockpile of available nuclear weapons, from 10 to 20.

In the moderate scenario, which postulates North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs continue to develop at the same pace as they have so far, Pyongyang will have 50 nuclear weapons by 2020 and will be able to mount them on both mobile intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMS) and possibly even intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The worst-case scenario, assuming an increased commitment to the nuclear and missile programs, would involve rapid growth, including successful efforts to gain foreign technologies and information). Wit described this as a “pretty scary scenario” of “dramatic expansion” that would see North Korea armed with 100 nuclear weapons by 2020 to go along with 20-30 ICBMs.

The report also warns that North Korea already has the capability to mount miniaturized warheads on both its short-range Nodong missile (which can cover most of the Northeast Asian theater) and its Taepodong-2 missile, which has the potential to be used as an ICBM. Wit notes that, given current capabilities, North Korea could amass a nuclear arsenal of around 100 weapons and mount them on Nodong missiles able to reach South Korea and Japan by 2020 even without ever conducting another nuclear or missile test.

A Movement Betrayed: The Arms Control Crowd's Iran Hypocrisy

February 25, 2015 

Why is the arms control community more concerned about a nuclear France than a nuclear Iran?

There is a group of academic and think tank researchers and disarmament and nonproliferation advocates—that we collectively refer to in this article as the “professional arms controllers”—who place arms control and nuclear disarmament high on the agenda of their professional activities. One would think that this group of professionals would be at the forefront of those arguing against what seems to be emerging as a bad nuclear deal with Iran. Curiously enough, they are not, even though they know—as we all do—that this deal will very likely keep Iran at a dangerous nuclear threshold, enabling it to move to a nuclear weapons capability at a time of its choosing.

This is because there is unlikely to be enough time, political will, and/or means to stop Iran from doing so, even if it is caught violating the deal. Worse still, the deal will legitimize this bad situation, including Iran’s enrichment program, for the duration of the deal. Furthermore, when the deal expires—and regardless of any strategic reversal regarding Iran’s military ambitions—even the restrictions of this nuclear deal will be lifted, allowing Iran further enhance its already vast nuclear infrastructure. This deal will render irreversible Iran’s ability to quickly build a nuclear bomb, all with the blessing of the international community.

Has Iran done anything to deserve these benefits? After all, over the past year, all we have heard from Iran is continued defiance – everything it will not do in the context of a deal. Significantly, it continues to claim that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing on its part, even as it continues to stonewall the IAEA investigation into the weaponization aspects of its program. For years, Iran has been deceiving the international community about its military activities and intentions in the nuclear realm, and refuses to budge regarding its breakout potential.

Russia Could Make China King of the South China Sea

February 25, 2015 

America should think twice about arming Ukraine as Russia could easily help China achieve its dreams in the South China Sea.

What Robert Kaplan so smartly dubbed “Asia’s Cauldron”— the South China Sea— might be set to boil once again. But the real kicker is who might be turning the switch to “high” on that virtual stove: none other than Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Events thousands of miles away in Ukraine could set off a chain reaction that could see China become the undisputed ruler of this large body of water thanks to a large infusion of Russian weapons and technology— if the West starts arming Ukraine.

But before we get to all the juicy details of how China could become “master and commander” of the South China Sea thanks to Russian assistance, lets take a much needed survey of the latest drama show in this troubled body of water. Tensions are rising in the Asia-Pacific as China continues to change facts on the ground (“in the water” might be a better term), continuing work on several massive island reclamation projects that many analysts feel will create much larger islands housing airfields, ports, radar stations and maybe even anti-ship missile batteries. The motivation is quite obvious— Beijing would likely become the sovereign master of the South China Sea if these islands were used for the natural purpose of claiming sovereignty. Nothing says “indisputable sovereignty” by doing the things a sovereign does, like patrolling your supposed territory and enforcing your laws in that territory. Bases in the South China Sea could make that all too infamous nine or ten-dash line more than just big marks on a map somewhere in Beijing. They could make it a reality.

New South China Bases + A2/AD = A Nightmare for America and Its Allies

Not Another Iron Curtain

February 23, 2015

The EU urgently needs to tie Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe as close as possible to the bloc and prevent the continent from becoming divided again.

European leaders and the European Union face a stark choice. They can either fully commit to helping complete Ukraine's revolution or collude with Russia into making Ukraine a failed state.

A year since tens of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets in Kiev and ousted the then-president Viktor Yanukovych from power, Ukraine and Eastern Europe remain highly vulnerable, to put it mildly.

Russia's invasion of eastern Ukraine is surely enough for European governments to unequivocally make the choice in favor of supporting Kiev.

That will demand sustained political and economic assistance for Ukraine's government and, particularly, for the Euromaidan movement, which is playing a fundamental role in pushing for accountability, transparency, and reforms.