17 March 2014

Crimea: The Revenge of Geography?

March 13, 2014

By Robert Kaplan

The Obama administration claims it is motivated by the G-8, interdependence, human rights and international law. Russian President Vladimir Putin is a more traditional historical actor. He is motivated by geopolitics. That is why he temporarily has the upper hand in the crisis over Ukraine and Crimea.

Geopolitics, according to the mid-20th century U.S. diplomat and academic Robert Strausz-Hupe, is "the struggle for space and power," played out in a geographical setting. Geopolitics is eternal, ever since Persia was the world's first superpower in antiquity. Indeed, the Old Testament, on one level, is a lesson in geopolitics. Strausz-Hupe, an Austrian immigrant, wanted to educate the political elite of his adopted country so that the forces of good could make better use of geopolitics than the forces of evil in World War II.

Adherence to geopolitics allowed the British geographer and liberal educator Sir Halford J. Mackinder in a 1904 article, "The Geographical Pivot of History," to accurately forecast the basic trend lines of the 20th century: how the European power arrangement of the Edwardian age would give way to one encompassing all of Eurasia, with a battle between Western sea power and Russian land power. Geopolitics was at the heart of 19th-century America's bout of imperialism in the Greater Caribbean: By dominating its nearby sea the United States came, in turn, to dominate the Western Hemisphere, enabling it to affect the balance of power in the Eastern Hemisphere -- the story of the 20th century. Geopolitics was at the heart of World War II, with the German military machine's lunge for the oil of the Caucasus and the Japanese military machine's lunge for the oil and raw materials of Southeast Asia. Geopolitics was at the heart of the Cold War, with U.S. bases and allies guarding the southern Eurasian rimland from Greece and Turkey to South Korea and Japan against the Soviet Union. The celebrated diplomat George Kennan's "containment" strategy was, in significant part, a geopolitical one.

It isn't that geography and geopolitics supersede everything else, including Western values and human agency. Not at all! Rather, it is that geography in particular is the starting point for understanding everything else. Only by respecting geography in the first place can Western values and human ingenuity overcome it. It is not one or the other, but the sequence of understanding which is crucial.

Offsets Facilitation Cell: Optimizing its Potential

March 14, 2014

On Feb 14, 2014, MoD issued an office memorandum about operationalization of a Offsets Facilitation Cell. This is the perhaps the first positive step in a long time and the MoD needs to be complimented for it. However, absence of an operating procedure, clarity about the exact nature of mandate and guidelines for those who will man the cell could turn out to be a bane for this wonderful initiative.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has set up a Facilitation Cell of the Defence Offsets Management Wing (DOMW) at SCOPE Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi. DOMW, it may be recalled, was set up as a successor to the Defence Offsets Facilitation Agency (DOFA) in August 2012 for managing offsets.

The foreign vendors and the Indian Offset Partners (IOPs) had been getting exasperated with inaccessibility and unresponsiveness of DOMW. All this is hopefully set to change with MoD announcing through an Office Memorandum issued on February 14, 20141 that with the operartionalization of the Facilitation Cell, the foreign vendors and the Indian Offset Partners (IOPs) can interact and clarify their queries on offset related issues. The memorandum goes on to say that while this cell will be manned on all working days of the week, a team from MoD/DOMW will also be available on Tuesdays between 1000 and 1300 hours and on Thursdays between 1430 and 1700 hrs.

This is the perhaps the first positive step in a long time and the MoD needs to be complimented for it. However, absence of an operating procedure, clarity about the exact nature of mandate and guidelines for those who will man the cell could turn out to be a bane for this wonderful initiative.

To begin with, this facility should not remain confined to only those who have an ongoing contract or are in the process of submitting a revised proposal after being declared L1. It should be open to the prospective vendors and IOPs to approach the cell with whatever doubts and queries they have, even if these are hypothetical and not related to any Request for Proposal (RFP).

The clarification given by the cell in such cases would be authoritative advance rulings. Doubts that arise before or while an offset proposal is being formulated must be clarified by an authority empowered to do so. This will help in submission of offset proposals which are fully compliant with the letter and spirit of the offset policy as viewed and interpreted by the MoD.

This is possible only if those who have to man the cell are empowered to give such rulings or made responsible for processing the queries and issuing the clarification within a prescribed time frame with the approval of the competent authority in the MOD. The new arrangement could come a cropper if neither of these two conditions is met. The process of decision making in the MoD, especially on contentious issues, is painfully slow. Subjecting the queries and doubts raised by the vendors and the Indian industry to the same routine would defeat the very purpose of setting up the cell.

One cannot help wonder whether in the last one and a half years since the promulgation of the current offset guidelines, no doubts or queries have been raised by the foreign vendors and the Indian industry. That does not seem possible, which begs the question why the MoD/DOMW has so far issued no written clarifications on those doubts and queries. It could have made the life easier for those who will now be called upon to man the cell and issue clarifications.

Excerpts from Dr. Ashley Tellis's Public Lecture


Ashley J. Tellis, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Text of the Public Lecture, National Institute of Advanced Studies, January 3, 2014
For the complete text of the lecture click here
For the video of the lecture click here
Excerpts from Dr. Ashley Tellis's Public Lecture

The subject that I am going to speak on today is very important for the future of both our countries: the United States and India. I am going to talk about the U.S. effort that is underway to rebalance to Asia. It is important because it goes to the issue of what kind of geo-political environment is going to exist in this part of the world in the years to come. If we do not quite get that context right, then obviously the choices that it will impose on all the states that inhabit this region will be far more difficult. Understanding what the United States is trying to do, I think, is a useful first step in trying to assess the future of the broad Indo-Pacific region. Therefore, I am going to focus my remarks on this subject: understanding the genesis, the phenomenology and the consequences of the U.S. rebalance to Asia.

Rebalancing is really a strategic effort to go back to dealing with the fundamentals of the strategic situation. First, it is evidence of the American recognition that China’s rise is an enduring rise and not a flash in the pan. China is not suddenly going to disappear and take care of itself because of some internal crisis. It is the second element of rebalancing, the objective of managing China’s rise, which is going to be an extremely challenging one. Managing China is going to be a challenging task because it requires the United States to simultaneously socialise, integrate, deter and reassure China.

Rebalancing essentially involves three components. The strategic component is the one which has acquired a lot of attention in the public discourse. The other two equally important elements are the diplomatic and the economic components.

The idea, at the end of the day, is if all three components work as planned, the United States will begin to do much better than it did before in economic terms. That improved wealth and welfare performance will translate into greater availability of resources to the American state with respect to national defence. Those marginal increases in defence capabilities will in turn contribute to both defeating Chinese efforts to prevent the United States from being able to operate in Asia, while simultaneously reassuring American friends and allies. That, in a nutshell, is the logic of the strategy.

One also has to remember that this is a multi-player game. There is a U.S. relationship with China, there is a U.S. relationship with partners, and there is a relationship between partners and China. There is also a relationship among the partners themselves, and some partners do not happen to like one another.

For countries like India, Japan, Korea, and Australia, important nations that have proud histories and seek independent destinies, the success of U.S. rebalancing is vital. This is so because it is not yet clear to me that these countries have the capacity, either individually or in collaboration, to balance China independently of the United States. If that was the case, then the worst fears that the United States has with respect to Asia would be attenuated. Until the point where countries like Japan, India and Australia can muster the resources to assure themselves that they can successfully balance Ch

Ukraine’s Lessons for Asia

March 5, 2014

A signboard is seen from the Indian side of the Indo-China border at Bumla, in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, November 11, 2009 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters). 

This post is one of a three-part Asia Unbound series on the implications for Asia of the crisis in Ukraine. See related posts from my colleagues Elizabeth Economy and Sheila Smith

The most significant international crisis in recent years—Russia’s invasion of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine—has left global and western institutions scrambling to respond. What lessons do these events offer thus far for Asia? 

First, at a time when a focus of the U.S. strategy toward Asia has emphasized strengthening regional institutions to deal with differences—establishing strong “rules of the road”—the crisis in Ukraine shows the capabilities as well as limits of such rules. In the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Europe has strong economic and security institutions, with decades of experience working together, managing differences, facilitating shared security burdens, and coordinating the continent’s trade approaches to the world. 

In many ways the system worked; there has been no Russian move into alliance members like Latvia or Lithuania, which also have Russian-speaking minorities. Ukraine, at the EU frontier and outside of NATO, is much more vulnerable by comparison. 

But the crisis also reveals the limits of rules and norms. Moscow seemed unconcerned that NATO members might view an invasion of neighboring Ukraine as a direct threat. Nor did fear of possible alienation from the G8, or condemnation from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), dissuade Russia from an invasion in the name of protecting Russian speakers. The other side of the rules of the road argument would be their limited power. 

*** The Missing Piece in Ensuring Afghanistan’s Peace

Much has gone right in Afghanistan. It’s more secure, stable, and even optimistic. But there's one final tweak needed before America says goodbye. 

MARCH 14, 2014 
So now the United States approaches the endgame -- long predicted -- in Afghanistan. 

While it is tempting at times to simply walk away, doing so serves no geopolitically sensible purpose, and indeed may be snatching certain defeat from the jaws of a very possible success. 

All is not lost: The United States still has a better-than-even chance of a successful outcome in Afghanistan. That is to say, Washington should execute its strategy and move forward -- not take counsel of its fears and frustrations to abruptly depart. 

The security situation and the upcoming elections have been a focus of the attendant political process. Both are, of course, important. But the real key to whether the United States succeeds will be the health of the Afghan economy and its long-term prospects. To be effective, Washington should emphasize developing growth and stability through private-public partnerships. 

But what does success look like, exactly? Recognizable security throughout most of the populated areas of the country, with a low-grade insurgency rumbling around parts of the south and east; a roughly credible democratic political process, albeit with some corruption and malfeasance; a functioning economy with the possibility of improvement based on minerals; improved medical and educational benefits; and enhanced rights for women and children throughout most of the urban areas. Not perfect, but vastly better than a 14th-century existence under the Taliban. 

Why are the odds better than even? Despite all the challenges, much has gone right in Afghanistan -- in terms of security, politics, economics, and culture. 

In the security sector, more than 50 nations have contributed troops over the past decade, and a principal focus has been the build-up of 350,000 Afghan police and security, which have the approval of more than 70 percent of the population according to recent surveys. Today, the Afghan National Security Forces are fully responsible for ensuring security throughout the nation's 34 provinces, conducting patrols along the borders, and flying their own aircraft. They are holding territories that the Taliban deeply desire to occupy, including the spiritual heartland of the Taliban movement in the south and the rugged mountainous east. Despite a certain amount of Sturm und Drang, the Baseline Security Agreement (BSA) will almost certainly be signed in the next few months (by Afghan President Hamid Karzai's successor), and somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 troops from the NATO-led coalition will likely remain to train, mentor, and monitor the Afghan forces. In all, it is a sustainable and positive outcome, assuming that the 50 or so contributing nations continue the some $4 billion in annual funding -- a bargain compared to keeping 150,000 allied troops there, which cost upward of $100 billion a year. 

Politically, Afghanistan seems on track for a reasonably successful election in April. There is a vibrant campaign in progress: Many views and ethnicities are on offer among the candidates, security planning is moving apace, and Karzai seems content to hand power peacefully to an elected successor. While there will be both security and corruption challenges to overcome, at this stage most observers feel that Afghanistan will have the first handover between elected leaders in its history this spring. 

China Increases Focus on Afghanistan

Ayaz Gul
February 24, 2014

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, speaks during a press conference with his Afghan counterpart Zarar Ahmad Osmani at the foreign ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 22, 2014.

ISLAMABAD — Internal and external security concerns appear to have prompted China to intensify involvement in efforts to stabilize Afghanistan in the wake of the planned U.S. military drawdown in December. Regional analysts say Beijing is well-placed to play a central role in Afghan reconstruction beyond 2014 because its non-interventionist policy has earned China goodwill in Afghanistan. China has also increased engagement with close ally Pakistan to achieve its Afghan goals.

The United States and allied troops plan to wind down their Afghan combat mission in December, but there is no let-up in the deadly Taliban insurgency in the country and Kabul’s efforts to seek a peaceful resolution of the conflict have so far remained unsuccessful.

The continued violence has prompted regional fears the foreign military drawdown will strengthen Islamist militants and Afghanistan could return to the civil war of the 1990s.

Chinese concerns that a prolonged conflict in the neighboring country could fuel unrest in its Muslim majority western Xinjiang region are likely behind its increased engagement with the Afghan government. 

Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s rare trip to Kabul Saturday is seen as part of Beijing’s diplomatic efforts. After meetings with Afghan leaders, Wang emphasized the importance of a stable Afghanistan for his country. 

“Afghanistan has special and important influence. The peace and stability of this country has an impact on the security of Western China and more importantly it affects tranquility and development of the entire region,” he noted.

The Chinese foreign minister warned that Afghanistan will have no future unless it overcomes political and ethnic divisions. 

“So, we hope to see a broad-based and inclusive political reconciliation in Afghanistan as soon as possible and China will play a constructive role to facilitate that,” Wang said.

He called on the international community to deliver its promised aid to Afghanistan and help the war-shattered country achieve sustainable growth, saying only with economic growth can poverty be tackled and a breeding ground for extremism be removed.


Prof Chintamani MahapatraProfessor, School of International Studies, JNU 

IPCS Article 4333 : March 10, 2014. The US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to China exemplified a complex dynamics of relations between the existing superpower and an aspiring one. The US’ “Manifest Destiny” and China’s “Middle Kingdom Mentality” appear ready to accelerate cold confrontation between the US and China. Both the US and Chinese officials reject the theory of “Great Power Transition” that stipulate armed conflict between the departing hegemonic power and the new hegemon.

Former Chinese President Hu Jintao was of the opinion that war was not inevitable between a declining power and a rising power. His successor, Xi Jinping, is pushing for a new kind of Great Power relations.

On the eve of Kerry’s trip to China, Evan Madeiros, a senior US National Security Council official, remarked, “We’re aware of the historical predictions that a rising power and an established power are destined for rivalry and confrontation. We simply reject that premise.” 

Although a military clash between the US and China is progressively becoming improbable, a kind of cold confrontation between them has been quietly developing in the Asian theatre.

The Sino-US cold confrontation is the result of an altered geopolitical order in the Asia Pacific from the early years of 21st century. As the US stayed engaged in warring against the Afghan insurgents and the Al Qaeda activists; indulged in misplaced military intervention in Iraq; and experienced a faltering economy, Chinese economic influence in Asia sky-rocketed, and its military modernisation perceptually began to threaten US hegemonic presence in the region.

The People’s Liberation Army of China developed anti-access and area-denial capability, threatening the hitherto uninterrupted movement of the US naval vessels in the region. The wide-ranging debate over the relative decline of the US influence and China’s drive towards a superpower status reflected an indisputable contest for influence in the Asia Pacific.

Currently, the US consternation that China may surface as an Asian hegemon, and the Chinese angst that the US intends to restrict the growth of the Chinese power, will shape strategic landscape in Asia in coming years.

The current Sino-US cold confrontation has taken the shape of a passionate competition for regional influence, an occasional show of force, and conflicting positions on bilateral and regional disputes.

Instances of the Sino-US cold confrontation are discernible in critical differences between Washington and Beijing on the North Korean and Iranian nuclear issues; the Syrian civil war; the Sino-Japanese disputes over the Shenkaku/Diaoyu islands; the Sino-Filipino disputes over Mischief Reef and the Scharborough shoal; and the Chinese declaration of a nine-dash-line encompassing its sovereignty in the South China Sea.

Taiwan Watching Crimea with Nervous Eye Toward Beijing

March 14, 2014

Days ahead of a referendum that could result in the loss of the southern territory of Crimea to Russia, Taiwan, which like Ukraine lives in the shadow of a great power, is watching closely to see whether Moscow’s gambit could embolden Beijing to adopt similar strategies toward the island democracy.

While Crimea serves as an imperfect analogy for Taiwan’s situation, there are enough parallels to warrant an exploration of the current crisis and its denouement to determine if they can possibly create a precedent for Chinese behavior. Key to this effort is the fact that both Moscow and Beijing have notions of the “Near Abroad”—that is, territories that, while foreign and sovereign, their governments regard as fair game.

Sunday’s referendum, which will occur under the shadow of the Russian military, only presents two options: “Are you in favor of the reunification of Crimea with Russia as a part of the Russian Federation?” and “Are you in favor of restoring the 1992 Constitution and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine?”—a Constitution that for all intents and purposes would give rise to an independent, albeit pro-Moscow, state within Ukraine.

The situation in Taiwan, which according to Beijing’s version of history was “stolen” from China at the conclusion of the Sino-Japanese War in 1895, is vaguely similar, though the proportion of citizens who identify as ethnically Chinese is substantially lower than that of Crimeans who identify as Russians. Support for unification with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which has dropped steadily over the years, now stands in the single digits, while desire for independence has gradually risen, with a preference for maintaining the status quo remaining the preferred option—at least as long as China threatens force should the island declare de jureindependence, a not insignificant factor in poll responses.

While circumstantial, it is interesting to note that both Crimea and Taiwan are haunted by the year 1992—the “1992 Constitution” and the “1992 Consensus”—under arrangements that are meant to curtail the choices of the peoples involved (under the so-called 1992 consensus, both sides agree that there is only one China, though both agree to disagree on what “one China” means).

China’s Ideological ‘Soft War’: Offense is the Best Defense

China Brief 
February 20, 2014 

Cultural exchanges with developing countries are a way of preserving an 'ideologically heterogenous world,' preventing encirclement by Western values

Beijing regularly reminds us that its foreign policy eschews the export of ideology and meddling in the political affairs of other countries. According to its concept of “peaceful development,” China has no intention of exporting ideology or seeking world hegemony, nor does it seek to change or subvert the current international order. In the same breath, Beijing frequently chides the United States as a serial offender in exporting ideology to shore up its international hegemony as the world’s dominant superpower.

China sees itself as the target of powerful Western political, military and media efforts to pursue neoliberal strategies of ideological world dominance.

Beijing thus purports to maintain a defensive posture in relation to the export of ideology by other actors and the United States in particular. It articulates this in terms of safeguarding its “ideological security” against “ideological and cultural infiltration.”

Beijing characterizes its strategic intentions as mainly “inward-looking” while the United States’ are “outward-looking.” Thus, their strategic intentions do not clash (China Daily, September 9, 2013). While this inward versus outward characterisation appears prima facie to suggest a non-competitive arrangement, reality suggests otherwise. In addition to its defensive ideological posture—and as much as Beijing might state otherwise—there is an “outward-looking” element to this posture. While there exists no evidence that Beijing is exporting ideology for the purpose of universalizing its political values, there is evidence that it is doing so to safeguard its own ideological security in the face of a US-led “soft war.”

By examining Chinese discourse on the subject, this paper examines the extent to which Beijing is exporting its ideology to shore up support abroad, most notably among non-Western developing nations. To this end, it will be shown that Beijing is maneuvering to put its worldview forward as an alternative to the ideological hegemony of the West.

Defending Against Ideological Infiltration

“Exporting ideology” is used as a pejorative term by Beijing to refer to a state or non-state actor attempting to indoctrinate a country’s government and/or people. The Chinese concept of the export of ideology (shuchuyishixingtai (v.); yishixingtaishuchu (n.)) incorporates notions of hegemony, homogenization and universalism. Beijing conceptualizes “exporting ideology” as a universalizing endeavor in which a state or non-state actor seeks to globalize their ideology by replacing all others.

Pivot, Rebalance and What Next?

13 March 2014 

D Suba ChandranDiretcor, IPCS 

The American strategy towards the Asia Pacific is facing serious challenges. What started as a new “pivot” to Asia and later shifted to a “rebalance” now needs serious re-adjustment. Not because the American strategy is problematic, but more because of what is happening in multiple regions in Asia, starting from Syria in the Middle East to Japan in the East Asia. Therein lies the challenge to a hegemon in decline, and multiple actors who are not afraid to confront the sole super power. Perhaps, the US faces a bigger challenge than what it faced during the Cold War.

The rising China, no more peaceful, as could be seen from its recent strategies in East Asia, undoubtedly poses the biggest challenge to American rebalancing strategy towards Asia. China has clearly chosen its battleground to challenge the US might, where the latter feels the weakest – the South China Sea and East Asia. Despite all the bravado of the US and its allies like Japan, the recent pronouncements and actions in South China Sea, especially the proclamation of the Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), has clearly been a successful strategy by China to undermine the American influence in the region.

The US feels helpless and is faced with fewer options in South China Sea and East Asia. Though the US may want to be proactive and aggressive in addressing Chinese designs in the region, it has few options in the ground (or in the sea) to address the challenges posed by Beijing. On its part, China is carefully choosing its zone of conflict, based on its own strengths. More importantly, China is also carefully calibrating its options – attempting to show how ineffective the US power is, and how helpless those countries would remain if they expect Washington to come to their support.

More than the Chinese grand designs to upset the American plans, what really challenges the American options is the role and strategies played by its own allies, especially Japan. Under Abe’s leadership, Tokyo is on a collision course – not only vis-à-vis China, but also vis-à-vis South Korea, which is another valuable US ally in the region. Japan, under Abe, has been extremely offensive – pushing the threshold, for whatever reasons only known to its leadership led by Abe. The biggest challenge for the US in East Asia does not come from China, but from an aggressive Japan.

Unlike the previous decades, where Japan played the part of a perfect ally to the US by yielding to Washington’s larger strategies in the region and elsewhere, Tokyo today has a mind of its own. The hard reality for the US is to manage an increasingly aggressive Japan, which is on a decline (economically) and a rising China (both economically and militarily). Japan with an ageing population and declining economy is certainly not good news; it is only a matter of time before Japan further falls economically – beyond any redemption in terms of its inner strengths to bounce back. 


March 13, 2014 

Russia’s Cyber Weapons Hit Ukraine: How to Declare War Without Declaring War

By targeting the Ukrainian government with a cyber weapon, the Russians are able to effectively engage in an aggressive, kinetic act without actually declaring war, or other countries reacting like it is an act of war. This will not last forever.

http://www.csmonitor.com/ layout/set/print/Commentary/ Global-Viewpoint/2014/0312/ Russia-s-cyber-weapons-hit- Ukraine-How-to-declare-war- without-declaring-war

Temp Headline Image

A man looks at posters from an international campaign to support Ukraine in Kiev, March 12. Commentary contributor Alec Ross writes: ‘The absence of a set of broadly held norms and treaties governing the use of cyber weapons has not led to the firing of guns or launching of missiles, but this will not always be the case. We need something more than playground rules.’

(Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

By Alec Ross, Commentary contributor / March 12, 2014 at 10:24 am EDT

The playground fights I got into when I was a kid had closely observed, unwritten rules: You could punch, you could kick, and you could even choke your opponent, but you couldn’t use a weapon. Pick up a rock or a stick and bring that into the fight, and you were going to earn derision, and maybe a butt-kicking, from the entire playground crowd.

Similarly, during the cold war there were some important, unspoken rules about combat. It was OK if militaries of Soviet and American satellite states fought and killed each other, but it was not OK for an American or Soviet soldier to engage one another directly, lest the uneasy equilibrium in that Great States conflict between the world’s two superpowers be thrown off balance.

Today, utilizing cyber weapons falls into the category of largely being accepted (even if unhappily) as part of how countries exercise their power while falling short of the line of armed conflict treated as an act of war.

Daylight Between China and Russia on Ukraine

March 7, 2014
Colum Lynch, Foreign Policy’s astute United Nations reporter, spies a gap between Beijing and Moscow on the latter’s invasion of Ukraine. “An unassuming, mid-level Chinese diplomat” announced China’s support for the new government in Kiev, saying, “We respect the choice made by the Ukrainian people on the basis of national conditions.” The Kremlin, on the other hand, has argued that the new government rose by a coup and is brimming with fascists. Lynch points out that this is hardly the first time such divergences have happened:

In earlier eras, China objected to the Brezhnev Doctrine, which was used to justify Russian invasions of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Afghanistan in 1979, on the grounds that it constituted unwarranted interference in the affairs of a sovereign nation. China also brokewith Russia after it intervened in neighboring Georgia in 2008 and stripped the pro-Western government of its provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In June 2009, Moscow vetoed a U.N. resolution authorizing the continued presence of nearly 150 U.N. peacekeepers in Georgia, effectively killing off a U.N. effort to monitor Georgia's border with the separatist territory. China abstained from the vote.

There is a difference of principle here—Elizabeth Economy, the Asia director at the Council on Foreign Relations, tells Lynch that “China has a pathological fear of other countries meddling in its internal affairs....Russia's actions clearly run up against China's central foreign policy tenet of non-interference in others' internal affairs.” But, importantly, there’s also a difference of interest. Joel Wuthnow noted that in our spaces on Tuesday, saying that

China has an interest in the long-term stability of Ukraine...to prevent a chaotic situation that would undermine its economic and strategic relations with Kiev. China is Ukraine’s second-largest trading partner after Russia, with total trade in 2013 valued at $7.3 billion. China also has major stakes in Ukraine’s agricultural sector, with a September deal reportedly granting a PRC state-owned enterprise access to up to five percent of Ukraine’s arable land.

In addition, China’s relations with Ukraine deepened in December with a “strategic partnership” signed by Xi and then president Viktor Yanukovych. This agreement involved a five-year, $30 billion plan to boost PRC investment in areas including infrastructure, aviation and aerospace, energy, agriculture, and finance...

How Ukraine could overcome its crisis

March 14, 2014

Russia's intervention threatens Ukraine's already fragile economy.

By Robert Kahn

Armed men, believed to be Russian servicemaen, stand guard near barbed wire outside an Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye on March 13, 2014.

FORTUNE -- As Russian officials on Thursday announced new military operations in several regions near the Ukrainian border, it becomes clear that the country isn't just dealing with a political crisis. Its economy is also in jeopardy. The political turmoil we've seen over the past two months has exposed Ukraine's vulnerable economy -- a product of years of unsustainable economic polices that include massive energy subsidies and corruption. Addressing these imbalances would have been challenging even in the best of circumstances. With Russia's military intervention, however, Ukraine has an even tougher job -- one that calls for a comprehensive and sustained economic response requiring governments to go outside their comfort zone and learn lessons from past financial crises. If Ukraine is to overcome its crisis, here are three elements international policymakers must address:

1. Fast cash, steady reform

The centerpiece of the Western response must be financial aid and expanded trade. In response to Russian aggressions in Crimea, Western governments, the IMF, and development banks have announced commitments totaling around $20 billion, but most of the money is for financing longer-term projects. While the project financing is critical for long-term growth, much of it would have come in any event; it will do little to address the current crisis. The "real water" -- upfront additional funding for the budget -- totals around $5 billion, consisting of $1 billion in U.S. government loan guarantees, $3 billion in European Union assistance, and around $1 billion in fast-disbursing World Bank loans. That might be enough to allow the government to provide essential services and restore economic and financial stability between now and the elections scheduled for May. But if past emerging market banking and debt crises are a guide, financing needs are likely to outstrip the current expectations of the official community.

Furthermore, after the change in government, Western governments made the initial mistake of pressing for a quick deal containing major and upfront austerity measures. The EU loans also depended on an IMF deal. This puts the cart before the horse, since it could be some time before Ukraine has a legitimate government in place to make the needed commitments (e.g., raising energy prices and putting fiscal policy on a sustainable track, reforming state enterprises and the energy sector, and addressing corruption), or for there to be sufficient clarity about the economic and political conditions that would allow an IMF program to succeed. Meanwhile, Ukraine's central bank continues to lose reserves; its banking system is broken, and the government is having trouble providing basic services and collecting taxes.

The Use of Russia’s Military in the Crimean Crisis

Johan Norberg
MARCH 13, 2014 


The Crimea operation may not be the last use of military force the world sees in the Ukraine crisis.

Russia’s military actions in Crimea have shown that it is prepared to use its armed forces to achieve political aims. When masked men with weapons moved into the autonomous region in southern Ukraine on February 27, the effort was not a spur-of-the-moment decision by Russia. 

Indeed, it is clear that the Crimea operation, which seemed to have started immediately after the Sochi Winter Olympics ended and took place amid ongoing tensions between pro- and anti-Russian forces across Ukraine, was mapped out well in advance. It is likely to be part of a longer-term planning framework for Ukraine, as various military options were being weighed as the Ukrainian government under Viktor Yanukovych crumbled and other political events in the country unfolded. 

Granted, the Russian military has yet to be truly tested in Crimea. Russian forces have met no organized resistance and seen virtually no fighting. So far, the military has been used primarily as a show of force. It has succeeded in creating facts on the ground, but in a largely benign environment. 

Nonetheless, its impressive ability to seize the initiative, coordinate political and military actions, and use tactical maskirovka (diversions) has kept the West and presumably the new Ukrainian government on edge and guessing what will come next. Although information about the inner workings of the Russian military is scarce, it would appear that the use of military means in the unfolding events in Ukraine is by no means over. 


Crimea has so far been the focus of Russia’s military operation, with Russian forces and political attention centered on the region. The Kremlin’s show of force began before the military took control of Crimea’s capital, Simferopol. 

On February 26, Russia launched a major military exercise in its Western Military District (MD), which, along with the Southern MD, borders Ukraine. The exercise seemed designed to flex Russia’s military muscle from the Kola Peninsula to the Ukrainian border and demonstrate resolve on a political level to dissuade any other actor from intervening in Ukraine. It also distracted attention from Crimea. 

The exercise reportedly involved, among other forces, three armies—two from the Western MD and one from the Central MD—just as tensions were rising in Crimea. Open-source reporting from Russia’s Southern MD surprisingly indicated that the district was going about “business as usual,” despite its proximity to Crimea and the fact that it is well placed to be a staging area for operations into Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. This district also has the highest readiness in the Russian Armed Forces. 


Germany today is widely regarded as the most powerful country in Europe. But it is often reluctant to take the lead. This hesitance has much to do with the foundations of German power—Berlin has considerable resources but also faces considerable constraints. Most importantly, German power is embedded in the European Union, which both enhances and confines the country’s capability to be a foreign policy player.

And on security, Berlin depends on its Western allies, especially the United States. But as the United States is reducing its footprint in Europe, Germany needs to step up its game.


German power rests primarily on the country’s economic strength. In terms of gross domestic product (GDP), Germany ranks fourth in the world, behind the United States, China, and Japan, and ahead of France and the United Kingdom. Thanks to its economic weight, Germany is a global player, a role it exercises, for example, through its membership in the G8 group of leading economies. This gives the country status, influence, and a certain independence in its decisionmaking.

Germany has come through the global financial crisis in better shape than most European countries. It expects healthy economic growth in years to come, and the officialGDP growth forecast for 2014 is 1.75 percent. With its solid manufacturing base and many “hidden champions”―globally successful small and medium-sized businesses―the German economy has drawn worldwide admiration, despite regular criticism of its strong emphasis on exports.

Geography also contributes to German power. Situated in the middle of Europe, the country lies at a crossroads of trans-European flows of goods and people, between Central Europe and Western Europe, between Scandinavia and the Mediterranean. Germany has strong economic, social, and political ties with all its neighbors. It is ideally placed to play a mediating role between the different political, social, and economic views and attitudes in Europe.

Because of its size―the result of a number of wars and a peaceful reunification in 1990―Germany is big enough to play in the European premier league. But at the same time, it is too small and too weak to dominate the continent. Germany’s power depends on its ability to get along with its European neighbors and to cooperate closely with them.


The European Union, shaped mainly by Germany and France, provides the mechanism through which Germany interacts with its neighbors and brings different interests and views together. As long as German power is embedded in the EU, it is acceptable to Berlin’s European partners. EU countries share the same basic norms, and officials from all member states work together with their counterparts from other countries. Member states are closely involved in issues that in the past were purely domestic affairs of others. A network of cooperation spans the continent, reducing the relevance of national borders and providing an abundance of the most important resource in international relations: mutual trust.


March 15, 2014 · by Fortuna's Corner 

From Naval War College Professor John Schindler on his XX Committee blog.
The Coming War for Ukraine
http://20committee.com/2014/ 03/14/the-coming-war-for- ukraine/

As I write, Russian forces, reportedly close to 100,000 troops, are massing on the eastern borders of Ukraine for a possible invasion. The Kremlin is either about to start a major war, or wants the world to think it is: there is no third choice now. Given the scheduled referendum in the Crimea this Sunday, smart money has it that Putin, if he really launches an all-out push for Ukraine – which, as I’ve already explained, could be a disastrous move on his part – it will come early next week. Needless to add, this scenario brings chills to me and to anyone who understands the stakes in what would immediately be the biggest European war since 1945.

Yet that invasion, with its terrible consequences, is what many in Ukraine now expect. That mood of resignation, and what a Russian invasion might look like, are elaborated well in a new piece in Novoye Vremya (The New Times), a Moscow newsmagazine that is a rare outlet for anti-Kremlin views in Russia. The article by Maksim Shveyts, titled “Kyiv: Expecting War,” follows in toto, with my analysis following.

Kyiv: Expecting War – Ukraine is forming a National Guard and preparing in earnest for the defense of the capital against the aggressor

In Kyiv, Russia’s possible plans to invade mainland Ukraine do not appear to anyone simply to be a fantasy. Many recall how during his latest “appearance to the people” in Rostov-na-Donu, ex-President Viktor Yanukovych once again said that he considers himself the legitimate head of state and also promised to return to Kyiv “soon”. The fugitive president could only do this accompanied by the Russian military, local experts are convinced. And, indeed, they do not rule out scenarios in which Russian tanks enter the city.

Vice Admiral Ihor Kabanenko, ex-deputy chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine General Staff, said that Russia is preparing an air and ground offensive frontal operation against the country. Testifying to this, Kabanenko says, will be the next steps of the Russian authorities: first, “the training of airborne forces of the Russian Federation led by General Shamanov with the involvement of strategic aviation. Second, completion of the formation of an echelon, massing of air defense, and the formation of an air defense force grouping. And, finally, continuation of a deep special operation on the territory of Ukraine and the buildup of a battle group in Crimea and the East.”

Kabanenko called on the country’s political leadership to immediately mobilize reserves and to arm the citizenry. This retired military officer is certain that it is necessary to declare a patriotic war against the occupiers, form a supreme command staff, and began armed resistance to Russia’s plans to invade mainland Ukraine.

Stanislav Shum, director of Ekonomika publishers, says, “the next city where Russian troops are to be expected is Kyiv”: “Because if the Ukrainian Army is as weak as the defense minister maintains, there’s no point from the military perspective in attacking the regions if the capital can be taken. Again, without a single shot being fired, to the cannonade of protests and profound concern of the West,” this expert believes. “Events subsequently will unfold as rapidly as in the final days of February, only in reverse order,” he explains.

Escalation of Tension

Kyiv really does have grounds for fears. On 13 March, the Russian Federation (RF) Defense Ministry announced exercises to be conducted on the eastern border with Ukraine. The same day in Inkerman [in Crimea], the Russian military sealed off a weapons depot. Two explosive ordnance storage units – of the Ukrainian Navy and Russia’s Black Sea Fleet – are stationed there. It was then learned that RF service personnel had sealed off the Ukrainian Ai-Petri Battalion. They posted thirty men with assault rifles around the perimeter and said that any transport traveling in the direction of the Ukrainian battalion was “subject to neutralization.” Meanwhile, the Crimean “self-defense force” prepared for an assault on the Ukrainian military unit in Simferopol, with the demand that the fuel depot be handed over to it. The new authorities of Crimea, led by the unrecognized Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov, have taken control of the Feodosiya oil transshipment terminal.

Cyber-war: In deed and desire, Iran emerging as a major power

Iran is being recognized in the US intelligence community and in cyber-security firms protecting corporate America as having vaulted into the top 10 of the world’s offensive cyber-powers. 
By Mark Clayton, Staff writer / March 16, 2014

A map is displayed on one of the screens at the Air Force Space Command Network Operations & Security Center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. After years as a cyber also-ran, Iran is becoming a major threat in the rapidly evolving era of cyber-conflict.

As high-level international talks in Vienna over Iran’s nuclear program edged closer to a deal last fall, something curious happened – massive cyber-attacks that had hammered Wall Street bank websites repeatedly for about a year slowed to a near stop.

While banking industry officials were relieved, others wondered why those Iran-linked “distributed denial of service” attacks that had so regularly flooded bank websites with bogus Internet traffic were shut off like a faucet. One likely reason, say US experts on cyber-conflict: to reduce friction, at least temporarily, at the Vienna nuclear talks.

Yet, even as the “distributed denial of service” attacks abated for apparently diplomatic reasons, overall Iranian cyber-spying on US military and energy corporation networks has surged, these experts say.

Iran was fingered last fall, for instance, for infiltrating the US Navy Marine Corps Intranet. It then took the Navy nearly four months to root out the Iranian hackers infesting its largest unclassified computer network, the Wall Street Journal reported in February.

This litany of Iranian activity is evidence, say experts, that after years as a cyber also-ran, Iran is morphing swiftly into a major threat in the rapidly evolving era of cyber-conflict.

That shift is causing a growing recognition – from the halls of the US intelligence community to the cyber-security firms protecting corporate America – that Iran has vaulted into the ranks of the world’s top-10 offensive cyber-powers.

“Iran represents a qualitatively different cyber-actor,” says Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council, a Washington think tank. “They’re not stealing our intellectual property en masse like China, or using cyber-space as a black market like the Russians do. But what Iran does use cyber for, including elevating its retaliatory capabilities abroad, makes it a serious threat.”

Intent to do damage

While Iran is still not a true “cyber-superpower” on a par with the US, China, and Russia, it is the intensity, variety, and destructiveness of Iran-linked cyber-incursions over the past five years that led to its reappraisal.

“Until recently, the US intelligence community thought about America’s serious cyber-adversaries mainly as a duopoly – Russia and China,” says a cyber-expert who asked not to be named in order to preserve ties with federal agencies. “The Vienna process is causing Iran to rein in its cyber-activities, at least temporarily. Iran’s capabilities may be rudimentary in many ways, yet what it lacks in sophistication it more than makes up for in intent” to do damage.

Iran was suspected, for instance, to have been the hand behind a computer virus that wrecked 30,000 Saudi Aramco computers in 2012. A similar attack hit RasGas, a Qatari energy company, that same year.

Even though these attacks were considered relatively crude, Iran’s capabilities are believed to be growing rapidly, thanks to ample funding from its government – $1 billion in 2011 with continuing large annual expenditures – and easy access to Russian, Chinese and black market cyber-tools and expertise, experts say.

The Aramco incident, while not remotely as sophisticated as the landmark Stuxnet attack on Iran’s nuclear fuel refining facilities in 2009, was “second only to Stuxnet as a disruptive cyber-attack and showed the progress of Iranian capabilities,” according to a recent study by James Lewis, a cyber-conflict expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“They’ve put in place the structures, strategy – and have acquired software tools from the black market,” Dr. Lewis says in an interview. “They have groups whose job it is to hack. They’ve worked through the organization, the training, and strategic issues that let them use cyber-tools against their opponents.”

Another prong of Iran’s cyber-development is directed inward.

One of Iran’s most sophisticated hacks in 2011 infiltrated a Dutch company in order to steal digital certificates. Those certificates, used for secure online communications, were later reported to have been used by Iranian authorities to hack e-mail and communications of its own citizens.

“We’ve seen persistent activity by the Iranians, not only in cyber-espionage, but in attacking dissidents at home, infiltrating government and military targets, energy companies and the financial sector,” says Dmitri Alperovitch, cofounder and chief technical officer of the cyber-security firm CrowdStrike. “Most of that activity has continued pretty much unabated.”

Response to Stuxnet

For their part, Iranians say it took the US-linked Stuxnet attack to spur Tehran in 2009 to press for advanced cyber-war capability, Hossein Moussavian, a research scholar at Princeton and a former diplomat who served on Iran’s nuclear negotiations team, said in an appearance a year ago at Fordham Law School.

“The US, or Israel, or the Europeans, or all of them together, started war against Iran,” he told the audience. “Iran decided to have … to establish a cyber-army, and today, after four or five years, Iran has one of the most powerful cyber-armies in the world.”

Indeed, not unlike China, Iran appears to be developing its offensive cyber-capabilities as part of an asymmetric tool that can reach around the globe to counterbalance its relatively weak conventional forces, says Mr. Berman, of the American Foreign Policy Council. Notably, it seems more than willing to engage in damaging cyber-attacks wherever those might help achieve its goals on the world stage, he says.

That includes an uptick in Iran’s cyber-espionage sophistication – including the infiltration of the US Navy’s intranet network.

"It was a real eye-opener in terms of the capabilities of Iran to get into a Defense Department system and stay in there for months," a former US official told the Journal regarding the Navy intranet spying campaign. "That's worrisome."

A major part of Iran’s new capabilities are geared toward signaling the US, letting it know whether it is unhappy – or possibly smiling.

In that vein, massive Iran-linked “distributed denial of service” attacks had hit flooded bank websites with bogus Internet traffic about every three months since the fall of 2012. But as high-level international talks over Iran’s nuclear program edging closer to a deal late last fall, the huge bombardment stopped.

Iran and six world powers – the US, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany – reported agreement in January on a timetable for negotiating a comprehensive pact that would end the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program.

DDoS attacks were 'a harbinger'

Of course DDoS attacks, like those against the big US banks, are not typically considered sophisticated attacks – more like protests that gum up the works than damaging attacks, experts note. Yet some say these were far bigger and more sophisticated than generally assumed.

“This operation took down some of the most admirable companies on Wall Street that had deployed some of the most sophisticated defensive technology – and the attackers were able to take down almost all of that,” says Carl Herberger, vice president of security solutions at Radware, an Israeli security firm that has investigated the denial of service attacks. “That’s a harbinger.”

Indeed, Wall Street’s respite from DDoS attacks could prove short-lived. If tensions resume or talks fail, cyber-attacks of all types directed at the US should be expected, several experts say.

“If the nuclear talks fail, we should expect retaliation from Iran in a variety of ways including cyber-attacks, both against the US, but also Saudi Arabia and others,” CrowdStrike’s Mr. Alperovitch says.

“It’s that willingness to display belligerence in the cyber realm that sets Iran apart,” says Jen Weedon, a manager in the threat intelligence division at the cyber-security firm Mandiant.

There’s another reason for the US and others to be wary of Iran as a growing cyber-threat. Iran is believed to be learning from the cyber-attacks against its own operations – and is actively reverse engineering them, some experts say.

Signs of this emerged in May 2012 when an Iranian cyber-engineer, Morteza Rezaei, an automation expert at NEDA Industrial Goup in Tehran, published his analysis of defending against Stuxnet in Control Global, a US online publication.

“It shows they're very competent, they're knowledgeable, and they have access to all of the latest solutions,” says Joe Weiss, an industrial control systems security expert who publishes Control Global. “It shows that that they're capable of doing to us what they think we did to them.”

Hayat Alvi, an associate professor of national security affairs at the US Naval War College concurs.

“When the Stuxnet virus hit their nuclear facilities it was a huge shock,” she says. “But clearly they’ve sent their tech savvy personnel to examine it and see what they can learn from it. I wouldn’t be too surprised if we see something potent like that from them in the not too distant future.”