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Monday, 30 December 2019

No Surprise: The US has already accessed Russian hypersonic missiles


 

Faheem Sarwar. 

Russia’s deployment of its Avangard hypersonic missiles does not come as a surprise since the US has already had access to them. This state of the art system is the world’s first and the only known hypersonic weapon. It travels at 27 times the speed of sound and is claimed by Russia to be capable of penetrating the US missile shield.

What Has Russia Declared so Far?

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the missiles are capable of carrying nuclear warheads and are able to hit targets anywhere in the world. Though their deployment locations have, understandably, not been revealed. 

These hypersonic weapons are installed atop an intercontinental ballistic missile where a hypersonic glide vehicle and the nuclear warhead form its payload. On their launch, they are flown by the missile to altitudes ranging from 25 to 60 miles (40 to 100 km). The glide vehicle then detaches and homes onto the target. The glide vehicles are maneuverable and follow a trajectory lower than that of ballistic missiles. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin was jubilant while announcing the weapon. He remarked about the edge Russia had achieved as no other country presently possesses the hypersonic capability. Western experts, however, have taken the achievement with a pinch of salt seeing the record of Russia’s weapon systems. 

How the US Accessed Russian Hypersonic Missiles?

The US accessed Russian hypersonic missiles under the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty). New START is a bilateral agreement between the two countries, aimed at discouraging a nuclear arms race. It was signed in 2010 and allows mutual weapon inspections so that the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers can be reduced. 

On 26 November 2019, US inspectors visited Russia and were given a tour of an Avangard facility under the inspection provisions of the New START. The exercise was part of measures to increase transparency in the nuclear programs of the two countries. 

The visit of US experts was announced by no less than the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. His ministry stated that the inspection was carried out to keep the treaty “viable and effective”.

The inspection was acknowledged also by the Executive Director of the United States’ Arms Control Association (ACA) Daryl Kimball. According to him, Russia demonstrated the weapon that was to be deployed on a ballistic missile. After Russia’s announcement of Avangard’s deployment, a US State Department official confirmed the November inspection but did not add any further comment. 

Expiring on 5 February 2021, this last remaining arms control treaty between the two has slim chances of renewal in light of the US’s pullout from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in August 2019. Seeing the tendencies of US President Donald Trump, Russia has already expressed its willingness to extend the New START without any preconditions. If the US refuses the extension, Mr. Putin will clearly emerge exonerated.

Does the US Have Hypersonic Weapons?

The US started working on developing hypersonic weapons in 2000. The pace, however, remained slow since ground-based insurgency remained the major threat during the last two decades.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) had been extensively working on Program Falcon to develop these weapons. But after failed trials during 2010 and 2011, Congress pulled the plug on funding. As per recent reports though, it has resumed work on developing their engines

Later in 2018 when Russia was testing the Avangard system, the US Air Force announced that it was working with Lockheed Martin to develop its own hypersonic weapons. At the same time, Boeing is invested with a British company to develop their propulsion systems

During the last two decades, Russia and China were not engaged in counter-insurgency conflicts at the level of the US and remained focused on developing next-generation weapons. With their research now bearing results, the US has accelerated to cover the lag. 

Defence Secretary Mark Esper has made their development a priority as Congress received repeated warnings that Russian and Chinese missiles are increasingly becoming sophisticated and difficult to track and defeat. Esper believes the US will also be successful in showcasing a hypersonic weapon in its strategic arsenal in a couple of years. 

How to Counter Hypersonic Weapons

Till the time the US fields hypersonic weapons of its own, it is trying to employ countermeasures against those of its adversaries. 

Neutralizing hypersonic weapons is tricky since they travel more than five times the speed of sound, covering more than a mile in each second of their flight. This high speed makes them extremely difficult to detect, track and defeat. 

So the suggestion put up by US officials is to deploy sensors and interceptors in space that can carry out all of these actions. This, however, will give rise to counter-countermeasures and thus the dawn of space warfare. 

US President Donald Trump has been pursuing the establishment of a dedicated military branch for space since 2018. The House and Senate have reached an agreement to fund a Space Force and the US Space Command has been upgraded as a unified combatant command

Forecast

In light of the Russian deployment, US efforts to achieve the publicly perceived balance of power will accelerate and a homegrown hypersonic weapon will be announced before 2022. President Trump and his security team have this on their priority list. 

The hypersonic weapon developed by the US will have better capability since there doesn’t seem to be an urgency of achieving parity without due research. One area to watch is the technology that the US’s re-entry vehicle will adopt. The gliding mechanism of the Russian vehicle is relatively slow and is prone to defensive measures.

Chinese technology is quick to follow global trends and defense is no exception. In 2018, China had successfully tested its first hypersonic aircraft. With the country’s scientific progress, we should expect China’s announcement of hypersonic weapons coming out at any time. 

And finally, as mentioned earlier, the dawn of space warfare. Unless the UN Outer Space Treaty is updated to restrict deployment of any weapon rather than just nuclear weapons of WMDs in space, the global security situation is going to get more complex and more resource-intensive. 

Sunday, 29 December 2019

A Hitler is reborn in India

Hayat Bangash. 

Partition of British India took place in 1947 on the basis of a two-nation theory. On one side, Hindu majority areas formed what we today call India. On the other, areas of Muslim majority formed part of Pakistan except for the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan emerged on the world map as a newborn Muslim state, whereas Indian leadership claimed a secular India in the remaining parts of erstwhile British India. People in the areas of mixed population were given a choice to either stay back or migrate to India or Pakistan. In the areas of their considerably large population, Muslims showed confidence in a promised secular India and decided to remain Indians.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, commonly known as RSS, was established in 1925 by a Hindu extremist Keshav Baliram Hedgewar with its headquarters in the Indian city of Nagpur, Maharashtra. The organization works for Hindu supremacy and the ideology of Hindutva, consisting of about over 4 million paramilitary volunteers today.

RSS was banned by the British rulers of India due to its extremist views. After the independence of India, it was once again banned by the Indian government when Mahatma Gandhi, the founding father of India, was assassinated by an extremist Hindu from RSS, Nathuram Vinayak Godse, on 30 Jan 1948 in New Delhi.

The organization kept functioning till it got banned twice again during the National Emergency of 1975-77 by Prime Minister Indra Gandhi and in 1992 when a violent RSS rally resorted to the demolition of Babri Masjid, a sixteenth-century mosque in Ayodhya, Utter Pradesh.

Till today, RSS is working for the supremacy of Hindu nationalism and challenges other religious minorities to either become Hindu or quit India. Its goons are often involved in mob lynchings of the minority Muslims on the pretext of slaughtering cows, considered sacrilege in the Hindu religion.

Narendra Modi, the incumbent Prime Minister of India, was introduced to RSS at the age of eight and became a prominent member and a full-time worker by 1971. Though he went into hiding when RSS was banned during the National Emergency. RSS later introduced him into its political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1985. He held several positions in the party until becoming its General Secretary in 2001 and getting elected as Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat.

Gujarat Massacre of 2002

The 2002 Gujarat Riots or ‘The Gujarat Pogrom’ were a three day long inter-communal violence in Gujarat. Following the initial incident, violence broke out in the city of Ahmedabad and lasted for three months. A further outbreak of violence against the minority Muslim population lasted for a year.

The state government of Gujarat under its Chief Minister Modi was accused of initiating violence against the Muslim population by providing lists of Muslim owned properties to the rioters who were active under the protection of state police. The Concerned Citizens Tribunal Report released in 2002 estimated as many as 1,926 people killed and 2,500 injured. Other sources estimated death tolls in excess of 2,000. Many brutal killings and rapes were reported and widespread looting and destruction of property took place as a result of these riots.

Abrogation of Article 370

Article 370 of the Indian constitution gave special status to the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) that currently India administrates. This Article, along with Article 35 A, defined the residents of the state of Jammu and Kashmir under a separate set of citizenship laws. It governed the ownership of property and fundamental rights unlike those for residents of other Indian states. Due to the provision of these articles, citizens of other states of India could not purchase land and properties in J&K.

Soon after securing his second term in office, Prime Minister Modi decided to abrogate Article 370 and 35A. His action shows a lack of vision and reflects that he was ignorant of the aftereffects of his unconstitutional and undemocratic effects of the abrogation of the said Articles.

To curb the expected harsh reaction from the citizens of J&K, Modi imposed a curfew, cutting all communications including internet facilities in the state. There are reports of daily killings of Kashmiri youth, brutalities and rape of women by Indian soldiers and ban on the religious activities in the State since 5 August 2019.

J&K has now become one of the most dangerous places of the world and a flashpoint between the two arch-rival nuclear neighbors, India and Pakistan. The world needs to realize that there is a deep gulf in Jammu and Kashmir valley.

Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens  

As if the abrogation of Article 370 was less in igniting the fire, Modi, widely known as the ‘Butcher of Gujarat‘ further went ahead in his animosity towards the Muslims of India and passed the Citizens Amendment Act (CAA) and introduced National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Where CAA is a nationwide arrangement to exclude Muslim immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan seeking the citizenship of India, the NRC is specific to the state of Assam and denies citizenship to the existing Muslim citizens living there.

The Deadly Protests across India

The fire lit by Modi against the Muslims has spread out from J&K to West Bengal and from Assam to New Delhi and Kerala. The protesters are not the Muslims of India alone but all citizens who think that the new laws are against the ethos of the constitution which provides protection under a secular India.

Others are those who believe that today it is Muslims, tomorrow it will be Christians, Sikhs, and other minorities and the different castes of Hindus – the Vaishyas, Shudras, Adivasi, and Dalits – because Hinduism is based in a caste system and the highest out of them the Brahmins consider others as lesser humans.

There are reports that the protesters will be countered through extremist RSS goons who are seen preparing and marching in the city of Hyderabad. The Butcher of Gujarat has now become the Hitler of India and is bent upon the genocide of Indian Muslims.

The Muslims of India are looking at the civilized world to save them from a Hitler, reborn in India this time and involved in a holocaust of Muslims.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

The war in Libya might escalate beyond its borders

 Javed Ali.

The war in Libya is showing clear signs of escalation. As the North African nation struggles to unite under a single government, external factors are likely to push the conflict beyond its borders. 

The reason, like most modern wars, is about energy. Eastern Mediterranean Sea is a gas-rich region marred in territorial conflicts between Turkey, Greece, and Libya that have hindered the utilization of the wealth that lies underneath. 

Turkey’s Maritime Deal with Libya

Turkey and Libya signed a maritime deal with Libya in late November 2019 redefining boundaries of their territorial waters. This came after Turkey and Libya voiced concerns that regional countries were leaving them out from benefiting from the energy resources of the Mediterranean region. 

The internationally recognized Libyan government is facing a civil war from the eastern part of the country where a parallel government with significant military prowess is challenging its authority. This has left it with a diminished ability to protect its interests beyond its land borders. 

Sharing the resource exploitation concerns, the Libyan government reached out to Turkey and the maritime deal was born. 

What Sparked the Turkish-Libyan Deal?

Turkey’s fears heightened when Israel, Greece and Greek Cypriot Administration signed an energy deal in November 2018 that would result in the construction of a $7 million EastMed pipeline. The pipeline will originate from what Turkey and Libya consider Libyan maritime zone and culminate at the Italian city of Otranto. 

Seeing the Turkish-Libyan deal, Greece accelerated efforts to materialize the pipeline and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ office revealed that he along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades will sign the agreement on 2 Jan 2020. Italy’s nod to the modalities of the pipeline though remains unclear. 

The tension between NATO Allies Turkey and Greece

Turkey’s maritime deal with Libya brought it at odds with NATO ally Greece. At the 70th anniversary summit of the organization last month, Greece was visibly infuriated and took an exception to the new demarcation of Turkish and Libyan maritime territories. 

Ever since, Greece has been on a diplomatic offensive. It has dispatched letters to the UN explaining its objections and Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias toured Arab capitals for gathering support. 

Though it is unlikely that Greece will be able to break the status quo between Arab states and Turkey that exists over an array of issues related to the Middle East. So far only Egypt has been the only Arab nation objecting to the maritime deal. Egypt’s naval forces also conducted military drills that coincided with the rise in tensions with Turkey and Libya. 

Turkey’s Military Pact with Libya

The war in Libya has ensued since the fall of its longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi has torn the country among forces loyal to the government and the eastern Libyan National Army (LNA). 

Turkey sides with the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and signed a military cooperation pact last month which the Turkish parliament has now ratified. The pact allows Turkey to deploy its troops at the request of Libya where the threat of a “decisive battle” is looming from the opposition forces of the LNA. The deployment is expected to be carried out by January 2020.

Russian ‘Wagner’ Mercenaries in the War in Libya

Russia and Turkey find each other at opposing sides in Libya. While Turkey is supporting the GNA, Russia is maintaining a channel with the LNA. The situation recently got complicated when the US objected to the presence of the Russian mercenary force Wagner Group among the ranks of LNA. 

Wagner forces are a Russian mercenary group which the Russian government denies control over. The group rose to prominence during Eastern Ukranian conflict where pro-Russian forces were up in arms against Ukraine. 

Although Turkey and Russia are cooperating at various fronts in the Middle East, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan came down hard upon the presence of the Wagner group in Libya. He cited the group’s presence in the war in Libya as the reason for a possible Turkish military deployment. He has vowed to take up the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin when the latter visits Turkey in early 2020.    

Fighters loyal to the GNA engage in a gun fight as the war in Libya ensues (AFP Photo)
Fighters loyal to the GNA engage in a gun fight as the war in Libya ensues (AFP Photo)

Arms Embargo Lifted from Cyprus

As if the drums of war beating in the Mediterranean were not enough, the US Congress voted to lift the arms embargo from Cyprus in mid-December 2019 that had been in place since 1987. Imposed initially to discourage an arms race in the region, the embargo was one of the reasons the division of Cyprus had not escalated tensions between Turkey and Greece.

Turkey was clearly infuriated. Its foreign ministry issued a statement that the move will be a ‘dangerous escalation‘. This comes at a time when Turkey and the US are not at the best of terms. Turkey’s decision to move ahead with its purchase of the S-400 missile system from Russia strained its relations with the US and it was kicked out of the F-35 stealth fighter jet program. 

Turkish Drone in Cyprus

At the same time, the deployment of a Turkish drone in Cyprus has raised the apprehensions of the Greek government. Although Turkey states that it is for the purpose of hydrocarbon exploration but not all in Greece are convinced. 

According to AFP, it is a military Bayraktar TB2 drone. The drone’s deployment comes in light of Greece controlled Cyprus’ acquisition of Israeli Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in October 2019 for surveillance purposes.

Stationed at Gecitkale airport, the Turkish drone has started its flights over the eastern Mediterranean. 

Greek Foreign Minister’s Visit to Rebel Libyan Region

Amid the rising tension, Greek Foreign Minister visited the rebel-controlled eastern Libya. He met with commander Khalifa Haftar who has continuously stepped up opposition to the internationally recognized GNA. 

A strong reaction to the visit emanated from Libya’s Turkey aligned GNA as the visit was apparently aimed precisely at that. GNA is not in a position to react to such foreign bids and Greece used the visit to convey a message that it was prepared to escalate while defending its interests. 

The Italian Factor

Italy is the third NATO member that considers itself an affectee in the brewing conflict. Ever since ending its colonial hold, Italy considers Libya its natural domain. The growing Turkish influence has thrown Italy on its toes. Italy and Turkey have been relatively friendly in recent times, apart from Italian opposition to Turkish offensive in Syria

In the rift between Greece and Turkey, Italian interests lie with those of Greece since it is in the final stages of approving the EastMed pipeline. At the same time, it has been cautious in stepping into the Turkey-Libya deal. Italy appointed a special diplomatic envoy to Libya only after the deal was finalized and admitted that it had been slow in responding to LNA’s assault on western Libya’s GNA. 

Forecast 

The war in Libya is morphing into a multi-national conflict. Sucking in Turkey, Greece, and Italy – all NATO members – the situation is posing a threat to their military alliance and raising fears of a new conflict in the MENA region. 

The region is still struggling with the power vacuum formed after the Arab Spring that deposed several dictators. There are little signs of its return to normalcy. If the Libyan conflict escalates beyond its borders, it will give birth to a new proxy war that will disturb the status quo that the Mediterranean region has enjoyed so far. 

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Finally, a breakthrough in US-Iran relations

Saleem Zahid.

The breakthrough in US-Iran relations came at the most unexpected time. President Donald Trump is undergoing an impeachment process and needs massive support from his voters over the validity of his radical approach to governance and foreign policy. A thaw in the US-Iran ties comes as a blessing. 

Meeting of US and Iranian Envoys at the UN

After trading barbs at the UN Security Council meeting on 19 December, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft reached up to her Iranian counterpart Majid Takht-Ravanchi to condole the death of a two-year-old girl. 

Mr. Ravanchi had spoken at length of how US sanctions had made medical care difficult for the Iranian people. The little girl died from a rare skin related disease, he said, because the country could not import special bandages for her. 

Despite coming hard upon each other during their speeches, a compassionate exchange of words was a welcome sign among the two bickering foes who have been at odds since the 1979 revolution in Iran. 

The exchange might seem insignificant but when seen with other corroborating events, there really has risen a possibility that we might be looking for a softening of stances on both sides.

Iranian President’s Visit to US Ally Japan

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited US’s close ally Japan on 20 December and discussed the 2015 nuclear deal with Japanese leadership. His visit comes at a time when European nations, along with Japan, are scrambling to revive the deal which the US unilaterally canceled in 2018. 

With the high profile visit, speculations gained significant traction that Iran was seeking a line to the US. Japan has maintained cautious relations with Iran and was one of the largest buyers of its crude oil till US sanctions stopped it from doing so. This year, on the formation of a US-led maritime security coalition to protect the Strait of Hormuz from the threat from Iran, Japan decided not to be a part of it. 

Japan enjoys the confidence of both the US and Iran and is well-positioned for acting as a trusted intermediary in solving one of the most longstanding security issues of the Middle East. 

Right after the Iranian delegation departed, Japanese President Shinzo Abe briefed President Trump in a lengthy phone call, giving confirmation to the presence of an indirect channel between the US and Iran.

Iranian president’s visit to Japan is a sign that he may finally be willing to come to the table. Backing for this notion comes from the fact that Iran’s request for the meeting came at a relatively short notice. Meanwhile, Iran also wants to show that it is not cocooning away from the world and is instead open to discuss thorny issues. 

Prisoner Exchange with the US

Earlier this month, the US and Iran exchanged prisoners in another thawing development. An American graduate student Xiyue Wang, held by Iran for three and a half years, was released in exchange for Masoud Soleimani, an Iranian scientist working on stem cell research and charged with exporting proteins not allowed for Iran. 

The American student was charged by the Iranian government for espionage but his relatively early release and his frequent calls with his family in the US show that he was only being kept as a bargaining chip. 

The prisoner exchange corroborates with other events that indicate the breakthrough in US-Iran relations. Just as the Iranian leader’s visit to Japan was held at a short notice, this exchange was the result of merely weeks of negotiations between American and Iranian officials. Such a process otherwise takes months and even years to bear positive results. 

US officials took the exchange positively with public appreciations. Brian Hook, US special representative for Iran, was especially upbeat on future diplomatic prospects. He expressed hope that the event may lead to broader discussions on consular affairs between the two nations. 

The Pinch of Salt

Ever since the prisoner exchange, Brian Hook has been sending positive signals to the Iranians. A week after the exchange, he declared that the US was open to dialogue. In the same breath, however, he stated that Iran remained a threat to international peace and security.

In the latest show of toughening up, the US imposed sanctions on Iranian judges who, according to it, carried out ‘miscarriage of justice in show trials’ against participants of the recent protests in the country. 

Although these sanctions primarily involved visa restrictions, other tougher ones have been disastrous for Iran’s economy. The oil-rich nation today exports only to a handful of countries that don’t cooperate with US policies. 

The US has blamed Iran for carrying out a proxy war against Saudi Arabia and, most recently, of carrying out direct attacks on Saudi oil refinery Aramco. Though the recent diplomatic overtures are a convincing signal of a breakthrough in US-Iran relations.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

All that we know of phase one US-China trade deal so far


Faheem Sarwar. 

The United States and China announced the much-awaited phase one of their trade deal on 13 December, sending a sigh of relief in markets across the world. Details of the deal continue to trickle in since the final draft is still not out. Here is what we know of it so far.

US Commitments in Phase One

Suspension: The US will not implement the additional 15% tariff on $160 billion worth of Chinese goods that was to come into effect from 15 December 2019. 

Reduction: US tariffs on $120 billion worth of Chinese goods will be reduced from 15% to 7.5%. These include items like bluetooth headphones, smart speakers and televisions. 

Continuation: 25% tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports will remain unchanged.

Chinese Commitments in Phase One

Since the tariffs were initiated by the US while demanding a change in China’s trade practices, Chinese commitments are more of policy nature than those related to tariffs. 

Issues covered: According to Chinese officials, this phase will cover issues related to: 

  • Protection of intellectual property.
  • Transfer of technology.
  • Expansion of trade. 
  • Expansion of energy imports.
  • Expansion of services imports.
  • Purchase of agricultural products. The US puts the annual value of these purchases between $40 billion to $50 billion over the next two years, but the Chinese side has not put it into writing yet.

Office of the US trade Trade Representative (USTR) added these issues to the list

  • Financial services.
  • Currency. 
  • Foreign exchange.
  • $200 billion worth of imports from US over the next two years. These range from airplanes to food items.

Suspension: Chinese officials stated that they would not be imposing tariffs on US products that were scheduled for 15 December. As the tit-for-tat imposition had been ensuing since the start of the trade war, these tariffs could have been as high as 15% on $160 billion of goods that the US was planning to introduce. 

When Will the Deal Be Signed?

The United States and China will sign the trade deal in early January according to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Until then, speculations will be rife as to what exactly has China agreed in return of the suspended US tariffs. 

We can expect changes in the commitments made by the negotiators as the agreement is shuttling back and forth between Washington DC and Beijing for approvals, legal reviews, and translations. 

Lighthizer also refuted the possibility of presidents of the two countries meeting for the signing. It will be, instead, ministerial-level reps who will be meeting to sign the final draft of the deal. 

Phase Two of the Trade Deal

US Trade Representative stated that his government will not wait for the 2020 presidential election for taking up phase two of the deal. Whereas, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin believes that it will come in stages but its timeline is yet to be determined. 

Future of the Trade War

The US is not planning to impose new tariffs on Chinese imports. Although the Trade Representative links that with the intent of his Chinese counterparts. 

No promises have been made by the US on future rollbacks of the remaining tariffs. The US is skeptical of Chinese commitments and is thus not committing to any future concessions. 

With a looming threat of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial and the presidential election due next year, political difficulties for him point out he will not be upsetting his voters from ‘farmer states’ where the majority of his vote bank lies. The protracted trade war had severely shaken their confidence in Trump’s ability to achieve the tariffs’ objectives. That means the deal will certainly go through in some form or the other. 

No End in Sight

When phase one of the deal was signed, global markets responded but only with a slight positivity. The response reflected investor sentiment that the deal was merely a temporary relief in a battle that will last much longer. 

The trade war has transformed from a single individual’s wish – i.e. Donald Trump’s – to a bipartisan issue in the US. China hawks in the administration have thrown weight behind Trump’s decision to challenge the growing clout of China in international trade. 

Now that China has moved on from producing low-end products like apparel and home appliances to raising 5G networks, calls are growing among US lawmakers that their country’s technological and economic superiority has to be defended. For this very reason, the imposition of tariffs on China is finding support and is not likely to go away soon. 

CLSA, a Hong Kong-based investment group, predicts that the trade war will continue for at least three more years but with the possibility of more phased deals. 

Sunday, 15 December 2019

High expectations from the Japan, South Korea, China summit

Ashraf Qureshi. 

Despite being communists and capitalists, American allies and adversaries, mutual partners and historical rivals, leaders of three Asian nations are getting together to come up with ways of engaging an unruly neighbor. On 24 December, Japan and South Korea will be joining China in the central Chinese city of Chengdu and deciding how to handle North Korea’s increasingly worrying nuclear ambitions.

Aims of the Japan, South Korea, China Summit

Apart from carrying out a massive volume of regional trade, cooperation among the three historically opposing countries has been rare. But the threat from North Korea has provided them a common ground to pursue a joint strategy. 

When they sit in Chengdu, the leaders will be reviewing the latest security situation, boosting trilateral cooperation and coming up with ways of containing the nuclearization of the region. To be precise, its a sitting aimed solely at North Korea. 

Traditionally China has enjoyed influence over the communist nation’s leadership and, at several points in recent history, it has mended ways only after intervention by China. Japan and South Korea, on the other hand, are considered rivals by North Korea. Both being capitalist states, democracies and American allies are prime targets of its ire. 

Solving the North Korean riddle, that has surpassed generations of leaders in the three countries, is not easy. Yet the will among them is an encouraging sign with a glimmer of a positive outcome from the Chengdu summit. 

Saving GSOMIA

Japan and South Korea have signed an intelligence-sharing pact that allows them to exchange information on nuclear and missile activities of North Korea. Known as General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), the pact was on the brink of collapse after both countries came to trade blows owing to their historical differences.

Despite being US partners in efforts against denuclearization of the region, South Korea’s intention of discontinuing GSOMIA’s renewal sent worrying signals across the globe. Although it reversed the decision hours before the expiry of the agreement, bickering among Japan and South Korea has emboldened North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, raised his threats and increased his missile tests.

The historical dispute, stemming from the forced labor of Koreans by Japan during its colonization of the peninsula, morphed into an economic one but was saved from turning into a security headache. Economic concessions’ announcement by their leaders and an intervention by the US – which also benefits from GSOMIA – eventually saved the agreement but the shaky alliance is far from getting stable. The historical issues still remain unresolved and a trade war of their own is showing no signs of slowing down. 

People watch a TV screen showing a file image of a North Korean rocket during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station (AP Photo)
People watch a TV screen showing a file image of a North Korean rocket during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station (AP Photo)

The Trade War Between Japan and South Korea

Timeline of the trade war between Japan and South Korea starts with South Korea’s supreme court ruling in 2018 that Japan must compensate victims of forced labor. Japan immediately made it clear that all issues pertaining to the forced labor have been settled under a 1965 agreement between the two countries.

The disputing claims became nationalist and political issues and soon spiraled out of control with both setting up economic hurdles for each other. In July 2019, Japan tightened control over the export of materials crucial to producing semiconductors.

South Korea’s electronics production industry was directly threatened by this move. Semiconductors are vital for its economy as it is one of the world’s top electronics manufacturing nations. 

When South Korea lashed back at Japan, the latter upped the ante by removing it from a “white list” of trusted trade partners in October. South Koreans have since been calling for boycotting Japanese products and tourism to hurt the Japanese economy. 

The upcoming summit will be a unique opportunity for the two countries to scale back their rhetoric and cool down the populist narratives that are taking a toll on their economies. 

China-South Korea Ties after the Missile Defence Row

Historically, South Korea has been closer to China than Japan. But US actions to counter the North Korean threat have at times tested their relationship. 

In 2017, the US installed the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea to intercept any possible missiles coming from North Korea. The system comes with a long-range radar that can see flying objects well into Chinese territory. 

China raised strong objections on THAAD’s installation, terming it a move to upset the security balance of the region. The dispute seeped into social and economic realms, sending shockwaves into the South Korean economy. Its tourism, cosmetics and entertainment industries suffered heavily while bearing the brunt of China’s economic power. 

Earlier this month, however, both China and South Korea decided to move on and reset their ties as China appeared satisfied with the intentions of the American missile defense system. Both at the receiving end of tariffs from the US and its ally Japan are now looking at increasing high-level exchanges and undo three years of economic challenges.

Japan’s Lessons for China in the Trade War with the US

China is facing a trade war with the US that Japan has since long defeated. Although the US considers China a strategic rival, what it did to Japan was a plethora of protectionist tariffs thrown upon an ally. China is facing the same person – in the form of the US president – who, during the peak of the US trade war with Japan, accused Japan of “systematically sucking the blood out of America“. 

During the 70s, the trade balance between Japan and the US was highly tilted in favor of the former. The result was limiting imports from and imposing tariffs on Japan, deteriorating relations between the two to levels not seen since the second world war. 

Although the Japanese economy remained stalled for more than 10 years, China today has more leverage by being the world’s second-largest economy. Meanwhile, a strong rapport between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has enabled them to exchange notes on how to tackle the threat once pitched against Japan. 

The coming trilateral summit will allow them to deepen their cooperation in the face of the pressing security and economic issues. Japan came out stronger from its trade war with the US and China is looking exactly at that. Even if Japan is today closer to the US than it is to China, there still exists an eastern connection that will eventually let them sort out their problems. 

The Chinese Axis of Japan and South Korea

The complexity of Asia’s geopolitics can be fathomed from the entangled alliances that present joint postures against threats in one direction while conflicting positions against threats in the other. 

Japan and China hold different views on the South China Sea but similar on US trade tactics and North Korean missiles. South Korea and China hold different views on US involvement in the region but the same on historical disputes with Japan. 

The Chengdu summit is expected to unify their stance on North Korea. Trade and historical differences among the three are letting their nuclear neighbor grow its arsenal unchecked. Fortunately, they realize that and are willing to sit down and discuss. 

On North Korea, sanctions are not working, top-level diplomatic engagement is not working and neither is any kind of appeasement. China, Japan, and South Korea can come up with a regional solution to convince Mr. Kim Jong-un to give peace a chance, open up the country and initiate an era of economic prosperity for his people. 

Thursday, 12 December 2019

US policies that gave birth to the Russia-China gas pipeline

Javed Ali.

Thanks to the United States foreign policy, the Russia-China gas pipeline is bringing the two Asian nations closer than ever before. Although the balance of power among the newfound allies has a tilt towards China, Russian aspirations of achieving its former soviet glory, too, are sending chills down the spines of western policymakers. 

In December 2019, Russia and China announced the launch of the 1,800 mile gas pipeline named “Power of Siberia” that would cost $55 billion when fully functional. With gas tunnels under the Amur River and the first road bridge between the two now constructed, gas shipments have begun and will raise nearly $2.3 billion per year by 2025.

The company behind the project is the Russian energy giant Gazprom. Gazprom is the world’s biggest gas producer, yet the only Russian company allowed to undertake gas pipeline exports – courtesy of the sanctions bogging down the country’s economy.

An Array of Sanctions on Russia

One of the most readily available tools in the US arsenal for policing the world is sanctions. Presently weighing down Russia, they were imposed jointly by the US, EU, and Canada in response to an incident with Ukrainian naval vessels in the Kerch Strait in 2018

The direct affectees of these sanctions are an array of Russian defense, shipbuilding, energy and construction companies, in addition to individuals said to be involved in Ukrainian elections and the naval incident. 

For previously imposed sanctions, the US states the reasons as Russia’s meddling in its elections, annexation of Crimea and cyber intrusions. 

Russia’s main export is energy – natural gas to be precise. With several of its energy companies under US embargo and with new economies rising, Russia is looking eastward. Although its extensive distribution network in Europe remains intact and US criticism upon which draws the ire of European leaders, diversification of Russian energy exports remains Moscow’s prime agenda. 

This is where the world’s largest energy importer, China, comes into play. Now finally at a stage in its four-decade-long development process where it can challenge the previously US-dominated world order, China is making its presence felt in the multi-polarity. 

The Russia-China gas pipeline is just one of the myriad international issues where China is willing to uphold its own interests, even if they do not conform entirely with those of the US. 

Trade Tariffs on China

The world was all fine and rosy till the time China was producing for it only toys, t-shirts and sneakers. After entering the World Trade Organization (WTO), it decided to change the gear. 

China shifted from a rapid development phase to one that focused on quality. Touted a slowing economy, China is, in fact, transforming into a tech and innovation powerhouse which is challenging traditional leaders of the field. 

These leaders have not been able to come to terms with how a move – China’s inclusion in WTO – aimed at making its market and society more accepting of western values made it a highly competitive global power while retaining characteristics peculiar to a modern socialist state.  

The result was trade tariffs and the vehicle was US President Donald Trump. Tit for tat tariffs on Chinese and US goods now continue to bloat as the trade war between the two ensues unabated. 

The tariffs were a wake-up call for Chinese economists, both in the government and in the private sector. The sudden decoupling of the US and Chinese economies meant that they had to look elsewhere for the raw materials of their continually growing industrial power. 

The most important was ensuring the supply of energy. The Power of Siberia had been under construction since 2014 but the tariff war was a major factor in accelerating its completion. 

When the first wave of tariffs hit in 2018, China imposed 10 percent on US gas. By June 2019 they soared to 25 percent. Since then, gas from the US is not entering the Chinese market. Launch of the Russia-China pipeline at this time proved extremely convenient.

Image released by Gazprom showing the Russia-China gas pipeline map

Diversification of Russia’s Gas Exports

The Russia-China gas pipeline is not the only ambitious gas export project coming out of Russia. Already fulfilling a major chunk of Europe’s energy needs, Russia is racing to complete the Nord Stream 2, the undersea Baltic pipeline to Germany. 

Nord Stream 2 bypasses Ukraine, a hotspot between Russia and the US, and allows additional flexibility to Gazprom in delivering Russian gas to Europe. Meanwhile, efforts by US lawmakers to sanction this project are also gaining pace. The US is treating it in a security context rather than economic. Its House and Senate armed services committees are unanimously pushing for a defense bill to sanction entities that will help Gazprom. 

Another pipeline that bypasses Ukraine is the Turkish Stream. It consists of two branches, one of which takes the supply to Turkish consumers while the other extends to Southern and Southeastern Europe. Russia filled the Turkish branch with natural gas in October 2019. 

Both these pipelines allow Russia to be independent of those going through Ukraine. Ukraine, on the other hand, is increasingly seeking Western support to counterbalance Russian influence. These pipelines are, in effect, beneficial for Ukraine as well since it has been complaining of politically motivated disruptions to the Russian supply. 

In addition to these two pipelines, ‘Power of Siberia’ will be yet another project that will diversify Russian gas exports by adding a major customer. 

Diversification of China’s Gas Imports

While US gas export to China came to a grinding halt with an escalation in the tariff war, Chinese factories did not. A steady stream from other gas pipelines along with ship-borne imports of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) keeps fulfilling China’s needs. 

The gas pipelines China mainly relies upon originate from Turkmenistan and Myanmar. The Central Asia – China gas pipeline brings the supply from the border between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and connects with China’s West-to-East gas pipeline in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. 

In addition to that, LNG keeps pouring in via sea from Australia, Qatar, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Placing itself to secure a lion’s share of Chinese gas demand, Australia has been supplying over half of China’s LNG imports

Chinese government’s push to shift factories and households to natural gas and away from coal has surged the demand across the country. This, along with the cessation of US imports, has generated opportunities for new players like Russia to capitalize upon. 

Way Forward in the New Energy Calculus

Russia and China’s decision to built the landmark gas pipeline project completely changes the energy calculus that governs today’s global supplies. The volume of gas it will transport (38 bcm per year), the alternative it offers to energy-hungry Chinese industries and the impact it makes on sea-borne shipments bears effects on all energy-related industries. 

The reason behind the shift remains, however, singular: a US foreign policy that is bringing a rising global power closer to one that is looking at regaining its pre-Cold War status. 

The way forward for the US must include disengagement from the trade war and increase in engagement with China and Russia to ensure that all members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) adhere to the necessary tenets of free trade. Consequently, the two aspiring nations, with their expanding markets, will welcome American investors and contribute better to the global economy.

Friday, 6 December 2019

The legacy of Henry Kissinger's 'Diplomacy'


 

Assawer Toheed. 

‘Diplomacy’ is one of the most influential works of Henry Kissinger, the famed policy advisor and historian who served as American Secretary of State from 1973 to 1977.

In terms of genres, the book falls under history as it critically analyzes centuries worth of course of actions in terms of politics in an attempt to develop an understanding of the 21st century’s international system’s structural framework. The major focus of the book, in short, revolves around the decision makers and in turn those who practice the art of diplomacy i.e. diplomats and statesman. 

The US Holding Reigns of the World

To begin with, Kissinger sees the United States of America as holding the reigns of the world, essentially, pertaining to the power it has acquisitioned; however, while they have emerged successful and on top of the world (mostly, due to their isolationist policy), their policy inclinations (free trade, rule of law, and democracy) being rather ideal and their aspirations to spread and implement the aforementioned policy ideations across the globe could lead to the superpower’s downfall. This is primarily, according to Kissinger, due to the fact the USA will have to face competition from other superpowers. 

Dissimilar Ideas of Two Presidents

He then draws from the examples of American presidents (Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt) when analyzing the contrasting American foreign policy directions. The fact that both presidents emerge from the same system and yet purport such dissimilar ideas is rather interesting; the former believed in the upholding of universal rights and a system of law and commerce that is transparent whereas the latter was a staunch believer of the idea that America should base its foreign policy wholly and solely on its national interests. 

President Woodrow Wilson believed in the upholding of universal rights and a system of law
President Woodrow Wilson believed in the upholding of universal rights and a system of law

A System of Balance of Power

Kissinger further postulates that the prevalent international setting reflects, to some extent, the situation of 17th century when the prevalent order that was rather rigid yet based on universal, moral values was brushed to the sidelines by a more inclusive system of balance of power. 

According to Kissinger, there exists a similar element of transition in the 21st century where superpowers across the globe could collaborate to find some form of middle ground i.e. stability in the form of balance of power i.e. a system of status quo characterized with intricate yet complex alliances. 

The UN provides a platform to the world to maintain a balance of power
The UN provides a platform to the world to maintain a balance of power

This intricate system of balance of power and thereby complex alliances and its implications can be understood with the example of the Concert of Europe after which a period emerged where peace prevailed. This was mostly because of the flexibility in the relationship of the five superpowers of the time where they could switch teams, essentially, at will depending upon context and circumstance. 

The Soviets vs the Capitalists

Once these five were reduced to two dominant powers, arms race and thus security dilemma was inevitable between blocs of alliances which then led to war. Additionally, Kissinger posits Wilsonian notions’ incompatibility with realism and further analyzes how communist ideations fit the basic postulates of realism. 

President George Bush and President  Mikhail Gorbachev in the final days of the Soviet-Capitalist tussle
President George Bush and President Mikhail Gorbachev in the final days of the Soviet-Capitalist tussle

For instance, while the western powers were stuck amidst the differences of actors good and bad, the soviets viewed them all as bad and found it relatively easier to sift through relations (or lack thereof) with the capitalist bloc; whereas, the capitalist bloc in itself was divided in terms of ideologies and found it rather difficult to maneuver relations due to the system of alliances and attachments of varying natures thus generated. 

How the Cold War Could Have Been Prevented

The author also looks into the ‘what if’ aspect of it all in terms of the idea that had Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill come to different conclusions, could the cold war have been prevented. 

Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan at the height of the Cold War
Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan at the height of the Cold War

He then takes into account the differences that initially divided the west that led to the soviets gaining the might they did; Kissinger wonders if it would have been the same had Churchill and Roosevelt come together sooner, the soviet hold on eastern Europe could have been contained and thus, cold war avoided, essentially. 

Despite being skeptical of American idealist viewpoint, however, Kissinger still hands the crown of initiating the cold war entirely to Stalin. The world finding itself divided largely between two blocs (the Capitalist and the Communist bloc) reflects the situation of Europe in the 20th century which was also, essentially divided into two wings of alliances, the years prior to World War I. 

Yet, while the European alliance blocs were characterized each with equally strong states that were interdependent in terms of self-defense, the blocs during cold war each had one dominant power with enough rationality to avert the threat of war. 

US soldiers in the Vietnam War
US soldiers in the Vietnam War

While the seeds of discontent in the blocs had been present in the rift between the two blocs since the beginning, they were aggravated, in no particular order, by the unfolding of events such as the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and the Cuban Missile Crisis etc. where American involvement was a given in an attempt by the Americans to prevent communism from spreading. 

Advent of the Unipolar World Order

Despite America having faced a few setbacks (the Vietnam War), it was successful in ensuring the collapse of the Soviet Union, and thus to a very large extent, ensuring the fall of communism; the aforementioned led to the transition of the international system’s order from bipolarity to unipolarity. 

President Boris Yeltsin in the final days of the Soviet Union
President Boris Yeltsin in the final days of the Soviet Union

To say the least, the American containment policy appeared to have worked. As far as deliberations over the post-Cold-War period are concerned, it is understood that with the advent of the unipolar world order, and thus with the reigns of the world essentially in the hands of America(ns), it is only rational that they would invest their might in developing, perpetrating and spreading globally a different international order that upholds American values. 

This, Kissinger suggested, would not be in the favor of the US since by the 21st century, America wouldn’t exist in a vacuum or in a space of singularity (as far as its only superpower status is concerned) since the international system by then, Kissinger predicted, would be dominated also by superpowers such as China, Europe, Japan, and India

Kissinger’s Advice

He then compares the American notions of idealism, that he thinks will also prevail in the 21st century, with the notions of Wilson; it is ironic, he states, since Wilson’s idealism essentially paved way for Word War I. Kissinger is of the view, towards the end of the book, that if America is to be rigid in terms of its foreign policy directions in the face of a multipolar world order, it will only crumble due to overexertion. 

Lastly, the author suggest that American foreign policy formulators need to find middle ground, in essence, between the ideas of Wilson (those of universal values) and the ideas of Roosevelt (those of pursuing national interests) if America wants to maintain a respectable (read: most superior) position in the international community. 

He, in other words, suggested that the American decision makers need to employ a more realist outlook in any and all of their future courses of actions. 

Analysis – A Rightful Prediction of the Multipolar World Order

Henry Kissinger rightfully predicted the multipolar world order that would prevail in the 21st century, characterized with various superpowers that have given their adversary (the US) quite the competition. We see a stark silhouette of the alliance system of the five superpowers post the era of the Concert of Europe in the workings today of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), one of the sixth principal organs of the United Nations. 

Henry Kissinger rightfully predicted the multipolar world order
Henry Kissinger rightfully predicted the multipolar world order

While the UNSC was established in 1945, i.e. before cold war, its role becomes rather prominent in the post-Cold-War era since it was more or less paralyzed, rather stripped of its functions, during the cold war period due to the divide between the Americans and the Soviets. 

The UNSC has five permanent members (China, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France, and Russia) with each having the vetoing power; these members, in theory, were charged with upholding notions of international security and thereby maintaining peace. 

In practice, however, the cold war era was littered with instability, insecurity and instances of trying to one up the adversary thereby essentially failing to uphold the postulated principles. Post-Cold war era, however, witnessed the UNSC sending about peace missions globally and investing largely in peacekeeping budgets. 

Permanent member of UNSC are charged with upholding notions of international security
Permanent member of UNSC are charged with upholding notions of international security

If we do look into that critically however, the UNSC has to some extent failed yet again if we are to take into account its lack of interest in the indirect ways America has carried out its will over the years, under the façade of upholding its values that directly negate and/or challenge everything the UN stands for. 

This gives rise to a number of questions:

1. Were American acts in, for instance, the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq a real depiction of American universal values of rule of law? 

2. Whether America, keeping in view the aforementioned, deserves to hold the titles of a Beacon and/or a Crusader? 

3. Whether the UNSC/UN is incapable of ensuring what its charter suggests (i.e. peace, value of human life, etc.)? Since the role assigned to the UN in its charter directly states that it is one of upholding collective security and this thus authorizes the UNSC to look into any happening that threatens international peace and security and yet it has hardly responded to the American atrocities across the globe; the examples are endless with hardly any logical reasons. 

4. Or has America exploited the vetoing power to the ultimate degree possible? 

Answers of the aforementioned, to say the least, reflect of the outlook Henry Kissinger suggested that the American decision makers need to develop in any and all of their future courses of actions; i.e. a realist perspective.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Turkey's place in a 70 year old NATO

Saleem Zahid. 

As a heated NATO summit concludes in London, Turkey’s place in the 70-year-old organization has become a matter of international debate. The issue frequently pops up in discussions since the country is at loggerheads with several other member states of NATO over issues related to security.

Why is Turkey in NATO?

Turkey joined NATO in the year 1952 as the organization was expanding in membership and influence. It provided an opportunity for Turkey to extend its security expectations and make meaningful contributions in transatlantic initiatives. 

Turkish and US soldiers take part in a joint exercise
Turkish and US soldiers take part in a joint exercise

NATO was formed when the Cold War was still brewing and a considerable threat of conflict between the communist and the capitalist blocs prevailed. To safeguard the southeastern border of the capitalists, Turkey joined in to play an instrumental role. 

Later in the post Cold War era, Turkey progressed NATO’s interests in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Afghanistan and made significant contributions with the formation of the NATO Response Force (NRF)

Today Turkey acts as the bridge between the primarily west-oriented NATO with the eastern and the Muslim world. In post 9/11 years when religious misconceptions have led the world into a number of wars, this bridge is extremely important. Turkey’s influence can be pivotal to the efforts of de-radicalization in parts of the world where its leadership is viewed with respect. 

The Kurdish Bone of Contention

Many of the Kurdish people living in parts of Syria and Turkey have long aspired for a separate country for themselves. When the formal boundaries of Syria and Iraq became blurry with the events leading to the rise of ISIS and the resulting independent multinational operations, Kurdish factions like the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and People’s Protection Units (YPG) sprang to an organized defense.

The Kurdish YPG group in Syria
The Kurdish YPG group in Syria

Turkey, in very clear terms, regards these factions as terrorists groups that harm its security interests and intend to undermine its sovereignty. Rest of the NATO countries, however, do not share this view. 

A Unilateral Offensive in Syria

Faced with a growing population of Syrian refugees at home and a threat of Kurdish fighters on the border, Turkey decided to establish a safe zone in Syria along its border to settle Syrian refugees that have become a divisive issue in Turkey’s politics and society. 

Not finding support for the initiative, Turkey continued to raise its concerns until the United States, one of the main backers of the Kurdish fighting groups, gave way. Green-lighting Turkey for its offensive into Syria, the US pulled back its forces from the Syrian border with Turkey and literally abandoned the Kurds. 

Turkish military vehicles drive into Syria
Turkish military vehicles drive into Syria

The US move came after a one-on-one phone interaction between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and US President Donald Trump, leaving other NATO allies flabbergasted. NATO countries saw the initial resistance shown by the US in retreating from the border areas of Syria as its unwillingness to agree with the Turkish plan in the absence of consultations with other alliance members. 

But with the Turkish military’s offensive into Syria, cracks in NATO were out in the open.

NATO’s Baltic Defense Plan and Turkey’s Threat to its Blockage

Turkey still expects NATO to regard the threats it perceives from the Kurdish fighting groups. It has been asking the organization to recognize the YPG as “terrorists”. Most members are not just hesitant in doing so but are even actively collaborating with YPG in the fight against ISIS. 

If NATO fails to regard them as terrorists, Turkey has threatened to use its veto to block NATO’s plan for the defense of Baltic states. Russian actions in Crimea and Ukraine have forced the alliance to secure Eastern Europe where the Nordic and Baltic states are increasingly becoming dependent on the West for security. 

US troops in Poland as part of NATO deployment
US troops in Poland as part of NATO deployment

The events culminating in the impeachment process of President Trump, too, have their origins in this region. Since Ukraine is banking on the US and NATO against the posturing by Russia, Trump’s attempt to hold military aid for Ukraine proved counterproductive which, after Turkey’s threat to block the Baltic defense plan, has further heightened fears of a conflict. 

Then there is the question of Poland facing the brunt of Russian warnings over the presence of US troops on its territory. How exactly might Turkey respond to an actual build-up of a Russian threat for Poland cannot be ascertained with surety. 

The ‘Brain Death’ of NATO and that of Macron

The war in Syria has divided allies like none other. French President Emmanuel Macron has been especially vocal against Turkish unilateral operation in Syria. Commenting on the lack of coordination over the offensive among member states of NATO, he declared the organization “brain dead“. 

President Erdoğan took an exception to the remark. Slamming the French President, he said that it was, in fact, Macron who was suffering brain death. Happening days before the 70th-anniversary summit of NATO, the spat spent clear signals that the event was not going to sail smooth. 

File Photo: Harsh exchange of statements ensued between France and Turkey days before NATO's 70th anniversary summit
Harsh exchange of statements ensued between France and Turkey days before NATO’s 70th anniversary summit (File Photo)

And just as it was predicted, President Trump joined the foray in the midst of the summit, standing alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, and called President Emmanuel’s remarks “very, very nasty“. Perhaps Turkey had not conducted the Syria operation without coordinating with at least one other NATO member. 

Turkey’s Spat with Another NATO Member – Greece

Ever since NATO ousted Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s ruler of 42 years, the country hasn’t had a respectable form of stability. Eight years later, Turkey signed a maritime demarcation agreement with Libya to retain economic rights in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. 

What followed was a complaint from Greece accusing Turkey of encroaching on its sovereignty under the deal with Libya. The energy-rich eastern Mediterranean has been a source of contention between Turkey and Greece where the former does not recognize Cyprus as a state. Greece brought the Turkey-Libya deal to the summit with hopes of reaching a middle ground. 

Turkey has signed a maritime demarcation agreement with Libya for rights in the eastern Mediterranean Sea
Turkey has signed a maritime demarcation agreement with Libya for rights in the eastern Mediterranean Sea

Purchase of Russian Military Hardware

The complex conflict in the Middle East that has pitched allies against allies has severely affected NATO. With diverging interests, heated debates and public outcries against each other were very much expected at the summit. The US, supporting Turkey over its latest Syrian offensive, is at odds with Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 missiles

Expelling it from the F-35 stealth fighter jet program, the US is giving stern warnings to Turkey if it continues to move ahead with the purchase of Russian military hardware that the US deems incompatible with NATO equipment. 

Russian S-400 missile launcher at a military parade in Moscow
Russian S-400 missile launcher at a military parade in Moscow

Meanwhile, the use of Russian equipment by Turkey is making other NATO members uncomfortable in countering the threat they are teaming up against. Turkey presently faces the threat of US sanctions on completion of the multi-billion dollar deal with Russia, if it does not lock up its already delivered pack of S-400 systems and allow US technicians to frequently inspect them. 

Will Turkey Stay in NATO?

The NATO charter mentions guidelines on including new members but it is quiet on expelling existing ones. So the calls to kick Turkey out of NATO may find ears to land on but they will not find a vehicle to execute such a move. 

Turkey itself would never intend to leave NATO. It terms NATO a part of its global identity. It is a means for Turkey to project its soft power in regions where the alliance operates. Whereas, NATO needs Turkey to extend its influence where western nations traditionally find it hard to. Despite their growing differences, the common grounds are far overshadowing. So in the near future, there is no chance of NATO and Turkey parting ways. 

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