Is Cairo cosying up to Moscow?

by Paul Iddon

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s rise to power was not warmly welcomed by Washington. The ex-army chief had deposed his predecessor, Mohammad Morsi, in July 2013 leading to a series of bloody crackdowns during that summer. US military aid to Cairo was frozen for almost a year after that coup. Also, after almost two years after the coup Washington decided to lift its freeze on a supply of military hardware in March 2015.

Al-Sisi positively glows with happiness as Putin presents him his gift during his visit in Cairo in February 2015: a Kalashnikov.

Al-Sisi positively glows with happiness as Putin presents him his gift during his visit in Cairo in February 2015: a Kalashnikov.

Russia, on the other hand, was more welcoming to Sisi’s ascent to power. Since Sisi became president in May 2014 Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited his country and Cairo and Moscow held joint naval exercises together in the Mediterranean Sea off Egypt’s Alexandria coast, the first exercise between the two in about four decades.

Given legal, and of course moral, concerns in Washington over the Sisi regime’s human rights record, Cairo may have reasoned it could not solely rely on it to keep its enormous American-equipped military supplied with weapons. Perhaps consequently Egypt has since purchased two dozen Dassault Rafale jet fighters and two Mistral amphibious assault ship, capable of carrying helicopters and tanks, from France.

The first eight of the twenty ordered F-16C / D Block 52, which reached Egypt at the end of July 2015.

The first eight of the twenty ordered F-16C / D Block 52, which reached Egypt at the end of July 2015.

No such arms deals have been made with the Russians, although there were reports that Cairo is purchasing approximately 50 MiG-29s in a $2 billion deal which, according to the Russian press, is still on track. If fulfilled, this deal would be the largest sale of MiG-29s undertaken by Moscow since the fall of the Soviet Union.

When Sisi inaugurated the New Suez Canal project – the addition of another canal built to facilitate two-way shipping traffic – Moscow gifted Cairo a Molniya R-32 missile corvette. The Egyptian Army said, in a statement, that the gesture “comes as continuation of the Russian supporting stance towards Egypt in the recent period, and to the uniformity of vision between the political leadership of both countries regarding the war on terrorism and supporting efforts of security and stability in the Middle East.”

The corvette participated in the inauguration, that also featured a flyover which notably included Egypt’s newly delivered Rafales.

It remains unclear how far Cairo and Moscow’s cordial relationship will evolve over time, or if it will significantly affect Cairo’s long-standing four-decade-old military relationship with Washington. “In general, the relationship between Russia and Egypt is significant more in terms of its symbolic nature on the world stage, rather than in terms of actual arms sales,” Dr. H.A. Hellyer, a nonresident senior at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East told Offiziere. “The Egyptian armed forces are generally more intertwined with Western gear and equipment,” he added. “Politically, there is a lot of cooperation between Moscow and Cairo – but not at the expense of losing relationships with Cairo’s more traditional Western allies.”

Egyptian's one and only Molniya R-32 missile corvette, gifted by Russia at the inaugurated the New Suez Canal project in August 2015.

Egyptian’s one and only Molniya R-32 missile corvette, gifted by Russia at the inaugurated the New Suez Canal project in August 2015.

Even the billions of dollars Cairo spent on equipment from France pales in comparison to the 238 F-16s that make-up the backbone of Egypt’s Air Force, along with the workhorse of the Egyptian Army, the 1’360 M1 Abrams; and of course Egypt’s 45 AH-64 Apache helicopter gunships (all numbers by “Chapter Seven: Middle East and North Africa”, The Military Balance 117 (2017): 372, 374).

“The increasing contacts between Russia and Egypt are driven by mutual desire to diversify relations,” Timur Akhmetov (FacebookTwitterLinkedIn), an analyst on Russia’s Middle East foreign policy, told Offiziere. “Egypt seeks new partners, especially in the military cooperation, and tries to minimize its dependence on the Gulf monarchies that sponsor the regime. Nevertheless it is the Western countries that are seen by Cairo as a desirable partner, not Russia or Gulf states.”

Saudi Arabia was a major patron of the Sisi regime. However, Cairo’s unwillingness to toe their line on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s future – the Saudis want him gone while Sisi seems to see him as a bulwark against terrorist groups in the region – resulted in Riyadh suddenly severing oil supplies to Cairo indefinitely last November, underscoring how Sisi’s economic and military patrons seek to influence its policy, both foreign and domestic.

“Russia is just making use of Egypt’s attempts to increase number of partners and offers closer political cooperation and military contracts: two major areas where Egypt is left alone by the West,” Akhmetov added. “First of all, Russian is interested in selling of its main article of export, arms, to Egypt, who is waging a war with terrorism. Secondly, Russia has not been much critical of Sisi’s authoritarian practices, signaling that it is ready not to politicize its ties with Egypt. In the short term, Moscow seeks to create a coalition of regional regimes that are more open to the idea that Syria’s Assad should stay in power and political settlement should be implemented on the Russian terms. In the long run Moscow wants to secure its positions in the Middle East by establishing cooperative relations with major players, including Egypt”, Akmetov concluded.

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The Territorial Defense Force – Poland’s militia for anti-hybrid warfare

by Björn Müller (Facebook / Twitter). Björn is journalist in Berlin focusing on security policy and geopolitics.

Polands defense minister Antoni Macierewicz inspecting a TDF unit during the opening of an information center for the militia at Bialystok (Photo: Robert Siemaszko / Ministry of National Defence Poland).

Polands defense minister Antoni Macierewicz inspecting a TDF unit during the opening of an information center for the militia at Bialystok (Photo: Robert Siemaszko / Ministry of National Defence Poland).

The beginning of 2017 marks the official implementation of Poland’s so called “Territorial Defense Force” (TDF; in Polish: Wojska Obrony Terytorialnej or WOT) – some kind of militia which the special purpose to enhance Poland’s defense against the scenario of a “hybrid invasion” from Russia. The new militia should also help to handle catastrophes like floodings or support the police during anti-terror-measures. Until 2019 the TDF should consits of 53.000 militiamen. That’s more than half the strength of Poland’s armed forces which have slightly more than 100.000 personnel. The new militia would be larger than Polands army which has 48.732 professional soldiers in its ranks.

The plan is to organize the TDF in 17 brigades. Every voivodeship gets its own brigade — those with the capital Warsaw two. The mass of TDF troops are volunteers, serving on the basis of six-year-treaties – Polish women and men who are willing to spend their free time beside work in the new national guard. The monthly allowance is 120 Euros for two days call-on-duty service every four weeks and the willingness to participate in snap exercises. Only the TDF leadership posts, about ten percent of the troop strength, are provided for professional soldiers.

The “magnificent twelve”
The military value of the TDF should come from its grassroots organization into twelve men troops of light infantry. The “Swiss tool” concept of this units: They collect six military capabilities (medic, pioneer, shooter, sniper, scout, radio man). Beside the commandant and its deputy as well as scout and sniper, every capability is double assigned with a experienced militia soldier and a novice, so the planning. That should make the units sustainable and lighten the training with the idea of rookies learning from veterans.

In September 20, 2016, Polands defense minister Antoni Macierewicz appointed brigadier-general Wiesław Kukuła as supreme commander of the Territorial Defence Forces Command (Photo: Robert Suchy).

In September 20, 2016, Polands defense minister Antoni Macierewicz appointed brigadier-general Wiesław Kukuła as supreme commander of the Territorial Defence Forces Command (Photo: Robert Suchy).

Those “magnificent twelve”, as TDF supreme commander brigadier-general Wiesław Kukuła labeled the concept, have three tasks in the case Poland comes under attack. First and foremost the TDF units are charged with the protection of critical infrastructure like water reservoirs, TV-stations or power plants. Their aim is it to hamper attempts of sabotage and disinformation from Russian commandos as part of a so called “hybrid invasion”. Hindering the enemy to become the “architect of the battlefield”, is the TDF part in the over-all strategy, so TDF-commander Kukuła in an interview. The second task of the TDF platoons is to support the professional army in its operations against the enemy. In the worst case of a defeat of Polands regular armed forces, the TDF is designated for a guerilla role. The net of TDF units should obstruct the establishment of administration structures from the enemy side and also “ensuring the continuity of the Polish state”, according to general Kukuła.

The TDF – really a useful military concept?
The government is selling the TDF to the Polish society as a clever way to enhance the security of the country. Because it consists mainly of volunteers it’s allegedly a cheap military force. The TDF focus on anti-hybrid warfare served the fear of a lot of Poles that Russia could start some kind of “hybrid invasion” on their country. This kind of advertisement caughts in large parts of the society. The paramilitary tradition in Poland which was often occupied during it’s history is very vivid since Russia’s capture of the Crimea 2014 and it’s undeclared war in Eastern Ukraine. Then thousands of Poles started to engage themselves in paramilitary groups to steal for battle. This enthusiasm should now fill the ranks of the TDF.

But there is also criticism. It’s questionable how realistic the threat scenario of a hybrid attack from Russia really is. The main success factor of hybrid warfare is it to have loyalists or potential supporters in the targeted country. But unlike Ukraine or the Baltic countries there are no Russian minorities or Russian affine groups in Poland. According to Jacek Bartosiak, military expert at the think tank Potomac Foundation in Warsaw, a massive conventional attack on East Poland would make more sense for Russia. The terrain there is ideal for tank warfare. A flat plain, only some clear forests and few rivers which can canalize the movement of invading troops. To stop the Russians there before they could reach Warsaw heavy armored troops would be necessary not a light infantry like the TDF.

The time-line for the build-up plan of the TDF in Polands 16 voivodeships.

The time-line for the build-up plan of the TDF in Polands 16 voivodeships.

Defense expert Jacek Bartosiak is also sceptical concerning the low costs of the TDF. “The scheduled sophisticated weapon-mix for the TDF platoons will not be cheap.” Poland’s ministry of defense plan for the TDF weaponry is ambitious. All weapon types and equipment should be new and “made in Poland”. Until now it’s not clear what the whole weapon-mix will be. The basic kit for a twelve men platoon possibly consist of Beryl 96C assault rifles, a UKM-2000P (modernized) machine gun, a sniper rifle, two 7,62 mm carbines and one grenade launcher 40 mm. On the brigade level a large number of scouting drones, MANPADS and portable anti-tank-weapons should be available. Recently the Polish Ministry of National Defence started negotiations with Łucznik-Radom firearms factory about the acquisition of several thousand Beryl assault rifles for the Territorial Defense Force.

Part of the “conservative revolution” in Poland
The TDF is a pet project of Poland’s defense minister Antoni Macierewicz and the national-conservativ government. The build-up of the new militia is not only for military reasons, it’s also part of the governments “conservative revolution” which aims to transform Poland from a liberal democracy into a more statist-authoritarian political system. The spokesman of the Ministry of National Defence, Bartłomiej Misiewicz stated towards the author: “Finally, the important task given to TDF is aiming at strengthening patriotic values that are crucial for individual’s identity and unity with region, estate and country.” Especially the next generation of army officers should preferentially start their career in the TDF before entering service in the professional armed forces.

Young army officers of the TDF swear their oath at the Higher School of Land Forces Wroclaw (Photo: Bogusław Politowski / Ministry of National Defence Poland Poland).

Young army officers of the TDF swear their oath at the Higher School of Land Forces Wroclaw (Photo: Bogusław Politowski / Ministry of National Defence Poland Poland).

Those aren’t so happy with their new brother in arms. Without raising the defense budget, the MoD will invest more than 800 million Euros in the TDF build-up until 2019. The Ministry of National Defence says that the TDF investments are structured in a way that the armed forces own armament plans won’t suffer, but no one believes that. Moreover the TDF gets a powerful standing against the regular armed forces. Beside army, navy, air force and the special forces the militia is positioned as the fifth military branch. Most important: The armed forces leadership won’t have control over the Territorial Defense Force. Instead of being placed under the umbrella of the general command like all the other military branches, the TDF has its separate command.

The stalling resistance from the old guard of officers against the important role of the TDF has been broken from defense minister Antoni Macierewicz during the last months. Nearly all opponents on flagship positions are now in early retirement. Mirosław Różański, general commander of Poland’s armed forces, “asked for resignation” at the end of last year. Normally his term would have ended in 2018. The chief of general staff Mieczysław Gocuł retired end of January 2017.

Other states, too, prepare against Russian-style hybrid warfare
Currently, they are five states (Poland, the Baltic states and Finland), who establish military forces with the principle aim to combat Russian-style hybrid warfare. In Finland, the “Readiness Force”, a newly formed branch of the army, started with training. Although, the details of the concept of the “Readiness Force” are not known yet, it made up of light infantry. It consists of conscripts drawn-in for twelve months, who get an intensified battle training. Based on the video below, it seems that the soldiers are not only trained to prevail in a Russian-style “hybrid invasion”, but for example also to combat terrorists in urban areas.

Posted in Armed Forces, Björn Müller, English, International, Poland, Security Policy | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

What’s Happening to the Rohingya in Myanmar?

by Austin Michael Bodetti. He is a student in the Gabelli Presidential Scholars Program at Boston College. He focuses on the relationship between Islam and conflict in Syria and Sudan.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States and his appointment of Islamophobes to oversee national security, Muslims fear how his administration might target them. George Takei even likened their fear to his experience during World War II, when US President Franklin D. Roosevelt confined German–, Italian–, and Japanese–Americans to internment camps.

Buddhist citizens of Myanmar living in Thailand hold anti-Rohingya banners as they gather outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok (Photo: Chaiwat Subprasom / Reuters).

Buddhist citizens of Myanmar living in Thailand hold anti-Rohingya banners as they gather outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok (Photo: Chaiwat Subprasom / Reuters).

On the other side of the world in Myanmar, Muslims have lived in such camps for the past four years, and the country’s recent democratic reforms have done little to help them. In fact, it might have only opened the floodgates to Islamophobia and sectarianism. The Rohingya, Myanmar’s largest Muslim minority, live in Rakhine State. Though they have lived in the region for hundreds of years, the Myanmarese government and the Rakhine, a Buddhist ethnic group, disparage them as land-grabbing economic migrants from Bangladesh. Unlike the Rakhine, the Rohingya lack citizenship and the protections that come with it. The Myanmar Armed Forces, known as the Tatmadaw, have been arresting, displacing, executing, raping, and torturing dozens of Rohingya since an October 9, 2016 attack on camps of the border police. The Tatmadaw blames Rohingya insurgents trained by foreigners to unseat the Buddhist government.

Who are the Rohingya?
Two competing theories try to explain how the Rohingya came to Myanmar. The first claims that they are the descendants of Arab merchants who visited the Bay of Bengal a millennium ago. The second alleges that Bengalis calling themselves “Rohingya” started migrating to the region after the British Empire conquered Burma (Myanmar’s former name) in the 1800s. The truth likely lies in the middle. “A Muslim friend of mine told me that he is Rohingya but that his family did not identify itself as Rohingya because they were afraid of discrimination,” said Khin Ohmar, a leader in the Burma Partnership and the Women’s League of Burma as well as a participant in the 8888 Uprising, “while a Rakhine friend started to tell me there are no Rohingya. My opinion is that they have been there for some generations but the mainstream was not aware of them as they had always been used as scapegoats or exploited by the successive regimes in Burma for their political games and gains.”

After Britain granted Burma independence in 1948, Rohingya secessionists wanted their own Islamic state. The Tatmadaw responded with several bloody campaigns of counterinsurgency, expelling thousands of Rohingya to Bangladesh. The refugees would return from Bangladesh after the Tatmadaw withdrew, adding to a growing Rohingya population. An anti-Rohingya dictator passed the 1982 Citizenship Law to ensure that Rohingya refugees would stay gone once they left. The Citizenship Law required residents to prove their ancestry. If Rohingya failed to trace their ancestry to 1823 or earlier, the military government could deny them citizenship. “This law also targets Chinese and other minorities,” said Khin Ohmar, who has had her own difficulties with the Citizenship Law as dual citizen.

Rescue workers clean debris from a neighbourhood that was burnt during violence between Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in Sittwe, on June 16, 2012 (Photo: Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters).

Rescue workers clean debris from a neighbourhood that was burnt during violence between Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in Sittwe, on June 16, 2012 (Photo: Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters).

Why are the Rohingya living in camps?
Though a series of discriminatory laws stripped the Rohingya of their rights, they used to enjoy some equality. Mosques populated the countryside of Rakhine State. Wealthier Rohingya obtained academic degrees and owned shops in Sittwe, the state capital. Buddhists had Muslim friends. Even if institutional racism and Islamophobia continued in the decades following the Citizenship Law, most Rohingya could lead their lives with some sense of normalcy.

The possibility of peaceful coexistence ended in June 2012, when local Buddhists rioted after the purported rape of a Rakhine girl by Rohingya criminals. Rakhine torched Rohingya homes and shops in Sittwe, chasing their Muslim neighbors into the paddy fields. There, the Tatmadaw constructed camps to house up to 140 thousand Rohingya for what it claimed to be their own security. “As a result of the riots, 88 people lost their lives of which 31 people were Rakhine and 57 were Muslim Bengalis,” read a press release from the Myanmarese government on August 21, 2012. “Reviewing the above-mentioned destruction, loss of lives and injury, it is clear that it was not a case of persecution by one race to another.” Ensuing violence killed hundreds for years after.

Rohingya living outside Sittwe in the north of Rakhine State could still exercise freedom of movement to some extent, yet they faced their own forms of persecution. The Tatmadaw started enslaving the minority for free labor and sex after the 2012 violence. Myanmarese soldiers have also relocated Rohingya prisoners from the north to the Sittwe camps because of overcrowded prisons. Thousands of Rohingya have fled the camps. According to the Religious Literacy Project at Harvard Divinity School, only eight hundred thousand of the world’s 3.5 million Rohingya still live in Myanmar. Hundreds of thousands now reside in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. Others have escaped to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and even Australia by boat, but few have received a warm welcome. Australia and Thailand have both plotted to deport Rohingya refugees in recent years.

Between October 9 and November 23, 2016, at least 1,500 buildings in Rohingya villages in Myanmar’s Rakhine State have been destroyed, driving thousands of ethnic Rohingya from their homes. According to Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch,

Between October 9 and November 23, 2016, at least 1,500 buildings in Rohingya villages in Myanmar’s Rakhine State have been destroyed, driving thousands of ethnic Rohingya from their homes. According to Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, “new findings refute the Burmese military and government’s claims that Rohingya militants were responsible for burning down their own villages.” (“Burma: Military Burned Villages in Rakhine State“, Human Rights Watch, 13.12.2016).

Are the Rohingya fighting back?
Unlike Muslim minorities in India, the Philippines, Russia, and Thailand, the Rohingya have by and large foregone insurgency in light of their brutal defeats in the twentieth century. That strategy nevertheless seemed to change last month, when Rakhine officials reported that Rohingya commandos had killed policemen patrolling the Bangladeshi–Myanmarese border. Though the Myanmarese government asserts that the perpetrators of the attack have cooperated with the Taliban, the Rohingya militants released a video declaring jihad against the Myanmarese government but denying affiliation with terrorist organizations. “The group of youths who are fighting back are just holding knives and sticks,” said Saeed al-Arakani, a Rohingya activist in Sittwe. “If they were in contact with Taliban, they would use big guns to fight back.” Even if the Pakistani Taliban has tried to inspire and recruit Rohingya over social media, any relationship between foreign terrorists and Rohingya insurgents seems tenuous at best. In the past, the Myanmarese government has used the specter of the Rohingya Solidarity Organization, a defunct resistance movement, to imprison Rohingya civilians. “It is totally wrong and nonsensical to say that some Rohingya are working with Taliban,” said al-Arakani.

What is Myanmar’s new government doing about the Rohingya?
Activists cheered Myanmar’s November 2015 general election, which replaced the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) with the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by world-renowned human rights defender Aung San Suu Kyi. Whereas the USDP had links to a military complicit in decades of ethnic cleansing and war crimes, the NLD offered the Rohingya hope for peace and reform. Nonetheless, Suu Kyi purged Muslims from her own party prior to the elections, and she has ignored the Rohingya crisis in the past to avoid upsetting anti-Rohingya supporters, even banning the term Rohingya.

The expansion of democracy in Myanmar has empowered the Islamophobic Buddhist monks of the 969 Movement. Some have modelled themselves after the new US president (see also: “Anti-Muslim Buddhist Monk in Myanmar: Trump ‘Similar to Me’“, Associated Press, 17.11.2016). Suu Kyi has found herself in an awkward alliance with these monks and their devotees in Rakhine State. Neither the NLD nor Suu Kyi has tried to dissuade the Tatmadaw, which more or less ruled Myanmar till last year, from continuing its operations in Rakhine State. Analysts have questioned whether politicians can control a military only gaining popularity from the persecution of the Rohingya. The NLD must resolve its own Islamophobia before confronting the Rohingya crisis.

Migrants who were found at sea on a boat are repatriated across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border in the sub-township of Taung Pyo, Maungdaw, in the Myanmar state of Rakhine on June 8, 2015. Some 150 migrants found adrift in a boat off Myanmar's coast were transferred under armed guard to neighbouring Bangladesh June 8, returning them to homes and a life of grinding poverty many tried to flee months ago (Photo: Ye Aung Thu / AFP).

Migrants who were found at sea on a boat are repatriated across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border in the sub-township of Taung Pyo, Maungdaw, in the Myanmar state of Rakhine on June 8, 2015. Some 150 migrants found adrift in a boat off Myanmar’s coast were transferred under armed guard to neighbouring Bangladesh June 8, returning them to homes and a life of grinding poverty many tried to flee months ago (Photo: Ye Aung Thu / AFP).

Are the Rohingya experiencing genocide?
The Tatmadaw is attacking the Rohingya with a fierceness never seen under the USDP. Rohingya online communities are reporting near-daily murders and rapes. Human Rights Watch used satellite imagery to document how the Tatmadaw razed 820 buildings in Rakhine State. The Tatmadaw has killed 130 Rohingya. Thirty thousand have fled to Bangladesh. Myanmarese soldiers have begun training an anti-Rohingya Rakhine militia, which the International Commission of Jurists decried as “a recipe for disaster“. The threat to the Rohingya, meanwhile, has evolved from ethnic cleansing to genocide. Though the US government assessed that no genocide was occurring in Myanmar in May, 2016, a study by the International State Crime Initiative concluded otherwise, determining, “[t]he Rohingya face the final stages of genocide“.

The developments in Myanmar have worrisome parallels with Rwanda and Sudan, where the international community failed to predict or prevent genocidal governments. At least Rwandan and Sudanese minorities had well-armed resistance movements to defend them, though. The Myanmarese government estimates the Rohingya militants at four hundred strong. As the Tatmadaw’s crackdown has expanded to launching airstrikes on Rohingya villages and restricting humanitarian aid to them, the Rohingya can expect little help from the international community or the insurgents professing to protect them. The Western world has refocused its diplomatic, military, and political energies on the Iraqi and Syrian Civil Wars, so helping a Muslim minority accused of anti-Buddhist terrorism would gain little traction in European and North American capitals. The Rohingya have earned their (disputed) status as the most-persecuted minority on Earth.

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Russia’s second faux drawdown from Syria

by Paul Iddon.

On January 6, 2017 Moscow announced for the second time in less than a year that it is partially withdrawing its forces from Syria (the fist announcement was in March 2016). This time the Russians said their withdrawal would begin with the departure of Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, from Syria’s Mediterranean coast to to its home base in Severomorsk. It was a highly publicized event with the Syrian chief of staff even visiting the vessel the same day as the announcement.

On the way back, the Kuznetsov was conducting live-fire training exercises in the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya. In January 11, 2017, the Kuznetsov was visited by Libya′s military leader Khalifa Haftar who had a video conference with the Russian defence minister Sergey Shoygu while on board.

On the way back, the Kuznetsov was conducting live-fire training exercises in the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya. In January 11, 2017, the Kuznetsov was visited by Libya′s military leader Khalifa Haftar who had a video conference with the Russian defence minister Sergey Shoygu while on board (“East Libya strongman visits Russian aircraft carrier in Mediterranean“, Reuters, 11.01.2017).

Moscow claimed the withdrawal was a sign of its commitment to the Astana talks on Syria it is sponsoring in Kazakhstan. However, like their previous claim to be withdrawing in March 2016 Russia has simply rotated its forces already in Syria. The deployment of the Kuznetsov was more of a symbolic exercise for Russia. The carrier’s deployment amounted to little more than an embarrassing publicity stunt for the Russians. For one thing the carrier offloaded eight of its assumed ten Su-33s and one of its three MiG-29KUB(R)s to the Hmeimim Air Base in Latakia shortly after arrival – leading some to describe it as an aircraft courier rather than a carrier. Finally, a MiG-29KUB(R) and a Su-33 Flanker-D were lost in landing accidents. Withdrawing the Kuznetsov was never indicative of a substantial Russian drawdown.

Furthermore, last November Iran considered letting Russia use of its airbase in eastern Hamadan again (which it did for only a week last August) if the Kuznetsov were to withdrawal, though they later clarified it’s not on the agenda, only to reverse that position again twenty day later. Access to Hamadan once again would provide the Russians with a launchpad for their Tu-22 bombers, which would save them from flying these bombers all the way from Russian territory, reducing their flying time enables them to carry heavier payloads. But it has not come to that, yet: On January 21 and 23 – 25, 2017 Russian Tu-22’s were flying again from Mozdok to strike ISIS militants in the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor (see video below).

On the ground in Syria there were no tangible signs that Russia was reducing its force presence or even its military activity. In mid-January, it was reported that Russia was sending six Su-24 Fencer bombers at Hmeimim airbase and replacing them with four Su-25 Frogfoot attack planes. However, satellite imagery of Hmeimim obtained by Belling Cat from October 26, 2016, January 10 and January 19, 2017, all show eleven Fencers, indicating none have yet to return home. Additionally, Israeli satellites have released images earlier this month showing SS-26 Iskander surface-to-surface missiles at Hmeimim (see imagery below). These missiles have a range of approximately 560 kilometers.

Satellite Imagery analysis by iSi intelligence experts reveals deployment of Iskandar (SS-26 “Stone”) advanced missile system vehicles as a part of the Russian deployment at Latakia airbase in Syria.

Satellite Imagery analysis by iSi intelligence experts reveals deployment of
Iskandar (SS-26 “Stone”) advanced missile system vehicles as a part of the
Russian deployment at Latakia airbase in Syria (“ISI reveals Russian Iskander Missiles Deployment in Syria“, ISI, 05.01.2017).

Russia is also continuing military operations in Syria. Negotiating a ceasefire with both Iran and Turkey ahead of the Astana talks Russian aircraft began coordinating with the Turkish air force against Islamic State (ISIS) militants in the northwestern city of al-Bab. Russia is supporting Turkish efforts there and both powers signed an agreement to coordinate airstrikes on January 12, less than a week after the announcement of the Russian drawdown.

Even in March 2016 when Russia was ostensibly withdrawing from Syria, Russian officials were careful to include a clause, that they could build-up all their forces again in a matter of hours. This time, Syria has permitted Russia to expand both its naval depot at Tartus and Hmeimim airbase in Latakia. Building up this infrastructure for its forces in Syria is hardly indicative of a Russia which intends to draw-down from Syria, on the contrary. Having this infrastructure in place would give Russia a sizable foothold in the region. Hmeimim airbase is large enough for up to 50 military aircraft. An expanded base at Tartus could also give Russia the capability to dock larger warships, giving it a larger foothold in the Mediterranean. Nevertheless,

Since intervening in Syria, Russia has demonstrated its reach by firing Kalibr missiles into Syria from the Mediterranean and Caspian Sea. As one Russian military analyst told Sputnik back in October, “If our new combat surface ships and submarines outfitted with Kalibr cruise missiles are based in Tartus, this will allow Moscow to keep the situation in the Middle East and Mediterranean under control.”

After such demonstrations of its strength and reach a more permanent Russian military presence in Syria’s west could prove to be the Kremlin’s way of showing that it has become a force in the Middle East to be reckoned with.

Posted in English, International, Paul Iddon, Russia, Sea Powers, Security Policy, Syria | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Härtetest für den Leopard 2 Panzer

von Patrick Truffer. Patrick Truffer absolviert momentan ein Masterstudiengang in Internationale Beziehungen an der Freien Universität Berlin.

Ende August 2016 startete die Türkei die Operation “Schutzschild Euphrat” mit dem Ziel südlich der türkischen Grenze eine Sicherheitszone zu schaffen. Zusätzlich zum Schutz vor Kämpfern der Terrororganisation “Islamischer Staat” (IS) soll damit auch die Ausbreitung der kurdischen People’s Protection Units (YPG), welche Teil der Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) sind, westlich des Euphrats und damit langfristig ein zusammenhängendes, den ganzen nördlichen Teil Syriens umfassendes Kurdengebiet verhindert werden (Agence France-Presse, “Turkish Tanks Enter Syria to Open New Front against Islamic State“, The Telegraph, 03.09.2016). Beim Start der Operation wurde die Freie Syrische Armee (FSA) beim Vorstoss von den türkischen Streitkräften mit Luftschlägen, Artilleriefeuer und M60 Patton Kampfpanzer unterstützt. Mit zunehmenden Operationsverlauf nahm die Beteiligung der türkischen Streitkräfte zu. Seit anfangs Dezember werden in der Region der syrischen Stadt al-Bab rund 45 Leopard 2 Kampfpanzer eingesetzt. Dabei wurden möglicherweise 10 Stück von den IS-Kämpfern zerstört oder zumindest kampfuntauglich gemacht (“Leopard 2 in Syria“, Below The Turret Ring, 15. Dezember 2016). Damit wird rund um den Leopard 2 ein Unverwundbarkeitsmythos beerdigt, denn weder im Einsatz im Kosovo noch in Afghanistan kam es zu Verlusten (“Er galt als unzerstörbar: In Syrien wird ein Panzer-Mythos zerstört“, FOCUS Online, 12 January 2017). Die Frage stellt sich nun, ob der Leopard 2 in die Jahre gekommen ist und seine Schutzmassnahmen nicht mehr ausreichen? Was bedeutet dies für die in der Schweizer Armee im Einsatz stehenden Leopard 2?

Opfer einer grossen Explosion: Zwei zerstörte türkische Leopard 2 im Raum al-Bab. Die Sprengung erfolgte jedoch erst im Nachhinein, womöglich sogar durch die türkische Luftwaffe.

Opfer einer grossen Explosion: Zwei zerstörte türkische Leopard 2 im Raum al-Bab. Die Sprengung erfolgte jedoch erst im Nachhinein, womöglich sogar durch die türkische Luftwaffe. (Quelle: “Leopard 2 in Syria – part 2“, Below The Turret Ring, 21.01.2017).

Die Schlacht um al-Bab
Die Operation “Schutzschild Euphrat” kann in vier Phasen unterteilt werden. In der ersten Phase ging es um die Einnahme und Befreiung der syrischen Grenzstadt Jarabulus. Dabei zogen sich die IS-Kämpfer weitgehend kampffrei nach al-Bab zurück (“Syria: Turkish-Backed Rebels ‘Seize’ Jarablus from ISIL“, Al Jazeera, 24.08.2016). In einer zweiten Phase nahmen im September 2016 FSA-Kämpfer zirka 55 km weiter westlich Jarabulus die syrische Grenzstadt al-Rai ein. Bereits im April und Juni versuchte die FSA al-Rai einzunehmen, scheiterten jedoch am Widerstand der IS-Kämpfer. Ende September startete die dritte Phase: Die Einnahme der symbolträchtige, aber strategisch unbedeutende syrische Kleinstadt Dabiq. Auch hier zogen sich die IS-Kämpfer ohne grossen Widerstand nach al-Bab zurück (“Syria Conflict: IS ‘Ousted from Symbolic Town of Dabiq’“, BBC News, 16.10.2016). Schliesslich Mitte Oktober startete die vierte Phase: Die Offensive zur Eroberung von al-Bab. Im Unterschied zu den vorhergehenden Phasen nahm, der Widerstand der IS-Kämpfer deutlich zu. Nachdem Vorstösse der FSA aus nördlicher Richtung gegen Ende November abgeblockt wurden, kreisten diese al-Bab zunehmend von Westen her ein, was die Offensive jedoch spürbar abbremste.
Bis in den Dezember hinein forderte die Operation “Schutzschild Euphrat” je nach Quelle 9-11 türkische Panzer, wobei keine Leopard betroffen waren, das Leben von 18 türkische Soldaten und von rund 300 FSA-Kämpfern. Die Verluste stammen hauptsächlich von Kämpfen mit kurdischen Rebellen. Im Gegensatz dazu vermieden IS-Kämpfer in der Regel eine direkte Konfrontation mit den türkischen Streitkräften bzw. den FSA-Kämpfern und zogen sich nach al-Bab zurück. Al-Bab ist eine regionale Hochburg des IS und strategisch wichtig um ein weiteres Vorrücken der türkischen Streitkräfte bzw. der FSA nach al-Raqqa zu verhindern. Vermutlich veranlasste der zunehmende Widerstand des IS in al-Bab die türkischen Streitkräfte anfangs Dezember dazu, das 1. Bataillon der 2. Gepanzerten Brigade mit ihren 45 Leopard 2 in al-Bab einzusetzen (“Leopard 2 in Syria“).

Dass nun mit erheblich mehr Widerstand zu rechnen ist, zeigte sich beispielhaft am 21. Dezember 2016 – der bis jetzt blutigste Tag für die türkischen Streitkräfte welche an der Operation “Schutzschild Euphrat” beteiligt sind. An diesem Tag wurden durch drei Selbstmordattentate in al-Bab 16 türkische Soldaten getötet (Selcan Hacaoglu und Firat Kozok, “Jihadists Kill 16 Troops in Turkey’s Deadliest Day in Syria“,, 21. Dezember 2016). Aufgrund von Bildaufnahmen ist es wahrscheinlich, dass dabei zwei türkische Leopard 2 von IS-Kämpfern in Besitz genommen werden konnte (Leith Fadel, “Turkish Army Offensive Takes Disastrous Turn in East Aleppo as Slain Soldiers Litter Battlefield“, AMN – Al-Masdar News, 22. Dezember 2016). Doch das ist bloss die Spitze des Eisberges: Geleakte Dokumente zeigen auf, dass das in al-Bab eingesetzte Bataillon möglicherweise bis Ende Dezember zehn seiner Leopard 2 verloren hat, was einem Kampfkraftverlust von rund 20% entspricht. Als Panzerabwehrlenkwaffe werden von kurdischen Widerstandskämpfer primär US-amerikanische TOW-2A, von IS-Kämpfern russische 9K111 Fagot (AT-4 Spigot) oder 9K135 Kornet (AT-14 Spriggan) eingesetzt (Jeff Jager, “Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield: An Exemplar of Joint Combined Arms Maneuver“, Small Wars Journal, 17.10.2016; “Tank Fiasco Turkey: Posted a New Photo to lost ‘Leopards’“, Latest World News, 25.12.2016).

Mögliche Verluste in al-Bab (die ursprüngliche Quelle des Dokuments ist nicht bekannt; nähere Informationen: Shoreshger, "TAF Armor Loses in Al-Bab in Recent Clashes", Reddit - Syrian Civil War, December 2016).

Mögliche Verluste in al-Bab (die ursprüngliche Quelle des Dokuments ist nicht bekannt; nähere Informationen: Shoreshger, “TAF Armor Loses in Al-Bab in Recent Clashes“, Reddit – Syrian Civil War, December 2016).

Der Leopard 2A4 ist als Einzelkämpfer für den Kampf in überbautem Gelände ungeeignet
Der Leopard 2 besitzt zu Unrecht einen Unverwundbarkeitsmythos. Das grundlegende Design des Panzers stammt aus den 1970er-Jahren. Ausgerichtet auf die Bedürfnisse des Kalten Kriegs wurde dieser für eine Panzerschlacht konzipiert, bei welcher der Gegner aus der Bewegung direkt angegriffen wird. Um Gewicht zu sparen und die Mobilität zu erhöhen wurde die Panzerung an Seite und Heck weniger stark ausgelegt als an Wannen- und Turmfront.

Die türkischen Streitkräfte haben mit dem von ihnen eingesetzte Variante 2A4 genau diese Schwachstellen, welche – basierend auf den Bildern einiger zerstörten türkischen Leopard – ihnen mit hoher Wahrscheinlichkeit zum Verhängnis wurden. Zwar könnte der 2A4 mit zusätzlicher Panzerung oder gar Aktivpanzerung ausgerüstet werden, doch dies würde den 60-Tonnen-Panzer noch schwerer machen. Die Aktivpanzerung wäre ausserdem ein nicht vertretbares Risiko für die um die Panzer eingesetzten Soldaten. Da im überbauten Gelände der Gegner nicht nur frontal, sondern aus Gebäuden heraus theoretisch von allen Seiten und von oben zuschlagen kann, ist der Leopard 2A4 in seiner Grundkonfiguration als Einzelkämpfer in überbautem Gelände nicht geeignet. Die Schwäche in der Panzerung wird erst mit dem Leopard 2A7+ behoben, welcher für den Kampf in überbautem Gelände konzipiert wurde und eine allumfassende Verbundpanzerung aufweisen soll (“Er galt als unzerstörbar“).

Zusätzlich zu den Schwächen in der Panzerung kommt hinzu, dass die türkischen Panzerformationen taktisch schlecht trainiert sind. Die Panzer werden viel zu statisch und wenig geschützt in einer sogenannten “hull-down position” bei dem der Turm aber nicht die Wanne sichtbar ist, eingesetzt, was sie für Panzerabwehrlenkwaffen zu einem leichten Ziel machen. In einem Fall wurde ein Panzer getroffen, doch die Crew des zweiten Panzers reagierte darauf nicht. Als Mittel der Feuerunterstützung sollte ein Panzer von einem gesicherten Umfeld aus eingesetzt werden. Ist dies nicht möglich, muss er im Verband mit Begleitschutz in den Flanken vorstossen – der Panzer ist primär kein Einzelkämpfer. Eine solche Einsatzdoktrin konnte bei den türkischen Streitkräften weder beim M60 noch beim Leopard 2 während der Operation “Schutzschild Euphrat” beobachtet werden (“Leopard 2 in Syria“).


Quelle: “Leopard 2 in Syria – part 2“, Below The Turret Ring, 21.01.2017

Konsequenzen für die Schweizer Armee
Im aktiven Bestand der Schweizer Armee befinden sich momentan 134 Panzer 87 Leopard WE. Abgesehen von einigen die Panzerung nicht betreffenden Modifikationen handelt sich dabei um kampfwertgesteigerte Leopard 2A4. Die Kampfwertsteigerung wurde im Rüstungsprogramm 2006 beantragt und kostete 395 Millionen Schweizer Franken. Sie zielte “auf eine Verbesserung der Führungsfähigkeit der Panzerverbände und -formationen sowie auf den Erhalt einer hohen Systemverfügbarkeit ab. Sämtliche Schutzkomponenten und die autarke Waffen- und Beobachtungsstation [wurden] nicht in die Werterhaltung einbezogen.” (Schweizerischer Bundesrat, “Rüstungsprogramm 2006“, 24.05.2006). Das heisst, dass die Panzer 87 Leopard WE der Schweizer Armee die gleichen Schwachstellen der Panzerung an Seite und Heck aufweisen und somit im Alleingang ohne zusätzlichen Anpassungen nicht für den Kampf im überbauten Gelände geeignet sind. Neben Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, Rheinmetall/IBD Deisenroth bietet jedoch auch die RUAG eine aufrüstbare Zusatzpanzerung für den Leopard 2A4 an.

Auch heute ist der Leopard 2 ein tauglicher Panzer, wenn er für den Zweck eingesetzt wird, für den er ursprünglich konzipiert wurde: eine Schlacht Panzer gegen Panzer. Die in der Türkei verwendete Variante des Leopard 2 ist jedoch nicht für den eigenständigen stationären Kampf in überbautem Gelände geeignet. Falsche Doktrin, schlecht ausgebildete Besatzung und die Schwäche in der Panzerung an der Seite und am Heck machen den Leopard 2 ein lohnendes Ziel für Panzerabwehrlenkwaffen, über welche sowohl die kurdischen Rebellen wie auch die IS-Kämpfer verfügen. Will die Schweizer Armee den Panzer 87 Leopard WE in überbautem Gelände einsetzen, ist sie gut beraten die Lehren aus dem Einsatz des Leopard 2 in der Operation “Schutzschild Euphrat” zu ziehen und die Flotte langfristig mit einer besseren Rundum-Panzerung kampfwertzusteigern.

Weitere Informationen

• • •

9K135 Kornet (AT-14 Spriggan)
Das Lenkwaffensystem 9K135 Kornet wurde Mitte der 1980er-Jahre zum Einsatz gegen Kampfpanzer wie den Leopard 2 und den M1 Abrams konzipiert und sollte die alten Systeme 9K111 Fagot (AT-4 Spigot) und 9K113 Konkurs (AT-5 Spandrel) ablösen. Die Initialversion 9M133-1 von 1994 hatte eine Monoblock-Hohlladung mit einer Referenzleistung von 1’000 mm Panzerstahl, die neuste Version 9M133-2 (Kornet-EM) verfügt über eine Tandemhohlladung mit einer Referenzleistung von 1’200+ mm Panzerstahl.

Es ist praktisch unmöglich, diese Bedrohung alleine mit passiven Schutzsystemen abzuwehren – einzig die Front eines modernen Kampfpanzerturmes verfügt über die nötige Dicke und den entsprechenden Aufbau… Man wird daher auch im Westen nicht umhinkommen, in Zukunft auf Reaktiv- und Aktivschutzsysteme umzustellen, will man den Anschluss nicht komplett verlieren!

— Bühler Stefan, C Think Tank OG Panzer.

Posted in International, Patrick Truffer, Switzerland, Syria, Technology, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Europäische Sicherheitspolitik – zwischen Washington und Moskau

von Tilman Asmus Fischer. Er studierte Geschichte und Kulturwissenschaft an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin und ist als freier Journalist tätig

“Die Armee der Zukunft – Nationale oder europäische Aufgabe?” Unter dieser Frage stand der 25. Europäische Abend, den die Europa-Union Deutschland und der Deutsche Beamten Bund (dbb) gemeinsam mit der Vertretung der Europäischen Kommission in Deutschland am 12. Dezember 2016 im Berliner “dbb forum” veranstalteten. Bei der Erörterung des größeren Problemzusammenhangs traten ausdifferenzierte und teils konträre Positionen der parlamentarischen, administrativen und militärischen Verantwortungsträger zu Tage.



Staatssekretär Brauksiepe: Europäisierung nationaler Streitkräfte
Den einführenden Impulsvortrag hielt – in Vertretung der Bundesministerin der Verteidigung, Ursula von der Leyen – der Parlamentarische Staatssekretär Dr. Ralf Brauksiepe (CDU), der die Flüchtlingskrise und die anhaltenden Auseinandersetzungen in der Ukraine als zentrale gegenwärtige Herausforderungen benannte. Angesichts dieser Problemlagen erschiene die EU kaum handlungsfähig, obwohl sie über die notwendige Ausstattung verfüge: So entsprächen die Stärke der aktiven Truppen der EU-Mitgliedsstaaten derjenigen der USA und die aktuellen Rüstungsausgaben denjenigen Chinas. Hingegen liege der Nachholbedarf bei einer gemeinsamen Sicherheits- und Verteidigungspolitik der EU, die effizient, effektiv und sichtbar sein müsse. Letztes Charakteristikum hob Brauksiepe in besonderer Weise hervor, da es gelte, in der aktuellen politischen Krise Europas durch nicht zu leugnende politische Erfolge zu überzeugen. Daher könne nur mittels einer Optimierung der gemeinsamen Verteidigungs- und Sicherheitspolitik eine allgemeine Anerkennung der EU als Friedens- und Stabilitätsprojekt erreicht werden.

Dr. Ralf Brauksiepe

Dr. Ralf Brauksiepe

Konkret ging es Brauksiepe dabei mittelfristig weniger um die Schaffung einer ueropäischen Armee als vielmehr um eine Wiederbelebung des Gedankens einer “Europäischen Verteidigungsunion” und in diesem Sinne um eine intensivierte Zusammenarbeit zwischen den EU-Mitgliedsstaaten. Entsprechende bi- und multilaterale Kooperationen (wie sie etwa zwischen Deutschland und den Beneluxstaaten etabliert sind) seien erste Schritte auf dem Weg zu größeren Projekten einer europäischen Verteidigungspolitik. Exemplarisch wies er auf die Stärkung der europäischen Säule innerhalb der NATO hin, wie sie das Bundeswehr-Weißbuch 2016 als Ziel formuliert. Dabei müsse die EU in verteidigungspolitischer Hinsicht ein komplementäres Element zur NATO darstellen und dürfe nicht zu einem kostspieligen und bürokratischen Parallelprojekt werden.

Von den Beschlüssen des Europäischen Rates zur Sicherheits- und Verteidigungspolitik, die schließlich am 15. Dezember 2016 erfolgten, erhoffte sich Brauksiepe eine Operationalisierung europäischer Strategien in den Bereichen Logistik und Sanitätsdienst, sowie eine Erneuerung der notwendigen Finanzierungsgrundlage und eine Stärkung der Sicherheitskonzepte für die peripheren EU-Mitgliedsstaaten. Zusammenfassend sprach sich Brauksiepe zunächst für ein Beibehalten nationaler Streitkräfte, einschließlich des parlamentarischen Vorbehalts der Einzelstaaten, bei einer gleichzeitigen Europäisierung ebendieser Streitkräfte auf dem Wege einer engen Zusammenarbeit aus. Offen blieb schließlich die Frage nach einer möglichen Einbindung des Vereinigten Königreichs in die sicherheitspolitischen Strukturen Europas.


Podiumsdiskussion: Europäische Armee – möglich oder unmöglich?

Die an den Impulsvortrag anknüpfende Podiumsdiskussion setzte sich – moderiert von Tanja Samrotzki – mit der “Perspektive Europäische Armee” bzw. den globalen Rahmenbedingungen europäischer Verteidigungs- und Sicherheitspolitik auseinander, wobei die Diskutanten durchaus kontroverse Positionen in Einzelfragen vertraten.

Brigadegeneral Meyer zum Felde: 2014 als sicherheitspolitischen Wendepunkt
Brigadegeneral Rainer Meyer zum Felde, Leiter der Abteilung Verteidigungspolitik und Planung der Ständigen Vertretung der Bundesrepublik Deutschland bei der NATO, markierte den 1. März 2014 als sicherheitspolitische Wende für Europa: Neben Krisenmanagement an der südlichen Peripherie bzw. in Afrika sei nun auch wieder Russland als potentielle Bedrohung für die östlichen EU-Staaten zu berücksichtigen. Hieraus folge die Notwendigkeit, wieder zum Rückgrat der konventionellen Bündnisverteidigung zu werden – mithin seitens der Bundeswehr Abschreckungs- und Verteidigungsfähigkeit zurückzugewinnen. Dementsprechend habe die bei den NATO-Gipfeln in Wales 2014 und Warschau 2016 demonstrierte Geschlossenheit entscheidende Konsequenzen für das Verteidigungsdispositiv.

Brigadegeneral Rainer Meyer zum Felde

Brigadegeneral Rainer Meyer zum Felde

Mit Blick auf das Verhältnis von NATO und EU verwies Meyer zum Felde auf die “seit Jahrzehnten köchelnde Diskussion über transatlantische Lastenteilung” und sprach sich gleichfalls für eine komplementäre Stellung der EU zur NATO aus, zumal die EU hinsichtlich ziviler Programme breiter aufgestellt sei als die NATO, in der es Kräfte gäbe, die einen Ausbau dieses Bereichs bremsten. Im Sinne des Rahmennationen-Konzeptes versprach er sich von einer Komplementarität, dass so Entwicklungen aus den europäischen Staaten sowohl in die EU als auch in die NATO eingebracht werden könnten. Für die generelle Entwicklung der transatlantischen Beziehungen wollte Meyer zum Felde keine zu pessimistische Diagnose abgeben: Zwar sei der Druck gewachsen, aber es sei für ihn auch eine neuerliche Hinwendung der USA zum Engagement in Europa erkennbar.

Hinsichtlich der Entstehung einer europäischen Armee erinnerte Meyer zu Felde an die lange Dauer bis zur Umsetzung der Forderungen nach einem gemeinsamen deutschen Militär von 1815, die sich erst mit Gründung der Reichswehr erfüllt habe. Für die Entstehung einer europäischen Armee käme erschwerend hinzu, dass die EU mit dem Vereinigten Königreich einen professionellen Militärstaat und eine wichtige Seemacht verloren habe.

Botschafter a.D. Kornblum: Es wird keine europäische Armee geben
John C. Kornblum, ehemaliger US-amerikanischer Botschafter Deutschland, charakterisierte Russland als Enigma bzw. als “Nation mit Hang zur Explosion” und riet zu einer Strategie, die mit Russland weder als Feind noch als Freund rechne. Dabei betonte Kornblum die Gefahr russischer Propaganda und Agitation über die neuen Medien, während Russland selbst faktisch schwach sei.

US Botschafter a.D. Kornblum

US Botschafter a.D. Kornblum

Anders als in der Einschätzung Russlands bestand hinsichtlich des von Kornblum diagnostizierten Verschleißes der sicherheitspolitischen transatlantischen Beziehungen seit Ende der 1990er-Jahre ein geringerer Konsens zwischen ihm und seinen Mitdiskutanten. Nachdem die USA über Jahrzehnte bereit gewesen seien, Europa kostenfrei zu verteidigen, seien sie nach Ende des Kalten Krieges weggestoßen worden. Dabei habe der Bosnienkrieg gezeigt, dass die Europäer nichts hätten ausrichten können, bis die USA agiert hätten. Trotz aktueller Bemühungen der NATO um eine Verschmelzung der Sicherheitspolitik der transatlantischen Partner, habe die EU begonnen, sich zu einer Konkurrenz zur NATO zu entwickeln – und sei heute strategisch so weit von den USA entfernt, wie seit 1945 nicht mehr. Dabei widersprach er Meyer zum Feldes Verweis auf eine mögliche Komplementarität hinsichtlich der breiteren Aufstellung der EU im zivilen Bereich – dieser sei bei der NATO bereits seit 1969 gegeben. Zusammengenommen erschien Kornblum der Mangel an strategischen Vorstellungen als größtes Problem Europas. Im Einklang mit seiner Analyse der transatlantischen Beziehungen kam er zu dem Schluss, dass es zwar eine engere Zusammenarbeit in Europa, jedoch keine europäische Armee geben könne – vor allem da hierfür eine gemeinsame Strategie notwendig wäre, die jedoch fehle. Neben Bosnien zog er dabei das Scheitern des niederländisch-belgischen Fregattenprogramms als Beispiel heran.

Generalleutnant van Loon: Europa muss eigene Sicherheitsinteressen realisieren
Generalleutnant Ton van Loon, ehemaliger Kommandeur des deutsch-niederländischen Korps, brachte hinsichtlich der unterschiedlichen Problemfelder auf den Punkt, dass die nach dem Fall des Eisernen Vorhangs entstandene Illusion ewigen Friedens zerstört sei. Dabei ging er über die Einschätzung Meyer zum Feldes hinaus: Afrika sei für Europa nicht mehr nur ein Ort von Kriseneinsätzen, vielmehr bedrohten die dortigen Entwicklungen unmittelbar Europas Stabilität. Nichtsdestotrotz betonte auch er die Bedrohung, die von medialer Kriegsführung ausgeht, derer sich etwa Russland bedient. Die europäische Gesellschaft müsse dieser gegenüber ihre Blauäugigkeit aufgeben – da Soldaten jenseits von Cyber Forces hiergegen nur wenig ausrichten könnten.

Generalleutnant Ton van Loon

Generalleutnant Ton van Loon

Mit Blick auf die aktuellen Herausforderungen sah van Loon in Anbetracht der “Amerika First“-Politik Europa nun vor der Herausforderung, selbst aktiv zu werden. Gewissermaßen in Einklang mit Kornblums Problemdiagnose formulierte er die Forderung, Europa müsse sich klar werden, dass es Sicherheitsinteressen habe; zu lange habe man sich aufgrund des amerikanischen Engagements zurückgelehnt. Zu einem Offenbarwerden der eigenen Sicherheitsinteressen könne dabei wohl auch beitragen, dass sich diese mit denjenigen einer Regierung Trump nicht deckten. Neben der Klärung eigener Sicherheitsinteressen forderte van Loon, endlich auch eigene Fähigkeiten aufzubauen, da die NATO bisher faktisch aus den USA bestünde. So sei die EU zwar auch in Afghanistan gewesen, habe aber im Vergleich zu den USA – auch im zivilen Bereich – nichts zu bieten gehabt. Dabei stand für ihn außer Frage, dass innerhalb der NATO europäische Fähigkeiten gebraucht würden. Als Gegenbeispiel zum gescheiterten Fregattenprogramm wies er auf die erfolgreiche Schaffung der gemeinsamen Benelux-Marine hin.

Bundestagsabgeordneter Lindner: Renaissance der EVG
Dr. Tobias Lindner (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), Mitglied im Verteidigungsausschuss, betonte angesichts des zurecht empfundenen Bedrohungsgefühls der östlichen EU-Staaten zwar gleichfalls die hohe Bedeutung der Landesverteidigung, forderte jedoch, darüber die Fähigkeit zu Auslandseinsätzen nicht zu vernachlässigen. Dabei seien die gegenwärtigen Herausforderungen – die auch die Generierung nötiger Finanzen beträfen – zu groß und vielfältig, um sie national zu lösen. Damit knüpfte er an seine bereits 2015 gemeinsam mit Cem Özdemir vorgetragene Forderung nach einer Renaissance der 1954 gescheiterten Europäischen Verteidigungsgemeinschaft an (siehe hier: Marcus Seyfarth, “Vom Traum der Einheit: Die europäische Armee – Positionierung von Grünen und CDU“,, 14.09.2015). Neben der Überwindung rüstungspolitischer Egoismen ging es ihm dabei auch um eine Stärkung der gemeinsamen europäischen Außenpolitik, die ihrerseits eine Voraussetzung für eine gemeinsame Verteidigungspolitik sei.

Dr. Tobias Lindner

Dr. Tobias Lindner

Hinsichtlich des Verhältnisses von EU und NATO sprach sich Lindner – im Sinne einer Komplementarität – für eine Klärung der grundsätzlichen Frage aus, welcher der beiden Akteure wo Stärken besäße. Dabei vermutete er selbst gleichfalls Europas Stärke im Zivilen. Kornblums Befürchtungen betreffs russischer Propaganda beipflichtend, markierte Lindner diese als Herausforderung und Gefahr u. a. für den anstehenden Bundestagswahlkampf. Daher sollten alle politischen Akteure gemeinsam um Faktenbezogenheit in der politischen Auseinandersetzung bemüht sein.

Wehrbeauftragter Bartels: Aufholbedarf der Bundeswehr
Der Wehrbeauftragte des Deutschen Bundestages, Hans-Peter Bartels, grenzte sich in der Gewichtung der aktuellen Konfliktlage von van Loon ab: Man könne es sich nicht aussuchen, welche Gefahr die größte sei; aktuell gelte es vor allem, zugleich Stärke und Dialogbereitschaft gegenüber Russland unter Beweis zu stellen.

Wehrbeauftragte des Deutschen Bundestages Hans-Peter Bartels,

Wehrbeauftragte des Deutschen Bundestages Hans-Peter Bartels,

Bartels markierte die bestehenden Defizite der Bundeswehr: Nicht nur, dass aktuell 14’000 Soldaten fehlten, auch bestünde Nachholbedarf hinsichtlich funktionstüchtiger Ausstattung. Diese müssten gerade auch angesichts der notwendigen Stärkung der Landesverteidigung behoben werden. Anders als Kornblum hob Bartels die Bildung von Koalitionen der Willigen jenseits der NATO – unter Beteiligung der USA – als zentrale Belastung der transatlantischen Zusammenarbeit im Bereich der Sicherheitspolitik hervor.


Fazit: “Das Ende des Westens”?

Abschließend bezog das Podium Position zum “Ende des Westens”, wie es Joschka Fischer am selben Tag in einem Gastbeitrag für die Süddeutsche Zeitung vorhergesagt hatte. Eine klare Absage erteilte ihm Kornblum, der das westliche als das bestes System für Frieden, Sicherheit und Wohlstand bezeichnete und Fischers Prognose als unverantwortlich verwarf. Demgegenüber versuchten die anderen Diskutanten, einzelne Überlegungen des ehemaligen Bundesaußenministers fruchtbar zu machen. So erklärte Lindner, dass offensichtlich gewisse bisherige weltpolitische Selbstverständlichkeiten nicht mehr bestünden und es nun gelte, Konsequenzen aus den aktuellen Bedrohungen zu ziehen. In diesem Sinne wollte Bartels zwar auch kein Ende des Westens, wohl aber die Notwendigkeit neuer Projekte und Antworten sehen, die der Westen brauche. Als eine entsprechende bisher ungeklärte strategische Frage stellte Meyer zum Felde den Umgang mit Krisen südlich der europäischen Peripherie heraus; anders als für den Osten, sei hier das Vorgehen noch nicht konsensual zwischen NATO und USA geklärt.

Letztlich formulierte van Loon ausgehend von der Auseinandersetzung mit Fischer, was in gewisser Weise auf die Gesamtheit der erörterten sicherheitspolitischen Herausforderungen zutrifft: “Wenn es so bleiben soll, wie es ist, müssen wir etwas dafür tun.” Hierzu zähle etwa angesichts der Flüchtlingsströme die Verbesserung der Lebensbedingungen der Betroffenen vor Ort. Anknüpfend an den Adhortativ “Wir schaffen das” formulierte er die zentrale Frage nach der (sicherheits)politischen Identität Europas: “Wer sind ‘wir’?”

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UAE THAAD Site Reaches Milestone

Satellite imagery shows that the UAE Air Force and Air Defence has deployed the AN/TPY-2 radar along with its THAAD battery operating near the coast.

Satellite imagery from 16OCT16 confirms the deployment of the AN/TPY-2 Radar (Imagery: DigitalGlobe).

The UAE operationally deployed the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system for the first time in 2016, a review of imagery suggests. The U.S.-built system was co-located at a recently constructed Patriot site, positioned immediately to the south of the UAE Naval College.

The THAAD site, constructed in 2014-2015, features four hardened munitions shelters, a support area and six prepared firing positions. All launch positions have been occupied with the unit’s transporter erector launchers (or TELs) since early 2016. In the most recent imagery in Google Earth, several additional TELs have been noted in the support area.

The THAAD system—designed to intercept short-range, medium-range, and some intermediate-range ballistic missiles—works in concert with the country’s existing assets including the Patriot PAC-3s, Hawk batteries and other associated radar elements. Together, they form a multilayered missile defense network protecting population centers and critical infrastructure.

In 2011, the UAE became the first international customer to procure the advanced missile defense system as a Foreign Military Sale under the Arms Export Control Act. According to the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the initial contract, estimated $1.135 billion, included 48 missiles, 9 TELs and two Radars.

Initial deliveries were made to the Middle Eastern country in late 2015. Around the same time, 81 Emirati air defenders graduated from the first foreign THAAD Operator/Maintainer course at Fort Bliss; a 2nd class graduated in May 2016.

The mobile AN/TPY-2 Radar and power unit

The same year in October, the system reached a milestone when it was observed with the X-band AN/TPY-2 fire control radar. Prior to the radar’s employment, the system was likely operational, as it’s capable of utilizing fire control cues from other deployed sensors, including those potentially linked by allies protecting the region. (Previous imagery, for example, shows various TELs on alert, with missile canisters elevated in the launch position.)

When not deployed as a fire control radar, the AN/TPY-2 can operate in “Forward Based Mode” relaying tracking and IFF data to remote missile defense systems.  However, switching between the two modes can take up to 8 hours. (A discussion of the radar’s ranges in both modes as publicly reported, can be found here.)

In total, a THAAD battery consists of six truck-mounted M1075 launchers, 48 interceptors (8 per launcher), a THAAD Fire Control and Communications (TFCC) unit aka Tactical Station Group (TSG), and one AN/TPY-2 radar. The truck platform used for THAAD is the Oshkosh M1120 HEMTT LHS.

Outside of the UAE, the U.S. Army has deployed a battery to the U.S. territory of Guam and has plans to setup a THAAD site in South Korea. A Qatari order was also in the works but has since been delayed due to the country’s declining hydrocarbon revenue.

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UAE May Be Pulling Their SAMs from Yemen

A recent review of satellite imagery shows that UAE forces may be pulling their surface to air missile systems out from key deployment locations within Yemen.

Left: DigitalGlobe imagery of the Patriot site in Aden dated 08OCT16 / Right: 24OCT16

Imagery reviewed by confirms that UAE Patriots departed from at least two of their three known deployment locations within the country. Equipment previously deployed at Aden International Airport and Al Anad airbase was not visible in recent imagery updates.

The site at the southern coastal airport, established in early 2016, previously featured four Patriot transporter erector launchers (or TELs) and associated equipment. The TELs were no longer in residence on the south side of the airport by late October, according to imagery available in Google Earth. However, UAE armor still remained near the parking apron at the time of capture, but accompanied by a much smaller air element than previously observed.

Similarly, Al Anad airbase, located approximately 30 miles to the north of the airport, had no Patriots on-site as of January 2017. The site, composed of four Patriot TELs, was likely established in early 2016 after the airbase was reportedly attacked by a Tochka ballistic missile in January 2016. We last observed the U.S.-built missile system on imagery at the site in November 2016.

As for the third full battery located in Ma’rib, no high resolution imagery was available at the time of writing for analysis. DigitalGlobe imagery from September 2016 still showed the battery in the ad hoc bermed location. However, our friends over at Planet Labs sent us imagery from January 2017 that suggests they’ve probably been relocated, though it’s difficult to be certain due to the lower resolution.

While we’ve yet to confirm their destination, it’s likely some may make their way over to Assab, given the level of buildup we’ve monitored recently.

(Click on the image to enlarge)

As for the batteries back in the UAE, imagery confirms that four of the seven identified Patriot sites are without units. The empty batteries are indicated on the map as white triangles while the green triangles represent in-residence batteries. The green square is the UAE Patriot garrison located in the heart of Zayed Military City and the red triangle, the U.S.-deployed Patriots at Al Dhafra.

According to imagery reviewed between 2014-2016, the site located immediately south of the UAE Naval College (northwest of the Patriot garrison) often fields up to four additional batteries, possibly a jumped unit from one of the other sites. This may suggest that only three units were deployed to support Saudi-led operations in Yemen.

However, last year Raytheon was awarded a contract to provide technical assistance for the system in the UAE. As a result, those missing units could be undergoing depot level maintenance. The contract, estimated at $21 million, was obligated at the time of the award and expected to finish by July 2017.

A UAE Patriot site is typically composed of 4 TELs and one AN/MPQ-65 target engagement radar. The variant the UAE ordered, a Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (or PAC-3), supports up to four launch canisters, each with four missiles—as opposed to one PAC-2 missile per canister. Therefore, each full strength UAE PAC-3 unit is capable of launching up to 64 missiles without reloading.

The UAE air defense network is setup for point defense with sites positioned around airfields, population centers and important infrastructure.

Update 26.01.17

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North Korea’s atomic bomb: living with the status quo

by Patrick Truffer. He graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs and completes a Master of Arts program in International Relations at the Freie Universität Berlin.

On the 9th of September 2016, North Korea carried out its 5th atomic bomb test. This was the last and largest detonation of the North Korean test series to date (estimates range between 10-20 kt). However, this is not the only worrisome development: at the same time as the nuclear weapons programme, the delivery systems are also being further developed. North Korea carried out a successful test of its new medium-range missile Hwasong-10 on the 22nd of June 2016, which can reach up to 3,500 km with a nuclear warhead (another test on the 25th of October 2016 failed). This means that the major US military bases in Guam could be within the range of this weapon. It is estimated that North Korea will have an intercontinental rocket in about 10 years (Denny Roy, “Preparing for a North Korean Nuclear Missile“, Survival 58, No. 3, May 2016, p. 134).

The alleged unpredictability of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, the availability of nuclear warheads and a nuclear weapon delivery system could pose a direct threat to the United States in the long term. This raises the question of how the United States should deal with this looming threat, and what role does China play?

The path to nuclear power
North Korea is one of the countries which became interested in nuclear weapons at a very early point. From 1956, North Korean scientists were able to start gaining experience in the Soviet Union at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna near Moscow. A total of 120-150 North Koreans had been educated there by the 1980s. In September 1959, the Soviet Union eventually signed an agreement on nuclear cooperation with North Korea, which was most likely carried out in response to a similar agreement made between the United States and South Korea in July of the same year. Starting in 1962, the Soviet Union helped North Korea to build the nuclear facilities in Nyŏngbyŏn and supplied them with a 4 MWe light water reactor for research purposes. In 1985, the Soviet Union promised another nuclear reactor if North Korea signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (for more information see Robert A. Wampler, “North Korea and Nuclear Weapons: The Declassified U.S. Record“, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 87, The National Security Archive, April 25, 2003). Despite North Korea’s agreement to the treaty, the reactor was never delivered. It appears that cooperation with the Soviet Union had come to a standstill due to the political upheavals which took place in the late 1980s. This is also the reason why it is not possible for Russia to exert more influence on the North Korean regime today (Roy, p. 133). However, this has not prevented further development of nuclear weapons under the North Korean regime. In 1986, they already had their own first nuclear reactor (5 MWe) with the aim of using it to produce plutonium. Shortly thereafter, work began on a 50 MWe and a 200 MWe reactor, neither of which, however, were completed. If all three reactors had been functional, it would be possible for North Korea to produce enough plutonium for 50 nuclear bombs each year (Richard Stone, “North Korea’s Nuclear Shell Game“, Science 303, No. 5657, January 23, 2004, p. 453).

The United States believed that in 1994, North Korea had produced enough plutonium using its 5 MWe reactor to build 5-6 nuclear devices. At that time, the US was planning to prevent the creation of enriched plutonium fuel rods with an air strike to the reactor using conventional precision bombs (Bruce Cumings, “Getting North Korea wrong“, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 71, No. 4, July 2015, p. 68f). However, this turned out differently: Thanks to the diplomatic efforts of former US President Jimmy Carter, the “Agreed Framework” was signed by the United States and North Korea. In this treaty, it was agreed that North Korea would immediately stop using the three plutonium producing reactors based on the Magnox design in exchange for two US-sponsored 1,000 MWe light water reactors, which were unsuitable for the production of weapons-grade nuclear material (Stone, p. 453). As compensation for the resulting break in power production, the US would fund the delivery of an equivalent amount of oil until the two light water reactors were up and running. Moreover, North Korea pledged to remain part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to fulfil its obligations therein. In the long term, normalising relations was planned between the US and North Korea, which would be accompanied by the establishment of diplomatic relations and the removal of sanctions. The terms of the “Agreed Framework” were completed by negative security assurances of the US and the commitment to a North-South Korean security dialogue. However, the implementation of the “Agreed Framework” failed in 2003 due to inadequate funding and the associated delay due to the resistance of the US Congress, as well as conflicts between the US and North Korea over an alleged covert uranium enrichment programme. Finally, North Korea withdrew from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons permanently in 2003. In response, the six-party talks began in 2004 between North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, the US and Russia, which were eventually discontinued in 2009 following a North Korean missile test, carried out by North Korea as a reaction to US sanctions. At the start of 2016, SIPRI estimated that North Korea had about 10 nuclear warheads, with an unknown operational status. With the atomic bomb test in early September of 2016 at the latest, there seems to be no doubt that North Korea has theoretically entered the club of nuclear weapons possessor states.

The status of the North Korean missile programme
The North Korean missile programme was originally based on the design of the Soviet Scud-B short-range missile, which was acquired from Egypt in the 1980s (Andrea Berger, “Disrupting North Korea’s Military Markets“, Survival 58, No. 3, May 03, 2016, p. 104). The Hwasong-5 is thus a copy of the Scud-B missile, and it displays the same performance data with a range of 300 km and a loading capacity of 1,000 kg. The Hwasong-6, however, is a copy of the Scud-C, which can reach 500 km with a loading capacity of 730 kg. A new technology was first used to develop the Nodong and later, the Hwasong-10. Soviet engineers from the Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau, who had been employed in the service of North Korea due to the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet defence industry, were heavily involved in the development of these rockets. The Nodong is able to reach approximately 900 km with a loading capacity of 1,000 kg. The Hwasong-10 is based on the R-27 Zyb, a Soviet submarine-based medium-range missile (Mark Fitzpatrick, “North Korean security challenges: a net assessment“, International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2011, p. 130ff). North Korea developed the three-stage Taepodong-2 as a potential intercontinental rocket, which it is assumed can reach approximately 4,000-8,000 km with a loading capacity of 1,000-1,500 kg, and partly relies on Scud technology (Joseph S. Bermudez, “A history of ballistic missile development in the DPRK“, Occasional Paper 2, Monterey Institute of International Studies, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 1999, 26). The KN-08, which could be seen in various versions as models for the military parades in 2013 and 2015, is based on Scud technology for the first stage, but on R-27 technology for the second stage. The loading capacity is estimated to be 400 kg, with a target range of approximately 9,000 km. The first test flights probably failed in October 2016, and an operational deployment is only expected in about 10 years (John Schilling, Jeffrey Lewis, and David Schmerler, “A New ICBM for North Korea?“, 38 North, December 22, 2015, p. 2).

Dictator – weapons – girls: by the Guardian staff Dan Chung and Tania Branigan. The North Korean leader Kim Jong-il allowed international media to watch his largest ever military parade in October 2010 – part of the campaign to establish his youngest son Kim Jong-un — then still as the leader-in-waiting.

Negotiation strategy 1: Denuclearisation
Some hurdles are expected in any negotiations between the US and North Korea. Negotiations will only come into question on the side of the US if based on the joint statement made at the fourth round of six-party talks in Beijing on the 19th of September 2005, North Korea initiates the first steps towards denuclearisation and joins the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons once again. From the perspective of the US, extortionate behaviour and failure to comply with agreements must not be rewarded by US concessions. Not only would this give the wrong signal internationally and towards South Korea and Japan, but would also be pretty much unacceptable domestically.

From a North Korean point of view, denuclearisation no longer really comes into question following the successful nuclear test on the 9th of September 2016. Based on the high level of distrust towards the US, nuclear weapons play an important role as a security guarantee. Under Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, the nuclear weapons programme was used as a bargaining chip for the normalisation of relations with the US. However, this no longer seems to be the case and a normalisation of relations under Kim Jong-un is unrealistic in the long-term (Roy, p. 131). Moreover, it is questionable whether the current regime is at all interested in relaxing relations. Not only can the US be used for propaganda purposes as a scapegoat for current grievances, but the regime is also able to legitimise its protective function against alleged US aggression (cf.: B.R. Myers, “Taking North Korea at its word“, NK News, 13th of February 2016). It is therefore highly unlikely that North Korea would agree to denuclearisation – even sanctions nor far-reaching concessions would change anything by the fact.

Negotiation strategy 2: Setting a maximum number of rockets and freezing the rocket programme
Assuming that the nuclear genie cannot be forced back into the bottle, the aim must be a realistic objective adapted to the current situation. In order to satisfy their own security needs, North Korea could be permitted a certain maximum number of nuclear warheads which would not pose a threat to the US due to the missile defence shield (Roy, p. 137f). Associated with this would be a “three noes policy”: no development of nuclear weapons (no nuclear tests either), no transfer of nuclear weapons to other states and no use of nuclear weapons. A similar negotiation strategy would be chosen as that which has already been successfully implemented in the case of Iran (Dingli Shen, “North Korea, Nuclear Weapons, and the Search for a New Path Forward: A Chinese Response“, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 72, No. 5, September 02, 2016, p. 345). North Korea would be more likely to accept this negotiation strategy as opposed to denuclearisation. Since the beginning of 2015, the North Korean regime has offered several times to suspend nuclear testing if, in return, the US would dispense with the big military exercises which take place annually with South Korea.

Furthermore, the missile programme could also be frozen as part of the negotiation terms, which means that North Korea would not be able reach the US mainland with the approved nuclear warheads. Of course, South Korea and Japan could not be left to their own fate and would need missile shield, guaranteed by the US. The devil is in the detail: The maximum number of nuclear warheads may have to be sufficient from a North Korean point of view to be able to overcome missile shields in the event of invasion – otherwise this security guarantee would have no practical use in North Korea. However, such a maximum number would hardly be acceptable to the US and its allies. Moreover, the US would logically have to renounce denuclearisation as a precondition for the opening of negotiations, which would be difficult to explain domestically. Opponents of this strategy would justifiably make the criticism that, with the de facto recognition of North Korea as a nuclear power, not only would North Korea come out of the agreement as a winner and an extortionate regime would be rewarded, but also that the nuclear non-proliferation regime would basically be null and void. In the Middle East in particular, other countries could be motivated towards a similarly audacious undertaking.

Sanctions and regime collapse
If a direct negotiation strategy between the US and North Korea does not appear promising, perhaps an indirect way would be to negotiate through an intermediary country which is respected by the United States, and which could have enough influence on North Korea. Only China comes into question here. The voting in the UN Security Council shows that China has no interest in the nuclear armament of North Korea. For example, China voted in favour of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2270 on the 2nd of March 2016, which was adopted in response to the 4th North Korean nuclear test and includes extensive economic sanctions. Whether China would fully abide by the UN sanctions is questionable, however, as China has more to worry about than just a nuclear North Korea: A complete collapse of the North Korean regime (Jane Perlez, “Few Expect China to Punish North Korea for Latest Nuclear Test“, The New York Times, September 11, 2016). Such a collapse could mean an outbreak of war on the Korean peninsula, massive refugee flows into the Chinese border regions and the import of political unrest. Moreover, in the event of Korea being reunified under the leadership of South Korea, China would lose an anti-American buffer state and would simultaneously be confronted with a confident US ally. Access to North Korean mineral resources would also become a thing of the past (Roy, p. 143). Due to the “Pivot to East Asia“, perceived by China as a US containment strategy, China’s confidence in the US is not so strong that it would be prepared to take the risk of such possible scenarios becoming reality. More stringent sanctions – even unilaterally by the United States and its allies – are indeed possible, but without rigorous enforcement on the part of China, these would not achieve the desired effect.

The hope of the US that the North Korean regime will collapse in the meantime and thus resolve the problem itself lis unrealistic. Not only is the population accustomed to the meagre living conditions, it has been internationally isolated and indoctrinated with a state ideology for over at least three generations, which the Kim dynasty places above all else, while blaming the United States for the poor living conditions. An uprising on the part of the population is therefore unlikely. Furthermore, Kim Jong-un has consolidated and strengthened his position since taking power in December 2011, and has secured backing by the armed forces. A regime change would, in any case, not automatically mean that the problem of nuclear weapons and launchers would be solved, and that the relationship with the US would be improved (Cumings, p. 70f); Roy, p. 133ff). On the contrary, the situation could deteriorate uncontrollably through proliferation in other states or even to terrorist organisations. Therefore, the collapse of the North Korean regime would be a high, incalculable risk not only for China, but also for the United States, and is therefore not in their interest.

A photo of the North Korean news agency KCNA shows the test launch of a rocket which was fired from a submarine in April 2016.

A photo of the North Korean news agency KCNA shows the test launch of a rocket which was fired from a submarine in April 2016.

What remains: Living with the status quo
Neither negotiations, sanctions nor the false hope of a regime collapse will bring about much change at all to the status quo in the long-term. A military option should not be considered; the risk of a second Korean War would be too high, in which an uncontrolled escalation and even the use of nuclear weapons could not be ruled out. Such a scenario would have devastating consequences for the entire Northeast Asian region, possibly even for the entire world (Chung-in Moon, “North Korea, Nuclear Weapons, and the Search for a New Path Forward: A South Korean Response“, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 72, No. 5, September 02, 2016, p. 344).

The US and its allies will therefore have no choice but to resign themselves to the future status quo – i.e. a nuclear North Korea with intercontinental launchers. This also means that the further expansion of the missile shield must be continued on US territory and expanded over that of US allies, and that the US must have a credible and massive retaliatory capability. With this level of security, it would be possible to live with the status quo, especially if it is assumed that the North Korean regime would behave rationally. Kim Jong-un will be well aware that the first use of nuclear weapons would mean the end of his reign – whether by invasion or even by a retaliatory nuclear strike.

Posted in English, North Korea, Patrick Truffer, Proliferation, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

From Kalibr cruise missiles to the Kuznetsov: How significant is Russia’s power projection in Syria

On November 14, Russia lost a MiG-29K Fulcrum, which crashed while attempting to land on its only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. The incident happened as the Kuznetsov was en route to Syria, where it is to participate in Russia’s air campaign there.

Later, on December 5, after the Kuznetsov arrived off Syria’s coast, one of its Su-33s also crashed into the sea following a similar landing accident.

A photo taken from a Norwegian surveillance aircraft shows Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in international waters off the coast of Northern Norway on October 17, 2016.

A photo taken from a Norwegian surveillance aircraft shows Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in international waters off the coast of Northern Norway on October 17, 2016.

But is this deployment really necessary? Russia has already deployed a fleet of warplanes to Syria’s western coastal province of Latakia and has been bombing various groups across that war-torn country for over a year now. The Kuznetsov only carries a small number of fighter-bombers and because of its bow-ramp its fighters cannot carry as heavy a payload or as much fuel as their counterparts deployed in Hmeymim, meaning its contribution is a minimal improvement to the existing Russian air force in Syria at best.

Granted a couple of MiG-29Ks and Su-33s would complement the fighter-bomber fleet at Hmeymim, but certainly not drastically nor fundamentally. It is clear this deployment has more to do with a symbolic projection of power more than anything.

p1685724Recent satellite imagery reveals that the Kuznetsov has simply left eight of its assumed nine (ten before the aforementioned December 5 incident) Su-33s and one of its, now three, MiG-29KRs at Hmeymim to operate with the rest of Russia’s land-based aircraft. Leaving at most two Su-33s and two MiG-29s on the Kuznetsov. This fact alone demonstrates the symbolic nature of the carriers voyage since these jets — if they were really necessary in the Syrian theatre of war — could easily have flown to Syria with tanker aircraft in a much shorter space of time.

Russia’s short-lived deployment of Tu-22M3s to Iran last August did much more to enhance Russia’s ability to pound its enemies in Syria than the deployment of the Admiral Kuznetsov off Syria’s coast will. One Russian Tu-22M3s can carry more bombs than Russia’s Su-34 fighter-bombers based at Hmeymim or the Su-33s and Mig-29Ks from the Kuznetsov (a Tu-22M3 can carry as many as 70 FAB-250-class weapons or 8 FAB-1500-class weapons).

Iran quickly tired of Russia’s boasting of its strategic position from Iranian territory and the Tu-22M3s were no longer permitted to use Hamadan as a launchpad. But that brief deployment nevertheless enabled the Russians to pound their adversaries across Syria in ways the Kuznetsov flotilla could only dream.

It’s for these simple reasons that the closely observed voyage of the Kuznetsov flotilla to the Syrian coast can be interpreted as more a symbolic projection of Russian power than a practical one. The aforementioned Su-33 and MiG-29K crashes demonstrate the difficulties the crew of the carrier have faced operating it. Also, more broadly, it indicates that this is an overly unnecessary, burdensome and risky deployment done simply in order to add another dozen or so light fighter-bombers to the sizeable air arm already in Syria.

This is the first time the Kuznetsov will see combat. Moscow’s deployment in Syria was also the first time Moscow fired its Kalibr cruise missiles in combat. On different occasions the cruise missiles were launched from ships in the Caspian Sea (see video below) and Mediterranean, allegedly at Islamic State (ISIS) or other militant targets in Syria. Here also the use of such advanced missiles may have been more about symbolic power projection than the practical choice of weapon for targeting militants.

It’s worth addressing the fact that in Septmber 2014, the US also fired Tomahawk missiles at the mysterious Khorasan group in Syria at the start of its air campaign against ISIS in that country. Unlike Moscow however Washington was, and is, not acting in Syria in coordination with the regime in Damascus. Early in its ongoing bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria, US fighter jets even carried HARM anti-radiation missiles as a precaution to protect themselves in case the Syria’s air defense would try to shoot them down. This clearly showed they didn’t rule out the possibility that Damascus would attempt to forcibly oppose their frequent uncoordinated violations of Syrian airspace.

From the start of its intervention in the Syrian conflict in September 2015 Moscow never had to worry about the Syrian regime attempting to hinder its operations. Russian warplanes flying from Hmeymim can bomb any militant target across the country with impunity, essentially making any usage of cruise missiles (which are an extremely more expensive way to target an essentially defenceless target on the ground than airstrikes) wholly unnecessary.

Nevertheless, using these weapon systems in Syria provides Moscow with an apt opportunity to test them in combat. With the Kalibrs to determine how effectively they can strike targets from hundreds of miles away and with the Kuznetsov to determine how readily it can be deployed and how effectively it can conduct air operations.

“There is no more efficient way of training than real combat,” remarked Russian President Vladimir Putin last March, when Moscow claimed it was drawing down its forces. The Kuznetsov flotilla is likely being deployed for that precise reason.

Posted in English, International, Russia, Sea Powers, Security Policy, Syria | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment