November 26, 2021No Comments

Middle East: Toward a Sustainable Regional Security System?

By: Martina Gambacorta.

Image: This amazing tangled knot of a diagram, made by U.K. data journalist David McCandless, displays the key players and notable relationships in the Middle East. What it communicates is something no one doubts: the Middle East is a confusing place. Image Source: https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/ng-interactive/2014/sep/24/friends-and-enemies-in-the-middle-east-who-is-connected-to-who-interactive

Without doubt, security is the first and fundamental objective of governments involved in the building of a sustainable regional security in the Middle East but it is not the only one. On one hand, different actors are cooperating to counter the Iranian threat and the affiliated militias. On the other hand, multilateral cooperation is taking a way forward from the mere security interests, while economic and thus political aims are now being prioritized. One of the things that emerged  especially in the last 20 years, is that the US role in the region is vitally important but it works much better when it is done through multilateral efforts of allies. In an ideal World one would see the inclusion of Russia and China in this multilateral work, but if not, it is up to the countries of the region, the US, the EU and other willing actors to try to take action to address the regional challenges. Up to now military action has played an important role—through aviation, maritime and border security; but we are moving toward an increased non-military cooperation. 

In Middle Eastern minds, a unified front would play a decisive role in dealing with major fundamental challenges that are undermining the regional stability, such as Iran. Nonetheless, such unified front would not only look at allies, but would strive to include enemies too. Saudi Arabia and Iran informal talks are a clear proof of how the two want to avoid a collision that would destabilize their respective systems of power.

In this frame, the Middle Eastern geopolitical scene has been shaken in recent years by a completely unexpected, almost paradoxical, convergence such as that between Saudi Arabia and Israel. In this case, the most significant episodes were perhaps the apparently repeated meetings, between 2016 and 2018, between the influential Saudi prince Turkī al-Fayṣal, former head of the secret services, and Tzipi Livni, co-secretary of the largest Israeli opposition party, together with General Amos Yadlin and his colleague Ya'akov Amidror, formerly head of military intelligence and National Security Advisor. Since those years, an intelligence-sharing program has begun between Saudi Arabia and Israel to monitor both the pro-Iranian non-state actors in the region, from Ḥizbullah to the ḥūṯī, and the advancement of the Iranian missile program. 

In Riyadh, the hope is that Israel—through its influence on groups in Washington—will be able to coordinate robust pressure on the US political establishment to activate containment of Iran, by introducing or re-imposing sanctions, and possibly helping to reactivate Washington's commitment to defending the interests of all its traditional Middle Eastern allies. The Saudis therefore offered new demonstrations of loyalty to the United States, including a willingness to open a new chapter to secure Israel's future in the region.

Such normalization reflects nothing but the footsteps traced by Obama, Trump and Biden’s presidencies to leave responsibilities to local actors whenever US interests are not at stake. Also, it reflects a profound need for a sustainable regional security system that could develop simultaneously to the creation of ties of political and economic-financial nature and access to resources. An example is the announcement of the giant Dubai Port (Dp) World that it intends to settle in the Israeli port of Haifa or the maritime expansion strategy of the United Arab Emirates. This demonstrates a need for new funding and space to stay afloat in a crisis environment. 

In this sense, the "Abraham Agreements" go toward this direction but do not come out of nowhere, in that  they represent a tactical convergence between the interests of the actors involved. The Arab Gulf countries, including Qatar and Oman, have been cultivating economic-financial, intelligence and security relations with Israel for years, behind the scenes or in a semi-formal manner. 

In 2015, the Emirates granted the Jewish state to establish diplomatic representation at the International Renewable Energy Agency based in Abu Dhabi. Together with Egypt, Qatar has been the main mediator between Hamas and Israel for years. In 2018, Oman formally received Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the same year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an interview that Israelis "have a right to have their own land" and that Saudi Arabia "has no problems with Jews". Also in 2018, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khaled ben Ahmad Al Khalifa even went so far as to take Israel's side against Iran. Commenting on the umpteenth air raid in Syria attributed to the Jewish State Air Force against alleged Iranian military bases, he stated that "Israel has the right to defend itself and eliminate sources of danger".  

If the Turkish threat is added to the Iranian one, the Jewish state could be—together with Russia—a new factor of protection. Behind the curtain of the agreements also hides Saudi Arabia. If Bahrain has signed an agreement with Israel, it is because Riyadh has given the green light. Saudi Arabia then granted the opening of its airspace to air links between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv. To do more, Mohammed bin Salman must wait to formally take power, so that his father - the over eighty and sick King Salman - passes away. Mohammed bin Salman’s ambition is to become the protector of all the holy places of Islam. Science fiction, at least for now. 

Is this frame a solid basis for a sustainable regional security system? It is too early to answer and in the following 20 years changes will shape a new frame. As presented in this article,  advances have been made and different actors are building a new unified front. Nonetheless, unanswered questions still remain. One of this concerns Iran and the future of the JCPOA. Should a comprise be found, and sanctions reduced, the unified front will undoubtedly accommodate the US. Nonetheless, the JCPOA works have proofed to be a failure in the past, and unexpected outcomes cannot be excluded. Moreover, the JCPOA will not be enough to tackle other issue but the nuclear one. While allies are talking to each other, and enemies are being included in such dialogue, religious and ethnic differences won’t be easily overcome through politics and economics.

November 26, 2021No Comments

Russian-U.S. Rivalry

By: Igor Shchebetun and Alessio Calzetti.

From the battlespace of Europe to the borders of the Middle East to East Asia the Soviet Union and the United States did battle for the supremacy of the world. Millions of pairs, who inhabited the 20th century, considered it a fight for the end of history. Both powers used every means at their disposal including nuclear bombs, military espionage, finances, propaganda, cultural ties and many more asymmetric tools. Nearly everything the Americans and the Soviets designed, had an art of dying, but was an excuse for living. For this was the geopolitics of the Cold War. 

Bernard Baruch, a financial adviser to presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt, to find the Cold War in 1948 as a rivalry between two superpowers, which at the time was the United States and the Soviet Union, who each proceeded to fill the power vacuums left by the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. The Cold War was a competition between two systems - the US versus the USSR, capitalism versus communism, pluralism versus totalitarianism. The american-soviet struggle was present in the daily lives of people and shaped their identities and beliefs, from technology and espionage to business sports and movies. Nearly everything we hold dear today was formed by the Cold War. So in a way by studying the past we gained a better understanding of the present. 

Most historians agree that the Cold War took place between 1947 and 1991. It’s origins however are much more profound and can be traced to the geographical pivot theory by historian Alfred Thayer Mahan, who wrote extensively on global politics. Mahan believed that whoever controlled the world's oceans would come to dominate global politics, since most people live adjacent to the sea. The notion was that a powerful navy allows one to project power by the way of the sea onto the commercial maritime routes that connect the globe. For instance, Mahan’s work encouraged the American government to purchase Alaska, annex Hawaii, construct a strong navy and confront Spain in a war. In global terms, Mahan’s book “The influence of sea power upon history” became mandatory reading in the German and French navies and even inspired the Japanese to fight the Russians in 1904. Considering his monumental impact, Mahan is often considered one of the most critical strategists in world history.

Holding the opposite view was geographer Halford Mackinder, who argued that global power belonged to whoever controlled the heartland. Although, he came a bit later than Mahan, Mackinder’s work would also mold the minds of policymakers to come and he is often considered the father of geopolitics as a field of study. In 1904 Mackinder wrote his most important thesis «The heartland theory», which divided the world in three bodies. The first was the world island, which consisted of Europe, Asia and Africa. The second categorization refers to the offshore islands like the British Isles and the Japanese archipelago, while the final group points out to the Americas and Australia as outlying islands. Within these parameters, Mackinder placed a special emphasis on the world island. This was the most populous and resource rich land combination. Whoever controlled the world island would gain the means to dominate the globe. Within the world island however was the heartland region, which stretched from the Volga to the Yangtze and from the Arctic to the Himalayas. This was the core domain of the world island power. A summary of this theory comes down to the following passage: “Who rules East Europe commands the heartland, who rules the Heartland commands the world island, who rules the world island commands the world”. Going by this theory, Mackinder explained international relations by observing how pivot islands were trying to conquer or at least prevent a singular power from dominating the heartland. This concept explains why Britain always fought against whoever tried to conquer continental Europe like Napoleonic France, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. 

Alexander Dugin, for instance, who is a modern political analyst with close ties to the Kremlin, has repeatedly written about the need for a Russian based Eurasian power. In the late 19th and early 20th century, making this theory, especially the part concerning East Europe, became a source of inspiration for policymakers from Nazi Germany. Karl Haushofer, a politician and strategist from the Munich University, argued that Germany's national interest was to expand to the east. 

Haushofer believed that to command authority over East Europe and thereby pivot into the heartland one had to control the eastern half of Europe as a collective unit, since the landmass was geographically defenseless and like the barriers like mountains and rivers. As Haushofer thought to promote a German Soviet alliance, because their collective output would have overwhelmed the coastal powers, such as France, the United Kingdom and the United States. Most analysts today would argue that there is merit to this claim. However, Haushofer ideas took a turn to the dark side, when Adolf Hitler took the queue and added it to his to-do list. Although Haushofer himself was not a member of the Nazi Party, his work influenced the Nazi leadership and laid the bedrock for what will become known as the leobens round. This infamous expansionist policy sought to permanently remove the indigenous populations of Eastern Europe and repopulate the land with German settlers with the ultimate goal, being to dominate the Heartland region and from there the world island. 

From a geopolitical angle the Cold War was a testing ground for these theories, putting the global naval power, the United States against the Soviet Union, which controlled more land than any country. This clash would turn out to be the most epic international power struggle in history. It was essentially a game of chess on a global scale. The Americans sought to contain their Soviet counterparts wherever and whenever. Meanwhile, the Soviet leadership fought desperately to break out the containment by exporting its communist ideology. In the ensuing tug of war, alliances were made. Governments were overthrown and the international community was practically split in two. Underneath the disguise of ideology the age-old geopolitical rules guided the contest. So when Putin says that the breakup of the Soviet Union was a disaster, he isn't referring to the collapse of communism, but the disintegration of the heartland concept. In this regard, one can argue that the grand chessboard of the Cold War still presents the template of modern long-term global politics. 

November 23, 2021No Comments

The arrest of Dairo Usaga “Otoniel” and the future of the Urabeños cartel in Colombia

By: Giovanni Giacalone

Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dario-Antonio-Usuga-David-1.webp

On October 23rd, the Colombian special forces arrested Dairo Antonio Usuga David, alias “Otoniel”, leader of the Urabeños drug cartel and paramilitary group, who had been on the run since 2011. The operation, carried out by a special team codenamed “El Blanco”, was initiated in early October, when the Colombian intelligence identified Usaga in the Uraba sub-region of Antioquia, north-western Colombia, not far from the Panamanian border. The fugitive was identified through the surveillance of cartel members who were carrying medical material for the treatment of a kidney disease that Usaga was known to suffer from. The special forces surrounded him in a remote mountainous area, while helicopters and drones flew over, and Navy ships were stationed off the coast to prevent a potential escape by sea.

In mid-April, Usaga had been spotted and photographed while onboard a longboat traveling between the Verde and Esmeralda rivers in the Paramillo area. The fugitive was accompanied by two armed men and a dog. That was the last time the cartel leader was photographed before his recent capture. In 2017 the US Department of State offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest and, in 2017, Colombian police dropped flyers from helicopters offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture, but without any positive outcome. Between the end of 2020 and early 202, Colombian authorities intensified their efforts to capture Usuga, following an increase in levels of cocaine production.

Los Urabeños

The Urabeños, also known as the Gulf Clan (Clan del Golfo), take their name from Uraba, the already cited north-western region of Colombia, which is extremely important for drug cartels as it offers direct access to the Caribbean and Pacific coasts from the departments of Antioquia and Chocó. The group’s origins can be traced back to the far-right paramilitary force Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia-AUC (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia) and to Daniel Rendon “Don Mario” who, after the 2006 demobilization of the AUC, took thousands of former fighters with him and expanded his drug trafficking operations and networks in the Uraba area, quickly expanding in over 15 departments including Cordoba, La Valle del Cauca, Santander, La Guajira and even the area of Medellin.

Don Mario was arrested by the Colombian police in April of 2009 and the cartel was taken over by the Usaga brothers, Dairo Antonio “Otoniel” and Juan de Dios “Giovany”, both former paramilitary members who had known Rendon since the 1990s.

“Otoniel” has an interesting background as he had initially joined the Ejercito Popular de Liberacion (Popular Liberation Army), a Colombian communist guerrilla group mainly active between 1967 and 1991, when it began to break apart.  However, he soon switched sides and joined the far-right paramilitary and narco-group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, active between 1997 and 2006 against the FARC and ELN. It is interesting to notice how the Usaga brothers only had approximately 250 men at their orders when Rendon was arrested in April 2009. However, thanks to the two cartel leaders, the organization quickly grew in numbers, expanding operations and territory control. “Otoniel” took over the cartel in January 2012, when his brother “Giovany” was killed by the police during a raid in the Choco department. On that occasion, the new leader offered a $1,000 reward for each police officer killed in revenge for his brother’s murder. Usaga “Otoniel” had managed to escape capture for ten years, constantly on the move, hiding in grueling parts of Cordoba and Antioquia, protected by a small group of men. However, his being on the run ended on October 23rd.

The aftermath

The Urabeños have a particular organizational structure that enables them to quickly spread their presence throughout the Colombian territory and to continue operations when one of its leaders is arrested or killed, and when some of their cells are neutralized. As explained by InsightCrime, such a structure relies on blocs that receive direct orders from the cartel’s leadership, they retain specific territories and have internal lines of command. Some of them are also in charge of smaller substructures.

Additionally, Urabeños also rely on franchises, mostly local gangs that have no formal links to the cartel nor its chain of command, as they are simply sub-contracted to operate for them, in their name. It is not very different from what Isis does with terror cells throughout the world that perpetrate attacks in their name, but that are not structurally integrated into the organization. As indicated by InsightCrime, this is a win-win situation for both sides. “For Urabeños this strategy opens doors to criminal income, hitmen and a greater territorial presence, even if indirectly. For smaller gangs, the Urabeños represent an important ally to help them establish local dominance and to overcome rivals”.

It is very unlikely that the arrest of “Otoniel” will have a strong impact on the cartel’s narco-trafficking activity, not only due to the organization’s already cited flexible structure but also because there are several deputy leaders ready to take Usaga’s place. Among them, the two with more chances seem to be Wilmer Giraldo “Siopas”, indicated as second in command of the Urabeños and in charge of the southwestern part of Antioquia; Jobanis de Jesús Ávila “Chiquito Malo”, in charge of cocaine production and exportation. However, José Gonzalo Sánchez, alias “Gonzalito”, and Orozman Osten Blanco “Flechas” are two other possible candidates.

There is also a possibility that the cartel will break down into different factions looking for control of narcotrafficking, but that would more likely be a short-term option since it would negatively impact the cartel’s trafficking activity in the medium-long term, something that the Urabeños want to avoid at all costs, considering that narco-business is thriving.

November 23, 2021No Comments

An Interview with Nicolò Scremin

Nicolò scremin, a non-resident fellow of Program on Extremism with the George Washington University and vast experience in the field of counter-terrorism, talks about his personal and professional experience regarding the counter-terrorism panorama.

DISCLAIMER: this is not a promotional video. ITSS Verona does not promote any specific organisation and is apolitical. The content of this video is purely of informative nature and aims to sparks constructive debate.

Interviewers: Francesco Bruno and Adelaide Martelli.

November 19, 2021No Comments

The role of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles in Modern Naval Warfare

By: Marco Verrocchio and Danilo delle Fave.

Image Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MK_18_MOD_2_Swordfish_UUV.JPG

The two types of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles 

In order to intercept and strike isolated enemy forces, to organise ambushes to naval convoys, and, in general, to obtain naval supremacy, Navies around the world had to rely on air surveillance: until now maritime surveillance has always been dependent on the use of submarines. Not anymore.

In the recent decades a significant contribution to maritime surveillance has come from the use of UUVs (Unmanned Underwater Vehicles). Although they are less familiar in comparison to their Aerial counterparts and they operate in a different environment, the technology underlying both systems is similar. Underwater drones can be divided in two main categories: the remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROUVs) and the Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). While the former have a long history of widespread use in deep-sea exploration and underwater wrecks investigations, the second ones have been developed for research purposes. 

Despite that, AUVs military development and employment outbroke only in the last years in newspapers columns and news, creating an aura of mystery surrounding AUVs. This happened due to two factors. First, many AUVs are still in a semi-prototype phase of development. Secondly, they are used also in ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) operations. Not surprisingly, their use becomes public only when fishermen boats accidentally discover one of them.

Current use of UUVs

The major and well-known theatre of use of AUVs is the contested South China Sea. Not coincidentally, their employment in the region escalated since 2016, when the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague refused China’s claim over the SCS. Although AUVs are unmarked, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia and Taiwan have warned the US about the use of Chinese AUVs, discovered close to their coasts by fishermen or coast guards. 

Politically, the AUVs have become a tool to raise the tension in the Area. For instance, the seizure of an American AUV by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in 2016 has been announced in response to Trump's call with the Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen. The same happened in April 2021, with the allegation that a Boeing manufactured AUV was spying on Chinese coasts. Moreover, the use of UUVs raised a legal debate, due to the lack of a political framework on the use of unmanned systems underwater: they defy the laws and customs of the Law of the Sea, and will continue to do so without proper international regulation.

All these factors plus the technological advance will contribute to the massive use of UUVs in the future not only in South-East Asia, but also in other parts of the world, for instance in the Mediterranean: Turkey has developed a Stingray-shaped drone that can be used for surveillance or it can carry explosives to blow up a ship. Nevertheless, a major threat that concerns US NATO partners is the development of the Russian AUV “Poseidon”, a nuclear propelled torpedo able to carry a nuclear warhead that can be launched by submarines.

Aside from the development of UUV, countering underwater drones has been used to contrast enemy operations: in 2016 UK has hosted one of the biggest exercises together with US, using squads of UUVs which successfully detected other UUVs and submarines. Therefore, the UUVs will play a crucial role in naval supremacy: we will see the use of swarm drone attacks against enemy aircrafts, the massive implementation of UUVs in naval surveillance, the development of anti-drone ships and UUVs, the introduction of unmanned surface ships in Navies all over the world.  

With the development of the UUVs, we are heading towards a new era, as happened before with the development of the UAVs, the ever greater potential of these devices will completely change our perception of the war. In addition, given their low cost, they will create more competition and difficulties among the countries, allowing countries less technologically advanced as the West to obtain the means to counter Western naval supremacy.

November 18, 2021No Comments

ITSS Verona 2021/22 Webinar Series: “Middle East Security: The Big Three” featuring Waqar Rizvi

For its second event of the 2021/22 Webinar Series, ITSS Verona members Martina Gambacorta, John Devine and Omri Brinner discuss Middle Eastern security with award winning journalist and political analyst Waqar Rizvi. In this truly interactive event, our chair and members explore particular dynamics pertaining to the three big players in the region, that is, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

November 18, 2021No Comments

ITSS Verona 2021/22 Webinar Series: “The View from Brazil”, with Carvalho, Pacheco and Fonseca

For its first event of the 2021/22 Webinars Series, Dr Vinicius de Carvalho (KCL), Cristina Carvalho Pacheco (Paraíba State University), and Ana Carla Fonseca (Garimpo de Soluções) analyse how Brazil sees international security, cooperation, diplomacy, and competition, with a particular reference to US-China.

November 16, 2021No Comments

Insights from Joanna Chiu’s book, “China Unbound, A New World Disorder”

By: Sandra Watson Parcels

Joanna Chiu’s book, China Unbound: A New World Disorder, describes China as a global bully who uses various tactics in its attempts to create a new world order. The new world disorder Chiu describes in her book exposes troubling implications for global stability and human rights. 

China is the world’s second-largest economy with far reaching political and economic influence. Jan Wong, Globe and Mail Bureau Chief in Beijing from 1989 to 1994 recalls when China’s markets began to open and there was a strong desire for global friendship. However, since President Xi Jinping’s rise to power in 2012, China has gone from underdog to bully.

Xi is an admirer of ancient legalist scholars and quoted Han Fei, a legalist scholar from 200-233 BCE, to justify why his citizens should submit to a strong leader; ‘When those who uphold the law are strong, the state is strong.’ In one speech to party members, he discussed the lessons to learn from the collapse of the Soviet Union and how its wavering ideology, political rot, and military disloyalty caused its downfall. 

Experts search to understand why Xi and his cohorts have increased attacks on civil society to such unprecedented levels. Noble Peace Prize winner and human rights activist, Liu Xiaobo, died in 2017 in Chinese custody. This was the first Noble Peace Prize winner to die in police custody since Nazi Germany. An account of a Kazakhstan Uyghur woman imprisoned in a Chinese internment camp in Xinjiang province provides a rare glimpse into the horrid human right violations intensifying under Xi’s reign. After 15 months of arbitrary captivity, she was released. A nurse attempted to take the shackles off her ankles, but the metal had dug so deep for so long that the metal had stuck to her skin. Depriving her of sunlight for over a year, her captors fed her watery soup and steamed buns which reduced her weight to 35kg. After her release, she moved to Turkey and was interviewed there about her experience.

In 2014, the Umbrella movement was born in Hong Kong as protesters fought to retain their democratic characteristics enshrined in “two systems, one country” doctrine. But, by June 2020, China’s National Security Law came into effect and abolished the 50-year agreement with Britain in Hong Kong. The law aspires to regulate and punish actions against/by any individual of any nationality anywhere in the world. In response, many countries quickly moved to cancel extradition treaties with Hong Kong. Legal experts sounded the alarm that any individual who has said anything critical of China should avoid travelling to China.

There is an old fable in China that all Chinese descend from the yellow emperor so no matter where Chinese people reside, they are part of the motherland. Recently minority groups in China have also been added to the myth by China’s Communist Party (CCP). China has created an overseas organization, called United Front, that spies on and harasses Chinese diaspora. This exemplifies a key element of Beijing’s strategy for harassment to target common individuals and groups and is often overlooked by governments and media. 

For decades, most countries in the world have followed along with aspects of China’s One China policy that declares Taiwan as Chinese territory. As a result, Taiwan has been diplomatically isolated, despite being independent since 1949 and a vibrant democracy for the past five decades. China now threatens Taiwan’s sovereignty on almost a daily basis. Beijing also claims approximately 90 percent of the South China Seas, including the territorial waters and economic zones of various other countries in the region. 

Canada and Australia are middle powers that recently came face-to-face with China’s bullying and aggression. Canada has significant influence on the world stage due to its rich natural resources, membership in the G7 group of advanced economies, and membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). In December 2018, Meng Wanzhou, Chief Financial officer of Huawei, was arrested by Canadian authorities on behalf of the United States for allegations of fraud. Chinese media reported that Xi flew into a rage directed at Canada. Days later, two Canadians – Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig – were arrested in a blatant act of hostage diplomacy. Canadian Robert Schellenberg, already sentenced to 15 years in a Chinese prison, was resentenced to death in an act of death-threat diplomacy. Even though the tone in Ottawa has recently changed and there are calls for a tougher stance on China, there is still no real effort to reduce Canada’s vulnerability to Beijing and shift trade to other markets. Australia, as another middle power, caught the world’s attention when it passed the Foreign Interference law that stood up to Beijing’s aggression, showing that even though they are economically reliant on China, it would not be used for political manipulation.

Italy and Greece look at China as more of a solution to their economic woes. Italy joined China’s New Silk Road project in 2019. The European Commission scolded Italy and created a strategy paper on ways to deal with Beijing. The European Union (EU) also moved to restrict Beijing’s investment in European infrastructure. Greece joined China’s New Silk Road in 2018. The Port of Piraeus is now controlled by China and is hailed as an economic success as it becomes the main Mediterranean gateway for the New Silk Road between Asia and Europe. Chinese officials made many visits to Greece during its economic crisis. It was a smart strategy by Beijing to pander to the black sheep of Europe. In 2017, Greece vetoed an EU statement of human rights abuses in China, and it has become clear that China is using chequebook-diplomacy for political leverage in Greece.

There are fears that China’s aggressive behavior and the world’s subsequent reaction is leading to a new Cold War. Russia has often been brazenly anti-American. Russia’s economic reliance on China continues to grow, while Russian goods only makeup one percent of China’s world trade. There is increased concern in Russia that the Chinese may encroach on their influence in Central Asia. However, external pressures by the West for a united front against China and Russia is pushing them closer. The United States, under the Biden administration has moved closer to its allies then the previous administration, such as the joint action by the US, Canada, the UK, and the EU to impose parallel sanctions on Chinese officials involved in the mass interment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. President Biden has also brought back the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (The QUAD) which includes the US, India, Japan, and Australia. The United States must be a global defender but can only do that successfully by also addressing its own actions. Its recent domestic trends of fake news and oversimplified soundbites has created anger and confusion that often discredits fact-based criticisms of China. As tensions increase on legitimate concerns, disinformation could push the world to outright conflict.

For years, the world has ignored, overlooked, and mishandled China’s actions out of economic self-interest. 

As China’s toxic aggression grows into oppression, expansion and human rights violations, the world can no longer be complicit in its behaviour. If China is not stopped, its aggressive actions against both states and individuals will change the international world order into a new world disorder.

November 12, 2021No Comments

Taiwan, the relations of the Strait and the Indo-Pacific

By: Francesco Cirillo 

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/taiwan-flag-roc-republic-of-china-1184108/

In US strategic assessments Taiwan represents the first anti-Chinese containment line in the Indo-Pacific area, which is why it is essential for Washington to guarantee Taipei logistical support to keep its military and deterrence capabilities efficient.

In recent months, Taipei has seen pressure from Beijing increase, both through propaganda and through continuous violations of the Taiwanese air defense zone. In the previous months, the Wall Street Journal had written that US special forces units were present on the Island of Formosa to support and advise the Taiwanese forces, with the aim of preparing the Taipei forces for a possible attack by the PLA forces in Beijing. Over the years, Taiwan has strengthened and modernized its warfare system, with the aim of guaranteeing itself a conventional deterrence to dissuade Beijing from starting a heavy amphibious invasion operation. Called the Doctrine of the Porcupine, it aims to discourage a possible Chinese attack due to the high human and economic costs. For Washington, Taiwan is indirectly part of the strategy of containing Chinese expansionism in the Pacific. It represents a natural barrier to the air and naval forces of the People’s Liberation Army of the People’s Republic, which aims to expand its zone of influence in the Pacific.

Source: https://mapchart.net/

The Taiwan issue is heavily involved in Sino-US relations, especially with the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 and the three joint communiques. The TRA obliges Washington to guarantee Taipei a continuous flow of armaments for defensive purposes, with the aim of guaranteeing the Taipei government military capabilities for its own defense. But Taiwan I'm coming! also that Washington, to respect the One China Policy, would not accept any declaration of Independence by Taipei, preferring to maintain the Status Quo.

Even the Taiwanese defense minister himself has declared that Taipei is equipped for a possible attack by the EPL, which according to Beijing itself could have the logistical and military capabilities to invade Taiwan by 2025.

In recent days, US President Joe Biden himself stated that Washington will intervene militarily in support of Taiwan in the event of an attack by the armed forces in Beijing; later, during an interview on CNN, Taiwan's President Tsa-Ing Wen confirmed the Wall Street Journal's early October rumors about the presence of US military units on the island, with advisory and training duties.

In the months preceding the Think Tank of the Center for the New American Security (CNAS) and the Chinese state TV itself have published simulations of invasion of the island of Taiwan, demonstrating that the issue concerning the Taiwanese issue of the strait is a widely discussed debate. and at the heart of US concerns.

For Washington, the concern will also be linked to the nuclear deterrence capabilities that Beijing could acquire by 2030. According to the Pentagon Report Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China, the People's Republic of China could increase the Chinese’s nuclear arsenal, up to the one thousand nuclear ballistic carriers ceiling for 2030.

For the American political-military leadership, this scenario could compromise US deterrence in the Indo-Pacific area in the coming years.

November 9, 2021No Comments

A reflection on climate change and security with Dr. Duraid Jalili. (Part 2)

In the second part of the two-part series interview with Dr. Duraid Jalili, Lecturer in Defence Studies at King's College London, Dr. Duraid reflect on climate change and security.

Interviewers: Esther Ruiz and Arsalan Sheikh