A Brief Reflection on Nairobi’s Riverside Attack

by Paul Pryce. With degrees in political science from both sides of the pond, Paul Pryce has previously worked as Senior Research Fellow for the Atlantic Council of Canada’s Canadian Armed Forces program, as a Research Fellow for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an Associate Fellow at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs. He has also served as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces.

Tragically, on January 15, the Kenyan capital of Nairobi bore witness to another terrorist attack by al-Shabaab, a militant Islamist group based in Somalia and affiliated with al-Qaeda. Gunmen stormed 14 Riverside Drive, a building in the affluent Westlands neighbourhood that hosts a hotel popular among foreign visitors and several government offices, killing 21 people.

People are evacuated by a member of security forces at the scene where explosions and gunshots were heard at the Dusit hotel compound, in Nairobi, Kenya January 15, 2019. (Photo: Baz Ratner).

People are evacuated by a member of security forces at the scene where explosions and gunshots were heard at the Dusit hotel compound, in Nairobi, Kenya January 15, 2019. (Photo: Baz Ratner).

This is only the most recent of attacks perpetrated by al-Shabaab on Kenyan soil, following the September 2013 siege of the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that killed 71, the mass shootings at Garissa University College that killed 152 in April 2015, and numerous others.

These attacks are concerning because they indicate that, despite numerous defeats dealt to al-Shabaab in the Somali Civil War, the group still maintains the capacity to launch successful attacks against civilian targets in neighbouring countries. As such, much analysis in the aftermath of the Riverside attack will no doubt focus on questions of border security and Kenya’s role in Somalia’s intractable internal conflicts. However, it is also important to reflect on the response by the Kenyan authorities to the most recent attack and how crisis management practices have developed in Kenya since the Westgate atrocity.

First, in responding to the Riverside attack, Kenyan security forces demonstrated a much more coordinated approach. Upon surrounding the building, both police and military personnel took direction from the General Service Unit (GSU), a paramilitary force principally concerned with counter-terrorism. In 2013, there was very little coordination between police and military personnel, with different officers attempting to seize operational control. This bureaucratic bickering generated such confusion that a friendly fire incident occurred, with soldiers opening fire on a special forces police unit as they advanced through the building, killing one and injuring another.

Furthermore, in the absence of power plays between the military and police, Kenyan forces carefully and cautiously cleared the Riverside building. This limited the exposure of Kenyan security personnel to harm and ensured relatively few casualties. The Garissa University College attack carried such a heavy death toll in part because the authorities’ response was rushed, leading to a firefight and the detonation of the attackers’ suicide vests. Although two detonations were reported heard at the Riverside building, this occurred before the entry of Kenyan security forces and the source of the detonations is still unclear at the time of this writing.

Kenyan Red Cross workers provide first aid to injured victims. (Photo: Daniel Irungu).

Kenyan Red Cross workers provide first aid to injured victims. (Photo: Daniel Irungu).

However, there were serious issues with government communications during the Riverside attack. Fred Matiang’i, Kenya’s Minister of Interior, announced at 11:00pm local time on January 15 that the Riverside building had been secured and the terrorist threat neutralized. This proved erroneous, as gunfire continued on the scene for more than another four hours. To be the first to share with the nation the news that security has been restored would be a boon to almost any political career, but it is imperative in crisis situations that information be released to the public from a single source and only when that information has been verified. The hasty release of unreliable information can exacerbate a crisis and undermine confidence in public institutions. In the interests of national security, Minister Matiang’i should have deferred to President Kenyatta regarding the timing and substance of the announcement regarding the counter-terrorism response.

In addition, in the coming weeks and months, Kenyan political leaders will need to resist the impulse to revamp the National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism (NCVE), introduced in September 2016, in response to public outrage at the Riverside attack. Prevention and de-radicalization efforts in Kenya are still at an early stage, and it would be regrettable to divest from that approach before it can pay dividends. This sustained commitment to counter-terrorism strategy is vital, especially amid heightened concerns that homegrown terrorists will emerge as a greater threat to Kenyan security than al-Shabaab militants. Indicative of this, in July 2016, a police officer at a police station in Kapenguria, West Pokot County turned his weapon on his colleagues, killing seven in a lone wolf attack before being killed himself by GSU personnel. De-radicalization programs have a role to play in preventing such incidents.

Despite the terrible suffering and loss of life, the Riverside attack could have been even more catastrophic. Clearly, Kenya’s security apparatus has improved, learning from the tragedies at Garissa University College and the Westgate shopping mall. What is now required is the internalization of these lessons by the Kenyan political leadership.

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Ein weiter Weg: Die russische Militärreform – Teil 1

von Patrick Truffer (English version will follow later). Er arbeitet seit über 15 Jahren in der Schweizer Armee, verfügt über einen Bachelor in Staatswissenschaften der ETH Zürich und über einen Master in Internationale Beziehungen der Freien Universität Berlin.

Reformen sind schmerzvolle Prozesse, insbesondere innerhalb risikoaversen, komplexen, stark hierarchisch strukturierten und institutionalisierten Organisationen. In ihnen definieren Standardabläufe die Arbeit und die Problembehandlung, insbesondere in einem Umfeld der Unsicherheit. Der Einzelne wird gemäss einem definierten System trainiert, belohnt und befördert – er wird erzogen, Aufgaben in einer ganz bestimmten Art und Weise zu erledigen und sobald diese Person den Status eines Vorgesetzten erhält, wird er auch seine Unterstellten so erziehen. Arbeitsabläufe werden damit so stark in einer Organisation institutionalisiert, dass sie sogar nach dem Ende ihrer Zweckmässigkeit erhalten bleiben und nur gegen Widerstand abgelegt werden. Ein gutes Beispiel dafür ist die Langlebigkeit der berittenen Kavallerie in westlichen Streitkräften. Barry Posen, Professor der Politikwissenschaften und Direktor des MIT Security Studies Program, beschreibt in seinem Buch “The Sources of Military Doctrine” zwei Bedingungen unter denen militärische Organisationen bereit sind, eine grundlegende Reform durchzuführen: Wenn zivile Einflüsse ausserhalb der betroffenen militärischen Organisation dies erzwingen (Politik, Gesellschaft, fehlende Finanzen, fehlendes Personal usw.) oder nach einer Niederlage (Posen, S. 31f, 44).

Schweizer Kavallerieschwadron 1972, ein Veteranen-Traditionseinheit der Schweizer Armee, hier in der Uniform von 1972 defilierend. Als 1972 die Schweizer Armee ihre letzten 18 Dragoner-Schwadronen auflöste, endete damit die letzte echte Kavallerie in Europa

Schweizer Kavallerieschwadron 1972, ein Veteranen-Traditionseinheit der Schweizer Armee, hier in der Uniform von 1972 defilierend. Als 1972 die Schweizer Armee ihre letzten 18 Dragoner-Schwadronen auflöste, endete damit die letzte echte Kavallerie in Europa.

Dass Reformen schmerzvolle Prozesse sind, musste auch die russische Armee erfahren. Formell am 7. Mai 1992 gegründet, war sie über Jahre hinweg eine ideologische Weiterführung der sowjetischen Streitkräfte, stammte doch Personal und Material aus der Roten Armee (Carolina Vendil Pallin, “Russian Military Reform: A Failed Exercise in Defence Decision Making“, Routledge, 2008, S. 51). Auch wenn es mehrere Anläufe zu einer umfassenden Reform der russischen Streitkräfte gab, wurde diese erst rund 16 Jahre später ernsthaft in Angriff genommen. Damit zeigen die russischen Streitkräfte exemplarisch auf, wie hoch der Druck für die Umsetzung einer umfassenden Reform sein muss. Der damit verbundene finanzielle und zeitliche Aufwand ist immens. Die russischen Streitkräfte zeigen jedoch gleichzeitig, was innerhalb von 10 Jahren erreicht werden kann.

Dieser Artikel will der Frage nachgehen, welche Faktoren die Reform der russischen Streitkräfte angetrieben haben, wie sich die Fähigkeiten der russischen Streitkräfte in den letzten 10 Jahren verändert haben und, basierend auf dem neusten staatlichen Rüstungsprogramm, wie sie sich bis 2030 verändern könnten.

Konsolidierungsphase nach dem Ende des Kalten Kriegs

[…] the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and compatriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself. Individual savings were depreciated, and old ideals destroyed. Many institutions were disbanded or reformed carelessly. – Russischer Präsident Vladimir Putin, 2005, an der jährlichen Ansprache an das russische Parlament.

Das Ende des Kalten Kriegs und der Zerfall des Ostblocks stellten die russischen Streitkräfte vor eine anspruchsvolle Herausforderung. Doktrinal setzte die Sowjetunion ihr Schwergewicht auf die Territorialverteidigung gegenüber einem externen, staatlichen Gegner, welcher auf konventioneller Ebene durch eine Massenarmee bekämpft werden konnte. Sowjetische Kommandanten basierten auf einer hohen Waffen- und Mannschaftsstärke, jedoch kaum auf Technologie und Mobilität (Alexei G. Arbatov, “Military Reform in Russia: Dilemmas, Obstacles, and Prospects“, International Security, vol 22, no. 4, April 1998, S. 99).

Aus finanziellen und demographischen Gründen konnte Russland eine solche Massenarmee nach dem Ende des Kalten Kriegs nicht aufrechterhalten. Von den rund 3,4 Millionen sowjetischen Soldaten gingen rund 2,7 Millionen in die russischen Streitkräfte über, wurden bis 1999 jedoch auf rund eine Million zusammengekürzt. Gleichzeitig standen die russischen Streitkräfte unter einem immensen finanziellen und sozialen Druck. Waren während des Kalten Kriegs noch mindestens 15% des BIPs der Sowjetunion für militärische Zwecke vorgesehen, umfassten die Ausgaben für die russischen Streitkräfte 1999 noch rund 3% des um drei Viertel geschrumpften BIPs. Fehlende finanzielle Mittel, eine prekäre wirtschaftliche Situation aber auch der unter den russischen Politikern mehrheitlich herrschende Konsens, dass die USA und die NATO keine militärische Bedrohung darstellen würden, erschwerte die Bemühungen der russischen Generäle einen höheren Anteil des staatlichen Ausgabebudgets zu erhalten.

Statistik über einige wichtige Systeme der russischen Armee (zum Vergrößern auf das Bild klicken).

Statistik über einige wichtige Systeme der russischen Armee (zum Vergrößern auf das Bild klicken).

Die Rahmenbedingungen änderten sich 1999 jedoch grundlegend. Nicht nur stiegen die staatlichen Einnahmen wegen der weltweit steigenden Rohstoffpreise, sondern mehrere internationale Entwicklungen führten zu einer langfristigen Abkehr der Integrationsbestrebungen Russlands in die westlich geprägte Weltordnung und zu einer veränderten Bedrohungsauffassung. Die mit der Aufnahme von Polen, Tschechien und Ungarn nach Osten ausweitende NATO sowie die 12 Tage später erfolgte Bombardierung Jugoslawiens im Rahmen der NATO Operation “Allied Force” führten zu einem nachhaltigen Vertrauensverlust Russlands in die langfristigen Absichten der USA. Nicht nur war Russland mit Jugoslawien kulturell, religiös aber auch militärtechnologisch verbunden und hatte ein militärisches Eingreifen der NATO im UN-Sicherheitsrat zu verhindern versucht, sondern die NATO-Operation zeigte Russland demonstrativ die Effektivität von konventionellen Präzisionswaffen und damit verglichen die Fähigkeitslücken der russischen Streitkräfte auf. Damit nicht genug: Mit der “continuing openness to the accession of new members” beabsichtigte die NATO ihre expansive Osteuropastrategie weiterzuführen. Aus russischer Sicht wandelte die zusätzliche Ermöglichung von “out-of-area” Einsätzen im neuen strategischen Konzept vom April 1999 das nordatlantische Verteidigungsbündnis zu einem offensiven militärischen Sicherheitsinstrument der USA und ihren Verbündeten.

Die im Juni 1999 durchgeführte Übung Zapad war nicht nur die grösste nach 1985, sondern ein politisches Zeichen gegenüber den USA und der NATO. Als Szenario diente eine fiktive NATO-Offensive gegen Kaliningrad und Weissrussland. Die drohende Niederlage Russlands gegenüber dem konventionell überlegenen Gegner wurde gegen Ende der Übung mit dem fiktiven Einsatz von Nuklearwaffen in Mitteleuropa und an der US-amerikanischen Westküste beantwortet (Pallin, S. 114). Strategisch handelte es sich dabei um eine “Eskalation zur Deeskalation”, wobei ein mit Massenvernichtungswaffen und/oder konventionellen Waffen übermächtiger Gegner mit einem lokal begrenzten Nuklearschlag zur Aufgabe gezwungen werden soll. Dieser strategische Ansatz verfolgte bereits die NATO während des Kalten Kriegs gegenüber der konventionell auf dem europäischen Kontinent überlegenen Sowjetunion. Dieses Vorgehen floss schliesslich in die russische Militärdoktrin 2000 ein (Matt- hew Kroenig, “The Renewed Russian Nuclear Threat and NATO Nuclear Deterrence Posture“, Issue Brief, Atlantic Council, Februar 2016).

Im September 1995 - angeblich vom damaligen russischen Verteidigungsminister Pavel Grachev genehmigt - wurden mögliche russische Gegenmassnahmen zur NATO-Osterweiterung diskutiert, darunter der Einsatz taktischer Atomwaffen. Im Oktober 1995 veröffentlichte die Nezavisimaya Gazette eine Karte, die angeblich vom russischen Verteidigungsministerium stammte und einen russischen Atomschlag gegen Tschechien und Polen sowie eine gemeinsame konventionelle Offensive gegen die baltischen Staaten darstellt. (Quelle: Peter Szyszlo, “Countering NATO Expansion: A Case Study of Belarus-Russia Rapprochement“, NATO Research Fellowship 2001-2003, June 2003, p. 9f).

Im September 1995 – angeblich vom damaligen russischen Verteidigungsminister Pavel Grachev genehmigt – wurden mögliche russische Gegenmassnahmen zur NATO-Osterweiterung diskutiert, darunter der Einsatz taktischer Atomwaffen. Im Oktober 1995 veröffentlichte die Nezavisimaya Gazette eine Karte, die angeblich vom russischen Verteidigungsministerium stammte und einen russischen Atomschlag gegen Tschechien und Polen sowie eine gemeinsame konventionelle Offensive gegen die baltischen Staaten darstellt. (Quelle: Peter Szyszlo, “Countering NATO Expansion: A Case Study of Belarus-Russia Rapprochement“, NATO Research Fellowship 2001-2003, June 2003, p. 9f).

Die Realität wies jedoch auf ein innerstaatliches, aus dem Süden stammendes Bedrohungspotential hin, auf welches die russischen Streitkräfte nicht vorbereitet waren. Ausbildung, Ausrüstung und Vorgehen aus der Sowjet-Ära erwiesen sich im Ersten Tschetschenienkrieg zwischen Ende 1994 und Herbst 1996 als völlig unzureichend. Während einer von tschetschenischen Separatisten durchgeführten Serie von Bombenanschlägen auf Wohnhäuser ab Anfang September 1999 kamen 239 Personen ums Leben und mehr als 1’000 Personen wurden verletzt. Bis zum Ende des Zweiten Tschetschenienkriegs 2009 kam es in Russland immer wieder zu medienwirksamen, gewalttätigen Übergriffen tschetschenischer Separatisten. Beispiele sind die Geiselnahme von rund 850 Personen im Moskauer Dubrowka-Theater im Oktober 2002, bei deren Befreiung mindestens 170 Personen ums Leben kamen, oder die Geiselnahme von rund 1’100 Personen (darunter 777 Kinder) in der Schule von Beslan im September 2004. Im Falle Beslans wurde die Erstürmung der Schule durch mehrere T-72B Kampfpanzer, BTR-80 Schützenpanzer und Kampfhelikopter unterstützt. Dabei wurde sowohl mit dem 14,5mm Wladimirow KPW Maschinengewehr des BTR-80 wie auch mit der 125mm Kanone des T-72B auf die Schule geschossen. Dementsprechend hoch waren die Verluste: 334 Tote (Kim Murphy, “Aching To Know“, Los Angeles Times, 27.08.2005). Nicht nur erforderten diese neuen Bedrohungsarten eine andere militärische Struktur, Operationsführung und Taktik, sondern auch andere Gerätschaften, mehr Technologie, Präzisionswaffen und eine höhere Mobilität. Trotzdem sperrten sich die Generäle erfolgreich gegen eine umfassende Reform. Weder war der politische und gesellschaftliche Druck hoch genug, noch waren die dazu notwendigen finanziellen Mitteln vorhanden. Das änderte auch nach 1999 nicht schlagartig, denn trotz höherem Budget flossen bis in die 2000er-Jahre hinein die vorhandenen finanziellen Mitteln mehrheitlich in den Unterhalt, in die Lohnausgaben und in Sozialleistungen anstatt in Forschung, Entwicklung und Rüstung (Mike Bowker und Cameron Ross, “Russia After the Cold War“, Routledge, 2000, S. 223ff.). Die fehlenden Investitionen in die Rüstungsindustrie und die Tatsache, dass strategisch wichtige Teile davon sich in der Ukraine befanden, hatte einen bis heute spürbaren Effekt auf die Entwicklung neuer Waffensysteme, welche zwar oftmals vollmundig angekündigt, jedoch nicht in den erwünschten Stückzahlen produziert werden können.

Der halb versunkene U-Boot-Jäger "Slawny" (links) befindet sich am 22. Dezember 1994 im Hafen von Baltiysk in Kaliningrad, einer von nur noch zwei verbliebenen Basen der einst stolzen sowjetischen Flotte.

Der halb versunkene U-Boot-Jäger “Slawny” (links) befindet sich am 22. Dezember 1994 im Hafen von Baltiysk in Kaliningrad, einer von nur noch zwei verbliebenen Basen der einst stolzen sowjetischen Flotte.

Trotz Widerstand einiger Generäle wurde auf politischen Druck in einer Konsolidierungsphase bis 2003 zahlreiche sowjetische Waffensysteme ausgemustert. Diese Systeme waren technologisch veraltet, im Unterhalt zu teuer, zahlenmässig viel zu umfangreich vorhanden und hatten bei der innerstaatlichen Krisenbewältigung keinen Nutzen. Vom Ersten Tschetschenienkrieg geprägt wurde der Fokus auf die innerstaatliche Krisenintervention und ab 1999 – als Kompensation für die fehlenden modernen konventionellen Systeme – schwergewichtig auf den Erhalt des strategischen Kernwaffenarsenals gelegt. Die Strategische Raketentruppe war die einzige Teilstreitkraft, welche personell nahezu vollständig besetzt war, eine hohe Kampfbereitschaft sowie Kommando- und Kontroll-Fähigkeiten aufweisen konnte (Arbatov, “Military Reform in Russia”, 123). Ab 1999 wurden die SS-27 Topol-M (mobile ICBM, non-MIRV) Bestände stetig ausgeweitet, ab 2010 die RS-24 Yars (ICBM, MIRV) eingeführt. Ausserdem kaufte Russland 1999 bzw. 2000 3 Tupolev Tu-95 Bear und 8 Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack (strategische Bomber) von der Ukraine und begann mit der Modernisierung der bestehenden strategischen Flotte (“Russia”, The Military Balance, vol. 100, 2000, S. 117).

Der Kaukasuskrieg 2008 und die Serdyukov-Reform

Seit seinem Amtsantritt im Januar 2004 versuchte der georgische Präsident Mikheil Saakashvili erfolglos mit politischen Mitteln die abtrünnigen georgischen Regione Südossetien und Abchasien wieder einzugliedern und erwog ab 2005, wenn notwendig, dazu militärische Mittel einzusetzen. Als die georgischen Streitkräfte in der Nacht auf den 8. August 2008 die Sezessionisten in der südossetischen Stadt Tskhinvali mit der Artillerie bombardierten, erwartete Saakashvili, dass mit US-amerikanischer Unterstützung eine Gegenaktion der Russen verhindert werden kann (Heidi Tagliavini, “Lessons of the Georgia Conflict“, The New York Times, 30.09.2009). Die Russen haben jedoch nur auf eine solche Gelegenheit gewartet: Bereits vor dem Kaukasuskrieg 2008 haben sie ihr Truppenkontingent in Nordossetien auf rund 9’000 Mann aufgestockt und in der Grenzregion zu Abchasien die Eisenbahninfrastruktur ausgebaut. Kurz nach der georgischen Bombardierung stiessen die Panzer der russischen 58. Armee durch den Roki-Tunnel nach Südossetien vor. Innert kürzester Zeit standen sich in Südossetien und Abchasien rund 25’000-30’000 russische, sowie 12’000-15’000 georgische Soldaten gegenüber. Russland setzte ausserdem rund 200 Flugzeuge, 40 Helikopter und 1’200 gepanzerte Fahrzeuge ein (Pavel Felgenhauer, “After August 7: The Escalation of the Russia-Georgia War”, in The Guns of August 2008: Russia’s War in Georgia, Routledge, 2009, S. 173; Ariel Cohen und Robert E. Hamilton, “The Russian Military and the Georgia War: Lessons and Implications“, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, June 2011, S. 12). Bei ihrem Vorgehen basierten die russischen Streitkräfte auf der sowjetischen Einsatzdoktrin schnell eine übermächtige Konzentration aufzubauen, bei gegnerischen Kontakt die Wucht auszunützen sowie ohne grosse Feuerunterstützung und Flankenschutz möglichst weit vorzustossen. Für den russischen Erfolg war somit das rasche Einfliessen grosser Mengen gepanzerter Mittel in Südossetien sowie die Eröffnung einer zweiten Front in Abchasien entscheidend – taktisches Können war eher zweitrangig (Cohen und Hamilton, “The Russian Military and the Georgia War”, S. 26ff).

Durch ihre zahlenmässige Überlegenheit haben die russischen Streitkräfte den Kaukasuskrieg 2008 zwar für sich entschieden, die Leistung war jedoch äusserst blamabel. Aus verschiedensten Gründen war der Generalstab bei Kriegsausbruch nicht in der Lage die Operation von Moskau aus zu führen und mit den eingesetzten Verbänden eine sichere Verbindung aufzubauen (Cohen und Hamilton, “The Russian Military and the Georgia War”, S. 23). Zur Not wurden die Verbände über Netze georgischer Telekommunikationsanbieter mittels Mobiltelefon befehligt (Pavel Felgenhauer, “After August 7”, S. 67). Doch auch die Verbände waren nicht auf den Krieg vorbereitet. Gemäss dem russischen Generalstabschef Nikolay Makarov waren nur 17% der Bodentruppen, 5 der 150 Regimenter der Luftstreitkräfte und rund die Hälfte der Kriegsschiffe kampfbereit (Dmitry Solovyov, “Russian Army not fit for Modern War: Top General“, Reuters, 16.12.2008). Das russische globale Satellitennavigationssystem Glonass, Präzisionswaffen, satelliten- oder lasergesteuerte Geschosse, anti-radar Raketen und Drohnen standen nicht zur Verfügung. Fehlender Zugriff auf Satellitenbilder veranlassten die Russen einen Tupolev Tu-22 Bomber zur Aufklärung über Georgien einzusetzen, wo er schliesslich durch die georgische Luftabwehr abgeschossen wurde (Cohen und Hamilton, “The Russian Military and the Georgia War”, S. 34f). Die eingesetzten Helikopter verfügten über keine Ausrüstung zur Freund-Feind-Erkennung und über kein Funksystem, welches mit den Bodentruppen interoperabel gewesen wäre, weshalb sie zur Luftnahunterstützung der Infanterie nicht eingesetzt werden konnten (Dale R. Herspring, “Is Military Reform in Russia for ‘Real’? Yes, But …”, in The Russian Military Today and Tomorrow: Essays in Memory of Mary Fitzgerald, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2010, S. 154). Ausserdem verfügten die Kampfflugzeuge nur über limitierte Fähigkeiten zur elektronischen Kriegsführung und sie konnten während der Nacht nicht eingesetzt werden. Trotzdem sicherte sich Russland die Luftüberlegenheit über das gesamte Gebiet, was aber durch die Tatsache, dass Georgien nur über 8 Kampfflugzeuge und 24 Helikopter verfügte und diese bewusst nicht einsetzte, keine aussergewöhnliche Leistung darstellte (Cohen und Hamilton, The Russian Military and the Georgia War, S. 37).

Ein Konvoi russischer Truppen auf dem Weg durch die Berge zum bewaffneten Konflikt nach Südossetien am 9. August 2008.

Ein Konvoi russischer Truppen auf dem Weg durch die Berge zum bewaffneten Konflikt nach Südossetien am 9. August 2008.

Während den fünf Kriegstagen verloren die russischen Streitkräfte sechs Kampfflugzeuge, wobei vier von den eigenen Truppen abgeschossen wurden (Bettina Renz und Rod Thornton, “Russian Military Modernization“, Problems of Post-Communism, vol 57, no. 1, Februar 2012, S. 48). Trotz fehlender Gegenwehr konnte die amphibische Operation in Abchasien nur mit Müh und Not durchgeführt werden. Dies war der Auslöser für den Kauf der französischen Mistral-Schiffe (Cohen und Hamilton, “The Russian Military and the Georgia War”, S. 51). Bei 60-75% der eingesetzten Kampfpanzer handelte es sich um alte T-62, T-72M und T-72BM, welche über keine moderne Reaktivpanzerung, keine Nachtsichtausrüstung, keine fortschrittlichen Kommunikationsmittel und kein überlegenes Feuerkontrollsystem verfügten (Roger N. McDermott, “Russia’s Conventional Armed Forces and the Georgian War“, Parameters 39, Spring 2009, S. 72). Die sowjetische Einsatzdoktrin gegen die nach westlichen Massstäben trainierten und mit moderner Technologie ausgerüsteten georgischen Verbänden hatte desaströse Konsequenzen: Beinahe alle 30 Fahrzeuge der Kommandogruppe der 58. Armee wurden zerstört, dabei viele der Stabsoffiziere getötet oder verwundet, darunter auch der Kommandant (Cohen und Hamilton, “The Russian Military and the Georgia War”, S. 28f). Einzig die Luftlandetruppen und der Lufttransport von Mannschaft, Ausrüstung und Nachschub hatten im Kaukasuskrieg 2008 überzeugt.

We must focus on the modernization of our armaments. The Caucasian crisis, the Georgian aggression, and ongoing militarization make this task a top priority of our state. – Russischer Präsident Dmitry Medvdev am 11. September 2008 zitiert in Roger N. McDermott, “Russia’s Conventional Armed Forces and the Georgian War”, S. 68.

Einsatzdoktrin, Ausbildung, Führung, Ausrüstung und Infrastruktur der russischen Streitkräfte waren irgendwo zwischen 1970 und 1980 stecken geblieben (Herspring, “Is Military Reform in Russia for ‘Real’?”, 2010, S. 152-56). Das abgegebene Bild im Kaukasuskrieg 2008 stimmte nicht mit den Grossmachtsansprüchen der politischen und militärischen Führung überrein. Dieses bittere Eingeständnis ermöglichte die erste umfassende Reform, welche durch den Verteidigungsminister Anatoliy Serdyukov eingeleitet wurde. Mit der Reform sollten die Streitkräfte einsatzbereiter, mobiler und professioneller sowie technologisch besser ausgestattet werden (Bettina Renz, “Russian Military Capabilities after 20 Years of Reform“, Survival, vol. 56, no. 3, Mai 2014, S. 61). Dazu wechselte Serdyukov in einer ersten Phase von einem auf Divisionen zu einem auf Brigaden basierendem System. Dies sollte zu mehr Handlungsfreiheit, Flexibilität und Führbarkeit verhelfen. Gleichzeitig wurde der Personalbestand um rund 200’000 Mann reduziert. Es handelte sich dabei grösstenteils um reformkritische und ältere Offiziere (Keir Giles und Andrew Monaghan, “Russian Military Transformation – Goal in Sight?“, U.S. Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, 2014, S. 7). Erst in einer zweiten Phase ging es um die Modernisierung der Waffensysteme, was sich jedoch als schwierig erwies. Die Eigenproduktionen basierten ausschliesslich auf sowjetischer Technologie, so dass einige Systeme aus dem Ausland beschafft werden mussten. Im Rahmen der Modernisierungsanstrengungen wurden bei den Bodentruppen ab 2010 mehr als 20’000 T-72 und T-80 Kampfpanzer sowie um die 18’000 Schützenpanzer verschrottet. Die verbleibenden Panzer wurden kampfwertgesteigert – beispielsweise der T-72 zum T-72B3. Insbesondere die Einheiten im südlichen Militärdistrikt wurden mit T-90A Kampfpanzer und BTR-82A Schützenpanzer ausgestattet (Keir Giles, “A New Phase in Russian Military Transformation“, The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, vol. 27, no. 1, January 2014, S. 153). In den Jahren 2011/12 wurden signifikant mehr Kampfflugzeuge an die Luftstreitkräfte ausgeliefert, welche jedoch mit keinen fundamental neuen Technologien aufwarteten. Auch der aus der Serdyukov-Reform stammende Suchoi Su-57 (aka PAK FA T-50) – gemäss russischen Angaben ein Kampfjet der 5. Generation – basiert prinzipiell auf sowjetischer Technologie (Vladimir Karnozov, “Russia places initial Production Order for Stealth Fighter“, Aviation International News, 03.07.2018). Wegen einer nach dem Kalten Krieg vernachlässigten Rüstungsindustrie und dem damit verbundenen Know-How-Verlust gab es bis zum Ende der Serdyukov-Reform grosse Defizite bei der Informations- und Radartechnologie sowie bei den Präzisionswaffensystemen (Von Jonas Grätz, “Russlands Militärreform: Fortschritte und Hürden“, hrsg. Christian Nünlist und Matthias Bieri, CSS Analysen zur Sicherheitspolitik, no. 152, April 2014, S. 4.).

Im zweiten Teil geht es um die progressiv einsetzende Verbesserung der russischen Streitkräfte als Konsequenz der Militärreform, welches im Krieg in der Ukraine und in Syrien sowie in den Grossübungen der letzten beiden Jahren offensichtlich wurde. Schliesslich im dritten Teil wird die mögliche Weiterentwicklung der russischen Streitkräfte für die Zeitperiode bis Ende 2030 besprochen und ein abschliessendes Fazit gezogen.

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Reimagining Defence Cooperation in the Bay of Bengal

by Paul Pryce. With degrees in political science from both sides of the pond, Paul Pryce has previously worked as Senior Research Fellow for the Atlantic Council of Canada’s Canadian Armed Forces program, as a Research Fellow for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an Associate Fellow at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs. He has also served as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces.

In September 2018, joint military exercises were held near Pune, India under the auspices of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). These exercises were unusual in that defence cooperation is not one of the fourteen priority areas for cooperation identified by the seven member states (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand). Although counter-terrorism and transnational crime are included as one of the organization’s less-developed priorities, successive meetings of BIMSTEC National Security Chiefs have focused almost exclusively on “soft” approaches to counter-terrorism, including intelligence sharing, de-radicalization programs, and joint investigations into money laundering schemes that could be used to finance terror.

The push to hold these exercises and add a more explicit defence component to BIMSTEC’s work reportedly came from India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But why? With India marking 10 years since the Mumbai terrorist attacks, which led to the deaths of at least 174 people, and general elections expected in April or May of 2019, Modi is eager to remind the Indian public of the improvements to the security situation since he came to power in 2014. Adding BIMSTEC to India’s security toolbox plays somewhat to this domestic political considerations. Another explanation lies in the growing narrative around the idea of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” advanced by the United States under President Donald Trump. By spearheading defence cooperation in BIMSTEC, India may be trying to reassert its own geopolitical agency, as some Indian government officials and strategic thinkers have increasingly expressed concern that the US sees India only as a proxy in its rivalry with China.

Jungle training shooting and precision practice at BIMSTEC, September 14, 2018.

Jungle training shooting and precision practice at BIMSTEC, September 14, 2018.

No matter India’s motivation to push for these exercises, the effort seems to have back-fired. Just a week after hosting BIMSTEC’s annual summit in Kathmandu, the Nepalese government announced that it was withdrawing its participation from the exercises and would only send three military personnel as observers. Then, on September 17th, Nepal initiated a 10-day joint exercise with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) near Chengdu, China – just one day after BIMSTEC concluded its own exercises near Pune. Nepal has long been the subject of a geopolitical tug-of-war between China and India, even escalating to the point that, in 2015, a fuel blockade was instituted by India to protest what seen as growing Nepalese alignment with China. That Nepal, presented with a clear choice between participating in Indian or Chinese-led war games, chose China over India is indicative of the level of influence India is now able to exert over its northeastern neighbour.

Thailand also abstained, though this decision was conveyed to the other BIMSTEC member states well in advance and it was attributed to budgetary considerations. Had the Indian side planned the exercises prior to the start of the 2018-2019 fiscal year, it might well have been possible for the Thai Ministry of Defence to budget accordingly. As such, while it may have been politically embarrassing for Prime Minister Modi that both Nepal and Thailand opted not to join the exercise, few conclusions can be derived from this as to where Thailand stands in the rivalry between China and India.

The small-scale of the Pune exercise also undermines the credibility of BIMSTEC as a tool for regional defence cooperation. Each of the five participating countries sent only an infantry platoon, comprised of 30-40 soldiers. The most advanced equipment in the exercise consisted of a few Indian Army Mi-17 helicopters, used to practice helicopter insertions as part of hostage rescue operations. By way of comparison, joint counter-terrorism exercises organized by the PLA and Tajikistan in October 2016 simulated combined arms operations and involved more than 10,000 soldiers. Substantially greater outreach and military resources will be necessary if Indian policymakers are serious about taking BIMSTEC in this direction.

PUNE, INDIA - SEPTEMBER 14: Jungle training shooting and precision practice at BIMSTEC, a joint Military exercise, organized at Maratha LI, Aundh, on September 14, 2018 in Pune, India. Bimstec (Bay of Bengal initiative for multi-sectoral technical and economic cooperation) nations have sent in troops to participate in the first joint training exercise with the focus of fighting terrorism at the transnational level. The participating contingents are given detailed lecture cum demonstrations and then moved on to the field for practice rounds. At the foreign training node on Friday, cordon and search operations, raid on terrorist hideouts, intelligence gathering ops, and hostage rescue operations were demonstrated by the troops. (Photo by Ravindra Joshi/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)As a confidence- and security-building mechanism (CSBM) among the participating countries, however, the exercise delivered some value. After all, armed conflicts have emerged in recent years between some BIMSTEC members. For example, in 2001, a clash between Bangladeshi and Indian border guards led to the deaths of 19 people and the displacement of thousands of others. In 2006, heavy gunfire was again exchanged across sections of the India-Bangladesh border but no casualties were reported (Supriya Singh, “Bangladesh in 2006: Teetering Political Edifice and Democracy“, IPCS Special Report, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, March 2007, p. 7f). Tensions have persisted on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border since 2000, exacerbated by the activities of militant groups based in Myanmar, such as the Arakan Army. Troops from Thailand and Myanmar would also benefit from the opportunity to train alongside one another, given the history of tensions on their shared border as well.

As the leading military power in the Bay of Bengal region, the future of this initiative will depend on the degree to which India is committed to its success. For the peace and stability of India’s neighbourhood, it would be worth a more deliberate effort.

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Rezension: Sicherheitspolitik Verstehen

Von Marcus Seyfarth. Marcus ist Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Lehrstuhl für Öffentliches Recht, insbesondere deutsches und europäisches Verwaltungsrecht, von Prof. Ulrich Stelkens an der Deutschen Universität für Verwaltungswissenschaften Speyer. Als Mitgründer der Facebookgruppe “Sicherheitspolitik” engagiert er sich ehrenamtlich im sicherheitspolitischen Umfeld.

Sicherheitspolitik verstehenSicherheitspolitik ist gerade für Laien eine schwer zu durchdringende Materie. Mit einem knapp 200 Seiten starken Buch – unter dem Titel “Sicherheitspolitik verstehen: Handlungsfelder, Kontroversen und Lösungsansätze” – haben sich der Generalleutnant a.D. Kersten Lahl und Prof. Dr. Johannes Varwick von der Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg der Aufgabe gestellt, die Grundlagen zum besseren Verstehen zu vermitteln.

Wie gut dies gelungen ist, soll in dieser kurzen Rezension einem prüfenden Blick unterzogen werden. Der Verlag hat uns hierzu dankenswerterweise ein Rezensionsexemplar zur Verfügung gestellt.

Nachdem Deutschland in den 90er-Jahren von “Freunden umzingelt” war, ist im Zuge der letzten Dekade auch im allgemeinen Bewusstsein das Erfordernis einer aktiven Beschäftigung mit Sicherheitspolitik zurückgekehrt. Die Liste der gegenwärtigen sicherheitspolitischen Herausforderungen ist entsprechend lang, beginnend vor der südlichen Haustür Europas in Nordafrika, dem zunehmend aggressiveren Auftretens Russlands in Georgien (2008) und in der Ukraine (seit 2014), die nukleare Aufrüstung in Asien als auch dem jüngst angeschlagenen Verhältnis in den Beziehungen zu den USA. Dazu treten globale Phänomene wie internationaler Terrorismus, Staatszerfall und unkontrollierte Migrationsbewegungen, so dass auch die Autoren konstatieren: “Krisen kennzeichnen heute den Normalfall im internationalen Alltag – und Europa bleibt davon keineswegs unberührt”.

Umso wichtiger sei es den Autoren nach in der öffentlichen Debatte einen breiten und aufgeklärten Diskurs über die Hintergründe, Zusammenhänge, Perspektiven und Risiken zu führen, um eine hinreichende Akzeptanz für oft unbequeme politische Entscheidungen zu gewinnen. Die Autoren warnen eindringlich davor, dass dafür keine einfachen Patentrezepte existieren und viel von den gesetzten politischen Prioritäten und getroffenen Wertungen abhängt. Auch gäbe es immer z.T. erhebliche Ungewissheiten, so dass jegliches Handeln oder Unterlassen keine Erfolgsgarantie mitbringt.

Der Anspruch, den die Autoren bei der Vermittlung der Grundkenntnisse an sich selbst stellen, ist hoch. So heißt es im Vorwort, dass man “ohne dogmatische Verengung, aber auch ohne Scheu vor unbequemen Argumenten die enorme Komplexität heutiger Sicherheitspolitik für die Leserinnen und Leser reduzieren, strategische Zusammenhänge sichtbar machen und auf diesem Wege die Dialogfähigkeit in der öffentlichen Meinungsbildung stärken” will.

 
Gleich zu beginn werden 7 Thesen formuliert, welche einen Bogen das gesamte Werk hindurch spannen. Dazu gehört etwa, dass Prävention in aller Regel die effizienteste und wirkungsvollste Form der Sicherheitsvorsorge ist, ein vernetzter Ansatz aller Akteure und Instrumente unverzichtbar ist, viele verschiedene Perspektiven und Narrative zu berücksichtigen sind, Solidarität und Lastenteilung auch mitunter einen militärischen Beitrag Deutschlands erfordern und die Zukunft der europäischen Sicherheitsvorsorge in multilateralen Verbünden liegt. In sechs Kapiteln (Inhaltsverzeichnis siehe oben) werden jene Thesen weiter vertieft. Dabei wird zunächst ein Blick auf die Grundideen moderner Sicherheitsvorsorge geworfen, zudem wird herausgearbeitet was heute leistbar ist und wünschenswert wäre, und bei all dem die Suche nach der strategisch richtigen Balance bei der Ressourcenallokation nicht vergessen. Zudem wird ein Blick auf verschiedene Denkschulen geworfen, welche die Internationalen Beziehungen durchziehen. In weiteren Kapiteln werden konkrete “Treiber der Unsicherheit” beschrieben, u.a. Pandemien, Auseinandersetzungen um Ressourcen oder Flucht und Migrationsbewegungen oder strategische Handlungsfelder, Instrumente und Akteure der Sicherheitspolitik vorgestellt. Zuletzt wird der sicherheitspolitische Handlungsbedarf für Deutschland umrissen – in diesem Kapitel führt eine Analyse der gegenwärtigen Defizite auf eine Vielzahl von Handlungsempfehlungen für die Politik.

Mit Ausnahme des letzten Kapitels endet jeder Abschnitt mit drei grundlegenden Diskussionsfragen, die sehr breit angelegt sind und ein wenig an eine mündliche Prüfung erinnern. Diese sollen neben der Festigung des Stoffes der Reflektion dienen.

Findet man im Buch leider nicht! Bilder sagen manchmal mehr als Tausend Worte!

Bilder sagen mehr als Worte!

Bewertung
Lobend ist die Zielsetzung sowie das Füllen der Lücke zu erwähnen sicherheitspolitischen Laien einen ersten Kompass mit auf den Weg zu geben. Das Werk bietet inhaltlich auch einen aktuellen Überblick über zentrale Aspekte der Sicherheitspolitik, deren Verständnis unverzichtbar für eine bessere Durchdringung gegenwärtiger Fragen sind.

Stellenweise sind die Ausführungen etwas knapp geraten und wohl dem Anliegen geschuldet, den Umfang des Werkes nicht zu stark ausufern zu lassen. Das ist grundsätzlich ein lobenswerter Gedanke. Doch fehlt es punktuell damit an Raum, um dem Stoff mehr Tiefe oder dem Leser weitere hilfreiche Erläuterungen zu geben. Inhaltlich könnte man etwa die Reformdiskussionen um die Vereinten Nationen weiter ausführen und die Fehler der gegenwärtigen Konstruktionen sowie mögliche Konzepte diese zu beseitigen noch umfassender heraus arbeiten. Dafür könnte in den ersten beiden theoretischen Kapiteln durch eine stärkere Konzentration auf das unbedingt Notwendige Platz geschaffen werden.

Das Lesevergnügen schwerwiegender beeinträchtigt, dass die Autoren dem Ziel der Komplexitätsreduzierung zumindest in sprachlicher Hinsicht nicht vollends gerecht geworden sind. Man muss es ganz offen sagen, die erzählerische Umsetzung ist – wie in der deutschen Fachliteratur leider üblich – über weite Strecken überaus abstrakt, distanziert und wissenschaftlich-professoral gehalten.

Auf die Bedürfnisse der nicht fachkundigen Leser könnten die Autoren durch eine stärkere sprachliche Vereinfachung und Prägnanz, einem bildhaften Erzählstil oder stellenweise tiefer gehenden Erläuterungen noch deutlich besser eingehen. Mit anderen Worten: Laien könnten bei der Reise auf fremdes Terrain noch besser mitgenommen werden. Dazu täte dem Werk die ein oder andere Tabelle oder Grafik zur besseren Übersicht gut, etwa um die Rüstungsausgaben und Kräfteverhältnisse zu veranschaulichen. In der gegenwärtigen Fassung ist das Werk damit eher einem akademischen Publikum mit großem Interesse und genügendem Vorwissen als Überblickswerk empfohlen, weniger der breiten Masse.

Lahl, Kersten und Varwick, Johannes: Sicherheitspolitik verstehen: Handlungsfelder, Kontroversen und Lösungsansätze. Frankfurt/M: Wochenschau Verlag, 2018.

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The Aktau Agreement: Another Kick at the Caspian Can?

by Paul Pryce. With degrees in political science from both sides of the pond, Paul Pryce has previously worked as Senior Research Fellow for the Atlantic Council of Canada’s Canadian Armed Forces program, as a Research Fellow for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an Associate Fellow at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs. He has also served as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces.

The Caspian Sea has long been a potential geopolitical flashpoint. Following the Iranian Revolution and the new regime in Iran’s renunciation in 1979 of the Russo-Persian Treaty of Friendship, questions arose as to the legal status of the Caspian Sea. These questions became more pressing with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, as the Caspian now has five littoral states with conflicting claims – Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, and Turkmenistan – and estimates suggest that this inland sea holds reserves worth 48 billion barrels of crude oil and 292 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. This lack of clarity has at times fueled tensions, such as a series of maritime border incidents in 2000-2001 between Azerbaijan and Iran.

However, there has been significant momentum in 2018 toward clarifying the legal status of the Caspian Sea. In August 2018, the five littoral states signed the Aktau Agreement (text of the agreement), which stipulates that each will have 15 nautical miles of sovereign waters, in addition to a further 10 miles of fishing area, though how to delimit these boundaries is absent from the text of the agreement. If it is ultimately determined that the baseline should be measured from the shorelines of each littoral state, this was a surprising concession by Iran, which has the smallest Caspian shoreline and where some policymakers reportedly still resent the loss of control over the Caspian Sea that resulted from Iran’s defeat in the Russo-Persian War of 1826-1828. For his part, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin heralded the agreement as having “epoch-making significance“.

The Aktau Agreement does not address all points of contention regarding the Caspian Sea, though. Beyond the lack of detail concerning the boundaries, the status of subsoil resources is not discussed. Although Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov stated in a press conference that these issues would be addressed in “a separate agreement“, there is little reason to believe that negotiations beyond Aktau will be any more fruitful than those which precipitated the current, vaguely-worded agreement. As such, tensions over the Caspian Sea are likely to persist in the medium- to long-term.

This situation suits Russia’s short-term interests well. Were the status of the Caspian Sea clarified, Turkmenistan could finally pursue its proposed Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline, a subsea project which would transport approximately 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas each year to Azerbaijan’s Sangachal Terminal, from which the natural gas could be shipped to Turkey and the European Union. Various iterations of this project have been considered since 1999, with each scuttled by border disputes and concerns regarding the security situation in the Caspian region. Although Nord Stream II – an expansion by Gazprom of its existing natural gas pipeline from Vyborg, Russia to a terminal in Greifswald, Germany – would have vastly greater export capacity than the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline, the addition of Turkmen supply to the European market would lower prices and, as a result, would reduce Gazprom’s profits. Without a formal delimitation of the maritime boundaries among the littoral states, it is unlikely that Turkmenistan will be able to proceed with its own competitor to Nord Stream II.

Yet this pre-occupation with pipeline projects undermines Russia’s potential influence in Central Asia and the Middle East. The strategic interests of Russia and Iran currently converge in Syria, and the Aktau Agreement could potentially allow for vessels from the Russian Navy’s Caspian Flotilla to use the northern Iranian port of Anzali. The United States’ sanctions against Iran may also drive Iran closer to Russia, which may go some way toward explaining the concessions offered by Tehran in the Aktau Agreement. But there remains the risk that a violent clash could unexpectedly take place among any of the other littoral states, and refereeing between these parties would draw Russian resources away from other foreign policy objectives. For example, in 2012-2013, tensions ratcheted up between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, when the former accused the latter of undertaking seismic testing in the disputed Kapyaz/Serdar offshore oil field, and subsequently both sides intercepted civilian vessels from the other side in waters beyond their respective zones of control. Adding to these tensions, the Turkmen Naval Forces deployed considerable assets near the aforementioned Kapyaz/Serdar oilfield during its first exercises, held in 2012.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov pose for a family photo during the Fifth Caspian Summit, Aktau, Kazakhstan in August. 12, 2018.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov pose for a family photo during the Fifth Caspian Summit, Aktau, Kazakhstan in August. 12, 2018.

Such a situation could escalate in the future, especially if Russian policymakers are of the mistaken belief that the other littoral states will simply accept the “status quo” now that the Aktau Agreement has been signed. Kazakhstan has been rapidly developing its own maritime forces over the past decade out of concern for the strategic intentions of the other Caspian states. For its part, Iran has also been bolstering its Caspian presence as well, though it suffered a setback in January 2018, when IRIS Damavand, a Moudge-class frigate, sank after an accident at the port of Anzali. With such a military build-up around the Caspian, a robust response would be needed from the Russian Navy to deter violence, were a dispute among the other littoral states to escalate.

Despite the challenge the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline would present to Russia’s gas export strategy, it would be more pragmatic for Russia to press for a lasting resolution to the ongoing disputes surrounding the Caspian Sea. This could be achieved by calling for another Caspian Summit to be held in 2019 – as normally these are held biannually – and showing leadership in the negotiations regarding the delimitation of maritime boundaries and subsea resources. But it is increasingly apparent that Russian policymakers have adopted a kind of “tunnel vision”, regarding Nord Stream II as a vital means of dividing Europe and exerting further control over Ukraine. Under such circumstances, unfortunately, it is unlikely Russia will rise to the occasion, building upon the Aktau Agreement to create a lasting peace.

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Wagner: A closer look at Russian private security and military enterprise

by Caleb M. Larson. He covers U.S.-American security and foreign policy as well as European defense with a focus on Eastern Europe and Russia. He holds a Bachelor of Art in History from UCLA and a Master of Public Policy from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy.

The Russian private military company Wagner has a complex and convoluted history. Founded in 2013, Wagner has gone through several iterations. An early precursor of Wagner called the Slavonic Corps was sent on a short-lived mission in Syria and was quickly disbanded upon return to Russia. Some of Wagner’s leadership was also arrested, initially indicating little to no coordination with the Russian military or intelligence services. Later missions, particularly in Crimea, Central African Republic (CAR) and Sudan, indicate closer ties to Russian military and intelligence services.

To date, Wagner has conducted operations in Syria and is presumed to be part of a Russian force in the CAR and Sudan. There is also speculation that Wagner has a presence in Libya, although hard documentation is difficult to come by. Wagner’s interests in the countries are purported to operate in vary from economic gain to advancing Russian foreign policy objectives.

Some mercenary of the  Slavonic Corps in Syria presumably in October 2013.

Some mercenary of the Slavonic Corps in Syria presumably in October 2013.

 
Wagner compared to other Private Military Contractors
American Private Military Contractors (PMCs) such as Academi (formerly Blackwater USA), Triple Canopy, and DynCorp typically work under contract in support of larger military missions and have served in logistics, escort, personal protection, or in a training and advisory role, rather than exclusively on the front lines of conflict. These are support missions that are fundamentally different from Wagner’s role. Wagner partners with the Russian military for issues of transportation and logistics, similarly to their western counterparts. However, in both Ukraine and Syria members of Wagner served at times to augment Russian and/or local forces or have served as an “elite infantry“, in direct-action operations, not merely as advisors or trainers. Wagner is also reported to suffer unusually high numbers of casualties for a PMC, which suggests that in some theaters Wagner serves in primarily a combat role, rather than less hazardous non-combat tasks like training and advising.

In CAR and perhaps in Libya, Wagner’s primary mission appears to be the extraction of mineral wealth, securing arms deals, and training local specialist forces, rather than pursuing discernable foreign policy objectives in line with those of their country of origin. This differentiation is important when considering the role of the aforementioned western PMCs, who typically do not operate as independently as Wagner seems to, but are more closely bound to national objectives.

Early iteration: the Slavonic Corps
An early foray by Wagner into Syria began in September 2013, when several hundred (perhaps put to 2,000) Russian volunteers were contracted by the St. Petersburg-based Moran Security Group. These volunteers formed the short-lived Slavonic Corps, a Wagner precursor. According to their corporate website, Moran is a “an international group of companies offering premiere security, transportation, medical, rescue, and consulting services” and operates offices in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Iraq, Sri Lanka, and Guangzhou, China, and has conducted operations in various Middle Eastern and African countries, as well as maritime operations in the Indian Ocean. To date, Moran Security Group has an explicit association with the Slavonic Corps.

The volunteers were contracted rather hastily, some signing contracts on a train station platform and told to be ready to ship out on short notice. During recruiting, volunteers were under the impression that they would be operating in some capacity with the Syrian government and/or the FSB and were promised substantial sums of money within days. The reality was quite different. While there was a Syrian partner, this partner was ostensibly not the Syrian government, but rather a local strongman. At the behest of their Syrian employer, the Slavonic Corps was involved in a single skirmish that ended in near-encirclement and retreat. An opportune sandstorm allowed the Slavonic Corp to slip away and saved their annihilation, resulting in relatively light casualties (“The Last Battle of the ‘Slavonic Corps’“, The Interpreter, November 16, 2013)

The Slavonic Corps spent only about two months in Syria which is much shorter than the contracts stipulated for five months. After returning to their airfield base, the volunteers were transported to Moscow by plane. Upon arrival in Russia, their belongings and social media were searched for information related to their time in Syria. Those of higher rank were reportedly detained while those of lower rank were sent home—without pay.

Some mercenary of the Russian private military company Wagner in the Starobeshevo area of Ukraine’s Donetsk in the Summer of 2014.

Some mercenary of the Russian private military company Wagner in the Starobeshevo area of Ukraine’s Donetsk in the Summer of 2014.

 
Ukraine
In 2014, an iteration of Wagner was involved in the annexation of Crimea along with volunteers, Ukrainian military defectors, and other Russian units. Although operating under the Wagner name, those operating in Crimea were likely not the same individuals who had been to Syria in 2013, although it is possible that some command elements were retained.

Wagner’s actions in Crimea indicated a relatively high level of capability. Although unproven, Wagner is credited by some sources with several assassinations, namely the Luhansk People’s Republic’s Minister of Defense, Oleg Anashchenko, and leaders of several other armed factions, indicating a level of expertise significantly higher than that of inexperienced volunteers. Anashchenko was one of several high-level participants in an unsuccessful coup in 2014 in the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). These killings could demonstrate an instance in which Wagner and Russia coordinate to achieve Russian foreign policy objectives, as a lack of order in the LPR. Infighting among LPR leadership does not stabilize the LPR into frozen conflict and are not in Russia’s interest.

Involvement in Ukraine seemingly allowed Wagner to rebound from their debacle in Syria. Demonstrating high-end capabilities and greatly improved C2 illustrated that Wagner could carry out relatively complex missions in urban areas while avoiding civilian casualties and successfully achieving mission objectives. Their success, particularly in Crimea, was a strong indicator of renewed confidence in the organization.

Syria: second attempt
Wagner’s success in Ukraine at least partially contributed to additional responsibilities and a return to Syria. One event worthy of note was Wagner’s involvement in retaking of Palmyra, a historically important city in central Syria and formerly an ISIL bastion. Wagner was part of a combined Syrian Army/pro-government militia force that appears to have fought in association with Russian air power and suffered several casualties there.

Although Wagner was part of the successful assault on Palmyra, the mission’s success was not due entirely to Wagner’s battlefield prowess. The assembled force was allegedly around 6,000 strong, and Wagner only made up a small part of this group. Russian and Syrian airpower greatly aided the attack, as did superior numbers. Still, success at least by association seemed to have contributed to Wagner’s rehabilitated image as a capable fighting force.

Wagner’s recent involvement in Syria has been relatively well-publicized after the February 2018 debacle near Deir al-Zour in which a mixed Russian-Syrian pro-government force moved on a US commando team in the area. While exact figures are difficult to confirm concretely, casualty estimates range from a couple of dozens to over two hundred (Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “How a 4-Hour Battle Between Russian Mercenaries and U.S. Commandos Unfolded in Syria“, The New York Times, May 24, 2018). Interestingly, Russian military officials denied responsibility for the force massing against US positions. This could indicate that PMCs like Wagner serve as politically expendable cannon fodder for probing the battlefield in place for regular Russian military personnel.

CAR & Sudan Expansion

With the consent of the UN Security Council Committee created pursuant to UNSC Resolution 2127, an allocation of small arms and ammunition from the stocks of Russia’s Defence Ministry was made available to the Central African Army in late January – early February. Five military [sic] and 170 civilian instructors from Russia were sent to train CAR service personnel with the knowledge of this committee. — Artyom Kozhin, “Deputy Director of the Information and Press Department Artyom Kozhin’s answer to a media question on cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Central African Republic“, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, March 22, 2018.

In keeping with the trend of economically profitable expansion, Wagner has most likely established a presence in the CAR and Sudan. Both host contingents of Russian troops, however, it is difficult to say with absolute certainty which contingents and how many of them are employees of Wagner due to the nature of where they are and based on official Foreign Ministry statements. These “170 civilian instructors”, mentioned in a statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation in March 2018, are presumably employees of Wagner.

The CAR contains relatively large mineral deposits, namely diamonds, gold—and uranium. All three are commercially viable, and a Wagner presence in mineral-rich areas could pay large dividends for a company that is not exclusively bound by geopolitical decisions and allowed to gain financially. The Russian contingent there is reportedly operating in or near the regions where these minerals can be exploited, and long-running political instability in CAR due to competing militia groups could help facilitate this mineral exploitation (Ruslan Leviev, “Russian Presence in the Central African Republic“, Conflict Intelligence Team, April 23, 2018). Wagner’s current mission appears to be training the presidential guard of Faustin-Archange Touadéra, perhaps to curry favor for future political or mineral deals.

In November 2017, al-Bashir voiced the possibility of Sudan hosting a Russian naval base on the Red Sea, which would allow Russia to further project power into much of the Middle East, Africa, and parts of the Mediterranean. It could complement the role that Syria has played as a proving ground of sorts for newer Russian equipment, and by providing combat experience, especially to pilots.

Translation: Russian PMCs in Sudan (voiceover)

Libya
Perhaps most speculative is Wagner’s presence in Libya. An article in March 2017 detailed Russia’s involvement in Libya in support of General Khalifa Haftar. Recently, a similar claim was corroborated by a Russian source, which elaborated on possible motivations for a Russian presence in Libya—ranging from recovering money from a Gaddafi-era arms deal, completing a planned Tripoli-Benghazi rail link by Russian Railways, capitalizing on Libya’s oil reserves, being able to control refugee flows into Europe, or perhaps a combination of these issues (Dmitry Kartsev, “Russia Is Suspected of Deploying Troops to Libya, but What’s Moscow’s Play in This Muddy Conflict?“, Meduza, October 11, 2018). At this point in time, these theories are speculative, although a Wagner presence in Libya could give Russia leverage in other areas to advance Russian foreign policy objectives and is perhaps an example of the Wagner-Kremlin axis.

“Patriot”: a new iteration?
Another PMC, Patriot, is reported to be operating in Syria and CAR as well. Patriot seems to be structured in much the same way as Wagner, their recruit pool is ex-military, and Patriot works in tandem with Russian security services, but apparently pay better than Wagner and are more focused on security, training, and personal protection, depending on the theater in question.

Conclusion
PMCs in Russia serve a fundamentally different role than their western counterparts. Typically, operating more like highly trained shock troops rather than pulling guard duty or logistics, Wagner, in particular has served two primary functions—enrichment for the Wagner group itself via operations in minerally lucrative areas, or as an easily-deniable instrument of the Russian Ministry of Defense that fights to advance Russian foreign policy objectives.

Although questions of legality abound, the Wagner model is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Dead Russian soldiers can cause public opinion to sour, while dead and deniable volunteers do not. For that reason, future operations involving Wagner and other PMCs are unlikely to dissipate. Russian PMCs are here to stay.

• • •

Dangerous Investigations
It seems that Wagner is shy of the public and is probably willing to take drastic measures to protect its interests. On July 30, three Russian journalists, Orkhan Gemal, Alexander Rastorguev, and Kirill Radchenko, were killed in the CAR while investigating Wagner’s operations — probably only a coincidence. However, the investigation was funded by ex-oil tycoon Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, but officially the death of the three journalists was due to a robbery. At least two other Russian journalists have also suffered while researching Wagner, including Maxim Borodin, who suddenly fell to his death from a balcony in Yekaterinburg in April, and Denis Korotkov, a Saint Petersburg journalist, forced into hiding after receiving death threats owing to his work on Wagner. (Neil Hauer, “Russia’s Favorite Mercenaries“, The Atlantic, August 27, 2018).
Posted in Caleb M. Larson, English, Mercenary, Russia, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

China’s Long-Range Bomber Flights Pose New Threat to Regional Powers and U.S.

by Darien Cavanaugh. He is writing on politics, foreign policy, global conflict, and weapons platforms has been published at War is Boring, offiziere.ch, The National Interest, Real Clear Defense, Yahoo! News, The Week, Global Comment, and the Center for Securities Studies. To see more of his work, visit his website.

A Xian H-6K Strategic Bomber in flight.

A Xian H-6K Strategic Bomber in flight.

China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has sent its Xian H-6K strategic bombers on an increasing number of long-range flights in the Asia-Pacific region in recent years.

Before 2015, China’s bombers stayed relatively close to its coast and were regarded almost exclusively as a means of deterrence and self-defense. However, the bombers now routinely travel beyond the First Island Chain. The H-6K bombers have traveled 1,000 km from China’s coast during some of these flights, which brought them within striking distance of potential U.S. military targets in the Second Island Chain, most notably Guam.

Map of the First Island Chain and the Second Island Chain.

Map of the First Island Chain and the Second Island Chain (Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2006“, Annual Report to Congress, 2006, p. 15).

The flights are another example of how China’s military doctrine is shifting away from relying primarily on “active defense” and toward developing greater offensive capabilities, enhanced power projection, and achieving strategic goals well beyond its traditional sphere of influence. The flights are also another indicator that China increasingly believes it will be able to effectively compete with the U.S. military in the near future.

A new report from the RAND Corporation chronicles the history of China’s long-range bomber flights in the Asia-Pacific region and places them within the context of the “remarkable strategic transformation” that the PLAAF has undergone over the last two decades. “Once viewed as a backward force equipped with antiquated aircraft flown by poorly trained pilots, the PLAAF has gradually stepped out of the shadow of China’s ground forces and emerged as one of the world’s premier air forces,” the report asserts.

The shift in PLAAF doctrine can be traced back to 1999 when then-president Jiang Zemin began a push to improve both the defensive and offensive capabilities of all branches of the People’s Liberation Army and particularly the PLAAF. One of the most significant doctrinal changes for the PLAAF has been a growing emphasis on air-to-surface combat with the goal of “achieving air superiority by striking enemy aircraft and airfields on the ground” (Derek Grossman et al., “Chinas Long-Range Bomber Flights: Drivers and Implications“, RAND Corporation, 2018, p. 29).  

China’s current president, Xi Jinping, who came to power in March of 2013, has accelerated the modernization of the PLAAF and expanded its strategic goals. In April of 2014, PLAAF commander Ma Xiaotian called for the PLAAF to assume a more active role in China’s maritime security. When Lt. Gen. Ding Laihang became commander of the PLAAF in August 2017, he likewise expressed his desire to continue the PLAAF’s outward expansion. Speaking to a gathering of 1,000 trainee pilots at the PLA Air Force Aviation University in Changchun, Jilin Province, Ding stated that the PLAAF was undertaking “an unprecedented deep reform” and that achieving China’s new strategic goals “requires the ability to project power and make strikes over long distances”. He noted that “exercises on the open seas will become a regular part of training”.

Citizens watch a Xian H-6 Strategic Bomber during a theme exhibition which marks the 90th Anniversary of founding the People's Liberation Army on July 27, 2017 in Beijing, China.

Citizens watch a Xian H-6 Strategic Bomber during a theme exhibition which marks the 90th Anniversary of founding the People’s Liberation Army on July 27, 2017 in Beijing, China.

 
Historical Milestones in China’s Long-Range Bomber Flights
Since 2015, PLAAF’s H-6Ks have flown on at least 38 long-range over-water flights in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the RAND report (Derek Grossman et al., p. 1).

An H-6K strategic bomber crossed the First Island Chain for the first time by passing through the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines in March of 2015. In November of that year, four H-6Ks accompanied by one Shaanxi Y-8 and one Tupolev Tu-154 transport aircraft flew through the Miyako Strait between Okinawa Island and Miyako Island. Both of those flights reportedly flew 1,000 km away from China’s coast. A 2018 U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) report stated that during those flights the bombers flew “within LACM [land-attack cruise missile] range of Guam”.

The first H-6K flight into the South China Sea “likely” occurred in May of 2016 and crossed over Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands. The second flight, which passed over the disputed Scarborough Shoal, occurred in July of 2016, just four days after the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled against China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

After H-6Ks passed by Taiwan on several previous flights, they began circumnavigating the island in November of 2016. According to the RAND report, the PLAAF has conducted at least 14 such flights around the island, some of which included support-aircraft. On at least two occasions the support-aircraft included Sukhoi Su-30, Chengdu J-10, and Shenyang J-11 fighter jets for at least part of the journey, but the fighters broke away from the bombers and other aircraft before approaching Taiwan.

The initiation and rising operational tempo of PLAAF bomber flights is notable because it demonstrates a new capability designed to challenge U.S. military operations and threaten U.S. allies and partners. Bombers are yet another aspect of Beijing’s growing power projection capabilities that will complement its expanding maritime and missile capabilities. — Derek Grossman et al., “Chinas Long-Range Bomber Flights: Drivers and Implications“, RAND Corporation, 2018, p. 1.

 
Disputes over Taiwan and the South China Sea
Strategic signaling and external propaganda are undoubtedly two purposes of the flights, especially in regard to China’s regional rivals and territorial disputes, such as the Spratly Islands and Taiwan, which China still views as a breakaway province. For instance, the PLAAF released images of H-6K bombers flying over disputed waters for the first time in the days following the July 2016 PCA ruling against China.

According to the DoD, in the event of a conflict between China and Taiwan and its allies, H-6Ks could conduct “shorter-range strikes targeting eastern Taiwan from all directions”. Beijing has not been subtle about flaunting its military prowess at Taiwan. After H-6Ks bombers accompanied by Su-30 and J-11 fighters and several support-aircraft circumnavigated Taiwan from north to south in December of 2017, a PLAAF spokesperson referred to the flight as an “island encirclement patrol” and said the PLAAF was “an important force for effectively shaping the situation, controlling crises, containing war, and winning wars” (see also video from the Chinese state television broadcaster CCTV below). The RAND report notes that a post on the PLAAF’s official Weibo account that featured images of the bombers passing near Taiwan suggested they were in Chinese territory, an allusion to China’s claim that Taiwan is still a province of China (Derek Grossman et al., p. 22).

In September of 2016 a large group of PLAAF aircraft, including H-6Ks, Su-30s, and refueling tankers, flew through the Miyako Strait, again. The DoD report from 2017 said this was the PLAAF’s “most complex long-distance strike training to date”. The RAND report cites the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, which implies that the flight was a response to the Japanese Defense Minister Inada Miyazaki’s suggestion that the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force might join the U.S. Navy in patrols of the South China Sea (Derek Grossman et al., p. 15).

The PLAAF began conducting even more antagonistic flights near Japan in July of 2017 when six H-6Ks passed through the Miyako Strait before veering north and flying along Japan’s east coast to the Kii Peninsula in violation of Japan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). “Tokyo has already been contending with air incursions into Japan’s ADIZ by PLAAF and PLAN Aviation fighter aircraft, as well as other types of military aircraft in recent years”, the RAND report notes. “Bombers, however, are a relatively new phenomenon” (Derek Grossman et al., p. 45).

The reactions from regional governments have been somewhat muted, even when China crosses into their ADIZ zones. Japan monitors all of China’s flights near its airspace, and Taiwan intercepts all flights into its airspace, but there has otherwise been little response. Japan did, however, recently tripled the number of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters it is purchasing from the U.S.

For its part, the U.S. has maintained a continuous bomber presence, based primarily out of Guam, in the South China Sea since 2004. Both the U.S. Air Force and Navy continue to patrol near the Spratly Islands and essentially ignore China’s claim to the archipelago.

An H-6k bomber with escort.

An Xian H-6 Strategic Bomber with escort.

 
Limitations and New Capabilities
Despite the considerable improvements to the PLAAF’s capabilities over the past two decades, it still suffers from significant logistical, technological, and experiential limitations. For instance, China does not have yet overseas bases that can provide refueling or other support for long-range bomber missions, nor does it have a viable air-refuelable bomber or support-aircraft. However, according to RAND, China is developing a new model of the H-6, sometimes referred to as H-6N, that will be air-refuelable with a range of 12,000 km. The first test flight was apparently conducted at the end of 2016. At the same time, the DoD report 2018 on the Chinese military acknowledges only that “China may add an aerial refueling capability to at least some H-6s” (emphasis added).

Even if China has developed air-refuelable H-6Ks, or will do so in the near future, it currently does not have any aircraft that are reliably capable of refueling them. China has a few Ilyushin Il-78s it purchased from Ukraine in 2011, but it has not been able to integrate them fully. It also has a fleet of 12 HY-6U tankers, but as the RAND report points out, they are “too small and technologically obsolete to fulfill the needs of long-distance air combat”. (Derek Grossman et al., p. 53)

Another concern for China is that the current range limitations of PLAAF fighters would mean that H-6Ks on long-range missions would not have fighters to defend them and would therefore “be easy targets for American, Japanese, and Taiwanese air defenders long before they could get within range of Guam”.  

The PLAAF is developing a version of its Xian Y-20 heavy transport that can provide aerial refueling capabilities for both bombers and fighters such as the J-11 and the Sukhoi Su-35, which are capable of receiving aerial refueling. Adding a practical refueling tanker to the PLAAF fleet would expand the operational range of China’s bombers by a substantial distance while also enabling fighters and other support-aircraft to accompany the bombers, thus improving the survivability and effectiveness of the bombers in a combat scenario.

Y-20 flight on Airshow China 2016.

Y-20 flight on Airshow China 2016.

In addition to the development of new H-6Ks and Y-20s, China plans to have its Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter and the Xian H-20 stealth bomber that is in the final stages of development integrated into the air force by the mid-2020s. Although several J-20s are currently “in service” with the PLAAF, China is still experiencing difficulties with the jet’s engines and currently relies on Russia to manufacture them.

The H-20’s range is expected to be 10,000 km, with a combat radius of if 5,000 km. Again, the development of a practical aerial refueling craft for the PLAAF would extend that range even further. This would mean that “instead of simply relying on its MRBM [medium-range ballistic missile] and IRBM [intermediate-range ballistic missile] missile forces, the H-20 will provide Beijing with an alternative means of waging counter-intervention operations against U.S. forces at these ranges during a conflict,” the RAND report states (Derek Grossman et al., p. 50, 54).

The H-20 should also feature “nuclear-conventional integration” and may have the capability to deliver up to six KD-20 air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) or other precision-guided munitions using a rotary launcher.

An article in the China Youth Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Youth League of China, boasted that the H-20 will provide the PLAAF with a “strong electronic combat capability” that will enable it to “disturb and destroy incoming missiles and other air and ground targets through a range of equipment including radar, electronic confrontation platform, high power microwave, laser, and infrared equipment”. The article added that the H-20 is also capable of “large-capacity data fusion and transmission” and that it can “interact with large sensor platforms like UAV, early warning aircraft and strategic reconnaissance aircraft to share information and target data”.

The RAND report provided a comparably positive assessment of the benefits the H-20 would bring to the PLAAF:

“The H-20 will provide Beijing with a means of waging counter-intervention operations against U.S. and allied forces at extended ranges throughout the region in the event of a conflict. Additionally, assuming that the H-20 will retain the standoff strike capability of the H-6K, its range using air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) or air-launched ballistic missiles (ALBMs) will be even greater, potentially bringing even more distant targets into range. Coupled with other next-generation aircraft that have entered service over the last several years, including the J-20 fighter and Y-20 transport, these systems will advance China’s capability to project air power throughout Asia and possibly beyond.” — Derek Grossman et al., “Chinas Long-Range Bomber Flights: Drivers and Implications“, RAND Corporation, 2018, p. vii.

While the PLAAF is making formidable strides regarding logistical and technological advancements, it still lacks combat experience. That could prove to be its greatest hindrance to implementing a successful long-range bomber strategy. “Today, China’s military has an increasingly impressive high-tech arsenal, but its ability to use these weapons and equipment remains unclear”, Timothy R. Heath writes in a separate article recently published by RAND. “The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) struggles under the legacy of an obsolete command system, rampant corruption, and training of debatable realism, among other issues”.

More information

Posted in Armed Forces, China, Darien Cavanaugh, English, International, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Emergence of Probably the World’s Largest Data-Mining Giant

by Ypsilons 378
Dieser Artikel ist auch in Deutsch verfügbar.

The Chinese government plans to monitor its people with a comprehensive social credit system.” The goal is to promote honesty and sincerity in order to promote economic and social progress. In the process, those who betray trust are to be severely punished.

China is currently busy creating a digital data monster with tentacles extending into every aspect of life. This is causing concerns about the rampant frenzy to collect data and how it will be handled. The Chinese social credit system is officially scheduled to go into operation in 2020. From then on, not one of the country’s approx. 1.5 billion inhabitants will be able to escape the state’s rating system.

Education in “goodness”
Zhang Zheng, director of the China Credit Research Center at Peking University, is an important thought leader and theoretician of the Chinese social credit system. His mindset is rooted in his socialization because the economics professor had initially studied mathematics and natural sciences, which requires a rational and analytical way of thinking. However, dealing with human beings and the problems of society requires a broader, more differentiated approach, which is often difficult for dedicated natural scientists. Social sciences are more than just ones and zeros, black and white, right and wrong, good and evil, but the Chinese social credit system is based precisely on this simplified dualistic way of thinking.

There are two kinds of people in this world: good people and bad people. Now imagine a world where the good ones are rewarded and the bad ones are punished — Zhang Zheng zitiert in Martin Maurtvedt, “The Chinese Social Credit System: Surveillance and Social Manipulation: A Solution to ‘Moral Decay’?“, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo, 2017, p. 1.

Zheng is convinced that the Chinese social credit system, i.e., socialization as a “good” person with the help of digital tools, will become a sustainable cornerstone for the moral order of Chinese society. This system is intended to improve the morals of society. Whether the everyday morals of the people or the business ethics of companies, the system is supposed to that the rules are followed. This has particularly obvious consequences on individuals: good citizens would be rewarded and favored, while bad ones would be sanctioned with severe restrictions in daily life.

Structure and function
The Chinese social credit system is based on centralized databases containing such records as medical and court files, online shopping, posts on social networks, internet search queries, travel plans, and purchases with credit cards or payment apps. These records are then analyzed and weigh this cluster of data to come up with a single score. Companies and institutions will have no choice but to make their data available to the system. However, there won’t be much need to put pressure on Chinese companies, since there are already voluntary systems in place such as Alibaba’s Sesame Credit (with over 450 million active users), Tencent (operator of the successful Chinese messaging, social media and mobile payment app WeChat), and Baidu. China’s private internet companies have indicated that the Communist Party may use their compiled data and cutting-edge technologies because, in return, they will gain access to previously inaccessible government databases.

Looking at Sesame Credit, not only payment behavior but also “habits or preferences” and “personal networks” can influence creditworthiness. According to Li Yingyun, head of development at Sesame Credit, someone who plays video games ten hours a day is classified as a sluggish person, but those who buy diapers frequently are likely to be a parent and are therefore willing to accept a higher degree of responsibility. Ambitious gamers risk a lower score, while those who are responsible get a higher one. It’s also worthwhile to pick friends with high scores because these can help increase your score. However, if your friends have low scores, you risk losing points. If you are looking for a partner, you can advertise with a high score, because Sesame Credit cooperates with Baihe, China’s largest online dating agency. This means, however, that people with low scores will inevitably remain single.

Moral role models: Roncheng’s “civilized families” can be admired on such public display boards. (Foto: Simina Mistreanu)

Pilot operation already running
Companies are not the only ones that are already heavily collecting, processing, and evaluating data. Some three dozen Chinese cities are already experimenting with different social credit systems. For example, Rongcheng, a city of about 670,000 inhabitants on the east coast, has been operating a social credit system since 2014 regarded as a showcase project for a China-wide system. With their Honest Shanghai App, Shanghai operates another popular system, which has also implemented facial recognition. To register, the individual’s is captured with the mobile camera and compared and verified with the electronic identity card. A short time later, users get their first score. This score is updated at the end of each month. The criteria and factors used for a high or low rating are confidential. However, the system takes into account about 3,000 pieces of data per person from almost a hundred government data sources (Rob Schmitz, “What’s Your ‘Public Credit Score’? The Shanghai Government Can Tell You“, NPR.org, 03.01.2017).

Even if individual factors evaluated in the pilot projects are confidential, the Chinese social credit system generally concentrates on the evaluation of four key parameters:

  • Commercial activities: commercial activities form the basis of the system, because one of the goals of the Chinese government is to use the system to improve the trust in the commercial sector among citizens, but also between citizens and business. So if you pay your bills on time, you will have a clear advantage. Incidentally, such credit rating systems are also common in the West (for example, Schufa in Germany and FICO in the US). The Chinese, however, go one step further: those who travel without a ticket or who get into debt with spending are, in many cases, no longer allowed to travel by express train or plane. Last year alone, this penalty was imposed about 6.7 million times, according to the official figures of the Supreme Court.
  • We have had the social credit system in our village for several years now. No matter what we do, we think about our credit points. We support the village where we can. We clean a lot and sweep the public areas. Putting garbage or even grass in front of your own door is not allowed. If someone doesn’t follow these rules, they’re considered dishonest. If the village head asks for anything, we do it. Those who keep everything clean and in order are regarded as role models. — cited in Axel Dorloff, “Sozialkredit-System: China auf dem Weg in die IT-Diktatur“, Deutschlandfunk, 09.09.2017.

  • Social behavior: whether online or off, social behavior plays an important role in the assessment. With a reward and punishment mechanism, the system aims to train residents to behave positively, at least as the government sees it. In Rongcheng, whoever helps others or gets involved in city projects will, for example, get 5-10 additional points. A similar system is in place in Shanghai: those who help older inhabitants or the poor can earn additional points, too, but whether this represents moral progress remains questionable.
  • Administrative activities: the system will also simplify administrative procedures, as unauthorized requests for public assistance will result in a deduction of points. This applies in particular to the submission of petitions critical of the government. Those who criticize the Communist Party in the social media should not be surprised if they end up on the blacklist. Requests from people below a certain score will be postponed or even ignored. On the other hand, people with above-average scores already enjoy preferential treatment.
  • Criminal prosecution: law enforcement is already integrated in Rongcheng. If you run a red light, you will immediately lose 5 points; if you drive drunk or are involved in a brawl, you will immediately be blacklisted. The score serves as a kind of criminal record: the inhabitants of Rongcheng have to regularly present their score for job promotions, for membership in the Communist Party, when applying for a bank loan. Nothing happens anymore without a good score.

Rewards and punishments
The rewards and punishments for high or low scores currently vary from system to system. In Rongcheng, everyone starts with 1,000 points, which then increases or decreases depending on the behavior of the person concerned. The highest rating is AAA, which is at least 1,050 points; at the other end of the scale is D, which is fewer than 600 points. Persons with at least an A rating are on a red list, while those below are on a blacklist. Those on the red list are given preferential treatment for admissions to schools, for social benefits, or even when purchasing insurance. Those in the C Group are checked regularly and are subject to certain restrictions. This could, for example, result in the reduction of welfare payments. Those who appear in the lowest D Group no longer qualify for management positions, lose certain benefits and lose their creditworthiness. Another important aspect is the public emphasis on ethical role models or the condemnation of those who “betray trust”. Usually, names, photos, identity numbers, and in some cases even private addresses are published. The majority will hardly be bothered by this at the moment because about 90% of the inhabitants in Rongcheng have an A (Simina Mistreanu, “China Is Implementing a Massive Plan to Rank Its Citizens, and Many of Them Want In“, Foreign Policy, 03.04.2018).

At Alibaba, a score of over 600 leads to the possibility of taking out a small loan of around 5,000 yuan (around $700) when making purchases in its online shop. For scores 650 and higher, one no longer needs a deposit to rent a car, and you might enjoy the benefits of VIP treatment at certain hotels and airports. From 700 points, additional documents can be dispensed with on a trip to Shanghai, and for a person with at least 750 points, the procedure for applying for a Schengen visa is faster on the Chinese side. Currently, Sesame Credit does not yet seem to be imposing penalties (Rachel Botsman, “Big Data Meets Big Brother as China Moves to Rate Its Citizens“, Wired, 21.10.2017).

I’m being punished for issuing a credit guarantee for someone else. The loan wasn’t repaid and I was punished. When I wanted to buy a plane ticket, I couldn’t get one. As a result, I found out that I can no longer buy tickets. That was in November 2016. I can’t buy plane tickets or express train tickets. — cited in Axel Dorloff, “Sozialkredit-System: China auf dem Weg in die IT-Diktatur“, Deutschlandfunk, 09.09.2017.

Conclusion
The wide range of rewards should not deceive readers about the immense risks of this system. A totalitarian surveillance system is currently being established in China, which, depending on political needs, could quickly turn China into a huge prison. People on blacklists and with travel restrictions report that it is very difficult to be removed from these lists (also read Simina Mistreanu, “China Is Implementing a Massive Plan to Rank Its Citizens, and Many of Them Want In“).

However, the impact may not be limited to China. Even if a politically flavored social credit system is rather unlikely in democratic states, this does not mean that companies operating in democratic states do not want to adopt such a business model. Although China is the salient example of such a system, similar approaches can be seen elsewhere in the world. Companies have been assessing individual creditworthiness for a long time. For example: are you wondering why you can no longer get an Uber? Well, chances are you have a dismal passenger rating. By the way, Uber knows who among their customers has had a one-night-stand (Bradley Voytek, “Rides of Glory“, Uber Blog, 12.03.2012). The Danish company Deemly demonstrates how a “light” social credit system could also be marketed in Western countries. It evaluates the trustworthiness of individuals based on the evaluation of their activities on social platforms. In this context, the “Nosedive” episode in the “Black Mirror” series, a popular critique of technology and its social impact, seems to be right on the money. Besides, it should not be forgotten that internationally active Chinese companies such as Alibaba collect data not only from Chinese citizens but from all their customers (including geodata). With the rewards offered, customers are even voluntarily submitting their data.

More information

  • Mass Surveillance and Security on the Internet“, Offiziere.ch, February 11, 2018.
  • TorBox is an easy to use, anonymizing router based on a Raspberry Pi. TorBox creates a separate WiFi that routes the encrypted network data over the Tor network. The type of client (desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile, etc.) and which operating system is installed on the client don’t matter.
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US-Japan Military Relations Endure As Trump Wages Expanding Trade Wars

by Kimberly Westenhiser

Soldiers from the 2-2 Stryker Brigade along with Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Regiment, Japan Ground Self Defense Force, pose together after a sniper competition during Exercise

Soldiers from the 2-2 Stryker Brigade along with Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Regiment, Japan Ground Self Defense Force, pose together after a sniper competition during Exercise “Rising Thunder 18”, at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Sept. 4 (Photo: Staff Sgt. Frances Ariele Tejada).

US-Japan military relations could be bolstered as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to amend Japan’s constitution. A revision would include the explicit mention of Japan’s military, whose existence and role has been controversial since its founding in 1954. Through the duration of his career, Abe has sought to increase militarization in Japan. This comes amidst hostile trade rhetoric from President Donald Trump.

Nevertheless, military relations between Tokyo and Washington remain strong. This September members of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force and US Army went to the Yakima Training Center in Eastern Washington State for Exercise “Rising Thunder”. The annual exercise is a part of Pacific Pathways Program, which contains a number of other combined arms exercises with other US allies in the Indo-Pacific Region.

The Pacific Pathways Program is designed to increase partnership in the event of a conflict in the region. Cooperation and preparedness were points of focus during the exercise. Soldiers taking part in the exercise told me the only difficulty was the language barrier. This was leavened by thorough communication between the two, prior to and during the exercise. “Both being infantry, we actually both have a lot of the same practices and tactics,” said Capt. Randolph Rotte, a company commander with the US Army 2nd Infantry Division’s 2nd Stryker Brigade. “There are some slight differences with the language barrier and the different ways we do things, but as far as overall it’s been surprising that we operate similarly.”

A member of Japanese Ground Self Defense Force looks down at one of the urban assault courses at the Yakima Training Center in eastern Washington State, United States.

A member of Japanese Ground Self Defense Force looks down at one of the urban assault courses at the Yakima Training Center in eastern Washington State, United States.

The camaraderie between the Japanese and American troops was awkwardly juxtaposed to US-President Donald Trump’s harsh rhetoric concerning US-Japan trade relations and awkward engagement with Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. Citing the need for Japan to reimburse the US, Trump has continually attempted to apply pressure on Tokyo by threatening tariffs and potentially cutting military support.

Japan and the US have maintained strong military relations for nearly 70 years. The United States recognized Japan as a sovereign nation in 1952, with the ratification of the US-Japan Security Treaty. This granted the US the right to locate military forces on the islands, effectively placing Japan under the US military umbrella. The treaty’s successor, the Treaty for Mutual Cooperation and Security Between Japan and the United States of America, went into effect eight years later, in 1960.

This treaty offered a continuation of US military support and allowed for basing facilities within Japanese territory. It also stated that the Japanese government would be consulted prior to the US becoming involved in any armed conflict on behalf of Japan. This came with a 10-year term renewal, and today there are approximately 50,000 US military personnel stationed there. Both then and now, Japanese and American officials have regarded the presence of US forces in Japan as vital to maintaining security in the Asia-Pacific region.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Western Washington State has often had a focus on the Asia-Pacific due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Training activities there and at the Yakima Training Center regularly involves allies from the Indo-Pacific Region. This has been especially so during the ramping up of North Korea’s aggression toward the United States and China’s dispute with Japan over territorial claims.

Pacific Pathways has explicitly focused on pairing US soldiers from the Pacific region with soldiers from nations who have a strategic position on the Pacific Ocean. In the past, training exercises have involved units from Singapore, India, Canada, and others. These exercises are frequently hosted at both the Yakima Training Center and JBLM.

A Stryker unit prepares to engage in a blank-fire combined arms rehearsal with the JGSDF.

A Stryker unit prepares to engage in a blank-fire combined arms rehearsal with the JGSDF.

Troops from Japan and Canada are sometimes assigned to American units at JBLM for long-term assignments. During the two-week training exercise, the members of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and 2-2 Stryker Brigade joined the Nisei Veterans Committee (NVC) in Seattle for a luncheon. Annually, the NVC participates in “Rising Thunder” to commemorate the history of US-Japan relations and the path to becoming allies. Members of the association were invited to watch a sniper competition between the two armies.

The theme of similarities was likewise voiced during this competition, as snipers on both sides were able to compare methods and conduct. “It’s been a great experience learning with our Japanese counterparts,” said Cpl. Thomas Kyttle from the 2-2 Stryker Brigade’s 17th Infantry Regiment. “We’re both eager to learn from one another, and see the similarities and differences of how we function as Snipers.”

While trade rhetoric becomes increasingly contentious, defense ties across the Pacific appear largely unhindered. With 23 US military installations in Japan, Japan remains not only a significant treaty ally but also a strategic foothold for US operations in the Indo-Pacific Region. Even more, a recent report from the Center For Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) argued that Japan should be added to theFive Eyes” intelligence network, currently including the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

Cpl. Thomas Kyttle, from the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, engages his practice target before the start of a Sniper Competition with Soldiers from the Japan Ground Self Defense Force during Rising Thunder 18, at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Sept. 4, 2018. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Frances Ariele Tejada).

Cpl. Thomas Kyttle, from the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, engages his practice target before the start of a Sniper Competition with Soldiers from the Japan Ground Self Defense Force during Rising Thunder 18, at the Yakima Training Center, Washington, Sept. 4, 2018. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Frances Ariele Tejada).

Given Japan’s proximity to China and North Korea as well as having linguistic similarities to Korean and many languages spoken in China, Japan is in a prime position for the collection of intelligence in the Indo-Pacific. Though there have been concerns expressed by current members of the intel network. “We need to be able to make sure that, if we are in, this intelligence cooperation mechanism will remain secure,” says Dr. Narushige Michishita, a defense analyst teaching at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies. “This is a kind of weakness because we have really a shortage of power, resources, and know-how in order to make sure that the system is secure. So, in cybersecurity, Japan is very lagging behind.”

The CSIS also suggested that an increase in joint operations would mitigate unequivocal financial responsibility on either side. Cost sharing remains a key point of cooperation as Japan has paid 75 percent of operation cost for US installations, according to former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. However, there are still hurdles to this relationship. Not all Japanese approve of Tokyo’s increasingly assertive military posture. The Japanese Government recently received criticism for the addition of an aircraft carrier to its naval fleet. This was followed by recent plans to purchase 147 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters.

Many are also deeply critical of America’s robust military presence. The recent election of Governor Danny Tamaki of Okinawa, the son of a US Marine and Japanese mother, who has actively advocated against a US military presence on the island, might also have an impact on the alliance. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is also beginning to make efforts to thaw trade relations with Beijing, representing a departure from his long-standing hostility toward China.

Few factors indicate that the progress of relations with the US should become stilted. With Japan’s strategic significance to the US and its presence in the region, there has been no suggestion that joint training exercises like “Rising Thunder” won’t continue. The US-Japan military alliance serves as a key cornerstone for relations between the two countries, and with its strength, the partnership is likely to persist.

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Afghanistan: “Die Politik weigert sich, die eigenen Fehler, insbesondere das Fehlen einer Strategie der vergangenen 16 Jahre zuzugeben …”

Ein Interview mit dem deutschen Oberstarzt a. D. Dr. Reinhard Erös. Er errichtete und betreibt mit der Hilfe afghanischer Mitarbeiter und der von ihm und seiner Frau vor 15 Jahren ins Leben gerufene Familien-Initiative “Kinderhilfe Afghanistan” zahlreiche Bildungs- und medizinische Einrichtungen in Afghanistan. Das Interview wurde von Josef König, Chefredakteur von “Kompass. Soldat in Welt und Kirche“, Zeitschrift des Katholischen Militärbischofs für die deutsche Bundeswehr, durchgeführt und in der Ausgabe Juli/August-Ausgabe 2018 veröffentlicht. Die Zweitveröffentlichung geschieht mit Erlaubnis von Josef König – vielen Dank.

Dr. Reinhard und Annette Erös beim Besuch einer der 29 Schulen in fünf afghanischen Provinzen, in denen die Oberpfälzer rund 60 000 Schülerinnen und Schüler unterrichten lassen.

Dr. Reinhard und Annette Erös beim Besuch einer der 29 Schulen in fünf afghanischen Provinzen, in denen die Oberpfälzer rund 60 000 Schülerinnen und Schüler unterrichten lassen.

König: Ihr Ziel ist es, realistische Perspektiven für eine friedliche Zukunft des Landes am Hindukusch zu bieten. Welche Erfahrungen haben Sie dabei bisher im Umgang mit afghanischen staatlichen Einrichtungen und Behörden gemacht?

Erlös: Um die Frage zu beantworten, muss ich etwas ausholen. Ich kenne Afghanistan nicht erst seit 15 Jahren. Schon 1985, während des sowjetischen Besatzungskriegs (1979–1989), habe ich mich – damals im Dienstgrad Oberfeldarzt – von der Bundeswehr unbezahlt beurlauben lassen, um in Afghanistan als Arzt zu helfen. Der Krieg hatte schon nach wenigen Jahren die medizinische Infrastruktur auf dem Land zerstört und fast alle Ärzte vertrieben. Laut einem Bericht des UNO-Menschenrechtsbeauftragten Professor Felix Ermakora lag die Ärztedichte damals bei 1:250’000 Einwohner. Unterstützt von Freunden aus dem Studium – ich hatte in den 70er Jahren in Freiburg Medizin und Politologie studiert –, gründete ich zunächst eine Hilfsorganisation und sammelte Spenden.

1985 zog ich dann mit meiner Frau und unseren vier kleinen Buben aus dem “Paradies Deutschland” nach Peshawar, in die “Vorhölle” des pakistanisch-afghanischen Grenzgebiets. Dort lebten damals ca. vier Millionen afghanische Flüchtlinge, die durch hunderte Hilfsorganisationen halbwegs gut versorgt waren. Meine Frau – sie ist Lehrerin – baute dort zunächst eine Schule auf, an der afghanische Flüchtlingskinder zusammen mit unseren eigenen Kindern unterrichtet wurden. Den Einsatz von Hilfsorganisationen in Afghanistan selbst – auch zur ärztlichen Versorgung – hatten die sowjetischen Besatzer verboten. Auf ausländische Ärzte waren sogar Kopfgelder ausgesetzt. Da ich zuvor nie im Land gewesen war, Sprache und Kultur nicht kannte, musste ich Aufbau und Einsatz der von mir geplanten medizinischen “Cross-Border-Organisation” mit Führern des afghanischen Widerstands vorbereiten und organisieren. Hierbei halfen mir die als Offizier und Arzt bei der Bundeswehr erlernten Fähigkeiten.

Eröffnung der 31. Schule in Afghanistan am 01. Dezember 2018.

Eröffnung der 31. Schule in Afghanistan am 01. Dezember 2018.

Unter dem Schutz paschtunischer Freiheitskämpfer überquerte ich in den Folgejahren regelmäßig zu Fuß und bei Nacht die 4’000 Meter hohen Berge des Hindukusch, arbeitete tagsüber versteckt in zerbombten Dörfern und Höhlen und versorgte mit primitivsten Mitteln vor allem Frauen, Kinder und alte Menschen der paschtunischen Bergdörfer; immer unter dem Damoklesschwert der sowjetischen Luftwaffe. Ein Großteil meiner afghanischen Begleiter kam in diesen Jahren ums Leben. Ich erlernte die Landessprache Paschtu, habe die uns Europäern fremdartige Kultur zu verstehen und zu verinnerlichen versucht, und konnte so als einer der nur Handvoll ausländischen Ärzte das Vertrauen der Paschtunen gewinnen. Dieses Vertrauen hält bis heute an und ist ein entscheidendes Pfand beim Umgang mit afghanischen Offiziellen und beim Erfolg meiner jetzigen Arbeit in einer archaischen Welt.

Ende 1990 kehrte ich wieder nach Deutschland und zur Bundeswehr zurück. Von 1991 bis 1993 durfte ich, auch wegen meiner Erfahrungen in Afghanistan, als Kommandeur des Sanitätslehrbataillons die ersten außereuropäischen Auslandseinsätze im Iran und in Kambodscha führen. Als Dozent an der Führungsakademie 1996–1999 unterrichtete ich die angehenden Generalstabsoffiziere mit meinen Auslandserfahrungen sehr praxisnah in der Thematik “Interkulturelle Kompetenz als wesentliche Führungseigenschaft bei Auslandseinsätzen” und “Präven tion Posttraumatischer Belastungsstörungen beim Einsatz in fremden Kulturen“.

Ende 2003, zwei Jahre nach Beginn des von US-Präsident George W. Bush verkündeten “War on Terror” und der Erklärung des Bundeskanzlers Gerhard Schröder einer “uneingeschränkten Solidarität“, habe ich mich von der Bundeswehr vorzeitig pensionieren lassen, um in Afghanistan meinen “eigenen Krieg” zu führen. Einen “Krieg” an der Bildungsfront für die Kinder dieses geschundenen Landes. Dabei kommen mir meine Kontakte aus den 80er Jahren natürlich zu Gute. Seit 2003 habe ich im Paschtunen-Gebiet, in den ehemaligen Taliban-Hochburgen der Ostprovinzen, 30 Schulen für ca. 60’000 Buben und Mädchen, Computer-Ausbildungszentren, Berufsschulen für Solartechniker und Schneiderinnen, eine Universität und Mutter-Kind-Kliniken gebaut und eingerichtet. In diesen Einrichtungen finden mehr als 2’500 Afghanen und Afghaninnen Brot und Arbeit. Alle unsere Einrichtungen wurden und werden in enger Absprache und in Augenhöhe mit den Dorf- und Stammesältesten geplant, organisiert und betrieben. Ich gelte dort nicht als der “reiche Onkel” aus dem Westen, der von oben herab den “dummen” Afghanen mit Geld unsere westlichen Werte vermitteln will. Die afghanische Kultur ist Jahrtausende älter als die deutsche.

Auf sogenannten “militärischen Schutz” verzichten wir, denn diesen gibt es nicht. Unsere Sicherheit wird gewährleistet durch das Vertrauen, welches wir den Afghanen gegenüber zeigen und das wir von der Bevölkerung erfahren. Ein Vertrauen auf Gegenseitigkeit. Anders als bei den meisten Hilfsorganisationen werden unsere Projekte ausschließlich durch private Spenden, ohne öffentliche Mittel, finanziert. Die Afghanen wissen, wie mühsam ich bei inzwischen mehr als 3’000 Vorträgen und Veranstaltungen in ganz Europa Spenden akquiriere, und dass unsere Projekte z.B. von Schulklassen, Studentengruppen, Kirchengemeinden, sozialen Clubs und einfachen Leuten finanziert werden. Dies ist einer personenbezogenen Kultur wie die der Paschtunen von entscheidender Bedeutung. Ein strikter Verzicht auf Bakschisch und Korruption, persönlicher Einsatz, Sprachkenntnis und kulturadäquates Verhalten sind die entscheidenden Gründe, weshalb bislang keines unserer Projekte durch die Aufständischen bedroht oder gar zerstört wurde. Keiner unserer afghanischen Mitarbeiter kam durch die Taliban zu Schaden. “Mit Geld kannst du jeden Afghanen zwar bestechen, aber nie sein Vertrauen gewinnen”, lautet ein afghanisches Sprichwort.

König: Welche Rolle spielten und spielen Ihrer Meinung nach Wahlen in Afghanistan?

Erlös: In einer “Ranking-Liste” der für die Afghanen wesentlichen Probleme und Nöte rangiert die Bedeutung politischer Wahlen weit hinten. In Abwandlung des Wortes von Bertolt Brecht “Erst kommt das Fressen, dann die Moral” müssen Mütter und Väter täglich um das Überleben ihrer Kinder kämpfen. 40 Prozent aller Kleinkinder sind unterernährt. Zwei Drittel der Familien haben keinen Zugang zu sauberem Wasser, 60 Prozent haben aus finanziellen Gründen keinen Zugang zu ärztlicher Versorgung. Ein Großteil der Jugendlichen findet keine Arbeit. Das Durchschnittseinkommen der Väter – falls sie überhaupt Arbeit haben – liegt bei 3 Euro pro Tag.

Nach den Erfahrungen der letzten Wahlen gilt im Land der traurige Satz: “Wie gewählt wird, ist nicht wichtig. Entscheidend ist, wie ausgezählt wird.” Wahlbetrug, falsche Wahlversprechen und politische Korruption haben seit den Nationalwahlen 2005 die Masse der Afghanen zutiefst enttäuscht. Diese Enttäuschung bestimmt auch die zukünftigen Wahlen. Unsere westlichen Vorstellungen von kompetenten, uneigennützigen, dem Wohl des Landes verpflichteten Kandidaten (Parteien können nicht gewählt werden), sind vielleicht für die Intellektuellen in Kabul, vor allem aber für die wohlhabenden Afghanen und westliche Beobachter (!) von Bedeutung. Bei den über 70 Prozent Analphabeten im Land ist entscheidend, wer in ihren Gemeinden – zwei Drittel der Afghanen leben in Dörfern und Gemeinden – den Malik (Bürger- meister) stellt. Dieser muss in der Lage sein, mit persönlicher Autorität und den Machtmitteln Geld und Sicherheit die Probleme, Bedürfnisse und Nöte der Bewohner zu lösen. Den staatlichen Sicherheitskräften misstraut man zu Recht; die Polizei gilt als in weiten Teilen korrupt, die Armee erweist sich als unfähig. Sicherheit muss lokal und regional gewährleistet werden.

Die für die Bevölkerungsmehrheit entscheidenden Machtträger, die Bürgermeister in den 329 Distrikten, werden in Direktwahlen von der Shura, der männlichen Dorfgemeinschaft, nach oft tagelangen Diskussionen bestimmt. “Afghanistan ist groß und Kabul ist weit”, lautet ein weiteres typisch afghanisches Sprichwort. Wer bei den nächsten Nationalwahlen – falls diese überhaupt stattfinden – im Parlament sitzt oder Präsident wird, hat für die Mehrheit der Bevölkerung wenig bis gar keine Bedeutung. Die Sätze “Die in den Parlamenten und der Regierung in Kabul wollen sich nur bereichern, unsere Probleme interessieren dort doch niemanden. Und der Westen unterstützt und finanziert auch noch diese Verbrecher.”, höre ich regelmäßig bei meinen Besuchen im Land.

König: Noch einmal nachgefragt: Sind der Ausgang und das Ergebnis der diesjährigen Wahlen [Anmerkung offiziere.ch: fanden am 20./21.10.2018 statt] wichtig für Ihre vielfältigen Initiativen im Land?

Erlös: Nein. Wir werden unabhängig vom Ergebnis unsere bislang erfolgreiche Arbeit in enger Absprache mit den regionalen und religiösen Autoritäten fortsetzen. Für eine positive Entwicklung des Landes gilt: “Bildung, Ausbildung und fair bezahlte Jobs für möglichst Viele“. Vor 100 Jahren hat der deutsche Sozialdemokrat Karl Liebknecht den Satz formu- liert: “Wer die Jugend hat, dem gehört die Zukunft.” Für das Afghanistan von heute trifft dieser Satz in besonderer Weise zu: “Nur eine gebildete Jugend garantiert eine gute Zukunft.”

König: Irgendwie, so scheint es, ist die Situation in Afghanistan seit dem Ende des ISAF-Einsatzes aus dem Blickfeld geraten. Ein großes öffentliches Interesse kann nicht mehr so recht registriert werden – außer es finden Selbstmordanschläge in Kabul oder anderswo statt. Wie kommt es Ihrer Meinung nach zu diesem Desinteresse – wohl nicht nur in Deutschland?

Erlös: Der Analyse stimme ich zu. Die Frage sollten Sie aber unseren Politikern und Medien stellen. Die Politik weigert sich, die eigenen Fehler – insbesondere das Fehlen einer Strategie in den vergangenen 16 Jahren – zuzugeben, und die Presse stürzt sich fast ausschließlich auf das Thema Anschläge der Taliban. 2017 kamen bei deren Anschlägen 605 Zivilisten ums Leben, 1’620 wurden verletzt. Kaum berichtet wird in unseren Medien dagegen, dass sich im selben Jahr die US-geführten Luftangriffe auf 4’361 gesteigert haben, bei denen mindestens 295 Zivilisten, meist Kinder und Frauen, getötet und mehr als 600 schwer verletzt wurden. Eine saubere Analyse der Fehler und Versäumnisse – in der NATO spricht man von “Lessons Learned” – haben bislang nur die USA mit dem “Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction” (SIGAR) und Norwegen erarbeitet und vorgelegt. In Deutschland, wo jedes Jahr der Bundes- und die Landesrechnungshöfe zwar ausführlich die Mängel im Inland veröffentlichen, fehlt bis heute ein Erfahrungsbericht zu Erfolg und Misserfolg des deutschen zivilen und militärischen Engagements am Hindukusch. Die mehr als 200’000 afghanischen Flüchtlinge seit 2014 allein in Deutschland sollten ausreichend Grund und Anlass sein, diesen Missstand endlich zu beenden.

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