An article by Hüseyin Bağcı and Serdar Erdurmaz published at janus.net. Press the link to read the full article in pdf form
Press the link to read the complete book of Dr. Serdar Erdurmaz “Libya – Arap Baharının Solan Yüzü
Since the beginning of the human history Africa is always a magical place for the rest of the world. The nature, beauty and different mentality of its people always attracted outsiders. In our time although most of the continent are now considered to be modern and safe there are still some countries who could not solve their issues regarding the safety of its people and tourists. Here is a list of African countries from the very dangerous to the unsafe. The list has prepared through the warnings of US State Department.
Central African Republic
Crime, Civil Unrest, Kidnapping or Hostage Taking
Right now, violent crimes such as armed robbery, battery, and homicide are common in the country. The State Department says many areas of the Central African Republic are currently controlled by armed groups who regularly kidnap, hurt, and even kill civilians.
The State Department warns of demonstrations currently happening in the Central African Republic, and notes that even demonstrations that began peacefully have been known to escalate into violence. The crime in the middle of the country is said to be the most frequent, with armed robberies and kidnappings being commonplace.
The Department also says in the event of unrest or catastrophe, transportation and border access could be closed with little to no notice, and the U.S. government would have a difficult time assisting American citizens in need of evacuation.
Traveler Lee Abbamonte’s experiences in the Central African Republic in 2016 reflected the uneasy and chaotic state of the country. Despite being extremely well traveled, he concluded that the danger of traveling outside the capital city of Bangui is “not worth the risk.”
Crime, Terrorism, Civil Unrest, Kidnapping, Armed Conflict
The State Department is advising travelers to avoid travel to Libya due to the high threat of crime and kidnapping for ransom. The Department says the risk is especially high for Westerners and U.S. citizens.
Terrorism is also a concern in Libya. Violent extremist activity is common in the country, with groups making threats against the United States on a regular basis.Terrorists have been known to target tourist hotspots like hotels, malls, and transportation hubs. Currently, the State Department recognizes four different terrorist groups, including ISIS, as threats to American travelers in Libya.
The general civil unrest in the country is also a concern for visiting tourists. Large cities in Libya such as Tripoli and Surman have seen frequent armed conflicts and terrorist attacks.
Risk of attack on commercial transportation might be the biggest threat in Libya. Some airports in the country are closed altogether, and flights out of others have the possibility of being cancelled without notice. The FAA has even issued a “Special Federal Aviation Regulation” prohibiting certain flights in and out of Libya.
If not for the current unstable nature of the country, Libya would still be a popular tourist destination given its ancient sites and exotic landscapes. But because of the strife, many Libyan tour companies have ceased operation.
Crime, Terrorism, Kidnapping
The State Department is telling travelers to avoid Mali because of frequent troubles with violent crime such as kidnapping and armed robbery. Northern and central Mali are said to be the worst areas for these problems. Violent crime is also prevalent in the country during local holidays and seasonal events. Visitors should expect frequent interference and roadblocks as police try to address the problem.
The political instability of the country is also a cause for concern. A peace agreement in the northern area of the country in 2015 has been slow to take effect, with militia groups regularly turning to violence to exert their influence in the area.
Terrorism and kidnapping are also concerns in Mali, as attackers often target tourist areas including hotels, restaurants, clubs, and Western diplomatic missions.
In 2017, armed terrorists killed five people at a tourist resort near the capital of Bamako. Two years prior, in 2015, 170 people were held hostage at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako. Over 25 people were killed by terrorists in that takeover.
The United States also isn’t able to assist citizens who might find themselves in trouble in northern Mali, as security concerns prohibit government employees from entering the area.
Like in Libya, the FAA has issued a “Notice to Airmen” in Mali, telling civil aviation operators that they are at risk of being fired upon if they choose to fly at certain altitudes over Mali or land at Malian airports.
Crime, Terrorism, Kidnapping, Piracy
Piracy has long been associated with the country of Somalia. Pirates are active off the Horn of Africa, especially in international waters.
The U.S. State Department also warns of the risk of kidnapping and murder in Somalia, including Somaliland and Puntland, and those moving around the country should expect to see illegal roadblocks.
Terrorism is common in Somalia as well, with terrorists continuing to plan and enact kidnappings, bombings, and other attacks in high-traffic areas like airports, seaports, government buildings, hotels, restaurants, and other venues where lots of people are gathered. Westerners, including U.S. citizens, are often targeted by terrorist groups.
Schools acting as “cultural rehabilitation” centers are also operating around Somalia, and have been known to hold people against their will.
There has also been a risk of cross-border violence along the stretch of land that divides Somalia and Kenya. Large scale attacks by insurgent group al-Shabab have been known to target aid workers and civilians.
Al-Shabab has thousands of members, and the United States has carried out dozens of airstrikes in Somalia over recent years targeting the organization.
Like in Libya and Mali, the FAA has issued a “Notice to Airmen” flying civil aircraft at lower altitudes over Somalia given the high risk of terrorist and militant activity.
Travel blogger and entrepreneur Johnny Ward tells the story of his trip to Somalia, where his flight out of the country ended up being cancelled because al-Shabab was attacking the airport he was scheduled to depart from.
Crime, Terrorism, Civil Unrest, Kidnapping Armed Conflict
As of April 11, 2019, the State Department ordered the departure of all non-emergency government employees from Sudan.
There is a national state of emergency across Sudan, which gives security forces increased power and authorizes the use of force and arrest across the country. Foreigners and nationals have been detained. Security forces are able to arrest anyone they think is upsetting the public order, including protestors.
Demonstrations, rallies, roadblocks, checkpoints, and curfews are prone to occur without warning throughout Sudan.
Much of the tension comes from the standoff between the Government of the Republic of the Sudan and opposition forces. Armed opposition forces are active along the border between Chad and Sudan. Central Darfur as well as southern regions such as the Blue Nile and South Kordofan are also at high risk for militant conflict.
In 2017, a journalist recounted his dangerous experience in Darfur, saying he was kidnapped, tortured, and thrown in jail.
Terrorist groups are also active in the country, and look to target Westerners through suicide bombings, kidnappings, and shootings.
Crime, Kidnapping, Armed Conflict
The State Department is telling travelers to steer clear of South Sudan in part because of common violent crime. Carjackings, robberies, kidnappings, and other shootings are prevalent in the country, and the State Department says foreign nationals have even been victims of sexual assault and rape.
Conflict between various ethnic and political groups is ongoing throughout South Sudan, and travelers are at risk of being caught in the middle of it all. Like in Mali, the United States government has a limited ability to help American citizens in need in South Sudan, even though there is a U.S. embassy in the capital city of Juba.
It is especially dangerous for journalists to visit the country, as many have described being harassed while working in South Sudan. Some have even been killed.
Aid workers are another group at risk in South Sudan, with humanitarian efforts often targeted by armed grou
Many Countries In Africa Have Level 3 Designations
A Level 3 designation from the State Department means the U.S. government urges travelers to reconsider visiting these countries in light of safety concerns.
Countries with a Level 3 designation include:
Burkina Faso: Crime, Terrorism, Kidnapping
Burundi: Crime, Armed Conflict
Chad: Crime, Terrorism, Minefields
Comoros: Civil Unrest
Democratic Rep. of the Congo: Crime, Civil Unrest, Health Risks, Kidnapping/Hostage Taking
Guinea-Bissau: Elections, Crime, Civil Unrest
Mauritania: Crime, Terrorism
Niger: Crime, Terrorism, Kidnapping
Nigeria: Crime, Terrorism, Civil Unrest, Kidnapping, Piracy
Almost everyday we read something about how dangerous the North Koreas is and how crazy its leader Kim Jong-un. Actually in all of his published photos Kim Jong-un is smilimg very friendly and as far as we know the North Koreans love him very much. But we also hear the news that he could easily kill his relatives or some politicians without much reasoning. Until this point he is a classic dictator administrating a poor country but there is a big difference and the difference is that he has missiles and nuclear power. So is he crazy enough to start a nuclear war and is he capable of that? Here is an examination of North Korea’s nuclear power by bbc.com;
North Korea’s missile and nuclear programme
North Korea is widely believed to have missiles capable of striking long-range targets, including potentially the US mainland.
It also claims to have developed a hydrogen bomb and to be able to mount it on a missile.
Despite the thaw with South Korea and the talks with the US, there is no indication Pyongyang has scaled down its military power.
Here’s what you need to know about the North’s missile and nuclear weapons programme and its military forces.
Missiles that can reach the US
Throughout 2017, North Korea tested several missiles demonstrating the rapid advances of its military technology.
The Hwasong-12 was thought to be able to reach as far as 4,500km (2,800 miles), putting US military bases on the Pacific island of Guam well within striking distance.
Later, the Hwasong-14 demonstrated even greater potential with some studies suggesting it could travel as far as 10,000km if fired on a maximum trajectory.
This would have given Pyongyang its first truly intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), capable of reaching New York.
Eventually, the Hwasong-15 was tested, peaking at an estimated altitude of 4,500km – 10 times higher than the International Space Station.
If fired on a more conventional “flatter” trajectory, the missile could have a maximum range of some 13,000km, putting all of the continental US in range.
However, doubts remain as to whether these missiles could successfully carry and deliver a warhead for such a distance, and whether North Korea has the expertise to accurately hit a target.
In 2019, North Korea carried out a series of short-range missile tests, ramping up in July and August in what it called “warnings” to the US and South Korea over their military drills
Then in October, Pyongyang appeared to have developed a new capability when it test-fired a missile capable of being launched from a submarine.
In theory, being able to launch a nuclear-equipped missile from a submarine increases the range of North Korea’s strike capability while also making its launch platform more difficult to detect. The threat is offset by the country’s old and limited submarine fleet, which may be able to make a one-way trip to within range of Hawaii.
The apparent successes of all these tests has raised questions as to how North Korea’s missile programme has improved so rapidly. Observers believe Pyongyang may have acquired high-performance liquid-propellant engines from illicit networks in Russia and Ukraine.
On 3 September 2017 North Korea conducted by far its largest nuclear test to date, at its Punggye-ri test site.
Estimates of the device’s explosive power, or yield, ranged from 100-370 kilotons. A yield of 100 kilotons would make the test six times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
North Korea claimed this test was its first thermonuclear weapon – the most potent form of nuclear explosion where an atomic detonation is boosted by a secondary fusion process to produce a far bigger blast.
American military intelligence believes that North Korea has successfully miniaturised a nuclear warhead to fit inside a missile.
In April 2018 North Korea announced it would suspend further nuclear tests because its capabilities had been “verified”.
As part of the thaw in relations, North Korea promised to dismantle the Punggye-ri site and in May blew up some of the tunnels in the presence of foreign journalists but without any international experts present.
Pyongyang also told the US it would destroy all its nuclear material enrichment facilities – yet without a clear timetable most experts are hesitant to take the North at its word.
Millions of soldiers
North Korea has one of the largest standing armies in the world – with more than one million soldiers and estimated reserves of some five million.
Much of its equipment is old and obsolete, but its conventional forces could still inflict massive damage on South Korea in the event of war.
North Korea also has around 200,000 special forces troops which could be expected to infiltrate the South in the event of any conflict.
They could potentially exploit a semi-secret network of 20-25 large tunnels which span the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) – the border area – emerging behind South Korean and American forward lines.
A further threat comes from thousands of North Korean artillery pieces and rocket launchers deployed along the border. Their firepower could devastate South Korea, including the capital Seoul, which at a distance of less than 60km, is well within range.
Chemical weapons could also be used. In 2012 the South Korean government assessed that North Korea could have between 2,500 and 5,000 tons of chemical weapons, potentially one of the largest stockpiles on Earth.
American forces in South Korea and the wider region
The United States has had a military presence on the Korean Peninsula since the Korean War. Today, South Korea has the third highest deployment of US troops anywhere in the world.
According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) there are some 28,000 US troops stationed across South Korea including almost 9,000 air force personnel. In addition, the US has some 300 M1 Abrams tanks and armoured vehicles deployed.
Washington has also installed its controversial THAAD missile defence system at Seongju in South Korea, which would be used shoot down North Korean short and medium range missiles in the event of war.
In the wider region, Japan hosts more US forces than any other nation, with some 47,050 deployed, according to the IISS, the majority being naval personnel. It also has an aircraft carrier based in Japan.
There are also significant US forces on the US Pacific island of Guam, which is sometimes described as a “permanent aircraft carrier”.
North Korea has previously threatened to fire missiles at the waters around Guam.
Decision Making on Security Issues
By Seyfi Taşhan
In this essay, we will look at the decision making mechanism in various countries, chiefly the United States, Russia.
In the United States final decision making rests on the President himself provided his decisions are not against the US aims and traditions and interests. Which bodies contribute to the formation of security decisions and which bodies control their decisions taken? Contributor factors: Chief contributers are the National Security Council, Defense Department, State Department and other official bodies. In turn State Department, Defence Department and others are asisted by such official organizations as Armed Forces, CIA, Homeland Security Department and diplomatic missions abroad. These bodies use private organizations such as think thanks (like RAND Corp. for. Defence Department) Council of Foreign affairs, Middle East Institute as well as other regional study foundations or non-profit Organizations. Opposition parties also support and cooperate with such private organizations.
These also benefit from and train experts that provide executive power of the governments later when the opposition parties win the elections and become government themselves. Before Ronald Reagan became president his policies were developed by RAND Corporation, which was also supported by the Defence Department at the time, the hardliners that contributed to the information of policies under Reagen that caused the down fall of the SSCB.
Which boundries control the security decisions of the government? US Congress is the principal body that controls or negates President’s decision decrees and makes the defense budget. Congress itself is guided by the principals of political parties that its members belong and also by the lobby interests that support interests of war industries and regional electors, as well as foreign governments which aim at impressing the Congress for their interests. We should not forget the very important role of media in controling and/or supporting the activities of the government in a completely free manner.
During the Soviet era like many other countries that were firmly attached to political ideas, Soviet Union’s security decisions were aimed at furthering their ideological aims not only inside the union but globally. This policy had a very expensive cost for supporting Comunist Parties abroad and their revelant activities. During the Cold War, to support its idealism Russia had to enter into an arms race with the United States. This could not be maintained during the Cold War and eventually the regime collapsed. Now the Russian government’s interests are at the forefront and resist the aggressive policies of the US around the World, to resist U.S. that countinues a softer Cold War and a policy of pursuing Israel’s interests in the Middle East even at the cost of using armed forces.
Therefore, U.S.-Soviet Cold War relations still continue in a lesser mode and Russia must endure U.S embargos. Russia does not hesitate to use arms in such areas as Georgia and Ukraine, where, the aim is to support Russian interests.
Apperance of the Russian regime is democratic where there is a parliament elected by people and prime minister and the president also elected by people. However, this democratic appearance does not shadow the ultimate decision making authority of the president, unlike U.S, where there is and effectively controlling body of the decision making capacity. Currently, no one knows, if the current Russian President, who was a member of KGB is ever controlled.
Ukraine is a lovely country targeting EU membership. It has a well educated population and they can be considered very peaceful. However, following the end of Soviet Union, the country could not put things in order to become a nation of welfare. Instead Russian Federation continue to abuse Ukraine and provokes unrest in the country. They have some justifiable reasons for that, like Ukraine’s continuous stealing of gas from Russia’s gas lines but mostly Russia creates problems for the Ukraine.
Below there is a summary of conflict between Ukraine and Russian Federation published by thebalance.com
Ukraine Crisis Summary and Explanation
BY KIMBERLY AMADEO
Updated January 27, 2020
The Ukraine crisis is a power struggle between factions within Ukraine; one wants to align with the European Union and the other with Russia. As one of the founding states of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had been an important contributor to the Soviet Union’s economy between 1920–1991.1 In March of 2014, the current crisis erupted when Russian special forces occupied Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, claiming it was protecting its port access to the Black Sea.2 Ukraine had planned to develop Crimea’s natural gas reserves in two years in a partnership with U.S. companies.
If they had accomplished this, Russia would have lost one of its largest customers.
Between 2014–2018, a military conflict between Ukrainian soldiers and Russian-backed separatists continued in eastern Ukraine, and more than 10,000 people were killed.3 On November 25, 2018, Russian ships attacked and boarded three Ukrainian vessels in the Crimean port of Azov near the Black Sea. It placed a freighter to block the port, stating that Ukraine had violated Russian waters, although the two sides signed an agreement in 2003 to guarantee free passage through the strait.4
Critics at the United Nations Security Council meeting said Russia’s attack was a violation under international law. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization increased its military presence in the area.5
Explaining the Conflict
Putin’s attack responded to the February 23, 2014, overthrow of his ally Viktor Yanukovych, where the pro-West faction of Ukraine’s Parliament took over the government.6 The crisis occurred because Yanukovych mismanaged the budget and forced Ukraine to ask for financial help. It appealed to the EU, then Russia, causing political unrest. Those who wanted to be closer to the EU objected when that solution was abandoned. Russia’s military strike supported Yanukovych’s return to Kiev and closer ties to Russia.
In April 2014, Russia supported local rebels who took over city halls and police stations throughout eastern Ukraine, an area home to ethnic Russians who don’t want to be part of the EU.7 Those Russians were moved there by Joseph Stalin, who intended to strengthen the Soviet Republic’s hold on the area.
Earlier that month, NATO revealed satellite photos showing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’s eastern border.8 An EU emergency meeting added further sanctions on Russia’s oil and banking sectors, which occurred shortly after Russia sent a convoy of trucks over the border.9 They were bearing aid to Ukraine’s eastern cities, held by pro-Russian rebels. Several of those trucks entered without approval.
Ukraine had also destroyed a convoy of Russian military vehicles that were bringing arms to the rebels.10 It was the first time that Ukraine attacked Russian forces directly. A few days later, Ukraine reported that several military vehicles were near the Russian border at the Crimean port of Azov.11 It claimed that Russia was creating a second front for the rebels and wanted land access through southern Ukraine—a shorter route to Crimea.12
In July 2014, Russia built up its military force on the border.13 Since 2014, Russia has added an airborne battalion to the naval infantry brigade and doubled the number of troops to 30,000.14 It was a battle-ready force that could launch an attack into eastern Ukraine at a moment’s notice. Russia had already launched rockets across the border in support of Ukrainian rebels.
Why Ukraine Is so Important to Putin
Putin’s standoff over Ukraine boosted his popularity rating in Russia to 80%.15 To maintain this popularity, he will continue to hold onto Ukraine despite the cost. Putin knows that NATO won’t protect Ukraine since it is not a member, and that encourages him to continue to attack.
Ukraine, which provided the Soviet agricultural output, had been an important contributor to the former Soviet Union’s economy.16 It also supplied heavy industrial equipment and raw materials to industrial sites throughout the former USSR.17
Sanctions Against Russia
On July 29, 2014, the United States and the EU extended economic sanctions against Russia.18 19 They wanted to convince Putin to stop supporting those in eastern Ukraine who want to break up the country. The United States had proof that Russia supplied separatists that shot down a Malaysia Airlines commercial jet over eastern Ukraine on July 17, killing 298 people.20
The sanctions severely limit five major Russian banks’ ability to obtain medium and long-term financing from Europe. The United States also restricted technology exports to Russia’s deep-water Arctic offshore or shale oil production.9 Russia had already been ousted from the Group of Eight.21
Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, JPMorgan, Barclay’s, Deutsche Bank, and UBSBoeing are the largest investment banks doing business in Russia. Morgan Stanley announced in 2019 that it will cease operations in the country by 2020.22
United Technologies started hoarding titanium.23 In response, Russia banned imports of U.S. and European foods for one year.24 This included $300 million of U.S. poultry products.25
To head off inflation, Russia’s central bank raised interest rates.
The sanctions created a recession in Russia, and the International Monetary Fund cut its 2014 growth forecast for Russia from 1.3% to 0.2%.26 Russia is one of the emerging markets that suffered a currency meltdown in 2014.27 Forex traders abandoned these markets when the Federal Reserve began tapering its quantitative easing program, which reduced credit around the world.28 Even though Putin continues to be popular at home, these sanctions are hurting the country’s economy.
The Bottom Line
Ukraine’s desire to open its markets to the EU and to collude with U.S. companies to develop its natural gas reserves were perceived by Russia as huge threats to its economy.2930 So, in March 2014, Russia invaded and occupied Crimea.
Since then, relations between the United States and Russia have continued to deteriorate with the ongoing Ukraine conflict. Efforts to reach a diplomatic settlement have failed.
In April 2016, NATO announced its deployment of battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland to deter further Russian aggression especially in the Baltic region.
The Baltic states have become NATO and EU members since 2004. Should Russia invade the Baltics, the United States and NATO would be compelled or bound by Article 5 of the NATO treaty to retaliate. Such could escalate into a war between Russia and the United States and its NATO allies.31
Here is another summary and current situation assesment made by glastnostgone.org
For those new to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, here’s a summary.
The below two Feb 10th situation reports, show firing by Russia’s forces on Feb 9th. The explosion graphics indicate the areas hit by this fire.
1: The conflict area lies within Ukraine’s eastern Oblasts (Provinces) of Luhansk (blue) and Donetsk (yellow). These both border Russia (brown).
2: Russia-led forces occupy part of those Oblasts, including the two regional capital cities of Donetsk & Luhansk (beige).
3: From Ukraine’s southern Azov Sea coastline (bottom light blue) to the outskirts of Luhansk city in the north, the active front line stretches for around 500km.
4: Since Sept 2014, Russia-led forces in Ukraine have had total control over 409km of Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia (thick red line). Effectively, this means Russia has complete control over 409km of Ukraine’s eastern border. Much of the border area is remote & sparsely populated, making it easy for Russia to send in supplies and military forces. Along with controlling numerous Ukrainian border crossings, Russia also controls two rail lines into eastern Ukraine.
5: Since 2015, the front line has remained virtually unchanged, with each side dug in along it. Over the last few years, both sides have occupied a few small undefended villages and settlements located between the front lines, but since 2015, it has mainly been a long-range firing conflict. I say long-range, but some military positions are only a few hundred meters away from each other.
6: Inside the occupied territory, two Russia-backed, so-called republics were created: The Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) & Luhansk people’s Republic (LPR).
7: These self-proclaimed republics, haven’t published any wage expenditure accounts or explained how they could afford to pay the monthly wages of the tens of thousands of troops defending their territory. Neither have they presented any verifiable evidence as to how they acquired their vast amounts of military hardware, including hundreds of tanks.
8: After almost 6 years of daily firing along the front line and weekly live firing exercises, the Donetsk & Luhansk republics forces have never run out of ammunition. It’s safe to say they have an endless supply.
9: Previously, the DPR & LPR claimed they capture all their hardware and ammo from the Ukrainian army, but if the front lines been static for the best part of five years, they haven’t had an opportunity to capture diddly squat.
Instead of a peaceful global living there are wars and conflicts all aorund the world. Middle East is continuously a source of conflict for the last thousands of years. In Africa internal wars and unrest never ends. US being a superpower tries to impose its policies almost to all nations. Russia with its great military strength tries to establish a balance against US. So there are several reasons to spend for military defence budgets. It appeared that in 2109 global defence budget has risen and here is an article by Jonathan Marcus from bbc.com regarding the issue;
Global defence spending is on the rise in an unstable world
In 2019 global defence spending rose by some 4% over 2018 – the highest year-on-year increase in a decade.
The figures are included in this year’s Military Balance – the annual publication of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), which is to be launched later this morning at the Munich Security Conference.
Appropriately, defence spending in Europe is also on the up, reaching levels not seen since before the financial crisis – an increase of some 4.2% when compared to 2018.
This is all a reflection of a changing world and the return of state-on-state competition.
In both the US and China defence spending increased by 6.6% in 2019, though the rate of growth is accelerating in the US, while it is slowing in China.
Asia – where defence spending has been rising for some years in response to Beijing’s rise as a regional superpower – continues the trend. Overall defence spending in Asia has increased by 50% in a decade, fuelled by the region’s rising levels of GDP.
The Military Balance asserts that defence debates remain dominated by an unstable international security environment. Key elements of the rules-based international order that characterised the post-World War Two period, it says, are being challenged.
One of the best examples of this is the unravelling of the fabric of arms control agreements inherited from the Cold War. The Military Balance points to the demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, prompted by Russian breaches and a growing concern in the US about Chinese weapons in this category; Beijing was not a party to the original treaty.
The Military Balance says that observers are “looking nervously” towards both Moscow and Washington to see if the key remaining element of the arms control architecture – the New START Treaty – will be renewed. This expires in less than a year and is the only surviving agreement limiting the strategic arsenals of the two nuclear super-powers.
Growing unease about Russian behaviour is one factor driving the increase in defence spending in Nato countries. To this can be added a significant element of US pressure, with President Donald Trump rarely missing an opportunity to condemn what he sees as the freeloading of Washington’s European allies.
European spending is growing – but even in 2019 it only reached the levels observed when the financial crisis began in 2008, though the Military Balance notes that more money is slowly going into procurement, research and development.
Germany, a country much criticised by Mr Trump, is said by the IISS to account for a third of the overall rise in European defence expenditure. It calculates that German defence expenditure rose by some 9.7% between 2018 and 2019. However, Berlin still fell short of the Nato target of spending 2% of GDP on defence. The Military Balance calculates that only seven Nato members currently meet this goal: Bulgaria, Greece, Estonia, Romania, Latvia, Poland and the UK.
The Military Balance points to significant advances in military technology; systems that are now either entering service or have already made their mark. The relative ubiquity of uninhabited aerial vehicles (UAVs) used now by both state and non-state actors has prompted renewed interest in anti-UAV systems.
At the strategic level, both Russia and China appear to be in the process of deploying hypersonic glide-vehicles and hypersonic cruise missiles – super fast systems that threaten to overturn calculations about the effectiveness of missile defences.
This year’s Military Balance also points to one of the fundamental strategic problems of our day, the concern that “competitor states” are now using “strategies to achieve effect by operating below the threshold of war”.
It points to Russia’s initial move into Crimea; its denials of involvement in eastern Ukraine; its use of chemical weapons in the UK; and its alleged election meddling. It cites Iran’s activities as another example, particularly its ability to conduct warfare through third parties.
All these approaches are hard to counter with conventional military responses.
As the Military Balance concludes: “They place a premium not just on developing the right military and intelligence capabilities but on boosting the adaptability and resilience of equipment and military forces and, more broadly, of societies and political decision-making.”
There are several countries and regions of the world in which ongoing conflicts contradicts with the policies of United States of America. Here is an analysis of the conflicting areas of the world with a US view. The information has been gathered through cfg.org (council on foreign relations)
THe following condilcist signifcantly impact US interests;
- Civil War in Syria
- Political Instability in Iraq
- Islamist Militancy in Pakistan
- Political Instability in Lebanon
- Instability in Egypt
- Conflict in Ukraine
- Conflict Between Turkey and Armed Kurdish Groups
- Criminal Violance in Mexico
- ISraeli-Palestinian Conflict
- Bako Haram in Nigeria
- Conflict Between India and Pakistan
- Instability in Venezuela
There are also some conflicting areas which have limited impact on US interests
- Civil War inLibya
- War in Yemen
- Nagarno-Karabakh Conflict
- Destabilization of Mali
- Violance in the Central African Republic
- Violance in the Democratic Republic of Congo
- Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar
- Civil War in South Sudan
- Al Shabab in Somalia
Here are the details why those conflicts are related with US;
Civil War in Syria
Middle East and North Africa
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
Approximate number of U.S. troops in Syria
Estimated number of registered Syrian refugees
Estimated number of internally displaced people in Syria
In December 2018, President Donald J. Trump announced a decision to withdraw the roughly two thousand U.S. troops remaining in Syria. On January 16, 2019, an attack in Manbij claimed by the self-proclaimed Islamic State killed at least nineteen people, including four Americans. Prior to that attack, only two Americans had been killed in action in Syria since the U.S.-led campaign began. The U.S.-led international coalition continues to carry out military strikes against the Islamic State and provides support to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and internal security forces.
The pullout of U.S. troops has increased uncertainty around the role of other external parties to the conflict—including Iran, Israel, Russia, and Turkey—as well as the future of internal actors.
What began as protests against President Assad’s regime in 2011 quickly escalated into a full-scale war between the Syrian government—backed by Russia and Iran—and anti-government rebel groups—backed by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and others in the region. Three campaigns drive the conflict: coalition efforts to defeat the Islamic State, violence between the Syrian government and opposition forces, and military operations against Syrian Kurds by Turkish forces.
The Islamic State began seizing control of territory in Syria in 2013. After a series of terrorist attacks coordinated by the Islamic State across Europe in 2015, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France—with the support of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab partners—expanded their air campaign in Iraq to include Syria. Together, these nations have conducted over eleven thousand air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria, while the U.S.-led coalition has continued its support for ground operations by the SDF. Turkish troops have been involved in ground operations against the Islamic State since 2016, and have launched attacks against armed Kurdish groups in Syria. Meanwhile, at the request of the Syrian government in September 2015, Russia began launching air strikes against what it claimed were Islamic State targets, while Syrian government forces achieved several notable victories over the Islamic State, including the reclamation of Palmyra. According to the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, 98 percent of the territory formerly held by the group in Iraq and Syria, including Raqqa and Deir al-Zour, has been reclaimed by Iraqi security forces and the SDF.
With Russian and Iranian support, the Syrian government has steadily regained control of territory from opposition forces, including the opposition’s stronghold in Aleppo in 2016. The regime has been accused of using chemical weapons numerous times over the course of the conflict, resulting in international condemnation in 2013, 2017, and 2018. Opposition forces have maintained limited control in Idlib, in northwestern Syria, and on the Iraq-Syria border.
Efforts to reach a diplomatic resolution have been unsuccessful. Geneva peace talks on Syria—a UN-backed conference for facilitating a political transition led by UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura—have not been successful in reaching a political resolution, as opposition groups and Syrian regime officials struggle to find mutually acceptable terms for resolving the conflict. A new round of peace talks began in Geneva in May 2017 with an eighteen-person delegation from Syria but has since stalled. Also in 2017, peace talks initiated by Russia in Astana, Kazakhstan, with Iran, Turkey, and members of Syria’s government and armed opposition leaders resulted in a cease-fire agreement and the establishment of four de-escalation zones. However, shortly after the cease-fire was announced, attacks by Syrian government forces against rebel-held areas in the de-escalation zones resumed.
According to estimates by the United Nations, more than 400,000 people have been killed in Syria since the start of the war. The UN reports that, as of January 2019, more than 5.6 million have fled the country, and over 6 million have been internally displaced. Many refugees have fled to Jordan and Lebanon, straining already weak infrastructure and limited resources. More than 3.4 million Syrians have fled to Turkey, and many have attempted to seek refuge in Europe.
Meanwhile, external military intervention—including the provision of arms and military equipment, training, air strikes, and even troops—in support of proxies in Syria threatens to prolong the conflict. Outside actors—namely Iran, Israel, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the U.S.-led coalition—increasingly operate in proximity to one another, complicating the civil war and raising concerns over an unintended escalation. Ongoing violence and proxy conflicts could also facilitate the resurgence of terrorist groups.
Political Instability in Iraq
Middle East and North Africa
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
Estimated number of U.S. military personnel in Iraq
Estimated number of Coalition airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria
Estimated number of people that remain internally displaced
In late April 2018, the U.S. military officially disbanded the command overseeing the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq, declaring an end to major combat operations against the group. More than five thousand U.S. service members remain in Iraq as part of a train, advise, and assist mission bolstered by NATO troops, to help train the Iraqi military and stabilize the country.
A coalition of parties led by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr won a surprise victory in Iraq’s parliamentary elections in May 2018, raising questions about Iranian influence in Baghdad and the future of U.S. troops in Iraq. In October 2018, Barham Saleh was elected president of Iraq. Saleh then named Shiite politician Adel Abdul Mahdi, a former vice president and oil minister, as prime minister and charged Mahdi with forming a government. Mahdi had emerged as the consensus candidate following months of negotiations between the two largest Shiite-led factions in parliament. In addition to overseeing the reconstruction effort, Mahdi’s government faces immediate challenges in addressing protests that turned violent in the fall of 2018, particularly in the southern city of Basra.
In 2014, the Islamic State advanced into Iraq from Syria and took over parts of Anbar province, eventually expanding control in the northern part of the country and capturing Mosul in June 2014. Former President Barack Obama authorized targeted air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, and the United States formed an international coalition that now includes nearly eighty countries to counter the Islamic State. Regional forces—including as many as thirty thousand Iranian troops—joined the Iraqi army, local tribes, and the Kurdish Peshmerga in operations to begin retaking territory from the group, eventually recapturing Tikrit in April 2015, Ramadi in December 2015, Fallujah in June 2016, and Mosul in July 2017. The Iraqi government declared victory over the Islamic State in December 2017.
The fight to dislodge the Islamic State was exacerbated by underlying sectarian tensions in Iraq among Sunni and Shiite groups, as well as tensions between Kurdish groups in the north and the government in Baghdad, which intensified after the U.S. invasion in 2003 and the fall of Saddam Hussein. These tensions now threaten the stability of the new Iraqi government as it looks to rebuild the country and prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State.
Iraq faces significant challenges in its recovery from the war against the Islamic State. More than two million people remain internally displaced and nearly nine million remain in need of humanitarian assistance following the nearly four-year long war, and reconstruction is projected to cost at least $88 billion. In addition to reintegrating liberated Sunni communities into the political system, the new government must also deal with the demobilization and integration of powerful Shiite militias that formed during the fight against the Islamic State into the Iraqi security forces, as well as ongoing tensions with Kurdish groups pressing for greater autonomy in the north following a failed independence referendum in October 2017.
After leading an international coalition to regain territory taken by the Islamic State, the United States has an interest in preventing a resurgence of the militant group and supporting a stable government in Iraq. There remains a larger concern that the aftermath of the conflict and challenges of reconstruction and reintegration will lead to the breakup of Iraq and that sectarian tension will plague the region for years to come, possibly expanding into a proxy conflict among various international groups. Additionally, there are concerns that the Islamic State, having lost control of territory in Iraq and Syria, may revert to its insurgency roots and refocus on orchestrating terrorist attacks.
Islamist Militancy in Pakistan
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
Estimated number of nuclear weapons in Pakistan
Estimated number of people killed by U.S. drones
U.S. foreign aid in 2018
Pakistan continues to face significant threats to its internal security from factions of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militant groups, including an affiliate of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Although attacks have slowed in recent years, the TTP and sectarian militant groups continue to target security forces and civilians.
In June 2018, the leader of the TTP, Mullah Fazlullah, was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan; Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud was named the new leader of the umbrella organization days later.
In July 2018, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan was elected prime minister in Pakistan’s national elections. Khan received criticism for embracing controversial blasphemy laws, an issue pushed to the forefront of the election by the participation of several banned militant groups—including one led by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, a designated global terrorist—operating as political parties to contest seats. The TTP targeted campaign rallies and polling places in the lead-up to the elections, including an attack in Mastung in July 2018 that killed more than one hundred forty people and wounded nearly two hundred others.
After former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s efforts to negotiate a peace agreement with the TTP unraveled and militants attacked an international airport in Karachi, the government launched an offensive in June 2014 against militant strongholds in North Waziristan.
The TTP responded to the offensive with several attacks, including a December 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar that killed nearly one hundred fifty people, mostly schoolchildren, in the deadliest terrorist attack in Pakistan’s history.
In response, Pakistani political parties agreed on a comprehensive National Action Plan to combat terrorism and extremist ideology across the country, and Sharif lifted a death penalty moratorium to allow the execution of convicted terrorists. After nearly two years, in June 2016 the Pakistani military declared that the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) had been cleared of militants. Nearly five hundred Pakistani soldiers died in the clearing operations, which killed roughly 3,500 militants.
Despite the government’s declaration of success and a decline in frequency of attacks in recent years, the TTP and other militants continue to operate and carry out major attacks. These include a March 2016 suicide bombing in a park in Lahore that targeted families celebrating Easter, killing almost seventy people and wounding over three hundred, and an August 2016 suicide bombing of a hospital in Quetta that targeted a gathering of lawyers, killing nearly seventy-five people and injuring at least one hundred.
The military, which has historically been dominant over civilian governments, is believed to still be providing support to the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other militant proxy groups that often collaborate with the TTP.
2018 brought a shift in the security relationship between the United States and Pakistan, as the Donald J. Trump administration moved to suspend security assistance to Pakistan over a perceived continuing unwillingness to target militants who receive sanctuary in Pakistani territory and carry out attacks in Afghanistan. More than $800 million in security assistance was suspended or redirected in 2018, and the United States has cut off access for Pakistani military officers to U.S. military training and education programs, in an effort to pressure the Pakistani government to change policy. The shift comes as international pressure on Pakistan to tackle militancy and terrorism grows; in June 2018 the Financial Action Task Force placed Pakistan on the so-called “grey list” of countries not doing enough to stop money laundering and terrorist financing.
Attacks claimed by the Islamic State have raised concerns over its growing presence and influence in Pakistan. Many of the militants fighting under the Islamic State’s banner in Afghanistan are believed to be former TTP militants who fled across the border, a phenomenon that has raised fears of an Islamic State-inspired campaign of violence inside Pakistan.
The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan could increase regional instability by allowing militants from Pakistan to establish a safe haven in Afghanistan. Additionally, acute instability in Pakistan has security implications for neighboring countries Afghanistan and India. The TTP is closely allied with the Afghan Taliban in its battle against Afghan troops, and India fears that anti-state and state-sponsored Pakistani militants could carry out cross-border terrorist attacks. Moreover, the vulnerability of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal to attack or theft by nonstate actors remains a major concern for U.S. and Indian policymakers.
Political Instability in Lebanon
Middle East and North Africa
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
Estimated number of refugees
U.S. foreign aid
Estimated number of UN peacekeepers
In May 2018, Lebanon held its first parliamentary elections in nine years and Hezbollah—a Shiite political party and militant organization backed by Iran and designated by the United States as a terrorist group—increased its share of seats to 53 percent. Despite elections having taken place months earlier, Lebanese politicians were not able to break political gridlock and form a unity government until January 2019.
Tensions between Israel and Lebanon recently increased after the discovery of tunnels, allegedly dug by Hezbollah, leading from Lebanon into Israel. Israel launched Operation Northern Shield in December 2018 in response to the discovery, and the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon confirmed that at least two of the tunnels violate a 2006 cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hezbollah.
After gaining independence in 1943, Lebanon’s new political leaders created a system of governance that would allow for the proportional representation of the country’s three major religious groups: Maronite Christians (represented by the president), Shiite Muslims (represented by the speaker of parliament), and Sunni Muslims (represented by the prime minister). However, unresolved sectarian differences eventually devolved into a civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990, in which both Israeli and Syrian forces intervened—and more than one hundred thousand people died. Syrian forces withdrew from Lebanon in 2005 following the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, but a war between Israel and Hezbollah quickly followed in 2006.
In the last decade, sectarian tensions between Hezbollah and Sunni groups have increased—as has political gridlock. In addition to a two and a half year leadership gap from 2014 to 2016, Lebanon did not hold parliamentary elections for nine years. Furthermore, Lebanese politics have become a proxy battleground for Iran, which provides support for Hezbollah; and Saudi Arabia, which supports Prime Minister Saad Hariri and other Sunni politicians. In November 2017, during his visit to the kingdom, Saudi Arabia seemingly held Hariri under house arrest and forced him to resign from office amid Saudi concerns that Hariri was not doing enough to counter Hezbollah’s influence. Hariri eventually returned to Lebanon—and to office—but tensions between political parties persist.
Lebanon’s economy has struggled as well, partly because of political gridlock, but also because of spillover from the Syrian civil war. In addition to hosting more than 1.5 million refugees (nearly one million of whom are Syrian), the eight-year conflict in Syria has affected cross-border trade and dampened Lebanon’s tourism industry. Lebanon has the world’s third-highest ratio of debt to gross domestic product and may face economic and monetary crises.
Despite Lebanon’s dissociation policy, Hezbollah’s armed component has also been involved in the Syrian civil war, which has exacerbated ongoing tensions between Hezbollah and Israel along the shared (and disputed) Israel-Lebanon border and has led to increasingly hostile rhetorical exchanges between Hezbollah and Israel over Israeli air strikes in Syria. Hezbollah has allegedly supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the start of the Syrian war.
Lebanon has traditionally been a strong U.S. partner in the Middle East. However, security risks, including weak governance, a shaky economy, destabilizing spillover from the Syrian civil war, and the increasing tension between Israel and Hezbollah, have alarmed U.S. policymakers, as well as leaders of partner states in Europe and the Persian Gulf. U.S. policymakers remain focused on mitigating the instability in Lebanon in order to find a diplomatic solution to the Syrian civil war and to prevent the growing influence of Iran in the region.
Instability in Egypt
Middle East and North Africa
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
Estimated total youth unemployment
Estimated number of Islamic State fighters in Egypt
U.S. foreign aid in 2019
In February 2018, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi ordered the Egyptian military to defeat the militant group Wilayat Sinai, a local affiliate of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The military subsequently announced the launch of wide-ranging counterterrorism measures in the Sinai Peninsula and parts of the Nile Delta and Western Desert. Operations have included the demolition of homes, commercial buildings, and farms, resulting in the displacement of thousands. The military stated in February 2019 that it has killed more than five hundred and fifty militants since operations began in 2018.
After orchestrating the arrests of his primary challenger and dozens of critics, Sisi was re-elected for a second term in March 2018. Sisi has since pushed through new laws to combat extremism, including one in August 2018 that increased government control over the internet, and has consistently extended Egypt’s state of emergency, which was first declared in April 2017 following terrorist attacks on Coptic churches. In February 2019, a proposal to extend Sisi’s presidency and expand his power was put before Egypt’s parliament; despite allegations of bribery, the proposal was approved in a referendum later that month, allowing Sisi to extend his term and run again in 2024.
Wilayat Sinai (formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis) emerged as a terrorist organization in the Sinai Peninsula following the popular uprising and subsequent overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Mubarak’s successor, the democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi, was also ousted from power by the military in July 2013 following widespread anti-Muslim Brotherhood protests. After a year-long interim government, former Defense Minister Abdel Fatah al-Sisi was elected president in May 2014 and vowed to continue crackdowns against the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters.
In November 2014, Wilayat Sinai declared its allegiance to the Islamic State. The group has since claimed responsibility for numerous attacks, including the November 2017 attack on a mosque that killed more than three hundred people, the April 2017 attack on Coptic churches in Tanta and Alexandria that killed at least forty-four people, the December 2016 attack on at a Coptic chapel in Cairo that killed at least twenty-five people, and the October 2015 downing of a Russian airplane that killed all 224 people aboard. Wilayat Sinai has also carried out attacks on Egyptian military and government sites near Egypt’s border with Gaza and Israel, prompting security cooperation between Egypt and Israel.
Egypt also faces a burgeoning terrorist threat in its western desert where al-Qaeda affiliate, Ansar al-Islam, has begun operating. The group orchestrated an attack on Egyptian security forces in October 2017 and has since operated along Egypt’s border with Libya.
Since assuming office in 2014, Sisi has enacted economic reforms to improve the flagging economy, and counterterrorism laws to combat the threat of insurgency. Critics of Sisi have warned that his government has marginalized poor communities, repressed free speech, and infringed on human rights.
The United States remains concerned that Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Western Desert could become sanctuaries for the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. Terrorist groups could also contribute to political instability in Egypt, which remains a key regional ally for the U.S. military, further destabilize Libya, and threaten Israel.
Conflict in Ukraine
Europe and Eurasia
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
MORE THAN 10,000
Estimated number of civilian casualties
Estimated number of internally displaced people
Length of front line
The conflict in eastern Ukraine has transitioned to a stalemate after it first erupted in early 2014, but shelling and skirmishes still occur regularly, including an escalation in violence in the spring of 2018.
Since taking office, the Donald J. Trump administration has continued to pressure Russia over its involvement eastern Ukraine. In January 2018, the United States imposed new sanctions on twenty-one individuals and nine companies linked to the conflict. In March 2018, the State Department approved the sale of anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, the first sale of lethal weaponry since the conflict began, and in July 2018 the Department of Defense announced an additional $200 million in defensive aid to Ukraine, bringing the total amount of aid provided since 2014 to $1 billion.
In October 2018, Ukraine joined the United States and seven other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries in a series of large-scale air exercises in western Ukraine. The exercises came after Russia held its annual military exercises in September 2018, the largest since the fall of the Soviet Union.
The crisis in Ukraine began with protests in the capital city of Kiev in November 2013 against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to reject a deal for greater economic integration with the European Union. After a violent crackdown by state security forces unintentionally drew an even greater number of protesters and escalated the conflict, President Yanukovych fled the country in February 2014.
In March 2014, Russian troops took control of Ukraine’s Crimean region, before formally annexing the peninsula after Crimeans voted to join the Russian Federation in a disputed local referendum. Russian President Vladimir Putin cited the need to protect the rights of Russian citizens and Russian speakers in Crimea and southeast Ukraine. The crisis heightened ethnic divisions, and two months later pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine held a referendum to declare independence from Ukraine.
Violence in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatist forces and the Ukrainian military has by conservative estimates killed more than 10,300 people and injured nearly 24,000 since April 2014. Although Moscow has denied its involvement, Ukraine and NATO have reported the buildup of Russian troops and military equipment near Donetsk and Russian cross-border shelling.
In July 2014, the situation in Ukraine escalated into an international crisis and put the United States and the European Union (EU) at odds with Russia when a Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down over Ukrainian airspace, killing all 298 onboard. Dutch air accident investigators concluded in October 2015 that the plane had been downed by a Russian-built surface-to-air missile. In September 2016, investigators said that the missile system was provided by Russia, determining it was moved into eastern Ukraine and then back to Russian territory following the downing of the airplane.
Since February 2015, France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine have attempted to broker a cessation in violence through the Minsk Accords. The agreement includes provisions for a cease-fire, withdrawal of heavy weaponry, and full Ukrainian government control throughout the conflict zone. However, efforts to reach a diplomatic settlement and satisfactory resolution have been unsuccessful.
In April 2016, NATO announced that the alliance would deploy four battalions to Eastern Europe, rotating troops through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland to deter possible future Russian aggression elsewhere in Europe, particularly in the Baltics. These battalions were joined by two U.S. Army tank brigades, deployed to Poland in September 2017 to further bolster the alliance’s deterrence presence.
Ukraine has been the target of a number of cyberattacks since the conflict started in 2014. In December 2015, more than 225,000 people lost power across Ukraine in an attack, and in December 2016 parts of Kiev experienced another power blackout following a similar attack targeting a Ukrainian utility company. In June 2017, government and business computer systems in Ukraine were hit by the NotPetya cyberattack; the crippling attack, attributed to Russia, spread to computer systems worldwide and caused billions of dollars in damages.
The conflict in Ukraine risks further deterioration of U.S.-Russia relations and greater escalation if Russia expands its presence in Ukraine or into NATO countries. Russia’s actions have raised wider concerns about its intentions elsewhere in Eastern Europe, and a Russian incursion into a NATO country would solicit a response from the United States as a NATO ally. The conflict has heightened tensions in Russia’s relations with both the United States and Europe, complicating the prospects for cooperation elsewhere including on issues of terrorism, arms control, and a political solution in Syria.
Conflict Between Turkey and Armed Kurdish Groups
Middle East and North Africa
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
Estimated number of Kurds in Turkey
KURDISTAN WORKERS PARTY (PKK)
Main group involved
Number of years since the insurgency began
The Turkish military regularly targets Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) bases in Iraq and in 2018, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he would launch a formal operation against Kurds in Iraq. The Iraqi government has issued formal complaints against Turkish incursions into its sovereign territory. In January 2019, the Turkish government claimed that separatist Kurdish militants tied to the PKK conducted an attack on a Turkish army base in northern Iraq that resulted in damage to military equipment and no casualties.
After U.S. President Donald J. Trump announced in December 2018 that the United States would begin withdrawing troops from Syria, Syrian Kurds, who have largely fought as members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), expressed concerns that Turkey would increase its attacks against them. Ilham Ahmed, the leader of the Syrian Kurds’ largest political organization, asked western governments to create an international observer force along the Syria-Turkey border. In January 2019, Trump threatened to sanction Turkey should the Turkish military attack U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria and U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton indicated that the United States would continue to seek reassurances from Erdogan that the Syrian Kurds would not be attacked. As the Syrian civil war winds down, Erdogan and Trump have continued to discuss options for establishing a safe zone and whether the United States will retrieve the weapons it provided to the Syrian Kurds.
Approximately thirty million Kurds live in the Middle East—primarily in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey—and the Kurds comprise nearly one-fifth of Turkey’s population of seventy-nine million. The PKK, established by Abdullah Ocalan in 1978, has waged an insurgency since 1984 against Turkish authorities for greater cultural and political rights, primarily with the objective of establishing an independent Kurdish state. The ongoing conflict has resulted in nearly forty thousand deaths.
Under the Erdogan regime, popular discontent has steadily increased, as seen in the June 2013 Gezi park protests and a July 2016 coup attempt, but tensions have also risen between Turkish authorities and Kurdish groups. In particular, the PKK, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) (a left-wing pro-Kurdish party), and the People’s Protection Unit (YPG) (the armed wing of the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) with ties to the PKK) have increasingly agitated against the government, conducting numerous attacks against Turkish authorities in the southeast.
In July 2015, a two-year cease-fire between Turkey’s government and the PKK collapsed following a suicide bombing by suspected self-proclaimed Islamic State militants that killed nearly thirty Kurds near the Syrian border. Shortly thereafter, in October 2015, Turkey’s deadliest attack occurred at a peace rally in Ankara; Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK)—an offshoot of the PKK—claimed responsibility. Following the coup attempt in July 2016, Erdogan cracked down on suspected coup conspirators, arrested an estimated fifty thousand people, and increased air strikes on PKK militants in southeastern Turkey. He also began conducting military operations in Syria against the YPG and the self-declared Islamic State.
Beyond Turkey, Syrian Kurdish fighters have been combating the Islamic State, largely as part of the SDF—an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters backed by the United States—and have created a semi-autonomous region in Northern Syria. In September 2014, PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan called for the Kurds to start an “all-out resistance” in the fight against the Islamic State; later that month, the Kurdish-controlled town of Kobani was besieged and eventually captured, resulting in the exodus of tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds to Turkey. The ensuing battle for Kobani resulted in more than 1,600 deaths, but the Kurdish-led SDF forces eventually regained control of the city in January 2015. The SDF also liberated the strategic Syrian city of Manbij from the Islamic State in August 2016, though YPG forces (part of the SDF coalition) clashed with Turkish-backed rebels attempting to gain control.
After the YPG and SDF consolidated control over territory captured from the Islamic State in northern Syria, Turkey and Turkish-backed Syrian militias, including the Free Syrian Army (FSA), moved to recapture cities and expel the Kurds. Turkish troops and the FSA launched an assault on the city of Afrin in January 2018, eventually capturing the city in March 2018. Turkey continues to threaten assaults on other Kurdish-held areas inside Syria, including Manbij, and despite sharing a common enemy, many of Turkey’s air strikes have targeted Kurdish fighters rather than Islamic State militants.
The alliance of Kurdish fighters has also converged in Iraq, where the Islamic State had advanced toward the autonomous Kurdish region in the northern part of the country. The Peshmerga—armed fighters who protect Iraqi Kurdistan—have joined with Iraqi security forces and received arms and financial assistance from the United States.
If the Kurds do succeed in establishing an independent state in Syria amid the chaos gripping the region, it could accelerate secessionist movements in other Kurdish areas of the Middle East. Heightened terrorist activity by Kurdish separatists is also a growing concern for the United States— and its allies—which designated the PKK a foreign terrorist organization in 1997.
U.S.-Turkey relations have faltered since Erdogan renewed calls for the extradition of Fethullah Gülen—a Turkish political and religious leader in self-imposed exile in the United States—whom Erdogan believes to be an organizer of the July 2016 coup. Relations have also suffered because of the United States’ close relationship with Kurdish groups—the United States continues to supply arms to Peshmerga troops fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and has provided arms to the Syrian YPG—and the increasingly close relationship between Russia and Turkey.
Criminal Violence in Mexico
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
U.S. foreign aid
MORE THAN 200
Drug trafficking cells
Estimated number of deaths since 2006 due to organized criminal violence
Mexican law enforcement and the military have struggled to curb crime-related violence. In 2018, the number of drug-related homicides in Mexico rose to 33,341, a 15 percent increase from the previous year—and a record high. Moreover, Mexican cartels killed at least 130 candidates and politicians in the lead-up to Mexico’s 2018 presidential elections.
While on the campaign trail, then-candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (often referred to as AMLO) proposed several strategies to combat crime-related violence. After winning the election and assuming office in December 2018, AMLO announced the creation of a new National Guard (a hybrid civilian police and military force) to fight cartels.
In the 1980s, Mexico’s crime groups and drug traffickers became organized, assigning distinct regional areas of control for each group and establishing networks and trafficking routes. However, as production and distribution increased, the groups began fighting for territorial control and access to markets, leading to an increase in violence across Mexico.
The Mexican government officially declared war on criminal organizations in 2006, when former President Felipe Calderon launched an initiative to combat cartels using military force. In 2012, President Enrique Peña Nieto revised the Calderon government’s strategy, shifting efforts away from violent exchanges and toward improving law enforcement capacity and supporting public safety.
However, after the Sinaloa Cartel’s Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was arrested in 2014, re-arrested in 2016, and finally extradited to the United States in 2017, a power vacuum was created within the Sinaloa Cartel, resulting in an accompanying increase in violence between rival factions seeking new territory and influence. Moreover, despite an initial decrease in homicides following Peña Nieto’s reforms, Mexico continued to struggle with corruption and crime-related violence. By 2016, drug-related homicides had increased by 22 percent, with more than twenty thousand killed, and in 2017 a mass grave containing the remains of more than 250 victims of crime-related violence was uncovered in Veracruz State. Since 2006, crime-related violence has resulted in an estimated 150,000 deaths.
Recognizing widespread assertions that the use of military force has only increased the level of crime-related violence in Mexico—and accusations that the military has committed human rights abuses and carried out extrajudicial killings—then–presidential candidate AMLO promised on his campaign trail to revolutionize the fight against cartels and revert to a civilian-led police force.
In 2007, the George W. Bush administration and Calderon government launched the Merida Initiative to improve U.S.-Mexico cooperation on security and rule of law issues in Mexico, and support for the initiative has continued under the Donald J. Trump administration. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Mexican cartels represent the greatest drug-related threat, supplying heroin, marijuana, methamphetamines, and other drugs, to the United States. Criminal and drug trafficking organizations threaten to undermine the strength and legitimacy of the Mexican government, an important U.S. regional partner, as well as harm civilian populations in both countries.
Middle East and North Africa
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
New units in West Bank settlements announced in 2017
Unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip
Estimated number of deaths during the fifty-day war of June/July 2014
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip conducted weekly demonstrations between March 30 and May 15, 2018, at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. The final protest coincided with the seventieth anniversary of the Nakba, the Palestinian exodus that accompanied Israeli independence, as well as the relocation of the U.S. embassy to the contested city of Jerusalem. While most of the protesters were peaceful, some stormed the perimeter fence and threw rocks and other objects. According to the United Nations, 183 demonstrators were killed and over 6,000 wounded by live ammunition.
Also in May, fighting broke out between Hamas and the Israeli military in what became the worst period of violence since 2014. Before both sides reached a cease-fire, militants in Gaza fired over one hundred rockets into Israel and Israel responded with strikes on more than fifty targets in Gaza during the twenty-four–hour flare-up.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict dates back to the end of the nineteenth century, primarily as a conflict over territory. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the Holy Land was divided into three parts: the State of Israel, the West Bank (of the Jordan River), and the Gaza Strip. Successive wars resulted in minor shifts of territory until the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, when Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel because of Israel’s occupation of the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. The conflict was calmed by the Camp David Accords in 1979, which bound Egypt and Israel in a peace treaty.
Yet once the wars over territory were over, a surge in violence and uprisings among the Palestinians began. The first intifada, in 1987, was an uprising comprising hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The 1993 Oslo Accords mediated the conflict, setting up a framework for the Palestinians to govern themselves and establishing relations between the newly established Palestinian Authority and Israel’s government. In 2000, inspired by continuing Palestinian grievances, the second intifada began and was much bloodier than the first. After a wave of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in 2015, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that Palestinians would no longer be bound by the Oslo Accords.
In 2013, the United States attempted to revive the peace process between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. However, peace talks were disrupted when the Fatah—the Palestinian Authority’s ruling party—formed a unity government with its rival faction, Hamas, in 2014. The rivals’ reconciliation process has proceeded haltingly since, with the two signing an additional agreement in October 2017.
Since taking office, the Donald J. Trump administration has made achieving an Israeli-Palestinian deal a priority, but has yet to release its long-awaited proposal for a peace process. Trump’s decision to relocate the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, reversing longstanding U.S. policy, was met with applause among the Israeli leadership but condemned by Palestinian leaders and others in the Middle East and Europe. Israel considers the “complete and united Jerusalem” its capital, but Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for the capital of their future state.
Prior to the most recent wave of clashes between Israelis and Palestinians, there had been many outbreaks of violence and instability. In the summer of 2014, clashes in the Palestinian territories precipitated a military confrontation between the Israeli military and Hamas in which Hamas fired nearly three thousand rockets at Israel and Israel retaliated with a major offensive in Gaza. The skirmish ended in late August 2014 with a cease-fire deal brokered by Egypt, but only after 73 Israelis and 2,251 Palestinians were killed.
There is concern that a third intifada could break out and that renewed tensions will escalate into large-scale violence. The United States has an interest in protecting the security of its long-term ally Israel and achieving a lasting deal between Israel and the Palestinian territories, which would improve regional security.
Boko Haram in Nigeria
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
MORE THAN 37,500
Number of people killed since May 2011
Estimated number of displaced people in the Lake Chad Basin
Estimated number of Nigerian refugees
After a peak in Boko Haram–related violence in 2014 and 2015, the number of casualties attributed to the group fell dramatically. The Nigerian military—with assistance from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger—has pushed Boko Haram out of several provinces in northeastern Nigeria, but the group retains control over some villages and pockets of territory and continues to launch deadly suicide attacks and abduct civilians, mostly women and children. In February 2018, more than one hundred students were kidnapped by a faction of Boko Haram known as Islamic State West Africa. They were released a little more than a month later.
The conflict has been primarily contained in the Muslim north, particularly in Borno state, but has displaced millions of people in the region. In June 2018, the Nigerian Army announced that two thousand internally displaced people were to return home. Security forces combatting the militants have also been accused of severe human rights abuses.
Nigeria’s ongoing battle with insurgent groups and continued government corruption threaten the stability and political integrity of Africa’s most populous state. Since 2011, Boko Haram—one of the largest Islamist militant groups in Africa—has conducted terrorist attacks on religious and political groups, local police, and the military, as well as indiscriminately attacking civilians in busy markets and villages. The kidnapping of over two hundred girls from their school in April 2014 drew international attention to the ongoing threat from Boko Haram and the government’s inability to contain it. Following negotiations between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government, brokered by the International Committee for the Red Cross, 103 girls have since been released.
President Muhammadu Buhari, the former military dictator who defeated incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, was elected in 2015 on a counterterrorism platform, but economic and political challenges in Nigeria have complicated the fight against Boko Haram. In addition to the military conflict, continuing uneven distribution of oil revenue, high levels of corruption, and violence in the Middle Belt region pose significant challenges to Nigerian security.
Links between Boko Haram and other Islamist groups could further intensify regional security concerns. After the group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in March 2015, the United States boosted its military assistance and deployed three hundred troops to Nigeria in an effort to help in the fight against Boko Haram. As the largest African oil producer, the stability of Nigeria is important to regional security and U.S. economic interests.
Conflict Between India and Pakistan
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
118,930 SQUARE MILES
Total disputed territory
Length of Line of Control
Number of disputed territories
With continued violence in Kashmir and a heightened threat of terrorist activity by Pakistan-based militant groups, tensions and concerns over a serious military confrontation between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan remain high. In August 2019, following a deployment of tens of thousands of additional troops and paramilitary forces to the region, the Indian government moved to revoke Article 370 of the Indian constitution, removing the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. India-administered Kashmir remains under lockdown, with internet and phone services intermittently cutoff and thousands of people detained.
In February 2019, an attack on a convoy of Indian paramilitary forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed at least forty soldiers. The attack, claimed by Pakistani militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad, was the deadliest attack in Kashmir in three decades. Two weeks later, India claimed to have conducted air strikes targeting a terrorist training camp inside Pakistani territory. Pakistan retaliated a day later with air strikes in Indian-administered Kashmir. The exchange escalated into an aerial engagement, during which Pakistan shot down two Indian military aircraft and captured an Indian pilot; the pilot was released two days later.
Territorial disputes over the Kashmir region sparked two of the three major Indo-Pakistani wars in 1947 and 1965, and a limited war in 1999. Although both countries have maintained a fragile cease-fire since 2003, they regularly exchange fire across the contested border, known as the Line of Control. Both sides accuse the other of violating the cease-fire and claim to be shooting in response to attacks. An uptick in border skirmishes that began in late 2016 and continued into 2018 killed dozens and displaced thousands of civilians on both sides of the Line of Control.
In 2014, after India’s then newly elected Prime Minister Modi invited then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend his inauguration, there were hopes that Modi’s government would pursue meaningful peace negotiations with Pakistan. However, after a brief period of optimism, relations turned sour once more when India canceled talks with Pakistan’s foreign minister in August 2014 after the Pakistani high commissioner in India met with Kashmiri separatist leaders. A series of openings continued throughout 2015, including an unscheduled December meeting on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. This led to a meeting between national security advisors in Bangkok a few days later, where the Kashmir dispute was discussed. Later in December, Prime Minister Modi made a surprise visit to Lahore to meet with Prime Minister Sharif, the first visit of an Indian leader to Pakistan in more than a decade.
Momentum toward meaningful talks came to an end in September 2016, when armed militants attacked a remote Indian Army base in Uri, near the Line of Control, killing eighteen Indian soldiers in the deadliest attack on the Indian armed forces in decades. Indian officials accused Jaish-e-Mohammad, a group with alleged ties to the Inter-Services Intelligence—Pakistan’s main intelligence agency—of being behind the attack. Later in September 2016, the Indian military announced it had carried out “surgical strikes” on terrorist camps inside Pakistani-controlled territory across the Line of Control, while the Pakistani military denied that any such operation had taken place.
Militants launched attacks in October 2017, against an Indian paramilitary camp near Srinagar, and in February 2018, against an Indian army base in the Jammu region, which killed five soldiers and a civilian. These attacks came amidst a period of increased cross-border shelling along the Line of Control, with more than three thousand reported violations in 2017 and nearly one thousand in the first half of 2018. Violent demonstrations and anti-India protests calling for an independent Kashmir also continued; over three hundred people including civilians, Indian security forces, and militants were killed in attacks and clashes in 2017. After months of Indian military operations targeting both Kashmiri militants and demonstrations, India announced in May 2018 that it would observe a cease-fire in Kashmir during the month of Ramadan for the first time in nearly two decades; operations resumed in June 2018. In May 2018, India and Pakistan agreed to a cease-fire along the disputed Kashmir border that would restore the terms of their 2003 agreement.
The diversion of jihadi fighters and proxy groups from Afghanistan to Kashmir threatens to further increase violence along the border. If another Mumbai 2008-style attack, where Lashkar-e-Taiba fighters rampaged through the city for four days, killing 164 people, were carried out by Pakistan’s militant proxies, it could trigger a severe military confrontation between the two nuclear-armed states.
The United States has identified South Asia as an epicenter of terrorism and religious extremism and therefore has an interest in ensuring regional stability, preventing nuclear weapons proliferation, and minimizing the potential of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.
Instability in Venezuela
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
Estimated number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela
Percentage of population in need of assistance
2019 projected inflation rate, average consumer prices
Venezuela is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. Thousands of people flee the country every day, mostly on foot. In April 2019, after years of denying the existence of a humanitarian crisis and refusing to allow foreign aid to enter the country—calling aid shipments a political ploy by the United States—Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro allowed the entry of a shipment of emergency supplies from the Red Cross. Venezuela’s infrastructure has been poorly maintained, recently leading to a series of country-wide blackouts in March 2019 that left millions without power.
Maduro was reelected to a second six-year term in May 2018, despite boycotts and accusations of fraud in a widely condemned election, including by a group of fourteen neighboring countries known as the Lima Group, and was officially sworn in to office in January 2019. Two weeks later, on January 15, the National Assembly declared Maduro’s election illegitimate and opposition leader Juan Guaidó announced that he would assume office as interim president until free and fair elections could be held. Guaidó was quickly recognized as interim president by the United States, Canada, most of the European Union, and the Organization of American States, but Maduro retains the support of several major countries including China, Cuba, Russia, and Turkey.
The resulting political standoff has seen an increase in U.S. sanctions against the Maduro government, including targeting oil shipments to Cuba—Maduro has increasingly relied on Cuban military and intelligence support to stay in power—as well as discussions about a potential military intervention. Russia, meanwhile, continues to support the Maduro government, sending Russian troops to Venezuela in March 2019 and helping the government evade sanctions on the oil industry. China has continued to back the Maduro government as well, including offering to help rebuild the national power grid.
Hugo Chavez came to power in Venezuela in 1998 and, because Venezuela is a petrostate with the largest oil reserves in the world, his socialist government was able to successfully implement its plan to provide subsidized goods and services to the Venezuelan people. However, years of economic mismanagement and corruption under Chavez led to Venezuela’s almost complete dependence on oil exports, and the collapse of global oil prices in 2014 led to a rapid economic decline.
After Chavez’s death in 2013, then–Vice President Maduro assumed the presidency and was subsequently elected to office. His government attempted to address the economic crisis by printing money. This policy resulted in hyperinflation (the International Monetary Fund estimates that inflation could hit 10 million percent in 2019). By 2014, large-scale anti-government protests erupted across the country and, in 2015, voters expressed their dissatisfaction by electing the first opposition-controlled National Assembly in two decades.
Since the situation deteriorated and the crisis escalated in 2015, an estimated 3.4 million Venezuelans have fled the country; Venezuela’s neighbors in Latin America and the Caribbean host approximately 2.7 million refugees, with nearly 1.5 million in Colombia. Estimates from the United Nations suggest that these numbers will increase, with 5.4 million projected to leave the country by the end of 2019. The exodus has also caused a regional humanitarian crisis, as neighboring governments are unable to absorb refugees and asylum seekers. Moreover, because the government has been unable to provide social services, Venezuelans face severe food and medicine shortages, as well as the continuing spread of infectious diseases.
As the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela escalates and the political situation deteriorates, the exodus of Venezuelans to neighboring countries is expected to continue. The strain on aid groups and regional governments to support refugees and asylum seekers may further expand what has already become a regional crisis. The United States has stated its interest in mitigating the humanitarian crisis and preventing further destabilization of the region.
Civil War in Libya
Middle East and North Africa
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
Registered refugees and asylum-seekers
Estimated number of internally displaced persons
Number of competing power centers
The UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) declared a state of emergency in Libya’s capital city of Tripoli in September 2018, less than a week after a UN cease-fire went into effect. Attempts to create a unity government have met with limited success as the House of Representatives (HoR)—based in Libya’s east and a key supporter of Libyan National Army’s (LNA) leader General Khalifa Haftar—and the GNA compete for power. Both governing bodies have created their own central banks and have consolidated control over oil fields. In May 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron convened a meeting between Haftar, GNA leader Fayez Seraj, and parliamentary leaders to discuss an end to the conflict and future elections. Though the rival groups agreed to hold elections in December 2018, UN Special Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame said elections would be postponed until the spring of 2019.
Rival armed groups, including militia groups loyal to the LNA’s Haftar—a Tobruk-backed former Qaddafi loyalist—and the GNA’s security forces have continued to fight over access to and control of Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC), as well as regional oil fields. In December 2018, the NOC closed Libya’s largest oil field, El Sharara, due to security concerns; the LNA has since declared that the field is secure and ready to resume operations, but NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla refused to restart production in February 2019, stating that the field was still unsafe due to militant activity.
The presence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, which established a foothold in the country in February 2015 and quickly gained control of the coastal city of Sirte—formerly the group’s most significant stronghold outside of Syria and Iraq—has further complicated the struggle for control. In July 2018, Haftar announced that the LNA had recaptured the city of Derna, the last outpost of the Islamic State militants in eastern Libya. However, the group continues to operate throughout the country and conducted an attack on Libya’s foreign ministry in December 2018.
Libya has struggled to rebuild state institutions since the ouster and subsequent death of former leader Muammar al-Qaddafi in October 2011. Libya’s transitional government ceded authority to the newly elected General National Congress (GNC) in July 2012, but the GNC faced numerous challenges over the next two years, including the September 2012 attack by Islamist militants on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the spread of the Islamic State and other armed groups throughout the country.
In May 2014, Haftar launched Operation Dignity, a campaign conducted by the LNA to attack Islamist militant groups across eastern Libya, including in Benghazi. To counter this movement, Islamist militants and armed groups—including Ansar al-Sharia— formed a coalition called Libya Dawn. Eventually, fighting broke out at Tripoli’s international airport between the Libya Dawn coalition, which controlled Tripoli and much of western Libya, and the Dignity coalition, which controlled parts of Cyrenaica and Benghazi in eastern Libya, and a civil war emerged.
The battle for control over Libya crosses tribal, regional, political, and even religious lines. Each coalition has created governing institutions and named military chiefs—and each has faced internal fragmentation and division. In an effort to find a resolution to the conflict and create a unity government, then-UN Special Envoy to Libya Bernandino Leon, followed by Martin Kobler, facilitated a series of talks between the Tobruk-based HoR and the Tripoli-based GNC. The talks resulted in the creation of Libyan Political Agreement and the UN-supported GNA. The GNA has continued to face obstacles to creating a stable, unified government in Libya.
Taking advantage of the widespread political instability, armed Islamist groups, including Ansar al-Sharia—the terrorist group allegedly responsible for the attack on the U.S. consulate in 2012—and the Islamic State, have used the country as a hub to coordinate broader regional violence, further complicating efforts to create a unity government.
As a result of the continued fighting, the UN Refugee Agency estimates that more than 217,000 people have been internally displaced and approximately 1.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Libya.
The United States, European allies, and the United Nations continued to express concern over the permanent fracture of Libya as armed militant groups have tried to divide the country along political and tribal lines. Moreover, in the absence of a primary governing body, migration and human trafficking have remained problematic.
A member of the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Companies (OPEC), Libyan oil revenues constitute more than 80 percent of Libya’s total exports. As armed groups continue to fight over oil fields and restrict production, concerns have also increased over whether the country will be able to support itself economically.
War in Yemen
Middle East and North Africa
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
Estimated number of people in need of assistance
Estimated number of people killed since 2015
Estimated number of displaced people
The Saudi-led coalition has continued to wage its campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, resulting in heavy civilian casualties. In June 2018, the coalition launched a major offensive to retake the coastal region of Hodeida, further worsening the humanitarian crisis. The United Nations, which appointed a new special envoy for Yemen in 2018, has attempted to broker a cease-fire.
The Houthis have responded to Saudi airstrikes with missile attacks on Saudi Arabian infrastructure and territory, including oil tankers and facilities and international airports. Further complicating the civil war, secessionist groups in Yemen’s south, supported by the United Arab Emirates, have clashed with the UN-recognized government forces based in Aden.
Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when Houthi insurgents—Shiite rebels with links to Iran and a history of rising up against the Sunni government—took control of Yemen’s capital and largest city, Sana’a, demanding lower fuel prices and a new government. Following failed negotiations, the rebels seized the presidential palace in January 2015, leading President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his government to resign. Beginning in March 2015, a coalition of Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia launched a campaign of economic isolation and air strikes against the Houthi insurgents, with U.S. logistical and intelligence support.
Hadi rescinded his resignation and returned to Aden in September 2015, and fighting has continued since. A UN effort to broker peace talks between allied Houthi rebels and the internationally recognized Yemeni government stalled in the summer of 2016. As of December 2017, Hadi has reportedly been residing in exile in Saudi Arabia.
In July 2016, the Houthis and the government of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, ousted in 2011 after nearly thirty years in power, announced the formation of a “political council” to govern Sana’a and much of northern Yemen. However, in December 2017, Saleh broke with the Houthis and called for his followers to take up arms against them. Saleh was killed and his forces defeated within two days.
The intervention of regional powers in Yemen’s conflict, including Iran and Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia, threatens to draw the country into the broader Sunni-Shia divide. Numerous Iranian weapons shipments to Houthi rebels have been intercepted in the Gulf of Aden by a Saudi naval blockade in place since April 2015. In response, Iran has dispatched its own naval convoy, which further risks military escalation between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the conflict continues to take a heavy toll on Yemeni civilians, making Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The UN estimates that the civilian casualty toll has exceeded 15,000 killed or injured. Twenty-two million Yemenis remain in need of assistance, eight million are at risk of famine, and a cholera outbreak has affected over one million people. All sides of the conflict are reported to have violated human rights and international humanitarian law.
Separate from the ongoing civil war, the United States continues counterterrorism operations in Yemen, relying mainly on airstrikes to target al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and militants associated with the self-proclaimed Islamic State. In 2016, the United States conducted an estimated 35 strikes in Yemen; in 2017, it conducted about 130. In April 2016, the United States deployed a small team of forces to advise and assist Saudi-led troops to retake territory from AQAP. In January 2017, a U.S. Special Operations Forces raid in central Yemen killed one U.S. service member, several suspected AQAP-affiliated fighters, and an unknown number of Yemeni civilians.
The United States is deeply invested in combating terrorism and violent extremism in Yemen, having collaborated with the Yemeni government on counterterrorism since the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. Since 2002, the United States has carried out over two hundred strikes in Yemen. While Houthi rebels do not pose a direct threat to the United States, their attacks on Saudi Arabian infrastructure and territory threaten an important U.S. partner.
Europe and Eurasia
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
Year territorial dispute began
1,700 SQUARE MILES
Approximate total disputed area
Percent of population ethnically Armenian
Nagorno-Karabakh—the border region claimed by both Armenia and Azerbaijan—is at risk of renewed hostilities due to the failure of mediation efforts, increased militarization, and frequent cease-fire violations. In October 2017, the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Geneva under the auspices of the Minsk Group, an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)–led mediation group, beginning a series of talks on a possible settlement of the conflict.
Over the past decade, artillery shelling and minor skirmishes between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops have caused hundreds of deaths. Early April 2016 witnessed the most intense fighting since 1994, killing dozens and producing more than three hundred casualties. After four days of fighting, the two sides announced that they had agreed on a cease-fire.
In the 1920’s, the Soviet government established the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region—where 95 percent of the population is ethnically Armenian—within Azerbaijan. Under Bolshevik rule, fighting between the two countries was kept in check, but as the Soviet Union began to collapse, so did its grip on Armenia and Azerbaijan. In 1988, Nagorno-Karabakh legislature passed a resolution to join Armenia despite the region’s legal location within Azerbaijan’s borders. As the Soviet Union was dissolving in 1991, the autonomous region officially declared independence. War erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region, leaving roughly 30,000 casualties and hundreds of thousands of refugees. By 1993, Armenia controlled Nagorno-Karabakh and occupied 20 percent of the surrounding Azerbaijani territory. In 1994, Russia brokered a cease-fire which has remained in place since.
Nagorno-Karabakh has been a frozen conflict for more than a decade, but tensions have remained high since a breakdown in talks that followed the April 2016 violence, with repeated cease-fire violations. Negotiation and mediation efforts, primarily led by the Minsk Group, have failed to produce a permanent solution to the conflict. The Minsk Group was created in 1994 to address the dispute and is co-chaired by the United States, Russia, and France. The co-chairs organize summits between the leaders of the two countries and hold individual meetings. The group has successfully negotiated cease-fires, but the territorial issues remain as intractable as ever.
Because Azerbaijani and ethnic Armenian military forces are positioned close to each other and have little to no communication, there is a high risk that inadvertent military action could lead to an escalation of the conflict. The two sides also have domestic political interests that could cause their respective leaders to launch an attack.
Without successful mediation efforts, cease-fire violations and renewed tensions threaten to reignite a military conflict between the countries and destabilize the South Caucasus region. This could also disrupt oil and gas exports from the region, since Azerbaijan, which produces about 800,000 barrels of oil per day, is a significant oil and gas exporter to Europe and Central Asia. Russia has promised to defend Armenia, Turkey has pledged to support Azerbaijan, and Iran has a large Azeri minority, which could escalate a crisis and entangle actors involved.
Destabilization of Mali
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
Estimated number of Malian refugees
Estimated number of internally displaced persons
Total UN personnel
Concerns are growing that militant groups in Mali are increasing in number and strength, with violence spreading across the country and across borders. In January 2019, local al-Qaeda affiliate, the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), claimed a series of attacks on UN peacekeepers, soldiers from both Mali and Burkina Faso, and local militants.
JNIM—which formed in March 2017 and was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department in September 2018—and affiliated militant groups have expanded their influence, spreading from the north into central Mali by capitalizing on communal tensions, and has continued to carry out attacks in the capital, Bamako. A branch of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, known as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, has also appeared, compounding concerns over the militant threat.
In August 2018, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita won re-election in a runoff vote that was marred by violence in the run-up to both rounds of the election. In addition to a deteriorating security environment, the Malian government continues to struggle to implement the June 2015 peace agreement it signed with the Coordination of Azawad Movements and a coalition of Tuareg rebel groups. Major components of the deal—including steps to increase autonomy and political representation in the north, bring development, and integrate rebel groups into the Malian security forces—remain unfulfilled.
After gaining independence from France in 1960, Mali endured decades of instability. While the majority of the population resides in the south, Tuareg and Arab groups in the sparsely populated north rebelled against the government in 1963, 1990, and 2006, attempting to gain autonomy for the region they named Azawad. Numerous groups, including Islamist militant groups, have taken advantage of the government’s inability to assert control over territory in the north by continuously asserting territorial claims and attacking Malian government and international security forces, undermining the government and threatening to destabilize neighboring countries.
The current crisis in Mali began in early 2012 when a Tuareg separatist group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), in the north rebelled for a fourth time. The MNLA was backed by a collection of Islamist militant groups—Ansar Dine, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa—and together the groups moved to take over territory in the north. In March 2012, then-President Amadou Toumani Toure was deposed in a military coup carried out by the Malian army as anger spread over the government’s response to the rebellion. Confusion and infighting created by the power vacuum in the capital of Bamako enabled the MNLA and Islamist groups to seize territory quickly. By April 2012, the groups controlled nearly all of the territory in the north and declared independence.
The alliance between the MNLA and the Islamist groups was short-lived; in June 2012 the MNLA broke with Ansar Dine and AQIM over the Islamists push to impose Sharia law in the north. Islamists gained control over Timbuktu and Gao, destroying shrines and imposing a harsh interpretation of Islamic rule. As Islamist groups began pushing toward the center of the country, the French military intervened in January 2013 at the request of the Malian government, deploying ground troops and launching an air campaign to push back the militants. Through Operation Barkhane, France continues to lead the fight in Mali and three thousand troops have been deployed since July 2014 to protect civilians and aid the efforts of local militaries. The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was also created to combat extremism in the region in April 2013. More than thirteen thousand UN peacekeepers remain deployed in Mali and MINUSMA has been called the UN’s most dangerous mission due to the high number of attacks on peacekeepers.
Despite increased international involvement, the campaign against militants has instead resulted in the spread of militancy to countries across the Sahel. In February 2017, France and the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5) countries—Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger—announced the creation of the G5 Sahel Force, a five thousand-troop-strong counterterrorism force aimed at fighting militant groups with an expanded mandate to move across borders in the Sahel region; the multinational force began operations in October 2017. The U.S. military has also increased its presence in the Sahel, deploying approximately 1,500 troops to the region and building a drone base in Niger to serve as a platform for strikes against groups across West and North Africa.
The continued strengthening of militant groups in Mali and their spread to neighboring countries could allow al-Qaeda and the Islamic State to establish a new safe haven and destabilize the region through militancy and terrorism. In addition, northern Mali remains a central transit point for young migrants from all over western Africa looking to travel to Algeria or Libya with the ultimate goal of reaching Europe. The weak economy and lack of job prospects in northern Mali has led many to turn to the trafficking and smuggling of migrants and drugs as a primary source of income. This crisis is both a humanitarian and security concern as militant groups in the Sahel region often tax trafficking and smuggling routes to fund their campaigns.
Violence in the Central African Republic
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
Number of people in need of humanitarian assistance
Estimated number of internally displaced persons
Total UN personnel
Violence in eastern and western Central African Republic (CAR) has increased and spread to new provinces in 2018, as the government in Bangui remains unable to extend control outside the capital. A peace agreement signed in June 2017 between the government and thirteen of the fourteen main armed factions had little effect, and ex-Seleka and anti-balaka militias along with hundreds of other localized groups operate openly and control as much as two-thirds of CAR’s territory.
In April 2018, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and government security forces launched an operation to disarm a militia group in Bangui’s PK5 neighborhood, a predominantly Muslim enclave in the majority Christian city. After rumors spread that the peacekeepers intended to disarm all Muslims, leaving them vulnerable to attacks by armed Christian groups, heavy clashes broke out, killing more than twenty people, including a UN peacekeeper, and wounding nearly one hundred fifty. Days later, demonstrators laid the bodies of sixteen people killed in the violence in front of MINUSCA’s headquarters in Bangui, accusing peacekeepers of firing on civilians.
Over the following weeks, violence spread outside of PK5 as reprisal attacks were carried out by both ex-Seleka and anti-balaka militias. In May 2018, gunmen attacked a church in Bangui, killing sixteen people including a priest; several mosques were attacked in retaliation. Ex-Seleka leaders met in northern CAR and threatened to attack the capital, prompting MINUSCA to enhance security around the city.
Since gaining independence in 1960, CAR has experienced decades of violence and instability. An insurgency led by the Seleka (or “alliance” in Sango)—a coalition of armed, primarily Muslim groups—has resulted in the severe deterioration of the country’s security infrastructure and heightened ethnic tensions. Seleka fighters launched an offensive against the CAR government in December 2012, and both seized the capital city of Bangui and staged a coup in March 2013. In response to brutality by Seleka forces, “anti-balaka” (meaning “invincible” in Sango) coalitions of Christian fighters formed to carry out reprisal violence against Seleka fighters, adding an element of religious animosity to the violence that had previously been absent.
In September 2013, anti-balaka forces began committing widespread revenge attacks against mostly Muslims civilians, displacing tens of thousands of people to Seleka-controlled areas in the north. Seleka forces were disbanded by the government shortly after revenge attacks began, but many ex-Seleka members started committing counterattacks, plunging CAR into a chaotic state of violence and an ensuing humanitarian crisis. Since the outbreak of renewed conflict in 2013, thousands of people have been killed and nearly 575,000 refugees have been displaced, the majority of whom fled to neighboring Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Despite optimism after the election of President Faustin Archange Touadera in the spring of 2016, the crisis only intensified. A de facto territorial partition led to a pause in Muslim-Christian fighting, but fighting between factions of the ex-Seleka has grown. Though the government maintains control of Bangui, most armed groups have boycotted President Touadera’s attempts to calm the region through disarmament, leaving the government powerless outside the capital. Lawlessness in the rest of the country has allowed armed groups to thrive and fighting has increased in the central, western, and eastern provinces. The conflict has also wreaked havoc on the economy, crippling the private sector and leaving nearly 75 percent of the country’s population in poverty.
Reports by human rights groups and UN agencies suggest that crimes committed by both ex-Seleka forces and anti-balaka groups amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Due to the scale of the crisis, the UN Security Council established a peacekeeping force in April 2014 that incorporated African Union and French forces that had been deployed to CAR previously. MINUSCA was established, with a mandate to protect civilians and disarm militia groups, and currently has nearly fifteen thousand peacekeepers operating inside CAR. MINUSCA faces significant challenges in fulfilling its mandate to protect civilians and dismantle armed groups, primarily due to lack of infrastructure and reluctance to use military force. Numerous attacks have also been carried out against UN peacekeepers and humanitarian workers; fifteen peacekeepers were killed in CAR in 2017 and six peacekeepers have been killed in attacks by various armed groups in 2018.
The United States has long supported economic growth, the rule of law, and political stability in CAR, and it remains concerned about the high levels of violence and worsening humanitarian crisis. Further deterioration of the security environment will increase sectarian violence and spillover will continue to destabilize the region, posing challenges to ending the conflicts in neighboring South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
Estimated number of internally displaced persons
Total UN personnel
Human Development Index rank
Opposition leader Félix Tshisekedi was declared the winner of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) presidential elections held in late December 2018 and was inaugurated in January 2019. The transfer of power from former President Joseph Kabila, who ruled for eighteen years and had delayed elections multiple times, marked the first peaceful transfer of power in the DRC’s history. However, election results have since been questioned. Technical issues and irregularities, including a delay in voting for more than a million people, marred the election itself and polling data indicates that a different opposition leader, Martin Fayulu, may have actually won.
Tshisekedi inherited a number of crises across the DRC, including an Ebola outbreak in the east and ongoing violence across the country, particularly in the Ituri, Kasai, and Kivu regions. More than one hundred armed groups, such as the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces, are believed to operate in the eastern region of the DRC. Despite the presence of more than sixteen thousand UN peacekeepers, these groups continue to terrorize communities and control weakly governed areas. Millions of civilians have been forced to flee the fighting: the United Nations estimates there are currently 4.5 million internally displaced persons in the DRC, and more than 800,000 DRC refugees in other nations.
The origins of the current violence in the DRC are in the massive refugee crisis and spillover from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. After Hutu génocidaires fled to eastern DRC and formed armed groups, opposing Tutsi and other opportunistic rebel groups arose. The Congolese government was unable to control and defeat the various armed groups, some of which directly threatened populations in neighboring countries, and war eventually broke out.
From 1998 to 2003, government forces supported by Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe fought rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda in what is known as the Second Congo War. While estimates vary greatly, the death toll may have reached over three million people. Despite a peace deal in 2002 and the formation of a transitional government in 2003, ongoing violence perpetrated by armed groups against civilians in the eastern region has continued, largely due to poor governance, weak institutions, and rampant corruption.
One of the most prominent rebel groups to emerge in the aftermath of the war was known as the March 23 Movement (M23), made up primarily of ethnic Tutsis who were allegedly supported by the Rwandan government. M23 rebelled against the Congolese government for supposedly reneging on a peace deal signed in 2009. The UN Security Council authorized an offensive brigade under the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) to support the DRC state army in its fight against M23. The Congolese army and UN peacekeepers defeated the group in 2013, but other armed groups have since emerged.
The country’s massive resource wealth—estimated to include $24 trillion of untapped mineral resources—also fuels violence. The mineral trade provides financial means for groups to operate and buy arms. The United States passed legislation in 2010 to reduce the purchase of “conflict minerals” and prevent the funding of armed militias, but complex supply chains in the DRC mineral sale business have made it difficult for companies that purchase resources from secondhand buyers to obtain certification. As a result, multinational companies have stopped buying minerals from the DRC altogether, putting many miners out of work and even driving some to join armed groups to gain a source of livelihood.
Weak governance and the prevalence of many armed groups have subjected Congolese civilians to widespread rape and sexual violence, massive human rights violations, and extreme poverty. The African Union, United Nations, and neighboring countries have struggled to address threats posed by rebel groups and promote sustainable development. Continued violence in the DRC may eventually spill over into Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda—countries with longstanding ties with the United States.
Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
Estimated total Burmese Rohingya population
Estimated number of people who fled Myanmar into Bangladesh since August 2017
Estimated number of internally displaced Rohingya
Tensions between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Myanmar’s Rakhine State have escalated dramatically since late August 2017. A series of attacks by a group of Rohingya militants calling itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on military and police outposts killed more than seventy people, including twelve Burmese security forces personnel. In response, the military launched a brutal crackdown on Rohingya villages, causing over seven hundred thousand people to flee across the border to Bangladesh since August 2017. Widespread reports indicate indiscriminate killings and burning of Rohingya villages, escalating to the point that the UN Human Rights Commissioner called the situation in Rakhine State “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” The violence has led to a growing humanitarian crisis in neighboring Bangladesh, where nearly one million Rohingya now reside in refugee camps along the border.
This outburst of violence by the military comes after a similar attack on a security post along the Bangladeshi border in October 2016 killed nine police officers. The army responded to that attack with a month-long crackdown on unarmed Muslim civilians, causing more than one thousand civilian deaths and driving tens of thousands more to flee their homes in search of safety.
After winning Myanmar’s first competitive national election in more than twenty-five years and taking office in March 2016, the National League for Democracy party (unofficially headed by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi) has continually failed to address the status of the Rohingya people, who were not allowed to vote in the election. A national peace conference was held in August 2016, aimed at ending decades of fighting between the military and a number of armed ethnic groups, but Rohingya representatives were not invited to attend. That same month, Aung San Suu Kyi announced the creation of a nine-person commission, headed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to review and offer recommendations to address the tensions in Rakhine. The commission delivered its final report in late August 2017, just days before the latest outbreak of violence. Aung San Suu Kyi has continued to face criticism over a failure to address or acknowledge the Rohingya issue.
The Rohingya, a highly persecuted Muslim group numbering over one million, face discrimination both from their neighbors and their nation, and are not considered citizens by Myanmar’s government. Buddhist nationalist groups, including the MaBaTha and the anti-Muslim 969 movement, regularly call for boycotts of Muslim shops, the expulsion of Muslims from Myanmar, and attacks on Muslim communities. After two waves of violence, reprisals, and riots in June and October of 2012 intensified the century-old conflict in the predominantly Buddhist country, more than one hundred thousand Muslim Rohingyas were internally displaced and hundreds killed.
There is little indication that addressing the Rohingya issue will become a priority any time soon for Myanmar’s government, which has focused instead on establishing a new relationship with the military and addressing multiple ongoing insurgencies. The military signed a cease-fire with several armed ethnic groups in October 2015, but some major groups—including two of the largest militias, the United Wa State Army and Kachin Independence Army—continue to fight the government. While the cease-fire agreement was a potential step towards peace in Myanmar, it failed to finalize a framework for a new balance of power between the central government and local authorities in the restive borderlands or require ethnic groups to disarm.
As the U.S.-Myanmar relationship warms, disagreements over human rights issues will remain a divisive factor. However, Myanmar’s stability is increasingly important to U.S. interests given Myanmar’s strategic importance in Southeast Asia, vast natural resources, and emerging democratic government.
Civil War in South Sudan
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
Estimated number of people killed since December 2013
Estimated number of refugees and asylum-seekers
Total UN personnel
Since civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, over 50,000 people have been killed—possibly as many as 383,000, according to a recent estimate—and nearly four million people have been internally displaced or fled to neighboring countries. 2018 brought an increase in regional and international pressure on President Salva Kiir and opposition leader and former Vice President Riek Machar to reach an agreement to end the conflict, including targeted sanctions from the United States and a UN arms embargo.
After almost five years of civil war in South Sudan, Kiir and Machar participated in negotiations mediated by Uganda and Sudan in June 2018. Later that month, Kiir and Machar signed the Khartoum Declaration of Agreement that included a cease-fire and a pledge to negotiate a power-sharing agreement to end the war. Despite sporadic violations over the ensuing weeks, Kiir and Machar signed a final cease-fire and power-sharing agreement in August 2018. This agreement was followed by a peace agreement to end the civil war signed by the government and Machar’s opposition party, along with several other rebel factions. The agreement, called the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, included a new power-sharing structure and reinstated Machar as vice president.
In late October 2018, Machar returned to South Sudan for a nationwide peace celebration to mark the end of the civil war. However, reports of continued attacks and violations, coupled with the collapse of multiple previous peace deals, highlight concerns that the fragile peace may not hold.
In December 2013, following a political struggle between Kiir and Machar that led to Machar’s removal as vice president, violence erupted between presidential guard soldiers from the two largest ethnic groups in South Sudan. Soldiers from the Dinka ethnic group aligned with Kiir and those from the Nuer ethnic group supported Machar. In the midst of chaos, Kiir announced that Machar had attempted a coup and violence spread quickly to Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Unity states. Since the outbreak of conflict, armed groups have targeted civilians along ethnic lines, committed rape and sexual violence, destroyed property and looted villages, and recruited children into their ranks.
Under the threat of international sanctions and following several rounds of negotiations supported by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Kiir signed a peace agreement with Machar in August 2015. As the first step toward ending the civil war, Machar returned to Juba in April 2016 and was once again sworn in as vice president, after spending more than two years outside of the country. Soon after his return, violence broke out between government forces and opposition factions, once more displacing tens of thousands of people. Machar fled the country and was eventually detained in South Africa. In 2017 and 2018, a series of cease-fires were negotiated and subsequently violated between the two sides and other factions.
In late December 2013, the UN Security Council authorized a rapid deployment of about 6,000 security forces, in addition to 7,600 peacekeepers already in the country, to aid in nation-building efforts. In May 2014, the Security Council voted in a rare move to shift the mission’s mandate from nation-building to civilian protection, authorizing UN troops to use force. Since reprioritizing protection, the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan has faced extreme challenges due to the deterioration of the security situation and its complex relationship with the government of the Republic of South Sudan. The UN authorized the deployment of an additional four thousand peacekeepers as part of a regional protection force in 2016, although their arrival was delayed until August 2017.
Violence has prevented farmers from planting or harvesting crops, causing food shortages nationwide. In July 2014, the UN Security Council declared South Sudan’s food crisis the “worst in the world.” Famine was declared in South Sudan during the first few months of 2017, with nearly five million people at risk from food insecurity. The country again faced critical food shortages in early 2018, with aid agencies warning that more than seven million people could be at risk of severe food insecurity during summer months.
The United States was a lead facilitator of South Sudanese independence, which was decided in a 2011 referendum, providing diplomatic support and humanitarian aid. Prior to the outbreak of the civil war in 2013, the United States supported and advocated for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which became the new country’s government. Though largely taking a back seat in mediation efforts run by IGAD and neighboring countries, the United States and its international partners have an interest in ensuring a lasting settlement to the conflict in South Sudan, addressing the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, and preventing destabilizing regional spillover.
South Sudan Opposition Rebel Group Releases Prisoners
The armed forces of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition rebel group released seventy-eight women and fifty children it abducted in 2018 (United Nations).
February 5, 2020
U.S. Diplomat Urges Formation of South Sudan Unity Government
Tibor Nagy, U.S. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, called on South Sudan’s rival leaders to meet the upcoming February 22 deadline to establish a unity government (Voice of America).
January 30, 2020
South Sudan President Pardons Dozens
President Salva Kiir pardoned thirty-one prisoners in a goodwill measure to continue the country’s peace process, according to state media (Reuters).
January 3, 2020
South Sudan Sets New Deadline for Unity Government
After talks in Juba, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir said that he and rebel leader Riek Machar have agreed to uphold a cease-fire and form a transitional unity government by February, even if the two parties have not resolved their disputes by that time (Voice of America).
December 18, 2019
South Sudan Opens Tribal for Security Forces
The country opened a special court to try members of its National Security Service. Hundreds of the service’s officers have been accused of committing human rights abuses (Voice of America).
December 6, 2019
UN Sends Peacekeepers to South Sudan
The UN mission in the country deployed seventy-five peacekeeping troops to central South Sudan following reports that nearly eighty people have been killed and more than a hundred others injured in recent communal violence (United Nations).
December 4, 2019
UN Reports Details Violations of South Sudan Peace Deal
The national security service recruited some ten thousand troops from President Salva Kiir’s ethnic stronghold in a violation of the country’s peace deal, a new UN report found. The deal calls for a joint military force of government and opposition fighters (Associated Press).
November 27, 2019
South Sudanese Leaders Extend Peace Deadline
President Salva Kiir and his main rival, rebel leader Riek Machar, agreed to extend a November 12 deadline to form a transitional government by one hundred days. It is the second extension since a peace deal was signed in September 2018 (Agence France-Presse).
November 8, 2019
South Sudanese Opposition Group Seeks Negotiation Delay
Former rebel leader Riek Machar called for a six-month delay on a deadline to form a unity government, a cornerstone of a peace deal that was signed in September 2018 but has been stalled (Reuters).
October 30, 2019
South Sudanese Government and Rebel Groups Hold Peace Talks
Leaders from Sudan and Ethiopia are in Juba today for a round of peace talks between the South Sudanese government and rebel groups. The two sides had set a mid-November deadline to reach a power-sharing deal. (Associated Press).
October 14, 2019
Watchdog Details Corporate Beneficiaries of South Sudan War
A new report by a Washington, DC–based watchdog group found that politicians and military officials it says helped to destabilize South Sudan were backed by multinational corporations and other actors from China to the United Kingdom (Sentry).
September 20, 2019
South Sudan Parties Agree to Form Government
President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar agreed to form a transitional government by November 12, according to the country’s information minister (Reuters).
September 12, 2019
South Sudanese Exiled Leader Returns for Talks
Riek Machar, a rebel commander who left South Sudan last year after a pact to end the country’s civil war, is in Juba to conclude negotiations around the peace deal (Al Jazeera).
September 10, 2019
South Sudan Activists Demand Unity Government
South Sudan’s Civil Society Forum announced a ninety-day countdown to the November deadline to form a unity government pursuant to a 2018 peace agreement (Agence France-Presse).
August 13, 2019
U.S., Norway, and UK Urge Renewed South Sudan Peace Efforts
A statement released yesterday by the United States, Norway, and the United Kingdom urged redoubled efforts to implement the 2018 peace agreement, including negotiating security reforms. South Sudan’s pre-transitional period is set to end in November (Anadolu Agency).
July 30, 2019
Gunmen Kill UN Peacekeeper and Six Civilians in South Sudan
An attack along the border between Sudan and South Sudan today killed a UN peacekeeper and six civilians in the disputed Abyei region (Reuters).
July 17, 2019
UN Urges South Sudan Peace
Today, on the eighth anniversary of South Sudanese independence, the United Nations urged a peaceful resolution to the civil war in South Sudan, which has caused Africa’s largest displacement crisis (United Nations).
July 9, 2019
In South Sudan, Violence Kills One Hundred Civilians
The United Nations reported that a fresh wave of violence in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria region has killed over one hundred civilians and prompted 76,000 to flee their homes (Bloomberg).
July 8, 2019
UN Extends Arms Embargo on South Sudan
The UN Security Council voted to extend sanctions, including an arms embargo, against South Sudan for another year, citing the need for rival political groups to bolster a peace agreement reached last year (Voice of America).
May 31, 2019
South Sudanese President Calls for Additional Delay in Formation of Unity Government
President Salva Kiir said the formation of a unity government in South Sudan should be delayed by at least a year because the upcoming rainy season would pose challenges for the movement and integration of forces within the six-month delay that was recently proposed (Reuters).
May 9, 2019
South Sudan Rivals Delay Formation of a Unity Government
Following a round of peace talks in Addis Ababa, South Sudan’s warring parties agreed to delay the formation of a power-sharing government by six months (Al Jazeera).
May 6, 2019
South Sudanese President and Rebel Leader to Hold Talks
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir will meet with his main rival, rebel leader Riek Machar, in Addis Ababa today ahead of a May 12 deadline to install a power-sharing government, part of a September 2018 peace agreement (Agence France-Presse).
May 2, 2019
U.S. Ambassador Criticizes South Sudan Lobbying Deal
U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan Thomas Hushek, along with analysts and human rights activists, criticized a new $3.7 million deal between South Sudan’s government and U.S.-based lobbyists. The lobbying firm was hired to help block the creation of a special war crimes court (Voice of America).
May 1, 2019
South Sudan Pays Lobbyists to Improve Ties With United States
South Sudan reportedly signed a two-year contract to pay a U.S.-based lobby firm $3.7 million to improve its relationship with the Trump administration and to block the establishment of a long-delayed court to hold perpetrators accountable for crimes committed during the country’s five-year civil war (Associated Press).
April 29, 2019
Thousands in South Sudan Without Food, Clean Water
Officials in South Sudan’s Yei River State reported that as many as six thousand people who fled their homes as a result of recent fighting between government forces and the National Salvation Front do not have access to food and clean water (Voice of America).
February 14, 2019
Report: South Sudan Taking in EU-Made Arms
A UK-based conflict arms researcher accused Uganda of skirting an EU arms embargo on South Sudan by purchasing weapons from Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia and then transferring them to South Sudanese government forces and allied armed groups (Voice of America). South Sudan’s information minister rejected the findings, saying “we don’t even have money to buy arms” (Associated Press).
November 30, 2018
UN Report Finds Violation of South Sudan Arms Embargo
A UN panel found violations of the arms embargo imposed on South Sudan, stating in an interim report that Sudan and Uganda deployed troops to South Sudan. The panel added that it is investigating “other allegations of transport of weapons into South Sudan, in violation of the arms embargo” (Agence France-Presse).
November 14, 2018
South Sudanese Rebel Leader Returns to Juba
Rebel leader Riek Machar returned to the capital of Juba to take part in a peace ceremony after signing a peace deal with President Salva Kiir in Ethiopia last month. The agreement formally ended the country’s five-year civil war and will reinstate Machar as vice president (Al Jazeera).
October 31, 2018
Food Aid Blocked by Violence in South Sudan
According to the World Food Programme, fighting in South Sudan is preventing food deliveries, indicating that the peace deal signed in September is not holding (Reuters).
October 29, 2018
Study: 382,000 Killed in South Sudan War
At least 382,000 people have died in South Sudan since 2013 due to conflict, according to a new study funded by the U.S. State Department. The total includes deaths due to circumstances related to the conflict, such as disease outbreaks and malnutrition. A South Sudanese envoy to the United States disputed the findings, estimating a death toll of twenty thousand (Washington Post).
September 26, 2018
South Sudan Rivals Sign Peace Deal
President Salva Kiir and his main rival, rebel leader Riek Machar, signed an agreement in Addis Ababa yesterday that will formally end the civil war and reinstate Machar as vice president (Al Jazeera).
September 13, 2018
South Sudan Declared Most Dangerous Country for Aid Workers
For the third consecutive year, South Sudan has been labeled the most violent country in the world to deliver humanitarian aid (Norwegian Refugee Council).
August 14, 2018
South Sudan’s President Pardons Rebel Leader
President Salva Kiir has pardoned former Vice President Riek Machar following a power-sharing agreement signed by the rival parties on August 5. Kiir also granted an amnesty to “other estranged groups who waged war” against the government (Sudan Tribune).
August 9, 2018
South Sudanese Rivals Sign Power-Sharing Deal
Under the deal signed by both sides yesterday, President Salva Kiir will remain in office, rebel leader Riek Machar will return to the vice presidency, and top offices will be distributed among the rival parties, as well as six other groups (Associated Press).
August 6, 2018
South Sudan Rival Leaders Reach Power-Sharing Deal
The South Sudanese government and the country’s main rebel group struck a deal to share political power that observers hope will bring an end to a five-year civil war. Other armed resistance groups did not sign the agreement (Associated Press).
July 26, 2018
UN Supports Arms Embargo on South Sudan
The UN Security Council backed a U.S.-drafted arms embargo on South Sudan that would last through 2019 and includes asset freezes and travel restrictions for two top military officials (Voice of America).
July 16, 2018
Parliament Extends South Sudan President’s Term
South Sudan’s parliament voted to extend President Salva Kiir’s term until 2021, a move opposition groups have claimed would be illegal (Reuters).
July 12, 2018
UN Report Documents South Sudan Government Atrocities
South Sudanese government troops and allied forces killed at least 232 civilians and carried out mass rapes of women and girls in attacks on opposition-held villages in the country’s north in April and May, according to a UN investigation (Washington Post).
July 11, 2018
South Sudan Rebels Reject Peace Proposal
Rebels in South Sudan rejected a peace plan that would have reinstated insurgent leader Riek Machar as vice president, claiming it would leave President Salva Kiir with too much power (Reuters).
July 10, 2018
South Sudan’s Government, Opposition Forces Accuse Each Other of Attacks
The government military SPLA accused rebels of attacking Maban in Upper Nile state, killing eighteen civilians and wounding forty-four others. The opposition SPLA-IO said their forces were “heavily bombarded” by the military in the Maban area and denied attacking civilians (Reuters).
July 2, 2018
South Sudan Rivals Sign Peace Deal
President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar signed an agreement in Khartoum committing to a permanent cease-fire and to resolving outstanding governance issues (Sudan Tribune). The agreement calls for the release of political prisoners and the formation of a unity government within four months (Al Jazeera).
June 28, 2018
No Agreements in South Sudan Peace Talks
Peace talks on ending South Sudan’s five-year-long civil war between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar failed today. A government spokesman said “we have had enough” of Machar, rejecting the possibility of the former vice president returning to the government (Associated Press).
June 22, 2018
South Sudan Rivals Meet in Ethiopia
Rebel leader Riek Machar arrived in Ethiopia to discuss ending South Sudan’s five-year civil war with President Salva Kiir, the first such meeting since a peace deal broke down in 2016 (Reuters).
June 20, 2018
South Sudan Talks to Take Place in Addis Ababa
South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar accepted an invitation from Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to attend talks with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir in Addis Ababa next week. The talks will mark the first time Machar and Kiir will meet since a peace deal fell apart in August 2016 (Reuters).
June 13, 2018
South Sudan Asks Ethiopia to Reject Proposed Sanctions
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, in Addis Ababa yesterday, urged Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to oppose U.S.-drafted sanctions on his country, which the UN Security Council is expected to vote on today (Voice of America).
May 31, 2018
Aid Workers Abducted in South Sudan, UN Says
Ten humanitarian aid workers are believed to have been abducted by an armed group. They went missing earlier this week during a trip to Central Equatoria region, in the country’s south (New York Times).
April 27, 2018
U.S. Sanctions Oil Companies in South Sudan
The United States yesterday announced new sanctions on fifteen South Sudanese oil companies in a move designed to increase pressure on President Salva Kiir, who has been accused of using oil companies to funnel money to militias and prolonging the civil war, to end the conflict. In a statement released today, the South Sudanese government said the sanctions, which require companies and government bodies to apply for special licenses to do business in the United States, will undermine efforts to restore peace (Reuters).
March 21, 2018
Report Claims South Sudan Using Oil Profits to Fund Security Services, Prolong War
A new investigation by a UK-based advocacy group alleges that the state oil and gas company has come under the direct control of President Salva Kiir and his associates, who use it to channel funds to abusive security forces and militias (Global Witness).
March 7, 2018
Hundreds of Child Soldiers Released in South Sudan
Armed groups have released 87 girls and 224 boys in the second-largest liberation of child soldiers in South Sudan since civil war began four years ago. A total of seven hundred child soldiers are expected to be released in a process overseen by the United Nations (Voice of America).
February 8, 2018
U.S. Cuts Support to South Sudan’s President
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Hayley said yesterday that the United States is stopping its support for South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, calling him an “unfit partner,” and urged the UN Security Council to support an arms embargo (Associated Press).
January 25, 2018
South Sudan Cease-Fire Announced
Representatives from South Sudan’s Transitional Government of National Unity and the armed opposition signed a cease-fire in Addis Ababa, seeking to revive a 2015 peace deal that fell apart in 2016 (Sudan Tribune).
December 22, 2017
U.S. Envoy Pressures South Sudan Over Aid
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told South Sudanese President Salva Kiir that the United States is “questioning” its aid to the country and that Kiir can’t “deny the stories” of military abuses (Voice of America). Haley’s visit to a UN camp for internally displaced persons there was disrupted by anti-government protests (Sudan Tribune).
October 26, 2017
Attack on Government Forces Results in Twenty-Five Deaths
Forces loyal to former South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar attacked government forces and civilians (Al Jazeera).
September 21, 2017
South Sudan Calls on U.S. to Reconsider Sanctions
South Sudan’s foreign ministry called on Washington to reconsider new sanctions, calling them “very unfortunate.” The U.S. Treasury said the sanctions on two senior officials, as well as a former defense chief and three companies, were imposed because of human rights abuses and obstruction of the country’s peace process (Associated Press).
September 7, 2017
UN Moves to Protect South Sudan Civilians
UN peacekeepers are working harder to protect South Sudanese civilians, after years of criticism for failing to do so (Reuters).
August 28, 2017
One Million South Sudanese Refugees Flee to Uganda
The UN announced that one million refugees from South Sudan have crossed the border into Uganda. It also called for more support for the refugees (BBC).
August 17, 2017
Rebel Forces Recapture Former Headquarters in Northeastern South Sudan
Rebels retook the city of Pagak from South Sudan government forces. Pagak, which has served as the headquarters of the South Sudanese opposition for almost four years, was captured by government forces in early August (Associated Press).
August 15, 2017
Six Killed in Attack on Bus Convoy in South Sudan
Four civilians and two South Sudanese servicemembers were killed in an attack on a bus convoy traveling between Juba, the capital, and Nimule, a city on the southern border with Uganda (Voice of America).
August 3, 2017
UN to Deploy Protection Forces to South Sudan
The UN will soon deploy four thousand regional protection forces to South Sudan, according to the head of the UN mission there (Sudan Tribune).
July 31, 2017
South Sudan Will Not Include Rebel Leader in Peace Process
Riek Machar, a rebel leader in South Sudan, was not invited to participate in a regional peace process, although his representatives will be allowed to attend (Voice of America).
July 27, 2017
South Sudan Declares State of Emergency in Four States
The president of South Sudan declared a state of emergency in four states that have been the site of clashes between militias since December 2013 (Voice of America).
July 19, 2017
Eight Foreign and Local Workers Seized by Gunmen in South Sudan
Gunmen seized eight foreign and local workers working for a private company in Juba, the capital, according to the UN. The workers were released two days later after negotiations (ABC News).
July 5, 2017
South Sudan Deports Three Americans
A South Sudanese police spokesman said that three Americans, reportedly an active-duty servicemember and two military veterans, were deported from South Sudan to Kenya for entering the country without valid visas (Sudan Tribune).
June 28, 2017
Famine Designation Lifted in South Sudan
Famine has eased in South Sudan’s Unity state, though six million people, about half of the country’s population, are still severely food-insecure, according to Oxfam (Voice of America).
June 23, 2017
South Sudan Government Bans Foreign Journalists
Media authorities banned twenty foreign journalists from entering the country, accusing them of publishing “unsubstantiated and unrealistic stories” that could incite violence. Neither the names of the journalists nor their outlets were released (Africa News).
June 9, 2017
Pope Cancels Trip to South Sudan
The Vatican said it canceled a tentative plan for Pope Francis to visit South Sudan this year; a spokesman did not offer a reason for the cancellation (Reuters).
May 31, 2017
South Sudan President Declares Cease-Fire
President Salva Kiir declared a unilateral cease-fire and the start of a national dialogue process; opposition groups have denounced the dialogue proposal (Voice of America).
May 25, 2017
South Sudan Increases Fees for NGOs
The government has increased the registration fee for foreign non-governmental organizations working in South Sudan from $600 to $3,500 (Reuters).
May 4, 2017
Advance UN Peacekeeper Team Arrives in South Sudan
Advance members of a regional protection force authorized by the UN in 2016 arrived in the capital of Juba, with the rest of the four thousand troops expected to arrive by July. The deployment reinforces the twelve thousand peacekeepers already in the country (Associated Press).
May 2, 2017
Forty-Two South Sudanese Affiliated with Former Vice President Are Evacuated
The U.S. embassy in Juba assisted forty-two South Sudanese, some of whom are dual U.S. citizens, evacuate the country by boarding a chartered flight to Cyprus.The individuals feared for their safety due to affiliations with ousted former Vice President Riek Machar (Voice of America).
April 4, 2017
Aid Workers Killed in South Sudan Ambush
Six aid workers from a South Sudanese non-governmental organization were killed in an ambush as they traveled from Juba through a government-controlled area (Sudan Tribune).
March 27, 2017
South Sudan Protests UN Report Claiming it Spends Half of Budget on Weapons
South Sudan’s information minister protested a UN report stating that the Juba government continues to spend its oil revenues on weapons even after a famine was declared in the country (Sudan Tribune).
March 20, 2017
Gunmen Ambush South Sudan Aid Convoy
An aid convoy returning from a cholera outbreak mission in Yirol was ambushed by two gunmen, where two workers died from gunshot wounds (Reuters).
March 16, 2017
Japan to Withdraw Peacekeepers from South Sudan
Japan will withdraw three hundred fifty servicemen from a UN peacekeeping contingent in South Sudan. The deployment had been a controversial move in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to expand Japan’s military role abroad (Japan Times).
March 10, 2017
South Sudan Raises Permit Price for Aid Agencies
Aid agencies asked the Juba government for clarification after it published a memo saying the price of work permits for humanitarian aid agencies would rise from $100 to $10,000. The memo came after President Salva Kiir promised humanitarian organizations “unimpeded access” after the country declared a state of famine (Guardian).
March 9, 2017
Former Military Official Announces New Rebel Group
Former South Sudanese senior military official General Thomas Cirillo Swaka announced the creation of a new rebel group, National Salvation Front, to fight President Salva Kiir (VOA).
March 7, 2017
United Nations Highlights Uptick in South Sudanese Refugees
Famine and violence have caused 1.5 million refugees to flee South Sudan and enter Uganda and other neighboring countries, marking the second largest refugee flow after Syria (Reuters).
March 2, 2017
South Sudan Declares World’s First Famine Since 2012
The South Sudanese government and the United Nations declared a famine affecting a hundred thousand people (Sudan Tribune).
February 21, 2017
South Sudanese Troops Accused of Mass Rape
Forty-seven men were detained following reports of mass rape of women and girls by South Sudanese soldiers in villages near the capital of Juba last week (Sudan Tribune). President Salva Kiir recently issued a warning that soldiers who rape will be shot.
February 17, 2017
South Sudan’s Lieutenant General Resigns
Lieutenant-General Thomas Cirillo Swaka alleged that South Sudanese President Salva Kiir engaged in violent ethnic cleansing of minority non-Dinka tribes “in pursuit of land occupation,” thus prompting his resignation from the army (Newsweek).
February 14, 2017
South Sudan Government Rejects Notion of International Trusteeship
A spokesperson for South Sudan’s president dismissed calls for the country to be placed under an international trusteeship, stating that there will always be “minority voices that would hope for something” different from that of the majority (Sudan Tribune).
February 6, 2017
South Sudan Rejects Additional Peacekeepers
A foreign ministry spokesperson announced that South Sudan will no longer accept an additional four thousand peacekeeping troops authorized by the United Nations in August to support the 13,500 troops already there (Al Jazeera). The spokesperson said the government is able to provide security to the country without the additional deployment.
January 12, 2017
UN Warns of Genocide in South Sudan
The head of a UN human rights investigation team said that South Sudan (Al Jazeera) is “on the brink of an all-out ethnic civil war” and called for the deployment of a protection force to prevent a “Rwanda-like” genocide.
December 15, 2016
UN: Evidence of Ethnic Cleansing in South Sudan
A United Nations human rights commission said that “a steady process of ethnic cleansing” is underway in South Sudan (Al Jazeera).
December 1, 2016
Japanese Peacekeepers Arrive in South Sudan
Three hundred and fifty Japanese peacekeepers arrived in South Sudan with a new mandate that authorizes the use of force (Al Jazeera).
November 22, 2016
United States Seeks Arms Embargo Against South Sudan
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power proposed an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on South Sudanese leaders (Sudan Tribune). Power declared in a Security Council address that “all the ingredients exist” there for a genocide (U.S. Mission to the UN).
November 18, 2016
Kenya Begins Withdrawing Peacekeeping Troops
Kenya has begun withdrawing its troops from the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon replaced the Kenyan commander of the mission (VOA).
November 10, 2016
Kenya Pulls Troops from Peacekeeping Mission
Kenya announced it is withdrawing troops from the UN mission in South Sudan, after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sought to replace the Kenyan commander of the peacekeeping force because of his failure to protect civilians (Al Jazeera).
November 3, 2016
UN Removes South Sudan Peacekeeping Commander
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon removed a Kenyan general from his post as South Sudan Peacekeeping Commander after an investigation found that international troops under his command failed to protect civilians and aid workers during a July attack in Juba by government soldiers (BBC).
November 2, 2016
Armed Opposition Groups Release Child Soldiers
Armed opposition groups released 145 child soldiers in a ceremony, according to UNICEF. The children had been recruited by the rebel factions of former Vice President Riek Machar and Deputy Defense Minister David Yau Yau (Africa News).
October 27, 2016
Former Vice President Announces Return from South Africa
Former Vice President Reik Machar said he would return to South Sudan from South Africa after he fled the country during clashes in the capital city (Sudan Tribune). The South Sudanese military said it killed more than fifty rebels loyal to Machar in recent clashes (VOA).
October 18, 2016
Escalating Violence in South Sudan Kills Dozens
Fighting in South Sudan between rebels and government forces killed at least sixty people, the military said. Army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang accused the rebels of “burning civilians, maiming women and child abductions and setting ablaze properties.” A spokesman for the rebels denied the accusations (Reuters).
October 17, 2016
Rebel Attacks Kill Twenty-One in South Sudan
Twenty-one people were killed and twenty were wounded in South Sudan after rebels attacked trucks carrying civilians, the government said (Reuters).
October 11, 2016
Report: Peacekeepers Abandoned South Sudan Posts
UN peacekeepers abandoned their posts during a July outbreak of fighting in South Sudan, according to a new report from a U.S.-based Center for Civilians in Conflict (Guardian). The report also says that women were sexually assaulted within view of UN bases.
October 6, 2016
South Sudan Vice President Blames Rebel Leader for Unrest
Taban Deng Gai, the recently appointed acting vice president, says that Riek Machar and his associates are fueling the country’s return to war. Deng suggested that a “Riek Machar mafia” is holding displaced people at the camps, which he said ends up prolonging the civil war (Foreign Policy).
September 30, 2016
Rebel Leader Calls for Renewed War in South Sudan
Riek Machar, rebel leader and former vice president, called for renewed war against the government and declared the collapse of the August 2015 peace agreement. Machar fled the country and is in exile in Khartoum, Sudan (AFP).
September 26, 2016
Government Tightens Grip on Media in South Sudan
Authorities ordered the closure of the English-language newspaper Nation Mirror in South Sudan after it published details of an unfavorable report from a U.S. research organization on the personal wealth of the country’s leaders (Voice of America).
September 15, 2016
UN Monitors: South Sudan Acquires Weapons
South Sudanese government troops have purchased weapons, including two fighter jets and small arms ammunition, while opposition forces have received no significant arms deliveries, according to a confidential UN report seen by Reuters (Reuters).
September 9, 2016
Opposition Fighters Transferred to DRC for Medical Treatment
Hundreds of South Sudanese fighters loyal to Riek Machar, opposition leader and sacked vice president of South Sudan’s national unity government, were transferred to the UN peacekeeping mission in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo to receive medical treatment (Reuters).
September 8, 2016
Kerry: Deploying Protection Force to South Sudan is Urgent
During a visit with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the deployment of a 4,000-troop protection force recently authorized by the United Nations to South Sudan is urgent (VOA).
August 23, 2016
South Sudan Opposition Leader Leaves the Country
Riek Machar, former South Sudan vice president and leader of the opposition to President Salva Kiir, fled the country, a spokesman said (Sudan Tribune).
August 18, 2016
Al-Shabab in Somalia
Impact on U.S. Interests
Type of Conflict
Estimated number of al-Shabab fighters
Number of AMISOM uniformed personnel
Total U.S. humanitarian assistance to Somalia
Al-Shabab continues to conduct attacks both within Somalia and in neighboring Kenya, including a January 15, 2019, attack on an upscale Nairobi hotel complex in which at least twenty-one civilians were killed and hundreds held hostage. The militants also continue to target the Somali state and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces.
The United States has significantly increased the tempo of air strikes against al-Shabab since 2016 and broadened its troop presence and involvement in Somalia in 2017. In June 2018, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for an attack that killed one U.S. special operations forces soldier, the first U.S. combat death in Somalia since a member of the Navy SEALs was killed in a raid in May 2017.
Since its inception in 2006, al-Shabab has capitalized on the feebleness of Somalia’s central government, despite the government’s strengthening in recent years, to control large swaths of ungoverned territory. The terrorist group reached its peak in 2011 when it controlled parts of the capital city of Mogadishu and the vital port of Kismayo. Kenyan troops, operating as part of AMISOM, entered Somalia later that year and successfully pushed al-Shabab out of most of its strongholds.
In response to the 2011 intervention, al-Shabab has committed more than 150 attacks in Kenya, a long-time U.S. ally. The most brutal were a January 2016 attack on a Kenyan army camp in El Adde killing 200 soldiers, an April 2015 attack on a Kenyan college campus that killed 148 people, and a September 2013 attack on a mall in Nairobi that killed at least 67.
The United States has pursued a two-pronged approach in Somalia by providing financial and logistical support to AMISOM and conducting counterterrorism operations, including drone strikes and special operations forces raids, against suspected al-Shabab militants. Since 2007, the United States has provided more than half a billion dollars to train and equip African Union forces battling al-Shabab. In September 2014, the United States launched an air strike that killed at least six people, al-Shabab’s leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, after which the group immediately named Ahmed Umar as his successor. In May 2016, a U.S. strike using both drones and manned aircraft reportedly killed 150 al-Shabab soldiers at a training camp north of Mogadishu.
The primary U.S. objective in Somalia is to minimize the ability of al-Shabab and other violent groups to destabilize Somalia or its neighbors and harm the United States or its allies. Al-Shabab’s continued attacks degrade the Somali government’s ability to both provide security and alleviate the dire humanitarian situation in the country, and its influence in Somalia undermines the United States’ efforts to prevent the use of Somalia as a refuge for international terrorists.
Note of the Month – May 2019
As the timeline of delivery approaches, the tension between US and Turkey increases day by day. In May several US institutions declared their concerns about that matter. US government and military has made several threats including the non delivery of the F-35 fighter jets, interrupting the training of Turkish pilots, a possible suspension of Turkey’s NATO membership and economic sanctions.
The determined position of US about the matter put Turkish Government into trouble as Turkey has already paid for S-400s and the delivery should begin during July. As an independent state Turkey should be buying arms from the country it wishes. However, US’ main concern is the conflict of software of the S-400 missiles with weapons of NATO. They claim that they will cause fatal problems in case they used in the same army. That can be a reality or an excuse to make Turkey cancel its order.
Turkey has some alternatives regarding the issue, first it can cancel the order but that will be very difficult to explain to the Turkish citizens. Second Turkey may suspend the delivery of the missiles and gain more time to make a final decision. Third, the delivery will be made by Russia but Turkey will give its word to US that it will not use these missiles and take them to a storage facility. Fourth, Turkey shall find a way to sell these missiles to a third country but in that case Russia and US most probably will object to that.
Turkey is in a difficult situation about S-400 missiles and it seems there isn’t any feasible solution to satisfy all those three countries.
Resignation of Theresa May
In the last week of May, UK Prime Minister Theresa May declared in tears her resignation from the office. She may be a successful politician but no matter how hard she tried she could not find a solution to the Brexit. As UK’s main problem for the last couple of years is the Brexit process her work could be considered as a failure as the faith of the Brexit is still unknown and very complicated.
Re-election of the Mayor of Istanbul
After several objections and recounting the votes High Election Board of Turkey decided a re-election for Istanbul. The elections will be on 23rd of June and voters shall only vote for the Mayor of Istanbul city.
Notable Events of April 2019
Local Elections of Turkey
The local elections held on 31st of March led to several conclusions and procedures. AKP, the party in power did not significantly decreased its votes but it can be considered the loser of the elections as they lost two main cities namely İstanbul and Ankara to the opposition party CHP. For the first time in 20 years CHP has increased its votes significantly and won the elections in several major cities. AKP won most of the municipalities in the central and eastern Turkey and CHP won most of the coastal cities together with the capital Ankara. The statistics indicates that higher income regions voted for CHP and lower income regions voted for AKP.
At the election night the main information supplier for the media has stopped giving the results for over 10 hours. In the mean time AKP candidate declared that he has won the election of Istanbul and became the mayor of Istanbul. However, that proved to be wrong in the following day and it has been understood that the candidate of CHP has won the elections by approximately 20.000 votes. Such a margin was very small for a city which has more than 8 million voters so AKP has used all means to change that situation. That led to endless recounting of votes and a great stress at the society as Istanbul is without doubt the most important city of Turkey and AKP benefitted from the power of the city for the last 25 years. Following 20 days of recounting the votes the candidate of CHP has officially been declared as the mayor of Istanbul.
S400 Conflict With USA
Turkey is traditionally a country who buys weapons from the western world and pays a substantial percentage of its budget to do that. That means a lot of money and all the weapon seller countries follow Turkey carefully. US is the main supplier of all types of weapons to Turkey. However recent developments, heavy conditions of US for using the weapons, lots of embargo threats and the price of defense missiles directed Turkey to Russia to buy S400 missiles. That was very good for the relations between Russia and Turkey but that affected US-Turkey relations very negatively. During April several high level US officials reflected their positions against this dealing and some of them threatened Turkey for possible economic embargos. Turkey have understood the seriousness of the situation and continuing its efforts to solve that S400 crisis. President Erdoğan, Minister of Economy Albayrak and Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu contacted with Trump and other officials multiple times.
It seems that in order not to attract more attentions Turkey will suspend the delivery of the missiles and shall have more time to find a mutual solution. US implies that deploying those missiles may cause Turkey its NATO membership. Time will show if Turkey shall take a new direction towards east or shall stay at the NATO alliance.
Economic Package of Berat Albayrak
Since the first day in his office Minister of Economy Berat Albayrak has been criticized heavily as he does not have a sound background for such a title and his mere success is the fact that he is the son-in-law of President Erdoğan. Critics have been proved right as Turkey went a very severe economic crisis in the autumn of 2018. Foreign currencies nearly doubled, which means the purchasing power of Turkish Lira decreased to half and interest rates sky rocketed to 25% annually. During that time Minister Albayrak was always positive and telling that things would be good soon, but that did not happen as the economy of Turkey is still seriously in a crisis and the unemployment levels are at record highs. To overcome that crisis Albayrak has opened a new economic package during April but it was not containing specific measures, mainly they were showing the directions of the economy. That new package did not directly affect the markets. The same week he went to US to present the package to the international experts of economy, he also met with Trump in his office. But the results were very disappointing, at Financial Times and several other publications he has been criticized very badly, the main point was that he told nothing noteworthy and told nothing to solve the problems of Turkey. It will be the benefit of Turkey if international experts are wrong.
Sudan – Dictator Omer Al Bashir Has Been Arrested
In Sudan 30 years of Omer al Bashir’s dictatorship has finally came to an end. During his time Sudan became a country of fear, oppression and internal wars. The freedom of press was nonexistent, there were torture houses and an entire generation grew up in terror and fear. He also committed several war crimes and humanity crimes. He was transferred to Kober prison, a maximum-security prison notorious for holding political prisoners during his 30-year dictatorship and millions of dollars have been found in his residence.
Sudan’s military has said that it would prosecute Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), but would not extradite him. The military, which has dissolved the government, has said it would remain in power for up to two years, despite large street protests against their rule. It seems that people of Sudan are now hopeful for the future. Time will show if the new regime shall bring back the democracy or shall create a new dictator in Sudan.
Sri Lanka Bombing Events
In April, On Easter Sunday, suicide bombers killed at least 253 people and injured some 500 at churches and top-end hotels across Sri Lanka. There were foreigners among the victims but most of them were Sri Lankans. The attacks have been held in coordination and 6 bombings have been realized at the same time by suicide killers. As the target was mainly the churches and high end hotels it was easy to identify the attackers and Sri Lankan authorities believe that the attacks have been held by a local islamist group called as National Thowheed Jamat (NTJ). Sri Lankan police has taken severe measurements to prevent possible upcoming attacks and identified the suicide bombers as belonging to middle to high class families.
Sunday’s attacks were the worst ever against Sri Lanka’s small Christian minority, who make up just 7% of the 21 million population. Theravada Buddhism is Sri Lanka’s biggest religion, accounting for about 70% of the population. Hindus and Muslims make up around 12% and 10% of the population respectively.
US Military Aids to YPG
Although not official YPG is the extension of the terrorist group PKK which fights with Turkey for more than 30 years to establish an independent Kurdish Federation on mostly Turkey’s soil. Turkey has lost tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers during those fights. YPG appeared as a handy tool which US used extensively during the conflict in Syria. As things relatively better in Syria, ISIS has been almost removed and peace is slowly coming to the Syrian land, YPG is becoming one of the main figures at the area. US continued to send military aids to YPG in April, as they have declared their intentions to leave the Syria soon and it is obvious that they want to use YPG as their subcontractors at the region. However with all the right reasons Turkey heavily objects to this situation and the relation between Turkey and US is very tense for that matter. As the region is very problematic and parties to this conflict change sides easily, it is very difficult to predict the future of the region and the future of US-YPG relations.
Turkey – Russia: Developing Relations
For the last two decades Turkish-Russian relations were getting better every year. Of course there were major setbacks during that period. Hitting a Russian war plane in 2015 by Turkish air forces and assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov by a Turkish police officer were among those setbacks. Later, Turkey related those events by FETÖ (Fetullah Terrorist Organization) and tried its best to normalize the relations. With the developments taking place in Syria and similar views of Putin and Erdoğan relating to the world events, now it seems that Turkey and Russia are becoming close allies. Russia recently removed the strict ban on visas and allowed non- visa entrance for Turkish businessmen and truck drivers. The summit which is held at the midst of Febraury 2019 between Turkey, Russia and Iran also show signs of developing relations between those countries. According to the results of that summit Russia and Turkey have similar thoughts about the developments in Syria and a safe zone in Syria borders can be established. One can expect that, in this direction by the help of Russian government, Turkey-Syria relations can also develop in a positive way. Russia-Turkey trade volume is increasing continuously and it was around 25 billion USD in 2018.
Turkey –Greece Relations: Improving?
Tsipras has visited Turkey in February and welcomed by Turkish authorities and by President Erdoğan. Tsipras has also visited Halki Greek Orthodox Seminary being the first Prime Minister of Greece doing that. The Seminary is closed for 48 years and opening it is in the agenda of both nations and it has a major symbolic value for Greeks. The reason for that warm visit and welcome had two sides. Turkey is going to local elections and it is always important for President Erdoğan to win the elections as an erosion of his votes may mean a lot to the opposition. Politically Turkey should be seen strong and good with its neighbors to gather the votes of masses. But, may be this visit is more significant for Tsipras as he recently signed an agreement with Macedonia after long debates and called traitor by some of the Greeks for signing such an agreement. Normalizing relations with Turkey and having the Seminary opened will bring a success to him in domestic politics.
SEPTEMBER 11, THE BEGINNING OF A NEW CONJUNCTURE (*)
The general trend seems to be away from the vestiges of the Cold War and towards more international cooperation. If, at the end, the conjuncture consolidates this trend, it can make the World a safer place to live in.
The terror attacks of September 11 on the United States has marked the beginning of a new conjuncture. A unique constellation of forces is emerging. At the present time one can hardly predict what the world will look like when the process will completely settle and the conjuncture take shape.
A terrible force has struck the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. We have seen the most terrible kind of terrorism. This is what has been called asymmetric use of violence. Every country has experienced its impact. The whole civilised world has condemned it and is determined to fight it. Already political, military and legal measures are underway.
The conjuncture will eventually mature at a point in time when the basic components of the puzzle will be put in place. At this early stage we can determine that the process has been set in motion. All the same, there are already certain indications as to the direction in which things will be moving.
One such indication is the way September 11 shock was immediately perceived. Some said the horrific attacks might help usher in the “post post-Cold War era”. Some others talked of a second chance to bury the Cold War.1 The reference point was mostly the Cold War. This shows that the period in which we lived contained the remnants of that episode. There is awareness that despite all efforts we could not completely free ourselves from living under the spell of the Cold War climate.
Another indication is the attitude of the main players in the face of such a catastrophe. They were very quick to come forth. NATO countries immediately rallied to the cause. Russia and China were also in the forefront. On the way to a more stable world, September 11 made the road bifurcate. The relationship between US, Russia and China, would determine to a great extend how we shall proceed from that point on. They are the three permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and most directly involved in Central Asia where the fight against terrorism has opened. We shall see how they will act to put in place the missing components of the puzzle; the final shape of the conjuncture will emerge accordingly. To be able to make a guess on the end result, it would be useful to look into the relationship between these three powers.
Relations between US, Russia and China
September 11 being the turning point in an analysis of the relations between these three countries, it would be useful to
1 A Second Chance to Bury the Cold War, International Herald Tribune, 5 Oct 2001.
divide each subject into two chapters: before September 11, after September 11.
US-Russia Relations Before
For our present purposes it would not be necessary to go as far back as the end of the Cold War. It may suffice to start with the Bush Administration. However, it would be useful to relate briefly how the Americans perceived the period since the Cold War. There are those who say that since the Cold War the American policy struggled to find the right approach toward Russia.2 There are others who are of the opinion that the consequences of the change brought about by the end of the Cold War still reverberate.3 Yes, the US is the single most powerful and influential country, but relations with Russia pose problems. A report submitted to the US Congress admitted that in 1992 and 1993 Yeltsin gave the West more than would have seemed possible under Gorbacev. The cutting of aid to the Communist regime in Afghanistan and ordering combat troops out of Cuba are mentioned as examples.4 That period was also described as the honeymoon period. But, slowly starting in 1993 the Russian Federation would take important decisions in foreign policy and the first indication was the declaration of the policy of “near abroad”. Again in 1995 there came a decree on the Russian policy toward CIS countries. The objective was further economic integration under Russian leadership. Russia would
2Senator Joseph Biden, US Foreign Policy Agenda, Department of State, March 2001
3 Robert J. Liber, ibid.
4 CRS Issue Brief for Congress, Congressional Research Service, Sept 25, 2001
also try to have a CIS defence alliance. Then we see the “new military doctrine”. This doctrine foresaw the use of nuclear force when needed. Such an assertive policy would certainly put an end to the good relations between the US and Russia. Russia also started to balance the worldwide influence of the US by working to create a multi-polarworld.Among other things, Russia endeavoured to build a “strategic partnership” with China. When Kozyrev was replaced by Primakov in 1996 it became clear that the divergence of views between the two countries would deepen.
When Putin came to power it was already apparent that this trend would continue and be strengthened. The “Putin Doctrine” adopted in the year 2000, is contained in documents relating to foreign policy, defence, security and information. It will be useful for our analysis to have a closer look at the document called “The Foreign Policy Concept”. Russia is described there as the strongest Eurasian Power. It is asserted that the US strategy of unilateral action may destabilise the world.5 New threats to Russia’s national interests come from attempts to establish a unipolar world, dominated economically and militarily by the US. It is concluded that Russia will endeavour to establish a multilateral system for international relations. Russia would make a global effort to support the United Nations and its Security Council against US attempts to control the World.
So, when President Bush took over suggestions were mostly about the way his Administration could use to discourage the Russian behaviour. In December 2000 Condoleeza Rice would say that US
5 Ariel Cohen, Putin’s Foreign Policy and US-Russian Relations, The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, Jan 18, 2001
policy should concentrate on the important security agenda with Russia.6 However after one year in office, the Administration started to give more positive signals. Colin Powell in his remarks on March 2001 said that the US wanted to be good friends with Russia.7
Oil and gas
Oil and gas resources of the countries of Caspian and Central Asia are important for US, Russia and China. They have already become a bone of contention between US and Russia. China is slowly entering the game. It would therefore be appropriate to look into this question here in the section dealing with US-Russian relations.
Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are rich in oil and gas. How rich? Estimates of oil reserves vary between 25 to 85 billion barrels. Natural gas reserves are quoted 6 to 11 trillion cubic feet. Production figures may give us an idea as to their capacity.
Azerbaijan oil fields are Chiraq, Guneshli and Azeri. Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline project envisages the transportation of oil with a capacity of 50 million tons per annum. Kazakhstan is developing the Tengiz and Korolev oil fields in partnership with the Chevron Company of the US. The production of the Tengiz field is already being taken to the Russian port of Novorossisk trough a pipeline formed by international companies. The pipeline is 1.500 km long and will carry initially 28 million tons of oil per year and later 67 millions tons. Turkmenistan produced 0.5 trillion cubic feet of gas in 1998.
6 Condolezza Rice, Chicago Tribune, Dec 31 2000, ibid.
7Colin Powell, Remarks to the National Newspaper Association, March,23,2001, ibid.
For the time-being transportation of oil from the Caspian region is mainly to the West, therefore the rivalry has been mostly between the US and Russia regarding the export routes. Soviet Union was one of the largest oil exporters. Russia would like to carry the new oil output of the region through her facilities. The US, on the other hand, seeks to diversify the number of outlets. US Assistant Secretary of Energy said that moving Caspian energy supplies into the global market was important from the point of view of US national security. He also declared that Russia was an important partner in this field and that they encouraged it to participate in the development of multiple transport routes.8 Russia on her part in a formal policy declaration in 1996 said energy was major factor in safeguarding Russia’s security.9 We see that both countries consider energy matters so important as to constitute a question of security.
This rivalry between the US and Russia that people called the new “Great Game”10 was studied by the officials and scholars of the two countries in October 2000 at a conference by the Caspian Studies Program of the Harvard University. American officials said US wanted to promote the independence and the economic development of the countries in the region and they do not intend to alienate Russia.
8 David L. Goldwyn, US Assistant Secretary of Energy, Testimony, April 12, 2000
9 Stephen Blank, Every Shark East of Suez: Great Power Interests, Policies and Tactics in the Transcaspian Energy Wars, Central Asian Survey, 1999
10 Bruce R. Kuniholm, Geopolitics of the Caspian Basin, The Middle East Journal, Washington, Autumn 2000
However, it was clear that Russia perceived US efforts in the region as impinging on Russian security.11 Other American scholars are of the opinion that Russia thinks that US is purposefully weakening Russia’s strategic position and even wants to constrain it.12
Although we are dealing here with US-Russian relations, it would be useful to point to the implications of China’s interest in Central Asian oil and gas. This may create competition first between Russia and China and eventually between China and US. As a matter of fact, China has acquired several fields in Kazakhstan and wants to build the longest pipeline in the world, from Western Kazakhstan to the Xinjiang province in China. China also has another ambitious project to build a gas pipeline from Eastern Turkmenistan to the Pacific Coast of China. An oil pipeline is also being considered from Kazakhstan along the same route.13
US-Russia Relations After
We may now turn our attention to what has transpired since the September 11 attacks. It has been reported that the same day of the
11 Emily Van Buskirk, Power Politics in the Caspian, Harvard Newsletter, March 13, 2001
12 Fiona Hill, Policy Brief, Brookings Institution, May 2001
13 Ariel Cohen, Testimony in the House of Representatives, US Interests in Central Asia, March 17,1999
terrorist attack President Putin telephoned President Bush to express his condolences. From that moment on things between the two countries developed in a positive way. A week after the attacks, Mr. Armitage went to Russia to ask Russia’s help on tracking down Osama bin Laden. Again it was reported that he also enquired whether Russia was prepared to transform their still antagonistic relations.14 He would inform the Russian side that US intended to send its forces to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. US wanted a green light from Moscow before doing that. Russia’s cooperation in this field was essential.15
The reasons behind the cooperative attitude of Mr. Putin have been the subject of intense debate. According to Russian sources, the Russian government is demonstrating its willingness to be a military and political ally. A Russian newspaper editorial commented, “In a strange way, the Kremlin is trying to get from the West what the West has always dreamed of extracting from Russia. Moscow is talking about joining the World Trade Organization and about strengthening ties with NATO”.16 An American think-tank official described it as a strategic decision of President Putin. He knew that Washington needed Moscow as a military and political ally, and he would not find a better opportunity for rapprochement with the West. Putin also tried to make the agreement of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to make their skies and bases available to US as a concession from Russia itself.17 Observers from neutral quarters were quick to say that the price for his support to the Afghanistan campaign was the acceptance by the US of his war against the Chechens. It was an alliance for realpolitik.18
14 A Second Chance to Bury the Cold War, International Herald Tribune, 5 Oct 2001
15 Russia, Why Is It Needed? Time Magazine, Oct 8, 2001
16 A New Rapprochement Between the US and Russia, The St. Petersburg Times, Oct 27 2001
17 Putin’s Bold Move, Time Magazine, Oct 29, 2001
18 Le Monde, 19 Oct, 2001
Following these first contacts the two governments were starting to reshape a new form of relationship. The US-Russia Working Group on Afghanistan gave the first signals of such a change when they met in November 2001 in Moscow. They issued a statement which talked about the “extraordinary depth and breadth of cooperation and consultation” between the two countries.19
The major development that has taken place in the relations of the two countries after September 11 is the Summit meeting between President Bush and President Putin in the United States on November of 2001. There, many decisions and actions taken by the two countries separately following the tragic attacks culminated in a basic agreement. The Joint Statement issued at the end of the talks is titled “New Relationship between the US and Russia”.20 In this document they both state they have overcome the legacy of the Cold War and that they don’t see each other as an enemy or threat. They would work together to promote security in the world. This, of course, is a fundamental commitment. Even if they have previously taken steps in this direction, this time they undertake to form a partnership for the leadership of the world.
This constitutes a real change towards a new international conjuncture.
The two leaders in the same document say they are determined to meet the threats to peace. And they enumerate them: terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, militant nationalism, ethnic and religious intolerance, and regional instability. This is a
19 US-Russia Working Group on Afghanistan; Joint Press Statement, Washington, D.C., Nov 2001
20 The White House; Joint Statement by President George Bush and President Vladimir Putin on a New Relationship between the US and Russia, Nov 14, 2001
broad spectrum. When such diverse issues are enumerated one by one, the question arises whether the two powers will be able to agree on the methods to deal with them. Again, to deal with these challenges they talk of creating a new strategic framework. Will that be a new mechanism? That remains to be seen.
A most interesting part of their agreement is the new emphasis they put on the relationship between NATO and Russia. They go as far as envisaging joint decisions, not only in the fight against terrorism but also on matters relating to regional instability and other contemporary threats. Following on that understanding the British Prime Minister has written to the NATO leaders and President Putin and proposed such a new security framework under which Russia would take part in decisions on key security issues. Already in 1997 NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council was set up to discuss such matters. However, it was not intended as a decision-making body. This time, according to senior British officials, the proposal of the British Prime Minister is designed to create a problem-sharing partnership “to ensure that Russia never feels out in the cold when security emergencies occur in the future”.21 Later, NATO Secretary General had further talks in Moscow on the same question.
The paragraph of the Joint Summit Statement on missiles has been overtaken by events, and it seems it is not a subject to disturb rapprochement between Washington and Moscow.
Although relations between the United States and Russia looks likely to be for the time being the cornerstone of the international arena in the years to come, one should not underestimate the part
- The Times, Nov 17,2001
to be played by the People’s Republic of China. Firstly, because China is a major power in Asia and the World. Second, China historically influenced very much the relations between US and Russia.
US-China Relations Before
Relations between China and the US go back to 1850’s. In this century the two countries have alternately been allies and foes. They fought the Korean War. Later Cold War circumstances led the US to alter its strategy. There was a need to contain the Soviet Union. For that reason President Nixon in 1972 visited China and signed the famous Shanghai Communique. China and US renounced the use of force in settling disputes with each other. On the critical issue of Taiwan, according to the negotiator of the text, Henry Kissinger, the paragraph was so worded that it was not a victory by one side over the other.22 In this way the Grand Triangle of US-Soviet Union-China was formed. A candid description of the triangle was made in a recent publication of the Shanghai Institute of International Relations. It says that the important part of the triangle was US-Soviet relations. Sino-US and Sino-Soviet Relations were subordinate to US-Soviet Relations.23 It was within this framework that diplomatic relations were established in 1978 and. the US recognised the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal Government of China. The US acknowledged that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China. Until 1989, relations continued in this vein and went even further. President Reagan in a letter to Deng Xiaoping in 1982 proposed to have a strategic relationship in the face of the Soviet threat.
22 Henry Kissinger, The White House Years, 1979
23 The Post Cold War World, The Shanghai Institute for International Studies, Shanghai, China, 2000
Following the end of the Cold War this relationship could not go on as before. Several factors came to pass before the strategic considerations. Taiwan issue, trade problems, questions of human right, all had their part in influencing relations. Still the two parties were trying to find a way to solve their differences. In 1996 President Clinton declared that he would sustain constructive engagement towards China. High-level visits ensued. President Jiang Zemin visited the US in 1997. He spoke of developing bilateral cooperation. Next year President Clinton went to China and spoke about strategic partnership. Later the two countries signed an agreement to open the Chinese economy to foreign competitors. In this way, after 13 years of negotiations US were terminating its opposition to China’s membership in the World Trade Organization.
US-China Relations After
The Chinese leaders expressed support for the US in the struggle against terrorism. The US acknowledged it as a good gesture. The US Secretary of State said that China’s cooperation in this field had bolstered the relationship between the two countries after a rocky period during the first months of the Bush Administration.24 Later the Presidents of US and China met at the APEC meeting in Shanghai. President Jiang Zemin at the joint news conference said they are opposed to terrorism in all forms and hoped any military action would be aimed accurately and would be guided by the United Nations.25 President Bush declared that China had agreed to cooperate with intelligence matters and interdict the financing of terrorist groups.26
As to what China wants in return, observers were quick to point that the aim of the Chinese was to obtain the understanding of
24 International Herald Tribune, Oct 18, 2001
25IHT, Oct 20, 2001
US on Xinkiang, Tibet and human rights questions.27 The position taken by China was described as an alliance for Realpolitik.28
An American scholar was cautious in his interpretation. He referred to the struggle against terrorism as a short-term opportunity for China, but said it would create long-term uncertainties. As of now, by insisting that America’s actions must receive the support of the UN Security Council, that US’s military action be limited, China wants to control the unilateral impulses in US foreign policy. However, in the long run US struggle against terrorism may threaten Chinese interests; already the alarmists in Beijing were talking about US possibly using the struggle against terrorism to tighten the chain of containment around China.29
China-Russia Relations Before
Chinese-Russian relations affect any development in Asia. This has been the case in the past centuries. It will probably be true in the future. After the People’s Republic was founded in 1949 China needed a strong ally and concluded a Treaty of Alliance with Russia. The Soviets relinquished their zone of influence in Manchuria and extended assistance to China. Later on Soviet demands caused China’s resentment. China also claimed territories lost to that country in the 19th century. This led to the border clashes between the two countries in 1969. It was following that episode that China turned towards the United Sates which was looking for an ally on the Asian continent.
Chinese-Soviet relations took a long time to recover from these border clashes. It was only in 1985 with Gorbacev that relations could
27 Time Magazine, Oct 8, 2001
28 Le Monde, 19 Oct 2001
29 Harry Harding, IHT, Oct 18, 2001
be normalised. His Vladivostok speech helped smoothen the atmosphere and Gorbacev visited China in 1989. However, according to the Chinese, Russia was leaning towards the US and the West in the early 1990’s and kept China at a distance30 Later President Yeltsin paid a visit to Beijing in 1992 and the basis for a comprehensive cooperation was laid. During those years China was experiencing a very rapid economic development and this has greatly impressed the Russians. Trade volume was expanding. Border questions were being negotiated. The two countries were trying to find common ground on several fields. Still there were many questions to be settled. Some Russian officials and scholars were asserting that China was claiming Russian territory.31 Despite problems, slowly a political rapprochement was taking place. At the end in 1997 they entered into a strategic partnership. During the visit of the Chinese President to Moscow a declaration was signed. They announced a New Multipolar World. In 1999 the two Presidents forged a strategic and cooperative partnership.32
The last and important episode of this rapprochement has taken place in the period just before September 11. Last July the two countries signed a Treaty for Good Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation. The treaty settled many issues. The demarcation of the long-disputed border of 4.000 km was decided. Cooperation against militant Islam in Central Asia was foreseen. Arms sales were another important item. But, of interest for the purposes of our analysis was their determination to offset the perceived US hegemonism.33
Prior to this episode the Chinese were presenting their rapprochement with Russia as something not being antagonistic to
30 The Post Cold War World, The Shanghai Institute for International Studies, Shanghai, China, 200
33 Ariel Cohen, The Russia-China Friendship and Cooperation TreatyA Strategic Shift in Eurasia, The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, July 18, 2001
the United States. They were describing it as sharing strategic interests in maintaining stability along their periphery regions and especially in Central Asia. They were asserting that both were afraid of the fundamentalism developing there and its spread to the adjacent areas in China and Russia.34 The comparison between this stated objective and the text of the new treaty would not be missed by the Americans. The American scholar who was following this development would say that the treaty signalled a big shift in geopolitics and the Eurasian balance of power. He would counsel the Bush Administration to closely monitor the implications of this treaty and take the appropriate steps, i.e. to increase regional security and try to induce Russia to scale down its military cooperation with China.35
The Shanghai Five
At this juncture it would be appropriate to say something about an initiative directed towards Central Asia. The initiative was taken originally by China, was later joined by Russia and recently has grown into a full-scale organization. China started a series of border demarcation and demilitarisation talks with four of the Central Asian countries. It evolved into an economic, military, and diplomatic process. The countries involved held their first presidential summit meeting in Shanghai in 1996. In 2000 they pledged to jointly crack down on liberation movements, terrorism and religious extremism in their borders. According to the assessment of a Director of the Brookings Institution, through this process China and Russia try to assert themselves more effectively in a world they see as dominated by the United States.36 In the summer of 2001 China, Russia, Kazakh-
36 Bates Gill of the Brookings Institution, Shanghai Five: An Attempt to Counter US Influence in Asia? Newsweek Korea, May 2001
stan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have created the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. This new development was perceived by another American scholar, as a sign of the willingness of China and Russia to be the decision-makers in Central Asia and to exclude Turkey, Iran and the United States. The scholar in his study published just after the formation of the Organization prophetically asks how effective the two countries will be against the Taliban, the Islamic Front of Uzbekistan and the organization of Osama bin Laden.37
China-Russia Relations After
For the time being both countries are satisfied with the war that is being waged against terrorism in Afghanistan. But later developments in Central Asia will probably favour one country over the other and that may alienate one of them. As we have seen, after many years Russia and China have finally established a certain balance between the two countries; they can start a really serious cooperation. Now the question is whether this cooperation can be put aside for a while, trying to benefit from the fruits of the American action in the area. Or is this cooperation really so important as to forsake the benefits that may accrue from the military action and its consequences?
The analysis in this paper was limited in scope; still it could give useful indications. We have looked into the relationship between the United States, Russia and China both before and after September 11. The impact of the tragic event on this relationship gives enough evidence that a new conjuncture is in the making. The developments on the US-Russian front are very impressive. There are promising
37 Ariel Cohen, The Russia-China Friendship and Cooperation Treaty: A Strategic Shift in Eurasia, The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, July 18, 2001
signs on the US-China side. The colour of the relations between Russia and China will be determined by developments in Central Asia. Throughout the analysis we have of course kept in mind the positive responses coming from Europe and other regions of the World. But, the fight against terrorism is only beginning; so the conjuncture to settle will have to wait the evolution on many fronts.
For the moment there are good indications things may move in the right direction. The general trend seems to be away from the vestiges of the Cold War and towards more international cooperation. If, at the end, the conjuncture consolidates this trend, it can make the World a safer place to live in.
(*) Published in the fpi Quarterly “Foreign Policy”, Vol. 26, Nos. 3-4
Caucasus and Central Asia
The Caucasus and Central Asia:
Strategic Implications (*)
Georgia,Azerbaijan,Armenia and Central Asian Republics are discussed in relation to Turkey,Iran and Russia.
It is now clear that the breakdown of the bipolar system of security, resulting from the demise of the Soviet Union has created numerous regional disputes, conflicts and wars which may result also in the involvement of outside actors increasing the volume and intensity of the conflicts. The inability of the existing international conflict resolution systems and security organizations which were created under the conditions of the Cold War became quite clear with the mounting of the regional political problems. These institutions which were mainly set up to grant privileges to the main victors of the Second World War in security matters, could not cope with the current new types of conflicts; thus, helping to increase the audacity of revisionist medium or small powers in extending their territories or in driving away undesired ethnical elements.
An analysis of the factors contributing to the current conflagration of regional disputes in the former Soviet Union would show that the distinctions between ethnicity and nationhood have begun to disappear and the stability of multi-ethnic states have become perilous. This situation exacerbates the inefficiency and failure of the economic and politi-cal system of the central authorities. Furthermore, the situation has become even more complicated with the transboundary activities of the ethnic groups struggling for union with their brethren. (1)
An additional destabilizing factor is the competition of regional and international powers to gain access to the resources of emerging new states and to gain political influence in those areas. Such a competition may lead to the 19th century style of power politics and fait accomplis that might aggravate regional security problems even further
The disappearance of the central Soviet power and the inefficacy of the international security systems have encouraged regional revisionist powers to engage in the use of force for territorial aggrandisement and in the creation of new ethnically based states at the cost of their neighbors.
The availability of abundant quantities of a wide range of arms and military equipment which could be acquired from a variety of sources with considerable ease have enabled all parties to conflicts to obtain them free of charge or at amazingly low prices. The arms and military equipment could be obtained from the following sources: from governments, military personnel of the former Soviet armies, and from military industrial establishments which have not yet converted themselves into consumer industries. Although it is stated that all tactical nuclear weapons of the former Soviet Union are now in the hands of the Russian Federation, it is doubtful if these weapons could be properly accounted for, considering the diminished command and control in the CIS military. In any event, it is clear that in most of the former Soviet Republics and other countries in the region there are tactical missiles complicating the possible war scenarios. (2) Added to these is the black market trade for weapon grade nuclear materials.
The economic and political upheaval in most of the former Soviet Republics and mostly ill-conceived transformation attempts of the existing system, lead to disintegration of social norms and to ethnic separatist movements which resulted in the use of force and terrorism.
The role of all or some of the factors mentioned above are clearly discernable in the current situation in the Caucasus and Central Asia. in spite of the current tendency to view most of the former Southern Soviet Republics uniformly, the differences in their size, location, internal structures and threat perceptions require separate studies of the conditions and problems of these countries. Furthermore, the external regional actors and their influences on the interaction, security and stability policies of the region must be reviewed individually.
The principal actors in the Caucasus region are Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, the Russian Federation, Iran and Turkey. The medley of ethnic groups in all these countries, especially those in Caucasia, each of whom presses for recognition as a separate entity has become the most significant destabilizing factor. Undeclared wars were fought between the Georgians and the Abkhaz, and between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Karabagh. The Russian Federation is involved because of the participation of several of autonomous regions and republics in the Northern Caucasus region which defy Moscow and are providing support to the forces opposing Georgia. Turkey and Iran are also interested in the security of the region for different purposes. A clearer analysis of the security and strategic problems of the region might be provided if the issues are studied case by case and country by country. Before taking up the current problems in the area, the overall perspectives of the neighboring countries may provide a general view of the conflicting nature of interests:
For the relations between Turkey and the Central Asian states, the Caucasus region constitutes a passageway and it plays the role of a bridge.
If we consider the current political and economic problems in which the Russian Federation is temporarily suffering from, the military power, and the strong economic and cultural influence this country will earn in the future necessitate that the Caucasus should be transformed into a “belt of peace” and play the role of a buffer zone between Russia and Turkey.
Therefore, promoting peace and stability in the Caucasus region will serve Turkey’s interests best. This can only be secured if the current upheaval in Georgia is terminated, and a solution is found to the dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Economic potential of the region and the availability of oil and other natural resources make the region also a good possible partner for Turkey.
The historic enmity of the Armenians towards Turkey and their struggle with the Turkish speaking Azerbaijan brings strong limitations to the development of Turkey’s relations with that country. Turkey would be ready to provide Armenia with assistance and sea access, if some of these limitations are removed. In reaction to the Armenian attitude. Turkey provides economic and technical assistance to Azerbaijan and humanitarian assistance to Georgia. The open frontier with Georgia allows substantial border trade as well. (3)
The breakdown of the Soviet Union and the opening of the Caucasus region has brought about a challenge and at the same time an opportunity for Iran in the Caucasus region. The challenge is that a successful economy and a secular democratic development in Azerbaijan might provoke secessionist tendencies and activities among the 15 to 20 million Azeris living in Iran. The nationalist Government in Azerbaijan did not assure Iran in this respect when the President Elchibey spoke about a Southern Azerbaijan. The Shiite Fundamentalist nature of the regime in Iran has contributed to a certain level of harmony between Persian and Azeri elements of the Iranian population, unlike the previous Shah regime under which the Azeris felt persecuted by the Persian totalitarian rule. There is no doubt that a secular system of government in Iran, given the economic weakness of the country, will strengthen the separatist tendencies among the minority groups.
Therefore, Iran has assumed a more neutral role towards the countries in the region and has tried to develop good relations both with Azerbaijan and Armenia. While on the one hand Iran is helping to break Azeri embargo on Armenia by opening by Caspian ports for the shipment of Russian oil to Armenia and expanding trade with that country; on the other hand, trade is flourishing between Iran and Azerbaijan. The formation of the pro-Iranian Islamic Party of Azerbaijan in October 1992 was announced with delight in Iran. While their membership is still small, the fundamentalist parties are gaining popularity in the country by criticizing the government for its failure in the war with Armenia.(4) Whatever are the feelings of Iran towards Azerbaijan, their policy seems to be facing a dilemma in the Caucasus where Teheran is competing with Turkey, a secular state, for influence. The Republic of Azerbaijan, although Moslem and Shiite, has become more nationalist than Moslem under the Russian and Soviet rule. The attitude towards religion is therefore highly secular, and most of the elite trained as Komsomols (Communist youth organizations) in their youth are practically atheists, and they, like many other elites of the Soviet Republics, view the Iranian fundamentalist regime with disdain. Therefore, the chances of success
of the new Islamic parties in Azerbaijan appear to be minimal. On the other hand a policy of hostility towards Azerbaijan might cause indignation among the Azeri people of Iran. Open support for Armenia which is at war with Azerbaijan would provide the same result. Poor conditions of Iranian economy and lack of industrial power limits greatly Iran’s potential to provide economic and technical assistance to the region. This inability and policy constraints have led Iran to pursue a neutral policy and to mediate between Armenia and Azerbaijan, even though the mediation attempts have failed to bring about the desired peace.
Russian domination of the Caucasus was accomplished in the
19 th century. For its conquest of Caucasia, Russia fought with Iran and Turkey,not to mention the heroic resistance of many local tribes in the Caucasus.
The region was very attractive for Russia for its oil resources in Azebaijan and agricultural products of Georgia. After the defeat of Russia in the First World War the Caucasian states established independent republics and even formed a Transcaucasian Federal Republic. By 1921 the Bolsheviks gained complete control of Caucasia and established a Soviet Transcaucasian Republic covering the entire area. In 1936, however, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia were established as Soviet republics. The purges in these countries eliminated most of the intelligentsia and suppressed all the nationalist feelings. After the breakdown of the Soviet Union, Georgia and Azerbaijan chose to remain outside the CIS and Armenia for obvious reasons became a member of the newly-formed Commonwealth of Independent States. During the Cold War days, the Caucasus area was cutoff from the outside world. All commercial and other transactions had to go through Moscow. After the breakdown of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Russian Federation, Moscow’s policy towards the Caucasus region is, to say the least, ambivalent. While the Republics of Georgia and Armenia are independent in their external relations and internal affairs, Russian troops are still in these countries. They are supposed to leave Georgia in 1995, but there is no sign that they will do so. It seems that Russia intends to maintain some leverage over both Armenia and Azerbaijan. There is a feeling in Moscow that increasing Turkish influence in Azerbaijan and Georgia must be blunted, prefer-ably through diplomatic and economic actions.(6) There is talk about an Iranian, Armenian, Russian axis to balance growing Turkish linkages with Georgia and Azerbaijan. Up to now, however, Russian interests in Caucasia has not yet been delineated. The recent Russian Military Doctrine, the attempts to modify the CFE and Russian push to include Georgia and Azerbaijan in the CIS and force these countries to accept the defense of their borders by CIS (Russian) troops may be considered as indicative of long term Russian ambitions which are most aggressively asserted by the new leader of the right wing party Mr. Zhirinovsky.
In Northern Caucasia which is within the Russian Federation such countries as Karachay Cherkessia, Kabardin-Balkar and Chechen Ingushetia are pushing for independence, and are taking up arms. Russia has also become entangled in the war in Georgia. What is clear however is that the orientation of the present elite trained under the Communist rule still look in the direction of Moscow. The economies of all the Caucasus countries are interlinked with the Russian economy, even though there is a determination in all these countries to diversify their trade. Russia needs, therefore, to redefine its policy in the Caucasus region. The renewal of integrative policies have failed both under the Czarist and Communist systems. The best policy to reduce frictions and promote peace and stability in the region would be to cooperate with Turkey and the regional countries in a manner that would serve the interests of all. One framework already initiated and created by Turkey for this purpose is the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Zone which includes all the Caucasian countries. However, recent trends in Moscow seem to be in the direction of renewing Russian monopolistic droit de regard in the region.
The most obvious dimension of the Georgian politics is the civil conflicts, both between the Georgians and the country’s minorities, and among the Georgians themselves. Georgia’s total population of 7 million is composed of 69% Georgians, 9% Armenians, 7% percent Russians, and 5% Azeri. There are also smaller minorities: about 3% Ossets who live mostly in the area of Tskhinvali and about 2% Abkhaz who live in the Northwest. The Georgians are themselves quite varied both linguistically and religiously. Georgian Moslems are called Adzhars. Russia occupied Georgia in the second half of the 19th century and in 1921 it was reoccupied by the Bolshevik armies. Like its predecessor the imperial Russia, the Soviet Union fallowed a policy of exacerbating ethnical differences among the Georgian groups and for this purpose a number of political jurisdictions were created on the basis of ethno-territorial distinctions. These included: Adzhar Autonomous Republic, the Southern Ossetian Oblast, and the Abkhaz Autonomous Republic. While such divisions provided a sense of political and ethnic distinctiveness among the minority elites, it also turned them into machines of patronage among ethnic lines and discouraged nation building. Minority areas depended on Moscow for their security and protection against the majority Georgians. The creation of a nationalist Georgian Republic in 1990 brought about two violent reactions particularly in the North. While the Oblast government in Tskhinvali declared itself as the Southern Ossetian Re-public, the Abkhaz resolved to create an independent Republic. The internal troubles in Georgia are similar to those in Yugoslavia. In the course of the conflict with the Central Government, Ossetians tried to defend Tskhinvali with the help of the Northern Ossetians from the Russian Federation and of former Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs troops stationed in the city, against Georgian National Guard and that local militia. The war produced tens of thousands of Georgian and Ossetians refugees. In the spring of 1992 an agreement, was reached
between Boris Yeltsin and the Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on the deployment of a joint Georgian, Northern Ossetian and Russian Peacekeeping force in the Tskhinvali region to hold the line between the rival Georgian and Osset militias. However, the established cease-fire does not signify a political solution and the fighting may erupt again at any time.
Another serious problem was the revolt of Abkhazia. The Abkhaz government declared its independence in July 1992. The Georgian troops entered Abkhazia and occupied the town of Gali and moved to capital Sukhumi. The Confederation of Peoples of the Caucuses went to the assistance of the Abkhazians and a bitter struggle ensued. At the price of entering into CIS and accepting the stationing of Russian troops in his country Mr. Sheverdnaze seems to have assured some kind of calm on the Abhaz front after a serious defeat; but it is still very difficult to see how a long term settlement can be attained and how a nation state will be created and maintained. Out of the ensuing chaos the challenge is too big and the country’s economic plight does not allow the luxury to the Government of Tbilisi both to fight and to improve the economy of the country. The plight of the Georgian people is best observed from Turkey where humanitarian aid has been provided on continuous basis as well as economic assistance. (7)
Georgia has four neighbors namely, the Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey. Each of these countries has an interest in the affairs of Georgia. The most important foreign actor in the affairs of Georgia is, without doubt, the Russian Federation. In the first place conservative elements in Russia reacted with anger to the refusal of Georgia to become a member of the CIS in the Common-wealth of Independent States, they believed that with the secession of Georgia they had lost the “key to the Caucasus”. This situation is worsened by the loosening of Moscow’s control over the autonomous Republics in the Northern Caucasus. These countries,(8) with implicit support from Russia, provided active assistance to the Abkhazians in terms of arms and equipment as well as volunteers. In October 1992, the decision of Georgia to take over Soviet arms and equipment inside Georgia, created a warlike situation between Georgia and Russia. The Abkhaz government appears to have received substantial quantities of tanks, aircraft and other equipment. Volunteers have crossed the border unhindered from the Russian Federation to fight with the Abkhazians. Up to the present, it has not been possible to bring about a resolution to the problem in Northern Georgia, nor to the relations between Georgia and the Russian Federation. The presence of the Russian troops in Georgia is also a destabilizing factor.Nevertheless, Russians have utilized successfully the Abhaz-Georgian conflict to persuade Georgia to join CIS and accept Russian troops on a permanent basis. (9)
As far as Turkey is concerned Georgia is Turkey’s main transit route to the Caucasus, the Russian Federation and the Central Asian Republics. Internal ethnic conflicts including those between the Armenians and the Azeris in Georgia, lack of law and order and the existence of armed Mafia groups make this route extremely perilous. A second route is through Iran which is also not an easy passage. The situation in Georgia also makes the passage difficult for the supply of Russian goods to Armenia. The Turkish policy basically serves the purpose of providing humanitarian assistance to Georgia and bringing Georgia into cooperation schemes such as the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Zone. The existing socioeconomic pell-mell however renders this effort rather fruitless. Regarding the Abkhaz-Georgia dispute, Turkey had preferred to remain neutral in the conflict. The reasons for this neutrality stem from the presence in Turkey of large numbers of people of Abkhaz and Georgian extraction as well as from Turkey’s policy of reluctance to become involved in internecine disputes of her neighbors. When Georgia invaded the Abkhaz capital Sukhumi last year, the Turkish Government expressed its concern for the Abkhazians but refrained from strongly criticizing Georgia; in fact, it reiterated that territorial integrity of the states should be respected. (10)
The word Azerbaijan means in Arabic the land of fire probably alluding to burning natural gas or oil found abundantly in that coun-try. (11) The people speak Turkish and they have adopted Shia blend of Islam during the Persian domination of their land. Azeri culture has therefore been influenced by both Turkey and Iran. In recent years however the contacts of Azerbaijan with Turkey have increased and diversified and the leaders openly expressed their intentions to emulate Turkey’s secularism and socioeconomic system. The population of Azerbaijan is over 7 million and Azeris constitute more than 80% of it. According to the 1989 census there are about 400,000 Russians (large numbers of them have left since then and about the same number of Armenian did the same). Lezghi’s living in the North near the Dagestan border number 200,000. After the 1989 elections about 300,000 Azeris living in Armenia fled from Armenians and a similar number of Armenians fled from the Baku region in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has one autonomous republic “Nakhchevan” and the Autonomous Oblast of Nagorno-Karabagh. Nakhchevan was originally created between Russia and Turkey under the Treaty of Moscow of March 16, 1921. Under this treaty Nakhchevan would become autonomous republic linked to Azerbaijan and would not be annexed to any third country. Turkey interprets this provision of the Moscow Treaty and the similar provisions of Kars Treaty signed between Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russian Fed-eration, as a guarantee on the frontiers and the status of Nakhchevan. (12)
Armenia lays astride the direct land route between Azerbaijan and Nakhchevan, thus effectively cutting off the land communication between the two regions. Iran provides an indirect land communication link between Azerbaijan and Nakhchevan. Initially Azerbaijan signed the treaty forming the CIS in December 1991, but the Parliament rejected membership in October 1992. The previous Azerbaijan leadership believed that the Russian Federation was actively supporting Armenia in its war with Azerbaijan and this was one of the reasons why it does not wish to become a member of CIS. However, in the hope of getting Russian support to end the war the current leadership agreed to return to CIS; but so far the leadership is refusing to have Russian troops to be stationed in Azerbaijan. In addition to the Nagorno-Karabagh dispute between it and Armenia, Azerbaijan is facing a tribal/ethnic revolt by the North Lezghis, a Moslem tribe, who are conducting a campaign to set up an independent state with their brethren in neighboring Dagestan. This, campaign, however, is not yet a serious threat to Azerbaijan’s security and territorial integrity.
Like any other former Soviet Republic, Azerbaijan suffers from lack of trained managers, capital and trained workers to transform the country’s economy to the needs of modern era. Like most of the other Turkic Republics, Azerbaijan has immense resources of oil and gas, and agriculture has great prospects. British, Norwegian, American and Turkish companies are intending to build a pipeline to bring Azerbaijan oil to the Mediterranean. The export of 25 million tons of oil a year will no doubt turn Azerbaijan into a prosperous state. However, the Russian intervention and the conditions of war prevent further progress on this project.
Azerbaijan‘s relations with her neighbors:
Azerbaijan was one of the net contributors to the Soviet budget even though it was one of the lowest income republics. Azerbaijan’s oil and other items were exported to other parts of the Union at very low prices. The Azeris, with few exceptions, did not occupy leading roles in the Government and the military of the Soviet Union. It is for this reason that the Azeris lack trained officers to lead their army, even though there are enough weapons to wage their war with Armenia. For trade, Russia continues to be Azerbaijan’s biggest partner, and Azerbaijan supplies most of the equipment needed for the Russian oil industry. In January 1990 Azeri refugees from Armenian attacked Armenians living in Baku and forced most of them to flee the city. The Soviet army sent tanks and troops to occupy Baku and hundreds of Azeris were killed in this action. The Russians installed the Communist leader Ayaz Muttalibov as president. After the first Armenian attacks on Azeri villages in Nagorno-Karabagh, Muttalibov was accused of following a pro-Armenian policy and had to resign. In June 1992 the Popular Front leader Abulfez Elchibey was elected president. This development led to the renunciation of the Oblast status of Nagorno-Karabagh and cooled relations with Russia. However, Elchibey’s failure as a leader to stop the war and prevent Armenian advance into Azerbaijan proper led to a coup d’etat which eventually brought veteran politician Kheidar Aliev to power and accomodation with Russia.
As part of Turkey’s overall policy towards the newly independent Turkic Republics in the former Soviet Union, Ankara’s relations with Azerbaijan, after achieving rapid development particularly during Elchibey’s presidency, now is suffering from a partial set back. . Thousands of Azeri students are studying in the Turkish Universities and other training establishments. The business relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan are developing and increasing. Azerbaijan has decided to revert to the use of Latin alphabet from Cryllic alphabet. Turkish TV is followed by the Azeri public. Joint enterprises are growing. After the down-fall of Mr. Elchibey who was thought to be a pro-Turkish nationalist, there was some ill feeling towards Turkey in Azerbaijan. In recent months, however, Turkey and Azerbaijan are continuing to develop their relations on the basis of objective rather than emotional criteria.
As earlier explained, the trade volume between Iran and Azerbaijan is rapidly developing. Yet, there are contradictions between these two states. Iranian state system and politics do not coincide with Azeri expectations in the North. Iran gradually is becoming an active economic partner with Azerbaijan. It also extends support to some Islamic parties and institutions. On the other hand, Iran had a lesser role as a political power on Azerbaijan. Presently, Iran’s political relations are going through a similar phase as Turkey’s.
The first Armenian Republic was established in May 1918 with its capital at Yerevan, one month after the establishment of the short lived Transcaucasian Republic. In January 1920 Western powers recognized the Dashnak government. Dashnak controlled Armenian armies tried to seize parts of Eastern Turkey. They were defeated by the Turkish army and the present border was established by the Treaty of Gumri in December 2, 1920. The Russians tried to get from Turkey some territory during the negotiations which led to the Moscow Treaty of 1921, but their aim did not materialize as they wished. In 1945, the Russians tried once again to force Turkey to secede Kars and Ardahan in Eastern Turkey to Armenia. This attempt also failed. With the beginning of an East-West detente, the Armenian nationalists aroused the Diaspora and beginning by 1973 the Armenian terrorist organizations have assassinated more than 40 Turkish diplomats in different parts of the world. After the breakdown of the Soviet Union, Armenia, after a referendum held on September 21,1991, decided to become an independent republic. The Armenian Nationalist Movement provided the first President of Armenia, Mr. Levon Ter-Petrossyan, from the Armenian Diaspora in Syria, who since then left the position and went out of the country. The policies of the Foreign Minister Mr. Hovanissian.(he has since been replaced) antagonized all the neighbors of Armenia but he failed to obtain the amount of political and economic backing he expected from the United States, even though all Armenians living abroad were made citizens of the Armenian Republic. Meanwhile Armenia’s conflict with Azerbaijan escalated into an all-out war.
Karabagh was made an autonomous district of Azerbaijan in 1921. The logic of this action was that since the Russian Empire dominated the Caucuses region, Karabagh was administratively linked with the richer agricultural plains to the east. In the 1920s, given the poverty of Armenia, the oil rich Azerbaijan was considered to be a better partner for Karabagh. The population of the district was about one third Azeris and two thirds Armenians. Activists began to agitate in the 1960s to incorporate Karabagh into Armenia. These demands were turned down repeatedly both by Azerbaijan and the Soviet Government. On February 13,1988, the Karabagh Armenians began to demonstrate for union with Armenia. These were followed by riots against Azeris both in the Karabagh and Armenia, and Azeri reactions took place in Sumgait. Karabagh was placed under direct Moscow rule between July 1988 and November 1989. However, this did not stop the fighting. In fact national feelings ran high both in Armenia and Azerbaijan. Azeris were all driven away from Karabagh and Armenia by force. A corridor was established between Karabagh and Armenia. On and off fighting has been continuing since then, the Armenians have the upper hand in the fighting and they have occupied not only all of Karabagh but also substantial Azeri territory, a quarter of Azerbaijan itself, including Kelbejer and Fuzuli. This approach gives credence to the arguments that the present leadership in Armenia is emulating Serbia and they are seeking to establish a greater Armenia in the face of the paralysis of the international system. The Russian attribute in the present Azeri-Armenian conflict is rather interesting. Russian efforts are aimed at emerging as the protective force in the Caucasus. It thrives to be accepted by Georgia and Azerbaijan as the objective arbiter in all intercommunal disputes. This is a double edged purpose where Russia wants the same acceptability by the West. So far within the structure of CSCE Russia has not been granted the powers it wanted, nor NATO accepted the changes Russia wanted to introduce to CFE limits in the Caucasus regions.
Kurds and Armenia:
The Armenians seem to have decided to, play also the Kurdish card against Turkey and Azerbaijan. There are about 200,000 Kurds in the former Soviet Union some of whom lived in the region of Lachin between Karabagh and Armenia. In the past there was no problem of co-existence between the Azeris and the Kurds who lived together and intermarried. Lachin now serves as a corridor between Karabagh and Armenia. The deputy president of the “Kurdish Liberation Movement” of the Kurds living in the Soviet Union said that they wanted to set up a Kurdish state in Lachin to be federated or confederated with Nagorno-Karabagh.(13) The Turkish press reports that the PKK (a Kurdish Terrorist Organization) has been allowed to setup an office in Yerevan and terrorist training camps in Armenia. The leader of PKK is trying to raise Armenian support in the face of setbacks his organization suffered in Turkey. (14) There are frequent reports that the PKK has been allowed to setup training camps in Armenian territory and many Armenians are to be found among PKK ranks.
All of Caucasia’s neighbors are trying to stop the fighting in Caucasia. Iran has made several attempts, which have failed. Turkey has done its best by including both Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Zone, and by organizing direct contacts between the leaders of the warring parties. Consequently, Turkey, together with Russia and the United States, has made a last ditch effort to persuade the parties to cease fire and to resume talks within an agreed framework.
Basically for two principal reasons the international institutions are not keenly interested in the fighting and the massacres that are continuing in the Caucuses, particularly those taking place in Karabagh and Azerbaijan. The last hard winter and the earthquake that Armenia suffered a few years ago, have created a sympathy for the Armenians, not to mention the role of the Diaspora in France and the United States. Nevertheless, the recent Armenian attacks on Azerbaijan territory proper have caused a certain amount of diplomatic reaction. The Security Council has passed a resolution on the recent Armenian attacks, denouncing the attacks.
Until these recent attacks, Turkey had opened its frontiers and air-space for the transport of food and humanitarian assistance to Armenia, and Ankara had even loaned her own wheat to Armenia during that harsh winter. The recent unprovoked aggression against Azerbaijan has led to the closing of air and land routes between Armenian and Turkey. It is difficult to see what will be the implications for the peace and security in the Caucuses if Armenia does not evacuate the occupied Azeri territory and continues on further operations.
The Central Asian region covers a vast area, twice the size of Eu-rope. Russians called it Middle Asia until recently, Kazakhs prefer to term their own area as Inner Asia. The common terminology of Central Asia would stretch from Southern Siberia to the Indo-Pakistan Peninsula in the North and South; Caspian Sea and Iran in the West, and China in the East (though some writers include Xinkiang in Central Asia because of the majority of the people are Uygurs).
In comparison with Caucasia, Central Asia is politically more stable, with the exception of Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Most of Cen-tral Asian population is composed of Turkophone nations and their languages have varying degrees of similarities with the current Turkish used in Turkey. In their early years the tribal living and city-states marked the social and political systems. After the defeat of Russia in the First World War, they created a Turkestan to cover most of Central Asia and some parts of the Turkish speaking people in what is now the current Russian Federation. The Bolsheviks destroyed this state even though local armed resistance continued for a long time. The present borders do not correspond to any criterion for modern state. One could call the present ethnic composition of the new nations a medley. In Kazakhistan there are about twenty ethnical groups, in Kyrgyzstan there are 5 main groups that make about 90% of the population, in Uzbekistan there are about twelve ethnic groups. Turkmenistan’s population is mainly Turkmens (69%), Russians (12%) and Uzbeks (10%).
The presence of the Turkish speaking majorities and minorities in each country, has led to a nationalist movement for the recreation of a Turkestan in Central Asia. This movement has also supporters in Turkey and Azerbaijan. Yet their strength is not great because in Turkey, the foreign policy preference is towards integration with Europe. In most of the new Turkic republics full independence has not yet been achieved and democratic forces are not yet vociferous.
Considering the ethnic structures of the Central Asian Republics, it is clear that the majority languages are based on Turkish, even though each republic gives the language its own name because of small differences in their dialects. Turkey has taken the initiative to bring about a regional cooperation among the Turkish speaking nations and it has begun to organize seminars, satellite television programs to create a close cultural network and to promote cooperation in different cultural fields.
The Cyrillic alphabet of the Russian language was imposed on the Turkic Republics in the Soviet Union. Now, all the Turkic Republics have expressed their interest in adopting a modified Latin alphabet (34 characters). In a conference held in Ankara in February 1993, all the Turkic Republics decided to begin the implementation of the decision to change from Cyrillic to Latin. Only Kazakhistan remains in the “intention” phase. One major difficulty is to obtain new typing and printing facilities suitable for Latin characters. Uzbekhistan has decided to move to Latin alphabet by 1995.
Generally, all the Central Asian nations follow the religion of Is-lam. The influence of Islam in these countries on social and political life is much different than it is in Iran and in the Arab world.
In the first place Islam has never become a way of life and political system in the city states and tribal life style of Central Asia. Islam has been valued as a religion. During the Communist era religion was suppressed and official teaching was atheism. It was only in the 1980s that religion was freed and the number of mosques rapidly increased. One of the basic questions asked today is whether Islamic fundamentalism will take hold of Central Asia and become a major political force.
In the history of the Turkic peoples, Islam as a monotheist reli-gion replaced Shamanism and Buddhism. The fact that the language of the Qoran is Arabic and not Turkish, the direct understanding of the holy text is a restricted privilege of the men of religion who have learned Arabic. In the Sunni Sect to which most of the Turks and Tajiks in Central Asia belong, and adhere, there is no religious hierarchy as in the case of the Shiite sect. The domination of the political system by the Mollas is not a normal phenomenon. The Ottoman Sultans assumed the Caliphate only when they conquered the Arab lands. Turks of Turkey abandoned the Caliphate and chose a secular political system when they disassociated themselves from the Arabs at the end of the First World War. If we take history as a parameter, Islamic fundamentalism is not likely to take root and dominate the political system in Central Asia. After all, so long as a religion does not become an instrument for the political system or replace it, its visibility in a country does not take the form of fundamentalism. In any democratic country where individual rights are respected, religion automatically becomes a concern for the individual and his community, and religious tolerance takes the form of secularism.
With the probable exception of Tajikistan which is still under the influence of the Communist Party leadership and which has been ef-fected by the events in Afghanistan, all other Central Asian countries aspire to become modern states and regain their Turkish and Islamic heritages simultaneously. Their methods are different and their con-straints are enormous, changing from one republic to the other. If they succeed in transforming themselves into modern democracies with free market economies and integrating themselves in the global system, the chances of fundamentalist parties gaining power will diminish, since such parties become political alternatives in the measure of popular despair with the economy and failure of the socio-political system.
While creating the new republics, Moscow had seen to it that as many different ethnical groups as possible were included within each republic, in keeping with the traditional imperial dictum of divide et impera. For example according to the 1989 census, Kazakhs live in the following countries: 6,592.000 in Kazakhistan, 800,000 in Uzbekistan, 635,000 in the Russian Federation, 37,000 in Kyrgyzstan, 12,000 in the Ukraine and lesser numbers in Tajikistan, Georgia and other countries. Part of the Kyrgyz people live in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. There are about 20 million Uzbeks in the former Soviet Union. 1.4 million live in Tajikistan, about 700,000 in Kyrgyzstan, and 300,000 in Turkmenistan. In all of the republics there are still strong Russian minorities: In Kazakhistan 34 %, in Kyrgyzstan 21%, in Uzbekhistan 8%, in Turkmenistan 9%. Since the early tribal days, various Turkic ethnic groups have fought with each other as much as they lived together and formed major empires. Having lived under the Russian colonial rule has brought these nations to bury their past frictions and to attempt to form a single Turkestan when Czarist Russia collapsed at the end of the First World War. Under the Communist rule Moscow made every effort to encourage ethnical identities and dialects. Now the presence of so many Russians and ambiguity of the political situation and the future intentions of Russians in the Russian Federation, are considered by the Nationalist Governments in the Turkic republics as a stimulus for cooperation among themselves. In the long run viability and development of these states will be questionable if they cannot establish a frame for cooperation among themselves and with their neighbors.
Leaving the ideology of creating a great Turkestan to the ideolo-gists, the current leadership in the Turkic republics are endeavoring to establish an effective cooperation among themselves while trying to lessen their dependence on Moscow. Central Asian leaders have been meeting since June 1990 at different capitals to establish closer cooperation among themselves. They have already decided to establish four committees of experts on energy, oil, cotton and grain. They have decided to set up an Aral Sea Fund to protect the environmental hazard being caused by the drying up of this internal sea. They have also decided to establish a “common information region. “(15)
The Central Asian Republics have different approaches to democracy and to their relations with Moscow. These differences constitute the most important constraint in the development of an effective regional system of cooperation. Kazakhistan, with the largest Russian population, is obliged to follow a very balanced policy of “nationalism”, to placate the Russians. The Kazak leader Nursultan Nazarbayev’s approach to regional cooperation is encouraging but his limits are clearly visible in his reticence with regard to cultural and foreign policy issues. The fact that in the Azerbaijan-Armenian dispute he has decided to remain neutral along side Moscow, may be indicative of his policy. In most of the Central Asian republics economy and administration are dominated by either Moscow trained local people or by Russians themselves. Now, the Central Asian Republics are rapidly training people for administrative and technical jobs by sending large numbers of students abroad. In Turkey alone there are about eight thousand students from the new Turkish republics and another ten thousand are expected this year.
The former Communist Party, now called the Socialist Party dominates the political scene. Although tolerance is shown for the creation of other parties, political system is still a far cry from democracy. Islam Kerimov in Uzbekhistan, Saparmurad Niyazov in Turkmenistan , and Rakhman Nabiyev in Tajikistan as former Communist leaders, have a mentality that would not encourage democracy but cherish ethnic values and nationalism, while maintaining their “countries” links with Moscow within the framework of CIS. Kyrgyzstan, under the leadership of populist Asker Akayev has a more independent approach. He has already introduced his own currency “som” to save his country from the runaway inflation of the Russian ruble, as Azerbaijan had earlier introduced her own currency “manat” for the same purpose. Although it may take a little more time, the other Central Asian countries may follow suit in establishing their own currencies. Turkmenistan which has a budget surplus may be third in line.
In all the Central Asian republics, with a certain exception of Kyrgyzstan, the approach to democracy among the ruling elite is luke-warm. When pressed on this issue, their argument is that first they should secure their independence from Moscow before they face the disrupting effects of democracy. There may be some justification in their arguments. Since all the Central Asians republics are members of the CIS they rely on Russia to provide for their security and control of their frontiers due to their lack of experience in real combat situation. Under the Soviet Control, the conscript soldiers primarily from all the Central Asian republics were placed as ordinary soldiers and mostly as noncombatants. Therefore the Central Asians States lack personnel with command and control experience that is necessary to create and operate national armed forces. Thus, notwithstanding their desires presently, the Central Asians republics are not in a position to set up their own armed forces. Therefore, their independence is at best extremely fragile and its continuation depends largely on Moscow’s goodwill.
In the maintenance of the security and future development of the Central Asian political systems, as well as their economy, the external factors will play an important role. The countries which have immediate interests in this region are: Russia, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India and China.
Russian attitude towards Central Asia is a mixture of feelings of guilt because these countries were “… the Soviet third world, backward and exploited, lagging behind the industrial center in economic and social development”(16), and the Russian imperial myth. Russia will continue to participate in the exploitation of the region’s natural resources. Depending on the strength of Russian nationalism within the Russian Federation, the tendency to use the Russian minorities in the Central Asian Republics as extensions of Russian power and influence will increase proportionately. If Moscow follows such a policy at any time in the near future -as the approach of Mr. Yeltsin and statements by the opposition leader Zhririnovski indicate-, and decides to meddle in the domestic affairs of these countries in an overt or covert manner, these will create tense situations and clashes. The current economic dependence of Central Asian countries on Russia maybe expected to lessen in time. The lessening of the dependency will be proportional to the integration of these countries into the world economic system. They will depend less on Russian market as their natural resources find their values in the international markets.
The principal objective of Turkish foreign policy towards the Turkic republics in Central Asia should be conceived as helping these countries to become pluralist, secular democracies, respectful of rule of law, progressing towards market economy, to adopt Turkey as a model on the basis of mutual advantage. Turkey within this framework should cooperate with each of these states in the fields of culture and economy, and extend such cooperation gradually to the areas of education, security and other fields. While pursuing these policy goals, Turkey should be careful to assure that her links with the Turkic Republics do not have pan-turkist implications. While developing healthy cooperations with these states, and developing its relations with these Central Asian Countries, Turkey is always careful about not adapting an anti-Russian attitude or stance. Turkey tries not give “big brother” image to the countries of the region. The policies followed by Turkey have already produced significant results in the fields of culture, economy, and international affairs. In the latter field, Turkey has assisted the Central Asian republics to become members of the United Nations and its specialized agencies, CSCE, Advisory Council of NATO, and of the Economic Cooperation Council. Turkey’s effforts have produced best results in the field of economy. The number of private and public Turkish investments in these new republics have reached a figure of 542 within the past two years. The total value of these investments is about US $ 6.5 billion. About 5000 Turkish businessmen are working in these republics. The Turkish Government has provided about 1.6 billion dollars of economic assitance. Turkey has sent technical and administrative advisors to most of these new republics and bilateral contacts are increasing.
Iran’s policy towards Central Asia has also economic and cultural contents. There are large numbers of Turkmens in Iran who constitute a link between Iran and Turkmenistan. Persian Culture is part of the Central Asian cultural heritage. There is much international speculation on whether Iran will be seeking to export religious fundamentalism to Central Asia. We have already explained the difficulties in propagating fundamentalist ideologies among the people of Turkish origin. The success of the economies, coupled with democratic transformation of these countries will make fundamentalism a remote possibility. Due to Iran’s economic difficulties and preferences, Tehran has little capital and industrial capacity to enter into meaningful trade relations with the Central Asian countries. However, Iran is an important transit route for oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia, and useful common economic projects may be realized within the framework of ECO.
Pakistan feels that the leadership in all the Central Asian republics is extremely suspicious of Pakistan because of its Afghan policy. The second factor regarding Pakistan’s policy is considered to be fundamentalism. A very crucial debate that has already been opened up in the Pakistani press as to whether Islamic fundamentalism and the religious parties in Pakistan were to dominate policy towards Central Asia. Meanwhile, Pakistan hopes that when the new Central Asian Republics begin to develop their own military forces, Pakistan will be able to develop military ties with these countries. Pakistan also hopes that through cooperation with Iran, Turkey and even India she would obtain a good position in Central Asia. (18) For India the creation of new Central Asian Republics is seen as an opening of new opportunities regarding cooperation in the fields of trade, commerce, science and technology. Like Turkey, India does not seem to be concerned about the possible threat of Islamic fundamentalism emanating as a result of Pakistan’s and Iran’s institutional fundamentalist policies. India has established diplomatic relations with all the Central Asian countries and mutual visits are taking place. (19) China also has established diplomatic ties with all of the Central Asian Republics. Economic relations are rapidly developing especially with Kyrgyzstan which is linked to China by train. Border trade between the two countries is flourishing. The independence and growth of the Central Asian republics causes some anxiety for China whose Uygur and other Turkic minorities in the Xinkiang region feel oppressed and exploited.
Against the bleak and sanguineous backround of the Caucasus region resulting from historical hatreds and international intrigues, Central Asia presents a more dynamic picture of change towards the modern world, in spite of the area’s extreme poverty and backwardness. The present leadership, while shy of democracy, is both expansive in their dealings with the external world and peaceful in their intentions. The leader of Kazakhistan, for example, is not only interested in developing relations among the Central Asian countries and CIS, but is endeavoring to provide leadership for the whole of Asia by promoting a Conference for Security and Cooperation among Asian states. The natural resources of the Central Asian countries , if properly exploited, are adequate to provide prosperity for the countries of the region. (17) Their needs are both capital infusion, and training of their new cadres.
There are ample sources of threat to their security and stability: ethnic differences, fundamentalist pressures, revivalism of Russian nationalism and ecology. To overcome these dangers they need good leadership, which they seem to possess at this moment, outside help, which is not sufficient, and a calm international environment. In the case of Caucasus, however, there is need for foreign powers to stop meddling and to distinguish between the aggressors and the victims.
1 Maggs, William Ward, “Armenia and Azerbaijan: Look-
ing toward the Middle East, Current History, January 1993, pp 6-11
2 There are serious allegations on the part of Azerbaijan
that Russian soldiers are taking part in the war over Nagorno-Karabagh. In fact five Russian soldiers were sentenced to death in Baku in May 1993.
- Turkey has recently granted Georgia a credit of US $ 50,000,000
- For an in depth analysis of the subject see the special
edition of Survival, IISS Quarterly, spring 1993 on “Ethnic Conflict and International Security”, and, Winer Myron, “Peoples and States in a New Ethnic Order” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 13, No.2,1992, pp. 317-333.
- Egeli, Sıtkı Taktik Balistik Fiizeler ve Türkiye (Tactical Ballistic Missiles and Turkey) Ministry of Defence, Ankara, 1993.
- Turkish Foreign Policy Quarterly Review, Foreign Policy Institute, An kara, Vol. XVII, Nos. -2, 1993 p. 16 7
- For a recent observation in Georgia see: “Crisis and opportunity in the Republic of Georgia, Mac Farlaine, S.Neil, Canadian Foreign Policy, winter 1992/93, pp. 40-59.
- Daghestan, Checheno-Ingushetia, Northern Ossetia and Kabardina-Balkaria
- Diller, , Russia and the Independent States, Congressional Quarterly Washington D.C.p.274
- Turkish Daily News, Ankara, October 4, 1992
- For a lengthy analysis of ethnic issues and history in theCaucasus see Suny, Roland, “The Revenge of the Past: Socialism and Ethnic Conflict in Transcaucasia” in the New Left Review, November/December 1990 No. 184, pp.5-35.
- See: Article 3 of the Treaty of Friendship and Fraternity signed between Turkey and Soviet Russia in Moscow on March 16, 1921 and confirmed in Article 5 of the Kars Treaty of Friendship between Turkey and Soviet Armenia dated October 13, 1921
- FBIS-USR-002, 6th January 199349-50
- Tercüman, May 14, 1993, Istanbul12.
- The figures are taken from Bilgi, a publication of the Turkish Parliament, No.5 November 1992.
- RFE/RL Research Report 2. No.5, January 29, 1993, p.32-34.11
- Mirsky, George , “Central Asia’s Emergence”, Current History Vol.91 No. 567 October 1992 p.334
- Foreign Policy Quarterly Review cit.
- See: Hashim, Fateh Ali, “The Future of Central Asia”, Pakistan Horizon, Volume 45, No.3 , pp. 7-21.
- Ahmar, Moonis, “India and Its Role in the New Central Asia”, Ibid, 57-70.
(*) Published in the fpi Quarterly “Foreign Policy”, Vol. 18, Nos.3-4
IS IRAN GOING NUCLEAR? (*)
This paper will focus on Iran’s nuclear program in general and will assess the nature and the orientation of the recent developments in its nuclear energy,in particular.
As far as international peace and stability are concerned, the Middle East is one of the most volatile regions in the world. Two principal reasons of tension can be stated as the geo-strategic significance of the region, particularly due to its vitally important mineral resources; and the indignation of the Muslim states in the region aroused from presence of the State of Israel since 1948 with its remarkable military might. In the vulnerable and complex socio-political structure of the Middle East there has been international efforts to save the region from the danger of the manufacture, stockpiling and the actual use of all kinds of weapons of mass destruction.1 Nevertheless, there is good reason to believe that Israel has already stockpiled some 100 atomic bombs in the basement.(2) This has been one of the most serious obstacles to the settlement of disputes and the establishment of a long-lasting peace in the region. The Israeli nuclear weapons capability has also been one major justification for other influential states of the Middle East such as Libya, Algeria Iraq, and Iran for “going nuclear.3 However, the economic and technological embargo imposed on Libya, and the internal disturbances in Algeria caused serious setbacks in the nuclear programs of these countries And, during the war in the Gulf in 1991 the capability of Iraq to manufacture weapons of mass destruction has been partially destroyed.Moreover, with the UN Security Council Resolution 687, Iraq is being closely scrutinized since then by the inspecting teams of the International Atomic Energy Agency (4) mandated with unearthing the undeclared (clandestine) nuclear weapons capability of that country. Apparently, only Iran remains problematique. There are serious allegations that Iran is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons capability. These allegations are not new, and Iran’s nuclear engagements have been steadily ‘reported’ in various books and journals since the early 1970s. But, allegations are intensified both in number and gravity since the recent Russia-Iran secret nuclear deal became public.
This paper will thus focus on Iran’s nuclear program in general, and will assess the nature and the orientation of the recent developments in its nuclear industry, in particular. Before proceeding further, however, several important points worth noting at this stage so as to prepare the ground for a more to the point discussion in the following paragraphs. First, Iran is party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty5 ever since its entry into force, and is subject to the safeguards provisions of the IAEA.(6) Therefore, Iran, at least on paper, has sworn not to seek assistance to divert nuclear energy from peaceful to military purposes, that is to manufacture nuclear explosive devices.7 Any further move of Iran in making nuclear weapons would thus mean a violation of its obligations under the NPT. Second, regarding the recent agreement with Russia, Iranian authorities declared that they were pursuing solely peaceful purposes in their attempt to complete their nuclear power plants in Bushehr which were damaged during the Iran-Iraq war.8 And, finally, even the US Central Intelligence Agency could not provide the international community with undeniable strong evidence that would indisputably condemn Iran for its illegal occupation with nuclear energy.9 Given these facts, the significance of Iran’s nuclear engagements as regards the usual process of acquiring nuclear weapons capability should be addressed first. Because, without full-fledged evidences or assurances, relying solely on others’ judgements (pros and cons) on whether Iran is pursuing a veiled nuclear weapons program, or on the contrary, aims at generating huge amounts of energy for its economic development, can be misleading.10 A second emphasis should be on the basic undertakings of Iran under the NPT. Since, Iran’s illegal occupation with nuclear energy in its safeguarded installations which are declared to the IAEA is likely to be detected.11
Nuclear program of Iran: a résumé
As far as the nuclear engagements of Iran are concerned, one should refer back to the year 1958 when the United States agreed to sell a small size (5 MW) nuclear research reactor to be installed in the Tehran University. Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) was founded only a year before. However, both the capacity of the reactor and the lack of skilled personnel prohibited Iran’s further research and developments in this field. Hence ‘nothing wrong’ was reported in the mass media. Notwitstanding, following the inflow of hard currency which started in the mid-1970s due to the drastic increases in the oil prices, Iran was then believed to have been involved in conducting a clandestine nuclear weapons program. However, with the entry into force of the NPT, Iran had become a state party to the Treaty, thus had to forgo such ambitions. Even though its NPT status did not change in the aftermath of the Revolution, Iran was still believed to have had ambitions to assemble a nuclear explosive device under the Khumeini regime.12 However, neither during the routine IAEA safeguards inspections, nor in the most recent ‘special’ inspections of February 1992 and November 1993, IAEA inspectors could come up with evidence that would accuse Iran for violating the terms of the NPT. Nevertheless, the fears arising from Iran’s recent engagements in the nuclear field, particularly those with Russia and China, have not been alleviated.
Iran’s nuclear deal with Russia and P.R. China
The Russia-Iran agreement came after several years of negotiations, and the two countries signed a $ 1 billion worth protocol on January 8, 1995.13 Accordingly, Russia agreed to complete two partially constructed nuclear power reactors at Bushehr (750 km south of Tehran). The two 1300 MWe light-water reactors were originally built by Kraft Werk Union (KWU) of Germany starting in 1976. But, completion was halted after the Revolution.14 Russia also agreed to provide Iran with enriched uranium fuel for these reactors. The protocol outlined a wide range of assistance including the training of approximately 500 Iranian technicians as well as some 20 AEOI graduate students and PhD’s annually at Russian academic institutions.15 The protocol pledged each government to instruct the appropriate agencies to prepare and sign contracts for the supply to Iran with a 30 -50 MWth light-water research reactor, and 2,000 metric tons of natural uranium, and also called for cooperation in building low power research reactors for instructional purposes, and the construction of an Iranian desalination plant. Both sides agreed to prepare and sign a contract for the construction of a shaft for a uranium mine, after which negotiations would be conducted for the construction of a gas centrifuge plant.I6
The PR. China, on the other hand, has been Iran’s chief supplier of nuclear-related technologies since the mid-1980s despite the US efforts to stop China from supplying Iran. China has reportedly supplied three subcritical and zero-power reactors and a small electromagnetic isotope separation (EMIS) machine as well as a very small 30 KWth research reactor. None of these hardware are believed to be capable of producing more than minute quantities of nuclear weapons material. But the small research reactors might be useful for training personnel. China also helped Iran create nuclear fuel facilities for uranium mining, fuel fabrication, uranium purification, and zirconium tube production. And, it is highly likely for China to supply Iran with facilities to produce uranium metal and uranium hexafluoride. In 1992, China signed a “preliminary agreement” to supply Iran with two 300 MWe light-water reactors.I7
Manufacturing nuclear weapons: a technical briefing
This résumé of the nuclear program of Iran, compiled from different reliable sources, may make sense, regarding Iran’s intentions, if filtered through a technical information about the usual process of manufacturing nuclear weapons. The first issue to be noted is that, a nuclear weapon is a device in which most or all of the explosive energy is derived from either fission, or fusion, or a combination of the two nuclear processes. The basic nuclear weapon is the fission weapon which relies entirely on a fission chain reaction to produce a very large amount of energy in a very short time.18 Nuclear fission occurs when a neutron enters the nucleus of an atom.19 In a reactor, a neutron which is fired at a U-235, attaches itself to the atom, increasing its instability, which in turn causes the atom to split and release energy.20 Neutrons which are normally too fast, can hardly attach themselves to U-235 isotopes to split them. To overcome such obstacles, several methods are available for slowing down the neutrons. In a nuclear reactor this is done by means of moderators which are materials such as either light-water, heavy-water, or graphite, that surrounds the nuclear fuel in the reactor core.21 To make use of light water, the proportion of U-235 in the reactor should be higher in order to increase the likelihood of a successful chain reaction. Therefore, in light-water reactors, uranium used must be enriched in U-235. Another important event in the reactor core that increases the chances of successful fission is the transforming action of attacking neutrons. Neutrons that are unsuccessful in splitting U-235 atoms are mostly absorbed by U-238, and serve to convert the non fissile U-238 into plutonium Pu-239 which is also a fissile material.
Hence, a nation seeking to manufacture nuclear weapons must complete a number of extremely demanding steps in order to generate nuclear energy and divert it to non-peaceful purposes. The major technical barrier to making a nuclear explosive device is obtaining the fissile material. Weapons-grade uranium (highly enriched uranium HEU) or plutonium are such materials usable for nuclear weapons core. How much would be needed for a nuclear weapon depends on the technical capabilities of the country involved and the size of the weapon it seeks to produce.22 The diversion of natural uranium into HEU requires several steps, which is usually called the nuclear fuel cycle. In the basic cycle, uranium is mined, refined, processed into an appropriate chemical form, converted into fuel rods, fissioned (burned) in a reactor, and stored as waste.23 Uranium ore is found in places close to the earth’s surface, and must be mined like any other mineral.24 Excavated uranium ore is milled to separate uranium from foreign matter. Uranium is then processed into a chemi cal form U308 called yellowcake. At the conversion stage, the processed natural uranium is converted to a form usable in a nuclear reactor. If the material is intended for use in a heavy-water reactor which burns natural (non-enriched) uranium, it is converted to uranium metal or uranium dioxide (UO2). Uranium destined for light-water reactors is converted to uranium hexafluoride which is a gas suitable for the enrichment process. To make a weapon from uranium, the U-235 isotope of uranium must be used.. Since natural uranium is extremely poor in U-235, and while nuclear weapons require 90% or more of U-235, the percentage of natural uranium must be upgraded at an enrichment plant to achieve this concentration.25 Since, U-235 and U-238 are chemically identical, it is necessary to use a physical method to separate and enrich them.
Uranium enrichment is a highly complex process and requires considerable investment. Several methods have been developed for enriching uranium, all of which ultimately rely on differentiating among the isotopes of uranium and isolating the material with increased concentrations of U-235. The most widely used enrichment method is gaseous diffusion26 Gaseous diffusion is a technically complex process that requires massive amounts of electricity, therefore it makes clandestine acquisition of a gaseous diffusion plant difficult. The ultra-centrifuge or gas centrifuge method, on the other hand, uses centrifugal force to draw U-238 atoms away from the desired U-235 atoms.27 The relatively low power requirements of the gas centrifuge method of enrichment, coupled with its relative efficiency, make it an enrichment process of high proliferation concern. Enriched uranium (or plutonium) must be fabricated into fuel rods before it can be used in a nuclear reactor.28 Enriched uranium can then be used as a fuel in naval propulsion reactors or nuclear power reactors.29 Production of plutonium also entails many steps and advanced installations and capabilities such as a research or a power reactor moderated by heavy-water or graphite; a heavy-water production plant or a reactor grade graphite production plant; and a reprocessing plant.30 The plutonium obtained from the reprocessing operation can be converted to a form usable for nuclear weapons. The separated plutonium and uranium are virtually inaccessible during this operation, hence, unsafeguarded material in a reprocessing plant can easily be diverted to a nuclear weapon.
Iran‘s nuclear program: two real concerns for scholars and policy-makers
The résumé of Iran’s nuclear program, when reconsidered within e framework of the brief technical information about the usual process of manufacturing nuclear weapons, may give an insight about the intentions of the Iranian leadership. In this regard, one may safely state that it is highly likely for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons capability with its existing nuclear infrastructure which will attain a much more advanced level with the Russian (and to some extent Chinese) assistance in the years ahead. However, acquiring the nuclear weapons capability does not necessarily mean that Iran will definitely be able to manufacture nuclear weapons clandestinely in the installations that will be constructed by Russia or China. Because, these installations and the related nuclear materials that will be transferred to Iran, within the context of the recent protocols, will be under the IAEA safeguards. And, during the routine or non-routine inspections in these sites the IAEA inspectors will most probably detect any attempt to divert nuclear energy from civilian to military purposes. Therefore, any account for the likely outcomes of particularly these nuclear installations may still be subject to speculation. In such a circumstance, for those scholars and the policy-makers who fear a nuclear Iran, the real concern should rather be the technical skill that the Iranian personnel will incur during the construction and the operation of the nuclear plants while in close collaboration and training with their Russian and Chinese counterparts. Withstanding this, scholars and policy-makers should also be seriously concerned with the loopholes and shortcomings in the terms of the bilateral safeguards agreements concluded between the states and the IAEA which also regulate the inspection procedures. Because, the deficiencies in the application of safeguards inspections , emanate from the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and of the model safeguards document INFCIRC/153. (31)
Basic undertakings of Iran under the NPT: a reminder
According to the terms of the safeguards agreements, states have to declare to the IAEA the exact locations of their nuclear related sites and their initial inventory of the nuclear material contained within. Hence, the IAEA is bound to rely on the information supplied by the states for scheduling and implementing its safeguards inspections.(32) This clearly means that the IAEA can be deceived by any state determined to manufacture nuclear weapons clandestinely, simply by not supplying the Agency with accurate information.33 The strict reliance liability of the IAEA on the states’ declarations is therefore one major deficiency of the safeguards agreements. Only in rare instances the Board of Governors of the IAEA may call a state for conducting special (non-routine) inspections which are however normally limited to the declared sites.(34) Nevertheless, Iran once let the IAEA to carry out inspections whenever and wherever the Agency would prefer. But, as noted earlier, since Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is presently still at a rudimentary stage, nothing wrong was reported by the IAEA inspectors. A second difficulty with regard to conducting safeguards inspections properly is that, even if a state which concludes bilateral safeguards agreement with the IAEA does accurately accommodate an initial declaration to the Agency, that state may then create frictions for obstructing the timely and effective implentation of safeguards inspections of the Agency in order to gain aa considerable time prior to inspections.35 The principle of sovereignty and the sensitivity of the states to their domestic jurisdiction gave way to such defects in the above noted internationally agreed documents. (36) Hav ing said these, the importance of close observation of the suspected states is obvious as the jurisdictional and technical limitations of the IAEA are taken into consideration. Because, unless any state like Iran which unambiguously display the determination of acquiring an advanced nuclear infrastructure is not closely scrutinized, the nuclear technological capacity that can be used to generate huge amounts of electricity, can also very well be used to manufacture nuclear weapons indigenously in non-declared sites away from the declared ones.
The significance of acquiring technical skill: the crux of the matter
Bearing in mind the possibility of any state to conduct a clandestine nuclear weapons program given that the political will and financial resources exist, the weapon can thus be acquired basically through two ways. One is procuring a ‘turn-key’ nuclear weapon by any means. This option is the most difficult of all to effectuate, and requires an intelligence vacuum.(37) The second option is to assemble a nuclear explosive device indigenously at ‘home’ as did Israel, India, Pakistan, South Africa, and as almost did Iraq. This option as well requires an intelligence vacuum and the fulfilment of enduring steps by the states. In the case of Iran, given the very fact that the scientists and technicians of this country will soon acquire the basic scientific knowledge and technical skills, the second option is presumably more feasible. Hence, when allegations about Iran, regarding its illegal attempts to procure weapons-usable material through various channels are considered, it becomes more apparent that there does exist an unequivocal danger of further spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Much of these allegations go back several years. Western intelligence officials have often reported that Iranian agents have travelled throughout the former Soviet Republics in search of nuclear materials, know-how and scientists. In 1992, for example, Iranians reportedly visited the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Kazakhstan. That plant produces reactor fuel and manufactures specialized metal components for the aerospace, electronics and other defence industries. The plant is also said to have more than 600 kilograms of HEU which the Iranians may have tried to buy. Another piece of information released to public was when the US Secretary of State Warren Christopher said on May 1 1995 that, for years Iran has been trying to purchase heavy-water research reactors that are best suited to producing weapons-grade plutonium, not electricity. Similarly, according to a senior US government official, Iran is concentrating on centrifuge designs and looking toward a pilot plant, possibly large enough to produce enough HEU for nuclear weapons, with hundreds or thousands of centrifuges connected together in cascades. Moreover, US officials refer to a long list of Iranian procurement attempts in Europe and elsewhere that potentially relate to centrifuges.38These and other allegations concerning Iran are worth notting as far as the dual character of advanced nuclear industry remains and its output depends on the decision of the leaderships whether to get electricity or to manufacture weapons with the nuclear yield gained.
The sources referred to throughout this study which aimed at assessing the threat posed by the recent developments in the nuclear program of Iran supplied basically two categories of information and/or judgements: Iran was either determined to acquire nuclear weapons in the facilities now under construction or, on the contrary, it was pursuing solely peaceful uses of nuclear energy by seeking assistance to resume construction of the facilities. However, the real concern of this study was to emphasize the importance of acquiring legitimately the necessary technological capabilities and skills which can later be used illegitimately in secret nuclear facilities endowed with nuclear material procured clandestinely. This is concluded to be the real threat that the recent developments in Iran pose. To overcome such a threat, however, the shortcomings of the safeguards provisions of the IAEA should be alleviated so as to pave way to frequent inspections in suspected states like Iran. Nevertheless, this is a matter of international cooperation, and needs overhauling at least the safeguards documents of the IAEA.38 Secondly, the international cooperation in preventing the supply of the suspect states weapons-usable sensitive materials should be strengthened. The existing norms of the London based Nuclear Suppliers Group(40) should become much more operational, and must be supported with reliable intelligence gathering. All in all, regarding these difficulties, states like Iran which deny any accusation about its intentions, should give permision to inter-national safeguards inspections to be conducted whenever and wherever the IAEA would prefer regardless of whether the safeguards agreement in force warrants such a right to the Agency.41 By behaving this way states may assure the international community about their peaceful intentions.
- For a compilation of the documents and scholarly works concerning these efforts See, Mustafa Kibaroğlu, “Verification Provisions of a Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East with Special Reference to EURATOM and ABACC, The Turkish Yearbook of International Relations, .Ankara University Press, (forthcoming); See also, Mustafa Kibaroğlu, “EURATOM and ABACC: Recipes for a NWFZ in the Middle East ?” in James F. Leonard and Jan Prawitz (eds), The Mobarek Plan: A Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle UNIDIR Research Report. (forthcoming)
- Yet, the official stance of the Israeli authorities against such allegations is neither the denial nor the acknowledgement of the existence of nuclear weapons in their arsenal. This strategy is called the policy of ambiguity or opaqueness. See in this regard, Benjamin Frankel (ed.), Opaque Nuclear Proliferation, London. Frank Cass, 1991; See also, Etel Solingen, “The Domestic Sources of Regional Regimes: The Evolution of Nuclear Ambiguity in the Middle East”, International Studies Quarterly, June 1994. No:38. pp:305-337. For an analysis of Israel’s ambiguity policy see, Shai Feldman, Israeli Nuclear Deterrence: A Strategy for the 1980s, Columbia University Press, New York, 1982.
- The term “going nuclear” is part of the nuclear (non)proliferation terminology which is often used to denote threshold states that are strongly believed to have chosen the nuclear path for developing lethal weapons. It also stands as the name of a book of one of the most quoted scholars in the field namely; Leonard S. Spector, Going Nuclear, Cambridge, Mass., Ballinger Publishing Co., 1987.
- The Vienna based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was established in 1957 and mandated with the verification compliance of the states with their obligations under the terms of their bilateral nuclear safeguards agreements with the Agency
- The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NTP) of 1968, which entered into force in 1970, was drafted with the principal purpose of controlling the development as well as preventing the diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful (civilian) to military uses.
- The Iranian leadership officially denounced nuclear weapons, un-like some other Middle Eastern leaderships as that of Libya, by staying in the NPT even after the Islamic Revolution of 1979
- A nuclear explosive device does not necessarily mean a nuclear However, particularly in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, any request of or offer for assistance in the manufacture of nuclear explosive devices, whether or not intended for peaceful purposes, are prohibited. The purpose behind such a restriction was the clear cut understanding that there was indeed no distinction between the two devices (a peaceful device or a weapon) based on the destructive effect they could produce in case they would be used for military purposes. Only slight modifications would be needed to transform any nuclear explosive device into a nuclear weapon.
- In addition to formal declarations, in personal conversations with the Iranian authorities during an international conference in Sweden in June 1995, Dr. Hadjihusseini of the Tehran based Institute
for Political and International Studies (IPIS) told the author that Iran is undergoing a serious economic crisis since the drastic falls in yhe oil prices, and also suffers a considerable decline in the generation of electrical energy. Hence, Iran, according to Dr. Hadjihusseini, has no option but to revitalize its already $ 4 billions spent Bushehr project initiated by the Germans but not completed.
- The former CIA Director James Woolsey stated in September 1994, that they paid particular attention to Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear and missile technology from the West in order to enable it to build its own nuclear weapons. Woolsey also noted that Iran is 8 to 10 years away from building such weapons and that help from outside will be critical in reaching this timetable. According to Woolsey, Iran has been particularly active in trying to purchase nuclear ma-terials or technology from Russian sources, as well as looking to purchase fully fabricated nuclear weapons in order to accelerate sharply its timetable. See, “Challenges to Peace in the Middle East,” Address of R. James Woolsey to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Wye Plantation, MD, September 23, 1994, quoted in Leonard S. Spector, Mark G. McDonough with F.van S. Medeiros, Tracking Nuclear Proliferation: A Guide in Maps and Charts, 1995, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington D.C. , 1995. p.119.
- Because, it should be underlined that, from the technological point of view, in any nuclear industry operating either for manufacturing nuclear weapons or for generating electrical energy, the phases that must be accomplished are identical. The difference can be in the political intentions of the states about how to make use of their existing nuclear infrastructure.
- On the one hand, the safeguards provisions of the IAEA under the NPT are far from being perfect, and thus the IAEA and the terms of the NPT were seriously criticized for not having detected the nuclear weapons program of Iraq throughout the 1980s. But, on the other hand, in the first half of the 1990s, the Agency gained experiences in Iraq and during the North Korean dispute. Therefore, the Agency is becoming capable to fulfill its political objective which is expressed as to deter against possible diversion through the risk of early detection. To complement this, the technological objective of the IAEA’s safeguards procedures is the timely detection of diversion of significant quantities of nuclear material into a bomb.
- Detailed discussions on Iran’s allegedly secret nuclear deals with countries such as South Africa, Pakistan, Argentina, W. Germany, France, Spain, China and the Soviet Union, exist in Zalmay Khalilzad, Iran: The Nuclear Option, Los Angeles, Pan Heurustics, 1977; Leonard S. Spector, Nuclear Proliferation Today, New York, Vintage Books, 1985; Akbar Etemad, “Iran” in Harald Müller(ed.), European Non-Proliferation Policy, Oxford University Press, 1987. See also L. S. Spector, Nuclear Ambitions: The Spread of Nuclear Weapons 1989-1990, Boulder, Colorado, Westview Press for Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Despite the reported initiatives of Iran, most of the authors of recent books agree that Iran’s nuclear program, at present, is at a rudimentary stage.
- Indeed, several Russian nuclear specialists have been active in Iran since April 1994 performing preliminary studies of the coastal site,and some 150 Russian technicians are currently at the site and this number will soon be quadrupled. See, Leonard S. Spector et al, , P: 120.
- Approximately 85 % of the civil work on Bushehr I was complete, and the work in Bushehr II was also partially finished when construction stopped in 1979. In the intervening years, both reactors were damaged during bombing raids in the Iran-Iraq war, and Iran was subsequently unsuccessful at convincing the German firm to complete construction, largely due to the pressure from the United States. For details see, Leonard S. Spector et al, ibid., pp. 119-124. And, on an account for German nuclear export policy, and on how the German government put an end to KWU’s deal in Iran,see Harald Müller (ed.), A Survey of European Nuclear Policy, 1985-87, MacMillan, London, 1989.
- David Albright, “The Russian-Iranian Reactor Deal”, The Non-proliferation Review, Center for Nonprolification Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies, Spring-Summer 1995, Vol. 2, No: 3, pp: 49-51
- Although Russia has reportedly cancelled the centrifuge plant, it still intends to build the mine shaft. For a detailed exposé of the Russia-Iran agreement see, David Albright, “An Iranian Bomb ?” The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 1995, pp: 21-
- But it is unclear if the reactors will ever be supplied. Head of the AEOI Amrollahi told the New York Times in May 1995 that Iran made a down payment on the reactors, and China had started to draw up blueprints and engineering reports for a site in southern Iran. D. Albright, op. cit., p. 25.
- Frank Barnaby, How Nuclear Weapons Spread: Nuclear-Weapon Proliferation in the 1990s, Routledge, London and New York, 1993, 27.
- Atoms consist of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Protons and neutrons bond together strongly to form a nucleus, and electrons orbit around them. Atoms of the same family are called isotopes. The uranium isotope U-235 is made up of 92 protons and 143 neutrons, whereas the isotope U-238 has 92 protons and 146 neut Uranium isotope U-235 is rare in nature, whereas the U-238 isotope is 140 times more common in natural uranium than the 235 isotope.
- The same neutron directed at a more stable U-238 atom would likely be absorbed without fissioning (i.e., without causing split). In a reactor, many neutrons are intercepted by U-238 atoms, others are absorbed by the atoms of other materials in the reactor.
- When neutrons collide with the heavy water or graphite atoms, they decelerate to a speed that improves their chances of attaching to a U-235 atom and causing it to break apart. Hence, in reactors moderated by these materials, no other adjustments are necessary to make fission possible. When light (ordinary) water is used as a moderator some neutrons are slowed, but others are absorbed by the light-water itself. Because ordinary water is plentiful and cheap when compared to heavy-water which is costly and very difficult to make, light-water is the preferred moderating material.
- IAEA regulations assume that 25 kg of HEU or 8 kg of plutonium are the minimum amounts needed to manufacture a nuclear device with a yield of 20 Kilotons, roughly the size of the Nagasaki According to one recent estimate, a country possessing a low technical capability could build a 20 kilotons device with only 6 kg plutonium or 16 kg of HEU. A state with high technical capability can potentially build such a device with as little as 5 kg of HEU or 3 kg of plutonium. Moreover, a 1 Kt device, which would require considerable sophistication to manufacture, might need only about half these amounts. See, Thomas B. Cochran and Christopher E. Paine, The Amount of Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium Needed for Pure Nuclear Weapons, Natural Resources Defence Council, Washington D.C., 1994.
nium hexafluoride gas or uranium tetrachloride in the isotope U-23 S; and a capability for converting the enriched uranium hexafluoride gas or uranium tetrachloride into solid uranium oxide or metal.
23 The basic nuclear resources and facilities that would be needed to produce HEU indigenously thus include: uranium depostis; a uranium mine; a uranium mill for processing ore into uranium oxide concentrate, or yellowcake named for its amber clor; a conversion plant for purifying yellowcake and converting it into uranium hexafluoride (UF6) or uranium tetrachloride (UC14) to be processed in the enrichment plant; an enrichment plant for enriching the uranium hexafluoride gas or uranium tetrachloride in the isotope U-235; and a capability for converting the enriched uranium hexafluoride gas or uranium tetrachloride into solid uranium oxide or metal.The world leaders in uranium mining and milling are Canada, the United States, Australia, France, Niger, Namibia, and South Africa. About 5,000 kilograms of natural uranium is needed to produce the 25 kg of weapons-grade uranium for one atomic bomb. See F. Barnaby, ibid., p. 4.
- Indeed, technically a weapon could be made of uranium enriched to more than 20 percent. As a practical matter, material enriched to more than 90 percent is preferred. For instance, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima used uranium enriched to 80 percent. Similarly, South Africa used material enriched to 80 percent for the first nuclear weapons and 90 percent for the remaining 5 weapons.
- Uranium in a gaseous form, i.e., uranium hexafluoride, is forced through a series of membranes of a huge container. Each membrane allows the lighter U-235 atoms to pass through more easily than the heavier U-238 atoms. After penetrating each membrane the gas is richer in U-235 than it was originally, but only slightly. Normally, 1,250 passes are needed to enrich the gas to 3 percent U-235, which is the enrichment level used in most light-water nuclear power plants. However, 4,000 passes are required to enrich the material to the weapons-grade of 90 percent U-235.
- When uranium hexafluoride is spun in a centrifuge, the heavier U-238 atoms gravitate toward the outer walls, whereas the lighter U-235 atoms remain in the center. The centrifuge method requires only 35 repetitions to achieve weapons-grade uranium. A plant with 1,000 centrifuges can supply the uranium stock for several nuclearr weapons per year.
- The enriched uranium, plutonium, or natural uranium used in heavy-water reactors is shaped into cylindrical pellets, which are then stacked in tubes called fuel rods. The rods are then bundled together into fuel assemblies. Light-water reactor fuel assemblies each weigh from 200 to 500 kg. Approximately 180 fuel assemblies containing about 110 tons of low enriched uranium are needed to fuel a typical 1,000 MW light-water reactor for three years. See Mason Willrich and Theodore B. Taylor, Nuclear Theft: Risks and Safe Ballinger Publishing Co., Cambridge, Mass., 1974
- A nuclear power reactor is basically a furnace where the heat produced by a controlled chain reaction is used to generate electricity. Typically, the heat used to turn water into steam issued to drive a turbine which generates electricity. Thus, a country can have entirely legitimate, non-weapons related reasons for developing uranium enrichment technology even though the same technolog can be used to upgrade uranium enrichment level useful for weapons.
- Uranium fuel, usually in the form of uranium-filled tubes (fuel rods) made of zirconium alloy (zircalloy) or aluminium, is placed in the As the reactor operates, the uranium fuel is partly transformed into plutonium. This is amalgamated in the fuel rods with unused uranium and highly radioactive waste products, and it must then be extracted. Using the Plutonium Uranium Recovery by Extraction (PUREX) method, more than 90% of the uranium and plutonium in the spent fuel solution can be recovered. To do the extraction operation, the spent fuel rods are taken to a reprocessing plant where they arcedissolved in nitric acid and the plutonium is separated from the solution in a series of chemical reprocessing steps.
- Information Circular (INFCIRC/…) is one of a series of unclassi general purpose IAEA circulurs used to bring to general notice the contents of an important document or an important decision or communication. Safeguards documents circulated in this form include the safeguards system and the safeguards agreement. Hence, INFCIRC/153 denotes “the structure and content of the agreement between the Agency and states required in connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.” When the IAEA circulates such documents at the request of the state or states concerned, it takes no responsibility for the contents of the docu ments. However, the significance of the INFC1RC/153 within the nuclear non-proliferation regime comes from the fact that, these procedures constitute the sole legal basis for the verification mechanism of the regime.
- Since, according to its Statute and the terms of the model agreement INFC1RC/153 (applicable to the states party to the NPT), the IAEA has no power to have access to the suspected sites in a state without the consent of the host state. Such enforcement measures are beyond its mandate.
- This has been the case in Iraq. After the 1991 Gulf War, the IAEA inspectors unearthed the undeclared nuclear facilities and materials which were being used to manufacture nuclear weapons.
- During the inspections the IAEA inspectors apply indeed simple material accountancy techniques to the nuclear material to determine whether any significant amount of nuclear material is missing or not. Inspections are conducted in restricted areas within the facilities called material balance areas. Such and other restrictions further complicate the proper and effective implementation of in
- Either by objecting to the inspectors’ nationalities or by not providing reliable escort services, and the like, states may seriously delay inspections, and the time gained may be significant from the military point of view. Based on the degree of suspicion, the IAEA may ask more frequent inspection from several states. But the frequency of inspections is negotiated between the parties, hence no
unilateral encroachment is possible. In a protracted conflict, however, unlike the first difficulty mentioned above, in this case the IAEA is not totally powerless. Indicating such a circumstance, through its Board of Governors, ultimately to the UN Security Council, the IAEA may then take several measures for the f ulfillment of its task, as it was the case in North Korea.
- During the process of drafting these documents, the sovereignty principle was one of the most hotly debated issues in the international fora which undertook working out regulatory documents for controlling the development of nuclear energy world wide. Multilateral discussions in this respect have initially taken place right after World War II with the creation of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission UNAEC in 1945. Despite the failure in this attempt, events led to the creation of the IAEA in 1957, the enactment of the NPT in 1968, and issuing of INFCIRC/153 in 1971.
- By intelligence vacuum the author envisions a situation where the intelligence agencies may overlook or rather fail to disclose such “giant deals” between the client and supplier states.
- For a detailed discussion in these respects see, David Albright, ibid., pp: 22-26.
- In the Review and Extension Conference of the NPT held in the UN Headquarters in April/May 1995, it is decided that the NPT be extended unconditionally and indefinitely. This means that no adjustments or amendments can be made in the Treaty and its related safeguards document. See in these matters, John Simpson,”The Birth of a New Era ? The 1995 NPT Conference and the Politics of Nuclear Disarmament”, Security Dialogue, Vol.26, No:3, September 1995, pp: 247-256
- The Nuclear supplier Group has reproduced a set of guidelines
that most of the suppliers of nuclear plants and materials agreed to in London on 21 September 1977. That’s why this group is equally known as the London Club. This set of guidelines is also attached to communication addressed on 11 January 1978 to the Director-General of the IAEA. These guidelines for nuclear transfer are also labelled as INFCIRC/254. The initial signatories of the guidelines are; Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, the former German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA and the USSR. NSG restricted the supply of items that might be used to advance a non-peaceful nuclear program, and adopted a trigger list including heavy-water and heavy-water production plants. NSG also required export conditions stricter than those specified in the NPT. In April 1992, the twenty-eight NSG member states further tightened control over nuclear exports in response to revelations of Iraq’s clandestine import of nuclear technology. The Group, thus expanded its trigger list to include more dual use items, and agreed to require full-scope (comprehensive) safeguards as a condition of export.
- Of course, the IAEA, as stated in its Statute, should seriously take into consideration that such extra inspections may cause a com-petitive disadvantage to the host country.
(*) Published in the fpi Quarterly “Foreign Policy”, Vol. 20, Nos. 3-4
Turkish Stand on the Gulf
Crisis, Middle East and
Neither the European Community nor the Western European Union may reach their netural and logical boundaries without Turkish presence.
It is a great pleasure and honor for me to be with you today in Paris. I wish to express my sincere thanks to President Robert Pontillon for inviting me to address one of Europe’s three most important international parliamentary platforms.
In his letter of invitation, President Pontillon indicated that, he and his colleagues were particularly impressed by the firmness of the Turkish stand throughout the Gulf Crisis and the War. He invited me to express my views on two subjects; first, on how to tackle the problem of establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East and second how I see the new configuration of Europe in a profoundly modified international environment.
The Middle East has always been a region of conflict. The Arab-Israeli problem which has come to surface in the balances among the parties has tipped to one side or the other during the period in between. This conflict has given rise to other negative developments and tensions in the region as well as in the world. Terrorism is the foremost among them.
Differences among the Arabs have added to the gravity of the situation in the region. These differences made it very difficult, if not possible to achieve the Arab unity desired by many.
On the eve of the Gulf Crisis there were several Arab groupings.
The small but rich Arab countries of the Gulf had established the Gulf Cooperation Council. On the other hand Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Yemen came together in the Arab Cooperation Council.The third group consisted of the Maghreb countries. I also have to mention other Arab countries like Sudan and Somalia which had varying relations with each Arab group. Among these countries there are also those with large populations, high population growth rates and low incomes. I don’t think I need to name them.
The Iran-Iraq War brought new dimensions to this state of affairs. This war had both positive and negative effects on inter-Arab relations. All Arabs did not act in unison during this war. For example we all know that Syria was not among the Arab states supporting Iraq. There were also some North African countries like Libya which chose to stay neutral.
This war had as consequence low oil prices. It also led to the allocation of a substantial part of the oil income to war expenditures of Iraq through the financial assistance of the Gulf countries to that country. I should also mention here that Iraq perceived this assistance as its own right.
The East-West rivalry in the region aggravated the differences among the Arab states and fuelled the arms race in the Middle East.
Inter-Arab differences together with the Arab-Israeli conflict and the East-West competition as well as the presence of extremist factions and the adversity between different sects led to a much more complicated picture of the region on the eve of the Gulf Crisis. Lebanon has been a model of such a picture since 1975. One could witness all the factors I have just mentioned in that country. The events in Lebanon could be the ominous forebearers of such a picture with much greater dimensions in the future.
It would be an understatement just to say that these are difficult problems to solve. In fact some of them have been aggravated by the Gulf War and even new ones have been created.However we beleive that in the aftermath of the Gulf crisis we have a historic opportunity to cover substatial grounds towards the solution of some of these problems and especially the Arab-Israeli conflict.
In this context I must mention the great prestige gained by the United States after the Gulf Crisis and the rapprochement between the United States and Soviet Union with the end of the Cold War.On the other hand, at present, resistance from extremists and terrorists to efforts to solve the Middle East conflict are not as strong as it used to be in the past.
One main problem area in this picture is the influence that extremist religious elements have on the Israeli government. The fact that Secretary Baker finds a new settlement in the occupied territories at each visit he makes to Israel is a manifestation of that influence on the Israeli Government.
I believe that the presence of this influence of extremist religious elements on the Israeli Government is one of the most important barriers for Israel to live peacefully in the region.
Our policy regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict has always been clear, consistent and balanced. We recognise the legitimate rights of the Palestinians, including the right to establish their own state. We also recognise the right of all states in the region, including Israel, to live within secure and recognised borders.
At this highly critical juncture of peace making in the Middle-East, maintaining the present momentum is of crucial importance. If such a settlement can not be reached within a reasonable time scale, the frustrations of the people of the region and especially of the Palestinians will increase the anti-western sentiments among the people of region. It may also create further complications for the moderate and conservative Arabs and add to the already substantial inter-Arab differences.
Israel is also in a position to make the most of the prestige it has gained during the Gulf Crisis. Saddam Hussein’s attacks against Israel by scud missiles; and the restraint shown by the Israeli Government against these attacks have strengthened the standing and the negotiating posotion of Israel. Israel should now determine how far it can go during the negotiations and should contribute to the solution of the problem within those parameters. Otherwise it may confront greater problems in the future.
The Middle-East already has an enormous stockpile of military equipment. For a lasting peace in the region, we must move swiftly to devise arrangements to curb excessive arms sales to the Middle-East. Weapons of mass destruction need to be swept away from the region. The CFE arrangements might to some extent constitute an example for the area. Of course the entirely different conditions of the region need to be taken into consideration. Success in this area also depends on success towards a settlement of the region. Success in this area also depends on success towards a settlement of the Arap-lsraeli conflict.
I personally believe that the most important factor for the achievement of peace in the region is to develop a system that would increase economic interdependence and meaningful cooperation among countries of the Middle East.
The countries of the region can collectively open up their markets to one another and increase trade exchanges and tourism. They can together build and improve the infrastructure in the Middle East. Part of the region’s oil revenues could be pooled in an economic cooperation fund to finance such projects.
Cooperation along these lines would create an atmosphere of deeper understanding and enhanced good will. It
would also serve the well being of all the nations in the region.lt would help narrow the income gap between the richer and less wealthy. This would contribute to a relaxation of social tensions underlying political unrest.
I believe that the most important requirement of the Middle East for the years to come is water. The need of the countries of the region is now even more greater because of the pollution in the Gulf. In this respect I should remind you of my proposal of a multi-lateral venture for the purpose of building a “peace-water pipeline” to deliver water from Turkish rivers, down to the Arabian peninsula. This pipeline would benefit all countries involved, in this context may I draw your attention to an initiative I have undertaken to convene an International Water Summit in Istanbul from 3 to 9 November 1991, to discuss related problems.
The winds of democracy may be reaching the Middle-East soon. We really see some signs to this effect.
Turkey is a drawbridge of Europe’s fortress of contemporary civilisation and its gateway to the Middle East. As such we consider that democratisation ought to go hand in hand with efforts aimed at increasing economic interdependence in the area. This is the only way to guarantee that the region keeps pace with the exigencies of a new global order based on peace, justice and progress. The achievement of democratisation in the Middle East should be regarded not only as a desirable goal for the region itself, but also as a component of Europe’s well being and peace of mind.
We cannot expect to have a democracy in the region with western standards at the initial phase, although each country may reach different stages in time.
Turkey, with its secular democracy and free market economy can constitute an example to the countries of the region in this respect.
Turkey together with Iran and Pakistan is on the way to giving a new life to the trilateral “Economic Cooperation Organisation”. The three countries have agreed to accord trade preferences to each other, to establish a joint investment bank and to cooperate on infrastructure projects. A summit is being planned for autumn of this year to seal these decisions. We are hoping that these developments might have some influence to encourage similar cooperation in the region.
We believe that the situation in Iraq is more serious than may be appreciated from the outside. Iraq has suffered a great and a humiliating defeat. The war has caused great damage on the country. The wound is yet fresh and warm and the pain is not so obvious. But as time passes the situation in Iraq might become worse. I believe there has also been great loss of life in Iraq during the war. As the prisoners of war return to their families and homes, the gravity of the situation will weigh on the people of Iraq. The civil war in that country has also created additional damage and loss of life. It has increased tensions between the regime and the people of Southern and Northern Iraq. It would not be correct to think that peace has finally come for the people of Iraq. A sparkle might lead to other tragedies in that country.
I believe that a quick political solution is required to bring an end to the sufferings in Iraq. Embargo by itself is not enough to provide this solution. It is up to the international community to come to grips with this problem. Otherwise the present problems might achieve new dimensions.
Now I want to outline my views on the developments in Europe.I believe the most important development in Europe have been the ending of the Cold War and the enormous changes in the Soviet Union, the collapse of communism in Europe, the unification of Germany and coming into power of democratic governments in the countries of East Europe.
On the other hand, the decision by the European Community to achieve a single market by end of 1992 is a very significant development for Europe. The attraction of the European Community for the non-member countries increase every passing day as the community draws closer to this objective. There may be differences in the pace towards an internal market in various sectors, but it is a fact that this objective will be achieved in the end and will be a significant building block in the new European architecture.
I would now like to go a little further into some of the developments I have just mentioned.
The lifting of the heavy hand of the Soviet Union over the countries of Central and Eastern Europe led to the revival of democratic currents in those countries, and to the collapse of old economic systems. As a result it brought them face to face with colossal new problems. There was a mistaken belief in those countries that with democracy, prosperity would be within easy reach. However the most important characteristic of a free market system is that it requires hard work for individuals as well as for nations to achieve prosperity.
The lifting of the Soviet pressure also affected the ethnic problems in the Balkans. These problems which were not much visible because of Soviet pressure came to surface. This has led to tensions between the countries of the Balkans and between different ethnic groups in almost every Balkan state. This sitiation might lead to new and greater complication if not handled with due care. Turkey is in a situation to play a positive role also in this respect. It has a great deal of experience in the Balkans going back to the Ottoman period. It is a country of the region enjoying excellent relations with Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Yugoslavia and Hungary. It has problems only with Greece. I am not going to take up the reasons here. I should however mention that their solution will be much easier if the European Community does not become a party to these problems.
The Soviet Union itself, in some respects resemble the Balkans. Outside the Russians which constitute the core of the Union, there are Christian and Moslem-Turkic republics and scores of minorities in those republics. It is noteworthy that those which refuse to join the Union Treaty are only the Christian Republics. This situation might give rise to difficulties to achieve a further rapprochement between Europe and the Soviet Union in future.
I believe that the process towards democratisation in the Soviet Union is irreversible. Therefore, the West should help the Soviet Union in this period of transition.
However, the real effort and sacrifice must come from the people of Soviet Union themselves. Turkish experience in passing to a free market economy has verified this. We had to pool almost ninety percent of our resources to achieve this objective. The European Community did not provide even the insignificant sum of 600 million Ecus foreseen by the fourth financial protocol. I believe, at this stage, the Soviet Union will mostly need support without political strings attached, and assistance for the education and training of people required to run a free market economy.
During the last few years substantial steps have been taken for the security of Europe. NATO has played a very important role in the ending of the Cold War. It is a well established and an efficient organisation. It is important to maintain this organisation and to make the necessary changes within the organisation in parallel with the developments in Europe and the world.
The challenges facing us in Western Europe are no less serious than those which confronted us forty-five years ago. To avoid the risks of failure, common sense urges us to envisage an interlocking network of relationships based on NATO, the CSCE, the European Community and other European institutions.
As far as NATO’s role in the future security architecture of the continent is concerned, Turkey supports the evolution of a stronger European dimension. Such a development ought to reinforce the Atlantic Alliance and bring about a more equal distribution of leadership and responsibilities within it. In our opinion, if the EC nations decide to form an exclusive club, the new European architecture cannot benefit from the new prospects and meet new challenges. It would leave some European allies like Turkey and Norway, who are yet to join the Community, marginalized on the flanks. Hence, a European defence identity should be conceived as the “European Security Pillar” of NATO and in the manner endorsed at the London Summit in July last year.
The Atlantic Alliance, the CSCE and the European Community are three specific secular pillars of the continent, each will make its own contribution to the new European architecture. An important aspect of European cooperation will be in the framework of the European Community. Military\Security integration and Atlantic security cooperation should remain the job of NATO. In this context cooperation with and support of the United Statets is imperative for an Atlantic balance. We should refrain from attempts to reduce the United States’ presense in Europe. Western European Union ought to develop to become the European pillar of the Transatlantic system by embracing all the fourteen European members of the alliance.
Lastly I wish to make a few points that should correct lingering misperceptions in the minds of some Europeans about Turkey’s role in the new configuration of the continent.This role can be properly assessed by taking due account of historic, geopolitical and economic factors.
Eastern Thrace and particularly Anatolia are extensions of the European continent. As such, the course of their history has always been inseparable from that of Europe. These were Alexander’s springboard towards world dominion. Rome stretched her power to the borders of Persia and to Mesopotamia across the Bosphorus and the Taurus Mountains. Taurus, Iconium and Ephesus served as stepping stones for the spread of the message of Christ into Greece and Rome. Islam followed the same path in reaching the peoples of the Balkans. For five centuries, Istanbul provided the home base from which the Ottomans, as successors of Byzantium, controlled Europe as far as Budapest.
Imperial Turkey was formally admitted to the “Concert European” in 1856. The entire history of the Ottoman reform movement consists of an unbroken chain of attempts to reorganize the state and the society on the European pattern.
Yet Turkey’s European vocation found a modern, concrete and absolute expression with Kemal Ataturk’s revolutionary achievements. The record of the Turkish Republic in all walks of life -from public and civil law, politics, economics, cultural and social orientation to military and defence matters- bears out the nation’s European credentials. In fact, the success of Turkey’s emergence as a modern and secular state bears witness to Turkey’s historic course oriented to Europe. The Turkish bid to join the Community and the Western European Union should be seen as the culmination of a process which lasted for centuries.
Throughout the last decade, Turkey registered a great success with regard to economic restructuring. A sound economy, capable of being integrated to the world economies, has thus emerged. The transformation was brought about in a democratic environment.
Turkey had no access to huge grants and extensive subsidies. We, nevertheless, managed to create a healthier economy that could produce consecutive current account surpluses until the Gulf Crisis. I should also mention here that the free market economy we now enjoy helped us overcome the adverse affects of the crisis with a minimum loss. We serviced our foreign debt repayments on schedule. Today, Turkey is in a position to extend credit lines to many countries. She has been able to achieve a sustained annual growth rate of not less than 6 % over the last decade. The Turkish Lira has become fully convertible and foreign exchange reserves have reached an all-time high level. Exports have more than quadrupled. There are no restrictions pertaining to the foreign exchance regime and an effective stock-market is steadily expanding. Privatization is going on at full speed.
Turkish experience towards achieving a free market economy is being followed with great attention by the countries of the region. Indeed, Turkey, with most developed free market economy and a trained, experienced bureaucracy, has a lot to share with the countries of that part of the world. It could share its experiences in the liberalisation of trade and encourage free movement of people, capital and services.
This is also true for the Black Sea region and the Balkans. I have put forth the idea of a “Black Sea Economic Cooperation Zone”. This Zone would include, besides Turkey, the Soviet Union, Romania and Bulgaria. Six Soviet republics would also participate, these are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldavia, Russia and the Ukraine. We believe, proposed joint measures to liberalize trade in the Area and to cooperate in establishing the infrastructure necessary for facilitating trade among the participants. We are not aiming at a Black Sea Common Market. We only want to create a medium through which goods, capital, people and services can move more freely. During my visit to the Soviet Union, I saw that president Gorbachev and the leaders of the republics were favorable to this idea.
The dramatic developments in the Gulf must always remind us of the breadth of the problems besetting the Muslim world and the dangers of the revival of an age-old conflict between Muslims and Christians. Power hungary people exploit even the smallest differences among nations and fractions to achieve their objectives. In the past, economic frustrations forced many people to seek ways of liberation. They resorted to communism and revolutionary methods. We now know that, those methods are not the cure.
The changes in Eastern Europe and Soviet Union have resulted in the revival of religion in these regions.
People believing in God build stronger societies. History confirms this. The important thing is that religion should not border on extremism. To prevent this, societies and individuals need to be more tolerant towards each other. One should not forget that religions which believe in one God are based on same principles.
If we are to avoid the dark ages when religions were at war with each other, we must be very careful. In a world which is so much smaller today we cannot ignore the economic difficulties of others. We need better programmes of cooperation and assistance to other developing countries.
Today the Muslim population in the world is more than a billion. In the Soviet Union alone the Muslim population is nearing 80 million. The birth rate is high. No one can say from now the effect of a number of political problems that will be created if these people are to come under the influence of militant ideologies.
The Moslem populations world over, not only in the Middle East but in the Soviet Union as well, are in fact at the threshold of making historic decisions in their search for a viable alternative which would fundamentally determine their future.
The fact that Turkey is a secular Moslem country sharing western values enriches the Turkish Model with an added dimension. This dimension proves to the Middle Eastern nations, as well as to the Islamic world in general, that an Islamic country can evolve into a democratic and modern society on the western pattern. On the other hand it also constitutes a model to be emulated by the Eastern and Southern Soviet Republics.
Turkey applied to the European Community in 1987. The Commission rendered its opinion on Turkish membership in 1989 at a time of unprecedented mutation in Europe. These were the welcome changes which marked the end of the Cold War. The EC was seen as a pole of attraction by all Eastern European countries. However, today, we see that a lot of time is still needed for many of the East European Countries to come up to the standards of integration with the Community. Turkey is very near to those standards. It is in fact at a better position than some of the member states.
Turkey has also reached an economic standard above other Islamic countries. Turkish membership will make it possible for the EC to establish better relations with the Islamic world. There are those who believe that the EC is a Christian club. Such tendencies only contribute to polarisations in the world.
Turkey’s historic experience and knowledge of the Balkans, the Black Sea Region, West Asia as well as the Middle East and the excellent relations it enjoys with almost all the countries of these regions places Turkey at a unique position. Turkish membership in the European Community and the Western European Union would no doubt enrich these two organisations and would contribute to the improvement of their political, cultural and economic ties with that part of the world.
Turkey will also serve as an engine of growth in an expanded Europe with her developing economy offering new market opportunities for Western European exporters. Enriched with Turkey’s young and dynamic workforce, Western European capital and enterprise would be in a position to tap the vast economic potential of Anatolia.
As far as the Western European Union is concerned, I would first underline one of the prioties of Turkish foreign policy, namely that of participating in all spheres of the European integration process.
We agree that efforts towards strengthening European role in the field of security and defence should be pursued with energy and vigour. Yet, it is our firm conviction that one cannot and should not create two different categories of European members within the same alliance; those who are within the EC and WEU, and trrose who are only within NATO. On the other hand Turkey should not be expected to accept only the responsibilities of the defence of the continent without parpicipating fully in the making of the new Europe.
I would like to sum up my message as follows: Turkey, as a persistent and unswerving adherent of the humanitarian values of Europe, is long overdue for political, economic, cultural recognition by her natural partners. Neither the Community nor the Western European Union may reach their natural and logical boundries without Turkish presence. She constitutes a European bridge to a far wider consensus between Europe and the Middle East. As such, she is a political asset for Western Europ.
All European nations have contributed to a rich and diverse European identity. Turkey, with all the civilizations that have enriched Anatolia and its people is one of the Mediterranean heirs to that very identity in equal share to her future EC and WEU partners. We claim that heritage.Turkey and Western European Union have common goals and common responsibilities to discharge. Therefore, no special consultative arrangement can be regarded as a permanent substitute to Turkey’s eventual full membership in the Union.
With these thoughts in mind, I wish you every success in your future work.
(*) President Turgut Özal’s address to the WEU Parliamentary Assembly in Paris on May 5,1991 was published in the fpi Quarterly “Foreign Policy” Vol. 16, Nos. 1-2