Thursday, December 29, 2022

The ANC’s pro-Russian Diplomacy is a Sheer Betrayal to Their Fellow Blacks in the West

TrumPutin: The axis of racists between Russia and the Western far right

Despite unprecedented confrontation with the West since the invasion of Ukraine, Russia keeps close relations with African nations, and nearly half of them have abstained from denouncing and imposing sanctions on the Russian aggression at UN General Assemblies. Among them, South Africa is a critical focus because ruling ANC makes a fatal and completely self-defeating mistake, as they maintain friendly relationship with Russia, even though this country is the worst racist regime in the world under the Putin administration.

The ANC is wrong and self-defeating to pursue pro-Russian diplomacy, ideologically. We all know that this party had fought against apartheid for decades until the end of the Cold War. Their fellow blacks in Europe and America showed strong solidarity with their anti-racism struggle. However, as if they had forgotten their long history of resistance, current ANC is befriending racist Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. This is an innocent betrayal to those who supported their effort for multi-racial democracy, because Russian President Vladimir Putin is the most notorious sponsor for the far right in the West to weaken liberal democracy, which led to Russian election interferences for Brexit and the Trump presidency. Even after the worldwide shock of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, some of those rightwing populists still resonate with Putin in order to propagate their aversion to socio-cultural diversity associated with globalization and devotion to White Christian nationalism. The party that advocates racial egalitarianism should never forget murky ties between Russia and Western racists.

Deplorably, the ANC betrays them unconciously.

Those pro-Russian right-wingers earn a horrible reputation in the United States. MAGA Republicans claim that America disengage from the conflict with Russia over Ukraine in the name of a “small government” ideal. Such right-wingers in the House are Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (MTG), Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Maddison Cawthorn, etc. In addition, former Trump administration officials, including ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, ex-White House Advisor Peter Navarro, and ex-Senior Councilor to the President Steve Bannon justify Putin’s aggression of Ukraine, as if they spoke on behalf of the Kremlin. Some of those extremists ridiculously regard Volodymyr Zelensky as “a globalist puppet for Soros and the Clintons.” Above all, Donald Trump himself praised Putin a genius when he invaded Ukraine (“Meet the pro-Putin Republicans and conservatives”; Republican Accountability Project). There is nothing Reaganite in their national security visions.

Also in Europe, some far right politicians still show pro-Putin posture, even though their countries face more direct threat of Russia than their fellows in America. After the Italian general election this September, newly-elected Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni from neo-fascist Brothers of Italy have overturned her position regarding Russia, but her right-wing colleagues in the cabinet such as Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi still remain pro-Putin (“Putin’s Friends? The Complex Balance Inside Italy’s Far-Right Government Coalition”; IFRI; November 28, 2022). Russia was also behind the German far right coup attempt led by Heinrich XIII this December. One of the suspects was approaching Russia on behalf of Heinrich (“Germany arrests 25 accused of plotting coup”; BBC News; 7 December, 2022). Pro-Russian demagogues and arsonists are found in the right wing media as well. Tucker Carlson of FOX News tells his TV audiences to take sides with Russia over Ukraine. Ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage of GB News speaks more discreetly to support Russia indirectly by propagating skepticism about Zelensky’s competence to govern the nation.

The list of those Western far right on both sides of the Atlantic is filled with creepy and scary people. Why should a party of black empowerment associate with the axis of “TrumPutin” racists? Remember, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed wholehearted sympathy to white nationalists in the United States this April, as he blamed “anti-white aggressions” (“Russia Warns of Anti-White 'Aggression' in U.S.”; Moscow Times; April 1, 2021). Actually, it is not just racism, anti-feminism, and anti-LGBT values that the Kremlin and the Western far right is in agreement. Putin’s Russia and Western racists share much more deeply fundamental values, which is called nationalist democracy by Israeli rightist historian Yoram Hazony, and sovereign democracy by former Russian Presidential Advisor Vladislav Surkov. That is an ideology totally in denial of the universal value of liberal democracy, and strongly nativist and anti-modernist. Those “TrumPutin” racists detest enlightenment and globalism, both of which are strongly endorsed by the Western establishment.

Furthermore, Putin’s aggression of Ukraine has also revealed domestic racism his country. The casualty rate of soldiers of ethnic minorities such as Mongolian Buryats and Caucasus Muslim Daghestanis is much higher than that of Russians (“Young, poor and from minorities: the Russian troops killed in Ukraine”; France 24; 17 May, 2022). More critically, I suspect that Putin’s interpretation and implementation of the Russky Mir notion reflects his racist vision of the world. In the well-known article “On Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians”, he expresses deep-rooted grudge against Western superiority in the post-Cold War international politics and sheer disrespect to Ukrainian culture and history to deny their independence and sovereignty. With such contemptuous attitude, there is no wonder why the Russian troops have committed so many crimes in Ukraine, including rape, burgling, torture, murder, and any other kind of violence. Appallingly, Putin awarded a prize to those shameless rapists of Bucha (“Putin honors brigade accused of war crimes in Bucha”; Washington Post; April 19, 2022).

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the ANC owed significantly to Soviet help in the past in their struggle against apartheid. As in the United States, racial equality activists had almost no choice but leaning to the left. Their alignment with the communist super power was a natural option in those days, but that was too provocative for both Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, in view of the Soviet-Cuban presence in Angola and Mozambique. Fortunately, the party leader Nelson Mandela proved that he could be in partnership with the West and white South Africans to develop multi-racial democracy, and won support from the global community. After all, the Soviet regime had collapsed, but the ANC leaders still seem to feel emotional and nostalgic ties with Russia.

It seems that Africans share the same kind of sentimentalism with Japanese. Typically speaking, late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pursued his father Shintaro’s unfinished job to settle the peace treaty with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev by having the Norther Territories returned. Abe sought to develop economic cooperation with post-Communist Russia. However, his wishful dream ended in failure, because he dismissed ruthless nature of Putin’s rule of power. Putin is not Gorbachev. From the current Kremlin’s point of view, Japan is just a subordinate ally of the United States, and Russia does not have to return the territory in consideration of economic cooperation. The problem is not just reciprocity. Ideologically, the old Soviet Union and current Russia are completely at odds, as the former sponsored communists worldwide while the latter sponsors far right racists in the West. Therefore, it does not make sense that the ANC still regards Putin’s Russia as their friend. Like Abe, they see Russia very illusionally. Think again. America and Israel were on very friendly terms with Iran ruled by modernist Shah, but both countries shall never treat current Shia theocracy of this country as such. A different regime makes a totally different country.

Rather than befriending Russia, the ANC is in a good position to denounce Putin’s nuclear blackmail racism. His Russky Mir essay shows an implicit sense of Russian superiority to Ukrainians, and it is such disdainful thinking that makes him so cruel to the enemy whether Chechnyans, Syrians, or Ukrainians. Without Western deterrence, he would not mind mass murder against any enemies who deny his Russky Mir values. To the contrary, South Africa is the only sovereign state that has abolished nuclear weapons by itself, while autocracies in the Global South such as Iran and North Korea commit nuclear proliferation. Remember, both of them help Putin’s savage invasion of Ukraine. Why should a party of multi-racial democracy make friends with the axis of racists, anti-globalists, and anti-enlightenment, which is primarily constituted of Putin’s Russia and Western far right?

Deplorably, most of the media do not criticize tremendous contradictions associated with the ANC’s unconscious betrayal to racial egalitarians around the world. It is no use to report their historical relations with the Soviet Russia so “sympathetically”. Putin’s Russia no longer upholds the value, “Workers of the world, unite!” In the name of traditionalism, his Russia provokes racist unrest in the West.

Among African nations, South Africa draws my attention from the following reasons. This country is located in a position to link the Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific area, which is quite important in the 21st century geostrategy. Also, the prospect of multi-racial democracy in this country is a global attention. In addition, this country belongs to the Anglo-Saxon politico-cultural sphere, since it was founded as a white dominion of the British Empire historically. Therefore, South Africa stimulates my interest, as my main focuses are the United States and Britain. And therefore, I would like to call an attention from the media and academics around the world to review fatal contradictions of pro-Russian diplomacy of the ANC more critically.

Monday, November 07, 2022

Japan’s Embedded Alliance with Anglo-Saxons and Its Sovereign Strategy

JAUKUS? A Pacific alliance of Japan, Australia, the UK, and the USA.

In the previous post, “Can Britain Draw India into the West?”, I talked about Britain's joint project of developing next generation stealth fighter with Turkey, India, and Japan. Geopolitically, the above three were strategic hubs of the British Empire, and they are located in the west, the central south, and the east of Eurasia respectively. Of course, Britain is not the hegemonic power today, but the tilt to the Indo-Pacific area while maintaining ties with Europe is more in congruent with a global strategic scope of the maritime hegemony in the past, and that of the United States, the global hegemony today, than that of a Euro-Atlantic regional power.

It is not necessarily quixotic to explore a geostrategy based on past imperial experience. There is no denying that Russia's neo-Eurasianist dream to reconquer Ukraine has turned out catastrophic. On the other hand, Turkey's neo-Ottoman vision is much more successful to boost its global presence, though this requires a tight rope diplomacy between the West and the rest. Meanwhile, Japan is in a mixed position. While aspiring to explore sovereign and independent initiatives to boost political presence in the world after the Cold War, Japan positions itself deeply embedded in the Anglo-Saxon security network in the Indo-Pacific, which is the Quad plus AUKUS, rather than pursuing an imperial dream in wartime history. Thereby, this country assumes its position as a key proponent of the liberal world order in this century, which is Pax Anglo-Saxonica 2.0 against China and other revisionist powers. It would be quite narrow-sighted to regard Japan just as a tiny insular nation caught between America and China. From a panoramic view of the world, we understand that Japan and the Anglo-Saxon hegemony have given geostrategic priorities in the Eurasian Rimland since the prewar era.

Meanwhile, we have to understand sovereign and independent aspects in Japanese foreign policy. This July, the Japan Forum on International Relations has released a new book, entitled "Japan’s Diplomacy in Eurasian Dynamism", which is a self-portrait of the Japanese strategy in the Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific. When the Hashimoto administration launched the New Silk Road initiative to strengthen ties with the Eurasian heartland in the 1990s, it was more like a romantic exploration of ancient cultural and historical friendship with Asia, rather than geopolitical consideration. Also, ideological aspects were not so much important in that initiative. It was the 9-11 terrorist attacks that prompted the evolution of Japanese grand strategy. Prime Minister-then Taro Aso publicized the Arch of Freedom and Prosperity against terrorism and autocracy, in resonance with the Greater Middle East Initiative by the Bush administration.

Aso's successor Shinzo Abe advanced the grand strategy furthermore. He lead regional security and free trade initiatives, notably the FOIP and the TPP, when the United States was plagued with America First isolationism under the Trump administration. Quite importantly, he called global attention to the threat of China, particularly from Western leaders. Prior to that, Western media treated conflicts between Japan and China like Third World regional power rivalries between India and Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, etc. Actually, I also distanced myself from those who were obsessed with China in those days, because I was disgusted with Japan First attitudes of online right wingers and other revisionists whose vision of the world were hardly panoramic, and sounded something like Putinistic grudge against postwar Pax Americana and Trumpian grudge against globalization these days. Without attendance of events at the Japan Forum on International Relations, I may have missed opportunities to keep up with the reality of growing challenges by China.

On the other hand, Abe was so wishful as to believe that Russia would return the Northern Territories in exchange for economic cooperation, as he was poorly aware of the nature of the Putin regime、which is the rule of power. We should not forget that Abe invited Vladmir Putin to a hot spring resort in his Yamaguchi constituency for a rest just before the bilateral summit in 2016, his attitude to charm that cruel dictator was something like behavior of a master of a classical-styled Japanese inn at the resort ("Abe and Putin meet at a hot spring resort in Japan"; Yahoo News; December 16, 2016).

For further discussion, I would like to mention the three geostrategic hubs from historical contexts. Turkey had been a bulwark against Russia’s southward expansion, and a vital member of NATO and the CENTO to stop Soviet threats in Europe and the Middle East. India has been a connecting link between East Asia and the Middle East, and also between the Indo-Pacific and Central Asia since the era of the British Raj. With such geopolitical background, India has become an indispensable strategic partner for the United States in the War on Terror and the Quad today. Meanwhile, Japan has been an offshore outpost to block East Asian land powers from gaining access to the sea. Currently, Turkey and India aspire to play independent role in geopolitics of a multipolar world, while preserving membership of NATO and the Quad respectively. Meanwhile, Japan upholds the G7 principle of a rule-based world order, which makes this country reliable for Anglo-Saxon sea-powers.

In addition to geopolitics, it is necessary to mention defense industries of the three hubs. They have some defense technology, but not advanced enough to make the whole of the next generation fighter. Turkey exports less expensive and easily available weapons to developing countries primarily. Notably, the Bayraktar TB2 drone has won a global reputation, as it helps Ukraine’s counter-offensive against Russia. However, in advanced technology, this country needs assistance from major Western powers. Meanwhile, India manufactures numerous lines of indigenous weapons, such as the Tejas fighter jet, the Arjun tank, Astra BVR air to air missile, etc, under the “Make in India” campaign by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ("Top 10 Indian Indigenous Defence Weapons"; SSBCrackExams; October 24, 2020). But since they are not competitive in the global arms market, India is still dependent on Russia in defense procurement. Through technological cooperation with the West, India is pursuing self-sufficiency in national defense.

Unlike the above two, Japan is fundamentally strong in advanced technology, and provides critical components for Western weapon system. Notably, Japanese seeker will be integrated with Britain’s Meteor air-to-air missile to make the JNAAM ("Japan confirms plan to jointly develop missile with Britain"; UK Defence Journal; March 4, 2022). But Japanese defense contractors do not have political network for marketing, which was quite disadvantageous to compete with France to win the submarine contract with Australia. Fortunately for Japan, French submarines were edged out when the AUKUS agreement was declared. Australia switched to American and British nuclear submarines.

Anglo-Saxon sea powers make their strategies from global perspectives, and the priority among their regional hubs can change in accordance with the global security environment. Therefore, it is not recommendable for Japan to bandwagon with narrow-sighted China hawks in America, in view of current Russian defiance to the world order through invading Ukraine. They are obsessed with the Chinese threat in Asia so much that they do not see the world from panoramic viewpoints. They align with America First right-wingers and antiwar left-wingers to preclude America from helping Ukraine ("A Moment of Strategic Clarity"; The RAND Blog; October 3, 2022). Also, those anti-interventionists coordinate with anti-tax movements on this issue ("Inside the growing Republican fissure on Ukraine aid"; Washington Post; October 31, 2022). As mentioned in the National Security Strategy of the Biden administration, China has become the primary contestant against the liberal world order. Also, Russia and other revisionist powers obstruct and defy this world order that Japan rests on its peace and prosperity. Therefore, Japan should not appear self-interested, through resonating with the wrong partners..

Under the current geopolitical context, how do Anglo-Saxon sea-powers strike the strategic balance in Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific? Let me talk about it from Britain’s relationship with the three joint fighter jet project partners. For Turkey, The United Kingdom has been the friendliest European nation for decades. Prior to Brexit, Britain had been endorsing Turkey's bid to join the EU. In the post-Brexit era, Britain and Turkey need each other more than ever. In trade, Turkey found that a deal with Britain is more preferable to preserve its economic sovereignty, rather than a deal with the EU that requires cumbersome procedures of common customs. Quite importantly, Turkey faced some tensions with the EU, as Erdoğan sent brutal Syrian mercenaries to the civil war in Libya in 2020, and attacked Kurdish militants in Syria to stop his claimed terrorism in his country in 2018. However, Britain restrained to denounce Turkey ("TURKEY AND THE UK: NEW BEST FRIENDS?; CER Insights; 24 July, 2020). India is also a prospective market in the post Brexit era. Strategically, this country has edged out ex-CENTO but pro-Chinese and Taliban-tied Pakistan as Britain’s primary partner in South Asia ("The Integrated Review In Context: A Strategy Fit for the 2020s?" Kings College London; July 2021). As stated in the UK-India joint statement in April this year, their bilateral strategic partnership goes beyond the Quad plus AUKUS, and even expands to Africa.

Meanwhile, Japan is a key partner in Britain’s tilt to the Indo-Pacific, along with Australia. As G7 members, both countries staunchly support the rule-based world order. While Britain needs Japan to over-ride post Brexit political and economic uncertainties, Japan needs Britain to cope with growing security tensions with China and North Korea. In trade, Japan endorses Britain’s bid for the CPTPP. In order to strengthen bilateral security cooperation, Japan launched a joint military exercise with Britain during the May era, and even partially modeled on the British system to found its own NSC to enhance the strategic decision-making capacity ("The UK-Japan Relationship: Five Things You Should Know"; Chatham House Explainer; 31 May, 2019).

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Biden administration outlined American national security strategy this October, which states that we are in an era of geopolitical and ideological competition, particularly with Russia and China. According to the publicized strategy, “Russia poses an immediate threat to the free and open international system, recklessly flouting the basic laws of the international order today, as its brutal war of aggression against Ukraine has shown.” Meanwhile, as to China, it states “[It] is the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to advance that objective.” On the other hand, it advocates for international cooperation to resolve globally shared issues climate change, energy security, pandemics, financial crisis, food crisis, etc. Whether in competition or cooperation with those challengers, President Joseph Biden is rebooting America’s global alliance network, while his predecessor Donald Trump was contemptuous of it. That is favorable for Japan to deepen the alliance via the Quad.

The strategic emphasis of Anglo-Saxon sea-powers may change, according to their situational necessity, but Japan is much more advantageous than other fighter project hubs. Turkey is chronically plagued with the Kurdish problem. Erdoğan attacked Syrian Kurds, which lead to “NATO’s brain death”. Also, this country still quibbles about Kurdish asylums in Sweden and Finland, upon their bid to join NATO. That will place friendly Britain in an awkward position, because it leads the Joint Expeditionary Force of the Netherlands, Scandinavian and Baltic nations. India is taken over by Hindu nationalists, and their domestic clash with Muslims and Christians is an unneligible concern. Quite problematically, both countries have strong ties with the Kremlin. Turkey bought S-400 surface to air missiles from Russia. Also, India still abstains from voting against condemning and sanctioning Russia at the UN General Assembly.

Nonetheless, Japan is free from domestic ethno-sectarian tensions that terribly inflict on Turkey and India. Regarding the relationship with Russia, current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida overturns Abe’s appeasement to Putin in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis. Kishida’s appointment of ex-Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, who is also a JGSDF veteran, to his Special Advisor for International Human Rights Issues, sends a strong message that Japan takes human rights as a critical issue of national security. We can also interpret it that Kishida shall never forgive brutal crimes that Vladimir Putin committed at home and in Ukraine, and he shall never make the same mistake that Abe made. In globally shared issues, Japan has been willing to get involved as a civilian power in the postwar era through the G7 and various international and regional channels. The situation and the environment of global security always change. But whatever happens, Japan should not fall into Japan First, in order to maintain the reputation and trust from the world.

Monday, July 04, 2022

Can Britain Draw India into the West?

The war in Ukraine has starkly divided the world into Western democracies and Russo-Chinese autocracies. However, some democratic nations that were invited to the Democracy Summit by US President Joseph Biden, stay neutral and abstained from denouncing the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the UN Security Council in February and the UN Human Rights Council in April. Among them, India has long and deep relations with Russia since the Cold War era to counter Pakistan. Even today, Russia is the primary exporter of weapons for this country. Thus, it is unrealistic to expect India to join Western sanctions against Russia, at this stage.

On the other hand, India has been deepening security partnership with the United States since the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Today, she joins the Quad to enhance the FOIP against China’s maritime expansionism. Therefore, it is a strategic imperative for Western Democracies to draw India into their side. For this objective, it is necessary to provide some defense and economic incentives from long term perspectives. The 21st century Cold War between the Sino-Russian axis and the Western alliance would go beyond the Russo-Ukrainian war. Prior to the Quad summit in Tokyo on May 24, Britain and France made some deals with India. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited India to meet his counterpart Narendra Modi on April 22, in order to enhance strategic partnership between both countries regarding the economy, security, climate change, etc. (“PM: UK-India partnership ‘brings security and prosperity for our people’”; GOV.UK; 22 April, 2022). Among numerous issues, the most deeply related to the focus of this post is Britain’s assistance of India’s next generation fighter aircraft project (“UK, India promise partnership on new fighter jet technology”; Defense News; April 22, 2022).

Prior to the deal with Britain, India cancelled the FGFA project, whose design was based on the Su-57 of Russia. Actually, this project has been delayed repeatedly and turned out too costly, as Russia faced financial and technological problems to develop the original Sukhoi stealth fighter aircraft (“$8.63-billion advanced fighter aircraft project with Russia put on ice”; Business Standard; April 20, 2018). Quite importantly, India was dissatisfied with the proto-type of the Russian design, and wanted more than 40 changes in engine, stealth and weapon-carrying capabilities (“India and Russia Fail to Resolve Dispute Over Fifth Generation Fighter Jet”; Diplomat; January 06, 2016). It seems that operational history of this fighter substantiates those concerns. In 2018, the Su-57 made a battlefield débuts in Syria (“Russia's most advanced fighter arrives in Syria”; CNN; February 24, 2018), but strangely, it is not used so much in the contested air space of Ukraine, where Russia is supposed to need a stealth fighter to establish air superiority (“Russia's much-touted Su-57 stealth fighter jet doesn't appear to be showing up in Ukraine”; Business Insider; Jun 14, 2022).

The Russian defense industry had been a formidable rival to the Western counterpart until the 1980s. But their technological strength lies in hardware, not in software. For example, the West was startled to see the level of Russian aerodynamics of fighter aircraft, when the Su-27 demonstrated Pugachev’s Cobra maneuver at the Paris Air show in 1989. However, as a consequence of the progress in computer electronics and information technology, avionics have become more important than maneuverability, which has given the West a much more advantageous position vis-à-vis Russia. At the beginning of the 1990s, when the Soviet Union was crumbling, Professor Joseph Nye of Harvard University mentioned about Russian manufacturing, “The Stalinist economy was successful in mastering relatively unsophisticated technologies and producing basic goods on a massive scale. … The biggest problem , however, is that Soviet central planners lack the flexibility to keep up with the quickened pace of today’s information-based economy. … An information-based economy requires broadly shared and freely flowing information to reap maximum gains” (“Bound to Lead”; Chapter 4, p. 120~121; 1990). Throughout the Yeltsin and the Putin era, Russia still fails to resolve this old Soviet problem. How dare can Vladimir Putin is compare himself with Peter the Great who successfully modernized and enlightened this country?

Currently, Britain is providing technological assistance for major regional powers to develop their indigenous next generation stealth fighters such as Turkey’s TAI TF-X and Japan’s Mitsubishi F-3. These projects proceed in parallel with Britain’s Tempest project, while technology transferees are allowed to maintain their sovereign initiative. Since the Modi administration launches the “Make in India” initiative to strengthen manufacturing sector, Britain’s offer will be helpful for India. Other Western countries such as the United States and France are launching export campaigns of their weapons actively, but Britain is quite assisting India’s stealth fighter to counter China's J-20 and J-31, from the R&D stage (“India bolsters arms ties with West to sever Russian dependence”; Nikkei Asia; June 17, 2022). Historically, Britain did not rule the whole of the Empire directly, but permitted some sort of self-rule by local lords to some extent in some areas. This traditional imperial skill will be helpful for the British defense circle to engage with stealth fighter projects in Turkey, Japan, and India.
BAE Systems that lead the Tempest R&D, is one of the top suppliers of high-tech components for advanced American weapon systems, which is technologically the most competitive defense market in the world. This implies that British defense technology is more reliable than Russian one. The war in Ukraine impresses Western advantage furthermore. Russia has fired numerous precision guided missiles, but unlike Western ones, 60% of those missiles failed to attack the target (“Exclusive: U.S. assesses up to 60% failure rate for some Russian missiles, officials say”; Reuters; March 26, 2022). Appallingly, Russian missile attacks are more poorly accurate than a layman’s throw in playing catch. Sanctions will broaden the gap of industrial technology between Russia and the West. China is not going to supply Russia with sanctioned technology, for fear of secondary sanctions on itself (“Russia's economy in for a bumpy ride as sanctions bite”; BBC News; 15 June, 2022). Russian weapon systems are less expensive and need less maintenance work than Western ones. But India today has grown richer and stronger enough to deploy more advanced Western arsenals, and ultimately, that will lower dependence on Russia.
Britain’s engagement with India’s stealth fighter project is also associated with its Indo-Pacific strategy. Last year, before Ruussian invasion of Ukraine, the British Prime Minister’s Office released “Global Britain in a competitive age”, which shows how Britain’s foreign and security policy anchors the “tilt” toward the Indo-Pacific within the Euro-Atlantic region. It states that Russia is the foremost threat, while China, India, and Japan are the key strategic focuses in the Indo-Pacific from their respective natures. Among the three, Britain regards China as an authoritarian state that poses the “biggest state-based threat” to its economic security and a “systemic challenge” to its security, prosperity and values. Meanwhile, India is recognized as “ “the largest democracy in the world” and as an “international actor of growing importance” to be aligned with Britain’s partner in this region, notably, the United States, Japan, and Australia, in terms of security, economy, and the environment (“Understanding the UK's ‘tilt’ towards the Indo-Pacific”; IISS Analysis; 15 April, 2021).

The “tilt” was designed to augment Britain’s global standings in the post-Brexit era, through deepening security and economic engagement with the Indo-Pacific region, to curb Chinese threats and to open up business opportunities in this fast-growing market. It is endorsed by diverse actors in Britain, including the government, business, and think tanks. Also, stakeholders in the region welcome the “tilt” (“What is behind the UK’s new ‘Indo-Pacific tilt’?”; LSE International Relations Blog; October 6, 2021). Regarding the Anglo-Indian partnership in the “tilt”, Visiting Professor Tim Wiliasey-Wilsey mentioned the following in a joint commentary by defense experts of the King’s College London (“The Integrated Review in Context: A Strategy Fit for the 2020s?”; King’s College London; July 2021). The fundamental point is that we should observe the strategic partnership bilaterally and multilaterally. The latter includes the Quad plus, the AUKUS, and other regional security and economic arrangements. Historically, India regarded Britain as pro-Pakistani, because the Muslim League of Pakistan was treated more favorably than the Congress Party of India during the colonial era and upon independence. Also, Pakistan joined the CENTO, a UK-led anti-communist military alliance in the Middle East. However, as the Taliban obstructed NATO operations in Afghanistan, Britain had begun to turn to India rather than Pakistan. Today, Britain is even inviting India to join the Five Eyes. When the FGFA project has stalled, the United Kingdom is drawing India into the West, both in terms of defense procurement and intelligence. That would be helpful to decouple this country from the Kremlin in the long run, despite current disagreements on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Hindu nationalism can grow into a critical hurdle to develop the strategic partnership between India and Britain, and also, other Western countries. First of all, we have to reexamine the assumption that India is the largest democracy in the world. According to the Freedom House index, India is not as free and democratic as advanced democracies. Regarding political rights, though India inherited British political system, ethnic and religious minorities are under-represented in the parliament. The scores in civil liberties are much worse. Current Prime Minister Modi is more antagonistic to press freedom than his Cambridge and Oxford-educated Sikh predecessor Manmohan Singh. Also, religious freedom is not guaranteed, as the Hindu majority launches aggressive anti-Muslim campaign in line with Modi’s BJP. The judicial authority is not independent enough to stop such populist upheaval (“FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2022: India”; Freedom House). Had a January 6 riot occurred in New Delhi instead of Capitol Hill, India might have failed to stop ribald vandalism. The West has a technological advantage to supplant Russia in defense procurement. But the question is how much we share common values with India.

Quite interestingly, Hindu nationalists have some similarities with Russky Mir devotees for Putin and January 6 rioters for Trump. All of them are extremely vindictive and tribalist. According to Gareth Price, Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House, most of the support for Modi’s BJP comes from the most populous and generally poorer Hindi ‘heartland’ states in the northern inland like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. They are resentful of English-speaking globalist elites who brought socio-economic inequality. Those nationalist populists satisfy their pride by scapegoating “privileged” ethno-sectarian minorities, notably Muslims and Dalits, just as Trump Republicans blame affirmative actions for blacks and Hispanics, and Putin supporters label pro-Western independentists in Ukraine as neo-Nazis. Most of the media and experts dismiss this point, although that seems to be deeply related to the reason why Modi’s India is so tolerant to savage, brutal, and immoral deeds by Russian troops in Ukraine. A developing country may have impending priority in the economy, but India even hesitates to condemn Russian conduct just verbally. For further consideration of Hindu nationalism in foreign affairs, we have to bear in mind that this ideology is so xenophobic that it is not so hostile to other homegrown religions such as Sikhism and Jainism, but antagonistic to exotic ones, notably Islam and Christianity (“Democracy in India”; Chatham House; 7 April, 2022).

Therefore, the West should not be so wishful as to call India the largest democracy in the world. Of course, this country share common geopolitical interest with the West, notably, "Free and Open Indo-Pacific". But with the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, India’s deep and inextricable relationship with Russia is reconfirmed among the global public, which poses a critical question how much we share common values with this country. As shown in Britain’s defense cooperation, the West can outcompete with Russia in the defense market of India, with more advanced and sophisticated technology. Geostrategically, that is a worthy effort for the West to weaken the Russo-Indian ties. Modi’s Hindu nationalist India in the Indo-Pacific is like Erdoğan’s Islamist Turkey in the NATO. Coincidentally, Britain is providing Tempest technology for both countries to help their indigenous fighter projects. While deepening strategic partnership with India on common interest issues to dilute Russo-Chinese influence on this country, we should not fall into wishful thinking to regard this country as the largest democracy in the world. For the time being, it is not recommendable to take provocative reaction to Hindu nationalism at governmental level. We should rather let non-governmental actors engage with ethno-sectarian and other social minorities to improve governance in India.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

The Case against Emmanuel Todd’s View on Russia

Renowned French historian Emmanuel Todd had an interview with NHK of Japan in a TV program “News Watch 9” on May 6, about the current war in Ukraine and its impact on Russia. Among some points that he commented in the interview, I was startled to hear that Russia was no longer a serious threat to the West, because this war has revealed appalling weakness of Russian armed forces.

Being militarily weak does not necessarily mean that the threat posed by the actor, whether state or non-state, is negligible. Typically speaking, Islamic terrorists are too weak in terms of raw military power, but the threat they pose to the global community is horribly huge, in view of their strong hatred and grudge to the West. Actually, such hatred and grudge caused the 9-11 attacks. Likewise, Russian President Vladimir Putin is driven by nasty and hateful emotions against the West, and strong will to destroy Westernd democracy, as he initiated his “special military operation” in Ukraine. If Russia is not a serious threat, why are Sweden and Finland bidding to join NATO?

There are the following reasons why the Russian threat is critical, Firstly, Russian troop’s hostility and cruelty to the enemy, including noncombatants, that imperiled the global community are correlated to their poorly disciplined and unprofessional conducts in the battlefield. Their murder, torture, burgling, and rape associated with the war, coincide with their poor logistics, communication, training, command structure, and tactics in the combat. That is to say, Russian armed forces are too savage, and not modernized enough in this century. It is frequently told in the media that Russia’s conduct and strategy are World War II-styled. But I would say that they are so pre-modern as Middle Age Mongolian forces, and brutally impose the Tatar yoke on Ukraine. Paradoxically, Russia is a terrible threat, because they are weak.

Secondly, Putin does not hesitate to saber-rattle nuclear weapons, which breaks the fundamental assumption of MAD. That erodes the global nuclear arms control regime. As a result, belligerent and autocratic proliferators, such as North Korea, would be emboldened. Furthermore, China could overturn its no-preemptive strike strategy, if Russia’s intimidation were effective to deter Western engagement to assist Ukraine. Since Russian conventional forces are too weak and unsystematic, they may have to depend on nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons in the end. Again, Russia is a terrible threat, because they are weak.

Thirdly, Russia has interfered in the elections in Europe and the United States to weaken and destroy Western democracy. This is a hybrid warfare against the West. The Kremlin agitates anti-globalist mobs to vote for far right candidates and agendas. Notably, Brexit and the Trump phenomenon shocked the global community. On the other hand, Russia provokes far left uprisings as well, because they are also resentful to globalist Western establishment. As a European, Todd is in a good position to understand the threat of Russian penetration into domestic politics in the West. In the last presidential election in France, Marine Le Pen gained the ground gradually, though she lost against Emmanuel Macron.

Lastly, Russian aggression of Ukraine is a critical challenge to international rules and norms. As cited the Atlantic Charter, “Territorial adjustments must be in accord with the wishes of the peoples concerned”, which is a key principle of the United Nations. The Russian troops do not abide by the code of conduct of modern international relations to respect national sovereignty, because they are extremely pre-modern. We, global citizens, should be well-aware that Russia is a peace breaker from every point that I mentioned in this article. A weak enemy is no less a critical threat than a strong enemy.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Russia’s War in Ukraine and Manipulation to Destroy Western Democracy

Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, as if filling the power vacuum of international politics, after US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The war broke out as a consequence of the geostrategic clash between Russia and the West. However, unlike Putin’s argument in his latest article “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians“, his KGB-bound aversion to NATO and the EU does not come from Russian culture and history. Yeltsin era foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev showed a starkly different vision from that. Rather than stopping NATO enlargement, Kozyrev envisioned a Russia aligned with NATO, because he saw the trans-Atlantic alliance changing from an aggressive military machine to an alliance of common values. Actually, he thinks Russia be a European democracy of European civilization, which is completely at odds with Putin’s neo-Eurasianism (“Open Door: NATO and Euro-Atlantic Security After the Cold War”; p.450 ; Brookings Institution Press; 2019).

Since most of the reports and analysis of this war focus on geostrategy, I would like to talk about less-attentioned issue, which is Russian manipulations to destroy Western democracy from interference in their enemy domestic politics to the implosion of their enemy alliance. Those handlings are intended to weaken Western solidarity to boost Russia’s standings in the world. For this objective, Putin’ does not cling to a specific ideology, even though dark ties between Russia and the Western far right has drawn much attention globally since the Trump presidency and Brexit. When Iran launched missiles to Irbil in Iraq the other day, as if in consort with Russian aggression in Ukraine, the Jerusalem Post concludes “Russia wants to return Ukraine to its “near abroad” and counts on US isolationists, the far Left, far Right and “realists” in the West to agree with Russia’s “security needs.” Iran wants to ride that Russian train as far as it can as well” (“Did Russia empower Iran’s attack on Erbil? – analysis”; Jerusalem Post; March 13, 2022). In other words, Putin’s manipulation against Western democracy for decades is closely linked to the recently broke out war in Ukraine.

In the United States, it is too well-known that Russia interfered in the presidential election for Donald Trump in 2016. His administration was extremely skeptical of the trans-Atlantic alliance, and even admitted Russian annexation of Crimea. Social conservatives and alt-rights resonated with Putin’s objection to Western liberals, regarding political correctness, LGBT rights, family values, and so forth. Even after the broke out of this war, Trump Republicans lead by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (MTG) still chanted pro-Putin slogans at an even of the America First Political Action Committee. The group was founded by Nick Funtes, who joined the Charlottesville neo-Nazi march in 2017. Other House Republicans such as Matt Gaetz and Paul Gosar are also deeply associated with this group. Establishment Republicans are so critically concerned with the far right that they claim exclusion of those Trump Republicans from the party (“Republicans tested by congresswoman’s speech to Putin-cheering white supremacists”; Times of Israel; 2 March, 2022).

Why are Trump Republicans so pro-Russian? Craig Shirley, a Ronald Reagan biographer, comments “The attitudes toward Russia have gotten all mixed up with domestic politics” in the Republican Party today. Trump Republicans from right wing legislators of the Hill to Tucker Carlson of Fox News are pro-Putin, because they want “America First” foreign policy to lead their country step back from global alliances with Western democracies. That comes from populist antipathy to the establishment (“How Republicans moved from Reagan’s ‘evil empire’ to Trump’s praise for Putin”; Washington Post; February 26, 2022).

Russia tames left wingers and realists, too. One of such left-leaning realists is Samuel Charap of the RAND Corporation, who was the senior advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Ellen Tauscher of the Obama administration. Prior to the war, he argued that the West stop aiding Ukraine in the border dispute with Russia, and embrace the Kremlin’s requirements based on Minsk II, because “confrontational” approach does not work (“The U.S. Approach to Ukraine’s Border War Isn’t Working. Here’s What Biden Should Do Instead.”; Politico; November 19, 2021). However, he was fatally wrong because he dismissed Putin’s real intention which was founded on deep-seated grudge against Western supremacy in the world order. Charap’s mixture of Obamanian leftism and finesse realism may have seemed “practical”, but that has just emboldened Russia.

Noticeably, the Minsk agreements were mediated by Germany and France, both of which are more soft liner to Russia than the US and the UK. According to Paul Niland of the Lifeline Ukraine, the agreements do not accuse Russian aggression in Crimea and Donbas from the beginning. Nor, do the agreements mention anything about future autonomy in Russian occupied Donetsk and Luhansk (“The Trouble With Minsk? Russia”; CEPA; September 21, 2021). In other words, these agreements enable Russia to continue to seize these two areas plus Crimea illegally, just as it does in the Northern Territories of Japan. No wonder, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is dissatisfied, but Putin does not accept “Enough is enough!”.

Then, why are Germany and France so dovish to Russia? Just for oil and gas? According to a report by the Chatham house last May, both countries pursued strategic independence from the United States, and placed more emphasis on the integration of Russia into European and international structures. That is to say, both countries assumed the role of “motor” to manage EU-Russian relations. While Germany focuses on mutual dependence in energy and the economy from ostpolitik tradition, France does on security issues to balance US and Russia from Gaullist tradition. From such perspectives, both countries had been mediating Russia and Ukraine via the Minsk agreements and the Normandy Format, but Russia did not take them seriously. The Kremlin was growing more aggressive just before Putin’s invasion, despite Franco-German efforts (“French and German approaches to Russia”; Chatham House; 13 May, 2021). Rather, those deals helped Putin exploit their pursuit of strategic independence, in order to drive a wedge in the trans-Atlantic alliance.

I would also like to mention Russian intrusion into domestic politics of both countries. Russian penetration in Germany is more deep-rooted than oil and gas. Just as other nations in the trans-Atlantic community, Putin agitates far right movements in Germany to weaken NATO and the EU, and also, to boost nationalist and traditionalist values to discredit liberal democracy. Pro-Russian voices are wide spread in leftist Social Democratic Party (SPD), too. However, Andreas Umland, an analyst at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, commented that the SPD’s conciliatory Ostpolitik toward Moscow even in the face of military threats, and its reliance on soft-power were already becoming unsuitable, shortly before Putin's aggression to Ukraine (“Ukraine crisis spotlights German party ties to Russia”; The Citizen; January 30, 2022). The problem with Germany is that Russian influence reaches even the mainstream left, as shown in ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s association with Gazprom and Rosneft.

Also in France, both the far right and hard left, from Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour to Jean-Luc Mélenchon openly admired Putin for his anti-globalist and anti-American world views, just before the war. In the presidential race for the election on April 10 this year, Mélenchon blamed President Emmanuel Macron’s effort to guarantee the sovereignty of Ukraine for his plot to annex this country into NATO. On the right, Le Pen has argued for normalization with Russia since Putin’s invasion of Crimea (How Putin is dividing French politics; Le Monde; 8 February, 2022). Like isolationists in America, sovereignists in France praise Putin just to “share the same disgust of the European Union, NATO, and the United States of America”. They don’t care their inconsistency to disrespect Ukrainian sovereignty against Russia (“French far-right candidates in Putin’s den”; Le Monde; 22 February, 2022).

In the United Kingdom, Brexiteers such as Nigel Farage admired Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, and blames the EU for allowing Ukraine to bid for the membership today (“Nigel Farage once admitted he 'admires Putin politically'”; Daily Express; February 28, 2022). On the left, ex-Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn sided with Russia in the Salisbury poisoning, even though two British citizens were killed after the attack on the Skripals. More problematically, he joins Stop the War campaign along with far left MPs to denounce “belligerence” of Britain and Ukraine against Russia (“Jeremy Corbyn sides with Russia (again)”; Spectator; 20 February 2022). Remember, don’t confuse Stop the War (Twitter: @STWuk) with a “No War” slogan among innocent anti-war grassroots. The former is a dubious British leftwing organization that even supported Russian annexation of Crimea.

In the wake of the war in Ukraine, domestic support for these pro-Russian politicians may be declining, and they may soften the tone, but we should still watch their words and deeds. Even if a ceasefire agreement were reached, the status of the disputed areas, ie, Donestsk, Luhansk, and Crimea, might not be defined clearly. Also, the settlement may be temporary, and the source of conflict may remain. The West has been aware of Putin’s intrusion into their domestic politics long before this war, but even more hawkish US and UK did not take sufficiently strong measures to stop Russia's penetration at home. Whatever happens in this war, Russia will continue to use those Fifth Column machines to destroy Western democracy from inside, as long as Putin and his siloviki fellows stay in power. Stay alert!