Assessment of the United States-China Power Transition and the New World Order

Ray Leonardo previously worked in the defense industry.  He presently works as a graduate researcher in international relations with interests that include power transition, alliance structure, great power politics, and conflict.  He can be found on Twitter @rayrleonardo and writes for rayrleonardo.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Assessment of the United States-China Power Transition and the New World Order

Date Originally Written:  July 28, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 11, 2017.

Summary:  The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) overtaking of the United States as the largest global economy will bring difficult and potentially dangerous consequences.  Continued peace will depend upon the PRC’s satisfaction with the current international system created by the United States, among others.  History and PRC foreign policy indicate the odds of a peaceful power transition may be lower than expected.

Text:  “…[T]he United States welcomes the rise of a China that is peaceful, stable, prosperous, and a responsible player in global affairs[1],” was often stated by United States’ President Barack Obama during his multiple summits with PRC President Xi Jinping.  The United States has little influence in slowing the rapid economic growth of the PRC.  Most forecasters predict the PRC will overtake the United States as the largest economy sometime during the first quarter of this century.  According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the PRC is expected to surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest economy in 2021[2].  Many scholars and practitioners in the field of international relations are concerned that the rise of the PRC will not be so peaceful and their concerns are backed up by theory.

History has shown that rising powers who challenge the status quo, and, or hegemonic nations often create a fertile environment for conflict.  Historical cases indicate that it is power parity (balance of power), rather than a dominated or disproportional relationship (hegemony), that increases the likelihood of war.  This research falls under the theory of Power Transition[3].  Power Transition theory is directly at odds with the often accepted Balance of Power theory, the latter of which states that a balance of power among nations leads to peace[4].  Various theories including nuclear deterrence have formed under the Balance of Power pretext, but the historical data does not back this theory.  Conflict is more apt to break out under conditions where states are about equal in relative power.

Research on power transitions shows that the potential for conflict is dependent on several variables, two of which include relative power and the satisfaction of the rising power[5].  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a common measurement for state power but measuring a state’s satisfaction within the international system is a more challenging task.  Regardless of statistical models, one can see through previous cases of great power transitions that conflict is most likely once the rising power has overtaken (regarding relative power) the previously dominant state.  Conflict is even more plausible when the rising power is highly dissatisfied with the current international system.  This is assuming, as is the case today, that the dominant state (The United States), has created an international regime that of which mirrors its own political and economic systems (Bretton Woods), but also mirrors the dominant nation’s socio-political philosophy and values.

Many factors play into a country’s satisfaction.  One can look at the PRC’s rapid economic rise as proof that they have found a way to be successful in an international system created by the West, particularly by the United States.  However, even as the PRC’s economics can be closely aligned with most of the world under the guise of “capitalism,” it must not be ignored that the PRC has very differing views on political systems, individual rights, and traditional western socio-political values.  The PRC government adopts a foreign policy that is textbook realism in so much that its use of force will never be used to promote “Chinese” or “eastern” values abroad.  The PRC has little concern for human rights domestically, never mind protecting human rights on the international stage.

Twenty-first century conflict in East Asia will be fought on water.  The PRC’s recent build up of artificial islands and claims to various islands in the South China Sea are constant and increasing[6].  This is due to many factors, most of which impact their economy and security.  The PRC’s actions show a consistent effort to leverage regional neighbors, particularly those who lay claim to various land masses throughout the South China and East China seas.  The PRC’s regional foreign policy is not surprising; however, the United States and its allies should be questioning how the future global policy of the PRC will look.  Will the PRC’s aggressive regional policy in the early parts of this century be thought of as a microcosm for their mid-century global policy?  The PRC’s aggressive policy toward countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia shows a strong dissatisfaction with the regional status quo.  The PRC understands the leverage that it has over many of its smaller neighbors and seeks to capitalize on it sooner rather than later.

There is no reason why U.S. officials should assume the PRC will peacefully rise through the international system without leveraging the power and control that comes with being the hegemonic nation.  The PRC will seek to advance their interests even as it may be on the backs of other smaller or even major powers.  With the PRC calling more of the shots regarding our international institutions, capitalist economies will still flourish, the bilateral and multilateral trade will continue to grow, but the principles and values that of which upon these institutions were built will continue to erode.  Human rights will take a back seat on the world stage, and over time few nations will care about the well-being of their trade partner’s people.


Endnotes: 

[1]  Office of Press Secretary, The White House (2015, September 25). Remarks by President Obama and President Xi of the People’s Republic of China in Joint Press Conference Retrieved July 25, 2017, from https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/25/remarks-president-obama-and-president-xi-peoples-republic-china-joint

[2]  OECD Data (Edition 2014). GDP Long-term Forecast Retrieved July 25, 2017, from https://data.oecd.org/gdp/gdp-long-term-forecast.htm#indicator-chart

[3]  Kugler, J., & Organski, A.F.K. (1989). The Power Transition: A Retrospective and Prospective Evaluation. In Manus I. Midlarsky (Ed.), Handbook of War Studies (1st, pp. 171-194). Winchester, MA: Unwin Hyman, Inc.

[4]  Schweller, R. L. (2016, May). The Balance of Power in World Politics Retrieved July 25, 2017, from http://politics.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228637-e-119

[5]  Kugler, J., & Organski, A.F.K. (1989). The Power Transition: A Retrospective and Prospective Evaluation. In Manus I. Midlarsky (Ed.), Handbook of War Studies (1st, pp. 171-194). Winchester, MA: Unwin Hyman, Inc.

[6]  Ives, M. (2017, August 4). Vietnam, Yielding to Beijing, Backs Off South China Sea Drilling Retrieved August 4, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/world/asia/vietnam-south-china-sea-repsol.html

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Power Transition Ray Leonardo United States

Assessment of Cryptocurrencies and Their Potential for Criminal Use 

The Viking Cop has served in a law enforcement capacity with multiple organizations within the U.S. Executive Branch.  He can be found on Twitter @TheVikingCop.  The views reflected are his own and do not represent the opinion of any government entities.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Cryptocurrencies and Their Potential for Criminal Use

Date Originally Written:  July 22, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  August 28, 2017.

Summary:  Cryptocurrencies are a new technology-driven virtual currency that has existed since late 2009.  Due to the anonymous or near-anonymous nature of their design they are useful to criminal organizations.  It is vital for law enforcement organizations and regulators to know the basics about how cryptocurrencies work as their use by criminal organizations is likely to continue.

Text:  Cryptocurrencies are a group of virtual currencies that relay on a peer-to-peer system disconnected from a central issuing authority that allows users an anonymous or near-anonymous method to conduct transactions[1][2].

Bitcoin, Ethereum, LiteCoin, and DogeCoin are among 820 currently existing cryptocurrencies that have a combined market capitalization of over ninety billion U.S. Dollars at the time of this assessment[3][4].

The majority of cryptocurrencies run off a system design created by an unknown individual or group of individuals published under the name Satoshi Nakamoto[2].  This system relies on a decentralized public ledger system, conceptualized by Nakamoto in a whitepaper published in October of 2008, which would later become widely known as “Blockchain.”

Simplistically, blockchain works as a system of electronic signature keys and cryptographic hash codes printed onto a publicly accessible ledger.  Once a coin in any cryptocurrency is created through a “mining” process that consists of a computer or node solving a complex mathematical calculation known as a “proof-of-work,” the original signature and hash of that coin is added to the public ledger on the initial node and then also transmitted to every other node in the network in a block.  These proof-of-work calculations are based on confirming the hash code of previous transactions and printing it to a local copy of the public ledger.  Once the block is transmitted to all other nodes they confirm that the transaction is valid and print it to their copy of the public ledger.  This distribution and cross-verification of the public ledger by multiple computers ensures the accuracy and security of each transaction in the blockchain as the only way to falsely print to public ledger would be to control fifty percent plus one of the nodes in the network[1][2].

While the electronic signatures for each user are contained within the coin, the signature itself contains no personally identifiable information.  From a big data perspective this system allows one to see all the transactions that a user has conducted through the used electronic signature but it will not allow one to know from who or where the transaction originated or terminated.

A further level of security has been developed by private groups that provide a method of virtually laundering the money called “Mixing.”  A third-party source acts as an intermediary receiving and disturbing payments removing any direct connection between two parties in the coin signature[5].

This process of separating the coins and signatures within from the actual user gives cryptocurrencies an anonymous or near-anonymous method for conducting criminal transactions online.  A level of the internet, known as Darknet, which is only accessible through the use of special software and work off non-standard communication protocols has seen a rise in online marketplaces.  Illicit Darknet marketplaces such as Silk Road and the more recently AlphaBay have levied cryptocurrencies as a go-to for concealing various online black market transactions such as stolen credit card information, controlled substances, and firearms[6].

The few large criminal cases that have involved the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, such as U.S. Citizen Ross Ulbricht involved with Silk Road and Czech national Tomáš Jiříkovský for stealing ninety thousand Bitcoins ($225 million USD in current market value), have been solved by investigators through traditional methods of discovering an IP address left through careless online posts and not through a vulnerability in the public ledger[7].

Even in smaller scale cases of narcotics transactions taking place on Darknet marketplaces local investigators have only been able to trace cryptocurrency purchases backwards after intercepting shipments through normal detection methods and finding cryptocurrency artifacts during the course of a regular investigation.  There has been little to no success on linking cryptocurrencies back to distributors that hasn’t involved regular investigative methods[8].

Looking at future scenarios involving cryptocurrencies the Global Public Policy Institute sees a possible future whereby terrorism devolves back to populist movements and employs decentralized hierarchy heavily influenced by online interactions.  In this possible future, cryptocurrencies could allow groups to covertly move money between supporters and single or small group operatives along with being a means to buy and sell software to be used in cyberterrorism attacks or to support physical terrorism attacks[9].

Cryptocurrency is currently positioned to exploit a massive vulnerability in the global financial and legal systems and law enforcement organizations are only beginning to acquire the knowledge and tools to combat illicit use.  In defense of law enforcement organizations and regulators, cryptocurrencies are in their infancy, with massive changes in their operation, trading, and even foundational technology changing rapidly.  This rapid change makes it so that until cryptocurrencies reach a stable or mature state, they will be an unpredictable moving target to track and hit[10].


Endnotes:

[1]  Arvind Narayanan, J. B. (2016). Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies: A Comprehensive Introduction. Pinceton University Press.

[2]  Nakamoto, S. (n.d.). Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System. Retrieved July 10, 2017, from Bitcoin: https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf

[3]  Cryptocurrency market cap analysis. (n.d.). Retrieved from Cryptolization: https://cryptolization.com/

[4]  CryptoCurrency Market Capitalizations. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2017, from CoinMarketCap: https://coinmarketcap.com/currencies/views/all/

[5]  Jacquez, T. (2016). Cryptocurrency the new money laundering problem for banking, law enforcement, and the legal system. Utica College: ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

[6]  Over 57% Of Darknet Sites Offer Unlawful Items, Study Shows. (n.d.). Retrieved July 21, 2017, from AlphaBay Market: https://alphabaymarket.com/over-57-of-darknet-sites-offer-unlawful-items-study-shows/

[7]  Bohannon, J. (2016, March 9). Why criminals can’t hide behind Bitcoin. Retrieved July 10, 2017, from Science: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/03/why-criminals-cant-hide-behind-bitcoin

[8]  Jens Anton Bjørnage, M. W. (2017, Feburary 21). Dom: Word-dokument og bitcoins fælder narkohandler. Retrieved July 21, 2017, from Berlingske: https://www.b.dk/nationalt/dom-word-dokument-og-bitcoins-faelder-narkohandler

[9]  Bhatnagar, A., Ma, Y., Manome, M., Markiewicz, S., Sun, F., Wahedi, L. A., et al. (@017, June). Volatile Years: Transnational Terrorism in 2027. Retrieved July 21, 2017, from Robert Bosch Foundation: http://www.bosch-stiftung.de/content/language1/downloads/GGF_2027_Volatile_Years_Transnational_Terrorism_in_2027.pdf

[10]  Engle, E. (2016). Is Bitcoin Rat Poison: Cryptocurrency, Crime, and Counterfeiting (CCC). Journal of High Technology Law 16.2, 340-393.

Assessment Papers Criminal Activities Cyberspace Economic Factors The Viking Cop

Assessment of Alexander Zakharchenko’s “Malorossiya” Proposition

Michael Sheldon is a recent graduate of the Peace and Conflict Studies BA at Malmo University.  Through his academic pursuits and private initiatives, Michael has conducted analysis on the conflict in eastern Ukraine since 2014, specializing in rebel forces.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Alexander Zakharchenko’s “Malorossiya” Proposition

Date Originally Written:  August 16, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  August 21, 2017.

Summary:  The Malorossiya proposition, as presented on July 18, 2017 by head of Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Alexander Zakharchenko, was intended to absorb Ukraine in its entirety under rebel control, relocating the capital to Donetsk.  While success seemed unlikely, there were local political objectives to be gained.  After less than a month, the project was cancelled, likely to be succeeded by similar proposals.

Text:  On July 18, ‘Head of the Republic’ of ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ Alexander Zakharchenko announced the Malorossiya project at a press briefing[1].  The news came as a surprise to virtually everyone in-and-outside of rebel territory.  Along with the press briefing, two papers were released to the public through a local “DNR” news organization “DNR-Pravda”, one being a political statement in relation to the project, and the other being a “constitutional act”[2].

Recalling the “DNR” constitution as presented in 2014[3] during the early days of separatism, the constitutional act as it was presented in written form differed in several respects.  Firstly, this act is technically not a legal document and only serves as a guideline for an actual constitution to be adopted by referendum.  The primary goal of the Malorossiya proposal was Ukrainian unification under the federal umbrella of ‘Malorossiya’, literally meaning ‘little Russia.’  The proposed capital for this new federation would be the city of Donetsk, the current capital of ‘DNR,’ granting Kyiv the status of cultural capital.  Other political provisions were also made, reflecting the Soviet nostalgia that has been salient in the separatist states.  This was made apparent especially in the clauses stipulating a union of states between Russia, Belarus and ‘Malorossiya,’ and “Rehabilitation of the Soviet legacy.”

Zakharchenko’s move came long after the apparent failure of a previous ‘Novorossiya’ (New Russia) project, which aimed to create a confederation between the two rebel entities ‘DNR’ and ‘Lugansk People’s’ Republic’ (LNR/LPR)[4].  While the Novorossiya project by and large turned out fruitless, it had come to hold great cultural value ever since the beginning of the conflict early 2014.  The very concept of Novorossiya stipulates a regional type of brotherhood in the region of Ukraine spanning from Odessa to Kharkov, regions with larger Russian ethnic populations.  This concept has come to have not only great cultural significance for inhabitants in regions controlled by rebel authorities, but has also come to dictate cooperation between the two rebel entities LNR and DNR.  This cooperation primarily comes in military support from DNR, which has lended its 7th Separate Mechanized Brigade[5] to LNR, and assisted in providing security and rapid reaction forces to internal instability in LNR[6].

In part, at least on a broader grassroots level, these factors have contributed to the chilled reception that the notion of an analogous Malorossiya project experienced.  The concept of Novorossiya and its flag had come to symbolize separatism in the east, for which many had given their lives, but would now be scrapped in favor of a unification project.  This combined with the lack of progress made with the Novorossiya project over the past three years left Zakharchenko with a skeptical population.  Denis Pushilin, chairman of the People’s Soviet (Council) of the ‘DNR’ also came out reserved on the topic of Malorossiya, stressing the need for parliamentary process, but also that there was no legal or normative basis for what Zakharchenko planned to carry out [7].  Igor Plotnitsky, head of ‘LNR’, was not enamored with the idea of ‘Malorossiya’ either, claiming that ‘LNR’ had not been notified of Zakharchenko’s plans prior to the press conference.  The Kremlin also denied involvement in the project [8], and while it is hardly a reliable source for this conflict, it is difficult to imagine that they would have any stake in a power struggle between the two rebel ‘republics.’

At first it seemed that the project could yield some positive results for Zakharchenko and solidify his personal power within ‘DNR.’  As it was planned, the project would have thrown the participating states into what was referred to as a “transitional period” for three years[9].  Possibly a motivating factor for announcing the proposition, this transitional period clause could have helped Zakharchenko put off elections even further, enabling a perpetual state of deferral.  Neither ‘DNR’ nor ‘LNR’ are strangers to putting off elections, something which each have done twice the past three years[10].  The constitutional act also speculates denying political parties to act as ‘political subjects’, and proposes transitioning to personal representations.  Other positives for Zakharchenko in this proposal are the political points he likely hopes to win with it.  For one, pushing for a ‘Malorossiya’ encompassing all of Ukraine (Crimea included) sends a signal of reconciliation, albeit on his terms, enabling him to further the narrative of an uncooperative and unreasonable Kyiv, these notions are echoed by Vladislav Surkov, advisor to president Vladimir Putin[11].  Secondly, Zakharchenko effectively brought up the notion of Donetsk having sovereignty over ‘LNR’, which had seen its fair share of instability and coup attempts in the past.

Zakharchenko soon became aware of the criticism that the proposition had received, and clarified that he was never establishing a new state, but merely proposing one shortly after the announcement[12].  Not even a month had passed before, on August 9, 2017, Zakharchenko officially abandoned the proposal as a result of the early resistance he had faced with regards to the name “Malorossiya” especially[13].  Nonetheless, Zakharchenko maintained that the proposal had not been in vain, as it had given way to a range of new interesting proposals.  Moving forward, it will be pertinent to keep an eye on similar proposals relating to a federal Ukraine under rebel control, undoubtedly other a different name.  Whether this would mean a revival of the Novorossiya project or a similar project under a new name is uncertain, but it is likely that Zakharchenko will continue to push for the underlying notions of the Malorossiya proposition.  This would entail a confederation of Ukrainian states under a pro-Russian leadership in Donetsk.  While such an undertaking is virtually impossible outside of rebel territory, it is possible that a Donetsk-led DNR-LNR confederation could gain enough local support to be feasible.  If one can ignore the overarching theme of Ukrainian unification, the proposal of a Malorossiya project serves as an important glance into the intentions of ‘DNR’ head Zakharchenko.


Endnotes:

[1] DAN-news. (2017, July 18). Представители ДНР, ЛНР и регионов Украины объявили в Донецке о создании государства Малороссия (Representatives of the DNR, LNR and regions of Ukraine announced in Donetsk the creation of the Malorossiya state). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://dan-news.info/politics/predstaviteli-dnr-lnr-i-regionov-ukrainy-obyavili-v-donecke-o-sozdanii-gosudarstva-malorossiya.html

[2] DNR-Pravda News Editor (2017, July 18). Декларация и Конституционный акт государственного образования Малороссия (Declaration and Constitutional act of the state formation Malorossiya). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from http://dnr-pravda.ru/2017/07/18/deklaratsiya-i-konstitutsionnyiy-akt-gosudarstvennogo-obrazovaniya-malorossiya/

[3] DNR Official Website. (2014, May 14). Конституция ДНР (DNR Constitution). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from http://dnr-online.ru/konstituciya-dnr/

[4] Lenta. (2014, June 24). ДНР и ЛНР объединятся в конфедерацию с единой конституцией (DNR and LNR will join the confederation with a single constitution). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://lenta.ru/news/2014/06/24/novorossia/

[5] DNR People’s Militia, 1st Army Corps. (2015, October 20). VK post. Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://vk.com/dnrarmy?w=wall-51146063_5569

[6] Andrey, G. (2016, September 22). Захарченко: Для предотвращения переворота в ЛНР был переброшен батальон “Спарта” (Zakharchenko: To prevent the coup in the LNR, “Sparta” battalion was sent). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://life.ru/t/новости/907002/zakharchienko_dlia_priedotvrashchieniia_pierievorota_v_lnr_byl_pieriebroshien_batalon_sparta

[7] DAN-News. (2017, July 18). Вопрос создания Малороссии целесообразно вынести на обсуждение парламента и общественности – Пушилин (The issue of creating Little Russia is expedient for discussion of the parliament and the public – Pushilin). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://dan-news.info/politics/vopros-sozdaniya-malorossii-celesoobrazno-vynesti-na-obsuzhdenie-parlamenta-i-obshhestvennosti-pushilin.html

[8] TASS. (2017, July 18). Malorossiya project is personal initiative of self-proclaimed republic’s leader. Retrieved July 26, 2017, from http://tass.com/politics/956825

[9] DNR-Pravda News Editor (2017, July 18). Декларация и Конституционный акт государственного образования Малороссия (Declaration and Constitutional act of the state formation Malorossiya). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from  http://dnr-pravda.ru/2017/07/18/deklaratsiya-i-konstitutsionnyiy-akt-gosudarstvennogo-obrazovaniya-malorossiya/

[10] 112.ua. (2016, July 24). “DNR” again postponed “elections” in the occupied Donbas. Retrieved July 26, 2017, from http://112.international/conflict-in-eastern-ukraine/dnr-again-postponed-elections-in-the-occupied-donbas-7515.html

[11] Denis, A. (2017, July 20). Реакция на Малороссию (Reactions to Malorossiya). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from https://cont.ws/@artemevsepar/668685

[12] Korrespondent.net. (2017, July 26). Захарченко рассказал о проблемах с “Малороссией” (Zakharchenko spoke about problems with Malorossiya). Retrieved July 26, 2017, from http://korrespondent.net/ukraine/3872258-zakharchenko-rasskazal-o-problemakh-s-malorossyei

[13] av-zakharchenko.su. (2017, August 9). Переформатирование Украины. Дискуссия продолжается… (Reform of Ukraine. The discussion continues…). Retreived August 16, 2017, from http://av-zakharchenko.su/inner-article/Zayavleniya/Pereformatirovanie-Ukrainy-Diskussiya-prodolzhaetsya2/

Assessment Papers Irregular Forces Michael Sheldon Russia Ukraine

Assessment of the Search for Security in the Eastern Baltic

Jeremiah Cushman is a senior analyst at Military Periscope, where he writes about weapons.  He holds an M.A. in European and Eurasian Studies from the George Washington University.  He can be found on Twitter @jdcushman.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Search for Security in the Eastern Baltic

Date Originally Written:  July 15, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  August 14, 2017.

Summary:  For much of the last 800 years, the natives of the Baltic States and Finland were ruled by others, whether Baltic Germans, Swedes, Russians or Hitler’s Germany.  History shows these countries that, to retain independence, they must be willing and able to fight for it, and possibly join collective security organizations.

Text:  Lithuania existed as an independent nation prior to 1918, in contrast to Estonia, Latvia and Finland.  In 1385, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania joined with the Kingdom of Poland via a dynastic marriage.  Although not specifically made for security purposes, the result was a great Central European power that eventually spread from the Baltic to the Black Sea.  This was, however, an unstable union, with divergent interests between the Lithuanian and Polish halves.  (Poland ultimately became the dominant power.)  Efforts were made to strengthen the union, culminating with the establishment of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569.  The commonwealth eventually succumbed to its own weaknesses and the machinations of neighboring powers, Austria, Prussia and Russia, which divided it among themselves in the partitions of 1772, 1790 and 1795.  If ultimately unsuccessful, the commonwealth nevertheless provided security for the Lithuanians for centuries.

Upon gaining independence in 1918, the Baltic States struggled to navigate their security environment.  For the most part, they sought refuge in the collective security arrangements of the League of Nations.  Different threat perceptions, a territorial dispute over Vilnius between Lithuania and Poland, and the maneuvers of the Germans and Soviets hindered trilateral defense efforts.  A proposed four-way alliance among Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Poland foundered on Finnish reservations.  Helsinki elected to focus on a Scandinavian orientation.  Estonia and Latvia managed to conclude a defense alliance in 1923.

The Soviet Union saw Baltic cooperation as a threat and worked to undermine it.  The Baltic States concluded their own treaty of cooperation and friendship in 1934, although little came from it.  Non-aggression pacts signed with Moscow and Berlin came to nought and the three nations were occupied by Soviet forces in 1940 and annexed.  While Finland fought for its independence and survived World War II, Baltic failures to prepare, and the overwhelming strength of the Soviet and German states that opposed them, ended their initial experiment with independence.

Finland was able to maintain its independence during and after World War II, fighting the Soviet Union twice in the Winter War of 1939-1940 and the Continuation War of 1941-1944.  The Finnish state was saved, though it lost the Karelia region to the Soviets.  Viewing Moscow as a direct threat, Helsinki allied with the Nazi regime as Berlin prepared its own attack on the Soviet Union.  The Finnish government took pains to portray its own war as separate from that of Germany’s, without much success.

At the end of the war, Finland was left with an 830-mile border with Russia and a difficult position between its preferred partners in the democratic West and the Soviet Union.  Moscow was able to dictate terms as the Finnish war effort collapsed in 1944 along with the fortunes of its German allies.  In 1948, the Finnish government concluded a mutual assistance treaty with Moscow, including military obligations to come to the Soviet Union’s assistance in the event of an attack by Germany or its allies, or an attack from Finnish territory.  The goal was to maintain independence and reduce the chance of conflict in Northern Europe.

By resolving Moscow’s security concerns, Finland was able to pursue trade with Western countries and play an active role in détente during the 1970s.  The Nordic country benefited from trade with its eastern neighbor, while holding off Soviet efforts to tighten military relations.  While this “Finlandization” policy ensured the nation’s sovereignty during the Cold War, it came at a cost to Finland’s freedom of action.  Habits formed over those decades continue to influence national policy, including hindering those who might prefer new security arrangements in light of Russia’s increasingly aggressive posture.

The Baltic States declared their independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.  Remembering the lessons of 1940, they immediately focused on trilateral cooperation and integration with European security organizations to secure their freedom.  Their security bodies focused on developing modern, capable forces on the Western model with the object of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU).  These goals were achieved in 2004.  NATO’s Article 5 pledge that an attack on one is an attack on all is seen as the cornerstone of Baltic security.  Accordingly, all three countries recognize the United States as their most important security partner.  The Baltic States also pursue regional cooperation with their Nordic neighbors.  These multilateral cooperation efforts have, in some cases, detracted from trilateral endeavors. Small countries have limited resources.

Accession to NATO and the EU, which has its own security mechanisms, seemed to resolve the security concerns of the Baltic States.  However, the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. has led to uncertainty about the wisdom of relying on Washington.  Trump has threatened to assist only those NATO members who meet the alliance’s defense spending goals and his commitment to Article 5 appears uncertain, despite efforts from other administration officials to reinforce American support for the Baltic allies.  Trump’s apparent ties to Russia cause additional discomfort in the region.

Officially, the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania emphasize the continued importance of security ties with the U.S. and a belief that Trump will live up to Washington’s NATO commitments should it become necessary.  So far, U.S. and NATO activities in the Baltic region have been unchanged from the previous administration, with multinational battalion task groups active in all three countries.

As for Finland, it has eschewed its former relationship with Moscow in favor of closer security relations with NATO and the U.S., and strengthened ties with neighboring Sweden.  Helsinki still sees a strong national defense capability as vital for its security.  NATO membership remains politically challenging, although Finland potentially benefits from E.U. mutual assistance mechanisms.

The lessons of history for this region are simple.  To retain independence, one must first be willing and able to fight for it.  States as small as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania must additionally find allies to bolster their own defense efforts.  If one cannot be a great power, joining a great power organization, such as NATO, is the next best thing.


Endnotes:

[1]  Kirby, David. (1998). Northern Europe In The Early Modern Period: The Baltic World 1492-1772. New York, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.

[2]  Kirby, David. (1998). The Baltic World 1772-1993: Europe’s Northern Periphery in an Age of Change. New York, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.

[3]  Kasekamp, Andres. (2010). A History of the Baltic States. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

[4]  Plakans, Andrejs. (2011). A Concise History of the Baltic States. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Aggression Assessment Papers Baltics Estonia European Union Finland Jeremiah Cushman Latvia Lithuania North Atlantic Treaty Organization Russia Trump (U.S. President) United States

Assessment of Libya-Trained Terrorists’ External Attack Capability

S. M. Carlson served as a terrorism expert with the U.S. government for more than twelve years, including with the Central Intelligence Agency and in Libya.  She can be found on Twitter @smcarls1.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Libya-Trained Terrorists’ External Attack Capability

Date Originally Written:  June 23, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  July 3, 2017.

Summary:  Libyan terrorism is not new, nor are attacks conducted outside the country by terrorists that trained in Libya. The external attack capability is evolving, however. The most recent attacks in the United Kingdom highlight the changing threat posed by Libyan terrorists, trained fighters, and their capability and intent to reach into Europe. That threat extends beyond a single group.

Text:  Libya-trained terrorists have conducted multiple deadly attacks in North Africa in recent years, but the May 2017 attack against a Manchester concert by a Briton of Libyan descent, who reportedly fought and possibly trained in Libya, was among the first major attacks with direct ties to Libya outside the region, since the 2011 intervention and death of Muammar al-Ghadafi.

Although a myriad of terrorist groups, extreme militias, and umbrella organizations operate in Libya due to the permissive environment there, the most well-known remains the Islamic State. Its fighters are capable of carrying out external attacks outside the region. The capability probably resides more with the trained fighters, rather than a single group, and likely does not require a top down structure.

Since 2011, other major external attacks specifically targeting Westerners include those in In Amenas, Algeria; Sousse, Tunisia; and Tunis, Tunisia. Terrorists reportedly staged or trained in Libya prior to all three attacks[1].

In January 2013, terrorists linked to al-Qa’ida conducted a multi-day siege, held hostages, and killed dozens in an attack against a gas plant in In Amenas, Algeria, close to the border with Libya[2]. In June 2015, gunmen opened fire on tourists at a beach resort in Sousse, Tunisia, killing and injuring dozens, which the Islamic State claimed[3]. In March 2015, gunmen opened fire at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, Tunisia, killing and injuring dozens, mostly tourists, which the Islamic State claimed[4].

The Islamic State, however, had gained a foothold in Libya prior to the attacks in Tunisia, announcing its presence there in late 2014. It quickly expanded and thrived in the lawlessness of Libya. Fighters flocked to the group. It created a stronghold in the city of Sirte.

The United Nations (UN)-backed Libyan government in late 2016 requested U.S. assistance in its fight against the group and it agreed, conducting hundreds of airstrikes against Islamic State targets in the city. The terrorists fled the city and set up training camps nearby, where the group’s external plotters were reportedly planning operations against Europe. Two U.S. Air Force B-2 stealth bombers then dropped more than 100 munitions on those camps, killing more than 80 Islamic State members in January[5].

The UN-backed government declared defeat over the Islamic State in Libya, but while the group had lost its stronghold, the remaining fighters dispersed. In the intervening months, Islamic State fighters began efforts to regroup and many warned the Islamic State in Libya was attempting to consolidate once again.

It is no longer attempting. The Islamic State branch in Libya is active once more, proving yet again that airstrikes alone cannot defeat terrorism. Strikes may be a useful tool, but they are not a long-term solution. The strikes did not entirely disrupt the group or experienced fighters that already left the country.

In May 2017, the remaining Islamic State in Libya fighters made their continued presence known and then the branch’s reach became apparent later that month on a global scale.

The Islamic State’s branch in Libya claimed an attack in Southern Libya in early May that killed two[6][7]. Islamic State fighters also executed a man and clashed with a militia in the Bani Walid area in late May[8]. These were some of the first attacks claimed by the group’s Libya branch since the airstrikes in December.

The Islamic State then claimed attacks in the United Kingdom in late May and early June 2017, both of which had Libya connections. Salman Abedi and Rachid Redouane were of Libyan descent and fought in Libya. Redouane, who helped kill and injure dozens in London in early June, reportedly fought with a militia in Tripoli that later sent jihadist fighters to Syria[9]. Abedi, who killed and injured dozens at a concert in Manchester in May, reportedly met in Libya with Islamic State members also tied to the November 2015 Paris attack[10].

Abedi also reportedly fought in Ajdabiya in 2014, was injured, and taken to Turkey for treatment using a false passport[11]. Italian investigators in April believed that an unspecified number of Islamic State fighters from Libya had entered Europe, in a similar manner to Abedi, as wounded Libyan fighters seeking medical treatment[12].

Therefore, even if the Islamic State were truly defeated in Libya today, the fatal ripple effect of its experienced fighters will likely be felt for years to come. In addition, the Islamic State reportedly has 500 fighters remaining, and possibly training, in Libya, but there are an estimated 3,000 more jihadists in the country[13].

The Islamic State is not the only terrorism problem in Libya. Only in the last three years have fighters in the country begun using the title of “Islamic State.” There were many terrorists groups in Libya before that, and many will likely come after it. The fighters flow between them.

The fighters frequently change groups and alliances based on a variety of factors at play in Libya. The groups themselves also change names, often to conceal extremist affiliation, ideology, or intent. That makes terrorist groups and fighting networks difficult to untangle.

From al-Qa’ida to Ansar al-Sharia (the group responsible for the 2012 Benghazi attacks) to the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (an umbrella group) to the Benghazi Defense Brigades (a rebranding), extremist groups in Libya adapt to the ever-changing environment there[14].

Defeating the Islamic State in Libya does not solve the country’s terrorism problem, as its experienced fighters retain the intent and capability of carrying out terrorist attacks.


Endnotes:

[1] Brahimi, A. (2017, May 25). Why Libya is still a global terror threat. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/25/libya-global-terror-threat-manchester-attack-gaddafi

[2] (2013, January 21). Algeria hostage crisis: What we know. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-21087732

[3] Smith-Spark, L.; Paton Walsh, N.; & Black, P. (2015, June 27). Tourists flee Tunisia after resort attack. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/27/africa/tunisia-terror-attack/index.html

[4] Botelho, G. & Mullen, J. (2015, March 19). ISIS apparently claims responsibility for Tunisia museum attack; 9 arrested. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/19/africa/tunisia-museum-attack/index.html

[5] Dickstein, C. & Copp, T. (2017, 19 January). US bombers flew from Missouri and killed 80 Islamic State fighters in Libya. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.stripes.com/news/us-bombers-flew-from-missouri-and-killed-80-islamic-state-fighters-in-libya-1.449647#.WU2F5caZNsM

[6] Assad, A. (2017, May 7). IS militants attack Third Force fighters, kill two. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.libyaobserver.ly/inbrief/militants-attack-third-force-fighters-kill-two

[7] (2017, May 8). Libya: ISIS makes comeback by claiming attack south of Sirte. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://menastream.com/libya-isis-comeback-south-sirte/

[8] Assad, A. (2017, May 31). IS terrorists execute young man in Libya’s Bani Walid. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.libyaobserver.ly/news/terrorists-execute-young-man-libyas-bani-walid

[9] Farmer, B.; Nathan, A.; & Yorke, H. (2017, June 6). London attacker Rashid Redouane refused UK asylum in 2009. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/06/london-attacker-rachid-redouane-refused-uk-asylum-2009/

[10] Callimachi, R. & Schmitt, E. (2017, June 3). Manchester Bomber Met With ISIS Unit in Libya, Officials Say. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/03/world/middleeast/manchester-bombing-salman-abedi-islamic-state-libya.html

[11] Greenhill, S.; Malone, A.; Brown, L.; & Sears, N. (2017, May 25). How the Manchester bomber was ‘injured on the front lines in Libya while fighting with jihadis in his gap year’. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4543372/Manchester-bomber-injured-Libya-fighting-jihadis.html

[12] Tondo, L.; Messina, P.; & Wintour, P. (2017, April 28) Italy fears ISIS fighters slip into Europe posing as injured Libyans. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/28/islamic-state-fighters-infiltrate-europe-posing-injured-libyan-soldiers

[13] (2017, May 27). How Islamic State clings on in Libya. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21722630-jihadists-have-retreated-desert-where-they-are-potent-threat-how

[14] Thurston, A. (2017 May 7). Who Counts as al-Qaeda: Lessons from Libya. Retrieved June 23, 2017 from https://www.lawfareblog.com/who-counts-al-qaeda-lessons-libya

Assessment Papers Libya S. M. Carlson Violent Extremism

Announcing the Assessment Paper!

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When we started Divergent Options our main effort was our Options Paper.  Our Options Paper used a specific template and focused on assessing a national security situation, providing multiple options to address the situation, and articulating the risk and gain of each option, all in 1,000 words or less.

While we will continue our Option Paper line we are pleased to announce our Assessment Paper.  Our Assessment Paper will still have a 1,000 word limit but will focus on assessing a national security situation only.

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Jane Doe has served in Organization A in Country X and Country Y.  She presently works at Organization B where she does Z.  She can be found on Twitter @address and writes for website dot com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Threat Posted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  Note:  Titles will always begin with “Assessment of”

Date Originally Written:  September 25, 2014.

Date Originally Published:  September 29, 2014.

Summary:  If left unchecked, ISIL will establish a safe haven in Iraq and Syria where violent extremists and emerging violent extremists from around the world can congregate, assimilate, receive training, and be dispatched globally to conduct operations targeting civilians.  Beyond the conduct of operations, ISIL operatives dispatched worldwide will also be able to establish local cells to expand their influence.  Note:  “Summary” will be five lines of text maximum.  We strongly suggest you write your entire article first and then write the summary.

Text:  United States President Barack H. Obama withdrew United States forces from Iraq in December 2011[1].  The December 2011 withdraw date was set by President George W. Bush in 2008 when he signed a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq.  Following the departure of United States forces from Iraq, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pursued a number of policies that made the Sunni population of Iraq, formerly empowered by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, feel marginalized, excluded, and neglected by the Maliki government[2].  The lack of a stabilizing United States presence and Sunni marginalization laid the groundwork for the rise of ISIL.  Note:  This part of the article, called “Text,” is what will be counted against the 1,000 word limit.


Endnotes:

[1]  Ryan, M. (2016, September 26). Who made the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq? Retrieved June 23, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2016/live-updates/general-election/real-time-fact-checking-and-analysis-of-the-first-presidential-debate/who-made-the-decision-to-withdraw-u-s-troops-from-iraq/?utm_term=.7694d4af3b1b  Note:  We prefer APA format for citations, which can be easily done via Citation Machine.

[2]  Something else in APA format.

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