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Why the Military is Divided over Britain’s Nuclear Deterrent

Protest against the Trident nuclear program. Image: thealmightyprophetgitboy/Flickr

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 6 July 2015.

One thing was very striking at the recent Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Land Warfare Conference, where current British Army personnel including top brass and Ministry of Defence officials were heavily present. The issue of replacing Trident, the UK’s sea-based nuclear deterrent, was not discussed at all.

This conference was taking place a few months ahead of Conservative plans to renew the deterrent like for like. This was guaranteed by the party’s victory at the general election in May, and has since been reaffirmed by Michael Fallon, the defence secretary.

Yet when it comes to Trident, the British military are “split on this issue as never before”. That was the conclusion of a report by the Nuclear Education Trust and Nuclear Information Service that was published at the end of June. So why the difference in views? » More

Why the AU Needs to Get Policing Right

A Nigerian police officer, as part of AMISOM’s Foreign Police Unit, conducts a foot patrol near Lido Beach in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. Image: TOBIN JONES/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 1 July 2015.

While the role of police in peace support operations used to be limited to tasks of monitoring and observing, it has changed to encompass complex and substantive roles. These include helping to rebuild the capacity of police and broader law enforcement institutions that have suffered the consequences of violent conflict.

Usually in the aftermath of conflict, these institutions are critical in rebuilding public confidence in the rule of law, which has typically been either diminished by the conflict or, in some cases, totally destroyed. Following the Brahimi Report (2000), police roles were viewed in the wider context of the rule of law, protection of civilians and human rights. New areas of focus include emerging threats such as terrorism, organised transnational crime and corruption. » More

How Could the Baltic States Deter a Russian Invasion?

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė participating in a military ceremony. Image: Kapeksas/Wikimedia

Commentators have used Moscow’s tacit support for separatists in eastern Ukraine as an opportunity to speculate whether the Baltic states possess the capability to deter a similar Russian intervention. While this ‘scenario’ is unlikely to happen any time soon, it nevertheless warrants serious consideration given that NATO’s north-eastern flank is home to a sizeable ethnic Russian community. As a starting point, strategic planners in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania might want to factor Russia’s 2008 military campaign against Georgia into their calculations. Doing so might help them to determine the most effective response for the ultimate ‘worst case scenario’ – an all-out invasion by Russian forces. » More

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Evolving Conflicts: an Analysis of Ongoing Violence in the Middle East and North Africa

Free Syrian Army rebels preparing for battle. Image: Freedom House/Flickr

Since the start of the Iraq war, the Middle East has been descending into deeper levels of violence. Currently, most of the countries in the region are either suffering from internal conflicts or being affected by other conflicts. And much of the violence in the region is centred in the two least peaceful countries in this year’s Global Peace Index: Syria and Iraq.

The Global Peace Index, produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, measures peace in 162 countries according to 23 indicators of the absence of violence or the fear of violence. This year’s GPI discusses the ongoing conflicts in the six Middle Eastern and North African countries most affected by conflict. Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Israel and Lebanon had the highest number of conflict-related civilian and battle fatalities in the region in 2014, and in many cases, that number has been sharply on the rise.

These conflicts have global significance for a variety of reasons, not least because of their fluid nature and increasing intensity. While there is a lot of uncertainty about how events may unfold, what is clear is that the dynamics underlying these conflicts are complex. The fact that each conflict includes numerous state and non-state participants with different tactical and strategic interests only makes the path to peace less clear. The report highlights some of the more important drivers of violence and sets out some of the opportunities for building peace. It includes a detailed discussion of conflict in each country and addresses the following key themes: » More

Why Would the US Spy on its Allies? Because Everyone Does

People in Berlin protesting the NSA surveillance program. Image: Digitale Gesellschaft/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 24 June, 2015.

The spotlight must be an uncomfortable position for intelligence organisations that would far prefer to remain in the shadows. But since Edward Snowden fled the United States in the summer of 2013, there has been an almost constant drip-feed of stories concerning the operations of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). Yet the most recent scoop – originating from Wikileaks – has shown that we would do well to consider these kinds of “revelations” with a little greater care.

At its heart, the claim that the NSA spied on French presidents Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Holland, effectively boils down to: “country A spied on country B”. As a piece of news, this surely sits alongside the Pope’s status as a Catholic. What else would we expect a national intelligence gathering agency to do? The fundamental purpose of such organisations is to seek out national advantage, in whatever field – whether it is political, economic, military, or otherwise. » More

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