The CSS Blog Network

Security in the Asia Pacific: What the Inhabitants are Saying

Islands of Doubt

Courtesy of Damian Gadal / Flickr

This article was originally published by Pacific Forum CSIS on 6 December 2016.

The Regional Security Outlook 2017, prepared by the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP) and available at www.cscap.org, conveys an unmistakable sense of despondency. The Outlook includes a cluster of assessments by regional analysts of the security picture across the region as a whole and two smaller clusters focusing on what CSCAP deems the most acute challenges to stability and order in the region – North Korea’s nuclear weapon program and the dispute in the South China Sea.

The RSO 2017 contends that both principal actors – the US and China – believe themselves to be too wise and wily to stumble into a replay of the Sparta-Athens drama of 2,500 years ago but now stand exposed as capable of exactly that. Geopolitical contest, so stoutly denied over a number of years, intensified markedly, and was at last more openly acknowledged. We can, and should, take some reassurance from the fact that the tilt in the balance of power and influence in Asia is likely to be neither quick nor decisive. Although the drift of the US-China relationship toward difficulty and coolness inescapably heightens the risk of inadvertent incidents, neither side has any interest in conflict.

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How Turkey Could Become the Next Pakistan

Arab Street Art

Courtesy Fatemeh/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) on 19 July 2016.

The U.S. must recognize the risk a NATO ally may become a safe haven for al Qaeda as Erdogan consolidates power.

The failed coup attempt by elements of the Turkish Armed Forces on July 15 will enable President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to establish himself as an authoritarian ruler in Turkey. His priorities in the next few months will be to solidify the loyalty of the Turkish military establishment and complete the constitutional reform necessary to replace Turkey’s parliamentary democracy with an executive presidency, his longstanding goal. A post-coup Erdogan is much less likely to submit to American pressure without major returns. Erdogan immediately demanded the extradition of political rival Fethullah Gulen from the U.S., accusing Gulen of plotting the coup and condemning the U.S. for harboring him. Erdogan will likely deprioritize the fight against ISIS, undermining the counter-ISIS mission in Syria, as he focuses on consolidating power. He may even revoke past concessions to the U.S., including permission to use Turkey’s Incirlik airbase for counter-ISIS operations.

Erdogan has more dangerous options now that his rule is secure, however. A partnership with al Qaeda could grant him a powerful proxy force to achieve national security objectives without relying on the Turkish Military. American policymakers must recognize the dangerous possibility Erdogan will knowingly transform Turkey into the next Pakistan in pursuit of his own interests.

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Libyan Lessons for Europe

Libyan flag graffiti, courtesy Ben Sutherland/flickr

This article was originally published by Carnegie Europe on 2 February 2016.

Almost five years since the start of NATO’s military intervention in Libya, there is mounting speculation that a coalition of Western countries will launch a new military campaign there to tackle the growing threat from the self-styled Islamic State.

Since the 2011 ouster of strongman leader Muammar Qaddafi, a civil war has prevented the formation of a functioning Libyan government, creating the space for both the emergence of an Islamic State–controlled area around the city of Sirte and large flows of migrants and refugees into the EU. (Over 157,000 refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Italy alone since January 2015.)

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Regional Organizations (ROs) and Security

Central Asian leaders, courtesy of the Presidential Press and Information Office/kremlin.ru

The following blog features five questions we recently posed to the CSS’s Stephen Aris, who is the co-editor of  Regional Organisations and Security: Conceptions and Practices.

The emergence of post-Cold War regional organizations and the gradual shift in our ideas of what constitutes ‘security’ are not a new phenomenon. So what specifically explains the timing of this publication?

Absolutely, the emergence of Regional Organizations (RO) is by no means a new phenomenon. However, what’s changed over the past decade or so is the role that these regional groupings play in international politics and security. For a variety of reasons, there is now a greater emphasis on the contextually-informed capabilities and supposed greater legitimacy that they can bring to international politics and security.

Until quite recently, the United Nations preferred to take a rather exclusive approach to managing international security, and did not seek to engage regional actors. Yet, faced with an ever growing demand for its services, it has begun to explore avenues for institutionalized engagement with ROs in order to help share the burden. The biggest success story to date has been its collaboration with the African Union (AU), which has resulted in mutually endorsed and hybrid peacekeeping missions between the two bodies.

Increased engagement with ROs comes at a time when a number of regional powers, such as Brazil and South Africa, are staking their claim for a more permanent status on the UN Security Council. Accordingly, engagement allows the UN to claim that it is seeking to better represent the contemporary international order within its existing structures, but without having to undertake the politically-challenging process of real reform of the UN system. Indeed, many regional powers have invested significant resources into developing ROs in order to amplify their voice and enhance their legitimacy as actors on the international stage. » More

Central Asia: A Dangerous Thirst

Photo: UNDP in Europe and Central Asia/flickr.

This article is included in our ‘Conflict Hotspots 2014’ dossier which can be accessed here.

On the grand scale, Central Asia’s water problems have been well documented since the fall of the Soviet Union. Journalists wrote of the apparently inexorable shrinking of the Aral Sea, once one of the four largest lakes in the world; by 2007, at a tenth of its normal size, it had split up into several smaller bodies of water. An excellent view of these broad shifts can be found at Aqueduct’s Water Risk Atlas.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov has warned of war if upstream countries Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan pursue power generation projects that might alter, or make open to political manipulation, the supply of water needed to irrigate Uzbekistan’s cotton crops. Public anger over a decline in basic services fuelled the unrest that led to the overthrow of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April 2010. (See our report Decay and Decline.) Bakiyev sold water to Kazakhstan during a period of electricity shortages in his own country. Across the region corruption and neglect undermine confidence in government and contribute to political discontent. » More

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