All posts in Insights from Analysts

Ask a Senior Analyst — Michael J. Geary

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Michael J. Geary. Questions and Mr. Geary’s answers are transcribed below.

Michal Geary

Michael J. Geary is an Assistant Professor of Contemporary Europe/European Union at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, a Non-Residential Global Fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for European Global Studies, University of Basel, Switzerland. He is the author of two books and numerous articles/op-eds about the process of European Union (EU) integration and enlargement, transatlantic relations and British-Irish relations

Mr. Geary has held distinguished fellowships including a Fulbright, Global Europe Fellowship at the Wilson Center and a European Parliament-Bronisław Geremek Research Fellowship at the College of Europe (Warsaw). He holds a PhD from the European University Institute, Florence, Italy.

Shaun Riordan: With the deepening integration of the eurozone, the European Union increasingly seems divided into (at least) three parts: the eurozone, the Eurosceptic North-West and a somewhat abandoned Eastern Europe (also seeing increasing nationalist thinking). How do you see this de facto three speed EU development, what implications does it have for the Treaty of Lisbon (and the European Commission) and how will it impact Britain’s relations with the EU?

Answer: Much depends on how one defines Euroscepticism. It is not necessarily an unhealthy phenomenon. The problem arises when it gets bound up with unhealthy doses of nationalism and right- and left-wing propaganda and the reluctance of mainstream parties to combat the rhetoric. There are differences and divergences between the 28 member states on certain policy fields (foreign policy, agriculture, environment). These have always existed, but managing differences perhaps has become more challenging with each round of accession.

The multi-speed or multi-dimensional nature that you describe is a cause for concern, but I would argue is an inevitable result of the nature of the integration process linked to successive rounds of enlargements. An enlarged EU does not necessarily mean deeper integration with every member state on the same bus and going in the same direction. Each of the 28 is faced with particular national challenges and each has a different relationship with, and approach to, European integration and its direction. Differences have existed since day one whether these are related to policies or visions. The euro and Schengen Area are examples of the multi-speed nature of the EU’s policy framework.

Britain (like other countries) has been able to negotiate op-outs and most likely will continue to exercise this option into the future. London seems to have greater issue with decisions emanating from the Council of Europe than with decisions from the EU’s legal watchdogs. I do not think this continued piecemeal integration greatly affects British-EU relations. Part of the problem for London will be to convince the other 27 capitals (and the EU institutions) to agree to the package of changes (still undefined) likely to be sought after next year’s British general election (should the Conservatives return to government).

There seems to be very little appetite in wanting to accommodate London’s demands (unlike in the mid-1970s, but the Community only had nine members then). Attempts to forge deeper links between eurozone countries through wider treaty changes (a new EU treaty) would allow Britain the opportunity to seek a grand bargain mirrored on what David Cameron mentioned in his January 2013 speech on the subject. Much will depend on the generosity of his EU counterparts and their interest (or lack thereof) in keeping Britain inside the EU. The integration process will continue with Britain maintaining semi-insider status. Much more interesting is whether Britain withdraws from the Council of Europe and the impact that this might have on its relations with the EU. Read More →

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Ask a Senior Analyst — Norvell DeAtkine

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Norvell DeAtkine. Questions and Mr. Campbell’s answers are transcribed below.

Norvell DeAtkine

Norvell DeAtkine is a retired U.S. Army Colonel of the field artillery with service in Germany, Korea and Vietnam. He lived and worked in the Arab World for nearly nine years, graduating from the Arab Studies Program at the American University of Beirut. He later served as an advisor to the Jordanian and Egyptian Armies and conducted many short training missions for various Gulf Armies, including his operation as a liaison to the British Trucial Oman Scouts prior to British departure from the Gulf.

Mr. DeAtkine was a seminar director with the Regional Studies program at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School for over eighteen years where he primarily taught special operations officers — which included two short tours as a mentor with psychological operations units in Iraq. Other assignments have included stints with the analytical branch of the CIA, Iraqi Intelligence cell of the DIA and the USMC Cultural Studies Center at Quantico.

André de Vries: Do you think the “caliphate” proclaimed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Iraq is maintainable in the long run?

Answer: I feel more confident writing about the past than I do about the future, but as history replays itself so often in the Arab world, I can write on the historical aspects that will likely come into play at some point.

My bottom line upfront is that the “Islamic State” as it exits today will not have a long lifespan. It is, in the words of Fouad Ajami (writing about other Arab grand schemes), “The Dream Palace of the Arabs,” another grandiose movement like pan-Arabism that has no foundation in reality. As the noted Arab journalist Hisham Melhem puts it in a recent article in Al-Arabiya,

One does not know whether to laugh or to cry at the sight of the self-proclaimed Caliph Ibrahim addressing the Muslim Umma [community] as its new righteous ruler. This is the man who is straddling a large swath of Iraq and Syria, and imposing a primitive form of an absolute intolerant religious rule that intimidate Muslims and terrifies Christians. For years to come, we will be asking: how did we reach such a nadir? How did it happen? How did we engulf ourselves in this endless darkness?

Perhaps more importantly, the new Islamic State has little in the way of economic resources and will be surrounded by enemies and peoples fearful of its expansion. First of all, the ISIS brand of Islam is not popular, not even among the Sunnis, nor even other radical groups of Islamists for whom they claim their leadership. Much of its expansion in Syria and Iraq has been based on the unpopularity of the existing governments. Now having assumed control of this territory, they must administer it. It is easier to conquer than govern. Many observers have opined that Islamists in power are the best cure for their pretensions. Although one cannot compare the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt to the ISIS, nevertheless the inability to govern on slogans like “Islam is the Answer” has been borne out in the case of Egypt.

ISIS is a movement with no real program to govern and as a movement they, like all similar totalitarian movements, must expand or die. They will not and cannot be satisfied with simply the expanse of mostly desert they control in Syria and Iraq. The surrounding governments know this and belatedly some like Turkey and Saudi Arabia have realized the genie is out of the box. The governmental support previously (however covert it has been) coming from elements inside both Saudi Arabia and Turkey will end and the implacable hostility of Iran, the Kurds and the Shia and Alawi of Syria and Iraq will always pose an existential threat to the Islamic State.

Little noticed, along the Turkish-Islamic State border, the great majority of people are the Alevis of Turkey. They form a large minority in turkey. They are an offshoot of Shia Islam and have never taken kindly to the oppressive Sunnism of the Turkish government and hate the Islamist movement, which in the Arab world has always been Sunni-oriented.

Looking at history, I am unconvinced that the Sykes-Picot division of the Arab world into states is dead. Despite the fact that the Arab elite has always portrayed it as the reason for the weakness of the Arab world, the regimes have shed enormous amounts of blood to keep the borders intact.

The tentacles of the state apparatus in so many areas of human life are very difficult to uproot.

For these reasons, I do not see a long life for the “Islamic” State. Read More →

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Ask a Senior Analyst — Leslie Campbell

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Leslie Campbell. Questions and Mr. Campbell’s answers are transcribed below.

Leslie Campbell

Leslie Campbell is a Senior Associate and Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) where he has worked since 1994. He has a particular interest in Algeria, Iraq and Yemen where NDI pioneered innovative programs encouraging political coalition-building and citizen engagement in political processes. Mr. Campbell has also traveled to Bahrain on a number of occasions to encourage political reform.

Mabel Gonzalez: I assume that an alternative to Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq should emerge from the Shia bloc since they won the majority of seats. I have two questions. Do you see a candidate who might be able to win support from Kurdish and Sunni (and secular) groups? And what impact will the call to arms and mobilization of Shia militia have, supported by Grand Ayatollah Sistani? Can it hamper the political process?

Answer: While estimates vary, Shia Muslims comprise at least 60 percent of Iraq. While not forming a monolithic voting bloc, it is safe to say that Iraq’s Shia population speaks as one voice in opposition to returning to the days of minority Sunni rule. While Iraq has many political problems, elections have been run reasonably well with U.N. and international supervision. Many Sunni voters stayed away from the polls in the 2014 elections, especially in Anbar Province, but voters turned out in reasonable numbers in Baghdad, southern Iraq and Kurdish areas. In other words, there was a political process where the voters expressed their views and that process can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.

Having said that, there is no long-term solution to the ISIS/Islamic State that doesn’t start with a more inclusive government, so international pressure (from Iran as well) has to be exerted to ensure that the Shia political power-brokers pave the way for meaningful Sunni political participation.

It is unlikely that the power-sharing agreement that stipulates that the prime minister will be Shiite, the president Kurdish and the speaker of Parliament Sunni will change, so further power sharing will likely be operationalized through cabinet positions — Lebanon-style.

Over the longer term, radically decentralized federalism may be a preferable alternative to fragile and unwieldy central power sharing mechanisms.

I don’t think there is any question that the next premier will be Shia — I doubt that Ayatollah Al-Sistani would accept anything less — but it could be a secular Shia (there are several well-known names) and/or a compromise candidate agreed to by Ammar al-Hakim’s ISCI alliance, Daawa and Muqtada al-Sadr, but still acceptable to the Sunni moderates. Just who that would be is hard to say right now, but there are a number of figures whose names are being mooted — the most prominent being Adil Abdul Mahdi, former finance minister and vice president.

The Shia call to arms itself is not a huge obstacle to the political process — I don’t think anyone would expect the Shia leaders to take a pacifist stance — but widespread sectarian violence could be a deal-breaker. Reports of large numbers of bodies being discovered in Baghdad are chilling. If this is the beginning of tit-for-tat sectarian slaughter, then political reconciliation will become difficult if not impossible for moderate Sunni leaders. Read More →

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Ask a Senior Analyst — Dr. Chip Beck

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Dr. Chip Beck. Questions and Dr. Beck’ answers are transcribed below.

Chip Beck

After serving as a “soldier, sailor, spy and artist” for many years, Dr. Chip Beck retired from the CIA, U.S. Navy and U.S. State Department in 1993, 1996 and 2010, respectively. Today, he works as a writer, editor, freelance contractor and continues with his art. He has degrees in International Relations, Middle Eastern Studies, Organizational Leadership and Conflict Resolution.

Carlos A. Puentes: Given the confluence of events such as U.S. policies on immigration and pressure to reform on Cuban trade, wouldn’t a first step to both be the liberalization of trade policies and update the Cuban immigration status as defined by the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966? Reduction/normalization on barriers implies a change in relationship vis-à-vis nations and suggests fewer belligerences and as such implies a less hostile environment in Cuba toward its own citizens and a lack of need to open U.S. borders, thus a convergence with stricter immigration controls or entry opportunity in the US.

Answer: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you already have — the status quo.

In the case of U.S. relations with Cuba, the status quo is not working for either side; it is an unnecessary relic of the Cold War that should (in this writer’s opinion and direct experience with the island) be scrapped.

Fifty-five years of a unilateral trade and travel embargo has kept U.S. influence off the island more than it has isolated Cuba. It should be clear to all but the most obstinate that America’s outdated means and methods did not and will not achieve America’s goals and objectives of a freer or more democratic Cuba.

The U.S. does not need to change its goals and objectives, but the means and methods employed for five decades are counterproductive and need to be jettisoned for positive engagement that works.

During the Cold War, this writer worked against or confronted Cuban Expeditionary Forces or operatives on three continents (Indochina, Africa, Central America). Some of those situations resulted in direct contact under less than diplomatic circumstances.

Subsequently, between 1998-2001, I made five (legal) trips to Cuba to seek information on Americans missing in various geographic areas during the Cold War. Because I had once demonstrated my humanity to some beleaguered Cuban soldiers in a time of war, Havana was open to assisting me — and they did so by opening up old classified files, letting me read the original reports in Spanish, and giving me access to former covert operators for interviews that I was allowed to record on film.

Although I was by then retired (prior to September 11, 2001, after which time I came back into government) and entered Cuba as a freelance journalist, the Cubans knew my background as a U.S. Navy Commander and former intelligence officer. Obviously Cuban intelligence (DGI) was curious as to why I was asking to enter their country. I told them up front that I was (a) not defecting, (b) not spying on them, but (c) I wanted access to classified information that I believed Havana could share without harming Cuba’s own national interests.

When the Cubans asked “what is in it for us,” I answered that I had encountered them on three fronts of the Cold War’s battle lines but believed that the time was long past two for our two nations to resolve our differences by talking about them directly. I noted that I was writing articles about missing Americans from several wars and if Havana cooperated with my investigation, I would publish that cooperation in the accounts.

The Cubans, after deliberation at the highest levels, did provide considerable assistance — much more than I anticipated — and I kept my word by including the facts in my articles.

At several points, senior Cuban government officials told me that Cuba wanted “to change the dynamics of its relationship with the U.S.” They said the government was willing to assist the U.S. with counterterrorism and counternarcotics in ways that were simple but game-changing; help out with regional catastrophes through their medical teams teaming up with U.S. logistical assets; but more importantly they wanted to sit down and officially discuss all bilateral issues “with no pre-conditions” — except U.S. recognition that Cuba is a sovereign nation.

When I asked if President Castro was “on board” with this path, I was informed by a senior official that “I could not tell you this if he was not open to it.”

One of the more interesting aspects of my five trips to Cuba was hearing history and stories told from the “other side of the coin.” Many accounts, which I will not relate here, were quite funny, while others were thought provoking and illuminating. I was able to listen to their points of view with my own background knowledge of Cold War operations and realities, so I could discern facts from fiction.

To their credit, the Cubans did not harangue me within the framework of Cold War polemics, but were very practical, even admitting their own political mistakes and over-the-top revolutionary fervor of the time.

“We depended too much on America before the revolution and too much on the Soviets after it. Now we know we need to depend on ourselves,” they said. An important part of their independent frame of mind, however, is to mend the relationship with the U.S. I heard this stated goal repeatedly from senior members of the military, intelligence service, foreign ministry, parliament and their executive branch.

Toward that end, the Cuban officials were (and still are) open to sitting down with the U.S., as they reminded this analyst they have “done with Canada and Europe.” They offered to work out all bilateral differences, including nationalized property, open trade and human rights. “But how can we resolve our differences if Washington will not sit down and talk to us?”

They have a point.

Why not open a public and transparent dialogue with Havana and about Cuba? America has diplomatic relations with the regimes in Moscow, Beijing and Hanoi, so why is Cuba the exception? Washington insiders would swoon if Pyongyang would only offer them the same openings that Havana suggested during my trips twelve-fourteen years ago.

From the Korean War through the Indochina Wars (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia), the descendent regimes of our enemies, with which we still do business and have diplomatic relations or negotiations, were responsible for wars that caused over 100,000 deaths of American military service personnel in direct conflict.

Putting aside Cuba’s defensive actions at the Bay of Pigs and a handful of out-of-sight Cold War dramas that might have accounted for three-seven American deaths, Havana’s actions were tantamount to a finger in the eye as opposed to bayonets in the heart.

Technically, an important part of war is to conclude conflict with a negotiated peace. America was never officially or constitutionally at war with Cuba from a congressionally declared standpoint, so why does the U.S. government insist on continuing a negative environment without a peaceful resolution today? To this analyst, whose credentials include fighting communists on the battlefield, the U.S. behavior speaks volumes about unproductive and irrational stubbornness.

As the more powerful nation, the U.S. should take the first steps at changing a contentious relationship that it has fostered for too long. Waiting until Fidel and Raul die is simply the wrong approach in terms of understanding the Cuban psyche. That is like telling someone you can’t be their friend until their mother and father dies. The time to mend fences is now, not some ill-defined “later.”

If the U.S. wants to have influence in Cuba, it needs to be present, not absent from the Cuban scene. America needs to demonstrate the positive nature of our society and the power of our friendship to the eleven million Cubans on the island. Washington needs to abandon the negative mindset entrenched by holdovers from the Cold War and a few resentful old men who lost a political battle half a century ago.

If the U.S. can settle its affairs with Hanoi, there is no reason why the same cannot be done with Havana.

Having traveled from one end of Cuba to the other, talking to whomever I wanted, I am convinced that the time for resumption of bilateral relations is long overdue. When people learned I was a Yanqui and not a Canadian or Brit, they were ecstatic and welcoming, regardless of their views of Fidel (positive and negative). As one maritime official overlooking the Havana harbor said to me, “What are you guys waiting for? Be friends and come back.”

One single mom (with a college degree) that I talked with one evening along Havana’s seaside Malecòn had some excellent advice for my readers. She said, “If you tell a Cuban what to do, he will do the opposite just to spite you. If you [Americans] stop telling us what to do, things will work out exactly like you want.” Read More →

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Ask a Senior Analyst — Lynda Roades

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Lynda Roades. Questions and Roades’ answers are transcribed below.

Lynda Roades

Lynda Roades has over forty years of combined academic work in social change and organizational development and as a practitioner in local and federal agencies in the United States. This perspective informs her advisory and consultancy work with donor agencies incorporating historic, cultural and social norms in shaping public sector reform initiatives, as well as the technical aspects of public financial management. She has advised local and national executives and senior managers in Afghanistan, Iraq, Russia and Zambia.

Michael Best: The United States now readily admits that it was unprepared for things like the level and types of corruption found in Afghanistan. If the U.S. had been more aware and prepared, would the situation in Afghanistan likely be much different from what we see today? Do you think that this is a pattern that is likely to repeat?

Answer: I have a much more nuanced view of corruption than those who served in Afghanistan. Not only have I worked in state government in the U.S., but my father was in a member of the Teamster’s Union during the James Hoffa Sr. years. Corruption in Afghanistan pales in comparison. It’s more on the order of schoolyard protection money and stealing cookies your mother made for a special occasion.

Why is my view of corruption vary so widely from the conventional wisdom of others? Keep in mind, I totally agree that the trillions of dollars (and euros and pounds) spent in (and for) Afghanistan were misspent, misallocated and misappropriated. Until we are willing to look a bit deeper than the Afghan character and the immaturity of the various systems that define, regulate and enforce transparency and accountability, we cannot begin to describe the pattern of corruption and develop safeguards for the future.

Few people realize that Afghanistan operates under three different, and distinct, budgets: ordinary (or operating), development and off-budget. The first two are part of the national budget law, passed by parliament, and administered through Afghan systems and processes, as authorized under Afghan law.

The funding for operating and development programs is a mix of domestic revenue, trust fund arrangements, as well as funding through bi- and multilateral agreements.

On the development side of the national budget, you will find additional donor-specific control and reporting requirements on procurement and expenditures. The World Bank’s assessments of the Afghan financial management system, and even cross-national studies, indicate that Afghanistan ranks well above its peers in its ability to control and monitor on the use of public funds. The problems they face are the “normal” problems of government officials trying to game the system for personal benefit (of which the U.S. Department of Defense can provide any number of examples) and the maturity of their civil service and supporting systems. The problem of “ghost workers” is largely controlled through the verified payroll system, which ties civil service salary payments (at least in the civil sector) with bank accounts.

You also need to keep in mind that there has not been a significant training initiative to update the knowledge of civil servants on the details of changes under the current Public Financial Management Law (2005), the related Financial Regulations and the Procurement Law (2009). To the extent that there systemic weaknesses in public finance, this is a failure to assure that all mid-level civil servants are aware of the changes to financial management and procurement. It is possible that some level of corruption is due to ignorance. In fact, I would also argue that a significant degree of the perception of corruption among the people is due to the fact that the people are also unaware of the updated laws and processes. Just because a decision went against your particular interest does not mean that the basis of the decision was corrupt! Read More →

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Ask a Senior Analyst — Dr. Dylan Kissane

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Dr. Dylan Kissane. Questions and Dr. Kissane’s answers are transcribed below.

Dylan Kissane

Dr. Dylan Kissane is Director of Graduate Studies and Professor of International Politics at CEFAM, the Centre d’Études Franco-Américain de Management, in Lyon, France. A native of Western Australia, he completed his PhD at the University of South Australia’s School of International Studies specializing in complex and chaotic theories of international relations. He has published widely in international theory, international security and maintains research interests in East Asian and Eurasian security, strategic cultures and alliance politics.

Graham O’Brien: What can you predict in relation to NATO’s future roles in somewhat alternative regions such as Latin America and the Arctic?

Answer: I think it is important to take a quick step back in time before considering the future role of NATO. NATO at its origins was conceived of as a collective security organization facing up to a serious threat to European and U.S. interests in Europe from the Soviet Union, its allies and satellites. As such it served a key role in maintaining the European balance of power during the Cold War, but it also found itself with very little to do, at least in areas related to its core purpose, after the fall of the Soviet Union. Some, including myself to be sure, find it difficult to explain the continued existence and, indeed, the increasing relevance of the NATO alliance in the wake of the events of 1991, but it does explain why NATO is increasingly finding itself deployed in areas that never did form part of the core of European defense.

Of the two, I think the Arctic might be a region where NATO will find itself deployed in the future, certainly more so than in Latin America. Indeed, while the U.S. is geographically located in the Americas, I can foresee significant issues in convincing European NATO states to deploy in an area that is far removed from Europe. Afghanistan, to be sure, is also distant from Europe, but I think the motivations for that deployment are thankfully fairly unique in the history of the Atlantic alliance and would not be easily replicated. The Arctic, though, especially as it becomes increasingly a space for territorial and resource competition with Russia, might be a place where NATO forces face down an Eastern threat. Read More →

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Ask a Senior Analyst — Joe Hogler

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Dr. Joe Hogler. Questions and Dr. Hogler’s answers are transcribed below.


Dr. Joe Hogler is a Lecturer in International Affairs at Texas A&M University and is an Adjunct Researcher at the RAND Corporation. He was formerly a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, holding positions on the U.S. Joint Staff, including Chief of the Combating WMD Office. He is co-author of “U.S.-Russia Relations: Is there enough Common Ground for a New Phase?” in Russia and European Security, edited by R. E. Kanet and M.R. Freire (2012).

Dr Hogler: I’m going to begin by answering three related questions at the same time here, all having to do with U.S. security assistance in Africa, a topic that’s particularly interesting in the wake of the Boko Haram activities in Nigeria.

Etah Ewane: The recent abduction of over 200 girls by the Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria has further confirmed the fact that Nigeria, like most African states, is not able to cope with security challenges posed by rising extremism. How and to what extent can the U.S. contribute to bolster the counterinsurgency capacity of African countries?

Oyeleye John Aro: Riding on Etah Ewane’s question, the Nigerian government has accepted military assistance from the U.S. government in finding the abducted girls. What, in your opinion, do you think might be the short- and long-term gains of this assistance to the Nigerian government and its military’s capability?

Emmet Foley: Following the Afghan drawdown, are we going to see an expansion of U.S. operations in Africa with specific regard to perhaps another Task Force? Similar to that at Camp Lemonier? This is not with regard to current events in Nigeria that has drawn the world’s media. But a more broad necessity give the expansion of terror groups across the Trans Sahel region.

Answer: First, I want to make an important distinction between two related ideas. Conducting military operations to assist a foreign partner involves sending U.S. military personnel to work either in lieu of, or in collaboration with a foreign military. Some examples of this might be sending a team in to conduct stability operations, or to fly unmanned aerial vehicles, or even to engage in combat. When the U.S. provides security assistance, on the other hand, it is typically in the form of training, education or the provision of equipment to help a foreign partner develop an organic capability or capacity to conduct its own military operations.

In the Nigerian case currently unfolding, what we’re seeing is an example of the U.S. conducting military operations at the invitation of the Nigerian government. This may or may not entail active participation by Nigerian military personnel. In the short-term, I would expect that the U.S. military is executing a well-thought-through plan that could help to resolve the tragic kidnapping of Nigerian children. In the long-term, because there is no direct assistance being provided to the Nigerian military, there will be no lasting effect. Unless, of course, you consider the possibility that the engagement will help to build or improve relations between the two countries’ militaries.

In West Africa, a quick look at past and future spending in the area of peace and security reflects the ad hoc nature of efforts the region. A relative trickle of funding, only a little over $5 million was spent in 2014, just over $13 million in 2013, but nothing the year before that. The bulk of this is counterterrorism (CT) funding. We respond to issues in that region as they arise. If you move up to the north just a bit, and look at the Trans Sahel countries, the focus is also on CT, but the problem there is much greater, globally-linked and the spending reflects the U.S. interest in stopping that particular problem before it threatens U.S. interests more directly. Read More →

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Ask a Senior Analyst — Dr. Robert Cutler

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Dr. Robert Cutler. Questions and Dr. Cutler’s answers are transcribed below.

Robert Cutler

Dr. Robert M. Cutler is a Wikistrat Senior Analyst. He was educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Michigan. After over a dozen years in major universities in the United States, Canada, France, Switzerland and Russia, he expanded into policy analysis and consulting. His clients include international institutions, governments, think tanks, NGOs and the private sector. He maintains a constant online presence through frequent commentaries on expert sites; has published dozens of refereed academic articles, policy articles and book chapters; and is noted for his ability to recognize significant developments in his fields before they become generally evident.

Natalya Gudz: The EU has recently decided to freeze plans to complete the South Stream project to punish Russia for its seizure of Crimea. To your opinion, would it make sense to “revitalize” the Nabucco project as an alternative gas option?

Answer: It is neither possible nor necessary to revitalize the Nabucco project. It is not possible because the consortium has closed up shop. It is not necessary, because the Shah Deniz consortium has decided in favor of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which will connect up with the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP). The latter has been agreed between Azerbaijani companies, which will build it and own a majority stake, and Turkish companies. With it, a large amount of petrochemical industrial construction will be associated, so much that by the end of the decade it is projected that Azerbaijan will have become the largest foreign direct investor in the Turkish economy.

Also let me offer the detail that the EU’s freezing of the South Stream project is not technically “punishment” for the seizure of Crimea but instead antedates it by some months. At issue are the conditions of the EU’s Third Energy Package, which require, among other things, that the use of any such pipeline cannot be monopolized by any company, whereas Gazprom seeks to have exclusive use; and that the price mechanism meets certain technical requirements. Here, several of the bilateral signatory states are in a very difficult situation, because they could be subject to legal pursuit for financial damages by Gazprom if they fail to construct the pipeline with Russia as they have agreed. But once the pipeline is built, the moment gas starts to flow, it will be subject to Third Energy Package conditions. Read More →

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Ask a Senior Analyst — Keir Giles

Wikistrat’s Facebook followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Keir Giles. Questions and Mr. Giles’ answers are transcribed below.

Keir Giles

Keir Giles is Director of Conflict Studies Research Centre (CSRC), a group of deep subject matter experts in Eurasian security originally established by the British Ministry of Defence. In addition to overseeing CSRC’s research and publications programs, he continues to follow his own specialist area of security problems affecting the Russian Federation, including military transformation and information and cyber security. Mr. Giles contributes to research projects across Europe and in the United States and is a regular media interviewee worldwide on Russian affairs. Uniquely, he is a double Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House).

William Holland: Other than the appeal to nationalism, how long can Putin mask economic deterioration with such irredentism?

Answer: Probably longer than we would assume if we consider this from a Western point of view. Russian society has historically been more resilient to this kind of tension than those states which eventually became liberal democracies. We don’t have to look too far back in time to take an example: during the late Soviet period, the authorities maintained societal stasis during a much longer-term and deeper economic deterioration under Brezhnev and his successors. Now, Russia has returned to a comparable level of control of the information which its population is receiving about both their own country and the rest of the world (with the notable exception of those active on social media), so once again the true economic picture is easier to mask.

As a historical rule of thumb, major societal change in Russia occurs in the aftermath of defeat in war — in the most recent case, the Cold War. By contrast, at the time of writing, Putin isn’t losing. Read More →

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Ask a Senior Analyst – Rick White

Wikistrat’s Facebook followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Rick White. Questions and Mr. White’s answers are transcribed below.

Rick White

Colonel (Ret.) Rick White, President of Indus Strategic Solutions, assists clients in the development of international business strategies. As a Foreign Area Officer, he spent ten years in India, with his final assignment as the Senior Defense Official/Defense Attaché at the United States Embassy in New Delhi. He was also the Defense Attaché in Afghanistan. He served overseas in Pakistan, Qatar and Germany and has worked at U.S. Pacific and U.S. Central Commands in senior positions. He is a frequent contributor on American national security issues.

Matt R. Batten-Carew: Col. White, given India’s desire to play a larger role in Central Asia, and Afghanistan specifically, do you foresee a push by India to expand its operations at the Farkhor Airbase on the Tajik-Afghan border in order to play a more important strategic role in the region? More broadly, might India open a military base within Afghanistan itself to facilitate future military cooperation? Would regional opposition make this impossible?

Answer: I think India has and will continue to have an important role to play in Afghanistan’s future. However, I do not think a military base in Afghanistan is a likely move by India. In many ways, Farkhor has demonstrated how difficult it can be for India to operate a base outside its national boundaries. India has not really used Farkhor as a regional base to expand its operations in Central Asia and it is unlikely that role will exchange.

I do expect India to increase the amount of training that it provides to the ANSF in India, but I do not expect a major expansion of Indian military forces in Afghanistan. Regional perceptions are a part of the reason, but the real reason is much more pragmatic—force protection is difficult and India has real enemies in the region.

In addition to an expansion of ANSF training in India, I believe that India will increase its economic assistance and will have good relations with the new government. All the leading candidates have had long-term relationships with the Indians. India has focused its development activities — less the major road development project in Nimruz Province — through the central government in Kabul. This may get adjusted to working more closely with provincial and local governments, but I do not expect India to change its focus on doing the projects through the Afghan government.

In conclusion, post-2014, India will and should play a significant role in the further development of Afghanistan. However, India will not put a military force in Afghanistan to accomplish its goals. India desires, and will continue to be a positive force in the further development of a new Afghanistan. Read More →

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