Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Radicals Take Over Ukraine Protests

James J. Coyle: Radicals take over Ukraine protests

--> Street demonstrations have resumed in Kiev, capital of Ukraine. Unlike the 2013 demonstrations, which protested President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to turn from the European Union, the new violence is being led by anarchists.
Jan. 19, several hundred rioters on Hrushevsky Street, near the site of previous demonstrations on Independence Square, attacked police lines with sticks and bats. They threw Molotov cocktails that burned police buses. There were pitched battles in which both sides threw rocks. Eighty security troops were injured, and 103 demonstrators were treated for injuries. Police arrested 32, including two reporters working for the U.S.-financed Radio Liberty.
Opposition figures, such as Fatherland party leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk and former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who had been ringleaders in the November/December demonstrations, condemned the violence. “Violence leads to nothing but mayhem,” Yatsenyuk said. “With radical actions, we destroy our probable victory.”
What changed the attitude of the opposition leaders? First, the government appeared willing to negotiate. According to opposition parliamentarian Andriy Pavlovsky, the government announced it would not implement a new law forbidding street demonstrations. In a nationally televised address, Yanukovych called for dialogue and compromise.
Second, and more importantly, the demonstrators themselves have changed. The organizers of the violence appear to be members of a right-wing youth group, the Right Sector movement. This group is not part of the larger mass of demonstrators camped on the square, but a radical fringe that occupied the Kiev City Hall building in December. The BBC reports that the backbone of the organization is formed by Russian-speaking soccer fans sharing nationalist views.
While most members of the Right Sector oppose Ukraine joining the Russia-sponsored Customs Union, they also oppose moving closer to the European Union. The Right Sector considers the EU to be an oppressor. Instead, the group wants to use the unrest to “destroy the state skeleton” and allow them to build a new state, supposedly in their own image and likeness.
The “mainstream” demonstrators have grown tired of the stalemate, and the inability of opposition parties to influence government decisions. It does not appear, however, that the protesters have joined the anarchists in their attacks on the police.
As dire as it appears, the attacks by the Right Sector offer an opportunity to resolve the political crisis that has paralyzed the country for three months. For the first time, the centrist opposition and the government are in agreement on something: that the Right Sector movement must be stopped. If the government decides to break the violence through police action, conditions will worsen. If, on the other hand, the government enters negotiations with the opposition parties, a peaceful ending to the unrest is within reach.
James J. Coyle is a professor and the director of Global Education at Chapman University and chair of the Eurasian Committee of the Pacific Council on International Policy.

Blinders in Benghazi

James J. Coyle: Blinders in Benghazi

Following the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, senators have tried to find out who was responsible. Hillary Clinton, the outgoing U.S. secretary of state responded, with some heat, “What difference does it make?”
A report last week by the Senate Intelligence Committee answered that question: between 1998 and 2012, there were 273 significant attacks against U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel. It is therefore essential that our representatives abroad be protected if America’s interests are to be advanced.
What the intelligence committee found, although they did not put it in these words, is an echo of the findings of the 9/11 Commission: the attack could have been avoided and the principle reason why it was not was a failure of imagination. No one believed that an attack using commercial airplanes against New York City was possible, even though there were indications something similar was being planned; similarly in Benghazi, despite indications that our diplomatic personnel were in great danger, no one took steps to protect them. No one seriously anticipated such an attack.
A harsh judgment? The Senate found that in the months preceding the attack there were hundreds of analytic reports providing strategic warnings that militias intended to strike U.S. facilities in Libya. There were ten militia training camps surrounding Benghazi alone and some of them were training to attack Americans.
Despite the warning and 20 specific incidets against the compound or other international organizations in the area, the compound had to rely on a local militia for security, the 17 February Martyrs Brigade. Yet, when “the security team asked 17th February members to ‘provide cover’ for them … members refused, saying they preferred to negotiate with the attackers instead,” according to a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report.
Clearly, when the host government cannot provide security for our diplomatic compounds, the United States needs to rely on its own military, not on a “rent-a-mob” recruited from the back alleys of a third world city.
Ambassador Stevens recommended on June 6 that some sort of security team be established in Benghazi, a recommendation that was not acted upon. On July 9, he asked for the temporary assignment of additional security personnel. “The State Department never fulfilled this requested and … never responded to the request with a cable.” On Aug. 15, the Regional Security Officer expressed concern about the ability to defend the post, citing limitations in manpower, security measures, weapons, and support from the Libyan government. The State Department took no action to meet these concerns.
Even Ambassador Stevens seems to have erred. When AFRICOM head General Carter Ham read the results of the Aug. 15 review, he offered to extend the deployment of 16 special operations personnel assigned to the embassy, a DOD site security team. State Department had not requested the extension, and Ambassador Stevens declined General Ham’s offer less than a month before the fatal attack.
Until the United States government begins to imagine that the worse can happen and is willing to act on the warnings it received, there will be more disasters in the future. One can only hope there will not be another report outlining the government’s lack of imagination.
James J. Coyle, Ph.D., is director of Global Education at Chapman University and the chair of the Eurasian Members Committee of the Pacific Council on International Policy.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Azerbaijan: Kuwait of the Caucasus?

James J. Coyle: Azerbaijan, Kuwait of the Caucasus?

By JAMES J. COYLE / For the Register
It was the coldest January in a century. Throughout Italy and Southern Europe, people shivered in their homes. The year was 2009 and Russia had turned off the flow of natural gas over a price dispute with Ukraine. It was the second time in three years the Russians had closed the spigot. The European Union decided something needed to be done to protect their citizenry. Europe imports one third of its natural gas from Russia and the Russians had shown themselves to be unreliable suppliers.
The EU decided to support a pipeline to bring natural gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe, avoiding Russian territory and Russian infrastructure. This project was declared to be of community-wide importance, and was deemed eligible for EU grants to help with the construction costs. The original pipeline, named Nabucco after Verdi’s opera, was supposed to run from Baku, Azerbaijan to Baumgarten, Austria. It would carry 33 billion cubic meters, or bcm, per year. Azerbaijan pledged 10 billion bcm and encouraged the EU to find additional sources.
The Russians were alarmed: while Nabucco would only supply approximately 5 percent of Europe’s gas needs, it would break Gazprom’s monopoly on delivering pipeline gas from the East. It would gradually move Russia more to the edge of European energy concerns, instead of keeping it front and center. To counter this, Gazprom announced its own, rival pipeline project: South Stream. Designed to carry 63 bcm per annum, South Stream would take gas that had previously transited Ukraine and send it directly to Europe under the Black Sea. The EU refused to grant it the status of a community project, because it did not diversify the source away from Russia.
When the EU proved unable to make Nabucco work, Azerbaijan and Turkey decided to build the Trans Anatolian Pipeline. From 2018 on, this line is designed to carry 16 bcm per year of natural gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz gas field, one of the largest of its kind in the world. Six billion cubic meters will be offloaded in Turkey, leaving 10 bcm for delivery to Europe. TANAP will link up with the Trans Adriatic Pipeline at the Turkish border and the natural gas will be delivered to Greece and Italy. Eventually, as more Caspian gas becomes available, TANAP can double its capacity. Over the longer term,TANAP/TAP could supply 20 percent of Europe’s energy demand. A group of companies led by British Petroleum has signed a $45 billion deal to expand the gas field and construct the pipelines. The big question is whether TANAP/TAP can be built since Russia has already begun construction of the much larger South Stream to service the same markets?
On Dec. 4, the executive arm of the EU, the European Commission, announced that South Stream would not be able to operate on EU territory unless it complies with the EU’s Third Energy Package. This is a series of rules and regulations designed to increase competition in the European energy sector. The major impact on Russia: the package states that an energy supplier must “unbundle” itself from the energy distribution system. In other words, if Gazprom wished to sell natural gas to Europe, it could not own the pipeline system that would deliver it.
When the package was originally announced, Russian President Vladimir Putin had cried foul. He said the Third Energy Package was theft, a European attempt to seize Russian strategic assets. Gazprom decided to ignore the package and signed bilateral agreements with seven European transit countries (six EU members and Serbia, an EU-aspirant).
A European Commission official stated that if negotiations began immediately, it would take at least two years for the community to reach an agreement with Russia over implementation of the package. In the interim, the bilateral agreements that Russia had negotiated were all in breach of EU law. “We have told these states that they are under the obligation, either coming from the EU treaties, or from the Energy Community treaty, that they have to ask for re-negotiation with Russia, to bring the intergovernmental agreements in line with EU law,” said Klaus-Dieter Borchardt, director for energy markets at the European Commission.
The objection is not only to Gazprom’s failure to “unbundle” its ownership of the pipeline. The project also fails to meet the requirement that any pipeline system must grant access to other suppliers, and there are unresolved questions over how the price of the gas will be determined.
Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s prime minister, took the position that the bilateral treaties were governed by international law, which trumped EU law. EU energy spokesperson Marlene Holzner responded that any member state who did not renegotiate with the Russians would be subject to penalties for infringement of EU regulations. The pipeline could be built, and Russia could fill it with gas, but no European state would be able to purchase it. Holzner added that, in her opinion, no bank would be interested in financing a project based on such legal uncertainty.
Given the complexities of the issues involved, southern European hopes are now squarely on the TANAP/TAP Southern Energy Corridor. British Foreign Secretary William Hague commented, “It will increase our energy security by providing an additional route and a new source for gas supplies to Europe. There is also the potential to expand the southern corridor to reach major gas suppliers in the Middle East, which could bring huge additional benefits.” BP’s vice president, Al Cook, concurred, noting that the pipelines were being built to accommodate gas from other suppliers.
Thus, European energy independence begins with the delivery of Azerbaijani natural gas.
James J. Coyle is a professor and the director of Global Education at Chapman University and chair of the Eurasian Committee of the Pacific Council on International Policy.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

China Challenges the West

James J. Coyle: China challenges the WestBy JAMES J. COYLE / For the Register

image0-James C. Coyle: China challenges the West
On Dec. 5, the guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens was in the South China Sea, observing the maiden voyage of the new Chinese aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. It received a radio message from the Chinese fleet advising them that they had broached an inner defense perimeter surrounding the carrier and was ordered to leave the area. The American skipper replied he had a right to be in the area, as the ship was in international waters.
Suddenly, a Chinese naval vessel accompanying the Liaoning crossed the bow of the Cowpens, within 200 yards of the American naval vessel. The Chinese were apparently trying to force the Cowpens to stop dead in the water, to what ends no one is certain. To avoid a collision between the two ships, the American captain had to make emergency maneuvers. The Americans then broke off from the Chinese fleet. Score one for China.
It was not the first military confrontation. In 2001, a Chinese fighter jet collided with an American EP-3 reconnaissance plane. In March 2009, another U.S. warship, the Impeccable, was forced by five Chinese ships to make emergency maneuvers to avoid another collision.
The “inner defense perimeter” was a Chinese unilateral declaration of sovereignty over the South China Sea. Perhaps even more dangerous are Chinese unilateral declarations in the East China Sea, where China has laid claim to an island group that has been a part of Japan for the past century. It also has laid claim and seized a shoal claimed by the Philippines and a reef claimed by South Korea.
To boost its claims, the Chinese last month declared an air defense identification zone, or ADIF, over these troubled waters. All aircraft flying in the area must declare themselves to Chinese authorities. The U.S. military has ignored the ADIF, but the Obama administration has counseled American civilian aircraft to abide by the rules. Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun advised this would not be the only ADIF China would create.
The United States takes these claims of sovereignty seriously. In the case of the island dispute between China and Japan, the U.S. has stated that these islands are covered by the U.S.-Japanese defense treaty which states any attack on Japanese territory is considered a threat to the peace and security of both countries. The U.S. has similar pacts with the Philippines and South Korea. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Manila the week before Christmas, condemned China’s unilateral actions, and pledged $40 million to strengthen Manila’s sea defense capabilities.
It is only natural for countries that are growing in strength to flex their military muscles. At issue, however, is the possibility on either side of a miscalculation or mistake. The results could be catastrophic as two nuclear-armed countries faced off against each other. This is something the United States and the Soviet Union avoided throughout the Cold War.
China claimed that other countries need not fear its increase in power, arguing that it was not like great powers in the past. China said it has no military or territorial ambitions. Hu Jintao’s “peaceful rise” has been replaced, however, as China begins acting like a normal great power.
James J. Coyle is a professor and the director of Global Education at Chapman University and chair of the Eurasian Committee of the Pacific Council on International Policy.