"Arms Races and Conferences: Asia’s Naval Build-Ups through the Lens of History"

"Arms Races and Conferences: Asia’s Naval Build-Ups through the Lens of History" est un article publié par B. Hellendorff et T. Kellner (chercheur interne et chercheur associé) dans la rubrique Newsbrief du Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). ​

En voici le résumé (anglais et français). L'entièreté de l'article peut-être téléchargé ci-dessous.

Over the last two decades, the rise of China and its quest for status on the international stage has resulted in profound changes to the global balance of power, constituting a source of considerable anxiety in many countries. With Beijing investing heavily in the modernisation and development of its military, especially in the maritime domain, uncertainty over its aims and ambitions has become an existential question for some of its neighbours. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines have much at stake in the face of a rising China beefing up its potential for coercion in this domain. These and other countries in East, Southeast and even South Asia have displayed great creativity in implementing hedging strategies, cautiously welcoming Washington’s rebalancing towards Asia, while also nurturing ambitions of their own.

Le programme nucléaire iranien : Rétrospective sur les accords conclus avec l’AIEA et le « P5+1 »

Le 24 novembre 2013, Catherine Ashton, qui mène les négociations au nom du « P5+1 », et le ministre iranien des Affaires étrangères, Mohammad Javad Zarif, ont annoncé qu’un accord intérimaire (Joint Plan of Action) avait été conclu. En figeant le programme nucléaire iranien à son état actuel (en novembre 2013) et en relâchant quelque peu le régime international de sanctions qui frappe Téhéran, l’accord permet d’instaurer un climat plus serein pour conclure un accord final qui s’attaquera aux détails techniques.

Dynamique des réponses sécuritaires de la CEEAC à la crise centrafricaine

Située dans la partie septentrionale de l’Afrique centrale, la République centrafricaine (RCA) s’étend sur 622 984 km2, environ 12% de plus que la superficie de la France métropolitaine (551 500 km2), pour seulement 4 525 millions d’habitants (Banque mondiale, 2012). État enclavé, la Centrafrique est limitrophe de six États de la sous-région. Elle partage 1 197 km de frontière avec le Tchad au nord, à l’est 175 km avec le Soudan, 990 km avec le Soudan du Sud, à l’ouest 797 km avec le Cameroun, enfin au sud, 1 577 km, avec la République démocratique du Congo, et 467 km de frontière avec la République du Congo. La République centrafricaine est à la fois membre de la Communauté économique des États de l’Afrique centrale (CEEAC), et de la Communauté économique et monétaire de l'Afrique centrale (CEMAC)...

Arms Transfers to North Africa: between Economic Interests and Security Imperatives

In the past decade (2003-2012), arms transfers to North Africa have increased considerably. This Analysis Note aims at a better understanding of these dynamics and therefore presents a panorama of the last decade’s arms transfers towards North Africa – especially from EU Member states – and the context in which they took place. As a matter of fact, within North African countries, internal and regional stability challenges as well as issues related to the porosity of national borders have led those countries to acquire conventional arms. For EU member states, economic interests and the desire to influence North African countries as well as security imperatives related to the struggle against radical Islam, and illicit trafficking of arms and persons are the motives behind arms transfers towards North Africa.

Photo credit: Libyan military (UN Photo)

Démocratie ou géopolitique? L’UE face à la crise ukrainienne

Les évènements de février 2014 en Ukraine ont pris de court tous les acteurs impliqués dans la crise : le président déchu Viktor Ianoukovytch bien sûr, la Russie évidemment, mais aussi une partie importante de l’opposition parlementaire ukrainienne, ainsi que les démocraties occidentales et l’Union européenne. Cette dernière avait pourtant adopté une position prudente au début de la crise, pour éviter, justement, que la situation n’atteigne un point de non-retour. Peine perdue : l’Ukraine est aujourd’hui plus divisée que jamais, et avec elle le Vieux Continent… qui semble avoir fait un pas en arrière de 25 ans, pour retomber en pleine Guerre froide...

Central Africa: risks and setbacks of the pax tchadiana

During the past decade, Chad has tried to occupy, in Central Africa, areas of influence left by other more powerful states (Angola and Cameroon). By deploying troops in CAR and also in Mali under the Serval operation and the United Nations peace keeping mission, Chad seems determined to assert itself as a leading country regarding security issues in Central Africa and even in Sahel. Although, Chad has more firepower and seasoned troops than any other ECCAS member state (apart from Angola), his status as a regional power is still questioned. 

Crédit photo: Troupes tchadiennes de la MINUSMA, à Tessalit au Nord-Mali (source: Marco Dormino/UN - 27 juillet 2013)

Iran and the Syrian issue : from "Arab Spring" to Geneva II

Relations with Syria are at the core of the Iranian foreign policy in the Levant. At first, Teheran was quite pleased with the « Arab Spring » uprisings as they offer it new opportunities in the Middle-East. It then denounced the protest movement which affected Damascus. The interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran are such, in that country, that it decided to back Assad’s regime at any cost (politically, diplomatically, militarily, and economically).    

This choice, made during the 2011 protests against Assad, took a renewed importance as the country plunged into civil war...

Architecture et contexte sécuritaire de l'espace CEMAC-CEEAC

Les États d'Afrique centrale appartiennent à deux ensembles sous-régionaux. Le premier étant la Communauté économique et monétaire d'Afrique centrale (CEMAC), qui regroupe les pays de l'ancienne Afrique équatoriale française (AEF) – à savoir le Cameroun, le Congo-Brazzaville, le Gabon, la République centrafricaine et le Tchad – auxquels s'ajoute la Guinée équatoriale. Le second ensemble, la Communauté économique des États d'Afrique centrale (CEEAC) rassemble dix pays : l'Angola, le Burundi, la République démocratique du Congo et Sao Tomé-et-Principe, en sus des six États membres de la CEMAC...


Human Rights Criteria in Arms Exports

Presentation by Mélanie De Groof in front of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights.

During the next 12 minutes I will focus my attention – and hopefully yours – on the human rights criteria, and the humanitarian law criteria, which EU Member States must take into account when they decide whether or not to grant export licences. Doing research on the topic of arms transfers in view of human rights and humanitarian law standards is an extremely interesting and important activity. Especially today. This is because over the last decade EU arms have been used either to commit human rights abuses or internal repression on several occasions. To illustrate, in the year 2008 the Belgian army supplied Bahrain with 50 armoured combat vehicles. In the context of the so-called Arab Spring, these vehicles were reportedly used against protesters... 

Credit: Ammunition captured during a counterinsurgency operation in Afghanistan. (PRC Embedded Mentoring Team - UK Ministry of Defence)

Une année comme une autre : les exportations européennes d’armements en 2012

Cet éclairage a pour objectif d’analyser les informations sur les exportations d’équipements militaires des États membres de l’Union européenne rendues publiques le 21 janvier 2014. Ce 15e rapport annuel est un important instrument de transparence sur le commerce des armes. Bien qu’imparfait et imprécis – ne permettant pas de mener une analyse du processus de prise de décisions pour l’octroi d’une licence d’exportation – il éclaire néanmoins sur les exportations que les pays européens ont autorisées (et effectuées) durant l’année 2012. Ce rapport est également d’une grande utilité pour obtenir des informations sur les exportations autorisées de plusieurs pays européens qui ne produisent pas de rapports nationaux. 

Crédit photo : char Léopard 2A4 lors d'une parade à Riihimäki en Finlande, le 6 décembre 2009 (source: Vestman / Licence Creative Commons)

A region caught in the crossfire : Military expenditures and arms transfers in Central Asia (2003-2012)

Central Asia and its security situation have considerably evolved during the last decade, both for internal and external reasons. The region is indeed faced with a vast conjunction of destabilizing factors: social unrest, religious fundamentalism, ethnic tensions, corruption, trafficking… Such a context is not without consequences on regional military expenditures, which have rocketed these last ten years. However, regarding those expenditures as well as arms transfers, states of the region follow very different dynamics: while Kazakhstan clearly emerges as the regional leader, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan remain isolated, and Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan very fragile. Therefore difficult to homogenize, the analysis is made even more complex by the absence of official and transparent data, thus exploitable, on these topics. 

(Crédit photo: Wikimedia Creative Commons)

Weapons for Peace : Arms Transfers, Armed Conflicts & R2P

This presentation concentrates on some pressing questions relating to the practice and legality of arms transfers to the different parties – i.e. both State and non-State actors – involved in an armed conflict. In particular, it concentrates on the question whether arms transfers can contribute to the restoration of peace and security. Since the concept of ‘responsibility to protect’ is often invoked by States providing arms to violent actors abroad (e.g. in Syria and Libya), this presentation also analyses the legitimacy of this argument. This presentation concludes by stressing that, generally, claims of the legality and the legitimacy of arms transfers to States struggling with armed conflicts are fallacious and must therefore be prevented.

(Photo credit: Kandahar, March 2011 by ISAF Public Affairs)

Pacifism: History, Successes and Perspectives

A recent trend in European historiography tends to describe Europe in the 20th century as the “dark continent” that has, according to Hobsbawn, “lived and thought in terms of worldwide war, even when guns were quiet and bombs were not exploding”. However, this tragic and violent interpretation of our history hides the dreams of peace and liberty - carried by men like Henri Lafontaine and many others - which strongly influenced our history. Even if a realistic appraisal of European history suggests peace movements have never been able to stop or prevent any war, they are an essential part of the process by which the paradigms and strategies of foreign policy change and become accountable. This paper shows that, even though pacifists may get frustrated in the pursuit of short-term political objectives, they are essential to influence social change over the long haul.

APSA: outlines and challenges of collective security in Africa

Since its inception in 2002, the African Union affirms its willingness to assume more responsibility for prevention, conflict resolution and peacekeeping. However, the crises that rose on the continent during the decade have resulted in contrasting responses, sometimes raising doubts about its capacity to maintain peace without outside support. Given recent evolutions and the mutation of security contexts, the judgment is likely to be qualified, and calls for a renewed perspective of the challenges faced by the AU in the operationalization of the APSA: the African Peace and Security Architecture. Some African crises are also threats to global stability and require international responses. Also, the issue goes far beyond the single issue of African ownership of these crises and focuses more on the most appropriate coordination of means and relevant actors at different levels, national, sub-regional, continental and international levels. 

Crédit photo: soldats djiboutiens déployés lors de l’AMISOM (source : Stuart Price/UA-ONU)

Cartography of West-African oil

In the actual context of globalized economy, the competition for energy resources and raw materials has become an economic and geostrategic challenge. As the predominant energy, oil is a major strategic resource. Until the 1970s, the Middle-East region was the principal oil producer and exporter. Then, new zones of production emerged everywhere in the world and in particular in West Africa. All the West-African countries are conducting oil exploration operations. Their objective is to respond both to global demand, but also to support their economic growth and (direct) access to energy resources. What is the position of West Africa in the international oil production? What is the situation in terms of oil exploration and exploitation in the region? Which are the actors of the oil sector in West-African countries? 

Crédit photo : carte des prospections pétrolières en Afrique de l’Ouest (source : Offshore mag, décembre 2012)

Understanding the dynamics of conflict: A synthetic reading of conflict factors in West Africa

Crises and conflicts that arise in Africa are discussed in many medias in the convenient explanation of 'ethnic' confrontation or as the translation of greed and power struggles between local leaders. This "reductive" reading is partly a reflection of academic currents favoring a deterministic approach of African realities and overstating economic or identity based conflicts. However, many current analyzes based on approaches decoding the causes of the extension of these conflicts and their dynamics – such as conflict resolution theories or analysis of "conflict systems" – offer a multifaceted approach of conflicts factors. They allow a dynamic perspective on these conflicts, beyond spontaneous and simplistic representations. 


Monitoring of Regional Stability in the Sahel region and in West Africa - October to December 2013

In the actual context of globalized economy, the competition for energy resources and raw materials has become an economic and geostrategic challenge. As the predominant energy, oil is a major strategic resource. Until the 1970s, the Middle-East region was the principal oil producer and exporter. Then, new zones of production emerged everywhere in the world and in particular in West Africa. All the West-African countries are conducting oil exploration operations. Their objective is to respond both to global demand, but also to support their economic growth and (direct) access to energy resources. What is the position of West Africa in the international oil production? What is the situation in terms of oil exploration and exploitation in the region? Which are the actors of the oil sector in West-African countries? 

Crédit photo : le nouveau président malien, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, en compagnie du Secrétaire général des Nations unies, Ban Ki-moon (source : Rick Bajornas/ONU, 28 septembre 2013)



Armed Forces of the DRC: institutionalized chaos?

Since they were founded in 2003, the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) have constantly been accepting within their ranks members of armed groups after their eventual submission to integration processes more or less quickly expedited. These new soldiers and officers have shown a very relative loyalty to the authority of their state and have been very prone to desert and mount new rebellions. However, a strong and coherent army is a prerequisite to the restoration of security, which should allow the beginning of the socio-economic recovery of the country, particularly in its eastern part. If the permanent instability of the Congo and its economic stagnation do not favour a sustainable reform of the security sector, the possible lack of political will remains a debatable issue. 

Crédit photo : soldat des FARDC sur la route de Rutshuru, au Nord-Kivu (Clara Padovan/ONU, 2 septembre 2013)

The EU’s strategic offensive with ASEAN: Some room left but no time…

When they usually think about Asia, Europeans focus straightaway on China and view Southeast Asia as the periphery of the Middle Kingdom. 
Other parts of Asia deserve their interests: Southeast Asia is naturally part of them due to its localization, its intermediation role, its potential. The target for 2015 is to build an ASEAN Community (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). This institutional building process is worth a revisited European policy, including in its security dimension. This paper argues that the EU influence will probably be more determining with players as ASEAN than with stars like China if it integrates some very basic points. How can the European Union take opportunity of this notable fact? 


(credits: H.E. Le Luong Minh, Secretary General of ASEAN, ASEAN)

National Visions of EU Defence Policy - Common Denominators and Misunderstandings

Inspired by the confusion about EU defence policy in most European capitals, the premise of the study is simple: before discussing at Brussels-level what defence strategy the EU should adopt, member states should clarify what they expect individually from the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

With the possible exception of the UK, it is quite difficult to grasp what member states really want from CSDP, so any debate over a possible European grand strategy would appear to be premature. 

European Union Initiatives to control small arms and light weapons: Towards a more coordinated approach

The European Union (EU) is a major player in global efforts to prevent and combat the uncontrolled accumulation and proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW) and their ammunition. The 2005 ‘Strategy to combat illicit accumulation and trafficking of SALW and their ammunition’ has given a significant impetus in promoting multilateralism activities in order to establish mechanisms in relevant forums to fight illicit proliferation of SALW, in structuring and prioritizing EU small arms assistance programmes as well as mainstreaming SALW in broader peace and security initiatives. 

This paper argues that a better coordination between EU export controls—which today remain a national prerogative—and small arms assistance policies is essential for a more integrated and coherent approach to fighting the illicit proliferation of SALW. In particular, EU member states should pay special attention when assessing SALW export licences to countries benefiting from EU assistance and to other destinations in the neighbourhood of such countries. Recent developments at the international and EU levels should encourage the EU to comprehensively review and update the 2005 SALW Strategy.

A naval arms race in Asia: Towards a new Washington Conference?

China’s rise brings in its wake a recalibration of power relations at both the regional and global levels. As a corollary to this development, East and Southeast Asia are now the theater of major processes of military modernization. These dynamics are all the more worrying that they are often little understood, and that regional states seldom appear to be in full control. The present note offers to isolate keydimensions of these evolutions, and addresses the following question: would a small detour into History help in making sense of these multidimensional military modernizations? Would it provide useful lessons to tackle their inherent challenges to regional peace and stability? This note draws on and expands the views expressed by the authors in various media outlets such as RTBF (Belgium), The Diplomat, and Le Temps (Switzerland). 

(Crédit photo:  Flickr, U.S. Navy photo, Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Byron C. Linder)

What remains of AQIM in North Mali? : Evaluation of the consequences of Operation Serval

Since the end of September, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed two car bombs, in Timbuktu against the Malian army and in Tessalit against Chadian blue helmets, and the kidnapping and murder of two french journalists in Kidal. Nearly a year after the Operation Serval started in Mali, this renewed terrorist activism reveals the resilience of the jihadist organisation. However, the French military force, supported by the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) and Malian units, has considerably weakened the terrorist organization. While the Malian Armed Forces and the blue helmets of the MINUSMA are progressively taking over in the field, the actual resumption of AQIM terrorist activities in North-Mali raises the question of the consequences of Operation Serval on its capacities and its ability to reorganise and redeploy in the Sahel. 


Traité sur le commerce des armes - Priorités de l’UE en vue de la mise en œuvre

La négociation et l’adoption du traité sur le commerce des armes (TCA) n’étaient que la première étape d’un long processus qui reste à concrétiser pour que le TCA puisse in fine avoir un réel impact positif sur les conditions de vie et la sécurité des populations1. Alors que la procédure de ratification du Traité est en cours dans de nombreux États, dont ceux de l’Union européenne (UE), et nous rapproche par conséquent de l’entrée en vigueur, une nouvelle étape doit dès à présent être appréhendée : celle de la mise en oeuvre du texte. Cette étape devra se faire en tenant compte d‘une part des faiblesses du traité, et en particulier les nombreuses possibilités laissées à l’interprétation, et d’autre part des multiples défis auxquels de nombreux États vont être confrontés...

(Crédit photo: Sophia Paris/ONU)