New Eastern Outlook

New Eastern Outlook
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 07:59:14 +0000

Ethiopia: the Hard Road to Peace


There has been a lot of talk about peace in Ethiopia lately, and, according to many international observers, this is a truly new trend in domestic politics. But at the same time, there is a long and winding road ahead before the country can see the end of hostilities, famine and delayed state collapse.  For six months, the war between the federal government in Addis Ababa and the Tigray region and its ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), has stalled. Neither side can beat the other, and it seems that each no longer has the ambition to try to do so. Since the beginning of May, there have been constant rumors about secret negotiations between the two warring parties.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addressed members of Parliament on June 14 and said that he wants peace for his country, while adding: "Just because we want peace, it does not mean that we are conducting secret negotiations." The key point in Abiy's speech was that he decided to create a special committee headed by his deputy and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen to find out whether a lasting peace with Tigray is possible, and how it can be done. At the same time, the High Representative of the African Union Commissioner for the Horn of Africa, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, plans to hold talks in the Tanzanian city of Arusha to establish peace in Tigray province. But it should be remembered that Obasanjo fully agrees with Abiy's policy, and his appointment to the post of High Representative followed the approval of controversial elections in Ethiopia a year ago. Since then, Obasanjo's peace efforts have been marked by a combination of unhurried pace and his insistence that he alone is the only effective mediator in the Ethiopian negotiations. In this regard, he is unlikely to be able to become an impartial arbiter and succeed in the difficult Ethiopian problem.

Abiy's steps towards peace were very uncertain from the very beginning. This follows from his indecisive measures to meet the basic demand of the Tigrayans, which is to end the hunger blockade and ensure the flow of humanitarian aid. The reason is that Abiy is "indebted" to powerful forces inside the country who are determined to crush Tigray militarily, namely, the troops of the regional government of Amhara province and neighboring Eritrea ruled by its militant president Isaias Afwerki. He has repeatedly expressed his dissatisfaction with Abiy's peace initiatives, saying that the Tigrayans allegedly planned to attack his country, a sure sign that Eritrea is looking for a pretext for its own military actions.

At the same time, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta assumed the role of Ethiopian mediator after his meeting with President Joe Biden. As a concerned neighbor, a beloved partner of the United States and Europe in East Africa and a member of both the UN Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council, Kenya has put forward and is aggressively promoting its so-called peace initiative. In this regard, this initiative is actively supported by Washington and the United Arab Emirates, because it corresponds to their vision of strengthening their positions in this large African country. On this occasion, Tigray President Debretsion Gebremichael wrote an open letter to Kenyatta and other leading international figures, in which he "crystal clear" stated his position of being ready to negotiate under the auspices of Kenya, not Obasanjo. He did not mention the meeting with Obasanjo in Arusha, but pointedly included Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan among the addressees, while indirectly inviting her to support Kenyans.  He also addressed a letter to the President of the UAE, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, explaining his position on establishing peace in his province. Despite the fact that the Emirati president is an "enthusiastic supporter" of both Abia and Isaias, the UAE has recently softened its position. They sent aid directly to Tigray and, with the support of the United States, now consider themselves an active mediator in establishing peace.

It is quite difficult to make an accurate analysis of the Tigray problem, since the policy of Debretsion and his Tigray entourage is no less secretive than Abiy. A year has passed since Tigray troops recaptured Mekelle, the capital. During this time, according to Western experts, they have created a strong military machine and restored administration throughout the province, but so far they clearly and rigidly control political freedoms at home. Tigrayans can be understood to some extent. After the atrocities committed against them during the war, the majority of the population of the province do not want to have anything to do with the rest of Ethiopia and are concerned that its leaders will be able to make a deal secretly behind their backs and at their expense.

At the same time, the situation in the province is quite complicated and is getting worse literally every day. And that is why Tigrayans are also negotiating a deadline for signing a peace treaty with Addis Ababa. The rainy season has come, and now crops are being sown and fertilizers will be needed next month if it is necessary to harvest a decent harvest. Tigray is under blockade, with no commercial traffic, no banking services and no telecommunications. If the siege is not lifted, it will be difficult for the leadership to resist popular calls for the TPLF to use its army to break through the encirclement. And this means that new militant actions will be launched. Speaking to the British media, Tigray diplomat Fisseha Asgedom listed five key points of negotiations:

- restoration of the Tigray borders that existed before the conflict;

- referendum on self-determination;

- international process of bringing those responsible to justice for military atrocities by Ethiopia;

- compensation for losses; and

- Tigray keeps his own army.

There is a third important component of the peace puzzle, namely, the escalation of the war in the vast Oromia region, which covers large areas of Ethiopia. The rebel movement led by the Oromo Liberation Army is gaining strength, and despite Abiy's promise to destroy them, the fighting is only growing. In January, the most prominent Oromo opposition leader, Jawar Mohammed of the Federalist Oromo Congress, was released from prison. Five years ago, Jawar was a mobilizer of disenfranchised Oromo youth who demanded radical changes. This movement eventually led to much-needed reform, which subsequently catastrophically "came to naught." The end of the reformist changes was the murder of the singer Hachalu Hundessa, who became the voice of the protests, and the imprisonment of Jawar in June 2020.  Meanwhile, violence in Oromia continues to escalate. The Government and the rebels blame each other for the recent killing of 200 civilians of the Amhara ethnic group living in the western state of Oromia.

It should be said that in solving its internal problems, Ethiopia relies on those who sincerely want peace and tranquility in this country. Russia has always stood for these principles, which was again confirmed on July 26-27 during the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov on a working visit to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. He was received by the President of the country Sahle-Work Zewde and held talks with the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia Demeke Mekonnen. Sergey Lavrov had a telephone conversation with the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed, who received a personal message from the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin.

When considering the situation in the Horn of Africa region and other "hot spots" of the continent, Sergey Lavrov emphasized the need to respect the principle of "African problems need an African solution." At the same time, Russian support for the efforts of the Ethiopian government to normalize the situation in Tigray and launch an inclusive national dialogue in the country was confirmed. Moscow will continue to stand in solidarity with the principled position of Ethiopia, which rejects interference in its internal affairs and defends sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook".

New Eastern Outlook
Mon, 08 Aug 2022 20:55:54 +0000

Liberal World Order Dies of Logic Deficiency


The people who live under the striped woke boots of western leadership are treated like clueless cattle in route to the slaughterhouse. The mainstream media has become useless to anyone after the truth for a long time. However, it is useful for mirroring the state of affairs of our world. Read the following headline from CNBC, and decide for yourself what's wrong. Let's look, briefly, at what just does not add up in the Russophobia circus.

"Zelenskyy says Russia using gas to terrorize Europe; About 80 grain vessels ready to leave Ukraine" – Amanda Macias, CNBC

Amanda Macias, who covers national security and foreign policy for CNBC quotes Ukraine's clown president saying Russia has launched a "gas war" while at the same time making Russia's clearing a grain corridor allowed by the Russians into a western victory. Her story is mostly Zelensky's statements, but US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's assurances to the Kyiv regime about weapons transfers to Zelensky were a highlight.

Macias, some may recall, is the journalist who was sleeping with a Pentagon counterterrorism analyst Henry Kyle Frese when top secret information was passed to the press. At least there's some logic in the reporter's actions, given her ex-boyfriend went to jail for what amounted to espionage.

One of Macias' stories using Frese information was about China's installation of a surface-to-air missile system off the Chinese mainland. As anyone who has ever watched a spy movie knows, some asset somewhere could get killed over such a leak. But reporters these days get work and meals by toeing the line. And this is where logic and truth are abandoned in favor of the narrative.

The Russians will weaponize their gas! Would Europe prefer Putin to use nuclear deterrents to defend his country from the assault from Washington and London? Or, should the Russian president mobilize all conventional forces and smash eastern Europe completely? For those who've lost all touch with reason, why isn't Kyiv a smoking heap of ashes right now? What kind of imbeciles watch and read CNBC and fail to understand?

Get this. No, really. Get this. The European Union expects Russia to keep supplying gas, even though the EU has essentially cut off Russia. They insist Putin tell Gazprom to give the Germans the gas they need to make BMWs, while they engage in an unprecedented proxy war on the Russians. Since the elites could not steal the Russian legacy, they now demand the Russians capitulate and "donate" their gas and other key resources. They declare war, and then try to make the rules. Meanwhile, Putin's hypersonic missiles do not darken the skies over Ukraine's biggest cities. Only Donbas towns fortified with Nazis get hammered. Has anyone asked how come Volodymyr Zelenskyy is even still alive? After all, the Russians are accused of assassinating droves of people with deadly Russian nerve agents. Funny, isn't it, that no western visitor to Kyiv has been scared to death to be seen in Ukraine's capital? Finally, how illogical is this? That the Russians would "terrorize" Europe using gas, while agreeing to open a sea they control in order to feed the impoverished of the world?

Eventually, the disconnect with reason will end this ludicrous liberal order that's bled the world these last 75 years. And perhaps then there won't be any more energy, food, or proxy wars. I think Europe is terrorizing itself, in order to milk its people for the last tiny droplet of oil and blood. Am I logical?

Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he's an author of the recent bestseller "Putin's Praetorians" and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook".

New Eastern Outlook
Mon, 08 Aug 2022 20:55:51 +0000

Support in Difficult Times: Russia and Myanmar Strengthen Cooperation


The South Asian country Myanmar, which has a population of almost 55 million people, as well as reserves of gas, precious stones and other resources, is quite interesting from the point of view of trade and investment. In addition, it has an important strategic position with access to the Andaman Sea of the Indian Ocean and to the land borders of the Asian giants, namely, China and India. It is not surprising that major world powers such as China, India and the United States want to include Myanmar in their sphere of influence. The Russian Federation also has certain interests in Myanmar.

Myanmar and the Russian Federation actively exchange high-level visits and develop economic cooperation. Russia supplies Myanmar with heavy industry and mechanical engineering products, and it imports local agricultural products and textiles. The two states are also successfully developing military and military-technical cooperation. Over the past decades, Myanmar has acquired dozens of units of combat aviation from the Russian Federation, such as Yak-130 aircraft, MiG-29 fighters, and Mi-35 helicopters. In January 2018, as a result of a visit to Myanmar by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, Russian warships were granted the right to a simplified procedure for entering Myanmar ports. At the same time, Russia and Myanmar signed a contract for the supply of six multi-purpose 4+ Su-30SM fighters to Myanmar. Many Myanmar officers have received and are receiving training in Russian military universities.

Parliamentary elections were held in Myanmar in November 2020. Most of the seats went to representatives of the National League for Democracy (NLD). The election results annoyed the Myanmar military, which is a separate political force in the country. Generals have ruled the country for many decades and have their own "Union Solidarity and Development Party". According to the results of the elections, representatives of this party won fewer seats than expected, and the Myanmar military said that fraud had taken place. They also expressed the opinion that the NLD has plans to appoint its members as the heads of the ethnical regions of Myanmar, and that this could lead to an aggravation of interethnic conflicts and the resumption of civil war, which with periods of intensification and de-escalation has been going on in Myanmar for more than 60 years, and is now considered to be over only formally.

On February 1, 2021, the military leadership of Myanmar removed President Win Myint and the leader of the ruling NLD party Aung San Suu Kyi from power. The leadership of the state fell to the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, General Min Aung Hlaing. According to Myanmar laws, the Armed Forces of the country have the right to take such steps in emergency situations, but the pro-Western media called the incident an illegal coup. The actions of the military were condemned by the United States, which immediately threatened the new Myanmar government with its sanctions. The coup was also condemned by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the European Union, other Western and pro-Western countries, and international organizations. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes Myanmar, expressed deep concern about the incident.

Russia did not condemn the actions of the Myanmar military. The close contacts of Myanmar's military leadership, including Min Aung Hlaing personally, with Russian colleagues probably played a role, and his opinion on the results of the November elections seemed quite convincing to Moscow. In addition, having taken power into their own hands, the Myanmar military promised to hold new fair elections.

However, despite all the arguments of the Armed Forces of Myanmar, a significant part of the country's population was dissatisfied with the military coming to power. Protests began, which were suppressed not only by the police, but also by the army.

The split over the events in Myanmar has affected not only the international community, but also the ASEAN countries. Thus, the new leader of the country, Min Aung Hlaing, was not even invited to the ASEAN summits held in October 2021.

It should be recalled that the ASEAN countries are largely dependent on two global competing forces, namely, China and the USA. And Singapore, which can be considered one of the most pro-American members of ASEAN, where even the bases of the US Navy and Air Force are located, played a significant role in the refusal to invite Min Aung Hlaing.

By the beginning of February 2022, according to reports, about a thousand people, including dozens of policemen, had been killed during the riots in Myanmar. Then the leaders of the ASEAN countries repeated their affront by refusing to invite a Myanmar representative to the next summit.

On February 24, 2022, the Russian military special operation began in the territory of Ukraine, which globally divided the world into two camps and dramatically intensified anti-Russian sentiments in the pro-Western part of the international community. Perhaps the growing pressure from the West has given an additional impetus to the rapprochement between Russia and Myanmar, who understand that they are in similar situations and should support each other.

In March, Myanmar received the first two of the six Su-30SM fighters acquired by the country under the above-mentioned contract from 2018 accompanied with Russian instructors and technicians.

In June 2022, the most recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) was held in the Russian Federation, and for the first time in the entire existence of this event, a delegation from Myanmar visited it. The Myanmar and their partners from the Russian Federation discussed such issues as, for example, the possibility of participation of Russian companies in oil and gas production in Myanmar.

Another promising area of Russian-Myanmar cooperation is tourism. Myanmar's closest neighbor, Thailand, has long been a world tourist leader and one of the most popular destinations for vacationers from the Russian Federation. Myanmar has the same natural and cultural attractions and may eventually repeat Thailand's success.

Also during SPIEF-2022, the possible use of the Russian Mir payment card in Myanmar was examined.

Since July 1, 2022, a visa-free regime has been introduced in Myanmar for citizens of the Russian Federation.

On July 10, 2022, Min Aung Hlaing paid a visit to Russia. In Moscow, the Myanmar leader met with the leadership of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. The parties agreed to continue developing military cooperation. Min Aung Hlaing also visited the cultural capital of the Russian Federation, St. Petersburg. On July 14, he met with the governor of the city Andrey Beglov, with whom he discussed the opening of the Myanmar consulate in St. Petersburg, as well as the organization of direct flights between the city and the international airport under construction in Yangon.

It can be concluded that relations between Russia and Myanmar are developing steadily and successfully, and the current difficult international situation rather contributes to their further strengthening, and not vice versa. It should be recalled that for many years Myanmar has been forced to balance between the United States and China. For China, its territory is one of the outlets to the sea and the opportunity to transport oil brought by tankers from the Middle East to the Myanmar coast. For the United States, the territory of Myanmar is an opportunity to restrict access to the sea for the PRC and get close to its borders, thereby creating a threat to Chinese security. Therefore, the two superpowers are constantly trying to strengthen their influence in Myanmar. And the government of Aung San Suu Kyi, who led the country until February 2021, was forced to maneuver between Beijing and Washington, while constantly fearing to fall under the excessive influence of one or the other. Interestingly, when the course of the Myanmar leadership indicated a tilt towards Beijing, in 2016 there were terrorist attacks that initiated an ethnoreligious conflict, which was called the "Rohingya genocide." As a result, Aung San Suu Kyi, previously very popular in the West, began to turn into a persona non grata there, and the threat of Western sanctions loomed over Myanmar. Thus, perhaps, the coup of 2021 benefited even Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD party, thereby allowing her to leave the stage in time. Now Myanmar's military leadership can start plotting its course anew.

In 2021-2022, the United States imposed a number of sanctions against the Myanmar leadership, and in March 2022, Washington officially recognized the "Rohingya genocide." Therefore, Myanmar's relations with the West are seriously damaged, and their future is in question. And China has not condemned either the Rohingya-related events or the coup of 2021, and now the PRC is Myanmar's main economic and political partner. Nevertheless, the Myanmar leadership fears excessive dependence on its powerful neighbor and needs a force capable of balancing the influence of the PRC. Now that the military, which has long-standing friendly ties with Moscow, is in power in Myanmar, Russia, in their understanding, can become this force. Perhaps ties with the Russian Federation will help Myanmar find a balance in its foreign policy and receive all possible benefits from international cooperation while maintaining independence. Russia, in turn, will also benefit a lot from cooperation with Myanmar and other countries of the rich Southeast Asian region.

Petr Konovalov, a political observer, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook".

New Eastern Outlook
Mon, 08 Aug 2022 20:40:29 +0000

Kim Jong-un’s Military Rhetoric


On July 27, 2022, the leader of the DPRK, Kim Jong-un, delivered a speech at a solemn event dedicated to the end of the Korean War of 1950-1953. For the modern DPRK, this is one of the most significant holidays, somewhat similar to the Russian Victory Day, since the war was one of the bloodiest conflicts in the second half of the 20th century.

But Kim not only glorified war veterans or gave instructions to employees of places of historical and revolutionary glory. There were several passages in his speech that read as follows. "In the fierce anti-American confrontation that lasted for about 70 years after the war, our Republic reliably defended socialism and created a powerful strategic potential to protect itself. This represents a greater victory, no less serious than the triumph in the Patriotic War of Liberation. However, we have no right to stop there," since the United States "still does not stop dangerous hostile actions against our Republic," thereby inciting the South Korean authorities to a suicidal confrontation with the DPRK and driving the situation to the point of no return.

In this context, Kim "once again confidently stated that the DPRK is fully ready for any military clashes with the United States" and strictly warned the "South Korean authorities" of "conservative persuasion and maniacs of war who are rampaging in abnormal excessive greed and self-confidence, and are ahead in implementing the American hostile policy towards the DPRK."

The North Korean leader said that North Korea remembers the careless statements of Yoon Suk-yeol before and after coming to power, and stressed that Pyongyang cannot simply observe such actions of Yoon Suk-yeol and the "military bandits" of the South. According to Kim, the government of Yoon Suk-yeol, first named by Kim, is taking "low-worshipping, venal actions that overshadow the actions of any conservative regime," while returning the definition of the "main enemy" to the DPRK (meaning the "white paper" of the Ministry of Defense) and declaring "ensuring peace through force."

It is true that Seoul "intends to bring US nuclear strategic weapons in large numbers and expands the scale of militaristic games under any sign" (which, in particular, was reflected in the results of the visit of the US president to Seoul), "but South Korea is still destined to perceive its military weakness compared to our forces as fatal, and nothing will ever change it for the better."

And what is most important, "if the 'authorities' and the military junta of South Korea think about their military confrontation with us and that they will be able to weaken or nullify part of our military forces with a preventive strike, while relying on some special military means and methods, then this is completely absurd. No way! Such a dangerous attempt will immediately receive punishment from the powerful forces, and the 'power' of Yoon Suk-yeol and his troops will be completely defeated." In general, Seoul should admit that it "went too far beyond the limits from the very beginning, and that it should seriously think about its behavior that brings danger on itself. Seoul should move its brains more than play with the language, and it should not mindlessly find fault with us at any time, and the best thing for Seoul is not to intend to deal with us at all."

Kim's speech is in line with the general rhetoric of the country. In May 2022, a book dedicated to Kim Jong-un's military and diplomatic achievements over the past decade was published on the North Korean propaganda website Uriminzokkiri, and it also emphasized that the North has learned from the experience of other countries, including the 2011 military intervention in Libya. "The tactic of the US invasion is to force (the country) to abandon its self-defense capabilities," it says. "The United States tirelessly utters embellished words, while saying that it will help the country to prosper if it refuses to build up military power and chooses another path."

But in the Western and South Korean press, the discussion of the statements of the leader of the DPRK went into the narrative "the North is threatening war again," especially since formally this was Kim's first official response to the North Korean policy of the Yoon administration.

On July 28, the Administration of the ROK President expressed "deep regret" over the criticism of Yoon Suk-yeol by the North Korean leader. Its representative Kang In-song said that the government would ensure the security of the country, while remaining ready to effectively rebuff any unfriendly actions by the North and relying on a strong alliance with the United States.

The Ministry of Defense of the ROK assessed Kim's message as "nothing new." "The threat from Kim Jong-un is nothing new in a situation where North Korea continues to increase its nuclear and missile threats," said the ministry's deputy spokesman, Colonel Moon Hong-sik.

"We are against any rhetoric regarding the use of such deadly weapons and continue to call for the resumption of negotiations on the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," said Deputy Official Representative of the UN Secretary General Farhan Haq, while commenting on the words of the leader of the DPRK.

However, the North, as usual, threatens to strike for a reason in response to provocations, and the mentions of the South Korean leadership are by no means a fantasy. Yoon spoke about a preventive strike while still a presidential candidate, and, being a pragmatist, justified this not by crushing communism in the name of democracy, as some classical politicians from a number of conservatives did, but by considerations of an exclusively practical nature. Since the new types of North Korean ballistic missiles demonstrated in 2020 create huge problems for air defense and missile defense of the ROK, the pragmatically minded military cannot but calculate this option.

Actually, on October 9, 2016, the Korea Massive Punishment & Retaliation was presented to the South Korean Parliament. This plan should be implemented in case "the North shows the slightest sign of the use of nuclear weapons." In this case, "Pyongyang will be reduced to ashes and removed from the world map," for which it was planned to use Hyunmoo-3 missiles with a range of up to 1,000 km and Taurus cruise missiles with a range of more than 500 km. The main target is the North Korean leader, who will be killed regardless of "collateral damage." If Kim Jong-un takes refuge in an underground bunker, GBU-28 concrete-piercing bombs designed to hit fortified objects will be used. The plan was positioned as a development in response to Pyongyang's threats after the fifth nuclear test, but there are several details. Firstly, a state that has signed all relevant conventions and positions itself as a "responsible member of the world community" declares that a deliberately non-military object with a population of about 2.5 million inhabitants will be taken as a target, which is planned to be completely destroyed. Secondly, a preventive strike masks direct aggression, because when the blow has already been struck, it is unclear whether the enemy was really going to attack.

As president, Yoon often called on the military to "harshly and quickly punish the DPRK in case of provocations," while demanding the development of the so-called triaxial system, which includes not only missile defense, but also forces and means designed to ensure a preemptive strike and beheading of the North Korean leadership, including the aforementioned Korea Massive Punishment & Retaliation.

A week before Kim's speech, on July 21, Choe Jin, Deputy Director General of the Institute for Disarmament and Peace at the DPRK Foreign Ministry, gave an interview to the Pyongyang representative of the Associated Press Television News. He drew attention to how many exercises the United States and the ROK conducted in June and July 2022, including anti-aircraft, anti-ship and anti-submarine operations, as well as the interception of sea routes. In addition, joint air exercises of the US, Japanese and South Korean Air Forces are held almost daily in the skies over the Korean Peninsula and its environs. In the Pacific Ocean, the strike groups of the American nuclear aircraft carriers Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln were mobilized for the Valiant Shield exercises. On June 29, the United States, together with the ROK, began the world's largest international naval exercises RIMPAC in the Pacific Ocean, and from June 14 to July 9, "joint special forces training" was held at Fort Irwin with the participation of 5,000 military personnel. And that is not all. In August, the United States, Japan and South Korea plan to hold the Pacific Dragon exercises in the waters off Hawaii aimed at detecting ballistic missiles, and from August 22, the United States and South Korea will begin joint field training exercises "just like in the good old days."

Let us explain. If the field component was minimal under Moon, then conservatives and pragmatists, including Yoon, stated that the military needed a full-scale format, especially since the successful exercises should check one thing, i.e. how skilled the South Korean generals are in strategic planning. Without this, South Korea will not gain control over its own army in wartime, as this control has been carried out by the United States since the time of Lee Seung-min. Back then it resulted from the South Korean army's ultra-low combat capability, as well as the need to keep an eye on the South Korean regime, so that it would not drag America into its conflict again.

In principle, each side situated to the north and south of the 38th parallel reacts to the other's military preparations in this way, but large-scale exercises, as in the old days, carry a certain risk of combat incidents. Thus, in 2010, during the exercises, the South Korean corvette Cheonan was demolished, and its destruction was blamed on the DPRK. That is why both the North and the South make belligerent gestures in advance designed to force the adversary to refrain from provocations.

Choi Jin also recalled both the "Operational Plan 5015", which underlies most of the exercises and is anything but defensive in nature, and the fact that up to 500,000 US and ROK troops can be mobilized for the autumn exercises. For comparison, in May 2022, NATO field training exercises were held in Poland with the participation of more than 20 countries. It was big news, but only 18,000 troops took part in them.

In this situation, the DPRK did not miss the chance to once again bang its fist on the table and remind the South that following this strategy will not end well.

Kim's statements are also important from the viewpoint of contradictions in the conservative camp. On the one hand, Yoon Suk-yeol is more of a pragmatist than a classic conservative. On the other hand, his team that deals with security issues, as well as his inner circle, include are a lot of people who dealt with this issue when, in some aspects, the South Korean right ran ahead of their American masters. Naturally, this causes certain discussions in the camp of conservatives about the extent to which the inter-Korean achievements of the Moon Jae-in period can be "reset."

Thus, Kim, on the one hand, acted traditionally tough. On the other hand, the necessary reservations were observed and, describing the tension on the peninsula, one should not forget that the actions of the North are often carried out in response.

Konstantin Asmolov, PhD in History, leading research fellow at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of China and Contemporary Asia RAS, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook".

New Eastern Outlook
Mon, 08 Aug 2022 07:55:16 +0000

Regular Scandals with the Blue Helmets in Africa Are a Sign of their Failure


Unfortunately, protests against the Blue Helmets in Africa discrediting the UN peacekeeping activities are becoming a common occurrence. Thus, during the meeting of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, the Central African Republic once again raised the question of the efficiency of the Blue Helmets' presence in this country, pointing out the repeated accusations leveled against employees of the multidisciplinary mission of the international organization in the CAR (MINUSCA) of aiding radicals and other crimes against the population of the state.

The destabilizing activities of the Blue Helmets were condemned by analysts of Afrique Media, in particular, for the fact that the "peacekeepers" actually refused to participate in battles with radicals, that is, in fact to protect civilians, and for supplying militants with weapons so that they could seize territories with useful resources and steal them for their own overseas hosts.

Among the crimes of the Blue Helmets reportedly committed in Africa are numerous murders and rapes, including those of children. A large number of cases of non-interference by members of the UN mission in situations where armed groups terrorized the civilian population have been documented, although such interference was the main task of the "peacekeepers." The United Nations is also accused of systematically sending unverified people as part of the Blue Helmets, who kill and rape the population, which ultimately causes the inhabitants of "protected" African countries to suffer.

Another scandal broke out recently, surrounding "peacekeepers" from the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) detained for killing civilians during protests in the country prompted by the behavior and presence of the Blue Helmets in this republic. Rallies against the presence of the Blue Helmets began at the end of July, when during clashes between civilians and "peacekeepers" 32 citizens of the DRC were killed. The UN contingent used special equipment and firearms to disperse people. UN representatives condemned the shooting of civilians in the DRC and reported that the guilty employees of the MONUSCO mission who are residents of Tanzania were arrested. As the AfricaNews portal reported, the Congolese Government has appealed to the United Nations to expel the representative of the MONUSCO peacekeeping mission, Mathias Gilmann, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The MONUSCO mission has been operating in the DRC since 1999 as part of implementation of one of the points of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement that ended the Second Congolese War. More than USD 15 billion has already been spent on its activities. At the first stage, the tasks of the Blue Helmets were limited to monitoring the ceasefire regime, and then peacekeeping activities went on to include active support of the army in the fight against gangs. However, despite the long existence of the peacekeeping mission, the situation in the region is not improving. Hundreds of groups have effectively divided the republic and are terrorizing the population, which causes its natural protests and demonstrations against the Blue Helmets.

Scandals with the Blue Helmets in the DRC have been going on for more than one year. Thus, in 2008, even Western media reported that Pakistani "peacekeepers" sold weapons and ammunition to members of one of the groups for gold. Representatives of MONUSCO seized ammunition and weapons from militants, and then gave them back in exchange for precious metal. In 2021, African and Western researchers published an investigation where they identified numerous cases of violence against women and children by peacekeepers in the DRC. Representatives of MONUSCO were accused of 405 episodes of sexual abuse from 2007 to 2021!

Protests against the UN Blue Helmets are becoming commonplace in Africa. The demands for "peacekeepers" to leave the country, since they do not fulfill the conditions of the mandate, are regularly pressed, in particular, by residents of the CAR. Moreover, the journalists of the Central African publications Nouvelles Plus and Le Citoyen caught the staff of the multidisciplinary integrated UN mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) in smuggling ivory, trafficking in valuable materials, gold and diamonds, in aiding armed groups, and handing them machine guns and ammunition in exchange for precious metals.

The situation is similar to the DRC in Mali, where the Guinean contingent of the multidisciplinary integrated UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) opened fire on a civilian car at the exit from the city of Kidal in early July this year, as a result of which two people were injured. In these circumstances, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mali issued a decree on July 14 restricting the movement of the MINUSMA mission contingent on the territory of the country. Moreover, as Adam Diarra, coordinator of the Yerewolo civic platform in this country, reported, the Malian authorities intend to demand that the Blue Helmets leave the republic before September 22 in order to rid the country of the useless group. In the nine years of presence in Mali, MINUSMA employees, according to the statements of the country's authorities, have not coped with any task from their own mandate. They not only failed to ensure the safety of civilians and protect them from the outrages of radical Islamists, but they themselves got involved in high-profile scandals by smuggling natural resources and being engaged in sexual violence and killings of the population.

However, for the sake of justice, it should be noted that the activities of the Blue Helmets in Africa turned out to be to some extent hostage to their own mandate, which allows peacekeepers to use weapons exclusively to protect civilians and for self-defense. As a result, the Blue Helmets often find themselves forced to remain inactive during joint operations with the armies of African countries, since they have no right to engage in battle. Therefore, today's failure of the Blue Helmets is to some extent connected with the mistake made by the UN Security Council when formulating the tasks of individual peacekeeping contingents.

As for MONUSCO, today many countries are already convinced that this mission in the DRC turned out to be a complete failure. Thus, India, which has provided the most military and police personnel, is reducing its presence in the region.

One should also not forget that African countries are becoming more independent in their foreign policy. And the successful experience of security cooperation with Moscow and Beijing clearly shows them that problems can be solved without peacekeepers imposed by the West. Therefore, it cannot be ruled out that the UN stabilization mission in the DRC is living out its last days and, as has already happened in the CAR and Mali, other international actors may come to replace it, which will more successfully teach the security forces of the DRC to protect their country and their own population from assorted militants.

Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook".

New Eastern Outlook
Sun, 07 Aug 2022 06:13:42 +0000

President of Indonesia Widodo Visited China and Japan


The visits of Indonesian President Joko Widodo to China and Japan conducted in a temporary tandem mode at the end of July this year seem to be a single important event that significantly characterizes the situation in the sub-region of Southeast Asia as a whole. At the same time, it should be noted that, in addition to China and Japan, other world players are involved in the struggle for influence in this subregion, which occupies a key position in the entire Indo-Pacific region represented by the US, India, and leading European countries.

The significance of the above event is also due to the fact that the state of Indonesia's relations with China and Japan to a certain extent can be considered as a "model" for relations with them of other Southeast Asian countries taken both individually and all together in the format of the ASEAN regional association.  Although each of the Southeast Asian countries (and ASEAN as a whole) is balancing in the field of "tensions" created by China and Japan (as well as other leading players), it is possible to note a certain difference in "preferences" in relation to one of these latter.

In this regard, the Indonesian leadership seems to be particularly careful to ensure that each of its two main regional partners does not get the impression that Jakarta gives a very clear preference to one of them. The chronology of Joko Widodo's last trip to Beijing and Tokyo was another evidence of this.

China has long been the undisputed leader in terms of trade volume among all external partners of the Southeast Asian countries. In Indonesia, in 2021, it reached the level of almost USD 125 billion and immediately increased by 60% compared to the previous ("Covid") year. Moreover, the growth rate of Indonesia's exports to China was noticeably ahead of the increase in the oncoming movement of goods and services. This made it possible to almost eliminate the previously observed noticeable negative balance for the first. By the way, it should be noted that until recently, the factor of a significant excess of imports over exports in trade with the PRC of almost all ASEAN countries served as one of several reasons for some, to put it carefully, discomfort in the latter's relations with its great northern neighbor.

The alignment of the trade balance in Indonesia's trade with China turned out to be the result of a sharp increase in prices for the main export product of the former, which is raw materials (mainly hydrocarbons). It is customary to link the same growth abroad with the so-called "Russian invasion of Ukraine". Forgetting about the "green energy", everyone urgently began to stock up on coal. Already in the first half of 2022, China purchased USD 8 billion worth of coal from Indonesia.

As for Japan, which is Indonesia's third (after the United States) partner, Indonesia's trade with it is developing almost as fast, however, at a significantly lower "initial" level.  Let's not forget, however, that today Japan's GDP is 2.5-3 times less than China's. In 2020, Indonesia's trade with Japan amounted to USD 24 billion, next year it amounted to USD 32 billion, and this year it may reach USD 40 billion. Indonesia trades with Japan with a noticeable surplus.

Seven years ago, NEO drew attention to the dramatically developing process of decision-making by the Indonesian leadership regarding the appointment of a winner in one of the largest national projects related to the construction of the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway on the island of Java with a length of 145 km. Chinese and Japanese companies fought for the contract (the value of which was then estimated at USD 5.5 billion).

The Indonesian leadership was fully aware of the weight of the political component of either of the two options for a decision, the adoption of which was postponed several times. Finally, in the fall of 2015, it was announced that the contract was signed with a Chinese-Indonesian venture company, in which China represents China Railway International.

This decision turned out to be a complete surprise for the Japanese side, with which representatives of Indonesia have been consulting since the end of the noughties on the topic of creating a modern railway and transport infrastructure, in the construction of which Japanese companies are considered (still and not without reason) one of the world leaders.  Apparently, that is why in Japan, until the last moment, they were in a state of absolute confidence that such a large-scale contract would be concluded with them. The value of obtaining it was also due to the fact that even then there were talks about the possibility of continuing the future high-speed railway through the entire island of Java.  Its length should increase to 750 km, and the cost of the entire project may exceed USD 15 billion.

It is claimed that the motives of the mentioned decision were entirely located in the business sphere. The Chinese side proposed the so-called "B2B scheme" (business-to-business) with minimal presence of the Indonesian government in the project, which allegedly determined the outcome of the tender.

We will point out the sharp delay in the implementation of even the initial version of the project, which has caused certain troubles in Sino-Indonesian relations. Trial trips of high-speed trains were planned to be held at the end of 2019. However, during the construction, some serious problems of a "natural" nature arose, and today doubts are expressed that this will happen even this year. What would the leadership of Indonesia, which is the host of the next G20 events in 2022, want?

Be that as it may, but the news about how a very promising tender in Indonesia ended in 2015 (as it was believed) was perceived by the Japanese government of the late S. Abe quite painfully. In order to smooth out the unpleasant impression of the outcome of the decision taken on it, Indonesian government officials often visited Japan at various (including the highest) levels.

In turn, Indonesia is one of those Southeast Asian countries (along with, for example, the Philippines), to which Japan has been constantly (since the beginning of the last century) showing special interest. The same S. Abe visited Indonesia as part of a tour of a number of Southeast Asian countries at that time a year after the failure with the "railway" tender. In the current year, the current Prime Minister F. Kishida also paid a visit to Jakarta during a long foreign trip that ended in Europe.

The PRC pays no less attention to contacts with representatives of Indonesia. This mainly happens at the level of foreign ministers, both in a bilateral format and within the framework of the constantly functioning ASEAN-China platform.  However, Japan and other leading world players also have a similar platform for working with Southeast Asian countries.

It should be noted that Indonesia itself is by no means in the position of a passive object of the games of the leading regional and world powers. The most populous country in the Muslim world, which is among the top twenty countries in terms of annual GDP, Indonesia enjoys well-deserved authority in Southeast Asia, and its leadership is active in the international arena, which was further evidenced by the discussed trip of President J.  Widodo to China and Japan.

In Beijing, the Indonesian president became the first foreign leader since February of this year, whom President Xi Jinping hosted in the (infrequent today) face-to-face format. Among the wide range of issues raised during the conversation, those related to the implementation of the Jakarta-Bandung railway construction project mentioned above were also discussed.

The very next day, J. Widodo arrived in Tokyo, where he held talks with Prime Minister F. Kishida on the whole range of problems and issues that accompany the development of both bilateral relations and the situation in Southeast Asia. During the final joint press conference, F. Kishida's remark drew attention to the fact that the parties agreed to join the units of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to the next annual Super Garuda Shield multilateral military exercises, which will be held in Indonesia in the first half of August. Of the total number of 4,000 military personnel involved in it, half account for the hostess of this event, and another 1,100 will be allocated by the United States.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook".

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