Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 71

Lots of meetings in the past few days. In sparse order, Obama and Xi, Obama and Putin, Obama and the Pope. Many things to discuss, from improving bilateral relations to devising a strategy for Syria. Although the most important outcomes are often hard to see, something visible emerged.

US-China relations these days have been often spoiled by cyber attacks in the US that allegedly came from China territory. This is why the deal between China and the US reached last week is important. Wait and see, here for the Italian readers some reasons to be sceptical in a brief published by the Italian think tank ISPI last week to which Venus in Arms contributed.

The other hot front is clearly Syria. Putin and Obama might not have looked best friends in recent years, but they might share some interests (if not the solutions) in the region.

In the meanwhile, the Middle East remains the same old powder keg. The US plays multiple roles in the region, one of those being provider of weapons.

The other guy on the table, Vladimir Putin, has been always very active in the international arena. This New Yorker’s piece discusses whether Russian President can achieve his multiple objectives by acting in Syria.  http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/putin-returns-to-the-u-n

In a recent talk, former FED chief Ben Bernanke entered into controversy over the role of military service in preparing for a professional private sector career. An interesting contribution on the Atlantic discusses the theme.

Share Button

Il Dilemma della sicurezza europea: Est e/o Sud?

Una grande canzone pop trash degli anni 90 aveva come ritornello i quattro punti cardinali. Da quello che leggiamo e vediamo rispetto al contesto della sicurezza europea, il dibattito pare sempre più orientato attorno a  dilemma che si lega a due direzioni possibili della bussola: l’Est e il Sud. Da dove proviene la “minaccia principale” per i paesi europei?

La prima possibile riposta riguarda il  “fronte orientale“, caratterizzato dall’esplosione della crisi Ucraina, dalla politica estera russa, dalla guerra “ibrida”, attorno alla quale tanto si è discusso. I paesi dell’Europa orientale, a partire dalla Polonia e dagli stati Baltici, sono naturalmente iper-preoccupati delle conseguenze legate al coinvolgimento militare Russo nel conflitto ucraino e ai possibili cambiamenti geopolitici nell’area. Stati Uniti, NATO ed alleati hanno cercato di rassicurarli, attraverso il  dispiegamento di forze e la creazione di nuovi strumenti ad hoc come la NATO Readiness Action Plan (RAP). Il summit in Galles aveva proprio la RAP come principale novità ed il fulcro della riflessione strategica ruotava attorno alla crisi Ucraina e al nuovamente complesso rapporto con la Russia.

Tre brevi considerazioni vanno fatte in merito al “fronte orientale” come focus prioritario dell’Alleanza Atlantica e dei paesi europei in generale.

1) Nonostante nel passato l’attenzione generale si sia concentrata sul crisis management e sulle missioni in aree di crisi, soprattutto nel contesto post 11-Settembre, la difesa collettiva rappresenta sempre il core business della NATO. Un aspetto che i membri “orientali” dell’Alleanza non fanno che ricordare.

2) A fronte di scenari complessi, minacce asimmetriche, conflitti tra gruppi armati irregolari, terrorismo, stati fragili o falliti, è in effetti “più facile” capire lo scenario ucraino dal punto di vista prettamente militare e strategico. In altre parole, per le élite politiche e militari atlantiche la difesa territoriale rappresenta un concetto più agile da maneggiare, meno difficile da interpretare (sappiamo almeno chi è l’avversario, conosciamo abbastanza le sue caratteristiche e risorse, etc.). Dopo decenni di Guerra Fredda le forze armate europee si sono dovute adattare e trasformare per affrontare contesti completamente nuovi. Un ritorno al passato, pur con le notevoli ed evidenti differenze, potrebbe anche inconsciamente essere accettato più facilmente. Anche dal punto di vista del weapons procurement, dopo anni nei quali molti si chiedevano il perché dover continuare ad acquistare mezzi da Guerra Fredda per missioni contro guerriglieri e gruppi criminali, adesso è certamente più semplice giustificare tale scelta.

3) Non tutti i paesi europei la pensano allo stesso modo nei confronti della Russia. Gli interessi economici in gioco sono enormi e la cautela si impone d’obbligo per quelle nazioni che hanno sviluppato un’ampia rete di rapporti commerciali con Mosca, a partire dal tema della dipendenza energetica. L’Italia lo sa bene.

In aggiunta a queste riflessioni generali, ora che Putin sembra orientare l’attenzione verso la Siria, dobbiamo domandarci se cambierà davvero qualcosa rispetto alla centralità del “fronte orientale” per la NATO in primis ed anche per l’Europa in generale? Che ruolo può avere in tutto ciò l’UE, che sta ripensando lo propria strategia globale? Quale direzione diplomatica prenderà l’amministrazione Obama? Che cosa emergerà dal prossimo summit dell’Alleanza Atlantica? Che cosa diranno i paesi europei che affacciano sul Mediterraneo?

Per rispondere occorre tenere presente la crescente importanza del “fronte sud” per la sicurezza europea ed atlantica. Il dramma dei rifugiati è solo l’ultima manifestazione evidente del caos e dell’instabilità nella regione. Dalla Libia alla Siria, passando per Iraq e Sahel, la multi-dimensionalità della minaccia (che lega terrorismo a network criminali, passando per l’ISIL) appare sempre più incombente.

Se Polonia e paesi Baltici sono preoccupati per la politica di Mosca [Venus in Arms rifugge la scontata e banale figura retorica dell’Orso Russo, più adatta ad altri ambiti..], Madrid, Roma e Atene non possono che far sentire la propria voce di “frontiera” di fronte dei mutamenti al di là del Mediterraneo. Gli stati europei hanno fatto pochissimo sul piano dell’aiuto allo sviluppo e hanno commesso errori strategici gravissimi accanto all’alleato amerciano negli ultimi tre lustri. Ogni soluzione d’emergenza adesso non può che dimostrarsi fallace, dall’immigrazione all’ISIL.

Per questo occorre capire in che modo il “fronte sud” possa nuovamente acquistare un peso cruciale nella riflessione strategica complessiva in ambito NATO ed europeo.

Che cosa farà l’Italia, al di là degli sforzi volti a una migliore redistribuzione del numero di profughi tra i paesi europei? Una domanda alla quale non possiamo ancora dare una riposta chiara. Di sicuro sarebbe importante evitare il ruolo del biondino  nel sopra citato duo: muoversi e affannarsi per avere visibilità senza svolgere in fondo alcun compito di rilievo.

Share Button

Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 47

Changing ideas is a sign of intelligence, a necessary element of academic research. It is also a key for organizational adaptation and learning. It’s hard, though, and also for individuals, to admit they’re wrong.  That’s why the list of past “wrongs” by Steven Walt, a dean of American IR scholars, is a must read.

Photos often describe conflict better than many words. The Atlantic features a series of impressive photos of Reuters’ photo reporters in Northern Iraq, where battle is raging.

Sticking with ISIS (is there anything else, nowadays?), DefenceOne presents the case for drones: air strikes are doing the job in Iraq and Syria.

Well, perhaps something else matters. Where is Vladimir Putin? BBC responds with humor (we know now he is still among us..)

Finally, elections in Israel.  Follow the live blog of the Jerusalem Post. As they say, “Israel has no foreign policy, just domestic politics”.

Share Button

Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 45

While fighting continues in Libya, Syria, and Iraq (and elsewhere), much attention has been devoted to leaders and leadership this week.

Russia possibly tops the list. Putin’s assertiveness abroad and at home is the hot topic, also following the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. Possibly, you already read everything about it in the past few days. So we suggest you also watch the 3rd season of TV series House of Cards and look if you agree with how Russia is portrayed there.

President Obama is building is legacy. Still a lot of clouds linger over his presidency with reference to foreign policy, possibly not to break up until he’s long away from office. One message is trying to send, anyway, is “Be Not Afraid” (from March issue of The Atlantic).

Third, Benjamin Netanyahu went to Congress for a highly controversial speech. Debate rages on pretty much everything concerning the Israeli leader. This is his speech, no comments attached.

Power politics has been long back in Asia. So military analysts have been starting to look at military planning, with Japan and China being the most scrutinized subjects. Navies, in particular, enjoyed a great deal of attention (Venus featured a piece on the theme a while ago), and this how Japan might be facing China’s growing military prowess.

Last, a very different piece on music, culture and Malcolm X. Addressed issue, among else: is the African American leader shot in 1965 a hero for Muslim radicals in Europe?

Share Button

Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 43

Conflict in Libya rages, ISIL is apparantly gaining ground, the Egyptian Air Force bombed Derna, Benghazi and Sirte. Making sense of what happens is tough, and as Libya seems to descend into chaos, The Atlantic’s Matt Schiavenza wonders if the country is turning into Iraq.

Debate on what to do in Libya also rages. While countries debate what to do, it is also important to look back at what they did in the very recent past. Glenn Greeenwald on The Intercept looks with the usually critical eye at the failures of the intervention in Libya of 2011.

In the meanwhile, the cease-fire is hardly holding in Ukraine.  The BBC reports “live” on the events and also provides useful maps. If anything, the crisis in Eastern Europe brought “old” geopolitics back.

With a eye on the risks of escalating the conflict and at the successes of the past, Fred Kaplan on Slate ponders how to defeat Putin. It does not require going to war, but rather thinking about a recasted version of containment.

Venus in Arms is attentive to how war is portrayed in the arts. Last week we featured a post focusing  on Clint Eastwood’s war movies. This is an interview with American Sniper’s screenwriter on what it means to write movies about war (and other stuff).

Share Button

Top 5 by Venus in Arms – Week 32

First of all, the end of South Stream. Putin announced that he would scrap the strategic gas pipeline. So Russia will abandon the project. As reported by The New York Times, South Stream was “a grandiose project that was once intended to establish the country’s dominance in southeastern Europe but instead fell victim to Russia’s increasingly toxic relationship with the West“. Here you’ll find the report of The Moscow Times.

Moving from Russia to Iraq, it is worth noticing that Iran is deeply involved in military operations against the ISIL. The Pentagon revealed that Iranian fighter jets (F-4E?) have bombed Islamic State militants in eastern Iraq in recent days.

Remaning in Arlington, Ashton Carter emerges as  the top choice to replace outgoing Secretary Chuck Hagel. Here you’ll find the scoop (CNN). Carter served as Deputy Defense Secretary under both Leon Panetta and Hagel. His main focus has been the management of the defense budget (should we expect some changes also for the F35 programme?).

“Vice” provided several funny articles on “how to invade or conquer” different countries, such as Scotland, France, Russia or the UK. A sort of paradoxical sic-fi perspective on current security affairs. Also ViA contributed regarding the case of Italy.

Finally, one of the most important news of the week: Star Wars. Here the “The Force Awakens” Official Teaser. A lot of discussion on the new lightsaber. A suggestion: Dont’ underestimate the power of the Dark Side…

Share Button

Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 19

After long holiday, Venus in Arms is back. The summer has been intense, if not for Venus, at least for its creators (who tried to finish a book manuscript). And it was a very eventful – to say the least – August indeed in international politics. With clashes in Gaza stopping, attention remained directed to two major fronts. The first is Ukraine, where signs of unfreezing seem to emerge as this post is being published. The last days were still pretty tough, and with the President of the European Council in pectore, Polish PM Donald Tusk, calling for Europe not to fall into the traps that led to the Nazi invasion (of Poland) in September 1939 and Vladimir Putin sending “humanitarian aid” in Eastern Ukraine, the situation is still very uncertain. One of the constitutive elements of this uncertainty is “how far will Putin go”: Royal United Services Institute’s experts examine possible military strategies of Russia towards Ukraine.

In the meanwhile, Iraq and Syria are still on fire. The Islamic State’s fast appearance on the geopolitical map has been striking and left most observers as well as policy-makers pretty unsettled. President Obama’s prudence also surprised (and/or annoyed) those who wanted decisive action by the US. An article of a couple of weeks ago, however, sheds light on the domestic constraints to a more forceful US approach against ISIL.

NATO’s role in the two crises is still uncertain, and NATO troops moving eastwards these days are not (yet?) a clear clue of the alliance’s intentions.  Foreign Policy magazine’s David Francis reports on the troubles of the Alliance. A good read-ahead for the NATO Summit that will take place in Wales later this week.

The inevitable focus on Ukraine and the Middle But should not obscure that other events are unfolding. The Guardian reports on US action in Somalia to disrupt the al-Shabab network organization, which is far from being defeated according to the same report.

Finally, (the return of ?) power politics in Asia. New Indian PM Narendra Modi visited Tokyo and called for close cooperation between the two countries so that they can better cope with the growing Chinese presence in the region. More than twenty years  after the end of the Cold War, is it really time for the realization for an extended version of John Mearsheimer’s “back to the future”?

 

 

Share Button

Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 10 (D-Day Special Edition)

June 6, 1944 was D-Day. Today’s Top 5 is about memory of that event and the months that followed, through articles, books, and movies. Skip if you are into breaking news, as the most important event for current affairs related to that event (will Obama and Putin talk about Ukraine at the celebrations taking place in Normandy this coming Friday?) has to happen yet.

 

Antony Beevor’s book on D-Day is a classic account in the tradition of British military historians. That is, a cunning narrative full of details about what happened, how individual men contributed to shape the set of events that led to the liberation of Europe. Which had started in Sicily a year before, but Normandy was THE front.

 

The US Army features an extraordinary website on D-Day. There are videos, original pictures, and original documents. The maps of the beaches assaulted are really worth, and they stimulate a vacation on the areas of landing in Normandy. It is about memory, and beautiful sceneries. Oysters and cider help.

 

The Guardian provides amazing interactive photographs of D-day landings scenes in 1944 and now. You’ll find archive images taken before, during and after the operation Overlord.

 

Several movies featured the attack. But one stands out as a real classic: The Longest Day. Far from a masterpiece and abundant with rhetoric, its black-and-white scenes depict an engaging account of the largest seaborne invasion in military history.

 

Finally, have a look at the magnificent documentary “Dead Men’s Secrets” (History Channel) on the Operation Bodyguard, which was one of history’s greatest military deceptions. The aim was to mislead Hitler regarding the exact date and location of the invasion. An extraordinary success.

Share Button