Security Disorder: Is There a Way Out?

Herbert Wulf
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Putin's war against Ukraine has not only damaged the cooperative security architecture but destroyed it permanently. The Helsinki Act of 1975, the Paris Charter of 1990 and the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997 created a basis for security cooperation in Europe – even "a new era of democracy, peace and unity" as the Paris Charter titled euphorically. At least that's how state leaders saw it at the decade after the end of the Cold War.

Today, the war in Ukraine casts a long shadow over European security. Cooperation has been replaced by military confrontation. Economic cooperation has been destroyed, fear of dependence in the energy sector has led to a turning point, and the concept of the positive effects of economic interdependence has not only proven to be a misperception in the case of Russia, but also does not work in the relationship between the US and its Asian and European allies vis-a-vis China. On the contrary, the shift towards confrontational, essentially military-based, defence policy is felt globally.

Global military spending is at its highest level ever at over $2 trillion ($2,000,000,000,000). Considering the budget announcements for the next few years, this sum will continue to rise rapidly year after year. Nuclear weapons have come back into focus – both their modernization as well as an expanded nuclear sharing of non-nuclear states and the possible use of nuclear weapons. After Russia's surprise attack, which most experts did not consider possible, it is understandable that now—as a first reflex—most countries are rearming, economic dependencies are being reduced and that there are concerns about critical infrastructure. Nor is it just about traditional military threats. The boundaries between war and peace are blurred. Hybrid warfare, deployment of mercenaries, cyberwarfare, destruction of critical infrastructure, undermining social cohesion with disinformation campaigns and election interference, sanctions and other measures of economic warfare have become standard measures of international confrontation.

Is there a way out of the constant political, economic and, above all, military escalation? Despite the seeming hopelessness of an end to the power struggle with Putin, despite the escalating situation in East Asia, despite the many wars and conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Mali etc. that are now less noticed but nevertheless characterized by brutality – it is necessary to think about the possibilities for ending these wars. In my opinion, this should happen in parallel at three levels: security, political/diplomatic and economic.

With all due understanding for the now hectic procurement of new weapons, it must be borne in mind that security policy is more than defence with weapons. Even if there is currently no obvious way in sight for a negotiated solution to the Ukrainian war, it nevertheless needs attention. Ultimately, this war can only be ended by agreements at the negotiating table. To this end, it is necessary to consider the interests of the warring parties. Even if Russia has launched the Ukraine war in violation of international law and is obviously committing war crimes, in the long term there will be no security in Europe without Russia and certainly not against Russia. The consideration of Russian security interests is a prerequisite for de-escalation, for serious negotiations, as difficult as this is facing Russia’s aggression and Putin’s image of a future Russia.

Politically/diplomatically, it is necessary to question the current geopolitical orientation in the concert of powers. Many countries rely on a military-based geostrategic foreign policy. China's assertive military, foreign and economic policies are rightly viewed with concern. But the EU also wants to become militarily autonomous. The US is trying to find partners for its policy of rivalling with China. Other powers such as Australia, Japan and India are also positioning themselves in the competition with China.

Instead, it is necessary to focus on values (democracy, human rights) and binding rules (international law), even though Putin has blatantly violated international law and democracy is a foreign word in China. It is necessary to radically change the narrative. The "West", which rigorously demands the rule of law and democracy, has all too often emphasised these values and principles in a know-it-all manner. ("The West against the rest"). It often applied double standards and ignores these values themself, as in the so-called War on Terror and the Iraq war. If these principles and projects pro-democracy and against autocracy are to be convincing, then the concept of the "West" must be completely abandoned and instead a partnership and not Euro-centric (or "Western-centric") relations with democratic countries must be maintained. In short, geopolitics that maximises only one's own advantages leads to a dangerous dead end; the clash is inevitable.

Is the sole answer of the "West" really to use military means to prevail in geopolitical competition? Economically, it makes sense to reduce dependencies and diversify supply chains. This cannot be done by radical decoupling but must happen gradually. Apparently, the shock of the pandemic, but above all Russia's ability to blackmail by stopping energy supplies, has changed priorities somewhat. But by no means all priorities. Never since the early 1990s has the military burden on global income been as high as it is today, well over two percent with a trend towards further increases.

Arms control is currently not on the agenda. The United Nations and other arms control forums are side-lined. Politically ambitious powers such as China, India, Turkey and Saudi Arabia must be involved in arms control efforts. The G20 summits offer themselves almost "naturally" as the appropriate forum. The G20 initially focused its talks primarily on macro-economic issues, but have now also negotiated sustainable development, energy, the environment, and climate change, but not seriously on global security policy. However, the 19 G20 member states and the EU, which is also a member, are responsible for 82 percent of global military spending. Almost all arms exports are accounted for by the G20 and 98 percent of nuclear warheads are stored in their arsenals. Today's military-based defence efforts are concentrated in the G20.

Climate change and armaments policy are interconnected – most clearly reflected in the wars and violent conflicts of recent decades, refugee movements, migrant flows, and corresponding counter-reactions. If our societies are to become more resilient and ecologically sustainable, then priorities must be changed. Such a large proportion of resources cannot be permanently invested into the military without the prospect of de-escalation.

Although the risks of climate change and armament are known, there is currently no reversal of the trend in sight. The two crises are heading for a seemingly irrefutable catastrophe, reminiscent of the image of lemmings and their fall into the abyss. After the old world order with a halfway functioning multilateralism, with compromises and give-and-take, was replaced by nationalist aspirations—which then led to the violation of international law in the case of Russia, by emphasising nuclear weapons and the ruthless pursuit of supposed self-interests—climate agreements are being called into question and even terminated, arms control forums and corresponding treaties are being scrapped.

The members of this exclusive club are the main perpetrators of climate change. The climate change deniers can also be found here. The G20 members bear the main responsibility for the current disastrous trends. Thus, it is time to remind them of their responsibilities and urge them to reverse their policies.

[ Herbert Wulf is a Professor of International Relations and former Director of the Bonn International Center for Conflict Studies (BICC). He is presently a Senior Fellow at BICC, an Adjunct Senior Researcher at the Institute for Development and Peace, University of Duisburg/Essen, Germany, and a Research Affiliate at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago, New Zealand. He serves on the Scientific Councils of SIPRI and the Centre for Conflict Studies of the University of Marburg, Germany. ]

This article was first published by Toda Peace Institute on 21 December 2022 and is reproduced with permission.

Let's keep G20 non-political, India suggests ahead of meet

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India on Thursday said that the world was facing several challenges, including dealing with climate change, poverty and development, and sought the support of G20 members to keep the grouping "non-political." India's sherpa Amitabh Kant said Delhi is working with all members to ensure challenges around global debt and recession, in several parts of the world, are addressed, and "one issue can't hold back other things", in what was seen as a reference to the Ukraine war.

Sherpas from G20 nations are meeting in Kumarakom for the second meet of the key representative of world leaders and will discuss ways to deal with challenges. The sherpas will begin discussions on drafting the communique for the leaders' summit in September.


 India on Thursday said that the world was facing several challenges - including dealing with climate change, poverty and development - and sought the support of G20 members to keep the grouping "non-political".

India's sherpa Amitabh Kant said New Delhi is working with all members to ensure that challenges around global debt and recession, in several parts of the world, are addressed, and "one issue can't hold back other things", in what was seen as a reference to the Russia-Ukraine war.

Sherpas from G20 countries are meeting in the backwaters of Kumarakom for the second meeting of the key representative of world leaders and will discuss ways to deal with the challenges. "Kumarakom will provide peace and serenity to all the delegates. Kumarakom backwaters will enable us in the coming days to take the challenges of the world forward," Kant told a news conference.

With several meetings out of the way, the sherpas will begin discussions on drafting the communique for the leader's summit in September. Officials said unlike earlier, in India, all G20 countries are part of the deliberations, indicating a willingness to engage.

The Russia-Ukraine war has emerged as a sticking point for the developed world, led by the G7, while India has maintained that the G20 should remain an economic and development forum. India's stand found support from the Troika (which includes Indonesia and Brazil with South Africa as a special invitee). Sources said all emerging countries have said that issues such as global debt overhang, slowing global growth, inflation and climate action are key for them and need to be deliberated at the forum extensively for possible resolution.

During the day, Kant also held wide ranging discussion with his Russian counterpart as well as South Africa.

"We discussed everything under the sun with Russia. We are very positive and optimistic," said Kant. He said there was strong support for the development issues at the bilaterals that he had with sherpas of several countries, including Italy.


Ladakh Lessons–India Must Learn To Decipher China’s ‘Unpredictable & Secretive’ Foreign Policy

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China’s official foreign policy doctrine says that Beijing “does not participate in the arms race, nor does it seek military expansion. China resolutely opposes hegemonism, power politics, aggression and expansion in whatever form, as well as encroachments perpetrated by one country on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of another, or interference in the internal affairs of another nation under the pretext of ethnic, religious or human rights issues”.

That such an announcement looks good only on paper has been proven by the Ladakh, Doklam and Sumdorong Chu standoffs. And unfortunately, India has not learned much all these years, and perhaps it would learn to see things from a different perspective if the bloody Galwan Valley skirmishes were anything to go by.

It’s true that China maintains an independent foreign policy. “We are principled in international affairs, determining our own position and policies in accordance with the merits of each case and never yielding to pressure from major powers, nor entering into an alliance with any major power or power bloc,” reads Beijing’s foreign policy document, published on its Washington embassy website.

China does not have any permanent friend or foe; it keeps calibrating and recalibrating its foreign policy according to global situations. For instance, China sees India not as an enemy but as a military or potential business adversary and hence, the communist nation’s continued aggression along the disputed border in the Himalayas.

Beijing knows very well that border skirmishes are the best way to divert ‘nationalist’ India’s attention from its pressing domestic issues.

However, Beijing’s formula did not work very effectively this time thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. The world has been a different place since the novel Coronavirus struck humanity early last year. The pandemic blurred the boundaries between the nations, turned the mighty militaries into helpless creatures, made the richest the most-lonely people on the planet. When the world took a pause, the worldview changed.

China must have looked at these changes and fine-tuned its foreign policy according to the new circumstances. However, it would be foolish to expect a major transformation in what China has been pursuing all along – military maneuvers through territorial disputes. And it has stretched its arms already — from the heights of the Himalayas to the great expanse of the Indian Ocean.

New Delhi’s Dilemma

With India and China completing the disengagement process in eastern Ladakh, there is speculation whether New Delhi would join the US-led anti-China Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, better known as QUAD.

Japan Times reported recently that the QUAD members – Washington, Tokyo, Canberra, and New Delhi – were planning a meeting of their leaders. However, there is apprehension with regard to India’s position.

There is a reason to believe that New Delhi might be reluctant to join an overtly anti-China bloc at a time when it just struck a deal with Beijing to lower the temperatures at the de facto border in Ladakh.

After all, both India and China suffered immensely on the trade and business front owing to the nine-month-long border standoff. India, which had imposed some sort of sanctions on China and blocked over 100 Chinese mobile apps in the wake of the Galwan Valley incident, is looking to relax some of these measures.

According to news agency Reuters, India is likely to clear some investment proposals from China in the next few days. It quoted an Indian official as saying: “We’ll start giving approvals to some greenfield investment proposals, but we will only clear those sectors which are not sensitive to national security.”

This obviously does not indicate a sudden change of heart on India’s part – it’s a pure business necessity. The pandemic-battered Indian economy is in need of urgent repair and the immediate succor can come from China, the Asian giant, and India’s next-door neighbor. It works both ways – even China needs India’s help to bring its businesses back on track.

Given these circumstances, New Delhi may not be forthcoming about joining the US-led QUAD despite pressure from Washington although it’s more of a strategic alliance rather than an overtly military coalition like NATO.

Nonetheless, India must not lose sight of its long-term interest in the Asia-Pacific or what the US now calls the Indo-Pacific region. And for this, it has to do the difficult balancing act between dealing with an unpredictable neighbor and staying in touch with a strategic alliance. Although only time will tell if New Delhi is doing the right thing or not.


China’s growing influence threatens to undermine global human rights, new research finds

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China’s growing global influence poses a serious threat to international human rights, according to a new report, which suggests that the United Nations Human Rights Council — the body established to safeguard such international protections — is failing to counter the risks.

The UNHRC is an inter-governmental body made up of 47 U.N. member states, which are elected on a three-year rotational basis with the stated aim of strengthening the “promotion and protection of human rights” globally.

Yet research released Thursday by risk and strategic consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft suggests that it has instead become a “battleground for competing standards,” with China and allied member states showing signs of “watering down international action” and pushing their “own brand of human rights.”

Of particular note, it said that China was pushing a “statist ‘development first’ view of human rights” on council members and undermining individual freedoms by “emphasizing economic development above all other rights.”

China’s ministry of foreign affairs did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment on the findings.

The research, part of the firm’s wider annual Human Rights Outlook, is based on quantitative data from sources including the U.N., the U.S. State Department and Human Rights Watch, as well as Verisk Maplecroft’s internal qualitative analysis.

It also found that China is using its economic power to sway council votes, with grantees of China’s “Belt & Road Initiative” most susceptible to influence.

At least 35 of the 47 UNHRC member states belong to the BRI — China’s global infrastructure development project — many of which are Asian or African countries with similar, or worse, scores on the company’s human rights indices, the study noted.

UNHRC acting spokesperson, Pascal Sim, rejected the claims, stating that “no one state runs the council or dominates the agenda.”

“All states, big and small, have an equal voice and immense potential to inform and influence the action of this intergovernmental body charged with promoting and protecting human rights around the world,” Sim added in emailed comments to CNBC.

Political maneuvering

Among its criticism, the report highlighted China’s approach to civil and political rights — and chiefly freedom of speech and expression — as particularly concerning.

Such behavior was being echoed by other UNHRC states, it said, with almost three-quarters (70%) of current members ranking as high or extreme risks for such rights. Those include Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Spokespersons for the respective governments did not immediately respond to CNBC requests for comment.

More than half of members also ranked similarly poorly across the three other metrics the research deemed essential for upholding humanitarian protections: labor rights, human security and human development.

Of the 30 members that rated as extreme or high risk for labor rights, 18 recorded a drop in their score from 2017, 15 of which were BRI signatories.

The report also found that China was using increasingly sophisticated maneuvering of key UNHRC mechanisms to contain criticism, with states increasingly partaking in the whitewash of Beijing’s rights record.

It said the most “astounding diplomatic victory” came with the rejection of a U.S.-proposed draft resolution on holding a debate on Xinjiang in October 2022, which was backed by Muslim-majority states and BRI signatories including Indonesia, the UAE and Qatar.

Human rights groups accuse Beijing of abuses against Uyghurs, a mainly Muslim ethnic minority group indigenous to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China. The U.S. has accused China of committing genocide. Beijing has vigorously denied it carries out any abuses.

The findings come at a time of heightened Western skepticism toward China, with U.S. and European allies raising various concerns ranging from the potential national security threats posed by Chinese technology to Beijing’s alliance with Moscow.

“Beijing’s increasingly active role in the international human rights system comes at a precarious period of global democratic deterioration, economic slowdown and severe geopolitical polarization — all with knock-on effects on human rights,” Sofia Nazalya, senior human rights analyst at Verisk Maplecroft and the report’s author, said.

“The upshot is that international human rights norms may weaken at the expense of vulnerable populations, while businesses will have to navigate and decode competing, and often conflicting, views on what constitutes an abuse and what doesn’t from the Council itself.”

Separate analysis released Tuesday found that China has significantly increased its bailout lending for distressed nations over recent years, loaning $185 billion to BRI debtors in the past five years alone.

The report, which was co-authored by the World Bank, said the uptick marked a shift toward a more “opaque and uncoordinated” global system for cross-border rescue lending, which threatens to undermine existing monetary architecture and the role of traditional institutions like the International Monetary Fund.

On Monday, Amnesty International released its latest “the state of the world’s human rights” report, in which it said that the world had experienced increased war crimes, crimes against humanity, repression of universal freedoms, economic crises and rising inequality over the past year.


China Again Accused of Meddling in Canada's Elections

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Allegations are piling up against China for interloping in Canada's most recent federal elections to support Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party. A Conservative candidate, who ran close to Vancouver, said his defeat in 2021 was caused by a systematic misinformation campaign.

In 2019, a member of Conservative Party of Canada, Kenny Chui, got elected as a member of Parliament for Steveston Richmond-East. Well over 50 per cent of the people in his Vancouver suburb are of Chinese descent. Nevertheless, he was defeated by a Liberal Party candidate, who is now the constituency's MP, in the subsequent election held 22 months later.

The Liberal Party gained almost 1,800 votes in the district in the 2021 election over the previous year. Contrarily, Chiu saw a decrease in support of over 4,400 votes from the previous election.

Beyond the figures, Chiu observed a change in the way people responded to him during the 2021 election. According to him, in 2019 people were kind and engaged him in discussion but not so in 2021.

Chiu recalled, "Some of them were obviously disturbed, frustrated, and yet some of them are even showing signs of being angry," adding, "And at the time, I was quite puzzled. What was that all about? Because, I mean, again, it's only been 22 months and it's during a pandemic."

Chiu, who was born in Hong Kong and moved to Canada, said he later learned using Disinfo Watch, McGill University in Quebec, and the Atlantic Council that he had been the target of a disinformation campaign intended to sway Chinese voters.

He claimed that false allegations about the Conservative Party and Chiu himself planning to ban the Chinese instant messaging app WeChat in Canada.

Many members of the Chinese community in Canada can only contact friends and family in China using WeChat. Remembering some of the specific rumours, Chiu said, "He is anti-Chinese. He hates Chinese. He's a traitor."

Chiu added, "And all these labels are levelled on me personally. There have also been articles written saying that the Conservatives leader back then, is going to ban WeChat." Not everyone sees it as a conspiracy. Veteran Liberal Party worker Mark Marissen said the 2021 Conservative campaign and then leader Erin O'Toole did, in fact, take a stronger stance against China.

Marissen has handled numerous campaigns at the federal, provincial, and local levels.

Mariseen told VOA, "There was a real opposition amongst many people within the community to the way that O'Toole was campaigning about China." In the future, organisations like CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, should be more vigilant in their examination of potential foreign interference in elections, said Kareem Allam, who has managed multiple campaigns for Conservative candidates.

Allam said, "But if I have a concern about a candidate, potentially with regards to foreign interference related matters, CSIS is legally bound to not report on any Canadian nations," adding, "And if you're running for Canadian office, you have to be a Canadian citizen. So there's no way for me to clarify whether this person - who could end up being a member of parliament who could end up being a cabinet minister."

Earlier also, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had revealed the ways in which the Chinese government has attempted to tamper with Canadian elections.

This gives support to a number of allegations regarding the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) behaviour that has been circulating for years.

This includes the Conservative Party of Canada's claim that the interference cost it seats in the 2021 federal election, along with allegations about the operation of illegal "police stations" used by China to gather information on the Chinese diaspora in Canada, Asian Times reported.

Prime Minister Trudeau had announced that his government will appoint a "special rapporteur", who will work with two national security committees to probe the details of the controversy, Asian Times reported.

The allegations not only raise questions about the integrity of Canadian democracy itself but also the complicity of the government in not properly addressing it and the appearance that the Liberals deliberately underplayed, denied or buried allegations of interference because they benefited from it, Asian Times reported.

The recent leaks not only prove this is happening in Canada but, more seriously, demonstrate that Canadian security organisations are struggling to find ways to manage it as Chinese interference strategies continue to develop. The leaks damaged the organization's international credibility and will likely make it more difficult for CSIS to acquire sensitive information.