New announcement. Learn more

About 2023 PARSS Reports

In an increasingly interconnected world, power dynamics and geopolitical landscapes are constantly evolving. For decades, the US has been seen as the unrivalled global superpower, wielding considerable influence across the globe. However, in recent years, a significant shift has been observed, as the resurgent Russia and the rise of China  challenge the status quo. 

If Russia manages to synchronize its Black Sea A2/AD system with the one in the Mediterranean, it would gain a greater monopoly over the SLCOs supplying the Suez Canal, and consequently, over the Red Sea and Indian Ocean regions. But, Iran also has a great interest in the Mediterranean Sea and Red Sea . And thus, controlling the Suez Canal and having influences in the Horn of Africa are imperative. With their common interest in the Horn of Africa, will Iran be Russia's adversary? If not, what is the impact of the alliance on the security of Iran's enemy, Israel? 

The Middle East has a significant influence on the world stability. For instance, in the past, tensions in the region have caused spikes in oil prices. In 2019, after the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and imposed sanctions on Iran, tensions in the Strait of Hormuz increased, and oil prices rose as fears of supply disruption intensified. In the event of a military conflict, oil supplies passing through the Strait of Hormuz could be disrupted, leading to a reduction in the supply of oil to the global market. This disruption in supply can lead to a rise in oil prices as demand remains relatively constant, and the limited supply results in an increase in price. There have been several notable incidents, including the attacks on oil tankers in the region in May and June 2011, and the downing of a US drone by Iran in June 2019.

Political tensions in the Middle East have also opened the opportunity for Iran to strengthen its military capabilities throughout the Middle East which has ramifications on stability in the Middle East.  Political upheaval in Lebanon, for instance, has strengthened Iran’s military proxy by supporting the Hezbollah. Another example is the anarchy in Yemen which had compelled Iran to fortify its military arms by supporting the Houthis rebels. Consequently, the activities of Houthis rebels are not only aimed at countering the Arab Sunnis but also aimed at being a gatekeeper of one of the important sea gateways: Bab El-Mandeb strait.

How has Iran’s role evolved in the political landscape of the Middle East amidst recent regional shifts and conflicts? What factors have contributed to Iran’s increasing influence in the region, and how has it impacted the balance of power? To what extent has Iran capitalised on the power vacuum and conflicts in the Middle East to expand its regional influence? And lastly, what are the implications of Iran’s growing influence for regional stability and security, and the interests of other countries in the Middle East?

As the geopolitical landscape undergoes significant shifts, driven by the rise of emerging powers, changing alliances, and complex security and economic challenges, the reports also explore the prospects for cooperation and confrontation among Asian states.  The 2023 PARSS reports address these questions: What are the factors that facilitate conflict and confrontation? What are the factors that facilitate cooperation? By identifying the emerging players in Asia, and analysing key factors, such as regional organisations, strategic partnerships, and competing interests, this report seeks to shed light on the potential trajectory of Asia's future, offering insights into whether cooperation or confrontation will prevail in shaping the region's destiny. 

Europe emerges as a significant player in shaping the course of international affairs. This changing landscape prompts a crucial question: have the European powers strengthened their position in the international affairs, and pave the way for a new global order? In this exploration, the reports first redefine hegemony by assessing the US’s global influence in the South China Sea, the Middle East, and Horn of Africa. A special focus on the Middle East region and Horn of Africa is highlighted in the reports as they are closely related to the Europe’s evolving role. The reports delve into the evolving role of Europe in a changing world, examining the factors driving this shift, the implications for global power dynamics, and the potential consequences for the future of international relations.

The PARSS reports have been prepared by the Chair and Patron of APSI Forum. 

The views expressed in these reports are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of APSI Forum and Center of Excellence

From Europe to MENA (Middle East and North Africa) and Asia-Pacific

May 22, 2022

Dr Anita Abbott
Chair and Patron, APSI Forum and Center of Excellence
Strategy Director, Asia Pacific Global Foundation

The views expressed in this newsletter are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SIFFA International, and APSI Forum and Center of Excellence

Putin certainly knew if Russia attacked Ukraine, the Europeans would ban the import of energy from Russia, and seek new suppliers from the Middle East. There is one distinctive challenge for the European powers seeking stronger alliances in the Middle East: Iran has growing influence in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. In the Middle East, Iran has sought alliances with Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya. Iraq, the second-largest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), has had good relations with Iran. Like former Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Maliki, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi also has maintained a relationship with Iran. Iran has also been able to assist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Libya. In Yemen, Iran has supported the Houtis rebels.

On the Horn of Africa, Iran extended its influence by providing financial and military support to countries in East Africa.To control the Red Sea, significant influence in Djibouti and Eritrea is imperative to Iran. It is not surprising that Iran has used bases in Eritrea to train the Houtis rebels. This sponsorship means that the vital sea lanes from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea will be controlled by Iran. Controlling the Red Sea and its two gates: Suez Canal and Bab-El Mandeb Strait will become of paramount importance to Iran. The Red Sea has served as a major trade outlet for its coastal states, especially Sudan and Ethiopia. To control the southern entrance to the Red Sea, we can expect Iran to exert its influence in Ethiopia.

The Red Sea is one of the main routes for oil and trade between Europe and the East , and the Suez Canal is a significant route for energy and commodities, from Asia and the Middle East to Europe. Growing Iranian influence in the Middle East means if a crisis develops in the Middle East and Arab nations form a coalition with Iran and Russia and turn off the oil as an act of retaliation, Europe would suffer significant harm. Iran’s Red Sea strategy has the potential to stop this flow of oil. As Russia has sought to enhance its energy statecraft through shaping global energy markets through the Persian Gulf, both Iran and Russia could stop the flow of essential energy supplies to Europe.

How would the European powers respond to the rise of such an alliance? With regards to Russia’s energy statecraft, reducing dependence on Russia’s energy, the necessity of building a gas pipeline known as EastMed, in order to transport Israeli gas to Europe, becomes a prolific theme in much discussion among political observers. Another player evolves: Turkey. Turkey’s dependence on Iranian and Russian gas is the impetus for Erdogan’s interest in the EastMed pipeline. The US is less enthusiastic about EastMed pipeline. The implication of EastMed pipeline and states that are interested in this pipeline could worsen Israel’s relationship with Russia in addition to current tensions over Syria.

Disputes over energy have the potential to lead to military conflict. Germany has countered Iran through arms deals with Saudi Arabia, Iran’s rival. Iran is expanding its influence into Libya and Egypt, and to control the Southern entrance to the Red Sea, Iran needs to control Eritrea and Somalia. But, Germany has arms deals with Egypt, and Algeria which lies at Libya’s western border. An emerging question is, “what if Germany chooses to side with Russia?” An unlikely scenario indeed but if building stronger coalitions is in Germany’s strategic interest, expecting the unexpected is necessary. After all, current allies can turn into future adversaries, and vice versa. To address this matter, stronger leadership within Europe, and unification of the European states becomes imperative. But then, the unification of Europe will present another implication for the Middle East in particular, and the world in general.

With the uncertainly and volatility of the global political situation, the analysis of an interconnected world is imperative.

APSI PARSS (Preparatory Action for Research on Strategic Studies) is aimed at enhancing the analysis of an interconnected world. Its visiting researchers and experts include: Dr Fabrizzio Bozzatto, Dr Anita Abbott, Dr Jesus Domingo, Dr Joanna Siekiera, Dr Vira Ratsiborynska, MGen Ravi Arora, MGen Ger-Johannes Hagemann (Ret), and SGM Anthony Spadaro (Ret), Paul Cobaugh, General Sir James Everard (Ret), VAdm Paul Bennett (Ret), and Rodger Baker.

Is nuclear arms control impossible in South Asia?

May 3, 2022

Dr Anita Abbott
Chair and Patron, APSI Forum and Centre of Excellence
Strategy Director, Asia Pacific Global Foundation

The views expressed in this newsletter are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of APSI and SIFFA

To address the question of whether or not nuclear arms control and disarmament in South Asia can be achieved, it is necessary to understand whether or not states such as Pakistan and India change their direction to nuclear restraint; bilateral relations between Pakistan and India; resolution of the Kashmir dispute; and how they interact with the Nuclear Non Proliferation Norms (NNPN), .

The role of a player other than India and Pakistan plays an important role in the changing of preference of the states toward nuclear restraint. India's reluctance to accept binding non-proliferation and disarmament commitments, for instance, relates to China's role. China has been deeply involved with Pakistan's nuclear development which has led India to develop a larger nuclear arsenal. India has war fighting capabilities that include Shourya nuclear missiles, Prahaar, Brahmos, and Nirbhay missiles. India has also developed Akula, the nuclear attack submarine; Sagarika and K-4, the seaborne missiles; and Arihant. India’s war fighting capability indicates that arms build up is still India’s strategic deterrence. 

India’s assertive move has caused considerable tension with Pakistan and potentially with China. India’s land based ballistic missiles include Prithvi, Agni I and II that can target Pakistan, and Agni V that can target China. Pakistan responded with counter threat actions and deterrence against an Indian conventional military attack in Kashmir. 

The India-Pakistan bilateral relationship is complex due to their historical and political narratives. Nonetheless, ultimate resolution of the Kashmir dispute has the potential to change their preference in the direction of nuclear constraint. The Kashmir dispute is not only religious but also a territorial matter. Until both security concerns are addressed and fulfilled, nuclear arms control in South Asia is far from possible.

APSI Forum and Centre of Excellence's guests and experts in the area of nuclear deterrence include:  Dr Mansoor Ahmed from Centre for International Strategic Studies in Pakistan, Lt General Sunil Srivastava from the Indian Army, MGen Ravi Arora, and Dr David Jonas, Adjunct professor of Law at George Washington University.

Energy Statecraft and Competitive Bargaining

March 31, 2022

Dr Anita Abbott

Chair and Patron, APSI Forum and Centre of Excellence
Strategy Director, Asia Pacific Global Foundation

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of APSI Forum and Center of Excellence

Will Russia’s energy statecraft brings China closer to Russia?   Some analysts argue that Russia’s energy statecraft does not bring China closer to Russia. It is understandable for several reasons. China’s initiatives in  Eurasia have the potential to heighten Sino-Russian tension. China’s ties with Kazakhstan, for instance, will challenge Russia which has been the region’s dominant neighbour. China’s investment in maritime throughout the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea through its Belt and Road initiative will also challenge Russia.  Both China and Russia, however, need each other, China needs Russia’s energy, and Russia needs China’s energy markets particularly if the Western powers sanction Russia. What is more, pivoting to the east is Russia’s strategy to strengthen its bargaining power with the Western powers. 

China’s initiative will affect Eurasia’s inter relations. China’s initiative in Gwadar, for instance,  will unsettle India as it has the potential to intensify the Indo-Pakistani tension.  In the past, Russia was able to embrace India and China together through BRICS. The strength of the eastern block will depend on the strategic influence of Russia (Please visit the report from SIFFA International, 

Although both China and Russia need each other, the alliance will be stronger if Russia embraces Iran. Russia seeks to enhance its energy statecraft through shaping global energy markets through the Persian Gulf.  Iran and Russia signed memorandum of understanding on energy cooperation in 2019, and has maintained this cooperation.  Both Iran and Russia could stop the flow of essential energy supplies to Europe. Iran has Red Sea strategy that has the potential to stop this flow. Iran has sponsored Houthi rebels. This sponsorship means that the vital sea lanes from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea will be controlled by Iran. Controlling Red Sea and its two gates : Suez Canal and Bab-El Mandeb Strait will become of paramount importance to Iran. 

If China-Russia-Iran is an invincible alliance, how will the European powers respond to the rise of this alliance? Germany has countered Iran through arm deals with Saudi Arabia, Iran’s rival.  Iran is expanding its influence into Libya and Egypt, and to control the Southern entrance to the Red Sea, Iran needs to control  Eritrea and Somalia. But, Germany has arms deals with Egypt, and Algeria which lies at Libya’s western border (See for further analysis on should and how the European powers will respond to the rise of China-Iran-Russia alliance). 

Taking control of strategic and vital sea lanes of communication surrounding Eurasia  is becoming of intense interest and a pursuit of great powers in the Eurasia. APSI Forum and Centre of Excellence/s guests/experts in this area include: Rodger Baker , Senior Vice President, Strategic Analysis Stratfo,  Dr Vira Ratsiborynska, Associate Director of SIFFA International, Asia-Pacific and Europe Global (APEG) Foundation, Dr Lukas Filler, Senior Adviser (Non-Resident), Freeman Chair in China Studies, CSIS, and MGen Gert-Johannes Hagemann (Ret), Board of Director of APSI Forum and Center of Excellence.

Strategic thinking for a positive sum game

March 13, 2022

Dr Anita Abbott
Chair and Patron of APSI Forum and Center of Excellence
Strategy Director, Asia Pacific Global Foundation

There are several crucial elements in strategic thinking for achieving a positive sum game, where states cooperate for mutual benefits. The first element is thinking about the end game. What is the end game of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? Putin stated that the collapse of the Soviet empire, “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century” has been the impetus to revive the glory of the Soviet empire, and the Europeans in the EU and NATO have been the impediment to achieve this revival. Caucasus areas are significant to Russia as much of Russia’s oil comes from the Baku region on the western Caspian Sea. Any foreign interference in this area will certainly ignite conflict. 

Energy is Russia’s strategic asset. Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia was a major supplier of energy to Europe, especially Germany (see:;  Will allying with Middle Eastern states, other than Iran, be an appropriate move for the Europeans?   (Please read the analysis of Asia-Pacific Global Foundation (

The second element is thinking about what others think about themselves, allies and partners, and adversaries.  Does Russia see itself as a revisionist or a victim?  The Russian narrative is that US presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton promised the Russians that NATO would not expand into the former Soviet Union  But, in 1998, NATO embraced Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.  In February 2008, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. Moscow did not want the independence movement but the Europeans supported the separation. This, for Russia, was a declaration of war. Following Kosovo's declaration of independence, Russia struck Georgia in August 2008.  Former president George Bush tried to bring Georgia into NATO but failed due to opposition from several countries, principally Germany and France, who considered the decision would anger Russia. For Russia, it is a matter of survival. If Georgia was part of NATO, the Europeans would be on the doorstep of Russia and thus the security of oil supplies on the western Caspian would be in jeopardy. Clearly, Russia sees itself as both revisionist and victim. 

Russia’s war in Ukraine is a European matter. Russian military action in Georgia did not inspire European unification. Will the invasion of Ukraine make the European states stronger?  (Please read the analysis of Asia-Pacific Global Foundation ( If Russia sees itself as a victim and resurgent, forming and strengthening alliances with other countries is certainly the next step to win a negative sum game.  China, Iran, and India, are possible candidates for military alliance with Russia. China, which perceives itself as having a legal right to rule over the South China Sea, Taiwan, and some parts of India, cannot dominate Asia without the Russian’s military backing.  Iran is also a possible candidate for a military alliance with Russia. Iran’s Al-Shahab is not only able to reach Israel but also several countries in Europe, such as Belgium, Bulgaria, and Poland.  Is a China-Russia-Iran military alliance invincible? (Please read the analysis of Asia-Pacific Global Foundation  India tends to back Russia while western powers have condemned Russia’s actions. In 2008, for example, India did not oppose the Russian invasion of Georgia. In 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, India backed Russia again. It is not surprising, as Russia has always supported India. Traced back to 1918, Lenin said, “There can be no general peace without a free independent India... We, Russia's Revolutionaries and International Socialists, feel it is our duty to rejoice at the announcement of a revolution in India…”  Even after the British granted India’s independence, the Soviets built and maintained a close relationship with India.  Modi affirms the relationship between India and Russia as essential. He stated, “Russia has been India’s foremost defence partner through the decades.” With the bumpy relationship between India and China, is it possible for China to get along with India?  (Please read the analysis of Asia-Pacific Global Foundation ( The Chinese People’s Liberation Army began a joint counter-terrorism exercise in 2015 but in 2020, India did not participate in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation counter terror exercise- Kavkaz in Russia as the exercise involved the participation of Chinese and Pakistani forces.  It is important to note, however, that current allies and partners can be future adversaries, and vice versa.

Putin sees the weakness of the Europeans.  Russia could assure the European states of consequences if they dare to make enemies of Russia.  Russia’s oil pipelines run from Siberia to the Pacific coast, which means that it is likely Asian countries, such as Japan, India, China, and South Korea will continue to purchase Russia’s energy. The task for the west, therefore, is to embrace their Asian partners and allies and not abandon them.  (Please attend the APSI Forum webinar on the 1st of April 2022. For further information, visit:

The next element is to think about past and future possibilities and analyse them to find causes and effects. Serbia was an ally of the US during WWI and WWII, and Germany was their enemy. This was reversed during the Yugoslavia war where Germany became the ally of the US. A lesson learned: current allies can be future adversaries, and vice versa.  To Moscow, the Europeans, led by Germany, ignored Russia over Kosovo. Will Russia be ignored again? Russia will continue to be a formidable adversary, and thus it is formidable for NATO to continue to embrace further eastward.

Thinking strategically without acting is dangerous and extremely useless. Where to from here?  Hitler’s _Mein Kampf_ was a foretelling of what he planned to do and his statements should have been taken seriously. Similarly, Putin’s statement, “if I want to, I can take Kiev in a fortnight,” is an incendiary statement not to be taken lightly. Taking smart risks is imperative. Strategist, John Braddock argues that it is essential to remove certain necessary conditions to achieve zero probability of unwanted events happening. Honouring an agreement and not neglecting allies and partners is a necessary condition for ensuring zero probability of unwanted circumstances occurring.

Strategic thinking is indeed imperative for achieving a positive sum game. By thinking strategically, possible end games and what others think about themselves, allies and partners, and adversaries can be understood. Hence, a positive sum game, where states cooperate, can be achieved.

The views expressed in this short article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Asia-Pacific Security Innovation Forum

The Art of Geo-Strategic Thinking

February 1, 2022

By: Dr Anita Abbott
Chair and Patron, APSI Forum and Center of Excellence

Geo-strategic thinking is necessary for understanding adversaries' foreign policy that is geographically driven. Strategic importance of Taiwan to China, for instance, is one of the reasons for the escalation of tension between China and Republic of China (Taiwan) relations. China’s increased dependence on energy resources in the Middle East and the southern hemisphere, and the sea-lanes which skirt Taiwan are impetus for tensions. By being independent, China fears that Taiwan has the ability to cut off Chinese supply lines.  The corollary to the US and allies such as Japan is clear: the ability of US forces and allies to control nearby islands is restricted. It will be difficult for Japan to defend Yonaguni Island and the Senkaku Islands.  Another example of geo-strategic importance is the Indian Ocean.  Chinese trade and energy resources transit the Indian Ocean. More than two thirds of global oil  is shipped through the Indian Ocean, and 80% of Japan's and China's oil passes this route. Geo-strategic thinking is then imperative in order to counter China, to avoid war, and to prepare credible plans to deter adversaries.

In Europe, Ukraine's geopolitical position is significant to both the Russians and Europeans, as it is the largest country on Russia's western border, and it contributes to European security. In Bucharest Summit Declaration, NATO viewed the Black Sea as important for Euro Atlantic Security. For Russia, Russia has several major oil pipes that run through Ukraine to Europe. Hence, it is unlikely that Russia submits to the western powers. 

Following are some elements in geo-strategic thinking: Firstly, understanding how allies and adversaries see themselves. Does Russia see itself as a revisionist? Do others see Russia as a victim or aggressor? what are their values? Secondly, understanding the end games. By first understanding how allies and adversaries see themselves, it is easier to identify their endgames and hence knowing what they are willing to negotiate. Thirdly, analysing patterns of cooperation and conflict, and identifying significant players in the cooperation and conflict. In the conflict between the West and Russia over Ukraine, for instance Germany is one of important players that is responsible for sharing western policy.  Both Russia and Germany enjoyed good relations before Crimea crisis.  As Germany plays a role in sharing western policy, analysing the pattern of conflict and cooperation between Germany and Russia will be a good starting point. Analysing the patterns of conflict and cooperation develops understanding of the capability of adversaries and allies, and what the adversaries might do in order to advance their strategies.

Western strategies have often included deterrence and sanctions. Responding to the western strategies, Russia has deployed missile systems close to NATO member states' territory, utilised cyber attacks and _dezinformatsiya_ or false information, and expanded military cooperation with China, Iran, and Turkey. This presents another challenge to NATO. Will Turkey, one of NATO's member states, become an ally of Russia? Is it possible? If yes, under what conditions? To address this question, last but not least, the next element in geo-strategic thinking is Strategic Foresight Analysis.

APSI will launch its Strategic Collective Training Program.  Some of our experts include: Dr Vira Ratsiborynska, Hunter Stires, Dr Anita Abbott, MGen (Ret) Gert-Johannes Hagemann, SGM (Ret) Anthony Spadaro, Dr Joanna Siekiera, MGen (Ret) Ravi Arora, General (Ret) James Everard, Adm (Ret) Paul Bennet, Dr Jesus Domingo, and Dr Fabrizio Bozzato. 

For further information about the course please contact: 


December 3, 2021

Dr Anita Abbott
Chair and Patron, APSI Forum and Center of Excellence

Ideologically driven terrorism is one of the causes of human insecurity. Countering such terrorism will inevitably involve risk taking as it will involve the elimination of  the necessary conditions for the terrorists to achieve their objectives. 

Many studies have been carried out on the psychological aspects of terrorism. To develop a model of strategic risk taking, understanding what motivates the terrorists to do what they do is indeed a good starting point. 

Strategic risk taking to counter terrorism involves certain necessary elements. Firstly, understanding the strategies of the terrorists at several levels, - globally, nationally, and even at the individual level, is imperative. There are internal dynamics in terrorist networks, and hierarchical leadership structures. Thus, it is necessary to understand how the terrorist leaders influence their followers and potential followers. 

Secondly, knowing all possibilities. Will diplomatic efforts work? Will negotiating with the terrorist work? If yes, at what cost? Will sanctions be a better option? Is taking the offensive necessary? At the international level, knowing all possibilities can also be achieved through shared intelligence. One of the ways to do so is through partnership and alliance. 

Thirdly, eliminating unwanted possibilities of terrorists achieving their goals.  Strategic risk taking means taking smart, necessary calculated risks. But, how about if the result of the strategy is miscalculated?  And what if a necessary strategy is high risk but with a chance of it working? 

APSI Forum and Center of Excellence has distinguished scholars in the area of human security and counter terrorism strategy: Travis Frain, the co-founder of Survivors Against Terror, and Lt Col Uri Ben Yakoov from International Institute for Counter Terrorism, and  Dr Joanna Siekiera.

Global Communications: Threats and Challenges

October 21, 2021

Dr Anita Abbott
Chair and Patron of APSI Forum and Center of Excellence

The CCP is exploiting communication technology to expand its influence abroad. Hengtong Group, for instance, is one of the world's four suppliers of submarine cables which carry 95% of international data. China's global navigation satellite system, Beidou, is another example. It has established Space Silk Road cooperation and gained influence in the Asia-Pacific regions. The CCP's Digital Silk Road (DSR) indeed extends from outer space to the ocean floor.

Communication technology can certainly be a strategic tool for asymmetric competition. If China wins the world's AI race, China will be able to gather more of the world's data through its digital activities.

To build a strategy, understanding the type of the game that the key actors are playing is essential. Elon Musk's Space X may have set up tremendous satellite internet constellations that will enable the provision of global broadband but China has also had its own agenda, plan, and endgame. The communication network competition has begun. What can the US and allies do to win this competition?

APSI Forum is hosting a webinar on Global Communications: Threats and Challenges on the 28th of October from 6pm to 8pm NZST. The webinar will be facilitated interactively by SGT (Ret) Anthony Spadaro, who is one of the board of advisors of APSI Forum. Excellent speakers include Dr Lukas Filler and MGYSGT Scott Stalker.

The winning strategy of the Taliban

August 20, 2021
By: Anita Abbott
Chair and Patron, APSI Forum and Center of Excellence

The collapse of the Afghan government, and the withdrawal of NATO and US troops have allowed the Taliban to declare its victory.  What went wrong? Many observers reason that intelligence failures and the corruption of the Afghan government have contributed to this collapse. It is hard for many realists to grasp: the Taliban lacks military power but yet it has won.  Indeed, the ramification of the weak Afghan government is a failed state. But surely, the Taliban’s strategy has rendered its triumph. 

Three points have led to the Taliban's victory. First, the Taliban has networks that sustained its activity. The UN reports that between 1996 and 2000, the opium production under the Taliban doubled as a result of its agreement with transnational criminal organizations.  The Taliban also has a strong alliance with Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin that has opposed the Afghan government. 

Second, the Taliban has utilised peace talks and diplomacy to buy time. The west fails to see that peace agreement will never be reached with the Taliban. In February 2020, when peace agreement in Doha was reached, the Taliban broke the agreement and continued to attack civilians and Afghan Security forces.  Another example is Al Gama’a Al-Islamiyya and Taliban declared that they were willing to suspend hostilities but they were buying time for strengthening their activities. 

Third, the Taliban’s distraction worked. International organisations and collective defence focused on Southern Afghanistan where it was dominated by the Taliban but did not focus on Northern Afghanistan. A political analyst in Kabul, Ramish Salemi, said, “the Northern region is strategic for the Taliban because they believe that if they can conquer these non-Pashtun territories, they can easily take control of the south and the capital, Kabul.” 

Taliban’s winning strategy worked. What will Afghanistan be like under the Taliban? APSI Forum and COE invites its distinguished guest, Irfan Yar, Founder of the Afghanistan Security Institute to share his views on the Taliban and the future of Afghanistan. 

A deadly scenario : What a war with Iran would look like

August 29, 2019

Dr Anita Abbott
Chair and Patron, APSI Forum 

Compelling evidence exists that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and has a calculated ability to destroy its enemies. Tehran recently announced that it would begin uranium enrichment beyond agreed limits. IAEA spokesperson Fredrik Dahl confirmed that Iran enriches uranium above the cap. Under the nuclear deal, the cap was set at 3.6%, which is enough for peaceful pursuits. According to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran had a need for 5% enriched uranium, and it was being enriched to 4.5%. Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran’s nuclear agency, stated that Iran might consider going to 20% enrichment or higher, which would provide it with fissile materials that could be used in an atomic weapon.

Tensions have escalated between the US and Iran since the US withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Ships have been attacked near the Strait of Hormouz; Iran shot down an American drone in June, and President Trump called off a retaliatory strike.
China, Russia, and others have embraced Iran despite their concerns with the development of Iran’s centrifuges. It is understandable, as like Iran, both China and Russia are ambitious revisionist powers who, though once unwilling to engage American-led power, are no longer reluctant to challenge the US.

What is the end game? Who are the winners in the US-Iran conflict? What are the prospects for future multidimensional agreements? In order to address such questions it is necessary to examine the dynamics in the Iran nuclear deal, and take other players such as China and Russia, into consideration.

Iran has had substantial support from China and Russia in many ways. Iran needs cooperation from Russia and China for several reasons. First, they are both permanent members of UN Security Council. Second, both are necessary as sources of weaponry, for maintaining regional influence, and for pushing the US and its allies out of the Caspian Sea, where both Iran and Russia have conducted military drills. Russia is also Iran’s main nuclear supplier.

European states are also essential players with the potential to influence the outcome of US-Iran disputes. Iran is the solution to the problem of the European’s dependence on Russia’s energy. The lure of trade with Iran cannot be ignored; European exports constituted 40% of Iran’s imports. Many European companies, however, would rather abandon trade deals with Iran than lose business in the US market. France, for example, has cooperated with Saudi Arabia instead of Iran. As with China and Russia, however, Europe has been unable to counter the US sanctions against Iran.

The Europeans, unlike the US, do not focus on sanctions, instead exhorting Iran to abide by the JCPOA agreement’s terms. Ayatollah Khamenei, however, tweeted a speech excerpt saying that, “Iran will continue the process of cutting down on its JCPOA commitments.” He also said that, “Regarding our ties with Europeans, what makes problems persist is their arrogance,” adding, “According to our foreign minister, Europe made 11 commitments, none of which they abided by….” When President Trump ended waivers that allowed some countries to buy Iranian oil, Iran declared that it would begin walking away from the deal unless the Europeans could deal with the US and shield Iran’s economy.
What if the US and its allies were to attack? President Trump has warned that, “Iran better be careful.” But, the assistance of Iran’s allies, Russia and China, is limited to calling for mediation. President Putin warned the US of warring with Iran, stating that, “should the United States try to use force against Iran, a catastrophe will follow, because the effects of a military approach are very hard to gauge.”

The worst scenario is if Iran wins, as nothing can stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran could reach a point of nuclear no return. “If the remaining countries in the deal, especially the Europeans, do not fulfil their commitments seriously, and do nothing more than talk, Iran’s third step will be harder, more steadfast and somehow stunning” said Khamenei.

One question is whether the Europeans will be silent about this threat. Iran has pushed Europe and certainly Europe will respond. According to SIPRI, Germany and France are the largest exporters of arms in the world after the US and Russia. Both Germany and France have military influence in the Middle East. France has approximately 1,200 military personnel there. Germany has sent 168 warheads to Qatar, including four RAM naval missile systems and dozens of Leopard II tanks.
 Other states are of course also involved. Mojtaba Zolnour, chairman of Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, stated, “If the US attacks us, only half an hour will remain of Israel’s lifespan.” If the dispute reaches a deadlock, it could well prompt military action by the US and Israel. However, not only will Iran respond, but the role of Russia and China should not be ignored. The implications for Israel could be disastrous.

One important player that seems to be forgotten is Europe. The US’s diminished role in the Middle East and its strategic shift to Asia mean that European allies cannot rely on the US’s protection, and will therefore acquire their own nuclear weapons. Germany is now one of the world’s leaders in uranium enrichment through the URENCO enrichment company. Like China’s strategy of, ‘hide our capabilities and bide our time,’ Germany’s ability to acquire nuclear weapons and its role in the Middle East cannot be ignored.

There will be no winners in the conflict. Iran’s endgame to counter US power and maintain regional influence is only possible through a coalition with China and Russia. Iran’s aspiration to wipe Israel off the map means that Israel will be the target, but the US’s diminishing role in the Middle East means the US will not be able to assist Israel. If a victory can be achieved through coalition with China and Russia, it will be only temporary, as European states are also important players. If Germany, once a prominent voice for nuclear disarmament, develops nuclear weapons, the non-proliferation treaty would then no longer be effective, and thus we would face a new and dangerous age of nuclear-weapon rivalry. Diplomacy and engagement are still necessary for preventing escalation and for maintaining the non-proliferation regime.

Russia's re-alignment in Asia

June 13, 2019

Dr Anita Abbott
Chair and Patron, APSI Forum 

A month before Russia celebrated the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, Putin stated that the collapse of the Soviet empire, “was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” In 1999, he declared, “Russia was and will remain a great power”. It is then clearly understandable that Russia is once again expansionist, and raises the question of whether Russia has become a new key player in Asia’s security. It also raises the question of what significance this role has for the US and NATO.

Russia has, for example, been an indiscriminate supplier of arms to Asian governments. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, “Russia was the largest supplier of arms from 2013 to 2017 in Southeast Asia. Russia is now the largest arms exporter in the Asia-Pacific region in which Southeast Asia alone accounts for 60 per cent of Russia’s total arms exports." On September 2018, Vietnam signed a $1 billion arms deals with Moscow. In May 2019, Indonesia concluded another deal for military equipment from Russia which now comprises 21 BT-3F Amphibious Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), 22 BMP-3F Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) for Indonesia’s Marine Corps.

Realignment with Asia is a particularly necessary part of Russia’s expansionist goals. Disputes in the South China Sea, the need for Southeast Asian countries to address terrorism, and the need for Asian countries to upgrade their weaponry have encouraged the rise of Russia as an arms giant and supplier.

Realignment with Asia, however, will require that Russia cooperate with other states, particularly China. As with other relationships, Russia and China have had their disputes, but in 1992 signed a non-aggression pact that stated, “Neither party will participate in any form of political and military alliance which is directed against the other party.” China views its relationship with Russia to be important. According to Global Times, China’s Communist Party newspaper, “Backing Russia is in China’s interests. We should not disappoint Russia when it finds itself in a time of need.”

The China-Russia relationship is potentially invincible, particularly in regard to reducing the US and its allies’ military effectiveness. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization conducts anti-terror exercises involving such US allies as India taking part in its military drills. Russia needs China as a political counterweight to the US, as well as a partner and buyer of arms, in its quest for status.

Good ties with Japan are an additional card Russia can play against the US. Russia, of course, has to be able to overcome some obstacles in order to include Japan as a potential ally. First, the Japan-China relationship has been strained by Japan’s view that China’s People’s Liberation Army has damaged their bilateral relations, while China contends that the relationship is strained by Japan’s refusal to acknowledge its crimes during the second world war. China and Japan have also encountered a series of maritime disputes. Next, Japan is an ally of the US. The US’s decreasing influence and its request for Japan to take more of the defence burden, however, have encouraged Japan to increase its own military power. Japan, for example, is now using space for military power, has removed the weapons-export ban that it had introduced in 1967, and conducted military exercises in 2007 that involved dropping live 500-pound bombs. Japan needs to increase the capability of its weaponry in order to protect itself, as under Russia’s military doctrine, Russia has the ‘right’ to conduct a nuclear first strike against a non-nuclear state if the non-nuclear state is under the umbrella of a nuclear-power state.

Russian war games involving approximately 300,000 Russian, Chinese, and Mongolian personnel have displayed Russia’s military strength. In the 2018 Vostoc war games, Russia showed off the sophisticated S-400 surface-to-air missile. As a result, several countries, including India and Pakistan, became interested in buying it. India then signed a $3 billion deal with Russia for a nuclear submarine, despite the threat of US sanctions. Under the Declaration of the India-Russia strategic partnership, India has become one of the largest buyers of Russian military weapons, and President Putin agreed to sell it the S-400 missile defence system in a deal worth $5 billion. India’s Prime Minister Modi stated strongly that, "India places top priority on ties with Russia. In today's fast-changing world, our relationship assumes heightened importance."

US sanctions are not deterring India from buying Russian military hardware, as the India-Russia ‘love’ relationship has grown stronger. “Even a child in India, if asked to say who is India’s best friend, will reply it is Russia because Russia has been with India in times of crisis,” said Modi. The US did apply sanctions to India when religious riots occurred, but Modi apparently didn’t care and instead maintained stronger relationships with Russia. Faced with more sanctions, potentially, India can retaliate by forming a trilateral relationship with China (even though its relations with China have been troubled) and Russia.

Russia is indeed a new key player in Asia’s security. This raises the question of what significance this role has for the US, NATO, and the international order. Putin is a master of strategic geopolitics. Slowly, he is changing the course of history. Russia has been able to challenge NATO and the US’s influence around the world. It already has influence in the Middle East and Central Asia. In Central Asia, Putin was able to pressure Kyrgyzstan to push the US out of Manas Air Base, the only US military base in Central Asia. Slowly, Russia is gaining influence in Asia as a key player in the establishment of a new coalition of Asian states as well as being an arms supplier. It also has both the ability and the willingness to expand its influence and to exercise its military power without any fear of consequences, although NATO countries accounted for 53% of global military spending in 2018. Putin told President Poroshenko of Ukraine, clearly, that, “If I wanted, in two days I could have Russian troops not only in Kiev, but also in Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw and Bucharest.”

The US has been able to impose sanctions, but Russia has been able to reverse them by working together with the US’s adversaries. Turkey, a NATO member, has also been able to make arms deals with Russia. Putin’s growing influence extends over such US adversaries as Iran as well as NATO ally Turkey. Furthermore, his growing influence in Asia has taken shape.

Certainly, these influences have implications for international order. Russia’s relationships with China and India, for instance, are significant because together China and India constitute about 36% of the world’s population. Both also have advanced nuclear arsenals. States such as Australia and Japan have a shared history of reliance on great powers for their strategic security. Should the US’s influence decrease, Japan would become either independent of the US or embrace a great power other than the US. Indeed, Putin has the power to bring Russia back as a key player in the international order.

A GAME BEFORE THE GAME? A review of previous US-North Korea summit

December 22, 2018

Dr Anita Abbott

“Every interaction is kind of a game,” John Braddock rightly states. It is foolish to think that US-North Korea Summit is without a game. How the players involved in the summit think and act, what they think of each other’s games, and how the summit determines who wins must be taken into consideration when one observes and predicts the future of US-North Korea relations and their allies’ security.

How do the players think and act? This is the first essential question in order to understand the game and endgame of each state. North Korea does not want to depend on Russia and China, thus building a relationship with the US is a strategic move. Betrayed by some of its European allies, the US welcomes this relationship. Will North Korea give up its nuclear weapons as it has Byungjin policy where North Korea intends to develop a nuclear arsenal for modernizing its economy? Mr. Trump is confident that Mr. Kim will cooperate. Mr. Trump has offered to reduce economic sanctions on North Korea, when there is proof of denuclearization. If North Korea does not ‘prove willing to follow through’ said Mitch McConnel, the US Senate Majority leader, the US and allies must be prepared to restore the policy of ‘maximum pressure’.

What they think of each other is the next essential question. Given Washington’s unpredictable politics, it is understandable if Mr. Kim is insecure with agreements with Mr. Trump. Mr. Kim made an initial move by destroying a missile engine testing site, and did not ask anything in return. Mr. Kim has also initiated the release of American prisoners. Mr. Trump also has initiated a strategic move by suspending the US-South Korea wargame. Distrust can be one of the obstacles to maintain the relationship, but both North Korea and the US have initiated a reciprocal relationship.

Last but not least, how does the summit determine who wins? How the summit determines who wins depends on the responses and actions of the US and other state players on the peninsula. Japan, China, South Korea have welcomed the initiation of the summit as the beginning of the peace process on the Korean Peninsula.

In November 2017, Intercontinental Ballistic Missile launched massive Hwasong-15 successfully, which means that there is potential that Mr. Kim could reach all parts of the US mainland. Denuclearization of North Korea will not only make its neighbors feel secure but also the US. For China, although disliking the new relationship of North Korea with the US, there are three main takeaways of the summit that would benefit China: denuclearization of North Korea, loosening economic sanctions, and demilitarization of Korean Peninsula. The economic collapse of North Korea will potentially create waves of refugees fleeing into northeastern of China. To Beijing, demilitarization of Korean Peninsula means the removal of US military presence from its potential adversaries: South Korea and Japan.
In spite of the suspending of the war game in South Korea, and the planned of removal US troops from South Korea, South Korea has played an important role as the converser of the summit. For Japan, the fact that Mr. Kim initiated his commitment to denuclearization is a good start for maintaining peace on the Peninsula.

Although denuclearization of the peninsula is welcomed by Japan and South Korea, the presence of the US security alliance in their territories is critical to Taiwan as well as Japan and South Korea. For North Korea, denuclearization is a complete removal of nuclear threats of the US. Will North Korea denuclearize if the US does not remove ‘nuclear threats’ in the peninsula completely? Both Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump are unpredictable and risk-takers. The US military presence in the region, for example, has been the counterweight to China. Mr. Trump, however, has agreed to address Mr. Kim’s request of security assurance. Nuclear forces have been developed by North Korea for many years. But Mr. Kim has agreed to surrender its nuclear weapons. This raises the question, “What are the endgames of the summit?” Both leaders seek world legitimacy and recognition. Although being unpredictable can put national security in peril, being unpredictable is necessary in international games so that adversaries will not be able to predict the next move. But, the US will lose more if the US does not establish concrete steps towards denuclearization, and does not regularly conduct dialogue with North Korea. North Korea has long depended on and trusted in China. Conducting dialogue with North Korea regularly is imperative as dialogue can build trust.


July 22, 2018

Dr Anita Abbott

Why have the US and Russia agreed to the summit, and what are the consequences? These are commonly asked questions.

For Russia, lifting US sanctions, withdrawal of US troops from Eastern Europe, for the US to recognize the annexation of Crimea, halting US lethal weapons sales to Ukraine are some of Russia’s interests. For the US, Russia to remain neutral with US adversaries is an impetus for the summit. With the reluctance of US European allies to increase defence spending, US associations with Russia and inviting Putin to rejoin the G7 is Trump’s strategic move. A summit is crucial as Putin and Trump are leaders of the best armed countries, both possessing lethal nuclear arsenals. The summit is viewed by some as a good starting point for negotiating and managing the conflict and frustration from both sides.

So, what are the obvious political consequences for the summit? First, US’s future relationship with NATO’s regional threat – Russia, means that NATO’s expansion and strategic interests are restricted. Second, it is possible Russia is planning something bigger such as alienating and dividing allies. Turkey, a NATO member, already buys over 50% of its oil and gas from Russia and has agreed on the Russian S-400 missile system. Withdrawal of US presence and involvement in southeastern Al-Tanf, does not favour Israel. Yet Russia will demand the removal of American troops in this area. Unlike Gorbachev and Yeltsin who surrendered to the demands of the US, Putin is a tactical mastermind who can game Trump out. Third, the US will not be able to help Israel. Although Netanyahu and Putin have met and discussed the conflict in Syria, Putin has violated promises to keep Iran away from the Golan Heights. What is more, Russia is now discussing supplying the S-400 and S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to the Assad regime which can undermine Israel’s airstrikes against Iran.
The desire to dominate the world as the next global superpower is the possible endgame for both the US and Russia. Power struggle between the two leaders is an obvious sign of their desire to be the next global superpower. Although Russia has expanded its influence in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East is a potential fertile landscape for Russia to exert its influence. Becoming an OPEC member is one of Russia’s strategic goals. Russia’s involvement in Syria shows that it wants to be acknowledged as advanced in strategic and military power.

With Russia’s expansive role in the Middle East, asking Putin to remain neutral in the US diplomatic offensive on Iran and potential adversaries in the Middle East is not plausible. Asking Putin to support Israel is also implausible. Moreover, Putin has repeatedly violated promises to Israel. Will Russia adhere to any agreements? It is necessary to remember that for Russia, the US also broke promises of treating Russia as an equal partner, by withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.
Trump cannot unilaterally make the decision of cooperating with Russia because of obvious reasons: there are laws in place in the Congress; and Russia and European Powers signed the Minsk Agreement demanding Russia change its course in Ukraine to avoid economic sanctions. 

Nonetheless, under Trump’s leadership, it is not impossible for the US to cooperate with Russia.
The consequence, however, is dire should Trump have less negotiation leverage. For a US ally such as Israel, being alone to face the future big battle with the Middle East coalition supported by Russia is the expected consequence, as the US will not be able to help Israel. Unless the US strengthens the alliance with Israel, and NATO is unified and strengthens the alliance with the US, deterring Russia without provoking conflict will be extremely challenging.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. 


This product has been added to your cart