Russia defends Syria at UN - Part of an anti-western foreign policy?

Russia defends Syria at UN - Part of an anti-western foreign policy?

Russia defends Syria at UN - Part of an anti-western foreign policy?video icon

Voice of Russia
By Edward Burke, 07 February 2012
From Voice of Russia

Link to video:
http://youtu.be/g7DmFPGdHnc

Why France is leaving Afghanistan

Why France is leaving Afghanistan

Why France is leaving Afghanistan

Written by Edward Burke, 02 February 2012

The decision by President Nicolas Sarkozy to speed up the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan has re-awakened suspicions that Paris is not to be trusted as an ally. Sarkozy responded to the deaths on January 20th of four French soldiers by ordering the return of all France’s combat troops in 2013, a year before NATO plans to end major operations in Afghanistan. Defence officials in London and Washington have privately condemned the decision as poorly-timed or, worse, a cynical political ploy ahead of France’s presidential elections in April and May 2012. This belittles genuine concerns in France about the conduct of the war. A closer analysis shows that the French government is ahead of other allies in recognising that NATO's strategy has not worked.

French officials believe that the alliance is rewarding a profoundly corrupt government in Kabul that has shirked its commitment to reform. French thinking on Afghanistan is in line with that of David Galula, a French military strategist, who wrote what the US military itself regards as the definitive treatise on counterinsurgency. The lesson of the French war in Algeria in the 1950s and 60s, Galula wrote, is that military accomplishments are meaningless unless accompanied by a process to establish legitimate and broadly accepted political order. In Algeria, the French won the tactical battle against the insurgency but failed to offer a credible government to run the country – and in the end, the French public turned against what it saw as a hopeless problem requiring an expensive military commitment. In Afghanistan, the Americans are repeating France’s mistake from Algeria: they have put too much faith in a government that is so self-serving and corrupt that it stands no chance of increasing its credibility with the Afghan people. A recently leaked NATO report buttresses French views: it suggests that many Afghan officials have been actively working with the insurgency in order to distance themselves from the Karzai government.

The French have bitter first-hand experience with corruption and double-dealing on the part of Afghan officials. When Barack Obama launched an Afghan ‘surge’ in 2009, Sarkozy raised France’s contingent to just short of 4,000, and the French assumed a lead military role in Kabul and the neighbouring Kapisa province. Despite minimal consultations from Washington, Sarkozy decided to give Obama’s strategy the benefit of the doubt and refused to rule out additional troop increases in the future. But France quickly found that one of its most dangerous enemies in Kapisa was the provincial governor himself, who extorted the local populace and tipped off insurgents about the whereabouts and plans of French troops. Eventually, following considerable French and coalition pressure, President Hamid Karzai removed the governor in 2010. But French diplomats were appalled when the deputy attorney general, Fazel Ahmed Faqiryar, who was responsible for prosecuting the former governor, was in turn removed by Karzai. The president also vetoed a number of investigations of his senior government officials. Today Faqiryar, one of Afghanistan's chief fighters against corruption, lives under virtual house arrest in Kabul and is forbidden to receive visitors.

The Afghan security forces should be the French troops' closest ally. But in 2011 the International Crisis Group cited Kapisa as “one of the best examples of the nexus between the insurgency and corrupt Afghan security forces”, a statement privately endorsed rather than refuted by French military officers. France lays the blame on the Kabul government, which, Paris says, needs to reform and reconcile with its enemies if NATO intervention is to make any difference. And unlike Washington, Paris sees no point in sending a short-term ‘surge’ of troops to provinces where the Afghan government refused to curb the activities of predatory and corrupt officials.

Paris is having little success in getting Washington to listen; the US frequently ignores French concerns about corruption and incompetence in the Afghan government. Throughout 2010 and 2011, French diplomats in Afghanistan warned that the sharp increase in US aid under the Obama administration fuels corruption and indirectly funds insurgency (because many subcontractors pay 'protection' money to the Taliban). US officials recognised that their contracting and oversight procedures were flawed, but they chose to keep faith with Karzai’s vague promises to curb corruption, even though the Afghan government had deliberately obstructed several prior anti-corruption initiatives. Successive commitments to reform made at high-level conferences were ignored. Despite mounting evidence of misuse, US aid to Afghanistan almost trebled between 2008 and 2011.

Another clash between Paris and Washington occurred in 2010, when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suspended the negotiation of financial aid to Afghanistan upon the refusal of the Karzai government to stop and investigate the theft of millions of dollars of aid money through Kabul Bank. France was particularly adamant that the international community should stand united in supporting the IMF and not allocate further large-scale funding to the Afghan government until it reformed the Kabul Bank and prosecuted those responsible for the scandal. But US military leaders complained that the Europeans were interfering with their timetable to build up the Afghan security forces and committed to fund the Afghan Ministries of Defence and Interior regardless of the IMF’s position.

Rather than addressing the shortcomings of NATO strategy, coalition headquarters in Kabul have a dangerous tendency to publicly present an exaggerated picture of success. For example, NATO officials cite polls claiming that the Afghan National Police (ANP), which assumed control of the Surobi district of Kabul from France in 2011, enjoyed 70 to 80 per cent approval ratings among the local populace. But French officers, who have seen first-hand the predatory behaviour of the ANP in Surobi, dismiss the figure as absurd, and point out that respondents are often afraid to voice their true opinions: many Afghan agencies that conduct such polls are not trusted and often travel with loathed private security companies. NATO needs the figures to look good because it has based its departure upon the capability of the Afghan government to deliver improved security and governance. France initially went along with this approach because it promised a quick exit but it has long doubted its credibility. The reality is that many provinces have become less stable since the US-led surge of 2009, yet NATO stubbornly claims that its strategy remains on course.

This is the context in which Paris made the decision to withdraw in 2013. France has had enough: its government has concluded that another year or so of a large-scale NATO military presence will not make a difference in the long-term as long as the Afghan government is obstructing rather than helping NATO to improve the governance of Afghanistan.

On balance, Sarkozy’s announcement is to be welcomed. After years of hand-wringing, misspent lives and money, a major member of NATO has finally sent a clear political signal to Kabul. In future France may become the first country to completely link its aid in Afghanistan to real progress in governance, as opposed to questionable opinion polls or recruitment numbers of new police officers. (There is no point in continuing to train security forces if their commanders are not interested in observing the law and intimidate anti-corruption agencies.) France should try to convince other countries and the EU to limit aid until the Kabul government seriously tackles corruption. The evidence is on the side of Paris: despite billions of dollars of aid and thousands of NATO casualties, Afghans trust the international community and their own government less and less.

US leaders such as former Defence Secretary Robert Gates failed the key rule of coalition fighting: the need to listen to, and act on, the views of other allies. They dismissed dissenting European voices on Afghanistan as a sign of weakness rather than foresight. Instead of giving allies more influence over the strategy, Washington repeatedly demanded more ‘boots on the ground’ and money. David Galula could have told them that this is never enough.

Edward Burke is a research fellow at the Centre for European Reform.

The US declares peace in Europe, prematurely

The US declares peace in Europe, prematurely

Written by Tomas Valasek, 26 January 2012

Dinner on NATO, defence austerity and the US

Dinner discussion on NATO with Ambassador Ivo Daalder

Dinner on NATO, defence austerity and the US

23 January 2012

With Ambassador Ivo Daalder, US permanent representative to NATO

Location info

London

Event Gallery

France threatens to remove troops in Afghanistan

France threatens to remove troops in Afghanistan

France threatens to remove troops in Afghanistan

By Edward Burke, 20 January 2012
From NPR

Link to press quote:
http://www.npr.org/2012/01/20/145532530/france-threatens-to-remove-troops-in-afghanistan

Germany's military future is vital for Europe

Germany's military future is vital for Europe

Germany's military future is vital for Europe

19 January 2012
From Defence Management Journal

External Author(s)
Tomas Valasek

Breakfast on 'Is collaboration the answer to defence austerity? Perspectives on UK, France, NATO and the EU'

Breakfast on 'Is collaboration the answer to defence austerity?

Breakfast on 'Is collaboration the answer to defence austerity? Perspectives on UK, France, NATO and the EU'

14 March 2012

With Gerald Howarth MP, minister for international security strategy

Location info

London

Event Gallery

EU faces defence challenge as US looks to Asia

EU faces defence challenge as US looks to Asia

EU faces defence challenge as US looks to Asia

By Tomas Valasek, 10 January 2012
From Reuters

Link to press quote:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/10/us-europe-defence-idUSTRE8091MH20120110

What Europe's new diplomatic service can do for Britain

Britain should stop underming EU foreign policy

What Europe's new diplomatic service can do for Britain

Written by Edward Burke, 10 January 2012

As the influence of individual European countries vis-à-vis rising giants such as China declines, many look to the EU’s new diplomatic corps – the European External Action Service (EEAS) –– to augment their strength. But in 2011 Britain blocked the EEAS from articulating common EU positions at the UN, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and in some foreign capitals, angering other member-states. However, a recent agreement among EU countries over representation at international organisations should allow Britain to adopt a constructive approach towards the EEAS. It may also help to add European weight to British foreign policy objectives.

Even prior to the 2009 adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, which created the EEAS, the EU had routinely spoken with one voice in multilateral forums. Therefore it came as a surprise to other EU member-states when Britain decided to renege upon established procedures. In May of last year, Foreign Secretary William Hague sent an urgent diplomatic cable to all British overseas missions, warning diplomats to look out for EEAS ‘competence creep’. Hague believed that the EEAS – without the consent of the member-states – was increasingly speaking for Europe on foreign policy issues, even where competence rested with national governments rather than the EU institutions. Shortly afterwards, British diplomats began to block EEAS officials from speaking at international organisations, saying that new arrangements were needed to clarify when the EEAS was speaking for the EU institutions, the member-states or both.

Germany, the Netherlands and other countries took a dim view of Britain’s concerns, seeing a eurosceptic, ‘spoiling’ agenda behind Britain’s actions. In particular, they resented William Hague’s opposition to a more forceful EU representation at the UN. Meanwhile, the European Commission threatened to take Britain to the European Court of Justice if the UK persisted in blocking the EU from speaking at multilateral organisations where it had at least partial competence.

On October 22nd 2011 EU foreign ministers agreed to new rules on diplomatic representation. In future, the EEAS and other EU representatives will have to identify when they are speaking on ‘behalf of the EU’ (implying that common institutions enjoy full competence over the matter), ‘on behalf of the EU and its member-states’ (in cases when common institutions share competence with national governments) or ‘on behalf of the member-states of the EU’ (when EU institutions have no competence and only act upon request of the member-states). Britain believes that these arrangements will prevent EEAS officials from making commitments without first consulting the member-states.

While the UK government feels vindicated by the October 22nd agreement, other capitals are grumbling about it. They argue that precedents have long existed for the EU to represent the member-states on issues of shared competence (as they have done for the past 20 years at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, for example). They are concerned that the UK will use the new rules to block a more proactive role for the EEAS in international organisations. Some also worry that the squabble over representation signals a deeper UK dislike for a collective EU foreign policy, and fear that the EU’s ability to reach out to the emerging powers, in particular, will suffer.

The UK government agrees that the EEAS should co-ordinate member-states’ policies towards countries such as Brazil, China or India, and try to bring European views closer together. But London opposes any suggestion that EEAS officials should craft foreign policy. As part of its wider vision of a more inter-governmental EU – as opposed to one with strong, centralised institutions – the UK wishes the EEAS to play a limited and strictly subservient role to its own diplomacy. In a speech at the Foreign Office in September 2010, Hague rejected any reduction in Britain’s own diplomatic outreach in favour of a new, European form of diplomacy: “We cannot outsource parts of our foreign policy to the European External Action Service as some have suggested. There is not and will never be any substitute for a strong British diplomatic service that advances the interests of the United Kingdom. We can never rely on anyone else to do that for us.” This view runs directly contrary to a desire of smaller member-states for the EEAS to speak on their behalf to the rising powers of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Britain is not alone in refusing to substitute its bilateral relations with other countries for an approach led by the EEAS. Although the UK government is influenced by a long-standing ‘euro-scepticism’ within its ranks, the concerns of Germany, France and Italy derive from a more practical standpoint. These larger member-states are simply not yet convinced that the EEAS, despite the influx of seconded diplomats from EU countries, can match their own standards for political reporting and negotiation. They think that a collective European approach in foreign capitals is desirable but impractical under the current circumstances. So the EEAS is caught between misgivings over its right to speak on behalf of member-states and a lack of faith in its ability to do so. Consequently, the hopes of smaller member-states for an integrated European diplomacy in Beijing, Brasilia or New Delhi are likely to be disappointed.

It will take time to build a capable diplomatic service. The smaller member-states should therefore scale back their ambitions for the EEAS, and the EU as a whole needs to give its diplomatic service a more focused mission. The EU’s nascent diplomacy should mirror that of an emerging power, initially focusing on trade and consolidating its influence in the European neighbourhood. The EEAS should play a complementary role to the Commission’s trade duties by providing the political information that can make or break negotiations. While the Commission’s officials are good at technical dossiers they often lack an understanding of the internal political situation in the countries with which they are negotiating. For example, at a Doha round of WTO talks in 2008, EU officials underestimated the resistance of Brazil, India and others to a deal on reducing agricultural subsidies, leaving commissioners to appear surprised and defensive.

Similarly, in September 2010, the EU delegation failed to foresee that the European Union’s bid to gain speaking rights at the UN General Assembly would run into opposition from even traditional allies such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Neither was the EU aware until the last moment that the Caribbean Community, an important EU development and trade partner, would lead opposition to its proposals. This defeat exposed the lack of diplomatic capability within the EU, where an overwhelming focus on internal dialogue and co-ordination prevailed over outreach to external partners and political analysis. EEAS diplomats are well positioned to address this deficit, and the UK should push the EEAS and the Commission to work jointly to help the EU craft a better diplomatic strategy for future negotiations relating to trade and other areas.

Britain also has a strong motive to encourage the EEAS to become more active in the European neighbourhood, in particular in the Middle East and North Africa. Here, Britain lacks a comparative advantage over other member-states: Paris, Madrid and Rome have more influence in parts of the Arab world than London, and they have also taken the lead in shaping the EU’s policies towards the southern neighbourhood. The UK has previously opted for a secondary role, missing a valuable opportunity for added influence in a strategically important part of the world.

Britain has a security and trade interest in fostering stability in countries such as Egypt and Libya. And while it lacks the political and economic tools to do so alone, the EU is North Africa’s biggest market and investor. The European Commission now plans to spend €18 billion in development assistance from 2014 to 2020 in the neighbourhood countries, an increase of seven billion euros from the previous funding period. The EU has adopted a ‘more for more’ principle in the wake of the ‘Arab spring’, offering to negotiate enhanced access to EU markets in return for a strengthening of democratic institutions in neighbourhood countries. The UK should now press the EEAS to come up with clear criteria to measure progress towards political reform to ensure that ‘more for more’ becomes a consistent reality rather than mere rhetoric.

The UK relationship with the EEAS has got off to a difficult start. David Cameron’s decision in December 2011 to opt out of an agreement to create a fiscal union between most EU member-states further complicated Britain's relations with the rest of the EU. But foreign policy remains a prerogative of the full EU of 27 members, and Britain will have a strong say in it, even if it is not in the fiscal union. It is in the UK’s interest to work with other member-states to set coherent and achievable objectives for the EEAS. The agreement of October 22nd provides an opportunity for Britain to turn from defensive laggard on the EEAS to constructive pragmatist. The alternative is a constant, mutually destructive clash between competing bureaucracies. Britain is entitled to resist ‘competence creep’. The best remedy is for the UK to tell the EEAS what to do and where.

Edward Burke is a research fellow at the Centre for European Reform.

Comments

Added on 24 Jan 2012 at 11:13 by Ben Tonra

Thanks for that - incisive and useful analysis.

Ten years of the euro: the sceptics got it wrong too

Ten years of the euro: the sceptics got it wrong too spotlight image

Ten years of the euro: the sceptics got it wrong too

By Charles Grant, 03 January 2012
From The Guardian

Link to press quote:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/blog/2012/jan/03/euro-eu?newsfeed=true

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