Tag Archive | "NATO"

Ukraine's flag next to the NATO flag.

Critical Analysis: Russia seeks “100% Guarantee” Ukraine will not join NATO

November 25, 2014

A spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin told the BBC on Tuesday that Russia was nervous about NATO’s expansion towards its borders, and called for the West to make a “100% guarantee that no one would think about Ukraine joining NATO.” This may be the first time that the Russian government has stated explicitly what was widely believed to be the primary motivation behind Russia’s military annexation of Crimea earlier this year and its subsequent support for the armed separatist movement in the Russian-speaking eastern regions of Ukraine. This might present an opportunity for reaching an agreement to end the conflict in Ukraine, but the spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, did not appear to state it as such.

Ukraine's flag next to the NATO flag.

Ukraine’s flag (left) next to the NATO flag.
Photo Credit: NATO Press Center

Since Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown by the EuroMaidan protests in February, some Western diplomats and scholars have pointed to what is known as the “Finland option” as a path for Ukraine that would be acceptable to Russia, the U.S., and Europe. Finland, which became independent from Russia in 1917, is a member of the European Union, but has never joined NATO, and has extensive economic ties to both Russia and Europe. If Ukraine were to pursue a similar course, its association with Europe and eventual EU membership might not be seen by Russia as a threat, and Putin could be persuaded to accept an independent, territorially unified Ukraine.

U.S. and European officials have not publicly indicated any willingness to give Russia any guarantees about Ukraine’s future ties to NATO. They continue to accuse Russia of destabilizing Ukraine and violating the ceasefire in place in the eastern regions since September. On the same day as Peskov’s remarks, NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that Russia was again building up its military forces on the Ukrainian border, and possibly crossing into the separatist-controlled area. Germany’s foreign minister said there was still no end to the conflict in sight.

The longer the conflict continues, it will become more difficult for Ukraine to find a sustainable middle ground between Russia and the West. Russia’s other European neighbors, NATO members and non-members alike, have become increasingly concerned by Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and may respond by increasing their military cooperation with the West. The “Finland option” may not even be retained by Finland itself.

It is not clear whether Peskov’s comments indicate that Russia is willing to change its policy in Ukraine in exchange for a guarantee from NATO not to extend membership to Kiev. If so, a compromise solution would be within reach. For it to succeed however, Russia would have to fully accept Ukraine’s integration into the EU, even if it is out of NATO.


Scott Petiya is a 4LE student and Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

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Global Piracy Still a Major Problem FINAL

Critical Analysis: Global Piracy Still a Major Problem

Nigerian gangs rock West African waters. (Radio Netherlands Worldwide)

News of global piracy has faded into the background of the international arena for some, but many countries are still dealing with it. While an international maritime anti-fraud agency has reported a 54 percent reduction in piracy attacks off the Somali coast, recent attacks show that piracy is still a major global problem. The same anti-fraud agency that reported the reduction, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), also reported that piracy continues to cost global trade up to 12 billion dollars annually. Furthermore, the threat has increased in areas that once had relatively low levels of pirate attacks.

Attacks have occurred as recently as this past week. On Monday, October 15, Nigerian pirates attacked a French cargo vessel bound for the Nigerian port of Onne. While the cargo vessel safely docked at the port, authorities learned that the pirates had actually kidnapped six Russians and one Estonian. Nigerian Special Forces are tirelessly working with Russia and Estonia to locate the kidnapped crewmembers, although their whereabouts remain unknown.

This latest attack near the Niger Delta is an example of an alarming trend of increased piracy in West Africa. While there were only 25 incidents of piracy reported in the region last year, 32 incidents of piracy had already been reported by this past July. There has also been an increased level of violence along with the increased number of attacks. Guns were reported in at least 20 of the 32 incidents, and two have been killed as a result of these attacks. Many of these attacks are also occurring at greater distances from the coast, suggesting the use of more sophisticated vessels in perpetrating these attacks.

Somali piracy also remains a problem. According to Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the IMB, “Somali pirate attacks cover a vast area, from the Southern Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Gulf of Oman to the Arabian Sea and Somali Basin, threatening all shipping routes in the northwest Indian Ocean.” Also, as of June 2012, Somali pirates still held a significant number of crewmembers and vessels hostage. Although, as mentioned above, there has been a decline in the number of Somali pirate attacks from last year, the level of violence has not decreased. In March, for example, Somali pirates captured a Taiwanese fishing boat in the waters of the Seychelles Islands and killed the Taiwanese captain two days later. These Somali pirates are still holding the crewmembers of this vessel hostage.

Despite the increase in violence and attacks in certain regions, there has been much progress in the global effort against piracy. More nations are beginning to prosecute pirates, and military and naval efforts against pirates have significantly increased. Recently, a Kenyan Court of Appeals overturned a decision precluding the trial of Somali pirates in Kenya. A judge had previously ruled that Kenya lacked jurisdiction; however, the Court ruled that every State has an interest to try crimes such as piracy. Germany also convicted ten Somali pirates on October 19, after an almost two-year long trial, for seizing a freighter. Furthermore, efforts to locate and stop piracy have increased beyond NATO and EU-led efforts, with countries such as the United States and France increasing enforcement and surveillance.

 Bailey Woods is a 2L and a staff editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy


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People speak on the aircraft steps of a Syrian passenger plane that was forced by Turkish jets to land in Ankara, Turkey. (USA Today)

Critical Analysis: Syrian Passenger Plane Forced Down by Turkey

People speak on the aircraft steps of a Syrian passenger plane that was forced by Turkish jets to land in Ankara, Turkey. (USA Today)

Turkish fighter jets forced a Syrian passenger plane to land in Ankara, the Turkish capital, on October 10.  The plane was suspected of carrying weapons from Russia.  The airliner was traveling from Moscow to Damascus with only thirty-five passengers and two crew members, even though the plane’s maximum capacity is one hundred eighty passengers.  Turkish intelligence had reportedly received information that the Syrian plane could be carrying “non-civilian cargo.” The plane was forced to land and then held at Ankara’s Esenboga airport for several hours before authorities finally allowed it to take off again for Damascus.  In conjunction with the forced take down, Turkey declared Syria’s airspace unsafe and ordered its civilian planes to avoid it.

Turkish authorities have declined to announce what they found on the Syrian airliner.  However, reports have surfaced that parts of a missile were confiscated along with materials that should have been reported, but were not, before the flight.  Other reports have surfaced that the Turkish government seized ten containers on board that held radio receivers, antennas, and other equipment “thought to be missile parts.” The forced take-down comes amid growing tensions between the two neighboring countries as reports from the border reveal there has been Syrian mortar and machine-gun fire heard on the Turkish side of the border.  While it is unclear whether the firing from Syria was aimed at Turkey or errant Syrian rebel-government fire, the audible firing has heightened tensions on the border. Tensions have grown with Syria’s bordering neighbors since the Syrian civil war began nineteen months ago. Turkey, specifically, has been a safe haven for roughly 100,000 Syrian refugees, many of whom crossed the Orontes River, which separates Turkey from Syria.

In response to the forced take down, Syria has alleged its continued innocence, calling Turkey’s actions piracy and claiming that nothing illegal was onboard.  The general manager of the Syrian Civil Aviation Agency called Turkey’s actions “contrary to regulations and aviation norms.”  Russia has also been outspoken about its concern for the seventeen Russian passengers onboard. Reportedly, they were not allowed off the plane and denied medical treatment and food for eight hours, and Russia is demanding a reason for Turkey’s treatment of them.  The Moscow airport also denied that there was any prohibited cargo on the Syrian plane.  Vnukovo Airport spokeswoman Yelena Krylova stated that “[n]o objects whose transportation would have been forbidden under aviation regulations were on board.”  All documentation concerning that cargo was also in order and completed as necessary.

Turkey’s action plays a role in the much larger foreign relations with the Middle East and Russia.  Currently, Russia is one of Syria’s closest remaining allies and, along with China, has repeatedly blocked U.N. resolutions against the Syrian capital.  The Syrian civil war continues to grow as battles have spilled over into the neighboring counties of Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.  NATO has said that it would also get involved if Syria strikes because Turkey is a member of the organization.  NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that there are plans in place to defend Turkey militarily if such a situation arises.

As more countries begin to take actions against the Syrian government, it will be forced to acquiesce to global pressure and end its violence against the rebels.  The death toll in the Syrian civil war has reached upwards of 20,000 even as global sanctions continue to pour on Syria and President Bashar al-Assad.  Turkey is only the latest country to take action against Syria and, certainly, will not be the last.  If Syria continues to ignore global pressure to end its violence, then military action from outside its borders may be the only resolution to end the internal violence within Syria.

 Dan Warhola is a 3L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and the Executive Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Afghan Border Police and U.S. Marines board a CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter near Combat Outpost Torbert. (The Atlantic)

Critical Analysis: NATO Drawdown is Eclipsed by Evolving Taliban Strategy


Afghan Border Police and U.S. Marines board a CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter near Combat Outpost Torbert.
(The Atlantic)

Two years ago the Taliban held large strips of Afghanistan predominately in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand.  In response, NATO padded their forces with an additional 33,000 Marines and Army soldiers to combat the Taliban in these areas.  The last of these “surge” troops left Afghanistan September 21 after accomplishing their objective of reversing the Taliban momentum in the south and shrinking Taliban strongholds.  Now the question is what strategy NATO and the Afghan government will use to combat a more agile and clandestine Taliban.

The landscape left behind by the surge troops is best exemplified by the recent Taliban attack on Fort Bastion – the high profile airbase where the United Kingdom’s Prince Harry is stationed.  The attack was perpetrated by 19 Taliban soldiers dressed in U.S. Army uniforms.  Two U.S. Marines were killed and six U.S. Marine fighter jets were destroyed, rendering the squadron combat ineffective, a designation that particular squadron has not received since the Marine defense of Wake Island in 1941.

These types of “green on blue” attacks, in which Afghan soldiers work alone or in concert with the Taliban to attack NATO forces, are giving NATO officials pause following the drawdown of troops.  NATO had hoped that Afghan forces would be capable of standing in for surge troops by now.  Unfortunately, with green on blue attacks on the rise, NATO is instead creating distance between themselves and the Afghan forces.  On September 17th, U.S. Army Lieutenant General James Terry, the second highest ranking officer in Afghanistan, announced that NATO troops will no longer patrol alongside their Afghani counterparts as standard practice.   

Lieutenant General Terry also announced a new initiative in the way Afghan troops are vetted prior to enlistment as a way of combating these insider attacks.  However, this plan comes weeks after statements by Afghan officials regarding their lack of resources for screening new recruits.  These officials claim they lack basic items like computers for creating a database of new recruits.  This all adds up to a slowdown in training and deploying the troops meant to replace NATO surge forces.

At a time when NATO had been hoping to celebrate a milestone in the development of Afghani independence, they are instead scrambling to formulate strategy and policy.  Resources need to be allocated to military recruiters in order to weed out Taliban sympathizers.  The vetting process has to take place for all new recruits as well as the 350,000 soldiers already inducted in to the military.  Only then will Afghan soldiers be able to take their posts alongside coalition forces, replacing their surge predecessors.  And this all has to take place before the Taliban can regain their foothold, rendering the two-year surge useless.

Tom Dunlop is a 2L at Denver University Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Sources: CNN, BBC, Dawn.com

News Post: NATO military accident leads to Pakistan’s likely withdrawal from Bonn Conference

Sources: CNN, BBC, Dawn.com

Sources: CNN, BBC, Dawn.com

Over the weekend continued disputes on the Kunar border led to the accidental deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers in their military outpost and Pakistan’s boycott of the Bonn conference.  This was not the first of such accidents involving NATO or the United States near Kunar (Afghanistan), which borders Pakistan.  Past incidents include a disputed military action in 2008 where Pakistan claimed that 11 soldiers were killed in a bombing attempt aimed at Taliban insurgents.

This is an area rife with conflict.  Accidents commonly occur due to the lack of available intelligence and the difficulty of surveillance in the mountainous region.  It is occupied by both the Pakistan and Afghan military, but it is also a common spot for Al Qaeda, Haqqani and Hezbi groups to travel between borders.  As one Afghan analyst stated, it is “the perfect storm” for the disputes and military accidents to occur. This complicated structure leading to accidents has increasingly led to issues between NATO, the U.S., Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

These continued attacks have led to Pakistan’s boycott of the Bonn conference and could potentially lead to problems with the withdrawal of American troops from Pakistan beginning next year.  At this time, Pakistan is claiming that the NATO attacks were unprovoked and that NATO’s claims that this was a response to defend troops under fire are untrue.  As a result, Pakistan is protesting the upcoming Bonn Conference and Pakistan’s participation seems unlikely at this time.

However, while Pakistan is currently boycotting the Bonn conference and its leaders are reluctant to attend the Bonn conference, Afghan officials and NATO are urging Pakistan to reconsider.  The Bonn conference is meant to help facilitate and eliminate conflicts such as this. Afghanistan and other nations are hopeful that Pakistan will reconsider the boycott.  However, at this time it appears that Pakistan will not be involved in the Bonn Conference.

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Luis Moreno-Ocampo

News Post: I.C.C. Investigates NATO’s Involvement in Libya

Luis Moreno-Ocampo

Luis Moreno-Ocampo

On November 2, 2011, the I.C.C.’s Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, announced that because of allegations of crimes committed by NATO forces, “allegations will be examined impartially and independently by the Office.” Although the report concerning these allegations will not be presented until May 2012, the investigation alone shows the importance of accountability for all the parties involved in the Libyan revolution.

Damien McElroy of The Telegraph notes that reports continue to emerge that NATO air strikes violated the scope of the Security Council’s resolution by targeting and killing civilians. For example, before the final days of the regime, pro-Gaddafi forces alleged that NATO killed more than eighty-five civilians in an air strike in the town of Ziltan. Furthermore, one of the regime generals, Khaled Hemidi, filed a lawsuit in a Belgian civil court accusing NATO of killing his wife and three children in separate air strike incident. The validity of such reports remains to be seen. It highlights, however, that each party will be investigated to determine responsibility for the violations.

Nonetheless, much of the international community views the military intervention as the right action. In a recent article, the Economist noted that “[i]t is difficult to imagine a stronger case for military intervention to prevent war crimes . . .” and that “it was clear from the beginning that the NATO intervention in Libya was driven by the broad commitment of Western governments and their publics to aiding democratic transitions and stopping murderous repression.” If such widespread support was the foundation of the military intervention into Libya, then an investigation and subsequent finding of an international violation could de-legitimize all subsequent military interventions taken by regional organizations.

Regardless of the alleged violations, NATO’s presence remains hotly debated by Libya’s interim government. The Libyan interim leader asked NATO to prolong its presence through December in an effort to continue its air patrol and place military advisors on the ground amid worry that remaining loyalists might regroup and resume fighting. Nevertheless, the Security Council unanimously voted to end foreign military intervention in Libya on October 29, effectively ending all foreign intervention.

In sum, the statement made to the Security Council highlights the importance of placing the responsibility of any crime committed on the right party. However, the problem remains three-fold. First, if it is determined that NATO did violate the scope of SCR 1970 by targeting and killing civilians, it remains to be seen whether the International Criminal Court will have the capability to bring a claim against NATO. Second, if such a claim is brought, it could diminish the ability of regional organizations to act by using force in similar cases. Finally, although Libya remains stable, there is still a chance that foreign intervention might be necessary. Regardless of whether NATO intervention led to civilian deaths, many would argue that the end of NATO involvement came too soon following the death of Qaddafi.

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Source: the New York Times

News Post: Lessons learned from Libya

Source: the New York Times

Source: the New York Times

On March 28, 2011, President Obama laid out two principles for any U.S. action in Libya. The first is that America has the responsibility to stop “looming genocide” in Libya. The second is that when the safety of Americans is not directly threatened, but where action can be justified, America will act only on the condition that it is not acting alone.

When President Obama made this speech, he was criticized as leading from behind. In recent weeks, the President’s policy seems to be effective, and may prove to be a model for the use of force. The U.S. used its military power, including providing cruise missiles, aircraft, bombs, intelligence, and military personnel, as part of a larger NATO coalition, to begin airstrikes and create a no-fly zone over Libya. American officials have argued the Libya strategy worked because it was perceived as an international effort, and not a unilateral action by the American military.  U.S. efforts in Libya have also been criticized because of the continued use of American warplanes after control of the air war was given to NATO in early April.

Since the Libyan intervention, the Obama administration indicated it will respond to the Arab world’s revolts against its dictators on the basis of “moral imperatives”. This approach has led to criticism of the Obama administration’s response to Syria. Deaths in Syria have risen to 1,400 over four months of clashes. The U.N. has not condemned the violence in Syria, and the U.S. has not named those countries supplying Syria with arms and financial wherewithal. The lack of action or results in Syria is frustrating to both the international community and Syrian citizens.

However, experts caution that the time may not be ripe for multilateral NATO action in Syria. Robert Malley, head analyst for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis group said: “What distinguishes Syria from Libya is there is neither regional nor international consensus on Syria. There’s no specific area of the country to come in and defend.” Instead of using military force to intervene in Syria, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested the broadest possible diplomatic pressure could ultimately have an effect, and potentially lay the foundation for more aggressive action.

The multilateral action taken in Libya and contemplated in Syria adds to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine debate in international law.  The R2P doctrine arose as a result of the global community’s failure to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations, and it outlines the international community’s response to such violations should the states involved abdicate their primary responsibility. The R2P doctrine has been strongly criticized in the past. However, in the past ten years, the doctrine has gained wider acceptance in the international community. In particular, the idea of sovereignty as responsibility to protect one’s people has begun to take hold. If Libya and Syria’s leaders abdicated their responsibility both to their citizens and to the international community, multilateral action may be justified as the R2P doctrine’s influence grows.

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University of Denver Sturm College of Law