8/29/11

Kakav recept takvo i jelo: procurela depeša o NATO debati u Srbiji




Pre nekoliko dana Vikiliks je objavio novu seriju američkih diplomatskih depeša o Srbiji. U jednoj od njih dosta ležerno naslovljenoj "Recept za NATO debatu: ostaviti da stoji 10 godina a onda promešati" ambasadorka Meri Vorlik izveštava svoju prestonicu o tome kako javnost u Srbiji raspravlja o NATO savezu. U njoj se ne iznose posebno senzacionalne opservacije ili informacije kao u nekim drugim depešama. Vrednost ove depeše, posebno za ljude koji se zanimaju za evro-atlantske integracije, je u tome što iz nje mogu saznati nešto ne samo o tome kako američke diplomate vide debatu o NATO u Srbiji već i kako se trude da na nju utiču.

Prvo što upada u oči je sam naslov: "Recept za NATO debatu: pusti da odstoji 10 godina, a onda promešaj". Iz depeše se vidi da je 2009. godine ambasada SAD odlučila za "promeša" stvari pokretanjem i oblikovanjem debate o NATO kroz razne edukativne programe, studijska putovanja, okrugle stolove i članke u štampanim medijima. Daje se relativno detaljan opis aktivnosti javne diplomatije SAD vezane za NATO u Srbiji tokom 2009. i 2010. godine što može poslužiti kao sjajan izvor svim studentima i istraživačima spoljne politike i međunarodnih odnosa. Međutim, ostaje nejasno čija je odluka bila da se debata o NATO pusti da "odstoji" 10 godina na prvom mestu. Ovo je važno pitanje zbog toga što ako je to zaista bio nečiji "recept" teško da se može reći da je "jelo" uspelo. Srbija je danas zemlja sa veoma izraženom Natofobijom što se lako može zaključiti i letimičnim pogledom na javni diskurs o ovoj međunarodnoj organizaciji, a što pokazuju i sva ozbiljna i dubinska istraživanja javnog mnenja. Da se sa ovom temom počelo 6. oktobra 2000. možda bi rasprava danas bila kudikamo zrelija i racionalnija.

Drugo, depeša odiše umerenim optimizmom po pitanju perspektive članstva Srbije u NATO. To je lepo ali nažalost neosnovano. Kao u vestern filmu, depeša počinje sa "decenijom tabua" i "snažnim emotivnim podelama" da bi završila sa "ohrabrujućim signalima" da se raspoloženje menja u pravcu članstva Srbije u NATO posebno među vladajućim elitama. U realnom svetu stvari stoje dosta drugačije. Podrška članstvu u NATO danas je manja nego ikada ranije - samo 15% prema poslednjim istraživanjima Beogradskog centra za bezbednosnu politiku iz maja 2011, a upoznatost i zainteresovanost ogromne većine građana sa ovom temom se i dalje svodi na događaje iz 1999. godine. Što se tiče političkih elita, dovoljno je reći da je samo nekolicina manjih stranaka za ulazak u NATO dok se dve najveće i većina malih stranaka zalažu za aktuelnu zvaničnu politiku vojne neutralnosti. Tačnije, politika vojne neutralnosti je retki primer politike Republike Srbije oko koje postoji tako široki konsenzus političkih stranaka, SPC, intelektualne i šire javnosti. Njega samo narušava ponekad glasan ali ipak duboko manjinski stav nekolicine malih stranaka, analitičara i NVO.

Treće, iz depeše se na momente stiče utisak da SAD vide javnost u Srbiji samo kao poligon za strateško odmeravanje snaga sa Rusijom. Meri Vorlik izveštava kako je ambasada novembra 2009. "plasirala" tekst u časopisu Politika i "ohrabrila" lokalnu NVO da se nosi sa negativnim reakcijama. U poglavlju pod nazivom "Ruska kontraofanziva" analizira se uzvraćanje udarca suprotne strane i "eskalacija retorike" ambasadora u Beogradu Aleksandra Konuzina i ambasodora pri NATO Dmitri Rogozina. U analizi američke spoljne politike prema Bliskom istoku Avi Šlajm je ovakvu sklonost američke spoljne politike da lokalne i regionalne probleme razume isključivo kao deo globalne dinamike nazvao "globalističkim". Nasuprot ovakvom pristupu, koji je na Bliskom istoku doneo uglavnom loše rezultate, Šlajm je tvrdio da je daleko mudriji "regionalistički" pristup koji polazi od specifičnih lokalnih i regionalnih političko-bezbednosnih dinamika. U tom smislu, umesto što odnose NATO i Srbije vide u ključu strateškog nadmetanja velikih sila i za SAD i za Srbiju bi bilo daleko korisnije da to pitanje razumeju pre svega u sklopu unutrašnjih reformi i regionalne stabilnosti. U ovom novohladnoratovskom kontekstu depeša je citirala i jednu moju izjavu datu za BLIC o tome kako su ruski stavovi motivisani njihovim interesima, a ne ljubavlju prema Srbiji. Osetih se za momenat kao Frodo kada ga Sauron pogleda kroz Palantir. Što kaže Fuko "ljudi znaju šta rade, često znaju zašto to rade, ali ono što ne znaju jeste šta radi ono što oni rade?"

Ovo je samo jedna od ukupno 2566 procurelih depeša koje je objavio Vikiliks i u kojima se pominje Srbija. Depešama su se do sada uglavnom bavili tabloidi i dnevne novine i to po prirodi stvari na dosta senzacionalistički način. Međutim, potencijal koji ovaj materijal ima za istraživačku zajednicu koja se bavi spoljnom politikom i međunarodnim odnosima je još uvek skoro u potpunosti neiskorišćen. Baš kao i odnosi Srbije i NATO.

8/18/11

Interview with Sigurd Neubauer



Below is the interview I have recently made with Sigurd Neubauer on the Arab Uprising. The interview was conducted for the Balkanski centar za bliski istok (BCBI) and published first here: http://www.balkanskicentarzabliskiistok.com/?en_intervju-sa-sigurdom-nojbauerom,117


Sigurd Neubauer works for a northern Virginia based defense and aerospace consulting firm. Sigurd is a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He often contributes to Huffington Post. Follow Sigurd on Twitter @SigiMideast.

Sigurd Neubauer will deliver a paper "Could the Emerging Balkan-Israeli Strategic Alliance Alter Energy Security in the East Mediterranean Basin" during the academic sessions (pre-event) of the Belgrade Security Forum(14-16 September). Agenda of the pre-event is available here: http://belgradeforum.org/pre-event/agenda.html

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BCBI:

What do you think is the most important cause of the Arab uprising?

While the demand for greater freedom and dignity across North Africa and the Middle East (MENA) seems to be a uniting factor for demonstrators across the Arab world, the internet age – and social networking sites in particular - has demonstrated that no authoritarian regime is fully “immune” against greater demand for socio-economic and political reforms. Until now, state press and tight information control has largely been able to stifle decent and prevent civil society organizations from emerging. Much of the pretext for a heavy handed security apparatus across the MENA region has been justified in the name of battling terrorism and extremist group. However, despite a classic argument propagated by Arab secularist regimes: “it’s either us or the Islamists,” demonstrators across the region seem to demand an end to decades of cronyism and as opposed to an “Islamist alternative.”

BCBI: What are the consequences of the so called Arab Spring for the security architecture of the Middle East?

At first, the fall of the Mubarak regime appeared to be a strategic loss for the West as the former Egyptian leader was seen as a “pillar of stability” across the Arab-World and the Middle East. While Mubarak was a staunch opponent of Iran and its regional interference, the collapse of his regime has exacerbated fears among Western-aligned Sunni-Arab states that the regional balance of power is shifting in favor of the Islamic Republic. Moreover, although the United States continues to be the strongest external power in the Middle East, Washington’s traditional allies in Saudi Arabia and in the Gulf are openly beginning to question whether the Obama-administration is “fully committed” to their security. As an apparent testimony to increasing tensions between Saudi Arabia and the United States, Riyadh did not inform/consult Washington over its plans to send troops to Bahrain following the Shiite uprising in that country. A regional official recently told me: “the confidence in the US is at its lowest since beginning of the 2003 Iraq war. “ Similarly, an unidentified Israeli official speculated whether the US is beginning to lose its ground in the region.

Having said that, the unfolding Syrian crisis have added another level of uncertainty to the present security architecture in the Levant: In the event the Alawite regime falls, Iran’s regional aspirations would be significantly hampered as President Assad is Teheran’s most important ally. On the other hand, while Assad is not a “beloved” President by fellow regional leaders, Saudi Arabia seems to fear that the fall of the Alawite regime would destabilize the volatile region even further. Regardless, even if the Assad regime survives, its domestic and regional standing will be significantly weakened and thereby possibly undercuts Iran’s standing. A first sign of the impact of a weakening Assad regime has been the Palestinian unity government, in which Hamas arguably no longer can fully depend on its patrons in Damascus. The eventual fall of the Syrian regime could potentially force Hamas to moderate its extremist stances.

In the case of Yemen, President Selah has been a critical U.S. counter-terrorism partner. While that embattled regime seems to have little domestic support beyond the capital of Sana, Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s reach seems to be growing across Yemen. Outside of the Af-Pak region, Yemen remains a critical battleground against international terrorism and extremist groups. If the Selah regime ultimately falls, it remains unclear how U.S. lead strikes targeting militants will be able to continue. So far, those operations appear to have been successful.

Lastly, although Iran actively seeks to exploit the regional unrest for its own purposes, Teheran is not immune to domestic unrest as we witnessed following the controversial 2009 Presidential election. Precisely, because Arab demonstrators are not looking for an “Islamist substitute,” the model of the Islamic Republic seems also not to be desirable option. Hence, on one hand, if any “model” has become a viable alternative to Iran and the classic Arab Sunni autocracy on the other, the Turkish model seem to be a far more attractive option as it combines an Islamic identity with multiparty elections.

BCBI: How would you assess overall implications of these events for the State of Israel?

The fall of President Mubarak and the unfolding Syrian crisis has directly affected Israel.

Egypt:

In the short run, the collapse of the Mubarak regime presents a great deal of uncertainty for the Jewish state. On one hand, the former Egyptian strongman presented a pillar of “stability” for broader U.S. interests in the region; Mubarak was also firmly committed to maintaining the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. Following the revolution, an immediate Israeli concern is whether a new Egyptian regime will be able to continue its natural gas supply to Israel and Jordan as militants have sabotaged a joint pipeline three times since January. The Egyptian-Israel gas pipeline accounts for nearly 40 percent of the Jewish state’s gas consumption – and is a key Israel national security interest. Secondly, Israel seems also be concerned whether Cairo will be able resist domestic public pressure and retain the Gaza blockade.

On a broader strategic note, Israel and moderate Sunni-Arab regime seem to fear Iran’s growing interference on regional events by directly interfering in Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan and Gaza. Shortly after the collapse of the Mubarak government, two Iranian warships have sailed through the Suez Canal and the Israeli navy seized a Liberian flagged vessel in international waters; carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms destined for Gaza and meant to benefit terrorist organizations in the Sinai. Hence, as Israeli intelligence services allegedly enjoyed close cooperation with Mubarak’s former intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, Israel fears that Iran is actively seeking to fill a vacuum by destabilizing the region with its arms supply to Hamas and terrorist organizations in the Sinai.

Syria:

The unfolding Syrian crisis has also severely affected the Jewish state: This year, for the first time since 1967, the commemoration of two Palestinian landmark events (“Nakbah” and “Naksa” day) generated deadly friction along the Syrian-Israeli border after hundreds of anti-Israel rioters dispatched by the Assad regime attempted to compromise the Golan Heights border fence. On Quds day, the last Friday of Ramadan, it is possible that the embattled Syrian regime could again attempt to deflect domestic anger by escalating tensions with the Jewish state by dispatching once again more anti-Israel rioters to Golan Heights border.

In the event the Assad regime collapses, Israeli military officials seem to fear that Syrian arms could be smuggled across the Lebanese border where they will end up in the hands of Hezbollah. Although Israel and Syria suffer from adverse relations, the Allawite regime is possibly regarded by Israel as a “counterbalance” to Hezbollah’s radical “resistance” ideology. Hence, while the collapse of the Assad regime would embolden Hezbollah, it would also completely remove the slim existing possibility of a Syrian-Israeli peace treaty in return for the Golan-Heights.

On a separate note, there are some indications that the Syrian crisis has brought about a possible “rapprochement” between Israel and Turkey: Given the severe impact the Syrian crisis has on both countries, international media reports have suggested that secret negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan have begun to yield results, leading to the cancelation of Turkish support for this summer’s “Freedom Flotilla.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak allegedly requested an additional 20 billion USD in American aid due to the strategic uncertainties presented by the ongoing turmoil across the MENA region.

BCBI: NATO intervention in Libya has lasted for more than 100 days and yet the end of the conflict is not in sight.
Is the political status quo an option for the Alliance?

Although the Libyan crisis lingers into its third month with no apparent end in sight, it is nonetheless unlikely that embattled strongman Muammar Al Gaddafi will be able to “ride out” NATO’s increasing military pressure on his slowly deteriorating regime. Despite his alleged “stockpile” of billions of USD in cash, in which he pays his foreign mercenaries and regime loyalists; Gaddafi’s near absolute international isolation combined with increasing NATO air strikes cannot be sustained indefinitely.
Moreover, while the French Parliament just voted to extend its military role in Libya, President Nicolas Sarkozy has from the beginning committed much of his political capital towards pushing for regime change in Tripoli. French media reports have also suggested that Sarkozy apparently began supplying rebel forces with arms as part of an effort to increase pressure and encircle the embattled leader by exhausting and draining his already dwindling military resources. Given NATO’s steadily increasing military pressure and the fact that Gaddafi has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, the remaining question is not whether Gaddafi will fall but rather when. Moreover, precisely because Gaddaf cannot “wait out” NATO and escape crimes against humanity charges, it is therefore possible that the embattled strongman is likely to negotiate the terms of his departure in return for immunity against international crime charges for him, his family and certain regime loyalist.

BCBI: So far, only a few countries in the region seem to have avoided large political disruptions and one of them is Saudi Arabia. How do you explain this?

The Kingdom of Morocco and the Sultanate of Oman have both avoided the large political disruptions we have seen across MENA region. Although the rulers of the two respective countries are absolute monarchs, both Oman and Morocco have implemented significant political reforms while allowing for greater freedoms. For instance in Oman, Sultan Qabbos has unlike other regional autocrats not appointed a successor. Other socio-economic reforms such as raising government salaries and firing corrupt cabinet officials while having rapidly modernized his country seem to have resonated well with his population. In Morocco, the King has allowed for multi-party elections while liberalizing the economy.

In the case of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah enjoys the backing of the country’s powerful clericals. Still, after the uprising across the MENA region erupted, the Kingdom expanded social programs with billions of USD as part of an effort to “buy of descent.” That strategy seems to have held true in most of the Gulf-Emirates as well. Kuwait, being an exception to the massive uprising can at least be party explained by the Emir’s political reforms shortly after the first Gulf-war.

BCBI: Many fear that the biggest winner of the new order in the Middle East may be Islamic radicals.
What is your take on this?

Despite radical-Islamists groups known opposition against the traditional secular Sunni-Arab regimes, Al Qaida’s extremist ideology seems to remarkably have been sidelined as a “credible alternative” to the status-quo presented by the secularist regimes. As a testimony to the Al Qaida’s “irrelevance” on the Arab Spring, hardly any Arab demonstrators took to the streets to condemn the U.S. elimination of the wanted terrorist leader. Although Al Qaida and its splinter groups continue to remain a serious threat that should not be underestimated, the organization’s extremist ideology seems to have little influence on the uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East.



Sigurd Neubauer works for a northern Virginia based defense and aerospace consulting firm. Sigurd is a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He often contributes to Huffington Post. Follow Sigurd on Twitter @SigiMideast.