The Year Of Opportunities—And Risks—For Asia

2022 confirms that Asia will be one of the planet’s hubs, where great tensions and opportunities, risks and fractures are concentrated, where important trends are confronted and amalgamated.

2022 will be a year of potential political changes in many Asian countries, bringing as well a confirmation of the current situation. There will be several presidential elections (Philippines, South Korea and East Timor), legislative (Australia and Japan) and local (India). Regardless of their results, the strategic lines of those countries, will remain the same. Even powerful and threatening China will see changes in the perspective of the Communist Party Congress.

However, a new calendar year does not mean a clear break with the past. Some of the main events of 2021, such as the coup in Myanmar and the takeover by the Taliban in Afghanistan, will continue to impact in 2022. And, for the third consecutive year, the COVID-19 pandemic will loom over all other events. 2021 began with the launch of vaccines and the hope of post-pandemic normality; the year ended with the Omicron variant which once again closed the borders, and by 2022, all of Asia-Pacific will have to balance health precautions with the protection of its economies.

It is useful to start talking about the USA, a true hegemonic power still on the chessboard, even if increasingly undermined by Chinese pressure. The second year of the Biden administration should see an even greater emphasis on the Indo-Pacific region (and a consequent decrease in the importance of Europe and the Middle East, albeit with notable exceptions, like Ukraine and Iran).

2020 will see the publication of very important documents, such as the National Defense Strategy and the review of the National Nuclear Posture, which should be largely focused on the Beijing challenge. Relations will remain difficult, but the mid-term legislative elections in the US and the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China should create sufficient incentives on both sides for a “managed” relationship, though the points of friction will remain; the Biden administration will continue in its actions of trying to harness Chinese forces by focusing on the network of regional and sub-regional alliances and agreements—not only on specific areas (such as Taiwan), but also on ideological issues, such as human rights and the autonomy claims of East Turkestan, Inner Mongolia, and Hong King.

In this perspective, the alliance system for Washington becomes, even more than today, a critical element, especially with regard to Japan, South Korea, Australia and India. The Quad will continue to be pushed and promoted, and it is likely that Washington will aim at the qualitative and quantitative expansion of this forum.

The other difficult point of the region, such as North Korea, will be observed by Washington with great attention, especially in the case of a conservative victory in the South Korean elections.
In addition to the stabilization of AUKUS, 2022 will see the absorption of the crisis with France (which is much more relaxed after the unionist victory in the third and definitive referendum on independence for New Caledonia, which secures its stay in the region and weaken substantially the notion that French Polynesia would follow the search for independence).

ASEAN, despite some internal criticisms, such as Cambodia and Myanmar, will remain another important partner for Washington in its confrontation with Beijing, but also for economic cooperation. In fact, given the economic (and demographic) dimensions of Asia, the economic dimension will be the other pillar of US actions.

Japan has serious difficulties, beginning with an ossified political leadership and a tired parliamentarian alternation. But the pandemic, the demographic frost, the unresolved relationship with Korea, the ambiguous relationship with Moscow are all elements of uncertainty for Tokyo, which feels gravely exposed, despite a massive weapons program.

For geographic reasons and dimensions, tensions with China (the gravity of which is evidenced by the recent installation of a “red telephone” between the two capitals) remain central to Japan. Tokyo will confirm a foreign policy and cooperation centered on the US, and with Taiwan increasingly regarded as a sovereign state. Also, for Japan, the issue of the protection of human rights in China will remain a decisive element, even if it seems that (so far) Japan will not boycott the Olympic Games, a true symbolic moment for Beijing. Meanwhile, Tokyo is increasingly solidifying its ties with other countries, in anti-Chinese functions, such as the Quad and the Japanese participation at regional military exercises with US, Australians, British and French forces.

For South Korea, the presidential elections, which could see the conservatives win, would represent a further element of tension with North Korea. With nuclear talks between the US and North Korea still stalled, in 2022, Pyongyang will continue to enhance its nuclear and missile capabilities to strengthen its influence in denuclearization negotiations. In recent years, North Korea has been testing various missile technologies, including short-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. North Korea has not (yet) crossed the “red line” set by the US— nuclear weapons tests or ICBMs—but Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to further develop the military capability of the North by using such capability as an element of deterrence to block temptations of “regime change” (in Washington, more than in Seoul).

Seoul also follows Tokyo’s steps in strengthening its military apparatus, witnessing a feeling of insecurity, but its ever difficult relations with Japan are an element of weakness for the security architecture that the US has built since the 1950s.

In addition, South Korea’s attention to Beijing is a matter of concern for Washington, both for reasons of economic interest and as an element of mediation in the face of North Korea’s excesses. Since President Moon Jae-in officially proposed ending the 1950-53 Korean War at the UN General Assembly on September 21, 2021, Seoul and Washington have consulted on a draft for the declaration. However, amid the stalemate in North Korea-US bilateral talks and deteriorating US-China relations—both of whom are expected to co-sign such a declaration—no progress has been announced on the initiative, because of concerns about an end-of-war declaration, which hold that it could weaken the South Korea-US military alliance and the role of the UN Command (which has seen a significant increase in participating states and reactivation of others in recent years). The decision on whether to proceed with the end-of-war declaration will depend on the results of the South Korean presidential election in March.

With the opening ceremony on February 4, 2022, Beijing will become the only city in the world to have hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympics. But despite China’s stern and repeated warnings against the “politicization” of the Olympics, the Beijing 2022 Games have taken on very important political connotations, with the focus, by a growing number of states, on long-standing protests over human rights violations against ethnic minorities, and in Hong Kong.

The US said in December that it would not send an official delegation to the Beijing 2022 Olympics because of human rights concerns. Australia, Canada, and the UK quickly followed suit. As if that weren’t enough, China’s organization of the Olympics will also be proof of its ruthless commitment to a zero COVID policy. Beijing won the Games at the International Olympic Committee votes, expecting great public relations success to showcase its wealth and influence on the global stage. But the events of the past two years suggest that China will face much more scrutiny during these Olympics than in 2008.

Beijing will face another important moment in the fall of 2022, when the Chinese Communist Party will hold its 20th Party Congress, in which it will promote a new list of leaders. Xi is expected to break the previous (even recent) pattern and get a third term as the CCP Secretary-General (the first mandate was in 2012). The big question, then, is whether Xi will allow an heir-apparent, at least initially, on the Politburo Standing Committee, signaling that he will step down in 2027; or whether he is looking for a role of “life leader.” Linked to the confirmation or not of XI, but not only, in the dynamics of power in Beijing, there are those linked to Taiwan.

Last December Nicaragua established diplomatic relations with Beijing and cut off those with Taipei, which has only 14 states left with which to (officially) have diplomatic relations. Beijing is convinced that it will be able to eliminate this residual diplomatic presence in mid-term (at least one a year).
On the other hand, the trend of countries extending their unofficial relations with Taiwan (Lithuania, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia are the most recent examples) is likely to continue, defying pressure and retaliation from Beijing. Other European countries could follow in 2022, especially after a resolution by the European Parliament calling for ties to be strengthened with Taiwan. In particular, it will be necessary to see whether the EU or the US will take concrete steps towards free-trade agreements with Taiwan, long desired by Taipei but so far not taken seriously by either Washington or Brussels, because of concerns about Beijing’s retaliations.

Alongside the diplomatic game, there is the military dimension, which actually remains worrying, with the continuous Chinese amphibious exercises and air and maritime show of force. China remains fully committed to absorbing Taiwan and refuses to rule out the use of force to achieve that goal if forced to (from its point of view). A Chinese invasion of Taiwan remains a low-probability event, but it would be potentially risky, even for Xi, if he remains the CCP leader, because failure of any sort will make it politically too expensive, as well as catastrophic.

Also, in India, there will be key elections in 2022 and with heavy indications on the general policy of the country. In addition to the presidential elections, several states (Goa, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat) will elect local assemblies. The outcome of the Uttar Pradesh elections is the most important, as it is the most populous state in India (it holds about one fifth of the seats in the Indian federal parliament) and should provide useful indications on the political direction in the country, in consideration that that state is ruled by the nationalist BJP party, which also heads the federal government, and suffers from strong internal criticism for the economy and the management of COVID-19.

The disputed region of Kashmir will remain a hot-spot in Indian politics, as it affects relations with Pakistan (and to a secondary extent with China). The region, used as an electoral bastion by the BJP, and its belonging to India is the focal point of the patriotic narrative of India, a unifying element of an extremely complex, divided subcontinent. Even in this region, the elections for the local assembly will be an element of tension, given that they will be the first after the unilateral revocation of the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019 by the federal government (and which has further worsened Indo-Pakistani relations).

But the proximity of Kashmir to Afghanistan makes India concerned about possible infiltrations by terrorist elements from both Al Qaeda and IS. Here, too, China will remain the main concern for India’s security and foreign policy. Several rounds of talks between Indian and Chinese military officers and diplomats over the situation in Ladakh (where there have been several clashes and a massive deployment of forces in the region by the two contenders) have not yet borne fruit. There is the possibility that India will push Russia, thanks to its historical proximity, to discreetly facilitate the repositioning of the opposing forces from the disputed points of Ladakh, as a prelude to a possible summit meeting (without further indications, it remains a mere hope).

India’s other major concern with Beijing is China’s growing presence and influence in South Asia. India can be expected to strengthen its economic diplomacy with its neighbors to counter China’s growing presence in the region; and New Delhi has made progress in this regard in 2021, especially in Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

For Pakistan, there are many elements that mirror India, albeit with the important variant of the institutional weight of the armed forces, increasingly opposed to civilian leadership, and public opinion. With the victory of the Afghan Taliban, the challenge of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has increased, and the Pakistani Taliban have increased attacks on official institutions, using their own sanctuaries in Afghanistan, even though the Kabul leadership has already said that the TTP does not exist in Afghanistan and that the issue is an internal issue within Pakistan.

For Pakistan, too, China is fundamental, albeit in a different sense, given the once good relations with Beijing are rapidly deteriorating due to the management of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The growing divergences emerging between Pakistan and China over the issue of payments, development costs, security threats and the increasing resistance of local populations, especially in the Pakistani province of Balochistan, risk leaving Pakistan without support, should it decide to break ties with Beijing (given that the US would not fail to pay for its proximity to China).

2021 saw Pakistan fail to meet its payment deadlines, prompting China to withdraw funds, and even stop some projects. The CPEC slowdown has had a severe impact on Pakistan’s cash-strapped national economy, as the country’s trade deficit expands and foreign debt grows. Once hailed as a turning point for national development, CPEC has become an increasingly controversial topic in Pakistan, particularly around the port of Gwadar, where thousands of residents have called for local control of resources, which they believe will benefit exclusively China. It cannot be ruled out that Beijing may suspend work on the Gwadar port and related infrastructure projects, with a devastating impact on Pakistan, as the country’s economy remains under pressure, and there seem to be no new avenues of financial support.

So far, no country in the world has recognized the new government of Afghanistan, the so-called Islamic Emirate of the Taliban, which was built in August 2021 on the very expensive ashes of the previous architecture. First of all, the Afghan problem, beyond the institutionalized violations of civil and human rights, is a problem of recognition, where both Russia and China, which have relations with the Taliban, are reluctant to let them sit at the UN. Western countries and the leadership of the UN link the offer of recognition to an “inclusive” (sic) government. This situation is linked to the enormous governance problems for the Taliban (who do not have any), as well as financing, given that the 9 billion dollars of the reserves of the central bank of the Afghan Republic, kept by Western financial institutions, are frozen.

The local branch of IS, the Islamic State of Khorasan (ISK), formed around 2015, despite heavy difficulties and conflicts with both the “official” Taliban and Al Qaeda militias, seems to be present in all provinces of Afghanistan and represents a threat to the Taliban themselves who do not have the ability to hold ISK in check nor to prevent incursions in the surrounding areas (which go as far as India and China [East Turkestan]).

A humanitarian disaster of epic proportions awaits that wretched country, linking itself to political and security challenges. These difficult political and economic conditions have mixed with a recent drought and early winter to set the stage for a colossal humanitarian catastrophe by 2022. According to the UNDP, a staggering 97% of Afghans could fall into poverty in 2022, as the economy contracts sharply. The UN emergency food aid agency, the World Food Program, has warned of the impending famine. For the Taliban, the inability to provide for the Afghan people can make it nearly impossible to rule the country. After the war that began in 1980, 2022 could be the worst year for Afghanistan.

Even for the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, the ramifications of the fall of Afghanistan are heavy and are linked to pre-existing complex situations, where Russia and China, allies and competitors at the same time, work hard to push any other influence out of the area. The US and Western presence and/or influence, somehow less visible because of the prolonged process of reducing NATO forces in Afghanistan (and after the summer disaster in Kabul), led to the building (by China) and/or rebuilding (by Russia ) of influence, as in Moscow with the imposing push to spread again the use of Russian, which was greatly reduced from a vehicular language after the exodus of a large part of the Russian-speaking population; this decline of the use of Russian began after the end of the USSR, starting from 1991.

Kyrgyzstan’s political system was shaped into the desired form by President Sadyr Japarov: an almighty president, a constitution, a parliament that poses no obstacles. In 2022, Kyrgyzstan will face major challenges, starting with the instability of the energy and gold markets, rising food prices, high unemployment and serious corruption.

As with Kyrgyzstan, energy (fuel price increases) and environmental (persistent drought) problems could become political problems with severe protests across the area, starting with Tajikistan (which borders directly on seething Afghanistan) and ending. with Uzbekistan. But for all these states, including the most distant Kazakhstan, Afghan developments impact the region. The once quiet, solid, rich (and maid of Moscow) Kazakhstan saw a sudden and very rapid change of scene at the beginning of 2022 with President Nursultan Nazarbaev (a relic of the Soviet system), who had managed to navigate between Russians, Chinese, and Europeans, was overthrown by a very violent popular revolt, ignited by the increase in fuel prices, but which seems to contain elements of fatigue of the local population because of the immovable leadership of the country.

The crisis of Kazakhstan, quickly solved by determination of Moscow, teaches how apparent-tranquility can end up, and how Russia learnt the lessons of Maydan, where a disastrous management of the local leadership originated a major shift for the Moscow security landscape after 1991 (another, also ignored, lesson of how Russia studies the past, and acts rapidly, is the Belarus file) with the entry of Ukraine in the Western sphere of influence. Russia, a peculiar presence in Asia, will work hard to defend its space; consolidate and, if possible, expand it.

For two decades, Central Asia’s position on the map has made it important to the US, and this parameter has prevailed over a range of value-based concerns, not least democracy for national security. This has allowed several of these states to have obtained repeated waivers from US sanctions related to civil liberties and human rights, but without major pressures. Now, these exceptions, also due to the ideological approach of the Biden administration, could be suspended and sanctions applied (with the ultimate result of bringing these states closer to the Russian orbit and the growing Chinese influence, in search of energy resources). As in Pakistan, local Islamist groups close to the Al Qaeda and IS spheres could find space and enjoy sanctuaries not particularly disturbed by the Taliban forces.

The stalemate continues in Myanmar. After the coup d’etat in February of last year, despite persistent civil disobedience, the resumption of armed uprisings in the border areas, and uncertain international pressure, the military junta seems willing to remain in power by playing on the divisions of international partners and seeking to take advantage of support from regional actors, starting with China, which seeks to weaken ASEAN, to keep Westerners away and to maintain solid economic control over important parts of the Myanmar economy.

At the closing ceremony of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit on October 27, 2021, Brunei handed over the presidency of the regional bloc to Cambodia. The small nation of Southeast Asia takes its toll in a potentially crucial year for ASEAN, which finds itself besieged by a series of pressing challenges. These include strategic competition in Southeast Asia, continuing tensions in the South China Sea, the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and the Myanmar crisis. There is another reason why the presidency of Cambodia will be closely observed: the very close ties with China would make Phnom Pen a Beijing agent within ASEAN, with all the consequences and risks of such a role. Thailand, in a prolonged state of crisis since 2014, should see elections in 2022 to return to stability and normality, contributing to the recovery of ASEAN credibility

Political transitions are underway in Indonesia, the Philippines (where the progressive absorption of the Islamist insurgency in the southern part of the archipelago seems to be progressing well), Singapore and East Timor. But maritime security problems remain intact, leading to the consolidation of ties also between states which had open border problems and thus increased the military dimension of ASEAN, hitherto exclusively economic. The architecture for trilateral patrols between Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines to tackle piracy, illegal fishing, illicit trafficking and a series of transnational crimes had begun to be built before COVID-19, but progress slowed as the pandemic broke out. However, the three sides still held dialogues and consultations on how to proceed and expand their cooperative work.

Indonesia’s regional and global leadership will also be in the spotlight in 2022. Indonesia (which will host the G-20 Summit) has nonetheless shown its leadership role on some key issues in recent times which affect its national interest, such as maritime economy, or the situations in Afghanistan, after the US withdrawal, and in Myanmar, after the coup, or Thailand for the political blockade.

The Australian federal election is perhaps the most important event for the sub-area, given the ripple effect it will have on other key issues in Oceania in 2022. Although there is no confirmed date, the elections will be held between March and May. With major contenders battling over important issues, such as climate change, how to interact with China and, more broadly, what role Canberra should play on the international stage, the outcome of the vote will have significant implications not just for Australia but for entire Oceania, given the importance that this country has on the chessboard.

The current conservative government has had several setbacks (of its actions and of image), leaving aside the painful management of the AUKUS pact, the equally negative ones of wildfires, floods and COVID. If Labor achieves an electoral victory, there will be a major shift on key issues, in particular climate policy and migration. The only thing that should remain unchanged, if not accelerated, will be the massive rearmament of the armed forces, and the determination to face China, in every field and area (especially in the South Pacific).

Many Pacific Island countries have handled the pandemic well, with only a handful of cases or none; but their economies have been shattered because of the region’s reliance on a narrow range of external sources of income, particularly tourism. The mineral riches of many islands (starting with precious nickel) and their institutional events have long been at the center of Beijing’s attention, which has consolidated the cooperation of various players, such as the USA, Australia and France.


Enrico Magnani, PhD is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations. (The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations).


A Tropical Storm

While the main tensions in the Indo-Pacific region are concentrated, others are ongoing and growing, in some visible critical points, such as Taiwan, the Pescadores islands, the Senkaku/Diaoyu/Diaoyutai, the islets of the South China Sea (Paracelsus). All this is because of powerful deployments and exchanges of fiery declarations between Beijing and its increasingly numerous competitors, gathered around the USA. The observant, silent eyes of Chinese leaders are looking for other opportunities to extend China’s influence and its global near-monopoly on rare earth minerals and flex its muscles further. In short, there are specific and little-known situations that could have great, repercussions on a planetary level.

In this context, we want to talk about New Caledonia/Kanak, Bougainville and Tonga. These are three different territories, being groups of small archipelagos in the South Pacific. Not far away from each other, but all united by difficult economic and social situations, with important natural resources and strategic locations, different legal statutes and a turbulent political history. From a general point of view, the Chinese push towards those small islands, besides, as mentioned, trying to absorb the control of mineral resources (starting with the increasingly precious nickel), seems to retrace the great themes of Japanese expansion in the 20th century, to create a vast area of security, to ensure control of natural resources, to break the siege (including geographically) of the various barriers that stand between Beijing and free access to the Pacific, and to seriously undermine US control over these waters, unchallenged since the end of WWII.

A Small France Downunder

Let’s start with a brief analysis of the situation in New Caledonia/Kanak, which is a French overseas territory from 1853 (and from 1864 until 1924 it was a tough penitentiary for insurgents and rebels against colonial rule, and for the survivors of the bloodbath of Paris’s Commune). It has been included since 1986 in the list of non-autonomous territories to be decolonized by the UN, and which as such had the right to choose whether to become independent or remain linked to France (in the UN language peculiar to the UN, “non-selfgoverning territory means colonies and protectorates, of which there are now seventeen around the world, and which in majority are small islands scattered in several oceans, from Falklands/Malvinas to Gibraltar, from Saint Helena to New Caledonia).

The story of New Caledonia began a long time ago when an armed independence movement (of which Gaddafi was said to be the distant supporter and financier, as in other local states, such as Kiribati) carried out various actions against the military and police forces (and the French residents). A decisive clash took place in April 1987, the terms of which are still unclear; but we only know that it was very dire for the insurgents.

After the use of force, the door was opened to dialogue, and Paris, with the agreements of Hôtel de Matignon (the residence of the French Prime Minister) in 1988, accepted “the opening to the peaceful demands of the local populations, who lived in difficult economic conditions and launched” development programs, and economic and social integration of the locals, even if their discontent with substantial marginalization in regards to residents of French origin, remained very much alive. The agreements of the Hôtel de Matignon of June 26, 1988 provided for a ten-year transitional statute that would lead to a referendum process of self-determination for Caledonians (local or French residents), to vote for or against independence.

In 1998, upon the expiry of the agreements of the Hôtel de Matignon, those of Nouméa (from the name of the head of the territory) were signed; alongside the regulation of the electoral process, concessions were made, such as, the name Kanak, which could be accompanied by that of New Caledonia and the use of a semi-official flag (which greatly angered the metropolitan French residents). France, which in any case tried in every way to postpone and limit the access of the local population to the voters list, and consequently to the referendum (actually three referendums, according to the terms of the Nouméa Accord). Also, Paris always demanded (and obviously obtained) that the election observers sent by the UN be called “experts,” as there was nothing special to observe, as in other referendums for the independence of colonial territory (sic).

On December 12, again and for the third time (the other two were in 2018 and 2020) the vote was No to independence, and this time with very wide margin: 96.5% of the votes, while 3.5% were cast for the Yes-side. A landslide victory but very low participation. Out of about 185,000 registered voters, only 80,000 went to the 307 polling stations, or 43.88% of them. This was because of the boycott by the independentist movement (which controls the local government, however, with little responsibilities, leaving everything important in the hands of the French High Commissioner, directly appointed by Paris) who had unsuccessfully asked to postpone the vote because of the impact of COVID.

End of story? Certainly not. The problems remain, and the results of the vote show the ethnic split of the French territory, the numerical prevalence of the local element and which could be the source of future problems (and interference from the outside). Paris, in anticipation of the vote, silently and speedily sent 1,300 riot police (while many other similar forces were quickly deployed to Martinique and Guadaloupe, recently devastated by violent riots; another sign of the problems that crisscross what remains of the French empire), and even the special units of the Gendarmerie, in the case of the repetition of the serious incidents of October 2020, and fears that the vote would divide the two communities that up till now lived together peacefully, after the crisis of the 1980s.

Now, after the self congratulations where he also said “France is more beautiful because New Caledonia has decided to stay in it,” President Macron has several options ahead, both safe and uncertain. It is certain that France will have to try to invest much more financially than it has done till now to try to overcome the greatest reason for local discontent, the economic and social inequalities, while improving internal regional connections and with the Hexagon, and securing the mining assets of the territory, which will make it an economic hub in the future (in other words to ensure that nickel does not end up in Chinese hands, even through intermediary properties).

However, the low participation in the referendum undoubtedly removes the legitimacy of the vote even if Paris, with the results in hand, next year will try to have New Caledonia/Kanak removed from the list of territories to be decolonized at the UN General Assembly (and it is not guaranteed to succeed). Alongside this, if Paris wants to continue to be considered a player in the region, it must reinforce its military presence, reduced for years to a minimum level (to underline the importance of the archipelago, during the WWII, it hosted the largest US military installations of the South Pacific area) and do the same with neighboring Polynesia, also included in the list of territories to be decolonized by the UN General Assembly 2013 (again with furious reactions from Paris) and characterized by the presence of a local independence movement that has the same reasons as New Caledonia/Kanak.

Everything suggests that the French future in the area is not very easy, starting with the financial commitment that will have to be substantial and prolonged. Everything else is uncertain, and it is a lot. Those who are breathing a sigh of relief, so far, are the French residents (who feared, unreasonably, of being expelled in the event of a victory of the independence movement) and the people of Wallis and Futuna, two islets united to the territory who feared to pass from Parisian paternalism to local neo-colonialism; and they were clearly the only locals who voted against the option of independence. The USA, Australia and New Zealand had also followed the situation closely and feared that the independence of a small, sparsely populated state with great natural wealth would open the door to a dangerous rival. However, one can be sure that Beijing will continue to discreetly monitor the context and if, if the opportunity arises, it will not miss it.

A Difficult Chapter

Another difficult junction in the South Pacific is represented by the future of the island of Bougainville (whose name derives from the French admiral Louis Antoine de Bougainville who too possession of it in 1768). It is a tropical paradise, colonized and administered by Germans, Australians, Japanese, Americans and (again) Australians. The fate of the island has been linked to that of Papua New Guinea, as this territory was first mandate of the League of Nations (1920-1941) and subsequently as territory under UN trusteeship from 1945 to 1975 (when it achieved independence), again from Australia.

Ethnically, the population of the island is closet to that of the neighboring Solomons (who, as we shall see, are going through difficult times) than to that of Papua New Guinea. The problems emerged immediately after the independence of Papua New Guinea. Because Bougainville is rich in copper and gold, a large mine was established in Panguna in the early 1970s by Bougainville Copper Limited, a subsidiary of the large multinational Rio Tinto. Regional residents’ disputes with the company over negative environmental impacts, failure to share financial benefits, and negative social changes brought about by the mine have led to a local awakening of a secessionist movement that had hitherto been dormant (as can be seen, a red thread links the requests of Bougainville and New Caledonia/Kanak).

A group of local activists proclaimed the independence of Bougainville as the ‘Republic of Northern Solomon’ in 1975 and again in 1988; both times government forces suppressed the insurgents, called BRA (Bougainville Revolutionary Army). The second uprising was particularly violent and led to at least 20,000 victims (and Papua New Guinea’s employment of Sandline “contractors,” given the poor quality of its military and police forces) and which ended with a peace agreement that saw the sending of an Australian-led multinational stabilization force (“Operation Bel Isi“), the PMG (Peace Monitoring Group) which operated between 1998 and 2003. The PMG (and its substitute the Peace Monitoring Team, which ended its activity in 2005) which oversaw personnel, military police and civilians from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu, cooperated with a small UN civilian mission, the UNPOB (UN Political Office in Bougainville) which operated to facilitate dialogue and the destruction of insurgent weapons (about 2,000 of all kinds), to respect agreed pre-electoral deadlines, and, finally, to facilitate the elections themselves.

The UNPOB ended its mission in 2005, leaving the normal economic and social assistance and aid activities of the “less advanced territories’” (as the UN calls these territories) with the UNDP (UN Development Program) as leading agency. The politically relevant aspect of the 1997 agreement (which prepared peace on the ground) led parties to decide to hold a referendum on the political independence of the island in the future, which would have a regional government with wide autonomy—all under careful Australian supervision, as Canberra, given the geographical proximity and the great economic interests of the area, is particularly interested in any development in the area.

A non-binding independence referendum was held at the end of 2019 with 98.31% of votes for independence rather than autonomy within Papua New Guinea; and, as a result, the region will become independent by 2027 (and this with all due respect to the concept of a “non-binding” referendum. But Papua New Guinea is so weak that it has little to oppose, even given the overwhelming majority in favor of independence; and Canberra does not like other convulsions in the area).

In principle, the aspirations for independence always have positive consideration and sympathy, at least formally. In reality, the international community looks at them with suspicion for the precedents they can create elsewhere, with balkanization and destabilization in tow. However, the latest developments seem to lead to an acceleration of the independence process, which the regional government of Bougainville wants to be effective as soon as possible (the ideal would be even before 2025). Australia, and first of all, New Zealand, the USA and France are observing the process very carefully, which should be peaceful (and at the moment everything suggests that it will continue to be so), but which could bring about another small, weak and potentially unstable territory at the behest of other interests (also in this case Chinese).

Australia, which has a difficult relationship, to use a euphemism, with Beijing, absolutely does not want Chinese economic agents to settle there to make Bougainville an outpost of the CCP’s imperialism. However, it is useful to remember a paradox (international relations are full of them): Papua New Guinea, which seems resigned to let Bougainville go (also because it has no other options) finds itself in the situation where the western part of the island would like to separate from Indonesia and reunite with Port Moresby, starting with the ethnic community.

However, Indonesia, which took control of that part of Papua (the last remnant of Dutch colonialism) in 1964, with a real diplomatic coup orchestrated by the USA and with the acquiescence of the UN (ignoring the wishes of the local populations and annexed to Indonesia regardless of their opinions on the matter), mindful of the disasters of East Timor and, conversely, of the prudent management of separatism in the Aceh region (eastern part of Sumatra), has opted for a conciliatory and inclusive policy, which has brought good results by calming the situation and fully reintegrating Aceh into Indonesia.

Another Outbreak

At the end of last November, the Solomon Islands also returned, albeit briefly, to international prominence. The reason was that very violent incidents broke out between the local population and the local security forces. On a geographically small scale, the capital Honiara is little more than a large town. The local government in obvious difficulty has asked for the support of neighboring countries.

Again, Australia, followed by New Zealand, Fiji and (even) Papua New Guinea, answering a desperate request by the government of Solomon Islands, sent military and police personnel with the greatest possible urgency sent a force, which although numerically small (less than 500 units), represents how serious was the violence in a small community. The Solomon Islands also emerged from a long period of instability and violence, and appeared to be stable. But the agreements were only superficial and the reasons for the difficulties remained intact, if not worsened.

What caused the riots? In apparently enchanting places (for tourists), realities are harsh. The ongoing antigovernment protests over long-standing poverty and unemployment turned violent in mid-November as crowds tried to storm parliament. Rioters burned down buildings and destroyed property in the Chinatown area of Honiara. At least three people were killed. Although calm was largely restored, tensions remain high.

But inter-provincial tension has also fueled the unrest, as many of the protesters came from the province of Malaita, a neighboring island that has a history of disputes with the Guadalcanal province, where the government is based. For example, Malaita opposed the current Prime Minister’s decision, in 2019, to formally recognize China instead of Taiwan.

In addition, various local authorities, starting with the provincial leader of Malaita, have spoken out against the presence of international troops, seen as supporting the central government. Even though the riots lasted only three days, they plunged the Solomon Islands into chaos, exposing widespread frustration with low living standards and exposing the weaknesses of local governance. Despite years of investments from abroad, especially by Australia, the Solomon Islands have not emerged from the quagmire of the lack of development and the violence that marked the small former British protectorate (independent since 1976) between 1998 and 2003.

Canberra—cautious in not repeating a deployment of a stabilization force (the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, RAMSI) which remained in place for 14 years and which ended only in 2017—(but at the same time vigilant of Beijing maneuvers and lest its agents are installed there) stressed that this time they will remain in the islands only for a limited period.

As mentioned, the reasons for the violence have not been overcome and date back to the late 1990s, when ethnic rivalries and economic differences were the spark of very serious and prolonged violence, where the inhabitants of various peripheral islands confronted and then clashed, in measures more and more violent, with those of Honiara. Tensions led to the establishment of ethnic militias; and in late 1999, after several failed attempts to broker a peace agreement, the then prime minister declared a four-month state of emergency and also requested assistance from Australia and New Zealand. But his appeal was denied.

Meanwhile, violence was rampant in the archipelago. After several attempts, an agreement was reached between the parties, promoted by Canberra and signed in the Australian city of Townsville in 2000. The economic situation of poor islands worsened and, as often happens, the violence of politics is connected with ordinary crime; and such was the instability that in July 2003, over 2,000 military and policemen from Australia and other Pacific islands (Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, Nauru, Kiribati, Tuvalu) arrived in the Solomon Islands under the auspices of RAMSI (divided into the phases “Helpem Fren,” “Anode” and “Rata”). With the arrival of international forces, the security situation improved, but with over two hundred deaths (very few compared to what happened in nearby Bougainville). In reality, the Solomon Islands are close to the condition of a “failed state.”

This draws the attention of those who may be interested in increasing influence. The current Prime Minister, as often happens in such situations, has accused foreign powers and “certain elements” that seek to overthrow his government, indicating opposition to his decision to move closer to Beijing and break ties with Taiwan. Perhaps. But the real problems all remain, from underdevelopment to corruption, from entire economic sectors in the hands of (Chinese) ethnic groups that have a monopoly on the local market. The Solomon Islands remain one of the most aid-dependent countries in the world. 40% of the population is under the age of 14, according to data from the World Bank, and it is estimated that 70% are under the age of 30. Unemployment is endemic and the restrictions for Covid-19 have made everything, if possible, even more difficult.

Compared to what is proposed for New Caledonia/Kanak and Bougainville, interesting from a mining point of view, the Solomon Islands are less attractive. Gold mining began in 1998 at Gold Ridge on the island of Guadalcanal, which was suspended in 2006. The islands are potentially rich in undeveloped mineral resources, such as lead, zinc, nickel and gold. But the real strength of the Solomons is the geographical position, although regional relations are not optimal. In addition to Australia and New Zealand, which play a predominant role in the security-making of the area, Papua New Guinea has a problematic relationship with Honiara, accused by Port Moresby of pushing for Bougainville separatism in order to establish a unitary state among the two entities. So far, Australia does not want to go beyond a neutral peacekeeping force and does not want to mediate between opposing tendencies (ultimately for or against Beijing).

Conclusions?

In fact, it is difficult to draw a conclusion. What is certain is only that the situation is open. The players (Beijing on one side and the “others” on the opposite side) are in full swing and are trying to strengthen their positions. For example, in mid-December, the USA launched a major program to improve the infrastructure networks of communication, fundamental for the socio-economic development of territories spread over vast areas. But they are viewed with suspicion. Let’s wait, see (and hope).


Enrico Magnani, PhD is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations. (The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations).


Featured image: “Buka Town,” by Vireil, painted ca. 1988-2001.

Five Eyes, Or More?

The increasingly assertive position of China is impacting the international community—and especially in Asia, where there is growing mobilization of resources and the activation of new, and attempts at reactivating old, alliances. The most obvious examples of this realignment are Quad, AUKUS, ANZUS, FPDA, ASEAN, ASEAN-ARF, ShanGriLa Dialogue (just the ideas of reactivating SEATO and ANZUK are missing).

Alongside these evident blocks and agreements, intensive work is being done to strengthen agreements relating to intelligence, cyberwarfare, and electronic and satellite surveillance. This sector, always a very delicate element in the relations between states and the dynamics of security pacts, suffers particularly from the heavy offensive by Beijing. China wants to maintain its the technological advantage, while also expanding it as much as possible, with respect to countries potentially hostile to its hegemonic projects.

In an unusual way, as it deals with issues that should remain confidential, a vast, but complex, debate was launched on the possibility of expanding the so-called Five Eyes, which brings together the intelligence communities of USA, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Some potential new members could be India, South Korea and Germany and Japan. There has been much speculation on the accession of these states. This is because of paragraphs included in a bill, by the Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations of the United States House of Representatives.

These paragraphs, which announced the option of news members for Five Eyes and is part of the National Defense Authorization Bill for 2022, asked the Director of National Intelligence, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, to report by May 20, 2022 on the effectiveness of the Five Eyes mechanism and to consider the benefits of expanding the agreement to include South Korea, Japan, India and Germany. This decision would require extraordinary levels of trust to share a state’s most delicate secrets with another nation. For this reason, most intelligence relations are bilateral, with the exchange of each report assessed on a risk/reward basis. The Five Eyes is a unique example where the intelligence-flow is shared between five allies, while other multilateral agreements, such as those within NATO, are much more cautious in exchanging information.

The Five Eyes originated with Winston Churchill’s decision, in 1941, to include the US in one of the most sensitive secrets of those times: Britian (with the help of Polish and French experts) had broken the German encryption system, “Enigma.” The secret (known as “Ultra”) was tightly controlled by Britain, and the idea of sharing it with the Americans was not without risk.

But it turned out to be a very good political calculation. After the war, this Anglo-American cooperation was formalized in the UKUSA agreement of 1946. Australia, Canada, and New Zealand joined the agreement through their Dominion status within the British Commonwealth and which was referred to as “Echelon” and was formalized in successive stages between 1960 and 1971. Other Dominions—most notably South Africa, India, Pakistan, and Ceylon—were not included, which gave the idea that the Five Eyes was a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) club. This may have been true in the 1940s and 1950s, but it has little or no validity today, when all five countries are now fully multiethnic.

What is true, however, is that these five countries see the world in similar terms and have worked closely on most crises since 1946, including the Korean War, the Cold War, and the so-called Global War to Terror. Today, all five assess the potential dangers of China’s rise in similar terms. This agreement, first of all, with its political, and later military and security nature, however has suffered various problems over the years, including serious ones, such as the refusal of the US to support Great Britain during the Suez crisis; the weak assistance of Washington to Britain in the Malaysian and Borneo insurgences; London’s reluctance to participate in the Vietnam War; New Zealand’s long standing ban on nuclear-armed warships accessing its waters—and all this without speaking of the several (and not all made public) infiltrations of double agents within the same intelligence structures of the five.

Despite the political appeal of Five Eyes enlargement in the face of China’s growing assertiveness, it is likely that several of the five countries and (especially) their intelligence agencies will oppose it. The key topics will focus on the quality of intelligence services on the one hand and on the alignment, continuity, and, especially, the priorities of foreign and security policies of potential adherents.

In fact, none of the four potential adherents fully shares the opinions of the Five Eyes allies on global threats (and not only vis-à-vis China), and on how to deal with them. This without considering that beyond a substantial unanimity, the Five Eyes also have their profound differences over issues of no small importance.

Technically, the four potential candidates have good quality intelligence services; but as mentioned, their strategic priorities are different. For South Korea, the main target remains North Korea, and the National Intelligence Service has also been closely associated with extremist political groups.

Both Germany and Japan, since 1945, have been uneasy that intelligence plays too influential a role in national policy-making systems and bodies. For many years the German intelligence service was based near Munich, while the federal government was in Bonn, inevitably pulling intelligence away from politics.

In Japan, intelligence services are fragmented, although they are probably more effective than they appear. But situations like those in South Korea have also been recorded in relations to the domestic political system.

Of the four potential candidates, only India has structures similar to those of the Five Eyes (thanks to the British matrix). But a significant part of its activity is oriented to opposing Pakistan; and only recently has New Delhi begun to give Beijing the same attention that it has been giving to Rawalpindi—as a perceived level of systemic threat.

But the real differences are found in the general policies of these potential countries. Germany maintained close trade ties with Russia, despite the Ukrainian events and resisted all attempts (some very heavy) to cancel the Nord Stream 2 project. India also has wanted to maintain its close relations with Moscow, especially in the area of procurement of weapons’ systems, and has been careful not to allow the Quad to turn into a full strategic alliance against China and keep it as a security tool for the panregion.

South Korea does not want an overly conflicting relationship with Beijing, both for commercial reasons and for the moderating role that China may play in the face of North Korea’s recurring excesses; again in terms of regional policies, there is little prospect of a strengthening of relations with Tokyo, which Seoul also sees as a dangerous commercial rival, not to mention the open questions about fisheries, territorial waters and a controversial past (when Japan, between 1910 and 1945 dominated the peninsula).

Germany, too, could be lukewarm towards an agreement that could turn into a tool to exert pressure for a tougher approach towards Moscow and Beijing (and to damage its enormous trade and energy relations with China and Russia).

In absolute terms, both of quality and of means, a real (more than potential) adherent could be France, whose services, even if strongly oriented towards Africa, represent a highly respected element. However, even for Paris the need to maintain fluid commercial relations (especially with China) could be an element of fragility in its membership of the Five Eyes. However, it must be remembered that the USA itself, which has identified Beijing as a global competitor, has important trade relations with China and still wants to keep the door open to dialogue, re-proposing the same dynamics that they fear to see applied by their partners (potential or present) in that context.


Enrico Magnani, PhD is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations. (The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations).

Russian-Turkish Relations: Mutual Interests, Alliance, Hostility And Distrust

The relationship between Russia, Turkey (and the impact of it on Europe) is very long and controversial issue, marked by persistent hostility and with eleven wars (including WWI). The first war started in 1568, when Russia was still in the initial phase of her statehood path.

It is remarkable that the only occasion where Russia (in Bolshevik format) supported Turkey, was when Ankara faced Western Allied pressure and the Greek invasion after WWI, as retaliation for the Allied support of the ‘White’ counter revolutionary forces.

This situation, a de facto alliance against a mutual enemy, should be remembered as a thin red line which remains pertinent right up to today.

This complex and problematic cooperation-confrontation, especially during the 18th century, impacted several times the wider problem of stability of Europe, the Mediterranean and the Levant, and it is re-proposed today, in terms which adapted themselves to different situations and contexts.

Limiting the analysis to recent times, despite many (old and new, and growing) divergences, Moscow and Ankara have in common the use of foreign and security policies as a projection tool to limit the impact of domestic problems through external successes and to consolidate the internal cohesion, eroded by different factors.

Turkey’s aggressive policies in recent years, which raised great concern among its NATO and EU allies and partners, gave an important window of opportunity to Moscow to benefit from Ankara’s new assertive stance, perceived as a way to disrupt the internal cohesion of the Euro-Atlantic economic and security architectures.

Aware of the fundamental differences with Turkey (and the related management problems), Putin seeks to keep the relationship as fruitful as possible for the interests of Moscow.

Russia and Turkey were able to arrive at a quasi-positive understanding, pragmatic and case-by-case in areas of conflict, where both often support opposing sides, as in Syria, the Black Sea, Libya, the Caucasus, Sahel and elsewhere.

The (not full) cooperative confrontation model between Moscow and Ankara has been successfully implemented in different geostrategic theatres without the need for formal agreements.

The Decreasing Of The Economic Dimension

To better understand the dynamics of the Russian-Turkish relations and its contradictions, the economic dimension remains pivotal, even if it is not particularly strong, and appears altogether in decline.

Russian exports to Turkey in 2019 were around $17.75 billion and its imports around $3.45 billion. An increase of 2.5%, compared to 2018, and lower than the $31 billion reached in 2014, before the crisis of 2015, when a Russian plane was downed over Syrian airspace by Turkish jets.

Aside from that, Turkey gradually reduced its dependence on Russian gas, firstly because of the slowdown of the domestic economy, and the development of liquefied gas infrastructure as alternatives. Gazprom supplied up to 52% of Turkish gas imports, even planning to expand supply by building the “TurkStream” pipeline. This supply fell to 33% in 2019, in favour of Azerbaijan, which became the main supplier to Ankara.

Moreover, the promising gas exploration results in the Black Sea could make it possible to reduce Ankara’s dependence on Russian gas, even if the hopes for that are old and recurrent; this plan would require time to be verified and, if confirmed, require more time to become functional. Further, the activation of the “North Stream II” pipeline will reduce any urgency to complete the “South Stream” one and, as a consequence, any leverage for Ankara.

Despite the decrease of the hydrocarbons sector, energy remains relevant because of the ongoing important project – the construction of the nuclear power plant of Akkuyu by the Russian company Rosatom, which is planned to be completed by 2023, at a cost of 20 billion dollars. (It is very rare that Russia shares civil nuclear technology with third countries; only with Algeria is there a similar plan, but which is still at the initial, negotiation phase).

The interests of the two states – are increasingly divergent, and the role of energy is demonstrated by Iranian oil. While Moscow is trying to prevent flooding the world market, as it would result in a drop in oil prices, thus drastically reducing its own revenues – Ankara instead is keen on Iranian oil and gas to come to the world market through its territory, which would reinforce Turkey’s ambitions of becoming an energy distributor and hub.

Tourism, however, continues to record important growth with more than 7 million Russian tourists visiting Turkey each year, making Russia one of the largest visitors to the Mediterranean country before COVID-19.

The Security And Military Dimension

Moscow looks to preserve the recently built relationship by de-escalating the crises that have arisen with Turkey, despite the problems with Ankara; and the disruptive approach of Erdoğan towards the West is very useful to Russian strategic interests.

An example of this stance was evident when Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 strike bomber in Syria in November 2015, and relations became very tense (even close to rupturing). But Moscow carefully managed its retaliation, avoiding extreme measures that might affect the growing ties between the two nations.

Given that Turkey is a NATO member, Russia is obliged to consider also the possibility that in case of a major crisis with the Alliance, Turkey could close the Bosporus Straits with the support of its Western allies and regardless of the spirit and the letter of the Montreux Convention of 1936.

This scenario for Moscow would be almost a “nightmare” because it would risk interrupting the pivotal line of communication between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean (and, via the Suez Canal, to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, and from Gibraltar to the Atlantic Ocean).

As mentioned earlier, Moscow tries to exploit as much as possible the various disputes that have antagonized Turkey with other stakeholders (France, Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Italy, UAE, Egypt), thus undermining the system of Western alliance, especially in the matter of delimiting the EEZ and exploitation of hydrocarbons reservoirs.

In this light, the series of disputes between Turkey on the one hand and Greece and France on the other side, in the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya, open opportunities for Russia to exploit and weaken Atlantic Alliance solidarity. The recent example of this is the special bilateral agreement, just signed, between Athens and Paris for security and defence aside/inside/outside NATO and EU frameworks is, in the final analysis, a weakening of Western security cohesion and an advantage for Moscow’s plans.

Thus, for Moscow, the military aspect of the mutual relationship, with Turkey’s NATO membership, is undoubtedly the most important component to consider in geostrategic planning.

In light of this, Putin supported Erdoğan fully after the attempted coup in July 2016 and offered for purchase to Turkey the S-400 “Triumph” anti-aircraft missile system; and thus also worsening the cohesion of the Atlantic Alliance, jeopardizing the integration of its air defence and C3 system.

For the EU pillar, the situation is similar. Even if Turkey’s relationship with Brussels is seriously to deteriorate because of the Cyprus situation, civil rights issues, the Libyan and Syrian files, or the use of migration as a tool of pressure, there is a possibility of a potential improvement.

But due to the weakness of EU facing the Ankara’s blackmail and the incapacity of Bruxelles (and its Member States) to face it with a firmer and at the same time more cooperative stand, there is a further indirect advantage of the strategic planning of Russia to undermine the Western economic and security architectures.

Two Cold Friends

The two leaders have not developed any personal affinity, revealing that both are aware of each other’s projects, views and perceptions and the similar, undemocratic nature of the two countries.

This, even weak, friendship is not, and likely will not be, the basis for ideological rapprochement, and also if the two countries are marked by an authoritarian approach; while this ‘brotherhood’ is more profound and evident between Russia and China, probably due to the previous Communist ideological base.

The major ideological element of distrust for Moscow is the Erdoğan’s vicinity (and in many cases with real support, like in Syria and Libya) to the galaxy of Muslim Brotherhood groups. These groups are banned in Russia and Moscow closely monitors their activities, especially in Muslim-populated areas of the Caucasus and Central Asia; and Putin is fully aware of the Turkish leader’s ambitions to lead the Muslim world.

Despite the suspicions, Moscow seeks to work with Ankara to control and moderate the extremism of Muslim populations. Also, here there are inconsistencies; Turkey continues to express support of the Tatar Muslim minorities in Crimea (the Ukrainian region unilaterally annexed by Russia in 2014), but avoids irritating Russia, and without any real action.

As mentioned, Putin is fully aware of the threat posed by jihadist extremism in the domestic dimension. So, the fact that the Turkish leader has ambitions to lead the Muslim world is a real concern for the Kremlin, which is constantly claiming at all occasions to cooperate with all the international community to fight against Islamic terrorism alongside Europe.

If Russian and Turkish interests would expand other geographical areas, the risk of mutual confrontation would increase; but also as problems that might be created in one area could be solved by resorting to a quid pro quo in other regions with the implementation of the pragmatic approach of Moscow and Ankara.

Mutual Influence?

In any bilateral relation, the influence that one partner may exert over the other, is a fundamental parameter to analyse.

It appears that Russia has more leverage with Turkey than the contrary. This asymmetrical situation emerged after a Russian plane was shot down in Syria in 2015 by Turkish jests.

Since then, Russia, while avoiding cornering Turkey in an untenable situation, increased the pressures on Ankara, from restrictions on trade and movement of people between the two countries, to the threat of canceling the nuclear energy power station project and launching media and social media campaigns targeting Erdoğan and his family’s alleged businesses in Syria, using well-organized resources, inherited from the Cold War.

Further, Moscow has in hand an old, but still powerful, and destabilizing asset against Turkey – the support for Kurdistan independence; especially with the assistance to PKK (Kurdish Worker’s Party, which has existed since the days of the former USSR and the Cold War era), and which is a serious problem and a constant source of irritation for Ankara. Also, even if in a more covert way, Russia supports the Kurdish forces operating in Syria and Iraq, and this is another reason of concern for Turkey, which saw any Kurdish presence, a threat to its national security. (In fact, Ankara has pressured Washington to cut support to the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds regardless if they fought against ISIS/Al-Qaeda elements, but without significant results).

However, Ankara also believes that it has several assets of influence, such as, Russians (mainly from Tatarstan) studying in Turkish universities, the Northern Caucasus diaspora living in Turkey, or the millions of Russians who as tourists enjoy Turkish beaches every year and are to some extent attracted by its culture. Ankara is convinced that the Russian intervention in Syria would prevent the consolidation of Kurdish autonomy in the region (the Bashar Al-Asssad  government, despite using Kurdish forces to fight against the Islamist insurgents, is strongly against the establishment of any idea of setting up of an autonomous Kurdish region within Syria; this is welcomed also by the Syrian neighbours, other than Turkey, because it would pave the way for a future Kurdish state which may include the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Iranian Kurdistan, and the largest part of this possible entity, Kurdish Turkey).

Case Study Of Cooperation And/Or Confrontation: Syria

Syria is the main area where there is the highest risk of collision between Turkey and Russia; but at the same time, it is the area, where the two powers, despite their polarization and divergent interests, have established, even if unstable, a cooperative model.

Russian intervention, since September 2015, prevented the fall of Bashar al-Assad’s government, which was (and still is) Turkey’s long-term objective. It should be remembered that the controlling or weakening of Syria, under the French mandate after independence since 1945, has been a strategic target of Turkey, after the establishment of the republic in 1923.

It was thus surprising that in 2016 Putin brought Erdoğan into a trilateral meeting with Iran (the so-called “Astana,” the Kazakhstan capital city, dialogue format), which has however not been possible since February 2019, although this forum remains active at various levels, where it is able to design small-scale solutions.

Erdoğan, it should be remembered, initially was openly supportive of the Islamist insurgents and, for a period, openly sided with them and was strong allied with the Gulf States in support for the ISIS/Al Qaeda project to dismantle Syria (and Iraq), destroy the Sykes-Picot accord scheme, and set up a radical Islamist state, until its possible absorption by Saudi Arabia, according to informed reports.

Riyad had, and appears to have till today, the dream to re-purpose itself as the “new” (old) Hashemite project, in the Saudi hands, to re-unite all the Mashrak Arabs and territories into a united kingdom.

According to some analysts, when Erdoğan became aware of this plan, which collided with his own hegemonic project to re-establish the Ottoman domain over the Arabic peninsula, he broke with Riyad and approached the new deadly enemy of the Saudis – Qatar, which has become close to Iran, the strongest opponent of Riyadh.

The fact is that the Astana meeting of 2016 laid the groundwork for a compromise in October 2019 on “zones of controls,” which, although it did not satisfy any of the attendants, remains in place despite the violations.

When Turkey significantly increased its involvement in the Syrian conflict, the Assad government had no choice but to adhere more than ever to Russia, while Iran did not have the capacity to counter Turkey entering in the structure established by Moscow.

Thus, Turkish involvement allowed Moscow to dominate the Syrian scheme, albeit indirectly, reducing Iranian influence and limiting Ankara as well, right to the border area with Turkey.

In turn, other regional actors such as Saudi Arabia gradually reduced their impact on the Levant, as did Western diplomacy, making Ankara the dominant power supporting some of the Syrian opposition forces.

In this way, by controlling the warring factions in Syria (like Islamist “moderates,” ethnic Turkish militias), Moscow, and Ankara are now, even if on opposite sides, the masters of conflict (which has been case, tragically, since 2011).

The “Astana” format meeting in 2016 also contributed to moving the focus of international mediation mechanisms—put in place in both Vienna and Geneva—thus helping to increase their control of the conflict. Over time, the understanding between the two powers has contributed to diminishing Tehran’s influence, as tensions between rebels, Turkish proxies and Assad’s forces are better resolved through dialogue between Moscow and Ankara than through the trilateral Astana format.

Examples of this Russian-Turkish understanding or “cooperative hostility” can be found in 2016, when Russia gave the green light to Turkey’s operations in Syria, receiving in return the green light for Damascus’s forces to takeover Aleppo, the most important city under rebel control, in a clear quid pro quo.

The volatile situation in Syria may change, while Russia seems firm in remaining there, especially now that Damascus has overcome the worst crisis. The US could decide to change again its strategy there, which would change further the scene of the current situation and impact the Turkish stance and its relations with Moscow.

The Other Area Of Confrontation And/Or Cooperation: North Africa

North Africa appears to be the best area where the two divergent approaches of Russia and Turkey find now the best example.

The first example is Libya. At the end of 2019, Turkey decided to increase its involvement in Libya by sending military advisors, Syrian mercenaries and drones units belonging to the country’s regular armed forces in support of the UN and EU-(formally) backed government, based in Tripoli, which had the support of several Islamist militias. On the opposite side are Marshal Haftar’s forces, supported by the UAE, Egypt, Russia, and France.

Again, we could see how the intervention of one of the stakeholders in support of one faction enhances the importance of the other stakeholder’s help for the other side.

The intensity of Turkish support stopped Haftar’s offensive in its tracks, forcing him to seek further support from Moscow, which reacted by sending “Wagner” private security firm contractors and modern weapons systems (including MIG-29 fighters “Fulcrum” and Su-24 bombers “Fencer” and SAM units) along with personnel to operate and train the local staff.

The result produced a stalemate in the conflict, in which Turkey and Russia have once again contributed to be the most influential players in a conflict in a third country, and also favoured by US passivity and intra-European split (especially the France and Italy polarization in supporting the two powers there; Rome, openly, the Tripoli-government, and Paris, with a more discrete and ambiguous approach, the one in the East).

The present stalemate would end with the planned Libyan elections, planned for the end of the current year or the beginning of 2022. Regardless, the timing the elections and the formation of a nationwide government in Libya which will follow, will re-open the terms of the relations of Moscow and Ankara, at least in that region.

Russia, like Turkey, appears firmly oriented to (re)-establish a base on Libyan territory, expanding slowly but firmly, its footprint in the Mediterranean basin (it already has bases in Tartus and Latakia, Syria), and its target is to have a naval base in Benghazi and/or an air base in Tobruk. If this is achieved, this plan would substantially strengthen Moscow’s position in the central Mediterranean, and consolidating the Eastern one, and paving the way for the Western one.

Algeria is the most recent sub-area of the Mediterranean basin where the two cooperate.

Since independence, achieved in 1962, Algeria is a pivot of the great strategy of Moscow to get influence in the Mediterranean region; and during the Cold War, the use of the harbour of Oran Mers El Khebir was a real threat to the NATO naval forces in the Western and Central Mediterranean. After the collapse of the USSR, despite the end of the presence in Oran, Moscow was able to keep strong ties with Algeria, especially with the selling of more and more sophisticated weapons systems; Algeria, to face the hostility of Morocco, fully pro-Western, also maintained good relations with Moscow.

Now, with the persistent crisis in Libya, and to re-propose the Ottoman dream (when Algeria had a semi-autonomous status led by a “dey” under the nominal suzerainty of the Sultan of Constantinople), but also in more prosaic terms, to make its presence in Tripoli more efficient, Ankara boosted her penetration policy in Algeria.

The Algerian leadership, which crushed with an iron fist a bloody Islamist insurgency in the 1990s, looks with a mixed feeling at Turkish diplomatic action, given the sympathies Ankara has for political Islam. But the need of stabilization in Libya requires collective action, and Ankara may represent a partner, even with limits (Algiers refused the Turkish request to host air units, tasked to operate in Libya, in its soil and did not allow the use of national airspace to Turkish jets).

The recent worsening of the French-Algerian relations, due to words of President Macron (and other older issues), could be considered a window of opportunity, where both Russia and Turkey, with different channels and impact, take the chance to consolidate their contacts (already very solid for Moscow) with Algiers in antagonizing France and reducing the room of influence of Paris in its former colony.

Again, the pragmatic approach of their relations, shows that Moscow and Ankara have found a modus vivendi, semi-acceptable, making it altogether tenable.

For Russia, the decline of French (and Western) influence in Algeria is a main target, given the weight and role of the North African country in Africa, the Arab world, Europe and the Mediterranean; and Moscow makes clear that it is looking for more naval bases around the world, and Algeria was specifically mentioned in a speech by the Minister of Defence, Serghei Shoigu.

A Sensitive Area

Meanwhile, the same model of cooperative, mutually beneficial confrontation between Russia and Turkey saw a recent revival of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia and the tensions that followed.

The long-standing open failure of the Minsk Group of OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) to establish a negotiated framework for the Nagorno-Karabakh region, pending since 1991, was the open excuse for Azerbaijan to launch its latest successful offensive, recapturing a large part of the region, and inflicting a heavy military defeat on Armenian forces. Baku was strongly supported by Turkey with military advisors and state-of-the-art equipment in terms of drones (including the suicide-like versions of those), communications systems and sensors. After that, Turkey saw an important rise of influence in Baku’s policies.

These successes reinforced Turkey’s ties with Azerbaijan, to the point of launching the idea of “two countries, one people” (re-proposed on a small scale, the dream of “Pan-Turanism” as a project of uniting the Turkish ethnic people from the Mediterranean to Asia, which is also the third element of the ideological architecture of the Erdoganism project, together the rebuilding of the Ottoman Empire and the defence of islam). Thus, Erdoğan visited his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliev last December to celebrate the joined victory against the Christian and Westernized Armenia.

Both Turkey and Russia have thus consolidated their influence in the region. Turkey, which through Azerbaijan looks to gain access to the Caspian Sea and tries to assert itself in a region where its cultural, ethnic, and linguistic ancestry gives it influence.

It should be added, after the conflict, Ankara has tried to deploy military observers in the area; Russian opposition prevented it, despite the previous agreement, and limited the presence of Turkish military to the nominally bi-national, peacekeeping force, of some staff officers at the mission HQ.

Although it may seem contradictory, Russia also benefitted from the conflict by supporting defeated Armenia. In fact, since 2018, Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan has been convinced by US and France (countries where there is a large, influential, and rich Armenian diaspora) to pursue a pro-Western agenda, to the detriment of Russian interests and historical ties. But, after the successful Azeri operation, Armenia was abandoned (as usual) by Western powers – forcing Erevan to turn to its traditional ally and security guarantor, Russia, which provided an additional security guarantee to Armenia in case of possible military pressure from Turkey in support of Azerbaijan. (A similar controversial personality like Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia had the same fate, initially supported by the West, then abandoned as corrupt and thus undesirable).

Russia, for its part, is consolidating its position as the dominant power over weakened Armenia—taking advantage of the West’s fickleness—as the guarantor of the peace agreement. Further, the use of the Caspian Sea (and the Eastern Mediterranean sea) as launching range for the spectacular firing of pre-strategic cruise missiles Kalibr/ Biryuza, hitting Islamist insurgent targets in Syria, rang an alarm bell for many stakeholders, in the region, and outside.

Moscow, for the time being, has reinforced its “buffer zone” in the Southern buffer despite pressure from NATO and has increased the pressure against the pro-Western Georgia.

The New Frontier Of Cooperation And/Or Confrontation Between Moscow And Ankara: Sub-Saharan Africa (Another Fissure Of Western Influence)

The recent Turkish presidental tour in Angola, Nigeria and Togo coincided with the announcement of the end of Sahel’s French operation “Barkhane,” and he seems determined to invest in African military terrain, and continue his offensive against France and the West everywhere.

Determined to accelerate his country’s diplomatic and economic offensive in Africa, since the option of rapprochement with EU faded at the turn of the 2000s, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is investing more and more in the sub-Saharan Africa.

Turkey already has significant economic weight in West Africa, which has enabled it to obtain from several governments in the sub-region the closure of schools close to the Gülen Islamist brotherhood (named after the imam Turkey accuses of having allegedly fomented the attempted coup d’état of July 2016), as was the case in 2017 in Senegal. On the security front, however, this cooperation is still in its early stages. Turkey, which has been hosting Malian officers for training since 2018, has donated $5 million to the G5 Sahel force and signed a military agreement with Niger in 2020.

It seems that Erdogan is seeking to fill the gaps left by the partial withdrawal of France. This option may collide with at least with one of the hotspots of the new politico-diplomatic-military offensive of Russia in the so-called “FranceAfrique” – Mali (the other, as of now is the Central African Republic).

In Mali, Moscow seems to have made an intensive bet, in providing military assistance (again the “Wagner” contractors, but only initially; and now also with provision of military hardware) and getting advantage with the growing hostility of the local population for any Western presence (e.g., the EU Training Mission, the UN Mission [MINUSMA]; the multinational European special force, Takuba, the presence of the CIA’s drones and the support of previous corrupted leaderships).

For the time being, it seems too early to foresee any possible polarization between Moscow and Ankara in the sub-area. But the only certain element for any kind of analysis is that the two work against France (and indirectly NATO, EU, USA). The future will tell what comes of all this.

Conclusion

Although the Russian-Turkish cooperation model—essentially a model with a high military content—has shown its usefulness, turning war zones into frozen conflicts that benefit both actors, it might have its limits.

This situation could lead the endlessly erratic policy of Erdoğan to consider that aligning with his Western allies could provide him with more leverage in the conflict zones.

An evident sign of this appeasement attempt with Turkey is the communiqué of the NATO Summit in June 2021, where no mention was made of Russia’s expansion attempts in the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. The point was not to exacerbate Turkey, even though within the Alliance (and EU as well) there is a growing irritation against Ankara, with its blackmails, insults, and provocations.

This situation has led Moscow (according to its own logic) to instrumentalise as much as possible crises inside the Euro-Atlantic area with the aim of creating and/or widening rifts within the Western alliances and diversifying its focus.

Russian and Turkish dynamism are part of a new global geopolitical trend in which new emerging powers, such as Russia and Turkey, act in a coordinated manner to challenge Western interests.

In recent years the progression of the persistently ambiguous Russian-Turkish relationship, although not strategic, is bearing results for both the actors.

Regardless of reduced economic ties, ideological differences, Moscow and Ankara have reached, in pragmatical mode, a mutually acceptable mode of cooperation, despite supporting opposing factions in various geo-strategic theatres.

But, as mentioned before, the relation remains weak – especially for Erdoğan, because the Turkish leader has been compensating for growing domestic discontent with external military successes and interventions. And these successes are short-lived. He would be forced to embark on new and costly foreign adventures and further increase the already heavy pressure on the growing internal opposition, extremising the tensions especially with EU.

One of these potential external adventures, the most serious threat to the continuation of a stable relationship between Moscow and Ankara, could be the involvement of Turkey in the Ukrainian crisis, where it is providing support to the modernization of Kiev’s armed forces. Ukraine is a red line for Moscow and because of the nature of the two states, there is the risk of an uncontrollable escalation with an extremely worrying and uncertain outcome. Implementing such a scenario should be foreseen in advance because of the enormous risks it would entail, giving the limited possibilities of a rapprochement on security matters between the two states.

While the non-existence of a formal framework between Moscow and Ankara has allowed them to achieve significant results, this gap could represent a serious vacuum if the two enter into a collision route.


Enrico Magnani, PhD is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations. (The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations).


EUTM-M: A New UN Training Mission

The EU could have a military training mission in Mozambique in few months; the bloc’s head of foreign policy said, to help the southern African country counter Islamist insurgents. “I think we could approve this mission,” Josep Borrell told reporters, before a meeting of EU defense ministers in Lisbon, where the topic was to be discussed. The problem appears to be in identifying countries of the Union, in addition to Portugal, willing to provide personnel.

Borrell previously said that 200 to 300 military personnel could be sent to Mozambique by the end of the year. Portugal had already sent 60 instructors to its former colony in May to begin training Mozambican soldiers to counter the Islamist insurgency, share information and use drones to track the movements of militants.

Portuguese Defense Minister Joao Cravinho had said other countries were willing to send personnel but without providing further details. Obviously, Portugal would be the “leading nation” of the mission, said Cravinho and that he expects the activation of the mission, which is likely to be called EUTM-M (EU Training Mission – Mozambique), by the end of the year, taking advantage of the pause that the Islamist insurgents have been handed, because of a victorious operation by local troops.

Mozambique has been grappling with an insurrection in its northern province of Cabo Delgado since 2017; and the violence has grown significantly over the past year. Dozens of civilians were killed in Islamic State-related attacks in the coastal city of Palma in April, and a $20 billion liquefied natural gas project, run by French oil giant Total, was halted by the violence.

It is useful to remember that the Community of Southern African States (SADC), for political reasons, after having formulated a proposal to send a multinational force of 3,000 soldiers in support of the Maputo forces, took a lot of time before being deployed. Finally, a Rwandan contingent arrived in August and immediately fought the insurgents, crushing their units; Angolan and other contingents finally are on their way to Mozambique. Furthermore, the USA, always at the request of the Maputo government, has sent a training and support mission to the local forces engaged against the Islamist militias.

Finally, the UN, which since 2019, has faced a persistent (and unresolved) political struggle between the government of Mozambique and the opposition movement (RENAMO) that had been also operating in the north of the country, and to facilitate dialogue, appointed the Swiss diplomat Mirko Manzoni as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General. Manzoni, assisted by a small office, is working in quietly to re-establish dialogue between the parties.

A Necessary, Comprehensive Review

For several years, the UN and the Member States have discussed how best to support some of the ongoing military operations in the Sahel, a region suffering from increasing levels of violence, as well as political, humanitarian, and environmental crises. Since December 2017, the UN has offered to support the Joint Force of the G5 Sahel, through a complicated series of agreements. Today there are growing demands from the United Nations to establish a specific body dedicated to supporting the multinational force. The issue is not new, as early as the mid-2000s the UN began using its peacekeeping funds to support other missions.

Africa has been at the center of these activities, starting from 2006, with the supply by the UN of the so-called “support packages,” initially light and subsequently more substantial, to AMIS, the African Union Mission in Sudan (to which even NATO had provided significant support).

Then, in 2009, came the decisive step. The UN established a United Nations Support Office for AMISOM (the African Union mission in Somalia), the first dedicated mechanism funded by peacekeeping. In 2015, it was reconfigured into the UN Support Office for Somalia (UNSOS), which continues to operate to this day and is dependent on the Department of Logistics Support. Some experts believe they are repurposing this model, which works quite well, in support of the G5S. The leaders of the G5 Sahel have called for such a mechanism; the Secretary-General of the UN also suggested it.

However, there are some perplexities and issues for debate. Formally, the G5S is not a peacekeeping force (in reality, even the AMISOM is not, as it is a fighting force). Peace operations are generally defined as involving civilian and uniformed foreign personnel, working in support of a peace process (and in apparent contradiction to what has been said, AMISOM is also this and has civilian personnel for political, civil, humanitarian and police forces to train local ones).

The Joint Force G5 Sahel does not meet this definition. In fact, it is a set of military forces (with heavily armed police forces) operating on their national territory (Mauritania, Mali, Burkina, Niger, Chad), and which have limited activities, “hot pursuit” (i.e., during a cross-border action).

Earlier this year, Chad deployed its own contingent in the region, where the borders between Burkina-Faso, Mali and Niger meet, but based on a specific agreement and for a specific time (then the Chadian government withdrew from the area because of national needs after the death in combat (though at home) of President Idriss Debi). So, for the most part, the countries contributing to the G5S Force are simultaneously the “hosting state.”

Legally, therefore, the issue does not require the authorization of the UN Security Council, because it is an example of collective self-defense, authorized by the states on whose territory the personnel of the force operate and the existence of an integrated HQ (in Bamako), and it is not enough to transform a sui generis force into a full-fledged multinational force. Rather than legal authorization, G5 Sahel leaders would like to obtain a Chapter VII mandate from the UN Security Council for the force, which allows access to UN peacekeeping funds, as has been the case in Somalia, following the AMISOM model.

When the host state and the contributing country are the same, this would pose significant challenges for the UN to identify national operations (as opposed to joint forces) and to ensure accountability (financial, legal, and ethic-political). It would be one thing if the G5 Sahel states were transparent and timely in reporting their operations; but they were not (and the use of materials and equipment provided by many EU states to the force are an example).

Furthermore, as the latest report by the UN Secretary General noted, MINUSMA (and partners such as UETM-Mali, EUCAP Mali, EUCAP Sahel and several states) underlined the persistent lack of information from the Joint Force G5S on the conduct of operations.

Another problem is that the G5S force already benefits from multiple support mechanisms. There are bilateral security assistance agreements from over a dozen states, as well as the European Union (EU). In addition, the UA is still working out how to deploy 3,000 reinforcements for the Joint Force G5S. Since February 2018, a trust fund has also supported the force by receiving approximately $145 million from Saudi Arabia, Rwanda, Turkey, UAE, and the West African Economic and Monetary Union. As mentioned, it also receives the support of MINUSMA (logistic, medical, technical, and engineering assistance).

Despite some recent improvements, compliance and accountability issues persist, in that Joint Force G5 Sahel personnel are regularly accused of violating international humanitarian law. Recent improvements include the establishment of a casualty and accident monitoring and analysis cell in January 2021; sending radio messages prior to operations to all intervention units on their legal obligations; and monitoring the capture, detention, and transfer of detainees. It is true that AMISOM also constantly suffers from liability and compliance problems. But persistent legal violations by the G5S contingents risk scrapping this hypothesis, together with the recent coup in Mali.

Finally, using a dedicated UN mechanism, funded by the organization’s assessed peacekeeping contributions to primarily support domestic counter-terrorism operations would set a dangerous precedent as it would undermine the UN’s claims of impartiality and further blur the border between peace operations and internal counter-terrorism activities. It would also likely encourage other states and organizations around the world to seek similar UN support for their own domestic counter-terrorism operations, which in some circumstances are dubious and a cover to crack internal oppositions.

Old Ghosts

It seems that the Balkans, including the Western ones, cannot get rid of old patterns. In early June, the Council of Europe warned that divisions between ethnic communities are deepening in Montenegro, stressing that the monitoring of hate speech needs to be improved. In its report on the implementation of the Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in Montenegro, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe noted that the authorities said that the social distances between almost all ethnic groups have increased. This contributed to the Committee’s view that divisions between communities could deepen and become more marked. Episodes of religious discord between different communities of the Orthodox Church were also noted, the report said. Despite that hate speech is criminalized, there is little social media monitoring by the authorities because no agency has the mandate to do so.

The Council called on the authorities to pay particular attention to the prevention of hate speech in consultations with the new media law and to ensure that the law addresses the problem of online hate speech. The Strasbourg body said the new media law must clearly define responsibilities for published hate speech and authorize a state agency to monitor and sanction cases of hate speech online.

The European Commission’s 2020 progress report on the country warned that hate speech and verbal abuse in the media and social networks have worsened. It then urged the Montenegrin authorities to increase the capacity of the judiciary to deal with hate speech and to ensure that such cases are investigated, prosecuted and properly sanctioned.

The Council of Europe has also invited the authorities to clarify the use of other state symbols in Montenegro, as the lack of clarity on the display of symbols of other states risks being a cause of abuse and further exacerbates the divisions present in the Montenegrin society.

Montenegro’s national symbols law does not prohibit ethnic minorities from displaying their national symbols; but it also requires them to display the national flag next to these symbols. or risk fines of between 100 and 500 euros. Belonging to the Albanian and Serbian minorities, they seem to be the object of the greatest number of actions by the security forces.
Montenegro is a multi-ethnic state and it is unusual not to have a community that makes up more than half of its population. About 45% of its population of about 630,000 people identify as Montenegrins, about 29% as Serbian, about 11% as Bosnian (Bosniak) or Muslim, and 5% as Albanian. But the report by the Council of Europe underlines the permanent fragility of the region, both for the old and for the new states there.

The events of Montenegro are exemplary in representing the injustices of history. In fact already during WWI the small kingdom had disappeared from the agendas of the Allied and the Associated, and despite a different willing assimilated to the Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia and its autonomy, during the Titoist era, already limited, ended again from 1991 until it reached full independence in 2006.

Montenegro was dragged into the maelstrom of civil war and associated with the Serbia of Milosevic and his gloomy associates. Independence, as often happens, develops very strong identity dynamics (especially when they have been deliberately ignored and repressed) and situations that have already been seen and that no one wants to review, are resumed.

But recent polarizations have not helped the initiation of a dialogue and choices. In present-day Montenegro, issues, such as, NATO membership and the EU accession process, have (re) ignited rivalry, along with Serbian (and Russian) concerns, further worsening conflicts; and the civilian populations still risk being held hostage to ambitions and ethnic cleansing by unwanted foreigners, and unlikely revenge, also touching upon the religious dimension, witnessed by the very harsh separation between the Serbian and Montenegrin Orthodox churches and also the revival of old and semi-forgotten Albanian and Kosovar claims on border areas (respectively Bar, Ulcigno and Berane).

The Mysterious Island

A mysterious airbase is under construction on a volcanic island off the coast of Yemen that is in one of the world’s crucial sea nodes for both energy shipments and commercial cargo. Although no country has claimed jurisdiction on Mayun Island in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, shipping traffic associated with a previous attempt to build a huge track across the island, less than six kilometers long.

The internationally recognized Yemeni government officials now say the UAE is behind this latest effort, although the UAE announced in 2019 the withdrawal of its troops from a Saudi-led military campaign fighting Yemen’s Houthi rebels, and that shortly before a tough political confrontation had opposed Riyadh and Dubai over the presence of Emirate forces on the Yemeni island of Socotra.

The runway on Mayun Island allows anyone who controls it to project power into the strait and easily launch air strikes into mainland Yemen, ravaged by a bloody war that has been going on for years. It could also provide a base for any operation in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and neighboring East Africa, now one of the most important regions on the planet.

Satellite images showed construction work on a 2-kilometer runway, and other installations and hangars to equip this installation with the capacity to host attacks, surveillance, and transport aircraft. A previous attempt, started towards the end of 2016, and subsequently abandoned, had seen work on an even longer track (over 3 kilometers).

Yemeni officials said the recent tension between the UAE and Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi stemmed in part from the Emirati’s request to his government to sign a 20-year lease for Mayun. The initial (and halted) construction project came after the UAE, Saudi and allied forces recaptured the island from Iranian-backed Houthi militants in 2015.

Other sources note that the Emirati’s apparent decision to resume construction of the air base comes after they dismantled their military installations in Eritrea, and used as a starting point for the campaign in Yemen, revealing not only a mere geographical reorientation, but confirming its strategic interests in the region.


Enrico Magnani, PhD is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations. (The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations).


The featured image shows a mural about the lost boys of the Sudan.

Moscow’s Stability Operations: A Brief History

Stability operations initiated by Moscow, whether in the Soviet or post-Cold War era contexts, are peculiar in their own history and methods from all the others set up by the UN, by other international and regional organizations and by the “coalition of the willing.”

Moscow put such military operations on two different levels: ones led by the UN, and those that can be attributed to the Community of Independent States (CIS), and considered by Moscow almost as internal affairs, and thus conceived, directed, and managed as such.

The first such operation began relatively late, in November 1973, with the dispatch of 36 military observers, all unarmed commissioned officers, to the oldest peace operation of the United Nations (UNTSO). The observers were accompanied by a further 36 “interpreters” (or controllers, likely coming from the GRU, the Soviet military intelligence service). The UNTSO, ad hoc expanded, was to operate in support of the troops of the UN interposition force deployed after the Yom Kippur War in Sinai, UNEF II.

The presence of these “interpreters” immediately created a major problem for the UN (which could not give consideration to military observers, given that they had to express themselves and write in English, the working language of the organization) – not to mention the financial, logistical, insurance and legal problems. But all this was in the midst of the Cold War and, only after a long negotiation did the “interpreters” leave, and in this way, the USSR also kept its presence in UNTSO, after the end of UNEF II, in 1979. Until 1991, members of UNTSO were the only Soviet-Russian “blue helmets.” After the liberation of Kuwait and to monitor the truce in Western Sahara, other military observers were sent, respectively, UNIKOM and MINURSO (the latter, even if in reduced strength, is still present).

Since then, there are few UN missions that have not seen a presence of military observers, police personnel, support helicopters and other specialists sent from Moscow, in accordance with the choice of opening to the world of the new Kremlin leadership. This choice sees only some small variations, given the stiff resistance by Moscow of sending formed units abroad, synthesized in a battalion of paratroopers, dispatched to the former Yugoslavia, in the framework of UNPROFOR, between 1992 and 1996; and this only after several requests and with many difficulties.

Leaving aside the presence of the two Russian battalions included in the NATO-led peacekeeping missions to Bosnia and Kosovo (I-FOR/S-FOR and K-FOR), it is useful to summarize, and as far as possible, analyze the role and function of those operating in the peripherical area of the former USSR (or “near abroad” for the new Russia). While the most recent, tasked to monitor the ceasefire line between the forces of Nagorno/Karabach and Armenia on the one side and Azerbaijan on the other is ongoing, most of those missions completed their mandate, and others are presumed to be closed soon.

According to the universally accepted doctrine of stability operations, these operations lack the fundamental principles of stability operations, such as, impartiality between opposing factions, and being a presence mutually accepted by them, with limited use of force and that only for the purpose of self-defense and within the limits of the implementation of the mandate. However, this statement, which comes from Western experts and scholars of stability operations, is partial.

As mentioned, all these operations for Moscow, since the uncertain days of the end of USSR and the more uncertain days of the beginning of the CIS (Community of Independent States, a substitute body for the immediate post-USSR), represented a very critical political value and, as such, were carefully designed and managed; all had the pivotal objective of protecting the interests of the Kremlin, starting with the protection of the Russian and/or Russian-speaking populations, and securing strategic assets and corridors. This pragmatic approach has gradually established a series of mission options, which have a solid political plan and a realistic time-line.

Where the criticism is, however, pertinent is the lack of legitimacy of the emanating body, due to the uncertain and ambiguous role and juridical status of the CIS, perceived as a mere long-arm of Moscow’s interests and objectives.

For example, the agreement which followed the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, covers a period of five years. It may seem long, but it allowed for an exist, from the various weary rituals of renewal issued, often after tedious negotiations, like the annual (or even half-yearly) meetings at the UN Security Council, a phase which put the operations under regular stress, and thus creating or exacerbating tensions on the ground, while raising expectations of the former warring parties.

Also, from observed experiences of stabilization operations carried out by the UN, the Russian forces appeared to be more heavily armed and thus had a deterrent capacity that reduced the potential threats from those who would want to break the truce and confront forces with mobility, self-protection, and hostile fire suppression capabilities far superior to those of “blue helmets.”

This deterrence discouraged the former warring parties to undertake dangerous escalations, making these operations much more effective, as is often the case for UN missions, which facilitate the political dialogue framework, by reducing the space of maneuver and blackmailing of the former warring parties.

Many of these forces (former Soviet and/or initially CIS-led) were already garrisoning in the area from the time of the existence of the USSR and often reacted to the exploding problems, applying Moscow’s guidelines in an average effective manner, given the circumstances.

The disintegration of the USSR, and the formation of 12 independent republics, had great consequences on the stability of the former federation and impacted the new born states, which inherited the distortions of Soviet times.

In fact, in areas where Soviet intervention was particularly heavy with border and population displacements, violent conflicts erupted (like in the Caucasus), as the process of political and economic restructuring of the USSR, begun in the second half of the 1980s by Gorbachov, weakened the repressive apparatus that had oppressed those regions since the mid-1920s.

After the official end of the Soviet Union, which materialized in December 1991, the need to maintain an integrated economic system favored the establishment of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), an interstate body with a vague nature, characteristic and structure.

This community, directly hegemonized by Moscow, was established on 21 December 1991 in Alma Ata/Almaty in Kazakhstan. Despite serious economic and social internal turmoil and institutional re-foundation, already in the summer of 1992, Moscow first re-started a minimum interstate dialogue, trying to circumscribe the various crisis hotspots (Transcaucasia, Central Asia and Moldova), initially using the ex-Soviet forces still in those territories. Second, Moscow established and supported these multilateral interposition contingents, including (and also integrating) military units of the warring parties; thus, creating a conceptual novelty for this type of operation (however entirely ignored in the West). This format was adopted to include and to make accountable the former warring parties and defuse the restart of conflicts.

This choice however was badly perceived by one side, especially when the other side include separatist movements/fractions, as an attempt to legitimize those elements. This was bluntly rejected by countries like Georgia, which saw these forces as a move led by Moscow to undermine the newly reached independence of Batumi.

The CIS-led forces cooperated, to a rather limited extent, with OSCE and UN observer missions. Several of them completed their respective mandates as well, thanks to the massive diplomatic and institutional action conducted by Moscow, which tended to reabsorb these new/old nations (internationally recognized or not) in its political, economic, and strategic orbit.

Although indirectly, the Chechen question, and the brutal (and inconclusive) Russian attempts to overcome the many military crisis, constituted by the tensions within the non-Russian states of the Community which refused to participate to those operation.

This situation resulted in frequent problems between Moscow and the newly formed post-Soviet republics, which were unwilling to accept supinely the exclusive direction by the Russian side of military structures of the CIS (both of the central bodies of the organization and of the stabilization forces that were progressively formed); and the growing perplexity of some states to act as a purely rear area for the Russian and CIS forces, operating especially in Central Asia and consequently, return sic et simpliciter to the orbit of Moscow.

The establishment of these multilateral forces does not in many cases mean the automatic withdrawal from those territories of the Russian (and former USSR) contingents, often supported by large and heavily armed units of the newly constituted CIS Border Guard (the former Soviet frontier guard, a uniformed wing of the KGB).

With gradual stabilization underway in Moscow, and what emanates from it, these formations were progressively transformed into a more stable military presence, thus carrying out a function of protection of the Russian populations residing in those republics through a series of agreements that Russia progressively stipulated with these states which also granted the use of various military bases, freedom of movement and use of airspace.

In addition to military presence, Moscow’s action was accompanied by a process of institutional reorganization, characterized by a relevant ability to mediate between the conflicting needs of the parties and using the lever of the promise of economic aid to mitigate the conflicts (though limited, given the condition of the Russian financial situation).

Moscow’s determination lies in the need to have its peripherical areas as stable as possible, to maintain control over very delicate geographical and strategic junctions (Central-Western Asia, the Caucasus, Black Sea, oil pipelines, etc.), and to protect the Russian populations.

This situation created a droit de regard from Russia out towards the former Soviet republics, despite many protests in international fora and sates, such as, by the US, EU, NATO, UN and the OSCE, which saw their ability to act seriously become limited. In fact, Moscow only agreed to the presence of observation missions and good offices, and placed a very firm veto on the deployment of international military forces.

In January 1996, in the face of continuous requests for clarification by the UN, the CIS, through the Russian delegation to the UN, presented a document that clearly defined the status, nature, tasks and missions of the peacekeeping forces of this body, which until then was rather confused.

The document takes up, with some differences (especially relating to the use of force), the basic concepts of UN peacekeeping operations. It also clarifies the presence and duties of military forces, police personnel, and military observers in these missions. Guidelines were also established for relations between CIS forces and the personnel of other international bodies, such as the UN, OSCE and non-governmental, humanitarian assistance, civil and human rights monitoring bodies.

Even Moscow, in the context of the more general restructuring of its armed forces, initially faced a deficit of predesigned units for this type of operation; but it coped as best as it could by using resources already available, to then build ad hoc units for this kind of operation; and these units were precisely those sent to guard the truce line between the Armenian and Azerbaijani forces, after the conflict in 2020.

Even if CIS was a structure considered by Moscow as a temporary solution (it still exists), it managed all the stabilization operations. But its architecture was also gradually supported by the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) which, established since 1993 and through a long process, lasted more than ten years. CSTO became the long-arm of Moscow in the “near abroad,” even if the participation of some states was fluctuating.

CSTO, among the numerous sub-architectures established (and largely different from CIS, which remained almost exclusively a heads-of-state council secretariat), had a more solid political and military mechanism, dedicated to stabilization (with a force of 3,000 military and police personnel), and which was ready to intervene, according to the decisions of the Council of Heads of State of the organization; or, upon request, to intervene in support of UN-led operations, though thus far it has never intervened in such a capacity (namely, a robust, mechanized infantry formation, able to impose and supervise a ceasefire, monitor road access and protect civilian populations from the actions of irregular elements, by borrowing aforementioned principles).

Tajikistan

Between 1992 and 1997, in Tajikistan, during a violent inter-ethnic conflict between non-Russian population components, there were a recorded 100,000 dead and half a million refugees. Since 1992, Russian forces basically present from the Soviet era (the 201st Motorized Rifle Division) had been formally acting as an interposition mandated by CIS, even though the behavior of its personnel was often the subject of criticism. But that was in the darkest days of the post-Soviet era and often salaries and supplies never arrived, and the personnel sold weapons and equipment to the parties.

Beyond these considerations, Russian troops were mandated by CIS to keep order. Since 1993, this decision was translated into an increased and open support of pro-Moscow leadership in the country. In August 1993, CIS gave its full mandate to Russian and some Central Asian republic forces, present in Tajikistan (at that time 25,000 soldiers), to resume forcible disarmament operations of the insurgent formations. In September of that year Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan asked (unsuccessfully) that these forces obtain UN mandate under Chapter VII of its Charter, (and thus also removing the embarrassment of CIS in allowing a one-side operation).

In allowing the UN Security Council to mandate CIS forces, it was decided to expedite the operation of disarmament and solve the issue as soon as possible. The civil war ended in 1997, with an agreement, promoted by the UN, which saw the prevalence of a line in favor of Moscow, and CIS troops gradually withdrew (the operation ended in 2000). In 1997, the Collective Peacekeeping Forces (CPF) numbered more than 12,000 soldiers (the 201st Motorized Rifle Division and three army battalions from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan), as well as 17,000 border guards (mostly Russian, with small contingents of similar Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan forces).

Abkhazia

In Abkhazia, the local independence forces, formed immediately after the independence of Georgia, clashed with the army of Tbilisi, newly formed in 1992, and defeated it. Moscow followed its policy of establishing multilateral forces and a mechanism of dialogue and coordination, but with partial success.

On May 14, 1994, after difficult negotiations, held under the aegis of the UN, the parties signed an agreement in Moscow to a ceasefire and separation of forces. The collective peacekeeping forces of the CIS, established by decision of the Council of Heads of State of the Community, included only Russian units, after the failure of the constitution of a joint force that would have included Abkhazian and Georgian elements because of the animosity between the two parties.

The JPKF (Joint Peacekeeping Force), deployed in June 1994, controlled a 24km wide security zone, along the line of contact between opposing forces. The only multilateral forum established was the JCC (Joint Consultation Committee), a consultation body and good offices, chaired by the Russian military.

On 10 October 2008, in accordance with the decision taken at the meeting of the CIS Council of Heads of State, held in Bishkek, the mandate of the JPKF, after 14 years of stay, ended; and a week later the Russian peacekeepers withdrew. Between October and early December, Russian troops replaced the JPKF and established new fortified positions on the side of the Abkhaz-controlled ceasefire line. The last Russian unit left the area in November of that year (after the short conflict between Georgia and Ossetia ended) and Abkhazian forces were deployed directly on the border with Georgia.

South Ossetia

Another autonomous region of Georgia—South Ossetia—aspired to political independence in the late 1980s. After the collapse of the USSR, that aspiration turned into an armed confrontation between self-formed local militias against the Georgian army, which was heavily defeated and Ossetia became de facto independent, but closely linked to Moscow (regardless that another conflict opposed South and North Ossetian forces).

After the ceasefire, also reached in 1994, Russian peacekeeping forces, under the auspices of the CIS, were deployed in the conflict zones. This only happened, after a previous unsuccessful attempt, because of the tough intransigence of Georgia to deploy a multilateral force formed by a Russian battalion (700) together with a Georgian battalion (320) and one of South Ossetia (470), also in this case called JPKF.

Afterwards, the situation was substantially stable, despite the permanent hostility of Georgian governments. In August 2008, the Georgian army attacked South Ossetia by surprise, killing 15 JPKF soldiers. Moscow reacted quickly, resulting in the so-called “Five Day War” between Georgia and Russia, with Abkhazia joining South Ossetia. As a result of the operation, South Ossetia and the small parts of Abkhazia that came under Georgian control on that occasion were liberated from the Tbilisi troops.

At the end of August, the two self-proclaimed republics asked Russia to recognize their independence, which was done by Moscow. In October of the same year, the JPKF withdrew and was initially replaced by Russian border guards and army units, which were gradually joined, and later replaced, by elements of the South Ossetian self-defense forces.

Armenia/Azerbaijan

The recent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan followed an even more violent previous one. Like the most recent, the reason for the dispute was the control of the Armenian populated Nagorno-Karabach enclave within Azerbaijan. This dispute began, in political terms, as early as 1987; and as the authority of the USSR loosened over the whole of Transcaucasia, the conflict became more and more violent, until it led to an open war, in 1990, and caused 15,000 deaths and a million refugees, until the spring of 1992, and which saw a heavy Azerbaijani defeat.

By the summer of 1992, after an agreement between the parties, a Russian regiment was deployed as an interposition force of CIS that separated the regular forces of Yerevan and the Armenian separatists of Nagorno-Karabach from the Azerbaijani ones. However, the mutual mistrust between Armenians and Azerbaijanis did not allow for the deployment of a multilateral force with Russian, Armenian, Azerbaijani and Nagorno-Karabach separatists, as originally envisaged by the JCC (Joint Consultation Committee), a multilateral body, in charge of direction and management of the operation, which was the only one where both sides sat together. So, JPKLEF (Joint Peacekeeping and Law Enforcement Force), in charge of controlling the ceasefire, was formed, but only made up of Russian troops. This force was then withdrawn not only for the stability of the ceasefire, but also due to the decisive rapprochement between Armenia and Russia, which led to the signing of a bilateral agreement in 1997, which also provided for the establishment of a consistent Russian military presence in that country.

Moldova

On 27 August 1991, Moldova declared independence from the USSR and a few weeks later clashes broke out between the forces of the newborn republic and the self-defense formations of the Russian and Ukrainian populations residing in the Transdniestr region, which declared itself an independent republic on 2 September and called for annexation to Russia.

The clashes continued increasingly violent, and on 6 July, JPKF (Joint Peacekeeping Force) was sent by CIS decision; and in mid-July was deployed to Transnistria. The force (whose composition was the result of intense negotiations promoted by Moscow), under Russian command, comprised 2 Moldovan battalions, 2 Transnistrian battalions and 5 Russian battalions (other sources report instead 3, 3 and 6 battalions respectively) for a total of 2000 units.

Again, the JPKF depended on the JCC (Joint Consultation Committee), which brought together high-level Russian and party political and military representatives, and worked to manage the operation. The presence of the CIS force replaced the very brief presence of a multilateral observation mission made up, following a diplomatic agreement, of military observers, for the control of the truce, from Bulgaria, Turkey, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Transnistria, and decided upon in June 1992, but which obtained no results whatsoever.

By August, the JPKF, after stabilizing the situation, allowed the return of 50,000 refugees, the reopening of the roads between the two territories and substantial normalization. In November 1994, Moscow unilaterally withdrew half of its contingent from the JPKF for budgetary reasons (despite protests from both sides), while the JCC, which cooperated with a similar OSCE mission, remained on site from the beginning of 1993. 

In the context of the Transnistrian affair, we must mention the presence in that territory of the Soviet (later Russian) XIV Army, which, despite the task of cooperating with the JPKF, carried out a clear partisan action in favor of the Russian-speaking militias, by supplying weapons and instructors to the local National Guard. By the spring of 1997, following agreements dating back to 1994, between the Moldovan government and the autonomists of Transnistria, the XIV army (in the meantime reduced from 12,000 soldiers to 7,000, while today it only numbers 1,500) began a partial withdrawal. The Russian troops, though reduced by number, continued to be stationed in Transnistria.

The Russian presence in Transnistria was however at the center of constant tensions between Chisnau (which repeatedly asked for their withdrawal), Tiraspol and Moscow. The progressive distancing of Moldova from Russian area of influence made Chisnau’s request for the withdrawal of Russian troops (including the remaining JPKF forces, now reduced to less than 400 soldiers) and the dissolution of the JCC, more vocal. Moscow tried to resist as much as it could, but the gradual rapprochement of Moldova and Ukraine to the EU and NATO made the situation of Russian troops (JPKF and the remnant of the XIV army) in Transnistria increasingly problematic.

The foreseeable solution, sponsored by the OSCE, of the end of secession of Transnistria and its return into Moldova institutional framework in exchange for a vast administrative, cultural, and linguistic autonomy, makes this presence a dossier to be resolved in the near future.

Comment

A proper analysis of the stability operations carried out by Moscow must be seen through the lens of politics. Those operations were part of a broader action of Russia to stabilize as much as possible the “near abroad: and not to lose the control of the new republics, and to maintain access to their natural resources, while keeping a strategic depth/buffer zone. Last, but not least, these operations guaranteed the safety of the Russian-speaking population (with the perspective of using them as a tool of influence in better times, while keeping a solid grip on the internal policy-making of these countries).

All these objectives were met, by various ways and means, and in time. But the evolution of the political landscape, with the progressive emergence of leadership in these countries less and less keen to cooperate with Moscow (especially Georgia, as the first example, and progressively followed by Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan)—weakened the Russian-led project which sought to save as much as possible of the gains of the then USSR.

This situation co-existed with the tireless efforts of the EU and NATO to increase their influence there, with specific programmes, like the ENP (European Neighborhood Policy) and EAPC/PfP (Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council/Partnership for Peace).

If these political considerations are not taken into account, the stability operations carried out by Moscow reached a good level of success, allowing Russia to achieve, at least for a period, its political targets.

But, given that the stability operations can be more politically profiled as any other military activity, they also cannot be considered as a fully separated entity or fact.

No doubt, that despite the failure of establishing “collective” (as termed also by Moscow) peacekeeping forces, the presence of Russian troops under the aegis of CIS, those missions did lead to the defusing, at least for a period, of tensions on the ground and blocked a further worsening.

The reliability of the Russia forces involved in the CIS-led operation was widely demonstrated by their reaction against the aggression of Georgian forces in 2008, a reaction which slowed the progression of the Batumi forces, and which gave time to Moscow to deploy more larger forces in the area, which defeated the aggression.

Like all the peacekeeping/stability missions established by other organizations, every operation is a specific case, with its own historical and political background, bilateral/multilateral; and, generally, the ones in the Caucasus went well enough, as well as the one in Tajikistan. The former was a “lesson-learned” mission for other operations for Moscow leadership (political and military).

The main lesson learned was to collocate any operation to the most proper political context (always with the perspective of reaching its own strategic objectives), and having dedicated forces, which could ensure the reach of the stability on the ground, and in parallel protect Moscow’s interests.


Enrico Magnani, PhD is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations.


The featured images shows, “A Letter to the Foes of Russia,” by Vasily Nesterenko, painted ca. 2017-2018.

International Intervention In The Little Civil War

It is widely believed that international peace restoration action is a military phenomenon that was born in the 20th century, especially since the establishment of the League of Nations and the United Nations. However, there are earlier recorded precedents of action to stabilize interstate and intrastate conflicts.

External military intervention is an ordinary phenomenon in international relations. And in the 19th century, especially during critical times for Europe, several interventions took place, focused on re-establishing, sic et simpliciter, the institutional and social order threatened by nationalistic, social and economic demands. This was especially true in Italy, where foreign forces were deployed across the peninsula to help local dynasties facing liberal and national unity uprisings.

A De Facto Architecture

The backbone of those actions was the Quintuple Alliance, successor of the Holy Alliance established after the Napoleonic wars. This alliance (a 19th-Century version of the contemporary concept of the “coalition of the willing”) was originally set up to crack down on possible hegemonic ambitions by France. It then saw a mutation in its membership with the inclusion of France in its diplomatic and military architecture. Consequently, it saw a re-orientation in its mandate, focused on supporting the legitimacy of the power system in Europe against internal threats, stemming from the political heritage of the French Revolution.

These ideological calls aside, the Quintuple Alliance also responded to the need to counter demands for social justice that the beginning of the industrialization process had brought about. At the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle in October-November 1818, Great Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia, in exchange for payment of war reparations (albeit reduced), approved the withdrawal of the occupation forces from the North of France.

The France of Louis XVIII was also invited to adhere publicly to a political statement on the brotherhood of the four powers, cemented by the bonds of Christianity, that the four victorious powers over Napoleon had signed. France’s re-inclusion in the Concert of Europe dates from this period, which saw the transition from the Quadruple to the Quintuple Alliance. The full adhesion of France became operational only in 1822.

Furthermore, at the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, in addition to the decision to re-admit France, the four powers had simultaneously signed a secret protocol, which contained a mutual guarantee against France. The move of Paris, from a defeated power to a full-fledged ally, could be traced back to a decision by the Congress of Verona (between 9 to 14 October 1822) to authorize France (against open British dissent) to conduct a military expedition in Spain, to restore the absolutist government of Ferdinand VII of Bourbon, which had been overthrown by a liberal uprising.

Long-Standing Instability

The Patuleia War (or Guerra da Patuleia), also known as the “Little Civil War” (to distinguish it from the “great” civil war that ended in 1834, the War of the Two Brothers) was another moment of the quasi-permanent instability which affected Portugal from the end of the Napoleonic invasion and the re-establishment of the Braganza dynasty from its exile in Brazil. During this period, Portugal was run by British-supported elites.

Pressure then started to mount from the professional classes to obtain more power, in contrast with the conservative approach by the monarchy. Such pressure began with the 1820 Revolution, which established a liberal constitution and turned Portugal into a constitutional monarchy. In 1826, thanks to British influence over Lisbon, a political compromise was established between conservatives and liberals. Their ideological divide, however, was to remain a constant dynamic in Portuguese society, affecting also the military institutions.

The War And Foreign Intervention

Britain and Spain, two Powers that for different reasons were deeply interested in the Portugal, emerged as natural actors in the attempt to stabilize the conflict and avoid a de facto military stalemate on the ground, which could lead the country into a deeper crisis. Britain, since the Peninsular War, had a heavy influence on the country, while Spain kept a wary eye on its neighboring country.

The growing tensions exploded when, in October 1846, Queen Maria II handed power to General Saldanha, a controversial personality in 19th-Century Portugal, who embodied administrative principles rejected before the insurrection of Maria da Fonte which had occurred months earlier. This move of the Crown faced immediate countrywide resistance, organized into local “juntas.” Among these, the one in Porto merged resistance to the new ministry.

Prime Minister Palmerston, using Lisbon’s appeal of help as an opportunity, did not accept Spain acting unilaterally and militarily, as desired by Saldanha, in re-establishing the statu quo ex ante. Nor did Palmerston fully accept the mandate, assigned to Madrid, by the spirit and letter of the Quintuple Alliance. The parties accepted the mediation – rather arbitration – with Great Britain, which played a determinant role in the crisis, thus blocking the political, rather than military, action of France in support of Madrid, and aimed at repeating the political success of Paris in the Spanish crisis of 1823.

It is in this light that the meaning of the agreement, signed in London on 21 May 1847 by the three powers (Britain, Spain and France), should be read. This agreement, initiated by the British, and not eagerly supported by Madrid and Paris, who reluctantly had to accept the approach of London for solving the Portuguese issue, in which Britain took charge of all naval aspects, while was relegated to looking after ground operations, and France was given a minor naval role. More importantly, the London meeting of 1847 paved the way, politically speaking, for the Convention of Gramido.

The Structure Of The Foreign Forces

The core of the British military action in Portugal was carried out by the Royal Navy, which deployed the Channel Fleet in those waters. The deterring presence of a powerful naval force was a fundamental element in the crisis, together with the action of the diplomats, led by Sir Hamilton Seymour, British Envoy to Lisbon. (It is also worth mentioning the contribution of the last British troops who earlier Portugal in 1826, namely, the 12th Lancers, 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards, 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers).

The Channel Fleet was commanded by Sir William Parker who, because of his knowledge of Portugal and its politics, was also given the additional command of the Channel Squadron while still remaining in charge of the Mediterranean Fleet. The Channel Fleet was led by Sir Charles Napier.

On 1st May 1847 took place the first major military action of the international forces. A convoy of rebel troops, commanded by the Conde das Antas, was being ferried by sea along the coast, with the aim of securing the mouth of the River Tagus, thus blockading Lisbon. The convoy was intercepted by a British squadron and ordered to surrender.

When Antas refused, boarding parties of Royal Marines and sailors captured all the transports, despite coming under fire from coastal batteries. Some three thousand rebel soldiers were disarmed and held in São Julião Fort by the Royal Marines until relieved by loyal Portuguese troops. The captives were later released and given amnesty after the Convention of Gramido. The Tagus operation showed that British forces were already on the ground and operating, while multilateral negotiation were still ongoing.

Spain cooperated with Great Britain and France in sea blockades in Portugal, Azores and Madera and also carried out land operations. On 11 June, four Spanish divisions (about 10,000 men, who thus outnumbered the rebellious liberals) entered Portugal and operated mainly in the North, since Porto was the backbone of the liberals. Other Spanish forces entered the central region in order to protect Lisbon from possible incursions by the forces of the Junta.

The Spanish land operation did not meet resistance, and given the weakness of the Portuguese regular forces, this meant that the liberals were not able to exasperate the situation to affect diplomatic negotiations between the Junta and the consuls of Britain, Spain and France in Porto.

The Spanish operation reached its objective two weeks later, with the taking of Porto. The city was now controlled by Spanish troops (which were quickly replaced by the newly constituted force of the Civil Guard, in the duties of public order) and the Royal Marines, which had landed from the British ships at the castle of Foz.

On 10 July, the British, Spanish and French ships ended their blockade the liberals-controlled area. Two months later, all foreign forces left Portugal.

The Convention Of Gramido

The treaty was co-signed on 29 June 1847 by General Manuel Gutiérrez de la Concha y Irigoyen, Marques of Duero, Count of Cancelada and Grandee of Spain, Commandant of the Madrid Expeditionary Force, along with Colonel Senen de Buenaga for Spain; Colonel Wylde for Great Britain; Marquis of Loulé for the Lisbon government; and General César de Vasconcelos for the Junta of Porto. It was a short document of just nine articles, which included the four points of the of the London agreement of May, and focused on reaching an agreement without exasperating the divisions affecting the various Portuguese factions.

The Convention also regulated the presence and role of foreign forces in the area of Porto, which were focused on stabilizing the situation, keeping out the forces of Lisbon and avoiding any kind of retaliation against the local populations. Disarmament, immunity and freedom of movement of personnel of the Junta was also guaranteed. An innovation introduced was the possibility of integration (or reintegration) of military personnel of the Junta forces within Lisbon military units.

Conclusion

The British and Spanish operation in Portugal, on behalf of the Quintuple Alliance, to end the Little Civil War (also known as Guerra da Patuleia), did not create a coherent precedent for similar missions. However, military and diplomatic action by London and Madrid signaled the beginning of the concept of an “international community” (its closest version at the time was the so-called Concert of Powers or Concert of Europe) as a main vehicle of stability in relationships among States.

The silent rivalry between the most influential powers, Great Britain and Spain, did not pose an insurmountable obstacle to the signing of a peace agreement, which was eventually co-signed by the commanders of the British and Spanish forces.

Despite their good intentions, the peace treaty between the liberals and the conservatives unfortunately did bring greater stability to Portugal. Analyzing the role of foreign forces in the conflict, some official sources, such as the Spanish Civil Guard, reported playing a quasi-peace-keeping role.

In reality, on the surface, it appeared similar to other interventions that occurred in that period (e.g., Austrian intervention in the Italian peninsula), which did lead to the brutal suppression of liberal and nationalist movements. The main difference was in the legal instrument signed at the end of the military operations. The peace treaty forced the Portuguese monarchy to adopt a more moderate approach and remove the most controversial points from the constitution and other legislation.

Under this point of view, the international intervention in Portugal could be seen as an interesting and original combination of peace enforcement and peacemaking. Applying contemporary concepts to events in the mid-19th century may appear daring, but in reality, such robust foreign intervention reduced the military strength of the insurgents and paved the way to political dialogue with the Cartista Government, which was also obliged to adopt a more flexible approach.

The Convention of Gramido brought an end to the Little Civil War, temporarily recomposing the divide between liberals and conservative, although the deeper economic, social (and political) causes of instability remained unresolved. Nevertheless, to this day the Convention remains a good example in which the international community, under the leadership of one country, was able to play a positive role, Great Britain’s imperialist interests and motives notwithstanding.

Enrico Magnani, PhD is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations.

The image shows, the “Battle of Cape St. Vincent,” by Léon Morel-Fatio, painted in 1842.

From Salonika To Odessa: Allied Interventions After World War I

The final phase of WWI was especially bitter and cruel, not only for the grimness of the fight between exhausted warring parties (except one, the US), but also because it became clear that alliance against the Central Powers was a mere façade. The growing Allied division emerged with a peculiar stance toward one enemy, the Ottoman Empire and a (former) ally, Russia.

And in this light, the year 1918 could be considered not only the year of the end of the war, but the beginning of a new era, marked by new dynamics and an attempt to reaffirm the old power structures.

The Allies approach was the re-proposition of “playbook” actions, which had always dominated the policies, mainly of Great Britain and France, since the 19th century, toward these two entities. And to them, with different motivations, may be added Italy, US, Japan, Serbia (with the new formation of Croatia-Slovenia), Greece, Romania, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Thus, behind the mask of a cohesive policy, the main target was the demolition and partition, among the winners, of the Ottoman Empire and the re-establishment of a weakened Russia; and, where this was not possible, replicating the planned fate for the Ottomans with the establishment of a galaxy of puppet states.

The strategic target of both Paris and London was multifold: extend their own area of influence (directly and/or indirectly), push back any threat against their own national strategic interests, and stand in front of their allies, especially if minor ones, with an eye on the growing polarization with Italy, especially by France. In this gigantic plan, the personalities of Lloyd George, Churchill and Clemenceau emerged as dominant; and perhaps, like never before, the political use of military force.

The level of Allied forces deployed in the two areas, at least by Western standards, were limited in comparison with the millions of men deployed on the different fronts of WWI. But they were highly influential and played a decisive political role, though a small combat role.

After The “Garden Of Salonika

The fighting along the Macedonian Front in September 1918 might not be as well-known as the Somme, Ypres or Verdun (and certainly less bloody), but in terms of delivering the fatal blow to the German war machine, it was unsurpassed. “It was upon this much-abused front that the final collapse of the Central Empires first began,” Winston Churchill wrote.

Controversy had marked the life of the Allied “Armée d’Orient” ever since it began deploying three years earlier through Salonika, the Greek port city that provided the southern gateway to the Balkans, and after the disastrous French-British attempt to take by force the Straits of Dardanelles which sought to blow up the Ottoman Empire and provide support to Russia. The Allies had great difficulties facing the Germans and the Austro-Hungarians on the Eastern front.

The force (consisting of 600,000 men), formally under French command, included French, British, Serbian, Italian, Montenegrin and Russian contingents; added later were Greek and pro-Entente Albanian units. The management of this army persistently reflected the divergent objectives of the participants.

For example, the British contingent constantly tried to minimize the impact of the French command and directives. Also among the French-Italian contingents, the relations were at best controversial, and the collapse of the Central Powers, following the attack in September 1918, underlined the fault-lines among the Allies, not only political but also militarily.

British troops, immediately after the ceasefire, were sent in to secure the Turkish straits; the Italians went to protect Albania; and the French remained committed to their staunch support of Serbs, with the aim of setting up a South pan-Slavic state in the Western Balkans, under the influence of Paris, and initially also with Greece.

After a visit by Talaat Pasha, the Grand Vizir, to other Central Powers capitals in September 1918, Constantinople realized that there was no hope to win the war. On 13 October, Talaat and the government resigned. Ahmed Izzet Pasha was appointed as Grand Vizir and two days later, he sent the captured British General Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend to the Allies to seek terms for an armistice.

London interpreted that to mean that Britain would conduct the negotiations alone. As of today, the motives of this are not entirely clear, whether it was the sincere British interpretation of the alliance terms; or fears that the French would insist on over-harsh demands and foil a treaty; or, again, there was a desire to cut the French out of territorial ambitions promised by the Sykes-Picot agreement.

Townshend also indicated that the Ottomans preferred to deal with the British; he did not know about the contact with America, or that Talaat had sent an emissary to the French as well; but that emissary had been slower to respond.

The British cabinet empowered Admiral Calthorpe to conduct the negotiations with an explicit exclusion of the French. The negotiations began on 27 October on board of HMS Agamemnon. The British refused to admit to the talks the French Vice-Admiral Jean Amet, the senior French naval officer in the area, despite his desire to join. The Ottoman delegation, headed by Navy Minister Rauf Bey, indicated that this was acceptable, as they were accredited only to the British, not the French (and even less, to the Italian, Greeks, and Serbs).

The French were certainly displeased, and the French Premier Georges Clemenceau, the “Tiger,” complained about British unilateral decisions in so important a matter. Lloyd George countered that the French had the same approach in the Armistice of Salonica, which had been negotiated by French General Franchet d’Esperey, without consultations with the commanders of the other Allied contingents, while Great Britain (and Tsarist Russia) had committed the most troops to the campaign against the Ottoman Empire on different fronts (the Palestine, Mesopotamia, Arabia Peninsula and Caucasus fronts).

As part of the armistice’s conditions, the Ottomans surrendered their remaining garrisons outside Anatolia and granted the Allies the right to occupy the forts controlling the Straits of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, as well as any Ottoman territory, “in case of disorder,” or if a threat to security occured. Later, this vague and obscure clause was widely used by the Allies for their massive interference in Turkish affairs The Ottoman forces were demobilized, and all ports, railways and other strategic points were made available for Alled use. In the Caucasus, the Ottomans had to retreat to pre-war borders with the Russian Empire. Following this armistice, the occupation of Constantinople and the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire started.

Thereafter, it took 15 months of tough negotiations among the Allies (Britain, France and Italy) to establish which territories each of them would get. As for the other defeated powers, the military clauses were bitter. The Army of the defeated powers was restricted to 50,000; the Navy to a few old ships; and no air force. The treaty included an inter-allied commission of control to supervise the execution of all the military clauses.

The Treaty of Sèvres, which formalized the partionist plans of the winners, could be read as a simple variation of a long-planned design to dismantle an enemy power (and then implemented with some important variations, like the inclusion of Greece). In fact, these policies were already in place ever since the signing of the Treaty of London, the St. Jeanne de Maurienne Agreement, the “Sikes-Picot,” and even the so-called Venizelos-Tittoni Agreement, a post-facto sub-agreement from the Peace Conference of Versailles.

The Treaty of Sèvres showed the worst face of the imperialist dreams of the winning powers, not only as in the above-mentioned military clauses, but with the establishment of Zones of Influence, which resulted in an imposition of a kind of multinational protectorate over the defeated country.

Under the treaty, within the territory retained by Turkey (excluding Armenia and Kurdistan), France received parts of Southeastern Anatolia, including Antep, Urfa and Mardin. Important parts of Cilicia including Adana, Diyarbakır and large portions of East-Central Anatolia up to Sivas and Tokat were declared a zone of French influence, garrisoned by troops of the newly established ‘Armée du Levant’ (on 7 October 1918), moving and expanding from their landing spot in Beirut (Octover 11). The first elements of this force came from the former “Armée d’Orient” with the ad hoc established “Division of Cilicia” (consisting of the 12th Infantry, the 17th Senegalese, 18th Algerian Regiments, and the Armenian Legion). A second unit, the “Division of Syria” (consisting of the 415th Infantry, the 3rd Zouaves, the 19th, 21st, and the 22nd Algerian Regiments) was rapidly set up, and tasked to expand French control in the assigned areas, while disarming Turkish and Arab troops in Syria and Lebanon.

Italy was given possession of the Dodecanese Islands (already under Italian occupation since the Italo-Turkish War of 1911–1912,) despite the Treaty of Ouchy, according to which Italy should have returned the islands to the Ottoman Empire. Large portions of Southern and West-Central Anatolia (the Mediterranean coast of Turkey and the inlands), including the port city of Antalya and Konya, were declared an Italian zone of influence. Antalya Province had been promised to Italy since the signing of the Treaty of London; and the Italian colonial authorities wished the zone to become an Italian colony under the name of “Lycia.”

Italian troops landed on 28 March 1919 in Antalya and then occupied Fethiye, Marmaris, Bodrum, Konya, Isparta and Aksehir. The Italian force was limited in terms of figures (13.000 troops with 3 regiments of infantry and support units) to control so expansive an area, which coincided with continuous infiltrations of Greek troops into Western Anatolia from the enclave of Smirna, about which there was complicit silence at the Spa Conference for the “Megala idea” of Venizelos. Independent of this contingent was an Italian infantry battalion in Constantinople, and another one was assigned in April 1919 to garrison Konya under British command. Great Britain did not establish any zone of influence; but within the terms of the ‘Sykes-Picot’ agreement, they took over almost all Mesopotamia, thus reinforcing their firm hand over oil resources of the region, and strengthening imperial control out to the Far East.

On 13 November 1918, the Allies landed in Constantinople with 2,616 British, 540 French, 470 Italian troops, supported by 50 ships (two days later, this grew to 167 ships).

On February 8, 1919, the French general Franchet d’ Espèrey, Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces in the East, officially entered the city on a white horse, emulating Mehmed the Conqueror’s entrance in 1453 after the Fall of Constantinople, thus signifying that Ottoman sovereignty over the imperial city was over.

One year, after the Allies numbered 51,300 troops (27,419 British, 19,069 French, 3,992 Italians and 795 Greeks), garrisoning not only the city but also the neutralized zone of the Straits, largely assigned to units of the 122nd and 156th French Infantry Divisions and 28th British Division.

The Greek and Turkish police and gendarmerie forces operating in neutralized area were subordinate to Allied control; and the Constantinople area was garrisoned by British MPs (in Pera), The French Gendarmes (in Istanbul) and Italian Carabinieri (in Scutari) were supported by Turkish Jandarma personnel.

The Corps d’Occupation de Constantinople (COC) was formally set up on 6 November 1920, after more than one year of de facto occupation, when the drawdown of the Allied forces drastically reduced the level of their strength. Nominally multinational, it was nevertheless a harsh fight between the French and the British.

The COC was assisted by a military committee, formed by the commander of the national contingents and with three High Commissioners (in which, generally, the French and British were military and the Italian a diplomat). The job of the COC was focused on occupation duties and was affected by the bitter and growing polarization between the French and the British, while the Italian presence was little more than nominal.

The growing split among the Allies is widely attributed to the fact that the partition of Turkey had given to France too small a share. The Italians, too, were dismayed to the concession made by London to Athens, at Rome’s expense. This discontent gave rise to Franco-Italian support of the Turkish nationalist movement, both in Anatolia and in Constantinople, even if at the beginning, Paris supported to the end Greek expansionist dreams.

At the regional level, France had strong grievances against Britain, for it felt that British policies were contrary to prior agreements. For example, Britain did not want to share oil exploitations in the Mosul area, and, according to Paris, it stirred up Emir Faisal (the leader of the so-called “Arab revolt”) to attack French troops in Syria. In other words, France labelled the British approach as selfish and imperialist, although Paris applied the same policies in many other regions, like the Balkans, the Baltic Sea, Silesia, Poland, against not only their former enemies, like Germany, but also their present allies like Italy (and Britain).

The Allies had begun to split already in 1919, because of competing interests in Syria, Mesopotamia, Cilicia and the Aegean. TRhus, both France and Italy were eager to dismantle Turkey as a unitary state. But when their interests were undercut, they changed their plans. Also, Italy, because of prevalent domestic issues, confined its imperial aims in Turkey to just seeking out profitable economic concessions.

In the summer, the internal situation in Italy became untenable and Rome started the withdrawal of its troops from Anatolia and abandoned the dreams of territorial expansion in the Levant. The last troops left Anatolia in 1922. This happened mainly for two reasons. First, Italy obtained the Dodecanese islands, and second, there was a growing anti-Greek policy in Rome. But Italy kept small contingents in Constantinople and Adrianople, with a Carabinieri unit in Constantinopole until the general evacuation of foreign troops in October, 1923.

The functionality of the COC was seriously affected by the arrival, in the region, of 150.000 White Russian refugees (the army and civilians who fled after the defeat of General Wrangel in the Crimea), as well as the issue of the remnants of the Tsarist Black Sea Navy.

The other major, and final, crisis of the COC came after the defeat of Greek forces in Anatolia. The Greek-Turkish War saw a major shift in alliances among the Allies. At the beginning, France supported the demands of Greece, as Britain, in order to keep firm control over Turkey, kept out France. Then, Britain supported Greek expansion while. France, of course, along with Italy, moved to helping nationalist Turks.

The crisis was the trigger event of a failed and polarized political alliance, and the military contingents in the neutral zone operated in a disconntected way, reflecting the divergent stances of London, Paris and Rome vis-à-vis the development of the Greek-Turkish war. The final Allied withdrawal came under gloomy conditions, marked by ethno-religious violence between the Greeks and the Turks. When the withdrawal was formally signed into place, it ended the Allied entente of WWI.

The Russian Quagmire

Looking at the issue from an ethical or legal point of view, the Allied intervention in Russia was even worst than it was for the Ottoman Empire, where, at least, there existed a set of documents and treaties. For Russia, there were only ideological fears, old playbook and indolent behavior.

On 23 December 1917, the day after the beginning of the Brest Litovsk talks, delegates of France and Great Britain in Paris concluded a convention for the dismemberment of Russia and the establishment of zones of influence. London looked to the Baltic provinces and the Caucasus (especially its oil); France chose the Ukraine, from Belarus to Bessarabia and Donetz (for the iron, coal, iron and steel basins), as well as the Black Sea shores including Odessa and Crimea.

Soon after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 a three-year Civil War broke out in Russia. The initial phase of the war lasted for one year, and it was marked by rapidly shifting front lines and sporadic engagements by small units. At the beginning, the Bolsheviks generally expanded from the few urban areas in their hands to root out centres of opposition in the periphery of the vast country. This expansion began in the winter of 1917-1918, and it led to the formation of the anti-Bolshevik Volunteer Army, led by Generals Mikhail Alekseyev and Lavr Kornilov in the Don Cossack region, thus creating the southern front of the war.

Half a year later this was followed by the revolt of the Czechoslovak Legion (despite the name, in reality it was a force of the size of an army corps) on the mid-Volga and Siberia, which assisted the formation of two anti-Bolshevik governments, each with its own army – the Komuch in Samara and the Siberian Government in Omsk.

The Red Army of Lenin’s Bolshevik government was rapidly formed to replace the irregular Red Guard partisan units only at the end of this phase, in the fall of 1918.

The second and decisive stage of the Civil War lasted from March to December 1919. First, the White armies of Admiral Alexander Kolchak in Siberia and General Denikin in Southern Russia advanced resolutely toward Moscow (the last one appeared to be the most decisive push against the Reds). In the Caucasus and Crimea operated General Wrangel (probably the best of the White generals). In the North-West General Yudenich tried to attack Petrograd.

As in many other civil wars, foreign powers intervened in the conflict. Britain played a leading role in this intervention and had a significant effect on the course of the war. Without this foreign intervention on the White side, the superiority of numbers in manpower and weaponry of the Bolsheviks would have quickly overwhelmed their opponents.

British Intervention In Southern Russia, 1918-1920

Despite massive support, the entire British action remained uncertain and split between an ideological battle against Bolshevism and the strategic imperative to protect India and investments in the oil industry in the Middle East (Persia and Mesopotamia). Consequently, the action of Great Britain, while strong in Southern Russia, and massive (two divisions) in the Caucasus and Central Asia – in Northern Russia and Eastern Russia (Siberia) it a lot less intense.

Further, the controversial demobilization scheme, the requirement to keep the public unaware of the extent of the military efforts, and the risk of bolshevism infecting the troops contributed to the incertitude of the British (and French) actions.

From November 1918 the Allies succeeded in supplying regular provisions to the White Armies mainly through the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. The British military mission arrived in South Russia in late 1918, and provided General Denikin’s White army with an enormous amount of matériel. This included full British army kit for half a million men, 1,200 field guns with almost two million rounds of ammunition, 6,100 machine guns, 200,000 rifles with 500 million rounds of ammunition, 629 lorries and motorcars, 279 motorcycles, 74 tanks, six armoured cars, 200 aircraft, 12 500-bed hospitals, 25 field hospitals and a vast amount of signal and engineer equipment. All this was sufficient for an army of 250,000 men and it was much more than Denikin was ever able to use, as the combat strength of his army never exceeded 150,000 men. Ammunitions destined for South Russia also included 25,000 poison gas shells. Churchill had described mustard gas as “ideal weapon against our beastly enemy.” But British personnel were instructed to use it only if the Bolsheviks started gas warfare first.

The British mission also organized the training and equipping of White Russian troops with British weapons. This made the material aid much more effective. Even in small numbers, many of the British instructors, following a personal and ideological commitment, took part in fighting the Bolsheviks, despite the orders of their government.

In real terms, financial and material support from Great Britain pushed Denikin’s army in a far more favourable position than the Bolsheviks in 1919, and very close to being the key element of the victory of the Whites against the Bolsheviks. But the White army of Denikin suffered, like the Tsarist army, of which it was but an extention. This led to serious problems. White officers were unimaginative; their mindset remained obsolete; and they were incapable of organizing the logistics of their army. There were also fundamental defects in the morale of the White troops. These limits affected all the other White armies operating against the Bolsheviks, without mentioning the bitter rivalries among the White generals themselves.

In addition to all the political mistakes of Denikin’s movement and a general inability to adjust to the complex situation in Revolutionary Russia, the Whites suffered a clear military defeat. In South Russia, the Whites were defeated not because of the lack of British aid, but rather despite it; and their defeat was decisive for the victory of the Reds elsewhere.

The British presence in Southern Russia, as mentioned, was limited to few hundred specialists and trainers and non-combat troops (72 servicemen -18 Royal Navy, 41 British Army, 13 Royal Air Force personnel – were killed in South Russia in 1918-1920).

Further, they were scattered over the immense area of Southern Russia, where several White units operated, of which the Denikin one was the larger, but also Wrangler’s that extended to the Caucasus.

The missed arrival of a massive British combat force led to the first rift between the Whites and London. British combat troops were deployed, and in a limited number, only in the South Caucasus to secure the oilfields there (the Baku area); and this situation increased the suspicions of White Russians over the real, future aims of British aid.

The real strategic reason for the massive support of Denikin, who operated mainly in the “zone of influence” assigned to the French, was because of the failure of previous, but also because of the defeat of Admiral Kolchiak’s offensive in Siberia. But lagely these troops came to protect the interests of London over the oil resources in Baku and surrounding region.

After Denikin’s army was decisively defeated at Orel in October 1919 (some 400 km south of Moscow), the White forces in southern Russia were in constant retreat, reaching the Crimea in March 1920. In July 1920, the White forces left Crimea for Constantinople. This ended the British Mission in Southern Russia.

The fate of the British military mission in South Russia followed the fate of the Whites, with constant relocation of the training teams under growing pressure from the Reds. First this progressive impairment, and later the demise of Denikin’s and Wrangel armies impacted the broader plans of London to set up “friendly” states in the South Caucasus – the real strategic objectives of British military expedition in the former allied territory.

At the end of August 1919, the British withdrew from Baku (the small British naval presence was also withdrawn from the Caspian Sea), leaving only 3 battalions at Batum. After a British garrison at Enzeli (on the Persian Caspian coast) was taken prisoner by Bolshevik forces on 19 May 1920, Lloyd George finally insisted on a withdrawal from Batum early in June 1920, thus disbanding the 27th Division (The British Salonika Army was split within Macedonia [22nd Division, disbanded in 1919], the Danube [26th Division, disbanded on May 1919], Turkey (28th Division, disbanded on December 1923], and the Caucasus [27th Division, disbanded in 1920]). Financial concerns forced a British withdrawal from Persia in the spring of 1921.

The French Intervention In Southern Russia

The French intervention in Southern Russia was initiated in February 1918, with 50 million rubles in gold to the Ukrainian Rada. But the first official sign of French preparation for direct military intervention in Southern Russia came on October 7, 1918, when Clemenceau designated General Henri Berthelot to head a military mission with responsibility for operations in Romania and the Ukraine. While an important task of this expedition was to assure the retreat of German and Austro-Hungarian forces from the Ukraine and Romania, Clemenceau’s instructions stressed the need to set up an economic encirclement of the Bolsheviks and help along the fall of the new government in Russia.

However, French intervention in support of the Whites (also in this case for ideological reasons to hinder the path of the Reds) was much shorter and much more confused than by the British – and was shut down only after a few months.

The French expedition had come to Southern Russia under three assumptions, which emerged to be totally baseless: A) that the Whites representing a majority of the people; B) that the Russian people welcomed Allied intervention against Bolshevik; and C) that the bulk of the fight against the Reds would be on the White forces, requiring only moral and technical assistance from the French forces.

In fact, the Ukrainians preferred the Bolsheviks to the Whites; the local population resented Allied intervention; and the Whites had limited capabilities. Disillusionment with intervention increased as officers and soldiers alike realized that the entire population of Southern Russia looked upon their presence with undisguised hostility.

As one officer in Sebastopol declared, Bolshevik propaganda had little effect upon the troops, but the hostile attitude of the local population had a profound impact on troops already exahusted by the tough Salonika campaign.

At initial meetings with Russian Whites, Berthelot promised up to 12 Allied divisions as expeditionary forces in Southern Russia, when in reality only three divisions were in theory available. However, six weeks after first landing in Odessa, the Allied force did not exceed 3.000 ground troops (three infantry regiments [176th, 58th French, 1st Regiment de marche africain, elements from the 10th Algerian Regiment, the 21st Chasseurs Aborigines, the 129th Senegalese Batallion, the Batallion Chasseurs d’Indochine, 4th Chasseurs á cheval d’Afrique]; other support elements [the 19th and 242nd Colonial Artillery, 7th Engineer Regiment]; landing parties of the French naval squadron, augmented by a sizeable Greek contingent, and smaller units of Polish, Romanian and Czech troops). But they did seize Nikolaev, Kherson and Tiraspol, so that Allied forces controlled an arc of territory in the Western Ukraine, along the northern shore of the Black Sea, between the Dniester and Dniepr rivers.

The absence of reinforcements further increased the French command’s skepticism about intervention. But the major problems were the open and tough hostility of the local populations, as a result of Bolshevik propaganda, and the splits among the anti-Reds, the split among the White generals (who wanted to re-establish Tsarist Russia), and local Ukrainian independence movements (split among different factions, running from ultraconservative to anarchist groups).

As among the British, the French also had several dozen advisors and staff personnel, who similar to their British counterparts expressed criticism and doubts about the performance of White leadership and troops and even White military capabilities.

By March 1919, pressure frm the Bolsheviks forced the Whites (and consequently the French and Greeks) to evacuate initially Kherson, and then Nikolaev, putting serious doubt on the validity of the entire operation in the Black Sea. Red attacks over Odessa only grew greater.

The anti-Red coalition was marked more and more by bitter rivalries, which quickly undermined the White armies; Greek forces were more concerned about the safety of the Greek national community there and the beginning of the operation in Asia Minor against the Turks. This weakend further the French-led effort in Southern Russia.

The situation became so untenable that General D’Esperey went urgently to Odessa from Constantinople, realizing that were no other option than to withdraw from there (the evacuation came finally on 6 April). But he did this without consulting the Whites (Denikin was informed ex post facto by Franchet d”Esperey).

The Odessa evacuation left the Crimea as the only remaining area of direct French military intervention. Clemenceau had urged to hold the Crimea as a bastion for future actions in Southern Russia, again creating the impression of a firm French commitment. Yet, from the outset, the French presence in the Crimea had been marked by the same difficulties that plagued the intervention in the Ukraine – but this time, there was the brave White General Wrangel, who could not hold, despite considerable efforts to re-establish good relations with the local populations (that fully supported the Reds). This led him to a desperate evacuation to Constantinople at the end of April.

The withdrawal from Sebastopol was marked by a serious disciplinary situation, especially on board French naval ships operating in the Black Sea. This was the persistent and growing mutinous attitude among the French forces operating in the area.

The Black Sea mutinies have acquired legendary dimension among Marxist historians, largely as a result of André Marty’s somewhat exaggerated claims, and as a result of the “martyrdom” of those sailors condemned by military tribunals. There is no doubt, however, that the mutinies were serious and extensive.

The first uprisings took place among ground troops. On the 4th of February, the 58th Infantry Regiment refused to fight at Tiraspol on the far bank of the Dniester.

On March 8th, two companies of the 176th Infantry Regiment rejected an order to attack at Kherson. April 5 saw the same refusal among elements of the 19th Colonial Artillery Regiment in Odessa, where sappers of the 7th Engineer Regiment fraternized with, and left equipment for, the Bolsheviks. Then, from 10 to 30 April, major mutinies of sailors take place. In Romania, at Galatz, the chief mechanic André Marty planned to seize the torpedo FNS Protet, lock up the officers and rally the Bolsheviks to Sevastopol. The plot was discovered, he was arrested on April 16, and sentenced to twenty years of hard labor.

On April 17, on the cruiser FNS France, protests broke out; four sailors were put in the brig. But two days later, the revolting crew freed them, elected delegates, and demanded the return to Toulon.

On the 20th, the red flag was hoisted on FNS France, FNS Jean-Bart, FNS Justice, along with the singing of the L’Internationale. In the afternoon, sailors who had demonstrated in Sevastopol with the population returned fire of Greek soldiers. Calm returned in the days following; and the delegates, who initially obeyed, saw their role decrease. But FNS Jean-Bart as well as FNS France returned to Toulon and Bizerte.

Another mutiny took place on the 25th on-board FNS Waldeck-Rousseau stationed at Odessa. A committee of sailors decided to revolt, demanded the freedom of Marty and the return to France. In the following days, control was exerted over buildings in Odessa, as well as over all ships in the Black Sea. But the excitement continues into May and June, in the naval bases of Toulon, Brest, Bizerte, Greece (and on board FNS Guichen, led by Charles Tillon) and even in Vladivostok.

As mentioned, the Sebastopol episode marked a climax in a series of mutinies, and rather extensive indiscipline among troops throughout the Ukrainian and Crimean interventions; and the French command was well aware of the low morale and war-weariness among the ranks. Whether this attitude reflected a widespread sympathy for Bolshevism is less clear. The majority of the French soldiers had no desire to fight in Russia and demanded repatriation.

However, some fully supported the Bolsheviks; and the demonstration in Sebastopol revealed a degree of political support for the Russian Revolution that was of considerable significance. But it is not clear that a majority of the soldiers and sailors were prepared to embrace the revolution at this point. Above all, it is an exaggeration to claim that the mutiny in Sebastopol was because of an untenable military situation. Instead, it was because of several factors, already discussed, without mentioning the lack of political support of France from other Allies despite the fury of Clemenceau.
The French military intervention in the Ukraine was a sobering lesson in the perils of intervening in another nation’s civil wars.

Conclusion

The action of Allied powers, in the two cases discussed, revealed the persistence of an imperialistic stance of some countries, despite their exhaustion and their formal adherence to the 14 Points Declaration of President Woodrow Wilson.

This contradiction is the result of a wild era which existed well before the breakout of WWI, behind the façade of economic and social developments at the end of the 19th and the beginning of 20th centuries.

Appendix

Turkish Post-War And Straits Occupations 1918-1923

26.04.1916: Agreement of St.-Jean-de-Maurienne between France, Italy and Great Britain.

16.05.1916: Sykes-Picot Agreement between France and Great Britain.

30.10.1918: Armistice of Mudros: Turkey to cease hostilities, demobilize, open the Bosporus Straits, and repatriate POWs. The Armistice found the British occupying most non-Turkish territory of the Ottoman Empire (Palestine, Mesopotamia, Kurdistan), and Arab insurgents in control of the Hejaz and parts of Syria.

12.11.1918: French troops land in Constantinople.

13.11.1918: British troops land in Constantinople.

08.12.1918: Allied occupation of the Bosporus, the Dardanelles, the eastern coast of the Sea of Marmara, islands of Imros, Lemnos, Samothrace, Tenedos, and 15 km deep into the eastern shores; the zone of the Straits is demilitarized (by Greek and Turkish forces) but garrisoned by Allied forces.

18.01.1919: Peace Conference opens in Versailles.

Jan. 1919: Turkish garrison in Medina surrenders to the forces of the Arab revolt.

03.02.1919: In Paris, Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos demands the entire of East Thrace and the Aegean shores of Anatolia, including Izmir to be annexed to Greece.

07.02.1919: Italian troops land in Galata (Constantinople).

08.02.1919: French General Franchet d’Esperey, commander of the Allied Army (later the Constantinople Occupation Corps), enters in Constantinople mounted on a white horse.

04.03.1919: Damat Ferit Pasha, brother-in-law of the Sultan, appointed as the new Grand Vizir (Prime Minister).

29.03.1919: Italian troops land in Antalya.

08.04.1919: British Foreign Minister, Lord Balfour, proposes Istanbul become a neutral zone under the administration of the League of Nations (also French Prime Minister Aristide Briand proposes the creation of a “free city,” a sort of protectorate under the League. The city of Constantinople would be a first free city in 1920. As such, Constantinople would have its own municipal government, but which would be devoid of any of those functions of government exercised by a sovereign state, such as, defense and foreign relations).

30.04.1919: Sultan Vahidettin sends Mustafa Kemal to Anatolia as Inspector-General.

06.05.1919: Allied powers agree to allow Greeks to occupy Smyrna.

15.05.1919: Smyrna occupied by the Greek army. Journalist Hasan Tahsin shoots a Greek flag bearer, firing the first bullet of the Turkish resistance.

16.05.1919: Mustafa Kemal leaves Constantinople.

19.05.1919: Mustafa Kemal arrives in Samsun. Turkish War of Independence begins.

24.05.1919: Demonstration at Sultanahmet in Istanbul against the occupation of Smyna.

22.06.1919: Mustafa Kemal issues the Amasya Declaration stating that the independence of the nation will be saved once more by the determination and decisiveness of the people.

28.06.1919: Treaty of Versailles signed by Germany.

23.07/07.08.1919: Erzurum Congress. It is decided that there will a struggle with the enemy of the people in the Eastern provinces which are an inseparable part of the homeland.

10.10.1919: Allied forces officially take military control of Western Thrace.

22.10.1919: Inter Allied administration of Western Thrace begins with French General Charpy appointed Governor.

04-11.09. 1919: Sivas Congress. A mutual decision about the “homeland being an indivisible whole” is reached. All the local resistance organizations in the country are united and a “Committee of Representatives” is formed.

01.11.1919: Grand Vizir Damat Ferit Paşa resigns.

27.12.1919: Mustafa Kemal arrives in Ankara.

12.01.1920: Opening session of the last Ottoman Parliament.

10.03.1920: Allied Military Administration of Constantinople and Straits Zone formally established.

16.03.1920: Constantinople officially occupied by Allied forces.

20.03.1920: Italian troops withdraw from Konia.

05.04.1920: Damat Ferit Paşa reappointed as Grand Vizir.

11.04.1920: Ottoman Parliament dissolved by Sultan Vahidettin.

19-26.04.1920: The San Remo Conference of the Allied Supreme Council determines the allocation of the League of Nations mandates for administration of the former Ottoman ruled lands of the Middle East by the victorious powers.

23.04.1920: The Turkish Grand National Assembly opens in Ankara.

20.05.1920: Greece annexes Western Thrace.

22.06.1920: Greek offensive in Anatolia begins.

08.07.1920: Greek forces occupy Bursa.

12.07.1920: Greece moves into Eastern Thrace, setting up Adrianople as headquarters.

15.07.1920: Greek forces occupy Edirne and the entire East Thrace.

10.08.1920: Ottoman government signs the Treaty of Sèvres with the Allied nations. Hejaz, Armenia and Assyria are to become independent. Mesopotamia and Palestine are assigned under mandate to the tutelage of the UK, Lebanon and an enlarged Syria to that of France. The Dodecanese and Rhodes with portions of southern Anatolia are to pass to Italy, while Thrace and Western Anatolia, including Smyrna will become part of Greece. The Bosphorus, Dardanelles and Sea of Marmara are to be demilitarized and internationalized, and the Ottoman army is to be restricted to a strength of 50,000 men. The treaty is rejected by the Turkish republican movement in Ankara.

06.11.1920: The Corps d’Occupation de Constantinople (COC) formally is set up, led by French General Franchet d’Esperey (frmr. CinC of Eastern Allied Forces).

03.12.1920: Ankara signs the Gümrü Peace Agreement with the Republic of Armenia.

09-11.01.1921: First Battle of İnönü. Greek advance inside Anatolia halted.

20.01.1921: The first Turkish Constitution is ratified by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.

21.02/12.03.1921: London Conference. Representatives of both Istanbul and Ankara governments are invited to the conference which aims to revise the Treaty of Sèvres. It does not achieve any results.

16.03.1921: Bolshevik Russia recognizes the new Turkish State.

27-20.03.1921: Second Battle of İnönü. Greek offensive fails.

25.05.1921: Italians troops withdraw from Marmaris.

21.06.1921: Italians withdraw from the Antalya region.

05.07.1921: The city of Antalya is returned to the Turkish government by Italian military authorities.

10.07.1921: Greek forces launch a new offensive;

18.07.1921: The British General Harrington is made CinC of COC, replacing the French General Charpy; the (British) Black Sea Army is re-named as British COC of Constantinople; the 28th British division is dissolved.

19.07.1921: Turkish forces retreat towards Ankara.

10.08.1921: The Allied Supreme Council declares neutrality with respect to the Turkish-Greek conflict;

23.08/13.09.1921: Battle of Sakarya. Greek forces retreat after a failed offensive.

20.10.1921: Peace agreement signed between Turkey and France.

23.10.1921: Treaty of Kars between Turkey and the USSR. Turkey cedes the city of Batumi to the USSR in return for sovereignty over the cities of Kars and Ardaha.

11.01.1922: Mustapha Kemal proclaims the abolition of the Ottoman sultanate and the establishment of the Turkish Republic; Sultan Mohammed VI flees Constantinople on board a British warship.

31.05.1922: Last Italian troops leave the area of Antalya.

05-19.07.1922: USMC troops from the USS Arizona land to guard the US Consulate in Constantinople;

26-30.08.1922: Battle of Dumlupınar. Decisive Turkish victory against the Greek forces.

09.09.1922: Turkish troops take Smyrna; massive killing of Greek and Armenian populations.

15.09.1922: British government appeals to the Dominions for military support in the Turkish crisis, but the Dominions decline; France and Italy also refuse help.

15.09.1922: Greek occupation ends.

16.09.1922: A British force lands at Canakkale, Turkey.

03-11.10.1922: Convention of Mudania; the Allies agree to return Eastern Thrace and Adrianople to Turkey, and Turkey accepts the neutralization of the Straits under international control.

11.10.1922: Armistice of Mudanya signed between Turkey, Italy, France and Britain. Greece accedes to the armistice three days later. East Thrace as far as the Maritsa River and Edirne are handed over by Greece to Turkey. Turkish sovereignty over Constantinople and the Dardanelles is recognized.

20.10.1922: Peace Conference opens in Lausanne.

01.11.1922: The Sultanate is abolished.

17.11.1922: Sultan Vahidettin leaves Istanbul on board the British warship Malaya.

04.02.1923: Talks in Lausanne interrupted because of Turkish protest about the contents of the Lausanne conference.

23.04.1923: Talks in Lausanne resume.

24.04.1923: Treaty of Lausanne signed between Turkey, Greece and other countries that fought WWI and the Turkish Independence War. Turkey recovers full sovereign rights over its territory.

10.06.1923: Turkey takes possession of Constantinople.

24.07.1923: Treaty of Lausanne formally replaces Treaty of Sèvres.

06.10.1923: Occupation forces begin withdrawal from Constantinople.

13.10.1923: Ankara declared as the capital of the new Turkish State.

06.10.1923: Units from the Turkish 3rd Corps, commanded by Şükrü Naili Pasha enter Constantinople.

23.10.1923: Last allies (British contingent) troops evacuate Constantinople.

29.10.1923: The Republic of Turkey is proclaimed.

Enrico Magnani, PhD is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations. (The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations).

The image shows, “The Flight of the Bourgeoisie from Novorossiysk in 1920,” by Ivan Vladimirov; painted in 1920.

The Importance Of The Vienna Conference

Foreword

Quite often post-war peace is fragile, having inside it the germs of future conflicts and confrontations. Too much attention has been given to the study of the causes and courses of the Napoleonic wars without equal attention having been given to those techniques which allowed nations to maintain peace effectively over a long period of time. Historians and policy makers such as Henry Kissinger, C. K. Webster, and Harold Nicholson have looked back at the post-Napoleonic era with some romanticism and have written of the “Concert of Europe;” or the years after the Vienna settlement as an era of peace and international order.

Certainly, the peace efforts of 1814-1815 helped provide Europe with almost a century of general peace, though no one asserts that absolutely no fighting or confrontation existed among the major European powers.

It should be acknowledge that the Austrian foreign minister, Prince Klemens von Metternich, the British foreign minister, Lord Castlereagh, and the Russian Tsar, Alexander I, should receive credit for devising a system which produced the long-sought peace after a generation of conflicts and social fractures produced by the wars of the Napoleonic era – thus establishing, even in an embryonic, contradictory and intermittent form, a system which guaranteed a mechanism of consultation and action, which allowed the European continent to move away, rather rapidly, from a long season of turmoil.

Controversial Peace And Reintegration Of France Within the Power System

1. The Vienna Congress: A Quasi-Inclusive Peace

The 1814 Treaty of Paris deprived France of her Rhine frontier, and she was reduced only to her boundaries of 1792, which in effect were her ancient borders, plus the significant additions of Avignon, Savoy, and several communes along the North and North-Eastern frontier. The terms of the treaty were lenient; the allies intended to avoid weakening the restored Bourbons or humiliating France so that Frenchmen could more easily accept the return of the Bourbons.

Considering Napoleon’s triumphant return from Elba, Liverpool’s announcement that the policy of 1814 had been a failure can hardly be called inaccurate. In an abrupt change from the lenient policy of 1814, the British Prime Minister proposed that the allies primarily focus upon their own security rather than leaving it to the Bourbons. “The French nation is at the mercy of the allies, in consequence of a war occasioned by their violation of the most sacred treaties. The allies are fully entitled to indemnity and security.”

Having begun in September 1814, five months after Napoleon’s first abdication, the treaty completed its “Final Act” in June 1815, shortly before the Waterloo campaign and the final defeat of Napoleon. The settlement was the most comprehensive treaty that Europe had ever seen; but it also showed how deep were the divisions between the winners (or major actors) – which behind a formal unanimity were, ijn fact, engaged in a bitter diplomatic fight.

Austria, Prussia, Russia, and Great Britain – the four powers chiefly instrumental in the overthrow of Napoleon – had concluded a special alliance among themselves with the Treaty of Chaumont, on March 9, 1814, a month before Napoleon’s first abdication. The subsequent treaties of peace with France, signed on May 30 not only by the “four” but also by Sweden and Portugal, and on July 20 by Spain, stipulated that all former belligerents should send plenipotentiaries to a congress in Vienna. Many of the rulers of the minor states of Europe put in an appearance, foreshadowing the progressively expanding G-8 to G-14 and other similar forums.

However, the “four” still intended to reserve the real making of decisions to themselves. Two months after the sessions began, Bourbon France was admitted to the “four.” The “four” thus became the “five,” and it was the committee of the “five” that was the real Congress of Vienna, which looked forward to the Council of the League of Nations, and more recently the Security Council of the United Nations.

Representatives began to arrive in Vienna toward the end of September 1814. Klemens Prince von Metternich, principal minister of Austria, assisted by Friedrich von Gentz, represented his Emperor, Francis II. Tsar Alexander I of Russia directed his own diplomacy, together with Karl von Nesselrode.

King Frederick William III of Prussia had Prince Karl von Hardenberg, as his principal minister, and Whilhem von Humboldt.

Great Britain was represented by its foreign minister, Viscount Castlereagh. When Castlereagh had to return to his parliamentary duties, the Duke of Wellington replaced him; and Lord Clancarty was principal representative after the Duke’s departure. The restored Louis XVIII of France sent Talleyrand, and after his resignation, sent the Duke of Richelieu, a former émigré.

While the official reason was to settle a comprehensive peace with France, the real agenda of the Congress included the disposition of Poland and Saxony (the major points of contention), resolving the conflicting claims of Sweden, Denmark, and Russia, and the adjustment of the borders of the German states. In general, Russia and Prussia were opposed by Austria, France, and England; however, the plans were submitted frequently adjusted, especially vis-à-vis France. It was often Austria and Prussia that were the hardliners against Paris, while Britain and Russia advocated a moderate approach, seeking as they did the stability of the entire continent.

Strategically, the strategy was as follows: Austria and Prussia wanted to establish a de facto protectorate over North-Central and Southern Germany as well as Italy respectively; France wanted at all cost the rapid and full reintegration into the major powers, with the highest possible rank of parity with others; while Britain, always looking for a balance of power in the continent, and was increasingly worried about Russia encroaching into the Southern Balkans and the Mediterranean Sea.

The inclusion of France put into the agenda of the Congress the re-inclusion of Paris in the Power system; and the brilliant action of Talleyrand exposed the differences among them (as he mentioned in a letter to King Louis XVIII). Despite the furious hostility, especially of Metternich, who planned just for a formal presence of France in the Congress, Talleyrand got the inclusion of French diplomats into several sub-bodies which supported the work of the main diplomatic body, similar to the Paris Conference of 1919 (namely, French diplomats now sat on the Commissions for Germany, for Switzerland, for Sardinia and Genoa, for the Duchy of Bouillon, for the slave trade, for the sea routes, for the precedence’s, for statistics and for the redaction of the texts of treaties).

The results of the action of Talleyrand were remarkable. Aside from the obtaining of the inclusion of France into the decision-making system of former enemies, he obtained the reinstallation of the Bourbons in Spain, Naples, and he saved the crown of the Prince of Saxony (the cousin of King Louis XVIII) from the aggressive policy of Prussia. Then, he reduced to minimal the border modification in France’s disfavour, and minimized the impact of a massive presence of Prussia on France’s Eastern borders.

All these points, which formalized the concept of war against Napoleon and not against France, however had a high price for Talleyrand, who was not able to limit the rapacity of the occupation forces in France (at least in the earliest time), nor affect the return of art looted by Napoleon, nor prevent the fall of Italy into a kind of Austrian protectorate (despite a presence of a Bourbon in Naples). These stood as points against him, together the opposition against the partition of Poland, which alienated the Tsar (against him, more than against France).

However, the desperate diplomatic battle of Talleyrand paved the road of his successor, the Duke of Richelieu, who was well acquainted with the Russians, having lived in exile in their country and having served in the Russian army and as governor of Odessa. The Duke was this better positioned, vis-à-vis the other allies, as he was an émigré, which gave him positive currency, and neither did his diplomatic efforts begin at zero as was the case with his predecessor.

But along with the settlement of a comprehensive peace with France, other diplomatic efforts began a hidden rivalry between Austria, Prussia and Russia, especially for Poland, which again stood divided among the three powers. Also, the reshaping of Germany meant that Prussia got two-fifths of Saxony and was further compensated by extensive additions in Westphalia and on the left bank of the Rhine. It was Castlereagh, who mediated this and who insisted on Prussian acceptance of this latter territory, with which it had been suggested the king of Saxony should be compensated.

The objective of Castlereagh was to have a strong Prussia to guard the Rhine against France and to act as a buttress for the new Kingdom of The Netherlands, which comprised both the former United Provinces and Belgium. Austria was compensated by Lombardy and Venice and also got back most of the Tirol. Bavaria, Württemberg, and Baden on the whole did well. Hanover was also enlarged. The outline of a constitution, a loose confederation, was drawn up for Germany – a triumph for Metternich. Denmark lost Norway to Sweden but got Lauenburg, while Swedish Pomerania went to Prussia. Switzerland was given a new constitution.

In Italy, Piedmont absorbed Genoa, while Tuscany and Modena went to an Austrian archduke. Parma was given to Marie-Louise, consort of the deposed Napoleon. The Papal States were restored to the pope, Naples to the Sicilian Bourbons. Valuable articles were agreed upon for the free navigation of international rivers and diplomatic precedence.

Castlereagh’s great efforts for the abolition of the slave trade were rewarded only by a pious declaration. The Final Act of the Congress of Vienna comprised all these agreements in one great instrument. It was signed on June 9, 1815, by the “eight” (except Spain, which refused, as a protest against the Italian settlement). All the other powers subsequently acceded.

2. Congress Of Aix-la-Chapelle (1818) And The G-8

The Congress or Conference of Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen), held in the autumn of 1818, was primarily a meeting of the four allied powers (Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia) to decide the question of the withdrawal of the army of occupation from France and the nature of the modifications to be introduced in consequence to the relations of the four powers towards each other, and collectively towards France.

The Congress, which looks forward to the revision conferences of the UN system, convened in Aachen on 1 October 1818. It was attended in person by Emperor Alexander I of Russia, Emperor Francis I of Austria, and Frederick William III of Prussia. Britain was represented by Lord Castlereagh and the Duke of Wellington, Austria by Prince Metternich, Russia by Counts Ioannis Capodistria and Nesselrode, Prussia by Prince Hardenberg and Count Bernstorff. The Duke de Richelieu, by favor of the Allies, was present on behalf of France, even if his presence was in reality part of the new political reality.

The evacuation of France was agreed upon in principle at the first session, with the consequent treaty being signed on 9 October. The immediate object of the Conference having been thus readily disposed of, the remaining time was taken up with discussions of what form was to be taken by the European alliance, and the “military measures,” if any, to be adopted as a precaution against a fresh outburst on the part of France. The proposal of Emperor Alexander I to establish a “universal union of guarantee” on the broad basis of the Holy Alliance, after much debate, broke down because of the uncompromising opposition of Britain.

Thus, the main outcome of the Congress was the signature, on 15 November, of two instruments: a secret protocol confirming and renewing the Quadruple Alliance established by the treaties of Chaumont and Paris (of 20 November 1815) against France, and a public “Declaration” of the intention of the powers to maintain their intimate union, “strengthened by the ties of Christian brotherhood,” of which the object was the preservation of peace on the basis of respect for treaties. The secret protocol was communicated in confidence to Richelieu; as to the Declaration, France was invited publicly to adhere to it. This sub-architecture, named the Quintuple Alliance, was the first of a long series of mutual and secret treaties of insurance and counter-insurance, which forcibly led the same powers to the first civil pan-European war, namely, World War One.

The Quintuple Alliance is largely perceived as the final moment of a path of reintegration of France into the power system and the end of the state of exception which marked the political landscape since the launch of the Vienna Conference.

What transformed the Aix-la-Chapelle Congress in a de facto European Summit, more and more similar to the Allied and Associate Powers after WWI with its huge agenda (e. g. the fate of the Kaiser Wilhelm II, Fiume, the borders of Albania, etc.), were the number of areas left unsettled in the hurried winding up of the Congress of Vienna; or those which had arisen since. Of these, the most important were the methods to be adopted for the suppression of the slave-trade, and the Barbary pirates of Maghreb and their activities. In neither case was any decision arrived at, owing mainly to the refusal of the other alliance powers to agree with the British proposal for a reciprocal right of search on the high seas and to the objection of Britain to international action which would have involved the presence of a Russian naval squadron in the Mediterranean.

In matters of less importance the Congress was, of course, more unanimous, such as, on the urgent appeal of the king of Denmark, Charles XIV of Sweden received a peremptory summons to carry out the terms of the Treaty of Kiel; the petition of the Prince-Elector of Hesse to be recognized as king was unanimously rejected; and measures were taken to redress the grievances of the German princes. The more important outstanding questions in Germany, e.g. the Baden succession, were after consideration reserved for another international conference to be called at Frankfurt/Main.

In addition, a great variety of questions were also considered, from the treatment of Napoleon at Saint Helena to the grievances of the people of Monaco against their prince, and the position of the Jews in Austria and Prussia. An attempt made to introduce the subject of the Spanish colonies was defeated by the opposition of Britain. Lastly, certain vexatious questions of diplomatic etiquette were settled once and for all.

The Congress of Aix-la Chapelle, which broke up at the end of November, is of historical importance mainly as marking the highest point reached in the attempt to govern Europe by an international committee of the alliance powers, even at the informal level. The detailed study of its proceedings is highly instructive in revealing the almost insurmountable obstacles to any really effective international system.

After Aix-la-Chapelle, the alliance powers met three more times: in 1820 at Troppau (Opava, Poland), in 1821 at Ljubljana, and in 1822 at Verona. Afterwards, a similar procedure, even if informal, was convoked in major conferences for specific themes and issues, e.g., the Berlin Conference for the Balkans (1878), the one for the West Africa (1884-1885), and the Algeciras Conference (1906) for Morocco.

Even after a destructive conflict, as was WWI, the setting up of a new, organic and complex architecture, the League of Nations, with a parallel sub-system set up by the “winners,” like the Allied and Associate Council (with the Ambassador Conference as operational arm and the galaxy of Committees in charge of many issues as the first was the controversial demilitarization of the Central Powers ), showed that the states were not yet ready to resign to their own sovereignty authority; and another destructive conflict, WWII, allowed for the set-up of a more effective one system, around a galaxy of organizations, that surround the globe with a network of agreements. Nevertheless, the risk of war remains ever-present for mankind.

In reality, this system, due to the absence of a permanent architecture and focused on a rotational mechanism, from a contemporary perspective, appears to have inspired the multiple systems which now proliferate (G-7, G-8, G8+5, G-11, G-14, G20 developing nations, G-20 major economies, G-33, G-77 plus China).

Demilitarization, Occupation And War Reparations – The New Elements Of Peace?

1. The French Demand To Reduce Foreign Occupation Troops

In July, 1815, the British Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, first suggested that the Allies place an occupation force inside now-defeated France. Liverpool deemed that the “magnanimous policy” introduced in 1814 had been a complete failure; and the allies agreed with British Prime Minister’s assessment. The dispatch of an allied occupation force of 150.000 troops for a period of five years, became a key element of the Allied policy towards France.

This was quite an innovative element of winner-defeated relationships, and would be frequently used in subsequent conflicts, such as, the American Civil War, the Franco-Prussian War, WWI and WWII. Of course, there were earlier examples of this procedure during the Napoleonic wars (e.g., the occupation by French troops of the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Italy and Illyria, even though the institutional framework was different in consideration of the fact that these states were allied or annexed).

The issue was perceived as extremely unjust and politically counterproductive by the new French leadership, which, correctly, saw the occupation force as a formidable weapon in the hands of supporters of Napoleon, whose used it to show that the Bourbon dynasty, having just returned, was weak and not able to save the prestige and dignity of France. Thus, it became imperative to reduce the impact of this opinion, in order to build support for the monarchy (and insure the survival of the king’s government), Richelieu sought a reduction in the troop strength of the occupying army earlier than originally proposed by the allies.

He broached the subject with the Allies in the summer of 1816, barely a half-year into the occupation. Public order had been maintained, he told the occupying powers, France was paying the cost of the occupation; the local authorities were cooperative with the occupiers. Richelieu then pointed out the greater good that would be achieved if the Allies reduced the number troops – there would be a reduction of the cost of the occupation to France, and this would demonstrate the good intentions of the Allies, and this further would confirm their confidence in the French crown, the French people (and the Richelieu ministry).

Richelieu communicated his thoughts personally to the Duke of Wellington in a meeting on June 6, 1816. It was readily apparent to Richelieu that Wellington was the key to achieving a troop cut, and, if Wellington were convinced that a reduction was in order, the allied governments would surely accede to his decision. Wellington forwarded the message to his government, which convinced Richelieu that he had gained the field marshal’s unqualified support.

Richelieu also wrote to his old benefactor, Tsar Alexander I of Russia, expressing his hopes for a reduction, but without a formal request. According to the Treaty of Paris of November 20, 1815, the Allies agreed that the army of occupation would remain in France for a maximum of five years, with a review of the issue after three years. It was in France’s interest that the earliest possible departure date be secured. Perhaps more importantly, Louis XVIII and the Duke of Richelieu had vested interest in producing an early departure to demonstrate, just as they had with the partial reduction of 1817, their ability to govern France effectively, and restore her to her position of greatness.

The push for troop reduction gave renewed popularity to the King’s rule. Negotiating a final removal for a date prior to the stated five-year occupation program would add a further sense of stability to the Bourbon monarchy. Richelieu spent three years directing France toward a stable internal situation acceptable to the allied leadership, thus refusing to leave the Allies any valid reason for their continued occupation of France, which was formally decided at the Aix-la-Chapelle conference (October 1818). The Allies agreed to withdraw their forces by the end of November 1818 as the French government ‘had fulfilled with the most scrupulous and honourable punctuality all clauses of the Treaties and Conventions,” stated the specific document of the Aix Conference.

Aside from seeking the withdrawal of allied forces, the Richelieu government designed and then rebuilt the French army so that it was capable of insuring domestic order and tranquillity. This was another key point of the France policy, showing to the Allies the willing of Paris to be ready to guarantee the internal stability an adequate military (but not overly powerful to re-awaken Allied concerns). Internally, this renewed national pride in the French, which had suffered a crisis of image after the defeat at Waterloo. Thus, ground forces were brought to 240,000 troops in 1818 and 400,000 in 1824. Soon France was able to consider herself second in military strength only to Russia and second in naval power to Britain.

2. The Fortress Issue

The issue of dismantling the chain of fortresses that had protected France since the 18th century is an aspect not often considered in analysis of the long-term effects of conflicts during the Napoleonic period. Napoleon’s 1815 military campaign in Flanders demonstrated that the guaranteeing of the defense of the southern border of the Netherlands belonged to all Europe. The Allies included the reconstruction of the Dutch barrier fortresses, running along the current Belgian-French border, in the 1815 peace-­making process. This would mean the setting up of a semi-continuous line of fortresses along the Eastern frontier of France, joining together the Rhine valley, and protecting Switzerland and the alpine side of the Kingdom of Sardinia, together with a general demolition of French fortresses.

Britain had voiced its support for an adequate military barrier in the Lowlands to the Allies in 1814. Prime Minister Lord Liverpool considered the defence of the Low Countries a “distinct British interest” of great significance. Castlereagh told Parliament “that to fortify the places in Belgium was not a Dutch object merely, but one which interested all Europe, and this country in particular.” The Morning Chronicle stated, “The fair interest of Great Britain extends no further than a secure frontier for the Netherlands, and if that can be obtained by the re-establishment of the Flemish fortresses, it is no more our policy…to promote dismemberment [of France] by which we cannot profit.”

This new guarantee became part of the overall European plan to establish and maintain order. Though the barrier forts were not the direct responsibility of the army of occupation, both devices were part of the peacemaking process and were designed to keep France within her borders. The allies would not consider withdrawal unless at least the Dutch barrier reconstruction program was completed. But the Duke of Wellington, already in 1816, along with Richelieu, agreed in principle for a reduction of the British occupation forces in consideration that the work to build the Belgian fortresses was well advanced.

The issue of the fortresses launched again a bitter diplomatic fight among the Allies, and between them and France. But France also took advantage of the division of Britain and Russia against Austria and Prussia, which failed in their attempt to force France to pay for the construction of these fortresses – a cost that was to be outside that of the general payment by Paris to the Allies.

After bitter negotiations, the Allies (always deeply divided among themselves) and France agreed to a complex mechanism with two specific protocols (one for Germany and one for the Belgian-Dutch and Savoy but against the German fortresses), which included financial payment from Paris, organizational and limited border variations with the Netherlands (Philippeville, Marienburg transferred to the Netherlands and 60 million francs to help pay for forts on the border with France). France demolished the forts in Hunningen, while the fortified city of Saarlouis was assigned to Prussia (along with the surrounding region). Prussia obtained 20 million francs for fortifications in the Lower Rhine, and another 20 for the ones in the Upper Rhine.

The rest of the 60 million, nominally assigned to the German Confederation, went in majority to Bavaria. But none of the recipients was given complete freedom of action – the construction of the fortresses in Belgium were under British supervision, while Austria and Prussia supervised the works in Germany (despite the disagreement of Bavaria), As well, Austria supervised the reinforcement of the alpine fortress of the Kingdom of Sardinia.

The issue of the fortresses saw Austria and Prussia looser (financially before than political in consideration of the use that they hoped to made of the additional war indemnity that they would want to have from France) in consideration of the lack of interest on this issue of Russia, strumentalized in its own favour by Great Britain.

3. The Arbitration Of War Payments

The extent of destruction, especially in some areas, because of military operations and occupation which went for several years, raised the issue of the war reparations as another element of the attempt to settle the conflicts of the Napoleonic wars. However, like future peace deals, the amount of war damage costs opened a Pandora Box of recriminations and furore among the parties.

The lists of compensations for the wars and occupation by French troops were submitted at the Vienna Conference. The total amount requested was immense: 775.5 million francs (Austria 200, Prussia 120, Bavaria 73, the Netherlands 65, Kingdom of Sardinia 70, Hamburg 70, Brema and Lubeck 4,5, Denmark 42, Saxony 20, Tuscany 4, Pontifical State 30, Hannover 25, Saxony and Prussia 15, Switzerland 12, Other 25).

Furthermore, Spain submitted a separate request for 263,331.912.85 francs; Great Britain, Portugal and Russia did not submit separate requests. Talleyrand first, and Richelieu later, determined to save as much of the French economy as possible, launched a strong diplomatic offensive, which closely resembled that of the future German Weimar Republic’s resistance between 1920 and 1930. Talleyrand and Richelieu outlined the impossibility for France to pay this amount without serious damage to the national economy present and future, and the risk of destabilizing the country.

Austria and Prussia put up a strong opposition – and thus the Congress was in a stalemate, which was resolved through an arbitration panel, chaired by Marshall Wellington (looking forward to the role of the US in the aftermath of WWI).

Thus, the enormous amount was reduced to a more acceptable figure (for France) of 240,664,325 francs (Anhalt-Dessau received 73,507, Anhalt-Bernuburg 350.000, Austria 25 millions, Baden 650.000, Bavaria 10 millions, Brema 1 million, Denmark 7 millions, Pontifical State 5 millions, Spain 17 millions, Imperial city of Frankfurt 700.000, Electoral Hesse 507.099, Hesse 8 millions, Hannover 10 millions, Hamburg 20 millions, Ionian Islands 3 millions, Lubeck 2 millions, Mecklenburg-Schwerin 500.000, Duchy of Nassau 127.000, Parma 1 million, Prussia 52.003.289, the Netherlands 33 millions, Portugal 818.736, Saxony 4,5 millions, Kingdom of Sardinia 25 millions, Saxony-Mainhingen 20.694, Switzerland 5 millions, Tuscany 4,5 millions, Wurttemberg 400.000, Saxony and Prussia 2.200.000, Electoral Prince of Hesse 14.000, Hesse-Darmstadt and Bavaria 200.000, Hesse-Darmstadt, Bavaria and Prussia 800.000).

This decision by Wellington, however, opened up another fracture among the Allies (the anti-French sentiment), which spread such ill-will among the claimants that Spain decided not to sign the final act of the Conference.

The sensible reduction of war payments is a key to understand the insistence of Austria and Prussia that the financial instrument of construction/rebuilding of the fortresses should be separate and not made part of the general account of French war reparations. Also, in this concern for France, both Britain and Russia emerged the winners, while Austria and Prussia were the looser. With a more manageable amount of war reparations, Richelieu’s ministry successfully negotiated loans to enable France to meet the financial obligations imposed on her and closed the dossier in the 1820, with the support of the major European banks.

Conclusion

It is a fact that the conflicts that had devastated (mainly) the European continent between 1789 and 1815 left enduring legacies, such as, the pursuit of inclusive peace, disarmament and arms limitation of a defeated power, and the establishment of mechanisms (not yet formal architectures) for consultation and political action in order to set a more stable framework.

All these were initiated on the basis of perceptions, as mentioned, of the social risk presented by the values of the French Revolution and later by a new, more powerful than ever, French attempt to establish a continental hegemony.

The example of the Congress of Vienna, and its follow-ups, despite divisions among the winners, agreed to a non-excessive punishment of the defeated and the inclusion of the defeated in a consultation mechanism, which unfortunately was not implemented and which eventually led to the Franco-Prussian war.

The lessons of the Congress of Vienna were forgotten in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war, despite the efforts of Chancellor Bismarck, whoi tried to move forward in peace negotiations in the face of hostility of the military staff and the King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany. Dire punishment of the defeated created, as everyone knows, the conditions for a new and cruel conflict forty years later.

Enrico Magnani, PhD is a UN officer who specializes in military history, politico-military affairs, peacekeeping and stability operations.

The image shows a colored engraving after a water colour by Jean-Baptiste Isabey of the Vienna Congress, 19th century.