Wilhelmshaven Declaration on Ukraine

“We demand that the Russian Regime ceases its activities, seen as war crimes, immediately. [Russia] must be, and will be, held accountable for its actions.”

By: Roy Thorvaldsen, Lt. Col (R), Norwegian Army/ CIOR Public Affairs

A further condemnation of Russia’s warfare in Ukraine, and the involvement of Belarus, came out of the organisation’s spring meeting in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, yesterday. It was, in part, a reaction to shock and disbelief over atrocities committed towards the civilian population in Bucha and other occupied towns over the last few weeks.

The CIOR President had earlier condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, on behalf of the Presidency.

Executed

Many civilians have been found killed, some with tied hands and head shots. Photo: Vadim Chirdal/AP.

Several hundred people have been found killed as Ukrainian forces have retaken suburbs north of and around Kyiv – some with their hands tied behind their backs and with execution-style gun wounds to their heads. Others were shot off their bikes on the way to the market, or gunned down in their front yard.

The tortured body of a mayor and her family were found buried in the forest, allegedly for being “informants” to the Ukrainian armed forces.

There are many more stories, and the full scale of the horror is yet to be discovered.

Russia has denied involvement in the killings, but forensic experts are currently on the ground collecting evidence and testimonies. Satellite imagery appears to show that many of the dead bodies were lying on the streets for several weeks, from when the area was under control by Russian forces.

Wilhelmshaven Declaration

An official statement, named the Wilhelmshaven Declaration, was approved by Council, CIOR’s highest decision-making body, and signed by the President and Secretary General of CIOR at the end of the meeting.

“We, as CIOR, stand together in solidarity. Our reservists are ready to bear our duty to protect our homelands and the democracies, freedoms, and human rights of the people”, the declaration reads.

In English and French

The declaration, that you can read in its entirety in English here, and in French here, was unanimously agreed to by all CIOR’s Vice Presidents – the heads of all national delegations – present at the meeting, and signed by the President and Secretary General in an official ceremony on the 5th of April. The declaration will now be published in all CIOR’s more than 30 member associations’ nations.

CIOR Secretary General André Roosen and President Jan Hörmann signing the Wilhelmshaven Declaration. Photo: Rob Wilkinson.

 

 

 

German Frigate under CIOR Flag

The CIOR spring meeting, formally named IBM, started with a situation briefing about the war in Ukraine from a Baltic perspective. The venue for the meeting was Wilhelmshaven – Germany’s only deep-water port, and its largest naval base.

By: Roy Thorvaldsen, Lt. Col (R), Norwegian Army/ CIOR Public Affairs

The spring meeting (IBM = In-Between-Meeting) is meant to ensure continuity between the Mid-Winter Meeting and the Summer Congress, the organisation’s main annual event, and started on Sunday, April 3rd.

A half day initial meeting was followed by transit to the harbour and an overnight tour with the German Navy frigate ”FGS Sachsen-Anhalt” to Hamburg. While on board, there were updates and discussions to prepare the Summer Congress in Athens and the handover of the Presidency from Germany to Estonia.

A frigate under CIOR flag

CIOR was well-received by the commanding officer and crew on board the 125 class frigate, Germany’s newest, and even got to raise its flag while entering the harbour of Hamburg!

CIOR delegates on board the German frigate FGS Sachsen-Anhalt.

Following the disembarkation, there was a cultural event with the Navy Band, and a reception at the Naval Museum.

The meeting was to be continued Tuesday, with a full day’s agenda.

First in-person meeting in two years

This is the first physical meeting of CIOR since the autumn of 2020, when a hybrid (for those that wanted and could travel to attend in person, with virtual attendance for the rest) ”Late Summer Congress” took place in Tallinn, Estonia. It is the first regular meeting since the Mid-Winter Meeting in Brussels more than two years ago.

February 8th: The 2022 CIOR Seminar: ‘North Africa and US-NATO/EU-relations’

Whilst the world is holding its breath for future developments in Ukraine, the rest of the world is not at a stillstand. For instance: North Africa and the Sahel region are trying to come to grips with ongoing political instability, population growth, consequences of climate change, and increasing involvement of China.

By: Roy Thorvaldsen, Lt. Col (R), Norwegian Army/ CIOR Public Affairs

North Africa is as a matter of speaking on the border of Europe. What are the safety and security implications to our continent of these above-mentioned developments? Will it have an impact on US/NATO-EU relations? And if so, in what way will that effect these relations?

The 2022 CIOR Seminar on February 8th will make an attempt to address these issues in order to get a bit of a better understanding of what is going on – with speakers from the US Africa Command and NATO.

The seminar takes place between 15:30 and 20:00 Central European Time.

Register here!

French troops in Mali. Photo: Finbarr O’Reilly/The New York Times.

Online CIOR Seminar 2022 on February 8th!

The 2022 CIOR Seminar: ‘North Africa and US-NATO/EU-relations’

North Africa and the Sahel region are trying to come to grips with ongoing political instability, population growth, consequences of climate change, and increasing involvement of China.

What are the safety and security implications to the European continent of these above-mentioned developments? Will it have an impact on US/NATO-EU relations? And if so, in what way will that effect these relations?

The 2022 CIOR Seminar on February 8th will make an attempt to address these issues in order to get a bit of a better understanding of what is going on – with speakers from the US Africa Command and NATO.

The seminar takes place online between 15:30 and 20:00 Central European Time on the announced date: February 8th, 2022.

We are very much looking forward to your registration and participation in the 2022 CIOR Seminar!

The CIOR Seminar organizing Committee.

(Registration/joining details to follow.)

You can read more about the CIOR Seminar institution here.

The CIOR machinery is working

Towards the end of last year, the current German-led and the incoming Estonian-led Presidency met physically in Kassel, Germany, for a planning meeting. This was yet another example of CIOR keeping wheels turning during these challenging times.

By: Roy Thorvaldsen, Lt. Col (R), Norwegian Army/ CIOR Public Affairs

Despite restrictions on travel and meetings, it was possible to carry through with the gathering with all key players present: CIOR President Jan Hörmann; President elect Toomas Luman; Secretary General André Roosen; Secretary General elect, André Lilleleth; Head of the CIOR Office, Mathias Krämer; next Assistant Secretary General for Organisation, Mari Uuemaa; and CIOR’s Permanent Representative at the NATO Headquarters, Ben Jonckers.

The topics that were covered included the transfer of responsibility from the German-led to the Estonian-led Presidency during the Summer Congress of 2022 – planned for Athens, Greece – the CIOR legal body situation and the general status of CIOR management at the time of the handover.

From an earlier meeting of CIOR´s next presidential team comprising of Estonian, Belgian, British, Finnish and Swedish reserve officers. Photo by Sqn Ldr Rob Wilkinson, Royal Air Force.

Contingency Plan

There was also a discussion on technical arrangements for the transfer of responsibility for the Presidency in the event of a restricted situation preventing the Summer Congress from taking place as a physical event.

Overall, the gathering in Kassel was considered important for the organisation in a situation where all CIOR-format meetings during the epidemic high tides normally are transferred to the digital domain.

Incoming Secretary General André Lilleleth.

-Will be ready

-It was agreed who is responsible for what, and we will be ready to take over the CIOR flag during SC22 even if the virus should force us to remain in the virtual world for another six months, incoming Secretary General André Lilleleth said.

Past CIOR President Argent awarded Officer of the Order of the British Empire

Immediate Past President of CIOR, Colonel (Ret.) Chris Argent, UK Army, has been awarded with the title “Officer of the Order of the British Empire” (OBE). Argent receives the award for his dedicated service to the UK Reserve Forces Association (UKRFA) and his Presidency role within CIOR.

By: Roy Thorvaldsen, Lt. Col (R), Norwegian Army/ CIOR Public Affairs

File photo: Colonel (Ret.) Chris Argent, UK Army.

– To have been entrusted to be the President of CIOR for two years, together with the management of our national reserves association, has been a great privilege – and now for that to be recognised by Her Majesty The Queen is humbling, Argent said when asked for a comment.

– In accepting this honour I recognise the enormous support I received from my Presidential Team from 2018 to 2020, he continued – and added:

– I very much hope that as we emerge around the globe from the Pandemic, CIOR can move forward and once again demonstrate its support to NATO with relevant outputs, as the representative body of the Reserves Community.

Buckingham Palace

The award was made public in the UK New Years Honours list. It will be presented at Buckingham Palace in due course by either Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth or another senior member of the Royal Family.

Major role

To recieve the award “Officer of the Order of the British Empire” one must have played a major local role in any activity, including people whose work has made them known nationally.

The order

The Order of the British Empire was established by King George V in 1917 to honour those who had served in a non-combative role and expanded the Order to reward contributions to the Arts, Sciences, Charitable work and Public Service. The Order is comprised of five classes across both military and civilian divisions.

The grades are: Knight/Dame Grand Cross (GBE); Knight/Dame Commander (KBE/DBE); Commander (CBE); Officer (OBE); Member (MBE).

(Source: Wikipedia.)

 

US Air Force Reserve supports one of the largest Airlift Operations in History

Reserve Citizen Airmen are playing a huge role in what is being described by senior U.S. government officials as one of the largest airlift operations in history, as Airmen are supporting the evacuation of thousands of people from Afghanistan.

By: Jon Quinlan, HQ Air Force Reserve Command

(First posted on www.afrc.af.mil)

The Defense Department is getting American citizens, Afghans with special immigrant visa applications in process and other vulnerable Afghans out of the country. This will continue to be the No. 1 priority right up until the very end, according to Pentagon Press Secretary, John F. Kirby.

A Reserve Citizen Airman from the 349th Air Mobility Wing at Travis Air Force Base, California, board a C-17 Globemaster III prior to a mission supporting the Afghanistan evacuation, Aug. 24th. The 349th AMW is providing rapid global mobility to assist the U.S. State Department in the safe evacuation of Americans and allied civilian personnel from Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jose B. Aquilizan)

Air Force Reserve Command Airmen are contributing to the total force evacuation effort operating 17 aircraft to include, C-17 Globemaster III’s, C-130 Hercules, C-5M Super Galaxy’s, and KC-10 Extender with 73 aircrews and hundreds of maintenance, security, medical and support personnel.

These Airmen were activated to ensure safe passage of Americans and Afghan allies from Kabul to locations throughout the globe.

In many cases, Air Force Reserve Airmen are blended into Total Force crews, mixing active duty, Guard and Reserve.

“The United States is the only nation capable of rapidly deploying forces to provide nonstop airlift operations at this scale. It would not be possible without the support of our Total Force—active, guard and Reserve Citizen Airmen—seamlessing integrating to execute the mission” said Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee, AFRC commander and Chief of the Air Force Reserve.

“Once again, our Air Force Reservists are proudly answering our nation’s call, responding in less than 24 hours. I’m overwhelmed with pride as all of our Service men and women take care of Americans, our allies and vulnerable Afghans.”

“Once again, our Air Force Reservists are proudly answering our nation’s call (…)”

Reserve Citizen Airmen and aircraft from multiple units around the U.S. are contributing, including, but not limited to: the 315th Airlift Wing, Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina; the 445th Airlift Wing, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; 908th Airlift Wing, Maxwell AFB, Alabama; 349th Air Mobility Wing, Travis AFB, California; 911th Airlift Wing, Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania; 452 Air Mobility Wing, March Air Reserve Base, California and more.

Air reserve component count for nearly 60% of mobility capacity

“Nearly 60% of our mobility capacity resides in the air reserve component, underscoring the importance of a Total Force approach,” said Col Mark Villacis, HQ AFRC, Chief of Mobility Operations Division (A3M). “An airlift operation of this historic magnitude can only be executed with Total Force Integration.”

“The partnership between Regular Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve is key to lifesaving Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) under extreme conditions we are experiencing in Kabul Afghanistan.”

A child looks at the aircraft as he is strolled towards his flight during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 24th. Reserve Citizen Airmen are playing a huge role in what is being described by senior U.S. government officials as one of the largest airlift operations in history. The C-17 Globemaster III aircraft were operated by crews from the 315th Airlift Wing. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Samuel Ruiz).
A U.S. Air Force security forces raven and Reserve Airmen assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, maintain a security cordon around a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in support of the Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA), Afghanistan, Aug. 24, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen)

About 88,000 American citizens, civilian allies, Afghan special immigrant visa applicants and other vulnerable Afghans have been taken out of harm’s way since Aug. 14, Army Maj. Gen. William D. “Hank” Taylor, the Joint Staff’s deputy director for regional operations, said at a Pentagon briefing.

During a 24-hour period Aug. 24, he said 42 U.S. military aircraft departed Kabul with 11,200 people and coalition and allied partners flew 7,800 people to safety. Another 10,000 people were at the airport awaiting departure.

A total of 88.000 people evacuated in one week

“88,000 in the course of just a week, a week and a half is no small feat,” Kirby said.

Additionally, on two separate AFRC C-17 air evacuation sorties out of Kabul, the crews assisted in the delivery of two Afghan babies in flight before touching down at coalition airbases. One baby was named ‘Reach’ after the aircraft call sign.

Aircrews from the 315th AW, 445th AW and a flight nurse from the 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron helped in the deliveries along with ground and medical personnel at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar and Ramstein AB, Germany.

Part-time force – full-time support

The Air Force Reserve is a predominantly part-time force which, when mobilized, provides full-time support to the Joint Force. In addition to its daily contributions to global operations, it provides rapid surge capability and strategic depth for national defense.

U.S. Air Force loadmasters and pilots assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, load passengers aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III in support of the Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA), Afghanistan, Aug. 24th, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen)

 

The Arctic – a geopolitical Hotspot

After a successful first day, anticipation for day two of the 2021 CIOR Seminar ran high. Two exciting talks waited for the participants. Dr. Duncan Depledge, Lecturer in Geopolitics and Security from Loughborough University introduced the CIOR Seminar participants to the geopolitical situation in the far north, and Dr. Pavel K. Baev, Research Professor at the Peace Research Institute in Oslo (PRIO) and Senior Non-Resident Fellow at the Brookings Institute, took a deeper look at Russia’s security posture in the Arctic.

By: Mr. Paul Strobel, Officer Cadet, Bundeswehr

Dr. Depledge set the scene by reminding participants that the Arctic is not in fact the vast cold emptiness so many of us imagine when we hear about the region. Despite that the area is dominated by water and ice, it has been inhabited for thousands of years.

The population usually is part of one of the sovereign states surrounding the Arctic. The US, Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia comprise the Arctic Council, which aims to further cooperation in the area and also offers a seat for representatives of the indigenous people living in the high north.

The Arctic Council works on consensus and excludes military and security matters because they are considered to be too divisive.

The US – no more “a reluctant Arctic state”

Dr. Depledge reminded the seminar participants of the statement of former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who called out Russia’s and China’s aggressive behaviour in the region and shifted the US status from a “reluctant arctic state” to one who is heavily involved in the area.

With the Arctic now firmly on the US radar, Dr. Depledge highlighted three main interests for the US in the far north.

Firstly, there is homeland defence, mainly aimed against the missile threat from northern Russia. The second US concern is Chinese commercial and scientific infiltration, which they fear might be an excuse for a long-term military build-up in the area. Thirdly, Dr. Depledge stated: “The Arctic increasingly links the US to the rest of the world.”

“They [the US]don’t necessarily look at this space as one to conquer and hold, but as one they want to secure passage through.” …and linking this potential field of conflict to one area that is very high on NATO’s agenda, Dr. Depedge continued: “A crisis in the Baltics will undoubtedly have consequences for the Arctic as one major supply line.”

Speaking about Russia’s strategy for the region, Dr. Depledge stated three main goals for the federation: Extraction of natural resources, keeping NATO away from their territory and projecting naval forces globally. From a military perspective, Dr. Depledge explained: “What Russia doesn’t want is a) encirclement and b) a fight in the Russian arctic. So what they do is (to) project force in the Atlantic.”

Russian Special Forces in the 200th Independent Motor Rifle Brigade of the Northern Fleet training with reindeer sleds. Photo: Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.

As far as China’s role in the Arctic is concerned, Dr. Depledge called for caution. “We often hear that China is trying to buy its way into the high north. But we don’t see much evidence of that. We also don’t see a military effort there.”

What China does do however is trying to expand its reach by diplomatic and mostly scientific means. Dr. Depledge explained: “What China ultimately wants is geopolitical influence. So if and when the Artic becomes more important, China wants to be in a position where they have a say in matters. They don’t want to be excluded.” Science and some economic investment in the area are their way to make sure they have a seat at the table, he explained.

A detailed look at Russia’s role

After a lively discussion, the Seminar reconvened for the second talk of the day – with Dr. Pavel K. Baev of PRIO, who took a more detailed look at Russia’s role in the region.

Right from the beginning Dr. Baev emphasised: “Russia is the arctic superpower. In the rest of the world it may not be able to keep up, but as far as the arctic is concerned they are a superpower and they are very proud of that position.” This, Dr. Baev showed, is emphasised by the attention the far north gets from Putin personally and the strong public feelings about the Arctic in Russia.

Dr. Baev detailed two tracks of Russia’s arctic policy: Firstly, collaboration based on politics and economic development in the area, and secondly, a strong military build-up.

“On the military track, confrontation feels good for Russia. The more NATO activity in the north, the more Russia emphasises the need for a military build-up there”

Concerningly, Dr. Baev pointed out, the collaborative spirit hasn’t shown any major rewards for Russia recently, while the military aspects have. “On the military track, confrontation feels good for Russia. The more NATO activity in the north, the more Russia emphasises the need for a military build-up there”, Dr. Baev explained on the security paradox in the region.

Particularly the nuclear super-concentration on the Kola Peninsula is a great concern in this regard. A high concentration of ballistic missiles and nuclear submarines in the area are not only dangerous in a direct military sense, but have proven accident prone in the past with catastrophic consequences often only narrowly avoided. But, as Dr. Baev explained, “Russia sees risk taking as a strategic advantage vis-à-vis a reluctant west.”

Svalbard at risk

One risk Russia might be tempted to take, in Dr. Baevs opinion, would be a Crimea-style invasion of the Norwegian territory of Svalbard, which would guarantee Russian access to the western seas. With the island being demilitarised, Dr. Baev raised concerns about its security and NATO’s ability to protect and retake it, should conflict arise.

But Dr. Baev also pointed out that Russia is currently distracted and preoccupied in other strategic theatres, which are a lot more pressing. His hope is that Russia’s presidency in the Arctic Council this year will further the collaborative spirit of Russia’s engagement in the Arctic.

Dr. Baev pointed out that Russia’s position in the Asia-Pacific sphere is extremely weak and although China isn’t currently pressing at these weaknesses, we don’t know how this situation will develop over time.

– China wants access, trade and economic value

With regard to China’s activity in the arctic itself, Dr. Baev pointed out: “China is not interested at all in the Russian military build-up in the Arctic. What they want is access, trade and economic value.”

Like the first day, the second day also ended with a very lively discussion among seminar participants, with participants linking together the two lectures and furthering their understanding of the Arctic and its strategic ramifications.

 

International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers

Today is the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. CIOR and NATO celebrates the anniversary together with the United Nations. The theme this year is  ‘Women in peacekeeping: A Key to Peace’.

“The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, 29 May, offers a chance to pay tribute to the uniformed and civilian personnel’s invaluable contribution to the work of the Organisation and to honour more than 3,900 peacekeepers who have lost their lives serving under the UN flag since 1948, including 102 last year.

This year, the challenges and threats faced by UN peacekeepers are even greater than ever, as they, like people around the world, are not only having to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, but also support and protect the people in the countries they are based in. They are continuing their operations to the best of their abilities and supporting the governments and the local populations,  despite the risk of COVID-19.

The theme for this year’s Day is “Women in Peacekeeping: A Key to Peace” to help mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.” (Source: UN website)

Read more @ https://www.un.org/en/observances/peacekeepers-day

 

 

China: Future Threat or Partner? Experts and Reservists Discuss Security Politics at the CIOR 2020 seminar

(This article was first published in Dutch military science magazine Military Spectator’s  April edition.)

Since he came to power, President Xi Jinping has put China on the road toward a certain destiny. Central to the country’s economic, diplomatic and military initiatives, experts agree, stands the survival of the Communist Party. That party envisions a new, multipolar world order, in which China dominates its own hemisphere. What does the rise of China mean for NATO and the Armed Forces of the member states? At the February 2020 seminar of the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (CIOR) in Bonn, Germany, experts elaborate on various topics concerning security, economic and cultural issues involving China. Is China, as the seminar’s title suggests, a future threat or partner, or is there still another angle to the debate?

By: Frans van Nijnatten

Underpinned by an unprecedented economic growth, China is building up the People’s Liberation Army and wants to play an influential role in military-strategic matters in Asia. Photo: Amber Smith/ US Army.

At the kick-off of the seminar in a packed conference room of the Gustav Stresemann Institute Lieutenant Colonel (R) Hans Garrels, Chairman of CIOR’s Seminar Committee, wants to see a show of hands from the participants: who, based on the knowledge he or she has now, is convinced China is a threat, who considers it a possible partner? The votes are roughly equally divided, with the majority of the reservists from CIOR members and associate countries attending eagerly conceding they are not experts on the matter. They see the congress as an excellent opportunity to inform themselves about a current topic in world affairs. Towards the end of the four-day meeting it is expected that at least some will have adjusted their opinions.

In his introduction Philippe Welti, former Swiss ambassador to Iran and India and an expert
on geopolitical and strategic affairs, explains China’s position in the regional and global environment. There is no doubt that China, underpinned by the unprecedented economic growth of the past decades, is building up the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and wants to play an influential role in military-strategic matters in Asia, partly by outspending rivals Russia, India and Japan. Experts agree that the Chinese defence budget has grown steadily over the last twenty years, and economic growth has allowed the country to modernize its army (including the nuclear forces) and develop blue water naval capabilities. By the mid-2020s, China will have at least three aircraft carriers and a considerable submarine force, allowing it to undertake force projection in vast parts of the Asia-Pacific region. Besides other major military reforms that have been initiated there has been a flattening of the command structure combined with the strengthening of the party’s dominance over the military.

Beijing considers the U.S. to be a military competitor it has to erode and surpass, since no other country seems to be able to frustrate China’s long-term strategic objectives. Gradually, the PLA which, according to the Chinese government, had a budget of almost 178 billion dollars in 2019, is growing into a much more lethal military organization, with a considerable role for reservists and a better ability to perform joint operations.

Strategic opportunity

China, according to Dr. Christopher D. Yung, Dean of the US Marine Corps War College, recognizes a period of ‘strategic opportunity’ in which a relatively peaceful international environment allows it to expand its own military power and – through diplomatic pressure – to reform the international political system and agreements (United Nations, World Bank, cyber laws, the space and maritime domains, et cetera) so that they better suit the needs of authoritarian regimes.

Dr. Oliver Corff, a specialist on China’s current affairs, says observers can derive clues to a Chinese grand strategy from official party decisions, five-year planning documents, yearly government reports, white papers and ad hoc programmatic speeches by party leaders. Considering itself the ‘infallible executioner of history’, the party seems to aim at making China the one dominant economic and military player in the region, exporting its own security model to neighbouring countries. To the outside world, China communicates a strategic narrative that conveys clear and diffuse messages at the same time. As an information source, therefore, Chinese media should be handled very carefully.

At the same time, China has a fragile political system and still spends more on internal security than on defence, because the Communist Party wants to retain its absolute grip on power. Internal unrest, economic downturns and unexpected crises, like the outbreak of the coronavirus, continue to test the party’s resolve. At the same time, the regime spends vast sums on programmes to restrain internet access for its 1.3 billion people, says John Lee of the Mercator Institute for China Studies. China’s digital espionage force, fitting a hybrid warfare philosophy, and its aspiration to become a cyber super power are just one side of the coin; using the internet for total domestic control, enhanced by initiatives like the social credit system, is the other.

Discussing China’s role at the Bonn seminar: Dr. Christopher D. Yung (foreground) eleborates on the ‘strategic opportunity’ the Chinese Communist Party has recognized. Photo: LtCol Bill Grieve (R), US Army/ CIOR Public Affairs.

Taiwan and the South China Sea

To keep its own people rallied around the country’s interests, the party, among others, constantly depicts security threats from the outside. It points at Taiwan, the East and South China Sea, South Korea, and the risk of a cyber attack from overseas. Dr. Sarah Kirchberger of the Institute for Security Politics at Kiel University reminds the audience that in the case of Taiwan, China applies an ‘anaconda strategy’, aimed at ‘suffocating’ the island by military, economic and diplomatic pressure and cyber attacks. She poses an intriguing question: what would the reaction of NATO be if China really attacked the island? Would the member states stand united and if not and only the U.S. stood by Taiwan, could it spell the end of the Alliance? China, she stresses, invests heavily in Anti-Access and Area Denial (A2AD) capacities, while the PLA runs joint invasion scenarios during exercises.

Beijing’s political-military strategy envisions not only the eventual taking of Taiwan and expanding sovereign maritime rights, but also the undertaking of out-of-area operations, aimed at the protection of overseas markets and other interests, like the military base operated by China in Djibouti in East Africa. Elsewhere on the continent China has been making inroads as well. Dr. Andreas Wolfrum, an expert on Chinese culture, explains that African nations are particularly susceptible to offers from Beijing because they hope they can somehow follow the example of China, which after the Communist takeover in 1949 was an underdeveloped country itself but is now, due to its policy of ‘catch up and overtake’, a player on the international scene. Not only in Africa, but also in Asia and Europe, China has gained foothold in markets – well-known examples being Huawei and 5G – and other sectors through the so-called Belt and Road Initiative it started in 2013. In the long run, however, accepting Chinese investments and loans may be subject to a quid pro quo with countries running the risk of Beijing ultimately demanding payback. Eventually, this could become a security threat and put alliances under pressure.

Bilateral meeting between NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Zhang Ming, Ambassador of China to the European Union. Photo: NATO.

Since Xi became President in 2013, China has been using its foreign policy on a broader scale to influence other countries. In foreign affairs, China cooperates with the U.S. on certain issues, but tries to upset Washington on others. One of those areas is the South China Sea, where Beijing operates in a provocative way, claiming historical rights it has unilaterally written into law. Bill Hayton, journalist for BBC News and author of the book The South China Sea. Dangerous Ground, explains that China considers itself the rightful owner of the area which, because of its fishing grounds and natural resources, is of economic importance. The dispute revolves not only around existing islands or artificial ones constructed by China; it also has everything to do with China’s demand for access to the open sea for its navy and especially its SLBM-equipped submarines.

China seeks cooperation with countries that challenge the international status quo, such
as Russia and Iran, and tries to weaken ties between the U.S. and its most loyal ally in the region, Japan. Japan, the U.S, Australia and India have responded by founding the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, creating a multilateral platform for talks and combined military exercises. Another reaction has been the 2018 renaming of the U.S. Pacific Command into Indo-Pacific Command, to broaden the focus on an intertwined area where China wants to become the dominant factor.

Synergy with Russia

Dr. Lyle J. Goldstein points seminar participants at the growing military-strategic cooperation between China and Russia. Photo: LtCol Bill Grieve (R), US Army/ CIOR Public Affairs.

China not necessarily wants to go it alone. Dr. Lyle J. Goldstein, Research Professor in the China Maritime Studies Institute of the U.S. Naval War College, emphasizes the synergy China and Russia have developed in several important fields, ranging from trade to military matters. In an article for The National Interest, published during the Bonn seminar, Goldstein points at the strain Russia caused by closing major border crossings in the Far East due to the coronavirus crisis in China. It should be just a temporary setback, though. Only recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that his country is helping China to create a missile attack warning system, which clearly shows a growing military-strategic cooperation between Moscow and Beijing. During a workshop, Goldstein challenged seminar participants to dwell on this rapprochement and the implica- tions for NATO. Would it be realistic to expect a concerted military effort by both countries in the near future, with China, for example, attacking Taiwan and Russia simultaneously creating a conflict elsewhere? Should the West ‘up its game’ by using a wedge strategy, aiming at driving Russia and China apart? At a time when many NATO countries seem to distrust both Russia and China, there seems to be no easy solution.

Ships from the Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Navy sail in formation as part of Malabar 2017 in the Bay of Bengal, a combined exercise to address the threats to maritime security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Photo: Holly Herline, US Navy.

In order to create nearby stability, China is expanding its political and military presence along its periphery and adjacent areas, but is currently not a real enemy, says Dr. Yung. He calls a short-term military confrontation in which the U.S. and other NATO countries would be involved, a far-fetched idea. At this moment, China would be at the losing end of such a conflict and the government in Beijing realizes that. It leaves him to conclude that instead of being either a threat to NATO or a possible partner, China should primarily be considered a challenge, especially to U.S. foreign policy. For participants in Bonn, many of them eager to follow the debate on China from now on more closely, that is one of the valuable insights to take away from the reservists’ seminar.

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‘Armed Forces and CIOR should focus on the younger generation’

Hans Garrels on the need for reservists and their ideas.

In 2019 the Dutch Armed Forces welcomed 564 new reservists, to bring the total to almost 5,800. The growth in the number of reservists is good news, but the Ministry could still step up its efforts to facilitate part-time military personnel in consultation with their civilian employers, says LtCol (R) Hans Garrels, Chairman of the Seminar Committee of the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (CIOR). After a day of presentations and discussions about China and NATO at the yearly seminar in Bonn, Germany, Garrels expresses his views to the Militaire Spectator about the need to stimulate young people to become reservists and, as such, help determine the future of the armed forces. According to Garrels, reservists should not shy away from taking part in complex debates on international and security politics.

By: Frans van Nijnatten

‘Compared to other countries, I would describe the recognition of the position of reservists in the Netherlands as rather poor.’ Garrels, who works as an independent business consultant and is Deputy Head of Reservists at the Defence Materiel Organisation, chooses his words carefully. ‘For example, the Bundeswehr has a reservist or, as the case may be, replacement for almost all functional ranks, up to the highest level. In the UK, the General Staff has reservists at two and three star level. The same applies to France.’ In those countries, reservists apparently are not considered a ‘threat’ by the regular military. Garrels: ‘But I do not know of one Dutch reservist who intends to take over the position of his professional colleague.’

Hans Garrels: ‘Every reservist who has a certain position or ambition, should want to participate in the seminar to develop a broader understanding of global security issues and international decision-making’. Photo: 2nd Lt Catalin Florea, Romanian Air Force/ CIOR Public Affairs.

Garrels calls the influx of new reservists good news, but says a considerable effort should be made to make sure they do not leave after only a short stint. ‘In some fields, we are starting to run into shortages of, for example nurses, engineers, and members of the National Reserve Corps. We see many students who join the National Reserve, which

is a nice part-time job. Some of those people are really talented and ambitious, some play an important role in filling gaps that are the result of the many vacancies within the Dutch Armed Forces. But we keep cutting the budget for reservists too quickly, while at the same time we expect them to attend the required exercises and stay available. The Ministry should really apply better personnel care because if the militarywishes to include reservists in their organization, it is also responsible for them. And why not develop a career policy for them?’

New initiatives needed

As a representative of the independent Dutch reservists’ associaton KVNRO Garrels emphasizes that the organization does not seek ‘to judge the world of professional soldiers.’ Nevertheless, the Ministry should not be afraid of suggestions made by people employed outside the military. ‘With a few exceptions, criticism usually comes from people who want to make an organization better. An organization must be willing to learn.’

‘When those responsible within the Dutch Armed Forces look at trends in society, they will realize that the young people we need nowadays cannot be lured with outdated employment contracts. We will have to seduce them by offering custom-made agreements and new incentives. The blind loyalty to one’s employer is a thing of the past. Nowadays, young people switch jobs more easily. So, why not introduce, as a replacement for the conscription we have put on hold, the right to serve? Unfortunately, this is not currently being discussed, and from the viewpoint of the organization there’s a big question hovering over this idea: is it manageable?’

To keep up the operational level of ambition the Armed Forces have set for themselves, new initiatives to attract reservists will come up, Garrels expects. ‘We cannot sit back and wait for young people, we will have to take action ourselves, simply because we need their knowledge.’

CIOR aims at young reservists

Garrels, himself a keen watcher of international affairs, enthousiastically tells about the organizational work needed to hold the yearly CIOR Bonn seminar. ‘We offer a platform for scientific debate on a current geopolitical- military topic, with highly-qualified speakers who influence discussions in the media and via books and articles. I think every reservist who has a certain position or ambition, should want to participate to develop a broader understanding of global security issues and international decision-making.’ Meanwhile the CIOR, too, has shifted its attention to the younger generation. ‘It became clear tous that we had to leave Cold War thinking behind us. We had to look at the CIOR and reservists differently than in the context of large mobile units and traditional military operations.’

Bringing young reservists to the seminar is one of Garrels’s top priorities. ‘The CIOR narrative, communicated by its Public Affairs Committee, is very good, but we have to get the message across to the young. We will sit together soon with some of their representatives to discuss some ideas, like a social media strategy.’ Pushing news through social media channels is one of the recommendations 34-year- old Captain Reitze Wellen (Royal Netherlands Army) makes. ‘The CIOR and KNVRO should make the information available as soon as possible, to allow those interested to make arrangements with their civil employers. Many young reservists would like to attend the seminar, if they only knew it existed.’

Without exception, the young people attending the conference say they find it enriching. ‘The seminar is an opportunity to meet collegues from other NATO countries and learn about their culture,’ says Wellen. ‘Normally, we consider the issues from an operational and tactical point of view. Experts at the seminar, however, zoom in on strategic developments and challenge participants to express their own thoughts.’ Lieutenant Desi van de Laar (33, Royal Netherlands Air Force) agrees with Wellen and appreciates the seminar as a platform to talk about current topics with collegues from abroad, like a reservist from Australia who has been involved in operations to fight the devastating fires that recently swept the country.

Besides the seminar, reservists can take part in CIOR programmes aimed at sharpening skills and knowledge. Photo: 2nd Lt Catalin Florea, Romanian Air Force/ CIOR Public Affairs.

Garrels: ‘Young reservists gain international contacts and insight into international decision-making. The CIOR is a versatile organization, which has attractive programmes
to offer, like the Young Reserve Officers Workshop and its own Language Academy. These programmes are discussed during the seminars as well.’ Van de Laar describes the additional value these programmes have for her: ‘They enhance both skills and knowledge and create abilities you can use directly in your job.’

Garrels urges participants from as many CIOR member countries as possible to take part in the seminar, also to avoid one-sided views and to broaden the scope of the academic debate. At the end of each seminar, he gathers the evaluation forms participants have filled out. There is always room for improvement but Garrels’s starting point will remain signing on first-rate speakers whose views
will help sharpen reservists’ opinions. ‘Armed Forces give young people a lot of responsibility. They learn to lead, persevere, and make difficult decisions and support them. On a broader scale, those qualities play a role in global security politics as well and that is exactly why reservists have a headstart when contemplating military and international affairs.’

(This article was first published in Dutch military science magazine Military Spectator’s  April edition.)

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