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Jokowi and the Defence Realm

This was first posted by our good friend Natalie Sambhi at “The Strategist” ASPI Blog.

No doubt by now most Australian readers would have heard that the popular Jakarta governor, Joko Widodo, also known as ‘Jokowi’, is the frontrunner for Indonesia’s upcoming presidential election. His meteoric rise from humble furniture entrepreneur in Solo to what could be the Presidential Palace is best explained simply by his genuine push for effective governance and a crackdown on corruption as well as his grassroots, ‘Mr Fix-it’ image. In short, he’s riding an Obama-like wave of hope and change in Indonesia—most importantly, hope that change is possible and that politics need not be dominated by stale and self-serving elites.

Nearly 32% of Indonesians recently polled by CSIS Jakarta have thrown their support behind Jokowi (Prabowo, the next preferred candidate, trails behind with 14.3%). While it’s not a fait accompli, it’s time to consider what a Jokowi administration might look like. How Indonesia views its strategic environment and how it chooses to manage its diplomatic relations is of great interest to Australia. As the past six months have shown, diplomatic disruptions to the relationship, for one, could harm our defence and security cooperation.

9013009998_a74da2e6ff_zWithout making predictions about who’ll fill a Jokowi cabinet, it’s fair to say there’ll be a period of settling in after the elections. As Gary Hogan points out, ‘If the new Indonesian president is allowed to form a cabinet of clean, capable, technocratic ministers, able to implement sensible fiscal and economic policy, the stake of Australian business in Indonesia’s future looks promising’. The same roughly applies to those who fill the roles of defence minister and coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs. As always, people matter.

Looking to the bigger strategic picture, Jokowi will have to contend with challenges posed by the increasingly complex relationship between China and ASEAN states, exacerbated by a raft of territorial disputes. For its part, after years of maintaining its neutrality, Indonesia formally announced in early March its own dispute with China’s claim over parts of its territory in the South China Sea. As Ann Marie Murphy notes in today’s PacNet newsletter, this is ‘likely to heighten tensions on an issue that is already fraught with them’. Indonesia will have to work harder to maintain regional stability—and in an environment less conducive to the norms of peaceful settlement of disputes and non-interference from external actors. Jokowi has dipped his toe into ASEAN matters hosting a meeting with governors and mayors of ASEAN capital cities, but it’s not the same as strong Indonesian leadership of ASEAN in the face of a more provocative China.

And that’s where a good VP will help. An experienced hand will help bolster what Jokowi lacks in foreign policy street cred. So far, the serious talk has been of former Vice President to SBY, Jusuf Kalla (who also served in Megawati’s cabinet), running with Jokowi. Kalla’s proven credentials in conflict resolution would be of value: he helped solve inter-religious violence in Sulawesi in 2001 and steered Aceh’s rehabilitation after the 2004 tsunami. Of all potential VP candidates, Kalla can best ease Jokowi into the realm of international politics. The same goes for having a vibrant and experienced foreign minister.

In terms of defence policy, many of the current drivers for Indonesia’s military modernisation—including a focus on maintaining territorial sovereignty and protecting its EEZ—will continue to shape decision-making during a Jokowi term in office. Defence spending will largely depend on economic performance, so we’ll have to see how the Indonesian economy fares first under the new administration before we can expect announcements to increase the defence budget. TNI’s modernisation program aims to develop a ‘Minimum Essential Force’ (MEF) by 2024 which entails major upgrades of naval, land and air capabilities as well as the development of a local defence industry. While many of those developments were driven by SBY, some have made their way into legislation, which a new president might find hard to alter. Indonesia also has a number of capability development projects and acquisition deals on the go with partner countries. Defence officials recently announced that the first batch of F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets as part of a US grant are due to arrive in country in October.

Turning finally to how Jokowi will deal with the military itself, there’s been some chatter about current TNI chief General Moeldoko as Jokowi’s running mate. But most opinion polls suggest the public would oppose such a degree of military involvement in politics. Irrespective of historical preferences for a ‘strong man’, Indonesians have indicated that a civilian is up to the top job. At a time when anti-corruption and clean governance are the dominant political flavours, Moeldoko has made all the right noises about reform and professionalism. Hopefully this translates into a continuation of Indonesia’s reformasi project.

For Australia, a changing of the presidential guard is an opportunity to rebuild the defence and security relationship. It’s not possible that all military exercises suspended by SBY last year will automatically and immediately resume. But a few encouraging initiatives—both from Canberra and Jakarta—early in a new administration would provide positive signs for the future. In strategic terms, with growing ambiguity in Indonesia–China relations over territory, it’s timely and appropriate for Australia and other partners to warm the relationship with Jakarta.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of Flickr user US Embassy, Jakarta.

Sea Control 32 – Naval Escorts (East Atlantic)

seacontrolemblemAlex Clarke hosts Sea Control’s East Atlantic Edition from Phoenix Think Tank. He discusses Naval Escorts with CDR Paul Fisher (RN, Ret) and CIMSEC associate editor Chris Stockdale.

DOWNLOAD: Sea Control 32 – Naval Escorts (East Atlantic)

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Gardening in a “Barren” Officer Corps

This piece by Benjamin Armstrong – author, pilot, and patriot – first appeared at War on the Rocks. It joins the defensive line with Joe Byerly’s piece at The Bridge and Matthew Hipple’s piece here at CIMSEC.

A recent opinion piece at The American Conservative had a number of military officers scratching their heads. In “An Officer Corps that Can’t Score,” William Lind purports to discuss how careerism in the military breeds “habits of defeat.”  He tells us that:

Defeat in Vietnam bred a generation of military reformers, men such as Col. John Boyd USAF, Col. Mike Wyly USMC, and Col. Huba Wass de Czege USA, each of whom led a major effort to reorient his service. Today, the landscape is barren. Not a military voice is heard calling for thoughtful, substantive change.

This is quite a claim, and rather damning of today’s officer corps with a very broad brushstroke. But is it true? Based on my personal and professional experiences in the U.S. Navy, I would say no. Lind errs on the side of being insulting to some of the dedicated men and women in uniform, but that does not really worry me. They have thick skin. More seriously, he leads his civilian readers astray, leaving them with an inaccurate depiction of a military completely unused to debate.

One needs only to start here at War on the Rocks to see that there is debate by active duty and reserve personnel about the present and future of our armed forces and the use of military means in the 21st century. True, one publication certainly does not indicate a healthy state of discourse. But one need only look around a bit to find one.

CLICK TO READ THE REST AT WAR ON THE ROCKS…

BJ Armstrong is a naval officer, PhD candidate in War Studies with King’s College, London, and a member of the Editorial Board at the U.S. Naval Institute. The opinions and views expressed are those of the author alone. They do not represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy, or any other agency.

NATO’s Pivot to Russia: Cold War 2.0 at Sea?

Putin’s annexation of the Crimea shifts NATO’s focus back to Europe. Therefrom, maritime security’s relevance for the Alliance will suffer. Nevertheless, Russia’s new assertiveness has massive impact on NATO’s maritime priorities. Other than expeditionary missions, European homewaters are now the theaters of concern.

 

All Opportunities Gone

 

After the Cold War, NATO was never threatening Russia, but rather sent dozens of cooperation offers to Moscow. Moreover, if Russia would sincerely have seeked NATO membership, Putin would fly to NATO’s September Summit. However, in NATO, Russia would never have been eye-on-eye with the US, but rather would have found itself on a level with Germany, France and the UK. Thus, Russia would never have found the global prestige and geopolitical influence it was looking for. That is the real reason why Russia never joined the Alliance. Since 1991, there were many opportunities for naval cooperation between NATO and Russia.

In Partnership for Peace (since 1994) and the NATO-Russia Council (since 2002), the Alliance reached out to Moscow, aiming to work closer together at sea. Positively, some of these opportunities turned into reality. NATO and Russia were working together in the Mediterranean (Med’) in Operation Active Endeavour to combat terrorism and in the Indian Ocean to combat piracy. Moreover, the planned, but cancelled joint naval mission to protect the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons has shown the potential for increased cooperation. However, with the annexation of the Crimea, these opportunities ceased to exist.

Step up Black Sea Presence

Ukraine has no significant navy anymore. Instead, Ukraine’s warships were taken over by Russia, which makes Moscow’s navy, by numbers, larger than the US Navy. However, due to the warships’ poor quality, this increase in naval power does not present a game changer. Surely, a plus for Putin’s navy is that Sevastopol will remain a Russian naval base for decades.

Black Sea (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

After Sevastopol is lost, Ukraine’s only significant port left is Odessa. NATO’s response should be to support Ukraine in keeping at least a small navy. Moreover, NATO should give a guarantee that, in case of further Russian aggression, Ukrainian ships can find shelter in Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey or Greece. In addition, SNMGs and SNMCMGs should pay regular visits to Odessa; on the one hand for partnership with Ukraine and on the other hand as show of force to Russia. Trips to Georgia should go along.

Like it or not – The Bosporus has become a bargaining chip. NATO should make contingency plans how to close the Bosporus for Russian warships, should Russia invade Eastern Ukraine or Moldova. NATO must make clear to Russia that a price to pay for further annexation of territories would the loss of access through the Bosporus.France, Please Cancel the Mistral Deal

French Mistral LHD. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Russia could have done military campaigns like Georgia 2008 or Crimea 2014 much easier with one of the Mistrals. One of these LHD would also be useful for Russia’s navy in campaigns against Moldova, with regard to Gagauzia and Transnistria, or even against Estonia, because the Mistrals can serve as a platform for command and control, attack helicopters and landing troops.

That Russia announced to base its Mistrals in the Pacific does not mean that they will operate there. For its Syria show-of-force, Russia deployed warships from its Pacific Fleet to the Med’.

Regarding the military balance in Europe, France would do its allies a disservice, if it would deliver the Mistrals to Putin. Instead, these vessels should remain either in Europe or in a like-minded country. Options where to sell the ships could be South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa or India; countries, which are looking for new LHD.

 

An even better idea comes from Jeff Lightfoot. He argues that “NATO should buy the Mistrals“. Like AWACS and AGS, the Mistrals could become a shared NATO asset. Although I fully support Lightfoot’s arguments for a NATO-nization of the Mistrals, I disagree with him about how to do that. After NRF and EU-Battlegroups failed, NATO’s Standing Maritime Groups are the only multinational units with combat capabilities, which ever really worked. Moreover, Europe was carrying most of the burdens in the SNMG, which face a serious of lack amphibious capabilities. Thus, the Mistral purchase should be mostly funded by the Europeans. Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland and Belgium could go for “NATO Mistral 1”, while the US, Canada, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Turkey could go for “NATO Mistral 2”. A NATO LHD in the Baltic or Black Sea would send clear message to Russia. Deployments to the Med’ or Indian Ocean would help to pursue Western maritime interests.
Sustain Superiority in the Baltic and the Med
Baltic Sea (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

With the entry of the Baltic Countries and Poland into NATO and EU, the Baltic Sea was a solely political issue, not worth military considerations. This has changed, too. However, this does not mean that we are on the brink of war. Nevertheless, NATO needs to make plans how to deter Russia from threatening the Baltic Countries from the sea. The Alliance must make sure that its naval superiority in Baltic remains clear. Deploying an SNMCMG to the Baltic and regular naval exercises, such as BALTOPS (non-NATO), are efforts worth doing. Moreover, Sweden and Finland should join NATO. Both countries would bring great contributions to NATO and their membership would even increase Russia’s isolation in the Baltic Sea.

Russia is no partner for cooperation in the Med’ anymore. Beside the consequences of Crimea, Russia’s show-of-force in the Eastern Med to cover Syria made clear that Putin is willing to use naval power in missions targeted against Western interests. In consequence, the Europeans have to prevent – politically – that Russia opens new naval bases in the Med’, for example in Cyprus or Egypt. EU member Cyprus must receive the clear message from Brussels that a Russian base on Cyrus is unacceptable. In addition, NATO should closely monitor all Russian naval activities in the Med’ and make plans about how to deal with them in case of further Russian aggression. Moreover, NATO states should close their ports for Russian ships to be replenished.
We Need Nuclear Deterrence
Ohio-Class SSBN, US Navy (Source: Wikipedia Commons)
Besides guaranteeing NATO’s future, Putin’s Crimea annexation also ends the American and British debates about the need for a sea-based nuclear deterrent. The argument for retiring the SSBN was that state-to-state conflict was unlikely and, therefore, nuclear deterrence was outdated. However, sea-based nuclear deterrence provides the minimum of global stability we need to prevent devastating state-to-state conflict. Where could the conflict with Russia go, if global zero was reality? What would prevent Putin from sending Russian tanks through Tallinn via Riga to Vilnius? Surely not statements from Berlin to keep the diplomatic hotlines open.

No matter about the massive unpopularity – Europe will need the nuclear umbrella provided by the US, UK and France. We are not yet back in the pre-1989 times. There is not yet a Cold War 2.0 at sea. However, if we forget the lessons learned of nuclear and conventional deterrence, we may find ourselves in exactly these situations much sooner than we think.

NATO-Building Starts at Home

NATO’s pivot to Russia will shift attention away from the maritime domain back to the continent. Armies and air forces will receive, once again, much more attention than navies. While Putin’s aggression increased the importance of NATO for its member states, maritime security’s relevance for member states and, therefore, for the Alliance will decrease. In consequence, theaters like the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean will become of much less concern for NATO.

In case the Crimea Crisis did not happen, NATO, to sustain its relevance, would probably have looked for new maritime tasks in the Med’, Gulf of Guinea and the Indian Ocean, maybe even in Southeast Asia. However, thanks to Putin, we will find NATO’s warships deployed back in the Baltic and the Black Sea. Given Operation Ocean Shield ends this year, we will not see NATO back in the Indian Ocean very soon; except maybe for a few friendly port visits. After Crimea and with Putin’s hands on Eastern Ukraine and Moldova, NATO’s debates about partners across the globe and global alliance are finally dead.

In response to Putin, NATO-building begins at home. We need NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division, fully focused on the Alliance’s core business, reaching out to the member states’ ordinary taxpayers. The changing European security environment requires an emphasis on the big messages: Defense, deterrence and security. Thus, zeitgeist-motivated campaigns should be stopped. In these times, NATO must tell the people what armies, air forces really are for and how our soldiers serve their countries and our Alliance.

Felix Seidler is a fellow at the Institute for Security Policy, University of Kiel, Germany, and runs the site Seidlers-Sicherheitspolitik.net (Seidler’s Security Policy).

Follow Felix on Twitter: @SeidersSiPo