Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 23.03.18

Massenbach-Letter. News

  • US-Saudi Relations and a Meeting in Washington by George Friedman. GPF.
  • U.S. Presence and the Incidence of Conflict by RAND.
  • End the Weaponisation of Water in Central Asia.
  • Handelsblatt: Lieferketten in Europa werden schon ein Jahr vor dem Brexit zerstört.
  • What Сan Britain Do in Response to Russian Nerve Attack.

By Andrey Kortunov, Director General at the Russian International Affairs Council, and Jack Maidment, Political Correspondent for The Telegraph.

Massenbach*US-Saudi Relations and a Meeting in Washington

By George Friedman

The British statesman Ernest Bevin once said the kingdom of heaven runs on righteousness, but the kingdoms of the Earth run on oil. That might have been the motto that drove British foreign policy in the Middle East after World War I, and then U.S. policy after World War II. But over the next two weeks, as the Saudi crown prince tours the United States, meeting with the president, other government officials and business leaders, the message will be decidedly different. Oil hasn’t lost its indispensability, but Saudi oil has.

No Effort too Great

Attention to the presence of oil in the Middle East grew as the industrial revolution shifted from coal to oil. When the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I, the British, French and Russians seized the opportunity to reshape the political structure of the region around its oil. Borders were imposed on the basis of oil, without regard for the nations themselves. Those areas that had oil were frequently those whose boundaries were the most difficult to draw. Some of the most valuable oil fields were to be found on the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The British crafted a nation – ruled by a family, the Sauds – to maintain peace on the peninsula so that oil could be extracted peacefully. American policy in the region ultimately derived from British policy. The British sought to secure the production of oil, and so did the Americans. Both therefore maintained close relations with oil producers, and with the Saudis in particular.

Saudi Arabia had no qualms about weaponizing its oil supplies. In 1973, after a war between Israel and neighboring Arab states, the Saudis crafted an oil embargo targeting supporters of Israel, including the U.S. and its allies. The result was massive economic dislocation throughout the industrial world. The Saudis and other Arabs controlled enough of the world’s oil that they could not only control the price but also the tempo of life in the industrialized world. Whether the embargo was a result of concern for their Palestinian brethren or the desire to surge oil prices (or both) is debatable. What can’t be denied was that the Saudis controlled economic life in much of the world.

Washington got the message. It became fixed U.S. policy to maintain good relations with the Saudis and to protect them from political and military threats. The Americans’ commitment was put to the test in 1990, when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, another significant oil producer. From Iraq’s new position, it was able to threaten the vital oil fields in eastern Saudi Arabia. By this point, the Soviets were far less of a threat than they had been, but U.S. policy was still shaped by the Cold War. Iraq was vaguely aligned with the Soviets, and the American nightmare was that if the Soviets seized the Saudi oil fields, they would have the United States and its alliance structure by the throat. The U.S. massed an enormous military force in Saudi Arabia, first to protect the Saudi oil fields, and then to drive Saddam out of Kuwait. About half a million U.S. troops were used. No effort was too great for the protection of Saudi Arabia’s oil.

Reduced Importance

The U.S. commitment to the Saudis remains intact, but the meaning of the commitment has shifted for two reasons. First, the geopolitics of global oil has changed. A combination of events, particularly the surge in U.S. oil and shale gas production and the use of natural gas in place of oil in general, has reduced the importance of Saudi oil. Saudi supplies are still extremely important to the world, but the Saudis could not pull off an oil embargo today, and they no longer control the price of oil.

Second, in 1990 the U.S. was already the sole superpower, with a vast military force that for nearly two generations had been preparing for a war in Europe. That force and its allies overwhelmed the Iraqis. It was the greatest American military success since World War II. But hidden within it were dangerous flaws. It took about six months to build a force capable of retaking Kuwait. During that time, a more ambitious Saddam might have taken the Saudi oil fields. Moreover, the “desecration” of Saudi Arabia by the stationing of U.S. troops was one of the impulses behind the creation of al-Qaida. The flaws and consequences of the war exist still today.

And today, the U.S. is not coming off a peaceful triumph. American troops have been fighting in the Islamic world since 2001, with a consistently unsatisfactory outcome. Gone is the eagerness of the U.S. military to show its prowess. The force has been drained by a generation of warfare.

What this means is that, for a multitude of reasons, the political basis for the defense of Saudi Arabia has diminished. The American public is not excited about the prospect of another war.

Militarily, the same problem remains – the time to theater creates sizable openings for an aggressive power, Iran in this case. Instead of defending the oil fields, in the next war the U.S. might have to retake them.

Another large U.S. troop presence in parts of Saudi Arabia, however well-intentioned it would appear to the United States, could lead to unpleasant consequences in the Islamic world. Saudi oil no longer defines the global market. Even if Iran could seize Saudi Arabia’s oil – and Iran’s own military might is dubious – the only reason to seize oil now is to sell it. As far as the Americans and other consumers are concerned, whether it is Iran or the Saudis in control, the oil will flow.

The Reality of the Moment

The United States does not want Iran to dominate the Arabian Peninsula’s oil, and it will act within its means and interest to prevent it. But the U.S. means and interest aren’t what they were in 1990.

The kingdoms of Earth are still driven by oil (wind power notwithstanding), but the world is not short of oil right now. Britain imposed its power to control Middle Eastern oil, the United States inherited that power, and now that power is out of balance with the need. The global industrial base simply does not rely on Arabian oil fields anymore.

It is in this context that the Americans and the Saudis meet. They are still friends, whatever that means in the context of global politics. They have common enemies. But for the Americans, the commitment to the Saudis is shaped by the reality of this moment, not the last. Containing Iran is important, but it cannot be something the U.S. does alone. It is in the interest of Sunni powers like Turkey to deal with matters like Iran, backed to some extent by the United States. But whatever the final communique of the meeting says, this is not 1990. Shifts in reality emerge at times of greatest stress and are the greatest surprise. They shouldn’t be.


From our Russian News Desk. (The views expressed are the author‘s own.)

  • Review of Benita Ferrero-Waldner’s book Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way. The Experience of a Female European and Cosmopolitan

Ferrero-Waldner’s assessments of the positions of the West, and the United States in particular, are more or less categorical. She reproaches both U.S. and European diplomats for their hasty actionsFerrero-Waldner believes that the United Kingdom will derive no economic or political benefit from Brexit, and even brings the future of the country as a whole into question, pointing to the possible secession of Scotland and Northern Ireland in the coming years. This centrifugal force could make its way onto the continent, as we have already seen in the case of Catalonia. According to Ferrero-Waldner, EU leaders are searching for a way out of the crisis. It is clear that this will be impossible if structural reforms are not made within the European Union – reforms which involve expanding the decision-making process from the centre outwards. Member states should assume greater responsibility…..

  • "Caucasian Knot" sums up 2017 armed conflict in NCFD

In 2017, an overall decrease in the number of victims to the armed conflict in the regions of Northern Caucasian occurred against the backdrop of an increase in the number of civilian casualties. This is evidenced by the calculations run by the "Caucasian Knot".

Chechnya loses its leading position in votes for Vladimir Putin, Sochi state servants fear to complain about compulsion to voting, Volgograd Communists call elections falsified.

  • Assad’s Army and Intelligence Services: Feudalization or Structurization? By Anton MardasovMilitary Observer Head of the Department of Middle Eastern Conflicts at the Institute of Innovative Development
  • What Сan Britain Do in Response to Russian Nerve Attack

By Andrey Kortunov, Director General at the Russian International Affairs Council, and Jack Maidment, Political Correspondent for The Telegraph.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* End the Weaponisation of Water in Central Asia.

Four Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – have argued over their water resources since the collapse of the Soviet Union. At times these disputes have seemed to threaten war. The forthcoming presidential summit in Astana can help banish that spectre.

On 15-16 March there is a landmark opportunity to promote peace and prosperity in Central Asia when the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan meet in the Kazakh capital of Astana. It will be the four leaders’ first summit in nearly a decade. A top agenda item will likely be the precious water resources the countries must share in this vast region.

Water has been at the heart of recurrent disputes among the four states since the demise of the Soviet Union. At root, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are short on water, and Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan short on electricity. The tension has been sharpest in the densely populated Ferghana Valley, where Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan converge. The latter two states accused their larger Uzbek neighbour of guzzling river water to irrigate vast cotton fields; Uzbekistan, for its part, bitterly fought Kyrgyz and Tajik plans to build dams upstream. Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan also argued over the hydropower projects, which Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan needed to keep the lights on. At various times, shared resources have been used as a political tool – Uzbekistan by switching off power grids, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan by threatening to block the downstream flow of water.

A breakthrough occurred in 2017, when Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan agreed to develop hydroelectric power plants on the Naryn river, which feeds the Syr Darya traversing Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan toward the Aral Sea. Another positive sign was Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s 9 March announcement in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, that he now backs the Rogun dam and hydroelectric project in Tajikistan. In Astana, Mirziyoyev and his peers, Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan and Sooronbai Jeenbekov of Kyrgyzstan, can reiterate and expand upon these commitments. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan should help Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan develop their hydropower capacity, and all four countries should reach an agreement as to when water will be stored and released. These accords may be hard to negotiate but now is the time to start.

In 2018, all four states should also coordinate efforts to improve irrigation infrastructure in border areas, where there is some risk of renewed local conflict over water, particularly in the Ferghana Valley. Kyrgyzstan especially stands to benefit, as cross-border conflict with Uzbekistan has in the past undermined the credibility of the central government.

  • ­Deep-seated mistrust between Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan has hindered cooperation, but progress such as the agreements on hydropower […] shows that the disputes are not intractable. –

All states should affirm in Astana that national agencies and local governments along borders will develop complementary work plans to ensure equitable access to irrigation. Presidential leadership on this issue is vital given the top-down nature of governance in the region. For more than two decades, the ability of locals to work together at the borders has dwindled. Technicians and engineers who worked together during the Soviet era have left the work force. Meanwhile, quarrels between the capitals stifled local initiative.

With political will at the top, however, it is possible to forestall future disputes. Kyrgyz, Tajik and Uzbek water management officials in border areas should convene bilaterally and trilaterally to identify potential sites of conflict over water. Their work should be framed as technical, not political, and the presidents should encourage it publicly. Where possible, officials in the Ferghana Valley should pool resources and machinery. Irrigation infrastructure is in poor repair and needs modernisation – but even what exists can be made more efficient with timely maintenance. Inspectors should be free to cross borders as needed.

The upstream countries should plan maintenance work on reservoirs carefully and transparently to avoid any perception that they are ignoring downstream needs or making an oblique political point.

The Astana meeting could be a defining moment for President Mirziyoyev, if he distances himself from his predecessor, Islam Karimov, who warned that water disputes could lead to war when he visited Astana in 2012. Mirziyoyev’s trip to Dushanbe suggests he has an entirely different vision. As a downstream country, Uzbekistan can secure the release of water for irrigation by buying more electricity from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Doing so would also reduce Uzbekistan’s reliance on thermal power plants and move it toward renewable sources as domestic demand for electricity increases.

To date, deep-seated mistrust between Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan has hindered cooperation, but progress such as the agreements on hydropower and the reopening of border crossings shows that the disputes are not intractable. What Central Asia needs now is a joint commitment, announced at the highest level, to end the weaponisation of water in both word and deed. Should the presidents take this stance, the comity would trickle down into society.


Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat*U.S. Presence and the Incidence of Conflict

There is an ongoing debate about the effects of U.S. military presence on conflict around the globe. In one view, U.S. military presence helps to deter adversaries, restrain U.S. partners from adopting provocative policies, and make it easier for the United States to achieve its aims without the use of force. In another view, U.S. military presence tends to provoke adversaries and encourage allies to adopt more reckless policies, and it increases the likelihood that the United States will be involved in combat.

The authors of this report analyze historical data to assess how U.S. military presence — in particular, U.S. troop presence and military assistance — is associated with the interstate and intrastate conflict behavior of states and nonstate actors. Troop presence and military assistance have different effects. Stationing U.S. troops abroad may help deter interstate war. A large U.S. regional troop presence may reduce the likelihood of interstate conflict in two ways: by deterring potential U.S. adversaries from initiating interstate wars or by restraining U.S. allies from initiating militarized behavior. However, U.S. military presence may increase interstate militarized activities short of war. U.S. adversaries may be more likely to initiate militarized disputes against states with a larger U.S. in-country troop presence. U.S. troop presence does not appear to reduce the risk of intrastate conflict or affect the level of state repression. U.S. military assistance is not associated with changes in interstate conflict behavior. However, provision of U.S. military assistance may be associated with increased state repression and incidence of civil war. These findings have implications for near-term decision making on U.S. forward troop presence in Europe and Asia.

Key Findings

The Effects of U.S. Troop Presence on Interstate Conflict

· On average, nearby U.S. troop presence is associated with a lower likelihood of interstate war.

· Nearby U.S. troop presence is associated with allies initiating fewer militarized disputes.

· These benefits appear to come with tradeoffs. Nearby U.S. troop presence is associated with a higher likelihood of low-intensity militarized disputes (e.g., displays of military force and threats to use military force).

· In addition, a large in-country U.S. troop presence is associated with potential U.S. adversaries initiating even higher-intensity militarized disputes, though still short of war.

· U.S. troop presence is associated with a higher likelihood of the United States initiating militarized disputes. This may reflect the strategic deployment of U.S. forces near states with which the United States expects to engage in military conflict.

The Effects of U.S. Military Presence on Intrastate Conflict

· The authors found no consistent or robust association between U.S. forward troop presence and intrastate conflict.

· However, overall U.S. military assistance is positively associated with an increased risk of anti-regime activities and greater levels of state repression by incumbent governments.

The Effects of U.S. Military Assistance on Conflict

· The authors found no consistent or robust association between U.S. military assistance and interstate conflict.

· However, provision of U.S. military assistance may be associated with increased state repression and incidence of civil war.

Implications for Forward Presence Decisions

· A large U.S. regional troop presence can be an effective tool in deterring interstate war, but it may also provoke more militarized activities short of war.

· With regard to U.S. efforts to deter Russia and China, the authors note that substantial nearby U.S. troop presence may in general be associated with a lower likelihood of interstate war, though it may increase the risk of provocations short of war, and these general patterns might differ in specific cases.

· U.S. military assistance, much of which has historically been in the Middle East, may overall be associated with a greater likelihood of repression or domestic instability, though the effects may differ in particular countries.

Table of Contents

· Chapter One – Introduction

· Chapter Two – Trends in U.S. Presence

· Chapter Three – How U.S. Troop Presence May Influence Interstate Conflict Behavior

· Chapter Four – Empirical Assessment of U.S. Troop Presence and Interstate Conflict Behavior

· Chapter Five – How U.S. Presence May Influence Intrastate Conflict Behavior

· Chapter Six – Empirical Assessment of U.S. Presence and Intrastate Conflict Behavior

· Chapter Seven – Findings and Implications for Future U.S. Presence and Operating Environment

· Appendix A – Interstate Model Results

· Appendix B – Intrastate Model Results


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

Handelsblatt: Lieferketten in Europa werden schon ein Jahr vor dem Brexit zerstört.

Der Brexit zeigt seine Wirkung: Unternehmen bauen ihre Lieferketten um, britische Manager klagen über steigende Kosten und Auftragsverluste.

London. Noch ist es ein Jahr hin bis zum Brexit, doch die Unternehmen auf beiden Seiten des Ärmelkanals bauen bereits ihre Lieferketten um. 14 Prozent der EU-Firmen mit britischen Zulieferern haben Teile ihres Geschäfts aus dem Königreich verlegt. Elf Prozent haben Mitarbeiter abgezogen.

Das ergab eine vom Branchenverband CIPS durchgeführte Umfrage unter mehr als 2000 Managern von Unternehmen mit einer Präsenz in Großbritannien.

Die Umfrage zeigt, dass Unternehmen sich auf einen harten Brexit vorbereiten. Sie rechnen damit, dass Großbritannien langfristig aus dem Binnenmarkt und der Zollunion ausscheidet. Zwar will der EU-Gipfel diese Woche eine Übergangsperiode beschließen, die den Status quo bis Ende 2020 zementiert. Doch das dürfte die Einschätzung der Manager kaum verändern. Nur der Handlungsdruck sinkt ein wenig, es gibt mehr Zeit für einen geordneten Umbau der Beziehungen.

Britische Firmen bekommen einen Vorgeschmack, was das Leben außerhalb von Binnenmarkt und Zollunion bedeutet. Neun Prozent geben an, dass sie Aufträge als direkte Folge des Brexit-Votums verloren haben. 22 Prozent klagen, dass EU-Zulieferer keine Bestellungen annehmen, die über das Austrittsdatum im März 2019 hinauslaufen. 23 Prozent der Unternehmen geben sogar an, Arbeitsplätze streichen zu wollen.

Die Umfrage ist eine Momentaufnahme, welchen zerstörerischen Effekt der Brexit auf die seit Jahrzehnten gewachsenen Lieferketten haben kann. 36 Prozent der britischen Unternehmen, die bisher mit Zulieferern aus der EU arbeiten, schauen sich bereits nach lokalem Ersatz um. Das ist in vielen Fällen nicht so einfach. „Sie werden Schwierigkeiten haben, passende Alternativen im Königreich zu finden“, sagt der Ökonom John Glen vom CIPS.

Auch klagen die britischen Unternehmen über steigende Kosten. 32 Prozent sagen, dass sie ihre Preise angehoben haben. 41 Prozent geben an, sie würden ihre Preise in Zukunft erhöhen. Die Firmen hätten keine andere Wahl, als einen Teil der zusätzlichen Kosten an die Kunden weiterzugeben, sagte Glen. Der Großteil der Brexit-Kosten bleibe jedoch bei den Unternehmen selbst hängen.

Besonders betroffen ist die Lebensmittelindustrie. 70 Prozent ihrer Exporte gehen in die EU. Weil viele Zutaten nicht aus Großbritannien stammen, könnte es nach dem Austritt aus der Zollunion Probleme mit den Herkunftsregeln geben.

Wirtschaftsverbände plädieren daher seit Langem dafür, in der Zollunion und im Binnenmarkt zu bleiben. Die Labour-Opposition hat bereits ihren Kurs geändert und tritt für eine neue Zollunion mit der EU ein. Die konservative Regierung von Premierministerin Theresa May jedoch beharrt auf dem Ausstieg aus beiden. Sie strebt ein weitreichendes Freihandelsabkommen an, das unterschiedlichen Branchen unterschiedlich tiefen Zugang zum Binnenmarkt ermöglicht.

Auch redet sie über ein neues „Zoll-Arrangement“. Wie weit die EU der britischen Regierung entgegenkommen will, ist unklar. Bisher lehnt sie solche Gedankenspiele über einen maßgeschneiderten Deal ab.

Bis die Brexit-Unterhändler sich auf eine neue Handelsbeziehung einigen, die ab 2021 gelten soll, können noch Jahre vergehen. Wie die CIPS-Umfrage zeigt, wollen viele Unternehmen nicht so lange warten. Sie agieren jetzt und setzen ihre Notfallpläne um – auf der Basis der vorhandenen Informationen. Alles andere ist aus Managersicht fahrlässig.

Damit ist der Schaden schon angerichtet, bevor der Brexit formal vollzogen ist. Selbst wenn sich die Unterhändler am Ende auf den weichest möglichen Brexit einigen, sind die Lieferketten an vielen Stellen schon zerrissen.



see our letter on:

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*


03-15-18 U.S. Presence and the Incidence of Conflict_RAND_RR1906.pdf

03-20-18 Ferreo-Waldner- Norther Caucasus- Syria – UK_Russia.pdf