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ISSN 2294-1274


Volume 2 - Issue 12, December 2012

SOLIDARITY, PATRIOT MISSILES AND THE SYRIAN CRISIS Since the Syrian Uprising began in March of 2011 the defense and security of Turkey and the wider Mediterranean region has been a primary concern for NATO. Having faced repeated aggression along its border with Syria, and being highly concerned about the threat of further missile attacks, Turkey recently received approval for NATO to deploy its Patriot Missile Defense System along its border with Syria. At the forefront of concerns by the international community is the issue of Syria’s arsenal of chemical and biological weapons that may be used in a last ditch effort for As-


sad to preserve his wobbling regime. With

Global Pulse: One Step Forward, How Many Steps Back?

continued rebel advancements throughout

Ana Loula tells her personal experience on the ground in Tbilisi during the mass protests

the country, the likelihood of Syria to deploy

surrounding Georgia’s recent prison abuse scandal and how this effected the recent election.

chemical or biological weapons is unclear

She analyses how the mass mobilization of human rights protests led to a historic change in

causing grave concern within Ankara as well

Georgia’s government and the impact this has on Georgia as an emerging democracy.

as amongst Allies. By analyzing the threat level and operational capabilities of NATO’s missile defense systems, analysis shows both the assets and vulnerabilities of Turkey’s defense while providing insight into the kind of challenges the Alliance will face in coming years.

Patriot Games: Turkey and Syria’s Ballistic Missiles Alexander Corbeil examines the Syrian crisis and the recent decision by NATO to deploy Patriot missile defense systems to counter the threat of Syria’s biological and chemical weapons. He highlights the importance of NATO’s commitment while arguing that despite the decision to deploy such an advanced system, Turkey remains highly vulnerable to missile attack in the face of Syrian aggression.

- Jason Wiseman Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 12


GLOBAL PULSE One Step Forward, How Many Steps Back? by Ana Loula


(now moved to Kutaisi), away from the major political theatre. After several days, weeks or months of fervent manifes-

his spring I was visiting Yerevan, Armenia during the

tations and protests, I expected students, pensioners, civil serv-

immediate post-election period. The Alliance for

ants, civil activists, employed and unemployed to go back to

Liberals and Democrats in Europe Congress was tak-

their normal lives and shift political discourse within the families,

ing place in the capital of Armenia and I was participating as a

schools and universities, shops, supermarkets and public

visitor and representative of civil society from neighboring Geor-

transport. Politics would be present everywhere, dominating

gia. Amid the opposition party allegations and grievances from

the daily vocabulary of every Georgian, served in every Georgian restaurant as a main course and dessert,

my close Armenian friends regarding the likely years of corruption and selective justice that still lay ahead for the country, I felt

Politics would be present everywhere ‌except the parliament of Georgia.

would be everywhere, except the parliament of Georgia. Despite being a little bit more diverse this time, the

that the ordinary citizens were paying respect for the existing status quo in the streets, leading me to

Georgian Parliament is still not ready to host the pluralism of

expect similar sentiments in Georgia for the coming elections:

ideas and deliberations that Georgian civil society holds. It would

political rivals would conclude their marathon of blaming and

know no lobbying, no coalitions; just one party having constitu-

shaming just before the voting day, citizens would cast their

tional majority and the other making cacophony.

votes, elections would be partly fair/partly rigged, opposition

Extremely low trust in the legislative branch of govern-

parties (by then already part of the Georgian Dream Coalition)

ment was partly driven by the wide perception that previous

and their supporters would rally in the streets to condemn the

parliamentary elections were rigged and partly by the skepticism

elections, question the legitimacy of the existing parliament

towards the opposition parties which entered the parliament and were believed to represent a mere façade of opposition politics. People found these rumors more persuasive after the elections when none of the parties except the two major rivals: United National Movement (exruling party) and the Georgian Dream Coalition (led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili) crossed the five percent threshold. This is quite interesting given the fact that pre-election political discourse suggested voting for the third parties with moderate

Georgian election rally (Photo:

Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 12

political platforms. This was


the instruments used to fight crime illegal and unacceptable, but shared by many as a good strategy to ensure checks and balances

ineffective as well. Georgian blogger Niko Nergadze wrote in his

in the future parliament and was applauded by the “anarchists” as

article: “If someone broke into my house and stole my computer

the best way to spoil the upcoming elections. What happened?

and mini CD player, I would never report it to the police, I

Why was this approach not reflected in the final results?

would never doom a person to the hell called Georgian prison: now, does this mean I am a criminal mentality person?!"...

Radicalization of Public Opinion A couple of weeks before the elections when political

Elections: One Step Forward, How Many Steps Back?

tension reached its peak and parties engaged themselves in a zero

I did not have much time to think about what would

sum game provoking clear-cut divisions in society, prison abuse

happen in case elections would not be enough to change the

videos were diffused via social network leading to the oversim-

existing status-quo. What if next morning Georgia would live

plification of the pre-election environment: everyone in the middle of the political spectrum immediately moved to the far opposite of the

the same day I described in the begin-

For the first time in Georgian history, human rights concerns mobilized the masses marching towards Rustaveli Avenue.

ruling party and for the first time in

ning? What if we would get another revolution, or even worse, another civil war? I had these questions in my mind, but no time to think about the answers

the history of Georgia, thousands of protesters occupied Tbilisi

as I was watching the election unfold in the Martvili Region in

streets to raise their voice not against the Russian tanks illegally

Western Georgia. Elections at my precinct went without serious

present on Georgian soil, not against corruption, poverty, or

violations and irregularities such as ballot stuffing, multiple vot-

against specific political leaders, but against human rights abuses

ing, etc. and I learnt something very important during election

and violence.

day: the government would do its best to defend its votes (I had

For the first time in Georgian history, human rights con-

an impression that members of the commission knew very well

cerns mobilized the masses marching towards Rustaveli Avenue

who was voting for whom, giving me serious concerns about

(the main avenue of our capital). Tbilisi State university students were among the first to launch the protest; small student groups created after laboratory 1918 played a significant role in mobilizing public opinion and creating a new “raison d’etre” for the emerging and still very fragile Georgian public space, so exhausted from anti-Russian and “zero tolerance to crime” rhetoric. Students from other universities joined in as it soon snowballed into peaceful mass protests, not only protesting against specific ministers and government bodies, but against the prevailing system itself. Among the most popular slogans during the protests were: “system error” “your democracy hurts” and “rape me.” In a society with saturated traditional norms and rigid moral standards, videos representing prison rape almost triggered another revolution: the ‘broom revolution’ (one of the videos shows a prisoner being raped with a broom). It became quite clear that the ruling party lost the elections before the first poll even opened. Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance, Khatuna Kalmakhelidze resigned and soon after, at the request of protesters, Minister of Internal Affairs, Bachana Akhalaia (currently in jail) left his post. During this downfall of Ministers, the ruling party completely lost its legitimacy. Not only were

Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 12

Leader of the Georgian Dream Coalition and the new Prime Minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili (Photo: Democracy and Freedom Watch) 3

what was going on in the backstage of the voting process itself)

but would

play a fair game to survive as a party in order to save its image while leaving a huge puzzle for Ivanishvili and his team. The




acknowledged the defeat of his United National Movement and expressed its readiness to collaborate with the new government during the remaining tenure of his presidency. It took too long for the central election commission to publish the final results leading to legitimate doubts in voters and opposition activists that the government was try-

Georgian protesters rallying against prisoner abuse (Photo:

ing to win some time, falsify the records of proceedings and keep

the Georgian public that NATO and the EU need some time to

the Georgian Dream Coalition from obtaining a constitutional

better understand what is going on in Georgia today.

majority in the parliament.

One Georgian student said: “I don’t know what is better:

A party with an overwhelming majority scares most of

having a president who knows democracy very well but always

us, especially the elitist group of intellectuals, called in Georgian

does the contrary, or having an eccentric political leader who has

jargon: “Shuashistebi”-“middleists” who hold neutral but critical

no idea about democracy and acts in full faith of his ignorance.1”

positions on what is going on in Georgian politics. Members of this informal group spread dozens of messages a day on their Facebook pages and a general content analysis of their posts is sufficient to conclude that they are mostly pessimistic about future political developments in Georgia. Optimism that talks loudly about the first peaceful transi-

About the author

tion of power in Georgia also has its merits. However, as more time passes, the more optimism is overstretched in terms of how

Ana Lolua obtained her Masters Degree from the College of

two parties with absolutely opposite values, principles and politi-

Europe (Natolin Campus) in EU Interdisciplinary Studies (2011).

cal agendas will succeed in reconciling their positions for the best

After returning to Tbilisi, Ana joined Transparency International

of Georgia’s national interest. If the political cycle concludes in

Georgia working as a researcher under the program of Policy,

chaos, it is very easy for the party in power to escape responsibil-

Advocacy, and Civil Society Development in Georgia (East-West

ity and justify many hasty and unlawful decisions. Double stand-

Management Institute). In the same year she became the Secre-

ards apply in foreign policy: Ivanishvili’s claims that Georgia, a

tary General of Youth Atlantic Treaty Association-Georgia. She

future regional power, remains firmly committed to the goal of

currently works at the French Institute of Tbilisi as an inter-

Euroatlantic integration while being accompanied by various

university cooperation assistant and is involved with YATA-

scandals such as the initiative by civil society organizations

Georgia as a volunteer.

(Association of King Erekle II- who signed the tractate in 1783 bringing Georgia under Russian influence) to close down the museum of Soviet occupation in Tbilisi. NATO Secretary General Rasmussen’s call to stop political persecutions is interpreted


differently by different actors and gives Ivanishvili “carte

ing political science at Central European University.

Giorgi Tskhadaia: Op-ed columnist at Georgian journal Liberali; study-

blanche” to postpone his visit to the United States, explaining to Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 12



Patriot Games:Turkey and Syria’s Ballistic Missiles

by Alexander Corbeil

over the Arab state, attempting to unify the political and military

n Wednesday 5 December, NATO Foreign

opposition and even exchanging fire with the Syrian army on

Ministers agreed to boost Turkey’s air defence

multiple occasions. In addition to a moral obligation to help the

capabilities by deploying Patriot missiles on its

uprising, Ankara has concrete security issues that emanate from

volatile border with Syria. In a signal to Russia, the Ministers

its southern neighbour. Turkey hosts 137,000 registered refu-

stressed that the placing of these anti-ballistic systems was purely

gees at an immense cost and has come under increased attacks in

a defensive measure and that NATO would not support a no-fly

its south-west by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), purport-

zone or an offensive operation. After two days of deliberation

edly with the backing of the Assad regime2.

within the NATO chamber and cabinet approval by Germany

Reports on December 3 quoted unnamed American officials

and the Netherlands, it was decided that the missile batteries will

as saying intelligence showed the possible preparation of chemi-


be stationed on Turkish soil . According to multiple news

cal weapons for use. This was denied by the Syrian government,

sources the United States will follow suit and supply Patriot

but it seems that the separate ingredients to create the nerve

missile systems in defence of its ally. While there has been sus-

agent sarin were being combined and put into warheads3. This

tained coverage of Turkey’s request for these weapon systems

comes in addition to reports that the regime has shifted around

and the delicate negotiations at the ministerial level among Alli-

the country. While these are disturbing reports, Assad’s troops

ance members, little information has been provided regarding

may be moving the infrastructure of his chemical and biological

the threat faced by Turkey. Furthermore, the logistics and impli-

arsenals in order to retain control over them. This in particular

cations of Patriot deployment have not been covered thoroughly.

makes sense when one acknowledges the fact that over the past

The issue at hand is Syria’s ballistic missile capabilities

month rebel groups have captured many surface to air missile

and the possibility that these weapon systems may carry chemical

(SAM) bases.

agents. If the use of ballistic missiles were to occur, one plausible

With rebels overrunning lightly defended anti-air instilla-

target of Syrian forces would be Turkey. Ankara has been one of

tions, in search of shoulder mounted missiles capable of taking

the most vocal supporters of the uprising, after ending its close

down regime aerial vehicles, they have exposed ballistic missile

relationship with the Assad regime in the early months of the

batteries to attacks from the air4. The more plausible situation,

revolution. Furthermore, it has both politically and military

according to analysts such as Joshua Landis, is that the Alawite

backed the uprising, providing a safe haven to the “leadership” of

core of the regime may utilize its chemical weapons as a deter-

the Free Syrian Army. Overall, it has been the most active

rent. Such a situation would work if and when the remnants of

NATO member on the Syrian crisis, first calling for a no-fly zone

Assad’s loyalists would retreat to the Alawite coastal homeland, a community of 2.5 million. In order to ensure that Alawite communities are not the target of wide spread retribution, and maybe even ethnic cleansing, the remnants of the regime could base ballistic missiles in the coastal area near the cities of Latakia, Tartus and Baniyas5. While the utilization of these weapon systems as a deterrent against the ethnic cleansing of Alawites may provide the most plausible situation, there are other foreseeable scenarios at play. The most prominent of which is the use of ballistic missiles, armed with chemical agents, against Turkish cities. A desperate

A Dutch Patriot Missile Installation (Photo: The Guardian)

regime in Damascus, under extreme pressure by the rebels, may enlist its ballistic stockpile to strike out against Turkey for its

Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 12


support of the Free Syrian Army. The Assad regime may, in this

north-east of Deir ez-Zor. While its existence is yet to be inde-

scenario, go out with a proverbial bang, taking many Turkish

pendently confirmed, Syrian officials have asserted that the regime

civilians with it. In this case, two individuals within the tightly

built a missile site at this location, in the town of al-Kibar. The mili-

knit circle of loyalists would have the power to give the green

tary airport at Deir ez-Zor, the last remaining regime base in the

light for a chemical attack: Head of Air Force Intelligence, Jamil

east of the country, is currently under bombardment by rebel

Hassan and Head of State Security, Ali Mamluk; individuals which

groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra, which has made immense gains

have been crucial to the regime in its crackdown against civilian

in Syria’s eastern province of the same name. If Deir ez-Zor was to

protesters and rebels. It is this scenario which is of crucial im-

fall, which in all likelihood could occur imminently, the site at al-

portance to the Alliance in its defence of Turkey, a NATO Mem-

Kibar, if it exists, would be ripe for rebel takeover.

ber State. Given the coverage of the much publicized decision to

Syria has a variety of ballistic missiles which it could unleash

employ Patriot missiles on Turkish soil it suffices to analyze the

from the abovementioned sites and mobile launchers towards Tur-

ballistic and chemical weapons capabilities of the Syrian military

key. In Bashar al-Assad’s arsenal are hundreds of Scud-B and Scud-C

and the capacity of Patriot missiles to defend Turkey from this

missiles, both capable of carrying chemical warheads. It tested the


former last December, showcasing the missile’s range of 482 kilometers on Syrian national television, less than that of the Scud-C’s and Scud-D’s range which are between 804 and 1127 kilometers8.

Syrian Capabilities: Ballistic Missiles Syria’s ballistic missile capabilities present a current threat to

This show of strength was meant to deter the imposition of a no-fly

Turkish cities in the south of the country. According to the Nucle-

zone by the NATO alliance, which Damascus viewed as a possibil-

ar Threat Initiative, Syria has three missile bases, two of which are

ity, given rhetoric from Turkey.

known to be operational6. Each of these facilities is currently under the control of regime forces, although they are situated near and in some cases within areas contested by the Free Syrian Army. The first of the

It is also believed to have actively

NATO and its Member States have chosen the right tool for dealing with the Syrian threat of ballistic missiles

two bases which are known to be operational

manufactured chemical warheads for its SS-21 missiles, which have a range of 120 kilometers9. While the Syrian regime has an impressive amount of three Scud variants, including a domestically created version of the Scud-D,

is near al-Safirah, south-east of Aleppo. Troublingly, the neigh-

it only possesses fifty launches for each type. That being said these

boring city of the same name was sacked on December 8, by

mobile systems are all capable of carrying chemical warheads. In a

members of Jabhat al-Nusra, which the Obama administration

disturbing development, it has been reported that the Syrian regime

designated a terrorist group and a cover for operatives from al-

fired half a dozen Scud missiles from Damascus at the rebel held


Qaeda in Iraq on December 11 . Near this city, according to the

north of the country on 12 December10. While this highlights the

Syrian government and observer groups, Jabhat al-Nusra captured

willingness of the Assad regime to utilize these weapons systems, it

a chlorine production facility; the first time in the almost two year

does not indicate that the regime is planning to employ its chemical

conflict that rebels may have come to possess chemical weapon

stockpiles in the immediate future. In addition to the Scud and SS-

capabilities. The second confirmed operational missile base in

21 variants, the Syrian regime is thought to have a variety of medi-

Syria is in the city of Hama, in the center of the country, along the

um range missiles at its disposal11.

Damascus to Aleppo road link, the M5 highway. This city has

In July, Syrian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jihad Makdissi stat-

been witness to harsh fighting and aerial bombardment on a daily

ed that “any chemical or biological weapons will never be used…in

basis. Furthermore, given its multi-confessional nature, it has seen

the Syrian crisis…unless Syria is subjected to external aggression.”

various massacres perpetrated both by regime backed Alawites

He was purportedly fired from his position for acknowledging that

and Sunni rebels. At this point, the city has seen a war of attrition

Syria had chemical weapons stockpiles, and fled at the beginning of

and it remains divided between the Syrian army and various

January, ending up in Washington D.C. If rumors are true, Makdis-

groups of rebels.

si has told Obama administration officials that the Syrian regime is

The third, which may have been built on the site of a nuclear

highly willing to use its chemical weapons if threatened. Syria is one

reactor hit by Israel in a 2007 pre-emptive airstrike, is located just

of six countries that have not signed, and one of eight that have not

Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 12


ratified, the Chemical Weapons

Patriot Deployment

Convention, which prohibits the

The German cabinet, on 6 De-

development and stockpiling of

cember, authorized the station-

chemical agents. According to a

ing of two Patriot systems with-

Congressional report, Syria has

in Turkey. The contingent

stocks of nerve (sarin,VX) and blis-

would include 400 troops from

ter (mustard gas) agents which have

the German military, AWACS

been weaponized into missiles and

surveillance aircraft and com-

may have been also formatted into

mando units17. This move was

bombs and shells12. Developed as a

followed by the Netherlands

deterrent against Israel after its

cabinet, which on 7 December

defeat during the Six Day War in

agreed to send two batteries to

1967, Syria may have equipped its

Turkey and a maximum of 360

Scud-B missiles with chemical war-

Dutch troops. Both countries

heads as early as 1979. Chemical

Syria testing its missile capabilities (Photo: The Malaysian Insider)

weapons are reportedly stored in seventy-five sites around al-Safira, Damascus, Hamah, Homs and 13

have agreed to a twelve month deployment, with the Patriot

missiles to be deployed in January of next year. An official with

Latakia . Interestingly, if reports are true about Syria’s VX and blis-

the United States Department of Defense has said that the Ameri-

ter stockpiles still being active, the use of sarin in ballistic missiles

can contingent would be two batteries, although the number has

would be paradoxical. According to chemical weapons experts, sarin

yet to be finalized and may be increased. These batteries, once

is less effective in warheads than the abovementioned agents and the

deployed, would be under the command of the Supreme Allied

international condemnation emanating from a chemical missiles

Commander Europe, the American Admiral James Stavridis. The

strike would not depend on the agent used. Thus, it is plausible,

three contributing nations have the most advanced system, the

given the expiration of nerve agents, that the Syrian regime may not

MIM-104F Patriot PAC-3. Developed by Lockheed Martin in

have a viable VX stockpile.

2001 and made combat operational in 2003, the latest version of

Sarin is an extremely toxic substance, which disrupts the

the Patriot missile has a range of 20 kilometers and can target

nervous system and overstimulates muscles and vital organs. It can

incoming missiles at a higher altitude than its predecessors. This

be inhaled as a gas or absorbed through the skin. In high doses it

allows the Patriot system to destroy chemical warheads, in what

suffocates its victims by paralyzing the muscles around the lungs.

is known as the “keep-out altitude” with an increased probability

One hundred milligrams of sarin can kill the average person in a few

of neutralizing chemical agents before they are dispersed19. Alt-

minutes14. There are two antidotes for sarin, atropine and pralixdox-

hough, it must be noted that this system does not completely

ime chloride (2-PAM Cl), both of which must be administered with-

remove the threat of chemical dispersal, which may be caused by

in a few hours of exposure. Sarin has been used only once in its

the Patriot system’s impact against a ballistic missile. The MIM-

bomb form, by the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. Over two days

104F PAC-3 can simultaneously track 50 targets and shoot down

in March 1988, the Iraq Air Force bombed the Kurdish city of Hala-

five at the same time, with a total of 16 missiles per each battery,

bja with sarin gas, killing an estimated 5,000 out of a population of

four per canister. Each battery requires 85 soldiers to operate in

70,00015. Given the destructive capabilities of Syria’s chemical weap-

addition to those in a logistical support role.

ons the United States has begun to take pre-emptive steps to secure

NATO and its Member States have chosen the right tool for

the stockpiles if the Syrian regime falls. The Obama administration

dealing with the Syrian threat of ballistic missiles, but the way in

and its European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian

which the Alliance is planning to deploy these batteries may

rebels on how to secure chemical weapon stockpiles, which is taking

prove problematic. The contingency of American, German and

place in Jordan and Turkey. The United States military is also work-

Dutch MIM-104F PAC-3 systems are due to be positioned 10

ing with Jordan’s military to train the Hashemite Kingdom’s forces

kilometers away from the Turkish-Syrian border20. This is largely

to secure chemical weapon sites16.

seen as a move to quell Russia’s fears that the batteries will be

Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 12


used to enforce a no-fly zone; a highly unlikely scenario due to the

contingent of these batteries and has been frequently at odds with

specific role of this system as an anti-ballistic weapon. Since the

Ankara over the Syrian crisis, Washington may have to pull its

range of these Patriot missiles is only 20 kilometers, the possibility

weight. This is not only for the sake of the Alliance but also for

of chemical dispersion over Turkish soil or Syrian territory under

the protection of the Turkish people.

rebel command is increased, limiting the value of these batteries significantly.

About the author

It is key to remember that while the success rate of interception is roughly 95%, this does not account for remnants of the rocket

Alexander Corbeil is a Senior Research Analyst at The Atlantic

landing in populated areas, or worse, leakage of the sarin gas over

Council of Canada focusing on the Middle East and North Africa.

densely populated areas. While Russia’s “near abroad” must be re-

He holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the Universi-

spected, given the need for future good will, fears of the system

ty of Toronto with a focus on conflict management, post-conflict

being utilized for offensive purposes are largely unfounded. A fur-

resolution, and authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. Alexan-

ther issue which must be dealt with is the minute number of batter-

der has also studied conflict management in Arab-Israeli relations

ies that are scheduled to be deployed. Turkey shares a 900 kilome-

at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.

ter long border with Syria; with six batteries capable of covering only 20 kilometers each there is a significant gap in the protection of Turkish soil. Furthermore, it has been pointed out by military experts that Patriots are designed for protecting specific sites and can-

With six batteries capable of covering only 20 kilometers each there is a significant gap in the protection of Turkish soil. not be utilized to cover an entire area. The team of NATO experts which have surveyed military bases in the southern provinces of Turkey in recent days will be hard pressed to find a suitable deployment pattern necessary to ensure the protection of the highest number of civilian lives. According to the Associated Foreign Press, possible sites for Patriot deployment include the cities of Malatya, Sanliurfa and Diyabakir. Room to Maneuver? The deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey is not just a military issue. Over the course of the Syrian uprising Ankara has called for a variety of measures to deal with instability on its southern border. For a large part, many of Turkey`s requests have been brushed aside by Alliance members. This month`s agreement to protect Turkish soil from Syrian ballistic and chemical missiles is a step in the right direction, but largely symbolic given the small number of Patriot systems promised. To rectify the situation and to remedy the previous unwillingness of Member States to intervene on behalf of Turkey, it would be wise for the Alliance to increase the number of Patriot systems in order to thoroughly cover the country`s territory. Given that the United States has the largest Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 12

1. North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO Ministers agree to boost cooperation with Russia, Georgia, back Turkish request for air defence. December 5, 2012. http :// t/ cp s/ en/ SID- A847 0E7D- BBED11 DB/n atolive/ news_92979.htm (accessed December 5, 2012). 2. Hurriyet Daily News. Syrian refugees in Turkey exceed 137,000: Minister . December 12, 2012. (accessed December 12, 2012). 3. Eline Gordts. Sarin Gas: Syria's Deadly Chemical Weapon. December 6, 2012. (accessed December 6, 2012). 4. Aron Lund. Chemical Weapons in Syria: Fact, Fiction, and Fib. December 8, 2012. (accessed December 8, 2012). 5. Joshua Landis. Chemical Weapons; Jabhat al-Nusra; The End Game; Recognizing National Coalition. December 7, 2012. p=16861 (accessed December 7, 2012). 6. Nuclear Threat Initiative . Syria Weapons Capacities . 2012. gmap/?country=syria&layers=biological,chemical,missile,nuclear (accessed December 1, 2012). 7. Dan Murphy. US designates Syria's Jabhat al-Nusra front a 'terrorist' group at lightning speed. December 11, 2012. (accessed December 11, 2012). 8. Oren Kessler. Syria tests Scud B missiles. December 5, 2011. http:// (accessed December 6, 2012) 9. Nuclear Threat Initiative . Syria Country Profile . December 2012. http:// (accessed December 5, 2012). 10. National Post . Syria has fired Scud missiles at rebels: U.S. official. December 12, 2012. (accessed December 12, 2012). 11. For a complete list and attributes see: syria_missiles_table.pdf?_=1344557599&_=1344557599. 12. Mary Beth Nikitin, Andrew Feickert, and Paul K Kerr. "Syria's Chemical Weapons: Issues for Congress." Congressional Research Service. December 5, 2012. (accessed December 6, 2012). 13. Mark Thompson. Bashar Assad's Chemical-Weapons' Calculus . December 4, 2012. (accessed December 4, 2012). 14. Council on Foreign Relations. Sarin. January 2006. weapons-of-terrorism/sarin/p9553 (accessed December 5, 2012). 15. British Broadcasting Corporation. 1988: Thousands die in Halabja gas attack. March 16 , 2012. newsid_4304000/4304853.stm (accessed December 5, 2012). 16. Elise Labott. Sources: U.S. helping underwrite Syrian rebel training on securing chemical weapons. December 9, 2012. http:// (accessed December 9, 2012). 17. Spiegel Online International. Berlin Approves Patriots for Turkey-Syria Border. December 6, 2012. -authorizes-sending-patriots-to-turkey-with-nato-a-871378.html (accessed December 6, 2012). 19. Aeroweb. MIM-104F Patriot PAC-3. June 7, 2012. (accessed December 3 , 2012). 20. Fulya Ozerkan. Turkey assures Russia Patriot missiles for defense: diplomat. December 10, 2012. (accessed December 10 , 2012).


Why India’s Carrier Matters More Than China’s by Felix Seidler


bilities and training. To achieve this, China has a long march to

ircraft carriers are going to be an indispensable asset for


all players in the Indo-Pacific Maritime Great Game. But China's carrier got too much attention, while India's de-

Upgrade India!

serves far more. Operational experience matters and China has none.

While most observers were busy with the Liaoning, Asia's

Furthermore, India is already playing with the world's three Carrier

only operational aircraft carrier, India's INS Viraat, disappeared

Big Boys and all the important maritime Choke Points are in front

from the scene. Sorry Thailand, but your never-operating carrier is

India‘s shores.

not a serious asset. Here is the first good reason why India must be upgraded over China: Operational experience. India has been op-

Downgrade Liaoning!

erating carriers since 1987 and INS Viraat is expected to retire in

China's aircraft carrier program has been massively over-

2020. Therefore, India's Navy has the necessary supply chains and

hyped. After the former Soviet carrier, fully refurbished by the Chi-

logistics, which the PLAN lacks. Prospectively, China's maritime

nese and named Liaoning, undertook its first "test drive", thousands

"long march" will take time before getting the necessary experi-

of press and scholarly articles about possible regional and global im-

ence India already has (or will get through Russian or maybe even

plications were published. Is this single ship a regional or even a global

future U.S. and French support).

threat? What about the balance in the East and South China Sea?

Unlike their Chinese counterparts, Indian commanders

Stay calm, people. After a few tests, China's Navy (PLAN) is

have already engaged their carrier crews, helicopter and fighter

years away from having an operational aircraft carrier or even a battle

pilots in serious exercises. China, just due the lack of capacity,


could not even start real training yet. Nevertheless, you need Moreover, if you want to operate one aircraft carrier, you

skilled officers, pilots and sailors, if you want your carrier to be

need at least two, better three: one in the shipyard, one operating,

taken seriously by others. While PLAN still has not started training

one in standby. According

flight operations, India's next carrier,

to the numbers, it is unlikely

the INS Vikramaditya (due the benefits

that the PLAN will be able

of Russian support) is already training

to sustain a permanent "blue

Arctic waters and is expected to enter


service by 2014. The indigenous built



INS Vikrant is about to be commis-

before 2020. Even the first flights

sioned in 2015. In consequence, when-

from Liaoning’s deck were

ever the PLAN's first carrier is opera-

more a public diplomacy

tional, India will have at least two well-

event than a step towards a

trained counterparts. Furthermore,

credible carrier force. It is

India will always be able to maintain an

one thing to start a single

operational carrier offshore whereas

fighter under controlled and

China cannot.



Operating dozens of flight movements per hour in conflict or war times need very different kinds of capa-

Of course India will not become a U.S.-like carrier super power, nevertheless, more attention is warranted. If you don’t believe it, just look at a map of the Indian Ocean. The world's most important sea-lanes are running just in front of the Indian military’s ports and air bases. All geostrategic hotspots and maritime Choke Points are nearby. From its Andaman

Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 12


and Nikobar bases, India could easily block the northern entry of the

rating than China's refurbished test-object in the Dalian shipyard.

Malacca Strait if it felt that it was in its strategic interest to do so.

However, now its time to put the rated carriers into the proper geostrategic context.

New Delhi and the Three Carrier Big Boys Besides the Russian support, which is generous but not free,

India's Everlasting Geostrategic Advantage

India is playing with the Carrier Big Boys, the US and France. India

What are the world's most important maritime Choke Points?

has undertaken joint exercises with both these navies. PLAN is far

The Strait of Hormuz, Malacca Strait and the Gulf of Aden. What

away from such trials and, beyond search and rescue, neither the

do they all have in common? Free and unhindered access from

U.S., India nor Russia will conduct full scale combat training with a

India's naval and air bases. In comparison, PLAN only has access to

Chinese carrier; their possible future counterpart.

the Malacca Strait, but before it can get there it has to pass the

In April 2012, the 15th naval joint US-Indian Exercise Malabar

South China Sea which is full of other nation's submarines and U.S.

was conducted; also including warships from Australia, Japan and

Naval vessels. Thus, due to geography, PLAN can be hindered far

Singapore. Training with the US means that India had the opportuni-

easier than the Indian Navy. Overall, India has much easier access

ty to look at and, thereby, learn from the skills of the world's best

to the South China Sea than PLAN does to the Indian Ocean.

carrier-operating navy. However, Indian pilots starting jets from

Finally, in the Indo-Pacific Maritime Great Game, the ad-

U.S. carriers have not been reported by the media, yet. Moreover,

vantage is on India's side. India is missing two Island Chains and,

India's carrier officers, pilots and crews could train their skills with

therefore does not need to think about "Anti Access/Area Denial",

the world's best counterparts. Something Chinese sailors are proba-

but rather has freedom of action. New Delhi's maritime lifelines

bly never going to experience. China’s fighter pilots had to travel to

cannot really be blocked and furthermore, if someone would try to

Brazil for carrier flight training.

do so, India's carriers, surface vessels, submarines and air bases are

Moreover, following the US lead, France is forging closer strate-

always close to the Choke Points.

gic ties to India. In 2011 the French Navy sent its carrier Charles de

In addition, India has better demography than China. That is

Gaulle accompanied by surface vessels and a nuclear sub to India for

important, because the Achilles Heel of PLAN's carrier program is

a joint exercise. Of course, this was an advertising show for the

the development of the Chinese population. Inner changes in soci-

French carrier-capable Rafale fighter, which India has bought. How-

ety and government could reverse Beijing's decisions in the carrier

ever, having proved its operational capabilities, India’s navy now

case. In 2060, India will be the third or second largest economy in

meets NATO standards, making this alliance a major asset. Especial-

the world. Hence, it will have the money and the technology to

ly, when you have a competitor like China, who is mostly working

sustain its number of carriers not only on the current, but rather

with slightly improved knockoffs of Soviet and Russian technology.

on a higher level. Hence, whoever in the United States and Europe

However, China is right at the beginning of developing a flat top

worries about those Chinese carriers, which could patrol the Indi-

capable stealth fighter (J-31). But it will take the Chinese years be-

an Ocean's SLOCs, should keep in mind that India will be there

fore they are ready for regular production or are fully operational. In

along with other countries like Australia. Time to downgrade the

response to a Chinese carrier with J-31s, India could decide to go for

"China as Global Maritime Power" debate to "default."

the F-35C or a carrier capable version of the Russian T-50 PAK FA.

Besides, the US military has the wrong doctrine for the Indo-

The U.S. and Russia would probably sell everything to New Delhi to

Pacific Maritime Great Game. Of course, it must be Air and Sea,

keep an incredibly emerging India in their camp.

but you just cannot miss Space and Cyber. Remember, all ships

India already exercised operating carriers with two Carrier Big

and fighters are worth nothing without Satellite communications

Boys and NATO-countries, which is likely to continue due to the

and intelligence, which require a working cyber infrastructure.

convergence between Indian, U.S. and French strategic interests.

Therefore, Air-Sea-Space-Cyber-Battle is the way ahead; maybe

Furthermore, New Delhi has been getting Russian support for dec-

not only for the US, but for other emerging powers as well.

ades and will, due the enduring partnership, get more when it pays for it. All three Carrier Big Boys are playing with India, but what

About the author

about China? The PLAN must do pretty much everything on its

Felix F. Seidler is a PhD candidate in Political Science at the Institute

own, with only very little help from Brazil. Hence, there can be no

for Security Policy in Kiel, Germany. Since 2009 he is blogging on

doubt that India's already operating carriers deserve a far higher about Indo-Pacific geopolitics, maritime security and NATO.

Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 12


Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 12


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Atlantic Voices Vol 2. no. 12  
Atlantic Voices Vol 2. no. 12  

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