(140520) -- SHANGHAI, May 20, 2014 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin sign a joint statement aimed at expanding cooperation in all fields and coordinating diplomatic efforts to cement the China-Russia all-round strategic partnership of cooperation after their talks in Shanghai, east China, May 20, 2014. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei) (mp)

In Deep Waters with China and Russia

The Threat to Global Stability and Security

Geopolitical tensions have risen to a level where another major war or even world war is no longer outside the realm of possibilities.  There has been a military build-up by the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China in the South China Sea (SCS), and by Russia in the Baltic and Western European regions.

China’s SCS Dispute with Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan, Indonesia, and the Philippines over oil rich territory rich is most troubling.  Both China and Russia have increased their military presence in the northern Pacific Ocean where they have been engaging in joint military exercises.  An eruption of armed conflict involving China, may result in both responding.

There are also the ongoing concerns regarding erratic North Korea, which has restarted plutonium fuel production.

Russia’s relationship with NATO, its member nations, allies and partners deteriorated following Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its unlawful aggressions in Ukraine.  This precipitated a sharp shift in Western foreign policy toward Russia.  The West has moved away from the Doctrine of Mutual Assured Stability and beyond a policy of containment to a position of deterrence.  Knowing that NATO will respond, it is unlikely that Moscow will engage in armed conflict on European soil.

Less likely would be a scenario where armed conflict develops in the Atlantic and Pacific theatres as it is questionable whether the U.S., the European Union, NATO and their allies could adequately respond.

 The South China Sea – A Deepening Rift

While China and Russia are embroiled in territorial disputes in the Pacific Ocean, it is China’s SCS Dispute that is particularly troublesome.  The expansionist goal of the two countries is that they gain control the maritime activities in the region, impeding routine missions patrolling the area and impeding the territorial rights of other nations, and allowing them to exploit the region’s rich oil reserves.  In the SCS there are 11 million estimated barrels of oil, 190 trillion cubic square feet of natural gas, and $5.3 trillion in annual trade passing through the region.

Competing South China Sea Claims

China’s sweeping claims of sovereignty over the SCS have antagonized Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan, Indonesia, and the Philippines, each of which has competing territorial and jurisdictional claims in the SCS.  China has grown increasingly more assertive in advancing its position in these disputes, known as the South China Sea Dispute, by substantially modernizing its maritime paramilitary forces and increasing its naval capabilities.  In recent months, tensions in the South China Sea have steadily grown, amid global concerns over China’s constructions of artificial islands in the Spratly Islands and its continuing militarization in the Paracel Islands.

There is one pending case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague between China and the Philippines concerning lawful sovereignty over an area rich in natural gas deposits. The matter was brought by the Philippines as to the legality of China’s “nine-dash line”.  China has never clarified the parameters of the “nine-dash line”, which encompasses approximately 80% of the SCS. The Philippines claims that China violated the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); an agreement about territorial seas and exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

China’s motivation is not the preservation of ancestral waters or historical fishing sites, protected by the UNCLOS; rather China seeks to complete a “strategic triangle” in the SCS to monitor and control regional maritime activities, to bolster its naval position, and to gain access to much-needed natural resources. To further its interests, China has built man-made islands and artificial harbors on reefs creating more than 3,200 acres, and increasing its EEZs by 200 nautical miles or 370 km, and its territorial seas by 12 nautical miles or 22 km, on which it has installed airfields and surveillance systems, and a radar tower.  China now plans on installing an Air Defense Identification Zone, or ADIZ, covering the SCS. An ADIZ demarcates a zone outside a country’s national airspace where planes must identify themselves for security reasons and follow the country’s military instructions.

Newly constructed radar dome on Chinese-controlled Subi Reef

The Pentagon has accused China of using “coercive tactics short of armed conflict.”

The Philippines is expected to prevail in proceedings boycotted by China.  China called the PCA arbitration illegal and stated that it would ignore the PCA’s decision, even though China is one of five permanent United Nations Security Council members.  As the PCA has no enforcement authority, enforcement will fall upon other nations both in and outside of the SCS region.

“Only when everyone plays by the same rules can we avoid the mistakes of the past, like when countries challenged one another in contests of strength and will, with disastrous consequences for the region,” stated U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on June 3, 2016.

The U.S. could also be drawn into this conflict based on 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the U.S. and the Philippines. The Treaty states, “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.”  If the U.S. failed to respond, it could damper its relationship with other nations in Asia.

Also relevant is the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the South China Sea, in which ASEAN and China agreed upon multilateral risk-reduction and confidence-building measures.  DOC requires that territorial and jurisdictional disputes be resolved without resorting to the threat or use of force.

Chinese and Russian Joint Military Buildup

In advance of the G7 Summit, China warned Japan not to involve the G7 in the SCS Dispute.  Russian Prime Minister Sergei Lavrov, on April 14, also issued a statement that, while international law ought to be respected, Russia disapproved of internationalization of the dispute, stating, “Our position is determined by the wish, natural for any normal country, to see disputes resolved directly between the countries involved in a peaceful political and diplomatic manner, without any interference from third parties or any attempts to internationalize these disputes.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry reacted “by heralding the two countries’ converging position on the South China Sea.”

Ignoring the Chinese and Russian warnings, but without mentioning China, the G7, from which Russia has been excluded since annexing Crimea, expressed concern over Chinese aggression in the SCS.

A Fact Sheet released by the White House sumarized the April 7, 2016 G7 Summit:

“G-7 leaders reiterated their commitment to a rules-based order at sea, peaceful dispute settlement, and respect for freedom of navigation and overflight.  G-7 leaders also reaffirmed the importance of states’ making and clarifying their claims based on international law [including the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea]; refraining from unilateral actions; not using force or coercion; and seeking to settle disputes by peaceful means including through juridical procedures.’”

On April 29, 2016 Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held a joint press conference in Beijing declaring shared opposition to “interference from third parties” and “attempts to internationalize” the dispute.  Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that China and Russia should join together to oppose “internationalising” the disputes.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated on May 23, 2015 that, “Russia would deploy top-of-the-line Bal and Bastion coastal defense systems — with ranges of up to 450 kilometers — as well as Russia’s new Aeleron-3 drones. The apparent goal is to create an area-denial zone around the Kuril Island chain similar to those recently fielded in Crimea and Syria.”

The purpose of the Bastion-P is to engage various surface ships, as well as carrier battle groups, convoys or landing craft. In some cases missiles fired from this system can strike surface targets.  The Bastion-P launcher carries two P-800 Oniks/Yakhont and SS-N-26 Strobile anti-ship cruise missiles, having a range of 300 km, with hi-low flight trajectory and 120 km with low-low flight trajectory. The warhead, weighing 200-250 kg., can carry nuclear or conventional warheads.

At first, Mr. Shoigu alleged Russia’s Red Pacific Fleet was sending six of its warships carrying 200 troops, launched in April, to conduct a three-month “expedition” to the Kuril Islands.  The real mission is to establish a Russian military base on Matua Island, one of the Kuril Islands involved in its dispute with Japan.  The Matua Island base will hold 87 contract troops, 700 units of military equipment and weaponry, 60 new aircraft and helicopters, three vessels and over 20 drones. Based on a photograph released by Russian controlled state media, the warships were accompanied by nuclear-powered submarines.

Large landing ships “Admiral Nevelskoi,” foreground, “Nikolai Vilkov” and Varshavyanka-class diesel-electric submarine © Vitaliy Anko / Sputnik

Days prior to the May 30-31, 2016 “Russia and China: Taking on New Quality of Bilateral Relations international Conference”, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated, “[W]e closely cooperate on the international arena, where our cooperation serves as a very important stabilizing factor. We will continue to jointly with the Chinese friends advance the necessary steps in order to ensure that our cooperation reaches new levels.”

 Lavrov added that proposals for all directions of cooperation were being drawn up “with the goal to further deepen cooperation in politics, economy and humanitarian area.”

“Russia and China are priority diplomatic partners for each other within the framework of their strategic coordination. Our countries implement close interaction in the international arena. Russian-Chinese relations are an important factor in the world peace and stability. During Vladimir Putin’s visit to China, the two leaders will exchange views on the development of bilateral relations and on international issues,” stated Hua Chunying, Deputy Director of Foreign Ministry Information Department of the People’s Republic of China.

At the conference, Western economic sanctions against Russia were deemed moot by Russia as it is looking to the East for economic growth and stability with China and Russia agreeing to increase trade from $90 billion in 2016 to $200 billion within four years.

Calling the SCS Dispute a man-made problem “forged by the United States… both Chinese and Russian leadership understand that we are better together and we are not so worried about America and its attitude to this issue,” stated Boris Titov, co-chairman of the Russian-Chinese Friendship committee and Russia’s ombudsman.

Moreover, Russia and China have been engaging in joint naval exercises in SCS.  According to the Russian press service, Russia and China commenced their first joint computer anti-missile defense exercises Aerospace-Security-2016.  Russia and China will use the results to formulate proposals on Russian-Chinese military cooperation in the field of anti-missile defense.

China’s “waves -2″ submarine-launched ballistic missile launched from underwater

“My sense is that each country will try and oppose the U.S. where it feels that its national interests require it, and that in a number of instances their national interests converge,” stated former Dutch Diplomat Joost Dirzwager.

The U.S. and France have bolstered their presence in the SCS.  The Pentagon sent a guided-missile destroyer to maintain maritime rights. This was the third time in under a year that the U.S. has conducted freedom of navigation operations in the SCS.

U.S. Freedom of Navigation (FON) Program, created in 1983 “…provides that the United States will exercise and assert its navigation and overflight rights and freedoms on a worldwide basis in a manner that is consistent with the balance of interests reflected in the Law of the Sea (LOS) Convention. The United States will not, however, acquiesce in unilateral acts of other states designed to restrict the rights and freedoms of the international community in navigation and overflight and other related high seas uses.”

According to DoD spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Baldanza, on May 17, 2016, when the U.S. sent an unarmed U.S. military aircraft on routine patrol over the SCS, China responded with two fighter jets carrying out an interception at less than 50 feet forcing the U.S. plane to rapidly descent, which the Pentagon deemed unsafe.

China insists that reconnaissance activities undertaken without prior notification and without permission of the coastal state violate Chinese domestic law and international law. The U.S. responded by stating that the UNCLOS does not negates the right of military forces of all nations to conduct military activities in EEZs without coastal state notice or consent.

Days after Russia requested Vietnam permit it naval access, U.S. President Barack Obama visited Vietnam at which time a 50 year arms embargo was lifted, enabling Vietnam to obtain U.S. sourced radars and sensors, surveillance planes and drones to monitor and deter Chinese forces.  The U.S. Navy has requested access to Cam Ranh Bay, the most coveted deep water harbor in the western SCS.  If permitted, it would complement U.S. naval facilities in the Philippines on the SCS’ eastern edge.

Japan and Russia’s Kuril Islands Dispute

Japan has been embroiled in a long-standing dispute with Russia over a portion of the Kuril Islands, an archipelago stretching 1,300 km or 810 mi, from northern Japan to Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula, separating the Sea of Okhotsk from the North Pacific Ocean.  As part of its territory, Japan claims the four ancestral islands; two southernmost and large Kuril Islands, Iturup and Kunashir, as well as the Shikotan and the Habomai Islets.

On February 7, 1855, Japan and Russia signed the Treaty of Commerce, Navigation and Delimitation, which established boundaries in the Northern Territories.  Japan lost control of several of its islands at the end of World War II, when they were claimed by Russia.  Japan has rejected Russian sovereignty over the islands in a dispute that has come to be known as the Northern Territories Dispute.  Japan does not dispute Russian sovereignty over the other Kuril Islands.

As recent as this past April, Japan has engaged Russia in frequent but, unsuccessful dialogue in an effort to diplomatically resolve the conflict, going so far as to state that it would not displace Russians occupying the islands as Joseph Stalin did to the Japanese people.

The U.S. supports Japan’s claim in the Northern Territories Dispute.

“A conflict involving China over the East and South Seas was more likely than a Russo-Japanese conflict over the Kuril Islands/Northern territories,” stated Steven Pifer, Senior Fellow Brookings Institute Fellow, and former U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Officer.

The Kuril Islands are salient based on Russia’s military build-up there.  While Russia and Japan are not predicted to engage in armed conflict over the Northern Territories Dispute, the military build-up is nonetheless significant as it relates to the SCS Dispute.

Insecurity in the European Union

Russia’s Methodology

“Russia’s interest in breaking up Europe is clear and it uses a variety of means, anything it can possibly do, to achieve its breakup,” stated Russian scholar and analyst Anne Applebaum.

Russia’s toolbox of hybrid warfare i.e. that without physical aggression, includes weaponising information; intelligence gathering; and cyber, political, psychological, and energy warfare.

Russia has been accused of cyber warfare in Estonia, the German parliament and in Bulgaria.  Russia has backed the far right front in France, the Hungarian Jobbik, and the German AFD, and has secured the support of Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Ukraine and Crimea

Recent geopolitical tensions between the West and Russian can be traced to Russia’s annexation of Crimean Peninsula, which the West deems illegal, and its military aggression in Ukraine, which the West stands firm in stating that in so doing Russia failed to implement the pre-existing Minsk Agreement.  Statements have recently issued from both sides.

“The path NATO has chosen is one of strong deterrence combined with meaningful dialogue. There cannot be any return to business as usual until Russia comes back into compliance with international law,” stated NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow.

Mr. Vershbow noted that ‘the first step toward that end should be the full implementation of the Minsk agreements – ending the Russian-backed insurgency in Eastern Ukraine, implementing a real ceasefire, withdrawing Russian forces and heavy weapons, and creating conditions for free and fair elections under Ukrainian and OSCE supervision aimed at re-integrating the occupied portions of Donbas into Ukraine.’

At the May 2016 G7 Summit, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and the European Union condemned Russia’s “illegal annexation” of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine. In a formal declaration the G7 threatened “further restrictive measures” but indicated sanctions could be scaled back if Russia implemented the Minsk Agreement to respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Mr. Putin responded by stating that, “As far as Crimea is concerned, we consider this question is closed forever. Russia will not conduct any discussions with anyone on this subject.”

The Baltic States, Poland and Romania

On April 1, 2014 following the annexation of Crimea, NATO member nations unanimously voted to suspend all cooperation with Russia save essential diplomatic dialogue.  Since then, Russia has conducted military exercises involving 30,000-80,000 troops in close proximity to the Baltic region.

“To the east and north we face a resurgent and aggressive Russia, and as we have continued to witness these last two years, Russia continues to seek to extend its influence on its periphery and beyond. We are prepared to fight and win if we have to … our focus will expand from assurance to deterrence, including measures that vastly improve our overall readiness,” stated NATO Supreme Commander General Phillip Breedlove on March 31, 2016, just days after the conclusion of the Munich Security Conference.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said NATO is strengthening its deterrence and defence posture by implementing the Readiness Action Plan (RAP), which includes a 5000-strong Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, in response to a more assertive and aggressive Russia.

Russia’s interest in the Baltic States is multi-faceted. First and foremost, Russian President has stated over and over again that it is his responsibility to protect Russians, regardless of where they now live in the European Union.  Russia, having allowed its Baltic Sea port of Kaliningrad to deteriorate has, until recently, relied upon Baltic States’ modern and ice-free ports to transport its oil throughout Europe.

The deployment of Iskander-M missile complexes in Kaliningrad will “fundamentally change the balance of security in Europe,” stated NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

NATO responded by bolstering its position in many countries flanking the Russian border. NATO is deploying 4,000 additional troops to the Baltic countries and to Poland.  Another 4,200 troops are set to be deployed in early 2017.  NATO has also just committed to sending four rotating groups of combat battalions to Poland.

Despite NATO having voted to suspend cooperation with Russia, NATO members are complying with the May 27, 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation (Founding Act), even though some NATO members believe it to have been violated by Russia.  Under the Founding Act, significant numbers of troops cannot be permanently stationed in Eastern Europe.  The Founding Act does not define “significant”.  By rotating troops in the Baltic States or the East, Russia is deprived of the pretext of a Founding Act violation to engage in armed conflict.

The “Visegrad Four” – the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia – have proposed to NATO that they create a common “rotational” force to bolster defence in the Baltics starting in 2017.  Also in 2017, the U.S. military plans on an increased rotational presence in the East of up to 5,000 troops, including in both Romania and Bulgaria. A number of other countries have committed to or are considering sending troops to the Baltic Region and Poland; with the issue to be discussed at the July NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland.

A 2015 Rand study suggested the need for seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigade, to have a chance of stopping a major Russian offensive. This exceeds NATO’s present capacity. Moreover, such a force would appear overly provocative to Moscow, posing a potent ground offensive less than 400 kilometers from St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city.

Also bypassing the Founding Act, the air forces of 16 different NATO member states have been actively securing the Baltic air space.  There have been many incidents of these peacekeeping flyovers being improperly threatened by Russian fighter jets.

“There should be no gaps. Deterrence must be the new normal,” stated Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas.

If the rotational troops and increased air surveillance caused Russian ire, the U.S.’s recent activation of a land-based SM-3 missile defence interceptor or shield at its base in southern Romania, with a second defence system to be operational by 2018 in Warsaw, has only amplified the situation.  The radar, similar to that on U.S. Navy warships, detects and identifies incoming missiles, then launches interceptor missiles destroying the incoming missile in space.

“To put it simply, our new missile defense architecture in Europe will provide stronger, smarter, and swifter defenses of American forces and America’s Allies. It is more comprehensive than the previous program; it deploys capabilities that are proven and cost-effective; and it sustains and builds upon our commitment to protect the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats; and it ensures and enhances the protection of all our NATO Allies,” stated U.S. President Barack Obama.

Mr. Putin stated that Russia will respond to the U.S. installation of missile defence shields in Romania and Poland as they directly threaten Russian security.

“We are convinced unconditionally that the deployment of an antimissile defense system does indeed pose a threat to the security of the Russian Federation,” stated Russian Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov.


Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger advised that, “To play a responsible role in the evolution of twenty-first century world order [each country] must be prepared to answer a number of questions for itself:

  • What do we seek to prevent, no matter how it happens, and if necessary alone? The answer defines the minimum condition of the survival of society.
  • What do we seek to achieve, even if not supported by any multilateral effort? These goals define the minimum objectives of the national strategy.
  • What do we seek to achieve, or prevent, only if supported by an alliance? This defines the outer limits of the country’s strategic aspirations as part of a global system.
  • What should we not engage in, even if urged by a multilateral group or an alliance? This defines the limiting condition [of a country’s] participation in world order.
  • Above all, what is the nature of the values that we seek to advance? What applications depend in part on circumstances?”

The West seeks to prevent the denigration or disregard of Rule or Law.  It has done so through NATO, it member nations and their alliances and partners.  This is and has been the driving principle for all actions it has undertaken in the Baltic Region, Western Europe, Ukraine, Crimea and the SCS.  With the exception of Crimea, the West has unequivocally indicated it will go to war if provoked by Russia.

As to what Russia seeks to achieve, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has stated, that Russia wants to be treated as an equal partner in foreign affairs, especially in Europe, but that the European Union has failed attribute to Russia the credence that it feels due and justified.  The reality is that Russia will never gain the acceptance of the European Union or the U.S. until it demonstrates adherence to Rule of Law.  This tests the outer limits of Russia’s foreign policy initiatives.

Nonetheless, given the powerful statements from the Kremlin, the European Union may yet be able to positively engage Moscow. After all, a Cold War is nothing more than failed diplomacy.  The European Union must consider the truth; if conditions deteriorate in either the East or the West, the West, in its current state, is not equipped to engage in deterrence let alone defence. In addition to the ongoing fight against terrorism and the distressing presidential elections in the United States, there is a lack of cohesion among European Union members impeding cooperative efforts with NATO and its other partners and alliances.  These are the limiting conditions that the West cannot ignore.

An alternate and more plausible explanation is that Russia, expert at psychological warfare and the use of propaganda, has used the ruse of an attack on the Baltic States, Poland or Romania to deflect public attention away from the South China Sea Dispute.

As for China, “There are a number of political and economic factors which militate against a military conflict, though the probability is not zero,” stated Mr. Pifer.

China seeks to achieve a leadership role in global financial stability.  It has strengthened its global financial position through the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank, known as The BRICS, to which many foreign powers, save the United States, have acceded to one or both.  China’s limiting condition is jeopardizing the many trade relationships it has built, not only with Western countries, such as Great Britain and the U.S., but with countries around the world.  The reality for China it that if SCS aggressions continue, especially in tandem with Russia, it may destroy positive relationships.

A second reality, based on Mr. Kissinger’s decision-making tree, is that China continues its military build-up in the SCS, with or without Russia, and that those countries adhering to Rule of Law are forced by treaty to respond.

As to joint Chinese and Russian military cooperation, while China and Russia have been bound to some degree by a shared ideology, it has thus far never extended to joint military cooperation or to an expansionist philosophy based on the use of force.  In this scenario, diplomatic relations with China might produce a positive result, not just in the SCS, but China may influence Russian interactions elsewhere in the world.

“The United States will make it clear that we are looking for a peaceful resolution to …  the disputes of the South China Sea. Let’s not resolve this by unilateral action; let’s resolve this through rule of law, through diplomacy, through negotiation. And we urge all nations to find a diplomatic solution, rooted in international standards and rule of law,” stated U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during Sangri-La talks held on June 7, 2016 in Beijing.

US Secretary of State John Kerry attends the US – China High Level Consultation on People to People Exchange at the National Museum in Beijing, June 7, 2016. (Photo credit SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urging other European Union members to undertake “regular and visible” SCS patrols, stated, “If we want to contain the risk of conflict, we must defend this right, and defend it ourselves.”

Previously, the G7 members signed on G7 statements on maritime security and freedom of navigation.

India’s Prime Minister Narenda, following a visit to the White House, stated that it had no comment on the SCS Dispute.  India struggles to meet the energy demands of its citizens.

The necessary diplomacy might transpire at the G20 Summit – comprised of 19 individual countries—Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States—along with the European Union (EU) – to be hosted by September 4 to 6.  While less than 100 days away, it provides ample time for all parties to re-evaluate the current diplomatic posture.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is a journalist focusing on geopolitics.  Ms. Lardner is a contributing editor for Tuck Magazine and E – The Magazine for Today’s Executive Female Executive, and her blogs are read in over 37 countries.  As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking. Ms. Lardner holds degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology.

Cover Photo Courtesy of Xinhua.

Sources available upon request.


Allotment Gardens: A Lesson in Sustainable Urban Renewal

In most major American cities, the land adjacent to expressways and railroad tracks is more often than not peppered by low income housing, scrap yards, fast food restaurants, bill boards, porn shops, vacant lots and litter. That’s not the case in many European countries which have a legacy of allotment gardens.  An allotment garden is a piece of land leased from the local government on which city dwellers yearning to be outdoors can cultivate gardens.  Some of these gardens contain structures; some large enough to spend a weekend or even the entire summer.  The gardens are as varied as the gardeners who lovingly tend to them.

Such is the case in the Netherlands where I visited Tuinpark Eigen Arbeid on the outskirts of The Hague[i].  Eigen Arbeid is sandwiched between major thoroughfares and open fields, where wild flowers bloom and cattle lazily graze. For an annual fee of 800 Euros, Eigen Arbeid offers its gardeners a large lot on which they can construct a shelter no larger than 20 square meters or 66 square feet.  While the shelters are more akin to cottages, overnight stays are not permitted at Eigen Arbeid, although that is not the case at all allotment gardens.


Eigen Arbeid, which also serves as a public park, evokes a feeling of peace, tranquility and being one with nature. There was a quiet buzzing around the garden’s beehives, the silent paddling of ducks around the reeds and lily pads in its corridors of canals, and the sing-song of birds merrily chirping.  Gardeners were seen biking through the Eigen Arbeid; pushing wheelbarrows bursting with plant material, riotous in color; quietly tending their vast array of plants; and relaxing or entertaining on patios made of pavers; some of which were elaborate in pattern. It was so charming that I felt as if I were wandering through an enchanted world.

Some of the gardens were dedicated to vegetables, others were more floral, with the majority being a combination gardens.  A few of the gardens were reminiscent of formal English or Italian gardens.  As unique as the gardens, were the cottages and their owners.  For instance, Gotfriedt and Anneke Meer had a floral garden, where the plant material included anemones, peonies, forsythia, daffodils, tulips, butterfly shrubs, coral bells, ferns, cherry and apple trees.  A focal point was the gently gurgling water fountain.  Behind their garden was a canal and across from the canal, was an open expanse where cattle were spotted grazing off in the distance.

The Meer’s were gracious enough to not only show me around their garden but also invited me into their cottage.  Gotfriedt explained that such cottages cost between 2,000 and 20,000 Euros to construct.  The cottage’s interior was constructed of all natural, unstained wood and contained everything anyone would need for not only a pleasant but, a most comfortable day.  There was couch that opened into a bed, in case the need for a nap arose, cozy pillows, floral curtains fluttering in the breeze, a small table topped with thick novels, wicker arm chairs for guests, a small refrigerator, toaster oven, microwave, propane powered stove and a half bath.  All this without gas or electricity.  Rather, the cottage was powered by four solar energy panels, used rainwater collection, and had a propane stove.  I would be remiss if I did not say that it would mean the world to me to have such a haven to retreat.

After promising to return later in the year, I next met Harry and Reit Burgh.  While their garden and cottage differed, their willingness to share their private world and its history with me was equally humbling.  They acquired their allotment garden in 2006.  Framed on the wall of the cottage was a photo collage showing the garden as it existed in 2006 and the process by which the new cottage was constructed by Harry and their son.  It was rightfully a source of family pride.  The inside of Burgh’s cottage had many if not all of the same amenities as the Meer’s.

Their garden was divided between florals and vegetables.  Reit seemed to be in charge of the flowers, which as the pictures reflect, were already blooming profusely in early May.

The vegetables were already in the ground and thriving due to a series of greenhouses and cold frames.  There was endive, Bibb lettuce, radishes, two kinds of beans, cucumbers, cauliflower and tomatoes.  Harry also had cherry, plum and apple trees; with the apple tree adorned with delicate white blossoms, a promise of the fruit to come.

As the area receives an infinite amount of rainfall, moss and algae growing between the patio’s pavers is problematic.  I know, because my patio in The Hague suffers the very same problem.  Reit showed me how to eliminate the problem using only azijn or vinegar, as only organic gardening is allowed; commercial pesticides and fertilizers are prohibited.  Harry had used a bit of beer in a tin can, its edge level with the soil, as that’s how you catch plant devouring slugs!

At the back of the garden, the Burghs had two compost barrels guaranteeing a continuous supply of nutrient rich soil; a natural fertilizer.

The Burghs told me that during the summer months they often entertained friends and family at their garden oasis.

At Groenewoud Gardens in nearby Utrecht, office buildings are interspersed among the green surroundings of the allotment gardens; some of which are even maintained by the business owners.. The architecture of the shelters was specified to compliment that of the commercial buildings.  The combination created a better office environment and eliminated ground maintenance costs[ii].

Allotment gardens or volkstuinen are by no means new in the Netherlands.  In 1911 the Netherlands passed its first national law on allotment gardens.  There are now over 240,000 allotment gardens in the Netherlands covering 0.12 percent of the Netherlands’ total land area. The average size of an allotment garden is 2 hectares or almost half an acre[iii].  Allotments without a shed or shelter may be as small as 15 square meters or 7 x 7 feet.  Each allotment garden has its own rules, such as whether overnight stays are allowed.  Every spring, the Dutch queue for their chance at an allotment.  Once an allotment is leased, that lease continues indefinitely; a family death often results in the garden being passed down to the next generation.

Allotment gardens not only facilitate social cohesion but, research shows that spending half an hour in an allotment leads to a 22 percent drop in the stress hormone cortisol, twice the amount reading a book[iv].

Agnes van den Berg, from Wageningen University and Research Centre, the Netherlands, said: “Taken together, our findings provide the first direct empirical evidence for health benefits of allotment gardens. Having an allotment garden may promote an active life-style and contribute to healthy ageing[v].”

Allotment gardens can be found in many European countries, including Great Britain, Germany, Hungary and Sweden.

Allotment gardens are consistent with many of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and serve as a model for both developed and underdeveloped nations.  Goal 1 is to reduce poverty.  Allotment gardens provide a way to not only grow food but to sell any surplus.  Goal 2, Zero Hunger, is closely related.  The organic gardening techniques further Goals 14 and 15; ‘Life Under Water’ and ‘Life on Land’, respectively.  Groenewoud Gardens is an example of SDG 13, ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities’.  The use of solar power exemplifies SDG 7, ‘Affordable and Clean Energy’. The documented positive health effects further SDG 3, ‘Ensure Healthy Lives and Well-Being for All at All Ages’.  SDG16 seeks to ‘promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development’; a benchmark met by the social cohesion facilitated by allotment gardens.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is a journalist, holding degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology. Her blogs are read in over 37 countries.  As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking. Living in Den Hague or The Hague, she is currently looking for a challenging position in foreign policy, journalism, or social justice.



[ii] Stekelenburg, Erik “Garden Shed as Architectural Assignment”, June 17, 2003, as found on the www at

[iii] “Over 200 hectares of allotment garden liquidations within a decade”, September 17, 2009, as found on the www at

[iv] Adams, Stephen, “Allotments really are good for your health”, November 23, 2010, The Telegraph, as found on the www

[v] van den Berg et al, “Allotment gardening and health: a comparative survey among allotment gardeners and their neighbors without an allotment”, November 23, 2010, BioMed Central Ltd. 2010, as found on the www at


A Royal Inauguration of the International Criminal Court


On Tuesday, April 18, 2016, His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands officially inaugurated the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) new court complex.  The new ICC buildings are located in the dunes between The Hague and the North Sea. Its six gleaming towers can accommodate up to 1200 staff members.

The President of the Court, Sylvia Fernández de Gurmendi, and Sidiki Kaba, President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, welcomed His Majesty to the ICC.

From left to right, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President of the Court, Sylvia Fernández de Gurmendi. and His Majesty King Wilhelm-Alexander of the Netherlands

Dignitaries and diplomats from around the world attended the opening ceremony, including the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bert Koenders; United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fat Bensouda; and Convener of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, William R. Pace.

Since its July 1, 2002 inception under the Rome Statute, the ICC has stood as an independent international organisation separate from the United Nations system. Recognised by 124 member states, it is a court of last resort, intervening only when member states are unwilling or unable to prosecute to prevent those guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes from evading justice.

The ICC is here to “insure adherence to international humanitarian and human rights law… Perpetrators of crimes must be brought to justice,” stated Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Unlike the United Nations’ International Court of Justice, the ICC can prosecute individuals as well as governments. This has created heightened deterrence.

“Accountability a nonnegotiable objective,” stated her Excellency Judge Fernádez.

“The judges administer justice without fear,” stated his Excellency Kaba.

Bert Koenders, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, explained that the ICC was effective based on two human faculties: its empathy and its collective resolve.

“Threats to humankind are met by the collective action,” stated her Excellency Judge Fernádez.

Empathy was emphasized by Mr. Ki-moon, who stressed the ICC’s respect for the needs of the victims, who not only offer testimony, but can present their views and concerns at all stages during the proceedings.

Under the Rome Statute, the ICC has a companion organization, the Trust Fund for Victims, which is funded by member states for those situations where the perpetrators are unable to make reparations to the victims.

Several speakers stated that every country that adheres to Rule of Law, akin to core democratic values, ought to belong to the ICC.

To date, the United States, Egypt, Iran, Israel and Russia have signed the Rome Statute, it was never ratified by their governments.  The United States’ reluctance to ratify the Statute was and is based on its desire to protect its troops from potentially politically motivated or frivolous prosecutions.  Most recently, however, the Obama Administration has made efforts to improve relations with the ICC.

China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Turkey are not parties to the Rome Statute.

At the conclusion of the program, His Majesty King Willem-Alexander opened a book; a symbolic gesture of a new era in the ICC.  In accordance with protocol, His Majesty made no formal statement.

After the ceremony was over, the His Majesty and the Secretary-General, as well as other dignitaries, joined the reception where they interacted with the guests.

The author with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Inside the Mind of Vladimir Putin

Putin.CoverBy:  Cynthia M. Lardner


The Russian Federation, when examined as the antagonist, views itself as having been left disconnected from post-World War Two Europe. Russia believes itself to be irrevocably tied to Europe dating back to the Byzantine Era.  When the Cold War ended Russia expected to be accepted by the West. This never fully materialized, leaving Russian President Vladimir Putin feeling dismembered. With heightening geopolitical tensions, especially in the European Union, it is critical to understand Mr. Putin’s long term strategy. When events over the last three years are examined together, not only does there exists a threat of conflict on European soil and cyberwar but, there also exists a very real threat to the Western world of another new genre of warfare:  economic warfare.

The Lavrov Statement

Understanding what Mr. Putin was and is thinking can now be best understood in the context of a March 3, 2016 statement by Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs:

“While the rapidly developing Moscow state naturally played an increasing role in European affairs, the European countries had apprehensions about the nascent giant in the East and tried to isolate it whenever possible and prevent it from taking part in Europe’s most important affairs.

During at least the past two centuries any attempts to unite Europe without Russia and against it have inevitably led to grim tragedies, the consequences of which were always overcome with the decisive participation of our country (Emphasis Added).”

Emphasizing Russia’s growing relationship with China and its other partners, including the BRICS, Lavrov stated that globalisation has led to the United States and the European Union’s demise as the leading global economic powers and political influencers, and to the emergence of “new and large centres of power”.

This was followed by the assertion that, “A reliable solution to the problems of the modern world can only be achieved through serious and honest cooperation between the leading states and their associations in order to address common challenges.”

Lavrov concluded that, “[W]e are not seeking confrontation with the United States, or the European Union, or NATO. On the contrary, Russia is open to the widest possible cooperation with its Western partners. We continue to believe that the best way to ensure the interests of the peoples living in Europe is to form a common economic and humanitarian space from the Atlantic to the Pacific, so that the newly formed Eurasian Economic Union could be an integrating link between Europe and Asia Pacific.”

Sino-Russian Partnership

Perhaps then it is ultimately not just what Mr. Putin is thinking but, also what the aspirations are of Chinese President Xi Jinping, with respect, not as to the Middle East, but as to Europe.  When events are read together, the two countries share expansionist and extremist policies, each with their own set of alliances, under which both countries aspire to wield greater global leadership.

A contemporary starting place for analyzing the Sino-Russian relationship is July 17, 2014, when a number of seemingly unrelated events occurred.  The day prior, the European Union imposed economic sanctions against the Russia Federation for its annexation of Crimea in violation of international law and the 1994 Budapest Agreement, followed by President Barack Obama announcing that the United States was also imposing sanctions; ultimately toppling the ruble.  Hours later, a Malaysian plane was shot down over the Ukraine by Russian mercenaries. This was quickly followed by a statement released by China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa, representing 40% of the world’s population, that they were implementing the New Development Bank or The BRICS, to provide funding to those countries previously unable to secure financing for essential sustainable infrastructures from the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Six months later, on February 2, 2015, obscured by an international community divided over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, China struck a potentially deadly blow to global financial stability when it announced that it was not only moving ahead in launching its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) but that it was expanding to welcome founding members from the West, of which all 28 NATO members, save the United States, joined within months.  There are now 56 AIIB member nations and another 30 countries awaiting approval.

“The founding and opening of the AIIB also means a great deal to the reform of the global economic governance system,” stated Mr. Jinping at the January 16, 2016 AIIB inauguration.

The AIIB and its ‘junior partner’, The BRICS, were set up to compete with the WB and IMF, intending to ultimately issue its own currency to devalue the Euro and the dollar.

“The BRICS is expected to usher in a pair of institutions, a development bank and a currency reserve fund, that they hope will diminish Western control of the global financial system,” stated Stewart M. Patrick, director of CFR’s International Institutions and Global Governance Program.

“The AIIB is a challenge to the existing global economic order,” stated Robert Kahn, Steven A. Tananbaum Senior Fellow for International Economics.

Such would be the case if China and its partners called in their portion of the United States National Debt; $17.6 trillion dollars or 15.9%.

In addition, China and Russia, two of the five permanent United Nations Security Council (UNSC) members, along with India, issued a statement supporting India’s bid for one of the five permanent UNSC seats.

The statement declared that the three nations, with China at the helm, would “build a more just, fair and stable international political and economic order” and a ““multi-polar” world”.   Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi proclaimed, “We advocate the principle of partnership rather than alliance.”

In late 2015 Mr. Jinping made a state visit to Great Britain. India Prime Minister Naranda Modi made state visits to 28 countries.  In Great Britain and beyond, China and India secured many private and public sector contracts.  India’s state visits were partially motivated by its previous lack of cordial diplomatic relations with North African and the Middle East; regions India needs to to support its claim that it is a global leader meriting a permanent UNSC seat.

Inception of The BRICS and AIIB has raised global concerns.  The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights is investigating whether projected project financing by The BRICS and the AIIB would include safeguards to preclude human rights violations, such as slave or child labor, underpayment of wages, forced evictions, and detentions.  Further concern exists over a lack of articulated environmental and anticorruption standards.  These concerns were manifest in previous projects funded by the Chinese government.


As time went on, the events of 2014 and 2015 fell off the front pages, replaced by news story about the Syrian War and the related terrorist attacks in California, Paris and Brussels.

Russia’s September 2015 entry into the Syrian War was reported to insure that Mr. Putin’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, remained in power.  It is questionable whether Mr. Putin’s move was a smokescreen allowing him to achieve another objective:  destabilizing the European Union.

Russian bombing in Syria was targeted in and around Aleppo, near the Turkish border.  NATO and other leaders asserted that Russia had weaponized Syrians; escalating the number of refugee seekers. The refugee crisis has created widespread dissension within Europe, which has been struggling to cope with the staggering numbers of refugees.  There are 4,883,643 Syrian refugees registered by the United Nations; making it the largest humanitarian crisis the world has faced since World War II.

Munich Security Conference

At the February 12-14, 2016 Munich Security Conference (MSC), Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s echoed Lavrov’s statements; calling the state of diplomacy between Russia and the West a new Cold War.  NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander General Philip Breedlove disagreed.

A Syrian ceasefire was negotiated at the MSC to allow participants time to reconvene in March to further discuss a nonmilitary resolution, and so that humanitarian aid could be delivered to Syria.

At the MSC conference, the issue of Russia’s failure to honor the Minsk Protocol, intended to resolve the Russian-Ukrainian conflict was raised.

On March 14, 2016, as the parties reconvened in Geneva, Russia only announced that it was pulling out of Syria at the same time Russian-backed separatists staged one their biggest Ukrainian offenses, fueling speculation as to Mr. Putin’s long range motives.

Europe and the United States

Mr. Putin’s goal is to undermine the European Union by causing destabilization as the European Union represents democracy, is based on Rule of Law, and is ideologically different from Russia, stated Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize Russian Scholar, Director of the Transitions Forum at the Legatum Institute, and an adjunct fellow of the Center for European Policy Analysis.

European and United States’ domestic and foreign policy has caused dissension within and between nations.  Natalie Nougayrède, a foreign affairs commentator for The Guardian, explained:

This year is one that arguably offers Russia an unprecedented window of opportunity to push that demand. The refugee crisis threatens key EU institutions, a referendum looms on the UK’s relationship to Europe, the Franco-German couple is in dire straits, Angela Merkel is politically weakened, Ukraine is unstable, populist movements are spreading throughout the continent, the Balkans are experiencing new tensions, and the US is busy with an election campaign imbued with isolationism.

“Europe when united is a problem for them [the Russians]. It doesn’t work when the whole of Europe joins together,” stated Applebaum.

“Closer cooperation between the EU and its eastern European partners – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine – is a key element in EU foreign relations,” states the European Union’s website.

Meanwhile, Russia has strengthened its relationships with Western Europe and Germany.  In 2014 Mr. Putin stated, “I expect that the citizens of Germany will also support the aspiration of the Russians, of historical Russia, to restore unity.”  Presently, an estimated 10-15% of all Germans support Mr. Putin.

Mr. Putin’s authoritarian leadership is also admired by Czech Republic President Miloš Zeman, Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and Serbian Prime Minister Alexander Vucic.

Then there is Poland; with Russia and Ukraine on its east and Germany and the Baltics on its west, it is a natural target for Russia.  The United States is building a missile defense shield in Poland due to be operational in 2018; stating it was to protect against Iranian aggressions.  Russia objected, stating that the shield is being built to protect the West from an attack by Russia.

Russia, having the world’s largest nuclear arsenal supported by a sprawling military and civilian nuclear industry, boycotted the March 31-April 1 Nuclear Security Summit, sparking concern as to whether Russia has or might sell nuclear weapons or weapon making materials to a terrorist organization.

Igor Ivanov, former Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated that, “The risk of confrontation with the use of nuclear weapons in Europe is higher than in the 1980s.”

Ukraine and the European Union

The conflict between Rule of Law and the Russian plutocracy is playing out in Ukraine and the Baltic region.

In 2012 Ukraine requested member state status in the European Union.  While there is no indication that Ukraine will be accepted as a European Union member, as part of the association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, the European Union is removing trade barriers with Ukraine.

“Ukraine has tied into mainstream European culture and life,” stated Applebaum.

“We can express our identity in the framework of the European Union,” reflected Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, Chief Rabbi of Ukraine.

Mr. Putin disagreed, stating, “Our concerns are understandable because we are not simply close neighbours but, as I have said many times already, we are one people… Millions of Russians and Russian-speaking people live in Ukraine and will continue to do so. Russia will always defend their interests using political, diplomatic and legal means.”

Rebutting Mr. Putin’s assertion, Rabbi Bleich stated that 60% of Ukraine’s fighters are native Russian speakers.

Mr. Putin additionally stated that, “Russia has its legitimate concerns in the framework of trilateral negotiations initiated by Russia, EU and Ukraine on gas issues and trade and economic implications of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement implementation” as Ukraine is the trade route by which oil is exported by Russia to Western Europe.

“We should recognize that the Ukraine is within the Russian sphere of influence,” stated Vaidotas Verba, the Lithuanian Ambassador to the Netherlands.

Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States and NATO

Since 1994 Ukraine has been a NATO alliance partner.  In 2010 Ukraine unsuccessfully sought to accede to NATO.  The request was denied due to the Ukrainian government’s failure to adhere to Rule of Law.

Olena Sotnyk, a newly elected Ukrainian Parliament member and Head of the Subcommittee on the Approximation of Ukrainian legislation to EU Law, stated “… that new parliament is striving to adhere to Rule of Law via implementation of a good number of legislative initiatives in the fields of human rights protection and anti-corruption, initiatives that only two years ago seemed unrealistic in the Ukrainian realities.”

In 2014, following a change in governance, Ukraine renewed its request to accede to NATO.  While Ukraine has not been invited to participate in accession talks, it is a partner nation of NATO.  In addition, of the 21 other countries belonging to NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, several have also expressed interest in acceding to NATO member nation status.  Presently, only Montenegro has been invited by NATO to participate in accession talks.

Every country has the right “to belong or not to belong to international organizations, to be or not to be a party to bilateral or multilateral treaties including the right to be or not to be a party to treaties of alliance,” according to Article I of the Helsinki Final Act, which established the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  All the OSCE member states, including Russia, have sworn to uphold this principle.

Since 2015 NATO has increased its presence in Ukraine and throughout the Baltic States; Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

“The reason why NATO is adapting its military posture, especially in the eastern part of the Alliance, is Russia’s military buildup over several years… In the Barents Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and now also in the Mediterranean. That’s one of the reasons why we are adapting both by increasing the readiness of our forces but also by increasing our presence in the Eastern part of our Alliance,” stated Stoltenberg.

Russia interpreted NATO’s eastern expansion as a sign of open hostility and warned that it will retaliate.

“We believe that NATO’s policy towards Russia remains unfriendly and generally obdurate,” stated Medvedev at the MSC.

Medvedev’s statement conflicts with Stoltenberg’s contemporaneous statement that, “This illustrates there are some challenges in the relationship between NATO and Russia. It is exactly these challenges that make it important to keep channels of political dialogue with Russia. They are open, we meet in different formats, on different levels, we meet at the ambassadors’ level in Brussels, and the NATO Russia Council meeting we are exploring to convene is at the ambassadors’ level. I met several times with Minister Lavrov. So we meet and we discuss. But so far we have not been able to agree on how to convene a NRC [the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission] meeting.”

“I’m afraid that Putin will create a really big crisis, like pick a fight with NATO,” stated Applebaum.

Such a crisis could include offensive action in the Baltic States, where there is a heavy concentration of ethnic Russians.  Ethnic Russians represent 14.3% of the Lithuanian population; 27.6% of Latvia’s population; and 24% of Estonia’s population.  Mr. Putin has previously stated that Russia has the right to intervene to protect the rights of ethnic Russians in neighbouring countries.

The United States is preparing for a Russian invasion in Ukraine or elsewhere in the Baltic region, as evidenced by a Pentagon statement that the United States was deploying an armored brigade to the Baltic region, with two more brigades to follow in 2017.

Considering such potentialities, NATO and Russia have agreed to meet.

“[T]here will be no return to business as usual until Russia again respects international law,” stated Stoltenberg.

The Game of Thrones

Irrespective of ideological differences, after the Cold War Era, Russia and the West shifted from the Doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction to that of Mutual Assured Security (MAS); where neither party has the intention or capability to exercise a unilateral advantage over the other.  It is now uncertain whether Russia intends to abide by MAS.

Conditions never favored full adaptation of MAS.  Celeste A. Wallander, an associate professor in the American University School of International Service, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia, explained:

The problem with the U.S. position is that Russia is not confident that conditions for strategic stability are met, and therefore they are not. Since strategic stability is a condition in which both parties are confident that each retains a secure retaliatory capability, if either is not confident, the equation is at risk. To put it another way, it does not help in a crisis.  If the United States is confident that no military strike could put Russia’s ability to retaliate at risk if Russia believes that it would have to preempt for survival.  Because Russian analysts take this seriously, U.S. policy needs to take this seriously.

“What we are dealing with is a conflict between a western philosophy in which international relations should be based on the Rule of Law, and the Russian one which tends to think in terms of power and zones of influence.  The view that the world order should be based on the rule of law, is very much the view of a militarily impotent Europe and more in particular that of small countries dependent on international trade such as the Netherlands.  The realistic school of American foreign policy on the other hand entertains no such illusions and views diplomacy as the application of power by nonmilitary means,” stated Joost Dirkzwager, a retired Kingdom of the Netherlands career diplomat.

That same analysis as to “zones of influence” can be applied to China, and to a lesser degree, India.  Although Russian and Chinese foreign and military policies differ radically, they operate under a similar ideology. While China is a superpower, Russia, due to its economic decline, is not.  Yet, the two countries are working together, with Beijing wielding the greater influence.

When read as a whole, not only does there exist the threat of conflict on European or even on United States soil and cyberwar with China and Russia but, there also exists a very real threat to the West of a new genre of warfare:  economic warfare.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is a journalist, holding degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology. Her blogs are read in over 37 countries.  As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking. Living in Den Hague or The Hague, she is currently looking for a challenging position in foreign policy, journalism, or social justice.


Albert, Eleanor, “A Bank Too Far?”, March 17, 2015, Council on Foreign Relations, as found on the www at

Anne E. Applebaum, March 17, 2015, Comment made during public meeting held at Nieuwspoort International, The Hague Netherlands (Anne Elizabeth Applebaum is an American and Polish journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author who has written extensively about communism and the development of civil society in Central and Eastern Europe. Anne Applebaum is a columnist for the Washington Post and Slate. She directs the Transitions Forum at the Legatum Institute in London and is an adjunct fellow of the Center for European Policy Analysis.).

Benitez, Jorge, “Alliance at Risk | Strengthening European Defense in an Age of Turbulence and Competition”, February 26, 2016, Brent Snowcroft Center, Atlantic Council, as found on the www at

“Brief Overview of Relations”, Russian-EU Relations, Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the European Union, as found on the www at

Courtney, William, and Jensen, Daniel, “How Putin Could Make Russia Great Again”, , March 21, 2016, Newsweek, as found on the www at

Durso, James, “Is That An Ian Fleming Novel Or Just Another Putin Scheme?”, March 17, 2016, Forbes, as found on the www at

Edwards, Lee, “Poland Is Key to a Safe Europe, and Putin Knows It”, September 24, 2015, as found on the www at

“Foreign & Security Policy”, January 15, 2016, European Union, as found on the www at

“Geopolitical Meltdown”, Game of Thrones Meets House of Cards, April 9, 2015, as found on the www at; and at

Huggler, Justin, “Putin ‘privately threatened to invade Poland, Romania and the Baltic states'”, September 18, 2014, as found on the www at

Knox, Patrick, “WARNING: Putin’s ex-aide says nuclear war in Europe imminent as Russia relations collapse.” March 19, 2016, The Daily Star, as found on the www at

Krishnan, Ananth, “China and Russia back India for seat on UN Security Council”, February 2, 2015, The Daily Mail India, as found on the www at

Masters, Jonathan, “The Russian Military”, September 28, 2016, Council on Foreign Relations, as found on the www at (Russia was also suspended from the Group of Eight or G8, comprised of world’s seven of the world’s wealthiest nations and the European Union.).

Medvedev, Dimitry, “Speech by Dmitry Medvedev at MSC 2016”, February 13, 2016, Voltaire, as found on the www at

Ng, Teddy, “India and Russia back China’s call for ‘new world order’:  Foreign ministers of two nations meet Chinese counterpart in Beijing as China ‘seeks to counterbalance US influence’ in the Asia-Pacific”, February 3, 2015, South China Daily Post, as found on the www at

“Putin’s long game has been revealed, and the omens are bad for Europe,” March 18, 2016, The Guardian, as found on the www at


“Remarks by Chinese President Xi at the Inauguration of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank”, January 16, 2015, Council on Foreign Affairs, as found on the www at


“Russian Foreign Policy”, Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the European Union, as found on the www at


“Sergey Lavrov’s article “Russia’s Foreign Policy: Historical Background” for “Russia in Global Affairs” magazine, March 3, 2016, MFR Russia, as found on the www at

Spaulding, Hugo, “Russian Military Activity:  OCTOBER 27-NOVEMBER 3, 2015”, Institute for the Study of War, as found on the www at


Stanton, Jenny, “Putin hopes to destabilise Germany by fuelling tensions over migrants, intelligence chiefs claim.” March 11, Daily Mail, as found on the www at


“Statement to the media by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after his meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia,” February 12, 2016, NATO, as found on the www at


Stewart, Patrick, “The BRICS: Three Things to Know”, July 7, 2015, Council on Foreign Affairs, as found on the www at


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“Why China is creating a new “World Bank” for Asia”, November 11, 2014, The Economist, as found on the www at



Act of Humanity


With politicians and policy makers struggling with the legalities and logistics of the controversial refugee agreement negotiated between the European Union and Turkey, set to take effect on April 4th, the United Nations, along with the expected press releases, launched a social media campaign supporting refugees’ rights to be treated humanely.

The “…initiative, #actofhumanity, emphasising that children are children, no matter where they come from, and that every child has rights and deserves a fair chance[i].”  Appealing to the masses, the campaign sends a powerful message to both individuals and leaders around the world.

The campaign includes a series of short videos, called the “unfairy tales”, and evocative graphics as to the inherent unfairness confronting refugees.  Some graphics highlight the abysmal numbers of children involved, while others put the spotlight on individuals who have treat refugees a manner constituting an act of humanity.

The @UNICEF tweet pinned, which is the tweet at the top of its Twitter account, was retweeted 729 times in under five days:

  • All children deserve an #actofhumanity. Battle stigma facing refugees and migrants:

The @UNICEF Twitter banner graphic was replaced with one reflecting the #ActofHumanity campaign and is also the banner graphic for this article.

Other tweets sent by various arms of the United Nations and its partners have been retweeted hundreds of times.  A representative sample includes the following tweets:

  • All children deserve an #actofhumanity. Battle stigma facing refugees and migrants:, UNICEF (@UNICEF), 3/29/16, 3:05 AM.
  • UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees), 3/29/16, 6:16 PM, We call on governments to be part of finding solutions for Syrian refugees
  • UN Geneva (@UNGeneva), 3/30/16, 10:32 AM, Ban Ki-moon’s statement to the @Refugees Global Responsibility Sharing Conference –
  • UN News Centre (@UN_News_Centre), 3/30/16, 4:02 PM, More ‘equitable’ responsibility-sharing needed to relieve plight of Syrian refugees – @UN
  • UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees), 3/30/16, 5:13 PM, A clear message from @RefugeesChief at today’s conference on solutions for Syrian refugees
  • Voices of Youth (@voicesofyouth), 3/30/16, 6:17 PM, We have the power to change things. Fight stigma about refugees with an #actofhumanity:
  • CtrChildImmigrants (@KidsImmigration), 3/30/16, 7:05 PM, Great thoughts from @UNICEF on the refugee and migrant crisis: #InvestInKids
  • United Nations (@UN), 3/30/16, 9:05 PM, Attempts to demonize refugees are not only offensive; they are factually incorrect.
  • World Food Programme (@WFP), 3/31/16, 10:35 AM, The world is facing the biggest refugee and migrant crisis since WW2. Children need an #actofhumanity via @UNICEF
  • UN Spokesperson (@UN_Spokesperson), 3/31/16, 7:05 PM, Ask your leader to commit to #ShareHumanity at May’s @WHSummit. This is how:

The “Unfairy Tales” can be downloaded here at

UNICEF’s Act of Humanity media campaign, when read in conjunction with formal press releases, implies that the agreement between the European Union and Turkey may constitute a crime against humanity in violation of the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and the International Declaration of Human Rights.

“UNHCR is not a party to the EU-Turkey deal, nor will we be involved in returns or detention,” stated a UNHCR press release[ii].

Under the agreement, for every Syrian refugee Greece accepts into the European Union, one refugee would be returned to Turkey[iii].  Under international law, Turkey has not been designated a “safe third country” or a “safe first country of asylum” based on its failure to adhere to Rule of Law, including the commission of well-known human rights violations involving repression of the press, and the persecution of Kurds in Turkey and the bombing of Kurds in Syria.

The agreement requires legislation to be enacted by both Greece and Turkey.  There is concern that Turkey will not timely enact appropriate legislation or that any legislation passed would exclude non-Syrian refugees. The bill introduced in Greece failed to name Turkey as a “safe third country”.  Cognizant of negative criminal ramifications, Greece previously sought concurrence from its European Union partners at an EU-Turkey summit several weeks ago by requesting the EU collectively declare Turkey a “safe third country”.  Several EU member states refused.

“I am deeply concerned about any arrangement that would involve the blanket return of anyone from one country to another without spelling out the refugee protection safeguards under international law,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told the European Parliament[iv].

There is also concern that about a lack of safeguards preventing Turkey from engaging in refoulement, or forced return[v].  According to a report released today by Amnesty International, Turkey has been illegally forcing 100 Syrian refugees every day to return to Syria, with the total numbering in the thousands sparking concern as to Turkey’s intentions under the agreement with Greece and the EU[vi].

In addition, the UNHCR stated that Greece lacks sufficient capacity on the islands for assessing asylum claims, and a lack of decent and safe accommodations for asylum seekers pending examination of their cases[vii].  “People determined to be needing international protection should be able to enjoy asylum, without discrimination, in accordance with accepted international standards, including effective access to work, health care, education for children, and, as necessary, social assistance[viii].”

For that reason, the UNHCR has stated that the agreement is one of detention impacting children who constitute one third of those seeking refuge, the UNHCR has withdrawn its logo and aid workers from Greece[ix].

Going forward, UNHCR will focus on protection monitoring to ensure that refugee and human rights standards are upheld, and provide information on the rights and procedures to seek asylum.  NGOs are following suit.

United Nations agencies, including the UNHCR, and humanitarian aid organizations have criticized the deal as violating EU law and international law.  Condemnation issued from Doctors Without Borders, who characterized the agreement as “cynical and inhumane”, and from Amnesty International[x].

Perhaps foretelling the future, six months ago, on October 31, 2015, with countries closing off borders to the 60 million people having been displaced as a result of armed conflict, a joint statement issued by Union Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and International Committee of the Red Cross President Peter Mauer called on states to:

■   rein in armed groups and hold them accountable for abuses, and stop the use of heavy weapons in populated areas;

■   protect and assist displaced people fleeing insecurity, and help to find long-term solutions;

■   ensure unhindered access to medical and humanitarian missions;

■   condemn those who violate international humanitarian law; and

■   redouble efforts to find sustainable solutions to conflicts[xi] (Emphasis Added).

Condemnation is commonly defined as censure, to pronounce guilty, punishment and sentencing.  Their statement contained a less than veiled hint that crimes against humanity were already being committed in violation of international human rights law.

Call to Action

While you may not be a policy maker, chances are you live in a country where you have the right to vote for your leaders.  By participating in UNICEF’s “act of humanity” campaign, you are choosing to send a powerful message, not only to your leaders, but also to those countries your own country has partnerships and alliances.  Ourleaders do follow social media.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is a journalist, holding degrees in journalism, law, and psychology. As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking understanding that everything and everyone is subject to change given the right circumstances; Standard Theory or Theory of Everything.  Living in Den Hague or The Hague, she is currently looking for a challenging position in foreign policy, journalism, or social justice.


[i] “UNICEF launches “Unfairy Tales” of refugee and migrant children”, March 29, 2016, UNICEF, UN Doc, as found on the www

[ii] “UN refugee agency redefines role in Greece as EU-Turkey deal comes into effect”, March 22, 2016, UN News Center, as found on the www at

[iii] “Greece, Turkey take legal short-cuts in race to return migrants”, March 31, 2016, Reuters News, as found on the www at

[iv] Baczynska, Gabriela, and Nebehay, Stephanie, “U.N., rights groups say EU-Turkey migrant deal may be illegal”, March 9, 2016, Reuters News, as found on the www at

[v] “‘Refugees need protection, not rejection,’ UN says in wake of EU-Turkey deal”, March 18, 2016, UN News Center, as found on the www at

[vi] “Turkey ‘illegally returning Syrian refugees’ – Amnesty”, April 1, 2016, BBC News, as found on the www at

[vii] “UN refugee agency redefines role in Greece as EU-Turkey deal comes into effect”, Infra Endnote ii.

[viii] “‘Refugees need protection, not rejection,’ UN says in wake of EU-Turkey deal”, Infra Endnote v.

[ix] Id.

[x] Baczynska, Gabriela, and Nebehay, Stephanie, Infra Endnote iv.

[xi] “UN and Red Cross scold world leaders over ‘conflict paralysis'”, October 31, 2015, BBC News, as found on the www at   See also Lardner, Cynthia, “Closing Borders:  A Crime Against Humanity”, November 2, 2015, as found on the www at;;; and


Cold War: The Chill is On


The concept of the Cold War is one which most of us only have a vague memory.  It was 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell and CNN went live on cable television.  The truth is before that, for most of us, in depth international news coverage about foreign affairs was nonexistent.  What some of us may remember are the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, backyard bunkers, and school drills where children were coached to get under their desks in the event of a nuclear attack.

This article explores the Cold War Era and questions whether, in light of current events, whether it ever ended.


In April 1945, during the height of the World War II, during which between 65 and 85 million lives were lost, American and United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR or Soviet Union) troops joined forces to defeat Adolf Hitler’s Germany. This was the first and only time that United States and either the USSR or modern day Russia have aligned with one another in an armed conflict.

As soon as World War II ended, the West and the USSR redefined the European boundaries between them as if they were the spoils of war. Thereafter, the Cold War began.

A cold war is characterized by a lack of trusting and translucent diplomatic relations, the use of propaganda, possession of arms sufficient to obliterate the other, and the use of proxy wars.

A proxy war is fought in other countries and is typically, but not always, characterized by one country covertly assisting a government or rebel group in another country based on the hope that its own ideology will be advanced[i].

History of the Cold War

The roots of the Cold War predate World War Two.  What follows are a few of the relevant events.

In 1867 the U.S. purchased Alaska, starting a downward trend in diplomatic relations with Imperial Russia.

In 1917 the Bolshevik Revolution, led by Vladimir Lenin and Alexander Bogdanov, began.  It was then that communist ideology emerged.  The Imperial Russian Empire officially ended in 1917.  By 1919, Lenin and Bogdanov had ‘declared war’ on the rest of world. In 1922, the USSR formalized a system of centralized Communist government. Fear inspiring terms like “the Reds are coming” and the “Red Revolution” were commonplace.

In the 1920s the U.S. was sympathetic to Japan sending troops to counter the Bolshevik Revolution in the Soviet Union’s Far East. Just years earlier, Japan was victorious over Imperial Russia, the predecessor state of the Soviet Union, in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05.

All historians agree that the Cold War began in 1946[ii].  Several events occurring in rapid succession signified its inception[iii].

The first was the unexpected death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in April 1945 who, even though there were post-war tensions, strived to maintain a positive relationship with the Soviet Union, while recognizing that the Soviet’s ruled over Eastern Europe.  He was succeeded by then Vice President Harry Truman whose foreign policy initiatives were much more conservative.

The second event occurred nine months later, when the radical differences between the West and the Soviet Union were marked by three ideological manifestos[iv]:

  1. The “Long Telegram” sent on February 22, 1946 by George F. Kennan, the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, stating that the Soviet Union would remain a foe, based not only on ideological differences but on its expansionist policies. An advocate of the Cold War, Keenan described the Soviet Union as a fanatical political force requiring a policy of containment.
  2. Joseph Stalin’s March 1946 reelection speech in which he spoke of communist ideology; characterized by the use of terror and violence against the middle class bourgeoisie, collectivization of agriculture and industry, and a centralized government. In that speech, Stalin downplayed the West’s significance in ending World War Two, offending the West.
  3. On March 5, 1946 former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill condemned the Soviet Union’s policies in Europe, and by declaring that, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent,” he confirmed a Cold War.

Third was the spring 1947 Marshall Plan which made American dollars available to not only restore Eastern Europe to its prewar state but to stimulate Western economic growth.  The Marshall Plan assumed that U.S. dollars would ultimately return to the U.S through the purchase of American goods.

Fourth was the 1949 creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which, as discussed further below, has, to this day, proven an impediment to warmer relations between both the USSR and its successor, the Russian Federation, and NATO’s 28 member states and affiliates nations[v].

Fifth was the January 21, 1958 inception of the 28 member European Union.

Sixth the construction of the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961 stood as tangible evidence of the impregnable wall between the two sides.

In sum, the USSR was communist and there was nothing the Western world feared more than the spread of communism[vi].

The Role of Nuclear Weapons

One other earlier event is considered significant; the August 6, 1945 dropping of the atomic bomb by the U.S. on Hiroshima, which Stalin perceived as threatening. While initially U.S. nuclear capabilities well-exceeded extended that of the Soviets; Soviet nuclear capability was more than sufficient to cause mass distraction in the West.

Thus, a key driver of the Cold War Era was that both superpowers knew that the other would not employ its nuclear capabilities. This is known as the Doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), whereby neither country engages in direct military confrontation with the other. Rather, aggressions are taken out in proxy wars staged in other less powerful countries[vii].

The First Proxy Wars

Between 1945 through 1989 the proxy wars that were fought were based on the basic ideological differences that defined the geopolitics of the day[viii].

The first Cold War proxy war was the 1950 Korean War, in which the Soviets enlisted China’s help.  While the United States prevailed in the four war, which ended in 1953, it came with a hefty price of over four million casualties.

The Vietnam War, also known as the Resistance War Against America, started in 1955 and lasted until April 1975. It too was a proxy war. Fought in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, it was a massive loss for the U.S. in terms of both casualties and morale. Estimates of the number of troops and civilians killed varies from 1.3 million to 3.7 million; with 58,200 U.S. troops killed and another 1,626 missing in action.

A Shift in Foreign Policy

President Nixon, with Henry Kissinger as his Secretary of State, inherited the Vietnam War. They wanted to “…demonstrate to the American public that we were very adamant that we were serious and that we had a concept of peace and international order[ix].”

Nixon advocated for a system of a gradual process in foreign policy rather than seeing each situation as definable and subject to a solution.

In the early 1970s Nixon became the first president to visit the Eastern Bloc countries, such as Poland, Romania and Czechoslovakia, in an effort to weaken the Soviet Union’s influence.

The first major shift in American foreign policy towards a communist country occurred in 1972 when Nixon and Kissinger flew to Beijing, China to meet with Chairman Mao, where they secured a détente[x].

Fearing the possibility of a Sino-American alliance, the Soviet Union soon yielded to a U.S. détente.

Together, Nixon and Kissinger forever changed the face of foreign policy by opening the door to relaxed diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, the Eastern Bloc, China and other countries.

The Reagan Administration, 1981-1989, called the “Reagan Revolution”, was based on a political realignment towards more conservative domestic and foreign policy.  President Ronald Reagan’s administration was outwardly anti-communist. It proactively sought the demise of the communist regimes in the USSR and its satellite countries.

On the defense side, developing a missile defense system to prevent a preemptive strike was a priority. Instead of “shoot first, die second” the priority was now “shoot first, die first”[xi].

When MAD lost its domestic credibility, the Reagan Administration promised to work toward Mutual Assured Security (MAS), a condition in which neither party has the intention or capability to exercise a unilateral advantage over the other[xii].

Reagan ultimately negotiated with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev a substantial reduction in worldwide nuclear armaments[xiii].

But, overall, according to Kissinger, “Reagan felt the situation with the Soviets was hopeless[xiv]”.

The Classical View that the Cold War Ended

Some historians agree that the Cold War ended on November 9, 1989 when the Berlin Wall crumbled, while others say it occurred on December 26, 1991, at the beginning of the President George H.W. Bush’s administration, when the USSR collapsed signifying the end of communist rule.

In 1991 the USSR began dissolving into the Russian Federation (Russia) as each of its republics, except Kazakhstan, declared their independence, with the final blow being the loss of the Ukraine on December 1, 1991.  The Ukraine was significant because it ended any possibility of the Soviet Union surviving. On December 25, 1991 Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as President of the USSR, declaring the office “extinct”.  He was succeeded by President Boris Yeltsin.

“I think gradually the Soviets became aware of the unworkability of their system”, stated former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in response to the question of what brought about the end of the Cold War. He went on to say that, “I think they [the Soviets] were exhausted by the Cold War[xv].”

In March 1992 the U.S. Department of Defense released its Defense Planning Guidelines, which initially stated:

Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This… Requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile how are from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power. These regions include Western Europe, East Asia, the territory of the former Soviet Union, and southwest Asia.

While the language was subsequently softened, subsequent foreign policy reflected the original draft’s underlying intention.

The Ukraine and Crimea

If the Cold War was over, the crisis in the Ukraine was a tipping point towards a great chill in diplomatic relations between Russia and the West.   Even though the Ukraine had voted to become an independent state, Russia has always behaved as if the Ukraine were still under its control.

The internationally recognised Ukrainian territory of Crimea acceded to the Russian Federation by a treaty signed by Crimea and Russia on March 18, 2014 leading to a termination of diplomatic ties between the Russia and the Ukraine.

The Ukraine and the West condemned this action as a violation of international law and the 1994 Budapest Agreement Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its destabilization of the Eastern Ukraine resulted in NATO suspending all civilian and military cooperation with Russia, while simultaneously stating that political dialogue would continue[xvi].

Fighting broke out in April 2014 in the Donbass region of the Ukraine.  On September 5, 2014 the Minsk Protocol was signed by the Ukraine, the Russian Federation, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic halting the fighting[xvii].

Russia has never honored the Minsk Protocol[xviii], with military skirmishes ongoing despite any number of ceasefire agreements[xix].

The Response by NATO and the West

Russia was suspended from the Group of Eight or G8, comprised of world’s seven of the world’s wealthiest nations and the European Union, and subjected to the imposition of economic sanctions, toppling the ruble[xx].

Dmitry Simes, a foreign policy analyst, stated that, “The economic sanctions imposed on Russia causing the decline of the ruble “…has Russia looking for scapegoats”[xxi].”

Additionally, the Ukraine’s request to accede to NATO in 2010 and 2014 were interpreted as a sign of open hostility towards Russia[xxii].  While the Ukraine has yet to accede the NATO, since 1994 it has been a NATO alliance partner, a relationship that, after 2015, was extended by NATO throughout the Baltic States[xxiii].  NATO’s involvement in the Ukraine and adjoining regions further strained relations between Russia and the West.

In 2012, the Ukraine requested member state status in the European Union.  While not a member to date, the European Union opened trade with the Ukraine.

In March 2014 Russian President Vladimir Putin stated “In short, we have every reason to assume that the infamous [Western] policy of containment, led in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, continues today[xxiv].”

On November 10, 2014 Kissinger gave a “…chilling assessment of a new geopolitical situation taking shape amid the Ukrainian crisis, warning of a possible new Cold War and calling the West’s approach to the crisis a “fatal mistake.””

Kissinger said that the imposition of sanctions against Russia was “counterproductive.”

He characterized the tense relations between the West and Russia as exhibiting the danger of becoming “…another Cold War. This danger does exist and we can’t ignore it,” warning “…that ignoring this danger any further may result in a “tragedy”.”

Explaining that Ukraine has always had a “special significance” for Russia, he said that the West’s failure to acknowledge that relationship “was a fatal mistake”.

Kissinger went on to state that, “At the same time, I do not want to say that the Russian response was proportionate [xxv].”

Kissinger’s opinion was that the growing tensions should have brought about greater diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis.

Those diplomatic efforts should have been based on the doctrine of MAS, but as one analyst noted, conditions never favored its full adaptation:

The problem with the U.S. position is that Russia is not confident that conditions for strategic stability are met, and therefore they are not. Since strategic stability is a condition in which both parties are confident that each retains a secure retaliatory capability, if either is not confident, the equation is at risk. To put it another way, it does not help in a crisis.  If the United States is confident that no military strike could put Russia’s ability to retaliate at risk if Russia believes that it would have to preempt for survival.  Because Russian analysts take this seriously, U.S. policy needs to take this seriously[xxvi].

In March 2015 Russia withdrew from the Joint Consultative Group on the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, a cornerstone of the post-Cold War MAS security system, which set limits for the deployment of major weapons systems and heavy military equipment[xxvii].

According to a January 2016 Rand[xxviii] report, China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and ISIS are “…potential foes primed to test U.S. partnerships[xxix].”  The U.S. should have been more proactive in working with its most-vulnerable partners to coordinate crisis management thereby minimizing the risk of unwanted escalation of incidents.

The Middle East and Southwest Asia

The Middle East and Southwest Asia were important because they were and are oil rich regions. The earliest development in the Middle East occurred when the U.S. and the European Union aligned with Israel, upon recognition of statehood in 1947; becoming one of only two Arab states to align with the West[xxx].

This foreign policy was the impetus for the other Arab nations to largely align with Russia, after which time the price of oil available to Western countries was radically increased, causing inflation and stagnation.

It was at this point in time, that terrorist groups and a generalized distrust of Islam entered the international picture, creating a whole new level of security concerns[xxxi].

“At the beginning of the Cold War, the threat was a global Communist movement led by a nuclear-armed Soviet Union; today it is a global jihadist movement striking against the West with acts of mass-casualty terrorism. In both cases, policymakers recognized that the United States and its allies were engaged in an ideological conflict that had to be contested across diplomatic, economic, military and psychological dimensions,” said Angel Rabasa, a RAND senior policy analyst, in a 2007 Rand report.

“The drafters [of the Defense Planning Guidelines] “…ignored the Islamist extremism that had been growing since the 1970s and (like almost everyone else) were blindsided by the September 11, 2011, attacks on the United States[xxxii].”

As broad parallels exist between the Cold War environment and the tensions in today’s Muslim world, the West should have learned from the way it addressed the Cold War spread of Communism.  The United States, as well as other Western countries, had a vital role to play in understanding, not undermining, moderate Muslims, who were and are too often over-shadowed by the violent radical Islamists.

A global fear of terrorism and Islam peaked in the period directly following the September 11, 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center.

This set the stage for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. There were actually two wars in Afghanistan.  The first one, the Afghan Civil War, extended from 1996 to 2001, and was a quintessential battle between communism and democracy.  The December 1979 entry of the Soviet Union into Afghanistan prompted its Cold War rivals, the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and China, to support the rebels fighting the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.

Osama Bin Laden founded al-Qaeda in the late 1980s to support the mujahideen’s war against the Soviets. Bin Laden arrived in Afghanistan in 1996 just prior to al-Qaeda’s 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan.  U.S. Special Forces, until the direction of the Central Intelligence Agency, then entered Afghanistan.  The Taliban and al-Qaeda had become a common enemy of both the U.S. and Russia[xxxiii].

The next phase of the war in Afghanistan occurred directly after 9.11. This ‘war on terrorism’ was the longest war waged in U.S. history:  13 years. NATO entered this war in August 2003, after which time it took control of international forces and a portion of U.S. troops.  Withdrawal of all troops occurred by December 28, 2014.

The Syrian War                                 

The Syrian War, which has been ongoing for six years today, is another proxy war[xxxiv].  Originally, this war started in opposition to the continued governance of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The situation escalated when the radicalized terrorists, going under the acronyms IS, ISIS, ISIL and Daesh, under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, not only entered into the conflict, but aligned with groups not even sharing its ideology and made the former progressive city of Raqqa it’s second capital outside of Iraq.  Factions involved are well in excess one hundred.

In 2015, both Turkey and Russia entered the Syrian War. Turkey, on July 24, 2015, under pressure from American led coalition forces, joined the coalition[xxxv]. It granted the U.S. access to a Turkish military airport.  Turkey, however, has had its own Syrian agenda.  It hopes to prevent the Kurds in northern Syria, along the Turkish border, who are the only ground forces acting in concert with coalition forces[xxxvi], from creating a separate state,  causing conflict between Turkey and the coalition forces[xxxvii].

Russia, second only to the U.S. in the sale of weapons, had for many years been bolstering its relationship with Syria, Iraq and Iran.  Russian President Vladimir Putin had forged a personal relationship with al-Assad, providing diplomatic and military support[xxxviii].  Thus, it was no surprise that, when Russia officially entered the Syrian War in September 2015, it did so without joining the coalition forces and without operating in concert with them, creating another proxy war.

Russia launched airstrikes conflicting with the coalition forces’ strategy, including in areas where civilians and hospitals are located; killing 4,408 people including 1,733 civilians[xxxix].  Many of these airstrikes have been in the area just outside of that controlled by the Kurds, driving more Syrians toward the Turkish border.

The Russian propaganda machine shifted from its Cold War tactic of promoting communism to generating a fear of the Islamic populations. In the last few months, Putin has gone so far as to make several negative statements about Islam[xl].

In November 2015, a Turkish missile shot down a Russian fighter jet that had momentarily entered into its airspace.  As Turkey is a NATO member, NATO officials spoke out against any increase in tensions between the two countries.  This could only have irritated Putin. This series of events fueled tensions between the Turkey and Russia, in effect, creating a separate proxy war between them.

Russia’s strategy towards the West extends well beyond Syrian or even Turkish borders.  Russia’s military action in Syria have deliberately escalated the refugee crisis to the extent that the European Union is no longer able to process the influx of refugees causing dissension amongst its member nations.

The Munich Security Conference and its Aftermath

Speaking at the March 2016 Munich Security Conference, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev cited several valid concerns about the state of diplomacy.  “[W]e need to launch an intensive dialogue on the future architecture of Euro-Atlantic security, global stability and regional threats more than ever before. I consider it unacceptable that this dialogue has almost ceased in many spheres. The problem of miscommunication has been widely recognised both in Western Europe and in Russia. The mechanisms that allowed us to promptly settle mutual concerns have been cut off. Moreover, we’ve lost our grasp of the culture of mutual arms control, which we used for a long time as the basis for strengthening mutual trust[xli].”

The issue of Russia honoring the Minsk Protocol was raised by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and by General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander[xlii].

This started a volley of statements by various parties.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated that “Russia’s rhetoric, posture, and exercises of its nuclear forces are aimed at intimidating its neighbors, undermining trust and stability in Europe[xliii].”

Medvedev replied by stating that with respect to the Ukraine, “NATO’s policy with regard to Russia has remained unfriendly and opaque. One could go as far as to say that we have slid back to a new Cold War[xliv].”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg responding by stating that he did not believe there was “a cold-war situation[xlv]” but that NATO[xlvi] would respond to any threats by Russia.”

Breedlove emphatically stated that, “We at NATO do not want to see a Cold War.  We do not talk about it. It’s not what we want to happen or anticipate to happen… We’re a defensive alliance who are arraying ourselves to face a challenge … [from] a nation that has once again decided it will use force to change internationally recognized borders and so we take those appropriate actions to be able to assure, defend and deter.”

Medvedev went one step further, stating that the strained relationship between Russia and the West is “a new Cold War.”

“The question of war and peace has returned to the continent. We had thought that peace had returned to Europe for good,” stated German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Medvedev concluded by stating, “Creating trust is hard … but we have to start. Our positions differ, but they do not differ as much as 40 years ago when a wall was standing in Europe[xlvii].”

Several days later, Lieutenant General James L. Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that, “I think the Russians fundamentally are paranoid about NATO. We could be into another Cold War-like spiral here[xlviii].”

The Ceasefire

Despite the differences, primarily concerning whether al-Assad would continue as President, a Syrian ceasefire agreement was negotiated at the Munich Security Conference to commence on Friday, February 26, 2016. The ceasefire was agreed to allow the parties additional time to reconvene as there is universal agreement that the Syrian War cannot be resolved by military intervention[xlix] and to allow humanitarian aid workers access to those in Syria lacking food, water and medical care.

During the first week of the ceasefire, Russia did not refrain from airstrikes and, although there were considerably less, they increased the number of Syrians displaced from their homes[l].

Breedlove said Russia and Syria were “deliberately weaponising migration in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve[li]“.

Over the last two years the situation has rapidly evolved into an unfathomable humanitarian crisis as a full one half of all Syrians have fled their homes hoping to seek political asylum in Europe. The number of refugees in 2015 was 1,255,600, double that of 2014[lii].

At first, the European Union was able to accommodate the refugees.  But, with the 2016 numbers showing no slowdown, tensions have mounted amongst the European Union members as to where the refugees ought to be relocated, whether borders can be closed[liii], and who’s to bear the cost.  It is the worst humanitarian crisis the European Union has faced since World War II[liv].

Tensions heightened after the Munich Security Conference when Turkey announced that was refusing to allow additional refugees to cross its border until such time as it is granted funding above the 3 billion dollars originally promised by the European Union, accession into the European Union, and recognition for its citizens for visa free travel within the Schengen region[lv].

The situation only escalates from there as many European Union members, who are also NATO allies, are now at odds with one another[lvi].  During first week of March, Greece recalled its ambassador from Austria. Turkey is threatening to let the refugees pass through on their way to Greece.  Members are building fences to keep refugees from crossing into their countries, other members are leaving their borders open to allow refugees passage to more affluent European countries, and still other member are refusing to honor quotas set by the European Union.

This has fueled talks amongst the European Union members who are striving to find accord amongst themselves[lvii].  Those talks make no provisions for Syrians who have yet to cross into Europe.  As of today, tens of thousands of refugees are living in horrific conditions in Syria just outside the border with Turkey.

The Geneva Talks and Russian Withdrawal

Two days before talks were set to resume in Geneva, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem ruled out any discussion of presidential elections[lviii].

This was followed by Putin’s unexpected March 14, 2016 announcement that Russia had achieved its military objectives in Syria and that it would be withdrawing an unspecified number of troops, while leaving its air and naval bases in Syria open to insure “aviation safety”[lix].  Putin stated that this action by no means diminished his support for al-Assad’s regime, signifying that Russia believed it had successfully assured that al-Assad would remain in power[lx], calling into question whether the peace talks would achieve their objective.

Salim al-Muslat, spokesman for the rebel high negotiations committee, responded by stating that “The political transition process has to be without Assad. You do not want to keep a murderer who has killed half a million people and destroyed a country. There is no place for Assad in Syria. He is not acceptable to the Syrian people… [stressing that Assad] “…could not be a member of any transitional governing body[lxi]”.

Responses from around the world, including Washington and Iran, questioned Putin’s motives in withdrawing troops from Syria[lxii].

“We will have to wait and see what this represents. It is Putin. He has announced similar concessions in the past and nothing materialised,” stated an unnamed diplomat attending the Geneva talks[lxiii].

The United Nations Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, described the ongoing Geneva peace talks as a “moment of truth”, warning that exists no “plan B” if the talks fail. The only alternative being a return to war[lxiv].

The Bigger Picture

Should an agreement not be brokered in Geneva, one must consider the effect on the West, especially within the European Union, which is stands divided over the refugee crisis.

Meanwhile, Russia-backed separatists began one their biggest Ukrainian offenses in February, concurrent with Putin’s agreement to participate in the ceasefire negotiations[lxv]. Related issues exist following the Ukraine, Georgia and Montenegro’s[lxvi] requests to accede to NATO[lxvii] as full member nations and NATO’s expansion into the Baltic region.

This is nothing more than the Russian’s revenge for its perception that it has not been fully acknowledged as a superpower in geopolitics, and most recently for the West’s role in the Ukraine[lxviii].

“I see parallels between Putin and almost any tsar I can think of…He reacts in a manner that Peter the Great would have understood,” stated Kissinger[lxix].

Despite a devastating financial crisis and an outdated military, calling into question whether it is still a superpower, Russia has strategically maneuvered itself as a disruptive player in the world of geopolitics starting another or, perhaps, even continuing the Cold War[lxx].

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner holds a journalism degree, she is an attorney, and has trained as a therapist. As a thought leader, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking understanding that everything and everyone is subject to change given the right circumstances; Standard Theory or Theory of Everything.

Having relocated to Den Hague or The Hague, she is currently seeking a challenging position that will fully utilize her collective skill set.  She is particularly interested in foreign policy and social justice.


[i] Borghard, Erica, “Proxy war can have dangerous consequences”, July 25, 2014, Washington Post, as found on the www at  (“Proxy alliances typically involve the provision of money, arms, materiel and/or training by states to non-state groups in exchange for the latter fighting on behalf of the former’s interests. These alliances are particularly appealing to states because they are informal, covert, and operate in the shadows of the international system. This allows states to plausibly deny involvement in conflicts where the political or material costs of more direct intervention are perceived to be exceedingly high. Historically, a wide range of states — democratic and autocratic; more and less powerful — have formed proxy alliances and engaged in proxy warfare.”) (Erica D. Borghard is an assistant professor and director of the Grand Strategy Program at the United States Military Academy at West Point.).

[ii] See gen Naranjo, Roberto, “Historical analysis of the Cold War”, Ohio State University, as found on the www at

[iii] “From Coalition to Rivalry: The Soviet Union and United States at the Beginning of the Cold War”, November 4, 2014, Council on Foreign Relations, as found on the www at

[iv] Id.

[v] “Russia and Afghanistan”, Institute for the Study of War, as found on the www at

[vi] The most noteworthy example of the fear evoked in Americans can be no better illustrated than by the 1950s McCartney Era.

[vii] “Henry A. Kissinger Looks Back on the Cold War”, November 12, 2014, Council for Foreign Affairs, as found on the www at (In the opinion of Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had there not been nuclear capabilities, the two countries would more likely than not have engaged in a conventional war between the two countries.).

[viii] There were many lessor known proxy wars; many of which were based on guerrilla warfare.  The U.S. prevailed over the Soviet Union in proxy wars fought in the Philippines, Indochina and Malaya.  Other proxies during that time period were won by the Soviet Union in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Other incidents in which a conflict was averted were the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis during the President Robert F. Kennedy administration.

[ix] “Henry A. Kissinger Looks Back on the Cold War”, Infra Endnote vii.

[x] This opened the door to an economic relationship between China and the West; with China joining the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.  It also served as a guarantee that China would never again join ranks with the Soviets; such as it did during the Korean War. The long term impact of a rapidly growing Chinese economy is discussed in the following paper:  insert my AIIB

[xi] This is the reason why the North Korean missile launch in February was and is so significant. See Fifield, Anna, “North Korea says it can fit nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles”, March 8, 2016, Washington Post, as found on the www at (“North Korea has been able to make its nuclear warheads small enough to fit onto ballistic missiles, the state media claimed Wednesday in Pyongyang’s latest boast about improvements in its weapons capabilities.”).

[xii] Wallander, Celeste, “Mutually Assured Stability: Establishing US-Russia Security Relations for a New Century”, July 29, 2013, Atlantic Council, as found on the www at citing

[xiii] The Treaty on Open Skies, United States Department of State, as found on the www at (“The Treaty on Open Skies [signed on January 1, 2002} establishes a regime of unarmed aerial observation flights over the territories of its signatories. The Treaty is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information through aerial imaging on military forces and activities of concern to them. Open Skies is one of the most wide-ranging international arms control efforts to date to promote openness and transparency in military forces and activities.”).

[xiv]  “Henry A. Kissinger Looks Back on the Cold War”, Infra Endnote No. vii.

[xv] Id.

[xvi] Masters, Jonathan, “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)”, February 17, 2016, Council on Foreign Relations, as found on the www at“Moscow has viewed NATO’s post–Cold War expansion into Central and Eastern Europe with great concern. (As of 2016, twelve Partnership for Peace members have joined NATO.) Many current and former Russian leaders believe the alliance’s inroads into the former Soviet sphere are a betrayal of alleged guarantees to not expand eastward after German reunification in 1990—although some U.S. officials involved in these discussions dispute this pledge.”).

[xvii] This followed a five day 2008 skirmish in Georgia.

[xviii] Sanchez, Roy, “Russian PM Medvedev equates relations with West to a ‘new Cold War'”, February 14, 2016, CNN News, as found on the www at“Referring to the conflict in the Ukraine, Kerry said earlier that Russia’s choice in the matter was simple: Either fully implement the Minsk agreement or face economically damaging sanctions.”).

[xix] “Ukraine crisis: NATO top general says truce ‘in name only'”, September 21, 2014, BBC News, as found on the www at  (“NATO Supreme Commander General Phillip Breedlove said the ceasefire between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists currently exists “in name only”…. NATO has plans to bolster its military presence in countries bordering Russia, including the Baltic states, which used to be part of the Soviet bloc.”).

[xx] Masters, Jonathan, “The Russian Military”, September 28, 2016, Council on Foreign Relations, as found on the www at

[xxi] “U.S. Policy Toward Russia”, April 8, 2009, Center for Foreign Relations, as found on the www at Greenberg, a member of The Commission on U.S. Policy toward Russia, said “I think for the first time in many years we can have a constructive relationship with Russia. Part of the problem, I think, is that those in the west keep on thinking that Russia is the Soviet Union and those in the Soviet Union keep thinking that they’re in the Soviet Union. I think it’s important that we get that straight and that they get that straight. It could make a big difference.”).

[xxii] Sharkov, Damien, “UKRAINE TO STAY OUT OF EU AND NATO FOR 20 YEARS, SAYS JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER”, March 4, 2016, Newsweek, as found on the www at (“Fighting with Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine has bled into a low-intensity war inside Ukraine, NATO has been helping Kiev’s military adopt Western standards. But the help has not extended to providing combat support.”).

[xxiii] Progress on either request was shelved until February 2014, following a change in the Ukraine’s government resulting in greater adherence to rule of law and democratic values.

[xxiv] Masters, Jonathan, “The Russian Military”, Infra Endnote No. xx.

[xxv] “Kissinger warns of West’s ‘fatal mistake’ that may lead to new Cold War”, November 10, 2014, Reuters News, as found on the www at also Zeese, Kevin, “Chomsky And Kissinger Agree: Avoid Historic Tragedy In Ukraine”, February 14, 2014, Mint Press News, as found on the www at (““A threatening situation” Chomsky has described Ukraine as a “crisis [that] is serious and threatening,” further noting that some people compare it to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. In discussing Russia and Crimea he reminds readers that, “Crimea is historically Russian; it has Russia’s only warm-water port, the home of Russia’s fleet; and has enormous strategic significance.” Kissinger agrees.”).  See gen Borghard, Erica, Infra Endnote No. i.

[xxvi] Wallander, Celeste, Infra Endnote No.  xii.

[xxvii] Masters, Jonathan, “The Russian Military”, Infra Endnote No. xx.

[xxviii] Rand is a U.S. Department of Defense funded think tank.

[xxix] “United States Needs a Collaborative Approach to Manage Its Adversaries and Strengthen Partnerships Abroad” January 5, 2016, Rand Corp, as found on the www at via @RANDCorporation (““The United States now faces at least five potential adversaries at a time when defense budgets are declining,” said Hans Binnendijk, the report’s author and an adjunct political scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “To meet these challenges, the United States will need to defeat ISIS, deter North Korea, dissuade Russia, constrain Iran and engage China. The question now is how to do all this in the context of the United States’ changing global partnerships. A new strategic approach is needed.”).

[xxx] The other non-NATO Arab state to align with the West was Egypt.

[xxxi] See gen “Corporatized Terrorism”, (“ISIS Gone Corporate”), Game of Thrones, January 17, 2014, as found on the www at,; and

[xxxii] Morris, Ian, “Why the West Rules – For Now”, pg. 551, 2010, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York: New York.

[xxxiii] “Russia and Afghanistan”, Institute for the Study of War, as found on the www at  (“Moscow fears the rise of Islamic extremism among Russia’s substantial Muslim population, in addition to separatist movements among certain ethnic groups, particularly the Chechens.  The Kremlin views these forces as a severe threat to the state, and thus it willingly supported the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban—a movement which had provided aid to these groups.  Moscow has also used its participation in America’s “War on Terror” as an excuse for heavy-handedness in its crackdown on Islamist and separatist movements in Chechnya and elsewhere.

Outside its borders, Russia is concerned about the growth of Islamism and terrorism in its traditional sphere of influence or “near abroad”—the Balkans, the Caucasus, and Central Asia.  Many militants from these areas have significant ties to the Taliban, al-Qaeda, or other groups in Afghanistan, and therefore Russia does not want to see a Taliban comeback in Kabul or a failed state emerge in Afghanistan.  While the Kremlin may disapprove of NATO’s presence along its southern frontier, it does not want to see Afghanistan become a safe haven for a separatist, terrorist, or Islamist forces.”).

[xxxiv] Beehner, Lionel, “How Proxy Wars Work, And What That Means for Ending the Conflict in Syria, November 12, 2015, Foreign Affairs, Reuters News, as found on the www at

[xxxv] Lardner, Cynthia, “As Tensions Mount: Türkiye”, February 28, 2016, as found on the www at

[xxxvi] “Syria conflict: Turkey shells Kurdish militia”, February 14, 2016, BBC News, as found on the www at (“The US has so far ruled out a ground invasion of Syria, while Moscow has warned against such a development, saying it could lead to a world war.”).

[xxxvii] “Syrian Kurdish YPG Turkish tanks shell its positions”, March 4, 2016, Reuters News, as found on the www at

[xxxviii] Masters, Jonathan, “The Russian Military”, Infra Endnote xx.

[xxxix] Wintour, Patrick and Walker, Shaun, Supra Endnote lx; “Syria conflict: Pressure grows on Russia over civilian bomb deaths”, February-3, 2016, BBC News, as found on the www at

[xl] Putin: Turkey ‘will regret’ downing Russian bomber in Syria, December 3, 2015, BBC News, as found on www at (On December 3, 2015, Mr. Putin stated, “…probably Allah alone knows why they did it.  And evidently Allah decided to punish the ruling clique in Turkey, by depriving it of any reason or logic.  Mr. Putin distinguished between the elite Turkish leadership and Russia’s “many longstanding and reliable friends in Turkey”.).

[xli] Medvedev, Dimitry, “Speech by Dmitry Medvedev at MSC 2016”, February 13, 2016, Voltaire, as found on the www at See also Sanchez, Roy, “Russian PM Medvedev equates relations with West to a ‘new Cold War'”, February 14, 2016, CNN News, as found on the www at; Rising, David, Russian PM: West is rekindling the Cold War, February 14, 2016,, as found on the www at; and Johnson, Chris, “Russia PM warns of ‘new cold war’ amid Syria accusations”, February 13, 2016, The Guardian, as found on the www

[xlii] “Russia has yet to fully implement Minsk deal on Ukraine: NATO official”, February 25, 2016, Reuters News, as found on the www at (“Ted Whiteside, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, said that Russia persists with efforts to undermine Ukraine’s political aspirations and has yet to live up to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.).  See also Grady, John, “Expert on NATO Calls for Permanent Alliance Military Presence in Baltics As Hedge Against Russia Military Action”, February 16, 2016, USNI News, as found on the www at  (An analyst on NATO policy called for the alliance to place a permanent military presence in the Baltic states to counter a more active Russian military.).

[xliii] Rising, David, Russian PM: West is rekindling the Cold War, February 14, 2016,, as found on the www at

[xliv] Medvedev, Dimitry, Infra Endnote xl.  See also Masters, Jonathan, “The Russian Military”, Infra Endnote No. xx. (“Russian leaders acknowledge that there is now little threat of a large-scale NATO land invasion—a top concern during the Cold War—but they repeatedly condemn the bloc’s eastward expansion, including its plans to roll out a ballistic missile defense shield across Europe.

Moscow also fears that Western powers are working covertly to undermine its interests in the region. Russian leaders believe the United States and its allies orchestrated the so-called color revolutions—a series of popular uprisings in former Soviet satellites in the early 2000s.”)

[xlv] “NATO chief on Syria, Russia and the migrant crisis”, February 14, 2016, BBC News, as found on the www at

[xlvi] Masters, Jonathan, “The Russian Military”, Infra Endnote xx (“The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a Cold War cornerstone of transatlantic security, has significantly recast its role in the past twenty years. Founded in 1949 as a bulwark against Soviet aggression, NATO has evolved to confront threats ranging from piracy off the Horn of Africa to human trafficking in the Mediterranean. But while the modern NATO is generally more recognized for its role beyond rather than within Europe, Russian actions in recent years, particularly its 2014 intervention in Ukraine, have refocused the alliance’s attention on the continent. Recent developments have also exposed unresolved tensions over NATO’s expansion into the former Soviet sphere.”).

[xlvii] See also Doctorow, Gilbert, “Russian documentary film aims to avert nuclear war but Western media still busy demonizing Putin”, January 2, 2016, Russian Insider, as found on the www at (The Commission on U.S. Policy Toward Russia issued a 17-page report entitled ‘The Right Direction for U.S. Policy toward Russia’. The centerpiece was a ‘reset’ as defined in the state papers signed in London was renewal of the 1994 Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (START) that was scheduled to expire in December 2009. It also called for organizing “contacts between our two governments in a more structured and regular way”. And it went on to urge greater cooperation between societies: more cultural exchanges, student exchanges, scientific cooperation, cooperation between NGOs.  With respect to democracy promotion in Russia, the Commission members called for the volume of criticism of Russia to be turned down. They also called for a show of decency by Americans in their dealings with Russia.) (Gilbert Doctorow is the European Coordinator of the American Committee for East West Accord (ACEWA).).

[xlviii] Marcus, Jonathan, “Oh, what a lovely (cold) war!”, February 16, 2016, BBC News, as found on the www at also Doctorow, Gilbert, Id. (“It bears stressing that today’s situation is still more threatening than in 2008.  Against a background of shrill Information Warfare between Russia and the West, the denigration of the Russian leadership and of the country in general by the occupant of the Oval Office and by leading members of Congress has advanced to levels unequaled in the worst days of the Cold War. Meanwhile Russia’s strategic military capabilities in both nuclear and conventional warfare have advanced incredibly from the levels of 2008, when Western military observers expressed their satisfaction that the performance of the Russian military did not seem much improved over the days of the ill-fated Afghan war that brought down the Soviet Union.”)  AccordBinnendijk, Hans. Friends, Foes, and Future Directions: U.S. Partnerships in a Turbulent World: Strategic Rethink. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2016, as found on the www at (“In general, however, the United States may need to follow a more collaborative approach in which it seeks greater collaboration and burden sharing from strong partners who have until now not been pulling their weight. To further reduce risk, the United States should seek to prevent deeper security ties from developing between China and Russia. It should work closely with its most vulnerable partners not only to reassure them, but to coordinate crisis management with them to limit the risk of unwanted escalation of incidents. And it should sponsor new trilateral efforts to draw together partners in both Europe and Asia that face similar security, political, economic, societal, and environmental problems. Only by working together across regions can many of these challenges be effectively managed.”).

[xlix] Behner, Lionel, Infra Endnote No. xxxiiii.

[l] Rosenberg, Steve, “Can Russia help build the peace in Syria?”, March 4, 2016, BBC News, as found on the www at; “Turkey shells Syrian Kurds, Russia says will keep bombing anti-Assad rebels,” February 14, 2016, Reuters News, as found on the www at (“But the Kremlin statement made clear Russia would continue bombing raids against Islamic State and “other terroristic organizations”, an indication that it would also be targeting groups in western Syria where jihadists such as al Qaeda are fighting President Bashar al-Assad in close proximity to rebels deemed moderate by the West.); and “Kerry: ‘Critical that Russia’s targeting changes’ in Syria”, February 13, 2016, BBC News, as found on the www at (The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has said Russia’s choice of targets in Syria must change, if it is to stick to an agreement to try to create a cessation in hostilities in a week’s time.).

[li] “Migrant crisis: Russia and Syria ‘weaponising’ migration”, March 2, 2016, BBC News, as found on the www at See also Doucet, Lyse, “Syria: A different country after five years of war,” March 14, 2016, BBC News, (Food, water and medicine have also been deployed as weapons.).

[lii] “Migrant crisis: Asylum seekers in EU ‘doubled in 2015′”, March 4, 2016, BBC News,

[liii] Lardner, Cynthia, “Closing Borders:  A Crime Against Humanity, November 2, 2015, as found on the www at;;;

[liv] “Migrant crisis: Angela Merkel condemns closure of Balkan route”, March 10, 2016, BBC News, as found on the www at

[lv] “Migrant crisis: Asylum seekers in EU ‘doubled in 2015′”, March 4, 2016, BBC News,

[lvi] “How is the migrant crisis dividing EU countries?”, March 4, 2016, BBC News, as found on the www at 9”Big fault lines have opened up across the European Union – both east-west and north-south – because of the migrant crisis.”).

[lvii] “Migrant crisis: Angela Merkel condemns closure of Balkan route”, Infra Endnote No. liii (“The EU and Turkey, from where migrants reach Greece, have set out a plan to ease the crisis.

Under the proposals, hammered out at a summit in Brussels on Monday but still to be finalised, all migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey would be sent back. For each Syrian returned, a Syrian in Turkey would be resettled in the EU.”).

[lviii] Syria conflict: Damascus under pressure ahead of peace talks, March 14, 2016, BBC News, as found on the www at

[lix] Fishel, Justin, “Putin Orders Russian Troops to Begin Withdrawing from Syria”, March 16, 2016, ABC News, as found on the www at

[lx] Wintour, Patrick and Walker, Shaun, “Vladimir Putin orders Russian forces to begin withdrawal from Syria”, March 16, 2016, The Guardian, as found on the www at

[lxi] Id.

[lxii] Id.

[lxiii] Wintour, Patrick and Walker, Shaun, Infra Endnote No. lx.  See also “Syria conflict: Russia’s Putin orders ‘main part’ of forces out”, March 16, 2016, BBC News, as found on the www at; “Russian President Vladimir Putin To Withdraw Majority Of Troops From Syria”, March 16, 2016, NPR News, as found on the www at; and “Iran Calls Russia’s Syria Withdrawal ‘Positive’”, March 15, 2015, Wall Street Journal, as found on the www at

[lxiv] “Syria conflict: Russians prepare for withdrawal after Putin surprise move”, March 16, 2016, BBC News, as found on the www at

[lxv] Herbst, John, “Ceasefire in Syria Turns Putin’s Eye on the Ukraine Once Again”, February 29, 2016, Newsweek, as found on the www at (Moscow’s decision to increase hostilities in Ukraine’s east is related both to the war in Syria and the situation in Ukraine and Europe.).

[lxvi] Masters, Jonathan, “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)”, Infra Endnote No. xvi. (“In December 2015, NATO invited Montenegro, a former republic of Yugoslavia, to begin ascension talks that are expected to take about a year to complete. Montenegro would be the first new NATO member since 2009. The Kremlin responded by warning that NATO’s eastward expansion “cannot but result in retaliatory actions.””).

[lxvii] Sharkov, Damien, Infra Endnote No. xxi (“Ukraine will definitely not be able to become a member of the EU in the next 20-to-25 years, and not of NATO either,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. But see“Poroshenko Signs Law Ratifying NATO Representation Status in Ukraine”, February 26, 2016, Sputnik News, as found on the www at (“Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a law on the ratification of an agreement with NATO on founding a diplomatic mission in Ukraine.”).

[lxviii] Spaulding, Hugo, “RUSSIAN MILITARY ACTIVITY: OCTOBER 27-NOVEMBER 3, 2015”, Institute for the Study of War, as found on the www at (The U.S. should not pursue Russia’s operations in the Middle East are part of a larger effort to expand Russia’s military presence and political influence at the expense of the U.S. and its allies to an extent not witnessed since the end of the Cold War.).

[lxix] “Henry A. Kissinger Looks Back on the Cold War”, Infra Endnote No. vii.

[lxx] Birnbaum, Michael, “Vladimir Putin finds much to celebrate about Russia’s role in Syria truce”, February 25, 2016, Washington Post, as found on the www at also Benitez, Jorge, “Alliance at Risk | Strengthening European Defense in an Age of Turbulence and Competition”, February 26, 2016, Brent Snowcroft Center, Atlantic Council, as found on the www at (“The broader transatlantic community faces a new and dynamic security environment, which includes a newly assertive Russia intent on altering the European security order in its favor and a turbulent and violence wracked Middle East and North Africa that has, among other things, spawned the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and refugee flows not seen since the end of World War II. Europe’s security climate is arguably at its worst in over twenty-five years… As NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg emphasized; “We are facing the biggest security challenges in a generation. They are complex, interrelated and come from many directions. . . . So now is the time to invest in our defense.””); Harem, Amos, “The Cold War is warming up again – in Syria”, January 12, 2016, Haaretz, as found on the www at (“The war in Syria, along with the monumental human suffering it has brought in its wake, to some extent reflects a return to the days of the Cold War. It involves a network of intrigues, shifting alliances and plots that could have easily been found in the decades following World War II Vienna, Berlin or Saigon.”); Andrej Krickovic and Yuval Weber “Why a new Cold War with Russia is inevitable”, September 30, 2015, Brookings Institute, as found on the www at; Frum, David, “The Cold War Never Really Ended” July/August 2015, The Atlantic, as found on the www (“As the relationship between Russia and the West has deteriorated, some have hastened to blame the United States and NATO for starting a new Cold War, while others entirely blame Putin himself. There is, however, another way to think, both more plausible and more troubling: the question is not “Has a new Cold War started?” but rather “Did the old Cold War ever end?””); and Richards, Susan, “The west talks about a new cold war. For Russians it has already started”, May 14, 2015, The Guardian, as found on the www at (“And yet when it came to defence we did not behave as though we were facing the end of history. Rather than disbanding our cold war defence arrangement, NATO, we reinvented it as an alliance that could be construed only as being arrayed against Russia. We kept expanding it ever eastward, closer to Russia’s borders. In response, Russia turned aggressive – first in Georgia, then in Crimea and Ukraine – at this intrusion into its sphere of influence.  Russia’s sense of its identity, poised on the edge of Europe in a borderless landmass, has always been pathologically insecure. Identities are tangled, allegiances split.”).


The Endemic Tragedy of Child Marriages



She’s eight years old. Yesterday, she was a girl, outside laughing as she played jump rope with her girlfriends.  Today is her wedding day.  By nightfall, she will be a woman. The laughter has given sway to tears.  Her parents, who agreed to the marriage, have little to offer by way of consolation.  She feels all alone.  She’s scared and has no safe person she can turn to for comfort.  Imagine how she feels the morning after.

This is not a unique situation. An estimated 15 million girls under age 18 are married each and every year[i].  This translates to a child marriage every two seconds.   Of that number, one in seven is under 15; with a noteworthy number of child brides being a mere eight or nine years old.

This is an endemic human rights issue.  Only through support of educational programmes and of those institutions seeking to eradicate this tragic condition will there be global change benefiting everyone.


The etiology of child marriages is traceable to historical gender inequality, economic hardship and, more often than not, to antiquated religious beliefs[ii].

Take for instance the situation in Türkiye, where more than a third of all marriages involve underage girls.  These marriages, despite being illegal, occur without recrimination in Türkiye’s highly patriarchal society.  The marriage ceremonies are performed by an Iman and are never registered with the government[iii].  As such, the number is estimated to be even higher based on statistics derived from the high maternal mortality rates and from marriage being cited as the primary reason for dropping out of the educational process[iv].

In India, in addition to no longer having to financially provide for their daughter, child marriage is incorrectly perceived as protecting their daughters from sexual or other abuse, and premarital sex[v].

The situation extends beyond tradition, with climate change also having an impact in drought-ridden countries such as Ethiopia. “Barren lands and food shortages are causing more poverty-stricken families who can’t afford to feed their children to marry off their daughters to wealthier men[vi].”

The other source of child marriages emanates from the radicalized terrorists who pillage villages taking young girls as plunder, who are then married within the ‘cell’ or who are sold to others[vii].

These factors are stronger than the laws protecting against child marriages[viii], assuming a country is a member state, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Protocol for the African Charter on Human, and the People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in African[ix].  Even if the county is member state, enforcement is a fallacy.

Risk Factors

The risks associated with child marriages, especially for girls under the age of 15, are immense:

  • Child brides or girls who otherwise become pregnant under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die during the birthing process than a woman in the 20-24 year old age bracket[x].
  • The infant mortality rate is even more alarming, with babies born to mothers under 20 years old being 50 percent more likely to die within a few weeks after birth as compared to babies born to mothers in their 20s[xi].
  • Child brides and their children are more likely to develop HIV and other health related issues[xii].
  • According to the World Health Organization, child brides are more likely to be sexual abuse and domestic violence victims[xiii]. This is in sync with UNICEF’s finding that one in three women and girls will experience violence in their lifetime.
  • They are unlikely to seek help for domestic violence, as one half of all adolescent girls believe that a husband is justified in striking his wife in anger.
  • Marriage almost always signifies the end of their formal education[xiv]. Those girls attempting to continue their education face barriers, including disapproval by their husbands and families, pressure to conceive, and an inability to pay school fees[xv].
  • The lack of education perpetuates an endless cycle of poverty. Consider that, if called upon to do so, these girls have no skills upon which they can support themselves or their children.  Given that their husbands average 10 years older, and that women have a longer life expectancy, a child bride can reasonably be expected to be the breadwinner at some point during her lifetime[xvi].

Breaking the Cycle

Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, stated that minimally the “…cycle of poverty that could be broken by focusing on girls’ rights and education.”

This involves educating not only the girls but their communities.  Education as to previously unconsidered benefits is necessary both prior to marriage and once a marriage is consummated. Girls receiving seven years of education marry, on the average, four years later, leading to lessened maternal and infant mortality rates.  Extending a girl’s schooling by just one year increases her wages by 18-20%.  Education also benefits her family, as child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to live past the age of five and four times more likely to receive life-saving vaccinations[xvii].

“Ending child marriage will help break the intergenerational cycle of poverty by allowing girls and women to participate more fully in society. Empowered and educated girls are better able to nourish and care for their children, leading to healthier, smaller families. When girls are allowed to be girls, everybody wins (Emphasis Added) [xviii].”

As a result of educational programmes conducted by local and global organizations, such as UNICEF and NGOs[xix], there has been some isolated headway, most notably in Central America[xx].  What gains have been made are dwarfed by predictive statistical analysis.

In Africa alone, despite a 10% drop since 1990, a recent UNICEF study estimated that the total number of child brides will skyrocket from 125 million to 310 million by 2050[xxi].  The problem extends beyond Africa with the highest rates of child marriages taking place, in descending order, in Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and the East Asia areas[xxii]; statistics that are skewed given China’s failure to report its statistics to UNICEF.

How You Can Help

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said: “The sheer number of girls affected – and what this means in terms of lost childhoods and shattered futures – underline the urgency of banning the practice of child marriage once and for all[xxiii].”

Asked how the public can help, Jolijn van Haaren, a UNICEF child rights specialist based in the Netherlands, elaborated:

“UNICEF is working in many countries to increase the understanding that no girl should marry before the age of 18 years old.

We work closely together with national and local authorities to get a clear statement on child marriage in the juridical sense. We also find it helps to inform the community via traditional leaders and schools that child marriage has many health risks for girls, who face a lifetime problems and sometimes death if they give birth too young. Thirdly we support girls in local communities as ambassadors against child marriage.  It is this mixed approach that brings down child marriage slowly but securely.

As child marriages happen rarely in The Netherlands, the general public might not be aware of the tremendous problem. When I first heard that worldwide, 1 in 3 women is being married during childhood, I could not believe it myself. One of the root cause for child marriage is the discrimination against girls- Especially poor girls, lack essential rights as the right to participation, the right to education and the right to protection. So if you ask me what the public in the Netherlands and abroad can do to stop this phenomenon: to support girls rights, to speak out about equal right for boys and girls, in schools, on Social media, and during public debates. By raising the topic the general public can hold their governments accountable for respecting children’s rights, for both boys and girls.”

You can help by supporting not only UNICEF, but recognized NGOs, such Girls Not Brides[xxiv], Because I Am a Girl[xxv], and the Alexia Foundation[xxvi].  These and other organizations not only need monetary donations but donations of your time, which can range from something as simple as signing a petition, supporting one girl, or making a more significant commitment of your personal and professional skills and resources.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner has a  journalism, counseling and a law degree. As a thought leader, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking understanding that everything and everyone is subject to change given the right circumstances; Standard Theory or Theory of Everything.

Having just relocated to Den Hague or The Hague, she is currently looking for a challenging position that will fully utilize her collective skill set.  She is particularly interested in foreign policy and social justice.


[i] Ma, Alexandra, “Staged Wedding Shoot Highlights Heartbreaking Reality About Child Brides In Lebanon,” December 12, 2015, Huffington Post, as found on the www at

[ii] McKenzie, David, “Africa’s child brides expected to double by 2050”, November 26, 2015, CNN News, as found on the www at (In Africa,
“Entrenched religious and cultural practices, and limited economic prospects, push girls into the margins and into harmful early marriages.”).

[iii]  “Child marriages make up one third in Turkey”, December 7, 2015, İZMİR – Doğan News Agency,  as found on the www at; Buchanan, Rose T., “More than 180,000 child brides in Turkey, lawyer claims”, December 8, 2015, The Independent, as found on the www at

See also Ma, Alexandra, Infra Endnote i

(“Six percent of Lebanese girls are married by the time they turn 18, and 1 percent by age 15, UNICEF reported last year. Across the world, 15 million girls are married each year before their 18th birthday.

Currently, Lebanon’s legal age for marriage without parental consent is 17 for girls and 18 for boys, The Independent reported in July. With parental consent, however, girls as young as 9 can legally get married in the country, according to the World Policy Center, which collected data from resources including legal databases.

Lebanon said last year that it was working on a draft law to regulate child marriages, but that religious authorities could still exempt families from marriage laws. Different religious communities in Lebanon have varying laws on marriage and personal status, according to global rights organization Girls Not Brides.”).

[iv] Id.

[v] Banerji, Ann, “Breaking tradition, child brides fight for freedom”, The China Post, as found on the www at“Although illegal, millions in India are married as children in a deep-rooted tradition in mostly poor and rural areas. Nearly 50 percent of women, aged 20 to 24, say they were married before the legal age of 18, government figures show.”).

[vi] Mormann, Nicole, “Ethiopia’s Worst Drought in Decades Is Leading to More Child Brides”, December 11, 2015, Take Part, as found on the www at

[vii] “Corporatized Terrorism”, (“ISIS Gone Corporate”), Game of Thrones, January 17, 2014, as found on the www at; and

[viii] “Child Marriage and the Law”, Girls Not Brides, as found on the www at

[ix] Ma, Alexandra, Infra Endnote i (“Article 16 of the United Nations’ 1979 Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which protects women’s and girls’ choice in marriage. Article 16 of CEDAW mandates that countries grant men and women equal rights to choose their spouse, enter into marriage and manage familial affairs.”).

[x] Ma, Alexandra, Infra Endnote i

[xi] Ma, Alexandra, Infra Endnote i

[xii] Raj, A and Boehmer, “U. Girl child marriage and its association with national rates of HIV, maternal health, and infant mortality across 97 countries”, Violence Against Women, 2013, 19: 536–555.

[xiii] Ma, Alexandra, Infra Endnote i

[xiv] Mormann, Nicole, Infra Endnote vi. See also Gebrekidan, Alemtsahye “Overcoming Adversity: An Ethiopian Child Bride’s Struggle For Education”, December 13, 2013,, as found on the www at (A blog account of what it was like to be married at age 10 and to be deprived of an education.).

[xv] Mormann, Nicole, Infra Endnote vi.

[xvi] United Nations Children’s Fund, Ending Child Marriage: Progress and Prospects, UNICEF, UN Doc., New York, 2014, as found on the www

[xvii] CNN International: Child brides, robbed of their future, October, 12 2013, CNN News, as found on the www at

[xviii] United Nations Children’s Fund, Ending Child Marriage: Progress and Prospects, Infra Endnote xvi.

[xix] Girls Not Brides,, is a global partnership of over 400 civil society organisations spanning 60 countries, is committed to ending child marriage.  Case studies are available upon request via  A series of first person stories related to child marriage can be found via the ‘Girl’s Voices’ section of its website.  Follow on Twitter at @GirlsNotBrides.

[xx] Perry, Tod, “Guatemala Votes to Raise Minimum Marriage Age to 18”, November 17, 2015, as found on the www at (“According to UNICEF, 7 percent of girls in Guatemala are married by age 15, and 30 percent are married by the age of 18. Child marriage not only impedes girls’ personal and educational development, but married girls run a higher risk of being subjected to domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, and poverty. That’s why, earlier this month, Guatemala’s congress took a big step to curb the practice of child marriage. In a landslide victory, the legislators voted 87-15 to raise the minimum marriage age for both genders to 18. Previously, girls as young as 14 and boys as young as 16 could marry.”).

See also Girls Not Brides (@GirlsNotBrides) “Progress in Latin America as Guatemala, Ecuador and Mexico change legislation to #endchildmarriage”, December 14, 2015,, Tweet, citing, “UN launches regional flagship programme to eradicate child marriage,” November 27, 2015, as found on the www at (“The United Nations in Mexico, Guatemala and Ecuador are advancing in diagnosing the problem and generating visibility. A first achievement of this initiative is highlighted in Guatemala where a recent decree established the same marriage age for boys and girls, eliminating the exceptions to the minimum marriage age of parental consent or guardian authorization and making judges listen to the minor. Unions with minors were also prohibited. In the case of Mexico, the General Law on the Rights of Children and Adolescents came into effect in December 2014, establishing the age of 18 as the minimum marriage age. To date, all but three Mexican states have harmonized their state laws. In Ecuador, in June 2015, a reform of the Civil Code was approved that established the age of 18 as the minimum marriage age, without legal exceptions.); and Ludden, Jennifer, National Public Radio (NPR): Can child marriages be stopped?, November 25, 2013, NPR News, as found on the www at  (Article highlights efforts by a Malawian women who established a nonprofit, Girls Empowerment Network, which is slowly challenging and eroding the complex mix of culture, economics and sexism that drives child marriage in Malawi.).

[xxi] McKenzie, David, Infra Endnote ii (“Slow rates of reduction and ballooning populations are the main cause of the projected increases.”).

[xxii]  “Because I Am a Girl”, Plan International, as found on the www at“Child marriage is most common in South Asia and West and Central Africa, where 46% and 41% of girls become child brides respectively. Among girls growing up in Latin America and the Caribbean, 29% experience child marriage, compared with 18% in East Asia and the Pacific, 15% in the Arab States and 11% in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.”).

[xxiii] “100 Women 2015: Zambian former child bride speaks out”, November 26, 2015, CNN News, as found on the www at

[xxiv] Take Action and #MyLifeAt15, Girls Not Brides, as found on the www at and

[xxv] “Get Involved, “Because I Am a Girl”, Plan International, as found on the www at

[xxvi] The Alexia Foundation, as found on the www at (“The Alexia Foundation promotes the power of photojournalism to give voice to social injustice, to respect history lest we forget it and to understand cultural difference as our strength – not our weakness.”).