Why pirates stay undeterred (Comment)

November 18th, 2008 - 11:16 am ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Nov 18 (RIA Novosti) The pirates who hijacked the Danish vessel CEC Future in the Gulf of Aden last week were not deterred by a large group of warships from different countries, including Russia’s Neustrashimy frigate, sent to the gulf to protect merchant vessels. The general cargo vessel registered in the Bahamas was attacked as it was crossing the Gulf and was forced to divert toward the Somalian coastline.

Eleven of the 13-member crew of the hijacked vessel are Russian citizens. Clipper Projects, the Danish operator of the vessel, is negotiating their release.

We are witnessing a breakdown of the international security system in the region. No country in the world seems able to ensure the safety of navigation there.

The United States took over the title of “ruler of the seas” from Britain during World War II, but its huge navy seems unable to guarantee the freedom of navigation and trade, an underlying freedom of the Western civilization.

The reason for the failure is not the lack of warships or funds, but the Western development logic.

The freedom of navigation and trade was necessary for fighting rivals - the colonial powers that limited this freedom in their colonies. That freedom was the main price Britain paid for US assistance during WWII, and it was that freedom that catalyzed the collapse of the British Empire.

By now, whole regions have been excluded from the zone of free trade by the maintenance of governed chaos there. Regions that have turned upon themselves, such as Somalia, cannot create global problems. On the other hand, no country has pledged to ensure safety in adjacent territories.

The goal of such “exclusion” is to cut the number of resource consumers. Countries unbalanced by internal conflicts, such as Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and some others, cannot develop an economy that will consume substantial amounts of resources.

As a result, the leading players will be free to use these resources, above all energy. This system makes concerted efforts against pirates improbable, because the world’s military powers will not invest in stabilizing the situation and developing a healthy economy in Somalia. Who needs another consumer, even if relatively poor, of resources that are already in short supply?

Objectively, Russia should benefit from a stable development of the global economy, because it promises a growth of oil and gas consumption. In addition, developing countries readily buy Russian industrial goods, which are cheaper than the ones made in the West.

However, at this time in history Russia cannot send groups of warships to the problem regions, or help Somalia stop the civil war and start building a healthy economy, thereby ensuring legal incomes for its population.

Interestingly, the pirates hardly ever hijack large-capacity US or British vessels. I wonder why?

The wealthy Anglo-Saxon civilization (Britain, Canada, Australia and the United States), whose navies are the strongest in the world, is unwilling to address the root causes of piracy, which are instability and poverty of developing countries.

The European Union countries and Russia, which are sustaining heavy losses from piracy, lack the economic resources and political unity to tackle this problem.

They can only escort merchant vessels through dangerous waters, sometimes routing a group of pirates or capturing a pirate leader. But nature abhors a vacuum, and so there will be more pirates and more pirate leaders.

(Ilya Kramnik is a commentator at the Russian news agency RIA Novosti)

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