Argentina and Chile Conduct Bilateral Exercise on Naval Strategies
By Eduardo Szklarz/Diálogo October 19, 2016A delegation from the Argentine Navy's Naval War School (ESGN, per its Spanish acronym) participated in the XVIII Bilateral Crisis Games 2016 at the Naval War Academy in Viña del Mar, Chile, from September 5th-9th. The annual exercise is part of the academic cooperation between the two navies and has a rotating venue, switching back and forth between Chile's Naval War Academy and ESGN. "The idea of these games is to create a forum for discussion on topics of strategy, but always within the academic environment of the two schools," Captain Gustavo Lioi, ESGN chief of operations and participant in the exercise, said to Diálogo. "There are no binding conclusions. These are academic debate forums on different topics that involve both navies," he added. The Argentine delegation also included Captain Félix Eugenio Plaza, director of ESGN, Professor Rear Admiral (retired) Julio Alberto Graf, and Captain Claudio Villamide, chief of education. Other participants included Argentines deployed in Chile as part of the Southern Cross Joint and Combined Peace Force, made up of military members from both countries. Chilean Navy Captain Enrique Alvayay, director of the Bilateral Crisis Games, told Diálogo that the initiative aims to strengthen mutual understanding between the Chilean and Argentine navies. "[The goal of the exchange is] to articulate, analyze, and solve problems stemming from international crises, for which, due to their nature, the use of combined naval forces would be a priority with the purpose of increasing our mutual trust and operability within the framework of international security," he said. Help for a fictitious island The Bilateral Crisis Games are based on mock scenarios in which naval issues, or issues mostly in the naval sphere, are resolved. "This year's exercise was based on a binational force under a United Nations mandate that was tasked with providing humanitarian aid and peacekeeping on an island," said Capt. Lioi. The fictitious island was hit by a hurricane that destroyed its electrical infrastructure and roadway system. Taking advantage of the collapse of its central government, other countries were plundering fish species in its maritime waters. Faced with this situation, the United Nations, whose mandate included Chile and Argentina, ordered naval forces to control the plundering in the maritime area and to provide humanitarian aid and assistance for rebuilding on land. "The binational maritime force had to plan the assistance for hurricane victims on land, protection of ships with humanitarian aid, and ways to monitor fishing," said Capt. Alvayay. "This generated a political and military strategy to resolve interagency issues with the intervention of NGOs and other organizations, because, obviously, the solution to this sort of problem is not military," added Capt. Lioi. "At the same time, the operational level was resolving the issue of using military force to complete these tasks (humanitarian work on land and ocean monitoring) to assist countries that had requested it." In fact, Chile and Argentina share similar legislation and perspectives on not interfering in the problems of another country unless there is a United Nations mandate that authorizes it. "We didn't go to that island of our own accord, but because the government of the island had requested the assistance of the United Nations to reestablish its operating conditions after recognizing that it was in over its head with the collapse of its infrastructure and political capacity," clarified Capt. Lioi. Mechanics of the exercise The games took place over the course of five days in the Naval War Academy in Viña del Mar. The operational level was working with representatives from the Southern Cross Force in one room, while the strategy- and decision-making level was located in another room. After each work day, the groups came together for a plenary session in which they presented their conclusions and explained how they addressed the different circumstances generated by the direction the games took. The participants met again in their separate rooms to work, resolve their challenges, and present the debates. "On the fifth and final day, there was a final session with general conclusions," said Capt. Lioi. The importance for Chile and Argentina The Bilateral Crisis Games are relevant at many levels, according to participants. "In a didactic exercise such as this, you theorize about topics that can then be put into practice in terms of doctrinal standards or standards for use of resources," said Capt. Lioi. "But the games are also important in a much bigger sense. Remember that Argentina and Chile were on the verge of war (in 1978, because of a dispute over the Beagle Channel that was resolved through the mediation of Pope John Paul II)," he added. "In this sense, the systematic work that the two navies are doing is making everything come together in an atmosphere of trust," emphasized Capt. Lioi. "Working with each other is becoming more and more natural, both in the academic sphere and in the work of the armed forces," he concluded. Meanwhile, Capt. Alvayay said that exercises such as this allow for increasing mutual knowledge among members of partner navies. "They also allow us to identify the important and unique capacities that the naval forces could make available to civilian authorities to increase international cooperation in areas like disaster relief, protection of marine resources, and maritime security," concluded Capt. Alvayay.