Domestic issues have grabbed the spotlight in the US since the US Navy ended a standoff in April with a few well-placed shots that freed an American merchant-marine captain from the clutches of Somali pirates. The pirates have continued operating in the Gulf of Aden, though, thanks to the catch-and-release policies of NATO and Western nations in general. Apparently not willing to be outdone, the EU has quarterbacked a ransom payment worth “millions” in exchange for a European crew held hostage by Somali pirates for the last several months:
There’s new hope for the crew of the hijacked German-owned ship, the Hansa Stavanger. This Monday a ransom of millions was handed over to the pirates holding the ship off the coast of Somalia — the pirates have been holding the freighter, owned by Hamburg shipping firm, Leonhardt and Blumberg, for several months now.
A spokesperson for the European Union counter-piracy operation, Operation Atalanta, which has several warships patrolling the pirate-infested area, confirmed the ransom transfer. “The money is on board and the pirates are counting it,” the spokesperson told SPIEGEL ONLINE, although he would not elaborate further.
Through sources close to German intelligence agencies and local sourcees, SPIEGEL ONLINE has learned that a small plane was used to throw a package containing $2.75 million (€ 1.9 million) worth of ransom onto the Hansa Stavanger. It is hoped that when the money has been counted the ship and the crewwill be set free. Whether that will still happen on Monday is uncertain although the security authorities estimate a release should happen within 24 hours.
The Hansa Stavanger was captured at roughly the same time as the Maersk Alabama, but the outcomes could not be more different. The US used negotiations to put the military options in play and killed the pirates for their refusal to surrender. The EU has tried negotiating for four months, apparently haggling over the price the pirates would accept for the release of the hostages.
Western nations have a public policy against negotiating with terrorists, because giving concessions leads to more terrorism. The same holds true for piracy, maybe even more so. The payments of ransom, especially in the millions, provides a huge incentive not just for the existing pirates but for those in the Horn of Africa region dealing with poverty and oppression. The cash influx will draw more recruits to piracy just as political concessions attract terrorist recruits who see the strategies employed by terror networks succeed.
We have seen that Western nations have the resources and wherewithal to deal forcefully with Somali pirates, but mostly lack the commitment to pull the trigger, literally. Barack Obama did, but the rest of the West seems intent on applying a legal standard that simply doesn’t work in international waters. Piracy is not a crime on par with robbery or kidnapping on land, just as terrorism isn’t the same thing as arson or murder. Piracy exists to exploit the gaps in sovereignty; it acts as a parasite on international shipping for that reason. The only real solution to it is military, a lesson the world learned in the 19th century but seems to have forgotten in the 21st.
Hopefully, the Hansa Stavanger crew will return unharmed. Unfortunately, that ransom will fuel dozens of acts of piracy in the future.