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Diplomacy & Crisis News

Border Openings Could Signal an Indian-Pakistani Thaw

Foreign Policy - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 22:14
Relaxing restrictions on the Punjab border could lead to a bigger shift as both sides recalibrate relations.

How to Stop Moscow From Squeezing Ukraine’s Energy Sector

Foreign Policy - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 21:57
Kyiv and the West can work together to strengthen security.

The Perpetual Etranger

Foreign Policy Blogs - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 20:07

 

The border crisis between Poland and Belarus is more complex than a dispute between two sovereign nations. The extension of the EU border into the former Warsaw Pack area and towards the former border of the Soviet Union was always a source of tension as Poland was seen as a barrier to large armies coming from Western Europe. The trauma of the Second World War on Soviet citizens is notable in foreign policy arrangements since that time, and mirrors much of the history of Central Europe as a bulk-ward against the Wehrmacht, The Grand Armee of Napoleon, and many other historical disputes that placed the Polish people in the middle of wider conflicts.

The resulting Realpolitik that motivated the West and East of Europe to be weary of sharing a direct border with each other placed the Polish people into a revolving wheel of suffering and of erased identity. While the Polish people and culture survived and thrived in the areas known as historic Poland, the maintenance of a nation state was often determined by outside forces, making the Polish people strangers without a nation of their own in their historical homelands. The Poland once ruled by Medieval kings was not the same one that Napoleon stepped foot in, and was still drastically different than the Poland that came out of the Second World War. The end result is that Poland was a nation that often remained nameless despite having a rich culture and history. Poland is one of the oldest nations in European history, but remained absent as a state within Europe for much of the last 800 years.

The irony of citizens from Iraq, Syria and Yemen being trapped between the Belorussians and European Union at the Polish border mirrors much of European history as well as their own. As Poland was always the target of power politics in its region, the people of Iraq, Syria and Yemen are now often seen to be citizens of countries in a power vacuum, victims of political agents at home and now abroad that are used as a part of a larger conflict. When negotiations are taking place between Western Powers and those in the region, a missile launched at Iraq that murders its citizens is not mentioned or considered by any negotiators. Despite being indigenous peoples in their own lands, their nations are always at risk of disappearing due to external factors and foreign interests.

In reality, the conflict on the border is not between the Polish people and those from Iraq, Syria and Yemen. This latest clash has mostly been orchestrated by outside forces, wishing to keep their treatment of nameless nations maintained and who deem inequality as the norm. This is an experience Polish, Iraqi, Syrian and Yemeni people have always shared, and negotiations between these nations should reflect their own culture and experiences, not those of the real outsiders.

Completion of Somalia elections more important than ever: UN envoy

UN News Centre - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 19:39
Although progress has been made in Somalia’s electoral process, it has been slow and uneven, the UN Special Representative for the country said in a briefing to the Security Council on Wednesday.

Iran’s New Top Diplomats Are a Problem

Foreign Policy - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 19:34
Tehran needs to restore the nuclear deal—but the Raisi administration’s officials aren’t up for the job.

Bahreïn en lutte pour la démocratie

Le Monde Diplomatique - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 18:36
Mardi 25 juin, un camion piégé a explosé sur la base aérienne de Khobar, en Arabie saoudite. L'attentat, qui aurait causé la mort d'une vingtaine de personnes, toutes américaines, confirme la montée des tensions dans le royaume, où une forte contestation s'est développée depuis la guerre du Golfe. Dans (...) / , , - 1996/07

China Warms Up to Myanmar’s Generals

Foreign Policy - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 17:13
Months after the coup, Beijing seeks stability—and protections for its investments—above all.

Russia Isn’t About to Attack Ukraine

Foreign Policy - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 16:41
Moscow occupying its neighbor would be expensive, dangerous, and pointless.

Science, affaires et démocratie

Le Monde Diplomatique - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 15:42
Les fantastiques avancées de la science comportent des risques dont l'opinion est rarement avertie. Le serait-elle qu'un autre danger apparaît : celui — faustien — de réaliser tout ce qui est potentiellement faisable. L'Assemblée parlementaire du Conseil de l'Europe a certes publié, le 8 novembre, un (...) - 1988/12

Can African Leaders End Ethiopia’s War?

Foreign Policy - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 13:21
As civil war spreads, Kenya and the African Union are trying to broker a cease-fire.

Watchdog Reports Shed New Light on Trump-Era Mismanagement at State

Foreign Policy - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 13:00
Career diplomats are concerned that the State Department won’t institute changes to address bullying or mismanagement in the future.

Mark Your Calendars: A New U.S. Aircraft Carrier Is Coming in 2028

The National Interest - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 04:30

Kris Osborn

Aircraft Carriers, Americas

The US Navy is getting another aircraft carrier, get excited!

Here's What You Need to Remember: While there is naturally much focus upon the first-in-class USS Ford, which is nearing its first deployment, as well as the second-in-class USS Kennedy, the new USS Enterprise (CVN 80) is slated for delivery by as soon as 2028.

Progressing quietly beneath the ongoing discussion about just what the future may hold for America’s aircraft carriers, the Navy’s third Ford-class carrier is powering along toward being ready for duty.

While there is naturally much focus upon the first-in-class USS Ford, which is nearing its first deployment, as well as the second-in-class USS Kennedy, the new USS Enterprise (CVN 80) is slated for delivery by as soon as 2028. Construction on the ship began in 2017, and builders are now performing early manufacturing and structural fabrication, Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) Vice President of New Construction Aircraft Carriers, Lucas Hicks, told The National Interest in a written statement.

Most of the technologies are expected to be quite similar to the first two Ford-class carriers, yet they will likely integrate more quickly given that the Navy has had practice with the Kennedy and Ford. There are also new shipbuilding methods which have been progressing throughout the trajectory of Ford-class development, according to Hicks, who said HII is incorporating a number of lessons learned from building the Ford and Kennedy. The “build strategy” improvements, he said, including more outfitted superlifts, described at larger and more complete than on prior carriers.

“It will be the first aircraft carrier built completely using digital drawings and procedures rather than traditional paper work packages and products. The use of digital data and digital tools is more user-friendly and intuitive, making the execution of shipbuilders’ work more efficient,” Hicks explained.

Some of these construction innovations have already been underway with the USS Kennedy, the second Ford carrier slated to hit the ocean in the next few years. It involves a process Newport News Shipbuilders, a division of HII, describe as “modular construction” wherein ship compartments are assembled together before moving them to the dock to expedite the building process. Smaller segments of the ship are welded together into a structural “superlift,” as Hicks described with the Enterprise, to advance construction before the ship is lifted up into drydock.

Construction begins with the bottom of the ship and works up with inner-bottoms and side shells before moving to box units. The bottom third of the ship gets built first. Also, some of the design methods now used for the Kennedy include efforts to fabricate or forge some parts of the ship—instead of casting them because it makes the process less expensive, builders explained.

HII is working to take some of these newer methods to a new level with the Enterprise, a process which is in large measure being assisted or improved through the use of digital modeling. The Enterprise’s keel is slated to be laid in 2022, HII reports.

The Enterprise is part of a Navy “two-carrier” buy plan designed by the Navy to lower production costs and streamline technological integration. The fourth Ford-class carrier, called CVN 81 is already progressing through several key planning and preparation phases.

Kris Osborn serves as Defense Editor for the National Interest. He previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also been an anchor and on-air military analyst for national TV networks.  

This article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Flickr

Can the U.S. and China Avoid a Conflict?

The National Interest - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 03:30

James Holmes

China, Asia

Confrontation shouldn't be inevitable.

Here's What You Need to Know: If rivals see their courses as preordained and Thucydides’ supposed trap as inescapable, both will gird for what they regard as inevitable.

A 2018 panel at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis asked whether—as Professor Graham Allison’s book contends—China and the United States are “destined” for war. Indeed, Professor Allison numbered among the panelists who discussed the new China challenge.

The short answer from the gathering: maybe.

Commentators have held forth on this topic from antiquity till the present day. The pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus taught that character is destiny. Herodotus maintained that custom is destiny. We hear that geography is destiny, or demographics is, or some other factor is. This time of year sports commentators even tell us football teams can control their destiny—chiefly by winning every game against opponents that also want to win. In that spirit, one literature specialist counsels that destiny goes by many names, including “God, gods, fate, accident, fortune, necessity, [and] circumstance.”

An enormous amount turns on how you define terms like “destiny,” or the “trap” part of Allison’s signature catchphrase “Thucydides Trap.” The latter refers to the conceit of established great powers using armed force to maintain their standing atop the pecking order or when upstart challengers reach for the sword to seize that lofty status for themselves. Geopolitical asymmetries ensnare hegemons and would-be hegemons alike—speeding them along the path to war.

If rivals see their courses as preordained and Thucydides’ supposed trap as inescapable, both will gird for what they regard as inevitable. If they believe they enjoy some say-so over the workings of destiny, then they might find some way to navigate their differences. And if one contender accepts the logic of the Thucydides Trap while the other rejects it, watch out: strategic competition could take on a seesaw character as action begets misperception begets reaction, and on and on. The action-reaction cycle could set war loose through different understandings of the dynamics at work.

Far from an exercise in hair-splitting, then, this is a philosophical debate pregnant with fateful consequences. The central question: does destiny master us or can we master it? If America and China are captive to destiny and destiny is remorseless, then there’s little for the U.S. naval and defense establishment to do except get ready. The sea services and land-based arms of military might must ready themselves for inevitable combat. If force is the only option, then the only questions left involve where, when, with what, and with which allies the U.S. armed services will attempt to crush or dishearten the foe. The reciprocal is true for China’s People’s Liberation Army.

If on the other hand, it is possible for the contestants to take charge of their destiny—in whole or in part—then they might find some way through the quarrels and disparate visions that separate them. Some mix of deterrence, diplomacy, and economic outreach or coercion could forestall war.

Now, entertaining the possibility of peace scarcely exempts American military planners from getting ready. Not for nothing did founding father George Washington proclaim—channeling the classics—that “to be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” After all, the point of peacetime naval and military diplomacy is to cast a “shadow” over an antagonist’s deliberations and actions. The greater the possibility of defeat appears to foes who square off against the U.S. military, the longer and darker the shadow cast—and the likelier they are to desist from actions Washington deems objectionable.

Here’s one way to think through this question of whether armed strife is preordained. Crudely speaking, scribes from Greek antiquity forward have crafted three ideas about destiny. The first is fate. Fate is implacable and inescapable. The concept of irresistible fate feels very Calvinist, entailing preordination. We are the playthings of fate. Vast forces sweep us along wherever they will. Think about Odysseus, buffeted around the Mediterranean Sea for twenty long years on his return voyage from the war against Troy. The adventurer from Ithaca could do little except comply with the whims of fate. Even the gods and goddesses of Olympus found it hard to speed his return home (in part because they were working at cross purposes, as was their wont).

The classics sometimes set forth a less fatalistic concept of destiny. Playwrights and philosophers commonly warn mortals not to choose to do things that offend the “deathless gods” lest the gods exact terrible vengeance and impose a bleak destiny on the offenders. Retribution for hubris—overweening pride—constitutes a staple of classical literature. Hubris brings on Nemesis as surely as night follows day. The Greeks never quite say so, but it is possible that other vices also elicit divine retribution. Bottom line, this variant of destiny permits human beings the power to choose. It’s up to them to exercise that power wisely.

And then there’s the manageable, if still stubborn, variety of destiny. Riffing on the classics, Niccolò Machiavelli terms it "fortune." Fortune, proclaims the Florentine philosopher-statesman, is like a violent river that sweeps everything and everyone before it after a storm. But Machiavelli adds that human beings can exercise foresight during tranquil times before the onset of a tempest. They can construct dams and other engineering works to block or divert flood waters when they come. We can master fortune, in other words, by peering ahead into the future and being venturesome in the here and now—guarding against its wiles. This is a comforting interpretation coming from a writer known for his bare-knuckles approach to politics.

So who’s right? Does destiny exist in geopolitics, and if so, how much scope for free will does it allow societies and statesmen? Is it possible for rising and falling nations and their allies to be destined for war? The answers potential antagonists give will prod them to design and deploy strategy, forces, and operational methods in a certain fashion. Believers that war is fated will comport themselves as though battle is imminent. Those convinced they can master fortune dwell in the realm where military implements can persuade or dissuade. Different strategies result.

What about the trap in Professor Allison’s Thucydides Trap? Enlightenment might likewise come from parsing this everyday metaphor. Traps come in endless varieties. People lay some traps. People stumble into others. Some are visible, others hidden. Some are inescapable, others easy to evade or escape. Some inflict fatal consequences; others exact lighter damage. Is the Thucydides Trap a steel trap that a hunter lays to pinion an animal’s leg? Or is it a sand trap that a dexterous golfer can exit without losing more than a shot or two from his overall tally?

These are questions of the significant moment. That being the case, it’s crucial for Washington to undertake some soul-searching as it declares that a new age of great-power competition is upon us, and as U.S. leaders try to discern how their counterparts in Beijing, allied capitals, and third parties see matters. This is no idle philosophical musing. It could shape Asia’s—and the world’s—future.

James Holmes is J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and coauthor of Red Star over the PacificThe views voiced here are his alone.

This article first appeared in October 2018. It is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

Is China's Abandoning Nuclear No-First-Use?

The National Interest - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 03:00

Kris Osborn

Chinese Nuclear Weapons, Asia

Why would any country need more than a small number of weapons in their arsenal?

Here's What You Need to Remember: “I am reacting to what they are doing, which is significantly increasing their nuclear force with silo-based ICBMs. Several years ago they made a decision to move in the direction of a much larger ICBM force. Policies are declarations of intent, but intent can change very quickly,” Kendall said. 

China’s massive and fast-paced push to add more nuclear weapons to its arsenal is fast changing the threat equation for U.S. leaders who see the country’s ongoing large-scale increase in Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) as a very “destabilizing” event. 

U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall says China’s move to add hundreds of new land-based, fixed ICBM silos amounts to their developing a “first-strike” capability. 

“Most of their weapons have been mobile ICBMs, so this is a very destabilizing move and I am not sure they understand the risk they are taking. Whether they intend it or not … their move creates a first-strike capability. If they continue down this path to increase their ICBM force, then that is a de facto first-strike capability,” Kendall told reporters at the Air Force Association Symposium. 

Kendall may have been referring to an event described in August at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium by the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command Adm. Charles “Chaz” Richard. 

“Only four months ago, commercial satellite imagery discovered what is accepted to nuclear missile fields in western China. Each has nearly 120 ICBM silos. Now these compliment and are added into what they already have,” Richard told an audience at the symposium in Huntsville, Alabama. 

Sure enough, Richard's mention of Chinese ICBM silos being detected by commercial satellites is something that aligns entirely with the information referred to by Kendall.

China’s clear ambition to massively expand its nuclear arsenal is something that has been on the Pentagon’s radar for some time, as it was cited as a serious concern last year in the Pentagon’s 2020 China Military Report.  

Following the publication of this report, senior Pentagon weapons developers and experts added even more specificity and expansion metrics describing China’s ambitious nuclear weapons expansion. 

“We do believe that over the next decade, that China is likely to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile in the course of implementing the most rapid expansion and diversification of its nuclear arsenal in its history, China’s history,” Chad Sbragia, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, told reporters last year according to a Pentagon transcript. “An ability to double the stockpile demonstrates a move away from their historical minimum deterrence posture.”

At the moment, China is known to have an official “no first use” policy with nuclear weapons. However that position does not appear to remain the case, Kendall explained. 

“I am reacting to what they are doing, which is significantly increasing their nuclear force with silo-based ICBMs. Several years ago they made a decision to move in the direction of a much larger ICBM force. Policies are declarations of intent, but intent can change very quickly,” Kendall said. 

Kendall’s concern about Chinese ICBMs aligns in several respects with the Pentagon’s 2020 China Report which adds that the number of Beijing’s ICBMs capable of threatening America will likely grow to 200 in the next five years. As an element of this expansion, China is increasing its inventory of long-range land-fired DF-26 Anti-Ship missiles able to fire both conventional and nuclear missiles.

If merely a few nuclear weapons could unleash massive, unimagined devastation upon cities and even entire countries, why would any country need more than a small number of weapons in their arsenal?

In keeping with Ancient military philosopher Sun Tzu’s famous “Mass Matters” concept, Richard said, “it does not matter if your weapons are superior if you do not have enough of them.”

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

This article is being reprinted for reader interest.

Image: Reuters

Can China's People Liberation Army Fight in the Mountains?

The National Interest - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 02:30

Kris Osborn

Chinese Military, Asia

Slinging load and airdrop in mountain areas is no easy task.

Here's What You Need To Remember: Does China have anything like the U.S. Chinook helicopter, which is able to airdrop mobile artillery or rocket launcher systems? Maybe not. That is a potential problem for a Chinese force that might have few options when it comes to deploying this kind of land firepower at mountainous altitudes greater than five thousand feet.

The Chinese military is firing off new rockets and artillery in its Western plateau region. This is the country’s latest effort to demonstrate high-altitude mobility and lethality near its border with India and other countries to the West.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fired off its new PHL-11 self-propelled multiple rocket launcher, PCL-161 self-propelled howitzer, and PHL-03 long-range multiple rocket launcher, according to Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece The Global Times. The weapons conducted numerous live-fire exercises at high altitudes, the report said.

The emerging Chinese weapons all participated in wargaming exercises and simulations intended to refine the PLA’s ability to conduct precision-maneuver warfare at high altitudes in mountainous terrain. Interestingly, while China has also been acquiring ruggedized high-altitude combat vehicles for plateau transport and ground combat, the existence of these new weapons systems may face a deployment problem. Does China have anything like the U.S. Chinook helicopter, which is able to airdrop mobile artillery or rocket launcher systems? Maybe not. That is a potential problem for a Chinese force that might have few options when it comes to deploying this kind of land firepower at mountainous altitudes greater than five thousand feet.

China does have its Z-8 cargo transport helicopter, however, it is reported to operate with about one-half of the maximum take-off weight of the U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook. The Chinook can take off with as much as fifty thousand pounds, whereas public information specs on the Z-8 say its maximum take-off weight is twenty-eight thousand pounds. This differential may mean that the Chinese military may indeed be quite challenged to move its ground war forces and assets around mountain areas as its ability to sling load and airdrop appears much more limited than the U.S. Chinook. For example, a Chinook can carry an M777 mobile Howitzer or even several tactical wheeled vehicles up into mountainous areas to airdrop firepower. China operates its large Y-20 cargo aircraft however, as a fixed-wing asset, it is unlikely it would be able to hover sufficiently near active combat areas, land vertically, or airdrop essential weapons during conflict.

Certainly, on the surface, these kinds of Chinese weapons maneuvers could be aimed at deterring any potential rival from contemplating a land invasion of China, something which could be called extremely unlikely given the country’s terrain and the sheer size of its available military. Any attack on China is much more likely to be predominantly from the air, at least for quite some time until the possibility of land occupation becomes feasible.

However, the effectiveness of the new weapons and their live-fire exercises may ultimately be of little consequence, given that China may lack the means to successfully transport the assets at high altitudes and achieve the needed combat maneuver capacity.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

This article is being reprinted due to reader interest. 

Image: Reuters.

This Taiwan Strait Crisis Almost Led to Nuclear War

The National Interest - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 02:00

Kyle Mizokami

Taiwan, Asia

The PLA Navy deserves credit for learning from this incident and now, twenty-two years later, it is quite possible that China could seriously damage or even sink an American carrier.

Here's What You Need to Remember: The People’s Liberation Army, unable to do anything about the American aircraft carriers, was utterly humiliated. China, which was just beginning to show the consequences of rapid economic expansion, still did not have a military capable of posing a credible threat to American ships just a short distance from of its coastline.

More than twenty years ago, a military confrontation in East Asia pushed the United States and China uncomfortably close to conflict. Largely unknown in America, the event made a lasting impression on China, especially Chinese military planners. The Third Taiwan Crisis, as historians call it, was China’s introduction to the power and flexibility of the aircraft carrier, something it obsesses about to this day.

The crisis began in 1995. Taiwan’s first-ever democratic elections for president were set for 1996, a major event that Beijing naturally opposed. The sitting president, Lee Teng-hui of the Kuomintang party, was invited to the United States to speak at his alma mater, Cornell University. Lee was already disliked by Beijing for his emphasis on “Taiwanization,” which favored home rule and established a separate Taiwanese identity away from mainland China. Now he was being asked to speak at Cornell on Taiwan’s democratization, and Beijing was furious.

The Clinton administration was reluctant to grant Lee a visa—he had been denied one for a similar talk at Cornell the year before—but near-unanimous support from Congress forced the White House’s hand. Lee was granted a visa and visited Cornell in June. The Xinhua state news agency warned, “The issue of Taiwan is as explosive as a barrel of gunpowder. It is extremely dangerous to warm it up, no matter whether the warming is done by the United States or by Lee Teng-hui. This wanton wound inflicted upon China will help the Chinese people more clearly realize what kind of a country the United States is.”

In August 1995, China announced a series of missiles exercises in the East China Sea. Although the exercises weren’t unusual, their announcement was, and there was speculation that this was the beginning of an intimidation campaign by China, both as retaliation against the Cornell visit and intimidation of Taiwan’s electorate ahead of the next year’s elections. The exercises involved the People’s Liberation Army’s Second Artillery Corps (now the PLA Rocket Forces) and the redeployment of Chinese F-7 fighters (China’s version of the MiG-21 Fishbed fighter) 250 miles from Taiwan. Also, in a move that would sound very familiar in 2017, up to one hundred Chinese civilian fishing boats entered territorial waters around the Taiwanese island of Matsu, just off the coast of the mainland.

According to Globalsecurity.org, redeployments of Chinese long-range missile forces continued into 1996, and the Chinese military actually prepared for military action. China drew up contingency plans for thirty days of missile strikes against Taiwan, one strike a day, shortly after the March 1996 presidential elections. These strikes were not carried out, but preparations were likely detected by U.S. intelligence.

In March 1996, China announced its fourth major military exercises since the Cornell visit. The country’s military announced a series of missile test zones off the Chinese coastline, which also put the missiles in the approximate direction of Taiwan. In reality, China fired three missiles, two of which splashed down just thirty miles from the Taiwanese capital of Taipei and one of which splashed down thirty-five miles from Kaohsiung. Together, the two cities handled most of the country’s commercial shipping traffic. For an export-driven country like Taiwan, the missile launches seemed like an ominous shot across the country’s economic bow.

American forces were already operating in the area. The USS Bunker Hill, a Ticonderoga-class Aegis cruiser, was stationed off southern Taiwan to monitor Chinese missile tests with its SPY-1 radar system. The Japan-based USS Independence, along with the destroyers Hewitt and O’Brien and frigate McClusky, took up position on the eastern side of the island.

After the missile tests, the carrier USS Nimitz left the Persian Gulf region and raced back to the western Pacific. This was an even more powerful carrier battle group, consisting of the Aegis cruiser Port Royal, guided missile destroyers Oldendorf and Callaghan (which would later be transferred to the Taiwanese Navy), guided missile frigate USS Ford, and nuclear attack submarine USS PortsmouthNimitz and its escorts took up station in the Philippine Sea, ready to assist Independence. Contrary to popular belief, neither carrier actually entered the Taiwan Strait.

The People’s Liberation Army, unable to do anything about the American aircraft carriers, was utterly humiliated. China, which was just beginning to show the consequences of rapid economic expansion, still did not have a military capable of posing a credible threat to American ships just a short distance from of its coastline.

While we might never know the discussions that later took place, we know what has happened since. Just two years later a Chinese businessman purchased the hulk of the unfinished Russian aircraft carrier Riga, with the stated intention of turning it into a resort and casino. We know this ship today as China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, after it was transferred to the PLA Navy and underwent a fifteen-year refurbishment. At least one other carrier is under construction, and the ultimate goal may be as many as five Chinese carriers.

At the same time, the Second Artillery Corps leveraged its expertise in long-range rockets to create the DF-21D antiship ballistic missile. The DF-21 has obvious applications against large capital ships, such as aircraft carriers, and in a future crisis could force the U.S. Navy to operate eight to nine hundred miles off Taiwan and the rest of the so-called “First Island Chain.”

The Third Taiwan Crisis was a brutal lesson for a China that had long prepared to fight wars inside of its own borders. Still, the PLA Navy deserves credit for learning from the incident and now, twenty-two years later, it is quite possible that China could seriously damage or even sink an American carrier. Also unlike the United States, China is in the unique position of both seeing the value of carriers and building its own fleet while at the same time devoting a lot of time and resources to the subject of sinking them. The United States may soon find itself in the same position.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the DiplomatForeign PolicyWar is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009, he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

This article first appeared a few years ago and is being reposted due to reader interest. 

Image: Reuters

The US Navy Is Looking to this Missile for Counterattacks

The National Interest - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 01:30

Kris Osborn

Naval Strike Missile, Americas

An island NSM might receive targeting specifics from an aerial drone, submarine or ship-based radar system.

Here's What You Need to Remember: For example with proper networking, a land-based NSM could function as a critical defense “node” within a broader meshed system of sensors, meaning that its targeting technology might be in a position to locate launching enemy weapons and pass that information to allies with assets in the region.

The Navy and Marine Corps are continuing to find new uses and potential adaptations for the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), which arms the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). The Marine Corps wants to widen its mission envelope to encompass a greater sphere of attack possibilities such as amphibious attacks, more varied maritime attacks and mobile ground-based anti-ship missile fires.

The NSM, a Raytheon-Kongsberg weapon in development for many years, arms the LCS and provides an over-the-horizon attack option to the ship. This is something that gives commanders the ability to track and destroy incoming anti-ship missiles at safer ranges. Additional uses for the weapon include the engineering of new variants that can fire from land to destroy anti-ship missiles from different vantage points. Additional adaptations to the weapon include wider distribution across the LCS fleet and perhaps various electronic enhancements or software upgrades to improve guidance, reliability or range.

The NSM first emerged in 2012. It consists of a 156-inch missile powered by a launch phase solid-propellant rocket motor booster and a turbo-jet engine fueled by JP-10. This enables it to fly at subsonic speeds for long periods of time. Most weapons are rarely referred to as stealthy; however, the NSM was designed to have a lower radar signature by virtue of being able to attack close to the surface in sea-skimming mode, essentially below the aperture of many ship-based radars. Additionally, the weapon has a range of up to one hundred nautical miles as well as advanced seeker technology, Raytheon developers said.

“It climbs and descends with the terrain and performs evasive maneuvers to counter the world’s most capable defense systems. NSM possesses the capability to identify targets down to ship class—a feature that is vitally important to warfighters who must strike only specific, selected targets in congested, contested and denied environments,” according to Navy Recognition.

In terms of production, Raytheon invested in domestic manufacturing facilities to meet the production demand of the Navy, Marine Corps and other customers. Since the Navy and Marine Corps are buying the same missile and using the same contract vehicle, they could save money through reduced unit prices and logistics commonality. Logistics commonality helps support the Navy and Marine Corps’ multi-domain warfare strategy. For example with proper networking, a land-based NSM could function as a critical defense “node” within a broader meshed system of sensors, meaning that its targeting technology might be in a position to locate launching enemy weapons and pass that information to allies with assets in the region. 

What is more likely, however, is that an island NSM might receive targeting specifics from an aerial drone, submarine or ship-based radar system.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University. 

Image: Flickr 

Are Aircraft Carriers Becoming too Expensive?

The National Interest - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 01:00

James Holmes

Naval Warfare, United States

The answer may lie within naval history. Look at what happened to the Battleship.

Here's What You Need to Remember: A likewise dismal destiny could await the Ford-class aircraft carriers if fleet design is undergoing another phase change. If the CVN is no longer a capital ship in Corbett’s sense—if it no longer spearheads the fight for nautical command—then lawmakers and ordinary citizens may ask why they should bear the expense.

Iowa-class fast battleships were castles of steel built for an era of flux in naval warfare not unlike our own. In fact, battleship history casts doubt on the future of über-expensive behemoths like the U.S. Navy’s Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (CVNs). The question isn’t just whether the aircraft carrier is obsolete, a floating target in the missile age. That reduces the question to technology. The question is whether the carrier is worth its cost in strategic and political terms. If flattops remain survivable enough to bear the brunt of dueling the Russian Navy or China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy for maritime command, they may remain a worthwhile investment.

If not, the carrier fleet’s outlook darkens. Taxpayers and their elected representatives have priorities, winning foremost among them. Justifying carriers’ expense is tough if other implements of war—submarines, small surface craft, whatever—will fight for maritime supremacy while carriers shelter out of harm’s way until the seas and skies are safe enough for them to do their work. Try explaining to the American people or Congress why they should plunk down $15 billion for a single hull when that hull won’t do the heavy lifting in combat. CVNs might still have value, in other words, but not enough to justify their mind-boggling price.

That was battleships’ fate. They never lost their value as fleet workhorses, even after naval aviation displaced them from frontline status during World War II. While battleships remained in the inventory, navies found uses for them. And why not? They had been bought and paid for. They served intermittently into the early 1990s. But new ones were never built. Nowadays few—not even the most fervent enthusiasts—argue for constructing new dreadnoughts. Their price would run to many billions per copy, a forbidding sum for a warship expected to play only a secondary part in sea battles.

A similar fate may await the CVN. The Ford-class may not be obsolete. But other ships or weapon systems could eclipse the CVN as a combat platform—meaning taxpayers would find themselves paying exorbitant sums for a nice-to-have but ancillary capability. That would make little budgetary sense.

You have to credit interwar naval architects for foresight. Conceived during the 1930s, the Iowa class was the Swiss army knife of dreadnoughts. Warship design is a matter of managing tradeoffs among speed, protection, and armament. Back then it remained unclear whether advances in aircraft design would superempower carrier warplanes, extending flattops’ striking range and hitting power. (Spoiler alert: yes.) Shipwrights hedged against uncertainty, drawing up blueprints for a ship class versatile enough to flourish in a variety of potential futures.

The four sister ships constituting the Iowa class boasted firepower and rugged construction sufficient to reprise the role played by armored capital ships for the previous half-century—dishing out and taking punishment in a firefight against battlewagons from the Imperial Japanese Navy or German Kriegsmarine. If armored dreadnoughts remained capital ships without peer—the fleet’s chief repository of battle strength—then the Iowa class was fit to don that mantle. If not—if naval aviation fulfilled its promise—then Iowa-class battlewagons housed steam propulsion plants powerful enough to let them keep up with fast-moving aircraft-carrier task forces.

Iowa designers, that is, constructed gunships able to provide value in a world where naval aviation ruled the oceans. Like past battleships, Iowa-class vessels were fitted with gunnery, radar, and fire control heavy-hitting and accurate enough to conduct shore bombardment. Battleships went on to support amphibious landings throughout the Pacific, Mediterranean, and Atlantic theaters of World War II, as well as fleet engagements against Japan. The fledgling class of battleships, in other words, could contribute to the fight for sea command, regardless of what the future held. And they could perform a variety of functions once command belonged to the U.S. Navy. Iowas were as complete a package as designers could devise.

Hedging—diversifying a vessel’s portfolio of functions and technical attributes to fit a variety of circumstances—only makes sense. For instance, interwar submarine designers intended the U.S. Navy’s Gato-class fleet boats to raid Japanese battleship or cruiser formations. But Gatos could also assail mercantile shipping if deftly handled. These were midsized boats with middling capability by such metrics as tonnage and cruising range. Design choices suited them for a variety of missions—reducing the likelihood that some future evolution of sea warfare would render them useless. Enterprising skippers ravaged Japanese merchantmen throughout the Pacific Ocean.

Indeed, Gato-class subs rank among the most successful classes ever to take to the depths. Their combat performance is a tribute to the naval architects who dreamt them up. There is more to fleet design than newfangled widgets. Hedging is an art—and an attitude—worth rediscovering.

Now look at ship design through the prism of sea-power theory. Maritime strategy comes in threes for historian Julian Corbett. Roughly speaking, naval wars unfold in three phases. A weaker navy can dispute a stronger navy’s command of important waters, denying the opponent victory while buying time to turn the tables and make itself the stronger contender. A stronger navy bids for maritime command when opportunity beckons. It strives to solve a multitude of problems in an afternoon. And, having won command of important waters, the victor reaps the fruits of victory. It enjoys options such as landing troops, bombarding hostile shores, raiding hostile shipping, and on and on. It holds down the vanquished foe while doing as it pleases on the briny main.

To perform these three functions, says Corbett, fleet designers craft three types of ships: capital ships, “cruisers,” and the “flotilla.” Capital ships serve in the battle line, vying for command of the sea against enemy battle fleets. These are the navy’s brawlers. Cruisers are smaller, more lightly armed, cheaper craft. They’re affordable enough to build in bulk. They, not capital ships, are the true executors of maritime command for Corbett. Cruisers—akin to frigates or corvettes in today’s lingo—fan out in large numbers to police the sea. They safeguard the sea lanes for friendly shipping while barring the sea to antagonists. Flotilla craft are still smaller, cheaper, unarmed or lightly armed vessels that can likewise be built in bulk. They conduct the mundane administrative chores all navies must conduct.

In effect the carrier’s debut as the premier capital ship demoted battleships to secondary status in U.S. naval strategy. Iowas steamed with carrier groups in the Pacific, using their abundant secondary armament to protect flattops against air assault. Battleships resumed their place as capital ships from time to time, but only when the battleground was relatively safe from hostile aircraft. In October 1944, for instance, Admiral Jesse Oldendorf oversaw a surface task force that repulsed a Japanese battleship group making its way through Surigao Strait in the central Philippines. By then, though, gunnery duels had become the exception rather than the rule in naval warfare.

At most battleships—even the vaunted Iowa class—hovered at the fringes of Corbett’s capital-ship contingent.

Technology and tactics, then, had reduced battlewagons to subordinate status—to a fleet auxiliary bearing a hefty price tag. Much like Corbett’s cruisers or flotilla ships, they furnished naval gunfire support and performed other duties aftercarrier planes had rendered embattled expanses mostly harmless for surface vessels. Their capabilities were wildly excessive for such modest missions—which is why the final two Iowas, Kentucky and Illinois, were canceled along with plans for the future Montana class. Their subsidiary functions in the fleet simply weren’t worth the expense. Lesser craft would do.

A likewise dismal destiny could await the Ford-class aircraft carriers if fleet design is undergoing another phase change. If the CVN is no longer a capital ship in Corbett’s sense—if it no longer spearheads the fight for nautical command—then lawmakers and ordinary citizens may ask why they should bear the expense.

If the march of technology has relegated flattops to auxiliary status, then Corbett’s fleet-design precepts should apply. Top priority should go to capital ships, whatever they may be in the future. Today as always, winning the battle for command is Job One. Meanwhile the U.S. Navy should acquire smaller, less pricey flattops that can be built in batches to perform support duty. A capital ship may be worth $15 billion if it can sally out to crush the likes of Russia and China in high-seas combat. That’s a tough sell for a fleet auxiliary.

The battleship’s past could be the carrier’s future. Plan accordingly.

James Holmes is J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and the author of A Brief Guide to Maritime Strategy, released last December. The views voiced here are his alone.

Image: Reuters

WHO and partners unite for Day of Action for Cervical Cancer Elimination

UN News Centre - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 00:30
With more than 300,000 women dying from cervical cancer each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) is joining advocates from across the globe on Wednesday to commemorate a Day of Action against the disease. 

Weaponizing Space Is Next for the U.S. Air and Space Forces

The National Interest - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 00:30

Kris Osborn

Outer Space, Outer Space

Needless to say this is uncharted territory.

Here's What You Need to Remember: This latter possibility, Kendall further explained, might prove to be a more survivable method of attack as newly engineered space-traveling weapons might be able to operate with an ability to adjust trajectory to avoid a more traditional ICBM flight path. This could enable an offensive weapon to potentially avoid missile warning systems and function with a greater likelihood of traveling through to hit a target. 

The U.S. Air Force and emerging Space Force are venturing into previously uncharted territory. The two branches are exploring the conceptual and technological parameters of more fully “weaponizing” space with offensive attack technologies. 

Space travel has of course long been crucial to Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) flight and Missile Defense efforts to track and destroy incoming ICBMs in the “mid-course” phase of flight. Now, the prospect of sending new technologies into space to operate offensively as “attack weapons” is now very much under exploration by the Pentagon. 

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall confirmed that the possibilities were indeed being explored as what he referred to as “global strikes from space.”  Kendall did not go into much detail, which is not surprising given the obvious security sensitivities surrounding the issues. But he did articulate a few significant parameters regarding how space weapons might operate in the future. 

“There is potential to put weapons in space and potential for a weapon to be launched into space as a system that goes into orbit, then de-orbits to hit a target,” Kendall said.

This latter possibility, Kendall further explained, might prove to be a more survivable method of attack as newly engineered space-traveling weapons might be able to operate with an ability to adjust trajectory to avoid a more traditional ICBM flight path. This could enable an offensive weapon to potentially avoid missile warning systems and function with a greater likelihood of traveling through to hit a target. 

While Kendall himself did not elaborate much beyond those few remarks, the possibility of further weaponizing space certainly inspires the imagination in several key respects. Technologies such as Ground-Based Interceptors, ground-launched anti-satellite weapons, kill vehicles for missile defense, decoys and countermeasures, and of course, ICBMs have been well known as space weapons systems for many years. What could be new?  Could armed drones travel beyond the earth’s atmosphere to track and destroy enemy ICBMs, hypersonic missiles, or even spacecraft and satellites? What about laser weapons, as they are widely known to be well suited for space operations given that beam attenuation is much less of a factor beyond the earth’s atmosphere? What about arming satellites themselves with interceptors able to launch from space? Or perhaps integrating long-range missiles and launch systems into satellites to destroy enemy satellites, spacecraft or even ground-based targets should the range and precision accuracy be sufficient. This kind of possibility seems entirely realistic given how close existing space-based sensors can “zoom in” on the earth’s surface. The Missile Defense Agency, for example, is already working on “power scaling” to assess the feasibility of using space or even surface-ship-fired lasers for ICBM defense and attack operations beyond the earth’s atmosphere. 

Interestingly, one of Kendall’s most significant and telling remarks was that he said when it comes to possibilities for space weapons,  there is “no question about the technical feasibility.”

Kendall’s remarks on space war were closely mirrored by U.S. Space Force Commander Gen. John Raymond, who made it clear that space is a warzone

“If you look at what China is doing and what Russia is doing. They will not take us on in the air, because they know we will ‘kick their butt,’ so the only way they think they can challenge us is to take out our space assets. They are developing capabilities to rival us in space,” Raymond said at the Air Force Association symposium.  

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

This article is being reprinted for reader interest.

Image: Flickr

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