9 February 2020

India’s New Defense Budget: Another Year, Another Disappointment?

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan
Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the new budget for the country last week. From the perspective of defense modernization, the budget has yet again proved to be disappointing, with significant implications for India as well as other key partners and competitors.

Sitharaman announced an allocation of 4.71 trillion rupees (about $66.9 billion) for the Ministry of Defense (MoD), 15.49 percent of the total central government expenditure. Of this, almost $45.8 billion goes to meet the expenses of the army, navy, and air force as well as the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). The rest of the allocation goes to meet defense pensions (about $19.0 billion) and MoD (Civil) (about $2.1 billion). The revised estimate for the previous year, 2019-20, was $65 billion.

The allocations for the various services are once again not very different from previous years: the army has received the biggest chunk of the allocation of 56 percent, the air force at 23 percent, and the navy has the smallest share at 15 percent. Over the last few years, India’s defense budget allocation has drawn unfavorable comparison to the budgets in the period prior to the 1962 war with China.

Controversial Hydel Project in India’s Northeast On Way To Completion

By Rajeev Bhattacharyya

A hydel dam in India’s Northeast that was stalled following large scale protests is now scheduled for completion in three-and-a-half years.

Straddled across the twin states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, the Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project was stuck for the past eight years due to various issues. All the hurdles were removed following a judgment by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that dismissed a petition that had raised concerns over the project.

The Lower Subansiri project, which will produce 2000 megawatts of power, is being developed as part of India’s hydropower program to generate a total of 50,000 megawatts. Among the Central Electricity Authority (CEA)’s prefeasibility studies of 162 projects, a total of 5,600 megawatts was planned on the Subansiri river across three components. The river originates in Tibet and is one of the largest tributaries of the Brahmaputra.

The run-of-the-river project is expected to incur an expenditure of over $2.8 billion. It will consist of a concrete gravity dam, which will be 116 meters high from the river bed level and 130 meters from the foundation with a length of 284 meters.

US Looks to Central Asia to Stand Up to China on Xinjiang

By Catherine Putz

In one of the pictures, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stands inside the beautifully carpeted yurt on the grounds of the U.S. Embassy in Nur-Sultan, the Kazakh capital, surrounded by solemn-faced ethnic Kazakhs holding up photographs of their loved ones who have vanished into China’s “re-education” camp system in Xinjiang.

Speaking in Washington a few days later, Ambassador Alice Wells, principal deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asia, called the meeting “extremely moving.” Wells, who accompanied Pompeo on his recent visit to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and returned to speak at the official launch of the new U.S. Central Asia strategy, said the family members of those who met with the secretary “were being, frankly, tortured, detained and brutalized in a detention system that too much of the world has sought to ignore.”

On Twitter, Methmet Volkan, a volunteer with Atajurt (who wrote a piece for The Diplomat last month detailing the organization’s work), explained that Pompeo met with some of the group’s long-time testifiers. Volkan laid out the stories, in tweet-sized chunks, of the people present in the photograph.

What If China Brings Back The Battleship?

by James Holmes
Source Link

Key point: A resilient capital ship might make the difference between a PLA breakout into the open ocean and seeing antagonists imprison the force in home waters.

S’pose China built a battleship. What would such a sea creature look like, and how would it fare in the bare-knuckles world of naval diplomacy and warfare? This is no mere flight of fancy. No, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is not about to embrace a retrograde approach to fleet design, sinking finite resources into majestic but obsolescent ship types.

But it may refresh antiquarian ideas for modern times—as military folk have done throughout history. Martial concepts of old often find new life as technology advances and the strategic environment changes.

Master historian Julian Corbett foresaw the battleship’s demise over a century ago. During the age of sail ships of the line stood at the forefront of naval warfare, brushing aside lighter combatants. The advent of newfangled armaments such as the torpedo, though, upended that neat division of labor—superempowering small craft to strike heavy blows against capital ships that ventured within reach.

Did China's Army Just Copy Russia's BMPT-72 Terminator Tank?

by Michael Peck
Source Link

Key point: Beijing is known for copying foreign weapons and reverse-engineering them. It appears that China's "new" QN-506 armored vehicle shows Beijing is still at it.

Take the weapons on Russia's "Terminator" tank, stick them on a Chinese tank that first clanked out of the factory when Khrushchev was in the Kremlin and Castro captured Havana, and you have China’s newest armored vehicle.

The QN-506, recently unveiled at a Chinese defense trade show, appears to be a Sinicized version of Russia's BMPT-72 Terminator. Neither vehicle is a main battle tank like an M1 Abrams or T-80. Instead, they are “combat support vehicles,” which are essentially tanks armed with small-caliber cannon and missiles to support regular tanks, especially in urban warfare.

This first appeared in 2018.

China’s Military Advancements in the 2010s: Air and Ground

By Rick Joe
The first decade of the 21st century has seen the Chinese military (People’s Liberation Army or PLA) undergo a number of major changes, which many observers around the world have kept a keen eye on. Indeed, among the world’s major military forces, the breadth and speed with which the PLA and the Chinese military industry have changed from the beginning of 2010 to the end of 2019 is quite remarkable.

Sometimes it can be easy to lose the forest for the trees; therefore as we enter the 2020s, it seems an opportune time to take a step back and review the most major and visible developments the PLA and Chinese military industry have experienced in the 2010s. For the sake of brevity, these are not wholly exhaustive. Part I will cover the Chinese Air Force (PLAAF), and the Chinese Army (PLAA/GF) and institutional and organizational domains, and Part II will review the Chinese Navy (PLAN) and Chinese Strike (PLARF).

Air Forces

Iran’s reserve of last resort: Uncovering the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Ground Forces order of battle

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Ground Forces are organized around headquarters that are meant to coordinate the operations of Iranian paramilitary forces and support the Quds Force’s use of proxy groups such as Iraqi Shi’a militias abroad.

Their basing in Iran indicates a primary focus on suppressing internal unrest and waging irregular warfare in the rear of an invader rather than on defending against an invasion conventionally.

Their organizational structure and the pattern of their operations in Syria suggest that they might be challenged to coordinate large-scale (multi-division) operations abroad and possibly at home.

The fact that the Iranian leadership has not yet had to use them on a large scale to suppress growing domestic unrest suggests that the regime still has a potent reserve force to ensure its survival even if the unrest grows considerably, as long as it does not also face a requirement for large-scale military operations abroad.

Executive Summary

Hoover's China Leadership Monitor

UK, Australia Commit to Free Trade Negotiations

By Rod McGuirk

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab made his first overseas trip since Brexit on Thursday to faraway Australia, where he reaffirmed Britain’s desire for a free trade deal and gave assurances that the countries’ differing views on Chinese tech giant Huawei would not stand in the way of closer relations.

Raab’s first stop was the capital Canberra on a trip that will also take him to Japan as well as former British colonies Malaysia and Singapore.

Both Raab and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne reaffirmed their commitment to start negotiations on a bilateral free trade deal as soon as possible. They also agreed to find opportunities for engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.

“We’ve recommitted today to launching negotiations on an ambitious free trade agreement between our countries as soon possible,” Raab said.

“Australia would hopefully be part of that first wave of high-priority deals that we’re pursuing,” he added.

Israel's Secret Tactic Against Syrian Air Defenses: Death By Kamikaze Drone

by Sebastien Roblin

Key Point: It appears the air defense batteries were overwhelmed by a saturation attack. The implication, then, is that Syrian air defenses have made Israeli attacks more expensive by requiring expenditure of additional and more expensive munitions, but they remain incapable of halting the Israeli strikes.

On January 21, Iranian, Syrian and Israeli forces unleashed a hail of missiles upon each other in what is becoming yet another flare-up of violence along the Syria-Israel border. Afterwards, the Israeli Defense Force released a video depicting unidentified munitions eliminating two or three short-range air defense systems—apparently including Russia’s latest short-range system, the Pantsir-S2.

In fact, the recent raids may reveal improvements to Syria’s air defense forces due to ongoing Russian training and weapons transfers. However, they also reveal Israel’s continuing ability to defeat, including through likely use of kamikaze-drones.

The Media's Coverage of the Syria April 2018 Chemical Weapons Attack Is a Disgrace

by Ted Galen Carpenter

For most members of the news media, the Syrian civil war that erupted in 2011 has been a stark melodrama between good and evil, much as journalists oversimplified the earlier murky conflicts in the Balkans, Iraq, and Libya. In the standard media narrative, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is an arch-villain, while Syrian insurgents are innocent victims of his atrocities. That narrative also parrots the official position of Washington and its Western allies.

Nowhere is the lack of media skepticism about government propaganda more evident than in the coverage of allegations that Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons against civilians. Worse, media outlets (with few exceptions) have ignored a growing body of counterevidence. Their coverage of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the UN body tasked with investigating allegations that Syrian forces used such weapons in 2013, 2017, and 2018, has been especially credulous and unprofessional. 

Withdrawing From the INF Treaty Was the Easy Part

by Paul J. Leaf
Source Link

The United States recently left the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, in part to deploy new conventional missiles in the Asia-Pacific Theater to deter China. But countries there refuse to host the missiles, largely because they fear Chinese retaliation without American backing. This episode suggests that Washington must better compete with Beijing to earn the allegiance of other countries as part of their struggle for regional leadership. 

Inked during the Cold War, the INF Treaty banned Washington and Moscow from possessing ground-launched missiles—whether conventional or nuclear—with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. On August 2, 2019, following accusations of Russia violating the INF Treaty, the United States withdrew from it.

Many experts applaud the INF Treaty’s demise, particularly given its deleterious effects in the Asia-Pacific region. While the United States honored that agreement for thirty-two years, nonsignatory China developed the world’s most lethal arsenal of missiles covered by it, including some designed to strike moving warships and military bases as far from China as Guam. Beijing’s missile-striking distance outstrips the range of fighter jets launched from American aircraft carriers. If those vessels sail close enough to China to enable aircraft strike sorties, then the aircraft carriers become easier to sink. And although U.S. submarines can hide in Chinese waters, then they arguably cannot launch enough conventional missiles to imperil China. That is because the submarine fleet is too small and vulnerable when firing. Thus, America’s need for conventional, land-based missiles deployed around China has grown. 

Why Putin's Plan for Russia Will Work

by Konstantin Remchukov
Source Link

Russian president Vladimir Putin has attracted much attention for proposing changes to the constitution that would guarantee his security after he resigns from the position of president. His decision has aroused much speculation about his motives. But what he is proposing is really an enormous institutional and constitutional restructuring of Russian branches of power. He wants the State Duma to control the government more closely and have the authority to approve the prime minister, all of the deputies, and all of the federal ministers. And although Putin may appear to be solely pursuing his own goal of personal security, he will also eventually create a more democratic country.

History suggests that Putin’s actions are not a complete anomaly in Russia. If we apply the term “Tsar” to all Russian leaders, then we must recognize that Nicholas II stepped down from his throne in 1917 by himself (although under strong pressure) and that Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin also yielded their powers willingly.

Donald Trump Is About to Make One Big Giant 'Nuclear' Mistake

by David Axe
Source Link

U.S. President Donald Trump has one year to sign an extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

He immediately should sign, two nuclear-weapons experts advised.

“No matter your political orientation, treaty extension is a no-brainer,” wrote Matt Korda and Hans Kristensen, analysts with the Federation of American Scientists.

New START is the last major arms-control accord limiting the size and power and the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.

The 2010 treaty restricts both the United States and Russia to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads on a maximum of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers.

But the treaty expires on Feb. 5, 2021 unless Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin both sign an extension. The expiration would be very dangerous for the entire world.

Cold War Craziness: How America Nearly Built a Nuclear-Powered Tank

by Michael Peck
Source Link

Key point: A nuclear tank was a terrible idea that not only would not have worked well but would have been an environmental disaster. However, Cold War America was willing to try all kinds of wonder weapons.

In the 1950s, America was enthralled by the atom. There were plans for atomic-powered cars, atomic-powered aircraft and atomic-powered spaceships.

So why not an atomic-powered tank?

Even by the standards of the 1950s, with its visions of Jetsons-style technology, the Chrysler TV-8 was strange. Almost monstrous, like some mutated mushroom creature out of a 1980s post-apocalyptic nuclear horror flick.

Chrysler's design was essentially a giant pod-shaped turret mounted on a lightweight tank chassis, like a big head stuck on top a small body. The crew, weapons and power plant would have been housed in the turret, according to tank historian R.P. Hunnicut's authoritative "A History of the Main American Battle Tank Vol. 2".

Russia Is Building Radar To Detect Hypersonic Weapons (And Is Testing Them Too)

by Michael Peck
Source Link

Proving yet again that one nation’s misfortune is another’s business opportunity, Russia says it will sell radars in the Middle East that are designed to detect cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons.

The announcement follows a devastating attack – reportedly by drones and cruise missiles – on Saudi oil facilities last month. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia accuse Iran of being behind the attack, which ostensibly was conducted by Houthi rebels in Yemen.

“Contracts have been signed with a number of Middle Eastern countries for the supply of Rezonans-NE,” an unidentified Russian government source told Russian news agency TASS. “Stations will be transferred to customers within one and a half to two years.”

The source did not specify which states would receive the radars, other than they would be "Russia-friendly states."

“The stationary radar Rezonans-NE operates in the meter range and is equipped with a phased antenna array,” according to TASS. “It is capable of detecting modern aerial targets at great distances, including those made using stealth technology. In particular, the radar is designed to detect and track stealth cruise and ballistic missiles, as well as hypersonic aircraft.”

How a Revolutionary "Electric Drive" Could Make America's Nuclear Missile Submarines Even Stealthier

by Kris Osborn
Source Link

Key point: Nuclear missile submarines help deter America's rivals. In order to keep these submarines hidden and safe, the Navy is aiming to make them even quieter.

The Navy has now issued at least one-fourth of the design work and begun further advancing work on systems such as a stealthy "electric drive" propulsion system for the emerging nuclear-armed Columbia-Class ballistic missile submarines by 2021.

“Of the required design disclosures (drawings), 26-percent have been issued, and the program is on a path to have 83-percent issued by construction start,” Bill Couch, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.

The Columbia class is to be equipped with an electric-drive propulsion train, as opposed to the mechanical-drive propulsion train used on other Navy submarines.

In today’s Ohio-class submarines, a reactor plant generates heat which creates steam, Navy officials explained. The steam then turns turbines which produce electricity and also propel the ship forward through “reduction gears” which are able to translate the high-speed energy from a turbine into the shaft RPMs needed to move a boat propeller.

Center for Global Development

Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA)

Combating Terrorism Center (CTC)

CTC Sentinel, January 2020, v. 13, no. 1 https://ctc.usma.edu/january-2020/

o Soleimani Is Dead: The Road Ahead for Iranian-Backed Militias in Iraq

o Lessons from the Islamic State’s ‘Milestone’ Texts and Speeches

o A View from the CT Foxhole: Rob Saale, Former Director, U.S. Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell

o After Soleimani: What’s Next for Iran’s Quds Force?

o Piety Is in the Eye of the Bureaucrat: The Islamic State’s Strategy of Civilian Control

What Does Europe Have to Offer?


NEW YORK – At last month’s annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proclaimed that Europe needed to be more assertive in the world. That means “stepping up” in some areas. But exactly which areas? To answer that question, the European Union needs to identify – and convincingly articulate – what it has to offer the rest of the world.

Until Donald Trump, the United States had never had a president who maintained such a tight stranglehold on his party. Now that it does, the Constitution’s provisions for removing the president – through impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by a two-thirds majority of the Senate – have been neutered.

This is easier said than done, particularly at a time of rapidly shifting global power dynamics. The night of von der Leyen’s speech, I put the question to a European business leader and to a former senior public official. Neither had a ready answer.

President Trump’s United States Space Force: Why we need it now

by Joseph Ragonese
Source Link

NAPLES, Fla. — World War III will begin in the newest battlefield, outer space. In order for our peer adversaries, China and Russia, to fulfill their dreams of hegemony over the resources of the China Sea or Arctic Ocean, they must first defeat American technology in space. Which is why America needs President Trump’s United States Space Force (USSF).

Space holds the key to victory because of over-the-horizon technology that includes weapons, navigation, surveillance, communications, intelligence, and command and control. Lose those assets and you lose the war.

After the loss of those systems, the only long-range weapons systems left, that does not demand precise targeting, will be nuclear ballistic missiles to counter our foes attacks. And no one, including China or Russia, wants to unloose a nuclear armageddon.
Do we really want to find ourselves in a position of nuclear war or defeat?

How should we measure the digital economy?

Erik Brynjolfsson and Avinash Collis

Over the past 40 years, we’ve seen an explosion of digital goods and services: Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, Wikipedia, online courses, maps, messaging, music, and all the other apps on your smartphone. Because many internet services are free, they largely go uncounted in official measures of economic activity such as GDP and Productivity (which is simply GDP/hours worked). The contribution of the Information sector as a fraction of the total GDP has barely changed over the past 40 years. The reason is that GDP is based on what people pay for goods and services so if something has zero price, then it has zero weight in GDP. In the meantime, GDP measures the monetary value of all final goods produced in the economy, but it doesn’t measure well-being. If we want to understand how the internet is contributing to our economy, we need better ways to measure free services like Facebook, Google and Wikipedia.

In response to this challenge, Brynjolfsson and Collis of MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy developed techniques with Felix Eggers of University of Groningen, which allow them to estimate the internet’s contribution to the economy. Their research suggests that there has been a substantial increase in well-being that is missed by traditional metrics like GDP, or productivity. It is tempting to therefore conclude that the slowdown in productivity metrics over the past decade and a half might disappear if we properly account for the benefits of the digital revolution. However, the authors cannot draw that conclusion because there were other important sources of consumer surplus, including free and nearly free goods like antibiotics, radio and television that were introduced in the past.

Why Quantum Supremacy Does — and Doesn’t — Matter

Real-world applications of quantum computing are several years away. Still, it is only a matter of time before every business is a quantum business. Companies must begin their quantum journey today; if they don’t, they could end up on the wrong side of history, write Paul Daugherty, Dan Garrison and Carl Dukatz in this opinion piece. Daugherty (@pauldaugh) is Accenture’s chief technology and innovation officer; Garrison is a master technology architect; and Dukatz is a principal director in Accenture’s quantum computing practice.

News of advancements in quantum computing, and the healthy dose of skepticism that usually follows, have become the norm. Witness Google’s recent claim of quantum supremacy — building a computer that in 200 seconds completed a task the company claimed would take today’s fastest supercomputer 10,000 years —followed by IBM’s response that its own supercomputer could have done the same task in just days.

Despite causing confusion, debates like this are having a positive impact by bringing much-needed attention to the technology. That’s because no matter who ultimately achieves advantage in the quantum hardware race, we all stand to benefit from the truly transformative benefits that it will deliver.

Digital Currency Wars: A National Security Crisis Simulation


In the not-so-distant future, China becomes the first major economy to issue a central bank digital currency (CBDC). The development goes largely unnoticed at first, since payments in China are already highly digitized. Then, North Korea tests a nuclear missile that demonstrates significant advancements in its nuclear program. Analysts believe it could land a nuclear weapon in the continental United States within a year. These capabilities, it turns out, are funded using the Chinese digital currency, which U.S. authorities cannot track. Soon thereafter, countries that want to escape U.S. oversight and sanctions, like Russia and Iran, begin issuing their own digital currencies. 

The President of the United States calls on the National Security Council to assess threats to U.S. national security and recommend responses. Tactically, how should the U.S. respond to North Korea’s missile test if economic sanctions are no longer effective? And strategically, how can the U.S. continue to leverage economic power in the world of national digital currencies?