15 May 2022

US, China locked in a hypersonic tit for tat


China has ramped up practicing hypersonic missile assaults on US warships and bases, as recent satellite photos of mock targets in Xinjiang’s Taklamakan Desert show.

Satellite photos released by the US Naval Institute this week show a string of large mock targets on the eastern edge of the desert that simulate warships such as aircraft carriers, destroyers, and naval bases.

The configuration, remote location and impact craters on the targets mean that they were meant for testing China’s hypersonic anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), an increasingly dangerous threat to US warships in the Pacific.

The Afghan Resistance Is Still Fighting

Lynne O’Donnell

Embers of resistance against the Taliban’s brutality are flaring up in Afghanistan, with clashes reported across the north and west of the country this week as armed resistance groups frontally take on the Islamists.

Fighting has been reported in a number of provinces, including Panjshir, Ghazni, Herat, and others, as anti-Taliban groups make good on pledges of a “spring offensive” and Islamists deploy thousands of fighters to quell the uprisings. One resistance source said the Taliban’s acting deputy defense minister, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, has arrived in the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul, to oversee the fight, an indication of how seriously the extremists view the budding resistance.

Could Sabotage Stop Putin From Using the Nuclear Option?

Douglas London

The mysterious fires and explosions that have plagued Russia in recent weeks have aroused suspicion and curiosity. If they are not coincidental, they raise an important question: Could such sabotage alter Russian President Vladimir Putin’s calculus to make good on his threats to employ nuclear weapons?

CIA director William Burns observed that Putin believes he can’t afford to lose in Ukraine, is likely to double down, and that his nuclear saber-rattling should not be taken lightly. Avril Haines, director of national intelligence, told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that Russia’s refocus on the Donbas was likely “only a temporary shift,” assessed that “Putin’s strategic goals have probably not changed,” and cautioned that his invasion could become “more unpredictable and potentially escalatory.”


Zachary Kallenborn

The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia has seen significant drone use on both sides. Ukraine has made extensive use of drones, from the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2 to hobbyist drones supporting civil resistance. Although evidence of Russian drone use early in the conflict was limited, Russia appears to have stepped up its efforts, employing systems like the Orlan-10 and the KUB-BLA loitering munition. Drones have been used in a wide variety of roles from carrying out strikes to guiding artillery and recording video that feeds directly into information operations.

The conflict offers at least seven initial lessons that should influence the thinking of US planners, policymakers, and military leaders about the future of the United States’ own drone capabilities. While the conflict is ongoing and some of these lessons may change, the basic points are general enough that even radical changes are likely to add nuance to these points, rather than rendering any of them less meaningful.

Victory Day Was Just a Day: Trying to Penetrate Russia’s Thinking

Emily Ferris

In the end, expectations that the Victory Day parade in Moscow might tell us something about the likely course of the Ukraine war were dashed. The run-up to Russia’s annual military display, which commemorates the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War, was filled with anticipation and speculation: whether President Vladimir Putin would use this as an opportunity to escalate by declaring the ‘special operation’ a war and announcing a full-blown conflict, or perhaps announce a limited victory instead, recognising some of the Russian-held southern parts of Ukraine as independent statelets.

None of these things happened on the day, and Putin’s speech was devoid of any signals that might have helped to divine some sort of meaning from an increasingly brutal war. An excessive focus on timing reflects a desire to exert a semblance of control, and our reliance on such symbols highlights how little we are able to penetrate the thinking of the Russian leadership in a useful way.

Ukraine Joins the Fight for Russian Minds

Paul Roderick Gregory

From the start of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, Ukraine has proven a worthy opponent in the fight for minds. Ukraine’s narrative has prevailed. Russia has virtually no country taking its side. Even China’s support is questionable after Putin presumably lied to Xi Jinping that he would not invade.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has not fled to safety, and the strong resistance against Russia’s invasion from three sides has won Ukraine global admiration and support. Germany has executed a historic about-face from business as usual with Russia to become Europe’s de-facto leader against Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The War in Ukraine Will Be a Historic Turning Point

Christoph Heusgen

The Russian invasion of Ukraine marks a turning point in history. It brings to a close the chapter that began at the end of the Cold War, when Western countries tried to integrate Russia into an international rules-based order. Russia under President Vladimir Putin has become a pariah state. Much as it did when facing down the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the United States has taken the lead in countering Putin‘s blatant attack on civilization.

Many countries support the U.S.-led response to Putin’s war, but some do so grudgingly. Too many governments see the conflict as a return to the days of the Cold War, when they were forced to choose sides. They imagine that what is at stake is the collision of two geopolitical rivals, not a fundamental question of principle. This is deeply unfortunate. Russia’s aggression should not be seen as ushering in a new Cold War but simply as what it is: the worst act of aggression in Europe since the end of World War II and a brutal violation of international law.

Are The U.S. And Russia Destined For War Over Ukraine?

Doug Bandow

Traditionally, nations joined alliances to improve their security. This is no longer the case for the US. For Washington, alliances have become charitable endeavors. For instance, in Europe America has been allying itself with military midgets, most recently bringing North Macedonia and Montenegro into NATO.

Charitable Alliances

So far, at least, these two nations have simply been useless militarily. If the Russian hordes poured forth to conquer Europe—more than a little unlikely even before Moscow’s botched attack on Ukraine—they wouldn’t be stopped by Podgorica and Skopje. But Washington pretends that these countries matter.

Africa and the Soldiers of Misfortune

Source Link

Since the Peloponnesian War in the 5th century BCE to contemporary conflicts in countries like Yemen, Ukraine, and Iraq, mercenaries have been a recurring feature of human warfare. For post-colonial Africa, that story started in the newly independent Congo in 1960, where a mixed bag of mercenaries aided the Katanga province’s (failed) attempt at secession. It continues today with the deployments of the private Russian security organisation the Wagner Group in several African countries.

While the use of mercenaries may be nothing new, the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries recently warned: “We are witnessing the ever-increasing presence of mercenaries and mercenary-related actors in contemporary armed conflicts and the ever-mounting risk of grave human rights abuses and war crimes.”

Can Xi Jinping vanquish Covid without crushing China’s economy?

Sun Yu in Zhengzhou and Tom Mitchell

 If the world’s second-largest economy shows any sign of recovery from its Covid-induced slump, Wang Neng should be among the first to know. 

But so far, he sees few indications of that. Like many small businesses in China, Wang’s cement mixing station in central Henan province has been hit hard by controversial lockdowns in dozens of cities ordered by President Xi Jinping to stamp out outbreaks of the Omicron variant.

 Two months after Beijing promised vague measures to support the economy through the crisis — and despite Xi’s assurance of an “all out” infrastructure drive — Wang’s business is still struggling. “Looking at cement demand, there are few signs of an infrastructure pick-up,” he says. His station is running at only 20 per cent capacity and he has cut his fee for mixing cement by almost one-quarter from last year.

The Indian economy is being rewired. The opportunity is immense

Over the past three years India has endured more than its share of bad news and suffering. The pandemic has killed between 2.2m and 9.7m people. Lockdowns caused the economy to shrink temporarily by a quarter and triggered the largest internal migrations since partition in 1947, as city workers fled to their villages. Religious tensions have been simmering, stoked by the anti-Muslim chauvinism of the Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp), in power since 2014 under the strongman prime minister, Narendra Modi. Now a heatwave is baking the north of the country and the global oil- and food-price shock is battering the poor.

Yet as our Briefing explains, if you take a step back, a novel confluence of forces stands to transform India’s economy over the next decade, improving the lives of 1.4bn people and changing the balance of power in Asia. Technological leaps, the energy transition and geopolitical shifts are creating new opportunities—and new tools to fix intractable problems. The biggest threat to all this is India’s incendiary politics.

Making Energy Resilient

Morgan Higman

Amidst energy transitions and the rising impacts of climate change, resilience is a growing part of state energy strategies. But there is relatively little consolidated information describing what states are doing to build adaptive capacities in the power sector. This report fills this gap. It examines how resilience is addressed in planning and policy resources from a selection of representative states. These resources describe anticipated hazards and vulnerabilities, use-cases for emerging clean energy technologies, and broader efforts to create new resilience institutions and authorities. Though resilience garners considerable policy attention, most state initiatives are not guided by well-defined performance goals or measures or a plan that provides an overarching vision for grid resilience. This paper highlights challenges in these areas and describes new, innovative, and replicable approaches to promote more complete and robust resilience strategies.

U.S. Strategy: Rebalancing Global Energy between Europe, Russia, and Asia and U.S. Security Policy in the Middle East and the Gulf

The war in Ukraine has already shown how dangerous it is for the U.S. to assume that it can rebalance its forces to one region and count on a lasting peace or detente in others. It now is all too clear that U.S. strategy must continue to focus on Europe as well as China. What is less clear is the extent to which the Ukraine War is an equal warning that the U.S. must have a truly global strategy – and one that continues to focus on other critical regions like the Middle East.

The sudden escalation of the Ukraine crisis into a major regional conflict and the need for political and diplomatic support in the UN as well as for sanctions are warnings that much of the U.S. success in deterrence and defense lies in creating long-term global diplomatic and political support as well as true and lasting strategic partnerships.