20 August 2023

China’s ambitious defence modernisation sets course for dominance

Harry McNeil

With a concerted focus on its navy, air force, and army, China aims to solidify its status as a military powerhouse, driven by evolving security landscapes and regional influence. GlobalData’s recent report, “China Defense Market 2023-2028,” delves into the intricate details of this multifaceted strategy that underpins China’s quest for technological supremacy and territorial ascendancy.
Strategic modernisation drives defence expenditure surge

China’s defence expenditure leaps forward, propelled by a multifaceted strategic vision. President Xi Jinping’s two-stage plan aims to position China as a global leader in terms of national strength and international influence. This ambitious blueprint, bolstered by a decade of robust economic growth, is the cornerstone of China’s defence industry expansion.

Modernisation unveiled: Navy, Air Force, and Army powerhouses

China’s modernisation journey traverses the navy, air force, and army, each increasing its capabilities.

China’s maritime strategy unfolds in three phases, culminating in a blue water navy beyond the second island chain. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is powering into its third phase, enhancing anti-access and area denial capabilities while procuring advanced destroyers, submarines, and missiles.

Maverick MiGs! How US’ Quest To Decode Russian Fighters Got Them Access To MiG-21, 23, 25 & 29

Ritu Sharma

The US defense scientists were elated when they had the opportunity to lay their hands on the wreckage of the Russian air superiority fighter jet, Sukhoi Su-35 ‘Flanker-E.’ The aircraft was shot down during the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war, and the parts of the debris were immediately flown to the UK’s Porton Down in Wiltshire and Nevada in the US.

The Cold War is long over, but the intrigue of Russian fighter jets is far from it.

In the same vein, the biggest prize of Cold War cessation was the opportunity to lay its hands on MiG-29 Fulcrum – a twin-engine fighter jet developed by the Soviet Union as a riposte to the US fighters like F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcons.

When it undertook its maiden flight in 1977, MiG-29 had come a long way from its predecessors, and the US defense experts observed that the Soviets were catching up with US aircraft technology.

The collapse of the USSR presented the opportunity for the US military to acquire Soviet-era MiG-29 from a small country, the Soviet Republic of Moldova. In a deep recession, the country acquiesced to sell most of its MiG-29 Fulcrum fleet to America.

After all, the MiG-29 was a maneuverable, deadly aircraft for its time. Its Archer AA-11 missiles were sophisticated for the 1990s because they could lock targets with a helmet-mounted cueing system at greater angles away from the jet’s nose than comparable American fighters. The US acquired 21 fourth-generation fighters from Moldova, which had 34 MiG-29s.

The fear that economic needs would make Moldova sell these fighter jets to the Islamic Republic of Iran prompted the US to shell out money comparable to any US plane. Once the aircraft reached the US, their airframes were deconstructed and their capabilities tested.

Russian officers refused to collect the bodies of dead troops so the military wouldn't have to pay their families, convict soldier says

Chris Panella

- An ex-convict Russian soldier said officers in Putin's army refused to collect the dead bodies of fallen troops.
- The soldier told The New York Times that it let the Russian military dodge paying their families compensation.

An ex-convict gave horrific insight into serving in the Russian army, saying his officers refused to collect the dead bodies of soldiers from the battlefield so that the Russian military wouldn't have to pay their families, according to The New York Times.

In an interview, the soldier who served in one of the Russian Ministry of Defense's convict units — who was identified as "Aleksandr" — told the Times he was ordered not to collect the bodies of his fellow troops.

He told the Times that officers could register the men as "missing in action," meaning their families couldn't collect compensation for them being killed in battle.

"There were bodies everywhere," Aleksandr said to the Times. "No one was interested in collecting them."

Russia has often downplayed its undeniably large losses in Ukraine.

While officials have only admitted to losing 6,000 soldiers since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Western intel earlier this year suggested the number was closer to 60,000.

And last week, researchers with the BBC said they've identified more than 30,000 dead Russian soldiers by name, including 1,300 in the last two weeks alone.

Ukraine also has not released estimates of how many of their troops have died, although a leaked US military assessment earlier this year estimated the number was around 17,000.

Russia's reliance on convict units grew as its conscripted soldiers were decimated in Ukraine.

While mercenaries with the Wagner Group were originally pulling incarcerated soldiers, the Russian Ministry of Defense took over the recruitment process in February, signing up thousands of inmates and promising them salaries and freedom at the end of their contracts.

The China Conundrum: As the world’s second-largest economy deals with multiple problems, is it time for a cozier relationship?


The Chinese economy is in something of a tailspin, suffering from the consequences of deliberate revisions of its model and impulsive mistakes compounded by Xi Jinping’s autocratic leadership. China’s growth rate, long around 10 percent, is more like 5 percent, and headed lower.

Recently released trade data shows that China’s exports to the U.S. declined by 23.1 percent in July 2023 compared with July 2022, while those to the European Union fell by 20.6 percent. Exports to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations fell by 21.4 percent. China also has a youth unemployment crisis, both among college grads who can’t find work and among potential factory workers who are rejecting the going wages and working conditions. Manufacturing data for July showed the fourth consecutive month of slowing activity.

China’s situation poses several questions. How low is down? What will the impact be on the global economy and the U.S. economic recovery? Will the downturn force changes in China’s authoritarian political system and Xi’s one-man rule? How much is U.S. policy—tariffs, export controls—implicated in China’s slowdown? Is this the occasion for the U.S. to ease up on its containment strategy and venture a reconciliation, or a moment to double down?

China’s situation is the result of the interaction of several forces. China’s model of importing capital and production technology, suppressing wages and consumption, and relying on state-financed debt and subsidized exports worked fine when China was a less mature economy. But it no longer works well. Much of China’s state-led investment has gone to unproductive uses, which do not increase growth but add to debt.

Chinese and Russian Warships Step up Activity in Straits Around Japan


In this photo released by Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, ships from Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Indian Navy sail in formation with Royal Australian Navy HMAS Warramunga and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) during MALABAR 2021 on Aug. 27, 2021.Credit: Justin Stack/DVIDS U.S. Navy via AP

Japan defined its territorial seas as extending 12 nautical miles seaward with the enactment of the Act on Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone in 1977. However, there are still several sea areas where the breadth of territorial waters is 3 nautical miles, which are called as “specified sea areas.” In its appendix, the Act refers to the definition of an “international strait” in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), when limiting the breadth of the territorial waters of Soya Strait (23 nautical miles wide), Tsugaru Strait (10 nautical miles wide), Tsushima Strait East Channel (25 nautical miles wide), Tsushima Strait West Channel (23 nautical miles wide), Osumi Strait (16 nautical miles wide) to 3 nautical miles, leaving high seas at the center of these straits. In doing so, it avoids the application in these straits of the “transit regime” adopted by the UNCLOS.

The UNCLOS has recognized “right of transit passage” for foreign vessels and aircraft (including foreign warships and military aircraft) to be able to exercise “freedom of navigation and overflight solely for the purpose of continuous and expeditious transit” of the international straits that connect international seas or exclusive economic zones (EEZs) with other high seas or EEZs. Although vessels navigating international straits are required to comply with certain rules established by the states bordering straits, freedom of navigation is guaranteed, and unlike territorial sea, navigation is not subject to the condition of innocent passage.

What the Salameh Sanctions Mean for Lebano

Alexander Langlois

Former Banque du Liban (BdL) governor Riad Salameh will not enjoy a quiet retirement after his exit from the role on July 31. Rather, he will have to navigate new August 10 sanctions imposed by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada against him and four other associates for financial crimes likely committed during his thirty-year tenure at the bank. The joint decision marks the latest in a long-running saga to hold Salameh and other Lebanese elites accountable for widespread corruption in the Mediterranean country—the outcomes of which remain to be seen.

Washington, London, and Ottawa accuse Salameh of “using his position to enrich himself, his family, and his associates in apparent contravention of Lebanese law,” noting he “contributed to Lebanon’s endemic corruption and perpetuated the perception that elites in Lebanon need not abide by the same rules that apply to all Lebanese people.” U.S. under secretary of the treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson added that the three countries believe Salameh “place[d] his personal financial interests and ambitions above those of the people he served, even as the economic crisis in Lebanon worsened.”

The sanctions announcement also targets members of the Salameh family and other associates, including his brother Raja and son Nady. The former governor’s ex-wife Anna Kosakova and primary assistant at the BdL, Marianne Hoayek, are also listed. Raja allegedly used British Virgin Islands shell companies to divert roughly $330 million in transactions involving the BdL. Hoayek assisted in the transfers.

Meanwhile, Nady and Kosakova owned companies in Luxembourg, Germany, and Belgium, facilitating real estate purchases worth tens of millions of dollars associated with BdL funds. The sanctions freeze any assets held by these individuals and prohibit transactions between citizens or businesses of the sanctioning countries.

Why Is Lebanon’s Security Faltering?

Adnan Nasser 

History has shown that it only takes a single incident for Lebanon to totally fall back into violence and social breakdown. Fortunately, neither has occurred … yet. However, the country’s stability is testing the hand of fate. A gun battle on August 9 in Kahale left people with little optimism regarding the future of Lebanon’s security and possible social cohesion among different communities.

It all began when a truck owned by the pro-Iranian Shia party Hezbollah fell over on a highway connecting Beirut to the Beqaa Valley in the Chrisitan village of Kahale. After the accident, residents from the town surrounded the lorry to see what was happening, leading to a clash between Hezbollah members and Kahale residents that left two people dead. Fadi Bejjani, a Kahale resident, and Ahmad Ali Kassas, a Hezbollah supporter, were both killed in the fighting. A video was released by local media that shows the moment Bejjani was injured by the gunfire. Later, he was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The Lebanese army eventually took control of the situation and established a security perimeter blocking unauthorized vehicles from entering the area. For days, people in the village mourned at a nearby church as they buried Bejjani and posted a large picture of him nearby. The same was true for Kassas. People in the southern Beirut Suburb of Dahieh rallied around his body in a funeral procession and deemed him a “martyr.” Some bullets from the burial ceremony fell on the Lebanese defense minister Maurice Sleem’s car, which was initially misreported as an assassination attempt.

Humanitarian Blackmail How Belligerents Use Negotiations Over Aid to Extort the West

Natasha Hall 
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For close to a decade, at least four million people living in the parts of northwest Syria controlled by rebel groups have depended on the United Nations for food, medicine, and basic services. Back in 2014, as the country’s civil war raged, the UN and other aid agencies received Security Council approval to deliver essential supplies across the Syrian-Turkish border without the permission of the Syrian regime. But all that changed on July 10 of this year, when Russia—a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—vetoed the extension of this humanitarian lifeline. As a result, millions of lives were thrown into jeopardy.

In August, the UN announced that it had reached a six-month deal with the Assad regime to reopen the crossing and resume aid delivery, but humanitarian assistance must be coordinated with the regime. Given the government’s systematic denial of aid to those in opposition-controlled areas and its history of targeting humanitarian operations, the agreement effectively invalidates the original purpose of the UN’s support for cross-border deliveries, which was intended to provide lifesaving aid to millions of people to counter the regime’s embrace of starvation and deprivation as weapons of war. But what is happening in Syria is no longer unique. A week after Moscow pulled the plug on aid delivery in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which had permitted Ukraine to export a portion of its agricultural products to the world despite the war. Global food prices have accordingly started to climb.

The two broken deals are symptomatic of a broader diplomatic failure, as Western states—the biggest donors to the UN and international relief organizations—increasingly rely on negotiations concerning humanitarian aid to manage underlying conflicts and their consequences. In the case of Syria, the regular renewal process of UN Security Council resolutions on cross-border aid effectively became the only venue where global powers seriously discussed the Syrian civil war. As a result, other regimes are beginning to follow Assad and Putin’s approach of using humanitarian negotiations to extract concessions from the rest of the world. Donors need a new approach to conflict resolution in an increasingly multipolar world, where unsavory regimes can turn to great-power protectors to shield them from accountability. Above all, they will need to recognize that humanitarian negotiations are no substitute for conflict resolution.

The Ukrainian army commits new forces in a big southward push

After eight weeks of slow progress, Ukraine’s counter-offensive entered a new phase on July 26th when Ukraine’s army committed a big part of its reserve forces in the south. There was heavy fighting reported around the village of Robotyne. Ukrainian officials say their units are attacking in the direction of Melitopol, a city that dominates the “land bridge” linking Russia to Crimea, and Berdyansk, a port on the Sea of Azov (see map).

Ukraine’s hope is that Russia’s army, roiled by dysfunctional command and a drumbeat of Ukrainian missile attacks against its logistics, will break under the new pressure. But for that to happen, Ukraine must overcome the problems that hobbled the first phase of its offensive earlier this summer.

The Collapsing Soviet Army Left Behind Dozens Of IMR-2 Engineering Vehicles. The Ukrainian Army Eagerly Snatched Them Up.

David Axe

Ukraine’s foreign allies have pledged to the Ukrainian war efforts dozens of armored engineering vehicles: American-made M-88s; Challenger recovery vehicles from the United Kingdom; Bergepanzers, Wisents and Dachs from Germany; and even some very rare Norwegian NM189s, Swedish Bgbv 90s and Leopard 2Rs from Finland.

But for all that, the most common AEV in Ukrainian service is an ex-Soviet classic: the IMR-2. Basically, an old T-72 tank chassis with a crane in the place of its turret plus a hull-mounted dozer blade.

The IMR-2s are everywhere along the 600-mile front line in Ukraine: unsticking vehicles stuck in the mud, towing abandoned Russian tanks from rivers and using their dozer blades to clear paths through minefields.

The two-person, 47-ton IMR-2s with their 840-horsepower diesel engines are anything but sophisticated. They’re underpowered and lightly protected compared to the latest Western engineering vehicles. But they’re reliable ... and available. And that counts for a lot.

It actually is an accident of history that the Ukrainian army, marine corps, separate air-assault forces and other military branches have so many IMR-2s.

Yes, the Ukrainians in the first 18 months of Russia’s wider war on Ukraine have captured from Russian forces no fewer than a dozen IMR-2s. But most of Ukraine’s IMR-2s are from Ukrainian stocks.

Poland showcases military might in a parade as war rages in neighboring Ukraine


WARSAW, Poland -- NATO member Poland displayed its state-of-the-art weapons and defense systems at a massive military parade Tuesday, as war rages in neighboring Ukraine and ahead of parliamentary elections in two months.

President Andrzej Duda, the chief commander of the armed forces, said in his opening speech that the protection of Poland's eastern border is a key element of state policy. He also noted that Poland is supporting Ukraine in its struggle against Russia's aggression of almost 18 months.

“The defense of our eastern border, the border of the European Union and of NATO is today a key element of Poland's state interest," Duda said.

Crowds waving national white-and-red flags gathered in scorching temperatures that reached 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) to see U.S.-made Abrams tanks, HIMARS mobile artillery systems and Patriot missile systems. Also on display were F-16 fighter planes, South Korean FA-50 fighters and K9 howitzers. A U.S. Air Force F-35 roared overhead, in a sign that Poland was also purchasing these advanced fighter planes.

Polish-made equipment including Krab tracked gun-howitzers and Rosomak armored transporters were also featured.

Some 2,000 troops, 200 vehicles and almost 100 aircraft took part. Poland's armed forces have more than 175,000 troops, up from some 100,000 eight years ago, Duda said.

Largest tank factory in the world goes into overdrive to make up for catastrophic Russian losses in Ukraine

Kieron Monks

The pride of Russian military hardware is on show at a defence ministry expo in Moscow this week, as the Kremlin seeks to demonstrate that it can compensate for vast equipment losses in Ukraine.

Display models included top-of-the-line tanks the T-90 and T-14 Armata – only recently introduced to the fighting in Ukraine – featuring new accessories such as reactive armour and sophisticated optics, as well as prized Western hardware captured on the battlefield.

“The production of armoured vehicles has quadrupled since the start of the special military operation,” said Vladimir Artyakov, deputy CEO of Russia’s vast defence conglomerate Rostec, ahead of the expo.

“Today, the tanks of the T-72, T-80 and T-90 families continue to be modified taking into account the combat experience and wishes of the tankers participating in the special military operation,” said Alexander Potapov, general director of Uralvagonzavod, the largest tank factory in the world.

But Russia’s military industrial complex is facing a severe test to meet the needs created by catastrophic losses in Ukraine.

Russia shows off purported war trophies — prized Western weapons captured in Ukraine — at a new military theme park exhibit

Chris Panella

- New photos and videos show a Russian exhibit of captured Western tanks and artillery from       Ukraine.

- The trophies supposedly include US M777 Howitzers, Swedish combat vehicles, and                   French AMX-10RCR fighting vehicles.

-  Ukraine has its own display of wrecked Russian tanks and weapons in Kyiv.

A new exhibit at a Russian military theme park displays what are said to be pieces of Western military equipment captured on the battlefield in Ukraine. Videos and photos from the opening of the exhibit show what appear to be NATO tanks, artillery and armored vehicles.

The display at Patriot Park near Moscow opened August 15, RIA Novosti reported, and includes a variety of military equipment and weaponry. Each system includes the flag of the country that produced the asset and describes where and how the equipment was captured.

The new exhibit was opened for the Moscow Conference on International Security attended by Russian officers and defense companies.

Although Russia claims that the weapons were captured, it's not entirely clear if all the assets are real or if some may be replicas.

Zelensky's Pivotal Counteroffensive Call Threatens to Divide Leadership


Ukraine's long-awaited counteroffensive has—so far—proved underwhelming, his troops winning back slivers of land in the south and east of the country at high cost. The Ukrainians are reportedly inflicting withering losses on the Russian defenders, but six weeks into the operation, Moscow's multi-layered defensive network is yet to break.

Zelensky faces an impossible choice: to go all-in and risk a costly failure, or to cut Ukraine's losses and accept a politically damaging defeat.

The lack of progress has intensified the strategic debate at the highest levels of the Ukrainian government, sources with knowledge of the discussions have told Newsweek, setting some within the president's office against the military command.

Some in the former group want to consolidate Kyiv's limited successes and prepare for an expected fall-winter Russian offensive. But figures in the latter—including commander-in-chief General Valery Zaluzhnyi—want to push on, with Ukrainian military officials decrying criticism as impatience rooted in misunderstanding.

"There definitely are some differences among the Ukrainian leadership about the military strategy," one source close to the Ukrainian government—who spoke with Newsweek on the condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk publicly—said.

"On the military side, you have Zaluzhnyi and others—but obviously he's in command—who want to keep pushing. There are some questions on the political side about whether that makes the most sense right now. Or does it make sense to consolidate where possible in some areas, and relieve pressure on supply lines and stockpiles?"

Growing Japan-Italy Ties Emphasize Tokyo’s Pressing Need for Assistance

Mark S. Cogan

In May, Italy’s Chief of Defense Adm. Giuseppe Cavo Dragone gave a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. in which he warned of the inevitable rise of militaries in Asia and their newfound ability to project force beyond their normal spheres of influence. China, Dragone noted, was now capable of flying from its East Asian home to the Balkans to hand-deliver surface-to-air missiles. While not mentioning Japan by name, Dragone warned that defense sectors in many countries were struggling to adapt to rapidly changing security conditions.

Last week, several Italian Air Force aircraft arrived in Japan for exercises with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), which are designed to improve joint tactical skills. While the drills are not significant in and of themselves, the speed at which Japan has made inroads with European countries is worth a closer look. Tokyo’s ties with Rome come as both countries attempt to provide a sufficient counter to Beijing’s growing military capacity in the Indo-Pacific region.

Recent developments highlight Japan and Europe’s dilemma. China in 2021 made considerable progress in the development of nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles, in part because it had already surpassed the United States in the research and development of advanced aircraft engines, evidenced by the fact that it now hosts many of the top research institutions in military-grade technologies. China’s National University of Defense Technology, for example, is the world’s leader in electronic warfare research. In a report prepared for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China aims to advance its military modernization efforts to increase power projection capabilities, and develop both AI-based platforms to take advantage of trends that shape both conflict and military capacity.

It’s Time for U.S. Agriculture Leaders to Challenge China in Africa

Kip E. Tom

Sub-Saharan Africa is emerging as a pivot point in the global struggle between China and the United States. Unrecognized in the West, China treats agriculture as a key industry in that contest. The people of Africa need stronger, steadier American engagement, with U.S. farmers, policymakers, and technology leaders—including and especially Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack—making their voices heard on agricultural issues throughout the region.

The snares of China’s infamous Belt and Road Initiative have repeatedly made global headlines. But African nations have also rushed into Beijing-designed land deals—deals that, when the fine print is examined, do more to guarantee China’s influence over global food security than to build a strong, prosperous, independent future for the host countries. In addition to land grabs, typical China-fomented schemes involve “shared” ownership proposals in large-scale commodity production and processing initiatives. These often replace local African workers with Chinese immigrants whose competition for local food and housing increases costs and pushes indigenous families away from their homelands. Further, the neocolonial schemes redirect flows of raw goods away from African markets and back to China. Far from supporting national independence, Beijing makes Africans more dependent on imports of Chinese-controlled end products. Such aggressive policies have in places triggered protests.

Boosting agricultural output is a matter of life and death for the entire continent. Currently, in the Horn of Africa alone, over 10 million children suffer from malnutrition brought on by natural and manmade disasters, including a constantly changing climate. Yet leaders in Beijing have shown little concern for the welfare of those children, or Africans in general.

Plasma breakthrough could enable better hypersonic weapons, spacecraft


A potential new way to protect sensitive electronics from the extreme heat generated by flying at high speed could give the United States an edge in the race to deploy hypersonic missiles and new spacecraft.

A July research paper in the American Chemical Society’s journal ACS Nano describes one potential solution that uses focused plasma, the photons and highly charged particles that make up the so-called fourth state of matter. If the method bears out in further research, it could usher in hypersonic weapons with much more advanced electronic guidance and could even enable on-the-ground weapons to evade heat sensors.

The breakthrough grew out of efforts to use a laser to measure the temperature of electronics in plasma-facing environments, work the Air Force is supporting through a grant at the University of Virginia, said professor Patrick Hopkins, one of the researchers on the paper.

“What we started to develop was a laser to probe the temperature of the sample surface within a microsecond resolution…And we could see that while the plasma was hitting the surface, we could measure how the temperature of the surface changed” Hopkins said in an interview. “We started to see something that didn't make sense at first, while we were developing this laser probe: we were seeing the surface was cooling first, then it would heat back up from the rest of the energetic species from the plasma.”

The reason for the temperature drop is the same reason focused plasma can be used to clean electronics.

India Passes Data Protection Legislation in Parliament; Critics Fear Privacy Violation

Indian lawmakers Wednesday approved a data protection legislation that “seeks to better regulate big tech firms and penalize companies for data breaches” as several groups expressed concern over citizens’ privacy rights.

The legislation will limit cross-border transfer of data and provide a framework for setting up a data protection authority to ensure compliance from tech companies, Information Technology and Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said.

Several opposition lawmakers and digital experts say the legislation would allow the government and its agencies to access user data from companies and personal data of individuals without their consent as well as collect private data in a country where digital freedoms have been shrinking since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014.

Digital experts also fear that the legislation will weaken the landmark Right to Information law — passed in 2005 — that allows citizens to seek data from public officers, such as salaries of state employees.

“It jeopardizes privacy, grants excessive exemptions to the government, and fails to establish an independent regulator,” digital rights group Access Now said in a statement, adding it will enhance the government’s control over personal data and increase censorship.

The upper house of Parliament passed the Digital Personal Data Protection bill, which would later be signed by the country’s ceremonial president, a formality, before becoming law. It was passed by the lower house of the Parliament on Monday.

The legislation is the government’s third attempt to pass such legislation and comes nearly six years after India’s top court ruled that privacy is a fundamental right of every citizen — a landmark judgment that was widely hailed as a win for individual freedom.

Navigating China-US Subsea Cable Competition

Nathaniel Schochet

In July, there was a notable surge in attempts from both the United States and China to establish a more stable relationship. Following U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing in late June, there was a subsequent series of visits to China by Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen, Special Climate Representative John Kerry, and China expert Henry Kissinger.

Despite these face-to-face meetings, one thing remains clear – relations will remain turbulent for the foreseeable future. Consequently, examining each side’s strategic advantages becomes crucial. These potential assets include alliance networks, bases in the Indo-Pacific region, trade relations with countries, and much more.

Against that backdrop, China’s expanded access to and potential manipulation of underwater sea cables necessitate greater attention and joint strategy.

The prevailing thinking is that global communication predominantly relies on satellites. In reality, over 95 percent of international and voice data is routed through the fiber optic network of cables located on seabeds. There are approximately 400 submarine cables in service around the world, totaling 1.2 million kilometers of cable.

Although these subsea cables are integral to global communications, they are not exempt from China-U.S. competition. As a Reuters report from earlier this year highlighted, the United States has intervened in six private undersea cable deals in the Asia-Pacific over the past four years to ensure that China does not win the contract. These U.S. government interventions prevented the Chinese company HMN Technologies Co Ltd and its consortium from securing the project contracts. HMN Tech’s predecessor was the Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd – a company that has long been a target of the U.S. government’s scrutiny.

‘Wireless Wars’: How China (Almost) Came to Dominate 5G

Mercy A. Kuo
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The Diplomat author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Jonathan Pelson – technology executive and author of “Wireless Wars: China’s Dangerous Domination of 5G and How We’re Fighting Back” (2021) – is the 378th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

Explain the factors underpinning China’s domination of 5G and the impact on the global telecommunications industry.

The telecom equipment business has always been about scale. Sure, technology innovation is important, but the value to the customer – the service provider – comes more from the advantages of scale than from brilliant ideas. In wireless networking, the best technology is generally adopted as an industry standard, and that means everyone has to be granted access to it for a reasonable fee, so China’s telecom vendors aren’t disqualified for not developing the breakthrough innovations.

Second, the things that make a customer choose a vendor like Huawei are more related to product readiness, cost, post-sale support, ability to quickly roll out a network and make it work. Those are all things that can be achieved through massive investment and achieving a large deployed base. In other words, if you execute well and invest massively, you can overcome inferior technology innovation.

Kyrgyzstan’s Path to Rearmament

Francisco Olmos

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov (right) and GKNB head Kamchybek Tashiev (left) survey equipment at the opening of a new GBNK building in Osh, July 29, 2023.Credit: president.kg

On July 20, Kamchybek Tashiev, the head of Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security (SCNS or GKNB), announced the funds that had been allocated since 2021 for the modernization of the country’s armed forces. The figures confirmed what had been evident since Kyrgyz and Tajik troops clashed in the spring of 2021: Kyrgyzstan has embarked on a militaristic path.

Back in 2020, the country spent 3.5 billion Kyrgyz som on the purchase and update of its military hardware. But this figure increased significantly in 2021, reaching 32 billion som, and followed an upward trend that took it to 53 billion som the following year. In the first half of 2023 alone Kyrgyzstan has spent 40 billion som (approximately $455 million) on its military. In total, Kyrgyzstan has spent close to 129 billion som ($1.4 billion) in the last two and a half years to modernize its army.

That’s a significant figure given that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) stood at $10.9 billion in 2022, according to the World Bank. It also represents a clear break from the past for the Central Asian nation.

The armed forces were, until recently, not a priority of successive Kyrgyz governments. In fact, the country’s first president, Askar Akayev, did not want Kyrgyzstan to have a standing army and preferred to rely on troops from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). However, when it became apparent the CIS was not wiling to pay for the country’s defense, Akayev issued a decree to establish the armed forces. That happened in 1992, but the General Staff would not be established until 1993.

Why Did India Merely Observe Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023?

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

A U.S. Navy Sailor assigned to the amphibious transport dock landing ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) observes a Japanese Self-Defense Force CH-47 Chinook helicopter land while conducting flight operations in preparation for Talisman Sabre 23, in the Coral Sea, July 23, 2023.Credit: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Manuel Alvarado

Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023 (TS23), a two-week long Australia-U.S. led military exercise, ended recently. The U.S. and Australian militaries were joined by their partner countries: Canada, Fiji, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, Tonga, and the United Kingdom. Military personnel from India, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand joined as observers at the exercise.

India appears to have taken a political decision to limit its participation because of concerns about China’s reaction.

This year marked the 10th edition of the biennial multinational military exercise. The exercise, which was held across five states and territories in Australia, included forces from the army, air force, navy, cyber, and space forces of the participating militaries. This was considered not only a demonstration of the strong Australia-U.S. military partnership but also of the strength of their partnerships with “trusted allies and like-minded nations.”

Australia’s Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, remarked that TS23 involved “a complex series of training activities that allowed us to test our combined capabilities across sea, land, air, cyber and space operations.” Specifically, these involve “a variety of large-scale logistics and amphibious assault training operations and multinational firepower demonstrations and field training exercises.”

French mistakes helped create Africa’s coup belt

Folahanmi Aina

Africa’s Sahel, home to some of the world’s poorest, most politically unstable and conflict-prone countries, is once again in crisis.

With the July 26 military takeover in Niger, the region has become a true “coup belt” across the girth of Africa, and many Sahel nations are now governed by unelected military rulers. In recent years, the Sahel has also become a leading playground for violent armed groups, from Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) to Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM). According to the Global Terrorism Index produced by Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), the region now accounts for a whopping 43 percent of global terrorism deaths.

Across Sahel countries – from Niger and Mali to Burkina Faso and Chad – pervasive corruption, extreme poverty, widespread unemployment, and the perceived inability of Western partners and international institutions to bring stability to and ensure security in the region have turned local populations against their Western-allied governments, fuelling public support for coups and increasing recruitment capabilities of armed groups.

But there has been one factor, beyond chronic insecurity and economic instability, that significantly helped carry military governments to power across the region: growing anti-French sentiment.

The memory of French colonialism, defined by brutal military campaigns, forced labour, widespread repression, cultural erasure, racial segregation and forced displacement, is still very much alive in the Sahel region.

Raid on Makin Island and Marine Raiders

On August 17-18, 1942, members of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion made an attack on a small island in the Pacific Ocean held by Japanese forces during World War II. The raid had several objectives – destroy Japanese installations, gather intelligence of the Gilbert Islands area (map by Wikipedia), capture prisoners, and divert Japanese attention away from allied landings on Guadalcanal that occurred on August 9th. The raid also was an initial test of the raiding tactics and capabilities of the Marine Raider units.

Makin Island. The small island was the home of a Japanese seaplane base and had a garrison of less than 100 men. The island was a strategic atoll in the Marshalls as it afforded the Japanese a location from which to conduct air patrols along the eastern flank of the Japanese perimeter. The island is known as Butaritari Island, however, during World War II, the military referred to it as Makin Island. It had a large lagoon surrounded by the island that could accomodate fairly large ships; although the entrances to the lagoon were narrow. The island would later be taken by American forces in the November 1943.

We Must Return to and Maintain the Two Theater Defense Planning Construct

Eric S. Edelman & Franklin C. Miller

It has become fashionable lately in some quarters to assert that the deterrence of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan and, indeed, the island’s defense if deterrence fails, is the United States’ principal national security priority virtually to the exclusion of all other U.S. alliance obligations or partnerships. Proponents of this theory also assert that the United States is so bereft of the economic sinews of power and military capability that we must abandon our European allies, as well as long-time Middle Eastern security partners, and concentrate America’s military power solely on deterring a cross-strait invasion and defending Taiwan. From the standpoints of U.S. grand strategy and military analysis both assertions, however, are without merit. Supporting the security guarantees provided to American allies and partners is essential as long as U.S. political leaders and the public understand how these ties provide major defense and economic benefits to the United States.
Alliance Fundamentals

The United States remains the leader of the free world. Despite recurrent predictions of American decline the U.S. remains the world’s most resilient, vibrant, innovative economy with record low levels of unemployment, declining inflation, and very promising levels of private and public investment in manufacturing. Unlike the early 20th Century when Great Britain increasingly sought to shed some of the responsibilities for maintaining global order to the U.S, this is a path we cannot afford to take. No other nation is willing to or able to take our place. A major strength we possess, which our potential enemies do not, is our globe-girdling system of alliance relationships. Credibility among allies and potential enemies alike depends on our perceived will to maintain our longstanding commitments to support and defend like-minded democratic states. Foreswearing our pledge to help defend NATO Europe against a revanchist and aggressive Russia, bent on re-establishing an imperium on the geographical space of the old Soviet Union, will cause all of our other allies and friends (including Taiwan) to question whether we would at some point abandon them too. Questions about how long the U.S. will continue to support Ukraine in its valiant defensive struggle with Russia are already reverberating in Taiwan. Because American security commitments are not severable, such a loss of confidence would cause longtime allies to drift away, to be more accommodating of our potential enemies to our detriment, all leading, therefore, to a weakening of our own ability to shape world events. A good example is the failure of the Obama Administration to follow through on its supposed “red line” in Syria over the use of chemical weapons. Failure to live up to that self-designated commitment, combined with that Administration’s poorly developed and badly rolled out “pivot to Asia” had reverberations in both Europe and Asia where allies began to worry about U.S. willingness to honor its treaty obligations. Thus, the foundational argument for disengaging from NATO in order to bolster our position in the Pacific is deeply flawed. Although NATO allies must clearly do more to provide for their own defense, the U.S. maintains a vital role in providing an alliance framework for and critical enablers for the common defense.