Archive for December, 2013


December 30, 2013

Fox News on December 27, 2013, reported that the $552.1 billion defense budget approved by Congress calls for new regulations on cyberweapons — an effort to prevent the pervasive digital bombs from further spreading throughout the world — at the same time that it dramatically boosts spending on them. Excerpts below:

Section 940 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, signed into law by President Obama Thursday night, calls for “Control of the Proliferation of Cyber Weapons” following increases in the clear and present danger from cyberbombs such as Stuxnet and growing teams of hackers in foreign countries.

“The President shall establish an interagency process to provide for the establishment of an integrated policy to control the proliferation of cyber weapons through unilateral and cooperative law enforcement activities, financial means, diplomatic engagement, and such other means as the President considers appropriate,” the act declares. The goal of the $2 million Cyber Security Initiative: suppressing the trade in cyber tools and infrastructure that can be used for criminal, terrorist and military activities, while still allowing governments to use those tools in legitimate self-defense.

Cyber is just one aspect of the military’s high-tech arsenal, which has been rapidly transformed to deal with the growing threat.

Other high-tech weapons show up in the defense spending bill, notably $100 million meant to improve an outer space “kill vehicle” that travels at hypersonic speeds. The “exo-atmospheric kill vehicle” is built by Raytheon Missile Systems , and is viewed as a key part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s shield against intercontinental ballistic missiles.

If a threat is detected from sensors on either land or in space, a rocket blasts the weapon to the edge of space, where it deploys and — travelling at speeds of up to 4 miles per second — smashes into an incoming missile, destroying it.

The bill also allocates about $395 million for the eight-wheeled armored fighting vehicle known as a Stryker, and calls on the U.S. Army to evaluate how long the current fleet of such vehicles can keep running.

It also includes hundreds of millions to further drone warfare, including $352 million for the MQ-9 Reaper — an armed, autonomous attack plane built by General Atomics — more than $80 million more than requested.

But cyberspace is clearly front and center in the mind of the modern military.

The word “cyber” shows up 12 times in the 2012 defense appropriations bill . It pops up 61 times in 2013.

The bill calls for hundreds of millions of dollars for cybercombat: the construction of cyber “ranges” to train cyber forces against threats known and unknown, a new analysis of overall cyber operations, an inventory of the military’s existing cyber skill set and the creation of a new Principal Cyber Advisor to supervise defense of the United States against all incoming digital threats.

There’s $68 million to operate the central Cyber Command, as well as $14 million for the Air Force’s cyberspace offensive program (and another $5.8 million for cyber defense). Nearly $19 million is allocated to cyber security research — and another $20 million for “cyber security advanced research.”

The bill allocates $169 million to build or expand facilities to house all that cyberwar gear in Maryland, at Fort Meade’s Marforcybercom HQ-Ops Building and the Cybercom Joint Operations Center, Increment 1.


December 20, 2013

Fox News on September 17, 2013, reported that former CIA Director James Woolsey had harsh words for anyone thinking about giving Edward Snowden amnesty, and argued the NSA leaker should be “hanged” if he’s ever tried and convicted of treason. Excerpts below:

Woolsey, along with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Hugh Shelton, spoke in Washington in an interview with Fox News.

“I think giving him amnesty is idiotic,” Woolsey said. “He should be prosecuted for treason. If convicted by a jury of his peers, he should be hanged by his neck until he is dead.”
Shelton called the prospect of giving Snowden amnesty a “grave error.”

The reaction comes after an official with the NSA task force assessing the leaks floated the idea of allowing Snowden safe passage back to the United States in exchange for a promise to end further leaking.

White House spokesman Jay Carney did not indicate any change in the administration’s stance calling for Snowden to turn himself in to face charges. “It remains our view that Mr. Snowden is accused of leaking classified information and that he faces felony charges here in the United States,” Carney said.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, a George W. Bush appointee, said in a preliminary ruling, “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval.”

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.


December 19, 2013

US Naval Institute on December 11, 2013, in a new draft of Japan’s national security strategy calls for an expansion of the country’s military power in reaction to China’s military rise and growing territorial claims. Excerpts below:

Specifically countering China’s military rise is near the heart of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s call for increased military spending, “with a firm commitment to defend the people’s lives and possessions,” he said in a Wednesday meeting with Japanese defense officials over the new strategy.

The draft calls for the use of unmanned surveillance aircraft to increasingly patrol Japanese southwestern territory and standing up an amphibious force on Okinawa.

Japan and China are embroiled in a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Island. In November, China established an air defense identification zone over the islands to U.S. and Japanese protest.

The announcement of the new strategy follows Japan’s 2013 increase in military spending.

The 2013 white paper — “Defense of Japan” — states the “security environment in the vicinity of Japan has increasingly grown severe,” and requires an increase in military spending to match regional rivals.

Japan’s 2013 military buys focused on expanding its military capability through buys of early warning aircraft, amphibious assault vehicles, developing a new class of guided missile destroyers and acquiring F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.


December 16, 2013

The Washington Times on December 15, 2013, reported that US Sen John McCain joined a massive anti-government rally in Kiev on Sunday, telling an estimated crowd of more than 200,000 that the United States supports the protest movement’s goal of closer alignment with the West. Excerpts below:

“We are here because your peaceful process and peaceful protest is inspiring your country and inspiring the world,” Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, said. “Ukraine will make Europe better, and Europe will make Ukraine better.”

In an interview with CNN shortly after addressing the crowd, Mr. McCain talked about the possibility of American sanctions if the Ukrainian government and its allies in Russia crack down on the protest movement.

“We’re not talking about military action; we’re not talking about blockades,” he said. “We are talking about the possibility of sanctions if they continue to brutally repress their people. That would require some action on our part just because that’s what the United States of America is all about.”

Mr. McCain, one of the most outspoken critics of the Obama administration’s foreign policy…

Mr. McCain was joined in Kiev by Sen. Christopher Murphy, Connecticut Democrat.


December 15, 2013

Washington Times on December 12, 2013, published an article by Jeffrey T. Kuhner on the second Orange Revolution in Ukraine. Who lost Ukraine? This is the question many Western policymakers are asking following recent dramatic events in the former Soviet republic. The country’s pro-Kremlin leader, President Viktor Yanukovych, is on the verge of permanently consigning Ukraine to Russia’s sphere of influence. This would be a major victory for Russian strongman Vladimir Putin — maybe his most dangerous achievement so far. If Ukraine falls under Moscow’s orbit, then Mr. Putin will be close to attaining his central geopolitical goal: restoring a great Russian empire. Hence, what hangs in the balance is not just the fate of Ukraine, but Eastern Europe as well. Excerpts below:

Hundreds of thousands of flag-waving protesters have poured onto the streets of Ukraine’s capital, Kiev. A statue of Vladimir Lenin was toppled. Police forces have raided the headquarters of opposition parties.

The deal, however, was more than simply about free trade. It signified Ukraine’s desire to join the West and fulfill its civilizational destiny.

This is why Russia objected. Behind the scenes, the Kremlin exerted tremendous pressure. Mr. Yanukovych was compelled to not sign the treaty.

Mr. Putin made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: Take the money — and the Kremlin’s terms — or suffer the fate of former President Viktor Yushchenko, who was poisoned (and his face badly disfigured) for standing up to Moscow’s imperial designs. Mr. Yanukovych is afraid of being poisoned. He has surrounded himself with an entourage of food tasters, especially when traveling abroad.

The Kremlin’s thuggish tactics have worked. Mr. Yanukovych is now planning to have Kiev join Mr. Putin’s pet project: reviving the former Soviet empire through the creation of a Eurasian customs union comprising Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Moldova.

When students protested Mr. Yanukovych’s refusal to sign the EU trade pact, he called in the riot police. On television, millions of Ukrainians saw the horrible pictures of students being savagely beaten. Many were then imprisoned on trumped-up charges. The state-sanctioned violence sparked national outrage, triggering the mass protests that threaten to overthrow the Yanukovych regime. The scenes are eerily reminiscent of the 2004 “Orange Revolution,” when pro-democracy Ukrainian patriots succeeded in overturning a rigged presidential vote.

At a conference on Ukraine in Ottawa, Canada, several years ago, I warned the Ukrainian students in the audience that Mr. Putin would never let Kiev go. Some laughed, claiming I was a virulent Russophobe. The joke is now on them.

Putin is nostalgic for a monstrous totalitarian regime responsible for the deaths of more than 40 million — including the genocidal terror famine known as “the Harvest of Sorrow,” which claimed between 7 million and 10 million Ukrainian lives. Ukraine was the cradle of anti-communist resistance within the former Soviet Union.

This is why Soviet leaders, such as Josef Stalin, sought to smash any semblance of Ukrainian nationhood. Stalin waged a war against the Ukrainian peasantry in the hopes of breaking Ukraine’s backbone. He failed, but this explains Mr. Putin’s obsession with subjugating Kiev. He has never forgiven Ukraine for its fierce opposition to Soviet domination.

Mr. Putin despises Ukrainian nationalism. At a 2008 NATO meeting, the Russian strongman told then-President George W. Bush, “Ukraine is not a real country.” Rather, Mr. Putin said, it was a “gift” from Moscow. He publicly refers to Ukraine as “Little Russia.”

Yet, his bellicose revanchism masks a deep fear. If Ukraine were to escape Moscow’s grip and become part of the European community, it would pose a mortal threat to Mr. Putin’s rule. Ukraine is a large, Orthodox, Slavic country that neighbors Russia. A democratic and prosperous Ukraine — anchored in Western institutions and based on the rule of law — would reveal to the Russian people that a viable alternative to a mafia state exists. Ukraine’s example would spill over, forcing Russians to confront Mr. Putin’s authoritarian kleptocracy.

The protests in Kiev are more than just about the future of the Yanukovych regime. It is about fulfilling the dreams and hopes of the Orange Revolution. It is a battle for Ukraine’s heart and soul. Ukrainians now face a stark choice: Continue sliding toward the Kremlin’s moral darkness and political abyss or stand tall as a member of the European community of nations. Embrace the old hammer and sickle or the blue and yellow. Patriots should rise up. They have nothing to lose but their chains.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a radio host on WRKO AM-680 in Boston.


December 14, 2013

Fox News on December 13, 2013, published a Washington Free Beacon report that a Chinese naval vessel tried to force a U.S. guided missile warship to stop in international waters recently, causing a tense military standoff in the latest case of Chinese maritime harassment, according to defense officials. Excerpts below:

The guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens, which recently took part in disaster relief operations in the Philippines, was confronted by Chinese warships in the South China Sea near Beijing’s new aircraft carrier Liaoning, according to officials familiar with the incident.

“On December 5th, while lawfully operating in international waters in the South China Sea, USS Cowpens and a PLA Navy vessel had an encounter that required maneuvering to avoid a collision,” a Navy official said.

A State Department official said the U.S. government issued protests to China in both Washington and Beijing in both diplomatic and military channels.

The Cowpens was conducting surveillance of the Liaoning at the time. The carrier had recently sailed from the port of Qingdao on the northern Chinese coast into the South China Sea.

According to the officials, the run-in began after a Chinese navy vessel sent a hailing warning and ordered the Cowpens to stop. The cruiser continued on its course and refused the order because it was operating in international waters.


December 13, 2013

The Washington Times on December 12, 2013, reported that the Chinese may have found a practical use for the moon: as a Death Star for the People’s Liberation Army. Excerpts below:

After the recent successful launch of China’s Long March-3B rocket, which carried a lunar rover, a defense expert told the Beijing Times that the moon would be an ideal launching pad for ballistic weapons, the Want China Times reported. Since the moon is the Earth’s natural satellite, weaponizing the celestial body would make its lethality even more versatile.

The rover is scheduled to touch down on a volcanic crater known as Sinus Iridum on Dec. 14, the Daily Mail reported.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made no secret of his desire to establish China as one of the world’s dominant players in space.


December 12, 2013

Fox News on December 11, 2013, reported that several thousand police in riot gear pulled back after clashing with protesters in the central square of the Ukrainian capital following overnight confrontations in which authorities dismantled barricades and evicted demonstrators from tents. Excerpts below:

Squadrons of police in helmets and bearing metal shields converged at about 1 a.m. on Independence Square in Kiev on Wednesday, but thousands of protesters put up fierce resistance for hours, shoving back at police lines to keep them away from key sites.

The Ukrainian chief of police issued a statement insisting there would be no attempt to break up the demonstrations. Protesters have been gathering around the clock to demand the resignation of the government in a crisis that threatens the leadership of President Viktor Yanukovych.

The White House said Wednesday afternoon that the use of force against Ukrainian protesters is completely unacceptable.

Three police buses that had been parked outside the building all night drove away to cheers and shouts of “shame!” from several thousand protesters who remained on the square. Another group of police that had been stationed outside the Kiev city hall building, which has been occupied by protesters for weeks, also departed.

“This is a great victory,” Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a top opposition leader, shouted from the stage at Independence Square.

Throughout the standoff the police appeared to be under orders to refrain from excessive force, unlike the violent beatings of protesters in recent weeks. Several demonstrators and police were injured, but police helped injured activists up from the ground and moved them away.

But police violence has become one of the main catalysts for the growing protest movement and the government has appeared to back off from heavy-handed police tactics.

Many of the protesters, wearing orange construction hats to protect themselves from police truncheons, locked arms and simultaneously jumped up and down to stay warm in freezing temperatures that plunged to 12 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 11 Celsius).

Scuffles broke out between police and opposition lawmakers, one of whom lay down on the snow trying to block a vehicle from advancing on the camp. An Orthodox priest sang prayers, and a popular Ukrainian rock song with the lyrics “I will not give up without a fight” blared from loudspeakers over the square. Pop singer Ruslana sang the national anthem and cheered protesters from the stage.

One protester stripped to his waist in the frigid air, got down on his knees and shouted “Stop this … We are one people!”

At least one tent caught fire after a metal barrel where a fire was burning to keep demonstrators warm overturned.

Meanwhile, scores of protesters remained barricaded inside the Kiev city hall building, which they had been occupying for weeks. They hosed down the steps leading to the entrance with water so police would slip on the ice.

“We want to cool Yanukovych down a little bit,” said 35-year-old Oleg Stri, who was among those throwing water. “Hotheads have to understand that the use of force will call for an equally strong reaction from the Ukrainians, who are capable of sweeping away this government.”

A group of police that had been stationed outside the building departed from the scene early Wednesday.

The confrontations unfolded as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland were in the city to try to talk to the government and the opposition and work out a solution.

Nuland visited Independence Square on Wednesday and talked to protesters, an opposition leader told Reuters. Her visit was confirmed to the news agency by the U.S. embassy.

Western officials also issued strong statements about the crackdown on the protests. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed U.S. “disgust with the decision of Ukrainian authorities to meet the peaceful protest … with riot police, bulldozers, and batons, rather than with respect for democratic rights and human dignity.”

“The United States stands with the people of Ukraine. They deserve better,” he said.

Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko, who is a reigning world heavyweight boxing champion, urged Ukrainians to rush to the center of the capital to defend democracy.

“We will say no to a police state, no to a dictatorship,” he told protesters in the square.

The protests are the biggest since Ukraine’s pro-democracy Orange Revolution.

Yatsenyuk told demonstrators at the square that the protest leaders were still insisting on their key demands: that Yanukovych dismiss the government, appoint a new one committed to signing an association agreement with the EU, release all the arrested protesters, and punish police who beat peaceful demonstrators.

The EU’s enlargement commissioner, Stefan Fule, said the bloc was ready to step “up the European Union’s financial assistance programs to help Ukraine implement the agreement, when signed.”

Ukraine’s dire economic straits have also been a factor in its political crisis. The country of 46 million people has been in recession for more than a year, and the government is in desperate need of foreign funding to avoid a default.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


December 11, 2013

Fox News on December10, 2013, reported that several thousand police in riot gear stormed a protest camp in the central square of the Ukrainian capital, clashing with demonstrators as they dismantled barricades and evicted protesters from tents. Excerpts below:

Protesters shouted “Shame!” ”We will stand!” and sang the Ukrainian national anthem.

The police tore down barricades surrounding the camp at Independence Square, but then moved back after fierce resistance from thousands of protesters, whose ranks swelled as the night went on.

The police took up positions on the perimeters of the camp, then began clashing with demonstrators and trying again to dismantle the barricades.

Scuffles broke out between police and opposition lawmakers, one of whom laid down on the snow trying to block a vehicle from advancing on the camp. An Orthodox priest sang prayers, and one protester undressed to his waist in the frigid air, got down on his knees and shouted “Stop this … We are one people!”

Kiev police said authorities were merely trying to clear the streets leading to Independence Square, but not to remove the main encampment, the Ukrainian Interfax news agency reported.

Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko, who is the reigning world heavyweight boxing champion, urged Ukrainians to rush to the center of the capital to defend democracy. “We will say no to a police state, no to a dictatorship,” he told protesters in the square.

The confrontation at the protest camp unfolded as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland were in the city to try to talk to the government and the opposition and work out a solution.

Soon after Yanukovych spoke in a televised broadcast, opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk told demonstrators at the square that the protest leaders were still insisting on their key demands: that Yanukovych fire the government, appoint a new one committed to signing an association agreement with the EU, release all the arrested protesters, and punish the police who beat peaceful demonstrators.

Riot police have twice previously dispersed demonstrators with clubs and tear gas, beating some severely enough to send them to intensive care.

Yanukovych also vowed to renew talks with the EU on the trade and political agreement. He indicated he was still willing to sign the EU deal at a summit in spring, but only if the EU can offer better financial terms. He said at present, the EU agreement could cost economically struggling Ukraine billions in lost trade with Russia, which has used trade threats to try to keep Ukraine in its orbit.

The EU’s enlargement commissioner, Stefan Fule, said Tuesday the bloc was ready to step “up the European Union’s financial assistance programs to help Ukraine implement the agreement, when signed.”

Ukraine’s dire economic straits have also been a factor in its political crisis. The country of 46 million people has been in recession for more than a year…

Moscow has worked aggressively to derail the deal with the EU and lure Kiev into its own economic group by offering price discounts and loans as well as imposing painful trade restrictions.


December 10, 2013

Fox News on December 9, 2013, reported that heavily armed riot troops stormed the headquarters of a top Ukrainian opposition party in Kiev and stole computer servers, the party said, as anti-government protests crippled the capital for yet another day.

A spokeswoman for the party of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko blames police for the raid, but police have denied any involvement according to Reuters.

Ostap Semerak told The Associated Press that troops broke into the Fatherland Party’s offices. He said some troops were walking along its corridors while others were climbing in through the windows.

Tensions also rose as a double cordon of helmeted, shield-holding police deployed in the street near Kiev’s city administration building, which demonstrators had occupied and turned into a makeshift command post and dormitory.

…electricity to the building was cut off and occupiers began leaving, some carrying out blankets and other goods, expecting that police were preparing to storm the site. But a small crowd remained on the steps and in the street. About three hours later, the lights came back on and some of the protesters returned to occupy the building.

The protests were galvanized after police violently dispersed some of the demonstrators.

In a surprise move, Yanukovych announced that he would sit down with three former Ukrainian presidents to discuss a way out of the crisis. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, was headed to Ukraine to help defuse the tensions.

At the square, black-robed Orthodox priests sang solemn prayers calling for peace amid heavy snowfall. Some talked to the police.

Opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk called for calm, telling several thousand protesters on Independence Square that police were ordered not to storm the building but to blockade the protest camp to deplete it of food and other amenities.

“I am turning to all Ukrainians: You must all go to the heart of the Maidan,” he said.

Some activists approached police lines, urging officers to come over to their side and even offering them food.

Opinion polls show that the EU is more popular among Ukrainians than Russia.

Wearing helmets and holding shields, Ukrainian police surrounded three tent encampments outside the government and presidential offices in central Kiev on Monday night. Riot police also began removing barricades on the approach to the government building. Most protesters remained standing.

World boxing champion and opposition leader Vitali Klitschko warned the authorities against any further escalation in tensions.
“We are calling upon law enforcement to restrain from using force against peaceful demonstrators,” he said as he tried to stop police from removing the tents.

A large protest test camp remained in place on Independence Square, the downtown plaza that is the epicenter of the protests.

The square is a few hundred yards (meters) from the protester-occupied city administration building, which a court has ordered demonstrators to vacate.

“We won’t let anybody into the building,” said Vasyl Khlopotaruk, one of the activists. “But we hope there isn’t bloodshed.”
Some activists approached police lines, urging officers to come over to their side and even offering them food.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso dispatched EU foreign policy chief Ashton to Kiev on Tuesday, saying she will try to help defuse “the very tense solution that Ukraine is living today.” Barroso praised the demonstrators, saying they are “writing the new narrative for Europe.”

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt cautioned the government against using force.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Yanukovych by phone and urged him to defuse tensions and begin talks with opposition leaders, the White House said.

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of protesters calling for Yanukovych’s ouster poured into Kiev, toppling a statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin and blockading government buildings.

Protesters on Monday vandalized another Lenin statue in the southern town of Kotovsk.

“Only the legs are left standing,” town spokeswoman Yelena Khaustova told the AP.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report