Archive for January, 2015

US AIR FORCE WANTS AC-130 GUNSHIPS ARMED WITH LASER WEAPONS

January 31, 2015

Washington Times on January 29, 2015, reported that the U.S. military’s close air support specialist, the AC-130J Ghostrider, may be getting a serious upgrade: laser weapons. Excerpts below:

Air Force Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, the head of Air Force Special Operations Command, told a crowd in Washington, D.C. this week that the time was right to explore directed energy weapons for the gunship, Military.com reported.

The defense website said that the Air Force previously looked into the technology before former Defense Secretary Robert Gates scrapped the program.

The AC-130’s history dates back to the Vietnam War, and the base C-130 “Hercules” cargo plane is older still, having first flown in 1954. The gunship has also seen action in During Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom.

The aircraft can fly up to 300 miles per hour, has a range of roughly 1,300 nautical miles, and a ceiling of 25,000 feet.

PUTIN’S FANTASY WORLD: THERE IS NO UKRAINE

January 29, 2015

Radio Free Europe on January 27, 2015, reported on the delusions of Vladimir Putin. Excerpts below:

Consider Vladimir Putin’s comments on January 26. Speaking to students at St. Petersburg, the Kremlin leader said the Ukrainian Army is not really the Ukrainian Army at all. Those soldiers fighting pro-Moscow separatists in Donbas? They’re actually NATO’s foreign legion.

“We often say: Ukrainian army this, the Ukrainian army that. In actual fact though, who is fighting there? These are indeed official subunits of the armed forces. But to a large extent these are so-called volunteer nationalist battalions,” Putin said.

“In effect, it is no longer an army but a foreign legion — in this case NATO’s foreign legion — which does not of course pursue Ukraine’s national interests. They have a completely different agenda that is connected with achieving the geopolitical objective of containing Russia.”

Putin is doing a number of things here. On one level he is playing that old Kremlin game of drawing equivalencies.

The West has long accused Moscow of manufacturing the separatist conflict in the Donbas, arming and supplying the militants, and sending in Russian troops to direct and reinforce them.

But there is more here than the Kremlin’s standard run-of-the-mill — and entirely false — whataboutism. It is more insidious than that.

Putin famously said that Ukraine “isn’t even really a country.” And here he is again peddling his longstanding meme that the Ukrainians themselves have no agency of their own. They are nothing but the playthings of great powers. Their army isn’t even their army. And right now, they’re just NATO pawns.

But Putin’s widely shared delusions about Ukraine are not even the most disturbing thing about his comments.

Putin wants to view the Ukraine conflict as a twilight showdown between Russia and the West. But his endgame in this fantasy isn’t Ukraine — it’s the West itself.

In a recent interview with the Kyiv Post, military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer recalled a conversation he had with a European ambassador present at high level meetings with Russian officials.

“Russians all the time want to put a map on the table and carve up Europe, Yalta-style, or Molotov-Ribbentrop style,” Felgenhauer said.

“Russia is waiting for the West to begin talking on substance — where Vilnius goes, where Lviv goes. In the Russian view, there should be a map and a line on the map. They can’t say so publicly. They would want a secret appendix.”

Now that’s never going to happen of course. But it nicely illustrates the level of delusion among Russian officials these days. And if that is indeed Russia’s endgame it’s still pretty damn chilling.

UKRAINE PARLIAMENT CALLS RUSSIA ‘AGGRESSOR STATE’, SEEKS MORE AID, SANCTIONS

January 28, 2015

Radio Free Europe on January 27, 2015, reported that Ukraine’s parliament has adopted a statement branding Russia an “aggressor state,” a move that deputies hope will pave the way for punishment under international law. Excerpts below:

The Verkhovna Rada also voted on January 27 to define separatist self-styled “people’s republics” in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as “terrorist organizations,” and to appeal to the international community for additional nonlethal military aid and stronger sanctions against Russia.

Radical Party leader Oleh Lyashko, a member of the governing coalition, said, “Legal recognition as an aggressor state entails consequences” under the UN Charter and UN resolutions.

Earlier on January 27, European Union leaders called on their foreign ministers to consider an appropriate response to the escalation of fighting in eastern Ukraine, including possible new sanctions, at their January 29 meeting in Brussels.

“In view of the worsening situation we ask the upcoming Foreign Affairs Council to assess the situation and to consider any appropriate action, in particular on further restrictive measures, aiming at a swift and comprehensive implementation of Minsk agreements,” the leaders said in a statement.

The 28-member bloc has imposed a series of economic and political sanctions on Russia and officials linked with Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea last March and its support for separatists fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine.

The statement also urged Russia to condemn separatists’ actions and to implement the September 2014 Minsk agreements, which include a cease-fire deal.

The EU leaders also condemned the killing of 30 civilians on January 24 through “the indiscriminate shelling of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.”

The Mariupol attack came a day after a separatist leader said rebels would try to take more territory and would no longer seek peace talks with Kyiv.

Donbas is a term for the industrial portion of eastern Ukraine where the separatists hold parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, including their capitals.

The Ukrainian military spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov said on January 27 that nine government soldiers were killed and 29 wounded by fighting in eastern Ukraine during the previous 24 hours.

Seleznyov told a briefing in Kyiv, “The situation remains tense. In the past 24 hours illegal armed groups carried out 120 attacks on government positions.”

He said that the fighting was the most intense near the strategic town of Debaltseve, located northeast of rebel-held Donetsk.

NEW RUSSIAN SUPPORTED REBEL ATTACKS IN EASTERN UKRAINE

January 25, 2015

Daily Telegraph, London, on January 24, 2015, reported that war was escalating as 27 civilians were killed in rocket attack. Kiev said Moscow was sending more soldiers and hardware across the border. Excerpts below:

The war in eastern Ukraine is escalating after months of skirmishes. On January 24, 27 civilians were reportedly killed and 97 injured when Grad rockets fell on a neighbourhood of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.
Government forces are struggling to resist a rebel offensive after the separatists were apparently engorged by fresh supplies of weapons and men provided by Russia.

On January 23 the separatists’ leader announced he was abandoning peace talks and launching a new multi-pronged attack against Ukrainian government troops – striking out from Donetsk and other rebel-held ground, and signalling the final collapse of a peace deal signed in September 2014.

“Attempts to talk about a ceasefire will no longer be undertaken by our side,” said Alexander Zakharchenko, who is head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.

Mr Zakharchenko said rebel militia were on the advance in three directions in Donetsk region and also pushing forward in two other areas in the Luhansk region.

A Ukrainian military spokesman said on January 24 that rebels had shelled government forces and attacked checkpoints near the town of Debaltsevo.

Stepan Poltorak, Ukraine’s defence minister, said: “In the last 24 hours the situation has worsened along the whole front: from Lugansk region to Mariupol, illegal armed groups [rebels] are on the attack everywhere.”
More than 5,000 people have died since the revolt in Donbas, or eastern Ukraine, broke out in April.

Ukrainian soldiers and volunteer battalions squeezed back the rebels to a small corner of the southeast of Ukraine last summer after the separatists made initial advances. A Russian military incursion across the countries’ common border helped the separatists regain some territory in September. Infantry clashes and frequent exchanges of shelling have continued ever since, despite an agreement reached that month in Minsk, Belarus, to withdraw from the front line and hand over prisoners.

Now the rebels are on the offensive, while Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president, claimed last week that Russia had up to 9,000 men in the conflict zone – something Moscow denies.

Moscow has also sent tanks into the conflict: “We’ve seen one T-90, which only Russia has, and heard the engines of many T-72s, which couldn’t be trophies taken from us because we have very few in service.”

Last week, Kiev announced it was calling up 50,000 reservists in order to combat the latest bout of “Russian aggression”.

Capt Ozirny, a businessman from Kiev who sells fuel pellets in civilian life and who served in Ukraine’s National Guard in the 1990s, joined up in September.

He is realistic about the task ahead. “Have you ever seen a Russian tank park? They have whole hectares of the things,” he said. “Whenever Russia sends the rebels some weapons they activate and that’s what we’re seeing now.”

So can Ukrainian forces withstand a fresh offensive by the separatists and their allies from Russia? “I believe we will win,” said the captain. “This is our soil. Every chunk of earth is ours. We won’t let anyone come and take it away.”

The company arrived at the front in December but has seen its fiercest action in the last fortnight near and at Donetsk Airport,… “We were hiding in the hangars five kilometres (three miles) away and coming out to closer positions to fire on the rebel infantry in the old terminal,” said Gunner Igor Dreychuk. “Once I managed 28 shells in seven minutes.”

Built at a cost of about £540m for the Euro 2012 football tournament, the Donetsk Sergei Prokofiev International Airport – named after the composer born nearby – now stand in ruins….

Analysts say the building had some strategic significance as a defensive position or a potential foothold on the edge of the city, but that became eroded with time as its tower and terminals were shredded by artillery.

Despite its dubious advantages, victory at the airport became a coveted prize for both sides as a symbol of their dominance.

Ukrainian troops, known as “cyborgs” for their tenacity, were forced to leave the building last week after months of fighting against militia led by “Motorola” and “Givi”, two commanders lionised by the separatists.

Sixteen Ukrainian combatants were reportedly taken prisoner and many more died in the final attack by the rebels. “The numbers are very high but they’re being suppressed in order to avoid panic,” said one Ukrainian activist.

Further behind the lines to the north of Donetsk at a base in the town of Kostiantynivka the Telegraph spoke to Ruslan Krivitsyn, a company commander in Ukraine’s 90th Air Assault Battalion. He spent 24 days fighting at the airport, leaving earlier this month, a few days before the final, desperate exchanges.

Ukrainian forces were redeploying in villages and towns to the northwest of Donetsk late on January 23. In many places, roads were devoid of civilian cars and partridges whirred out of snow drifts. But here and there, columns of up to a dozen self-propelled artillery units were on the move, as well as tanks, Uragan rocket launchers and military trucks.

Meanwhile, Roman Turovets, a spokesman for what Kiev calls its “antiterrorist operation” said the flow of Russian troops and military vehicles in southeast Ukraine had become “practically uninterrupted”. A number of Russian soldiers were captured on January 23, he said.

CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER ON YEMEN: ‘HUGE GEOPOLITICAL GAIN FOR IRAN’

January 23, 2015

Fox News on January 22, 2013, reported that Commentator Charles Krauthammer said on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that the resignation of Yemen’s president and leadership is a “huge geopolitical gain for Iran.” Excerpts below:

“This is a country that Obama touted as a great success. It all hinged on the government, now destroyed and deposed.”

Krauthammer added that the Iranian influence now spreads throughout the region from Iraq to Syria and now Yemen, “That’s why this is a double attack on us,” he said. “It’s a loss of an ally against Al Qaeda and it’s a huge geopolitical gain for Iran extending its influence over Arab states.”

Comment: The United States has been fighting Al Qaeda in Yemen for a long time. The fall of Yemen’s president is a great setback in the war on international terrorism and further proof of Obama failure in foreign policy.

FORMER US NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER BRZZEZINSKI: SEND TROOPS TO THE BALTICS

January 22, 2015

Newsmax on January 21, 2015, puplished an AFP report on former US presidential national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski telling lawmakers the United States and its allies should deploy troops to the Baltic states to deter Russia from staging a possible incursion in those countries. Excerpts below:

The foreign policy expert told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he feared Russian President Vladimir Putin might try to take control over Baltic countries in a lightning move that could take NATO by surprise.

A nightmare scenario could be that “one day, and I literally mean one day, he just seizes Riga and Tallinn. That would literally take him one day. There’s no way they could resist,” Brzezinski said.

“And then we’ll say how horrible, how shocking, how outrageous. But, of course, we can’t do anything about it,” he said, without risking a potential nuclear conflict.

“I think deterrence has to have meaning. It has to have teeth in it. And it has to create a situation in which someone planning an action like that has no choice but to anticipate what kind of resistance will lie in counter,” he said.

“I do recommend pre-positioning of some forces,” in those countries, he said, but in a way that was not provocative.

“An American company (of troops) in Estonia is not going to invade Russia,” he said.

Putin would understand that, “but he will know that if he invades Estonia, he will encounter some American forces on the ground. And better still, some Germans, some French. And some Brits, of course,” he said.

Brzezinski also said that Western governments should provide “defensive” weapons to Ukraine to make Moscow’s intervention more costly, while also sending a signal Ukraine would not be given membership in the NATO alliance.

His comments came as NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Russia had increased the amount of heavy arms it was sending into Ukraine while Kiev accused Moscow of deploying 9,000 troops inside its country.

The United States has sent troops to the Baltics, Poland and other eastern allies for high-profile exercises to reassure anxious governments over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. But U.S. officials so far have not proposed stationing additional American troops permanently in the Baltics.


REPUBLICAN RESPONSE TO OBAMA: GOP CONGRESS READY TO CHAMPION MIDDLE CLASS

January 21, 2015

Fox News on January 20, 2015, reported that Sen. Joni Ernst hammered home the idea of a new Republican Congress ready to champion the middle class in America as well as go after terrorists abroad in the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Excerpts below:

In contrast to Obama’s optimistic tone on the economy, Ernst spoke of the struggle that still exists.
“Americans have been hurting,” she said, and cited concerns over stagnant wages, lost jobs and higher monthly insurance bills.

The freshman senator from Iowa, with less than a month of experience, in Washington, told Americans during her 9-minute rebuttal that the GOP is “working hard to pass the kind of serious job-creation ideas you deserve” that she said includes building the controversial Keystone pipeline.

Ernst also said Republicans will prioritize American concerns and called on Obama to work with her party to simplify the tax code by lowering rates and eliminating unspecified loopholes. She also called on him to ease trade barriers with Europe and Asia.

Ernst also cited the recent terror attacks in France, Nigeria, Canada and Australia in her rebuttal and said lawmakers need to come up with a “comprehensive plan” to defeat terror groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State as well as those radicalized by them.

“We know threats like these can’t just be wished away,” she said.

Ernst, a former colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, won one of the toughest election challenges last year, beating Democrat Bruce Braley. She is the first woman elected to the office from Iowa and the first combat veteran to serve in the Senate.

Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Fla., delivered the official Tea Party response to Obama’s State of the Union speech from the National Press Club in D.C.

Clawson, who won a special election seven months ago by marketing himself as “the outsider for Congress,” drew on his strong conservative grassroots base during his response. He stressed that people were key to achieving the American dream, not the government.

Florida freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo delivered the Republicans’ Spanish-language response.

US SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: OBAMA’S POLICIES GETTING PEOPLE KILLED

January 19, 2015

NewsMax on January 18, 2015, reported that President Barack Obama’s policies are getting people killed overseas, Sen. Lindsey Graham said, starting with his decision to take troops out of Iraq. Excerpts below:

“I think sound military advice was given to the president to leave a residual force in Iraq and he turned it down,” the South Carolina Republican said on NBC, and as a result, Iraq collapsed.

Jordan, Syria, and Iraq are serving as safe havens for the Islamic State, posing a threat to the United States, continued Graham, who believes releasing prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba “is irresponsible.”

He also believes there will be more attacks coming like the one against the Charlie Hebdo publication in Paris unless terrorist organizations are disrupted.

“America has to be part of it, go in on the ground and get these guys out of Syria,” said Graham. “The current strategy is failing.”

OBAMA TAKES HEAT FOR TERROR APPROACH AS THREAT SPREADS

January 16, 2015

Fox News on January 15, 2015, reported that the Obama administration drew fire from a growing list of frustrated lawmakers over the release of more Guantanamo detainees — this time Yemeni terrorists to the volatile Arabian Peninsula — as concerns mount over the spreading threat of Islamic terrorism, and the administration’s refusal to publicly call out Islam’s radical elements.Excerpts below:

The Department of Defense announced on January 15 that five Yemeni terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay were released — with four of the five heading for Oman, Yemen’s neighbor.

The release comes despite knowledge that one of the two assassins who carried out the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris traveled to Yemen in 2011, and met with the radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

“The administration continues to transfer Guantanamo detainees while providing virtually no details to the American people regarding the risk the detainees present to our country and our allies, as well as the detainees’ affiliations with terrorist groups and the conditions of their transfer,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement on the releases.

Amid the drive to release Guantanamo prisoners, more evidence is mounting that Islamic terrorism is spreading around the world — including a claim of responsibility by Al Qaeda in Yemen for the Paris terror attacks, and the unchecked slaughter of thousands in Nigeria by Boko Haram. Police in Belgium also claimed on January 15 to have stopped a “Belgian Charlie Hebdo,” with government agents killing at least two in raids aimed at jihadists returning from Syria who were planning to launch terrorist attacks.

The administration is taking heat not only for the Gitmo transfers, but for its refusal to publicly call out radical Islam as the common thread in these attacks.

“The president of the United States has concluded that the War on Terror has reached a point that we can safely release people from Gitmo,” Graham told Fox News:. “The best I can say about him is he’s unfocused.

That’s delusional thinking. The War on Terror has reached a lethal phase, and it is insane to be letting these people out of Gitmo to go back to the fight.”

Though Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and militants in that region are asserting themselves once again as a global threat, other Islamist groups and self-radicalized operatives are posing grave security risks to dozens of countries. In Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State continues to hold ground in its war against the governments there and its quest for its own nation state.

In Nigeria, the terror group Boko Haram has seized territory said to be the size of the Islamic State’s, while committing mass murders against the civilian population. Earlier this month, as many as 2,000 people were slaughtered by the terror group, rights groups say.

The Paris terror attack and the raid in Belgium were reminders of the threat from cells in Western Europe.

But other recent plots and attacks by lone-wolf types have occurred in Canada, Australia and the United States. An alleged sympathizer of the Islamic State terror group was arrested in Ohio on January 14 after authorities learned that he was plotting a shooting and bombing attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Yet the administration has been loath to term the problem as radical Islam.

Meanwhile, four of the latest Guantanamo transfers will be going to Oman, and one will be going to Estonia.

Several Republican senators including Ayotte have introduced legislation to clamp down on Obama’s ability to transfer terror suspects out of the detention facility. These senators called for a “time out” on releasing more detainees after the Paris terror attacks.

The bill would prohibit transfers of terror suspects to foreign countries if there has been a confirmed case where an individual was transferred from Guantanamo and engaged in any terrorist activity. Any transfers to Yemen would be shut down for two years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

JAPAN CABINET RAISES DEFENSE OUTLAYS WITH EYE ON CHINA

January 14, 2015

Fox News on January 13, 2015, published an AP report on Japan’s Cabinet approving the country’s largest ever defense budget, including plans to buy surveillance aircraft, drones and F-35 fighter jets to help counter China’s rising assertiveness in the region.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet endorsed a nearly 5 trillion yen ($42 billion) defense budget for the year beginning in April as part of a record 96.3 trillion yen ($814 billion) total budget.

The budget must still be approved by parliament, but Abe’s coalition holds majorities in both houses.

The 2 percent rise in defense spending is the third annual increase under Abe, who took office in December 2012 and ended 11 straight years of defense budget cuts.

The increase mainly covers new equipment, including P-1 surveillance aircraft, F-35 fighter jets and amphibious vehicles for a new unit similar to the U.S. Marine Corps. The aim is to boost Japan’s capacity to defend uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that it controls but which are also claimed by China.

The 2015 budget also covers the cost of purchasing parts of “Global Hawk” drones, planned for deployment in 2019, two Aegis radar-equipped destroyers and missile defense system development with Washington.

Abe favors a stronger role for Japan’s military,…

Japan’s defense guidelines were revised in December 2013 as tensions rose over the East China Sea islands.

Chinese patrol boats often visit waters near the islands, which are known as the Senkakus in Japan and as the Diaoyu islands in China.

The defense budget is designed to achieve “seamless and mobile” defense capability that can respond to various contingencies, the ministry said in the Cabinet-approved budget plan. It will provide effective deterrence and contribute to stability in the Asia-Pacific region and improvement of the global security environment, the ministry said.