Archive for February, 2015


February 28, 2015

Wall Street Journal on February 26, 2015, reported that China’s neighbors are moving forward with the modernization of their militaries with new fighter jets, submarines and other hardware,…Excerpts below:

The military buildup is an indication that many Asian countries see little reason to adjust their long-term preparations for potential friction with China, despite Beijing’s diplomatic and economic charm offensive.

China made a dramatic shift in its diplomatic approach at a summit in Beijing in November, adopting a more conciliatory tone. This included the first face-to-face meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe since both took power in 2012.

That came after China pledged to invest billions in regional ports and infrastructure, with great potential benefits for its neighbors.

Many Asian nations are participating in those programs or receiving other Chinese aid. But underlying sources of tension haven’t gone away.

It has only been half a year since Vietnamese and Chinese vessels were jostling off islands claimed by both countries after China parked a giant oil rig there. A few months after that, Indian and Chinese troops tussled for weeks in the Himalayas along the countries’ disputed border.

Vietnam recently received the third of six new Russian submarines, valued at about $2 billion in total—a landmark for a country that has never had submarines. It also ordered six Russian frigates and is increasing the size of its Sukhoi fighter-jet fleet to 36 planes.

Smaller nations like Vietnam don’t expect to seriously challenge China’s military, but want to make China think twice before pressing claims.

Better-equipped countries, such as India and Japan, want China to respect them as military equals.

India is establishing a new mountain corps for deployment along its Himalayan boundaries. It is also testing ballistic missiles with a range of over 3,000 miles, which could strike inside China. In January, India test-fired one of the missiles from a mobile launcher for the first time at an island off its northeastern coast.

Asian nations are making big investments in new military hardware. Some of the latest purchases (with seller in parentheses):

• 126 Rafale fighter jets (France)
• 22 AH-64E Apache gunships (U.S.)
• 8 P-8I Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft (U.S.)

• 3 Chang Bogo-class submarines (South Korea)
• 24 F-16 fighter jets (U.S.)
• 16 Sukhoi Su-27/Su-30 jets (Russia)
• 8 AH-64E Apache gunships (U.S.)

• 4 helicopter carriers (Japan)
• 42 F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters (U.S)
• 17 V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft (U.S.)

• 2 Scorpene submarines (France)
• 6 Gowind-class frigates (France)

• 12 FA-50 fighter/trainer jets (South Korea)
• 2 Hamilton-class cutters (U.S.)

• 6 Kilo-class submarines (Russia)
• 6 Gepard-class frigates (Russia)
• 36 Sukhoi Su-30 jets (Russia)

Tokyo is setting up Japan’s first amphibious operations unit to defend East China Sea islands contested by China and is adding 42 F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters. Japan is increasing its defense budget by 2% in the fiscal year starting April 1.

China continues to outpace its neighbors in military spending—its military budget has grown around 10% annually for the past two decades.

The U.S. has encouraged its allies in Asia, particularly Japan, to build up military capability, which takes some pressure off Washington itself and also creates markets for U.S. weaponry.

Despite complaints from South China Sea neighbors, China continues to reclaim land to build new bases in disputed waters. Last month, Philippine officials said a new island capable of supporting a large Chinese airstrip at Fiery Cross Reef in the contested Spratly Islands was “50% complete.”

Vietnam showed that it, too, remains wary of Chinese activities in contested seas, joining Manila in denouncing Beijing’s land-reclamation projects. Pham Binh Minh, Vietnam’s deputy prime minister, visited Manila in late January for talks about upgrading the two countries’ security ties, partly to help block China’s regional expansion.

China has long argued that military modernization is normal. But Beijing has criticized Japan for easing restrictions on its Self-Defense Forces, saying Tokyo is “deliberately fabricating the China threat.” In 2013, after Tokyo launched its second helicopter carrier, China said it was “concerned over Japan’s constant expansion of its military equipment.”

Meanwhile, China’s neighbors are also bulking up. The Philippines ordered a dozen Korean fighter jets valued at $410 million, and has earmarked $1.8 billion for new hardware over the next two years, including naval frigates.

Malaysia is in the market for new fighter jets and has recently received its first pair of submarines, bought from France for roughly $2.2 billion. Indonesia has plans to station newly purchased Korean submarines and U.S. Apache gunships near islands it deems vulnerable to Chinese encroachment.

Some experts say stronger militaries elsewhere could change the strategic calculus for Beijing eventually, possibly making it more willing to negotiate settlements. “The last thing China wants is to surround itself with modern, capable militaries,” said Richard Javad Heydarian, a political science professor at De La Salle University in Manila. As its neighbors upgrade militarily, “China is bound to face greater risks of unwanted escalation and resistance.”


February 27, 2015

The Diplomat on December 30, 2014, published an article by American geopolitician Francis P. Sempa on the geopolitical vision of Alfred Thayer Mahan. The insights of Mahan continue to have extraordinary relevance today. Excerpts below:

December 1, 2014, was the 100th anniversary of the death of Alfred Thayer Mahan, the renowned naval historian, strategist, and geopolitical theorist. It was an anniversary, unfortunately, that went largely unnoticed. Beginning in 1890 and continuing for more than two decades, Mahan, from his perch at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, wrote twenty books and hundreds of articles in an effort to educate the American people and their leaders about the importance of history and geography to the study and practice of international relations. His understanding of the anarchical nature of international politics, the importance of geography to the global balance of power, the role of sea power in national security policy, and history’s ability to shed light on contemporary world politics remains relevant to the 21st century world.

Mahan, the son of the legendary West Point instructor Dennis Hart Mahan, was born in 1840, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1859, served in the Union Navy during the Civil War, and thereafter served on numerous ships and at several naval stations until finding his permanent home at the Naval War College. In 1883, he authored his first book, The Gulf and Inland Waters, a study of naval engagements in the Civil War. It was his second book, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History 1660-1783 (1890), however, that brought him national and international fame

In his memoirs, From Sail to Steam, Mahan credited his reading of Theodore Mommsen’s six-volume History of Rome for the insight that sea power was the key to global predominance. In The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, Mahan reviewed the role of sea power in the emergence and growth of the British Empire. In the book’s first chapter, he described the sea as a “great highway” and “wide common” with “well-worn trade routes” over which men pass in all directions. He identified several narrow passages or strategic “chokepoints,” the control of which contributed to Great Britain’s command of the seas. He famously listed six fundamental elements of sea power: geographical position, physical conformation, extent of territory, size of population, character of the people, and character of government. Based largely on those factors, Mahan envisioned the United States as the geopolitical successor to the British Empire.

Eight years before the Spanish-American War resulted in the United States becoming a world power with overseas possessions, Mahan wrote an article in the Atlantic Monthly entitled “The United States Looking Outward,” (1890) in which he urged U.S. leaders to recognize that our security and interests were affected by the balance of power in Europe and Asia. Mahan understood that the United States, like Great Britain, was geopolitically an island lying offshore the Eurasian landmass whose security could be threatened by a hostile power or alliance of powers that gained effective political control of the key power centers of Eurasia. He further understood that predominant Anglo-American sea power in its broadest sense was the key to ensuring the geopolitical pluralism of Eurasia.

This was a profound geopolitical insight based on an understanding of the impact of geography on history.

In subsequent articles and books, Mahan accurately envisioned the geopolitical struggles of the 20th and 21st centuries. In The Interest of America in International Conditions (1910), Mahan foresaw the then-emerging First World War and the underlying geopolitical conditions leading to the Second World War, recognizing that Germany’s central position in Europe, her unrivalled industrial and military might on the continent, and her quest for sea power posed a threat to Great Britain and ultimately the United States.

Mahan also grasped as early as 1901 the fundamental geopolitical realities of the Cold War that emerged from the ashes of the first two world wars. In The Problem of Asia, Mahan urged statesmen to “glance at the map” of Asia and note “the vast, uninterrupted mass of the Russian Empire, stretching without a break . . . from the meridian of western Asia Minor, until to the eastward it overpasses that of Japan.” He envisioned an expansionist Russia needing to be contained by an alliance of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Japan, which is precisely what happened between 1945 and 1991.

Mahan also recognized the power potential of China and foresaw a time when the United States would need to be concerned with China’s rise. In 1893, Mahan wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times in which he recommended U.S. annexation of Hawaii as a necessary first step to exercise control of the North Pacific.

Similarly, in The Problem of Asia, Mahan depicted a future struggle for power in the area of central Asia he called the “debatable and debated ground,” and identified the “immense latent force” of China as a potential geopolitical rival…Mahan knew that Western science and technology would at some point be globalized and wrote that under such circumstances “it is difficult to contemplate with equanimity such a vast mass as the four hundred millions of China concentrated into one effective political organization, equipped with modern appliances, and cooped within a territory already narrow for it.”

Like Germany before the First World War, China in the 21st century has embraced Mahan. Naval War College professors Toshi Yoshihara and James Holmes have examined the writings of contemporary Chinese military thinkers and strategists in this regard in their important work, Chinese Naval Strategy in the 21st Century: The Turn to Mahan. With regard to Mahan’s elements of sea power, China is situated in the heart of east-central Asia and has a lengthy sea-coast, a huge population, a growing economy, growing military and naval power, and, at least for now, a stable government. China’s political and military leaders have not hidden their desire to supplant the United States as the predominant power in the Asia-Pacific region. Under these circumstances, China’s embrace of Mahan is reason enough for Americans to reacquaint themselves with the writings of that great American strategic thinker.

Francis P. Sempa is the author of Geopolitics: From the Cold War to the 21st Century (Transaction Books) and America’s Global Role: Essays and Reviews on National Security, Geopolitics, and War (University Press of America). He has written articles and reviews on historical and foreign policy topics for Strategic Review, American Diplomacy, Joint Force Quarterly, the University Bookman, the Washington Times, the Claremont Review of Books, and other publications. He is an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, an adjunct professor of political science at Wilkes University, and a contributing editor to American Diplomacy.


February 26, 2015

Defense News on January 19, 2015, reported that in late spring or early summer, the US Air Force will decide who will build its next-generation bomber. Yet, despite all the hype and public interest, the program remains shrouded in mystery. Excerpts below:

The Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B) program is stealthy, literally and figuratively. Few details are actually known about the bomber’s capabilities or design. But the program’s impact is already being widely felt throughout the Pentagon and its industry partners.

The half a dozen analysts and experts interviewed by Defense News for this piece all agree on one thing: the LRS-B has the chance to shape American military aerospace for the next 20 years. Whichever competitor wins will reap a windfall of development money; the loser could find itself out of the military attack airframe business entirely.

“This is crunch time,” said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group. “It’s the biggest single outstanding DoD competition by a very wide margin. That makes it important in and of itself.”

The program is targeting a production line of 80-100 planes. It will replace the fleet of B-52 and B-1 bombers. It will be stealthy, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, and optional manning has been discussed. A down-selection will be made this spring or early summer, with initial operating capability planned for the mid-2020s. Nuclear certification will follow two years after that.

The target price, set by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is $550 million a copy.

Unless there is a secret competitor still unknown — highly unlikely, but like many things with the program, impossible to rule out — there are two teams are bidding for the contract. One is Northrop Grumman, which developed the B-2 stealth bomber. The other is a team of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Together, those companies represent three of the top five defense firms in the nation.

A source with knowledge of the program said the Air Force is likely looking at something smaller than a B-2, perhaps as small as half the size, with two engines similar in size to the F135 engines that power the F-35, so enhancement programs can also be applied to the bomber.

“They should go bigger [in terms of airframe], but Gates threw that $500 million figure out there without thinking through the overall effect and requirement,” the source said.

Retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, former deputy chief of staff for ISR, agreed that the focus on the $550 million figure may end up hurting the bomber’s capabilities by driving the discussion from what the plane does to what can keep the price down.

And then there are the theories that the bomber is further along in its development cycle than it appears.

Last year, J.J. Gertler, an analyst with the Congressional Research Service penned a memo noting that the bomber’s budget profile looks more like a production than a research and development program, hinting that much of the technological development and testing has already occurred behind the scenes.

One of the larger unknowns is how much weight the Air Force — or higher ups at the Pentagon — is putting on industrial base impact. The answer to that question could seriously affect on which of the Boeing/Lockheed or Northrop teams win.

The stakes are high for all three companies, Aboulafia said. After this contract, the next attack airplane will be a new fighter in the 2030s, and then a follow-on bomber sometime after that.

If Northrop loses, the chances of it still having the infrastructure to compete for a jet 15 years from now, or on a bomber longer out, seem slim. Losing the contract now would essentially end that part of their business.

Boeing, too, is coming to the end of its time as an attack aircraft manufacturer, despite the company’s best efforts to keep the F/A-18 Super Hornet line humming. While the KC-46A tanker remains a Boeing program, it, and many other products from the company, are commercial derivatives rather than a brand new design.

Awarding Northrop the bomber would spread out the US Air Force’s three top recapitalization priorities among three companies. On the flip side, giving the contract to the Lockheed/Boeing team would mean that Lockheed Martin, the producer of the F-35, essentially has full control over Air Force combat aviation production.

Another thing to keep an eye on is the fight over the engine. If F135-maker Pratt & Whitney wins that competition, it would give it a stranglehold on the US military engine market. Whether the Pentagon be OK with that, or look to award a contract to General Electric instead, is another known unknown.

Right now, the program is humming along, with strong support from inside the Pentagon.

Last week, outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel threw his weight behind the new bomber in a speech at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

“I think the Long-Range Strike Bomber is absolutely essential for keeping our deterrent edge,” Hagel said.

“We need to do it. We need to make the investments. We’ll have it in the budget. It’s something I have particularly put a priority on.”

That commitment was echoed by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James at a Jan. 14 speech.

“When we roll out the FY16 budget, the budget line will be similar to what you saw in ’15 projected into ’16,” James said. “We’re on track for our competition, it remains a top priority and it is truly the future of our bomber force.”

Congress could also interfere with the program in another way. The loser could protest the award, which could set up not only a battle at the Government Accountability Office, but a public relations fight. High profile contract protests often result in each company tapping its preferred congressmen to lobby on its behalf.

According to public data analyzed by the non-profit, Lockheed ($4 million), Northrop ($3.9 million) and Boeing ($3.1 million) were the top three contributors to congressional campaigns and affiliated political action committees from the defense sector in 2013-2014. All three companies also rank in the top 25 of US companies in terms of dollars spent on lobbying.

Drawing a direct line from dollars spent on campaigns and lobbying and results for certain programs is always a bit risky, especially given the breadth of each company’s portfolio. After all, Boeing and Lockheed traditionally work against each other, while both companies work with Northrop on different programs.

But those figures illustrate how strong the ties are between industry and members of Congress, even before the key issue of industrial base in various districts comes into play. After all, representatives will always rally around whichever side will bring jobs to their constituents.


February 25, 2015

Dagens Nyheter, Stockholm, den 25 februari 2015 rapporterade om Rysslands agerande i Krim och östra Ukraina. Det var planerat redan från början och inte något som utvecklats allteftersom. Det hävdar oberoende Novaja Gazeta som säger sig ha kommit över hemliga Kreml-dokument från februari förra året. Utdrag nedan:

Efter att Ukrainas tidigare president Viktor Janukovytj i november 2013 övergett ett samarbetsavtal med EU till förmån för närmare band med Ryssland utbröt protester i landet. Den 22 februari flydde presidenten och en beväpnad rysk operation följde…

Utvecklingen har inte skett spontant utan är resultatet av en på förhand orkestrerad plan, skriver Novaja Gazeta. Den oberoende tidningen, som redan har ett hot om indragning hängande över sig, har publicerat dokument som man hävdar styrker det.

Dokumenten som ska vara upprättade och presenterade under perioden 4 till 12 februari förra året och en central person bakom dem sägs vara oligarken Konstantin Malofejev som har täta band till såväl Kreml som separatistledare i Ukraina.

Ett ryskt övertagande av Krim och Donbass motiveras helt av geopolitiska och ekonomiska skäl. I sju punkter beskrivs Rysslands inflytande över Ukraina som hotat och risken vore då att framför allt förlora möjligheten att kontrollera gasförbindelserna till Europa.

Bland annat nämns organiserad olydnad mot Kiev i pro-ryska områden och att detta ska ges politisk legitimitet och moraliskt rättfärdigande. Därför föreslås folkomröstning och sådana hölls i både Krim och Donbass den 16 mars respektive 11 maj.

I en punkt framförs önskemålet om att lyfta frågan om ett enande med Ryssland med tre slagord som blivit bekanta under det gångna året: federation, oberoende och självbestämmande. Charkiv, Ukrainas andra stad, nämns som det egentliga målet efter Krim, men det misslyckades. Den senaste tidens oroligheter i staden tyder på att ambitionen kvarstår, enligt Novaja Gazeta.


February 24, 2015

Wall Street Journal on December 3, 2015, reviewed Peter Zeihan’s book The Accidental Superpower (371 pages, 2014). Excerpts below:

Peter Zeihan begins “The Accidental Superpower” by declaring that he has “always loved maps.” From this unremarkable claim springs a lively, readable thesis: how the success or failure of nations may rest on the very ground beneath their feet…Mr. Zeihan stresses the more prosaic forces that shape world events: topography, soil quality, access to water. Water especially, he says, sorts winners from the rest. It can be a highway, a barrier, a larder and a battery. Rivers make it cheap to transport goods and people, enabling the efficient mixing of ideas and markets. The capital that might otherwise be spent on, say, building a road may be used for other purposes.

It happens that the United States—the “superpower” of Mr. Zeihan’s title—is blessed with 12 major navigable rivers, including the Mississippi. Much else flows from this happy accident. A less pressing need for grand, land-based infrastructure projects, for example, may lessen the need for centralized coordination, encouraging small government.

Other great powers, or former ones, have enjoyed one or two geographical advantages—think of Egypt’s mighty Nile or Britain’s status as an island nation, from which its great naval tradition comes. But no nation combines America’s easy navigability, abundant cropland and a moat the size of two oceans. The geographical underpinning of America’s global role makes it likely that U.S. supremacy will endure for some time to come.

The bulk of “The Accidental Superpower” peers into the future as Mr. Zeihan, a former analyst at the geopolitical security firm Stratfor, tries to imagine where the world, and particularly America, is headed. Conjecture is de rigueur in the geopolitics genre—sometimes to its peril.

The overarching theme is that we are moving into an ever more chaotic world—an idea that may sound familiar.

(Think of two much-discussed articles from the 1990s: Robert Kaplan ’s “The Coming Anarchy” and Samuel Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations?”) Mr. Zeihan’s prediction, though, derives from a startling proposition: that the U.S., during the Cold War, “turned geopolitics off,” if only temporarily.

Mr. Zeihan is referring to the 1944 Bretton Woods settlement. By establishing a monetary and trading system underpinned by U.S. military and economic might, the settlement effectively bribed Western Europe’s tribes to set aside their blood feuds and band together to help hold off the Soviet Union. In return, the allies got access to the American market—the only functioning one amid the ruins of 1945—as well as the protection of the only global navy still afloat and, what’s more, a nuclear umbrella.

Mr. Zeihan says that the Bretton Woods settlement is now unraveling—largely because it is no longer essential to the country that underwrote it.

…Mr. Zeihan’s point isn’t that America is about to isolate itself; it is rather that America may see the logic of retrenching, and retrenchment will destabilize a world built on U.S. commitments. Risk-free shipping lanes, for instance, are critical to major exporters such as China and Germany. Without American power, the fate of globalized supply chains is called into question. Signs of disruption can be seen in China’s push to directly control mines and oil fields overseas and in widespread doubts about whether an American president would send troops to defend NATO allies in the Baltic states. The assumptions underlying the postwar order have loosened already.

Mr. Zeihan’s grim conclusion: The world may be headed toward a “Hobbesian period” of rivalry over resources lasting 15 years or so. Economic pressures will be intensified in many regions by aging populations that make demands on overburdened, unreplenished economies. The U.S. doesn’t escape entirely, in Mr. Zeihan’s telling, but it does better in relative terms—aided by its geographical advantages and also, for instance, by its ability to assimilate immigrants.



February 22, 2015

Skånska Dagbladet, Malmö, publicerade i januari 2015 ett inlägg av Jan Linders. Utdrag nedan:

Vladimir Putin har gång på gång förbluffat hela den fria världen genom uttalanden som tycks ha gjorts mot bättre vetande. Tydligast syns det i Ukraina-affären där han – bortsett från Krim – emfatiskt förnekat rysk inblandning. Ryssland har enligt vad Putin vid åtskilliga tillfällen upprepat absolut ingenting att göra med de välbeväpnade och välorganiserade rebeller som kallhamrat och blodigt slåss mot trupper ur Ukrainas armé.

Ändå vet praktiskt taget alla som följt med i nyhetsutsändningarna att Ryssland i verkligheten stött utbrytarförbanden med krigsmateriel som vapen och fordon och med personal. Även tunga vapen som kanoner, robotstationer och stridsvagnar och med välutbildade stridskunniga soldater. Gång på gång har detta inte minst vid gränsöverskridandena fångats på bilder från satellitkameror och av markbaserade fotografer.
Uppenbart mot bättre vetande förnekar Vladimir Putin all rysk inblandning. Och ändå har det förekommit att han på hemmaplan hyllat samma soldater just för sina insatser i Ukraina. Jag tror inte Goebbels på sin tid kunde ha gjort det bättre eller kanske snarare värre!

Häromdagen höll Vladimir Putin ett uppmärksammat hösttal, benämnt årsskiftestal, till den ryska nationen. I det talet återkom han till att anklaga västländerna för Rysslands dåliga ekonomi men också för att ha startat kriget i Ukraina. När det gällde ekonomin så var motiveringen att västländerna, i synnerhet USA, tvingat ner priset på olja, vilket i sin tur lett till att den ryska valutan kollapsat. Ukrainakriget var väst ansvarigt för genom att ha stött den oblodiga revolutionen som tvingat bort den förutvarande, ryssvänlige presidenten.

Inget av detta är sant. Många faktorer har bidragit till att priset på råoljan sjunkit, mest har det berott på att efterfrågan minskat men också på att flera nya aktörer kommit in på marknaden bland annat med olja utvunnet från skiffer. Opec är mer eller mindre utkonkurrerat och varken kan eller vill hålla upp priset.

Detta drabbar inte bara Ryssland utan också till exempel Norge. Och alla som följde med i världshändelserna
vet att det var tusentals fria demokratiska män och kvinnor i landet som gemensamt drev bort den ryssvänliga regimen i Ukraina.

Det står illa till i Ryssland nu. Människorna har tappat förtroendet för sin egen valuta. Pengarna på banken faller i värde. Priserna på nästan alla varor går upp och trots detta handlar invånarna kapitalvaror som aldrig förr, lyxbilar t ex går åt i tusental. Uppfattningen att det kanske blir värre innan det blir bättre sprider sig som en farsot och långt inne i maktens centrum tränger säkert oemotståndligt den tanken in att det kanske blir revolution även här: hundratusentals människor kanske en dag trängs på gatorna utanför Kreml utan att låta sig drivas bort eller skingras av polis och militär. Vladimir Putin har antytt att hans tankar ibland snuddat vid just den skräckvisionen att detta som skett i så många andra länder också kan drabba Ryssland och honom själv en dag,

På senare tid har han talat om en virtuell Berlinmur som västvärlden byggt runt Putins Ryssland…Han söker febrilt göra sig uppmärksammad, med militärövningar och verklighetsnära flyganfall mot vänligt sinnade grannländer försöker han på ett supermisslyckat sätt återfå deras respekt.

Men i åtminstone ett avseende har Putin rätt. Visst finns det en privat Berlinmur runt Vladimir Putin och hans Ryssland. Men den har västmakterna inte byggt. Det har han gjort själv.

Jan Linders är förre kammaråklagare, författare och tidigare kommunalråd i Klippans kommun.


February 22, 2015

Fox News on February 22, 2015, reported that Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that his country is not on the verge of collapse and that Russian-backed separatists continue to attack Ukrainian soldiers despite a recent cease fire agreement. Excerpts below:

“We are very far from a collapse,” Yatsenyuk told Fox News. “You know why? We don’t have a cease fire … because a cease fire means that no one shoots. Cease fire means that Russian-led terrorists do not make any kind of ongoing shellings, that they do not kill Ukrainian soldiers and innocent people.”

Yatsenyuk’s comments come about one week after European leaders brokered a cease fire in the roughly 10-month conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the eastern region of the country.

A top European Union official said Thursday that the 28-member bloc will provide armored cars and satellite imagery to monitor the cease fire but is undecided on whether to commit troops to a proposed United Nations-mandated peacekeeping mission.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian military and separatist representatives on Saturday night exchanged dozens of prisoners. Roughly 140 Ukrainian troops and 52 rebels were exchanged, according to a separatist official overseeing the swap.

Earlier this week, the Russia-backed separatists captured the key rail transportation city of Debaltseve,…
Ukrainian soldiers retreated from Debaltseve but not before 13 were killed and 157 were wounded in the fighting, according to Kiev officials.

Yatsenyuk also said Saturday there is “no doubt” that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to take over Ukraine.

“But let me provide you a bigger scope, what’s really the ultimate goal of President Putin. … He’s fighting with all of us.”

He also repeated his plea for Western allies to supply weapons to the out-gunned Ukrainian forces.
“We have to defend ourselves,” Yatsenyuk said. “Russia is constantly supplying tanks, surface-to-air missiles and the rest of the stuff. And again everyone knows this. We still use outdated Soviet-style equipment.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


February 20, 2015

Washington Times on February 19, 2015 reported that after three days of talking about countering violent extremism, President Obama wrapped up the international conference with little to show aside from his appointment of a federal czar to wage digital war against terrorist propaganda. Excerpts below:

“When people are oppressed and human rights are denied it feeds violent extremism,” Mr. Obama said at the State Department. “It creates an environment that is ripe for terrorists to exploit. When peaceful democratic change is impossible, it feeds into the terrorist propaganda that violence is the only answer available.”

The summit sparked heated criticism among conservatives that Mr. Obama was going overboard not to offend moderate Muslims by refusing to characterize terrorists such as fighters of the Islamic State as “radical Islamists.” The president did call on Muslim clerics to reject hateful rhetoric against the West, but he also devoted much of his attention to issues such as jobs for young Muslims and propaganda.

Among the few concrete steps to emerge from the summit, the administration announced this week that one of Mr. Obama’s close aides, Rashad Hussain, was appointed as special envoy and coordinator for strategic counterterrorism communications. The State Department said his job will be “to develop strategic counterterrorism communications around the world” to combat recruiting efforts by al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Some security analysts said the initiative was laughable.

“In Washington, when you don’t want to do something, you describe it as a messaging problem,” said Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “And you resort to promoting messaging czars. The real problem is you have nothing to message. That’s at the heart of Obama’s problem. He doesn’t have a policy or a strategy to message — not with the military, not with the political, not with the economic.”

Mr. Hussain, 36, is a son of natives of India who became U.S. citizens. A Muslim who speaks fluent Arabic, he was born in Wyoming and raised in Plano, Texas. He has a law degree from Yale University.

During the summit, the president came close to parroting State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf’s claim that the U.S. could combat terrorist groups by improving job prospects in the Middle East.

The president said the U.S. “will make new commitments to help young people, including in Muslim communities,” by creating job opportunities in science and technology. He also called on nations to focus on jobs “not just for the few at the top, but for the many.”

Ms. Pletka said Mr. Obama’s idea as a counterterrorism strategy is “garbage.”

“Counterterrorism is not a jobs program,” she said. “And the fact that he linked unemployment with terrorism is beyond ridiculous. If that were the case, we wouldn’t see terrorists coming from social welfare states like Denmark or Belgium or the U.K.”

She said Mr. Obama’s call for stronger democratic institutions in Arab countries is undermined by his administration’s funding cuts for such programs started by the George W. Bush administration.

“President Obama is so unhinged on the question of his predecessor that it has paralyzed his administration when it comes to anything other than a military approach to terrorism,” she said. “Where are your democracy programs? Where are your anti-corruption programs? Where are your education programs? Oh, yeah — you defunded all of them because you associated them with the great neocon experiment of George Bush.”

Before the summit began, White House aides cautioned that the initiative would take a longer-range approach to the root causes of violent extremism and that solutions would involve coordination with international partners over many years. Administration officials said the effort is merely one part of a multifaceted approach to fighting terrorism, including Mr. Obama’s air war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq with a coalition of partners, including several Arab nations.

As the summit drew to a close, Mr. Obama was criticized roundly for sanitizing his own speech to avoid the phrase “radical Islam.” It was with no apparent irony that he told one audience, “We’re not going to solve this if we’re always trying to be politically correct.”


February 19, 2015

Wall Street Journal on February 18, 2015 reported that newly released satellite images show a dramatic expansion in China’s construction of artificial islands on disputed South China Sea reefs, intensifying concerns about Beijing’s territorial ambitions. Excerpts below:

The images provide the first visual evidence that China has built an artificial island covering 75,000 square yards—about 14 football fields—and including two piers, a cement plant and a helipad, at a land formation called Hughes Reef, according to experts who have studied the pictures. The reef, which is above water only at low tide, lies about 210 miles from the Philippines and 660 miles from China.

The pictures, taken by a commercial satellite division of Airbus Group and released by IHS Jane’s, a defense intelligence provider, also show that China has made significant progress in building similar infrastructure in two other places, Johnson South Reef and Gaven Reefs, where Beijing’s territorial claims overlap with those of its neighbors.

China appears to be building a network of island fortresses to help enforce control of most of the South China Sea—one of the world’s busiest shipping routes—and potentially of the airspace above, according to experts who have studied the images.

The pace and scale of its South China Sea buildup shows that Beijing, despite having recently reined in its rhetoric and avoided confrontations at sea and in the air, hasn’t tempered its ambitions to project power in the region.

“The Chinese have built up a head of steam on the land reclamation in the South China Sea over the course of 2014; if anything, it looks to be accelerating,” said a senior U.S. official, who described the extent of China’s reclamation work as “unprecedented.”

U.S. officials say they have repeatedly asked China to stop the work, to no avail. Daniel Russel, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, conveyed U.S. concerns about the issue on a visit to Beijing this month, according to people familiar with the matter.

China signed a nonbinding agreement with Asean committing to avoid provocative activities in the South China Sea, such as inhabiting previously deserted islands and reefs.

China’s claims overlap with those of Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines—a U.S. treaty ally—and many of them have been bolstering defense ties with the U.S. in recent years in response to what they see as Beijing’s enhanced efforts to assert its claims.

The Philippine government has been especially vocal in protesting Chinese construction in contested areas, most recently lodging a formal complaint this month over reclamation it says China is conducting at another site in the Spratlys called Mischief Reef. Philippine officials declined to comment on the new images, and Vietnamese authorities weren’t immediately available to comment.

Many experts and U.S. officials say the Chinese infrastructure is explicitly military in nature, whereas some of its other recent efforts to assert territorial claims have been carried out by its coast guard and fisheries administration.

Some U.S. and regional officials have suggested that China could use the new infrastructure to help enforce an Air Defense Identification Zone similar to the one it established in late 2013 over much of the East China Sea, where its territorial claims overlap with Japan’s. China has said it would establish more air-defense zones but doesn’t have imminent plans to establish one over the South China Sea.

Images published by Jane’s in November show Chinese work in a fourth disputed area, Fiery Cross Reef, which experts including military analysts and academics say is extensive enough to eventually include an airstrip.

The facilities at Fiery Cross Reef could be suitable for that eventually, according to some experts. One possibility is that China would use an airstrip there as a backup for future operations by its first aircraft carrier, which it launched in 2011 and has sent on training operations in the South China Sea.

The facilities will likely be used to “enforce China’s territorial and jurisdictional claims, and bring pressure to bear on warships and coast guard vessels from the other claimants,” said Ian Storey, an expert on the South China Sea at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

“It shows that despite recent accommodating rhetoric from Beijing that it seeks to cool tensions in the South China Sea, its policy to assert dominance within the so-called nine-dash line remains fundamentally unchanged.”

A U.N. tribunal is currently hearing a case brought by the Philippines against China over its claims in the South China Sea. However, China is widely expected to ignore the tribunal’s verdict and the U.S. and its allies and partners have few options to prevent Beijing from continuing with its reclamation and construction work.

“The U.S. and its allies and partners can only make declaratory protests that China should halt its activities and exercise self-restraint. China will ignore these protests,” said Carlyle Thayer, an expert on the South China Sea at the Australian Defence Force Academy. “The use of U.S. naval warships would be an escalation and carry risks.”


February 18, 2015

Svenska Dagbladet, Stockholm, publicerade den 14 februari 2015 ett blogginlägg av Bo Hugemark om desinformatsia om Ukrainakriget i Sveriges Radio. Utdrag nedan:

I Minsk möttes ledarna för angriparstaten Ryssland, offret för angreppet Ukraina och två ängsliga ledare för europeiska stormakter. Inför mötet hade Sveriges Radio (P 1) i onsdags ett inslag med deltagande av sin Moskva-korrespondent och professorn i teologisk etik, forskningsledare vid Centrum för Rysslandsstudier i Uppsala Universitet, Elena Namli.

Det blev ett förvirrande inslag…Namlis mest uppseendeväckande uttalande var att hon var glad över att Putin inte erkände att det fanns rysk trupp i Ukraina. För om han gjorde det skulle vi ha fullskaligt krig. En helt revolutionerande säkerhetspolitisk teori av etikprofessorn: Lögnen som fredsgaranti.
Men kanske hon menade att det i själva verket inte fanns rysk trupp där ännu. För det talar att hon såg en stor risk för att varken Moskva eller Kiev hade kontroll över styrkorna, vilket skulle äventyra eld upphör.

Det farligaste fredshotet enligt Namli var dock den amerikanska kongressens uttalande för att ge Ukraina pansarvärnsvapen. Detta samtidigt som ytterligare ryska pansarförband passerar in i Ukraina.

Elena Namli, född i Sovjetunionen 1966, tog teologie doktorsexamen i Uppsala 2000. Hon har skrivit åtskilligt om religion, politik och mänskliga rättigheter i Ryssland. Varför hon tillfrågas om Rysslands krig mot Ukraina är oklart.

Lyckligtvis ger radions och TV:s korrespondenter på plats gott om fakta för att motverka desinformation från olika håll. Det vill till, ty den ryska, enastående lögnaktiga propagandan skördar offer på många håll, inte bara i Ryssland.

En effekt är ordvalet i media, även svenska. Här talas ofta om konflikten i östra Ukraina, separatiststyrkor, i stället för rysk invasion och ryska styrkor. Det skapas en bild av två lika goda kålsupare som måste tvingas till förhandlingsbordet. ”Det finns ingen militär lösning”, ekar politiker. Vilket tyvärr Putin hela tiden är inställd på att få.

Han har också lyckats plantera föreställningen att det är livsfarligt att beväpna offret, vilket skulle ge honom själv legitim rätt att börja skjuta vilt omkring sig. Namli är inte ensam om den synen, den delas av de flesta europeiska regeringar (t o m av den finska, som tycks ha glömt Finlands upplevelser vintern 1939).

Bo Hugemark är överste, säkerhetspolitisk kommentator och ledamot av Kungl Krigsvetenskapsakademien