Police Work, Politics and World Affairs, Football and the ongoing search for great Scotch Whiskey!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

KGB...GRU...CIA?

KGB.

A quote stolen from Robin Williams in Moscow on the Hudson. Three words that would terrorism Russians for decades, now there is a museum to this group.

This August I'll be attending the Blue Knights International Convention in Rye Brook, New York. I think I'm going to be taking a side trip to this part of NY.


A peek into the world of Soviet secrets

NEW YORK — “This is a Bulgarian umbrella; have you heard about this one?” Agne Urbaityte asked, pointing to a blue umbrella behind a glass case. There was a needle peeking out from the top.

“It’s a weapon umbrella,” she said. “You press the button here, you see the needle, the needle goes out and shoots a small shot of ricin poison. It’s still the most harsh poison in the world.”

Soviet propaganda. 
Thank goodness this was not the real thing. It was the kind of tool famously used to kill Bulgarian dissident author Georgi Markov on Waterloo Bridge in 1978, roughly a decade after he defected to the West. Many have speculated since that the KGB was involved.

Urbaityte, 29, was standing against a wall at the recently opened KGB Spy Museum in Chelsea, a warehouse-type space housing what Urbaityte said were thousands of artifacts documenting the rise of the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, or the Committee for State Security in English, which is better known as the KGB, the Soviet Union’s intelligence agency and secret police.

The museum opens at a time when Russian intelligence services have been at the forefront of both pop culture and current events. “The Americans,” the FX show about a married couple who spy for the Soviet Union in Washington, has been a cultural phenomenon. It won a Golden Globe this year for best television drama. (Another popular TV show, “Homeland,” has had Russian antagonists.)
A lipstick gun. Also, a weapon umbrella
that shoots the poison ricin.
In a news story that seemed as if it were straight out of “The Americans,” in December, Maria Butina, a 30-year-old Russian, pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiring to act as a foreign agent. As part of a deal with prosecutors, she acknowledged that Russian officials were behind her efforts. Last year a former Russian spy was poisoned with a deadly nerve agent in Salisbury, England, drawing international outrage. Prime Minister Theresa May said it was “highly likely” that Russia was behind the attack.

And a newly released KGB archive has revealed the names of 4,141 Latvians who might have been secret informants for the Soviets.

But this museum, Urbaityte said, is apolitical.

“It’s historical and about technological progress; you cannot erase facts from history,” she said in an interview, sitting next to her father, Julius Urbaitis, 55. They are the co-curators of the new institution.

Urbaitis said the Spy Museum was the culmination of three decades of collecting items related to the KGB. He first had an interest in World War II artifacts, but when he acquired a listening device that belonged to Adolf Hitler, he became fascinated with espionage, he said. The family hails from Lithuania, where they founded a museum in 2014 called Atomic Bunker — which was actually based in an old nuclear bunker.

“My dad has a collector’s spirit,” Urbaityte said.
This Russian-made M-125 cipher machine also was known as a Fialka.
Some of the objects from Atomic Bunker have migrated to Chelsea. About half the items in the collection, a combination of original artifacts and copies, are owned by the father-daughter duo. The other half were acquired separately by the curators. Urbaityte and Urbaitis do not own the museum, which is private and for-profit. The owners have chosen to remain anonymous.

The museum does not shy away from depicting the harsh tactics of the KGB. There are interactive exhibits, like a model of a chair used for interrogations.

“If people want to, we can tie them up,” Urbaityte said.

The tour starts with a mock-up of a chief officer’s workspace. A mannequin wearing a KGB chief officer’s uniform is at a desk with a flag of Soviet Russia behind him. To the mannequin’s left sits a bronze desk lamp, which, according to the curators, sat in a villa belonging to former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. Nearby, Russian propaganda posters cover a wall. One of the oldest items in the space is a switchboard from 1928. Its operator was almost always recruited by the NKVD, a forerunner of the KGB, according to a description of the item.

There are also original doors from a KGB prison housed at the back of the museum. The accompanying information reads: “People who did not take psychologically the interrogation process well were put into soft cells. Then people were given various medications to turn from a politically idealistic person into a vegetable.”

Many of the exhibits are dedicated to showing exactly how the KGB carried out business, particularly surveillance. Several glass displays show where KGB agents would embed lenses and bugs: in rings, watches, belt buckles, cuff links and dishes, among other places.

This is not the only spy museum in the United States, of course. There is Spyscape, which opened early last year on Eighth Avenue at 55th Street. And Washington has the International Spy Museum. The National Museum of Intelligence and Special Operations is in development and is scheduled to open next year in Ashburn, Va.

As we finished our tour, I couldn’t help but ask: Had the curators seen “The Americans?” After all, some of the devices in the museum were likely to have been visible on-screen in the show.

“It is precise and it’s good and we loved it,” Urbaityte said...

I've been meaning to start watching The Americans, it looks like an interesting series. I just don't watch much TV these days. But I will make time for this museum this summer.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Officer Down



Investigator Farrah Turner
Florence County Sheriff's Office, South Carolina
End of Watch Monday, October 22, 2018
Age 36
Tour 12 years
Badge 166
Incident Date Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Investigator Farrah Turner suffered fatal gunshot wounds when she and other investigators from the Florence County Sheriff's Office arrived at a home off of Vintage Drive to interview a suspect as part of a sex offense investigation.

The suspect, who was being investigated on allegations of sexually assaulting minors, was in the home with his adopted father. The adoptive father proceeded to open fire with a rifle and two pistols from a second-floor window that gave him a view of fire for several hundred yards - ambushing law enforcement officers.

Sergeant Terrence Carraway, of the Florence Police Department, was shot and killed while responding to assist several wounded deputies. Sergeant Carraway, along with three other Florence police officers, were attempting to rescue the three wounded deputies when they, too were shot. More than 400 shots were exchanged during the standoff.

The subject remained barricaded inside of his home for two hours before being taken into custody along with the initial suspect.

All of the wounded officers were transported to a local hospital where Sergeant Carraway succumbed to his wounds. Investigator Turner underwent nine surgeries and remained in critical condition until succumbing to her wounds on Oct. 22, 2018.

Investigator Turner is survived by her mother and other family members.
Rest in Peace Sis…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Springtime for Hitler!!! and Germany!

Anyone who like Mel Brooks will remember that tune from The Producers, a 1967 comedy classic. Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel plan a massive fraud on investors, getting them to put thousands into a play they know will flop on the first night. After that, the two producers can legally keep all the extra cash. They are horrified when their play is the hit of the season!

With that as background, I found this article interesting. From Foreign Policy, a definitely left of center publication. Mr. Kagan is concercered of the expansion of the world's authoritarian regimes around the world.
Springtime for Strongmen
The world’s authoritarians are on the march—and the West helped pave the way.
BY ROBERT KAGAN

The year 2018 was springtime for strongmen everywhere. It was the year Xi Jinping put an end to collective leadership in China, made himself president for life, and put a final nail in the coffin of U.S. Sinologists’ credibility as predictors of Chinese behavior. (They’ve been prophesying liberalization for decades.)

Elsewhere in Asia, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un won the admiration of U.S. President Donald Trump because of the high quality of his dictatorial control. Poland’s dubiously democratic government became a favorite of Trump’s, as did Hungary’s proudly illiberal prime minister, Viktor Orban. Orban even got a hero’s welcome in Israel, where the prime minister’s son Yair Netanyahu called him the “best leader in Europe.” In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega solidified his position as the new Anastasio Somoza, whom he overthrew in the name of the people four decades ago.

In Venezuela, Nicol├ís Maduro managed to hang on, despite being the only dictator in the world the Trump administration seemed not to like. And in the Middle East, the year’s best drama came when one autocrat, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, exposed another, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for apparently ordering an assassination worthy of Goodfellas.

Mohammed bin Salman will probably be just fine—the easily distracted U.S. media is already forgetting about the grisly killing of Jamal Khashoggi and so will Congress, just as it overlooked for years Saudi brutality in Yemen. U.S. newspapers and television scarcely even cover the equally murderous Egyptian military dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who gets the red-carpet treatment whenever he visits the United States. The Trump administration, like the Obama administration before it, sees Middle Eastern dictators as essential bulwarks at a time when both administrations sought to reduce the United States’ involvement in the Middle East as much as possible.

Autocracy flourished in 2018 because when Washington pursues a so-called realist policy of global retrenchment, it looks for dictators it thinks it can rely on. Autocracy flourished in 2018 because when Washington pursues a so-called realist policy of global retrenchment, it looks for dictators it thinks it can rely on. This was Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger’s strategy in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The famous Nixon doctrine, which aimed at reducing U.S. commitments overseas, put all of Washington’s chips on the Shah of Iran and the Saudi monarchy. One produced the Iranian revolution that still bedevils the region today; the other produced rampant Wahhabism and 15 of the 19 hijackers who attacked the United States on 9/11.

Today, academics who urge retrenchment in U.S. foreign policy argue that Washington should accommodate “diversity” in the world—perhaps a nice mix of tyrants and would-be tyrants to go along with the dwindling number of democracies. As Harvard University’s Graham Allison puts it, America needs to adapt “to the reality that other countries have contrary views about governance and seek to establish their own international orders governed by their own rules.” Don’t worry. It has.

Autocracy is making a comeback because too many in the West act like late 19th-century racial imperialists; they think Arabs and others lacking so-called Judeo-Christian traditions can’t handle democracy. For decades, of course, Americans did not believe Catholics were fit for democracy either, because they supposedly obeyed the authoritarian dictates of Rome; then it was Asians with their Asian values; now it is Muslims, who can’t be allowed to choose their own leaders because Americans don’t like their choices. So Washington prefers that they be ruled by strongmen. Order first, liberty later—as Samuel P. Huntington and Jeane Kirkpatrick argued back in the 1960s and 1970s.

Mr. Kagan, yes, we need order first, because without order, out nation will not have allies. You may recall the first half of the Obama regime, when he and his completely incompetent Secretary of State, Mrs Bill Clinton, decided to go after allied nations they didn't seem to like. They were icky, if you will, and they didn't want to deal with them. Mubarak in Egypt, Gaddafi in Libya, Assad in Syria. And they overthrew an ally in Egypt, giving a reliable partner (and non-threat to the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel) to the Muslim Brotherhood. Thankfully the military overthrew the government they put in and the radicals are out. Gaddafi is no humanitarian, but he has given up his WMD program after the Iraq war, plus he was able to keep the over 140 tribes in Libya under control. Stable, if you will. Barrack and Mrs Bill Clinton thought they could improve on that. Syria...enough said.
Authoritarianism is also on the rise because dictatorships have money to throw around. And unlike democratic leaders, they don’t have to tell anyone where the money is going. So even poor African nations, such as Zimbabwe and Egypt, can spend millions of dollars to hire top Washington lobbyists to make their cases and fend off pesky congressional pressures. The oil-rich Persian Gulf potentates, meanwhile, already practically own Washington, feting the powerful in their palaces and effortlessly landing top-level meetings. Rumors abound about what benefits senior Trump officials may have received from the Saudi crown prince. After all, the cash of Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs that flowed into the accounts of the now convicted Paul Manafort and his associates, as well as to top law firms lending a hand to the cause of Ukraine’s corrupt former strongman, has now been mostly revealed. Imagine what has not been disclosed.

The Chinese dictatorship has had the best run of all. It barely had to spend a dime on lobbying; corporate America did the heavy lifting. Desperate to gain access to the Chinese market, U.S. corporations lobbied hard to grant China “most favored nation” status and entry into the World Trade Organization. They hired former cabinet officials; they endowed chairs at universities and think tanks across the United States; they convinced local chambers of commerce to approach members of Congress—all in the hope of convincing Washington and the public to view Beijing as a peaceful liberalizing partner. And they’ve succeeded so completely that it may soon be too late to do anything about the militarizing totalitarian power that emerged instead.

Finally, autocrats are on the march because even Americans are not so sure how they feel about democracy. Autocrats are on the march because even Americans are not so sure how they feel about democracy. U.S. politics are polarized. Congress is stalemated. Bureaucrats are incompetent. While the rest of the world has been taking the United States to the cleaners, Americans are starting to notice: Look how efficient the Chinese are! Look what a strong leader Vladimir Putin is! Maybe what the world needs, maybe what America needs, is a strongman who can cut through all the nonsense and just get things done. This widespread sentiment was among the factors that led to the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany, made Benito Mussolini popular in Italy and abroad, and is now being revived around the world as faith in democracy recedes...
I find his distaste for China's leadership a bit strange. I know Mr. Kagan, you have heard of the propagandist Thomas Friedman, from the Manhattan tabloid The New York Times. He would like Obama to be Xi for a day:
Well, David, it's been decimated. It's been decimated by everything from the gerrymandering of political districts to cable television to an Internet where I can create a digital lynch mob against you from the left or right if I don't like where you're going, to the fact that money and politics is so out of control—really our Congress is a forum for legalized bribery. You know, that's really what, what it's come down to. So I don't—I, I—I'm worried about this, it's why I have fantasized—don't get me wrong—but that what if we could just be China for a day? I mean, just, just, just one day. You know, I mean, where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions, and I do think there is a sense of that, on, on everything from the economy to environment. I don't want to be China for a second, OK, I want my democracy to work with the same authority, focus and stick-to-itiveness. But right now we have a system that can only produce suboptimal solutions.

Mr. Kagan, life in the offices of Foreign Policy may seem simple, but life in the real world is not. Sometimes you must make deals with people you don't like. The classic example was FDR and Churchill alying themselves with Stalin. Uncle Joe had murdered seven million of his countrymen just before the beginning of Second World War, and conspired with Hitler to take over Europe. But he and his manpower were needed to defeat the NAZIs by 1941:
When John Colville, Churchill’s private secretary, told the prime minister on the morning of Sunday, June 22,1941, that Germany had invaded the Soviet Union, Colville saw him respond with a “smile of satisfaction.” In a special radio address to the nation that evening, Churchill said, “No one has been a more consistent opponent of Communism for the last twenty-five years. I will unsay no word I have spoken about it. But all this fades away before the spectacle which is now unfolding. The past, with its crimes, its follies, its tragedies, flashes away.… The Russian danger is therefore our danger, and the danger of the United States, just as the cause of any Russian fighting for hearth and house is the cause of free men and free peoples in every quarter of the globe.” Churchill then said that Britain would provide all possible military aid to the Soviet Union in its battle against Germany. It was a testament to the desperate situation confronting both nations that Churchill, a champion of democracy, would agree to an alliance with a tyrannical regime at least as bad as that of Nazi Germany.

So yes Mr. Kagan, life is a bit complicated. Hopefully you will figure that out before you publish another piece of ivory tower propaganda like this.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Good news on use of force from the federal courts...

As a cop, and as a field trainer in particular, I need to keep an eye on legal updates. And as as cop, I've always like the Monday morning quarterbacking, or opinions of the Youtube experts, on police use of force. Thankfully Graham vs O'Connor states specifically the use of force must be judged from the point of view of the officer, needing to make decisions in the heat of the moment.

With that as a background, here we go.
Eighth Circuit ruling: Multiple TASER use justified to stop violently resisting suspect

After a man who viciously attacked his girlfriend died following a violent struggle with three officers, an excessive force lawsuit is brought against the officers

The Objectively Reasonable Officer

with Mike Callahan

On the night of September 22, 2013, Worth County Sheriff’s Deputy Isaac Short responded to a domestic disturbance call at a home in Northwood, Iowa.

Upon arrival, Short entered the home and heard screams coming from a second-floor bedroom. He kicked in the locked door of the bedroom and discovered Michael Zubrod engaged in a brutal attack on his girlfriend, Rhonda Schukei. Deputy Short saw Zubrod strike Schukei in the face with a hammer and heard him say, “Die bitch, you’re gonna die...

You Tube experts, I'll type slowly so you can follow. The suspect has hit the woman in the face with a hammer. A blunt object like that, striking above the chest, is "deadly force," and at that moment the deputy had "reasonable fear for the life or serious bodily injury of himself or a third person," and the use of "deadly force" (e.g. shooting him) is justified.
..Deputy Short radioed for back-up, drew his firearm and commanded Zubrod to step back from the victim. Zubrod initially complied by stepping back and dropping the hammer. Deputy Short holstered his gun and took out his TASER. Zubrod responded by saying something about finding a gun and began to reach down under the bed. He came up empty-handed, grabbed a nearby pair of scissors and immediately stabbed Schukei in the neck while she was lying on the floor.

YouTube experts, see my comments above.
...The case highlights the high degree of danger in every domestic violence call and the extreme difficulty facing officers, even with superior numbers, in subduing violently resisting suspects. (Photo/PoliceOne)

Deputy Short fired his TASER but it was not effective in incapacitating Zubrod. [1] Zubrod grabbed a pair of pliers from a dresser and attacked the deputy. The fight moved from the bedroom into the hallway and into another bedroom. Deputy Short was eventually able to partially control Zubrod and place one handcuff upon his wrist. Zubrod continued to resist and Short could not secure the second handcuff to his other wrist. This only caused the situation to worsen because when handcuffs are fastened to only one wrist of a resisting suspect they can be used as a weapon by the offender.

Deputy Short was able to hold Zubrod’s wrists together for about eight minutes until Deputy Hoch arrived to assist. Zubrod continued to resist, broke free and got to his feet. Deputy Hoch deployed his TASER but it was again ineffective. The battle to control Zubrod continued as a third deputy arrived to assist.

Deputy Hoch ordered the third officer, Deputy Smith, to use his TASER on Zubrod. Both Deputy Hoch and Short released their grip on Zubrod so Deputy Smith could deploy his TASER. The TASER malfunctioned and the fight continued. Deputy Hoch attempted to use his TASER again on Zubrod and though the barbs connected with Zubrod’s thigh, neuromuscular incapacitation did not occur.

The three deputies continued to wrestle with Zubrod; Deputy Hoch deployed his TASER on Zubrod in the drive-stun mode 10 times in a period of just over three minutes. Zubrod was finally brought under control and properly handcuffed, but during the entire episode he was never neuromuscularly incapacitated.

After the protracted battle ended, the deputies observed Zubrod had stopped breathing. Paramedics were on the scene and commenced life-saving measures but to no avail. The medical examiner determined the cause of death to be “cardiac arrhythmia following altercation with police in the setting of acute methamphetamine intoxication.” The medical examiner concluded that the role of the TASER use upon Zubrod was “unknown.” Methamphetamine was discovered in Zubrod’s blood. He was a methamphetamine user and had increased his use of the drug in the days leading up to his attack on Schukei...

Excessive force lawsuit

Zubrod’s estate sued the involved deputies pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and alleged that Deputy Hoch’s use of his TASER involved excessive force and that Zubrod was subjected to TASER use after he was restrained by handcuffs. Moreover, Deputies Smith and Short were alleged to have violated Zubrod’s Fourth Amendment rights by failing to intervene and stop Hoch from improperly using his TASER against Zubrod. The Federal District Court Judge dismissed the lawsuit, holding that the deputies were entitled to qualified immunity and that the use of the TASER under these circumstances was reasonable. Zubrod’s estate filed an appeal.

Why the Eighth Circuit dismissed the lawsuit

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the lawsuit for the following reasons:

•The court ruled that Zubrod’s estate failed to produce sufficient evidence that Zubrod was subjected to TASER use after he was completely handcuffed and subdued.

•The court stated that Zubrod “had already severely injured his victim [Schukei] and demonstrated hostility and violence toward the deputies. The deputies faced an individual who was dangerous, acting abnormally, strong, threatening, and noncompliant, and each time they eased up to allow him to submit, he resumed his violent behavior.”

•The court viewed Deputy Hoch’s body-worn camera video and stated, “We conclude that it shows a violent suspect who failed to comply with reasonable orders to turn around and resisted after multiple [ten] tasings.”

•The court stated that as Zubrod “fought first one, then two, then three deputies who were unable to obtain his compliance without the use of TASERs. Under the aforementioned ‘tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving’
circumstances, this does not present a constitutional violation.” [2]

•The court concluded that “We hold that the district court properly [dismissed] … Zubrod’s excessive force claims. In addition, because a failure-to-intervene claim may not prevail in the absence of a showing of excessive force, we also hold that the district court properly [dismissed that claim as well].”

Lessons for LE

In this matter, the Eighth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals issued a well-reasoned and logical opinion that validated the extraordinarily difficult efforts by law enforcement officers to bring a violent and extremely dangerous suspect under control.

The case highlights the high degree of danger in every domestic violence call and the extreme difficulty facing officers, even with superior numbers, in subduing violently resisting suspects, especially when they are under the influence of methamphetamine. The decision also validates the continued use of a TASER in the “drive-stun mode” upon a continually violently resisting suspect...

The open hostility of local politicians and some federal officials have made law enforcement hesitant on the use of force. Thankfully these deputies handled this before the Obama War on Cops and it was handled by judges without a hatred for law enforcement.

Officer Down


Police Officer Antwan DeArvis Toney
Gwinnett County Police Department, Georgia
End of Watch Saturday, October 20, 2018
Age 30
Tour 3 years
Badge 1808

Police Officer Antwan Toney was shot and killed as he and another officer investigated reports of a suspicious vehicle near the intersection of Bethany Church Road and Shiloh Road at approximately 3:00 pm.

As the officers approached the vehicle at least one person inside opened fire, shooting through the vehicle's windows. Officer Toney was struck as he and the other officer returned fire. The vehicle crashed a short distance away and its four occupants fled on foot.

One of the suspects was apprehended later in the afternoon after shooting at an officer who was searching for him. The subject believed to have been the one to shoot Officer Toney was shot and killed on October 22nd, 2018, after being located hiding in a shed in the Snellville area. He was shot after refusing to obey commands while armed with a lawnmower blade.

Officer Toney was transported to Gwinnett Medical Center where he succumbed to his wounds.

Officer Toney had served with the Gwinnett County Police Department for three years.

Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.

What's going on in the World Today 190128

HYPERLINKS MAY REQUIRE AN EMAIL:

USA



Why Walls and Sensors Aren't the Answer to the U.S.-Mexico Border Dilemma

Highlights

There are compelling national security arguments for securing the U.S.-Mexico border, but terrorism is not one of them.
Walls, fences and sensors improve border security, but their effectiveness is limited if personnel are unable to respond rapidly to efforts to breach them.
The better physical security measures become, the more that people become the weak link in the security chain.
Because of this, border security requires a holistic approach that not only addresses physical security at the border but also the economic forces that tempt people to smuggle contraband and humans across borders.

As the longest government shutdown in U.S. history drags on, one bone of contention is hogging all of the headlines: The U.S. border with Mexico. Discussions of the threat posed by an unsecured frontier and of the efficacy of border walls and other security measures have sparked fierce debate over how best to secure the boundary. Because the topic has spawned a great deal of interest – and perhaps just as much misinformation – a discussion of these issues is timely...

AFRICA

U.S. Developing Supply Route Along Dangerous Stretch From Djibouti to Somalia

The project is part of a broader military entrenchment in Africa.

The U.S. Defense Department is in the early stages of a project to develop land-based supply routes from the main American military base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, to other U.S. camps across the eastern part of the continent, according to contractors involved with the project and officials familiar with the deliberations.

The first part of the trail is intended to link Lemonnier to Baledogle, the U.S. camp in Somalia. The passage traverses areas controlled by the al Qaeda-affiliated group al-Shabab; swaths of land controlled by warlords with private militias; and a tense border region with Ethiopia.

This project will further entrench the U.S. military presence in Africa. It might also be part of a broader American approach to countering China in places across the continent where the U.S. has vital interests, including the strategic Horn of Africa, though one former official said the plan is more likely driven by logistical considerations...

ASIA

India: Navy to Open New Air Base on Andaman and Nicobar Islands

What Happened: The Indian Navy will open a new air base on the Andaman and Nicoman Islands as part of an effort to better monitor Chinese ships and submarines crossing through the Bay of Bengal, Reuters reported Jan. 23. It is the third air base the Indian Navy has commissioned on the islands and includes a runway to accommodate surveillance aircraft and helicopters.

Why It Matters: India's decision to enhance its military presence on the Andaman and Nicobar islands reflects New Delhi's intention to expand its influence in the Indian Ocean as it finds itself competing with China over dominance in the region.

Background: India's dependence on sea lanes for trade and energy transports makes naval power an essential imperative of its foreign policy. Although China and India have been attempting to ease bilateral tensions following their standoff on the Doklam Plateau in 2017, the strategic drivers of their geopolitical rivalry are compelling New Delhi to reassess its relationships with strategically located island nations in the region, including Sri Lanka, the Maldives, the Seychelles and Mauritius.


CENTRAL/ZOUTH AMERICA

NOTHING SIGNIFICANT TO REPORT

EUROPE

Europe's Four Big Challenges in 2019

Highlights

Domestic constraints in the eurozone's four largest economies will limit their ability to cooperate at the Continental level.
2019 will test the health of nationalist and populist political movements, which represent the main threat to the continuity of the European Union in its current form.
This year, the bloc will face three sources of economic risk: trade disputes with the United States, Brexit and economic fragility in Southern Europe.
The European Union will be under domestic and external pressure to limit Chinese access to strategic technology and resist Beijing's investments in infrastructure.

2019 is just over a week old, but it's already shaping up to be a busy one for Europe, which has a long to-do list to address as it grapples with political turbulence, slowing economic growth and tense relations with the world's superpowers. European leaders will contend with a host of issues, including Germany's unstable political coalition, the staying power of populism, Italy's economic woes, and concerns about China and Russia's looming presence over the European Union. Here are four trends that will shape Europe's political, economic and social agenda this year...

Polish officials are laying the groundwork for a natural gas pipeline that would connect the country with Norwegian gas fields and rid Poland of its dependence on Russian gas, the Financial Times reports...

AFGHANISTAN

NOTHING SIGNIFICANT TO REPORT

CHINA

China: A New Year Brings Lower Expectations for Economic Growth

The Big Picture

China's growth has peaked. After four decades, the country's economic model has run its course and the benefits it brought to the country in terms of near-universal employment, political legitimacy for the party and a strong social contract have begun to fade. In the coming years, the pace of China's economic growth — along with its exports and foreign investments — will slow substantially while the country turns its attention toward fixing its social, regional and financial imbalances.

What Happened

China's economy kicked off 2019 with signs of decelerating growth. The official growth rate for the country's gross domestic product (GDP) slipped to 6.6 percent in 2018, down from 6.9 percent the year earlier. The figure represents China's lowest growth since 1990, when Western sanctions shrunk GDP growth to just 3.9 percent. In addition, fourth-quarter GDP growth reached its lowest level since the global financial crisis at 6.4 percent...

China's Giant Leap Into a New Space Race

Highlights

The space race developing between China and the United States will differ significantly from the Cold War original.

China's space program is as commercially oriented as NASA's, giving the new space race an economic dimension the old one lacked.
The military dimensions of the Sino-American space race also are shaping up differently, with a focus on protecting and threatening satellite communication networks rather than ICBMs. But this could quickly change.
On Jan. 3, the China National Space Administration landed a lunar exploration vehicle on the far side of the moon. It was a remarkable technical achievement, possible only because China had already managed to put a relay satellite into a halo orbit some 64,000 kilometers (40,000 miles) beyond the moon, from which it can bounce signals from Earth down to the exploration vehicle (and vice versa), getting around the problem that the moon blocks direct communications with its far side.

China was a latecomer to outer space, launching its first satellite only in 1970, 13 years after the Soviet Union's Sputnik, and its first taikonaut in 2003, 42 years after Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. It also operates on the cheap, spending less than one-fifth as much on its programs as the United States, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. However, China is now without a doubt the world's second-greatest space power, and strategists are increasingly talking about a second space race, paralleling the original race between the United States and the Soviet Union from the 1950s to the 1980s. Yet the harder we look at the details, the less the Sino-American competition looks like the Soviet-American competition of a half-century ago...

IRAN

NOTHING SIGNIFICANT TO REPORT

IRAQ

NOTHING SIGNIFICANT TO REPORT

ISRAEL

Israel, Syria: IDF Targets Iranian Quds Forces, Syrian Air Defenses

What Happened: The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have targeted Quds Force military sites in Syria, as well as Syrian air defenses, the BBC reported Jan. 21. According to the IDF, the attack came after Quds Force units fired a rocket from Syria into the Golan Heights, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome air-defense system.

Why It Matters: The Golan Heights are a frequent flashpoint in violent exchanges between Israel and Iran as the former remains determined to deter Tehran from attacking its territory, especially since the Islamic republic ramped up its presence in the Syrian civil conflict in recent years.

Background: Israel has been targeting Iranian security and military infrastructure in Syria since 2013, as it believes Tehran could use the facilities to strike Israel from a short distance.

KOREAN PENINSULA

NOTHING SIGNIFICANT TO REPORT

RUSSIA


As the INF Treaty Spat Heats Up, Russia Shows Off a Missile

What Happened: The Russian military presented its 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile — the weapon at the center of a dispute between Moscow and Washington — to a crowd of Russian and foreign officials on Jan. 23. With the show and tell, the Kremlin is aiming to demonstrate that the missile is not, as the United States has claimed, in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Why it Matters: Russia made the presentation of the 9M729 after the country's negotiators offered to provide the United States with more details as to why the missile did not infringe upon the INF Treaty, only for the United States to politely decline. Russia's case rests on a single number on an infographic that claims the range of the missile is less than 500 kilometers, but the United States has claimed that the missile traveled beyond this distance — which would violate the INF Treaty — during initial tests in 2010-2011...

Russia, Ukraine: NATO Hits Its Limits in the Black Sea

The Big Picture

After a November 2018 escalation in the conflict between the Ukrainian navy and the Russian coast guard at the Kerch Strait, the maritime situation in this area has remained tense. Russia contests Ukraine's freedom of movement into the Sea of Azov, which is separated from the Black Sea by the strait. That channel came under de facto Russian control after the Kremlin annexed Crimea in 2014.

What Happened
Since the confrontation last year between Russia and Ukraine at Kerch Strait, NATO warships have been traveling into the Black Sea to demonstrate support for Ukraine. In the latest visit, the destroyer USS Donald Cook entered the Black Sea on Jan. 19 and visited Batumi in Georgia, while being closely tracked by Russian navy vessels. The British HMS Echo, a hydrographic survey ship, had visited the area in December. At the time, the British presence was openly tied to the Kerch Strait incident, and British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson even boarded a Ukrainian frigate on the Black Sea. NATO has consistently conducted maritime operations in the sea, but its visits have taken on added significance since the breakdown in relations between Ukraine and Russia in 2014. And the recent heightened tensions mean Russia is watching the transits even more closely...


This Is Russia’s First Autonomous Strike Drone

The “Hunter” heavy strike drone has no equal in the United States.

Images of what appears to be a new unmanned strike drone have emerged from Russia. The aircraft is believed to be the Sukhoi “Okhotnik” (“Hunter”) heavy strike drone, under development since 2011. Okhotnik is designed to strike targets on the ground in support of manned aircraft, destroying air defenses and headquarters units.

The images first appeared on Russian social media depicting cockpit-free, single-engine flying wing aircraft. The drone is clearly built for stealth but lacks certain stealth features: It appears studded with what are likely antennas for testing purposes, and the engine nozzle is unshrouded and exposed. Ultimately Okhotnik will feature the use of composite materials and an anti-radar skin coating to further reduce its radar signature. There appears to be some heat blur behind the engine, radiating upward, to indicate that the aircraft’s turbofan engine is active.

SYRIA

Idlib at risk. The recent takeover of the last rebel stronghold in Syria by an Al Qaeda-linked group could threaten a cease-fire that has been in place for several months, the New York Times reports. The shattering of the cease-fire in Idlib, in northwest Syria, would put the population in the path of yet another military onslaught and propel a wave of refugees into Turkey, which lies to the north.

Iran buffer. Despite President Donald Trump’s December pledge to withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria, the U.S. government is considering a plan to keep some troops in a remote U.S. base in southeastern Syria to counter Iranian activity, Foreign Policy’s Lara Seligman reports. .

The al-Tanf garrison, located near Syria’s eastern border with Jordan, was established to help local forces fight the Islamic State militant group. But the base, which sits along a potential Iranian supply route through Iraq to Syria, has also become a critical buttress for combating Iranian influence in the region.

MIDDLE EAST GENERAL

Saudi Arabia: Satellite Imagery Analysis Suggests Ballistic Missile Development Facility

What Happened: Satellite imagery analysis commissioned by The Washington Post suggests that Saudi Arabia has built a ballistic missile factory, according to the publication's report on Jan. 23. The experts cited in the report say the imagery appears to depict a rocket engine production and test facility southwest of Riyadh at al-Watah, though it remains unclear whether the facility is complete or functionally capable of producing missiles.

Why It Matters: While the facility at al-Watah has been a known missile base since 2013, this is the first time experts have publicly acknowledged that Saudi Arabia might be working toward producing its own missiles based on modifications made to the facility. It's not unlikely that Riyadh is examining all possibilities, faced with the growing threat of rival Iran's ballistic missile program across the Persian Gulf. However, should Saudi Arabia move into a test-launch phase, the United States will be pressured to take action with sanctions to ensure Iran follows through on ending its ballistic missile program.

Background: In a public interview in March 2018, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made clear of his desire to develop a nuclear weapon to compete with Iran. The country has also been trying to develop its own domestic arms and military equipment production industry. Although Saudi Arabia has purchased missiles from China in the past, the United States has historically been hesitant to sell ballistic missiles to Riyadh, fearing doing so would fuel further instability in the region.

A suspected Saudi ballistic missile base and test facility is seen outside the town of al-Dawadmi, Saudi Arabia in this Nov. 13, 2018 satellite image.

Satellite imagery appears to show Saudi ballistic missile program: experts

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – A military base deep inside Saudi Arabia appears to be testing and possibly manufacturing ballistic missiles, experts and satellite images suggest, evidence of the type of weapons program it has long criticized its archrival Iran for possessing.

Further raising the stakes for any such program are comments by Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who said last year the kingdom wouldn’t hesitate to develop nuclear weapons if Iran does. Ballistic missiles can carry nuclear warheads to targets thousands of kilometres (miles) away.

Officials in Riyadh and the Saudi Embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment.

Having such a program could further strain relations with the U.S., the kingdom’s longtime security partner, at a time when ties already are being tested by the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi-led war in Yemen.


CYBER ISSUES

China: Huawei Targets the Server Market With Its New Chip

The Big Picture

The United States and China are in a competition over technology. The United States has long been central to the design and manufacture of some of the most important aspects of the electronics and technology sector, thanks to companies like Qualcomm, Intel, Microsoft and Apple. China, however, wants to break its reliance on those critical American providers, and Huawei — one of its most important hardware companies — has been leading that charge.

What Happened

On Jan. 7 Huawei Technologies Ltd. of China unveiled a new central processing unit for servers — the Kunpeng 920 — and three new TaiShan server models that use the chip. Huawei subsidiary HiSilicon designed the CPU, which is manufactured using a 7-nanometer processor that Huawei claims makes it faster and more efficient than that of its rivals. Perhaps more importantly for China, the CPU uses the design architecture of ARM Holdings and not that of Intel, which has a long-standing relationship with Huawei. The announcement came ahead of the CES 2019 exhibition in Las Vegas, which will not feature Richard Yu, the head of Huawei's consumer electronics division and the keynote speaker at the past two editions, as well as China’s ZTE Corp., which is skipping the show for the first time. Huawei, nevertheless, will still have an exhibit in Las Vegas...

Pressure campaign. The United States is pushing its allies to ban Chinese telecom giant Huawei from providing equipment for next-generation telecommunications infrastructure, a quiet fight that is pitting economic imperatives against security questions, the New York Times reports.

Current and former senior American government officials, intelligence officers, and top telecommunications executives tell the Times that the potential of 5G has created a “zero-sum calculus” for President Trump—“a conviction that there must be a single winner in this arms race, and the loser must be banished.”

The White House is drafting an executive order that would effectively ban U.S. companies from using Chinese-origin equipment in critical telecommunications networks, a far cry from existing rules, which ban such equipment only from government networks.

Congress will weigh in on Tuesday, when the heads of American intelligence agencies are set appear before the Senate to deliver their annual threat assessment. They are expected to cite 5G investments by Chinese telecom companies, including Huawei, as a threat.

INTEL GENERAL

NOTHING SIGNIFICANT TO REPORT

TERRORISM

Tracking Jihadist Movements in 2019: The Taliban and Grassroots Militants

Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have come to dominate the global jihadist movement, but they certainly do not have a monopoly on this brand of militancy. And in terms of actual state-building, one group — the Taliban — exercised control over a large area long before either al Qaeda or the Islamic State ever grabbed pockets of territory. The Afghan-based movement, in fact, presents a unique case study: Though it shares both al Qaeda and the Islamic State's aim of establishing a state governed by an austere vision of Islam, it remains largely nationalist in its aims, choosing to limit its struggle to Afghanistan. For years, the Taliban have retained a close relationship with al Qaeda (after all, it hosted and protected the latter's founder, Osama bin Laden, at the time of the 9/11 attacks), yet they are not a franchise of the transnational movement. In fact, al Qaeda's leadership has even pledged allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada...

MISC

RAVEN ROCK

The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself–While the Rest of Us Die

A fresh window on American history: The eye-opening truth about the government’s secret plans to survive a catastrophic attack on US soil—even if the rest of us die—a roadmap that spans from the dawn of the nuclear age to today.

Every day in Washington, DC, the blue-and-gold 1st Helicopter Squadron, codenamed “MUSSEL,” flies over the Potomac River. As obvious as the Presidential motorcade, most people assume the squadron is a travel perk for VIPs. They’re only half right: while the helicopters do provide transport, the unit exists to evacuate high-ranking officials in the event of a terrorist or nuclear attack on the capital. In the event of an attack, select officials would be whisked by helicopters to a ring of secret bunkers around Washington, even as ordinary citizens were left to fend for themselves.

For sixty years, the US government has been developing secret Doomsday plans to protect itself, and the multibillion-dollar Continuity of Government (COG) program takes numerous forms—from its plans to evacuate the Liberty Bell from Philadelphia to the plans to launch nuclear missiles from a Boeing-747 jet flying high over Nebraska. In Raven Rock, Garrett M. Graff sheds light on the inner workings of the 650-acre compound (called Raven Rock) just miles from Camp David, as well as dozens of other bunkers the government built its top leaders during the Cold War, from the White House lawn to Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado to Palm Beach, Florida, and the secret plans that would have kicked in after a Cold War nuclear attack to round up foreigners and dissidents and nationalize industries. Equal parts a presidential, military, and cultural history, Raven Rock tracks the evolution of the government plan and the threats of global war from the dawn of the nuclear era through the War on Terror.

Raven Rock with Author Garrett Graff

How did Cold War governments plan to preserve the continuity of power in the face of devastating nuclear war? Lots of planning, countless contingencies and a fair amount of creative problem solving. In this episode of the Stratfor Podcast, Chief Security Officer Fred Burton sits down with author Garrett Graff to discuss his book, Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself–While the Rest of Us Die.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Officer Down


Trooper Kevin Keith Conner
North Carolina Highway Patrol, North Carolina
End of Watch Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Age 38
Tour 11 years
Badge B551

Trooper Kevin Conner was shot and killed while conducting a traffic stop of a speeding vehicle on U.S. 701, near Sellers Town Road, in Columbus County at 12:15 am.

The subject opened fire on Trooper Conner as he was approaching the stopped vehicle, fatally wounding him. The man fled but was located near Fair Bluff. He lead officers on a pursuit until his vehicle became disabled on railroad tracks in the town. He then fled on foot but was located and taken into custody at 4:00 am.

A good samaritan happened upon Trooper Conner less than five minutes after he was shot and called 911. He was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The 20-year-old suspect, who was driving a stolen truck, served three months in prison and is now on probation for firing a gun into an occupied car in Chadbourn in 2015. He is being held in the Columbus County Jail with no bond and has been charged with first-degree murder. On October 23rd, 2018, a second 18-year-old suspect was arrested in Loris, South Carolina in connection with Trooper Conner's murder and returned to North Carolina where he was charged with first-degree murder. Evidence shows he was in the truck with the killer. He served two months in a North Carolina prison earlier in the year for possession of a firearm by a felon and identity theft.

Trooper Conner had served with the North Carolina Highway Patrol for 11 years and had previously served with the North Carolina Marine Patrol. He is survived by his wife and two children. In 2011 he saved a driver's life when he extinguished a fire in the man's car after being involved in an accident.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Officer Down


Corrections Officer Mark Anthony Gaspich
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Pennsylvania
End of Watch Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Age 44
Tour 15 years

Corrections Officer Mark Gaspich suffered a fatal heart attack after climbing two ladders to reach the observation platform of a guard tower at SCI Camp Hill.

He began to feel ill and then had to climb down the ladders to seek treatment. He collapsed after reaching the bottom of the tower.

Officer Gaspich had served in law enforcement for over 15 years. He had served with the Dauphin County Sheriff's Office prior to his service with the Pennslyvania Department of Corrections. He also served a volunteer firefighter with the Linglestown Fire Company.

Officer Gaspich is survived by his father and two brothers.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Officer Down


Deputy Sheriff Raymond Bradley Jimmerson
Nacogdoches County Sheriff's Office, Texas
End of Watch Friday, October 5, 2018
Age 49
Tour 20 years
Badge 523

Deputy Sheriff Raymond Jimmerson was struck and killed by a vehicle on US Highway 259, approximately seven miles north of Nacogdoches, at approximately 6:45 am.

He had responded to the area for reports of debris in the roadway. He was fatally struck while attempting to remove the debris.

Deputy Bradley had served with the Nacogdoches County Sheriff's Office for 19 years and had served in law enforcement for over 20 years. He is survived by his fiancee, mother, father, and brother.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.

What's going on in the World Today 190121

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USA

U.S.: An Updated Missile Defense Strategy for a New Arms Race

The Big Picture

Russia and China are developing cutting-edge weapons technologies as part of an emerging great power arms race with the United States. The Trump administration's Missile Defense Review arrives as the United States increasingly focuses on bolstering its defenses against this emerging great power competition.

What Happened

U.S. President Donald Trump introduced the latest U.S. Missile Defense Review during a Jan. 17 visit to the Pentagon. The review, which initially was expected to be released in 2017, has been described as a "try everything" approach to expanding the nation's missile defenses. It calls for additional testing of the ground- and ship-based SM-3 Block IIA interceptor (part of the Aegis program) to defend against intercontinental ballistic missiles, evaluating the feasibility of using the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to track and hunt mobile missile units, exploring the use of directed-energy weapons to destroy missiles during their boost phase with high-energy lasers or high-powered microwaves and expanding the use of sensors in space to detect ballistic missile launches. The new missile defense strategy also seeks a six-month study to examine the use of space-based interceptors...

U.S.: Navy Plans to Dispatch Warship to Arctic Waters

What Happened: The U.S. Navy is planning to dispatch a warship to the Arctic to conduct freedom of navigation operations, The Independent reported Jan. 14.

Why It Matters: The deployment of a U.S. warship stakes Washington's claims in the Arctic as it competes with Russia, China, Canada and Northern European countries for influence in the region. Russia, in particular, has been devoting considerable attention to the Arctic, enhancing its infrastructure and military presence.

Background: The Arctic is of growing geopolitical importance, as it contains roughly 30 percent of the world's undiscovered natural gas reserves and 13 percent of its oil deposits. At the same time, potential shipping routes will become available amid receding ice levels, making control of the Arctic a significant geopolitical imperative.

Why Walls and Sensors Aren't the Answer to the U.S.-Mexico Border Dilemma

By Scott Stewart
VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor

Highlights

-There are compelling national security arguments for securing the U.S.-Mexico border, but terrorism is not one of them.

- Walls, fences and sensors improve border security, but their effectiveness is limited if personnel are unable to respond rapidly to efforts to breach them.

- The better physical security measures become, the more that people become the weak link in the security chain.

- Because of this, border security requires a holistic approach that not only addresses physical security at the border but also the economic forces that tempt people to smuggle contraband and humans across borders.

As the longest government shutdown in U.S. history drags on, one bone of contention is hogging all of the headlines: The U.S. border with Mexico. Discussions of the threat posed by an unsecured frontier and of the efficacy of border walls and other security measures have sparked fierce debate over how best to secure the boundary. Because the topic has spawned a great deal of interest – and perhaps just as much misinformation – a discussion of these issues is timely.

The Big Picture

Organized crime groups have been smuggling contraband and people across the U.S.-Mexico border since it was established. These groups received a huge boost when the U.S. demand for illegal drugs provided them with a large and lucrative profit pool that gave them the resources to establish private armies and bribe officials on both side of the border. Because of this, border crime has become a serious problem for both the U.S. and Mexican governments...

Missile Defense Review Directs Numerous Studies

The long-awaited Missile Defense Review (MDR) has finally been released and calls for a slew of six-month studies on technologies ranging from the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system to space-based sensors and controversial space-based interceptors.

When asked why it is necessary to study existing technologies such as Thaad, John Rood, undersecretary of defense for policy, said during a Jan. 17 off-camera briefing at the Pentagon that these assessments will focus on implementation.

For instance, the Defense Department (DOD) possesses seven Thaad batteries, including one in Guam and one in Korea. Within six months of the MDR release, the U.S. Army joint staff and the Missile Defense Agency will submit a report determining the number of Thaad batteries needed, the report says.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) says he is encouraging the Pentagon to spend money on missile defense programs that are reliable and rigorously tested before they are deployed.

“It is common sense to insist on this principle when it comes to programs that protect the American people and our allies, particularly in context of the growing North Korea threat,” Smith said in a Jan. 17 statement.

Another six-month study will be conducted by the U.S. Navy and MDA to develop a plan for converting all Aegis destroyers to be fully missile defense capable, including against ballistic missiles, within 10 years. Separately, the Pentagon will study repurposing the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Center in Hawaii to strengthen defense against North Korean missile capabilities. MDA and the Navy will evaluate the viability of this option and develop an emergency activation plan within 30 days of the defense secretary green lighting the decision, the report says.

MDA and U.S. Northern Command will present a plan to accelerate efforts enhancing missile defense tracking and discrimination sensors, including addressing advanced missile threats, the report says.

The U.S. Air Force and MDA will study how to integrate the F-35, including its sensor suite, into the Ballistic Missile Defense System for both regional and homeland defense. The aircraft has an electro-optical distributed aperture system that can detect the infrared signature of a missile in boost phase, and its mission computer can identify the threatening missile’s location, the report says...

AFRICA

NOTHING SIGNIFICANT TO REPORT

ASIA

The Belt and Road Initiative Is a Corruption Bonanza

Despots and crooks are using China’s infrastructure project to stay in power—with Beijing's help.

When former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was ousted from office in May 2018, it’s possible that no one was more dismayed than officials in Beijing.

After all, Najib had granted China extraordinary access to Malaysia. Across the country, huge China-backed infrastructure projects were being planned or breaking ground. But as China’s presence in Malaysia swelled, a scandal was engulfing the prime minister’s office. Najib was accused of massive corruption linked to the development fund known as 1MDB. As the election neared, his opponent, Mahathir Mohamad, alleged that some of the Chinese money pouring into Malaysia was being used to refill the fund’s graft-depleted coffers.

Now, Malaysia’s anti-corruption commission is investigating those claims. And last week, an explosive Wall Street Journal report exposed the most damning evidence yet: minutes from a series of meetings at which Malaysian officials suggested to their Chinese counterparts that China finance infrastructure projects in Malaysia at inflated costs. The implication was that the extra cash could be used to settle 1MDB’s debts. According to the report, Najib, who has denied any part in corruption, was well aware of the meetings.

If true, the report puts tangible proof behind widely held suspicions that China exploits corrupt regimes to propel its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI requires China to build infrastructure in other countries—a process that’s fraught with official approvals, feasibility studies, stakeholder engagement, and other bothersome procedures. In corrupt countries, however, many of these obstacles can be bypassed with bribes and back-room dealing—in fact, some of the red tape exists primarily to extort money from businesses. For this reason, it’s easy to understand why China might prefer working with corrupt regimes.

But not just China benefits from corruption in BRI projects. In many cases, the leaders of BRI-recipient countries see the projects as opportunities to sustain and legitimize their own corruption, as well.

Many countries that receive BRI investments suffer from high levels of corruption. On the TRACE Bribery Risk Matrix, most rank in the lower 50 percent, and 10 are among the riskiest 25 countries in the world. They often have opaque legislative processes, weak accountability mechanisms, compliant media organizations, and authoritarian governments that don’t permit dissent...


CENTRAL/ZOUTH AMERICA

NOTHING SIGNIFICANT TO REPORT

EUROPE

NOTHING SIGNIFICANT TO REPORT

AFGHANISTAN

Why Afghanistan's Peace Talks Won't Really Start Until the U.S. Leaves

Highlights

- If peace talks fail to materialize, the primary reason will be the United States' hesitation in acceding to the Taliban's demand that Washington order the complete withdrawal of all NATO and allied forces from Afghanistan.
- Continued U.S. involvement in Afghanistan as part of its broader counterterrorism operations will divert the country's attention from its main strategic priority of focusing on the great power competition with Russia and China.
- The continuing war will hamper investor activity in Afghanistan, harming plans to use the country as a land bridge linking nearby regions.

The United States is redoubling its efforts to achieve peace in Afghanistan. In September 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appointed Zalmay Khalilzad as the U.S. special envoy for Afghan reconciliation, but the 63-year-old, Afghan-born diplomat faces a daunting task in convincing the Taliban to agree to a cease-fire and participate in peace talks with President Ashraf Ghani's administration, all in a bid to end the 17-year war.

Formal peace talks could provide the outline for a political settlement that would likely grant the Taliban a share of power in a post-conflict government. Khalilzad has already conducted three rounds of preliminary talks with the Taliban, but the insurgent movement abruptly withdrew from a fourth round of dialogue scheduled to take place in Saudi Arabia this month. Very simply, the Taliban refuses to engage with officials representing the Afghan government, which the group views as illegitimate. The focus is now on the United States — the country that the Taliban view as their principal antagonist in the conflict. In this regard, the group's terms remain clear; without Washington's complete exit from the conflict, meaningful peace talks remain a pipedream...


CHINA

Intelligence Report Confirms Two Chinese Stealth Bombers

A new report by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) offers the first official acknowledgment of the existence of two stealth bomber development programs by China’s air force.
A previously-confirmed Chinese strategic bomber and a newly acknowledged stealth “fighter-bomber” are both now under development, the DIA says in a China Military Power report released Jan. 15.

The Pentagon first acknowledged a strategic bomber program exists in a 2017 report to Congress. The admission came a year after a senior Chinese air force official publicly confirmed the effort to develop a new strategic comber variously called H-X and H-20.

For several years, Chinese and foreign media have speculated about the existence of a separate stealth bomber development project sometimes called the JH-XX, a replacement for the Mach 1.8-class Xian JH-7 fighter-bomber...

Pentagon Confirms China Will Have A New Tactical Bomber

Aviation Week & Space Technology

Bradley Perrett Steve Trimble

In World War II, a fighter-bomber was a fighter that could bomb. They can all bomb now, so the term has fallen out of use—except in China, where it is used for strike aircraft with high flight performance but no serious air-to-air capability.

That is a good clue to the nature of a forthcoming Chinese tactical bomber. Emergence of this type, a smaller companion to the Xian H-20 strategic bomber, has long been rumored but is only now discussed by the Pentagon—which variously calls it a medium-range bomber, a tactical bomber and, tellingly, a fighter-bomber. The terminology, a few scant details and the likely choice of engines suggest that the aircraft will be conceptually similar to the retired U.S. F-111, but maybe a lot bigger and perhaps presenting a serious threat to air targets.

This new Chinese aircraft and the H-20 will “probably” not be initially operational before 2025, says the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in its annual China Military Power report, released on Jan. 15. They will both be stealthy, it adds, though that feature almost goes without saying these days and is in any case imprecisely defined.

The aircraft will probably not be operational before 2025 cruise missiles to safely attack well-defended targets...
IRAN

Iran’s Next Supreme Leader Is Dead

And it’s not going to be easy for the Islamic Republic to survive without him.

On Christmas Eve (not that it matters in Iran), Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, one of Tehran’s most understated powerbrokers, died after a particularly grueling year combating cancer. Despite his relative anonymity outside Iran compared to his more outspoken and controversial clerical colleagues, Shahroudi was a quintessential establishment figure with unfettered access to the apex of power and, rather unusually, reasonable relations across factional lines. More importantly, he was also touted as a leading candidate to succeed Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. His early death not only reshapes but could also greatly polarize the succession politics at play and create more instability for Iran.

Shahroudi was born in 1948 in Iraq to Iranian parents, a pedigree (known in Persian as moaved) not unusual among Iran’s political elite, most prominently the Larijani brothers, who currently head the legislature and the judiciary. He studied under the leading clerical authorities in his hometown of Najaf, including the spiritual doyen of Iraq’s Dawa Party, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, and to a lesser extent, Iran’s future Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini. In 1974, Iraq’s Baath regime imprisoned and tortured him and others amid a large-scale crackdown on the Shiite clergy. After Saddam Hussein invaded Iran, Shahroudi headed the newly created Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, but with Khamenei’s rise as supreme leader in 1989, he decided to pursue his political fortunes in Iran and shed his Iraqi trappings.

A prominent figure in the gilded seminary milieu in Qom, Iran, Shahroudi had clerical credentials that were near impeccable, further easing his entry into Iran’s political establishment. Outside the years 1999 to 2009, when he headed the judiciary, Shahroudi served from 1995 until his death as member of the Guardian Council, the powerful conservative watchdog that ensures the Islamic consistency and compatibility of parliamentary legislation and electoral candidates alike. He was likewise in the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body that selects the supreme leader’s successor, and a member of the Expediency Council, created toward the end of the Iran-Iraq War to adjudicate disagreements between parliament and the Guardian Council; this council subsequently also began advising the supreme leader on the broad contours of policy and strategy. After the 2017 death of its chairman—Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a highly influential former president—Khamenei tapped Shahroudi as his replacement. Shahroudi was therefore clearly a figure Khamenei could rely on, a figure the supreme leader recently eulogized as a “faithful executor in the Islamic Republic’s most important institutions.”

Most Iranians remember Shahroudi as the head of the country’s notorious judiciary between 1999 and 2009, a period spanning Mohammad Khatami and then Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s diametrically opposed governments. During this time, Shahroudi presided over a witch hunt against reformist parliamentarians and newspapers, students and intellectuals, human rights activists and, at the end of his tenure, the pro-reformist Green Movement protesting against the fraudulent elections that handed Ahmadinejad a second term.

As judiciary chief, Shahroudi is reported to have overseen, directly or indirectly, some 2,000 executions, including of minors. During Shahroudi’s medical visit to Hannover, Germany, in January 2018, protests erupted, and the German authorities considered charges against him but then ultimately ditched the idea. His choice for Tehran prosecutor-general, Saeed Mortazavi, was widely held responsible for the rape and murder of the detained Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi.

On the other hand, Shahroudi was also credited with introducing some reforms, including reinstituting the separation between judges and prosecutors abolished by his predecessor Mohammad Yazdi, suspending stoning as capital punishment, and proposing a bill granting more legal protection to minors. Around the time of his death, reformist-leaning newspapers such as Shahrvand depicted him as an “iconoclast judge of judges” (qazi ol-qazat-e sonnat-shekan), and official government media outlets including the Islamic Republic News Agency-owned Iran called him “progressive...”

Iranian Satellite Launch Ends in Failure

TEHRAN — Iranian officials said on Tuesday that a satellite launch that had been condemned by the Trump administration failed when the carrier rocket could not reach orbit.

“I would have liked to make you happy with some good news, but sometimes life does not go as expected,” Iran’s minister of telecommunications, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, said in a Twitter post.

He said the rocket, a Safir, long used for satellite launches, had failed in the final stage, falling short of placing its payload into the correct orbit. He did not offer any explanation.

The United States, Israel and some European countries have criticized Iranian missile tests in the past, saying the launches pose a threat to the region. One reason President Trump gave for withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal was its failure to address the threat of Iran’s ballistic missiles.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran on Jan. 3 against launching spacecraft, describing the exercises as a pretext for testing missile technology that Tehran could one day use to carry a warhead to the United States or other nations. His statement appeared aimed at building a legal case for diplomatic, military or covert action against the Iranian missile program...

Iran: Special Purpose Vehicle to Begin Operations Within Weeks

What Happened: A special purpose vehicle (SPV) for transactions between Iran and the European Union will be formed within the next two to three weeks, The Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 17. The SPV will likely operate from France, feature a German managing director and include British stakeholders.

Why It Matters: Actual progress toward forming the SPV would be a notable development as Iran has continued to pressure European countries to move forward in establishing the mechanism, but states that would host or participate in the SPV will risk exposure to U.S. diplomatic pressure and potential sanctions.

Background: The United States withdrew from the JCPOA — commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal — in May, reimposing sanctions on Iran. Proposing the creation of the SPV to facilitate financial transactions with Iran is part of a European strategy to keep Iran in the JCPOA.

IRAQ

NOTHING SIGNIFICANT TO REPORT

ISRAEL

NOTHING SIGNIFICANT TO REPORT

KOREAN PENINSULA

North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Facilities: Well Maintained but Showing Limited Operations

A 38 North exclusive with analysis by Frank V. Pabian and Jack Liu

Commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center from December 2018 indicates that while the site remains operational and is still well maintained, the main facilities do not appear to be operating. The one possible exception is the Uranium Enrichment Plant (UEP), although if it is operating, in what capacity remains unclear.

What Explains Snow Melt at the UEP Plant

Imagery from December 19, 2018 shows that the roofs of the two gas centrifuge halls are devoid of snow. Considering the snowfall just prior to the image capture was light, the snow melt could be a natural result of sun exposure over time. But snow melt may also indicate that the facility is operating, a conclusion reinforced by the two patches of possible frozen water vapor evident in the immediate area of the cooling units at the west end of the UEP. That would mean the facility is considerably warmer than nearby buildings and waste heat is being dumped by some of the cooling units.

If operating, the centrifuges inside are likely, at a minimum, being maintained and spinning. Whether or not the spinning centrifuges are being fed with uranium for enrichment processing is impossible to determine based on imagery alone...



RUSSIA

Russia: Procurement Plans Reflect the Military's Modernization Struggles

The Big Picture

Russia, along with China, is locked in a great power competition with the United States. In keeping with its goal of protecting domestic and foreign interests, Moscow must overhaul its military capability — gradually replacing out-of-date Soviet-era weapons systems with modern equipment. Low oil prices and Western sanctions, however, are complicating the Kremlin's task.

What Happened

Russia will shell out billions of dollars on military hardware this year, but when it comes to defense spending, the devil is in the details. On Jan. 15, the country's Defense Ministry announced that it would spend 1.44 trillion rubles ($21.5 billion) on military procurement in 2019 as part of a larger program to modernize outdated equipment within the armed forces. Given the expenditure, Moscow claims that the share of new equipment in the Russian military is expected to reach 67 percent, just 3 percent short of its stated goal for 2020. The predicted numbers, however, may not reflect reality...

Russia’s Conventional Weapons Are Deadlier Than Its Nukes

Withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty would take the United States one step forward and many steps back on international security.

The INF Treaty is widely seen as one of the crowning achievements of arms control, banning the possession by two of the world’s leading powers of an entire class of nuclear weapons system. As such, the Trump administration’s declaration late last year that it might withdraw from the treaty has stoked fears of a new nuclear arms race.

The United States alleges that Russia is violating the agreement by fielding the 9M729 cruise missile from land-based launchers and says Moscow must return to compliance by early February or Washington will begin the formal six-month withdrawal process.

Stepping away from the treaty could be harmful for the United States. Moscow has little need for an additional nuclear capability. However, it would stand to benefit greatly from being able to openly deploy new ground-launched conventional missiles—a process for which withdrawal from the INF Treaty could open the door.

There has been little discussion of the impact scrapping the accord would have on non-nuclear weapons systems in Europe.

Nevertheless, there has been little discussion of the impact scrapping the accord would have on non-nuclear weapons systems in Europe. Despite its name, the INF Treaty doesn’t just prohibit ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (approximately 300 to 3,400 miles); it actually provides for the elimination of all such short, medium, and intermediate-range missiles possessed by Washington and Moscow regardless of the warheads they carry. For this reason, the treaty’s abandonment has grave short-term implications that extend beyond the concern over nukes.

That the INF Treaty would also place a ban on ground-launched missiles with conventional warheads was not considered a major issue at the time of its signing, as such weapons were generally thought of as secondary to their nuclear counterparts. The emerging potential of precision-guided weapons with an extended reach was already clear to some—Nikolai Ogarkov, then the chief of the Soviet general staff, said in 1984 that the availability of those systems could “make it possible to sharply increase (by at least an order of magnitude) the destructive potential of conventional weapons … bringing them closer, so to speak, to weapons of mass destruction in terms of effectiveness.” However, that destructive potential remained to be fully demonstrated, until the 1990 to 1991 Gulf War and subsequent actions in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya validated the view of advocates for precision-guided conventional strike systems, and “Tomahawk diplomacy” entered the U.S. foreign policy lexicon.

Russia has redeveloped its precision-guided posture as part of the regeneration of Moscow’s armed forces as a whole. As a matter of policy, Russia has increasingly prioritized conventional strategic strikes as a substitute for some missions previously assigned to its nuclear force. The current Russian Military Doctrine, published in 2014, states that Russia views high-precision weapons as a key element of strategic deterrence. More explicitly, the contemporary version of Russia’s Naval Doctrine, published in 2017, says: “With the development of high-precision weapons, the Navy faces a qualitatively new objective: destruction of [the] enemy’s military and economic potential by striking its vital facilities from the sea.”

Russia has matched the evolution of its military strategy on paper with the deployment of systems capable of achieving these objectives. At sea, new and modernized surface ships and submarines now carry the 3M-14 Kalibr land-attack cruise missile—a weapon with a 1,500 to 2,500 kilometer (approximately 930 to 1,550 mile) range. In the air, many Russian Aerospace Force Tu-95 Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack bombers have been equipped with the Kh-101 air-launched cruise missile, which possesses a range of at least 2,500 kilometers. Both of these systems have been used against targets in Syria. Additional air-to-surface weapons to equip bombers and tactical fighters—including the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal and the Kh-50—are either beginning to enter service or are at the development stage...

SYRIA

NOTHING SIGNIFICANT TO REPORT

MIDDLE EAST GENERAL

Bomb-laden rebel drone kills 6 at Yemen military parade

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A bomb-laden drone launched by Yemen’s Shiite rebels exploded over a military parade Thursday for the Saudi-led coalition, killing at least six people in a brazen attack threatening an uneasy U.N.-brokered peace in the Arab world’s poorest nation.

The attack at the Al-Anad Air Base showed the unwillingness of Yemen’s Houthi rebels to halt fighting in the civil war, even if it doesn’t violate a peace deal reached last month in Sweden between them and Yemen’s internationally recognized government.

The Houthi attack near the southern port city of Aden with a new drone variant also raised more questions about Iran’s alleged role in arming the rebels with drone and ballistic missile technology, something long denied by Tehran despite researchers and U.N. experts linking the weapons to the Islamic Republic.

The assault shocked the pro-government troops, who carried away the dead and wounded, their fatigues stained with blood. All the victims were government forces, officials said.

“We were under the impression that the coalition has a tight control over airspace and there is no way the Houthis can send drones or planes to attack us in the south,” said Mohammed Ali, a solider in Al-Annad 2nd Brigade guarding the parade.

Yemeni army spokesman Mohammed al-Naqib was speaking at a podium during the parade, with photos of Yemen’s president and Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia’s crown princes behind him, when a high-pitched whine drew his attention and others. A moment later, the drone exploded overhead, pelting him and others with shrapnel...

MISC

Opinion: The Hypersonics Workforce Puzzle

Boost-glide,” the method of using rocket propulsion to achieve high speed before an unpowered glide, is an apt metaphor for U.S. investment in hypersonics research and education. Recent interviews with government leaders and experts suggest that the U.S. no longer has the luxury of exploring hypersonic flight as an unchallenged leader. In addition to the need for long-term commitment to basic research and technology development, there is a more urgent requirement for rapid deployment of countermeasures against putative adversarial capabilities.

In early 2018, following claims by President Vladimir Putin of Russian advances in hypersonic missile technology, Pentagon leaders including Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin and DARPA Director Steven Walker responded with warnings about the state of U.S. hypersonic capabilities. They emphasized that hypersonics must be a priority for Defense Department research and that, even with Trump administration requests for increased funding, there is still a need for more spending, particularly on infrastructure to support testing.


The challenges of hypersonic flight are not new. Many of today’s educators and decision makers were inspired by U.S. high-speed research including the X-15 hypersonic program that ended in 1968 after 199 flights. Using a boost-glide flight profile, the X-15—the first hypersonic crewed aircraft—sped to a record of Mach 6.7 (4,520 mph) in 1967. It was also the first reusable spacecraft, setting the altitude record of 354,000 ft. (67 mi.) and earning pilot Joseph Walker astronaut wings.

Since the retirement of the X-15, other X-plane programs have focused on the development of hypersonic technology that only recently culminated in flight tests. These programs include the X-30 National Aero-Space Plane and the X-33 that did not lead to flight-test vehicles, as well as the more recent, more modest X-43A Hyper-X and X-51A Waverider programs, which demonstrated air-breathing hypersonic flight in 2004 and 2010.