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Monday, January 28, 2019

What's going on in the World Today 190128



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


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...


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...


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.




Europe's Four Big Challenges in 2019


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...




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


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...






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.




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.


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.


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.


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.




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...



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.

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