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Monday, March 2, 2020

What's going on in the World Today 200302



MDA Embarks On A New Generation Of Missile Defense

Jen DiMascio February 18, 2020

The Pentagon is in the midst of a massive upgrade of its Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, designed to protect the U.S. against an attack by an ICBM.

The new Next-Generation Interceptor (NGI) would modernize GMD, arming it with an all-up round that can counter more sophisticated ICBMs. In pursuing the new program, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) will end the planned purchase of 20 current-generation GMD Ground-Based Interceptors (GBI), after already having canceled a key aspect of that system, the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV). While it works on NGI, the MDA also intends to supplement its defense of the U.S. against ICBMs with shorter-range interceptors that provide regional defense.

No funding requested for 20 previously planned GBIs
Agency is studying use of Thaad and Aegis systems for homeland defense
The change in course will not be cheap. GMD itself has cost more than $68 billion over its lifetime. In its fiscal 2021 budget request, the MDA is asking for $664 million in fiscal 2021 for NGI and another $4.3 billion through fiscal 2025.It is an amount that will grow over time and that some worry could pull funding from other urgent priorities, as the type and number of missile threats from other countries evolves to include more sophisticated ballistic missiles and hypersonic weaponry.

The MDA is poised to issue a classified request for proposals to sponsor two contractors through a preliminary design review (PDR) of a new interceptor and kill vehicle—the part of the interceptor that defeats an incoming missile while in space. MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill says the agency plans to award contracts by the end of 2020, with the intention of starting testing in the mid-2020s and putting NGIs in silos by 2027, 2028 or beyond...

Design Milestone Reached For Air-Launched Hypersonic Missile
Steve Trimble February 27, 2020

ORLANDO—Lockheed Martin expects to complete the critical design review (CDR) on Feb. 27 for the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), the U.S. military’s most technologically ambitious hypersonic weapon, an executive said.

The key milestone, indicating an imminent design freeze, comes as part of an unusual development schedule imposed on the ARRW program. The technical complexity of ARRW stems from its high lift-to-drag profile, a shape the U.S. military has never tested successfully in flight. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) program, which shares the advanced ARRW profile, is intended as a risk-reduction measure for ARRW, but still has not completed a self-powered flight test...

Top U.S. Aid Chief Warns of Locust Devastation in East Africa

“You really have to go back to decades ago in the U.S., to Dust Bowl days, to understand just how devastating this can be.”

One of the world’s most impoverished regions faces yet another crisis. Swarms of voracious desert locusts are descending on East Africa in alarming numbers not seen in decades. Climate shocks—droughts followed by an unusually high number of cyclones—created the perfect storm of conditions for the tiny critters to breed and travel across the region from the Arabian Peninsula en masse, devouring virtually everything in their path.

The tiny pests are a ticking humanitarian time bomb, fueling food insecurity with the potential to exacerbate preexisting conflicts in an already precarious region. Locust swarms have been tracked in northeastern Kenya as large as 926.6 square miles—an estimated 192 billion locusts. Some swarms can consume as much food as 35,000 people in a single day and, with the right winds, travel up to 100 miles a day.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said it would need $76 million to combat the crisis immediately, though as of Feb. 21 it had only a fraction of that amount ready. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced it would provide $8 million to combat the locust swarms.

Foreign Policy spoke to the Trump administration’s top aid chief, USAID Administrator Mark Green, about the scale of the crisis and how the United States is responding...




Under Russia, Crimea’s Future Grows Dimmer -- and Drier


- Without access to Ukranian water, replenishing Crimea's near-dry resources will force Russia to either front costly infrastructure projects -- or abandon its economic hopes for the region....

Water scarcity is quickly dimming Russia's hopes for economic growth on the Crimean Peninsula. Reservoirs throughout the region are at record lows for this time of year, with only a few months of reserves left to cover the Crimean population's daily consumption. But while an unusually dry winter is partially to blame, Russia's annexation has been at the core of Crimean water woes by prompting Ukraine to close off the North Crimean Canal in 2014.

Without external access to fresh water, permanent relief for the peninsula can only be obtained by either desalinating water from the Black Sea, or by building new pipelines to feed water from Russia's Kuban River directly into Crimea. But unless Moscow coughs up the capital needed to fund such costly infrastructure projects, Crimea risks becoming a mostly barren military bastion as its industries, agricultural lands and population shrivel up alongside its water reserves...

Britain confirms new nuclear warhead project after US officials spill the beans: The British government has confirmed it is developing a new nuclear warhead for its missile submarines, days after the U.S. revealed the program was going ahead before Parliament had been informed.

Britain confirms new nuclear warhead project after US officials spill the beans

LONDON — The British government has confirmed it is developing a new nuclear warhead for its missile submarines, days after the U.S. revealed the program was going ahead before Parliament had been informed.

In a written statement to Parliament, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed Feb. 25 that Britain is working on a new warhead to equip it’s Trident missile-armed nuclear submarine fleet.

“To ensure the Government maintains an effective deterrent throughout the commission of the Dreadnought Class ballistic missile submarine we are replacing our existing nuclear warhead to respond to future threats and the security environment,” Wallace said.

The announcement was not expected to be made prior to publication of the defense, security and foreign policy review scheduled for late this year. But the Conservative government’s hand was forced when U.S. officials revealed last week the program was up and running.

That caused a stir in the U.K., as high-profile programs like the nuclear deterrent are usually announced in Parliament first. It’s only a courtesy, but if Parliament is not informed first, ministers can be forced to attend the House of Commons to make a statement...






U.S. General Links Chinese Hypersonic Glider To Nuclear Program
Steve Trimble February 26, 2020

A line of medium-range DF-17s on parade in Beijing this past October may have offered only the first glimpse of China’s planned hypersonic weapon capabilities.
Credit: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

A powerful new weapon has appeared in a U.S. military assessment of China’s nuclear arsenal as Pentagon officials launch a campaign to win congressional support for allocating 4.1% of the fiscal 2021 defense budget to its own nuclear weapon enterprise.

All the U.S. military’s previous assessments of China’s nuclear arsenal included a mix of ICBMs, with silo-based DF-4 and DF-5 rockets, along with road-mobile DF-31, DF-31A and the recently unveiled DF-41 missiles. The warheads for each missile are known to include several multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles, with maneuverable reentry vehicles also believed to be in development or already deployed.

New assessment echoes 2014 warning
U.S. Air Force adds $4.4 billion for B-21 procurement
Now added to this inventory is a nuclear warhead on a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), says Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, head of U.S. Northern Command.


Iran: FATF Keeps Tehran on Its Blacklist, Maintaining Sanctions

Feb 21, 2020

The Financial Action Task Force voted Feb. 21 to continue to blacklist Iran for failing to take measures against money laundering and terrorist financing, The New York Times reported....

What Happened: The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) voted Feb. 21 to continue to blacklist Iran for failing to take measures against money laundering and terrorist financing, The New York Times reported.

Why It Matters: The decision by the Paris-based monitoring group extends international sanctions on Iran, including limitations on financial transactions linked to Iran, increased scrutiny on reporting of any financial transactions with Iran and prohibitions on Iranian banks setting up foreign branches. It also makes Iran's plan to avoid unilateral U.S. sanctions by doing business with Europe more difficult by introducing more technically complicated and less politicized sanctions.

Background: Iran’s economy is facing significant sanctions that are burdening Iranians and hurting the government’s legitimacy, especially because President Hassan Rouhani and his reformist and moderate allies promised that moderation would yield financial relief, and over time the opposite has happened. If Iran's Feb. 21 parliamentary elections yield a more conservative parliament, it will be even harder for the legislative body to enact legislation to lift the FATF countermeasures.




Palestinians Fire Rockets At Israel; Netanyahu Threatens War

JERUSALEM (AP) — Gaza militants resumed their intense bombardment of southern Israel on Monday, with some rockets slipping through Israel’s Iron Dome defense system and one landing in the yard of a kindergarten.

There was no word of casualties, but the second day of violence threatened to unleash a new round of hostilities just a week before Israel heads to elections. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened Gaza’s Hamas rulers with a “war” if the new round of rocket fire continued, ramping up his rhetoric amid the final stretch of his campaign.

Speaking to Israel’s Army Radio, Netanyahu said he’d conveyed a message to Hamas that if it did not stop Gaza militants behind the attacks, Israel would target Hamas directly.

“If you don’t shoot them, we will shoot you. I’m talking about a war,” he said. “I only go to war as a last option but we have prepared something you can’t even imagine.”

Netanyahu’s interview was interrupted with news of fresh air raid sirens warning of incoming rockets, as Palestinian militant fire resumed midday after a morning lull. The Israeli military said it identified 14 rockets fired in the hour-long spree, of which it intercepted 12. Shortly after, the military began striking militants sites in Gaza.

The Islamic Jihad militant group fired at least 20 rockets on Sunday after Israeli forces killed a Palestinian militant who had tried to place a bomb along the Israel-Gaza barrier fence, and then removed his body with a bulldozer. The image outraged Palestinians who fired rockets. Israel responded by striking militants targets in Gaza and Syria. As a precaution, schools were closed in Israeli areas adjacent to Gaza and restrictions placed on outdoor public gatherings...


South Korea, US postpone annual military drills due to virus: The South Korean and U.S. militaries have postponed their annual drills out of concerns over a virus outbreak.

Hyung-Jin Kim, The Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea — The South Korean and U.S. militaries announced Thursday that they were postponing their annual joint drills due to concern about a viral outbreak that has infected soldiers in both countries’ armed forces, put many troops in quarantine and closed base facilities.

Twenty-two South Korean soldiers and one American service member in South Korea have tested positive for the new coronavirus, which has infected about 1,770 people in the Asian country, the largest outbreak outside mainland China.

The allies have previously suspended or scaled back their regular military exercises, but that was part of diplomatic efforts to disarm North Korea, which views the training as a rehearsal for an invasion. It's the first time that the allies have put off their drills due to concerns about an infectious disease, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry...


A Slowing Economy Tests Russia’s Tight Spending Habits

Sim Tack Global Analyst , Stratfor, Feb 27, 2020


- Despite Putin's recently announced spending drive, Moscow's refusal to break with its culture of fiscal restraint will once again limit its ability to jump-start the country’s stagnating economy....

With 2021 parliamentary elections in mind, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently announced a package of broad social measures designed to boost consumer spending and, in turn, economic growth. But while the investments are notable, they fall short of more structural advances in infrastructure development and industrial stimuli needed to significantly improve Russia's dimming financial prospects.

Accessing the funds needed to make such efforts effective, however, would require breaking away from Moscow's tried-and-true method of fiscal restraint, which has helped guarantee a rainy day fund for when things get tough (as they did most recently during the country's 2015 recession). But by keeping the economy stuck in a cycle of stagnation, maintaining this penny-pinching policy will come at the risk of degrading Russia's living conditions and industrial capacity — and ultimately, its political stability and global standing...


Eastern Libyan lawmakers not to join Geneva talks
Emma Farge
GENEVA/BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Lawmakers based in areas of eastern Libya controlled by military commander Khalifa Haftar said on Monday they would not participate for now in peace talks with politicians allied to the internationally recognized government.

The lawmakers’ refusal is the latest blow to U.N. efforts to end an almost year-long offensive by Haftar’s forces aimed at taking the capital Tripoli.

The United Nations had planned to bring together lawmakers from both sides of Libya’s conflict on Wednesday to end the fighting over Tripoli as part of a dialogue encompassing military, political and economic strands.

Libya’s internationally recognized government based in Tripoli meanwhile described Haftar as a “war criminal” and demanded that he withdraw his forces threatening the capital...




Signs of a Thwarted Russian Hit in Miami

Scott Stewart VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor Feb 25, 2020


- Russian intelligence agencies have gotten away with killing the Kremlin's enemies abroad, which may have emboldened them to give assassination a try in the United States....

The U.S. Department of Justice on Feb. 18 announced the arrest in Miami of a man being charged with acting on behalf of a foreign government without registering with the U.S. attorney general's office, and conspiracy to do the same. According to the criminal complaint, the accused, Hector Alejandro Cabrera Fuentes, is a Mexican citizen who resides in Singapore where he works at the National Heart Institute.

According to Cabrera's LinkedIn profile, he reportedly attended Kazan State University in Russia, where he studied microbiology and molecular biology. He also claims to be a postdoctoral research associate at Justus-Liebig University in Germany and listed himself as president of an organization called the Mexican Global Network in Singapore. Cabrera reportedly is married to a Russian woman, although he also appears to be legally married to the Mexican woman who was with him at the time of his arrest...


Global watchdog keeps Pakistan on terrorism financing 'grey list'

John Irish, Leigh Thomas

PARIS (Reuters) - Pakistan won an extra four months to meet international anti-terrorism financing norms on Friday when a global dirty money watchdog decided to keep the country off its blacklist for now.

After Pakistan missed multiple previous deadlines, the Financial Action Task Force said it was concerned that Islamabad had again failed to complete an internationally agreed action plan.

“The FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by June 2020,” the FATF said in a statement issued after a meeting in Paris. “Otherwise, should significant and sustainable progress especially in prosecuting and penalising TF (terrorism financing) not be made by the next Plenary, the FATF will take action...”



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