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Saturday, November 14, 2020

What's Going On In The World Today 201114



Hypersonic Missile Tests Demonstrate 6-In. Accuracy, U.S. Army Says

U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy on Oct.13 said the accuracy of hypersonic missiles now in development is within half a foot of targets.

McCarthy’s remarks during a keynote speech at the Association of the U.S. Army’s virtual annual meeting appear to confirm the previously unannounced accuracy results from the Flight Experiment (FE)-2 test on March 19 of the Block 0 Common Hypersonic Glide Body (CHGB). FE-2 marked the first and only test of a hypersonic glide vehicle since the Navy’s FE-1 test in November 2017.

“Hypersonic missiles are hitting their targets with a variance of only a mere 6 in.,” McCarthy said...

U.S. Army Opens 5-Year Search For Stinger Missile Replacement

The U.S. Army has started a long-term search for a replacement for the Raytheon FIM-92 Stinger short-range air defense surface-to-air missile system, with a contract award for up to 8,000 missiles planned by fiscal 2026.

Any replacement for the Stinger must be compatible with the Initial Mobile-Short-Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD), which uses the Stinger Vehicle Universal Launcher, according to a market survey released on Nov. 10 by the Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

“The Army is conducting a SHORAD study which will inform efforts to modernize and to address emerging threats, which may increase the demand for MANPADS capable missiles,” said the sources sought notice...

Missile Plan For Arleigh Burke
A hypersonic missile capability will be fielded on Arleigh Burke-class destroyers after the U.S. Navy fields the Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) weapon on Virginia-class submarines and Zumwalt-class destroyers, White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said Oct. 21.

“The Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike program will provide hypersonic missile capability to hold targets at risk from longer ranges,” O’Brien said in a speech to workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine.

“This capability will be deployed first on our newer Virginia-class submarines and the Zumwalt-class destroyers,” O’Brien added. “Eventually, all three flights of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers will field this capability.”...

U.S. Army Flexes New Land-Based, Anti-Ship Capabilities

Finding ever new and efficient ways to sink enemy ships is usually assigned to the U.S. Navy and, to a lesser extent, the Air Force, but not anymore. Though still focused on its primary role of maneuvering against land forces and shooting down air and missile threats, the Army is quietly developing an arsenal of long-range maritime strike options.

As the Army carves out an offensive role in the Pentagon’s preparations for a mainly naval and air war with China, service officials now seek to develop a capacity for targeting and coordinating strikes on maritime targets with helicopter gunships in the near term and with long-range ballistic missiles by 2025.

The Project Convergence 2020 event in September focused the Army on learning how to solve the command and control challenge for a slew of new land-attack capabilities scheduled to enter service by fiscal 2023. The follow-on event next year will expand to include experiments with the Army’s command and control tasks in the unfamiliar maritime domain.... AFRICA

Africa Is Officially Polio-Free
The continent has largely eradicated wild polio, the crowning achievement of a massive, globally coordinated public health effort.

Africa Declared Free of Wild Polio

Africa was certified free of wild polio this week, a significant milestone in efforts to eradicate the disease worldwide. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), described the declaration as “one of the greatest public health achievements of our time.”

Since 1988, when WHO launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, wild polio infections have been reduced by 99 percent worldwide. The virus, which once paralyzed some 75,000 children annually in Africa, is now only found in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where 165 people were affected by wild polio last year.,,


Conflict Could Be a Thai Canal
India is beefing up its island defenses as Beijing seeks a quicker route to the Indian Ocean.

Forget the new Cold War in the Pacific between the United States and China. There’s a much warmer war already going on between India and China that has killed at least 20 on a disputed border in the high Himalayas. At sea, China is attempting to encircle India with a series of alliances and naval bases evocatively known as the string of pearls. China’s greatest vulnerability in its strategy to dominate the Indian Ocean—and thereby India—is the Malacca Strait, a narrow sea lane separating Singapore and Sumatra, through which so much marine traffic must pass that it’s both a lifeline for China’s seaborne trade and the main path for its navy toward South Asia, and points further west. With regards to China’s rivalry with India—and its strategic ambitions in Africa, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and beyond—anything that reduces the dependency on one narrow chokepoint between potentially hostile powers is vital.

That’s where the most ambitious of all of Beijing’s regional infrastructure projects—the controversial Belt and Road Initiative—comes in: a long-mooted canal across southern Thailand’s Kra Isthmus, the narrowest point of the Malay peninsula, which would open a second sea route from China to the Indian Ocean. This could allow the Chinese navy to quickly move ships between its newly constructed bases in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean without diverting more than 700 miles south to round the tip of Malaysia. That would make the Thai canal a crucial strategic asset for China—and a potential noose around Thailand’s narrow southern neck. If Thailand allows China to invest up to $30 billion in digging the canal, it may find that the associated strings are attached forever...


Nord Stream 2 Comes Under Fire in Germany The ongoing debate within the German government on how to respond to the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is placing the future of Berlin’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline with Russia in doubt. On Sept. 8, the hospital in Berlin where Navalny is being treated said the Russian opposition figure had been removed from a medically induced coma after being poisoned on a flight to Moscow last month. That same day, Chancellor Angela Merkel told German lawmakers that she believes the European Union needs to react to the incident, but is skeptical of linking that crime to the natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. Intensifying calls for sanctions within Germany’s coalition government, however — including from Merkel’s own Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, as well as its governing partner the Social Democratic Party (SPD) — could potentially shift her position.

- In response to Navalny’s poisoning, the leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU) party, Manfred Weber, has repeatedly called for the freezing of construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as well. But on Sept. 3, Manuela Schwesig, the SPD state premier of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Pomerania (the state home to the landing points for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline), rejected such a construction freeze.

- On Sept. 3, Norbert Rottgen, the chair of the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee and a candidate to become the next CDU leader, tweeted that the European Union should jointly decide to stop Nord Stream 2. - On Sept. 6, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, another member of the SPD, said that if Russia does not cooperate with the Navalny investigation in the coming days, Berlin would consider stopping Nord Stream 2...






China’s Amphibian Dilemma: Straddling Land and Sea Ambitions

"Land-based northerners have dominated Chinese culture throughout most of her history and whenever they have been in political control… China has been oriented primarily inwardly…. On the other hand, when control was exercised by South China groups… a strong maritime outlook was emphasized. … In the former instances, China functioned as a continental rimland state, in the latter as a maritime rimland state."

China borders the largest number of countries by land, and its navy now boasts the largest number of battle force ships by sea. With the pressures and opportunities of both a continental and maritime power, China faces an amphibian’s dilemma, as the characteristics best suited for life at sea and life at land may not always prove complementary. Traditional continental powers are more prone to autocratic leadership to manage their challenges, while traditional maritime powers lean toward democratic systems and more open markets. China’s attempt to straddle both can intensify sectionalism and exacerbate differences between the interior core that remains continental in outlook, and the coastal areas that become more maritime in outlook.

This challenge is also highlighted in China’s attempts to reshape global norms and standards, which themselves largely represent the maritime world order. The apparent global political and economic dissonance is not merely caused by China seeking change, but by the very continental nature of China’s history. China is bringing a continental mindset to a maritime system. And though it is able to rally sympathy with others with a more continental history, China may find it difficult to bridge the continental/maritime divide...


For Iran, Negotiations Aren’t Optional With its economy in trouble, Tehran will have to talk to Washington. But the next administration shouldn’t rush things. Ariane TabatabaiSeptember 15, 2020, 4:42 PM Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during the inaugural session of the new parliament following February elections, in Tehran on May 27. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during the inaugural session of the new parliament following February elections, in Tehran on May 27. AFP / Getty Images No matter who wins the U.S. presidential election, Joe Biden or President Donald Trump, the next administration will have to confront a dangerous situation with Iran. Although Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign has wrecked the Iranian economy, it has failed to produce Iran’s capitulation or collapse. Instead, as international inspectors affirmed this month, Tehran is closer to having a nuclear weapon today than when Trump took office. The regime’s regional aggression is undiminished. And just this week, it was accused of plotting the assassination of the U.S. ambassador to South Africa in retaliation for the United States’ killing of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani in January. To address these threats, it will be crucial for the next U.S. president to make a credible effort at diplomacy; indeed, both Biden and Trump have stated a willingness to pursue negotiations. In a Sunday op-ed, Biden reiterated his pledge to reverse the current administration’s policy and re-enter the 2015 nuclear deal, which Trump left in 2018. The former vice president’s proposal can be boiled down to this: “If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations.” For his part, Trump has claimed on several occasions that if he were elected for a second term, he’d be able to strike a deal with Iran within weeks of his inauguration. A key question facing the next administration is how and when it would take the first step toward reengaging Tehran...

Tehran’s Worst Nightmare
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict could spill over to Iran’s Azeri minority, setting off a battle the government can’t contain.
The fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan comes at a particularly bad time for Iran. At home, it faces an extremely difficult economic situation thanks to U.S. sanctions. Abroad, it is involved in multiple unfinished geopolitical adventures in the Arab world—from Iraq to Syria and beyond—in which it has invested considerably in recent years. Although it might like to involve itself in the conflict in the South Caucasus, where it has played the role of mediator before, Tehran’s bandwidth to do so is considerably less than its geographic proximity to the conflict might suggest. Worse still, Tehran does not enjoy the diplomatic independence it had in the early 1990s, when fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh last erupted on this scale and when the Iranians could more effectively work between the two sides. Instead, this time around, Tehran has to take a back seat to Russia, Turkey, and the West as those powers shape the trajectory of the conflict. And yet, thanks to Iran’s sizable Azeri minority, at around 20 million strong, there’s a real possibility that the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict could overflow and pose a serious risk to internal Iranian security. Tehran doesn’t want to lose in this conflict, but it holds a weak hand....




Israel: Cabinet Approves Three-Week Lockdown Starting Sept. 18

The Israeli Cabinet approved a three-week lockdown that will bar Israelis from traveling more than 500 meters from home except for essentials, closing schools and limiting the private sector in a repeat of the country's strict April lockdown aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19, The Times of Israel reported Sept. 13....

What Happened: The Israeli Cabinet approved a three-week lockdown that will bar Israelis from traveling more than 500 meters from home except for essentials, closing schools and limiting the private sector in a repeat of the country's strict April lockdown aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19, The Times of Israel reported Sept. 13. The lockdown will begin at 2 p.m. on Sept. 18, just as the country begins to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised new aid for those affected by the shutdown. The Israeli Health Ministry has said it aims to lift the lockdown when the country's daily case rate dropped below 1,000 a day. On Sept. 12, the case number stood at about 4,000, before depressed weekend figures showed 2,715 on Sept. 13.

Why It Matters: The new lockdown will strain Israel's political capital and economy, and will be a test for other countries/localities that might be considering a new round of lockdowns in the face of potential fall waves of COVID-19. Israel's security forces are capable of tempering unrest and enforcing lockdown measures, but the political viability of doing so will be widely watched, particularly in the United States, where the Israeli experience helped inform the debate as to the pace and scope of reopening schools in the United States.

Strategic Context: Many Israelis opposed a long-term lockdown in the spring, which facilitated the rapid normalization of the Israeli economy in May. But that normalization then spurred the second wave of the epidemic, which began in July. Other countries facing new waves include the United Arab Emirates and Oman in the Middle East and France, Spain and the United Kingdom in Europe.

Fearing a Biden settlement freeze, Jerusalem expedites construction beyond Green Line Nir HassonPublished on 12.11.2020

Jerusalem City Hall and the Israel Lands Authority have been identifying and expediting approval of building plans of construction beyond the Green Line over the next two months, to prevent them from being stopped once Joe Biden enters the White House in January. Once the administration in Washington changes, the municipality and the Lands Authority expect a construction freeze.

Biden had an important role in the building freeze in Jerusalem during the administration of Barack Obama. In 2010 he visited Israel as vice president. A short time after he had a festive dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Jerusalem regional planning and building committee released an announcement of a plan to build 1,800 new housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood north of the capital, over the Green Line....




Russia's Emerging Arctic Maritime Frontier HIGHLIGHTS The thawing Russian Arctic is both a strategic opportunity and challenge, one that may fundamentally reshape Russia's foreign relations.... "Because of the inadequacy of the Arctic Coast as an outlet to the ocean, the great heartland can find access to the sea only by routes that cross the encircling mountain barrier and the border zone beyond." Nicholas J. Spykman, America's Strategy in World Politics (1942) Russia's surge of Arctic activity reflects the economic significance of the region and the impact of shifting climate patterns that now offer the prospect of an extended Russia maritime frontier. Russia has rebuilt and expanded its Cold War-era security architecture along its Arctic frontier, significantly increased natural gas production from its operations on the Yamal Peninsula, and laid out a 15-year plan to improve land-, air- and sea-based infrastructure connecting the Northern Sea Route to northern Russia and farther south. The thawing Russian coastline is both a strategic opportunity and challenge, one that may fundamentally reshape Russia's relations with its European and Asian neighbors, and with the United States...


Russia Plans Red Sea Naval Base In Sudan
Russia plans to build a naval base in Sudan, according to a bilateral draft agreement between the two nations.

The agreement would allow Russia to establish a naval logistics base in Sudan for the repair and supply of warships as well as provide rest to sailors, according to the document published on November 11 on a Russian government website after Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin approved it.

The draft agreement says that up to 300 crew and four warships may stay at the naval logistics base, including ships with nuclear-propulsion systems....






Brexit Is the IRA’s Biggest Recruitment Tool Despite a major crackdown, the uncertainty around the border is keeping militant republicanism alive. As Britain threatens to unilaterally ruin the border agreement in Northern Ireland, undermining the Good Friday deal that brought an end to the long nightmare of political violence, the threat of militant republicanism is growing again. The enduring threat of militant republicanism in Ireland was brought forcefully to public attention in August, after a massive crackdown on the paramilitary New Irish Republican Army (New IRA) led to nearly a dozen arrests on terrorism-related charges and serious rioting. If Brexit talks fail, worse is likely to follow, and the ranks of the New IRA and other groups may swell. The New IRA is the most prominent republican paramilitary group still active in Northern Ireland today, estimated by police to have had about 250-300 active members at the time of its formation in 2012. Like its predecessors, it is dedicated to the unification of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, and it has carried out a violent campaign against the security forces. It is firmly opposed to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the peace accord that ended the three decade-long conflict known as the Troubles, during which more than 3,500 people were killed and almost 50,000 were injured. Dissident republicans like those in the New IRA differ from the mainstream brand of republicanism in that they reject the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, and believe that violence remains a legitimate means to achieve their objectives...

Austria, Not France, Is the Model for Europe’s Crackdown on Islamists

Sebastian Kurz’s government failed to stop a recent terrorist attack, but he has been saying—and doing—what Emmanuel Macron is proposing for years.

As tragic as it was, the terrorist attack in Vienna on Nov. 2 was not a major surprise for Europe’s counterterrorism experts. The events in Vienna and, a week earlier, in the French city of Nice have only brought back onto the radar of the general public a phenomenon that the European counterterrorism community knows well: The threat has never disappeared.

The terrorist threat is certainly less acute than it was in the years 2014-2017, when, spurred by the sirens of the Islamic State, European jihadis struck the continent regularly and sometimes with devastating attacks. But the European jihadi scene has certainly not evaporated.

The threat is multifaceted: There are lone wolves as well as small cells of self-radicalized sympathizers and jihadis who come from outside Europe to strike. (The Vienna attacker was a mix of the two dynamics, as he came from a transnational milieu of Islamic State sympathizers but acted alone when he carried out the attack...)


A Partial Ban on Autonomous Weapons Would Make Everyone Safer Great powers stand to lose the most from weapons like drone swarms and should back a limited ban on the most dangerous systems.

The United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Group of Governmental Experts met late last month to discuss lethal, autonomous weapons. The semiannual meetings are the first serious effort by global governments to control autonomous weapons. And the weapons pose serious risks to global security: Even the best artificial intelligence isn’t well suited to distinguishing farmers from soldiers and may be trained only on laboratory data that is a poor substitute for real battlefields.

As U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres wrote on Twitter, “Autonomous machines with the power and discretion to select targets and take lives without human involvement are politically unacceptable, morally repugnant and should be prohibited by international law.”

Organizations such as the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, and Human Rights Watch advocate for a comprehensive ban on all autonomous weapons, but such a ban is unlikely to succeed. The military potential of autonomous weapons is too great. Autonomous weapons guard ships against small boat attacks, search for terrorists, stand sentry, and destroy adversary air defenses... Reaper Replacement Reveals Bold New GA-ASI Vision
General Atomics MQ-9 replacement concept Two years after MQ-25 contract disappointment, GA-ASI is doubling down on next-generation UAS with a provocative concept rendering of an MQ-9 replacement. Credit: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems In December 2018, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems executives still felt the bitter sting of a losing bid two months earlier for the U.S. Navy MQ-25 contract, but a clearly disappointed company president vowed to return for the next competition against the aerospace industry’s largest companies. “If the [request for proposals] comes out for a major program of record, we’re all-in,” said David Alexander in that December 2018 interview in his offices in Poway, California. “We’ll maybe have a few more lessons learned on what to do and what not to do,” he added. "But we’ll go in with both feet planted again and go after it.” Eighteen months later, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) is doubling-down on Alexander’s commitment, releasing exclusively to Aviation Week a concept rendering of a next-generation unmanned aircraft system (UAS) that reflects the characteristics the company’s designers view as essential for the class of aircraft that could replace the MQ-9 by the early 2030s.

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