Archive for the ‘geostrategy’ Category

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Geopolitics makes strange bedfellows

July 3, 2014

The steady success of ISIL in carving out a secure territory in Syria and Iraq is upsetting some old geopolitical equations.  Iran, seen by some as the likely “savior” of Iraq (or, at least, of its current government), is lobbing threats at the Kurds.  Turkey, meanwhile, long fearful of a Kurdish state, now considers embracing an independent Kurdistan to serve as a buffer against Iraqi violence and Iranian power.   The offshore power broker – the US – does not know what to do, because what might turn out to the best choice is also unthinkable:  Iran is currently the greatest threat to American interests in the region, and the force most likely to take the fight to the Iranians and to halt their geostrategic progress is, in fact, ISIL.  ISIL is closely (if complexly) affiliated with the al Qaeda organization with which the US has been at war since 9/11/2001 (and, arguably, for much of the decade prior to that as well).  It would be a nearly impossible sell to the American public – especially to the veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much for the last decade and a half – but at some point it may well be in America’s best interest to throw its support behind ISIL in order to thwart Iran.

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US Naval Institute looks at China

April 14, 2014

Proceedings is the monthly journal of the US Naval institute.  The April 2014 issue is focused primarily on the naval challenge that China presents to the US.   Several of the articles are open to the general public, but many require membership with USNI (which includes both a digital and paper subscription to Proceedings – well worth the price of membership for anyone interested in geopolitics).  This issue does a good job of covering many different possible approaches to dealing with China in the Western Pacific.  James R. Holmes argues for a very forward strategy of fortifying and patrolling the First Island Chain, while Milan Vego argues for the less aggressive approach of a distant blockade of Chinese shipping  as it transits from the Indian to Pacific Oceans.

The First and Second Island Chains

The First and Second Island Chains

I strongly recommend reading the entire issue, but these two pieces in particular.  I also read with particular interest the Navy’s dormant plans for transforming Guam into a forward base capable of hosting aircraft carriers.  This would make Guam a clear and early target for preemptive attack . . . which is actually another reason why I believe that Guam should be made a state.  An aggressor would be far more reticent about attacking a US state than it would a territory, IMO.

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Is Germany the real target of Russia’s Ukraine adventure?

April 10, 2014

Interesting thoughts from Jan Techau:

Eighty-one percent of (Germans) asked believed that Russia is not a trustworthy partner … (b)ut 58 percent thought the same about the United States … 49 percent of Germans stated that their desired political position is equidistance between the West and Russia … (o)nly 45 percent believed that Germany should be firmly embedded in the West.

Equidistance is precisely the position into which Soviet and then Russian leaders have tried to lure Germany since the 1950s. Attempts have ranged from Stalin’s repeated offer to grant Germany neutrality in return for unification in 1952, to Leonid Brezhnev’s long-term strategy to use energy dependence to bind Germany to Russian interests, to President Vladimir Putin’s masterful psychological exploitation of German fears on issues such as missile defense or Ukraine. In all these instances, Moscow’s aim was to de facto neutralize Germany despite its integration into the West.

These efforts have never been fully successful. But they have been successful enough to make Germany an often wobbly ally and to spread uncertainty and fear, especially among Central European countries, most notably Poland. The Kremlin knows full well that uncertainty and fear are the very ingredients that, if nurtured for long enough, will poison every relationship and even the strongest alliance.

Driving a wedge into Westbindung remains a preeminent goal of the Russian leadership. Moscow’s spokespeople and pundits in the West are in high rotation to increase the spread of propaganda aimed at loosening Germany’s ties with the West. Russia’s representatives are smart, they are in it for the long haul, and they often do their job with considerable skill.

 

Read the whole thing.

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How the US Lost the Naval War of 2015

April 9, 2014

That is the title of a 2010 journal article by James Kraska:

By 2015, U.S. command of the global commons could no longer be taken for granted. The oceans and the airspace above them had been the exclusive domain of the U.S. Navy and the nation’s edifice of military power for seventy-five years. During the age of U.S. supremacy, the Navy used the oceans as the world’s largest maneuver space to outflank its enemies. Maritime mobility on the surface of the ocean, in the air and under the water was the cornerstone of U.S. military power. The United States was able to utilize its maritime dominance to envelop and topple rogue regimes, as it demonstrated in Grenada and Panama, and use the maritime commons to ferry huge ground armies to the other side of the world and sustain them indefinitely, as it did in Vietnam and twice in Iraq. The unique capability to project decisive power rapidly in any corner of the world gave the United States deterrent power and unrivalled military influence.

All that changed in 2015, when the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, sunk to the bottom of the East China Sea. More than 4,000 sailors and airmen died and the Navy lost eighty aircraft. A ship that would take seven years and $ 9 billion to replace slipped into the waves. The incident upset not just the balance of naval power in Asia, but ushered in a new epoch of international order in which Beijing emerged to displace the United States.

If you have never read Kraska’s article, read it now.  If you have, read it again.  And ponder it while listening to senior US and Chinese officials trade tough talk over maritime disputes in the Western Pacific.

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China’s fleet advancing more quickly than anticipated

February 6, 2014

According to a new assessment, China is developing the ability to project naval power far away from its shores much more rapidly than earlier intelligence analysis had projected.

The Office of Naval Intelligence issued an assessment on the Chinese navy as part of testimony to the U.S. China Economic and Security Review. ONI leaders found that China’s navy has evolved from a littoral force to one that is capable of meeting a wide range of missions to include being “increasingly capable of striking targets hundreds of miles from the Chinese mainland.” . . .The report explains that more than 50 naval ships were “laid down, launched or commissioned” in 2013 and a similar number is planned for 2014.

Among the newer ships in the the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) are a number of nuclear armed subs that will be able to hit either Alaska or Hawaii from Chinese home waters.  Should they sortie into the western Pacific, they would be able to hit the Western US mainland.  This capability will be operational this year.

Ranges for JL2 missiles from various launch points

Ranges for JL2 missiles from various launch points

Earlier this week, US National Intelligence Director James Clapper said that China’s military build up and assertive foreign policy is driven by a “sense of destiny” and that Chinese leaders believe that their claims over nearly the whole of the South and East China Seas are historically based.   Clapper did not say, but we can easily infer, that China has no intention of backing down from these claims and its military buildup will be used to enforce them, either by force or by intimidation.

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USAF’s current analysis of Chinese airpower capabilities

February 3, 2014

Lee Fuell is the Technical Director for Force Modernization and Employment, National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) at Wright-Patterson AFB.  He recently made a presentation to policy makers about the status of Chinese efforts to modernize their air force and related capabilities.  In short, Fuell sees Chinese air power narrowing the gap with the US steadily, but they remain far from being a peer players.  However, in their own minds, they may have achieved regional parity, as their public documents no longer stress the need for a pre-emptive attack on US forces should conflict become unavoidable.

Air Force Magazine links to Fuell’s full testimony here (link opens pdf).

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Maldives rejects US military presence

January 29, 2014

Last June, it was reported that the US and the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of Maldives were negotiating a Status of Forces Agreement that would have given the US a military foothold in the middle of strategic shipping lanes that connect the Persian Gulf with East Asia.

The new president of the Maldives has recently announced that his nation has discontinued these negotiations, in part due to pressure from regional power India.  Although India and the US are informally allied in the growing (but unclaimed and indistinct) anti-China coalition, India is intent on building regional dominance in the Indian Ocean.  As the US draws down its forces in the Persian Gulf region, India has the chance to become the de facto hegemon, at least of the Central and Western Indian Ocean.

international maritime route