US Air Force seeks sharp growth to stay ahead of China, Russia


Phil Stewart September 17, 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Air Force is predicting it will need to grow sharply over the next decade or so, boosting the number of operational squadrons by nearly a quarter to stay ahead of increasingly muscular militaries in China and Russia, officials said.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told reporters that the preliminary analysis drew partly from classified intelligence about possible threats in the 2025 to 2030 time frame, showing that the service, at its current size, would be unable to preserve America’s edge.”The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking us to do,” Wilson told a small group of reporters ahead of a speech on Monday that will lay out her arguments.

The Air Force analysis did not include a price tag and Wilson declined to speculate on costs. But such growth could conceivably cost billions of dollars, given the need to hire more personnel and buy substantially more aircraft, from refueling tankers and fighter jets to bombers, made by companies like Boeing Co (BA.N) and Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N).

Wilson estimated the Air Force would need about more 40,000 personnel as part of the plan to have a total of 386 operational squadrons, up 24 percent from the 312 today. The increase would bring the Air Force to about 717,000 personnel, including the Guard and Reserve.

The U.S. Air Force had 401 squadrons in 1987, at the peak of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Usually commanded by a lieutenant colonel, squadrons are the core fighting units of the Air Force and are often composed of about 18 to 24 aircraft.

The Air Force estimate is likely to set the stage for greater debate about military spending priorities, including within the Pentagon, where branches of the world’s most powerful military already fiercely vie for resources.

That competition is set to grow if President Donald Trump succeeds in creating a new “Space Force” as the sixth branch of the military, something he hopes to do by 2020.

About one-sixth of U.S. federal spending goes to defense, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Although some lawmakers complain the Pentagon gets too big a share of U.S. resources, defense spending enjoys broad support in Congress.

GROWING RISK

Trump last month signed a massive, $716 billion defense policy bill meant to help address shortcomings in the U.S. military, which is trying to shift its focus to challenges posed by countries like China and Russia after nearly 17 years fighting militants in places like Afghanistan.

Wilson declined to get into details about classified analysis of future military threats.

But she pointed to events already making global headlines, like how Russia staged its largest military exercise this month since the fall of the Soviet Union, mobilizing 300,000 troops.

Pentagon officials believe the bigger challenge, however, will be staying ahead of China’s rapidly expanding military capabilities.

“The threat is growing,” Wilson said. “We have to be clear-eyed about the world in which we live.”

Wilson acknowledged that the Air Force’s estimates would be further refined in the weeks and months ahead. The latest analysis would be among the reports submitted to Congress in March next year that seek to address a basic question: What kind of Air Force America does America need?

Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein noted that was different from the typical question of what is the best Air Force that the United States can afford, given current budget priorities.

Wilson said: “We also know that there will be a debate about what we can afford – and that’s fair.”

“But I think we have to be clear on what is needed to protect our vital national interest in this country,” she said.

Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Peter Cooney

Source: Reuters “US Air Force seeks sharp growth to stay ahead of China, Russia”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

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Rosneft says allows China’s CNPC to buy Siberia project stakes


September 12, 2018

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (Reuters) – Russia’s top oil producer Rosneft said on Wednesday it has agreed with China’s CNPC that the latter can buy minority stakes in Rosneft oil and gas projects in Siberia.

Rosneft said in a statement that the agreement concerns large oil and gas projects in eastern and western Siberia. It did not provide details about the projects.

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; writing by Katya Golubkova; editing by Jason Neely

Source: Reuters “Rosneft says allows China’s CNPC to buy Siberia project stakes”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China-Russia Ties Put an End to US Hegemony


Reuters says in its report “Putin says Russia’s defense ties with China based on trust” yesterday, “Russian President Vladimir Putin told Chinese President Xi Jinping that Moscow and Beijing’s relations were based on trust in areas ranging from politics to security and defense.”

The trust is so profound that has made Russia bold in its military actions in Ukraine and Syria in spite of US sanctions. US military is simply unable to deal with Russian military challenges there.

In Washington Free Beacon’s article “PLA Expanding Power Through Belt and Road Initiative” I have just reblogged says, “The Pentagon’s new national defense strategy identified China for the first time in decades as a ‘strategic competitor’ seeking hegemony in Asia and ultimately ‘displacement of the United States to achieve global preeminence in the future.’”

Please be sober Pentagon, Russian’s military actions in Ukraine and Syria encouraged by its de facto alliance with China prove that there is no US hegemony or dominance in the world whatsoever.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report and Washington Free Beacon’s article. Full text of the former can be viewed at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-china-putin-xi/putin-says-russias-defense-ties-with-china-based-on-trust-idUSKCN1LR0NV while that of the latter has just been reblogged here.


Trump could push Germany toward Russia and China, veteran diplomat says


Noah Barkin September 4, 2018

BERLIN (Reuters) – The longer Donald Trump stays in office, the higher the risk that anti-American forces will gain the upper hand in Germany and push it into the arms of Russia and China, veteran German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger said in an interview.

The chairman of the Munich Security Conference and former ambassador to Washington was speaking to Reuters days before the publication of his book “World in Danger”, in which he urges Germans not to giving up on the United States because of Trump, while also pressing them to accept more global responsibility.

“The longer Trump remains in office, the harder it will be to stand up to those in this country and elsewhere in Europe who have been arguing since the Vietnam war that we need to cut the cord with America the bully,” Ischinger said.

“It would become much harder for the German government to stay the course and defend this relationship,” he said. “And the forces calling for a closer relationship with countries like Russia or China might be emboldened.”

Since entering the White House in January last year, Trump has pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, left the Iran nuclear deal and threatened to withdraw from the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

He has repeatedly attacked Germany for its trade surplus and lack of defense spending, unsettling a country that has long viewed America as its closest ally outside of Europe and a bulwark of its security and defense.

A survey by the Pew Research Center last year indicated that only 35 percent of Germans have a favorable view of the United States under Trump. A poll by the Koerber Foundation suggested that Germans see Trump as a bigger foreign policy problem than authoritarian leaders in North Korea, Russia or Turkey.

“SERIOUS VIOLATION”

Against this backdrop, some German politicians are urging the government to seek closer ties with Moscow and Beijing – two authoritarian powers whose values diverge from the liberal democracy that Germany has built in the seven decades since it rose from the ashes of World War Two with American help. Chancellor Angela Merkel, a strong believer in the transatlantic relationship, has resisted.

Ischinger expressed particular concern about Trump’s use of sanctions as a foreign policy tool, and his threat to punish German and other firms involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project with Russia.

“If U.S. sanctions are applied to prevent Nord Stream 2, the repercussions will be poisonous for the transatlantic relationship,” he said.

“Even if you have doubts about the wisdom of Nord Stream 2, it is hard not to see this as a serious violation, as an instance of the U.S. forcing its views on the Europeans.”

Ischinger praised Merkel for spelling out the need for Germany to become more independent but said it was high time that her words were translated into action.

He estimated that the government would need to raise defense spending by 10-15 billion for the four-year legislative period, if it hopes to meet its most basic commitments.

“We’re not where we should be. And you can even argue that we’ve taken a step backwards in recent years,” Ischinger said.

“It’s not enough to declare that we want to assume more responsibility. We need to show where the beef is, and that there is beef. There need to be budgetary consequences.”

Reporting by Noah Barkin; Editing by Kevin Liffey

Source: Reuters “Trump could push Germany toward Russia and China, veteran diplomat says”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Chinese Military Joining Russians for Nuclear War Games


Pentagon closely watching Beijing, Moscow forces in upcoming Vostok-18 exercise

BY: Bill Gertz
August 24, 2018 5:00 am

Russia and China will hold a large-scale military exercise next month that will include simulated nuclear weapons attacks, according to American defense officials.

The People’s Liberation Army will send more than 3,200 troops, 900 pieces of military equipment, and 30 aircraft to Russia for the exercise known as Vostok-18, or East-18, the Chinese Defense Ministry said, noting the exercises will involve practicing maneuver defense, live firing of weapons, and counterattack.

“We urge Russia to take steps to share information regarding its exercises and operations in Europe to clearly convey its intentions and minimize and potential misunderstanding,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said when asked about Vostok-18.

Additionally, the joint Russian-Chinese exercises scheduled for Sept. 11 through 15 will include military forces from Mongolia for the first time.

Mongolia, aligned with the Soviet Union until 1990, in recent years has sought closer ties to the United States, despite being located between Russia and China.

A Pentagon official said the Vostok war games will be closely watched by U.S. intelligence agencies because they are expected to include the simulated use of nuclear weapons. “It’s their strategic messaging,” the official said of both Russia and China.

“For nearly 20 years Vostok has been the Russian proving exercise for developing its new ‘escalate to deescalate’ tactical nuclear doctrine involving the use of new, very small nuclear weapons fired mainly by artillery,” said Rick Fisher, senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

Russia’s new doctrine of rapidly escalating future conflicts by resorting to nuclear arms shortly after the outbreak of hostilities is a major concern for the Pentagon. The doctrine has been cited by Pentagon officials as one of the reasons Moscow was identified as a major strategic competitor in the new national defense strategy.

The doctrine is considered destabilizing and also is leading the United States to develop its own arsenal of smaller nuclear weapons.

The Pentagon revealed in its latest annual report on the Chinese military that China is also developing new, small nuclear weapons.

The participation of China in the nuclear war games also is a concern.

Based on the more than 3,000 troops and equipment going to Russia, Fisher said the training will “allow the PLA to learn a great deal about the Russian state of the art in combined warfare tactics, which is now an intense focus for PLA strategy development to prepare for war against Taiwan and the United States,” Fisher said.

Both China and Russia are working to improve their ability to employ ground, naval, and air forces in joint operations over both short and long distances.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu announced this week that the exercises would be the largest since the Soviet Union conducted a major command and staff exercise in 1981.

“This is the largest armed forces training event since the Zapad-81 maneuvers, it has acquired the status of an international exercise and is of unprecedented scale both in terms of spatial scope as well as the strength of military command and control entities, troops, and forces involved,” Shoygu said, adding the PLA and Mongolian armed forces would take part.

The 1981 Zapad-81 war games involved more than 150,000 troops. Russia’s last Vostok exercise in 2014 included more than 155,000 troops.

No details on the scenario for the war games were disclosed.

Shoygu said the exercises will be held in the Russian Far East and Siberia. The Chinese said the exercises will be centered at Russia’s Tsugol training range in the Trans-Baikal region, located north of Mongolia’s eastern border with Russia.

“Politically it is very significant,” said Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon policymaker who specializes in Russian affairs.

“We have no details on the supposed scenario yet,” he said. “However, in this type of exercise, the very fact of a joint exercise may be more important than the exact details of the announced scenario, which may be very real. Putin will probably give China what it wants out of the exercise. That could involve a threat to Taiwan.”

Alexander Gabuev, senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said the Chinese participation in Vostok-18 is significant.

“Vostok drills are aimed at countering foreign invasions and addressing military threats for Siberia and the Far East,” Gabuev said in Twitter commentary. “China was among potential adversaries for many years. Now Moscow’s message is that it doesn’t view Beijing as an adversary any more.”

Gabuev also noted that Chinese strategic bombers conducted patrols in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait in July as part of Russia-hosted drills. It was the first joint strategic exercise by Beijing with a foreign air force.

The joint Chinese-Russian exercises come as the Trump administration has called both countries strategic competitors.

Wess Mitchell, assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia, told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that Russia is the focus of a return to “big power competition.”

“Contrary to the hopeful assumptions of previous administrations, Russia and China are serious competitors that are building up the material and ideological wherewithal to contest U.S. primacy and leadership in the 21st Century,” Mitchell said.

“It continues to be among the foremost national security interests of the United States to prevent the domination of the Eurasian landmass by hostile powers.”

Mitchell said effective policy toward Moscow must be backed by military power.

“To this end, the administration has reversed years of cuts to the U.S. defense budget, begun the process of recapitalizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, requested close to $11 billion to support the European Deterrence Initiative, and, in the past year and a half, worked with NATO Allies to bring about the largest European defense spending increase since the Cold War—a total of more than $40 billion to date,” he said.

The Communist Party-affiliated Global Times newspaper reported this week that Vostok-18 is the first time Chinese troops have taken part in the strategic exercise, and shows the deepening strategic partnership between Moscow and Beijing. The exercises will focus on “traditional security” rather than non-traditional threats, the report said.

“Chinese troops’ participation in the Russian military drills shows that China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination is further deepening in the military and security fields,” the report said.

Igor Korotchenko, editor of the Russian magazine National Defense, was quoted in Global Times as saying the war games are a response to U.S. pressure on Russia and China and will seek to show that attempts to “contain” both countries will fail.

Video of Chinese tanks and military equipment likely to take part in Vostok-18 appeared on the internet in early August.

PLA tanks were shown transiting Kazakhstan on trains, prompting the Kazakhstan Defense Ministry to issue a statement saying the PLA arms were headed for a Russian military training site near Cherbarkul, a town some 900 miles east of Moscow in the Ural Mountains.

The Chinese forces will take part in another international military exercise to be held before Vostok-18 hosted by the Chinese-led, anti-U.S. alliance known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

In a related development, Russian military forces in the eastern part of the country were placed on high alert on Monday ahead of the Vostok-18 exercises.

The alert was a five-day “snap inspection” in preparation for the upcoming international exercise, said Shoygu, the Russian defense minister.

Fisher, a China expert, said the Vostok exercises usually seek to test the latest offensive combined arms warfare tactics and new Russian weapons.

“If it indeed participates, the PLA will gain its first near-real exposure to modern combined arms warfare,” he said.

The PLA participation in the Russian exercise likely will result in a reciprocal Russian military visit to China in the future. That would mean “the Russian force will be exposed to and likely be asked to critique the latest PLA developments in its combined-armed warfare tactics.”

The joint military cooperation marks a significant increase in Chinese-Russian strategic cooperation and could lead to a formal military alliance, Fisher said.

“It also signifies that China is ready to provide political support at a minimum, and perhaps intelligence and maybe even logistic support, should Russia initiate aggression against the Baltic states, Poland, or the Ukraine,” he added.

The joint military cooperation also may signify there is a developing Russian obligation to support China in the event it attacks Taiwan, or supports North Korea against South Korea and the United States,” Fisher said.

The September 2014 Vostok exercise included 4,000 troops of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces that are in charge of nuclear missiles.

The 2014 exercises prompted U.S. government concerns that Moscow was preparing for a large-scale intervention in Ukraine coinciding with the seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula that year.

The 2010 Vostok exercise took place on the Kamchatka Peninsula and reportedly practiced a Russian military intervention against China.

Source: Washington Free Beacon “Chinese Military Joining Russians for Nuclear War Games”

Note: This is Washington Free Beacon’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China Masters Infrared Thermal Imaging Technology, Exports to Russia


Mil.huanqiu.com says in its report “The US blocks Russia’s essential supply, China provides timely help: This equipment is too important for Russia” that Russia is used to import infrared thermal imaging equipment but US sanction makes it impossible to import the equipment from the West, which has a monopoly over the technology.

Now China has made a breakthrough in the technology to be able to make equipment of that important technology equal to Western ones. It now is providing Russia with such equipment indispensable for Russia.

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “The US blocks Russia’s essential supply, China provides timely help: This equipment is too important for Russia” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)


Iran likely to turn to Russia, Turkey, and China to offset sanctions, not risk war over Hormuz


Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meet at a Caspian Sea littoral states’ summit in Aktau, Kazakhstan, on 12 August. Source: Iranian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Firas Modad – IHS Jane’s Intelligence Weekly

17 August 2018

  • Key Points
    Iran is trying to consolidate politically and appease protesters to prevent sanctions from destabilising the country; this risks backfiring and reducing leadership cohesion.
  • Iran will turn to China, Russia, and Turkey to reduce the impact of sanctions, but all three countries are embroiled in complex negotiations with the US in which Iran is one bargaining chip.
  • Iran is extremely unlikely to take military action, while the US believes time is in its favour as it increases pressure on Iran to see what concessions it can extract and how hard to push.

Event

The United States on 7 August reintroduced sanctions on Iran that had been suspended as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), affecting Iran’s ability to sell foreign debt, acquire gold and base metals, trade its currency for the US dollar, and trade in the automotive sector.

IHS Markit’s assessment is that the United States is not pursuing objectives identified in advance. Rather, the US is escalating on an opportunistic basis to see what it can get Iran to concede, and will reassess its position along the way, deciding whether to pursue sanctions and/or internal destabilisation efforts until it gains enough concessions from Iran, or even the creating an environment where regime change would be more likely. IHS Markit assesses that the minimum requirement for the US is for Iran to reduce the threat it poses to Israel and Saudi Arabia, through negotiating a new agreement on the nuclear issue that includes reductions to Iran’s ballistic missile programme, the reduction of support for the Houthi Movement in Yemen, and no further expansion of Hizbullah or similar organisations in Syria.

From the US perspective, the longer sanctions are applied, the greater the damage to Iran’s economy and, therefore, the less ability Iran has to pursue activities the US considers threatening, and the greater the perceived likelihood of government destabilisation.

Source: Jane’s 360 “Iran likely to turn to Russia, Turkey, and China to offset sanctions, not risk war over Hormuz”

Note: This is Jane’s 360’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.