Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners


Quotes of the Day:


"The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible."
- Winston Churchill


“Ninety percent of intelligence comes from open sources. The other ten percent, the clandestine work, is just the more dramatic. The real intelligence hero is Sherlock Holmes, not James Bond.”
- LTG Samuel V. Wilson

“Journalism, is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.”
- George Orwell




1. RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE CAMPAIGN ASSESSMENT, JULY 31 (Putin's War)

2. 1st ship carrying Ukrainian grain leaves the port of Odesa

3. Pelosi meets Singapore leaders at start of Asia tour

4. Opinion | The U.S. is a lot stronger than Russia. We should act like it.

5. Readout of AUKUS Joint Steering Group Meetings

6. Army may restructure brigade combat teams amid recruiting woes

7. Ukraine seeks to retake the south, tying down Russian forces

8. Russia pulls some Wagner forces from Africa for Ukraine: Townsend

9. Ukraine is Hitting Russian SAMs With HIMARS; US Considers Future Aviation Contribution

10. China conducts military exercise opposite Taiwan

11. West eases efforts to restrict Russian oil trading as inflation and energy risks mount

12.  Inside an international network of teenage neo-Nazi extremists

13. Let the Air Force let go of the E-3 ‘Sentry’

14. Russian operative used U.S. activist groups to spread propaganda, feds say

15. Russia Opens Pandora's Box – Serbia and China Threaten War

16. FDD | Tehran, the Day After

17. U.S. deploys ships and planes near Taiwan as Pelosi eyes visit

18. Russia’s war viewed from China

19. China on the Offensive

20. Joe Biden's Foreign Policy Boils Down to One Word: Weakness​ By John Bolton

21. ‘Brink of a major revolution’: Pentagon-funded drug trial may end venomous snakebite scourge

22. New OSINT foundation aims to ‘professionalize’ open source discipline across spy agencies






1. RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE CAMPAIGN ASSESSMENT, JULY 31 (Putin's War)



Maps/graphics: https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-31


RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE CAMPAIGN ASSESSMENT, JULY 31

Jul 31, 2022 - Press ISW


understandingwar.org

Kateryna Stepanenko, Layne Philipson, Karolina Hird, and Frederick W. Kagan

July 31, 8:30 pm ET

Click here to see ISW's interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

Russian forces have resumed localized ground attacks northwest and southwest of Izyum and may be setting conditions for offensive operations further west into Kharkiv Oblast or toward Kharkiv City. Russian forces have already launched unsuccessful assaults and reconnaissance-in-force attempts on Chepil, Shchurivka, and Husarivka (northwest of Izyum) and resumed assaults on Dmytrivka and Brazhikivka (southwest of Izyum) in recent days.[1] Russian forces maintained positions around Balaklia and Velyka Komyshuvakha for months and may use these two areas as springboards for an offensive operation. Russian forces may use their positions around Balaklia to restart assaults on Kharkiv City from the southeast. Russian forces are extremely unlikely to seize Kharkiv Oblast or capture Kharkiv City – the second most populated city in Ukraine – given the pace of Russian progress in Donbas and continued challenges in force generation and logistics. ISW has previously assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have ordered Russian forces to take Kharkiv City and the unoccupied portion of Kharkiv Oblast but that he is unlikely to be successful in such goals. Russian forces may also be conducting spoiling attacks to prevent Ukrainian counteroffensives.

Crimean occupation officials obliquely accused Ukraine of orchestrating a drone attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in occupied Sevastopol on July 31, but Ukrainian officials denied responsibility for the attack.[2] Russian Governor of Sevastopol Mihail Razvozhaev claimed that Ukrainians “decided to spoil” Russia’s Navy Day celebrations and noted that a drone exploded in the headquarters’ yard but did not specify whether Ukrainian forces or locals launched the drone.[3] Razvozhaev published images showcasing minor damage to the headquarters building and yard, and social media footage depicted a small cloud of smoke rising from the building.[4] Razvozhaev also claimed that the explosion wounded six people. Russian Crimean Senator Olga Kovitidi later announced that unspecified actors carried out the attack with a makeshift drone from within the territory of Sevastopol.[5] The Ukrainian Naval Forces and Odesa Oblast Military Administration Spokesman Serhiy Bratchuk indirectly suggested that the drone attack was a Russian false flag operation.[6] ISW cannot independently verify the actor responsible for the attack.

The Russian government may be complicating international efforts to discern the nature of an unidentified July 28 kinetic event on the Olenivka penal colony. The Russian Ministry of Defense officially invited experts from the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to investigate the attack at the Olenivka prison on July 30.[7] The ICRC stated that it has not received access to the prison as of July 31, however.[8] Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereschuk also noted that Russian authorities have not responded to Ukrainian requests to return the bodies of deceased Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs).[9]

Open-source intelligence (OSINT) analyst Oliver Alexander published an examination of satellite imagery from July 27 showing open graves at the Olenivka prison, noting that July 29 satellite imagery appears to show that the same graves have been covered.[10] Investigative journalism group Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins stated that lower resolution satellite imagery indicates ground disturbances after July 18 and prior to July 21, suggesting that the Russians may have planned the incident in advance.[11] ISW will continue to monitor the open source for information on the strike on Olenivka and will provide updates as they appear.

Key Takeaways

  • The Kremlin has not responded to the International Red Cross (ICRC) request to access the Olenivka prison as of July 31, hindering the international investigation efforts.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks southwest and northwest of Izyum, consistent with ISW’s assessment that Russian forces may be setting conditions for advances northwest of the current Izyum-Slovyansk line.
  • Russian forces continued ground attacks northwest of Slovyansk, northeast of Siversk, and to the east and south of Bakhmut.
  • Russian forces made marginal gains in the Avdiivka area and continued ground attacks towards Avdiivka and Pisky.
  • Russian authorities began recruiting volunteers for the Nevsky and Ladoga Battalions in Leningrad Oblast, Russia.
  • Russian occupation authorities continued to prepare for a referendum in Kherson Oblast and took measures to depict support for Russian control of the occupied territories.


We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

  • Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of one subordinate and two supporting efforts);
  • Subordinate Main Effort—Encirclement of Ukrainian Troops in the Cauldron between Izyum and Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts
  • Supporting Effort 1—Kharkiv City
  • Supporting Effort 2—Southern Axis
  • Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
  • Activities in Russian-occupied Areas

Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine

Subordinate Main Effort—Southern Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk Oblasts (Russian objective: Encircle Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine and capture the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)

Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks southwest and northwest of Izyum and continued to shell settlements in this area on July 31. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted an unsuccessful attack on Dmytrivka, about 20km southwest of Izyum.[12] Russian forces also conducted reconnaissance-in-force westward of Nova Husarivka to Husarivka (about 50km northwest of Izyum) and shelled Semylanne and Chervona Polyana, both 30km southwest of Izyum.[13] As ISW assessed on July 30, Russian forces may be reprioritizing offensive operations in the area northwest of the Izyum-Slovyansk in order to set conditions for westward advances from the Izyum area deeper into Kharkiv Oblast.[14]

Russian forces conducted a limited ground attack northwest of Slovyansk and otherwise shelled settlements along the Kharkiv-Donetsk Oblast border on July 31. The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Russian forces conducted an unsuccessful reconnaissance-in-force operation near Dolyna (about 20km northwest of Slovyansk along the E40 highway).[15] Russian troops also conducted artillery strikes near Dolyna, Krasnopillya, Mazanivka, and Adamivka - all settlements near the oblast border northwest of Slovyansk. The Ukrainian General Staff noted that Russian troops are transferring separate units from the Slovyansk direction to the Zaporizhia direction, which is consistent with ISW’s assessment that Russian military leadership is likely de-prioritizing attempts to advance on Slovyansk in favor of operations elsewhere in Donbas and Southern Ukraine.[17]

Russian forces conducted a limited ground attack northeast of Siversk on July 31. The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Russian troops withdrew after an unsuccessful reconnaissance-in-force attempt near Serebryanka, 5km northeast of Siversk.[18] Russian forces also continued air and artillery strikes on Siversk and the surrounding settlements of Vymika, Spirne, Zvanivka, Verkhnokamyanske, Kryva Luka, Hryhorivka, and others.[19]

Russian forces conducted a series of ground assaults to the northeast, east, and southeast of Bakhmut on July 31. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces attempted to improve their tactical positions on the Roty-Vershyna line, about 15km southeast of Bakhmut along the E40 highway.[20] Russian forces also attempted to improve their tactical positions in the direction of Bakhmut from positions in Pokrovske, just east of Bakhmut.[21] Ukrainian troops neutralized a Russian reconnaissance-in-force attempt in the direction of Strapivka to Soledar, which is within 10km northeast of Bakhmut.[22] Russian forces continued air and artillery strikes on Ukrainian positions surrounding Bakhmut in order to support attempts to advance from the south and east.[23]

Russian forces conducted several limited ground attacks northeast and southwest of Avdiivka and made marginal gains during offensive operations around Avdiivka on July 31.[24] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces attempted advances around Kamyanka (less than 10km northeast of Avdiika) and Pisky (about 15km southwest of Avdiivka) and that unspecified separate Russian units had ”partial success” around Avdiivka.[25] Donetsk People‘s Republic (DNR) Deputy Information Minister Daniil Bezsonov claimed that Russian and DNR forces secured positions on the southeastern outskirts of Pisky, which is consistent with the Ukrainian General Staff’s statement that Russian forces attempted to push northwest of Donetsk City towards Pisky and had unspecified “partial success“ in the general area of Avdiivka. Russian forces continued to shell along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City frontline in order to cover ground attacks towards Avdiivka and Pisky.[27]


Supporting Effort #1—Kharkiv City (Russian objective: Defend ground lines of communication (GLOCs) to Izyum and prevent Ukrainian forces from reaching the Russian border)

Russian forces did not conduct any ground assaults in the Kharkiv City direction, instead focusing on maintaining previously occupied lines and preventing Ukrainian forces from advancing toward the Russian border in Kharkiv Oblast on July 31.[28] Russian forces launched an airstrike near Staryi Saltiv, approximately 46km east of Kharkiv City, and continued conducting tube, tank, and rocket artillery strikes on Kharkiv City and settlements to the north, northeast, and southeast.[29]


Supporting Effort #2—Southern Axis (Russian objective: Defend Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts against Ukrainian counterattacks)

Russian forces continued to undertake defensive measures in Kherson Oblast in preparation for a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the region. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces are attempting to prevent Ukrainian forces from advancing from the northeast into Kherson Oblast and continued shelling Ukrainian positions along the Kherson-Mykolaiv and Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast borders.[30] The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that Russian forces launched airstrikes on Ukrainian positions in Bilohirka and Bila Krynytsia, seemingly confirming that Ukraine retains a bridgehead on the eastern Inhulets River bank.[31] Satellite imagery also showed that Russian forces dug trenches near the Antonivskyi Bridge (on the right bank of the Dnipro River) and set up radar reflectors along both Antonivskyi road and railway bridges to prevent Ukrainian missile strikes.[32] Social media footage showed that Russian forces are also attempting to repair the bridge on July 31.[33]

Russian forces continued to shell and launch missile strikes against Nikopol and Mykolaiv City, after targeting the two cities throughout the week.[34] The Ukrainian Southern Operational Command reported that Russian forces fired two air-launched cruise missiles at Nikopol and 50 rockets from Grad MLRS systems.[35] Russian forces reportedly fired at Mykolaiv City with Smerch MLRS systems and modified S-300 air defense missiles on July 31.[36] Ukrainian officials stated that Russian rockets hit residential areas and social infrastructure, but the Russian Defense Ministry claimed to have destroyed a Ukrainian ammunition depot in Mykolaiv City.[37]

Ukrainian forces continue to successfully target Russian strongholds, transit routes, and ammunition depots throughout the Southern Axis. Ukrainian officials confirmed that Ukrainian forces destroyed a field ammunition depot in Vysoke (about 48km due northeast of Kherson City), and geolocated footage showed another large explosion in northern Kherson Oblast near the Dnipro River.[38] Advisor to the Ukrainian Internal Affairs Minister Anton Herashenko also confirmed that Ukrainian forces used western-provided HIMARS to strike a 40-car train with Russian equipment and personnel in Brylivka (about 47km southeast of Kherson City) on July 30, resulting in 80 dead and 200 wounded Russian servicemen.[39] Ukrainian news outlet “Ria Melitopol” published footage of an explosion at the Melitopol airfield on July 31. Ukrainian forces had targeted a reported Russian ammunition depot and base near the airfield on July 3.[40] Ukrainian forces likely conducted the strike against the airfield, but Ukrainian officials have not taken credit for or explained the explosion as of the time of this publication. The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) also confirmed that a Ukrainian strike on Russian positions in Verhniy Tokmak and Chernihivka (both approximately 40km southeast of Tokmak) on July 29, resulted in Russian forces relocating their personnel and equipment from those settlements to Berdyansk and Tokmak.[41] The GUR specified that approximately 100 Russian servicemen remain around Chernihivka to maintain checkpoints but that most of the personnel are relocating and mining the roads.[42] The GUR also noted that the strike wounded at least 40 Russian servicemen.


Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)

Russian forces continued to recruit and form additional volunteer battalions in Leningrad Oblast.[43] Leningrad Oblast Administration stated on July 28 that the oblast is forming two volunteer artillery battalions ”Nevsky” and ”Ladozhskiy,” and announced additional unspecified social support measures for recruits that signed contracts with the battalions.[44] Leningrad Oblast offered recruits a one-time payment of 200,000 rubles (about $3,200) and other social benefits. St. Petersburg outlet ”Fontanka” contacted a St. Petersburg military recruitment center and discovered that St. Petersburg is forming an unnamed motorized rifle volunteer battalion and confirmed that Russian forces will pay recruits 100,000 rubles ($1,600) for one month of training and will pay 3,300 rubles (about $53) per day of combat service in Ukraine.[45] The report also stated that enlisted servicemen may receive an additional 50,000-100,000 rubles (about $800-1,600) for destroying Ukrainian military equipment in battle. The St. Petersburg battalion is forming in Luga (140 km south of St. Petersburg).


Activity in Russian-occupied Areas (Russian objective: consolidate administrative control of occupied areas; set conditions for potential annexation into the Russian Federation or some other future political arrangement of Moscow’s choosing)

Russian occupation authorities continued setting conditions for a referendum in Kherson Oblast on July 31. Kherson Oblast Head Dmytro Butrii reported that Russian forces opened polling stations, clarified voting lists, and handed out Russian passports to Kherson Oblast residents on July 31.[46] Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov reported that Russian occupation authorities are bringing citizens of distant Russian republics to live in Melitopol, reportedly in an effort to create the image of a large population living in Melitopol.[47] Fedorov also stated that there are 800 hundred vehicles with 4,000 people in line to evacuate occupied territories and that Russian authorities are making copies of the passports of everyone who leaves.[48] Fedorov stated that Russian authorities only allow 200-300 cars to pass each day and that only those with permission slips will be allowed to leave the occupied territories starting on Monday, August 1.[49] Geolocated video footage posted on July 31 reportedly showed Ukrainian partisans ambushing a Russian police patrol vehicle using a roadside bomb in Kherson on July 27.[50]

understandingwar.org



2. 1st ship carrying Ukrainian grain leaves the port of Odesa



​Some good news. A small victory.


1st ship carrying Ukrainian grain leaves the port of Odesa

AP · by SUZAN FRASER · August 1, 2022

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The first ship carrying Ukrainian grain set off from the port of Odesa on Monday under a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey that is expected to release large stores of Ukrainian crops to foreign markets and ease a growing food crisis.

The Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni left Odesa carrying over 26,000 tons of corn destined for Lebanon.

“The first grain ship since Russian aggression has left port,” said Ukraine’s Minister of Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov on Twitter, posting a video of the long vessel sounding its horn as its slowly headed out to sea.

Posting separately on Facebook, Kubrakov said Ukraine is the fourth-largest corn exporter in the world, “so the possibility of exporting it via ports is a colossal success in ensuring global food security.”

“Today Ukraine, together with partners, takes another step to prevent world hunger,” he added.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov hailed the ship’s departure as “very positive,” saying it would help test the “efficiency of the mechanisms that were agreed during the talks in Istanbul.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Turkey’s defense minister, Hulusi Akar, said the Razoni was expected to dock Tuesday afternoon in Istanbul at the entrance of the Bosporus, where joint teams of Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and U.N. officials would board it for inspections.

Russia-Ukraine war

Ukraine seeks to retake the south, tying down Russian forces

US envoy: Russia intends to dissolve Ukraine from world map

Drone explosion hits Russia's Black Sea Fleet headquarters

Ukraine war hangs over UN meeting on nukes treaty's legacy

In an interview with Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, Akar warned that the global food crisis threatened to trigger “a serious wave of migration from Africa to Europe and to Turkey.”

The corn will then head to Lebanon, a Mideast nation in the grips of what the World Bank has described as one of the world’s worst financial crises in more than 150 years. A 2020 explosion at its main port in Beirut shattered its capital city and destroyed grain silos there, a part of which collapsed following a weekslong fire just Sunday.

The Turkish defense ministry said other ships would also depart Ukraine’s ports through the safe corridors in line with deals signed in Istanbul on July 22, but did not provide further details.

Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements with Turkey and the U.N. clearing the way for Ukraine — one of the world’s key breadbaskets — to export 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural goods that have been stuck in Black Sea ports because of Russia’s invasion.



The deals also allow Russia to exports grain and fertilizers.

Turkey’s defense minister praised a joint coordination center staffed by Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and U.N. officials as a venue where opposing sides can engage with each other.

“The problems they have are obvious, there is a war. But it is the only place where the two sides are able to come together,” Akar said. “Despite the ups and downs, there is a good environment for dialogue.”

Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said that 16 more ships, all blocked since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, were waiting their turn in the ports of Odesa.

Kubrakov said the shipments would also help Ukraine’s war-shattered economy.

“Unlocking ports will provide at least $1 billion in foreign exchange revenue to the economy and an opportunity for the agricultural sector to plan for next year,” Kubrakov said.

The United Nations welcomed the development, saying in a statement that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hopes the shipments would “bring much-needed stability and relief to global food security especially in the most fragile humanitarian contexts.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The resumption of the grain shipments came as fighting raged elsewhere in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s presidential office said that at least three civilians were killed and another 16 wounded by Russian shelling in the Donetsk region over the past 24 hours.

Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko repeated a call for all residents to evacuate. He particularly emphasized the need to evacuate about 52,000 children still left in the region.

In Kharkiv, two people were wounded by a Russian strike in the morning. One was wounded while waiting for a bus, and another was hurt when a Russian shell exploded near an apartment building.

The southern city of Mykolaiv also faced repeated shelling, which triggered fires near a medical facility, destroying a shipment of humanitarian aid containing medicines and food.

ADVERTISEMENT

Soon after the deal was signed on July 22, a Russian missile targeted Odessa. Analysts warned that the continuing fighting could threaten the grain deal.

“The danger remains: The Odesa region has faced constant shelling and only regular supplies could prove the viability of the agreements signed,” said Volodymyr Sidenko, an expert with the Kyiv-based Razumkov Center think-tank.

“The departure of the first vessel doesn’t solve the food crisis, it’s just the first step that could also be the last if Russia decides to continue attacks in the south.”

___

Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed.

AP · by SUZAN FRASER · August 1, 2022




3. Pelosi meets Singapore leaders at start of Asia tour



Seeing friends, partners, and allies. I guess we need to start a pool: Will she or won't she go to taiwan? WIl it be announced before or only after arrival? And of course how will China react either way? Lots to bet on.




Pelosi meets Singapore leaders at start of Asia tour

AP · by EILEEN NG and ZEN SOO · August 1, 2022

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held talks with officials in Singapore on Monday at the start of her Asian tour, as questions swirled over a possible stop in Taiwan that has fueled tension with Beijing.

Pelosi met with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, President Halimah Yacob and other Cabinet members, the Foreign Ministry said.

Lee welcomed a U.S. commitment to strong engagement with the region, and the two sides discussed ways to deepen U.S. economic engagement through initiatives such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, the ministry said in a statement.

Lee and Pelosi also discussed the war in Ukraine, tensions surrounding Taiwan and mainland China, and climate change, it said. Lee “highlighted the importance of stable U.S.-China relations for regional peace and security,” it added, in an apparent allusion to reports that Pelosi may visit Taiwan.

In a statement over the weekend, Pelosi said she will visit Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan to discuss trade, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, security and “democratic governance.”

ADVERTISEMENT

She didn’t confirm news reports that she might visit Taiwan, which is claimed by Beijing as its own territory. Chinese President Xi Jinping warned against meddling in Beijing’s dealings with the island in a phone call last week with U.S. President Joe Biden.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian reiterated the earlier warnings on Monday, saying “there will be serious consequences if she insists on making the visit.”

He did not spell out any specific consequences. “We are fully prepared for any eventuality,” he said. “The People’s Liberation Army will never sit by idly. China will take strong and resolute measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Pelosi was to attend a cocktail reception later Monday with the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore. There is no media access to her visit, which has been kept under tight wraps.

She is scheduled to be in Malaysia on Tuesday. A Parliament official, who was not authorized to speak to the media and declined to be identified by name, said Pelosi will call on Malaysian lower house speaker Azhar Azizan Harun. No further details were immediately available.

On Thursday, Pelosi is to meet with South Korean National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin Pyo in Seoul for talks on security in the Indo-Pacific region, economic cooperation and the climate crisis, Kim’s office said in a statement.

It declined to provide further details about her itinerary, including when she is arriving in South Korea and how long she’ll stay.

Pelosi’s schedule for Wednesday remains unclear and there were no details on when she will head to Japan.

Beijing sees official American contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island’s decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step U.S. leaders say they don’t support. Pelosi, head of one of three branches of the U.S. government, would be the highest-ranking elected American official to visit Taiwan since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.

The Biden administration has tried to assure Beijing there was no reason to “come to blows” and that if such a visit occurred, it would signal no change in U.S. policy.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after the communists won a civil war on the mainland. Both sides say they are one country but disagree over which government is entitled to national leadership. They have no official relations but are linked by billions of dollars of trade and investment.

The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but maintains informal relations with the island. Washington is obligated by federal law to see that Taiwan has the means to defend itself.

Washington’s “One China policy” says it takes no position on the status of the two sides but wants their dispute resolved peacefully. Beijing promotes an alternative “One China principle” that says they are one country and the Communist Party is its leader.

A visit to Taiwan would be a career capstone for Pelosi, who increasingly uses her position in Congress as a U.S. emissary on the global stage. She has long challenged China on human rights and wanted to visit Taiwan earlier this year.

Pelosi’s delegation includes U.S. Reps. Gregory Meeks, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Mark Takano, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs; Suzan DelBene, vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee; Raja Krishnamoorthi, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and chair of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform; and Andy Kim, a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.

___

Soo reported from Hong Kong. Associated Press writer Kim Hyung-jin in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

AP · by EILEEN NG and ZEN SOO · August 1, 2022



4. Opinion | The U.S. is a lot stronger than Russia. We should act like it.


The fear of escalation may be overly constraining our support to Ukraine.


Excerpts;

The United States matches Russia in nuclear forces and far exceeds it in conventional capabilities. Biden is in a far stronger position than Putin, but he is acting as if he were weaker. Stop letting Putin deter us from doing everything we can to aid Ukraine. Putin should be more afraid of us than we are of him.
The war has already proved costly to Russia: It has lost about 1,000 tanks, and roughly 60,000 soldiers have been killed or wounded. There won’t be much left of the Russian military if the Ukrainians are armed with lots more HIMARs and ATACMS, along with tanks and fighter aircraft. The fourth phase of the war could prove decisive — but only if the United States finally makes a commitment to help Ukraine win.



Opinion | The U.S. is a lot stronger than Russia. We should act like it.

The Washington Post · by Max Boot · July 27, 2022

The war in Ukraine has now entered its third phase.

Phase one, beginning on Feb. 24, was Russia’s pell-mell attempt to take Kyiv. That resulted in failure thanks to terrible Russian logistics (remember the 40-mile convoy?) and a skillful Ukrainian defense making use of handheld weapons such as Stingers and Javelins supplied by the West.

Phase two began in mid-April, when Russian dictator Vladimir Putin concentrated his forces on Luhansk province in the eastern Donbas region. That phase, characterized by relentless Russian artillery bombardment, ended in early July with the retreat of Ukrainian forces from Luhansk.

In the third phase of the war, Ukrainian troops are holding a strong defensive position in neighboring Donetsk province (also part of Donbas) and effectively hitting back with High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and other longer-range weapons supplied by the West. The HIMARS, in particular, have been a game changer by allowing the Ukrainians to destroy more than 100 high-value targets such as Russian ammunition depots and command posts.

A Ukrainian battalion commander told The Post that since the HIMARS strikes began, Russian shelling has been “10 times less.” Another Ukrainian officer told the Wall Street Journal: “It was hell over here. Now, it’s like paradise. Super quiet. Everything changed when we got the HIMARS.” President Volodymyr Zelensky says Ukrainian fatalities are down from between 100 and 200 a day to 30 a day.

Follow Max Boot's opinionsFollow

If Ukraine is able to fight back so effectively with only 12 HIMARS (soon to be 16), imagine what it could do with dozens more and, better still, Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), which use the same platform but have nearly quadruple the range. These rocket systems should be supplemented by Western tanks and fighter aircraft. If the West were to supply all these weapons, Ukraine could mount a counteroffensive to take back lost land in the south and east and help end the war.

The Biden administration is slowly supplying more HIMARS and, for the first time, is even discussing the provision of Western fighter aircraft (after nixing a Polish plan to send MiG-29s in March). But ATACMS appear to be off the table because, as national security adviser Jake Sullivan explained last week, the administration does not want to head “down the road towards a third world war.” Ukraine isn’t even allowed to use its HIMARS to end the shelling of its second-largest city, Kharkiv, because the Russian artillery batteries are located on Russian soil.

This strategic calculus makes no sense. Does Sullivan really believe that Putin will launch World War III if the United States supplies rockets with a range of about 180 miles but will hold off as long as we’re supplying only rockets with a range of about 50 miles? Or that the provision of HIMARS, NASAMS air-defense systems, 155mm howitzers, Phoenix Ghost drones, Javelins and Stingers isn’t too provocative — but fighter aircraft and tanks would be?

President Biden is right not to send U.S. forces into direct combat with the Russians, but everything else should be fair game, from ATACMS to F-16s to Abrams tanks. The Soviets didn’t hesitate to supply North Korea and North Vietnam with fighter aircraft to shoot down U.S. warplanes. (Soviet pilots even flew for North Korea.) Why shouldn’t we return the favor?

At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, some feared that Putin was acting so irrationally that he might resort to nuclear weapons. But if the past five months have taught us anything, it is that, while the Butcher of Bucha is evil, he is not suicidal or irrational.

Putin pulled back from Kyiv when it was revealed to be a losing cause and made sensible, if brutal, use of Russian artillery in Luhansk. Putin has basically ignored rumored Ukrainian strikes on military targets inside Russia. He hasn’t attacked Poland, which has become the main staging ground for weapons to Ukraine. He hasn’t lashed out since Finland and Sweden set about joining NATO, thereby putting more NATO troops on Russia’s border.

This is of a piece with Putin’s history. He is a classic bully who picks on the weak (Georgia, Ukraine, the Syrian rebels) while shying away from direct confrontations with the strong (the United States, NATO). Putin is rational enough to realize that if his military is having trouble handling Ukraine, it would have no chance in a war with the Atlantic alliance.

The United States matches Russia in nuclear forces and far exceeds it in conventional capabilities. Biden is in a far stronger position than Putin, but he is acting as if he were weaker. Stop letting Putin deter us from doing everything we can to aid Ukraine. Putin should be more afraid of us than we are of him.

The war has already proved costly to Russia: It has lost about 1,000 tanks, and roughly 60,000 soldiers have been killed or wounded. There won’t be much left of the Russian military if the Ukrainians are armed with lots more HIMARs and ATACMS, along with tanks and fighter aircraft. The fourth phase of the war could prove decisive — but only if the United States finally makes a commitment to help Ukraine win.

The Washington Post · by Max Boot · July 27, 2022



5. Readout of AUKUS Joint Steering Group Meetings



AUKUS seems very technology focused. (information sharing to support submarines and advanced technology) I wonder about the opportunities in other areas for cooperation such as in the human domain, gray zone, and security areas that require more than the application of technology.


Excerpts:


The Joint Steering Group for Advanced Capabilities met on July 28-29, reviewing progress across critical defense capabilities. The participants decided to bolster combined military capabilities, including by accelerating near-term capabilities in hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, as well as cyber. They also recommitted to deepening cooperation on information-sharing and other previously agreed working groups. As work progresses on these and other critical defense capabilities, we will seek opportunities to engage allies and close partners.

Readout of AUKUS Joint Steering Group Meetings | The White House

whitehouse.gov · by The White House · July 31, 2022

Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America recently held meetings of the AUKUS Joint Steering Groups, which were established as part of the governance structure of the AUKUS partnership in September 2021. The delegations discussed the intensive work under way and the progress that has been made since the announcement of AUKUS. Both meetings were held at the Pentagon, with additional sessions at the White House where the delegations met with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

The Joint Steering Group for Australia’s Nuclear-Powered Submarine Program met on July 25-28, continuing its progress on defining the optimal pathway to provide Australia with conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines at the earliest possible date while ensuring the highest standards of nuclear stewardship, including the responsible planning, operation, application and management of nuclear material, technology and facilities.

The participants took stock of ongoing progress to deliver on our leaders’ commitment to set the highest possible non-proliferation standards, including through continued close consultation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. They welcomed the publication of the working paper on ‘Cooperation under the AUKUS partnership’ for the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The paper details our proposal to provide complete power units to Australia, Australia’s commitment that it will not conduct enrichment, reprocessing or fuel fabrication in connection with its nuclear-powered submarine program, and our engagement with the IAEA to find a suitable verification approach. They noted the introductory remarks of the IAEA Director General to the June Board of Governors in which he expressed “satisfaction with the engagement and transparency shown by the three countries thus far” and noted that he plans to present a report on AUKUS to the September Board.

The Joint Steering Group for Advanced Capabilities met on July 28-29, reviewing progress across critical defense capabilities. The participants decided to bolster combined military capabilities, including by accelerating near-term capabilities in hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, as well as cyber. They also recommitted to deepening cooperation on information-sharing and other previously agreed working groups. As work progresses on these and other critical defense capabilities, we will seek opportunities to engage allies and close partners.

###

whitehouse.gov · by The White House · July 31, 2022


6. Army may restructure brigade combat teams amid recruiting woes


Do we want more brigades that are less capable or do we want fewer brigades that are more capable?


Or how can we fix the recruiting challenge?


Do we want to make major organizational changes based on the current recruiting woes that could have far reaching (and possibly negative) effects in the future that might be difficult to reverse ? Or should we focus on fully manning as many organizations as possible and then maintain cadre organizations that cannot be fully manned currently?




Army may restructure brigade combat teams amid recruiting woes

armytimes.com · by Davis Winkie · July 29, 2022

As the Army rolls toward a major end strength shortfall driven by a recruiting crisis, the service has been quietly studying where it can afford to cut personnel to ensure its combat formations stay manned even as numbers plunge, its top general told reporters Thursday.

Gen. James McConville, the Army’s chief of staff, likened the personnel reviews to the “night-court” process the service developed in which senior officials combed through the budget and killed more than $35 billion in low-priority programs between 2017 and 2021 to find money for its big-ticket modernization projects.

They’ll need to find a lot of places to cut. The Army’s number two officer revealed to lawmakers last week that despite record retention, the service expects to have 466,000 troops at the end of September due to woeful recruiting, and the number could fall all the way to 445,000 by October 2023.

The service currently maintains 31 Brigade Combat Teams, but that number was authorized with a target end strength of 485,000. McConville insisted that the Army can avoid shuttering BCTs and find savings elsewhere.

“We’ve done what’s called a ‘deep dive,’ or we used to call it night court...with the end strength that we have,” explained McConville. “We are taking a look at every single position in United States, we’ve done that analysis, and we’ve found out where there’s positions that we don’t necessarily require.”

The general said “we can maintain the [BCTs],” but that doing so might also require restructuring them in order to eliminate redundant capabilities from other types of units that the service is expanding, like “air and missile defense [units]...specifically concerned with countering lethal drones.”

The service’s brigade combat teams have grown in size over the past decade, beginning with the addition of a third maneuver battalion to each in 2013.

But as the budget night courts eventually discovered, there’s only so much fat the service can trim before getting to the bone, according to force structure expert and retired Marine Col. Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

He thinks the Army can save a few thousand soldiers with targeted cuts to other units and headquarters, but he doubts any BCT restructuring that doesn’t eliminate the third maneuver battalion, which he considers unlikely, “will amount to much.”

“More likely,” Cancian told Army Times in an email, “the Army will understaff all of its units while it waits for recruiting to turn around.”

But that move could result in uneven manning across the Army, with personnel shuffling between BCTs to ensure deploying units have enough soldiers to fight.

Another option could be to reduce the size of some of the service’s Security Force Assistance Brigades to replenish BCTs with their experienced combat arms troops, said Cancian.

The retired colonel explained that the Army’s force structure problem gets more challenging because the service wants to keep adding new units with new capabilities, like multi-domain task forces.

Ultimately, Cancian argued, “the Army needs to make some tough decisions about what positions need to be military and which could be turned over to government civilians or to contractors.

“This recruiting environment could be difficult for a long time.”

About Davis Winkie

Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.



7. Ukraine seeks to retake the south, tying down Russian forces


I think if the Ukrinaians can sustain offensive operations (and achieve success) it will send a powerful signal not only to Russia but also to the international community who must support Ukraine.




Ukraine seeks to retake the south, tying down Russian forces

AP · by The Associated Press · August 1, 2022

Even as Moscow’s war machine crawls across Ukraine’s east, trying to achieve the Kremlin’s goal of securing full control over the country’s industrial heartland, Ukrainian forces are scaling up attacks to reclaim territory in the Russian-occupied south.

The Ukrainians have used American-supplied rocket launchers to strike bridges and military infrastructure in the south, forcing Russia to divert its forces from the Donbas in the east to counter the new threat.

With the war in Ukraine now in its sixth month, the coming weeks may prove decisive.

While the bulk of Russian and Ukrainian military assets are conсentrated in the Donbas, the industrial region of mines and factories, both sides hope to make gains elsewhere.

Ukraine has vowed to drive the Russians from the territory they have seized since the start of the invasion, including the southern region of Kherson and part of the Zaporizhzhia region, while Moscow has pledged to hold on to the occupied areas and take more ground around the country.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Donbas consists of Luhansk province, now fully controlled by Russia, and Donetsk province, about half of which is in Moscow’s hands.

Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov noted that by stepping up the attacks in the south, Kyiv has forced Russia to spread its forces.

Russia-Ukraine war

1st ship carrying Ukrainian grain leaves the port of Odesa

US envoy: Russia intends to dissolve Ukraine from world map

Drone explosion hits Russia's Black Sea Fleet headquarters

Ukraine war hangs over UN meeting on nukes treaty's legacy

“The Russian military command has been put before a dilemma: to try to press the offensive in the Donetsk region or build up defenses in the south,” Zhdanov said. “It’s going to be difficult for them to perform both tasks simultaneously for a long time.”

He noted that rather than trying to mount a massive, all-out counteroffensive, the Ukrainians have sought to undermine the Russian military in the south with a series of strikes on its munitions and fuel depots and other key sites.

“It doesn’t have to be a head-on attack,” Zhdanov noted.

Moscow-backed local officials in Ukraine’s east and south have talked about holding votes on joining Russia as early as September. Those plans hinge on Russia’s ability to win full control of those areas by then.

“The Kremlin’s chief goal is to force Kyiv to sit down for talks, secure the existing line of contact and hold referenda in the autumn,” said Mykola Sunhurovsky, of the Razumkov Center, a Kyiv-based think tank.

He noted that Western weapons have boosted Ukraine’s capabilities, allowing it to reach targets far behind the front lines with a high degree of precision.

Ukraine has received about a dozen American-built HIMARS multiple rocket launchers and has used them to strike Russian ammunition depots, which are essential for maintaining Moscow’s edge in firepower. HIMARS systems have a range of 80 kilometers (50 miles), enabling the Ukrainians to hit the Russians from beyond the reach of most of the enemy’s artillery.

“It’s a serious advantage,” Sunhurovsky said. “The Ukrainians have started dealing precision strikes on Russian depots, command posts, railway stations and bridges, destroying logistical chains and undermining the Russian military capability.”

The Ukrainian strikes on munitions storage sites have caught the Russian army off guard, forcing it to move materiel to scattered locations farther from combat areas, lengthening supply lines, reducing the Russian edge in firepower and helping to slow Russia’s offensive in the east.

ADVERTISEMENT

“They’ve got to get everything out to smaller, more dispersed stockpiles,” said Justin Crump, a former British tank commander who heads Sibylline, a strategic advisory firm. “These are all real irritants that slow Russia down. They’ve suffered the hit to the tempo of artillery fire, which was really key before.”

Crump said the Russian military had underestimated the threat posed by HIMARS and had left their ammunition depots exposed in known locations. “They thought their air defense would shoot down the missiles. And it didn’t really,” he said.

In a series of attacks that helped boost the country’s morale, the Ukrainians repeatedly used HIMARS to strike a key bridge across the Dnieper River in the Kherson region, cutting traffic across it and raising potential supply problems for Russian forces in the area.

Zhdanov, the Ukrainian military analyst, described the bridge as the key link for supplying Russian forces on the right bank of the Dnieper.

Russia still can use a second crossing on the Dnieper to ferry supplies and reinforcements to its troops in Kherson, which lies just north of the Crimean Peninsula, seized by Russia in 2014. But Ukraine’s strikes have shown Russia’s vulnerability and weakened its hold on the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The Russians have the river at their back. That’s not a great place to be defending,” Crump said. ”They can’t get supplies easily. The morale is probably quite low at this point on that side of the river.”

He said Ukraine eventually may launch a massive counterattack involving large numbers of troops and weapons.

“That’s the opportunity for Ukraine, I think, to land a sort of more smashing blow on the Russians and push them back,” Crump said. “I think there’s more chance of that being tried here than we’ve seen at any other point.”

Crump noted that the mere prospect of a major Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south helped Kyiv by forcing the Russians to divert some of their forces from the main battleground in the east.

“That’s slowing down the Donbas offensive,” Crump said. “So even the threat of an offensive is actually succeeding for Ukraine at the moment.”

___

Danica Kirka in London and Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia, contributed to this report.

AP · by The Associated Press · August 1, 2022


8. Russia pulls some Wagner forces from Africa for Ukraine: Townsend


A significant indicator and development.


​And keep an eye out for north Korean forces masquerading as construction workers. Rumors among some Korean analysts is that Putin asked Kim Jong Un for combat forces for Ukraine.


Excerpts:


Townsend also said that he is “alert” to the possibility that Russia will up its operations in Africa to distract from its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, but that he’s not “losing sleep” over it.
“Russia is very stretched… as they’re doing what they’re doing in Ukraine so I don’t think they have a lot of bandwidth to launch new adventures in Africa,” Townsend said.
In the last few years, Wagner’s troops have been present in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Mozambique, Madagascar, Central African Republic, and Mali, according to a report from the Brookings Institution earlier this year. In May, the head of US Special Operations Command said he considered the Wagner Group to be a “terrorist organization.”
Though Wagner has been a cause for concern for the US in Africa, the British MoD didn’t seem particularly perturbed by their purported new role in Ukraine.
“Wagner forces are highly unlikely to be sufficient to make a significant difference in the trajectory of the war,” the MoD tweeted.



Russia pulls some Wagner forces from Africa for Ukraine: Townsend - Breaking Defense

"Russia is very stretched ... as they're doing what they're doing in Ukraine so I don't think they have a lot of bandwidth to launch new adventures in Africa," said AFRICOM commander Stephen Townsend.

breakingdefense.com · by Andrew Eversden · July 29, 2022


U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), delivers comments during a change of command ceremony at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, May 14, 2022. (Tech. Sgt. Lynette M. Rolen/US Air Force)

WASHINGTON: Some troops from the Russian mercenary force known as the Wagner Group have been called to fight in Ukraine where the private fighters are taking on new frontline roles, according to American and British military officials.

“We’ve seen Wagner draw down a little bit on the African continent in the call to send fighters to Ukraine,” Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of US African Command, told the Defense Writers Group Thursday.

Townsend said most of the Wagner Group’s drawdown as come from Libya, where the US says Kremlin-backed Wagner fighters have been a destabilizing force for years. Notably, the troops haven’t come from new Wagner operations in Mali, Townsend added, where the group began operating earlier this year.

Townsend’s comments came hours before the British military said the Wagner fighters in Ukraine appeared to have taken on new frontline roles in the Russian offensive in the east, a change that most likely came because the official Russian military “has a major shortage of combat infantry.”

Though Wagner has long been reported to be active in Ukraine, the UK Ministry of Defence said on Twitter that the private fighters now operate “in a similar manner to normal army units” and “in coordination” with the Russian military. The new integration, it continued, “further undermines” the Kremlin’s continuous assertion that has nothing to do with the private military group. Russia also previously denied Wagner was active in Ukraine at all. During the roundtable, Townsend said that the group is closely linked to Russia.

Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 29 July 2022
Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/CD3LU2jI92
— Ministry of Defence (@DefenceHQ) July 29, 2022

“No one should be dissuaded by the Kremlin’s propaganda,” Townsend said. “The Kremlin directs the broad actions of Wagner, not day to day certainly, but [Wagner Group leader Yevgeny] Prigozhin is doing what [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants him to do with Wagner.”

Ukraine May Be Putting Strain On Wagner Ambitions In Africa

In Mali, Wagner Group forces are filling a void left by the French military after several years of counter-terror missions in the West African nation ended. Earlier in the year, Townsend went to Mali to voice his concern to the president there about inviting in Wagner, known to the US for further destabilizing countries instead of helping. However, in light of Ukraine, Townsend said he hasn’t seen Wagner operations in Mali increase as he expected beyond the approximately 1,000 fighters there.

“What we haven’t seen is their operations in Mali grow,” Townsend said. “The number of stabilized there and we expected it to grow a bit and it didn’t, and I suspect that’s also a function of Ukraine.”

Townsend also said that he is “alert” to the possibility that Russia will up its operations in Africa to distract from its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, but that he’s not “losing sleep” over it.

“Russia is very stretched… as they’re doing what they’re doing in Ukraine so I don’t think they have a lot of bandwidth to launch new adventures in Africa,” Townsend said.

In the last few years, Wagner’s troops have been present in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Mozambique, Madagascar, Central African Republic, and Mali, according to a report from the Brookings Institution earlier this year. In May, the head of US Special Operations Command said he considered the Wagner Group to be a “terrorist organization.”

Though Wagner has been a cause for concern for the US in Africa, the British MoD didn’t seem particularly perturbed by their purported new role in Ukraine.

“Wagner forces are highly unlikely to be sufficient to make a significant difference in the trajectory of the war,” the MoD tweeted.



9. Ukraine is Hitting Russian SAMs With HIMARS; US Considers Future Aviation Contribution


Obviously we need to make a decision sooner rather than later due to the lead time to train not only pilots but also maintenance and other support personnel. What are the right platforms for Ukraine?


Excerpts:


The defense official said in terms of aircraft, the Defense Department is weighing a future contribution.
“Our attention in terms of potential investments in aviation is really much more focused on, kind of, the mid- and long-term than it is on the current fight,” the official said. Lawmakers and Ukrainian Air Force officials have expressed their desire to train Ukrainian pilots on the F-16.
Pressed on why the Defense Department is not inclined to begin training Ukrainian pilots now, the official said that training only made sense after a decision on the future platform is made.
“Well, I think we’re examining this. We’re looking into this question,” the official said. “But really, it is important to identify what the platforms are and will be and make sure that you’re providing the right kind of training.”


Ukraine is Hitting Russian SAMs With HIMARS; US Considers Future Aviation Contribution - Air Force Magazine

airforcemag.com · by Abraham Mahshie · July 29, 2022

July 29, 2022 | By

Share Article

While the air picture has remained static in the Russia-Ukraine war, the introduction of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) has allowed Ukraine to strike surface-to-air missile targets behind enemy lines. Now the U.S. is considering future aviation contributions in Ukraine, defense officials confirmed to Air Force Magazine.

Defense officials briefed Pentagon journalists July 29, painting a picture of a demoralized Russian force and a newly empowered Ukraine, able to hold the line thanks to sophisticated new air defenses. A senior defense official confirmed that the United States has facilitated the transfer of “significant spare parts” to keep Ukraine’s Soviet-era MiGs and Sukhois flying, but the Defense Department will not train Ukrainian pilots on new systems until a platform is decided.

“We know that they’ve been able to strike surface-to-air missile locations and to destroy some SAMs,” a senior military official said in response to a question from Air Force Magazine.

“The fact that the Russians continue to not have air superiority certainly says a great deal about Ukrainians’ kind of will,” he added. “Both in their ability to prevent the enemy from shooting at their aircraft, but also to shoot down Russian aircraft.”

The senior defense official said air defense aid has focused on armed unmanned aerial systems, such as the Air Force’s Phoenix Ghost. While Ukraine still retains Phoenix Ghost systems from an earlier defense package, DOD is starting a contracting process to acquire up to 580 additional Phoenix Ghost UASs.

The defense official said in terms of aircraft, the Defense Department is weighing a future contribution.

“Our attention in terms of potential investments in aviation is really much more focused on, kind of, the mid- and long-term than it is on the current fight,” the official said. Lawmakers and Ukrainian Air Force officials have expressed their desire to train Ukrainian pilots on the F-16.

Pressed on why the Defense Department is not inclined to begin training Ukrainian pilots now, the official said that training only made sense after a decision on the future platform is made.

“Well, I think we’re examining this. We’re looking into this question,” the official said. “But really, it is important to identify what the platforms are and will be and make sure that you’re providing the right kind of training.”

American and partner defense assistance, coordinated through monthly meetings of the multi-nation Ukraine Defense Contact Group led by Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, began in June to provide precise targeting systems that can reach 40 miles behind enemy lines.

The results have stymied the Russian advance.

“They’ve gotten to a point now and created a level of defense that really has the Russians at a standstill. They’ve stopped,” the military official said.

Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov has said his country would need “at least 100” more HIMARS to reverse Russian gains in the eastern Donbas region, where Russia now controls the entire Lunhansk oblast and much of Donetsk as well as a land bridge from Russia to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The United States has delivered 12 HIMARS and has committed four additional systems, while other countries have provided similar systems.

After hitting more than 50 Russian command-and-control sites, ammunition depots, and other targets with the HIMARS, Ukraine began a counter-offensive to take back the key southern city of Kherson, north of Crimea.

Heavy fighting continues, but the U.S. defense officials said little territory is changing hands.

Another powerful air defense system promised by the Biden administration July 1, the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS), which is the same system used to protect Washington, D.C., is still in the contracting process.

Ukrainian officials believe once the system is in place, it can better protect large cities, civilian populations, and key military targets. In recent days, Moscow lobbed missiles at the outskirts of Kyiv and the vital port city of Odesa, despite a Russian agreement not to target port facilities and to allow grain shipments to ease a world food shortage.

Ukraine has argued that it needs air power in the form of modern combat aircraft if it is to truly turn the course of the conflict and regain lost territory. Ukraine and members of the U.S. Congress argue that it is wise to begin training combat pilots now.

The Defense Department, however, is still hesitant to give Ukraine the air power it needs to face modern Russian combat jets and air defense systems.

“Obviously, we want the Ukrainians to have the capabilities they need,” the senior defense official said in response to a question from Air Force Magazine. “Our support to Ukraine in the air domain has been focused on armed UAVs.”

Congress

Russia-Ukraine

airforcemag.com · by Abraham Mahshie · July 29, 2022




10. China conducts military exercise opposite Taiwan


Pre-planned? Or can China generate such exercises on short notice? How agile is the PLA? Or are these activities little more than routine live firing?


China conducts military exercise opposite Taiwan

militarytimes.com · by The Associated Press · July 31, 2022

BEIJING — China said it was conducting military exercises Saturday off its coast opposite Taiwan after warning Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the U.S. House of Representatives to scrap possible plans to visit the island democracy, which Beijing claims as part of its territory.

The ruling Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, was conducting “live-fire exercises” near the Pingtan islands off Fujian province from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., the official Xinhua News Agency said. The Maritime Safety Administration warned ships to avoid the area.

Such exercises usually involve artillery. The one-sentence announcement gave no indication whether Saturday’s exercise also might include missiles, fighter planes or other weapons.

Pelosi, who would be the highest-ranking American elected official to visit Taiwan since 1997, confirmed Sunday she will visit four Asian countries this week but made no mention of a possible stop in Taiwan. President Xi Jinping warned his U.S. counterpart, Joe Biden, in a phone call Thursday against “external interference” in Beijing’s dealings with the island.

China says Taiwan has no right to conduct foreign relations. It sees visits by American officials as encouragement for the island to make its decades-old de facto independence official.

The Ministry of Defense warned Washington this week not to allow Pelosi, who is Biden’s equal in rank as leader of one of three branches of government, to visit Taiwan. A spokesman said the PLA would take unspecified “strong measures” to stop pro-independence activity.

The PLA has flown growing numbers of fighter planes and bombers near Taiwan and has in the past fired missiles into shipping lanes to the island.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war that ended with a communist victory on the mainland.

The two governments say they are one country but disagree over which is entitled to national leadership. They have no official relations but are linked by billions of dollars in trade and investment.


11. West eases efforts to restrict Russian oil trading as inflation and energy risks mount

Always those second and third order effects.



West eases efforts to restrict Russian oil trading as inflation and energy risks mount

Financial Times · by Tom Wilson · July 31, 2022

European governments have eased back on efforts to curb trade in Russian oil, delaying a plan to shut Moscow out of the vital Lloyd’s of London maritime insurance market and allowing some international shipments amid fears of rising crude prices and tighter global energy supplies.

The EU announced a worldwide ban on the provision of maritime insurance to vessels carrying Russian oil two months ago, expecting co-ordinated action with the British government. However, the UK is yet to introduce similar restrictions. UK participation is pivotal to the effectiveness of any such ban because London is at the centre of the marine insurance industry.

Meanwhile, Brussels in late July amended some curbs on dealing with state-owned Russian companies, citing concerns over global energy security.

A joint UK-EU prohibition on maritime insurance would constitute the most comprehensive restriction to date on Russian oil, ending access to much of the global tanker fleet for Moscow’s exports.

But US officials have expressed concern that an immediate global ban on maritime insurance would push up prices by pulling millions of barrels of Russian crude and petroleum products off the market.

European and British officials told the Financial Times in May that the UK had agreed with the EU to co-ordinate a ban on insuring Russian oil cargoes.

However, Britain’s latest sanctions against Russia, approved by parliament in July, only prohibit providing insurance to vessels carrying Russian oil to the UK, and only after December 31. The legislation was introduced after the government promised to outlaw the import of Russian oil from the end of the year but does not ban the provision of services to shipments from Russia to other countries, UK officials said.

Recommended

“There is no current UK ban affecting global shipments of Russian oil,” said Patrick Davison, underwriting director of the Lloyd’s Market Association, an industry group for insurers at Lloyd’s. “Given the global nature of the [re] insurance industry, the existence of the EU restrictions may well impact appetite for Russian oil shipments in London.”

He said Lloyd’s was in close contact with [the UK government] “and will work with them on any future sanctions they seek to introduce.”

The UK Treasury said it was still exploring the best course of action. “We stand ready to impose further sanctions on Russia and are working in conjunction with our allies at pace to ensure these can be implemented with maximum effect on the Russian economy,” it said.

The EU’s insurance ban was introduced on June 4 and remains in place. It prevents companies in the bloc from writing new insurance for any vessel carrying Russian oil anywhere. Existing contracts remain valid until December 5, when all such business will be banned.

However, the EU has amended part of its own sanctions to permit European companies to deal with some Russian state-owned entities, such as Rosneft, for the purpose of transporting oil to countries outside the bloc.

European companies will no longer be blocked from paying the likes of Rosneft, “if those transactions are strictly necessary”, for the purchase or transport of crude or petroleum products to third countries, a European Commission spokesperson told the FT.

The EU said in a statement that the measures were taken to “avoid any potential negative consequences for food and energy security around the world”.

The White House has been working since June to push G7 countries to support a price-cap mechanism that would allow some Russian oil to reach third countries as long as they agreed to pay a below-market price for the cargo.

Officials in Washington said the US and UK still plan to ban maritime services, including insurance, by the time the EU’s ban takes full effect in December. But they want an oil price cap in place first. US President Joe Biden is keen to reduce gasoline prices before midterm elections in November.

Sanctions lawyers said the EU appeared to be soft-pedalling its efforts to stem the global flow of Russian oil, and that there was new uncertainty among traders over the UK’s commitment to a global insurance ban.

Sarah Hunt, a partner at HFW, a law firm, said trading houses were inquiring whether it was now legal to buy Rosneft oil to ship to countries outside the EU.

“The new EU sanctions effectively permit the lifting of Russian crude by European companies. We were surprised by this,” she said.

Leigh Hansson, partner at Reed Smith, another law firm, said the EU’s sanctions amendment was a “big retreat”, adding that lawyers had also been expecting “more robust” measures by now from the UK.

Additional reporting by Alice Hancock and David Sheppard

Financial Times · by Tom Wilson · July 31, 2022



12. Inside an international network of teenage neo-Nazi extremists


It is so hard for me to imagine how people could get caught up in this even though I have read the reasons and some of the research. It is just hard for me to wrap my mind around why anyone would be attracted to this.


But this is real danger to our nation 9and others) and way of life and we must take it seriously.




Inside an international network of teenage neo-Nazi extremists

insider.com · by Nick Robins Early, Alexander Nabert, Christina Brause

Last year, a 20-year-old named Christian Michael Mackey arrived at the Phillips 66 gas station in Grand Prairie, Texas, hoping to sell his AM-15 rifle to make some quick cash. He'd said he wanted to buy a more powerful gun, something that could stop what he called a "hoard of you know what."

Mackey told an online group chat he'd started looking at Nazi websites at around 15-years-old, when he began spending hours on white nationalist message boards and talking to other extremists on Instagram and encrypted messaging apps like Telegram. Five years later, he was active in a network of violent neo-Nazi groups that organized and communicated through online group chats. He described himself as a "radical Jew slayer."

When Mackey met his buyer in the gas-station parking lot in January 2021, he didn't know he had walked into a sting. The woman purchasing his rifle was a paid FBI source with numerous felonies, and Mackey was arrested as soon as the gun changed hands. At his detention hearing a month later, an FBI agent said authorities had found a pipe bomb in Mackey's parents' house, where he lived.

Mackey's stepfather told local news soon after the arrest that his stepson had been radicalized online, and footage showed him ripping up a copy of "Mein Kampf" in Mackey's bedroom. FBI records and court documents indicated that Mackey had posted more than 2,400 messages in one neo-Nazi Instagram group chat alone, and had told another user "I'm just trying to live long enough to die attacking."

Stories like this have increasingly played out across the US and around the world in recent years — young people, overwhelmingly white and male, who have become involved in a global network of neo-Nazi extremist groups that plot mass violence online.

Canadian authorities earlier this year arrested a 19-year-old on terrorism charges after they say he tried to join a neo-Nazi group similar to the ones Mackey was involved in. In April, a 15-year-old in Denmark was charged with recruiting for a neo-Nazi organization banned in the country. A 16-year-old became the UK's youngest terrorism offender after joining that same group, where he researched terror manuals and discussed how to make explosives. Others made it further along in their plots, like a 21-year-old who planted a bomb outside the Western Union office in Lithuania's capital, Vilnius.

As far-right extremism has grown over the past decade, so too has the notoriety of various groups and their leaders. Far-right gangs such as the Proud Boys as well as suit-and-tie-wearing white nationalists like Richard Spencer regularly make headlines. But there are also lesser-known groups with more directly violent aims that follow an ideology called accelerationism — the belief that carrying out bombings, mass shootings, and other attacks is necessary to hasten the collapse of society and allow a white ethnostate to rise in its place.

Countries including the United Kingdom and Canada have designated accelerationist groups such as Atomwaffen Division, Feuerkrieg Division and The Base as terrorist organizations. Atomwaffen, which is now largely defunct, was linked to at least five murders in the US alone. The Base's leader was sentenced in May to four years in prison after plotting to kill minorities and instigate a race war.

Experts trace the origins of groups like these to a neo-Nazi website called Iron March that went offline in 2017, and which notoriously helped extremists from many countries forge international connections and spread accelerationist propaganda.

The ideology has been linked to the 2019 Christchurch massacre in New Zealand, where a white nationalist killed 51 people at two mosques while livestreaming the attack online, and a shooting earlier this year at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY where 10 people were killed.

As part of a joint investigation that Insider undertook with Welt Am Sonntag and Politico, reporters gained access to two dozen internal chat groups linked to a broader network of neo-Nazi accelerationists. Comprising 98,000 messages from about 900 users, the data includes photos, videos, text, and voice messages.

Various participants in the groups have been charged with a range of crimes related to plots to bomb or burn down synagogues and gay bars, attack anti-fascist activists, and illegally traffic firearms. In chat logs that reporters reviewed, members showed off homemade explosives, encouraged one another to kill minorities, and discussed how to get access to weapons.

The scores of messages and propaganda in these chats provide a glimpse into one of the most dangerous corners of modern far-right extremism. It is increasingly international, intent on radicalizing young people, and committed to using violence to further its fascist ideology.

Rather than a centralized group, it is a loosely connected network that rises and falls as its members are killed or arrested — but never seems to entirely go away. And unlike extremist groups that want to integrate their beliefs into political parties or run for local office, the aim of accelerationist groups like these is primarily to create violent chaos.

Targeting youth

When Peter Smith, an investigator for the nonprofit Canadian Anti-Hate Network, began to infiltrate Feuerkrieg Division in about late 2019, he first faced questions from "Commander," the group's self-appointed leader. How did Smith feel about gay people? What did he think of "race mixing"?

When Smith's answers weren't enough to satisfy Commander's seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of neo-Nazi ideology, he told Insider, he was instructed to study a list of white nationalist texts and then try again.

What Smith didn't know at the time was that Commander was a 13-year-old Estonian boy, who was coordinating his international neo-Nazi campaign from his parents' house on an island in the Baltic Sea.

Commander founded Feuerkrieg Division in 2018 and immediately attempted to recruit across North America and Europe. As authorities cracked down on groups such as Atomwaffen Division, membership in Feuerkrieg grew. Its members put up flyers and posed with Nazi flags, shared extremist manifestos, and exchanged tips on how to acquire firearms and make explosives.

The core of their ideology is a series of neo-Nazi writings that members endlessly debate and fawn over, most notably "Siege" the 1992 book by the American neo-Nazi James Mason. Mason, who is now 69-years-old and lives in government housing in Denver, is an ardent antisemite who idolizes Charles Manson and advocates for terrorist attacks against what he calls "the system."

Once a fringe neo-Nazi figure, Mason has become exceedingly popular among a younger generation of white nationalists. Among the materials that were circulated in the materials that Insider reviewed was a livestreamed Q&A that Mason gave this year on Hitler's birthday.

"I take quotations from the Bible and I take quotations from Adolf Hitler, and I line them up and demonstrate positively that the same mind wrote both books," Mason told his audience during the over 1 ½-hour livestream where he rambled through his racist and antisemitic views.

The chat logs that reporters reviewed are rife with various neo-Nazi symbols and imagery — skull masks, swastikas, jagged fonts — filtered through the style of internet shitposts and gaming forums. Users assumed pseudonyms like "Joe Goebbels" and "American Himmler." Some groups had only a handful of members. The group Totenwaffen had 100 users in one of its chats.

One of Feuerkrieg Division's recruitment posters features an illustration of a grimacing, blood-splattered man holding a rifle with a swastika on it. In big white letters across a red and black background, the text reads "turn your sadness into rage." It looks like something a teenager would make — because very likely it is something a teenager made.

Members of these accelerationist groups message in the kind of ironic edgelord vernacular that has become the native tongue of internet backwaters, but they are earnest about their promotion of violence. White nationalist mass killers such as Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people, mostly children, during a 2011 attack in Norway, are described in chats as "saints" and memorialized on the days of their killings.

"The saint gets a day as long as they manage to take some people out," Smith told Insider.

During Smith's time infiltrating the Feueurkrieg chats he found what appeared to be numerous other members who were at least as young as its leader, including someone who appeared to be a preteen Canadian girl whom Commander talked about pursuing romantically.

"There were photos being shared of kids who were around Commander's age — 10, 11, 12 — in skull masks," Smith said.

Accelerationist groups operate on the principle that "you can use three people to destabilize the world," said Alex Newhouse, the deputy director at the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. "There would be no way that this network ever attempted to hold territory, for instance, but that's not really what they're interested in."

Rather than functioning as organized groups, they act as banners under which people can make connections, share resources, and radicalize one another.

"We need to think about them like marketing brands, rather than operational entities," Newhouse said.

Though Feuerkrieg Division is known within accelerationist groups for having especially young members, youth radicalization is one of the primary goals of the movement. Neo-Nazis have tried to target online spaces where they can recruit isolated young people, and they have infiltrated gaming platforms such as Minecraft and Roblox that are immensely popular with kids.

"They are intentionally trying to find 14- to 18-year-olds and turn them into terrorists," Newhouse said.

The culture of violence and hate that Commander fostered in online chat groups quickly morphed into offline action. British authorities in 2019 arrested a 16-year-old member of Feuerkrieg who had discussed plans for arson attacks against synagogues. A year later, the FBI arrested a former Army reservist and Feuerkrieg follower named Jarrett William Smith after he told an undercover agent he wanted to kill anti-fascist activists and use a vehicle bomb to blow up CNN's headquarters.

In Las Vegas, the FBI arrested another person linked to Feuerkrieg in August 2019, a 23-year-old named Conor Climo who discussed carrying out attacks on a synagogue or gay bar with an undercover agent.

Climo had been a walking red flag for years. Two years before his arrest, a local news crew filmed a curiosity piece about him patrolling his suburban neighborhood with body armor and an AR-15 while telling visibly nervous onlookers he meant no harm. He posted a Hitler quote as a response on a Quora message board about multiculturalism, and a 2015 Change.org petition under his name calls to repeal restrictions on machine-gun sales. Former high-school classmates told Politico they remembered him claiming to have built bombs, and when the FBI searched his home they found chemicals, wiring, and schematics that could be used to make explosives.

Different countries, same hate

Though extremism researchers generally believe there is no one path to radicalization, many of the young men arrested in relation to Feuerkrieg and other accelerationist groups resembled Climo in some ways. They appear to be socially isolated and filled with grievances. And they embrace online communities that offer them a shared worldview and unite them against women, Jews, Black people, Muslims, LGBTQ communities, and anyone else they perceive as an "other."

Lukas, whose real name Insider has withheld for legal reasons and his family's privacy, was 16-years-old when he became the founder and leader of a neo-Nazi group he called Totenwaffen.

Born in Belarus before moving with his family to Potsdam, Germany, as a toddler, he created Totenwaffen in 2020. Inside group chats he discussed using 3-D printers to make weapons, and boasted that one day he might get angry enough to bomb one of then-Chancellor Angela Merkel's speeches. In the summer of 2021, Lukas ordered chemicals off Amazon to make a bomb, according to materials viewed by Welt, and filmed videos of himself carrying out test explosions in an abandoned barracks once used by Nazi troops in World War II.

In Totenwaffen, Lukas fashioned himself as a dictator in his online world and asked members to pledge an oath of fealty to the cause.

In late May, reporters from Welt visited the family's apartment complex seeking an interview. Lukas' parents answered the door and agreed to fetch their son. But when a lanky teen appeared, he said he didn't want to talk and slammed the door shut.

Several family members told Welt that earlier that day the family had gotten into a heated argument — Lukas' father had just thrown away his son's copy of "Mein Kampf."

A turning point for Lukas appeared to have come a year before he started Totenwaffen. Then 15, he visited the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, just north of Berlin, on a school trip, his brother told Welt. What was meant to be an educational tour to teach children about the horrors of the Holocaust seemed to provide a dark inspiration for Lukas, who set his computer background to a swastika soon afterward.

In the 1990s, the biggest supplier of neo-Nazi materials to Germany was a Nebraska man nicknamed the "Farm Belt führer" who plied European countries with millions of pieces of white nationalist propaganda. But the growth of social media and encrypted messaging platforms has allowed people like Lukas to connect online and spread propaganda with remarkable ease.

This new generation of extremists is also fully at home in online communities, and chat logs show how they discuss issues like cybersecurity as they constantly migrate between various messaging platforms.

The chats reviewed by Insider included users who appeared to be from the US to Estonia, Romania to Australia. One chat, tailored to Brazilian extremists, featured quotes from the American domestic terrorist Ted Kaczynski translated into Portuguese.

"It's so transnational at this point," Newhouse said. "We found accelerationists in Brazil and Argentina and Japan, China and South Africa. It's all over the place."

Whack-a-mole

In June, not long after Welt journalists knocked on the door of his family home, German authorities arrested Lukas. They had apparently been monitoring his activities and eventually executed a search warrant at his home. He is awaiting formal charges and did not respond to a letter from Welt sent to him in detention. Around Potsdam, graffiti has popped up calling for his release.

Several people linked to Feuerkrieg have been charged or convicted with crimes, and activity in the group has waned. Conor Climo was sentenced to two years in prison in 2020 on charges of possessing bomb-making materials. He is now under supervised release and living with his grandparents in Louisiana. Jarrett William Smith, the former Army reservist, was that same year sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for distributing information on making napalm and improvised explosive devices.

Christian Mackey, who was in a group called Iron Youth but whom anti-facist activists have also linked to Feuerkrieg, pleaded guilty last year to possession of an unregistered firearm. In doing so, he avoided the more serious charge of knowingly selling a weapon to a convicted felon and in December was sentenced to 18 months in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release.

Canadian authorities carried out raids against Atomwaffen in the province of Quebec last month, one of the country's three operations targeting the group this year.

Numerous countries have designated accelerationist groups as terrorist entities, which gives them broader powers to investigate and charge anyone suspected of affiliating with them. Law-enforcement agencies across North America and Europe have deployed undercover agents to infiltrate chat groups, as with Christian Michael Mackey in Grand Prairie, Texas.

But efforts to stamp out accelerationist networks can run afoul of various legal protections, especially in cases involving minors.

Estonian authorities arrested Commander in 2020 only to say they had taken action to curtail his extremist activities, rather than bringing charges. National laws prohibit the prosecution for anyone younger than 14.

In the US, prosecuting cases of domestic terrorism is complicated by the fact that American authorities don't designate domestic terrorist groups the same way they criminalizes foreign extremist organizations. The strategy of relying on undercover agents and paid FBI sources to infiltrate extremist groups has also come under fire. In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, federal prosecutors in the US widely used informants to build cases. While most of these cases were successful, civil liberties groups allege the tactic can lead people to commit crimes they wouldn't have been capable of carrying out otherwise.

While some countries have instituted large-scale government deradicalization programs, most governments have no such system. Countries that have attempted such efforts have struggled with the complicated nature of addressing mental illness and belief in extremist ideology at scale.

"The arrests are working, but I don't think it's enough — in particular in the US," Newhouse said.

What's left is a sort of game of whack-a-mole in which authorities try to shut down networks and prosecute individuals, only to have new groups spring up and leaders emerge.

Even as groups like Totenwaffen and Feuerkrieg diminish, those who follow extremist networks worry that unless there is a wider reckoning with this movement there will be more cases like Lukas, Climo, and Mackey.

"Some of these guys never stopped talking," Smith said. "Never stopped organizing or trying to promote these ideas."

insider.com · by Nick Robins Early, Alexander Nabert, Christina Brause


13. Let the Air Force let go of the E-3 ‘Sentry’


Yes, this is an example of perennial challenges.


Excerpts:


The ongoing conversation between the Air Force and Congress regarding the E-3 is a microcosm of a larger perennial challenge that spans multiple programs and impacts all services. Due to finite budgets and a backlog of modernization needs, the services struggle to maintain legacy systems while simultaneously acquiring next-generation systems, even as Washington confronts unprecedented threats.
Sometimes divestments create unacceptable capability gaps, and sometimes legacy systems are so antiquated the capability gap already exists even if the system is retained. The E-3 falls in the latter category.
The more important question is how the Air Force, Congress, industry, and US allies can work together more effectively to expedite the fielding of the E-7. Our forces need this modernized capability badly, and there is no time to waste.


Let the Air Force let go of the E-3 ‘Sentry’ - Breaking Defense

Congress is worried about creating a capability gap – but FDD’s Bradley Bowman and Maj. Brian Leitzke write that it already exists. Time and money, they say, would be better spent racing towards the E-3's replacement.

By  BRADLEY BOWMAN and MAJ. BRIAN LEITZKE

on July 29, 2022 at 12:29 PM

breakingdefense.com · by Bradley Bowman · July 29, 2022

An E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft is shown on the flightline at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 17. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

With all four key congressional committees having weighed in on the Pentagon’s defense budget, lawmakers are set to negotiate the fates of a myriad of military programs. In this op-ed, Bradley Bowman and Maj. Brian Leitzke argue that some E-3s should be boneyard-bound, even if replacing them takes time.

The Air Force wants to retire almost half of its E-3 “Sentry” airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft to free up finite resources needed to expedite fielding of much-needed next-generation capability and strengthen the readiness of the remaining E-3s. But the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 released last week makes clear Congress is concerned the Air Force’s plan could create “a significant gap in airborne command and control capability.”

Avoiding a capability gap is certainly a laudable goal, especially in the next few years when many worry Beijing may attack Taiwan. When it comes to the E-3, however, closer scrutiny demonstrates that delaying the aircraft’s partial divestment could simply prolong a capability gap that already exists and divert scarce resources — in time, money and manpower — urgently needed to field a more capable replacement, the E-7.

There are 31 E-3s in the Air Force’s inventory. The service wants to divest 15 from Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma next fiscal year while retaining two E-3s at Kadena Airbase in Japan, two at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, and 12 at Tinker.

Yet, with the Air Force saying its first E-7s won’t be fielded until fiscal year 2027, Congress has some hesitation.

Following even more restrictive language passed by the House of Representatives, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to restrict the Air Force from initially divesting more than five E-3s. Once the Air Force approves a detailed acquisition strategy, the current Senate bill would permit divestment of five more E-3s. When the Air Force signs a contract to purchase the E-7, the Senate version would permit the retirement of five more aircraft, making a total of 15.

Therein lies the rub in the push and pull between the Air Force and the congressional armed services committees.

At the heart of the disagreement are two contested questions. One is whether divestment of the E-3 should be linked to the acquisition of the E-7, and the other relates to how fast the Air Force can move to acquire and field the E-7.

At first glance, those opposing the divestment might seem to have the better argument on the first question. After all, to use a Tarzan metaphor, why let go of the E-3 vine before the E-7 vine is firmly in grasp, thereby creating a serious problem for Tarzan (and a capability gap for the joint force)?

But to continue the metaphor, the Air Force’s response is essentially that the E-3 vine is breaking (and in some ways already broken), regardless of the status of the E-7 vine. No good can come from clinging to it any longer.

In this debate, there’s actually good reason to believe the Air Force is correct.

The Air Force received its first E-3s in 1977, and the aircraft is getting more difficult to keep in the air each year. From 2019 to 2022, the E-3’s full or partial mission-capable rate declined from 75% to 59%, with only 10% of E-3s achieving fully mission-capable status this year.

Also, as the E-3’s Boeing 707 platform ages, it becomes more difficult to find suppliers for vital replacement parts. Commercial airlines retired their Boeing 707s long ago. The E-3’s non-mission-capable rates have more than doubled over the last three years due to supply challenges.

In fact, maintenance challenges have become so acute that all four of the E-3s assigned to the Pacific are frequently grounded, according to public comments by Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, Commander of US Pacific Air Forces.

When combatant commanders cannot even count on an aircraft to takeoff, it is difficult to argue the aircraft’s divestment creates a new capability gap, especially if divesting a portion of the fleet increases the readiness of the remaining aircraft. Indeed, a smaller E-3 fleet would reduce the demand for hard-to-find parts and permit an increasingly weak logistical base to focus on maintaining the readiness of a smaller number of aircraft.

Unfortunately, the E-3’s problems don’t stop with maintenance. Even if the aircraft can get off the ground, Wilsbach says the E-3’s airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) capabilities “aren’t really capable in the 21st-century fight.” The E-3 would be of little use in a high-end conflict with China.

That is not to say the E-3 has zero utility. Geographic combatant commanders continue to request it. The E-3 can still play a valuable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance role in some environments, contribute to conventional deterrence and fulfill a constructive AEW&C role against less advanced foes.

But there should be no illusions regarding the E-3’s growing maintenance challenges and costs or its obsolescence in combat scenarios against peer adversaries.

In other words, a capability gap already exists and will get worse with time, as the condition of the E-3 fleet deteriorates further and Beijing continues to field more advanced capabilities.

According to FDD research, retiring 15 E-3s would save almost $3 billion over five years, funds that will help the Air Force acquire the E-7 rather than nurse decrepit aircraft that belong in the boneyard. Divestment would also free up approximately 1,500 airmen who currently employ and maintain the aircraft, some of whom could then be sent to E-7 training, hastening full operational capability.

That’s why the Air Force is wise to want to retire at least some of the E-3 fleet regardless of the E-7’s status.

That brings us to the next critical question: the degree to which the Air Force can expedite the acquisition of the E-7 and start fielding it before fiscal year 2027.

Some related questions include: Could the Air Force produce an acquisition strategy by the end of September? Is it possible to get an initial contract in place for the E-7 by early next year?

If so, even under the language approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Air Force could then divest the 15 E-3s in fiscal year 2023.

The Air Force’s acquisition chief has cautioned it might not be possible to “dramatically accelerate” E-7 procurement. But it is worth noting that a Boeing official subsequently suggested there are “a lot of options” potentially enabling the Air Force to field the E-7 faster.

Regardless, the burden of proof should be on anyone who suggests that acquisition processes cannot be streamlined or timelines expedited, especially since the stakes in the Indo-Pacific are so serious.

Expediting acquisitions is easier said than done, of course. But the United States has rightly moved heaven and earth to get Ukraine the weapons it needs following Putin’s unprovoked invasion. We should bring the same sense of urgency to the fielding of the E-7 for our own forces.

The ongoing conversation between the Air Force and Congress regarding the E-3 is a microcosm of a larger perennial challenge that spans multiple programs and impacts all services. Due to finite budgets and a backlog of modernization needs, the services struggle to maintain legacy systems while simultaneously acquiring next-generation systems, even as Washington confronts unprecedented threats.

Sometimes divestments create unacceptable capability gaps, and sometimes legacy systems are so antiquated the capability gap already exists even if the system is retained. The E-3 falls in the latter category.

The more important question is how the Air Force, Congress, industry, and US allies can work together more effectively to expedite the fielding of the E-7. Our forces need this modernized capability badly, and there is no time to waste.

Bradley Bowman is senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Maj. Brian Leitzke is an Air Force officer and visiting military analyst at FDD. The views expressed in this commentary are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Defense Department or the Air Force.



14. Russian operative used U.S. activist groups to spread propaganda, feds say






Russian operative used U.S. activist groups to spread propaganda, feds say

Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov also worked to interfere in U.S. elections and undermine support for Ukraine, the Department of Justice said in an indictment.

NBC News · by Corky Siemaszko · July 29, 2022

A Russian operative backed by the Kremlin meddled in United States politics for seven years and recently tried to undermine American support for Ukraine by recruiting local activists to spread pro-Moscow propaganda, the Justice Department announced Friday.

Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov, who worked with the Russian Federal Security Service and at least three unnamed "Russian officials," was charged with conspiring to have U.S. citizens act as illegal agents of the Russian government from December 2014 through March of this year, the agency said.

“As court documents show, Ionov allegedly orchestrated a brazen influence campaign, turning U.S. political groups and U.S. citizens into instruments of the Russian government,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. The 24-page indictment against Ionov was unsealed in Tampa, Florida.

Ionov, who lives in Moscow, was not in Tampa when the grand jury indictment was unsealed, and there was no immediate response to the revelations from the Russian government.

Neither Ionov nor any of his alleged Russian accomplices were “duly accredited diplomatic or consular officers,” the indictment states.

Ionov, founder of a nongovernmental organization called Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, had already been on the DOJ's radar. In 2018, it was revealed his organization had been raising money to aid convicted Russian operative Maria Butina, who was deported to Moscow in 2019, an event mentioned in the indictment.

The DOJ said in its statement that Ionov targeted "political groups" in Florida, Georgia and California.

It did not identify the U.S.-based groups. But shortly after the Ionov indictment was announced, the FBI in Tampa confirmed to local media it had raided headquarters of the Uhuru Movement in St. Petersburg, Florida, in connection with the alleged conspiracy.

"The Uhuru Movement is a worldwide organization, under the leadership of African People’s Socialist Party, uniting African people as one people for liberation, social justice, self-reliance and economic development," the group said on its website.

The DOJ did not identify the members of the three groups who “co-conspired” with Ionov, but said it was fully aware Ionov and his organization “were agents of the Russian government."

In May 2015, Ionov sent the "leader" of the Uhuru Movement in St. Petersburg on "an all-expense paid trip to Russia" and for the next seven years "exercised direction and control over senior members," the DOJ said.

The Uhuru Movement did not respond to requests for comment Friday, but at an earlier news conference an Uhuru leader did not deny the group's ties to Russia.

“We can have relationships with whoever we want to make this revolution possible,” said Eritha “Akile” Cainion after the indictment was announced, The Tampa Bay Times reported. “We are in support of Russia.”

Four of the “unindicted co-conspirators” listed but not named in the indictment are U.S. citizens living in St. Petersburg, while the others live in Atlanta and California. One of the California residents also has a home in Moscow.

Based on the indictment, it appears Ionov was most active in St. Petersburg, where he allegedly tried to stoke racial resentment by having Uhuru members write a petition to the United Nations "alleging that the United States had committed genocide against African people" that would later be translated and disseminated across Russia.

Ionov, according to the indictment, also encouraged Uhuru members in 2017 and 2019 to get involved in local St. Petersburg elections and campaign on the issue of "reparations" for slavery, a divisive topic in the U.S. He also helped bankroll the campaigns, the indictment said.

In California, Ionov backed an unnamed group that wants the state to secede from the U.S., the indictment said. Ionov paid $500 for posters for a 2018 demonstration outside the state Capitol in Sacramento and encouraged the participants to "physically enter the governor's office."

In March, after the Russians invaded Ukraine, Ionov worked to rally support for Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin by taking part in a video conference hosted by "U.S. Political Group 1," which the FBI has identified as the Uhuru organization.

During the video conference, Ionov repeated the bogus claims pushed by the Kremlin that "Nazis were in power in Ukraine and were killing innocent people."

Ionov, the DOJ said, also paid for members of an unnamed Georgia group to travel to California and take part in a protest outside an unnamed social media company that had placed restrictions on posts supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

NBC News · by Corky Siemaszko · July 29, 2022



15. Russia Opens Pandora's Box – Serbia and China Threaten War




Russia Opens Pandora's Box – Serbia and China Threaten War - KyivPost - Ukraine's Global Voice

kyivpost.com · by Jay Beecher · August 1, 2022

Russia’s aggressive policy in Ukraine appears to be fueling hostilities among its potential allies, Serbia and China.

Serbia is ready for the “denazification of the Balkans,” while China has issued military threats against U.S. officials visiting Taiwan.

Developments in Serbia and Kosovo

Serbia is the only country seeking European Union (EU) membership that has unanimously refused to impose sanctions against Russia. Its capital, Belgrade, is the only European capital where thousands of marches are taking place in support of Vladimir Putin and Russia.

In Kosovo on July 31, tensions rose between the leadership of the partially-recognized republic and the Serbian community. Shots and sirens could be heard in border areas all evening. Kosovo special forces have left their bases to head for the border.

By the evening, sirens sounded in areas of Kosovo that are home to Serbs, who started to build barricades. Residents of North Mitrovica began to gather in the city center and Albanians took to the streets en masse in the southern part of the city.

Kosovo Serbs disagree with the new rules proposed by Kosovo’s capital Pristina. At midnight on August 1, the Kosovo authorities planned to closed entry to citizens with documents issued by Serbia; as well as to re-register all cars so that they bear Kosovo license plates.

Serbian MP Vladimir Djukanovic wrote on Twitter that “Serbia will be forced to start a denazification of the Balkans.”

As clashes erupted, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti sent armed special forces to the Yarinje border crossing. According to the Serbian newspaper Vecherniye Novosti, Kosovo Police Special Forces (ROSU) have moved out of Pristina to the north of Kosovo and Metohija, where the Serbs are protesting.

The publication clarified that in the city of Slatina between Yarin and Leposachiv, where people erected barricades, one person was injured and hospitalized.

The Serbian army has not yet entered the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, Vecherniye Novosti reports with reference to the Serbian Ministry of Defense. At the same time, Serb protesters opened fire on the Kosovo police, the Kosovo security forces reported on social media.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the Republic of Kosovo, the U.S., and the EU “behind it” to respect the rights of Serbs in the republic.

On August 1, the government of Kosovo postponed for a month, until September 1, the introduction of a ban on Serbian documents and car numbers plates.

Growing Chinese Aggression

China did not official declare support for Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine but continues trade and cooperation with Russia.

Meanwhile, Chinese media supports Russia’s narrative that Russia’s actions were supposedly provoked by NATO expansion yet evasively speaks out for world peace.

However, China appears to be avoiding actions that could get the country into trouble for helping Russia to circumvent sanctions.

Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine sets a precedent for a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan, which China claims as its territory.

On June 10, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, during a meeting with Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin, said that Beijing “will not hesitate to go to war” if Taiwan declares independence.

On July 29, the Army of China began military exercises off the coast of eastern Fujian province, located across the strait 120 kilometers from Taiwan, according to the Pingtan City Maritime Security Administration. The military exercises started on the day of a potential visit by Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.

Later, the Chinese Ministry of Defense made its position clear about the nature of the response: “If the U.S. insists on its course, the Chinese military will never sit idly by,” the department said.

Later, Beijing’s rhetoric towards Washington became tougher. The Financial Times, citing sources, said China privately warned the Biden administration about the possible military implications of Pelosi’s decision to visit Taiwan. These threats were more significant than those that came from the Chinese side earlier.

Publicly, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the responsibility for the consequences of Pelosi’s visit would lie with the U.S.

Pelosi began her visit to Asia on July 30, although her exact itinerary – including whether or not she will visit Taiwan despite China’s opposition – is not yet known.

kyivpost.com · by Jay Beecher · August 1, 2022


​16. FDD | Tehran, the Day After


Excerpts:

Today, the theocratic state is bereft of a reliable constituency, let alone a convincing governing dogma. It is beset by persistent protests from all segments of society. The poor who were once the theocracy’s mainstay have joined the ranks of the disaffected. The economy benefits only the connected, and class stratification has never been more provocative. Corruption is endemic. Khamenei and his allies are no longer even pretending to seek the public’s approbation. The elections that once offered at least a pretense of choice, and could generate considerable national excitement, are now rubber stamps of choices made by Khamenei and his inner circle. Voter turnout, even when orchestrated by the regime, has plummeted. All the mullahs have left at their disposal are the security organs.
If the Israelis or Americans can make Khamenei and his Revolutionary Guards look pathetic, it might lead to a national questioning, a slow-motion chain reaction that could seriously weaken the regime. Anger no longer rises gradually in the Islamic Republic. It explodes immediately and nationally when the system can’t nip local protests in the bud. A scenario of rapidly increasing protests after a bombing raid isn’t probable, given the ruthlessness of the Iranian police state, but such an eventuality shouldn’t be ruled out. The regime is, however, most unlikely to see the reverse: an American or Israeli raid reinforcing popular support for the theocracy. Resentment toward the mullahs is simply too entrenched.




FDD | Tehran, the Day After

What might happen in Iran if America or Israel bombed the nuclear sites?

Reuel Marc Gerecht

Senior Fellow

Ray Takeyh

Council on Foreign Relations

fdd.org · by Reuel Marc Gerecht Senior Fellow · July 29, 2022

What would happen inside Iran if America or Israel bombed its nuclear sites? That intriguing question is rarely broached, in part because many in Washington recoil from any speculation that might make such a military contingency a more concrete exercise. Iran’s atomic program keeps advancing, and the odds of any new nuclear deals seriously constraining it seem low, but neither Israel nor America appears keen on striking.

Even when it seemed in 2010 and 2011 that Israel might well attack, Washington, in government and in the somewhat freer realm of think tanks, avoided any prolonged discussion of what an Israeli attack might provoke inside Iran. Before Ebrahim Raisi, a police-state cleric par excellence, became the Islamic Republic’s president last year, there had been some concern in America and Europe that U.S. or Israeli military action might undermine Iranian “moderates.” According to these observers, the moderates were perpetually on the cusp of gaining real power but fragile enough to be undone by American meddling. It was the possibility of Iranian reprisals — against U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and against shipping in the Persian Gulf — that really captured America’s attention when it appeared Jerusalem might let loose the Israeli Defense Forces.

Israel has made similar assessments of Iran’s internal dynamics vis-à-vis the efficacy and impact of a first strike. Beyond the strike itself, what has always captured Jerusalem’s attention was whether an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would bring a barrage of Iranian-directed short- and medium-range missiles from Lebanon, where Hezbollah has significant munitions stockpiles. If Israel decides to attack, the sole criterion for unleashing its air force will surely be a firm belief that the operation can significantly damage Iran’s atomic ambitions. If a strike somehow led to internal unrest, the superannuation of senior officers in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or a new clandestine effort to rebuild the nuclear-weapons program, those might well be secondary considerations reinforcing or weakening Jerusalem’s calculations. But such concerns wouldn’t matter unless the IDF concluded it could scupper the clerical regime’s capacity to build the bomb.

It would have been easier for the IDF to cripple Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and personnel years ago, before the development of advanced centrifuges. But former prime minister Bibi Netanyahu’s cabinet, along with the head of the IDF, declined to back him when he and his defense minister Ehud Barak wanted to attack twelve years ago. Now, it’s very likely that neither Israel’s political class nor its airmen are confident that they can strike as effectively.

Jerusalem’s tempo of attacks on Iranian interests in the region in the last two years, including assassinations inside Iran, is, therefore, best understood as an upping of the conventional ante. These actions signal to Tehran that its nuclear accomplishments will not deter Israel from pushing back against the clerical regime when it can. Jerusalem’s more aggressive behavior isn’t a girding of the loins before a preventive attack but an acknowledgment that it has failed to stop the clerical regime’s nuclear ambitions.

That might change as Israelis internalize the possible ramifications of the Islamic Republic’s going nuclear. The clerical regime, which has repeatedly sponsored or directed terrorism against Jews worldwide, might provoke Jerusalem one too many times, giving the high ground to those who still want to act.

The same still might be true for the United States. Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, might make a monumental mistake and execute a mass-casualty terrorist attack against Americans. Over the years, under Democrats and Republicans, Washington has blinked at Iranian terrorism — and, in Iraq, Iranian-sponsored militia attacks against U.S. forces — and done little in response. Khamenei undoubtedly approved the thwarted bombing of an Iranian opposition rally outside of Paris in 2018; if it had succeeded, hundreds, including many Americans, might have died. The supreme leader, who can expatiate endlessly on his enmity for the United States, might let hubris get the better of him — he’s unquestionably winning in his decades-old quest to develop nuclear weapons. If enough Americans died through Iranian terrorism, the bipartisan reluctance to support another military foray into the Middle East might evaporate.

So would an Israeli or American strike convulse Iran’s political system? The nuclear-weapons program has become the third pillar of Khamenei’s theocracy (the other two being anti-Americanism and the veil). If the Israelis, whom the regime asperses as Zionists ready for extinction, can badly damage the nuclear program, the regime will lose face. Iranian VIPs, especially within the Revolutionary Guards, have said repeatedly that the Israelis wouldn’t dare strike the nation’s atomic sites. This confidence has surely diminished since Israel started assassinating scientists and officials, including IRGC personnel, and periodically sabotaging nuclear-related equipment. If the Israelis do dare and succeed, it will be a stunning blow. It’s one thing to have the “Great Satan,” a superpower, lay waste your program; it’s another thing entirely to have the “Little Satan” do it.

And military defeats can be deadly for dictatorships. Historically, there’s nothing deadlier. If an Israeli or American strike led to a larger war — and there are good reasons to believe that Iran would be nervous about replying in an escalatory conventional manner after the U.S. Navy intervened (terrorism is a much more likely response) — then the possibility of adverse internal repercussions would increase. While there is no guarantee that an Israeli or American raid would cause sufficient shock to produce a convulsive — let alone fatal — internal backlash against Khamenei and the Guards, there is a chance it would start a process that might. Nothing else on the horizon offers Israel or America better odds of creating considerable turbulence quickly within the system.

It’s certain that the revolution-loyal left, right, and center (these Western terms don’t really capture how the Iranian ruling elite divides itself) would rise in umbrage against any Zionist aggression. But the West exaggerates the Iranian reflex to rally around the flag after an Israeli or American strike. Iranians aren’t automatons. Compared with Arabs and Turks, who lack an ancient cosmopolitan culture reinforcing their modern identity, Iranians don’t have a jagged and brittle patriotism. They are an old and sophisticated people quite capable of holding multiple hatreds concurrently. The massive, pro-democracy Green Movement in 2009, which for days shook the streets of Tehran, and nationwide demonstrations in 2017 and 2019, which again convulsed the ruling elite and led to wicked police-state repression, are upwellings of over 40 years of ire at theocracy. This won’t go away because Israel bombs Iran’s nuclear sites.

The notion that the Iranian ruling class would somehow benefit from a resurgent nationalism caused by an external attack ignores the decades the mullahs have spent denouncing nationalism as another noxious Western imposition on the Middle East. In particular, Khamenei is leery of Iranian nationalism and how it might thwart the Islamic project. “The enemies of Islam and Muslims want the Islamic ummah to be disunited,” he avers. “They create ethnic discord. They promote radical nationalism in different countries. They divide Muslims into groups and label them as Persians, Arabs, Turks, Pakistanis, Shia and Sunni.” Iran’s theocrats have insisted that the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic is predicated on its divine ordinance rather than on notions of Persian nationalism. In what is undoubtedly a self-defeating move, the clerical regime has done much to untether itself from one of the most powerful forces in modern politics.

The clerical regime’s defeat in the Iran–Iraq War did not make Iranians rally to theocracy. On the contrary, that defeat by Saddam Hussein helped to unleash an enormous wave of reflection and self-criticism. The Iranian people have since asked searching questions about the war itself. Why did the conflict continue when an armistice was available in 1982, after the victory at Khorramshahr when Saddam’s armies retreated back into Iraq? Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s right-hand man, exerted considerable effort trying to hide the fact that he was strongly in favor of turning a defensive, “imposed” war into a major offensive designed to down Saddam and extend the Islamic revolution. For the parents who lost sons from 1982 to 1988, the war is a haunting indictment of a state bent on exporting its cause. The Islamic Republic’s ritual celebrations of the conflict have always rung hollow for millions who saw combat or whose loved ones died or were maimed in a war reminiscent of the Western Front in World War I.

Indeed, without the Iran–Iraq War, we likely would not have seen the transformation of the Islamic Republic’s religious and political culture — a second intellectual revolution that robbed the theocracy of the revolutionary left and eventually created the Green Movement. This political evolution ignited in about five years, from 1988 to 1992, when the regime-critical but revolution-loyal Islamic left began to take shape. By 1999 that “left” was ready to transform the government into a real democracy, which is why this movement was crushed by clerics who’d been instrumental in building the theocracy — Khamenei, Rafsanjani, and Hassan Rouhani (the latter two are often categorized as “moderates” by Westerners who used to see Thermidor just around the corner).

No figure was more venerated in the Islamic Republic’s relentless propaganda machine than General Qasem Soleimani. He was the man who defeated America in Iraq, took on the Islamic State with ingenuity, and planted the Islamic Republic’s flag from the slums of Beirut to the mountain villages of Yemen. On January 3, 2020, Soleimani was killed by a U.S. drone attack. The regime initially used its latest martyr to rally public support in mourning ceremonies that attracted thousands. The general was an iconic figure who elicited contradictory emotions from even die-hard opponents of the regime. (His magnetism may have sprung from his image as the great Shiite defender against rapacious Sunnis.) That “goodwill” evaporated rapidly. In its panic and fear of further American attacks, the Revolutionary Guards shot down a Ukrainian airliner, killing 176 passengers. The Iranian street and college campuses erupted again, this time in denunciation of the regime. “They are lying that our enemy is America; our enemy is right here,” protesters chanted. A brutal crackdown restored order, but this episode revealed how attenuated the bonds between state and society have become — even a foreign attack cannot redound to the government’s advantage. As with the last days of the Pahlavi dynasty, the Islamic Republic has lost the ability to control the national narrative.

Today, the theocratic state is bereft of a reliable constituency, let alone a convincing governing dogma. It is beset by persistent protests from all segments of society. The poor who were once the theocracy’s mainstay have joined the ranks of the disaffected. The economy benefits only the connected, and class stratification has never been more provocative. Corruption is endemic. Khamenei and his allies are no longer even pretending to seek the public’s approbation. The elections that once offered at least a pretense of choice, and could generate considerable national excitement, are now rubber stamps of choices made by Khamenei and his inner circle. Voter turnout, even when orchestrated by the regime, has plummeted. All the mullahs have left at their disposal are the security organs.

If the Israelis or Americans can make Khamenei and his Revolutionary Guards look pathetic, it might lead to a national questioning, a slow-motion chain reaction that could seriously weaken the regime. Anger no longer rises gradually in the Islamic Republic. It explodes immediately and nationally when the system can’t nip local protests in the bud. A scenario of rapidly increasing protests after a bombing raid isn’t probable, given the ruthlessness of the Iranian police state, but such an eventuality shouldn’t be ruled out. The regime is, however, most unlikely to see the reverse: an American or Israeli raid reinforcing popular support for the theocracy. Resentment toward the mullahs is simply too entrenched.

Mr. Gerecht, a former Iranian-targets officer in the CIA’s directorate of operations, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Mr. Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

fdd.org · by Reuel Marc Gerecht Senior Fellow · July 29, 2022


​17. U.S. deploys ships and planes near Taiwan as Pelosi eyes visit


Photo and graphic at the link below.




U.S. deploys ships and planes near Taiwan as Pelosi eyes visit

https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/Indo-Pacific/U.S.-deploys-ships-and-planes-near-Taiwan-as-Pelosi-eyes-visit?mc_cid=7534a8754f

Speaker begins Indo-Pacific tour from Singapore


A MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor is seen on the flight deck aboard amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli. The Tripoli is now near Okinawa.   © U.S. Navy

KEN MORIYASU, Nikkei Asia diplomatic correspondent

August 1, 2022 17:20 JSTUpdated on August 1, 2022 19:06 JST​

TOKYO -- The U.S. military is moving assets, including aircraft carriers and large planes, closer to Taiwan ahead of an anticipated but unconfirmed visit to the island by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The military was initially opposed to the speaker's visit but now looks to be creating a buffer zone for Pelosi's plane, in case she decides to go ahead with the controversial stop.

But with China declaring that it would "never sit idly by" if she were to visit the island, tensions in East Asia have quickly escalated, perhaps against the will of both U.S. President Joe Biden, who was seeking to remove some tariffs on Chinese goods to counter inflation, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who faces a sensitive political season at home with his rule extension on the line.

A reporter for local network TVBS tweeted that the speaker is expected to arrive in Taiwan on Tuesday evening.

Pelosi and her congressional delegation landed in Singapore before dawn on Monday, according to flight tracking websites that followed the C-40C military plane on which she left Washington.

Singapore's foreign ministry released a statement on Monday afternoon saying the delegation met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and other high-ranking officials. The ministry said Lee welcomed the delegation's commitment to "strong U.S. engagement" in the region and that they "also exchanged views on key international and regional developments, including the war in Ukraine, cross-strait relations and climate change."

"PM Lee highlighted the importance of stable U.S.-China relations for regional peace and security," the statement said.

The city-state is the first stop on an Indo-Pacific tour that will also take Pelosi and her entourage to Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. The speaker has been tight-lipped about her reported plans to go to Taiwan.


Naval assets in the region include the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which has returned to the South China Sea after making a port call to Singapore last week, the amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli, which is near Okinawa, and the amphibious assault ship USS America, which is forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan.

Further in the Pacific, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, Landing Helicopter Dock USS Essex and 36 other warships as well as three submarines are in Hawaii taking part in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), which will end on Thursday.

Meanwhile, flight tracking websites show two HC-130J Combat King IIs -- the U.S. Air Force's only dedicated fixed-wing personnel recovery platform -- have arrived in Okinawa from Anchorage. They were accompanied by multiple KC-135 Stratotankers, an aerial refueling aircraft.

"If she does visit Taiwan, the diplomatic protocols will be very important," said Masahiro Matsumura, a professor of international politics and national security at the faculty of law of St. Andrew's University in Osaka. "It will be provocative if Pelosi visits Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen at the presidential office. Other options could be the de facto U.S. Embassy in Taipei or parliament."

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi meets with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Singapore on Aug. 1. © Ministry of Communications and Information, Singapore

This is more of a diplomatic issue rather than a military issue, Matsumura said, doubting whether the Chinese side was militarily ready for a confrontation with the U.S.

Still, Beijing has been issuing daily warnings about the Pelosi visit.

On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian warned that a Pelosi visit to Taiwan would lead to "very serious" developments and consequences.

"We would like to tell the United States once again that China is standing by, the Chinese People's Liberation Army will never sit idly by, and China will take resolute responses and strong countermeasures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said at the ministry's daily briefing.

Asked what kind of measures the PLA might take, Zhao said: "If she dares to go, then let us wait and see."

Last Wednesday, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said of the Pelosi trip, "We will do what is necessary to ensure a safe... conduct of their visit. And I'll just leave it at that."

The rapid rise in tensions has caught Japan off guard. Of its two Izumo-class multipurpose destroyers, which are being transformed into de facto light aircraft carriers, the JS Izumo is in Hawaii taking part in RIMPAC, while JS Kaga is under repair in the Kure Shipyard.
























































































































































​18. Russia’s war viewed from China


Useful analysis, perspective, and thought provoking comments that should provoke our thinking!


Excerpts:


Obviously, one could argue with my Chinese interlocutor’s points. Europeans certainly have more agency than he implies, and the West’s vigorous response to Russia’s aggression could well prevent the war from being the first in a longer series of border conflicts (as occurred during the decade-long wars of Yugoslav succession in the 1990s).
Nonetheless, the fact that Chinese observers frame things so differently than we do should give us pause. At a minimum, we in the West should think harder about how the rest of the world perceives us. Yes, it is tempting to dismiss Chinese arguments as mere talking points, designed to stay on the good side of a hostile, undemocratic regime (public discussions about Ukraine are heavily controlled in China). But perhaps some humility is in order.
The fact that Chinese observers have such a radically different perspective may help to explain why the West has not garnered near-universal support for its sanctions against Russia. At a time when the politics of ‘taking back control’ is ascendant, we should not be so surprised to see other governments discounting the importance of Ukraine. Where we see a heroic self-defence of the rules-based order, others see the last gasp of Western hegemony in a world that is quickly becoming multipolar.


Russia’s war viewed from China | The Strategist

aspistrategist.org.au · by Mark Leonard · August 1, 2022


Is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine merely the first in a series of conflicts that will make Europe seem more like the Middle East in the coming years? A Chinese academic who requested anonymity put that question to me last month, and his reasoning showed just how differently non-Westerners view a war that is reshaping the European geopolitical order.

In speaking with Chinese academics to understand how they view the world, I have found that they start from a fundamentally different position than many in the West do. It’s not just that they are more likely to blame the Ukraine war on NATO enlargement than on the Kremlin; it is that many of their core strategic assumptions are also the opposite of our own.

While Europeans and Americans see the conflict as a turning point in global history, the Chinese see it as just another war of intervention—one that is even less significant than those launched in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 75 years. To them, the only material difference this time is that it is not the West that is intervening.

And while many in Europe think that the war has marked America’s return to the global stage, Chinese intellectuals see it as further confirmation of the incoming post-American world. To them, the end of American hegemony created a vacuum that is now being filled by Russia.

Whereas Westerners see an attack on the rules-based order, my Chinese friends see the emergence of a more pluralistic world—one in which the end of American hegemony permits different regional and sub-regional projects. They argue that the rules-based order has always lacked legitimacy; Western powers created the rules, and they have never shown much compunction about changing them when it suits their purposes (as in Kosovo and Iraq).

These are the arguments that lead to the Middle East analogy. My Chinese interlocutor sees the situation in Ukraine not as a war of aggression between sovereign countries, but rather as a revision of post-colonial borders following the end of Western hegemony. Likewise, in the Middle East, states are questioning the borders that the West drew after World War I.

But the most striking parallel is that the Ukraine conflict is widely regarded as a proxy war. Just as the wars in Syria, Yemen and Lebanon have been fuelled and exploited by great powers, so, too, has the war in Ukraine. Who are the main beneficiaries? My Chinese friend argues that it certainly is not Russia, Ukraine or Europe. Rather, the United States and China ultimately stand to gain the most, and both have been approaching the conflict as a proxy war in their larger rivalry.

The argument goes that the Americans have benefited by locking Europeans, Japanese and Koreans into a new alignment of US-dictated priorities, and by isolating Russia and forcing China to clarify where it stands on issues such as territorial integrity. At the same time, they say China has benefited by cementing Russia’s subordinate position in the two countries’ partnership, and by prodding more countries in the global south to embrace non-alignment.

While European leaders cast themselves as 21st-century Churchills, the Chinese see them as mere pawns in a bigger geopolitical game. The consensus among all the scholars I spoke with is that the war in Ukraine is a rather unimportant diversion when compared to the short-term disruptions of Covid-19 or the longer-term struggle for supremacy between the US and China.

Obviously, one could argue with my Chinese interlocutor’s points. Europeans certainly have more agency than he implies, and the West’s vigorous response to Russia’s aggression could well prevent the war from being the first in a longer series of border conflicts (as occurred during the decade-long wars of Yugoslav succession in the 1990s).

Nonetheless, the fact that Chinese observers frame things so differently than we do should give us pause. At a minimum, we in the West should think harder about how the rest of the world perceives us. Yes, it is tempting to dismiss Chinese arguments as mere talking points, designed to stay on the good side of a hostile, undemocratic regime (public discussions about Ukraine are heavily controlled in China). But perhaps some humility is in order.

The fact that Chinese observers have such a radically different perspective may help to explain why the West has not garnered near-universal support for its sanctions against Russia. At a time when the politics of ‘taking back control’ is ascendant, we should not be so surprised to see other governments discounting the importance of Ukraine. Where we see a heroic self-defence of the rules-based order, others see the last gasp of Western hegemony in a world that is quickly becoming multipolar.

Mark Leonard is director of the European Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The age of unpeace: how connectivity causes conflict. This article is presented in partnership with Project Syndicate © 2022. Image: Jade Gao/AFP/Getty Images.

aspistrategist.org.au · by Mark Leonard · August 1, 2022


19​. China on the Offensive


Excerpts:

Will China’s recent efforts to shift the balance of momentum and power in its direction work? It remains to be seen if the GSI will fundamentally alter the international order, or even become a key pillar of China’s approach to global governance. China has tried and failed before to drive the discussion on global security, as was the case with its New Security Concept, a security framework that sought greater economic and diplomatic interactions, which was first articulated in 1996. Back then, of course, China had far less economic and diplomatic leverage. And regardless of its ultimate success, the GSI is an important window into how Beijing will seek to steer the conversation on regional and global security after the upcoming 20th Party Congress, which is expected to be held in the fall.
Beijing’s efforts to revitalize and expand existing organizations such as the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization also face obstacles. India, for instance, is a member of both blocs and may constrain any openly anti-American efforts. But even marginal improvements in the capabilities and cohesion of these groupings would help Beijing blunt any coercive or punitive moves that the United States and its allies may make against China in the years ahead.
But perhaps the biggest factor shaping China’s strategic environment moving forward is Beijing itself. On paper, one can begin to glimpse the initial outlines of China’s readjusted game plan. Deeper ties with the “global South.” A repurposing of existing Beijing-led institutions like the SCO. New concepts of security that align with its own vision for international order. Implemented well, this strategy would no doubt complicate U.S. foreign policy. But these efforts take considerable time, and they could unravel if Beijing’s increasingly aggressive and coercive behavior against its neighbors generates international pushback or reticence to work with China. Xi’s penchant for “own goals” and his dramatic overreach have proved to be the single biggest inhibitor for China’s grand strategy. His hunger for power could well doom Chinese foreign policy.



China on the Offensive

How the Ukraine War Has Changed Beijing’s Strategy

By Bonny Lin and Jude Blanchette

August 1, 2022

Foreign Affairs · by Bonny Lin and Jude Blanchette · August 1, 2022

In the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Beijing was on the back foot. For weeks after Russian troops crossed Ukraine’s border, China’s messaging was stilted and confused as Chinese diplomats, propagandists, and foreign ministry spokespeople themselves tried to figure out Chinese President Xi Jinping’s line on the conflict. Xi’s “no limits” partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin was incurring growing reputational costs.

Almost six months after the war’s outbreak and with no end in sight, Beijing has largely regained its footing. Its early concerns that the war would significantly increase overall European defense spending have yet to materialize. Although China would prefer the war to end with a clear Russian victory, a second-best option would be to see the United States and Europe exhaust their supplies of military equipment in support of Ukraine. Meanwhile, rising energy costs and inflation are threatening the resolve of European governments to hold the line on sanctions, signaling to Beijing a potential erosion in transatlantic unity. And even though in advanced democracies public opinion about China has clearly deteriorated, throughout the “global South,” Beijing continues to enjoy broad receptivity for its development assistance and diplomatic messaging.

At the same time, Beijing has concluded that regardless of the war’s outcome, its own external environment has become more dangerous. Chinese analysts see a growing schism between Western democracies and various nondemocratic countries, including China and Russia. China is concerned that the United States may leverage this growing fault line to build economic, technological, or security coalitions to contain it. It believes that Washington and Taipei are intentionally stirring up tension in the region by directly linking the assault on Ukraine to Taiwan’s safety and security. And it is concerned that growing international support for Taiwan will disrupt its plans for “reunification.”

These perceptions of Western interference have put Beijing once again on the offensive. Moving forward, China’s foreign policy will increasingly be defined by a more bellicose assertion of its interests and the exploration of new pathways to global power that circumvent chokepoints controlled by the West.

WHO TELLS YOUR STORY

Beijing’s reorientation since the invasion is evident in several areas. At the highest level was China’s unveiling earlier this year of a new strategic framework, which it dubbed the “global security initiative.” Although it is still in its early stages, the GSI consolidates several strands of Beijing’s evolving conceptualization about global order. More important, it signals Xi’s attempt to undermine international confidence in the United States as a provider of regional and global stability and to create a platform around which China can justify augmenting its own partnerships. The GSI also counters what Beijing perceives to be false portrayals of China’s aggressiveness and revisionism.


Xi first outlined the GSI during a virtual speech in April. Strictly speaking, there was little new content in Xi’s speech. But in announcing the GSI, Xi was seeking to wrest narrative control on global security away from the United States and its allies in Europe and the Indo-Pacific and discourage countries from joining U.S.-led military blocs or groupings. With this initiative, Xi has put something else on the table to compete with a U.S.-led discussion about what an international order should look like after the war in Ukraine. Core to Beijing’s broader story is that China is a force of stability and predictability in the face of an increasingly volatile and unpredictable United States.

Just as important, Beijing continues to position itself as an innovator and leader in twenty-first-century global governance. Since the GSI’s initial rollout, it has become a standard item to include in meeting readouts from China’s bilateral and multilateral engagements across Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America, evidence that Beijing is pushing for the diplomatic normalization of its new initiative, and thus, inclusion in the vernacular of global governance. Although the GSI may not gain much traction in Tokyo, Canberra, or Brussels, it will find resonance in Jakarta, Islamabad, and Montevideo, where frustration with elements of the U.S.-led order is manifest.

Xi’s April speech also confirmed that the strategic alignment between China and Russia continues, despite Putin’s disastrous war in Ukraine. In particular, Xi included a reference to “indivisible security,” a phrase that dates to the early 1970s and negotiations between the Soviet Union and the West known as the Helsinki Process, but under Putin, has become a short-hand for Moscow’s argument that NATO expansion directly imperils Russia’s own sense of security. As Chinese officials have made crystal clear, Beijing sees a direct connection between NATO’s expanding presence in Europe and the United States’ growing coalition of security partners in the Indo-Pacific. As Le Yucheng, then a top foreign ministry official, said in a May speech, “For quite some time, the United States has kept flexing its muscle on China’s doorstep, creating exclusive groups against China and inflaming the Taiwan question to test China’s red line.” He went on: “If this is not an Asia-Pacific version of NATO’s eastward expansion, then what is?” This linkage of the Russian security environment to China’s was also a central component of the joint statement put out by Xi and Putin on February 4.

MORE AND CLOSER FRIENDS

As part of its post-invasion reorientation, China is also rapidly strengthening partnerships with countries that fall outside of the Western camp—that is, most of the “global South.” China has long sought to deepen its friendships abroad, but it is now recognizing that some countries, such as European democracies, will never stand with it when forced to choose. Referencing Ukraine, Le lamented in March that “some major countries make empty promises to small countries, turn small countries into their pawn and even use them to fight proxy wars.” Beijing does not want to face the same fate if it were to find itself in a conflict against Taiwan or any of its neighbors. As the Chinese scholar Yuan Zheng has explained, Beijing believes “that a potential proxy war is what some hawkish individuals and groups back in the U.S. are expecting to take place in China’s neighborhood.” Even if Chinese leaders are still confident about their country’s political system and its growing economic and military power, they recognize that it is still dependent on external goods and resources to fuel its development and growing military capabilities. Accordingly, Beijing is moving fast to both deepen and broaden partnerships to increase its immunity to crippling sanctions and to ensure that it is not alone in hard times. This includes strengthening bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. In August, Venezuela is expected to host a sniper competition as part of Russia-led military exercise in the Western Hemisphere that will likely involve China, Russia, Iran, and ten other countries in a show of force against the United States.

China is also keen to cement exclusive blocs of countries that will support it—or at least not support the United States. Chief among these efforts is China’s attempt to strengthen and expand the BRICS—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—as an alternative developing world bloc to compete with the Quad, the G-7, and the G-20. In May, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a meeting of BRICS foreign ministers that included an additional nine guests, including from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The next month, as the host of a BRICS summit, Xi advocated expanding the group and proposed new cooperative efforts on the digital economy, trade, and investment, and the supply chain. Xi also invited an unprecedented 13 world leaders to participate in a high-level dialogue on global development with BRICS countries, including Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Not long after, Argentina and Iran officially applied to join the BRICS group, and Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey expressed interest in doing so, as well. In July, Moscow went so far as to suggest that the group’s members “create a new world reserve currency to better serve their economic interests.”

Perceptions of Western interference have again put Beijing on the offensive.

In addition to BRICS expansion, Beijing is seeking to transform the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which includes Russia, into a powerful bloc that can leverage deep political, economic, and military ties. China has long pushed for more SCO economic cooperation and proposed the establishment of a free trade agreement and creation of a SCO bank. Although these ideas fell flat last year, this year, in May, the SCO discussed the need for increased interactions among member states, particularly on international security and economic cooperation. As SCO formal membership expands to include Iran later this year, and potentially Belarus in the future, the organization is primed to become more assertive on the world stage. Indeed, this June, Tehran proposed that the SCO adopt a single currency and expressed hopes that the group can become a “concert of non-Western great powers.”


Within both blocs and beyond, it will be increasingly important to observe how much China, Russia, and Iran are able to deepen relations with one another and drive broader alignment among countries that are dissatisfied with U.S. leadership. Similarly, the extent to which China can leverage its close relationship with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to build support among Muslim countries, including with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Gulf Cooperation Council, is another variable affecting support for China among developing countries.

BACKING UP WORDS WITH FORCE

A final component of China’s foreign policy rethink concerns military force. Beijing believes that the West is incapable of understanding or sympathizing with what it views as legitimate Russian security concerns. There is no reason for China to assume that the United States and its allies will treat China’s concerns any differently. Because diplomacy is not effective, China may need to use force to demonstrate its resolve.

This is particularly true when it comes to Taiwan, and Beijing is now more anxious than ever about U.S. intentions toward the island and what it perceives to be increasing provocations. This has led to discussion among some Chinese foreign policy analysts about whether another Taiwan Strait crisis is imminent and, if so, how China should prepare. Yang Jiechi, a diplomat who serves on China’s Politburo, has stated that China will take “firm actions”—including using the military—to safeguard its interests. At the same time, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has engaged in more exercises near Taiwan in an effort to deter potential third-party intervention. These dynamics likely explain why Beijing is issuing unusually sharp warnings over the visit to Taiwan that Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is planning, saying that such a trip would “have a severe negative impact on the political foundations of China-U.S. relations.”

It would be a mistake to brush aside China’s warnings—and its threats of military action—simply because prior warnings have failed to materialize. Although the prospect of an invasion of Taiwan remains remote, Beijing has numerous paths to escalate short of outright conflict, including sending jets to fly over Taiwanese territory. And if Beijing did take more drastic action out of frustration with recent U.S. behavior, this could easily provoke a full-blown crisis.

IT’S UP TO XI

Will China’s recent efforts to shift the balance of momentum and power in its direction work? It remains to be seen if the GSI will fundamentally alter the international order, or even become a key pillar of China’s approach to global governance. China has tried and failed before to drive the discussion on global security, as was the case with its New Security Concept, a security framework that sought greater economic and diplomatic interactions, which was first articulated in 1996. Back then, of course, China had far less economic and diplomatic leverage. And regardless of its ultimate success, the GSI is an important window into how Beijing will seek to steer the conversation on regional and global security after the upcoming 20th Party Congress, which is expected to be held in the fall.

Beijing’s efforts to revitalize and expand existing organizations such as the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization also face obstacles. India, for instance, is a member of both blocs and may constrain any openly anti-American efforts. But even marginal improvements in the capabilities and cohesion of these groupings would help Beijing blunt any coercive or punitive moves that the United States and its allies may make against China in the years ahead.

But perhaps the biggest factor shaping China’s strategic environment moving forward is Beijing itself. On paper, one can begin to glimpse the initial outlines of China’s readjusted game plan. Deeper ties with the “global South.” A repurposing of existing Beijing-led institutions like the SCO. New concepts of security that align with its own vision for international order. Implemented well, this strategy would no doubt complicate U.S. foreign policy. But these efforts take considerable time, and they could unravel if Beijing’s increasingly aggressive and coercive behavior against its neighbors generates international pushback or reticence to work with China. Xi’s penchant for “own goals” and his dramatic overreach have proved to be the single biggest inhibitor for China’s grand strategy. His hunger for power could well doom Chinese foreign policy.

  • BONNY LIN is Director of the China Power Project and Senior Fellow for Asian Security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
  • JUDE BLANCHETTE is Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Foreign Affairs · by Bonny Lin and Jude Blanchette · August 1, 2022


20. Joe Biden's Foreign Policy Boils Down to One Word: Weakness​ By John Bolton


His position should not be a surprise.


Joe Biden's Foreign Policy Boils Down to One Word: Weakness

19fortyfive.com · by ByJohn Bolton · July 31, 2022

The wrong countries, notably Russia and China, are learning dangerous lessons about President Biden’s lack of international political resolve. Both substantively and in diplomatic tradecraft, his Administration is hesitant, submissive, and erratic. On issues as diverse as prisoner swaps with Moscow, American re-entry into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, or Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, the White House betrays a propensity to crumple under pressure. Weakness and uncertainty on these seemingly unrelated matters, and others, comprise a pattern heartening to adversaries and alarming to friends.

For example, long-standing, bipartisan U.S. policy has rejected negotiating with hostage-takers, whether terrorists or lawless states. That policy has at times been breached, as in the dismaying Iran-Contra affair, but the underlying rationales are clear. Bargaining with hostage-takers epitomizes the moral-equivalency fallacy, legitimizing and publicizing their status; often advances their cause by providing them resources or returning important personnel; and invites more hostage-taking, thus endangering other Americans, by putting a price on our citizens.

Instead of incentivizing hostage-taking by trading prisoners, the correct response is harsh action, either economic or military, depending on the circumstances, against those who engage in such atrocities. Deal-making is congenial for terrorists and authoritarian states; severe punishment is not. As painful as it is for hostages’ friends and families, a President’s responsibility is long-term, protecting the future security of all Americans, not placing more of them in jeopardy. This was Ronald Reagan’s mistake in Iran-Contra. The United States erred again by its utterly inadequate response to North Korea’s savage, ultimately fatal treatment of Otto Warmbier, taken hostage by Pyongyang in 2017.

Trading hostages with terrorists or rogue states is not comparable to well-established Western practices of exchanging prisoners of war and, more recently, intelligence personnel. Hostage-takers, including states under a pretense of “law enforcement.” are fundamentally illegitimate kidnappers seeking bargaining chips. Moreover, swapping personnel of different types (a common criminal offender for an illicit arms dealer, for example) encourages hostage-takers by conceding moral equivalency, obscuring their fundamentally unacceptable behavior.

Biden has shown little regard for these principles, as in his 2021 decision to grant Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou a highly favorable criminal settlement, dropping U.S. extradition proceedings against her in Canada. In exchange, China released two Canadian citizens it seized on fabricated charges immediately after Meng’s initial 2018 arrest in Vancouver. Biden’s retreat in Meng’s case undoubtedly colors China’s efforts to stop Pelosi’s Taiwan trip.

The Meng capitulation foreshadowed April’s exchange of American Trevor Reed for a major Russian cocaine trafficker, and ongoing negotiations to free Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. All three arrests were politically motivated (although Griner “confessed” to drug charges); Reed is now pressuring Biden on behalf of the others. Viktor Bout, the Russian offered for Griner and Whelan, is serving twenty-five years for selling arms to Colombian narco-terrorists.

Interestingly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week the prisoner-exchange talks originated in the June 2021, Biden-Putin meeting in Geneva, where the leaders “agreed to appoint representatives in charge of these issues, and the Foreign Ministry is not among them. The timing is consistent with White House deliberations on conceding the Meng case and the Russia prisoner swaps. Also quite interesting is Lavrov’s comment that negotiations initially were not in diplomatic channels but perhaps between intelligence or law-enforcement authorities.

Lavrov was uninterested in speaking to Blinken before they finally connected on July 29. Russia’s Maria Zakharova had earlier said Lavrov “has a busy schedule of real work,” and the two would talk “when time permits.” Moreover, Blinken, having avoided calling Lavrov for five months after the invasion of Ukraine, has repeatedly publicly discussed the substance of a possible deal, which the Russians have not. Similarly, the White House openly denounced as “bad faith” Russia’s proposal that the deal includes releasing a former intelligence official in German custody.

This public commentary reportedly reflects administration nervousness that talks are proceeding slowly, an error of tradecraft if accurate. Similar disarray has marked Biden’s efforts to stop Pelosi’s Taiwan visit. China’s rhetorical pressure has been intense, and the Administration’s discomfort far too visible. The President himself referred to Pentagon concerns for Pelosi’s safety, and anonymous officials confirmed Biden discussed the trip in his recent telephone call with Xi Jinping. Beijing was not so shy, saying Xi told Biden, “Those who play with fire will perish by it. It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this.”

China is, in effect, trying to make Pelosi’s trip a hostage. Some American analysts buy Beijing’s propaganda, worrying the trip “[C]ould ignite this combustible situation into a crisis that escalates to military conflict.” Such paranoia may well reflect White House insecurity, but it is badly misplaced. Xi knows full well that any danger to Pelosi’s safety would prompt a robust American response, at least from most administrations. And while military exercises were held in Fujian Province, there is no evidence of any real threat, according to the White House itself

Dreading Chinese fist-shaking without a clear-eyed analysis of reality has all the hallmarks of Biden vetoing the transfer of Polish MiGs to Ukraine, and hesitancy and delay in providing Kyiv with higher-end weapons, for fear of provoking Russian escalation. Administration trepidation about Pelosi’s travels is painfully visible worldwide, dispiriting our friends and whetting our adversaries’ appetites.

In Tehran, the ayatollahs must be dismayed for having come in too low bargaining with Biden and not demanding more concessions before readmitting the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear deal. And no wonder Kim Jung-Un is again making nuclear-weapons threats.

By abandoning well-established American policy against negotiating with hostage-takers; by overestimating short-term pressures and underestimating longer-term ramifications; and by repeatedly signaling weakness and uncertainty dealing with China, Russia and others, Biden has harmed American credibility and thereby invited more threats and challenges. This lack of resolve bodes poorly for Ukraine if Russia’s invasion grinds on, especially since several European countries, notably Germany and France, are signaling their own lack of resolve. Its no surprise that Taiwan wants a Pelosi visit.

Ambassador John R. Bolton served as national security adviser under President Donald J. Trump. He is the author of “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.” You can follow him on Twitter: @AmbJohnBolton.

19fortyfive.com · by ByJohn Bolton · July 31, 2022




21. ‘Brink of a major revolution’: Pentagon-funded drug trial may end venomous snakebite scourge


Military research again contributing to the public good?


‘Brink of a major revolution’: Pentagon-funded drug trial may end venomous snakebite scourge

Stars and Stripes · by Joseph Ditzler · July 28, 2022

A black mamba, one of the most dangerous snakes in sub-Saharan Africa. Black refers to the inside of the snake's mouth, not its usually gray to dark brown exterior. (Pixabay)

Japan has the habu, the keelback and the mamushi; the United States has the copperhead, sidewinder and Mojave green. Djibouti has the boomslang, the red spitting cobra and the East African carpet viper.

Venomous snakes kill nearly 140,000 people worldwide every year, mostly children and farmers in developing countries, according to the World Health Organization. But their threat may be vanquished if a California doctor’s idea for a snakebite antidote, fostered by a $13.8 million Pentagon contract, proves successful this summer.

Dr. Matthew Lewin, an expert in expedition medicine, found in an existing drug, varespladib, a compact and affordable remedy for snake venom. The Pentagon paid to develop the antidote to shield U.S. troops from an occupational hazard, but it may benefit millions of people with little access to health care.

“It was the furthest thing from my imagination, ever, that the U.S. military would become the champion of this global health effort,” Lewin, of Corte Madera, Calif., told Stars and Stripes by Zoom on May 27. “Obviously friends and family and people put money in along with the military, but I think the real force behind this and the real credibility for the program has come from the military more than anywhere else. And that was not something I expected.”

Dr. Matthew Lewin, an expert in expedition medicine, at work at Ophirex Inc. on Nov. 2, 2020. (Sunita Rao/Ophirex Inc.)

Varespladib is in clinical trials with actual snakebite victims in the U.S. and in India, the latter with one of the world’s highest rates of snakebite. If the trials succeed and the Food and Drug Administration approves, the drug could be available by summer 2024.

The trials involve treating 110 people with antivenom and either varespladib or a placebo, then looking for significant improvement in the patients treated with varespladib, according to clincaltrials.gov.

Unlike antivenom, varespladib, a “small molecule,” is available as a pill, requires no refrigeration and counteracts nearly all snake venom.

Antivenom provides an immune response by flooding the body with antibodies that bind with the venom and remove it from the victim’s body. It’s expensive, requires refrigeration and often produces unpleasant side effects.

By contrast, varespladib, developed years ago by pharmaceutical maker Eli Lilly, blocks sPLA2, a basic neurotoxin in venom that causes paralysis, tissue damage and respiratory failure. The drug neutralizes venom in test tubes and stops or reverses its effects in laboratory animals.

Lewin conceived the idea in 2011 and to develop it cofounded Ophirex Inc., a public benefit corporation, the following year with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jerry Harrison.

“We are really on the brink of a major revolution of how people think about this,” Harrison, a tech financier, entrepreneur and original member of the band Talking Heads, told Stars and Stripes via Zoom on June 3.

Lewin later found financial and technical support through Lt. Col. Rebecca Carter, a developer of medicines for Air Force Special Operations Command, and Derrick Rossi, a stem cell biologist and cofounder of pharmaceutical company Moderna whose work with messenger RNA led to vaccines for COVID-19.

“Guess what’s a better idea than mRNA for snake bite – a small molecule for snakebite is a better idea,” Rossi said via Zoom on June 4. “I looked at the data, and the data is very, very impressive.”

WHO estimates that venomous snakes bite between 1.8 million and 2.7 million people every year, of whom as many as 138,000 die and another 414,000 are left with serious injuries such as a lost limb. About 75% of snakebite deaths occur because the victim could not get treatment in time.

The Defense Department recorded just 345 nonfatal incidents of snakebite involving active and Reserve members between 2016 and 2020, according to Lindsey Garver, who oversees the snakebite antidote project for Army Medical Materiel Development Activity at Fort Detrick, Md.

However, venomous snakes are a potential hazard where U.S. service members live and work.

In Africa, snakes kill as many as 30,000 people annually, according to Doctors Without Borders. But in 2010, the primary antivenom provider in Africa, the French company Sanofi, curtailed production of its broad-based antivenom Pan Afrique.

That “created a real issue” for U.S. Africa Command and the Defense Health Agency, Garver said by Zoom on May 11. Antivenom was becoming unavailable as special operations increased its exposure to snakes.

“When we talk to our SOCOM user community, what they’re really concerned with is that they’re moving toward small teams, in more austere areas,” Garver said.

A varespladib pill promises to halt or reverse, at the scene, the bleeding, pain and paralysis caused by a snakebite long enough for the victim to get further treatment. It may exceed expectations.

“The drug itself – and we’re still in test and evaluation – it could end up curative,” Garver said. “You still have a wound and a potential for more supportive care, but it may be the only thing you end up needing. The idea is not to leave that person without treatment.”

An airman stacks cold bricks on top of medical supplies, includng antivenom, while another logs the re-icing time at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia in October 2008. (Darnell Cannady/U.S. Air Force)

‘Changing the paradigm’

Varespladib could be the first significant improvement in treating snakebites in 100 years.

The idea came to Lewin in 2011 as he prepared for a research expedition to the Philippines with the California Academy of Sciences. Ten years earlier, herpetologist Joe Slowinski, an academy member, died from a krait bite during an expedition to Myanmar.

“This incident was greatly on my mind, and that is when I started thinking, like, ‘OK, what am I going to do if I don’t have antivenom?’’ Lewin said. “And I was really trying to think deeply about what I could do differently than has already been done.”

A year later, Lewin had himself paralyzed at the University of California, San Francisco, by a colleague, anesthesiologist Dr. Philip Bickler, to prove the concept using another drug as a nasal spray. Lewin recalled feeling panicky as he lay immobilized, but the idea worked.

“I think, from the standpoint of raising funds, nobody could doubt my commitment, to put it lightly,” he said. “It was a pretty scary experience.”

Meanwhile, Carter, a biochemist and director of medical modernization for Air Force special operations, was concerned that Sanofi had stopped making its antivenom.

“That would be a major problem for our special operators in Africa because that was it, right? Antivenom was all we had,” she said via Zoom on June. 7. “We had members that went out on civil affairs, we had members that would treat local people when they needed it, and so we were interested in not just providing a solution for our members just to treat themselves, but also to ensure that they could help others, if needed.”

Subsequently, Carter, on a fellowship at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, in 2016 met Lewin at Venom Week, the North American Society of Toxinology conference. Lewin had missed out on a small DARPA grant and was eager to follow up with Carter, she said.

“He talked to me about his idea, which was totally different,” Carter said. “I think I was one of the first people that he talked to from a technical side that was also really interested in finding a solution to this problem.”

That year, Lewin and his associates showed how varespladib saved rats from lethal venom doses, according to a study in the online National Library of Medicine.

“He was after an antidote, not an antivenom, which was very unique and a different idea, and I felt like this could work,” Carter said.

She found Lewin a $175,000 grant from the Biomedical Research Advisory Group, or BRAG, composed of one representative, herself included, from each of the U.S. military’s special operations commands.

At first, she encountered “a lot” of resistance from the group, Carter said. “Nothing at all against the way they were doing their job, but they were very focused on, as they should be, on other areas of work,” she said.

“They were reluctant to sponsor a new idea for snakebite treatment and they were reluctant to believe that this could work, that a new idea could work,” she said. “Because what we were talking about was completely changing the paradigm.”

With that grant, and money the Air Force later provided, Lewin produced “very convincing” results in further animal studies, Carter said.

Carter retired from the Air Force in 2018 and joined Ophirex, where she is chief development officer.

“I had this idea quite some time ago,” Lewin said, “but she really pioneered this concept for the military.”

Rebecca Carter, left, a doctor of biochemistry and chief development officer for Ophirex Inc., and Lindsey Garver, a doctor of microbiology and immunology and product manager at U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, photographed on July 22, 2022. (Ophirex Inc.)

Twin missions

Lewin’s idea may have stalled but for a chance meeting in 2012 with Jerry Harrison, formerly a keyboard player and guitarist with defining bands The Modern Lovers and the Talking Heads.

Harrison was the “first reasonable person to listen to me,” Lewin said. “He understood this in a way I didn’t even contemplate because I thought, I’ll publish this and everybody’s going to say, ‘Wow.’”

Friends took Lewin to a party in Harrison’s Bay Area home to raise his spirits. Harrison, looking at the “smart people” assembled in his kitchen, asked: “Does anyone have anything they’ve been thinking about that they have just never have done anything with?”

And Lewin blurted out: “Well, I have this idea about an antidote for snakebites.”

Harrison said he recognized the potential in Lewin’s idea and offered him some practical advice.

“I thought, we’ve got to do this, to save lives, of course,” he said. “Let’s do this.”

Jerry Harrison, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, entrepreneur and board member at Ophirex Inc. (Jerry Harrison)

Harrison said he brought to the project lessons he learned as a band member and entrepreneur.

“I said, you need to have patent protection on this, or it’ll just be something that’s entirely taken away from you,” Harrison said. “And I think that was very, very essential.”

Ophirex attracted investors and public and private public grants, including an initial $148,000 from the Defense Health Agency under the Small Business Independent Research program in 2018 and $2.6 million from the Wellcom Trust in 2020.

The visionary mission behind a snakebite antidote doesn’t conflict with the profit motive, Harrison said.

“It’s very important that it is profitable, and particularly significantly profitable for the people who took the risk early on,” he said.

“We need to find a strategy that we basically make enough money in the developed world … probably with government, the country of India’s help, or a nonprofit, that it is affordable to stakeholder farmers in Africa, India, Southeast Asia.”

Pill in the pack

Derrick Rossi confessed a fascination with snakes beginning in childhood.

“I’m a biologist, but I’ve been fascinated with snakes my whole life,” he said. “I’ve known a lot about snakes for a long time.”

His older brother kept snakes, including pythons and boas. His daughters have snakes. “I have four snakes upstairs,” Rossi said from his home.

He had his own serpentine close call.

As a young man paddling a dugout on the Congo River, he rescued a small snake swimming midstream. It crawled up his paddle and flared its hood, announcing itself as a cobra. Rossi’s traveling companion struggled to control the boat, now spinning in the current.

Rossi flung the snake into the river, he said. It slithered back on board and hid among the cargo between the two men.

“So, we had the cobra on board, and we had all our provisions between us, our tents and our food and our pineapples. We started picking through one at a time until finally we caught sight of the snake again,” he said.

He flung it overboard a second time, for good.

Rossi identified it later as a forest cobra. “And by the way, very adept at water, so it was in the water, and it was not stressing in the water,” he said.

Derrick Rossi, co-founder of Moderna and a board member for Ophirex Inc. (Derrick Rossi)

Rossi saw a possible snakebite vaccine in mRNA but signed on instead as a director with Ophirex after meeting with Lewin. He also raised about $8 million for the company, he said.

“I want to raise awareness,” he said, “and I want to make sure that this medicine, when it gets approved, gets into the hands of the people that need it, as efficiently as possible.”

Varespladib works against a wide variety of snakes and costs less than antivenom and hospitalization, Rossi said.

Every soldier moving into snake country will want the pill in their pack, he said.

“Drugs fail for two reasons: They don’t work and they’re unsafe,” Rossi said. “So, this drug we know is safe, we also happen to know it works.”

Stars and Stripes · by Joseph Ditzler · July 28, 2022


​22. What if They Gave a War and Everybody Was Woke?



Is the military really embracing "wokeness?" Or is it trying to ensure servicembers, families, and all people are treated with dignity and respect? Is it trying to ensure that bias in assignments and promotions is reduced to the lowest extent possible (it can never be eliminated). Is it trying to stop the scourge of sexual assult in the ranks?  


Sure we can debate the merits of certain programs and methods but who does not want to ensure we have a military that respects the dignity of all members, is fair and just, and that protects them against threats such as sexual assault or racist acts?


Why would anyone want to join the military if they face these threats and why would anyone join the military if the leadership was not committed to countering such threats? If the opposite of wokeness is unequal treatment and unequal opportunity, bias in promotions, sexual assault, racist acts and a lack of dignity and respect for all, then I will take the woke perspective.


We should stop the focus on wokeness versus anti-wokeness and focus on sound leadership that creates command climates where military members can thrive and develop the bonds that are necessary to be successful on the battlefield regardless of race and gender.


What if They Gave a War and Everybody Was Woke?

The military’s embrace of faddish politics may make activists happy, but it’s driving away recruits.


https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-if-they-gave-a-war-and-everybody-was-woke-military-recruitment-crt-training-obesity-reading-labor-market-11659108526?utm_source=pocket_mylist



By Jimmy Byrn

July 29, 2022 1:30 pm ET


Is the U.S. prepared for battle? By one measure, military recruitment, the answer appears to be no. Nearly every branch has struggled to meet its recruitment goals for 2022, with some falling as short as 40%. Worse yet, only about a quarter of America’s youth meet current eligibility standards—and recent surveys show only 9% are even interested.

Military leadership primarily blames this slump on two causes: teen obesity rates and the tight labor market. But data for both claims can’t paint the full picture. Teen obesity did increase during the pandemic, to 22% from 19%. But that jump likely can’t account for the sudden and widespread collapse in recruitment. Neither can the labor market. The unemployment rate today sits at 3.6%—roughly the same as in 2019. Yet in 2019 the Army exceeded its recruiting goals. It’s falling perilously short today and will be understrength by 28,000 troops by the end of 2023. The military’s benefits—including child care, housing allowances, medical coverage and large bonuses, up to $50,000—should also help insulate it from the pitfalls of hiring young recruits in a tight labor market.

What, then, explains the shift? Perhaps one answer lies in the Pentagon’s wholesale embrace of woke politics.

On his first day in office, President Biden rescinded a Trump-era executive order banning critical-race-theory training in the military. The changes made by senior commanders were nearly immediate. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin mandated that every military unit conduct a “stand-down” to confront “extremism in the ranks.” The chief of naval operations, Adm. Mike Gilday, added Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist” to his professional reading list for sailors—never mind the book’s endorsement of racial discrimination and its charges that the institutions troops swear to protect are systemically racist.

NEWSLETTER SIGN-UP

Morning Editorial Report

All the day's Opinion headlines.

PREVIEW

SUBSCRIBE

Added to the mix has been divisive gender activism. The Navy has mandated gender-sensitivity training, and released a video encouraging sailors to closely police the use of pronouns as well as everyday language, declaring that those who fail to comply aren’t “allies” of their fellow sailors. Not only have such measures affected unit morale, according to some service members, they’ve also amounted to a form of antirecruitment for prospective enlistees. The Pentagon is appealing to activists at the expense of those most likely to serve.

The military has historically drawn an outsize proportion of recruits from conservative Southern states. During the height of Operation Iraqi Freedom, nearly 40% of its enlistees were from the South. That’s still true. South Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Georgia each contribute more than 30%—some as high as 50%—of their share of America’s 18- to 24-year-old population to military service. Unsurprisingly, military members privately skew conservative. In the 2018 midterm elections, nearly 45% of service members surveyed indicated they would back Republican candidates, versus 28% who favored Democrats. Support for Republicans among veterans was similarly strong in 2020.

Military recruitment relies on another factor: family tradition. As of 2017, one in four military recruits had a parent who had served, and almost 80% who had at least one family member presently enlisted. The military’s sudden shift is functioning as a repellent here, too. Families with rich traditions of military service are increasingly not encouraging their sons and daughters to follow in their footsteps. Why? For some, the military’s support for these divisive policies has harmed their view of the profession.

Recent polls lend support to the idea that disaffection with the military is growing among conservatives. The 2021 Reagan Institute National Defense Survey found that since 2019 those who have “a great deal” of confidence in the military fell from 70% to 45%, with the largest decline—34 points—occurring among Republicans. The most common reason offered by respondents was concern about “political leadership.” In a separate poll this month, Gallup found that conservatives’ trust in the military fell by 10 points over the past year. A similar trend held for independents, whose confidence in the military fell by 8 points.

One of the reasons the military has been among the most trusted institutions in America in recent decades is that it stands apart from the rest of society. It is governed by values such as selflessness, courage, patriotism and sacrifice—not racial discrimination or activist politics. A military that appears to abandon its apolitical role will have a harder time attracting large numbers of warriors and patriots to its ranks. Welcoming woke policies under a warped idea of inclusion may serve to exclude those who are traditionally more likely to serve.

Young Americans of all stripes who crave adventure, challenge and discipline and who are inspired by the idea of serving their country are who the military needs. They shouldn’t be told that they’re part of the problem. Pentagon leaders need to welcome these groups, refrain from divisive political and social causes and stop pushing political agendas that may ultimately hurt our ability to recruit, fight and win.

Mr. Byrn is a student at Yale Law School, a former U.S. Army armor officer and a board member of Vets on Duty, an advocacy organization.


​22.​ New OSINT foundation aims to ‘professionalize’ open source discipline across spy agencies


As you can tell I am a great believer in Open Source Information as I have been sending out these messages in various forms since 1996.


I'm a believer in Thoms Friedman's concept of "information arbitrage" which he outlined in his book the Lexus and the Olive Tree in which you need to be able sift through large amounts of information on a wide array of subjects and discern what is important and useful then use and share that information. Interestingly right after 9-11 then retired (for the first time) general Schoomaker was at Fort Bragg and spoke to all the Special Forces battalion and group commanders and recommended Friedman's book. So I immediately bought a copy, and when I read the part about information arbitrage a light bulb went off and I thought that is what I have been trying to do for years and I continue to try to practice it every day.



New OSINT foundation aims to ‘professionalize’ open source discipline across spy agencies | Federal News Network

federalnewsnetwork.com · July 27, 2022

Former intelligence leaders are trying to boost the role of open source intelligence at U.S. spy agencies through a new foundation that plans to develop community-wide standards and help professionalize the OSINT workforce.

The unveiling of the OSINT Foundation comes at a time when social media feeds and other public analysis are providing unprecedented public insights into world events like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Congress and other advocates are calling on intelligence leaders to...

READ MORE

Former intelligence leaders are trying to boost the role of open source intelligence at U.S. spy agencies through a new foundation that plans to develop community-wide standards and help professionalize the OSINT workforce.

The unveiling of the OSINT Foundation comes at a time when social media feeds and other public analysis are providing unprecedented public insights into world events like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Congress and other advocates are calling on intelligence leaders to develop new open source strategies to better take advantage of publicly available information.

The foundation’s board includes several former high ranking officials, including Ron Burgess, a retired Army lieutenant general who served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency; Barbara Fast, a retired Army major general who commanded the Army Intelligence Center; and Tom Fingar, the former deputy director of national intelligence for analysis.

Barbara Alexander, the president of the foundation, said the organization will be focused on developing OSINT professionals within the U.S. intelligence community. The foundation’s official launch will be Aug. 1.

“Our focus is to help professionalize the OSINT discipline for those people who are working on it across the intelligence community,” Alexander said on Inside the IC.

Alexander is also a senior advisor at General Dynamics Information Technology. After starting out her career as a European political-military intelligence analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency, she later led the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security’s Open Source Enterprise while serving in DHS’ Intelligence and Analysis Division.

“I quickly realized that, especially in DHS with its missions that are all hazards and all threats and supporting the state and local organizations, open source was critical,” Alexander said.

Eliot Jardines, who will serve as director of operations for the foundation, said OSINT has progressed substantially within the intelligence community since his days as an Army reservist assigned to 434th Military Intelligence Detachment. Jardines is currently president of Gnosis Solutions, a training and intelligence consultancy.

“Early on, open source intelligence was a craft done by isolated craftspeople,” he said. “There was very little in the way of infrastructure, certainly very little technology, other than get on the Internet and surf.”

In 2005, Jardines was appointed inaugural assistant deputy director of national intelligence for open source and oversaw the establishment of the Open Source Center. In 2015, the center was rebranded as the Open Source Enterprise and shifted under the CIA’s Directorate of Digital Innovation.

“Increasingly, the discipline is becoming more and more specialized and highly dependent on things like social network analysis and data science,” Jardines said. “Back in the day, it was done by one individual poking around trying to answer a question and now we’re sifting through huge volumes of data, looking for patterns and gaps and whatnot. So it has increasingly grown to be far more complex and nuanced than early on.”

The foundation will be specifically focused on OSINT’s use within the intelligence community to answer questions for national leadership and policymakers. That’s opposed to broader definitions of OSINT, such as investigations done by groups like Bellingcat.

But Jardines said the intel community can learn from the rapidly evolving OSINT industry and hobbyist community.

Read more: Inside the IC

“We should be paying a lot of attention to what’s being done and see what tactics, techniques and procedures — ‘steal’ might be too strong a word — but what TTPs can we liberate from that hobbyist community?” Jardines said. “It’s absolutely fascinating to see what crowdsourced OSINT can do, and so we certainly value that work, because it really drives a lot of innovation and change.”

Despite recent efforts within the intelligence community to standardize OSINT, Alexander and Jardines said it still often suffers from a lack of recognition at U.S. intelligence agencies, with even things as simple as its definition often up for debate, despite it being defined in a 2006 law.

Part of the problem may be the intelligence community’s penchant for classified sources — spy satellites and covert agents — as opposed to using publicly available information.

“We have often said that it’s a lot sexier to talk about spooky collection disciplines,” Alexander said. “I think historically OSINT was used as the ‘additional information.’ You went to your traditional national technical means or your [Human Intelligence] collection to get the real skinny on what was going on, and then got the additional stuff from OSINT.”

Part of the foundation’s plan is to advocate for a program of record for OSINT throughout the intelligence community, in order to secure dedicated billets and funding.

Some agencies are further along in establishing open source programs than others. In addition to the CIA’s Open Source Enterprise, the Defense Intelligence Agency established an Open Source Intelligence Integration Center in 2019. The State Department’s intelligence arm is also establishing a Strategic Open Source Coordination Office.

“Each agency has to have their own open source capability, because they have unique authorities,” Jardines said. “And they have unique requirements and policies and targets they go after.”

Sign up for our daily newsletter so you never miss a beat on all things federal

Meanwhile, Congress is asking for an updated characterization of OSINT. The 2022 Intelligence Authorization Act directs the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the under secretary of Defense for intelligence and security to publish updated definitions of several intelligence terms, including open-source intelligence.

Lawmakers are also pushing agencies to improve their use of open source intelligence to counter the government of China.

“The Intelligence Community must reorient to engage in a strategic competition with the PRC while countering China’s malign activities globally,” the Senate’s report on the 2022 authorization bill states. “To do so, it must continue to build open source intelligence capabilities and augment capacity; enhance sharing of intelligence capabilities; and strengthen the analytical and collection capabilities relating to non-military threats including technology competition.”

Despite some of the broader policy discussions, a primary focus for the foundation will be developing “OSINT practitioners,” according to Alexander. The foundation will first establish a “practitioner committee” with seven representatives from government and industry to be appointed by Alexander.

“We say that if you are one of the seven people on the practitioner committee, we consider you to be one of the seven subject matter experts in the nation on open source,” Alexander said.

Similar committees focused on tradecraft, resourcing/policy, and certifications will follow the practitioner group.

The foundation will also publish OSINT standards, which will often be derived from standards the intelligence community has already published, to help drive open source educational efforts at universities and other institutions.

The foundation has also partnered with the International Association for Intelligence Education and plans to eventually start offering a basic OSINT certification to verify that an individual has a grasp of open source fundamentals.

While each agency has their own open source training and standards specific to their missions, the idea is that the foundation can help set a baseline for a future open source workforce.

“This is a great opportunity,” Alexander said. “It’s one of the few disciplines that you can actually do outside of the government. You don’t need to be cleared. A lot of universities are starting intelligence studies programs. So this will enable us to open the eyes of incoming professionals as to what OSINT is and how it’s used across the across the community.”

federalnewsnetwork.com · July 27, 2022



De Oppresso Liber,

David Maxwell

Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Senior Fellow, Global Peace Foundation

Senior Advisor, Center for Asia Pacific Strategy

Editor, Small Wars Journal

Twitter: @davidmaxwell161

VIDEO "WHEREBY" Link: https://whereby.com/david-maxwell

Phone: 202-573-8647

email: david.maxwell161@gmail.com


V/R
David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email: david.maxwell161@gmail.com
Web Site: www.fdd.org
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

If you do not read anything else in the 2017 National Security Strategy read this on page 14:

"A democracy is only as resilient as its people. An informed and engaged citizenry is the fundamental requirement for a free and resilient nation. For generations, our society has protected free press, free speech, and free thought. Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies. Adversaries target media, political processes, financial networks, and personal data. The American public and private sectors must recognize this and work together to defend our way of life. No external threat can be allowed to shake our shared commitment to our values, undermine our system of government, or divide our Nation."

Company Name | Website
Facebook  Twitter  Pinterest  
basicImage