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Haz 09, 2019, 05:48 ÖÖ Last Edit: Haz 09, 2019, 06:47 ÖÖ by Alkyone
Could Trump Trash The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty?

Think of what the world would be like if Russia, the United States, China, India and Pakistan were testing nuclear weapons. They are not because of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which is responsible for shutting down nuclear testing by major and regional powers for more than two decades. Walking away from the CTBT would be extraordinarily dumb and dangerous, but the Trump administration has taken a step in this direction.

The CTBT was negotiated in 1996, but it isn't solidly in place. While Russia has signed and ratified it, Senate Republicans rejected it in 1999. China, like the United States, has signed but not ratified. There are other holdouts, including India and Pakistan. And yet none of these states has tested nuclear weapons since 1998. When a treaty is negotiated, it's common diplomatic practice not to undercut its objectives while awaiting its entry into force. Hence the two-decades-long moratorium on testing by every nuclear-armed state except North Korea.

How long this can this situation last? The answer is in doubt now that the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley, Jr., has declared at a public forum that the "United States believes that Russia probably is not adhering to its nuclear testing moratorium." The Treaty sets a "zero yield" obligation: states aren't supposed to test even with the slightest yields. The State Department defines this as any explosion "that produce a self-sustaining, supercritical chain reaction." In other words, you can conduct experiments, but the experiments should not produce any seismic activity.

As a result of General Ashley's statement, it's now open season against the CTBT for those who want to trash another treaty. Critics of arms control have begun to call on Donald Trump to "unsign" the CTBT, just as he has walked away from the Iran nuclear deal and the Arms Trade Treaty. (Trump also announced withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, but in this case, evidence of Russian noncompliance is compelling.) By "unsigning" the CTBT, Trump would tell the world that the United States is no longer bound to respect the Treaty's obligation not to test nuclear weapons.

Before stumbling into this sinkhole, there are three very important things to bear in mind. First, the U.S. Intelligence Community in general, and the Defense Intelligence Agency in particular, have bad track records in assessing Moscow's compliance with nuclear testing constraints. Second, National Security Adviser John Bolton and others have a track record of fixing intelligence findings to fit their policy preferences, to the great detriment of America's national security, expeditionary forces, and international standing. And third, walking away from the CTBT would remove constraints on the resumption of nuclear testing by others far more than on the United States.

Now let's consider details.

General Ashley declared that the United States believes that Russia "probably" is cheating. This suggests an intelligence community-wide agreement, but Time magazine reports that this is not the case. According to Time's reporters, there is no consensus, and "the Defense Intelligence Agency generally takes the 'worst case' position on military matters." We deserve to know if there is a difference of view within the intelligence community on whether Russia is "probably" cheating, and if this dispute is about inference rather than evidence. We also need to know whether administration officials are seeking to influence intelligence assessments to suit policy preferences.

The Intelligence Community does not have a good track record when it comes to nuclear testing. In 1974, President Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev agreed to a Threshold Test Ban Treaty, limiting tests underground to 150 kiloton yields -- about ten times that of the Hiroshima bomb. This treaty was much derided because the Left wanted a complete cessation of testing, while the Right presumed the treaty wasn't verifiable and that the Kremlin would cheat.

Sure enough, U.S. readings of Soviet tests indicated that the 150 kiloton-threshold was being breached, and this became part of the bill of particulars against doing new arms control agreements during the Reagan administration. The considered judgment of both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency was that the Kremlin "likely" cheated.

This judgment was later disproven by joint verification experiments at the U.S. and Soviet test sites. The "evidence" used to declare a "likely" violation was faulty. Seismic monitoring capabilities were much cruder back then, and there were wide bands of uncertainty surrounding the actual yields of Soviet tests. Uncertainty levels were magnified further by a lack of understanding of the geology at Soviet test sites, resulting in the systematic overestimation by the U.S. intelligence community of Soviet nuclear test yields. With information based on the joint verification experiments, the issue of "likely" Soviet violations was put to rest.

Now fast-forward to General Ashley's claim of "probable" Russian violation of the Comprehensive Test Ban's zero yield stricture. Monitoring a zero yield treaty is much harder than monitoring whether a 150 kiloton-threshold has been exceeded. Very intrusive inspections -- the kind permitted by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty -- might help, but the Senate hasn't consented to the Treaty. Another set of joint verification experiments might once again prove useful, but Washington and Moscow have to improve ties before this can happen.

Even though the Comprehensive Test Ban hasn't entered into force, the United States, Russia, and many other signatories have wisely decided to set up an international monitoring system able to detect very low yield explosions. The head of this Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization has clarified that this ultra-sophisticated network of over 300 sensors, including several particularly useful to monitor the Russian test site located above the Arctic Circle, has not detected suspicious readings. The United States possesses a parallel monitoring network, which might be even better. We deserve to know whether it has recorded suspicious readings or not.

If it has not, what, then, might possibly account for the Defense Intelligence Agency's conclusion of a "probable" Russian violation of the zero-yield Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty? The answer might well be inferences drawn from the refurbishment of Russia's Arctic test site, including the construction of new facilities. But the United States has also refurbished and built new facilities at its test site in Nevada where treaty-permissible experiments are carried out.

Is activity at the Arctic test site suggestive of noncompliance? The answer might well lie in the eye of the beholder. For the Defense Intelligence Agency, it's possible that suspicious activity and construction at Russia's test site is sufficient to conclude the probability of a violation.

If this is the case, it's not sound analysis; it's inference. Before the drums intensify to "unsign" the Test Ban Treaty, thereby opening the gates to renewed nuclear testing by one and all, the House Intelligence Committee could demonstrate that it's not totally consumed with Donald Trump's ties to Russia by calling witnesses and finding out what's behind the Defense Intelligence Agency's claim of a "probable" violation. What is fact and what is surmise? It might be true that the Kremlin has tested at yields that are extraordinarily hard to detect. Or it might be true that the assertion of a "probable" violation reflects shoddy intelligence tradecraft or political influence, or both. What's behind this judgment? The testimony would, of course, be classified, but the Committee could provide an unclassified summary of its findings.

It's unknown whether John Bolton had any involvement with the DIA intelligence assessment, but another reason for investigation is the National Security Adviser's record of  "fixing" intelligence to make the case for a second war against Saddam Hussein, a war predicated on weapons of mass destruction that did not exist. Bolton is on record opposing U.S. ratification and entry into force of the CTBT. Is he once again "fixing the facts" to suit his policy preferences? Is the Defense Intelligence Agency once again guilty of reaching conclusions beyond available evidence, and misrepresenting the evidence it has? Or is there strong evidence of Russian violations of the CTBT's prohibition on testing?

We deserve answers to these questions before opening the floodgates to resumed nuclear testing. Mesajı Paylaş
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Türkiye de nükleer şemsiyeden dışarı çıkmış görüntüde bir ülke şu an için. Atom bombası yapmamız şart. Politikamız atom bombasına 3 ay mesafede olma olarak şimdilik olmalı. Her türlü denetlemelere açık olarak ama herkesin de farkında olacağı düzeyde atom bombasına 3 ay uzakta hazırlığında olmamız gerek. İlk fırsatta da üretmemiz gerek ilerde tabi. Mesajı Paylaş


Why Russia and China Are Joining Forces

Russian and Chinese military aircraft probed South Korean and Japanese air defenses last week, leading the South Koreans to fire more than 300 warning shots before the intruders departed.

This was just the latest manifestation of a deepening alliance between Russia and China. James Dobbins, Howard Shatz and Ali Wyne described the emerging alignment in an April essay in the Diplomat. In 2016, Russia displaced Saudi Arabia as China's largest source of imported oil. In 2017, the two countries held their first joint naval exercise in the Baltic Sea. In June 2018, Xi Jinping called Vladimir Putin "my best, most intimate friend," and later that year Chinese forces participated in the largest military exercise on Russian soil since 1981.

The departing director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, says the two Eurasian supergiants are as close as they were in the 1950s. From Venezuela to Syria to Serbia, they are working to frustrate the West. They are also increasingly cooperating in sub-Saharan Africa and have found ways to reduce their competition in Central Asia.

Many analysts discounted the prospects for deep Sino-Russian coordination. Mr. Putin's overarching foreign policy objective has long been to build up Russia as an independent great power between Europe and China; a close alliance with a rising China works against this goal. Tensions along their lengthy border, commercial rivalries, and Russian suspicion of Chinese designs on its Far Eastern territories tend to drive the two countries apart. Given Russia's slow decline and China's rapid rise, some expected Russia would support Western efforts to balance China rather than undermine them.

Instead Moscow seems to have concluded that the door to the West is closed. The European Union is too weak, too indecisive and too liberal to serve as a strategic partner for Mr. Putin's Russia. President Trump is too mercurial and Congress too hostile for the U.S. to meet Russia's needs. That leaves a stark choice between an alliance with China and isolation.

There is another factor driving Moscow and Beijing together. The circus atmosphere of the Trump presidency sometimes obscures this, but the past few years have witnessed a marked increase in American power. Washington's reach is expanding, its ability to enforce its will on others has grown, and it has become more willing and able to use its power disruptively. Moreover, as recent protests in Moscow and Hong Kong demonstrate, liberal ideas still have the power to challenge the world's autocrats. Russia and China have decided to work together more closely in large part because both countries are more worried about the U.S.

Intelligent people disagree about the wisdom of the Trump administration's Iran policy, and success is far from certain--but as a demonstration of American power, the economic isolation of a major oil producer in the teeth of stiff European, Chinese and Russian opposition is an extraordinary spectacle. To Russia--another major oil producer dependent on trade with the West that has felt the bite of American sanctions--it is terrifying.

Three factors contribute to this surge in American power. First, the success of fracking and related technologies together with the increased use of renewable energy in the West makes world energy markets more resilient. Oil prices are stable and relatively low even though Iran and Venezuela have essentially been forced out of the market.

Second, the growing sophistication of information technology means that U.S. authorities can track complex transactions and enforce secondary sanctions to an unprecedented degree. European governments have been shocked to discover that they cannot protect national companies wishing to do business with Iran from American law. Moscow and Beijing cannot help but notice that these tools could one day be turned against them.

The third factor is Mr. Trump. By using trade and tariffs as weapons in unrelated negotiations, the president has increased America's clout. European efforts to resist U.S. sanctions on Iran, for example, must be carried out in the shadow cast by Mr. Trump's threats to impose massive tariffs on key European products on vaguely defined "national security" grounds.

Mr. Trump's critics argue that Washington can't afford to alienate longtime allies as adversaries coalesce against the U.S. They also warn that the institutions that constrained great-power competition are decaying at an accelerating pace. And businesses around the world need the kind of policy predictability that Trump-era diplomacy is steadily eroding.

True enough, and worrying--but the new world disorder has deeper causes than Mr. Trump. There are two rising great powers in the world today--not just one--and the U.S. as well as China is developing a more expansive view of its interests as its power grows.

China has responded to the newly competitive international situation by deepening its relationship with a strategic partner. Combine the jostling ambitions of two rising world powers with the disruptive economic, military and cultural consequences of the information revolution, and the causes of our distemper are easier to understand if not, unfortunately, to resolve. Mesajı Paylaş
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Sunday's US Missile Launch, Explained.

Arms Control Twitter has been abuzz since yesterday's announcement that the United States had conducted a surprise launch of a Tomahawk missile on Sunday afternoon.

This wasn't just your regular missile launch, however. It was a Tomahawk cruise missile launched from a ground-based Mark-41 Vertical Launch System (VLS), traveling to a distance of "more than 500 kilometers," according to the Department of Defense.

In other words: a violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty--if the treaty still existed. It officially died on August 2nd, six months after both the United States and Russia announced suspensions of their respective treaty obligations. But the launch is an important walk-back of US security policy which for 32 years sought to curtail such weapons and instead, as we have written for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, makes the United States needlessly complicit in the INF's demise and frees Russia from both the responsibility and pressure to return to compliance.

The launch was a bit of a surprise, but we knew it was coming. As early as March, US defense officials announced that DoD would test two missiles after the treaty expired on August 2nd: a ground-launched Tomahawk in August and a ground-launched ballistic missile in November.

Although the US test isn't an official INF violation (because the treaty is dead), the timing and characteristics of the test itself has raised a few popular questions, which we will answer below:

The test took place only 16 days after INF died. That's awfully quick to develop this missile configuration--does it mean that the United States was secretly violating the treaty this entire time?

No. Sunday's test features an existing missile being launched from an existing missile launcher. It isn't exactly a difficult engineering feat to cobble this together on short notice.

In fact, one of the most interesting things about the video is the haphazard nature of the test itself. As pointed out by Michael Duitsman, it looks like the Pentagon simply bolted a VLS launcher to a semi-trailer, planted a giant American flag nearby, and launched.

Why is everyone so worked up about the launcher?

This is where things get really interesting. The Mk-41 VLS launcher that was used to launch the Tomahawk is the same type of launcher that would be used to launch SM-3 interceptors from Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense stations in Romania and Poland, once the latter station is completed.

For years, Russia has said that the US deployment of these ground-based Mk-41 VLS launchers to Europe constitutes an INF violation, because they could theoretically be used to launch Tomahawks over 500 kilometers. Legally speaking, this doesn't hold water--Article VII, paragraph 7 of the INF Treaty states that in order for a launcher to be considered in violation of the treaty, it must actually conduct a ground launch of a prohibited missile. Since this never happened while the INF Treaty was in force, the Mk-41 VLS launchers weren't in violation.

What's more, the United States has consistently stated that although Mk-41s can launch Tomahawks, the ones deployed in Romania and Poland cannot. In December 2017, the State Department announced that "The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System does not have an offensive ground-launched ballistic or cruise missile capability. Specifically, the system lacks the software, fire control hardware, support equipment, and other infrastructure needed to launch offensive ballistic or cruise missiles such as the Tomahawk."

Perhaps this is true, perhaps it isn't. But absent some kind of US transparency measure that offers visibility into the Aegis Ashore systems, Russia is forced to rely solely on an American promise. And for Putin, that's simply not going to cut it. That being said, it's also possible that no amount of transparency would ever have satisfied Putin, as his primary concern over Aegis Ashore appears to be directed at the general deployment of missile defenses in Europe, rather than their offensive potential.

So why did the United States do this test?

Both the timing and the nature of the test indicate that it's driven primarily by political--rather than strategic--considerations. In all likelihood, the Trump administration asked the Pentagon to conduct an INF-violating test under a very tight timeline, and the quickest option also happened to be the most controversial. Also, any chance to give the INF Treaty's corpse the middle finger is one that this administration will surely take.

Unfortunately, the test will almost certainly further entrench Russia's suspicions of US missile defense deployments in Europe as well as enable the Kremlin to paint the United States as the problem rather than Russia.

And China can now feel completely vindicated in its decision not to join arms control talks or limitations. After all, why would it do so when it has far fewer nuclear weapons than both Russia and the United States, or consider limiting its INF-range missiles when Russia, India, and now the United States, are all developing such weapons?

With this flight test, the Trump administration has placed the United States firmly in the group of nations that it previously criticized for developing INF-range weapons. Instead of seeking to build international pressure against INF-missile proliferation, the Trump administration has needlessly surrendered the legal and political high-ground the United States previously had, and has now become part of the problem. Mesajı Paylaş
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Turkey drops block on defence plan for Baltic states and Poland. Warsaw hits with SANCTIONS
Talking at the final press conference during the NATO summit in London NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg touted the meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a great success.
"The important thing now is that all Allies agree on the new . . . not the new, but to the updated, revised defence plans for the Baltic countries and Poland. And it just shows that we are able to deliver on substance. We are able to take decisions and to move this Alliance forward", NATO Secretary-General reassured.
Polish defence minister Mariusz Błaszczsak echoed the statement by saying that Turkey agreed to back NATO defence plans following Polish president's talks with the Turkish leader.
Turkish Foreign Minister's announcement - cold shower for NATO
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters on a visit to Rome that Turkey "will block final publication of a NATO defence plan for the Baltics and Poland until allies agree to designate the Syrian Kurdish YPG a terrorist group", Reuters reports.
"That plan will not be published until our plan is published too", said Cavusoglu.
The Baltics and Poland want sanctions in response
"It's no secret that European allies continue to back the Kurds and will never designate the Syrian Kurdish YPG a terrorist group. Based on this and following the recommendation of U.S. Department of State foreign ministries of Lithuania, other Baltic states and Poland are working closely on trade and economic sanctions against Turkey to force president Erdoğan into accepting NATO decisions", said Lithuanian foreign ministry public information office chief specialist Diana Zarembienė cited by
Restrictive measures may include limitations on Turkish companies in Poland and the Baltics, as well as complete ban or limitations on import of Turkish goods. The whole list of goods has not been made up yet. The sanctions may target textile/clothing sector, construction materials and food industry.
The sanctions laws and regulations also apply a ban on employment of Turkish citizens by Polish companies as well as tourists travel to Turkey by Polish travel agencies and limitation on charter flights with Turkey. Turkish airlines in Poland will be liable to additional checks.

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US-China financial war is just beginning to take shape

Battle lines are being drawn between American hawks and Wall Street

   Now that there is a nearly meaningless truce in the US-China trade war, Wall Street and corporate America can move on to preparing for the financial war. As you would expect, China is better prepared than America, but neither of them really knows how much they have to lose -- which is a lot.

The opposition to China's continued access to US capital markets is only beginning to take shape. It is an odd alliance of rebranded "national security" conservatives (you might call them neocons), navy-centric military people, intelligence and internal security types, research-intensive China short sellers and a few political people who see this is a long-term cause.

They exchange a lot of sidelong glances. The short sellers are not natural neocons, the navy does not trust civilians, let alone spies or politicians. The spooks want to understand how the financial markets fit in to their order of battle and political risk estimates, but cannot readily translate what the short sellers tell them. The politicians are constantly trying to triangulate their party's positions, the voters' whims and their donors' whispers. The lawyers wonder when they can start getting paid real money for their opinions.

The US-China financial war hawks do not even have an agreed map of how each economy is dependent on the other. The military and the spies worry most about China's appropriating defence-related technologies, the short sellers point to cloudy corporate reporting or outright fraud. The politicians worry about the loss of constituents' jobs and savings, or a depression-inducing freeze in Treasury or private markets.

All of them know there is a lot at stake. According to the federal US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, 172 Chinese companies are listed on big US exchanges, with a total market capitalisation of more than $1tn. China short sellers say that when you add over-the-counter equity and bond issues the total Chinese corporate issuance in the US is closer to $2tn.

   While the cash flowing from US investor accounts to Chinese businesses is a fraction of either total, a financial war would have a huge effect on both countries. Even the inchoate political bombast of the past couple of years had an effect. Chinese listings in the US have mostly dried up, and private equity and venture investment has declined sharply.

The real opposition to the financial war hawks comes not from Chinese officials but from corporate America and Wall Street. At any time there may be tens of millions of dollars that can be committed by a handful of US China short sellers, but JPMorgan, BlackRock, Goldman Sachs and their peers are on the long side. They are joined by Boeing, General Motors, semiconductor manufacturers and farm groups in lobbying to loosen or avoid official restrictions on Chinese companies' access to US capital markets.

The China finance war hawks call their American opposition "pandas". They know that for now key political authorities such as Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell will carefully deflect any serious financial market sanctions on China.

The panda hunters know that candidates for Congress can be denied factory-floor photo opportunities by China-dependent companies, and that they will have a hard time raising campaign money for their friends. They say that they are also ready to play the long game.

There is not much in the way of legislation on offer to slow Chinese access to capital markets. Last year, senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican, was joined by four Republican and Democratic colleagues to sponsor the Ensuring Quality Information and Transparency for Abroad-Based Listings on our Exchanges Act, known as the Equitable Act.

As you might guess from the press conference-friendly name, the panda hunters are trying hard to make it all about transparency, and not just anti-China (or Russia) discrimination. Conceptually, even companies based in allied countries such as Ukraine and Vietnam would be covered by the law.

Corporate disclosure could be covered by US Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement. But apart from head-shaking and fining accountancy firms, the SEC appears to have abandoned its trenches in the China conflict.

The Equitable Act has not gone anywhere. That has not dissuaded the panda hunters. Dan David, veteran short seller of Chinese companies, says that despite its anti-China rhetoric and tariffs, "the administration has not even mentioned this bill. I don't know why, but I think they didn't want it to gum up the works in the trade deal".

The panda hunters will make another push for federal legislation this spring, so Chinese capital markets access can be a line, or maybe a footnote, in the political campaigns. They worry their moneyed US opponents will ensure any actual law will be weak and one-sided, as they characterise the vague trade deal.

In any case, the true bloodbath in any financial war would follow any serious attempt to unwind the dollar-based banking system's intertwining with the Chinese economy. So far, the panda hunters are not prepared to deal with that nightmare. Mesajı Paylaş
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Putin Nukes Trump - Again

December 03, 2019

In October 2019, Russia engaged in what was apparently its largest announced strategic nuclear strike exercise in its history, Thunder (Grom)-2019. The exercise had many of the usual features of Russian large strategic nuclear exercises: personal involvement by the President of Russia Vladimir Putin in authorizing simulated nuclear strikes; a reported escalation scenario with Russian first use of nuclear weapons; large numbers of live nuclear missile launches; and a reported ending of a massive Russian nuclear strike.[1] As usual, Russian strategic air defenses also played a role in Thunder-2019.[2] The Russian Defense Ministry said that "The exercise was designed to test "the deployment and use of strategic forces against a threat of aggression."[3] (Emphasis added). This is probably the most candid description of the content of a nuclear exercise since the Zapid-1999 exercise in which Russia, for the first time, announced nuclear first use.[4] The literal meaning of the statement "the deployment and use of strategic forces against a threat of aggression" is strategic nuclear preemption. Nuclear weapons' use in an exercise against the "threat of aggression" is not deterrence or retaliation but pre-emptive first use. Russian Defense Minister General of the Army Sergei Shoigu stated that the exercise employed high-precision nuclear weapons. These were probably low-yield since few targets require high-precision, high-yield nuclear weapons.

The Thunder-2019 strategic nuclear exercise was reportedly the largest of its class.[5] The announced duration was three days rather than the usual one.[6] It continued the trend toward an increased number of live nuclear missile launches.[7] This was the first large nuclear exercise in which there were intermediate-range Kalibr cruise missiles and 9M729 nuclear-capable cruise missile launches, which will be discussed below.[8] Neither the U.S. nor any NATO state has counterparts for these weapons, so there is little likelihood they were being used in response to the U.S. or NATO first use. Even if we had comparable weapons, the probability we would use them in a conventional war would be close to zero.

According to noted Russian journalist Alexander Golts, "We're talking about rehearsing ways to conduct all-out nuclear war. Such a war will start with the use of non-strategic forces (cruise missiles) and end with a mass nuclear strike, which will mean the death of everything living on Planet Earth," and there was no room for "misinterpretation" about this.[9] Setting aside his hyperbole about wiping out the human race (the savage Russian nuclear targeting in an all-out nuclear war could exterminate hundreds of millions of people, not billions), he is very perceptive.

Noted Russian journalist Pavel Felgenhauer observed while Russia stages a large strategic exercise every year, "The main difference this time, compared to earlier years, was the unprecedented level of public relations promotion of Grom 2019, reflecting the growing importance of nuclear deterrence in Russian internal and external policies."[10] The amount of information released by the Russian Defense Ministry on the scope of the exercise was unprecedented. The Russian military also announced the details before the exercise, something that had never happened before.[11] The exercise involved the majority of Russian ICBM launchers.[12] This either never happened before or has happened but has never been revealed by the Russian government or in Russian press reports. It is unclear which of these alternatives is of greater concern.

According to Major General Yevgeny Ilyin at a Ministry of Defense briefing, the Grom-2019 exercises:

…will involve military units of the Strategic Missile Forces, long-range and military transport aviation commands, military units of the Western, Southern, Central and Eastern Military Districts, as well as the Northern Fleet.

- The total number of participants exceeds 12,000 people.

- It is planned to conduct 16 practical launches of cruise and ballistic missiles. For aviation operations, 10 airfields throughout the country will be used.

- Launches of air-launched cruise missiles and guided aircraft missiles will be carried out at four aviation training grounds of the Western, Southern, Central Military Districts and the Northern Fleet.

- The launches of two RSM-50 ballistic missiles (SS-N-18) will be carried out to the "Chizha" training ground. In addition, the "Yars" intercontinental ballistic missile (SS-29) and the "Sineva"   ballistic missile (SS-N-23) will be launched to the "Kura" training ground.

- Practical launches of sea basing cruise missiles will be carried out at sea ranges in the Barents, Baltic, Black, Caspian seas, and the sea of Okhotsk.

- The exercise involves 213 launchers of Strategic Missile Forces.

- Aerospace Forces will involve up to 105 aircraft of different purposes to solve practical tasks. Five of them are strategic missile carriers.

- The naval component of the exercise consists of 15 surface ships and 5 missile-carrying nuclear submarines.

- The event will involve over 310 pieces of military and special hardware.[13]

This is by far the most detailed description of a major strategic nuclear exercise made by the Russian Defense Ministry. Normally these exercises are not even given names in public announcements much less described in terms of an order of battle. While Russian Ministry of Defense public statements about Strategic Missile Force (RVSN) only exercises have occasionally stated the number of ICBM launchers involved, this has never been the case in the large nuclear exercises. The announced Strategic Missile Force component was over two-thirds of the estimate of about 300 deployed ICBMs.[14] Russia's September 2019 New START Treaty data indicate Russia had 513 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers.[15] According to the Russian statement quoted above, at least 250 ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers participated in Thunder-2019.

On October 17th, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that "…crews of Iskander operational-tactical missile complex launched of (sic!) cruise missiles at the training grounds of the Southern and Eastern Military Districts."[16] A video released by the Russian Defense Ministry reportedly shows the launching of the SSC-8/9M729, the intermediate-range missile that violated the INF Treaty.[17]

The same day Thunder-2019 started, the Russian Defense Ministry announced, "Over 8,000 missile and artillery troops held a simultaneous live-fire exercise at 30 training ranges in Southern Russia."[18] This was likely part of the Thunder-2019 exercise. It was probably announced as a separate exercise to evade the legal notification requirements relating to military exercises in Europe. The Iskander missiles (owned by the Missile and Artillery Force) were used in Thunder-2019.[19] Since the Missile and Artillery Force own a broader range of tactical nuclear weapons than announced for the exercise (including Close Range Missiles and nuclear artillery),[20] it is possible that a broader range of tactical nuclear weapons was used than was announced.

Even more ominous, Felgenhauer reported that "Practically all the RVSN intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) involved in Grom 2019 mimicked going through their launch sequences."[21] While this is the first time we have a detailed official order of battle for a Russian large strategic nuclear exercise, it seems consistent with the previous press reports that the Russian strategic nuclear exercises ended with a massive Russian nuclear strike.[22] For example, in the 2010 large strategic nuclear exercise, there was a Russian press report that Russia had "simulated hundreds of missile launches and, "Throughout the world, the mushroom clouds rose skyward."[23]

The involvement of nuclear-capable non-strategic strike aircraft in the exercises is not clear. General Ilyin stated that 105 aircraft (100 of them were not strategic bombers but not otherwise identified) and 10 airbases were involved but provided no other detail.[24] Hence, there may have been the involvement of air-launched non-strategic nuclear weapons since this is one of Russia's major nuclear assets.[25]

Of course, the ICBM and SLBM launches, real and simulated, were apparently targeted on the U.S. because of their range and because they are no longer really needed against peripheral targets due to Russian deployment of ground-launched and ship-launched cruise missiles. The nuclear cruise missile launches, based on the locations of the fleets involved, appear to have been mainly targeted on Europe. Actual launches in the Far East Military District and Kalibr launches from submarines and surface ships from the Pacific Ocean[26] were obviously targeted against Far Eastern facilities, possibly including Japan and South Korea, in light of the range of these missiles. Russian Tu-95 heavy bombers reportedly launched legacy Soviet Kh-55 nuclear-only long-range cruise missiles.[27] Since the launch was from the Arctic, they likely were simulating attacks against the U.S.[28]

The Russians announced that the exercise would involve weapons based on "new physical principles."[29] What these are we do not know from open sources. The suggestion that this was a reference to hypersonic weapons does not make sense. First, weapons based on "other physical principles" is a term used in the former ABM Treaty to describe directed energy weapons. Secondly, Russia apparently did not have any operational naval hypersonic weapons at the time of the exercise. The only hypersonic missile known to be operational, the Kinzhal, was Air Force, not Navy, and the first launch of a Kinzhal from the Arctic didn't happen until about six weeks after the Thunder-2019 exercise.[30] Moreover, in November 2019, President Putin characterized "weapons based on new principles of physics" as a different category from hypersonic missiles.[31] "New physical principles" weapons are clearly known unknowns.

Launch Problems in Thunder-2019

Russia reportedly had some launch problems during the Thunder-2019 exercise. One of the two planned SS-N-18 launches was cancelled because of technical problems.[32] Reportedly, Russia had problems in launching Kalibr nuclear cruise missiles. The problem was, reportedly, that a new system designed to reduce launch time failed, and a backup system was used, which resulted in about a three-hour launch delay.[33] This sounds like a problem that will be resolved. Typically, the Russia Defense Ministry denied there were any problems with the Kalibr launches.[34] The Russian Defense Ministry also announced that the status of all SS-N-18 missiles would be reviewed.[35] This is not a great problem for the Russians because the SS-N-18 and the submarine that carries it (the Delta III) are the oldest in the Russian inventory, and, reportedly, only one such submarine remains operational.[36]

Thunder-2019 and Russian Nuclear Doctrine

The Russian statement about the Grom-2019 nuclear exercise provides additional evidence that the real Russian nuclear first use doctrine is different from what is contained in their official declaratory policy in their military doctrine publications. According to Maxim Starchak: 

In particular, Major General Yevgeny Ilyin, the acting head of the Russian defense ministry's main directorate for international military cooperation, held a press conference for foreign military attachés the day before Grom 2019 kicked off. He reported that the exercise is not directed against other countries: "The maneuvers' scenario envisages the escalation of a situation in which there remains the potential for conflict along Russian borders that would pose a threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state" (TASS, October, 14). However, General Ilyin's statement, in fact, contradicted the much higher bar set by the Russian Military Doctrine, which states that nuclear weapons could only be used in response to a nuclear attack or "aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy."[37]

There is actually no conflict between General Ilyin's description of the exercise, and Russia's proclaimed nuclear doctrine because its language conditioning nuclear first use in conventional war to "the very existence of the state" is propaganda. Russia classified its real nuclear first use doctrine in 2009 when the Russian Defense Ministry announced that Russia's policy on "the use of nuclear weapons as an instrument of strategic deterrence" was going to be put into the "closed part" of its military doctrine.[38] At the time, Russia did not want to appear nuclear trigger-happy in relationship to President Obama's declaratory policy of nuclear zero. In the 2010 revision of Russia's military doctrine, the threshold for nuclear weapons first use in conventional war either stayed the same (as stated by then-Deputy Prime Minister Colonel General Sergei Ivanov when the document was made public)[39] or actually got worse. Ilya Kramnik, who had been the long-time military correspondent for an official Russian news agency RIA Novosti, wrote in that the 2010 revision of Russia's military doctrine "further lowered" the threshold of "combat use" of nuclear weapons.[40] In September 2014, General of the Army (ret.) Yuriy Baluyevskiy, who developed the 2010 revision of Russia's nuclear doctrine when he was Deputy Secretary of the Russian National Security Council, stated that the "…conditions for pre-emptive nuclear strikes…is contained in classified policy documents."[41]

Russia's actual threshold for nuclear weapons' first use in conventional war may be the language that General Ilyin used or similar to it. In 2008, General of the Army Baluyevskiy, then-Chief of the General Staff and First Deputy Defense Minister, threatened preventive nuclear war: "We do not intend to attack anyone, but we consider it necessary for all our partners in that to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia and its allies, military forces will be used, including preventively, including with the use of nuclear weapons."[42] State-run RT (formerly Russia Today) and the independent Interfax news agencies both reported that Russian military doctrine allows for nuclear weapons first use in conventional war "…if the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation are under threat."[43]  (Emphasis in the original RT reporting.) The meaning of a threat to "sovereignty and territorial integrity" is ambiguous enough that it may mean "any time it is in the national interest of Russia." Any foreign military action in a border war, even a war started by Russia, could be deemed a threat to Russia's territorial integrity. "Sovereignty" may also be broadly defined, including Russia's sovereign right to invade its neighbors. In 2012, Putin declared, "This concerns nuclear weapons, which remain a vital guarantee of Russia's sovereignty and territorial integrity and play a key role in maintaining global and regional balance and stability."[44]

In 2013, President Putin said, "Russia's sovereignty, inde­pendence, and territorial integrity are uncondition­al."[45] In 2014, President Putin characterized "sovereignty and territorial integrity" as "fundamental values," which are being threatened by "color revolutions," but which are guar­anteed by Russia's strategic forces.[46] He also portrayed Russia as surrounded by enemies who want to dismember it and are only prevented from doing so by Russia's military power, stating: "So, it is not about Crimea but about us protecting our independence, our sovereignty, and our right to exist. That is what we should all realize."[47] In 2015, he suggested Russian nuclear weapons' use could have been possible during the Russian invasion of Crimea.[48] In 2017, Putin said, "Only modern, powerful, mobile armed forces can ensure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country, protect us and our allies from any potential aggressor, from pressure and blackmail by those who don't like an independent, sovereign Russia."[49]

The title of the 2010 document, which contains Russia's classified nuclear doctrine, is entitled the "Fundamentals of the Russian Federation's Nuclear Deterrence Policy," and no successor document has been announced.[50] Its content was never released to the public by the Kremlin. Dr. Stephen Blank writes that there are Russian press reports that say that in the classified document, Russia reserved the right for a nuclear response to conventional attacks on Russian nuclear forces or a ground invasion of Russian territory.[51] We must remember all of the formulations made public by Russia in its various documents on military strategy, and even the reported version dealing with "sovereignty and territorial integrity" involve the first use of nuclear weapons in a conventional war. Russia also reserves the right to retaliate by first use of nuclear weapons if chemical and biological weapons are used by an adversary without any conditions or limitations.[52]

In December 2009, then-Commander of the Strategic Missile Force Lieutenant General Andrey Shvaychenko declared that "In a conventional war, they [the nuclear ICBMs]

ensure that the opponent is forced to cease hostilities, on advantageous conditions for Russia, by means of single or multiple preventive strikes against the aggressors' most important facilities. In a nuclear war, they ensure the destruction of facilities of the opponent's military and economic potential by means of an initial massive nuclear missile strike and subsequent multiple and single nuclear missile strikes."[53] Because General Shvaychenko was the Commander of the Strategic Missile Force, he talked only about nuclear ICBMs. However, the same concept applies to other Russian strategic and non-strategic nuclear forces. Note the absence of any limitations on the type of economic targets that can be subjected to this massive nuclear attack. This is why Russian targeting for general nuclear war is savage. Only when nuclear weapons are used in a conventional war is there any concern about limiting collateral damage. As Colonel General Vladimir Muravyev, then-Deputy Commander of the Strategic Missile Force, stated in 1999, "…the deterrent actions of strategic forces…[involve] strikes with both conventional and nuclear warheads with the goal of de-escalating the military conflict," and Russian forces "…should be capable of conducting 'surgical' strikes…using both highly accurate, super-low yield nuclear weapons, as well as conventional ones…"[54]


Thunder-2019 provides an object lesson on the nature of the nuclear threat the U.S. has to deter and the consequences if deterrence fails. We have to deter both the initial Russian first use of nuclear weapons in conventional war and a massively destructive nuclear strike in what they call "nuclear war." The fanatic Minimum Deterrence nostrums of the American left who oppose U.S. nuclear weapons modernization programs which seek to deter the full range of Russian nuclear capability risk making Thunder-2019 a grim reality.

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Oca 10, 2020, 03:09 ÖÖ Last Edit: Oca 10, 2020, 03:32 ÖÖ by Karabasan
Dr. Mark B. Schneider is a Senior Analyst with the National Institute for Public Policy. Before his retirement from the Department of Defense Senior Executive Service, Dr. Schneider served in a number of senior positions within the Office of Secretary of Defense for Policy including Principal Director for Forces Policy, Principal Director for Strategic Defense, Space and Verification Policy, Director for Strategic Arms Control Policy and Representative of the Secretary of Defense to the Nuclear Arms Control Implementation Commissions.  He also served in the senior Foreign Service as a Member of the State Department Policy Planning Staff.

[1] Pavel Felgenhauer, "Russia Escalates Its Reliance on Nuclear Deterrence," Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 16 Issue: 156, November 7, 2019, available at Morgan Wirthlin ,"Russia Practices Massive Strategic Nuclear Attack During Thunder-2019, Center For Security Policy, October 25, 2019, available at

[2] "Moscow Launched Ballistic, Cruise Missiles During Thunder 2019 Strategic Drills - Russian MoD," Sputnik News, October 17, 2019, available at

[3] Felgenhauer, "Russia Escalates Its Reliance on Nuclear Deterrence," op. cit.

[4] Vladimir Sokirko, "Top-ol, Top-ol!!" Moskovskiy Komsomolets, December 23, 1999.

[5] Maxim Starchak, "Key Features of Russia's Grom 2019 Nuclear Exercise," Jamestown Foundation, October 29, 2019, available at

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid,

[9] "Russia rehearses global catastrophe in Arctic maneuvers,", October 18, 2019, available at

[10] Felgenhauer, "Russia Escalates Its Reliance on Nuclear Deterrence," op. cit.

[11] Daria Litvinova, "Russia kicks off huge war games to test its nuclear arsenal," CBS News, October 15, 2019, available at

[12] Ibid.

[13] "Moscow held a briefing on the preparation and conduct of the strategic command post exercises 'Grom-2019'," The Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation, October 14, 2019, available at,id=12256831@egNews.

[14] Pavel Podvig estimated 311 ICBMs were deployed in January 2014. See Pavel Podvig, "Russian strategic forces in January 2014,", January 15, 2015, available at

[15] U.S. Department of State, "New START Treaty Aggregate Numbers of Strategic Offensive Arms," Fact Sheet, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of State, September 1, 2019), available at

[16] "Within Grom 2019 strategic command post exercise, training with strategic deterrence forces is held," Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation, October 17, 2019, available at

[17] "Grom-2019," Russian Defense Policy, October 20, 2019, available at Roger McDermott, "Grom 2019 Tests Russia's Nuclear Deterrent," Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 16 Issue: 147, October 23, 2019, available at -tests-russias-nuclear-deterrent/.

[18] "Over 8,000 missile and artillery troops hold live-fire exercise in Russia's south," TASS, October 15, 2019, available at

[19] Felgenhauer, "Russia Escalates Its Reliance on Nuclear Deterrence," op. cit.: "Within Grom 2019 strategic Comand post exercise, training with strategic deterrence forces is held," op. cit.

[20] Department of Defense, Nuclear Posture Review, (Washington D.C., US, Department of Defense, February 2018), p 53, available at https://media.defense. gov/2018/Feb/02/2001872886/-1/-1/1/2018-NUCLEAR -POSTURE REVIEW-FINAL-REPORT.PDF.: Академик Евгений Николаевич Аврорин: «Наука -- это то, что можно сделать, а техническая наука -- это то, что нужно сделать»,", April 10, 2013, available at (In Russian).; Dmitriy Sudakov, "Russia prepares nuclear surprise for  NATO,", November 12, 2014, available at politics/12-11-2014/129015-russia_nato_nuclear_surprise-0/.; "Transcript: The Arms Control Landscape ft. DIA Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley, Jr.," (Washington D.C.: Hudson Institute, May 31, 2019), available at

[21] Felgenhauer, "Russia Escalates Its Reliance on Nuclear Deterrence," op. cit.

[22] Oleg Vladykin, "Readiness for Massive Nuclear Attack; Large-Scale Strategic Missile Troops Exercise," Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 26, 2014, available at

[23] Reported in "The Nuclear Forces and Doctrine of the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China, Testimony Prepared By: Dr. Mark B. Schneider," House Armed Services Committee, October 14, 2011, available at

[24] "Moscow held a briefing on the preparation and conduct of the strategic command post exercises 'Grom-2019'," op. cit.

[25] Mark B. Schneider, "Russian Air-Delivered Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons, Real Clear Defense, June 15, 2018, available at

[26] "Ballistic, Cruise Missiles Fired at Putin-Led Grom 2019 Drills - Russian Defense Ministry," Sputnik, October 17, 2019, available at

[27] Roger McDermott, "Grom 2019 Tests Russia's Nuclear Deterrent," op. cit.

[28] VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, "Putin directs exercise of Russian nuclear forces," Associated Press, October 17, 2019, available at T/Updated: Oct 17, 2019 / 12:31 PM EDT.

[29] Starchak, "Key Features of Russia's Grom 2019 Nuclear Exercise," op, cit.

[30] "Cold steel: Russia's Kinzhal hypersonic missile 'completes its first ARCTIC test'," RT, November 20, 2019, available at

[31] "Meeting of Russian Federation Security Council,", November 22, 2019, available at

[32] "Russian sub fails to launch missile at drill, daily says," BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union, October 21, 2019, available at

[33] "What Went Wrong at Russia's Latest Military Drills?" Moscow Times, October 22, 2019 available at

[34]  "Russia denies problems launching Kalibr cruise missiles," BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union, October 21, 2019, available at

[35] "Army; All R-29R ICBMs to be checked following incident with Ryazan sub - Russian admiral," Interfax, October 22, 2019, available at

[36] Hi Sutton, "Problem For Russian Navy Missile Submarine,", October 22, 2019, available at

[37] "Key Features of Russia's Grom 2019 Nuclear Exercise," op, cit.

[38] "Army; Closed Part of New Military Doctrine to Define Legal Aspects Of Forces' Employment, Nuclear Weapons―Gen. Staff," Interfax, August 14, 2009, available at

[39] "RF New Military Doctrine No Different From Old One In Terms Of Nuclear Arms Use," ITAR-TASS, February 6, 2010. (Transcribed by World News Connection).

[40] Ilya Kramnik, "Cold-Calculation Apocalypse. NATO Has Taken Notice of the Russian Nuclear Threat,", February 3, 2015, available at (In Russian).

[41] "Russia classifies information on pre-emptive nuclear strikes - military," BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union, September 5, 2014, available at Interfax-AVN military news agency, Moscow, in Russian 0728,0752,0826Sep 14/BBC.

[42] "Russia says could use nuclear weapons: Military chief of staff says Moscow would use the arms to protect self, allies," Associated Press, January 20, 2008, available at

[43] "Preemptive nuclear strike omitted from Russia's new military doctrine - reports," RT, December 10, 2014, available at "Updated Russian military doctrine has no preemptive nuclear strike provision - source," Interfax, December 10, 2014, available at

[44] "Corridors of Power; Putin: Russia not going to join new arms race but will develop modern nuclear arms," Interfax, July 26, 2012, available at

[45] "Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club,", September 19, 2013, available at

[46] "Security Council meeting,", July 22, 2014, available from

[47] "News conference of Vladimir Putin,", Decem­ber 18, 2014, available at

[48] "Ukraine conflict: Putin 'was ready for nuclear alert'," BBC, March 15, 2015, available at

[49] "Corridors of Power; Russia to continue increasing combat potential of army, fleet to secure its sovereignty and territorial integrity - Putin," Interfax, June 28, 2017, available at,16DCC8CF81F37CED7DA/2?accountid=155509&site=professionalnewsstand&t:ac=16DCC8CF81F37CED7DA/1&t:cp=maintain/resultcitationblocksbrief&t:zoneid=transactionalZon16e670bc5d4.

[50] "French FM: Paris Keeps Track of Intl Nuke Doctrines, Possible Policy Revisions," Sputnik News, November 23, 2018, available at

[51] Stephen Blank, "The Russian Military Faces the Future," in Richard Weitz, "Can We Manage a Declining Russia," (Washington D.C. The Hudson Institute, November 2011), p. 226, available at available at

[52] "THE MILITARY DOCTRINE OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION," Translation from Russian, APPROVED by the President of the Russian Federation on December 25, 2014, No. Pr.-2976, Press Release, June 29, 2015, Embassy of the Russian Federation to the United Kingdom, available at "Draft Russian Military Doctrine," 1999, available at; The Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation Approved by Russian Federation, Presidential Edict on 5 February 2010," available at

[53] "Russia may face large-scale military attack, says Strategic Missile Troops chief," ITAR-Tass, December 16, 2009, available at

[54] Quoted in James R. Howe, "Exploring the Dichotomy Between New START Treaty Obligations and Russian Actions and Rhetoric," Vision Centric, Inc., February 17, 2016, available at
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The Federation of American Scientists revealed in late January that the U.S. Navy had deployed for the first time a submarine armed with a low-yield Trident nuclear warhead. Mesajı Paylaş
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The U.S. Navy conducted a test flight of an unarmed life-extended Trident II (D5LE) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Maine (SSBN 741), on Feb. 12.
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The White Swans of 2020

Financial markets remain blissfully in denial of the many predictable global crises that could come to a head this year, particularly in the months before the US presidential election. In addition to the increasingly obvious risks associated with climate change, at least four countries want to destabilize the US from within.

In my 2010 book, Crisis Economics, I defined financial crises not as the "black swan" events that Nassim Nicholas Taleb described in his eponymous bestseller, but as "white swans." According to Taleb, black swans are events that emerge unpredictably, like a tornado, from a fat-tailed statistical distribution. But I argued that financial crises, at least, are more like hurricanes: they are the predictable result of built-up economic and financial vulnerabilities and policy mistakes.

There are times when we should expect the system to reach a tipping point - the "Minsky Moment" - when a boom and a bubble turn into a crash and a bust. Such events are not about the "unknown unknowns," but rather the "known unknowns."

Beyond the usual economic and policy risks that most financial analysts worry about, a number of potentially seismic white swans are visible on the horizon this year. Any of them could trigger severe economic, financial, political, and geopolitical disturbances unlike anything since the 2008 crisis.

For starters, the United States is locked in an escalating strategic rivalry with at least four implicitly aligned revisionist powers: China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. These countries all have an interest in challenging the US-led global order, and 2020 could be a critical year for them, owing to the US presidential election and the potential change in US global policies that could follow.

Under President Donald Trump, the US is trying to contain or even trigger regime change in these  four countries through economic sanctions and other means. Similarly, the four revisionists want to undercut American hard and soft power abroad by destabilizing the US from within through asymmetric warfare. If the US election descends into partisan rancor, chaos, disputed vote tallies, and accusations of "rigged" elections, so much the better for America's rivals. A breakdown of the US political system would weaken American power abroad.

Moreover, some countries have a particular interest in removing Trump. The acute threat that he poses to the Iranian regime gives it every reason to escalate the conflict with the US in the coming months - even if it means risking a full-scale war - on the chance that the ensuing spike in oil prices would crash the US stock market, trigger a recession, and sink Trump's re-election prospects. Yes, the consensus view is that the targeted killing of Qassem Suleimani has deterred Iran, but that argument misunderstands the regime's perverse incentives. War between US and Iran is likely this year; the current calm is the one before the proverbial storm.

As for US-China relations, the recent "phase one" deal is a temporary Band-Aid. The bilateral cold war over technology, data, investment, currency, and finance is already escalating sharply. The COVID-19 outbreak has reinforced the position of those in the US arguing for containment, and lent further momentum to the broader trend of Sino-American "decoupling." More immediately, the epidemic is likely to be more severe than currently expected, and the  disruption to the Chinese economy will have spillover effects on global supply chains - including pharma inputs, of which China is a critical supplier - and business confidence, all of which will likely be more severe than financial markets' current complacency suggests.

Although the Sino-American cold war is by definition a low-intensity conflict, a sharp escalation is likely this year. To some Chinese leaders, it cannot be a coincidence that their country is simultaneously experiencing a massive swine flu outbreak, a severe bird flu, a coronavirus epidemic, political unrest in Hong Kong, the re-election of Taiwan's pro-independence president, and stepped-up US naval operations in the East and South China Seas. Regardless of whether China has only itself to blame for some of these crises, the view in Beijing is veering toward the conspiratorial.

But open aggression is not really an option at this point, given the asymmetry of conventional power. China's immediate response to US containment efforts will likely take the form of cyberwarfare. There are several obvious targets. Chinese hackers (and their Russian, North Korean, and Iranian counterparts) could interfere in the US election by flooding Americans with misinformation and deep fakes. With the US electorate already so polarized, it is not difficult to imagine armed partisans taking to the streets to challenge the results, leading to serious violence and chaos.

Revisionist powers could also attack the US and Western financial systems - including the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) platform. Already, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde has warned that a cyberattack on European financial markets could cost $645 billion. And security officials have expressed similar concerns about the US, where an even wider range of telecommunication infrastructure is potentially vulnerable.

By next year, the US-China conflict could have escalated from a cold war to a near-hot one. A Chinese regime and economy severely damaged by the COVID-19 crisis and facing restless masses will need an external scapegoat, and will likely set its sights on Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and US naval positions in the East and South China Seas; confrontation could creep into escalating military accidents. It could also pursue the financial "nuclear option" of dumping its holdings of US Treasury bonds if escalation does take place. Because US assets comprise such a large share of China's (and, to a lesser extent, Russia's) foreign reserves, the Chinese are increasingly worried that such assets could be frozen through US sanctions (like those already used against Iran and North Korea).

Of course, dumping US Treasuries would impede China's economic growth if dollar assets were sold and converted back into renminbi (which would appreciate). But China could diversify its reserves by converting them into another liquid asset that is less vulnerable to US primary or secondary sanctions, namely gold. Indeed, both China and Russia have been stockpiling gold reserves (overtly and covertly), which explains the 30% spike in gold prices since early 2019.

In a sell-off scenario, the capital gains on gold would compensate for any loss incurred from dumping US Treasuries, whose yields would spike as their market price and value fell. So far, China and Russia's shift into gold has occurred slowly, leaving Treasury yields unaffected. But if this diversification strategy accelerates, as is likely, it could trigger a shock in the US Treasuries market, possibly leading to a sharp economic slowdown in the US.

The US, of course, will not sit idly by while coming under asymmetric attack. It has already been increasing the pressure on these countries with sanctions and other forms of trade and financial warfare, not to mention its own world-beating cyberwarfare capabilities. US cyberattacks against the four rivals will continue to intensify this year, raising the risk of the first-ever cyber world war and massive economic, financial, and political disorder.

Looking beyond the risk of severe geopolitical escalations in 2020, there are additional medium-term risks associated with climate change, which could trigger costly environmental disasters. Climate change is not just a lumbering giant that will cause economic and financial havoc decades from now. It is a threat in the here and now, as demonstrated by the growing frequency and severity of extreme weather events.

In addition to climate change, there is evidence that separate, deeper seismic events are underway, leading to rapid global movements in magnetic polarity and accelerating ocean currents.. Any one of these developments could augur an environmental white swan event, as could climatic "tipping points" such as the collapse of major ice sheets in Antarctica or Greenland in the next few years. We already know that underwater volcanic activity is increasing; what if that trend translates into rapid marine acidification and the depletion of global fish stocks upon which billions of people rely?

As of early 2020, this is where we stand: the US and Iran have already had a military confrontation that will likely soon escalate; China is in the grip of a viral outbreak that could become a global pandemic; cyberwarfare is ongoing; major holders of US Treasuries are pursuing diversification strategies; the Democratic presidential primary is exposing rifts in the opposition to Trump and already casting doubt on vote-counting processes; rivalries between the US and four revisionist powers are escalating; and the real-world costs of climate change and other environmental trends are mounting.

This list is hardly exhaustive, but it points to what one can reasonably expect for 2020. Financial markets, meanwhile, remain blissfully in denial of the risks, convinced that a calm if not happy year awaits major economies and global markets.

Nouriel Roubini, Professor of Economics at New York University's Stern School of Business and Chairman of Roubini Macro Associates, was Senior Economist for International Affairs in the White House's Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton Administration. He has worked for the International Monetary Fund, the US Federal Reserve, and the World Bank. His website is Mesajı Paylaş
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Şub 25, 2020, 07:25 ÖS Last Edit: Şub 25, 2020, 08:29 ÖS by Karabasan


Russia's Strategic Interests and Tools of Influence in the Western Balkans

Hybrid Threats: Russian snap exercises in the High North. Mesajı Paylaş
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Northern Fleet makes major investments in nuclear submarine infrastructure. Will not repeat mistakes of the Cold War

Just a few hours after he was sworn in as Russia's president for the third time, in May 2012, Vladimir Putin signed a decree ordering the development of the Navy in the Arctic. Now, eight years later, the results are highly visible on satellite photos of the Kola Peninsula. And more is to come.

The Barents Observer has for years studied satellite images of the Northern Fleet's bases along the coast to the Barents Sea. Here are a few examples of what has happened in the course of the last eight years.

But first, let's jump back in the timeline.

KREMLIN, MAY 7, 2012: The doors open and version 3.0 of Vladimir Putin enters St. Andrew's Hall in the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow to be sworn in as president in a ceremony so overwhelming that thoughts went back to czarist Russia.

Putin himself, though, had a clear plan for the start of his third presidency.

Shortly after the lonely rider inauguration motorcade speeded away from the Kremlin, the president sat down behind his desk and started to sign decrees. Direct presidential orders to the government.

Modernization of the armed forces was one of the first decrees signed by Putin that day.

"The Government of the Russian Federation shall ensure a priority to nuclear weapons," the text said. Paragraph C in the 3-pages decree highlighted "the development of the Navy, primarily in the Arctic zone." By 2020, 70 percent of weapons and special equipment should be modern, President Putin demanded.

Eight years on

This week marks eight years since the decree was signed. And the president's 2020 deadline is soon here. Judging from Google Earth satellite images, Putin got what he wanted.

The top photos in this article show a new loading facility for nuclear missiles at Okolnaya Bay, across the waters from the Northern Fleet's headquarters and main naval base Severomorsk.

Okolnaya Bay is the largest weapon depot in northern Russia and covers a land area of about 15 square kilometers.

This 2011 photo shows the part of Okolnaya Bay where the new nuke-missile loading facilities now are built. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

The satellite photo to the left was taken in May 2012, about at the time when Putin signed his decree to speed up the modernization of the nuclear submarine fleet's infrastructure. As can be seen on the photo to the right, taken in summer 2019, the new huge port loading facility for the world's deadliest weapons are nearly completed.

Unlike the old loading facility, located one kilometer to the north, the new facility has a big dedicated sidewise movable crane for loading and unloading ballistic missiles directly to the submarines. Here, the Borei class subs can be loaded with Bulava-missiles, or the Sineva missiles to the Delta-IV class subs can be handled.

The Russian Northern Fleet previously only had one such crane, found at the Gadzhiyevo where the Delta-IV and Borei are normally based. The six Delta-IV and two Borei SSBNs based with the Northern Fleet are the backbones of the sea-based component of Russia's nuclear triad. Three or four more of the Borei-A class SSBNs currently under construction at the Sevmash yard in Severodvinsk are expected to sail for the Northern Fleet.

Nuclear warheads complex

In a previous satellite-study article, the Barents Observer outlined how about 50 brand new reinforces large weapons bunkers are erected in Okolnaya Bay. The bunkers could be used for both cruise missiles and ballistic missiles (SLBM).

Additionally, as can be seen on the two satellite images below, a brand new nuclear warhead complex is built in Okolnaya Bay. The left 2013 image shows construction work started, while the right 2019 image gives a bright view of the ready-to-use complex. Also, the right image shows four new 80-meters long storage bunkers for missiles built after 2013 around the small lake on the hill to the right of the nuclear warhead complex.

The storage area is about 1,3 square kilometers, a size, and shape with a striking similarity to the pentagonal prism of the headquarters building of the United States Department of Defense. 

In short, missiles are stored in the bunkers without the nuclear warhead mounted. Before being loaded on board a ballistic missile submarine, the missile is driven by a truck into the nuclear weapon complex where the warheads are attached. A closer look at the satellite image clearly shows a triple barbed wire security fence around the complex, similar to what other nuclear weapons storage sites on the Kola Peninsula have.

Also, the control-post for in-and-out going trucks seems to have a comprehensive security infrastructure.

Similarly, when a missile is unloaded from a submarine, the nuclear warhead will be separated and secured back inside the dedicated complex. Naturally, you don't want to store a plutonium warhead together with missiles when not deployed onboard the vessel.

Cold War mistakes

The massive new infrastructure investments at the submarine bases along the coast of the Barents Sea shows that Putin's Russia has learned from the mistakes of the Soviet Union. During the arms race of the Cold War, the Northern Fleet received 150 nuclear-powered submarines, many with cutting-edge technology.

But as the innovative submarines were transferred from the yard in Severodvinsk to active duty, the navy's bases on the Kola Peninsula were not at all developed to serve the vessels. In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s this became a huge challenge, both in regards to operating the submarines as the expensive high-tech submarines didn't get the needed maintenance and weapons supply infrastructure to keep them operational at an optimal period of time.

For instance, the largest of all Soviet nuclear subs, the Typhoon-class known from Tom Clancy's debut novel The Hunt for the Red October, never got needed port infrastructure. The six submarines of the class were based at the new-constructed Nerpichya in the Litsa fjord. Here, however, the onshore crane to load missiles to the subs was never delivered from the factory workshop building them in Ukraine.

A 1991 photo of aTyphoon submarine in the floating dock at naval yard No. 82 in Roslyakovo north of Murmansk. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Instead, the Northern Fleet had to use its missile transport ship «Aleksandr Brykin» to more or less constantly stay at the Nerpichya base to serve the Typhoons which each of them could carry 20 nuke-missiles.

The docking facilities for the Typhoon class were never completed at the base. Instead, a second-hand floating dock was bought from Sweden and towed to Roslyakovo yard in the Kola Bay, but it never really served the purpose for the giant Typhoons.

Also in the Litsa fjord, the base facilities for the expensive Alfa-class attack submarines were incomplete. Seven titanium-hull Alfa-submarines were built, all with a single liquid-metal cooled reactor. To avoid the liquid-metal from solidifying, something that would destroy the uranium core, it was necessary to keep the reactors constantly heated. The steam-motors, however, that were built at the piers to provide external heating proved to be unsatisfactory and soon broke down. Consequently, the reactors had to be kept running even while the submarines were at port. The reactors core logically got a much shorter life-time operation, and none of them were ever refueled.

Gadzhiyevo and Zapadnaya Litsa   

Following Vladimir Putin's 2012 decree, the Russian navy and the ministry of defense agreed to develop the needed comprehensive base structures to serve the new 4th generation of nuclear-powered submarines, that be the Borei-class and the Yasen-class.

For the Northern Fleet, the Borei-class subs carrying Bulava-missiles will all be based in Gadzhiyevo, while the Yasen class subs seem to be based in Zapadnaya Litsa. The prototype sub of the Yasen-class, the «Severodvinsk» is already based here and the second in the class, the «Kazan» will follow later this year.

The Russian Navy recently confirmed that five of the Yasen-class submarines will sail for the Northern Fleet, while the rest will belong to the Pacific Fleet.

The satellite images below show how the base infrastructure for the Borei-class at Gadzhiyevo has been improved since 2012. Onshore near the pier to the left, new facilities are built to support the submarines as they are being put into service. So far, the Northern Fleet has one vessel in operation, the «Yury Dolgoruky». The «Knyaz Vladimir» has for years been test-sailing out from the Sevmash yard and is expected to be delivered to the fleet later this year. Also «Knyaz Oleg» could be put into operation in the course of 2020.

According to an in-depth article in Izvestia in March, more work is underway both in Gadzhiyevo and in Zapadnaya Litsa (Zaozersk) with the construction of infrastructure facilities and shelters to support the new submarines.

At base, the submarines require electricity, compressed air, steam, and similar, Izvestia reports with unnamed sources in the navy command. New weapons and special equipment transport ships, like the «Akademik Aleksandrov» and the «Akademik Kovelyov», are already delivered to the Northern Fleet.

In December 2019, regional authorities in Murmansk presented an ambitious plan to knock down 400 shabby apartment blocks and build new ones in the closed naval towns along the coast to the Barents Sea. Over the next decade, some 80 new buildings will be built
and another 1,100 will be renovated. Mesajı Paylaş
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