Analysis 02-20-2024

ANALYSIS

Russian Anti-Satellite Capability:
Reality or Hype

Much was made this week of a report of a new, dangerous Russian anti-satellite weapon that contained “nuclear components.”

The report was over dramatized hype.  Insiders said the weapon was still in development and had not been deployed.

Russian anti-satellite weapons are nothing new. Russia has had an operational anti-satellite system in space since the 1980s. It was recently tested in November 2021 and garnered much international condemnation as it created space debris.  The Russian weapon was a large shotgun that used a conventional explosive to fire small pellets into the target, an obsolete Russian satellite.

Russia is not the only nation with this capability.  China, India, Russia, and the US all have some capability in this field.  Most of these weapons are similar to the Russian satellite.

So, what makes this potential so dramatically different? Some claim that it is a satellite that can maneuver close to an enemy satellite and destroy its electronics with an electromagnetic energy weapon.  Of course, the enemy would become aware of the attempt to intercept its satellite and would move it out of the way with its maneuvering rockets.  Not only could that maneuver succeed, but it would also act as a warning that a major attack is imminent.

This is where longer range weapons would help. That is why lasers, particle beams, and kinetic weapons offer some advantages.  The problem is that these weapons require substantial amounts of energy – more than what a solar panel will provide.  That is where nuclear weapons hold promise.  They can provide long range electromagnetic pulses that can impact large areas of near space and territory.

Such a nuclear weapon would violate the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and be hard to construct as it would require electronics currently embargoed by the West.

So, what type of technology is Russia intending to use? We do not know.  According to reports, it is an anti-satellite technology with some sort of nuclear component, but not a normal nuclear weapon.

It is important to realize that Russia is very accomplished in theoretical physics.  In fact, US understanding of particle beams came from Russian research during and after the Cold War.  They may have found a solution to nuclear devices that the US has not discovered.  These designs fall into what are known as Third and Fourth Generation nuclear weapons.

The Neutron Bomb, which creates substantial amounts of high energy neutrons while reducing the blast effect, is an example of a third-generation bomb.

One anti-satellite weapon that is proven in design is the Chemical Laser.  This was a proven design based on the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL)that was developed by the US and Israel.

These chemical lasers are powerful but have major problems that the Russians may have chosen to ignore since the weapon will be fielded in the vacuum of space.  The Russian chemical laser system is built around a deuterium fluoride chemical laser operating at a wavelength of 3.6 to 4.2 micrometers (Mid-Wavelength Infrared, also called thermal infrared). The weapons system burns ethylene in Nitrogen Trifluoride gas, which is then mixed with deuterium and helium, to produce the excited deuterium fluoride lasing medium.  This gas is then fed into expansion nozzles like those of other chemical lasers.

But there are problems.  Since the exhaust of this laser is hazardous to humans, a complex exhaust system must be used to absorb and neutralize the highly corrosive and toxic deuterium fluoride exhaust gas.  This could be ignored in space.

Multiple “cartridges” could be stored on the satellite so it could rapidly reload and fire at the next target,

Although this is a conventional laser, it could be said to contain a “nuclear component,” as it uses deuterium, which is used in nuclear physics.

Another weapon that uses nuclear components, but circumvents treaties, is subcritical explosives. For a traditional nuclear device to explode, explosives compress uranium or plutonium until it reaches supercriticality, where a nuclear chain reaction can develop.  For this to happen, several kilograms of nuclear material are required.

This weapon design would not need a critical mass of uranium or plutonium.  A subcritical burn weapon could use a pellet of nuclear material not much larger than a grain of rice and conventional explosives.  Although a self-sustaining chain reaction will not take place, enough energy could be released that would equal hundreds or thousands of pounds of high explosives.  The biggest technical problem with this method is generating enoughneutrons to bombard the nuclear material as it is compressed.

Although not well known, research on subcritical burn has been conducted for years by the major nuclear powers to test nuclear weapon design. These tests have not been called nuclear tests because they do not create a super critical mass that sustains a chain reaction.  Nor do they fall under the restrictions in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty limiting the development of nuclear weapons.  Despite this, these weapons promise a nuclear yield of hundreds of pounds of high explosives.

One of the problems of nuclear weapons is that they are symmetrical – i.e., the effects of the explosion radiate in all directions.  However, this can beavoided by employing a “Nuclear Shaped Charge.”  This was a concept put forward by American nuclear weapons designer Dr. Edward Teller.  It was seen as the possible propulsion for a nuclear rocket.  The concept was studied in the 1960s and was seen as a part of the 1980s Star Wars Defense.

The nuclear shaped charge used beryllium oxide to convert the x-rays released by the nuclear bomb to longer wavelength radiation which would vaporize a material like tungsten and turn the kinetic energy into tungsten plasma.  Up to 85% of the bomb’s energy would be converted into this plasma.

There has only been one nuclear shaped charge test (Operation Grenadier) in 1985. The one-kilogram tungsten/molybdenum beam was able to accelerate the tungsten/molybdenum particles to 70 kilometers (about 43.5 mi) a second.  As impressive as that test seemed, it was not efficient for an 8-kiloton device.

A nuclear weapon using these principles was designed called the Casa-Howitzer, but details remain classified.  It was planned for the 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative.

These are but a few types of anti-satellite weapons that could be under consideration by the Russians. However, this is not to say that the Russians may be fielding a new concept.  However, history tells us that the more complex a modern design is, the harder it is to make it practical.

Analysis 02-13-2024

ANALYSIS

Analyzing the 2024 Presidential Election

In 10 months, the US will be holding its presidential election.  And the election looks unusual.  The incumbent is clearly suffering from dementia and senility.  The challenger is facing numerous felony charges.  Despite that, the incumbent and challenger have all but clinched their party nominations.

The incumbent, Joe Biden, has become an embarrassment in public as he gets lost finding his way off stage and has problems saying simple words.  No wonder the White House turned down a CBS offer to speak to the nation just before the Super Bowl, when millions of voters could see him.

 The powers that are in the Democratic Party know this and would prefer a candidate that would not be the punch line for jokes.  However, the odds are that Biden will win the nomination and head into the fall as the Democratic nominee.

Biden is the president and holds the key to his future.  Unless VP Harris and the Cabinet rule that he is unable to fill the office of president, he is in until the end of his term.  Even then, there will be a fight in Congress about whether he remains in office.

The fact is that he holds a lot of power in terms of appointments.  He also has considerable power to write regulations.  His “handlers” and many currently in power know that and will continue to support him.  Will people like Jill Biden (or even Obama) be willing let go of power?  Probably not.  And, given the polls, Biden is not in a hopeless position.

No matter what, Biden will be seating on the podium in front of the Capitol on January 20, 2025 –either as a reelected president or as the outgoing president turning power over to Trump.  The Democratic leadership will not want Biden to resign before January 20.  That leaves VP Harris as acting president and the Republican Speaker of the House, Johnson, as the next in line for the presidency.

If the Democratic leadership manages to convince Biden and his handlers to announce he is not running for reelection after the Democratic Convention, the Democratic leadership will have the power to name a new ticket.

 

So, who will they pick?

Forget VP Kamala Harris.  She is unpopular and incompetent, even to the top Democrats.

There is California Governor Gavin Newsom.  He clearly wants the position, is photogenic, and a good speaker.  But California suffers from financial problems related to significant operating deficits, and high taxes.

The media will like him, but he will have problems in the general election.

Needless to say, there are about two dozen Democratic governors who would like the nomination, but jump starting a presidential campaign in a few weeks would be challenging.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been mentioned as possible presidential timber in the past and as governor of the tossup state of Michigan, would be helpful in a close election.  She is also a good VP in case Biden dies or becomes even more mentally unstable.

There is the name of former first lady Michelle Obama being mentioned – thus bringing in a third Obama term.  She would bring enthusiasm to several sectors of the Democratic Party, but she has repeatedly stated she isn’t interested in the job.

Of course, Barak Obama would like the job, but since he is prevented from running again, he might try to pressure Michelle to run.

 

 

Trump has all but won the Republican nomination and negated the Insurrection clause in the US Constitution.  He still has several trials coming up, but they likely will be postponed until after the election.  Of course, if he wins, expect either a pardon for himself or a new Attorney General who will trash all the indictments.

Trump is actively looking for a VP and he has made several comments about specific Republicans.  Here are several possibilities:

TrumpSENATOR TOM SCOTT.  Several analysts have said Trump should pick a minority running mate and Senator Scott could possibly be the choice.  He is one of the leading Republicans in the nation and withdrew from the presidential race in 2023 and endorsed Trump.

Polling shows that Blacks, especially Black males, are moving away from Biden and preferring Trump as time goes along.  Even taking a few Black voters from Biden could make it difficult for the President to win reelection.

VIVEK RAMASWAMY.  Another minority choice for Trump would be billionaire Vivek Ramaswamy.  He is young (38 years old), the son of Indian Immigrants, and has a conservative political view that mirrors Trump.  A young person would help attract younger voters.

GOVERNOR KRISTI NOEM.  As the governor of the safe Republican state of South Dakota, Governor Noem won’t be picked for the state’s electoral votes.  She is conservative and articulate.  She also has experience as a state governor.  Proof that she is on the VP short list is that Trump called her “A warrior for American values.”

 

Other Possibilities:

.  He is a former Fox News personality with name recognition and conservative stands.  Carlson, however, may have damaged himself somewhat by interviewing Russian President Putin.  Since the US is helping Ukraine, interviewing the Russian leader may tarnish his reputation among some voters.

.  A Trump firebrand, who makes controversial comments designed to upset Democrats.  If she can deliver Georgia to Trump, she may prove valuable.

.  A freshman senator from Ohio – a traditional tossup state.  Previously a “never Trump” person, he is now close to Trump.  He is a more likely candidate in 2028.

Tucker Carlson.  She is the senior ranking women in the GOP congressional leadership, and she comes from very Democratic New York.  She is only 39 years old.  Trump may decide she is more important in Congress but expect to see her name mentioned frequently in 2028.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene 

Senator J.D. Vance 

Rep. Elise StefanikThere appear to be two major issues this year – the economy and illegal immigration.  Although Democrats have accused Republicans of using immigration for votes and as an issue to attack Democrats, in a representative government, government decisions should represent the views of the electorate.

According to a Harris poll put out a couple of weeks ago, broad majorities of Republicans and Independents (85% and 71%) want to see tougher border enforcement.  Even Democrats are split on the issue 50-50.  A Pew Poll shows 41% of voters agreeing with Republican policies while only 31% agree with Democratic policies.

IssuesClearly, the immigration issue has hurt Biden’s popularity.  It’s also hurting in states that he needs to win.  With the sealing of the Texas border, the Tucson, Arizonasector is seeing a major jump in illegal immigration as illegal immigrants seek an easier crossing.

In a Marist poll this week, 42% of Americans said the US is too open.

Note that Biden won Arizona by only .3%, so immigration may be the winning margin in a close election.

According to the Harris poll of last month, Immigration was the major problem for 35% of Americans.

Immigration has clearly overtaken economic issues as the major concern.  32% say inflation is their major concern; while 25% said it was the economy and jobs.

Although the election is a long time from now, the issues that will drive voters to the polls favor the Republicans.  No matter the face of the Democratic nominee, the policies will be the same.

Analysis 11-20-2023

ANALYSIS

The 2024 Presidential Election

 

It’s a year until the US presidential election and it’s time to look at the election.

The conventional wisdom held that the 2024 election would be straight forward.  The Democratic National Committee had cleared the primary calendar so that pro-Biden states would go first and give Biden an easy road to the nomination.

The experts saw a difficult time for Trump.  There were over a dozen Republicans running for president and between a raft of legal problems and qualified candidates running against him, including the popular governor of Florida, Trump would have a difficult time being nominated.

The experts saw an easy win for Biden in November 2024 over a divided GOP.

They were wrong.  Biden is losing support across the board, including usually reliable minority like Arab Americans and Muslim Americans and women voters.  He is behind in key battleground states and would lose if the election were held today.

Meanwhile, the legal attacks on Trump are only convincing voters that the legal system is corrupt and solidifying his support.  His primary opponents are lucky if they get percentages in double digits.  Even his former Vice President, Pence, has pulled out of the race.

 

What happened?

For Biden, there are two issues – dementia and corruption.

Biden’s mental abilities are going down rapidly.  He is frequently lost on stage and can’t find his way off the stage without help.  His answers to questions are frequently vague and mumbled.  This week, Biden called Chinese president Xi a dictator, while answering questions about US Chinese relations. it is diplomatically crass to call a visiting president a dictator at a diplomatic event.

In a more diplomatic tone, China called the comment “extremely wrong.”

The other issue is corruption.  Although there is no chance that Biden will be impeached and convicted, the corrosive release of illegal activities by Biden and his family is hurting his electability.

The Democratic leadership is worried.  A New York Times poll taken last week shows Trump leading in 5 critical battleground states – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.  Of course, the poll is a year in advance of the election, and much can change.

Other answers were also concerning.  Trump leads Biden 48% to 45% nationally.  62% say Biden doesn’t have the mental sharpness to be president and 72% say he is too old to be president.

59% of those polled in swing states disapproved of the job Biden is doing as president.  54% said Trump is mentally sharp.  Likely voters said trump would do better on the economy, national security, and immigration.

David Axelrod, the chief strategist for Obama, said the poll “will send tremors of doubt through party.”

Although the Democratic leadership may want Biden to pull out of the race, that is nearly impossible unless Biden agrees.  The primaries have been set up by the Democratic National Committee to give Biden an easy nomination win.  And, without any strong competition for the presidential nomination, polls show Biden getting over 70% of the likely Democratic primary voters.  Since unelected super delegates aren’t allowed to vote in the first ballot, they can’t impact the nomination if Biden has already gathered 51% of the delegates going into the convention.

Biden did make a vague comment about California Governor Newsom being qualified for being president.  He said Newsom, “Could have the job I’m looking for.”  But, as eye raising as the comment was, mentally weak Biden has frequently made misstatements.

Newsom shouldn’t get too excited.  A Fox poll this week showed Newsome behind Trump 49% to 45%.  Trump also led VP Harris (50%-45%) and Michigan Governor Whitmer (48%-46%).

It comes down to the DNC versus the Biden group and the Biden group will not want Biden to become a weak lame duck.  To resign or announce that Biden will not run for reelection means the Biden handlers will lose their power.  For instance, First Lady Jill Biden will not have any power when Biden loses the presidency or announces he will not run for reelection.  Better to keep the power of the presidency until January 20, 2025.

Any bribery will not continue for Biden or his family once he is a lame duck or is out of the White House.

The DNC could use VP Harris to invoke the 25th Amendment to become acting president, but that will have no impact on the nomination and could cause an internal split in the Democratic Party.  Besides, the GOP members in Congress may support Biden just to weaken the Democrats.

As it stands, Biden has clear sailing to the nomination.   However, short of a major shift in voter perceptions, the General Election will be a disappointment for him.

 

Trump

Despite a raft of legal problems, it looks like Trump will win the nomination and stands a good chance to win the While House in November.

The Democrats’’ mistake was swamping Trump with a raft of legal obstacles rather than focusing on one strong case.  By instituting several court cases in Democratic jurisdictions, they have convinced many voters that the current legal system is corrupt and needs repair.

One anti-Trump strategy was to accuse Trump of being an insurrectionist and therefore ineligible to run for federal office.  However, two state supreme courts (Michigan and Wisconsin) have ruled that Trump can be on the ballot.

Trump’s best strategy is to continue his trips across the country.  Likely, these trials will drag on for months.  If convicted, he will obviously appeal.  Some Democrats may want to put him into jail during the appeal, but that will only help Trump win.

Trump will have to name a vice president for the ticket.  Kari Lake had been considered as many consider her to be a “female Trump.”  However, she is running for the senate and is considered a good chance to flip the seat to Republican.

Ex TV host Tucker Carlson is thought by many to be an excellent choice for Trump’s VP position.  He is an excellent speaker, and his political philosophy generally matches Trump’s.

However, Trump has months to decide on his VP.

If Trump wins in November by a narrow electoral vote margin, but loses the popular vote, expect legal challenges to his taking office.  Don’t be surprised if there are mass demonstrations at the Capitol and White House just as there have been massive demonstrations in support of Hamas and Palestine recently.  If the case goes to the Supreme Court, expect demonstrations at the Supreme Court and the justices’ houses.

Could this get out of hand if one wins the popular vote and the other wins the electoral vote?  Yes.  Just look at what happened with the election of 1860.

There were interesting similarities with the 2024 election.  The incumbent President Buchanan was accused of rigging elections by buying votes.  In addition to this corruption, there was the issue of immigration.  And there was the emotional issue of slavery.  Stephen Douglas, who was running under the split Democratic ticket, said a Republican win would split the nation apart.

Lincoln won the election with a majority of electoral votes, but only 39.9% of the popular vote.  The Democrats were split between Stephen Douglas and VP John Breckinridge.

While Breckinridge won the south (Lincoln wasn’t even on the ballot in the South), Lincoln took the Northeast.  Douglas and Bell split border states.

Stephen Douglas was right.

Like 1860, feelings are running high, and riots are a strong possibility.

The aftermath of the 2024 election could be more important than the election itself.

Analysis 10-03-2023

ANALYSIS

Federal Government Avoids Government Shutdown

 

In what seems to be an annual event, the Congress avoided a shutdown on the last day.  However, the problem hasn’t been solved.  The Continuing Resolution only keeps the government going for another 45 days.  There are also several funding issues that must be worked out.  Although there weren’t the dramatic cuts in most department budgets, funding the Ukraine was left out of this bill.  Federal disaster assistance was included though.

The bill passed with most Republicans and nearly all Democrats voting for it.  However, Republican demands for more across the board cuts will remain a major issue as a small block of Republican congressmen hold the balance of power in the closely divided Congress.

To pass the bill, the Speaker of the House McCarthy had to ignore the wishes of some of his caucus and give in to Democratic wishes.  This leaves the Speaker vulnerable to an attempt by the Republican Conservative Caucus to declare the Speakers seat vacant.

Congressman Gaetz, who voted against the Continuing Resolution called the Speaker’s alliance with Democrats “disappointing” and said that Speaker McCarthy’s position as speaker was “on tenuous ground.”

If the bill hadn’t passed, the Speaker was prepared to pass several bills to limit the impact of the shutdown by paying members of the military and Border Patrol.

In the meantime, the House sent a bill to the Senate for their confirmation.  It then will go to the President for his signature.

Biden has signaled he will sign the bill.

An interesting sideline to the vote drama was Congressman Bowman’s attempt to slow down proceedings by setting off a fire alarm.  Ironically, as Speaker of the House McCarthy noted, this was a violation of 1512(c) (2) Obstruction of an official proceeding – the same law that has been used to prosecute Trump supporters who protested on January 6th.  Since Congressman Bowman is an ally of Biden, we can be sure he will not be put in jail as hundreds of Trump supporters have for violating the same law.

On another note, in the annual appropriation for the Department of Defense, Congress voted to slash Secretary of Defense Austin salary to one dollar.  Congresswoman Greene, who brought the amendment to the floor of the House said, “He is destroying our military. During Secretary Austin’s tenure, military recruitment has reached crisis levels of low recruitment.”

The provision says, “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to pay Defense Secretary Loyd James Austin III a salary that exceeds $1.”

This isn’t the only trouble Austin faces.  Last month articles of impeachment were filed that centered around the American exodus from Afghanistan.

 

History of Government Shutdowns

In the legislative history of the US government, government shutdowns are relatively new.  They usually occur when the legislature and president are from different parties, although the late 1970s saw shutdowns even though the Congress and President were both Democrats.  The longest shutdown at that time was 17 days (September 78), while the average was 8 to 12 days.

Although Reagan faced a Democratic House, shutdowns were only 1 to 3 days long.  Clinton faced only one long shutdown (21 days in December 95).  A Republican Congress and Obama led to a 16-day shutdown in 2013.

The longest shutdown was December 2019, when Trump and the newly energized Democrat Congress kept the government closed for 34 days.

As mentioned before, not everything closes if the Continuing Resolution isn’t passed.  There is an OMB memo that outlines who gets laid off and when.

Naturally national security and foreign relations are the priority if they are essential to life and safety.

Next in line are benefits and contract obligations.

Essential activities that protect life and property like:

  • Medical care
  • Continuance of transportation safety functions
  • Border and coastal protection
  • Protection of lands, property, and buildings owned by the US.
  • Care of prisoners and others in the custody of the US.
  • Law enforcement and criminal investigations
  • Emergency and disaster assistance
  • Activities essential to elements of money and banking system
  • Activities to ensure production of power and power distribution systems.
  • Activities to protect research properties.

Safeguarding nuclear weapons isn’t mentioned (although the National Nuclear Security Administration does mention it in their plans for the shutdown).  Most DoD civilian employees would be furloughed although burials at Arlington National Cemetery will continue.

Mail service and Amtrak will still be available.

Government economic statistics, which have been criticized recently, may be late.

Most National Parks would be closed, except in Arizona, where the state intends to use state funds to keep the Grand Canyon open.

Although this shutdown appears to have been avoided, we may be facing the same problem in a little more than a month.

Stay tuned for Part Two.

Analysis 09-26-2023

ANALYSIS

US and Saudi Arabia Mending Ties

 

In 2020, Biden had campaigned against Saudi Arabia, calling them a “Pariah” state for their assassination of reporter Jamal Khashoggi.  When elected as president, Biden removed several Patriot missile batteries from Saudi Arabia, even though the kingdom was being attacked from Yemen with missiles and drones.

Things have changed.  Biden no longer calls Saudi Arabia a pariah state.  American has about 2,700 soldiers in the kingdom and they are cooperating in counter-drone drills with the Saudi military.

The US and Saudi Arabia have deep defense ties.  The kingdom is the largest customer of American military products.

In his interview with Fox News, Prince Mohammed bin Salman was very gracious towards the US.  “The agenda between Saudi Arabia and America today is really interesting and we have a really amazing relationship with President Biden,” the prince said.

He is sharp, really focused, and well prepared,” the Crown Prince said, ignoring the well-publicized mental state of the American President.

Colonel Robert McVey told Al-Monitor this week, “Over the last 16 months, we worked very closely with our Saudi counterparts to develop their counter UAS (drone) tactics, techniques and procedures…Our objective for this exercise was to shoot down {drones} dawn to dusk.”

In an about face for the US, the US and Saudi Arabia are discussing a mutual defense treaty like those with Japan and South Korea.  This agreement is the most important aspect of talks between Saudi Arabia and the US.

“Under such an agreement, the United States and Saudi Arabia would generally pledge to provide military support if the other country is attacked, according to the New York Times.

This treaty will be a key element to Saudi recognition of Israel.  On the Israeli side, they are to recognize an independent Palestine.  However, Prince Mohammed bin Salman made it clear that Saudi Arabia is willing to work with any Israeli leadership, including Prime Minister Netanyahu.

“Every day we get closer,” Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on the negotiations with Israel.

It will “be the biggest historical deal since the end of the Cold War,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said.

As part of Saudi Arabia’s campaign to win support with the American people, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was interviewed by Fox News this week.

Mohammed bin Salman came off very well in the interview.  He is fluent in English and spoke without an interpreter.  He confessed that he loved to play computer games when he wanted to relax.  He spoke about the wide spectrum of natural wonders like a snow mountain – an attempt to encourage Americans to visit a modernized nation.  He mentioned that his favorite outdoor activities were hiking and scuba diving.

 

Saudi Nuclear Program

If there was one problem, it was the Iranian nuclear weapon program and Saudi Arabia’s reaction to it.  Mohammed bin Salman warned that if Iran develops a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia will do the same.

‘We have to get one,” the prince said.  He continued, “We are concerned about any country getting a nuclear weapon: that’s a bad, that’s a bad move…they don’t need to get a nuclear weapon because you cannot use it.”

Any US support of a Saudi nuclear program will be controversial.  Ironically, in an unprecedented cooperation, Israel, along with the US and Saudi Arabia are working on a uranium enrichment program in the desert kingdom.  Such a program would also tie into the kingdom’s post-carbon Vision 2030.

As it stands now, the US will be forced to compete with China, who will offer easier terms.  However, the winning factor may be America’s more advanced nuclear technology.

The US may be able to temper the Saudi desire for nuclear weapons with a strong defense treaty and access to more sophisticated arms from American defense companies.  The continued presence of American soldiers in the kingdom will also act as a “trip wire” that would deter any neighboring nations from an aggressive act.

 

Advancing peace throughout the Middle East

It’s clear that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sees Saudi Arabia as a force for stability in the Middle East.

“To have a stable region and economic growth we don’t need to see any problems in Yemen.  We need to see Iraq going forward, we need to see Iran going forward, and Lebanon going forward and the rest of the region.” He spoke.

“When the region is disturbed, ISIS comes out, Al Qaeda comes out, and terrorist attacks happen.”

Although there is no plan to invite bin Salman to visit the white house, his interview with Fox is a dramatic step in his effort for rehabilitation and promoting a modern and visionary image to prepare the stage for such an outcome.

It seems he understands the need for Biden to improve his chances for reelection in 2024 and is willing to engage with the American president to advance such goal by achieving a breakthrough with normalization with the state of Israel.

The prince calculation seems to be based on his assumption that he will be able to extract the maximum of his demands from Biden without risking any damage to a potential Trump return to the white house if the latter was able to defeat Biden in the coming presidential election.

Analysis 09-14-2023

ANALYSIS

The Hazards of Depleted Uranium
Is there a way to clean up battlefields?

 

The US has announced that it is sending depleted uranium (DU) anti-tank rounds to the Ukrainians.  This follows Britain’s announcement that they are sending DU ammunition to Ukraine too.

The DU rounds were developed by NATO countries during the Cold War in order to neutralize the advantage of Soviet tanks in a possible tank war in Europe.

Using DU to defeat tank armor isn’t a new idea.  Interest in it began over 50 years ago as engineers tried to find a new way to tank armor.  One advantage of DU is that it is twice as heavy as lead (the heavier the metal, the higher the kinetic energy and the better it is to penetrate armor).  And, instead of the point of the anti-tank round mushrooming out as it hits a hard armor, it retains its sharp point as it burrows its way into the tank armor.  Although the data on DU munitions is classified, it appears to be 40% more powerful than tungsten penetrators.

There is also a large stockpile of DU since it is a byproduct of separating the uranium isotope U-235 from natural uranium, which is used in producing nuclear weapons and nuclear reactor rods.  In fact, in 1998, the US Department of Energy had half a million tons of DU.  Since only 10 tons of DU were used in Kosovo and 320 tons in the Gulf War, the military is hardly running out of material.

However, DU use isn’t limited to the UK and US.  Russia has DU munitions stockpiles although there is no proof that it is being used in Ukraine.  France, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt, Kuwait, Pakistan, Thailand, China, India, and Taiwan have DU munitions.

DU is also used as ballast in aircraft, helicopters, and ships.  And, ironically, it is used as radiation shielding.

 

Is DU Toxic?

DU is radioactive.  However, since DU has the more radioactive uranium isotope, U-235 removed, it is only 40% as radioactive as naturally occurring uranium.

The radioactivity of DU is deemed less hazardous than natural uranium.  Most of the radioactivity is alpha and beta radiation.  Alpha radiation is unable to penetrate clothing.  Beta radiation can’t penetrate human skin.  Unless the DU penetrates the bone marrow, it is relatively harmless.  A 2016 UN Scientific Committee on the effects of atomic radiation found, “limited significant poisoning was caused by exposure to depleted uranium.”

Of course, the risk depends on the state of the DU.  Unfired penetrator rods are covered with a shielding that stops alpha and beta radiation.  It is more hazardous after it has hit the target.

Uranium burns in the presence of heat and oxygen, leaving uranium oxides.  If they are inhaled, they end up in the lungs, where most of it is collected by mucus and is eventually expelled out of the body.  They can also be ingested or enter the body through a cut.  That’s why soldiers and civilians should avoid destroyed tanks until they are neutralized by decontamination.

Collecting souvenirs of destroyed tanks is dangerous as the expended munitions are unprotected and radioactive particles can remain on the skin.

Fortunately, uranium and uranium oxides are non-soluble, which means it will not contaminate the ground water.  Since the range of the radioactivity is limited, the threat to growing food at the site is also limited.

Although many analysts are concerned about DU’s threat, it is less than many of the explosives used on the battlefield.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared TNT – a frequent military explosive – a pollutant whose removal is priority. The EPA maintains that TNT levels in soil should not exceed 17.2 gram per kilogram of soil and 0.01 milligrams per liter of water.

Areas where there have been major artillery battles exceed these levels.

Most explosives are persistent and can remain for  years in soil and groundwater.  And, while TNT tends to remain in the soil at the blast site, RDX and HMX tend to migrate into the groundwater.  Another problem with TNT and RDX is that bacteria in the soil can’t easily break them down into safer byproducts.

Detonators for high explosives pose additional problems because they contain heavy metals.  A frequent detonator ingredient is lead azide.  The delay elements consist of various chemicals, mainly lead oxide, silicon, antimony, and potassium permanganate.

DU has contaminated many battlefields in Iraq and Syria, to mention two.

 

Is there any way to clean up the contaminants?

The conventional way is to dig up the contaminated dirt and isolate it.  However, there are new possibilities like phytoremediation.

Phytoremediation uses a type of plant called hyperaccumulators.  These plants naturally accumulate high levels of toxic materials found in the soil as they grow.  In nature, this process protects the plant by killing insects, fungi, and molds that threaten them.  It also discourages larger, plant eating animals by making them sick.  As a result, the animalsgive them a wide berth.

Today environmental experts use this natural mechanism to treat explosives contaminated sites.  Tobacco plants are being used to degrade organic explosives like TNT and yellow poplar saplings can collect mercury compounds at sites that used mercury for detonators.

One successful example was the use of sunflowers to remove radioactive contaminants from pond water at Chernobyl.

Other plants that can accumulate compounds used in explosives are geraniums (Benzene and other hydrocarbons), Bermuda Grass (hydrocarbons), and pine trees (organicsolvents).  White Rot Fungus, although not as attractive, is effective against compounds used in explosives like toluene and benzene.

Despite the attractiveness of phytoremediation, it does have its limitations.  It is not a fast process and takes a commitment of many seasons before contamination levels are reduced to a safe level.  The process is also limited to the ability of the roots to reach the contamination.  However, for those places where it works, it is a more attractive alternative to traditional striping and storing of contaminated soil.

The environmental threat isn’t limited to DU.  When the Ukraine War ends, cleaning up the contamination of warfare will be a must, especially in and around the farming communities.

Analysis 09-05-2023

ANALYSIS

Does Gabon Coup Indicate Unrest in Africa?

 

Sixty years ago, during the early days of post colonialism, unrest was rampant in Africa.  Names like the Congo, Katanga, Uganda, Angola, Biafra, and Rhodesia were common names in the news as armies and mercenary groups roamed the continent.

Finally, a degree of peace came about.  The biggest issue, the apartheid of South Africa was eliminated, and democratic elections were held.  Other nations also held elections that were “sort of” democratic.

Although Africa had problems, it seemed that they were heading in the right direction.  African organizations were formed that would try to solve African problems rather than relying on Western nations.

One of those “sort of” democratic nations was Gabon, an oil rich nation in Central Africa.  Elections were held, but the same family, the Bongo’s, had held power for five decades.  However, that changed last week.  Soldiers ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba in a well-executed coup and put him under house arrest.

This followed the coup a couple of weeks ago in Niger.

Suddenly, African leaders started looking towards their own security.  Hours after the Gabon coup appointed a new leader, the President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, shuffled his military leadership lest they overthrow his 40-year regime.

In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame forced nearly 100 senior military officers out of power.

Meanwhile, America’s National Security Council refused to call events in Gabon and Niger a trend that needed to be addressed.

However, it does appear to be a trend and the US appears to be unprepared for it.  When US Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland travelled to South Africa, one of the host diplomats noted Nuland and her team were completely unprepared to deal with recent events in Africa.

“In over 20 years working with Americans, I have never seen them so desperate,” said an official at the SA meetings.

“She was “totally caught off guard by the winds of change engulfing the region.”  Nuland sought South African help, especially in Niger, which has been an American ally in the war on terror.

It appears that the winds of change are coming, and they shouldn’t have been a surprise.  In 2022, there were two coups in Burkina Faso, one in Guinea Bassau (failed), Gambia, Sao Tome, and Principe.

In 2021, there were six coup attempts in Africa, of which four were successful.  Obviously, there are a historical number of coup attempts as the average since the end of colonialism in the 1950s has only been 3 per year.

Half of them have been successful.

Since 2000, the rate of successful military coups in Africa had remained stable according to studies by Central Florida and Kentucky Universities.  The number of failed coups has dropped as African Senior military officers have attended military schools in the West, China, and Russia, and have become more professional and competent.

Although Africa is the leader in coups, it is Central Africa where most coups have been attempted.

Since the end of colonialism, Sudan has the record of coups and coup attempts at 17.  These have been driven by the tensions between north and South Sudan.  Burundi comes in second with 11, thanks to the tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi communities.

In the last five years, every coup (18) but one has been in Africa.

In 2021, UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez said that “military coups are back…a sense of impunity is taking hold.”

Many of the coups have happened in former French colonies.  In fact, the coup in Gabon is the eighth in the past three years.  Since 1990, 78% of the coups in sub-Saharan Africa have taken place in nations that were once part of France’s African empire.

This is a fact that hasn’t been missed and many think French post-colonial practices are partially to blame.

The economies of former French colonies are tied to the CFA (Central African Franc), which is tied to the Euro and guaranteed by France.  This ties their economies and natural resource sales to France and its companies.  On the positive side, the CFA makes imports and export easier since it is tied to the Euro.

The negative is that the African nations can’t manage their own economy.

France has also signed multiple agreements that allow French soldiers to remain in the countries long after independence.  That encouraged national leaders to remain pro-France.  It also allowed corruption as the African leadership remained in power thanks to the threat of French military intervention.

One of the first moves by the Niger junta was to cancel five military agreements with the French.

Earlier, Burkina Faso, signed an agreement with France that calls for the removal of all French Troops.

One problem is that French troops can no longer provide stability.  Despite considerable funding and soldiers, the French have been unable to defeat Islamic rebellions in the Sahel region.

France isn’t the only problem.  Each country that had a coup had some local issue that sparked the coup.  Niger had a coup when it appeared that several senior military officers were to be removed.  Thus, it wasn’t only a coup to “empower the poor masses,” as claimed, but also an attempt to protect elite military leadership.  That isn’t unusual in Africa.

Another fact must be considered is the growing Chinese and Russian influence.

China has been building up Africa infrastructure in the past few years.  In the last two decades, China has invested $155 billion in Sub-Saharan countries.

That offers a challenge to Western nations that they were incapable of facing.

Russia is also seeking African nations that will endorse its war with Ukraine in return for military support.  Mali also has a close relationship with the Wagner Group, who has assisted the government against insurgents.

Africa remains a continent with rich, untapped natural resources.  But the major powers have yet to figure out how to create a stable region that protects its citizens, while letting them benefit from that wealth.

Clearly, the French and Americans haven’t figured it out.

Analysis 08-30-2023

ANALYSIS

Japan Releasing Radioactive Water
into Pacific Ocean

 

Despite criticism from several nations and environmental groups, Japan began releasing radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean this month.  The water is from the Fukushima nuclear reactor which was damaged by a tsunami in March 2011.

Although the International Atomic Energy Agency has okayed the release of one million tons of water used to cool the damaged reactor, China and Hong Kong have threatened to prevent the import of Japanese seafood.

Japan insists that the water has been filtered and the radioactive isotopes have been removed.  Nuclear protestors like Greenpeace insist that the remaining radioactive isotope, Tritium, can’t be easily removed.

So, who is right?  Has the water been neutralized so it will not impact nations on the Pacific Rim?  Or are we witnessing a case of radioactive pollution?

For years, nuclear reactors were scheduled for decommissioning due to their radioactive waste and the threat of major accidents.  However, the attempt to move from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources like solar and wind energy caused a major problem.  Electric power plants that used fossil fuels were closing due to their carbon emissions.  Meanwhile, nuclear energy was providing a smaller percentage of power.

Unfortunately, renewable energy sources were unable to take up the slack and there wasn’t enough electricity to meet demand.

Suddenly, nuclear power became attractive again.  It produced much less waste than fossil fuel plants and had a smaller footprint than the conventional electric power plant industry, which also needed large coal mines.  The anti-nuclear policy had lost its appeal and pro-nuclear policies had regained its momentum.

Anti-nuclear protestors like Greenpeace highlighted the Fukushima radioactive wastewater release in order to regain the momentum on eliminating nuclear power.

One of the arguments was that the water release of one million tons was massive.  However, proponents argue, in terms of the Pacific Ocean, it was minor.  The Society of Allied Weight Engineers estimated the weight of all the oceans was 1,450,000,000,000,000,000 tons, of which the Pacific Ocean contains over half of that amount.  The percentage of wastewater would only be a quintillionth of a percent of what is in the oceans.

Also, they stress that these one million tons of water will be released over 30 years.

The next argument was that the wastewater was a danger to people because it contained tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen.  The tritium could bond with oxygen to make a water molecule.

Tritium has a half-life of 12.33 years and decays quickly.  During the 30-year release program, the radiation will only be about one fifth of what it was in 2023.

The International Atomic Energy Agency stated the “controlled, gradual discharges of the treated water to the sea,” would have a “negligible radiological impact on the people and the environment.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency will remain on site to monitor the release for the whole 30 years.  At the end of that time, the Tokyo Power Company (TEPCO) will be able to start the decommissioning.

So, how is it that the water used to cool the damaged reactor is so safe that releasing it is not a problem?  TECPCO has spent the last ten years processing radioactive water with the Advanced Liquid Processing System.

The first step was to remove radioactive cesium and strontium from the water using basic chemical separation processes.  Then, the other radioactive isotopes were removed using 16 towers to separate different isotopes.  In the end, 62 different radioactive isotopes were removed and sent to storage.

Although the process takes time, it is effective in removing small percentages of radioactive pollutants.

 

How do other nations treat radioactive waste?

The process for treating radioactive waste is common across the nations with nuclear reactors.  They employ well known chemical processes that can isolate small amounts of radioactive isotopes.  The waste treatment isn’t a scientific issue as much as it is a political one as most people do not want a radioactive waste dump nearby.  There is also the other fact that nuclear waste is also a source for nuclear fuel like Uranium and Plutonium, which is found in spent nuclear reactor rods.  This is especially true of high-level radioactive waste, which is a rich source for nuclear fuel.

This high-level nuclear waste is only 3% of the waste, but 95% of the total radioactivity.  Low level nuclear waste is usually short lived and is found in paper, rags, tools, clothing and filters.  It is 90% of the volume and only 1% of the radioactivity.  It is often compacted before disposal.

Intermediate level waste includes resins, chemical sludge, and metal fuel cladding.  They are frequently solidified in concrete.  They make up 7% of the volume and 4% of the radioactivity in radioactive waste.

Since most of the radioactive waste is low level and has a short half-life, it goes to near surface nuclear disposal facilities in many countries.

Long term storage of high-level radioactive materials that have a longer half-life hasn’t been a major problem as much of this waste has unspent nuclear fuel in it.  Current practice is to let this material stay in specially designed water pools for 40 – 50 years so heat, and radioactivity has dropped by 99%.

Highly radioactive liquids that are a byproduct of recycling the fuel rods, are solidified into Pyrex glass and stored in steel cylinders and stored deep underground in areas that aren’t subject to earthquakes.  There are many such deep storage facilities in several nations.

Proponents of nuclear energy claim that the improved handling of nuclear waste makes nuclear powered energy much safer.  Most of the problems dealing with nuclear waste come from nuclear weapons production in the early years, when highly radioactive waste was placed in drums and stored in a remote area.

They conclude, given the visibility of the Fukushima wastewater release and the national and international monitoring of the project, there isn’t the nuclear waste threat that some claim.

But experts and environmental groups have complained that there has been a consistent lack of sufficient public Input and that some viable alternatives, such a long term Storage in more robust tanks was not seriously evaluated. China. However, has redoubled its criticism, accusing Japan of treating the ocean like a “private sewer”. The Pacific Islands Forum, which represents 18 nations- some of which are acutely aware of the legacy of American nuclear testing- remain opposed.

Analysis 08-12-2023

ANALYSIS

Making Sense of the Niger Coup
Is Niger the next battlefield?

 

Is the coup in Niger a critical move in the world’s geopolitical scene?  Or is it just another African coup in a region  that has seen several coups in the last few years

On July 26th, the presidential guard launched a coup and captured Niger President Mohamed Bazoum and his family.  Senior officers of the Niger military formed a National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland (CNSP).

The coup was condemned by the US, UK, France, the European Union and the UN.

While some have claimed that the coup was a reaction to French involvement in a former colony, others saw it as a move by Russia and the resurgent Wagner Group to expand Russian influence in Africa.  Some saw growing American military influence in Africa.

Or it could be palace politics

The coup leader was General Tchiani, who was the head of the Presidential Guard and was rumored to be on the outs with the president and on the verge of being fired.  General Tchiani had been the head of the Presidential Guard for President Bazoum and his predecessor Issoufou and had stopped several coup attempts.

The fact that several senior military officers quickly joined the junta indicates that there was discontent amongst many Niger military officers.  Although there are elections in Niger, the political establishment is entrenched and there has been unrest towards the former colonial power, France.  IS Sahel and Al Qaeda backed JNIM are found in Niger and neighboring countries.  There are also armed groups that are involved in smuggling and gold mining (gold is Niger’s largest export).

No wonder the junta noted the “continually deteriorating security situation,” as a reason for the coup.  However, there is a question if the Niger military junta can defeat IS Sahel and Al Qaeda backed JNIM.  In 2019 and 2020, the Niger military suffered heavy losses from IS Sahel.  Losses from IS Sahel have dropped as that group has focused its attention on Mali, as French forces have withdrawn from that nation.

As of this time, the junta hasn’t asked for the withdrawal of the 1,500 French forces or the 1,000 American forces even though the US and France have condemned the coup.  Given the unrest in the Sahel region, it’s likely that Niger will not push for a French or American withdrawal.

There are several reasons that Niger will continue to keep French and American forces in the country.  One is the close relationship between American and Niger officers.

Brigadier General Barmou is American trained and is currently the chief of Niger’s Special Operations Forces.

“We have had a very long relationship with the United States,” Barmou said in 2021.  The US has a drone operation in Niger that is considered the “linchpin” of US Army Special Operations in West Africa.

Although the US has condemned the coup, the drone operations are considered critical to monitoring groups like IS Sahel and JNIM.  America has stated that it is not contemplating a withdrawal from Niger.  Therefore, the US will be very careful to avoid upsetting the junta so much that they will lose this critical African military outpost.

If there is to be military action, it will come from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West African group of nations.  On Thursday, at the end of the emergency summit on the Niger issue, ECOWAS ordered the activation of its standby military force.

ECOWAS may have ordered activation of its standby military force, and many might consider it a bluff.  However, ECOWAS has successfully carried out a military intervention in order to defend a democracy.

In January 2017, ECOWAS military forces from six nations entered Gambia in Operation Restore Democracy.  Senegal provided the most soldiers, although it has a very small military.  Nigeria provided the second largest expeditionary force, which included aircraft and a naval vessel.

If there is to be military action, it will probably rely most on the Nigerian Armed forces, which is considered the fourth most powerful military in Africa and the 35th most powerful internationally.  The Nigerian Army has shown that it can mobilize, deploy and sustain brigade sized forces in support peacekeeping operations in Liberia.  They have sent more than 20,000 troops in support of various UN missions.

However, currently, the Nigerian Senate has rejected military intervention.

Niger has an army of about 25,000 soldiers.  France has been its traditional arms supplier since it gained its independence from France.  Russia is the second largest arms provider.  The Niger military organization closely mirrors the French model.

To complicate any military planning, the junta has said they will kill the president if ECOWAS takes military action.

Meanwhile, the Wagner Group has a presence in Mali, which is a neighboring country to Niger.  But, Acting Deputy Secretary of State Nuland has warned the Niger junta from cooperating with the Wagner Group.

From a geopolitical point of view, some wins by the Wagner Group in Africa could help Putin, who is still not winning in Ukraine.  In that regard, Niger may be a critical piece on the chessboard of geopolitics.

If ECOWAS decides to take military action, it could be a close thing.  The Wagner Group has a long logistical tail and keeping it supplied will be much harder than it was in Ukraine.  ECOWAS needs a major military force to put Bazum back in power.  If Nigeria doesn’t support a military option, it may come down to the French and Americans to come to Bazum’s rescue. This option seems to be a remote possibility at this stage especially with the popular support that the Military leaders enjoyed, in addition to forming a civilian majority interim government.

Analysis 08-08-2023

ANALYSIS

Growing Tension Along
NATO’s Eastern Border

 

Tensions are growing this week as several military moves by Belarus, Russia, Poland, and NATO are demonstrating that the war in Ukraine has the potential of spilling over into neighboring countries.

This week, Poland accused Belarus of violating Polish airspace with two Belarus helicopters.  Poland’s Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak noted the violation was another “element in escalating the tension at the Polish Belarusian border.

Although Belarus did warn that its air force would be holding exercises near the border, the helicopters did cross the border and were photographed by numerous people with their cell phones.

The exercises were more worrying as they were low level flights in a part of the border where Polish radar coverage was light, and the helicopters weren’t quickly detected by Polish radar.  The exercises were carried out near Bialowieza.

One result of the border violation was that Poland has moved more forces into the area.  They have also notified NATO about the incident.

This incident only added to tensions as it was reported that elements of the Wagner Group were moved closer to the Polish/Belarus border last month.  It didn’t help that Belarus President Lukashenko said Wagner group were eager to move into Poland.  “They want to go west,” the Belarussian president said; perhaps jokingly.

Poland has also warned that Wagner Group forces might try to cross the border dressed as immigrants.

It also appears that 100 soldiers of the Wagner Group are carrying out exercises in conjunction with the Belarus army according to the Polish government.  The exercises are close to the Suwalki Gap, a strategic land corridor that joins the Baltic nations to Poland and the rest of NATO.  It also isolates the Russian territory of Kaliningrad.

The Wagner Group’s soldiers are a worry as they do not fall under the control of a national military authority, as has been seen in many operations in Africa over the decades.  They could be used to carry out a military operation along the border with Belarus, Poland, and Ukraine that Russia and Belarus would deny.  Given Poland’s historic animus towards Russia, such a military operation would likely elicit a strong Polish response.  Yet, an independent Wagner group may not have received any permission to carry out such an operation.

And, if such an operation is carried out, would Poland believe Belarus?  Would they retaliate?  Would NATO nations be willing to go to war over an incursion by a private army like the Wagner Group?

Another military exercise that is worrying analysts is the Russian naval exercise called Ocean Shield 2023.  The exercise is being held in the Baltic Sea; now considered a NATO lake, with the membership of Finland and Sweden.  The exercise is employing 30 warships, 20 support vessels, and 6,000 personnel.  It is a direct challenge to NATO control of an area that secures NATO control of northern Europe.

With NATO control of the Baltic Sea, the closing of Sevastopol, the war, and the extreme cold weather of Murmansk, much of the Russian fleet in Europe and the Atlantic is bottled up.

However, Russian forces in the Baltic do have an impact on NATO.  Part of the Russian Defense Ministry press release on Ocean Shield 2023 mentioned exercises that moved troops on the Baltic.  Obviously, this implied reinforcing the enclave of Kaliningrad – especially if 20 support ships are included in the exercise.

 

The Suwalki Gap

One of the most strategic areas in Europe is the Suwalki Gap, a sparsely populated region that is the border between Poland and Lithuania, but the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast and Belarus borders are within long range artillery and missile range of the whole gap.  Consequently, Russian and Belarus forces could bombard troops, vehicles, and supplies moving from Poland to Lithuania.

During the Cold War, the area had nonmilitary value, although several battles were fought there in the past, including Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.

Since the Baltic States joined NATO, it has become a strategic choke point and numerous military exercises have been held there.  Poland proposed stationing an armored division, but NATO is constrained from building a permanent base in the gap.

In the meantime, NATO has held exercises like Iron Wolf and Operation Saber Strike over the past few years.

Several NATO units are permanently stationed near the gap.  These include the Iron Wolf mechanized brigade that is part of the NATO multinational collective defense.  The American 185th Infantry Regiment is stationed there along with 400 soldiers of the British Royal Dragoons.  Up to 40,000troops within the NATO Response Force are also available along with other Polish units not under NATO command.  Other American combat units are regularly stationed in the area for periods of time.

In 2022, the NATO General Secretary General Stoltenberg announced that NATO would place a brigade in each Baltic state along with Poland.  The NATO Response Force would be increased to 300,000 troops.

Before the Ukraine War, it was thought that Russia could cut off the Baltic States in 30 to 60 hours.  However, the NATO buildup and higher alert, along with the poor Russian showing in Ukraine leads many military experts to think that NATO could hold the Russian forces, especially with the addition of Finnish and Swedish membership in NATO.  These countries make reinforcement and supply easier if Russia and Belarus cut off the Suwalki Gap.

Which brings us back to the Russian naval exercises.  Russia must at the least be ready to reinforce Kaliningrad in a period of international tension.  They do have missile units stationed in the enclave that can easily reach any part of the Suwalki Gap.  In a period of international tension, we can expect the Russians to resupply and reinforce Kaliningrad.  This will preclude the easy movement of NATO forces and supplies through the Suwalki Gap and force a shifting of NATO units along the Kaliningrad sector.

By themselves, these incidents along the Polish/Belarus border and the Russian naval maneuvers mean little.  Nor do the regular fighter interceptions by NATO and Russian aircraft.

But accidents happen.  Russian missiles have hit targets less than 2 miles from the Ukraine/Romania border.  What if a missile strays over the border and kills civilians during a time of international tension?

No doubt, the likelihood of a war that involves NATO is growing.