Analysis 03-08-2022

ANALYSIS

The End Game for the Russo – Ukrainian War

 

Although the fighting rages on, especially in the cities of Kiev and Kharkov, an end will come eventually.  The question is what that “peace” will look like.  We look at five possible scenarios and how they will play out in the long run.

Total Russian Victory.  This is one of the more likely scenarios.  In this scenario Kiev is taken and Russian and Belarusian forces take all the country up to the western international border.  A pro-Russian government is appointed by the Russians, possibly headed by former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

A peace treaty will be signed by the new Ukrainian government that recognizes the breakaway republics and much of the land captured by the Russians.  Belarus will also gain some territory as a reward for backing Russia.

As part of the treaty, Ukraine will agree not to join NATO.  It will also promise not to arm its military with any sizable number of heavy weapons like tanks, military aircraft, air defense systems, etc.  Russian “advisors” will also be stationed at Ukraine military bases.

The Russians will be asked to stay as a “peacekeeping force.”  Of course, the peacekeeping will primarily be defeating Ukrainian nationalist insurgents and finding stores of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.

This scenario is fraught with danger for the Russians.  As they discovered in their attack, Ukrainian nationalistic fervor is high, and a sizable guerilla movement could rise up.  With covert help from NATO nations, Russian forces may find themselves in the type of war they fought in Afghanistan.

It is likely that NATO nations will not only send in weapons, but special forces to train and assist the insurgents.  Remember, that the US Green Berets were originally formed to help the guerillas fight the Soviets in communist countries.
All other scenarios below are remotely and hypothetically possible:

A Rump Ukraine.  Rather than continue fighting until all the Ukraine is captured, Russia may stop its offensive and leave a rump Ukraine in the West.  The advantage is that they can stop the loss of troops and equipment, while avoiding fighting Ukrainians on a shortened front.  Stopping before reaching the western international border of the Ukraine would lessen the likelihood of an accidental conflict with a NATO nation.

Since NATO nations supply large amounts of weapons to the Ukraine through their mutual borders, the Ukrainian forces in Western Ukraine may be better armed and likely to inflict more damage to a battle worn Russian army with longer supply lines.

Again, a pro-Russian government would be installed in Kiev, which would recognize the breakaway republics and much of the land captured by the Russians.  And it would agree not to join NATO.  Russian peacekeeping forces would remain in Eastern Ukraine.

This scenario might lead to the same situation we saw in Germany after WWII.  Eastern Ukraine and the breakaway republics would be Russian allies, while Western Ukraine would be reliant on the West and NATO.

Since Western Ukraine would be filled with refugees, it will be an ideal base for guerilla activities. It would also be likely to push for NATO membership.

A rump Ukraine would be a benefit to Russia as it would mean pro-Ukrainian refugees would flood Western Ukraine, not Eastern Ukraine.  Internal unrest might be lessened.

A Ceasefire.  If the battle lines become static and both sides are exhausted, both Russia and the Ukraine may seek a ceasefire.  For the Ukraine, a ceasefire would stop the war and allow it to rearm and regroup.  For the Russians, it would stop a war that has embarrassed the Russian military and could lead to a reduction in the international sanctions that are crippling it economically.  It would also leave Russia with a large piece of the Ukraine.

Demilitarized zones would also be part of the agreement.

The Ukraine might also be able to get some NATO nations to station troops in the Ukraine as tripwires to prevent future conflict.

Of course, ceasefires don’t always hold and either side could decide to break the ceasefire if it feels it has an advantage.  However, there have been ceasefires that hold and become the basis of a more permanent peace.

The Ukraine Holds Out.  Although not a high probability, it could happen that the Ukraine holds out and Russia seeks an end to the war to relieve itself of the sanctions.

What happens would depend on the situation on the ground.  An exhausted Russian army that has serious supply problems may decide to surrender some of the land that it has captured.  It would probably insist on recognition of the breakaway republics and a land bridge to the Crimean Peninsula.  The Ukrainians would undoubtedly want a withdrawal of Russian forces around Kharkov and Kiev.

Any agreement like this would also probably include UN observers, peacekeeping forces, and a demilitarized zone.

A Russian Coup against Putin.  Some western analysts are wishing that Putin may become unpopular given the protests across Russia and stories of sabotage of Russian equipment by Russian soldiers, especially those who have been drafted.

Thy claim that a coup against Putin is a possibility, not a probability.  He is surrounded by loyal bodyguards and his inner circle is unlikely to support his ouster.

Ironically, the unit that would be the most important in any coup is the elite First Guards Tank Army that is usually stationed around Moscow and is considered loyal to the Russian leadership.

However, units of that force are fighting in and around Kharkov and according to the Pentagon have taken considerable battle damage due to the Ukrainian anti-tank missiles.  Should a coup take place, they would be hard pressed to disengage with the Ukrainian Army and move to Moscow.

Another possibility is that the war demoralizes the First Guards Tank Army, and they mutiny.

If a coup removes Putin from office, what happens next will depend on who takes control.  It’s possible that they may agree to a peace and withdraw from the Ukraine.  Or they may agree to withdraw from land captured in this war but insist on the sovereignty of the breakaway republics.  Then, there is the land bridge from mainland Russia to the Crimean Peninsula.

The terms of the agreement would depend to a large degree on the lifting of sanctions by the international community.

However, until then, the fighting continues.  Kharkov is undergoing a fierce bombardment and is fighting Russian forces within the city.  Mariupol, the last major roadblock to the land bridge to the Crimean Peninsula is holding out despite heavy shelling but may fall into Russian’s control in days.  Kherson, in the south has been reportedly captured by the Russians and opens the road to Odessa.

Kiev is still awaiting the massive Russian convoy.  The convoy has remained relatively stationary for some days, which has been a mystery to military experts.  Has fighting with the Ukrainians around Holstomel stopped the advance elements of the convoy?  Have supply problems hindered the advance?  Or, has the Ukrainian Army managed to ambush the convoy along its flanks so it can’t move?  It’s likely a combination of all three. Or it is a military tactics by Russian to wait until they could encircle Kiev from south and east?

This convoy probably will be the biggest determinant of the future of the Ukraine.

Analysis 02-20-2022

ANALYSIS

Is America Headed towards a Civil War?

 

When we first mentioned the possibility of another American civil war over ten years ago, the idea was generally dismissed by political analysts.  However, today, mainstream analysts are seriously considering the possibility.  Last week, Ray Dalio, the founder of the largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates stated that America’s financial problems could lead to an American civil war.

“The US appears to be on a classic path toward some form of civil war,” he wrote on the LinkedIn posting.

Aside from the financial reasons mentioned by Dalio, there are other issues in America that raise the potential for civil war.

The signs were more visible since the election of former President Trump and subsequently his refusal to accept the election of Biden, the current weak American President.  An Interactive Polls poll released last weekend showed Biden with 56% disapproval and 34% approval.  His approval amongst Hispanics has dropped 40% in the last year and 2 out of 3 independents disapprove of him.  He is behind in every swing state that pushed him to victory in 2020.

Historically, weak leaders like Russian Emperor Nicholas II or Louis XVI have been a catalyst of civil war or revolution.

Then there is inflation, which has gotten out of hand and has also historically been a spark for civil war.  Inflation is the worst in 40 years and is even worse if the inflation model used in 1980 is applied.  In that case, the inflation rate is 15%, not 7.5%.  Producer prices, which will inevitably hit consumers is up 9.7% over the last year.

In addition to these, Biden is facing opposition for his foreign policy failures like Afghanistan, shortages of consumer goods on the nation’s store shelves, the growing divide between rich and poor, the chaotic  border with Mexico, and Biden’s growing mental problems.

These are all serious problems, but do they threaten a durable democracy like the United States?  The Biden Administration thinks so given their actions in regard to the peaceful Canadian trucker strike against Covid measures.

The White House said that the demonstrations are a shared problem between the countries.  The Biden Administration pushed the Canadian government to end the blockade, saying it was hurting the economy, although the damage to the economy is less than the government mandated Covid shutdowns of last year.

Another problem is that Americans support the Canadian Trucker strike.  According to a Rasmussen poll released this week, 59% of American voters support the Canadian truckers.  They also think a protest like that in Canada would be a good idea in the United States.

Another sign of American support is financial.  Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau said that around 50% of the funds flowing to the trucker organizers were from the US.

Clearly, the Biden Administration is anxious for the Canadian government to squash the trucker demonstrations before they catch on in the US.

In that regard, they are too late as convoys are already being planned to travel from California to Washington DC.  And the Department of Homeland Security is already monitoring the US convoys and linking it to domestic terrorism.  The DHS bulletin of February warned of a heightened terrorism threat because of “false and misleading narratives” misinformation and conspiracy theories.

But are all these really a major threat?

Barbara Walter is a former member of the Political Instability Task Force, which is a group funded by the CIA.  The purpose of the task force is to gather data and determine which countries are likely to descend into civil conflict.

There are three factors they look at.  The first is whether a country is in transition towards democracy or a totalitarian government – what she calls “anocracies.”  Those that fall between the two poles are twice as likely to experience political instability or civil war as the totalitarian regimes and three times more likely than democracies.

The second factor is “factionalism.”  This is when political parties are based on ethnicity, religious, or race, much like the civil wars that hit the former Yugoslavia.  She says that this is the best indicator of future civil unrest.

The third factor is “downgrading.”  This is when a group experiences a reversal in status and loses political power.  Walter maintains that these three factors are troubling for the US.

“We are a factionalized anocracy that is quickly approaching the open insurgency stage, which means we are closer to civil war than any of us would believe,” she said.

Not everyone agrees with her.  The model she espouses is clearly more in line with the thinking of Democrats and progressives.  Republicans focus on the loss of liberty and growing federal power in the recent history as the two major factors threatening instability.  They also fear that a “downgrading” of government power may spark government sponsored unrest.

If the political factors and the civil unrest modeling foresee a civil war, what will it look like?

“It would look more like Northern Ireland and what Britain experienced, where it’s more of an insurgency,” Walter said.  “It would be more decentralized than Northern Ireland because we have such a large country.”

Undoubtedly, a second American civil war wouldn’t look anything like the one that raged from 1861 to 1865.  That was a more conventional war with clear battle lines and conventional armies.

Although states and state rights had much to do with the American Civil War, it may be different this time.  While there are states that clearly tilt one way or another, there are many states that could split in any conflict.

One example is Colorado, which is liberal and pro-Democrat around Denver.  However, the population in and around the Rocky Mountains is much more conservative.  Minnesota is Democratic around Minneapolis but is Republican in the western part of the state.

These states could fracture, with different groups controlling different parts of the state.  There is also the open question of Native American Tribes, who are recognized as sovereign nations by the US.  Would they break away?

There is also the issue of the military, which is spread across the nation.  At present, they do not have the forces to retake any large part of the US.  Would they support the Commander-in-Chief?  Would they merely remain in place to protect military bases and America’s strategic nuclear forces?

Then there are the private militias.  Are they as powerful as some maintain or are they akin to the White South African militias of the 1990s that folded and ran away?

And no discussion of American military strength can ignore the states’ National Guard and reserve forces that fall under the control of the state governor.  Some of the National Guard units have already refused to follow the Pentagon vaccine mandates.

One interesting fact about the Canadian protests is that Trudeau called upon the Canadian military, only to be told that Canada’s military wasn’t empowered to get involved in domestic issues.

If a civil war or insurgency takes place, expect the cities, which are more Democrat, to side with the federal government.  Rural areas would be more Republican.  The suburbs would be the battleground.

Unlike the American Civil War of 150 years ago, when the South was agrarian and unable to compete with the North’s industrial capacity, potential insurgent areas have more industry, especially in terms of arms manufactures.  They also produce more of the agricultural goods.  The cities would control the financial power of the US.

However, there is no way to predict what will happen.  Generals in 1914 thought WWI would be a war of maneuver instead of trenches.  Nations have also stepped away from civil unrest at the last moment.

However, it’s important to remember that no one thought that British and American forces at Lexington would exchange fire on April 19th, 1775.  Several confrontations had ended peacefully in the previous years, and no one had any inkling that things would be so different this day in Lexington.  It was the belligerent actions of British Major Pitcairn, who held the militia units in disdain that led to the confrontation.

America is in the same state now.  Common sense could stop a civil war.  However, belligerent actions could cause a tense situation to break out into all-out war.

Analysis 02-15-2022

ANALYSIS

General Kurilla to Command CENTCOM

 

Several months ago, after America’s Kabul failures, we noted that America’s military leadership had virtually no military combat experience.  Secretary of Defense Austin had never been in combat during his military career and had served on several staffs.  General Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had experienced limited combat in Panama over 30 years ago.

This may be changing.  Lieutenant General Michael Kurilla is clearly a warrior who has led his troops in the heat of battle.  As an infantry officer, he has fought in the CENTCOM areas of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria.  In addition to his CENTCOM service, he has served in Panama in a combat role, Haiti, Kosovo-Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.  He has been the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.

He has received two Purple Hearts for receiving combat injuries.  He has been awarded a Bronze Star with a “V” device for valor for his life saving actions in 2005 in Mosul, Iraq.  Neither the Secretary of Defense nor Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have received these highly regarded medals.

In Mosul, when his troops came under fire, he charged to the front and came under fire.  Although he was shot three time (one bullet broke his femur) and was lying in the middle of the street, he continued firing his rifle, while directing his men.  His actions saved several seriously injured American soldiers.

A war correspondent at the firefight wrote, “Make no mistake about Kurilla – he is a warrior, always at the front of the charge.  But it is that battle-hardened bravery that makes him the kind of leader that Americans admire.”

This event was not a chance happening.  Kurilla went on missions nearly every day for that year.  That is unusual as field grade officers like Kurilla usually stay at headquarters and rarely go out on combat missions.

After Senate confirmation, he will replace General McKenzie, who is retiring this spring.  After his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, he headed to Europe, where he commands the 18th Airborne Corps, which has sent troops to Eastern Europe to counter Russian military movements.

Along current CENTCOM General McKenzie, Kurilla agrees that Iran is the major regional problem as it has attacked US forces in Iraq and Syria.  They are also behind other destabilizing activities against US allies in the region.

“They try and hide their behavior and it can cause them not to take action for a period of time,” Kurilla said.  “That is my experience when I was at CENTCOM.”

Although he is suspicious of Iran’s activities and noted that US policy is that Iran can’t get a nuclear weapon, he endorsed an “enforceable agreement that limits Tehran’s ability to gain nuclear weapons.”

He warned the Senate committee that easing sanctions against Iran could help fund operations that endanger US forces.

He also wants to publicly share Iranian behavior when the intelligence can be safely exposed.

Kurilla admitted that current airborne surveillance operations over Afghanistan aren’t as effective as hoped because they are launched from a distance, and they spend two-thirds of their time flying to and from Afghanistan.

“It’s resource intensive to do the finding, and then the fixing and finishing of the targets that you are going after,” he said

To improve American intelligence of Afghanistan, Kurilla said he would consider some “case by case” intelligence sharing with the Taliban, if it proved fruitful in targeting ISIS-K, which is a common enemy to both the US and Taliban.  He also favored rebuilding “human intelligence capability that was lost during the withdrawal” from Afghanistan.

Kurilla admitted that the US has spent little time tracking the actions of ISIS-K and al Qaeda and he would, if confirmed, look at the best options to keeping them from attacking the American homeland.

Kurilla also stressed alliances with nations in the CENTCOM area.  He urged help from nations like Saudi Arabia.

Kurilla noted that CENTCOM is home to nine out of ten most dangerous terrorist organization in the world.  He also noted that there are two long running wars in Yemen and Syria.

“I think going through our partners and allies and strengthening those with a united front with all of our partners and allies is the best way to confront them.

Kurilla also sees potential for collective Arab (GCC and Jordan) Israeli air defense.  This could include integrating air defense radar systems and even coordinating which nation will launch the air defense missiles.

Kurilla also spoke of the sacrifice made by Americans during the Afghan War.  “While we are no longer in Afghanistan, we must honor and acknowledge the sacrifice by more than one million service members.”

 

What to expect of Kurilla as CENTCOM Commander?

Since both Republican and Democrat senators are praising Kurilla, he is certainly the next CENTCOM commander.

But how will his experience change CENTCOM?

Kurilla has a warrior’s ethic.  When new officers came to his command, he would give them the book Gates of Fire, a book about the Battle of Thermopylae where three hundred Spartan warriors held off Persian King Xerxes army of over one million soldiers for six days whole the main Greek Armies mobilized for war.  The deaths of those 300 Spartans gave Greece the time to eventually win.

Kurilla ordered his junior officers to read the book.

We can expect Kurilla to make the CENTCOM forces more combat ready and the officer corps to take their responsibilities and combat training seriously.

In addition to going out daily on missions, Kurillla would regularly meet with Iraqi police and army officers and drink coffee in small cafes.  He wanted to know what was happening at the local level instead of relying on intelligence reports.

Admittedly, Kurilla will have to meet many military officers and politicians during his time as CENTCOM but, don’t be surprised if he finds a way to meet the other ranks – especially the average American soldier.

As someone who has been in combat and been wounded, he will not be eager to commit his forces to combat unless they are well prepared.  He will also carefully plan operations unlike SecDef Austin’s and General Milley’s poor planning in Kabul last August.

Expect him to be aggressive in combat.

Since the commander of CENTCOM is an operational position, if there is any military action in the CENTCOM area, he will be the overall commander of all forces in the area, not just Army forces.  In addition, there is no military officer between him and the president of the United States.  Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Milley can’t countermand his orders.  Only the Secretary of Defense and President can give him orders.

Conversely, Kurilla has no authority regarding diplomacy or relations with other CENTCOM nations.  He will meet with leaders of many nations, but anything coming out of those meetings is informal and not necessarily binding or agreeable to the president or State Department.

Analysis 01-31-2022

ANALYSIS

Russia versus Ukraine: A Military Analysis

 

The tensions between Ukraine and Russia heated up this week.  It didn’t help that Biden called Ukrainian President Zelensky and told him that Kiev would soon be “sacked” by Russian forces.

Biden also said a Russian invasion was virtually certain once the ground froze and Ukraine had to “prepare for impact.”

The National Security council spokeswoman Emily Horne denied the reports.  However, CNN said they received the information from a Ukrainian official.

Is a Russian invasion of Ukraine certain?  Not necessarily.  The informal “Normandy Format” talks between Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany has led to an agreement to continue to honor the 2014 ceasefire.

Of course, ceasefires are historically short lived, when one side has a strong interest in abrogating the agreement.  Putin is a nationalist who has said the breakup of the Soviet Union was the worst event of the 20th Century.  And Putin would find a permanent place in Russian history as one of the great Russian leaders if he could reclaim a large part of Ukraine.

Although man-for-man, the Russian Army is better than the Ukrainian Army, the outcome is uncertain.  Will Putin go for a major war that could bring in NATO forces or a small conflict that limits NATO involvement?

Although many analysts say that the flat, open terrain favors the armored Russian forces, it’s important to remember that Ukraine soaked up millions of Russian and German dead, wounded, and captured during WWII in tank battles.  There are several rivers that run north to south that will hamper Russian tank forces heading east or west.  There is also the large Pripet Marsh that was a refuge for large Soviet partisan units fighting the Nazis behind the front lines.

The Pripet Marshes are in Southern Belarus and Northern Ukraine and form a natural barrier between the two countries.  Although the Pripet Marshes aren’t as bad as they were in WWII, Russian armor will still be forced to move along narrow channels that will give defensive forces with anti-tank missiles an advantage.  That is one reason why analysts think Putin will wait until February when the swamps freeze.

A historical example of the difficulty the Germans experienced in the Pripet Marshes in WWII was the original assault in 1941.  General Guderian was advancing rapidly on Moscow, when Hitler ordered him to turn his Second Panzer Army south to assist Army Group South capture Kiev and the soldiers defending it.  The Germans were successful and captured Kiev and over 700,000 Russian soldiers.

However, the success came at a cost.  When Guderian once again moved towards Moscow, his tank units had taken serious losses around Kiev and needed replacement and repair.  In addition, the winter was beginning.  As we know, the German tanks were stopped at the outskirts of Moscow.

 

The Opposing Forces

The Russian Army is clearly stronger.  If a conflict occurs, Russia will own the sky over the Ukraine.  As was seen in and around Donbass, the sky will be a graveyard for Ukrainian aircraft.

The Russian Navy will also control the Black Sea off the coast of Ukraine.

That does NOT mean the Russian Army doesn’t have any weaknesses.  Putin has not made the Russian Army a professional one that doesn’t rely on the draft.  The Army also lacks the senior enlisted cadre that is the core of any army.  They also rely on railroads and lack sufficient truck transportation, which will make it hard to sustain an offensive deep into the Ukraine.

The best that can be said of the Ukrainian Army is that it is considerably better than it was in 2014 – 2015, when Russian and Russian supported militia defeated the Ukrainian Army.  At that time, the Ukrainian Army consisted of obsolete Soviet tanks badly in need of maintenance and repair.  They also lacked fuel and training.  Worst of all, they had serious corruption problems.

Although the Ukrainians still rely on obsolete tanks, they have received training from over a dozen NATO countries and a good supply of man portable anti-tank missiles.  Training has focused on negating the Russian tank advantage.  There appears to be a focus on operating behind enemy lines.

Currently there are British and American Special Forces in the Ukraine.  There are also about 150 members of the Florida National Guard (53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team).  If these forces are caught in the middle of a conflict, they could seriously stiffen the Ukrainian will to fight.

 

Ukrainian – Russian Combat Scenarios

Although we don’t know what Putin is planning, here are several scenarios.

Since the majority of the Ukrainian Army is in the east in the Donbass area, Russian forces in Belarus could attack across the border from the west and surround Ukraine’s army.  The advantage is that this strategy avoids attacking big cities.

A Ukrainian Army that is surrounded puts Russia in a strong position in any political negotiations.

As we have mentioned before, this strategy requires a frozen Pripet Marsh.  Otherwise, the advantage goes to Ukraine, who has received training in anti-tank tactics and has a good number of portable anti-tank missiles.  The narrow fronts that the tanks must advance on, and the truck shortage could bog the Russians down if the Ukrainians have taken their training to heart.

A Russian attack would also give the Ukrainian Army interior lines so they could shift their forces from East to West.  Since the Russian Army around the Ukraine is about the same size as the Ukrainian forces, the Russians would be violating one of the prime rules of combat – never divide your force in the face of a superior enemy.

Russia also has several amphibious options.  One is to capture Snake Island, which is just off the Ukrainian coast and would seriously restrict the Ukrainian Navy and merchant shipping along its own coast.  They could also institute a blockade.  However, international law recognizes a blockade as an “Act of War,” which would give Ukraine a valid cause to escalate and ask for international assistance.

One option that may limit NATO reaction is to capture a canal on the Crimean Peninsula that could supply the water for the Russian forces that must bring water in from the Russian mainland.  The Russians might be able to limit a NATO response by pleading that this is a humanitarian operation.

Capturing the canal would also allow the Russians to capture a land bridge from the Crimea to the insurgent controlled area in Eastern Ukraine.

Another low-risk operation would be for the Russian Army to move into insurgent occupied Ukraine.  The move would be largely symbolic and the risk of combat with the Ukrainians would be less.

Another tactic would be a “salami” tactic – take a small part of the Ukraine like the Crimean canal and see how NATO reacts.  If the NATO response is limited, Putin could press ahead and take another “slice” of the Ukraine.

This strategy is slower than a full-scale attack and gives the Ukrainian Army and NATO more response time (if they have the political will to respond).  There is also the decision that Russian generals must make at when and where to stop.  Despite Biden’s comment that the Russians could “sack” Kiev, the cities would be nearly impossible to capture and hold.  Light Ukrainian units with anti-tank missiles would make a battle of Kiev look more like the Battle of Stalingrad – except the Russians would be on the losing side this time.

In the end, there is considerable risk for Putin – and considerable reward.   Ukraine is a large country, with a population that remembers the brutal Russian occupation during the Cold War.  Insurgents, armed by NATO countries next door, would have the advantages of swamps and forested land.

For the Russians, the war might be less another Afghanistan than a Northern Ireland.

Analysis 01-24-2022

ANALYSIS

Biden Celebrates First Year in Office
with Extensive Press Conference

 

Biden held his second press conference of his presidency this week.  And, although it wasn’t one of the publicized reasons, the two-hour long question and answer session was clearly designed to prove that despite stories to the contrary, Biden has the stamina and mental ability to be president.

Biden’s critics still disagreed.  But, this time, verbal gaffes weren’t the biggest problem.

The questions ranged from the Ukraine to politics and the fate of several of his landmark legislative initiatives.  Biden agreed that his “Build Back Better” legislation would need to be cut up into smaller pieces of legislation to pass.

Biden did allude to his plummeting popularity.  Early in his opening statement, Biden said he wouldn’t simply accept the status quo as a “new normal.”

“I’m not going to give up and accept things as they are now…some people call it a new normal. I call it a job not yet finished,” Biden said.

On the geopolitical front, Biden said that the US isn’t yet ready to remove President Trump’s tariffs on China. Concerning a timeline, does he have a deadline for possible removal? “The answer is uncertain,” Biden said. His top trade official is working on it.

And as oil prices continue their climb, Biden said he is doing everything he can to increase available supplies.

Later, he said that it’s not too late for talks with Iran to yield another deal. “There is some progress being made, but it remains to be seen if Tehran will make a deal, Biden said in a news conference Wednesday.

He also confirmed that VP Kamala Harris will be his running mate in 2024.

Biden’s comments on the 2022 election were guaranteed to increase the divide between Republicans and Democrats as well as increase the talk about legitimate elections.

Asked about the 2022 election, Biden said, “Oh, yeah, I think it could easily be illegitimate.”

This statement was quickly corrected by the White House.

 

The Ukraine

It wasn’t verbal fumbles or gaffs that caused Biden the most trouble during the press conference.  Biden spent a lot of time on the Russia-Ukraine crisis. While he consistently echoed prior assessments given via White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki (that an invasion could come “at any point”), the most interesting new statements from the president gave a bit more detail as to what he’s willing to do or not willing to do regarding “consequences”.

The big question that remains is: given any “incursion” or “offensive” by Russia into Eastern Ukraine, will Biden order a military response in support of Kiev, or will the US stop short by merely ramping up sanctions? Biden began early in the Q&A with journalists by underscoring his belief that Putin is planning to invade Ukraine: “my guess is he will move in,” Biden stated.

Biden then followed it with statements suggesting the White House really is still at the stage of ‘guess work’: “But as Biden himself acknowledged, it’s unclear whether Putin himself has decided what comes next.” He also made a distinction between a “minor incursion” and full-on “invasion” – reportedly angering Ukrainian officials.

“I believe he’s calculating what the immediate short-term and the near-term and the long-term consequences for Russia will be. And I don’t think he’s made up his mind yet,” Biden stressed. He admitted that “I don’t know if Putin decided what he wants to do” – in a bit of a glaring contradiction to all the breathless admin official statements of the last two weeks asserting an “invasion” is coming. There was also this contradiction during the presser:

Biden: Decision to invade Ukraine “will depend on what side of bed Putin gets up on…”

Biden later: “he’s calculating Russia’s interests.”

He suggested a “minor incursion” would elicit a lesser response than a full-scale invasion of the country.

“I’m not so sure he is certain what he is going to do. My guess is he will move in. He has to do something,” Biden said, describing a leader searching for relevance in a post-Soviet world. “He is trying to find his place in the world between China and the west.”

Biden’s prediction of an invasion is the firmest acknowledgment to date the United States fully expects Putin to move after amassing 100,000 troops along the Ukraine border.

Biden then went through different US responses.

“He’s never seen sanctions like the ones I promised will be imposed if he moves, number one,” the president said“It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not do, et cetera.”

“But if they do what they’re capable of doing with the forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine. And that our allies and partners are ready to impose severe cost and significant harm on Russia and the Russian economy,” he added. This might include barring Russia from “anything that involves dollar denominations”; and notably in recent months the West has threatened to cut Russia off from SWIFT – the international banking and dollar transfer system.

Despite the warnings of a major Russian incursion into Ukraine, Biden suggested that any military action would be limited and the cost to Putin would be great.

“The cost of going into Ukraine in terms of physical loss of life for the Russians — they’ll be able to prevail over time but it’s going to be heavy,” he said. “It’s going to be real. It’s going to be consequential. Putin has a stark choice. Either de-escalation or diplomacy. Confrontation and consequences.”

“This is not all just a cake walk for Russia,” he went on. “Militarily, they have overwhelming superiority. And as it relates to Ukraine, they’ll pay a stiff price immediately, near term, medium term and long term if they do it.”

Biden speculated Putin was not seeking “any full-blown war,” but said he did believe he was looking for some type of confrontation.

“Do I think he’ll test the west? Test the United States and NATO as significantly as he can? Yes, I think he will. But I think he’ll pay a serious and dear price for it.”

“He doesn’t think now will cost him what it’s going to cost him,” he said. “And I think he’ll regret having done it.”

Biden’s comments caused an uproar both in Washington and the Ukraine.  Ukrainian officials were deeply disappointed and angered by Biden’s press eventwherein he made a distinction between a potential “minor incursion” by Russian forces vs. an all-out “invasion.”  On Thursday, Ukrainian President Zelensky said, “We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones. I say this as the President of a great power.”

Zelensky added, “Know that everything is under control, and everything is going according to plan.”

Although the White House tried to clarify the Biden comments, on Thursday the President sought to clarify his words at the start of a press event that was supposed to focus on infrastructure. “I’ve been absolutely clear with President Putin. He has no misunderstanding. If any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion”.

“Let there be no doubt at all that if Putin makes this choice, Russia will pay a heavy price,” Biden continued. He noted this could also come in the form of a Russian cyber-attack or other form of irregular warfare.

Of course, actions speak louder than words and the US is frantically trying to beef up Ukraine’s military.  US officials confirmed to CBS News that the Biden Administration has given permission to several NATO allies to send emergency shipments of American made weapons – including antitank missiles – to Ukraine to reinforce the country’s defenses.  These allies include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the United Kingdom.

The thinking amongst many military thinkers is that Putin is waiting until the hard freezes take place so Russian tanks will not be hindered by mud.

Analysis 01-17-2022

ANALYSIS

America’s Aging Leadership

Can it change or is it a fixture for the future?

 

Undoubtedly, many Americans were shocked when the national newspaper Wall Street Journal ran an article indicating that maybe Hillary Clinton should run for president in 2024.  The key points of the piece were that President Biden and Vice President Harris are so unpopular that it might be time to consider another candidate like Hillary.

Clinton hasn’t let this opportunity pass her.  In a recent MSNBC interview, she called for “careful thinking about what wins elections and not just in deep blue districts where a Democrat…is going to win.”

Clinton has also taken shots at Biden, saying, “We don’t have a White House that we can count on to be sane and sober and stable and productive.”

Some analysts don’t consider the candidacy viable.

Before anyone gets excited about another Clinton presidency, it’s important to remember that what America is seeing is not a return to better days, but a return to the grey days of the Soviet Politburo, when leadership was determined by who was still alive.

If anything showed the “vibrancy” of American leadership during the Cold War, it was the May Day celebrations where the average age of Soviet leadership was in the 70s.  When Brezhnev died in 1982, he was replaced by 68-year-old Andropov – who was to live for a very short time.

Today, America’s aging leadership makes the Soviet Politburo look young and vibrant.

Joe Biden is the oldest serving president at the age of 79 and is a decade older than the “old” Soviet leaders of the 1970s.

The problem for America is that more questions are being raised about his declining cognitive capabilities.  He answers few questions at events and it’s clear that his staff prefers that he remains in the background.

Biden isn’t helped by Vice President Harris, who is even more unpopular than the president.  No one contemplates removing Biden and replacing him in the Oval Office with Harris.

Biden isn’t the only old person in Washington. Democratic Congressional leadership team is the oldest in history.  Speaker of the House Pelosi who is second in line to be the president – should something happen both to Harris and Biden – is 81.

Senate Democratic leader Schumer is a “youthful” 71.

The backup team isn’t any younger.  House Majority leader Hoyer is 82 and the majority whip Clyburn is 81.  Only one Soviet Politburo member was older in 1982, Grigori Romanov at 83.

In the Senate, the Democrats must rely upon 80-year-old Bernie Sanders to pass the budget.

On the Republican side of the Senate, Republican Minority leader Mitch McConnell is 79 years old.

Republican rules in Congress prevent very old committee chairmen remaining in position because all chairmen are limited to the time, they can chair a committee.  This is a natural limit to leaving older politicians in power.

America’s Deep State leadership is also aging.  Politico reported in 2017 that 30 percent of the civilian federal workforce was over 55.  Two decades earlier, it was only 15%.  Evidently, taking retirement isn’t that appealing to civil servants.

Meanwhile, the Administration point person in the economy is Janet Yellen, who is 75.

Can America operate effectively with aged leaders?  Studies by scientists raise questions about the ability of anyone to operate effectively after 70.  There haven’t’ been studies on politicians, but studies on CEOs show that they become less able to absorb large amounts of information as they grow older.

So, Is America’s leadership too old?

And how did we get there?

America’s system of bringing in new politicians starts at the state level, where local politicians run for seats in the state legislature.  This provides a “back bench” of politicians who gain experience and advance if they do a good job.  A state legislature seat may lead to a state senate seat and then a congressional seat in Washington.

But this system doesn’t work smoothly.  Off year elections impact the parties in and out of power.  For instance, in 2022, Republicans in local state races will probably win more and Democrats will lose more.  Meanwhile, many Democrats are resigning their seats in Congress rather than risk losing in 2022.

However, in 2010, the Mid Term elections devastated the local Democratic Party.  Hundreds of potential Democratic politicians lost their seats as a tidal wave voted against Obama.

Rather than rebuild the Democratic Party at the local level, the Democrats focused on maintaining their seats nationally using incumbency and money.  The cost to the party, however, was that the Democrats lost several state legislatures that they will be hard pressed to recover.

Incumbency is powerful in reelecting politicians.  However, the downside is that it prevents new politicians from coming up.

The other advantage is money, and who has it.  Congressional leaders manage to control much of the political money in the system.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi controls “PAC to the Future” a political action committee that controls and doles out tens of millions of dollars.  The money helps Democrats win House seats, but also gives Pelosi the influence to remain Speaker of the House.

So, is the United States doomed to look like the Soviet Politburo?  No.  Note that the current Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, is 69 years old – not young, but a big change from the Soviet days.

The fact is that age is its biggest enemy of an aging leadership.  As House Speaker Pelosi gets older, she becomes more vulnerable to sickness, mental problems, and internal opposition.

Pelosi and other elderly Democrats are facing more challenges from a small group of progressive House members called “the Squad.”   These include Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep Ilhan Omar, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib.  They have opposed Democratic spending levels and have voted with Republicans to force Pelosi’s hand.

Given the political forces in 2022, there is a good chance that Pelosi will  lose her position as Speaker of the House.  House Majority leader Hoyer and the majority whip Clyburn are also vulnerable to young, congressmen.

The result is that younger Representatives will naturally come to the fore after the election in 2022.

Although it seems that the aging American leadership is set well into the future, remember that, just like Brezhnev, aging politicians will eventually die.  In the meantime, younger politicians like Gorbachev will consolidate power.

And remember how much Soviet and Russian politics changed after Gorbchav came to power,

The current leadership situation is expected to change dramatically in the coming years, especially in 2022 as the sands of time cause even the powerful to fall.

Analysis 01-02-2022

ANALYSIS

The Biden Agenda in 2022

 

Biden has been in the White House for nearly a year and by most measures, 2021 has been a disaster.  Inflation is up, Covid isn’t under control, hostilities between the US and Russia have grown, while the China/Taiwan issue isn’t any closer to being solved.  Meanwhile, Americans saw a withdrawal from Afghanistan that demonstrated America’s weakness in world politics.

At home, Biden’s keynote “Build Back Better” legislation is dead. The keynote 2021 election in Virginia, a moderately Democratic state, went Republican.  A Civics poll shows Biden’s approval at 36% and disapproval at 55%.  His approval in the key Democratic demographic of 18 to 35 is 28%.  Hispanic voters give Biden 48 percent approval.  Young Black voters only give Biden 36%.

A recent Zogby poll shows independent voters prefer Republican control of Congress by 45% to 27%.

Obviously, Biden’s key domestic agenda is to boost his poll numbers and solidify support amongst Democratic voters.  Fixing problems like inflation aren’t a top priority at this time.

President Clinton’s economic advisor put it bluntly in a Bloomberg interview.  In talking about Biden’s economic agenda, he called it “a political response.”

“If I thought we could sustainably run the economy in a red-hot way, that would be a wonderful thing…the consequence of an overheated economy is not merely elevated inflation, but constantly rising inflation,” Summers continued.

“There are no examples of successful inflationary policy that has worked out to the benefit of workers.”

No wonder the “Build Back Better” legislation failed.  The $2.2 Trillion legislation would enshrine several Democratic goals like climate change, immigration, health care, and taxes.  There was little for average voters and economists indicated that this bill would boost inflation.  But the death blow came from Democratic West Virginia Senator Manchin who indicated it was too expensive and would not receive his vote.  Since the US Senate is tied 50-50, with VP Harris casting the tie breaking vote, Manchin’s vote to oppose the legislation meant that it was bound to lose 49-51.

The Biden Administration will try to sidestep legislation with regulations that will make some of his leftist Democrat voters happy.  The administration has issued some regulations that will boost inflation, by requiring new cars sold in 2026 to increase their fuel efficiency by nearly 50%.  Biden also wants electric cars to be 50% of all cars sold by 2030, even though they were only 4% of car sales in 2021.  These requirements will drastically increase the cost of automobiles and increase the transportation sector of the inflation index.

Since most American voters base their vote on economic issues, Biden has little choice but to hope to use issues like climate change and immigration to energize Democratic voters to come to the polls in November.  He will also rely upon attacks on the Republicans to sidestep the oncoming midterm landslide.  However, most voters will base their decisions on increasing costs at the grocery store and gas station rather than political ads.

 

Biden’s International Agenda

It’s a truism that when a national leader is in trouble domestically, he focuses on international issues.  We can expect Biden to do the same.

One area where the Biden Administration has had some success is in checking China’s ambitions towards Taiwan.  In the last year, the US has managed to turn the support of Taiwan into a global issue.  During Biden’s last trip to Europe, he managed to receive commitments from several European nations to deploy warships in the South China Sea theater.

Biden has also had the US Navy transit the Strait of Taiwan in 2021 more than Trump did in 2020.

Now several NATO nations have decided that Taiwan’s independence is critical, especially since Taiwan is a major semiconductor manufacturer.

Last month, the German Navy’s flagship, the FGS Bayern, moved into the Southeast Asia Theater and conducted exercises with the American, Canadian, Japanese, and Australian navies.  Germany has made it clear that they intend to make regular deployments to the region.

The Bayern is primarily an anti-submarine warfare ship, but it also has anti-aircraft defenses.

The Dutch warship HNLMS Eversten was also part of the HMS Queen Elizabeth task force that carried out exercises in the South China Sea area.

Canada also deploys warships to the region.

While the US and NATO have managed to act in unison in regard to China, acting in concert in regard to Russia is more difficult.  Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and the Biden Administration is trying to wean them from dependence on Russian energy.

Here are the facts that concern the US.  The EU imports 70% of its natural gas.  Russia supplies 35% of the EUs natural gas.  The US provides 16%.  The rest comes from other sources, including the Middle East.

As Europe enters the winter and problems exist with the reliability of Russian natural gas sales, the Biden Administration faces a problem that has international implications.  Natural Gas prices in Europe are up 800% this year.  Much of the problem is opposition by Biden to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Meanwhile, Russia has cut the amount of natural gas transiting through Ukraine.

As tensions grow between NATO and Russia, the Biden Administration is trying hard to be sure that EU nations don’t back down to Russia for fear that they will lose a critical energy supply.  In fact, seven American LNG carriers bound for Asia have turned around and are now heading for Europe.

More natural gas carrier ships are expected to be diverted from China and Asia in the upcoming weeks.  This, may in turn, relieve pressure on Europe’s energy problem and the resultant pressure by Russia.

Of course, Russia remains a problem even without the natural gas issue. Ukraine reports that up to a quarter million Russian forces are currently stationed along the Ukraine border and Putin is insisting that NATO pull its forces back from Russia’s borders.

This is probably a bluff by Putin.  A major invasion by Russia would mean economic sanctions and Russia is more dependent on European business than it was back in the Cold War era.

This is one area where Biden can benefit.  The US is the world’s largest producer of natural gas, and it can move military units in days.  A show of force can probably limit what Putin can do.

While Biden is acting firmly with China and Russia, it is vacillating in the Middle East.  It finds itself wanting a nuclear deal with Iran but can’t be perceived as backing down to Iranian demands.

The US remains committed to eliminating ISIS but with the collapse in Afghanistan, Islamic radicals have a new base.  They also have a weakened Biden who is unlikely to make any dramatic move in the Middle East in 2022.

An important part of the Biden agenda is not mentioned by the media – the president’s declining mental state.  An American president must be seen as decisive.  He must be able to act quickly in the face of Russian or Chinese aggressive policies.

It is quite possible that hostilities could break out due to an escalating move by Xi or Putin.  They may think that Biden will not react if Russia takes a small slice of the Ukraine or Xi invades some small islands in the Taiwan Strait.  And, while there is the international aspect of Biden’s mental condition, there is also the domestic aspect.

Biden is a drag on the Democrat Party’s chances in 2022.  However, VP Harris is even more unpopular than Biden.  Democratic leadership has already floated the idea that VP Harris can be tempted to resign for an appointment to the Supreme Court.  Biden could then appoint a more popular person as Vice President and then announce that he is resigning due to health.

The problem with this solution is that the people handling Biden (the first Lady and the White House Chief of Staff) will not want to surrender power.  How will their desire to remain in power impact the Biden agenda in 2022?

Analysis 12-19-2021

ANALYSIS

America Starts Production
of B61-12 Nuclear Bomb

 

On December 2, a little noted Twitter comment was sent out by Jill Hruby, Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) noting that “Last week NNSA completed the B61-12 first production unit…This demonstrates our nation’s commitment to nuclear deterrence.”

The B61-12 that she was talking about is the latest modification of the Family of B61 nuclear weapons that have been the mainstay of America’s air dropped nuclear weapons for over half a century.  Despite critic’s claims that this is a new, more dangerous nuclear weapon, it is really a modification of earlier B61 bombs and has no larger yield than the previous versions.

This version of the B61 has been in development for years.  In fact, it was the Obama Administration that approved the upgrade of the bomb.

The new bomb (not new, but a major modification of previously manufactured bombs) has a new tail unit that turns it into a “standoff” bomb that allows the aircraft to avoid flying over the target and its close-in air defenses.  Since it is more accurate, the engineers didn’t have to increase the yield.

The B61-12 can “dial in” the yield.  It can have a yield as low as 0.3 kilotons or as high as 50 kilotons (about 3 times the yield of the Hiroshima bomb).  It will replace earlier versions, including the B61-3, 4, and 10 tactical versions and the B61-7 strategic bomb.

The B61-7 has a yield of 10 to 360 kilotons and the B61-11 has a yield of 400 kilotons.

The B61-4 bombs will be converted to B61-12 bombs.  The B61-11 Earth Penetrating Bomb will remain in use although the B61-12 also has earth penetrating ability that can take out some underground command and control centers.  As a result, the B61 will be able to meet most tactical and strategic needs.  It will also be able to be mounted on several American and NATO nuclear capable aircraft.

The B61 nuclear weapon can be delivered at altitudes of 50,000 feet to as low as 50 feet (low altitude drops like that from 50 feet require a parachute that quickly stops the bomb and allows it to lay on the ground until detonation).

Less than 200 nuclear bombs are currently stored in Europe.

As successful as the older B61 bomb modifications were, they were becoming too old for reliable use.  The nuclear package contained radioactive materials that decayed, lost some of their capability, and even experienced physical degradation.

As a result, the Air Force and NNSA started a life extension program that replaced non-nuclear components like fuses, batteries, and other electronics on 400 of the bombs.  This was estimated to increase the life of the weapons by 20 years.  The nuclear assembly was also refurbished and rebuilt.

The nuclear components were refurbished and remade at the Y-12 National Security Campus.  The explosive package was produced by the Pantex Plant.  Pantex also re-qualified the nuclear pit.

What makes the B61-12 special is the tail assembly, which can maneuver the bomb in freefall, and inertial navigation system which guides it.  It has an estimated accuracy of approximately 30 meters.  Given the low yield options of 0.3 kilotons, 1.5 kilotons, and 10 kilotons, the bomb can limit collateral damage according to its advocates.

Since the new tail assembly allows the aircraft to launch the bomb before reaching the target the plane and pilot have a better chance of surviving a mission.

The New B61-12 Mission

The production of a modernized bomb gives commanders options they didn’t have before.  It can be used for low yield “clean” tactical uses against armored formations, High yield attacks, air bursts, and bunker busting options.

One of the earliest options for the tactical use of nuclear weapons was to break up Soviet armored formations as they raced across the Central European Plain towards the English Channel.  That option remains with the lower yields, although the Russians are unlikely to overrun Europe with tanks against a larger NATO.

More likely tactical applications of tactical nuclear bombs would be behind enemy lines.  Above ground command and control centers and headquarters would be vulnerable to low yield attacks.  Ammunition storage areas or even supply columns could be attacked with less risk of radiation to nearby civilian areas has been claimed.

It is assumed by US military planners that since the B61-12 has been designed for limited underground bunker busting, it could be used in attacks against critical underground targets.  These are more likely to be further behind enemy lines because the resultant radiation would be more lethal for civilian populations.

They are claiming, given the importance of logistics in supporting an attack, low yield nuclear weapons would be safer if used against an army’s supply centers than forward armored formations that are in close contact with friendly forces.  Supply centers are not mobile and there would be less of a threat to friendly casualties.

The “Dial a Yield” ability also gives commanders more options up to the last second.  A sudden dispersal of an armored unit or a change in terrain could be countered by increasing the yield.

Is This a New Threat?

With the growing tension along NATO’s Eastern border, there is concern that this new bomb makes a nuclear exchange possible.  Nuclear critics say that lower yields make the possibility of a nuclear exchange more likely

Modern conventional weapons are much more accurate than in the past.  In the 1960s and the 1970s, nuclear scientists developed the neutron bomb, which would destroy the massed Soviet armored attacks that were expected.  However, technology made the need for a neutron bomb obsolete.

Modern munitions can target an enemy tank with a laser and destroy it with high probability.  Some artillery and air launched munitions can detect tanks and launch sub munitions that will destroy several armored vehicles with one shot.  Infantry soldiers can carry “fire and forget” missiles that can destroy tanks at a distance.

A NATO soldier with a Javelin anti-tank missile can fire and hit targets 4 kilometers away long before a nuclear armed aircraft can arrive.  They have proved their worth in both Afghanistan and Iraq, especially the Battle of Debecka Pass, where a small American and Kurdish force stopped a larger Iraqi mechanized company.

Given the accuracy of modern conventional munitions, the political cost of a nuclear attack would be high versus the tactical advantage.  Their application would probably be limited to situations where the supply of accurate conventional weapons has run out and the strategic situation is desperate.

Although the B61 bomb family has served the US for nearly 60 years, a look over their history shows the changing nuclear strategy.  Once nuclear weapons were loaded onto super bombers, which carried bombs in the megaton range and were destined for major military and civilian centers.

These megaton yield weapons are no longer needed or even fielded.  The bombers of the superpowers are no longer even capable of entering and surviving the enemy’s airspace.  That mission is given to ICBMs and submarine launched ballistic missiles.

Today’s new B61 weapons rely more on accuracy than nuclear damage.  A 0.3 kiloton is miniscule and is no more powerful than the blasts used in modern surface mining.

In fact, the Beirut explosion last year was estimated to be 1.5 kilotons; five times the yield of the B61-12’s smallest yield.

Analysis 12-16-2021

ANALYSIS

Summit for Democracy – A Biden Photo-Op?

 

This weekend the “Summit for Democracy was held in Washington DC, although many only attended via the Internet.  It had been proposed by Biden because “Trump’s foreign policy had damaged democracy so much.”  This, Biden insisted, was a way to help the global growth of democracy.

Of course, there was the question of what a democracy summit was for?  Which nations qualified as democracies?  Who should be invited?  What was the purpose of the summit?  What does democracy mean?  Does it merely mean elections?  Does it require a fair implementation of law to all citizens?  Does it also include a respect for differing opinions and human rights?  Does it include trying to establish democracy as part of America’s foreign policy?

Most important, does America, and other established democracies, practice what they preach?  The American Secretary of State said last spring that it hoped to implement much of its agenda to improve worldwide democracy by rejoining the UN Human Rights
Council – which seems to prove that Biden’s democracy policy was merely rhetoric, not substance.

In many ways, the Biden record on democracy seems to be an attempt to implement the Biden domestic agenda, when he said that America must “lead by example.”  Leading by example for Biden means passing his domestic budget.

One important question is what is this summit going to accomplish?  Doctor Colin Dueck told a panel held at the Heritage Foundation that cancelling the summit and spending the money on submarines to patrol the Taiwan Strait would do more to sustain democracy then this summit.

The questionable goals of the summit were clearly seen in the invitation list.  Europe was well represented as the home of many established democracies.  The Middle East only had two attendees (Israel and Iraq).  Tunisia, which is trying to establish a true democracy wasn’t invited.  The Philippines was invited although they are hardly considered a functioning democracy.  The same held true for the Ukraine, which is considered corrupt, but is a bulwark against Russia at this time.

On the other hand, several of the established democracies are drastically losing their credibility due to the Covid virus.  Australia has instituted internment camps where people find themselves interned even though tests show them uninfected.  There is even a case of an opposition Australian senator (Senator Alex Antic, a critic of Australia’s Covid response) being placed in an internment camp even though he has not been infected.

This same anti human rights behavior can be found in several democratic European nations like Germany, Austria, France, and the United Kingdom.  If the right to petition their government for address of grievances is a part of democracy, then several nations in Europe are not democracies as they are facing major demonstrations over the mandatory vaccinations and loss of freedoms for those who refuse to be vaccinated.  Are militarily clad police used in Paris any more democratic than militarily clad police in any of  the so called totalitarian countries ?

Interestingly, Russia and China, who weren’t invited, were very clear that the host country, the United States, was also failing to keep its own democracy in healthy condition.  Russia accused the US of failing to cover the corporate manipulation of the media and the accusation that the 2020 election was stolen.

China was incensed that Taiwan was invited and maintained that its system was a balance between democracy and development.

Obviously, the reaction by Russia, China, and others shows how much this summit has hit an exposed nerve.

Clearly, the United States is vulnerable when it comes to the issue of operating a model democracy.

One of the issues that America is vulnerable on, yet was a subject of a conference, was media freedom.  The Biden Administration has restricted the American media by not allowing the reporters covering the White House to ask the President questions and carrying out attacks on news agencies that oppose the Biden agenda.

One recent example was the FBI raid on Project Veritas last month over the issue of a stolen diary of Biden’s daughter.  Project Veritas insists that they turned the diary over to law enforcement a year ago.  Besides that, something like the theft of a personnel diary is left to local law enforcement instead of a heavily armed federal police team.

The attack was condemned by both liberal and conservative news groups.  The Committee to Protect Journalists stated, “The FBI’s raids on the organization’s founder and his associated\s represent a concerning overreach by law enforcement.”

They continued, “[it] sets a dangerous precedent that could allow law enforcement to search and confiscate reporters’ unpublished source material in vague attempts to identify whistleblowers.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, the predominant human rights group in the United States called the FBI’s behavior a dangerous precedent.

Project Veritas, a conservative news outlet that specializes in undercover investigations. has fallen prey to other liberal politicians in the past.  A few years ago, Project Veritas filmed members of Planned Parenthood bragging about selling human body parts – a crime.  However, the California Attorney General, who had received $80,000 in campaign contributions from Planned Parenthood ignored the evidence and prosecuted Project Veritas for secretly filming members of Planned Parenthood.

The California Attorney General was Kamala Harris, who is now the Vice President.  Ironically, VP Harris made the closing remarks on Thursday after a panel on preventing and countering corruption.

In Harris’ defense, corruption extends much farther in the United States political system.  Several news agencies have investigated the “soft corruption” of both Republican and Democratic politicians, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Congressman Boehner.

Democracy also includes the right of citizens to speak up and oppose government policy without retribution.
By using the Patriot Act, which was passed to stop terrorists like those who attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Attorney General Garland ordered branches to investigate parents who oppose certain educational programs.  An FBI whistleblower informed a congressman that thanks to the Garland memo, the Counterterrorism and criminal divisions started to track the threats even though there has been no incident of violence.

This behavior merely adds to the FBI’s reputation of abusing laws like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was used to investigate may American citizens.

These actions, including Biden’s attempt to mandate Covid vaccines and masks without congressional approval, shows that America’s claim to be the champion of democracy is questionable.

So, what will come from this week’s Summit of Democracy?  Very little, if history is a teacher.

As noted, before, much of it is a “photo op” for Biden and his administration.  They will try to craft the summit in ways to forward their domestic agenda – specifically passing the budget and opposing the growing strength of the Republicans in state legislatures.  Expect news reports from White House friendly media sources that by stopping Republican attempts to address problems with redrawing congressional districts (a Constitutional right of state legislatures) is really an important part of improving democracy.

Outside the domestic agenda, there will be little movement.  As we have noted in the past, international conferences can agree on anything, but it is usually legislatures that really make the changes.

Analysis 12-06-2021

ANALYSIS

Looking at America’s Global Posturing Review

 

Earlier this week, the Pentagon released its 2021 Global Posture Review, a basic review of how the US Defense Department sees the military situation in the world and how it intends to respond to it. The review is intentionally vague to avoid giving American competitors on the global scene solid information to work on.  However, by reading between the lines, one can get a good idea of what the American military plans to do in the next few years.

Although the review doesn’t focus on it, the biggest change is in the Middle East. It briefly mentions “the end of DoD operations in Afghanistan” and “the Defeat ISIS campaign,” but little else except directing the DoD to conduct additional analysis. It does mention “building the capacity of partner forces.”

The change is much more than that. Since the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the first Gulf War, US attention has been focused on the Middle East. Aircraft carriers that were once stationed in the Atlantic and Mediterranean were pulled to the Gulf region to first counter Iraq and Iran. Then there was the Afghan campaign for the last 20 years.

With US forces withdrawn from Afghanistan and scheduled to withdraw from Iraq by the end of the year, cooperation between Israel and some Arab nations, and more militarily capable nations like Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the region, the Middle East doesn’t need the American military assets that have been in the region for the last 30 years.

Although American aircraft will remain stationed in the region, the aircraft carriers, which were once a major presence in the area, will likely be repositioned, although some exercises by the super carriers will still take place on a regular basis. There will also be a strong presence of surface warships remaining to guarantee free movement through the Strait of Hormuz.

It is likely that there will be a larger American naval and aircraft carrier presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. This represents a return to the Cold War strategy.

An American carrier stationed in the Eastern Mediterranean can be used in strikes against ISIS. With refueling or stops at friendly air bases in the region, American aircraft from a carrier can strike Iran if necessary. But, most important, an American carrier in the Eastern Mediterranean can hit Russian targets that are threatening the Ukraine. This option is more attractive since the rapprochement between Turkey and Russia has faded as Turkey has begun aiding Ukraine.

There are other NATO assets in the area if necessary. France, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom have aircraft carriers that could be used to bolster American air assets.  In fact, US aircraft have conducted exercises onboard both Italian and British aircraft carriers recently.

American nuclear attack submarines with cruise missiles are also stationed in the Mediterranean.

Nor are American forces the only ones to focus on NATO challenges. British aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales will become the command platform for the NATO Response Force/Maritime in 2022. It will help free up US aircraft carriers for other operations.

The ability to shift American military assets from the Middle East to the European/NATO Theater stresses the growing tension between NATO and Russia over Ukraine. Those tensions were highlighted during the Organization for Security and cooperation in Europe meeting (OSCE) where US Secretary of State Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov met.

While Lavrov warned that Europe was returning to the “nightmare of military confrontation,” Blinken warned of “Serious consequences” if Russia sought conflict with the Ukraine.

Ukraine said that Russia has massed troops along its border. Meanwhile, Russia has arrested three suspected Ukrainian security service agents.

Before the Global Posturing Review, the US has increased its presence in Eastern Europe. At a G20 meeting a few weeks ago, a US briefing indicated that Moscow was preparing for a possible invasion of the Ukraine. Ukrainian military intelligence says Russia has deployed as many as 114,000 forces around the border.

NATO member Estonia has ordered snap military drills and the erection of more barbed wire fencing along its border with Russia. The Estonian government also called up 1,700 reservists to fortify the 40 km border with Russia. Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania have instituted states of emergency along their borders with Belarus, an ally of Russia.

NATO rotates four battalion sized combat units in Latvia, Lithonia, Estonia, and Poland. The US has also moved nuclear capable fighter bombers into Poland.

The Pentagon has reactivated a nuclear unit based in Mainz-Kastel. It will field hypersonic weapons aimed against command-and-control targets in Russia.

The 56th Artillery Command will be armed with “Dark Eagle” long range hypersonic missiles that can reach Moscow in 21 minutes and 30 seconds. The last time the unit had been operational was 1991, as the Soviet Union was collapsing.

In terms of bolstering US forces in Europe, the paper noted that the cap on the number of American forces in Europe has been raised. The US will also retain seven bases in Germany and Belgium that were originally scheduled to be returned to the host nation.

Retaining the seven bases may be more political than strategic. Pentagon review teams have questioned the readiness of some America’s forces in Europe, especially those in the rear. Germany, which was once on the front line of NATO’s confrontation with the USSR is now part of the rear echelon.

The China theater (called the Indo-Pacific in the paper) was another issue. Much was kept out because of security issues. However, current action with allies in the region and what was implied in the paper revealed much.

Much was made of additional cooperation with allies and partners, in this case the United Kingdom and Australia.  It appears that the UK will continue to maintain a major naval presence, including one of its new aircraft carriers. Australia also has an aircraft capable amphibious warship. It also has amphibious capability that has been used in peacekeeping in the Southern Pacific.

Japan’s naval force will also be part of the force that will be used to hem in China. As for Korea, the US will permanently station an attack helicopter squadron and an artillery division headquarters.

One of the unmentioned threats was hypersonic weapons. And, although they haven’t been mentioned, the paper notes how the US will initially counter this threat. The Global Posturing Review recommended expanding the infrastructure in the South Pacific, including the major military base in Guam.

Since Guam like Pearl Harbor in WWII is a critical US facility and vulnerable to hypersonic attack, the US intends to expand its infrastructure facilities throughout the South Pacific. Palau will likely be one of the new bases since they requested one in 2020.

The major partner in increasing American infrastructure will be Australia. Australia has announced that they will spend $750 million to upgrade four of its bases for US-Australian naval operations.

The US will also increase aircraft deployments in Australia. There is also a plan to develop several air base alternates to make it difficult for a Chinese surprise attack.

The Global Posturing Review also mentioned Africa and the threat of violent extremism. The Central and South American section looked at humanitarian assistance and counter narcotics missions.

Of course, the Global Posturing Review isn’t the end. This paper will determine how ships, aircraft, and troops will be deployed and will contribute to the National Defense Strategy.

The paper will also be critical for determining future weapons procurement. For instance, the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) will look at the naval fleet and how it will counter future threats and meet the needs of the National Defense Strategy. That will then be a factor in the 2023 defense budget. During the evaluation, questions will need to be asked like; will more aircraft carriers be needed to meet the administration’s needs, what type of escort ships will be needed and how will those ships counter the latest Russian and Chinese perceived threats?