Analysis 03-02-2023


The Ukrainian War a Year Later
Stopping START: does it raise nuclear war stakes?


A year ago, most military analysts thought that Ukraine would lose in a matter of days or weeks.

The Ukrainian armed forces have done well, thanks to a determination to fight and generous support from NATO and European allies.  But, at the same time, the world has moved closer to total war as the Ukrainians have had the strategic initiative for most of the year and President Putin has refused to back down.

Now the world must consider the possibility of nuclear warfare.  We saw that in Putin’s state of the nation address, which showed no compromise on the issue of using nuclear weapons. He stated that Russia was suspending its participation in the START treaty that limits the number of nuclear weapons that Russia and the US can field.

However, it was Putin’s threat to not abide by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that should be more worrying.  It is this treaty that prevents the testing and developing of new nuclear devices by stating that any nuclear test must be “zero yield.”  The US has never ratified the treaty, although Russia has signed and ratified the treaty.  However, the treaty has never gone into effect.

In his speech Putin strongly alluded to starting the development and testing of new nuclear weapon designs.  In a defense for such development, he reminded listeners that, “We remember Ukraine’s attempts to acquire nuclear weapons (actually because of the breakup of the USSR, Ukraine did acquire some nuclear weapons that they gave up in return for assurances from the US and UK).

Putin also said, “If the US conducts [nuclear] tests, so will we.”

However, there are charges that Russia has already conducted small nuclear tests.  In 2019, the head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. General Robert Ashley, claimed that Russia had “probably been violating the test ban treaty by carrying out low yield tests in the Arctic Archipelago of Novaya Zemlya.

Ashley continued, “Russia’s development of new warhead designs…have been enhanced by its approach to nuclear testing.”

Since fourth generation nuclear weapons can have yields of as low as 1 to 100 tons of TNT, these tests are much harder to detect.  But the designs have unique applications on the tactical battlefield since they reduce collateral damage.

Some of the technologies include petawatt-class lasers, micro-explosions, antimatter as a triggering device, and thermonuclear shaped charges.  Weapons could have enhanced electromagnetic pulse, high energy neutrons, reduced residual radiation, and nuclear drive jets and projectiles.

Bombs that use antimatter isn’t something from science fiction, small antimatter traps the size of an egg have already been developed for microgram amounts of antimatter.

The lower yields and enhanced effects of some aspects of the nuclear device will make them ideal if Russia feels it needs new technology to break through Ukrainian lines.  With the 1 ton to 100-ton yield, they offer an ideal fit between conventional weapons and nuclear warheads.


NATO and Russia: Then, Now, and in the Future

The Ukraine War has changed the NATO alliance.  In the days of the Cold War, the US was the major partner and West Germany was the major land army on the continent of Europe.  France under De Gaulle had withdrawn from the NATO military structure, although it was still a NATO member.

The United Kingdom was a former colonial power, who was rapidly reducing its military obligations “East of Suez” and reducing its once formable navy to green ocean navy (a misassumption that Argentina made).

Russia was seen as a major military power with nuclear weapons, a massive tank army, and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of soldiers.

Much has changed in the last year.  Russia is seen today as a weaker great military power with nuclear weapons.  When the Germans invaded the USSR in 1941, the Soviets had 2.9 million soldiers in the Western Military District.  When they invaded Ukraine in 2022, they had 300,000.  Russia is facing a demographic problem and they can’t rely on the Ukrainian forces that were a large part of the Soviet WWII military.  This doesn’t include the losses over the last year that will make it hard to rebuild the army over the next few years.

It will take decades for the Russian Army to modernize and rebuild its forces and reputation.

Meanwhile, the US remains the major NATO partner.   But France and Germany are seen as minor NATO military partners: France is sending light, obsolete tanks to Ukraine and Germany, whose army is now a shadow of former size, is dithering on allowing other countries to ship Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Although the UK hasn’t much of an army, they have contributed frontline main battle tanks to the Ukraine.  They are modernizing their navy, which boasts the most powerful aircraft carriers – except for American super carriers.  They have also designed their carriers to operate seamlessly with the American navy.

The biggest change is in Poland, which has earned the reputation as one of NATO’s major partners.  They have a large conventional army with more tanks and armored vehicles than any NATO partner but the US.  They have become the major logistics and training center for NATO’s support of Ukraine.  They have given some heavy equipment like tanks to Ukraine.  And they are expanding their army and inviting the US to move some of its forces into Poland.

The Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have stepped up their participating in NATO, even though their economies are small.

Nations formerly under Soviet control are taking a more aggressive stance against Russia.

The future of NATO will have to consider Central and Eastern European nations as the key to stop Russian expansion.  Note that President Biden visited Poland and Ukraine.  Berlin and Paris were not part of the trip.

Future potential allies will strengthen NATO despite Turkey and Erdogen.  Sweden and Finland will help secure the Baltic Sea while manufacturing modern weapons and holding down the northern flank of NATO.

Today’s attitude towards Russia is much like it was in the coldest days of the Cold War.  It will remain if Putin stays in power.

So, what are the factors that will determine the war in 2023?

Logistics.  Ukraine has managed to substitute modern arms for the lack of soldiers.  Although everyone talks about aircraft and tanks, there are other requirements like longer range artillery and rockets.  To have more mobility, Ukraine needs anti-mine capability so they can break through Russian lines without taking major casualties.

Not all the munitions need to be high tech.  The US has increased the production of Javelin and Stinger missiles, but 155mm artillery shells are being used at a high rate and there is a need to manufacture more than are currently available.

Although the US and other NATO allies are loath to dip too deep into their war reserves, the fact is that logistical support is critical for the Ukraine and the reality is that NATO has two options – give them to Ukraine so they can stop the Russians or use them in the defense of their own sovereign territory.

Although they are controversial, the delivery of cluster bombs would help stop the Russian tactic of massed human waves.

A spreading wars.  The conflict appears to be growing outside Ukraine.  According to intelligence sources, Moldova, which is on the western border of Ukraine, may be attacked to open a western front in the war.  Putin has revoked a decree that recognized Moldavia as an independent nation.  Together with Transnistria, a pro-Russian, breakaway part of Moldova, it is possible that Russia may try to capture some airports in Transnistria and Moldovia and setup an air bridge that will create a second front that will take pressure off Russian forces in the east.

Another front on the Ukraine War is the Chinese threat.  Some analysts are saying that the US must step back in Ukraine, so the US has the resources to fight China.

That has been countered by some analysts.  First, the type of war in the Chinese theater is different from the one in Ukraine.  The Ukraine War is a land battle that requires tanks etc.  A war in the South China Sea requires naval vessels, aircraft carriers, anti-ship missiles, Marines, etc.  These are weapons systems not needed in Europe.

With the support of Japan, South Korea, and Australia, the US can hold while the Ukraine War goes on.  It’s important to remember that if the US pulls back to reinforce the Southeast Asia Theater, Putin will win by default.

Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping to gain ground in 2023, providing NATO continues to support Ukraine with munitions. But Putin and Russia may have some surprises in the battle fields.

Analysis 02-15-2023


Did the US destroy the Nord Stream Pipeline?


If this story had come from anyone else, it would have been considered a fictional plot for a Hollywood movie.  It had intrigue and action.  All it needed was a headline action star like a younger Sylvester Stallone.

The plot, in short, was that a top-secret deep-sea diving team, that was so secret that it wasn’t even part of America’s Special Forces Command, sabotaged Russia’s Nord Stream natural gas pipelines so Russia couldn’t pressure Western nations into ending support for Ukraine.

Most would have considered it pure fiction if it wasn’t for the author of the story – Seymour Hersh, the Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter who has revealed such stories as American war crimes in Vietnam, the secrets of Israel’s nuclear weapons program, and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

But this is more than a mere story about a top secret military operation.  If true, it means that the United States has carried out an act of war against Russia and by shutting off the Russian natural gas, has threatened the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of its NATO allies.

It wasn’t the secret that was planned thanks to the elderly President Biden, who gave the operation away.  A year ago, at a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Biden said, “If Russia invades [Ukraine]…then there will no longer be Nord Stream 2.  We will bring an end to it.”

When a reporter asked the president how he would do it, Biden responded, “I promise you we will be able to do it.

By the time Biden said that the US was well into the planning.  That had begun when the Nord Stream 2 was completed in 2021 and Russian troops were massing on the Ukraine border.   Norway was brought into the planning because they had deep sea diving experience from operating gas wells in the North Sea.  Norway is also a gas producer and could fill some of the shortage of Russian gas.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan formed a task force with officials from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the CIA, the State department, and the Treasury.

It was agreed that a more vigorous action was needed because economic sanctions wouldn’t stop Putin.

Several plans were studied, but everyone agreed that secrecy was needed and the location near the Danish Island of Bornholm required the utmost secrecy.  Something like a bombing from an aircraft or destroying it with a submarine would be too obvious.

CIA Director William Burns assembled a working group to develop a plan to use deep sea divers to carry out the mission.

The team finally focused on placing shaped charges on the outside of the pipelines and then remotely detonating them weeks or months after the charges were laid.

The mines were laid during the NATO exercise BALTOPS.  The detonation would come after a sonar buoy was dropped that sent out a specific noise signal to trigger the blast.

The bombing went off when a Norwegian P8 surveillance aircraft dropped off the sonar buoy on September 26 during a routine flight.  A few hours later, three of the four pipelines were destroyed.

The US denied responsibility (and still does) and there were few who could contradict the White House.  Congress wasn’t informed and there was no briefing for the “Gang of Eight,” the heads of the intelligence committees.  The operation didn’t go through the Special Forces command.  Only a few national security people in agencies like the CIA were aware of it.  The US and Norway had covered themselves by briefing some NATO allies before the attack.

But who was really responsible is still a mystery.  Denmark and Sweden carried out investigations and determined that the blasts were a result of sabotage, but they were unable to determine which nation was guilty.

The Russians obviously had little interest in destroying their pipeline, which was the result of over a decade of work and billions of dollars.  It had also become the cornerstone of the policy to use the Nord Stream pipelines to pressure the Germans to stop supporting and sending arms to Ukraine.  The pipelines also allowed German companies to sell the additional inexpensive gas to neighboring countries.

Obviously, the one nation that could be suspected was the US.  The destruction of the pipeline helped bring Germany into line as an ally of Ukraine.  At the same time, US companies were helping to alleviate the gas shortage by shipping LNG to Europe.


What Happens now?

Attacking the Nord Stream pipeline is considered an act of war.  However, the US and Norway have denied the Hersh story and Russia doesn’t have any tangible proof.  Since some of Hersh’s previous investigative reports have been questioned like his story on Osama bin Laden, Russia can’t do any more than officially protest.

That, they did, even before the Hersh story came out.  Secretary of State for Political affairs Victoria Nuland said on January 26, “I am, and I think the administration is very gratified to know Nord Stream 2 is now… a hunk of metal at the bottom of the sea.”

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said, “This is not only the direct participation of the United States in the explosions of the Nord Stream pipelines, but Ms. Nuland has also made a confession.”

Aside from official protests, there is much that Russia can do.  The American attack on a Russian strategic asset has gone further than merely sending arms and intelligence to the Ukrainians.  Russia may decide to carry out sabotage that hurts the American infrastructure but gives them “plausible deniability.”

One logical option would be sabotaging the arms shipments.  There doesn’t have to be a dramatic act.  Russia could hack transportation networks in Europe so shipments of tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and other supplies would be slowed down on their way to Ukraine.  Sabotage of American gas or petroleum refining facilities would also be tit-for-tat.

The biggest problem with these retaliations is that Russia and the West are slow walking into a real, not a proxy war.  The Nord Stream pipeline attack was a step further – a direct attack on a Russian asset by an American military unit.

This is more than merely sending arms.  It promises more escalations.

53 years ago, a young investigative reporter revealed an American massacre of Vietnamese during the VietNam War, which was a proxy war between the USSR and the US.

That reporter was Seymour Hersh.

It seems that the lessons of VietNam have been forgotten as American officials rush into a new war just like Lyndon Johnson and his advisors did 60 years ago.

Analysis 02-12-2023


US Shoots down Chinese Spy balloon
Over US Airspace


A near weeklong drama ended on Saturday when an American F-22 fighter shot down a Chinese balloon off the coast of South Carolina with a Sidewinder missile.  The wreckage fell into shallow water about 47 feet deep which guarantees that much of the wreckage will be recovered.

Although the flight of the balloon has ended, the fallout will continue.  What will the US discover about Chinese intelligence gathering by inspecting the wreckage?  Why did the Chinese use a balloon instead of using one of its satellites?  How will China react to the American actions?

Undoubtedly China has found a new way to “tickle” American, Canadian, and North American Air Defense systems (NORAD) much like Russian bombers who fly near Alaskan and East Coast American air space.  It is less threatening than a bomber and can yield additional intelligence as it flies over the Continental United States.

There was the diplomatic dance around the event.  China said it was a civilian meteorological balloon that has strayed off course.  The American Department of Defense noted that the balloon was sitting over part of America’s ballistic missile system.

The DoD did say the balloon flight, “violated US airspace and violated international law.”  It also called the action “unacceptable.”  It also alluded to the fact that balloon’s travel was controlled and not just subject to winds.

Biden was briefed by the DoD Wednesday, at which time he ordered it to be shot down, if it posed no threat to life or property.  The Defense Department let the balloon continue its flight across the United States and shot it down as soon as it was over the ocean, but still in American airspace.

Shooting the balloon down was a bipartisan desire.  Trump was clear in how he would react.  “SHOOOT DOWN THE BALLOON,” Trump responded on his social account.

The Montana congressional delegation was even more forceful.  “I’d pull the trigger if they let me,” texted Congressman Zinke.

“It’s unacceptable to allow communist China to invade out airspace,” said Congressman Rosendale.

The biggest US diplomatic response was Secretary of State Blinken postponing his trip to China next week.


The Chinese Protest Too Much

One can assume that this is not a Chinese civilian weather balloon.  Projects of this size are not purely civilian in China.  The Chinese government would have a say in starting a project that would potentially fly over the US.  The balloon operators would also require a final approval before launching it.

The flight path of the balloon told us much and gave American intelligence an idea of what the Chinese wanted to know.  It evidently flew over the Aleutian Islands, over Alaska and Canada before entering the airspace of the Continental United States.

The balloon’s ability to loiter over a given place gives it abilities that a fast-moving satellite doesn’t have.

This is not a random route taken by a weather balloon that has gone off course.  It followed the Great Circle route that aircraft take to fly from the US to China.  It is also the same route that Chinese bombers would take from China to heartland America – either to attack the American nuclear ICBM missiles like those at Malmstrom Air Force Base or attack cities in the American Midwest.

The 60,000-foot altitude is like the altitude Chinese bombers would fly.

If there is metrological equipment onboard, as the Chinese claim, it would give the Chinese the weather conditions at altitudes that their bombers would fly.

But there are other possibilities.  Russia regularly flies bombers towards the US to see how quickly interceptor aircraft are launched and what radar bands are used to track their aircraft.

Of course, Russian aircraft withdrew after being challenged.  In this case, the balloon continued its route unchallenged.

Given the size of the instrument package on the Chinese balloon, it could pick up air defense radar emissions, communications from Air Force bases, frequencies used by the US, Canada, and NORAD, and tactics of intercepting aircraft.  This information would be pure gold for any nation planning an air attack on the US.  Much of this intelligence could not be gained by merely flying close to US airspace.

It could also pick up cell phone communications.

Another possibility would be to gather information that might be used in planning a hypersonic missile attack on the US. The Chinese would want additional intelligence if this was the intended route of hypersonic missiles targeting American ICBM bases.

And the balloon did fly over some US ICBM bases.

So, why didn’t the US shoot down the balloon until it had reached the Atlantic?  Obviously, the story that it could cause civilian casualties and damage was partially right.

But that wasn’t the whole story.

America wanted to capture the balloon and its equipment for intelligence purposes. The shallow depth of the Atlantic off South Carolina would make it easier to recover.  A water landing would limit damage, especially if the balloon acted as a drogue and slowed the craft as it descended.  However, it’s logical to assume that the craft has self-destruct devices in it and would be ordered to explode if there is a possibility of capture.

Although it hasn’t been mentioned much, the US was also spying on the spy balloon.

No matter its purpose, the craft was sending telemetry back to China.  Undoubtedly, the National Security Agency (and many other agencies) were capturing, storing, and studying the data being sent back to China.  Although it was likely encrypted, the NSA might have broken the code or at least knew how to make use of the telemetry.

If the NSA was spying on the craft, they would have also learned something about how China uses it communications network.  Did the balloon communicate directly with China?  Did the data go to a Chinese communications satellite first?  Was a Chinese agent on the ground the link between the balloon and China?

Of course, the Chinese could have used a top-secret code machine to encode the data, but it would be unlikely for the Chinese to risk sending top secret coding equipment unguarded over US airspace, even though it probably had a self-destruct mechanism on the machine.



Chinese Reaction to the Shooting down of its Balloon

Chinese reaction was muted until the balloon was brought down.  China’s Foreign Ministry stated its “strong dissatisfaction and protest against the US’s use of force to attack civilian unmanned airships.”

US Secretary of Defense Austin accused China of using the balloon to “surveil strategic sites in the Continental United States.”

If China continues to push the civilian nature of the flight, expect the US to bring out a piece of the craft that has no meteorological uses, but is clearly for intelligence applications.

The US could also use this incident and the reported flight of a Chinese balloon over Latin America to improve relations with its southern neighbors.

The Chinese have several options to “save face.”  One can expect China to use its claim of sovereign rights over the South China Sea to board an American civilian craft and tow it to a Chinese port.  It could also force a US civilian or military aircraft to land in China on the grounds that they had violated Chinese airspace.

Another, more dramatic move would be to attack an American spy satellite with one of its hunter killer satellites.  The excuse would be that the satellite was involved in intelligence gathering and it was involved in overflying China at the time it was shot down.  The move would be a demonstration of China’s strategic capability in space and would demonstrate American military weakness.

What would Biden do in such a case?

Although the Chinese balloon incident is over, expect China to find a way to retaliate.


Analysis 02-01-2023


Ukraine to get Tank Shipments


What are they getting, how are they going to use them, and will they help?

In the last week, the political logjam that prevented the sending of tanks to Ukraine seemed to break up. Britain is sending Challenger IIs, Germany is sending Leopard 2s, France is sending AMX 10s, and the US is sending M1 Abrams tanks. Additionally, Germany has agreed to allow other countries using the Leopard 2 to send them to Ukraine.

Two factors seemed to help bring about the agreement – Ukraine’s aggressive move against corruption amongst high ranked officials and the jointly timed agreements by the US and Germany to send some of their tanks.

But many questions remain about Ukraine’s ability to push the Russians back.  And, there is the growing concern about escalation – even up to nuclear war.


New Shipments

The critical shipments are Main Battle Tanks (MBT) which are expected to dominate the older Russian tanks.  The other shipments are Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) which allows infantry to keep pace with the fast moving tanks, dismount to carry out missions the tanks can’t do, and provide covering fire for dismounted infantry.

CHALLENGER II.  This British tank is one of the best in the world and the British were the first nation to promise to deliver tanks.  It has highly advanced armor that is still a secret even after three decades.  It also has advanced optics and communications to target the enemy.  Britain has promised a dozen tanks (a squadron).

The biggest weakness is that only a dozen are being sent to Ukraine and Britain has few Challenger IIs to allow it to send a sizable number to turn the tide against the Russians.  They however are sending other equipment to equip the armored unit.

AMX 10 RC.  The French are sending a light tank clone.  Unlike a tank, it runs on wheels instead of treads.  It uses 105 mm ammunition which is unique to the French.  It can’t defeat an MBT, but can destroy lighter medium tanks.  However, it is fast on roads and is designed for reconnaissance.  Unfortunately, it is slow on the muddy type of terrain that may be found in Ukraine.

The French are moving to a newer tank design, so this tank will become obsolete.  The French are intending to send about a dozen.

M1 Abrams Tank.  This American tank was designed for a war between NATO and the Soviet Union, so it makes for a good fit in the Ukraine War.  31 are being sent, which will make up a battalion.  It is powered by a gas turbine, which can use kerosene, and various jet fuels.  It has excellent optics, thermal imaging, and stabilization so it can fire even while moving.  It uses the same secret armor that the British Challenger II uses.

Many consider the Abrams to be the best tank in the world.

The downside is that it requires lots of maintenance and a qualified mechanic requires three months of training, although the tank crew can learn their job in a month.  It requires a good logistics system to remain combat ready.

Another problem is that the US will not be sending tanks from its prepositioned reserves in Europe, which means that it will take several months to field them in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s allies are also sending Infantry Fighting Vehicles.

M2 Bradley.  This American IFV was designed in the 1980s, although it has been modernized many times.  However, the US is retiring the Bradley, so the US may be sending many more in the future.

The Bradley was designed to withstand the radiation of tactical nuclear warfare.  Its armor was designed to defeat the cannon of the Soviet BMP, which was its probable opponent at the time.

It carries the TOW anti-tank missile, which can defeat Russian tank armor.  It also has a 20mm chain cannon which can penetrate the armor of lighter armored vehicles.

The US is sending 50 M1 Bradleys to Ukraine and current video of these vehicles on trains indicates that some of them may very well be in Ukraine already.

Marder.  This is a German IFV.  It was designed to operate with the German Leopard tank and has the same level of protection and mobility as the Leopard 2.

Germany has 390 Marders in service and many more in storage.  They have indicated that they will give 40 to the Ukrainians.  Since the Germans consider them a defensive weapon, they haven’t had as many political problems as exporting the Leopard II to Ukraine.

Leopard II.  The future of Ukraine’s rearmament program this year depends on the Leopard II.  Like the American M1 Abrams and British Challenger II, it is considered a world class MBT.  And, since there are 3,600 built and there are over 2,000 in various European countries, it promises the number of tanks that would dramatically change the balance of power in Ukraine.

Now that Germany has authorized sending this tank to Ukraine, several European countries (plus Canada) have promised over 100 tanks to create 2 to 4 Leopard battalions.



Much has been made of the time it would take to train tank crews.  However, depending on the level of training, the time can take as little as 4 weeks or as long as several months.  However, American officers who have worked with the Ukrainians say the Ukrainians are fast learners.

Basic training for a tank crew can take as little as a month.  This includes classes on operating the vehicle, using the cannon, and basic tactics.  The problem is that this doesn’t teach crews to operate in conjunction with other tank crews at the company or battalion level.  This requires additional training and training exercises up to the battalion level.

If Ukraine intends to train its forces in battalion or brigade level maneuvers, the time goes up exponentially, although the ability of the tank crews also increases exponentially.

If Ukraine intends to create new units and field all the tanks, IFVs, artillery, logistical support vehicles, engineers, etc. as a cohesive combat team, it will take months.



One reason that training a large unit takes time is that the NATO countries are teaching Ukrainians the doctrine of combined arms.  Combined Arms Operations use combinations of infantry, mobile firepower, offensive and defensive fire, engineers, and aviation assets to defeat the enemy.

This is something the Russians haven’t been able to master.  They tend to use tanks, artillery, and infantry separately, which is inefficient because no single arm of the military can decisively defeat a determined defender.  An example was the fighting north of Kiev, where the Russian advance was bogged down in the Pripyat Marshes because they had to rely on armored vehicles travelling down a single hard top road.  Infantry covering the flanks on foot would have made the drive more successful.

As new tanks and IFVs are delivered to Ukraine, they will have to be integrated into new units that can carry out combined arms operations.

The number of MBTs and IFVs will impact how the equipment is used and deployed.  For instance, the British Challenger II tank unit is too small for frontline service.  It will probably become a mobile reserve in the north of Ukraine.

The American Abrams tank won’t be operational until the tanks are delivered in several months.  Until then, American equipment will be limited to a mechanized infantry role using the Bradley IFV.  The Bradleys could operate independently against infantry and Russian IFVs like the BMP.  One Bradley tactic is to dismount the soldiers from four Bradleys and then move the vehicles to an oversight position where they can cover the infantry with its 20mm chain gun and anti-tank missiles.  The Bradleys also use a hunter-killer team of one tank and three Bradleys.

The future of the Ukrainian offensive against the Russians depends on the Leopard 2.  Two to four Leopard 2 Brigades, along with IFVs like the Marder or Bradley could have a serious impact.  The tracked tanks and IFVs could cut through the muddy terrain of Zaporizhia to the Sea of Azov.  This would cut off the land bridge to Crimea. This type of offensive would be ideal for vehicles like the Bradley or Marder.  They would cover the flanks of the tanks and be able to dismount their infantry if there are tactical obstacles slowing down the armor.

The key to winning this war is for the Ukrainians to capture or seriously threaten Crimea.  The promised armored vehicles could help Ukraine to do that. But Russian are threatening to attack these new shipments on route, time will tell if the Russians succeed in destroying or damaging the shipments before reaching the battle front.


Analysis 01-25-2023


Does the Biden Secret Documents Case Create a “Tipping Point?”


Has the Biden secret documents affair reached critical mass?  It seems so.

Biden’s approval numbers, which had started inching up are now back down into the high 30% range.

The media, which has given some of Biden’s behavior a pass, are starting to ask serious questions that are upsetting the president even though there is no threat that he will be impeached.  He snapped at a reporter on Thursday, saying that this line of inquiry was beginning to “bug” him.  He added that he “had no regrets.”

Eventually, he will have regrets.  Not only has he given Republicans plenty of political ammunition, but the affair also gives more visibility to the Hunter Biden influence peddling issue.

In addition, Biden has stopped the Democrats from attacking Trump on the issue of keeping classified documents.  The fact is that Democrats are anxious to bury this issue, even if it lets Trump off.


What is the Law on Classified Documents?

Generally, there are three levels of classified documents: Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret.  However, some agencies have additional levels of classified documents.  There is also a difference between agencies of what definition there is for each level of classification.

The lowest classification is “confidential. It is defined as information that would “damage” national security if disclosed.

The next highest level is “secret,” which is defined as causing “serious damage” to national security if disclosed.

The highest level is “top secret”, which is defined as causing exceptionally grave damage to national security if disclosed.

The problem is deciding what fits into each category and who should have these classifications.  As of 2019, 1.25 million individuals have a top secret clearance, even though few of those people will need that level of clearance.

Although no one knows for sure, about 50 million documents are classified each year.  Most are national security documents.

No one knows how many documents are classified because there is no central depository for these documents.

So, who oversees classifying and declassifying documents?  It is the president, who as head of the executive branch and Commander-in-Chief of the military has sole authority.  He may designate some of his authority to others like the National Archives, but the courts have made it clear in several rulings that the sole authority in the Executive branch of the government resides in the president.

Where does that leave the Vice President?  Nowhere.  Constitutionally, the Vice President is not part of the Executive Branch.  His only Constitutionally authorized job is President of the Senate – a legislative function.  He has no other authority unless the president is dead or declared unable to hold office.

The Vice President has no authority to hold classified documents or to declassify them.  He has no authority to demand that the president confide classified information to the Vice President.

An excellent example of this was the secret of the atom bomb during WWII.  Until Franklin Roosevelt died, Vice President Truman was unaware that the US had built an atomic bomb.  It was only after becoming president that he was let in on the top-secret project.

Although Obama could allow Biden to read and keep classified documents in his secure office, Biden was Constitutionally unable to classify or declassify documents – unless authorized by Obama.  And any authority granted by Obama to Biden ceased at noon January 20th 2017.

This clearly leaves Biden in jeopardy.  He had no authority to hold those documents, especially in unsecured places like his home.  Meanwhile Trump had the authority to declassify any documents he wanted until Noon January 20, 2021.

The National Archive may claim that it is the authority on classifying, but constitutionally, that authority resides in the office of the president and has only been granted to the Archives and can be withdrawn if the president so desires.


So, What Happens Now?

Clearly, the Department of Justice will find its hands tied in this case.  Biden appointed Attorney General Garland is politically limited.  He can’t indict Trump with Biden’s behavior ignored.  There’s also the possibility that the courts would find for Trump.

The biggest problem for the Department of Justice and the FBI is the growing perception that there are two types of justice – one for the elites and one for the public.  While Trump’s home was raided by the FBI, the DoJ wouldn’t allow FBI agents to look at the Biden documents in question.  Voters have noticed that, and it is damaging the reputation of the FBI.  In fact, it is so serious that there are calls by some Republicans in Congress to abolish the FBI.

Who benefits the most?  This is where the theories come.  There is a solid argument that some Democrats worried about Biden’s mental health and likelihood of losing the presidency in 2024 want to sully his reputation so another candidate will win the nomination and the election.

Unfortunately, the Democrats don’t have a plausible alternative.  VP Harris is considered incompetent to be president and other alternative options like Bernie Sanders are too old.  California Governor Newsome may seem too radical for Middle America and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is fumbling his duties as seen in the recent airline snafu.  Other potential candidates who would normally announce in the coming months will be forced to hold back.

On the Republican side, Trump comes out looking better.  The documents issue seems to be a case of “everyone else is doing it.”  The FBI raid on Trump’s place shrinks in importance as is clear that the FBI gave Biden preferential treatment and is now trying to justify not using the FBI as they did with Trump and his home.

There will also be questions about Hunter Biden and the FBI hiding evidence of his influence peddling.

Rest assured that the Republican House of Representative will keep the classified documents issue alive and tie it into the behavior of Hunter Biden.

China, which already has problems with its relations with the US, will find itself trying to justify the location of some of the classified documents in the Biden Think Tank, which was funded to a large part by the Chinese.

This affair has weakened Biden and he knows it.  Not only has this benefitted his likely opponent, Trump, he now has a Republican House majority to deal with.  And, probably worse of all, the once friendly media is asking questions.

Tipping points in a presidency are to be feared.  For Nixon, it was the release of the oval Office tapes.  For Carter, it was the Iranian Hostage Crisis.

This week is the halfway point of the Biden presidency.  If he can’t turn things around, this affair can not only impact his domestic agenda, but also how other countries like Russia and China view him.


Analysis 01-17-2023


New Speaker of the House Elected


Usually voting for the Speaker of the House is exciting as watching paint dry.

Not this time.  The vote went 15 rounds; something that hadn’t happened in a century. However, it didn’t go as long as the 1855 speaker vote which went 133 ballots and took two months.

Although much of the focus by the media looked at the 20 Republican holdouts that forced the 15 ballots and the split in the party, the changes forced on new Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy were ones that were favored by most of the Republican caucus.  The difference was that many Republican congressmen didn’t want to hold the House speakership hostage to the rules changes that were proposed.

The concern of the 20 holdouts was the movement of the Congress from its Constitutional role.  In the role laid out in the US Constitution, it was to be a deliberating group that had the primary role in passing the government budget as well as other laws.

That role had disappeared.  Changes in the House Rules virtually eliminated debate.  Legislation was basically crafted by the House leadership – primarily by the Speaker of the House.  Votes by the House of Representatives were perfunctory.  Congressmen didn’t have time to read the proposed legislation and amendments weren’t allowed.  The result was massive bills totaling thousands of pages that no one could understand.  Pet projects could be snuck in without anyone questioning them.  This process also kept the legislation from becoming public until it had passed.

The result was a burgeoning budget deficit and a national debt of over $30 trillion.

But House leadership on both sides liked these rules, especially former Speaker Pelosi, who didn’t tolerate public debate and dissent.  And it was the 20 Republican congressmen that decided to hold out their vote for McCarthy that decided it was time to change the rules.

One of the rule changes was one that gave Speaker Pelosi more power by making it harder to make a motion to vacate the chair – a parliamentary way to control a speaker who was trying to force legislation that wasn’t favored by the House as a whole.  Now the new rule allows one House member to make a motion to vacate the chair.

Although a motion to vacate the chair would probably not pass, it is a tool that keeps a speaker in line with the wishes of the majority.

One of the biggest problems with the legislative process today is that massive spending bills are moved to the floor of the House without giving members a chance to study them.  The Republicans wanted 72 hours to study the bill before a vote.  They also wanted to eliminate the omnibus bills and separate the funding of the government into over a dozen separate bills.

In addition to separating the appropriations bills, the new rules give House members the chance to propose amendments to bills that had gone through committee and were now on the floor for debate.

Republican congressmen also wanted major changes in budget and tax procedures.  They wanted a three-fifths super majority for any increases in tax rates.  They also wanted the Congressional budget office to analyze a bill’s impact on inflation.

One rule that kept congressmen from being held accountable for increasing the debt was the Gephardt Rule that automatically increased the national debt when a budget resolution was passed.

The House also voted this week to rescind over $70 billion to the Internal Revenue Service that was to hire 87,000 IRS agents.  Although the bill is expected to die in the Senate, it will likely show up in the 2024 IRS budget legislation, where it will likely pass both the Senate and House.


Political ramifications


There is a saying that “What goes around comes around.”  And this Republican majority congress will use some of the same legislative and investigative tools that Pelosi did.

One of the first changes is that the files of the January 6th investigative committee will be made public, especially 14,000 hours of Capitol riot video that the House Democrats didn’t want to release.

One new subcommittee is the Weaponization of the Federal Government.  Polls show that a majority of American voters think the FBI is a tool of the White House to punish its enemies.  This subcommittee will be modeled like the Church Committee that investigated the illegal actions taken by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Church Committee discovered that the CIA was partnering with telecommunications companies to monitor Americans on CIA watch lists – something that the FBI is being accused of today.

This new committee will likely also look at suspicious FBI actions as well as harassment of conservatives by the IRS.  Other targets are Homeland Security, the NSA, the Department of Justice, the ATF, and the CDC.

Congressman Cole told his fellow House members, “Similar to the situation that confronted America in the 1970s, in recent years we have witnessed abuses of the civil liberties of American citizens committed by the executive branch…Often for political purposes.”

Cole continued, “The American people deserve to have confidence in their government…And they deserve to know that they will not be labeled a domestic terrorist for advocating for their children in front of a school board.”

Democrats were in opposition.  Democrat Representative Jerry Nadler said, “this is a violation of separation of powers and it’s also very dangerous.”

Congressman Jordan will be chairing the committee.  There will be 9 Republicans and 6 Democrats on the Committee.  The members will be appointed by Speaker McCarthy, just as Pelosi picked the members of the January 6th committee.

In the last few years, Pelosi used her power to strip some Republican congressmen of their committee assignments.  Now it seems that McCarthy will return the favor by booting Representatives Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, and IIhan Omar from their committees.

Schiff and Swalwell are one the Intelligence Committee and Omar is on the Foreign Affairs subcommittee.

McCarthy said, “Swalwell can’t get a security clearance in the private sector,” referring to Swalwell’s affair with a Chinese spy.  “It’s not like it’s anything new…Remember, this is Nancy Pelosi, this is the type of Congress she wanted to have.”

Although the new rules are set for this Congress, the future of the rules is cloudy.  The Republican majority is tenuous and a Democratic majority in the future is likely to make changes that would better suit a strong Democratic Speaker of the House.

If, however, the Republicans can maintain their majority in Congress, the new rules may have a longer life.


Analysis 12-30-2022


Zelensky Visits Washington


It must rank as one of the fastest visits by a foreign leader in American history.  Ukraine President Zelensky arrived one day to address Congress and left the next day to visit the president of Poland before returning home.

Not by chance was the annual appropriations bill due for a vote in both the Senate and House during the next two days – a bill that gave Ukraine billions in economic and military assistance.

Make no mistake, addresses by foreign leaders before Congress are political.  Sir Winston Churchill holds the record for addresses to Congress and obviously, the ones during WWII were appeals for arms, just as Zelensky’s address in front of Congress was an appeal for arms and money.

But Biden needed the right backdrop for Zelensky’s appeal for money

But joint meetings of Congress aren’t set up by the president.  They are controlled by the legislative branch, and scheduled by the Speaker of the House, which allows for some political bickering between Republicans and Democrats if the While House and speakership are controlled by different parties as will happen next month.

There is no better example of politics being used in a joint meeting of Congress than General Douglas MacArthur’s farewell address to Congress in 1951.  MacArthur wanted to pursue an aggressive strategy against the Chinese in North Korea.  President Truman wanted a more moderate policy.  The disagreement led to Truman firing MacArthur.

Congress, which had several political disagreements with Truman used a joint meeting of Congress to hear MacArthur blast Truman’s failure as a leader.

The speech is one that has partially entered the lexicon, especially the quote, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”  His most direct attack on Truman was, “War’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision.  In war, there is no substitute for victory.”

“But, once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a solution,” he continued.  It is advice that every Pentagon and White House should listen to.

Many thought that this was the opening salvo for a run for the presidency.  However, it was his former subordinate, General Dwight Eisenhower, who won the White House the next year.

Ukrainian President Zelensky was aware of the historical implications of his speech and the world leaders who had spoken from that same podium.  He quoted President Roosevelt’s Day of Infamy speech:

“The American people in their righteous might will win through absolute victory,” he pledged, followed by the promise that Ukraine will achieve “absolute victory.”

Zelensky clearly wanted to cast the war into one that impacts the welfare of the whole world, including the United States.  “Your money is not charity,” but an investment in “Global Security.”

He also pushed for American arms, especially tanks and fighters.  He said he has never asked for American soldiers to fight for Ukraine.  However, he asserted, “I can assure you that Ukrainian soldiers can perfectly operate American tanks and planes themselves.”  The claim that Ukrainian air force pilots can operate US aircraft may be a bit of hyperbole.  It usually takes US pilots years to master sophisticated aircraft like the F-16, much less the F-35.

The speech was met with considerable bipartisan applause.  Some Republican congressmen were absent, not to show displeasure with Zelensky, but to catch flights home as a major weather storm was forecast across most of the nation.  As members of the minority (until two weeks from now), their vote would have no impact on the omnibus funding bill that was on the verge of being passed.

Zelensky’s speech was to guarantee that the assistance for Ukraine would not be eliminated in last minute negotiations over the budget.

While American sentiment supports Ukraine, there is concern about the burgeoning federal budget and the blank check given to the Ukrainians.

The US is sending a Patriot missile battery as part of a $1.85 billion weapons package.  One billion dollars comes from dwindling American weapons stockpiles and $850 million will come directly from American industry as part of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.

The US has held off on sending a Patriot missile battery due to its secret technology.  However, the recent infrastructure attacks by Russia across the Ukraine have appeared to change minds in the Pentagon and White House.  It will likely be stationed to protect Kiev.

The type of weapons being sent indicate how the Pentagon views the chances for gains during the winter, when the ground is easier to move upon.  In addition to munitions, the US is sending 37 Cougar Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, 120 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, and 6 Armored Utility Trucks.

The mix of vehicles indicates that the Pentagon and Ukraine are focused on a mobile war this winter.  Vehicles with tires are ideal for winter combat in areas that are normally muddy.  Unlike tracked vehicles like tanks, wheeled vehicles will not tear up the ground. These vehicles might be ideal in carrying operations in the “neck” of the Crimean Peninsula, where there are considerable water hazards.

Since the major link between Crimea and Russia is the Kerch Strait Bridge, which links Crimea and Taman Peninsula, can be cut as it was a few months ago, the Ukraine can cut off Russian forces on the Crimean Peninsula and “starve” them out.  However, if Russian forces are determined to hold the Crimea and the Russian Navy can support them, it may make more sense to carry out attacks against the Russians in the Eastern part of Ukraine.  This territory was ideal for mobile warfare during WWII.

Although Ukraine has the tactical advantage now, Russia is larger, and a war of attrition is not a good strategy for Ukraine.  Unless Putin is eliminated from the scene, which is not a viable development, lost Ukrainian land must be recaptured through force of arms.

Zelensky’s trip to the US and address to Congress (and the American people) has bought a few months of arms assistance.  But even NATO’s arsenal is not bottomless.

This tranche of weapons must show some results in the next few months.



Analysis 12-19-2022


Attacks on U.S. Electrical Infrastructure
Increase after Midterm Elections


The American midterm elections are over, Biden’s approval poll numbers are slowly ticking up, and Washington politicians are settling down to two more years of shared power –Democrats wresting control of the Senate (Despite Senator Sinema of Arizona becoming an independent) and Republicans gaining power in the House of Representatives.

However, the situation in the US is not calm.  In the past few weeks several attacks have been made on the electrical infrastructure on both coasts; implying that this isn’t one extremist or a small group, but a nationwide threat.

This wasn’t totally unexpected.  Just before the attacks in North Carolina, the Department of Homeland Security warned that groups driven by a “range of ideological beliefs,” could be targeting America’s infrastructure.

“Targets of potential violence include public gatherings, faith-based institutions, the LGBTQI+ community, schools, radical and religious minorities, government facilities and personnel, US critical infrastructure, the media and perceived ideological opponents,” the bulletin said.

The warning nearly covered every group, so it didn’t help identify any potential suspects.

The attacks on electrical infrastructure aren’t new, so the DHS warning didn’t provide any additional information.  It could be argued that right wing extremists are a more likely suspect as attacks against the electrical infrastructure have occurred during Biden’s and Obama’s tenures in the White house.

In April 2013, a group staged an attack on California’s Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s substation in Silicon Valley.  The attackers used high powered rifles to knock out transformers.  The also attacked a fiber optics junction that would interfere with communications and send out an alarm.

Fortunately, the power didn’t go out, although $15 million in damage was caused.

The result was that PG&E spent over $100 million in hardening the substations and installing intruder alarms.

Despite investigations by company, state, and federal investigators, no one was arrested for the attack.

However, in February 2022, three white supremacists pled guilty to planning to attack electrical substations across the nation.  Their plan was to so severely shut down the nation’s power grid that it would be out for months – thus causing a civil war.

A man from Utah also pled guilty to damaging three substations in 2019.  The attack caused power outages in two Utah counties.  The man is currently serving time for the attack.

The current wave of attacks on electrical facilities started during Thanksgiving week in the Northwest.  One of the substations was at Clackamas, Oregon.  Two Cowlitz County Washington substations were hit earlier in November.  The FBI said that at least five substations were attacked at that time.  They used rifles to shoot equipment, hand tools to cut fences leading into the substation.  They also started fires inside the substation.

The attack that has caused the most inconvenience to the public was in North Carolina.  The outage hit about 45,000 homes.  Gunfire on Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend caused significant damage to two substations.

This week, there was more gunfire at the Waterlee Hydro Station in Kershaw County, South Carolina.  No serious damage was done, and no homes lost power.

States that have been threatened with electrical power infrastructure recently include Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Tennessee, California, and Maryland.

Given the attacks on electrical substations and fiber optic lines, it’s clear that groups opposed to the government and possibly hoping to encourage a civil war have been planning attacks for years.  However, shutting down the whole power grid would be much harder to accomplish.  And any successful attack may cause more animosity by citizens towards the extremists.

Hardening substations would be difficult.  They are usually in remote areas and open to the outside to dissipate the heat coming from the transformers.  This makes them an attractive target for extremists.  They don’t need a team to carry out the attack.  One person or a small number of extremists could easily carry out the attack.  These extremist groups could be so small that it would be difficult for law enforcement agents to infiltrate them.

Closed circuit cameras are being deployed, but since a competent person with a high-powered rifle can hit a substation from a kilometer away, it would be difficult to detect them.  The same applies to motion sensors, which can detect a person coming close to a substation but would have a hard time detecting the difference between an attacker and a deer.

Brick walls represent a simple solution since they would hide and harden transformer substations.

However, one of the major problems is that substations are stationary, and an extremist group can study the target at their leisure.

Law enforcement is hindered without informers inside the groups.  If the attackers take precautions, cover their faces, collect their expended brass, not brag about their exploits on social media, and keep their vehicles away from any cameras, their chances of being caught are small.  Law enforcement must rely on good investigative work and hope for a break.

In the meantime, power companies must harden their substations and build backup systems that will prevent power outages if one substation is attacked.

Another strategy is the same one used in guerrilla warfare – win their hearts and minds by changing attitudes.

Power companies have a bad reputation as power costs go up and there is a threat of one’s power being cut off for falling behind in their bills.  It didn’t help that an official for Bonneville Power Administration told customers this week that the cost of repairs would be passed on to customers.  Such an attitude only hardens the lines between customers, who are already seeing higher electric costs, and the power company, who come across as bad guys.

Of course, the power companies need customers paying their bills to remain in business, but a little flexibility may be needed.  A power company that shows compassion to a delinquent customer may find that they know something about the attackers.

The same is true with the FBI.  Currently polls show the FBI is seen as a law enforcement agency that enforces the wishes of those in power.  An FBI seen as the tool of justice, not those in power, might encourage a citizen to provide the lucky break.

One just must remember how the FBI treated the computer repairman who tried to turn in Hunter Biden’s computer.  Citizens may want to assist, but do not want to be harassed by the same agency they wanted to help.

It’s safe to say that attacks on electrical infrastructure will continue to happen during the Biden administration.  And the power companies will remain in a reactive mode until all the substations are hardened.

The only question is if these extremists will discover the weak point that could lead to a catastrophic failure that could spark the civil war that these groups want.


Analysis 12-11-2022


Assessing the Biden Macron State Visit


One way to assess the success of an American – French state visit is to look at the joint statement coming from the meetings.  If the focus is on the historic, long-term alliance of France and America going back to the American Revolution, there weren’t any major achievements coming out of the visit.

This week’s joint statement by Macron and Biden started off by reviewing the “relationship founded on more than two centuries of friendship.”  It went on to talk about “shared commitment to democratic principles, values and institutions.”

The fact is that the French American relationship has been rocky.  France and the US have been allies since 1778, but there have been rough times.  There was the Quasi War of 1798 – 1800 fought between the US and France in the Atlantic Caribbean, and Mediterranean.  There was the intervention in Mexico by the French during the Second French Empire and the placing of the emperor Maximillan in charge.  In WWII, US forces fought Vichy French forces in Africa.

Since WWII, French President DeGaulle pulled France out of NATO’s military structure.  France has refused in engage in some NATO military operations.  When Australia switched to American submarines instead of using French submarines, France recalled its ambassador to the United States for the first time in their 200+ year relationship.

However, for all the “sound and fury,” both nations have retained close relations and even continued joint military operations, including closely operating their nuclear aircraft carriers.  And American President George W. Bush thanked the French Navy (and the French aircraft carrier DeGaulle) to Operation Enduring Freedom in 2002.  It is also carrying out air support missions in the Black Sea.

Clearly, like siblings, they are close, but do have their differences.

Clearly, the Ukraine was the major topic.  That was highlighted by the fact that Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu was part of the French delegation to Washington.

The concern was less about the status of the war than lessons to be gained from the war and how it would impact France and the US.  The Ukraine War is the first major industrialized war on the European continent since WWII. Although the US is discovering that it has less ammunition and weapons reserves than it would like, France has a bigger problem.

After the Cold War, France reshaped the mission of its military.  It was geared for fast mobile engagements in former French colonies in sub-Saharan Africa.  It also lacked depth.

Based on the level of attrition in the Ukraine war, the current French Army would be quickly decimated in a few months.  For instance, Russia is losing 10 tanks a day and the Ukraine is losing 2 tanks a day.  Since France has just over 500 tanks, even with losses equaling Ukrainian tank losses, it would be losing about 12% of its tank force in a month.

This doesn’t even consider the lack of spare ammunition.

France has been working with the US and Germany to speed up the production of ammunition, spares, and replacement weapons.

France has been involved in a program called “Scorpion,” that will upgrade its armored forces by 2040.  But it is more than building new vehicles like the Jaguar light armored vehicle and the infantry vehicle, the Griffin.

France, Germany, and the US know that modern warfare like that seen in Ukraine will quickly go through vehicles (and large amounts of money).  And they know that it may take years before replacements will be ready.

This was part of the discussions between French and American defense officials this week.

The answer for the French is to develop armored vehicles based on commercial vehicles like truck chasses.  Not only are they cheaper than specifically designed military vehicles, but commercial vehicle factories can also be quickly reconfigured to produce them.

Military vehicles designed from commercial products will also have better access to replacement parts.

The French are also eager to learn about US military technology the merges intelligence and communications.

One sticking point is China, which the US sees as a potential enemy, but France considers a partner.  Can Europe benefit from industrial alliances with the US, without penalties like those that were in the “Inflations Reduction Act (IRA) and the “Chips” Act.  Macron said Wednesday evening that these pieces of legislation would, “only work if there is coordination between us.”

Macron also warned that the US risked “fragmenting the West” with its climate law.

Biden stepped back and admitted the climate law had “glitches.” He noted that tax credits would favor American electric vehicles, while discriminating against European manufacturers.

One area of discussion that was mentioned in the joint statement, but wasn’t addressed in detail was the concern that Europe will face a critical energy shortage, combined with rising energy prices.  They addressed “diversification of Europe’s natural gas supply,” but spoke of “reducing overall demand for natural gas in alignment with climate objectives.”

How this is going to keep Europeans warm when winter starts in a couple of weeks wasn’t explained.  Talk about reducing natural gas prices avoided the issue of the increasingly high prices caused by heavy regulations.

The phase out of coal was mentioned in the joint statement without mentioning that some nations like Germany are increasing their mining and use of coal for power generation this winter. While Germany wasn’t at the meetings, this push to reduce coal mining while Europe is facing a cold winter will obviously be mentioned in future meetings with Germany.

The joint statement avoided the sensitive issue of Australia’s decision to stop purchases of French technology – a subject that led to the first recall of the French ambassador in Franco-American history.  The paragraph on Indo-Pacific issues only noted that, “The United States intends to increase its support and material contributions to air, and maritime deployments conducted by France and other European nations in the region.

Note that Australia wasn’t mentioned – probably to assuage France’s feelings.

The joint statement also included “feel good” statements on a variety of subjects.  These were shoehorned at the end when most readers would be likely to ignore them.  The final paragraph said, “Through technical and scientific exchange, the United States and France intend to deepen their collaboration on shared priorities such as health, the environment and emerging technologies, including biotechnology, quantum science, and artificial intelligence.”

It’s interesting to note that the last paragraph on health, the environment, and emerging technologies, “including biotechnology, quantum science, and artificial intelligence,”was only 33 words long.

The first paragraph focusing on France and America’s long relationship was 180+ words long.

Clearly, based on the focus of the joint statement, little was achieved, especially on areas of disagreement.

Analysis 12-06-2022


Economic Sanctions: 215 years
of Failed American Diplomatic Efforts


“History repeats itself, but in such cunning disguise that we never detect the resemblance until the damage is done.” Sidney J. Harris

215 years ago, this month (December) the fledgling United States instituted a foreign policy that failed then, continued to fail during several confects, and promises the same failures as nations debate the price that Russia should be allowed to sell its oil.

Someone in the State Department should take a course in American Diplomatic History and read up on the 1807 Embargo Act.

Ever since the beginning of the American Revolution, the Americans believed that not buying goods from Britain would pressure them into granting independence.  For ten years, the Nonimportation Agreements passed by several groups including the Continental Congress in 1774 created non import and non-export committees.

As we now know, the American Revolution was won on the battlefield, not by economic sanctions.  But the idea that commercial retaliation would work had ingrained itself into American Foreign Policy.  In 1806, during the Napoleonic Wars, the US Congress passed an act that limited the importation of some British goods. The act was delayed for a year to negotiate with the British.

Instead of cooling passions, Congress passed the Embargo Act in December 1807.  While it punished Great Britain by restricting British imports, it caused more harm to American farmers, merchants that traded internationally, and American shipping.  British and French merchants that had large inventories of American cotton just raised prices.

American efforts at economic sanctions would eventually lead to the War of 1812.

American economic sanctions have reached heights of ridiculousness.  While the US And Germany were at war, they both needed Switzerland – Germany for banking and the US for precision clockworks for bomb fuses.

While the Axis powers allowed smuggling of clockworks to the allies, the Bank of International Settlements, under American BIS president Thomas McKittrick, still handled foreign exchange transactions for the German Reichsbank.  These transactions were necessary for Germany to import tungsten from Spain and Portugal.

While assisting German financial transactions, McKittrick was also passing information on to American intelligence.

At the other end of the tungsten pipeline was a British Naval Intelligence officer, who monitored those tungsten movements to Germany – while gambling at a Lisbon casino with the senior German intelligence officer for Portugal.  His name was Ian Fleming the future creator of British spy James Bond.

However, modern American economic sanctions haven’t gone as smoothly as a James bond caper.  For four decades, Iran has smuggled its oil out of the country in exchange for gold, nuclear components, and military items.

American economic sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine are proving no better.  While causing inflation and threatening a winter without heat in Europe, it  is weakening relations with several American allies that need oil and can’t afford it.

Meanwhile, Biden is pushing “Green Subsidies” that help American industries, while punishing European industries at this economically sensitive time.  A senior European official told Politico, “If you look at it soberly, the country that is profiting from this war, is the US because they are selling more gas and at higher prices, and because they are selling more weapons.”

Talks have broken down amongst European diplomats on the cap on oil prices coming from Russia.  Poland has rejected a price of $65 a barrel as too “soft,” while Greece insists it will not consider any price less than $70.

The debate has been going on for a while.  The EU has proposed a cap on Russian oil of $65 – $70. Poland wants a cap of $20 and say that $30 is too high.  The Baltic nations agree.  But, Cyprus, Greece, and Malta say $70 is too low.

The market price for Russian crude is running at about $70, which means that any oil cap will mean nothing.  In addition, the US is close to issuing Chevron a license to pump oil in Venezuela, which could help ease oil prices.

Poland notes that the cost for producing a barrel of Russian crude oil is just $20, so any price higher than that rewards Russia.  Cyprus, Greece, and Malta have large shipping industries and fear that too high a price cap will destroy the shipping industry.  If the cap is too low, they want compensation.

For all this talk, it must be remembered that the nations must agree unanimously.

And, for all this talk, even the diplomats can’t figure out how to prevent cheating.

Ironically, a book was written in 1776 that explained economics and how it is harder to employ economic sanctions than one thinks.  It is called “The Wealth of Nations” and it was written by Adam Smith.  It was the first modern study of economics and while it was well received in Scotland and Britain, it must have been embargoed because it would have explained the fallacy of American economic sanctions to American diplomats.

Whenever there are economic sanctions imposed, creative minds find a way around them.  Officially full oil tankers could be partially full.  The invoice would be for the full tanker, but the amount delivered would be less – giving the Russians a higher price than allowed.

Of course, that would rely on some collusion by companies and nations, but that happens now.  Malaysia, who cooperates with oil producers like Venezuela and Iran, seems to be exporting more oil than it produces.  Undoubtedly the extra oil comes from other sources.

Greece also appears to be cheating as its tankers carry our ship-to-ship oil transfers.

OPEC could also benefit if Russia cuts back production.

All of this must be solved by December 5th as that is when the oil embargo takes effect if there is no solution.

Meanwhile, these sanctions are hurting American relations with some of its European allies.  America is pushing the oil cap proposal, which isn’t hurting the American consumer as much because energy prices are much lower in the US than Europe.  European nations would like to see more American fuel exports – at the lower American prices.

Oil caps are also threatening the European energy markets, which could cause long term damage to the free market.  Earlier this week, the European Commission issued a statement declaring a “safety price ceiling” for gas prices of $280 dollars per megawatt hour.

This move is designed to act as an “instrument to automatically intervene on the gas markets in case of extreme gas price hikes.”

Energy traders are more sanguine.  The European Federation Traders said, “Even a short intervention would have severe, unintended and irreversible consequences in harming market confidence that the value of gas is known and transparent.”

Ironically, the one time the US didn’t employ economic sanctions, they benefited.

At the beginning of the American Civil War, the Confederacy decided to employ economic sanctions against France and England to persuade them to recognize the rebelling states.  Since the South was the biggest supplier of cotton to the textile industries of France and England, they assumed that economic sanctions would put economic pressure on the two countries.

However, 1860 saw a bumper crop of cotton that filled the warehouses in Europe.  Merchants in England and France merely raised prices, which increased their profits.

Meanwhile, textile manufacturers began looking for other sources of cotton and discovered Egypt.  While the Confederacy was forced to burn surplus stockpiles of cotton, its former clients were buying from Egypt.

American diplomats really need to study their own diplomatic history.