Russian Arctic Threat Growing More Potent, Report Says

Russia’s Northern Fleet’s ballistic missile submarines and strategic bomber force’s capabilities remain intact despite the heavy toll the country’s invasion into Ukraine has had on its naval infantry, army and special forces assigned to the Kola Peninsula, a new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies found. The Arctic remains “of great strategic […]

Russian Borei-class nuclear submarine Generalissimus Suvorov. TASS Photo

Russia’s Northern Fleet’s ballistic missile submarines and strategic bomber force’s capabilities remain intact despite the heavy toll the country’s invasion into Ukraine has had on its naval infantry, army and special forces assigned to the Kola Peninsula, a new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies found.

The Arctic remains “of great strategic value to Russia,” Njord Wegge, a professor at the Norwegian Defense University College, said this week as the report was released. On the military side, the Kola Peninsula in the Arctic provides a gateway for Russia’s Northern Fleet’s attack and ballistic missile submarines to move through the Greenland, Iceland, United Kingdom [GIUK] gap to reach the Atlantic

The “Russian Arctic Threat” report noted Western-imposed sanctions on the Kremlin for the Feb. 24 invasion may have a future effect on Russian defense industry’s ability to deliver future strategic capabilities. The report mentioned their effect on ship construction and updating conventional land, sea and air weapons systems that rely on imported technology. The report cited the benefit and importance of keeping tight sanctions on dual-use computer chips that could be used for Moscow’s conventional forces in the Ukrainian fighting.

It remains to be seen how sanctions will work over the next four years, said Colin Wall, associate fellow in CSIS’ Europe, Russia and Eurasia Program. For now, “Russia will probably have to make tradeoffs” in spending and where it commits military resources as long as the war continues.

Russia has already deployed advanced tanks to the fight and could soon be sending advanced air defense systems to better protects its forces against a spring offensive, Wegge said. Both moves put further strain on the Russian industrial base.

In addition to smuggling and trading with partners who ignore the sanctions, “China has been important partner in the past” and could be again in filling in these military technological gaps, Wegge said. So far, Beijing has not stepped in to fill Moscow’s immediate military needs as Iran did with drones.

“Russia has had 10 years of successful modernization” of its forces that it can fall back on, he said, specifically citing hypersonic weapons and silencing its submarines.

Wall, who co-authored the report with Wegge, added, with Finland and Sweden applying for NATO membership Russia’s goal of “protecting its second strike capability” is of heightened concern in the Kremlin. Moscow’s other strategic goals in the Arctic are: protecting the Northern Sea Route as a potential major trade route between Asia and Europe; and protecting its energy industry in the region, a major source of outside revenue.

When Sweden and, especially, Finland are admitted to NATO, the security equation in the Arctic will change. Both panelists agreed the High North has been a region of relatively low tension.

The report noted Russia’s defense minister warned “retaliatory measures are required” such sending more land forces to northwest Russia if the two are admitted to the alliance.

CSIS Graphic

With Finland a member, the alliance would have better highway access and now rail access to the northernmost areas of Europe. In addition, Finland has a “broad mobilization base” in reserve manpower and stockpiled conventional arms, weapons and ammunition, Wegge said.

Wall described the Kremlin’s comments as “ratcheting up” tensions. He added it was unlikely immediately that United States or NATO would create a Baltic or Arctic Command in the near future.

“The Arctic is not going to shoot to the top of the priority list” of American immediate security concerns, Wall said. He expects U.S. presence to grow but to continue to rely on allies and partners to keep an eye on Russian activities.

Speaking at a Wilson Center event Thursday, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael Ryan, deputy commandant for operations, policy and capabilities, emphasized presence. “It’s about being there … to be successful” in providing security for the region, he said.

Adding the Arctic is a “unique domain” for security and military operations, Ryan said. The service’s expanded commitment can be seen in its building a heavy icebreaker and looking to buy another existing large icebreaking vessel to operate continuously there. Both are part of a long-term effort to rebuild the nation’s icebreaking fleet to three heavies and three medium icebreakers.

The CSIS report stated the Northern Fleet has two “ice-class” vessels in its number and can call up 46 civilian icebreakers when needed. Some of those icebreakers are armed.

Wegge noted at CSIS the American Marines and the Army’s 11th Airborne Division, based in Alaska, have stepped up training exercises in the High North with allies like Norway and large-scale exercises like Trident Juncture. For years, the Marine Corps has been prepositioning equipment in northern Norway to use in a crisis.

He added Norway can play a pivotal role in Arctic security in providing air and maritime awareness with its advanced platforms and technology.

Senator Questions If Allies Would Aid Taiwan in Potential Chinese Invasion

A senior Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence questioned several allies’ willingness to come to Taiwan’s aid if China invaded the island. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Monday at the American Enterprise Institute that debating if the United States should drop its strategic ambiguity stance if the island democracy was attacked is a […]

Taiwanese Marines on Jan. 11, 2023. Taiwan Ministry of National Defense Photo

A senior Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence questioned several allies’ willingness to come to Taiwan’s aid if China invaded the island.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Monday at the American Enterprise Institute that debating if the United States should drop its strategic ambiguity stance if the island democracy was attacked is a “moot point.” While Chinese President Xi Jinping expects the U.S. and Japan to respond, Cornyn is “a little less confident what our other allies would do.”

Australia and New Zealand have voiced support for Taiwan, but it “is a far cry from committing troops to repel an invasion,” Cornyn said as he also questioned Australia’s and New Zealand’s willingness to help Taiwan during a potential invasion.

As was the case with Russian President Vladimir Putin, “one guy decides whether to invade or not,” when it comes to Taiwan’s future, Cornyn said.

“I don’t think the Taiwanese are ready” for an attack. But “we’ve see all the signs” of increased Chinese belligerency following then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) visit to Taiwan, Cornyn said. This summer, Pelosi told Taiwanese officials that the United States “will not abandon its commitment” to the island’s security.

Beijing responded with missile tests over and near the island, flying hundreds of aircraft into its air identification zone over several days, sending warships around the island as it would in a blockade and using military exercises to test amphibious assault operations.

For several years, the United States has pressed Taiwan to improve its internal defenses by investing in anti-air and anti-ship weapons, investing in mines and mine countermeasures, extending training periods for reservists and stepping up military exercises rehearsing how to repel an invasion.

Cornyn also questioned whether Taiwan could “hold out for a couple of weeks … until the cavalry arrives” for its rescue. The situation is very different from that of Ukraine, which has land connections with NATO countries to move support into the country. Taiwan is an island and support would have to come by air or sea.

When asked what would deter Xi from an attack in the near future, Cornyn pointed to “cost” leading to potential failure.

On continued aid to Ukraine, he expected strong congressional support to continue. “My own view is that it is money well spent, he said. The senator said the expected audit – requested by the House – of past expenditures for and to Kyiv is necessary.

Cornyn is skeptical that the Kremlin is interested in serious negotiations with the Ukrainians now.

“If peace broke out tomorrow, they [would use the time] to regroup and re-arm,” he said.

He agreed with the Ukrainian assessment that the war began in 2014, when the Kremlin seized Crimea and backed separatists in the Donbas region with weapons, manpower and financing.

The Ukrainians have to set the terms of negotiations that lead to a settlement, he added. Putin’s goals now are “to grind the Ukrainians … and outlast the West” in the struggle.

The defense industrial sector is feeling the impact of that continued support to Ukraine, Cornyn said. He cited a new Center for Strategic and International Studies report that found it will take five years to replenish U.S. stocks of 155 mm artillery rounds.

“Javelins and Stingers, same story,” the senator said.

Aggravating the shortages is the potential for simultaneous engagement in two conflicts – one in Eastern Europe and another in the Western Pacific, he added. “I don’t see all hands on deck,” including the industrial base, should a crisis escalate to fighting in Asia or the Pacific.

“This ought to be a flashing red light to us,” Cornyn said.

“Certainly we are in a race” with China on advanced technologies, like artificial intelligence and quantum computing, he added. “There’s enough warning signals that we need to be ramping up our readiness” in the technology sector as well. Cornyn cited the semi-conductor manufacturing industry, for which both China and the United States rely on Taiwan.

Congress compounds the problem by relying on continuing resolutions, instead of passing budgets on time, and then passing appropriations through huge omnibus spending packages. The resolutions, with their caps on spending and restrictions on where money can go until a budget is passed, breaks up planning in the Pentagon and disrupts industrial base production, he said.

“I think it’s going to be a real heavy lift to get back to regular order” of passing individual appropriations bills with amendments accepted or rejected on the floor of both chambers of Congress, he said.

“CRs and sequestration is one of the places you would not want to go,” Cornyn said.

The fiscal year begins Oct. 1. President Joe Biden signed the Fiscal Year 2023 $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package into law on Dec. 29. The government ran on continuing resolutions during that time.

Chinese Investment in Western Hemisphere Raising Concerns for U.S., Says SOUTHCOM Commander

The United States is facing increased competition in a number of sectors, especially from China in the Western Hemisphere, raising new security concerns, the head of U.S. Southern Command said Thursday. Army Gen. Lara Richardson, speaking at the Atlantic Council, questioned the People’s Republic of China’s investment in infrastructure in Central and South America. “We […]

Gen. Laura Richardson, commander of U.S. Southern Command, delivers remarks at the opening ceremony for the Dominican Republic portion of Continuing Promise 2022, Nov. 30, 2022. US Navy Photo

The United States is facing increased competition in a number of sectors, especially from China in the Western Hemisphere, raising new security concerns, the head of U.S. Southern Command said Thursday.

Army Gen. Lara Richardson, speaking at the Atlantic Council, questioned the People’s Republic of China’s investment in infrastructure in Central and South America.

“We see the encroachment; we see the tentacles of the PRC [People’s Republic of China] in our neighborhood,” Richardson said.

Richardson again voiced her concern that 21 of the 31 nations in the command’s area of responsibility have signed on with Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. Of added concern to regional security, 17 of the Chinese projects in Central and South America are in building deep-water ports. Five major infrastructure projects flank the Panama Canal.

Complicating matters, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the region’s economy. Before the pandemic an estimated 107 million people in the region were living in poverty; the number now exceeds 170 million, she said.

The economic difficulties cause a number of governments in the Western Hemisphere to ask who might have the best financial deal to provide necessary development to rebuild and expand, Richardson said. Those governments are feeling a sense of urgency from their citizens that they must move ahead with building ports, airfields and highways and improving telecommunications to improve their standards of living.

Even before the pandemic, Beijing moved into the infrastructure construction arena to extend its influence in Africa and the Western Hemisphere. In some cases, she said, “there’s no one else there” bidding for the work.

For example, in the region, China’s Huawei is the dominant telecommunications provider and is proceeding to install its 5G networks to replace its existing older networks. Dual-use companies like Huawei make Richardson worry, she said.

The United States warned for years the company’s close ties to the Chinese government pose serious risks to nations’ security and intelligence cooperation.

Chinese investments in mining operations particularly in the “lithium triangle” of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina and copper in Peru also pose an issue, she said. Lithium is critical for the manufacture of batteries, demand for which has rapidly expanded as the auto industry transitions from fossil fuels to electric propulsion.

At the same time as China’s increased involvement in infrastructure, Beijing has undertaken the largest military build-up of its conventional and strategic forces in history.

China is the region’s number one trading partner, followed by the United States. The country relies on Central and South America for 36 percent of its food supply, she said.

“We need to step up our game,” Richardson said. Later, she added, “we’re not investing in the region as we could be or as should be.”

Organized criminal activity in the region is a $310 billion-a-year business that has grown beyond narco-trafficking to include illegal mining, lumbering, and fishing as well as human trafficking. In addition, transnational criminal cartels are actively involved in money laundering, sometimes using branches of Chinese banks.

As regional governments put more and more responsibility on their security forces to counter widespread and growing criminal activity, they have turned more often to their militaries to augment police, Richardson said.

“You can’t just go after the eaches; you have to go the sources,” she said. “That’s at the top of [those governments’] lists” of what must be done.

For its part in this effort, the command has increased training that emphasizes human rights, the rule of law and the professionalization of their military, Richardson said

Key parts of that professionalization comes in developing a functioning, effective noncommissioned officer corps and the important role women can play in a nation’s armed forces, as had been the care in Ukraine, Richardson said.

The amount of Pentagon resources devoted to Southern Command “forces us to work other levers that our competitors don’t have.”

Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Bryce Batiancela, assigned to the “Chargers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26 Detachment 3 attached to hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), monitors the helicopter’s distance from the ship during flight operations off the coast of Jeremie, Haiti, Dec. 12, 2022. US Navy Photo

Using hospital ship USNS Comfort’s (T-AH 20) Continuing Promise Deployment last year to six Caribbean and Central American nations to illustrate one of the “levers,” Richardson said.

She said the ship takes aboard medical students to provide real-life experiences to their education, sets up clinics to treat sick and injured patients in coliseums, warehouses and remote villages. The medical staff also provides needed surgeries aboard ship while technicians go ashore to repair broken medical equipment.

Comfort’s medical staff also conduct table-top exercises with their counterparts in the best ways to respond to natural disasters and crises like the pandemic.

She also cited the strong partnership programs between state National Guard units and 24 countries in professionalizing the armed forces.

In addition to on-the-scene training and American military schools open to foreign armed forces, the command participates in large continuing exercises, like UNITAS, a naval exercise that is in its 69th year. Twenty nations participated last year.

As for Russia, Richardson said Moscow has stepped up its disinformation campaign through outlets like RT, its cable network, to influence national politics, but its possible ambitions to base forces in the Western Hemisphere has stalled in wake of its invasion of Ukraine.

Richardson said that Russia remains a key partner with Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua for political support and military sales.

Sanctions placed on the Kremlin for its aggression, however, have dried up its ability to send spare parts to nations that had bought Russian military hardware in the past, opening a door for the United States to equip the neighboring militaries.

Nations “see what we do in Ukraine,” proving the United States is a reliable partner in providing security and economic development, Richardson said.

Coast Guard: Illegal Fishing Has Surpassed Piracy as a Global Threat

Illegal fishing has surpassed piracy as a Coast Guard global concern in the maritime domain, the service’s top officer overseeing response policy said Wednesday. “The Coast Guard has been in the [fishing] enforcement game for a long time,” said Rear Adm. Jo-Ann Burdian. Most recently it started with enforcing the ban on using high seas […]

Japanese fishing enforcement interdicts an illegal Chinese fishing boat in 2013.

Illegal fishing has surpassed piracy as a Coast Guard global concern in the maritime domain, the service’s top officer overseeing response policy said Wednesday.

“The Coast Guard has been in the [fishing] enforcement game for a long time,” said Rear Adm. Jo-Ann Burdian. Most recently it started with enforcing the ban on using high seas drift nets, roughly the size of a football field, that were rapidly depleting fish stocks.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing globally has had cascading effects on many nations’ food security and led to conflict on the oceans, as has occurred between Chinese fishing fleets and Filipino fishermen, she noted during a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Illegal fishing, when combined with climate change’s impact on supply and rising sea levels, is also setting off a “crisis of regular migration,” as seen in the Caribbean, Burdian said.

Fishing “is the fundamental pillar [for] how [many of] these countries are sustaining themselves,” said Kelly Kryc, the deputy assistant secretary for international fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Maxine Burkett, the deputy assistant secretary of state for oceans, fisheries and polar affairs, said these “cascading, overlapping issues [of supply and environment] are going to shape foreign policy.” The situation is “especially acute now,” with criminal networks increasingly engaged in trafficking illegal catches, putting further stress on supply.

Natural issues – from depleted fishing stock to rising temperatures – are global issues, Kryc added. “The United States government cannot solve this problem alone” because “these are problems without borders.”

Kryc and the other panelists agreed. “We work with those who are willing to work with us on the problem at the source,” particularly in enforcement, Kryc said. Burkett said these partnerships have to come with no strings attached and must be continuous to be effective.

The panelists were measuring the impact of the Maritime SAFE Act. In introducing the bill that is now law, Sens. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing “is an issue that not only poses a serious threat to our own national security but also contributes to instability in regions important to United States interests,” Coons said in a 2019 statement. “This legislation allows the United States to combat a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that undercuts the economic livelihoods of legitimate fishermen and threatens food security for communities around the world.”

Using the 14th Coast Guard District, headquartered in Honolulu, as an example of how the service is working with other nations, Burdian said it’s training smaller island nations’ maritime forces to perform enforcement operations and monitor their exclusive economic zones.

In addition to those larger missions, she said the Coast Guard provides basic help like just basic engine support.

The question is “how can we be better partners [with other nations in the Pacific, off the coasts of Central and South America and Africa] in obtaining domain awareness” that will add law enforcement, Burkett said.

Burdian said many nations use the U.S. Coast Guard as a model for how to conduct enforcement to protect fisheries. Kyrc added that for many nations, “fish is the primary currency” they rely on to feed their citizens and preserve their cultures.

U.K. Sending 14 Challenger 2 Tanks, Ammo to Ukraine, Foreign Minister Says

The U.K. is sending 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks, dozens of self-propelled artillery and thousands of rounds of ammunition to Ukraine with the goal of helping troops push back against Russian troops in the eastern and southern parts of the country, U.K.’s foreign minister said Tuesday. The foreign ministry is focused on helping Ukraine […]

A Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank of the Royal Welsh Battle Group on Exercise Prairie Storm at the British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS) in Canada in 2014. U.K. MoD Photo

The U.K. is sending 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks, dozens of self-propelled artillery and thousands of rounds of ammunition to Ukraine with the goal of helping troops push back against Russian troops in the eastern and southern parts of the country, U.K.’s foreign minister said Tuesday.

The foreign ministry is focused on helping Ukraine end Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions to take Ukraine by force, James Cleverly told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cleverly spoke at CSIS while in Washington, D.C., to meet his American counterparts at the State Department.

The U.K. wants to send a message to the Kremlin that it will keep its commitment to Kyiv until the Ukrainians are victorious over Russia.

“We believe the introduction of NATO main battle tanks will be decisive” in expected fighting this spring,” Cleverly, who remains a serving artillery officer in the United Kingdom’s reserve forces, said in response to a question.

Cleverly said he considers this to be a longer war than the nearly one year since Russia fully invaded its neighbor. Instead, Cleverly points to Putin’s aggression beginning with the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 where it maintains a large naval base and its continuing military and financial support of separatists in Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Negotiation to end the war, which started on Feb. 24, 2022, needs to be done properly or consequences will be more lives lost and money spent, Cleverly said. He added Moscow has increasingly targeted civilians with ballistic missile barrages in recent weeks.

Putin shows no sign of backing away from a “long, drawn out attritional war,” which was the best chance of victory in the spring, Cleverly said. Then, the Ukrainians with support from NATO countries and others rushed anti-armor weapons to blunt the assault aimed at capturing Kyiv and other eastern cities near the border with Russia and Belarus.

London’s support has changed as the conflict has reached nearly a year of fighting, Cleverly said. The country started by sending Javelins, now it is sending heavy armor.

When asked whether the United Kingdom or any other NATO country might be sending fighter aircraft and longer-range artillery systems soon to Ukraine, Cleverly said that the equipment sent to Ukraine will continue to evolve, but he did not answer the question.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said his government’s ministers would be meeting with their counterparts in Washington, Paris and Berlin to discuss deploying more armor to the conflict, and other advanced systems and providing the training necessary for their use when he announced London was sending main battle tanks to Ukraine last week.

Following the announcement, Defense Minister Ben Wallace prodded Berlin to approve Poland’s shipping of its German-manufactured Leopard tanks to neighboring Ukraine.

Germany is sending Marder infantry fighting to Kyiv. For Berlin to get more actively involved in the conflict is a big step, given its 20th-century history, Cleverly said, adding it’s “an epoch-defining change.”

Cleverly said Germany’s support of the alliance’s decision to back Kyiv was further evidence that Putin’s belief that NATO would splinter over supporting Ukraine has proven false. It has caused Finland and Sweden to apply for formal membership in the alliance, he added.

The invasion “has been a tipping point for the alliance [and NATO] came out stronger” than before.

China Undergoing ‘Build-Up in Every Warfare Area,’ Says ONI Commander

The danger to Taiwan from China is “something we need to take very seriously” as the island is taking steps to mobilize its entire society to deter a mainland takeover, the commander of the Office of Naval Intelligence said last week. The Taiwanese are asking themselves “what can we do to make China think twice” […]

Chinese amphibious landing craft on Nov. 25, 2022. PLA Navy Photo

The danger to Taiwan from China is “something we need to take very seriously” as the island is taking steps to mobilize its entire society to deter a mainland takeover, the commander of the Office of Naval Intelligence said last week.

The Taiwanese are asking themselves “what can we do to make China think twice” before it would attempt a cross-straits invasion, Rear Adm. Michael Studeman said last week. He said Beijing has increased its probes of Taiwan’s air defenses and sent more warships by the island since this summer to also warn off the United States and potential allies.

“The stakes have gone up,” he said.

He noted Taiwan’s stepped-up security spending, extending the training time required of draftees and exercising in how to fight and operate against an invading force, he said speaking at an online event sponsored by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.

Studeman said he has shared with Taiwanese officials lessons the United States has learned from the fighting in Ukraine

“China is the number one challenge to America,” noting the pressure it is putting on the Philippines and Japan over territorial claims.

What has been the most surprising thing to him across his more than 30 years of service has been Beijing’s ability to take basic technology from systems like anti-ship ballistic missiles and transform it rapidly into a hypersonic weapons system.

“We have to be really tuned into what they do.” He said that means harnessing “kinetic and non-kinetic ways of dealing” with these technological advances based on a variety of intelligence.

Rear Adm. Michael Studeman

In his opening remarks, Studeman said China is engaged in a “build-up in every warfare area” from space and cyber to a blue water navy. “We’ll see more of the Chinese navy” in the future as it operates more across the globe. Beijing is expanding its logistics networks via port access agreements, formal basing arrangements and takeovers of ports in nations that defaulted on infrastructure loans with China.

In addition to its expanding navy, China’s 15,000-vessel fishing fleet often pays little attention to exclusive economic zone restrictions. The fleets travel the world hauling in catches that deplete fish stocks critical to the world food supply. These vessels use the oceans’ size in locations as far apart as the Philippines and the coast of South America to fish illegally.

The government-subsidized fishing fleet is sometimes backed by China Coast Guard vessels to press territorial claims as it is doing in the South China Sea.

Last month, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro termed China’s illegal and unreported fishing as happening on an “industrial scale.”

The rise of China “is not a regional dominance issue but a global issue,” Studeman said.

On Russian Navy’s performance since the Feb. 24 invasion, Studeman noted that it “continues to fire missiles” from submarines and surface ships into Ukraine, but the ships are staying close to the coast of the Crimean Peninsula for their own safety.

“The Ukrainians have come up with very innovative techniques” to strike back. The Ukrainians sank RTS Moskva (121), the flagship of the Kremlin’s Black Sea fleet, with Neptune missiles in April. In the wake of that strike, the Russians reportedly moved Kilo-class attack submarines from its large base in Sevastopol. This fall, Kyiv used drones to attack several Russian surface ships in the Black Sea.

Despite Russia’s failings on the ground, Moscow is “playing a game of throttling” grain exports from Kyiv through snap inspections despite an agreement between Russia, Ukraine and Turkey to guarantee the safe passage of these vessels through the Black Sea.

“There is great concern” globally about a food crisis brought on by the war.

Studeman said this gives Russia “an opportunity to sell their own wheat” while keeping Ukrainian harvests in port. Moscow has claimed that it has not received all it was guaranteed to export fertilizer in the U.N.-brokered arrangement.

Looking at Iran, which has exported drones to support the Russian military in Ukraine, he said Tehran “is continuing to support its proxies with lots of weaponry” like the Houthis in Yemen to include a variety of unmanned systems. At the same time, Iran, as reported by USNI News, is converting a container cargo ship to a “drone carrier” to increase its long-range strike capabilities beyond the Persian Gulf.

 

CNO Gilday: Expanding Military Cooperation Between South Korea, Japan ‘A Necessity’

The Navy’s top officer stressed the need for “a forward-looking relationship” between Japan, South Korea and the United States. “It’s no longer a luxury but a necessity” that the three nations work together, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said Thursday. Examples of the improved trilateral relationship include information and intelligence sharing, participating in […]

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday delivers testimony at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the fiscal year 2023 defense budget request on May 12, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Navy’s top officer stressed the need for “a forward-looking relationship” between Japan, South Korea and the United States. “It’s no longer a luxury but a necessity” that the three nations work together, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said Thursday.

Examples of the improved trilateral relationship include information and intelligence sharing, participating in joint exercises in different regions of the Indo-Pacific and the interoperability of platforms and systems.

During a conversation at a Korean-American security group online forum, Gilday acknowledged that there are still historic grievances between the two nations that can disrupt a planned exercise or throw into question continued intelligence sharing. Tokyo and Seoul have “to get beyond poking each other in the eye” over these issues.

Gilday said the two nations are in “deeper discussions of unmanned systems,” mentioning the expansion of clandestine mine-laying as an example He also mentioned the work Japan is undertaking on its amphibious carriers to carry helicopters, F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and marines as important developments in expanding the options to strengthen its defenses.

If Tokyo holds to this goal, Japan will be behind only Washington and Beijing in defense spending.

Recently, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s met with President Joe Biden to discuss mutual security concerns over China’s heightened threats to invade Taiwan and North Korea’s accelerated missile testing.

In December, Kishida announced that Japan will double its spending on defense over the next five years to address new threats in Northeast Asia. A key part of that new investment will be in building Aegis-equipped destroyers that will field 400 to 500 Tomahawk missiles, as well as boosting cyber capabilities and expanded development of unmanned systems.

On integrated missile defense among the three, Gilday said, “we’re on the precipice of something really important” in sharing targeting data and other information.

Gilday said the extended deterrence the United States provides against attack on its two allies includes “the nuclear umbrella.” He cited the National Defense Strategy released in October that says North Korea’s use of nuclear weapons would “result in the end of that regime.”

In the case of defending South Korea, he cited Biden’s spring trip to Seoul and Vice President Kamala Harris’ more recent visit to the Demilitarized Zone as demonstrations of the importance the United States places on the alliance.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said this week that if the North Korean threat to use nuclear weapons increases, Seoul may develop its own nuclear arsenal or ask the United States to redeploy these weapons to the peninsula.

The New York Times quoted the president as saying, “we can have our own nuclear weapons pretty quickly, given our scientific and technological capabilities.”

For South Korea, Gilday said that United States’ close collaboration in all five domains of warfare “demonstrates that we are working together.” He added, “I remain an optimist … on building multi-domain operations.”

He called the relationship between the two navies “a watertight alliance.”

When asked if homeporting U.S. warships in South Korea was under consideration, he said “I would never take any option off the table.” He said something similar when a questioner wondered if the United States would conduct freedom of navigation operations in the Yellow Sea.

Gilday said the point of deterrence is “to convince any particular adversary it’s not worth it to make a move.” He added, “we should not lose our nerve” in that commitment while trying not to escalate tensions in a crisis.

Any decision for Japan to build a nuclear-powered submarine is a huge step that would require the nation’s support politically and financially for years, Gilday said. That decision must be made with the understanding of “the totality of the ecosystem” for the initiative and that it will take decades to complete. Change “eco-system” for such a project requires “the right people, the right training, the right platforms, the right workforce” and sustainment, he said.

Gilday, using the agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States – known as AUKUS – as a possible model, said it will be “well into the 2040s” before Canberra launches its first nuclear-powered attack submarine.

Australia is expected to announce this quarter which submarine design it will choose to follow.

HASC’s Adam Smith Defends Pentagon Push to Retire Legacy Ships, Aircraft

The ranking member of the House Armed Service Committee said retiring legacy guided-missile cruisers, Littoral Combat Ships and older C-130s is the best way to free up money for information technology and systems needed for future security. Speaking Wednesday at a Brookings Institution forum, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said, “[HASC chair] Rep Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) […]

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith is briefed on the capabilities of the F-35A Lightning II during his visit at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 10, 2019. The congressman learned about several aspects of the 56th Fighter Wing F-35 pilot training and how the wing works to enhance lethality and readiness. US Air Force Photo

The ranking member of the House Armed Service Committee said retiring legacy guided-missile cruisers, Littoral Combat Ships and older C-130s is the best way to free up money for information technology and systems needed for future security.

Speaking Wednesday at a Brookings Institution forum, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said, “[HASC chair] Rep Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and I are of one mind on this … that’s the biggest continuous fight we have” on Capitol Hill over preserving legacy systems at the expense of innovation.

He added, “we’ve really got to update the military to the modern fight and the modern fight starts with information technology.” He included missiles and missile defense and unmanned aircraft and ships in the list of future military needs.

“This doesn’t mean we don’t need aircraft carriers and F-35s” but maybe fewer of them, Smith said.

Smith said the rate of development in the Defense Department is too still.

“The Pentagon is set up to run like a 1950 car company,” not like a 21st-century business. He cited the Defense Innovative Unit as an example of what can happen to a good idea when it leaves the research and development stage to enter the department’s acquisition process, in which it takes two years to buy a platform or system.

In that time, “you lose the innovative technology” because it is now outdated.

Likewise, Smith questioned whether the Pentagon encourages innovative thinking over completing each of the steps necessary to make something into a program of record in the budget. The example he used was quickly buying shotguns to down Iranian drones used by Russian forces in Ukraine versus developing a weapon that will take time and money to accomplish the same end.

Several times, Smith stressed that cost-effectiveness should be the guiding principle in budget decisions, especially now when the new Republican majority in the House may be looking at cutting or capping defense, as well as domestic spending. He praised the Air Force’s B-21 program for “being much more efficient” in keeping to its schedule and budget over the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter’s history of delivery delays and cost overruns. One reason was competition in contracting.

“In the world, there is a finite amount of resources.” That should mean “make the best of what we have now,” but also look at what partners like Japan, Australia and others can offer to improve security. Smith noted there is more interest in Washington and other capitals in cooperating following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s bullying of Taiwan.

Later, when answering a question, Smith said “we’ve got to share stuff. …It’s a global economy.”

On Ukraine, Smith said, Putin’s “maximalist goals have not changed” in bringing it totally under Moscow’s control. “The first step is to stop them,” and the United States, allies and partners must support the Ukrainians through the spring. He added that talks are continuing between Kyiv and Washington on how to proceed.

But for now, “Putin made his choice” to continue fighting.

This week, the Kremlin named a new senior commander for Ukraine as Russian forces are largely stalled or in defensive positions. Moscow’s previous top general for Ukraine held the post for only three months.

The message to China over Taiwan should be: “Don’t do this; it will not end well,” Smith said. He cited a wargame report conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies about possible outcomes if Beijing tried to invade. He added, “I think we’re in a lot better shape than we were” in deterring Chinese ambitions toward the island.

Looking at China’s actions now, “they basically want greater freedom to do what they want to do,” like illegal fishing and asserting territorial claims. The Chinese leadership plays up “the century of humiliation” where Western powers wrested concessions from the imperial and weak republic governments in trade and autonomy to act as they saw fit inside its borders.

But the Chinese are “not nihilists; they’re not suicidal. Smith said, “the world has to be big enough for both of us.” He added that he voted for the new select House committee on China to be chaired by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and hopes it doesn’t descend into “China-bashing.”

“The globe needs to become less dependent on China,” Smith added. He said the U.S. should look for other places for circuit boards, microchips and other manufactured parts and goods.

 

Ukraine Needs Better Defense Against Russian Drone, Cruise Missile Attacks

Kyiv needs close-in air defense systems like the Navy’s SeaRAM to better defend critical infrastructure and cities against Russian-launched swarming drone attacks and low-flying cruise missiles, a former Ukrainian defense minister and top Army commander in Europe said Tuesday. The equipment needed to resist Russian attacks, such as from drones, many of which are now […]

Pallets holding munitions are transported off an aircraft cargo loader into a Boeing 747 at Travis Air Force Base, California, April 26, 2022. US Air Force Photo

Kyiv needs close-in air defense systems like the Navy’s SeaRAM to better defend critical infrastructure and cities against Russian-launched swarming drone attacks and low-flying cruise missiles, a former Ukrainian defense minister and top Army commander in Europe said Tuesday.

The equipment needed to resist Russian attacks, such as from drones, many of which are now coming from Iran, is not pricy, said former minister of defense of Ukraine Andriy Zagorodnyuk. Much of the needed weapons are stockpiled in partners’ military warehouses.

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time, but [short-range air defense systems] are still not here,” Zagorodnyuk said.

The most recent drone and cruise missile attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets have knocked out about 50 percent of the nation’s electrical system, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, a Ukrainian official working on integration with the European Union, said at the Atlantic Council event.

Ukraine needs “multi-level systems” from sophisticated Patriots best used to defend a city against ballistic and cruise missiles to the close-in defense needed to protect infrastructure like power plants and water systems from drone strikes, he and retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges said.

The Pentagon is finalizing plans to ship at least one Patriot battery and precision munition kits to Ukraine, news sources have reported in recent weeks. A senior defense official told reporters Tuesday night that a Patriot missile battery will be included in an aid package for Ukraine set to be announced by the White House.

“Air and missile defense has to be an integrated network” to be effective, Hodges said.

One Patriot battery in Ukraine is “a drop in the bucket” when it comes to overall air and missile defense and is best employed to defend large areas, Hodges said. While it would require training Ukrainians on the system, Hodges expected those assigned to the battery would be experienced in operating missile systems and would successfully master Patriot quickly.

The way around more difficult repair issues without sending American soldiers into Ukraine would be to fall back on the private sector to be in country to assist Kyiv, rather than looking to Poland for parts or to the United States for major repairs.

“Maintenance is kind of mundane until you don’t have it,” Hodges said.

Ukraine still has urgent needs, such as a shortage of ammunition and weapons that need to be immediately filled, Zagorodnyuk said. He specifically mentioned armor, missiles that have longer than a 75-kilometer range and aviation.

These “are well-known problems,” he said.

On the longer-range missiles, like the Army’s surface-to-surface ATACMS [Army Tactical Missile System], Hodges said they could strike Russian supply depots in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, making it “very difficult to resupply its forces” now and in a possible spring offensive. They also could make Crimea “untenable” by knocking out command nodes, depots and the one bridge and one land route between Russia and the illegally annexed province. The Russian Black Sea fleet is harbored at Sevastopol in Crimea.

A MK 15 Phalanx close-in weapons system (CIWS) is test fired on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70). US Navy Photo

“To me it should be a no-brainer,” Hodges said in adding range to the missiles shipped to Ukraine. These moves would make it much difficult logistically and for command and control if Russia were to launch a new offensive in the spring. The attack with newly trained reservists and regrouped units could come from Kremlin-ally Belarus where Russia has more than 10,000 soldiers as well as along existing fronts in the east and south.

Zagorodnyuk added although Russian commanders “will be trying really hard” in any new offensive, “I don’t think [a new attack] is going to be successful.”

If anything, the late fall and early winter missile and drone attacks on civilians have stiffened Ukrainian resolve, Klympush-Tsintsadze said. “People are getting more and more angry” over these strikes that are creating “a humanitarian disaster” across Ukraine and sending a new movement of refugees to neighboring countries.

Melinda Haring, deputy director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council, said there is a belief for support in the Biden administration that is shared by French President Emmanuel Macron and other Europeans.

“I don’t believe Ukraine can re-take Crimea without starting nuclear war,” Haring said.

The Biden administration is concerned that attacks on Crimea could raise the possibility of a nuclear retaliation, Hodges said.

“The White House needs to say: ‘we want to win,’” he said.

At the same time, there is no agreement among Ukraine’s allies and partners that the country needs to win the war, Klympush-Tsintsadze said. Lacking that consensus “creates another hurdle in supplying weapons and support” for rebuilding utility systems, hospitals, schools and housing.

That agreement “is what we’re looking for,” Klympush-Tsintsadze said.

As for a cease-fire, she said the Kremlin would use the time to “exhale, regroup and attack again” if Russian soldiers remain in any part of Ukraine. The exit strategy to end the war needs to be: leave Ukraine, pay reparations for the devastation the war has brought on the nation and prosecute war criminals for atrocities committed following the Feb. 24 invasion, Klympush-Tsintsadzeadze said.

“Russia’s intentions have not changed” when it comes to taking over Ukraine, she added.

U.S. Needs to Clear $19B in Arms Sale Backlog to Taiwan, says HASC member

Shipping the $19 billion arms backlog that the U.S. has approved for Taiwan’s defense is even more important now in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a key Republican lawmaker said Wednesday. Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, used that figure to say the United States is “behind […]

Taiwan Hai Lung-class submarine in 2009

Shipping the $19 billion arms backlog that the U.S. has approved for Taiwan’s defense is even more important now in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a key Republican lawmaker said Wednesday.

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, used that figure to say the United States is “behind in what we need to provide for Taiwan.”

The sale of those arms – including the Harpoon over-the-horizon long-range anti-ship missiles – and other systems like F-16 fighters was part of a 2019 agreement that has been delayed due to supply chain issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic and current demands on weapons stocks as the U.S. supplies Ukraine for a war continuing into the winter.

USNI News reported that $2.37 billion of the authorized sales were for 400 Harpoon Block IIs and 100 Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems, key to repelling an amphibious assault. The Ukrainians have deployed at least one Harpoon battery nears its Black Sea coast this summer.

“We want to deter China from taking any action” against the self-governing island, Bacon added. “There’s bipartisan agreement we need to do more on Taiwan.” Bacon is a member of the newly-formed Taiwan caucus in the House. The caucus has 229 members in the lower chamber. He added that 80 percent of House Republicans support “the poster child of democracy,” as he described Taipei, in its continuing confrontation with Beijing.

The retired Air Force brigadier general said shipping the Harpoons and other precision weapons would bolster Taiwan’s “porcupine” concept of defending itself against an invasion. These “longer and sharper quills” would make it “more difficult for China to swallow.”

He noted the United States had the intelligence months beforehand that Russia was moving to invade Ukraine, but had not arranged with Kyiv to ship large numbers of weapons like Javelin anti-tank missiles and longer-range anti-armor weapons to repel the attack once it began.

Bacon warned against repeating this mistake with Taiwan.

Calling for the U.S. and allies to step up visible training of Taiwanese forces, Bacon said, “I don’t believe in strategic ambiguity” when it comes to whether the United States would act if China moved to invade the island.

He noted the training of Ukrainian forces to weapons systems like the Javelin actually began in 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Crimea and openly backed separatists in the country’s eastern border provinces. The training also emphasized professionalizing Ukraine’s noncommissioned officer ranks in how to make decisions in the field and lead troops in combat.

“U.S. boots on the ground is deterrence,” and having forces from Japan and Australia also involved in this training sends a signal that Taiwan should not be taken by force.

Bacon saw a “lot of promise” in the Quad, the informal security and economic arrangement between the United States, Japan, Australia and India. Japan and Australia are already U.S. treaty allies.

“Let’s make incremental progress” with India that would tighten the relationship. “It’s in our mutual interests,” he said, citing the most recent border clashes between India and China in the Himalayas.

Looking at the Indo-Pacific broadly, Bacon said he wants to see more multi-lateral agreements on trade and security, rather than the bilateral treaties the U.S. has with Japan, Korea, Thailand and the Philippines on defense. The discarded Trans Pacific Partnership could provide a model for pursuing this on the trade and economic fronts and would benefit the region as a whole, he argued. Bacon wants to bring Taiwan into these agreements and restore its position as a contributor to international organizations like the World Health Organization.

China is making a concerted effort to isolate Taiwan from United Nations-related agencies and pressuring nations that still have diplomatic relations with Taipei to cut them. Bacon applauded Lithuania for standing up to China on these issues.

He also saw a need for more agreements between Washington and Taipei on agricultural trade to bolster Taiwan’s food security if tensions rise and China threatens to blockade the island.