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More @ linkRussia has not harassed U.S. ships and aircraft in Europe and the Mediterranean for the past three months in what appears to be an effort to avoid incidents that could escalate into conflict, NATO Supreme Commander Gen. Tod Wolters said Tuesday.
Russian aircraft still shadow U.S. and allied ships and planes, but "we have had zero unprofessional incidents at sea and zero unprofessional incidents in the sky" in the last 90 days, he said.
At a breakfast with defense reporters, Wolters attributed the decrease in unsafe operations by the Russians to the "deconfliction dialogue" he had in his first face-to-face meeting with Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff.
A NATO news release said the Wolters-Gerasimov talks took place in July in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Incidents in which Russian aircraft flew low over U.S. warships or made dangerous passes at American aircraft were "a key military topic in my consultations with Gen. Gerasimov," said Wolters, an Air Force general who doubles as head of U.S. European Command.
"He was concerned about it; I was concerned about it," he said, adding that the result of their talks was "zero unprofessional behavior that occurs in the maritime or in the air."
"The safety deconfliction has improved," Wolters said. "That's because we're deterring better, that's because we're deconflicting better" with upgrades to intelligence and surveillance assets ...
Why Russian Military Expenditure Is Much Higher Than Commonly Understood (As Is China’s)
Gresham’s Law states that bad money drives out good money, but anyone who has spent time around Washington, D.C., knows that this law can safely be applied to information too — bad information tends to drive out good information. Such is the case with America’s assessments of other countries’ military and economic power. Defense spending is one of the most commonly used measures for gauging a country’s potential military power, setting expectations of what the military balance might look like in the future. It helps give us a sense of how much of a state’s economic power is being converted into military power. Well, in theory it should, if we knew how to measure it right, but comparing defense spending across countries is a complicated task. As a consequence, the United States doesn’t really know where its military expenditure stands in relation to that of its principal adversaries, what kind of military capability they’re getting for their money, and whether the balance of power is likely to improve or worsen over time.
Policymakers are barraged by a daily stream of think tank reports, academic writing, and media stories competing for their perceptions. For example, by cherry-picking a few gross measures, including military expenditure, a recent RAND report caricatured Russia as a weakling rogue state. Major newspapers generate erroneous headlines: many ran stories asserting that in 2017 Russian defense spending declined by a fifth . In our experience, both in Washington and London, decision-makers have little time to investigate or read and tend to believe many of the headlines they come across. Indeed, rarely does a discussion take place on Russia or China without a series of assumptions being voiced based on questionable assessments of relative power when it comes to GDP, defense spending, or demographics.
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Of course, a necessary precursor to finding measures that matter is knowing how to measure in the first place. This is a challenge we hope to briefly take up here. It is hardly an academic question. Strategic implications abound for America’s pursuit of a favorable regional military balance in Europe and decisive military advantages over its adversaries. In our view, despite its tremendous size, U.S. defense spending does not actually dwarf that of the rest of the world. This also raises some uncomfortable questions about the ability of the United States to attain deterrence by denial against competing revisionist powers. The disparity is especially evident when looking at the case of Russian military expenditure, which is much larger than it appears, though a fair assessment of Chinese defense spending would also yield pessimistic expectations about the future balance of military power.
Why Russia Gets More Bang for the Ruble
Based on the annual average dollar-to-ruble exchange rates, Russia is typically depicted as spending in the region of $60 billion per year on its military. This is roughly in line with the defense spending of medium-sized powers like the United Kingdom and France. However, anybody familiar with Russia’s military modernization program over the past decade will see the illogic: how can a military budget the size of the United Kingdom’s be used to maintain over a million personnel while simultaneously procuring vast quantities of capable military equipment?
Russian procurement dwarfs that of most European powers combined. Beyond delivering large quantities of weaponry for today’s forces, Russia’s scientists and research institutes are far along in development of hypersonic weapons, such as Tsirkon and Avangard, along with next-generation air defense systems like S-500. This volume of procurement and research and development should not be possible with a military budget ostensibly the same size as the United Kingdom’s. When theory checks in with practice, the problem with the approaches that return such answers is plain for anyone to see.
The reason for this apparent contradiction is that the use of market exchange rates grossly understates the real volume of Russian military expenditure (and that of other countries with smaller per-capita incomes, like China). Instead, any analysis of comparative military expenditure should be based on the use of purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rates rather than market exchange rates. This alternative method takes differences in costs between countries into account. As we demonstrate, despite some shortcomings, PPP is a much more methodologically robust and defensible method of comparing defense spending across countries than the method of comparing spending using the market exchange rates that are commonly used by think tanks and academics. Using PPP, one finds that Russia’s effective military expenditure actually ranged between $150 billion and $180 billion annually over the last five years. That figure is conservative; taking into account hidden or obfuscated military expenditure, Russia may well come in at around $200 billion.
To put it simply, calculating Russian military expenditure based on purchasing power means that the United States spends only about four times more than Russia on defense, rather than ten times more when using market exchange rates. But this remains a crude comparison. The gap is even narrower when one digs into the differences in how this money is spent. At nearly 50 percent of federal budget spending on national defense, a large proportion of the Russian defense budget goes to procurement and research and development. By comparison, in other countries with large defense budgets, procurement spending tends to be much lower [emphasis added]: in India, the United States, and the United Kingdom, spending is at about 20–25 percent...
Michael Kofman is director and senior research scientist at CNA Corporation and a fellow at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute. Previously he served as program manager at the National Defense University. The views expressed here are his own.
Richard Connolly is director of the Centre for Russian, European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Birmingham and senior lecturer in political economy. His research and teaching are principally concerned with the political economy of Russia and Eurasia.
Russia deploys Avangard hypersonic missile system
Russia's first regiment of Avangard hypersonic missiles has been put into service, the defence ministry says.
The location was not given, although officials had earlier indicated they would be deployed in the Urals.
President Vladimir Putin has said the nuclear-capable missiles can travel more than 20 times the speed of sound and put Russia ahead of other nations.
They have a "glide system" that affords great manoeuvrability and could make them impossible to defend against.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed the "Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle entered service at 10:00 Moscow time on 27 December", calling it a "landmark event".
Mr Putin said on Tuesday the Avangard system could penetrate current and future missile defence systems, adding: "Not a single country possesses hypersonic weapons, let alone continental-range hypersonic weapons."
The West and other nations were "playing catch-up with us", he said.
It is hard to determine if Russia's new Avangard hypersonic missile system really has entered service, as Moscow claims, or if this is just an advanced phase of field testing. But President Putin's eagerness to claim bragging rights is to some extent justified. Russia looks to be ahead in the hypersonic stakes. China is also developing such systems; while the US appears to be somewhat behind.
Hypersonic missiles, as their name implies, fly very fast, at above Mach 5 - ie at least five times the speed of sound. Hypersonic weapons can take various forms. They can be cruise-type missiles, powered throughout their flight. Or, they can be carried aloft on board a ballistic missile from which the hypersonic "glide vehicle" separates and then flies to its target.
Such "boost-glide" systems, as they are known (Avangard appears to be one of these), are launched like a traditional ballistic missile, but instead of following an arc high above the atmosphere, the re-entry vehicle is put on a trajectory that allows it to enter Earth's atmosphere quite quickly, before gliding, un-powered, for hundreds or thousands of kilometres.
It is not so much the speed of the hypersonic weapon alone that counts. It is its extraordinary manoeuvrability as it glides towards its target. This poses a huge problem for existing anti-missile defence systems. Indeed the glide vehicle's trajectory, "surfing along the edge of the atmosphere" as one expert put it to me recently, presents any defensive system with additional problems. Thus, if Russia's claims are true, it has developed a long-range intercontinental missile system that may well be impossible to defend against.
The announcement that Avangard is operational heralds a new and dangerous era in the nuclear arms race. It confirms once again President Putin's focus on bolstering and modernising Russia's nuclear arsenal. It's indicative of the return of great power competition. Some analysts might well see Russia's development programme as a long-term strategy to cope with Washington's abiding interest in anti-missile defences. The US argument that these are purely designed to counter missiles from "rogue-states" like Iran or North Korea has carried little weight in Moscow.
This all comes at a time when the whole network of arms control agreements inherited from the Cold War is collapsing. One crucial treaty - the New START agreement - is due to expire in February 2021. Russia seems willing to extend the agreement but the Trump administration has so far appeared sceptical. With a whole new generation of nuclear weapons at the threshold of entering service, many believe not just that existing agreements should be bolstered, but that new treaties are needed to manage what could turn into a new nuclear arms race [emphasis added].
February 6, 2020
Pew Research Center
About a third of U.S. Republicans have confidence in Putin, up significantly since 2015
Americans consistently have expressed little confidence in Russian President Vladimir Putin. But Republicans are now 21 points more likely than Democrats to express confidence in him (31% vs. 10%), the widest partisan gap in our polling.
Russian frigate fires hypersonic missile for first time
A Russian Navy warship has fired an NPO Mashinostroyeniya 3M22 Zircon (Tsirkon) hypersonic missile for the first time during trials in the Barents Sea.
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed the start of the test programme by the Northern Fleet during a meeting of his ministry's board on 28 February.
"The trials of new armament, including hypersonic weapons, continue. All this will make it possible to qualitatively boost the combat potential of the Russian Navy's Northern and other fleets," Shoigu was reported as telling the board meeting by Russian state news agency TASS on 28 February.
The test launch was part of the Northern Fleet's plan of activity for 2019-25, said Shoigu.
While the Night Wolves Motorcycle Club's (NWMC) roots are similar to Western counterparts such as the Hells Angels MC and Bandidos MC, they have evolved into a proxy of the Russian state who unite combat-ready diasporas. The NWMC nongovernmental organization provides soft propaganda while they operate alongside the Russian military and imbed military tactics into foreign Russian populations through their corporate entity Wolf Holding of Security Structures. This case study explores the evolution from outlaw motorcycle club to political force and their integration into Russia's information operations and conflict. The NWMC activities in Eastern Europe, particularly Ukraine, highlight how this motorcycle club has been able to cultivate a fifth column to agitate domestic politics and increase ties to the Kremlin.
What the United States loses by quitting the Open Skies treaty, in one chart
Reports emerged this week that the White House may be moving “soon” on withdrawing from the Open Skies treaty, a nearly two-decade-old agreement that allows 34 countries to fly and share reconnaissance missions over each other to promote military cooperation and transparency.
Last month, defense secretary Mark Esper said he was freezing a long-overdue replacement of the aging OC-135B aircraft used for flights under the treaty. “Until we make a final decision on the path forward, I am not prepared to recapitalize aircraft,” Esper told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Although more than 1,500 observation flights have been flown since the treaty took effect in 2002, vocal Republican opponents like Sens. Tom Cotton, Richard Burr, and Ted Cruz claim its benefit is “marginal” because US satellites make aerial imagery unnecessary, and the United States gives up more to its adversaries under the treaty than it gains. Their criticism extends from complaints about the costs of the OC-135B upgrade to protests over Russian compliance with the treaty—specifically, restrictions on missions flown over Kaliningrad and along Russia’s border with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Cotton and Cruz introduced a resolution calling for withdrawal in October.
Meanwhile, foreign policy veterans from multiple administrations have called on the White House to reconsider. This week, Democratic leaders from the House and Senate committees on armed services and foreign relations said that the action would be “not only shortsighted, but also unconscionable,” and urged the Trump administration “to reverse course on this reckless policy decision rather than ramming it through while our country and the entire world grapples with an unprecedented crisis.” Proponents note that the images gathered during flights are important to US allies in Europe who have limited access to satellite surveillance and that the treaty allows the United States to receive imagery even from flights it does not conduct itself. On Russian compliance, they argue that any issues can best be addressed via the treaty itself, not by abandoning it—an argument that failed to halt the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the INF treaty last year.
Originally proposed in 1955 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a means of reducing Cold War tensions and assisting arms control inspections, the Open Skies treaty found its footing only as the Soviet Union was falling apart, when (quoting the treaty’s preamble) events in Europe “transformed the security situation from Vancouver to Vladivostok.” The idea was to encourage that new spirit of cooperation by placing representatives of potential adversaries on the same airplanes, jointly collecting intelligence that all treaty signatories have access to.
“What is important is that these people, the military officers, they sit together in one plane, together with their counterparts, all the time,” Alexander Graef, a researcher in the arms control and emerging technologies project at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy in Hamburg, told the Bulletin. “They engage with them on a daily basis, and you cannot replicate that with satellites. So that is something, a human factor, that’s in the treaty.”
While information about the joint flights under the treaty is not classified, researchers and journalists have generally had to glean details from a mix of sources. One frequently cited source is the US State Department itself, which previously maintained a comprehensive list of flights on its website. But that information has not appeared since Trump took office.
So earlier this month, Graef and his colleague (and Bulletin Rieser award winner) Moritz Kütt decided to publish figures based on exhaustive flight data they received from a NATO source on all Open Skies missions from 2002 through 2019. They set up a website, OpenSkies.flights, that quantifies the overall flight records and features an interactive graphic to help visualize the extent to which states have continuously cooperated on overflights since the treaty took effect—and, they hope, undermine arguments for US withdrawal.
The United States receives (as shown on the right side of the diagram) far fewer flights over its territory than it flies over others’ (as shown on the left side). Graef and Kütt calculate that more approximately 94 percent of reconnaissance flights under the Open Skies treaty were flown over European states, including Russia.
Moreover, the visualization makes plain that there are really two main blocs gathering observations of each other under the treaty: European states and Russia (including Belarus, which is grouped with Russia under the terms of the treaty). “Thus, even if the United States left the treaty, Europe could still derive benefits from overflying Russia-Belarus,” Graef and Kütt wrote. “In turn, although Russia-Belarus would lose the ability to fly over the United States, it would retain the right to conduct overflights over European states and Canada, which together currently account for more than 87 percent of its active flights.”
“One of the things we show is that the Americans fly way more often over Russia than the Russians fly over them,” Kütt said. And because any imagery can be shared among all states, the United States doesn’t even need to actively participate in missions over European states to receive copies of the intelligence that Russia obtains [emphasis added]...
Public Russian Nuclear Weapons Use Doctrine–Willing to go First if Necessary
Further to the discussion of use of nuclear-armed cruise missiles (SLCMs) carried by Russian submarines at this March 2020 post,
Subs and Russian Nuclear Weapons Doctrine, Note Cruise Missiles
Russia has just published its first, public document on policies for the use of strategic nuclear weapons. The document does not rule our first use of those weapons in certain circumstances, nor does it seem to preclude first use of tactical nuclear weapons (which may well be how those carried by the navy’s SLCMs are classified even if some targets are in North America) as part of what may be a non-public “escalate to de-escalate” doctrine (more at the first quote below)...
Well now, this is interesting
CBH99 said:Interesting is true, indeed.
Personally, I doubt it's true. Interesting nonetheless.
**Not insulting you or your source, to clarify. I just have my doubts**
U.S. Threatens Libya's General Haftar With Sanctions Over Russian Ties
By Charles Kennedy - Jul 27, 2020, 9:30 AM CDT
The United States has threatened General Khalifa Haftar with sanctions over his ties with Russia, the Wall Street Journal reports, after Russian military contractors with ties to the Kremlin seized control of Libya's largest field and the oil export terminal of Es Sider.
General Haftar and his Libyan National Army are affiliated with the eastern Libyan government, and last year Haftar launched an offensive against the UN-recognized Government of National Accord. The U.S. has been supporting Haftar, but now the tide seems to be turning as the LNA and Russian mercenaries forge closer ties.
Humphrey Bogart said:Russian tentacles are stretching across the Mediterranean:
Humphrey Bogart said:Russian tentacles are stretching across the Mediterranean
In an April 19 phone conversation with Haftar, who is also a US citizen, Trump recognised "Field Marshall Haftar's significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources".
Washington in July blocked a UNSC statement condemning an air raid on a migrant detention centre that killed more than 40 people, which the GNA blamed on the US ally UAE
Lumber said:Good strategy.
As Robin Williams said regarding western tactics in Afghanistan:
"If we tell them we're going to bomb them back to the stone age, they'll just go 'Oooh! Upgrade!'."
daftandbarmy said:Spies and Commandos Warned Months Ago of Russian Bounties on U.S. Troops - NY Times
The recovery of large amounts of American cash at a Taliban outpost in Afghanistan helped tip off U.S. officials. It is believed that at least one U.S. troop death was the result of the bounties.
United States intelligence officers and Special Operations forces in Afghanistan alerted their superiors as early as January to a suspected Russian plot to pay bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan, according to officials briefed on the matter. They believed at least one U.S. troop death was the result of the bounties, two of the officials said.
The crucial information that led the spies and commandos to focus on the bounties included the recovery of a large amount of American cash from a raid on a Taliban outpost that prompted suspicions. Interrogations of captured militants and criminals played a central role in making the intelligence community confident in its assessment that the Russians had offered and paid bounties in 2019, another official has said.
Armed with this information, military and intelligence officials have been reviewing American and other coalition combat casualties over the past 18 months to determine whether any were victims of the plot. Four Americans were killed in combat in early 2020, but the Taliban have not attacked American positions since a February agreement to end the long-running war in Afghanistan.
The details added to the picture of the classified intelligence assessment, which The New York Times reported Friday has been under discussion inside the Trump administration since at least March, and emerged as the White House confronted a growing chorus of criticism on Sunday over its apparent failure to authorize a response to Russia.