Category Archives: Current affairs

War and national security in the 21st century.

AUKUS

As has been well publicised, Australia, the UK and the USA have signed an agreement that will make Australia the seventh country in the world to possess nuclear powered submarines. The others are the China, France, India, Russia, the UK and the USA. Unsurprisingly, the USA has the largest fleet.

Australia will build eight hunter killer submarines [SSNs] based on either the British Astute class or the US Virginia class. These will be nuclear powered but armed with conventional torpedoes and missiles, not the intercontinental ballistic missiles carried by SSBN submarines.

Eight SSNs is a substantial force. The UK has 11 nuclear powered submarines but four are SSBNs, meaning that it has only seven comparable to the Australian ones. Australia will be the only country to operates SSNs without having any SSBNs. India has only SSBNs at sea or under construction and the other five operators all have a mix of SSNs and SSBNs.

As well as the Australian boats, British SSNs may be based in Australia as part of an alliances that is clearly aimed at containing China.

The three countries involved are all part of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network, along with Canada and New Zealand. The absence of New Zealand is unsurprising since it is a nuclear free country. For an excellent analysis of the pact in general and its impact on Canada in particular, see this post from Canadian blogger Mark Collins’s blog. The link is to part 2 but it links back to part 1.

The most controversial part of the agreement is the exclusion of France, a NATO ally that possesses nuclear submarines, has substantial interests in the Pacific and had a contract to supply Australia with 12 conventionally powered submarines, which the Australians have now torn up. France has recalled its ambassadors to Canberra and Washington, but not London, which is probably intended to suggest that the British are the junior partners in the pact.

A likely reason for the French exclusion is that President Macron stated in February 2021 that the ‘EU shouldn’t gang up on China with US.’ See this report from the Politico website.

British defence commentator Julian Lindley-French argues in his Speaking Truth Unto Power blog LINK that the French are responsible for problems with the Australian submarines contract and that their intelligence services should have got wind of the pact

Another British defence blog, The Thin Pinstriped Line, written by a former UK Ministry of Defence civil servant and Reserve officer points out that the France and the UK compete across the globe for defence contracts, which involve transfers of technology and materiel as does AUKUS. There does not appear to be anything in the treaty to commit the partners to go to war together or to joint military operations.

The most likely reason why the French were not asked to join was probably an expectation that they would have declined to do so.

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China’s Magic Weapon

The BBC recently broadcast a documentary made by Jane Corbin about a Chinese Communist Party [CCP] organisation that is officially called The United Front Work Department [UFWD] but is often referred to as China’s Magic Weapon.

Chairman Mao said that the success of the CCP was thanks to the magic weapon of the united front of the people, the armed struggle and the party. Now, President Xi is using the UFWD to spread Chinese influence round the world. It expects Chinese expatriates to work on it behalf.

The main objectives are to spread Chinese power and influence and to obtain technology, especially military technology. The documentary concentrated on Australia, the USA and the UK.

Attempts by the UFWD to subvert the democratic process in Australia were described by Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University and Senator James Paterson, a member of the Australian Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security.

A Chinese businessman whose visa was later revoked on national security grounds made a substantial donation to the Australian Labor Party. At Queensland University, a peaceful protest against the Chinese government by 10-15 students was broken up by 2-300 Chinese students. The university took action against only the leader pf the peaceful protest. The local Chinese Consul General is an Honorary Professor at the University.

A law has now been passed with cross party support in order to combat Chinese subversion in Australia.

China attempts to influence students in many countries via its global network of Confucius Institiutes

In the USA, a fire at the Chinese Consulate in Houston soon after the US government had ordered it to close appeared to be caused by paper and plastic being burnt. John Demers, formerly Assistant Attorney-General for National Security described the consulate as being a ‘den of spies.’ He stated that China is conducting industrial espionage on a major scale. Its aim is to steal a company’s research and then its market.

The point about Chinese attempts to steal intellectual property from Western companies was also made by Greg Levesque of Strider, a company specialising in helping companies to prevent theft of their intellectual property by nation-states.

China is also alleged to be recruiting Chinese academics. Charles Lieber, Professor of Chemistry at Harvard, has been arrested and accused of working for China. Many other academics have, however, come to his defence. His case has not yet gone to trial, but he has requested that it be expedited as he has incurable cancer.

According to Tom Tugendhat, Chairman of the British Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee and Dr Radomir Tylecote of the Civitas Defence and Security for Democracy Unit, most of the top two dozen British universities have some sort of research or sponsorship relationship with organisations linked to the Chinese military. Students from China’s university of defence technology are at Oxford University.

The United Kingdom tried to build closer links with China when Xi visited in 2015. As a result, China now has significant involvement in British infrastructure, including nuclear power stations, airports and water utility companies.

A fascinating but worrying programme.

See the link below for a 2017 Financial Times articles on the UFWD. This newspaper’s website is mostly pay but this article should be freely available.

https://www.ft.com/content/fb2b3934-b004-11e7-beba-5521c713abf4?shareType=nongift

The documentary can be watched by UK viewers from the BBC iPlayer at the link below:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000z2yt/chinas-magic-weapon

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Russians Harrass British Destroyer in the Black Sea

There has been a confrontation between the British destroyer HMS Defender and Russian forces in the Black Sea. According to the Russians, they fired warning shots and a Sukhoi Su-24 aircraft dropped four l8v3 bombs nearby. The British claim that the Russians had told them that they would be conducting live firing exercises in the Black Sea and that Defender was three miles from the firing and bombing,

Defender was heading from Odessa in southern Ukraine to Georgia by what the UK considers to be an international transit route. Russia regards it as being part of its territorial waters since its annexation of Crimea in 2014, which many countries, including the members of the EU and NATO consider to be illegal.

Joanathan Beale, a BBC correspodent, was on board Defender. He says that two Russian coastguard ships came within 100 yards of Defender and that she detected over 20 Russian military aircraft. He heard firing but thought that it was three miles away. According to The Times, the coastguard ships are operated by the FSB, Russia’s domestic intelligence service.

Defender had been detached from the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group, which is currently in the Mediterranean on her way to the Indian Ocean and then theSouth China Sea. She was accompanied by the Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen and the guided missile destroyer USS Laboon for part of her freedom of navigation operation in the Black Sea but was on her own when the Russians intervened. The Economist says that there was an American intelligence gathering aircraft above Defender during the confrontation,

In another Western attempt to assert the right to freedom of the seas the guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur this week sailed through the Taiwan Straits, claimed by China.

BBC News – Russian jets and ships target British warship

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-57583363

Russian and British forces square off in the Black Sea from The Economist

https://www.economist.com/europe/2021/06/24/russian-and-british-forces-square-off-in-the-black-sea

You won’t stop our ships, defiant Britain tells Putin | The Times

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/you-wont-stop-our-ships-defiant-britain-tells-putin-hr3jcn7c5?shareToken=1d6a3550df514dd6eb4051f32b9e4578

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NATO Allies Agree to Defend Each Other if There’s a War in Space

The London Times has reported that NATO members have agreed to defend each other if a war spreads to space. China and Russia are developing anti-satellite weapons that could cripple communications, surveillance or navigation technology.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/325754f8-cd46-11eb-979e-6eddfcb6b6ef?shareToken=590ed777df124ad34c87aa10dd7b88cb

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Space gets the recognition it deserves in the Integrated Review

Reblog of a comment by King’s College London’s Defence Studies Department on the first significant discussion of space in a British government policy review.

Defence-In-Depth

Dr Mark Hilborne and Dr Mark Presley, Defence Studies Department

The government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, along with its accompanying Defence Command Paper, has made the first significant inclusion of space in such a UK policy document.[1] This is a welcome development, indicating the growing importance of space in reaching a number of key policy objectives, such as prosperity, diplomacy and security, and putting it alongside land, air, maritime and cyber as a key domain of operations.

The government’s vision for space is given some scope in the section entitled “An Integrated space policy: making the UK a meaningful player in space”. “Integrated” here refers both to the cross-governmental approach, incorporating the civil, commercial and military sectors, but also with regards to the UK’s allies and partners. The recognition that a cross-government strategy is required is an important step, and it will be critical…

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How US can avoid an all-out war with China | The Times

Opinion piece from Roger Boyes of The Times of London about President Biden’s options if China threatens Taiwan.

This is a bigger problem now than it has been in the past because of China’s growing military power. Taiwan’s strategy in the event of a Chinese invasion is to fight a long, guerilla war.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/how-us-can-avoid-an-all-out-war-with-china-3v3sbt5h5?shareToken=54071fc53e40495b0e300965081ea40ck

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New Money for the Royal Navy: So What?

Analysis from the Department of Defence Studies at King’s College, London of the likely impact on the Royal Navy of the recently announced increase in UK defence spending

Defence-In-Depth

Professor Greg Kennedy, Director, Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies

The announcement of the biggest investment in the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces in almost forty years by Prime Minister Boris Johnson has prompted much speculation about what the Royal Navy will be able to do with this new-found largesse. While many knowledgeable observers of the Royal Navy’s financial woes over the years would assume that much of this money will be spent to make more shallow the Navy’s spending black hole, particularly on nuclear propulsion and weapons systems, it appears that such may not be the case.

There is a stated commitment to improving the diminished surface warfare capability of the Fleet. The orders for 8 Type 26 and 5 Type 31 frigates appear to be confirmed, and a substantial commitment to the desperately needed Future Solid Support ships to enable the Carrier Strike Group to do what a Carrier…

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Chinese missiles push US to seek fleet of small, agile warships | The Times

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/us-plans-bigger-fleet-and-fewer-carriers-to-meet-chinese-threat-nmvs0ns7l?shareToken=649a7e9e6ce599eebad27241df1a0e16

The Times has reported that the Pentagon is concerned by the growing size of China’s navy and missile arsenal. The USN currently has 293 ships and planned to have 355 manned ones by 2030, when China is expected to have 425.

According to internal documents seen by Defense News, the USN intends to build more lighter warships, unmanned vessels and submarines, giving it at least 500 and up to 534 vessels by 2030.

The plan would reduce the USN’s number of nuclear powered aircraft carriers from 11 to 9. The first of the latest class, the USS Gerald Ford, is not now due into service until 2023, 5 years late.

The attached article does not discuss the relative combat values of US and Chinese warships, but the numbers are clearly concerning the Pentagon as this looks like an officially approved leak aimed at building public support for an expansion in the number of US warship

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Bravery award for the boomtown rat | The Times

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/dickin-medal-for-the-boomtown-rat-87q5cppw7?shareToken=15a0c0d64dd001bfd8827f0770a3489c

Magawa, an African giant pouched rat, has become the first rat to be awarded the Dickins Medal, institutes in 1943 by Maria Dickins to reward bravery by animals in wartime.

Rats have an exceptionally acute sense of smell and Magawa uses his to sniff out some of the five million landmines laid in Cambodia between 1975 and 1998. He is one of nearly 1,000 rats trained by Apopo, a Belgian charity based in Tanzania, to detect either TB in people or land mines.

See the linked article from The Times for more.

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The West will remain militarily outclassed by China and Russia until it fully embraces AI, warns top General

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