James Barnett writes: In order to be competitive in Africa in the long-term, the US will ultimately need to focus more on African needs and interests than on Chinese behavior. Forging stronger ties across Africa, the world’s fastest growing continent in terms of population, is not simply something that great power competition necessitates. It is a smart move in its own right. – Hudson Institute
HOW RUSSIA VIEWS AFGHANISTAN TODAY; BAHRAIN GOES TO ISRAEL AND CHINA VIEWS MAHAN AGAIN FOR DOMINANCE
How Russia Views Afghanistan Today by Nurlan Aliyev
Horns of a Dilemma: Biden, Trump, and the Future of U.S. Foreign Policy with Jim Golby and William Inboden
Bahrain, Israel formalize ties during historic visit to Manama
During the visit of an Israeli-US delegation to Manama on Sunday, Bahrain and Israel signed a joint communique to formalize relations. The visit marks the first commercial nonstop flight from Israel to Bahrain following the two countries' normalization agreement signed last month. “It was indeed a historic visit, to start opening relations between both countries,” Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani said after the signing ceremony. US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz, who accompanied the delegation along with US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, expressed hope that the “the Abraham Accords will continue to grow” even if Trump loses the US elections next month. The group is scheduled to fly to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday. The UAE and Bahrain became the third and fourth Arab countries, after Egypt and Jordan, to establish relations with the Jewish state. Meanwhile, Israel and the UAE reached a bilateral agreement that will provide incentives and protection to investors and encourage economic ties, both finance ministries said on Sunday.
China arming Venezuelan Navy with anti-ship missiles
(USNI News) Venezuela’s propaganda videos are showing off warships armed with new Chinese-made anti-ship missiles.
2019 was a landmark year for Connecticut’s defense industry
(The Day) Military contractors in Connecticut had their most lucrative year in more than a decade in 2019, receiving $37.1 billion in defense contracts last year.
Are Egypt-Russia naval drills in Black Sea message to Ankara?
(Al-Monitor) For the first time, the Egyptian navy holds joint exercises in the Black Sea with Russia, at a time of escalating tensions with Turkey.
Esper's lie? I don't think so
(Defense One) A recent Defense One commentary titled “Esper’s Convenient Lie” contains a number of statements challenging how the defense secretary is portraying the Pentagon’s focus on counterterrorism wars of the past and the current shift to state-on-state conflict with China which warrant our attention — but let’s start with the title.
Secretary of Defense Makes Strong Case for a Navy of Over 500 Ships
By Brent D. Sadler, RealClearDefense: “When The New York Times reported that Russia had likely deployed a nuclear-armed cruise missile in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.”
‘Preparing for War’: What Is China’s Xi Jinping Trying to Tell Us?
By James Holmes, The National Interest: “Xi recently exhorted Chinese marines to devote their “minds and energy” to “preparing for war.” Much of the message was meant for the U.S. and Taiwan."
The Central Idea of Conflict: Will
By Wayne Michael Hall, Strategy Bridge: “Good strategic thought empowers winning in conflict. With it, conflict’s constancy spreads across multiple domains and among levels of conflict and demand our fighters understand will as it relates to a resisting entity’s purpose for fighting."
Below Threshold Options for China against the U.S.
By Eli Kravinsky, Divergent Options: “The U.S. is continuing to orient its foreign policy and defense policy towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Accordingly, PRC tactics that have proven successful against the U.S. thus far may begin to fail. This failure will cause the PRC to develop new tactics to use against the U.S. below the threshold of armed conflict."
"With S-400 Escalation, Turkey Tests NATO," Bradley Bowman and Maj. Shane “Axl” Praiswater, FDD Policy Brief
Farzin Nadimi writes: The U.S. “maximum pressure” policy is unlikely to affect Iran’s overall military capability, given that the lifting of arms sanctions will hardly affect the arms markets. […]Although the portrayal of an invincible front against the enemy is partly to boost morale in a country battered by economic hardship and the COVID-19 pandemic, that should not obscure the fact that, for an aggressively ideological enemy now assured of its military might, bending under pressure will not be an option. – Washington Institute
Isabel Ivanescu writes: A Russian deployment could also allow pro-regime forces to pursue more-ambitious objectives and adopt a new modus operandi in an imminent Idlib offensive if Russia permits its forces to participate in combat as well as posturing. […]A deployment of conventional Russian forces would solidify Russia’s position in Syria and give Russia an opportunity to test evolving doctrinal concepts and combat capabilities. However, it would require Russian willingness to resource Syria as a priority effort and tolerate increased risk to force. – Institute for the Study of War
Danny Citrinowicz writes: And while Assad’s position appears to be secure for now, Israel should work to ensure that if the opportunity to influence the Syrian political scene does arise, it possesses an extant framework for communicating its concerns to involved parties in Syria. Without a diplomatic component, Israel’s military strikes will not open a permanent solution to the Syrian problem. With Hezbollah’s and Iran’s backs to the wall, continued aggression might lead to an undesired escalation not worth any operational achievement. – Washington Institute
Mahlet N. Mesfin and Scott Moore write: At a time when the world sometimes seems to lurch from one crisis to another, the risks and opportunities presented by biotechnology might seem far-off. But as the still-recent discovery of CRISPR-Cas9 has shown, the next transformative advance in biotechnology may be just around the corner — and the U.S., China, and other nations must seek new and expanded ways to identify shared principles to navigate the scientific, regulatory, and ethical dimensions of this brave new world. – The Hill
Natia Chankvetadze and Ketevan Murusidze write: Recent developments in the Karabakh confirm there are no ‘frozen’ conflicts and ‘unshaken’ status-quo. Growing militarization in the region, strengthening disinformation campaigns, and a lack of levers for strategic peacebuilding have created a fruitful ground for greater militaristic rhetoric and hard power decision-making. Peace and stability in the Black Sea region is extremely fragile. – Middle East Institute
Tom Rogan writes: Macron’s challenge, however, is that new rules and expanded economic opportunity won’t alone reverse this separatist trend. The government’s ban on Islamic face coverings, for example, has fed deep resentment without any obvious benefit for promoting social inclusion[…]Macron must be bold. Absent that endeavor, the social fissures which facilitate attacks such as that on Paty will only widen. – Washington Examiner
Hal Brands explains: “The best way to ensure that this help is forthcoming in a crisis is not simply to demand that allies do more in the common defense, as important as that is, it is also to invest in these relationships before the crisis strikes — to quietly build a common strategic outlook on the challenge that China poses, to explore new options for military and diplomatic cooperation, and to strengthen the network of ties that may mean the difference between victory or defeat.” With US soft power severely undermined, how can the US incentivize allies to form or strengthen nonmilitary relationships? With the Trump administration's America First strategy, how do we develop a common strategic outlook for great-power competition?
S-400 alert, Turkish edition. Turkey appears to have fired a missile into the Black Sea where its "military was expected to test its Russian-made S-400 defence systems," Reuters reports.
"Erdogan has crossed the Rubicon, as Ankara no longer has any plausible deniability that the system is not fully activated," said Aykan Erdemir, former Turkish member of Parliament and current Senior Director of the Turkey Program at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
Erdemir's forecast: "Putin's bet to use Erdogan as a spoiler in NATO has paid off, as Turkey will continue to distract the transatlantic alliance by diverting its attention and resources away from pressing threats elsewhere," he writes. "Washington's inaction and the impunity Erdogan has so far enjoyed will encourage other states to go forward with their plans to purchase the S-400 air defense system and other big ticket military hardware from Russia."
EU slaps sanctions on Kremlin insider over links with Russian paramilitary group in Libya
The European Union announced on Thursday sanctions on a Russian businessman and confidant of President Vladimir Putin over his alleged links to a Russian private military contractor accused of violating an arms embargo on Libya. Yevgeny Prigozhin is widely believed to be a leader of the Wagner Group, which operates as an unofficial arm of Russia's Defense Ministry. The Wagner Group has been accused of recruiting thousands of Syrian mercenaries to fight alongside Libya’s eastern military strongman Khalifa Hifter.
Net Assessment: We Need to Talk About Nukes
with Zack Cooper, Melanie Marlowe, and Christopher Preble
US working to end Chinese secrecy around nuclear capabilities
(USNI News) America’s senior arms negotiator said Washington is taking diplomatic and military steps to put an end to Beijing’s “great wall of secrecy” that surrounds its rapid and expanding strategic weapons program.
The status of US military power in 2020
(The Daily Signal) America’s competitors are developing and deploying new technologies that will make their conventional forces far more effective in open combat. The question before Congress is: Will the U.S. try to keep up?
Pentagon Has Big Plans for ‘Project Convergence’ in 2021
By Mandy Mayfield, National Defense Magazine: “The Defense Department is expanding an Army initiative known as "Project Convergence," with plans to bring in other services and international allies for the next iteration of the effort."
North Korea’s Two New Strategic Missiles:
What Do We Know and What Do They Mean for U.S. Deterrence?
By Joe Varner, Modern War Institute: “This year’s parade did not disappoint, with new strategic systems in the spotlight intended to convey Pyongyang’s capability to present new challenges to the United States’ and its allies’ security and nuclear deterrence."
For Baltic Defense, Forget the ‘Forest Brothers’
By Kevin Blachford & Ronald Ti, War on the Rocks: "The image of the partisan unexpectedly striking at the enemy, inflicting casualties and damage in a hail of gunfire, punctuated by explosions, before melting into the deep forests is a powerful metaphor for national resistance, determination, courage, and patriotism. The three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania exist in a state of permanent precariousness, and the legacy of invasions, defiance, and independence has shaped the strategic culture of the Baltics to idealize such forms of paramilitary warfare."
Hypersonic defense; Leonardo's Lynn; Quad-A in person?; and more...
By Marcus Weisgerber
Priorities for 2021
Yuval Levin | NationalReview.com
We asked nine AEI scholars to offer guidance in their areas of expertise that the president might find useful in 2021 and beyond. But we asked them to do this while the presidential election whirls in the background, so they had to offer advice not to Donald Trump or Joe Biden but to America’s president.
Amid the efforts by the U.S. military and its potential adversaries to develop hypersonic weapons, an increasing number of defense companies are looking to crank up existing missile-defense systems to counter faster-flying threats.
"There [are] some technologies that are there today that are fielded that are effective," Scott Green, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin's $10 billion Missiles and Fire Control business, said in an interview Wednesday. "And there's some incremental things that you can do to the platforms that are out there today to make them more effective."
Lockheed Martin makes the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, air defense system, PAC-3 Patriot interceptor, and missile tracking radar. While Green wouldn't get into specifics, he said hypersonic defense is similar to traditional missile defense.
"The physics are similar," he said. You have to to turn up your agility based on the speeds of the incoming projectiles, but there's a lot that we do that can be reused."
Lockheed is hardly the only company vying for market share in both the offensive and defensive sides of the hypersonic battle. Raytheon executives have touted the company's desire to build defenses against hypersonic weapons. The company makes the Patriot system and other air- and missile-defense interceptors and tracking radars.
Lockheed Announces Team for DARPA Hypersonic Weapon Launcher Demo. Northrop Grumman will supply the solid rocket motor, Leidos' Dynetics will supply the canister, all-up round and fins, and support integration and test, and small business ECE will provide the booster power pyro module. "The goal of the Operational Fires (OpFires) program is to develop and demonstrate a novel ground-launched system enabling hypersonic boost glide weapons to penetrate modern enemy air defenses and rapidly and precisely engage critical time sensitive targets," according to DARPA. "OpFires seeks to develop an advanced booster capable of delivering a variety of payloads at a variety of ranges."
One-on-One with Bill Lynn of Leonardo DRS
Leonardo DRS CEO Bill Lynn, who was deputy defense secretary during the Obama administration, talks ships, the industrial base, and advice for Pentagon appointees if former Vice President Joe Bidwn wins next month's presidential election.
Q. What do you make of the 500-plus ship plan announced by Defense Secretary Mark Esper last week? What could it mean for Leonardo DRS?
A. It's a little hard to assess when [the plan] comes this late [in a presidential term]. I think we're going to need a kind of a program and a budget to see exactly how they're gonna flesh this out. But, we feel it's going to be okay for us. Our biggest Navy program is the new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine; that's not going to change, no matter what. That's dictated by the half-life of a nuclear reactor. The schedule and the need is clearly not going to change. We're not going to abandon reliance on the sea-based deterrence.
In terms of ship counts ... we build things for both new ships and upgrading old ships. So if they buy new ships, our stuff goes on that. If they don't buy as many new ships, and they have to upgrade the older ships at a higher rate, we have that lane. So, we feel that we're in a pretty strong position however this comes out [but] I need to see a program and a budget before I can judge what this really changes,
Q. What programs are particularly at risk if the defense budget shrinks?
A. When the budget gets flatter, it forces the military departments into trade-offs. Cuts, the way the budget works, is that there's this ratchet effect of cost-of-living increases, in terms of salaries, in terms of benefits, in terms of the cost of technology. If the budget isn't going up at some rate, you're losing ground programmatically and so you have to make trade-offs — trade offs between force structure and modernization, trade offs between R&D and procurement, trade offs between current forces and future forces. I think we're starting down that path.
I think we're in a pretty good position there, because we're not dependent on any single program. We don't have big, multibillion-dollar programs where a single decision could change our whole outlook. Obviously, we're not looking for anything to be canceled, but we can absorb changes, I think, reasonably well.
We're not dependent on building new platforms for our growth....We build the communications, the sensors, the electronics, the gear that goes inside the platforms, whether it's an upgraded legacy platform or a new platform, our business continues. So it's not that these trade off don't change our trajectory some, but we feel we're pretty stable.
Q. As someone who presided over a shift in Pentagon priorities, what advice would you give the next administration as they evaluate the current portfolio?
A. Make hard decisions early. It...doesn't get easier. Set a course and stick to it. You're going to be in better shape than if you try, and hope that maybe in a year or two things will be a little bit different. You can defer the decisions [but] almost inevitably, that means that the decision you're faced with that is harder [it was] a year or two ago. You can't get lulled to complacency by the hope that maybe the fiscal situation or something will improve. It's far easier to react to that than the opposite.
Q. What's the next big M&A?
A. We've consolidated so much since the early 90s. There's less room for it then there was. It doesn't mean it can't happen. Certainly the Raytheon-UTC [merger], I didn't see it coming. There's certainly room for some changes, but I think you can't see that big massive consolidation you saw in the early '90s because there's just not enough players to allow it. But could there be more single episodes of consolidation? Sure.
Oshkosh Developing New JLTV Packages
The maker of the Army's Joint Light Tactical Vehicle has already delivered more than 8,800 vehicles and is developing new configurations of the armored truck that is replacing tens of thousands of Humvees. Among the more than 100 upgrade kits are a blast-protected ambulance and a command-and-control vehicle. "We believe that we are the vehicle and we're ready for any near-peer threat," George Mansfield, vice president and general manager of joint programs at Oshkosh Defense, said in an interview. The packages are modular and could be installed on existing vehicles. "We're working on some…additional kits for different configurations on the JLTV right now," he said.