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Why the U.S. is silent about military exercises in the Baltic States

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The Baltic States are in the anticipation of the annual large scale military exercise Saber Strike.

The well-known annual international exercise held since 2010 by the United States Army Europe (USAREUR) is focused on the Baltic States. These countries consider this event as a key element of participants’ training on command and control as well as interoperability with regional partners. The Saber Strike exercise aims to facilitate cooperation amongst the U.S., Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and allied and partner nations.

Usually these maneuvers take place in June. Thus, it is logical to assume that the time of the military exercise is coming, but this year event is never mentioned.

There are two ways of situation development. The first one is – Saber Strike 2019 will not be held at all. The second one is the information about Saber Strike 2019 is classified.

The first assumption is unlikely taking into account the U.S. and NATO desire to strengthen the position in the region. This assumption is also contradicted by the increasing number and scale of international and national military exercises in the Baltic region.
So, the second assumption is most likely. But the question arises about the aim of hiding the information or its content. It is widely proclaimed that NATO and the U.S. put transparency about the exercises in the head. This principle is either one of the key priorities of all international organizations including UN and OSCE. Transparency of activity helps to build international peace and trust.

It is especially surprising after NATO expressed concern about transparency of Russian and Russia-Belarus military drills which were held near the Baltic State’s borders. Unlike allies, opponents give preliminary information about planned exercises. By the way, some facts can be find on Internet about joint exercise Union Shield 2019 that will take place in autumn in Russia.

BulgarianMilitary.com  quoted  Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu who stated in 2018 that “Union Shield 2019” exercise would be only defensive and emphasized: “First and foremost, and I would like everyone to hear that, our drills are solely of defensive nature. We do not plan any offensive actions as compared to the [NATO] military exercises. We, undoubtedly, are doing this not as a response to some drills but as a response to the threats which exist today and which, to our big regret, grow every year.”

From time to time we can read about the preparations for Russian-Belarusian exercise “Union Shield 2019”. Thus on March 12-14, the Belarusian-Russian command-staff training on working out the interaction of military authorities, formations and military units in the framework of the regional grouping of troops (RGT) was carried out jointly, as well as improving the RGT control system.

“The general staffs have embarked on the preparation of the Union Shield 2019 exercise, which will be the main event of joint training of the military command and troops in 2019 and which will further improve the system of military security of the Union State,” Belarusian Minister of Defense Andrei Ravkov noted. According to him, such events help check the quality and level of combat readiness of the regional group of troops, to see the real capabilities of weapons and the ability to carry out combat tasks.
True or not, but information is available. It is not very detailed but at least it is provided in advance. At least they name it as defensive.

As far as Saber Strike is concerned, everything is vaguely and therefore scary. What is the aim of it? Does it have defensive or offensive nature? When and who will come to the Baltic States? The approach “no comments” is not the best one in this case. The Baltics want and should know. Our opponents should be aware either. Otherwise their respond could be unexpected and even destroying. Uncertainty causes panic and rejection among local population.

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Insecurity of India’s Nuclear Weapons

Ali Raza

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After 1945, it came into the knowledge that nuclear weapons are the most destructive, lethal and powerful weapon on the planet earth, which can wipe out hundreds of thousands of people in short span of time. That’s why global community, particularly the U.S. and Former Soviet Union agreed on formulation of stringent globally accepted principles to secure these destructive weapons. India is the first country that brought nuclear weapons in South Asia by detonating nuclear device back in 1974 and yet again in 1998.However, since than safety and security of these weapons under the control of violent Hindutva regime has considerably attracted much of the scholars’ attraction.

Terrorism has become an increasing concern within international society but so far there has been less focus on one particular aspect of the problem that is nuclear terrorism. Yet, within the context of South Asia this is of special significance, given the number of insurgencies and freedom struggles with transnational linkages, and the nuclearisation of this region since 1998. Of all the South Asian states, India’s nuclear facilities are perhaps the most vulnerable to nuclear terrorism, given India’s expansive nuclear programme, much of it not subject to IAEA safeguards. In addition, the vulnerability of India’s nuclear facilities is further aggravated by its thriving underworld and more than a dozen insurgencies going on within the Indian states, as well as the freedom struggle in Indian Occupied Kashmir.

India’s nuclear programme has developed at an exceptionally fast pace. However, because a few of such facilities are under international safeguards, there is little knowledge about the levels of safety of the various nuclear facilities. Of the ten operational power plants, only four are under IAEA safeguards. According to an Indian parliamentary report, 147 mishaps or safety-related unusual occurrences were reported between the years 1995-1998 in Indian atomic energy plants. Of these, 28 were of an acute nature and 9 of these 28 occurred in the nuclear power installations. Thus, the state of Indian nuclear facilities raises serious concerns as they seem to be vulnerable to a high probability of terrorist attacks, thefts and accidents. The scale of the programme aggravates the problems, as there are plans for the building of pressurized heavy water reactors, fast breeder reactors and thorium reactors on a commercial scale.

Apart from the risk of falling of nuclear weapons and related technology in the hands of terrorists, if one looks at the leadership of India and try to analyse the factor of rationality in the decision making of use of nuclear weapon it clearly suggests that the current leadership i.e. BJP is not only hawkish in its nature but equally believes in use of force for political gains, which further leads us to the assumption that the nuclear decision making is equally occupied by the Hindu hardliners.

During the recent Pulwama Crisis, it has been learnt that BJP’s irresponsible behaviour should suffice for all Indians to understand that India will remain hyphenated with Pakistan for foreseeable time. India planned to use Brahmos missile that could carry nuclear warhead. India’s behaviour clearly shows that nuclear weapons are in wrong hands. Because the yield and potential related to the nuclear weapons are absolutely detrimental and possession of such weapons in wrong, less responsible and extremist hands is a threat for the entire world.

The only purpose of nuclear weapons is to acquire deterrence in order to avoid the possibility of war. But, India is showing the attitude that it will use these weapons for the purposes of war fighting, which is unacceptable to international community.  

The track record of India in the field of nuclear weapons and related technology is much muddier. India initiated arms race in the region, and, it is leaving no stone unturned e.g. advancements in sea-based nuclear capabilities and militarisation of space. Most importantly the recent ASAT test, which is in fact a compelling factor for neighbouring states to think in the same way in order to acquire comparable technologies for equalizing the defence capabilities. These alarming acts of India can bring the entire region at the verge of instability, which in fact could prove dire for the peace of the entire globe keeping in view the economic, natural resources, political and security factors of the region.

The time has come for the international community to break its silence and stop their patronage for India and take serious note and steps regarding the possession of nuclear weapons by India in relation to its aggressive and immature behaviour and mind-set of its leadership, which can lead entire globe to the unacceptable disaster. Since, Kashmir is flash point between both nuclear armed states it is only India which is triggering it by its continuous atrocities in Kashmir. Most importantly existence of ISIS in India is also a foremost point of concern especially keeping in view the nuclear program of India, according to the recent development ISIS claimed for the first time that it has established a “province” in India, after a clash between militants and security forces in the contested Kashmir region killed a militant with alleged ties to the group. This is not only the matter, which solely related to the stability and security of South Asia. This time instability is knocking the door of entire globe in the form of India. The continuous negligence of international community with respect to Indian nuclear weapons will definitely disturb the stability as well as peace of the entire globe.

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Libya Crisis: Role of Regional Players

Syeda Dhanak Hashmi

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Libya remains in a chaotic state after the fall of Muammar Gadhafi. The United Nations-backed government struggles to exercise control over territory held by rival factions, escalating geographical and political divisions between the East, West, and South. But it’s political and security crisis continues as the two authorities compete for legitimacy and territorial control and have left scores of thousands displaced inside Libya and interrupted access to basic services to the Libyans.

At present, a hazardous military conflict is ongoing in Libya between east-based forces loyal to Field Marshal Haftar and armed groups allied to the UN-backed government in Tripoli. The WHO has given higher estimates of casualties where 392 people have been killed and about 2,000 wounded in the ongoing armed clashes south of Tripoli. Recently, Khalifa Haftar’s bid to tumble the UN-recognized government has displaced 50,000 people and urged his forces to “teach the enemy a greater and bigger lesson than the previous ones” during Ramadan, saying the holy month had not been a reason to stop previous battles in the eastern cities of Benghazi and Derna.

The armed militias and terrorist groups are using the nation as a base for radicalization and organized crime, further adding fuel to the fire and posing a threat to the region and beyond. The civilians are harassed and victimized by the militias and armed groups, but nothing has been done so far as the international involvement has remained too apprehensive to avert an all-out fight for the capital. The Courts, on the other hand, are semi-functional, and various impediments obstruct access to fair trials. Hence, there is a threat of proxy war between regional powers if this full-fledged conflict will remain unchecked. The UN is required to play an integral role by encouraging the parties to return to the negotiating table and proposing a new three-track strategy addressing the core political, military and financial concerns of both sides. If external actors are serious in their calls, now is the time to act to stop this full-fledged war.

The conflict escalates further when Libyan National Army (LNA) under Haftar’s command launched an attack, named ‘Flood of Dignity’, with the specified aim of capturing the capital, despite repeated warnings by Libya’s international partners. LNA began to advance on Tripoli after Haftar returned from Riyadh, believing that the international supporters, i.e., the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, France and Russia would stand by them. Although the US had warned him verbally not to move into western Libya, where the UN-backed government is based and has tried to influence Haftar to accept a political deal with Faiez Serraj, the head of the Tripoli-based government, to unify Libya’s divided institutions, including the military, making Haftar the head of the armed forces, but he disagreed arguing that the presence of militias in Tripoli would increase the security issue and frustrate the ordinary Libyans.

The military strength and external support of LNA is evident but its victory in Tripoli cannot be predicted. As for now, this conflict could spread to other parts of Libya, as Misratan forces have openly stated that they aim to cut-off LNA supply lines in central Libya which will eventually worsen the conflict. To avoid this catastrophic intensification in Tripoli involving regional powers, Libya’s partners should take serious actions. The regional powers should abstain from supporting the offensive militarily, and endorse their support for UN-led negotiations. Moreover, the UN Security Council should demand for an instant culmination of hostilities, and impose sanctions on military commanders and political leaders escalating confrontations.

Furthermore, the UN should introduce a three-pronged strategy including a political track, which should not only be restricted to a deal between Haftar and Serraj rather should also include political representatives from rival parties to ensure an equal and practical solution. Second, a military track should be presented, involving senior military commanders from both sides, along the lines of the Egypt-led military dialogue to agree on new security arrangements for the capital; and in the last place, a financial track, to bridge the gap of the financial institutions which emerged in 2014 as a result of political disturbances, by bringing together representatives from Libya’s divided Central Bank.

In conclusion, Libya has witnessed frequent setbacks and external interference over the past eight years which have facilitated the non-state actors such as ISIS to gain a foothold. Keeping in view the present scenario, the menace of terrorism could become a self-fulfilling prophecy as new jihadists are joining the conflict. What will happen in the fight for Tripoli is now largely reliant on how the UN and international players of the region will respond to it. Although the external powers, including the US, UK, France, Italy, the UAE, Egypt and Russia, have condemned the escalation, but none of them included the threat of sanctions and made any explicit mention to support the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli. Therefore, it can be assumed that the external powers are providing assistance to Haftar in his ambition to seize the capital and power.

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Houston, We Have a Problem: A Space Force Must First be a Cyber Force

Al Lewis

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The proposal to create a U.S. Space Force has been a matter of debate since President Donald Trump first announced the idea in October of 2018. (Trump 2018). In doing so, the President implicitly declared that the new space race is on. Detractors of the newly proposed Space Force were quick to cite a burgeoning bureaucracy, high costs, and the political insensitivity as obvious reasons to denounce the idea and its proposed funding and implementation. Supporters of the Space Force proclaimed the necessity of space-based technologies within modern society: the use of the Global Position System (GPS) for navigation of autonomous systems, automobiles, planes, and precision-guided munitions are easy examples. Furthermore, the concern that other nation-states are advancing within this domain implies a sense of urgency to ensure US superiority. The presumption implicit within the debate is that dominance in space, regardless of the form, is about organizational hierarchies and operational efficiencies and inevitably must matter to all states on the global stage.

This article asserts that the current debate is a moot one. Without the ability to first secure cyberspace, no amount of operational or organizational changes will enable dominance in external space. Cyberspace is the ecosystem that binds the five battlespaces into one contiguous platform, making the military’s seabed to space strategy a reality. This equates to national security moving forward through the 21st century and beyond. In short, to secure cyberspace is the most efficient long-term way to win actual space. In the modern age, any kinetic war, in any physical domain, cannot be fought without cyber systems that are firmly and operationally under control of the state. As such, cybersecurity and cyber intelligence professionals are the future warriors that need to serve on the front line of any future space force. Most discussions of the latter currently ignore this essentiality.

The Strategic Significance

In the modern context, without the effective use and control of space-based resources, command and control functions would be hindered and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities would be in shambles. In other words, military forces would be blinded if space and cyberspace were not efficiently unified. According to the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment, adversarial nations will continue to expand their space-based capabilities. (Coats 2019). As the focus on space domination continues to mount, so does the dependence on the infrastructure that supports it.

It is no surprise that securing the national critical infrastructure is addressed in both the Worldwide Threat Assessment and the National Cyber Strategy. (Coats 2019; Trump 2019). The national critical infrastructure has been under increasing scrutiny as it is considered by security experts as a “known vulnerable” upon which the U.S. relies. The resources for space are a part of the national critical infrastructure, although there is no specific sector designated exclusively for space. Space traverses other sectors such as Communications, Defense Industrial Base, and Transportation.  

The U.S. military recognizes five battlespaces – land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace – from which to conduct military operations. As the world has grown increasingly entangled, traditional concepts that have defined military objectives, such as terrain and borders, have become increasingly blurred and ambiguous. In this age of hyper-technological connectivity, the military needs a strategy to achieve superiority across these battlespaces. The Navy’s “seabed to space” strategy clearly depicts the concept, albeit through the lens of information warfare (IW). (SPAWAR 2018).Regardless of this limited view of warfare, the ability to seamlessly engage across battlespaces is paramount to military success. Furthermore, this integration is the only means to efficiently deploy the “12 new principles of warfare” as espoused by Avery, specifically speed, concentration of effects, economy of effects, and pervasive awareness. (Avery 2017).

Threats

“The Outer Space Treaty was adopted by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in resolution 2222(XXI) after being considered by the Legal Subcommittee in 1966. The Treaty stipulates that exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interest of all countries, and it shall be the province of mankind.” (NTI 2017). Strictly speaking, conventional weapons, i.e., non-nuclear, are legal according to the treaty, although it can be argued that they are outside its intent. This legal loophole has enabled countries to pursue offensive and counter-offensive space-based weapons. To this extent both Russia and China “…are training and equipping their military space forces and fielding antisatellite (ASAT) weapons to hold US and allied space services at risk, even as they push for international agreements on the non-weaponization of space.” (Coats 2019).

Threats are often defined by potential impact, such as the ability to compromise WiFi access points or devices that constitute the Internet of Things (IoT). Similarly, as the footprint in space and the reliance upon it increase, weapons like Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP), ASAT, and Directed Energy Lasers, are no longer the “flying cars” of weaponization but a clear and present danger to space systems. Russia and China are two states that have clearly demonstrated the desire and ability to directly engage with satellites in orbit.

The threat emanating from Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) actors on behalf of nation-states is significant.“These APT attacks appear to be aimed at the navigation and mapping of information and control systems upon which critical infrastructures like electric grids, nuclear power stations, and financial networks depend. By infecting control systems, such attacks can provide the means to copy or steal information about design and operating technologies. Moreover, they can be programmed to damage or destroy the infrastructure at some future date, perhaps in a time of crisis or war.” (Rudner 2013).

In the context of space programs, the Inspector General for NASA, in his 2012 statement, asserted: “In FY 2011, NASA reported it was the victim of 47 APT attacks, 13 of which successfully compromised Agency computers.” Further between 2010 and 2011, “NASA reported 5,408 computer security incidents that resulted in the installation of malicious software on or unauthorized access to its systems.” (Martin 2012). Ostensibly, according to the Center for Strategic & International Studies, the United States is the most victimized country in the world through cyber means. (CSIS 2018).

The Role of Cyber

If it is true that the next war will begin with a space component, then it is equally true that the trigger mechanism will be carried out through cyberspace. Cyberspace is the battlefield from which all battlespaces are amplified. As stated in the National Cyber Strategy: “America’s prosperity and security depend on how we respond to the opportunities and challenges in cyberspace. Critical infrastructure, national defense, and the daily lives of Americans rely on computer-driven and interconnected information technologies. As all facets of American life have become more dependent on a secure cyberspace, new vulnerabilities have been revealed and new threats continue to emerge.” (Trump 2018). Cyberwarriors are the cyber intelligence and cybersecurity professionals whom enable the protection and exploitation of cyberspace in defense of the country.

Conclusion

Whether the creation of a U.S. Space Force is the right choice for America or not is a moot point. Without the ability to first secure cyberspace, no amount of operational or organizational changes will enable American dominance within space. To win in space is first to win cyberspace. As such, cybersecurity and cyber intelligence professionals are the front line of any future space force. These cyberwarriors are tasked with controlling and securing the very fabric of the modern battlefield. There are no longer battlespaces that operate independently, or more to the point, independent of cyberspace. As a result, the debate should not center on whether to have a Space Force, or which organizational hierarchy is best, but on how to secure and integrate cyberspace throughout the military’s seabed to space strategy.

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