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China’s new military technologies

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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According to some international press and media sources, China is investing significant sums of money in some dual-use technologies – i.e. both civilian and military at the same time – which would have powerful innovative effects, both in the commercial and in the defence sectors.

 This is the result -i.e. the sequence of investment – of President Xi Jinping’s now old request of 2017for the complete renewal of the People’s Liberation Army by the end of 2035 – a project that implies the one of China’s new global military relevance within 2045.

With a view to following Xi Jinping’s policy line, China has recently increased military spending by 7.5% and funding for “dual” research by as much as 13.4%.

 According to the US intelligence, the sectors recording the largest investments would be those of Artificial Intelligence, the enhancement of the e-computation tools and their technical substrates and finally quantum technologies and hypersonic weapons.

 There are also research projects on new materials and alternative energies.

With specific reference to military Artificial Intelligence, China is currently studying the new techniques for the Recognition and Selection of Targets, as well as the deployment of mines and, in particular, the automated land and sea attacks.

For all major States, contemporary war is labour saving and soldier saving, as it happens with the same advanced technologies when they are used in a civilian context.

Fully automated vehicles, drones and submarines, equipped with a semi-autonomous analysis of the area of operations, so as to relieve the Chief of Staff from simply tactical issues – which are often not completely matched with updated data -and to concentrate instead on strategic equilibria.

With the arrival of new hybrid operations for everybody, the Chinese battlespace with simultaneous and multiple dimensions will have a dimension and a series of cascade effects that will make necessary an AI and quantum computerized analysis at a high level of complexity and simultaneity.

This also applies to the civilian political and strategic decision-making process, which is ever less distinguishable from the military one and, above all, it is a management capable of avoiding those paradoxes of choice that have characterized all contemporary political regimes.

 In other words, the incorrect or excessive evaluation of a particular detail, the wrong analysis of timing, as well as the study – this time accurate and correct – of the effects and their specific areas. All man-made errors, often inevitable for the human mind, that AI and quantum computing can avoid.

 Whoever has worked on these platforms, even as an international manager, can understand what I mean.

 As for the Made in China 2025 project, which aims at freeing China from its ancillary role as economy hosting all the mature industries of the world, China will deal mainly with advanced semiconductors.

As early as September 2014, again upon President Xi Jinping’s recommendation, the China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund was set up. This entails that, if all goes well, China will very soon have semiconductors for IA machines and for advanced systems. For the civilian economy or for military systems, assuming that a difference can be made between them.

In China’s planning, quantum mechanics applications have their origins in the Five-Year Plan which began in 2016.

Since then a megaproject has been in place, which is expected to lead to IA quantum communication and to the operational quantum computer by the end of 2030.

 In a brief essay on its corporate blog which, by chance, disappeared shortly after its publication, Google has finally declared it has reached global quantum supremacy, with a new supercomputer capable of solving, in three minutes, a computational problem that the most powerful computer currently available would solve in 10,000 years.

However, what is the point for the geoeconomic and, above all, technological struggle between China and the United States, the two real future competitors for world leadership?  In fact, this is the real competition between the two countries.

The competition on quantum and AI technologies is needed to be the strongest in the world in the field of frontier innovation and technology, i.e. of all the devices for coordinating and interconnecting data that will revolutionise, in particular, all future economic, political and administrative processes, including financial ones.

The processes of a new finance, which currently can only be glimpsed on the horizon.

 Now it is still the last phase of “hard” and information technology and later there will be the further phase of frontier innovation and technology at biological and biochemical levels.

 With innovations that will make the current quantum and IA revolution pale into insignificance, but will be based precisely on these technologies.

As mentioned above, a quantum computer is above all a hardware platform for applying and creating quantum deep learning algorithms, i.e. the algorithms that currently contain mainly Artificial Intelligence techniques.

Hence of complete simulation – just to use the mentality of the military Chiefs of Staff.

 The quantum computer initially exploits Richard Feynman’s idea, i.e. the exploitation of the properties of the particle wave or, rather, of the subatomic particle when it presents itself as a wave.

 Therefore, the quantum computer can break the limits imposed by Moore’s Law, which provides for the doubling of transistors in circuits every 18 months.

Hence, in the quantum computer, there is no longer an objective and physical limit to the miniaturization of circuits.

Just think of the ability – for those who can develop such technologies – to defend themselves from computer attacks, and to develop complex and verifiable scenarios without social experiments in corpore vili.

 An unimaginable theoretical and political revolution.

 The only exception to the Sino-American duopoly is Israel, with a consortium of companies and State agencies studying civilian and military AI and quantum security.

 Furthermore, in addition to quantum computing, Israel has a specific interest in quantum communication, but also in advanced encryption and in the evolution of high specificity sensors.

 Other geopolitical needs, other technological choices.

Nevertheless China, too, is developing quantum radars, hyper-specific sensors, new tactical and strategic AI and quantum imaging, new meteorology and automated navigation techniques.

Once again we can guess China’s interest in dual-use quantum technologies, especially in view of China’s already announced economic shift towards Blue Economy and environmental protection.

 China has already launched Mucius, a quantum satellite put into orbit by a “Long March” missile in August 2016 – a satellite that allowed a quantum phone call between the space and three Chinese ground stations.

 As early as 2012, again upon President Xi Jinping’s order,  the Quantum Experiments of Space Scale (QUESS) was funded.

In China the QKD quantum cryptography is already a reality and is physically inviolable.

 Financial analysts maintain that the next market for quantum computing – which will not have, if not in an unspecified future, a very large retail market as happened for laptops –  will be worth as much as the current market for “classic” supercomputers, namely 50 billion US dollars while, as early as this year, the market for the traditional products of advanced but not quantum commercial computing will be worth 1.2 trillion US dollars.

 The first quantum computer suitable for the public will probably appear in 2030 but, in the early twenties of the third millennium, the market for computing machines with a first level quantum technology will be worth over 500 million a year.

Nowadays we have to do with government quantum computers of 19 or 20 qubits.

 Someone even announced quantum computers of 50, 72 and 128 qubits, but there is no evidence of that.

It should be recalled that, unlike the traditional bit, the qubit can be worth both “one” and “zero”. It is a mathematical vector that, in theory, can take up all the information available in the world.

Nevertheless, on a strictly military level, quantum computing is currently essential for developing and reaching global hegemony.

 The aforementioned Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) is capable of making all strategic communications safe, while the quantum cryptoanalysis and the creation of “covert” languages is an intrinsically offensive practice.

 There will no longer be agents capable of opening a safe when an Ambassador is absent – just the launch of a quantum frequency from an AI computer will be enough.

In the future, the war will be totally offensive in all its phases and it will serve to defeat, destroy and integrate – into its value chain – dangerous technologies and the most important data of the enemy.

 Probably the population will not even realize it, as happened at the beginning of the October Revolution when – as Curzio Malaparte told us – the Bolsheviks conquered the basics of power (energy, light, phones, etc.) while the people, unaware, were dining out or went to the movies.

In principle, the QKD works by sending photons superimposed on the normal encryption.

  According to Heisenberg’s principle, whereby we cannot determine all subatomic quantities simultaneously, the QKD photon states are indeterminate until they have been isolated and measured.

Again with the QKD, this enables us – inter alia – to understand whether the message has been intercepted and by whom.

As stated in the State Council Document of July 2017, for China Artificial Intelligence is the new primary goal of international competition and “the new engine of economic development”.

 Moreover, AI offers “new opportunities for social construction” to China.

 For the civilian sector, IA and quantum supercomputers will be useful for social planning, especially in a phase of economic maturity and of necessary accurate distribution of resources and potentials. In this regard, just think of the pension and health systems.

 In a key sector for future development, namely the military one, China is thinking about the use of AI and quantum computing to fully automate the battlefield, but above all to combine it with the accurate calculation of resources, with their protection from cyberattacks and with the integration between civilian economy and military operations.

 Therefore, AI and quantum computing are mainly used “to integrate China’s economic, social and national defence”.

 In the planned time schedule, China will develop its own quantum and AI strategy in three phases. Firstly, to synchronize the current general technology and the widespread AI application –  at world standard level – by the end of 2020.

Secondly, to create a new generation of Artificial Intelligence theory and technology.

  This means possible Chinese hegemony in Big Data Intelligence, Cross-Media Intelligence, Group Intelligence, Hybrid Enhanced Intelligence and Autonomous Intelligent Systems.

 Cross-media intelligence means content analysis, media monitoring and creation of semantic online search keys.

 Group Intelligence means consensus decision-making, halfway between socio-biology, political science and crowdsourcing IT applications.

Hybrid Intelligence is the effective synthesis between man and machine. The Autonomous Intelligent Systems are systems that learn from reality and process it according to enhanced models, deriving from human learning, multiplied by many times.

Hence, again according to the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, it is necessary to develop – at first – a system of Big Data, and later an IT theory of cross-media perception, as well as a theory of hybrid artificial intelligence, with an improvement and refinement of the man-computer symbiosis, but also with new models for the evolution of knowledge and of the hybrid enhanced intelligent learning, i.e. the man-machine one.

Thirdly, to soon develop – for the Chinese leadership – a new heuristic and quantum theory of intelligent computing.

 And again, IA Group Intelligence.

Hence Advanced Learning, with the study of statistical learning innovative technologies.

All this is a technological and political model that must be interpreted according to the current doctrines of the Chinese PLA.

 For China, the international military and economic forces have strongly accelerated their differentiation, especially between advanced and developing countries.

 Strategic competition is on the rise.

However, the Chinese Armed Forces’ policy line – also at technological level – can be summarized as follows: a) to resist and stop – at first and on the borders – any external aggression; b) to reject any “areas of influence” logic, which would close China into a peripheral area; c) to adhere to a military logic of territorial defence and of protection of the primary interests abroad, but always jointly with other States; d) to fully mechanize/automate the Armed Forces in 2020; e) to maintain a state of average efficiency and of very high speed of response; f) to pursue anti-terrorism and the defence of China’s foreign interests; g) to establish a new relationship between politics and the defence system, not based on mere dependence.

In the doctrinal history of the Chinese Armed Forces, everything began – in recent times – with the 2015 document on the “Chinese Military Strategy”.

In particular, enhancement of the role played by the Technical-Scientific Committee of the Central Military Commission, as well as careful protection from the danger of the “technological and strategic surprise effect”, and a radical innovation of the doctrines for the use of the Armed Forces.

 This will be the new level of strategic and political thinking of the Chinese Armed Forces.

However, with a view to being crystal clear on the matter, what is a quantum computer?

 It is a computing machine using the laws of quantum mechanics to solve problems and make calculations.

 The traditional computers are based on the binary digit (bit), i.e. the minimum amount – between 0 and 1 – of binary information needed to discern between two equally probable events.

 The quantum computer uses the qubit, an overlapping of quantum states that can be 0 and 1 at the same time and in several layers.

For example, if I look for the word “China” in a text, the traditional computer proceeds at maximum speed, but line by line, to search for that word.

Conversely, the quantum computer has all the pages available at the same time. This is exactly what the aforementioned qubit is from the operational viewpoint.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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The U.S. on the Way to Strategic Invulnerability

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For Russia, the military developments and strategies of the United States recreate those challenges and threats that the USSR associated with President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Adopted in 1984, the SDI programme involved deploying several echelons of space strike weapons that would intercept and destroy ballistic missiles and their re-entry vehicles in all flight segments. The purpose of the SDI was to ensure that the whole of North America was protected by an anti-missile shield.

American developments today are aimed at ensuring the global military dominance and strategic invulnerability of the United States and include strategic non-nuclear weapons, missile defence, high-precision weapons, SM-6 universal anti-air and strike missiles, space strike systems (space interceptors), laser weapons, autonomous air, surface and undersea vehicles and means of conducting cyber warfare.

Essentially, the United States is systematically moving towards re-creating the state of affairs of 1945, when it was the only country that had nuclear weapons, could impose its will on the entire world, and remained beyond the reach of the armed forces of other countries. The processes that are taking place today, which could be termed a revolution in warfare, give the U.S. administration grounds to believe that cutting-edge weapons can neutralize or devalue Russia’s nuclear weapons.

The structure of U.S. military spending shows that the country is stepping up its investment in military R&D. Military spending increased by 3 per cent in 2020 to USD 750 billion. Meanwhile, the military R&D budget grew by nearly 10 per cent to USD 104.3 billion.

The SDI programme was scrapped in 1993. There were several reasons for this, including political and financial motivations. However, the programme was mostly abandoned because the projects were not technically feasible. Back in 1987, the American Physical Society published a paper concluding it would take at least 10 years to understand which of the technologies being developed could have a future [1]. Even though the SDI was officially closed, some projects were continued as part of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, which was renamed the Missile Defense Agency in 2002, and led to the creation of anti-missile systems such as Patriot PAC-3, Aegis BMD, THAAD and the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system.

Work continues on a number of projects that use active weapons based on new physical principles such as beam, electromagnetic, kinetic and super-high-frequency weapons, chemical lasers, railguns and neutral particle beams, and traditional missile weapons such as new-generation surface-to-space and air-to-space missiles, kinetic energy missiles and kinetic energy interceptors.

Current U.S. views of the prospects of the national defence rest on several fundamental doctrines that are being adjusted or detailed in new concepts as new technologies emerge.

The concept of a weapons “system of systems” was first put forward in an article written by Admiral William Owens and published by the Institute for National Security Studies in 1996. In 1998, the idea was transformed into a separate concept of “network-centric warfare” in a paper by Vice Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski and John J. Garstka. The concept envisaged integrating intelligence systems, command and control systems, and high-precision weapons systems in order to ensure rapid situational awareness, identify targets and assign combat missions. The concept was intended to free military leaders of the famous “fog of war” problem, when commanding officers have to make decisions based on incomplete or unreliable data.

The development of information technologies and computer networks in the 1990s provided the tools for increasing combat capabilities by achieving information and communication superiority, combining combatants into a single network. In addition to information systems, the “network-centric warfare” concept also came to rely on developing cutting-edge reconnaissance systems, military command and control systems and high-precision weapons. By effectively connecting units and detachments in a battlespace, the system translated information superiority into combat power. In 2019, the United States Army held war games demonstrating that the combat power of an infantry platoon enhanced with artificial intelligence capabilities increases tenfold. That is, AI renders the old formula that claims the attacking side can only achieve victory if it outguns the opponent by at least three times obsolete.

It would appear that the network-centric warfare strategy performed poorly in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, where the military methods failed to produce the expected results. However, we should keep in mind that this strategy is not intended to fight guerrilla units but was rather conceived as a way to achieve a quick victory over a relatively equal military opponent. Additionally, some important components of the newly created architecture — such as the military internet of things and military cloud storage — are only now being created.

The internet of things is closely tied to 5G data transmission technology. The American version of 5G is currently being tested on four military bases. 5G technology has been the subject of a major dispute between the United States and its NATO allies, who decided to use available technology from China’s Huawei.

New technologies allow frontline units to track and identify a far larger number of targets on a larger territory within shorter periods of time and to strike these targets with previously impossible precision.

A number of military operations in the 1990s — the 1991 Gulf War, Operation Desert Strike in Iraq in 1996, Operation Infinite Reach in 1998 that delivered strikes against targets in Sudan and Afghanistan, and NATO’s 1999 operation in Yugoslavia — demonstrated that the United States and its allies were right to turn their attention to the development of remote (non-contact) warfare tactics.

Non-contact warfare is a trend that will last for decades. It is the path that all the resource-rich militaries around the world are following. However, the United States is virtually the only country that has the necessary funds, research base and scientific potential (including that of private companies) to pull it off.

In 1996, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff used the idea of “network-centric warfare” to develop and publish the Joint Vision 2010 concept, which introduced the military Full-Spectrum Dominance strategy. Once again, the strategy envisaged achieving combat superiority in everything from peace-making operations to the direct use of military force through information superiority.

The same objectives are reflected in the Joint Vision 2020 concept published in 2000, which subsequently formed the basis of the U.S. military doctrine: full-range dominance; information superiority; innovations; interoperability; multinational operations; interagency operations; dominant manoeuvre; precision engagement; focused logistics; full dimensional protection; information operations; joint command and control.

For a decade, U.S. experts debated the future military information architecture. One key issue was where to store and process the information obtained: on-board a combat platform, in a command centre, or in cloud storage. In recent years, the architecture has begun to take a definite shape. In October 2019, Microsoft signed a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to develop cloud technologies worth USD 10 billion.

Various U.S. military branches are testing pilot projects that connect platforms into a single command and control network. For instance, in October 2018, the U.S. Navy established the Information Warfare Research Project to develop technologies for cyber warfare, cloud computing and reconnaissance.

In 2019, the U.S. Navy experimented with transferring the Navy’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), which had previously been stored in governmental data processing centres, to cloud storage. The flexible command and information architecture produced three positive effects: it ensured reliable command, increased battlespace awareness, and allowed various units to conduct integrated fire. Sixty-four per cent of U.S. Navy ships are equipped with this tool. The Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) is being installed on ships to protect the system from cyber threats.

The U.S. Air Force is developing similar software called Kessel Run to provide information exchange and data analysis. In particular, software for refuelling aerial tankers was developed as part of the project. The software is being constantly improved and features new platforms and functions.

The U.S. Air Force actively uses Link 16 terminals to provide communication between U.S. fighter jets and a number of of allied countries as part of the MIDS programme that is being jointly developed by the United States, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. By using Link 16, military aircraft, ships, and ground forces can exchange tactical images almost in real time.

As part of Project Missouri, the U.S. Air Force has set up an information link between fifth-generation F-22 and F-35 fighters. The additional Project Iguana, made it possible to input data from U2 reconnaissance aircraft and space satellites into the system. In 2019, the Air Force experimented with connecting military transport aircraft and maritime and ground military equipment to the project. Currently, the Valkyrie unmanned combat aerial vehicle is being integrated in the network.

Another NATO states are implementing similar information integration projects for their militaries; Germany, in particular, finances the “Glass Battlefield” (gläsernes Gefechtsfeld) project.

Network-centric warfare rests on several basic principles: distribution, connectedness, separation of functions, remote command, use of artificial intelligence and use of high-precision weapons.

The information component of the network-centric warfare includes the following tools:

  • The military internet of things
  • Cloud storage and cloud computing
  • Autonomous systems
  • Space communications echelon

The network-centric warfare concept pays particular attention to reconnaissance and collecting and analysing information by using autonomous systems. To deliver high-precision long-distance strikes, the Pentagon considers it necessary to have reconnaissance capabilities for a range of up to 1000 miles.

For that purpose, the United States is currently developing three sets of reconnaissance systems that make it possible to discover, identify and locate the adversary’s radars and communication systems. These systems can be installed on the MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone. Optical and radio intelligence data is supported by cyber space reconnaissance capabilities.

In April 2017, Lieutenant General John N.T. “Jack” Shanahan, Director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, developed the “algorithmic warfare” strategy that envisaged using artificial intelligence to analyse the information collected. Google was involved in implementing the project, codenamed MAVEN. As part of the project, AI-based algorithms process gigantic arrays of photographic and video information collected by drones in Iraq and Afghanistan. The project’s impressive results led to dozens of new projects being established. In 2018, under public pressure, Google withdrew from Project MAVEN, but the Pentagon contracted Booz Allen for the job, after which the project’s budget grew almost tenfold.

For 50 years, American military strategists have been searching for a solution to the A2/AD (anti-access/area-denial) problem. By “area,” the Pentagon means the territory where the U.S. military is within reach of the adversary’s weapons and cannot operate in full force. The A2/AD problem forced the Pentagon to conduct remote warfare from areas beyond the reach of the adversary’s air defence systems, tactical ballistic missile systems and anti-ship ballistic missile systems. For decades, high-precision weapons were used to handle the A2/AD problem.

In 2014, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel approved the Defense Innovation Initiative (also called the “Third Offset Strategy”) developed by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA). The strategy included creating a new long-term R&D planning programme that emphasized robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, big data and cutting-edge manufacturing, including 3D printing. The programme focused on drone operations, which entailed the development low-observable forward-looking long-range unmanned aerial vehicles (including sea-based UAVs), and a family of various unmanned combat aerial systems.

The current U.S. military strategy envisages increasing the significance of operations involving strike drones and surface and undersea drones.

Autonomous refuelling aircraft make it possible to double the safe distance for U.S. aircraft carriers to deliver strikes against enemy territory. According to the U.S. Naval Air Force’s MQ-25 Stingray programme, by the mid-2020s, unmanned refuelling aircraft will have assumed the functions of aerial refuelling for the aircraft carrier’s air wing.

Another area for developing unmanned aerial vehicles is “wingman” drones. As part of the Low Cost Attritable Aviation Technologies (LCAAT) project, a U.S. Air Force laboratory is developing the XQ-58 Valkyrie drone as a “wingman” for F-22 or F-35 fighter jets. In combat, the drone will carry the surveillance, electronic warfare (EW) and communications systems, as well as weapons. “Partner drones” are intended to become the “expendables” in warfare, taking on some of the functions of the pilots and, if necessary, bearing the brunt of an attack.

Another projected, called Gremlins, developed under the auspices of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), focuses on developing the technology for using a transport aircraft to deliver a drone swarm to an area where they will perform a series of strike, reconnaissance or other missions. Upon completion of the mission in question, the drones will be brought back aboard the aircraft and prepared for another mission within 24 hours. A fighter, bomber or even an unmanned mother aircraft can be used to deliver Gremlins to the combat area. Like many other unmanned aerial vehicles, Gremlins will be deployed as part of a unit or swarm and will independently distribute functions for optimal mission performance.

However, the most significant reforms have been saved for the U.S. Navy. In 2017, the Ghost Fleet concept, a continuation of the “network-centric warfare” concept, was adopted. Under this concept, ground, aerial and underwater unmanned vehicles will interact simultaneously and perform a wide range of combat missions without risking the lives of ship crews and marines. To further develop the concept, the U.S. Navy has ordered a group of experts to submit the Concept for “the organization, manning, training, equipping, sustaining, and the introduction and operational integration of the Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicle and Large Unmanned Surface Vessel with individual afloat units as well as with Carrier Strike Groups, Expeditionary Strike Groups, and Surface Action Groups” to Congress by September 2020.

The adoption of this concept will signify major changes in the plans for building the fleet and in its operational strategies, where autonomous underwater and surface vehicles will be integrated with carrier and expeditionary strike groups.

According to preliminary reports, the U.S. Navy will receive robotic surface ships of four different classes: large unmanned surface vehicles that can distribute large sensors and fires; medium-sized unmanned surface vehicles with smaller sensors and electronic warfare equipment; small unmanned surface vehicles that can tow mine-hunting equipment and work to relay communications; and even smaller unmanned surface vehicles.

Over the next decade or two, the U.S. Navy may change its architecture in favour of unmanned vessels spread over a larger area and combined into a global network operated from remote and mobile control centres. According to the report on the Navy’s large unmanned surface and underwater vehicles that has been submitted to Congress, the wartime tactic of using large unmanned vehicles may include spreading the fleet, letting the unmanned vehicles bear the brunt of the attack, and then delivering rapid retaliatory strikes.

The first component of the system is the Sea Hunter, an autonomous unmanned surface vessel that has already entered service. The ship was built as part of the DARPA Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel programme. The unmanned vessel is designed to operate as part of a swarm searching for and hunting submarines. Testing has showed the vessel’s high efficiency: travelling at a speed of 12 knots, the ship can cover 19,000 kilometres in 70 days of autonomous sailing.

The Navy is also developing another project for secret undersea operations, called CLAWS. According to the U.S. Navy’s recently adopted R&D budget, the Orca XLUUV, a 50-tonne, 25-metre-long undersea vehicle developed by the Boeing Corporation, will carry 12 torpedoes and have both strike and anti-surface warfare capabilities. The autonomous submarine with AI and weapons is designed to operate partially without human control. The Orca XLUUV will enter service in 2023 and, together with the Sea Hunter, will pose a threat to the naval component of Russia’s nuclear triad since it puts a question mark over its principal advantage: stealth.

To communicate with unmanned vessels and command autonomous missions, the U.S. Navy created the CARACaS (Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing) command architecture that allows drones to analyse dynamic operational situations when on a search mission, or when protecting harbours, carrying out surveillance, conducting EW or landing missions, and even when attacking as a swarm.

The most significant manifestations of the revolution in warfare may take place in the U.S. space sector. On February 20, 2019, President of the United States Donald Trump signed a law establishing the U.S. Space Force, with approximately USD 72 million earmarked for the purpose. The objectives of the Space Force include protecting U.S. interests in space, deterring aggression and protecting the country, as well as projecting military power in space, from space and into space.

A total of USD 11.9 billion was allocated in 2020 for R&D in space systems, which is USD 2.6 billion more than in 2019.

The Missile Defense Agency will receive USD 10.4 billion, including USD 108 million for the creation of a space sensor system to track hypersonic and ballistic missiles and the development of a “sensor array” to counteract the hypersonic missile systems of Russia and China.

The spending on militarized space will total USD 14.1 billion, which is 15 per cent more than in 2019. The Pentagon’s space programmes are classified, which creates additional risks for strategic stability. It is known that projects are under way in the United States to develop reusable space hypersonic systems and micro spacecraft, intercept spacecraft with “inspector” satellites, and carry out kinetic and non-kinetic attacks on satellites. Projects for directed-energy impact on nuclear weapons command systems are particularly dangerous. There is a trend for ensuring the interoperability of anti-missile and anti-satellite weapons. American assets in space are becoming more integrated and more interoperable.

One of the ways that the United States plans on winning the arms race is by involving its allies in joint projects to pool resources and technologies. Aligning weapons and combining data feeds should save funds. For example, in addition to the so-called Five Eyes states, Japan’s operations centre is also joining the space projects.

In the foreseeable future, space-, air- and ground-based lasers are seen as the most promising means of neutralizing ballistic and hypersonic missiles. The Pentagon and American industry are working on a technology that could reach the necessary level in a few years. The Pentagon is considering deploying combat lasers in orbit, as well as on UAVs patrolling the upper boundaries of the atmosphere, on ships and on anti-missile defence platforms. The Indirect Fires Protection Capability-High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL) which can reach up to 300 kilowatts in power, will presumably have entered the Pentagon’s service by 2024. It will be powerful enough to intercept not only UAVs, but also incoming cruise missiles.

Other NATO states are conducting similar R&D. For instance, France has officially admitted it is making laser-armed satellites that it intends to use against enemy satellites that threaten the country’s space forces.

Forward-looking American military technologies are intended to devalue Russia’s nuclear weapons:

  • Maritime unmanned hunters can compromise the stealth of Russia’s strategic undersea cruisers. Unmanned vessels and undersea drones can autonomously track SSBNs for protracted periods of time and neutralize them in case of danger.
  • Space tracking and targeting systems will make mobile ground-based missile systems vulnerable.
  • In a few years, laser weapons and neutral particle beams will become powerful enough to plan the interception of ballistic and hypersonic missiles.

Today, the United States is withdrawing from arms control agreements that might tie its hands and undermine its technological leadership. This confirms that Washington hopes to ride the wave of the revolution in warfare to ensure its global military dominance and protect its national security from virtually any threat.

1. APS Study Group Participants; Bloembergen, N.; Patel, C. K. N.; Avizonis, P.; Clem, R. G.; Hertzberg, A.; Johnson, T. H.; Marshall, T.; Miller, R. B.; Morrow, W. E.; Salpeter, E. E.; Sessler, A. M.; Sullivan, J. D.; Wyant, J. C.; Yariv, A.; Zare, R. N.; Glass, A. J.; Hebel, L. C.; APS Council Review Committee; Pake, G. E.; May, M. M.; Panofsky, W. K.; Schawlow, A. L.; Townes, C. H.; York, H. (July 1, 1987). “Report to The American Physical Society of the Study Group on Science and Technology of Directed Energy Weapons.” Reviews of Modern Physics. 59 (3): S1–S201. Bibcode:1987RvMP…59….1B. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.59.S1.

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Libyan conflict puts NATO to the test

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Domestic and external actors never tire of calling for a ceasefire in Libya, but the situation continues to escalate nonetheless, both in and outside the war-torn North African country.

Turkey’s military activity in Libya is already having a knock-on effect with Egypt now threatening to enter the war. Small wonder, because the Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi came to power by ousting the regime of the Muslim Brotherhood (now banned in the Russian Federation), which the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) is chummy with. Since the «Brothers” currently play a prominent role in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, Cairo would hate to see them gaining strength also in neighboring Libya. Here Egypt enjoys the support of the monarchs in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi who are wary of the Muslim Brotherhood’s support for the idea whereby people are free to elect their political leaders.

After proclaiming his internationally-backed “Cairo initiative” to resolve the Libyan conflict, al-Sisi followed this up with a stern warning: “Any direct intervention from the Egyptian State in the Libyan crisis is now having international legitimacy… restoring security and stability in Libya is part and parcel of Egyptian security and stability…Sirte and al-Jufra (a major air base – A.I.) are the “red line” that we will not allow to cross.”

According to the Abu Dhabi-based Al-Arabiya television channel, the Egyptian government is consulting with representatives of EU countries on measures to prevent the GNA forces’ seizure of Sirte. And Ankara has allegedly been “advised” to refrain from any military action in Libya’s oil-bearing regions. The Speaker of the House of Representatives (the parliament in Tobruk) Aguila Saleh has confirmed that the authorities of eastern Libya have asked Egypt for military assistance in the “war on terrorism and in countering foreign invasion.”

Presently, Libya is the place where the interests of at least four NATO members – Turkey, France, Italy and Greece intertwine. 

Ankara openly supports the GNA and makes future peace negotiations in Libya conditional on the seizure of Sirte and al-Jufra. However, while rejecting the “Cairo initiative” and refusing to recognize the legitimate status of the Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar, Turkey simultaneously makes clear its readiness to communicate with Aguila Saleh.

Turkish delegations are frequent guests in Tripoli, just as the head of the Government of National Accord, Fayez Sarraj, is in Ankara. By providing across-the-board assistance to the authorities in Tripoli, Turkey expects to set up its military bases in Libya, secure a share of the production and sale of Libyan oil, and make sure that Turkish construction firms are invited to assist in Libya’s post-war restoration. And again, Ankara and Tripoli share a great deal of ideological affinity for the political and religious beliefs of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Italy also supports the GNA, though not as zealously as Turkey, with Rome already cooperating with Tripoli in the oil and gas sector and counting on its assistance in curbing illegal emigration to its territory.

France, meanwhile, is staking on Khalifa Haftar, who it believes is someone capable of stabilizing the situation in the country, which borders Chad and Niger, both of which are part of Paris’ zone of interests in Africa.

As for Greece, it feels uneasy about the agreements between Ankara and Tripoli, none of which recognize Athens’ right to the continental shelf between Rhodes and Crete.

In the meantime, contradictions between NATO Allies begin to “materialize”: on June 10, a Turkish navy frigate used its fire control radars to “illuminate” a French warship that was to inspect, as part of NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian, the cargo on board a Turkish ship headed for Libya’s Misrata. France slammed the accident as “extremely aggressive” and demanded that the matter be investigated under the NATO format. The Turkish news agency Anadolu then reported, citing the Turkish naval command, that the frigate had not used its radars to target the French ship, but was only monitoring its “dangerous maneuvers.”

In response, the French President Emmanuel Macron stated that the incident confirmed his earlier view about the “brain-dead” North Atlantic Alliance, and his Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that the EU needed to discuss the prospects of its relationship with Turkey as soon as possible.

Turkey has long been an internal irritant within NATO. Late last year, Ankara blocked a NATO defense plan for Poland and the Baltic countries unless Brussels adopted a similar plan to defend Turkey against the terrorist threat from the Kurdish “People’s Self-Defense Units” in Syria. In fact, this would be tantamount to the organization that acted as the Western coalition’s ally in the war against Islamic radicals being branded as a terrorist one. They eventually reached a compromise, but Reuters recently reported about the French defense ministry complaining about Turkey’s opportunistic position: “While Ankara has approved the plan, known as Eagle Defender, it has not allowed NATO military chiefs to put it into action.”  The NATO headquarters declined to comment on this information.

During a joint videoconference of NATO countries’ foreign ministers in April, the Turkish and Greek top diplomats bickered over the issue of migrants. When denied by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg a chance to make yet another statement, the Turkish foreign minister simply “signed off.”

However, looking at the situation from the standpoint of Ankara it would seem that recently it has had ample reasons for resentment.

In 2016, in the wake of the botched military coup, many Turkish military officers, fearing reprisals, requested asylum, of all places, in Turkey’s fellow NATO countries. A year later, during NATO exercises in Norway, someone posted the photographs of Ataturk and Erdogan on the stand listing the “accomplices of NATO’s enemies.” The trickster was eventually found and fired, but the Turkish president even refused to accept an apology from his allies.

Finally, after a Syrian airstrike in Idlib left dozens of Turkish servicemen dead earlier this year, Erdogan convened an emergency NATO summit. All he got from his allies, though, was just an expression of moral support.   Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said that because Turkey had not coordinated its military operation in Idlib with NATO, the pertinent article in the NATO Charter on collective defense against an outside aggression was not applicable in this case. Exactly the same thing happed five years ago when a Russian warplane was shot down by a Turkish missile and Ankara requested NATO assistance in the event of a possible conflict with Moscow.

Therefore, the results of a February poll by the Pew Research Center, which showed that only one in five Turkish citizens were satisfied with NATO’s policies (compared with the 53-percent average in 16 member-countries) look fairly logical. As for the Turks, more than 55 percent of them showed the thumbs down to Brussels.

In recent years, Turkey has pursued an increasingly independent policy, which is more and more at variance with the interests of some of its NATO allies, and refuses to put the bloc’s interests ahead of its own.  Moreover, Ankara primarily uses its membership in the Alliance to increase its political clout in relations with third countries. Bruno Tertre, deputy director of the Strategic Research Fund, hit the nail right on the head when he told the Paris-based weekly business magazine Challenges that “the Alliance must be based on shared values and interests. However, in the case of Turkey, Erdogan, we do not share either one.”

This reality is only highlighted by the conflict in Libya.

However, Turkey’s “intra-bloc destructiveness” is a far cry from what is being done by the administration of the current US president. Donald Trump, who regularly complains about America’s European allies spending too little on defense, has even threatened to pull the United States out of NATO. Dissatisfaction with German “stinginess” was one of the reasons behind Trump’s decision to move part of the US military from Germany to Poland. Angela Merkel aptly commented to this by saying that the European countries should wake up to a new reality where the United States will no longer strive for the role of world leader. Yuri Wendik from the BBC’s Russian Service even complained that Trump views NATO as just a “commercial joint venture.”

Meanwhile, it looks like relations between the two “rabble-rousers” start warming up again: the FBI has opened a preliminary probe of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim preacher, who currently lives in Pennsylvania, hiding from the Turkish authorities; Trump keeps delaying the introduction of long-promised sanctions for Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems. Erdogan, for his part, has all but stopped mentioning Washington’s support for Kurdish forces in Syria; Ankara and Washington seem to have clinched some agreement on Libya. Overall, the Turkish-American agenda is less and less correlated with NATO’s.

Make no mistake, NATO is still far from being a “lame duck,” but it still seems that the process is already gaining traction, and that the Libyan test can spur it on.

Last November, George Friedman, the founder and chairman of Stratfor, a private company that publishes geopolitical analyses and forecasting of international affairs, wrote that the biggest problem today, is America inability to be constantly at war as it has been fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq for 18 years now. He adds that the US no longer wants to be in the region and expects countries like Turkey to take responsibility for the region.”  

Ankara apparently agrees and Washington would hate to disappoint its Turkish partners.

From our partner International Affairs

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Arctic Security and Dialogue: Assurance through Defence Diplomacy

Troy J. Bouffard

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Authors: Troy J. Bouffard, Elizabeth Buchanan & Michael Young*

For over two decades, key stakeholders have been confident that the Arctic Council was the appropriate forum for discussing most non-military Arctic issues. At the same time, UNCLOS, IMO and various international legal agreements, along with numerous forums, helped to manage a significant portion of the remaining challenges. Today, security concerns are heightening with new Arctic players and the days of a stable Arctic region, free from intervening security concerns, may be facing headwinds as military activity and rhetoric have increased over the past few years. Strategic competition in the Arctic has reemerged and is bolstered by recent rhetoric and increased investment from Washington in its national security agenda in the Arctic as well as associated NATO military activity.

Russia uses these developments as further justification to securitize the state’s largest open frontier. It is unsurprising Moscow views this behavior as foreign strategy to undermine Russia’s legitimate interests in the Arctic. In effect, the Arctic may be host to a new security dilemma which is driving militarization and strategic competition in the region. The problem is: there is no effective forum for Arctic defence authorities to discuss the potentially emerging security dilemma or the spectrum of associated and relevant issues involving Arctic non-/State interests.

Recognizing this apparent strategic forum gap, there have been recommendations from Arctic security scholars and strategists to consider the establishment of a designated Arctic security forum to lead collective and inclusive military-security dialogue. These calls are now echoed in some Arctic state policy circles, indicating the appetite for a security forum is growing. Tellingly,   Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, during a high-level Arctic international conference with Putin in April 2019, suggested that annual meetings of the Chiefs of General Staff of the Arctic Council’s member-states should reoccur. For Lavrov, such meetings could become an effective mechanism of maintaining regional security, stating, “unfortunately, since 2014 these meetings have been suspended. For the purposes of resuming joint work we suggest as a first step to establish contact at the level of military experts of Arctic states.” In theory, such a proposal could effectively manage a growing security dilemma, in order to confront concerns of militarization and sharpened strategic competition in the Arctic. However, implementation of high-level security discussions between Arctic Council member states would not be easy in the contemporary political environment. Moreover, there must be an absolute separation between the purpose of the Arctic Council and any Arctic defence issues and forum. Such a requirement is not only based on the Council’s charter mandate, but also from a practical standpoint to avoid undermining or overlapping well-established practices.

Some current security forums capable of hosting dialogue on Arctic military-security affairs do exist, but these are inadequate for any real strategic discourse due to the fact that the Arctic’s largest stakeholder is not considered an ‘equal member’ in these fora. To date, limited study has been conducted into the feasibility of a circumpolar Arctic security forum, of which all Arctic-rim powers are considered equal. The authors explore the concept of establishing an Arctic military-security forum to navigate the resurgence of strategic competition in the region. To do so, the article examines challenges and opportunities associated with the establishment of an effective Arctic security forum through diplomatic aspects, including 1) establishing acceptable protocols, 2) the role of military diplomacy and 3) sustaining meaningful diplomatic commitments and outcomes.

Establishing Acceptable Protocols

The central goal of establishing formal protocols through a forum to discuss Arctic security issues is to prevent security related actions by one state from escalating to higher level military conflict due to misunderstandings among other Arctic states. There are already several agreements that include the United States and Russian Federation which govern the behavior of military forces when operating in close proximity to each other or in international waters, such as the Incidents at Sea Agreement (INCSEA, 1972), the Dangerous Military Activities Agreement (DMA, 1989), and the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES, 2014).

Given that these agreements have no geographical limitations, they would also apply to military actions in the Arctic. What is not covered by these agreements, and what is missing in the Arctic currently, is a formal dialogue between Russia and the other Arctic states regarding issues of national security in the Arctic. Such dialogue is important so that all sides understand each other’s actions and the motives behind them, or at least provide a forum to discuss misunderstandings. There have been fora in the recent past which attempted to accomplish this in the Arctic, such as the Arctic Coast Guard Forum (ACGF), the Arctic Security Forces Roundtable, and the Arctic / Northern Chiefs of Defence meetings. These ended in 2014 after the Russian annexation of Crimea when mil-to-mil engagements with Russia were suspended. However, an exception was later made for the ACGF. The ACGF now regularly meets and rotates chairmanships every two years according to the same schedule as the Arctic Council. The ACGF is an excellent forum for the Arctic states to “foster safe, secure and environmentally responsible maritime activity in the Arctic,” but it does not specifically address military or national security issues. This is precisely why it was able to obtain an exemption from the ban on mil-to-mil activity. This is to Arctic security’s detriment.

Clearly, after six years it is apparent that the ban on mil-to-mil engagement with Russia is adversely affecting all Arctic states. There is an obvious need for crafting a defence forum for the Arctic states. As such, it would be useful to establish a mechanism for all Arctic states’ senior military leaders to engage annually for the purpose of discussing Arctic security issues. And this is in the US national interest. The question now becomes what the format, protocols and limitations should be so that such a forum could prove successful for all participants. It should also be considered apart from other mil-to-mil engagements with Russia, and therefore mostly exempt from sanctions. The following proposed components should be considered with regard to development of an Arctic security forum:

-Heads of delegation from each Arctic state would be their senior commander who has responsibility for their country’s Arctic defence.  For example, the US would send the Commander, US Northern Command (4-star), Russia would send the Commander, Northern Fleet Military District (3-star Joint Arctic Command) and the Deputy Defence Minister of the Russian Federation – Chief of Main Directorate for Political-Military Affairs of the Russian Armed Forces (3-star). Normally equivalent rank and position is a basic protocol requirement. However, Russia does not maintain nearly the same amount of 4-star generals as does the United States. As a result, the disparity would not be considered inappropriate or detrimental to the process. Each commander could designate a subordinate as the working representative during the year in the lead up to the conference, but each defence principal would be expected to attend the actual conference in person.

-Hosts for each annual meeting would rotate every year on a prescribed schedule among each of the eight Arctic states.

-The agenda for the annual meeting would have set, required topics each year, which at a minimum would include: 1) Arctic defence philosophy, 2) most important defence challenges in the Arctic, and 3) greatest threats to Arctic security, as perceived by each state. An additional mandatory topic would be ways to improve Arctic security cooperation and reduce tensions.

-The deliverable from the conference would be a report to all member states from the host country summarizing the discussions and outcomes. A joint statement would be optional.

-The conference would be nominally scheduled for one full working day, unless an extension is agreed to by all parties in advance.

However, this forum must stand completely apart from other forums, such as the Arctic Council, even though its membership would still consist of the eight Arctic states that hold sovereign territory in the Arctic. The Arctic Council functions well as an intergovernmental forum on Arctic issues, but its founding documents specifically exclude any discussions on defence or security.  Trying to bring security issues into the Arctic Council runs the risk of damaging a well-functioning mechanism.

It should also not involve NATO specifically, even though seven of the Arctic states are also NATO members. Since the purpose of the forum is to engage in Arctic-specific security issues, the involvement of NATO could detract from the Arctic nature and openness of any discussions. Any NATO role in an Arctic security forum must be defined and accepted by Russia, if at all. First and foremost, the forum must be able to function from a setting of sovereign equals, of which any alliance would certainly complicate to say the least – a notion that diplomatically parallels the exact difficulties presented by consideration of the EU as an official Arctic Council observer. In the Arctic security forum, membership would only consist of the eight Arctic states – no observers.

While an Arctic defence forum described above is important, it should not exist as the only engagement between the Arctic states in understanding each other’s defence postures.  Ongoing traditional diplomacy and military diplomacy would continue to play important roles, as will existing bilateral security agreements. However, as mentioned previously, a new Arctic security forum must be able to function unilaterally with defined authority and jurisdiction.

The Role of Military Diplomacy

The role of military power in today’s world exemplifies a much different meaning from the past. Use of military might by developed nations to resolve or influence global issues increasingly represents options to be employed only as a last resort, if at all. The ever-growing economic interdependence and strong institutional architectures that help facilitate global relationships provide just an initial understanding concerning such world order, and such forces likely apply throughout the Arctic region also. One of the ways in which military organizations could integrate into constructive circumpolar affairs is through use of defence diplomacy. The Oxford Handbook provides a definition as ‘the employment, without duress, in time of peace of the resources of Defence to achieve specific national goals, primarily through relationships with others” as seen by “the shift from ‘club’ to ‘network’ diplomacy” reflective of advanced civilization. The Arctic Eight all have significant military resources and capabilities as well as experience around the world managing tensions. Certainly, the degree to which Russia participates in such endeavors remains difficult to ascertain meaningfully, but it does occur, and moreover, the Arctic region is somewhat of an exceptional case.

Defence diplomacy involves a desire to use military channels, and/or those of experts on defence issues, to help create a climate of trust and a convergence of interests. Those familiar with the Arctic region and its many issues might already be thinking of how the military could contribute within these definitional understandings. The most concerning defence-related issue still centers on continued Russian military buildup in their north, including significant bastion defence, several dedicated brigades, and an advanced coastal and offshore air-defence network. Such developments outpace the rest of the Arctic Eight combined by an order of magnitude, although not necessarily representative of individual or cumulative national capability. The lack of post-Crimea Western mil-to-mil contact with Russia as well as a collective Arctic security forum continues to suppress opportunities to build trust and confidence with purpose. Eventually, the United States and NATO will increase military capabilities and presence in the Arctic, and without dialogue, misunderstanding of intent and perceptions, among other things, will likely worsen.

Defence organizations often track sensitive, conflict-laden issues within categories often known as elevated, escalated, and the most dangerous, zones of miscalculation. Other issues involve tensions regarding international maritime law and increased control over disputed Arctic waters Russia considers internal. Such an ‘excessive maritime claim’, per the United States, would likely benefit from defence discussions and subsequent counsel amongst individual national authorities. Most recently, the United States and United Kingdom conducted a naval exercise in the Barents Sea from 03 – 08 May 2020. Although advanced notification was provided to Russia and the media largely conflated the event and meaning, Russian authorities were able to conduct observations and consequently reported findings (figure 1). While characterizing the exercise as provocative, Russian authorities noted that Northern Fleet capabilities effectively deployed to track NATO weapons and thereby avoid any incidents. When conducting the official briefing, Colonel-General Rudskoy stated that “the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation has always adhered to a course aimed at building a constructive dialogue with NATO” and furthermore, emphasized European concerns that “all our proposals to reduce military tension and prevent incidents were set forth in a letter from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. In fact, our suggestions were ignored.” Although possibly a demonstration of aggrandized rhetoric, such messages could be much different through use of military diplomacy and dialogue. National interests are often conveyed through strategic communications and military activities, and as a component of foreign-policy objectives already, the addition of deliberate discourse can leverage the influence of military capability and experience toward purposeful defence diplomacy.

Figure 1: Russian Ministry of Defence briefing on recent NATO activity in the Arctic

Source: Russian Ministry of Defence

Sustaining Meaningful Diplomatic Outcomes

The pace at which media attention and policy rhetoric is focusing on calls of a ‘new’ Cold War in the Arctic is representative of renewed global attention in the High North. Ultimately, in an age of social media, this attention creates strategic fog for northern stakeholders and indeed can cultivate strategic distrust further between Arctic neighbors. All the official dialogue in the world matters little unless it can be sustained and implemented meaningfully. Nor can a representative principal and staff conduct hasty preparations and expect to be effective during diplomatic maneuvering and negotiations. An established cycle of dialogue helps to develop and enable an active national program that requires substantial time, money and effort toward preparations that categorically culminate through the dialogue events. Such processes foster purposeful information development and sharing by Arctic defence staffs, both domestically and within the network, further elevating an understanding of each other’s’ policies, strategies and intent. Furthermore, regularly scheduled diplomatic events require continuous learning and processing, leading to more sustained and confident diplomatic outcomes as opposed to sporadic events.

Preparation involves more than studying different tier-level issues. A delegation must be effectively empowered to participate in a diplomatic setting, to include delivery and status of domestic positions on matters, extent and limits of compromise on issues, and introduction of propositions and interests, to name a few. Such preparations also require domestic prioritization of issues and executive agency synchronization as well as input in order to avoid inadvertent internal marginalization of national interests – again, not nearly as efficacious in an ad hoc fashion. At the same time, a major component of successful preparations – far more complex and difficult – requires an understanding of adversarial as well as competitive positions on agenda and relevant non-agenda items. Indeed, it can be a very bad day when a delegation is diplomatically outmaneuvered as a result of inadequate preparation on a reasonably expected issue. This circumstance might represent a best-case scenario when a competitor out-prepares another and scores a diplomatic win without the need to give up anything through a compromise on equal settings. Such an instance occurred on Day 10 of the Cuban Missile Crisis at a UN Security Council meeting, when US Ambassador Adlai Stevenson thoroughly ‘dressed down’ Soviet Ambassador Zorin through superior preparation in anticipation of the USSR position. Similarly with regard to the Arctic, having a forum ready to host this security discussion could be the difference in preventing Arctic conflict, especially when domestic and foreign goals tend to universally prefer that issues remain within the cooperative or competitive realm. The Arctic is naturally geared for sustaining diplomatic outcomes and ironically, all Arctic states hold a common strategic interest: stability.

Additionally, the value of multinational defence dialogue not only benefits from agreements, but  also in the development and implementation of national strategies. Domestic policies can significantly gain advantage from positive results of dialogue as well as clarification of issues involving tension, not to mention reference to the forum itself as a venue of reliable structured discussion. Furthermore, such fora often facilitate and promote inclusivity and coverage of issues through agenda setting. However, while agendas can be abused by more influential states, today’s advanced understanding and conduct of diplomacy and negotiation can help overcome inequalities through thoughtful charter establishment.

Conclusion

Many fora already exist to address most issues in the Arctic from a circumpolar perspective (see Figure 2). The Arctic Council provides an excellent forum to jointly tackle environmental issues and scientific research, and it also has provided an excellent platform to negotiate several joint agreements between the Arctic states, such as search and rescue, oil spill response, and scientific cooperation. The International Maritime Organization provided a framework to negotiate the Polar Code for shipping traffic in the Arctic. The Arctic Coast Guard Forum proves to be excellent at discussing and solving shared maritime law and regulatory challenges across the Arctic. The Arctic Economic Council facilitates sustainable Arctic economic and business development. A glaring gap in these fora is one that addresses Arctic security or defence issues. The need for an Arctic security forum is clear. Given the increasing re-militarization of the Arctic in recent years and unproductive rhetoric likely to continue, the time to establish an Arctic security forum has already passed. Dialogue between senior Arctic defence leaders and their staffs could complement other Arctic national efforts through the conduct of military diplomacy, leading to enhanced mutual understanding of defence challenges as well as the prevention of unintended conflict escalation.

Figure 2. Example of Current Arctic Organizations and Responsibilities

To move our proposal forward, we offer the following considerations as areas for further research. First, initiative could be seized by Moscow during its forthcoming Arctic Council Chairmanship (2021-2023) to officially propose and promote a forum – an enterprise opportunity completely separate from the work of the Arctic Council yet benefits from the overall Arctic emphasis during its leadership. Moreover, Russia could craft the forum and keep it void of mandated leadership, instead recommending an acceptable rotation schedule – similar or otherwise to the Arctic Council. Second, in terms of the security forum’s construct, we see three viable options. Option A: The forum is limited to the Arctic Eight defence authorities and their select delegations. This is the ideal approach as it affords the most lateral movement for military diplomacy in the Arctic. Option B: Implement Option A but also develop an observer mandate. Using similar criteria to that of the Arctic Council, this would allow for NATO to engage as a clear subordinate to Russia. This signal acknowledges Moscow’s concerns and perhaps also helps get around NATO’s ‘limited engagement with Russia’ policy still in effect. Most importantly, this option ensures that any potential NATO forum role develops under Russian required consensus. This option also easily extends toward further research consideration and potential roles of other interested participants, such as China. A final study option is Option C: the development of a security forum led by the Arctic ‘Western’ states with an offer extended to Russia to join. This may be the least viable option given Moscow would likely reject ‘junior partner’ overtures. Additionally, the current fragmented Arctic defence efforts somewhat demonstrate problems with this option.

The Arctic needs a productive forum for military dialogue – one already established, functioning well and possessing the institutional maturity ready to confront future strategic challenges. It is in the best interests of the Arctic region to have a credible body in place to navigate and preemptively negotiate military-security issues and threats involving mutual interests. Military tensions in the Arctic could severely marginalize years of stabilizing accomplishments, not the least of which includes critical natural resource and environmental activities. Compelled dialogue driven by negative incidents will only invoke frustrated hindsight from stakeholders and concerned advocates. The situation is clear, and prospects obvious. Defence authorities should pursue the opportunity to effectively steer military-related Arctic security issues before circumstances force preventable crisis management.

*Dr. Elizabeth Buchanan is Lecturer of Strategic Studies with Deakin University for the Defence and Strategic Studies Course (DSSC) at the Australian War College and a Fellow of the Modern War Institute at West Point. Dr. Buchanan holds a Ph.D. in Russian Arctic strategy from the Australian National University and was recently the Visiting Maritime Fellow at the NATO Defense College. Experiences also include a recent discussion she moderated with NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, during an official visit to Australia.

Michael Young served in the US Navy as a Surface Warfare Office. Afterwards, he became a Foreign Services Officer with the US State Department in the Office of Oceans and Polar Affairs, where he chaired an Arctic Council working group as a Track I diplomat. Following the US chairmanship of the Arctic Council, Michael went on the work with the Special Operations Command – North (SOCNORTH) with USNORTHCOM – one of the lead U.S. Combatant Commands with Arctic strategic defense responsibilities.

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