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29 Feb 20. U.S., NATO Leaders Thank Troops for Afghanistan Service. Introduced in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul by Army Gen. Austin S. Miller, commander of the Resolute Support mission, the two men talked about the joint declaration signed between the United States and the Taliban today in Doha, Qatar. Both stressed to the service members from 25 countries that the declaration is conditions-based and that coalition nations and the Afghan government will hold the Taliban to the agreement’s conditions.
Esper and Stoltenberg also emphasized that the coalition — including the United States — will continue to support the Afghan government as the process moves ahead.
“All NATO allies and partners, we are ready to continue to provide support for Afghanistan, but also to adjust and reduce our presence there if the conditions are met, because everything we do here will be conditions based,” Stoltenberg said.
Esper assured the service members that an end to the fighting will happen only when Afghans decide for themselves to lay down their arms and come together as one people. “We’re at that moment,” he said. “That is why the best path forward for the future of this country is through a political settlement.”
The agreement, Esper said, respects the integrity of the Afghan people “and preserves the accomplishments that we and our Afghan partners have fought so hard to achieve.”
American service members came to Afghanistan after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that killed 2,977 people in New York, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania. The attacks were planned and directed from Afghanistan by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Since then, almost 800,000 U.S. troops have served in Afghanistan.
“Over 20,000 of our veterans have been wounded here in combat and forever bear the scars of this conflict,” Esper said. “And nearly 2,000 brave Americans made the ultimate sacrifice on Afghan soil by laying down their lives in defense of freedom.”
Coalition partners made similar commitments and sacrifices.
Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also noted the sacrifices. “We owe a debt of gratitude to America’s sons and daughters who paid the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, and to the many thousands who served over the past nearly 19 years,” he said in a written statement. “The only responsible way to end the war in Afghanistan is through a negotiated political settlement. Today is a reflection of the hard work of our nation’s military, the U.S. Department of State, intelligence professionals and our valued partners. The United States is committed to the Afghan people, and to ensuring that Afghanistan never becomes a safe haven for terrorists to threaten our homeland and our allies.
Esper told the service members in Kabul that there is still a long way to go. “All of our decisions moving forward are conditions-based and require the Taliban to maintain the ongoing reduction in violence,” he said. “If the Taliban fail to uphold their commitments, they will forfeit their chance to engage in negotiations with the Afghan government and will not have a say in the future of this country.”
But if the Taliban live by the agreements, the United States will begin a deliberate phase with redeployment of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, initially reducing the force to 8,600, the secretary said. “As we do this, we will work closely with our allies and partners to reduce their forces as well in a proportional manner,” he added.
Still, even as the process begins, U.S. and NATO forces will continue their train, advise and assist mission. “We will not hesitate to strike terrorist threats throughout the country as they emerge,” the secretary said. “Central to our agreement with the Taliban are measures to prevent the use of Afghan soil by terrorist groups or other individuals who seek to harm the United States or our allies.
“Should that ever become compromised, we will take all necessary measures to protect our homelands and our people,” Esper said. (Source: US DoD)
29 Feb 20. Afghan, U.S., NATO Officials Call Declaration a Path for Peace. Under an agreement signed in Doha, Qatar, all foreign troops may be out of Afghanistan in 14 months, officials said in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg all said today that any withdrawal would be conditions-based, and the Taliban would have to negotiate with Afghan officials for the process to move forward.
Esper and Stoltenberg traveled to Kabul to meet with Afghan leaders and discuss the joint declaration.
Under the declaration, the Taliban have agreed to counterterrorism guarantees, Afghan-to-Afghan negotiations, a ceasefire and condition-based withdrawal of foreign forces.
“Today’s release of the joint declaration between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States marks a pivotal moment in the peace process,” Esper said during a ceremony at the Afghan palace. “Our declaration acknowledges the deep bond shared by Afghan and U.S. forces, and reflects our commitment to working together to achieve a sustainable, negotiated agreement that ends the war, for the benefit of all Afghans. Central to this agreement are measures to prevent the use of Afghan soil by terrorist groups or other individuals who seek to harm the United States or our allies.”
Esper said the result of the weeklong ceasefire in the country were encouraging.
But the Taliban do not get a free pass. “We call on the Taliban to abide by their commitments as outlined in the agreement with the United States, to include maintaining the ongoing reduction in violence across the country,” Esper said. “As intra-Afghan negotiations progress, the United States will watch the Taliban’s actions closely to judge whether their efforts towards peace are in good faith.”
If the Taliban uphold the agreement, the United States and other members of the coalition will begin a conditions-based reduction in forces, the secretary said. “However, should the Taliban fail to honor their commitments, they will forfeit their chance to sit with fellow Afghans and deliberate on the future of their country,” he added. Moreover, the United States would not hesitate to nullify the agreement.”
Stoltenberg said all NATO nations and partners in the coalition welcome the declaration, calling it a victory for peace and the Afghan people.
He noted that Afghanistan is a very different country from what it was in 2001. “It is no longer a safe haven for international terrorists, terrorists who conducted the attacks against the United States and threatened people across the globe,” the secretary general said. “The security we have helped the Afghan forces to build has underpinned political, economic and social progress. Child mortality has dropped dramatically. Life expectancy has increased significantly, and millions more Afghans are in school, including girls.”
While the agreement is between the United States and the Taliban and the Afghan government, NATO will conform with it, Stoltenberg said.
“NATO will reduce its presence in Afghanistan step-by-step and conditions-based and reflecting the progress we see on the ground,” he said. “NATO allies and partners went into Afghanistan together. We will adjust our presence together. When the time is right, we will leave together. This will only happen when we are sure that the Afghan forces no longer require our support, and that Afghanistan will never again become a platform for international terrorists.”
The road to peace will not be easy, Esper said. Violence and civil war in Afghanistan goes back long before the al-Qaida attack on the United States in 2001.
“Achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan will require patience and compromise among all parties,” the secretary said. “But for the first time in many years, Afghanistan has a real path toward the future this country deserves. We look forward to the coming weeks and months with great optimism, as we advance these important efforts to finally achieve peace.” (Source: US DoD)
29 Feb 20. Readout of the Bilateral Engagement With His Excellency Dr. Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Pentagon Press Secretary Alyssa Farah provided the following readout:
Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper met with His Excellency Dr. Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, ahead of the U.S.-Afghanistan Joint Declaration Ceremony to discuss progress in the peace process in Afghanistan following the successful implementation of the reduction in violence.
Secretary Esper reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to our Afghan partners as the conditions-based U.S.-Taliban agreement is implemented, and as Afghans move forward to work towards a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire during intra-Afghan negotiations. The Secretary also reaffirmed our commitment to our longstanding security relationship with the government of Afghanistan into the future.
Both Secretary Esper and President Ghani agreed that this marks the beginning of the process to achieve a lasting peace for the Afghan people, and security and stability in Afghanistan. (Source: US DoD)
29 Feb 20. North Atlantic Council statement on Afghanistan. NATO welcomes the announcement of significant first steps in pursuit of a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan.
Recent progress on peace has ushered in a reduction of violence and paved the way for intra-Afghan negotiations between a fully inclusive Afghan national team and the Taliban to reach a comprehensive peace agreement. We call on the Taliban to embrace this opportunity for peace.
In this context the Alliance and its partners in the Resolute Support Mission will implement conditions-based adjustments, including a reduction to our military presence.
We now expect the commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations leading to an enduring and comprehensive peace agreement that puts an end to violence, safeguards the human rights of all Afghans, including women and children, upholds the rule of law, and ensures that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists. It is important that all parties engage constructively in this process.
NATO reaffirms its longstanding commitment to Afghanistan and ongoing support for the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces. We are committed to working with the Afghan people and government to support next steps toward peace.
For eighteen years, NATO and our partners have stood with the people of Afghanistan in the pursuit of security and stability. We honour the women and men from Allied and partner nations who served and especially those who gave their lives for the cause of peace. We pay tribute to the great sacrifices made by the people of Afghanistan and, in particular, the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, over the course of this long conflict. These efforts have laid the foundation for building a sustainable peace. (Source: NATO)
28 Feb 20. Could end of New START treaty be a ‘new start’ to a nuclear arms race? The only remaining nuclear arms treaty between the US and Russia is set to end in February 2021. The New START (New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is popular in both US Congress, receiving bipartisan support, and the Russian Duma, however President Donald Trump is holding out for a “bigger deal”, one which may include China in a new treaty.
The New START was signed by president Barack Obama and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev and limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed delivery systems including missiles, bombers and submarines.
The treaty also covers verification measures, including on-site inspections and exhibitions, data exchanges and notifications related to strategic offensive arms and facilities covered by the treaty, and provisions to facilitate the use of national technical means for treaty monitoring. To increase confidence and transparency, the treaty also provides for an annual exchange of telemetry on an agreed number of ICBM and SLBM launches.
The New START time frame is, however, coming to an end in February 2021 and if not signed could give free reign to both parties to once again beef up their nuclear armaments and cause a new cold war style arms race both in terms of increased arsenals and increased spending.
The good news for those wanting to avoid such an outcome is that the treaty can be extended for another five years without the need for approvals through American Congress and the Russian Duma. this means that President Trump and President Vladimir Putin can sign an extension with just their agreement and signatures. This is where President Trump has seen an opportunity for his bigger, more expansive deal.
Easy route to extension
There is very little obstacles to the President signing an extension; it has bilateral support in the US Congress and 80 per cent of the of the American public support extending arms control measures according to a poll from Center for International and Security Studies in Maryland. The exit of John Bolton, a long-term blockage to arms controls agreements, as President Trump’s national security adviser also removed another impediment to the extension. Signing an extension while also promising to build on the previous treaty may also be boasted to have improved on the deal signed by the Obama administration.
Furthermore, President Putin has already explicitly stated that he was prepared to sign an extension without any preconditions or further negotiation needed, as well as confirming that the treaty will also cover new Russian strategic delivery systems including; a new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile and a new hyper-sonic glide vehicle.
The bigger deal
So, what is President Trump looking for in his new “bigger deal”. In January of 2019, he first hinted to a different deal in his January address to the nation, raising concerns of a new arms race and also signalling his intention to bring China into negotiations.
“Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others, or perhaps we can’t,” President Trump said. “In which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far.”
In his more expansive agreement, President Trump is seeking a deal that encompasses more than just strategic nuclear weapons, but also smaller low-yield tactical weapons. Furthermore, his main focus is to bring China into a trilateral agreement the likes of which the world has not yet seen.
Thomas Countryman, a former US assistant to the secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, and chair of the board of the Arms Control Association, has highlighted the difficulties President Trump is likely facing in his effort to bring china into the deal.
Bringing China to the table
“Trump’s belief that China is currently interested in negotiations on a three-way nuclear arms control pact with Russia is a fantasy, much like his assertions that China bears the cost of US tariffs, or that Mexico will pay for the US border wall. Beijing’s inventory of nuclear warheads is just 5 per cent of Washington’s or Moscow’s, so it has no logical incentive to join negotiations aimed at permanently locking in a numerical advantage for two superpowers whose stars, in Chinese eyes, are fading,” Countryman said in an article for World Politics Review in December.
Countryman continues: “The best minds in the US government seem no closer to devising an incentive for China to participate. Like 17th century mariners sent by European kings to find the Northwest Passage to Asia, they are doggedly seeking a path that simply doesn’t exist.”
Failure to meet the deadline may not have immediate consequences but could very well start the clock ticking towards a dangerous pattern of distrust or speculation between the two powers. Without the transparency provided by the monitoring and verification scheme, a loss of understanding of each other’s capabilities may lead to each side guessing or assuming the opposition’s capabilities and attempting to best them through development and greater procurement.
Along with the security threat this kind of build up will produce, the finances needed for such actions would be likely to skyrocket well above the current estimated US$1.7trn already committed to the 30-year up-keep and modernisation of its nuclear arsenal.
Countryman argues that the outcome from not signing a new agreement could be entirely contrary to President Trump’s current aims: “The collapse of New START risks replicating Cold War-thinking about how to ‘win’ a ‘limited’ nuclear war by expanding the number of tactical nuclear weapons and delivery systems. And the lack of limitations and transparency on Russian and American arsenals will give Beijing a strong incentive to speed up expansion of its own nuclear options.”
Will Trump bide his time too long?
With no deal in sight and both presidents continuing to display readiness to expand arsenals once again if needed, if the relatively easy decision to re-sign does not occur the world will have to prepare for a new era of uncertainty and increased tension.
Ultimately an extension to the New START deal would still keep open the option of future talks regarding a new deal that could include both tactical weapons and bringing China into the fold. However, this would likely occur long after President Trump has left office, which may not be to his liking. (Source: Defence Connect)
27 Feb 20. India ‘goes global’ to boost defence exports. The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has launched a publication promoting the country’s growing profile as a defence exporter. The ‘Indian Defence Goes Global’ document was issued by the MoD’s Department of Defence Production (DDP), highlighting a claim that India now exports defence products to “84 countries”.
According to the marketing document, some of India’s most popular defence products – in terms of numbers of customers – include bulletproof jackets and helmets, firearm components, ammunition, batteries, electronic subsystems, and military aerospace components.
Major platforms highlighted for export include Hindustan Aeronautics’ (HAL’s) Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter, which the document states has been exported to Mauritius, Maldives, and Nepal; HAL’s Chetak (Aérospatiale Alouette III) light utility helicopters, which is operational in countries including Namibia, Suriname, Nepal, and Mauritius; and licenced-produced HAL (Dornier) 228 light transport aircraft, which is operational in Mauritius and the Seychelles. (Source: Jane’s)
24 Feb 20. After raucous welcome in India, Trump clinches $3bn military equipment sale. U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that India will buy $3bn worth of military equipment, including attack helicopters, as the two countries deepen defense and commercial ties in an attempt to balance the weight of China in the region.
India and the United States were also making progress on a big trade deal, Trump said. Negotiators from the two sides have wrangled for months to narrow differences on farm goods, medical devices, digital trade and new tariffs.
Trump was accorded a massive reception in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state on Monday, with more than 100,000 people filling into a cricket stadium for a “Namaste Trump” rally.
On Tuesday, Trump sat down for one-on-one talks with Modi followed by delegation-level meetings to try and move forward on issues that have divided them, mainly the festering trade dispute.
After those meetings, Trump said his visit had been productive with the conclusion of deals to buy helicopters for the Indian military. India is buying 24 SeaHawk helicopters from Lockheed Martin equipped with Hellfire missiles worth $2.6bn and also plans a follow-on order for six Apache helicopters.
India is modernizing its military to narrow the gap with China and has increasingly turned to the United States over traditional supplier, Russia.
Trump said the two countries were also making progress on a trade deal, which had been an area of growing friction between them.
“Our teams have made tremendous progress on a comprehensive trade agreement and I’m optimistic we can reach a deal that will be of great importance to both countries,” said Trump in remarks made alongside Modi.
The two countries had initially planned to produce a “mini deal”, but that proved elusive.
Instead both sides are now aiming for a bigger package, including possibly a free trade agreement.
Trump said he also discussed with Modi, whom he called his “dear friend”, the importance of a secure 5G telecoms network in India, ahead of a planned airwaves auction by the country.
The United States has banned Huawei, arguing the use of its kit creates the potential for espionage by China – a claim denied by Huawei and Beijing – but India, where telecoms companies have long used network gear from the Chinese firm, is yet to make a call.
Trump described Monday’s rally in Ahmedabad and again praised Modi and spoke of the size of the crowd, claiming there were “thousands of people outside trying to get in..
“I would even imagine they were there more for you than for me, I would hope so,” he told Modi. “The people love you…every time I mentioned your name, they would cheer.”
In New Delhi, Trump was given a formal state welcome on Tuesday at the red sandstone presidential palace with a 21-cannon gun salute and a red coated honor guard on horseback on a smoggy day.
HUG GETS TIGHTER
India is one of the few big countries in the world where Trump’s personal approval rating is above 50% and Trump’s trip has got wall-to-wall coverage with commentators saying he had hit all the right notes on his first official visit to the world’s biggest democracy.
They were also effusive in their praise for Modi for pulling off a spectacular reception for Trump.
“Modi-Trump hug gets tighter,” ran a headline in the Times of India.
But in a sign of the underlying political tensions in India, violent protests broke out in Delhi on Monday over a new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against Muslims and is a further attempt to undermine the secular foundations of India’s democracy. They say the law is part of a pattern of divisiveness being followed by Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
At least 7 people were killed and about 150 injured in the clashes that took place in another part of the capital, away from the center of the city where Modi is hosting Trump.
In his speech on Monday, Trump extolled India’s rise as a stable and prosperous democracy as one of the achievements of the century. “You have done it as a tolerant country. And you have done it as a great, free country,” he said.
Delhi has also been struggling with high air pollution and on Tuesday the air quality was moderately poor at 193 on a government index that measures pollution up to a scale of 500. The WHO considers anything above 60 as unhealthy. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Reuters)
24 Feb 20. Esper Urges South Korea to Contribute More to Its Defense. Though the U.S.-South Korea alliance remains strong, South Korea must bear a more proportional share of the cost of maintaining its security, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said.
Esper hosted South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo at the Pentagon today. DOD officials said the two leaders discussed a range of issues including the regional security environment, policy toward North Korea, transition of wartime operational control, and the special measures agreement between the United States and South Korea.
As the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War approaches, Esper said, the U.S. alliance with the Republic of Korea remains strong.
“The United States stands fully committed to the defense of the ROK,” he said. “Forged through years of combat and shared sacrifice, our alliance is ironclad and remains the linchpin of security, stability and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and in the larger Indo-Pacific region. Our shared values, interests, and commitment to the rules-based international order form the foundation of an alliance that is as vital today as it was in the 1950s.”
But South Korea must contribute more to its own security, the secretary said.
“Shouldering the cost of the common defense cannot fall disproportionately to the American taxpayer,” Esper said. “As such, we must find a more sustainable and equitable means of sharing the costs of our combined defense with the Republic of Korea. As a global economic powerhouse and an equal partner in the preservation of peace in the peninsula, South Korea can and should contribute more to its defense.”
Esper noted that the United States is asking many security partners around the globe to step up and contribute more to mutually beneficial partnerships. In particular, he pointed to U.S. relationships in Europe.
“Increased burden-sharing is a top priority for the United States across our alliances,” he said. “We consistently urge NATO allies to contribute more to our shared defense, and we ask the same of South Korea and other partners.”
Esper said he and the South Korean defense minister also discussed continued efforts toward the common objective of the complete denuclearization of North Korea and the importance of the trilateral relationship among the United States, South Korea and Japan. That relationship includes high-level policy consultations, shared military exercise and information sharing; and progress toward meeting the conditions needed for the eventual transition of operational control to a South Korean commander.
Jeong said that the operational control transition will happen in a systematic manner “based not on timing, but on conditions.” Certification of those conditions, he said, will be assessed jointly by South Korea and the United States “in a transparent and credible manner.”
Afterward, he said, guiding principles agreed upon during the 50th Republic of Korea-United States Security Consultative Meeting will ensure a continued strong defense of South Korea. The alliance and its posture will only strengthen as a result of continued presence of U.S. Forces and the guaranteed role of the United Nations Command, he said. (Source: US DoD)
24 Feb 20. Time for teeth: Strategic policy expert calls for Aussie long-range missiles. Author of the 1986 Dibb report, Paul Dibb, has called on Australia to consider the introduction of a credible long-range strike capability to be developed and stationed in the Top End as the nation further responds to a deteriorating geo-strategic environment.
Growing concerns about the capacity of the US to act as a strategic balancer in the Indo-Pacific region have prompted emerging and established allies to scramble for continued certainty.
In doing so, this has paved the way for Australia to work collaboratively with regional partners and independently to establish a strategic umbrella to secure the nation’s strategic priorities.
Global history has been defined by the competing economic, political and strategic ambitions and the ensuing conflagrations of “great powers” as these interests bring them into direct, kinetic confrontation with one another.
These nations typically combine a range of characteristics that set them apart from lower-tier middle and minor powers, including a complementary balance of hard and soft power dynamics, such as military and economic strength and diplomatic and cultural influence on the global geo-strategic order.
Australia as both a continent and a nation is unique in its position, enjoying relative geographic isolation from the flash points of global and regional conflagration of the 20th century.
Tactical and strategic realities, largely the nation’s dependence on a ‘great power’ benefactor, have ensured that Australia and its regional neighbours have enjoyed the stability afforded to them by the strategic umbrella of the UK prior to the Second World War and the US in the aftermath.
Despite this, the nation has at times exercised a degree of tactical and strategic independence within the confines of this umbrella, which empowered Australia to directly engage in regional strategic and security affairs, actively deterring aggression and hostility in Malaya during the Konfrontasi and communist aggression in Korea and Vietnam as part of the “Forward Defence” policy.
However, growing domestic political changes following Vietnam saw a dramatic shift in the nation’s defence policy and the rise of the “Defence of Australia” doctrine, which was formalised with the introduction of the Dibb report in the mid-1980s.
This doctrine advocated for the retreat of Australia’s forward military presence in the Indo-Pacific and a focus on the defence of the Australian continent and its direct approaches, known as the ‘sea-air gap’, effectively limiting the nation’s capacity to act as an offshore balancer.
Many would rightfully argue that following the relative decline and eventual collapse of the Soviet Union and the beginning of American hegemony throughout the world, particularly in the Indo-Pacific, this was a prudent step as Australia positioned itself as a key benefactor of the American peace, with minor constabulary responsibilities.
Now, in light of the rapidly deteriorating geo-strategic situation, Paul Dibb has joined the likes of Retired Air Marshal Leo Davies and his immediate predecessor, Air Marshal (Ret’d) Geoff Brown, in calling for the Australian government to rapidly overhaul the nation’s long-range strike capabilities.
Speaking to Ben Packham of The Australian, Professor Dibb has responded to the government’s commitment of $1.1bn to modernise and upgrade RAAF Base Tindal to call for a renewed conversation and consideration about the acquisition of long-range, land-based missiles.
“We need strike, with significant range. Not short-range. The days of just sitting offshore are gone,” Professor Dibb stated.
The Dibb report and a declining warning time
These comments come following recent statements made by Professor Dibb regarding the shrinking warning time available to Australia’s political and military leaders, particularly given the proliferation of advanced, long-range strike aircraft, aircraft carriers and precision guided missile systems.
The very premise of the sea-air gap focuses on the tactical and strategic warning time Australia would enjoy should it find itself under direct attack; however, in a discussion for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, both Kim Beazley and Dibb identified that this tactical and strategic advantage is rapidly eroding in the face of great power competition, led by China and Russia.
This is something Dibb articulated clearly in a supporting piece for ASPI, titled “Australia’s management of strategic risk in the new era”, where both Dibb and colleague Richard Brabin-Smith articulated:
“China’s economic and political influence continues to grow, and its program of military modernisation and expansion is ambitious. The latter means that the comfortable judgements of previous years about the limited levels of capability within our region are no longer appropriate.
“The potential warning time is now shorter, because capability levels are higher and will increase yet further. This observation applies both to shorter-term contingencies and, increasingly, to more serious contingencies credible in the foreseeable future.”
It is envisaged that the $1.1bn upgrade of the Tindal will position the facility and infrastructure as what Prime Minister Scott Morrison calls the “sharp end of the spear” for the joint US-Australia tactical and strategic rebalancing in the Indo-Pacific to counter an increasingly assertive China.
Leveraging the Australia-US relationship
Dibb argues that in order for Australia to fully capitalise on the broader $200bn military modernisation and sovereign industry development plans currently underway, the nation should acquire its own intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) to serve as a potent deterrent against potential adversaries – leveraging the nation’s ‘special’ relationship with the US.
“Modern missiles are highly precise but only when you have access to the most advanced targeting information in the world, which we do, through the Americans, Pine Gap and our Geospatial Intelligence Organisation,” Professor Dibb articulated.
However, the rapidly evolving period of peer and near-peer competitor contest, largely driven by the US and China’s clash of ideas has prompted many within Australia’s strategic policy and defence communities to lobby government to seriously invest in the long-range strike and strategic deterrence capabilities of the Australian Defence Force.
Enter retired Air Marshals Davies and Brown speaking to Catherine McGregor in The Australian, who articulate the changing balance of power Australia finds itself neck deep in: “The force that we used to carry out nation-building in the Middle East cannot defend our sea lines of communication or prevent the lodgement of hostile power in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Everyone thought conventional wars were almost a thing of the past. That judgment now looks rather optimistic. We need to ensure that our air, space and naval assets can impose transaction costs on those who would infringe on our vital trading interests. That must entail investment in air power.”
This seemingly global race, particularly the pursuit of ‘optionally-manned’ long-range strike systems, like the B-21 Raider, and Australia’s long-range aerial strike gap presents unique opportunities for Australia.
The precedent already established by the collaboration between Defence Science and Technology and Boeing on the development of the ‘loyal wingman’ concept provides avenues for Australia to partner with defence industry primes and global allies to develop a long-range, unmanned, low observable strike platform with a payload capacity similar to, or indeed greater than, the approximately 15-tonne payload of the retired F-111.
The options – stand-off munitions
Meanwhile, the increasingly long-arm of stand-off munitions, ranging from systems like the Naval Strike Missile, the Raytheon AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon, advanced variants of the Tomahawk cruise missile all serve as viable alternatives for integration on Australian naval and air platforms to enhance the long-range strike capabilities of the broader, ‘joint force’ ADF.
This is articulated by McGregor, who added, “The former chiefs have added their voices to growing disquiet within the strategic defence community over Australia’s capability. Both say Australia may need to invest in a strategic bomber and drones to enhance the air force’s range and impact, along with land-based ballistic missiles.”
None of this is capable without increases to the ADF budget, which is highlighted by ASPI senior analyst Malcolm Davis, who explained the need for renewed focus on the budget allocation for Defence to Defence Connect at the Avalon Airshow earlier this year:
“The government aspiration of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence is simply not enough any more. We need to look at planning our force structure, our capability requirements and spending on a number of factors, including allied strengths and potential adversarial capabilities, not arbitrary figures.
“It is time for us to throw open the debate about our force structure. It is time to ask what more do we need to do and what do we need to be capable of doing.” (Source: Defence Connect)
20 Feb 20. Japan to limit foreign ownership in 12 sectors: sources. Japan is finalizing a plan that will tighten scrutiny of foreign investment in 12 key sectors, four government sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The industries would include sectors like defense, nuclear power, aerospace, utilities, gas, cyber security and telecommunications, two of the sources said, confirming a report by the Nikkei newspaper.
Under the plan, foreign investors purchasing a stake of 1% or more in certain Japanese companies will be subject to pre-screening, as against 10% now. About 400 to 500 listed Japanese companies will fall under this criteria. The government plans to publish the list of the firms in April, one of the sources said.
Tokyo passed through parliament a change in law that would tighten reporting requirements for foreign investment in sectors related to national security, a move that reflects concern China could gain access to key confidential technology.
Finance Minister Taro Aso said on Friday the law revision – which is expected to take effect in May before mid-year shareholders’ meetings, was aimed at boosting direct investment in Japan and responding to concerns about national security.
“As a result, it should encourage Japan-bound investment rather than discouraging it,” Aso told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
The move followed similar steps taken by the United States and Europe in recent years to allow greater scrutiny of ownership in industries deemed as critical to national security.
Under a draft of the changes under consideration, the government will target 12 sectors for which foreign investors must get pre-approval for holding a stake of 1% or more in a company, as against 10% now, the finance ministry said.
To avoid discouraging foreign investors from investing in Japanese stocks, the government will grant exemptions on pre-reporting requirements for overseas investors who meet a set of criteria, the ministry said. (Source: glstrade.com/Reuters)
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