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02 Feb 23. Senators want to block Turkey F-16 sale until NATO expansion succeeds. More than a quarter of the Senate sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Thursday threatening to tank a $20bn arms sale that includes 40 Lockheed Martin Block 70 F-16 fighter jets and upgrades to Turkey’s current fleet so long as Ankara continues to block Sweden and Finland from joining NATO.
The letter comes days after another senator on the Foreign Relations Committee floated the prospect of sanctions on Turkey should it continue blocking the two Nordic countries from joining the alliance.
“Once the NATO accession protocols are ratified by Türkiye, Congress can consider the sale of F16 fighter jets,” Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., wrote in the letter to Biden, signed by a bipartisan group of 25 other senators. “A failure to do so, however, would call into question this pending sale.”
The signatories included multiple senators who sit on the Armed Services panel and the Foreign Relations Committee, which has jurisdiction over arms sales. The Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, also signed the letter.
The senators argued Turkey is violating its commitments under a trilateral agreement it signed last year with Finland and Sweden. Under that agreement, the two countries would take action on the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, and potentially extradite certain individuals in exchange for Turkish ratification of their NATO membership applications.
“Sweden and Finland have moved forward to address the issues in their memorandum of understanding, so I hope that would trigger ratification,” Shaheen told Defense News.
Sweden in particular landed in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crosshairs last month after a far-right Danish politician travelled to Stockholm to burn a Qur’an near the Turkish embassy. The incident prompted Turkey to cancel a visit to Ankara from Sweden’s Defense Minister Pal Jonson, where he had hoped to discuss its NATO bid.
Still, the senators made it a point to note Turkey “has proven to be a valuable NATO ally as Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine continues,” and praised it for its “commitment to implementing the United Nations-brokered grain deal which has allowed Ukraine to export grain and avert a global food crisis.”
Looking to sanctions
At least two Senate opponents of the sale did not sign onto the Shaheen letter and favor an even harder line on Turkey.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., has said he will use his position to hold up the F-16 sale in Congress over a much broader series of concerns that include Turkey’s jailing of journalists and political opponents as well as tensions with neighboring Greece in the eastern Mediterranean. The State Department has yet to formally notify Congress of the F-16 sale amid Menendez’s threat to block it.
“The F-16 issue is far greater than just NATO ascension, although that is part of it,” Menendez told Defense News last month. “But just doing that, it doesn’t solve the problem.”
Menendez’s home state of New Jersey boasts large Greek-American and Armenian-American populations, making Turkey particularly unpopular among some of his constituents.
And on Tuesday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., raised the prospect of sanctioning Turkey for refusing to ratify Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership.
“We need to be working in coordination with our [European Union] partners and considering potentially different kinds of sanctions if Erdogan continues to block entry of Finland and Sweden,” Van Hollen said at an event hosted by Al-Monitor.
“The Turkish economy is not in great shape,” he continued. “It’s one of the reasons that polling in Turkey shows that Erdogan is not popular. So, I do think there have to be some consequences to this kind of conduct.”
The Trump administration in 2020 imposed narrow penalties on Turkey’s military procurement agency over its purchase of the S-400 missile defense system as required under a Russia sanctions law Congress passed in 2017. The S-400 sale also prompted the U.S. to expel Turkey from its F-35 co-production program amid fears the Russian system’s powerful radar could be used to spy on the stealth fighter jet.
In addition to sanctions for blocking Swedish and Finnish NATO entry, Van Hollen also raised the prospect of sanctions should Erdogan make good on his increasing threats to attack U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria ahead of Turkish presidential elections in May.
“This is an area where I think there have to be consequences in terms of joint U.S.-European actions in the form of sanctions,” Van Hollen said at the Al-Monitor event. “The Europeans have in the past also supported and continue to support the U.S. position here.”
Elham Ahmad, the president of the Kurdish-dominated administration in northeast Syria, will visit Washington next week with the aim of thwarting another Turkish incursion, particularly against Kobane, a Kurdish-majority city on the Turkish-Syrian border. She has previously lobbied Congress against the F-16 sale, noting Turkey has used its existing F-16 fleet to target civilian infrastructure in northeast Syria.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who signed onto the F-16 letter, told Defense News “Turkey’s incursions now into Kurdistan and northern Iraq are very troublesome.”
“We’ve always had a challenge with them and the Kurds in northern Syria, but the number of challenges seem to be piling up,” he continued. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
02 Feb 23. Countdown is on to 2025: US Air Force general warns.
“My gut tells me we will fight in 2025,” troubling words US Air Force General Michael Minihan has issued as warning to his command — raising questions about the US, Australia, and other regional allies’ modernisation and preparedness efforts.
Next year, 2024, is a year of convergence, opening the door for the potential forceful reunification of Taiwan — the Taiwanese presidential elections, and what is sure to be a hotly contested and fiery US presidential election the same year, setting the stage for a truly monumental shift in the balance of global power and stability.
This convergence comes at a time of growing antagonism and sabre rattling from Beijing seeking to solve its “Taiwan problem”, reinforced by growing speculation from leading US defence leaders like former Commander, US Indo-Pacific Commander, Admiral Philip Davidson testifying to the Senate Armed Services Committee, “Taiwan is clearly one of their [Beijing’s] ambitions before then. And I think the threat is manifest during this decade, in fact in the next six years.”
This ominous warning heralds a more concerning impact for the global order, should a conflict break out of Taiwan, with ADM Davidson further adding, “I worry that they’re [Beijing] accelerating their ambitions to supplant the United States and our leadership role in the rules-based international order, which they’ve long said that they want to do that by 2050. I’m worried about them moving that target closer.”
Now, those well-documented concerns of ADM Davidson have been further reinforced by General Michael Minihan, Commander, Air Mobility Command, who recently penned a letter to “all AMC Wing Commanders” which outlined: “I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025. Xi secured his third term and set his war council in October 2022.
“Taiwan’s presidential elections are in 2024 and will offer Xi a reason. United States’ presidential elections are in 2024 and will offer Xi a distracted America. Xi’s team, reason, and opportunity are all aligned for 2025,” GEN Minihan explained.
While the Cold War-era policy of “strategic ambiguity” the United States has managed to keep the tensions across the Taiwan Strait from spiralling out control, in spite of various periods of flare up, such as the Taiwan Strait Crisis in the mid-90s, however, this strategy now appears to be largely defunct — with the US actively stepping up their efforts to deter Chinese aggression across the domains.
This is best explained by GEN Minihan, who states in his commander’s notice, “We spent 2022 setting the foundation for victory. We will spend 2023 in crisp operational motion building on that foundation.”
Commander’s intent and a clear end state
GEN Minihan outlines a clear commander’s intent that seeks “to ready the Air Mobility Forces for future conflict, should deterrence fail” with an emphasis on readiness, integration, and agility to enable the broader US Joint Force in the Indo-Pacific to “deter, and if required, defeat China”. GEN Minihan identifies that this will be the first of eight monthly directives.
The US Indo-Pacific Command will call upon the US Air Force’s Air Mobility Command to play a critical role in supporting combat operations beyond the growing range of Beijing’s complex web of anti-access/area-denial (A2AD) systems, combining land, sea and air-based sensors and effectors that are designed to neutralise the strategic game-changer platforms, like the US Navy’s Carrier Strike Groups and key air platforms, like the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor fighters.
Air Mobility Command’s vast fleet of air-to-air refuelling tanker aircraft, ranging from the new KC-46 Pegasus to the Cold War-era KC-135 Stratotankers, will serve to provide US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps combat aircraft with critical operational and strategic flexibility by increasing the combat range of these platforms beyond the reach of Chinese weapons systems.
Meanwhile, the tactical and strategic airlifters of Air Mobility Command will provide the US Army and Marines Corps with increased flexibility to support operational manoeuvrability to blunt enemy counter attacks, leveraging a range of next-generation capabilities, including platforms like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), light amphibious warship and in-development autonomous Naval Strike Missile-equipped Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESS) with the capacity to secure bubble within A2/AD networks and further avenues to strike back.
To deliver these capabilities reliably and en masse, GEN Minihan details the “End State” he envisages for the Air Mobility Command and its broader impact on the Joint Force, saying, “A fortified, ready, integrated, and agile Joint Force Maneuver Team ready to fight and win inside the first island chain.”
Take risks, but calculated risks
GEN Minihan is quick to emphasise the importance of Air Mobility Command personnel taking calculated risks across their training, test and evaluation processes in order to “attain higher readiness, integration, and agility”. GEN Minihan anticipates that this rapid and calculated approach to training will provide the Air Mobility Command with increased readiness to respond to any contingency.
As part of this, GEN Minihan also stressed the importance of Air Mobility Command personnel pushing beyond their comfort zone, stating, “Run deliberately, not recklessly. If you are comfortable in your approach to training, then you are not taking enough risk.”
This approach is also designed to extend to developing and fielding new capabilities and is typified by an effort for KC-135 units to coordinate to provide a conceptual means for air delivering 100 COTS UAVs from a single aircraft — for an as yet undetermined purpose, however, the point remains.
Lessons for Australia’s future strategic planning
There is no doubt that Australia’s position and responsibilities in the Indo-Pacific region will depend on the nation’s ability to sustain itself economically, strategically and politically in the face of rising regional and global competition. Despite the nation’s virtually unrivalled wealth of natural resources, agricultural and industrial potential, there is a lack of a cohesive national security strategy integrating the development of individual, yet complementary public policy strategies to support a more robust Australian role in the region.
While contemporary Australia has been far removed from the harsh realities of conflict, with many generations never enduring the reality of rationing for food, energy, medical supplies or luxury goods, and even fewer within modern Australia understanding the socio-political and economic impact such rationing would have on the now world-leading Australian standard of living.
Enhancing Australia’s capacity to act as an independent power, incorporating great power-style strategic economic, diplomatic and military capability serves as a powerful symbol of Australia’s sovereignty and evolving responsibilities in supporting and enhancing the security and prosperity of Indo-Pacific Asia, this is particularly well explained by Peter Zeihan, who explains: “A de-globalised world doesn’t simply have a different economic geography, it has thousands of different and separate geographies. Economically speaking, the whole was stronger for the inclusion of all its parts. It is where we have gotten our wealth and pace of improvement and speed. Now the parts will be weaker for their separation.”
Accordingly, shifting the public discussion and debate away from the default Australian position of “it is all a little too difficult, so let’s not bother” will provide unprecedented economic, diplomatic, political and strategic opportunities for the nation.
As events continue to unfold throughout the region and China continues to throw its economic, political and strategic weight around, can Australia afford to remain a secondary power, or does it need to embrace a larger, more independent role in an era of increasing great power competition?
(Source: Defence Connect)
31 Jan 23. DOD Announces the Establishment of the Defense Management Institute. Today, at a kick-off symposium at the Institute for Defense Analyses, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks and Pentagon Director of Administration and Management Michael Donley announced the establishment of the Defense Management Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan research organization committed to enhancing the management, organization, performance improvement and enterprise business operations of the department.
“The Department of Defense is the world’s largest and most complex institution, with a budget of more than $800 bn and a workforce of 3 m operating 24 hours a day in every time zone around the globe,” said Deputy Secretary Hicks. “We owe it to the taxpayers to ensure that their resources are managed as efficiently and effectively as possible. The DMI will contribute to that effort by learning from the best of the public and private sectors and helping us to constantly update and improve our management practices.”
The DMI implements the Secretary’s and the Deputy Secretary’s commitment to improve management across the department. Its efforts will support the continual updating going forward of the new Strategic Management Plan, keeping it aligned with the National Defense Strategy such that our management priorities for the department reflect those things that need to be done to help implement the NDS.
In particular, the DMI, which will be managed by IDA, will assist the department by:
- Developing a defense management network of expertise and a community of practice including experts and practitioners from federally-funded research and development centers, think tanks, academia, and the private sector;
- Conducting cutting-edge research on management issues to inform decisions by the department and Congress; and
- Building a digital repository of research and other resources on key defense management issues that the entire community can leverage.
“Defense reform has been a key enabler to my efforts to support Secretary Austin’s three priorities of ‘defending the nation,’ ‘taking care of our people,’ and ‘succeeding through teamwork,” said Deputy Secretary Hicks. “I’m counting on DMI and the broader defense community to help ensure progress will only accelerate in the years to come. It truly is a national security imperative.” (Source: US DoD)
30 Jan 23. U.S. stops granting export licenses for China’s Huawei – sources. The Biden administration has stopped approving licenses for U.S. companies to export most items to China’s Huawei, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Huawei has faced U.S. export restrictions around items for 5G and other technologies for several years, but officials in the U.S. Department of Commerce have granted licenses for some American firms to sell certain goods and technologies to the company. Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) in 2020 received permission to sell 4G smartphone chips to Huawei.
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A Commerce Department spokesperson said officials “continually assess our policies and regulations” but do not comment on talks with specific companies. Huawei and Qualcomm declined to comment. Bloomberg and the Financial Times earlier reported the move.
One person familiar with the matter said U.S. officials are creating a new formal policy of denial for shipping items to Huawei that would include items below the 5G level, including 4G items, Wifi 6 and 7, artificial intelligence, and high-performance computing and cloud items.
Another person said the move was expected to reflect the Biden administration’s tightening of policy on Huawei over the past year. Licenses for 4G chips that could not be used for 5g, which might have been approved earlier, were being denied, the person said. Toward the end of the Trump administration and early in the Biden administration, officials had still granted licenses for items specific to 4G applications.
American officials placed Huawei on a trade blacklist in 2019 restricting most U.S. suppliers from shipping goods and technology to the company unless they were granted licenses. Officials continued to tighten the controls to cut off Huawei’s ability to buy or design the semiconductor chips that power most of its products.
But U.S. officials granted licenses that allowed Huawei to receive some products. For example, suppliers to Huawei got licenses worth $61 bn to sell to the telecoms equipment giant from April through November 2021.
In December, Huawei said its overall revenue was about $91.53 bn, down only slightly from 2021 when U.S. sanctions caused its sales to fall by nearly a third. (Source: Reuters)
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