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The National Interest online seeks to provide a space for vigorous debate and exchange not only among Americans but between U.S. and overseas interlocutors. This is the new home for informed analysis and frank but reasoned exchanges on foreign policy and international affairs.
24 марта, 16:39

Get Ready, NATO: Russia's New Air Defense Tech (Think Missiles and Lasers) Looks Dangerous

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Dave Majumdar Security, Russia's mad scientists have some smart ideas to take on western aircraft.  Russia will start research and development (R&D) work on a new generation of surface-to-air missiles for its army in 2018. The research work will be used to inform a full-scale development effort that will start in 2020. The new prospective new family of weapons—which the Russians have code-named “Standard”—would replace all of the Russian Ground Forces air defense missiles including the Tor, Buk and some versions of the S-300. However, the prospective new system would not replace the Russian Aerospace Forces’ air defense weapons such as the S-400 and the forthcoming S-500. “By 2020, the main focus of development will be the creation of a single universal multifunctional weapons system for the Army Air Defense troops,” Lt. Gen. Alexander Leonov, commander of the Russian Army Air Defense troops told the TASS news agency. “It will be necessary in 2020–2025 to lay the technological foundation for such a system by opening an innovative R&D division.” When full-scale development starts in 2020, the Russians hope to develop a fully integrated and networked air defense system that would utilize a modular family of missiles, Leonov said. The missiles would come in short, medium and long-range variants. Moreover, the future system could potentially incorporate novel technologies such as lasers and other directed energy weapons, Leonov added. The Standard is not a weapon system per se; rather it is the name for the entire overarching family of next generation Russian Ground Forces air defense systems. “What he means is not any particular SAM system. They are going to start the development of the whole new family of weapons and equipment for the Ground Forces air defense units,” Russian defense analyst Vasily Kashin at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics (HSE) told The National Interest. “That will include short and medium range SAMs and a net-centric command and control system which will command them and also some 'weapons on the new physical principles' which, as I understand, most likely means lasers. We are already actively developing some types of laser weapons.” The Standard will be a comprehensive system that will include new versions of every element of the Russian Army’s air defense apparatus. “New generation of SAMs, radars, command and control systems for the Army’s air defense,” Kashin said. Read full article

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24 марта, 14:16

Why Aircraft Carriers (At Almost 100 Years Old) Still Dominate the Oceans

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Robert Farley Security, They won't end up like battleships anytime soon.  Fundamentally, the strength of a carrier depends most on the capabilities of its air wing. In the next decade, the aircraft launched from U.S. carriers will undergo considerable change. Most notably, the arrival of the F-35C (whatever the larger problems with the program) will increase the stealth, sensor capacity, and communications capabilities of the air wing. In combination with the EA-18 Growler, this will increase the lethality of the entire air wing. Down the road, the Navy’s pursuit of a sixth-generation fighter will hopefully keep the carrier air wing vital and effective, even against strongly defended targets. The aircraft that the Gerald Ford enters service carrying will look little like those that it flies when it leaves service. HMS Furious, the first real aircraft carrier, entered service in early 1918. A converted cruiser, she displaced about 20,000 tons, and flew about half a dozen Sopwith Camels, an aircraft with a range of about 150 miles and a weapons payload just short of 100 pounds. Twenty-five years later, Furious could carry 36 aircraft, ranging at least twice as far with weapon loads of around 2,000 pounds. Her larger, purpose built cousins could carry double the number of aircraft. Armored flight decks, improved anti-aircraft armament, and better damage control procedures protected many of these later carriers from attacks that would sink their older brethren. In short, aircraft carriers are composite systems of warfare that can increase rapidly in lethality as their components improve. While the USN (and the other carrier fleets of the world) will likely never achieve the leaps forward in lethality that the inter-war navies experienced, it can still expect that its carrier fleet will grow in effectiveness over time. The USN can increase the effectiveness of its carriers in one of three ways: increase their offensive striking power, tighten their defense, or (perhaps most difficult) bring their procurement costs into line. In this context, here are five developments that could increase the lethality of the USN’s aircraft carrier fleet: Integrated missile defense Read full article

24 марта, 14:04

The U.S. Army Wants A Super 'Bullet' To Kill Enemy Tanks

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Kris Osborn Security, Current innovations involve a cutting-edge technology program, called Massive Overmatch Assault Round or MOAR, aimed exploring the prospect of precision guided rounds for the weapon. The weapon fires High-Explosive air burst rounds, close combat rounds, and then the general support rounds, like the smoke and battlefield elimination, developers said. Airburst rounds use programmable fuse to explode in the air at a precise location, thereby maximizing the weapon's effect against enemy targets hiding, for example, behind a rock, tree or building.   Air burst rounds can detonate in the air or in general proximity to a target. For instance, an airburst round could explode just above an enemy fighter seeking cover behind a rock or wall. "I want to penetrate the target. I want to kill a light armored vehicle.  I want to kill a structure. I want to kill somebody behind the structure. With the gun, soldiers can decide how to affect the targets.  Really, that's what the Carl-Gustaf brings to the battlefield is the ability to decide how they want to affect the battlefield -- not call in air support and mark targets,” Wes Walters, Executive Vice President of Business Development, Land Domain, Saab North America, told Scout Warrior in an interview.  Army and industry weapons developers are working with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency to explore the feasibility of precision-guided rounds for a man-portable, anti-personnel and ant-armor weapon known as the Carl Gustaf, officials said. Current innovations involve a cutting-edge technology program, called Massive Overmatch Assault Round or MOAR, aimed exploring the prospect of precision guided rounds for the weapon. While the shoulder-fired infantry and Special Operations weapon currently uses multiple rounds and advanced targeting technologies, using a precision “guided” round would enable the weapon to better destroy enemy targets on the move by having the technology to re-direct with advanced seeker technology. “We are exploring different kinds of seekers to pursue precision engagement capabilities,” Malcolm Arvidsson, Product Director, Carl-Gustaf M4, Saab, told Scout Warrior in an interview.    The weapon, called the Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System, known as the Carl-Gustaf, was initially used by Special Operations Forces. Several years ago, it was ordered by the Army in response to an Operational Needs Statement from Afghanistan. Read full article

24 марта, 03:24

The Russia-Israel Relationship Is Perfect Realpolitik

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Nikolay Pakhomov Politics, Eurasia The two powers recognize they have enough common ground to work together, and have learned to tolerate disagreement. In world politics, the Middle East remains the region with the most serious security challenges. Observers agree that it is undergoing a stage of drastic changes that will define its future. Among the factors shaping the region, Israel’s foreign policy is traditionally of paramount importance, and Israeli-Russian relations are a significant element. While the West in general and the United States in particular try to balance different, foreign and domestic factors within their relations with Israel, Russian foreign policy, based on realist ideas of national interest, negotiations and bargaining, provides for strengthening cooperation with Israel wherever it is possible. Neither country tries to hide disagreements, but both are eager to work together where their interests coincide. Benjamin Netanyahu’s two visits in recent weeks—one to the United States, another to Russia—could hardly be more different. The trip to Washington received vast media attention and commentary, while the talks in Moscow were met with just a few short official statements. The fact that it was the first meeting of the Israeli prime minister with the new American president only partially explains the difference. U.S.-Israeli relations are an item of American domestic politics. The same can be said about the relations of most Western countries with Israel—whether Germany, with its emotional attachment to Israel, or France, with its historically complicated Middle Eastern policy. One can hardly imagine that Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to any Western country could be a routine political matter. Read full article

24 марта, 03:23

Donald Trump Needs a Strategy for the Asia-Pacific Region

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Michael Mazza Security, Asia The Trump administration needs to conduct a Southeast Asia policy review that explores a strategy in the South China Sea. Seventy-five years ago, Gen. Douglas MacArthur made his escape from the Philippine island base of Corregidor, avoiding the tightening Japanese noose and ensuring he would live to fight another day. He arrived in Australia on March 17, 1942, and three days later made his famous declaration: “I came through and I shall return.” Of course, return he did. And although the United States quickly granted the Philippines independence after the war, U.S. forces remained forward stationed there for decades, with the two countries forming an enduring alliance. Today, with North Korea finding new ways to outdo itself and with Washington, DC possibly seeking to upgrade ties to Taiwan, Southeast Asia may seem like a strategic sideshow. Indeed, despite the administration’s somewhat surprising focus on Asia since the inauguration, the Trump White House has paid it precious little attention. That is a mistake. For a time during World War II, Japan’s conquest of the subregion tipped the Asian balance of power in favor of the Axis. In the war’s aftermath, American planners recognized that Southeast Asia would play a similar role in determining the power balance between the United States and its Pacific allies on the one hand and its Eurasian foes on the other. This remains true. As such, the Trump administration should prioritize developing a strategy for the Asia-Pacific region if it hopes to ensure a favorable balance of power. MacArthur’s flight from the Philippines is just the latest in a series of dark anniversaries in Asia, all of which serve as potent reminders of Southeast Asia’s geostrategic centrality. February 15 marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of the fall of Singapore to Japan, which Winston Churchill later described as “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British military history.” Just four days later, on February 19, 1942, Japanese aircraft would launch a raid on Darwin, Australia, with bombers flying off of aircraft carriers and from airfields on Ambon and Celebes as well as from islands in the Dutch East Indies (modern-day Indonesia), which Japanese forces had conquered since the attack on Pearl Harbor. Read full article

24 марта, 03:23

America's Hands Are Tied in Yemen

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Ari Heistein Security, Middle East Trump was right to choose the policy option that best protected U.S. interests, though imperfect. There is undoubtedly a degree of internal tension within Trump's policy towards Yemen, because of the complex array of forces on the Yemeni battlefield, but U.S. policy on the matter is hardly meant to “serve the Saudis,” as some have alleged. As in many other instances in the Middle East, in particular Iraq, all the policy options available to Washington are imperfect, and the United States must balance between problematic actors in order to protect its own interests. However, by supporting to the Saudi campaign while at the same time battling AQAP, the United States is striking the appropriate balance between fulfilling its commitment to protect its allies in the region and coping with the Sunni jihadist threat. There is certainly good reason to question why the United States should be involved in Yemen at all. Indeed, the battlefield that served as Egypt's Vietnam in the 1960s could easily become the United States’ next Afghanistan, if it gets dragged into the civil war that teeters on the verge of humanitarian catastrophe. In addition, Washington does not see a great deal of inherent value in fighting the Saudis’ enemies in Yemen, known as the Houthis; despite claims to the contrary, hitting the Houthis hard does little to push back on Iran, because Tehran has made minimal investment in the group and the vast majority of the support it offers is vocal rather than material. Unfortunately for the United States, the actor that it seeks to support and the threat that it aims to neutralize have found common cause in fighting the same enemies—the Houthis. This means that by neutralizing AQAP, an organization that is currently focusing the bulk of its efforts on fighting the Houthis, the United States will make life more difficult for the already stumbling Saudi-led coalition forces. At the same time, the Saudi coalition’s successes in pushing the Houthis out of sparsely populated areas without replacing them with a functional government have created a power vacuum conducive to AQAP’s growth. Read full article

24 марта, 03:22

Will the United States Be a Victim of Its Own Success in Syria?

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Nicholas A. Heras Security, Middle East The Trump team has options for stabilizing Syria, but each one comes with its own set of risks. The ministerial meeting of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS held in Washington, DC was an important milestone on the path to the Trump team’s mission to fully defeat the would-be caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opened the proceedings by unequivocally stating that the ISIS threat would be the first priority of the new administration, and that in achieving that overarching objective, the United States would be invested in securing the stability of areas conquered from ISIS. Tillerson correctly identified Syria as a priority for stabilization after ISIS. The challenge for the Trump administration in Syria is that the United States could be a victim of its own success: by prosecuting the campaign against ISIS, the U.S. military is building out an American zone of control on the ground in a large area of eastern Syria. Unlike in Iraq, where Baghdad is a state actor that the U.S. military has chosen to work by, with and through to take the fight to ISIS, the United States refuses to formally work with Damascus. It will only deconflict military operations targeting ISIS and Al Qaeda that the Russian military occasionally carries out on behalf of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Under both Obama and Trump, the United States has operated under the assumption that Syria is a geographic space, not a functioning state with sovereignty over all of its territory, and for all intents and purposes cutting al-Assad out of the process. When ISIS is forced out of its Iraqi “capital” in Mosul, which appears set to occur in the near future, the ultimate authority for the territory held by ISIS in Iraq will fall to the Iraqi government, working with local actors. In contrast, in eastern Syria, the al-Assad government is present in a few scattered, beleaguered military outposts—the most significant being an airbase outside of the city of Deir al-Zour in the lower Euphrates River Valley near the Syrian-Iraqi border. Distracted by the fighting in western Syria, and the Syrian Arab Army’s chronic manpower shortages, even with the support of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its network of foreign, primarily Shia militias and the Russian military, the al-Assad government has ceded the operational freedom to the U.S. military to conduct counter-ISIS campaign throughout eastern Syria. Read full article

24 марта, 03:22

Rex Tillerson is Right: U.S.-China Relations Need Not Be Zero-Sum

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Jared McKinney Security, Asia Secretary Tillerson should ignore the criticism of the foreign-policy elites. Only in Washington, DC could the suggestion that the world’s most powerful country and the world’s most populous country agree to avoid conflict, respect one another and pursue positive-sum cooperation be seen as controversial. Little did Secretary of State Rex Tillerson realize that when he announced America’s commitment to “non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect [and] win-win cooperation” at a press conference with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi that he was violating a taboo jealously guarded by Washington’s foreign-policy insiders. Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, opined that it was a mistake to use language originated by China. Ely Ratner, formerly Vice President Biden’s deputy national security advisor, fumed that Tillerson had made a “big mistake” and that by using the phrase, Tillerson had fallen for China’s “platitudes and propaganda” and bought into a “dangerous narrative.” And Daniel Drezner declared it a “problem” that Tillerson “pleased his hosts” in this manner, seeing the statement as emblematic of Tillerson’s incompetence. Despite the umbrage of U.S. foreign-policy elites, criticism of Tillerson’s action is misplaced. Secretary Tillerson has not given the game away in one rash act, nor has he betrayed America’s values or interests. To the contrary, he has acted in a mature, statesmanlike manner that betrays the common sense and nonideological intuition increasingly found only among political outsiders. Here’s why the knee-jerk criticisms of his statement are unfounded. Objection One: The New Model of Great Power Relations Is Only Propaganda Read full article

24 марта, 00:05

The GOP's Self-Inflicted Wound on Health Care

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Jacob Heilbrunn Politics, Americas By allying with Ryan, Trump sacrificed the heart of his agenda. Forget Russia. The real blow to the Trump administration came today with the failure of the House of Representatives to vote on health care. For eight years, Republicans have vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare. That did not occur today. Instead, President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan suffered a severe blow. The nimbus of Trump as a dealmaker who could force a polarized Washington to work together on his terms is being damaged. Much of it was self-inflicted. Why Trump, who campaigned as a populist reformer, would join himself at the hip with Ryan remains mysterious. Ryan’s bill constituted less a reform of Obamacare than a massive tax cut for the wealthy. Indeed, the provisions concocted by Ryan and his surrogates were inimical to the interests of Trump’s white working-class base. As Fox’s Tucker Carlson put it to Ryan on Wednesday night, “Looking at the last election, was the message of that election really, ‘we need to help investors?’ I mean the Dow is over 20,000. Are they really the group that needs help?” When queried again by Carlson about whether his bill favored the wealthy and ignored Trump’s base, Ryan simply responded, “I’m not concerned about it.” Maybe he isn’t. But, as Peggy Noonan recently noted, “We are in the midst of the kind of crises that can do nations in. It is pleasant to chirp, as Speaker Paul Ryan does, of ‘choice’ and ‘competition’ and an end to ‘paternalistic’ thinking on health care. Is it responsive to the moment? Or does it sound like old lyrics from an old hymnal?” Noonan is right. An important new study by the Brookings Institution, which is discussed today in the Wall Street Journal, says death rates for white adults are dramatically rising: while midlife mortality rates continue to fall among all education classes in most of the rich world, middle-aged non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. with a high school diploma or less have experienced increasing midlife mortality since the late 1990s. This is due to both rises in the number of “deaths of despair”—death by drugs, alcohol and suicide—and to a slowdown in progress against mortality from heart disease and cancer, the two largest killers in middle age. Read full article

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23 марта, 23:52

The Health Care Bill's Republican Opponents Aren't Extremists

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Matt Purple Politics, Americas The official line is wrong: there is no hissing fuse on health reform. A bunch of “arch-conservative” “hard-liners” just pushed a health care bill “to the far right” and then killed it anyway because they didn’t “get what they want.” That’s according to the argot of Politico, whose style guide appears to have been hatched in a catacomb underneath the Center for American Progress. Referring to the House Freedom Caucus as “hard-liners,” a term typically reserved for Iranian ayatollahs, is apparently the vogue vocabulary at Washington’s official trade publication. The mystery of why conservatives are so ticked at the media stretches onwards. Call me an extremist, but I don’t understand what’s so outlandish about the House Freedom Caucus’s objections. The Republican legislation, titled the American Health Care Act (AHCA), maintains existing and pricey regulations that require insurance companies to indiscriminately cover customers with preexisting conditions, while striking the individual mandate that was supposed to cover those costs by pressuring relatively inexpensive young people onto the rolls. This balance was out of whack as it was, with millennials continuing to opt out anyway, but without the mandate, the problem will only get worse. As Nathan Keeble explains, the most likely result of the AHCA is that “the health insurance market would collapse in an even more rapid death spiral, and this time the Republican party will be on the receiving end of the political blowback.” That isn’t a “far-right” argument; it also isn’t a “progressive” argument or a “Nietzschean” argument or a “Catalan nationalist” argument. It’s a logical and predictable policy outcome—one anticipated by the Obamacare architects themselves, even if their solution, the mandate, proved unpopular and ineffective. The only way to arrest those soaring premiums and deductibles while still eliminating the mandate is to slash through the costly requirements that Obamacare imposed, which House Freedom Caucus members say won’t happen under the current legislation. The AHCA will, at best, do little to ameliorate Obamacare’s problems, and at worst exacerbate them. That’s the argument. Cramming it onto the musty old ideological spectrum and sneering that it’s fringe isn’t going to rebut it. Read full article

23 марта, 20:06

The Legendary A-10 Warthog vs. the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Who Wins?

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Kris Osborn Security, What plane would you want to fly in a war?  Flying close to ground troops in combat in hostile and high-threat conditions requires a host of unique attributes for an aircraft -- such as flying slow and low to the ground, absorbing some degree of small arms fire and having an ability to quickly maneuver in response to fast-changing ground combat conditions.  These, and many more, are among factors now being analyzed as proponents of both the A-10 Warthog and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter assess their respective abilities to perform the crucial and highly valued Close Air Support mission. The Pentagon and the Air Force are now conducting a thorough examination of each plane's capability for this role - including extensive analysis, simulated tests, flights of both aircraft under combat-like conditions and a range of tests, Air Force and Pentagon officials have explained. While many of the details of the ongoing evaluation are not now being discussed publically, the results are expected to bear prominently upon the visible ongoing debate regarding the future mission scope of both the A-10 and the F-35. The Air Force has been working on a formal Analysis of Alternatives designed to address the issue.  While the cherished A-10 is unambiguously combat-tested in the role of Close Air Support, some F-35 advocates have mused that the JSF sensors, maneuverability, high-tech computers, 25mm canon and arsenal of weapons just might better position the 5th generation aircraft for the mission; at the same time, the A-10s titanium frame, built-in redundancy, famous nose-aligned 30mm cannon and wide-ranging precision-weapons envelope make clearly make it the best choice for close air support. Sure enough, the A-10s performance against ISIS, Congressional lobby and broad adoration among ground troops are among the many factors believed to have influenced the Air Force's current plan to both extend the life of the current A-10 and also explore requirements options for a future Close Air Support platform. Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior the ongoing requirements and analysis procedure is looking at three options - upgrading the existing A-10 airframe, using the best available commercial-off-the shelf aircraft, or simply engineering an building a newly designed A-10-like Close Air Support airplane.  Read full article

23 марта, 18:08

Nuclear Weapons: The Most Overrated Weapon of War?

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Robert Farley Security, And 4 other super weapons that are simply overhyped--and why.  But since World War II, the United States has eschewed the use of nuclear weapons, even against capable non-nuclear opponents.  Because of the deep political complexity associated with their employment, the weapons simply have too little battlefield and strategic impact for the US to seriously entertain their use. We very occasionally make veiled threats of the combat use of nukes, we often use nukes as diplomatic chips, and we certainly enjoy the deterrent umbrella than the strategic nuclear forces provide.  But the weapons themselves haven’t helped us win a war since 1945, even then under arguable circumstances. This tension between weapons of war and weapons of diplomacy will continue to have a big effect on Navy and Air Force procurement.  Both services are legitimately concerned about the amount of warfighting capability they will lose from updating their legacy nuclear systems (ICBMs and SSBNs), systems that will almost certainly never fire in anger. “Overrated” is a challenging concept.  In sports, a player can be “great” and “overrated” at the same time.  Future Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, for example, is quite clearly a “great” player, well deserving of the first ballot invitation he will likely receive.  However, as virtually all statistically minded aficionados of the game have noted, he is highly overrated (especially on defense) by the baseball press. Similarly, no one doubts that Kobe Bryant is an outstanding basketball player.  However, many doubt that he is quite as good as his fans (or the NBA commentariat) seem to believe. The five weapons of war listed below are “overrated” in the sense that they occupy a larger space in the defense-security conversation than they really deserve.  Some of them are fantastic, effective systems, while others are not. All of them take up more ink than they should, and (often) distract from more important issues of warfighting and defense contracting. Nuclear Weapons: Nuclear weapons have, in an important sense, dominated international diplomacy for the last six decades. What they haven’t dominated is warfare, where they appear to be nearly useless in all configurations. Read full article