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21 февраля, 06:00

Putin Problems: Why Is Ukraine's Frozen War Heating Up Again?

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Nolan Peterson Security, Europe A real 'forever war.' KYIV, Ukraine—Saturday marked the fifth anniversary of the day the war in Ukraine was supposed to end. But it never did. On early Tuesday fighting flared in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region when Russian-backed forces assaulted Ukrainian troops as they occupied an observation post near the front-line town of Zolote.  Under intense shelling, Ukrainian forces were dislodged from their positions, the Ukrainian military reported. Ukrainians held their ground when a separate combined Russian-separatist attack hit their forces near the town of Orikhove that same day. One Ukrainian soldier died in Tuesday’s attacks and six more were wounded, Ukrainian military officials said. Four combined Russian-separatist militants reportedly died as well. Tuesday’s attacks came on the five-year anniversary of the Ukrainians’ defeat to Russian forces at the battle for Debaltseve, and just three days after the five-year anniversary of the day the so-called Minsk II agreement was supposed to have curtailed combat in eastern Ukraine.  The fighting also threatens to derail an ambitious, ongoing gambit for peace with Russia by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy—an effort that has recently shown promising signs of progress. “This is not just a cynical provocation, the purpose of which is to press on the Debaltseve wound that will never heal completely. This is an attempt to disrupt the peace process in Donbas, which has begun to move forward, albeit in small, but relentless steps,” Zelenskyy said on Tuesday.  “Our course towards ending the war and adherence to international agreements remains unchanged—as does our determination to repulse any manifestations of armed aggression against Ukraine,” Zelenskyy added. According to Kyiv, the Russian-backed forces behind Tuesday’s attacks used heavy weapons banned by the operative Minsk II cease-fire, including mortars and artillery. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, reported 2,300 explosions on the front lines in eastern Ukraine before noon on Tuesday. The flare-up was unusually intense for the war in its current, stalemated condition. Some see the surge in violence as a reminder of how precarious the status quo, frozen war in the Donbas remains.  It is a conflict in which Europe’s two largest standing land armies in terms of manpower—those of Russia and Ukraine—continue to take pot shots at each other. And, as Tuesday’s violence clearly shows, the conflict could quickly and unpredictably spiral into something much worse. “There is an ongoing war in our country, it hasn’t ceased. The fact that this attack was on the fifth anniversary of the Debaltseve battle was extremely cynical,” Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said Tuesday in a social media post. ‘Strategy of Escalation’ Today, the conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region remains a limited, conventional war, mostly fought from trenches. It’s like World War I trench warfare on a smaller scale—and with a high-tech edge.  And the war is still lethal.  More than half of the war’s nearly 14,000 combat-related deaths have occurred since the failed February 2015 cease-fire, known as Minsk II, went into effect. The war has also wounded more than 30,000 people and displaced about 1.5 million more from their homes. In the Donbas warzone, one Ukrainian soldier still dies in combat every three days, on average. And civilians are often caught in the crossfire, too—most often these days due to land mines. “The Kremlin continues to pursue a strategy of escalation in Donbas in flagrant violation of Russia’s obligations, which they have undertaken as a party to the Minsk agreements,” Serhiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s United Nations ambassador, said at a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York City on Tuesday.  “The seized areas turned into a land of fear and terror,” Kyslytsya said. The Kremlin distanced itself from Tuesday’s fighting, reiterating a long-held line that its forces are not involved at all in the 6-year-old war. “We don’t have the details of the clash, we don’t know what triggered the clash. We read there are casualties on both sides, which we find unfortunate and express our hope that soon we will be able to clarify the details of what happened before going for any conclusions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday. Tuesday’s attacks also coincided with a shake-up in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s choice as point man on Ukrainian policy.  Hours after the assault in eastern Ukraine Tuesday morning, Putin fired Vladislav Surkov, his point man on Ukraine policy since 2013. Some Ukrainians see the parallel timing as evidence that Tuesday’s assault may not have been wholeheartedly sanctioned by Moscow. Surkov was widely regarded as a hardliner and the architect of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Dmitry Kozak, Surkov’s replacement, is widely seen as a more moderate voice.  Kozak worked with Yermak, whom Zelenskyy named as his new chief of staff just last week, to organize two landmark prisoner exchanges between Ukraine and Russia last year.  The staff shake-ups in both Moscow and Kyiv could signal a commitment to peace negotiations, some experts say. Even after Tuesday’s flare-up in fighting, Zelenskyy’s administration made clear that it was not abandoning peace talks with Moscow. “That is why we are doing everything possible to make this war end. Not to have such news in the morning, to let our soldiers return to their families alive,” Yermak said. False Start On Feb. 12, 2015, the leaders of France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine met in the Belarusian capital of Minsk and agreed to a peace deal known as Minsk II. According to the agreement’s terms, an unconditional cease-fire was supposed to go into effect in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas war zone on Feb. 15, 2015. Fighting never ended. However, Minsk II did freeze the conflict more or less along its current boundaries and banned the positioning of heavy weapons within a buffer zone on either side of the roughly 250-mile-long contact line between Ukrainian and combined Russian-separatist forces. Additionally, the Minsk II deal required Ukraine to amend its constitution to federalize the country, devolving central authority away from Kyiv in favor of greater autonomy for regional governments. Minsk II also called for elections to be held in the two breakaway territories in the Donbas—territories over which Moscow still enjoys military and political control. The terms of the Minsk II deal were decidedly unfavorable to Ukraine. Today, many Ukrainians see the constitutional amendment requirements to be a Russian Trojan horse aimed at undermining Ukraine’s pro-Western pivot. However, with one of the fiercest battles of the war raging in the Ukrainian town of Debaltseve at the time, February of 2015 was a do-or-die moment for Kyiv. In Debaltseve, Ukrainian forces—a mix of regular army troops and civilian paramilitary units—had at that time been weathering weeks of heavy shelling at the hands of a combined force of Russian regulars and Moscow-backed separatists. It was a classic example of Soviet “area warfare,” in which an enemy is targeted with overwhelming, indiscriminate firepower. From Kyiv’s perspective, the Debaltseve battle sent a clear message: Either comply with Russian demands at the Minsk cease-fire negotiations or risk a full-scale invasion.  Thus, Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s then-president, agreed to Russia’s terms to simply stop the fighting. Yet, the unconditional cease-fire that was supposed to go into effect on Feb. 15, 2015, never materialized.  Under pressure from unabated Russian shelling, Ukrainian forces ultimately abandoned Debaltseve on Feb. 18, 2015. After the Russians took the embattled town and halted their advance, the war then froze along its front lines with only minor territorial changes occuring over the past five years.  Today, neither side is fighting to affect a breakthrough or take significant new ground. Rather, both sides simply go on fighting—weathering daily shelling and sniper fire—to not be the side that backs down first. “Today’s attack by Russian-led forces near Zolote—which resulted in Ukrainian casualties—comes on the five-year anniversary of Russian-led forces taking the key rail hub of Debaltseve in direct contravention of the terms of the Minsk agreements reached just a week earlier,” Cherith Norman Chalet, acting deputy representative of the U.S. to the United Nations, said Tuesday. “Then, as now, Russian-led forces continue to contravene commitments made by President Putin and Russian officials, and to kill Ukrainians on Ukrainian territory,” Norman Chalet said. Quarantine Up and down the front lines in the Donbas there are still daily exchanges of artillery and small arms gunfire. For those living within the Donbas war zone, war has become a way of life. Children still go to school, even in front-line towns amid the shelling and sniper fire. Families still gather for dinner at night in blacked-out apartments. Outdoor markets still run during the weekends. Life goes on. “5 years after the establishment of a ‘Package of Measures’ for the Minsk agreements implementation, Ukrainians continue to die as a result of Russian aggression. Russia must cease its aggression and fully meet its Minsk commitments,” the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine wrote Feb. 12 on Twitter. For years, cease-fire monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have not monitored the front lines at night due to safety concerns. As a result, the war has adopted a nocturnal routine in which the use of heavy weapons ramps up after the sun goes down and the OSCE cease-fire observers have retired to safe shelters.  It’s not uncommon to see the night sky light up with tracer fire, or the distant flash of exploding shells. That’s not to say, however, that sporadic fighting doesn’t go on during the daytime. Because it often does. For Ukraine’s soldiers, their country’s ongoing war effort is meant to keep the Russian threat quarantined to the Donbas war zone. Many Ukrainian troops say that if they simply packed up and went home, then Moscow would continue its invasion behind them all the way to Kyiv. For Moscow, the war in eastern Ukraine is a long-term gambit to slow Ukraine’s pro-Western pivot. By dialing up or down the level of violence in the Donbas, Moscow attempts to extract diplomatic concessions from Kyiv and delegitimize Ukraine’s pro-democratic ambitions. Apart from the humanitarian crisis and the ongoing tragedy of soldiers continuously killed in combat, the war has certainly been a drain on Ukraine’s economy and a detractor from much-needed foreign investment. The war is also a continued roadblock in the way of Ukraine’s ambitions to join both the European Union and NATO one day. Yet, if Moscow had hoped to use the war as a way to coerce Kyiv back into Russia’s so-called sphere of influence, then the Kremlin’s plan has been a resounding failure.  Ukraine’s democracy is flourishing like never before due to the tireless efforts of grassroots, pro-democracy, civil-society groups. Many Ukrainians say their country is now firmly set on an irreversible, pro-Western trajectory. Moreover, the country has also undertaken a top-to-bottom cultural, economic, and political divorce from its former Soviet overlord.  Today, Ukraine is a democratic success story in the making, despite Russia’s best efforts to the contrary. There’s a long way to go, for sure, when it comes to fighting corruption. But Ukraine has made more progress in the past five years, and while fighting a war, toward ditching its authoritarian, Soviet past and becoming a liberal Western democracy than it achieved in all the years since achieving independence from Soviet rule in 1991. New Blood Five years after Minsk II went into effect, there has been a fresh injection of energy into finding a peaceful solution to the war in the Donbas. In December, Zelenskyy and Putin met in Paris for peace talks. It was the first meeting in three years for the so-called Normandy Format—a negotiating framework that dates back to 2014 to end the war in eastern Ukraine. The Paris peace talks were a significant step toward a negotiated peace, signaling that both sides were willing to consider a diplomatic solution to the war rather than victory through decisive military action.  At a minimum, the talks reopened channels of communication between Kyiv and Moscow through which trust can be slowly rebuilt, allowing incremental steps forward in hashing out compromises on controversial sticking points, such as holding elections in the Donbas. On Friday, Zelenskyy’s administration announced that the Ukrainian president had called Putin to discuss the possibility of another meeting of the Normandy Format leaders. Tuesday’s spike in combat, however, underscores how easily reversible that progress toward peace may be. “This latest incident is not isolated,” Edi Rama, OSCE chairman, said in a statement on Tuesday about the spike in combat in the Donbas. “Every day the ceasefire is violated, despite the undertakings set out in the Minsk agreements, and the explicit commitment to ‘a full and comprehensive implementation of the ceasefire’ agreed in Paris two months ago.” After six years of war, and five years of the failed Minsk II cease-fire, many Ukrainians remain skeptical about the prospects for peace anytime soon.  Spearheaded by war veterans opposed to Zelenskyy’s peace overtures to Moscow, a nationwide “anti-capitulation” movement has sprouted across Ukraine. Zelenskyy’s popularity has suffered in the process. A nationwide poll in January put Zelenskyy’s approval rating among Ukrainians at 49%—down from 73% in September. Opponents of a negotiated peace with Russia are entrenched in their opposition to holding any elections in the Donbas until Ukrainian forces have regained full control of the embattled territory, and all Russian troops and its agents have departed. Otherwise, according to Zelenskyy’s critics, elections in the Donbas will simply by a means by which Moscow can insert its own mouthpieces into Ukraine’s national parliament.  It is now clear, however, that the lopsided hard-power advantage that Moscow once enjoyed over Kyiv has diminished since February of 2015. Ukraine now has more bargaining power against Moscow than it ever has. And that’s one key reason why many Ukrainian veterans are so staunchly opposed to making any concessions to Moscow for the sake of peace. Battle-Hardened Since the war began in 2014, Ukraine has rebuilt its once infirm military—which had been dilapidated by widespread corruption in the post-Soviet years—into a much more modern, professional, and battle-hardened force. “Yes, we want peace, but at the same time we are increasing funding for the army and are actively working to strengthen its defense capabilities,” Yermak said. Since 2014, Russia has used Ukraine as a testing ground for both its modern conventional and hybrid warfare doctrines. Ukrainian troops, therefore, have more combat experience against the modern Russian military than any other country. Ukraine’s military is currently in the midst of a crash-course modernization effort. Part of that transformation includes the adoption of NATO operating standards across the board—all in hopes of joining the Western alliance one day.  To that end, Ukraine’s armed forces have ditched the strict, top-down hierarchy of the Soviet chain of command, which often left front-line troops hamstrung in the chaos of combat by requiring them to obey the orders of commanders ensconced at command posts safely distant from the front lines. In place of the Soviet chain of command, Ukraine’s armed forces have adopted a command hierarchy modeled on the U.S. military in which junior officers and non-commissioned officers are more empowered to make decisions on their own, in the heat of combat, based on battlefield realities. That shift in Ukraine’s military chain of command philosophy makes the country’s armed forces much more adaptable to the fluid realities of combat. It also allows them to be more effective against Russia’s hybrid warfare tactics. ‘Little Green Men’ An evolving threat that spans every combat domain, “hybrid” or “gray zone” warfare combines conventional military force with other so-called gray zone activities, such as cyberattacks and propaganda, both on the battlefield and deep behind the front lines.  These tactics create battlefield confusion, primarily in the command and control process, clouding the situational awareness of both front-line troops and their commanders. Famously, when patchless Russian soldiers—the “little green men,” as they came to be known—showed up in Crimea in February of 2014, Ukrainian forces gave up without a fight. In Crimea, Russia’s so-called little green men faced a shell-shocked Ukrainian military that was unwilling to fight back. However, Russia’s hybrid warfare operation in the Donbas didn’t go nearly as smoothly. In its early months, Russia’s hybrid offensive was on the march, leapfrogging across the Donbas, taking town after town. Caught off guard at the outset, Ukrainians soon rallied to their country’s defense by launching a grassroots war effort. By that July, a ragtag coalition of Ukrainian government troops and civilian militias had gained the upper hand against combined Russian-separatist forces.  By July of 2014, just three months into the conflict, Ukrainian forces had retaken 23 out of the 36 districts previously under combined Russian-separatist control.  Then in August 2014, with its hybrid operation in shambles, Russia outright invaded eastern Ukraine with thousands of its own regular troops, subsequently routing the Ukrainians at the disastrous battle for Ilovaisk.  By the end of August 2014, Russian forces were marching on the key port city of Mariupol. This correspondent was in Mariupol at that time, and the mood was apocalyptic. Mariupol’s residents were, at the time, readying for street-to-street fighting. Names like “Grozny” and “Stalingrad” were frequently invoked to describe what the looming battle for the city would likely resemble. Local militia leaders trained civilian boys and old men in guerrilla warfare basics. They practiced shooting small arms and bazookas, planting explosives, and building tank traps.  Soldiers and civilians joined together to build tank barriers, trenches, barbed-wire barriers, and machine gun nests on the city’s perimeter. The sandy beaches on the Sea of Azov coastline looked like those of Normandy in June 1944. During the first days of September 2015, you could easily hear the sounds of tank battles from downtown Mariupol. It seemed as if the end had come at last. But the battle for Mariupol never happened. Poroshenko and Putin met in Minsk in September 2014 to sign the war’s first cease-fire. That deal stalled the war and the Russian advance, thereby saving Mariupol, a city of 500,000 people, from disaster.  The first Minsk cease-fire quickly collapsed. And subsequent fighting at the Donetsk airport became particularly brutal during the winter of 2014 to 2015.  Close quarters fighting sometimes saw opposing troops holed up on different floors of the same building. There was hand-to-hand fighting at times, according to Ukrainian soldiers who fought at the Donetsk airport. Yet, from an operational perspective, Russia’s original hybrid warfare plan in the Donbas was an abject failure, requiring the use of conventional military force to save face. Today, with its rapidly strengthening conventional military, Ukraine is now positioned to become a regional counterbalance against Russian military power in Eastern Europe.  Moreover, Ukraine’s grassroots war effort in 2014 sends a deterrent message to Moscow, underscoring that a full-scale invasion of Ukraine would be met with a protracted, guerrilla resistance. The ‘Dreadful Lessons of History’ The fifth anniversary of the Minsk II case-fire should serve as a sobering reminder for Western democracies that Europe’s two largest militaries in terms of manpower are still shooting at each every day in the Donbas.  The longer that precarious status quo continues, the greater the chance that an unforeseen accident might ignite a much bigger war that spreads well beyond the limits of the Donbas battlefields. So long as the Minsk II cease-fire allows Russia to carry on prosecuting its frozen war in eastern Ukraine, Europe will remain just one “Franz Ferdinand” scenario away from another major land war. The unthinkable could happen again. After all, wars often begin which no one wants. Just two living generations ago, Ukraine was the deadliest battlefield of the deadliest war in human history. Some of the soldiers who fought in that war, and the civilians who survived it, are still alive today. Thus, no one should think that another war like that is impossible, or that the events of our time are somehow immune to history’s perennial cycles of war and peace. With history as a guide, one thing is clear: If the war in Ukraine accidentally escalates into a bigger conflict, Russians and Ukrainians won’t be the only ones fighting in it. Five years after the failed Minsk II cease-fire was supposed to go into effect and unconditionally curb combat in eastern Ukraine, a key question remains unanswered: When, and where, will this war end? At a speech at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 15, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recalled visiting a wounded Ukrainian veteran at a military hospital in Kyiv, just two weeks earlier. “And as we were getting ready to leave, he got up. He grabbed his crutches. He moved across the room and he went to his wall locker, grabbed his uniform, pulled off his patch, and he handed me his unit logo. He told me to keep it; he wanted me to have it,” Pompeo said, adding: “That moment hit home for me. It reminded me that sovereignty is worth fighting for and that it’s real, that we’re all in this fight together.” Nolan Peterson, a former special operations pilot and a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, is The Daily Signal’s foreign correspondent based in Ukraine. Send an email to Nolan. His article first appeared in The Daily Signal.

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21 февраля, 05:30

Hero of Pearl Harbor: This Was the Battleship USS Arizona's Last Stand

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Joseph M. Horodyski History, Asia A sad day for the nation--and a moment in history that should never be forgotten.  During the dark daysof December 1941, when it seemed as if American and British bases were falling like dominoes across the Pacific, two incidents during the Japanese attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor gave American morale a much needed boost. One of these occurred when Army Air Corps lieutenants George Welch and Ken Taylor managed to get airborne in their two Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighters from their base at Haleiwa Field and between them downed five enemy aircraft that Sunday morning, ending their attacks only when their ammunition and fuel were exhausted. But their exploits were not fully known until after the attack was over, they had been debriefed and their claims verified, and their story appeared in newspapers to a country hungry for positive war news. They achieved their exploits in the open skies over Hawaii, mostly unseen by those on the ground below. The second incident was more widely witnessed. The World War I-vintage battleship USS Nevada was the only capital ship that day that managed to get underway during the attack and attempt an escape from the confining waters of Pearl Harbor to the open sea; battered and heavily damaged, her captain chose to beach her on a nearby spit of land so she could be repaired and readied to fight another day. Though her run for the sea lasted barely 30 minutes, it was later claimed (rightfully or not) to have been witnessed, at least in part, by just about every serviceman present that Sunday at Pearl Harbor from numerous vantage points. It was photographed while it was happening and gave an immediate lift to the spirits of those resisting the Japanese onslaught. Because of the vast number of witnesses, the story of her dash to the sea began to spread, either by word of mouth or telephone, almost immediately after the attack. Yet her name is little known today by the general public, and the story of how she became the only ship that day to nearly escape the Japanese attack is even less known. The USS Nevada was launched on July 11, 1914. As the lead ship of her class she boasted what were then three new features that later became standard among U.S. ships: three turrets with three guns each; oil fuel rather than coal; and heavy armor plating to protect her vital machinery spaces rather than lighter armor spread over the entire ship. In the parlance of the day she was known as a “super dreadnought.” At 583 feet long, she boasted 14-inch guns as main weaponry, achieved a speed of 20 knots, held a crew of 1,500 men, and displaced some 30,000 tons. Her World War I career was brief, mostly consisting of Atlantic convoy duty. After the war she served in the Atlantic Fleet until 1930, representing the United States at the Peruvian Centennial Exposition in July 1921. In 1930, she was modernized with the replacement of her “basket” masts for tripod masts, a reduction in her secondary 5-inch armament, a new superstructure, new steam turbines, two new catapults for her three spotter aircraft, and eight new 5-inch antiaircraft guns. At the conclusion of this overhaul, she joined the Pacific Fleet where she remained for the next 11 years. On December 7, 1941, the Nevada and her sister ships were spending their first weekend in port in more than five months. Vice Admiral William Halsey had been given the task of reinforcing Wake Island’s Marine detachment with additional fighter aircraft. Halsey refused to take the slower battleships with him to try and keep up with his 30-knot fleet of aircraft carriers, and so they were resting at berth that Sunday morning instead of being out on patrol. Nevada’s position was on Battleship Row alongside Ford Island in the center of the harbor, immediately behind the USS Arizona, soon to become famous in her own right. But, unlike other battleships moored nearby that day Nevada was not paired next to an adjacent battleship and so was free to maneuver when the attack began. At 0600 hours Lieutenant Lawrence Ruff, Nevada’s senior communications officer, rose from his bunk. He had opted to turn in early following the ship’s movie the previous evening. He had volunteered to escort the ship’s chaplain, Father Drinnan, in a motor launch over to the hospital ship USS Solace, where Father Drinnan was scheduled to hear confessions and perform Sunday morning services. Upon his transfer to the Nevada, Lieutenant Ruff had had an opportunity to bring his wife and family over to live the idyllic lifestyle of the Hawaiian Islands, but both had decided that in the rising tensions of the day it was a potentially dangerous location to bring a family. They were soon to have their fears confirmed. Just before 0700 the Nevada’s launch pulled alongside the Solace, and Ruff enjoyed coffee and a light breakfast in the officer’s lounge while Father Drinnan conducted the morning’s services. At 0600 the assistant quartermaster of the watch roused Ensign Joseph K. Taussig Jr., who had the forenoon watch. Taussig, 21, was the son of a rear admiral who had for the last two years publicly warned of the possibility of a Japanese attack in the Pacific, and so was perhaps better informed of the international situation than his fellow sailors of the same age. Taussig, a junior officer assigned to Nevada’s antiaircraft section, was doubtful of any battleship’s ability to defend itself against attack from the air. He felt that though they were highly trained to man the guns, load, and fire “at a rate of speed which people not involved would not believe possible,” the quality of the overall marksmanship was such that “I can testify with vim, vigor and conviction that we couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn except at point-blank range.” Being officer of the deck, especially on a quiet Sunday spent in port, was usually a boring affair, with little happening to break up the monotony. Taussig spent the first part of his watch trying to think of something to do. It occurred to him that only one boiler had been carrying the burden of powering the ship during the entire four days the Nevada had been in port. He therefore ordered another one lit. This seeming innocent act would have enormous consequences later that morning. The Nevada’s captain, Francis W. Scanland, and her executive officer had both gone ashore that morning, leaving the ship in the care of its junior-grade officers. Scanland was visiting his wife in nearby Honolulu and had promised to spend the day with her. After all, it was expected to be a leisurely tropical Sunday; some of the crew was organizing a tennis tournament against sailors from some of the nearby battleships, while others were looking forward to a swim at nearby Aiea Beach. The Nevada, the northernmost ship in Battleship Row, was also the oldest in harbor that day but stuck to a very rigid tradition of presenting colors every morning while in port at precisely 0800, to the accompaniment of the “Star Spangled Banner” as performed by the ship’s band. Ensign Taussig, as officer of the deck, was also in charge of the morning’s proceedings. But this was the first time Taussig had ever stood watch for the morning colors, and he was uncertain as to what size flag to fly. He quietly sent a sailor over to the Arizona at 0750 to find out which size flag they were flying. While everyone waited in the morning sun, some of the bandsmen later recalled spotting specks of aircraft in the sky far to the southwest. Band leader Oden MacMillan later recalled seeing planes diving on the far side of Ford Island and a lot of dirt and sand thrown upward, but thought it was all part of some elaborately staged drill. The sailor soon returned with the welcome news that they had the correct flag after all. The ceremonial group, now assembled at the ship’s fantail in splendid dress whites, was in the process of running the colors up on the flagstaff when the first Japanese planes began diving on Battleship Row. According to acclaimed author Gordon Prange, the first bomb dropped nearby was actually aimed at the Arizona, not the Nevada. As the first reports of an attack began filtering up the chain of command, Mrs. John Earle, a neighbor of Admiral Husband Kimmel, the naval commander at Pearl Harbor, recalled watching the opening moments of the attack on her front lawn overlooking the harbor along with Admiral Kimmel, who had stepped outside to see for himself. She described him as staring “in utter disbelief and completely stunned.”  “I knew right away that something terrible was going on,” Kimmel later recalled. “This was not a casual raid by just a few stray planes. The sky was full of the enemy.” “Gazing toward Battleship Row, they saw the Arizona lift out of the water, then sink back down—way down. Neither uttered a word; the scene was beyond speech,” wrote Prange. “The strike that had transfixed both Admiral Kimmel and Mrs. Earle may have come from the torpedo plane which, having dropped its missile aimed at the Arizona, angled upward over the Nevada’s stern at the exact moment the battleship’s 23-man band struck up the national anthem and the Marine color guard began to raise the flag. The Japanese rear gunner loosed a burst of machine-gun fire; by some freak of chance he missed a solid target of some 25 or 30 men, but ripped the flag as it slid along the pole. The bandsmen kept right on playing.” It had never occurred to band leader Oden MacMillan that once he started playing the “Star Spangled Banner” he could possibly stop. Another strafing run kicked up bits of the wooden deck nearby; the entire band paused and then started again in unison as if they had practiced it that way. Not one man broke formation and ran. “Not until they finished the last note did they break for cover and sped to their battle stations.”  Noted historian Walter Lord points out that the Nevada bandsmen calmly put their instruments away before reporting to their battle stations, “except one man who took along his cornet and excitedly threw it into a shell hoist along with some shells for the anti-aircraft guns above.” Shortly after 0802, the Nevada went to battle stations and swung into action under the command of her senior officer present, Lt. Cmdr. Francis J. Thomas, with Ensign Taussig as acting air defense officer. Taussig pulled the alarm bell for general quarters. As the ship’s bugler began to blow the call, Taussig took the bugle and threw it overboard; instead he shouted over the ship’s public address system, “All hands to general quarters, this is no drill!” In spite of Taussig’s earlier doubts as to the ability of the Nevada’s antiaircraft gunners, the ship’s log states that at this point : “Machine guns opened fire on torpedo planes approaching on port beam. Members of crew state one enemy plane brought down by Nevada machine gun fire at 100 yards on port quarter.” This may well have been the first Japanese plane shot down that day. The Nevada’s gunners had quickly found the range. Lieutenant Lawrence Ruff, still awaiting Mass aboard the Solace, heard the first bombs begin to explode nearby. He raced to the starboard side of the officer’s lounge and witnessed the Arizona erupting in a huge cloud of smoke and flame. The blast from the Arizona’s magazines blew gunner Carey Garnett and dozens of other men off the Nevada’s decks and into the water. As he watched, horrified, a Japanese plane flashed by, its red meatballs clearly visible on its wings. Ruff then knew exactly what was going on. Father Drinnan immediately dismissed his flock; he and Ruff caught the launch to return to the Nevada. From their little boat afloat in the middle of the harbor they had an excellent vantage point from which to witness the attack. Ruff saw tracers arcing up toward the Japanese planes from all directions and found himself wondering, “What the hell is keeping those Jap planes up there?” He soon realized that the shells were exploding too far below the planes to do much damage; their fuses had all been set incorrectly in the haste to open fire. Alone and undefended in the middle of the attack, the Nevada’s launch was strafed only once, bracketed in the water by a passing fighter’s machine guns before they reached the relative safety of their ship. Ruff ordered the helmsman to swing the launch under the Nevada’s stern as protection from further Japanese attack. As soon as both men climbed aboard the Nevada, the launch returned to the Arizona to assist in removing the wounded. Ruff served as Nevada’s communication officer. As soon as he boarded the ship he discovered that most of the Nevada’s senior officers were absent and that those present would have to assume duties for which they had not been trained. Ruff made his way to his station in the Nevada’s conning tower, where he checked on those personnel present and tested the communication circuits. Lt. Cmdr. Thomas was the most senior officer present. However, Thomas was several decks below at his duty station, close to an interior ladder that ran through a tube 80 feet up the height of the ship. As soon as they were able to communicate, they quickly agreed that Thomas should remain in charge of the ship below decks while Ruff took care of topside duties. Ensign Charles Merdinger was just getting dressed when the first bombs fell. As he pulled on his clothes, he heard someone outside his stateroom yell, “It’s the real thing! It’s the Japs!” In his haste to complete dressing he remembered putting his foot completely through his sock. A group of planes from the Japanese carrier Soryu soon began a bombing run on Battleship Row, scoring hits on both the Tennessee and West Virginia. A second group of five aircraft followed shortly, dropping five near misses in perfect echelon alongside the Nevada. Japanese strike commander Mitsuo Fuchida still had a group of high-level bombers orbiting in a great circle over Honolulu. He now brought them in, ordering them to make another run over Battleship Row. This time heavy smoke obscured the Nevada, Fuchida’s original target of choice, so the bombers shifted their attention to a ship alongside the inner row of battleships that appeared not to have been hit yet, the Maryland, scoring several hits in the process. Below decks Warrant Machinist Donald Kirby Ross had just completed shaving when the attack began. It was the day before his 31st birthday. As a youngster he had spent his life moving among numerous foster homes. The Navy had given him a home, and he felt as if he had finally found his place in the world. At the first sounds of battle, Ross reported to his duty station at the forward dynamo room, which contained the controls for the large electrical generators that powered the battleship, fed power to the guns above, and illuminated the darkened passageways below. In an emergency, he reasoned, the Nevada might need power to get underway. The difficulty in raising steam and getting underway that all capital ships of the day suffered from was also one of the chief causes of their destruction that December 7. It usually took a minimum of two hours to fire the huge boilers that powered a battleship, raise steam, and began turning the large screws that moved the fighting ships through the water. Such large ships then usually required the assistance of anywhere from two to four tugs to maneuver through the confines of a landlocked harbor, and the services of a civilian harbor pilot, an experienced and skilled captain, and a navigator. Most battleships at port, sitting idle, usually kept no more than one of their four boilers lit, usually to power the generators that provided electricity needed for life aboard ship. Thanks to Ensign Taussig‘s foresight, two of the Nevada’s boilers were now fired up, the second having been online for nearly an hour. Two were normally insufficient to raise enough steam to move a ship out of harm’s way, but on that Sunday morning that was enough to make the difference between life and death. While the nearby Arizona mushroomed in a fireball from a direct hit to her magazines and bombs rained down across Battleship Row, Chief Boatswain’s Mate Edwin Hill led a hastily gathered crew to the wharf where Nevada was tethered. Below, thanks to Donald Ross’s efforts in the forward dynamo room, the Nevada was quickly coming to life. Japanese Zero fighters swooped down out of the bright morning skies to continually strafe the Nevada’s decks. Oblivious to the danger, Hill managed to reach the pier and cast off the mooring lines. Just as the first attack wave ebbed, the big vessel slowly began to move away from the dock. Hill jumped from the pier and swam to the slowly moving battleship to help direct its escape. Time was quickly running out; an ocean of burning oil from the Arizona was slowly moving toward the Nevada’s bow, threatening to engulf her in flames. Against all odds, Ruff began moving Nevada out of the harbor aided by excellent cooperation from the two engine rooms below and from helmsman Chief Quartermaster Robert Sedberry at the wheel. From his post high up in Nevada’s conning tower, Ruff selected two landmarks on Ford Island to help him navigate the 30,000-ton ship out into the main channel. He suddenly heard someone demanding to be let in and discovered that Francis Thomas had climbed the 80-foot ladder from below. Ruff and his men removed the floor gratings, opened the hatch, helped Thomas up, and briefed him on what Ruff was trying to do. Thomas quickly agreed with Ruff’s plan of action, and at 0840 the Nevada was officially underway with Thomas at the conn and Ruff acting as navigator in the conning tower. By this time the starboard antiaircraft conveyor was now out of action, so men began passing ammunition to the battery by hand. As the Nevada crept past the smoldering wreck of the Arizona, intense heat from the fires forced some men to turn their backs and hug shells with their bodies to keep them from exploding. Someone threw a line to three Arizona survivors in the nearby water; they were pulled aboard and helped man one of the Nevada’s guns. Seeing the Arizona totally destroyed came as a “terrible shock” to Ruff, and in spite of the ongoing attack he could not help but speculate about the fate of many of his Naval Academy classmates and friends aboard her. They passed so close to the Arizona, Thomas felt he could have lit a cigarette from the blazing wreck. While Fuchida’s second wave began its assault on the helpless ships below, incredibly, under the guidance of junior grade officers and without the assistance from a single harbor tug, the old dreadnought backed out of its berth, away from the blazing hulk of the Arizona, and began steaming away from Ford Island, heading toward the open sea just outside the harbor. The Nevada had taken less than 45 minutes to get underway, a procedure that would normally have taken two full hours. It was a totally unexpected event, and men on all sides began cheering and waving their caps as the Nevada slowly built up speed, knot after agonizing knot, and passed the carnage that was being inflicted on Battleship Row, its battered stars and stripes proudly fluttering from its flagstaff. A few of the smaller ships, such as tugs and ferries, blew their horns beneath the din of battle to speed the Nevada on its way. Baker First Class Emil Johnson aboard the minesweeper Tern saw Nevada slipping down the main channel and remembered thinking, “Well, there’s one that’s going to get away.” Many Pearl Harbor survivors later recalled the thrilling sight as an event that gave them not only pride but a renewed determination to resist the Japanese with whatever it took. The Nevada’s effect on those watching could not be underestimated; it was immediate and electric. Photographer J.W. Burton watched from the Ford Island shore, snapping a series of historic photographs. Lt. Cmdr. Henry Wray stood transfixed, watching from 1010 dock. Quartermaster William Miller stood watching awestruck from the deck of the stores issue ship Castor in the Navy’s sub base. To most men she was the finest thing they saw that day. Through the thick, black smoke Seaman Thomas Malmin caught sight of the flag on her fantail and recalled that the “Star Spangled Banner” had been composed under similar conditions. Ten minutes before getting underway, the Nevada took her first torpedo hit near frame 40. “The plane came in very close, about midway down the channel, dropped its torpedo and turned right,” recalled Ensign John L. Landreth, stationed in the antiaircraft directory. The torpedo jarred loose the director’s synchronizer from the range finder, forcing it to temporarily switch to local manual control. Landreth did not witness the attacker being shot down but understood it had been hit and riddled by one of Nevada’s machine gunners, crashing just astern of the ship. This may have been a Mitsubishi B5N Kate from the Japanese carrier Kaga, the Nevada’s second reported kill of the morning. The pilot struggled to get clear and floated face up past the ship until he was dispatched by a well-aimed shot. Marine Private Payton McDaniel vividly recalled seeing the torpedo’s silver streak heading toward the port bow, just below the two main turrets. From pictures in magazines of other torpedoed ships he fully expected the Nevada to erupt in flames and break in two. He was more than a little surprised when all he felt was a slight shudder followed by a brief list to port. Then a bomb dropped from a Japanese Aichi Val dive bomber struck near the starboard antiaircraft director. Joe Taussig was at his station there, standing in the doorway, when it hit. He was thrown against the solid steel deck by the explosion and was amazed to find his left leg tucked under his arm. “That’s a hell of a place for a foot to be,” he thought, then was surprised to hear Bostwain’s Mate Allen Owens, standing next to him, say the exact same thing. Either a bullet fragment or a piece of shrapnel had passed through his thigh and struck the ballistics computer in front of him. Dazed from shock, Taussig felt no pain; despite repeated attempts to remove him to a first aid casualty station, Taussig refused to leave and insisted on continuing his command of the antiaircraft station until the end of the attack. “Isn’t this a hell of a thing,“ he said to Owens. “The man in charge lying flat on his back while everyone else is doing something.” Taussig survived his wounds, losing his leg in the process, but spent the rest of the war recovering in various hospitals. For him, at least, his contribution to World War II was over. In the plotting room five decks down, Ensign Medringer felt like this was all part of a drill he had been though many times before. He realized things were different when he learned through the onboard phone circuits that his roommate Joe Taussig had been hit. Down in the forward dynamo room, Chief Machinist Donald Ross finally was forced to order his men to leave when smoke, 140-degree heat, and escaping steam overwhelmed his position. He continued to perform their duties on his own a short while longer until he became virtually blind and fell unconscious, ensuring that the Nevada had the power necessary to enable her to continue the fight. Nevada gradually passed West Virginia, which was slowly settling in the mud. Next came Oklahoma, now capsized, trapping scores of men within. Farther away came the flagship California, fully afire and settling on an even keel. Nevada cleared Battleship Row shortly before 0900. The slowly moving battleship now attracted nearly every Japanese bomber over Pearl Harbor; she became too good a target to pass up. Nevada was hit repeatedly and shaken by near misses, opening her forecastle deck, adding more leaks in her hull, and starting numerous gasoline fires forward and around her superstructure. Just ahead lay a harbor dredge, the Turbine, still attached to the mainland by its pipeline. Easing between 1010 dock and the floating dredge would have been a real challenge on a normal day. Chief Sedberry recalled doing some “real twisting and turning” to maneuver around the dredge and avoid Japanese attacks at the same time. The Navy always forced Captain August Persson of the Turbineto unhook the pipeline every time a battleship entered or left port, claiming there was not enough room to pass. Persson had always claimed they could do it if they wanted. Now he had seen it with his own eyes. Japanese aircraft, currently diving on the drydocked Pennsylvania, now shifted over to the Nevada; if they could sink her in the channel they could bottle up the harbor for months. Every available Japanese plane now converged on the Nevada. She was soon wreathed in smoke from her own guns, from numerous bomb hits, and from fires that raged out of control on her forward decks. One bomb penetrated and exploded in Nevada ’s stack, sending heat and acrid smoke throughout the ship’s ventilation system. Sometimes she disappeared entirely from view when near misses threw huge columns of water into the air. Ensign Victor Delano, on the West Virginia’s bridge, witnessed a tremendous explosion from somewhere within the ship that threw flames and debris into the air above her masts. The whole ship seemed to rise up and shake violently in the water. Bosun’s Mate Howard C. French was in Ford Island’s administration building where he had a perfect view of the action. He watched anxiously as “one dive bomber after another peeled off and went after the Nevada. She hesitated and shuddered,” he recalled, “and I thought she was a goner, but she made it down channel.” Admiral Patrick Bellinger happened to be on the telephone to General Frederick Martin when the Nevada drew opposite the administration building. Like French, Bellinger also thought the battleship was “a goner” and broke into the conversation to exclaim, “Just a minute! I think there is going to be a hell of an explosion here!” Ensign Landreth later estimated that 10 or 15 bombs missed the Nevada before the Japanese found the range. Then several bombs struck the forecastle in quick succession and exploded below decks, one or two near the crew’s galley, starting numerous fires both fore and amidships. “The bombs jolted all Hell out of the ship,” Ruff recalled. “I could see the Japanese bombs—big black things—falling and exploding all around us.” Ruff’s legs were black and blue for days afterward from being knocked about by the explosions. Shrapnel and bomb fragments decimated those on deck; one gun crew after another was cut down at its post, but still Nevada continued to put up a murderous barrage. The trio of officers in command of the ship— Ruff, Thomas, and Sedberry—were convinced that the Nevada could make it to the open ocean. But a signal from Vice Admiral William S. Pye, the battle force commander, ordered the Nevada not to try for the outer channel, fearing the threat of Japanese submarines lurking beyond. Thomas and Ruff reluctantly decided to nose Nevada into the mud off Hospital Point to avoid her being sunk in the channel. Nevada was by now a battered ship. Shortly after 0900 the outgoing current caught the Nevada, wrenching control from her navigators and swinging her completely around. Chief Boatswain’s Mate Edwin Hill rushed forward to drop the anchor and keep Nevada from being crushed against the rocks. Three Japanese bombs landed near the bow, and all trace of Hill vanished in the explosion. Fires raged around the conning tower, threatening to cut the men off from the rest of the ship. Ruff relayed a plan to a sailor on the dangerously exposed fantail that he would wave a hat as a signal for the sailor to drop the stern anchor. Leaving the main channel between buoy No. 24 and floating drydock YFD-2, Ruff ordered the engines backed full, ran to the bridge wing, and gave the signal. With a clatter and a cloud of rust, the stern anchor plunged into the water and took hold on the bottom. It was 0910 hours on December 7, 1941. The Nevada was at rest at Hospital Point on an even keel.  Having accomplished the near impossible, Thomas now turned his attention to damage control. Ruff left the conning tower and made his way aft. There he briefed the skipper, Captain Francis Scanland, when he finally came aboard at 0915. Within five minutes two tugs were moored alongside, and all men who were not manning the guns keeping the Japanese at bay busied themselves fighting the numerous fires raging aboard. Casualties began to be transferred to the hospital ship Nevada or the nearby naval hospital. The beaching of the Nevada at Hospital Point imposed an additional burden on the already overloaded hospital; a number of Nevada’s men simply dived off her and swam toward the hospital. Between wounds received in combat and the fires spreading throughout the harbor, many of these men could not walk the short distance to the hospital and collapsed; they were among the worst burn cases treated that day. Ensign Landreth recalled looking around the now beached Nevada. “We couldn’t get communication with the guns, and everything was apparently abandoned on the boat deck. We had great casualties. The signal bridge was ablaze and had gone up the navbridge and came out on top of our own platform. This fire continued for quite some time and practically destroyed most of the structure up there.” Despite her severe damage, the Nevada crew was never ordered to “Abandon Ship.” Most officers who had missed her sortie were now coming aboard and organizing firefighting parties despite the handicap of having no ready water on the boat deck. Most of the firefighting came from two tugs while the Nevada’s water mains were either spliced or repaired. “We were trying to get all the ammunition out of the ready boxes to keep them from exploding,” Landreth explained. “We got all the ammunition out of the port side, but on the starboard side one ready box did explode.” By this time other officers had come aboard and taken charge of Landreth’s antiaircraft battery. Captain Scanland sent Ruff to Admiral Kimmel’s headquarters to report on the Nevada’s condition. Kimmel remained calm but was obviously “in a state of shock,” plying Ruff with questions as to when the battleship would be ready for sea again. But information arrived that the Nevada was in a far worse state than originally thought. At least one torpedo and six bombs had hit Nevada, mostly forward, with additional damage from as many as a dozen near misses. In his report Scanland added, “It is possible as many as ten bomb hits were received, as certain damaged areas were of sufficient size to indicate that they were struck by more than one bomb.” Everything below decks was wrecked and filled with seawater. Engineering was flooded, salting the boilers and steam piping. And now another problem loomed. With no bow anchors to hold her fast, Nevada might still slide backward and block the South Channel. At 1035, with the damage control situation stabilized, Captain Scanland prepared to move Nevada to a safer location well clear of the shipping lanes. The two tugs pushed her stern sideways until her bow slid free, then escorted her across the main channel to Waipio Point, where she grounded herself, stern first, at 1045. Her journey had finally come to an end. There she remained until she was refloated for repairs more than two months later. The Nevada’s fires were reported under control by 1530, and 20 minutes later efforts to remove her dead, totaling two officers and 60 men, and more than 109 wounded out of a complement of 1,500 (two more men were to lose their lives during salvage operations) began. Fires broke out again around 1830 and were not finally extinguished until 2300. Meanwhile, Ruff had found shelter for Nevada’s uninjured survivors in a nearby open-air theater. Thomas remained aboard, overseeing damage control. Captain Scanland’s after-action report highly praised Thomas, a naval reservist, not only for his skillful handling of the ship during the attack but also for his determined repair efforts. A full two days after the attack Thomas was still on duty, on the verge of collapse from almost continuous work with no sleep. In the months following the attack, both Donald Ross and Edwin Hill would receive the Medal of Honor for their actions that day; Hill’s was presented posthumously to his family. As darkness fell over Pearl Harbor, rumors began to spread of Japanese landings at various points on Oahu. Almost everyone was certain the Japanese would return with the morning’s light. The men on Nevada were told to be doubly alert for any movement among the sugar cane that ran down to the shore near where the ship lay beached. However, no one remembered to tell the trigger-happy sailors that the ship’s own Marine detachment was patrolling the same area. As Private Payton McDaniel moved through the cane, a man aboard ship shouted that he saw movement. A spotlight was switched on, and Payton froze, hoping that it would not find him. Other Marines quickly understood the situation and passed the word not to open fire. But it was a terrifying moment, for McDaniel knew that this was a night when the men were inclined to shoot first and ask questions later. Ruff admitted, “Actually I was more afraid of our jittery and trigger-happy American gunners that first night than I was of the Japanese during the morning attack.” Unlike most of his shipmates, Ruff did not believe that the Japanese would return. After surveying the scene of destruction around him, he could see no reason why they should come back. By the day after the Pearl Harbor attack the Nevada had settled to the bottom, still upright and in fairly shallow water, making later salvage and repair efforts that much easier. The Nevada was finally refloated on February 12, 1942, and underwent temporary repairs at Pearl Harbor that allowed her to steam to the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Washington State for major repairs and modernization, which lasted until October 1942. Nevada then sailed for the island of Attu in the Aleutians to provide fire support for the recapture of that island in May 1943. She then steamed for Norfolk for further work, which changed the old battleship’s appearance so that she more closely resembled those of the South Dakota class. Nevada sailed on several convoy runs in the Atlantic until she headed for England in April 1944 to prepare for the Normandy invasion. June 6, 1944, found her off the beaches of France as flagship for the operation, providing close fire support for the troops struggling to gain a beachhead on the coast of Normandy. Her crew was praised for “incredibly accurate” fire in support of troops ashore, sometimes just 600 yards in front of the advancing Allied forces. She then headed to the Mediterranean to assist in the invasion of southern France from August to September 1944. She sailed to New York to have her gun barrels replaced and next saw action against the Japanese off both Iwo Jima and Okinawa in early 1945. She was hit by a kamikaze off Okinawa, which killed a further 11 men and wounded 49, while also knocking out both guns of her No. 3 turret. She did a brief stint of occupation duty in Tokyo Bay at the conclusion of the war and then returned again to Pearl Harbor. At over 32 years old she was deemed too old to be kept in the postwar fleet and thus ended her life as a target ship for the first Bikini atomic bomb test of July 1946, in which she was painted an “ugly reddish-orange” to help the bombardier’s aim. Tough old Nevada, which the Japanese tried so hard to sink, not only survived this nuclear test but a second as well. But by this point she was heavily damaged and found to be extremely radioactive. Nevada was towed back to Pearl Harbor one last time where she was formally decommissioned on August 29, 1946. After being thoroughly examined, her final sortie came on July 31, 1948, when the USS Iowaand two other warships used Nevada as a target for gunnery practice. Still these three ships failed to send Nevada to the bottom; she was given a coup de grace with an aerial torpedo hit amidships, finally sinking about 65 miles southwest of Pearl Harbor. She proved in the end to be a lady as tough as the men who served aboard her. Author and researcher Joseph M. Horodyski resides in Brook Park, Ohio. His article first appeared at the Warfare History Network. Image: Commissioning ceremony for Nevada at the Boston Navy Yard, 11 March 1916. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 45458)

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21 февраля, 05:00

In 1950, Mao's China Saved North Korea From Imminent Death

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Daniel L. Davis History, Asia And the world was never the same. Key Point: America had won the Korean War- or so its leadership and troops thought. China's surprise invasion would prove them wrong. On June 25, 1950, the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) under Marshal Kim Il-sung launched a no-notice invasion of South Korea. Many are familiar with the failings of “Task Force Smith” in the first week of the war and MacArthur’s brilliant landings at Inchon that September. Few, however, realize the decisive moment of the war came three months after Inchon, amidst the most brutal cold wave imaginable, at a place called the Chosin Reservoir. American arrogance and bigotry forfeited what could have been a spectacular strategic victory. Our current nuclear standoff with Kim Jong-un is, in large measure, the bitter fruit of that failure. For the United States, the war started off disastrously. After their surprise attack, Kim’s forces blew past the badly outgunned and outmatched South Korean military forces north of Seoul, and continued the march south. Near the city of Osan, about twenty-five miles south of Seoul, America’s first combat unit, 120 men of Task Force Smith, set up a defensive position to block the NKPA’s drive south. American leaders expected that when the North Koreans saw U.S. troops, they would stop their advance or even run away. But in a classic example of unpreparedness resulting from years of neglected training and equipping with modern weapons, the T-34 tanks of the North’s lead elements virtually destroyed Task Force Smith and continued the attack. The United States and allied nations rushed to get more combat power into South Korea before the North could capture the southern port of Pusan. The North’s drive started to stall by September, and on September 21, Gen. Douglas MacArthur executed a surprise landing on the coast west of Seoul at Inchon, sending the NKPA into a full retreat. The allied forces then began a devastating counterattack to the north that within two months had conquered almost all of North Korea. On November 23—Thanksgiving Day—the Americans were jubilant, some enjoying actual turkey dinners within view of the Yalu River, which marked the border with China. MacArthur told troops the war was in hand and would probably be over by Christmas. Unbeknownst to most of those happy troops, however, was that MacArthur and many of his senior intelligence officers had received numerous reports of massive Chinese troops buildups north of the Yalu. They discounted them all, however, believing the Chinese to be backward and vastly inferior, and thus rejected the notion they would attack. Besides, MacArthur had planned what he expected would be the final thrust to the Yalu and the end of the war. He didn’t want his timetables disturbed. His dismissal of the warnings, and the arrogant assumption that his attack would succeed anyway, condemned thousands of Americans to their deaths and forfeited what otherwise might have been the complete conquest of the Korean Peninsula. The northeastern prong of MacArthur’s final push included fifteen thousand troops made up of the First Marine Division and the Army’s Seventh Infantry Division, positioned for the attack on either side of a large lake known as the Chosin Reservoir. After the sun went down on November 25, however, thousands of Chinese troops seemingly came out of nowhere and swarmed into both the Marine and Army units, causing significant casualties. As the sun came up, however, the Chinese didn’t press the attack, and withdrew. MacArthur was concerned by the attack, but considered it a minor episode, likely a weak attempt to spoil the American offensive. He ordered the Marines and soldiers to remain on schedule and attack on November 27 as planned. Aside from the difficulty of the mountainous terrain, the lake that separated the U.S. force and the possibility of many Chinese soldiers, the weather turned against the Americans: temperatures fell on September 27 to zero degrees. Later, it would plunge to nearly 30 degrees below zero. But before the U.S. attack got fully underway, U.S. leaders were again surprised—shocked, this time—when they were suddenly attacked from multiple directions by six Chinese infantry divisions, comprising more than sixty thousand troops. MacArthur had correctly assessed that a typical Chinese soldier was vastly inferior to his U.S. counterpart in terms of training, experience and equipment. What he failed to consider, however, was their sheer numbers, utter fearlessness and total dedication to the mission regardless of cost. When the Chinese unleashed the full fury of their attack on November 29, the U.S. troops were caught off guard and staggered under the onslaught. The Army units on the east side of the lake caught the worst of it, however, because there were fewer of them. The Marines were unable to provide any assistance because of the lake that separated the two forces. The nighttime attack caused great confusion for the Americans, and no small number of casualties. But when the sun came up the next morning, the Chinese had again withdrawn. MacArthur had disdain for the Chinese, and regarded them as a “peasant army” not worth worrying about; he ordered the previously scheduled attack to the Yalu to continue. Mao Zedong, however, had studied MacArthur and detected a weakness: his hubris. He withdrew after the attack on November 29, gambling that the American would consider China’s forces inferior and immediately pursue. MacArthur took the bait and ordered the northward attack to immediately resume. Because the Marines and soldiers were limited to narrow mountain roads and could not assist each other because of the lake, the Chinese took full advantage and began further dividing the U.S. troops, sending overwhelming numbers of soldiers against small, isolated contingents of Americans. On December 1, as casualties began to mount, the reality of the strength of the Chinese attack struck home, and U.S. forces began a fighting withdrawal to the Sea of Japan, still some eighty miles away. By the time the Army units east of Chosin began their withdrawal, they had already incurred more than four hundred wounded. The troops gathered every truck vehicle that was still operational, loaded everyone aboard, wounded or not, and began the withdrawal; though a gut-wrenching decision, they was no room in the trucks and had to leave the dead where they fell. They began the march with approximately 2,500 soldiers. The convoy, however, would never make it to secure American lines. For practically every yard of the trip, the Chinese were attacking the road-bound American retreat from the mountains above. One by one, the vehicles were shot out from under the soldiers. At first they transferred the survivors to other vehicles. As the losses piled up, however, there was no longer any room on the serviceable trucks. Eventually every single truck was knocked out. The men were told to infiltrate through enemy lines as best they could to try and link up with the Marines south of the Chosin. Snowstorms picked up their intensity, and temperatures plunged to 30 below zero just as the U.S. troops lost all means of conveyance. Almost as many Americans suffered debilitating frostbite as enemy bullets. The Army troops were forced to do the unthinkable: they had to leave each and every wounded man behind to have any chance of surviving the attacking Chinese. Of the 2,500 who began the withdrawal on December 1, fewer than 350 made it back to U.S. lines in fighting shape. Mao believed that if he could push one of America’s most famous generals out of North Korea, he could cause great fear and doubt in Washington, which he could use to strategic advantage. Though his forces suffered a staggering fifty thousand casualties of their own, Mao was ultimately proven right: the Americans would never again threaten to overrun North Korea. An armistice was eventually signed on July 27, 1953, setting the border between North and South Korea at its current location. Had MacArthur and other U.S. leaders heeded the intelligence warnings of massing Chinese troops in early November 1950, they could have conducted a consolidating move to the south—without any interference from enemy contact—and set up a defensive position in better terrain that offered routes to provide mutual support between units. Had the Chinese troops been required to attack the United States in defensible positions where reinforcements could be brought to bear, it is likely Mao’s troops would not have been able to force the United States into retreat. In that case, the battle would have been fought on terms advantageous to the United States, in positions that U.S. forces could have held, and once Chinese troop strength had been spent, then MacArthur could have pushed to the Yalu and ended the war in complete tactical and strategic victory, sending the Chinese back across their border in defeat. Instead, the U.S. retreat resulted in another two years of indecisive war, the deaths of thousands more Americans and eventually the permanent, tense division of Korea. That division has necessitated the expenditure of hundreds of billions and more than six decades of military occupation to maintain security. Today, North Korea and the United States face the possibility of a major war, one that could end up going nuclear. May we not again be guilty of underestimating an apparently inferior enemy; the cost of being wrong this time could dwarf the cumulative price we’ve paid since 1950. Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who retired in 2015 after twenty-one years, including four combat deployments. Follow him @DanielLDavis1. This first appeared in January 2018 and is being republished due to reader's interest. Image: Reuters

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21 февраля, 04:30

Note to Trump :America's Population Will Fall Without Immigration Says Census

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David Bier Politics, Americas America can't thrive without it. The U.S. Census Bureau released a report today that concludes that population of the United States will fall by 2060 if the government stops immigration. The report—which projects the future American population under different immigration scenarios—also finds that “higher international immigration over the next four decades would produce a faster growing, more diverse, and younger population for the United States.” Figure 1 graphs the numbers provided in the report using the labels that the Census uses for its four scenarios. The Census states that its “main” series—originally calculated in an earlier report—comes from recent immigration trends from 2011 to 2015. Its low‐​immigration scenario is half that rate, and its high immigration scenario is double that rate. Zero immigration is obviously no immigration at all. The Census baseline projection sees the United States reaching 404 million Americans by 2060—up from 328 million in 2019. Under the high immigration scenario, America could achieve a population of 446 million—just short of a half a billion. In the low immigration scenario, America will increase slightly to 376 million, and in the zero immigration scenario, the population will actually decline from 328 million to 320 million. America’s current trajectory has already shifted down from Census’s baseline. Figure 2 shows that the Census’s assumption about the net increase in the foreign‐​born population for the couple of years available so far (2017–2018) has actually been more in line with the low immigration scenario than its main assumptions. In other words, the Trump administration is lowering immigration so significantly that it is changing the course of the U.S. population for the negative. Raw population size is an incredibly important component of U.S. power internationally. With its population of 1.4 billion, China has repeatedly highlighted the importance of size in both markets and diplomacy in recent years. The National Basketball Association’s willingness to kowtow to the communist crackdown on free speech in Hong Kong shows that numbers alone matter, and a growing America would help maintain the most significant counterweight to the communist nation. A shrinking one would make companies and countries more willing to ignore the United States. The decrease in immigration will have other important consequences for the nation. According to the Census Bureau, the low and no immigration scenarios would result in an older, whiter population. Importantly, the share of the U.S. population that is foreign‐​born would plummet to a record low under the no immigration scenario (4.6 percent), while it would rise to a record high (22 percent) under the high immigration scenario. The Census projections regarding the age and ethnic composition of the country are based on the 2011 to 2015 trends, but higher immigration rates would cause the average age of immigrants to decline as long wait times and bureaucratic obstacles stop many young people from coming earlier. It would also likely result in more Asian immigration because Asians are most likely to come to the United States legally and so are most affected by policy changes. Policy would likely further prioritize younger immigrants by focusing on economic migrants who are more often young workers. Regardless, the Census Bureau report highlights the importance of immigration to the United States maintaining its position as the world’s most important market and its third largest population. This article by David Bier first appeared at CATO.

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21 февраля, 04:03

Rural America Loves Donald Trump (But There Is a Problem)

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J. Edwin Benton Politics, Americas What happens when he leaves the Oval Office? If one word can capture the sentiment of rural and small-town dwellers in recent years, it is “resentment.” I am a scholar who studies politics at the state and local level. Residents of rural and small-town communities believe they are not getting their fair share of government attention and vital resources compared to urban dwellers. They believe that America is moving away from them. As the 2020 presidential campaign gears up, these resentful Americans will play a key role. How strong supporters of Donald Trump in the 2016 election vote in 2020 will depend on whether the president has delivered on the promises he made to help them out. Will this growing divide affect American politics beyond Trump? Left behind Political scientist Katherine Cramer has spent over a decade doing field work in 27 small Wisconsin towns to understand how people use social class identity to interpret politics. Cramer found that people in these rural areas feel as though they are being ignored by urban elites and urban institutions like government and the media at a time when they are struggling to make ends meet. They believe their communities are dying, the economy is leaving them behind, and that young people, money and their livelihoods are going somewhere else. They think that major decisions affecting their lives are being made far away in big cities. And perhaps most importantly, they feel that no one is listening to them or their ideas about things that are important to them. Most distressing to those living in this situation is the belief that no one, and especially no one in government, really cares. From resentment to division and deadlock To date, the phenomenon of “resentment” has been responsible for adding another layer of heightened division among Americans, including an increase in political polarization. That makes it much more difficult for federal government officials, as well as those at the state and local level, to reach consensus on important issues of the day. University of California, Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild’s book, “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right” helps in explaining how this frustration and anger of small-town and rural area dwellers has resulted in increasing political support for Republican candidates, generally, and for Trump, specifically. Given their intensifying feelings of resentment for being ignored and left behind, rural and small-town dwellers were particularly receptive to the slogan touted by Trump in his campaign – “Make America Great Again!” Trump won the country’s small town and non-metropolitan areas by 63.2 percent to 31.3 percent, with his largest vote shares coming from the most rural areas. Like other Republican presidential candidates over the last 10 years, Trump garnered a large majority of the vote in traditional rural areas like Appalachia, the Great Plains and parts of the South. Surprisingly, however, Trump also won a substantial proportion of the traditionally Democratic small town and rural vote in several key Midwestern industrial areas. He won 57 percent of that vote in Michigan, 63 percent in Wisconsin and 71 percent in Pennsylvania. Why Trump triumphed Trump implied or clearly promised to repeal Obamacare, build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and deport around 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. Other appealing policies were tax cuts for both businesses and individuals; significant reductions in the regulation of business and industry; and import tariffs on foreign goods that compete unfairly with American-made products. Data collected by the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (from a national survey of more than 54,000 respondents) clearly show that people living in small towns and rural areas who supported these kinds of policies were decisively more likely to vote for Trump rather than Clinton in 2016. Above all, Trump promised a shift in the focus of the national government so that much more attention would be directed to rural areas and small towns and the challenges they faced. This evidently buoyed the hope of Trump supporters in these areas that they would be getting something closer to their fair share of government attention and resources. Voting implications There is ample evidence of voting patterns in recent years – even before the 2016 election – that suggest that voters in rural areas and small towns were increasingly voting for Republican candidates in national and state elections. This trend was quite visible from Republican and Democratic vote proportions in the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 elections. In 2008, 53 percent of rural voters cast ballots for the Republican presidential candidate; 59 percent did in 2012; and 62 percent did in 2016. This was most clear in the 2016 election in the 2,332 counties that make up small-town and rural America, where Trump swamped Hillary Clinton by winning 60 percent as opposed to 34 percent of the vote. Trump’s 26-point advantage over Clinton in rural America was much greater than had been the case for Republican presidential nominees in the four previous elections. The Trump appeal and the growing urban-rural division in the country is also evident from the fact that Trump’s vote percentage in rural America was 29 points higher than he received in the nation’s urban counties and far larger than for Republican presidential nominees between 2000 and 2012. Moreover, responses to a 2017 Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey of rural and small-town voters in the 2016 election indicate that they were more likely to vote for Trump and also agree with him on a variety of issues. Those included immigration, tax cuts, eliminating regulations on businesses, making better trade deals, targeting more infrastructure projects and federal government services to rural areas and small towns, and appointing more conservative judges to the federal courts. But, did this trend of strong support from rural voters for Republican candidates, including Trump, continue into the 2018 midterm election? About half of Trump’s ideas and policy proposals have been accomplished, with the others yet to gain traction in Congress, two years after his election. So his record of delivering for these rural voters is mixed. Nevertheless, they stuck with Trump in the 2018 election. “Rural voters stormed to the polls in virtually unprecedented numbers in 2018 and once again delivered for the president they voted for in 2016,” The Hill reported. They delivered Trump “a handful of critical Senate and gubernatorial elections in ruby red states.” While not totally surprising, the Trump camp did not know what to expect going into the midterm election, given the numerous investigations of the president and his low public approval rating. Somewhat more surprising is what has been happening in a purple state like Florida, where Republicans have improved on both their turnout and overall performance in rural areas for several elections in a row. Newly elected Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis ran ahead of Trump’s 2016 performance and former Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s 2014 vote share in 13 of 16 counties in the Florida Panhandle. Rick Scott unseated longtime Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson by piling up large margins in the small towns and rural areas of the state. Similar scenarios in U.S. Senate races took place in key states like Missouri, Indiana, Texas and Tennessee, where Republicans won huge victories in rural counties. Beyond Trump Survey data collected from over 90,000 people by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago in November 2018 paint a vivid picture of the continuing urban-rural/small-town divide. Results show that residents of small towns and rural areas are much more supportive of the Republican Party and its candidates than people in urban and suburban areas. In addition, the most ardent supporters of Republicans are among those small-town and rural dwellers who are white and male, have less than a college education and vote on a regular basis. I believe that the urban-rural/small-town divide will continue to act as a major force in politics for the remainder of the Trump era – and probably longer. This article has been updated to correct a reference to Arlie Russell Hochschild’s book. J. Edwin Benton, Professor of Political Science and Public Administration, University of South Florida This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article. Image: Reuters

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21 февраля, 04:00

Why China's J-20 Stealth Fighter Is Still a Legit Threat

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Mark Episkopos Technology, Asia Not an F-35, but... Key point: Beijing is keeping many secrets about its high-tech J-20. It is safe to assume the plane isn't as good as the F-35, but it still better than many fighters. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force made waves at the 2018 Zhuhai Airshow with the latest showing of their flagship fifth-generation stealth fighter, the J-20. As is common with airshow coverage, large swaths of the ensuing commentary focused on the J-20’s handling and maneuverability as it performed a series of rolls and a climb. But this elides what is perhaps the most significant aspect of the J-20’s Zhuhai showing: its weapons system. This first appeared in 2018 and is being reposted due to reader interest. During the performance, the J-20 opened its missile bay doors to reveal four PL-15 missiles accompanied by two PL-10 missiles on either side. The PL-15 is a long range air-to-air missile slated to enter service in 2018. Outfitted with an active electronically scanned radar and featuring a reported maximum range of up to 300 km, the PL-15’s impressive specifications place it in the ranks of the top air-to-air missiles along with the European Meteor missile and Russian K-37M. The PL-15’s effective range in actual aerial engagements is certain to be lower than the maximum range 300 km, but is nonetheless much higher than its American AIM-120 AMRAAM counterpart’s estimated 180 km or less. American general Herbert Carlisle voiced serious concerns in 2015 when the development of the PL-15 entered the public knowledge: “Look at our adversaries and what they’re developing, things like the PL-15 and the range of that weapon.” General Carlisle raised the same issue in an interview with FlightGlobal: “The PL-15 and the range of that missile, we’ve got to be able to out-stick that missile.” The American F-22 and F-35 fighters are now equipped with the latest AIM 120-D missiles, but a massive range deficit remains nonetheless. The challenge of the PL-15 comes on the heels of questions about the uncertain future of the aging AMRAAM system. As Captain James Stoneman put it to the National Interest: “Currently there is no program of record for a follow-on… we’ve probably close to maxing it out.” Development of the latest Block III iteration of the short range AIM-9X was cancelled, and Raytheon struggles with a necessary AMRAAM refresh. The J-20’s two side-mounted PL-10 missiles, while less conspicuous than their long range counterpart, are a key factor in the J-20’s operational versatility. A short-range infrared air-to-air missile, the PL-10 can be fired at off boresight angles of 90 degrees using the J-20’s Helmet Mounted Display (HMD). In other words, the PL-10’s on the J-20 can be fired in the direction that the pilot points their head. Off boresight targeting is by no means a new technology. In fact, the PL-10 is China’s response to the AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder short range missiles that the United States is selling to Taiwan. There is no reliable information on the PL-10’s range at the time of writing, but it is expected to at least match AIM-9X’s reported maximum range of 20-22 km. Iterative performance differences aside, it is a bigger long-term concern is that the PL-10 and PL-15 are reportedly built with the latest anti-jamming technology at a time when the AIM- 9X and AIM-120D are perceived as increasingly vulnerable to modern digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) jamming techniques. There is much that is still unknown about the J-20, including its launch mechanism and the final specifications of its WS-15 engine currently in development. It remains to be seen if this particular armament configuration makes it into the regular production process, but the juxtaposition of the PL-15 and PL-10 inside the J-20’s frame can become a stark concern for the United States and some of its regional allies who continue to rely on aging AMRAAM technology. Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor toThe National Interest and serves as research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University. This article first appeared in 2018. Image: Reuters

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21 февраля, 03:33

Watch Out! U.S. Army Tanks Could Collapse Polish Bridges On Their Way to Battle Russia

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David Axe Security, The U.S. Army and its closest allies have a problem. The region of the world where they arguably are most likely to deploy its heaviest vehicles for high-tech combat also is peppered with flimsy old bridges that can’t support the vehicles’ weight. The U.S. Army and its closest allies have a problem. The region of the world where they arguably are most likely to deploy its heaviest vehicles for high-tech combat also is peppered with flimsy old bridges that can’t support the vehicles’ weight. And the Army for one is struggling to buy armored bridge-layers that can help to mitigate the problem. The requirement is clear. To deter Russia from attacking Poland and the Baltic States, the Army and its NATO allies should deploy heavy armored forces such as M-1 tanks, armored fighting vehicles and self-propelled artillery. RAND, a California think-tank with close ties to the U.S. military, in a February 2020 report underscored the importance of heavy ground forces. “The results of the analysis provide consistent evidence for the deterrent effects of heavy ground forces and air-defense capabilities,” RAND explained, “especially when deployed in the general theater of interest but not necessarily on the front lines of a potential conflict.” An Army regiment with 300 Stryker wheeled vehicles is the only mechanized American force permanently in Europe. The Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade also is based on the continent. The ground-combat branch recently returned to Europe a battalion of tracked rocket launchers. A second battalion is slated to join it in 2020, at which point the service will have around 18 rocket launchers on the continent. The Army also temporarily deploys one armored brigade at a time to Europe, each on a nine-month rotation. A typical armored brigade has around 90 M-1 tanks and 130 M-2 fighting vehicles plus around 18 M-109 self-propelled howitzers. NATO countries together keep around 130 tanks in the same region -- and around 90 of those are the American M-1s on their temporary rotation. Russia by contrast keeps around 760 tanks in units within quick striking distance of NATO's Baltic members. But U.S. and NATO tanks weigh 60 tons or more. That’s a problem. “While Western European infrastructure was often reinforced during the Cold War to handle the weight of 60-plus-ton NATO tanks, Eastern Europe couldn’t afford to build as robustly and, in any case, only had to accommodate much lighter Soviet tanks, like the 45-ton T-72,” Sydney Freedberg, Jr. explained at Breaking Defense. “Poland, in particular, has many rivers and few reinforced bridges,” Freedberg added. “It has run afoul of E.U. regulators for not being able to accommodate heavy vehicles.” “What does this mean militarily? At more than 60 tons, the M-1 Abrams main battle tank and most of its NATO kindred – the British Challenger 2, the German Leopard II, even the French Leclerc — are already unsafe for many bridges where the alliance most urgently needs them.” The U.S. Army deploys armored bridge-layers in order to help tanks cross narrow gaps. But around 200 of the service’s roughly 250 bridge-layers are 1970s-vintage AVLBs, which use M-60 tank chassis and are too slow and unreliable to keep up with fast-moving tanks. The rest are 1990s-vintage Wolverine bridge-layers that use the M-1 chassis. The Wolverine is faster but its bridging mechanism is complex. “We found out it was hard to operate and maintain,” Lt. Col. Jeff Biggans, the product manager for Army bridging, told Defense News. The Army is developing the new Joint Assault Bridge, which combines the AVLB’s style of bridging equipment with a fast M-1 chassis. It’s a “compromise,” Biggans said. But the JAB has problems, too. Early tests of the new bridge-layer in 2019 found serious flaws. “The issues we found were primarily related to the hydraulic system or training issues,” Steve Rienstra, an Army product manager for bridging, told Defense News. The company that makes the JAB, Leonardo DRS, has redesigned the new bridge-layer. The Army has expressed its confidence that the next round of testing will go better for the JAB. But in the meantime, the service cut $126 million from the program’s projected $200-million budget for 2021. At the very least, the new bridge-layer will be late arriving in the force -- and precisely at the moment when the Army and its allies need some way to get their tanks across Polish rivers whose bridges are too flimsy for the load. David Axe serves as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels  War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad.

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21 февраля, 03:27

Sad Fact: Russia's Artillery Are Bigger and Badder Than America's

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Michael Peck Security, Europe Outgunned? Key point: America's army has large field artillery, but Russia's are serious business. Can Washington come up with an equal? The U.S. Army’s big guns have problems. The Army’s field artillery is outgunned by Russian weapons. And, it would face difficulties in knocking out entrenched North Korean artillery, or mobile Iranian weapons. That’s the conclusion of a report on U.S. Army artillery—or ground fires—capabilities by the think tank RAND Corporation, which examined an Army artillery arm that has suffered two decades of neglect since the Pentagon began focusing on counterinsurgency in the early 2000s. During that time, aircraft and helicopters replaced artillery as the main source for fire support during small-unit operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, while highly trained gunners were relegated to infantry duties such as manning checkpoints. This has resulted in the Army’s artillery arm “having far less experience and capability compared with their predecessors of the pre-9/11 era,” RAND concluded. The problem is what American artillery has atrophied, Russia’s has not. “During the long years of counterinsurgency the two U.S. Army branches that suffered particularly larger reductions were field artillery and air defense,” John Gordon, a RAND researcher who worked on the study, told the National Interest. “Given the threats in Iraq and Afghanistan that is understandable. Today, however, those two branches are critically important given the major opponents we are now refocusing on.” While Russia’s military is smaller than during the Cold War, it still fields a powerful force of howitzers, multiple rocket launchers and ballistic missiles. Russia can project long-range firepower via weapons such as the BM-30 Smerch multiple rocket launcher, with a range of 60 miles, or the SS-26 Iskander ballistic missile with a range of 250 miles. In contrast, the U.S. Army’s M109A7 Paladin 155-mm self-propelled howitzer has a range of about 15 miles with regular shells, and 20 miles with rocket-assisted projectiles. Interestingly, the RAND report echoes a recent British report that warns that if Russia invaded the Baltic States, British ground troops would be so outgunned by Russian artillery that Britain might need to bring back cluster bombs that have been banned by many nations. Both America and Britain have made aircraft, armed with laser- and GPS-guided bombs, as their primary means of long-range fire. But while that strategy worked in the First Gulf War, it may not work today. Sophisticated Russian air defenses, such as S-400 anti-aircraft missiles, may be able to keep NATO aircraft from striking Russian armored columns and supply routes. In addition, even U.S. government watchdogs worry that America neither has enough smart bombs stockpiled, nor the industrial capacity to suddenly build more if needed. This has stoked fears that long-range Russian artillery and missiles could devastate NATO airfields, ports and supply bases. Ground troops attempting to maneuver would be pinned by artillery barrages. If NATO airpower can’t knock out the Russian guns, then it’s up to the field artillery to do the job. And U.S. and British artillery may not be up to the task. Nor is Russia the only problem. In the event of another Korean conflict, U.S. Army artillery would also have trouble taking out North Korea’s huge arsenal of heavily-fortified guns along the DMZ. “U.S. artillery may not be prepared for the levels of ammunition expenditure that may be required when fighting a near-peer conventional opponent,” according to RAND. “U.S. artillery effectiveness may be reduced by the need to avoid/ defend against attacks by North Korean SOF [special operations forces] in rear areas.” Iranian commando attacks would also threaten U.S. artillery in the event of a Persian Gulf conflict. In addition, American artillery would have to respond quickly to catch fleeting targets such as mobile missile launchers. Fortunately, American troops would not rely on Army artillery alone. The Air Force and Navy would be there to provide air- and ship-launched missiles and naval gunfire. Still, with the proliferation of anti-aircraft and anti-ship weapons, that support cannot be guaranteed. One solution is to increase the number of Army field artillery units, especially those that can be quickly deployed to places like Eastern Europe and the Persian Gulf, according to RAND. The Army also needs more and better artillery detection systems than the current TPQ-53 radar, to spot Russian artillery and enable counterfire. The Army should also be concentrating more on improving its howitzers rather than multiple rocket launchers. “Rocket launchers such as MLRS and HIMARS are very important field artillery systems, but cannons are more appropriate for providing timely and continuous support to troops in contact,” RAND says. “While range and rate of fire are important considerations for the Army’s cannon systems, improvements should also include lethality, system survivability, and mobility. For example, the cannon system employed in the Army’s SBCTs [Stryker Brigade Combat Team] is the M777 155-mm, a towed system that lacks an auto-loading capability and protection for the gun crews.” One option is to buy foreign-made howitzers like Germany’s PzH-2000 155-mm weapon. The Army also needs a long-range missile, like the Precision Strike Missile project, to replace dwindling stocks of the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) needed in case hostile air defenses block air support. Developing a long-range surface-to-surface missile, with a range of at least 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) would enable the Army to play a role in a naval and air clash between America and China in the vast expanses of the Pacific. Significantly, RAND warns that U.S. gunners will have to do something they haven’t done for a while: practice defending themselves against attack. American artillery batteries will be stalked by armed drones, attack helicopters, and strike aircraft. Russian tank crews are even practicing “carousel” tactics to break through enemy lines and hunt down hostile artillery. “Today, few field artillery units have camouflage systems to conceal their weapons—this equipment was turned in during 2008-2009 because it was deemed unnecessary in Iraq and Afghanistan.,” the study urged. “Against a powerful opponent such as Russia, cover, concealment, and deception will be essential. Field artillery units must train that way.” Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook. This first appeared in 2019. Image: Reuters

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21 февраля, 03:24

How Does Russia's "4++" MiG-35 Fighter Compare To America's 5th-Generation F-35?

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Mark Episkopos Security, We take a look. Key point: Given the considerable improvements that it inherits from prior variants, it is difficult to see how the MiG-35 revolutionizes Russia’s aircraft roster. With Russia’s MiG-29 nearing the end of its shelf life as Russia’s staple multirole fighter, the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) are taking an increasing interest in its successor: the MiG-35. For years, its manufacturer has marketed the MiG-35 as a “4++” fighter: “I would say that this is a new plane that surpasses our foreign competitors. In other words, this is a 4++ level plane,” stated Mikoyan General Director Ilya Tarasenko in a recent interview. Russian President Vladimir Putin echoed this sentiment at a Kremlin conference: “I note that the new multipurpose MiG-35 fighter has enhanced flight and technical characteristics and is equipped with the very latest weapons systems. You know this better than I. It can follow from 10 to 30 targets at once, and can operate over land or sea. This is a genuinely unique and promising aircraft, 4++, you could say, very close to being fifth generation.” But what exactly does “4++” mean, and is the MiG-35 really a hair’s breadth away from being considered a fifth-generation fighter? A recent documentary from T24, a Russian state-funded television channel, sheds light on the MiG-35’s capabilities while offering plenty of high-fidelity footage of the plane in action. The documentary involves a series of interviews with Mikoyan executives, aerospace engineers, VKS officers, and test pilots. T24’s crew managed to secure a tour inside the 929th Chkalov State Flight-Test Center in Akhtubinsk, where they marvel at the painstaking attention to detail and degree of human labor required to manufacture a military-grade aircraft. Much of the video is a rehash of older known information, including the MiG-35’s proprietary Zhuk-AE radar and ability to land under extreme circumstances. However, it offers a rare glimpse into what the test pilots themselves-- as opposed to defense analysts or industry executives-- have to say about the plane. They seem particularly excited about its enhanced offensive capabilities, remarking that MiG-35’s nine hardpoints allow for armament configurations that dwarf the Mig-29 in sheer firepower. The MiG-35 is compatible with the full range of KAB-500 Laser, TV, and GLONASS guided bombs, which should enable it to handle some of the high-intensity combat operations that would have been too tall an order for its predecessor. The KAB-500 might clear up the prior confusion over UAC chief Yuriy Slysar’s assertion that the MiG-35 would boast “laser weapons”; he was likely referring to the KAB-500 Laser, not actual laser beam projectiles. These upgrades will inevitably come at the expense of maneuverability, which is unsurprising given the manufacturer’s design direction over the past decades. With every variant, Mikoyan has worked to rebrand the MiG-29 from an air-superiority fighter to an all-purpose that excels in a ground attack capacity. While “4++” means little in an absolute sense, it’s not difficult to see why Mikoyan insists on characterizing the MiG-35 this way. They want to present it as, not just an iteration, but a massive technical leap over the MiG-29 that it succeeds. It seems reasonable enough to draw a hard distinction between fighters separated by over forty years. However, that narrative of an exponential improvement is somewhat complicated by the multitude of MiG-29 variants released over the prior decades. For instance, many of the MiG-35’s chassis durability and landing gear upgrades can be traced directly to the recent, carrier-based MiG-29K. Given the considerable improvements that it inherits from prior variants, it is difficult to see how the MiG-35 revolutionizes Russia’s aircraft roster. It is, however, shaping up to the culmination of decades’ worth of Russian aerospace engineering experience, and Russia’s most capable multi-role fighter to date. Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to The National Interest and serves as research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University. Image: Wikipedia.

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21 февраля, 03:00

Here's What Russia Is Doing to Convince Everyone to Buy Their Weapons

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Mark Episkopos Politics, Europe It's all about the money. Key point: Every country wants more money and better weapons. Russia has good weapons, but not a lot of money- so what's an arms-exporting great power to do? Since 2010, Rosoboronexport-- Russia’s state defense export agency-- has made great strides in breaking into the Southeast Asian arms market. However, parts of the Middle-East present a much more challenging landscape. In particular, Rosoboronexport has yet to make meaningful headway in the lucrative Persian Gulf market where major defense system contracts still tend to go to the United States. As Russian arms exporters make a concerted push into the Gulf states, there is no better opportunity for them to give their sales pitch than at the largest arms show in the Middle East: IDEX, a biennial exhibition organized by the United Arab Emirates.  From tanks to air-defense systems, Russia entered IDEX 2019 with one of their most ambitious lineups in years. Will Russia succeed in wooing Gulf state importers? Here is what they showed. The centerpiece of Russia’s exhibition was the unveiling of their new Pantsir-ME shipborne air defense system. Rosoboronexport executive Alexander Mikheev expressed optimism about its market competitiveness: “Pantsir-ME can be installed on most Russian warships and is very well fit for ships manufactured by other countries… I am confident that it has very good export prospects in the Arab countries, southeast Asia and Latin America. Boasting a unique, “completely automated” dual missile-artillery system with a range of up to 15 kilometers, the manufacturer claims that Pantsir-ME is the first seaborne defense system of its kind. A more traditional artillery solution comes in the form of the AU220M “Burevestnik” 57 mm cannon, capable of firing 80 high-explosive (HE) or armor-piercing (AP) rounds per minute. In a reflection of where Rosoboronexport thinks the Middle-Eastern and Latin American markets are going, the manufacturer made a point of stressing that Burevestnik can also be fitted on certain Russian military vessels. Russia’s flagship tank offering remains the T-90MS, a modernized export variant of the T-90 battle tank that served as Russia’s staple heavy armor solution through 2011. As previously covered by The National Interest, its improvements include a new onboard display, new 360-degree camera system, a more powerful 1,130 horsepower V-92S2F diesel engine, and a revised explosive reactive armor (ERA) system. These upgrades don’t come cheap, however; whereas the prior T-90 export model costs 2.5-3.5 million dollars, the T-90MS comes in at 4.5 million. Unlike its more affordable predecessors, the T-90MS is Russia’s attempt to target the higher segments of the heavy armor market. In what Russian exporters are sure to take as a positive sign of market interest,  Egypt and Kuwait are on the verge of finalizing T-90MS contracts. Russia’s flagship small firearms offering is the AK200 series, a set of AK-12 variants cleared for export less than a week before IDEX 2019. The series consists of six rifles from the AK-200 to the AK-205, differentiated by compact and full-size options as well as three caliber choices: 7.62x39mm, 5.45x39mm and 5.56x45mm NATO. On the more experimental end, also making an appearance are Kalashnikov’s new  KUB-BLA suicide drones. "KUB-BLA is designed to destroy remote ground targets," Kalashnikov explained at the exhibition. "An unmanned aerial vehicle delivers a special load to the coordinates of the target, which are set manually or in the image from the [drone's] guidance system." The KUB-BLA is the latest, striking example of Kalashnikov Group’s aggressive attempts to diversify beyond the small firearms industry. When it comes to establishing a foothold in the highly competitive, politically fraught Gulf market, Rosoboronexport has their work cut out for them. Nonetheless, Russia’s ambitious lineup of air defense systems and modernized heavy weapons speaks to a rising confidence in their ability to carve out a greater slice of the high-end arms market over the coming decade. Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to The National Interest and serves as research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University. This first appeared in March 2019. Image: Reuters.

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21 февраля, 02:00

Don't Forget That in 2019, Turkey Threatened to Close a U.S. Base That Hosts Nuclear Bombs

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Mark Episkopos Politics, Middle East A big deal. Key point: Ankara isn't happy with Washington or Brussels. One clear way to signal a further break in relations would be to kick out American forces and nuclear weapons stationed in Turkey. In what may become the latest wedge in Turkey-NATO relations since Ankara’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system earlier in 2019, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to shut down the Incirlik air base. This first appeared in December 2019 and is being reposted due to reader interest. “If it is necessary for us to take such a step, of course we have the authority ... If this is necessary, together with our delegations, we will close down Incirlik if necessary,” Erdogan told Turkish state television earlier this week. President Erdogan’s comments were prompted by a recent Senate vote to recognize the early 20th century massacres and mass deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as a genocide, as well as the ongoing prospect of Ankara’s S-400 deal being sanctioned under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Far more than merely a symbolic rift in the U.S.-Turkey defense relationship, the prospective closure of the Incirlik air base forebodes immediate and serious military repercussions for the U.S. The base, located deep in southern Turkey off the mediterranean coastline, houses a 50-unit stockpile of B61 nuclear bombs. A legacy of Cold War-era nuclear deterrence strategy, Incirlik remains the largest U.S. nuclear weapons storage site in Europe. But what used to be a forward post for a retaliatory strike against prospective Soviet encroachment into Western Europe, as well as a crucial bargaining chip during the 1960’s Cuban Missile Crisis, is increasingly seen as a strategic liability amid the stark downturn in U.S.-Turkish relations over the past several years. Since 1965, Incirlik has also been home to the 39th Air Base Wing (39 ABW). Units from the 39 ABW’s bombardment wing, which today is known as the 39th Tactical Group, played a central role in two of the largest U.S. airpower operations of the past decade: Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The U.S. Air Force asserts that as much as 68 percent of all air support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan flowed through Incirlik in the early 2000’s. So, what does the U.S. Air Force stand to lose if forced to pack up and leave Incirlik? First, the opportunity to "pack up" should not be granted as a foregone conclusion; depending on the overarching diplomatic hostility of that divorce if it were ever to happen, the Pentagon cannot discount that Ankara may move to seize some, or all, of the U.S. arsenal in Incirlik. Barring that catastrophic scenario, the loss of Incirlik would be a major blow to the U.S. capacity to project power in the Middle-East. The U.S. Air Force stands to lose a major logistical support center and refueling site for ongoing its operations in Afghanistan, even as U.S. raids against ISIS and other terrorist targets in neighboring states risk becoming more difficult and expensive. The closure of Incirlik would also weaken US leverage against Iran; though Incirlik was never in the running as a staging post for a strike against Tehran, it is one of several American forward bases for countering the covert activities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) across the Middle East.  With the future of Turkey’s geopolitical orientation hanging in the balance, the Trump administration continues to tread lightly as Washington assesses the likelihood and military consequences of losing Incirlik. The White House moved to block the Senate resolution labeling the massacares of Ottoman Armenians a genocide yesterday, calling it "one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century" instead. Although the specter of CAATSA continues to loom over Turkey, Washington has dragged its heels on the concern that sanctions would needlessly antagonize Ankara without yielding any Turkish concessions in return. Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to The National Interest and serves as research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University. This first appeared in 2019. Image: Reuters

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21 февраля, 01:27

Why Trump Is Waiting to Pardon Roger Stone

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Hunter DeRensis Politics, Americas If a pardon is issued, then it is likely to happen after the November election when it would no longer be a political liability for Donald Trump. With two rows of supporters in a courtroom awaiting him, Roger Stone, the longtime political operative and personal friend of President Donald Trump, strolled in wearing a black Homburg and a blue overcoat with a dark velvet collar to hear his sentence from federal judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointee. It was forty months in prison and a $20,000 fine for the crimes of obstruction, witness tampering, and making false statements to Congress. Whether Stone actually heads to prison remains an open question: his attorneys are moving for a new trial even as Trump floats the prospect of a pardon for him. Stone (who turns sixty-eight later this year) remained resolutely silent in the courtroom, a remarkable feat for someone who has made a career out of taunting the liberal establishment with progressively more provocative capers. Stone, who has known Trump in a personal capacity since the 1980s, became a target of former special counsel Robert Mueller when it was alleged that he was the middleman between the Trump campaign and the media publisher Wikileaks. It was the prosecutor’s theory that Stone had foreknowledge of Wikileaks’ information dumps regarding the Democratic National Committee’s emails. This was never proven; however, Stone was convicted in November 2019 on multiple procedural crimes. Last week, controversy erupted when federal prosecutors announced a sentencing recommendation of seven to ten years, and Trump responded that “this is a horrible and very unfair situation” and that such a “miscarriage of justice” cannot be allowed. When the Justice Department announced that this recommendation went beyond their original expectation and would be revised down, four members of the prosecution team resigned. The move was perceived by some as blatant interference by the president in a criminal case for the benefit of a close associate. Several Democratic lawmakers referred to the tweet as an instance of obstruction of justice. Republican Senator John Kennedy cautioned, “Just because you can sing, though, doesn’t mean you should sing." Attorney General William P. Barr, in an attempt to assuage concerns, made it known that the president had had no influence on the recommendation and that the decision to lower it had been made prior to his tweet. Three prosecutors resigned from the case the same day in response. Despite official assurances, the appearance of wrongdoing was noted. “To have public statements and tweets made about the department, about people in the department…about cases pending in the department, and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job and to ensure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we’re doing our work with integrity,” Attorney General William Barr told ABC News. Since the interview, Trump has continued to tweet about DOJ conduct, and there is talk about Barr resigning. Since the uproar, media outlets have taken a closer examination of the Stone trial and found discrepancies. The primary one is that the jury forewoman, Tomeka Hart, is a former Democratic congressional candidate who had made political social media posts, some of them relating to Roger Stone and the Mueller investigation. Hart, who is trained as a lawyer, would have been aware that her involvement would likely violate Stone’s constitutional right to be tried by twelve impartial jurors. A number of conservatives have complained that presiding Judge Jackson’s imposition of a gag order on Stone, even after his conviction, is a sign of unfair treatment. One of Stone’s primary sources of income had been public speaking. The gag order has prevented him from speaking publicly on the aftermath of his trial. Judge Jackson called out both Trump and Barr in a lengthy statement before revealing the sentence, saying that Stone was being “prosecuted for covering up for the president” and that Barr’s decision to lower the original prosecutorial recommendation was “unprecedented.” “The dismay and disgust at the defendant’s belligerence should transcend party,” the judge said.  Despite some overwrought speculation in the Washington Post and elsewhere that he would intervene immediately, Trump said in Las Vegas that he has no immediate plans to either pardon or grant clemency to Stone, instead preferring to see “the process play out.” If a pardon is issued, then it is likely to happen after the November election when it would no longer be a political liability for Trump. Trump is loyal to his allies—up to a point. That point is when his interests conflict with theirs.  Hunter DeRensis is the senior reporter for the National Interest. Follow him on Twitter @HunterDeRensis. Image: Reuters