Tag Archives: China

The Potential for Panshih: Taiwan’s Expanding Maritime Role

Taiwan has long enjoyed a robust maritime force, intended to defend the island nation from threats both real and perceived across the Taiwan Strait. An arrangement under which the United States will deliver four Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates for use by the Republic of China Navy (ROCN) will only serve to further enhance the country’s maritime power. But perhaps the most interesting development for maritime affairs in the Asia-Pacific region so far in 2015 is the delivery of the ROCS Panshih.

With a total displacement of 20,000 tons and a range of almost 15,000 kilometers, the supply ship Panshih will greatly contribute to the ROCN’s expeditionary capabilities, allowing Taiwan to contribute meaningfully to disaster relief or humanitarian operations anywhere in the region. Historically, Taiwan has lacked this capability, fielding only the ROCS Yuen Feng, a troop transport. Although the ROCN has operated another supply ship for some years, ROCS Wu Yi, the Panshih is significantly larger and possesses much more advanced medical facilities. Reportedly, the Panshih is also only the first of its class – a second ship of an identical design is expected for the ROCN in the next few years.

These ships may soon cruise the seas in a Taiwanese effort to replicate the successes of China’s maritime diplomacy. The Peace Ark, a hospital ship in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), has toured extensively since its commissioning in 2008. For example, the Peace Ark was deployed to assist the Philippines in recovering from Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, and later was an important component of the Chinese participation in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) 2014. Port visits and participation in such multilateral operations enhance China’s “soft power”, whereas observers note that Taiwan has been sidelined for the most part in regional diplomatic affairs. Pursuing a similar theme to China’s charm offensive could be just the remedy to Taiwan’s isolation.

A port of the flight deck on the Panshih.

Yet there is one catch to the Panshih’s particular design. The vessel boasts some offensive capabilities, including a Phalanx close-in weapons system, a 20mm Gatling gun, short-range Sea Chaparral surface-to-air missiles, several .50 calibre machine guns, and 30mm turrets. In contrast, the Berlin-class auxiliary ships employed by the Germany Navy, and which the Royal Canadian Navy will also soon employ as the Queenston-class, have only four MLG 27mm autocannons for defence. China’s Peace Ark is entirely unarmed. While the Panshih’s armaments grant it operational flexibility, they also undermine the vessel’s capacity to act as a soft power tool.

Perhaps the most ideal role for this vessel in the future will be to join relief operations in unstable environments. Taiwan has not contributed much in this area in previous years, with the ROCN focusing almost entirely on defending the Taiwanese coastline from threats across the strait. But there is one success story: in 2011, Taiwan initiated some participation in the European Union’s Operation Atalanta. This constituted an important contribution to international efforts against piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. But this is the lone case of active engagement by the ROCN in any initiative beyond the Taiwan Strait. The Panshih could grant Taiwan more options in this regard, since the deployment of fully fledged combat vessels to an area like the Gulf of Aden could be viewed by domestic audiences as weakening Taiwan’s coastal defenses or otherwise as a misuse of Taiwanese defense resources. A supply ship could be more readily spared so far as the public is concerned.

Lending credence to the idea that the Panshih will be used to support humanitarian operations in failed or failing states, the vessel also has impressive hangar space, capable of storing up to three helicopters. The Taiwanese media has focused on the capacity for the ship to serve as a takeoff and landing platform for anti-submarine helicopters, but it is also certainly possible for the ship to serve as a base for transport helicopters ferrying supplies and specialized personnel to inland locations, while also bringing back patients requiring intensive care at the Panshih’s onboard medical facilities. The ROCN’s 19 Sikorsky S-70C(M) Thunderhawk helicopters offer some possibilities in this regard.

In any case, the ROCN now has in its possession a versatile ship. What remains to be seen are how the ROCN will put it to use in the coming years and to what extent this will reflect Taiwanese foreign policy priorities. With such a sophisticated vessel, it would be a shame for Taiwan to keep it docked as backup for a regional conflict that might never, and hopefully will never, come.

Paul Pryce is a Research Analyst at the Atlantic Council of Canada. His research interests are diverse and include maritime security, NATO affairs, and African regional integration.

This article can be found in its original form at offiziere.ch and was republished by permission.

An ASEAN Maritime Alliance?

The year 2014 brought new tensions to the South China Sea, particularly as Chinese authorities sought to establish a series of island-like structures in the midst of the disputed Spratly Islands. Such provocative actions, however, are unlikely to generate sufficient political will among the other countries of the region to establish a Political-Security Community under the auspices of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) by the 2015 deadline. But were this collection of ten countries to pool their resources into a security community or even a security alliance, it would be an impressive force and a potential deterrent to aggression in the South China Sea.

In particular, it is worthwhile noting the relative strength of ASEAN coastal defence forces. Some member states, such as Indonesia, possess respectable ‘blue water’ navies, that is to say, they have larger vessels capable of operating in deep waters and engaging in long-range standing battles. Other ASEAN countries, such as the Philippines, have considerable ‘brown water’ navies,  forces consisting of small patrol boats which can cruise inland waterways and the shallow waters that weave between tight-knit island chains. But the varied nature of the waters disputed in the South China Sea particularly requires the flexibility offered by corvettes.

Generally, corvettes fall between the Royal Canadian Navy’s Halifax-class frigates and Kingston-class coastal defence vessels in size. But there is much debate as to what constitutes a contemporary corvette. For example, the Royal Omani Navy calls its Khareef-class vessels ‘corvettes’ even though the displacement of each vessel in the class is approximately 2,660 tons. Recent advancements in shipbuilding have also allowed the US Navy to introduce new vessels with substantial displacement but with shallower drafts, meaning the new USS Liberty can approach closer to coastlines than the similarly sized but older Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates.

For the purposes of this analysis, only those vessels with a displacement greater than 100 tons but less than 1,700 tons will be considered corvettes. China’s maritime forces, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN),  has a substantial number of vessels in this range deployed to Hong Kong and a network of naval bases off the South China Sea. 12 Jiangdao-class corvettes (1,440 tons) are the workhorses of this maritime presence in the region and China may possibly add 3 more vessels of this class by the end of 2015. Beyond the Jiangdao-class corvettes, PLAN’s southern presence includes six Houjian-class missile boats (520 tons) and approximately 80 other missile boats and gunboats of various classes and ranging in displacement from 200 to 480 tons each. This vastly exceeds the quantity and quality of vessels any individual Southeast Asian country could bring to bear in a conflict. But ASEAN’s combined maritime forces could meet the challenge presented by a limited PLAN offensive.

Brunei in particular has emerged as a promising new maritime actor in the region, even actively participating in the 2014 edition of the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC). The Royal Brunei Navy acquired four specially built Darussalam-class offshore patrol ships (1,625 tonnes) from the German shipbuilder Luerssen-Werft, which replaced Brunei’s previous coastal defence workhorse, the Waspada-class fast attack craft (200 tonnes). The Waspada-class vessels have since been decommissioned and donated to Indonesia to be used for training purposes. The introduction of the Darussalam-class greatly upgrades Brunei’s defence capabilities and it will be of interest for Southeast Asian observers to see how Brunei further pursues the modernization of its forces.

The Republic of Singapore Navy has much in the way of heavier frigates and submarines to defend its unique position by the Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s most significant shipping routes. Its corvette-like vessels are also impressive, six Victory-class corvettes (600 tonnes) and 12 Fearless-class offshore patrol ships (500 tonnes), but they are certainly not as new as some of the vessels boasted by Singapore’s neighbours. The Victory-class was acquired in 1990-1991 while the Fearless-class was introduced between 1996 and 1998. Therefore, it will also be of interest to see whether Singapore seeks to obtain any newer vessels which can serve as a bridge in capabilities between the Victory-class corvettes and the heavier Formidable-class frigates.

dsc_5220It is Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia that boast the largest complements of corvettes in the region, however. The Royal Thai Navy’s coastal defence is led by two Tapi-class corvettes (1,200 tons) and two Pattani-class offshore patrol ships (1,460 tons), which are joined by two Ratanakosin-class corvettes (960 tons), three Khamrosin-class corvettes (630 tons), three Hua Hin-class patrol boats (600 tons), six PSMM Mark 5-class patrol boats (300 tons), and 18 smaller patrol boats and fast attack boats of varying capabilities but all rather aged. The Philippines and Indonesia both have vast island chains within their respective territories, requiring corvettes and smaller patrol vessels just as much for counter-trafficking and counter-piracy operations as for countering conventional maritime forces. The Philippine Navy possesses one Pohang-class corvette (1,200 tons), two Rizal-class corvettes (1,250 tons), nine Miguel Malvar-class corvettes (900 tons), and three Emilio Jacinto-class corvettes (700 tons). Indonesia tops out ASEAN’s array of corvettes with three Fatahillah-class corvettes (1,450 tons), 16 Kapitan Patimura-class corvettes (950 tons), and 65 other missile boats and gunboats with a displacement of approximately 100-250 tons.

Yet it is unclear how much of their forces Indonesia or the Philippines would be able to deploy in the midst of a South China Sea conflict. As mentioned previously, many of these vessels have been used practically as inland patrol vessels. There are also some potential weak links in the chain should ASEAN establish some form of formalized maritime alliance. The Royal Malaysian Navy only offers four Laksamana-class corvettes (675 tons) and an array of 16 smaller missile boats and gun boats that could generally only be used to harass Chinese forces. Burma certainly has an impressive force in its own right – consisting of three domestically produced Anawratha-class corvettes (1,100 tons), six Houxin-class missile boats (500 tons), 10 5 Series-class missile boats (500 tons), and 15 Hainan-class gunboats (450 tons), but the military junta has already demonstrated that it will remain aloof from territorial disputes in the South China Sea and generally supports China’s policy toward Southeast Asia.

The Royal Cambodian Navy is in shambles, consisting solely of five outdated Turya-class torpedo boats (250 tons), five Stenka-class patrol boats (250 tons), and a lone Shershen-class fast attack boat (175 tons). But Cambodian authorities would be just as disinclined to engage in defence sharing as their Burmese counterparts. During Cambodia’s 2012 ASEAN chairmanship, Cambodian officials consistently interfered in efforts by other ASEAN member states to reach a common position on the South China Sea’s territorial disputes. Given the understanding on security issues shared between Cambodian and Chinese officials, as well as China’s status as Cambodia’s largest source of foreign investment and aid, it is apparent that Cambodia has relatively no need for the security guarantees ASEAN could provide as a regional counter-balance to China.

Vietnam is the unpredictable factor in the region. The Vietnam People’s Navy has a few corvettes of its own, including a Pauk-class corvette (580 tons), eight Tarantul-class corvettes (540 tons), and 23 patrol ships with displacements ranging from 200 to 375 tons. The Vietnamese government has also ordered two more TT-400TP gunboats (450 tons) from domestic shipbuilders with delivery expected in late 2015 or early 2016. This leaves Vietnam with a force perhaps not as sizable as that of Indonesia or the Philippines but with greater capacity to intervene should China seek to settle territorial disputes with Vietnam by force.

As Malaysia will hold the 2015 Chairmanship of ASEAN, the prospects for a maritime force in support of the bloc’s proposed Political-Security Community will depend to some degree on whether Malaysian officials will be willing to show leadership. If Malaysia looks to acquire new vessels and insists on placing maritime security on the agenda of upcoming ASEAN meetings, some arrangement could be struck by the end of the year. But this will require artful diplomacy, especially in the face of Burmese and Cambodian opposition. With Malaysian officials speaking predominantly about the need for a single market in the region and promoting a conclusion to negotiations regarding the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, such a drive for maritime security may not be forthcoming.

Paul Pryce is a Research Analyst at the Atlantic Council of Canada. His research interests are diverse and include maritime security, NATO affairs, and African regional integration.

This article can be found in its original form at the  
NATO Council of Canada and was republished by permission.

Toward a Harmonious Pacific through China-led, Confucian-based Maritime Law

What goals should the United States seek in the South China Sea?  Trying to preserve the status quo – hoping that each country be ever content with its historic resources and territory – is simply unrealistic, as demographics alter populations and climate change alters fish stocks, river flows, and even the land under one’s feet, as sea levels rise.  The U.S. feints at regional stability; yet advocating for peace while conducting military exercises with China’s neighbors, and arming those neighbors while proposing détente to their larger Pacific roommate, do nothing to turn down the temperature in an already overheated region.

Is there another way?

Interestingly, in response to China’s most recent provocative (or expansive, “salami-slicing”) efforts in the South China Sea, the affected countries have neither used, nor threatened, retaliatory military force.  Perhaps they saw the lack of international military response to Russia’s actions in the Crimea and realized the futility of might against might, facing such a stronger force as China.  Or perhaps they drew lessons from the international community’s decade-plus-long quagmire in the Middle East.  At any rate, they went, instead, to the law, and to the United Nations, with the Philippines filing a 4,000-page case in March 2014, and Vietnam joining the case in early December.  The case pends.

Chinese law is often seen by the Western world as a punitive weapon, wielded bluntly to reinforce the power of those with authority.  I came face-to-face with this stereotype in 2010, when, aboard a U.S. Coast Guard high-endurance cutter, we hosted two Chinese shipriders from the Fisheries Law Enforcement Command (now part of the China Coast Guard), to cooperatively enforce an international moratorium on high-seas driftnet fishing.  The shipriders’ knowledge of Pacific fisheries was extensive, and their insight into local fishing practices highly revealing; yet they were surprised by the professional and non-aggressive way we conducted fisheries boardings.  Excessive force was unnecessary; the rule of law enabled us.

They were not the first shipriders I’ve met who were used to maritime law enforcement being far more aggressive in their home countries. The FLEC shipriders were fascinated to learn that the law not only empowered, but also restrained us: that it protected citizens’ rights, and even the rights of non-citizens.  This is powerful.

Sunset on the South China Sea off Mui Ne village on the south-east coast of Vietnam (Author MikeRussia; Wikimedia Commons)
Sunset on the South China Sea off Mui Ne village on the south-east coast of Vietnam (Author MikeRussia; Wikimedia Commons)

Whence the origins of Chinese law?  The legal tradition in China has grown, over centuries, from two roots: Legalism, which results in the often brutal applications of punishment seen in Western media; and, curiously, Confucian philosophy.  While Legalism posits tough laws and harsh sentences to keep the populace controlled, Confucianism holds that laws should help a community achieve harmony (or “Li”); and that leaders are expected, by virtue of their status, to model the moral behaviors they want their people to emulate.  This Confucian strain in Chinese thought provides an interesting and useful opening for influencing development in a new direction, toward a cooperative and harmonious maritime code of conduct in the Pacific.

How might China be convinced to develop such a code?  After all, they are stronger than their neighbors: why handicap themselves?  Yet economics suggests that selfish or destructive behaviors net a country less long-term economic growth and geopolitical power than mutually beneficial international actions.[1] This is the angle to play, enhanced by emphasizing the inherently Chinese flavor of a Confucian-based legal code.  China has much to benefit by spending less on a military arms race and more on economic development: by cultivating harmonious relationships with their neighbors, they will create a stronger and more willing market for their goods, to keep driving the massive yet near-solitary economic growth engine keeping their political party empowered.

This is, perhaps, an audacious proposal, for it seeks through persuasion and a bit of flattery to encourage China to become a responsible maritime actor, on its own terms, by appealing to its history and pride. The U.S. could say: We can help you develop a comprehensive Pacific maritime legal framework; China-led, Confucian-based, for harmonious interaction with your neighbors and comprehensive regional prosperity.

Overly optimistic?  Not impossible.

It is important here to focus not just on maritime law tactics (how to conduct a law enforcement boarding; how to apply various levels of force) but on strategy: how to build a framework for long-term, harmonious international maritime interaction.  This could start at the military-to-military level, through engagements between China Coast Guard and U.S. Coast Guard counterparts.  China Coast Guard leaders would be invited to observe, not only tactical-level boardings and operational-level maritime law enforcement planning; but also the legal aspects of preparing case packages, reviewing case law, and arguing cases in U.S. court.  Discussions would cover both strengths and shortfalls of the existing U.S. and international maritime legal systems, expanding to cover differences between the type of maritime law enforcement the U.S. Coast Guard conducts, and the similar-but-different, non-law enforcement Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO) conducted by both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard to enforce UN resolutions.  What elements of each should be integrated into a Pacific maritime “code of conduct”?

(Aug. 18, 2007) SHANGHAI, China - The crew from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell trains with the China Coast Guard during the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Jonathan R. Cilley)
(Aug. 18, 2007) SHANGHAI, China – The crew from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell trains with the China Coast Guard as part of the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Jonathan R. Cilley)

One of the benefits of a Confucian-based code of conduct for South China Sea ship interactions would be to assume all parties’ good intentions, rather than their ill-will.  In a specific maritime rulebook supporting this code, potentially aggressive actions would be presumed, unless meeting certain hostile tripwires, to be honest mistakes, prompting mutual retreat.  Furthermore, in order to discourage intentional “gray area” behavior, the tripwires would specifically reflect hostile intent – regardless of whether a military or civilian actor cross them.

Additionally, again based on Confucian philosophy, the greater the power, the more the responsibility to model ideal behavior.  Thus, as the leading power in the region, the onus is on China to set the most moral and harmonious example in its maritime interactions.

This code of conduct would both complement, and expand upon, the existing COLREGS: for where the COLREGS guide navigational interactions, the expanded code of conduct would also cover “exploratory interactions” – when ships are not simply navigating from one port to another, but exploring, patrolling, conducting research, or otherwise operating intentionally but non-navigationally.

Concurrent U.S. Defense-State strategic regional engagement is also recommended, in which reductions in maritime tensions are coupled with increased diplomatic development, where the U.S. encourages countries with competing resource claims to develop bilateral or multilateral agreements for resource sharing and protection.  The goal is to convince Pacific nations that sharing the pie doesn’t mean going hungry: instead, cooperation can reduce each country’s individual share of defense and production, while promoting labor specialization and national pride.[2]  As a bonus for regional stability, the more countries invested cooperatively in an area, the greater their individual and collective desire to avoid any sort of conflict that might harm those resources, or take their production off-line.

Both the U.S. combatant commander and his country team counterparts should cooperatively emphasize Chinese-influenced, Confucian-based legal bases throughout the spectrum of their “defense, diplomacy, and development” engagements, as an overarching strategic theme.  This is one way the U.S. can face China down in their game of “Go”:[3] from every angle, at every opportunity, seeds of a harmonious rule of law will be planted.  While some efforts will be stymied or stifled, some seeds will grow, and ideally, this concept of law will begin to permeate Chinese society deeply enough that it cannot quickly be uprooted.  And why should the Chinese tear it out?  It will underpin their economic growth, protect their military from engagement, and cement their moral status as a 21st-century great power.

Engagement surrounding the rule of law is a long-range play.  The goal is not only a more peaceful, China-influenced, legal framework for the Pacific; but also to sow seeds of change for democratic evolution within China itself.  Raising awareness within Chinese leadership that laws are not just sticks with which to beat opponents, but beacons of moral empowerment; that laws should guide leaders to act justly; that the rule of law can inspire a peaceful, communal patriotism; and that people at all levels of society can trust the law to protect them – these powerful democratic concepts can, over time, drive significant positive change within Chinese society: change that traditional military might not and political posturing never could achieve.

Facilitating a China-led, Confucian based, cooperative maritime-based rule of law could eventually be expanded to other contentious and competitive domains, including space, cyberspace, and even intellectual property – all areas that could benefit from an improved, shared, legal basis. And perhaps, success in this region of the world could be expanded to locally-led and -derived, rule-of-law-based engagements in other combative areas.  After having seen such conflict and destruction on its many shores, we could at last look forward to a new era in which the Pacific is finally peaceful enough to be worthy of its name.


Lt. Heather Bacon-Shone serves in the United States Coast Guard, and has operational afloat experience throughout the Pacific.  The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the U.S. Coast Guard or Department of Defense.

[1] In economic terms, rent-seeking versus profit-seeking.

[2] In other words, a non-zero-sum game.

[3] “To update an old saying, ‘Russians play chess, Chinese play “go,” and Americans play poker.”  In Reveron, Derek S. and James L. Cook.  “Developing Strategists: Translating National Strategy into Theater Strategy,” Joint Force Quarterly, Issue 55, 4th Quarter 2009, p. 21.

The Gutting of Ukraine

By Norman Friedman

UkraineChina has consistently supported Ukraine during its agony at the hands of Russian-supported separatists. One of the less-publicized reasons why is that China has relied heavily on Ukrainian firms to help modernize its military.

For example, the active phased-array radar on board Chinese Type 052C destroyers was developed by a Ukrainian company. The current Chinese main battle tank is essentially the current Ukrainian one. The firms involved are all in the heavily-industrialized area in which the Russian-backed forces are operating; it may even be that the Russians are specifically targeting particular Ukrainian towns and companies. From Mr. Putin’s point of view, the Ukrainian companies may be unwanted competitors with the military industrialists on whom he depends for much of his power. At the least, he is trying to put them out of business. The white trucks supposedly carrying humanitarian aid into Ukraine from Russia were actually arriving to plunder Ukrainian factories of their modern machine tools. What the West may not want to sell to Mr. Putin, his forces can steal.

The Ukrainian plants and development companies exist because of policies implemented long before the Soviet Union broke up. The rulers of the Soviet Union were always worried that nationalism would break up their country — as, in the end, it did. One of their insurance policies against breakup was to make it difficult or impossible for those in any one of the republics making up the Soviet Union to build key items independently. For example, gas turbine ships built in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in Russia were powered by gas turbines made in Ukraine. Their torpedoes came from Kazakhstan. Sonobuoys came from Ukraine, as did helicopter dipping sonars. Some ballistic missiles came from Ukraine. The only shipyard in the old Soviet Union capable of building carriers was in Nikolaev, in Ukraine. However, any carrier built there was armed with weapons and sensors from elsewhere in the Soviet Union, mainly from Russia.

In Soviet times, none of this really mattered. The Ukrainian factory making gas turbines responded to commands from Moscow to deliver engines to St. Petersburg, just as any factory in Russia did. There was little or no distinction between what happened in Moscow and what happened in, say, Nikolaev — no border, no transfer of cash. To a considerable extent design organizations were set up in Ukraine in the early 1960s or the late 1950s because Nikita Khrushchev, who ran the Soviet Union, was Ukrainian. For example, Khrushchev decided to reward his homeland by transferring the Crimea to it. Unsurprisingly, Russians applauded its seizure, since they had never considered the transfer legitimate. Ukrainian independence is a much more substantial issue, although most Russians apparently consider it a spurious notion, its separation a penalty imposed by the West at the end of the Cold War.

Once the Soviet Union broke up, the Soviet -era distribution of facilities suddenly mattered a great deal. All of the constituent republics of the old Soviet Union were suddenly plunged from a world of command by Moscow to a world of cash purchases. The Ukrainian plant could still make gas turbines, but if Moscow wanted a set for installation in St. Petersburg it suddenly had to pay up with real money. That was not easy. In time the Russians built their own gas turbine factory, but while that was happening they had to power ships with steam plants, because the steam plants were being made in Russia.

Conversely, key components of the carrier Varyag, afloat at Nikolaev, could not be delivered because they could not be paid for. The yard had no way to complete the carrier. Parts of her weapon system were visible for some years on the pier alongside, incomplete and hence impossible to install. In much the same way the Ukrainians had no way of completing a Slava class cruiser left nearly completed when the Soviet Union broke up. The carrier proved saleable — its transfer may have been the beginning of Ukrainian arms exports to China — but the cruiser did not. Even Ukrainian governments clearly favoring the Russians could not conjure up the resources to give the Russians weapon systems or platforms they wanted, because it took cash to move equipment over the border.

With their Russian (ex-Soviet) customers no longer paying, Ukrainian firms looked elsewhere, and they seem to have found their main customer in China — which certainly did have lots of cash. Exports were not so much finished equipment (which would probably have required components from elsewhere in the former Soviet empire) as innovative designs, such as the active phased-array radar. From time to time the Russians have tried to police the export of military data and know-how from their country, but once the Soviet Union broke up Ukraine must have made such controls a mockery in many cases. That might not have mattered had Russian military R&D kept advancing at its pre-collapse pace, but the cash shortage stopped most of that, too. Ukrainians who knew what the Soviet Union had developed by the time of its collapse could sell just about anything Russians could.

For a time, the Russians recovered to the point that they did have cash, but Russian military producers faced much higher costs at home, not least to feed an extremely corrupt political system. Now that a plunging oil price has cut Russian cash resources, it is even more difficult for them to buy from Ukrainian firms. It must be doubly difficult if they have to compete with much wealthier Chinese buyers. Theft is a much easier way to obtain the necessary products. Since it includes the theft of production tooling, the plants in question can be re-established in Russia, where their products will be far more affordable. Hence the systematic looting of plants in Ukraine. Looting also circumvents the effect of a falling price of oil, which drastically reduces hard-cash resources in Russia.

If the Ukrainian agony were all about money and access to technology, it would be unhappy enough. However, a major the driving force is nationalism. Vladimir Putin’s only important attraction for Russians is nationalistic: he is seen as a strong man who will restore the strength of the motherland, and he will also expunge all of those unhappy guilty memories of the Soviet past. In this narrative, the West is the enemy who broke up the Russian Empire and thus sought to crush Holy Russia. Anyone familiar with Russian history before the Revolution can recognize the sort of policy Mr. Putin is following. It takes a very committed Russian nationalist to say, as some have in recent days, that the falling price of oil is part of a deliberate plot on the part of ‘certain organizations’ in the West intended specifically to weaken Russia. Ukraine was the oldest part of the Empire, and its recovery excites Russian nationalists. Before he annexed Crimea, Mr. Putin was extremely unpopular. People in Russia saw him for what he was: a thief working with larger thieves to plunder their country. Afterwards his popularity soared, and old-style raw Russian nationalism became a ruling force.

Russian nationalism is opposed by Ukrainian nationalism. It may not be particularly powerful in the Eastern Ukrainian regions in which the Russians and their friends are operating, but in much of the country it is alive and well. Ukraine has a distinctive culture and language. The language and the alphabet are similar to Russian, but by no means identical. Ukraine enjoyed brief independence after the Russian Revolution. During the late 1920s and early 1930s the government in Moscow created a famine in Ukraine that killed 6 to 10 million people in the name of collectivizing farming. Ukraine had been the breadbasket of Europe, its wheat exports the major source of foreign currency to Czarist Russia. After collectivization, the Ukraine was badly enough ravaged that in the 1950s the Soviet Union found itself buying wheat abroad.

The horrors of the 1920s and 1930s remained fresh in Ukrainian minds when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. Initially Ukrainians understandably welcomed the Germans as liberators, only to discover that the racist Germans lumped them with the Russians as sub-human. Even so, they hated the Russians even more, and a low-level insurgency continued well into the 1950s. The Ukrainian view of the man-made famine is somewhat analogous to the Polish view of the Soviet massacre of Polish military officers in 1941 at Katyn. Each was a horrific crime committed by the Soviet Union and then buried. Under Soviet domination, denial that the Soviets had committed such crimes became a test of political loyalty. Once Ukraine and Poland were free of Soviet control, memory of such crimes helped generate nationalist hatred for the Soviets. When Mr. Putin glorifies the Soviet Union which produced him, he enrages those it tortured. Victims inside the Soviet Union are less than popular in the current nationalist climate, but victims outside are in a very different position.

To further complicate matters, another Soviet-era strategy for binding together the Soviet Union was to encourage ethnic Russians to settle in the various republics forming the Soviet Union. That produced large ethnic Russian minorities in countries like Latvia and Ukraine. Mr. Putin is encouraging the ethnic Russian minority in Eastern Ukraine to revolt against the government in Kiev. Although he is enjoying a short-term advantage, surely what he has done has made other post-Soviet governments uncomfortably aware that they may be harboring hostile minorities. They may decide to do something about them before they can revolt.

If that seems an extreme extrapolation, remember that before World War II Hitler exploited the manufactured resentments felt by a large ethnic German minority in Czechoslovakia (in the Sudetenland) to dismember that country (he did not have to resort to invasion or even to proxy invasion, as in Ukraine). Governments who remembered what minority Germans had done in the 1930s expelled them after Germany collapsed in 1945. Many Germans found themselves walking all the way across Poland from what had been East Prussia, and for years the cry to recover that territory resonated through German politics. What is likely to happen now in places like the Baltic states? Their governments lived through decades of repression in the name of the Soviet Union, but up to now they have been relatively restrained about the Russians in their midst.

Norman Friedman is author of The U.S. Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems. This article can be found in its original form at the Australian Naval Institute here and was republished by permission.

The Surprising Doctor Carter

Ashton+Carter+Senate+Armed+Services+Holds+UhNRqSF9NtNlOn Tuesday Dr. Ashton Carter begins his tenure as Secretary of Defense. While many observers regard Dr. Carter as a caretaker nominee tasked to mildly manage the Department of Defense (DOD) during the President’s last two years of office, the experienced and capable Dr. Carter has the potential to do much more. His strategy as Secretary should have three priorities.

First, Dr. Carter must develop new concepts and field new capabilities necessary to assure the ability of the United States to deter and defeat aggression, in particular by China. While the U.S. military was largely focused on Iraq and Afghanistan, China developed formidable Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) capabilities that threaten U.S. allies and partners in the vital Asia-Pacific region and complicate U.S. operations. While multiple states, including Russia and Iran, are fielding A2/AD capabilities, and while A2/AD capabilities may continue to proliferate globally, the ability of the United States to deter and defeat Chinese aggression serves as a bellwether for U.S. capabilities worldwide.

In response, Dr. Carter should articulate to the public that China will serve as DOD’s pacing threat and that DOD’s recently unveiled Third Offset Strategy will seek to counter Chinese capability, just as the First and Second Offset Strategies countered Soviet capabilities. While many of the activities of the Third Offset Strategy should be classified, two key indices can serve as palpable indicators of progress. First, whether funding is reapportioned from the Army to the departments most relevant in a conflict with China: the Air Force and the Navy. Dr. Carter will have the Fiscal Year 2017 budget to do so. Secondly, within the Services, DOD must adequately fund and accelerate programs relevant in the most operationally stressing scenarios involving China. In many cases, these are crucial capabilities that the Services have been slow to develop for a variety of reasons. For instance, for the Navy, the ability to rapidly reload weapons while underway at sea; for the Air Force, a credible effort to harden and disperse airfields throughout the Western and Central Pacific; and, for the Army, the development of conventional intermediate-range offensive missiles similar to those currently fielded by China (and possibly Russia).

Dr. Carter’s second priority should be advocating for the nation to return defense spending to pre-sequestration levels. Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned that allowing sequestration to happen would be like, “Shooting ourselves in the head.” The Department’s own Quadrennial Defense Review warned that, under sequestration-level cuts, risks to our nation “would grow significantly.” After these cuts took place, DOD slashed readiness and force structure in order to preserve a modicum of modernization funding. This has resulted in an increasingly hollow force incapable of appropriately facing the nation’s increased scale of threats in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the Western Pacific. While increased funding for DOD alone is insufficient, it is perhaps Dr. Carter’s most challenging priority given a seeming lack of interest and will in Congress and the White House.

His third priority should be ensuring DOD funds are spent efficiently. The dramatic rise in DOD overhead costs, such as pay, benefits, and bases, is crowding out funding available for warfighting. This is producing a military that is better compensated than ever before, but dangerously unprepared for a major war. Dr. Carter must convince the President and Congress to enact significant military compensation reform and a new round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). The opening of hearings on the congressionally-mandated Commission on Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization represents a bipartisan opportunity for Congress to take action against spiraling personnel costs. As with a new round of BRAC, Congress will need to demonstrate bipartisan leadership to overcome pressure from interest groups, allay the concerns of current and retired military members, and enact these essential reforms.

The security challenges facing our nation are numerous and unrelenting, not the least of which is continued combat in Afghanistan. With only two years in office, it is unlikely Dr. Carter will be able to reform the entire defense enterprise and address every threat. However, by focusing on these three priorities, he can surprise skeptics and set the DOD on the right course to appropriately providing for our nation’s defense.

Timothy A. Walton is a principal of Alios Consulting Group, a Washington, DC-based defense and business strategy consultancy. He specializes in Asia-Pacific security dynamics.

The Importance of Space in Maritime Security

Honorable Mention – CIMSEC High School Essay Contest

As long as man has walked the Earth and gazed into the stars, he’s asked “what’s out there what’s waiting for me?” Today, our country asks that very same question, although not for what we can find, but how we can use Space and its resources to advance our scientific and military might into, and hopefully beyond the 21st century.

GPS_Satellite_NASA_art-iifWith the dawn of rockets and the nuclear confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War, Space would soon become a vital asset for the interests of both countries and other major players for the years to come (particularly China). With the sudden rise of China, and the reemergence of the Russia as a major military power, it is absolutely vital that the United States once again pursue Space for economic, political, and commercial purposes, as well as for strategic military purposes which will benefit not only the military, but the United States as a whole; and how our Navy can play a big role in helping us make this happen.

As of the time of this writing, the United States and other Western European Countries are currently embroiled in a geopolitical dispute with Russia over Ukraine and the rights of its territory such as Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. As a result of this, the United States and the European Union declared economic sanctions on Russia which are meant to cripple the Russian economy and force Russia out over its interference in Ukraine. In response to this, the Kremlin has threatened to stop shuttling Astronauts to and from the International Space Station, and cut off supplies to the ISS.  In 2007, the Chinese military carried out its first antisatellite missile test when it launched a ground based missile 500 miles to destroy an aging satellite of theirs.

Both of these events are very disturbing as they easily threaten the United States and its space capability to carry out intelligence gathering and reconnaissance missions in Space using the latest technology and satellites. If these satellites, whether civilian or military, ever happen to be threatened in a time of war, the results could be catastrophic. The Navy should invest in further developing laser weapons like the LaWS that are capable of punching holes through thick steel plates on ships as well as a countermeasure against any ballistic missile that may threaten our satellite capability in Space or onboard the ISS. Laser weapons are surprisingly very cheap and affordable. According to Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder in an interview for defense-aerospace.com, “with affordability a serious concern for our defense budgets, this will more effectively manage resources to ensure our sailors and marines are never in a fair fight.” The article goes on to claim that firing this type of weapon can cost less than $1 dollar per shot; a great bargain in a time that our military is starting to see a drawdown in military spending. Christopher Harrier, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War was quoted as saying that: “The existing naval weapons systems, small-caliber cannons, large-caliber naval guns, and missiles, are at or near the limits of their potential capability. Guns and missiles just aren’t going to get much more accurate or lethal while lasers have significant potential for increases in range, accuracy, lethality, reliability, and cost-effectiveness.”

It is clear that if the Navy wants to confront new 21st Century threats, it must research and develop new combat systems, whether it is by land, sea, air, or space.  The Russians and the Chinese are also looking into developing similar weapons systems, while also trying to implement a missile defense system capable of intercepting and eliminating enemy targets. With a resurgent Russia and emerging China, this has become a must for defense of our allies and overseas military installations all around the world. It has been stated that an enemy country wouldn’t necessarily have to launch a direct nuclear strike if it wanted to destroy the United States. Countries like China and Russia could simply detonate a nuclear weapon in the upper atmosphere right over the Midwestern United States and knock out most, if not all, of the electrical power grids in the continental United States through an Electromagnetic Pulse Effect. An EMP would be devastating to the United States as it would cripple our infrastructure, down all of our technology, leave the US Government and military crippled and slow to react, and cause the global economy to collapse. It would be a scene right out of a post-apocalyptic film like The Postman or The Book of Eli. Not to mention the millions of casualties and deaths that would occur due to starvation or anarchy. It would truly be a shame and a complete lack of competence if our Government doesn’t have a contingency plan already in place for an event like this.

In order for this plan on space based missile defense to work however, it must learn from the mistakes made in the 1980’s when Ronald Reagan famously proposed in 1983 his SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative) or the “Star Wars Program”. As many people know, SDI was announced in 1983 by Ronald Reagan as a means of countering the Soviet threat with space based weaponry capable of shooting down any Soviet missile before it entered American airspace. Unfortunately, due to the slow technological development at the time of space based missile defense systems, as well as other factors including the Dissolution of the USSR, inefficiency, and overall lack of continued public support, SDI did not succeed in meeting its goals.

In comparison to the 1980’s-early 90’s, America does have the infrastructure in 2015 to support a new SDI type program. For starters, in 1983 something called: “private space companies” did not exist. With companies such as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Orbital Sciences, and Blue Origin starting to appear and establish themselves as legitimate companies in the aerospace sector, there’s no reason why they couldn’t be expected to help the American military develop a space based missile defense system. Similar to how other Aerospace contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin have helped the Air Force in its development of their new aircraft and weapons systems, a joint government/private program with the DoD and Navy providing the funding, and the private companies will handle the testing and development could be developed. That way there won’t be as large of an outcry by the public as there was with SDI in the 1980’s and the politicians/military leaders don’t have to worry so much about any failures and the potential political backlash with the program, as it will fall on the shoulders of the private contractors. Plus, this program will be more affordable now than it ever was in the 1980s.

SpaceX is currently developing the Falcon-9 space rocket with the intention of making it reusable and cheaper to launch into orbit. According to NASA, the average typical launch cost for the Space Shuttle Program was $450 million dollars. With the SpaceX designed Falcon-9 rocket, that cost is now about 50-56 million USD, an absolute bargain when compared to how much NASA’s launches cost. The biggest obstacle to this plan would not necessarily be the technical or financial challenges involved, but compliance with international law such as the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. Article IV of the 1967 Space Treaty states: “States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner.

The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies shall be forbidden. The use of military personnel for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes shall not be prohibited. The use of any equipment or facility necessary for peaceful exploration of the moon and other celestial bodies shall also not be prohibited. “

The key words in this text being: “Nuclear or any kinds of weapons of mass destruction.” WMD’s are most often defined as being either: Biological, Chemical, Radiological, or Nuclear.  Since lasers do not fall into either of these specifically defined categories (as lasers are electromagnetic), this would not violate international law regarding space and weapons of mass destruction. And their primary purpose would be defensive in nature. The Navy could easily place these interceptors on ships or in bases around the world in order to be alerted by any of these threats, as well as satellites which can track and locate enemy ships and submarines before they attack.

It is obvious that space will play a critical role in the development of naval affairs and maritime security through the use of satellites and space based defense which will be used to further America’s Naval supremacy in both the Sea and Space throughout the rest of the 21st century and beyond. As we can see, the Navy will not just be limited to the sea but will have an increasingly expanded role as technology and space travel progresses.

Citations:

http://bart.tcc.virginia.edu/classes/200R/Projects/fall_2002/nasa/casestudies-sdi.html

http://www.fas.org/spp/starwars/offdocs/m8310017.htm,

http://history.nasa.gov/1967treaty.html,

http://www.spacex.com/falcon9

http://www.politico.com/story/2013/06/electromagnetic-pulse-newtgingrich-emp-attack-93002.html

About the Author 

Nolan McEleney was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1996 and is a diehard fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars. His family moved to CT in 2005, before finally settling in MD in 2008. Nolan is currently a cadet officer in the Civil Air Patrol for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Composite Squadron where he is currently assigned as a flight commander. Nolan currently attends The Avalon School in Gaithersburg where he is the Washington house captain. In extracurriculars, he is heavily involved with the Civil Air Patrol. Nolan is also a part of his squadrons cyberpatriot team which deals with cybersecurity and other threats as part of a nationwide competition. He has also taken online courses with the Cisco Networking Academy and Hillsdale College. 

 In the future, Nolan would like to work with NASA, a private space company, or any science and tech company. Whether it be in a technical or non-technical role, he feel like a lot of these companies such as SpaceX are on the cusp of history with proposed missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. He would also like to be a part of and contribute to that in any way he can. Nolan currently intends on going to the University of Washington and participating in ROTC so that he can become an officer.  

Members’ Roundup Part 13: Herd, defend, distract, attack

Welcome back to another edition of the weekly roundup, where we disseminate the recent blog posts, journal articles, web articles, books, and podcasts that CIMSEC members have published elsewhere. This week we have topics that range from narco-submarines to swarming tactics in future naval warfare. I am certain the articles presented here will make great weekend reading in case you missed any of them in the past week.

The first article mentioned here is by Armando Heredia, on the US Naval Institute’s website, who analyses the Philippines’ naval buildup.   The buildup under the leadership of President Aquino include, but is not limited to, the acquisition of new helicopters as well as the boost to Philippines’ sealift capability with the donation of two ex-Royal Australian Navy Landing Craft Heavies. It is still unclear, however, when a decision will be made regarding the acquisition of two new multi-role frigates. Even with these ‘new’ platforms, however, the realities of historical challenges to their naval service will need to be considered in order to establishing a credible defence. Armando’s article can be accessed here.

Ex-HMA Ships Brunei and Tarakan are to be gifted to the Philippines Navy with refurbished equipment and upgraded navigation systems.
Ex-HMA Ships Brunei and Tarakan are to be gifted to the Philippines Navy with refurbished equipment and upgraded navigation systems. In this photo the RAN’s final LCHs depart Cairns Naval Base in formation for the final time.

Sri Lanka’s political landscape has significantly shifted with President Maithripala Sirisena’s surprise electoral victory. Sri Lankan politics was dominated by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who strengthened the executive presidency system, placed members of his family in key positions of power, and maintained a loyal political party. In this Q&A, CIMSECian Nilanthi Samaranayake tells us why Sirisena’s victory represents an opportunity for changes in Sri Lanka’s domestic policies, as well as its foreign relationships with China, India, and the United States, which could significantly alter regional political and security dynamics in South Asia.

Narco-submarine moments before interception by the U.S. Coast Guard in August 2007.
Narco-submarine moments before interception by the U.S. Coast Guard in August 2007.

CIMSECian Byron Ramirez recently co-edited a new Foreign Military Studies Office paper titled ‘Narco-Submarines: Specially Fabricated Vessels Used For Drug Smuggling Purposes.’ Maritime drug smuggling accounts for a significant portion of illicit substance transportation and special fabricated vessels are becoming increasingly prevalent in this field. Additionally, the foreword is written by another CIMSECian, James Stavridis, of the Fletcher School. You can access this publication here.

At The National Interest, defence reporter Dave Majumdar continues his series of ‘Top Fives’ with an analysis of the Most Overrated Weapons of War. From the mighty battleship to the next generation of stealth fighters, Dave provides his arguments on why these costly platforms do not provide value-for-money in war. Fanatics and history buffs may not necessarily agree with Dave’s conclusions, but he does make a strong case why it is easy to fall into the trap of purchasing the sexier, but less-useful, option. You can also access Dave’s other National Interest articles here.

A kamikaze attack on USS Enterprise. Swarm attacks were used by the Japanese Imperial forces in the closing stages of World War II to inflict heavy casualties in the Pacific theatre.
A kamikaze attack on USS Enterprise. Swarm attacks were used by the Japanese Imperial forces in the closing stages of World War II to inflict heavy casualties in the Pacific theatre.

Over at Information Dissemination Chris Rawley continues the carrier debate with his view on the future of naval warfare: swarming. Chris has written about this concept previously, and other elements of the US Navy is researching how to employ autonomous and unmanned platforms, in conjunction with manned platforms, to fight and win the battle at sea. History provides examples of how the swarming tactic has been employed at sea. The Japanese kamikaze attacks, for example, had devastating consequences for the sailors who faced them in battle. The tactic can also be adapted to other elements of the Navy and will need to be multi-domain to achieve its goal. Find out more by reading Chris’ article here.

Zachary Keck returns in this edition of the roundup with the following articles. Firstly,  that Russia will be holding Joint Military Drills with North Korea and Cuba. Secondly, the US Navy’s 6th Generation Fighter jets will be slow and unstealthy.  Third,  Ghosts of Imperialism Past: How Colonialism Still Haunts the World Today.  Finally,  how North Korea is practicing to sink US Carriers.

As a side note, I recently published an article for an Australian-based organisation called Young Australians in International Affairs for their new ‘Insights’ blog. In it, I analyse the top five defence and national security items to watch closely in 2015. From new submarines to what can be considered an ‘Australianised Department of Homeland Security’, these projects will need to be carefully implemented to ensure that the next few years are not spent correcting avoidable mistakes. Thus, positive outcomes this year will prevent exposing a capability gap or security risk for Australia. My post can be accessed here.

At CIMSEC we encourage members to continue writing, either here on the NextWar blog or through other means. You can assist us by emailing your works to dmp@cimsec.org.