Tuesday, 30 May 2017
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Recent American and South Korean intelligence reports speculate that North Korea may be preparing for its first nuclear tests since 2009. Satellite images show that North Korea has dug an 800 metre tunnel at its test site at Punggye-ri. Experts believe that the tunnel will be ready for a nuclear test when it reaches 1 kilometre, which South Korea believes may occur in early April.

Adam Dempsey, Research Associate for the UK Defence Forum, has recently undertaken a study of North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. His report outlines the development of Pyongyang's programme and ballistic missile capabilities.

In keeping with many aspects of North Korean life, Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme is shrouded in secrecy and subject to speculation. Official estimates of North Korea's programme are varied and remain primarily reliant on open-source intelligence. To complicate matters, Pyongyang's nuclear missile development may have benefitted from illegal exchanges involving the A.Q. Khan network.

Adam's full report is available here.

 

By Oliver Jones

Much has been made over recent years of the emerging threat of "cyber-attacks" on Western targets. Governments have become increasingly vocal on these threats, publishing a range of materials and proposing a number of policies. In the United States the government has taken steps which include the establishment of the US "Cyber-Command", alongside the US senate debating a so called "kill switch bill", which proposes to grant the president emergency powers over the internet. In the UK the cyber threat is also a growing concern. The recent Strategic Defence and Security Review and the UK National Security Strategy have both identified the sphere of "cyber Security" as a "Tier 1" threat or risk . Outside of government circles the issue is also becoming increasingly debated. Recently the popular periodicals "Foreign Affairs" and "The New Yorker" have both released articles detailing and debating the issue.

What however is the threat from this new "cyber domain", does it represent a new paradigm in warfare? Popular perceptions stemming from fictitious sources, such as the 2007 blockbuster Die Hard 4.0 in which the US comes under assault from "cyber-Terrorists" who target key infrastructure to cause a "fire sale" attack with potentially devastating consequences, suggest that cyber-warfare represents a devastating new strategic weapon capable of the kind of destruction only previously threatened by "WMD's". What's more the threat of cyber-attack is also characterised as being an emerging "asymmetric" threat. This idea of cyber-war is also lent credence from sources such as "Unrestricted Warfare," a proposal for Chinese military strategy, written by two Peoples Liberation Army colonels, whereby China seeks to beat a technologically and military superior opponent through the use of imaginative strategies which utilise measures that avoid direct military confrontation and instead attack their adversary through other avenues. Also adding to this perception of the cyber threat are the events like those in Estonia in 2007, where the Government and other sectors came under sustained denial of service attacks during a diplomatic spat with Russia over the relocation of "the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn". This and similar ideas certainly suggest that cyber-war does represent a threat in this way and this idea has been championed by American authorities on cyber-war. Richard A. Clarke, a former White House official with responsibility for the field, this year published "Cyberwar" a proposal for US strategy which prophesizes a particularly apocalyptic vision of a Chinese cyber-attack with mass casualties.

Read more...  

Editor's note: This is the sixth installment in a series of special reports that Dr. Friedman will write over the next few weeks as he travels to Turkey, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Poland. In this series, he will share his observations of the geopolitical imperatives in each country and conclude with reflections on his journey as a whole and options for the United States.

By George Friedman

The name "Ukraine" literally translates as "on the edge." It is a country on the edge of other countries, sometimes part of one, sometimes part of another and more frequently divided. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was divided between Russia, Poland and the Ottoman Empire. In the 19th century, it was divided between Russia and Austria-Hungary. And in the 20th century, save for a short period of independence after World War I, it became part of the Soviet Union. Ukraine has been on the edge of empires for centuries.

My father was born in Ukraine in 1912, in a town in the Carpathians now called Uzhgorod. It was part of Austria-Hungary when he was born, and by the time he was 10 the border had moved a few miles east, so his family moved a few miles west. My father claimed to speak seven languages (Hungarian, Romanian, Slovak, Polish, Ukrainian, Russian and Yiddish). As a child, I was deeply impressed by his learning. It was only later that I discovered that his linguistic skills extended only to such phrases as "What do you want for that scrawny chicken?" and "Please don't shoot."

He could indeed make himself understood in such non-trivial matters in all these languages. Consider the reason: Uzhgorod today is on the Slovakian border, about 30 miles from Poland, 15 miles from Hungary and 50 miles from Romania. When my father was growing up, the borders moved constantly, and knowing these languages mattered. You were never sure what you'd be a citizen or subject of next or who would be aiming a rifle at you.

My father lived on the edge until the Germans came in 1941 and swept everything before them, and then until the Soviets returned in 1944 and swept everything before them. He was one of tens of millions who lived or died on the edge, and perhaps nowhere was there as much suffering from living on the edge than in Ukraine. Ukraine was caught between Stalin and Hitler, between planned famines and outright slaughter, to be relieved only by the grinding misery of post-Stalin communism. No European country suffered as much in the 20th century as Ukraine. From 1914 until 1945, Ukraine was as close to hell as one can reach in this life.

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Editor's note: This is the final installment in a series of special reports that Dr. Friedman wrote during his travels to Turkey, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Poland. In this series, he shared his observations of the geopolitical imperatives in each country and now concludes with reflections on his journey as a whole and options for the United States.

By George Friedman

I have come home, a word that is ambiguous for me, and more so after this trip to Romania, Moldova, Turkey, Ukraine and Poland. The experience of being back in Texas frames my memories of the journey. The architecture of the cities I visited both impressed and oppressed me. Whether Austro-Hungarian mass or Stalinist modernism, the sheer size of the buildings was overwhelming. These are lands of apartments, not of private homes on their own plots of land. In Texas, even in the cities, you have access to the sky. That gives me a sense of freedom and casualness that Central Europe denies me. For a man born in Budapest, with a mother from Bratislava and a father from Uzhgorod, I can't deny I am Central European. But I prefer my chosen home in Austin simply because nothing is ever casual for me in Central Europe. In Texas, everything is casual, even when it's about serious things. There is an ease in the intensity of Texas.

On my return, some friends arranged a small dinner with some accomplished and distinguished people to talk about my trip. I was struck by the casualness of the conversation. It was a serious discussion, even passionate at times, but it was never guarded. There was no sense that a conversation carried with it risk. I had not met some of the guests before. It didn't matter. In the region I was born in, I feel that I have to measure every word with care. There are so many bad memories that each word has to be measured as if it were gold. The simplest way to put it, I suppose, is that there are fewer risks in Texas than in Central Europe. One of the benefits of genuine power is speaking your mind, with good humor. Those on the edge of power proceed with more caution. Perhaps more than others, I feel this tension. Real Texans may laugh at this assertion, but at the end of the day, I'm far more Texan than anything else.

Or perhaps I speak too quickly. We were in the Kiev airport on the way to Warsaw. As I was passing through security, I was stopped by the question, "Friedman? Warsaw?" I admitted that and suddenly was under guard. "You have guns in your luggage." For me, that statement constituted a near-death experience. I looked at my wife, wondering what she had done. She said casually, "Those aren't guns. They are swords and daggers and were to be surprises for my husband." Indeed they were. While I stood in mortal terror, she cheerily chatted up the guards, who really couldn't make out what she was saying but were charmed nonetheless by her complete absence of fear. In my case, the fear came in layers, with each decade like another layer in an archaeological dig. For her, memory is a much simpler thing.

The region I visited is all about memories — never forgetting, never forgiving and pretending it doesn't matter any more. Therefore, the region is in a peculiar place. On the one hand, every past grievance continues to live. On the other hand, a marvelous machine, the European Union, is hard at work, making the past irrelevant and the future bright. In a region not noted for its optimism, redemption is here and it comes from Brussels.

Read more...  

Editor's note: This is the seventh installment in a series of special reports that Dr. Friedman is writing as he travels to Turkey, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Poland. In this series, he shares his observations of the geopolitical imperatives in each country and will conclude, in the next installment, with reflections on his journey as a whole and options for the United States.

By George Friedman

To understand Poland, you must understand Frederic Chopin. First listen to his Polonaise and then to his Revolutionary Etude. They are about hope, despair and rage. In the Polonaise, you hear the most extraordinary distillation of a nation's existence. In the Revolutionary Etude, written in the wake of an uprising in Warsaw in 1830 crushed by Russian troops, there is both rage and resignation. In his private journal, Chopin challenged God for allowing this national catastrophe to happen, damning the Russians and condemning the French for not coming to Warsaw's aid. Afterward, Chopin never returned to Poland, but Poland never left his mind.

Poland finally became an independent nation in 1918. The prime minister it chose to represent it at Versailles was Ignacy Paderewski, a pianist and one of the finest interpreters of Chopin. The conference restored the territories of Greater Poland, and Paderewski helped create the interwar Poland. Gdansk (the German Danzig) set the stage for Poland's greatest national disaster when Germany and the Soviet Union allied to crush Poland, and Danzig became the German justification for its destruction.

Read more...  

Editor's note: This is the second installment in a series of special reports that Dr. Friedman will write over the next few weeks as he travels to Turkey, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Poland. In this series, he will share his observations of the geopolitical imperatives in each country and conclude with reflections on his journey as a whole and options for the United States.

By George Friedman

A borderland is a region where history is constant: Everything is in flux. The countries we are visiting on this trip (Turkey, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Poland) occupy the borderland between Islam, Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity. Roman Catholic Hapsburg Austria struggled with the Islamic Ottoman Empire for centuries, with the Ottomans extending northwest until a climactic battle in Vienna in 1683. Beginning in the 18th century, Orthodox Russia expanded from the east, through Belarus and Ukraine. For more than two centuries, the belt of countries stretching from the Baltic to the Black seas was the borderland over which three empires fought.

There have been endless permutations here. The Cold War was the last clear-cut confrontation, pitting Russia against a Western Europe backed — and to a great extent dominated — by the United States. This belt of countries was firmly if informally within the Soviet empire. Now they are sovereign again. My interest in the region is to understand more clearly how the next iteration of regional geopolitics will play out. Russia is far more powerful than it was 10 years ago. The European Union is undergoing internal stress and Germany is recalculating its position. The United States is playing an uncertain and complex game. I want to understand how the semicircle of powers, from Turkey to Poland, are thinking about and positioning themselves for the next iteration of the regional game.

I have been accused of thinking like an old Cold warrior. I don't think that's true. The Soviet Union has collapsed, and U.S. influence in Europe has declined. Whatever will come next will not be the Cold War. What I do not expect this to be is a region of perpetual peace. It has never been that before. It will not be that in the future. I want to understand the pattern of conflict that will occur in the future. But for that we need to begin in the past, not with the Cold War, but with World War I.

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By Zainab Al-Deen

The Russian constitution barred Vladimir Putin from running for a third consecutive term for the office of President of the Russian Federation (Chapter 4, Article 81.3).[1] This however did nothing to put to rest murmurings amongst political elites worldwide that Putin was not ready to relinquish the reigns of power just yet.

Prime Minister Putin has played a more dominant role in government than any other predecessor in this position. According to many Russian politicians, the status of the Kremlin under Putin's premiership has been reduced to nothing more than a representative establishment. Political analyst Dimitry Oreshkin asserts; "...the centre of power has been unquestionably transferred to the White House."[2]

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By George Friedman

The United States has captured a group of Russian spies and exchanged them for four individuals held by the Russians on espionage charges. The way the media has reported on the issue falls into three groups:

That the Cold War is back, That, given that the Cold War is over, the point of such outmoded intelligence operations is questionable, And that the Russian spy ring was spending its time aimlessly nosing around in think tanks and open meetings in an archaic and incompetent effort.

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By George Friedman

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited some interesting spots over the July 4 weekend. Her itinerary included Poland and Ukraine, both intriguing choices in light of the recent Obama-Medvedev talks in Washington. But she also traveled to a region that has not been on the American radar screen much in the last two years — namely, the Caucasus — visiting Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The stop in Poland coincided with the signing of a new agreement on ballistic missile defense and was designed to sustain U.S.-Polish relations in the face of the German-Russian discussions we have discussed. The stop in Ukraine was meant simply to show the flag in a country rapidly moving into the Russian orbit. In both cases, the trip was about the Russians. Regardless of how warm the atmospherics are between the United States and Russia, the fact is that the Russians are continuing to rebuild their regional influence and are taking advantage of European disequilibrium to build new relationships there, too. The United States, still focused on Iraq and Afghanistan, has limited surplus capacity to apply to resisting the Russians. No amount of atmospherics can hide that fact, certainly not from the Poles or the Ukrainians. Therefore, if not a substantial contribution, the secretary of state's visit was a symbolic one. But when there is little of substance, symbols matter.

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By Ariel Cohen, PhD

As President Medvedev of Russia is coming to visit Barack Obama, the Administration's spokesmen are desperately trying to convince us that the "reset" policy with the Russia has paid off. They argue that Russia and the United States have developed a real partnership, as demonstrated by the signature of the New START treaty, Russian support for the U.N.'s sanctions on Iran, and transit agreements to move troops and supplies into Afghanistan through Russian territory and air space.

Senator John Kerry (D-MA), the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, thinks that a new era of U.S.-Russian cooperation has dawned. A closer look at the bilateral relationship, however, reveals that the cost for this cooperation and its often symbolic success has been very high.

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By George Friedman

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will brief French and Polish officials on a joint proposal for Russian-European "cooperation on security," according to a statement from Westerwelle's spokesman on Monday. The proposal emerged out of talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev earlier in June and is based on a draft Russia drew up in 2008. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be present at the meeting. Andreas Peschke said, "We want to further elaborate and discuss it within the triangle [i.e., France, Germany and Poland] in the presence of the Russian foreign minister."

On the surface, the proposal developed by Merkel and Medvedev appears primarily structural. It raises security discussions about specific trouble spots to the ministerial level rather than the ambassadorial level, with a committee being formed consisting of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Russia's foreign minister.

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By Peter Zeihan

STRATFOR often discusses how Russia is on a bit of a roll. The U.S. distraction in the Middle East has offered Russia a golden opportunity to re-establish its spheres of influence in the region, steadily expanding the Russian zone of control into a shape that is eerily reminiscent of the old Soviet Union. Since 2005, when this process began, Russia has clearly reasserted itself as the dominant power in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Ukraine, and has intimidated places like Georgia and Turkmenistan into a sort of silent acquiescence.

But we have not spent a great amount of time explaining why this is the case. It is undeniable that Russia is a Great Power, but few things in geopolitics are immutable, and Russia is no exception.

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The UK Defence Forum has recently published the above regional study by Roshani Palamakumbura, research intern.

The article can be read here.

 

By Alex Shone

Russia is currently investing substantial efforts into a dramatic renovation of its military forces and establishment. This has taken place across all of their military branches; Army, Navy and Air Force. Within this investment some trends are discernable that allude to wider Russian military thinking towards perceived, future threats. This process of modernisation, when analysed in conjunction with approaching Russian military exercises for June (Vostok-2010), indicate gravitation towards the enhancement of individual soldier capabilities; as well mobility and effective, rapid deployment. As such, Russia is investing in new small arms, helicopters and a new generation of digitised communication systems.

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As part of the Russia in the 21st Century series, the UK Defence Forum has recently published the abovementioned paper by Alex Shone, research intern.

The paper can be read here.

 

By Dr Robert Crowcroft

If there is one observation that everyone thinks to be true, it is that the United Nations is a humanitarian vehicle for doing good around the world. Perhaps. But certainly not in the sense that is usually presented to Western publics. The UN Charter was shaped by the wartime 'Big Three' (America, Britain, and the Soviet Union) and ratified on 24 October 1945; yet this document was decidedly not a vehicle for Utopianism and delusion. Instead, it constituted a thoroughly conventional framework for a 'Concert' of the major powers, through which these states would impose stability on the rest of the world. The difficulty is that in contemporary public debate there exists deep misunderstanding as to what the United Nations is for. At a time when financial stringency is likely to further diminish the West's standing, parliamentarians and other opinion-formers need to be far more aware of how the UN was actually conceived.

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By Baker Spring

The White House plans to submit the April 8, 2010, the Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms Treaty (New START) between the Russian Federation and the United States of America to the Senate for ratification today. The Senate should focus less on the text of the Treaty, its Protocol and Annexes because these documents were made available to the Senate and the public earlier. Instead, the Senate should focus more on the two documents that will accompany today's submission and that have so far not been made public. The first is the section-by-section analysis of the Treaty. The second is the so-called Section 1251 report.

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By Zainab Al-Deen

The world of espionage has always been shrouded in mystery and suspicion. The world powers all have their own distinguished security agencies each with a more colourful history than the other, but none stands as notorious or infamous as the Russian Secret Services the FSB, formerly, the KGB. The KGB was an exceptional phenomenon in the 20th century; no other security services were regarded in the same manner then, as is still the case for the FSB today.

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By Baker Spring

The Obama Administration released its overdue Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) on April 6, 2010. [1] The review establishes five specific objectives for the future nuclear force of the United States. Missing from these five objectives is what should be the most important objective of all: defending the U.S. and its allies against strategic attack. Accordingly, Congress, the American people, and America's allies need to ask the Obama Administration a simple and straightforward question: Why won't you defend us?

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By Scott Stewart and Ben West

On April 9, a woman armed with a pistol and with explosives strapped to her body approached a group of police officers in the northern Caucasus village of Ekazhevo, in the southern Russian republic of Ingushetia. The police officers were preparing to launch an operation to kill or capture militants in the area. The woman shot and wounded one of the officers, at which point other officers drew their weapons and shot the woman. As she fell to the ground, the suicide vest she was wearing detonated. The woman was killed and the man she wounded, the head of the of the Russian Interior Ministry's local office, was rushed to the hospital where he died from his wounds.

Read more...  
 

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