Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Here is the post which I will try to keep sticky for people to ask questions and share their thoughts which are not on topic. This, I think is known as Open Thread. Fire away.
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
I mean this, current, mundi, whatever comes after it is another matter. But here are some news of import.
Russia and Iran will transfer payments using an alternative system to the internationally recognized SWIFT money transfer network, the governor of the Iranian central bank, Abdolnaser Hemmati, announced. Instead of SWIFT, a system that facilitates cross-border payments between 11,000 financial institutions in more than 200 countries worldwide, the two countries will use their own domestically developed financial messaging systems – Iran’s SEPAM and Russia’s SPFS.“Using this system for trade and business exchanges between EAEU [Eurasian Economic Union] member states can help develop and expand trade exchanges between the member states as well,” Abdolnaser Hemmati said, as cited by Mehr News Agency on Tuesday. Tehran is set to officially join the Russia-led free-trade zone, the EAEU, next month. The document on Iran’s participation was ratified in June by the nation’s parliament (Majlis) and President Hassan Rouhani has already ordered that the free trade zone agreement be implemented.
And this development was unexpected exactly to who? Of course this is just another step in actualization of Eurasian economic space. And then, of course, this:
Go figure what that means--possibly SU-35 components among many other things. Samuel Huntington is spinning in his grave now. Especially when one gets such news as this:
Taliban representatives have held discussions with Russian officials in Moscow, just days after US President Donald Trump declared months-long peace talks between Washington and the group "dead". Taliban's Qatar-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen confirmed the meeting in the Russian capital on Friday, saying the group's delegation held consultations with Zamir Kabulov, Russia's special envoy for Afghanistan. At the meeting, Russia stressed the necessity of the resumption of talks between the US and the Taliban, while the group's delegation reiterated their readiness to renewing dialogue with Washington, an unidentified Russian foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency.
Mind you, Russia DIDN'T want to be an arbiter in this whole mess stretching from Afghanistan to ME. Not at all. Recall this, read attentively:
A “successful end” to the operation in Afghanistan will not come simply with the death of Osama bin Laden. The minimum that we require from NATO is consolidating a stable political regime in the country and preventing Talibanization of the entire region. That is the Russian position. We are ready to help NATO implement its U.N. Security Council mandate in Afghanistan. We are utterly dissatisfied with the mood of capitulation at NATO headquarters, be it under the cover of “humanistic pacifism” or pragmatism.
This was 9 years ago. What did Obama Administration do? They unleashed Cold War 2.0 with Russia, who did all she could, short of direct massive military intervention, to help the United States to settle Afghanistan. All in vain. And here we are in 2019 with the whole Eurasian subcontinent aflame and with the US losing its actual and perceived control over the situation with mind-boggling acceleration. Right now, this very minute, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and others hold massive maneuvers Center-2019. The legend of this exercises is clearly influenced by the situation in Afghanistan and by the possibility of Russia and her allies doing what she, then as USSR, was prevented from doing.
This troubles Russia far less than the consequences for the region itself. The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 was not a shameful escape accompanied by the hooting of the mujahadeen. The Soviet Army entered the country, accomplished its tasks — unlike the Americans in Vietnam — and returned to its motherland. In fact, we were the first to defend Western civilization against the attacks of Muslim fanatics. No one thanked us. On the contrary, everyone was impeding our actions: The United States, NATO, Iran, Pakistan, even China. After the withdrawal of the Soviet Army, the Najibullah government that we left behind in Kabul remained in power for another three years.
What a historic irony in Russia being thrust back into this position and not by own volition--it is the region itself which called on Russia to interfere. Even Saudi Prince called Kremlin today to discuss this whole "attack" business (in Russian). Russia is not going to invade Afghanistan, but the big game of containing jihad threat is on. I guess this explains why Russia simply cannot exist as a neutral, self-absorbed, power (that would be so great)--she will always be forced to be in the shape of military-economic superpower precisely for the reasons of others not doing their due diligence when unleashing forces they can not tame or control. No matter what she does, she will end up being asked to do one thing or another. That's destiny and nothing could be done about it. And thus passes the glory of the world we live (or, rather lived) in. Pax Americana is over.
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Leonid Bershidsky is (butt) hurt, badly. So, after Vladimir Putin's air and anti missile defense trolling yesterday--you can see (in Russian) Rouhani's and Erdogan's priceless reactions here:
So, Bershidsky, whose biography you can read here, for some reason (wink, wink) takes it too personally and lets it rip in his piece at Bloomberg (another "fine" specimen of US "fair and balanced" propaganda outlet). Here is what bothers Mr. Bershidsky:
President Vladimir Putin’s offer to sell Russian air defense systems to Saudi Arabia is about more than mere trolling, even though it caused laughter from Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. Putin was trying to persuade the entire Middle East that working with him is more effective than cooperating with the U.S. One could regard it as a kind of mafia-style protection offer: The new, more aggressive gangster on the block is making a bid because the current king of the streets has grown lazy and risk-averse.
One can almost feel Bershidsky's pain but the problem with this statement is not the fact that there is only one gangster in this story, and that is not Russia, but in the fact that Bershidsky, who hails from an army of brilliant (ahem) "influencers" with degrees in anything but applicable serious professional skills crucial for military and geopolitical analysis, has, as expected, misrepresented risk-aversion for the exercise of sound operational judgement. The United States hasn't "grown lazy and risk-averse"--and Breshidsky wouldn't know it even if explained--it was made such by Real Revolution in Military Affairs whose arrival through new technological means, operational concepts and new force structure, simply removed most (not all) "advantages", often grossly exaggerated, the United States thought it enjoyed for the last 30 years or so. Actually, one of the major reasons this had happened was the category of public with MBAs, stock trading, marketing, finances, banking and journalism backgrounds who could understand some financial bottom lines, for which they tirelessly worked, but had and continue (as Bershidsky so vividly demonstrates) to have huge difficulties with grasping technological, tactical, operational and strategic realities of our modern world.
Then, Bershidsky makes this bizarre assertion (one would expect it from an amateur):
In reality, it’s the S-400 that Russia has been trying hard to sell to Saudi Arabia, so far without success. It has also offered the missiles to Qatar. Neither the S-300 nor the S-400 has seen any real combat use. Theoretically, and as seen in exercises, these are powerful weapons. But not even Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad, who has had a few opportunities to use the S-300s he received from Russia last year, has done so.
First, Bashar Assad doesn't have full control of S-300 in Syria, at least not yet and it is Russia which defines S-300s use within her military and diplomatic agenda in Syria, not Syrians. It is an obvious fact, which was confirmed couple of days ago:
According to the report, Moscow has prevented three Israeli air strikes on three Syrian outposts recently, and even threatened that any jets attempting such a thing would be shot down, either by Russian jets or by the S-400 anti-aircraft missiles. The source cited in the report claims a similar situation has happened twice – and that during August, Moscow stopped an air strike on a Syrian outpost in Qasioun, where a S-300 missile battery is placed.
Unlike Israelis or US Military-Industrial-Media Complex Russians, when the deal is a very serious real kinetic military affair between Russia and nations which matter globally (US), or regionally (Israel), seldom runs around praising oneself and own capabilities, since this may adversely affect, usually behind the scene, diplomatic effort. It is one thing to show off salvos of 3M14 burning jihadists in their compounds in Syria, or reveal weapons, such as in Putin's speech on March 1, 2018, to cool the heads of some homicidal lunatics in D.C., totally another--describing everyday contingencies between all players in the region. In fact, Russia officially was very low key on that and that is understandable.
There is, however, a risible line in Bershidsky's "assertion" about S-300 and S-400 not seeing "any combat use". I would love to use Sergei Lavrov's meme here but I have to restrain myself, because at this stage it wouldn't help the situation. Evidently, Leonid Bershidsky who never spent a day in any serious military position, thinks that "combat use" is when things only "shoot". Well, there is one problem, well, actually two, with this assertion because from the get go he misses:
1. Both S-300 and S-400 systems were delivered to Syria with one thought in mind--to precisely prevent this "combat use" by means of deploying capability which drastically reduces tactical and operational options for all bogeys (Israel, ahem) to make them much more cooperative in a political, as opposed to combat, field. It worked, brilliantly in a strategic sense--with IAF being effectively pushed out of Syria's airspace, while reducing the number of its sorties drastically still. This is not to mention the fact that other systems, such as S1 and Tor M2s, not to mention a very well organized work of Battle Management Centers and Early Warning and Electronic Warfare systems, performing admirably by shooting down all, but one, jihadists' drones and missiles. That is real combat performance and a very impressive one. I will abstain from describing Trump's "very smart missiles" 70% of which (including, rumor has it, JASSM) had been taken down by Syrian Air Defense.
2. Now, most important--COMBAT record of the Soviet/Russian Air Defense systems. Discarding a fear of being called a Russian chauvinist, nationalist or accused of gloating (been there, done that), specifically for Bershidsky--combat record of Soviet/Russian AD systems is without equals in history. No one comes even close to a number of combat episodes Soviet/Russian systems took part in and came out victorious against bogeys. Not least among them is Israeli Air Force. I will quote from my latest:
While estimates vary wildly, approximately 1,737 U.S. aircraft (not counting helicopters) have been lost to hostile actions between 1961 and 1973 in South East Asia, largely over Vietnam.1 The majority of these losses were due to AAA (Anti-Air Artillery) and SAMs (Surface to Air Missiles). During almost 24 months of the Rolling Thunder operation the U.S. lost 881 aircraft; in 1967 alone, the United States lost 62 aircraft to SAMs while losing 205 to AAA. In 1973, during the 19-days long Yom Kippur War, the Israeli Air Force lost over 100 aircraft, most of them to SAMs. This is just a highly abbreviated list of Surface-to-Air missiles engaging all kinds of aerial threats from high value attack and fighter jet aircraft, to bombers, to cruise missiles since the early 1960s. The feature which unifies all entries in this list is the fact that all these surface-to-air missiles and the targeting and launch systems for them were and are Soviet/Russian made. Putting it in simpler, more straightforward language—Soviet/Russian Air Defense systems, when used by skilled operators, have an unrivaled combat history. No other nation has a comparable record of the use of such systems in combat and thus of gaining such a combat experience.
For Bershidsky--all data was taken specifically from Western sources to avoid being accused of pro-Russian bias. Numbers do not lie, when confirmed. Those have been confirmed (unlike modern-day economic fuzzy data) and even at the lower end of estimates (not to mention a factor of often NON-Soviet/Russian manning of systems--in stochastic combat models multipliers less than 1 are introduced for degraded capability) make a dramatic impression.
So, in this case, one has to start thinking what this record means for new systems? It means an enormous array of data which is behind honing, design concepts, algorithms, sensors, targeting systems that is, which allow for steady improvements in capability. In the end, this was a major reason Turks "exchanged" F-35 for S-400. I am sure they were made privy to mathematical expectations and probabilities of success for various air attack scenarios against Turkey. They, obviously, loved what they heard and saw and now Turkish officers (the second team) are in Russia training for S-400. So, unless the whole Saudi (ARAMCO) oil facility attack is a false flag by Saudis themselves or by a triumvirate of purveyors of liberty and democracy in the Middle East, aka KSA, Israel and USA, there is pretty much only one thing Saudis can do about defending oil facilities against drone and missile attacks--get systems which work. I know, that makes Leonid Bershidsky's life miserable--after all, he dedicated his journo carrier to writing on things most of which he cannot grasp or doing a hack job for someone else's interests. But in general, I am getting really tired when majors in marketing or broadcasting pretend to be "experts" in fields which are beyond their grasp. No wonder the West is in steep decline.
Monday, September 16, 2019
On the other hand--why not? As you may have noticed, I didn't write a thing about attack on Saudi oil facilities by allegedly Houthis' drones (cruise missiles?). First, I have no free time to pour over every single piece of text and visual info to do post battle assessment If one is interested, one can easily download Methodology For Combat Assessment (CJCSI 3162.02) and have a go at it. Secondly, there are people who would do a better job than me anyway, such as Bernhard of Moon of Alabama, or my virtual acquaintances from Colonel Lang's Blog. Plus, I don't think that the stream of info on that matter stopped. We may yet hear some more on this operation by Houthis. And then, of course, my well justified lack of trust in Middle Eastern media sources.
One thing which is clear here, if to assume Houthis' salvo (who supplied then with what is a separate matter), is the fact of the failure of the Saudi air-defense (US produced Patriot PAC-2 and ancient Hawk complexes) to do much about this attack. Well, guess what, Russia is ready to pick up a slack, especially against the background of impenetrable wall Russian AD systems created around Khmeimim air base in Syria against precisely the types of weapons all kinds of jihadists are trying to use. Vladimir Putin, being Vladimir Putin simply flat out offered Saudis to buy Russian S-300 and S-400 systems (in Russian). He even quoted Quran. Well, there is an English version now available.
(Bloomberg) -- President Vladimir Putin said Russia is willing to help defend Saudi Arabia by selling it the advanced S-400 anti-aircraft system after major oil facilities in the kingdom came under attack at the weekend, halting half of its crude production. “For self-defense, for the defense of one’s country, we are ready to provide help to Saudi Arabia, the political leadership of Saudi Arabia,” Putin told a joint press conference with the leaders of Iran and Turkey on Monday in Ankara. “It is enough to take a wise government decision, as the leaders of Iran did before, buying the S-300, and as President Erdogan did, buying the latest air defense system, S-400 Triumph,” Putin said, referring to the Turkish president. “They will protect any infrastructure objects in Saudi Arabia effectively.”
I can only imagine the face expression of some people in current US government and legislature when they hear (or read) this.
But truth is, we need to be cautious before jumping to the conclusion on who actually executed the attack and if it was, which is possible, a false flag. This thought, of course, doesn't prevent shiny military toys freelance masturbator and self-proclaimed "security expert" Kyle Mizokami already declaring B-2 "Stealth" bomber to be the asset Donald Trump can use to strike Iran. But what if it wasn't Iran behind that? But never mind--there is nothing more nauseating than some dude (or gal) with degree in English Literature, journalism or political "science" waxing "operational" and "tactical". What can possibly go wrong? Ah yes, late Tom Clancy.
As per S-300 and S-400 for Saudis, I don't know--it is, of course, a good business (money-wise) and Russia was in negotiations with Saudis on this matter for some time now. This attack, if it has been done by Houthis, who have all reasons to hate genocidal regime in Riyadh, then Saudis, indeed, may seriously consider switching to Air Defense systems which actually work. This brings us to a second, short point of Bibi visiting his "buddy" Vladimir in Sochi, where, according to many, including Israeli, sources Bibi was warned to stop exercising an illusion that Russia will not shoot down IAF planes if they strike SAA's personnel and facilities.
So, who knows, but rumor has it that Russia's VKS in Syria intercepted IAF's aircraft on three occasions. Is it true? Possible. Russians seldom advertise their power actions when diplomacy may follow after that. But, I guess, we will learn about all that in a due time. Israeli elections are tomorrow.
Sunday, September 15, 2019
I stumbled on that through Yahoo News yesterday. As you may know I do not read The National Interest--it is a tabloid dumpster for fanboys and its military sections are 99% a masturbation to shiny military toys by people who have no clue. The OTHER 1%, however, is represented by such people of scale as Colonels Daniel Davies, Douglas Macgregor or Professor James Holmes. So, I saw James Holmes' name at Yahoo and I went for it. Holmes opened with a broadside:
For the past five years or so these pixels have been arguing—nay, clamoring—for the U.S. Navy to build or buy a contingent of diesel attack submarines (SSKs) to fill out its undersea inventory. If anything the logic for going conventional is more compelling now than ever. It offers a way to add new hulls with dispatch, at manageable cost, and without imposing extra burdens on the few shipbuilders that specialize in naval nuclear propulsion. Best of all, a diesel contingent is an ideal implement for executing U.S. strategy in what the Pentagon terms its “priority theater,” bar none: the Indo-Pacific.
I never, obviously, served in US Navy and I know of its internal kitchen from open sources only, such as memoirs and other texts. But I always remember Elmo Zumwalt quoting Rickover that:"The United States Navy got used to traveling first class."(c) In Rick's words "first class" meant large and very large surface combatants and nuclear propulsion. That's the institutional culture--US Navy likes only nuclear-driven subs. And it kinda makes sense once one considers the fact that the United States is an imperial power and she likes to sail anywhere, everywhere to "project" herself. Nuclear powered subs are perfectly suited for this strategic and operational posture since they provide for long-duration, thus translating into very long distances, clandestine operations against enemies, which all, as we know, dream of denying America her freedoms. Yet, James Holmes calls for SSKs. Hm. Holmes speaks in the broadside yet again and pronounces this "M" word, which many in the US are reluctant to say when speaking about actual war (Holmes wants to fight both China and Russia):
...the nuclear mafia within the silent service—the dominant faction among submariners, it must be said—will produce statistics beyond counting to prove that nuclear-powered craft are superior to their conventional brethren. And they will be right—by every measure except what matters. Namely, winning. The SSK is the right tool for the job provided it’s deployed at the right place on the map in the right manner to achieve maximum effect.
Ah, that's warmer. And should I have been American exceptionalist, which, of course, I am not, I would have taken this Holmes' argument to heart, especially since Holmes, almost verbatim, repeats Stansfield Turner's operational truism brilliantly formulated by him in 1976 in his interview to Christian Science Monitor, titled Who has The Best Navy. I will help you to recall that:
Pay attention to Turner's succinct observation about the number of keels. He delivers it in the clearest way possible: It is the capacity to do what might be decisive in some particular situation. And the first issue with that, if to imagine some scenario of the battle, say, for Senkakus in which hypothetical American-built (or bought) SSKs will take part is this: what kind of weapons will they carry? Holmes describes his scenario in next terms:
Combining submarines with marine geography amplifies their efficacy at sea denial. Array diesel boats along, say, Asia’s first island chain in concert with unmanned combat vehicles, sea mines, surface patrol craft, warplanes, and missile-armed ground troops and you’ve erected a formidable barrier to passage between the China seas and Western Pacific. That’s a barrier that Beijing will think twice about flouting. You don’t need an SSN to stand picket duty, and in fact using it thus amounts to overkill. Nuclear attack boats have sea-control missions to perform on the open ocean. Used imaginatively, inexpensive diesel subs can reinforce conventional deterrence and free up precious SSNs for more important things, all without busting the shipbuilding budget. That’s the reciprocal of producing über-pricey SSBNs to reinforce nuclear deterrence. How’s that for cosmic balance?
Well, it is all fine and dandy (on the paper), but even the brief look at the map (First Island Chain) reveals something significant:
You know what it is? Right--ranges, aka distances. First Island Chain is entirely within the range of a variety of Chinese deadly anti-shipping weapon systems which, in case of real war, God forbids, have a complete capability to shut down approaches to this very Island Chain and deny hypothetical US Navy SSKs what they would need desperately--forces supporting their operations. You may have guessed it already, such forces are US Navy's Carrier Battle Groups and their airwings. No support from them, any SSK operating at those ranges becomes a prey for ASW patrol aviation and surface groups which follow. This is, of course, not to mention the tempo of China buying those pesky S-400s and SU-35s from Russia.
What are, then, the probabilities of hypothetical salvos of subsonic anti-shipping missiles launched from hypothetical US SSKs against PLAN's surface groups to provide a number of leakers is for a separate discussion but I doubt those to be effective against modern naval AD systems. While I totally understand where James Holmes is coming from and I know his bad feelings towards PLAN and namely Admiral Lou, I, honestly, do not see, from what little I know about US Navy, how the habit of "traveling first class" could be kicked, especially in the times of massive stock buybacks and strict bottom lines for CEOs and shareholders. After all, I think, Congress is also on it. But I repeat myself.