2017/07/17

Election platforms on the federal election in Germany

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I compiled summaries of the election platforms of the relevant German parties for the federal elections 2017. The whole work was done in German language and can be accessed on the German language twin blog:


 S O
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2017/07/16

Link collection June/July 2017

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"Based on my experience at JMRC and by talking to company commanders who come here to train, I believe  U.S. Army tactical proficiency at company level and below is lower than  many of our multinational partners due to a lack of emphasis on collective training and tactical proficiency at home station prior to training at combat - training  centers (CTCs)."
(from U.S.Army's own eArmor journal)

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The Russians are paying attention to non-radar detection of artillery firing positions and impacts. That's the old way to which there are few technical countermeasures.

http://defence-blog.com/army/russian-state-owned-media-unveils-new-penicillin-counter-battery-system.html

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Old (1998) interview, still worth some attention:

Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski,
President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser

Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 15-21 January 1998

Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ["From the Shadows"], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?
Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.
Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?
B: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.
Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?
B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.
 (copied from here)


P.S. I found this in the list of my draft articles as a June 2017 link list. My apologies if I had published it in June before and accidentally reverted to draft. I truly cannot remember if I had published it or not.

S O
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2017/07/15

Proposal for a (partial) nuclear disarmament treaty

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... that eliminates the near-term possibility of mankind destroying civilisation through thermonuclear war.

As of today, only the United States of America and the Russian Federation possess enough nuclear munitions to ruin mankind. They couldn't wipe out mankind even if they tried, but they could crash civilisation world-wide.
  • The United Kingdom, French Republic, People's Republic of China, Republic of India, Pakistan and Israel possess enough thermonuclear munitions to ruin a single large country, though some of them couldn't do so beyond their region.
  • The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has few nuclear munitions, likely those are at most 30 kt TNTeq yield munitions.
  • The Republic of Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Republic of South Africa once possessed nuclear warheads and gave them up peacefully.
There's a stark difference between the very large American and Russian arsenals and the obviously sufficient smaller arsenals, which provide nuclear deterrence at much lower cost and despite the consequences of failure of deterrence would be much less catastrophic. The two very large arsenals are remnants of the Cold War, and their very size makes certain cost-saving methods of nuclear deterrence impractical because the wealth in warheads would enable a disarming first strike. Smaller inventories would not be able to take out all ballistic missile submarines in the Great Lakes or Caspian Sea for want of power, and would thus make disarming first strikes practically impossible.


My proposal is thus to turn develop and pass a nuclear munitions limitation and cooperation treaty:

A uniform warhead design of relatively modest and variable yield would be developed and tested once (with UNGC approval) and all existing nuclear powers except North Korea would be limited to a certain quantity of warheads, preferably USA and Russia each 200 and all others at most 100, but no more than they have now. Only North Korea would be excluded from the entire treaty and be stuck with its even smaller arsenal.

A warhead of 100 kt TNTeq or more yield is what people commonly think of when they think of the great power's nuclear weapons. Most people would be surprised at how small the lethal radius of a 10-20 kt warhead is against troops in typical dispersion or how small the effects would be on a city. You can do your own calculations here if you doubt me on this.

The strategic deterrence could thus be achieved by a ~100 kt TNTeq warhead, which could have a variable yield, allowing for an alternative 5-10 kt yield for "tactical employment" at a short distance from friendly troops or to knock out air power on an international airport without massacring most people in a city right next to it.

The risks associated with handling and transportation (accidents) would be reduced by using a uranium 235-only pit for the first (implosion) stage. U-235 is somewhat less hellish than Pu-239.

The fallout could be limited by using a two-stage thermonuclear warhead design with 95% or more fusion share of output. The first stage might be boosted to reduce the fallout further. A doctrine of employment at altitude (with fireball not touching the ground) would also reduce the fallout while retaining if not improving the ability to destroy the target compared to a low altitude or ground level detonation.

Every warhead would be "locked" by a suitably long and real passcode, which would need to be stored at a distance and be part of the launch code (launch code = encrypted target coordinates and passcode). The codes would only be known at highest levels, but encrypted files would be stored at many lower commands, requiring the combination of any three such files to create one file with the real passcode list so a decapitation strike would be discouraged.

Said warhead would be suitable for many forms of delivery
  • free-falling bomb
  • cruise missile (air/sea/ground launch)
  • ballistic missile (air/sea/ground launch)
Finally, to further discourage an attempt at a disarming first strike, both a warhead storage container and a decoy container would be developed that could not possibly distinguished without opening (breaking a seal & raising an alarm system). Thus thousands of decoys could be stored along 100 real things in hundreds of locations and nobody would know which is which until an order to open the containers in war or crisis. No list would need to exist that enables to determine where the real warheads are. A disarming strike would need to be able to destroy hundreds of dispersed locations (mostly military bases) with less than 200 warheads - which would be impossible.

An exception may be the standoff between India and Pakistan: The unified warhead design might actually equal an increase in capabilities if Pakistan's and India's nuclear warheads are actually less monstrous than the proposed unified warhead. In this case the quantity could be reduced or these two countries could be exempt from the unified warhead design. The 'cleanliness' of the unified warhead design means that a simple kiloton rating comparison would not suffice in this case, though.

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Russia and the United States could deploy each 100 warheads in conventionally-powered submarines*
  • in the Great Lakes (Trident IID-5 missile with one warhead + 7 decoy MIRVs) and 
  • in the Caspian Sea. (R-39RMU missile with one warhead + 7 decoy MIRVs).
Both would keep 100 warheads in dispersed storage containers for use in various delivery munitions, along with 1,000+ decoy containers.

The other nuclear powers (save for North Korea) would store essentially swap out their existing warhead inventories with the new 100 kt warheads and discourage first strikes as without the treaty. The UK and France would mount each one warhead on each one of their SLBMs, for example (France: 4 Triomphant SSBN with 16 SLBM each and UK: 4 Vanguard SSBN with 16 SLBM each, other warheads stored on land for free-falling bombs and in France's case also in ASMP-A).

The plutonium and uranium from disassembled nuclear munitions that wouldn't be needed to create the unified warheads would be diluted and be turned into nuclear fuel.

A proper surveillance and verification regime would be set up and executed by the IAEA.

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The steps forward from the status quo would be
  • no threat of global civilisation-breaking thermonuclear war
  • much reduced expenses particularly in the U.S. and Russia
  • much reduced nuclear fallout in the event of thermonuclear war
  • reduced risks from accidents with nuclear munitions

Meanwhile, nuclear munitions would still
  • act as deterrence through their ability to destroy a society (for example by de facto destruction of all cities of any great power if the attacker has that long reach at all as of today)
  • act as a deterrence against attempts at "conventional-only" wars of aggression by retaining the ability to destroy entire formations of land forces as well as entire airbases
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This kind of treaty would meet the NPT's requirement of working towards a nuclear disarmament. It would not eliminate nuclear arms entirely, but greatly reduce the damage possible in worst case thermonuclear wars. 

The time to  commence talks for (partial) nuclear disarmament is now. We should not wait till conflicts heat up to another Cold War for real and  one or two near-thermonuclear war crisis situations convince the politicians to work towards (partial) disarmament again, as happened in the 80's after the Able Archer 83 near-disaster.

A second step after this treaty could be to move towards total nuclear disarmament, but that's a MUCH larger leap because of the in my opinion well-justified (though not necessarily correct) fear that we NEED nuclear deterrence to keep the peace between the great powers.

related:


S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

P.S.: I know this is a distasteful topic; no pacifist wants to look like a proponent of nuclear arms, an the proposal would require a development, production and testing of a new warhead. Some might even argue that such a "cleaner" warhead would lower the threshold for its use (though a 100 kt TNTeq explosion is still terrible). Radical pacifists will think that partial disarmament is not orthodox enough. Yet some distasteful activities - such as sewage cleaning - simply have to be done for the society's good, and I think new proposals for a partial nuclear disarmament are overdue. The more such proposals pop up and the more public discourse there is on this topic the more politicians will sense that the time is ripe for getting rid of thousands of nuclear warheads - even if hundreds will remain.

*: It's possible to store the missiles in silos extending into the fin as shown in this speculative article. A row of 10 such silos in a long fin should be possible. The submarines need to be shock-hardened with a tough pressure hull and have robust radio message reception abilities, but they need no normal combat system or any silencing in those inland waters. The quick launch procedure could be done after surfacing. Submersibles (with some cheap long endurance air independent propulsion such as closed cycle diesel engines) are preferable to surface craft because of the possibility to track & identify surface craft with satellites. Cheap snorkeling could be used regularly, with all-AIP operation used in crisis or wartime. A slow cruise speed of about 4 kts and resting on the bottom of the sea for days or weeks would eliminate the wave patterns and other signatures that could be discernible by satellites.
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2017/07/12

One annoying NATO myth

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I'll do my part fighting a stupid myth:

France never left NATO.
It merely withdrew its forces from NATO's command structure, period.



I've read this annoying myth about France supposedly having left NATO in 1966 (and returned in 2009) so often, I have really no excuse for not pushing against it here a decade earlier already.


S O
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2017/07/11

Somaliland and Puntland

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I meant to write about the two unrecognised states in Northern Somalia (that appear to be somewhat more functional than the recognised government of Somalia) for a while.



Or to be honest; I meant to do a proper literature research on them for a long time.
No, that's still not honest. To be REALLY honest; I learned only recently that there is not one but two kinda functional proto-states at the Horn of Africa.
It's a quite embarrassing state of affairs on my part, but not just for myself: It's also embarrassing for the news media in general. I'm not a news junkie, but I sure would be better informed if Northeast Africa would rank a little higher on the priority list of German or anglophone news media. 

Their low priority in regard to reporting seems to be proportional to their low priority in foreign policy and foreign aid. I keep having a hunch that we could have done a lot good if we had helped those proto-states instead of pretending that Somalia is still one country.

One example; the EU could have given them most favourable trade terms for copper and tin (the region really hasn't much else that could be exported). We could also have helped equip and supply the Puntland coast guard instead of doing those stupid Atalanta patrols ourselves. Maybe we could have had enough influence with both proto-states to avoid the stupid border conflict of 2016 and could have served as a respected arbiter?

Instead, countries like Saudi-Arabia and UAE have gained influence in the area. No doubt nothing bad will come from that, right?

S O
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2017/07/09

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

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It'll take some time for me to understand the international law consequences of this, and time will tell if and how courts rule concerning the (largely symbolic) storage of nuclear munitions in Germany.

I only found a draft version, not the final full text, so far. Article 1 says in there

1. Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to:
(...)
(g) Allow any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control.


S O
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Day and night

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It sounds utterly trivial, but one should keep day and night in mind.

For example, I did an intellectual pastime about how to secure Iceland in times of crisis (a NATO member without permanent military presence). My default assumption is that a U.S. airborne brigade would need to be flown in from CONUS because European paras would not have airlift available and/or be needed in Northern Norway and Lithuania.

(This is where some people think "Yeah, science!" and I think "No, this should be general knowledge already!").

There's no need for non- far IR ("thermal") night vision until September there.

The ideal planning for crisis and wartime should thus probably plan with different forces in summertime and wintertime; U.S. airborne and Canadians in wintertime (Americans have above average night vision equipment, Canadians have above average cold weather preparation & they mostly understand each other's language) and South European airborne/para forces in summertime (using C-17s on otherwise empty return flights).

The cargo aircraft logistics may suggest to plan with Europeans year-round because Iceland is along the trip back to North America anyway, but I don't think there's much wisdom in sending troops who are accustomed to +25°C into a -5°C environment as a strategic quick reaction force. (Iceland has in its most important areas an oceanic climate and is warmed year-round by the North Atlantic current, so it's even in wintertime nowhere near as cold as the humid continental East European climate.)

That's something I did not think about when I wrote this. Though I suppose to maintain a single air-lift capable brigade with towed 155 mm howitzers for alliance (Iceland) defence in summertime might be an even more appropriate thing to do for Spain and Portugal, as their land forces would have the longest marches to Eastern Europe. They could even have this brigade in a 12 month cycle of 6-7 months training and 5-6 months real readiness for 48 hrs deployment to Iceland (at 90% personnel strength, 90% equipment readiness, with munitions for 3 days intense combat and terrain-appropriate camouflages).

S O
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2017/07/08

Just a reminder about the North Atlantic Treaty

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This is an excerpt from the treaty text:

Article 5

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all (...)

Article 6 

For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:
  1. on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France, on the territory of Turkey or on the islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer;
  2. on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.
The Article 5 part is unmodified from the original treaty, Article 6 is as modified by the accession protocol for the accession of Greece and Turkey. We can ignore the obsolete part about the "Algerian Departments of France". You can look those texts up here.


NATO is no Pacific alliance.
Hawaii could be nuked by North Korea, PRC or Russia and article 5 would not be relevant.
The same applies to any attack on Puerto Rico, U.S. or Canadian warships in the Pacific Ocean, Guam, New Caledonia or, as history has already shown, the Falklands.

This is of great importance!
There is no reason for Europeans to get involved in any Pacific arms race between the U.S./Japan/Taiwan/Australia on the one side and the PR China on the other side. 
The only European concerns about the PR China should be about the (still distant) scenario of a Sino-Russian alliance. This would then be first and foremost about air power, secondarily about land power (the capacity of transsiberian traffic lanes is still small) and arctic maritime sea lanes may be open now, but Russian arctic harbours are either small or well in range of land-based NATO tactical combat aviation. The PRC would find it difficult to sustain an army at war in Eastern Europe.
Chinese naval warfare against Europeans would likely be limited to few commerce raiders or commando actions such as blocking the Suez Canal with sunk ships. The only relevant Russian harbour for basing a Chinese expeditionary fleet is Murmansk. Again, it's well in range of NATO air and missile strikes and hardly useful as a main base for a PLAN expeditionary fleet. The distance between the PRC and Europe is simply too great for the PRC to be a major naval threat to Europeans.

There might be conflicts of interest about African resources between Europeans and Chinese, but such conflicts haven't even only reached the stage of great diplomatic efforts. A war in Africa would likely depend more on political allegiances, maritime (for Europeans: coastal) lines of communication and land-based air power than on modern battlefleets.

Long story short:
I don't see any need for Europeans to orient their naval forces for a fight against the PLAN, not even partially. There's no treaty obligation to fight in a Pacific War and there's nothing to be gained by joining any war in East Asia / the Pacific, ever.
There's little to no reason for the Chinese to go to war against European NATO (or EU) countries unless they go to war with China first.

I did make one assumption here that should be self-evident: Alliances serve a country's interests (security), not its ego. A violent clash of civilisations just for the sake of the clash in itself or a war just for the entertainment of people who want to see the world burn makes no sense.

S O
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