defensenews.com Predator XP (RQ-1 for Export) Drone - General Atomic - San Diego, CA
As of late some movements have caught my eye, recently I wrote regarding the UK's move to the AIIB , since then Luxembourg, Germany, France and Italy also went skipping down the Silk Road to the AIIB, and the chances of South Korea, Japan, Australia and Canada joining increase every day as the loose deadline approaches at the end of March. That is of course in addition to the 27 other countries already listed in Wikipedia including Malaysia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Philippines, Thailand, and Uzbekistan which is consequently involved in human rights disputes with the World Bank and it's "high standards". This move has obviously created a signifigant shift in the balance of global power(s), and it would be safe to assume that following such an historic event (as well as preceeding it), there would be various examples of both physical and rhetorical reposturing going on around the globe. Many view the AIIB move as a very positive turn of economic events, while the White House "advice" against allies joining remains like an eroding sandstone boulder in the middle of a box canyon during a flash flood. As I mentioned in my previous blog, the day before the UK's announcement Obama made an email pitch for the TPP and named China as the US competitor in the 21st century while making no mention of the UK deal he knew was about to happen, although there is much speculation as to what was discussed. On that same day CSIS came out with an in depth look at percieved weaknesses of the AIIB in which Yun Sun even claimed...
"The multilateral (and potentially democratic) decision-making process of the AIIB provides an explanation for diminishing enthusiasm within China about the Bank."
Well, I'm not so sure that is the case. Further, CSIS seemed to have changed it's stance since then. Aside from the predictable Chinese rebuttal, the US based dissension with the White House AIIB/China posturing has grown, one of the first western backed think tanks to voice concern was Brookings, as Thomas Wright wrote:
"Looking forward, the United States needs to move beyond obstructionism and figure out a better strategy for dealing with China’s competitive economic diplomacy."
It would seem we are at another historical crossroads, one of many directions... and with any one direction as probable as the next. At this crossroads is where I see the movements of economic power, as well as Drones, Troops & Nukes.
Global Hawk RQ-4 - Northrop Grumman - London Heron(Machatz-1) - Israel Aerospace Industries
Silver Eagle ASN-209 UAV - ASN Technology Group - China Shadow M2 - Textron Systems - Providence, RI U.S.
DARPA, L2 BAI Aerosystems, Orbital Sciences Corporation, EWA Government Systems, Aurora Flight Sciences & Northrop's Information & Technical offices are the drone companies listed for the state of Virginia, where Mark Warner is Senator. As The Nation and Reuters both pointed out earlier, Warner went with Obama on his recent trip to India (which Obama cut short for Saudi Arabia), to ensure "US" (not sure Northrop is included as it's Headquartered in London), drone companies of not missing out on sales to India to other competitors such as Israel (the leading exporter and has sold to India before), and China who last year sold to Saudi Arabia. The issues back in the U.S. are the regulations of drone exports which Obama has seemed to have loosened, or not. The official statement regarding the change in the international sales of not just surveillance, but especially armed drones (previously to Britain only), was highlighted by the Washington Post:
"...the sale of armed drones would be subject to Cold War-era rules establishing a “strong presumption of denial,” meaning that foreign governments would have to make a strong case for acquiring the aircraft.
They also would have to agree to a set of “proper use” principles created by the United States, promising to use the drones for national defense or other situations in which force is permitted by international law. The drones are not to be used “to conduct unlawful surveillance or [for] unlawful force against their domestic populations,” an unclassified summary of the new policy said.
“If you fall back on what our objective is, it’s really more than anything to provide an extra level of scrutiny with respect to these transfers,” the official said.
Foreign governments also will have to accept potential U.S. monitoring of how the drones are used."
Oddly enough, just as Obama loosens regulations on international armed drone sales, he suggests tightening regulations for domestic use back in the US the day after a drone reportedly crashed into the White House . Also odd that Pakistan has already spearheaded a UN Human Right council resolution against the use of armed drones last year and also odd that the US campaign in Pakistan had significant critics back in 2012. It would also seem that India's affiliation to China (via BRICS), would play into ensuring the loosening of U.S. regulations to compete in the emerging drone market and at a time of economic power(s) shifting. The drone companies sure seem happy now, India just being the tip of a potential drone sales iceberg. Of those out in front are of course Northrop Grumman, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems with it's ‘Predator XP’ (XP, or export ready version of the RQ-1), and as pointed out in the Nation article above...
" One drone project involves the RQ-11 "Raven" built by AeroVironment Inc, a small U.S. firm, but Northrop Grumman Corp, Textron Systems, a unit of Textron Inc and General Atomics, a privately held firm, are also seeking permission to sell their unmanned systems to India."
For an area with so much drone related conflict, it seems odd that the White House would choose it to be the location to open the champagne bottle for the U.S. drone industry with all the de-regulating/regulating, and at such an historic and volatile moment in geopolitics.
As of late it's been hard not to notice the troop movements in Ukraine and around the Baltic region as the conflict seems to be accelerating despite the relative success of the Minsk Agreements, then again, I may have spoken too soon. What at first were periodic "reports " of troop movements, have become more frequent actual official announcements from the nations involved. Beginning with the article on Feb. 18th by the Florida Times Union noting the 3000 Fort Stewart troops headed to train various Baltic NATO allies in Operation Atlantic Resolve which I have aptly renamed Operation Atlantic Dissolve as it neither resolves the situation and further dissolves the possibilities of peace within the region.
"A Ukrainian news agency has reported that 20 British Saxon armored cars have been delivered to Ukraine, with another 55 expected to arrive soon."
About that time reports of rival military exercises were becoming more prevelant and Canada had already sent military trainers to Ukraine as part of Operation Reassurance as was reported by RT back in December.
Shortly after that, on the 27th of Feb. DW reported the German reactivation and removal of "supply bottlenecks" for the Bergen tank battalion and co-operation with French, Polish and Dutch armies as well as the incorporation of the Dutch Leopard Tank.
Although this was claimed to be done to assure NATO commitment, it wasn't long after that there was an obvious part in strategy and tone between Germany and NATO as Der Spiegel came out with a scathing review of NATO's Breedlove .
Official reports of the arrival of the US 3rd Infantry Div. came in on the 10th of March, this included 750 troops, military vehicles and equipment, including tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery pieces and helicopters arrived in the Baltic city of Riga, Latvia to be used in exersises and training in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The following day reports of U.S. deliveries of humvees and small drones to Ukraine came out.
On the 12th of March came rebuttals to the Fox News interview about the Ukraine conflict with retired Major General Robert who said:
"The only way the United States can have any effect in this region and turn the tide is to start killing Russians — killing so many Russians that even Putin's media can't hide the fact that Russians are returning to the motherland in body bags."
Truly a pitiful expression of exacerbated U.S. military imperialism. But less than a week later came reports of Germany sending 500 troops for drills in Lithuania as part of the NATO Operation Atlantic Resolve. Of course between the battle cries of Gen. Robert and the increasing deployment and exercises Russia began voicing it's concern. This was accompanied by an announcements that Russian peacekeepers were ready to be deployed to the Donbass area as well as the confirmation reports of British military trainers. About this time Stratfor's George Friedman came out with his "analysis" regarding the U.S. intention to drive a wedge between Germany and Russia... not that their opinion matters much to some, even Brookings is taking hits these days, guess its time to "spread the love" as they say, as well as the troops and the rising threat of war.
India isn't just getting the chance to buy U.S. armed drones, during his recent visit Obama also started a new era of Nuclear trade ...
"that will open the door to the sale of U.S. nuclear power plants and nuclear industry support to India, a step that could rejuvenate the American nuclear industry like nothing has in a long time."
It's interesting to note that in the official White House blog post regarding his visit to India, there is no specific mention of either drones or nuclear trade between the two nations. One would think that with all the raw nerves from many not only regarding the Ukraine conflict, but also the Iran negotiations, that the White House would've have thought these two items surely constituted a "highlight", then again...
Just after the announcement of the arrival of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Russia made the announcement that it had the right to put nuclear arms in the Black Sea region of Crimea . Mikhail Ulyanov said:
"I don't know if there are nuclear weapons there now. I don't know about any plans, but in principle Russia can do it,"
I can't blame Russia for wanting to protect itself against the existential threat posed by the intensification of NATO presence, but this echoes the comparison made by Stephen Cohen a while back that this is the most dangerous times in U.S. Russian relations since the Cuban Missile Crisis .
On the 14th of March it was reported by RT that the UK made an "innocent mistake " and had sensitive data including not only UK's Atomic Weapons Establishment, but also a host of 170 other companies including Lockheed. Doug Madory of Dyn said it was a bad route in Ukraine's Vega Telecom that was the cause of the redirection. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica Security editor said in his blog:
"Unnecessarily sending the data to Kiev may have made it possible for employees with privileged network access to Ukrainian telecom provider Vega to monitor or tamper with data that wasn't encrypted end-to-end using strong cryptography"
Not sure about you, but bells are going off about now. Especially after noticing the data was routed through Frankfurt, Germany and originating from Houston, TX.
I would include something in this section regarding the Iran nuclear deal , but then I'd have to include something about the official Pentagon announcement on Israel's Nukes, so I'd rather finish this up on a "lighter" note by pointing out the recent nuclear hack in South Korea. Although there are no names mentioned, South Korea did accuse North Korea as the malware used was the same as used by the APT as well as other similarities to the recent Sony Hack. South Korea claimed only "non critical" systems were at risk, but that didn't stop the hackers from putting up a sample of employee information saying that they "need money"... well shoot, that could be just about anybody, including me.
I don't fancy myself a bringer of doom and gloom, and as I pointed out earlier we are at a crossroads with more than just a couple of possible roads before us. I'd like to think that the these conflicts and increasing tensions can be resolved diplomatically and without military conflict, and in fact, I have full confidence that they can be resolved without Operation Atlantic Resolve or other such inflammatory reposturing. Even so, with all this movement going on I know that Tom Engelhardt is not alone, I'm also asking... What's Going On?
Oh, I almost forgot, Nowroze Mubarak and enjoy this Vernal Equinox and may we chose the best way forward.