FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day March 13th through 19th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

If you want someone who will listen to you every time, do everything you tell them to do, and always be there for you for better or for worse, get a dog.

 

New Russian Sanctions

The US Treasury Department issued tough sanctions on Thursday against Russian entities and individuals for what it said were “ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia.”  Among the institutions targeted in the new sanctions for election meddling were Russia’s top intelligence services; the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). Also included was the Internet Research Agency, which was recently indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for interfering in the 2016 US presidential election.  The FSB is being sanctioned for the use of cyber tools in targeting US officials “including cyber security, diplomatic, military, and White House personnel.”  The GRU, as well as a number of its top officials, is being sanctioned for its direct involvement in “interfering in the 2016 US election through cyber-enabled activities.” The Treasury also says that the GRU was “directly responsible” for the June 2017 NotPetya cyberattack on European businesses.  The Internet Research Agency and 13 individuals connected to it are being sanctioned for using fake identities online as well as posting thousands of online ads in an effort to sow confusion among US voters.  Sanctions also target a number of individuals for ongoing attempts to hack the US energy grid.  US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says, “The administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in US elections, destructive cyber-attacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure.”  The move is seen as significant as the Trump administration and, above all, President Donald Trump himself, have been slow to criticize Russia for election meddling, fearing it may undermine the legitimacy of his victory over Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton.  Russian reaction: Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that although Moscow was calm about the sanctions, it had already begun “to prepare a response.” He also accused the US of timing the sanctions announcement to coincide with this weekend’s Russian presidential elections, saying, “It is tied to US internal disorder, tied of course to our electoral calendar.” And there was an election in Russia over this past weekend.  The 65-year-old head of state, Vladimir Putin, waited for a long time until he announced he would again stand as a presidential candidate. According to some observers, Putin was toying with people’s fears that the “father of the nation” might not run for the presidency again. Then came the move which had to be expected. Putin chose a symbolic venue to announce that he would run for the post: the legendary Russian GAZ car factory in Nizhny Novgorod, in front of workers who supported him when he said he’d like to throw his hat into the ring again.  Putin is not fond of conventional campaigning, including TV debates. He prefers to present himself as a savior of rare animal species, or as a brave huntsman or fisherman. Opinion polls seem to prove that his approach is successful. With approval rates between 75 and 83 percent, Putin is considered to be the most popular politician in Russia. However, another part of the truth is that the Kremlin — since Putin came to power in 2000 — has been marginalizing free and critical media, and putting Russian opposition under pressure, thereby nipping any real alternative in the bud.  Putin didn’t show much respect for those people who officially announced his candidacy on December 26. He didn’t show up for his own nomination. Even so, he submitted his records to the central election commission in person — as an independent candidate.  And he won by over 65% in this ceremonial election which in one news clip I saw actually showed an election official putting numerous ballots into a ballot box.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day March 13th through 19th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 9th through 11th 2018

Saying of the Day

 

 

Navy To Receive More Super Hornets

The new DoD budget passed on 09 February 2018 includes a request for additional Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.  Navy Times is reporting a request in President Donald Trump’s new defense budget proposal could add 24 Super Hornets to the Navy’s air fleet and keep a Boeing plant in St. Louis alive, according to a report Thursday by Bloomberg News.  The defense budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 is expected to be formally released on Feb. 12. If confirmed, the request for more Super Hornets would be the largest addition since 2012 and would reverse the Obama administration’s decision to stop buying the aircraft.  The Trump administration has requested 14 Super Hornets, and House and Senate appropriators have proposed adding 10 more, according to Bloomberg. That total of 24 jets happens to be the key number needed to keep Boeing’s plant in St. Louis running.  The plant’s future was believed to be at risk after the Navy committed to adopting the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter to replace the F/A-18E/F Hornets.  The Hornets were originally set to retire by 2035, but the Navy was forced to reevaluate that date in 2015 due to persistent delays in the F-35’s development.  The F-35Cs are expected to reach initial operational capacity this year, but the Navy needs additional Hornets to fill its inventory shortage until more of the new jets are purchased.  The Navy has struggled recently with aviation readiness. As of last October, only one-third of the Navy’s Super Hornets were fully mission-capable and ready to flyThe Super Hornet fleet is scheduled to begin service life extension maintenance this year, and the Navy may take advantage of the opportunity to upgrade the Hornets to the more advanced Block III configuration. Fireball note: the upgraded to Block III is certainly warranted as this is the configuration we need moving forward to ensure fleet interoperability across varied carrier strike groups.)  The upgrades would give the Hornets conformal fuel tanks and add to stealth capabilities. Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 9th through 11th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 1st through 7th 2018

Saying of the Day

I thought growing old would take longer

Friends of FOD

Running a bit late with this edition.  Actually I tried to publish last night, but the internet connection in my hotel was too slow to make it work, so I went to bed. Working on the ’31 Chevy is …. It’s almost like a job, but costs me instead of pays me.

 

How China Could Takeover Taiwan Without A Shot Fired

I’ve mentioned here in FOD how freedom of the seas and in particular the South China Sea is important not only to the Asian nations in the region, but for all nations who depend upon the free exchange of goods and services through those contested waters.  China’s ability to restrict trade to selective nations of their choice is a weapon as old as the sea.  Taiwan has long been a thorn in the side of China since the communist government has been in place.  And while Taiwan has military ties with Japan and the US there are likely limits established as to what we might do if China were to act militarily.  A few days ago Asian Times reported rumors have swirled on both sides of the Taiwan Strait since the beginning of last year that Chinese President Xi Jinping was mulling taking back the wayward, self-ruling island of Taiwan in one fell swoop amid growing militancy among the Chinese masses.  Some have gone so far as to suggest that by the early 2020s the two sides would be in a state of belligerence as Xi, unlike his predecessors, has no scruples against waging a full-blown war to recapture what Beijing considers a renegade province.  They say that the year 2022, the end of Xi’s second tenure as the general secretary of the Communist Party of China, would be the deadline for him to exert his unrestrained powers to redeem the glory of the Middle Kingdom, after Xi has made “China dream” and “great revitalization” the tag lines of his rule.  “Xi’s grand visions will become empty platitudes if he fails to take back Taiwan before his second term ends, and in that case his ‘China dream’ will become a pipe dream, and he is fully aware of that,” said one analyst.  No one will doubt that China’s Central Military Commission and the People’s Liberation Army have in place a host of all-encompassing combat plans of tactics and deployment to suit all war scenarios, as well as stratagems to deter or fend off intervention by the US or Japan.  The Chinese military must have been updating these plans from time to time to reflect changes in geopolitics and Taiwan’s own defenses, for Xi to choose from should he feel that the time is ripe for a once-and-for-all, momentous action to tame and reclaim the island.  Meanwhile, Beijing has also been on a spree of building or inaugurating aircraft carriers, missiles, corvettes, destroyers, amphibious battleships and stealth fighters, fueling further speculation over whether Taiwan stands a chance when Xi, armed with the will of the rank and file, is girding for a new Chinese civil war.  While many observers believe Xi is readying the military and the nation for a showdown, a bid that will decide how he will go down in history, veteran military commentator Andrei Chang noted in the Kanwa Defense Review that the PLA’s big guns and ships may be for show to make Washington and Tokyo think twice before stepping in, and a trigger doesn’t have to be pulled now that Xi has a slew of non-military options at his disposal.  The Hong Kong-based current-affairs monthly SuperMedia also reported that among the many diplomatic and economic means to subjugate the island is issuing Taiwan Special Administrative Region passports and granting hukou (Chinese household registration) and permanent residency to the 2 million Taiwanese already residing in mainland China.  Previous reports also suggest that the PLA’s first overseas base, which sits right on the Horn of Africa in Djibouti (and discussed here in FOD previously), is aimed at Taiwan, since the resource-scarce island relies substantially on the narrow waterway linking the Suez Canal and the Arabian Sea for oil imports from the Middle East as well as trade with Europe. From the Djibouti base PLA troops could intercept tankers ferrying oil to Taiwan and seal off the island’s trade artery in no time.  Beijing’s frenzied investment and acquisitions targeting stakes in mines, oilfields and energy firms in the Belt and Road countries could also jeopardize Taiwan’s economic security should Beijing decree an embargo of crude oil and other natural resources, according to Chang.  Something they have been unwilling to do when it comes to dealing with North Korea.  The raft of economic, trade, financial and logistical measures short of a shooting war to contain Taiwan won’t provide an opening for Washington to weight in, yet given time, they could work to coerce Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen into coming to terms with Xi and accepting whatever he has in store for a treaty to create a future Taiwan Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 1st through 7th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 19 through 22, 2017

New Sanctions for North Korea

I’ve stated before here in FOD, I don’t believe sanctions against North Korea will have the desired effect of divesting their efforts to develop nuclear weapons.  Kim Jong Un has consistently pursued a path of acquiring nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them in spite of the world’s desires for diminish his resolve to the point of allowing millions of his own people to die of starvation.  Lack of cash however, might have the effect of at least slowing North Korea’s efforts. China’s banks in particular have been willing to launder Kim Jong Un’s money for years.  Only recently, the Department of  the Treasury took actions against the Bank of Dandong over concerns that it was participating in illicit financial activities with North Korea — an early signal to Chinese financial institutions of U.S. willingness to increase pressure on entities that do business with Pyongyang.  On 21 September 2017, President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he had signed an executive order authorizing additional sanctions against North Korea by targeting individuals, companies and financial institutions that do business with what he called “this criminal rogue regime.”  Speaking before a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump said his goal is the “complete denuclearization” of North Korea and added that the nation led by Kim Jong Un posed a “grave threat to peace and security in our world.”  Trump noted that he’d signed the executive order just as China’s central bank “has told their other banks … to immediately stop doing business with North Korea.” The president praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for the “very bold move.”  Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (photo right) confirmed that he did call the People’s Bank of China early Thursday morning to alert them to this coming action, but skirted the question when asked if these sanctions were specifically aimed at China.  “This action is directed at everyone,” Mnuchin said, calling the executive order a significant expansion of Treasury’s power to target the Kim regime and those financial entities and individuals who seek to do business with it. The executive order is “forward looking,” meaning Treasury will consider new designations on a “rolling basis” from Thursday on.  So far, the administration has sought to pressure Pyonyang largely through forceful economic steps, including Thursday’s latest action and U.N. Security Council sanctions earlier this month. The President has this right.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 19 through 22, 2017”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 04 through 06, 2017

News Friends of FOD:

I had dinner with some old friends and new Friends of FOD Jennifer and Charlie when I was down in CA last week.  They put me in contact with a new Friend of FOD Judy Ann, who has agreed to lend her professional help to make the comments and the subscription pieces work.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 04 through 06, 2017”