Category Archives: IndoPacific

That Stretched US Air Force–One Major War at a Time

Further to this post,

The incredible Shrinking US Air Force, or, Waiting for NGAD

the very realistic and capable air force secretary speaks very frankly (wish we had people like him in the spin-mad, all image all the time, Canadian government–see the secretary’s impressive bio here)–at Air Force Magazine:

Kendall: ‘Unrealistic’ for Air Force to Fight Two Wars While Modernizing

June 24, 2022 | By Abraham Mahshie

As Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall looks to modernize the force, he is calling for tough decisions that will shrink the size of the fleet [see post noted at start of this one] and make the waging of two simultaneous wars “unrealistic,” he said at an AFA [Air Force Association] Leaders in Action event June 24.

Kendall sat down with AFA’s president, retired Lt. Gen. Bruce “Orville” Wright, for an in-person discussion attended by a hundred air power professionals and enthusiasts at the Air and Space Forces Association’s headquarters in Arlington, Va. Kendall addressed topics ranging from threats posed by China and Russia to the ongoing congressional funding decisions that he said are necessary to keep pace with China’s heavy technological investments.

“I think it’s quite frankly unrealistic to think that we can have a force that will fight two major wars at the same time,” he said. He also said he did not believe any nation was capable of immediately ramping up from a peacetime force to engage in a prolonged, conventional war [emphasis added, note that “immediately”].

Kendall demurred when asked how many combat squadrons the Air Force should maintain, but he was clear in his commitment to take on the risk of a smaller Air Force flying fewer hours in order to make big investments in the short term.

“The critical thing is to get to the next-generation capabilities as quickly as we can [emphasis added, see this post yesterday: “USAF NGAD: Big Laser-Shooting Arsenal Fighter?],” he said. “Do we maintain current capability, keep the platforms that we have, or do we shrink down a little bit in order to get to the future? I think those are the trade-offs that we’re going to have to face.”

The Air Force currently has 55 operational combat squadrons, 32 in the Active duty and 23 in the Guard or Reserve, according to a Heritage Foundation study. And according to data provided to Air Force Magazine by the Air Force, fighter pilot hours declined 16 percent from 2020 to 2021, to an average of just 6.8 hours per month per pilot.

Kendall said it would be “hard” to get pilot hours back up, but he still called the force “healthy.”

“We’ve got to think carefully about the balance,” he said. “We’ve got to do it in a way which maintains a healthy force, while we’re doing this, as well as keeps pace with the technological competition.”

To continue to deter and defeat adversaries, Kendall called for leveraging “integrated deterrence,” or the flexing of allies’ and partners’ military and non-military capabilities, while the U.S. catches up to China’s decades of heavy military investment [e.g. various missile capabilities for attacking US bases in the Western Pacific].

Kendall has been pounding the pavement on Capitol Hill, he said, taking a classified threat briefing to the committees of Congress in order to help convince members of the importance of modernization over fleet size.

“Our average aircraft is 30 years old, and we have some aircraft that are not tailored to the high-end fight at all,” he said. “The people who manage and operate those aircraft do a fantastic job—I’m real proud of them. But we’re going to have to get to the next generation [emphasis added].”

And situation of the US Navy vs the PLA Navy is hardly encouraging either.

PREDATE: Kendall in 2012 under the Obama administration–imagine a senior Canadian official being so brutally frank:

F-35 Production Move Was ‘Acquisition Malpractice’: Top DoD Buyer

Given earlier comments by the F-35 program head, today’s [Feb. 6] remarks by the acting head of Pentagon acquisition that “putting the F-35 into production years before the first test flight was acquisition malpractice,” isn’t really news so much as confirmation that senior Pentagon leaders know mistakes were made.

Frank Kendall, who has been nominated to take the chair as undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told a Feb. 6 event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies here, that the decision “should not have been done” and that “now we’re paying the price for being wrong.” This was Kendall’s first public appearance since he was nominated to lead the Pentagon’s acquisition efforts.”..

Relevant post a year ago:

US Air Force Planning vs PLA in Indo-Pacific

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

PM Trudeau’s Government Still Trying to Up-Suck to the Dragon, Ace of Compradors Dominic Barton Section (cont’d)

(Video of foreign minister Joly noted in image at top of the post here, for compradors see here and here.)

Further to this post with two extremely well-informed hard-nose views,

PM Trudeau’s Government Has Finally Banned Huawei. What now?

it would appear the Liberal government remains blinded by the Celestial Empire’s light–and the lure of the filthy yuan. From an excellent and clear-eyed Globe and Mail columnist:

Ottawa may want to go back to business as usual with Beijing. But that’s not possible

Konrad Yakabuski

Canadians hoping for a reset in how this country approaches an increasingly assertive China were likely disappointed to learn that Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly had tapped Dominic Barton to sit on a new committee to advise Ottawa on its long-awaited Indo-Pacific strategy.

Mr. Barton, who served as Canada’s ambassador to China until December, is a self-confessed “bull on China” who now chairs the board of directors for the British-Australian mining colossus Rio Tinto after overseeing the global operations of the consulting giant McKinsey & Co. Like McKinsey, Rio Tinto’s fortunes are deeply tied to the Chinese economy. China accounted for fully 57 per cent of the company’s US$64-billion in revenue in 2021 [see this post: “Dominic Barton, Canadian Prince of Cashing-in Compradors, and Conflict of Interest (note “UPDATE”)“].

The 17 members of the Indo-Pacific Advisory Committee will be required to divulge any conflicts of interest, and “will be expected to recuse themselves from participating in discussions or activities of the committee should any potential, perceived or real conflicts of interest arise,” Global Affairs Canada said in a June 9 press release announcing the committee’s creation.

Even so, Mr. Barton’s past and present business activities are impossible to ignore. He has long advocated for deeper economic relations between China and the West. His decision to accept the Rio Tinto gig even after witnessing firsthand China’s hostage diplomacy in the detention of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig suggests a willingness to look past Beijing’s increasing authoritarianism, militarism and human rights abuses in the name of business [emphasis added].

Mr. Barton’s seat on the new committee along with other notable China doves has left many observers wondering whether Ottawa’s much-vaunted Indo-Pacific strategy, originally pitched as a foreign-policy pivot away from China in the aftermath of the Meng Wanzhou affair, is shaping up to be a cover for a return to business as usual [emphasis added].

“We want to make sure we have a relationship with China,” Ms. Joly told Politico last month. “It is a difficult one – there were arbitrary detentions of the two Michaels … I’m glad that this issue is now over and we’re moving on … My goal is to make sure that we re-establish ties.”

This will no doubt delight many Canadian business leaders eager to seize on the opportunity to sell to a market of more than 1.4 billion people with a growing appetite for this country’s natural resources and agricultural products. But as Canada moves to reset its relations with Beijing, many of our biggest allies are teaming up to take on the greatest geopolitical challenge of the 21st century as China seeks to cement its world power status.

Western hopes that integrating China into the World Trade Organization in 2001 would lead to its democratization were perhaps always faint. But under President Xi Jinping, Beijing has moved in the opposite direction, and has become a threat to the very rules-based international order that enabled it to become the world’s second-largest economy…

“Beijing wants to put itself at the centre of global innovation and manufacturing, increase other countries’ technological dependence, and then use that dependence to impose its foreign policy preferences,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month in a major speech outlining U.S. President Joe Biden’s China policy. “And Beijing is going to great lengths to win this contest – for example, taking advantage of the openness of our economies to spy, to hack, to steal technology and know-how to advance its military innovation and entrench its surveillance state [see this post: “FBI Director on Chi-Spy Menace–and PM Trudeau’s Government?“].”

The Trudeau government is surely not blind to China’s designs. It did – albeit belatedly – decide to ban telecommunications giant Huawei from participating in Canadian 5G networks last month [more here]. But its long delay in making that decision [OVER THREE FLIPPING YEARS] suggests that it did so only reluctantly. And it has not stopped Canadian universities from continuing to accept research funding from Huawei, raising questions about the potential transfer of intellectual property developed here to a company with deep ties to the Chinese military and state [note this post: “Wow! PM Trudeau’s Government Actually Acting vs PRC/PLA Infiltration of Canadian Universities–not so “Wow!” UPDATE (note Australian UPPERDATE)“].

This week, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson conceded that Ottawa may need to take a tougher stand on investments by Chinese entities in this country’s critical minerals. But again, you don’t get a sense that the move is being made with any gusto. Ottawa’s latest discussion paper on developing a critical minerals strategy does not even mention China, despite that country’s dominance in the global electric-battery supply chain [emphasis added].

No wonder Washington has largely left Canada out of the loop as it builds new security relationships with Australia, Britain, Japan, India and several Indo-Pacific countries with the express aim of containing and countering China’s geopolitical ambitions…

As much as Ottawa seems to wish otherwise, there will be no going back to business as usual with Beijing.

One certainly hopes so. And much as this government wishes otherwise.

A telling paragraph from Terrible Terry Glavin on the reach of our comprador rot:

There’s the intimate connections between the Liberal old guard and the China-trade lobby, notable in former prime minister Jean Chretien’s son-in-law, the Power Corporation’s Andre Desmarais, the Canada-China Business Council’s honorary chairman [the council is Comprador Central, website here]. And of course there’s the daughter of Jean (“I am not a Liberal!”) Charest, currently contending for the job of Conservative Party leader. Amelie Dionne-Charest is the chair of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong [another nest of compradors, website here].

Earlier on Mr Barton:

Canadian Ambassador to PRC Dominic Barton, an Ace of Compradors, still Up-Sucking to the Dragon [2020]

Ace of Compradors Ambassador Dominic Barton gives up Selling the PRC to Canada [Dec. 2021]

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Revolution in (in particular) Indian Army Recruitment: Four Year Tour of Duty for Most Coming Immediately

Further to this post,

Shrinking the Indian Army: Three Year Tour of Duty to be Tried for Some Soldiers?

a huge shake-up is being implemented, note profound changes in recruiting for the army’s regiments –at the Indian Express:

‘Agnipath’: In major defence policy reform, govt announces scheme for soldier recruitment

The proposal, which will come into effect immediately, was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security on Tuesday morning [June 14].

Defence minister Rajnath Singh and chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force on Tuesday announced a significant reform on how soldiers across the three services will be recruited under the new Agnipath scheme which will come into effect immediately. Soldiers recruited under the scheme will be called Agniveers.

“This is a major defence policy reform introduced by the Government to usher in a new era in the Human Resource policy of the three services. The policy, which comes into immediate effect, will hereafter govern the enrolment for the three services,” the government said in a statement.

The proposal was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security on Tuesday morning. Moving forward it will make the permanent force levels much leaner for the over 13-lakh [1.3 million] strong armed forces in the country.

Under the scheme, most Indian soldiers will leave the service in just four years. Of the 45,000 to 50,000 recruited annually, only 25 per cent will be allowed to continue for another 15 years under permanent commission. The move will considerably reduce the defence pension bill, which has been a major concern for governments for many years [emphasis added].

Recruitment will begin within 90 days under the scheme which will bring “all India, all class” recruitment to the services. This is especially significant for the Army, where the regiment system has region and caste bases, and with time that will be eliminated to allow anybody from any caste, region, class or religious background to become part of existing regiments [emphasis added–his will be a completer revolution for the Army, how well will it work?].

Several veterans have raised concerns about how this new structure can be detrimental to the existing structure, where loyalty towards the regiment and battalion, and retaining their pride, plays a significant role as a motivator in the harshest of circumstances.

Announcing the scheme, Rajnath Singh said “efforts are being made that the profile of the Armed Forces should be as youthful as the wider Indian population.” A youthful armed forces will allow to be easily trained for new technologies.

The minister added that it will increase employment opportunities and because of the skills and experience acquired during the four-year service such soldiers will get employment in various fields [most of the new recruits for the army will be infantry, not that much relevance for most civilian jobs]. “This will also lead to availability of a higher-skilled workforce to the economy which will be helpful in productivity gain and overall GDP growth,” Singh said.

The average age in the forces is 32 years today, which will go down to 26 in six to seven years. It will create “future-ready” soldiers, said Lt Gen Anil Puri, additional secretary, Department of Military Affairs…

Under the new system, which is only for personnel below officer ranks (those who do not join the forces as commissioned officers), aspirants between the ages of 17.5 years and 21 years will be eligible to apply. The recruitment standards will remain the same, and recruitment will be done twice a year through rallies.

Once selected, the aspirants will go through training for six months and then will be deployed for three and a half years. During this period, they will get a starting salary of Rs 30,000, along with additional benefits which will go up to Rs 40,000 by the end of the four-year service.

Importantly, during this period, 30 per cent of their salary will be set aside under a Seva Nidhi programme, and the government will contribute an equal amount every month, and it will also accrue interest. At the end of the four-year period, each soldier will get Rs 11.71 lakh as a lump sum amount, which will be tax-free. They will also get a Rs 48 lakh life insurance cover for the four years. In case of death, the payout will be over Rs 1 crore, including pay for the unserved tenure.

However, after four years, only 25 per cent of the batch will be recruited back into their respective services, for a period of 15 years. For those who are re-selected, the initial four-year period will not be considered for retirement benefits [emphasis added, see below].

Lt Gen Puri said the government will help rehabilitate soldiers who leave the services after four years. There will be a “whole of government” approach, and they will be provided with skill certificates and bridge courses. The impetus will be to create entrepreneurs, he added [sure]

For the government, one of the most important advantages of the scheme would be the significant pension savings, as there is a large population of ex-servicemen in the country [emphasis added]. The government had allocated nearly Rs 1.2 lakh crore for pensions for the Defence Ministry and the armed forces in the current fiscal year, which is about a quarter of the total defence budget of the country, and is larger than the capital acquisition allocation…

There will be strong reactions from retired officers; will update the post with some of them.

UPDATES:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

India’s Strategic Autonomy and Various Realities, e.g. “Look East” but can it “Act East”? (note UPDATE)

An Indian Navy commodore (ret’d) gives a succinct review of the country’s regional positions at Rediff.com India (it is striking that Russia, up until now India’s largest supplier of arms, is not mentioned one):

How India Can Tackle Security Challenges

By Commodore VENUGOPAL MENON (retd) [tweets here]

India has the ability to be a great power and address our security challenges in the best national interests.
Our foreign policy has come of age and will stand the test of time in the days ahead.
It is best to keep out of geopolitical power games with due consideration to the foundations of our foreign policy…

Geopolitical Canvas

The geopolitical canvas in our immediate neighborhood is changing rapidly and this has put India in a dilemma on the efficacy of our stated policy of strategic autonomy.

There is a fundamental apprehension in policy circles as to whether our stand will enable us to face security challenges in the foreseeable future.

The combination of sub-conventional violence from Pakistan and land border tensions with China has triggered concerns within the political and military establishment.

Although I would not categorise South Asia as a volatile region in the current juncture, it has its share of uncertainties caused by the rise of China, instability in Pakistan, terrorism and asymmetric warfare, and the extent of engagement by China in the Indian Ocean region through their BRI projects and last but not the least the future of Afghanistan under the Taliban [given India’s perpetually strained relations with Pakistan, the troubles in Kashmir, and the two countries’ nuclear weapons, I would suggest that South Asia is inherently volatile].

These aspects are beyond our control and hence the need for a counter-strategy to meet the challenges.

China

The fact that China shares a long land border with India is a geographic factor that cannot be changed.

It is also important to note that China considers India as a challenger to its supremacy in the region.

An arms race to equal the Chinese juggernaut would only incur heavy costs and drain the coffers.

At the same time, we need to ensure and maintain credible deterrence levels at the border to thwart any border incursions by Chinese troops.

Alliances with other nations would at best provide diplomatic support to our stand on contentious issues [emphasis added, i.e. no direct military support likely], but it cannot provide a permanent solution to our bilateral issues.

Pakistan

The situation in Kashmir has improved considerably in the recent past, however, isolated incidents of terror do take place.

There is no reduction in the trust deficit between the two countries [emphasis added].

Pakistan continues to build up militarily with assistance from China.

Although our military modernisation programme is progressing albeit slowly, there are critical deficiencies in assets faced by the three services.

One such example and challenge for the Indian Navy is in our submarine force levels.

Currently, the Pakistan navy has three Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) conventional submarines which give them an advantage in undersea warfare.

The future induction of eight Yuan class boats (with AIP) from China would increase the number to 11 by 2035.

This is not a comfortable situation and can create an asymmetry in our maritime domain as we are way behind the starting blocks of our Project 75 I submarine construction programme [emphasis added, more here].

Afghanistan

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan has created a vacuum in that country from a security perspective.

The waters look murky at the moment and it would be advisable to wait and watch as the situation evolves.

Big Power games in the Indo Pacific region

Security in the region cannot be viewed in isolation or exclusively from India’s prism.

It is important to factor in the influence of big powers and their competition to project power and gain influence in the region.

The question in this regard is what should be India’s stand in this power play? To maintain our policy of strategic autonomy or to team up with the Western alliance? There cannot be a third option [emphasis added].

Containment of China

The US had ignored the growth of China’s economic and military might during the last two decades which ironically was ignored by India too.

US foreign policy is desperately in need of a counter to China’s power potential lest it loses its unipolar status in the world.

Although then Japanese prime minister Abe Shinzo floated the idea of Quad in 2007, the movement fizzled out till 2017 when then US president Donald J Trump revived the concept.

The reasons could be many, but the most important factor is that there was no convergence of strategic objectives between the member countries.

Regrettably even now, little or no work has been done towards achieving that aim.

Terms like the Rule-Based International Order, shared democratic values and free and open Indo Pacific etc do not have any essence or meaning in the absence of clearly defined strategic objectives [emphasis added].

China has not been named for its hostile actions in any of the joint statements following a Quad summit thus far (one exception being when then US secretary of state Mike Pompeo singled out China in October 2020).

Why is this hesitation? The answer is very simple — China is an important trading partner for all members of Quad.

Hence, it is important to realise that behind the shadows of Quad, member countries continue to maintain bilateral relations with China in accordance with their national interests.

Is there any point in sailing in a rudderless, coxswain-less boat towards an unknown destination [emphasis added]? Hence there is a need to deliberately analyze the advantages/disadvantages before taking a call.

One sincerely hopes that we do not fall into the trap of being a pawn and get Ukrained in the bargain.

Importance of Alliances in Our Context

As per the foundations of our foreign policy, acceding to any security alliance is not an option unless there is a paradigm shift in our grand strategy (if there is one). A counterargument could be that the Quad is not [in reality] a security grouping or a counter-China initiative [emphasis added, in any event the US has long had bilateral treaties with Australia and Japan].

Then, what is its objective? Why is it ambiguous and open-ended? There are no free lunches in international relations and it is very likely that Quad will insist member countries to contribute significantly towards infrastructure development and other initiatives in Indo Pacific region.

Do we have the economic clout to invest in the region at the cost of our development? Therefore at some stage, we will have to take a call in the foreseeable future on whether this arrangement suits us or not.

Hope the establishment at Delhi is not contemplating that piggy banking on a loosely formed group like Quad is the best solution to project India as a big power [emphasis added]? If that is so, it will be a big blunder in the long run.

US’ Indo Pacific Strategy: Where do we fit in?

Although the name changed from Asia Pacific to Indo Pacific, nothing much has changed in US policy of demarcation of the world to suit its area of influence, provide a security umbrella for their allies and for power projection.

The term Indo Pacific brought about a euphoria amongst India’s strategic community about India’s centrality in US strategy which in a way is a false assumption [emphasis added]. Strategically, the US interest is centered on the South China Sea, the Far East and Oceania which is the fulcrum of its Indo Pacific strategy in order to check or counter Chinese influence and challenge to the unipolar world order.

The region to the west of the Malacca Straits and South Indian Ocean till MENA (Middle East and North Africa) is of less strategic importance to the US as has been seen post World War II.

We cannot expect that India’s security concerns in South Asia will be addressed by the West and therefore it is pragmatic to avoid any false sense of security [emphasis added].

Our engagement in the SCS — Practicality

Chinese engagement with countries bordering the South China Sea is deep-rooted and currently, we do not have the economic clout or resources to make a dent in that arrangement.

Continuous military presence in the region is neither desired nor warranted and it is quite possible that some of the ASEAN countries may object to our permanent presence if all it happens in the future.

In effect, there is a big gap between our Look East policy and Act East policy [emphasis added].

It is well known that about 50% of our inbound and outbound trade transit through the South China Sea, but there have been no instances of any trade being hampered by the Chinese navy or coast guard.

China has objected to ‘Freedom of Navigation’ patrols by the US navy through contested waters which have only increased the volatility in the region and increased tensions. India has not participated in such patrols thus far and is unlikely in the future too which is a wise decision.

Moreover, it is very unlikely that our trade would be hampered by China in the South China Sea fearing a backlash towards their safe energy flow through the south Indian Ocean which is within close proximity to India [emphasis added].

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that India has the ability in all respects to be a great power [but still it will be slowly, slowly] and address our security challenges in the best national interests.

Our foreign policy has come of age and will stand the test of time in the days ahead.

There is no requirement of toeing the line of any country to suit their national interests or be a client State [emphasis added].

It is best to keep out of geopolitical power games with due consideration to the foundations of our foreign policy.

The need of the hour is to give an added impetus to our indigenisation efforts as our national policy and support it with a long-term vision and goals.

If South Korea which was in the same state as India two decades ago attained a high degree of indigenisation and self reliance, we too can achieve it.

YES, WE CAN!!

Commodore Venugopal Menon served in the Indian Navy for 29 years in operational roles, including commands at sea, and training and staff assignments at Naval HQ.
In addition to the staff and war courses in the Indian Navy, he underwent the executive course at the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies, Honolulu.

A very substantial round-up of the Indo-Pacific/South Asian strategic situation from a widely-held Indian point of view. The US in particular should bear in mind these words of Scots poet Robbie Burns:

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion…

Note this tweet from a retired most senior Indian diplomat:

UPDATE: June 12 tweet from the retired commodore with a rather different tone:

Relevant posts:

India–Leaning even Closer to US to Balance PRC but at same time Keeping in with Russia (tous azimuts of a sort) [Dec. 2020, based on article by a ret’d Indian Air Force air marshal]

Russia vs Ukraine: India’s Strategic Autonomy (tous azimuts) in Action [March 2022]

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Where’s the US Army Going to Shoot its Missiles from in the Western Pacific? (Note Hypersonics)

(Images at top of the post are related to army’s long-range hypersonic weapon.)

Further to this 2020 post,

Who will be Willing to Host US Intermediate-Range Missiles in the Western Pacific?

Congress would like answers–from an article at Breaking Defence, note at end potential overlap with Marine missions:

Lawmakers worry Army doesn’t have basing agreements for long-range fires

“I don’t think it would be wise for us to wait to develop the kinds of weapons systems, we need for a future conflict until we had the diplomatic agreements signed,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said.

While the Army has hyped its foray into long-range missiles as part of its Pacific strategy, members of Congress expressed concern that the service is missing a critical element: the basing agreements with friendly nations there where the weapons would need to be effectively deployed to deter any Chinese designs on Taiwan.

During a House Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., asked Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville whether the Army had sufficient basing agreements, only to have McConville defer to policymakers and say that “there’s discussions” ongoing.

Likewise, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told lawmakers that there is “still conversations and work to be done,” but named Japan and the Philippines as allies the Army believes it has solid relationships with {Philippines? With Marcos fils to be new president?].

The Army leaders said they were wary of discussing potential specific basing locations for the Army’s long-range fires capabilities in the public hearing. Asked if he felt that Army was in where it needed to be to deploy the Multi-Domain Task Force (MDTF) — the service’s new theater-specific units that employ long-range precision effects, including missiles, cyber and electronic warfare capabilities — McConville nodded his head in the affirmative.

“There are possibilities for basing the MDTF, but I also think we have to have a pretty robust diplomatic effort with other countries in the region to try to open up opportunities for basing and access [emphasis added, good luck with any widespread basing],” Wormuth said, adding that “it’s remarkable” how Japan’s “threat perception has changed in the last few years.”

Gallagher said it was time for a full court press.

“At least in Indo-PACOM, this has to be our top diplomatic priority,” he said. “What we should integrate is the State Department moving heaven and earth to negotiate basing agreements with key allies so that we can deploy teams of Marines or soldiers in order to deny PLA invasion of Taiwan.”

Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., followed up on Gallagher’s questions by pressing the two service leaders “from where” in the region the service planned to launch its forthcoming ship-targeting Mid-Range Capability, raising skepticism because the earlier exchange pointed to the fact “there was not any identified basing locations that we [the US military] have access” to [emphasis added], she said.

“I don’t think it would be wise for us to wait to develop the kinds of weapons systems we need for a future conflict until we had the diplomatic agreements signed,” Wormuth said.

Long-range fires are among the Army’s key modernization priorities [emphasis added]. The MDTF will be armed with two of the Army’s forthcoming missile capabilities, the Mid-Range Capability missile and Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon. The Mid-Range Capability, McConville told lawmakers today, can fly “about” 1,000 km, while the LRHW has a range of about 2,775 km [emphasis added].

The Army established the first MDTF back in 2017, based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The second MDTF is assigned to Europe, and the third MDTF, which will be officially established this year, will be based in Hawaii…

Meanwhile, the Marine Corps is also developing precision strike capabilities for its expeditionary advanced base operations concept [emphasis added, see this post: “How US Marines’ EABO Concept (deploying “Stand-in-Forces”) is Supposed to Work in Western Pacific, Part 2“]. That concept is a focus area for the Marines’ new 3rd Littoral Regiment, established to be highly mobile and low-signature, and equipped a ship-sinking missile battery. Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., asked the Army leaders if they were working with the Marines to develop some commonality and interoperability in the weapons systems.

Wormuth said that the Army is in “active discussions” with the Marines and sees the Multi-Domain Task Force and Marine Littoral Regiment as “complementary [emphasis added, really? two separate capabilities both needed?].” Both the LRHW and Mid-Range Capability are being developed in tandem with the Navy. First prototypes of both capabilities are set to be delivered in fiscal 2023.

And what targets are those “long-range” army missiles going to hit that could not be covered by missiles from USAF and US Navy aircraft (not to mention PGMs), and from navy ships and subs? Other related posts–those US services just can’t help competing with each other for missions and funding (as in fact is the case in a great many countries):

What’s the Poor US Army to do when the Main Adversary is the PRC?

Western Pacific, or, the US Services all Want to Try to Sink PLA Navy Ships–US Army Section

Western Pacific Maritime Cockpit: US Marines, US Army, US Air Force all Fighting–each other for Missions and Funds. Who’s “Stupid”?

Western Pacific, or, US Army vs US Marines for Missions, Part 2

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Russia vs Ukraine: ASEAN Not Following US Line Either

First a story at the Bangkok Post:

No mention of Russia in US-Asean statement

Washington satisfied that Asean leaders agreed on ‘respect for sovereignty’ even if Ukraine wasn’t mentioned [SURE]

Now three tweets on the Biden administration’s not-so-successful effort to get ASEAN members to act vs. Russia over its invasion of Ukraine:

UPDATE: The Diplomat puts things succinctly:

The American unipolar moment is definitely gone, however the war in Ukraine turns out. Related posts:

Russia vs Ukraine: India’s Strategic Autonomy (tous azimuts) in Action

Russia’s War on Ukraine, or, What Stinking “Free World”?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

The incredible Shrinking US Air Force, or, Waiting for NGAD

Further to this 2020 post,

US Air Force Trying to Shake, Rattle…(and note NORAD)

the USAF is in a touchy position, forced to make retirements from an increasingly aging fleet while awaiting in particular the new sixth-generation super-fighter (with its accompanying drones) and the new B-21 stealth bomber (which should be in service much sooner). All while facing seemingly ever-growing and more capable PRC forces. The frankness and depth of public discussion about US defence matters can only make a poor Canadian green (with spring!) envy.

1) First from an article at The Drive’s “War Zone”:

The Air Force Has Abandoned Its 386 Squadron Goal

The Air Force Secretary has poured cold water on the previous goal of a 386 squadron USAF and wants a posture based on the Chinese threat.

by Thomas Newdick, Tyler Rogoway May 4

The U.S. Air Force’s long-standing aspiration to increase the number of its squadrons to 386 by 2030 appears to have been dropped. The goal of an enlarged force, which was announced as long ago as 2018, is now deemed less important than fielding more capable platforms, with a particular eye on potential future conflicts with an increasingly advanced Chinese military. That, at least, is the view of the Air Force Secretary, the senior leader overseeing the Department of the Air Force, comprised of the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force.

The development was announced by Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, speaking on a Brookings Institution webcast, under the title The future of American air power, on May 2nd, 2022. Among the highlights of a wide-ranging discussion were Kendall’s comments on Air Force size and structure and how these should be balanced, in the future, against capability levels which, in turn, will need to be optimized to meet the potential threat from the Chinese military.

“I’m not focused on counting end-strength or squadrons or airplanes,” Kendall said, but rather “I’m focused on the capability to carry out the operations we might have to support [toward] … defeating aggression. If you can’t deter or defeat the initial act of aggression, then you’re in a situation like we’re seeing in Ukraine: a protracted conflict.”

…the kind of Air Force structure that Kendall is proposing would be tailored very much for the kind of threat posed by China, not Russia [emphasis added], and which would involve fighting “several thousand miles away” from many established bases against an opponent that combines high-end weapons with innovative ways of employing them [see post on “Distributed Operations” noted at bottom of this one]

To…dissuade — and potentially defeat — a fast-expanding and increasingly sophisticated Chinese military, the U.S. Air Force needs to focus less on its size and more on fielding more capable and modern assets.

“An awful lot of equipment that we have is old,” Kendall said, pointing out that the average age of one of the service’s aircraft is 30 years, and that this number is growing every year.

Playing a fundamental part in modernizing the Air Force will be the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, or NGAD, one of Kendall’s key priorities, or operational imperatives. He described NGAD as a family of systems [emphasis added] that will include not just a new manned platform, but also uncrewed combat aircraft, new weapons, connectivity architecture, and relationships to outside support.

…With NGAD, as well as the B-21 Raider stealth bomber and nuclear modernization efforts all ongoing, there are some seriously expensive programs that all require funds. Development of the B-21 alone accounts for $381 million in the latest Air Force budget request, plus another $1.7 billion to actually begin purchasing the aircraft…

The idea of rapidly fielding a new platform and then working to improve it incrementally once it enters the inventory is espoused by Kendall and it’s one that we’ve heard before. Broadly, it parallels the so-called ‘Digital Century Series’ approach that was the brainchild of Will Roper, the former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics…

The biggest concern that is likely to come from Kendall’s emerging strategy is near-term risk, by retiring far more operational aircraft than the already ‘too small for demand’ Air Force is buying, and especially the idea long-term that quality will far supersede quantity in the aerial battlefield of the future [emphasis added]. No matter how capable a fighter or bomber may be, it can only be in one place at one time, and that is usually on the ground, with a substantial part of that time being torn apart for maintenance. In an expeditionary fight, where the U.S. is fighting thousands of miles from home, or even from secured airfields, quantity becomes a real issue in order to sustain the fight over the long haul. China will be fighting on its own turf without these strangling issues and its force is growing in both quantity and quality…

2) And from Aviation Week and Space Technology on the fighter force:

New Leadership Reimagines U.S. Air Force Fighter Fleet Structure

Steve Trimble Brian Everstine April 29, 2022

A new, long-term vision for the U.S. Air Force fighter fleet has gradually come into focus, and, if Congress approves, the changes for the tactical aviation portfolio could be stark.

A sixth-generation fighter to be acquired in the next decade by the Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program will cost in the “hundreds of millions” each and enter service in the 2030s alongside a phalanx of uncrewed Collaborative Combat Aircraft with autonomous control systems, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told a House Armed Services Committee (HASC) panel on April 26.

Until then, the Air Force plans to nearly halve a Trump administration plan to buy at least 144 Boeing F-15EX fighters as a short-term replacement for more than 200 F-15C/Ds, cutting the procurement program off after ordering only 80 of the Eagle II fighters in fiscal 2024.

Although the Lockheed Martin F-35A is the only feasible alternative as an F-15C/D replacement in the near term, the Air Force instead aims to slash planned orders for the stealthy, single-engine fighter over the next two years by as many as 34 jets, then ramp up orders after F-15EX procurement is completed in fiscal 2024. The 33-year-old F-15E fleet, meanwhile, emerges from the fighter reshuffling unscathed.

Finally, the Air Force wants to offset cuts to other fighter fleets with major upgrades to the remaining aircraft.

Controversially, the Air Force plans to retire all Fairchild Republic A-10s over the next five years, along with the 33 Lockheed F-22s that are not equipped to fight in combat.

In exchange, the Air Force would like to invest money in major upgrades. More than 600 Lockheed F-16s would be upgraded to the Block 70/72 standard, including Northrop Grumman APG-83 active, electronically scanned array radars and the Northrop Grumman Next-Generation Electronic Warfare suite.

Meanwhile, the surviving fleet of nearly 150 F-22s also is in line for new equipment. Gen. Mark Kelly, the head of Air Combat Command, may have previewed some of the options in an April 27 tweet that celebrated the anniversary of the first F-22 public demonstration routine in 2007.

Kelly’s tweet included a concept image of an F-22 equipped with pods mounted on outboard wing pylons carrying apparent infrared search-and-track sensors, low-radar-cross-section fuel tanks and a next–generation air-to-air missile. The F-22 supposedly receives the first operational Lockheed AIM-260 Joint Advanced Tactical Missile this year, but Air Force officials said during the April 27 hearing that the long-range weapon remained in development.

All of this fleet reshuffling would result in a 16% reduction in fighter fleet capacity through fiscal 2027, cutting a 2,138-strong fleet now down to 1,792 jets over the next five years [emphasis added].

Air Force officials are seeking to finance new fighter capabilities such as NGAD and F-35 Block 4 by retiring aircraft in the short term. The strategy has usually been met with resistance by Congress…

Kendall has proposed reengining the F-35. The Pratt & Whitney F135 is meeting specifications, but Block 4 electronic upgrades risk overwhelming the power and thermal management system. Pratt designed the 43,000-lb.-thrust engine to provide bleed air from the compressor to cool the onboard electronics [see this story at Breaking Defense: “How to save $40B on the F-35 Program: Cost, risk, and alliances are key considerations for F-35 propulsion modernization”].

…In written testimony submitted to the HASC, a joint statement from Kendall and current Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., is explicit: “This [NGAD] family of systems will include a sixth-generation crewed platform as well as uncrewed combat aircraft and a cost-effective mix of sensors, weapons and communications systems.”

Kendall said he expects to be fielding the NGAD in the 2030s, but two lawmakers, Reps. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) and Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), said they understood the program is delayed [emphasis added]

The sixth-generation fighter at the heart of the NGAD program is already expected to become the most expensive tactical aircraft ever developed. The price of “hundreds of millions” each cited by Kendall aligns with a 2018 projection by the Congressional Budget Office, which estimated a unit cost of about $300 million each for a future penetrating counter-air platform.

With such a high price per copy, the Air Force is trying to shift to a different approach for its fighter fleet.

…Air Force planners are internally debating how future fighter squadrons will be composed with crewed and uncrewed elements [emphasis added]. The newly branded Collaborative Combat Aircraft—formerly described as “Loyal Wingman”—builds on autonomous technology developed as part of programs such as Skyborg and Boeing’s MQ-28 Ghost Bat platform in Australia. It is “quite a few ways out,” Brown says.

Kendall has said he expects these aircraft to cost about half the price of the crewed platform, or potentially $150 million or more. In the short term, that is why the service is focusing on its four-aircraft mix of F-15s, F-16s, F-35s and the NGAD.

Challenges, challenges, challenges. But the RCAF can only wonder at how seriously the American administration and Congress take them. But they are a great power and we most certainly are not. Whether Canada even remains a middle power is open to real question.

And, boy!, does the US have vibrant, intelligent and well-informed defence media. A Canadian sighs.

Related posts;

US Air Force Planning for “Distributed Operations” in Pacific

US Air Force Planning vs PLA in Indo-Pacific

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

US More Nuanced and Respectful in Its Indian Diplomacy

From an article at RealClear World, no mention of CAATSA (note tweets near end):

India and the U.S. Navigate Their Differences

By Jeff M. Smith
April 25, 2022

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in April hosted their Indian counterparts, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh. The ministers met for the fourth edition of the 2+2 defense and foreign policy dialogue that began during the Trump administration. 

The talks were preceded by a virtual meeting between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the two countries celebrated 75 years of diplomatic relations. The dialogue was largely successful, if not entirely groundbreaking. What was achieved may have been less important than what was avoided: a diplomatic rupture over the Russia-Ukraine crisis [emphasis added, see posts at the bottom of this one].

At the 2+2, both sides offered lofty rhetoric about the health and future of India-US ties. “There’s virtually no domain on which we are not cooperating with each other,” Jaishankar declared. Austin called the relationship the “cornerstone of security in the Indo-Pacific.” Singh signaled India’s happiness with the numerous “foundational” military agreements signed in recent years, insisting the two sides would “double up capabilities across conventional and emerging defense domains.” Readouts of the discussions noted the two militaries are operating “closely together across all domains” and would “jointly meet the challenges of this century.” 

Perhaps the most interesting takeaway from the meeting was a proposal to “explore possibilities of utilizing Indian shipyards for repair and maintenance of ships of the US Maritime Sealift Command to support mid-voyage repair of US Naval Ships.” Beyond that, the dialogue produced a handful of modest but positive developments. These included an agreement to cooperate on space situational awareness as well as the launching of a new Defense Artificial Intelligence Dialogue. They also involved commitments to joint service engagements to support high-end combined operations; to the co-production of air-launched unmanned aerial vehicles; and to expanded joint cyber training and exercises [emphasis added]

Arguably the most important outcome was the two sides’ ability to navigate differences over Russia and the Ukraine crisis. India and the U.S. have never seen eye-to-eye on Russia, but Putin’s invasion has brought their quiet disagreements to the forefront. 

Some U.S. commentators cried foul when India voted repeatedly to abstain from criticizing Russia at the United Nations for its conduct in Ukraine. They called into question India’s credentials as a democratic member of the Quad while it continued to import Russian oil and gas. 

The U.S. government, however, has adopted a more flexible approach. It recognizes that most of India’s legacy military hardware is of Russian origin. The Indian government believes it can ill afford to alienate its top defense supplier while its border dispute with China grows more violent and volatile. The U.S. government also recognizes that, in the subtle language of diplomacy, India’s position has shifted from stoic neutrality to criticism of Russia’s actions —- without naming Moscow explicitly [emphasis added]

In a break from its early statements on the crisis, the Indian government is now denouncing violations of international law, sovereignty, and territorial integrity in Ukraine. New Delhi has also condemned the horrific killing of civilians in Bucha and, unusually for India, called for an international inquiry into the atrocity. “All these statements, without naming [Russia], are clearly aimed at indicating unhappiness towards what Russia has done,” explained former Indian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Syed Akbaruddin. Modi has also spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy twice. Modi is rumored to have signaled India’s opposition to the war in direct conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Bucha killings in particular may have marked a turning point in Indian public opinion. With several Indian reporters in Ukraine broadcasting images of the horrors back home, the Indian press has engaged in unusually lively criticism of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Some have questioned Moscow’s ability to remain a reliable supplier, with Russia’s own military industrial base being drained by the Ukraine conflict. Others are increasingly unnerved by Russia’s deepening embrace of China and Moscow’s neutrality during recent flare-ups at the China-India border.

Arguably the only time Russia has notched a victory in Indian public opinion is when the U.S. government has been perceived as threatening or lecturing India over Ukraine [emphasis added]. A trip to New Delhi by Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh earlier this month ruffled feathers when he was quoted threatening “consequences” for any Indian attempts to evade U.S. sanctions while importing Russian energy.

This month, the White House sought to clear the air. When asked if, during a pre-meeting phone call, Biden had pressured Modi to reduce Russian oil imports, a White House spokeswoman noted Russian energy represents only 1%-2% of total Indian energy imports, adding: “They’re not violating any sanctions by importing oil. It’s a decision we made to stop importing oil. Different countries have their own calculation.”..

In the spectrum of U.S. interests at stake with India, the Indo-Pacific, the Quad, and the China challenge outrank the country’s legacy ties with Russia. There is little merit to creating a rift with New Delhi over a war India opposes and whose outcome it is unable to affect. Rather than sanctioning India for its legacy reliance on Russian military hardware, it is better for the U.S. to show that it is a more reliable and superior alternative as India continues the important but sluggardly process of weaning itself off Russian arms. The April 2+2 was a step forward in the right direction.  

Jeff M. Smith is a Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. The views expressed are the author’s own.

However quite a few Indian remain very suspicious indeed of the US, largely because of its closeness to Pakistan at various times in the past along with continuing memories of Western imperialism–tweets from retired Indian Army brigadier as one example:

Related posts:

Russia vs Ukraine: India’s Strategic Autonomy (tous azimuts) in Action

Russia’s War on Ukraine, or, What Stinking “Free World”?

Asia: Major Parts of the World Not Part of “International Community’s” Condemning Russia on Ukraine

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Russia’s War on Ukraine, or, What Stinking “Free World”?

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in New Delhi, April 2022 Reuters”.)

Alternate title:” Russia vs Ukraine: That Important in the “Asian Century”?’

Further to this March 6 post,

Asia: Major Parts of the World Not Part of “International Community’s” Condemning Russia on Ukraine

a former Indian national security adviser reminds the “West”, the US in particular, that much of what too many self-deluding people call the “international community” has a very different appreciation of events that are currently taking place towards the western part of Eurasia–at Foreign Affairs:

The Fantasy of the Free World

Are Democracies Really United Against Russia?

By Shivshankar Menon

April 4, 2022

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has provoked outrage and unleashed a barrage of economic sanctions from many Western governments. Some, such as Germany, have boosted their military spending after years of riding on American coattails. In these actions, certain analysts have found a silver lining to the devastation of the war in Ukraine. Writing in Foreign Affairs in March, Michael Beckley and Hal Brands argued that the international reaction to the invasion would reverberate well beyond the current crisis. The concerted response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions could “consolidate a global alliance that unites democracies against Russia and China and thereby secures the free world for a generation to come.” In this view, Russia’s war in Ukraine might be a pivotal episode in a global contest between autocracy and democracy. Chastened by Putin’s gross violation of norms, democracies will band together in a muscular reaffirmation of the liberal international order.

That is wishful thinking. The war is no doubt a seismic event that will have profound consequences for Russia, its immediate neighbors, and the rest of Europe. But it will neither reshape the global order nor presage an ideological showdown of democracies against China and Russia. After all, many of the world’s biggest democracies, including India, have so far not joined the U.S.-led economic campaign against Russia or even explicitly condemned the invasion. Far from consolidating “the free world,” the war has underscored its fundamental incoherence [emphasis added]. In any case, the future of global order will be decided not by wars in Europe but by the contest in Asia, on which events in Ukraine have limited bearing.

GRAND ILLUSIONS

Many countries have heaped opprobrium on Russia, but condemnation has not been universal. The varied responses to the war muddle any vision of U.S.-aligned democracies pitted against Russian-aligned autocracies. Several major democracies, notably India and South Africa, abstained from the UN General Assembly vote on March 2 that demanded that Russia withdraw from Ukraine. Big democracies in Latin America, including Brazil and Mexico, have refused to participate in sanctions [emphasis added, see post noted at the start of this one for the UNGA vote]. Close to half of all Asian and African countries abstained or voted against the resolution. And only three Asian countries—Japan, Singapore, and South Korea—have wholeheartedly joined U.S. and EU sanctions on Russia.

Countries in Asia were of course alarmed by the invasion. Stock markets throughout the region fell precipitously following the news of Putin’s gambit. But most commentary in Asian capitals has regarded the conflict as a war between Europeans over the European security order—not an epochal global conflagration [emphasis added]. Yes, the conflict has changed the European security calculus in fundamental ways. Western European countries have scrambled to strengthen their defenses, Germany has announced a process of rearmament, NATO is more unified than ever before, and the transatlantic alliance has been reinvigorated. The unprecedented stringency of the EU and U.S. economic sanctions on Russia is emblematic of this newfound Western unity.

But from an Asian perspective, the war in Ukraine doesn’t augur shifts to come so much as it underlines a shift that has already taken place. The fact that a war is being fought between Europeans on European soil is a reflection of how much global geopolitics has changed since the end of the Cold War [emphasis added]. Before then, when Europe was the central fault line in the superpower contest, no wars were fought in the region; borders stayed frozen, lest any change provoke conflict between two nuclear-armed superpowers. But after the Cold War, conflict in Europe—in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and today in Ukraine—became neither unthinkable nor fraught with the same risks of annihilation or escalation, despite some alarmist panic about these apocalyptic possibilities today. Europe is a sideshow to the main theater of geopolitical drama: Asia.

Today, the center of gravity of the world economy has moved from the Atlantic to east of the Urals. Geopolitical disputes and security dilemmas that could affect the global order are concentrated in maritime Asia [emphasis added]. And the world seeks a new equilibrium to account for China’s rise. The complex political dynamics in Asia don’t lend themselves easily to the kind of stark confrontation underway in Ukraine. Policymakers in Western countries shouldn’t think that their actions on the new frontlines in Europe will shape the contours of a wider struggle to come.

AN UNENVIABLE CHOICE

To be sure, the war in Ukraine will have significant second-order effects on countries in Asia—on their economic prospects when it comes to the supply of energy, precious and strategic metals, fertilizers, and grain. The slowdown in the global economy resulting from the spike in oil and gas prices will particularly affect countries in Asia which, by and large, account for almost 60 percent of crude oil imports in the global economy. The resulting rise in energy intensive fertilizer production costs will intensify the pain caused by the withdrawal from the market of Russian and Ukrainian wheat, which accounts for over 25 percent of wheat traded in the world [emphasis added].

China is probably the Asian economy with the greatest economic exposure to Russia, for food, energy, and other products and as a market for Chinese exports. It also counts Ukraine as its third-largest source of imported arms, after Russia and France. So far, China has chosen Russia over Ukraine in its public stances, but its relationship with Russia can in no way compare with or replace China’s economic dependence on the West. China will presumably want to avoid secondary sanctions and may therefore implement U.S. and EU sanctions on Russia where it cannot evade them.

The rest of Asia is considerably less exposed to trade with Russia, and there is little or no Russian investment in South, Southeast, and East Asia. Yes, these countries will experience some turbulence thanks to the war. All South Asian countries, for instance, are net oil importers and are vulnerable to price surges just when their economies are undergoing pandemic-induced inflation and shocks. Most South Asian countries have elections upcoming in the next two years, and their incumbent leaders are likely to make populist decisions in handling the volatility of commodity prices, choosing subsidies, price cuts, and elevated debt over steps that would be more economically sound over the long term.

But the war will not change the fundamental geopolitical dynamic in Asia, unless the United States becomes very distracted from its Indo-Pacific strategy. Many Asian countries, including U.S. allies, are economically bound to China yet rely on the United States for their security. India is one example. Its trade with China has set new records in the last two years despite frosty political relations and a military buildup and clashes along their shared border. At the same time, India’s security and intelligence ties with the United States have increased substantially. Russia, which accounted for 88 percent of Indian arms imports in 2002, saw its share decline to 35 percent by 2020, by when the United States and its allies accounted for 65 percent. India does retain large stocks of legacy Russian platforms, but the trend toward diversification in its arms imports is clear and steady.

This dynamic of multiple affiliations and partnerships is the norm in Asia, and it will complicate any Western framing of a larger confrontation with the autocracies of China and Russia [emphasis added]. India has received a good deal of criticism for its reluctance to speak out against the war in Ukraine. (It also abstained from the February UN Security Council vote condemning the invasion.) U.S. officials have also warned India not to agree to Russian proposals that might help the Kremlin evade the effects of sanctions.

For India, the war has posed a stark and unwelcome choice between the West and Russia, a choice that it has done everything possible to avoid making [emphasis added]. The United States is an essential and indispensable partner in India’s modernization, but Russia remains an important partner for geopolitical and military reasons. Whereas Russia is willing to codevelop and produce sensitive defense technologies such as the BrahMos missile and to share nuclear submarines with India, North America and Europe provide India with access to advanced technologies, markets, and financial and educational systems that Russia cannot match. The United States is an essential partner for India’s maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, including working together under the auspices of the so-called Quad, a partnership that also incorporates Australia and Japan. But India’s interests on the Eurasian continent require working with Russia and Iran now that the United States is no longer militarily present in Afghanistan [emphasis added, something one is sure the US did not figure into the consequences of its Afghan bug-out]. Indian diplomats have therefore chosen to stress the need to find a negotiated way out of war in Ukraine, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has encouraged Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to talk directly to each other to rapidly end the crisis.

India has subtly expressed its unhappiness with the invasion by reiterating its support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. If past experience is a guide, Indian officials will have made their displeasure clear to their Russian counterparts in private. Public opinion in India about the invasion remains divided, although many high-profile public figures have been stronger in their condemnation of the invasion than the government has been . But expecting New Delhi to take a more strident official position against Moscow is unrealistic, and Western criticism and pressure will probably rankle a postcolonial society like India’s [emphasis added–see two tweets at the end of this post by a retired Indian Army brigadier].

As shocked as Western policymakers profess to be by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they might remember that such behavior is neither unprecedented nor representative of a real change in the norms of state behavior in Europe and the world. For one, such a violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity is something that Asia has seen and experienced in the past at the hands of major powers. The long list of outside interventions and invasions (including the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the Vietnam War), of ongoing proxy wars and “frozen” conflicts in which casualties mount daily, is proof that major powers are content to pay lip service to norms about sovereignty and territorial conflict even as those norms are repeatedly breached [emphasis added]. Besides, it is hard to think of any powerful state that has not been associated with such acts of commission or omission in living memory. That does not justify Russian actions in Ukraine. But it does suggest that analysts and policymakers should use greater delicacy in how they frame the contest and in the demands they make on Asian and African states.

A LINE IN THE SAND?

No matter how long the war in Ukraine lasts, how the West isolates Russia, and how the war’s secondary market effects hit Asian economies, the balance of power in Asia is unlikely to be significantly affected. To be sure, the total collapse of the Russian state would have serious ramifications, but that outcome seems unlikely for now. In Asia, the war will not close the gap in military strength between, on the one hand, the United States and China and, on the other, the large number of middle and subregional powers in Asia. The latter will still have to negotiate between the sole superpower and China. Nor does it seem likely that a newly consolidated Western alliance, however invigorated, will find the energy to take an active or meaningful role in security dilemmas in Asia so long as it is preoccupied with containing Russia in Europe.

Instead of consolidation, the war in Ukraine seems likely to lead to greater fragmentation of the global order. It has reinforced the urge to build strategic autonomy in Europe as European countries begin to take a greater share in their own defense rather than rely to such an extent on the United States. It has also reinforced Asia’s sense of its own difference—its focus on stability, trade, and the bottom line that has served Asian countries so well in the last 40 years. The war will likely challenge economies that are already reeling from the pandemic and the retreat from globalization over the last decade. The combined economic and political effects of the war are likely to persuade Asian countries to embrace greater self-reliance, a trend already engendered by the pandemic.

But Russia’s invasion does not draw a line in the sand between the allies of the free world and its foes. A global Manichaean struggle is not in the offing [emphasis added]. Those observers hoping for a conflict of that scope to arise from the rubble of Mariupol and Kharkiv will be disappointed.

SHIVSHANKAR MENON is a former diplomat who served as National Security Adviser to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from 2010 to 2014. He is currently Visiting Professor of International Relations at Ashoka University.

More By Shivshankar Menon

The article by Mr Menon should be required reading in the foreign ministries and chanceries of the West. A very relevant recent post:

Russia vs Ukraine: India’s Strategic Autonomy (tous azimuts) in Action

And one from March 2014 just after Russia’s annexation of the Crimea:

How’s That “International Community” Cant Working Out, Obama, Harper et al.? Part 2

Now those tweets:

1)

2)

Plus a tweet by a retired Indian Navy commodore:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

How US Marines’ EABO Concept (deploying “Stand-in-Forces”) is Supposed to Work in Western Pacific, Part 2

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Procurement initiatives, such as the MQ-9A Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle, are essential to maximizing stand-in forces’ potential. Credit: U.S. Air National Guard (Jon Alderman)”–the USMC now has two of the drones.)

Further to this post, now excepts from this article from the USMC’s assistant commandant at the April issue of Proceedings, the magazine of the US Naval Institute:

Stand-in Forces: Adapt or Perish

Small, mobile, and lethal, Marine Corps stand-in forces will be ready to deploy on short notice to disrupt an adversary’s plans at every point.

By General Eric Smith, U.S. Marine Corps

Recently, the Marine Corps published A Concept for Stand-in Forces, which lays out a new vision for the employment of Marines in support of naval campaigns and joint operations.1 Like all new concepts, it has caused much discussion and some amount of concern…

U.S. strategy with respect to China is to use every instrument of national power across domains to achieve “integrated deterrence.”4 While the Marine Corps must retain its ability to strike and destroy adversaries in its assigned sector, we must also be capable of deterring the pacing threat. Our answer to these tasks is stand-in forces.

Stand-in Forces

Stand-in forces are units that are task-organized, trained, and equipped to disrupt an adversary’s plans at every point on the competition continuum. They are strategically placed where they can collect targeting data, strike to close choke points, or herd adversaries into areas where U.S. naval and joint forces can bring more weapons to bear. These light, highly mobile forces have capabilities that will force an adversary to deal with a unit that previously would have been too small to care about [emphasis added]. They can persist independently for days if needed and can reposition with organic mobility assets to avoid being targeted. Their physical and electromagnetic signatures are so low they are not easily detected, and if detected, they possess the lethality to fight. 

Finally, stand-in forces are designed to place as little sustainment burden as possible on a logistics system already in need of improvement. They require less support than previous formations because they can produce some of their own water and power; use existing food and fuel sources; and be resupplied by air, surface, and subsurface means. These capabilities enable stand-in forces to provide both the credible deterrent and the credible combat power that will best support combatant commander requirements and reassure U.S. allies and partners…

Dispelling the Myths

Stand-in forces are not just roving bands of vulnerable Marines, placed on small islands and left to their own devices in the hope that an enemy ship might one day blunder within range. Yes, there are areas in this concept that need improvement, but these difficulties are solvable [emphasis added].

New procurement initiatives, such as the light amphibious warship, MQ-9A Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle, and Navy Marine Corps Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS), which fires the Naval Strike Missile, are essential to maximizing stand-in forces’ potential. We must make significant improvements to our communications networks to support the speed and security levels that can bring the best weapon to bear on a fleeting target or reveal an adversary’s nefarious actions to the world. These data transport layers are complex and must be resilient. We also have more work to do within our logistics enterprise and must make our stand-in forces lighter and more energy independent. None of this is easy or inexpensive, which is why we must move boldly, swiftly, and now. U.S. adversaries also are moving, and every day of delay is a gift to them.

To dispel another myth, not every operational unit in the Marine Corps is a stand-in force, nor is the Marine Corps a stand-in force. We are a Marine Corps that can conduct stand-in force operations. The three Marine regiments in the Pacific are transforming into Marine littoral regiments (MLRs), which are units trained and equipped to be stand-in forces [emphasis added–see this story: “Marines Stand Up First Marine Littoral Regiment“, these regiments to be some 2000 troops with the stand-in units themselves around 75 Marines]. The rest of our regiments will remain in their current organizations until and unless we determine that they too should be transformed.

…The key is that MLRs will exist in a task-organized state at all times, ready to deploy on short notice to designated locations from which they can place the adversary in a position of disadvantage and prevent its plans from succeeding…

See also a), b) and C) at the latter part of this post for more on “Stand-in-Forces”:

Western Pacific, or, US Army vs US Marines for Missions, Part 2

I still have my doubts as expressed in the Part 1 post linked to at the start of this one, and at the one immediately above.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds