Should West be worried by Russia naval moves?
November 18th, 2014
05:56 PM ET

Should West be worried by Russia naval moves?

By James Kraska, Special to CNN

Editor's note: James Kraska is professor in the Stockton Center for the Study of International Law, U.S. Naval War College. The views expressed are his own.

Just as Russian ground forces have moved into Ukraine, in recent weeks Russian air and naval forces have conducted a handful of high-visibility deployments throughout the oceans and airspace of the global commons. Should the West be worried?

Generally, these operations comply with the international “rules of the road” at sea and in the air, and are in compliance with international law. All nations are entitled to freedom of navigation and overflight in the global commons. Thus, the deployments should be seen as great power theater, rather than as a violation of international law. Yet they also dispel any doubt that we now live in a tri-polar world, with a revanchist Russia and China bent on upending the U.S.-led global order in Europe and Asia, respectively.

Russia, for its part, is using its naval power to underscore the nation’s relevance and global reach. Indeed, this month Russia pledged to expand its forays into the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The announcement follows an incident in June, when two Russian strategic bombers, bristling with intelligence-gathering electronics, came within 50 miles of the coast of California. FULL POST

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Topics: Military • Russia
Why Saudi Arabia  needs a new defense doctrine
June 23rd, 2014
02:08 PM ET

Why Saudi Arabia needs a new defense doctrine

By Nawaf Obaid, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Nawaf Obaid is a fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, a senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, and author of A Saudi Arabian Defense Doctrine. The views expressed are his own.

It’s hard to overstate the implications of the unfolding violence in Iraq for the prospects of stability in the Arab world. As tribal and Baathist opponents of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s regime have joined with the jihadis of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to seize major Sunni urban centers such as Mosul, the Iraqi army has simply melted away, consistently failing to offer even nominal resistance.

The problem for Iraq’s neighbors is that the current turmoil looks set to evolve into something even more destabilizing – a sectarian conflict and perhaps civil war that pits Sunnis against Shias. Indeed, the possibility of this only increased with al-Maliki’s apparent willingness to once again turn to Iran for support. But in his efforts to bolster his own Shia-led government, al-Maliki has stoked broader tensions in the Muslim world between the overwhelming majority Sunnis and minority Shias.

And Saudi Arabia is unlikely to sit idly by as all this unfolds.


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Topics: Iraq • Middle East • Military • Saudi Arabia
Would U.S. air power work in Iraq?
June 17th, 2014
06:04 PM ET

Would U.S. air power work in Iraq?

With the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) making significant gains over the past week, including advancing closer to Baghdad, U.S. President Barack Obama is reportedly considering whether to deploy U.S. air power to assist Iraq's armed forces. But what would such an intervention mean in practical terms? And how effective an option would it be? GPS speaks with Karl P. Mueller, associate director of the Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources program at RAND Arroyo Center and a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. The views expressed are his own.

Could U.S. air power be used to intervene in Iraq at low risk to U.S. aircraft and personnel?

Yes. Numerous U.S. aircraft are already located in the region, particularly in Qatar and on the aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush, which moved into the Persian Gulf over the weekend. Additional aircraft could be deployed quickly, and there are many nearby land bases from which U.S. or partner aircraft could operate if permission were granted by the host nations.

The 2011 air campaign over Libya faced little in the way of air defenses, suffering only one aircraft lost (to a mechanical failure) and no casualties among the intervening forces. Air defense threats from ISIS would likely be even weaker. However, it would be naïve to intervene with the expectation that there would be no losses of aircraft or personnel at all, and were any aircrew to fall into the hands of the insurgents, the results could be expected to be grisly.

The financial implications of an aerial intervention would be modest because most of the forces needed are already assigned to the theater. The Libya operation cost the United States and its allies less than $3 billion over eight months, an amount that pales in comparison with the bills for the current ground war in Afghanistan.

So, would it look like the Libyan intervention? FULL POST

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Topics: Iraq • Military
How U.S. can reinvigorate India defense ties
June 5th, 2014
02:55 PM ET

How U.S. can reinvigorate India defense ties

By Vikram J. Singh and Joshua T. White, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Vikram J. Singh is vice president for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress. Joshua T. White is Deputy Director for South Asia at the Stimson Center. The views expressed are their own.

Narendra Modi’s landslide victory in last month’s Indian general election has raised hopes that the country will break through the policy stagnation of the last decade and advance reforms that can jump-start India’s economy and bolster its standing on the world stage.

Modi’s declared priorities focus heavily on the economy, and the U.S. government should make economic statecraft a central pillar of engagement with India. But Washington should not lose sight of the most successful area of U.S.-India cooperation to date: the thriving defense relationship. Actions taken in New Delhi and Washington now will determine if the two nations can break through a successful but largely transactional relationship toward strategic partnership that delivers for both nations on shared security interests.

On the U.S. side, four priority areas matter most to reinvigorate U.S.-India defense ties:

First, the Obama administration should continue to put forward innovative defense trade proposals, regardless of how responsive Modi’s government appears to be in the near-term. Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore last month, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that he would take “an active and very personal role” in what has come to be known as the U.S.-India Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), and designated the Department’s Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Frank Kendall, as the initiative’s American lead.


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Topics: India • Military • United States
May 20th, 2014
11:51 AM ET

Clarke: Probably 40 nations now have drones

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with Richard Clarke, former U.S. National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counterterrorism, about the future of drone use. Watch the video for the full interview.

You talk about the fact that this technology is going to be more widely available, and so we'd better be careful. We’ve heard this for a while. How close are we to China, in significant ways, using drones?

China is using drones today, they're just not killing people with then. They have a drone that looks remarkably like the Predator…There are probably 40 nations now that have drones. Three that I know of have used them in lethal operations.

So these are armed drones now?

Well, so there are three countries that have used armed drones – Russia, the United States and Israel. There are 40 something countries that have drones that could easily put weapons on them. And now there are companies and local governments, and in the United States it has become a real issue, because there are thousands of people who have bought drones and want to use them for real estate purposes and advertising purposes.

And the government rules say you can't fly above 400 feet. And yet they are. And one almost ran into an airline in Florida. So we're going to see drones more and more a part of our everyday life as we go forward.

So we need, clearly, rules about surveillance drones. But at an international level, do you think we could come up with some kind of international treaty that sets out exactly what the rights and responsibilities are? Otherwise, as you point out, we’ve killed 2,500 people in five countries without any kind of Congressional declaration of war, without even the invocation of some kind of presidential war powers. FULL POST

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Topics: China • GPS Show • Military
April 16th, 2014
11:45 AM ET

Move from Kyrgyzstan to put (a little) space between U.S., Russian militaries

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Believe it or not, there is one country on earth that is home to both U.S. and Russian soldiers, the opposing nations stationed a mere 20 miles from each other. It's a landlocked, mountainous country, and its parliament has been known to sacrifice sheep.

We’re talking about Kyrgyzstan, where the Transit Center at Manas has been a main staging ground for American troops and supplies to move into Afghanistan since 2001. It's less than an hour's drive from Russia's Kant airbase – so close they could practically borrow cups of sugar. But you can see from the pictures in the video that this military neighborhood will soon come to an end.

The Kyrgyz parliament voted not to extend the American lease, and the U.S. has been given its eviction notice. It must vacate by July. U.S. forces are getting ready to go, packing up boxes and breaking down large tents.

Will this put some much needed space between the United States and Russian militaries? Actually, not so much. The U.S. will now use its newly outfitted Transit Center in Romania – 250 miles from Sevastopol, where there is, of course, a Russian base on the Crimean peninsula.

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Topics: Last Look • Military • Russia • United States
Time to write the rules for cyber and drone challenges
February 3rd, 2014
11:40 AM ET

Time to write the rules for cyber and drone challenges

By Des Browne and Michael Shank, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Des Browne is the former U.K. Secretary of State for Defense. Michael Shank is the associate director for legislative affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. The views expressed are their own.

Iran has begun implementing the Joint Plan of Action over its nuclear program. The United States and Russia are cooperating in the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. And the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded late last year to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for its “extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.” The past few months have clearly underscored what can be achieved when the international community works together on weapons of mass destruction.

But while the response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons and Iran is laudable and should now be leveraged to strengthen international law, treaties and monitoring mechanisms more broadly, the reality is that newer challenges are evolving even as the international community works to get a handle on longstanding threats. And although these threats come in a variety of forms, there are two in particular that will require the same kind of concerted effort.

The magnitude of the threat posed by the weapons of choice from the 20th century and 21st century are striking. Whether it is an armed, unmanned drone that could even carry tactical nuclear arms or be turned into a dirty bomb, or offensive cyber capabilities, consider how increasingly easy these potential weapons are to utilize, how a growing number of countries want their own capabilities in these fields, and how difficult they can be to monitor and regulate.


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Topics: Cyber • Military • Nuclear
How U.S. should respond to China's growing assertiveness
January 29th, 2014
10:53 AM ET

How U.S. should respond to China's growing assertiveness

By Robert Spalding and Adam Lowther, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Robert Spalding is a Military Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Adam Lowther is a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Center for the National Interest. The views expressed are their own.

Earlier this month, largely unnoticed by the international media, China took a significant step toward rendering defense systems across the globe obsolete.  On January 9, China conducted a test of its first hypersonic glide vehicle, believed to be capable of traveling at 10 times the speed of sound.

The test comes at a time of growing regional concern over Beijing’s increasingly assertive territorial claims, including the announcement in November of unilaterally declared Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea.

For those China analysts that see a more ominous future ahead, such actions are not unrelated, but instead part of a concerted effort on the part of China to return the Middle Kingdom to its former glory and displace the United States from the region. And, based on public statements and writings from a variety of Chinese government sources, China seems to believe it is reaching conventional parity with other Asian states in the region.


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Topics: China • Military
January 18th, 2014
04:44 PM ET

Robert Gates on the biggest threat to U.S. national security

Fareed speaks with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates about Iran, China and what his advice would be to future presidents. Watch the full interview this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

What do you think is the lesson…presidents sometimes write a letter to their successors. If you were to set out a couple of things to worry about or to be focused on, for not just the current secretary of defense but going forward, what are the things that worry you about in the way that Eisenhower wrote about the military-industrial complex? What is it that worries you about America's defense posture and foreign policy?

Well, first of all, I would say that the one piece of advice that I would give, either to a new secretary of defense or to a president is that absent an immediate threat to the United States, the use of military force should be a last resort, not a first option.  We need to be much more careful.

I wrote in my first book that the dirty little secret in Washington was that the biggest doves wore uniforms.  And it's because they have seen the face of war, and they have been thrown into conflicts only to have political support evaporate behind them. And so being very cautious about the use of force, I think is incredibly important.

Right now, the biggest threat to our national security as far as I'm concerned is the paralysis in Washington and the uncertainty with respect to defense programs, uncertainty about what kinds of military capabilities we're going to need in the future...


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Topics: GPS Show • Military
Why China’s Gulf piracy fight matters
January 7th, 2014
08:36 AM ET

Why China’s Gulf piracy fight matters

By Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. Strange, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Andrew S. Erickson is an associate professor in the Strategic Research Department at the U.S. Naval War College. Austin M. Strange is a research associate at the China Maritime Studies Institute. The views expressed are the authors’ alone.

December 26, Chairman Mao’s birthday, is always a significant date for China. But last month’s 120th anniversary came at a time when his legacy is increasingly subject to vigorous debate among the Chinese public, media, academia and even officialdom. And it also established a new landmark in contemporary Chinese history, an unprecedented milestone in Chinese foreign policy that Mao would surely be proud of: the 5th year anniversary of China’s naval anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

To honor the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)’s contributions to maritime security off Somalia, the China Maritime Museum, located in Shanghai, opened a special exhibit that runs into March, and which features photos and actual mission mementos. Chinese media outlets continue to roll out a flurry of articles commemorating the occasion. But what is the actual significance of Chinese anti-piracy activities? And what has China accomplished there over the past five years?

First and foremost, China’s naval foray into the Gulf of Aden, beginning in 2008, is a resounding response from Beijing to threats against its overseas interests. Chinese people and economic assets continue to disperse throughout the world at record pace nearly four decades after Deng Xiaoping’s opening up reforms. As a result, nontraditional security breaches outside of China, such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks (and, in this case, maritime piracy) pose growing threats to Chinese national interests.


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Topics: China • Military
Asia territorial tensions set to get worse before they get better
November 28th, 2013
07:18 PM ET

Asia territorial tensions set to get worse before they get better

By Jeffrey W. Hornung, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Jeffrey W. Hornung is an associate professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, and an adjunct fellow with the Office of the Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. The views expressed in this article are his alone.

China’s more assertive posture in regional territorial disputes took a new turn at the weekend with its decision to implement an Air Defense Identification Zone. At a time when tensions in the region are already high due to a lingering territorial dispute between China and Japan, China’s action has escalated tensions in the East China Sea. Now, with Beijing apparently demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of diplomacy with its neighbors, the region is forced to confront provocative and potentially destabilizing behavior.

On November 23, China’s defense ministry unilaterally announced the establishment of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. According to the new rules for conduct in this ADIZ, any aircraft flying into China’s ADIZ is required to submit flight plans to Chinese authorities, maintain two-way radio communication, and keep radar transponders turned on. Should a plane refuse to follow these instructions, China’s military will “adopt defensive measures.”

ADIZs are, by themselves, not controversial, acting as early-warning perimeters for self-defense. But while there are no international rules concerning their size or establishment, China’s action is provocative for two reasons. First, it may be attempting to set new rules for aircraft flying above waters considered a state’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Second, it chose to establish an ADIZ that overlaps considerably with those of both Japan and Taiwan as well as a sliver of South Korea’s. Provocatively, included in China’s ADIZ are territorial disputes it maintains with Japan over the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu in Chinese) and with South Korea over Ieodo (Suyan Rock in Chinese).


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Topics: Asia • China • Japan • Military • United States
Time for U.S. to end drone secrecy
October 22nd, 2013
01:47 PM ET

Time for U.S. to end drone secrecy

By Mustafa Qadri, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Mustafa Qadri is Amnesty International’s Pakistan researcher. The views expressed are his own.

It was a sunny October afternoon last year when Mamana Bibi was blown to pieces before her grandchildren’s very eyes. The family matriarch, Mamana Bibi was picking vegetables in the family fields in northwestern Pakistan when a remotely piloted aircraft – or “drone” – used by the United States fired a missile directly toward her, killing Mamana instantly. A second volley of missiles was fired a few minutes later, injuring some of the children who ventured out to where their grandmother had been struck.

Almost a year to the day, the Bibi family’s lives have been torn apart. In a number of in-depth interviews over the last eight months, the family recounted to me how they sold ancestral lands to pay for their injured relatives’ steep medical bills. Mamana’s grief-stricken elderly husband, a respected retired local headmaster, rarely leaves the house. Their grandchildren, including 8-year-old Nabeela, now live in constant fear of the drones, which seem ever present in the skies.


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Topics: Military • Pakistan
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