Millennial Intelligencer

Vietnam: China Landed Plane On Disputed Island In South China Sea

Vietnam has accused China of violating its sovereignty by landing a plane on an airstrip on an artificial island in a contested part of the South China Sea. Le Hai Binh, foreign ministry spokesperson, said on Saturday the airfield had been “built illegally” on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly archipelago, in territory that was “part… Read More

Millennial Intel: LGBT Asylum Seekers From War-Torn Countries Sometimes Face Brutal Conditions

Whilst the plight of asylum seekers has been well documented in recent months, specific demographics within the overwhelming numbers of people escaping Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria face specific advantages and disadvantages from the general population of people fleeing violence and repression.

One such group is the LGBT community, who are primarily seeking refuge in Europe and North America.

A 2012 report by ORAM (the Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration), says that protection for LGBT individuals seeking asylum is particularly poor in so called “transit” countries.

This protection appears to be greatly needed however.

“Despite many advances, the widespread violence and discrimination against LGBTI refugees often means that these individuals face severe obstacles to protection and long-term safety in countries of first asylum,” The report reads. “These individuals commonly undergo regular and often violent harassment from the local communities and refugee populations”.

The Washington Post recently reported on just such an instance that took place in Dresden, Germany.

When a young Syrian man revealed to another the meaning of his rainbow flag, he was subject to verbal and physical abuse from fellow asylum seekers. In an even more severe case, a transgender woman and her friends were raped and tortured by Jordanian police.

In response to the particularly vulnerable condition of LGBT asylum seekers, and calls from the UN, the Canadian government announced that it will consider gay men a priority for resettlement, due to the high likelihood of their safety being compromised by ISIS, the Assad regime, and fellow refugees.

This may result in single heterosexual men being much lower priority than other asylum seekers, as suggested by Amnesty International.

A similar move was made in the United States, when the State Department expanded its protections for LGBT couples by allowing already qualified refugees to bring their same sex partner, even if they are not legally married.

Despite these and other moves by governments and NGOs, the sheer volume of asylum seekers from the ongoing violence in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria all but guarantee that minority groups, including the LGBT community, will continue to bear a particularly heavy burden.

Cover Photo Credit: vl04 /Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Could The Suwalki Gap Be A Future Flashpoint Between Russia And NATO?

An approximately 60 mile stretch of land separates the Russian district of Kaliningrad, from the country of Belarus. It just so happens that this stretch of land is the border between Poland and Lithuania, and one of the most militarized regions in Europe.

As a result, this area has been called by some within the defense community “the New Fulda Gap“, referring to the presumed flashpoint of conflict between NATO and the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War.

Kaliningrad is a small Russian enclave separated from the rest of the country, and nestled between the Baltic Sea, Poland, and Lithuania. It was awarded to Russia in the Potsdam Accords of 1945, and functions as the home base for the Baltic Fleet. As the Kremlin continues takes an adversarial view of NATO, a heavily armed garrison in the district would seem a rational act. This is precisely what they’ve done by positioning several brigades as well as a Motor Rifle Regiment in the territory.

This in itself is not an overtly aggressive move. The Russian Government has just as much a right to defend its territory as any other.

However, the Lithuanian Minister of National Defense Juozas Olekas, said that the types of units being moved to Kaliningrad in large numbers are a threat to the Baltic States.

The Minister reports that “there are 30,000-35,000 troops, two mechanized brigades, armored vehicles in the hundreds rather than the dozens… Moreover, Kaliningrad hosts huge air defense forces. The older complexes get replaced by new and modern ones. Their range is rather extensive, over 400 kilometres.”

Olekas also claims that there is intelligence to suggest the deployment of SS-26 “Stone” ballistic missiles in Kaliningrad which are potentially capable of striking targets at 400 km, with a target accuracy of 5-7m.

An evolution of the infamous “Scud”, this system would be capable of destroying Command and Control Systems, landed aircraft, artillery, and civilian infrastructure. The Baltic States are understandably worried that their key advantages of superior organization and airpower could be knocked out.

Olekas is not the only one worried about Russian capabilities in the Baltic.

Lt. General Ben Hodges, who commands US Army Forces in Europe, recently said that the potential for conflict in the gap as something that keeps him up at night.

According to Hodges, the growing frequency of unannounced Russian military exercises in both Belarus and Kaliningrad can be viewed as a potential scenario to snatch the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, before their allies can muster a coherent response.

Lt. General John Nicholson, Commander of Allied Land Command concurs with Hodges’ fears but cites recent exercises, attended by Russian observers, as demonstrating NATO’s ability to “mobilize brigades and divisions within days”, further underlining the primary mission of the Alliance, deterrence.

Hodges went on to tell NBC News that there is no immediate reason for the Russians to seize the Baltic States, but notes that he was also taken aback by recent Russian adventures in Ukraine and Syria.

Retired General Bob Scales also has some fears related to NATO’s ability to respond to a crisis in the Baltic States. In a recent interview with Ryan Evans of War on the RocksScales said that he has fears that Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty (the provision which calls for mutual defense of members under attack) has a credibility problem.

The claim is that NATO members, in particular Germany, Britain, France, and the United States, would not come to the aid of an alliance member further East, and recent Pew polling among people in NATO countries lends some credence to this fear.

Scales went further to note that NATO has eroded its ability to project on land over the last fifteen years, and while “this is not the Cold War”, and “the Russian military is not what it used to be”, he is adamant that the mission of deterrence is not being adequately filled, and that Anti Ship Missiles in Kaliningrad being able to block off the entire Baltic sea from NATO’s superior naval forces negate that advantage.

Scales did not request a hike in defense spending from the United States, suggesting that a “modest repositioning of existing American forces” would be sufficient.

Such an adventure into the Baltics is likely not going to occur in the near future. RISE NEWS has previously reported on the problems the Russian military has had in recent years with its ability to project. However some unknown rift in the future could ignite this flashpoint.

The immediate objective and cause would not be known to us, but the Grand Strategy objective would be, according to Western understandings of Russian Grand Strategy and history, would be to secure space between Russia and the presumably hostile NATO forces.

This is due to Russia’s industrial and agricultural core being concentrated in the European section of the country.

This seeking of space is a result of several invasions of Russia by aggressive actors to both the East and West, including but not limited to: Germany, Sweden, France, Britain, and the Mongols over the course of history.

Space is therefore a geopolitical imperative when Russia feels threatened. As is the case with Russia’s current adventure in Ukraine, so too could be the case at the Suwalki Gap.

This line of thinking is why NATO expansion is a contentious issue. On the one hand, NATO expansion causes the Kremlin to fear NATO forces crashing through their borders, and annihilating the state.

On the other hand, Article V protection deincentivizes Russian adventures in neighboring states, due to the collective protection offered by the Alliance.

The validity of Russian fears of NATO, much like the validity of the fear of Russians seizing the Baltic States, is irrelevant. What is important is that these fears exist, and are real to those who have them and shape policy.

Working through these issues should then be the key objective of European policy, preferably without “little green men” in Estonia Latvia and Lithuania.
Cover Photo Credit: U.S. Army Europe Images/Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Millennial Intelligencer: Meet JEF, The UK’s Latest Measure to Shape International Security

On Nov 30th, British Defense Minister Michael Fallon committed the UK to a leading role in the freshly designed Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF).

This force, composed of: the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, and Norway, will be a 10,000 strong unit designed to cooperate with NATO, EU, and UN operations.

JEF will be able to respond to a variety of missions including deterrence, interstate conflict, and humanitarian crises.

There has also been some speculation of Sweden participating in JEF, as the Swedish government continues its increasingly robust affiliation with the Atlantic Security system.

When looking at the list of countries taking part in this UK lead endeavor, one notices two things:

  1. All of the current contributors are NATO members, and potential contributor Sweden is greatly affiliated with NATO.
  2. This is a UK lead venture. While France and Britain have a similar integrated reaction force, the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF), the most prominent member of NATO, the US is missing from these recent arrangements.

The establishment of these reaction forces, in addition to the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), potentially indicate a shift in European defense responsibilities in response to increased Russian adventurism, and the American “Pivot to Asia”.

Thus, Britain attempting to shift the weight onto its own shoulders is in keeping with historical precedents from 1950-1955.

In Anthony Eden’s account of the period in “Full Circle”, American Secretary of State John Foster Dulles threatened an “agonizing reappraisal” of American security policy should West Germany not be integrated into the European security infrastructure.

This was followed by the personal commitment of Prime Minister Eden to finding a diplomatic solution, and the commitment of four British divisions under international direction.

The addition of the West Germans into the Atlantic Alliance, due to the hard work by Her Majesty’s Government, convinced the Eisenhower administration that Europe was worth investing resources to balance against the Soviets.

Likewise, in the establishment of these various European reaction forces, Britain is taking the lead in directing European Security policy.

Cover Photo Credit: Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Millennial Intelligencer: Russia’s “Leaked” Doomsday Torpedo Might Be A Total Regime PR Move

Russian state TV has “accidentally” leaked several images of a potential nuclear torpedo, complete with large easy to see images and text.

Other than the cartoonish size of the schematics, one should also be highly skeptical of the accidental nature of this leak due to other recent attempts to frighten Western media by the regime.

This includes claims by Mr. Putin that Russia will develop qualitative means to defeat the NATO Missile Defense System, despite the system already being easily defeated by the sheer quantity of Russian delivery systems and easily developed countermeasures.

Of more immediate interest is the weapon system itself. Nuclear Torpedoes are not new, as both the United States and the Soviet Union developed torpedoes capable of carrying a 3-11 kiloton weapon at a range of a couple dozen miles or so.

Russian State TV

Leaked images of potential nuclear torpedo. Russian State TV

However, the “Status-6” will be much more powerful than that. With a range of 10,000 Kms (6,200 miles), about the distance from London to Lima, the autonomous unit can deliver its cargo of uranium-238 and cobalt-59 most anywhere, according to state media outlet Russia Gazette.

The system is compared to the Deadhand system in mission, meaning that the intention is likely deterrence and not first strike, if it is even developed. However, the curious claim is made that a number of Cobalt Bomb, meant to maximize radiation output, would be able to exterminate all life on Earth. Russia Gazette estimates that 510 tons of cobalt would be necessary. To date, no “salted” weapons of any kind have been tested, but a cobalt based weapon would be particularly nasty, due to the half-life of Co-60 being 5.26 years.

The information on the specifics of cobalt weapons, and further information on nuclear weapons, was provided by Carey Sublette and can be further accessed at their site, Nuclear Weapons FAQ.

Like this piece? Rise News just launched a few weeks ago and is only getting started. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with global news. Have a news tip? (No matter how big or small!) Send it to us- 

Cover Photo Credit: Pavel Kazachkov/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Millennial Intelligencer: Why Syria Won’t Be Putin’s Vietnam

It is clear that the Russian military is willing to engage in a more aggressive way in Syria- a region that has long been considered important for the former superpower.

The Russians have fielded about 30 fixed wing aircraft, primarily SU-25 Frogfoots, and SU-24 Fencers, as well as 20 Mi-24s. This is further complimented by cruise missile strikes, and a detachment of Marines to defend Russian facilities. In short, that’s a lot of fire power that the Russians seem more than willing to commit to a protracted conflict in the Middle East.

The Russian Army, like it’s forbearer the Red Army, is often both grossly overestimated and underestimated. One either conceives dastardly “little green men”, or a lumbering brute itching to lob it’s surplus T-62s at Estonia. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Taking into account the likelihood of Russians being killed in Syria, be it an Mi-24 knocked out by MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense System), or the recent tragic deaths of three Russians in an artillery attack, some have suggested that the Kremlin has fumbled into a scenario akin to the American experience in the Vietnam War.

While it is not out of the realm of possibility that Moscow may be forced to further invest into Syria to prop up the floundering Assad Regime in response to the continued civil war and threat from ISIS, Moscow must also be aware of its own very real limitations.

The Russian Army, like it’s forbearer the Red Army, is often both grossly overestimated and underestimated. One either conceives dastardly “little green men”, or a lumbering brute itching to lob it’s surplus T-62s at Estonia. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Whilst Soviet/Russian equipment has held a number of qualitative advantages over NATO equipment (including purportedly “invincible” American assets) during the Cold War and to this day, the Russians have consistently been inferior in both training and Command & Control (C&C). The former is due to the Russians utilizing a conscript system. This means that the Russian government drafts young men for a year at a time to serve, and then they are sent on their way.

This includes the three months of training for soldiers, and contributes to questionable quality. Recognizing this for some time, the Kremlin has been attempting to phase out the conscript model, in favor of the “contract” or professional model, in which soldiering is a job.

While contract soldiers are better both logistically and in terms of quality than conscripts, only 200,000 solders out of 774,500 (and 1,000,000 requested, unmet due to draft dodgers) are contract soldiers. This also includes 220,000 officers, leaving 354,500 conscripts. When cutting those professional forces between Ukraine and Syria, Moscow does not have a large margin of error.

Syria acts as Russia’s only port in the Mediterranean Sea, and is thus a vital asset to power projection. However, the Russians must further enhance their contract soldier system to stay competitive for long term operations. Thus, it seems unlikely that Moscow intends to prop up the Assad government as fervently as the United States did South Vietnam.

Russia’s intervention into Syria comes not from a position of strength, but one of weakness, due to diplomatic isolation and a overly long campaign in Ukraine. It seems more likely that Mr. Putin is trying to gain support for rapprochement, in exchange for a show of force against ISIS. If that is the objective, it’s working.

Like this piece? Rise News just launched a few weeks ago and is only getting started. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with global news. Have a news tip? (No matter how big or small!) Send it to us- 

Cover Photo Credit: Mikhail Kamarov/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Millennial Intelligencer: Why Pakistan Might Actually Nuke Itself

Pakistan and India have been at odds since the hasty partition of British India in 1947. Several wars have cemented this antipathy, and fueled the desire in both countries for arms, including nuclear arms. Tensions have run high for decades.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reports that Pakistan has 100-120 warheads, and India has 90-110.

The effects of a nuclear exchange between the two is not forecasted to result in radiation reaching Southeast Asia, the world’s breadbasket, but the immediate effects would leave millions dead in the first 24 hours. An environmental contamination, famine, and a massive refugee crisis would also likely ensue.

India has both a qualitative and quantitative advantage in nearly all fields of comparison of conventional military strength. Except nukes.

This information has renewed relevance in light of an announcement by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Aizaz Chaudhary that any Indian incursion into Pakistani territory would be met with low-yield (Theater/Tactical) nuclear weapons.

As no recognized distinction exists between low-yield and high-yield weapons, it is entirely likely that the utilization of low-yield weapons would result in a retaliation by India according to The Diplomat.

Read More: Religious Tensions Rise As Indian Elections Come To Fore

One must then ask, why is Mr. Chaudhary rattling the nuclear saber? The answer lies in the conventional balance of power, and Indian military doctrine.

Simply put, if India was to invade Pakistan, then Pakistan has indicated that it would be willing to use “tactical nuclear warheads” on its own territory in order to slow the advance.

India has both a qualitative and quantitative advantage in nearly all fields of comparison of conventional military strength. Expect nukes.

One of the easier, and sexier, metrics for illustrating this disparity is by comparing the Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) of the two countries.

India, due to its historical ties to Russia and the USSR before it, is outfitted with 3,250 MBTs, most of them T-72Ms (“Monkey”models designed for exported by the Soviet Union), and 987 T-90Ss.

Pakistan on the other hand has just shy of 2,500 MBTs which are largely comprised of early and mid Cold War Soviet and American tanks, as well as Chinese models of Soviet Tanks.

The trend continues in defense spending, man power, fixed wing aircraft, artillery, etc.

Thus, one can conclude that Pakistan would likely be defeated in the event of an incursion by India. The only saving grace for Pakistan is its relationship with the United States and China, however India has made plans to counteract this advantage.

“Cold Start” is an Indian Doctrine which would, in theory, negate these advantages. It relies on limited war-fighting in Pakistan itself to destroy Pakistan’s conventional military capabilities, thus making best use of India’s advantages in combined arms but also coming short in provoking Pakistan to use its nuclear arsenal.

A 2008 paper published in International Security, indicated that short gains in territory, no more than 50-80 Kms deep, would probably bring Pakistan to its knees in short order.

This doctrine is failing in one of its objectives as of two days ago, and this official willingness to utilize nuclear weapons on home soil ought to give greater urgency to those interested in maintaining a world order in which an exchange of WMDs is considered unthinkable.

Like this piece? Rise News just launched a few weeks ago and is only getting started. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with global news. Have a news tip? (No matter how big or small!) Send it to us- 

Photo Credit: US Defense Department/ Public Domain

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