Provocation: Sailor seen with MANPAD on Russian warship transiting Bosporus

Peace in our time.

Shoulder-fired peace cruises in the Bosporus: Russian sailor on the deck of Russian landing ship Tsesar Kunikov, 4 Dec 2015. (Image: Emre Dagdeviren via Twitter, UK Express)
Shoulder-fired peace cruises in the Bosporus: Russian sailor on the deck of Russian landing ship Tsesar Kunikov, 4 Dec 2015. (Image: Emre Dagdeviren via Twitter, UK Express)

This incident reportedly occurred the morning of 4 December.

The Ropucha-class tank landing ship Tsesar Kunikov (BDK-158) was heading from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, conducting a southbound transit of the Turkish Straits.  (As documented at the excellent Bosphorus Naval News blog, BDK-158 has been back and forth through the Turkish Straits several times over the last few months.  The ship was most recently off Syria in November, and returned to the Black Sea on 25 November before Friday’s southbound transit.)

Turkish media reported that a Russian sailor was photographed on the deck with a shoulder-fired missile launcher in the firing position during the transit. … Continue reading “Provocation: Sailor seen with MANPAD on Russian warship transiting Bosporus”

After Paris, post-NATO ‘solution’ for Syria blasts off without U.S.

War without leadership.

Tu-95 Bear bomber, one of several types used in Russian strikes on Tuesday, 17 Nov. (Image: UK MOD, SAC Robyn Stewart via Guardian, Oct 2014)
Tu-95 Bear bomber, one of several types used in Russian strikes on Tuesday, 17 Nov. (Image: UK MOD, SAC Robyn Stewart via Guardian, Oct 2014)

If you’re not convinced we are now in a “post-American” (and hence post-NATO) world, consider these events of the last 72 hours.

After the Paris attacks on Friday, the G20 leaders gathering in Turkey knew that both Syria and ISIS would top their agenda in Antalya.  On Sunday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron expressed the standard position of the Western allies, since late summer, that Russia should stop prosecuting what is essentially a unilateral war in Syria.

How odd that that position should seem antique a mere 48 hours later.  In the wake of the most recent events, one now has the sense that Cameron was speaking in another world and time.

Obama’s watershed moment Continue reading “After Paris, post-NATO ‘solution’ for Syria blasts off without U.S.”

The real headline: Russians buy air space with cruise missile demo, as U.S. forces retreat

Cruise missile as geopolitical forcing mechanism.

Russian Caspian fleet frigate launches a long-range land attack cruise missile on 7 Oct. (Image: Russian MOD/YouTube)
Russian Caspian fleet frigate launches a long-range land attack cruise missile on 7 Oct. (Image: Russian MOD/YouTube)

The Pentagon released information Thursday that some of the cruise missiles launched by Russian warships into Syria the day before (Wednesday, 7 October) had crashed in Iran, instead of making it to their targets.  The missiles were launched from the Caspian Sea, between Iran and southern Russia.

The global audience was apt to note the point that four of the 26 missiles launched by Russia crashed.  But the more important point is that Russia launched the missiles in the first place.

The question is why.  The answer is not darkly nefarious (not particularly, anyway), but it’s not obvious from the standpoint of tactical military operations either. Continue reading “The real headline: Russians buy air space with cruise missile demo, as U.S. forces retreat”

Time to ‘John Paul Jones’ the non-deal ‘Iran deal’

Nail the colors to the mast.

Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis at the Battle of Flamborough Head in 1779. Painting by Anton Otto Fischer (1882-1962). (Via crashmacduff.wordpress.com)
Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis at the Battle of Flamborough Head in 1779. Painting by Anton Otto Fischer (1882-1962). (Via crashmacduff.wordpress.com)

“I have not yet begun to fight!”

John Paul Jones, commanding the Continental Navy, Battle of Flamborough Head

23 September, 1779

If we went by the triumphal proclamations of the mainstream media, we would think opponents of the unsigned Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – described inaccurately as a “deal” with Iran – were out of options at this point.

Operating on the process set in motion by the Corker-Cardin bill, the House has voted against approving the JCPOA.  But the JCPOA’s opponents in the Senate have failed twice to move the JCPOA to a vote.  A 42-vote minority has prevented a Senate vote, and Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unwilling to use the “nuclear option” of overriding the effective filibuster by the minority, and forcing a vote on the JCPOA.

If we accept that Obama met his requirements under Corker-Cardin, when he submitted the JCPOA to Congress for review, then the deadline for Congress to act was 17 September.  Since the Senate couldn’t vote by then, the theory is that all objections to the JCPOA are now dead. Continue reading “Time to ‘John Paul Jones’ the non-deal ‘Iran deal’”

Russia defines Arctic intentions with supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles

Peace in our time.

St. Nicholas presides over the Russian military base at Nargurskoye, on Alexandra Island, Franz Josef Land, which is undergoing a major expansion by Russia.
St. Nicholas presides over the Russian military base at Nargurskoye, on Alexandra Island, Franz Josef Land, which is undergoing a major expansion by Russia.

If it wasn’t clear before that Russia intends to be prepared to “fight the Arctic,” it should be now.  A report from last week indicates that the Russians plan to put “Bastion” anti-ship missile systems at their Arctic bases in 2015, to go along with airfield improvements, aircraft deployments, and installation of mobile anti-air missile systems and early warning radars for a network of bases that extends from one end of Russia’s Arctic coast to the other, and well into the Arctic Ocean.

There is certainly a question as to what “threat” Russia imagines herself to be countering with the deployment of the cruise missile systems.

But that’s really asking the wrong question.  Given the dearth of non-Russian surface ship traffic through the area in question (maps 1 and 2), and the certainty that other nations with Arctic claims have no motive to put ships in that area against Russia’s will, a more accurate interpretation of this move is that Russia seeks to hold a geomilitary veto over the sea-lanes, in a manner similar to the veto sought by China over the South China Sea. Continue reading “Russia defines Arctic intentions with supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles”