Strategic Intelligence Summary for 07 February 2019

Strategic Intelligence

Strategic Intelligence contains intelligence reporting on the state of global security and instability, geostrategic issues affecting the United States, pre-war indicators, and assessments on the current risk of war. This report is available each week for Intelligence subscribers.


In this Strategic Intelligence Summary:

  • U.S., Europe throwing support to Venezuelan opposition leader
  • Maduro vows ‘no invading soldier’ will enter Venezuela
  • Concerns rise that Mexico may be approaching ‘failed state’ status
  • China tests DF-26 ‘Guam’ and ‘carrier killer’
  • U.S. senator says American forces ‘outgunned’ by Russia, China
  • China likely to build four nuclear-powered aircraft carriers
  • Russian defense minister vows to develop ground-based cruise, hypersonic missiles by 2020


Priority Intelligence Requirements:

PIR1: What are the new indicators of disruptive events that could cause global or regional instability?

PIR2: What are the latest military and security developments exhibited by the U.S. and their peer and near-peer adversaries?

PIR3: What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four flashpoints? (NATO-Russia, Indo-Pacific, Middle East, North Korea)


PIR1: What are the new indicators of disruptive events that could cause global or regional instability?

U.S., Europe throwing support to Venezuelan opposition leader

European nations have joined the United States and regional governments in Central and South American in supporting opposition leader Juan Guaido as the rightful president of Venezuela, undercutting President Nicolas Maduro. In all, 20 European countries including the biggest and most powerful — the UK, Germany, and France — following the expiration of a deadline calling on Maduro to hold new elections passed without him doing so. European support raises the stakes for Maduro, though it isn’t clear that those countries would back U.S. military intervention, an option which the Trump administration has yet to take off the table. [SOURCE] (Analyst Comment: Both President Trump and National Security Advisor John Bolton have declined to rule out a military option. There are reports of elevated U.S. military activity in neighboring Colombia, however, a military option remains unlikely.)

Maduro vows ‘no invading soldier’ will enter Venezuela

Even as the U.S. and European nations lend their support behind Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido, President Nicolas Maduro has vowed that “no one will enter” the country, “not a single invading soldier, wherever he may come from.” In comments most likely aimed at the United States, Maduro added during a message broadcast on the Foreign Ministry’s Twitter account he went onto blame the U.S. for plotting to intervene on behalf of Guaido. “Neither intervention, nor a coup d’etat nor war will take place in Venezuela,” he said. [SOURCE] (Analyst Comment: What Western powers are hoping for is an erosion of military support for Maduro. There have already been defections in support of Guaido, but as long as Maduro retains the miltiary’s broad support, a peaceful resolution is unlikely. For their part, military leaders are notoriously corrupt and much of their wealth is tied into being a part of the authoritarian state. This week, National Security Advisor John Bolton offered to military officers immunity from sanctions that will be levied against Venezuelan officials.)

Iranian official warns Israel against further attacks in Syria

A ranking member of Iran’s National Security Council has publicly warned Israel against launching any more attacks against Iranian forces inside Syria. Specifically, the secretary of the council, Ali Shamkhani, was quoted by Iranian media as threatening a “deterrent” response of the attacks continued. “If these actions continue, we will activate some calculated measures as a deterrent and as a firm and appropriate response to teach a lesson to the criminal and lying rulers of Israel,” he said. Iranian officials often make public threats against Israel — mostly for public consumption — without following up on them. But the situation nonetheless remains volatile between both countries. It will be worth watching what Iran may do once the U.S. withdraws all its forces from Syria. [SOURCE]

Concerns rise that Mexico may be approaching ‘failed state’ status

An analysis published this week notes that Mexico has already reached the status of a “fragile state” as defined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and that it could be on its way toward “failed state” status. Such concerns aren’t new; in 2009, U.S. Joint Forces Command issued a statement that expressed similar concerns regarding the future of Mexico, noting that it could even be on the verge of total collapse. Last year, the State Department issued a “do not travel” warning for five of Mexico’s 32 states. The reason for the concern has to do, mostly, with the government’s inability to address escalating violence caused by the drug-and-human-smuggling cartels — violence which is spilling over into the United States. Illegal immigrant caravans passing freely through the country is also in the rise. All of these factors present an escalating security risk to the United States. [SOURCE]


PIR2: What are the latest military and security developments exhibited by the U.S. and their peer and near-peer adversaries?

China tests DF-26 ‘Guam’ and ‘carrier killer’

China’s rocket forces recently tested a DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile to gauge its effectiveness at targeting enemy warships at sea, with experts claiming that the tests were highly successful. Video of the missile launch and subsequent analysis broadcast on Chinese TV indicated that the ICBM is highly maneuverable in flight. Western military analysts are skeptical that the DF-26 can perform as Beijing advertises, however. [SOURCE]

U.S. senator says American forces ‘outgunned’ by Russia, China

In an op-ed for a local newspaper, Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe claimed that the U.S. military was “falling behind” China and Russia in a number of key areas, including air power (not buying enough aircraft to do the job); artillery (more guns and better/bigger guns); and other areas. Inhofe said the solution is to spend more — 3 to 5 percent per year for the foreseeable future — to address shortfalls, adding that the U.S. is “the most threatened” it’s been in his lifetime. [SOURCE]

Russian navy develops new weapon that makes those targeted vomit, hallucinate

A Russian state news agency is claiming that the navy has developed a new non-lethal weapon that makes those targeted hallucinate and vomit. The weapon, called the “Filin,” has reportedly been installed on a pair of Russian warships. The weapon fires a beam that resembles a strobe light which is said to affect vision, making it difficult for enemies to accurately target Russian forces. Volunteers during testing also reported feeling nauseated, dizzy, and disoriented when the beam was ‘fired’ at them, with about one-fifth of them reporting hallucinations as well. [SOURCE]

Russian defense minister vows to develop ground-based cruise, hypersonic missiles by 2020

Following an announcement by the Trump administration that the U.S. would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the military now must develop a ground-based version of the sea-launched Kalibr cruise missile as well as a ground-launched hypersonic weapon. He said the move is necessary to counter U.S. systems currently in development. [SOURCE]

China likely to build four nuclear-powered aircraft carriers

The People’s Liberation Army Navy is liable to build at least four nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in a bid to catch up with U.S. Navy capabilities as part of at least six carrier battle groups by 2035, Chinese military experts believe. The carriers are expected to have electromagnetic launch and other systems similar to American carriers. China has placed an emphasis on building up its navy, both as a means of challenging U.S. hegemony in Asia and to project power globally. [SOURCE]


PIR3: What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four flashpoints? (NATO-Russia, Indo-Pacific, Middle East, North Korea)

As NATO and Russia continue to try and manage any fallout from the U.S. decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty, both Brussels and Moscow have been competing for influence in the small enclave of Macedonia, which is situated in the diplomatically contested Balkans. NATO appears to be ahead, as the country is taking its first steps toward becoming a member of the military alliance. The invitation to join comes after Greece had been blocking its path for years over Athens’ push to get Macedonia to change its name, which it has agreed to do (North Macedonia). Having Macedonia join NATO is a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, but he visited Serbia last month to shore up support there by promising stronger defense ties and more financial investment. The NATO-Russia competition for influence in the Balkans will only become more intense after this development.

President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are scheduled to hold trade talks at the end of February ahead of a 01 March U.S.-imposed deadline to impose an additional $200 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, and there are signs that Beijing wants to resolve it as a matter of heading off internal stability. Towards the end of January, the Communist Party completed a four-day session aimed at identifying and mitigating internal risks caused by outside influences, namely the negative impacts the trade war with the U.S. was having and could have in the future — specifically, increasing domestic unrest caused by a slowing economy and fewer economic opportunities for Chinese citizens. As this four-day strategy session proves, the Chinese Communist Party fears internal instability more than most anything else — all of which plays favorably into the U.S. administration’s trade-and-tariff strategy.

Middle East:
A draft Pentagon report claims that unless the U.S. keeps up pressure on ISIS with a physical presence on the ground in Syria, the remaining elements of the organization could begin expanding its territory within six-to-12 months, even though coalition forces currently occupy 100 percent of the land ISIS once claimed. According to the assessment, ISIS leaders want to regain lost territory in Syria with the intent of reestablishing its lost caliphate. The report comes after President Trump ordered all U.S. forces out of Syria within 120 days, but it was drafted covering the period of Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018; the president didn’t announce his withdrawal until Dec. 19. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats characterized ISIS as nearly defeated but returning to its “guerrilla warfare roots” while continuing to plot attacks. He added that the group “still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.”

North Korea:
President Trump confirmed during his State of the Union Address Tuesday that he and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will meet for their second summit at the end of February. Earlier, the president said in a tweeted message that there was a “decent chance at denuclearization.” It may sound elementary, but at this point the talks really could go either way and frankly, the Trump administration should be preparing for both contingencies. The biggest obstacle will be convincing Kim that a bilateral relationship is actually doable that that he can trust the U.S. and South Korea to keep their word. That’s going to take time, no matter what happens during the next summit. Failure, however, most likely means a return to pre-negotiation status, with the North restarting full-bore its nuclear weapons program, completely with missile tests and underground detonations — and constant threat of war.


OSINT Analyst-1 mines open sources, and produces timely and relevant intelligence reporting.

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