Strategic Intelligence Summary for 24 January 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. challenges China’s claims to ownership of Taiwan Strait
  • Russia calls on Israel to stop attacks
  • European Union affirms resolution against Trump and Israel
  • Support for a Russian-lead Pan-Slavic union growing
  • North Korea holds 20 missile bases undeclared under U.S. summit
  • Russia accuses U.S. of violating INF Treaty amid ongoing talks
  • Venezuela in turmoil breaking relations with U.S.
  • China simulated launch of ICBM
  • Russian military planes violated Swedish airspace
  • U.S. National Intelligence Strategy published
  • U.S. Navy to deploy a swarm of small drones to attack other vessels in exercise
  • U.S. Navy changes Marine landing doctrine for South China Sea deployment
  • U.S. Army converts mobile infantry to armor in preparation of conventional warfare

 

 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. challenges China’s claims to ownership of Taiwan Strait

U.S. warships challenged Chinese ownership over the Taiwan Strait on Thursday. The USS McCampbell and USNS Walter S. Diehel transited the strait in order to challenge Chinese ownership and demonstrate “the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific”. [SOURCE] (Analyst Comment: The direct challenge of Chinese hegemony of the South China Sea weakens the Chinese narrative that they are the directing power in their self-declared “new age”. China’s unwillingness to fire upon the warships shows their unwillingness to fight to maintain this narrative, at least at this time.)

Russia calls on Israel to stop attacks

Russia called on Israel to stop what it has called “The practice of arbitrary strikes on the territory of a sovereign state – in this case, we are talking about Syria.” Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu declined to concede, stating “our policy is clear and will not change: We are determined to prevent Iran from militarily entrenching itself in Syria against Israel.” [SOURCE] (Analyst Comment: Russia’s demand demonstrated a refusal to acknowledge both the Iranian influence in the region and the specific Iranian targets sought by the Israeli attacks. This is a heavy handed attempt by Russia to undermine Israeli efforts to strike at an existentialist threat to their statehood.)

European Union affirms resolution against Trump and Israel

A senior diplomat for the European Union presented a statement to the United Nations National Security Council rebuking Israeli plans of expansion into Palestinian occupied territory. The statement condemned the multiple settlements planned by Israel and questioned both the U.S. and Israel’s commitment to “the perspective of a two-state solution.” [SOURCE] (Analyst Comments: This condemnation comes at a time when Israel is faced with an Iranian threat of total annihilation. The European Union has shown consistent animosity towards a developing Israel, enough to suggest it finds Israel, or U.S. supported Israel a threat.)

Support for a Russian lead Pan-Slavic union growing

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Serbia last week amid a massive celebration thrown by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. The celebration was attended by thousands “waving Serbian and Russian flags and banners praising Putin for trying to rebuild a Russo-centric, pan-Slavic world and to counter global Americanism.” [SOURCE] (Analyst Comment: This visit came on the heels of the Kovovar vote to create an army, a move both Serbian and Russian leaders have condemned. It additionally furthers Russian influence within the Balkans and Black Sea region. Russia has traditionally seen these NATO member states as its right, and growing popular support for Russian control will place greater strain on NATO interests.)

North Korea holds 20 missile bases undeclared under U.S. summit

A report by CSIS claims that North Korea holds 20 missile bases and at least one facility potentially capable of launching missiles that could reach other countries. [SOURCE(Analyst Comment: This report comes just ahead of the second U.S. – North Korea summit, but is unlikely “news” to the Trump administration.)

Russia accuses U.S. of violating INF Treaty amid ongoing talks

Russia has accused the U.S. of violating the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which bans ground-launched short-range missiles capable of carrying a nuclear payload. Russia claims the U.S. 9M729 land-based cruise missile violates the 1987 treaty, however the U.S. military claims that it adheres to the standards set in the treaty. [SOURCE] (Analyst Comment: Russian allegations follow the announcement by U.S. of its intention to withdraw from the INF treaty and represent an effort to save face after the efforts made by Russia to draw the U.S. into talks in order to save the treaty.)

Venezuela breaks relations with U.S. following internal turmoil

U.S. diplomats were ordered to vacate Venezuela by Nicolas Maduro whose presidency is being called into question after the president of the National Assembly declared himself to be the nation’s presidence. President Trump formally recognized the new leader and praised his intention to hold elections. The U.S. State Department refused the order to remove the diplomats, stating they “[do] not recognize the Maduro regime as the government of Venezuela.” [SOURCE] (Analyst Comment: The potential fall of the socialist regime in Venezuela removes a source of influence for Russia in South America. The perception, however, that the U.S. and other Western powers have meddled in Venezuelan politics has created a great deal of discontent.)

Russian military planes violated Swedish airspace

A Russian surveillance plane and two fighter plane escorts briefly violated Swedish airspace over the Baltic Sea coast.  The incursion was brief, but further demonstrated Russia’s willingness to push boundaries. [SOURCE]


 

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

China simulated launch of ICBM

“The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force conducted a simulated intercontinental ballistic missile strike mission from an underground bunker against an imaginary enemy.” The simulated launch underscored the Chinese strategy of using mobile missile launch platforms hidden in underground bunkers to obfuscate the number and location of their nuclear arsenal.  [SOURCE]

U.S. National Intelligence Strategy published

The latest U.S. National Intelligence Strategy was published this week. The document is updated every four years and identifies areas of focus for the nation’s security and intelligence apparatus.  This report emphasized the need for better defensive cyber capabilities. In addition, the report drew attention to a growing power vacuum created by perceived U.S. isolationism. The concern is that the country’s “traditional adversaries” are exploiting to the detriment of the U.S. [SOURCE]

U.S. Navy to deploy a swarm of small drones to attack other vessels in exercise

The U.S. Navy is building a “ghost fleet” by launching a swarm of small, remote operated naval drones. The drone will then latch onto the hulls of enemy vessels for a number of potential purposes, to include electronic warfare, surveillance, and direct attack.  [SOURCE]

U.S. Navy changes Marine landing doctrine for South China Sea deployment

The U.S. Navy has changed their doctrine for the landing of Marines. The new doctrine was created for an assault on the Chinese man-made islands in the South China sea.  Under the new doctrine, the carriers and destroyers in a landing battlegroup would be significantly “up-gunned”. [SOURCE]

U.S. Army converts mobile infantry to army in preparation for conventional warfare

The U.S. Army converted one Stryker Brigade Combat Team to an Armored Brigade Combat Team and one Infantry Brigade Combat Team to a Stryker Brigade Combat Team. The conversion was made in preparation for conventional warfare rather than counterinsurgency missions. [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)

NATO-Russia:
The growing support in the Balkans region for Russian hegemony is a real threat to NATO and its member states. Russian interest in the region has been made clear, following its involvement in elections in Macedonia and other states. Putin’s reception in Serbia underscores this popular support and will likely encourage Russian ambition. Russia has always held the creation of buffer states between itself and Western powers as a geopolitical priority, a bid to annex the Balkans region would position Russia to be able to exert greater pressure onto the European Union in the future. In addition, control over that region would add additional strains onto China’s Belt and Road initiative. Strategically, control over this region would significantly shift any powers’ ability to project power, both east and west.

Indo-Pacific:
The South China Sea remains a point of global contention as multiple state powers move naval powers into the region. Though China claims control over the area, Western naval powers continue to carry out naval patrols to ensure the ability to navigate the sea freely. The U.S. direct challenge to the Chinese claim comes at a delicate time as China prepares for its Communist Party Congress and has a significant portion of its security apparatus focused internally and at its borders. The lack of military response by China will hurt its claim, and further indicates that China is not ready to take decisive action.

Middle East:
The growing tension between Israel and Iran, following the Israeli revelation that Iran was in violation of its nuclear deal in 2018 has begun to garner international interest. The Russian demand that Israel cease its campaign against Iranian elements within Syria lacked any mention of Israel’s intent or target. Further, the European Union condemnation before the UN of Israeli expansion goals demonstrate additional attempts to limit Israeli ambition. While unlikely to dissuade the state from continuing to pursue Iranian targets near its borders, the weight of international pressure against the state will likely dampen any immediate military response towards Iran itself.

North Korea:
The report of undeclared missile sites comes just ahead of the second U.S. – North Korean summit. This will place North Korean President Kim Jong-Un in a more tenuous position in negotiations with the U.S. President and will increase the level of tension surrounding the meeting. It is unlikely, however, to have a long term effect on the outcome of this and future negotiations.

Jason is a former NCO and counterintelligence agent. After 12 years of work for the Department of Defense, he served as a criminal intelligence analyst with a multi-agency task force. He is now an Intelligence Analyst at Forward Observer.

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