24 December 2011 — Stop NATO
- U.S. Pivot To Asia Strategy Can Destabilize Entire Region
- U.S. Intensifies Military Posture Against Russia In Arctic
- After Libya: Britain Mulls Military Intervention In Somalia
- Britain: After Libya, NATO States Plan For Next Air War
- Horn Of Africa: France Signs New Military Pact With Djibouti
- France Close To Providing Emirates With Military Satellite
- Azores: Thousands Of U.S., NATO Aircraft Transit To Middle East, Central Asia, Africa
U.S. Pivot To Asia Strategy Can Destabilize Entire Region
Xinhua News Agency
December 23, 2011
Yearender: Obama administration’s Asia pivot strategy sows more seeds of suspicion than cooperation
By Zhi Linfei, Ran Wei
WASHINGTON: The Obama administration ruffled a few feathers in the Asia-Pacific region in November with its high-profile trumpeting of the Pivot to Asia strategy, widely regarded as an attempt to consolidate U.S. predominance in the region in face of a rising China.
The U.S. shift of strategic focus is characterized by a more confrontational stance with China. Despite the U.S. public denial of containing China, there has been widespread suspicion that Washington has a hidden agenda behind the strategy, i.e., to counterbalance China’s growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region.
‘The United States is now signaling an intention to move back toward the pre-9/11 strategic focus on a rising China. That focus places a premium on explicitly balancing against and constraining Chinese power and influence across the region,’ wrote Michael Swaine, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in a recent article.
STRATEGIC SHIFT COMES WITH TOUGH RHETORIC, PROVOCATIVE MOVES
The Obama administration launched the strategic shift of pivoting to Asia with great fanfare in November when it was hosting the annual gathering of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
In a speech at the East-West Center in Hawaii ahead of the APEC summit, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared ‘The 21st century will be America’s Pacific century,’ vowing that her country will stay in the region as a resident diplomatic, military and economic power.
At the APEC summit, U.S. President Obama actively promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a U.S.-championed free trade agreement and a potential trans-Pacific security architecture.
The TPP, which pointedly excludes China, is widely seen as a thinly-disguised counterweight to free trade blocs in the region involving China and other Asian countries.
In rare tough rhetoric, Obama also pointed a finger at China for not playing by the rules in trade and economic relations, pledging to ‘continue to speak out and bring action’ on issues such as currency and intellectual property rights.
Meanwhile, the United states has intensified its intervention in the territorial dispute over the South China Sea between China and several southeastern Asian countries, under the excuse of protecting freedom of navigation.
Immediately following the APEC meeting, Obama traveled for the first time to Indonesia to attend the East Asia summit, where he encouraged the participating countries to seek a multilateral solution to the South China Sea issue despite opposition from China, which advocates settling it through bilateral negotiations.
During his stay in Canberra, Obama signed a deal to station U.S. Marines in northwest Australia, with an eye on a potential contingency in the South China Sea.
While celebrating the 60th anniversary of the signing of the U.S.-Philippine mutual defense treaty, Hillary Clinton reaffirmed in Manila the U.S. commitment to the security of the Philippines, in a move regarded as a U.S. show of support to Manila in its dispute with China.
Furthermore, the U.S. government said it is considering plans to deploy advanced coastal combat ships in Singapore and perhaps the Philippines in the coming years to expand the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
OBAMA AIMS FOR DOMESTIC, INTERNATIONAL GAINS
U.S. experts believe that the U.S. strategic shift to Asia is driven not only by President Obama’s need to win the reelection in 2012, but also by the growing perception of an America in decline due to China’s fast rise.
Apparently, Obama counts on increased trade with the Asia-Pacific, the most dynamic economic region at the time of a global downturn, to create more jobs back at home to bring down the high unemployment rate that threatens to cost his own job.
This shift reflects ‘a recognition of the increasingly vital importance of that region for future American wealth, security and global influence,’ Swaine wrote in the article posted on Dec. 7 on the website of the magazine The National Interest.
Douglas Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the economic factor of Obama’s Pivot to Asia policy’ is the justification because of the current need to restart the American economy and to deal with the stress on the defense budget.’
Domestically, Obama also aims to refute the criticism from his Republican challengers who decry him for being too soft toward China, a convenient target for U.S. candidates in nearly every election year in the past decades.
‘Obama has taken a pretty positive agenda with China in 2009, and he was seen as weak…Given the upcoming election, the Republican candidates are fighting against China. Obama did not want to put himself at a position of defending China against his opponents,’ Paal told Xinhua in an interview.
Meanwhile, the U.S. strategic shift was also motivated by fears about China’s challenges to the U.S. status as the dominant power in the world, although China has made it clear that it has neither the strength nor intention to vie with the United States for dominance.
The decade-long anti-terrorism campaign, which diverted U.S. attention and resources to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, has fueled the perception of U.S. decline as the sole superpower, especially when it is suffering from a prolonged economic downturn and a worsening debt crisis.
U.S. MOVES HAVE POTENTIALLY DESTABILIZING EFFECTS
Obviously, the U.S. Asia pivot strategy doesn’t bode well for China-U.S. relations, already soured in 2011 by a series of provocative U.S. moves, including its announcement of a massive arms sale package to China’s Taiwan in September.
‘We are going to have a distressful year’ in 2012, Paal said.
U.S. experts are critical of the Obama administration’s new posture in the Asia-Pacific region, especially its position on the South China Sea dispute, saying it has potentially destabilizing implications by emboldening certain countries to confront China.
Swaine expressed worries that the Obama administration’s execution of this shift and China’s reaction ‘are combining to deepen mutual suspicion and potentially destabilize the entire area.’
The words and deeds by officials of the Obama administration are creating the impression in some Asian capitals that Washington is now supporting their disputes with Beijing over maritime territories, Swaine said.
Paal also criticized Hillary Clinton for her ‘inappropriate rhetoric’ during her visit to Manila, where she referred to the South China Sea as the ‘West Philippine Sea,’ a phrase used solely by the Filipinos.
It ‘appeared in China’s eyes to be taking the Philippines’ position in a dispute where Clinton previously said the U.S. would not take sides,’ he said.
Analysts believe that as its economic and trade ties with China are becoming increasingly closer, United States [efforts] will only backfire if it still embraces the cold-war mentality and adopts policies to contain China.
The U.S. move to station troops in Australia also stirred up concerns in some capitals in the Asia-Pacific region, with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa warning on Nov. 18 that such arrangements would lead to misunderstanding and provoke a ‘vicious circle of tension and mistrust.’
Noting widespread doubts within the international community about whether the United States can sustain its leadership and predominance in the Asia-Pacific, Swaine said ‘Washington must rethink its basic assumptions about its role in the region.’
The United States should ‘reexamine how best to address and when to accommodate China’s most critical security concerns, especially along its maritime borders,’ Swaine wrote in his article.
U.S. Intensifies Military Posture Against Russia In Arctic
December 23, 2011
The colder war: U.S., Russia and others are vying for control of Santa’s back yard
By Heather A. Conley
…In April, President Obama signed a new command plan that gives NORAD and the U.S. Northern Command greater responsibility in protecting the North Pole and U.S. Arctic territory.
The Arctic region — covering more than 30 million square kilometers and stretching around the territorial borders of Canada, Denmark (via Greenland), Norway, Russia and the United States by way of the Alaskan coastline — is transforming before our eyes. And not just because the ice is melting. It’s increasingly the site of military posturing…
In 2009, Norway moved its operational command to its northern territories above the Arctic Circle. Russia has plans to establish a brigade that is specially equipped and prepared for military warfare in Arctic conditions. Denmark has made it a strategic priority to form an Arctic Command. Canada is set to revitalize its Arctic fleet, including spending $33 billion to build 28 vessels over the next 30 years. Even China has entered the Arctic race; it constructed the world’s largest non-nuclear icebreaker to conduct scientific research in the Arctic.
…The Arctic is governed by the U.N. convention on the Law of the Sea. That framework allows a coastal state to have exclusive economic control 200 miles off its coast — and possibly to extend authority 600 miles beyond, depending on certain scientific claims.
In the 21st-century Arctic, large corporations and countries are racing to reach and capture the abundance of offshore oil and gas as well as iron ore, nickel, cooper, palladium and rare-earth minerals. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that the Arctic contains 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil resources and 30 percent of its gas resources. And as the ice melts, cargo transport could increase from the 111,000 tons in 2010 to more than 1 million tons in 2012, according to some Russian estimates.
After Libya: Britain Mulls Military Intervention In Somalia
December 23, 2011
Britain’s RAF to hit insurgents in Somalia
-Both the US and French have been actively involved in Somali military operations – the Americans carrying out drone strikes from the southern Ethiopian port of Arba Mich, while the French are ferrying in equipment. A French helicopter-gunship crashed at the southern port of Kismayo…
LONDON: The British Government is considering providing direct military assistance to international troops fighting Islamist insurgents in Somalia.
Senior Foreign Office sources said discussions had taken place about providing help – including air reconnaissance or support – to African Union troops helping Somalia’s weak, American-backed, transitional government.
While the use of ground troops has been explicitly ruled out it is believed there could be some role for Britain following the successful Nato air operation in Libya. As well as air power, SAS and SBS units are stationed with the US-led Horn of Africa Task Force based in Djibouti.
The number of peacekeeping troops in the country has increased significantly in recent months and British officials are examining how to extend their own influence further. ‘Certainly in the wake of Libya there are ongoing discussions about what assistance we might be able to provide in Somalia,’ said one source…
Both the US and French have been actively involved in Somali military operations – the Americans carrying out drone strikes from the southern Ethiopian port of Arba Mich, while the French are ferrying in equipment. A French helicopter-gunship crashed at the southern port of Kismayo, while, it is claimed, providing supporting fire for Kenyans flushing out al-Shabaab positions.
Yesterday the International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell appeared to hint at a greater British involvement…
Britain: After Libya, NATO States Plan For Next Air War
U.S. Air Forces in Europe
December 19, 2011
Aeronautica Militare Italia visits RAF Mildenhall, showcases new tanker
by Karen Abeyasekere
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
-’As partners in NATO, we work closely with the Italians and many other countries on a continuous basis. The fact that we train and fly together so often was one of the key aspects of Operation Odyssey Dawn and Operation Unified Protector.’
RAF MILDENHALL, England: International relations were flying high Dec. 9, as the Italian Air Force arrived at RAF Mildenhall.
A crew from Aeronautica Militare Italia, 14th Wing, Pratica Di Mare (Rome), visited RAF Mildenhall on a training mission.
‘We are trying to start an exchange program with the U.S. Air Force, so they invited us here so we could show them our aircraft,’ said Italian Lt. Col. Mauro Del Giudice, 14th Wing chief of operations and aircraft commander of the Italian plane. ‘This is an invitation to build relations. We can continue to work together in the future; we both do air refueling, and in the future they [may] come to Rome to visit us.’
Several 351st ARS pilots met the Italian aircrew to observe and integrate training, said Maj. James Muniz, 351st ARS pilot.
‘Because the KC-767 is a newer aircraft, the systems for navigation and communication work better together than the KC-135?s,’ said Muniz, adding he thinks the exchange is a great way to build international relations.
‘As partners in NATO, we work closely with the Italians and many other countries on a continuous basis,’ Muniz said. ‘The fact that we train and fly together so often was one of the key aspects of Operation Odyssey Dawn and Operation Unified Protector. From a tanker perspective, the Libya operations were very much along the lines of how we fly and operate daily. Now, we have an opportunity to meet the same pilots we have only talked to in the air, on radios and via phone conversations.’
Horn Of Africa: France Signs New Military Pact With Djibouti
December 22, 2011
Paris signs new defense agreement with Djibouti
PARIS: Nicolas Sarkozy and the President of Djibouti Ismael Omar Guelleh signed in Paris on Wednesday a new treaty for cooperation in defense matters which replaces the agreement signed in Djibouti after independence in 1977 reported the presidency.
It establishes, according to the Elysee, ‘the framework of bilateral military cooperation’ and said ‘the facilities granted to our operational forces stationed’ in Djibouti, the largest French military base abroad which hosts nearly 3,000 soldiers.
This signature ‘demonstrates the commitment of both countries to close cooperation in security,’ says the Presidency in a statement, noting that ‘France is firmly committed to the independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Djibouti, strategically located in the heart of a fragile area. ’
This text is the sixth defense agreement renegotiated by France with a country of its former ‘backyard’ of Africa.
Sarkozy and Guelleh also spoke of ‘strengthening bilateral cooperation,’ the situation in Somalia and the fight against piracy off the Horn of Africa.
The statement from the Elysee did not say whether the two leaders also discussed the Borrel case, that poisons relations between France and Djibouti for many years.
The survey of French justice has long favored the theory of suicide, before choosing, after new expertise, that of a murder in which some witnesses have questioned Mr Guelleh and his entourage.
According to the testimony of a French soldier stationed in Djibouti at the time of the facts revealed on Wednesday by France Culture, the French army had been informed of the assassination of Judge Borrel shortly after his death, through listening to the Djiboutian police .
Mr Guelleh, who is also the subject of a complaint filed in Paris for the murder of two family members of an opponent, made no statement to the press after his meeting with Mr Sarkozy.
France Close To Providing Emirates With Military Satellite
United Press International
December 23, 2011
Emirates ‘close to French satellite buy’
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates: French hopes of selling 60 Dassault Rafale fighters to the United Arab Emirates may be dimming but France is reported to be close to another major military contract: a surveillance satellite built by Astrium.
Intelligence Online reported Thursday that the deal would be finalized within the next few months, pushing forward the Emirates’ drive to boost its military capability to counter [Iran].
The surveillance satellite project was first mooted in 2008, shortly after the Gulf Cooperation Council, consisting of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain, scrapped its HudHud program.
On April 24, the emirates launched its fifth communications satellite into orbit. It is the first device to provide secure and independent telecommunications for its armed forces amid a drive by Arab states in the gulf to boost their military capabilities against Iran.
The Emirates spearhead efforts by the GCC states to acquire its own military surveillance satellite system to bolster the early warning system it has been seeking to develop for several years.
The GCC states have been talking about a joint early warning system for a decade…[T]he growing tension between the GCC states and Iran appears to be spurring them to work together to develop their common military capabilities…
The development of the emirates satellite has strategic implications for the Gulf Arab states…
Azores: Thousands Of U.S., NATO Aircraft Transit To Middle East, Central Asia, Africa
Air Force Link
December 23, 2011
SECAF thanks Airmen during Lajes visit
by Staff Sgt. Angelique N. Smythe
-’Your work enables the movement of our warfighters, aircraft and global communications to combatant commanders supporting the joint coalition and NATO operations, such as Unified Protector, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. And your critical support to these operations while also promoting regional partnerships is an increasingly strategically important part of our posture going forward.’
LAJES FIELD, Azores, Portugal: Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley visited Lajes Field Airmen Dec. 18-19 to thank them for their service and countless sacrifices this holiday season.
The secretary toured several units of the 65th Air Base Wing and spoke with Airmen in all functions and dimensions of the mission here.
As the Secretary addressed the Airmen, he highlighted why Lajes Field, the crossroads of the mid-Atlantic, was such a strategically important installation.
‘Since 2003, thousands of aircraft have transited through Lajes in direct support of global missions in the Middle East, in Central Asia, and in Africa as well,’ he said. ‘Your work enables the movement of our warfighters, aircraft and global communications to combatant commanders supporting the joint coalition and NATO operations, such as Unified Protector, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. And your critical support to these operations while also promoting regional partnerships is an increasingly strategically important part of our posture going forward.’
The secretary touched on the current and future challenges of the Air Force.
(Courtesy of 65th Air Base Wing public affairs)