Thursday, November 06, 2014

Russia encircles Europe from the Air

As tensions between Russia and NATO intensifies since the Ukraine crisis, the Russian Air Force is encircling Europe, not just from the Baltic and the Black seas, but from the North Atlantic airspace off Norway and Scotland. This implies that Russia can cut the supply lines of both eastern and western front lines of Europe. This news draws my attention, because I frequently see information that Typhoon fighters scramble against Russian bombers flying over Scotland on the official Facebook page of the Royal Air force. Particularly, Russian provocation to NATO airspace on October 29 was subsequent and outrageous. Lieutenant Colonel Jay Janzen, Spokesman for NATO’s military command in Mons, Belgium, said “The flights we’ve seen in the last 24 hours, the size of those flights and some of the flight plans are definitely unusual”(“NATO says Russian jets, bombers circle Europe in unusual incidents”; Washington Post; October 29, 2014). It was coincided with annually held Global Thunder exercise by the US Strategic Command. Richard Cliff, Reader of the Aviationist points out that Russia launched similar long range bombers that joined US exercise (“Spike in Russian Air Force activity in Europe may be a reaction to large US Strategic Command bombers exercise”; Aviationist; October 30, 2014).

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has to be more well aware of considerable tension in the air. Scotland definitely needs UK defense umbrella from Russian air intrusion, and things are beyond Trident strategic missile submarines at Faslane naval base. Russia’s encirclement line on the western front stretches further to Portugal. Scottish airspace is vital to stop it. Interestingly, western front nations like Britain and Norway face direct threat Russia as New Europe nations in the Baltic and Black Sea regions do, while Old Europe nations do not. This may be one of the reasons why Old Europe, notably Germany, is more soft liner to Russia than Britain and New Europe. When we talk of Russian threat in Europe, we tend to focus on the eastern front line, since we are accustomed to see standardized world maps like the Mercator projection. The Russian navy and air force can move aggressively into the Scottish air-sea sphere from the Murmansk area via the Barents Sea.




Historically, the air-sea sphere from Norway to Scotland has been a dispute filed of great powers. In both World Wars, Britain and Germany fought hard. During the Cold War, this area was NATO's defense line to stop the Soviet surface and undersea fleets. Today, this is a zone of the Anglo-Russian clash. I would like to argue that a Russian dominance of the Norwegian-Scottish air-sea sphere can cut off the sea lane from Asia to Europe. These days, the potential of the Northern Sea Route draws much attention among policymakers of both Asia and Europe. But even if taking the route off Canada, international trade fleets would face critical threats of Russia when they go into the great power rivaling air-sea sphere.

From this perspective, we must also pay attention to Russian naval aggressivism. US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert told that Russian submarines were increasingly active since the Ukrainian crisis while the surface fleets were aging (“CNO Greenert: Russian Navy ‘Very Busy in the Undersea Domain’”; USNI News; November 4, 2014). Nuclear attack submarines or hunter killers are one of the effective ways to counter undersea threats. The Faslane naval base also accommodates the Astute class submarines, which is one of the best hunter killers of the world. They are equipped with the most effective sonar system (“Astute Class Submarines”; BAE Systems Products), which is a vital advantage to conduct “first look, first shot, first kill” for stealthy arsenals. The air and the sea around Scotland is so strategically important to stop Russia.

Remember Russia acts similarly in East Asia. The Japanese Air Self Defense Force scrambled 533 times against Russian intrusion in the past 6 months, which is more frequently than 308 times in the same period last year (“Russian Jets Invading Japan Airspace In Record Numbers Over Past Year, Japan Wants To Know Why”; Inquisitr; October 19, 2014). Whatever President Vladimir Putin says, this is what Russia does to Japan. Our nation faces the same threat as NATO does. Nationalists and left wingers argue that Japan act self reliant and independently of the West regarding the Ukrainian issue. Definite fact tells us that is absolutely not! I wonder whether they have any proof that the Kremlin is generous to Japan deep in their heart.

Europe and Asia face common threats of Russia. Therefore, both sides need to deepen strategic coordination. Among European nations, Britain is the most willing to seek closer ties with East Asia, as indicated in the word of “re-prioritisation” (“Does Britain Matter in East Asia?”; Chatham House Research Paper; September 2014). Security conditions in the air-sea spheres around Scotland and Hokkaido are so similar.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Don't Politicize American Defense!

While Western democracy was taking holidays from history, challengers like Russia and China reemerged from post Cold War peace. And also, religious extremism rose to eclipse nation states in the Middle East. Furthermore, nuclear proliferators like North Korea and Iran are emerging one after another. The global security picture today has become more complicated than that of the bipolar era. Naïvely believed the end of history as shown in defense spending debate at NATO’s Wales summit, the Western alliance failed to manage multiple rising threats. It is not American “decline” but poorly prepared defense that really matters.

For a peaceful world order, lofty ideals and security strategy must be substantiated with raw hard power. The war against ISIS is dependent on an ad hoc coalition of the willing, instead of established security alliance like NATO. In addition, it is necessary to rebuild American defense beyond partisan and ideological stand points. In order to rebuild defense power, it is necessary to rebuild national security policy.

Currently American security policy is shattered by inter and intra party politics. Michelle Flournoy, CEO, and Richard Fontaine, President, both at the Center for New American Security, presents an overview of politicization of American defense. During the 1970s and 80s, crossover voting was commonly seen, which helped the formation of bipartisan foreign policy consensus. However, strict partisanship prevents it these days. Intra party split is also serious. As to Republicans, Defense hawks and budget hawks bicker each other. On the Democratic side, the far left deviates from mainstream as they regard robust American economic and military presence around the globe simply sacrifices domestic issues like growing inequality (“Rebuilding Bipartisan Consensus on National Security”; June 9, 2014; Defense One).

We must bear in mind that so many Americans are tired of long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that they are drawn to isolationists of either right or left wings. This is the very background to help Barack Obama win the presidential elections for two terms. As Flournoy and Fontaine argued, well-aware people must explore bipartisan national security consensus through various venues. So many things need to be considered to rebuild American defense, including right assessment of threats, right defense size, right defense budget, and so forth. But what really matters is the leadership of the president. As shown in Obama’s comment that he underestimated ISIS threat at the end of this September (“Obama: U.S. Underestimated ISIS, Overestimated Iraqi Army”; NPR News; September 28, 2014), presidential leadership in American defense is extremely questionable.

How Obama’s leadership harmed American defense? Bobby Jindahl, Governor of Louisiana, outlined fundamental fraud of Obama’s defense policy in his lecture on October 6 at the American Enterprise Institute. The fundamental point of his argument is that current world insecurity is the consequence of Obama’s foreign policy viewpoint that denies America’s special role as the provider of global public good and its moral authority in world order. Also, Obama’s disengagement is undermining trust to the United States among the allies. As Jindahl mentions, Obama’s foreign policy is nothing but “don’t do stupid things”, which is simply in denial of Bush’s approach. The most fatal mistake that Obama made was spending cut in defense when multiple threats were rising, from traditional ones like Russia and China to asymmetric ones like Al Qaeda and ISIS. As widely known, Jindahl is one of the prospective candidates for Republican presidential nominee in 2016. The vital point is that he tries to fill the intra party gap between budget hawks and defense hawks by emphasizing himself as a fiscal conservative who advocates wise defense spending while increasing the total amount of it. See the video below.




More importantly, criticism to Obama’s defense policy is rising even from his own camp. When former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates published his memoir, he commented that Obama had no confidence in his Afghan strategy and did not trust his military staff regarding Iraq. According to Gates, Obama was obsessed with nothing but early withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan (“Robert Gates, former defense secretary, offers harsh critique of Obama’s leadership in ‘Duty’”; Washington Post; January 7, 2014). It is somewhat expected that Republican Gates is critical to Obama’s defense policy. Also, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounces Obama’s failure to sponsor the Free Syrian Army, which permitted the rise of jihadists there. Though a Democrat, she is running for the 2016 election, and needs to differentiate herself from Obama. However, Leon Panetta’s rebuke to Obama this fall is startling, because he is a long term Democrat, and held top positions such as the Director of the CIA and the Secretary of Defense under the current administration. Unlike Clinton, Panetta has never been a presidential rival, and supposed to be more loyal to Obama than Gates and Clinton.

In his memoir, Panetta says that Obama was preoccupied with immediate withdrawal from Iraq, although he strongly recommended the president to keep 24,000 troops there (“Obama ignores Leon Panetta’s warning”; Washington Post; October 6, 2014). Along with Panetta, Under Secretary of Defense-then Michele Flournoy and military commanders raised critical concerns with post withdrawal turmoil. However, Obama dismissed their analyses just “bogus and wrong”. That permitted current vandalism by ISIS (“Leon Panetta criticizes Obama for Iraq withdrawal”; CBS News; October 2, 2014). This is partly due to Obama’s lack of understandings in defense and his failure to assess security threats, but more fundamentally, his obsession with stepping down from superpower. In other words, Obama politicized American defense as a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ironically, Obama’s inept handling of defense can be of some help to nurture bipartisan consensus. Obama said, “There is no liberal America and conservative America, but the United States of America” during the 2008 presidential election. Now, he is appalled by both liberal America and conservative America. Will common understandings among the foreign policy circle overcome war weary public and intra party splits of both parties? Hopefully, that will help the next president whoever he or she is.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Japan Should Explore UNSC Reform rather than Permanent Membership

Japan has not abandoned the aspiration for the permanent membership in the UN Security Council, despite a failed bid for this seat during the Koizumi era. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made it clear that Japan would continue to bid for the permanent membership, in his address to the UN General Assembly on September 26. I appreciate such “Never give up” attitude, but is it a worthy quest for Japan? The fundamental problem of the Security Council is not liberating Japan and Germany from the yoke of defeat in World War II, but the veto that precludes the Council from making decisions and acting against threats to global security. Therefore, Japan should propose something fundamental to resolve incapability of the UNSC, instead of reconfirming its position of the 6th or 7th greatest power in the global pecking order, following established P5.

As a matter of fact, I was in the midst of patriotic fervor when the Koizumi administration bid for the permanent membership, which resulted in a failure. I believed so naïvely that Japan step up to a political great power, in addition to its status as the second largest economy in those days. But time has passed since then, and it is necessary to reconsider whether continual bidding will be real Japanese interest or not. Outrageous lobbying will consume a considerable amount of money and energy. Should Japan give pork barrel aid to Asia and Africa, just in order to placate them to vote for itself? To win the bid, Japan asked regional powers such as Brazil and India to make a joint application for the permanent membership. So called G4 applicants, Japan, Germany, Brazil, and India, included emerging powers, in order to charm BRICS nations (“Why Japan Will Never Be a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council”; National Interest; August 4, 2014). However, it is quite doubtful whether regional powers like Brazil and India are prepared to assume global responsibility.

If regional balance is so important, then, the African Union has the right to claim their seat in the Security Council. There is no wonder both the United States and China, supposed to be at odds each other, vetoed G4’s bid (“Editorial: Abe should clarify objective in seeking permanent UN Security Council seat”; Mainichi Shimbun; September 27, 2014). Moreover, Japan’s enduring aspiration for the permanent seat simply gives a good chance for Chinese propaganda. Shortly after Abe’s speech, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reminded all attendants at the General assembly of the fact that it would be the 70th anniversary of Chinese victory over Japanese fascism (“China admonishes Japan in U.N. speech, warning history should not be falsified”; Japan Times; September 28, 2014). If Japan can override the Chinese veto, it is worthy of bidding. Unfortunately, China would block every Japanese endeavor for honorary and prestigious seat, in quest of geopolitical balance in favor of them, and degrade Japan as that target of negative campaigns regarding wartime history, for this objective. In addition, Mainichi Shimbun comments critically that there is no momentum to change the UN Charter, just to accommodate Japan as a new permanent member of the Security Council.

Therefore, I argue that Japan propose something that urges fundamental change of currently indecisive and inactive UNSC, instead of lobbying to satisfy its vanity. I am not in flat denial of benefits to be a permanent member. Prior to the Scottish referendum, former British Prime Minister John Major raised a critical concern, "We would lose our seat at the top table in the UN," if Scotland voted for independence (“What would Scottish independence mean at the UN?”; BBC News; 10 September, 2014). However, Japan’s position is starkly different from those of existing P5 nations, as it must consume so much energy to overcome tough hurdles to win the top seat. Above all, what can Japan do, if it were granted for the permanent membership? Does Japan dare to use veto power at the UNSC to turn the entire world against itself in the worst case? Will Japanese promotion to the honorary seat change the world? Rationally speaking, these are utterly not.

Remember Saudi Arabia stepped down the nonpermanent seat at the Security Council on October 17 last year, because it is so indecisive and so inactive in critical Middle East security issues, including Iran’s nuclear program and the crisis of ISIS. Saudis see current UNSC useless, helpless, and valueless ("Sit on the UN Security Council?"; Weelky Standard; November 4, 2013). Considering burden, benefits, and campaign effort, UNSC membership does not necessarily serve Japan’s national interest. As far as this issue is concerned, I agree with the government of Saudi Arabia completely. We have to keep in mind that the current status of P5 was endowed from the beginning. Therefore, Major’s anxiety on the eve of the Scotland vote makes sense for Britain. But the nations of the rest of the world other than P5 need to struggle to bid for membership in the Security Council even if it is nonpermanent, and not to mention permanent. Japan’s struggle will be vetoed by China in the end. Should Japan repeat such a fruitless attempt?

An initiative for fundamental and universal agenda can create a momentum for change. It is commonly known that the United States is more inclined to the coalition of the willing rather than UN resolutions, because it is the most annoyed with Russian and Chinese vetoes in the Security Council that have been precluding urgent actions even after the Cold War era. This is typically illustrated in the appointment of John Bolton to the Ambassador to the United Nations by the Bush administration, even though he is a vocal critic to this organization. Whether Democrat or Republican rule, such distrust to current UN decision making system is widespread among American policymakers. It is a deadlocked UNSC that really matters to the global community, rather than the pecking order of the nations.

If Japan really were to change the Security Council, focus on fundamental and structural problem. That will draw more support from the world. Regarding the veto problem, I would suggest a change from a single vote veto system to a two or three vote veto system by permanent members. Even if the permanent seat were granted, Japan cannot act alone. A single veto system will not be of much help for Tokyo. Whoever the prime minister is, Japan’s money and diplomatic labor must be spent properly for the right objective. Any actions simply based on patriotic passion and vanity are useless and valueless.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Wales Summit as NATO’s Watershed

NATO’s Wales Summit from 4 to 5 September was a landmark to turn the trans-Atlantic alliance to refocus on Europe from a global NATO after the fall of the Soviet Union, in view of Ukraine. In other words, this summit symbolizes the end of the post Cold War era. In early August, the Lower House in Westminster released a report to stress NATO’s strategic shift from counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan to interstate deterrence against Russia (“Towards the next Defence and Security Review: Part Two — NATO: Third Report of Session 2014–15”; House of Commons Defence Committee). Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, Director of the Paris office of the German Marshall Fund, even argue that Putin’s aggression to Ukraine redefined raison d'être of NATO (“NATO Should Act in Europe’s Defense, Not Ukraine’s”; New York Times; September 9, 2014). European allies welcomed President Barack Obama as he sent a clear message to stop dangerous expansionism of Russia, even though Ukraine was not a member of the alliance (“Putin Has Done NATO a Big Favor”; New Yorker; September 2, 2014). NATO reaffirmed Article 5 to defend East European members to override the challenge posed by Russian President Vladimir Putin (“NATO Summit Steels Alliance Members for Future”; DoD News; September 5, 2014). Let me talk about summit agendas and the future of the alliance.

The most critical issue was Ukraine. Since the Crimean crisis this February, Russian proxies destabilize eastern Ukraine by provoking pro-Russian uprisings. Just before the Wales summit, Russian proxy intrusion prompted an alert among NATO members (“Russia Moves More Troops Across Ukraine Border, NATO Says”; NPR; August 29, 2014). Despite the ceasefire between Ukraine and pro-Russian insurgents on September 5 (“Ukraine's unhappy ceasefire”; Economist; September 7, 2014), and Russian troop pullout since then (Majority of Russian troops have left Ukraine, says Petro Poroshenko”: Daily Telegraph; September 10, 2014), Putin harnesses the weakness of Western democracy by consummate propaganda. He deceives war reluctant Western public that it was local separatists, not Russian proxies. Pacifists are willing to accept such lies (“Putin Attacks the West's Soft Underbelly”; World Affairs; 12 September, 2014). However, Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov who leads an opposition coalition The Other Russia, testified that Kremlin sent troops to invade Ukraine in an interview with BBC on September 4. See the video below.




Therefore, the West should not act on the basis of pacifist wishful thinking against Russia. NATO declared to adopt Article 5 to prevent Putin’s aggression to member states. This is not “a game changer” but “NATO announced military readiness to defend eastern Europe.” See the video below.




The West needs further action to withstand Russian power beyond the current NATO member area. Though Putin cut the scale of troops deployed in eastern Ukraine, it is unlikely that still remaining 1,000 of them leave there. After two weeks since the agreement, NATO commander General Philip Breedlove of the US Air Force told that the ceasefire was in name only, and remilitarization of Crimea was a grave concern. Actually, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said it was Russia’s top priority to increase forces in Crimea (“Ukraine ceasefire is "in name only" – NATO”; Reuters News; September 21, 2014). In face of formidable Russian military presence and Kremlin sponsored seperatists, President Barack Obama offered only $46 million military aid to his counterpart Petro Poroshenko including body armor, engineering equipment and patrol boats, instead of deadly needed antitank weapons and drones. That is worthless, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee urges $350 million military aid in 2015 to counter Russia (“Provide Ukraine with the military aid it needs to deter Russia’s aggression”; Washington Post; September 19, 2014). The West needs to explore further help to Ukraine.

Corresponding to Russian aggression, NATO declared to found the Rapid Response Force to apply Article 5 to east European member states. This joint troop is composed of 4,000 soldiers, and capable of being deployed within 48 hours (“NATO Weighs Rapid Response Force for Eastern Europe”; New York Times; September 1, 2014). Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Spokesman of the Department of Defense, said “It's about making sure a strong message is sent” to Russia (“US Backs Improved NATO Reaction Force in Europe”; Military Times; September 2, 2014). New response force requires command and control reform, logistics innovation, and information sharing among allies, According to Secretary General Anders Fough Rasmussen (“NATO leaders take decisions to ensure robust Alliance”; NATO News; September 5, 2014). Keir Giles, Assiciate at Chatham House, comments that NATO must show the spearhead forces are not just verbal, and act furthermore to stop Russian expansionism (“Ukraine and Estonia are on the Front Line of a New Division in Europe”; Chatham House Expert Comment; 9 September, 2014). In other words, the Wales declaration is just the beginning.

Any declaration or policy must be backed by sufficient defense budget. Putin’s nationalist resurgence was well before the current crisis in Ukraine. However, NATO members cut defense expenditure so drastically in the post Cold War period, as if there were no security concerns in Europe, and even on the global stage. The United States that urges Europe to increase defense spending faces sequestration as the Obama administration failed to manage the Congress. In addition to traditional threats, NATO needs to make preparations for countering cyber attacks (“NATO Set to Ratify Pledge on Joint Defense in Case of Major Cyberattack”; New York Times; September 1, 2014). Leaders from 28 member states agreed to increase spending at the Wales summit (“Allied leaders pledge to reverse defence cuts, reaffirm transatlantic bond”; NATO News; 8 September, 2014). The problem is how it is implemented at each sovereign state level. Poorly coordinated defense policy among allies will not make proposed rapid response forces sufficiently effective.

Though the Wales Summit is a turning point for NATO to refocus on Europe, security challenges outside the Euro-Atlantic sphere have grown substantially. Though the rise of Islamic extremism was not an original agenda, UK Prime Minister David Cameron who hosted the Wales Summit called for a multinational coalition, along with President Barack Obama. The problem is the objective. Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger questioned whether this anti-ISIS operation was to contain them or crush them ("Obama, Cameron to push for coalition against ISIS at NATO summit”; FOX News; September 4 2014). Obama shows lukewarm attitude as he is still weary of firm commitment to send ground troops. Also, despite mentioning to ISIS in the final declaration of the Wales summit, the coalition is dependent on willing sovereign states like France and Arab nations. Cameron himself still must overcome parliamentary objection as he faced over air strike to Syria last time (“Britain close to joining U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State”; Reuters News; September 24, 2014).

Without Putin’s aggression to Ukraine, Afghanistan was supposed to be the top agenda at the Wales summit. ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) will withdraw from there by the end of this year, but continual Western commitment is required. On the eve of the NATO summit, security went worse (“Afghan turmoil threatens NATO's 'mission accomplished' plans”; Reuters News; September 2, 2014). Secretary General Rasmussen urged the Afghan government to sign the BSA (Bilateral Security Agreement) and SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) with the United States as early as possible (“NATO reaffirms continued support to Afghanistan”; NATO News; 4 September, 2014). Three pillars of NATO engagement in the post ISAF Afghanistan are resolute support missions, contribution to build a sustainable Afghan National Army, and strengthening long term political cooperation with Afghanistan (“NATO leaders reaffirms continued support to Afghanistan”; Khaama Press; September 4, 2014). These concepts must be backed up in practice. NATO increased military aid to Afghanistan from $4.1 billion to $5.1 billion after 2014 (“NATO increases funding of Afghan forces to $5.1 billion”; Khaama Press; September 4, 2014).

In addition to stated policy goals and declarations, we need to pay more attention to unstated political moves within the alliance. Turkey’s repivot to the West is a notable one. Ever since Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP (Justice and Development Party) took power in 2002, Turkey shifted away from Kemalism, and pursues more Islamist foreign and domestic policy. However, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, long term political advisor to Erdoğan, tried to repair ties with the West as it faces the war in Syria in the neighborhood. The Syrian civil war has made relations with Iran worse as it sponsors the Assad regime. Turkey lost Islamist allies as a result of the fall of Muslim Brotherhood affiliates in Egypt, Libya, and Syria. Also, Turkey’s sponsorship to the Kurdish against ISIS strained its relations with the Iraqi central government (“Turkey's Middle-East Dream Becomes a Nightmare”; Wall Street Journal; September 3, 2014).

Turkey’s return to the West gives vital implication to global security. Remember Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Erdoğan not to buy air defense missile systems from China that would leak NATO’s sensitive information to potential adversaries. The official declaration mentioned defense expenditure, but it is important how that is spent. The alliance needs to meet dual requirements, which are new Cold War with Russia and possibly with China, and asymmetrical warfare against Middle East insurgents. Just an increase of defense spending does not necessarily satisfy them. Defense policy among allies must be well coordinated to make everything work effectively.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Trans-Atlantic Defense Spending Gap in NATO

On the eve of NATO’s Wales Sumit on 4 and 5 September, the Wall Street Journal showed critical tables ("As Russian Threat in Ukraine Grows, NATO Faces Thorny Spending Questions"; Wall Street Journal; August 29, 2014). Though the size of the economy of the United States and the European Union, most of which are NATO members, is roughly the same, Europeans spend considerably less amount of money on defense than the United States. Agendas at the Wales summit include the Ukrainian crisis, post ISAF Afghanistan, burden sharing, and so forth. Issues like collective security are supposed to be an exemplary model for Japan that is currently turning toward proactive pacifism. However, stark gaps in defense commitment erode NATO’s role model credential among democratic allies.




Let me talk about the two tables. In terms of defense spending share by member state, the portion of the United States rose from 68% in 2007 to 73% in 2013. Currently, sequestration has drastically cut American defense budget, and policymakers are making every effort to revert negative impacts of it to refinance the spending. Despite that, the European share in the NATO defense spending declined. In view of the rise of diversified security challenges, not just increasingly nationalist Russia and widespread Islamic extremism, it is quite strange why Europeans spend so little on defense. As Robert Kagan argues, the gap between American Mars and European Venus is obvious. See the table above.

For further understanding, I would like to mention the other table as shown below, which shows defense expenditure share in GDP of each member state. While NATO recommends 2% for defense, at least, only four countries, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Estonia, meet this. Some of them, including Canada, Spain, and so forth, spend 1% or less for defense, which is the same level as that spent by old passive pacifist Japan. Startlingly, Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania spend only 0.9% and 0.8% respectively. Both of them are front line nations against Russia, and NATO sends air squadrons there, as tensions over Ukraine grow. Some people argue Europeans need to sustain their welfare states, and they cannot pay for defense so much. That is no excuse. They spent 4 to 5% of GDP for defense during the Cold War, while maintaining the standard of social security.




Whatever the strategies are, and however well-designed they are, none of them can be implemented without sufficient size and quality of defense. In the name of a global NATO as seen in operations in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa, the alliance downsized its military power since the fall of the Soviet Union. Now, NATO is pivoting to Europe, because Russia reemerges a critical threat as seen in the Ukrainian crisis. However, none of the threats, whether regional or global, can be managed by poor defense.

Remember that Pax Americana is based on the alliance of the willing, whether in a unipolar, multipolar, or even non-polar world. The trans-Atlantic alliance is the keystone of it. A split NATO, leads to a weaker alliance and weaker democracy around the world, and in the end, that will give re-rise to the Dark Age, dominated by autocratic great powers and medieval religious fanaticism. Ask what makes the alliance viable. That is a universal question.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Rising Cost and the Delay of the F-35 Project

The problem of rising price to develop F-35is a serious concern on the Hill. In view of ongoing sequestration, the Joint Strike Fighter project can squeeze other defense needs. Originally, F-35 was supposed to be money saving and multipurpose plane. However, continuous engine and software troubles lead to delays in its deployment and skyrocketing price. When an engine trouble happened on June 23 this year, all F-35s grounded for inspection. Senator John McCain calls F-35 as the worst example "of the military-industrial-congressional complex," while other senators, including Sen. James Inhofe, are mostly optimistic with this problem (“The Pentagon’s $399 Billion Plane to Nowhere”; Foreign Policy; July 8, 2014).

Among US allies, proponents for this fighter, such as Professor Narushige Michishita at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo, argued that F-35 would be the best option for Japan. "If this was about a Cold War-type competition, then the F-22 would have been better. But if this is a long-term peacetime competition, you need numbers and presence, and close coordination among allies," he says. On the other hand, Carlo Kopp, Defense Analyst at Air Power Australia, an Australian think tank, warned that it would erode defense capability of the United States and its allies, due to complicated technology that would make it costly (“Struggling in US, F-35 fighter pushes sales abroad”; FOX News; January 27, 2012).

Regarding technological problems, some experts see that F-35 is overweight and underpowered. In order to satisfy requirements of the Air force, the Navy, Marine Corps, and allied partners, this single engine fighter has come to weigh 35t, while twin engine F-15 weighs 40t. Even if engine problems can be resolved soon, some analysts worry fundamental design flaws (“Pentagon’s big budget F-35 fighter ‘can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run’”; Reuters News; July 14, 2014). In addition, due to a multi-partite joint project, its software becomes too complicated. As a result, F-35 will be deployed in 2016, ten years since its first flight (“Why Is The US Military Spending So Much Money On The F-35 Fighter Jet?”; Business Insider; February 21, 2014).One fits for all fighter can become overweight and technically halfbaked as seen in the F-111 project by Secretary of Defense-then Robert McNamara of the Kennedy era.

Technological complexity in machinery and software snowballs the price. Though F-35 was supposed be more reasonably cost than F-22, the price per plane grown year by year. It is estimated that the unit cost will $148 million for F35A, $232 million for F35B, and $337 million for F-35C in 2015. Meanwhile F-22 costs “only” $150 million per plane. Now, F-35 symbolizes unaccountable connections between the Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin (“How DOD’s $1.5 Trillion F-35 Broke the Air Force”; Fiscal Times; July 31, 2014).

Despite budget constraints, F-35 remains a priority for the next generation fighter as the Air force will focus on high tech weapons (“Air Force Plans Shift to Obtain High-Tech Weapon Systems”; New York Times; July 30, 2014). Though some scale back can happen in the total number to be deployed, Professor Gordon Adams of the American University comments that F-35 program is too big to fail. Since Lockheed Martin operates in 45 states, lawmakers need their presence to sustain employment in their constituencies (“Why Is The US Military Spending So Much Money On The F-35 Fighter Jet?”; Business Insider; February 21, 2014). What McCain calls “the military-industrial-congressional complex" makesthe project increasingly nontransparent.

Considering ongoing troubles associated with the F-35 program and Congressional debates in the United States, American allies need to reexamine the problem. If it delays too much, and its price snowballs furthermore, some of the original plan may have to be revised. In any case, it is most vital to watch Congressional testimonies in Washington very carefully. In addition, allies need to exchange information among themselves. For example, Japan can gather much information from experts in Britain beyond the Cameron administration, because the options for Japan’s FX fighters and Britain’s flight squadrons for the next aircraft carriers overlap: F35, Typhoon, F/A18 Super Hornet. Britain is the Level 1 partner of the Joint Strike Fighter project, and exploring defense partnership with Japan. Also, we need keen attention to the progress of stealth programs in Russia and China.Taking all things into account, American allies can judge whether to buy all F-35s as originally planned, or explore some portion of alternatives for their plans.

Friday, August 15, 2014

How Will America Rebuild Defense from Sequestration?

The 2013 sequestration is inflicting critical damage on US defense for a long term. The Obama administration failed to reach a budget agreement with Congress, but it is an imperative to revert the negative trend. In view of increasingly destabilized global security, the defense budget and burden sharing is one of the key issues in NATO summit in Wales from September 4 to 5. Currently, most of the European allies spend just around 1% of GDP on defense, with some exception like Britain and France. Such low allocation to defense is the level of old and passive pacifist Japan. In order to revert widespread defense cut syndrome in the Western alliance, the United States must rebuild defense from notorious sequestration. Some conservative opinion leader like Charles Krauthammer argues that America’s Declineis a Choice” (Weekly Standard; October 19, 2009), and the defense budget problem is a typical case of this. Therefore, we must watch closer whether the United States will override sequestration or not.

In view of increasingly assertive China, czarist Russia, virulent Islamic terrorism in Iraq and Syria, and other emerging threats like Iran and North Korea, the United States has to rebuild its national defense. The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) by General MartinDempsey, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, tells that the Department of Defense worries fatal impacts of sequestration, which would make US armed forces too small and outdated for missions around the globe. The QDR assesses challenges to US security, and indicates how to manage budget constraints by strategic rebalance and structural reform. Also, it mentioned that further sequestration would constrain US defense missions.

In response to the 2014 QDR, the National Defense Panel of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), chaired by Former Secretary of Defense William Perry and former Commander of US Central Command John Abizaid, released a new report, entitled “Ensuring a strong US Defense forthe Future” to revert negative effects of sequestration. This bipartisan report draws extensive attention and interest from defense policy makers. The panel argues that the QDR does not show long term measures to overcome the sequestration. Also, they recommend reconciliation between the Department of Defense and the Congress. In addition, this report insists on building large armed forces regardless of capability. Quite alarmingly, panel members are more concerned with the erosion of technological advantage than other defense planners.

While the 2010 QDR focused on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 2014 QDR pays attention to 21st century defense priorities, that is, homeland protection, building global security, and overseas power projection. The USIP’s report agrees with the QDR basically, but it raises concerns with the current defense budget. The report warns that the risk of inability to carry out US military strategy will be higher, without managing sequestration.

But how should the United States save defense? At the Congress, Buck McKeon, Chairman of the House Armed Service Committee, insisted on introducing a National Defense Authorization Act to urge the Department of Defense to revise the QDR (“Defense Panel: Obama Administration DefenseStrategy ‘Dangerously’ Underfunded”; Washington Free Beacon; July 31, 2014). Though members of the National Defense Panel agree that current underfunding would hurt military capability and capacity, the prospects remain unclear (“Sequestration-liteis slowly undermining US forces”; in Focus Quarterly; July 14, 2014). However, Mackenzie Eaglen, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, says that the Congress showed a bipartisan initiative with the USIP report to turn back a horrible $1 trillion spending cut, before its recess in August. That is, to repeal the Budget Control Act in 2011, and to return to the baseline of Robert Gates in 2012 (“A Wake Up Call to Washington on Defense”; Real ClearDefense; August 1, 2014).

Former Republican Senator Jim Talent, who is also a member of the National Defense Panel to publish this report, comments that if President Barack Obama were to fulfill the constitutional obligation that the United States “shall protect each of them (the States) from invasion.” in Article IV, the latest QDR is still incomplete (“A Stunning Rebuke of OurCurrent Defense Policies”; National Review Online; August 1, 2014). Insufficient budget will pose critical constraints to execute defense strategy. If that happens, American allies need to redesign their strategies in response. Attention to congressional debates defense spending when the Hill reopens in September.