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World View: Russia’s ‘Saber-Rattling’ Nuclear Threat May be Directed at China, not Europe

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Russia’s ‘saber-rattling’ nuclear threat may be directed at China, not Europe
  • Chad bans the burka after two suicide bombings
  • Mahmoud Abbas dissolves the Palestinian unity government
  • Hamas and Israel discuss a 5-year ceasefire

Russia’s ‘saber-rattling’ nuclear threat may be directed at China, not Europe

Putin news conference on Tuesday (Reuters)
Putin news conference on Tuesday (Reuters)

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said that Russia would add more than 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to its nuclear arsenal this year. As a reason, he expressed concern about anti-missile defenses that Nato is deploying in eastern Europe.

In fact, the US and Poland have been discussing the deployment of American heavy weapons in eastern Europe. Those discussions are a reaction to Russia’s invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and Russia’s invasion of east Ukraine.

Nato has condemned Putin’s nuclear announcement as “saber-rattling.” According to Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg:

[Putin was] confirming the pattern and behavior of Russia over a period of time – we have seen Russia is investing more in defense in general and in its nuclear capability in particular.

However, according to an analysis by KGS, Europe is the least of Putin’s worries, and that the nuclear announcement was really directed at China:

China is Russia’s existential threat. Russian doctrine makes clear that tactical nuclear weapons would be used to defeat a Chinese attack. The willingness to use nuclear weapons to stop a conventional attack is the key insight from Putin’s statement.

NATO and the US announced that they will position heavy equipment for armored cavalry or armored infantry units in the Baltic members of NATO. The stated purpose is to deter and defeat Russian aggression against NATO members. The US can move soldiers much faster than heavy equipment. In this solution, the major delay is the time it takes civil airliners to fly from the US to Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn.

With reasonable and old fashioned intelligence warning, NATO could bring armored units with prepositioned equipment in the Baltics to full combat readiness faster than the Russians can field a combat attack force. NATO planners need to understand that in every race to mobilize, NATO beats Russia, provided US equipment is prepositioned.

That leads to the second part of the discussion. If the US and NATO are clever enough to find a way to stop Russian conventional forces, Russia has few military options other than nuclear escalation, tactical or strategic. That makes Russia’s strategic position much like that of Pakistan.

After three general wars and two crises that approached general war, it is now clear that Pakistan cannot defeat India in a general conventional war. US intelligence analysts need to understand this as settled lore from decades of US intelligence experience: Pakistan cannot win a conventional war against India.

In the near-war crises of 2001-2002, India achieved full combat readiness in less than three weeks, while the Pakistan Army, under President General [Pervez] Musharraf, failed to achieve full combat readiness. Pakistan’s failure to generate its conventional military power meant that its leaders thought they had no alternative to activating Pakistan’s strategic nuclear missile forces to stop an Indian conventional attack..

That is the significance of Putin’s message. Russia cannot defend the national territory without using nuclear weapons. Pakistan and North Korea are in precisely the same position. That position does not imply that a conventional confrontation must go nuclear. It means that such a confrontation could go nuclear.

Russia’s nuclear threats are serious because of the weaknesses of Russia’s conventional forces. A key question is how will NATO respond.

CS Monitor and Reuters and KGS Nightwatch (Subscription)

Chad bans the burka after two suicide bombings

Two suicide bombings targeting the presidential palace and police headquarters in Chad’s capital city N’Djamena on Tuesday left 27 people dead and over 100 wounded. Although no one has claimed responsibility, few people doubt that the perpetrators were Boko Haram.

In reaction, there has been a major security clampdown in N’Djamena. Central areas have been sealed off, checkpoints have been set up across the city, and vehicles with smoked glass windows have been banned from the roads.

The most controversial security change has been the banning the burka and the full-face veil, because they are being used as “camouflage,” making it possible to hide explosives within clothing. Boko Haram militants have increasingly been using female suicide bombers in Nigeria, as they are more likely to smuggle bombs into public places without detection.

The ban will apply everywhere, not just public places. Not only will the ban be enforced, but security forces will go into markets and burn all full-face veils sold in markets. AFP and Vanguard (Nigeria) and BBC

Mahmoud Abbas dissolves the Palestinian unity government

On April 23 of last year, the two major Palestinian factions signed a “Palestinian unity agreement,” as a prerequisite to forming a State of Palestine. The agreement provided for a series of steps to unify the two factions into a common government. But now, after over a year of bitter disagreements, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has announced that he is going to dissolve the unity government. According to a spokesman, “The government will resign in the next 24 hours because this one is weak and there is no chance that Hamas will allow it to work in Gaza.”

It is not clear whether Mahmoud Abbas, born 1935, really means it, or whether it is a negotiating position. During the past few years, Abbas has said on several occasions that he personally would resign as president, but changed his mind later.

In fact, Hamas has already said that it would not accept the dissolution:

Hamas rejects any one-sided change in the government without the agreement of all parties.

No one told us anything about any decision to change and no one consulted with us about any change in the unity government. Fatah [Abbas] acted on its own in all regards.

If the unity government is really dissolved, then it would put the entire State of Palestine issue into question, since you cannot have a State of Palestine unless you have a government. Ma’an News (Bethlehem) and AFP and Khaleej Times (Dubai)

Hamas and Israel discuss a 5-year ceasefire

The threatened dissolution of the unity government comes at a time when there are reports that Hamas and Israel are negotiating a five-year ceasefire that would partially end the blockade of Gaza by opening a seaport.

Hamas is under pressure from a number of directions. Hamas was defeated in last summer’s Gaza war, and got nothing out of it. Furthermore, Hamas is now one of the “older generations” in Gaza, and is finding it difficult to control the young militant Salafist groups. So Hamas officials may have decided that negotiating with Israel may be their best bet. However, few people believe that anything firm will come out of the negotiations.

There has been one immediate change. Because of the negotiations, Egypt has eased the restrictions on the Rafah crossing, and is permitting people to travel freely between Gaza and Egypt. Jerusalem Post

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Russia, Vladimir Putin, Nato, Jens Stoltenberg, China, India, Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, North Korea, Chad, Nigeria, Boko Haram, Hamas, Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, State of Palestine, Israel, Egypt
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