Rohingya refugees protest exodus, demand rights in Myanmar
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Thousands of Rohingya refugees marked the second anniversary of their exodus from Myanmar into Bangladesh on Sunday by rallying, crying and praying as they demanded Myanmar grant them their citizenship and other rights before they agree to return. Up to 30,000 joined a rally days after Bangladesh with the help of the U.N. refugee agency attempted to start the repatriation of 3,450 Rohingya Muslims. None agreed to go back voluntarily, citing fear for their safety and a lack of confidence in Myanmar.
08/25/2019 - 02:01 AM
Inside Macron’s Plan to Control G-7 and Lecture Trump on Climate
(Bloomberg) -- On the edge of a rocky cliff reaching into the Atlantic, Emmanuel Macron stood ready to point his guests toward the white lighthouse where he was about to sit his fellow Group of Seven leaders down to a serious talk about the climate, over glasses of champagne.Last in was Donald Trump, who doesn’t drink alcohol, doesn’t enjoy being lectured to (especially about the environment) and who, in spite of an outwardly amicable two-hour lunch with his host, suspected the French president might be trying to outwit the U.S. with his summit choreography.And he’s not exactly wrong to be worried.Macron had ripped up the script before anyone even landed in the seaside resort of Biarritz: picking a fight with Brazil over Amazon forest fires, surprising the Europeans with a threat to block a trade deal with Latin America, and keeping allies guessing about what trick he would pull next.The secrecy extended to the dinner that followed on Saturday night. Normally aides would be able to listen in to the leaders’ conversation from an adjacent room. Not this time. The French say their plan was to have a G-7 more like the intimate versions of the 1970s, when heads of state could talk frankly without handlers over a glass of brandy. At the table, the Amazon fires occupied the bulk of the meal before the dialogue segued to Iran, Ukraine and Russia. According to French officials, points of convergence were found. On Sunday, the economic is the focal point.Global ThreatsWith mounting threats to the global economy, divisions over Iran, and the Amazon fires creating a sense of crisis about the environment, the French organizers also want to avoid leaks that could lead to the kind of public bust-ups that have marred other recent international gatherings. For better or worse, G-7 meetings are a critical institution when it comes to addressing truly worldwide problems.What the French hosts can’t control is a U.S. leader who already seems on edge, after spending Friday lashing out at the Federal Reserve and China as the trade war he began risks tipping the world into recession.In Chancellor Angela Merkel’s view, Trump came to the summit weakened by the possible economic consequences of the trade dispute with China, according to a senior German official.U.S. ComplaintsAs soon as they landed, U.S. officials complained that Macron was trying to fashion the weekend’s agenda to isolate Trump, framing it around climate change and straying from the G-7’s original purpose as an economic bloc. French officials at every level had been difficult to deal with in preparation for the summit, the Americans said.They accused the French of ignoring U.S. input and then blaming Washington for blocking consensus. It was an attack that caught the French off-guard. Macron’s officials disputed the account, pointing out that the first item on the agenda when Sunday’s work sessions get under way will be trade and the global economy, Trump’s main priority.The cracks are showing, even as Macron tries to paper over them. He grabbed Trump as soon as the U.S. leader arrived and invited him for lunch -- a spur-of-the-moment gesture at an often meticulously-scheduled event. It looked cordial enough, although Trump did slip in that “every so often we go at it a little bit.”Still, in a tweet sent shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday local time Trump praised France, Macron and said his dinner with other leaders “went very well.”It never gets easier to deal with Trump, the German official said. Merkel always invites him to Germany when she sees him and he always accepts. But nothing comes of it; Trump’s main visit to Germany as president was for a G-20 summit in July 2017.Softening Up TrumpIn the opening maneuvers in Biarritz, the German official said, European leaders will be trying to soften Trump up so that he’ll be more responsive to their key message -- that his trade war is hurting all of them.But how to deliver that message in a way that it can be heard? Macron has already shelved the one-communique format in favor of statements on various things the leaders can agree on, but which U.S. officials saw as niche matters.French officials said Macron wanted to ease his conflicts with Trump over climate, trade and a new French tax that hits U.S. internet giants. But his main play was over Iran.Over lunch, Macron suggested a proposal allowing Iran to export oil for a limited period of time if it returned to compliance with the nuclear accord and agrees to formal talks. The French side had no comment on Trump’s reaction to the idea, but it would be a comprehensive reversal of his Middle East strategy if he signed up to it. A U.S. official deemed it a non-starter.Hot Mic IncidentMacron’s climate gambit doesn’t look likely to succeed either, and not just because of Trump. His fast-and-furious actions against Brazil were done without consulting his allies and many disagreed with the tactic of linking climate with trade, rather than tackling them separately.A German official said the chancellor found Macron’s knee-jerk reaction unhelpful and Boris Johnson, the newly-minted U.K. prime minister, wasn’t impressed either. “There are all sorts of people who will take any excuse at all to interfere with trade and to frustrate trade deals, and I don’t want to see that,” Johnson told reporters.As they settled down to the talks, a television camera caught a rare example of how high-level diplomacy works. The Europeans were gathered around a table, brainstorming on how to delicately apply pressure on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to tame the Amazon fires, without antagonizing him all over again.Merkel said she would call him next week “so he gets the impression that we are not working against him.” Johnson nodded vigorously in agreement: “I think this is important.”“Yeah, yeah, I am with you,” said Macron. “Do we call him...?”Moments later, a hand jammed into the lens of the camera, and the feed died.(Adds details from dinner.)\--With assistance from Arne Delfs and Josh Wingrove.To contact the reporters on this story: Helene Fouquet in Biarritz at firstname.lastname@example.org;Jennifer Jacobs in Biarritz at email@example.com;Ian Wishart in Biarritz, France at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at email@example.com, ;Flavia Krause-Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org, Ben Sills, Ros KrasnyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
08/25/2019 - 01:49 AM
UK Labour's McDonnell privately says party should campaign to prevent Brexit- report
The finance chief of Britain's main opposition Labour Party has said privately that the party should campaign to prevent Brexit, the Sunday Times newspaper reported http://bit.ly/30xzqCv. John McDonnell has argued that Labour's position should be to revoke article 50 and stop Brexit in its tracks, according to the newspaper. A spokesman for McDonnell cited by the Sunday Times denied the report and dismissed its claims.
08/25/2019 - 01:08 AM
N. Korea tests new 'super-large' multiple rocket launcher
North Korea said Sunday leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test-firing of a "newly developed super-large multiple rocket launcher," another demonstration of its expanding weapons arsenal apparently aimed at increasing its leverage ahead of a possible resumption of nuclear talks with the U.S. Kim underscored the need to "continue to step up the development of Korean-style strategic and tactical weapons for resolutely frustrating the ever-mounting military threats and pressure offensive of the hostile forces," according to the KCNA. The "hostile forces" likely referred to the United States and South Korea, whose recently ended regular military drills infuriated North Korea.
08/25/2019 - 12:23 AM
Johnson seeks to push Trump at fractious G7
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Sunday seek to persuade President Donald Trump to offer flexibility on trade and also win concessions from the EU on Brexit, at a G7 summit hosted by France marked by stark divisions. Johnson was to hold his long-awaited first face-to-face meeting as premier with Trump in the southern French resort of Biarritz and also at midday talk with EU Council President Donald Tusk after a bitter verbal spat the day earlier.
08/24/2019 - 11:03 PM
Hezbollah: Israeli drone falls, another explodes over Beirut
A Hezbollah official said Sunday that an Israeli drone went down over the Lebanese capital of Beirut and another exploded in the air, amid regional tensions between Israel and Iran. Residents of the Iranian-backed group's stronghold in southern Beirut reported one large explosion that shook the area early Sunday, triggering a fire. The Hezbollah official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity as the person was not authorized to speak on the record to journalists.
08/24/2019 - 09:35 PM
Hezbollah official: Israeli drone falls in south Beirut suburbs, second drone crashes
An Israeli drone fell in the southern suburbs of Beirut, dominated by the Iran-backed movement, and a second drone exploded near the ground before dawn on Sunday, a Hezbollah official told Reuters. The second drone caused damage when it crashed in a neighbourhood of the Dahyeh suburbs close to Hezbollah's media centre, the official said.
08/24/2019 - 08:48 PM
North Korea’s Kim Guides Test Fire of New Rocket Launcher
(Bloomberg) -- North Korea’s Kim Jong Un guided a test fire of a newly developed super-large multiple rocket launcher on Saturday, setting the stage for one of the busiest weekends for missile firings since talks began with U.S. President Donald Trump more than a year ago.The test firing comes after South Korea’s Defense Ministry said the same day North Korea launched two ballistic missiles, which Japan’s Coast Guard said had landed outside the country’s exclusive economic zone. “The test-fire proved that all the tactical and technological specifications of the system correctly reached the preset indexes,” state news agency KCNA said, without specifying if that’s similar to the launches reported by South Korean and Japanese officials.The missiles were launched from south Hamgyong in North Korea, the ministry said. The KCNA report didn’t say where the launcher was located.Kim’s regime has conducted a series of short-range ballistic missile tests in recent weeks as he seeks a more favorable negotiating framework in nuclear talks with Trump. The U.S. leader has said the tests shouldn’t disrupt talks, so long as Kim doesn’t launch longer-range missiles that could strike America.Trump and Kim first met in June 2018 in Singapore, followed by a second summit earlier this year in Hanoi that was abruptly cut short, jeopardizing talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. The two promised to restart working-level talks during their unprecedented June 30 meeting at the Demilitarized Zone.South Korea’s presidential office expressed deep concern over North Korea’s continued missile launches, despite the fact that joint drills between the U.S. and South Korea had finished, according to a text message. It urged North Korea to halt action that raises military tension in the peninsula.North Korea has issued several statements in recent days saying that military moves by the U.S. and South Korea are making it more difficult for the country to participate in talks. On Friday, North Korea’s top diplomat accused Secretary of State Michael Pompeo of undermining negotiations, even as Trump’s nuclear envoy, Stephen Biegun, was in Seoul.Related story: North Korea Testing Missiles Faster Than Days of ‘Fire and Fury’(Adds more details starting in fifth paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Maria Jose Valero in New York at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Polina Noskova at firstname.lastname@example.org, Linus Chua, James LuddenFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
08/24/2019 - 07:02 PM
Israel says it thwarts imminent Iranian attack from Syria
The Israeli military attacked targets near Damascus late Saturday in what it said was a successful effort to thwart an imminent Iranian drone strike on Israel, stepping up an already heightened campaign against Iranian military activity in the region. The late-night airstrike, which triggered Syrian anti-aircraft fire, appeared to be one of the most intense attacks by Israeli forces in several years of hits on Iranian targets in Syria. Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Al Quds force, working with allied Shiite militias, had been planning to send a number of explosives-laden attack drones into Israel.
08/24/2019 - 06:11 PM
Johnson Seeks Legal Advice on Closing Parliament: Observer
(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked Attorney General Geoffrey Cox if parliament can be shut down for five weeks starting early next month, the Observer reported, citing a leaked email from senior government advisers to an adviser in No. 10 Downing Street.The move appears to be part of a concerted plan to stop House of Commons lawmakers from further extending the Brexit deadline, according to the newspaper, which said the correspondence was written over the last 10 days.The period Johnson is asking about covers Sept. 9 to mid-October, by which time it would be too late for MPs to derail the Brexit process.The claim that the government is considering proroguing parliament in September in order to stop MPs debating Brexit is entirely false, a government spokesman said.It would be rare for any prime minister to try to bring a session of parliament to a premature close, known as proroguing, solely for strategic reasons. The issue has developed into a potential flashpoint since Johnson became premier and started openly pushing for the U.K. to leave the European Union without a deal on Oct. 31.Some members of Johnson’s Conservative Party, including former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, have been plotting how to stop the country crashing out of the bloc. John Bercow, the House of Commons Speaker responsible for parliamentary procedure, reportedly told an audience this month that he would use “every bone in my body” to stop Johnson suspending parliament.(Adds government reaction)To contact the reporter on this story: Maria Jose Valero in New York at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Polina Noskova at firstname.lastname@example.org, James Ludden, Ros KrasnyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
08/24/2019 - 05:50 PM
UPDATE 1-North Korean leader Kim oversaw test of 'super-large multiple rocket launcher' - KCNA
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the test of a "super-large multiple rocket launcher" on Saturday, state news agency KCNA reported on Sunday. North Korea fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast, the South Korean military said, the latest in a series of launches in recent weeks amid stalled denuclearisation talks. Photos released by North Korean state media showed rockets launching from large tubes mounted on the back of an eight-wheel vehicle.
08/24/2019 - 05:39 PM
UPDATE 1-UK PM Johnson seeks legal advice on five-week parliament closure - The Observer
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked his attorney general whether parliament can be shut down for five weeks from Sept. 9 in what appears to be an attempt to stop lawmakers forcing a further extension to Brexit, The Observer reported. An email from senior government advisers to an adviser in Johnson's office written in the last ten days says the prime minister recently requested guidance on the legality of such a move, known as proroguing, the newspaper said. "The claim that the government is considering proroguing parliament in September in order to stop MPs debating Brexit is entirely false," a government spokesman said.
08/24/2019 - 05:36 PM
Britain will withhold $37 billion from EU in no-deal Brexit - Mail on Sunday
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to tell European Union leaders he will withhold 30 billion pounds ($37 billion) from the Brexit divorce bill unless they agree to changes to the deal, the Mail on Sunday reported. If Britain leaves the bloc without a trade deal, lawyers have concluded the government's will only have to pay the EU 9 billion pounds, rather than 39 billion pounds, the newspaper reported.
08/24/2019 - 04:54 PM
UK PM Johnson seeks legal advice on five-week parliament closure - The Observer
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked his attorney general whether parliament can be shut down for five weeks from Sept. 9 in what appears to be an attempt to stop lawmakers forcing a further extension to Brexit, The Observer reported. An email from senior government advisers to an adviser in Johnson's office written in the last ten days says the prime minister recently requested guidance on the legality of such a move, the newspaper said. The legal guidance given in the email is that shutting parliament may well be possible, unless the courts agree to demands by anti-Brexit campaigners to block such a move, the Observer reported.
08/24/2019 - 04:26 PM
Syrian troops surround Turkish post in country's northwest
A heavily fortified Turkish observation post in the northwestern village of Morek stood surrounded on all sides by Syrian troops Saturday, a testament to the rapid advance of President Bashar Assad's forces in Syria's northwest over the past three weeks as rebel defenses collapsed. Syrian authorities took a group of journalists to tour the observation post, several newly captured villages and the town of Khan Sheikhoun, which was a major rebel stronghold until it was taken by government forces earlier this week. In Morek, there was no sign of friction between the Turks and the Syrian troops who took positions hundreds of meters away from the observation post.
08/24/2019 - 03:46 PM
Joe Walsh: The New Never Trump Candidate
With well over twenty candidates vying for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, the Republican side appears downright quaint. Joe Walsh wants to change that. The former one-term congressman, radio host, and inveterate Twitter personality is seriously considering a primary challenge to incumbent Donald Trump. Walsh has said he’ll make a final decision by Labor Day, with an announcement as early as this weekend.Walsh, elected to represent Illinois in the Tea Party wave of 2010, would challenge him from the Right, making the case that Trump has too many unfulfilled promises to deserve reelection. But more than that, Walsh wants to smooth out the edges to Trump, which he says are toxic electorally and ethically. “The fact is, Mr. Trump is a racial arsonist who encourages bigotry and xenophobia to rouse his base and advance his electoral prospects. In this, he inspires imitators,” wrote Walsh in a New York Times op-ed last week, testing the waters of his candidacy.Walsh told Politico that he doesn’t think this would be a suicide mission. “There’s a drumbeat from a lot of people out there for somebody who wants to take this on,” he said, confident that he could get financial support from dissatisfied Republicans. Donald Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is currently over eighty percent, and major donors Charles Koch and Robert Mercer, who opposed Trump’s nomination in 2016, have made their peace with the party leader.“A lot of what he’s saying is that Trump doesn’t have support from within the Republican Party, and I think the obvious answer is that he does. And I think criticizing Trump as being a conman, and immoral, and a bad example for children, I think that criticism has already been factored into Trump supporters’ equation,” explained Geoffrey Kabaservice, director of political studies at the Niskanen Center. “A lot of them understand that he’s not the nicest guy out there, but they feel like he’s fighting for their interest and they’re going to support him to the hilt.”However, despite his play for decency, Joe Walsh is far from fitting the “nice guy” mold himself. The potential candidate has years of controversies, insensitive statements, and loose language at his back.Walsh has a history of using the n-word on Twitter, typically complaining about his inability to use it on air or making false equivalencies between its use and the terms “redneck” or “cracker.”After the twin mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Walsh was very critical of Trump’s response. “Today, our biggest domestic terror threat is white American men radicalized by white supremacy. Conservatives must be honest enough to acknowledge this,” tweeted Walsh. But in 2017, regarding the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, Walsh said “I’m sick and tired of the Sandy Hook parents. They’re partisan & political. They can be attacked just like anyone else.” When someone took issue with his language, Walsh continued. “Oh grow up. These Sandy Hook parents are anti-gun partisans. We have every right to criticize them. Deal with it.”In his op-ed Walsh accused the president of inciting violence with his language. But Walsh has also tested how far partisan language can go. “On November 9th, if Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket. You in?” he asked his audience before the 2016 election. Earlier that year, after the shooting of police officers in Dallas, Walsh said, “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.” The latter tweet was removed by Twitter for violating its terms of service.Interestingly, one thing Walsh does agree with the president on is his response to the violence in Charlottesville in 2017. “Why we’re pissed & what Trump got right: TWO hateful ideologies converged in Charlottesville. The media denounces on, ignores the other,” he said. Walsh even attacked the “DC GOP” he’s now trying to court because “they stabbed Trump after Charlottesville.”There are problems of message consistency as well. In June 2018 Walsh said, “The media is NOT the enemy of the American people. Anyone saying that ought to be ashamed of themselves,” rebuking the president’s preferred turn of phrase as dangerous and un-American. But in October 2016 Walsh told the media, “You are the enemy.”“What if the guy sent to Washington to ‘drain the swamp’ turns out to be the most corrupt person to ever inhabit the White House?” asked Walsh in May. But his own corruption may follow his campaign. In 2011, during his only term in the House, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) named Walsh among the most corrupt members of Congress. Alleging that he was “a deadbeat dad,” the organization pointed to court documents showing that at the time Walsh owed over $100,000 in unpaid child support.Since his announcement in 2015, Donald Trump has been dogged by his promotion of birtherism in 2011 and 2012, the accusation that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya. But even more recently, Joe Walsh lent credence to the conspiracy that Obama was a secret Muslim. “The truth: as practiced by most Muslims, Islam is not a religion. These Muslims are at war w us. Barack Obama, a Muslim, is on their side,” Walsh said in 2015. As late as summer 2017, Walsh was making the same accusation, including a defense of Trump. “Cracks me up that after 8 yrs of a Muslim, Socialist, community organizer in the White House, people are worried about Trump. Hilarious.” Just last year, Walsh continued to defend the position. “I have a right to call Obama a Muslim . . . That’s America.”A deep-seeded fear of Islam appears to motivate a lot of Walsh’s political positions. Claiming that “Muslims . . . have destroyed Europe,” Walsh wants to explicitly stifle all Muslim immigration to the United States. Walsh has been supportive of President Trump’s travel ban, praised his cuts to the number of refugees admitted, and wants to give preference to Christian refugees over Muslim ones during selection.“There won’t be peace in that part of the world until Muslims want peace, until they recognize Israel’s right to exist, and until they join the modern world,” Walsh said. This is why the former congressman favors a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, Syria, and the region-at-large.A part of the region Walsh doesn’t want to disengage from is Israel. He even used his devotion to Israel as his motivation for hating Obama. “I don’t believe Obama is a Muslim. And I continue to apologize for having ever said that. I constantly let my disgust with his policy toward Israel get the better of me,” he said last week. Walsh supports Trump’s moving of the U.S. embassy towards Jerusalem and has been even more critical of Israel critic Rep. Ilhan Omar than the commander-in-chief.One of the biggest policy differences between Trump and Walsh is on Russian-American relations. Calling Trump “unpatriotic,” after agreeing to meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in 2018, Walsh said “we know whose side he’s on.” Walsh theorized that “Putin must have something on Trump,” engaging in the same rampart conspiracy that has plagued the country for three years.It was Trump’s diplomatic outreach that permanently ostracized the rightwing radio host. “That’s it. That should be the final straw. It is for me.”“While Walsh’s Trump conversion appears to me to be sincere, he is poorly suited to make the argument that Never Trump is about the president's temperament, vulgarity and overall fitness for office,” said James Antle, editor of The American Conservative.Joe Walsh has acknowledged as much. “To be sure, I’ve had my share of controversy. On more than one occasion, I questioned Mr. Obama’s truthfulness about his religion. At times, I expressed hate for my political opponents. We now see where this can lead. There’s no place in our politics for personal attacks like that, and I regret making them,” he wrote in his op-ed.“I think he seems to be sincere in his criticisms of Trump. I don’t think it comes across as just being a thing he’s doing for his own self-interest. I think he genuinely does think Trump is dangerous and maybe even a threat to the continued viability of the Republican Party,” Kabaservice said.Joe Walsh isn’t the only candidate seeking to challenge Trump. To his left is William Weld, who announced his campaign for the Republican nomination in February. Weld is the former governor of Massachusetts (1991–1997) and was the vice-presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party in 2016. Weld broke a pledge with the Libertarian Party by announcing his candidacy as a Republican.“If Walsh runs, he’ll do more harm to William Weld than to Trump. There just aren’t a lot of Never Trump votes to go around. What’s interesting is that Walsh and Weld both originally come from the pro-abortion, anti-second amendment, left of the GOP, but both have tried rebranding: Weld as a libertarian, Walsh as a Tea Party bandwaggoner,” said Daniel McCarthy, editor of Modern Age. McCarthy is referring to Walsh’s original run for Congress in 1996, where he referred to himself as a moderate Republican.Walsh’s past improprieties have not gone unnoticed. “It negates one of the main reasons people dislike Trump in the first place, suggesting some of elite anti-Trump animus is really about his deviations from neoconservatism,” Antle told the National Interest.J. Arthur Bloom, deputy editor of The Daily Caller, believes Walsh’s bad behavior shines a light on the real motivations of the Never Trump movement. “The Joe Walsh thing puts the lie to all the NeverTrumper talk about civility and decency. It was never about that, it was that they didn’t get to be in charge with Trump, so they took their ball and went home,” he tweeted.“I think a lot of the people hoping for a primary challenge to Trump were hoping that the challenger would be more of a national figure. Someone like Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, for instance,” said Kabaservice. Hogan had previously considered a 2020 primary challenge, but decided against it. “[N]ot just because he seemed to be carrying the torch for an older and perhaps better Republican Party . . . but also because he was somebody who was one of the most popular governors of the United States right now and actually was governing at the present time. And I don’t think Walsh checks those boxes at this point.”There aren’t many boxes Joe Walsh does check. “True cons are truly cons, just not conservatives,” quipped McCarthy.Hunter DeRensis is a reporter at the National Interest.Image: Wikimedia Commons
08/24/2019 - 03:17 PM
F-35s Obsolete? Russia Has Lots of Thoughts on the Future of Aircraft Carriers
Carrier advocates will often make the dubious claim that a couple of missiles or even a torpedo could not actually sink these hulking ships. Perhaps not, but please try to imagine the armada that would have to be assembled to rescue a disabled ship of this stature.The 2019 iteration of the naval exercise Sea Breeze, which brought together nineteen nations (mostly from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and thirty-two ships, ended in the Ukrainian port of Odesa on July 12. The exercise was apparently conducted without incident. The Black Sea has indeed become fraught with tension since the November 2018 Kerch Strait skirmish, which witnessed Russia’s violent seizure of three Ukrainian vessels, whose crews remain in Russian captivity.If some nationalists in Kyiv thought that crisis would cause Ukrainians to “rally round the flag” and support Petro Poroshenko’s continuing hard line regarding Russia and the fate of the Donbas, they were utterly mistaken. Now, if Moscow is serious about dealing constructively with the new administration in Kyiv, then Kremlin needs to cut the gamesmanship and release the captive crews and vessels as a gesture of goodwill.Washington has not helped matters by “upping the ante” with Sea Breeze and such demonstrations of force on Russia’s doorstep. In the best case, such measures could be viewed as helping to give Kyiv the confidence to negotiate with Moscow. Yet, the risks of such maneuvers have not been adequately realized in Washington. To take but one example, it is asserted that no less than 18,000 mines left over from WWII still exist in the waters of the Sea of Azov and also along the Black Sea coasts. “They lie somewhere on the bottom and await their moment [Они где-то лежат на дне и ждут своего часа.].” It is actually not hard to imagine a U.S.-Russia war initiated by the accidental sinking of a NATO vessel participating in the Sea Breeze exercise with an unexploded mine in such hazardous waters. Remember the USS Maine?In such a conflict, of course, NATO forces (excluding Turkey) in the Black Sea would constitute a mere “tripwire”—military parlance for a force with some political value at “phase zero,” but with little actual military significance. They would be wiped out in the first few hours of a war. Perhaps, it is fortunate, therefore, that the U.S. is forbidden to bring aircraft carriers through the Turkish Straits by the Montreux Convention. In a hypothetical situation in which they were allowed to transit the Straits, they would likely be rapidly destroyed by a robust combination of diesel submarines, shore-based mobile missile forces, and small but lethal Russian missile boats. All of this, of course, does not even mention land-based aircraft equipped with hypersonic anti-ship missiles, such as the new Kinzhal system.If aircraft carriers have limited utility in a regrettably conceivable war over the future of Ukraine, what are the U.S. Navy’s capital ships actually good for in a conflict against Russia? It is true that many decades ago, America’s flattops faced off against the Soviet Navy in a significant naval stare down in the Eastern Mediterranean. Back in 1973, however, some U.S. Navy officers had serious misgivings about employing U.S. aircraft carriers against the Soviet Union’s so-called “Fifth Eskadra,” which even then was bristling with lethal anti-ship missiles.A mid-July 2019 study in the Russian military newspaper Military Review [Военное Обозрение] takes up the following question in the headline “The future U.S. Navy: nuclear ‘super’ or light aircraft carriers [Будущее ВМС США: атомные ‘суперы’ или лёгкие авианосцы?]?” The piece is historically grounded and the Russian author understands that the value of aircraft carriers has been questioned since the dawn of the Atomic Age. Yet, it is explained that “American admirals categorically disagreed” with that skepticism. In U.S. military doctrine, it is assessed that airpower “always played first violin … and that command of the air has been viewed as an essential precondition for victory in war [всегда играли первую скрипку … господство в воздухе почиталось ими абсолютно необходимой предпосылкой для победы в войне.].”A certain degree of envy is apparent in this analysis. A clear contrast is visible when this Russian analyst talks about the “rich experience” that the U.S. Navy gained in the Pacific War in the employment of aircraft carriers. Thus, even as the size and cost of aircraft carriers have increased precipitously, the Russian author maintains that American strategists “believed it to be criminal to economize on this critical system of naval armament [полагали преступным экономить на ключевой системе морских вооружений].” One can sense more than a little jealousy when the author reminds his readers that, after all, “America is a rich country.”The U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier is briefly assessed. It is noted that the Gerald D. Ford aircraft carrier has electromagnetic catapults, an expanded aircraft capacity, and a smaller crew due to automation. Moreover, the Russian analysis notes both new nuclear reactor technology, as well as enhanced stealth. At the same time, it is realized that the vessel, as a first in its class, may suffer from certain “childhood illnesses [детскими болезнями],” and it remains unclear if these kinks can be resolved or are of a chronic character. What is beyond dispute, the author writes, is that the ship is “expensive. Very expensive.” Coming in at a cool $13 billion without counting the costs of the air wing or the escorts for the behemoth, “it makes sense in these conditions” that some in the U.S. are calling for smaller aircraft carriers that are less costly, according to the Russian analysis. Much of the second half of the Russian article explores a RAND report on “Future Carrier Options.” It is explained that this study evaluated building either 70,000-ton, 40,000-ton, or 20,000-ton alternatives to the 100,000-ton supercarriers. For these smaller and cheaper ships, the Russian analyst notes, of course, that they would have “significantly limited combat potential [боевой потенциал существенно ограничен],” of course. Ultimately, it is concluded that the Americans are unlikely to sacrifice combat power in order to save money due to the admirals’ objections. The Russian analysis ends with a joke, wishing the Americans good luck with developing smaller carriers. It is explained that recent American experience shows that the U.S. Navy is likely “to receive ships 1.5 times smaller, two times less effective and three times more expensive as a result of efforts to make the carrier fleet less expensive.” [что в результате попытки удешевления авианосного флота ВМС США получат корабли в полтора раза меньше, в два раза хуже и втрое дороже существующих].One could even be inclined to agree with the Russian strategist’s wry humor, and perhaps to even sympathize with the predicament of a Russian fleet that has seen some ups and perhaps more than its share of downs in recent decades. No doubt many Russian leaders still dream wistfully about gazing upon a shiny Ford-type supercarrier bearing the Russian naval ensign—the blue-cross flag of St. Andrew. Apparently, the idea is not quite dead, moreover, and may live on within a China-Russia partnership, although that “bilateral option” still seems rather far-fetched.Nevertheless, the envy of other navies does not necessarily make the supercarrier the ideal capital ship for the U.S. Navy going forward. More than a few American naval strategists have pronounced the aircraft carrier to be obsolete for modern naval warfare. While reasonably useful in conflicts from the Korean War to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, it must be said that these conflicts were notable in that they featured opponents lacking the means to contest the seas. It’s sad to say, but unfortunately even the smaller and more backward militaries of Iran or North Korea could have a chance of putting a flattop down these days. Never mind the determined efforts of both China and Russia, which have both been working energetically to solve this problem for now more than half a century. Carrier advocates will often make the dubious claim that a couple of missiles or even a torpedo could not actually sink these hulking ships. Perhaps not, but please try to imagine the armada that would have to be assembled to rescue a disabled ship of this stature. To continue logically in this nightmare, now imagine the immense and vulnerable target that such a rescue operation would represent for an adversary. Such a scenario could result in the loss of a significant portion of the U.S. Navy. Regrettably, sometimes one must imagine a tragedy in order to prevent it.Indeed, it is well past time to shelve the pervasive big deck culture that has persisted against all evidence and common sense within the U.S. Navy and Congress too. Let us instead act decisively to pursue a more rational naval force structure that strongly emphasizes undersea capabilities, along with unmanned and highly distributed networks of sensors.Lyle J. Goldstein is Research Professor in the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) at the United States Naval War College in Newport, RI. In addition to Chinese, he also speaks Russian and he is also an affiliate of the new Russia Maritime Studies Institute (RMSI) at Naval War College. You can reach him at email@example.com. The opinions in his columns are entirely his own and do not reflect the official assessments of the U.S. Navy or any other agency of the U.S. government.Image: Reuters.(This article was originally published earlier this year and is being republished due to reader interest.)
08/24/2019 - 03:00 PM
Yemen officials: Government forces take separatist camps
Forces loyal to Yemen's internationally recognized government on Saturday took control of a headquarters and at least three military camps from a separatist militia backed by the United Arab Emirates in and outside a key southern city, military officials and the government said. The development came a day after government forces of Saudi-backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi took full control of the city of Ataq, the capital of oil-rich Shabwa province, following clashes with a UAE-trained militia known as the Elite Force.
08/24/2019 - 02:59 PM
Minister says Turkey, US have begun work on Syria safe zone
Turkey's defense minister said Saturday that military officials from Turkey and the United States have begun work to create a "safe zone" along its border in northeastern Syria. Turkey's official Anadolu news agency quoted Defense Minister Hulusi Akar as saying that generals from Turkey and the U.S. had begun work in a joint operations center in the Turkish province of Sanliurfa to set up the zone and that joint helicopter patrols were set to begin.
08/24/2019 - 02:53 PM
Britain sends another warship to Gulf
A third British warship is heading to the Gulf, the Royal Navy announced Saturday, amid heightened tensions in the region. Britain has already sent the HMS Kent to cover for frigate HMS Montrose while it undergoes maintenance in nearby Bahrain, and is now redirecting the Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender from its mission to the Pacific. Britain outraged Iran by seizing one of its tankers -- the Grace 1 -- on July 4 on suspicion it was carrying oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.
08/24/2019 - 02:26 PM
Who is 'Mr No Deal'? Johnson, EU spar on Brexit at G7
Accusing one another of being "Mr No Deal", British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU Council President Donald Tusk exchanged accusations at the G7 summit Saturday over who will be to blame if Britain crashes out the bloc without an accord. Johnson had held bilateral talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of the G7, expressing cautious optimism that a deal could be agreed before Britain leaves the EU on October 31.
08/24/2019 - 02:05 PM
French Riot Police Fire Tear Gas on Protesters: G-7 Update
(Bloomberg) -- Group of Seven leaders are arriving in Biarritz, France, Saturday for two days of talks with tempers flaring on a range of issues from trade to climate.Must read:U.S. Thinks Macron Twisting G-7 to Hurt Trump, Win Favor at HomeBoris Johnson’s Long Journey From Trump Hater to Best FriendKey Developments:France thrusts climate at the top of agenda, and gets pushbackMacron isolated over threat to block Mercosur trade dealTrump and Macron have lunch but all is not well between themJohnson says he’ll have a word with Trump about his trade tariffsAs Thousands Gather, Police Shot Water Cannons (6:32 p.m.)Over in Bayonne, about 5 miles from Biarritz, there was a brief moment when things turned nasty for those gathered to protest the economic and climate policies of some of the world’s richest and most powerful nations. French police deployed water cannons and tear gas to disperse a crowd of activists that included Yellow Vest protesters, environmentalists and even some Basque separatists. They have been largely kept at a safe distance from the leaders, who are in the heavily-guarded red zone.Macron Sets Out Iran Plan to Trump (6:10 p.m.)Macron and Trump had lunch together for two hours after the U.S. president arrived in Biarritz and a French official said they really got to the bottom of things. The French leader wanted to ease his conflicts with Trump on climate, trade and a new French tax that hits U.S. internet giants.His big pitch was a proposal to allow Iran to export oil for a limited period of time if it returns to compliance with the JCPOA nuclear accord and agrees to formal talks. No comment on Trump’s reaction to the idea, but it’s not the kind of thing he’s likely to go for.Merkel Overheard Discussing Bolsonaro (5:36 p.m.)European leaders were huddled in a room, the camera was rolling and it appears Angela Merkel might not have realized. She was turned to Macron and a snippet of a conversation could be heard. She was talking about a common strategy to tackle Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, who has been in the eye of the storm over the burning of the Amazon rainforest.Merkel: “I announced to call him next week so he gets the impression that we are not working against him.”Johnson: “Yeah, I think this is important.”Macron: “Yeah, yeah, I am with you. Do we call him...?”Merkel: “Yeah, yeah, I will call him.”Shortly after, a hand jammed into the lens of the camera, and the feed died.Trump tweets to a parody Macron account (5:15 p.m.)That twitter handle leads to a parody account. The mistake was spotted and fixed within a few minutes.Macron’s Idea: Europe should be cutting taxes (3:40 p.m.)Macron said European countries may use tax cuts to revive their growth. “We need need some new tools to relaunch our economies,” the French leader said in Biarritz in his opening remarks to Trump.Economy is on the first item on the menu for the G-7 on Sunday morning.Behind the Scenes, the U.S. Is Angry With Macron (3:10 p.m.)It may have all looked very nice and cordial over lunch but when Trump said that sometimes he and Macron “go at it” he might have been hinting at tensions bubbling in the background.U.S. officials are not at all happy with how France has conducted the organization of the summit -- they believe designed to embarrass the president on issues such as climate. They accuse the French of being difficult to deal with and that the original summit schedule said little of nothing on trade and the global economy.A French official responded that economy is the first item on the agenda and that ignoring climate change -- a topic Trump is allergic to -- would be like putting one’s head in the sand. Not an option. And as for the economy, another French official said it was in indeed in the first version of the schedule.At dinner tonight, Macron will be leading his introduction on the Amazon fires and calling for action. Trump’s facial expressions might be the most revealing sign of where those talks will go and indeed how explosive this summit will be.Johnson Takes a Pop a Macron’s Trade Threat (4:14 p.m.)U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson joined attacks on Macron for his threat to block the EU’s trade deal with the Mercosur nations of South America.“There are all sorts of people who will take any excuse at all to interfere with trade and to frustrate trade deals and I don’t want to see that,” Johnson told reporters as he arrived in Biarritz.Macron on Friday said he won’t ratify the trade accord sealed in June because Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro can’t be trusted to honor his commitments on climate.Johnson Worries About Trade Dispute Hurting U.K. (3 p.m.)Boris Johnson has landed, and in comments made to reporters on the plane expressed concern that the U.K. could get sucked into a spiraling trade dispute, one that many Europeans blame Trump for escalating.“Those who support the tariffs are at risk of incurring the blame for the downturn in the global economy, irrespective of whether or not that is true,” Johnson said in carefully chosen words that point to his predicament of walking the line between nurturing his relationship with Trump, but being clear that he thinks tariffs are damaging.The U.K. is ” at risk” of being affected, he told reporters.Trump Calls his Relationship with Macron Special (1:40 p.m.)Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron -- at odds on issues from climate, to tech giants and wine -- struck a cordial tone over a surprise lunch meeting.Across from each other at an outside table -- with a bouquet of pink and red roses in the middle -- the two presidents gave brief remarks. Macron ran through some problem spots such as Syria, Ukraine, North Korea and Iran. “This discussion will be very important between allies, friends,” Macron said.Trump acknowledged the two had been at odds lately on some issues, but said he has a “special relationship” with Macron. “Every so often we go at it a little bit, not very much,” he said. “I think we’ll accomplish a lot this weekend, and I look forward to it.”The cameras gone, the two settled down for a long lunch.Macron Sits with Trump for Lunch, Speaks to Nation (1 p.m.)At the hotel, overlooking the bay, Macron and Trump will sit down from lunch. They will be giving a joint news conference at the end of the summit too, according to two U.S. officials.As Trump was getting ready to land, the French president addressed the nation.Standing with the pristine view of the chic town of Biarritz and the Ocean in his back, Macron promised his fellow citizens to make this a “useful” G7 in an address to the nation, aired on all the country’s televisions. “I promise you to do all I can in your name, to get my colleagues to agree” on Iran, trade, economic stimulus, inequalities, climate and other hot topics. “We probably won’t succeed on everything, don’t bear me a grudge if we fail sometimes, France must do all it can but can’t do everything.”Without ever mentioning the U.S. by name in his 10-minute address, he vowed to convince partners to address areas of disagreement,“especially trade tensions are bad for everyone.”Don’t Be Mr. No-Deal Brexit, Tusk Tells Johnson (1:50 p.m.)European Council President Donald Tusk urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to become “Mr. No Deal” as he warned that Ireland would have to back any changes to the Brexit agreement the British government proposed.Speaking ahead of talks with Johnson in the margins of the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France on Sunday, Tusk said he was willing to work with the U.K. leader to try to make the Brexit deal more acceptable to the British Parliament. The House of Commons rejected the original agreement three times and Johnson has said that if the “backstop” mechanism to prevent a hard Irish border isn’t removed, the U.K. will leave without the safety net of a deal.“One thing I will not cooperate on is no deal and I still hope that Prime minister Johnson would not like to go down in history as Mr No Deal,” Tusk said.Europe’s G-7 Stance Shaped by Trump (1:04 p.m.)European Council President Donald Tusk set out the EU’s stall for the summit, making it clear that the bloc opposed many of the positions put forward by U.S. President Donald Trump. In a news conference before the start of the summit, Tusk warned the American president that Europe didn’t share his views on issues ranging from Iran to trade to Russia.“Trade wars will lead to recessions” and “trade wars among G-7 members will lead to an eroding of the already weakened trust among us,” Tusk said.He said Trump’s rejection of the nuclear deal with Iran “hasn’t brought about any positive results” and the move played into the hands of the Iranian regime as well as Russia and China. The EU will push once again for consensus on the Iran agreement, Tusk added.Russia won’t be invited back in the G-7 fold, Tusk said, in a direct rebuff to Trump. He recalled the U.S. leader’s suggestion that Russia snatching Crimea from Ukraine was acceptable. “Under no condition can we agree on this logic,” Tusk said, adding provocatively that he’d like to see Ukraine invited to a G-7 summit rather than Russia. Next year’s meeting will be hosted by Trump in the U.S.EU Will Retaliate If Trump Targets French Wine (12:35 p.m.)The EU will “respond in kind” if Trump announces tariffs on French wine, Tusk said at his press conference ahead of the talks which begin Saturday evening.Trump has threatened tariffs on wine in retaliation for a French digital tax that affects U.S. internet giants, casting the French as the aggressors. But Tusk suggested the EU will see tax and tariffs as separate issues.“France can count on our loyalty,” Tusk said.Trump mused at a recent fundraiser about a 100% tariff on French wine, though it’s not clear how serious he was.Earlier:Macron Rips Up Agenda for His G-7 in a Fit of Climate FuryMacron Riles Bolsonaro, Setting Up G-7 Fight Over Amazon FiresDonald Trump Is Coming for Europe’s Most Important Alliance\--With assistance from Helene Fouquet and Arne Delfs.To contact the reporters on this story: Josh Wingrove in Biarritz at firstname.lastname@example.org;Ian Wishart in Biarritz, France at email@example.com;Kurumi Mori in Biarritz, France at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at email@example.com, Craig Gordon, Flavia Krause-JacksonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
08/24/2019 - 01:48 PM
India's Modi awarded UAE medal amid Kashmir crackdown
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the United Arab Emirates' highest civilian honor during a visit Saturday to the oil-rich Gulf nation, reinforcing ties between the countries even as he pursues stripping statehood from the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir. The induction of Modi into the Order of Zayed shows the importance the UAE places on India, the world's third-largest consumer of crude oil. India is home to a rapidly growing consumer market and labor pool that the federation of sheikhdoms relies on for its own economy.
08/24/2019 - 01:38 PM
'Points of convergence' for Trump and Macron on Iran, Amazon, trade: French presidency
French President Emmanuel Macron and his US counterpart Donald Trump have found "major points of convergence" on subjects including trade, Iran's nuclear programme and the wildfires consuming large parts of the Amazon, a French presidency official said Saturday. After an unscheduled two-hour lunch before the opening of the G7 summit in Biarritz, Macron "created the conditions for a good degree of convergence within the (G7) group, after obtaining clarifications from Donald Trump" on key issues, the official said.
08/24/2019 - 01:28 PM
Corruption trial for Sudan's ex-president adjourns
The trial of Sudan's autocratic former president Omar al-Bashir on corruption and money laundering charges was adjourned for one week following testimony from several witnesses Saturday. Al-Bashir, who appeared in court in a cage, was ousted by the military in April after months of mass protests against his three-decade authoritarian rule. Sudan's new joint military-civilian council — formed earlier this week — has given no indication it will change the decision to keep al-Bashir in the capital, Khartoum, where he's been in custody.
08/24/2019 - 11:16 AM
UPDATE 1-UK PM Johnson to tell Trump to de-escalate trade tensions
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday he would tell President Donald Trump at this weekend's G7 summit to pull back from a trade war that is already destabilising economic growth around the world. Johnson and Trump are due to meet on Sunday morning for what are expected to be positive talks on their countries' future bilateral trade relations and Brexit, as well as covering international topics where the two sides do not see eye to eye, like Russia, the Iran nuclear deal and trade policy on China. Asked if he would be telling Trump he should not escalate the trade war with China, Johnson said "you bet".
08/24/2019 - 11:04 AM
Get Your History Book Out: The Allies Bombed Hitler Back Into the Stone Age
Curtis LeMay, who departed Europe to direct the devastation from the air upon Japan, said, “As to worrying about the morality of what we were doing, nuts! I was a soldier, soldiers fight. If we made it through the day without exterminating too many of our own people, we thought we’d had a pretty good day.”Behind the strategy that governed the American air war in Europe during World War II lay events and ideas that dated back to World War I and the 1920s. The first strategic bombing raid in 1915 deployed not airplanes but German Zeppelins, rigid airships that dumped ordnance on the east coast of Great Britain. Two years later Germany’s Gotha bomber, a machine capable of a round trip from Belgian bases, struck at Folkestone, a port through which British soldiers embarked for the front. This raid killed 300 people, including 115 soldiers. The bomber had proven itself as a weapon against a military target.A few weeks later, 14 Gothas attacked London in the first fixed-wing assault upon civilians and their institutions. The dead and wounded totaled 600, and the raid wrought consternation among the public and the government. The British hastily summoned fighter units to gird the cities. To counter the defensive cordon, the Gothas flew night missions. With primitive navigational tools and no bombsights, the raiders drizzled explosives without any pretense of hitting military or industrial targets. Theoreticians of war now had a new factor to enter into equations: the terror of massive strikes upon workers producing the stuff of war.Recommended: This Is How China Would Invade Taiwan (And How to Stop It).Recommended: North Korea’s Most Lethal Weapon Isn’t Nukes. Recommended: 5 Worst Guns Ever Made.Brigadier General Billy Mitchell, who had only earned his wings in 1916, commanded the air force for General John J. Pershing and his American Expeditionary Force in France. Mitchell met Maj. Gen. Hugh M. Trenchard, commander of the Royal Flying Corps, who quickly persuaded the American that the “airplane is an offensive and not a defensive weapon.” Mitchell grasped the possibilities of taking the war behind the lines and plotted a huge raid that would blast German military and industrial targets in the autumn of 1918. A correspondent for the Associated Press wrote, “His navy of the air is to be expanded until no part of Germany is safe from the rain of bombs…. The work of the independent force is bombing munitions works, factories, cities and other important centers behind the German lines…. Eventually Berlin will know what an air raid means, and the whole great project is a direct answer to the German air attacks on helpless and unfortified British, French and Belgian cities.”World War I ended before Mitchell could demonstrate what his “navy of the air” might achieve, but he continued to expound his ideas. While accepting the need for control of the skies through destruction of the enemy air forces, he said, “It may be … the best strategy to damage and destroy property, and to kill and disable an enemy’s forces and resources at points far removed from the field of battle of either armies or navies.” Implicitly, Mitchell accepted war on civilians.In 1921 and 1923, Mitchell demonstrated that bombers could sink some anchored warships. The experiments confirmed that aircraft could destroy substantial stationary targets, but admirals scoffed that vessels under way could easily avoid the attacks. The Army dismissed the show as irrelevant for its vision of warfare, which was to slug it out with hostiles while capturing territory.While Mitchell and Trenchard promulgated their ideas of aerial offensives, a contemporary Italian, General Giulio Douhet, preached that modern war involved the entire society, including “the soldier carrying his rifle, the woman loading shells in a factory, the farmer growing his wheat, the scientists experimenting in the laboratory.” Douhet spoke not only of smashing wartime production but argued, “How could a country go on living and working, oppressed by the nightmare of imminent destruction.” He conceded that such a war without mercy eliminated considerations of morality.Americans partially bought into the Douhet’s theories. They buried the idea of indiscriminate raids that slaughtered nonmilitary people and emphasized hitting industrial production, transportation facilities, and military centers. Promoters of strategic bombing hypothesized that by destroying the goods of war and the will of the people to resist, conflicts could be shortened and the wholesale carnage of the World War I battlefield avoided.Mitchell’s outspoken demands for an independent air force ended his career, but acolytes like Henry “Hap” Arnold, Carl Spaatz, and Ira Eaker retained positions in the military hierarchy. They successfully promulgated the doctrine of strategic bombing, accurate targeting of enemy installations and facilities. Toward that end, in 1933 the War Department approved a prospectus for a plane capable of traveling at speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour and with a range of more than 2,000 miles. The new bomber could be used to defend either coast, but if deployed overseas it would require bases in England or sites like the Philippine Islands. Boeing produced the first model of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, which roared through the sky at 232 mph during a 2,100-mile trip from Seattle to Dayton. The advocates of air power were delighted, but unfortunately the prototype crashed and burned on a test flight. Instead of ordering 65, the War Department scaled back to a mere 13.To carry out daylight precision bombing the Army adopted a tool ordered and then discarded by the Navy as unsuitable for dive-bombers: the Norden bombsight. In the crucial seconds over an objective, a bombardier manipulated the device to guide the plane as he lined up the target and then released the explosives.“I Can Shoot Those Things Down Very Easily.”Douhet also taught his disciples that heavily armed bombers in mass formations could operate by day against fighter defenses. The publicity on Boeing’s creation hailed the new airplane as a “Flying Fortress,” but it was hardly as impregnable as the name indicated. The first B-17s lacked armor plate to protect the crew, carried only five machine guns, and made no provision for a tail gunner. The B-17 faithful believed that was sufficient since, in their minds, the aircraft could attain altitudes beyond reach of interceptors. In the late 1930s, a hot shot fighter pilot, Lieutenant John Alison, confounded the assurance of promoters of the early B-17 when he convincingly demonstrated he could push his fighter close enough to the weaponless rear of a Flying Fortress and shoot it down. His feat, however, did not immediately persuade the bomber command to install a tail gun. Nobody in the Air Corps was going to listen to a pursuit pilot, a second lieutenant who claimed, “I can shoot those things down very easily.”The conviction that strategic bombers could operate unmolested by enemy aircraft influenced the development of U.S. fighters. Escorts to protect the big planes would be unnecessary, and the design for a fighter focused upon a machine that would protect the ground forces. Not until the Battle of Britain in 1940 and the appearance of the Messerschmitt Me-109 did the American experts realize that the speed and altitude of an enemy fighter challenged their assumptions about the invulnerability of the B-17. The standard American fighter, the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk—a good gun platform, while speedy in a dive—had a limited ceiling and rate of climb. It would not be deployed in the European Theater.Desire for an interceptor with longer range and performance higher in the sky had belatedly resulted in the twin-engine Lockheed P-38 Lightning, and aeronautical engineers returned to their drawing boards to blueprint what would become the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and the North American P-51 Mustang. At the same time manufacturers modified the big bombers, now including the Consolidated B-24 Liberator, which had slightly more range and bomb weight capacity than the B-17, adding better means to defend themselves: up to 12 .50-caliber machine guns, a tail gunner, and armor for the crew. When the enemy changed tactics during World War II and began head-on attacks, a chin turret would be added to give greater firepower forward.From the start of World War II, the British intended to follow Trenchard’s maxims on carrying the war to the industrial centers and the population of the foe. In May 1940, when the Royal Air Force attempted daylight strategic raids by its fleet of bombers, German ack-ack and interceptors killed more flyers than the enemy lost on the ground. B-17s purchased from the United States carried out a few daylight missions with dismal results and curdled RAF enthusiasm for the Flying Fortress. American analysts noted that the Brits insisted on operating above 30,000 feet, which overloaded the oxygen systems, froze weapons, and reduced airspeed, making the planes vulnerable to the Me-109s. The RAF B-17 missions relied on an inferior bombsight, and the maximum number of aircraft in formation was a mere four. The British, using their own bombers, switched to nighttime assaults, on industrial areas. They made no pretense of discriminating between residential neighborhoods and factories.The British tried to convince the Air Corps that it too should operate after dark. That would have negated the entire basis for the designs of the B-17 and B-24 and wasted the hundreds of hours training of bombardiers with the Norden device. Faith in daylight precision bombing thus remained intact as the United States entered World War II. There was no disagreement with the British on the purposes and potentials of air power. Maj. Gen. Ira Eaker, who headed the American bomber command in 1942, said, “After two months spent in understanding British Bomber Command, it is still believed than the original all-out air plan for the destruction of the German war effort by air action alone was feasible and sound and more economical than any other method available.” He did agree that since the resources then available were limited, a ground effort might be required.The Eighth Air Force opened for business in England in May 1942, but neither B-17s nor B-24s were available. Most of the handful of combat-ready heavyweights had been sent to the Philippines, where Japanese attacks destroyed many of them. As a result, when the Eighth inaugurated its campaign against the Axis powers on July 4, 1942, the mission had little resemblance to strategic bombing. The 15th Bombardment Squadron borrowed 12 A-20 twin-engine Bostons from the RAF, and only half of these were flown by U.S. crews. They struck at four airfields in Holland, flying at an extremely low level before unloading their bombs and strafing the base. They inflicted minor damage, and three were shot down.Not until some six weeks later did the Eighth launch a true daylight strategic bombing mission. On a beautifully sunlit day, a dozen B-17s from the 97th Bomb Group headed for the Rouen (France) railroad yards. Accompanied by RAF Spitfires, they encountered light flak and no serious interference from German fighters. All returned safely, leaving behind them, said Eaker, head of the Eighth Bomber Command who flew in the lead plane, “a great pall of smoke and sand.” General Henry “Hap” Arnold, the Air Corps commander, declared, “The attack on Rouen again verifies the soundness of our policy of the precision bombing of strategic objectives rather than the mass bombing of large, city size areas.”The Rouen raid achieved only nuisance value, and euphoria dissipated rapidly as the strategic bombing campaign intensified. Practice revealed substantial holes in theory. The Luftwaffe, manning high-performance Me-109s and Focke Wulf 190s, greeted marauders with a skill and savagery that tore huge holes in the fabric of the Eighth. Losses of from 10 to 20 percent frequently resulted from the deadly combination of flak and fighters. Air Corps analysts calculated that adequate self-defense required a minimum of 300 bombers, a figure difficult to achieve during the first 18 months of U.S. aerial combat in Europe. Nevertheless, the Americans strove to meet their responsibilities for round-the-clock assaults. The RAF, exclusively bombing at night, including an occasional thousand-plane raid, endured heavy losses of air crews to flak and night fighters. Post-mission photo analysis indicated their destruction of industrial works was far from commensurate with the casualties.By the spring of 1943, the Allied air command realized that there were not sufficient aircraft to hammer day and night the entire war industry of occupied Europe and Germany with precision. The RAF had no accuracy with its night raids, and the scattershot approach of the Eighth Bomber Command did not cripple production. Eaker, as commander of the Eighth’s Bomber Command, proposed a “Combined Bomber Offensive,” suggesting “it was better to cause a high degree of destruction in a few really essential industries than a small degree of destruction in many industries.”Toward this end, the U.S bomber command mounted an attack on Romania’s Ploesti oil fields and refineries using B-24s flying from fields in North Africa. To avoid detection and increase accuracy, the participants in Operation Tidal Wave flew at low level. The raiders inflicted modest harm. Ploesti had been functioning well below capacity, and it was a simple matter for production to recoup. The Tidal Wave bombers suffered horrendous losses: more than 300 killed, hundreds wounded or captured, 79 interned in Turkey. Just 33 of the 178 Liberators involved could be listed as fit for duty after the mission. No one could seriously propose any further low-level daylight attacks for the heavyweights.Because of the Luftwaffe’s success and with an eye to controlling the air when the time arrived for an invasion of Europe, in June 1943 the Allied high command created Operation Pointblank, announcing, “It has become essential to check the growth and to reduce the strength of the day and night fighter forces which the enemy can concentrate against us … first priority in the operation of British and American bombers … shall be accorded to the attack on German fighter forces and the industry upon which they depend.” German airbases and factories producing planes and essentials like ball bearings drew priority.General LeMay Calculated That Flak Gunners Needed to Fire 372 Rounds to Guarantee a Hit on a B-17The enemy met Pointblank with ferocity. In August 1943 a maximum effort that put up 300 bombers to strike Schweinfurt and Regensburg cost the Americans 60 planes—600 crewmen—shot down with many additional aircraft badly damaged. A basic problem lay in vulnerability to interceptors. Spitfires, with a range limited to 100 miles beyond the British coast, could not provide protection on longer missions. Bereft of escorts, the 10 or 12 .50-caliber machine guns of the B-17s and B-24s were not enough to fend off the swarms of Me-109s and FW-190s. Another weakness centered on use of the Norden bombsight, which required a clear view of the target and a steady hand. In the cloudless, peaceful skies over Texas, it might have been possible for a skilled operator in the boast of the times to put a bomb in a pickle barrel. But frequently over Europe heavy rain or snow, thick overcasts, and buffeting winds obscured or misled bombardiers. Even when the target was clearly visible, torrents of antiaircraft shells intimidated the men at the toggle switches and those in the cockpits. Bombs fell away prematurely, or the plane suddenly veered off because the pilot seized the controls and yanked the ship out of imminent danger.General Curtis LeMay, commander of the 305th Bomb Group, after analyzing the photo reconnaissance intelligence, decided a prime culprit for poor accuracy was failure to maintain a steady course. He decreed that none of his pilots could take evasive action over a target. He had calculated that flak gunners needed to fire 372 rounds to guarantee a hit on a B-17 in level flight. Whether his arithmetic was correct or not, LeMay sought to persuade his subordinates by announcing he would fly the lead aircraft on missions. In fact, the first ship over a target had a better chance for survival because antiaircraft personnel adjusted for range and speed as a flight passed. Disciplined behavior, however, added effectiveness, although no one could compensate for weather that obscured a target.LeMay also innovated a better defense for the big bombers. He insisted upon a tight, stepped-box formation that enabled gunners to provide mutual assistance. A bomb group could bring to bear from 200 to 600 machine guns on an attacker. His demands for more training by navigators and bombardiers and closed-in formations earned him his nickname of “Iron Ass,” but the 305th proved his point with more effective results and fewer losses.In contrast to LeMay’s carefully worked out stepped-box formations, inexperienced Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, newly installed as an air division commander, ordered the 95th Bomb Group to use a flattened formation, with aircraft wingtip to wingtip. Over Kiel, the Luftwaffe feasted upon the 95th, shooting down eight, including the bomber carrying Forrest. The disaster proved the efficacy of LeMay’s design.Pointblank failed to halt aircraft manufacture because the enemy had decentralized its critical industries. In particular, the Third Reich had arranged to import vital ball bearings from neutral Sweden. To inflict lasting damage required repeated raids on factories, and in 1943 the Air Corps lacked enough planes and crews. It was also during Pointblank that the initial desire to minimize civilian casualties by concentrating on military installations, manufacturing plants, and transportation hubs began to give way. Bomber command directed the crews on a mission against the rail junction at Munster to unload on the city center, hitting the town’s workers. According to one historian, the attack upon civilians “did not produce any moral qualms among the airmen; some cheered … their own sufferings had bred bitterness.”Throughout the last months of 1943, the U.S. bomber campaign staggered from the continued onslaughts of German fighters and the increasingly effective flak aided by improved German radar systems. Losses continued to soar above a prohibitive 10 percent. P-38 Lightnings and P-47 Thunderbolts with American pilots had replaced the Spitfires, but without drop tanks they could only venture as far as the Rhine River, leaving the big fellows exposed to the depredations of interceptors. At the beginning of 1944, newly arrived P-51 Mustangs equipped with Rolls Royce engines debuted and quickly won recognition as the best fighter in the theater.The tide turned with Big Week, starting February 20, 1944. The occasion introduced new features to the American effort. Lt. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle had replaced Eaker at the helm of the Eighth Air Force. Doolittle modified his predecessor’s policy that no fighters, the Little Friends, could ever leave the bombers to chase the enemy. Doolittle ordered the P-38s, P- 47s, and P-51s to attack the Luftwaffe on sight, provided they left some guardians to screen the Big Friends. The open season on German fighters was a product of an abundance of fighter squadrons and the development of fuel drop tanks that gave the Lightnings, Thunderbolts, and Mustangs hundreds of additional miles of flight distance. The Germans, in spite of the raids upon their industrial areas, were able to replace downed aircraft, but the predatory tactics of the Americans slashed the number of skilled, experienced pilots dueling with the Allied air arm. As the war progressed into 1944, the reservoir of capable German airmen suffered severe attrition.For the first day of Big Week, the Eighth Air Force, working with British Bomber Command and the U.S. Fifteenth Air Force operating from Italy, dispatched 880 Fortresses and Liberators along with 835 fighters deep inside Germany. The Eighth alone claimed 115 enemy fighters shot down. That may have been an exaggeration, but the ability to launch similar massive raids six times within seven days surely knocked the Luftwaffe back on its heels. The incessant battering of German cities and their people forced the Third Reich to withdraw some fighter squadrons from the Eastern Front and bring others back from France and the Low Countries to protect the home front. Similarly, antiaircraft batteries were redeployed from both fronts.With Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, now planned for June, Allied strategy switched from attacks deep inside Germany and began to work over the defensive infrastructure along the French coast: rail lines, roads, bridges, tunnels, viaducts, and the communications network. While the bombers struck at German airfields and marshalling yards, the P-47, equipped with bombs, proved to be a great train buster and general interdiction tool. Gradually, many of the Thunderbolt squadrons transferred to the Ninth Air Force, which was more of a tactical support weapon, while the Eighth added P-51s to its rosters.On D-day, a thick, nearly impenetrable overcast of more than 10,000 Allied bombers and fighters hovered over the English Channel and the Normandy shoreline. The pre-D-day campaign had produced sensational results. At most two or three German planes dared to appear as the invaders struggled ashore. The Luftwaffe preferred to husband its assets rather than risk confrontation with the canopy of American bombers and fighters, along with numerous planes from the RAF.Fighter pilot Martin Low, in a P-38, said, “From June 6th until about 10 days later, we flew three missions a day, bombed and strafed anything that moved within 50 to a hundred miles of the coast, mostly trains.” The air attacks sharply curtailed movement of German reinforcements to help defend the beaches. Patrols like that mentioned by Low menaced daylight convoys or trains. One serious failure of the Allied air effort was the inability to destroy the blockhouses and emplacements that guarded the shores. Fearful of dropping bombs on friendly forces, the landing area missions were confined to drops a few miles beyond the beaches, and most of the bombs exploded harmlessly in empty fields.Lt. Gen. Fritz Bayerlein Reported That 70% of His Soldiers Were “Either Dead, Wounded, Crazed or Dazed.”Six weeks later, as the U.S. Third Army prepared to break out of Normandy toward the end of July 1944, it was exposed to the perils of high-altitude bombing aimed at tactical situations. Poor visibility prevented two-thirds of the scheduled 900 bombers to even reach the target near St. Lo, but 343 B-17s and B-24s unloaded on a poorly defined zone outlined by ground forces commander General Omar Bradley. Many of the bombs fell in no-man’s land between the opposing armies, but some exploded among GIs, killing 25 and wounding more than 60. A subsequent 1,500-plane attack that included fighter-bombers from the Ninth Air Force and the dreadnoughts of the Eighth devastated the Germans. Lt. Gen. Fritz Bayerlein of the Panzer Lehr Division said, “Artillery positions were wiped out, tanks overturned and buried, infantry positions flattened and all roads and tracks destroyed… The shock effect on the troops was indescribable. Some of my men went mad and rushed around in the open until they were cut down by splinters.” He reported 70 percent of his soldiers “either dead, wounded, crazed or dazed.” The aerial assault opened the gates for the St. Lo breakout.Campaigns like Overlord and the St. Lo mission mandated detours from the strategic bombing program. Similarly, when the first V-1 pilotless bombs struck London in June 1944, the British demanded immediate attacks to neutralize the launch installations near the French coast. Starting June 16, bombers with fighter escorts in what were called Noball raids hit several of the V-1 emplacements. By September, the advances into Normandy by the invaders eliminated the V-1 bases, but the more deadly V-2, a rocket-propelled explosive with a primitive guidance system fired from territory still held by the Third Reich, killed more than 9,000 Londoners. The Allies attempted to erase the source of the rockets with assaults on Peenemunde, where German rocket engineers using slave labor developed and then deployed the V-2.During the run-up to D-day, there had been one exception to the concentration on the defenses against the Allied invasion. After much debate about priorities for bombing campaigns, the British and Americans agreed to target oil, which was critical to the enemy war effort. Although the initial strike at Ploesti cost the Air Corps dearly, Allied planes pounded the Romanian fields and refineries regularly, reducing the flow to Germany. After the Soviet Red Army invaded Romania, driving the country to change sides and shut off the spigot, the Third Reich relied on its reserves and production of synthetics.Starting in May 1944, the Americans struck at depots and manufacturing sites for ersatz oil 127 times, while the RAF mounted 53 raids. Acutely aware of the threat to their lifeline, the Germans massed antiaircraft around the synthetic fuel installations. Tail gunner Eddie Picardo recalled one mission: “The flak was so thick it blotted out the sun. For a full 10 seconds it was like a total eclipse.” The ship next to his disappeared in a bright flash of fire. His plane returned home with basketball-sized holes in the fuselage.On a single day in October 1944, during the missions to Politz, Ruhland, Bohlen, and Rothensee, the Eighth Air Force counted 40 planes shot down, only 3 percent of the more than 1,400 on the raid, but still more than 358 air crew missing in action. Furthermore, 700 bombers reported damage. However, the campaign against synthetic petroleum paid off. The amount available to the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe fell to half the total needed. The Me-262 jet fighters were towed to runways by cows, recruits received ever fewer hours of flight instruction, and artillery literally depended on horsepower to move.As the strategic bombing campaign resumed in earnest after D-day, the Allied air forces attempted to extend their reach farther east. Diplomatic negotiations resulted in an agreement that U.S. bombers flying out of England could blast the most distant targets of the Third Reich and then continue several hundred miles to land at Soviet airbases. Refueled and rearmed, they could hit enemy installations on the way back to their home fields. The Soviets welcomed planes and crews. Unfortunately, their hospitality did not include the right for P-51s to fly protective patrols while the hosts threw a lavish banquet for their guests. A German reconnaissance plane discovered the sleek bombers sitting on the ground. A subsequent raid wrecked nearly 70 aircraft. The shuttle program fizzled out after a few more operations.“If You Saw London Like I Saw It, You Wouldn’t Have Any Remorse. I Don’t Know Anyone Who Was Remorseful.”With streams of bombers blasting targets even as far as Poland, there was talk of using the aircraft to halt the genocidal program at the Auschwitz concentration camp, either by targeting the buildings there or the rail lines that hauled the condemned to the gas chambers. The U.S. War Department opposed any diversion for that purpose as weakening “decisive operations elsewhere.” It was suggested that surely a handful of aircraft could have been spared from the thousand plane raids, but a detour that split off a few bombers would have denied them the protection of the massive formations. Furthermore, high-altitude strikes often missed small objectives like a rail line or bridge and the enemy could repair smashed tracks rather quickly. In any event, there was little political or military desire to attack the murder camps.While the British openly wreaked havoc on civilians, the United States claimed it restricted its bombing to war facilities. That may have been a guiding principle, but invariably American bombers killed or maimed noncombatants. In the turbulence of flak and enemy fighters, with targets obscured by weather, and due to navigation errors, ordnance frequently exploded well off the mark. A miss by only 500 yards could plant a bomb in a residential area, and there were instances in which the drop struck miles from the objective. Toward the end of the war, the U.S. air command accepted the RAF policy and struck Berlin and Dresden without any firm strategic goal.Few airmen cringed at the indiscriminate use of air power. Dave Nagel, an engineer and gunner with the 305th Bomb Group, said, “If you saw London like I saw it, you wouldn’t have any remorse. I don’t know anyone who was remorseful. We didn’t know whether an area was populated or not. We were supposed to be over a target, normally a factory, when we let the bombs go, but we assumed it was surrounded by civilians.”Curtis LeMay, who departed Europe to direct the devastation from the air upon Japan, said, “As to worrying about the morality of what we were doing, nuts! I was a soldier, soldiers fight. If we made it through the day without exterminating too many of our own people, we thought we’d had a pretty good day.”The advocates of strategic bombing and carrying the war to the civilian population had argued that these campaigns would bring the Third Reich to its knees without the need for brutal, bloody combat on the ground. They were wrong. By May 1945, the people of Germany may have lost their enthusiasm for Adolf Hitler’s regime and its wars, but they continued to carry on. It was only after the Allied armies with their superior manpower and firepower overran the German forces that surrender came.A post-V-E Day survey estimated that Germany lost less than 4 percent of its productive capacity, and even a devastated city like Hamburg recuperated to 80 percent of its output within a few weeks. That said, the air war contributed significantly to the eventual defeat of the enemy. Foremost, the raids on fuel depots and synthetic plants curtailed the Luftwaffe’s ability to train pilots and deploy their new jet fighters in sufficient numbers. The Allied ground forces operated without interference from the air. The attacks on fuel sources destroyed the vaunted mobility of German armor, and the battering of rail and road nets strangled supply lines.To be sure, the successes of the Soviet forces on the Eastern Front played a major role in weakening the ability to resist, but at the same time, the armies on the Western Front could not have advanced as swiftly without the strategic bombing campaigns.Acclaimed author Gerald Astor has written numerous books on the topic of World War II, including Voices of D-Day and The Mighty Eighth. He resides in Scarsdale, New York.This article originally appeared on Warfare History Network. Image: PXHere.(This article was first published last year.)
08/24/2019 - 10:00 AM
Boris Johnson's Long Journey From Trump Hater to Best Friend
(Bloomberg) -- In December 2015, Boris Johnson joked that he wouldn’t go to some parts of New York because of the risk of meeting Donald Trump, a man of "stupefying ignorance."How times change.Johnson was London’s popular mayor, Trump a presidential outsider attacking the U.K. capital on the campaign trail. But two months later, Johnson threw his considerable charisma behind Brexit, setting in motion a chain of events that would bring the two together as allies at the Group of Seven summit.They’ve spoken at least five times in the month since Johnson became U.K. prime minister, sealing a rapprochement that was already evident at the United Nations in 2017. Johnson, then foreign secretary, approached Trump with a warm handshake and a matching look of black suit, red tie and similar blonde hair. It was classic Johnson: animated chatter, arms gesturing wildly. The British premier knows how to turn on the charm.And he will be taking it up a notch for their first meeting as fellow leaders over breakfast in Biarritz on Sunday.Balancing ActWith Johnson seeking support for Brexit and the EU anxious about being blindsided by Trump, their tete-a-tete is the most-anticipated of the summit.But fanfare aside, Johnson is in a precarious position.The gargantuan task of leaving the EU cost his two predecessors their jobs and Johnson, the public face of Brexit, has to make it happen somehow. Amid forecasts of economic catastrophe if he leaves without an exit deal, he is clinging to the prospect of a free-trade agreement with the world’s largest economy to show it was all worth it.Trump has been open in his support for Brexit -- in fact he often says how he predicted the outcome the day before from his golf course in Scotland. And for him, the prospect of the U.K. leaving without a deal, and the greater divisions it will sow in Europe, is an opportunity to exploit.Photo OpPeeling the U.K. away from France and Germany would play into Trump’s strategy and victory for Johnson offers legitimacy of sorts to Trump’s style of politics.Both men came to power with populist messages and idiosyncratic use of language: Trump favors short words and pithy phrases such as “sad” and “fake news,” Johnson likes arcane phrases peppered with Latin and classical references.And then there are visuals. Photographers will be snapping maniacally when Trump’s carefully sprayed hairdo meets Johnson’s studiously untidy thatch. “Imagine Donald Trump doing Brexit,” Johnson said in a leaked audio obtained by BuzzFeed News last year. “He’d go in bloody hard. There’d be all sorts of breakdowns, all sorts of chaos. Everyone would think he’d gone mad. But actually you might get somewhere.” Toxic ReputationIt’s a balancing act for both men though.Trump is toxic in the U.K. -- his two visits to Britain drew mass protests -- so Johnson also needs to be careful not to appear to be too cozy with the U.S. leader. He has an election to fight before too long if he’s to turn the fragile majority he inherited into a more stable platform for governing.So the president won’t be pushing Johnson this weekend on the issues like Iran or Huawei where he needs help in his efforts to strong arm the other EU powers. But there may eventually be a quid pro quo for the "fantastic” trade deal Trump has dangled.Trump’s trade talks rarely prove speedy. He remains locked in a trade war with China and a revised accord with Canada and Mexico dragged on for over a year and is stalled in Congress. An agreement with the U.K. could be years in the making and Trump drives a hard bargain -- whether he likes you or not. Trump Likes WinnersThere are also important differences in their world view.Johnson favors immigration, Trump famously doesn’t. The U.K. is signed up to the Paris climate agreement whereas Trump pulled out. And while the U.K. shares Trump’s concerns about access to Chinese markets, Johnson believes they should be addressed by giving the World Trade Organization more teeth. Trump is more concerned at blunting the WTO’s teeth.On landing in Biarritz, Johnson went out of his way to find the correct turn of phrase to draw attention to the damage Trump’s tariff policy was unleashing without blaming him overtly: ”Those who support the tariffs are at risk of incurring the blame for the downturn in the global economy, irrespective of whether or not that is true."Trump likes winners. And for now, he considers it’s in his interest to prop up his British friend. “He’s tough and he’s smart," he said back in July. "They call him ‘Britain Trump.’"This weekend the two men are likely to form an important alliance -- Johnson walking a fine line. The challenge for the British premier is to keep it that way.To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Morales in London at firstname.lastname@example.org;Josh Wingrove in Washington at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org, Flavia Krause-Jackson, Ben SillsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
08/24/2019 - 09:52 AM
Brazil Sends Army to Fight Amazon Fires; Trump Tweets Support
(Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said he’s sending troops to battle fires roaring through vast expanses of the Amazon as President Donald Trump offered U.S. support to combat the disaster.Under growing domestic and international pressure, Bolsonaro on Friday promised “zero tolerance” for environmental crimes and pledged “strong action” to control fires -- many of them set by loggers emboldened by his government’s disdain for environmental oversight.“Forest fires exist everywhere in the world and that can’t be used as pretext for possible international sanctions,” he said in a rare televised speech that marked a departure from the dismissive tone of his previous statements. He added the flames have been spreading faster this year because of high temperatures, an extremely dry season, and strong winds. As he spoke, people protested by banging pots and pans in many Brazilian cities.Trump tweeted on Friday evening that that he had spoken with Bolsonaro about the fires and trade between the two countries. His tweet appeared hours after French President Emmanuel Macron -- who’s about to host the Group of Seven summit -- accused Bolsonaro of lying about his country’s commitments to fight climate change and threatened to block the European Union’s trade deal with the Mercosur countries of South America.“Our future Trade prospects are very exciting and our relationship is strong, perhaps stronger than ever before,” Trump said in the tweet. “I told him if the United States can help with the Amazon Rainforest fires, we stand ready to assist!”Brazil is home to one third of the world’s rainforests, and a decade-long trend of improving forest protections has gone into reverse. Critics blame Brazil’s relapse on the rollback of environmental protections and enforcement in the Amazon in recent years.While fires break out every year, one analysis showed that more than 75,000 have swept across the country since January, an 84% annual increase. Bolsonaro had previously relished criticism of his attitude toward the Amazon -- jokingly referring to himself as “Captain Chainsaw” -- while saying without presenting evidence that NGOs were setting the blazes to discredit his government.“This government’s actions and speech encouraged those rampant fires,” Marina Silva, a former environment minister and presidential candidate, said in an interview. “Nobody should stimulate illegality, particularly those who have institutional responsibility.”G-7 SummitMacron vowed to make the burning of the Amazon jungle a priority at the summit, but the reactions of not only Trump, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel, suggested that the leaders about to gather in the French seaside resort of Biarritz were not in harmony on the crisis.Merkel publicly disagreed with Macron. Her spokesman said she didn’t think upending the trade deal would achieve Macron’s aim of slowing deforestation in Brazil. Merkel’s spokesman, however, did back Macron’s decision to involve the international community, siding with him against Bolsonaro.Bolsonaro also faces outrage at home, with protesters marching against him in Brazil’s main cities on Friday.His decision to deploy the Brazilian Army to the Amazon came after a week in which the public outcry only grew louder -- with images of the flames and giant clouds of smoke appearing on screens around the world. The president’s decree ordered the armed forces to carry out “preventive and repressive actions against environmental crimes” and to combat fires in the region, including indigenous territories.Earlier Friday, the French president’s office said that it had become clear that Bolsonaro wasn’t serious about his pledges to address climate change when he spoke to world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka earlier this year.“The president can only conclude that President Bolsonaro lied to him in Osaka,” the statement said. “Under these conditions, France is opposed to the Mercosur deal.”The French president’s remarks provoked an angry response from Bolsonaro, who accused him of acting like a colonialist. Issues relating to Brazil should not be discussed without the country at the table, Bolsonaro added.“The news is really worrisome, but we need to lower the temperature, there are fires in Brazil every year,” Brazilian Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias told reporters in Brasilia. “There were fires in Portugal, in Siberia, there were fires all over the world and Brazil wasn’t questioning them.”(Adds interview with former Environment Minister Marina Silva in eigth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Helene Fouquet, Simone Iglesias and Flavia Said.To contact the reporters on this story: Austin Weinstein in New York at email@example.com;Walter Brandimarte in Brasilia at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at email@example.com, John Harney, Shamim AdamFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
08/24/2019 - 09:44 AM
Released Iranian Oil Tanker Switches Direction, Heads for Turkey
(Bloomberg) -- The Iranian oil tanker that the U.S. sought to seize in Gibraltar has changed its heading to southern Turkey, raising concern that its cargo will end up in Syria.The Iranian-flagged Adrian Darya 1 switched its destination to the Turkish port city of Mersin, located just 150 kilometers from the border with Syria, on Friday evening, according to Bloomberg vessel-tracking data. The ship had previously stated its destination as being Kalamata in Greece, a port that is too small to accommodate a ship of that size.The tanker, which previously flew the flag of Panama and went under the name Grace 1, is estimated to arrive in Mersin at noon on Aug. 31. It was impounded off Gibraltar in July and released last Sunday after local authorities rejected a legal attempt by the U.S. to detain it. Adrian Darya is currently sailing along the southern coast of Sicily.Iran has given assurances to the government of Gibraltar that the ship will not sail to Syria. The ship’s Automatic Identification System shows that the draft of the ship -- how deep it sits in the water -- is 22.1 meters, indicating that Adrian Darya still has its full cargo of 2 million barrels of crude oil on board. The draft is manually entered into the AIS by the ship’s captain, so it could be misleading, though there is no evidence that the cargo has been discharged.Turkey accepting the ship risks further fueling tensions with the U.S., at a time when relations have been strained over Turkey’s decision to buy a missile defense system from Russia.Turkey’s government declined to comment on whether they would allow the ship to dock at Mersin. Officials at the Foreign Ministry in Iran did not immediately respond to calls from Bloomberg to comment on the the tanker’s route.The ship could discharge its cargo onto smaller vessels in a process called a ship-to-ship transfer. The smaller tankers would then deliver the crude oil to its final destination. Adrian Darya could switch off its transponder before starting the ship-to-ship transfer in an attempt to conceal what was happening. However, that might not be enough to hide a ship that is being so closely monitored.\--With assistance from Selcan Hacaoglu and Arsalan Shahla.To contact the reporters on this story: Will Hadfield in London at firstname.lastname@example.org;Catherine Traywick in Denver at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: David Marino at firstname.lastname@example.org, Nick Rigillo, Andrew DavisFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
08/24/2019 - 09:30 AM
UPDATE 2-Who would be Brexit's Mr No-Deal? Johnson and Tusk trade barbs
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Council head Donald Tusk sparred on Saturday over who would be to blame should Britain leave the EU on Oct. 31 without a divorce deal in place. Tusk told reporters in Biarritz he would be willing to hear ideas from Johnson on how to avoid a no-deal Brexit when the two men meet on Sunday on the sidelines of a G7 summit in the French seaside resort. Johnson later retorted that it would be Tusk himself who would carry the mantle if Britain could not secure a new withdrawal agreement.
08/24/2019 - 08:56 AM
UK PM Johnson says Tusk will be known as 'Mr No Deal' if agreement not changed
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned European Council President Donald Tusk that unless he agrees to change the Brexit divorce deal, Tusk will be known as "Mr No Deal". Johnson was responding to Tusk's earlier comments that he would not cooperate in preparing for on a no-deal Brexit. The prime minister wants the EU to drop the so-called Irish backstop, which is an insurance policy designed to prevent the return of a hard border between the Irish Republic and the British province of Northern Ireland.
08/24/2019 - 08:49 AM
Explosion in Iraq near Shiite mosque kills 3, wounds dozens
A motorcycle rigged with explosives went off near a Shiite mosque south of the capital Baghdad, killing three people and wounding 34, Iraqi security officials said Saturday.. The officials said the blast happened the previous evening on a commercial street in the village of Mussayyib. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it targeted "gatherings of Shiites" near a Shiite mosque.
08/24/2019 - 08:45 AM
Drama in Biarritz, Biden’s Weak Spot, Dead Bees: Weekend Reads
(Bloomberg) -- Group of Seven leaders are just beginning to gather in the French resort town of Biarritz, and their host – French President Emmanuel Macron – has already gone off script. The European G-7 contingent is supposed to be holding the line over Brexit, pushing for tougher action on climate change and addressing the trade tensions threatening global growth without provoking U.S. President Donald Trump. Now they are going to be distracted by a rift between Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel over how to tackle the environmental threat facing Brazil.Trump has weighed in, days after a rift with another NATO ally prompted him to cancel a planned trip to Denmark. Follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook throughout the weekend for all the latest from France. And catch up on some of Bloomberg’s other longer political reads from the past week below. Biden’s Lead Is Wider Than Ever, But It Won’t Necessarily LastFormer U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has a commanding lead over the rest of the Democratic field. But as Joshua Green reports, he’s got an Achilles heel: If the perception about his electability changes or voters hone in on policy issues, his advantage can evaporate. Trump's Ties to Carmakers Get Testy Again, This Time on MileageTensions between Trump and major automakers erupted this week over a plan to gut Obama-era fuel standards. Ryan Beene explains how Trump’s latest dust-up with big producers shows some companies are getting comfortable opposing him. China, Vietnam Spar on High Seas Over $2.5 Trillion in EnergyWhen a Chinese state-owned survey vessel sailed into waters off Vietnam’s coast in early July, it unleashed a high-seas standoff with trillions of dollars at stake that risks drawing in Russia and the U.S. Philip J. Heijmans takes a closer look. Hong Kong’s Hopeless Generation Has a Long List of Grievances“Citizens are willing to sacrifice the economy to fight,” says Billy Tung, a 28-year-old accountant in Hong Kong. As Kari Soo Lindberg, Shawna Kwan and Enda Curran report, his generation’s economic struggles are helping fuel protests in the financial hub. When the Sun Sets in Libya, Two U.S. Allies Get Down to WarThe worst-kept secret of Libya’s civil war: Opponents face a stalemate on the ground, as their backers in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are engaged in a proxy war. Samer Khalil Al-Atrush takes a closer look. Bees Are Dropping Dead in Brazil and Sending a Message to HumansAround half a billion bees died in four of Brazil’s southern states earlier this year. Bruce Douglas and Tatiana Freitas write that it’s raising questions about whether an ocean of pesticides is washing through to Brazil’s human food supply.Russian Nuclear Blast Theories Hint at No-Holds-Barred Arms RaceThe deadly blast that caused a radiation spike at a Russian military site made one thing clear: The new arms race is going full speed. Jake Rudnitsky and Ilya Arkhipov report about the growing rivalry between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Jonathan Tirone explains how the shroud of mystery surrounding the accident will become increasingly difficult to maintain once the data starts to roll in.Disbelief, Joy and Resistance as Saudi Women Get First PassportsFor decades, Saudi women have needed a man’s permission to get a passport or leave the country. Read this account from Vivian Nereim and Sarah Algethami as one of the first women obtains a passport after the kingdom eased its so-called guardianship system.And finally … As India’s economic climate becomes more complicated, so have the messages from monetary policy makers. Anirban Nag reports how economists were left scrambling for their dictionaries and Google searches after central bankers began peppering speeches and comments with words including “floccinaucinihilipilification” and “Panglossian” in giving guidance on the economy. To contact the author of this story: Michael Winfrey in Prague at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Karl Maier at firstname.lastname@example.orgFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
08/24/2019 - 08:00 AM
Bolsonaro’s Amazon Flame Throwing Unsettles Farming Support Base
(Bloomberg) -- As Europeans threaten to block access to Brazilian exports over President Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental policies, some of the agribusiness players loyal to the former Army captain are starting to fret about the consequences of his rhetoric.French President Emmanuel Macron issued the most explicit ultimatum yet to Brazilian commercial interests on Friday, stating that France would oppose the trade deal between the European Union and Mercosur, the South American customs union, in retaliation to Bolsonaro’s hostility to tackling climate change. While ratification of the deal is still a long way away -- and German Chancellor Angela Merkel does not share Macron’s position -- Brazilian exporters are uneasy.“You’re starting to see an expression, a movement of people who represent the sector, and it doesn’t seem like just a hypothetical threat,” Rubens Ricupero, former finance minister and former secretary-general of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development said. “These are people who have a sensitivity to exports, not a sensitivity for the environment.”Unswerving defense of farmers in Brazil’s heartland along with a pledge to slash environmental regulations to unlock the Amazon’s productive potential helped lift Bolsonaro to the presidency. With the world’s largest rainforest ablaze, prominent representatives of the sector are sounding the alarm, saying farmers’ hard-won reputation for sustainability is in jeopardy and, in turn, their exports to conscientious consumers. Among lower-house lawmakers from the farm caucus surveyed by Ibope this month, 80% think illegal deforestation is already hurting Brazil’s image and business.Finland, which currently holds the presidency of the EU, even raised the idea of banning Brazilian meat imports on Friday in response to Bolsonaro’s lax stewardship of the Amazon.The European Union ranks second only to China as the final destination of Brazil’s agriculture exports, and accounted for 16% of the shipments in 2018. Brazil exported $13.6 billion in agricultural products to the region last year.Speaking OutRoberto Brant, the agriculture confederation’s president and a former lawmaker, called on producers to loudly counter Bolsonaro’s damaging statements. And Senator Katia Abreu, a former agriculture minister, said she’s very afraid Brazil will lose European markets. “Farmers are being deceived,” she told Estado de S. Paulo. “They may be happy today, and they will be crying tomorrow.”Soybean traders signed the Brazilian Soy Moratorium in 2006, pledging not to buy soybeans from deforested areas. But some exporters believe Bolsonaro’s decision to blame NGOs for the fires in the rainforest may lead importers to require certifications to import Brazil’s soy products if the situation over the Amazon deteriorates, according to an industry representative speaking on condition of anonymity. Some buyers may prefer purchasing soy-meal from rivals Argentina and U.S, the person added.On Thursday night, the soybean processors group Abiove said in a statement it’s “cautiously following” recent statements on preserving the Amazon. It also reiterated its commitment to the environmental agenda, adding that its companies don’t acquire or finance soy from farms where deforestation has been detected.One meat executive said in an interview that, while agribusiness may be disappointed by Bolsonaro’s attacks on Macron and joking demands that Merkel should “reforest Germany”, producers are happy with his policies and the European Union doesn’t need deforestation as an excuse if it wants to cut imports.Other producers mimic Bolsonaro’s defiance in the face of foreign consternation, as well as his disdain for environmental NGOs.“Bolsonaro’s comments are only controversial for people who don’t know Brazil,” Bartolomeu Braz Pereira, head of soybean farmers group Aprosoja, said in an interview. “Bolsonaro is pulling back the curtains and presenting Brazil how it really is. We had international NGOs imposing the rules, and that isn’t right. After deforesting their lands, they want to tell us how we should protect ours?”Fire StartersSmall-scale producers are feeling emboldened to set fires to recover their fields, less because of Bolsonaro’s bluster than because regulators were completely debilitated in recent years during Brazil’s fiscal crisis, according to Moises Fernandes, an agronomist and environmental consultant in the Amazon state of Rondonia. The fact Bolsonaro keeps speaking out, however, means blame is fully ascribed to him.“As he’s head of state, logically when he talks any country that already wants to apply commercial sanctions to Brazil can cite that as a factor,” said Fernandes, who voted for Bolsonaro. “The truth is he talks too much: saying you can save the environment by pooping every other day, ordering Angela Merkel to plant trees. Why? Why is he wearing himself out?”\--With assistance from Simone Iglesias.To contact the reporters on this story: David Biller in Rio de Janeiro at email@example.com;Tatiana Freitas in São Paulo at firstname.lastname@example.org;Fabiana Batista in Sao Paulo at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Juan Pablo Spinetto at firstname.lastname@example.org, Bruce Douglas, James AttwoodFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
08/24/2019 - 08:00 AM
Russia Has No Chance of Become an Aircraft Carrier Superpower. None.
Russian defense planners often announce projects as a means of gaining resources and prestige, rather than as part of a plan to build anything in particular. At one point, President Dmitri Medvedev suggested that Russia would build and operate six aircraft carriers by 2025; obviously, that’s not going to happen.Historically a land power, the Soviet Union grappled with the idea of a large naval aviation arm for most of its history, eventually settling on a series of hybrid aircraft carriers. Big plans for additional ships died with the Soviet collapse, but Russia inherited one large aircraft carrier at the end of the Cold War—that remains in service today. Although many of the problems that wracked the naval aviation projects of the Soviet Union remain today, the Russian navy nevertheless sports one of the more active aircraft carriers in the world.Recommended: Air War: Stealth F-22 Raptor vs. F-14 Tomcat (That Iran Still Flies)Recommended: A New Report Reveals Why There Won't Be Any 'New' F-22 RaptorsRecommended: How an ‘Old’ F-15 Might Kill Russia’s New Stealth FighterHistory of Russian Naval AviationThe Soviet Union made several efforts at developing aircraft carriers early in its history, but a lack of resources, combined with a geography that emphasized the importance of land power, made serious investment impossible. During the Cold War, the first naval aviation success were Moskva and Leningrad, a pair of helicopter carriers designed primarily for antisubmarine warfare. These ships, ungainly in appearance, displaced 17,000 tons, could make about thirty knots, and each carried eighteen helicopters. Moskva entered service in 1967, Leningrad in 1969. The Moskvas were succeeded by the Kiev class, much closer to true aircraft carriers. Displacing 45,000 tons, the four Kievs (each built to a slightly different design) could make thirty-two knots and carry a combination of about thirty helicopters and Yak-38 VSTOL fighters.(This first appeared in 2018.)Recommended: The 5 Biggest Nuclear Bomb Tests (From All 6 Nuclear Powers).Recommended: How Israel Takes U.S. Weapons and Makes Them Better.Recommended: North Korea’s Most Lethal Weapon Isn’t Nukes.All of these ships left service at the end of the Cold War; the Moskvas and one of the Kievs were scrapped, two Kievs ended up as museums in China, and one was eventually reconstructed and sold to India as INS Vikramaditya. In the 1980s, the Soviet Union laid down its first two true carriers, although only one was completed before the collapse of the country.Current State of Russia’s Carrier ForceAt the moment, Russia’s only aircraft carrier is the troubled Admiral Kuznetsov. A ski jump carrier, the Kuznetsov displaces some 60,000 tons, can theoretically make thirty knots, and carry a combination of forty-or-so helicopters and jet fighters. Kuzentsov was commissioned in 1990; a sister remained an incomplete hulk for many years until it was purchased by China and eventually finished as Liaoning. In addition to helicopters, Kuznetsov operates MiG-29K and Su-33 fighter bombers. Like previous Russian carriers, Kuznetsov sports a heavier missile armament than most Western ships.Unfortunately, hiccups with Kuznetsov have also made it difficult for Russia’s naval aviators to remain practiced and effective. The ship has suffered multiple breakdowns over its career, including significant issues with its engines and recovering aircraft. Many of these difficulties came as consequence of the dramatic decline of maintenance funding at the end of the Cold War, but some was the inevitable result of inexperience with the platform type. Admiral Kuznetsov has engaged in several prestige cruises, but its most notable service came in 2016 off of Syria. After a much publicized journey to the Mediterranean, Kuznetsov conducted combat operations for two months. The operations had more of a publicity impact than a real military effect, and Kuznetsov lost two aircraft (one MiG-29K and one Su-33) to accidents. The carrier is currently in refit.To support Kuznetsov, Russia attempted to purchase a pair of French assault carriers, but the conquest and annexation of Crimea forced France to cancel the sale. These ships would have served as amphibious platforms with antisubmarine (ASW) capabilities, but also would have given the Russian navy experience with relatively large, technologically advanced vessels. Indeed, part of the deal would have allowed Russia to construct two Mistrals to French specifications in its own yards, which would have provided a major boon to Russian shipbuilding.Strategic RationaleRussia has a unique maritime geography, with four fleets operating from four coasts practically incapable of offering mutual support. During the Soviet period, carriers supported the fleet of nuclear ballistic missile submarines, offering air and ASW protection for the bastions in which these subs patrolled. This mission allowed the carriers to de-emphasize strike capabilities in favor of more defensive weaponry. More recently, the Russian navy has used Admiral Kuznetsov primarily as a vehicle for influence and prestige. Along with the nuclear battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy and a few other ships, Kuznetsov is a visible manifestation of Russian naval power, forcing other nations to take note of Russian interests. As the Syria mission suggests, in the future Russia may focus more on developing strike capabilities in order to project power further.The FutureRussia has cancelled more carriers than most countries have contemplated. In the 1970s the Soviet Union considered the 72,000-ton Orel-class nuclear aircraft carrier, but opted instead for the Kievs and the ships that would eventually become Kuznetsov and Liaoning. The Soviets laid down an 80,000-ton carrier named Ulyanovsk in 1988, but scrapped the incomplete ship when the Cold War ended.Russian defense planners often announce projects as a means of gaining resources and prestige, rather than as part of a plan to build anything in particular. At one point, President Dmitri Medvedev suggested that Russia would build and operate six aircraft carriers by 2025; obviously, that’s not going to happen. But there is an existing plan for the Project 23000E Shtorm carrier, a 100,000-ton nuclear-powered supercarrier employing EMALS catapults and a variety of other modern technologies. The carrier would presumably fly MiG-29K fighters, although the age of that aircraft would suggest the need for a replacement. The ability of Russia to build this ship under current circumstances is in deep question, however.ConclusionThe aviation capability of the Russian navy is dangling by a thread. Kuznetsov is old and in poor condition, and no carrier is even close to be laid down. The Russian surface fleet has not received a great deal of attention in the latest military modernization plans, and the Russian shipbuilding industry has not constructed a warship the size and sophistication of Kuzentsov since… well, Kuznetsov.That said, the Kremlin seems to view aircraft carriers as an important contributor to national prestige. The Russian navy took great pains to get Kuznetsov into position to support operations in Syria, and despite the embarrassment associated with that, has now pushed the carrier into a major refit. If the Kremlin determines that it needs a carrier to keep pace with France, Britain, China and India, it will need to begin seriously considering how to build or acquire such a ship. It is not inconceivable that Moscow may consider ordering a carrier from Chinese yards in the future, however profound a reversal that might seem. Otherwise, Russia needs to start solidifying its construction timelines soon.Robert Farley, a frequent contributor to the National Interest, is author of The Battleship Book.Image: Reuters.(This article was originally published earlier this year and is being republished due to reader interest.)
08/24/2019 - 08:00 AM
Trump Raises Tariffs on China as Frustration Mounts Ahead of G-7
(Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. President Donald Trump escalated the trade war with China on Friday and moved further away from a deal to resolve frictions, announcing a wave of higher tariffs even as he prepared to set off for a gathering of world leaders.In an announcement, tweeted after major indices on Wall Street sank, Trump said existing 25% tariffs on some $250 billion in imports from China would rise to 30% come Oct. 1, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.Planned 10% tariffs on a further $300 billion in Chinese goods will be taxed at 15% instead of 10% starting with the first tranche on Sept. 1. The second batch of goods is due to be hit on Dec. 15. China firmly opposes the U.S. move and urged Washington to stop “wrongful deeds or bear the consequences,” according to a statement from the Ministry of Commerce.The move was foreshadowed in an earlier series of presidential tweets that again roiled U.S. markets concerned about the growing impact of his trade wars on a slowing global and U.S. economy. In those tweets, Trump vowed to respond to Chinese retaliatory tariffs, accused Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell of being a bigger U.S. “enemy” than China’s Xi Jinping and issued a call for American companies to abandon China.Trump was responding to an announcement that Beijing was planning to impose retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. imports, targeting politically sensitive products from American factories to farms.“Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA,” Trump wrote.The move came shortly before the president departed Washington for a Group of Seven summit in France at which responding to a slowing global economy -- blamed by many on Trump’s trade wars -- sits at the top of the agenda.“The U.S. act is unilateral, bullying trade protectionism, and uses maximum pressure. It violates the consensus reached by the presidents of the two countries, violates the principle of mutual respect, equality and win-win,” China said in the statement. “It severely disrupts the global trading system and normal international trade order, and the U.S. will eat the bitter fruits of its action.” Friday’s procession of angry Trump tweets marked what analysts and people close to the administration said was a clear shift in tone by a president increasingly frustrated by both the lack of progress in his trade assault on China and a slowing economy, for which he’s eager to blame Powell and the Fed.As he left the White House late Friday night, Trump was asked if he wanted Powell to resign. “Let me put it this way,” the president said, “if he did, I wouldn’t stop him.”In his order for U.S. companies to withdraw from China, some close to the administration saw the president embracing the calls for an economic decoupling made by the hawks inside his administration.The evidence of the shift may have been most apparent in a 14-word tweet in which Trump appeared to call Xi an “enemy.”“My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?” he said in a Tweet posted after Powell gave a speech in Jackson Hole that contained implicit criticism of Trump’s trade policies and their impact on the U.S. and global economies.Trump has worked very hard ever since entering the presidency to portray his relationship with Xi as a friendship. By using the sort of inflammatory language for the Chinese leader that he has avoided in the past, Trump is likely to be noticed in Beijing.Michael Pillsbury, a China scholar at the Hudson Institute who sometimes advises Trump, said the president’s move on Friday reflected the fact he had grown increasingly frustrated with China’s response to his escalating tariffs in recent months.That has been driven in part by a change of attitude in Beijing, where officials seem increasingly dismissive of Trump and his chances of re-election and convinced that hawkish aides like Peter Navarro, a senior White House trade adviser, are increasingly directing policy, Pillsbury said.“There’s a growing perceptions gap,” he said. “The China hawks in Washington have successfully encouraged their America hawks in Beijing.”What Bloomberg’s Economists Say“The price tag on the latest tariff escalation is similar to previous rounds from earlier this year and in 2018. However, a new threshold has been breached as the Trump administration moves beyond an upper limit of 25%.There is little reason to believe that 30% is the new upper bound, in our view.”\--Carl Riccadonna and Yelena Shulyatyeva Click here for the full reportTrump’s move on Friday appeared to have been hastily assembled.In an appearance on the Fox Business Network in the morning, Navarro played down the new tariffs announced by China. “Seventy-five billion dollars worth of tariffs in terms of, what, the combined $30 trillion economy is not something for the stock market to worry about and we’re cool here,” he said.But just a few hours later Navarro, U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer and other aides were in the Oval Office for a midday meeting to figure out the administration’s next step.Not WorkingThe National Retail Federation, whose membership includes Walmart Inc., issued a statement on Friday sounding the alarms about the added tariffs.“It’s impossible for businesses to plan for the future in this type of environment,” said David French, senior vice president of government affairs for the organization. “The administration’s approach clearly isn’t working, and the answer isn’t more taxes on American businesses and consumers. Where does this end?”The president has little legal authority to ban all American companies from doing business with China. But he has the capacity to make life difficult for them, as he has with his tariffs, and could ban some tech companies from doing business with China were he to invoke special powers and declare a national economic emergency, according to trade lawyers and analysts.Although some White House aides have sought to portray calls in recent weeks between U.S. and Chinese negotiators as making progress, people close to the talks and briefed on them say they have yielded little of immediate substance.Larry Kudlow, the head of Trump’s National Economic Council, said this week that a telephone call between U.S. and Chinese officials on Wednesday had gone well and that the goal remained a resumption of face-to-face talks in Washington in September.Privately, however, others familiar with the discussions say that major questions remain over those talks and how willing China is to return to the substantive negotiations over structural economic reforms that broke down in May.Distant Deal“The U.S. and China can’t even agree on what text to begin the negotiations with again,” said Derek Scissors, a China expert at the American Enterprise Institute who has advised the administration.The one thing left clear was that Friday’s escalation raised more doubts about Trump’s chosen path with China and made prospects of a deal even more distant, analysts said.Though Trump has insisted he had little choice but to take on the fight with a China that threatens to overtake the U.S. economically and technologically in the years to come, his critics insist he has done so in an ill-conceived and ad-hoc way that has caused more damage than necessary to the U.S. economy.“His approach to these negotiations all along has been, just as you are about to sit down to negotiate, you make things significantly worse for the other side and hope that they are going to give you lot of concessions just to get back to where they were,” said Philip Levy, who served as an economic adviser to President George W. Bush and is now chief economist for Flexport, a logistics company. “The Chinese don’t seem very enthused about playing this game.”(Updates with China response from third paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Shawn Donnan in Washington at email@example.com;Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org;Miao Han in Beijing at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org, Sarah McGregor, Margaret CollinsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
08/24/2019 - 07:41 AM
Macron Rips Up Agenda for His G-7 in a Fit of Climate Fury
(Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. Emmanuel Macron has gone off script.It took the French president less than 24 hours to wrong foot his closest partners and toss a curve ball into the buildup to the Group of Seven summit. His fellow leaders hadn’t even landed. And all this when Macron was supposed to be shoring up the European alliance for another confrontation with Donald Trump.When the summit begins Saturday in the French beach resort of Biarritz, the European contingent is supposed to be holding the line over Brexit, pushing for tougher action on climate change and addressing the trade tensions threatening global growth without provoking the U.S. leader. Now they are going to be distracted by a rift between Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel over how to tackle the environmental threat posed by Brazil.For Macron, for the European Union, and for the transatlantic relationship, the consequences could be far-reaching.Preparations for the summit began to unravel on Thursday evening as Biarritz was about to go into lockdown. The strip of sand that will provide the backdrop for the family photo was still crammed with bathers taking their last swim. Even Macron’s close advisers had no idea about the bombshell the president (who is not a regular tweeter like Trump) was about to drop.Alarmed by the record number of fires ravaging the Amazon jungle, Macron announced that the “emergency” would be a central focus of his summit, abandoning months of careful choreography that even involves France’s most celebrated chef preparing meat for Trump and vegetarian fare for special guest Narendra Modi.Problem was he didn’t seem to have let key players in on his decision. Within two hours, his call to arms was met with a furious response from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who accused Macron of colonial posturing. Affairs relating to Brazil should not be discussed without Brazil at the table, Bolsonaro said.Read more: The Amazon Rainforest Is on Fire, and It’s Getting WorseMacron’s critics on social media pointed out that he’d used an outdated picture of an older blaze.Officials in the G-7 clan were waking up to the news along with the rest of the world. Concern about the environment is something shared by many Europeans, and the sense from officials was that they were willing to accept having the burning of the rainforest thrust onto the agenda at the last moment.A slow drip of benign responses began to come in. A spokesman for the U.K.’s Boris Johnson said the British leader would echo his call for action on the Amazon. Merkel’s spokesman backed Macron’s decision to involve the international community, siding with him against Bolsonaro.Trump, meanwhile, exchanged attacks with Beijing over trade. Markets tumbled as the president said he’d “ordered” the U.S. to disengage from China. But rather than seeking to capitalize, the French leader upped the ante.Another ShockerMaybe he took offense at the colonialist jibe, maybe it was headlines from Brazilian officials bringing up forest fires in Portugal and Siberia. Whatever it was, Macron had another shocker up his sleeve.In a terse statement from the Elysee palace, he branded Bolsonaro a liar and vowed to block the EU’s trade deal with South America’s biggest economies unless Brazil takes its environmental obligations seriously.Tearing up a summit agenda is one thing. But this was a whole other order of magnitude.The EU’s trade accord with Mercosur has been 20 years in the making, will ease tariffs on some $90 billion of annual commerce, and was Europe’s biggest riposte to Trump’s assault on the multilateral trading order. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, invited to the summit as Macron’s special guest, is set to be one of the biggest winners from the deal and invested time and political capital to get it over the line just eight weeks ago. Sanchez had no warning the announcement was coming, according to an official.In the OpenThe public slapdown in the end came from Merkel.Her spokesman told Bloomberg that the chancellor doesn’t believe shooting down the trade deal will achieve Macron’s aim of slowing deforestation in Brazil and actually contains binding commitments on climate protection. She doesn’t think threatening to block the accord is an appropriate response to what is happening in Brazil, he added.After Macron’s political maneuvering over talks with Washington, Merkel had already concluded that she couldn’t rely on France when it comes to trade. Now their split is out in the open.EU President Donald Tusk on Saturday backed Merkel’s stance, while seeking to calm the tensions."We, of course, stand by the EU-Mercosur agreement which is also about protecting the climate and environment," he said at a press conference ahead of the talks. All the same, "it is hard to imagine a harmonious process of ratification by the European countries as long as the Brazilian government allows the destruction of the green lungs of our planet, Earth."Merkel is due to land in Biarritz around 3:30 p.m. and will head straight into a bilateral meeting with her French counterpart.Johnson is seeking to divide them over Brexit. Trump is cranking up the pressure on a host of issues from trade to Iran and economic policy. Both are looking for encouragement that there are cracks in the EU’s essential alliance.Macron just handed it to them on a plate.(Updates with comment from Donald Tusk in fourth to last paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Arne Delfs in Biarritz, France at email@example.com;Helene Fouquet in Biarritz, France at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at email@example.com, ;Flavia Krause-Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org, Robert JamesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
08/24/2019 - 07:22 AM
F-35s Can't Fix This: No, There Is No American Military Solution to North Korea
The implications are clear: if missiles and unimpeded air power are insufficient to destroy enemy armor out in the open after forty-two days, and if men clothed in mere robes can survive on the surface of a mountain against heavy weapons, then the tens of thousands of North Korean artillery pieces, their mobile missile launchers, and hidden nuclear-missile silos would be able to withstand even the most withering and sustained attack.(This first appeared in September 2017.)Last Friday National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster emphatically told reporters that despite what many have said to the contrary, “there is a military option” for North Korea. Tuesday afternoon at the United Nations, President Trump went even further, saying that if he felt certain conditions warranted it, then he would have no choice “but to totally destroy North Korea.” The president and his national security advisor, however, are wrong. Engaging in a “preventive war” with Pyongyang, as McMaster phrased it last month, would turn a tense situation into a catastrophic failure for America. There is no cost-effective military option and claiming there is only puts America’s security at risk.One doesn’t have to be a military expert to see why a so-called preventive military strike would not only fail to resolve the threat to U.S. personnel and U.S. allies, but worsen it. Two anecdotes and a brief assessment of North Korean capability exposes the futility of “preventive” war.I fought alongside McMaster in February 1991 at Desert Storm’s Battle of 73 Easting. Prior to our ground assault, the U.S. Air Force and other coalition planes saturated the Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait for an average of once every ten hours for forty-two days. Enemy tanks were the primary target. Iraqi armor had literally nowhere to hide in the open desert; their steel hulls were painfully clear from the skies and defenseless to air attacks.Yet as we discovered when we closed with the enemy, more than 80 percent of the enemy’s tanks and other armored vehicles had survived the air attacks. An enemy that can’t hide or defend itself can still survive sustained bombardment under near-perfect attack conditions, even in open desert.In September 2011, I was at a U.S. Forward Operating Base in the Kunar Province of eastern Afghanistan when the base came under attack by members of the Taliban. They were positioned on the side of a mountain with a commanding view on our base located below. U.S. soldiers returned fire with heavy machineguns and 105 millimeter artillery shells for about thirty minutes, yet they were unable to silence the attackers.Finally, a U.S. fighter jet made a bombing run on the enemy location on the mountain and destroyed the dismounted troops in a massive explosion. The rugged mountains of Afghanistan provided Taliban fighters—with no additional protection—the ability to withstand U.S. heavy weapons and artillery shells. Only when a fighter jet entered the scene were they destroyed.The implications are clear: if missiles and unimpeded air power are insufficient to destroy enemy armor out in the open after forty-two days, and if men clothed in mere robes can survive on the surface of a mountain against heavy weapons, then the tens of thousands of North Korean artillery pieces, their mobile missile launchers, and hidden nuclear-missile silos would be able to withstand even the most withering and sustained attack.North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s likely response to a U.S. attack is not hard to figure out. In 1991 Saddam Hussein made a major strategic mistake by sitting idly by while U.S. missiles and bombs rained down on his helpless troops for over a month. Kim will certainly not make the same mistake. Instead, he will take one of several possible courses.Kim will most likely launch a massive artillery strike of limited duration on the South Korean capital of Seoul, causing enormous damage and killing tens of thousands of South Korean citizens—and then stop his attack and warn that if the United States doesn’t cease its attack, then North Korea will obliterate the rest of Seoul, inflicting casualties in the hundreds of thousands. The most dangerous course of action for Kim would be to detonate a nuclear bomb on Seoul or launch a nuclear missile against Japan, killing millions—and then threatening to fire more if the U.S. does not cease-fire.President Trump would then be faced with an unimaginable decision: continue the attack and see potentially millions more die, or give in to Kim’s demands and stop the attack. The interests of the United States would be gravely harmed no matter what choice Trump makes at that point.In case anyone believes there is even a theoretical possibility that a massive U.S. strike could take out Kim’s ability to attack Seoul, let me put that to rest immediately. For decades, North Korea has known about the destructive power of U.S. planes and has therefore hidden a substantial number of its conventional artillery pieces into the sides of mountains. The artillery pieces can be rolled into firing positions and then returned for reloading.There are likely a large number of missile silos in the mountains that are tucked away in locations that the United States may not be able to locate. I was stationed in South Korea in the mid-1990s and observed firsthand the formidable Korean mountains. I also spent some time in the South’s underground bunkers and know how virtually impregnable they are to external attack.In addition to those unknown silo locations, North Korea also has many mobile launchers that will be hidden in underground storage facilities until it’s time to roll them out to fire. Its instructive to note that thousands of coalition planes were not able to prevent even the hapless Saddam Hussein from firing thirty-nine ballistic missiles from his mobile launchers during Desert Storm.There is no viable preventive-war option for North Korea unless one is willing to absorb civilian casualties in the hundreds of thousands or millions. The Trump administration can and should, however, communicate an unambiguous and certain promise that if North Korea were to attack any U.S. personnel, citizens, or allied nations—or if the administration discovers that North Korea was about to launch such an attack—then Kim’s forces will be met with a powerful and punitive strike out of all proportion to the attack. That is a credible and justifiable use of U.S. military power.The objective must be to prevent war, secure the lives of American and allied citizens, and to keep sustained economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea to eventually give up its nuclear weapons. Diplomatic engagement combined with a credible military deterrent has a reasonable chance of accomplishing that outcome. Launching a misnamed “preventive” strike will fail catastrophically.Daniel L. Davis is a senior fellow for Defense Priorities and a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who retired in 2015 after twenty-one years, including four combat deployments. Follow him @DanielLDavis1.Image: Reuters.(This article was originally published in 2017 and is being republished due to reader interest.)RECOMMENDED: What a War Between NATO and Russia Would Look Like. What a War Between America and China Would Look Like. What a War Between China and Japan Would Look Like.
08/24/2019 - 07:00 AM
Austria prepares to repatriate IS supporter's children
Austria is preparing to repatriate two sons of an Austrian Islamic State group supporter believed to have died in Syria after she headed there in 2014. ORF reported that a court last week awarded custody to the grandparents of the boys, who are 1 ½ and 3. It said they have been at the al-Hol camp in Syria, controlled by Kurdish forces, for the past few months.
08/24/2019 - 05:50 AM
Hitler's Crazy Zipper Gun Was One Weapon You Did Not Want to Face
In either attack or defense, the German rifleman’s prime responsibility was to support the squad-operated machine gun. When the MG 42 crew moved, the riflemen covered them with fire. When the MG 42 set up, the riflemen dug foxholes for the machine gun crew while watching for the approach of enemy forces. When the MG 42 opened fire, several riflemen were detailed to carry ammunition to the gun.The MG 42, possibly the best machine gun ever created, originated as a replacement for the German Army’s standard machine gun, the MG 34, which first came into service in 1936. Designed by Louis Stange of the Rheinmetall-Borsig AG (referred to simply as Rheinmetall) located at Sommerda, the MG 34, at the start of World War II, was the Third Reich’s preferred general purpose machine gun (GPMG) and was intended to replace the heterogeneous collection of automatic infantry weapons then in service as befitted the new German “one-gun-fits-all” philosophy.The MG 34, using a 7.92mm round, turned out to be a fine GPMG, meeting all the specifications laid down over the previous decade. Crewed by two or three soldiers, the gun weighed 24.3 pounds; its tripod weighed an additional 52 pounds. Air cooled and recoil operated, it had a cyclic rate of fire of 800 rounds per minute, mandating that the barrel be changed after every 250 rounds. By changing its mounting and fire mechanism, the operator could radically transform its function. With its standard bipod it was a light machine gun, ideal for infantry assaults; mounted on its tripod it served as a sustained fire medium machine gun spewing bullets to a range of 3,829 yards. Between 1939 and 1945, Nazi Germany manufactured over 354,000 of this proven and effective weapon.Recommended: How Israel Takes U.S. Weapons and Makes Them Better.Recommended: North Korea’s Most Lethal Weapon Isn’t Nukes. Recommended: 5 Worst Guns Ever Made.For all its qualities as a first-rate GPMC and popularity with its users, the MG 34 did have its problems. In their enthusiasm to make the weapon the finest machine gun possible, the designers had gone over the top by producing a gun that demanded a high-quality finish, the use of scarce raw materials, and higher precision manufacturing than was really needed. Consequently, the manufacturing process was quite time consuming and expensive, so much so that demand due to combat losses and the expansion of the German armed forces could never keep pace with the demands for new production during the war, even after several new manufacturing centers including the main one run by Mauser AG-Werke were established. A simpler, easier to produce GPMG appeared to be the only solution.The MG 42’s Design ImprovementsThe MG 42 fired a 7.92mm round. With a muzzle velocity of 2,480 feet per second the MG 42’s effective range was nearly 1,100 yards. The gun used a 50-round flexible metal belt feed, or, alternatively, a 75-round snail drum magazine. A full 50-round belt of ammo would be depleted in a 21/2-second burst; the 75 round drum in 31/2 seconds. To permit longer fire bursts, MG 42 crews normally linked together several 50 round belts. Ammunition boxes (weighing 22 pounds each) held five separate belts totaling 250 rounds per box. A good crew could shoot 250 rounds in 12½ seconds of continuous fire, or 20-30 seconds by firing quick bursts.As good as the MG 42 was, there were still complaints about its performance. First, unlike the MG 34, it could not fire single shots. Another complaint that arose due to the high rate of fire was that during prolonged firing the gun tended to veer away from the target due to the vibration and even push its operator backward. Once the gun was set on its tripod these problems vanished, and the MG 42 became the perfect sustained fire support weapon.What’s more, the tremendous rate of fire coming from the MG 42 was considered by some to be a waste of ammunition. To counter that argument, others said that since a soldier, in the Germans’ experience, only fired at an enemy he could see and time (only seconds) was fleeting, the more bullets directed at the enemy the greater chance for a kill.During the war a number of companies produced the MG 42, although never in the numbers needed to keep up with the ever increasing demand. These included Gustloff-Werke in Suhl, Mauser AG-Werke in Borsigwald, Steyr in Vienna, Grossfuss in Dobeln, and Maget in Among them, 129 MG 42s were made each day from 1942 through 1945. More than 400,000 units were produced (17,915 in 1942,116,725 in 1943, 211,806 in 1944, and 61,877 in 1945).Machine Gun DoctrineOf course, even the best weapon has to be used appropriately for its battlefield capabilities to be fully realized. Fortunately for the Germans, and unfortunately for their opponents during World War II, the German Army formulated an effective machine gun doctrine and tactics.Unlike their American, British, Commonwealth, and Soviet adversaries, the Germans in World War II employed machine guns as their major infantry support weapons. The Allies used automatic weapons to support rifle-armed infantry. The German Army reversed the process, using infantry to support machine guns in combat. As a result, the standard German Army infantry company of 150 men in 1944 contained 15 MG 42s needing only 30 to 50 men to crew the lot. By contrast, only two light machine guns were assigned to each American foot company.Generally, German machine gun doctrine, both for defense and attack, stressed five basic points: surprise, fire and movement, coordination of firepower, conservation of ammunition, and alternate positions. In defense, the MG 42 was usually employed with its tripod to act as a heavy machine gun. When German troops were surprised by an enemy attack, the weapon was often removed from the tripod and used as a light machine gun to counterattack the enemy assault.Acting as a heavy automatic weapon, the MG 42 was usually sited in concealed ground and manned by two gunners under the direction of a section leader. Reverse slopes were the preferred covered positions. The guns were only placed in their final fire position at the last moment before combat began. In attack and defense, MG 42s were set up in areas where they could lay down enfilade and crossfire against any advancing enemy.During offensive operations, MG 42s acting as heavy machine guns covered the deployment of friendly infantry from echeloned positions sited on commanding terrain. In preparing for the attack of friendly forces, the MG 42, firing from behind the friendly troops, aimed to smother enemy centers of resistance and deliver fire against opposing counterattacks. As advancing German soldiers moved forward, the supporting machine guns, acting as heavy weapons, followed from position to position in their wake.Attack and DefenseIn either attack or defense, the German rifleman’s prime responsibility was to support the squad-operated machine gun. When the MG 42 crew moved, the riflemen covered them with fire. When the MG 42 set up, the riflemen dug foxholes for the machine gun crew while watching for the approach of enemy forces. When the MG 42 opened fire, several riflemen were detailed to carry ammunition to the gun. Since the MG 42 was light enough to be operated and carried by one man, the bearer could keep pace with advancing comrades. Its ability to be set up and in action in a matter of seconds made the MG 42 invaluable in the attack.On the defensive, MG 42s were shifted back and forth between different positions to confuse the enemy. The Germans called this tactic Stelungswechsel (change of position) and was a vital part of their overall machine gun doctrine. Three firing pits for the gun were usually dug at various places along the front line: one to cover the expected avenue of an enemy advance; another on the left or right flank to support a neighboring squad; and yet another—called the Schweige MG (ambush position)—about 50 yards behind the main German line. These tactics made the Germans, as one American officer during the early stages of the Normandy Campaign stated, “masters at making one man appear to be a whole squad by moving rapidly from one concealed position to another.”The MG 42’s Lasting LegacyIn 1943, the U.S. Army attempted to copy the MG 42. The design, called the T24 machine gun, was hampered by the introduction of provisions for it to fire the U.S. .30-06 cartridge. The gun’s performance was disappointing, and the project was abandoned.Whether called the “linoleum ripper” by Soviet soldiers, the “Spandau” by the British, “Hitler’s zipper” by the Americans, or Hitlersage (“Hitler’s saw”) or “Bonesaw” by its German users, the MG 42 machine gun proved its combat worth on every European battlefield. Its ominous and terrifying “ripping cloth report” announced to all the presence of the best machine gun available.This article originally appeared on Warfare History Network. Image: Wikimedia Commons.(This article originally appeared last year.)
08/24/2019 - 05:43 AM
Chinese diplomat Zhao Lijian, known for his Twitter outbursts, is given senior foreign ministry post
China's former No 2 diplomat in Pakistan, known for taking to Twitter to defend his government in bellicose terms, has been handed a senior role in Beijing's foreign ministry.Recently updated records on the foreign ministry's website indicate that Zhao Lijian, who left his position as deputy chief of mission in Islamabad earlier this month, now serves as deputy director general of the ministry's information department.In his new role, Zhao serves directly beneath the department's newly appointed director general, Hua Chunying, and alongside fellow deputies Geng Shuang and Yu Dunhai.Both Hua and Geng regularly host ministry press conferences for domestic and international reporters, suggesting that Zhao may be in line to take on public-facing duties.One of the first Chinese diplomats to open an official account on Twitter, Zhao has used the platform prolifically during his four-year tenure at the Chinese embassy in Pakistan, tweeting over 51,000 times to his more than 200,000 followers.He has been joined on Twitter in recent weeks by other official Chinese government accounts, including that of the Chinese ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai.But while others have generally used the platform as merely an additional channel through which to share official remarks in diplomatic terms, Zhao has made a name for himself for using Twitter to directly confront critics of the Chinese government, in a manner that some have compared to that of US President Donald Trump.After a BBC video documenting limits on public expressions of faith in China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in June, Zhao told the broadcaster: "Don't [poke] your nose everywhere. Xinjiang is none of your business. Take care of your Brexit first!"Meanwhile, a group of 22 Western countries that had issued a letter condemning the Chinese government's mass internment of largely Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang were united by "white supremacy", Zhao charged.Zhao has also taken to Twitter to push back against the US administration's treatment of Huawei and deem the British government "shameless" for its calls for restraint from Hong Kong authorities, arguing that many British citizens were "descendants of war criminals".But arguably his most infamous moment came in July when he was branded a "racist disgrace" by a former Obama administration official after he argued that Washington did not have the right to criticise China's policies in Xinjiang because racism existed in the US."If you're in Washington DC, you know the white never go to the SW area, because it's an area for the black & Latin. There's a saying 'black in & white out', which means that as long as a black family enters, white people will quit, & price of the apartment will fall sharply," he wrote in a since-deleted tweet.You are a racist disgrace. And shockingly ignorant too. In normal times, you would be PNGed for this.Ambassador Cui, I expect better of you and your team. Please do the right thing and send him home. https://t.co/KIKanBjQ2L" Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) July 15, 2019Susan Rice, who served as president Barack Obama's national security adviser, responded via Twitter that Zhao was "a racist disgrace [and] shockingly ignorant too," and suggested that he should be declared persona non grata.Several weeks later, on August 8, Zhao announced on Twitter that his four-year tour had come to an end and that he was leaving Pakistan with a "heavy heart, because Pakistan has stolen my heart."Suggesting that he intended to use Twitter in his new role in Beijing, Zhao said he would be returning to the platform "after I settle down".This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
08/24/2019 - 05:30 AM
Amazon fires: Brazilian president sends army to tackle blaze after Emmanuel Macron moves to block EU-South America trade deal
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro authorized the deployment of armed forces to help fight fires raging in the Amazon and crack down on criminal activities in the region on Friday. The decree applies to indigenous territories, conservation areas as well as other regions in the Brazilian states spanning the world's largest rainforest. He hit back at such criticism in his Friday night address, claiming the spreading of “disinformation” – inside or outside Brazil – would do nothing to solve the Amazon crisis. “Forest fires exist in the whole world and this cannot serve as a pretext for possible international sanctions,” Mr Bolsonaro said in his brief, scripted address. It came after Donald Trump offered to help Brazil as it grapples with thousands of wildfires burning in the Amazon. The US president said he had spoken with Mr Bolsonaro and stated that the countries' prospects for trade are "perhaps stronger than ever." "I told him if the United States can help with the Amazon Rainforest fires, we stand ready to assist!" Mr Trump tweeted. U.S. President Donald Trump, left, waves while standing with Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's president, at the West Wing of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 19, 2019. Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg Earlier on Friday, Emmanuel Macron spearheaded a European charge against Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro as a war of words intensified over raging fires in the Amazon basin ahead of this weekend’s G7 summit in Biarritz. France joined forces with Ireland in threatening to block a trade deal with South America unless Brazil takes action to stop vast tracts of the Amazonian rainforest from burning. The threat followed a clash between Mr Bolsonaro, a far-Right climate sceptic, and Mr Macron, whom the Brailian leader accused of having a “colonialist mentality” for dubbing the fires an “international crisis” and requesting the Amazon be added to the G7 agenda. ”Our house is burning. Literally,” tweeted the French leader. Mr Macron, said Mr Bolsonaro, was bent on sensationalism and seeking "personal political gains in an internal matter for Brazil and other Amazonian countries". Upping the ante, the French premier on Friday accused his Brazilian counterpart of having “lied” about his environmental commitments at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan in June. "The decisions and statements from Brazil these recent weeks show clearly that President Bolsonaro has decided to not respect his commitments on the climate, nor to involve himself on the issue of biodiversity," read a presidential statement. Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest - the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen - is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days! ActForTheAmazonpic.twitter.com/dogOJj9big— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 22, 2019 As a consequence, France now opposes an EU trade deal "in its current state" with the Mercosur bloc of South American nations that includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Two decades in the making, the treaty is yet to be ratified. Brazil contains about 60 per cent of the Amazon rainforest, seen as the world’s “lungs” and a crucial carbon sink. Environmental experts say the fires are linked to accelerating deforestation in the Amazon region, which in July quadrupled compared to the same month in 2018, according to data from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research. Smoke billows during a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Humaita, Amazonas State Credit: REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo Mr Bolsonaro has denied his policies are to blame, pointing the finger at drought and even environmental groups and NGOs - a baseless claim Ireland’s taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, branded “Orwellian”. Earlier, Mr Varadkar said the Irish government would also oppose the treaty. "There is no way that Ireland will vote for the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement if Brazil does not honour its environmental commitments," he said in a statement. Ireland and France would need other EU states to help form a blocking minority if they want to sink the deal reached late June. Angela Merkel called the fires “shocking and threatening” for the “whole world”. Along with Norway, Germany has blocked donations to the Brazilian government’s Amazon fund. But a government spokesperson signalled on Friday that it would not be joining in the push against the trade pact, saying that was "not the right response". This Aug 20 satellite image provided by Nasa shows the fires Credit: AP British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "I passionately share the view of Emmanuel Macron, and one of the things I am going to be raising at the G7 is the horrific loss of habitats and species around the world.” French officials said talks were underway to take “concrete initiatives on the Amazon as part of the G7”. However, all eyes will be on Donald Trump, with whom Mr Macron claims to have a close working relationship but who he has to date failed to sway on a range of issues from Iran and trade to the climate. A staunch climate sceptic himself having pulled out of the Paris accords, the US president views Mr Bolsonaro as a valuable regional ally who he may choose to defend against European attacks on Brazilian “sovereignty”. Where there's smoke: the city of Porto Velho, state capital of Rondonia, in the upper Amazon River basin, on Aug 16 Credit: Rex Even so, pressure was piling up on the Brazilian president on the domestic front as demonstrations were held in dozens of cities around his country. Others were also staged in Paris and London. Brazil's agribusiness lobby, which wields significant influence within Congress, also expressed concerns over a drop in exports due to a potential boycott of Brazilian products. In an apparent bid to reduce tensions, Mr Bolsonaro mooted the idea of deploying the army to help fight the fires, some 700 of which were ignited between Wednesday and Thursday alone, according to the National Institute for Space Research.
08/24/2019 - 04:44 AM
Israeli Super Tough F-35 Stealth Fighters Are Shaking Up the Middle East
As so often in the Middle East, especially in the shadow war between Israel and Iran, it’s hard to know exactly what happened. The tale changes with whoever tells it, and why they’re telling it. Still, we can make some educated guesses.Israel’s F-35 stealth fighters are positively supernatural: here, there and everywhere. In 2018, the Israeli Air Force claimed its new F-35s had attacked Iranian targets in Syria. Also in 2018, Arab press made dubious claims that IAF F-35s had flown over Iran.Now comes reports that Israeli F-35s have attacked Iranian targets in Iraq, according to Arab media.Western diplomatic sources allegedly the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that on July 19, “Tel Aviv carried out an airstrike earlier this month against an Iranian rockets depot northeast of Baghdad.”El Arabiya television reported that the strike hit Iranian ballistic missiles being transported in refrigerated food trucks. Several Hezbollah and Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members were reportedly killed,A second strike targeted another Iranian base, according to Asharq Al-Awsat. “The Ashraf base in Iraq, a former base used by the Iranian opposition People's Mujahedin of Iran, was targeted by an air raid,” according to the newspaper. “The base lies 80 kilometers from the border with Iran and 40 kilometers northeast of Baghdad. The sources revealed that the strikes targeted Iranian ‘advisors’ and a ballistic missile shipment that had recently arrived from Iran to Iraq.”Compounding the mystery were initial reports that unidentified drones conducted the attacks.Amos Yadlin, former head of Israeli military intelligence, told U.S. publication Breaking Defense that Israel probably did attack Iranian targets in Iraq. “Apparently, Israel is really operating in Iraq,” he said. “It is sensible that Israel will not claim responsibility for such an attack as it may complicate things for the U.S. Without referring to the specific attack I can say that the F-35 is the ideal aircraft for such an attack.”As so often in the Middle East, especially in the shadow war between Israel and Iran, it’s hard to know exactly what happened. The tale changes with whoever tells it, and why they’re telling it. Still, we can make some educated guesses.First and foremost is the fact that Israel has refused to accept being surrounded by Iranian missile bases on its borders. The Israeli Air Force has turned Syria into a shooting gallery, with hundred of strikes hitting Iranian convoys crossing Syria to supply arms to Hezbollah into Lebanon, as well as Iranian and Hezbollah bases in Syria itself.“We can – and we intend to – make it as difficult as possible and inflict a price tag that the Iranians aren’t willing to pay,” an Israeli military official told me during an interview in Jerusalem last February. Which suggests that Israel would shy away from striking Iranian facilities in Iraq, especially now that the U.S. doesn’t have a major military presence there anymore.An Israeli strike in Iran would be risky even with F-35s, given distance to the target – about a thousand miles from Tel Aviv to Tehran -- Iranian air defenses (including Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles) and potential Iranian retaliation. But Tel Aviv to Baghdad is less than 600 miles. Israeli aircraft could fly over Syria or even Jordan (as they did in their 1981 attack that destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor).Weakened by years of warfare and a dysfunctional government and military, Iraqi defenses wouldn’t pose much of a threat. Iraq would be a fairly safe test as the Israeli Air Force absorbs its F-35Is.None of which is conclusive proof that Israeli F-35s struck Iraq. But as in any murder mystery, the prime suspect has motive, opportunity and capability.Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.Image: Reuters.(This article was originally published earlier this year and is being republished due to reader interest.)
08/24/2019 - 04:22 AM
This Dual Purpose Navy Ship is More Than Just an Aircraft Carrier
But if the Navy wants to, it could instead cram up to twenty fighters on the LHDs, turning them effectively into light aircraft carriers—a class of ship the Navy hasn’t built since World War II. Were the USS America to cruise alongside the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, the average Joe might struggle to distinguish their purposes. Both flat-tops measure longer than two-and-half football fields in length and carry jet fighters and helicopters.But the America and her sistership Tripoli are technically “Landing Helicopter Assault” vessels numbered LHA-6 and LHA-7 respectively: super-sized members of the “gator navy” of amphibious assault ships designed to deploy the expeditionary units of the U.S. Marine Corps onto hostile shores. In addition to the Navy crew of 1,000-1,200 sailors and officers, each LHA can carry nearly 1,700 Marines.Unlike the catapult-launched Rafale-M jet fighters on the Charles de Gaulle, the America and Tripoli can only deploy short-takeoff and vertical-lift capable jump jets from their decks. You can see a video of an F-35B hovering down for a landing on the America here.Rather than using nuclear reactors to achieve brisk speeds of 30 knots, 45,000-ton LHAs use an innovative hybrid electric/gas-turbine propulsion system pioneered in the final Wasp-class LHD, USS Makin Island. The electric propulsion is used for slower cruising speeds while the gas-turbine becomes more efficient near the more modest maximum speed of twenty knots.However, unlike the Wasp-class Landing Helicopter Docks (LHDs) they were based upon, America and Tripoli lack floodable “well deck” which can carry landing craft to ferry troops ashore. (This video shows how the Wasp’s cavernous well deck works.) All that space has instead gone to dramatically expanded aviation facilities and fuel stores. The ship’s medical facilities were also reduced by two-thirds.Instead of watercraft, the LHAs rely on squadrons of MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotors, sophisticated hybrid aircraft combining the vertical lift ability of a helicopter and the speed and range of an airplane—to insert troops by air.Officially, a “typical” air wing on the America would include a dozen Ospreys, six Harrier or F-35B jump jets, seven AH-1Z “Viper” attack and four CH-53K heavy transport helicopters to support troops ashore, and two MH-60S choppers for anti-submarine and search-and-rescue duties.But if the Navy wants to, it could instead cram up to twenty fighters on the LHDs, turning them effectively into light aircraft carriers—a class of ship the Navy hasn’t built since World War II. Like the lower-end escort carrier, the concept was that there were many missions like aircraft delivery and convoy escort that would benefit from air support, but didn’t require the massive firepower of a full carrier air wing with seventy to a hundred warplanes.Indeed, during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 the Navy used the LHDs Bataan and Bonhomme Richard as pocket carriers primarily to launch Harrier airstrikes in Iraq.However, the subsonic Harrier, though a versatile support platform, was substantially inferior in performance to equivalent land-based or catapult-launched fighters.The new supersonic-capable F-35B Lightning II stealth jets entering service with the Marine Corps are far more capable of taking on fourth- and fifth-generation fighters and launching longer-range strikes. Combined with the F-35’s surveillance capabilities, this means future air wings on LHDs and LHAs will be far more versatile.As the Pentagon’s chief strategic contingency is preparing for the possibility of conflict with China, the Marine Corps sees the Pacific Ocean as its most important likely battleground. A U.S.-China conflict might play out over small islands in the South China Sea in which the Chinese military has installed airfields, missile batteries and naval bases. And it may prove inefficient or risky to delegate a full-sized supercarrier to operations targeting these islands, or defend islands to which Marine and Army forces have deployed their own missile batteries.Indeed, the LHD USS Wasp deployed in April 2019 with ten F-35Bs onboard and buzzed Chinese troops deployed at Scarborough Shoal, an occupied by Chinese troops but claimed by the Philippines.Light carriers might also be appropriate in scale for protecting vital convoys traversing the vastness of the Pacific against sporadic air and submarine attacks using their onboard fighters and helicopters respectively.The cost of the America-class LHAs reflects the efficiency argument well: the three ships ordered together were developed and built for $10 billion. That’s less than a single $13 billion Gerald Ford-class supercarrier.Bringing Back the Well DeckNonetheless, Marines have understandable objections to the removal of the ability to deploy landing craft from a nominally “amphibious” ship.Afterall, air-cushion landing craft (LCAC) can carry up to 180 soldiers, 60-75 tons of supplies on each load, and vehicles as large as an Abrams main battle tank. Meanwhile, an Osprey can only carry 10-15 tons or thirty-two personnel. The only vehicle the MV-22B is certified to carry internally is a Growler jeep.The Marine Corps, however, is increasingly convinced that D-Day style amphibious landings on defended beachheads are less and less likely to be viable in modern warfare. It’s not merely that they fear a bloodbath on the beaches of the sort depicted in Saving Private Ryan or Letters from Iwo Jima. Strategists worry that long-range shore-launched anti-ship missiles will make it unlikely that landing craft, and even the larger LHDs and LHA carrying those landing craft, will be able to approach close enough to even deposit their troops in the first place. Surely, giant amphibious ships stuffed full with over a thousand Marines would be particularly tempting targets. America-class LHAs can at least thin out threats up to thirty miles away with their two Evolved Sea Sparrow missile launchers before having to rely on Phalanx gatling cannons and Rolling Airframe Missile launchers and Nulka decoys for point defense. But none of these systems can even hope to stop anti-ship ballistic missiles entering service in Iran and China.Thus, the Marine Corps recently abandoned its former objective of maintaining thirty-eight amphibious assault ships in service (it currently has thirty-two) which can deployed two full brigades into battle between them, in favor of dispersing troops amongst more numerous, though less capable, auxiliary and even robotic ships.That may explain why the Navy prioritized the ability to launch additional troop-carrying Ospreys from over a hundred miles away which can land behind enemy lines rather than exposed beachheads.But that doesn’t change the issue of logistical throughput: if you need to rapidly reinforce a beachhead with heavy weapons, vehicles and supplies, landing craft are preferable—especially once nearby enemy defenses are suppressed.The Ospreys themselves, while highly flexible, are also expensive to maintain and operate per flight hour. Furthermore, exhaust from both the Osprey and, especially, the F-35Bs inflict heat damage to the flight deck over time, limiting the advisability and increasing the cost of surging high-intensity flight operations over prolonged periods. The Navy has been continuously adapting the ships to prevent heat damage for years.Therefore, in a bid to restore flexibility, the third America-class ship, Bouganville (LHA-8) which was laid down in March 2019 in Mississippi, will see the well-deck restored with a capacity for two LCACS. The island is trimmed down to allow more flight deck parking spot in compensation for lost hangar space. Armament and sensors are re-situated onto the vessel’s “island” superstructure, including a brand-new EASR radar also destined to equip future Gerald Ford-class carriers.The new configuration inevitably requires tradeoffs. According to a chart at Navy Recognition, Bougainville falls squarely in between the Wasp-class LHD and the first two America-class boats with 38,000 square feet of deck space dedicated to aviation, but has less than half the aviation fuel capacity of her sister ships and more limited vehicle stowage. Despite these downsides, the restoration of the ability to carry landing craft should improve the America class’s flexibility. Still, naval planners will hopefully bear in mind the carrier’s secondary potential to serve as economy-size aircraft carriers for missions that don’t require $13 billion supercarriers.Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.Image: Reuters.(This article was originally published earlier this month and is being republished due to reader interest.)
08/24/2019 - 02:30 AM
Why John Bolton Is Pushing Hard For Britain to Leave the European Union
National security adviser John Bolton made an extraordinary promise while on a visit to London Monday, pledging that the United Kingdom would jump to the “front of the queue” for trade with the United States if it went ahead and left the European Union.Already, some are concerned that the promise of such trade favoritism might prompt an inevitable no-deal Brexit, the kind U.K. officials have long hoped to avoid.“If that’s the decision of the British government we will support it enthusiastically, and that’s what I’m trying to convey. We’re with you, we’re with you,” Bolton told reporters on the first day of his two-day visit.He emphasized that the United States didn’t want to pressure the U.K. to leave the EU (in an arrangement dubbed “Brexit”), but to support it in doing so. The U.K. voted in 2016 to leave the EU, but has thus far failed to get a deal passed in Parliament.Bolton’s gesture was not met with smiles on all fronts — an op-ed in The Guardian pointed out on Tuesday that the offer was actually a move to colonize the U.K., and another in The Independent called the national security adviser “a snake.”Prime Minister Theresa May tried and failed, repeatedly, to get a deal passed, and now, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has until October 31 to reach a deal. If he fails to do so, then the U.K. will find itself in a “no-deal” Brexit, which will throw things further into chaos, notably trade at the border of Northern Ireland (which is in the U.K.) and the Republic of Ireland (which is in the EU.)Johnson would like the EU to renegotiate elements of the deal, but Brussels so far has refused to do so — as it did when May repeatedly made the same request. It is now up to the U.K. to figure out how to make Brexit work within its own laws and regulations.President Donald Trump, who is not a fan of multilateral agreements, has been a Brexiteer from the jump. He also openly chastised May for her failure to pass a deal in Parliament.In saying that the United States would support the U.K.’s departure from the EU but not a decision to remain, Bolton is stating a policy. For a national security adviser to make trade policy promises on the premise that a country make a major policy change, is remarkable.The United States, meanwhile, remains embroiled in a trade war with China, with tariffs and counter-tariffs flying, and almost nothing happening in the way of negotiations.Trump’s landmark trade deal is also at a standstill. The USMCA, which was to replace NAFTA — the longstanding agreement between the United States, Mexico, and Canada — has yet to be ratified, and as of now, is dying on the vine.Per the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.K. is the seventh largest trade partner with the United States and the fourth largest export destination for American goods. It accounts for 15% of foreign investment in the United States.There is, of course, room for improvement, even in an already strong relationship between the United States and U.K. But there’s also healthy skepticism about what the Trump administration may want in return.“This is a highly transactional administration,” said Jack Straw, former foreign secretary under Prime Minister Tony Blair, in an interview with the BBC’s Radio 4 on Tuesday.He added, “You don’t get something for nothing.”Indeed, the Trump administration might have already tipped its hand on this one.In February, the administration published its objectives for trade with the U.K. moving forward. Those objectives speak to a weak post-Brexit U.K. that would have to bring itself in line with U.S. regulations — something that won’t be in the interests of a U.K. that will still want to trade with the EU.The Trump administration would also like to deregulate the health service in the U.K. by preventing the “the undermining of market access for U.S. products through the improper use of the UK’s system for protecting or recognizing geographical indications” and providing “full market access for U.S. products.”This article originally appeared on ThinkProgress on August 13, 2019.D. Parvaz covers foreign policy for ThinkProgress.Image: Reuters.
08/24/2019 - 01:45 AM
What Boris Johnson Fears More Than a No-Deal Brexit
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- If U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson seems rather glib about the idea of his country crashing out of the European Union without a deal – an outcome that myriad authoritative bodies have predicted will be highly costly for the U.K. economy -- it is most likely because there is something he fears more than that.Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is far from a real opposition party. It doesn’t not have a single member of parliament. It may even have peaked in the polls since Johnson took the Conservative Party reins. But it could easily pose a threat to the Conservatives winning an electoral majority. Johnson’s hell-for-leather lurch toward a no-deal Brexit isn’t really about getting Brussels to offer concessions so much as keeping Farage at bay.In talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of the G-7 summit, Johnson repeated his desire to see Britain and the EU reach an agreement that allows the U.K. to leave the EU on Oct. 31 with a deal. But the U.K. prime minister offered no willingness to compromise, only an insistence that the EU should.Had his predecessor, Theresa May, managed to win a compromise from Brussels that put a time limit on the disputed Irish backstop – the insurance policy built into the deal that maintains an open Irish border by keeping the U.K. in the EU’s customs union – Johnson would have been delighted. Now Johnson wants the backstop scrapped entirely, a much tougher position that emerged relatively late in his party leadership campaign.That stance was initially seen by many as merely a negotiating gambit; a signal to the EU that his no-deal threats were serious. Rather, it was more likely an acknowledgement that it would be hard to exorcise the Faragist threat to Conservatives unless he too worshipped at the altar of a “clean break” Brexit, as the no-deal variant is sometimes called.The Brexit Party, which will launch its own election plans on Tuesday, is keeping up the pressure. After Johnson’s letter to the EU confirming he could not accept the backstop but holding out the hope of some kind of compromise, Farage pounced. He warned Johnson that even scrapping the backstop but accepting the rest of the Withdrawal Agreement would betray the 2016 “leave” vote. David Davis, a hardline Brexiter who served as Brexit Secretary under May, also warned that just getting rid of the backstop wouldn’t be enough to make the deal acceptable.In other words, Brexiters – who wouldn’t have dreamed of promoting a no-deal exit back in 2016 -- have moved the goal posts again. Now, it’s hard to see any compromise that won’t be cast as a sell-out.For Johnson, this presents a longer term problem. In the wake of a deal over the backstop that got through parliament, Britain would have its transition period and, pretty soon, a new U.K. trade delegation would schlepp off to Brussels to negotiate the future trade relationship. You can imagine how that would play out back in Britain. Michel Barnier (or his replacement) and his team -- far more experienced negotiators holding better cards -- would run circles around the U.K. side. Every concession would become another cause of national hand-wringing over the drip-drip from the glacier of British sovereignty melting into an ocean of EU rules.In other words, what is the real reward for doing a Brexit deal now from Johnson’s perspective? Nigel Farage would become the Greta Thunberg of the sovereigntist cause. Britain will be in a constant and never-ending state of sovereignty emergency. Government will be under attack from within. The betrayal narrative started with the opposition to May’s deal and has been growing ever since; Johnson may have decided (along with his top advisor and focus-group guru Dominic Cummings) that only a no-deal Brexit can quash it.A no-deal Brexit, of course, doesn’t settle matters. Far from it; the U.K. will have to re-enter negotiations with the EU very soon just to keep from sinking into a prolonged recession. There are serious risks, from the much-feared shortages of food and medicine and transport disruptions to lost investment and business closures. And yet by the time the two sides sit down again, Johnson will have hoped to have won an election and banished Farage to the wilderness again. And having proved he was willing to walk away, he’ll have answered those who accused him of insincerity. But Johnson is gambling that he can win an election in the chaotic aftermath of no-deal Brexit -- by no means a sure thing. If he loses, he risks destroying what’s left of the Conservative Party’s reputation for competence.The EU also has a high hurdle to clear to reach a compromise. Breaching its own red lines – particularly in upholding the single market – could cause other EU countries to make demands of their own, which would be worse than no deal because it would be seen as posing an existential threat to the Union. Much would depend on the stance taken by Ireland, which has the most to lose from a no-deal Brexit and which is party to the Good Friday Agreement that has been the reason for the backstop arrangement.Still, of the two sides, Johnson has further to travel. Hardline Brexiters now see no-deal as the ultimate test of faith and will fight the next election on that ground if they can. If he is to agree on any deal, it must be one that doesn’t oxygenate Farage’s side. None of this is to say that Johnson would prefer to leave with no deal if there were an acceptable compromise on offer. It’s just that, at the moment, a no-deal Brexit might look politically more attractive than the risks he would have to run for the sake of an agreement.To contact the author of this story: Therese Raphael at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Baker at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Therese Raphael writes editorials on European politics and economics for Bloomberg Opinion. She was editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
08/24/2019 - 01:00 AM
N. Korea test-fires missiles again after joint drills end
North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Saturday in the seventh weapons launch in a month, South Korea's military said, a day after it vowed to remain America's biggest threat in protest of U.S.-led sanctions on the country. President Donald Trump downplayed the latest launch. "Kim Jong Un has been, you know, pretty straight with me.
08/24/2019 - 12:41 AM
UN envoy challenges Malaysia's claim to near zero poverty
A U.N. special rapporteur challenged Malaysia's claim to have nearly ended poverty, saying an estimated one in six people in the Southeast Asian country are still considered poor. Malaysia's official poverty rate fell from 49% in 1970 to just 0.4% in 2016. Philip Alston, the U.N. rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said Friday the rate was "extremely artificial," doesn't reflect the cost of living and excluded vulnerable populations.
08/24/2019 - 12:34 AM
Why Is Saudi Arabia Buying a Billion-Dollar Ship The Navy Doesn't Even Want?
The kingdom’s enthusiasm for the Littoral Combat Ship may seem curious given that the U.S. Navy has infamously struggled with the vessels’ reliability, cost overruns, lack of firepower, and inability to conveniently slot in different “mission modules” as had originally been advertised. These flaws led the Navy to cut its order for LCS down from fifty-five to thirty-two vessels, though Congress insisted the Navy buy three additional ships.On July 29, members of the U.S. Senate voted forty-five to forty to block new sales of laser-guided bombs and aircraft maintenance services to Saudi Arabia—falling short of the two-thirds majority necessary to override a veto by the Trump administration blocking the ban from taking effect. Despite deteriorating public support for Riyadh due to its implication in an exceptional number of civilian deaths in Yemen and the murder of one of its own citizens in the Turkish embassy, the flow of U.S. arms is set to continue.Earlier in May, the Trump administration argued the new sales could be authorized on an emergency basis, bypassing congressional review, due to escalating tensions with Iran in the Persian Gulf.However, one of the arms sales most pertinent to Saudi Arabia’s ability to police the increasingly tense waterways is already well underway, having been years in the making.Since 2008, the Royal Saudi Arabian Navy has planned to invest $20 billion in its SNEP II naval expansion project. It currently operates seven frigates, four thousand-ton Badr-class corvettes and nine 500-ton patrol boats. All but three of its frigates date back to the 1980s.The sale of four modified Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs), a corvette-type vessel, was initially proposed under the Obama administration in 2015 and authorized under Trump as part of a larger $110 billion package in May 2017. The U.S. government awarded the contract to Lockheed Martin in 2018, and vessels are currently under construction in Marinette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin and set for delivery between 2019–2021.The kingdom’s enthusiasm for the Littoral Combat Ship may seem curious given that the U.S. Navy has infamously struggled with the vessels’ reliability, cost overruns, lack of firepower, and inability to conveniently slot in different “mission modules” as had originally been advertised. These flaws led the Navy to cut its order for LCS down from fifty-five to thirty-two vessels, though Congress insisted the Navy buy three additional ships.So why is Riyadh ready to spring the dough for the over-engineered and under-gunned corvettes?First of all, the Saudi Arabian Navy is primarily dedicated to operations in littoral waters of the Persian Gulf, where shipping of ultra-valuable oil tankers faces harassment from Iran’s unconventional naval forces, and the Gulfs of Oman and Aden, where Saudi ships seeks to interdict arms and agents smuggled by Iran into Yemen.Littoral combat ships, as their name suggests, were built for speed, maneuverability and stealth in coastal waters: they are agile and have shallow drafts ideal for “knife-fighting” small ships close to shore. Even their light armament—inadequate versus conventional warships of equivalent size—is optimized for sparring with smaller fast boats within visual range.Saudi LCSs will also serve as a useful platform to deploy some of the ten advanced MH-60R Seahawk helicopters purchased by Riyadh in a $1.9 billion deal, the first of which was delivered in September 2018. The multi-mission choppers can help locate ships using their infrared sensors and multi-mode radars, perform search-and-rescue duties, detect submarines with their ALFS dipping sonar and attack them with Mark 54 torpedoes, and even blast surface targets with Hellfire missiles and laser-guided APKWS 70-millimeter rockets.Second, the Saudi LCSs are of an enlarged 4,000-ton model called the Multi-Mission Surface Combatant which ditches the (unsuccessful) mission module concept for more powerful fixed sensors and weapons, and a crew expanded by fifty percent to between 110-130 personnel. Lockheed Martin was paid $450 million for the design and long-lead materials for the new variant. You can see photos of an MMSC model here.The MMSC is nine feet longer and now includes eight Mark 41 vertical-launch cells, each of which can be packed with four medium-range Evolved Sea Sparrow air defense missiles, for a total of 32. These also possess a secondary anti-ship capability. A new TRS4D Active Electronically Scanned Array radar linked to a COMBATSS21 combat system based on the Aegis air-defense system on U.S. cruisers and destroyers allows sensors and fire control to be networked with friendly ships. This will give the Saudi LCS a shot at protecting nearby ships and thinning out incoming cruise missile salvoes from up to thirty miles away, instead of only being able to defend itself with short-range Rolling Airframe Missiles and close defense guns.The Mark 41 cells could also be used to launch other types of missiles like the longer-range SM-2 surface-to-air missile or Tomahawk cruise missile, should the Saudi Navy elect to acquire them.The Saudi LCS also adds in two four-shot launchers loaded with Harpoon Block II anti-ship missiles with a range of eighty-one miles, allowing it to engage enemy warships over the horizon. Without such weapons, littoral combat ships are badly outranged even by Iran’s own modest fleet of missile-armed surface combatants.The MMSC retains the Freedom-class’s rapid-firing 57-millimeter dual-purpose gun, but trades the surface-warfare variant’s secondary 30-millimeter guns for smaller 20-millimeter remote-control Nexter Narwhal cannons.The Saudi MMSC is also slower with a maximum speed over 30 knots, not the 40 knots LCSs are renowned for, but has its range increased by more than 40 percent to over 5,700 miles. The four relatively small warships are costing Riyadh a stiff $6 billion, though the contract includes training services, spare parts and over 750 missiles. In fact, the initially proposed deal would have cost $11.25 billion and the vessels would have been even more heavily armed with sixteen Mark 41 cells, a 76-millimeter gun and torpedo tubes. But this price proved too much to swallow even for the Saudis.At the same time as the LCSs are delivered through 2021, Riyadh is set to receive five smaller Avante 2200 corvettes displacing 2,500 tons from Spanish shipbuilder Navantia. These are similarly armed to the MMSC, but slower and require a larger crew—and will cost far less at $2.5 billion for the total package.The modifications to Saudi Arabia’s littoral combat ships make them far more capable of defending themselves and friendly vessels from air and surface threats. However, the Royal Saudi Arabian Navy will still need to keep its fingers crossed that the revised design will not suffer from the serious reliability issues afflicting LCSs in the U.S. Navy, which has yet to deploy a single LCS to the Persian Gulf theater it was designed for. Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.Image: Reuters.(This article was originally published earlier this month and is being republished due to reader interest.)
08/24/2019 - 12:00 AM
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