Tag: President Trump

Trump threatens Iran with sanctions so intercontinental missiles can never be made

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about Iran and the Iran nuclear deal in front of a portrait of President George Washington in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Trump made the announcement in a speech that detailed a more confrontational approach to Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and its support for extremist groups in the Middle East.

He said: ‘Today I am announcing our strategy along with several major steps we’re taking to confront the Iranian regime’s hostile actions and to ensure that Iran never — and I mean never — acquires a nuclear weapon.’ The president also spoke of his fear of intercontinental missiles, adding he wants to ensure these are never part of Iran’s nuclear program.

He never wants Iran to have nuclear weapons. While Trump did not pull the United States out of the agreement, aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, he gave the US Congress 60 days to decide whether to re-impose economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the pact.

That would increase tension with Iran as well as put Washington at odds with other signatories of the accord such as Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union.

 

 

 

 

 

Trump Says Military Action Against North Korea iI ‘An Option’ But Not Inevitable

President Donald Trump on Thursday said military action against North Korea remains an option to counter its nuclear missile program, speaking ahead of a weekend when Pyongyang is expected to make another provocative move advancing its effort.

“Military action would certainly be an option,” Trump said at a White House news conference alongside the leader of Kuwait. “Is it inevitable? Nothing is inevitable. It would be great if something else could be worked out.”

Claiming that the U.S. military is stronger than ever with the addition of “new and beautiful equipment,” Trump added, “Hopefully we’re not going to have to use it on North Korea. If we do use it on North Korea, it will be a very sad day for North Korea.”

He concluded, “North Korea is behaving badly, and it’s got to stop.”

Pressure has mounted on Trump to respond as North Korea appears to be getting closer to building a nuclear weapon small enough to be compatible with a missile that can reach the United States.

North Korea appeared to carry out its sixth and most powerful test explosion of a nuclear bomb on Sunday.

 

Sky Views: Military action in North Korea is risky

Katie Stallard, Asia Correspondent

Kim Jong Un is calling Donald Trump’s bluff.

By firing a missile over Japan (a US ally), testing a hydrogen bomb, and now possibly preparing to launch another intercontinental ballistic missile, the North Korean leader is effectively saying he does not believe the US President’s threat to unleash “fire and fury”.

His family’s experience over the last 60 years tells him he is right.

The reason no American president has ordered military action against North Korea in that time remains the same – Seoul and its 10 million residents are well within range of the conventional artillery and rockets already deployed along the border.

Pyongyang doesn’t need nuclear weapons and ICBMs to be able to threaten massive retaliation against an American ally, likely including chemical and biological weapons.

As Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, put it: “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

But what if that is also a bluff?

Kim Jong Un is not the cartoon villain caricature he is often portrayed as. We need to move beyond the hair jokes, and the image of the crazy despot.

To be clear, he is a despot, responsible for the brutal repression of his people, and he is running a regime accused of crimes against humanity, but he does not appear to be crazy.

Thus far, I have seen no evidence he is anything other than entirely rational, and playing a bad hand very shrewdly.

So assuming his main goal is staying in power, and staying alive, why are we so sure that no military action is possible and that even a limited strike would result in an assault on Seoul?

President Trump and President Xi Jinping have differing views about how to deal with North Korea. Sanctions or Diplomacy?

Kim Jong Un and his generals must understand that returning fire, with a large-scale attack on civilians in Seoul or Tokyo, would be suicide and that they would be ensuring the end of their regime.

Surely a more logical response would be to accept the strike on the nuclear test facility, or missile launch site, which could be spun domestically as further proof of the aggressive US enemy at the gates its people are already told is poised to attack and invade at any time, and live to rail against the imperialists another day.

The problem is communicating to Pyongyang that this is what is happening, and not the start of an all-out attack, in which case they would have nothing to lose, and would try to get their nuclear retaliation in first.

A North Korean mobile ICBM launcher

Despite what Mr Trump might think, China does not have the influence it once did on North Korea – there is mistrust on both sides, and relations have cooled significantly since the days when they were “as close as lips and teeth”.

Without that channel to reliably communicate those intentions, you are counting on Kim Jong Un and his advisers to draw the right conclusion in the critical minutes after the strike, and not to order the counter-attack.

That’s a hell of a gamble to take with 10 million people’s lives.

Which is why Kim’s assessment is probably right – that for all the talk of fire and fury, Donald Trump will ultimately come to the same conclusion as all the others before him: that the risks of military action are simply too great, and these were just empty words.

 

South Korea fears nuclear test as earthquake shakes North Korea

South Korea has convened a national security council meeting following a shallow earthquake in North Korea. The quake came shortly after Pyongyang announced it had developed an advanced hydrogen bomb.

North Korea may have conducted a nuclear test, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported on Sunday. The quake appeared to have been manmade, Yonhap added, suggesting that Pyongyang had conducted a sixth nuclear test. South Korea’s military also called the tremor “artificial” and added it was analyzing whether a nuclear test took place.

China’s Earthquake Administration said on Sunday it detected a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in northeastern North Korea that was a “suspected explosion.” The United States Geological Survey called the quake a “possible explosion.”

Past North Korean nuclear tests have resulted in earthquakes.

North Korea announces new H-bomb

The quake came shortly after Pyongyang announced it had developed a thermonuclear weapon with “super explosive power,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) claimed, citing leader Kim Jong-Un as saying “all components of the H-bomb were 100 percent domestically made.”

The KCNA said Kim had inspected such a device at the Nuclear Weapons Institute, with pictures showing him in a black suit examining a metal casing.

North Korea has “further upgraded its technical performance at a higher ultra-modern level on the basis of previous successes made in the first H-bomb test,” the KCNA said.

Tensions mount

Pyongyang triggered a new escalation of tensions in July after it carried out two successful tests of an ICBM, the Hwasong-14, bringing much of the US mainland within range. Japan has also called for a concerted international effort to put an end to the “growing threat” posed by North Korea’s nuclear program.

US President Donald Trump spoke by telephone with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe following the North Korean announcement, the White House said.

“We completely agreed that we must thoroughly coordinate with each other and with South Korea, and cooperate closely with the international community, to increase pressure on North Korea and make it change its policies,” Abe told reporters

Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Saturday they plan to revise a 43-year-old joint treaty that caps the number and range of South’s ballistic missiles.

Trump and Moon also discussed North Korea’s “continued destabilizing and escalatory behavior,” the White House said in a statement.

Trump has warned that the US military is “locked and loaded” and that North Korea would face “fire and fury” in the event of further provocation. North Korea said the test fire of a missile that flew over Japan was a “curtain-raiser” for its “resolute countermeasures” against ongoing US-South Korean military drills.

“Though we cannot verify the claim, [North Korea] wants us to believe that it can launch a thermonuclear strike now, if it is attacked,” Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told Reuters news agency.

Pyongyang’s assertion that “this warhead is variable-yield and capable of specialized weapons effects implies a complex nuclear strategy,” Mount added. “It shows [North Korea] is not only threatening assured destruction of the US and allied cities in the event it is attacked, but also is considering limited coercive nuclear strikes, or is seeking credible response options for US ones.”

Technical doubts

Questions remain over whether Pyongyang has miniaturized its weapons and whether it has a working hydrogen bomb.

In January 2016, Pyongyang claimed the device used – its fourth test – was a miniaturized H-bomb. Scientists believe the six-kiloton yield achieved then was too low for a thermonuclear device.

When it carried out its fifth test, in September 2016, it backed away from earlier claims of having tested a hydrogen bomb.

 

 

NATO Should Recognize the Russian Missile Threat to Europe [OPINION]

SS-26 Iskander-M tactical ballistic nuclear missile.

Poland has become an alliance-wide leader in NATO defense efforts and it is one of only a handful of countries meeting NATO’s 2 proc. defense spending target.

During the visit of President Donald Trump, Warsaw announced its decision to acquire Patriot missile defenses and the associated Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS).

The Trump Administration and its NATO allies should follow Warsaw’s lead and make a major change to NATO policy by explicitly referencing Russia as the target of allied regional missile defense architecture in Europe – as writes prof. Matthew Kroenig, an Associate Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and a Senior Fellow in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council.

Last month U.S. President Donald Trump visited Poland, a country that has become an alliance-wide leader in NATO defense efforts. Poland is the new center of gravity for any East-West conflict, it is one of only a handful of countries meeting NATO’s 2% defense spending target, and, during Trump’s visit, Warsaw announced its decision to acquire U.S. Patriot missile defenses and the associated Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS).

The Trump Administration and its NATO allies should follow Warsaw’s lead and make a major change to NATO policy by explicitly referencing Russia as the target of allied regional missile defense architecture in Europe.

For years, the United States has been crystal clear that its strategic, homeland ballistic missile defense system is designed to deal with rogue states, like North Korea and Iran, and is not directed at Russia or China.

The purpose of NATO regional missile defenses in Europe, on the other hand, have been somewhat more ambiguous. The 2010 NATO Strategic Concept, for example, stated that NATO must be able to deter and defend “against any threat,” but the Obama administration’s “European Phased Adaptive Approach” (EPAA) to missile defense in Europe was designed to deal with threats coming from Iran.

Similarly,  the 2012 NATO Deterrence and Defense Posture Review states that “NATO missile defense is not oriented at Russia.” As Brad Roberts, Obama’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense policy, put it, “The Obama administration, like the Bush administration that preceded it, envisioned no role for missile defense in Europe against Russian missiles.”

PAC-3 MSE Missile Launch. Photo: US Army

But the threat environment has changed. In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine and, since that time, Moscow has repeatedly made explicit threats against NATO and the rest of Europe.

Russian strategists plan for “de-escalatory” “pre-nuclear” and nuclear strikes against NATO targets in the early stages of any conflict. Moreover, Russia has a wide array of conventional and nuclear-capable cruise and ballistic missiles to carry out these threats.

It is violating its commitments under the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by testing and deploying a new ground-launched cruise missile and it has conspicuously deployed its Iskander missile in Kaliningrad, on the borders of NATO.

This growing Russian missile capability poses a real threat. It enables Moscow to coerce NATO members in peacetime and in crises and it could also have a devastating wartime effect.

NATO maintains only a token trip-wire presence in the Baltics, so in the event of Russian aggression, the United States and NATO would need to project forces forward from Western bases. But these reinforcements would be highly vulnerable to Russian “de-escalatory” strikes, which might not only shock NATO into suing for peace, but could physically prevent NATO from providing an adequate defense of its members.

500km range of SS-26 Iskander M missile system, Kalinigrad Oblast

To counter this threat, NATO needs a regional missile defense architecture designed to defend against Russian missiles. A broad area defense of all of European territory would be costly and is unnecessary, but point defenses of critical military assets are badly needed.

The United States and allies in Europe should develop missile defenses to protect critical bases, forward-deployed forces, air and seaports of debarkation (APODS and SPODS), as well as key command and control nodes.

Such missile defenses would greatly improve NATO security. With the possibility of a limited strike on military targets removed, Russia would be forced to threaten the direct targeting of population centers or an attempt to overwhelm defenses with larger-scale barrages. Both are riskier, and, therefore, less credible, propositions.

Unfortunately, NATO’s current missile defense posture is not currently geared toward this challenge as the Obama administration repeatedly explained.

Fortunately, however, the outlines of what could become a future NATO regional missile defense posture are beginning to form. Poland’s purchase of Patriot and IBCS is an important step forward. The latter system will allow the tying together of radars and interceptors of multiple current and future air and missile defense installations to create a more effective overall system.

These programs should continue, but they are only the beginning. Broadly, the United States can provide higher-end defenses with European allies purchasing systems for point defenses in their countries.

Wealthier NATO countries, such as Germany, should consider deploying existing assets to vulnerable allies, such as the Baltics. Such an approach also demonstrates a concrete manifestation of the alliance burden sharing demanded by the Trump administration.

German MIM-104 Patriot SAM Launcher.

A regional missile defense architecture in Europe will greatly contribute to Western security, but getting it right depends on accurately identifying the source of the threat. NATO must stop tiptoeing around this obvious truth and explicitly recognize Russia as the primary missile threat to Europe.

Matthew Kroenig is an Associate Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University, a Senior Fellow in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council, and a former strategist in the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense.

 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Baltic Post.

Trump comments about Finnish Super Hornet causes confusion

Finnish Air Force F/A-18 Hornet MLU

Comments by U.S. President Donald Trump about Finland’s fighter jet replacement program has lawmakers in that country baffled. At a joint press conference Monday with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, Trump announced that Finland had agreed to buy “a large number” of Super Hornets from Boeing.

One problem. Finland’s fighter replacement competition is still years away from selecting a winning aircraft. Finland has received responses to its request for information about fighter jets from a number of firms, which not surprisingly, were/are interested in any similar Canadian program.

Boeing provided information on its Super Hornet, Dassault Aviation gave details on the Rafale and the Eurofighter organization provided information on the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Other responses to the request came from Lockheed Martin, with its F-35, and Saab with the Gripen E. Finland’s Ministry of Defence denied Trump’s claims. It noted that the program is years away from a decision (2021 is when Finland is expected to select a winner).

“President Trump’s remarks are baffling,” Matti Vanhanen, chairman of the Finnish national parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told Defense News.

“There are still years to run in the fighter replacement competition before a final decision is reached. If the leadership of the United States harbors the idea that the matter is a done deal, then this is not good.”

 

 

 

President Trump Unveils New Afghanistan, South Asia Strategy

President Donald J. Trump unveiled an expansive new strategy for South Asia aimed at bolstering American security.

The new strategy encompasses Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, the Central Asian nations and extends into Southeast Asia. He stressed the strategy will not have artificial timelines built into it.

Trump spoke before a crowd of hundreds of service members at Conmy Hall at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Virginia.

Trump said the American people are frustrated by the nation’s longest war in Afghanistan, calling it a war without victory. The new strategy, he said, is a path toward victory and will step away from a policy of nation building.

The new strategy, Trump said, is a result of a study he ordered immediately after he was inaugurated in January. The strategy is based on three precepts.

“First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives,” Trump said. “The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory. They deserve the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.”

No Hasty Exit

Trump said the second precept is that a hasty exit from Afghanistan would simply allow terrorists to flood back into that country and begin planning attacks on America and its allies and partners.

The third precept, he said, concerns the threats emanating from the region, which are immense and must be confronted.

“Today, 20 U.S-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world,” the president said. “For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict. And that could happen.”

The United States and its allies and partners are committed to defeating these terrorist groups, Trump said.

“Terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next,” he said. “They are nothing but thugs and criminals and predators and — that’s right — losers.”

Trump added, “Working alongside our allies, we will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders, and, yes, we will defeat them, and we will defeat them handily.”

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the United States will work to stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America, Trump said.

“And we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world, for that matter,” he said.

Conditions-Based Strategy

Trump emphasized the strategy will be conditions based and not set to a timetable. “I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin or end military options,” the president said. “We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out.”

Trump said the new strategy will involve all aspects of American power, employing diplomacy, economic might, intelligence and military power to advance American interests and ensure the safety of the homeland and American allies and partners.

The United States, he added, will continue to support the Afghan government and its military.

“Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society and to achieve an everlasting peace,” Trump said. “We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists.”

Trump said Pakistan is a major concern, and he said Pakistan must stop providing safe havens for terrorists who rest and refit for actions in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

“Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan,” the president said. “It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.”

Pakistan Must Change

Trump noted that Pakistan has worked with the United States in the past, but the nation’s policies must change.

“No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials,” Trump said. “It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order and to peace.”

Trump said India will be a key component in any strategy in the region, and the president wants to work with India’s leaders to provide more economic assistance and targeted development to the people of Afghanistan.

“We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

The president pledged that service members will have the rules of engagement they need to take swift, decisive actions. “I have already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our warfighters that prevented the secretary of defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy,” he said. “Micromanagement from Washington, D.C., does not win battles. They’re won in the field, drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders, and front-line soldiers, acting in real time with real authority, and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy.”

‘Victory Will Have a Clear Definition’

The president described what he believes victory will look like. “From now on, victory will have a clear definition: Attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaida, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge,” he said.

NATO allies and global partners like Australia will support the new strategy and have already pledged additional troops and funding increases, the president said.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he has directed Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to prepare to carry out the president’s strategy. “I will be in consultation with the secretary general of NATO and our allies — several of which have also committed to increasing their troop numbers,” Mattis said in a written statement. “Together, we will assist the Afghan security forces to destroy the terrorist hub.”

The president concluded his speech speaking directly to service members in the hall and around the world.

“With our resolve, we will ensure that your service and that of your families will bring about the defeat of our enemies and the arrival of peace,” Trump said. “We will push onward to victory with power in our hearts, courage in our souls and everlasting pride in each and every one of you.”

 

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

The Energy Crisis Developing between Russia and the United States may do more to incite Military conflict than Drills and Exercises

Russia currently  has a grip on the European gas market, which it uses to bully its close neighbors and shush any major European states that push back on its geopolitical ambitions. U.S. Liquefied Natural Gas – LNG, it follows, will break Russia’s stranglehold. It is a cheaper and more reliable alternative. In turn, Russia will either lose market share or compete by lowering its prices.

Russia depends heavily on its energy exports. In fiscal year 2008, oil and gas revenues reached a peak, accounting for half of the Russian federal budget. However, since the global financial crisis hit the country in 2009, the Russian economy began to run fiscal deficits. In 2012, 2013 and 2014 Russia ran budget deficits representing -0.02%, -0.7% and -0.6% of GDP, respectively. The exception was the year 2011, when the Russian budget incurred a 0.8% of GDP surplus.

Low oil prices and a collapse in domestic demand and imports as the economy fell into recession decimated fiscal revenues in 2015. In fact, the impact of low oil prices on Russia’s fiscal revenues raised questions about the country’s long-term economic prospects as well as fiscal sustainability. With the decline of energy prices and the Russian government’s dependence on energy revenues to fund its budget—revenues from oil and natural gas represented around 52% of the Russian budget—forced the Russian government to rethink its fiscal policy. The Finance Ministry announced in early September 2015 that it had decided to suspend the fiscal rule—a law designed to limit government spending.

By 2020, the United States could be sending roughly 80 billion cubic meters of LNG to Europe a year—about two-thirds of the volume that Russia exported to Europe in 2015 and just under a third of Europe’s entire gas consumption, which is 400 billion cubic meters per year (450 billion cubic meters, if one includes Turkey). It is no wonder that conflict seems imminent.

The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline construction project will be implemented in due time despite new US sanctions, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday 18 August.

“As far as the Nord Stream 2 is concerned, in terms of US sanctions, much will depend on uncertainty the law contains and requiring clarifications. Considering that European nations are interested in gas supplies from Russia over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as well subject to their declining production and consumption growth, we are confident this project will be implemented within the intended timeframe. At least its implementation continues,” Novak said.

Russia’s Nord Stream pipeline vanishes into the Baltic Sea, which is full of unexploded naval mines from two world wars.

On August 2, US President Donald Trump signed the bill envisioning tougher sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. The new measures allow fining European companies for participation in joint energy projects with Russia, particularly in Nord Stream – 2 and Turkish Stream.

In an effort to circumvent the sanctions imposed by the U.S. Russia has completed an energy deal with Iran. Iran can start deliveries of oil to Russia under the “oil-for-goods” program within the next month, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told reporters on Friday.

“We are finalizing the last details of regulatory documents. I think I will respond to your question within one month,” Novak said confirming that supplies can start by the end of that term.

Moscow and Tehran may shortly agree upon conditions for sale of 100,000 oil barrels per day by Iran for Russia, Novak said earlier. Supplies can be either physical or swap-based, he added. Purchases will be made within the framework of the “oil-for-goods” deal.

 

Iran’s major oil and natural gas fields

Russia has turned to the Arctic to solve it’s energy crisis.  Russia’s Arctic development comes as its oil production increases despite a more than two-year long supply glut and plunge in prices.  But it also comes as the country’s oil fields mature.

Mikå Mered, managing partner at Polarisk, a consultancy specializing in polar issues said that Russia’s onshore oil and gas fields “are depleting and depleting fast.”

“If you are the Russian government today and if you want to keep having your oil and gas, you need to start developing offshore Arctic oil and gas fast,” he said.

The Wilson Center, a Washington-based independent research group, said in a recent report on Arctic drilling that Russia needs these new fields if it is going to maintain oil production levels of at least 10 million bpd by 2020 and beyond.

Russian oil company Gazprom Neft, the country’s fourth largest oil producer, said that four wells were now in production at the northern Prirazlomnoye field after two more were successfully started. The Prirazlomnoye field is an Arctic offshore oilfield located in the Pechora Sea, south of Novaya Zemlya, Russia.

Production from an ice-resistant offshore rig perched in the Pechora passed 43,980 barrels of oil per day (bpd), the company said. Full field development plans call for 32 wells. In March, the company said that it had reached a milestone with production of its 10 millionth barrel of oil at the field, while it revised its production schedule higher to 35 million barrels.

Russia is serious about developing the Arctic. Russia has four nuclear icebreakers with three under construction. Russia also possesses 37 Diesel-powered icebreakers with four under construction. The most powerful fleet in the Russian Federation, the Northern Fleet is based in Severomorsk on the coast of the Barents Sea along the Kola Bay 25 kilometers (16 mi) northeast of Murmansk. The Fleet consists of the flagship Kuznetsov, an aircraft carrying cruiser, heavy cruisers, cruisers, frigates, corvettes, SSBNs and SSNs plus many amphibious assault ships, hovercraft and Fleet aviation assets.

In 2012 the Russian Air Force decided to reopen Graham Bell Airfield as part of a series of reopenings of air bases in the Arctic. A major new base, named the Arctic Trefoil for its three lobed structure, was constructed on Alexandra Land. It can maintain 150 soldiers for 18 months and has an area of 14,000 square meters.

Russia’s Arctic Trefoil military base. Spending on Russian military bases abroad will be increased this year by more than $8.81 million.

In 2017, Russian president Vladimir Putin visited the archipelago to protect Russia’s interests in the Arctic.

The depletion of resources in Russia, sanctions from the United States and increasing tension along NATOs Eastern Flank have meant that Russia is developing new oil and gas facilities in the Arctic, initiating deals with Iran, which will benefit the economies of both countries, and forging ahead with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.

The big issue for the Russian Federation is whether they can compete with the United States. Rotterdam, Antwerp, Hamburg and Amsterdam are gearing up for an excess of imported U.S. Liquefied Natural Gas. Will Russia be able to compete?

 

THE BALTIC POST

 

 

 

As U.S. Exports Gas to Europe, Russia Digs In

A liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

As the first shipment of American liquefied natural gas heads to Lithuania, Russian companies are lowering prices, changing sales methods and developing their own LNG facilities

U.S. attempts to export natural gas into Europe’s energy market are facing stiff resistance from the region’s dominant player: Russia.

A tanker is scheduled to arrive in Lithuania next week carrying the first shipment of U.S. liquefied natural gas to a former Soviet republic. It follows a handful of other shipments of U.S. gas to Europe and comes in the wake of widespread predictions that American exports would help break Russia’s dominance of the European energy market.

But Russia is moving quickly to contain the new competition to its largest energy market. Its state-run energy companies are lowering prices, changing sales methods and developing their own LNG facilities. Moscow is also pushing ahead with a pipeline opposed by both Washington and Brussels.

A general view shows Yamal LNG, Russia’s second liquefied natural gas plant, under construction in Arctic port of Sabetta, . REUTERS/Olesya Astakhova

While European governments are eager to reduce Russia’s chokehold, and its resulting political leverage, the region’s consumers are looking beyond politics for the lowest prices. That favors Russia. Last year, Russia exported record levels of gas to Europe, helped by lower prices and falling domestic production elsewhere in Europe.

“We are tracking the situation on the global gas market and the growth of U.S. shale gas production,” Russia’s energy minister, Alexander Novak, said in an interview last month. “Recently we have allocated a lot of efforts to boost our presence on the LNG market.”

Many analysts still expect America’s nascent exports to eat into Russia’s share of the European market, which is currently around one-third. The U.S. shale revolution has unlocked vast energy reserves, and the country is expected to become a net natural gas exporter next year. Since the start of 2016, the U.S. has been exporting gas around the world, from Latin America to Asia.

The prospect of such exports has been welcomed in Brussels, where the European Commission has sought to limit the influence of Russian energy on the Continent by imposing multiple regulations on the operation and ownership of Moscow’s gas infrastructure.

Some lawmakers and officials in Washington have also talked about energy exports to Europe having a geopolitical, as well as commercial, benefit. The U.S. has long criticized what it sees as Russian interference in Eastern Europe.

In July, President Donald Trump told representatives of a dozen European nations that the U.S. is eager to export energy supplies to them.

Poland last month became the first Eastern European country to receive U.S. LNG. Following a meeting with Mr. Trump, Polish President Andrzej Duda said he expects to sign a long-term deal for LNG supplies from the U.S. to reduce its reliance on Russian “blackmailing.”

Lithuania is expecting another shipment in September.

“The arrival of U.S. gas is making Russia nervous. And they should be nervous,” said Jason Bordoff, director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University and a former energy official in the Obama administration.

The European market makes up 75% of Russia’s overall gas exports, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It’s an essential industry for Russia, where oil and gas revenues account for more than 40% of the federal budget.

The country’s main advantage is price. Russia’s gas is piped into Europe, a generally cheaper transportation method than LNG, because that gas has to be liquefied, shipped and regasified at arrival. U.S. LNG cost $6.29 per million British thermal units, according to S&P Global Platts data based on an average of cargo coming into Europe in the past year. Over the same period, Russian gas delivered into Germany cost an average of $4.86 per mmBtu.

Nord Stream 2 Gas Pipeline, OGZPY Nord Stream Map, Gazprom.

A July opinion poll conducted on behalf of Wintershall, a German company involved in Russian energy projects, found that affordability was the main priority for Germans. The survey also found that only 6% of people in Germany believe that the country, and Europe, should import less Russian gas and more U.S. LNG. Germany imports nearly half of its gas from Russia.

There are signs that Moscow is looking to make its gas exports more competitive. State-owned PAO Gazprom has in recent years been experimenting with auctions, where gas is offered to the highest bidder. That’s a departure from Russia’s traditional model of locking customers into long-term contracts linked to oil prices.

“Energy exports, and gas in particular, have always been Russia’s lifeline and a source of influence in Europe, so they will do everything in their power to hold on to it,” said Agnia Grigas, senior fellow at Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank.

Russia is building up its own LNG export capacity. A natural gas facility on the Yamal Peninsula, just above the Arctic Circle, is scheduled to open by the end of this year, and Mr. Novak said Russia is working on other LNG projects.

Russia is also charging ahead with a plan to build Nord Stream 2, a Gazprom project to transport gas into Europe through a 750-mile pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea.

The construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany has become one of the most controversial topics in European energy policy.

A bill signed by Mr.Trump in early August allows the president to impose sanctions on firms backing Nord Stream 2, though it stops short of mandating penalties.

“Unfortunately we are seeing intensifying efforts to use unilateral, unjustified sanctions by a number of countries, including the U.S., to reduce real free-market competition,” said Mr. Novak, Russia’s energy minister.

 

 

 

 

Guam, Japan prepare for possible North Korea missile launch

SANTA RITA, Guam. An aerial view of U.S. Naval Base Guam. Naval Base Guam supports the U.S. Pacific Fleet. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Hagatña, Guam (CNN) North Korean military figures are putting the final touches on a plan to fire four missiles into the waters around the US-territory of Guam, to be presented to leader Kim Jong Un within days.

In a statement last week, Gen. Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army, said the plan to fire “four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range strategic ballistic rockets … to signal a crucial warning to the US” would be ready by “mid-August.”

Recent days have seen a significant escalation of tensions in the region as preparations are put in place for a possible launch in Guam, Japan and South Korea.

A notice put out by Guam’s Joint Information Center Saturday warned residents how to prepare “for an imminent missile threat.”

“Do not look at the flash or fireball — it can blind you,” the note said. “Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit.”

Guam’s Homeland Security Adviser George Charfauros said Friday it would take 14 minutes for a missile fired from North Korea to reach Guam.

Japan missile defense deployed

On Saturday, some of Japan’s land-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile interceptors began arriving at Japanese Self Defense Forces (SDF) bases in three of the four prefectures any North Korean missiles would likely fly over en route to Guam.

Pyongyang identified three of those areas — Shimane, Hiroshima and Kochi prefectures — in its statement last week.

A spokesman for SDF said the missiles were being deployed not to intercept missiles, but rather “just in case.” He did not elaborate.

Sim Tack, a senior analyst for private intelligence firm Stratfor, said the Japanese batteries are designed for protecting the area where they are deployed, “(they are) not meant to shoot missiles out of the sky as they pass over Japan at high altitude.”

“So unless those North Korean missiles were to fall short, the Patriots shouldn’t have a function to serve in this particular case,” he said.
Japanese Ballistic Missile Defense Scenario

The SDF spokesman said the country’s Aegis ballistic missile defense system was deployed in the waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, but would not give a specific location.

Aegis is able to track 100 missiles simultaneously and fire interceptors to take out an enemy’s ballistic projectiles.

In South Korea, where both the military and civilians are used to facing threats from North Korea, Defense Minister Song Young-moo warned the country’s armed forces “to maintain full readiness” to “immediately punish with powerful force” any action against the South.

“Recently, North Korea made its habitual absurd remarks that it will turn Seoul into a sea of fire and that it will strike near Guam,” Song said according to ministry official. “North Korea raising tension (on the Peninsula) is a serious challenge against the South Korean-US alliance and the international community.”

Meanwhile, US-South Korean joint military exercises are due to begin later this month. The annual exercises, called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, are expected to run from August 21 to 31.

Calls for calm

Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders have called for calm as both Pyongyang and Washington upped their saber-rattling rhetoric.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump doubled down on his statement that he would unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if Pyongyang continued its threats, saying in a tweet that “military solutions” were “locked and loaded” for use against North Korea.

According to a statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Xi told Trump in a call between the two leaders Saturday all “relevant parties parties should exercise restraint and avoid words and actions that would escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel described escalation as “the wrong answer,” while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Trump’s statements were “very worrying.”

Last week, New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English criticized Trump’s “fire and fury” comments as “not helpful in an environment that’s very tense.”

French President Emmanuel Macron called for the international community to work with North Korea to “resume the path of dialogue without conditions,” following a call with Trump Saturday.

Washington has previously said it will consider talks with Pyongyang if it agrees to give up its nuclear weapons program, a pre-condition North Korean officials have described as a non-starter.

Guam waits for news

At a church in central Guam Sunday, parishioners sang “Lord, we pray for world peace” after discussing the potential North Korean threat.

“There’s a lot of disbelief going on, there’s a lot of anxiety,” Father Paul Gofigan told CNN after the mass.

Gofigan said there is not a lot of panic in Guam, and that people’s faith — the island has been overwhelmingly Catholic since the arrival of Spanish missionaries in the 17th century– has been on display in recent days.

“Faith is so deeply rooted into our culture,” he said.

The territory’s governor, Eddie Baza Calvo, said he spoke with Trump and the President’s chief of staff, John Kelly, on Saturday.

“Both assured me that the people of Guam are safe,” Calvo wrote on Facebook. “In the President’s words they are behind us ‘1,000 percent.’ As the head of the Government of Guam, I appreciate their reassurances that my family, my friends, everyone on this island, are all safe.”

As an unincorporated US territory, citizens of Guam cannot vote in general elections. The island is also home to a large US military presence, a fact that has led to tension with some local residents, particularly those of the indigenous Chamorro community.

“Nobody really deserves to be caught in the middle of these games,” said Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, an activist who campaigns for a lowered military presence.

“You’re playing with people’s lives. We just want peace, we just want to continue to enjoy our lives here.”