Commander of US Military in Europe Sees Signs of Russia Preparing Another Offensive

Compared to just one year ago, Europe faces a very different, and much more challenging security with significant, lasting implications for U.S. national security interests.


Can Obama’s Reset with Latin America Possibly Live Up to the Hype?

The Obama administration was certainly in a triumphal mood following the recent Summit of the Americas in Panama. In carefully choreographing the “interaction” between President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro, they seem to believe they solidified their regional “legacy,” wrong-footed leftist populists, and reset U.S.-Latin America relations on a road leading to unprecedented cooperation for the foreseeable future.

That is quite a lot to unpack. Of course, history will be the ultimate arbiter of how meaningful and lasting the results of the Panama summit will be, but there are any number of lingering questions that make one a little skeptical about just how “historic” the Castro meeting will be for the future of the hemisphere.

For starters, acquiescing to the presence of Castro at the summit meant the administration vitiated both the summit’s democracy clause and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which requires all governments in the hemisphere not only to embrace democracy, but defend it in other countries. By dumbing down the region’s democracy and human rights standards — to say nothing about excusing bad Cuban behavior such as smuggling weapons to North Korea through the Panama Canal — the administration has set precedents that could easily come back to haunt the Americas.

Secondly, the administration does not have the luxury of just “seeing what happens” in the wake of U.S.-Cuba rapprochement. By its own account, it has established benchmarks by which to judge the success of its Cuba gamble and how it will affect intra-regional relations.

For example, the administration has made it clear that one rationale for its accommodation with the Castro regime was that by dropping a confrontational stance it would create political space for Latin American governments to be more vocal and active in support of Cuban dissidents and rights activists — that is, they would not have to “choose” between the United States and Cuba. Since the president’s December announcement, however, there has been no indication that those governments have any plans to be more assertive on behalf of human rights and democracy for the Cuban people.

On broader relations with the region, the administration has been equally clear in suggesting that their Cuba outreach will transform U.S.-Latin American relations by removing an “irritant” and opening the door to wider and deeper cooperation on a range of important issues. The sympathetic media has followed suit, proclaiming the beginning of a “new era” in hemispheric relations.

Yet such expectations will be difficult to realize and — other than its proposed $1 billion aid package to Central America — the administration will be hard-pressed to deliver on any new, meaningful initiatives in its remaining time in office. Yet, regardless, whether real progress could ever be achieved on such intractable issues as the drug war and criminality, citizen security, corruption and impunity, and economic inclusion as a result of normalizing Cuba relations is a stretch. For example, would it make Venezuela, Ecuador, or Bolivia more cooperative on counter-narcotics policy? Would it make Brazil any more agreeable on trade issues? Would it cause Central American governments to be more aggressive in rooting out the criminality and corruption that so adversely affects U.S. security and immigration interests?

The administration, however, has set itself up to deliver the results that will justify its reversal of 50 years of U.S. policy towards Cuba with nary a concession. Congress, for its part, should continue to hold the administration accountable on regional policy by the standards the latter has set for itself by employing its full range of oversight measures, including holding hearings, requesting reports, and scrutinizing appropriations. It should also request meetings with Latin American ambassadors to ask them how their governments plan to ramp up support for democracy in Cuba in the wake of the President Obama’s decision. A raft of bold claims have been made to justify the President’s outreach on Cuba; the administration shouldn’t be surprised it needs to follow up.



Navy begins providing extra security for U.S. ships in Strait of Hormuz

The new U.S. military operation escalated a maritime cat-and-mouse game between the United States and Iran that began April 20 when the U.S. ships began shadowing a 9-ship Iranian convoy…

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Mabus To HASC: Your Cruiser Plan Will Cost ‘100s Of Millions’ More

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus

NATIONAL PRESS CLUB: Congress doesn’t trust the Navy to keep its aging cruisers in service, Sec. Ray Mabus acknowledged this afternoon. But they don’t have to trust anybody: They make the law. Let Congress pass whatever law it likes compelling the Navy to keep and modernize the ships, Mabus told reporters here. “I’m willing to

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US Navy ships will escort US-flagged ships in Hormuz

US Navy ships will start accompanying U.S.-flagged commercial vessels passing through the Strait of Hormuz after Iran’s seizure of a Marshall Islands-flagged vessel two days ago, a US defense official said on Thursday. The official said the measure was expected to be in force for a limited time and was measured, adding ships would not be “escorting” the American vessels but only keeping them within eyeshot. Navy vessels already in the area would be tasked with the job, the official added.


HASC Approves Massive DoD Policy Bill

The House Armed Services Committee early Thursday voted to add billions more for a list of Defense Department weapon programs from cuts, and signed off on a $496 billion base Pentagon budget and an $89.2 billion war account


Can Ted Cruz’s hawkish populism actually win?

The Republican foreign policy debate usually gets described as a divide between Rand Paul and … basically everyone else. But Ted Cruz wants to change that, positioning himself as a sort of “third way” between Paul’s non-interventionism and Bush-style neoconservatism. Cruz’s approach seems like it should be popular, but it also illustrates one of the central problems in his candidacy: there isn’t really a natural Cruz constituency.

Cruz’s position on the use of force is hawkish: he wants the US to be far more aggressive than the Obama administration has been when facing threats. But he’s also skeptical of nation building and democracy promotion; he’s less comfortable with campaigns to topple authoritarian regimes in places like Syria than some other members of his party. He broke his view down into three principles in a Tuesday Daily Caller interview:

  1. Any intervention “should begin with a clearly stated objective at the outset. It should be directly tied to US national security.”
  2. “We should use overwhelming force to that objective. We should not have rules of engagement that tie the hands of our soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines.”
  3. “Third, we should get the heck out … It is not the job of the US military to engage in nation building to turn foreign countries into democratic utopias.”

Basically, the US should hit its own enemies hard and not worry all that much about dealing with the consequences for the locals.

It’s an argument finely calibrated to today’s Republican party. Cruz’s instinctive hawkishness fits with the base’s mood, which has become increasingly enamored of American military interventions since the ISIS crisis began. However, there’s also not a whole lot of public appetite for another massive investment of US lives and resources in another extended foreign war. Clearly opposing one, even when it’s unlikely, is a safe way to differentiate yourself from more conventional neoconservatives.

You can see echoes of this in some prominent Republican foreign policy figures, like former UN Ambassador John Bolton (who Cruz says is one of three foreign policy figures he trusts most). In a smart column, the Washington Examiner‘s Phil Klein argues it’s more likely to catch on in the GOP than Rand Paul’s non-interventionism.

But Cruz’s foreign policy position also reflects a central problem with his candidacy: his profound isolation inside the party.

There isn’t really a major organized movement that likes Cruz’s position. More conventional neoconservatives, like Marco Rubio, are vying for support from the vast bulk of the conservative foreign policy apparatus. Paul appeals to a dissident libertarian-conservative movement — one that has its own intellectual tradition and turned out in large numbers for his father, Congressman Ron Paul.

There isn’t, by contrast, a natural home for Cruz’s position. The fact that it might be base-friendly isn’t enough: at this stage in the primary, it’s more important to garner support from elites and institutions that are willing to work for you than to propose positions that poll well. Say what you will about Paul’s libertarians being marginalized in the GOP, but at least they’re an organized movement.

Cruz’s ideas might be able to eventually shape the Republican foreign policy debate, as Klein suggests. But barring a Cruz victory in the primary, that’d probably take a concerted effort to push them on his part over the course of years. In the short term, he doesn’t actually get a lot out of advocating for them.


Breedlove: Russia Intel Gaps ‘Critical’

NATO’s top military commander warned of gaps in US intelligence gathering in Eastern Europe and its ability to understand Moscow’s intent in the wake of Russian aggression.


The Chinese Air Force’s Super Weapon: Beware the J-11D Fighter

Zachary Keck

Security, Asia

On Wednesday, the J-11D made its maiden flight.

China has conducted the first test flight of a new, upgraded version of its J-11 fighter jet.

According to Russian media outlets, which cited unnamed Chinese reports, on Wednesday the People’s Liberation Army Air Force conducted the first flight tests of its J-11D fighter aircraft. The plane is an upgraded version of the J-11B fighter jets, which themselves are copies of the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-27.

According to the reports, the new J-11D incorporates a number of technologies from China’s J-16 fighter jets. Both planes are manufactured by the Chinese company, Shenyang Aircraft Corp, and the J-16 is believed to have incorporated some technologies from the J-11. However, the J-16 is a multi-role strike fighter.

Perhaps most  notable of the J11-D’s upgrades is that it reportedly incorporates the J-16’s advanced  Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. When the PLAAF first took delivery of the J-16 in April of last year, Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer wrote in Popular Science that:

The most important upgrade to the J-16 is an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which is more powerful than the slotted array radars that the Su-30 and JH-7A have. The AESA radar allows the J-16 to intercept enemy aircraft at longer ranges than either of its predecessors, and to attack multiple surface targets simultaneously. The AESA radar would also be datalinked to other Chinese platforms, including unmanned vehicles, to increase their situational awareness.

This AESA upgrade significantly enhances the J-11D’s capabilities over those of its predecessors. In fact, pointing to the AESA upgrades, some analysts have said the new J-11Ds could be China’s version of the Sukhoi Su-35s, which is Russia’s most deadly fighter jet. In fact, some U.S. military officials have told The National Interest the F-15C Eagle and Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet “would both have their hands full” in combat against the Su-35.

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The Saudi Connection: Wahhabism and Global Jihad

Ties between the House of Saud and Wahhabism have been around longer than the US itself, and Riyadh has a history of promoting extremism even as Saudi leaders denounce it.