What the US and China learn from the live-fire exercise

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With help from Lawrence Ukenye, Bryan Bender and Daniel Lippman

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China’s massing of ships, aircraft and missiles near Taiwan is giving the U.S. a never-before-seen glimpse of how Beijing might launch a military campaign against the island. But China is also learning plenty of lessons that could eventually prove critical in how it plans for any future strike against the island of 23 million people.

For all of China’s military might, the People’s Liberation Army has limited real-world experience outside of highly-choreographed domestic military exercises, and hasn’t fired a shot in anger since border scraps with Vietnam that ended in the 1980s.

That makes these quickly assembled exercises around Taiwan a critical test for Beijing. China has brought dozens of aircraft, 13 ships, and missile batteries and their crews to bear in the last days, signaling an ability to deploy quickly, even if it’s close to home. Its ability to sustain those operations over time, if that’s what Beijing decides, will be an important test for the military, and closely watched.

The dozens of warplanes flying daily over the median line in the Taiwan Strait and warships prowling the waters off the coast represent a significant and ominous change to the status quo, and one that could have enormous consequences for the defense of Taiwan in the future, experts and officials said.

Pushing those warplanes over the line not only erases the previous boundary, but doing so in coordination with warships and staying clear of the missiles flying in close proximity is exactly the kind of real-time interaction that modern militaries spend so much time and effort to perfect, and has famously confounded the Russians in Ukraine.

Getting those systems aligned, while watching Taiwan’s reaction, would yield critical knowledge about both capacity and readiness for Beijing if it launches military strikes against Taiwan or American interests in the Pacific.

Previous Chinese drills have been “like driving a new car around a lot, as opposed to taking it out on the highway,” said RANDY SCHRIVER, who served as the Pentagon’s top Asia policy official in the Trump administration. “The coordinated bracketing of the island is the kind of exercise that will be more applicable to an actual strike.”

To this point, the United States has publicly held back, saying very little about the exercises while keeping its Japan-based USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group in the region, but not close to Taiwan. The amphibious ship USS Tripoli is near Okinawa and the amphibious USS America is in the East China Sea. Both carry F-35 fighters.

More significant will be the glimpses into how China deploys and uses its forces. It will likely be a “bonanza of intelligence,” that could yield insights into “the strengths and weaknesses of PLA mobilization,” said COLLIN KOH, a research fellow at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore.

Those peeks “would present a better picture of how the PLA may in future prosecute an invasion of Taiwan, or more generally how it would conduct a major military campaign,” than any long-planned exercise on the Chinese mainland ever could, Koh added.

While the missiles launched so far have been tested and exercised for years by the Chinese military, their launch crews have never worked in an operational scenario where they have to wrestle with the complexities of military and commercial air and sea traffic, and ensure their missiles can make it over populated civilian areas and land safely in designated waters.

The drills may be designed as intimidation, but the highly choreographed and coordinated movements are much more complex than previous shows of force, Schriver said.

“This is several shots targeted at different closure areas timed in a particular way, so that more closely resembles if they were actually going to use missiles to strike Taiwan,” he said.

Read Paul and Lara’s full story.

RUSSIA STEPS UP ATTACKS IN EAST: Russia is mercilessly attacking Ukrainian strongholds in the country’s east, The New York Times’ ANDREW KRAMER reported, possibly in an effort to break the resistance before pushing to seize regional cities.

“Ukraine’s strong defensive positions have slowed the Russian Army’s advance to a crawl, with only two large cities, Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, and a few dozen miles of territory changing hands despite thousands of soldiers killed on both sides,” Kramer reported. “The two towns, mostly deserted and destroyed, are hardly big prizes to capture, but if they were to fall, that could ease Russian advances toward the three large cities in the Donetsk region remaining under Ukrainian control, Bakhmut, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.”

“For days in a row now, the enemy has not let up on attempts to attack,” the Ukrainian military governor of Avdiivka, VITALIY BARABASH, told Radio Liberty on Wednesday. “Everywhere is being hit by artillery and aviation” bombs.

RUSSIA OPEN TO GRINER DEAL, BUT… Russian Foreign Minister SERGEI LAVROV said the Kremlin is open to a prisoner swap involving American basketball star BRITTNEY GRINER, but said the “loud statements” and anti-Russia rhetoric coming from the U.S. could sink any deal.

“We are ready to discuss the issue,” he told reporters Friday, per The Washington Post’s ROBYN DIXON and ADELA SULIMAN. “If this is another case of the Americans resorting to public diplomacy and loud statements on their pending steps, it’s their business — or I would even say their problem — because the Americans often fail to honor the agreement on doing calm, professional work.”

The partial opening comes one day after a Russian court sentenced Griner to nine years in prison for bringing cannabis-infused vape cartridges into the country. The Biden administration says she is being wrongfully detained. “It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates,” President JOE BIDEN said in a Thursday statement after the ruling.

NEW AFRICA STRATEGY: Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN will unveil the administration’s new Africa strategy during an imminent trip to the continent, Foreign Policy’s ROBBIE GRAMER reported.

The strategy will touch upon “boosting democracy, governance, and security; a focus on pandemic recovery and economic opportunity; addressing the climate crisis and a ‘just’ energy transition for the continent; and promoting open societies. Officials inside the administration say one of the top goals of the new strategy is to boost focus and funding on diplomacy and development, in an effort to shift away from the military-first engagement in parts of Africa, particularly the Sahel region, that has dominated U.S. policy over the past two decades, when Washington’s primary foreign-policy focus was on counterterrorism.”

There’s also a personnel shakeup in the National Security Council’s Africa desk: JUDD DEVERMONT, who joined the team to help with the strategy, is now the senior director for African affairs. DANA BANKS, who was previously in that role, will stay on in the NSC to oversee the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in December.

‘NOT THE TIME’: The Biden administration still hopes to modify U.S. nuclear policy to declare the role of atomic weapons to exclusively deter a nuclear attack, Pentagon policy chief COLIN KAHL said Friday at a United Nations event, and intends to work with allies to adopt Biden’s longtime goal to reduce the role of the most powerful weapons, our colleague BRYAN BENDER reports.

The administration has still not released a public version of its secret Nuclear Posture Review, which was completed in March, and Kahl said it will be unveiled in the “relatively near future.” But he offered a peek at what was left undone in the policy review as the UN gathers for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference.

“A sole-purpose declaratory policy has long been supported by President Biden,” Kahl said. “But the NPR concluded that now is not the time for making this change.” He cited, for example, Russia’s recent nuclear threats — including against non-nuclear powers — and China’s “breathtaking expansion” of its nuclear arsenal.

Yet a sole-purpose U.S. declaratory policy is still on the table, Kahl stressed. “We retain the goal of moving towards a sole-purpose declaration in the future and the NPR makes that clear. And we will work with our allies and partners to identify concrete steps that will allow us to do so.”

IT’S FRIDAY. WELCOME TO THE WEEKEND: Thanks for tuning in to NatSec Daily. This space is reserved for the top U.S. and foreign officials, the lawmakers, the lobbyists, the experts and the people like you who care about how the natsec sausage gets made. Aim your tips and comments at [email protected], and follow me on Twitter at @alexbward.

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ISRAEL AND GAZA TRADE SHOTS: Israel launched airstrikes on Gaza in an operation named Breaking Dawn, killing at least 10 people — including a senior militant — and injuring dozens.

“Israel said it was targeting the Islamic Jihad militant group amid days of heightened tensions following the arrest of a senior militant in the occupied West Bank earlier this week,” The Associated Press’ FARES AKRAM and JOSEPH KRAUSS and reported. “Palestinian militants launched a barrage of rockets hours later as air raid sirens wailed in central and southern Israel, pushing the sides closer to all-out war. Islamic Jihad claimed to have fired 100 rockets.”

“The strikes risk igniting yet another war in the territory, which is ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas and is home to about 2 million Palestinians. The assassination of a senior militant would likely be met by rocket fire from Gaza, pushing the region closer to all-out war.”

“This government has a zero-tolerance policy for any attempted attacks — of any kind — from Gaza towards Israeli territory,” Israeli Prime Minister YAIR LAPID said Friday. “Israel will not sit idly by when there are those who are trying to harm its civilians.”

CHINESE DISINFO UNIT TARGETED PELOSI: A Chinese group planted fake news stories and websites to bash U.S.-Taiwan relations just as Speaker NANCY PELOSI was visiting the democratic island, cybersecurity company Mandiant reported.

“Mandiant has identified an ongoing information operations (IO) campaign leveraging a network of at least 72 suspected inauthentic news sites and a number of suspected inauthentic social media assets to disseminate content strategically aligned with the political interests of the People’s Republic of China (PRC),” RYAN SERABIAN and DANIEL KAPELLMANN ZAFRA wrote in a blog post.

“The sites present themselves primarily as independent news outlets from different regions across the world and publish content in 11 languages (see Appendix). Based on technical indicators we detail in this blog, we believe these sites are linked to Shanghai Haixun Technology Co., Ltd (上海海讯社科技有限公司), a Chinese public relations (PR) firm.”

“[T]there is at least some evidence to suggest that [the operation] failed to generate substantial engagement outside of the inauthentic amplification that we have identified,” they continued. “We find the campaign’s use of infrastructure linked to Haixun to be more interesting, as it is suggestive of recent trends surrounding the outsourcing of IO to third parties, which can make IO more accessible and help obfuscate the identities of an actor.”

AIR FORCE HIRES STARLINK: Our friends at Morning Defense (for Pros!) report the Air Force will buy SpaceX’s satellite internet service to support airlift operations in Africa and Europe, according to a new announcement.

Starlink is the only commercial broadband satellite provider in Africa, where Amazon’s Project Kuiper, OneWeb and Telesat do not have service.

Starlink has also proved its effectiveness in a combat zone, the announcement says. SpaceX’s satellite internet service is being widely used to support Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion.

The Air Force will pay SpaceX $1.9 million for one year to support the 86th Airlift Wing. The contract will be a bridge until the Space Force and General Services Administration can finalize a blanket purchase agreement for satellite internet service.

SENATORS WANT BELARUS ENVOY: Sens. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-N.H.) and ROGER WICKER (R-Miss.) want a new special envoy to Belarus, sending a letter to SecState Blinken Thursday to make the point.

The letter calls for continued U.S. engagement in Belarus as pro-democracy activists and voters continue to counter authoritarian President ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO’s decades-long hold on power. He violently quashed pro-democracy demonstrations after the nation’s 2020 elections and voiced support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

JULIE FISHER, the U.S. ambassador to Belarus, has been unable to visit the country after being denied a visa by Belarusian officials. Fisher was then appointed to be the U.S. ambassador to Cyprus, leaving a vacancy on the Belarus portfolio.

FLORIDA NATIONAL GUARD CHIEF RAILS AGAINST VACCINE MANDATE: “I’ve never been more worried about the future of the U.S. armed forces than I am right now,” Maj. Gen. JAMES EIFERT, commanding general of the Florida National Guard, wrote in the first sentence of a Wall Street Journal op-ed. “One of the military’s most foundational duties is to recruit and retain men and women willing to defend their country. Unfortunately, current federal policy is rendering that goal unattainable.”

Eifert fears that the vaccine mandate will decimate the ranks of the U.S. military.

“The Army secretary’s deadline for all reserve component soldiers to be vaccinated expired on June 30, leaving almost 40,000 National Guard members and 20,000 Army Reservists nationwide at risk of involuntary termination,” he wrote. “My Florida National Guard formations face the potential loss of about 1,000 unvaccinated guardsmen out of 12,000 total airmen and soldiers. That leaves us shorthanded as our state enters hurricane season, while more than 1,000 soldiers and airmen are also deployed on federal missions around the world.”

In the midst of a military recruitment crisis, Eifert argues the Biden administration should reassess the vaccination mandate within the military.

FIRST IN NATSEC DAILY: SAM SALK is now senior adviser to the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, where he will focus on public-private partnerships and sports diplomacy, our own DANIEL LIPPMAN has learned. He most recently was the White House liaison at the State Department. He has worked for Biden since 2015.

JAIME AREIZAGA-SOTO was confirmed by the Senate to serve as chair of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Areizaga-Soto previously served as Virginia’s deputy secretary of veterans and defense affairs.

KATHRYN WHEELBARGER was named as a member of the Board of Directors for the United States Institute of Peace. Wheelbarger previously served as the DoD’s assistant secretary for international security affairs.

BARRY PAVEL will join the RAND Corporation as the vice president and director of the National Security Research Division. He spent the last decade running the Brent Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council.

QIN GANG, The Washington Post: “Chinese Ambassador Qin Qang: Pelosi’s Taiwan visit was irresponsible

ILAN BERMAN, National Review: “Zawahiri Killing Shows Biden Foreign-Policy Contradictions

DAN WARD, Defense One: “HIMARS’ Hidden Superpower and Other Acquisition Lessons from Ukraine

Government Executive Media Group, 1 p.m.: Sunrise to Sunset: A Deeper Look at the Defense Cloud Landscape

White House, 8 p.m.: Biden delivers remarks from the White House about the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022

Have a natsec-centric event coming up? Transitioning to a new defense-adjacent or foreign policy-focused gig? Shoot me an email at [email protected] to be featured in the next edition of the newsletter.

And thanks to my editor, Ben Pauker, who agrees with all our brilliant suggestions for the future of NatSec Daily, but always says “now is not the time for making this change.”




This page was created programmatically, to read the article in its original location you can go to the link bellow:
https://www.politico.com/newsletters/national-security-daily/2022/08/05/what-the-u-s-and-china-learn-from-the-live-fire-exercise-00050071
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