Archive | Nickel/Metals/ War – Geopolitical Flashpoints

As you celebrate the Berlin Wall’s ‘fall’ in 1989, remember 1979, too – by Raymond de Souza (National Post – November 22, 2019)

The coverage of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which occurred earlier this month, was disappointing. Much of it made it seem as if the wall just fell down, like a weathered old barn. But it did not fall down; it was torn down. Little coverage seemed interested in why and how.

The error was made in high places. Before the anniversary, Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, put out an official statement in which he paid tribute to the Gdansk shipyard workers and Prague’s Charter 77. But mostly he offered Euro-speak about multilateral efforts to combat climate change.

Maas, like so many others, did not acknowledge that the key turning point in the Cold War, the events that made 1989 happen in the way that it did — non-violently through a moral revolution — began 10 years earlier in 1979. In 1979, St. John Paul II visited Poland. In 1979, Margaret Thatcher was elected prime minister of the United Kingdom. Continue Reading →

America is losing the battle of the Arctic – by Hal Brands (American Enterprise Institute – July 30, 2019)

The Pentagon’s new Arctic Strategy is a step forward, but not enough to counter Russia and – yes — China.

The two most important global issues of the coming decades are the return of rivalry between great powers and the intensification of climate change. Squarely at the intersection of these trends sits the Arctic, a region whose growing importance is reshaping the world’s geo-economics and geopolitics alike.

Publicly, the Trump administration is giving greater attention to the Arctic – an indication that the U.S. is mobilizing for the new era. Unfortunately, while Washington is speaking the language of great-power rivalry, its actions have yet to catch up with its words.

Since January, the Navy and Coast Guard have released separate Arctic strategies. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer has called for new freedom of navigation operations and an increased naval presence in the region. Continue Reading →

OPINION: A high-stakes game of chicken is playing out in the Gulf of Oman – by Dennis Horak (Globe and Mail – June 17, 2019)

Dennis Horak was Canada’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia until he was expelled in August, 2018. He was also head of mission in Iran from 2009-12.

Thursday’s attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman was a dangerous escalation in the game of high-stakes chicken that has been playing out in that volatile region.

U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has pointed the finger squarely at Iran, citing intelligence, the weapons used and Iran’s known capabilities. The U.S. has also taken the unusual step of releasing a video of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps vessel alongside one of the ships, apparently removing an unexploded limpet mine, to back up its allegations.

The U.S. position in directing blame to Iran is compelling. Iran has the motivation, the capability and the form. Tehran is feeling the heat of the U.S. policy of maximum pressure and they are clearly growing ever more anxious for relief by whichever means they can get it. Continue Reading →

Alleged attack on two oil tankers in Persian Gulf stokes fears of rising U.S.-Iran tensions – by Verity Ratcliffe, Anthony DiPaola and Bruce Stanley(Bloomberg/National Post – June 13, 2019)

Two oil tankers were damaged on Thursday in a suspected attack near the entrance to the Persian Gulf, stoking fears that high-stakes diplomatic efforts won’t avert a military confrontation between the U.S. and Iran. Oil prices surged.

The incidents, including an attack on a Japanese-operated vessel, were the second in a month to hit ships near the Strait of Hormuz chokepoint, through which about 40 per cent of the world’s seaborne oil travels.

They come as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a rare ally of both Donald Trump and Iranian leaders, visits Tehran in an effort to ease tensions. Continue Reading →

China, Russia move into the Arctic — and put US at risk – by David Auerswald and Terry L. Anderson (The Hill – May 14, 2019)

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called out Russian and Chinese activities and intentions in the Arctic, shocking his fellow foreign ministers at the biannual meeting of the Arctic Council, the premier regional forum for Arctic matters.

Pompeo disturbed a norm that had held since the council’s 1996 founding. For over 20 years Arctic states have attempted to compartmentalize Arctic cooperation on scientific research, environmental protection, fisheries management and search and rescue protocols — avoiding hard-power competition in military security and trade.

Pompeo’s speech peeled back the veneer of cooperation to expose the underlying great power competition that has been building for the past five years. Continue Reading →

‘The Asian century’: East has surpassed West, whether the West knows it or not, says Peter Frankopan – by Greg Klein (Resource Clips – April 4, 2019)

Less than two years ago tensions along an especially sensitive border area sparked fighting between Chinese and Indian troops. Outside Asia, who knew? “As most of the world focused on the Twitter account of the US president and the circus surrounding Brexit, the threat of the two most populous countries on earth going to war was not just a possibility, it looked like becoming a fact,” writes Peter Frankopan.

An uneasy truce eventually stalled hostilities but the West’s ignorance of the wider world remains. That’s both symptom and cause of the West’s decline, the author says.

Relatively few Westerners realize the extent of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Actually a complex suite of alliances concerning resources, infrastructure, trade, security and even culture, the BRI forms just part of an Asian awakening that’s shifting the planet’s centre of importance while strengthening Eastern influence beyond Asia and Africa to make inroads into Europe, the Americas, the Arctic, cyberspace and outer space. Continue Reading →

Pentagon warns of rising Chinese and Russian influence in Africa – by Geoffrey York (Globe and Mail – February 9, 2019)

A senior U.S. military commander, describing Africa as a potential “failed continent,” has warned that Russia and China are aggressively expanding their influence across Africa in a new era of “great-power competition.”

The testimony this week by General Thomas Waldhauser, head of the U.S. military command for Africa, was a glimpse into the emerging world view of President Donald Trump’s administration, where Africa is seen largely as a battleground for superpower rivalry.

Gen. Waldhauser, testifying before a U.S. Senate committee, spelled out what he sees as evidence of the “harmful influence of non-African players” on the African continent – while excluding his own country from that description. Continue Reading →

How the US lost the plot on rare earths – by Rick Rule ( – January 2019)

On Wednesday morning, a rocket blasted off from Blue Origin’s West Texas facility in West Texas, carrying eight NASA experiments into space with it. Climbing past an altitude of 350,000 feet (over 100 kilometers), the New Shepard rocket launched its capsule, from which the company founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos plans to conduct space tourism. Blue Origin tweeted that it plans to begin flying humans to space next year.

Those watching Wednesday’s launch probably assume that the parts for American rockets are made in the United States. While that may be true for space-travel companies like Space X, Blue Origin and Virgin, it isn’t for rockets sent skyward for national security missions, through something called the United Launch Alliance. These rockets are powered by Russian engines. Yes, you read that right.

Our Cold War enemy for 30-odd years, which ironically started the space race with the 1957 launch of Sputnik, all use RD-180 engines made by NPO Energomash, a Russian state-owned company. Continue Reading →

The US needs to rebuild the defense industrial base – by John Adams (The Hill – October 29, 2018)

Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. John Adams served more than 30 years in command and staff assignments as an Army aviator, military intelligence officer and foreign area officer in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. He is president of Guardian Six Consulting.

This month the Pentagon finally released a long-awaited report on the health of the nation’s defense industrial base. The findings were startling. Once the nation’s strength – in fact a war winner – our defense industrial base now faces an “unprecedented set of challenges.”

The report is a clear sign we need to act urgently. Just when we should be retooling for renewed great power competition, the very foundation from which we project strength is crumbling.

While the report identified five major challenges to our defense industrial base, all in need of dedicated attention, one challenge in particular – the aggressive industrial policies of competitor nations, particularly China – should cause heightened alarm. Continue Reading →

New Cold War arrives in Papua New Guinea – by Alan Boyd (Asia Times – November 6, 2018)

Australia outpaced China for a deal to develop PNG’s Lombrum naval base, a strategic facility that will bolster Canberra’s power projection in the South Pacific and South China Sea

Australian naval vessels have arrived in Papua New Guinea to protect leaders at a summit of Pacific Rim nations next week, giving a foretaste of the newly elevated defense relationship between the two neighbors.

Defense officials confirmed that Australia’s helicopter docking ship HMAS Adelaide is now off Papua New Guinea’s capital of Port Moresby, accompanied by two patrol boats. They will provide security for cruise ships tethered in the harbor that will house delegates to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gathering.

Australian special forces troops have been in Papua New Guinea for two months preparing security measures around facilities for the November 17-18 summit, which will be attended by US Vice President Mike Pence, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of 18 other countries. Continue Reading →

Depending on the enemy: The U.S. calls for new supply strategies to meet economic and defence risks – by Greg Klein (Resource Clips – October 10, 2018)

The goal might be summed up by a new slogan: Make America Self-Reliant Again. Or, with a tad less concision: Let’s Stop Relying on an Economic Rival that’s a Potential Military Threat for the Stuff We Need to Compete with an Economic Rival that’s a Potential Military Threat.

A newly released study from the U.S. Secretary of Defense illustrates that absurd dilemma. The dependency runs the gamut from sourcing raw materials to refining them, manufacturing key components, developing R&D, training workers, even setting prices. As the report says, “The central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security is the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition by what the National Security Strategy classifies as revisionist powers.

It is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model—gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions.” Continue Reading →

US defense sector braces for Trump tariff fallout – by Joe Gould and Aaron Mehta (Defense News – May 31, 2018)

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s announcement that it will impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Europe, Mexico and Canada may hurt America‘s defense sector and imperil domestic jobs, analysts warn.

The tariffs, which will impose a 25 percent surcharge on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum, will go into effect Friday, as the administration follows through on the penalties after earlier granting exemptions to buy time for negotiations. U.S. President Donald Trump announced the tariffs in March, citing national security concerns.

Europe and Mexico pledged to retaliate, exacerbating trans-Atlantic and North American trade tensions. The European Commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, said Trump’s decision amounted to trade “protectionism, pure and simple,” adding that Europe would respond with countermeasures. Continue Reading →

China unveils vision for ‘Polar Silk Road’ across Arctic (Reuters Canada – January 26, 2018)

BEIJING (Reuters) – China on Friday outlined its ambitions to extend President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative to the Arctic by developing shipping lanes opened up by global warming.

Releasing its first official Arctic policy white paper, China said it would encourage enterprises to build infrastructure and conduct commercial trial voyages, paving the way for Arctic shipping routes that would form a “Polar Silk Road”.

“China hopes to work with all parties to build a ‘Polar Silk Road’ through developing the Arctic shipping routes,” the paper, issued by the State Council Information Office, said. Continue Reading →

As Afghanistan’s Mining Race Stalls, the Taliban and ISIS Tap Into Illegal Mines – by Matthew C. DuPée (World Politics Review – January 5, 2018)

Afghanistan has some of the richest mineral deposits in the world, but extracting them has proven difficult amid years of instability and war. There were modest signs of improvement in 2017, most notably the Afghan government’s ability to manage and report its earnings from mining royalties and taxes, which it couldn’t do much at all a few years ago.

But challenges remain to attract more meaningful foreign investment and capitalize on the country’s resources. The Afghan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum reported earning approximately $86 million in revenues in 2017, $19 million more than it reported earning in 2016. Yet no new major contracts were signed in 2017.

The government in Kabul has long viewed the natural resources contained beneath Afghanistan’s mountains and deserts, estimated to be worth as much as $1 trillion to $3 trillion, as a potential economic panacea. But an array of problems beyond the country’s war—corruption, inadequate infrastructure, legal uncertainty, illegal mining and wavering investors—has diminished hopes for Afghanistan’s mining potential. Continue Reading →

Opinion: The rise and fall of great powers – by Andrew Preston (Globe and Mail – December 30, 2017)

Andrew Preston is a professor of American history at the University of Cambridge.

Conventional wisdom suggests the U.S. is in decline, and a rising China will replace it as the world’s superpower. But how realistic is this?

With the world on edge about North Korea, the U.S. President did what he usually does in these situations: flex America’s muscles. In October, Donald Trump deployed three aircraft-carrier groups to the western Pacific, under the command of the U.S. Navy’s mighty 7th Fleet.

Based in Japan, the 7th Fleet is more powerful than many national navies. Once again, the U.S. military was acting as the world’s cop, there to reassure the locals that criminals will be kept in check and that their neighbourhood will remain safe.

The 7th Fleet has had a difficult year, however: Since January, it’s suffered six crashes, five involving ships and one involving a navy transport plane. These incidents didn’t result from engagements with enemy forces, but from accidental collisions with less-menacing vessels: a fishing trawler, a merchant ship, an oil tanker and a tugboat. In one incident, a U.S. warship simply ran aground off the coast of Japan. The Seventh Fleet’s commander has been summarily dismissed. Continue Reading →