Australian Horn Grows Against China: Daniel 7

Artist rendering of possible design for SSN-AUKUS submarines. Image: Wikimedia Commons

AUKUS enhancing undersea deterrence against China

AUKUS building a wider distributed force posture closer to likely areas of operations vis-a-vis China’s PLA-Navy


In line with the Chinese Communist Party’s imperative to oversee “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049, US intelligence sources indicate that Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the People’s Liberation Army to become capable of countering American military power in the Indo-Pacific and ready for a takeover of Taiwan by 2027.

This is an alarming prospect, lent credence by recent Chinese military exercises around the island. Admiral John Aquilino, commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), in his March Congressional testimony said that the PLA Navy (PLAN) is on track to deliver 440 battle-force ships by 2030, including significant increases in aircraft carriers and major surface combatants.

As it grows in strength, the PLAN is likely to use its large naval forces to uphold further, even enforce, illegitimate Chinese claims over areas of the East and South China seas – areas through which foreign vessels of all kinds have rights to move under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which China ratified in 1996.

In this worsening geopolitical environment Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States have created the AUKUS submarine and technology-sharing agreement, which has been called a “trilateral, security partnership” based on defense capabilities that support “mutual national defense objectives.”

In the words of Mara Karlin, US assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and capabilities, the agreement will “lift all three nations’ submarine industrial bases and undersea capabilities, enhancing deterrence and promoting stability in the Indo-Pacific.”

Deterring indirectly

Before explaining how AUKUS facilitates “direct deterrence” from the perspective of capabilities, capacity, and force posture, it is important to identify forms of “indirect deterrence,” namely by promoting deterrence through a constellation of security alignments and the strengthening of the defense industrial base.

In the case of these latter two forms of “indirect deterrence,” AUKUS – as with the US-Japan-Australia Trilateral and the Quad – is a minilateral. Such a minilateral is not strictly an alliance, but it provides its members with a shared pool of military capabilities – or what has also been dubbed a “federated model of defense.”

Within the United States, these alignments gel with the administration’s organizing principle of “integrated deterrence,” which was laid out in the 2022 National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy, and the Nuclear Posture Review.

In addition to accelerating efforts to promote planning, coordination, and operations among various US government agencies and US allies, AUKUS also provides integrated deterrence at the level of the defense industrial base for all three cooperating nations.

While it would be a stretch to call this “undersea deterrence,” it would also be remiss not to mention the bolstering effect AUKUS will have on naval shipyards, the nuclear enterprise and undersea sensor and weapons systems industries, which all contribute to national strength.

Directly deterring from beneath the sea

Defining deterrence as the “building of combat-credible forces across all domains and across the full spectrum of conflict to deter aggression,” Karlin also noted that AUKUS is about more than just pillars I and II, but also includes a focus on undersea deterrence throughout the Indo-Pacific across a range of areas.

At the simplest level, the agreement adds to undersea deterrence by delivering new advanced warfighting capabilities to its members, particularly Australia: it provides two types of nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) platforms – the Virginia class and “AUKUS class” to replace Australia’s aging Collins-class of conventionally powered submarines.

While it is a crude measure, more vessels with long-range capabilities, amplified by the advanced weapons capacity and kinetic effects that they can deliver at greater range, may deter an adversary more effectively, in the event that it contemplates aggression.

AUKUS map: Council on Geostrategy

AUKUS thus provides all three countries with a wider distributed force posture closer to likely areas of operations, vis-à-vis the PLA Navy in the Western Pacific.

As shown in the map above, nuclear-propelled submarines greatly complicate the PRC’s calculus. They can be sent north of Australia to stalking grounds surrounding the South and East China seas, which are critical to Chinese maritime communication lines across the Pacific and to the Middle East and East Africa.

By making these routes more vulnerable to interdiction, AUKUS forces the PLAN into a more defensive posture, which may direct resources away from large warships and logistics vessels designed for expeditionary operations.

It does this through the two-part pathway framework agreed upon in March 2023. The first part of the pathway consists of increased port visits by US and UK SSNs from 2023, which adds to the ability of INDOPACOM and the Royal Navy to regularly  position forces east of the Strait of Malacca and west of the International Date Line (IDL) – a helpful softening of the tyranny of distance confronting US and UK naval forces.

The second part of the framework includes a rotational element in Australia under the Submarine Rotational Force West intended to begin by 2027. According to the Australian Department of Defense, this will be composed of “a rotational presence … of one UK and up to four US, nuclear-powered submarines” at Fleet Base West.

This is likely to draw in Astute-class and Virginia-class submarines. Again, this adds to a joint and combined campaign, allowing the three allies to synchronize joint capabilities through increased exercises and further cementing persistent forces in between the Strait of Malacca and the IDL.

Forms of deterrence provided by AUKUS

AUKUS, therefore, provides deterrence at multiple levels. The first two are forms of “indirect deterrence,” or factors that strengthen general deterrence at the state level.

  1. AUKUS provides a signal of intent – through that of political alignment – potentially muddying the calculations of a potential aggressor. This is AUKUS as a minilateral grouping, and as architecture rather than as a defense industrial deal.
  2. AUKUS provides indirect deterrence by adding to national strength by adding to the defense industrial base of each member by providing opportunities for industrial cooperation and production. It releases national resources toward shipping industries that may have previously been in decline.

AUKUS has several effects in terms of direct deterrence, too. It is helpful to use the four-point “Seize the Initiative” INDOPACOM approach to divide them:

  1. In its simplest and most direct form, AUKUS contributes to undersea deterrence by providing its members, notably Australia, with new advanced warfighting platforms (the SSNs and their systems).
  2. That these are superior systems, with longer ranges provided by their nuclear propulsion, adds to their impact on potential adversaries’ logistics and planning. As submarines can hide underwater, they are an asymmetrical weapons system, designed to threaten sea lanes and surface shipping, both commercial and military.
  3. Then there are the agreements made in March of this year, such as the two-part pathway that allows for a second direct form of undersea deterrence: that of providing those platforms in a distributed posture across the region. Whether through port visits or a more sustained presence through Submarine Rotational Force West, AUKUS brings more allied forces into the Western Pacific.
  4. Then, finally, there is the deterrent effect produced by Submarine Rotational Force West itself: that of an integrated allied operational force that ideally will operate under a combined command structure.

A potent instrument

As American, Australian, and British submariners train, exercise, and deploy, so will their operational capability and efficacy increase. They will become an integrated force capable of great strategic effect – deterrence – in the Indo-Pacific, a valuable asset for any war planner.

The question whether these six forms of deterrence will deter Xi from ordering PLAN forces to lunge across the Taiwan Strait or from undertaking coercive activity across the First Island Chain is unclear.

While they might not be sufficient– given the time it takes for these systems and structures to come on line – these nascent capabilities will complicate PLAN planning and logistics.

In the future, in any actual kinetic contingency, they will also provide a potent instrument to contain Chinese regional ambitions and military coercion.

John Hemmings is senior director of Indo-Pacific foreign and security policy at the Pacific Forum in Honolulu, which originally published this article. Asia Times is republishing it with permission.

Death Toll from George Bush Jr: Revelation 13:1

| US Army soldiers occupying Iraq in 2007 | MR OnlineU.S. Army soldiers occupying Iraq in 2007

U.S. post-9/11 wars caused 4.5 million deaths, displaced 38-60 million people, study shows

By Ben Norton (Posted May 22, 2023)

Originally published: Geopolitical Economy Report  on May 18, 2023 (more by Geopolitical Economy Report | 

The wars the United States waged and fueled in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan following September 11, 2001 caused at least 4.5 million deaths, according to a report by Brown University.

Nearly a million of the people who lost their lives died in fighting, whereas some 3.6 to 3.7 million were indirect deaths, due to health and economic problems caused by the wars, such as diseases, malnutrition, and destruction of infrastructure.

These were the conclusions of a study conducted by the Cost of Wars project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

The report also analyzed the effects of wars in Libya and Somalia, which were sponsored by Washington.

The scholars estimated that, in the countries studied, there are still today 7.6 million children under age 5 who are suffering from acute malnutrition, meaning they are “not getting enough food, literally wasting to skin and bones, putting these children at greater risk of death”.

In Afghanistan and Yemen, this includes nearly 50% of children; and, in Somalia, close to 60%.

| Figure 2 Child Malnutrition by War Zone Country Data from 2020 2023 | MR Online

In a separate study in 2021, Brown University’s Cost of Wars project found that the United States’ post-9/11 wars displaced at least 38 million people—more than any conflict since 1900, excluding World War II.

This 2021 report noted that “38 million is a very conservative estimate. The total displaced by the U.S. post-9/11 wars could be closer to 49—60 million, which would rival World War II displacement”.

| Millions displaced by US post 911 wars | MR Online

The May 2023 study, which estimated that U.S. post-9/11 wars killed 4.5 to 4.6 million people, emphasized that large numbers of civilians are still perishing today, due of the lasting consequences of these violent conflicts.

Although the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021, “today Afghans are suffering and dying from war-related causes at higher rates than ever”, the report noted.

In addition to the staggering death tolls, millions more civilians were wounded and suffered other incredible hardships due to these wars.

“For instance, for every person who dies of a waterborne disease because war destroyed their access to safe drinking water and waste treatment facilities, there are many more who sicken”, the study highlighted.

The 2023 report “highlights many longterm and underacknowledged consequences of war for human health, emphasizing that some groups, particularly women and children, suffer the brunt of these ongoing impacts”.

People living in poverty and those from marginalized groups had higher rates of death and lower life expectancies.

The document stressed how the “post-9/11 wars have caused widespread economic hardship for people in the war zones, and how poverty, in turn, has been accompanied by food insecurity and malnutrition, which have led to diseases and death, particularly amongst children under age five”.

| Figure 3 Causal Pathways Towards Indirect Deaths in the Post 911 Wars | MR Online

In virtually all wars, indirect deaths represent the majority of the lives lost. The Brown University researchers pointed out, for example,

In conflict areas, children are 20 times more likely to die of diarrheal disease than from the conflict itself.

Damage to infrastructure that happens during wars is likewise very deadly. “Hospitals, clinics, and medical supplies, water and sanitation systems, electricity, roads and traffic signals, infrastructure for farming and shipping goods, and much more are destroyed, damaged and disrupted, with lasting consequences for human health”, the report noted.

Economic problems caused by these post-9/11 wars have been devastating.

Two decades of U.S.-NATO military occupation of Afghanistan left behind a borderline apocalyptic economic crisis.

More than half of Afghanistan’s population is in extreme poverty, living on less than $1.90 per day. A staggering 95% of Afghans do not have enough food.

In Yemen, more than 17.4 million people are food insecure, and 85,000 children under age 5 have likely died from starvation.

Even in countries where large numbers of U.S. troops weren’t deployed on the ground, Washington’s wars have destroyed the lives of countless civilians.

U.S. drone strikes in Yemen and Somalia “significantly impact people’s livelihood sources”, killing workers, destroying farms and businesses, and bankrupting families.

“The severe impact of such economic setbacks on populations who depend on the land for their survival cannot be underestimated”, the report emphasized.

Washington’s so-called counter-terrorism laws in Somalia have also “hampered humanitarian relief efforts, intensifying the effects of famine”, the researchers noted.

Hundreds of thousands of children have died from famine in the East African nation.

The Brown University studies are part of a growing body of scholarship documenting the death tolls of post-9/11 U.S. wars.

A 2015 report by the Nobel Prize-winning group International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) concluded that 13 years of Washington’s so-called “War on Terror” caused a total of 1.3 million deaths, including 1 million in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan, and 80,000 in Pakistan.

IPPNW cautioned that this 2015 figure was “only a conservative estimate. The total number of deaths in the three countries named above could also be in excess of 2 million, whereas a figure below 1 million is extremely unlikely”.

The South Korean Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Can South Korea be a Nuclear Middle Power?

Published October 28, 2022
Author: Jeffrey Robertson

Recent debates on South Korea securing an independent nuclear weapons capacity have addressed several issues, including strategic relevance and operational utility, its impact on the U.S. alliance, how it will affect the balance of power on the Korean Peninsula, and its contribution to the regional arms competition. Less discussed has been the question of South Korea as a “nuclear middle power” – an oxymoron to many scholars of middle power diplomacy.

The modern conceptualization of the middle power was born in the heyday of liberal internationalism with the formation of the United Nations in the 1940s. Up until the late 1960s, individual middle powers toyed with the idea of securing nuclear weapons. Australia and Canada at certain stages sought nuclear armament. However, their renunciation of that aim soon became associated with the wider aura of “do-goodism” or “good international citizenship” which from that point onwards, marked the concept.

During the 1970s, middle powers were instrumental in establishing a number of highly important international conventions against nuclear weapons. Australia and Canada led the fight for the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to control the spread of nuclear weapons and played important roles in review conferences. They played roles in the establishment of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which sought to establish controls on precursor materials, and the Canberra Commission, which sought to reduce the spread and eliminate nuclear weapons. Through the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), middle powers fought against the testing and unrestrained expansion of nuclear arsenals.

One of the most characteristic middle power campaigns of the 1980s was the Australian and New Zealand effort to end French nuclear testing in the Pacific. This brought together all the characteristics of middle power diplomacy – middle powers building a coalition of smaller states in the Pacific acting across multiple multilateral forums in coordination with NGOs to constrain the actions of a major power while addressing good international citizen issues of arms control and the environment. Middle powers, almost by definition, have been against the spread of nuclear weapons.

How then, have we arrived at a situation in which a leading middle power is in the midst of a debate to secure an independent nuclear weapons capacity?

There are three potential academic answers to this question – and none of them give an adequate answer.

First, South Korea may not be a middle power. I’ve said it before, there are certain characteristics that distinguish South Korea from other middle powers: it was a late entrant; has never espoused the same consistency in values; is not inherently a status quo power; and to a degree lacks institutional capacity and depth. South Korea holds different positions from ‘ideal type’ middle powers, such as Canada and Australia on topics including the South China Sea, Hong Kong, and Russia/Ukraine. As noted by other scholars, for South Korea, being a middle power is as much about status as it is about identity.

Second, middle powers as conceptualized in the 1980s, may no longer exist. Middle powers could be synchronic classification – a typology that cannot exist outside its specific timeframe of the post-war, Cold War, and post-Cold War era. Remove the liberal-internationalist context of the time period, and the structures that supported their existence also disappear. We no longer have Occidental Powers, have largely forgotten Non-Aligned Powers, and rarely use the term Superpowers. Why do we still use the term Middle Power? This could explain the gradual dissociation of traditional middle powers, such as Canada and Australia, from the concept.

In the same vein, an early middle power scholar noted that during periods of decreased security tension, middle powers balance major powers, and during periods of heightened security tension bandwagon with major powers. As South Korea has consistently been in an intermittent state of heightened security tension, its path as a middle power is distinct. Now, as China-U.S. tension increases, bandwagoning could be misconstrued as taking a greater burden by securing an independent nuclear weapons capacity.

Third, perhaps the scholars pushing middle power diplomacy were simply wrong all along. The entire concept was a chicken dressed up as a turkey. Created by diplomats and pushed by politicians, academics just ran with the concept without bothering to check whether it made sense within the discipline and the broader social sciences. There’s assumptions that were only ever true for a select few countries; no meaningful definitions; chocked-full of nuanced relationships to account for this or that case; and outright confusion as to which units should be measured. It’s a theoretical mess. As one scholar put it, everyone is a middle power now.

In the same vein, there’s a strong argument to be made that middle powers were always a product of U.S.-led liberal-internationalism. The characteristic diplomatic behaviors of niche diplomacy were never ascribed to Saudi Arabia’s support for the spread of Wahhabi Islam, nor was good international citizenship ascribed to Iran’s support for Palestine. From this point of view, the middle power project was merely a five-decade effort to distinguish a small number of U.S. Western allies from other states which they at the time, viewed as less important – with all the inherent racism that such an approach entails. Reflecting this, middle powers were anti-nuclear because they were already protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella. This potentially explains non-Western states, which are rarely called middle powers, such as India, Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea, pursuing nuclear weapon programs.

There’s a lot to unpack in the above three academic answers. While how we use language and how we identify and label ourselves is important, whether South Korea’s calls itself a middle power or not, will do nothing to stop it securing an independent nuclear weapons capacity. Ultimately, it’s all just academic waffling. In the end, stopping South Korea from heading down the nuclear path requires less academic waffling, and more diplomacy.

Dr. Jeffery Robertson is Non-Resident Fellow at the Korea Economic Institute of America, an Associate Professor of Diplomatic Studies at Yonsei University, and a Visiting Fellow at the Korea Studies Research Hub, University of Melbourne. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from sinano1000 photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

South Korean Horn Pivots to Conflict: Daniel 7

South Korea Pivots to Conflict

South Korea’s far-right President Yoon Suk Yeol is rushing South Korea headlong into the middle of the new Cold War that the United States is waging against China. Yoon’s aspiration to position South Korea as a “global pivotal state” is turning South Korea into a bigger cog in the US war machine and stakes South Korea’s security and economic future on a declining US-led global order. Yoon’s support of the US global order has taken him on a flurry of visits and meetings around the world from the virtual Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) summit to the NATO summit in Madrid to high-level meetings in Japan and the United States.

Most recently on his April 26 US visit, President Yoon and US President Joe Biden announced the “Washington Declaration” to deploy US nuclear-armed submarines to South Korea – reintroducing US nuclear weapons to South Korea for the first time in over 40 years. When viewed against North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons as a strategic deterrent, these weapons in South Korea will more likely fuel a nuclear arms race rather than check North Korea’s nuclear program. As former South Korean Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun observed, four out of North Korea’s six nuclear tests occurred in response to the hardline stance of conservative South Korean administrations that refused to dialogue with North Korea.

Ultimately, Yoon’s actions are putting South Korea on a dangerous path that further destabilizes inter-Korean relations and antagonizes China, its biggest trading partner. All the while, the move also forsakes the Korean government’s duty to advocate for reparations from Japan for Koreans exploited under Japanese colonialism and to prevent the discharge of radioactive waste from the Fukushima nuclear reactor, which lies upstream from South Korea.

The alarming return of US nuclear weapons to South Korea follows Yoon’s posturing to develop nuclear weapons in South Korea this past Januaryas part of his evolving extremist hardline North Korea policy. More broadly, it forms part of Yoon’s greater foreign policy agenda of inserting South Korea in the security architecture of the US’s anti-China Asia-Pacific grand strategy. The Yoon administration’s “Strategy for a Free, Peaceful and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region,” like Yoon’s recent activities, follows closely from the US Indo-Pacific Strategy, with the goal of building and enforcing a US-led “rules-based order” in the region with “like-minded allies” to contain China.

For all its declarations of fairness and playing by the rules, this US-dominated “rules-based order” is at odds with the actual multipolar world taking shape around the world as well as the multilateral nature of the internationally agreed-upon UN-based order. The United States has been leading the creation of regional minilateral bodies such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) or the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework as part of its “hybrid war against China” and engaging in unilateral aggression toward China in the form of “military, economic, information, and military warfare.”

For example, the United States is setting the stage to dispute China’s actions in the South China Sea not through the UN “Law of the Sea Convention,” which the United States has not signed onto, but rather through the Indo-Pacific security framework. This allows the United States to target China’s actions while exempting its own naval operations from the oversight of “global bureaucrats” – i.e., the UN. Furthermore, despite calling for an “open” and “free” Indo-Pacific, the United States is waging a “chip war” by pressuring its Indo-Pacific allies to impede China’s access to semiconductor chips, one of the world’s most critical high-tech resources today.

The Yoon administration has been contributing to the buildup and reinforcement of this “rules-based order” through its participation in the Indo-Pacific framework, global NATO, and by consolidating the US-Japan-South Korea trilateral military alliance. In May 2022, a few weeks into his term, Yoon participated virtually in the IPEF meeting. In December, the administration adopted its own Indo-Pacific Strategy which committed to “stabilize supply chains of strategic resources” and “seek cooperation with partners with whom we share values,” – i.e., IPEF states. South Korea is now being recruited into the US chip war against China.

In June 2022, the participation of South Korea (including Yoon’s establishment of a NATO diplomatic mission) and three other Asia-Pacific states in the NATO meeting expanded NATO’s reach from the North Atlantic into the Pacific. This year, Yoon paved the way toward consolidating the US-Japan-South Korea trilateral alliance by forgoing demands that Japan take responsibility for its colonial exploitation of Korean workers. Then, during his March visit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, he resumed the controversial 2016 General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) intelligence-sharing pact, laying the groundwork for direct military coordination between South Korea and Japan.

In April, US, Japan, and South Korean officials met and agreed to hold missile defense and anti-submarine exercises to counter North Korea and “promote peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region,” with special emphasis on “peace and security in the Taiwan Strait.” As a further show of commitment to the US global war strategy, in an April 19 Reuters interview, Yoon reversed his position on Ukraine and raised the possibility of sending weapons, and exacerbated the US’s provocations in Taiwan vis-a-vis the One China principle, to the ire of Chinese officials.

A Pivot Toward Peace

Activists in South Korea and abroad have been ceaselessly working toward peace on the peninsula, with key struggles waged along the very sites of US military installations in the Asia-Pacific region encircling China, such as the construction of the military naval base in Gangjeong village. They have also been part of long-standing transnational activism to procure a peace treaty for the Korean War. As these activists and US scholar Noam Chomsky have recently reiterated in the face of the April 26 US-South Korea nuclear weapons deal, only a peace treaty ending the Korean War would lay the basis for denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, bring an end to the US military occupation of South Korea, and move toward peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

To continue building greater exchange, dialogue, and solidarity, and pivot the region toward peace, this May 16, Justice Party National Assembly members along with the International Strategy Center and other civil society organizations in South Korea, the United States, and Japan will be organizing an International Forum for Peace in Northeast Asia and Against a New Cold War Order. •

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Dae-Han Song is in charge of the networking team at the International Strategy Center and is a part of the No Cold War collective.

Alice S. Kim received her PhD from the Rhetoric Department at UC Berkeley and is a writer, researcher, and translator living in Seoul. Her publications include “The ‘Vietnamese’ Skirt and Other Wartime Myths” in The Vietnam War in the Pacific World (UNC Press, 2022) and “Left Out: People’s Solidarity for Social Progress and the Evolution of Minjung After Authoritarianism,” in South Korean Social Movements (Routledge, 2011).

South Korean Horn Is Tempted By Nuclear Weapons: Daniel 7

At The Heart Of The China-US Rivalry, South Korea Is Tempted By Nuclear Weapons


By David Sadler Last Updated May 11, 2023



Oorganized with great fanfare for the 70e anniversary of the security alliance between Washington and Seoul, the visit, at the end of April, to the United States of the conservative South Korean president, Yoon Seok-youl, did not dissipate the reciprocal distrust on military nuclear power. South Korea is worried about the deterioration of its security environment, North Korean nuclear development and tensions between Chinese, Russians and Americans. She hoped that Washington would agree to deploy atomic weapons on her soil for deterrence purposes, failing to let her develop her own arsenal.

Mr. Yoon and US President Joe Biden signed a “Washington Declaration” which provides for the creation of a “nuclear advisory group” to promote coordination on the deployment of US submarines, aircraft carriers and other bombers with nuclear capabilities. The objective is to enable South Korea to better understand the American concept of “extended deterrence” protecting her.

The initiative resembles the framework in place within NATO. It differs, however, in that it does not provide for the “nuclear sharing” desired by Seoul. And, in return for establishing the nuclear advisory group, Mr. Yoon pledged to abide by the obligations of the non-proliferation treaty and the U.S.-South Korea nuclear energy agreement. This amounts to renouncing to acquire a nuclear arsenal.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribersIn the shadow of the United States, Japan and South Korea operate a rapprochement in the fields of security and the economy

“The positions of MM. Yoon and Biden do not reassure”responded the South Korean conservative daily Chosun Ilbo. They are “the product of the distrust that reigns between South Korea and the United States”adds Lee Je-hun, analyst of the center-left daily Hankyoreh.

The failure of reconciliation

This distrust is old since, in the 1970s, the United States, fearing an arms race, had blocked the inclinations of the authoritarian president, Park Chung-hee (1961-1979), to launch a nuclear development program. Mr. Park feared an abandonment by the American ally, in the wake of the rapprochement between Washington and Beijing and the withdrawal from Vietnam – where South Korean forces had fought at the request of the United States. At the same time, the US Congress was increasingly critical of its disastrous human rights record.

Also read the analysis: North Korea: With more frequent and longer-range missile launches, the threat from Pyongyang has increased tenfold since 1984

The question of the nuclear development of South Korea – now democratic – resurfaces in the midst of the crisis on the peninsula and against a backdrop of tensions in East Asia. The dialogue is at a standstill with Pyongyang, which is chaining missile fire and getting closer to Moscow and Beijing – Chinese and North Koreans having also strongly criticized the “Washington declaration”.

Why the Australian Horn Wants to Go Nuclear: Daniel 7

The Virginia-class USS North Dakota submarine is seen during bravo sea trials in this US Navy handout picture taken in the Atlantic Ocean August 18, 2013.
The Virginia-class USS North Dakota submarine is seen in the Atlantic Ocean in 2013. The new deal will see Australia initially acquire three nuclear-powered submarines from the US in what is seen as Australia’s largest-ever defence plan under the AUKUS pact [US Navy via Reuters]

Why Australia wants nuclear-powered submarines

Acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines has been described as ‘the single biggest leap’ ever in Australia’s defence capabilities.

Published On 14 Mar 202314 Mar 2023

United States President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have unveiled a plan that will see Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines, allowing the country to become only the seventh in the world with such military technology.

Under the deal, Australia will buy three US Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines from the US by the early 2030s and has an option to buy two additional vessels if required.

The submarine agreement is part of what is known as the AUKUS pact — an acronym for Australia, the UK and the US — a security agreement that was announced in 2021 by the three countries and seen as a counterweight to China’s growing military presence in the Asia Pacific.

Acquiring nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS pact is expected to be Australia’s biggest-ever defence project and the acquisition has been described by the Australian prime minister as “the single biggest leap” in the history of his country’s defence capabilities.

Beijing has made no secret of its opposition to AUKUS and said this month that it “firmly objects” to the pact, accusing the three countries of harbouring a “Cold War mentality” that risks greater escalation in the region.

Australia has stressed that though their new submarines will be nuclear-powered, that does not mean they will be carrying nuclear warheads.

So why does Australia want nuclear-powered submarines, and what is involved in the deal?

A Virginia-class submarine on the dry dock at a shipbuilding yard. Its nose is decorated in the colours of the United States. There is a crane behind. It dwarfs the people that are milling about around it.
A US Virginia-class attack submarine in dry dock in Virginia, the US, in 2014 [US Navy/John Whalen/Huntington Ingalls Industries via Reuters]

Why nuclear-powered submarines?

  • Submarines can either be diesel-electric or nuclear-powered and either type can be used to launch nuclear warheads, though Biden also stressed on Monday while announcing the deal that the Australian submarines will not have nuclear weapons on board.
  • Diesel-electric submarines involve diesel engines that power electric motors to propel the vessels through the water. But those engines require fuel to operate, which necessitates that the submarines resurface regularly for refuelling.
INTERACTIVE- Types of submarines
(Al Jazeera)
  • When a submarine emerges from the deep and surfaces, it is easier to detect, diminishing its effectiveness as a weapon of stealth.
  • Nuclear-powered submarines generate their own energy source — nuclear propulsion technology — and are not as constrained by the need to refuel as diesel-electric subs. They generate steam using an onboard nuclear reactor which is used to turn the vessel’s turbines.
  • Nuclear-powered submarines can remain hidden at sea without detection — potentially for years — and are limited primarily by their supplies of food and water for crews.
  • “Australia’s submarines face long transits between ports, let alone to potential distant hot spots,” John Blaxland, professor at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University, wrote of the country’s current conventional submarines. “Advances in artificial intelligence and persistent surveillance make detection easier to the point where a short ‘snort’ to recharge batteries is detectable. To lose stealth is to lose the key advantage of submarines, so something had to give. Nuclear-powered subs can stay underwater for far longer than diesel-electric models,” Blaxland wrote in The Conversation earlier this month.

First transfer of nuclear propulsion technology in six decades

  • Compared with conventional submarines, nuclear-powered subs are usually larger and need more expensive infrastructure and maintenance.
  • The majority of submarines in operation currently are conventional diesel-electric models, which are smaller and generally cheaper to maintain.
  • Australia does not have the expertise to build its own nuclear submarines so it had to buy or acquire the ability to build its fleet from either the US or the UK.
  • Australia had originally planned to buy diesel-powered submarines in a 90 billion Australian dollar ($60bn) deal agreed with France in 2016, but it abruptly scrapped that agreement in 2021 in favour of joining AUKUS. The decision set off a diplomatic firestorm with Paris, which has just recently abated with the election of Albanese.
  • The submarines deal marks the first time US-derived nuclear submarine technologies have been shared in more than 60 years. The previous and only other time was when Washington helped London design its undersea fleet.
  • Under the plan announced on Monday, the UK and Australia will eventually produce and operate a new class of nuclear-powered submarines — SSN AUKUS — which will be jointly built in both countries and will include the latest US technologies.
  • Australia’s acquisition of nuclear submarines will place it in a group of just seven countries that have such vessels, joining the US, Russia, China, the UK, France, and India.

AUKUS and fears of a regional arms race

  • The Australian submarine deal is part of the AUKUS security agreement Washington, Canberra and London, first announced in September 2021.
  • The leaders of the tripartite pact have insisted that AUKUS is not intended to be adversarial towards any other nation. But few doubt that the alliance’s greatest concern is China.
  • But the deal has also worried some of Australia’s largest regional allies, with Indonesia and Malaysia questioning whether it could prompt a nuclear arms race in Southeast Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific.
  • All three countries have insisted the deal is defensive in nature although having nuclear-powered submarines would give Australia the capability to launch attacks or counterattacks in the event of a conflict.
  • Beijing sees the submarine acquisition as a “dangerous” provocation designed to hem China in, but analysts say it should perhaps be more concerned about future collaborative initiatives involving AUKUS, which foresees the allies working together on hypersonic missiles, artificial intelligence and cyber warfare.
  • In a joint statement announcing the deal, the three leaders said that their nations had “stood shoulder to shoulder” for more than a century to protect “peace, stability, and prosperity around the world” and also in the Indo-Pacific region. “We believe in a world that protects freedom and respects human rights, the rule of law, the independence of sovereign states, and the rules-based international order. The steps we are announcing today will help us to advance these mutually beneficial objectives in the decades to come,” they said.
  • The deal has also faced criticism in the US where the chair of the influential US Senate armed services committee, Democrat Jack Reed, warned Biden in December that selling nuclear-powered submarines to Australia could undermine US naval prowess.
  • Referencing the current “darkening clouds in international affairs”, Blaxland of the Australian National University notes that the AUKUS plan is “ambitious, costly” and not without risks. “But these are challenging times. It’s an important plank for bolstering resilience and deterrence and, in turn, reducing the likelihood of adventurism,” he says. “It’s often said that weakness invites adventurism, even aggression.”
INTERACTIVE- Nuclear-powered submarines

Boost for Australian jobs and nuclear industry

  • An Australian defence official told the Reuters news agency that the project would cost 368 billion Australian dollars ($245bn) by 2055.
  • Though the deal is worth tens of billions of dollars, experts say its significance goes beyond defence.
  • AUKUS is expected to be Australia’s largest-ever defence project and offers the prospect of creating jobs not only in Australia but in the UK and the US too.
  • Albanese said on Monday that AUKUS would create “20,000 direct jobs for Australians in every state and territory” in the country. “Already, Australian personnel are upskilling on nuclear propulsion technology and stewardship alongside British and American counterparts,” he said in a series of tweets.
  • Those jobs are expected to develop over the next 30 years, but Australia would see a 6 billion Australian dollar ($4bn) investment in industrial capacity over the next four years, Albanese said.

Why South Korean Horn Wants to Go Nuclear: Daniel 7

South Korea’s President Yoon (left) with US President Biden
South Korea’s President Yoon will be visiting Washington for talks with Mr Biden

Nuclear weapons: Why South Koreans want the bomb

22 April 2023

Hidden away in the private room of an underground restaurant in Seoul, a disparate group of South Koreans have gathered for a clandestine lunch. Among the mix are politicians, scientists, and military people, some of whose identities are too sensitive to reveal. This is the meeting of the newly formed Forum for Nuclear Strategy, and their lunchtime agenda is ambitious – to plot out how South Korea can develop nuclear weapons.

This once-fringe idea has exploded into the mainstream over the past months. Even South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol raised the possibility during a defence meeting, making him the only president to have put this option on the table in recent times. Now newspaper columns trumpet the idea daily, while a staggering three-quarters of the public support it. South Koreans have grown anxious about their nuclear-armed neighbour to the north, and on Wednesday Mr Yoon is heading to the White House, seeking President Joe Biden’s help.

South Korea previously flirted with the idea of developing nuclear weapons in the 1970s, when it ran a secret programme. But when the United States found out, it issued an ultimatum: Seoul could carry on, or have the US defend it, with the full force of its existing nuclear arsenal. It picked US support, and to this day tens of thousands of US troops remain stationed on the Korean peninsula.

Since then, the geopolitical situation has shifted dramatically. North Korea is building ever-more sophisticated nuclear weapons that can target cities across the US, leaving people to question whether Washington would still come to South Korea’s defence.

Here is the scenario they chew over: a belligerent Kim Jong-un attacks South Korea, forcing the US to intervene. Mr Kim then threatens to detonate a nuclear bomb over the US mainland unless it withdraws from the war. What does Washington do? Does it risk having San Francisco reduced to rubble to save Seoul? Probably not, is the conclusion those at the secret lunchtime meeting have come to. 

“It is irrational to think another country should protect us. This is our problem and our responsibility,” said Choi Ji-young, a forum member and member of South Korea’s ruling People Power Party.

Members of South Korea’s new Nuclear Policy Forum at a table
The members of South Korea’s new Nuclear Policy Forum want the country to go nuclear

The chairman of the forum, academic Cheong Seong-chang, presented their suggested plan. The next time the North tests a nuclear weapon, Seoul would withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). If, within six months, Mr Kim has not agreed to discuss giving up some of his weapons, Seoul would start building its own. Mr Cheong argues that this would reduce the probability of a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula, as Mr Kim would be less likely to attack, knowing the South could strike back.

But Jenny Town, from the US-based think tank 38 North, challenges the assumption that a nuclear-armed South would make the North less adventurous. “More nuclear weapons does not make the world safer from nuclear use,” she said. “If you look at India and Pakistan as an example, this is not what we have seen. If anything, being nuclear-armed has sort of given them both the green light to go a little further.”

A nuclear-armed South Korea is absolutely not what Washington wants. Yet, this beast is partly of America’s making. In 2016, then-President Donald Trump accused South Korea of free-riding. He threatened to make Seoul pay for the US troops stationed on its soil, or else he would withdraw them. The fear those words instilled in people has not lessened with time. An increasing number of South Koreans, acutely aware that America’s promises are only as good as its next leader, now favour building the bomb.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, at a local sauna in Seoul, people young and old from all backgrounds gathered to ease their weekly aches, while indulging in beer and fried chicken. While it might seem strange to discuss nuclear proliferation in such a setting, these days, it is almost in the realm of small talk. 

“The US is not going to use its nukes to defend us, so we should be in control of our own defence,” said 31-year-old Koo Sung-wook, who swayed this way during his time in the military. He served in 2010, during a major crisis when North Korea shelled a South Korean island, killing four people.

“It felt like a total emergency. Units were calling their parents and writing wills,” he recounted. Now he worries not just about North Korea, but China too. “We are surrounded by these great powers and walking on eggshells around them. To be competitive, we need to have nukes.” 

Almost everyone at the sauna agreed, even 82-year-old Hong In-su. A child during the Korean War in the 1950s, she said she was anti-nuclear weapons, before reluctantly concluding they were a necessary evil: “Other countries are developing theirs, so I don’t see how we can go on without them. The world is changing.”

Hong In-su is wary of South Korea getting nuclear weapons but thinks the country needs them

Another woman was torn over whether the US would defend South Korea, and thought it “better to have nukes just in case”, while a young mother worried that Seoul’s current relationship with the US could change at any moment.

Washington is now scrambling to reassure its ally of its “iron-clad” commitment to its defence. Earlier this month it stationed a gigantic nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the southern port of Busan. But to the frustration of US policymakers, such reassuring gestures no longer seem to be working. 

Seoul’s politicians have grown wary of being kept in the dark, unclear about what would trigger the US president to push the nuclear button on their behalf. Currently, there is no requirement for Mr Biden to even tell Mr Yoon before doing so. “At the very least we could build in a mandatory phone call, so long as it is understood that this is still the US president’s decision,” Ms Town said.

Yang Uk, a defence analyst with the Seoul-based Asan Institute, was in the room with President Yoon when he made his remarks about South Korea going nuclear. He claims Mr Yoon was indirectly pressuring the US. “The US is so reluctant to discuss its nuclear policy with South Korea and yet if a nuclear war broke out on the peninsula we are the ones who would suffer the most,” he said.

Seoul is pushing to be more involved in the planning and execution around nuclear use. That could mean having US nuclear weapons stationed in South Korea, or to have a nuclear sharing arrangement, similar to that in Europe, where South Korea is able to use US weapons in the event of a war. A less drastic option would be to create a joint nuclear-planning group.

US forces practice defending South Korea from a North Korean attack

The US is unlikely to offer up much, but knows it must deliver something concrete that President Yoon can chalk up as a win, and sell to the South Korean public. Even so, it may prove too late. This once inconceivable idea is now so firmly planted in the South Korean psyche, it is difficult to see how it can be uprooted.

Going nuclear is a mammoth decision. The current international order is built on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and those that threaten this order, such as Iran and North Korea, have paid a high price. Analysts say the South Korean public has probably not considered the consequences. The US could pull out of its defence commitment, China might retaliate ferociously by hounding South Korea with sanctions, and their country could end up isolated, another failed pariah state, its dazzling international reputation in tatters.

At the sauna, people seemed unperturbed by these scenarios. Only one woman conceded that if it meant South Korea becoming “an axis of evil” then it was probably not worth it.

But that is unlikely to happen. South Korea is too strategically and economically important for it to be shunned like North Korea. Most analysts do not even believe the US would end its decades-long military alliance. Instead, the concern is that a potential South Korean nuclear armament would create such a crack in the non-proliferation regime, it would cause other countries to follow.

Only 82-year-old Hong In-su seemed to grapple with the dangers ahead. She quoted a Korean proverb that roughly translates to “you fall in your own poop”, or in other words, this could seriously backfire.

“I do think nuclear weapons will come back to harm us,” she said. “I feel bad for the next generation.”

South Korean Horn pact risks a more aggressive North Korea

U.S.-South Korea pact risks a more aggressive North Korea

Pyongyang has lashed out at deal to deploy U.S. strategic assets to East Asia

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, says North Korea’s exercise of self-defense will become stronger. (File photo by Reuters)

GABRIELA BERNAL, Contributing writerMay 2, 2023 14:43 JST

SEOUL — After South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and U.S. President Joe Biden reached a landmark agreement at their recent summit, Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korea’s leader, said the two had “reconfirmed the hostility of the rulers and military warmongers of Washington and Seoul towards our country.”

She also warned that the deal, called the Washington Declaration, “will only result in making peace and security of Northeast Asia and the world be exposed to more serious danger.”

At the summit, Biden and Yoon issued a statement outlining the Nuclear Consultative Group, a new channel through which the two sides are to discuss the possible use of U.S. nuclear weapons to protect South Korea from the danger posed by North Korea.

Behind the deal is growing trepidation in South Korea about its neighbor’s growing nuclear arsenal. There also had been rumblings from Yoon and other politicians about the South possibly developing its own nuclear weapons.

In Washington, Yoon agreed to refrain from moves to establish a nuclear program and said the agreement paves the way for South Korea and the U.S. to “achieve peace through the superiority of overwhelming forces and not a false peace based on the goodwill of the other side.”

Seoul and Washington say their agreement will help the allies share information on nuclear and strategic weapon plans in response to North Korea’s provocations and to conduct regular consultations on joint military operations. The leaders also announced that the deployment of U.S. strategic assets to South Korea “will be made constantly and routinely.”

Yoon and Biden celebrated their agreement as a deepening of their countries’ alliance. Since returning home, Yoon’s approval rating has increased by 1.9 percentage points.

However, in the near term, the agreement could have the effect of creating more regional tensions, as attempting to strengthen extended deterrence by deploying more heavy weaponry to the Korean Peninsula risks further antagonizing Pyongyang, analysts say.

John Delury, a professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, argues that the Washington Declaration “makes no effort to initiate a process of tension reduction with North Korea.” To the contrary, Delury says the declaration is “not going to make any progress for peace since that’s not even on the list of goals.”

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (left) and U.S. President Joe Biden exit the Oval Office on their way to hold a joint news conference at the White House in Washington on April 26.   © Reuters

Biden called the declaration “a prudent step to reinforce extended deterrence” and warned that a nuclear attack by North Korea against the U.S. or its allies would be “unacceptable” and would “result in the end” of that regime.

Jenny Town, director of the 38 North Program at the Stimson Center in the U.S., says that the North Koreans will use this declaration “to further justify their choices on development of weapons of mass destruction and try to boost domestic support for further development on this track despite a difficult economic situation.”

As to what actions the world can expect from North Korea in the coming weeks or months, Town mentions “further demonstrations of intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities, work to prepare for and/or launch a reconnaissance satellite, further testing of the Experimental Light Water Reactor as a way to increase nuclear material production long term, and likely some kind of operational/missile deployment drills in the short term.”

Kim Yo Jong also hinted at a backlash, saying that North Korea’s exercise of self-defense will become stronger in response to military actions taken by the U.S. and South Korea.

Nevertheless, Delury cautions against seeing North Korea’s next moves as tied directly to the Biden-Yoon agreement. “Not everything in the coming weeks and months will be a reaction to the summit since the summit and the Washington Declaration are more expressions of a process that has clearly been underway [for some time],” adding that current U.S. and South Korean policies are “helping to keep North Korea on its current course.”

Similarly, Soo Kim, a former CIA analyst and policy practice area lead at LMI Consulting, highlighted that North Korea has long been set on a path of aggression and weapons development. “Extended deterrence or not, Kim is set on pursuing the path he carved out for his country’s nuclear development,” she says.

“So long as Kim continues to conduct weapons tests and threatens the security of the region,” Soo Kim said, “tensions will remain.”

Putin Did Not Learn From The Beast Of The Sea: Revelation 13-1

An illustration showing former US President George W Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin on board ships trapped in quagmires, represented by bodies of dead civilians.
[Nataliia Shulga/Al Jazeera]

Ukraine war: Did Putin learn from Bush’s Iraq horrors?

From Wagner’s crimes and fake pretexts to the UN’s inaction, the Iraq invasion offered a preview of the Ukraine war. But not all is the same.

By Micah Reddy

Published On 1 May 20231 May 2023

Twenty years ago, on May 1, 2003, then-United States President George W Bush announced the end of major combat operations in Iraq, a giant banner behind him triumphantly screaming, “Mission Accomplished”. Six weeks earlier, the US had invaded the Middle Eastern country illegally.

As US armour was rolling into Iraqi cities, international news networks replayed over and over again a scene from April 9 that year that in hindsight seems loaded with dramatic irony.

The toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos square — an event that turned out to be stage-managed — was meant to symbolise the liberation of Iraqis and the end of the Ba’ath Party’s 35-year-long rule in Iraq. Yet it was not the grand finale of the US invasion but rather the prelude to a long and bloody revolt and armed uprising.

The US occupation that lasted eight years created aftershocks of regional instability and left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead — so many that no one has an exact count.

Like the US-led coalition in Iraq back then, the Russian government expected its illegal invasion of Ukraine in 2022 to end with a quick and decisive victory.

Fooled by a sense of its own invincibility, the Russian army entered Ukraine as if on parade, in long columns that became easy targets for US-made Javelin missiles. They expected to be marching through the streets of Kyiv within days, but a year later, the Russians remain bogged down in a protracted and bloody war.

So did Russian President Vladimir Putin end up repeating the mistakes — and for many, the crimes — of Bush in Iraq 20 years ago? How much do these two epoch-defining invasions have in common? What are the differences?

The short answer: The parallels run deep, from the false pretexts under which they were launched and the failings of the United Nations system that the wars showed up, to the use of private military contractors. But key differences exist in the deeper motivations that triggered the wars, said military historians and analysts. And the US military proved more effective at fighting a conventional war in Iraq than Russia has in Ukraine.

US President George W Bush announces the end of major combat operations in Iraq on May 1, 2003, aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. A large banner behind him reads 'Mission Accomplished'.
US President George W Bush announces the end of major combat operations in Iraq on May 1, 2003, on board the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln [Larry Downing/REUTERS/FILE]

‘We create our own reality’

Both the US-led coalition in Iraq and Russia in Ukraine were led to war by unbridled hubris — that is a “key element” that these two conflicts have in common, said Ibrahim al-Marashi, professor of Iraqi history at California State University. Both belligerents assumed it would be easy to launch “decapitation” attacks and replace the governments of the countries they were invading with friendly regimes that would simply serve their interests.

“In the US case they achieved the decapitation, but they really misread the Iraqi population,” says al-Marashi. “The US thought they would be greeted as liberators overthrowing Saddam Hussein, and that didn’t happen. What did Russia think? That the Ukrainians would also welcome them as liberators for overthrowing this so-called ‘fascist regime’.”

Once senior Bush administration officials had made up their minds about invading Iraq, their single-minded determination to topple the Iraqi regime rendered them oblivious to the unintended consequences of war, said analysts.

It also blinded them to inconvenient truths — something neatly encapsulated in what a White House official reportedly told journalist Ron Suskind. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality,” the official said.

Creating their “own reality” meant ignoring international law and the United Nations Charter that the US and Soviet Union were original signatories to. The inability to stop the two bellicose powers from attacking sovereign states starkly exposed the weaknesses of the post-World War II international order.

Both Russia and the US went to war off the back of bogus pretexts — alternate realities they created. In the case of the US and its closest ally in the invasion of Iraq, the United Kingdom, dubious intelligence painted Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as a harbourer of al-Qaeda, a hoarder of weapons of mass destruction, and an all-around international bogeyman.

Al-Marashi has firsthand experience of this. A paper he wrote was plagiarised by the UK government in a 2003 document used to make the case for invading Iraq — the so-called “dodgy dossier”. Al-Marashi said his work was used in “constructing the image of a dictator who had to be overthrown”.

Russia constructed the image of a hostile administration in Kyiv that needed to be overthrown and took that lie to its absurd outer limits, portraying Ukraine’s Jewish president Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a depraved addict presiding over a government of neo-Nazis.

“The first ‘reason’ for Putin taking Ukraine was that he was saving the Ukrainians from this drug-crazed criminal Nazi gang running the country,” says Margaret Macmillan, professor of history at the University of Oxford. “And when it turned out that a lot of Ukrainians were supporting the drug-crazed criminal gang the war was now on the Ukrainians themselves, and then there was talk of re-educating them.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a rally marking the one-year anniversary of the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, outside the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, March 18, 2015.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a rally marking the one-year anniversary of the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, outside the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, March 18, 2015. Putin described the move as aimed at protecting ethnic Russians and regaining the nation’s “historic roots” [Maxim Shipenkov/AP Photo/ Pool — FILE)

Different backdrops

As a state where power is concentrated in one man, Russia’s war in Ukraine is Putin’s war — the brutal incarnation of his own imperial designs, said experts.

According to Jade McGlynn, research fellow at the Department of War Studies at King’s College in London, and author of the book Russia’s War, the invasion of Ukraine “at its heart is a war over identity and conceptions of the [Russian] nation”.

Putin “conflated himself with the power structures of Russia,” said McGlynn, and “constructed a post-Soviet Russian identity that is very dependent on Ukraine and the idea of a greater Russia”.

For al-Marashi, who used to teach at Ukraine’s Ivan Franko University, Russia’s war has an undeniably imperial aspect to it that can be traced back to Ukraine’s incorporation into the Russian empire and deliberate policies of “Russification”, which attempted to deny Ukrainian culture and identity in the 19th century. This “imperial mindset” has a long history to it, said al-Marashi, from Catherine the Great’s description of Ukraine as ‘New Russia’ all the way to Putin. “Those are imperial linkages that I don’t think you can deny,” he said.

The US’s imperial mindset towards countries it has invaded and occupied is also hard to ignore, said experts. But there is a key difference highlighted by the contexts that set the stage for the wars in Iraq and Ukraine.

Russia, said Macmillan, “is the last standing European empire”. But it is a crumbling empire, and the speeches and revisionist historical treatises that laid Putin’s ideological groundwork for the invasion of Ukraine are often shot through with a sense of historical loss. Putin has lamented the breakup of the Soviet Union as a “genuine tragedy” in which “tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory”.

His war arose out of the perceived loss of Russia’s greatness, its humiliation and betrayal at the hands of the West, and the desire to reclaim Russia’s place in the world, according to experts. “Putin was a KGB agent when he witnessed the collapse of the Soviet empire from East Germany,” said al-Marashi.

But it was very different for Bush, who “inherited the windfall” of the end of the Cold War and was “riding the emergence” of the US as the superpower in a unipolar world.

The former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, US President George W Bush, and Vice President Richard Cheney at the farewell honour ceremony at the Pentagon for Rumsfeld in 2006.
Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, US President George W Bush, and Vice President Richard Cheney (l-r) — key architects of the invasion and occupation of Iraq — at a farewell honour ceremony at the Pentagon for Rumsfeld on December 15, 2006 [AP Photo — FILE]

Unfinished business

According to al-Marashi, the 2003 invasion of Iraq came at a “unique historical moment” for the US, when its hegemony was relatively unchallenged and it “sought to reshape the world” in its image.

When Bush ran for president, he was focused on domestic affairs, not foreign intervention, al-Marashi pointed out. But that changed with the 9/11 attacks, which emboldened the administration’s hawks, who felt that the US had unfinished business in Iraq.

In much the same way, the Putin regime had unfinished business in Ukraine. Putin, said experts, felt the need for a lasting solution to the Ukraine question that had plagued Russian nationalists since the Soviet breakup in 1991. That question — namely, what to do about Ukraine drifting towards the West’s embrace — had become ever more pressing since the 2014 war in the Donbas.

Russia’s “Vietnam” — the disastrous 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, and retreat nine years later — was a cautionary tale about underestimating the resistance of an invaded people. But the memory of that war had faded, and for Russia’s foreign policy hawks, there were more encouraging historical examples closer to hand: the brutal suppression of Chechen independence, and more recent military successes in support of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.

For Bush Junior, returning to the Middle East was an opportunity to finish off what his father started in the First Gulf War. Key officials and ideologues of the second Bush administration had served under the elder Bush including his vice president, Dick Cheney, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and US trade representative Robert Zoellick. They had long advocated for US military intervention abroad.

Wolfowitz, Armitage and Zoellick — three leading “neocons” — together with another key war architect, Bush’s Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, were signatories of a letter to President Bill Clinton in 1998 calling for regime change in Iraq.

“The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction,” the letter read. “In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power.

“In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.”

 In this April 4, 2004 file photo, plainclothes contractors working for Blackwater USA take part in a firefight as Iraqi demonstrators loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr attempt to advance on a facility being defended by US and Spanish soldiers in the Iraqi city of Najaf.
In this April 4, 2004 file photo, plainclothes contractors working for Blackwater USA take part in a firefight against Iraqi demonstrators in the Iraqi city of Najaf. Blackwater fighters were implicated in civilian killings during the war [Gervasio Sanchez/AP Photo — FILE)

From Blackwater to Wagner

Security concerns, although they turned out to be highly exaggerated, played into the decisions of the US and Russia to embark on their illegal invasions.

Moscow has pointed to its fears of NATO expansion and the existential threat posed by a hostile Ukraine, describing its neighbour as merely a proxy for the West. It is, in Putin’s view, the latest episode in a long history of Western attempts to cripple Russia.

To some extent, it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. European support for NATO is far greater than before the invasion, and Russia is more isolated, more economically vulnerable, and faced with biting sanctions.

Similarly, in the aftermath of 9/11, paranoia crept into the US establishment. The first major attack on the US mainland exposed the vulnerability of the world’s sole superpower and left the US public deeply shocked. Although Iraq had nothing to do with the attack, Americans “were prepared to believe the government if it told them Iraq was responsible,” Macmillan said.

Ultimately, both wars left the countries that started them — and the world at large — less secure than before, and as the costs and casualties began to mount, their citizens became predictably wary. The aftermath of 9/11 saw jingoism reach a fever pitch in the US but also galvanised an anti-war movement. By the end of Bush’s final term, public support for the war had plummeted.

It is much harder to gauge Russian public opinion — criticism of the war has been banned and early shows of public disapproval were ruthlessly stamped out — but the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Russians fleeing abroad to avoid the draft gives some indication of the public mood.

When the war in Donbas started in 2014, “there was a nationalist revival”, said McGlynn, “you saw people volunteering to go off to Donbas.

“In 2022 it was different, people were anxious”.

Yet again, Putin appears to have followed Bush’s example.

The US did not rely on conscription to fight its war in Iraq, but was nevertheless wary that a steady stream of body bags for regular troops would take a major toll on public opinion. Its widespread reliance on private military contractors in Iraq, however, helped solve that problem.

The war in Iraq presented a boon for security firms like Blackwater, whose mercenaries were implicated in civilian killings. Russia has followed suit in Ukraine, outsourcing its war to private companies like the notorious Wagner Group that has recruited widely from prison populations.

Newly recruited, poorly trained prisoners have been pressed into service with the promise of freedom, and have reportedly been used as cannon fodder in some of the most intense fighting in Ukraine. Wagner’s fighters have also been implicated in some of the worst atrocities in the ongoing war.

A portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, painted by former US President George W Bush, is displayed at "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy" exhibit at the Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas April 4, 2014.
A portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, painted by former US President George W Bush,  at the Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas, April 4, 2014. Unlike Putin, who has an arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court, Bush has never faced any serious consequences from the Iraq war [Brandon Wade/REUTERS — File]

Who won, and who lost

The US did not have a sound exit strategy in Iraq and so got trapped in a grinding conflict, said Macmillan, adding that Russia has made the same mistake.

Yet the results of the Russian and US invasions have been felt most acutely by the invaded populations — Iraqi society was “shattered” by the US’s “shock and awe” offensive, said Macmillan, while the costs of reconstruction for Ukraine will likely be higher than in Iraq.

Still, there are differences in the consequences that the US faced and that Russia will likely confront for years to come.

While the US was stuck in a quagmire of its own creation for nearly a decade, there were no significant economic hardships experienced by its population. The US economy did not suffer a war-induced shock, it faced no sanctions and diplomatic isolation, and its military was not humiliated in the way Russia’s has been.

Condemnations of US actions were ultimately inconsequential. The US was simply too secure in its role as global hegemon to be treated like a pariah state, and the prospect of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for Bush or any other senior US government official, as has been issued for Putin, was inconceivable.

For Russia, it is different. Russia is not the Soviet Union — it is a rump state with a struggling economy overly dependent on hydrocarbon exports. Its military, once seen as among the world’s most sophisticated, increasingly looks like a Potemkin army when put to the test.

The consequences for the world at large may also be more severe this time.

War in Ukraine threatens to feed into global insecurity. In Iraq, apart from oil supply instability, the spillover from war was largely contained to the Middle East. Ukraine, on the other hand, is more integrated into the global economy and is a breadbasket that sustains global food markets, while sanctions on Russia have destabilised global energy supplies.

The conflict also comes at a time when the guardrails of an interconnected global order that disincentivised wars between major economies are falling apart. “Globalisation is unwinding,” said Macmillan.

Global attitudes to flashpoint issues like Taiwan are hardening, as the US and China inch towards open conflict — their strategic decisions likely informed in part by every move on the Ukraine chessboard.

The world, in short, is a more dangerous place than it was two decades ago. A major nuclear power is engaged in a war that is sucking in NATO powers. And even superpowers cannot create an alternative reality.


US Prepares the South Korean Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

“Provocative & Dangerous”: Biden to Send Nuclear-Armed Subs to South Korea as Activists Demand Peace



Christine Ahnfounder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ and campaign coordinator for Korea Peace Now!

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden pledged to deploy nuclear-armed submarines to South Korea for the first time in 40 years. Alongside South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol, Biden also pledged to involve officials from Seoul in nuclear planning operations targeting North Korea. The visit between the two leaders comes as the U.S. and South Korea mark 70 years of military alliance under 1953’s Mutual Defense Treaty, signed at the close of active conflict in the Korean War. No peace treaty was ever signed by the North and South Korean governments, meaning the two countries are still technically at war. We discuss continued tensions on the Korean Peninsula with Christine Ahn, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War, and the coordinator of the campaign Korea Peace Now! Ahn says the Korean War marked the dawn of the military-industrial complex and that ever-more militarization of the peninsula is not the answer. “There is momentum now to transform this state of war into a permanent peace,” she says.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we end today’s show looking at the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. On Thursday, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress and warned nuclear threat posed by North Korea. On Wednesday, Joe Biden pledged to deploy nuclear-armed submarines to South Korea for the first time in 40 years and to establish a new bilateral Nuclear Consultative Group, where the United States would involve officials from South Korea in nuclear planning operations targeting North Korea. On Wednesday, President Biden issued a stark warning to North Korea.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: A nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies or partisans — or, partners — is unacceptable and will result in the end of whatever regime were to take such an action.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden was speaking in the Rose Garden at a news conference with the South Korean president.

To talk more about his visit to Washington and tension on the Korean Peninsula, we’re joined now by Christine Ahn, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War. Christine is also the coordinator of the campaign Korea Peace Now!, speaking to us from Hawaii.

And we thank you for being up in the middle of the night for this conversation, Christine. Talk about the significance of the meeting at the White House between the U.S. and South Korean presidents and what President Biden has promised.

CHRISTINE AHN: Hi, Amy. Thanks for having me on.

The announcement that the U.S. would send nuclear-armed submarines to South Korea is a very provocative and dangerous move. It’s the first time that U.S. nuclear weapons have been on or around the Korean Peninsula in 40 years. In fact, most Americans have no idea that the nuclear crisis actually began with the U.S. bringing nuclear weapons in South Korea from 1956, three years after the signing of the ceasefire, and had them there up until George Bush Sr. So, that is not only a provocative act directed at North Korea, but also at China.

And this is actually throwing fuel into already a — into a fire that has been increasingly dangerous. There have been massive military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea this spring, all last year. Last year, I think North Korea conducted 90 missile tests. And the situation is just getting even more dangerous. There is a three-star general, Dan Leaf, who says of all the conflicts currently taking place right now, whether it’s between U.S. and China over Taiwan or the Russia-Ukraine war, that the Korean Peninsula is perhaps the one that may be the closest to a nuclear war. So, it is a very dangerous moment.

And the fact that the U.S. will be sending U.S. nuclear submarines to the Korean Peninsula, and for Biden to make such a statement, that is akin to Trump’s “fire and fury” era, where he threatened to totally destroy North Korea, this is a wake-up call, I think, for the American people and, obviously, for South Koreans, who feel that Yoon is basically drawing the Korean Peninsula on the frontline of the U.S. war against China.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Christine Ahn, this actually is being billed as a compromise. As part of the agreement, President Yoon renewed a pledge not to pursue the development of a South Korean nuclear arsenal. Your response?

CHRISTINE AHN: Well, it is, in the sense that there is growing concern in South Korea for its own domestic nuclear weapons program in light of the tactical nuclear weapons coming from North Korea or the program in North Korea.

But I think the problem is, is it’s not addressing the underlying issue, which is that the Korean Peninsula is continuingly at a state of war. This is actually the 70th anniversary of the ceasefire. This July 27th marks 70 years that the U.S. commander, the North Korean commander and the Chinese representative from the Voluntary People’s Army signed the armistice agreement, where they committed to halting the war, but they never actually followed up with their commitment, which was to return within 90 days to negotiate a peace settlement.

So, what we’re facing is this continual militarization. South Korea now is the sixth-largest military spender in the world. The U.S., we know, is the world’s largest, our budget approaching a trillion dollars, more than next nine countries combined. And it is an unsustainable crisis. And I think the way that the narrative of deterrence is as if there isn’t violence, as if they are preparing to prevent violence in the future, when in fact we know violence is taking place right now, whether it’s the division of families, whether it’s the suffering of the North Korean people, whether it’s the ongoing investment in militarization that should be otherwise invested in things that make us secure. I mean, I think about — I’m here in Hawaii, and we’re facing the Red Hill crisis, where, you know, this militarization means we are polluting Oahu’s aquifer. And this is the jet fuel that will basically fuel the ships or the bombers that will go and wage wars in Asia.

So we have to break down this mythology that this is actually what is making us secure, when in fact what we need to do is negotiate a peace agreement. And that is gaining traction among people, from the military to nuclear scientists to, you know, people like President Carter. We have to normalize relations with North Korea to achieve the things that we want.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about this mobilization to end the Korean War scheduled for the end of July? And also talk about China’s response to all of this.

CHRISTINE AHN: Well, first, just since we’re short on time, I wanted to make sure that we are mobilizing hundreds to come to Washington, D.C. I hope, Amy, you will be there, or somebody from Democracy Now! But July 27th marks the 70th anniversary of the armistice. And we are saying it’s time to end this war, this war that inaugurated the military-industrial complex for the United States. It set forth the U.S. to become the world’s police. And it has been the war that has maintained this constant threat on the Korean Peninsula. So, we are gathering multiple organizations, faith-based, Vets for Peace, and Korean American Coalition. So, we are gathering — the website is And we’ll be having a congressional briefing with our peace champions.

We want to also raise awareness that there is the first-ever Peace on the Korean Peninsula Act. It was reintroduced by Brad Sherman in the last Congress. We had nearly 50 co-sponsors of that bill. And so, we need —

AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds, Christine.

CHRISTINE AHN: Yeah. What I’m saying is, Amy, there is momentum now to transform the state of war into a permanent peace. And that’s where we need Americans to recognize, this is America’s oldest war. It’s on our responsibility to bring closure to this war.

AMY GOODMAN: Christine Ahn, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War, also the coordinator of the campaign Korea Peace Now!

That does it for our show. On Saturday, Democracy Now! co-host Juan González will be speaking at 10 a.m. at American University in Washington on an all-day conference titled “In Search of a New U.S. Policy for a New Latin America: Burying 200 Years of the Monroe Doctrine.” Check for details. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.