Strategic Observer


Daily Observations for 20 August 2019

Daily Observations for 20 August 2019
August 20
15:01 2019

New Report Claims China Would Defeat U.S. in South China Sea

A new report from an Australian academic think tank claims that China would easily defeat U.S. forces during a conventional conflict in the South China Sea and/or East China Sea. The report, from the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Center, argues that the U.S. focus on low-intensity conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past 20 years has robbed the Defense Department of funds and training necessary to maintain its military edge in waters closer to China. At the same time, the report argues that Chinese investments in blue-water naval assets and asymmetric capabilities has substantially eroded the U.S. military’s edge. It says: “While the Pentagon is trying to focus on these challenges, an outdated superpower mindset in the foreign policy establishment is likely to limit Washington’s ability to scale back other global commitments or make the strategic trade-offs required to succeed in the Indo-Pacific.” [source]

Analyst comment: The report seems to focus primarily on U.S. military capabilities without really considering that America would not confront China alone, but likely would be assisted by regional allies like Australia and Japan. But reports like this one, which are digested and analyzed by the Chinese military, could serve to embolden Beijing to act more aggressively in the near term. 

Islamic State Gaining Larger Foothold in Afghanistan

As the U.S. and the Taliban inch towards a peace deal that would end the 18-year-old conflict, the Islamic State is gaining a larger foothold in the country. Some experts fear that a U.S. pullout will only lead to a power vacuum that will be filled by the Taliban. But as the number of IS-K (the Islamic State in Khorasan) fighters rises to between 2,500-4,000, some believe the group will see defections by former Taliban fighters if they are unhappy with a final peace deal. This comes as IS-K takes responsibility for bombing a wedding that left nearly 70 people dead. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani pledged on Monday to “eliminate” all IS-K enclaves throughout his country. [source] [source]

Russia Vows to Deploy Intermediate-Range Missiles in Europe if U.S. Does

The Russian Embassy in the United States announced on Twitter that Moscow would deploy new intermediate-range ballistic missiles on the periphery of Eastern Europe if the United States deployed them first. “#Putin: we assume a unilateral commitment on medium- and shorter-range missiles. If such attack systems are deployed by the US, we will also have them, but we will not deploy them anywhere unless #US systems like this appear,” said the embassy in a tweet. The announcement comes after the U.S. tested a new intermediate-range missile off the coast of California Monday, just two weeks after the official end of the U.S.-Soviet-era INF Treaty. 

SOCOM Chief Says U.S. Navy ‘Ready’ to Blockade Venezuela if Ordered

Adm. Craig Faller, head of U.S. Southern Command, said the U.S. Navy was ready to implement any policies ordered by the White House to include a blockade of Venezuela if called upon. “I won’t speak to details of what we’re planning and what we’re doing, but we remain ready to implement policy decisions and we remain on the balls of our feet,” Faller told reporters. “The United States Navy is the most powerful navy in the world. If a policy decision is made to deploy the navy, I’m convinced that we’ll be able to do what needs to be done.” Faller spoke in Rio de Janeiro as the U.S. launched its annual UNITAS maritime exercise that involves nine countries from Latin America, as well as the UK, Japan, and Portugal. [source]

Analyst comment: I’ve seen reports this week claiming that the Trump administration really wouldn’t do this, but I’ve also seen reports claiming that the president talks about it a lot. Then we get comments like this from a top combatant commander that make us think this contingency is getting some serious consideration.

About Author



Jonathan Davis holds a BA in political science and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis. He has 30 years' worth of experience reporting on domestic politics and foreign policy.

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