Strategic Observer


Strategic Observations for 17 December 2019

Strategic Observations for 17 December 2019
December 17
16:36 2019

Good morning, and welcome to my Daily Observations.

On my radar: Russian spy ship operating unsafely off South Carolina coastline

It’s certainly not uncommon for Russia to send spy ships off the coast of the U.S. to intercept electronic signals intelligence, but it seems odd that one such vessel would attempt to operate in an unsafe manner. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that the Victor Leonov is operating off the coast of South Carolina without running lights at night. Moreover, the vessel won’t respond to commercial ships seeking to avoid a collision. Again, odd — it’s not as though we don’t know she’s there. She’s been shadowed by the Arleigh Burke-class destroy USS Mahon. And it’s clear the Victor Leonov is monitoring the large joint Navy-Air Force base at Charleston in an attempt to gather intel on our nuclear subs operating there. Word is the vessel is conducting intel operations “related to future use of the Kanyon, known as the Status-6 in Russia, that will be capable of destroying entire ports and harbors.” [source] Still, that doesn’t account for the erratic and potentially dangerous behavior.

What I’m also tracking:

— NATO faces most ‘complex security’ environment in its history: chief [source] Analyst comment: And yet, some NATO members don’t seem to understand that.

— US defense secretary asks Iraqi PM to help prevent Iranian-linked attacks on US troops [source]

— China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier enters service ‘at doorstep of South China Sea’ [source]

— The Threat of EMP Attack is Very Real [source]

One final thing:

Russia’s Foreign Policy Is Strategic and Rooted in Soviet History: “Russian foreign policy moves over the past 10 years or so are thus not as innovative or expansive as many believe. They reflect a solidification of Russian interests, which by extension means that Moscow’s current foreign policy is a continuation of its policy from the 1990s. In all recent Russian military campaigns, Moscow has defended military assets already on the ground.” [source] Analyst comment: Russia is often portrayed as a revisionist power, but this expert argues that Russian policies are not expansionist in the USSR sense because Moscow has neither the military or economic might for it, but rather aimed more at maintaining a former status quo. Putin wants to be a global player but isn’t suicidal, in other words. Still, he will take what he believes he can without any substantial pushback from NATO or the U.S.

Notable Quotable: “This unsafe operation includes not energizing running lights while in reduced visibility conditions, not responding to hails by commercial vessels attempting to coordinate safe passage and other erratic movements.” — US Coast Guard statement on Russian spy ship Victor Leonov.

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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