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Cold War redux
November 14, 2018

On Wednesday, the National Defense Strategy Commission released a report warning that the U.S. military has lost its edge to a potentially dangerous degree after years of insufficient resources, innovation, and leadership. The 12-person commission, created by Congress and filled with former top Republican and Democratic officials, evaluated President Trump's 2018 National Defense Strategy. The commissioners did not disagree with the strategy's aim of revamping the military to better compete against China and Russia, but they said the effort was too slow and insufficiently funded, The Washington Post reports.

"The U.S. military could suffer unacceptably high casualties and loss of major capital assets in its next conflict. It might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia," the report found. "The United States is particularly at risk of being overwhelmed should its military be forced to fight on two or more fronts simultaneously."

The U.S. military budget jumped to $716 billion this year, more than four times China's military budget and more than 10 times Russia's, the Post notes. But the commission still said "available resources are clearly insufficient to fulfill the strategy's ambitious goals," suggesting Congress lift budget caps on the military while also examining other ways to tame the soaring federal deficit.

"There is a strong fear of complacency, that people have become so used to the United States achieving what it wants in the world, to include militarily, that it isn't heeding the warning signs," said commissioner Kathleen H. Hicks, a former top Pentagon official during the Obama administration. "It's the flashing red that we are trying to relay." You can read more about the commission's recommendations at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

October 21, 2018

Moscow on Sunday pushed back against President Trump's Saturday night announcement that he intends to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, an arms control agreement with Russia that dates to the Reagan era.

"This would be a very dangerous step," said Russia Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, as quoted in Russian state media. He argued the announcement is like "blackmail" ahead of National Security Adviser John Bolton's planned trip to Russia this coming week.

"Unlike our American colleagues, we understand all the seriousness of the issue and its significance for security and strategic stability," Ryabkov continued. "If the Americans continue to act as crudely  ... and unilaterally withdraw from all sorts of agreements and mechanisms, from the Iran deal to the International Postal treaty, then we'll be reduced to taking action in response, including of a military nature. But we don't want to go that far."

Trump has argued with NATO support that Russian missile tests conducted in the last decade violate the terms of the treaty. "And we're not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we're not allowed to," he said. Bonnie Kristian

October 21, 2018

President Trump said Saturday evening he intends to withdraw the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Reagan-era arms control agreement with Russia (originally the Soviet Union) that eliminated thousands of short- and intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

"Russia has violated the agreement. They've been violating it for many years," Trump said. "And I don't know why President Obama didn't negotiate or pull out. And we're not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we're not allowed to."

NATO has confirmed Russian missile tests in the past decade likely violate the deal. "Russia has not provided any credible answers on this new missile," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said this month. "All allies agree that the most plausible assessment would be that Russia is in violation of the treaty. It is therefore urgent that Russia addresses these concerns in a substantial and transparent manner."

In early October, Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, the United States' permanent representative to NATO, said "countermeasures would be to take out the missiles that are in development by Russia in violation of the treaty" if Moscow does not change course.

The INF Treaty was originally signed in 1987 between then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. It took effect in 1988. Bonnie Kristian

May 22, 2018

The government of Sweden has updated a Cold War-era pamphlet guiding residents on what to do "if crisis or war comes" and "their everyday life [is] turned upside down." The revised pamphlet is being distributed to every household in Sweden for the first time in more than three decades.

The content is both practical (buy lots of tortillas) and strategic: "If Sweden is attacked by another country, we will never give up," it says. "All information to the effect that resistance is to cease is false."

"We all have a responsibility for our country's safety and preparedness, so it's important for everyone to also have knowledge on how we can contribute if something serious occurs," said Dan Eliasson, director of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), which is sending the pamphlets. "Sweden is safer than many other countries but threats exist."

Sweden is not a member of NATO and has not been at war for two centuries. However, an MSB statement to CNN indicated the pamphlet distribution is prompted by the "security situation in our neighborhood," referring to Russian activity in the Baltic region. Bonnie Kristian

May 5, 2018

The Navy will re-establish its Second Fleet in the northern Atlantic Ocean to counter Russian power, the Pentagon announced Friday.

"Our National Defense Strategy makes clear that we're back in an era of great power competition as the security environment continues to grow more challenging and complex," said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson. "That's why, today, we're standing up Second Fleet to address these changes, particularly in the north Atlantic." The U.S. will also lead a new NATO Joint Force Command for the Atlantic, which will be hosted in Norfolk, Virginia.

The fleet was disbanded in 2011 for strategic and fiscal reasons. Russia has increased its naval activity in the Atlantic and nearby waters as well. Bonnie Kristian

December 2, 2017

Reliving history — and not in a fun way — Hawaii on Friday ran a test of a nuclear attack warning siren, sounding the Cold War-era alarm for the first time since the 1980s. The siren will now sound for one minute on the first business day of every month as part of a campaign to educate residents about what to do in the event of a real nuclear strike.

"We believe that it is imperative that we be prepared for every disaster," said Gov. David Ige (D), "and in today's world, that includes a nuclear attack." Listen to the test below. Bonnie Kristian

January 23, 2017

China's communist government is pointing to President Donald Trump's inauguration as an example of how democracy is a failed political system, Bloomberg Politics reports:

Democracy has reached its limits, and deterioration is the inevitable future of capitalism, according to the People's Daily, the flagship paper of China's Communist Party. It devoted an entire page on Sunday to critiquing Western democracies, quoting former Chairman Mao Zedong's 1949 poem asking people to "range far your eyes over long vistas" and saying the ultimate defeat of capitalism would enable Communism to emerge victorious.

The unusual series of commentaries in the People's Daily mirrors Soviet efforts to promote an alternative political and economic system during the Cold War. The rise of anti-establishment, protectionist politicians like Trump, amid populist winds on several continents, has sent political parties scurrying to shore up their support, helping China to portray itself as relatively steady. [Bloomberg Politics]

One article, for example, declared "Western-style democracy used to be a recognized power in history to drive social development. But now it has reached its limits. Democracy is already kidnapped by the capitals and has become the weapon for capitalists to chase profits."

"China's rising wealth has brought greater global presence, but that's not enough," explained political science professor Zhang Ming to Bloomberg Politics. "The Communist leaders want that someday China will matter globally for the nature of its political system and create its own universal values." Jeva Lange

December 19, 2014

Hours before the FBI announced that North Korea was to blame for threats made by hackers against Sony Pictures, a Kremlin spokesman confirmed that Kim Jong Un had been invited to Moscow.

"Yes, such an invitation was sent," Dmitry Peskov elaborated to Russian news agency TASS on Friday morning.

Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Kim for a 2015 event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany, Reuters notes.

The trip would be Kim's first foreign visit since he took power in 2011. Sarah Eberspacher

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