Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro has warned publicly that the US will not be able to continue providing weapon and material support for Ukraine unless weapons manufacturers increase production in the next six months. SecNav’s comments came in response to a reporter’s question about remarks made by Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command. Caudle had said the US could be forced to decide later this year whether to arm itself or Ukraine. Doing both might not be possible.
This was bound to happen sooner or later. In all likelihood the warnings have been on the radar of the White House and Pentagon for some time. Now the time is approaching when action must be taken. Del Toro stated the US is not to that point yet, but the supply chain will be stressed if the war in Ukraine lasts another six months. To be fair, the estimate should be more along the lines of 4 months in expectation of a possible major offensive by Russian forces in the spring.
The Pentagon has been pressuring defense contractors to increase production for some time now but the shortages continue and by recent accounts seem to be worsening. Let’s be fair. Keeping Ukraine supplied in wartime is a task that is causing problems and concerns on both sides of the Atlantic. A number of European nations have practically emptied their ammunition and weapons lockers and sent everything they could spare east. And then some. The flow of weapons and material to Ukraine has slowed, due in part at least to the reality that many European nations can’t afford to part with additional weapons, ammunition and other wartime materials.
Now US commanders and Pentagon officials are hinting that a similar situation could loom ahead for the US military. Not surprising in the least. But in the face of promises to assist Taiwan’s military buildup and the prospect of a clash with Chinese forces being accepted as possible, this is not the time for the US to contend with weapon delivery delays and such. At the end of the day, US national security trumps that of Ukraine.
The Pentagon is sending a team of weapons experts to Ukraine to inspect US weapons being used by Ukraine in its war against Russia. This move comes as midterm elections approach and Republicans voice concerns about how well Ukraine is using US military support. More specifically, there is growing worry that some weapons and other material is being illicitly diverted and ending up in the hands of arms dealers with questionable reputations, or nation-states the Pentagon would rather not see in possessiion of US weapons. To be fair, oversight is a good idea at this point. With billions of dollars in material and monetary aid having been shuttled to Ukraine since February, 2022 and Republicans on the verge of recapturing at least the House of Representatives next week, questions on accountability and the lack of oversight will only continue to grow if not addressed. The Pentagon, and the White House by extension hope the weapons experts arrival in Ukraine puts the matter to bed before January.
A joint decision by the United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine was made to stop merchant ships moving through the Ukrainian crop-export route after Russia said on Monday the vessels were not safe using it. Shipments have been leaving Ukrainian ports since Russia suspended its participation in the Black Sea export agreement signed in July. A mass Ukrainian drone strike on Sevastopol late last week is the root cause behind Russia’s move. The UN plans to issue an update on the crop-export route tomorrow, but for now all ship traffic moving through this area appears set to come to a halt on Wednesday.
Author’s Note: Brief update on Ukraine for this 1st day of November. Later in the week I might double back and discuss the target shift from tactical to strategic that is going on as the Russia-Ukraine war nears the winter months.
We are at a pivotal moment in history as the consequences of a global pandemic have created turbulent waters in a wide variety of areas from international trade to socio-economic concerns. China’s increasingly assertive nature has been regarded as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic in the past eighteen months. However, the fact of the matter is that China’s emergence was preordained by two decades of inconsistent and short-sighted US policies and actions. As I mentioned over the past weekend, China has reached a point now where it confidently views itself to be an ascendant superpower, while regarding the United States as a declining power. This new ethos, whether an accurate assessment of the global picture or not, raises the prospect of the People’s Republic of China resorting to military force in to achieve its expansionist-minded ambitions.
The writing has been on the wall for quite some time. For the United States military, the prospect of having to square off against China is hardly new, whether Washington is keen to admit it or not. Unfortunately, the current condition of the US military leaves much to be desired. On the surface, its branches make up the most powerful military force that the world has ever known. With a potential war with China on the horizon, the Pentagon’s priorities are out of order. Rather than concentrating on repairing readiness issues and preparing for the next war, the current Joint Chiefs of Staff, and their civilian leaders in the Defense Department are fixated with implementing ‘woke’ and socially popular policies upon the troops. Even more damning is the fact that every effort to construct and implement a sound doctrine for conducting a future war in the Western Pacific region against the People’s Republic of China has been stillborn or developed into a half-baked abortion of failed past tactics and amateurish concepts on the future of warfare that its growth was stunted.
The failed efforts of the Pentagon, and the dangers of the US entering into a conflict against a near-peer opponent without a plan to win will be discussed at length through 2-3 entries next week. I have not forgotten about North Korea and will return to it by Christmas. But for now, exploring the troubles facing US military efforts to develop both a doctrine and the forces necessary to defeat Chinese forces in a future war seems a more pertinent research topic for November.
Less than one month after exiting the INF Treaty (Intermediate Nuclear Forces) the United states has conducted its first post-treaty test of a ground-based cruise missile. The test was conducted on San Nicolas Island and took place on the afternoon of 18 August. San Nicolas is a small island located roughly 60 miles off the coast of California and is part of the Pacific Missile Range. The weapon was a variant of the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) which will likely prove to be the foundation of the new system. It was launched from a Mk 41 VLS (Vertical Launch System) cell set up on a trailer. Following over 500 kilometers of flight the missile impacted its target accurately.
The Trump administration and Pentagon have wasted little time in moving forward on testing, and design of missile types once prohibited by INF. This was to be expected given that Russia has had a significant head start in designing, testing, and ultimately producing missile systems in direct violation of the treaty. Now, free of the shackles that INF imposed, the United States is rapidly playing catch up.
Predictably, Russia and China have condemned the US for this test. Both nations released separate statements criticizing Washington, and warning that this could bring about a new arms race. Moscow and Beijing conveniently forget to mention that they’ve both been developing similar missiles for some time. It’s the same old story, similar to what took place in the early 80s when the Reagan administration addressed the gap between US and Soviet intermediate-range missiles in Europe at the time. The Soviets had deployed the SS-20 missile in Eastern Europe in the 1970s and it was considerably more capable then the Pershing I missile fielded by the US and NATO at the time. Reagan closed the gap by deploying the Pershing II and Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) to Europe amid anti-nuclear protests across Western Europe, and much anxiety in Moscow. It was the fielding of these two systems that directly led to the INF Treaty being signed in 1987.
This time around, things are different. Yet it heartening to see the United States is moving in the right direction at the moment.
New threats by Iran against US troops in Iraq have prompted a very public surge of US forces to the Persian Gulf region. On Sunday evening, the White House and Pentagon announced that the USS. Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, and a USAF bomber force would be moving into the Persian Gulf area immediately. The decision to expedite the movement of these forces came after new intelligence made the possibility of hostile action against US forces in the near future seem imminent. There’s also been concern about Iranian maritime activity in the Strait of Hormuz, and Persian Gulf over the weekend and it’s probable this concern also helped to prompt the US military movements. National Security Adviser John Bolton summarized the threats as “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.”
Additional reports from the region on Monday appear to indicate the current standoff between the United States and Iran could very well be escalating soon. Reports from Iranian state media have suggested that Tehran intends to announce a reduction in its compliance with the 2015 Nuclear Agreement. An announcement could come as early as Wednesday which, ironically enough, marks one-year anniversary of the American withdrawal from the nuclear deal. This particular detail makes Iran’s intentions questionable. Will Iran reduce its commitment to the nuclear deal, or is this move simply a response to the latest US moves?
Scrutiny will be fixed upon the Strait of Hormuz in the coming days as the already-jittery global markets watch for any signs that Iran could be moving to restrict movement through the strategically-important strait, or possibly close it entirely.