All posts by Matt

Russia?s hypersonic missile ratchets up arms race | DW.COM

Ripley believes the West is right to be worried about Russia’s military advances, warning that a new arms race was now unavoidable.

“We’re in a period of possible military parity again. Recently we’ve had Ukraine, Crimea and Syria, where Russia has deployed weapons that are certainly on a par with their American and British equivalents, including cruise missiles from submarines,” he said, adding that Zircon will push Russia ahead.

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Noting that US President Donald Trump recently ordered a 9.4 percent increase in military spending worth some $54 billion, Ripley is watching to see if European leaders follow suit.

Russia?s hypersonic missile ratchets up arms race | DW.COM

Another Russian Failure: Moscow and the Korean Question – Jamestown

So what does Moscow propose as an appropriate solution to the problems posed by the DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs? Here, there is effectively no answer. Even though Russia fully understands the nature of the North Korean regime, Moscow nevertheless believes that the threat posed by Pyongyang is merely a pretext for Washington’s activities in the region. In other words, Russia has not only bought into China’s leadership on North Korea, but it also accuses the United States of disingenuously using the threat in East Asia to pursue its global interests. As such, Russia essentially cannot and will not propose anything of interest to its regional interlocutors on Korea.

Admittedly, the problem is hideously complex; but if Russian analysts maintain that Korea is the key that opens the gate to Asia, then is it not necessary at least to try and formulate some sort of answer to the problem? The absence of anything other than complaints against Washington reveals once again that, for all the talk of Moscow’s vigorous policies in Asia, Vladimir Putin’s government cannot bring itself to address Asian problems in an Asian context or to address or acknowledge its potential partners’ vital interests and concerns. And as long as that is the case, not only will Russia be unable to play a role commensurate with its aspirations in Korea, but the largest country in the world will continue to be marginalized in Asia.

Another Russian Failure: Moscow and the Korean Question – Jamestown

Trump Must Change Policy in Asia to Avoid a War with China | The National Interest

Realist international relations scholars like John Mearsheimer and Robert Kagan affirm the United States and China are drifting closer to a destructive confrontation. This is because the ability and willingness of China to reshape the international order are increasing, just as the United States’ capacity to preserve the status quo is declining.

Of course, in our current era of globalization, economic interdependence will hinder any conflict between China and the United States from going “hot.” It is the interest of both countries to avoid war, which would entail catastrophic costs to both sides and could easily be the largest war in world history. Top decisionmakers on both sides know this. The Chinese foreign minister, for instance, recently stated that “there cannot be conflict between China and the United States because both will lose, and both sides cannot afford that.”

Trump Must Change Policy in Asia to Avoid a War with China | The National Interest

What comes before jihad

The term “lone wolf” is a misleading one. No one becomes a jihadist all by himself, just by watching beheading videos. As my wife Ayaan Hirsi Ali argues in a powerful new report, jihad is always preceded by dawa — the process of non-violent but toxic radicalization that transforms the petty criminal into a zealot.

The network of dawa takes many different forms. In the UK a key role was played by the organization Al Muhajiroun (The Emigrants), to which Anjem Choudary belonged before his arrest. But there are many less visible organizations busily spreading the mind-poison.

To see how this poison works, read the recent Policy Exchange study of Britain’s Muslim communities, “Unsettled Belonging.” At first sight, the news is good. Altogether, 90 percent of those surveyed condemned terrorism. Only 7 percent said they did not feel a strong sense of belonging to the UK.

What comes before jihad

The (real) reason China doesn’t like South Korea’s missile defenses | Asia Times

Chinese opposition to South Korea’s deployment of the THAAD missile defense system is less about missiles and more about efforts to weaken the US network of formal and informal alliances in Asia that has underpinned the regional order for the last seventy years.

The THAAD controversy displays China’s familiar modus operandi: First, pick a fight over an allegedly offensive act. Next, follow up with vitriol and veiled threats, and then inflict economic pressure — all while declaring the exercise the spontaneous reaction of the righteously offended Chinese people.

This sequence played out to form in South Korea in recent months, highlighted by verbal assaults on Seoul and fierce pressure on Lotte Group’s business operations inside China. (Lotte sold the land being used for THAAD batteries in South Korea.)

The (real) reason China doesn’t like South Korea’s missile defenses | Asia Times

Wealthy Venezuelans Are Seeking Haven in Madrid – Bloomberg

With its shared language, stable politics and a property market that’s still recovering from a six-year crash, Spain holds many attractions for wealthy Venezuelans seeking a shield their assets from economic disorder in their home country. The number of properties sold to Venezuelan nationals jumped 17 percent in 2016 according to Spain’s property register.

“The worse things get in Venezuela, the more they buy in Madrid,” said Alvaro Gonzalez de la Hoz, director general at the real estate unit of Petrus Grupo Inmobiliario, which specializes in selling and renting high-end properties in the upscale Madrid neighborhood of Salamanca. “They feel safe here, they like the quality of life, they speak the language — and they’re taking money out of Venezuela.”

Wealthy Venezuelans Are Seeking Haven in Madrid – Bloomberg

Political, Regional Clouds Gather over Israel Even As Economy Booms

The difference now is how rapidly the picture has changed and how close it may be getting to shifting out of control, even if neither Israel nor Hamas nor Hezbollah seeks war.

A month ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition appeared solid. Despite being a suspect in two criminal investigations, “Bibi” was set to eclipse David Ben-Gurion’s record to become Israel’s longest-serving leader.

But in the past few weeks Netanyahu has picked a fight with his finance minister – they disagree over the creation of a new public broadcaster – exposing wider discontent in the coalition and prompting active talk that he might seek an election two years ahead of schedule.

At the same time, tension with Hamas has surged, especially after the assassination of one of its high-profile militants last week, a death blamed on Israel. The air strikes targeting Hezbollah forces fighting in support of the Syrian government prompted Damascus to fire Russian-supplied surface-to-air missiles at Israeli jets, ratcheting up regional anxiety.

War in Lebanon?

If Gaza is unpredictable, Hezbollah may be more so.

Naftali Bennett, a right-wing member of Netanyahu’s coalition and a potential challenger, sees another war with Hezbollah as a rising risk, one he hopes can be kept in check by warning Lebanon as a nation to beware.

Political, Regional Clouds Gather over Israel Even As Economy Booms

Israeli bill redefining maritime border with Lebanon labelled a ‘declaration of war’ | The Independent

Lebanese politicians have reacted with anger over a proposed Israeli parliament bill which would redraw the current highly sensitive maritime border with Lebanon.

Israel is seeking to annex a zone of 860 square kilometres (330 square miles) of disputed waters between the two neighbours which is believed to be rich in natural gas reserves, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Monday.

The move comes after Lebanon’s government – formed at the end of 2016 after two years of political deadlock – recently advertised commercial tenders for oil and gas exploration in the same stretch of the Mediterranean.

Israeli bill redefining maritime border with Lebanon labelled a ‘declaration of war’ | The Independent

Mashaal: We are in open war with Israel – Jerusalem Post

Chief Khaled Mashaal said on Monday that Hamas is an “open war” with Israel, in the senior Palestinian leader’s first response to the mysterious assassination of Mazen Fuqaha, a top Hamas militant.

“We were and we still are in an open war with criminal enemy,” Mashaal declared, speaking to a memorial service for Fukaha in Gaza via video broadcast.

Mashaal: We are in open war with Israel – Jerusalem Post

Mashal on assassination: ‘We are at open war’ against Israel | Ynetnews News

Following the assassination of Hamas commander Mazan Fukha, leader Khaled Mashal threatened on Monday that his organization was in “an open war against the criminal enemy.”

“The enemy has uprooted a hero from our heroes in Gaza,” Mashal said during a memorial ceremony for Fukha in a speech broadcast to Al-Qubaisa Square in Gaza City from Qatar, where he resides.

Mashal on assassination: ‘We are at open war’ against Israel | Ynetnews News

Gaza: Israel’s war drums are getting louder | | Al Jazeera

The timing and the tactic of Faqha’s killing raise questions about the possibility of another conflagration between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian factions in Gaza agree unanimously that Israel was behind the assassination. Israel had accused Faqha of planning attacks against it from the occupied West Bank while he lived in the coastal enclave. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied involvement.

Gaza: Israel’s war drums are getting louder | | Al Jazeera

Hamas said to acquire highly explosive short-range rockets | The Times of Israel

Hamas has acquired dozens of large, highly explosive rockets, more powerful than those previously in its arsenal, that could be used to devastating effect on the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip, Army Radio reported Tuesday.

Each rocket is said to contain hundreds of kilograms of explosive material, far beyond the capacities of the other missiles and mortar shells believed to be in the terrorist group’s hands.

Hamas said to acquire highly explosive short-range rockets | The Times of Israel