Less neutral, more beefy – Sweden embarks on its largest military build-up for decades | Europe


“AN ARMED ATTACK against Sweden cannot be ruled out,” warned Peter Hultqvist, Sweden’s defence minister, shortly after he introduced a new defence bill on October 14th. It promises the country’s largest military expansion for 70 years. The reason is plain. Russia’s assertive behaviour across Europe, from invasion to assassination, has alarmed Swedes.

In recent years, Sweden has accused Russia of violating its air space and waters several times. Accordingly, it has deepened military ties with NATO (though not a member of the alliance) and with America and its Nordic neighbours. If the new bill is passed, as is likely, the defence budget is set to rise by SKr27.5bn ($3.1bn) between 2021 and 2025, a 40% boost that will bring expenditure to around 1.5% of GDP—the highest level for 17 years.

The new cash will pay for a 50% increase in the armed forces to 90,000 people, including regular soldiers, conscripts and local reservists in the Home Guard (no longer the Dad’s Army of yesteryear). The army will grow from two mechanised brigades to three, each of around 5,000 soldiers, with a smaller additional brigade for the Stockholm area.

The draft, abolished a decade ago but brought back for both sexes in 2017, will double in size to 8,000 conscripts a year. Five new local-defence battalions will be set up around the country, tasked with protecting supply lines from the Norwegian ports of Oslo and Trondheim. An amphibious unit will be re-established in Gothenburg, Scandinavia’s largest port.

The air force can look forward to newer Gripen fighter jets with longer ranges and better radar, some of which will go to a new air wing in Uppsala, 70km (43 miles) north of Stockholm. The navy will get an extra submarine, money to design a new type of warship, and air-defence missiles which its ships have needed for 15 years.

Civil defence will get more funds for cyber-security, the electricity grid and health care. “We’ve begun to rebuild a newer version of what we had during the cold war,” says Niklas Granholm of FOI, Sweden’s defence-research agency. The aim is to enable Sweden to hold out in a crisis or war for at least three months until help arrives (assuming it does).

Much of this dramatic expansion is to patch up a creaking force. “The armed forces were in a state of crisis for the last 20 years,” says Henrik Paulsson of the Swedish Defence University. In 2013 Sweden’s top general admitted that his forces could defend only part of the country—and only for a week. Sweden’s army has just two dozen artillery pieces. They are in the north, more than ten hours’ drive from the brigades they are supposed to support, says Mr Paulsson. Under the new plan, the army will have a more respectable 72 pieces.

“We are finally getting our house in order,” says Mr Granholm. But “new budgetary black holes” may appear after 2026. “The debate about the bill after this one”, he says, “has already begun.”

This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline “Less neutral, more beefy”

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Abseiling down this sea cliff, Indigenous kids are teaching the Australian military about culture and courage


It is a spectacular view most people would be content just to look at.

But teenager Zeke Edwards just abseiled 80 metres solo off the edge of this windswept sea cliff, with the help of soldiers.

“I was leaning back and then I slipped and then I was hanging upside down for a bit,” he said.

“But then I got the hang of it.”

The activity at the Exercise Thura Yura camp is meant to do just that — help soldiers and Indigenous youth from South Australia’s Spencer Gulf work through anxiety and fear.

Zeke Edwards says the camp “harnesses your fear or something”.(ABC: Gabriella Marchant)

“It harnesses it, it harnesses your fear or something,” Zeke said.

But the camp does more than that.

Now expanded and in its third year, the three-day programme at Whaler’s Way on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula aims to flip the script and get local Aboriginal communities teaching Australian Defence Force personnel about their country and culture.

Adnyamathanha Kokatha woman Darralee Gibson, who came with Zeke and others from Whyalla, said the young people loved being listened to.

“Knowing that [soldiers] are learning from them as well, you know, they’re pretty overwhelmed about it,” she said.

“They’re excited. You can see they are.

“Some of our kids suffer anxiety wicked and this is just a first step for them, to meet these guys and actually to do the activities.”

Two young children look at a garbage bag that they are cutting up with an adult helping them.
Major Domonic Lopez says the camps are forming positive, mutually beneficial relationships between soldiers and young people.(ABC: Gabriella Marchant)

Ms Gibson said the camp allowed kids to experience something they never had living in Whyalla, a regional city that has undergone years of industrial decline and high unemployment.

“There was a lot of young criminal offences happening, so we’re just trying to keep the kids off the street and keep them safe,” she said.

Barngarla woman Vera Richards said the programme was a win-win for the community and the army.

“It’s helping me because we’ve been disconnected from our country because of all the oppression that’s been placed upon our people,” she said.

She said it was not just post-colonial Aboriginal history discussed at the camp, but Dreamtime stories connected to land used by Defence, including twin rock islands beneath the Whaler’s Way cliffs.

A woman with short blonde hair laughs and smiles at something off screen.
Barngarla woman Vera Richards says her camp “spiel” leaves her and participants emotional.(ABC: Gabriella Marchant.)

“It’s to do with our Dreamtime story of Boolyalana — he’s the lightning man — and his two wives. They’re set in stone at the base of the cliffs,” she said.

Major Dominic Lopez, who helped organise the camp, said it was opening defence personnel’s eyes to things they did not know.

“It’s obviously a spiritual experience for these [Indigenous] people,” he said.

“They have a real connection to the stories that are behind what I’m looking at. I don’t possess that knowledge.

“I see a beautiful geological feature that inspires me, but not to the same extent.

“We do a lot of our activities on the Eyre Peninsula and in Port Augusta, so getting to know Indigenous communities in the area, we can form positive, mutually beneficial relationships with those communities.”

A view of a number of people on the edge of a cliff getting ready to abseil down to the sea below.
The abseil off a clifftop at Whaler’s Way helps campers bond over a white-knuckle test of nerves.(ABC: Gabriella Marchant.)

He said the white-knuckle activities also helped to equalise the group.

“Everyone is scared doing what they’re doing, both my soldiers and the kids,” he said.

“But learning to overcome those initial reactions and knowing that you can overcome them and achieve success, I think that’s one of the benefits we can provide the kids.”



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Bombardier suspends delivery of aircraft engines used on military drones


Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) says it has suspended the delivery of aircraft engines to “countries with unclear usage” in the wake of reports that some of those engines are being used on Turkish combat drones deployed by Azerbaijan in fighting against Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Quebec-based company — better known for its Ski-Doo and Lynx snowmobiles — said it became aware late last week that some of the recreational aircraft engines produced by its Austrian subsidiary, Rotax, are being used on Turkish Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

“We have recently been made aware that some Rotax engines are currently used in military UAVs, and have started a thorough investigation immediately,” Martin Langelier, BPR’s senior vice president and the company’s spokesperson, told Radio Canada International in an email statement.

“In the meantime, we are suspending delivery of aircraft engines in countries with unclear usage.”

Export controls and ‘civilian’ tech

Langelier said that all Rotax aircraft engines are designed and produced in Austria exclusively for civilian purposes and are certified for civilian use only.

Canada suspended most exports of defence technology to Turkey in October of 2019 following the Turkish invasion of northwestern Syria.

Michel Cimpaye, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said exports of items on the country’s Export Control List require a permit only when exported from Canada.

Controlled goods and technology exported from another country, however, are subject to the export controls of that country, Cimpaye added.

Gabriele Juen, a spokesperson for the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the Rotax engines are used in various motorsports and drones could be used “for a multitude of solely civilian purposes.”

“The European Union Control List of Dual Use Items does not list the drone engine in question as a dual use good item,” Juen said. “As a consequence, no approval permit is required under Austrian legislation that regulates the export of defence-related goods.”

A loophole in arms control regimes

Kelsey Gallagher is a researcher with the disarmament group Project Ploughshares who has studied Canadian exports of drone technology to Turkey.

Gallagher said the matter of BRP recreational aircraft engines ending up on Turkish combat drones exposes a serious flaw in international arms control regimes.

“I think this speaks to the fact that components such as engines should more frequently fall under regulations that we see for what we deem to be more conventional weapons,” he said. “Frequently, engines are not controlled as weapons systems even though they are integral, like other components, to the operation of a vehicle.”

The Bayraktar TB2 drones also feature optical sensors and target designation systems produced by L3 Harris WESCAM in Burlington, Ont.

On Monday, defence officials in Armenia displayed what they claimed are parts of a Bayraktar TB2 drone and its Canadian-made optical and target acquisition systems, as well as its Rotax engine.

A spokesperson for the Armenian Ministry of Defence said another Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drone was shot down by Armenian air defence units during fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh on Thursday.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has called on countries that supply components for the Turkish drone program to follow Canada’s example and suspend all exports of such components to Turkey.

Fighting in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, which is populated by ethnic Armenians, began on Sept. 27. It’s the most significant outburst of violence since a Russian-brokered ceasefire paused hostilities in 1994.

Armenia has repeatedly accused Turkey of supplying Azerbaijan with arms — including drones and F-16 fighter jets — as well as military advisers and jihadist Syrian mercenaries taking part in the fighting.

Armenian officials also have accused Azerbaijan of using the Turkish drones to not only target military forces but also to conduct strikes against civilian infrastructure across Nagorno-Karabakh and in Armenia proper.

Turkey and Azerbaijan have denied these reports. The Turkish embassy did not respond to a request for comment

Officials at Global Affairs Canada said they are investigating allegations regarding the possible use of Canadian technology in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and “will continue to assess the situation.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne addresses a press conference at the High Commission of Canada in London on January 16, 2020. (Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne suspended the export permits for WESCAM optical sensors and target acquisition systems on Oct. 6.

However, senior Global Affairs officials speaking at Thursday’s briefing for MPs on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh could not explain why an exemption was made for these exports in the first place, given the embargo announced in 2019 and renewed in April of this year.

Appearing before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Shalini Anand, acting director general for export controls at Global Affairs Canada, said she could not discuss the issue of the permits because of “commercial confidentiality.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau specifically discussed the issue of WESCAM exports to Turkey with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a phone conversation in April, according to sources who spoke with Radio Canada International on condition of anonymity.

The issue was discussed again during their phone conversation on Oct. 16, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.





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Nigerian military offered Wednesday to deploy in Lagos if needed: governor



People are seen near burning tires on the street, in Lagos, Nigeria October 21, 2020, in this image obtained from social media. UnEarthical/via REUTERS

October 22, 2020

LAGOS (Reuters) – The Nigerian military offered on Wednesday morning to deploy in Lagos state if needed amid protests, the governor said on Thursday.

Unrest has broken out across the state, which is under 24-hour curfew, sparked by anti-police protests and the shooting of civilians by security forces on Tuesday evening.

(Reporting By Libby George; Editing by Kevin Liffey)





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Drone Swarms: Can the U.S. Military Defeat Them in a War?


Swarms of enemy drones approaching a forward operating base or groups of dismounted soldiers present a unique and increasingly challenging threat. Enemy drones can blanket areas with surveillance, test enemy defenses, jam communications and even themselves become explosives to attack targets. 

The variety of uses of small drones, and the guidance systems which direct them, can be very difficult to defend against, a reality inspiring the current Air Force effort to solicit new ideas on ways to destroy them. The Air Force recently released a Request for Information (RFI) to industry, asking for new innovations able to counter small enemy drones. 

Certain small drones can hit speeds of 60-to-70 miles per hour, and some are small enough to fit in the palm of the hand. Swarms of these can be dispatched to cover an area with ISR and build-in redundancy so a mission can continue if one is destroyed.

Portions of the Air Force’s RFI describing the threats were quoted in Air Force Magazine as having “characteristics such as small size, low radar cross-sections, low infrared or radio frequency signatures (or no RF signatures), ability to hover, and low-altitude flight capability, which may render them difficult to detect and/or defeat. These UAS are typically either controlled remotely from a ground control station or capable of flying pre-planned routes.”

The Air Force and the other services such as the Army are now improving existing drone defense weapons and moving quickly to deploy new ones, such as interceptor missiles, networked ground sensors, laser weapons and electronic warfare, among other things.

While many medium, large and longer-range drone countermeasures have reached substantial levels of maturity, smaller vehicle attack drones, such as those described by the Air Force RFI, present unique and still somewhat unresolved challenges. Drone swarms, for instance (such as commercially-available quadcopters) can be flown in groups to overwhelm radar systems, spy on a target, or even themselves function as explosives.

Dispersed groups of attacking drone swarms present a number of complications for the attacked force, according to a 2017 essay from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. The essay, called “The Upside and Downside of Swarming Drones,” discusses some of the reasons why drone swarms are difficult to defend against.

“Swarming is advantageous for offensive missions because it can overwhelm enemy defenses with a large number of potential targets. In a swarming attack the drones are dispersed, which makes it difficult and expensive for the adversary to defend itself. If 10 drones attack a target simultaneously and 7 are shot down, 3 will still be able to complete their mission,” the essay, written by Irving Lachow, states.

Some of the more promising drone defenses likely consist of things like electronic warfare, lasers, interceptors or “area” weapons such as the Phalanx able to blanket an approaching field of view with numerous small interceptor projectiles. Another approach can be found with a new “proximity” round able to explode in a specific, pre-determined point in space to create a small “area” explosion. 

Kris Osborn is the new Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University. 

Image: Reuters



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Extremists Don’t Belong in the Military


Over the course of my career, I have been privileged to serve alongside men and women who believed in America, for all its shortcomings. In October 1967, six months after being commissioned a Marine second lieutenant, I joined a deployed infantry battalion along the demilitarized zone separating North and South Vietnam. My platoon’s first real combat engagement occurred soon after. One day in late December 1967, we came upon a large North Vietnamese unit preparing to attack the enormous military complex in the city of Da Nang as part of the 1968 Tet Offensive.

The ensuing firefight lasted until dawn the next morning. Among our casualties that day was Private First Class Robert Wilson. Robert was Black. I am white. We both came from Virginia; back in our home state, and around the country, the battle for civil rights was still raging.

Like the many other Black service members who lost their life in Vietnam or in other U.S. military campaigns since 1776, Wilson died fighting for ideals of equality and justice that had not yet been fulfilled at home. He had taken an oath to “support and defend the Constitution,” hoping that our country would, one day, fulfill its sacred promises for all. In my platoon, Wilson was enormously popular. He was always optimistic, even joyful, in everything he did and was asked to do. The grief that the platoon felt upon his death reminded us that we were all brothers in arms.

Wilson’s memory was with me when Barack Obama—whom I served as national security adviser—was sworn in as commander in chief. But Wilson was also on my mind more recently, when images of George Floyd, unable to breathe under the knee of a police officer sworn to uphold his rights, ignited nationwide protests over racial injustice.

Today, our nation desperately needs institutions that, rather than reinforce divisions within our society, bind Americans together. The American military, though not perfect, is one such institution.

Despite being burdened by its own troubled history with discrimination and racial injustice—and by the efforts of white supremacists to recruit within its ranks—the U.S. military has often served as a vanguard for social change and progress toward greater equality. It can, and must, help lead the country through this moment of national reckoning on racial issues, and as a very large institution that enjoys the admiration of the overwhelming majority of our citizenry, it is uniquely qualified to do so.

In 1948, President Harry Truman ordered an end to segregation in the U.S. armed forces well before the passage of landmark civil-rights measures in the ’60s. In 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower deployed the 101st Airborne Division to enforce the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1973, as the United States military transitioned from the draft to an all-volunteer force, the Defense Department knew that no segment of society could be overlooked if it was to successfully generate the manpower and cohesion necessary to meet the country’s missions. The defense of democracy required the creation of a true meritocracy. The department and the services recruited widely and adopted strict regulations against discrimination, bolstered by programs and initiatives to eliminate it whenever discovered. Beginning in 1980, each branch of the armed services required every promotion board to have at least one minority member responsible for looking out for the interests of qualified minority candidates—a safeguard that most civilian employers still do not have.



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North Korea appears to hold anniversary military parade, South Korea says



FILE PHOTO: People watch a television showing a file picture of a North Korean missile for a news report on North Korea firing short-range ballistic missiles, in Seoul, South Korea, July 31, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

October 10, 2020

By Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea appears to have held a military parade early on Saturday to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers’ Party, South Korea’s military said.

The anniversary, celebrated with a raft of concerts and festivals, was closely watched around the region as it was seen as an event where leader Kim Jong Un could deliver messages to domestic and foreign audiences.

The North’s state media has not shown any images of a parade.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it spotted signs that a parade involving large-scale military equipment and personnel took place in the capital Pyongyang but gave no further details.

“There was a sign that North Korea conducted a military parade this morning at Kim Il Sung Square, mobilising large scale equipment and personnel,” it said in a statement.

“South Korea and U.S. intelligence authorities are closely monitoring developments, including for the possibility that it was the main event.”

For weeks commercial satellite imagery has shown thousands of North Korean soldiers practicing marching, and South Korean officials have said the North could use a parade to unveil a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), or a new submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Foreign diplomats in Pyongyang have often been invited to observe past celebrations. But the Russian Embassy said on social media that all diplomatic missions have been advised this year to “refrain as much as possible” from travelling in the city, approaching the event venue and taking photos and videos.

The event comes as the isolated country carries out strict measures to prevent the new coronavirus – the secretive state has not reported any domestic infections. State media said the curbs have caused delays in some of Kim’s key economic and construction projects, already dogged by international sanctions.

“But it is an impressively large gathering during a global pandemic, suggesting North Korean authorities are concerned more with political history and national morale than with preventing a COVID-19 superspreader event,” said Leif-Eric Easley, who teaches at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

The last time North Korea broadcast a military parade live on television was in 2017, when it showed off many large ICBMs amid heightened tension with the United States.

ICBMs were once again paraded in February 2018, but no international media were allowed to observe. Shortly after, Kim began meeting international leaders such as U.S. President Donald Trump, and no large missiles have been displayed since.

Denuclearisation talks with Washington have broken down, and South Korean officials said on Thursday that Kim could use the military parade as a “low intensity” show of power ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November.

In a congratulatory message to Kim for the anniversary, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he intended to “defend, consolidate and develop” ties with North Korea, its state media said on Saturday.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and William Mallard)





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Kyrgyzstan President calls in military as protesters clash in streets


Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov has declared a state of emergency in the capital Bishkek and ordered the military to end days of unrest, as supporters of rival political groups fought on the streets.

The President had said he was ready to resign once a new cabinet was appointed which could happen on Saturday, when parliament plans to convene in his residence, according to a deputy speaker quoted by local news website Akipress.

The country is facing a power vacuum, with opposition groups quarrelling among themselves since seizing Government buildings and forcing the cancellation of results from Sunday’s parliamentary election which they denounced as fraudulent.

Two leading opposition figures reached an agreement to join forces on Friday and won the backing of former president Almazbek Atambayev.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
Kyrgyz President says he’s willing to annul the election results

But their followers and followers of other groups held rival rallies, which politicians said posed a danger of violence.

Mr Jeenbekov’s office said in a statement the state of emergency, including a curfew and tight security restrictions, would be in effect from 8pm, on Friday until 8am on October 21.

His order did not say how many troops would be deployed but they were instructed to “take the situation under control” and use military vehicles, set up checkpoints, and prevent armed clashes.

However, a local NGO said the order required a confirmation from parliament.

‘Mess and Chaos’

Russia has described the situation in Kyrgyzstan, which borders China and hosts a Russian military base, as “a mess and chaos”.

The crisis tests the Kremlin’s power to shape politics in its former Soviet sphere of influence, at a time when fighting has erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Belarus is also engulfed in protests.

The opposition is divided between 11 parties which represent clan interests in a country that has already seen two presidents toppled by popular revolts since 2005.

Rival candidates for the premiership Omurbek Babanov and Tilek Toktogaziyev joined forces on Friday, with Mr Toktogaziyev agreeing to serve as Mr Babanov’s deputy. They were backed by four parties, local news website 24.kz reported.

Riot police wearing helmets and gas masks stand in a line and fire tear gas
Protesters gather in front of the government headquarters on the central square in Bishkek.(AP: Vladimir Voronin)

They were joined at a rally in Bishkek by the former president Atambayev.

A few thousand followers chanted “I am not afraid” and “Kyrgyzstan” to the rhythmic beating of large drums.

Followers of another candidate, Sadyr Zhaparov, also numbering a few thousand, held a demonstration nearby. Some of Mr Zhaparov’s supporters later rushed into the square, leading to scuffles between the rival groups until the Babanov and Toktogaziyev supporters withdrew.

News website Akipress said Mr Toktogaziyev was rushed to hospital with blunt head trauma after the confrontation where he then regained consciousness and was in a stable condition.

Separately, an aide to Mr Atambayev said a shot had been fired at his car which did not wound anyone.

Mr Jeenbekov’s allies swept Sunday’s parliamentary vote in the official results that have now been discarded. They have kept a low profile as the opposition parties have taken to the streets. Western observers said the election was marred by credible allegations of vote-buying.

So far, veteran officials who supported the revolt have been in control of the security forces.

On Friday, self-appointed provisional heads of the interior ministry and the state security service left their respective buildings and handed over the leadership to their deputies. The two state bodies said the move was meant to ensure security forces remained apolitical.



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North Korea’s Military Parade: What We Might See


The Kim Jong-un regime is preparing to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling North Korean Workers’ Party with a major military parade, where North Korea is poised to unveil several of its latest missile systems.

On October 10th, thousands of troops and masses of vehicle columns will line the streets of Pyongyang with all of the pomp and tightly rehearsed choreography befitting a major North Korean holiday. The last North Korean military parade was held in September 2018, following the Singapore summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim earlier that summer. In keeping with the spirit of then-ongoing denuclearization talks, North Korea opted not to display either of its new strategic weapons or its older stock of nuclear weapons delivery systems, at that celebration.

But a constellation of recent military and technical circumstances suggests that Pyongyang aims to use the 2020 parade as a high-profile venue to flaunt a slew of nuclear-capable missile systems. Late last month, reports emerged of a spike in activity at North Korea’s Sinpo Shipyard. The Sinpo Shipyard is the primary construction site for North Korea’s upcoming Sinpo-C ballistic missile submarine, the presumed successor to North Korea’s Soviet-derived Sinpo-B submarine line. North Korea has likewise made strides in developing and testing a nuclear-capable submarine-launched missile (SLBM) that can be deployed outside of Washington’s land-based THAAD network of missile defenses in East Asia, potentially posing an existential threat to critical South Korean infrastructure. Given the recent strides made in both of these projects, there is good reason to expect a Pukguksong-3 SLBM launch during the upcoming parade. This was already done last year, but likely from a submersible barge—demonstrating a Pukguksong-3 launch from a fully operational submarine, perhaps even a Sinpo-C prototype, would be a compelling testament to North Korean naval modernization.

The 75th-anniversary celebration could also become a showcase for North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) technology. Late last year, Kim announced at a Workers’ Party meeting that “the world will witness a new strategic weapon to be possessed by North Korea in the near future.” This could mean several different things in the context of the upcoming parade. South Korean news agency Yonhap, citing South Korea officials, posits that North Korea could be preparing to unveil a new long-range ballistic missile. This may be the solid fuel, nuclear-capable ICBM that a growing number of Korea experts believe is currently being developed by Pyongyang.

Another, somewhat more tame possibility is a parade demonstration of North Korea’s reported capacity to indigenously produce transporter erector launchers (TEL’s) for ICBM’s, which previously had to be imported and converted. A vehicle strongly resembling a TEL was recently spotted at the Mirim Parade Training Ground in the vicinity of Pyongyang, suggesting that TEL’s will take part in the parade. A larger supply of functioning TEL’s allows North Korea’s nuclear arsenal to be more widely deployed, enhancing both its first and second-strike capabilities.

For North Korea’s leadership, the 75th-anniversary parade raises issues of political timing. On the one hand, Pyongyang has recurrently threatened to destabilize U.S. politics ahead of the upcoming presidential election; to this end, a North Korean ICBM demonstration could burden the embattled Trump administration with a fresh foreign policy controversy a mere three weeks from election night. On the other hand, North Korea tends to save its major military provocations until shortly after new U.S. presidents are sworn in. If Pyongyang plays its nuclear hand now and Donald Trump goes on to lose the election, North Korea risks diluting what could later be a source of diplomatic leverage against a prospective Joe Biden administration.

Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to The National Interest and a PhD student in History at American University.

Image: Reuters.



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Europe hopes the military will topple Lukashenko


The formula, according to which 3.5% of the protesting population is enough for a change of regime in the country, does not work in Belarus because of the law-enforcers, who support the will of the majority.

MEPs urge Belarus generals not to obey Lukashenko

A group of members of the European Parliament called on the commanders of the armed forces of Belarus not to obey President Alexander Lukashenko.

The appeal was signed by 25 out of 704 MEPs, DW reported on October 7. The letter is addressed, in particular, to the Minister of Defense of Belarus, Viktor Khrenin, Chief of the General Staff Alexander Volfovich and others – 24 Belarusian top military officials in total.


The MEPs called Lukashenko “the mastermind of the violent seizure of power and a coup d’etat.” Therefore, any instructions that come from him, in their opinion, are illegitimate. The MEPs note that giving and executing illegal orders is a crime that the international community will not disregard.


The generals should decide for themselves whether they should be devoted to the oath to defend the people of Belarus or follow illegal instructions from the illegitimate usurper, Alexander Lukashenko.

According to the MEPs, “the people of Belarus consider Svetlana Tikhanovskaya the winner of the elections and the legally elected president of Belarus.”


Belarus generals dissatisfied with political leadership

As the Telegram-channel “Trykatazh” points out, the appeal from the MEPs will fall on fertile soil, because “there are seeds of doubt among the generals.”

According to the channel’s authors, the top commanders of the Belarusian Armed Forces is not happy with Viktor Khrenin’s insecure, village style of command. They are also unhappy with the fact that his predecessor, Andrei Ravkov, was forced to write a resignation report after the story with 33 Russian “terrorists” of whom he reported to Lukashenko.

The political leadership is trying to set Khrenin up. Reportedly, there is a leaked audio recording made by one of the highest officers at a meeting with Khrenin, in which he called for harsh suppression of protests in Belarus.

The Telegram channel quotes a document that says that there was a conspiracy among the generals. One of the conspirators was Deputy Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus, Andrei Vtyurin, who is serving a sentence for corruption, and several high-ranking officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Defense, of whom three have already been arrested.

The conspiracy was codenamed “Change.” The purpose of the conspiracy is to prevent a new presidential term for Lukashenko, whom the conspirators considered the main and only obstacle for the normal development of Belarus. They were elaborating several possible scenarios – from Lukashenko’s voluntary refusal to participate in the elections through the influence of Russia or his closest circle, to supporting a strong alternative candidate, or even the physical elimination of Lukashenko, Trykatazh Telegram channel pointed out.

There is no smoke without fire

It is an open secret that the support of security forces is of decisive importance for the continuity and stability of power. Despite the tremendous pressure that has so far been put on Nicolas Maduro with the introduction of parallel power structures in Venezuela, he cannot be overthrown only because of the loyalty of the army and security services. They are now trying to implement a similar scenario in Belarus by legitimising Svetlana Tikhanovskaya as a parallel leader.

Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist from Harvard University, coined the so-called 3.5% rule. She believes that as long as 3.5 percent of the population takes to the streets to hold peaceful protests, this percentage of the population may be enough to topple a dictator. It is worthy of note that Minsk, the capital of Belarus is a 2-million-strong city.

According to Chenoweth’s rule, Lukashenko’s regime should have fallen on July 30, during Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s pre-election rally, which gathered, according to human rights activists, as many as 70,000 people. However, in Belarus, the 3.5% formula does not work, nor does it work in Venezuela for one simple reason – security forces support the will of the majority of the people, but  not the will of 3.5% of them.

Lukashenko should sit down and think: such appeals as the ones from members of the European Parliament do not emerge for no reason. The Belarus military cannot be satisfied with the fact that their secret information leaks online, nor can they understand what stops Lukashenko from imposing martial law against the background of large-scale protests and clashes with civilians. The crisis in Belarus may exacerbate at any moment, and it will be the military to blame for it in the first place.



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