Saturday, February 6, 2010

Russia's New Military Doctrine is out ...

President Medvedev approved Russia's Military Doctrine 2010 on February 05, 2010. Unlike earlier discussions on the military doctrine where it was opined that there will be greater reliance on nuclear weapons, given the state of its conventional military, the new document is much more nuanced. This is not to suggest that Russia has relinquished the idea entirely.

As in the earlier doctrine, the new document also clearly states that "Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of force against it and (or) its allies, nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, as well as in the case of aggression against Russia with conventional weapons, which threaten the very existence of the state."

Additionally, the doctrine notes that Russia will deploy its forces outside of Russian territory, in accordance with generally recognized principles and norms of international law, international treaties of Russia and federal law, "to protect the interests of Russia and its citizens, the maintenance of international peace and security."

Under the category of major external threats facing Russian Federation, the doctrine notes NATO's eastward expansion as most serious one, in addition to the "establishment and deployment of strategic missile defense systems that undermine global stability and violate the balance of forces in a nuclear field, as well as the militarization of outer space, the deployment of strategic non-nuclear systems, precision weapons." Other issues include, "The deployment (capacity) of military contingents of foreign states (groups of) on the territories of neighboring with Russia and its allies of the States, as well as in adjacent waters, territorial claims against Russia and its allies, interference in their internal affairs," proliferation of WMD as well as missiles and missile technologies, "the use of military force in the territories of neighboring states with Russia in violation of the UN Charter and other norms of international law," threat of terrorism, ethnic and sectarian conflicts.

Friday, February 5, 2010

US Annual Threat Assessment 2010: What Does It Say about China?

US Annual Threat Assessment 2010 is out ...

Four areas of PLA modernisation have been identified as challenging its neighbours: China's military relationship across the developing world; its aggressive cyber activities; its development of space & counterspace capabilities; its expansive definition of maritime & air space with consequent implications for restricted freedom of navigation for other states.

The report adds: "Important PLA modernization programs include: ballistic and cruise missile forces capable of hitting foreign military bases and warships in the western Pacific; anti-satellite (ASAT) and electronic warfare weapons to defeat sensors and information systems; development of terrestrial and space-based, long-range intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems to detect, track, and target naval, air, and fixed installations; and continuing improvements to its increasingly capable submarines to place naval surface forces at risk. Many of these programs have begun to mature and improve China’s ability to execute an anti-access and area-denial strategy in the Western Pacific."

What is worrying is the increasing trend in China to find military solutions to geopolitical problems. The Taiwan issue remains a territorial issue that can be sorted out through non-military means; militarization of the conflict can lead to additionally security burden in the region. China has argued time and again that its military modernisation is geared towards a Taiwan scenario, but many of the capabilities that China has acquired in the recent past go well beyond Taiwan.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Chinese Military Modernisation and Stability in the Western Pacific

Here's the link to an article on Chinese military modernisation and its impact on the stbility of the Western Pacific.

The study has been done by Marcus Hellyer of the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies, Australian Defence College. The study cites my article on Chinese military strategy to say that beijing will use anti-access strategies to deter or defeat the US in case of a Taiwan Straits crisis. The conclusions are interesting and might come back to bite them (Austrlia) in the future.

The study concludes to suggest that the growing Chinese military might "is not a cause for concern for a number of reasons. On balance, the conclusions it draws are that China is modernising its armed forces, developing peacefully, and behaving in the manner of a responsible global citizen. Further, it finds that China’s immediate neighbours in this region, with the exception of Taiwan, do not
regard China as a military threat. They have not, for example, undertaken balancing or containment activities, or significantly increased their own military spending."

I am not sure if the conclusions are valid entirely. I disagree on the point that there has been no balancing or containment activities in Asia. Have we forgotten about the "Quad" and the military exercises that followed among India, US, Austrlia and Japan? I also don't believe that India-US nuclear agreement had no strategic undercurrents, to say. Besides improving India-US relationship to a qualitatively higher level, the nuclear agreement had a clear strategic imperative.

So, let us not dilute the importance of these initiatives altogether and say all is well in Asia. In fact, while much of the Chinese neighbourhood has adopted a "wait-and-awatch" approach to China's rise, there is increasing apprehension whether the rise of China will lead to a period of Chinese hegemony. The most recent outburst has been in the Australian defence white paper that said that the "pace, scope and structure” of such modernisation can trigger concern among the Asian neighbours unless China undertakes some serious confidence building measures among these neighbours." If the region and the rest of the world are to believe that China seeks a harmonious environment for its development and that its rise is peaceful, it has to do lot more in its actions than just verbal statements. Its attitude towards sveral of its neighbours, including Russia, India and Japan, are not particularly reassuring.

Monday, February 1, 2010

China's Missile Defence Test: Yet Another Milestone?

Here's the link to an article of mine on the recent Chinese missile defence test, published by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA).

On January 11, 2007, China shocked the world by conducting an anti-satellite (ASAT) test. On January 11, 2010, they did it again, this time, with a missile defence test. Has China made some technological breakthrough here?

The Chinese appear to have used essentially the same technology as in the ASAT test – “hit-to-kill” technologies. The missile defence test is seen as an expansion of its ASAT technology.

On January 11, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said that China had conducted a test of a ground-based midcourse missile interception technology within its territory. She added, “The test has achieved the expected objective. The test is defensive in nature and is not targeted at any country.”1 [1] In order to substantiate the public support for the tests, Xinhua News brought out a web survey from Global Times (China) that showed that about 98.8 per cent voters supported China’s self-developed anti-missile system, with only 0.4 per cent voting against it.2 [2] In fact, Global Times cited senior military strategist Yang Chengjun saying that “China needs an improved capability and more means of military defence as the country faces increasing security threats.”3 [3] Jin Canrong of the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China, in an interview with the Global Times, noted that China has always followed a defensive strategy and that the missile defence test has not changed that strategy, but only “reinforced” it.4 [4]
China’s missile defence test has come against the backdrop of the US sale of weapons to Taiwan, including PAC-3 air defence missiles.5 [5] US weapon sales to Taiwan in turn are driven by the confrontation across the Taiwan Straits, and the 1,300 ballistic missile stationed by Beijing in its missile brigades opposite Taiwan. Beijing had repeatedly raised objections to the weapons sales and asked Washington to cancel the deal. The Chinese Defence Ministry warned over the weekend that it reserved the right to take unspecified action if Washington followed through with the sale, which it called a ‘severe obstacle’ to China-US military ties.6 [6] However, the tests cannot be seen as a response to US weapon sales alone because the decision to test was not an overnight one. The test was rather a display of the rising profile of Chinese PLA and its increasing technological prowess.
What was particularly striking was the way China managed post-test reactions from around the world. Unlike in January 2007 when China conducted the ASAT test,7 [7] this time around, the Chinese foreign ministry was most forthcoming in announcing that China has conducted such a test and that the test would “neither produce space debris in orbit nor pose a threat to the safety of orbiting spacecraft.”8 [8] However, reading the statement carefully, nothing much has been actually said in terms of the purpose of the test or details of interceptors and so on. In the absence of any concrete information coming from Chinese government sources, one has to rely on the writings of some of the well-known China-watchers who note that it may have been the same sort of interceptor as used in the 2007 ASAT test. Based on a particular image (file photo) on Xinhua News, several commentators agreed that it was the air defence missile, HQ-9.9 [9] However, there were several other pictures (file photos) available on the Xinhua News, and one of the posts by Jeffrey G. Lewis on the blog ArmsControlWonk suggests that it could have been a HQ-9, or a HQ-12 or even a DF-21C.10 [10]
The Chinese appear to have used essentially the same technology as in the ASAT test – “hit-to-kill” technologies. The missile defence test is seen as an expansion of its ASAT technology. In the case of India, it has been the reverse – the anti-ballistic missile programme (ABM) is believed to have been expanded to include anti-satellite programmes. China appears to have focused on the development of kinetic energy interceptors for this purpose.
In the absence of any substantial information available from Chinese officialdom, it is hard to derive firm conclusions. However, one can draw out a few implications of the test. For one, this will sharpen the security dilemma that already exists in Asia. China’s missile defence test could possibly up the ante in the region, with other regional powers considering measures in reaction. India had already announced that its ABM programme will be expanded to include anti-satellite programmes (a reaction that came about post-Chinese ASAT test). In addition, these technologies are becoming more popular and could spread widely around the world if no global mechanism is established to control them. One possibility is the spread of these technologies from China to possibly Iran, Pakistan and North Korea, which would exacerbate regional crises.
1. 1. [11] “China Conducts Test on Ground-based Midcourse Missile Interception,” Xinhua News, January 11, 2010, available at [12]
2. 2. [13] “China Reaffirms that Its Missile Interception Test Defensive,” Xinhua News, January 12, 2010, available at [14].
3. 3. [15] “China Successfully Tests Missile Defence System,” The Dawn, January 12, 2010, available at [16].
4. 4. [17] “China Reaffirms that Its Missile Interception Test Defensive,” Xinhua News, January 12, 2010, available at [14].
5. 5. [18] The PAC-3 systems seem to be the last component that a US $6.5 billion weapons deal approved towards the end of the Bush administration’s term. The weapons package from the 2008 deal include: 330 PAC-3 missiles ($ 3.1 b) and the current deal is part of the larger missile package. These systems could possibly provide Taiwan the ability to eliminate short- and medium-range missiles launched from China. See, “US Missile Defense Deal with Taiwan Ok’d,” Global Security Newswire, Nuclear Threat Initiative, January 07, 2010, available at [19].
6. 6. [20] “China Tests Missile Defence,” The Straits Times, January 12, 2010, available at [21].
7. 7. [22] In January 2007, following the ASAT test, there was no announcement or clarification from the Chinese government for about two weeks, until the Aviation Week and Space Technology brought it out. China came under sharp criticism for not informing other governments in advance, dismissing the potential impact on the peaceful use of the space among others.
8. 8. [23] Jeffrey G. Lewis, “Chinese Missile Defense Test,”, January 12, 2010, available at [24].
9. 9. [25] Reports suggest that the Russian surface-to-air missiles purchased by China in the 1990s were further improvised to develop their own version of interceptors such as HQ-9, along with a significant number of missile systems with better range and accuracy. Also, media reports in 2006 noted that Beijing had conducted a surface-to-air missile test in the north-west China, which was believed to be similar in specifications and capabilities to that of the US Patriot system. South Korean newspaper, Dong a il bo had reported that the test involved detection and downing of both a reconnaissance drone and an incoming ballistic missile by an interceptor. See, “China Says Missile Defense Test Successful,” Associated Press,, January 11, 2010, available at [26]. In fact, GlobalSecurity notes that HQ-9 may have been developed “based on a Chinese-designed missile motor, search and guidance hardware which in turn is based on the Russian S-300PMU, and guidance technology from the American Patriot. China procured from Russia four to six S-300PMU batteries (48 to 72 missiles) in 1991 and purchased an additional 120 missiles in 1994.” Additionally, there were reports that in 1993 Israel had transferred a Patriot missile or missile technology to China, although Israel has denied those reports. Further, in 1997, the US Office of Naval Intelligence suggested that “technology from advanced Western systems may be incorporated into the HQ-9.” See, “HQ-9,” GlobalSecurity, available at [27]
10. 10. [28] Jeffrey G. Lewis, “Chinese Missile Defense Test,”, January 12, 2010, available at [24].