Entries with Categories Global Affairs Security and defence .

▲The H6K of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force, in flight over the Pacific


COMMENTARY / Ignacio Cristóbal Urbicain* [English version]

Only three countries in the world have strategic or long-range bombers (the US, Russia and China). The mission statement of this subject Weapons is to project the force at very long distances, usually within enemy airspace in order to destroy, with its significant armament load, strategic objectives, i.e. industry, infrastructure, logistics, etc. It is also an important deterrent.

In the case of China, its strategic aviation mainly has the latter mission statement with respect to the defence of their interests by projecting a threat to very distant distances, i.e. avoiding rapprochement and entrance of the U.S. Navy's battle groups (aircraft carriers and attack cruisers) to the South China Sea.

For this task, China has the Xian H-6. This aircraft is a derivation of the Russian Tupolev Tu-16 developed 60 years ago. In 2007, the Chinese modernized their H-6s by changing the old engines to reach a longer range (3,500 km). Again Russian engines were chosen, although there are sources who have said that a new Chinese engine (WS-18) is being developed. A general electronic modernization and the air-to-ground radar were also carried out. Their ability to pursue targets is unknown. The bomb bay was reduced to put another inner fuel tank and modified to house the Wayside Cross CJ-10 with a range of 2,200 km. In this way, the H-6K was created, much more modern than the previous version, which maintains the possibility of carrying nuclear weapons, as well as the YJ-12 supersonic anti-ship missiles.

A squadron of 15 of these aircraft (i.e., the issue that Jane's Defence thinks are in service) can fire around 100 missiles, creating a major problem for a number of naval with bad intentions. Note also that in recent weeks the H-6Ks have been seen for the first time with bombs on the outer wing mounts.

The future

In December 2016, sources in the Chinese Ministry of Defense confirmed the rumors about the development of a new long-range bomber. This new project it's probably sneaky (very leave It can be used to ensure that it has been able to load a large amount of conventional weaponry in an internal hold, which will improve stealth against enemy radars.    

The designation is currently H-X, although Jane's Defense already calls it H-20. It appears that the bomber will not have the capability to carry nuclear weapons, as China has a "no strike first" nuclear policy, meaning it will not be the one to start a conflict with nuclear weapons. For all these reasons, it has a nuclear arsenal linked to the idea that the country would survive a first attack and would be able torefund the coup.

The function of this new bomber will be to ensure that a force of American aircraft carriers with their group closer than it should to their areas of interest. These aircraft, carrying long-range air-to-surface missiles against such well-defended naval groupings, will be one of the three legs of Chinese deterrence. The other two are attack submarines and ballistic missiles.

Probably your design, commissioned to Xian Aircraft Corporation, is similar to the American B-2 bomber, following the Chinese tradition of practically copying Western models (the J-20 fighter is similar to the American F-22) and its first flight may be in 2025. Another question is when it will be operational, but seeing what the first flight of the J-20 has cost and its operability, it seems very distant in time. Hence the modernization of the H-6 discussed at the beginning of the article.

Fighter jets are very complex weapons systems and it is not enough for them to fly. They must do so with the characteristics for which they have been designed. In this case, China has historically been heavily dependent on Russian engines. Theirs have not worked as expected. Not to mention electronics, which in this field the U.S. still beats it by far.

*Teacher School of Economics and Business, University of Navarra

Categories Global Affairs: Asia Security & Defense Comments

The well-trodden step, decisive in the strategies of both countries to counter each other

A thermometer to measure the future pulse of forces between China and India will be the Strait of Malacca, a passage through the Strait of Malay core topic for the connection between the northern Indian Ocean and the Asia-Pacific region. India is responding to the further expansion of Chinese maritime interests, which force Beijing to pay close attention to Malacca, by advancing positions towards the western mouth of the strait.

▲Map of the Indo-Pacific [US DoD]

article / Alejandro Puigrefagut [English version]

Sea routes are the basis of trade and communication between more than 80% of the world's countries. This fact makes the natural geographical location of States of great strategic importance. A particularly important point for maritime traffic is the Strait of Malacca. core topic for the trade of the most populous region on the planet.

The Strait of Malacca, which links the South China Sea with the Burma Sea on its way to the Bay of Bengal, is the world's busiest commercial passage and is therefore a strategic location. This corridor , which surrounds the western coast of the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is used by approximately 60% of the world's maritime trade, exceeding one hundred and fifty ships per day, and is the main oil supply route for two of Asia's main consumers: the People's Republic of China and Japan. This geographical point is core topic for the entire Indo-Pacific region, ensuring the free movement of ships is strategic. That is why many states in the region, including China and the United States, see the need to protect this passage in order to be able to supply themselves, export their goods and not be blocked by the control of a third country over this area.

In relation to China, it is not easy to think that a blockade of its supply due to problems in the Strait of Malacca will happen. For this to happen, an armed conflict of extraordinary dimensions would have to be generated, propitiating this blockade by a subject that could control – and potentially interrupt – the passage to the other countries of the region. This potential risk, which today can only be generated by the U.S. Navy, forces China to be vigilant and have to develop sufficient military capabilities to protect what it considers its territories in the South China Sea and, by extension, the supply of vital resources that must necessarily pass through the Strait of Malacca.



The Asian giant's positions and presence in the South China Sea and in the areas adjacent to the Strait of Malacca have increased in recent years, with the aim of increasing its influence over the states of the region. Moreover, in order to defend its supplies of oil and natural gas (from the Persian Gulf), China has extended its presence to the Indian Ocean, although this is not enough. The reality is that in this area there is a large skill between two of the most influential Asian powers in the region: China and India. Due to the growing presence and influence of the People's Republic in the Indian Ocean, India has been forced to take proactive measures to improve peace and stability in the region, mobilizing and expanding its presence from its east coast to the vicinity of the Strait, in order to rebalance the regional balance of power. In this way, India can dominate the western access to the Strait and, consequently, have a longer reaction time to manoeuvre in the Indian Ocean as well as in the Strait itself and even access the waters of the South China Sea more quickly.

At the same time, India's growing approach to the South China Sea is watched with concern in Beijing, and some analysts even see India as a threat in the hypothetical case of a war between the two regional powers and India blocks the Strait and, therefore, China's access to certain raw materials and other resources. For this reason, China has conducted a number of joint military exercises with third States in the Strait of Malacca over the past three years, especially with Malaysia. During the first exercises in the area, the Ministry of Defense of the People's Republic of China concluded that bilateral relations with Malaysia were strengthened in terms of security and defense cooperation and that the joint response capability to security threats was "increased." In addition, for China, the protection of the Strait is a priority because of its great strategic value and because countries such as the United States are a key factor in the protection of the Strait . The U.S. and Japan also want to control it.

Categories Global Affairs: Asia Security & Defence World Order, Diplomacy & Governance Articles

[Admiral James Stavridis, Sea Power. The History and Geopolitics of the World's Oceans. Penguin Press. New York City, 2017. 363 pages]


review / Iñigo Bronte Barea [English version].

In the era of globalisation and its communication society, where everything is closer and distances seem to fade away, the body of water between continents has not lost the strategic value it has always had. Historically, the seas have been both a channel for human development and instruments of geopolitical domination. It is no coincidence that the great world powers of the last 200 years have themselves been great naval powers. The dispute over maritime space is still going on today and there is nothing to suggest that the geopolitics of the seas will cease to be crucial in the future.

These principles on the importance of maritime powers have changed little since they were set out in the late 19th century by Alfred T. Mahan. Today, Sea Power. The History and Geopolitics of the World's Oceans, by Admiral James G. Stavridis, who retired in 2013 after leading the US Southern Command, the US European Command and the supreme command of NATO.

The book is the fruit of Mahan's early reading and an extensive degree program of nearly four decades on the seas and oceans with the US Navy. At the beginning of each explanation of the different sea spaces, Stavridis recounts his brief experience in that sea or ocean, then continues with the history, and the development they have had, until arriving at their current context. Finally, there is a projection of the near future of the world from the perspective of marine geopolitics.

Pacific: China's emergence

Admiral J.G. Stavridis begins his voyage in the Pacific Ocean, which he categorises as "the mother of all oceans" because of its immensity, since it alone is larger than the entire land surface of the planet combined. Another remarkable point is that in its vastness there is no considerable landmass, although there are islands all over the world subject, with very diverse cultures. This is why the sea dominates the geography of the Pacific like nowhere else on the planet.


The great dominator of this marine space is Australia, which is very much aware of what might happen politically in the island archipelagos in its vicinity. It was Europeans, however, who explored the Pacific well (Magellan was the first, around 1500) and tried to connect it with their world in a way that was not merely transitory and commercial, but stable and lasting.

The United States began its presence in the Pacific with the acquisition of California (1840), but it was not until the annexation of Hawaii (1898) that the huge country was definitively catapulted into the Pacific. The first time this ocean emerged as a total war zone was in 1941 when Pearl Harbour was massacred by the Japanese.

With the return of peace, the Japanese revival and the emergence of China, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong caused trans-Pacific trade to overtake the Atlantic for the first time in the 1980s, and this trend is still continuing. This is because the Pacific region contains the world's major powers on its shores.

degree program At area geopolitics a major arms race is taking place in the Pacific, with North Korea as a major focus of global tension and uncertainty.

Atlantic: from the Panama Canal to NATO

As for the Atlantic Ocean, Stavridis refers to it as the cradle of civilisation, since the Mediterranean is included among its territories, and even more so if we consider it as the nexus between the peoples of the Americas and Africa and Europe. It has two great seas of great historical importance, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

Undoubtedly the historical figure of this ocean is Christopher Columbus, since his arrival in America (Bahamas 1492) initiated a new historical period that ended with practically the entire American continent being colonised by the European powers in the following centuries. While Portugal and Spain concentrated on the Caribbean and South America, the British and the French concentrated on North America.

During the First World War, the Atlantic became an essential transit zone for the war development as the United States transported troops, war materials and goods to Europe during the conflict. It was here that the idea of an Atlantic community began to take shape, leading to the creation of NATO.

As for the Caribbean, the author sees it as a region that is rooted in the past. Its colonisation was characterised by the arrival of slaves to exploit the region's natural resources for purposes of economic interest to the Spanish. In turn, this process was characterised by the desire to convert the indigenous population to Christianity.

The Panama Canal is a driving force for the region's Economics , but Central America is also sailing along the coasts of the countries with the highest violence fees on the planet. Admiral Stavridis sees the Caribbean coast as a kind of Wild West, which in some places has evolved little since the days of pirates, and where drug cartels now operate with impunity.

Since the 1820s, with the Monroe Doctrine, the United States carried out a series of interventions through its navy to bolster regional stability and keep Europeans out of places such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Central America. In the 20th century, politics was dominated by caudillos, and soon communism and the Cold War came with them to the Caribbean, with Cuba as ground zero.

Indian Ocean and Arctic: from unknown to risky

The Indian Ocean has less history and geopolitics than the other two great oceans. Despite this, its tributary seas have gained geopolitical importance in the post-World War II era with the rise of global shipping and the export of oil from the Gulf region. The Indian Ocean today could be seen as a region for wielding smart power rather than hard power. While the slave trade and piracy have dwindled almost everywhere, they are still present in parts of the Indian Ocean. It is a region where countries around the world could work together to combat these common problems.

The history of the Indian Ocean does not inspire confidence about the potential for peaceful governance in the years to come. An important core topic to unlock the region's potential would be to resolve the existing conflicts between India and Pakistan (a conflict with the risk of nuclear weapons) and the Shia-Sunni divide in the Persian Gulf, issues that make it a very volatile region. Due to tensions in the Gulf countries, the region is today a kind of cold war between the Sunnis, led by Saudi Arabia, and the Shiites, led by Iran, and between these two sides, the United States, with its Fifth Fleet, is at the centre.

Finally, the Arctic is currently an unknown quantity. Stavridis sees it as both a promise and a danger. Over the centuries, all oceans and seas have been the site of epic battles and discoveries, but there is one exception: the Arctic Ocean.

It seems clear that this exceptionality is coming to an end. The Arctic is an emerging maritime frontier with increasing human activity, rapidly melting ice shelves and significant hydrocarbon resources coming within reach. However, there are major risks that will dangerously condition the exploitation of this region, such as weather conditions, unclear governance due to the confluence of five bordering countries (Russia, Norway, Canada, the United States and Denmark), and geopolitical competition between NATO and Russia, whose relations have deteriorated in recent years. 

Categories Global Affairs: European Union North America Asia Security and defense World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews Arctic and Antarctica

[Graham Allison, Destined for War. Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap? Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Boston, 2017. 364 pages]


review/ Emili J. Blasco

This is what has been called Thucydides' trap: the dilemma faced by a hegemonic power and a rising power that threatens that hegemony. Is war inevitable? When Thucydides narrated the Peloponnesian War, he wrote about the inevitability for domineering Sparta and the emerging Athens of thinking of armed confrontation as a means of settling conflict.

The fact that these two Greek polises necessarily thought about war, and eventually came to it, does not mean that they had no other options. History has shown that there are: when Wilhelmine Germany threatened to outwhelm Britain's naval strength, the attempt at sorpasso (accompanied by various circumstances) led to World War I, but when Portugal was overtaken by Spain in overseas possessions in the sixteenth century, or when the United States replaced Great Britain as the world's leading power at the end of the nineteenth century, the transfer was peaceful.

The call to Washington and Beijing to do everything possible not to fall into the trap described by the Greek historian is made by Graham Allison in Destined for War. Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap? The Dean The founder of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government reviews several historical precedents in his book. The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the same university, where Allison is a member, has researched them director, in a program called Thucydides's Trap.

This concept is defined by Allison as "the strong structural stress caused when an emerging power threatens to unseat a reigning power. In such a status, not only extraordinary or unexpected events, but even ordinary flashpoints in international affairs can trigger large-scale conflicts."

This structural stress is produced by the clash of two profound sensitivities: the emerging power syndrome ("the reinforced sense that an emerging state has of itself, its interests, and its right to recognition and respect"), and its inverse image, the reigning power syndrome ("the established power exhibits a growing sense of fear and insecurity as it faces signs of decline").

Along with the syndromes, both rival powers also experience a security dilemma: "A rising power may disregard the fear and insecurity of a ruling state because it knows that it itself is well-intentioned. Meanwhile, his opponent misinterprets even positive initiatives, taking them as excessively demanding or even threatening."

The use of military force

Allison starts from the fact that China is already catching up with the United States as a power. It has done so in terms of the volume of its Economics (China has already surpassed the U.S. in purchasing power parity) and in relation to some aspects of military strength (a report Rand Corporation predicted that by 2017 China would have "advantage" or "approximate parity" in 6 of the 9 conventional capacity areas. The author's assumption is that China will soon be in a position to wrest the scepter of the greatest superpower from the United States. Arrived before this status, how will both countries react?

In the case of China, its millennial outlook will likely lead to an attitude of patience, as long as there is some small progress in its development. purpose to increase its global specific weight. Since 1949, China has only resorted to force in three of 33 territorial disputes. In those cases, China's leaders waged war – limited wars, conceived as notice to their opponents – even though the enemy was equal or greater, urged by a status of domestic unrest.

For Allison, "as long as events in the South China Sea generally move in China's favor, it seems unlikely that China will use military force. But the trends in the balance of power were to turn against it, particularly at a time of internal political instability, China would initiate a limited military conflict, against an even larger and more powerful state like the United States."

For its part, the United States can choose several strategies, according to Allison: adapt to the new reality, undermine Chinese power (trade war, foment provincial separatism), negotiate a lasting peace, and redefine the relationship. The author does not give a committee firm, but it seems to suggest that Washington should move between the latter two options.

Thus, he recalls how Britain understood that it could not rival the United States in the Western Hemisphere, and how from there a partnership between the two countries, manifested in the First and Second World Wars. That would have to involve accepting that the South China Sea is a area of Chinese influence. And this is not out of mere condescension, but because the United States is proceeding with a real clarification of its vital interests.

Despite its positive tone, Destined for War is one of the essays of the American establishment where the end of the American era and the passing of the baton to China are most openly announced (it does not seem to envision a multipolar or bipolar world, but rather one of primacy of the Asian power). He is also one of the least emphasises – less, of course, than he should – on the strengths that the United States maintains and the problems that could undermine China's coronation.

Categories Global Affairs: North America Asia Security & Defense World Order, Diplomacy & Governance Book Reviews

Russia's GLONASS positioning system has placed ground stations in Brazil and Nicaragua; the Brazilian ones are accessible, but the Nicaraguan one is open to conjecture.

At a time when Russia has declared its interest in having military installations in the Caribbean again, the opening of a Russian station in Managua's area has raised some suspicions. Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has opened four stations in Brazil, managed with transparency and easy access; in contrast, the one it has built in Nicaragua is shrouded in secrecy. The little that is known about the Nicaraguan station, strangely larger than the others, contrasts with how openly data can be collected about the Brazilian ones.

article / Jakub Hodek [English version].

It is well known that information is power. The more information one has and manages, the more power one enjoys. This approach should be taken when examining the station facilities that support the Russian satellite navigation system and their construction in close proximity to the United States. Of course, we are no longer in the Cold War period, but some traumas of those old days can perhaps help us to better understand the cautious position of the United States and the importance Russia sees in having its facilities in Brazil and especially in Nicaragua.

That historical background of the Cold War is at the origin of the two major navigation systems we use today. The United States launched the Global Positioning System (GPS) project in 1973, and possibly in response, the Soviet Union introduced its own positioning system (GLONASS) three years later. [1] Nearly 45 years have passed, and these two systems are no longer serving as a means for Russians and Americans to try to obtain information about the opposing side, but are collaborating and thus providing a more accurate and faster navigation system for consumers who purchase a smartphone or other electronic device. [2]

However, to achieve global coverage both systems need not only satellites, but also ground stations strategically located around the world. With that purpose, Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos has erected stations for the GLONASS system in Russia, Antarctica and South Africa, as well as in the Western Hemisphere: it already has four stations in Brazil and since April 2017 it has one in Nicaragua, which due to the secrecy surrounding its function has caused distrust and suspicion in the United States [3] (USA, for its part, has GPS ground stations in its territory and in Australia, Argentina, United Kingdom, Bahrain, Ecuador, South Korea, Tahiti, South Africa and New Zealand).

The Russian Global Navigation Satellite System(Globalnaya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sputnikovaya Sistema or GLONASS) is a positioning system operated by the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces. It consists of 28 satellites, allowing real-time positioning and speed data for surface, sea and airborne objects around the world. [ 4] In principle GLONASS does not transmit any identification information staff; in fact, user devices only receive signals from the satellites, without transmitting anything back. However, it was originally developed with military applications in mind and carries encrypted signals that are supposed to provide higher resolutions to authorized military users (same the US GPS). [5]

In Brazil, there are four ground stations used to track signals from the GLONASS constellation. These stations serve as correction points in the western hemisphere and help to significantly improve the accuracy of navigation signals. Russia is in close and transparent partnership with the Brazilian space agency (AEB), promoting the research and development of the South American country's aerospace sector.



In 2013, the first station was installed, located at campus of the University of Brasilia, which was also the first Russian station of that subject abroad. Another station followed at the same location in 2014, and later, in 2016, a third one was placed at the high school Federal Science Education and Technology of Pernambuco, in Recife. The Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos built its fourth Brazilian station on the territory of the Federal University of Santa Maria, in Rio Grande do Sul. In addition to fulfilling its main purpose of increasing the accuracy and improving the performance of GLONASS, the facility can be used by Brazilian scientists to carry out other types of scientific research . [6]

The level of transparency that surrounded the construction and then prevailed in the management of the stations in Brazil is definitely not the same applied to the one opened in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. There are several pieces of information that sow doubts regarding the real use of the station. To begin with, there is no information on the cost of the facilities or on the specialization of the staff. The fact that it has been placed a short distance from the U.S. Embassy has given rise to conjecture about its use for eavesdropping and espionage.

In addition, vague answers from representatives of Nicaragua and Roscosmos about the use of the station have failed to convey confidence about project. It is a "strategicproject " for both Nicaragua and Russia, concluded Laureano Ortega, the son of the Nicaraguan president. Both countries claim to have a very fluid and close cooperation in many spheres, such as in projects related to health and development, however none of them have materialized with such speed and dedication. [7]

Given Russia's increased military presence in Nicaragua, empowered by the agreement facilitating the docking of Russian warships in Nicaragua announced by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu during his visit to the Central American country in February 2015, and also concretized in the donation of 50 Russian T-72B1 tanks in 2016 and the increasing movement of the Russian military staff , it can be concluded that Russia clearly sees strategic importance in its presence in Nicaragua. [ 8] [ 9] All this is viewed with suspicion from the U.S. The head of the U.S. Southern Command, Kirt Tidd, warned in April that "the Russians are pursuing an unsettling posture" in Nicaragua, which "impacts the stability of the region."

Undoubtedly, when world powers such as Russia or the United States act outside their territory, they are always guided by a combination of motivations. Strategic moves are essential in the game of world politics. For this very reason, the financial aid that a country receives or the partnership that it can establish with a great power is often subject to political conditionality. In this case, it is difficult to know for sure what exactly is the goal of the station in Nicaragua or even those in Brazil. At first glance, the goal seems neutral-offering higher quality of navigation system and providing a different option to GPS-but given the new value Russia is placing on its geopolitical capabilities, there is the possibility of a more strategic use.

Categories Global Affairs: Central Europe and Russia Security and defense Articles Latin America