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The possibility that Bolsonaro's government may seek to label the Landless Movement as terrorists for forcibly occupying farms reopens a historic controversy.

When Brazil passed its first anti-terrorism legislation around the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the initiative was seen as an example to be followed by other Latin American countries, until then generally unfamiliar with a phenomenon that since 9/11 had become pre-eminent in many other parts of the world. However, the possibility that, with the political momentum of Jair Bolsonaro, some social movement, such as the Landless Movement, may be labeled as terrorist, revives old fears of the Brazilian left and accentuates social polarization.

Flag of Movimento Dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST)

Flag of the Movimento Dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST)

article / Túlio Dias de Assis

At the last Berlin Film Festival, the famous Brazilian actor and filmmaker Wagner Moura presented a somewhat controversial film, "Marighella". The film portrays the life of a character from recent Brazilian history, loved by some and hated by others: Carlos Marighella, leader of the Ação Libertadora Nacional. This organization was a revolutionary guerrilla manager of several attacks against the military dictatorial regime that ruled Brazil between 1964 and 1985. For this reason, the film provoked very different reactions: for some, it is the just exaltation of an authentic martyr of the anti-fascist struggle; for others, it is an apology of armed guerrilla terrorism. This small ideological dispute about "Marighella", although it may seem insignificant, is the reflection of an old wound in Brazilian politics that is reopened every time the country discussion on the need for anti-terrorist legislation.

The concept of anti-terrorism legislation is something that has taken hold in many parts of the world, especially in the West after 9/11. However, this notion is not so common in Latin America, probably due to the infrequency of attacks of this type subject suffered by the region. However, the lack of attacks does not imply that there is no presence of such movements in American countries; in fact, several of them are known to be a "refuge" for such organizations, as is the case in the Triple Frontier, the contact area between the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. What happens in that area is largely due to the lack of direct and effective legislation against organized terrorism by national governments.

In the case of Brazil, as in some of its neighboring countries, the lack of anti-terrorism legislation is due to the historical fear on the part of leftist parties of its possible use against social movements of a certain aggressive nature. In Brazil, this was already reflected in the political transition of the late 1980s, when there was a clear protest by the PT(Partido dos Trabalhadores), then under the leadership of Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva, against any attempt to introduce the anti-terrorist concept into legislation. Curiously, the 1988 Federal Constitution itself mentions the word "terrorism" twice: first, as something to be rejected in Brazilian foreign policy, and second, as one of the unforgivable crimes against the Federation. In spite of this, no attempt to define this crime was successful, and although after the 9/11 attacks discussions about a possible law were resumed, the Labor left - already during Lula's presidency - continued to justify its refusal by invoking the persecution carried out by the dictatorship's board Militar. See that the same former president Dilma Rousseff was imprisoned for being part of the VAR-Palmares(Vanguarda Armada Revolucionária Palmares), an extreme left-wing revolutionary group that was part of the armed civil service examination to the regime.

Terrorist threat at the Olympic Games

During the PT's terms of office (2003-2016) there was no subject legislative initiative by the Government on topic; moreover, any other project arising from the Legislature, whether the Senate or the Chamber of Deputies, was blocked by the Executive. Often the Government also justified its position by alluding to a supposed "neutrality", hiding behind the desire not to get involved in external conflicts. This attitude would lead to several fugitives accused of participating or collaborating in attacks in other countries taking refuge in Brazil. However, in mid-2015, as the start of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro approached, the risk of a possible attack in the face of such an important event was assessed. This, together with pressure from the right wing at congress (bear in mind that Rousseff won the 2014 elections with a very narrow margin of less than 1%), led the Petista government to ask the parliament to draft a concise definition of terrorism and other related crimes, such as those related to financing. Finally, the first Brazilian anti-terrorism law was signed by Rousseff in March 2016. Although this is the "official" version of that process, there are not few who defend that the real reason for the implementation of the law was the pressure exerted by the FATF (group Financial Action Task Force against Money Laundering, created by the G8), since this entity had threatened to include Brazil in the list of non-cooperative countries against terrorism.

The Brazilian anti-terrorism law was effective, as it served as the legal framework for the so-called Operação Hardware. Through this operation, the Brazilian Federal Police managed to arrest several suspects of a DAESH branch operating in Brazil, who were planning to carry out an attack during the Rio Olympics. Federal Judge Marcos Josegrei da Silva convicted eight suspects for membership to an Islamic terrorist group , in the first sentence of this kind subject in the history of Brazil. The judge's decision was quite controversial at the time, largely due to Brazilian society's unfamiliarity with this subject risky . As a result, many Brazilians, including part of the press, criticized the "disproportionality" with which the defendants were treated.

Bolsonarist Momentum

Since then, Brazil has come to be considered as a sort of example among South American countries in the fight against terrorism. However, it does not seem that the status quo maintained during the end of the Rousseff administration and the short term of Temer will remain intact for long. This is due to the fiery discussion stirred up by the Bolsonarista right wing, which advocates for the criminal activities of several far-left groups, especially the MST(Movimento Dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra) to be classified as terrorism. The MST is the largest agrarian social movement, Marxist in nature, and is known nationally for its occupations of lands that the group considers "useless or underutilized" in order to "put them to better use". The ineffectiveness of the State in stopping the invasions of private property carried out by the MST has been recurrently denounced in the congress, especially during the PT government years, without major consequences. However, now that the right wing has greater weight, the discussion has come back to life and not a few deputies have already mentioned their intention to seek to denounce the Landless Movement as a terrorist organization. Bolsonaro himself has been a fierce advocate of outlawing the MST.

Also, at the same time that the current Minister of Justice, Sergio Moro, announces the possibility of the creation of an anti-terrorist intelligence system, following the model of his American counterpart, and the congress discussion the expansion of the current list of terrorist organizations to include groups such as Hezbollah, other Brazilian politicians have decided to launch in the Senate a proposal legislation to criminalize the actions of the MST. If approved, this initiative would make real the fear that the left has invoked all these years. After all, this is not the best way to fulfill the promise of "governing for all". Moreover, such a disproportionate measure for this subject of activities would only increase the already intense political polarization present today in Brazilian society: it would be tantamount to rubbing salt in an old wound, one that seemed to be about to heal.

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defence Articles Latin America

The illicit money outflows to foreign safe havens is another negative impact suffered by countries of origin

The people smuggling networks, like any other organised crime groups that operate across different countries, are very sophisticated, not only in their operational structure but also in the organisation of their finances. Fighting against money laundering internationally and against the outflow of the illicit profits from the countries of origin should ameliorate the severe burden that people smuggling means for a lot of African nations.

A rescue of refugees in the Mediterranean Sea [Spain's Navy].

A rescue of refugees in the Mediterranean Sea [Spain's Navy] ▲ A rescue of refugees in the Mediterranean Sea [Spain's Navy].

ARTICLE / Pablo Arbuniés

According to the UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, 116,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe in 2018 and more than 2,200 died in the process. The majority of these migrants are believed to have used smuggling services. This flow of irregular migrants moves around 4 billion euros yearly worldwide and has a crucial impact on African economies.

People smuggling is possible due to the constant interaction and cooperation of many specialised networks. These networks are part of different Organized Crime Groups (OCGs) across many different countries, constituting an even bigger highly-organised network. The global smuggling network provides a wide range of different "services" including other illegal features such as document fraud, and involves a certain degree of infiltration in both sending and host societies (1).

Separation of tasks is extremely important for the survival of the business, as a well-organised network is less vulnerable to criminal investigations, and if the investigations succeed, only small units of the network are exposed. The migration process can be divided into three main stages: mobilization, requirements en route and integration into the destination countries. Each stage is managed by one or more specialised networks that can be independent actors or part of a bigger network.

The process of mobilization involves the recruitment of the migrants in their countries of origin. At this point, it is important to remark that recruiters will only deal with "clients" of their same nationality. After the recruitment, the smugglers ensure them a safe passage to the meeting points located in Khartoum (Sudan) and Agadez (Niger). These cities, respectively located in the south-eastern and south-western entrances of the Sahara, serve as focal communication points and are home to some networks' headquarters. From here, another part of the network takes charge of the migrants and safeguards their journey to Libya often crossing the Sahara on foot. Once in Libya the migrants go under the custody of a third network that takes them to the coast of either Tripoli or Benghazi with the paid protection of the local militias, and once on the coast they can finally embark on one of the overcrowded boats that hopefully will take them to the closest European islands, often being Lampedusa and Malta the destination.

This journey is very expensive for the migrants, as they have to pay the different smugglers in each step. However, the exact prices are hard to estimate due to the scarce reliable sources on the subject and the heterogeneity of the networks involved. Moreover, not only is it expensive, it is also extremely dangerous, with a vast number of fatalities all along this odyssey. Only in 2016, a record number 4,720 migrants died in the Mediterranean Sea according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the number of deaths in the Sahara is impossible to estimate. However, the variety of offers can provide much safer-and thus much more expensive-options such as embarking on a plane with false documentation, which grants the clients a non-existing risk of dying during the journey and a much lower risk of being caught and deported.

As we can see, people smuggling networks offer a wide range of services and prices in order to best suit the demands and financial capabilities of their potential clients, just like any other successful business in the world, involving different forms of interaction and cooperation. Indeed, these networks operate as cartels with centralized systems of management and planning. Another critical part of the business is the gathering of information, mainly about border patrols, changing routes and armed militias that could be a threat or potential co-workers, but also on asylum procedures. This information gathering is tasked to a core group of individuals that manage the constant flows of information and have access to well organised and centralised communication systems.

To deal with the overwhelming amounts of money involved in the process, these networks need a highly organised financial branch, able to deal with the payments and also to launder the money obtained and reinvest it on other legal or illegal activities.

Money laundering and impact in the local economies

International smuggling of migrants is said to move around 4 billion euros yearly all around the world. According to Frontex, most of this money is used to fund other illegal activities such as drugs trafficking or buying weapons to reinforce the network's power. But also, a big amount of money is laundered in order to be invested in legal activities or to be transferred to tax havens.

The money moved by these networks which carry illegal activities is classified as Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs), which we can define as illegal movements of money or capital from one country to another, or those in which the funds have been illegally obtained, transferred or utilized. IFFs are considered very harmful for developing economies such as the ones we can find in Africa, because usually they involve international monetary aids leaving the country for tax havens instead of being utilised according to their intended ends.

In order to launder the money, the most complex networks have what we could consider to be accountancy branches, just like any other OCGs around the world. These accountancy branches seek to place the money outside the countries of origin or operation in order to avoid scrutiny and look for stable economies with predictable financial systems and weak anti-money laundering policies. There they can diversify their investment portfolios and spread the risk without a major threat of being caught by Financial Intelligence Units (FUIs). OCGs seek to invest in products that move extremely quickly in the market such as food products, which makes tracking the money even harder.

An interesting case of money laundering takes place in Europe involving the Pink Panthers, a Serbian band of thieves formed during the Yugoslavian war and now extended as a method, which only reinvested their profits in their cities of origin back in Serbia. These investments proved to be very beneficial to local economies and helped the country fight the devastating effect of the war. In the same way, IFFs originated by people smugglers could in some way be beneficial for the receiving countries, but in reality only a small part of the network's income is reinvested in Africa, and overall, the continent loses a big amount of money in favour of tax havens and funding other illicit activities. In addition, we shall not forget that the source of these funds are illegal activities involving violence and connected to other illicit activities.

In conclusion, it is crucial for the development of the continent to efficiently tackle not only money laundering but also all kinds of IFFs such as tax evasion, international bribery and the recovery of stolen assets. This is an indispensable step in order to have the financial stability required for a sustainable economic development. Moreover, repatriation on flight capital should be prioritized, as it would help a higher sustainable growth without depending on external borrowing and development funds.


Main routes for African irregular migrants [UNODC, before Sudan's split].

Main routes for African irregular migrants [UNODC, before Sudan's split].


The case of Nigeria

We must take into consideration that Nigeria had often been referred in the past as the most corrupt country in the world, and it has serious problems involving money laundering and capital flight. In addition, effectively tackling money laundering could potentially cut the finances of the terrorist group Boko Haram, which operates in the north of the country. These financial characteristics added to the inefficiency of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and its dependence from the government, made Nigeria a very suitable country for money laundering.

In 2017, the Egmont Group, a body of 159 national Financial Intelligence Units focused on money laundering and terrorist financing, suspended Nigeria from its membership due to the lack of a legal framework and its dependence from Nigeria's state Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

However, in the past months the Nigerian government, headed by Muhammadu Buhari, has been an example on how to tackle money laundering and deal with the institutional problems that it involves. In March 2018, the parliament passed a new law that aims to tackle money laundering and funding for terrorism by allowing its financial technology unit to operate independently from the control of the state, thus eliminating the unnecessary bureaucracy that used to slow down the investigations. More precisely, this law makes the NFIU an independent body able to share information and to cooperate with its counterparts in other states.

The international community showed its conformity with the new legislation and the NFIU was readmitted in the Egmont Group in July. Whether these policies will fulfil their potential or not, only time can tell.



(1) Salt, J. and Stein, J. (1997). Migration as a Business: The Case of Trafficking.

Categories Global Affairs: Africa Security and defence Articles

degree program between the armed forces of the major powers to develop and incorporate laser systems

With the development of laser weapons, the use of intercontinental missiles may no longer make sense, as they can be easily intercepted and shot down without causing collateral damage. Thus, the nuclear threat will have to turn to other possibilities, and laser weapons will most likely become the new object of desire of the armed forces.

High energy tactical laser [US Army].

▲ High energy tactical laser [US Army].

article / Isabella León

Since before World War II, when the British government offered more than $76,000 to anyone who could design a beam weapon that could kill a sheep at 100 meters, technology in this field has come a long way. In 1960 Theodore Maiman invented the first laser and that accelerated the research to develop deadly beams capable of destroying any device sent by the enemy and at the same time generate significant damage to electrical components through a secondary radiation effect. Today the progress in this subject is valued as the greatest military breakthrough since the atomic bomb.

Laser weapons are valued because of their speed, agility, accuracy, cost-effectiveness and anti-jamming properties. These weapons are literally a beam of light moving coherently, so they can hit targets at a speed of 300,000 kilometers per second, intercept numerous targets or the same goal many times, reach goal with extreme accuracy without collateral damage, and resist electromagnetic interference. They are also much cheaper than conventional munitions, at a cost of one dollar per laser shot.

However, laser weapons have some limitations: they require a large amount of power, a size and weight adapted to military platforms and effective thermal management. In addition, their structure depends on the composition of their targets (wavelengths are absorbed or reflected depending on the surface characteristics of the material), the different ranges they must reach and the different environments and atmospheric effects to which they will be subjected. These aspects affect the behavior of the weapon.

However, despite these limitations, the major powers have long been betting on the immense potential of this technology as a strategic weapon.

United States

The U.S. Defense department has worked extensively to contribute to the development of the laser weapon system in specific protective fields, such as the U.S. Navy, Army and Air Force.

At department naval defense is particularly involved in this field. The Navy has developed what is known as the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) which consists of a solid-state, fiber-optic laser that acts as an attached weapon, and is linked to a rapid-fire anti-missile system, as a defensive and offensive weapon for aircraft. The LaWS is goal intended to shoot down small drones and damage small ships at a range of approximately one mile.

The most recent developments have been awarded to the multinational company Lockheed Martin, with a $150 million contract, for the advancement of two high-power laser weapon systems, known as HELIOS, which will be the successor to LaWS. This is the first system to blend a high-energy laser with long-range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, and its goal is to destroy and blind drones and small craft.

The Army is also experimenting with laser weapon systems for installation on armored vehicles and helicopters. In 2017, the Armed Forces Strategic Command (ARSTRAT) armed a Stryker with a high-energy laser and developed the Boeing HEL MD, its first high-energy mobile laser, with a counter missile, artillery and mortar (C-RAM) platform, consisting of a 10kW solid-state laser. Simultaneously, research has been conducted to reach 50 kW and 100 kW of power.

On the other hand, the Air Force wants to attach lasers to fighter jets, drones and cargo planes to attack ground and airborne targets. In fact, the Army has continued its research to test its first airborne laser weapons in 2021. One of its programs is a 227kg Gamma that delivers 13.3kW and whose structure allows many laser modules to combine and produce a 100kW light.

Lockheed Martin has also been awarded another contract for business to work on a new laser turret for aircraft, implementing a beam that controls 360 Degrees to shoot down enemy aircraft and missiles above, below and behind the aircraft. The system has undergone many tests and emerged in the project SHiELD, whose goal is to generate a high-power laser weapon for tactical combat aircraft by 2021.


In recent years China has implemented opening-up policies that have put the nation on contact with the rest of the world. The same process has been accompanied by a modernization of its military equipment that has become source of concern to its strategic rivals. In fact, there have been several diplomatic confrontations in this regard. With this modernization, China has developed a five-ton chemical laser system that will be located in the leave Earth orbit by 2023.

China divides its laser weapons system into two groups: strategic and tactical. The former are high-power, airborne or ground-based, and are intended to intercept ICBMs and satellites thousands of kilometers away at goal . The second are low power, generally used for short range air defense or defense staff. These targets are unmanned aerial vehicles, missiles and slow-flying aircraft with effective ranges between a few meters and 12 kilometers away.

Among the most striking Chinese innovations is the Silent Hunter, a 30 to 100kW vehicle-based laser weapon with a range of 4 kilometers, capable of cutting through 5 mm thick steel at a distance of one kilometer. This system was first used at the Hangzhou G20 Summit as a means of protection.

Also of note are innovations such as individual laser weapons, which are laser guns that blind enemy combatants or their electro-optical devices. Within this category are the BBQ-905 and WJG-2002 dazzling laser rifles, and the PY132A and PY131A blinding laser weapon.

Other countries

Little is known about the level of Russia's laser-related capabilities. However, in December last year, a representative of the Russian Defense Ministry, Krasnaya Zvezda, referred to the Peresvet laser system, which is part of the country's ongoing military modernization program. The objectives are very clear, to shoot down hostile missiles and aircraft, and to blind the enemy's system.

Russia presumably has an extensive research field at this subject, as its arms policy and behavior has been one of constant skill and rivalry with the United States.

Germany's bet in relation to laser technology is the Rheinmetall laser weapons demonstrator, which consists of 50kW of power and is the successor to the latest 10 kW version. This system was designed for air defense, asymmetric warfare and C-RAM operations. The Rheinmetall laser is composed of two laser modules mounted on Oerlikon Revolver Gun air defense turrets. It achieved a destructive 50kW laser with the combination of Rheinmetall's beam overlap technology to focus a 30kW laser and a 20 kW laser at the same location.

The future of laser weapons

When talking about laser weapons, the first thing to keep in mind is the tremendous impact that this technology will have in military terms, which will make it decisive on the battlefield. In fact, many other countries with a constantly modernizing military have implemented this system: this is the case of France in the Rafale F3-R aircraft; the United Kingdom with the Dragonfire high-energy laser, or even Israel, which in the face of the growing missile threat has accelerated the development of this technology.

Today many ships, aircraft, and land vehicles are being designed and assembled in such a way that they can accommodate the installation of laser weapons. Continuous improvements are being made to create longer ranges, increased energy, and adaptive beams. It can thus be argued that the time for laser weapons has finally arrived.

With the development of this technology, military equipment such as ICBM missiles or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), mainly, could cease to make sense, since laser weapons are capable of intercepting and shooting down these missiles, without causing collateral damage. In the end, launching the ICBM would be a waste of energy, ammunition and money. Thus, the nuclear threat will have to turn to other possibilities, and laser weapons will most likely be the new emphasis of the armed forces.

In addition, it is important to highlight the fact that this military innovation drives international security towards defense, rather than offensive actions. For this reason, laser weapons would not cancel the tensions in the international sphere, but they could somehow decrease the chances of a military confrontation.

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defence Articles Global

The meeting COP24 made progress on regulating the Paris agreement , but "carbon markets" remained blocked.

Mobilisations for governments to take more drastic action on climate change can make us forget that many countries are taking real steps to reduce greenhouse gases. Although international summits often fall short of expectations, climate agreements are gradually making headway. Here are the results of the last such summit: a small step, admittedly, but a step forward.

Plenary session of COP24, held in December in Katowice, Poland [COP24].

Plenary session of COP24, held in December in Katowice (Poland) [COP24].

article / Sandra Redondo

The climate summit (also known as COP: Conference of the Parties) is a global lecture prepared by the United Nations, where measures and actions related to climate policy are negotiated. The last one, dubbed COP24, took place from 2 to 14 December 2018, in the Polish city of Katowice. It was attended by around 3,000 delegates from 197 countries that are party to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change framework . Among them were politicians, representatives of non-governmental organisations, members of the academic community and the business sector.

The first COP took place in 1995, and since then these summits have led to the creation of the Kyotoprotocol (COP3, 1997) and the Parisagreement (COP21, 2015), among other mechanisms for international action. The main goal of the quotation in Katowice was to find a way to implement the 2015 Paris agreement , i.e. to implement cuts in pollutant emissions to avoid an increase in global warming. COP24 was the last summit before 2020, when the Paris agreement will enter into force.

goal The 2015 Paris Agreement agreement was signed by 194 countries with the aim of preventing pollutant emissions, which cause the greenhouse effect, from increasing the planet's temperature above two degrees Celsius Degrees compared to pre-industrial levels. Degrees The international community is calling for a concerted effort to ensure that the temperature increase does not exceed 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The summit aimed to create a clear, concrete and common outline to be followed by all countries in order to make agreement a reality.


One of the challenges in achieving this goal lies in establishing a balance that allows all nations to participate in this struggle, but taking into account the reality of each one of them: the different technological and financial capacities, as well as the circumstances of vulnerability and historical contamination. As countries with great differences among them are involved, the task of reaching consensus is understandably difficult. This was one of the measures intended to be implemented from the Paris agreement , in which governments pledged to help countries at development to achieve greater and more permanent adaptation.

In the words of Patricia Espinosa, UN Climate Change Executive administrative assistant , in addition to measures to make the Paris agreement effective, it is important to "promote a cultural change in the ways our societies produce and consume in order to rethink our models of development".

Wang Yi, China's foreign minister, said that his country reaffirms that only a joint work among all countries will provide an effective solution in the fight against climate change.

At these summits, agreements must be accepted by all participating states, which can cause negotiations to drag on. This is what happened at COP24. Negotiations were scheduled to end on Friday, but dragged on until the final agreement was reached the following day. The final text, C by all countries in attendance, turned out to be less ambitious than expected, especially on reference letter on greenhouse gas emission cuts.

Despite the declarations of willingness of some countries, certain tensions were inevitable in the negotiations, especially when it came to the assumption that more ambition is needed in this fight. On the one side was the conservative side, with countries such as the United States (which is one of the countries that contributes the most CO2 per capita to global warming) and Saudi Arabia among others. On the other side were the European Union and other states, some of them island states, threatened by rising sea levels, which will continue to rise as a result of rising global temperatures.

Another cause of delay was a demand from Turkey at the last minute to improve financing conditions. With regard to financing, the final agreement acknowledges that more resources need to be devoted to this fight, particularly to the reduction of greenhouse gases.

report of the International Panel on Change

In addition to the measures and cuts that were agreed upon at this summit, a declaration was to be made with the conclusions of the report conclusions made by the experts group Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which would warn that the world does not have much time left to avoid the worst consequences of this climate change.

This report, which was one of the big battles of the summit, details what will happen if the global temperature rises 1.5 Degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. Currently the temperature is one Degree above pre-industrial levels. Despite the fact that it should have been considered of great importance by all countries, given that these are facts that affect the world, there were countries such as Russia, Kuwait, the United States and Saudi Arabia, which tried to play down its importance and raised doubts about the veracity of the conclusions of the report, while other states defended the unquestionability of the conclusions. A common characteristic of these opposing countries is that they are the world's major oil producers.

The report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), presented at COP24, indicates that, if no change continues, between 2030 and 2050, these will be the consequences:

-Increase in flood risk from 100% (at 1.5°C) to 170% (at 2°C).

-If we exceed 1.5°C, more than 400 million people living in cities will be exposed to extreme droughts by the end of the century.

Arctic ice will decrease so much that there will be an ice-free summer at least once every 10 years.

-150 million deaths could be avoided by limiting this 1.5°C temperature rise.

-Nearly 50 million people could be affected by a sea level rise by 2100 if the temperature increase exceeds 1.5°C.

-Corals would be among the worst affected, as they would all be lost by 2100 if the 1.5°C rise is exceeded due to rising ocean acidity. Reaching 1.5°C would result in the loss of 70% of them.

According to calculations also made by the IPCC, CO2 emissions will have to fall by 45% by 2030 to limit warming to 1.5 Degrees. In addition, "carbon neutrality" must be achieved by 2050, i.e. to start having negative emissions, i.e. to stop emitting more CO2 than is removed from the atmosphere. The longer it takes to implement these measures, the less time we will have before the negative consequences affect us all, and may even become irreversible. With each passing year, not only are greenhouse gas emissions not being reduced, but they are increasing. That is why now is the time to act.

As a conclusion of the IPCC's report it should be clear that in order to avoid an increase above 1.5 Degrees it was necessary to cut current emissions by 45%. However, due to the disagreement of several states with this report, and the fear of the failure of the summit, these cuts were omitted from the final agreement . This delay in taking drastic action only reduces the time we have to save our planet, risking being too late to avoid the worst consequences.


At meeting in Katowice it was possible to reach consensus on the regulation of the Paris measures agreement , which is already a great achievement, but the agreement came at the cost of setting aside carbon markets, i.e. the set of carbon trading mechanisms that allow countries that emit more greenhouse gases to buy emission rights from those countries that do comply with the targets and emit gases below the established limit. This section blocked the negotiation of other issues for hours, as several countries that benefit from the current status, such as Brazil, opposed modifications. Finally, it was decided to postpone the negotiations until the COP25 meeting next year in Chile.

The common set of rules for all countries allows them to present their progress in the fight against climate change in the same way. We have to remember that the problem after agreement in Paris was that each country decided to present the data pledge cuts in a different way. For this reason, a agreement to unify rules and criteria in a common way is a breakthrough. These transparency rules are particularly important, as they will make it possible to analyse the progress of what has been proposed at each point in time, and this will make it possible to analyse the targets achieved and the need for further action. For example, among the data that all countries are required to include in their reports are the sectors included in their targets, gas emissions and the year of reference letter against which they will measure the process.

Although some are disappointed that they expected more results than were achieved, the mere fact that agreement was reached among all the participating countries must be considered a success.

We must bear in mind that some of the participating states that showed less interest and put less effort into the negotiations for this fight, and even raised obstacles in the negotiations, are very important countries in the international sphere, with great economic and political power. For this reason, we should consider the agreement reached as a further step towards raising awareness of the fight against climate change. A small step, but a step forward.

Categories Global Affairs: Energy, resources and sustainability Articles Global

Ukrainian Orthodox break with Russia shifts tension between Kiev and Moscow to the religious sphere

While Russia closed the Sea of Azov approaches to Ukraine, at the end of 2018, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church advanced its independence from the Moscow Patriarchate, cutting off an important element of Russian influence on Ukrainian society. In the "hybrid war" posed by Vladimir Putin, with its episodes of counter-offensives, religion is one more sphere of underhand pugnacity.

Proclamation of autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, with attendance by Ukrainian President Poroshenko [Mykola Lazarenko].

▲ Proclamation of autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, with attendance of Ukrainian President Poroshenko [Mykola Lazarenko].

article / Paula Ulibarrena

January 5, 2019 was an important day for the Orthodox Church. In historic Constantinople, today Istanbul, in the Orthodox Cathedral of St. George, the ecclesiastical rupture between the Kievan Rus and Moscow was verified, thus giving birth to the fifteenth autocephalous Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, presided over the ceremony together with the Metropolitan of Kiev, Epiphanius, who was elected last fall by the Ukrainian bishops who wanted to split from the Moscow Patriarchate. After a solemn choral welcome for the 39-year-old Epiphanius, the church leaders placed on a table in the church the tomos (decree), a parchment written in Greek certifying the independence of the Ukrainian Church.

But the one who actually led the Ukrainian delegation was the president of that republic, Petro Poroshenko. "It is a historic event and a great day because we were able to hear a prayer in Ukrainian in St. George's Cathedral," Poroshenko wrote moments later on his account on the social network Twitter.

The event was strongly opposed by the Moscow Patriarchate, which has long been at odds with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Archbishop Ilarion, head of external relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, compared status to the East-West Schism of 1054 and warned that the current conflict could last "for decades and even centuries".

The great schism

This is the name given to the schism or separation of the Eastern (Orthodox) Church from the Catholic Church of Rome. The separation developed over centuries of disagreements beginning with the moment in which the emperor Theodosius the Great divided the Roman Empire into two parts between his sons, Honorius and Arcadius, upon his death (year 395). However, the actual split did not take place until 1054. The causes are ethnic subject due to differences between Latins and Easterners, political due to the support of Rome to Charlemagne and of the Eastern Church to the emperors of Constantinople but above all due to the religious differences that throughout those years were distancing both churches, both in aspects such as sanctuaries, differences of worship, and above all due to the pretension of both ecclesiastical seats to be the head of Christendom.

When Constantine the Great moved the capital of the empire from Rome to Constantinople, it became known as New Rome. After the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire to the Turks in 1453 Moscow used the name "Third Rome". The roots of this sentiment began to develop during the reign of the Grand Duke of Moscow Ivan III, who had married Sophia Paleologos who was the niece of the last ruler of Byzantium, so that Ivan could claim to be the heir of the collapsed Byzantine Empire.

The different Orthodox churches

The Orthodox Church does not have a hierarchical unity, but is made up of 15 autocephalous churches that recognize only the power of their own hierarchical authority, but maintain doctrinal and sacramental communion among themselves. This hierarchical authority is usually equated to the geographical delimitation of political power, so that the different Orthodox churches have been structured around the states or countries that have been configured throughout history, in the area that emerged from the Eastern Roman Empire, and later occupied the Ottoman Empire.

They are the following churches: Constantinople, the Russian (which is the largest, with 140 million faithful), Serbian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Cypriot, Georgian, Polish, Czech and Slovak, Albanian and American Orthodox, as well as the very prestigious but small churches of Alexandria, Jerusalem and Antioch (for Syria).

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has historically depended on the Russian Orthodox Church, parallel to the country's dependence on Russia. In 1991, following the fall of communism and the disappearance of the USSR, many Ukrainian bishops self-proclaimed the Kiev Patriarchate and separated from the Russian Orthodox Church. This separation was schismatic and did not gain support from the rest of the Orthodox churches and patriarchates, and in fact meant that two Orthodox churches coexisted in Ukraine: the Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Church dependent on the Moscow Patriarchate.

However this lack of initial supports changed last year. On July 2, 2018, Bartholomew, Patriarch of Constantinople, declared that there is no canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine as Moscow annexed the Ukrainian Church in 1686 in a canonically unacceptable manner. On October 11, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople decided to grant autocephaly of the Ecumenical Patriarch to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and revoked the validity of the synodal letter of 1686, which granted the right to the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev. This led to the reunification of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its severance of relations with the Moscow Orthodox Church.

On December 15, in the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kiev, the Extraordinary Synod of Unification of the three Ukrainian Orthodox Churches was held, with the Archbishop of Pereýaslav-Jmelnitskiy and Bila Tserkva Yepifany (Dumenko) being elected as Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine. On January 5, 2019, in the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George in Istanbul Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I initialed the tomos of autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Does politics accompany division or is it the cause of it?

In Eastern Europe, the intimate relationship between religion and politics is almost a tradition, as it has been since the beginnings of the Orthodox Church. It seems evident that the political confrontation between Russia and Ukraine parallels the schism between the Orthodox Churches in Moscow and Kiev, and is even a further factor adding tension to this confrontation. In fact, the political symbolism of the Constantinople event was reinforced by the fact that it was Poroshenko, and not Epiphanius, who received the tomos from the hands of the Ecumenical Patriarch, whom he thanked for the "courage to take this historic decision". Previously, the Ukrainian president had already compared this fact with the referendum by which Ukraine became independent from the USSR in 1991 and with the "aspiration to join the European Union and NATO".

Although the separation had been years in the making, interestingly, the quest for such religious independence has intensified following Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014 and Moscow's support for separatist militias in eastern Ukraine.

The first result was made public on November 3, with a visit by Poroshenko to Fanar, Bartholomew's see in Istanbul, after which the patriarch underlined his support for Ukrainian ecclesiastical autonomy.

Constantinople's recognition of an autonomous Ukrainian church is also a boost for Poroshenko, who faces a tough election degree program in March. In power since 2014, Poroshenko has focused on the religious issue much of his speech. "Army, language, faith," is his main election slogan. In fact, after the split, the ruler stated, "the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is born without Putin and without Kirill, but with God and with Ukraine."

Kiev claims that Moscow-backed Orthodox churches in Ukraine - some 12,000 parishes - are in reality a propaganda tool of the Kremlin, which also uses them to support pro-Russian rebels in the Donbas. The churches vehemently deny this.

On the other side, Vladimir Putin, who set himself up years ago as a defender of Russia as an Orthodox power and counts the Moscow Patriarch among his allies, fervently opposes the split and has warned that the division will produce "a great dispute, if not bloodshed."

Moreover, for the Moscow Patriarchate -which has been rivaling for years with Constantinople as the center of Orthodox power- it is a hard blow. The Russian Church has about 150 million Orthodox Christians under its authority, and with this separation it would lose a fifth of them, although it would still remain the most numerous Orthodox patriarchate.

This fact also has a political twin, as Russia has stated that it will break off relations with Constantinople. Vladimir Putin knows that he is losing one of the greatest sources of influence he has in Ukraine (and in what he calls "the Russian world"): that of the Orthodox Church. For Putin, Ukraine is at the center of the birth of the Russian people. This is one of the reasons, along with Ukraine's important geostrategic position and its territorial extension, why Moscow wants to continue to maintain spiritual sovereignty over the former Soviet republic, since politically Ukraine is moving closer to the West, both to the EU and to the United States.

Nor should we forget the symbolic burden. The Ukrainian capital, Kiev, was the starting point and origin of the Russian Orthodox Church, something that President Putin himself often recalls. It was there that Prince Vladimir, a medieval Slavic figure revered by both Russia and Ukraine, converted to Christianity in 988. "If the Ukrainian Church wins its autocephaly, Russia will lose control of that part of history it claims as the origin of its own," Dr. Taras Kuzio, a professor at Kiev's Mohyla Academy, tells the BBC. "It will also lose much of the historical symbols that are part of the Russian nationalism that Putin advocates, such as the Kiev Caves monastery or St. Sophia Cathedral, which will become entirely Ukrainian. It is a blow to the nationalist emblems that Putin boasts of."

Another aspect to consider is that the Orthodox churches of other countries (Serbia, Romania, Alexandria, Jerusalem, etc.) are beginning to align themselves on one side or the other of the great rift: with Moscow or with Constantinople. It is not clear if this will remain a merely religious schism, if it occurs, or if it will also drag the political power, since it should not be forgotten, as has already been pointed out, that in that area which we call the East there have always been very strong ties between religious and political power since the great schism with Rome.


Enthronement ceremony of the erected Patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Mykola Lazarenko].

Enthronement ceremony of the erected Patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Mykola Lazarenko].


Why now?

The advertisement of the split between the two churches is, for some, logical in historical terms. "After the fall of the Byzantine Empire, the independent Orthodox churches were configured in the 19th century from agreement to the national borders of the countries and this is the patron saint that, with delay, Ukraine is now following", explains the theologian Aristotle Papanikolaou director of the Center of programs of study Orthodox Christians of the University of Fordham, in the United States, in the above mentioned information of the BBC.

It must be seen as Constantinople's opportunity to detract power from the Moscow Church, but above all it is the reaction of general Ukrainian sentiment to Russia's attitude. "How can Ukrainians accept as spiritual guides members of a church believed to be involved in Russian imperialist aggressions?" asks Papanikolau, acknowledging the impact that the Crimean war and its subsequent annexation may have had on the attitude of Constantinople's churchmen.

There is thus a clear and parallel relationship between the deterioration of political relations between Ukraine and Russia and the separation between the Kievan Rus and the Moscow Church. Both Orthodox Churches are closely intertwined, not only in their respective societies, but also in the political spheres and these in turn use for their purposes the important ascendancy of the Churches over the inhabitants of the two countries. In final, the political tension drags or favors the ecclesiastical tension, but at the same time the aspirations of independence of the Ukrainian Church see this moment of political confrontation as the ideal moment to become independent from the Muscovite one.

Categories Global Affairs: Central Europe and Russia World order, diplomacy and governance Articles

After four years of military board , the upcoming elections open the possibility of returning to a legitimacy that has been too often interrupted by coups d'état.

Thailand has known several coups d'état and attempts to return to democracy in its more recent history. The military board that seized power in 2014 has called elections for March 24. The unsuccessful desire of King Maha Vajiralongkorn's sister to contest the election for the post of prime minister has drawn global attention to a political system that fails to address the political aspirations of Thais. 

Bangkok street scene [Pixabay].

▲ Bangkok street scene [Pixabay].

article / María Martín Andrade

Thailand is one of the fastest developing ASEAN countries in economic terms. However, this progress is encountering a difficult obstacle: the political instability that the country has been dragging along since the beginning of the 20th century and that opens a new chapter now, in 2019, with the elections that will take place on March 24. These elections mark a before and after in recent Thai politics, after in 2014, General Prayut Chan-Ocha staged a coup and became Thailand's Prime Minister heading the NCPO (committee National Council for Peace and Order), the board government constituted to run the country.

However, there are many who are skeptical about this new entrance of democracy. To begin with, the elections were initially set for February 24, but shortly thereafter the Government announced a change of date and called them for a month later. Some have expressed suspicions about a strategy to prevent the elections from taking place, since, according to the law, they cannot be held after one hundred and fifty days from the publication of the last ten organic laws. Others fear that the NCPO has given itself more time to buy votes, while commenting on concerns that the Election Commission, which is an independent administration, may be manipulated to achieve a success that the military board will find difficult to ensure.

Focusing this analysis on what the future holds for Thai politics, it is necessary to look back at its trajectory over the last century to realize that it follows a circular path.

Coups d'état are nothing new in the country (1). There have been twelve since the first Constitution was signed in 1932. Everything responds to a never-ending struggle between the "military wing", which sees constitutionalism as a Western import that does not quite fit in with the Thai Structures (it also defends nationalism and venerates the image of the king as a symbol of the nation, Buddhist religion and ceremonial life), and the "leftist orbit", originally composed of Chinese and Vietnamese emigrants, which perceives the country's institutionalism as similar to that of "pre-revolutionary China" and which throughout the 20th century expressed itself through guerrilla warfare. To this latter ideology must be added the student movement, which since the early 1960s has criticized "Americanization", poverty, the traditional order of society and the military regime.

With the urban boom that began in the 1970s, the gross domestic product increased fivefold and the industrial sector became the fastest growing sector, thanks to the production of technological goods and the investments that Japanese companies began to make in the country. During this period there were coups d'état, such as the one in 1976, and numerous student demonstrations and guerrilla actions. After the 1991 coup d'état and new elections, discussion was opened on how to create an efficient political system and a society adapted to globalization.

These efforts were cut short when the economic crisis of 1997 arrived, which generated divisions and aroused rejection of globalization as the evil force that had brought the country to misery. It is at this point that someone entered the scene who has since been core topic in Thai politics and who will undoubtedly mark the March elections: Thaksin Shinawatra.

Shinawatra, an important businessman, created the Thai Rak Thai (Thai ama Thai) party as a nationalist reaction to the crisis. In 2001 he won the elections and bet on economic growth and the creation of large companies, but at the same time exercised intense control over the media, attacking those who dared to criticize him and allowing only positive news to be published. In 2006, a coup took place to overthrow Shinawatra, who was accused of serious corruption offenses. However, Shinawatra won the elections again in 2007, this time with the People Power Party.

In 2008 there was another uprising, but the Shinawatra brand, represented by the sister of the former Prime Minister, won the elections in 2011, this time with the Pheu Thai party. Yingluck Shinawatra thus became the first woman to preside over the Thai government. In 2014 another coup removed her and installed a board that has ruled until now, with a speech based on the fight against corruption, the protection of the monarchy, and the rejection of electoral politics, considered as the national epidemic.

In this context, the entire effort of the board, which is running in March under the name of the Palang Pracharat party, has been focused on weakening Pheu Thai and thus wiping any remaining trace of Shinawatra off the map. To achieve this, the board has proceeded to reform the electoral system (in 2016 a new Constitution replaced that of 1997), so that the Senate is no longer elected by the citizens.

Despite all the efforts manifested in vote buying, the possible manipulation of the Election Commission and the reform of the electoral system, it is sensed that Thai society may make its voice heard as it is tired of the military government, which is also losing support in Bangkok and in the south. Added to this is the collective conviction that, rather than pursuing economic growth, the board has focused on achieving stability by making Thailand's Economics more unequal, according to data of Credit Suisse. For the same reason, the other parties running in these elections, Prachorath, Pheu Thai, and Bhumjaithai, agree that Thailand has to be re-integrated into the global skill and that the capitalist market has to grow.

At the beginning of February the context became even more complicated when Princess Ulboratana, the sister of the current king, Maha Vajiralongkorn, announced the presentation of her candidacy in the elections as representative of the Thai Raksa Chart party, allied to Thaksin Shinawatra. This news was a great anomaly, not only because of the fact that a member of the monarchy showed his intention to participate actively in politics, something that had not happened since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932, but also because all the coups that have taken place in the country have had the backing of the royal family. The last one, in 2014, had the blessing of the then King Bhumibol. Likewise, the royal family has always had the support of the military board.

In order to avoid a confrontation that would damage the monarchy, the king reacted quickly and publicly rejected his sister's candidacy; finally the Electoral Commission decided to withdraw her from the election process.

Poor governance

During the last years the board military has been manager of bad governance, of the weak institutionalism of the country and of a Economics threatened by international sanctions that seek to punish the lack of internal democracy.

To begin with, following article 44 of the Constitution proclaimed in 2016, the NCPO has legitimacy to intervene in the legislative, judicial and executive branches under the pretext of protecting Thailand from threats to public order, the monarchy or Economics. This not only precludes any possibility of effective interaction and conflict resolution with other actors, but is an unmistakable feature of an authoritarian system.

It has been precisely its characteristics of authoritarian regime, which is how its governmental system can be qualified, that have made the international community react since the 2014 coup, imposing various sanctions that can seriously affect Thailand. The United States suspended 4.7 million dollars of financial attendance , while Europe has objected to the negotiation of a free trade agreement , because as Pirkka Tappiola, EU representative to Thailand has indicated, it will only be possible to establish a agreement of that subject with a democratically elected government. In addition, Japan, the main investor in the country, has begun to look for alternative ways, setting up factories in other parts of the region such as Myanmar or Laos.

Faced with the questioning of its management, the board reacted by dedicating US$2.7 billion to programs aimed at the poorest sectors of the poorest population, especially farmers, and by investing nearly US$30 billion in the construction of infrastructure in areas that have not yet been exploited.

Given that exports account for 70% of Thailand's GDP, the government cannot afford to have the international community at odds with it. This explains why the board created a committee to handle human rights problems reported from abroad, although the goal of the initiative seems to have been more for publicity purposes.

In the face of a new democratic phase, the board has a strategy. Having put most of its efforts into the creation of new infrastructure, it hopes to open an economic corridor, the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), with which to turn the three main coastal provinces (Chonburi, Rayong, and Chachoengsao) into special economic zones where industries such as automobiles and aviation are boosted, and which will be attractive to foreign investment once democratic legitimization has been cleared.

It is difficult to foresee what will happen in Thailand in the March 24 elections. Although almost everything speaks of a return to democracy, it remains to be seen the result of the party created by the military (Pralang Pracharat) and its firm commitment to a truly honest institutional game. If Thailand wants to continue to grow economically and attract foreign investors again, the military should soon give way to a fully civilian process. It may not be a smooth ride, as democracy is a dress that has been a bit of a tight fit for the country so far.


(1) Baker, C. , Phongpaichit, P. (2005). A History of Thailand. Cambridge, Univeristy Press, New York.

Categories Global Affairs: Asia World order, diplomacy and governance Articles

Strategic bombers will continue to matter in the geopolitical balance as "weapons of mass deterrence."

The U.S. B-52 bomber fleet is to receive a series of upgrades that will boost its active life at least through the 2050s. By then, the B-52 will have been flying for nearly 90 years, since its liftoff in the Eisenhower presidency. This will make it by far the model longest flying aircraft with its primary operator, in this case the USAF.

A B-52G when it was in service

▲ A B-52G when it was in service [USAF].

article / Jairo Císcar Ruiz

The words "strategic bomber" may sound like Cold War, Soviet Union and spy planes, but today it is a concept that is at agenda despite sounding very distant. It is true that the current status of strategic aviation is limited by the 2010 Prague agreement (START III), which restricts deployed nuclear weapon delivery vehicles to 700. These delivery vehicles include strategic bombers, ICBMs (intercontinental missiles) and SLBMs (submarine launched). Despite the fact that both Russia and the US have now significantly reduced the issue of their bombers (the US has "only" 176), strategic weapons (and with it, bombers) will remain a fundamental part of the geopolitical balance on the International Office.

There are only 3 countries in the world that have strategic bombers in their arsenal, the USA, Russia and China (although the Chinese Xian H-6 is far behind its Russian and American counterparts), and this scarcity of aircraft makes them so precious and a differentiating element on the battlefield. But it is not only on the battlefield that these aircraft cause an imbalance, they especially stand out in the field of International Office as "weapons of mass deterrence".

A strategic bomber is an aircraft designed not for the battlefield directly, but to penetrate enemy territory and attack both strategic targets (instructions military, headquarters, bunkers...) and critical locations for a country's war effort. The fact that a country has such an aircraft in its aircraft fleet is clearly a deterrent to potential enemies. Both Russia and the US -especially the latter- are capable of keeping their bombers permanently in the air (thanks to in-flight refueling) loaded with up to 32 tons of weaponry, with a flight duration only restricted to the endurance capacity of the crew. In this "diplomacy of fear", strategic bombers will continue to play a prominent role in geo-strategy and the global balance of power. The US is fully aware of this and is therefore embarking on a series of ambitious plans to continue to enjoy air and geostrategic superiority. Of these plans, one of the newest and, perhaps, most eagerly awaited is advertisement that the American B-52s will continue to fly until at least 2050.

Although it was assumed that this would be the case, the confirmation given by the US Air Force is no less surprising: the active B-52 fleet is to receive a series of upgrades that will boost its service life until at least the 2050s. This would not be too much news B considering that it is common to approve upgrade packages, either avionics or software, to increase the service life of aircraft in service, but the reality is that the last B-52 Stratofortress left Boeing's assembly plant in Wichita (Kansas) in 1962. In other words, by 2050 the entire fleet would have been flying for nearly 90 years, making it by far the model longest flying aircraft with its primary operator, in this case the USAF.

Versatility, deterrent effect and lower operating cost

But can an aircraft that was put into service in 1955, with Eisenhower as president, stand up to the new bomber models, such as the B-2 or the future B-21 Raider? Is the huge outlay that congress intends to make justifiable? It is estimated that it could spend 11 billion on engines alone; almost 300 million are approved for fiscal year 2019.

The answer is yes. Because of its strategic versatility, its deterrent effect and its comparatively low operational cost, the B-52 is a vital aircraft for the United States.

Its combat versatility has long been proven, since its "debut" in the Vietnam War, where it was the protagonist of carpet bombing (it is capable of dropping more than 32 tons of explosives). As time progressed, it proved that it could not only drop bombs, but also long-range missiles such as the AGM-158 JASSM or the Harpoon anti-ship. Its great armament capacity makes it one of the flagship long-range attack aircraft of the United States. This has been attested in the internationalmission statement against Daesh, in which, until being relieved by the B-1, the B-52 performed 1,850 combat missions, dropping some 12,000 bombs, something that was fundamental for the victory over Daesh in Mosul.

It is precisely when talking about long distance that the B-52 excels: without refueling, a B-52 can fly more than 15,000 km, even flying 20,000 km in extraordinary situations. This offers a global attack capability, since in the event of refueling, only the crew's own endurance would prevent them from flying indefinitely. This capability makes them ideal not only for bombing from instructions far from the enemy, but also to participate in search tasks, being able to perform between two aircraft a "scan" of 364,000 km2 in two hours. This is vital for use by the US Navy in anti-submarine or enemy navy detection missions.

The same parameters and advantages apply to the use of the B-52 as a weapon of "mass" deterrence. Initially created to permanently have a squadron in flight armed with nuclear bombs, and thus guarantee an immediate response to any aggression, the aircraft stationed in Guam are currently used as part of the U.S. tactic of free passage through the international waters of the China Sea. They have also been employee as permanent air support in areas of particular risk such as the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan, or at the beginning of the war itself, in Tora Bora. By having a B-52 on standby, troops could have air support available at short notice (and for a long time) that would otherwise take a long time to arrive.

Another indisputable advantage of these aircraft is their relatively low cost in proportion to the other bombers of the U.S. fleet. First we must clarify that the cost per flight hour is not only the fuel used, but also the cost of maintenance, spare parts... It is true that neither the cost of ammunition (which can amount to tens of millions) nor other variables such as pilots' salaries, mechanics, insurance costs, costs of car park in hangars or other variables that are classified, are added to these theoretical prices, but they do serve to give us an overall view of their operating cost. B-52s cost the U.S. taxpayer about $70,000 per hour. It may seem an extraordinarily high price, but its "brother" the B-2 reaches $130,000 per hour. Despite being exorbitant prices for an army like the Spanish one (the Eurofighter costs about 15,000 dollars/hour), for the US Defense budget it is not significant (Trump intends to reach up to 680,000 million dollars in budget).


A B-52H after being refueled in flight by a KC-135 Stratotanker over Afghanistan.

 A B-52H after being refueled in flight by a KC-135 Stratotanker over Afghanistan [USAF].


Engine overhaul

We have seen that the B-52, that Big Ugly Fat Fellow as it is affectionately nicknamed by its crews, may remain a vector to be reckoned with in the air for years to come, but the USAF does not want it to become a bit player, but to remain a major player. To this end, it has created the Commercial Engine Reengining Program (CERP) to replace the old original engines. The TF33s are now more than 50 years old, and in the last 20 years their cost has doubled, due to the lack of spare parts (they currently have to cannibalize parts from retired engines) and their inefficient consumption. It should not be forgotten that it has 8 engines, so consumption is not a trivial issue. To replace them, the USAF has opened a tender that should be adjudicated from mid-2019. At the moment, the USAF specifications aim, at least, to achieve engines 25% more efficient and that take 5 times longer to need a repair, which would mean a savings over 30 years (until 2050) of about 10 billion dollars. With a very juicy contract (there is talk of the order of $11 billion to replace the 650 engines in the B-52 fleet), the big military aviation companies have begun to submit their proposals, including Pratt&Whitney (with the PW815), General Electric (with the new Passport Advanced Turbofan) and Rolls-Royce (with the Pearl or the BR735). Other names in the aerospace industry have yet to submit their proposals.

But it is not only the engines that will benefit from the improvements and the investment, but also the purchase of new engines will require a change in the cockpit instrumentation: in this way, they will also take advantage of the remodeling to change the old analog gauges and cathode ray displays for the modern multifunctional displays that we see in any fighter nowadays. USAF assistant secretary for procurement, William Roper, has also commented that new ejector seats are being considered.

Beyond speculation, it is certain that in the Radar Modernization Program (RMP) framework , 817 million dollars will be invested between fiscal years 2019 and 2023 in the purchase of new radar systems to replace the APQ-166, from the 1960s. New tactical software will also be purchased from data Link 16, as it is the only USAF aircraft that does not have it built in and is vital for conducting joint operations, both within the U.S. military and with European NATO armies.

In the future, the software and the aircraft itself will be adapted to increase its offensive capabilities, as was already done with the IWBU program, which increased its cargo capacity in the hold by 67%. One of the main objectives of the offensive trimming refurbishment is to be able to carry at least one GBU-43/b (or MOAB; Mother of all Bombs; the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in the world). To this end, a new wing pylon is being designed that can support 9,000 kilos of weight. Looking ahead, the B-52 will be able to carry hypersonic missiles, but that will not be seen until the mid-2020s at the earliest.

In this way, the USAF intends to keep the B-52 Stratofortress as the A option in its fleet when it comes to heavy bombing. Therefore, the B-52 will continue to be a fundamental military-strategic factor in understanding International Office for years to come. No one would have claimed in 1955 that that aircraft, no matter how good it was, could still be flying a hundred years later. There are still 31 years to go, but we will see what the B-52 has in store for us, that "big, fat, ugly subject " that has become, thanks to its magnificent design and construction, the Dean of bomber aircraft: the B-52 (arguably) the best bomber in the world.

Categories Global Affairs: North America Security and defense Articles

From Soviet aid to degree program with the US to exploit asteroid mineral wealth

The arrival of a Chinese spacecraft on the far side of the moon has brought world public opinion to focus on China's space programme, which is more developed than many had imagined. Aided by the Soviets in the early days, the Chinese are now ahead in some programmes (probably more apparent than real, given certain setbacks), such as development for a permanent space station of their own, and are competing with the United States in their desire to exploit the mineral wealth of asteroids.

Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre

Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre [CNSA] ▲ Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre [CNSA].

article / Sebastián Bruzzone [English version] [Englishversion].

The origins of the Chinese space programme1 can be traced back to the beginning of the Cold War, at the height of the tension between the United States and the Soviet Union over the control of international politics. Since 1955, Chairman Mao Zedong had been seeking the respect of the world powers and decided to follow in the footsteps of his neighbour, the USSR. In March of the following year, the Fifth Academy of the Ministry of National Defence began the development of a first ballistic missile (Chinese Twelve-Year Aerospace Plan). Following the launch of Sputnik 1 by the Soviet Union in 1957, Mao turned to the development of a Chinese artificial satellite that would be active in space two years later (project 581), in a material and financial effort supported by the Soviet Union. However, in the early 1960s, the USSR withdrew all its economic and technological attendance following Beijing's accusation that the first secretary of the CPSU's Central committee Secretary Nikita Khrushchev was a revisionist and wanted to restore capitalism.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) is the manager for space programmes. China's first manned space flight took place in 2003, with Yang Liwei aboard the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft, which docked with the Tiangong-1 space station. China thus became the third nation to send men out of the Earth. The main goal of the Shenzhou missions is the establishment of a permanent space station. To date, nine Chinese men and seven women have gone into space. 

Since 2007, China has shown a special interest in Luna. China's lunar exploration programme consists of four phases. In the first (Chang'e 1 and 2), carried out with CZ-3A, two unmanned lunar orbital probes were launched. The second (Chang'e 3 and 4), in 2013, with CZ-5/E, saw the first lunar landing of two rovers. The third (Chang'e 5 and 6) was executed in 2017 with CZ-5/E, consisting of lunar landing and sample return. The fourth, with CZ-7, is planned for 2024; it will consist of a manned mission statement and the deployment of permanentinstructions on the lunar surface.

The mission statement Chang'e 4 was launched on 8 December 2018 and landed on the lunar surface on 3 January 2019, in the Von Kárman crater (186 kilometres in diameter), in the southern hemisphere of the hidden side of the satellite. Images transmitted by the Yutu-2 rover showed that this never-before-explored lunar surface is densely perforated by impact craters and that its crust is thicker than the visible side. As part of a biological essay , a cotton seed could have been sprouted, but high radiation levels, lower-than-Earth gravity and abrupt temperature changes caused the cotton plant to succumb a few days later. Astronomers believe that the shadow side is shielded from interference from Earth, so that the evolution of stars and galaxies can be better studied from there.

In mid-2017, Chinese intentions to search for minerals that are scarce on Earth on the surface of asteroids, and if possible inside them, were made public. Within China's space programme, this particular topic occupies an important place. According to agreement with Ye Peijan, head of manager of the lunar exploration programme, China has been studying in recent years the possibility of running a mission statement to capture an asteroid and place it in the moon's orbit for mineral exploitation, or even to use it as a permanent space station, according to the South China Morning Post. The same manager has pointed out that there are asteroids and stars in the Solar System and close to our planet with a large amount of precious metals and other materials. The plan will be implemented from 2020 onwards. The CNSA will use the Tianzhou cargo spacecraft, as opposed to the manned Shenzhou exploration spacecraft whose main purpose is to establish a permanent space station, goal , or the Chang'e lunar mission spacecraft.

The cost of this futuristic plan would be extremely high, as it would involve the organisation of complex and high-risk missions, but interest will not wane, as it could be very profitable in the long run deadline and would yield billion-dollar benefits. According to Noah Poponak, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, a single asteroid could hold more than $50 billion in platinum, as well as other precious metals and water.

Capturing an asteroid first requires a spacecraft to land on its surface, to anchor itself. The spacecraft must have extremely powerful engines so that, when anchored, it will be able to drag the entire asteroid into the moon's orbit. Such thrusters, powerful enough to move a rock weighing thousands of tonnes, do not yet exist. Ye Peijan has warned that the technology needed for such a space experiment could take 40 years or so to develop. For the time being, in March 2017 China announced in the official press that it intended to send probes into the cosmos to study the trajectories and characteristics of some asteroids. In doing so, it is directly skill with NASA, which is also developing a programme aimed at an asteroid.

Tiangong-1 was China's first space shuttle, laboratory , launched into orbit in 2011, with a length of 10.5 metres, a diameter of 3.4 metres and a weight of 8.5 tonnes. Its goal was to conduct experiments as part of China's space programme and to launch the permanent station that the CNSA aims to have in orbit by 2023. Against all odds, in 2016 the spacecraft's digital control was lost and it was destroyed in pieces over the Pacific Ocean, northwest of New Zealand. A second module, Tiangong-2, was launched in 2016 with the same objectives. On the other hand, China is making progress on the plan to establish a permanent space station. According to Yang Liwei, the central capsule will be launched in 2020 and the two experimental modules in the following two years, with manned missions and cargo spacecraft.

Categories Global Affairs: Asia Security and defense Articles Space

Beijing accelerates its change of economic strategy as Germany tries to reinvent itself as a manufacturing powerhouse with its 'Industry 4.0'.

From being the big factory of the lowest products in the global price chain to becoming a manufacturing powerhouse appreciated for the added value that China can bring to its production. The 'Made in China 2025' plan is underway with the purpose to operate the change in a few decades. The Chinese push is intended to be countered by Germany with its 'Industry 4.0', to preserve the international recognition of what is produced by German industry.

Huawei booth at Mobile World Congress 2017.

▲ Huawei booth at Mobile World Congress 2017 [Huawei].

article / Jimena Puga

"Made in China 2025" is a political-economic plan presented by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in May 2015. The main goal of this initiative is to grow China's industry, and in turn to foster industrial development in China's poorest areas located in the interior of the country, such as the provinces of Qinghai, Sinkiang or Tibet. One of the goals is to increase the domestic content of basic materials to 40% by 2020 and 70% by 2025.

But what does the People's Republic want to achieve with this initiative? As announced by Mu Rongping, director general of the Innovation Center and development of the Chinese Academy of Science, "I do not believe that the Made in China 2025 plan and other industry-related plans pose a threat to global Economics and innovation. These industrial policies stem from traditional Chinese culture. In China whenever we set a new policy or economic measure we always have high expectations. Thus, if we get only half of it, we will be satisfied. This point of view has led China to change and, to some extent, to innovation.

Chinese economic development

In 1978 Deng Xiaoping came to power and changed all the Maoist Structures . Thus, from an economic perspective, law has become a decisive element in resolving conflicts and maintaining social order in China. Deng tried to establish a socialist system, but with "Chinese characteristics". This justified a free market Economics and, consequently, the obligation to develop new rules and Structures. In addition, the president introduced the concept of democracy as a necessary instrument for the new socialist China. The most important legal reform was the possibility to set up private businesses. In 1992 the expression of a "socialist marketEconomics " was adopted, a label to hide real capitalism (1).

The current president of the People's Republic, Xi Jinping, has spoken out against economic protectionism and in favor of balancing globalization to "make it more inclusive and equitable". He also added an increase in the study of current capitalism and the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics proper to the country, since if the party were to abandon Marxism it would lose "its soul and direction", besides qualifying it as "irreplaceable for understanding and transforming the world".

Made in China 2025 and Industry 4.0 plan

Over the past decade, China has emerged as one of the most significant manufacturing miracles in history since the Industrial Revolution began in Britain in the 18th century. By the end of 2012, China became a global leader in manufacturing operations and the world's second largest economic powerhouse over Germany. The Made in China paradigm has been evidenced by products made in China, from high-tech products such as computers or cell phones to consumer goods such as air conditioners. The goal of the Empire at the Center is to extend this plan to three phases. In the first, from 2015 to 2025, China aims to be on the list of global manufacturing powers. In the second, from 2026 to 2035, China plans to position itself in the middle tier in terms of global manufacturing power. And finally, in the third phase, from 2036 to 2049, when the People's Republic will celebrate its 100th anniversary, China wants to become the world's leading manufacturing country.

In 2013, Germany, a world-leading country in terms of industrialization, published its Industry 4.0 strategic plan. Known for its prestigious brands such as Volkswagen or BMW, the country's leading industries have emphasized their innovative strength that allows them to reinvent themselves again and again. The Industry 4.0 plan is another example of the German country's manufacturing strategy to compete in a new industrial revolution based on industrial integration, the integration of industrial information, the Internet and artificial intelligence. Germany is known worldwide for the design and quality of its products. The Industry 4.0 plan, presented in 2013 by the German government, focuses on the smart factory, meaning that the factories of the future will be more sustainable and intelligent; on cyber-physical systems, which integrate advanced technologies such as automotive, the exchange of data in manufacturing technology and 3D printing; and on goods and people.

Both Industry 4.0 and Made in China 2025 focus on the new industrial revolution and employ elements of manufacturing digitalization. The core of the German plan is the cyber-physical system, i.e. a mechanism controlled or monitored by algorithms closely linked to the Internet and its users, and integration into dynamic value creation mechanisms. The Chinese plan, in addition to the "Internet Plus Industry" action plan, has a special focus on strengthening existing industries, promoting diversity and expanding the scope of many industries, enhancing regional cooperation through the use of the Internet for borderless manufacturing, new product innovation and product quality improvement, goal .

By 2020, the United States will be the most competitive manufacturing country in the world, followed by China, Germany, Japan, India, South Korea, Mexico, Taiwan, Canada and Singapore. Of these ten countries, six are Asian countries, one is European and the remaining three are members of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).

This new shift in industrial strategy translates into the world's anticipation of a fourth industrial revolution driven by technological advances. China will undoubtedly be one of the international leaders of this revolution thanks to the Made in China 2025 and One Belt One Road plans, however, new emerging economies such as South Africa, Vietnam or Hungary that have contributed to the global Economics in recent years will require more attention.


(1) Vid. ARANZADI, Iñigo González Inchaurraga, Derecho Chino, 2015, p. 197 et seq.

Categories Global Affairs: Asia European Union EconomicsTrade and Technology Articles

The need for close air support in the fight against ISIS has prompted a rethink of the preference for technology over effectiveness

In the last decades, the constant bet for technological improvement had led to discard old models of combat aircraft that, properly equipped, are proving to be more effective in counterinsurgency operations. The urgencies posed especially by the fight against the Islamic State have turned these old models into a sort of Special Operations capability of the Air Forces.

OV-10 Bronco

▲ OV-10 Bronco [USAF, TSgt Bill Thompson].

article / Ignacio Yárnoz

August 2015. At framework of the "Combat Dragon II" Special Operations Program, two OV-10G+ Bronco aircraft take off from a U.S. air base in northern Iraq. The mission statement of these Vietnam War-era twin-engine aircraft is twofold. First, to assist Peshmerga fighters in the face of attacks by Daesh (al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham) insurgents; second, to demonstrate the effectiveness of low-cost propeller-driven aircraft in COIN (Counter Insurgency) operations. The mission statement proved to be a success and caused many things to be rethought at the Pentagon, where astonishment flooded the offices as it was a counterinsurgency mission statement with 50-year-old aircraft.

The three fundamental pillars that made this mission statement a success should be highlighted. First, there is the human factor that was part of the mission statement. The brave pilots who embarked on it were meticulously chosen for their experience in special missions, in addition to being USAF Weapons School instructor officers. This was of great importance given the delicacy of the mission statement and the precision it required. We will now see why.

The second pillar to highlight is the weaponry and equipment used. More specifically, these are the new, but very promising APKWS (Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System) laser-guided rockets and multiple modern infrared surveillance systems such as the MX-15HD FLIR. The former are 70 mm rockets similar to the "Hydra" (a U.S. air-to-air/air-to-ground rocket system known to be the most widely used in the world as helicopter weaponry) to which a laser guidance and control system can be incorporated. They are rockets that can be fired from very close or longer distances at any desired angle, giving the pilot a very wide firing range that gives him an important tactical advantage. In addition, its high accuracy means that it can eliminate enemies or destroy lightly armored vehicles with an efficiency that other systems would not reach, at least not without causing greater collateral damage. Here is the core topic mentioned in the first pillar: pilots experienced in the handling of precision weapons accompanied by the appropriate means make this a perfect combination that turned the OV-10G+ Bronco into true precision weapons.

Finally, and as the third pillar, there is the aircraft itself: the OV-10G+ Bronco (or "Black Pony"). This Vietnam War veteran is an aviation legend. The Bronco was born after a triple-duty specification called "LARA"(Light Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft), issued in late 1963 and designed for that war, was approved by the U.S. Navy and Air Force. LARA was based on the need for a new subject light attack and observation aircraft for "jungle fighting". During the conflict, Broncos performed observation operations, forward air control, helicopter escort, armed reconnaissance, light transport services and limited ground attack actions. The Broncos also conducted airborne radiological reconnaissance, tactical aerial observation and naval gunnery, as well as air control of tactical support operations and, on the front lines, aerial photography from leave altitude.

However, doctrines changed since smart bombs were integrated into the air force. Advanced air control, one of the primary missions of this aircraft, shifted to elite ground troops with laser designators and digital transmissions. The concept of using the Bronco to loiter over an area and drop ordnance was not explored. The aircraft was finally decommissioned leave in July 1994.


A-10 Thunderbolt

A-10 Thunderbolt [USAF, MSgt William Greer].


OV-10 Bronco and A-10 Thunderbolt

It is a light attack and observation aircraft powered by two turboprops that, although a fixed-wing aircraft, has the capabilities of a helicopter and a drone. Like the drones, the OV-10 can fly over the battlefield for hours, but with greater visibility than an RQ9 Reaper and with greater weapons capability. The original model was capable of flying at speeds of up to 560 km/h, carrying up to 3 tons of external ammunition and remaining over an area for more than three hours. Finally, this versatile aircraft is capable of operating from short or semi-prepared runways (STOL) with low operating and maintenance costs. In most cases it can fly on a single engine. The latter makes the OV-10 Bronco and all its counterparts a great asset given that while jet aircraft have high fuel consumption per flight (starting at $20,000 for the cheapest jet, the F16), light attack aircraft cost only a few thousand dollars per operation. Also, the aircraft currently available can only take off and land on long and expensive to maintain runways that must be located hundreds of kilometers from the front line and, consequently, their effective mission time is shorter and their fuel consumption is higher.

However, the USAF's tendency has always tilted the balance toward high technology rather than effectiveness. Since World War II and with the onset of the Cold War, the American way of fighting has been to have superior technology. There has been a constant approach on the most important technological advances in which it is at the forefront. However, these effective aircraft have found a niche within the Army, possibly Air Force Special Operations. And it is that the need for close air support in the fight against ISIS has caused many commanders to rethink their strategy. In fact, it also helped convince the Air Force to reconsider its plans to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II (A-10 Warthog as it is nicknamed in the USAF). The reasons turn out to be analogous to that for the fielding of aircraft such as the OV-10 Bronco: the need for effectiveness, experience, close air support and advanced air control, all combined with low maintenance costs.

In the case of the A-10 Thunderbolt II, it is an aircraft designed specifically around its main weapon, a 30 mm GAU-8/A cannon mounted directly under the fuselage. With 540 kg of titanium armor, it incorporates two General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbines mounted in an elevated position so that the aircraft can land in austere environments such as rough, dirty or sandy terrain. In addition, the aerodynamics and engine technology allow the A-10 to fly slower and lower, and therefore closer to ground forces and enemy targets, specifically at 555 km/h and 30 meters altitude. Last and not least, it is cheap to buy (a average of $11 million for each of the 715 built) and to operate (about $17,000 per flight hour).

Although the OV-10 Bronco was not ultimately selected by the USAF for the framework Combat Dragon II, it has marked a milestone in aeronautical history. The USAF has finally decided to go with the Brazilian model A29 SuperTucano, a two-seat aircraft that hovers around 580 km per hour and has the sophisticated avionics typical of fourth-generation fighters, including radar warning receivers, forward-looking infrared sensors and the ability to drop bombs and precision-guided missiles. At final, an aircraft with the same advanced air control and tactical observation capabilities as the OV-10 Bronco. This model is already part of the Afghan, Lebanese and Nigerian air forces (countries with insurgency threats such as Boko Haram, Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda) in addition to being in the process of replacing the Bronco in the Philippines, where the same counterinsurgency techniques used in Iraq are also being applied to combat Daesh in this region. Regardless of the fact that it is not the legendary Bronco, the paradigm is still latent. It has been demonstrated that light aircraft can be a powerful ally in today's COIN operations.

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defense Articles

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