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BLACKWATER USA | DAILY BRIEF


China

  • In a move sure to provoke China, the U.S. plans to ramp up arms sales to Taiwan and send seven shipments of mines, cruise missiles, and drones there in the near future.

  • The U.S. DoJ charged five Chinese businessman with trying to hack 100 global companies—and said the Chinese government did not discourage them from doing so.

  • The Post had a good article about China’s 3rd aircraft carrier—the hull of which has been laid out in Shanghai. See below.

Russia

  • Poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s team apparently quickly packed everything from his hotel room in Tomsk into plastic bags after he fell ill on a plane the day after staying there, and among the packed items they found a water bottle that German investigators say tested positive for a highly toxic nerve agent.

Libya

  • GNA PM Fayez al Serraj confirmed rumors that he plans to step down by the end of October, but put a more positive spin on it than the reports that he was quitting because of protests: Serraj said the country had entered a “new preparatory phase” ahead of unifying the government, and claimed he wants to leave Libya’s fledgling institutions to work towards unity.

Venezuela

  • A UN fact-finding mission accused Venezuela of serious human rights violations at the highest levels, alleging that senior members of Pres. Maduro’s government gave the Special Action Forces a “green light to kill” and trained them to plant evidence on their victims.

  • U.S. envoy to Venezuela Eliot Abrams said the U.S. government did not send Matthew John Heath—who Pres. Maduro’s government alleges is a “U.S. spy”—to Venezuela to attack oil and power infrastructure.

Guinea

  • Pres. Condé extended coronavirus lockdowns for another month, which means they’ll end right before tense presidential elections on October 18th. Condé’s critics accuse him of using lockdowns and other pandemic-related measures to silence protests and opponents during the campaign.

  • This would be Condé’s third term, even though Guinea’s constitution limits presidents to two terms. However, the opposition remains too fractured to mount any real challenge.

DRC

  • Almost 70 armed groups from South Kivu met at an NGO-sponsored conference and agreed (or perhaps were bribed with flashy aid offers) to halt hostilities. There have been at least 139 violent deaths in South Kivu since the beginning of 2020—most of which took place at the hands of these armed groups.

Belarus

  • Belarusian opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova—the one who tore her passport up so she couldn’t be forcefully evicted from her own country—was charged under Belarus’s national security law.

Afghanistan

  • Taliban attacks killed at least 32 government troops late yesterday in Nangarhar, Herat, and Badghis. Analysts think the Taliban is continuing to stage attacks during peace talks in order to strengthen their negotiating position.

U.S.

  • The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released a report blaming Boeing for prioritizing cost cutting over security, ultimately leading to two high-profile 737 Max crashes.

Other News

  • Germany suspended 29 more police officers for sharing what the Interior Minister called “the worst and most obnoxious content” from the far right.

  • Four Afghan migrants were charged with arson for allegedly starting the fire that destroyed Europe’s largest migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.

  • The Caribbean island of Barbados plans to become a republic and fire Queen Elizabeth II of England as its head of state in November 2021.

China’s third aircraft carrier takes shape, with ambitions to challenge U.S. naval dominance (WaPo)

Shipbuilders in Shanghai have laid out the hull of China's first modern aircraft carrier, which could be launched into the water in the coming months as it enters the latter phases of construction, according to new satellite images and state media reports.

High-resolution photos recently obtained by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, show for the first time sections of the carrier being assembled in the open at a dry dock at the sprawling Jiangnan shipyard. The vessel, which will be China’s third carrier but the first to be equipped with modern technology, is likely to be larger than the previous two, which were based on outdated Soviet designs. At the waterline, the new ship will be about 1,000 feet long and 130 feet wide, the photos show.

Matthew Funaiole, a researcher at the CSIS ChinaPower project, said it is not yet clear from the images whether the new carrier will have an electromagnetic catapult to efficiently sling fighter jets off its deck — the biggest question mark over current Chinese carrier technology. The USS Gerald R. Ford, commissioned in 2017, was the first carrier to include the ­cutting-edge feature.

Chinese firm harvests social media posts, data of prominent Americans and military

Still, “the Chinese are showing tremendous capability of designing and fitting out vessels,” Funaiole said. “It’s moving along on pace. It’s impressive the process they’re going through to position themselves at the forefront of carrier technology.”

The progress of China’s third carrier has been of intense interest in rival capitals as well as inside China, where it is seen as a tangible symbol of the country’s development into a global power boasting a modern, world-class military. China has commissioned two carriers in the past decade: the Liaoning was a retrofit of an old Soviet model and the second, the Shandong, was Chinese-built but mostly a reverse-engineered copy of the Liaoning. The Shandong entered service in December, and the third carrier likely won’t be combat-ready until 2023, Funaiole said.

After the hull of the third carrier is sealed, it could be put into water as soon as the end of this year to be fitted out, Chinese state media reported this week as similar photos surfaced on Chinese blogs and generated excitement among military hardware enthusiasts. The hawkish Global Times newspaper said the photos showed that the carrier’s construction appeared to be progressing “smoothly,” and cited an unnamed military expert as saying it would “likely” include electromagnetic catapults.

Over the weekend, a well-known scholar affiliated with the Chinese navy, Li Jie, told a forum in Beijing that China was planning not only a third but also a fourth carrier group, according to Caixin, a financial news magazine. Most international scholars estimate that China intends to build out a fleet of at least six carriers. The U.S. Navy has 11 nuclear-powered carriers in service and plans to introduce several more.

On China’s front line, emerging Cold War haunts battle-worn Taiwanese islands

Collin Koh, an expert on the People’s Liberation Army Navy at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said there is still a lively debate in China over the utility of carriers in modern warfare and how they would stack up against the threat posed by U.S. submarines. And both Chinese and U.S. officials have acknowledged in recent years that China’s land-based power has already risen to the point where it may be able to keep U.S. forces out of what is known as the “first island chain” surrounding China, including Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines, in the event of war over Taiwan, for example.

Geopolitical tensions in the region would suggest that any naval conflict involving China, such as over Taiwan, or disputed outposts in the East and South China Seas, is likely to occur relatively close to Chinese shores.

But Chinese military thinkers also increasingly argue that China needs to reach farther into the Pacific with carriers and contest the waters around the more remote “second island chain” — which include U.S. bases on Guam and Hawaii, Koh said.

“There’s been a convergence of views around this in the last five years” as China rolled out its carrier fleet, Koh said. “They’re seeing the potential of what they have.”

China is the world’s second-largest military spender and had a 2019 budget of $266 billion, as compared with $718 billion for the United States. The spending increase budgeted for 2020 would be relatively small, the Chinese government announced in May, as the economy encountered structural head winds, a trade war with Washington and the coronavirus pandemic.

Aside from carriers, the Chinese navy has invested heavily in amphibious landing ships and early-warning aircraft to accompany the carriers, Koh said.

The newest satellite photos show that the Jiangnan shipyard, hugging the Yangtze River north of Shanghai, has been rapidly expanded with a large basin and “purpose-built facilities for large military-type vessels,” said Funaiole, who called it the future hub of Chinese naval shipbuilding.

The photos don’t appear to reveal a fourth carrier under construction, he said.

“But it’s something that we keep an eye [on],” he added. “I’m confident that’s the place we’ll see it.”

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