Nei loro settanta anni di esistenza, gli armamenti atomici hanno subito continui sviluppo e miglioramenti. Gli attuali vettori hanno anche loro raggiunto un elevato grado di sofisticazione e sono state sviluppate sia testate ad altissimo potenziale, sia a potenziale minimo, per un impiego tattico.
Negli ultimi lustri ha preso campo una nuova corsa agli armamenti atomici, con ampliamento della platea degli stati che ne dispongono. Tutto questo esita in nuovi equilibri di precaria e difficile gestione.
* * * * * * *
«This nuclear arms race is worse than the last one»
«With the stability of the Cold War gone, the risk of nuclear war keeps rising»
«Only old-fashioned multilateralism can save us in the long term.»
«Yes, the global stockpile of nuclear warheads decreased slightly last year, …. But that’s only because the U.S. and Russia, the two countries that still account for more than 90% of global nuclear stocks, dismantled some of their obsolescent warheads.»
«Meanwhile, all nine countries with nukes are modernizing their other warheads and delivery systems»
«France successfully fired, from a submarine, a nuclear missile that can travel between continents at 20 times the speed of sound»
«Even more worryingly, states are reviewing their strategies for using these weapons»
«Gone is the amoral but logical stability of the Cold War, when two superpowers kept each other and the world in check with a credible threat of “Mutual Assured Destruction” (MAD)»
«Russia, for instance, increasingly sees smaller “tactical” warheads as a possible way to compensate for weaknesses in its other military forces»
«There’s also speculation that India could soften its policy, adopted in 1998, never to be the first to use a nuclear weapon»
«Such thought experiments are no small matter for a country with two hostile and nuclear-armed neighbors, Pakistan and China»
«Meanwhile, all efforts to limit or reduce nuclear weapons have ground to a halt»
«A treaty between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that eliminated land-based missiles with short and intermediate ranges collapsed last year»
«China, which sees itself as merely catching up with the two nuclear kingpins, balks at accepting any limits»
«Between naivety in Germany, belligerence in Russia, ambition in China, inanity in Trumpist America and brinkmanship in North Korea, the outlook is grim»
«Egomaniacs or rogues could be tempted to test the boundaries in their foes’ deterrence plans, and human error could compound the folly»
«What’s more, the climate in international relations isn’t exactly conducive to solutions»
* * * * * * *
La messa in linea di missili ipersonici, quello francese citato viaggia a venti volte la velocità del suono, e la disponibilità di ordigni di bassissima potenza genera da una parte l’impossibilità di intercettazione, dall’altra il prurito di poter risolvere un conflitto solo con armi tattiche.
Nel contempo, se per arrivare ai vertici di una superpotenza l’aspra difficoltà dell’impresa seleziona persone dai nervi ben saldi, nel caso di piccoli stati il pericolo che chi abbia il potere sia “egomaniacs” sembrerebbe essere ben poco trascurabile. Si aggiunga infine il fatto che “human error could compound the folly”.
Per sintetizzare, le possibilità di un conflitto che usi armamenti atomici è sicuramente aumentato.
With the stability of the Cold War gone, the risk of nuclear war keeps rising. Only old-fashioned multilateralism can save us in the long term.
As long as the pandemic rages, the world’s leaders are understandably preoccupied with the threat of disease. But there are other dangers to humanity that demand attention. One of the most frightening is nuclear war. Unfortunately, the risk of that happening keeps rising.
The headline numbers are misleading. Yes, the global stockpile of nuclear warheads decreased slightly last year, according to the latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. But that’s only because the U.S. and Russia, the two countries that still account for more than 90% of global nuclear stocks, dismantled some of their obsolescent warheads.
Meanwhile, all nine countries with nukes are modernizing their other warheads and delivery systems. In a test just last week, France successfully fired, from a submarine, a nuclear missile that can travel between continents at 20 times the speed of sound. Other countries, most notably China, are adding to their nuclear stashes as fast as they can.
Even more worryingly, states are reviewing their strategies for using these weapons. Gone is the amoral but logical stability of the Cold War, when two superpowers kept each other and the world in check with a credible threat of “Mutual Assured Destruction” (MAD).
Russia, for instance, increasingly sees smaller “tactical” warheads as a possible way to compensate for weaknesses in its other military forces. It’s conceivable that a conflict starting with hybrid warfare — ranging from disinformation campaigns to soldiers in unmarked uniforms — could escalate to a conventional war and a limited nuclear strike, inviting a counter strike and so forth.
There’s also speculation that India could soften its policy, adopted in 1998, never to be the first to use a nuclear weapon. Such thought experiments are no small matter for a country with two hostile and nuclear-armed neighbors, Pakistan and China. Just this week, India and China clashed again over their disputed border in the Himalayas. What North Korea could get up to in a crisis that it itself provokes is anybody’s guess.
Meanwhile, all efforts to limit or reduce nuclear weapons have ground to a halt. A treaty between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that eliminated land-based missiles with short and intermediate ranges collapsed last year, after the U.S. accused Russia of cheating.
And the two old foes aren’t even close to extending their only remaining arms-control agreement, called New START, which expires in February. One reason for that failure was America’s insistence that the third and rising superpower should join the negotiations. But China, which sees itself as merely catching up with the two nuclear kingpins, balks at accepting any limits.
Progress has also stalled in updating the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, exactly 50 years after it took effect. It sought to keep additional countries from making bombs by encouraging them to use fissile material (uranium or plutonium) only for civilian purposes such as generating electricity. But five countries have gone nuclear since it was signed. Worse, game theory suggests that it’s rational for more states to follow. Iran could be next.
The only international agreement to ban these evil weapons altogether, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons passed by the United Nations in 2017, has the same chance as a snowball in a fission event. No member of the nuclear club intends to ratify it, nor do many other countries.
As if all that weren’t bad enough, doubt is also creeping into the transatlantic alliance, undermining its credibility and thus the deterrence that’s so vital to preventing war. Germans, in particular, are aghast at their treatment by U.S. President Donald Trump, who this week chastised them as “delinquent” allies and confirmed that he will withdraw about one in four American troops from Germany.
In May, several leaders of Germany’s Social Democrats, a party with a tradition of anti-Americanism, even suggested opting out of NATO’s policy of “nuclear sharing,” whereby some allies, such as Germany, forego building their own nukes but provide the airplanes to deliver U.S. bombs in a pinch. This policy is meant to make joint deterrence more credible. But to German lefties, distrust of Trump is enough reason to challenge its logic. Fortunately, Chancellor Angela Merkel quickly overruled them.
Between naivety in Germany, belligerence in Russia, ambition in China, inanity in Trumpist America and brinkmanship in North Korea, the outlook is grim. Egomaniacs or rogues could be tempted to test the boundaries in their foes’ deterrence plans, and human error could compound the folly.
What’s more, the climate in international relations isn’t exactly conducive to solutions. The world leaders who matter most are so busy with “trade wars” and “vaccine nationalism,” they can barely even imagine sitting around a table with people they loathe but should talk to, an activity known formerly as diplomacy.
But they must rise above themselves. If they can’t, the rest of us, from voters to the military brass, should force them. Only patient multilateralism, as unsexy as that polysyllabic Latin word may sound to alpha males, can save us in the long run. Otherwise, to use a Cold War metaphor, the nations of the world will find themselves standing in a room awash with gasoline, each counting who has how many matches, until one is lit.
Questa sentenza infatti distrugge alla base il residuo potere politico dei liberal socialisti europei, e silura loro e la Francia in modo tale da «unsettling to the EU».
Malta si è riappropriata della propria sovranità nazionale, e lo ha fatto usando parole mai udite da decenni, perché esprimevano la pura verità.
Migranti clandestini illegali?
Ma facciano il piacere!!
* * * * * * *
«Maltese government to inform EC it will no longer provide boarding team to Operation Irini, which is attempting to stop Turkish weapons to Libyan GNA»
«Malta has formally given notice to the European Commission that will no longer commit any military assets to the EU’s Operation Irini, a naval mission launched to enforce the arms embargo to Libya in a bid to stifle warring parties in the North African country»
«The move is a sop to Turkey, which is actively providing weapons to the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) by sea, in the hope that it will lead to the GNA coming down hard on human traffickers sending out migrants on boat through the Central Mediterranean route. »
«Malta wants to keep its ports shut to migrants rescued at sea because of the coronavirus pandemic. But the country is also suffering from a lack of a migrant relocation framework that shares the responsibility of rescued people at sea among all EU member states»
«Malta has now told the Special Athena Committee it will veto decisions on Operation Irini that concern spending procedures for disembarkation of migrants, port diversions, and the eligibility of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles).»
«Malta told the committee it is facing an “unprecedented crisis” and disproportionate flows as a result of human smuggling and criminal activities in the Central Mediterranean, citing a 438% increase of arrivals in Malta through this route»
«The government said there was had been no tangible support and solidarity from EU partners despite many requests for relocation and for discussions on a permanent solution»
«The newly launched EUNAVFOR MED Irini disproportionately affects the GNA, whose weapons are mostly supplied by Turkey by sea, because it has little impact on the GNA’s rival, military commander Khalifa Haftar, whose Libyan National Army receives supplies by air and land across the Libya-Egypt border, as well as from the United Arab Emirates»
«in a bid to build serious bridges with Turkey and ‘unsettle’ the EU’s big member states»
«The first three months have seen a 400% increase in migrant arrivals in the Central Mediterranean but close to nil in the Eastern side of Libya, which is blockaded by EU vessels»
* * *
«The Greek government is itself inimical to Turkish military interests, and France supports the strongman ambitions of Khalifa Haftar, making Malta’s move unsettling to the EU»
«Irini could indeed fuel more fighting and undermine Europe’s credibility as an honest broker, because the operation stops mainly weapons from Turkey to the GNA and not Haftar’s backers Egypt and the UAE»
«Egypt and the UAE have backed Haftar for many years, and more recently Russia has also provided him with support.»
«Further adding intrigue to the mix is that France supports Haftar because they see the strongman as a guarantee of stability in the region against terrorists.»
* * * * * * *
Malta denuncia la Francia, abbandona l’Operazione Irini ed annuncia il veto in Consiglio Europeo sui finanziamenti ai migranti.
Usa parole mai udite, perché vere: «human traffickers», «it will veto decisions on Operation Irini that concern spending procedures for disembarkation of migrants», «France supports Haftar because they see the strongman as a guarantee of stability in the region».
Maltese government to inform EC it will no longer provide boarding team to Operation Irini, which is attempting to stop Turkish weapons to Libyan GNA.
Malta has formally given notice to the European Commission that will no longer commit any military assets to the EU’s Operation Irini, a naval mission launched to enforce the arms embargo to Libya in a bid to stifle warring parties in the North African country.
The move is a sop to Turkey, which is actively providing weapons to the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) by sea, in the hope that it will lead to the GNA coming down hard on human traffickers sending out migrants on boat through the Central Mediterranean route.
Malta wants to keep its ports shut to migrants rescued at sea because of the coronavirus pandemic. But the country is also suffering from a lack of a migrant relocation framework that shares the responsibility of rescued people at sea among all EU member states.
Malta has now told the Special Athena Committee it will veto decisions on Operation Irini that concern spending procedures for disembarkation of migrants, port diversions, and the eligibility of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles).
Malta told the committee it is facing an “unprecedented crisis” and disproportionate flows as a result of human smuggling and criminal activities in the Central Mediterranean, citing a 438% increase of arrivals in Malta through this route.
The government said there was had been no tangible support and solidarity from EU partners despite many requests for relocation and for discussions on a permanent solution.
The newly launched EUNAVFOR MED Irini disproportionately affects the GNA, whose weapons are mostly supplied by Turkey by sea, because it has little impact on the GNA’s rival, military commander Khalifa Haftar, whose Libyan National Army receives supplies by air and land across the Libya-Egypt border, as well as from the United Arab Emirates. These are harder to track, and impossible for Irini to intercept.
Malta’s rapprochement with Turkey continued this week with foreign minister Evarist Bartolo meeting the Turkish ambassador in Valletta, while Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri has started informal talks with Turkish national defence minister Hulusu Akar, in a bid to build serious bridges with Turkey and ‘unsettle’ the EU’s big member states.
The first three months have seen a 400% increase in migrant arrivals in the Central Mediterranean but close to nil in the Eastern side of Libya, which is blockaded by EU vessels.
The operation’s commander is assigned to Italy and Greece every six months alternatively. Initially, the operation will have three vessels contributed by France, Greece and Italy, one Maltese boarding team and three directly assigned patrol aircrafts Germany, Luxembourg and Poland, and the same number of vessels and aircraft in associated support.
The Greek government is itself inimical to Turkish military interests, and France supports the strongman ambitions of Khalifa Haftar, making Malta’s move unsettling to the EU.
Irini could indeed fuel more fighting and undermine Europe’s credibility as an honest broker, because the operation stops mainly weapons from Turkey to the GNA and not Haftar’s backers Egypt and the UAE.
Egypt and the UAE have backed Haftar for many years, and more recently Russia has also provided him with support. Turkey only recently began backing the GNA with military assistance in exchange for a controversial maritime agreement that divides up much of the Eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Libya.
And this has angered Greece, which is logistically running Operation Irini, because it cuts into its Exclusive Economic Zone around Crete.
It also means Irini could strengthen Haftar’s relative position. In fact, it could encourage him not to halt the siege of Tripoli or agree to a ceasefire. It also fails to put any pressure on Egypt or the UAE to restrain him at a time when the coronavirus pandemic spreads through Libya.
Further adding intrigue to the mix is that France supports Haftar because they see the strongman as a guarantee of stability in the region against terrorists. Turkey’s support of the GNA also has meant that Greece and Cyprus are turning towards Haftar, because their ultimate aim is to prevent Turkey from having influence in the Eastern Mediterranean.
«La Russia ha annunciato che il sistema di missili ipersonici Avangard, con una gettata intercontinentale, è diventato operativo. E’ quanto si legge in un comunicato del ministero della Difesa in cui si afferma che il generale Sergei Shoigu, ministro della Difesa, “ha riferito al presidente Vladimir Putin che il primo missile armato con il più recente sistema missilistico strategico Avangard, con un veicolo dotato di una traiettoria ipersonica, è operativo dalle 10 del mattino, ora di Mosca, del 27 dicembre 2019”.
Secondo quanto riportato dalla Tass il primo missile dotato di un veicolo ipersonico Avangard sarebbe capace di volare ad una velocità 27 volte superiore a quella del suono. Putin aveva rivelato questo tipo di armi durante il suo discorso sullo stato della nazione nel marzo del 2018, affermando che contro il tipo di traiettoria di questo missile sarebbero stati inutili gli attuali sistemi di difesa anti missilistica.»
* * * * * *
«Avangard capable of carrying 2-megaton nuclear weapon at 27 times the speed of sound»
« The president described the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which can fly at 27 times the speed of sound, as a technological breakthrough comparable to the 1957 Soviet launch of the first satellite »
«The Avangard is launched on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile, but, unlike a regular missile warhead, which follows a predictable path after separation, it can make sharp manoeuvres en route to its target, making it harder to intercept»
* * * * * *
L’Avangard è un concentrato di tecnologie impensate ed impensabili. Viaggia ad una velocità ventisette volte quella del suono, può eseguire manovre diversive, e non brucia pur subendo con l’atmosfera un attrito impressionante. Sembrerebbe che usi sistemi endocavitari perfezionati.
I russi hanno già sviluppato e resi operativi missili a corto – medio raggio ipersonici: tra questi degni di nota i missili antinave ed i siluri.
Eppure in Russia è più facile trovare un set di sottomarini nucleari armati di missili balistici a testata atomica, missili balistici ed anti-tutto trattati all’ingrosso, i carri armati T-14 li usano anche come trattori. Insomma, camminando per le strade anche di piccole città ci si inciampa più volte in ogni sorta armamenti allo stato dell’arte.
Ma nessuno si stupirebbe se i russi producessero anche archi e frecce: non si sa mai.
Come facciano i russi a disporre di simili armamenti avendo a disposizione un budget militare di poco superiore a quello francese è un enigma incomprensibile.
I 331.124 miliardi che l’Unione Europea spende per la difesa irrorano copiosamente le tasche private dei liberal socialisti: in Russia finirebbero tutti in un battibaleno sopra il circolo polare artico a coltivare fiordalisi e piante tropicali.
Avangard capable of carrying 2-megaton nuclear weapon at 27 times the speed of sound
Russia has deployed its first regiment of hypersonic nuclear-capable missiles, with Vladimir Putin boasting that it puts his country in a class of its own.
The president described the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which can fly at 27 times the speed of sound, as a technological breakthrough comparable to the 1957 Soviet launch of the first satellite.
Putin has said Russia’s new generation of nuclear weapons can hit almost any point in the world and evade a US-built missile shield, though some western experts have questioned how advanced some of the weapons programmes are.
The Avangard is launched on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile, but, unlike a regular missile warhead, which follows a predictable path after separation, it can make sharp manoeuvres en route to its target, making it harder to intercept.
The defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, told Putin the first missile unit equipped with the Avangard had entered combat duty.
“I congratulate you on this landmark event for the military and the entire nation,” Shoigu said later during a conference call with top military leaders.
The strategic missile forces chief, Gen Sergei Karakaev, said during the call that the Avangard had been put on duty with a unit in the Orenburg region in the southern Ural mountains.
“It heads to target like a meteorite, like a fireball,” he said at the time.
The Russian leader said the Avangard had been designed using new composite materials to withstand temperatures of up to 2,000C (3,632F) which can be reached while travelling at hypersonic speeds. The missile can carry a nuclear weapon of up to 2 megatons.
Putin has said Russia had to develop the Avangard and other weapons systems because of US efforts to develop a missile defence system that he claimed could erode Russia’s nuclear deterrent. Moscow has scoffed at US claims that its missile shield isn’t intended to counter Russia’s missile arsenals.
This week, Putin noted that for the first time Russia was leading the world in developing a new class of weapons, unlike in the past when it was catching up with the US.
In December 2018, the Avangard was launched from the Dombarovskiy missile base in the southern Urals and hit a practice target on the Kura shooting range on the Kamchatka peninsula, 3,700 miles (6,000km) away.
The defence ministry said last month it had demonstrated the Avangard to a team of US inspectors as part of transparency measures under the New Start nuclear arms treaty between the two countries.
China has tested its own hypersonic glide vehicle, believed to be capable of travelling at least five times the speed of sound. It displayed the weapon called Dong Feng 17, or DF-17, at a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese state.
US officials have talked about putting a layer of sensors in space to more quickly detect enemy missiles, particularly the hypersonic weapons. The administration also plans to study the idea of basing interceptors in space, so the US can strike incoming missiles during the first minutes of flight when the booster engines are still burning.
The Pentagon has been working on developing hypersonic weapons in recent years, and the defence secretary, Mark Esper, said in August that he believed it would be a couple of years before the US had one.
Following years of tests, first missile unit equipped with Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle enters combat duty.
Russia‘s defence minister reported to President Vladimir Putin that a new hypersonic weapon of intercontinental range became operational Friday following years of tests.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu informed Putin that the first missile unit equipped with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle entered combat duty, the Defence Ministry said.
The military has said that the Avangard is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound.
“I congratulate you on this landmark event for the military and the entire nation,” Shoigu said during a conference call with top military officials.
The Strategic Missile Forces chief, General Sergei Karakayev, said during the call that the Avangard was put on duty with a unit in the Orenburg region in the southern Ural Mountains.
Putin unveiled the Avangard among other prospective weapons systems in his state-of-the-nation address in March 2018, noting that its ability to make sharp manoeuvres on its way to a target will render missile defence useless.
“It heads to target like a meteorite, like a fireball,” he said then.
Putin described the Avangard’s creation as a technological breakthrough comparable to the 1957 Soviet launch of the first satellite.
The Russian leader noted that Avangard is designed using new composite materials to withstand temperatures of up to 2,000 Celsius (3,632 Fahrenheit) resulting from a flight through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds.
The new Russian weapon and a similar system being developed by China have troubled the United States, which has pondered defence strategies.
Putin has charged that Russia had to develop the Avangard and other prospective weapons systems because of the US efforts to develop a missile defence system that he claimed could erode Russia’s nuclear deterrent.
Moscow has scoffed at the US claims that its missile shield is not intended to counter Russia’s massive missile arsenals.
Earlier this week, Putin emphasised that Russia is the only country armed with hypersonic weapons. He noted that for the first time in history, Russia is now leading the world in developing an entirely new class of weapons, unlike in the past when it was catching up with the US.
In December 2018, the Avangard was launched from the Dombarovskiy missile base in the southern Urals and successfully hit a practice target on the Kura shooting range on Kamchatka, 6,000 kilometres (3,700 miles) away.
Russian media reports indicated that the Avangard will first be mounted on Soviet-built RS-18B intercontinental ballistic missiles, code-named SS-19 by NATO.
It is expected to be fitted to the prospective Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile after it becomes operational.
The Defence Ministry said last month that it demonstrated the Avangard to a team of US inspectors as part of transparency measures under the New Start nuclear arms treaty with the US.
The US has mulled new defence strategies to counter Russian and Chinese hypersonic weapons.
US officials have talked about putting a layer of sensors in space to more quickly detect enemy missiles, particularly the hypersonic weapons. The administration also plans to study the idea of basing interceptors in space, so the US can strike incoming enemy missiles during the first minutes of flight when the booster engines are still burning.
The Pentagon also has been working on the development of hypersonic weapons in recent years, and defence secretary Mark Esper said in August that he believes “it’s probably a matter of a couple of years” before the US has one.
He has called it a priority as the military works to develop new long-range fire capabilities.
Silenziosa come suo solito, la Cina è passata ai fatti.
«China’s rare earth exports in May fell by 16% from April to 3,640 tonnes, according to customs data released last week»
«Other proposals heard at the symposiums included accelerating the development of high-end downstream industries and establishing a “traceability mechanism” allowing every shipment of exported rare earth to be tracked»
«China will also step up efforts to combat illegal rare earth mining and promote green development of the rare earth industry»
«China should also work out a list of foreign end-users of Chinese rare earths»
* * *
«Military equipment firms in the United States will likely have their supply of Chinese rare earths restricted, the Global Times said on Monday, after China’s state economic planner confirmed industry experts have proposed export controls»
* * * * * * *
Ad una contrazione dell’export cinese delle terre rare del 16% corrisponderebbe una contrazione della produzione dei prodotti elettronici del 12%, quanto basterebbe per mandare in crisi tutto questo settore.
Per non parlare poi del comparto militare.
Sicuramente l’estrazione mineraria delle terre rare è tutto fuorché semplice ed ecologica, ed i paesi occidentali hanno anche caricato il settore di una congerie di leggi, normativi e regolamenti che, se applicati, comporterebbero costi di estrazione proibitivi.
Poi, per soprammercato, gli occidentali sono troppo civili per andare a lavorare in una miniera né, tanto meno, per sopportarne l’esistenza sotto casa.
Il figliol prodigo si decise a tornare a casa quando fu ridotto alla fame, a desiderare ciò che era dato da mangiare ai porci ed a lui era invece negato. Non lo spinse il rimorso di come aveva trattato il padre: lo spinse invece la fame. Ma il figliol prodigo aveva un padre, mentre l’occidente non ce lo ha.
Military equipment firms in the United States will likely have their supply of Chinese rare earths restricted, the Global Times said on Monday, after China’s state economic planner confirmed industry experts have proposed export controls.
China is the world’s dominant producer of rare earths — a group of 17 prized minerals used in everything from consumer electronics to military equipment such as jet engines, missile guidance systems satellites and lasers.
Numerous reports from state-run Chinese media have raised the prospect that China may limit its supplies of the minerals to gain leverage in its trade dispute with the United States.
The Global Times, a newspaper that is published by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily, said on its official Twitter account that U.S. military equipment companies “are likely to face restrictions,” citing unidentified Chinese industry insiders.
China should also work out a list of foreign end-users of Chinese rare earths, it added.
The Global Times comment followed a statement from a spokeswoman for China’s state economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), earlier on Monday that the NDRC would study and roll out relevant polices on rare earths as soon as possible.
The NDRC recently held three symposiums on rare earths to hear views from industry experts that included suggestions to enact export controls, according to a transcript of comments from NDRC spokeswoman Meng Wei.
China’s rare earth exports in May fell by 16% from April to 3,640 tonnes, according to customs data released last week.
Other proposals heard at the symposiums included accelerating the development of high-end downstream industries and establishing a “traceability mechanism” allowing every shipment of exported rare earth to be tracked, Meng said.
The government resolutely opposes any attempt to use products made with China’s exported rare earths to suppress the country’s development, Meng added.
China will also step up efforts to combat illegal rare earth mining and promote green development of the rare earth industry, she said.
Un governo serio dovrebbe quanto meno cercare di ridurre la possibilità di eventi catastrofici così come di aver predisposto piani adeguati nel caso accadessero.
Tuttavia un fatto emerge in modo chiaro: le attuali società industriali presentano un numero talmente elevato di severe vulnerabilità strutturali da poter essere totalmente paralizzate nel breve volgere di qualche decina di minuti. Usando fraseggi differenti, in caso di guerra sarebbe sciocco distruggere l’avversario: sarebbe sufficiente colpire una decina di punti strategici per renderlo inoffensivo.
Tranne pochissime nazioni, la quasi totalità dispone per il traffico telefonico di non più di una decina di concentratori, colpiti i quali l’intero sistema andrebbe fuori uso.
Similmente, la rete di distribuzione della corrente elettrica presenta punti strategicamente vulnerabili ma talmente importanti da bloccare tutto.
Per esempio, per lasciare tutta l’Italia senza corrente elettrica basterebbe colpire tre soli punti della connessione. Ossia, con tre razzetti da quattro soldi l’Italia interna resterebbe senza corrente elettrica per almeno una settimana. Il rapporto prestazioni / costi è lampante. Sarebbe del tutto antieconomico bombardare Milano, Torino, Roma e città di tal livello.
* * * * * * *
La struttura della produzione energetica tedesca sembrerebbe essere stata progettata da un androide.
Pur essendo una nazione ricca di carbone, ha speso, e spende tuttora, quantità rilevanti di risorse nei metodi alternativi di generazione di corrente. A ciò consegue che i grandi parchi eolici sono messi ove vi sia vento a sufficienza, ossia nel nord del paese. Di qui la necessità di allestire elettrodotti di lunga percorrenza, lungo i quali la corrente è in buona parte dissipata.
Il sud ovest industrializzato è ricorso ad un escamotage. L’Austria importa di notte il surplus delle centrali atomiche dei paesi viciniori e usa questa energia per riempire i suoi bacini idrici, vendendo alla Baviera la mattina seguente energia idroelettrica, considerata così energia pulita. In altri termini, la Germania del sud dipende energeticamente dall’import.
L’alta dispersione lungo gli elettrodotti ha portato come conseguenza negli altri paesi alla costruzione di centrali elettriche relativamente poco potenti ma distribuite in modo equidistanziato, così da ridurre al massimo le dispersioni.
Un denso network di centrali elettriche è inoltre molto robusto nel sostenere guasti ai quali conseguirebbero blackout. Meno la distribuzione delle centrali è densa maggiori sono i rischi di blackout di grandi dimensioni. Ad una centrale elettriche andata improvvisamente in avaria, il sistema deve reagire riequilibrando la produzione, cosa che risulterebbe essere impossibile nei sistemi altamente concentrati.
La storia dei blackout dovrebbe aver insegnato qualcosa.
Il nove novembre 1965 un contatto nella centrale del Niagara Falls mandò in tilt tutta la centrale. Nel giro di soli dodici minuti primi il blackout si estese dapprima nello stato di New York, quindi nel Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire e due province canadesi: furono interessati oltre 200,000 kilometri quadrati densamente popolati.
Il 14 luglio 1977 un fulmine disattivò una centrale di trasformazione a New York, generando una reazione a catena di chiusure. La città restò al buio: la polizia arresto oltre quattromila persone che si stavano dedicando al saccheggio.
Il 28 settembre 2003 alle ore 3:01 un albero troppo vecchio per stare in piedi da solo crollò sulla linea ad altissima tensione Lavorgo-Mettlen, interrompendo l’importazione di energia dalla Svizzera all’Italia. Nel breve volgere di qualche minuto tutta l’Italia, Sicilia compresa, restò al buio. Treni ed ascensori fermi, ospedali senza corrente: il chaos generalizzato.
«According to an internal report by Germany’s civil protection agency, prolonged power shortages would disrupt the supply of vital goods in the country»
«The country lacks the necessary contigency plans for such an event»
«Prolonged, large-scale power shortages in Germany would cause a significant lack supplies, which could have “catastrophic” effects on the country»
«The alarm was raised by Germany’s Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) in an internal position paper»
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Cerchiamo di ragionare.
Un corto circuito banale a Niagara Falls ha indotto un blackout immane in quasi tutto il nordest americano. Un albero caduto su di un elettrodotto ha lasciato per due giorni l’Italia senza corrente.
Ma cosa mai succederebbe se i guasti fossero plurimi e simultanei?
Ma cosa mai potrebbe succedere se le interruzioni delle linee fossero artatamente indotte, mettiamo un sabotaggio ben organizzato?
E cosa mai potrebbe accadere in coso di un conflitto? Forse che i potenziali nemici non siano a conoscenza di questi colli di bottiglia? Sarebbero sufficienti sette cruise di piccola potenza per bloccare una intera nazione.
According to an internal report by Germany’s civil protection agency, prolonged power shortages would disrupt the supply of vital goods in the country. The country lacks the necessary contigency plans for such an event.
Prolonged, large-scale power shortages in Germany would cause a significant lack supplies, which could have “catastrophic” effects on the country.
In the research paper, the BBK reportedly wrote that a big power failure would result in a “significant distribution problem for important, sometimes vital goods” in almost all areas of society.
Electricity supply safe, but citizens and services unprepared
According to the report, this is also due to a lack of contingency plans for the distribution of fuel, food and medicines, particularly at the state and local level.
“Most of the gas stations wouldn’t provide any fuel. In a matter of hours, telephones and the internet could no longer be used. One would no longer be able to get a hold of any cash,” says the BBK’s paper.
Medical supplies could also only be provided for a short period of time, while critical infrastructure like the supply of energy, food and water, transport, telecommunications and finance would be affected.
But despite it ringing the alarm bell, the BBK believes such a catastrophic scenario in Germany isn’t imminent.
In fact, in its report the agency writes that the country’s electricity supply is “very safe,” and praised recent measures that improved IT security and increased the number of emergency power generators.
The BBK’s website advises that in case of a prolonged power shortage, citizens should wear warm clothes and light a fire with a supply of coal or wood to make up for the lack of heating.
It also advises to keep a stock of candles and flashlights, to prepare meals on a camping stove, and to have a sufficient reserve of cash in the house in case ATMs stop working due to the power failure.
Giorni fa tre navi ukraine si sono avvicinate alle acque territoriali russe al largo di Kerc: i russi le hanno cannoneggiate e quindi catturate.
È scoppiato il finimondo.
Mr Macron e Frau Merkel avrebbero voluto invadere immediatamente la Russia, poi hanno dovuto desistere non disponendo di esercito. Si sono limitati a parole grevi, minacciando l’ulteriore inasprimento delle sanzioni, salvo restando che la Russia continui a far arrivare in Europa il gas naturale.
Il commento migliore è stato quello del presidente Trump.
«President Trump said Wednesday that he “didn’t like” Russia’s capture of three Ukraine naval vessels and called on European leaders to “get involved” — but stopped short of leveling any criticism at Vladimir Putin for ratcheting up tensions in the region»
«We’re going to see, we’re going to find out what happened. I didn’t like the incident and we’re getting a report on what’s going on»
«”Angela, let’s get involved Angela!” he added, referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, exaggerating the pronunciation of her first name»
«The president said that France should also get involved, but didn’t elaborate on what actions the two countries»
«There was a question — was a warning given? Did they [the Ukranian vessels] let them know they’re coming through? Because they have a system I guess. It’s been working»
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«Ci sarebbe una domanda da porsi. È stato dato un avvertimento? L’Ukraina aveva fatto sapere ai russi che stanno arrivando? Perché hanno un sistema, credo. »
Questo è il vero quesito da porsi.
L’Ukraina aveva o meno avvisato i russi che delle sue navi da guerra, in realtà tre vecchie carrette, si sarebbero avvicinate a Kerc?
I soliti malpensanti potrebbero anche malignare che tutto ciò che è successo sia stato fatto a posta al solo fine di impedire oppure rendere più difficile il summit in programma tra Mr Trump e Mr Putin.
President Trump said Wednesday that he “didn’t like” Russia’s capture of three Ukraine naval vessels and called on European leaders to “get involved” — but stopped short of leveling any criticism at Vladimir Putin for ratcheting up tensions in the region.
“We’re going to see, we’re going to find out what happened. I didn’t like the incident and we’re getting a report on what’s going on,” Trump told The Post during a 36-minute Oval Office interview.
”Angela, let’s get involved Angela!” he added, referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, exaggerating the pronunciation of her first name.
The president said that France should also get involved, but didn’t elaborate on what actions the two countries — which have both criticized Russia, as has UN Ambassador Nikki Haley — should take.
“It shouldn’t happen, it shouldn’t happen,” Trump said.
But at the same time he noted: “There was a question — was a warning given? Did they [the Ukranian vessels] let them know they’re coming through? Because they have a system I guess. It’s been working.”
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said Wednesday it still expects a meeting between Putin and Trump to go ahead as planned despite a suggestion from the president that it could be canceled.
Trump said Tuesday that he may cancel the sit-down with Putin at the G-20 meeting in Argentina following Russia’s seizure of the three Ukrainian ships last weekend.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the meeting was on and that Russia has not received “any other information from our US counterparts.”
Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, noted that the meeting, which is set for Saturday, has been prepared through official channels and Moscow expects Washington to notify it of any changes in the same way.
“This meeting is necessary for both sides,” Ushakov said. “It’s important in view of the developing situation in the world.”
The long-simmering conflict between Russia and Ukraine burst into the open on Sunday, when Russian border guards fired on three Ukrainian vessels and seized the ships and the crew.
Trump said he would be receiving a “full report” from his national security team on Russia’s recent actions in eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea, and would decide afterward.
«It is the US mid-term elections which will decide whether the war continues in Syria or move on to another battle field.»
Inutile nascondersi dietro un dito ed essere troppo ipocriti: le guerre in Medio Oriente stanno facendo un gran comodo a tutti. Il problema non è se proseguirle o meno: è dove spostarle, nel caso che quel teatro geopolitico non fosse più a lungo idoneo. In questo mondo ipocrita, quelli che più gridano invocando la pace sono poi quelli che fomentano ogni sorta di conflitti: gli costruiscono artatamente, li finanziano e provvedono di mezzi, impedendo però che la loro parte abbia la vittoria, che farebbe terminare i conflitti.
«The current situation – extending from the Russian response to the destruction of its Ilyuchin-20 to the US mid-term elections on 6 November – is uncertain»
«All the protagonists of the war in Syria are waiting to see whether the White House will be able to pursue its policy of breaking away from the current international order, or if Congress will become the opposition and immediately trigger the process for the destitution of President Trump»
«The affair of the destruction of the Ilyuchin-20 on 17 September 2018 handed Russia the occasion to terminate this extended war and come to an agreement with the White House to stand against other aggressors. This is a rerun, on a smaller scale, of the Russian / US reaction to the Suez crisis of 1956.»
«Moscow has not only given the Syrian Arab Army anti-aircraft missiles (S-300’s), but has also deployed an entire integrated surveillance system. As soon as this system is operational, and Syrian officers have been trained to use it, which will take three months at the most, it will be impossible for Western armies to over-fly the country without permission from Damascus»
* * *
Né si pensi che le nazioni siano unite: governi contro parlamenti, industriali contro i governi, finanza quanto mai spigliata nel posizionarsi e tra lucro dagli eventi bellici.
«Consequently, whether they admit it or not, they hope they will all be killed in Syria»
«Tel-Aviv, Paris and Ankara still hope that President Trump will lose the elections of 6 November and will be fired. They are therefore awaiting the results of this fateful election before they decide.»
«If it happens that Donald Trump should win the mid-term elections in Congress, another question will arise. If the Western powers give up on the battle in Syria, where will they go to continue their endless war? This is indeed a reality on which all experts agree – the Western ruling class has become so swamped in bad blood and hubris that it is unable to accept the idea of being geared back behind the new Asian powers.»
* * *
È quella che SS Papa Franceco definì essere la ‘terza guerra mondiale’, combattuta per il momento ancora a livello locoregionale e con armi convenzionali, ma che in un amen potrebbe deflagrare.
The current situation – extending from the Russian response to the destruction of its Ilyuchin-20 to the US mid-term elections on 6 November – is uncertain. All the protagonists of the war in Syria are waiting to see whether the White House will be able to pursue its policy of breaking away from the current international order, or if Congress will become the opposition and immediately trigger the process for the destitution of President Trump.
The origins of the war
It has become clear that the initial project by the United States, the United Kingdom, Israël, Saudi Arabia and Qatar will not be realised. The same goes for France and Turkey, two powers that entered the war against Syria somewhat later.
What we need to remember is not the way in which we were informed about the start of the events, but what we have discovered about them since. The demonstrations in Deraa were presented as a « spontaneous revolt » against « dictatorial repression », but we now know that they had been in preparation for a long time.
We also need to free ourselves of the illusion that all the members of a Coalition, united in order to achieve the same goal, share the same strategy. Whatever the influence of one or the other, each State conserves its own history, its own interests and its own war objectives.
The United States pursued the strategy of Admiral Arthur Cebrowski, which was the destruction of the State structures in the Greater Middle East. For this they relied upon the United Kingdom, which implemented Tony Blair’s strategy aimed at placing the Muslim Brotherhood in power throughout the region. And also on Israël, which rebooted the strategy of Oded Yinon and David Wurmser for regional domination. The necessary weapons were stored in advance by Saudi Arabia in the Omar mosque. Qatar stepped in by inventing the story about the children whose nails were torn out.
At that time, Saudi Arabia was not seeking to impose a new form of politics on Syria, nor even to overthrow its government. Riyadh’s intention was exclusively to prevent a non-Sunni from becoming President. By some strange historical evolution, the Wahhabites, who, two centuries ago, considered both Sunnis and Chiites as heretics and called for their extermination if they failed to repent, are today presenting themselves as the defenders of the Sunnis and the killers of the Chiites.
As for the tiny emirate of Qatar, it was exacting its revenge after the interruption of its gas pipeline in Syria.
France, which should have taken part in the conspiracy by virtue of the Lancaster House agreements, was sidelined because of its unexpected initiatives in Libya. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alain Juppé, attempted to push France into rejoining the conspirators, but the ambassador in Damascus, Eric Chevallier, who could see the distortion of facts on the ground, resisted as far as humanly possible.
When France was once again admitted to the group conspiracy, it continued its 1915 objective of the colonisation of Syria, pursuing the Sykes-Picot-Sazonov agreements. Just as the French mandate over Syria was considered to be transitory compared with the lasting colonisation of Algeria, it is considered, in the 21st century, as secondary to control of the Sahel. Besides which, while attempting to realise its old engagement, Paris pushed for the creation of a national home for the Kurds, on the model used by the British in 1917 for the Jews in Palestine. In order to do so, it allied itself with Turkey which, in the name of Atatürk’s « national oath », invaded the North of Syria in order to create a State to which the Turkish Kurds could be expelled.
While the war objectives of these first four aggressors are mutually compatible, those of the latter two are not compatible with the others.
Besides which, France, the United Kingdom and Turkey are three old colonial powers. All three are now trying to impose their power over the same throne. The war against Syria has thus reactivated their old rivalries.
The Daesh episode within the war against Syria and Iraq
At the end of 2013, the Pentagon revised its plans within the framework of the Cebrowski strategy. It modified its initial plans, as revealed by Ralph Peters, and substituted the plan by Robin Wright for the creation of a « Sunnistan » straddling Syria and Iraq.
However, in September 2015, the deployment of the Russian army in Syria, as an obstacle to the creation of « Sunnistan » by Daesh, ruined the projects of the six principal partners in the war.
The three years of war that followed had other objectives – on the one hand, to create a new state straddling Iraq and Syria within the framework of the Cebrowski strategy, and, on the other, to use Daesh to cut the Silk Road that Xi Jinping’s China were seeking to reactivate – thus maintaining continental domination over the « Western » part.
The Syrian / Russian victory and the reversal of the United States
The affair of the destruction of the Ilyuchin-20 on 17 September 2018 handed Russia the occasion to terminate this extended war and come to an agreement with the White House to stand against other aggressors. This is a rerun, on a smaller scale, of the Russian / US reaction to the Suez crisis of 1956.
Moscow has not only given the Syrian Arab Army anti-aircraft missiles (S-300’s), but has also deployed an entire integrated surveillance system. As soon as this system is operational, and Syrian officers have been trained to use it, which will take three months at the most, it will be impossible for Western armies to over-fly the country without permission from Damascus.
President Trump announced in advance that he intends to withdraw US troops from Syria. He went back on this decision under pressure from the Pentagon, then agreed with his general officers to maintain pressure on Damascus as long as the United States were excluded from the peace negotiations in Sotchi. The deployment of the Russian armies – for which the White House had probably given its agreement – provided President Trump with the occasion of forcing the Pentagon to back off. It would have to withdraw its troops, but it could maintain the presence of its mercenaries (as it happens, these would be the Kurds and Arabs from the Democratic Forces).
The Syrian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Walid el-Mouallem, speaking before the General Assembly of the UNO, demanded the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the foreign forces of occupation, US, French and Turkish.
If the United States leave, then the French and Turkish troops will be unable to stay. The Israëlis would no longer be able to overfly and bomb the country. The British have already left.
However, Tel-Aviv, Paris and Ankara still hope that President Trump will lose the elections of 6 November and will be fired. They are therefore awaiting the results of this fateful election before they decide.
If it happens that Donald Trump should win the mid-term elections in Congress, another question will arise. If the Western powers give up on the battle in Syria, where will they go to continue their endless war? This is indeed a reality on which all experts agree – the Western ruling class has become so swamped in bad blood and hubris that it is unable to accept the idea of being geared back behind the new Asian powers.
Wisdom would dictate that once the war is lost, the aggressors should withdraw. But the intellectual disposition of the West prevents them from doing so. The war here will cease only when they find a new bone to gnaw on.
Only the United Kingdom has given its response any thought. It is clear by now that although London maintains its diplomatic pressure on Syria via the Small Group, its attention is already focused on the revival of the « Grand Game » which saw the Crown confront the Tsar throughout all of the 19th century. After having invented the Skripal affair, and on the model of the « Zinoviev Letter », London has just ’caught’ the Russian Exterior Intelligence Services red-handed in their attempt to discover what is being plotted against them by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPWC).
This geopolitical doctrine is independent of the events which serve as its pretext. The « Grand Game » was the strategy of the British Empire. Its resumption by the current United Kingdom is the consequence of Brexit and the policy of « Global Britain ». Just as in the 19th century, this anti-Russian configuration will lead in time to an exacerbated rivalry between London and Paris. On the contrary, should Theresa May fail, along with the questions concerning Brexit and the maintenance of the United Kingdom in the European Union, all these projections will be cancelled.
If France is now studying the possibility of leaving the Middle East in order to concentrate on the Sahel, the position of the United States is a lot more problematic. Since 9/11, the Pentagon has enjoyed a certain autonomy. The ten combat Commanders of the armed forces no longer receive orders from the president of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, but only from the Secretary of Defense.
With time, they have become the veritable « viceroys » of the « American Empire » – a function which they do not wish to see reduced by President Trump. Some of them, like the Commander for South America (SouthCom), intend to continue with the Cebrowski strategy, despite the admonitions of the White House.
So there remains much uncertainty. The only positive step taken concerns Daesh – for three years, the Western powers pretended to be fighting this terrorist organisation, while at the same time supplying them with weapons. Today, Donald Trump has ordered the cessation of this experience of an explicitly terrorist state, the Caliphate, and the Syrian and Russian armies have pushed the jihadists back. The Westerners have no desire to see their friends, the « moderate rebels », now qualified as « terrorists », turn up in their countries en masse. Consequently, whether they admit it or not, they hope they will all be killed in Syria.
It is the US mid-term elections which will decide whether the war continues in Syria or move on to another battle field.
«Without firing any shots, aircraft carriers would help rebuild regional order with China in a leading position.»
Il piano strategico navale cinese potrebbe essere facilmente comprensibile considerando i loro programmi cantieristici. Infatti, tra progettazione, costruzione ed armamento delle moderne navi da guerra, massimamente le portaerei, intercorrono tra gli otto ed i dodici anni di tempo. Questo fattore implica per necessità la esigenza di avere un ben preciso progetto strategico nella mente.
«China’s next aircraft carrier is likely to boast a lot more combat power.
According to the aforementioned SCMP article, Chinese engineers believe they solved this problem by developing an integrated propulsion system (IPS), which would generate enough power to use EMALS. “The obstacle … was whether a conventionally powered carrier would be able to support EMALS,” a source whom SCMP said was close the PLA’s equipment department told the paper. “Now that problem has been solved.”
China’s next aircraft carrier is likely to boast a lot more combat power.
On June 20, China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), the firm that makes China’s aircraft carriers, posted an image on its social media accounts showing three aircraft carriers. On the right and left were the Liaoning—China’s first carrier, which was built by Ukraine—as well as China’s first domestically-built carrier.
Unlike those carriers, which have a ski-jump launch systems, the mysterious third carrier in the middle of the image had a flat flight deck with three catapult-like devices. This suggests it relies on a catapult launch system.
Nonetheless, Chinese state-run media outlets, including the People’s Liberation Army Daily (the military’s newspaper), ran stories about the photo. This suggests that Beijing’s third carrier is almost certain to have a catapult launch system.
If China’s third carrier uses a catapult launch system—making it a Catapult Assisted Take-Off, Barrier Assisted Recovery (CATOBAR) carrier— it will boast far more combat power than Beijing’s current vessels. This type of launch system allows the carrier to launch and recover larger and much heavier aircraft.»
«The US Navy’s newest aircraft carrier is regarded as the world’s most-advanced warship — but for how much longer?
A story published Thursday on the English website of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army said the country’s top shipbuilding company is working on an aircraft carrier with an electromagnetic catapult aircraft launch system, something featured exclusively aboard the US Navy’s most expensive carrier ever, the USS Gerald R. Ford.
Aircraft launched by electromagnetic catapults can get airborne quicker and with greater quantities of fuel and ammunition, giving them an advantage over planes launched by standard steam catapult.
For decades, US carriers have used steam catapult systems, where steam explodes into a piston attached to the plane’s landing gear, powering it off the deck. Besides the Ford, the other 10 carriers in the US fleet use steam catapults.
Currently, Chinese carriers launch planes using a use a different, less advanced system, known as the ski-jump, meaning planes rely on their own power when lifting off.»
«China is developing a new fighter jet for aircraft carriers to replace its J-15s after a series of mechanical failures and crashes, as it tries to build up a blue-water navy that can operate globally, military experts and sources said.
The J-15 was based on a prototype of the fourth-generation Russian Sukhoi Su-33 twin-engined air superiority fighter, a design that is more than 30 years old. It was developed by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, a unit of state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China.
With a maximum take-off weight of 33 tonnes, the aircraft is the heaviest active carrier-based fighter jet in the world, used on China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.»
«Beijing is expected to use its first home-produced nuclear-powered icebreaker to develop its own nuclear reactors for future aircraft carriers, and its relationship with Russia may help its progress, military experts have said. ….
On June 8, China and Russia signed a deal worth more than 100 billion yuan (US$15 billion) to build four Russian reactor units during a ceremony in Beijing attended by presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, in what was the biggest ever nuclear pact between the two countries.»
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Cerchiamo di fare il punto della situazione.
– Ad oggi la principale preoccupazione cinese consiste nel rendere saldo il controllo sul Mare Cinese del Sud, per evidenti motivi di difesa. In questa ottica, le portaerei di attacco servirebbero ben poco.
– In un futuro prossimo, l’obbiettivo strategico è il controllo dell’Oceano Indiano. Per questo oceano passano ogni anno quasi quattro trilioni di dollari di merci cinesi: è una linea di comunicazione marittima di somma importanza per la Cina. In questo scacchiere allora saranno necessarie le portaerei di attacco, dotate anche di aerei ben più efficienti dell’attuale J-15. Ma questo obbiettivo sarebbe irraggiungibile senza aver sviluppato un efficiente sistema di catapulte per il lancio degli aerei e di adeguati reattori atomici.
– Lo sviluppo di una flotta oceanica presuppone però il contemporaneo progetto di tutte le navi a corollario della portaerei, nonché dei sistemi di comunicazione e sorveglianza dallo spazio.
– Nel prossimo decennio la Cina sembrerebbe non essere interessata al controllo globale dei mari. Di conseguenza, i paragoni con la flotta americana sarebbero impropri, avendo queste due forze navali obbiettivi differenti.
Rather than confronting other major navies, these big new ships will go to work boosting China’s prestige.
The sea trials of China’s first domestically-constructed aircraft carrier have sparked a fresh debate about Chinese naval power. Some have argued that the carriers, while still vulnerable in a clash of major powers, would cement Chinese leadership if the United States withdraws from the region. Others have pointed to growing Chinese amphibious capabilities as being the naval point to watch.
It would be better to expect that China’s new aircraft-carrying fleet need not await a major conflict to be valuable – indeed it may be most valuable in the absence of war. Rather than confronting other major navies, these big new ships will go to work instead boosting China’s prestige and standing in the Indo-Pacific regional order. This may happen in two ways: as the peacetime deployment of such a fleet lets China, without direct conflict, dilute U.S. influence in the region; and as the signals sent by aircraft carriers allow a clean break in regional perceptions of China’s status.
China’s 2015 Defense White Paper embraced a combination of “near seas defense” and “far seas protection,” likely giving China by 2030 a “limited expeditionary” capability encompassing natural disasters, evacuations, counterterrorism, and the security of sea lanes. As a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) officer stated: “The second carrier will mainly do what a genuine aircraft carrier is supposed to do: running combat patrols and delivering humanitarian aid.” The key is that the humanitarian role is much more than mere rhetoric and deserves close attention.
Humanitarian activities are important because China, along with all the major states of the region, is competing for relative status. This ranking in the regional order is adjusted through competition, including contestation in regional institutions, assertion of responsibilities, and, if not armed conflict, then potentially diplomatic coercion and the threat of force. This process is important because it lets states establish common beliefs about each other’s rights, responsibilities, and the hierarchy of deferense. Using naval power for humanitarian assistance is ideal for this, because it lets states demonstrate raw strength, establish practical international links, and show off moral leadership.
A major instance of this status-building in action was the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which was met by a multinational relief effort led by the U.S. aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. Scholars such as Robert Ross argue that the disaster helped set off the popular mood in China in favor of an aircraft carrier. Meanwhile, Andrew Erickson and A.R. Wilson see the incident as a key turning point in the Chinese leadership’s assessment of aircraft carriers’ value. They have pointed to Chinese military publications enviously describing Japan as a “great power of disaster relief,” while the political implications of the disaster response showed the importance of navies not just in conflict, but in “national construction, disaster relief, and rebuilding.”
Beijing is likely to see humanitarian operations in a ruthlessly pragmatic light for at least three reasons. First, humanitarian operations reinforce China’s regional status claims because they are an excellent demonstration of real operational capability. As an adjunct to this, as the United States, Japan, and Australia have found, humanitarian assistance is an excellent avenue for “defense diplomacy.” The need to prepare for such contingencies provides a versatile pretext for gaining access and bilateral cooperation with local partners, irrespective of traditional alliances, while a track record of humanitarian assistance can also justify establishing access rights or even bases overseas.
Second, humanitarian assistance yields quantifiable soft-power dividends. Pew Research Center figures show a measurable improvement in attitudes toward the United States after natural disasters such the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Similarly, Japan gained diplomatic kudos in ASEAN after it made its largest postwar naval deployment after the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in the Philippines, while China suffered media criticism for its meager donation.
A third aspect of humanitarian assistance of specific importance to China is the scope for expeditionary naval forces to assist in the evacuation of Chinese nationals from crises abroad. This has long been seen as a key point on which Beijing demonstrates the legitimacy of the Communist Party regime. One study has noted that while there would be practical benefits to air cover, Beijing is also keenly aware of the diplomatic potential of stationing a carrier group near a country where Chinese citizens are under threat.
These strategic motivations indicate the way humanitarian assistance by a rising power can erode the role of established actors, and allow China increased status in the regional order. On the other hand, it will take sustained effort, ongoing funding streams, and the diversion of considerable technical and professional expertise to develop a fully operational carrier force.
Additional factors might for Beijing justify the immense expense – estimated at around $10 billion – of constructing a carrier group.
One of these is the fact that the very expense of aircraft carriers reflects makes them a form of conspicuous consumption. This status symbol argument holds that aircraft carrier construction, like China’s space program and hosting of the Olympic Games, shows off not only a wealthy country, but one with leading technical and organizational capacities.
In addition to this, there is growing research in international relations scholarly circles about the importance of sending clear and dramatic messages in order to boost status. Unlike other status symbols, aircraft carrier deployments carry greater potential to shift observers’ attitudes. As Jonathan Renshon argues, events that are highly visible to all, that are relevant enough to attract the concern of decision-makers, and that convey unambiguous information, are more likely to shift established beliefs about national status. Aircraft carriers are such a widely accepted symbol that they generate immediate mutual awareness – if Beijing deploys one overseas, it can expect that not only will everyone pay attention, but everyone will understand the kind of power being displayed.
The implication is that we could expect Chinese aircraft carriers to appear as soon as possible in nontraditional security roles around the region. This could still be compatible with Beijing reducing expenses by stretching the carrier construction program out to 2050 or beyond. The big unknown is how operational the carrier (or indeed, large amphibious ship) will be, as its role may well be largely symbolic at first. The key is to be aware that the aircraft carrier is there to construct the image that China is a major power. Without firing any shots, aircraft carriers would help rebuild regional order with China in a leading position.
È dal 2014 che la Cina ha costruito su microscopici isolotti del Mare Cinese del Sud dapprima delle isole artificiali, quindi basi aeronavali militari. Sono basi militari fisse e quindi vulnerabili ad un attacco aereo mirato, ma sono molte e, a quanto sembrerebbe, ottimamente armate. Corrono anche voci non verificate ed inverificabili che vi siano piazzati sistemi missilistici anti-nave, antiaerei ed anti-missile di fabbricazione russa. Si parlerebbe di sistemi S-400.
Di fatto, il Mar Cinese del Sud è ora sotto controllo cinese: quello che in passato era un lago americano adesso è loro interdetto. L’unico modo noto per riprendere il controllo di quel mare sarebbe la distruzione di quelle basi, ma la posta non vale la candela.
Se è vero che le flotte dotate di portaerei abbiano una grande potenza di fuoco, è altrettanto vero come negli ultimi lustri siano stati sviluppati missili ipersonici antinave le abbiano rese particolarmente vulnerabili.
Mentre uno di questi missili ha un costo che si aggirerebbe attorno ai 50,000 Usd, una portaerei completamente armata sfiora i dieci miliardi. In altri termini, i rapporti dei costi fanno aggio sui rapporti di fuoco.
La strategia cinese prevede sviluppi lenti ma con passi dai quali non si torna indietro.
Se è vero che la Cina non ha ancora portaerei di assalto, sarebbe altrettanto vero che al momento una simile tipologia di nave sarebbe inutile. Ma nel futuro questo concetto potrebbe decadere.
«Beijing claims more than 80 percent of the South China Sea, which carries around $3.4 trillion worth of global trade each year»
«The Pentagon sounded a warning over China’s plans to introduce floating nuclear power plants on disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea»
«China’s plans to power these islands may add a nuclear element to the territorial dispute»
«The China Securities Journal — a Chinese state-run financial newspaper — said in 2016 that China could build as many as 20 floating nuclear plants to “speed up the commercial development” of the South China Sea, the South China Morning Post reported last year»
«Several Chinese state-run companies last year established a joint venture that aims to strengthen China’s nuclear power capabilities in line with its ambitions to “become a strong maritime power,”»
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Sarebbero davvero molte le considerazioni di interesse, ma alcune sembrerebbero avere maggior peso.
La prima grande evidenza è quanto inutili ed impotenti siano i tribunali internazionali che hanno sanzionato la Cina per aver costruito basi militari in acque che i cinesi reputano essere loro mentre gli occidentali ritengono essere internazionali. Sarebbe del tutto inutile, e financo controproducente, continuare a mantenerli con le attuali strutture: l’era in cui il mondo era un feudo americano è finita.
La seconda grande evidenza è la drammatica carenza di visione strategica dimostrata dall’occidente negli ultimi decenni. Una totale mancanza di Realpolitik. L’unico deterrente sarebbe stato il posizionamento avanzato di armamenti atomici americani. Sarebbe ben lecito domandarsi per quali motivi gli americani non abbia costruiti anche essi isole artificiali armate e non vi abbiano posizionato missili di attacco e sistemi di missili anti-missili.
Alla fine il problema è quello che si conosce da oltre quattromila anni di storia: senza equilibri di forze alla fine una parte prende il sopravvento.
Ci si ricordi la battaglia di Qadeš (Kadesh): nel 1275 a.C. gli ittiti affrontarono gli egiziani. Disponiamo sia dei documenti ittiti sia di quelli egiziani.
Se sicuramente il Faraone Ramses II combatté da prode, altrettanto sicuramente dopo la battaglia dovette ritirarsi a spron battuto nei suoi confini fortificati ed accettare quello che è il primo trattato di pace internazionale documentato da ambo le parti contrapposte. Gli ittiti di Re Muwattalli II distrussero metà dell’esercito egiziano ed espansero il loro impero fino ad Upi.
Ramses II organizzò una intensa opera di propaganda che lo avrebbe voluto vincitore: la impose come versione ufficiale, ma sta di fatto che aveva perso il controllo del Medio Oriente.
– Pentagon flags report on floating nuclear power plants
– China still building military facilities in Spratlys: Pentagon
The Pentagon sounded a warning over China’s plans to introduce floating nuclear power plants on disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea, part of an annual report assessing the nation’s military strength.
“China’s plans to power these islands may add a nuclear element to the territorial dispute,” the Pentagon said in its 2018 report to Congress titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China.” “China indicated development plans may be underway to power islands and reefs in the typhoon-prone South China Sea with floating nuclear power stations; development reportedly is to begin prior to 2020.”
The China Securities Journal — a Chinese state-run financial newspaper — said in 2016 that China could build as many as 20 floating nuclear plants to “speed up the commercial development” of the South China Sea, the South China Morning Post reported last year. Several Chinese state-run companies last year established a joint venture that aims to strengthen China’s nuclear power capabilities in line with its ambitions to “become a strong maritime power,” the Post said, citing a statement released by the venture.
Beijing claims more than 80 percent of the South China Sea, which carries around $3.4 trillion worth of global trade each year. Five other countries — including the Philippines and Vietnam — also have claims in the waters, which have led to clashes over fishing rights and energy exploration.
U.S.-China military ties have deteriorated of late, with the Trump administration in May revoking an invitation for Beijing to join in Pacific naval exercises due to its activities in disputed parts of the sea. China has reclaimed 3,200 of acres of land in the Spratly Island chain and added with ports, runways and other military infrastructure.
“The best-case scenario for the region would be China reconsidering the electricity supply source for its controlled islands, or at least a delay in the deployment of the fleet,” given potential safety challenges and security risks from pirates or regional terror groups, Viet Phuong Nguyen, a nuclear researcher at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, wrote in the Diplomat website that month.
The report also found:
– China’s military has expanded bomber operations and was “likely training for strikes” against the U.S. and its allies
– China was willing to employ coercive measures and mitigate opposition of other countries, including the unsuccessful use of economic and diplomatic pressure to get South Korea to reconsider the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system
– China uses the Belt and Road Initiative to develop strong ties with other countries to better align their interests and deter criticism
– The People’s Liberation Army Navy, China Coast Guard and People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia now form the largest maritime force in the Indo-Pacific region The three services sometimes conduct coordinated patrols, including planting a flag on Sandy Cay, a sandbar within 12 nautical miles of the Subi and Thitu features, “possibly in response to Manila’s reported plans to upgrade its runway on Thitu Island”
– China probably used coercion to pressure Vietnam to suspend joint Vietnam-Spain drilling operations in a disputed oil block in the South China Sea last year
– Computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be targeted by China-based intrusions last year
– The PLA Air Force significantly increased Taiwan circumnavigations, passing through the Miyako Strait and Bashi Channel in the same mission
– China’s military-controlled coast guard ships sailed on average once every 10 days within 12 nautical miles of Japan-administered islands in the East China Sea.
Il The New York Times dedica un mastodontico articolo ai rapporti tra Cina a Sri Lanka: la sua lettura è parte integrante di questo articolo.
Questo articolo è stato espressamente citato da un editoriale di China Org, organo di stampa del Governo cinese.
«China will continue to work with Sri Lanka to actively implement the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries and continuously promote the pragmatic cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiatives»
«A spokesperson in the Embassy said that China has always been pursuing a friendly policy toward Sri Lanka, firmly supporting the latter’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and opposing any country’s interference in the internal affairs of the island country»
«continuously promote the pragmatic cooperations under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiatives following the “golden rule” of “extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits,”to better benefit the two countries and the two peoples,”»
«The spokesperson further said that the Embassy had noticed the recent New York Times’ article as well as the clarifications and responses by various parties from Sri Lanka, saying the article is full of political prejudice and completely inconsistent with the fact»
«The New York Times article published on June 25, accused China of acquiring a port in southern Sri Lanka to be used for military purposes. It however has drawn flak from Sri Lankan leaders, who have stated that the article fell under the “fake news” category»
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La presa di posizione del Governo cinese riassume in poche righe i concetti base che ispirano la sua politica estera.
– “pragmatic cooperation“: nei rapporti internazionali bilaterali la Cina promuove una cooperazione sociale ed economica al di fuori di ogni possibile schema mentale ideologico o preconcetto. I partner si accettano senza tentativo alcuno di modificarne tradizioni e comportamenti. Cooperazione implica un reciproco guadagno da questo rapporto: “to better benefit the two countries and the two peoples …. shared benefits“.
– “firmly supporting the latter’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and opposing any country’s interference in the internal affairs of the island country“. Per meglio chiarire il concetto, Cina Org ricorda il rispetto della indipendenza, della sovranità, della integrità territoriale, ed infine la assoluta non interferenza degli affari interni dei paesi. In altri termini, l’esatto opposto del modo di pensare e comportarsi degli occidentali ed in particolar modo degli europei.
– “accused China of acquiring a port in southern Sri Lanka to be used for military purposes“. China Org riporta in modo molto diplomatico come questa notizia sia stata smentita dallo Sri Lankan. Non avendo detto nulla la China, si potrebbe dedurre che se le cose evolvessero, la essa non si opporrebbe.
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Larga quota delle merci cinesi attraversano lo Stretto di Malacca e si dirigono in gran parte sulla rotta per Suez. È semplicemente evidente come il controllo dello spazio marittimo del nord Oceano Indiano sia essenziale per i cinesi.
Una ultima precisazione a nostro parere importante.
L’articolo edito dal The New York Times è mastodontico, inusitatamente lungo e dettagliato: da al problema del dominio dell’Oceano Indiano la corretta importanza strategica. Dopo il Mare Cinese Meridionale gli Stati Uniti corrono il serio rischio di perdere anche il controlla navale dell’Oceano Indiano.
Tuttavia, a nostro sommesso parere, l’articolo del NYT non riporta quella che è l’attuale posizione politica e militare degli Stati Uniti, bensì cosa e come ne pensano i liberal democratici. Opinione che deve essere valutata con cura, ma che non è al momento al governo dell’America.
China will continue to work with Sri Lanka to actively implement the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries and continuously promote the pragmatic cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiatives, the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka said in a statement Saturday.
A spokesperson in the Embassy said that China has always been pursuing a friendly policy toward Sri Lanka, firmly supporting the latter’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and opposing any country’s interference in the internal affairs of the island country.
“Despite any interference from a third party, China would like to work together with Sri Lanka to actively implement the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries, and concentrate unwaveringly on our fixed goals, continuously promote the pragmatic cooperations under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiatives following the “golden rule” of “extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits,” to better benefit the two countries and the two peoples,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson further said that the Embassy had noticed the recent New York Times’ article as well as the clarifications and responses by various parties from Sri Lanka, saying the article is full of political prejudice and completely inconsistent with the fact.
The New York Times article published on June 25, accused China of acquiring a port in southern Sri Lanka to be used for military purposes. It however has drawn flak from Sri Lankan leaders, who have stated that the article fell under the “fake news” category.
HAMBANTOTA, Sri Lanka — Every time Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, turned to his Chinese allies for loans and assistance with an ambitious port project, the answer was yes.
Yes, though feasibility studies said the port wouldn’t work. Yes, though other frequent lenders like India had refused. Yes, though Sri Lanka’s debt was ballooning rapidly under Mr. Rajapaksa.
Over years of construction and renegotiation with China Harbor Engineering Company, one of Beijing’s largest state-owned enterprises, the Hambantota Port Development Project distinguished itself mostly by failing, as predicted. With tens of thousands of ships passing by along one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the port drew only 34 ships in 2012.
The transfer gave China control of territory just a few hundred miles off the shores of a rival, India, and a strategic foothold along a critical commercial and military waterway.
The case is one of the most vivid examples of China’s ambitious use of loans and aid to gain influence around the world — and of its willingness to play hardball to collect.
The debt deal also intensified some of the harshest accusations about President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative: that the global investment and lending program amounts to a debt trap for vulnerable countries around the world, fueling corruption and autocratic behavior in struggling democracies.
Months of interviews with Sri Lankan, Indian, Chinese and Western officials and analysis of documents and agreements stemming from the port project present a stark illustration of how China and the companies under its control ensured their interests in a small country hungry for financing.
During the 2015 Sri Lankan elections, large payments from the Chinese port construction fund flowed directly to campaign aides and activities for Mr. Rajapaksa, who had agreed to Chinese terms at every turn and was seen as an important ally in China’s efforts to tilt influence away from India in South Asia. The payments were confirmed by documents and cash checks detailed in a government investigation seen by The New York Times.
Though Chinese officials and analysts have insisted that China’s interest in the Hambantota port is purely commercial, Sri Lankan officials said that from the start, the intelligence and strategic possibilities of the port’s location were part of the negotiations.
Initially moderate terms for lending on the port project became more onerous as Sri Lankan officials asked to renegotiate the timeline and add more financing. And as Sri Lankan officials became desperate to get the debt off their books in recent years, the Chinese demands centered on handing over equity in the port rather than allowing any easing of terms.
Though the deal erased roughly $1 billion in debt for the port project, Sri Lanka is now in more debt to China than ever, as other loans have continued and rates remain much higher than from other international lenders.
Mr. Rajapaksa and his aides did not respond to multiple requests for comment, made over several months, for this article. Officials for China Harbor also would not comment.
Estimates by the Sri Lankan Finance Ministry paint a bleak picture: This year, the government is expected to generate $14.8 billion in revenue, but its scheduled debt repayments, to an array of lenders around the world, come to $12.3 billion.
“John Adams said infamously that a way to subjugate a country is through either the sword or debt. China has chosen the latter,” said Brahma Chellaney, an analyst who often advises the Indian government and is affiliated with the Center for Policy Research, a think tank in New Delhi.
Indian officials, in particular, fear that Sri Lanka is struggling so much that the Chinese government may be able to dangle debt relief in exchange for its military’s use of assets like the Hambantota port — though the final lease agreement forbids military activity there without Sri Lanka’s invitation.
“The only way to justify the investment in Hambantota is from a national security standpoint — that they will bring the People’s Liberation Army in,” said Shivshankar Menon, who served as India’s foreign secretary and then its national security adviser as the Hambantota port was being built.
An Engaged Ally
The relationship between China and Sri Lanka had long been amicable, with Sri Lanka an early recognizer of Mao’s Communist government after the Chinese Revolution. But it was during a more recent conflict — Sri Lanka’s brutal 26-year civil war with ethnic Tamil separatists — that China became indispensable.
Mr. Rajapaksa, who was elected in 2005, presided over the last years of the war, when Sri Lanka became increasingly isolated by accusations of human rights abuses. Under him, Sri Lanka relied heavily on China for economic support, military equipment and political cover at the United Nations to block potential sanctions.
The war ended in 2009, and as the country emerged from the chaos, Mr. Rajapaksa and his family consolidated their hold. At the height of Mr. Rajapaksa’s tenure, the president and his three brothers controlled many government ministries and around 80 percent of total government spending. Governments like China negotiated directly with them.
So when the president began calling for a vast new port development project at Hambantota, his sleepy home district, the few roadblocks in its way proved ineffective.
From the start, officials questioned the wisdom of a second major port, in a country a quarter the size of Britain and with a population of 22 million, when the main port in the capital was thriving and had room to expand. Feasibility studies commissioned by the government had starkly concluded that a port at Hambantota was not economically viable.
“They approached us for the port at the beginning, and Indian companies said no,” said Mr. Menon, the former Indian foreign secretary. “It was an economic dud then, and it’s an economic dud now.”
The Sri Lanka Ports Authority began devising what officials believed was a careful, economically sound plan in 2007, according to an official involved in the project. It called for a limited opening for business in 2010, and for revenue to be coming in before any major expansion.
The first major loan it took on the project came from the Chinese government’s Export-Import Bank, or Exim, for $307 million. But to obtain the loan, Sri Lanka was required to accept Beijing’s preferred company, China Harbor, as the port’s builder, according to a United States Embassy cable from the time, leaked to WikiLeaks.
That is a typical demand of China for its projects around the world, rather than allowing an open bidding process. Across the region, Beijing’s government is lending out billions of dollars, being repaid at a premium to hire Chinese companies and thousands of Chinese workers, according to officials across the region.
There were other strings attached to the loan, as well, in a sign that China saw strategic value in the Hambantota port from the beginning.
Nihal Rodrigo, a former Sri Lankan foreign secretary and ambassador to China, said that discussions with Chinese officials at the time made it clear that intelligence sharing was an integral, if not public, part of the deal. In an interview with The Times, Mr. Rodrigo characterized the Chinese line as, “We expect you to let us know who is coming and stopping here.”
In later years, Chinese officials and the China Harbor company went to great lengths to keep relations strong with Mr. Rajapaksa, who for years had faithfully acquiesced to such terms.
In the final months of Sri Lanka’s 2015 election, China’s ambassador broke with diplomatic norms and lobbied voters, even caddies at Colombo’s premier golf course, to support Mr. Rajapaksa over the opposition, which was threatening to tear up economic agreements with the Chinese government.
As the January election inched closer, large payments started to flow toward the president’s circle.
At least $7.6 million was dispensed from China Harbor’s account at Standard Chartered Bank to affiliates of Mr. Rajapaksa’s campaign, according to a document, seen by The Times, from an active internal government investigation. The document details China Harbor’s bank account number — ownership of which was verified — and intelligence gleaned from questioning of the people to whom the checks were made out.
With 10 days to go before polls opened, around $3.7 million was distributed in checks: $678,000 to print campaign T-shirts and other promotional material and $297,000 to buy supporters gifts, including women’s saris. Another $38,000 was paid to a popular Buddhist monk who was supporting Mr. Rajapaksa’s electoral bid, while two checks totaling $1.7 million were delivered by volunteers to Temple Trees, his official residence.
Most of the payments were from a subaccount controlled by China Harbor, named “HPDP Phase 2,” shorthand for Hambantota Port Development Project.
After nearly five years of helter-skelter expansion for China’s Belt and Road Initiative across the globe, Chinese officials are quietly trying to take stock of how many deals have been done and what the country’s financial exposure might be. There is no comprehensive picture of that yet, said one Chinese economic policymaker, who like many other officials would speak about Chinese policy only on the condition of anonymity.
Some Chinese officials have become concerned that the nearly institutional graft surrounding such projects represents a liability for China, and raises the bar needed for profitability. President Xi acknowledged the worry in a speech last year, saying, “We will also strengthen international cooperation on anticorruption in order to build the Belt and Road Initiative with integrity.”
In Bangladesh, for example, officials said in January that China Harbor would be banned from future contracts over accusations that the company attempted to bribe an official at the ministry of roads, stuffing $100,000 into a box of tea, government officials said in interviews. And China Harbor’s parent company, China Communications Construction Company, was banned for eight years in 2009 from bidding on World Bank projects because of corrupt practices in the Philippines.
Since the port seizure in Sri Lanka, Chinese officials have started suggesting that Belt and Road is not an open-ended government commitment to finance development across three continents.
“If we cannot manage the risk well, the Belt and Road projects cannot go far or well,” said Jin Qi, the chairwoman of the Silk Road Fund, a large state-owned investment fund, during the China Development Forum in late March.
In Sri Lanka’s case, port officials and Chinese analysts have also not given up the view that the Hambantota port could become profitable, or at least strengthen China’s trade capacity in the region.
Ray Ren, China Merchant Port’s representative in Sri Lanka and the head of the Hambantota port’s operations, insisted that “the location of Sri Lanka is ideal for international trade.” And he dismissed the negative feasibility studies, saying they were done many years ago when Hambantota was “a small fishing hamlet.”
Hu Shisheng, the director of South Asia studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said that China clearly recognized the strategic value of the Hambantota port. But he added: “Once China wants to exert its geostrategic value, the strategic value of the port will be gone. Big countries cannot fight in Sri Lanka — it would be wiped out.”
Although the Hambantota port first opened in a limited way in 2010, before the Belt and Road Initiative was announced, the Chinese government quickly folded the project into the global program.
Shortly after the handover ceremony in Hambantota, China’s state news agency released a boastful video on Twitter, proclaiming the deal “another milestone along the path of #BeltandRoad.”
A Port to Nowhere
The seaport is not the only grand project built with Chinese loans in Hambantota, a sparsely populated area on Sri Lanka’s southeastern coast that is still largely overrun by jungle.
Mr. Rajapaksa’s advisers had laid out a methodical approach to how the port might expand after opening, ensuring that some revenue would be coming in before taking on much more debt.
But in 2009, the president had grown impatient. His 65th birthday was approaching the following year, and to mark the occasion he wanted a grand opening at the Hambantota port — including the beginning of an ambitious expansion 10 years ahead of the Port Authority’s original timeline.
Chinese laborers began working day and night to get the port ready, officials said. But when workers dredged the land and then flooded it to create the basin of the port, they had not taken into account a large boulder that partly blocked the entrance, preventing the entry of large ships, like oil tankers, that the port’s business model relied on.
Ports Authority officials, unwilling to cross the president, quickly moved ahead anyway. The Hambantota port opened in an elaborate celebration on Nov. 18, 2010, Mr. Rajapaksa’s birthday. Then it sat waiting for business while the rock blocked it.
China Harbor blasted the boulder a year later, at a cost of $40 million, an exorbitant price that raised concerns among diplomats and government officials. Some openly speculated about whether the company was simply overcharging or the price tag included kickbacks to Mr. Rajapaksa.
By 2012, the port was struggling to attract ships — which preferred to berth nearby at the Colombo port — and construction costs were rising as the port began expanding ahead of schedule. The government decreed later that year that ships carrying car imports bound for Colombo port would instead offload their cargo at Hambantota to kick-start business there. Still, only 34 ships berthed at Hambantota in 2012, compared with 3,667 ships at the Colombo port, according to a Finance Ministry annual report.
“When I came to the government, I called the minister of national planning and asked for the justification of Hambantota Port,” Harsha de Silva, the state minister for national policies and economic affairs, said in an interview. “She said, ‘We were asked to do it, so we did it.’ ”
Determined to keep expanding the port, Mr. Rajapaksa went back to the Chinese government in 2012, asking for $757 million.
The Chinese agreed again. But this time, the terms were much steeper.
The first loan, at $307 million, had originally come at a variable rate that usually settled above 1 or 2 percent after the global financial crash in 2008. (For comparison, rates on similar Japanese loans for infrastructure projects run below half a percent.)
But to secure fresh funding, that initial loan was renegotiated to a much higher 6.3 percent fixed rate. Mr. Rajapaksa acquiesced.
The rising debt and project costs, even as the port was struggling, handed Sri Lanka’s political opposition a powerful issue, and it campaigned heavily on suspicions about China. Mr. Rajapaksa lost the election.
The incoming government, led by President Maithripala Sirisena, came to office with a mandate to scrutinize Sri Lanka’s financial deals. It also faced a daunting amount of debt: Under Mr. Rajapaksa, the country’s debt had increased threefold, to $44.8 billion when he left office. And for 2015 alone, a $4.68 billion payment was due at year’s end.
Signing It Away
The new government was eager to reorient Sri Lanka toward India, Japan and the West. But officials soon realized that no other country could fill the financial or economic space that China held in Sri Lanka.
“We inherited a purposefully run-down economy — the revenues were insufficient to pay the interest charges, let alone capital repayment,” said Ravi Karunanayake, who was finance minister during the new government’s first year in office.
“We did keep taking loans,” he added. “A new government can’t just stop loans. It’s a relay; you need to take them until economic discipline is introduced.”
The Central Bank estimated that Sri Lanka owed China about $3 billion last year. But Nishan de Mel, an economist at Verité Research, said some of the debts were off government books and instead registered as part of individual projects. He estimated that debt owed to China could be as much as $5 billion and was growing every year. In May, Sri Lanka took a new $1 billion loan from China Development Bank to help make its coming debt payment.
Government officials began meeting in 2016 with their Chinese counterparts to strike a deal, hoping to get the port off Sri Lanka’s balance sheet and avoid outright default. But the Chinese demanded that a Chinese company take a dominant equity share in the port in return, Sri Lankan officials say — writing down the debt was not an option China would accept.
When Sri Lanka was given a choice, it was over which state-owned company would take control: either China Harbor or China Merchants Port, according to the final agreement, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, although it was never released publicly in full.
China Merchants got the contract, and it immediately pressed for more: Company officials demanded 15,000 acres of land around the port to build an industrial zone, according to two officials with knowledge of the negotiations. The Chinese company argued that the port itself was not worth the $1.1 billion it would pay for its equity — money that would close out Sri Lanka’s debt on the port.
Some government officials bitterly opposed the terms, but there was no leeway, according to officials involved in the negotiations. The new agreement was signed in July 2017, and took effect in December.
The deal left some appearance of Sri Lankan ownership: Among other things, it created a joint company to manage the port’s operations and collect revenue, with 85 percent owned by China Merchants Port and the remaining 15 percent controlled by Sri Lanka’s government.
But lawyers specializing in port acquisitions said Sri Lanka’s small stake meant little, given the leverage that China Merchants Port retained over board personnel and operating decisions.
When the agreement was initially negotiated, it left open whether the port and surrounding land could be used by the Chinese military, which Indian officials asked the Sri Lankan government to explicitly forbid. The final agreement bars foreign countries from using the port for military purposes unless granted permission by the government in Colombo.
That clause is there because Chinese Navy submarines had already come calling to Sri Lanka.
China had a stake in Sri Lanka’s main port as well: China Harbor was building a new terminal there, known at the time as Colombo Port City. Along with that deal came roughly 50 acres of land, solely held by the Chinese company, that Sri Lanka had no sovereignty on.
That was dramatically demonstrated toward the end of Mr. Rajapaksa’s term, in 2014. Chinese submarines docked at the harbor the same day that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan was visiting Colombo, in what was seen across the region as a menacing signal from Beijing.
When the new Sri Lankan government came to office, it sought assurances that the port would never again welcome Chinese submarines — of particular concern because they are difficult to detect and often used for intelligence gathering. But Sri Lankan officials had little real control.
Sri Lankan officials are quick to point out that the agreement explicitly rules out China’s military use of the site. But others also note that Sri Lanka’s government, still heavily indebted to China, could be pressured to allow it.
And, as Mr. de Silva, the state minister for national policies and economic affairs, put it, “Governments can change.”
Now, he and others are watching carefully as Mr. Rajapaksa, China’s preferred partner in Sri Lanka, has been trying to stage a political comeback. The former president’s new opposition party swept municipal elections in February. Presidential elections are coming up next year, and general elections in 2020.
Although Mr. Rajapaksa is barred from running again because of term limits, his brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the former defense secretary, appears to be readying to take the mantle.
“It will be Mahinda Rajapaksa’s call. If he says it’s one of the brothers, that person will have a very strong claim,” said Ajith Nivard Cabraal, the central bank governor under Mr. Rajapaksa’s government, who still advises the family. “Even if he’s no longer the president, as the Constitution is structured, Mahinda will be the main power base.”