May 26, 2014

More detail: Swedish raid on Kockums, Malmo on April 8, 2014

A Stirling engine retrofitted to Swedish submarine HMS Näcken. Photo courtesy of Kockums http://kockums.se/en/products-services/submarines/stirling-aip-system/stirling-aip-conversion/.
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For the latest on this issue see June 11, 2014’s Australia's Future Submarine - Swedish vs German Claims http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2014/06/australias-future-submarine-swedish-vs.html . It is unclear whether Germany or Sweden hold the strongest intellectual property rights to the Stirling AIP.

It appears the Swedish government in part raided the TKMS-Kockums' Malmo site out of concern that Swedish designed Stirling engine secrets were not being held securely enough. The Local ("Sweden's news in English") May 19, 2014 reports http://www.thelocal.se/20140519/swedes-took-engine-in-raid-on-german-sub-makers .


"Swedes 'took engine' in German sub site raid

UPDATED [May 19, 2014]: New details have emerged about why the Swedish military raided the Malmö premises of German defence giant Thyssen Krupp [on April 8, 2014]. A military expert tells The Local that submarines have become a "major concern" in Sweden since unrest in Ukraine.
UPDATED: New details have emerged about why the Swedish military raided the Malmö premises of German defence giant Thyssen Krupp last month. A military expert tells The Local that submarines have become a "major concern" in Sweden since unrest in Ukraine.

Tensions between Sweden and the German company Thyssen Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS) took a surprising turn in April when the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) carried out a raid on the Malmö shipyard belonging to Kockums, Thyssen Krupp's Swedish subsidiary.

It was initially unknown what exactly the administration's soldiers got away with, but one military expert said the entire incident was "very unusual". Kockums' head of security was relieved of his duties on the same day.
An FMV spokeswoman said soon after that the raid was "a routine transportation of defence material".

On Monday, the Dagens Nyheter newspaper (DN) revealed that FMV had removed parts of the Stirling submarine engine in a move that created a storm of confusion and irritation among Kockums' heads. The information came via an inside source that DN said "had a strong connection to the proceedings".

On the day of the raid, April 8th [2014], two trucks pulled into the Kockums site in Malmö with the backup of the Swedish military. They promptly loaded their trucks, with what is believed to be the engine parts, and took them away.

[Coincidence or not? I published my article http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2014/04/stirling-aip-on-chinese-type-041-yuan.html Intellectual Property, Stirling AIP on Chinese Type 041 Yuan Submarine at 5.31pm, April 8, 2014 Eastern Australian time. In Sweden that was at 9.31am, April 8, 2014. Was the Swedish raid on TKMS-Kockums in Malmo a few hours after my article?]

The source said that the Kockums' chairman had known about the FMV plans in advance but "was not at all prepared that they would go this far".

The raid was prompted, the source added, by fears that information about the engine could end up in the wrong hands after talks of a potential submarine deal came to an end.  
   
Gunnar Hult, a professor at Sweden's National Defence College who specializes in military technology, said that the information in DN was in line with what he had heard.

"Submarines in Sweden are much more important recently considering events in Ukraine and the fact that there's a lot more Russian action in the Baltic Sea vicinty," he told The Local on Monday.

"Whereas in the nineties after the fall of the Soviet Union, people thought that maybe we don't need as many submarines as we've had in the past. This has changed dramatically."

The defence minister, he pointed out, has announced plans to build a third new submarine and several extra Gripen jets.

"I think there's a major concern in the Swedish population about all this. But I still agree with the politicians, it would be extremely unlikely to see Russian action against Sweden. If they do anything, it's much more likely to be in Ukraine or the Baltic states."

DN reported that the raid was part of a move to bring the engine parts to a secret location where both parties could go over the information together and clarify ownership.

The material is now reported to be stored in the secure location, which is accessible to both parties."

Pete

May 23, 2014

Australia's Future Submarines - Some Considerations

A MOTS solution for Australia's future submarine?

For the latest on Sweden vs Germany see June 11, 2014’s Australia's Future Submarine - Swedish vs German Claims http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2014/06/australias-future-submarine-swedish-vs.html . It is unclear whether Germany or Sweden hold the strongest intellectual property rights to the Stirling AIP.

Australia's future submarine decision making process is at the very basic stage of what do we want, when and why? Concerning when? - the usual complex decision making cycle will mean the first of the new submarines will probably be launched on or after 2030 the last in about 2040. The six or more submarines will have the usual thirty year operating life meaning they will be with us until 2070.

It was assumed that such basic issues had been ironed out under the previous Labor government. However Australia new (since September 2013) Coalition Government claims nothing has been resolved other than  the future submarine will be: conventional diesel-electric; probably larger than the Collins; not necessarily 12 submarines; and the submarines will probably be assembled in Adelaide, South Australia.

The major challenge for the future submarine will be improvements in anti-submarine sensor technology in the operating areas of Australian submarines. Australian submarines would be most vulnerable to detection if they were on the surface. Surface movement might have been possible in World War Two, but today surface movement would be too detectable even at night. This is due to the increasing presence of efficient sensors on satellites, ships, UAVs, fixed undersea arrays and manned aircraft. Diesel electric submarines must "snort" for short periods - that is suck in air while the submarine is close to the surface. The air is used principally to drive the diesel engines to recharge the batteries. The period of the snorting process (known as the "indiscretion rate") renders the submarine vulnerable to detection by many types of sensors because the snorkel must be run on the surface, the submarine is running shallow and the diesel engines are relatively noisy when running. 

Longer periods and longer travel distances of quiet operation is thus desirable and likely to be present in Australia's future submarines. The Australian solution might be AIP achieved by Stirling, Fuel Cell or MESMA and/or increased battery capacity (possibly Lithium ion). All these solutions add to the weight and size to the submarine. 

Australia also has to consider the 3,000 km each way transit distances to travel from the major bases at Fleet Base West, Rockingham, Western Australia and Sydney 6,000 km to northern Australian waters. For a conventional submarine to transit those distances quietly takes much longer than SSNs travelling at 30+ knots. Due to secure transit requirements 2,000 ton European theatre submarine designs are inadequate. Hence European MOTS won't meet Australian needs. Japanese MOTS in the shape of the 4,000 tonne Soryu might meet Australian needs. The HDW 216 if it is a sufficiently developed design (perhaps present in Singapore's HDW 218SG) might possibly meet Australia's range-discretion-endurance needs. 

If Australia could select ANY submarine design it would probably be a current US, UK or French SSN MOTS. The most efficient energy source in terms of power to weight and discrete operation is nuclear. This would address Australia's transit speed, range, endurance, and other operational needs (not only in littoral waters) while more compatible with US alliance requirements. However, for Australian domestic political reasons, the nuclear option is banned.

In terms of comparative cost the higher capabilities of nuclear propulsion, along with shorter maintenance rotations, would mean that fewer SSNs would be required - perhaps down to 4 blue-gold crewed SSNs instead of 6-8 single crew SSKs. This may make an SSN force equivalent in cost to a more numerous SSK force. The rising nuclear propulsion capabilities of regional powers, China and India, must also be considered and, to an extent, countered. Japan could also develop nuclear propulsion rapidly.

It has long been envisaged that Australia's future submarines might field Tomahawk cruise missiles for land attack. It is conceivable that during these submarines' operating lives (through to 2070) that the warheads might not all be conventional. It would be risky to entrust Australia's possible future missile arsenal to the limitations of SSK operation.

Pete

May 20, 2014

US Navy's Seaweb Undersea Warfare Network

(Diagram courtesy of the US Navy Undersea Warfare magazine http://www.navy.mil/navydata/cno/n87/usw/issue_30/art.html )
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Connect this Submarine Matters post with more explicit official confirmation of October 26, 2014 at http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/seaweb-undersea-and-broader-naval.html .

For possible positions of the SeaWeb as it covers East Asia see Submarine Matter's How to Trap the Chinese Dragon - SeaWeb's Fixed Undersea Array, September 4, 2015.

What ever happened to the wireline SOSUS networks of the Cold War used to detect Russian submarines? They've been replaced by the much more extensive "Seaweb" intranet based wireless network with a vast range of communications and surveillance capabilities. US and other Western  submarines provide input into and communicate via the Seaweb network. A highly detailed powerpoint presentation of Seaweb’s capabilities is here .

The vast Seaweb network uses many sensor technologies and host platforms from US and other Western defence forces. Seaweb requires a vast amount of data memory and processing power mainly provided by the US Navy. Diagram sourced from http://www.docstoc.com/docs/146099687/Seaweb )

Barbara Honegger republished this US Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Monterey, California article on May 16, 2014 article (with some updates from an earlier 2010 NPS article). The involvement of America’s four other Anglo allies under The Technical Cooperation Program (TTCP), a five-nation defense R&D collaboration, is mentioned (at the bottom of the article). The article is at http://www.nps.edu/About/News/NPS-Pioneers-Seaweb-Underwater-Sensor-Networks.html.

"NPS Pioneers “Seaweb” Underwater Sensor Networks"

Article By: Barbara Honegger
May 16, 2014

"The Naval Postgraduate School is on the cutting edge of through-water acoustic communications technology enabling distributed autonomous ocean sensors to operate as an underwater wireless wide-area network.

Through a decade of engineering experiments and sea trials in diverse maritime environments, NPS and its research partners have advanced the “Seaweb” system to a point where it now routinely demonstrates capability for maritime surveillance, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), oceanographic sampling, instrument remote-control, underwater navigation, and submarine communications at speed and depth.

“Seaweb is a realization of FORCEnet in the undersea battlespace,” said the program’s Principal Investigator and Physics Research Professor Joseph Rice.

The system uses through-water acoustic modems to interconnect a scalable quantity of underwater network nodes, linking them to a gateway node typically located at the sea surface. The gateway node is equipped with some form of radio modem permitting bidirectional real-time digital communications between the underwater Seaweb domain and distant command centers.

“Seaweb is the product of interdisciplinary R&D [research and development] involving underwater acoustic propagation, sonar systems engineering, transducer design, digital communications, signal processing, computer networking and operations research,” explained Rice, an electrical engineer. “Our original goal was to create a network of distributed sensors for detecting quiet submerged submarines in littoral waters where traditional ASW surveillance is challenged by complex sound propagation and high noise. But as Seaweb technology developed, its broader overarching value became evident.” 

For example, in a 2001 Fleet Battle Experiment, a U.S. fast-attack submarine serving as a cooperative target for Seaweb ASW sensors was itself equipped as a Seaweb node. Thus instrumented, the submarine was able to access the deployed autonomous nodes as off-board sensors, and while transiting at speed and depth was also able to communicate through Seaweb with the command center and even with a collaborative maritime patrol aircraft. 

“In effect, the Seaweb network served as a cellular communications and sensor infrastructure for the submarine,” Rice said.
  
According to Rice, a major advantage of an undersea wireless network is the flexibility it affords mission planners and theater commanders to appropriately match resources to the environment and mission at hand. For example, fixed sensor nodes can be combined with mobile Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) nodes, which has been demonstrated in a number of Seaweb experiments. “The UUV can serve the fixed nodes as their deployment platform, their gateway node, or as a mule for delivering and recovering large volumes of data,” Rice noted. “In turn, the fixed network can support UUV command, control, communications and navigation.” 

A further example of heterogeneous Seaweb networks is the combination of surveillance sensor nodes with METOC sensor nodes to improve the performance and relevance of both. The wireless architecture means that ASW sensors can be sparsely distributed to cover a wide area or densely distributed to create a tripwire or to monitor a chokepoint. In a current international project, Seaweb is interconnecting undersea sensors from NATO nations as a single integrated network.
 
“In short, Seaweb integrates undersea warfare systems across missions, platforms, systems and nations,” Rice said. 
                                                                                      
Major attributes of Seaweb’s architecture are its low cost, its rapid deployability from a variety of platforms, and its ability to autonomously self-configure into an optimal network.  Through a build-test-build spiral engineering process and rigorous sea testing of diverse configurations of underwater sensors and Seaweb modems, the effort is honing the blueprint for an environmentally adaptive and energy efficient, expendable and cost-effective, bi-directional wide-area-coverage undersea communications infrastructure.
   
“Seaweb has now been exercised in over 50 sea trials,” Rice noted. “The system has proven to be effective in shallow waters such as the Intracoastal Waterway and in waters up to 300 meters deep off the coasts of Nova Scotia, San Diego, Long Island and Florida. It has been demonstrated in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, in the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas, in Norwegian fjords, and under the Arctic ice shelf.” 

The experimental method involves stressing the network to the point of failure as a means of identifying and eliminating weaknesses. Recent multi-agency trials have engaged Seaweb at the front end of the “observe, orient, decide, act” (OODA) loop, where the networked in situ sensors enhance the commander’s maritime domain awareness and complement remote sensing assets.

Last year, Rice and his students completed a two-part “Bayweb 2009” experiment using Seaweb’s undersea communications technologies in San Francisco Bay.  The goals were to demonstrate the network architecture and test system performance, while measuring the strong currents around Angel Island using networked current sensors placed near the seabed and sharing these data with oceanographers. Partnering with NPS in Bayweb were the University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Davis; San Francisco State University; the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute; SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific; the Office of Naval Research; and the U.S. Coast Guard.

“Due to the high levels of shipping and wind noise and flow noise from currents up to four knots, San Francisco Bay presented a challenging test environment and a learning opportunity for our students,” Rice said.

Some of Rice’s students are also working on a new “Deep Seaweb” project adapting the littoral Seaweb network to the deep ocean.
  
“It’s of utmost importance to the Navy to maintain submarine communications, but all existing communication methods are severely limited without compromising either speed or depth, or both,” said Operations Analysis student and submariner Lt. Andrew Hendricksen. “Once deployed, Deep Seaweb is the one option that allows stealthy, two-way submarine communications while maintaining both depth and speed. A number of sea trials have proven Seaweb works as a detection network, which can be expanded for two-way communications with undersea assets – submarines and UUVs – in the deep ocean.  My thesis research is developing an algorithm that can show the best places to put it to get the coverage you want to achieve the purposes you want for sub detection, sub communications, tsunami warning, etc.”
 
Another student, Lt. Jeremy Biediger, is exploring the advantages of deploying Deep Seaweb hydrophones in deep ocean trenches to passively detect quiet diesel submarines, stealthy semi-submersibles carrying contraband and surface vessels. 

“The main advantages of deploying Deep Seaweb networked acoustic sensors along deep ocean trenches for barrier or tripwire coverage of submarines and of surface and semi-submersible vessels are reduced ambient noise and thus relatively high signal-to-noise ratio,” explained Biediger.  

“It’s great working with Professor Rice because he’s a research professor who’s really involved with the ASW community and the system commands, so you get to meet and work with many of the top people in those communities,” Biediger added.  “What I learned will be of great benefit to my future career as an engineering duty officer, especially on the acoustics side, as very few universities have acoustics programs and the Naval Postgraduate School is unique in acoustics with naval applications.” 

“Future undersea sensor grids will enable navigation of submarines and autonomous underwater vehicles,” Rice added.  “Seaweb technology could also support submarine communications, networked torpedo connectivity for ASW engagement from launch platforms at long standoff, communication among unmanned underwater vehicles in mine-countermeasure operations, and any undersea warfare system that requires data telemetry for command and control.”

“A goal is for Seaweb technology to support the operational community,” Rice stressed.  “In the shorter term, next year we’ll be testing against a cooperative diesel-electric submarine in the Mediterranean Sea in preparation for NOBLE MANTA 2012, the annual NATO antisubmarine warfare exercise.”  

The NPS Seaweb program’s primary sponsor is the Office of Naval Research, with additional support from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. NPS Seaweb research collaborators for 2010 include SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific; the University of Texas Applied Research Laboratories; the NATO Undersea Research Centre; Canada’s Defense Research and Development Center Atlantic; the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment; The Technical Cooperation Program (TTCP), a five-nation defense R&D collaboration involving Canada, Australia, New Zealand the United Kingdom, and the U.S; and Teledyne Benthos, Inc.

For more information about the NPS Seaweb program, see http://www.nps.edu/Academics/GSEAS/Physics/faculty.html#jrice . "

Pete

May 17, 2014

India's K-4 Deficiency

The most advanced vertical launch system (VLS) is a flexible system which can accommodate BrahMos, K-15, K-4, and the necessary longer range K-4+ (of 6,000+ km). India needs much longer range than K-4 for an assured second strike against China.
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The article below can be connected with earlier Australia by the Indian Ocean articles which indicate that K-4 prototypes have had some previous pontoon testing as early as January 2010 :

-    Arihant, India’s first homebuilt nuclear submarine has been launched (drawing on July 2009 data)  http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2009/08/arihant-indias-first-homebuilt-nuclear.html , and

-   Controversy Over SLBM’s for India Arihant Submarine (ATV– drawing on February 2011 information http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2011/02/undersea-sensors-submarines-slbms-and.html.  The K-4 had a limited pontoon "cold" launch test in January 2010. The K-4 apparently "breached the surface" meaning its rocket motors (if installed) were not tested, no flight occured, hence no range claims at that time could be tested see - http://livefist.blogspot.com/2010/11/mag-report-indias-secret-k-missile.html .

The problem with the K-4 SLBM in its principal mission, of being a first or second strike weapon against China, is that its current official range 3,500 km from Indian protected waters is inadequate to hit its most vital target which is northeastern China including Beijing. 

It would be unnecessarily hazardous to penetrate through the Asia-Pacific gap (Strait of Malacca and other gaps through the Indonesian Archipelago). Indian SSBNs, from Arihant onwards, would need to pass through up to 50 Chinese SSNs and SSKs, and fixed undersea defenses (including SOSUS and other spectrum defences) into the South China Sea to launch.

The current Indian SSBN prototype (Arihant) is yet fielding BrahMos, the K-15 (750 km Pakistan killer), let alone the 3,500 km K-4. India would need a post K-4 generation missile of 6,000+ km (of Poseidon-Trident range) equivalent to the Chinese J-2 to safely launch from Indian aircraft protected waters in the Bay of Bengal. It may take India 10-15 years at the current rate of progress to field, in service, such a post K-4 missile. The current rate of progress may need accelerating. 

Ankit Panda for The Diplomat, May 13, 2014 wrote the following article: http://thediplomat.com/2014/05/india-inches-closer-to-credible-nuclear-triad-with-k-4-slbm-test/

"India Inches Closer to Credible Nuclear Triad With K-4 SLBM Test

According to The Hindu, the K-4 was tested on March 24, 2014, a few weeks shy of the 16th anniversary of India’s controversial 1998 Pokhran-II nuclear tests. The test went off without a hitch:
The launch took place from a pontoon submerged more than 30 metres deep in the sea off the Visakhapatnam coast. After a powerful gas generator ejected it from the pontoon submerged in the Bay of Bengal, the K-4 missile rose into the air, took a turn towards the designated target, sped across 3,000 km in the sky and dropped into the Indian Ocean.
The K-4 SLBM was one of India’s Defense Research and Development Organization’s (DRDO) most secretive projects and is intended to succeed the K-15 underwater-launched ballistic missile. Once fully tested and proven to be reliable, the K-4 will be installed on India’s new INS Arihant – its first indigenously developed nuclear submarine.
The K-4 is tailor-made for second-strike purposes. According to the New Indian Express, the missile has the advantage of a hypersonic cruise speed and uses an innovative system of weaving in three dimensions as it flies towards its target, making it an exceptionally difficult target for anti-ballistic missile systems and other air defense systems. Other features of the K-4 include its high accuracy, with an alleged near-zero circular error probable (CEP).
The abilities of the K-4 are set to allow India to deter China with greater credibility. While Pakistan is a concern for India, its relative lack of strategic depth and India’s massive conventional advantage have pushed Indian thinking on nuclear matters towards China in recent year. With the K-4-equipped INS Arihant, India has a survivable second-strike capability against China. The Arihant can reportedly carry four K-4 missiles (or 12 of the less-advanced K-15 missiles). The first Arihant-class submarine is undergoing sea trials in 2014 and will be succeeded by three additional boats, expected to be in commission by 2023.
India’s credible minimum deterrence doctrine, with a no-first use (NFU) caveat, may be subject to revision if a BJP-led government comes to power this year (a highly likely development). As of now, the specifics of the BJP’s ambitions remain ambiguous but India’s proximity to fielding a credible nuclear triad with a survivable second-strike capability could make NFU revision less urgent."

Pete

May 9, 2014

Ukraine - Can Anything Save It?

Russian forces deployed in early May 2014 for a possible invasion of part or all of Ukraine. Click on map to expand to full size. Map courtesy of the Royal Unitied Services Institute (RUSI) reproduced in full at http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/page/world/russias-buildup-on-the-ukraine-border/996/ .
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Overall Obama seems to follow the Democrat "wet" dictum of avoiding confrontation at all costs. Obama may be calculating what is doable but charisma and rat cunning can work surprisingly well. Obama can't seem to motivate America's European allies into forming a united front - especially noticeable over Syria, now Ukraine.
 
Along those lines I suspect that Obama, Hagel and Kerry assess Ukraine as too far in the Russia sphere to save. In terms of other failures in the works it'll be interesting to see if Afghanistan collapses to the Taliban while Obama is still in office or just after he leaves. It would be unfortunate if Obama, America's first "Black" President, is grouped with the failed Jimmy Carter and then also suffer's the Nixon-like fate of not Viet-... but  "Afghanistan-isation".
 
I suspect Putin is attempting to tap Russia's main strengths while the going is good. That is utilising Russia's oil-gas economic power before the world's unconventional oil and gas resources become fully on stream. The new technology oil and gas from the US and Canada will make traditional source countries less powerful for a period.

Putin also wishes to use Russia's comparatively powerful military (conventional and nuclear) before Russia's military is relegated to third or fourth place behind China and India. Even if Russia has types of alliances with China and India - leaders like Putin (he may well still be in power in 2030) would not want Russia to be merely a junior ally.
 
Also the going is good for Putin while the weak Obama is still in office - a hawkish Republican would be a different matter.

On Russia gradual takeover of Ukraine there appears to be increasing hope in NATO countries that a Ukraine divided into federal regions may well be the most promising solution for both Kiev and Moscow. However there seems to be increasing disagreement in eastern Ukraine on whether to:

- remain in Ukraine as a federal region or

- unite with Russia, or

- form a People's Republic of Donetsk (see http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/2014/05/08/21/13/ukraine-rebels-vow-to-hold-referendum )

Such disagreement and fragmentation appears to be increasingly like the Balkans in the early 1990s (where Croats, Serbs and Bosnian Muslims fought each other and borders shifted).

Many in eastern Ukraine want an Independent or Russian Eastern Ukraine referendum on 11 May 2014 while there also seems to be some agreement between Kiev and Moscow on national Ukrainian elections on 25 May 2014.

In terms of standards of living uniting with Russia may have advantages. Ukraine has a nominal GDP per capita of $3,862 (even lower in eastern Ukraine) while the Russian figure is $14,818. See right sidebars of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukraine and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russia 

The Ukrainian standard of living might take a couple of decades to move from poverty to the Russian level. 

Money versus independence?

Below is an article I wrote. It was published today on ON LINE opinion - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate - at http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=16286

Pete


Ukraine: can anything save it?

By Peter Coates - posted Friday, 9 May 2014

Much has been written about Russia’s slow motion domination of Ukraine. The gradual nature of this process and the tactics Russia is using makes it all the more difficult for the West to respond effectively. This article in part argues that a major Russian objective is to dominate Ukraine in order to protect Russia’s diminishing strategic buffer zone. This buffer zone is principally valued because it protects Russia’s heartland from aggressive foreign forces. In this context these forces are military but to a much lesser extent, in Putin’s xenophobic Russia, they may be economic and cultural forces.

The following does not aim to legitimise Russia’s actions but seeks to provide some perspective. Most great powers assume that might is right in their own backyards. It’s the smaller, weaker neighbours like Ukraine that suffer.

Russia’s buffer zone has been tested twice over the last hundred years. Both times, in World Wars One and Two, this zone served to slow down German invasions. Russia had been invaded by many others earlier, including the French, Poles, even the Swedes. Since the end of the Cold War NATO has steadily expanded to include the former buffer countries of Poland, East Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Rumania, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The Russian leadership don’t want Ukraine to also join NATO as they see Ukraine as a dependent region of ancient Russia. As well as being a large country (by European standards) Ukraine has too many natural resources, including grain, and too large an army to lose to the West. Ukraine in NATO would almost complete the removal of Russia’s buffer zone – leaving only Belarus and Finland as buffers.

Ukrainein its efforts to move closer to the West has been totally outmanoeuvred by Russia’s use of special forces directed “civilians”. This is even when these “civilians” successfully use man portable surface to air missiles. Ukraine is finding that its army and police forces are generally unwilling to fire on these pro-Russian “civilians”. Instead there is increasing reliance on pro-Ukrainian militias. The danger of militias lies in their uncontrollable tendency to indiscriminately fight for their own goals rather than for Ukraine’s.

Another problem is that Russia may justifiably invade Ukraine if there is a genuine need to protect ethnic Russians. Ukraine’s demographic is 78% ethnic Ukrainian and around 17% ethnic Russian (at last count) However distribution of ethnic Russians is such (see map) that Russia may need to invade a third or more of Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians. There is also the possibility of a Russian invasion of all of Ukraine. See this immensely detailed map which is probably based on NATO intelligence information.

The ability of the US to criticise Russia on moral grounds has declined due to America’s long term and more recent actions. The former include more than a century of US invasions of weaker countries in its own Latin American backyard. During the 1980s the US invaded Panama and Grenada for rather trumped up reasons. In a campaign similar to Russia’s today the US (in the mid 1980s) organised and armed right-wing “contras” to bring down the government of left leaning Nicaragua.

The West has suffered from disunity in imposing sanctions on Russia. EU countries trade heavily with Russia and many rely on Russia’s oil and gas exports (a powerful Russian economic weapon). A trade deal that has angered the US has been France selling two large amphibious assault ships to Russia - with one delivered since the Ukrainian crisis began.One of these ships just happens to be named the Sevastopol the home port of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, where this whole Ukrainian crisis started. More to the point these ships are particularly suited to such operations as a Russian invasion of Ukraine or of other countries Russia may wish to invade to rebuild its buffer zone.

The Russians have done their best to boost US-EU disunity by conducting electronic spying on the US. Russian monitoring of a phone call that included a US Assistant Secretary of State (Victoria Nuland), yielded an embarrassing comment from her concerning EU policy on the Ukraine - which was “F--k the EU”.

As the crisis in Ukraine escalates this may impact on Australia in several ways, including higher world oil prices causing some damage and higher world grain prices that would benefit Australian farmers. Eventually some US military forces that might have been useful in our region may be shifted to Eastern Europe (see this report).

Ukraine has no easy choices. It can’t rely on the West and Russian treatment of Ukraine in living memory has been close to genocidal. Under Stalin the Russians intentionally starved Ukraine in part to break any feelings of Ukrainian nationalism. This imposed famine in 1932-1933 was called the Holodomor (Death by Hunger). At least four million Ukrainians died.

Like Poland Ukraine has the misfortune of living next to historically cruel neighbours. Can anything save it?

About the Author
Peter Coates has been writing articles on military, security and international relations issues since 2006. In 2014 he completed a Master’s Degree in International Relations, with a high distinction average. His website is Australia by the Indian Ocean.

May 5, 2014

Stevie Nicks, some major songs, still kicking, singing, writing.


Stephanie Lynn "Stevie" Nicks (born 1948) still going. Photo circa 1976. During her time in Fleetwood Mac  and in her extensive solo career Stevie sold more than 100 million albums. She's probably written hundreds of songs, including the following three: Rhiannon, Dreams, and Landslide. Landslide is particularly haunting and loving. She's still writing songs, singing and reportedly completing a new solo album later this year or in 2015. A true artist. 
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Stevie interviewed at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, 1978. All the styles of the 70s, the cars and clothes - somewhere between hip and humdrum. Only the Fleetwood Mac jet looks modern. I lived in Texas for a couple of years in the mid 70s.

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Rhiannon (above) and Dreams (below) sung around 1977




Stevie still has charisma, Landslide, 1997.


Pete