CHINESE DOMINANCE OVER PANAMA CANAL
UPDATES ON RUSSIA, INDIA AND GLOBAL NAVAL STRENGTH
September, 10, 2007
A reader sent me a number of interesting articles involving important geopolitical subjects, and the links to the stories are provided below. The first series of articles document the strong influence which Communist China now has over the important Panama Canal. Very few Americans realize that when sovereignty over the Panama Canal was handed over to Panama, effective control of the canal was given to Communist China. As one article notes: “Hutchinson-Whampoa, a Hong Kong-based Chinese shipping company with historically close affiliations with the Chinaâ€™s Peopleâ€™s Liberation Army, already holds a 50-year lease on management of key port facilities at both ends of the canal”. However, as the articles below document, China is not limiting its efforts to Panama. It is aggressively expanding its influence in Latin America while the USA is preoccupied with Iraq and heedless to the growing dangers posed by China. Sadly, most Americans are oblivious to the growing danger, and even the White House and the US Congress seem clueless about the growing peril to US strategic interests posed by Chinese actions.
One article below discusses the many Chinese preparations for a future asymmetrical war against the USA. Additional articles analyze the growing tensions between Communist China and India in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region, document Russia’s rearmament projects and present a analysis of the naval powers of the major world nations. All are worthwhile reading.
All these articles document that modem geopolitics are consistently preparing the world for the eventual fulfillment of the prophecy in Ezekiel 38-39 that Russia, China and Iran will lead a military attack against the nations of the Western world. This attack will lead to a global conflagration imperiling all life on earth. It is at that stage when the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is prophesied to occur (Matthew 24:21-22). The world is now witnessing the preparatory phase for the fulfillment of many biblical prophecies about the latter days and the end of our age. However, few have “eyes that see and ears that hear.” As Revelation 12:9 predicted, Satan has succeeded in “deceiving the whole world” about what is actually going on in world events. The good news is that the future evil times which will befall the world will not result in the extinction of human life on the planet. Our Creator will personally take charge of the earth’s governments and nations at the end of this age, imprison Satan and all his minions and will establish a reign of peace, truth and abundance which will last for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-5). No force in the Universe can stop God from implementing this prophecy.
Thy Kingdom Come!
Panama events work against U.S.
PANAMA CANAL EXPANSION BEGINS [could provide passage for larger Chinese Naval vessels]
“Work begins on an ambitious and costly scheme to widen the Panama Canal on Monday September 3rd. The 50-mile waterway is thought to carry 5% of the worldâ€™s trade, measured by volume”.
People’s Liberation Army (P.L.A.) Navy seamen stand guard during a visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to the Stonecutters Naval Base in Hong Kong on June 30.
“The Indian Ocean, along with other sea lines of communication, have attracted the attention of Chinese naval planners. The takeover of the Panama Canal by a private Chinese firm after the United States withdrawal in 1999, reported Chinese threats to intervene in the Straits of Malacca and the active Chinese role in the West Asian region indicate unfolding Chinese interest this region” (photo/text from 6th article below).
“China is also seeking to avail itself of Russia’s [aircraft] carrier expertise, but has taken a different approach to other nations interested in carriers, acquiring Western ships for research. During the 10th National People’s Congress in Beijing this year, a Chinese admiral speaking off the record stated that Beijing was already involved in researching and developing an indigenously built aircraft carrier with construction of the first hull to be completed within three years”
“Speculation surrounding potential â€œswing statesâ€ also tends to center on Panama, one of the most strategically significant countries in Central America, where President MartÃn Torrijos invited Beijing to aid in the expansion of the Panama Canal. Panamaâ€™s voters approved a referendum on this massive infrastructure project last October, which will surely create new economic openings for Chinese construction companies. Much has also been made of the fact that Hutchinson-Whampoa, a Hong Kong-based Chinese shipping company with historically close affiliations with the Chinaâ€™s Peopleâ€™s Liberation Army, already holds a 50-year lease on management of key port facilities at both ends of the canal”.
“As the United States was engaged in returning the Panama Canal Zone to Panama, China was busy establishing a beachhead there. Through land deals with Panama, the Chinese have gained control of both ends of this critical waterway”.
Telegraph – Sept. 3, 2007
A politician considered a fugitive by the United States for his part in the murder of an American soldier has become the president of Panama’s national assembly.
Pedro Miguel Gonzalez, 42, the government-backed candidate, was elected by MPs on Saturday, amid strong anti-American rhetoric.
The vote was described as “deeply disappointing” by the US Department of State, which counts on the country as one of its most steadfast allies in Latin America.
Mr Gonzalez was indicted in 1992 by a US grand jury for shooting dead army Sgt Zac Hernandez and for the attempted murder of his colleague Sgt Ronald Marshall.
Sgt. Hernandez’s died when the Humvee he was travelling in was ambushed north of Panama City amid a demonstration against a controversial visit by President George Bush senior, who had ordered US troops to invade the country two years earlier to topple General Manuel Noriega, its military dictator.
Mr Gonzalez, who Panama refuses to extradite, denies murdering Hernandez and was acquitted by a Panamanian court in 1997. The US says the trial was marred by political interference and jury rigging.
Accepting his election, Mr Gonzalez – who enjoys the support of Martin Torrijos, Panama’s president – decried US continuing influence over Panamanian affairs despite the hand-over of the strategically vital Panama Canal in 1999.
His appointment comes as Washington struggles to curb the influence of anti-US politicians in the region, led by Hugo Chavez of Venezuala, who are increasingly looking to China and Russia for support.
Sensitivity was heightened recently when the US, ignoring Panama’s government, agreed to send Gen Noriega to France to face murder charges.
Work is scheduled to begin today on a £2.6 billion project to expand the Panama Canal.
On Monday, Jimmy Carter, the former US president, is expected to take part in an elaborately planned ceremony to mark the beginning of engineering work and to mark 30 years since he agreed to hand over control of the inter-oceanic waterway.
Yesterday there were doubts about whether his visit would go ahead.
Publicly, US officials say they hope to avoid a major diplomatic dispute, but in private they say Mr Gonzalez’s election could torpedo a recent trade deal between the two countries which has yet to be approved by the US congress.
Democrats, who have already delayed ratification of the agreement, are likely to be sensitive to allegations that they are not defending the interests of US soldiers abroad.
Economist – Sept 2, 2007
WORK begins on an ambitious and costly scheme to widen the Panama Canal on Monday September 3rd. The 50-mile (80 km) waterway is thought to carry 5% of the worldâ€™s trade, measured by volume. Faced with a cap on their main source of income as container ships grew too big for the 93-year-old canal, the people of Panama voted in a referendum last year for a controversial $5 billion scheme to expand its capacity. Opponents of the project criticised its environmental impact and claimed it would make more sense to build a port on the Pacific side big enough to handle huge new vessels and send containers to the Atlantic side by rail.
Panama canal: work begins on a seven-year, $5bn project
to widen the canal that revolutionised the transport of goods
Independent – Sept 3, 2007
A few hundred years ago, Panama was a malaria-infested tropical swamp of no particular interest to anyone. But then the Spanish conquered the New World, global trade was born, and suddenly it became very significant indeed.
For the past century, the country that has the thinnest strip of land separating the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans has of course been identified with the eponymous canal that revolutionised the transport of goods from one side of the world to the other.
The construction of the Panama Canal in the first years of the 20th century marked the historical moment when the United States came of age as a global power and, at least until a decade ago when the Canal Zone reverted to local control, was perhaps the most potent symbol of US hegemony over the entire American continent.
Now its symbolism, and its role in international container shipping, looks set to take on new weight, as the trading systems of the past century give way to the unbridled globalisation of our own century. The Panama Canal, in short, is in severe danger of going out of date and the local government has decided to do something about it.
Starting today, Panama will embark on an ambitious seven-year project, at an estimated cost of well over $5bn (£2.5bn), to expand the canal so it can accommodate the very largest classes of transport ships, the so-called “post-Panamax” generation which is expected to dominate shipping within the next decade or so. The plan is to double the width of the two sets of locks that bring the shipping traffic up above sea-level and thence across the 48-mile waterway separating the two oceans.
The projections are very clear. Without the expansion, the Panama Canal will be forced to turn away an anticipated 37 per cent of the world’s container ships by 2011 because they will be too big to pass through. That, in turn, is bound to cause a severe downturn in business as companies consider other routes, up to and including circumnavigating the world in the other direction and taking advantage of the much larger Suez Canal instead.
Panama’s president, Martin Torrijos, has been on to the issue ever since he took office in 2004. This time last year, he lobbied for a public referendum to approve the canal expansion, and the referendum passed easily. Panama’s argument â€“ to its people, and also to the international investors and political leaders who have a vested interest in the country’s stability and prosperity â€“ is that the canal represents a myriad business development opportunities, not just in global trade.
President Torrijos â€“ the son of the former Panamanian leader Omar Torrijos, who negotiated with the Americans for local sovereignty over the canal back in the 1970s â€“ has a vision of Panama as an international trading and financial hub a bit like Dubai. Construction is booming in Panama City in anticipation of an influx of Americans, Canadians and Spaniards seeking second homes at cheap prices and to enjoy the benefits of a highly relaxed tax regime. Oil companies from Qatar and the United States, meanwhile, are looking into expanding the country’s energy sector, starting with a projected big new oil refinery near the Costa Rican border.
The world has changed considerably over the past century, however, and the new Panama Canal project can no longer count on the supremacy that it enjoyed for so long. Rather than being the gleaming prize of a burgeoning international superpower â€“ the United States â€“ it is now the best hope of a small country fighting furiously for survival against a myriad competitors in the modern globalised environment.
The brutal truth is that, even after the expansion, the Canal will continue to grapple with a problem that has beset it ever more markedly over the past decade or so â€“ overcrowding. And it is almost certain to become just one sea passage among many as international shipping companies cast around for alternatives and lobby competing governments to embark on their own ambitious infrastructure projects.
One such project is already being floated in Nicaragua, where the distance between the Pacific and the Atlantic is 173 miles rather than 48 but where a brand new canal could be fully equipped for the most modern ships from the get-go. Last year, the Nicaraguan government proposed construction of a Grand Inter-Oceanic Canal, at a cost of $18bn, and said it could be ready by 2020. That’s far from a sure bet, not least because of last winter’s re-election as president of Daniel Ortega, the father of the Sandinista revolution, which has caused an outbreak of the jitters among would-be international investors.
One way or the other, though, the hunt for alternatives is bound to go on, including the pre-20th century solution of carrying goods across the American continent by land. There has even been talk of the effects of global warming on the Arctic ice pack and the possibility of one day using the North-west Passage, assuming, somewhat unnervingly, that its icebergs melt into harmlessness.
The reasons for such talk aren’t hard to fathom. The Panama Canal is, in a word, overwhelmed. The volume of container shipping has tripled over the past 12 years, and increased more than 50 per cent over the past six.
It’s not uncommon now to see queues of up to 100 vessels on either side of the canal, enduring a long wait to make the nine-hour passage through the waterway. Waiting is an expensive business â€“ it can cost a large container ship up to $50,000 a day to sit idle â€“ and that, in turn, has spawned a complex bidding system whereby ships can jump the queue for the right price. Last year, a British oil tanker paid a record $220,300 â€“ not including the hefty transit fees â€“ to jump ahead of 83 other ships.
What the next few years will bring is some kind of measure of the effects of the new globalised economy, in much the same way that the canal’s construction did in the latter part of the 19th Century and the early years of the 20th Century.
The canal wasn’t initially intended to be an American project at all, but fell rather into the hands of a more conventional imperial power of the time, France. Ferdinand de Lesseps, who had built the Suez Canal, started work on a sea-level canal in 1880, a project that was soon to become a byword for imperial hubris. Lesseps hadn’t considered the swampy geography, and he certainly hadn’t considered the risk of disease. Over the next 13 years, a staggering 22,000 employees died of malaria or yellow fever, eventually forcing the French to abandon the project.
The Americans, meanwhile, had been pondering whether it might be better to build the passage through Panama or Nicaragua. This was the Gilded Age, a period of unparalleled growth in prosperity, but also the first flourishing of US government corruption, and the Panama Canal project was as fine an example as any of both of these tendencies. Panama won the contest with Nicaragua primarily thanks to the efforts of US lobbyists in the employ of French landowners in Panama.
On the eve of a crucial congressional vote authorising construction of the canal, the lobbyists distributed a Nicaraguan stamp featuring a smoking Mount Momotambo, the implication being that Nicaragua was too volatile and volcanic to be a safe investment. The stamp, though, was deliberately misleading, since the volcano â€“ unbeknown to most members of Congress â€“ was dormant and almost 100 miles from the proposed canal route. The US law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell earned a staggering $800,000 for that neat piece of skullduggery.
Still, the project marked the rise of US technology â€“ which solved the swamp problem by raising the canal and building the locks to grant ships access to it â€“ as well as key advances in medical science, which identified and isolated the causes of malaria and yellow fever in the nick of time before construction began in 1904. (Not that the project was risk-free â€“ another 5,600 workers perished over the next 10 years.) The canal was completed in 1914, two years ahead of schedule, and quickly earned a reputation as one of the seven wonders of the world.
In many ways, it has endured very well. A series of artificial lakes and dams has ensured a ready supply of water for the passage solving what could have been a problem in a country where rainfall is highly seasonal, creating great disparities in the water level. Politically, Panama (which negotiated its independence from Colombia as part of the deal allowing the Americans in) has remained relatively stable â€“ with the notable exception of the Manuel Noriega regime which, in the late 1980s, scared Washington enough to invade and install a more friendly government in its stead.
One recent development that has been distinctly unwelcome, though, is the erosion of the rainforest around the canal zone, which has, in turn, made it much harder to retain water during the dry seasons. It has also exposed the area, especially the city of Colon, to the risk of flooding. With ocean levels rising because of global warming, Panama could one day be at serious risk â€“ for much the same reasons that those shipping executives are asking questions about opening the North-west Passage.
For now, though, the containers continue to line up, and the one-time malarial swamp is hoping to reap the benefits.
Is China preparing for war with U.S.?
Tribune Democrat, PA – August 25, 2007
All eyes in Washington are focused on the Middle East as the war there continues, the troop surge in Iraq nears its climax and the ever-elusive Osama bin Laden, assuming heâ€™s still alive, continues to evade capture. Iran is rattling its sword and the hawks in Washington are demanding satisfaction. The 2008 election countdown has started and politicians on both sides of the aisle have begun the traditional blame game of finger pointing, name calling and jockeying for political advantage. The American political process is once again paralyzed by the politiciansâ€™ lust to retain power. Forget the business of running the nation; thereâ€™s an election to be won! And so it will go until November of next year.
Meanwhile, in a country far, far away, the political, military and economic downfall of the United States is being planned by an intelligent, patient, industrious enemy who hopes never to fire a shot in anger, yet fully expects to win. Its goal: To replace the United States as the worldâ€™s reining superpower. The war, by all indications, may have already begun.
Chinaâ€™s grasp of history
China counts its history in millennia. It has seen enemies come and go, yet one thing remains constant â€“ China continues. Why should the Chinese expect America to be different from their enemies of yore? Chinese politicians and military officers study history. They know the writings of Sun Tzu, a legendary warrior-philosopher whose 6th century BC military treatise â€œThe Art of Warâ€ is mandatory reading for military officers worldwide.
Sun Tzu has dozens of notable quotes, but the greatest may be, â€œFor to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.â€
The Chinese may have already begun a campaign to subdue the United States following Sun Tzuâ€™s model. As Sun Tzu said, you can subdue an enemy without fighting. In fact, it is best to win without having to go to war. Some would argue that this is what diplomacy is about. Certainly, diplomacy is part of the strategy, but there is far more to the Chinese game plan.
Reflecting Sun Tzuâ€™s philosophy, many recent Chinese writings have focused on asymmetric warfare as a means of defeating a militarily superior enemy. Asymmetric warfare uses political, economic, informational and military power. Military power is the least emphasized.
A different kind of war
Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, two colonels in Chinaâ€™s Peoplesâ€™ Liberation Army, published a treatise in 1999 titled â€œUnrestricted Warfare.â€ The treatise was not an official publication of the Chinese government, but it was published by the official PLA publishing house, indicating at least some degree of acceptance. â€œUnrestricted Warfareâ€ contains chilling instructions on how to defeat an enemy using asymmetric attacks in such a manner that the enemy may not even realize they are under attack until it is too late to respond effectively. The techniques they describe include cyber warfare, attacks against financial institutions and critical infrastructure, terrorism, manipulating the media, biological warfare, chemical warfare and a variety of other ruthless methods.
Developments since â€œUnrestricted Warfareâ€ was published seem to suggest that China may be waging such warfare today. China now faces many of the same problems that Germany faced in the buildup to World War II. Like Nazi Germany, China has a booming economy, a growing population and a hunger for energy and other resources to fuel its economic growth.
The Germans needed to expand their â€œlebensraumâ€ (living space) to attain the natural resources needed to fuel their economy. China appears to be implementing a sort of â€œlebensraumâ€ program of its own. As the United States was engaged in returning the Panama Canal Zone to Panama, China was busy establishing a beachhead there. Through land deals with Panama, the Chinese have gained control of both ends of this critical waterway, today controlling port facilities in Balboa, the canal’s only Pacific port, and a major Atlantic port in Cristobol. The agreements allow China to run them for the next half-century.
Chinaâ€™s hunger for natural resources
China also is stretching out to grasp resources needed to fuel its economy. In January 2005, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (no friend of the U.S.) and Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong signed 19 agreements covering oil, agriculture and technology. These included five agreements between Venezuela and the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation. In 2006 China signed an oil exploration agreement with Nigeria, one of the largest oil exporters to America. Today China is conducting a diplomatic â€œlove-inâ€ across Africa.
The BBC reported in January 2006 that there were an estimated 700 Chinese-funded ventures in Africa. Many are in the fields of energy and natural resources, including oil and gas development, copper, cobalt, coal and gold mining. Unlike many Western powers whose diplomatic policies prevent or restrict dealing with ruthless regimes, China has no qualms about making deals with repressive governments having human rights issues. The Chinese are busy cutting deals to gobble up resources in such countries in Africa. For example, the U.S. Public Broadcasting System reported in April 2006 that China imports 10 percent of its oil from Sudan. Not surprisingly, China has worked diligently in the U.N. Security Council to water down potential punitive measures against Sudan, thereby helping to prolong the Darfur crisis.
Cuban oil is in Chinaâ€™s crosshairs as well. While environmentalists continue to block offshore drilling along Floridaâ€™s coastline, China is moving to capitalize on Cubaâ€™s oil potential. In February 2005 the Havana Journal reported that Cubaâ€™s Ministry of Basic Industry announced that the Cuba Oil Company (Cubapetroleo) signed a production contract with the China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (SINOPEC) to explore areas around Cuba believed to contain petroleum deposits. The agreement means that while Americans continue to squabble about the wisdom of offshore drilling in Florida, the Cubans and Chinese are beginning exploration some 50 miles from the Florida coastline.
China recently has begun to extend its oil search into the Caspian Sea region of Asia. The German army pushed towards the Caspian oil fields in the summer of 1942, nearly reaching the Soviet oil center of Grozny before the attack faltered. You may recall Grozny is the embattled capital of the Russian region of Chechnya, where Russia has fought against a violent Islamic separatist movement for nearly 10 years. Grozny today is an important transit route and confluence for petroleum pipelines coming out of the Caspian oil fields headed towards Europe. Although in this instance the immediate impact is on Europe, Chinaâ€™s thirst for oil is affecting global oil markets and forcing prices higher.
â€˜Loot a burning houseâ€™
Can China succeed in bringing America to its knees without firing a shot? It is not inconceivable given todayâ€™s global situation.
Sun Tzu said, â€œLoot a burning house.â€ By this he meant kick your enemies when they are down. How is China doing this? By arming Americaâ€™s global adversaries and attacking the U.S. economy.
North Korea, a thorn in the sides of President Bush and former President Clinton, is overflowing with Chinese arms. North Koreaâ€™s nuclear program and missile tests in the Sea of Japan have caused President Bush great consternation. Fortunately, recent diplomatic efforts by the Bush Administration appear to have put an end to Koreaâ€™s quest for nuclear weapons, but at great cost in aid paid to the North Korean regime.
Meanwhile, China is arming the Middle East and other potential hot spots. In February 2004 the Washington Post reported that Chinese nuclear weapons design plans provided to Pakistan made it into the hands of Libya. CNN later reported that China was concerned about these allegations and was conducting an investigation. The Pentagon reported in May 2007 that Chinese-made armor-piercing missiles fell into the hands of anti-American militants in Iraq. It is assumed the missiles came through Iran.
The Iranians, who have nuclear ambitions of their own, depend upon Chinese and North Korean technology to keep their nuclear missile delivery program moving forward. The Iranians also have purchased sophisticated Chinese cruise anti-ship missiles that can be employed to interdict the free flow of oil from the Persian Gulf. The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation suggested in September 2006 that China is providing Iran diplomatic cover for its nuclear ambitions in exchange for lucrative oil and gas deals.
In January 2002, the Congressional Research Service published a report titled â€œChina: Possible Missile Technology Transfer from U.S. Satellite Export Policy.â€ The report chronicles how in 1996, after a series of NASA satellite launch failures, the Clinton administration moved export control of commercial satellite technology from the State Department to the Department of Commerce. China subsequently launched numerous American satellites into orbit. A New York Times exposÃ© in 1998 prompted a criminal investigation into whether Loral Space and Communications Ltd. and Hughes Electronics Corporation, both parties to the Chinese satellite launches, had provided technology information to the Chinese which enhanced their ballistic missile technology and ergo their nuclear weapons delivery capability. A subsequent congressional investigation produced the classified Cox Report in December 1998, indicating that indeed Chinaâ€™s military capabilities had benefited from U.S. exports for the past 20 years, including the launching of American communications satellites.
China recently has extended its realm of influence closer to the U.S. border. In July 2006, the conservative Web site Human Events reported that China has been working actively to developing North American Free Trade Agreement ports in Mexico. Using the economic shield of the NAFTA agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada, China can avoid U.S. tariffs by shipping Chinese manufactured goods through Mexico into the United States. The plan reportedly could reduce Chinese transportation costs to the United States by as much as 50 percent and could flood the U.S. market with more cheap Chinese goods, further weakening the struggling U.S. dollar.
Chinaâ€™s high-tech military developments in the field of cyber warfare also are alarming. The technology Web site ZDNet News reported in November 2005 that U.S. officials had revealed details of Chinese computer hacking attacks against the U.S. government. The Chinese reportedly obtained information about Falconview, the flight-planning software used by the U.S. Army and Air Force. Such information could be used to help interdict U.S. flight operations against Chinese forces in a future conflict. The PLA has also developed a sizable force of professional computer hackers trained to disrupt the computer networks of Chinaâ€™s enemies. Potential targets include banking and electronic commerce networks and electric power grids, transportation networks and oil and gas pipelines, all of which are at least partially controlled by computers through SCADA systems (short for Systems Control and Data Acquisition).
The situation today
Today, the United States finds itself in an untenable position with China. American industryâ€™s compulsion for outsourcing manufacturing to cheap overseas labor markets has resulted in American stores being glutted with shoddy Chinese products while the American manufacturing base that was once the envy of the world is vanishing. The situation has become so serious that a number of congressmen are formulating a political plank based upon revamping the U.S. manufacturing base.
The Chinese, in turn, have enacted tariffs against many American goods. The U.S. government has accused China of manipulating the value of the Chinese currency, the yuan, in international currency markets to give Chinese exports an unfair advantage in U.S. markets. The Chinese have tied the yuanâ€™s value to the U.S. dollar at a fixed rate. China regulates its import market and the exchange of foreign currency with an iron fist in order to keep the yuan strong against the dollar. In the process of supporting the yuan, China has purchased more than $1 trillion in U.S. debt through international markets.
Today the Chinese appear ready to foreclose on the United States. In recent days the Chinese have hinted they may flood the international market with dollars to force the dollar value down. The mere suggestion sent U.S. stocks tumbling. President Bush responded that China would be foolhardy to act in such a manner. But what is to stop the Chinese? The Federal Reserve was forced to release billions in U.S. dollar reserves to calm the jittery markets.
Conflict looms in the Taiwan straits
The Pentagon has been warning about a Chinese military buildup for years. In November 2005 the Christian Science Monitor reported on this buildup. The Monitor stated that about 15 percent of the PLAâ€™s 2 million-man force has been converted into a modern, highly mobile force designed to conduct rapid operations against smaller foes. The military buildup includes amphibious ships capable of transporting and landing military ground forces by sea.
What is the ultimate purpose of this buildup? Taiwan of course! Such an operation against Taiwan would involve highly mobile airborne and amphibious forces, naval and air operations to secure the Taiwan straits, and a massive missile and cyber warfare attack aimed at paralyzing Taiwanâ€™s ability to react.
With the U.S. bogged down in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the time is quickly approaching when the Chinese will be able to deal a strategic death blow against Taiwan with impunity. This could be the death knell for U.S. superpower status. Already alienated from many of its traditional allies as a result of the war in Iraq, a Chinese attack on Taiwan would reveal the extent of the United Statesâ€™ militaryâ€™s weakened state and the inability of the U.S. government to stand by its alliances and obligations.
Food for thought
Not worried about China? Then hereâ€™s some food for thought: A series of recent China-related events, all potentially tied to asymmetric warfare against the United States, warrant close observation. These include toxic gluten in pet food, antifreeze in toothpaste, lead paint on toys, toxic levels of formaldehyde on pajamas, the recall of hundreds of thousands Chinese-manufactured tires in the United States for safety concerns â€¦ and the list goes on.
Potential problems with imported Chinese-produced foodstuff are particularly worrisome, as are the joint Russian-Chinese military exercises that recently took place for the first time in history. Coincidence? Maybe. Unrelated? Maybe. Worth watching? Certainly.
As Sun Tzu said, â€œAll war is deception.â€
Is China already at war with America?
Zachary Hubbard is a retired Army officer residing in Upper Yoder Township, Cambria County. He holds a masterâ€™s degree in military art and science from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. Since 1998 he has been involved in the study and teaching of asymmetric warfare. Hubbard is a member of The Tribune-Democrat Readership Advisory Committee.
Boosting Maritime Capabilities in the Indian Ocean
World Press – August 23, 2007
Maritime power represents military, political, and economic power, exerted through an ability to use the sea or deny its use to others. It has traditionally been employed to control “use-of-the-sea” activities undertaken by nations for their general economic welfare and, often, even for their very survival. Maritime power and naval power are not synonymous, the latter being a sub-set of the former. Traditional land powers are more and more focusing on developing their maritime capabilities to safeguard their economic interests and extend their sphere of influence.
Historically, China has been a land power. However, over the past two decades, it has found itself increasingly dependent on resources and markets accessible only via maritime routes. This has left Beijing with the dilemma of how to safeguard its trade routes and flow of resources in a world in which the United States is the dominant naval power, and both India and Japan â€” China’s neighbors and strategic rivals â€” are stepping up their own naval capabilities.
Ensuring a continuous supply of energy has come to be the most important prerequisite for China in building an advanced, industrialized state. Despite being the world’s sixth largest oil producer, China has been a net importer of oil since 1994. It imported 40 million metric tons in 1999 and is projected to import 100 million tons by 2010. China’s dependence on seafood has increased in recent years. China will therefore have to ensure security of its sea lanes and shipping industry to ensure its continued development As of today, 85 percent of China’s trade is sea-based. Also, with its 26 shipyards, China has emerged as the world’s fourth largest shipbuilder. Thus for both reasons, China needs assured access and control over its adjacent oceans.
China and Indian Ocean Nations
China’s perceptions regarding other major powers, especially Moscow and Washington, have been the most important external factor molding its Indian Ocean vision and policy initiatives. While initially it was American containment that explained all their activities in the Indian Ocean, the Sino-Soviet split in the early 1960’s made China suspicious of Moscow’s initiatives and intentions in this region.
In the recent years, a new great game has begun between India and China to bring the Maldives and Sri Lanka under their respective sphere of influence in the Indian Ocean Region (I.O.R.). After Myanmar and Bangladesh, to complete the “arc of influence” in South Asia, China is determined to enhance military and economic cooperation with the Maldives and Sri Lanka. China’s ambition to build a naval base at Marao in the Maldives, its recent entry into the oil exploration business in Sri Lanka, the development of port and bunker facilities at Hambantota, the strengthening military cooperation and boosting bilateral trade with Colombo, are all against Indian interests and ambitions in the region.
Although China claims that its bases are only for securing energy supplies to feed its growing economy, the Chinese base in the Maldives is motivated by Beijing’s determination to contain and encircle India and thereby limit the growing influence of the Indian Navy in the region. The Marao base deal was finalized after two years of negotiations, when Chinese Prime minister Zhu Rongzi visited Male’ in May 2001. Once Marao comes up as the new Chinese “pearl,” Beijing’s power projection in the Indian Ocean would be augmented.
Recently, Sri Lanka allocated an exploration block in the Mannar Basin to China for petroleum exploration. This allocation would connote a Chinese presence just a few miles from India’s southern tip, thus causing strategic discomfort. In economic terms, it could also mean the end of the monopoly held by Indian oil companies in this realm, putting them into direct and stiff competition from Chinese oil companies. At Hambantota, on the southern coast of Sri Lanka where Beijing is building bunkering facilities and an oil tank farm. This infrastructure will help service hundreds of ships that traverse the sea lanes of commerce off Sri Lanka. The Chinese presence in Hambantota would be another vital element in its strategic circle already enhanced through its projects in Pakistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
It is Sri Lanka’s strategic location that has prompted Beijing to aim for a strategic relationship with Colombo. Beijing is concerned about the growing United States presence in the region as well as about increasing Indo-U.S. naval cooperation in the Indian Ocean. China looks at using the partnership with Sri Lanka to enhance its influence over strategic sea lanes of communication from Europe to East Asia and oil tanker routes from the Middle East to the Malacca Straits. China has been consolidating its access to the Indian Ocean through the Karakoram Highway and Karachi, through the China-Burma road to Burmese ports and through the Malacca Straits, especially once they have established their supremacy over the South China Sea.
China’s Indian Ocean policy has been clearly influenced by its ties with the other major powers. Its interest in the Indian Ocean started partly as a reaction to its perception that increasing United States presence there was aimed at encircling China. The policy has also been directly linked to its problems with New Delhi. China feels India is facilitating the American presence in the Indian Ocean region as a means of countering Beijing.
The United States Navy maintains a substantial permanent presence in the I.O.R. from its Fifth Fleet base in the Gulf, its substantial naval and air assets at Diego Garcia as well as by rotational deployments of Seventh Fleet units from the Pacific, centered on one or two nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed aircraft carriers. It was last deployed in major hostilities against Iraq, was briefly involved in Somalia and was on call to resist the Australian preemptive intervention in East Timor.
Chinese Naval Power and the Indian Ocean Region
The Indian Ocean, along with other sea lines of communication, have attracted the attention of Chinese naval planners. The takeover of the Panama Canal by a private Chinese firm after the United States withdrawal in 1999, reported Chinese threats to intervene in the Straits of Malacca and the active Chinese role in the West Asian region indicate unfolding Chinese interest this region. Beginning from the early 1980’s, Chinese naval modernization underwent a sea change, partly with the modified perceptions about the value of the oceans.
China has launched an ambitious futuristic weapons development program, including high energy microwave beam-weapons, ship-based laser cannon and space-based weaponry to destroy communication and reconnaissance satellites. The country is the greatest source of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missile technology. History has shown that China is not averse to using force in order to achieve its aims, and its attitude towards its neighbors is a constant source of concern.
Gwadar in Pakistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Sitwe (Akyab) in Myanmar have functioned essentially as fishing harbors. The growing Chinese interest in these places and China’s generous offer of assistance to these countries for converting their fishing harbours into maritime ports of international standards has aroused doubts about Beijing’s motive in increasing its naval presence in the region.
Beijing is trying to give its Navy a greater visibility, operability and rapid action capability in the Indian Ocean region than it enjoys now. Gwadar, Hambantota and Sitwe form important components of its maritime security strategy. China is also interested in the island nation of Seychelles. It is important to monitor the growing Chinese interest there as part of any study of China’s maritime strategic moves.
Beijing has given signal to the world of its aspirations to assume a role beyond its natural geographic and historical maritime boundaries. Any Chinese threat to India’s maritime interests in the near future is economic and political as well as military. China is setting up a series of military bases as part of an endeavor to project its power. In Bangladesh, Beijing is seeking extensive naval and commercial access. Dhaka already shares close defense ties with Beijing. In Myanmar, China is also building naval bases and electronic intelligence gathering facilities at Grand Coco Island in the Bay of Bengal. However, the military junta, wary of excessive dependence on China, has turned to New Delhi for military supplies. In Cambodia, Beijing is helping to build a railway line from South China to the sea. In Thailand, China is funding the construction of a $20 billion canal across the Kra Isthmus. This would allow ships to bypass the Strait of Malacca. China has also set up electronic posts near the Persian Gulf to monitor ship traffic through the Strait of Hormuz.
New Delhi’s Role in the Indian Ocean Region
India has been apprehensive about China’s growing naval expansion in the Indian Ocean, which New Delhi views as encirclement. As China’s naval diplomacy take roots in the region, India cannot remain a mute spectator and, much like China, has increased its military engagement in the region. India now regularly conducts naval and military exercises with the United States, Japan, and China, as well as with its South Asian and South-East Asian neighbors. New Delhi has signed a defense agreement with Singapore and has cooperative arrangements with many nations stretching from the Seychelles to Vietnam. It has participated in mechanisms to protect maritime traffic passing through the strategic Malacca Straits.
In recent years India has intensified its pace of cooperation with countries in the Indian Ocean littoral. After the success of its tsunami diplomacy, New Delhi is looking forward to evolve new channels of naval diplomacy with these countries. During the past year, the just-retired Indian Navy chief, Admiral Arun Prakash, visited many South East Asian and South Asian capitals. The primary goal of these visits was to enhance bilateral cooperation and strengthen naval ties.
Two Indian warships recently made friendly port calls in Bangladesh and Myanmar. The navies of India and Bangladesh have also discussed possibilities of connecting the Vishakapatnam and Chittagong ports. An access agreement with Dhaka would allow more extensive patrolling, both sea borne and from the air in these sensitive waters. The Indian navy is also keen to maintain vessels at the Bangladeshi ports, to compete with Beijing’s strategic gains in that sector. China has signed a training and equipment agreement with Dhaka.
India’s geographical location at the natural junction of the busy international shipping lanes that crisscross the Indian Ocean has had a major impact upon the formulation of New Delhi’s maritime strategy. The sea area around India is among the busiest in the world, with over 100,000 ships transiting the shipping lanes every year. The Straits of Malacca alone account for some 60,000 ships annually. India itself has a 4,670-mile long (7,516 km) coastline and several far-flung island territories. The 13 major and 185 minor ports that mark India’s coastline constitute the landward ends of the country’s sea lines of communication. The development of additional ports is a high-priority activity and is taking place all along the western and eastern seaboards of the country. India, today, has a modest, but rapidly-growing merchant-shipping fleet, presently comprising 756 ships and totaling 8.6 million “Gross Registered Tonnes,” with an average age of around 17 years, as compared to the global average of 20 years. The Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard are major stabilizing forces in the movement of energy across the Indian Ocean, not just for India, but for the world at large.
The region of India’s maritime interests, which on primary geographic considerations might suggest itself only as the north Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, in fact has to take maritime factors into account and developments in distant areas such as the western Pacific, South China Sea, the eastern Mediterranean, the central and southern Indian Ocean. Also under review are islands such as Diego Garcia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion and the Seychelles, in addition to South Africa and Australia as they dominate the southern approaches to the Indian Ocean. This is because of the flexibility and mobility of naval forces and the rapidity with which they can traverse large distances, concentrate, deploy, withdraw or disperse.
India’s maritime diplomacy, like its broader diplomatic effort, radiates out in expanding circles of engagement, starting with the country’s immediate maritime neighborhood. As a mature and responsible maritime power, New Delhi is contributing actively to capacity building and operational coordination to address threats from non-state actors, disaster relief, support to United Nations peacekeeping and rescue and extrication missions.
In fact, India’s maritime diplomacy is now an essential component of New Delhi’s “Look East” policy. India has concluded bilateral arrangements with Thailand and Indonesia for joint coordinated patrols by the three navies in the Bay of Bengal at the mouth of the Malacca Straits. New Delhi is also ready to contribute to capacity building of the littoral states in the interests of maritime security. Southeast Asian navies participate in the bi-annual MILAN exercises. At the multilateral level and within the maritime domain, India has launched a series of initiatives to provide an inclusive and mutually-consultative forum in which the navies and maritime security agencies of the region – whether large or small – can meet and discuss common issues that bear upon international security.
Economic growth and opportunities in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean have attracted China into taking an interest in the region. Beijing feels compelled to look outwards in order to craft joint strategies for achieving faster economic growth and peace and security. China is a long-term concern by reason, not only because of its phenomenal economic growth and military power, but because of its ambitious and determined drive towards great global power status. The drive is already manifesting itself in the modernization of its armed forces â€” in particular the expansion of its navy and maritime capabilities. The Chinese, however, argue that their initiative towards the Indian Ocean is guided by both strategic and economic compulsions and capabilities, as a significant proportion of its sea borne trade (around 85 percent) passes through the Indian Ocean.
Given its sensitivities to the United States and India, China has supported proposals for the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace. The country’s long-term strategic outlook is global and not regional. Beijing seeks to develop its naval capabilities and seek definite sea superiority over other naval powers in the region. Some of China’s initiatives in the Indian Ocean are also geared to preventing any littoral country from granting Taiwan their membership. China’s ability to deter Taiwan thus is more effective since the Indian Ocean states seem willing to oblige Beijing. Thus, Taiwan is not a member of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission although it is represented in the fishing associations of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
By 2020 China plans to deploy task forces consisting of two aircraft carriers, two S.S.B.N.s, six S.S.N.s, 18 destroyers and about 30 frigates in the I.O.R. However, until about 2045, it will be difficult for China to deploy its naval forces permanently in the Indian Ocean. By that time, it remains to be seen if Pakistan, Myanmar and other countries in the region become full-fledged Chinese allies.
India is trying to create a balance of power in the I.O.R, as the country is emerging as a major power and is often regarded as a pivotal influence in the region’s geopolitics. It has established a “Far Eastern Strategic Command” headquartered in Port Blair to monitor the military situation in the region. However, in order to have a strong hold over the region, India needs economic assets as well as a strong military presence. India must have access in the region of Chinese influence, by establishing political, economic and security ties with East and Southeast Asian countries. New Delhi must strengthen its ties with other major regional and global forums to maintain its sphere of influence. At a strategic level, India will have to attempt to balance China’s power realistically, through development of its own economic and military potential and through building strong relationships with neighbors, and regional organizations like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (A.S.E.A.N.).
US naval power wanes
With more countries acquiring or building aircraft carriers, the US’s power in the world’s waters is rapidly waning, forcing the its military to re-examine its maritime strategy.
ISN Security Watch – August 27, 2007
The most important maritime lesson that the US learned during World War II was the primacy of aircraft carriers. For the last 60 years the country has had a near virtual monopoly on this class of warship and today operates the largest and most expensive carriers afloat, the nuclear-powered Nimitz-class CVNs, 1,092 feet long and capable of carrying 85 aircraft, costing approximately US$4.5 billion a piece.
Despite the tremendous investment in expertise and expense, the US’ near virtual monopoly of naval air power may be drawing to a close, as several countries have recently announced building programs that, if fully implemented, will force a major re-evaluation of the Pentagon’s maritime strategic thinking. The only comfort over the next decade or two for US Navy planners is that it currently maintains a global advantage in this unique class of warship.
Of the world’s 21 carriers currently operational, the US has 11 aircraft carriers in commission, of which nine are Nimitz class, with another one under construction and one on order. The Nimitz class nuclear-powered propulsion units are unique; the only other nuclear-powered carrier is France’s Charles De Gaulle. Eight other nations operate carriers, including the UK with two: HMS Illustrious and HMS Ark Royal. Other countries operate a single vessel: Russia fields the Kuznetsov; Italy – MM Giuseppe Garibaldi; India – INAS Viraat; Spain – SPS Principe de Asturias; Brazil – NAel Sao Paulo; and Thailand – HTMS Chakri Nareubet.
The countries that have announced carrier construction programs include the UK, France, India, Italy, Russia, Spain and China. For US strategic planners, only the UK, France and Spain can be considered reliable allies with India as a potential ally; the US’ relations with Russia are on a downturn and the Pentagon regards the rise of China’s military power as a potential threat.
Russian naval revamp raises the stakes
Of the projected building programs, Russia’s is by far the most ambitious. Flush with revenues from world record-high energy prices, the Kremlin has announced a zealous military rearmament program, which includes upgrading the navy.
While Russia currently has only one operational aircraft carrier, the Kuznetsov, the commander of the Russian Navy Admiral Vladimir Masorin announced earlier this month that over the next two decades the Russian navy will acquire six new nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. Three carriers and their escorts are to be deployed to Russia’s Pacific Fleet, while the other three are to be based with Russia’s Northern Fleet.
As if to underscore Masorin’s ambitions, the 65,000-ton Kuznetsov is back in service after two years of refurbishment. The Kuznetsov entered service in 1995; its sister ship, the Varyag, was two-thirds complete in the Nikolayev shipyard in the Ukraine when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
The Kuznetsov’s problems epitomized the navy’s difficulties during the Yeltsin post-Soviet period, when funding shortages meant that the carrier was rarely put to sea and pilots were forced to train from a land-based mockup of the flight deck in order to maintain their skills. Pilots are again flying from the Kuznetsov’s flight deck, according to a recent broadcast on the Russian station Channel One from on board the vessel.
Masorin’s comments reflect the Kremlin’s desire to divert part of its enormous energy revenues to rebuilding Russia’s military establishment: In 2005 Russian defense spending rose 22 percent, 27 percent in 2006 and analysts estimate that in 2007 it could increase by an additional 30 percent.
The Kuznetsov class is not as complex as the Nimitz class, being smaller and lacking nuclear power and steam catapults, but it is still a formidable design, capable of carrying up to 36 Sukhoi-33 fighters and sixteen helicopters.
What is interesting about the Russian navy’s proposed deployment of its new carrier fleets is the fact that it has essentially concluded that carrier deployment would be useless in the enclosed Baltic or Black Seas, especially as they are now bordered by NATO’s formidable naval forces, preferring instead to place them in regions with direct access to the open ocean.
Russia is currently the carrier builder of choice for India. Russia already has a US$1.5 billion contract from India for modernizing the USSR’s former aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, re-christened INS Vikramaditya, sold to India in 2004. Russia’s Sevmash shipyard in the Arctic port of Severomorsk however is “at least three years behind schedule” on upgrading the vessel. The upgrades include modifications to carry a squadron of Russian MiG-29 fighters, producing a hybrid vessel combining the capabilities of a missile cruiser and an aircraft carrier.
India project ambitious, but behind schedule
India already operates the INS Viraat as its flagship, originally commissioned in the UK’s Royal Navy in 1959 as HMS Hermes, seeing duty in Britain’s 1982 Falklands campaign as the task force’s flagship. Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed “high-ranking Sevmash source” as saying that the shipyard’s Director General Vladimir Pastukhov had been fired after failing to meet deadlines and noted that as the contract was delayed, “The realistic date [for delivery] is now 2011.”
Ironically, India will receive the carrier’s air wing before the ship itself: In June MiG deputy director general General Sergei Tsivilev said that the first delivery of the carrier’s MiG-29K fighters would be later this year.
India is experiencing similar problems with its attempt to build its first indigenous carrier, a 37,000-ton Vikrant-class platform being built at India’s southern Cochin shipyard, costing more than US$300 million and originally scheduled for delivery in 2011-2012. The ambitious project represents a quantum leap forward in Asian shipbuilding capabilities as currently only the US, Britain, Russia, Italy and France have built carriers.
The project is not running smoothly, however. Owing to cost overruns and shortages of building material, the ship is not likely to be completed and handed over to the navy before 2015. The projected carrier would be powered by four LM2500 gas turbines capable of achieving a top speed of 28 knots and would carry a mixed air wing of 12 MiG-29Ks, eight Tejas Light Combat Aircraft and 10 helicopters. For India, carrier deployment in the Arabian Sea would allow it to stalemate its traditional enemy Pakistan, while deployment in the Bay of Bengal would allow it to project maritime power further east toward the Straits of Malacca, in both cases protecting India’s coastline.
China studies the competition
China is also seeking to avail itself of Russia’s carrier expertise, but has taken a different approach to other nations interested in carriers, acquiring Western ships for research.
While China has yet to deploy a single carrier, its interest in naval aviation is longstanding, dating back to 1985, when it bought the Australian carrier HMAS Melbourne, originally launched in 1945 as the Royal Navy’s HMS Majestic, entering Australian naval service a decade later and decommissioned in 1982. The carrier’s fate is unclear: While some reports state that she was scrapped in 1985, other reports list her as still in existence in 1994 in Guangzhou, being studied by Chinese naval architects.
China also acquired three former Soviet carriers, once again, for study. China’s first acquisition was the USSR’s Kiev, classed by the Soviet Union as a “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser.” Launched in 1975, the Kiev carried a complement of 12-13 Yak-38 STOL aircraft and 14-17 Kamov Ka-25 helicopters and was designed to locate and destroy US ballistic missile-carrying submarines. Following the 1991 collapse of the USSR the Kiev was decommissioned in 1993 and the newly independent Ukrainian government sold the ship to China, where she has ostensibly been part of a military theme park in Tianjin.
Two years later China acquired the Kiev-class sister ship Minsk from Ukraine. Launched in 1978, the Minsk was originally assigned to the Soviet Pacific Fleet, where the ship sustained severe maintenance problems. The Minsk was bought in 1995 by a South Korean businessman, who subsequently sold her to China’s Shzenzen Minsk Aircraft Carrier Industry Company, with the business displaying her at Shenzhen’s Shatoujiao “Minsk World” military theme park until she was auctioned off in 2006.
China’s third acquisition of Ukrainian carrier assets occurred in 1998, when a Chinese company submitted the winning US$20 million bid for the hulk of the USSR’s 65,700-ton Varyag, which had been laid down at the Nikolayev shipyard in 1985. Due to conflicts with Turkey over the issue of the Montreaux Convention governing the passage of carriers through the Turkish Straits, the Varyag, stripped of its electronics and engines, did not depart the Black Sea for China until 2001, once again, supposedly to serve as an entertainment complex. The Varyag is currently moored in Dalian, where it is being refurbished.
During the 10th National People’s Congress in Beijing this year, a Chinese admiral speaking off the record stated that Beijing was already involved in researching and developing an indigenously built aircraft carrier with construction of the first hull to be completed within three years, according to Chinese media reports.
While China has yet to approach Russia to build carrier hulls, last year it acquired Sukhoi-33 arrestor tail-hooks and other landing and takeoff equipment designed by Moscow’s TsNII Sudovogo Mashinostroenia and manufactured in its Proletarskii Zavod.. Additional naval aviation equipment has been purchased from Ukraine as well, including a T10K, a variant of the Sukhoi-27SK fighter. Analysts predict that future Chinese carriers will field domestically made J11B fighters, an upgraded version of the Sukhoi-27SK, which is currently manufactured in China under license.
Last October, Russia’s “Kommersant” newspaper carried a report that China was considering buying from Rosobornexsport up to 48 Sukhoi-33 fighters, the naval variant of the Sukhoi-27SK in a deal worth up to US$2.5 billion.
Analysts debate China’s ultimate intentions in developing a carrier fleet, speculating that China is not only interested in protecting its energy supplies arriving by sea from the Middle East, but that such a force would allow it significant influence in its relations with Taiwan as well as providing a deterrent to the US Navy deploying in the Western Pacific. The most likely answer is a combination of all three scenarios.
NATO allies shore up naval power
The silver lining in this dark cloud for Washington is that a number of its NATO allies are also undertaking carrier construction over the next decade. The UK is in the midst of the most ambitious building program, announcing the awarding of a £3.8 billion (US$7.7 billion) contract to build two new 65,000-ton carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, scheduled to enter service beginning in 2014.
France’s Marine Nationale has also announced plans to build a 65,000-74,000-ton conventionally powered carrier to supplement the Charles de Gaulle and is considering buying a CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery) carrier as well, to be built in the UK according to Royal Navy designs.
In 2001, Italy’s Marina Militare began construction of the conventionally-powered STOVL aircraft carrier MM Cavour, expected to enter service in 2008, while Spain in 2005 began construction of the SPS Buque de Proyeccion Estrategica, a 25,000-30,000 ton vessel designed to operate both as an amphibious assault vessel and a VSTOL aircraft carrier.
There are several evident conclusions to be drawn from all this. The UK’s 1982 Falklands campaign proved that the presence of a single carrier could make the difference between victory and defeat, a lesson not lost on the world’s navies. More recently, US-based carrier aircraft have participated in 1991’s Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom a decade ago in Afghanistan and most recently, 2003’s Operation Iraqi Freedom.
While the US has concentrated exclusively on building Nimitz-class behemoths, its NATO allies are building smaller vessels that will most likely be home-ported in European waters, as NATO European members have shown a marked aversion to overseas deployments, with the exception of Afghanistan. It is the growth of indigenous carrier forces in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific that represents a dynamic strategic shift in the naval balance of power, which if implemented, would seriously erode the Pentagon’s current monopoly of naval air power there.
While Washington for the foreseeable future will retain a numerical and qualitative strategic edge over its possible rivals, as in the 1920s with the rise of the Imperial Japanese navy’s carrier program, the Pentagon will in the future have to take into account the possibility of new competitors, fuelled by their rising economic prosperity, preparing to contest America’s previously unchallenged “command of the sea.”