GREY ZONE SITREP 10 FEB 22
Grey zone activity refers to actions or behaviors that fall in a murky or undefined area between peace and armed conflict. This is PACOMs current battlefield.
Welcome to this week's edition of the Grey Zone Newsletter, your source for the latest news and analysis on underreported Grey Zone activity across PACOM.
In the political arena, President Biden's State of the Union address made headlines with his warning to China on the issue of sovereignty. This direct message has raised questions about the future of the US-China relationship and sparked a new era of geopolitical tension. Biden also touched on Russia's invasion of Ukraine and praised the Western effort to counter this threat. Meanwhile, the prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand met to discuss China's role in their economies and the delicate balance of cooperation and disagreement that must be maintained.
In the military sphere, North Korea's recent military parade and the growing threat posed by China and North Korea's nuclear capabilities are a cause for concern for the international community. The US is seeking to build a coalition of like-minded nations in East Asia to counter these threats and maintain global stability. Additionally, China's balloon program and its ability to collect information on the military capabilities of other nations is also a concern for American intelligence agencies.
In the economic realm, the US and India are considering collaborating on certain manufacturing jobs, with a focus on the semiconductor chip industry. This move is aimed at boosting competition against China and reducing the global reliance on Taiwanese semiconductors. India, along with Japan and Australia, is also establishing a semiconductor supply chain initiative to secure access to these critical components. Meanwhile, Pakistan is facing a deepening economic crisis and is holding last-ditch talks with the IMF to secure help.
This week's newsletter offers a comprehensive look at the key developments that are shaping our world and their impact on the future.
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President Biden's State of the Union address was filled with important messages on a wide range of topics, but one moment that stood out was his warning to China on the issue of sovereignty. The President made it clear that the US will act to protect its country if China threatens its sovereignty. This direct warning was a rare occurrence in the US-China relationship and has sparked questions about how Beijing will respond.
The President's statement was made in a theatrical setting and was partially intended to provide political cover. However, it was still a remarkable moment that underscored the shift in the geopolitical landscape between the two nations. Biden went on to single out President Xi Jinping, asking if there was a world leader who would trade places with him. This statement was seen as a sign of Biden's disdain for China's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has damaged Xi's aura.
Biden's address also touched on another critical geopolitical issue: Russia. The President praised the Western effort to counter Russia's invasion of Ukraine and vowed to stand with the country as long as it takes.
The prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand also met to discuss China's importance to their economies. New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins made it clear that his government's foreign policy has not changed and that China remains an important partner for the country, but he also emphasized that they will continue to voice their disagreements with China when necessary. On the other hand, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese stated that his government's position on China is clear and that they will cooperate where they can, disagree where they must, and engage in their national interests.
Analyst Comment. President Biden's State of the Union address was a powerful reminder of the United States' commitment to protect its sovereignty and stand up against any threats, both domestically and internationally. The address also highlighted the complex relationship between nations and the delicate balance of cooperation and disagreement that must be maintained.
North Korea's recent military parade has raised concerns in the international community. The parade marked the 75th anniversary of the North Korean army's founding and featured an apparent new solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Solid-fueled ICBMs are considered more dangerous than liquid-fueled ones as they do not need to be fueled up, allowing for more stealthy launches and making them more difficult to spot and shoot down. Analysts believe that at least five transporter-erector launchers carrying large missile canisters for the solid-fueled ICBMs were displayed during the parade.
The U.S. is seeking to build a coalition of like-minded nations in East Asia to counter the growing threat posed by China and North Korea's nuclear capabilities. The U.S. is strengthening its defense relationship with the Philippines and is seeking access to four additional military bases in the country, as well as forging closer relationships with Australia and Japan. The Biden administration's Indo-Pacific strategy is aimed at increasing security cooperation and building partner capacity initiatives.
China's balloon program, which operates out of multiple locations in the country, is also cause for concern for American intelligence agencies. The balloons are believed to be collecting information on the military capabilities of other nations in the event of a conflict or rising tensions. The Pentagon spokesman, Brig Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, has confirmed that Chinese balloons have been spotted operating over Latin America, South America, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Europe.
Analyst Comment. The recent military parade in North Korea and the growing threat posed by China and North Korea's nuclear capabilities are significant concerns for the international community. The U.S. is working to build a coalition of like-minded nations in East Asia to counter these threats and maintain global stability.
The United States and India are considering collaborating on certain manufacturing jobs, in particular the semiconductor chip industry. This move is aimed at boosting competition against China and reducing the global reliance on Taiwanese semiconductors. The U.S. Commerce Secretary, Gina Raimondo, will be visiting India in March with a group of American CEOs to discuss the potential alliance.
In his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden talked about the decline of the American manufacturing industry, particularly in the chip industry. In 1990, there were 350,000 people working in the chip industry in America, but now there are only 160,000. The Biden administration has taken action to revive the industry by signing the CHIPS and Science Act, which supplied $52 billion for U.S. companies to invest in chip manufacturing.
India, along with Japan and Australia, has also announced plans to establish a semiconductor supply chain initiative to secure access to semiconductors and their components. Raimondo views India as a promising partner, due to its large population, skilled workers, and its status as a democratic country with a rule of law. However, she also emphasized the importance of labor standards and compliance with anti-corruption and environmental standards as part of any potential deal.
Semiconductor chips play a crucial role in driving technology innovation, and without mastery of these complex components, China's aspirations of becoming a global digital power could fall apart. The United States has restricted exports of critical semiconductor components and technology to China, and the potential collaboration with India could further strengthen the U.S. position in the tech containment strategy.
In comparison, Pakistan is facing a deepening economic crisis and is holding last-ditch talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to secure help. The country is struggling to service its high levels of foreign debt, and factories are shutting down due to a lack of foreign currency. With annual inflation at its highest since 1975 and a devalued rupee, the economy of Pakistan is facing mounting challenges in a pivotal election year.
Cybersecurity has been a growing concern for organizations around the world, and Australia is no exception. A recent study conducted by Netskope, a supplier of secure access service edge (SASE) services, found that over half of Australian organizations have not invested enough in cybersecurity in the past three years. This lack of investment is especially pronounced among small companies, with 69% of them not investing enough in cybersecurity.
This trend is changing, however, as major data breaches over the past year have brought the importance of cybersecurity to the forefront. The study found that 77% of the 300 respondents noted an increase in their leadership's awareness of cyber threats, and 70% of the respondents reported an increase in their leadership's willingness to bolster investments in cybersecurity.
The study found that the number of organizations that are planning bigger cybersecurity budgets between 2022 and 2023 has jumped to 63%, compared with 45% that saw increases between 2020 and 2022. This increase is most pronounced among larger organizations with over 200 employees, where over 80% are increasing cybersecurity budgets. Among small firms with fewer than 20 employees, 41% planned to spend more on cybersecurity between 2022 and 2023, up from just 23% between 2020 and 2022.
David Fairman, the chief information officer and chief security officer for Asia-Pacific at Netskope, believes that the recent data breaches have had a positive impact on the Australian community. He said, “In the last decade, attitudinal gaps between technology and business leaders regarding cybersecurity have been a key factor slowing down cybersecurity improvements, and it seems that both teams are now – at last – on the same page, ready to bolster cyber defenses for their organization and customers.”
The increasing awareness and willingness of organizations to invest in cybersecurity is a positive sign for the future of cybersecurity in Australia. With a continued focus on bolstering cybersecurity defenses, organizations can protect their sensitive information and ensure the safety of their customers' data.
A new satellite image reveals a Chinese air defense facility on the Paracel Islands, which suggests that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) now has surface-to-air missiles permanently ready in both contested archipelagos in the South China Sea. The Paracel Islands are claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan, but they are occupied entirely by China since 1974. The satellite image, which was taken last April, shows four buildings with retractable roofs, one of which has its roof partially open and appears to house surface-to-air missile launchers. This image has been verified by ImageSat International, a space intelligence company.
The image is evidence of the completion of the missile battalion on Woody Island, the largest of the Paracel Islands. It is now similar to the air defense base on the three militarized artificial islands in the Spratly Islands, according to Tom Shugart, an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. The militarization of the Paracel Islands has not been fully documented as foreign journalists are not allowed to access the archipelago, but the new satellite image shows that China has expanded its reach in disputed areas through its permanent facilities that can house long-range missile batteries.
From the Outstations
Clearly Nothing: Ukraine Will Never Join NATO via Croatoan Report. It should come as no surprise Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO . This whole war is actually because Russia uses this as their playbook since the last group of Eastern European countries to join NATO still pisses him off (Baltic triplets and Romania).
According to NATO doctrine, the minimum requirement to join the alliance revolves around a key area:
They must be good neighbors and respect sovereignty outside their borders.
Russia knows this. In 2008, they invaded Georgia to keep them out of NATO by claiming Georgian land and having the Georgians deny the Russian claim. With an active border dispute, Georgia was denied entry to NATO. The same goes for Ukraine and its current disputes over Russias new "border."
They do this because Russia wants a buffer zone to keep NATO at bay. This allows them to trade space for time when mobilizing soldiers for war and not have NATO on their front door should problems arise. Imagine if Germany didn't have to cut through belarus and Ukraine in WW2 against Russia?
Furthermore, it is the amount of corruption in Ukraine that has finally come to light. The Defense Minister is being forced to resign after overlooking a scandal that allowed ministry officials to skim money of the top while Ukrainian soldiers died on the front lines. This shouldn't come as a surprise though because "According to Transparency International's 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index, (a scale of least to most corrupt nations), Ukraine ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in 2021, the second most corrupt in Europe, with Russia the most at 136."
A disputed border and a track record of corruption in the military is exactly what Russia needs in order to meet its objective of denying Ukraine entry into NATO and creating a buffer state.
Reforms of the NCO Corps via Lethal Minds Journal
The PLA created the foundation of the new NCO corps in 1999 when it revised regulations related to active-duty personnel that created the 30-year career path currently in place for NCOs. The revisions involved breaking down the career path into three grades – junior, intermediate, and senior – and six service periods ranging from three to nine years. The grades and service periods roughly equate to the company/battalion, regiment, and brigade/division level units. Another revision to the regulations is how NCOs can only retire if they reach the age of 55 or served 30 years. The regulations had a profound impact on the enlisted force by increasing the number of NCOs while decreasing the number of conscripts in the PLA. Because of the minimalism and ambiguity of the regulations, the PLA’s ability to recruit and retain both qualified and talented individuals was negatively affected.
In 2009, the Central Military Commission (CMC) implemented both a new plan and revised three regulations that covered NCO service periods, management, and training/education. The new plan and revised regulations kept the enlisted the same size but expanded the NCO corps while also further decreasing the number of conscripts. It also increased training and education opportunities for NCOs and raised the number of NCOs recruited from college graduates. The goal for both the 1999 and 2009 regulations and laws was to create a more professional and educated NCO corps. In 2014, the PLA created the new rank of Master Chief/Sergeant Major (shiguan zhang/士官长) in an attempt to retain experienced and trustworthy NCOs. These Master Chiefs and Sergeant Majors would act as the unit’s senior enlisted advisor and enlisted representative to the unit commander. They would also be responsible for helping unit commanders in training and leadership responsibilities.
ALCON Investigation - Summarising Leaks on Chinese Blogs Regarding the PLA H-20 Stealth Bomber
CCP Releases Telecommunication Reforms (SIGINT related)