Highlights Of OEWatch For April 2016
Each month the US Army’s think tank the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) publishes its open source OEWatch magazine. It’s a superb brief that features excerpts of news about ongoing wars and crises. These snippets gathered from various media outlets are accompanied by informed commentary that’s strong on context and analysis.
The FMSO releases OEWatch, together with its vast library of research papers on geopolitical issues, as free downloads.
The April 2016 issue of OEWatch runs 76 pages with a crude montage featuring Russian soldiers, Putin with a model rocket, and an orange fireball. The headline is Russian Perspectives on High-Technology, Hybrid War, and Color Revolutions.
According to the OEWatch staff list the content is prepared by Editor-in-Chief Tom Wilhelm together with Editors Ray Finch and Harry Orenstein. The magazine’s layout is done by Design Editor Padric Hall. This issue’s commentary is provided by 25 “regional analysts and expert contributors.”
April’s OEWatch is divided into 10 sections. The longest is Russia, Ukraine and the shortest is Europe with a single entry. For more than a year now OEWatch has kept a close eye on Turkey, a NATO ally and participant in the Syrian civil war. The section begins with an update on Russia’s activities in Syria, i.e. the deployment of an S-400 long-range SAM battery in Latakia and Moscow’s support for the Kurdish YPG militia.
The next focuses on snippets of news coverage about Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s visit to Ankara. According to OEWatch this formalizes the military and technological cooperation between Turkey and Ukraine–two countries at loggerheads with a belligerent Russia. The Turkey section ends with an update on the terrorist activities of the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons against the state.
The Middle East section is preoccupied with Iran and its domestic issues. One entry excerpts news of a rail link between the Islamic Republic and China. Two further entries are about local technological breakthroughs like Iranian UAV flights in Syria and CBRN gear manufactured for the armed forces.
An interesting read is about a government underground command center outside Damascus that was captured by Islamist rebels. A very brief comment is provided for the anti-climactic Northern Thunder exercises in Saudia Arabia with the takeaway that an “Islamic NATO” is in the works. ISIS activities merit just two entries about an affiliate terrorist attack in Tunisia and improvised explosives production in Syria.
The Africa section is diverse and spans the continent. Other than a page devoted to ethnic tensions in the Ethiopian armed forces the overwhelming focus is on Islamic militancy in Somalia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Ivory Coast.
The Latin America section is devoted to the regional impact of the drugs trade save for two short analytical essays on Colombia’s never-ending peace talks with the FARC. Five entries are devoted to organized crime and the Drug War in Mexico.
Half of the Indo-Pacific Asia section covers India’s steady progress with its space program and local R&D. A fascinating excerpt reveals Vietnam is allowing Delhi to build a satellite ground station in exchange for geomapping intelligence. Another entry speculates if Cambodia is asking China for military aid.
Indonesia gets two entries on its rising defense budget and the risk of further terrorist attacks. ISIS looms large in the Southern Philippines where OEWatch is beginning to suspect collaboration with a local Islamist terrorist group and crime syndicate. A lone entry about Singapore asks whether the city-state is an unofficial intermediary for the South China Sea disputes roiling the Asean.
China, Korea, Japan deals with PLA R&D and a short essay on Beijing’s creation of an “international maritime judicial center” for defending its territorial claims. The sole entry in the Europe section discusses the open secret of Balkan weapons and ammunition being delivered to Syria’s rebels.
The Central Asia section is down to three entries on minor affairs among the stans.
The mother lode for this issue is the Russia, Ukraine section. Multiple pages are devoted to topics like the cover story about Russian Chief of the General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov‘s take on “color revolutions” and Moscow’s strategy for thwarting NATO expansion.
Four pages are devoted to hypersonic cruise missiles for Russia’s next-generation submarine fleet, which of course bodes ill for the US Navy. A further three pages are devoted to “strategic missiles” and their improvement. A bonus are two colored diagrams of the Antey and Borey-class submarines. Two pages tackle the postponement of the airborne forces’ modernization.
A lengthy essay on the T-14 Armata reveals how Russian armored vehicle R&D is more efficient than the US’ thanks to less bureaucracy and state-owned defense contractors. Mysterious “Battalion Tactical Groups” are given their own commentary and a Middle East expert who passed away is mentioned for a nugget of cultural insight: “Russian culture contains an element of subservience.”
$200 million in military aid to Armenia and 13 additional entries underscore the US Army’s fixation on everything Russia. The April issue of OEWatch wraps with an essay by Timothy Thomas about General Gerasimov’s ideas about future warfare in the Russian peruphery.
OEWatch often runs several dozen stories in a single issue. Readers should download copies to find what’s most relevant to their curiosity.