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Highlights Of OEWatch For December 2016

December 28, 2016

France Stormningen af Halle

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 featuring 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 December 2016 issue of OEWatch runs just 54 pages. On the cover are stock images of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Vladimir Putin superimposed on their respective capital cities. This accompanies the Special Essay titled The Evolution of Turkish-Russian Relations.

The OEWatch staff list for the year’s final issue is smaller than usual. Tom Wilhelm remains the Editor-in-Chief but his longtime partner Ray Finch is only a contributor to the Russia, Ukraine section while Editorial duties are now assigned to Karen Kaya. Keith French is still the Design Editor.

The latest issue of OEWatch is divided into six sections. As usual, Russia commands the brunt of coverage with the Middle East a distant second. The Africa section is slim for a change.

The Middle East section is firmly divided between entries about the ongoing war against ISIS and the regional activities of Iran. A small update on Iran’s deployment of locally made UAVs is on page 7. Two entries, spanning page 10 and 11, offer glimpses into the Saudi-Yemen war.

As mentioned, the Africa section is sparse while the entries for Latin America are very substantial. Of particular interest are two updates on Mexico. On page 17 are snippets about the country’s domestic arms production and its medium-term plans–from assault rifles to light aircraft. Page 18 is an eye opener. It explains why Mexico’s very literal war on drugs involves at least half of the army’s total manpower.

This issue of OEWatch debuts a new section: Asia-Pacific. Rather than separate entries for East Asia and the so-called “Indo-Pacific” both have been combined. The commentary on China offers great perspective. On page 21 is a short discussion about the quality of China’s domestic weapon systems. Are they up to par with the West? The writer doesn’t think so and this is why demand for Chinese arms isn’t as high as it should be. The same idea is expanded on page 26, where the author points out the PLA’s various branches have conflicting organizational standards, thereby casting doubt on its ability to launch joint operations.

The Central Asia, Caucasus section is as uninteresting as the one for Africa. The momentum picks up on the Russia, Ukraine section. On page 30 is news that Russian ground forces may soon deploy “technicals”–rugged pickup trucks for the battlefield. There’s a great profile of the Russian Orlan-10 UAV from page 32 to 33. The model is now the drone of choice for Russian artillery brigades. Further updates on Russian UAV developments are found on page 44 and 49.

A lot of text is devoted to Russian armor in page 34 and 35. It reveals at least 1,000 T-72’s have been upgraded to the T-72B3 standard and these will soon run the same subsystems as the T-14 Armata. An equal amount of text is found on pages 36 to 37 about advances in the Russian army’s battlefield comms.

A scoop of sorts in found on page 38 discussing housing shortages in the armed forces. The same disappointing tone extends to page 39 involving water shortages in the Crimean peninsula. Page 40 has a useful graphic mapping the deployment of Ukrainian and Russian forces between Donetsk and Luhansk.

A serious amount of text is about Ukraine for a change. Spanning pages 42 to 43, it delves into the armed forces’ chronic manpower shortage. Page 45 reveals how an anti-sonar coating for Russian submarines is under development. On page 46 is a lengthy discussion about a possible 23mm anti-tank rifle for Russian snipers. Page 47 is devoted to events on the Arctic circle from the Russian side.

The Special Essay from pages 51 to 53 is a useful brief about relations between Moscow and Ankara, which only blossomed in the last 10 years as both countries have become major trading partners. Turkey is a major customer of Russian gas, while Russians are fond of Turkey as a holiday destination. The authors Karen Kaya and Matt Stein then go into detail about how the two countries are navigating the Syrian civil war.

OEWatch often runs several dozen stories in a single issue. Readers should download copies to find what’s most relevant to their curiosity.

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