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Highlights Of OEWatch For March 2020

March 31, 2020

Each month the US Army’s think tank the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) publishes its open source OEWatch magazine as a free download on the APAN Community Network. OEWatch’s March issue runs 78 pages in the usual five section format spanning Eurasia, the Indo-Pacific, MENA, Africa, and Latin America. Editorial duties are shared among Tom Wilhelm, Karen Kaya, and designer Thomas Tolare with input by a large pool of contributing writers.

A highlight in the Eurasia section is an essay on page 12 by Sergey Sukhankin about the Russian government’s policies for the Arctic Circle. Not surprisingly, the main thrust of these efforts are to extract the hydrocarbons beneath the Siberian coastline, which has become accessible because of climate change. The authors makes sure to spell out Russia’s endgame involves not just the recoverable natural gas but a lucrative sea route connecting China and Europe. A somewhat connected entry on page 10 reveals a semi-secret program to equip Russian submarines with ice breaking rockets–these allow the subs to blow holes through pack ice before launching missiles.

The Indo-Pacific section this month is rather thin and the focus on China predominates. A brief discussion of the PLA’s literature on drone swarms and their battlefield applications. The Middle East, North Africa (MENA) section is extensive and the reader is well-served by updates on the region’s current wars (Libya, Syria, and Yemen). On page 52, however, is a short entry about Turkey’s confusing stealth fighter project. The author shares interesting details about the TF-X program. First, a joint venture among local aerospace firms was organized to collaborate on turbo shaft engines and international suppliers are of paramount importance. Second, the timeline for the TF-X’s arrival is muddled. Turkey doesn’t have the means nor the technology to build its own twin engine fifth-generation stealth fighter. On page 56 is a useful update on Iran’s moves to harness its own extractive industries for rare earth minerals.

The Africa section presents a detailed overview of the continent’s troubles. On pages 61 to 63 are multiple short entries assessing the terrorist threat menacing Burkina Faso. Like the rest of its neighbors the former French colony is unprepared to deal with an Islamist insurgency and may seek desperate measures such as organizing militias for local security roles. There’s nothing in the Latin America section to suggest grave threats are manifesting anywhere. An entry on page 69 about Russia’s diplomatic moves toward Cuba dredges up little worth fussing about. Meanwhile, onpage 72, the sole remaining terrorist group inside Colombia known as the ELN may have a clandestine economic empire of sorts in neighboring Venezuela.

OEWatch often runs several dozen stories in a single issue. Readers should download their own copies and find content that’s most relevant to their curiosity and interest.

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