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September 20, 2021

The Fallout From The AUKUS Deal

The AUKUS deal allowed Australia to cancel an order for diesel driven submarines from France by taking up a U.S. and British offer to eventually acquire nuclear driven submarines.

It is not clear at all that Australia will find the money to actually pay for nuclear submarines. These are 50-100% more expensive that conventional ones. Australia also wants to make sure that at least 60% of the price flows back to Australian manufacturing. But there are no companies in Australia who have experience with work on nuclear technology. It is also unlikely that the U.S. or UK would let Australia gain such capacity.

There is also little chance that any of the envisioned new boats will be ready before 2040. By then Taiwan will likely be under Beijing's control and the naval primacy of China in the South China Sea will only have grown. The so far declared time frame and purpose of those boats is thereby questionable.

That may well be because the real plan is a different one:

The short-term leasing of nuclear-powered submarines from the UK or the US is being considered by the Morrison government but the Coalition insists nuclear weapons won’t be based in Australia.

The finance minister, Simon Birmingham, and the defence minister, Peter Dutton, confirmed in seperate interviews on Sunday that leasing submarines from the Aukus allies could be a stop-gap solution until Australia takes delivery of its own – potentially in the 2040s.

“The short answer is yes,” Dutton said when asked on Sky News about leasing vessels.

Birmingham said leasing arrangements would not necessarily “increase the number of submarines and the capability across all of the partner nations” but would help with training and information sharing.

“Doing so may provide opportunities for us to train our sailors, provide the skills and knowledge in terms of how we operate,” he told the ABC.

[It would help] provide the platforms for us to upgrade the infrastructure in Perth, that will be necessary for the operation of these submarines. I expect we will see … lease arrangements or greater joint operations between our navies in the future that sees our sailors working more closely and indeed, potentially on UK and US vessels to get that skills and training and knowledge.”

Perth will thereby be build up into a base that is compatible with the likely permanent stationing of U.S. nuclear submarines. These carry nuclear weapons.

Cont. reading: The Fallout From The AUKUS Deal

Posted by b at 18:22 UTC | Comments (26)

September 19, 2021

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-072

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

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Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-072

Posted by b at 14:02 UTC | Comments (192)

September 17, 2021

How Jake Sullivan Screwed Up U.S. Relations With France

After reporters in a news room have written up a story it goes to editors who check it, provide a headline and often also rewrite the opening paragraph(s). The piece then  gets published.

That process at times leads to headlines and/or opening paragraphs which contradict the rest of the story. This can happen because the editor is in a rush and has not had the time to really digest a story. At other times it happens because the editor lets his personal political leaning, or a special preference for an involved person, shine through.

This seems to be the case with a New York Times story about the U.S. induced Australian cancelling of a deal to buy French submarines.

The United States says it gave France only a few hours’ notice of defense deal that Paris called a ‘knife in the back.’
By Michael D. Shear and Roger Cohen

The United States acknowledged on Thursday that it only gave France a few hours’ notice of its deal to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, a move that French officials have denounced as a major betrayal by one of its closest allies.

After the headline and the first paragraph any reader will assume that the U.S. indeed informed France a few hours before the deal became public.

That however is an outright lie as paragraph 11 and 12 of the very same piece provide:

Philippe Étienne, the French ambassador to the United States and the host of the party, said on Thursday that he learned about the deal from news reports, followed by a call from Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser to Mr. Biden.

A senior American official said that the Biden administration had made efforts to inform the French government about the president’s announcement earlier Wednesday morning, but had been unable to schedule the discussions with their French counterparts before the news reports appeared online.

The U.S. did not say "it gave France only a few hours’ notice". The U.S. did not acknowledge "on Thursday that it only gave France a few hours’ notice of its deal".

The U.S. did the opposite of what the headline and opening graph of the NYT story claim.

"A senior American official" acknowledged that the National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan screwed up and informed France only after Politico published the first report on the deal on Wednesday September 15 at 8:55 am.

Sullivan in fact cowardly avoided to tell France about the deal as a separate NYT piece by Roger Cohen provides:

Cont. reading: How Jake Sullivan Screwed Up U.S. Relations With France

Posted by b at 18:04 UTC | Comments (225)

September 16, 2021

To Protect Itself From U.S. Hostility Australia Decides To Buy U.S. Submarines

Yesterday the U.S., the UK and Australia announced that the later one will buy nuclear powered submarines to do the U.S.' bidding against China:

Australia's next submarine fleet will be nuclear-powered under an audacious plan that will see a controversial $90 billion program to build up to 12 French-designed submarines scrapped.

The ABC understands Australia will use American and British technology to configure its next submarine fleet in a bid to replace its existing Collins class subs with a boat more suitable to the deteriorating strategic environment.

This is a huge but short term win for the U.S. with an also-ran booby price for Britain and a strategic loss of sovereignty and budget control for Australia.

It is another U.S. slap into the face of France and the European Union. The deal will piss off New Zealand, Indonesia and of course China. It will upset the international nuclear non proliferation regime and may lead to the further military nuclearization of South Korea and Japan.

Australia currently has 6 Collins class submarines. These are diesel driven boats based on Swedish designs but partially build in Australia. These boats are relatively slow and have a medium range and endurance. They were built between 1990 and 2003 and are mostly for defensive use. There were lots of trouble during the building of the boats as Australia lacks the technical capabilities and industrial depth to make such complicate products. The operational history of boats is also rather mixed with several scandals following each other. The boats are supposed to be upgraded to be in use for another decade.

In the 2010s Australia began to look for a new generation of submarines. After a long discussion it decided to stick to conventionally powered boats. The new subs were again to be build in Australia after a foreign design.

Germany, Japan and France were asked for proposals. The French state owned ship builder Naval Group (DCNS) won the race for 12 new boats and the €50 billion contract. Ironically the French conventionally driven Shortfin Barracuda design France offered is based on its own nuclear driven Barracuda class design. For Australia France had therefore to design a conventional power plant for a submarine that was originally designed, as all French subs are, to run on a nuclear reactor with low enriched uranium (LEU). It was quite obvious that this unusual conversion would run into difficulties and time delays.

Back in June Peter Lee, aka Chinahand, wrote about the delayed program:

Cont. reading: To Protect Itself From U.S. Hostility Australia Decides To Buy U.S. Submarines

Posted by b at 17:27 UTC | Comments (253)

September 15, 2021

Open Thread 2021-71

News & views ...

Posted by b at 17:56 UTC | Comments (197)

September 14, 2021

What Was Biden's Diktat The Saudis Are So Furious About?

Two seasoned commentators, Abdel Bari Atwan and M.K. Bhadrakumar, note the recent snag in U.S. - Saudi relations. Writes Atwan:

The past two weeks have seen an unprecedented rise in tensions between the two sides, which could lead to political and economic standoffs in the days and months to come. Several recent developments attest to this. Last week the Associated Press, well known for its connections to Washington decision-makers, confirmed that the Biden administration has withdrawn all its Patriot and (more sophisticated) THAAD air defence systems from the kingdom.
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Then it was announced that a visit to the kingdom by US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin – as part of a Gulf tour that included Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain — had been postponed or cancelled, ostensibly due to ‘scheduling issues’. That was an unprecedented snub reflecting official Saudi anger at the US.

A minor Saudi prince, Sattam Bin-Khaled Al Saud, was assigned to explain that it was Saudi Arabia that called off the visit. The ‘great kingdom’, he tweeted, would not be dictated to, and would only conduct relations on the basis of ‘shared interests and mutual respect’. No ruling family member has spoken about the US this way previously.

The young royal, who is close to Crown Prince Muhammad Bin-Salman, went on to contrast the cancellation of Austin’s visit with the very warm reception the kingdom accorded to Leonid Slutsky, head of the Russian Duma’s international affairs committee. This was intended as a warning to Washington that Riyadh potentially has an alternative ally in Moscow — a ‘brave’ but potentially risky and very costly challenge.

There was also the recent publishing of FBI findings about Saudi involvement in 9/11. And on Afghanistan the U.S. worked with Qatar instead of using Saudi channels. But both issues are neither new nor do they justify such a response.

Bhadrakumar opines:

Cont. reading: What Was Biden's Diktat The Saudis Are So Furious About?

Posted by b at 18:08 UTC | Comments (123)

September 12, 2021

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-070

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

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Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-070

Posted by b at 14:36 UTC | Comments (262)

September 11, 2021

Some Thoughts On 9/11

Twenty years ago I was chief technology officer for a major news website. It was after lunch and I was testing new productivity tools for the news room. Someone came into my office and said that a plane had hit the WTC in New York City. I walked into the news room where several TV screens were filled with pictures of a smoking tower. 

The news folks were busy writing their first takes. Some of it was speculation. I mentioned that this was not the first plane to hit a skyscraper in NYC and called it an accident. That made it into one of the first take stories.

Still - even as an accident it was spectacular news and the page views per minute on the website went towards our capacity limits. Then the second plane hit and it was immediately clear to everyone that these were no accidents. The web traffic went through the roof.

We had had ample capacity to cover news peaks but this was way too much traffic for our normal site to handle. I told the server administrator to take down all side processes on the web-server machines we were using. We then started to minimize the content of the site. Everything that was generated dynamically was switched off. We minimized the numbers of pictures. We stopped all advertisement delivery. Other major news sites I tested were already dead - overwhelmed from the enormous amount of traffic. We were still up - but even loading the much cleaned up front page took more than 30 seconds.

I phoned up a number of IT guys I knew who administered public web sites for other purposes. I asked them to mirror our site through a side channel we had opened for that purpose. We then fiddled with the domain name servers to reroute a part of our traffic to those mirror sites. With those finally up and running we barely made it through the evening traffic peak without crashing everything. 

The traffic stayed above our nominal capacity for over a week. I stopped my news room productivity project and set down to design a new content delivery system which allowed for a dynamic addition of capacity. The design was quite expensive but three month later we implemented it.

9/11 touched a bit on my job but I was lucky to avoid its other deadly consequences.

Before working for that news site I had long worked with Americans on a daily basis. I had been to the U.S. over a dozen times during the previous years. It was immediately clear to me that its people would want revenge. They would not care much against whom it would be waged. That private prediction turned out to be right.

Little has changed since. The catharsis that 9/11 should have brought never happened. Most people still don't care about the wars of terror and who gets killed in them. I blame the media for that.

Today the New York Times and the Washington Post both report on the recent 'righteous' drone strike in Kabul:

Cont. reading: Some Thoughts On 9/11

Posted by b at 17:52 UTC | Comments (377)

September 10, 2021

Meta - This Blog(ger) Needed A New Laptop

Just spent the last two days on buying and configuring a new laptop. I have used the now 'old' one daily for four years and it started to have display problems. Since a month ago the lower part of the screen at times turned into a random mess of colors. Rebooting solved the issue but it is a sure sign that the machines life is coming to an end.

As I no longer had a reserve machine a sudden death of my major tool would have been bad for blogging. So out I went and looked for a new one. I found that laptop prices have gone up by some 100% when compared to four years ago. All those chips Bill Gates is putting into the vaccines have really had an effect on prices and availability.

My old laptop, which was relative high end at its time, had set me back €700. The new, in the same relative quality range, was double that pricey.

Like my old laptop the new one is a 'gaming' machine even though I hardly ever play computer games. The reason to buy 'gaming' laptops are their better displays and the MF II keyboards with a numeric pad. I am used to navigate the editor with it when I write. Many of these machine types were out of stock with new ones deliverable only at the end of the year. After some research I ended up with a Lenovo Legion 5 Pro Gen 6 (16" AMD) and I am, for now, quite happy with it.

The display is excellent! (16:10, 16.0" WQXGA (2560 x 1600) IPS, anti-glare, 165Hz). For someone who reads and writes online 12+ hours per day that display alone is a killer argument. The CPU though is total overkill for what I do. (AMD® Ryzen™ 5 5600H Processor + NVIDIA® GeForce® RTX™ 3050 4GB). But the CPU being overkill helps to keep its ventilator quiet when I only run my usual applications. The laptop makes less noise than the heating radiator next to my desk even when I watch high resolution videos. (I may try to additionally disable the NVIDIA GPU to see if I can get the machine to make no noise at all.)

What took me the better part of two days and led to extensive cursing of Bill Gates were the ridiculous difficulties with transferring my (application) configuration settings and data from one machine to the other. Windows 10 is hopelessly overloaded with completely useless stuff. But a simple 'export my data and settings', 'transfer' and 'import my data and settings' functionality is - some 35 years after Windows was born - still not available.

Well - anyway - just thought I'd let you know why there is no real blog post today. And to let those who thankfully donated for this blog know what their money got spent on.

Posted by b at 18:39 UTC | Comments (87)

September 09, 2021

Open Thread 2021-69

News & views ...

Posted by b at 18:04 UTC | Comments (214)