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ASPI suggests

Posted By , and on June 21, 2019 @ 15:24

The world

US President Donald Trump has formally kicked off his re-election campaign just 500-odd days out from the 2020 election. The New York Times [1] dives into Trump’s claims that he raised US$24.8 million in the 24 hours following his re-election announcement. And the Independent [2] has fact-checked the Donald’s campaign speech which seems to take note of the line sometimes attributed to Adolf Hitler: ‘If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.’

Five years ago in March, Malaysia Airlines flight 370 vanished with 239 passengers and crew on board. The Atlantic [3] now provides a deeply disturbing yet utterly engaging long read following key personnel in the investigation and raising evidence that has emerged since the jet disappeared. A must-read.

There was a major development in the investigation of another Malaysia Airlines disaster this week. The team investigating the shooting down of MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014 announced that four suspects would be tried [4] over the missile attack that killed 298 people, including 38 Australian citizens and residents. The suspects [5], three Russians and a Ukrainian, are thought to have obtained a Russian BUK missile launcher, though they’re not accused of actually firing the missile. They’re almost certain to be tried in absentia when proceedings begin in the Netherlands in March next year. Read this piece in The Conversation [6] for more on the legal details of the case. For Russia’s part, it says there’s no evidence it was involved and, somewhat bizarrely, Malaysian PM Mahatir Mohamad backed the claim [7] and said Russia has been made a ‘scapegoat’.

In some uplifting news, Time reports [8] that Canada’s Arctic permafrost is melting 70 years sooner than scientists expected. What does that mean? Well, apart from confirming that the earth is warmer than at any time since that ground froze thousands of years ago, the melting of permafrost in both Canada and Russia could mean the release of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere that were unaccounted for in any analyses of global emissions. Read this BBC feature for more [9].

Staying inside the Arctic Circle, residents of a village in Norway are planning to declare themselves a ‘time-free zone [10]’ to make the most of 24-hour daylight in the summer months.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has long been suffering from inter-ethnic violence that has forced more than 300,000 people to flee this month alone, according to UN News [11]. There have been additional reports of sexual violence, civilian casualties and revenge killings. The Los Angeles Times [12] delves into why foreign aid is so important to the DRC. And Time [13] investigates the current Ebola crisis and those who are trying to help.

Moving west, Al Jazeera [14] has all you need to know on the recent triple suicide bombing in Nigeria and the Council on Foreign Relations [15] breaks down Amnesty International’s report on human rights violations in the country.

And finally, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project has estimated [16] that the death toll from the Yemen conflict has now exceeded 90,000. In some good news for the country, the UK’s court of appeal has declared Britain’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia unlawful [17] due to its involvement in the Yemen conflict. And the US Senate has voted to block [18] Trump’s US$8 billion arms sale to the Saudis.

Tech geek

As tensions rise further [19] in the Persian Gulf after Iran shot down a US RQ-4A Global Hawk drone, there’s a great piece [20] in Defense One about the implications of depending on high-cost platforms in contested environments.

For those following the unfolding story of US Navy encounters with unidentified aerial phenomena  in 2004, as well as in 2015 and 2016, Tyler Rogoway of The Drive has done a series of articles that make excellent reading. His latest [21] is out and it continues the discussion about just what ‘tic tac’, ‘gimbal’ and ‘go fast’ might be. Tech geek thinks they might be some yet-to-be-revealed black projects.

There are two articles on hypersonic missiles that are good reading. The first [22], in the New York Times, looks at how hypersonics could transform warfare, and the second [23], by the Center for Public Integrity, examines the implications for arms control.

Politico has some interesting analysis [24] of US and Chinese military competition in space. Space News has a piece [25] about the need for a US space force and The Diplomat [26] looks at the rise of Asian military space forces.

Russia has updated [27] its venerable Backfire bomber to the new Tu-22M3M standard, which has upgraded avionics, as well as an ability to carry new cruise missiles such as the KH-32 and the Mach-10 KH-47 Khinzhal hypersonic missile. An old dog with some deadly new tricks!

This week in history

On 19 June 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed [28] in the United States for espionage. They were accused of leaking jet propulsion, radar and sonar technology to the USSR as well as nuclear weapons designs. Also this week (in 1215), King John placed his seal upon the Magna Carta [29], kickstarting democracies, reasserting the rule of law and establishing the idea of a jury. See this video [30] by the British Library for the details.


Al Jazeera has two videos worth watching, one on the final hours [31] of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi [47:25], and another on who will become Britain’s next prime minister [32] [25:10].

See the immense Hong Kong protests in photos with The Atlantic’s [33] photo series.


ASPI non-resident fellow Elsa B. Kania joins the National Security Podcast [34] to talk ‘battlefield singularity’. Listen if you want to figure out whatever that is. [40:48]

The Falkland Islands has an abundance of seafood and meat, but fruit and vegetables can be hard to get a hold of. The BBC’s The Food Programme [35] looks at how to get nutrition in one of the most remote places on earth. [27:36]


Brisbane, 25 June, 6–7.30 pm, Australian Institute of International Affairs: ‘Regional migration governance and secure climate mobility in Oceania’. Tickets here [36] ($15).

Canberra, 27 June, 5.30–7.30 pm, Australian National University: ‘All the world’s problems: rethinking Burma in the 21st century’. Register here [37].

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URL to article: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/aspi-suggests-134/

URLs in this post:

[1] New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/19/us/politics/trump-fundraising-2020.html

[2] Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-factcheck-2020-election-launch-campaign-lies-fact-check-a8965736.html

[3] The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/07/mh370-malaysia-airlines/590653/?utm_campaign=the-atlantic&utm_content=edit-promo&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_term=2019-06-17T14%3A11%3A12

[4] would be tried: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-19/mh17-downing-airline-ukraine-suspects-charges-loom/11224216

[5] suspects: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-20/mh17-plane-attack-suspects-what-we-know-about-men-accused/11232330

[6] The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/mh17-charges-who-the-suspects-are-what-theyre-charged-with-and-what-happens-next-119155

[7] backed the claim: https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/putin-claims-no-proof-russians-downed-mh17-20190621-p51ztv.html

[8] reports: https://time.com/5610084/canadas-permafrost-thawing-surprising/

[9] more: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190612-the-poisons-released-by-melting-arctic-ice

[10] time-free zone: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/20/sommaroy-island-norway-attempt-create-first-time-free-zone?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

[11] UN News: https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/06/1040711

[12] Los Angeles Times: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-ben-affleck-hochschild-congo-foreign-aid-20190619-story.html

[13] Time: https://time.com/5609838/ebola-outbreak-drc/

[14] Al Jazeera: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/nigeria-villagers-borno-mourn-dead-lament-state-failures-190618120652822.html

[15] Council on Foreign Relations: https://www.cfr.org/blog/amnesty-sets-agenda-address-nigerias-human-rights-violations

[16] estimated: https://www.acleddata.com/2019/06/18/press-release-yemen-war-death-toll-exceeds-90000-according-to-new-acled-data-for-2015/

[17] unlawful: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/uk-decision-outlaws-arms-sales-saudi-war-yemen-190620110547372.html

[18] block: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/rebuke-trump-senate-votes-block-saudi-arms-sale-190620140805753.html

[19] rise further: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/20/world/middleeast/iran-us-drone.html

[20] piece: https://www.defenseone.com/technology/2019/06/how-pentagon-nickel-and-dimed-its-way-losing-drone/157901/

[21] latest: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/28627/recent-ufo-encounters-with-navy-pilots-occurred-constantly-across-multiple-squadrons

[22] first: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/19/magazine/hypersonic-missiles.html?smtyp=cur&smid=tw-nytimesworld

[23] second: https://publicintegrity.org/national-security/future-of-warfare/hypersonic-weapons-race/

[24] analysis: https://www.politico.com/story/2019/06/16/war-in-space-trump-china-1365842

[25] a piece: https://spacenews.com/op-ed-only-a-separate-service-can-create-a-space-culture/?fbclid=IwAR3hRO7Tqj4lxJnjg-ej0hwSFvFxw9VbzaL7zlhzWCCKPLSWEJZtPE4CiC0

[26] The Diplomat: https://thediplomat.com/2019/06/what-does-the-rise-of-asias-space-forces-mean/?fbclid=IwAR3SlF17E-zTWgzIiaq3xlLIg9oHEQ76bQdTT2EeyN0YCGCS5heI01nk0M8

[27] updated: https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/meet-russias-new-tu-22m3m-bomber-nasty-surprise-us-navy-61252?fbclid=IwAR3tdjDVcqs0ziDGBS0rJo5iLF7rEOnf8KNG8R6BO6wlM-QT_zbBepV_Gqs

[28] executed: https://www.theguardian.com/world/1953/jun/20/usa.fromthearchive

[29] Magna Carta: https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/House_of_Representatives/About_the_House_Magazine/Magna_Carta

[30] video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfTHRar32i8

[31] final hours: https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeraworld/2019/03/egypt-morsi-final-hours-190317133000771.html

[32] Britain’s next prime minister: https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2019/06/britain-prime-minister-190617201500428.html

[33] The Atlantic’s: https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2019/06/hong-kong-protesters-return-streets-photos/591841/

[34] National Security Podcast: https://thenationalsecuritypodcast.simplecast.com/episodes/battlefield-singularity-ai-pixie-dust-a

[35] The Food Programme: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000203r

[36] here: https://aiiaqld.tidyhq.com/public/schedule/events/25625-regional-migration-governance-and-secure-climate-mobility-in-oceania/carts/new

[37] here: http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/cap-events/2019-06-27/all-worlds-problems-rethinking-burma-21st-century

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