Surrounded by Threats, Japan Rethinks Decades of Military Dependency – The New York Times

Motoko Rich and 

Reporting from Tokyo

“Over nearly seven decades, Japan has relied on commitments from the United States, its most important ally, for protection in the event of an enemy attack. Japan hosts the largest contingent of overseas American troops and regularly conducts drills with them. It has purchased more American-made F-35 stealth fighter jets than any other country outside the United States.

Yet now, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine challenges long-held security assumptions and as threats from China and North Korea multiply, Japan is starting to rely more on itself, a shift that could quietly alter the balance of power in Asia.

The country’s governing party is pushing to increase Japan’s defense budget drastically, develop more military hardware domestically and redefine what it can do with those weapons under the pacifist Constitution in place since the end of World War II.

By asserting its own deterrent power, Japan — the world’s third-largest economy — could become less a military protectorate of the United States and more an equal partner. That could help fulfill the desire of American leaders for Japan to serve as a stronger military counter to China, as Beijing uses its rapidly improving armed forces to menace Taiwan and send ballistic missiles and coast guard ships into Japan’s territorial waters.”

Russia’s Nuclear Weapons Rhetoric: How Concerned Should We Be? – The New York Times

“President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia began ramping up his nuclear rhetoric this fall, raising the specter that he could use such a weapon in Ukraine. As Mr. Putin was making threats, senior Russian generals were discussing the circumstances when they might possibly use a tactical nuclear weapon, The New York Times reported.

American officials said they have seen no movement of Russian nuclear weapons and do not believe that the Russian government has decided to detonate such a device. But as Russia suffers setbacks on the battlefield, even talk about using one has raised alarm.”

Bret Stephens | Putin Is Starting to Do What Won Him a War 7 Years Ago – The New York Times

“. . . The strategy is clear. Putin’s armies might be falling back in the field. But if he can freeze, starve and terrorize Ukraine’s people by going after their water supplies and energy infrastructure — while waiting for winter to blunt Ukraine’s advance — he might still be able to force Kyiv to accept some sort of armistice, leaving him in possession of most of his conquests.

That would count as a victory in Putin’s books, however wounded he might otherwise be. It would also be encouragement to China’s Xi Jinping as he eyes Taiwan and Iran’s Ali Khamenei as he tries to suppress weeks of protest that are starting to have the color of a revolution. Much more is at stake in the outcome in Ukraine than the fate of Ukraine itself.

What can the Biden administration do? More. And more quickly.

So far, we’ve had a policy of nick-of-time delivery of critical weaponry, such as the Javelin and Stinger missiles that saved Kyiv at the beginning of the war and HIMARS, the rocket systems that turned the tide of war over the summer. We need to switch to an approach that stays consistently ahead of the pace of war and weather.

On Tuesday the administration announced that it would soon be delivering to Ukraine two National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS, with ranges of up to 30 miles. But there’s a hitch: Only “in the next few years,” according to a report in The Times, will Ukraine get to take delivery of the next six systems.

Ukrainians, whose country is nearly the size of Texas, need the systems now. If the United States can’t deliver them quickly, we can at least provide Ukrainians with unmanned aerial vehicles (U.A.V.s) that can give them vastly improved detection and defensive capabilities over much longer ranges.

The Biden administration has been considering the sale of four of the U.S. Army’s long-endurance U.A.V.s armed with Hellfire missiles since June, but the request has been held up in the bowels of Pentagon bureaucracy for months over excessive fears that some of its technologies could fall into Russian hands. Why not approve the sale, increase the numbers and start training Ukrainians on the systems immediately?” . . . .

The Untold Story of ‘Russiagate’ and the Road to War in Ukraine – The New York Times

“On the night of July 28, 2016, as Hillary Clinton was accepting the Democratic presidential nomination in Philadelphia, Donald J. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, received an urgent email from Moscow. The sender was a friend and business associate named Konstantin Kilimnik. A Russian citizen born in Soviet Ukraine, Kilimnik ran the Kyiv office of Manafort’s international consulting firm, known for bringing cutting-edge American campaign techniques to clients seeking to have their way with fragile democracies around the world.

Kilimnik didn’t say much, only that he needed to talk, in person, as soon as possible. Exactly what he wanted to talk about was apparently too sensitive even for the tradecraft the men so fastidiously deployed — encrypted apps, the drafts folder of a shared email account and, when necessary, dedicated “bat phones.” But he had made coded reference — “caviar” — to an important former client, the deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who had fled to Russia in 2014 after presiding over the massacre of scores of pro-democracy protesters. Manafort responded within minutes, and the plan was set for five days later.

Kilimnik cleared customs at Kennedy Airport at 7:43 p.m., only 77 minutes before the scheduled rendezvous at the Grand Havana Room, a Trump-world hangout atop 666 Fifth Avenue, the Manhattan office tower owned by the family of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Shortly after the appointed hour, Kilimnik walked onto a perfectly put-up stage set for a caricature drama of furtive figures hatching covert schemes with questionable intent — a dark-lit cigar bar with mahogany-paneled walls and floor-to-ceiling windows columned in thick velvet drapes, its leather club chairs typically filled by large men with open collars sipping Scotch and drawing on parejos and figurados. Men, that is, like Paul Manafort, with his dyed-black pompadour and penchant for pinstripes. There, with the skyline shimmering though the cigar-smoke haze, Kilimnik shared a secret plan whose significance would only become clear six years later, as Vladimir V. Putin’s invading Russian Army pushed into Ukraine.”

Farhad Manjoo | Biden Just Clobbered China’s Chip Industry – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Semiconductors are among the most intricate tools that human beings have ever invented. They are also among the most expensive to make.

The latest chips — the sort that power supercomputers and high-end smartphones — are densely packed with transistors so small they’re measured in nanometers. Perhaps the only things more ingenious than the chips themselves are the machines that are used to build them. These devices are capable of working on almost unimaginably tiny scales, a fraction of the size of most viruses. Some of the chip-building machines take years to build and cost hundreds of millions of dollars each; the Dutch company ASML, which makes the world’s only lithography machines capable of inscribing designs for the fastest chips, has produced just 140 such devices over the past decade.”

Opinion | Chelsea Manning: ‘I’m Still Bound to Secrecy’ – The New York Times

Ms. Manning is an American activist and the author of the forthcoming memoir “README.txt,” from which this essay has been adapted.

“It is not possible to work in intelligence and not imagine disclosing the many secrets you bear.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when the idea first crossed my mind. Maybe it was in 2008, when I was learning to be an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army and was exposed to sensitive information for the first time. Or maybe the germ of the idea was planted when I was stationed at Fort Drum, in upstate New York. I was tasked with transporting a cache of classified hard drives in a large box in the summer heat, and I began to imagine what might happen if I screwed it up and left the box unattended. If someone managed to get ahold of a stray hard drive, what ripple effects might it cause?

I knew the official version of why these secrets had to be kept secret. We were protecting sources. We were protecting troop movements. We were protecting national security. Those things made sense. But it also seemed, to me, that we were protecting ourselves.

While I felt that my job was important, and I took my obligations seriously, a part of me always wondered: If we were acting ethically, why were we keeping so many secrets?

The months I spent in Iraq in 2009 changed the way I understood the world. Every night, I woke up in the desert at 9 p.m. and walked from my tiny trailer to the Saddam Hussein-era basketball court that the military had converted into an intelligence operations center.”

Marlene Laruelle | Russia’s Putin Is in Trouble – The New York Times

Ms. Laruelle is a professor at the George Washington University and the author of “Is Russia Fascist?”

“In the wake of a stunning counteroffensive in which Ukrainian forces reclaimed over 1,000 miles of territory, Russia is uneasy.

The country’s political talk shows, usually so deferential, have given the floor to more critical voices. Opponents of the war have weighed in — about 40 officials from municipal councils signed a petition requesting the president’s resignation — and previously loyal figures have begun to mutter about the regime’s failings. In a sign of general discontent, Alla Pugacheva, Russia’s most famous 20th-century pop star, has come out against the war. Six months of consensus has started to crack.

That consensus wasn’t as cast-iron as it might have seemed. While many Western observers tend to view the Russian regime as a monolith, the reality is more complex. Though the war has significantly reduced the scope for dissent, there are still several competing ideological camps within the ruling elite capable of making their voices heard. For example, the so-called systemic liberals, mostly concentrated in state financial institutions and among oligarchs, have expressed concerns about the war’s consequences for the Russian economy. But it is another group, emboldened by the Kremlin’s failure to deliver victory in Ukraine, that is putting ever more pressure on the regime.

Call it the party of war. Made up of the security agencies, the Defense Ministry and outspoken media and political figures, it encompasses the entire radical nationalist ecosystem — and its adherents have been mounting a sustained critique of the Kremlin’s handling of the war in Ukraine. Powerful, well positioned and ideologically committed, they want a much more aggressive war effort. And judging from Mr. Putin’s address on Wednesday — where he announced the call-up of roughly 300,000 troops, gave his support to referendums in the four occupied regions of Ukraine on joining Russia and repeated the threat of nuclear escalation — they seem to be getting their way.”

Thomas L. Friedman | Three Paths Toward an Endgame for Putin’s War – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

MUNICH — Last week was an interesting week to be in Europe talking to national security experts, officials and business executives about Ukraine. Ukraine and its allies had just forced Russian invaders into a chaotic retreat from a big chunk of territory, while the presidents of China and India had seemed to make clear to Vladimir Putin that the food and energy inflation his war has stoked was hurting their 2.7 billion people. On top of all that, one of Russia’s iconic pop stars told her 3.4 million followers on Instagram that the war was “turning our country into a pariah and worsening the lives of our citizens.”

In short, it was Putin’s worst week since he invaded Ukraine — without wisdom, justice, mercy or a Plan B.

Death in Navy SEAL Training Exposes a Culture of Brutality, Cheating and Drugs – The New York Times

For this article, Dave Philipps interviewed, among others, 17 active-duty Navy personnel, including senior leaders, active-duty SEALs and current and former trainees and instructors.

“CORONADO, Calif. — Kyle Mullen always had the natural drive and talent that made success look easy. Until he tried out for the Navy SEALs.

The 24-year-old arrived on the California coast in January for the SEALs’ punishing selection course in the best shape of his life — even better than when he was a state champion defensive end in high school or the captain of the football team at Yale.

But by the middle of the course’s third week — a continual gut punch of physical and mental hardship, sleep deprivation and hypothermia that the SEALs call Hell Week — the 6-foot-4-inch athlete from Manalapan, N.J., was dead-eyed with exhaustion, riddled with infection and coughing up blood from lungs that were so full of fluid that others who were there said later that he sounded like he was gargling.”

“. . . .Six hours of sleep a night are now required in all weeks but Hell Week, outside auditors have been brought in to watch instructors, and a higher percentage of sailors are now making the cut.

But on the beach, sailors say, the problems continue. A month after Seaman Mullen died, there was another close call. After late-night training in the frigid surf, one sailor — cold, wet, hungry and exhausted — started shivering violently, then became unresponsive while huddled in the arms of another sailor who was trying to keep him warm, according to two sailors who were there.

The sailors immediately called the BUD/S medical office, but once again, they said, there was no answer. They put their classmate in a hot shower, called 911 and were able to get him civilian medical help.

The next morning, the two sailors said, instructors let the class know they were not happy. To punish them for calling 911, the sailors said, the instructors made the class do long bouts of push-ups. Whenever anyone dropped from exhaustion, instructors made the man who had been treated at the hospital for hypothermia plunge again into the cold surf.” -30-

David Lindsay: This isn’t training, it is torture.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
This is so sick it is stomach turning. “No one can do everything the instructors ask, so you have to learn how to cheat to get through,” he said. “Everyone knows it happens. The point is to learn how to not get caught.” “Basically, you are selecting for guys who are willing to cheat,” he added. “So, no surprise, guys are going to turn to drugs.” So they are weeding out the ones with morals, and being left only with gamers and thugs. It this the kind of county we want. It smells to me of Nazi Germany. It is time to make Medical ombudsmen in charge of limiting the training at least, and drug testing through out. It is absurd. There should be no shame in refusing to die of heat exhaustion, etc. There should be an inquiry of merit. Is this how we came to have a Seal commander in Afghanistan who shot civilians for fun. David Lindsay Jr. is a military historian, and the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs about the environment at InconvenientNews.Net, and at TheTaySonRebellion.com.

Bret Stephens | Five Blunt Truths About the War in Ukraine – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Five sentences sum up the war in Ukraine as it stands now.

The Russians are running out of precision-guided weapons. The Ukrainians are running out of Soviet-era munitions. The world is running out of patience for the war. The Biden administration is running out of ideas for how to wage it. And the Chinese are watching.

Moscow’s shortfalls with its arsenal, which have been obvious on the battlefield for weeks, are cause for long-term relief and short-term horror. Relief, because the Russian war machine, on whose modernization Vladimir Putin spent heavily, has been exposed as a paper tiger that could not seriously challenge NATO in a conventional conflict.

Horror, because an army that cannot wage a high-tech war, relatively low on collateral damage, will wage a low-tech war, appallingly high on such damage. Ukraine, by its own estimates, is suffering 20,000 casualties a month. By contrast, the U.S. suffered about 36,000 casualties in Iraq over seven years of war. For all its bravery and resolve, Kyiv can hold off — but not defeat — a neighbor more than three times its size in a war of attrition.”