Friday, 6 November 2015

What would be the consequences/repercussions if it is confirmed Isil blew up the Russian plane with a bomb on board?

Note: This started out as a short submission in response to a request from one of the organisations I occasionally submit for; but the ended up not wanting it as they felt events had moved on. However, I liked it, as did my grammar checker, so I decided to polish it up and put it here; just in case anyone else finds it of use. The original article is italicised, the regular writing is what I have added for here.
TU-160 Blackjack Bomber
The recent events in the Middle East have served to remind everyone of the fluidity of the region, as the interconnectivity of groups and organisations means that actions in one area will often result in reactions elsewhere. The fact that some organisations have become more about franchise, and branding, than about location makes them far more difficult to deal with. Turning though to the recent, suspected, bombing of the Russian airliner, this is going to have some very specific impacts.
The big question of course is what will Putin's Russia do? What will the most powerful man in the world according to Forbes do? We can discount the idea of retreating from Syria, that's not Putin's, or Russia's, way. The discussions on the internet have already turned to Russia's Heavy Bombers, and with last month’s announcement of a new US Heavy Bomber (LRS-B); then this unfortunate event maybe the perfect opportunity for Putin, to not only put a pounding on ISIL, but also to remind the world just how long Russia's reach can be.
The announcement that Russia has followed the British lead in suspending flights to Egypt, this has not been done lightly; but the fact that Russia is taking its time for confirmation before reacting, should not be taken as passivity. Putin is a ‘Strongman’, his security as leader rests in large part on his ability to project an image of a strong resurgent Russia; the more time he has to prepare it, the larger the reaction can be, and Sergey Shoygu has proved able in his role as Defence Minister in delivering such responses.
The impact though will not only be immediate it will be long term, Russia may deploy its carrier, the Kuznetsov, to the Eastern Mediterranean again. However, instead of going to deter NATO, its job will be to ramp up the air strikes on ISIL, and probably other 'terrorist' groups.
There is of course also the possibility of an increased ground forces deployment to Syria, but that is unlikely beyond the possible use of more elite units. Russia is in the process of professionalising its forces, and upgrading its equipment, so deployment of larger formations than currently deployed could be disruptive.
This is not to say ground forces will not be deployed, Russian advisors have a rich history of working with the Egyptian armed forces; they will undoubtedly be offered to help with ISIL in the Sinai. The question will be whether Egypt accepts them.
President Sisi is another 'strong man', and like Putin he has a background in Intelligence, although unlike Putin's his was military rather than KGB. He will also be very cognoscente of his countries dependence upon tourism for income and employment; Sharm el Sheikh is along with Cairo and the Valley of Kings one of the key hubs for this, and threats to it will have to be taken seriously.
Egypt is likely therefore to ramp up further both its security efforts and its operations against ISIL in the Sinai; else they become further emboldened by their success and decide to attack the other great source of Egyptian income that runs through the Sinai, the Suez Canal. The worst thing from an Egyptian perspective would be for ISIL to achieve any further 'successes' in the coming weeks; they have so far done a good job of protecting themselves from 'association' with the troubles of the Middle East, this attack at the moment can be played as a one off - for their economies sake they have to make sure it is.
The growing number of nations putting restrictions on travel to Egypt is going to have an impact even if there are no more events. It’s economically essential tourism industry was already suffering, but this could seriously put into trouble for the next decade.
Rest of World
In the modern age though ripples rarely stop within a country or even a region; this event and the actions that result will have a major impact on the world. If Putin goes on the offensive, if he deploys overwhelming military force he will once again in the eyes of the world show his 'credibility', and show in comparison the US under Obama's 'weakness'. If Russia deploys 'advisors' to Egypt that will be a further demonstration of a resurgent Russia, of it reclaiming a place at the front of the world not through economic or diplomatic strength but through the judicial use of military strength. The West would also be faced with a modern Russia that had achieved what decades of Cold War Soviet efforts had failed to do; a dominant position in the Middle East, and all the benefits of influence over oil and gas prices that it will bring.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

August - December 2014: Published Elsewhere

Well it's been a productive couple of months... carrying on those journal articles I mentioned last time... and still trying to turn my thesis into books. However, even with all that research/writing, and some teaching, I've still been doing other projects and here are what's been published, so far...please go to the sites to read them in full, but where possible I have included some of the beginning of them to give a flavour...

European Geostrategy

Europe and the future of cruisers, 08/10/2014,

Definition of a Cruiser:

Oxford DictionaryA relatively fast warship larger than a destroyer and less heavily armed than a battleship.
1992 Washington Naval Treaty – a warship of up to 10,000 tons displacement carrying guns no larger than 8 inches in caliber.
Ticonderoga Class CruiserThese two definitions of Cruisers are both illuminating, mainly because they are so wide and encompassing; traditionally a Cruiser had not been a class of ship, but a designation for ships which were below the Rate system of fleet ships. They were used for peacetime and wartime commerce protection, fleet scouting, inshore work, commerce raiding and (for want of a better phrase) ‘showing the flag’ or ‘Gunboat Diplomacy’. This meant in practice that the term ‘Cruisers’ referred to Frigates, Sloops, Brigs and all the other small ships. Cruisers were in reality first defined by the naval treaties of the 1920s; but with the growth of modern warships these no longer have any real meaning. For example, the Zumwalt class Destroyers that the United States Navy (USN) laid the keels down for in 2010 displace 14,798tons – well over the 1922 limit for Cruisers. However, despite this watering down the titles, Cruiser, Destroyer and Frigate still seem to have influence; hence the current debate taking place in America...

The US pivot: how far do European navies want to reach?, 28/09/2014,

Royal Navy Tide Class TankerDuring World War Two the United States Navy (USN) and the Royal Navy (RN) developed an amazing ability, it was called ‘Replenishment at Sea’ (RAS). Just as the name suggests, it allowed fleets to operate at sea unrestricted by using a combination of Auxiliary Tankers and Solid Stores (or Fleet Replenishment Ships) to refuel, restock food or rearm (although this is something which the missile age has reduced to a rarity). This is what enables fleets to be rapidly redeployed from one corner of the world to the other, to operate on the opposite side of the world from home and to conduct missions independent of Local Land-Based Support. It is therefore a critical mission, but uninterested observers could be excused for thinking that the ships that are used for it are far from critical, as they often do not receive the attention they warrant...

Europe and ship-to-shore manoeuvres, 28/10/2014,

US NavyAmphibious operations are a growing part of modern strategy, and the concept of sea-basing has added a further dimension to what was already a high value capability. The appreciation of the utility of amphibious warfare is most visibly demonstrated on a global scale by the amount of nations which are investing in it: some nations, such as Australia and Russia are seeking to enhance existing capabilities, whilst others like India are seeking to create the capability. The reasons for this acquisition are varied, as some nations are seeking strategic depth, whereas others are looking for an independent influence capability that is completely organic to them, and some are of course simply reacting to a change in threat, or national circumstance...


Protecting the Exclusive Economic Zones – Part I, 18/11/2014,


Maritime security is at its heart an exercise of risk reduction, action deterrence and event response – no nation ever has enough resources allocated to enable its forces to be everywhere they need to be all the time. So in reality defence and security has become a bit of a mirage; aiming to look more substantial and solid that it actually is. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the circumstance of maritime security, and the protection of a nations Exclusive Economic Zones, or EEZ. An EEZ is the area of sea/sea bed that a nation administers, for want of a better phrase ‘owns’, and therefore can control/monetize the extraction of resources (such as Fish, Gas, Gold or Manganese) from, and which are becoming increasingly important to national economies – in fact their societies as a whole. However, a nation cannot control or monetize anything if it doesn’t actually have control of it, and just as a city cannot be policed from the secured, nor a battlefield secured just from air[i], neither can an EEZ. Due to this, a specific type of vessel has not so much appeared (as navies have always fulfilled the role with other vessels) as evolved as the areas required to be patrolled have expanded. Although instead of reviving one of the old names, Brig, Sloop or Swan, as was done with ‘Frigate’ in WWII, a name based upon the role the vessel carries out has been generated; OPV...

Protecting the Exclusive Economic Zone – Part II, 19/11/2014,

Geographical and Oceanographical Factors

When designing OPVs the core question a nation will need to ask itself is how big in terms of area, where the EEZ is (i.e. Northern waters, or Equatorial waters), how far is it that area from the nation’s bases and how much is the EEZ worth.  Vessels which are required to operate in stormy or icy waters (i.e. those operated by Denmark) will need to be as structurally strong and survivable as possible, with a high freeboard to help with large waves, as well as having as much of their equipment internalised as can be, and all equipment that can’t be internalised made easy to clear of ice. In contrast vessels which are to operate in warmer areas (i.e. to an extent France) will need enhanced cooling systems, not only to keep the personnel at a workable temperature, but also the computers and machines. A vessel which could find itself in both situations equally (i.e. those operated by Australia or Britain), will of course need both attributes; it is very difficult to retrofit sufficient cooling into a small ship built to be strong, equally it is very difficult to strength a ship that is not built to be strong. Simply put, a lot of thought needs to be placed at the very beginning of the conception and design process with OPVs as to what is needed, what is wanted and what is best to make sure: because there is not the space available to do much rectifying at a later date...

Sea Control 62: 21st Century Fleet Design, Grand Vision or Ruthless Pragmatism: 08/12/2014,

An academic (Dr. Alexander Clarke), an operator (Cdr Paul Fisher, RN (ret)) and a builder (Douglas Clarke) discuss 21st Century Fleet Design and whether it should be driven by a ruthless pragmatism or a more grand design. Intelligent and all very British, they also mention Germany, The War, and railways. Well worth an hour of your commute this week!

Falkland's podcast series

Sea Control 48 (East Atlantic) – Falkland’s Series Introduction, 18/08/2014,

Alex Clarke of Phoenix Think Tank discusses his upcoming Sea Control Falklands series with associate editor Chris Stockdale.

Sea Control 51 (East Atlantic) – Falkands War and 45 Commando, 08/09/2014,

Alex Clarke interviews Ian Gardiner about the Falklands War and 45 Commando Royal Marines. This is part of the ongoing Sea Control East-Atlantic series on the Falklands War.

Sea Control 55 (East Atlantic) – Falklands Series 2: The Parachute Regiment, 06/10/2014,

The Falklands Series continues with Alex Clarke’s panel with  of the Phoenix Think Tank continues the Falklands series with a small panel on the British Army’s involvement in the war. He is joined by:
1. Retired Lieutenant-General Sir Hew William Royston Pike KCB DSO MBE, who was Commanding Officer of 3PARA during the Falklands War. Author of “From the Front Lines.
2.Maj. Philip Neame, whose exploits are mentioned in “Above All Courage” by Max Arthur.


I have been lucky enough to take part in the 'Big Question' program, and been successful a couple of times with articles...

Telegraph, What will Chuck Hagel's resignation mean for US defence policy?, 25/11/2014,

How has Chuck Hagel performed as Defence Secretary?
Chuck Hagel has had the dubious honour of being a defence secretary at one of the worst times to be one, although historically the post, whichever nation it is in, has always been a problematic one.
During his 20 months, Mr Hagel has been faced by issues such as 'Gays in the Military' and 'Women on the Frontline'. The ongoing saga that is the F35 program, an aircraft which represents either the solution to everything, or a compromise too far depending upon the viewer's perspective; and the Littoral Combat ship which has, during Mr Hagel's tenure, due to the realisation of its limitations now spawned a frigate program. These are just two, of the many, multi-billion dollar programs that are on-going...

Telegraph, Will Britain's new base in Bahrain make any difference?, 08/12/2014,

In 1968, in the depths of the Cold War and a financial crisis, Britain announced it was withdrawing from the world.
No longer would the Union Jack be a presence in Far East, the Middle East or the Indian Ocean – it would concentrate on Europe, the Atlantic and the Central Front.
For a nation that had fought, and won, two World Wars, a nation which had then only very recently administered the largest empire the world has ever seen, such a voluntary surrender of influence was unprecedented.
The decision was perhaps a symptom of era, of a time Britain was lost as it searched inside itself trying to figure out what it would become.
Alternatively, it was a short sighted measure which governments quickly minimised, if not reversed. For example, in the case of ‘East of Suez’, the government of Heath (that succeeded Wilson), signed the Five Power Defence Arrangement with Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore... 

Friday, 1 August 2014

July 2014: Published Elsewhere

Well this month has been busy, and since submitting the last journal article I've started some more... and trying to turn my thesis into books, but saying that I have been writing and here is what's been published, so far.

Published at European Geostrategy:

European navies and surface warfare

HMS DaringRecently there was a guest article published on CIMSEC – which is worth a read – written by R. Adm. Thomas S. Rowden, United States (US) Navy, who discussed the future of surface warfare from a US perspective. Not only is it thought provoking, it serves to highlight the fact that while the US Navy may not be as strong at surface warfare as it once was, at least it is having the conversation about how to change that – which the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) European nations do not seem to be doing.

We have the centrepiece…but what about the rest of the board?

HMS Queen Elizabeth & HMS Prince of WalesThe game of chess is played with both players having sixteen pieces, of which eight on each side are pawns. Pawns are often the most undervalued of all pieces, but as Anatoly Karpov once said ‘pawns not only create the sketch for the whole painting, they are also the soil, the foundation, of any position’. The Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers will be the Queens of British strategy for most likely the next four to five decades. However, that strategy may evolve to deal with potential threats/situations which will arise over a far longer period of time. The trouble is that security, much like the game of chess, requires more than just Queens.

Supporting British naval aviation

HMS Queen ElizabethWith the launch of HMS Queen Elizabeth, and the forthcoming launch of her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales, the Royal Navy will be starting to take on the shape it will be for the next 30-plus years. This means there is a problem, because the Royal Navy is getting just two of these capable, versatile, first rate, short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft carriers. In all likelihood therefore only one ship will be available for operations, even if the money is found to operate both (maintenance requirements will mean one vessel will be in port at any given time). This limitation becomes a strategic problem when coupled with other decisions:

Published at CIMSEC:

Why Intelligence Matters, And Nations Need Think About Collection Methods

In the military sense, intelligence means something approximating a combination of knowledge and understanding of others – whether they are friends or foe. In the modern risk averse world the temptation has been to rely upon more and more distant observation methodologies; using satellites especially to monitor communications, movement and equipment – prima facie the what, the where and the why of information available.

Monday, 23 June 2014

June 2014: Published Elsewhere

Hallo, well I've finished the journal article and submitted it, so crossing fingers, and am currently working on a few different projects; and done a fair number of other pieces recently, so as soon as they are (hopefully) posted I will put links up. But for now, as I've said many times before, I'm currently very happy to be hosting for CIMSEC/PTT a series of East Atlantic Sea Control Podcasts and this is the fourth one to be done... 

Sea Control, Sea Control: East Atlantic

Sea Control 40 (East Atlantic) – Defense Cooperation

Alex Clarke is joined by the cadre in a third panel discussion for the East Atlantic Series. They discuss multination forces: whether and how nations should combine together to maximize security and minimize cost.  The particular focus of this session is feasibility: how nations can go about building cooperative strategies and whether they would want to.
DOWNLOAD: Sea Control 40 (East Atlantic) -Defense Cooperation
plus any suggestions for future topics, please comment below... its a great panel,,,

Monday, 12 May 2014

May 2014: Published Elsewhere

Well since my computer troubles I'm still catching up some journal articles/conference papers (I was lucky enough to present to at the Global War Studies conference - now on the xx draft) that I need to have ready soon, so unfortunately have no written pieces finished for this blog; however I have one I did for British Naval History which I recommend a read off - it's an interesting period of history.

Alexander Clarke’s second article examines the Royal Navy’s reaction to the emergence of the USSR’s Sverdlov Class gun cruisers.
“Although the Russian lack of aircraft carriers would make it hazardous for their Cruisers to operate outside the range of shore based fighter cover, the presumed long range of the Sverdlov Class makes it possible for them to operate as ocean raiders, particularly if the Russians have reason to believe that Allied carriers will not be met.”[i]
Surface raiders were a potentially deadly threat to a global trading nation such as Britain; whilst submarines were a problem, they were a containable problem – especially before the development of nuclear power. However, as had been demonstrated by Admiral Graf Spee of River Plate fame [ii] and others, surface raiders were for more unrestricted – hence killing them became such a priority. [iii] Therefore when the Soviets [iv] were seen to be constructing a similar capability a reaction was only a matter of time.
cruiser 1
Figure 1.The Cruise of the Admiral Graf Spee, illustrating not only the number of its success but the range and breadth of them (Image from National Archives).[v]
The most commonly referenced British reaction to the emerging Soviet surface raider threat is the Buccaneer bomber, which were of course principally focused on not only low level nuclear strike of ground targets, but also the hunting down and destruction of surface raiders. [vi] The Royal Navy’s (RN) response though was not simply limited to this one thing, and in fact whilst carriers were focused on as the premier tool of global reach, it was realised there would never be enough available for the RN to achieve the global presence which would be required to protect the arteries of trade & supply from raiders/hunt those raiders down.[vii] Therefore just as it had during the 1920s and 1930s the RN turned to surface combatants.

Monday, 28 April 2014

April 2014: Published Elsewhere

Well since my computer troubles I'm catching up some journal articles/conference papers (I was lucky enough to present to at the Global War Studies conference - but now I have to write it up) that I need to have ready soon, so unfortunately have no written pieces finished for this blog; however as I've said before I have been asked by CIMSEC/PTT to host a series of East Atlantic Sea Control Podcasts and here is the second one to be posted... - this is special as it is the first panel one, for which a series will soon be up.
Capability Analysis, East Atlantic, Podcast

Sea Control, Sea Control: East Atlantic, Tactical Concepts

Sea Control 32 – Naval Escorts (East Atlantic)

seacontrolemblemAlex Clarke hosts Sea Control’s East Atlantic Edition from Phoenix Think Tank. He discusses Naval Escorts with CDR Paul Fisher (RN, Ret) and CIMSEC associate editor Chris Stockdale.
DOWNLOAD: Sea Control 32 – Naval Escorts (East Atlantic)
In other news I am starting a series of special podcasts I will be announcing  in detail at a later date, but which will hopefully be of great interest to everyone.

Monday, 31 March 2014

March 2014: Published Elsewhere

Well since my computer troubles I'm catching up some journal articles & conference papers that I need to have ready soon, so unfortunately have no written pieces finished for this blog; however I have been asked by CIMSEC/PTT to host a series of East Atlantic Sea Control Podcasts and here is the first one to be posted...
Capability Analysis, East Atlantic, Podcast

Sea Control 28 (East Atlantic) – The F-35

seacontrolemblemFor the inaugural edition of Sea Control’s “East Atlantic” series, Alexander Clarke brings on Steve George, former engineer with the F-35 program and Royal Navy veteran to discuss the challenges and misconceptions of the F-35 program. Remember, subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher Stream Radio. Leave a comment and five stars!
DOWNLOAD: Sea Control 28 (East Atlantic) -The F-35
Tune in next week for our interview with Erik Prince!


I think it was a very interesting one to do, and many more are to come,